Puulp the Koa-toa Priest waits patiently as Urixes finishes his conversation with Cardan Byrne. As the Tiefling’s old friend departs for the evening, the fishman boldly approaches, clapping a clammy hand upon the Warlock's shoulder and congratulating him on his victory at the Grey Maw.
“My people had a victory of our own, you may haff heard…bringing in extra supplies, with the large-dwarf friend of yours!” the elder Koa-toa croaks, his throat swelling with pride. “Yes…our young one, Rhu Rhu, was very taken with ze adventure…and za experience of being on zis Ship. The little one would very much like to come with you!”
“Zere are a couple udders who have expressed interest as well…za Pag siblings. But, well,” the Priest’s bulbous eyes look away from Urixes, playing at being embarrassed. “…zey are two of our stronger warriors. Ze may still have need of strength, before we reach waters we can call our home. But maybe,” the fishman licks his teeth, leaning in closer to whisper. “…maybe, with the right additional “compensation”, my people could spare the help? Eh? You scratch my back, I scratch yours? Za Pag sisters, zey will be worth every gold…but if I’m being honest, my people need za gold a *bit more* at za moment…
Denada wrote: »
(( I'm totally on board with those assignments, and I'm glad to see Yr-Us in the carpenter role. As soon as I read her blurb I was envisioning the Curse growing more and more wild as time goes on, with timber being replaced by carved leviathan bones and such. ))
That night, Arno is literally shaken awake by their friend, the Seer Zephyr. The Air Genasi’s eyes are still wide, and the slight breeze coming off his body must be his kind’s version of a panic-sweat. Zephyr is already begging forgiveness as the Changeling opens their eyes.
“Yes well…hello! I do greatly apologize my friend, but I’m afraid I just had the most disturbing dream!” Panting with fear and excitement, Zephyr flips to the latest entry in his dream journal, and begins to read stoically from the page. His hands act out the action as he goes along: “The Whispered Curse was sailing on a strangely darkened sea. Suddenly my sight began to pull back, as though I were flying or being pulled away. I could see the waters around the Ship filled with countless white marbles, bobbing along the top of the ocean. Then, my vision pulled back enough that I could see the place within which the Curse truly sailed…a fishbowl, alone on a table in a small, dark room.”
“Suddenly, I knew that I wasn’t alone in the room. There was a Monster in there with me. As soon as it realized I knew it was there, It darted over to the fishbowl, picked it up, and went to *SMASH* it to the floor…”
“…then I was back on board the Curse somehow. Everything, everyone, was sideways. Water and glass filled the air, reflecting off all the other water and glass, and the white marbles, until it was impossible to make out five feet in front of my own face. We were all falling, forever. Just before I awoke, I sensed the Monster outside the glass somewhere, looking in past the shattered glass, grinning at me.”
The Seer closes his notebook with a loud *POP*. Nearby, crewmen grumble and turn over in their sleep. Zephyr’s shoulders go up in sudden embarrassment. Quieter, he leans closer to Arno’s bunk. “I felt, distinctly, that I hadto share this with you. I know not what it means,” Zephyr whispers, shaking his head in slight awe. “…but, I suspect we will find out shortly. It felt…imminent?...”
“I should go, and let you get back to your rest. Farewell, my friend!” the Genasi hisses softly as he departs
Arno shares the tale of their midnight visitor at an early breakfast that morning, before heading up to take their turn at the Wheel. The slight drizzle from yesterday has continued on, but the endless emptiness of the Open Ocean before them has been replaced by a steadily growing field of Ice Floes. Arno thinks back ruefully on the white marbles in Zephyr’s dream…
Before noon, the wind has all but vanished from the skies. The air around you is dead and still. The Riggers do what they can to coax the remaining life out of the sails, but quickly enough, the Whispered Curse is moving forward on momentum alone. Those with weather-magic (Refi, Aaron) standby, waiting to be called upon, shivering in the rain.
The field of Ice Floes encircles around the Ship as it passes West, and the Curse is now regularly *THWUMPING* its way through the smaller chunks of snow and rock in the waters below.
