While we were tolling away in Paltos, both the Zephyr ($1000) and the Sea Ghost ($1000) made profitable runs.
The opening that Nigel had found was pretty small. I decided I would head in first to see if it could be a way in. I just had a torch, as I wasn’t able to carry the blunderbuss. That was kind of a blessing, as I hit a pocket of methane. Fortunately, there was just more of a flare up than actual explosion. But I did have a singed hat out of the deal. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had only made it a little further when there was a huge pile of crap that was log jammed up. I managed to clear it, but it was definitely hard work.
Aneila came in next and brought a rope. I scouted on ahead and came across a set of bars. They were set pretty far apart, so I figured pretty much everyone could pass through. Aneila tied the rope there, saying that it felt strange when she put her hand through the bars. It was kind of a constant static charge. That made me nervous that we had set off some kind of alarm above, but all we could do was press on.
Everyone made it through the bars without issue. We decided to leave a couple of O’Shanks men there as rear guards. I slipped through the bars and started scouting ahead. Nigel later told me that when anyone went through them it looked like they were surrounded by light.
I hadn’t gone all that far ahead when I heard a humming noise. It was unlike anything I had heard before, so I had Mac come up to check it out. He wasn’t sure what it was either. We eventually made it to a lit area where the humming stopped. I asked O’Shanks if he knew where we were, and he said it was the dreaded humming pit. Unfortunately, he didn’t actually know what that meant. It was just something the guards spoke about sometime.
Nigel took a look around and noticed some body parts on the floor. We didn’t see any other way to go, so he covered his good ear and stepped. When nothing happened, I stepped in as well. I also took a second to let him know that I had promoted him to First Mate.
There was a set of rungs in the wall that lead up to another set of bars in the ceiling, around 30 to 40 feet above. Everyone else made their way into the chamber, when we heard movement in a dark, side room. The room didn’t have a proper door, but instead the wall had been smashed through.
We drew weapons, when a large, rumbling voice said they would do us no good. Nigel asked who is there and the voice replied that he is the Bored One. That didn’t mean anything to me, and a quick look around showed no one else had heard of a Bored One.
A very large creature stepped out of the darkness. It had the head of man, but the body of lion. Nigel called it a Sphinx and started talking to it. He said something about a giant statue and a place called Egypt. The Sphinx said those things were a very dim memory, as it seemed he had always been imprisoned. Nigel did get the name Ramses from the creature.
I asked about the hum, but the creature didn’t know anything about that. I also asked about the bars and it said it had tested them many times, but they are too strong for him. He did say he could be freed though. In the chamber above, there is a rune and a wheel. If the rune is activated and the wheel is turned, then the bars will open. I don’t know exactly what we are releasing here, but this thing running through the prison seemed like a pretty good distraction while we got Iranthis and Tomas.
I started up the rungs to the bars in the ceiling. They continued on through them, but it was going to be a tighter fit than the other set. Since Mac is pretty small, he came up to help me. While I was climbing, I heard Aneila and Nigel negotiating with Ramses to no eat us. Aneila seemed pretty quick to offer up the guards though.
When I got to the stop of the rungs, I could see a cell block. A quick look where Ramses had told did show a large wheel. The two of us quickly snuck over to the wheel and then could see a large faded rune beside it. The advantage of it being Mac and myself was that we didn’t have any issues with the bars. The disadvantage was that I wasn’t sure the two of us could turn the wheel.
Still, just standing around in the middle of a cell block didn’t seem like a good idea. So I pushed the rune and the two of us started turning the wheel. It took everything we had, but it did start to move. And then there was a horrible grating sound from below. That meant that the bars were opening, but also that we were done sneaking. There was no way the guards weren’t going to hear that.
Now that the bars were opened, Mac and I looked around for the mages. We thought we had a good idea where they might be, as there was one cell where the prisoners were chained to the wall. We started to head that direction, but were interrupted by gun fire. Fortunately, all the shots missed.
I heard the humming sound again, just before the walls were covered by tiny insects. Nigel would later tell me they were scarabs and the Ramses had turned into them when he made his way up the wall. The scarab things began eating the prisoners and the guards, making no distinction.
Mac and I headed towards the chained prisoners, hoping to get there before the scarabs. The guards took another shot at us, but missed. At that point Nigel and Aneila made it up the ladder and drew the guards’ attention when Nigel put a bullet in the head of one of them.
Mac got going quicker than I did and found his path blocked by another guard. He didn’t waste any time though, and killed him with a single shot. I ran on by, pulling out my lock picks. Fortunately, Mac was smarter than me and pulled a set of keys off the dead guard.
There were several guards arriving, so Aneila decided it was time to try out her new magic. She had been studying the book from Tressa the Red, when she wasn’t busying doing her weird experiments, and called forth a creature of pure water. The thing unleashed a blast of water at the guards, stunning several of them. Nigel took advantage of that and cut several of them down.
Mac made it over to the cell door while was still screwing around with the picks. He got the door opened, and we went in. In addition to Iranthis, there was a human that was probably Tomas and an Atani.