The Crew are all on high-alert, so everyone notices the obscene shift in the atmosphere *right away*: the drizzle suddenly…changes…and looking around the sky now feels like looking down an infinite hallway of mirrors. Each individual drop of water reflects the view from another somewhere. In a single second of rainfall, a million different visions and views flashes before the eyes of the observer: they catch sights of the Ship, themselves, Ice Floes a hundred feet away, the sky. The effect is disorienting, to say the very least…
Jack is the first to notice someone else out here, as he gets a fractured vision through the rain of a large Galleon pulling out from behind one of the larger Ice Floes. Hollers ring out shortly afterwards; they’ve see you, too. Jeers and mocking laughter come from the deck of a Ship, somewhere nearby…
Slevin De’tres, up to watch the rain, suddenly falls sideways, and nearly slides over the side of the Ship before Jack reaches out to grab the “Dwarf”. Slevin thanks Jack wordlessly with a weak grin and a nod, sliding towards the doors and escaping from the disorienting weather to the Lower Decks.
Eyes do little good in the funhouse-maze of the Mirror Rain, so Jack tries to focus his senses elsewhere. Hairs prickling on the back of his arms, he sinks into the mindset of a beast, and uses his predatory talents to feel the vibrations: in the air, in the water, in the shouting of the enemy bouncing off the raindrops.
The voices are harsh and mocking, but the words the men use are cultured, and bear the distinct mark of the upper class. Professional pirates, then…and they’re to the Northeast of you, about… seventy feet out! You’re headed right towards them! Harried, Jack turns to call out a warning to Arno at the Ship’s Wheel. But over his own yelling, he just misses hearing the noise that follows in the distance: the unmistakable sound of Lead Shot, being loaded into Cannons…
Arno *CRANKS* the wheel left to drive the Ship west and away from the Pirates, and Oak is thrown bodily sideways and hard, down to the Main Deck. Fortunately for Oak, Rax the Rattled is there to break your fall. Unfortunately for the lizard, he is unaware that he is to break the Barbarian’s fall until the very last moment, when the huge shifter *CRUSHES* him into an unconscious heap.
As Hugo rushes over to assist the pummeled Rak’ta, Oak pulls himself up and returns to the railing near Jack, trying to focus only on the area the young Shifter is pointing in. It’s near impossible to see anything in this damnable rain, even if you know what you’re looking for, and if anything Oak’s keen new eyes make the Mirror Rain more distracting. But Oak manages to pick out a few key items from the distant enemy: glittering gold, adoring their ships, their weapons, their clothing; Rafts, several of them, being dropped in the water from a Large Galleon (the Rafts and Galleons are similarly shining with gold); faces, healthy, well cared for, and almost universally human or elf; upon the faces, smug contempt, and now, slowly building anger as the Whispered Curse pulls away from them, and cuts out of line of sight between little icebergs.
Unseen, the enemy crafts are drawing close enough across the waters that you can make out their words, mocking: “Where you going, friends?” “Your Ship looks a bit damaged…had some trouble?” “Hey, what’s the matter? You never heard of the…” “Come back, we just want to talk…” “Why are you running? What are you running from?...” “Do you all need help? Stop for just a moment, friends! We’re here to assist!...”
Something about those voices makes Oak’s blood run cold. He isn’t the only one: from nearby, Jared Edgar whispers to Whistler the Kenku, “Ya’bool, neda berro, te’ok nonce eto-mingo!.” (“Good *Lords*, I’ve never heard such kindness from someone I was so certain wanted to kill me!”) The Kenku whistles, quietly, in agreement: “Min-go.”
A madhouse floats in the airs around the Ship. But, there is method here, Urixes remembers. He has had humans describe to him the feeling of inching through the dark, attempting to move in blindness and grope their way forward without sight. It is much the same here, but instead Urixes allows himself to go blind to the rains; to simply not see that which is in front of him. A sort of…self-inflicted illusion.
And it works. He sees it clearly for a single moment: a path opens, a hundred feet west and then with a sharp turn to the north. Urixes hollers up to Arno, calling out the specific distances between the points. Then, closing his eyes, the Warlock slips under, casting his consciousness beneath the boat, to find a wandering school of mackerel traveling the ice floes. His consciousness finds the fish nearest to the Ship and begins to move through them, watching for icebergs directly in the Ship’s path, jumping from one to another. But the Curse is starting to gain momentum…Urixes is having a hard time keeping up, finding new hosts as the old ones fall out of sight of the Ship…
Suddenly, Urxies’s concentration *SNAPS*, and he finds himself knocked-down to the planks below. At first the Tiefling believes he’s under attack, but as he frantically looks around, he makes almost immediate note of the Aaracokra Ril, smashed into a mast nearby. It seems the birdman had attempted to find his way from the Crow’s Nest to the Main Deck, and lost track himself while flying through the rain
Jack manages to sniff out the location of enemy ships: to the Northeast! Arno *SPINS* the wheel, cutting away and to the West. Refi and Derbin are already wrapped around the railings with both hands, but Rhu Rhu obviously hasn’t spent much time on dry land. The Koa-toa is *CHUCKED* across the Captain’s Deck, flying all the way from one side to another before cracking himself against the railing! Derbin moves to rescue the fishman before he falls from the side of the Ship.