The scarabs were still on their way to the mages, and I just barely got all three unchained before they arrived. At that point, they must have been given the same protection that Nigel and Aneila had gotten for the rest of us, as the scarabs just moved on after more guards. Iranthis was feeling the effects of not being in water for a while, but was in decent shape. The Atani on the other hand was in very bad shape and would need help making his escape.
The human was a little upset at having been imprisoned. Any guards that the scarabs hadn’t gotten, he quickly put down with blasts of fire. I pulled him away from his revenge, asking if he was Tomas and if he had the Tears of Lys on him. He said yes, and I indicated we needed to go. When I mentioned O’Shanks and others of his crew were waiting below, he finally stopped hurling fire and made his way down the ladder.
It took a while for everyone to make it down the ladder and out to the rowboats. But eventually one did and then on to the Roadhouse. There were some wounded from the fight, but nothing major. Aneila did what she could with her magic, and the rest would be fine with time.
There were lots of congratulations and back slapping between the two crews, and I didn’t want to do anything that would put an end to that. But we needed the Tears, so I explained to Tomas why we had rescued him. It wasn’t a full story, just the basics. The world was still flooding and the Tears could help us in defeating the Sea Hags.
With a look of resolution he tore a fine gold chain from his neck and handed it to me. On the end was a small crystal, about the size of a large grape.
“I am told that once there were a dozen jewels on this necklace—one for every son a common woman named Lys lost in one of Caribdus’ great battles long, long ago. Now it is yours. Never let it be said that Tomas de Orinjo does not pay his debts. Simply hold it in your hand and speak aloud of the greatest tragedy you have ever suffered. Allow your tears to fall upon the jewel and Lys will tell you what you want to know.”
The group looked around awkwardly until Mac stood up, his face solemn. “I ain’t told no one this…” he begins and slowly loses himself in the story, his eyes looking to a past he’d left far away.
“I’m the son of Mug Macaro, Mayor of Killwah and the greatest carpenter who ever lived. Brought me up right and tried to…” he faltered, rubbing the back of his neck with a hand roughened by years of working wood. “Tried to teach me what he knew. I got some of it but he was a master, a wizard at it.”
“I fell in love while I was still apprenticing. First time I set eyes on Madelaine Magee I knew she had stolen my heart. We got married in Killwah just around the time the floods were getting worse. My father and the other men of the town argued over whether to move the town to higher ground or ride out the floods until they receded. My father convinced them to build an ark to keep the people above the waters but ready to come back to the town and recover when they receded.
“Father was always convinced the floods would recede. ’They’ll never cover Ograpog, son’ he’d say,” continued Mac until he choked up a little.
“So we built the ark. He and I worked side by side. Took us weeks but he promised Mother and I promised Maddie they’d be safe. Then the storm came. The waters rose too quickly. I told Maddie to stay sheltered in our little house while I made sure the ark was ready. I told her I’d get her to the ark when it was safe.”
“The ark was ready enough but they tell me a loose spar fell and struck me on the head. I was out for several days. Only after I woke up did I learn that in the chaos everyone had assumed I’d gotten Maddie on board already. No one got to her. My Maddie drowned because I just didn’t take her to the ship with me. I lost her.”
After a pause, he continued, his eyes wet. “Mother told me later that Maddie had had a secret. My love was going to tell me but the storm came. My Maddie was with child. I let them both die.”
Mac drops back on to a stool, eyes still unfocused and full of tears.
A tear dripped down his face and fell onto the diamond. Mac looked about—slightly embarrassed in front of such company—but then felt a warm glow in his palm. A tiny light grew in the gem, becoming brighter and brighter until it was almost too brilliant to look at. A thousand colors shone from the jewel’s many faces, spinning about and slowly weaving an image that looks something like a dream given form.
I saw a great, gray-haired king dressed in green armor the color of the deep sea. A golden octopus was upon his breastplate. He wore a bejeweled crown and had wise eyes that made you at once humble and afraid. Before him were three women chained to a post at the edge of a stony beach. They had black hair, fair skin, and wore plain cloth gowns—like the kind given to prisoners.
The king spoke. His voice was hard and firm—anger tempered like the steel of his blade. “You have been found guilty of witchcraft and the murder of your father and sister by a royal jury of Ograpog.” The king pointed to a group of three men. One of them was more clear than the rest. He was an older noble with the symbol of a leaping shark upon his tunic. The other two men were mere shadows, their features unrecognizable. King Amemnus spoke again. “For your crimes, I sentence you to be drowned in the rising tide and your bodies left to the beasts of the sea. Do you have any final words?”
The sisters answered their accuser in a voice that rumbled like the deep roar of the ocean. “You will die, king! We curse you with our dying breath. We curse you to drown as we will drown. And when your corpse floats beside ours, we will return and have our vengeance on your people as well!”
With that, the vision faded and Mac was left with nothing but a warm, salty tear in his palm.
I looked around and it was clear the others had seen it as well. The leaping shark symbol pointed to Byron Baltimus. He is long dead, but his decedent son Bruno runs the city of Baltimus. Aneila also mentioned that King Amemnus had looked like the man she had seen putting dates on the beach.