Refi is muttering directions in Arno’s ear. She’s trying to help, but still clearly out of sorts, and more anxious than you remember seeing her before. “Bit to the Port side….watch the edge there, don’t wanna cut too close…oh, bloody hell, can’t make out the next twenty feet for my own ass…saw it just fine thirty seconds ago! *ARRGH*, I used to be able to *do this*…”
The Old Girl is right, the rains a second ago showed the next fifty feet just fine, but the current mirrorfall is mostly either mean looking men and elves dressed for a pirate ball, or glances at your own backsides. But then…if you’ve already seen the next fifty feet, why do you need to bother looking at all? In fact…
Ship’s Wheel firmly held between their arms, the lives of 35 crew, 18 Koa-toa, 3 dwarves, and a donkey in their hands, Arno the Changeling closes their eyes tightly, working from memory. A bit to the port side…pull it back straight….keep steady…watch the starboard side (*OOF*! Well, that one came from below…must’ve been the edge of an iceberg….pull it back to the port side, now…)
“They’re doing it,” says a pleased-to-popping dwarven voice nearby. “I told you….it’s the Sway.”
“My Gods,” breathes Refi, awestruck or bewildered.
From nearby, the Sorcerer Aaron timidly interrupts: “Missagneme’? Der’beardo? Y’wannu shell..”
“Shit, he’s right!” says Refi, snapping out of it. “They’ve got their Winds up! Doesn’t matter how pretty we get out of here, if we let them catch us…” The Wizard and the Sorcerer finally get to work, placing magical Winds to the Sails…
The Whispered Curse makes their way to the West through the Ice Floes, artfully navigating past hazards and across the waters (although once, accidently clipping the side of a larger-than-thought iceberg from underneath). The Enemy Ships (a Galleon and a team of rafts, all gilded in gold), make a desperate last bid to make for your Ship, recklessly plunging through craft through ice and rocks: masochistically battering their own beautiful crafts in a bloodthirsty last bid to get within striking distance!
But Arno and Urixes have put enough distance between the two groups, and their effort is a failure. However, it’s not fast enough to be fully out of danger: once the gold gilded pirates realize you’re nearly out of their grasp, their syrup-drenched malice turns to open curses and foul words. In the moments soon after, their cannons *FIRE*! (Whispered Curse- (AC 15)
The rain turns to snow overnight. Huddled Koa-toa along the Orlop Deck bunch together tightly in the chilly night air. The trio of Dwarves have decided to drink among the crewmates this evening in the Galley. Having hidden away from the day’s events, the three little men are cheery and upbeat, swapping stories with the crew. Their favorite tales are of flying though the Expanse on the Sun Prince’s ship, watching Volcanoes explode while floating safely above, and being served Mulled Wine by werewolves in longcoats.
The next morning the dead air remains. The Ship coasts forward under its own momentum, but only slightly. “Was’ afraid of this,” Refi tuts to Arno up at the Ship’s Wheel, quietly cursing the elements as she rubs her hands together for warmth. “It’s the nature of the Expanse…weather tends to follow, one day to the next out here. Happens more often than it doesn’t.” Refi climbs up the railing, putting up a hand to shield her eyes as she stares out at the grey horizon. She turns back to Derbin and Arno, looking worried. “We’ve got me an’ the Edgar-boy to put the wind to ur’ sails, but that’s only get us so far. It keeps up like this, we’re not gonna make it to Chaff on schedule…and that might be a problem, way things have been…”
Things are going similarly poorly down on the Main Deck, where Jack is nearly *CRACKED* in the head by a rope line swinging past from the Nest far above. Instead of giving Jack a concussion, the hook at the end of the line barely-misses, arcs up into the Main Sail, and catches along the fabric. Under the weight of the hook, the ropeline begins to tug back towards the deck, t-e-a-r-i-n-g along the sail’s seam as gravity drags it down…
“No, nonononoNO!” cries Natali-Gravedigger, the Master Rigger throwing herself down the rope ladder in an effort to rush to the dropped hook. “I’m so sorry!” she bleats to Jack, clapping him on the shoulders as she runs past him. “I swear, that’s never happened before! It’s all because…”
A familiar lizard gets to the caught hook before she does, reaching up and delicately linking it with his own before gently removing it from the sail. Rax the Ravishing gives the item back to Natali, the frill on his neck rising in pride. “Itsss becaussse you are ssshort *my* help. Which issss, underssstandable…I am quite amassing.”
“Rax!” Natali yells happily, reaching over and playfully slugging the Lizard in the arm. “But wait…I thought you got a bad case of the “Dizzies”…the doctor said…”
“Yesss, well, it wassss za doctor who helped me. Hugo had ssssmelling ssssalts he wasss able to lend …haff nearly got back my sea legs, and mosssst of my head.”
“Oh, Rax…I’m so glad to hear that!” Natali exclaims, clapping her hands together. But She hesitates. “Wait….”most”?”
“Hrrm, yessss. Za vertigo isss gone, but Hugo sssaid I still sssussstained a minor concusssssion. Hit my head. Very. Hard.” At the final word, Rax catches Oak’s eyes across the Deck, the Rak’ta’s tongue *flicking* involuntarily as he glares at the hefty Barbarian.
Puulp and his entire school of Koa Toa make their way up to the Main Deck around midday. They’re clearly worked up and excited about something. The Fish Priest loudly seeks out the location of Urixes from everyone standing nearby until Cardan finally points him towards the Stern of the ship. The old priest waddles quickly to the front of the craft to find the Tiefling.
“Hello!”, the Koa toa throatily greets the Warlock. “We haff discussed my group departing your ship, once we had found signs of my people? That time has now come! If you will look to the horizon…that rock zere? An outpost of Koa toa, built as a safe stop nearby to za Grey Maw! We will leave you here, and wish you and your fleshies well-luck!” The fishman extends a slippery webbed hand once more to the Tiefling, looking every bit the proud, triumphant leader-of-his-people.
The Whispered Curse pulls up alongside a small, stony hill, the only noticeable points of interest being two pine trees that now gather snow near the top of the rocky peak. The Koa toa gather into a tight-knit group near the Main Mast, trading a strange series of hand gestures and throat noises with Din-Lin and Yr-Us as some sort of farewell ritual.
Puulp the Koa toa Priest approaches the Wild Bunch one last time, hissing a sincere thanks to each of you individually and passing a blessing with religious arm movements as he moves from one to the next. “May za Kraken watch over each of you! May your eggs hatch and crawl from za Dark Places! May za parasites of za Great Beyond come to live behind your eyes! May you eat many small fish, and feed a Great One with your death!”
“Of course,” Puulp considers just as he pulls away, placing a pensive, beady head in a clammy palm. “….you have done much for us. Maybe, you would like to accompany za people down to our home? Zere are caves withi,n zat weave thru za structures, lacking water so your type may breathe za thin air. It iz but a simple Outpost, but I am sure they can provide…?” The Koa toa looks at each of you in turn, eyes unblinking. “…a place to rest? Maybe, something to eat?”
Jack looks down into the water:
The (rather large) outpost is beautifully sculpted, carved right into the rocks below. The stone is almost unnaturally smooth in places, as though it had been rubbed by a thousand years of tides. The waters around the area are strangely murky for out here on the Open Waters. Wildlife is scare to non-existent, and the ocean is filled with (very) recently churned sand and debris. The young shifter tries to find the source of the disturbance, glancing about the sea floor...
...there, near the bottom of the Koa toa structure...a gigantic hole, messily-carved out of the spongy rock, and big enough for, easily-EASILY, four wagons-strapped together to fit through. It looks like something, something absolutely massive, dug its way out from inside the underwater structure, and escaped out to the sea. Whatever it was is probably still out here right now, somewhere nearby. The thought *prickles* the hairs on the back of Jack's arms
Suddenly, from within the giant-creature hole, Jack makes out familiar, fishy forms, watching him as he watches the ocean. Once they see Jack take note of them, these Koa toa all scatter back to their watery shadows, trying to hide before the "fleshie" can notice them. From the momentary glance Jack had, they didn't seem threatening: if anything, Jack got the impression of a property owner hiding from a knock at the door, trying to pretend that they weren't at home...
Arno tries to get a read on the fishman. Puulp stares right back at the Changeling, head lolling for one side to another. The Priest is eager, but inscrutable. His eyes have a strange hunger to them...
The Koa toa nods his head effusively at Arno’s question. “Zis outpost is known for having leftovers wash up from travelers journeying to and from za Grey Maw. Odds are very good zere is *zumething* the Koa toa have which may help your journey!”
”Yiss! Yiss! Until za weather changes!” Puulp agrees wholeheartedly with Urixes. “My people would be *most* pleased to meet you all! Come, come!” The Koa toa beckons towards the single, indescript cave on the island. The Warlock isn’t sure, but he thinks he gets a good feeling from the inhuman Priest. It’s not a clean feeling, mind: the way in which the Koa toa stares at the Wild Bunch seems to fall somewhere directly between an insatiable hunger and a…well, romantic sort of lust? But at least, the Tiefling is *almost-fully* confident that these fishmen have no-interest in consuming your group or feeding you to Dark Gods (at least, for the present moment)
Nearby, Oak takes a long, hard look down into the water as the Wild Bunch discusses joining the fish school down in their underwater Outpost. He sees everything that Jack had taken in: the devoid of life, dust-filled sea; the *massive* creature hole dug out from inside the bottom of the Koa toa structure; the Koa toa manning the Outpost, hiding warily from the peering eyes of your Ship, trying to avoid detection…
The Barbarian notices other things underwater as well. The Koa toa structure must have suffered a good deal of recent internal damage, due to the eight or so currently-visible leaks siphoning water into the place. The giant-whatever-it-was spent some time trashing the interior of the Outpost, before finally, forcefully leaving for the ocean.
And as to the waters below you…they’re dirt-filled, but not necessarily empty. Here and there, all along the ocean floor, are the scattered body parts of mutilated Whale Sharks. A severed fin, carelessly torn aside here…most of a head, strangely bloodless, over there…
Oak takes a deep breath, and stares into the Open Oceans all around the Ship as far put as he can see, peering through the waters, looking for any other signs of life. There is very little to be found. Small fish occasionally *DART* between rocks near the sea floor, terrified, but for almost the *whole mile* around you, everything has gone to ground. All of the wildlife in this part of the ocean is in hiding right now…
Fifty feet into the island’s cave, your group comes to a (once) beautifully carved stairway, clearly of an ancient Elven design. Periodic waters rushing in have sculpted the ancient ivory into something else entirely, and the stairway leading down is now covered in piercing coral, overrun with barnacles, and carved in all places untouched with strange, intricate, unreadable runes….URXIESThe runes are a *living record* of the Koa toa tied to this particular place: a sort of “who’s who” of fishmen who gave their lives, ascending their kind towards a “Greater Purpose”. It includes the individual fish’s place of birth, lifelong journeys, surviving brood, and the cause their death ultimately went on to fulfill. Some spent their lives on minor things, like still-unheard of Gods, or calling storms to wreck Ships in order to feed their people. More than a few have given their lives for Ghaunadaur. Many of the ones who died in relation to this place were seeking “Blood”, for the “Egg”…
Puulp and his fish school lead the way, guiding the Wild Bunch down the elaborately carved set of steps. The stairway seems to be the central hub of this Outpost, branching into a dozen different corridors off the main path as you all work your way underwater. The structure leaks freshly in half a dozen places: sometimes a simple drip, and sometimes a *ROARING*, overhead deluge which floods the steps and must be carefully avoided on the march down. The Koa toa contingent *chatter* amongst themselves before you all, obviously surprised at the state of the place (Urixes and Arno pick up a sense of steadily building awe and excitement amongst the fishmen, like they had accidentally just arrived in time for Christmas…)
Suddenly, from under the water spouts and beneath the shadows, Koa toa guards of the Garrison pop out, holding hand-carved javelins and *HISSING* at your group in consternation! Puulp *immediately* jumps to put himself between the newcomers and the Wild Bunch, gurgling and bubbling an explanation! (Urixes and Arno watch the fish men argue. The leader of the newcomers is confused, and feels betrayed that Puulp would bring….huh,…*just*, Jack and Oak here? Puulp churns out an explanation as quickly as possible, while insisting the guards put down their arms. “These are the good kind of shifters!”, he argues. “*Not* Prince’s Dogs, *Not* Wild-Kind: something different, and *potentially groundbreaking*!”)
The Outpost guards babbles and smack their jaws together, debating disbelievingly amongst one another. The fishmen slowly, finally begin to put down their javelins, one by one. A lone fishman, Lin-Jal, approaches Puulp and beckons him to come closer. The priest and the fishguard share a hissed whisper for a quick moment, and the Priest begins to visibly tremor with excitement at the secret news. As Lin-Jal tells her men to stand down, Puulp turns back to the Wild Bunch with barely contained, religious ecstasy:
“My friend, Urixes…Shifters and Changers…a blessid event has occurred! Zis place was built around a precious artifact…za lost Egg of a Kraken. It was once zought petrified and dead, zimply a treasure for Elves….but our people came here, built ze Outpost around it…and it haff *finally* been made *whole* again! Za little God climbed from its shell not two daze ago, and blessed za place wiff its prescence…before departing to za Ocean, to grow big und’ strong!”
“Zere is to be a great feast zis evening! The Koa toa will celebrate za birth of a new, infant God! Will you ‘und your crew join us?”
Arno tries to follow along with the chatter of the ecstatic Koa toa. Its not their native tongue, of course, but they manage to get by well enough through body language. Communicating the basic concepts of “Ship, Sleep, Safe” and “People, Sleep, Safe”, the Changeling soon gets a steady stream of gurgling responses from the fishmen. Urixes, slowly and a bit shakily, is able to translate the odd verb Arno doesn’t understand from context.
As your scaly new friends tell it, on the island above, there is a bigger-than-it-looks inlet, which is on the opposite side from the cave entrance, and could safely obscure the Ship from anyone not specifically aware of the location. You get word up to the Ship, and they’d have a safe place to park for the night; maybe even have some work done to the Hull…Even better, it sounds like there’s still some large, dry-space down within the Outpost as well; a room the Kraken’s *thrashing* missed! Arno follows the Koa toa down a long hall where the water runs waist deep, wading their way upwards until they finally reach what seems to have once been…a very large, multi-story Elvish prison. Cots sit behind unlocked steel bars, the sheets long ago dissolved and overgrown with algae. Its humid in here, and no high-end Inn: but it is also safe, a respite from endlessly rocking waves, and if you were to break what furniture remained around, you probably could get a good little bonfire going in here for the night (not too hot though: you don’t want to fill what breathable air there is *completely* with smoke)
…LATER, AT DINNER
Digging into a strange-shaped mollusk smeared in unidentified gruel at dinner, Arno inquires as to how the proud new parents are doing. Puulp is practically *panting* at a chance to explain:
“Za Egg has lain here for many-hundreds of years, dormant! It haff been fed on blood, and death, und’ ritual by our people, all ziss time, to no-avail!” The Priest looks down, as do his brethren, sadly at their meals: it has been a dark time for these people.
Then Puulp pulls his head up, *snapping* his jaw happily. “But zen…if *ziss* Egg has awoken, hatched after a hundred years…zen za Gods listen once more to the Koh toa! Za curse of our people haff been *broken*!” A *CHEER* goes up from the table, a score of raspy fish-voices celebrating their liberation with bone tools scraping the soapstone.
Puulp further explains to the Changeling, “When za Hatchling emerged, it swallowed up half za Koa toa of zis Outpost. It was, a last sacrifice…zose scalies breathed za *final life* into za Kraken, transfiguring zeir souls into One, and allowing the creature to be fully born! You zee,” the Priest explains patiently, describing his ancient-religion with a fresh love and genuine wonder, “Zey do not truly die…instead, zey are reborn, *gloriously*, as but One Aspect of a New God!” The Koa toa sitting nearby nod to one another knowingly, happily sharing their jealousy of those who have ascended…
The Koa toa burble delightedly at Jack’s questioning. Puulp speaks up with pride, “Za Koa toa people are experts at aquatic architecture! We haff secret methods to drain and funnel water, za type which would make a dwarf eat hiss own beard!” The Koa toa nod to one another conspiratorially, keeping their construction secrets to themselves for the time being.
Talk of “food for the crew” seems to confuse the creatures for some reason. For a couple minutes, Puulp and several of the fishmen seem to get into an argument, although Jack can’t quite make out about what. Finally, they reach some sort of consensus, and Puulp turns back towards the young shifter. “Yiss! Sustenance, for your people! Our fishmongers cultivate a special roe, which keeps for a good long while, and under medium-heat turns into a delicious sauce!...”
LATER, AT DINNER
The Koh toa become silent at talk of the Sun Prince. Once more, Lin-Jal and Puulp begin to bicker, arguing over bringing these particular guests into the Outpost. Finally, Puulp dismisses the fishgirl’s concerns, and attempts to explain to Jack:
“The Sun Prince is a Captain of his own…of sorts. He “sails” za skies of za Expanse in his Glass Sun-Ship, “Elysium”. And his business is…well, business. Trade routes, getting ports in working order, cornering goods markets, hiring and moving labor, buying up property…”
“The last izz actually the reason my people were hiding out below, trying to stay out of sight of the Curse. You see, the Sun Prince owns *this property* as well. Za Koh tao were informed of ziss some years back, when an envoy was sent down from Elysium to inform us of za sale. Apparently, the last remaining rights belonged to an Elven heir who had lost them to an Orc in a game of cards; who had transferred them to his wife after his death; who had been forced into selling them to maintain the blacksmith’s shop her husband’s death had left unable to turn a profit without a smithy…it was all, very complicated. We obviously knew none of it until zey explained it to us.”
“In any case, we haff since been “renting” from za Sun Prince to live here. But…lately, we haff fallen behind on making payments. Urixes, *that* is why I haff been so eager to get our hands on gold, and why the location of za treasure you haff shared izz za first thing my people will pursue come tomorrow morning. I hope, now, you understand why… So, when za people saw Jack and Oak peer over, zey assumed the Sun Prince’s Shifters had come to collect early. Zey… would hound us without payment, harass the waters for miles around…or worse, attempt to claim the Kraken’s Egg as some sort of “deal” to pay zem for za privelege. Zat we could not abide!”
…they are confused by your strange philosophy and logic, Puulp the Priest most especially. He asks Arno to repeat themselves again. And again. Once more, please.
The Koa toa listen raptly, as the Changeling puts forth alternate explanations for the Kraken hatching. The response is…conflicted, to say the least. Puulp tries to translate what Arno has described into their speech, but hands keep jerking up to interrupt, demanding clarification. The Priest tries to explain, describing what he thinks the Changeling means, or is trying to say…but each new explanation just leads to more questions, and an increasingly frustrated and confused gathering of Koa toa.
Arno can’t quite make out the specifics, but they get the general gist of what is going on: there are two distinct “schools” of thought happening between the Koa toa here. One of them *does not* understand what Arno is saying at all, and can’t seem to even grasp the concept they’re trying to put forth. Gods…changing? What? No no…surely, a much simpler solution is that the Gods simply chose not to eat your Ship so that the Koa toa could arrive here to bear witness, nothing more. Probably, you are simply a morsel saved for a later date, having now served your purpose in the greater Circle. Yes, yes, that must be it! The Gods work in mysterious ways, after all…
But the other half of the group, the ones that keep interrupting to question, look pensive and disturbed by all of this. Something about what Arno has suggested here has planted a niggling seed of doubt among them, which Puulp’s insistent assurances don’t seem to be assuaging.
Finally, exasperated, Puulp turns from his school back to Arno, trying desperately to change the subject. “You had spoke of za Egg…do you wish to see it up close?”
Word reached here fast, as gossip often does. The Kuo-toa have heard *all about* what happened that night at the Grey Maw. As the fishmen jabber the story over the top of one another, Puulp tries to translate along as quickly and accurately as he can:
“From what the tales they haff heard, za Sun Prince is said to be cleaning up his competition around za Expanse; consolidating his enemies. Last month, he killed all the members of za Trader’s Union, cutting off hiss only competition in labor. They haff said just last week he openly attacked a Supply Ship of za Queen’s Army, an open declaration of war between za two biggest factions on za sea. And now, apparently,” The Priest looks over at Oak, with some concern and trepidation. ”…it sounds as zo he has taken credit for za Witch’s fall at za Grey Maw!”
“The story that has been told is, za Sun Prince arranged a meeting with the She-Witch Faye and Iquim the Watcher both at za heights of za Grey Maw. You see, Faye and Iquim are…were… the Keepers of “The Teeth”; the Isles which sit at the very center of the Expanse.”
“Once zere, zey say, the Sun Prince sent out an ambush of shock troops to greet zem. And zen, a great battle ensued! At za Prince’s side, a flock of Black Dragons, spraying magical breathe…a Storm Giant, throwing lightning bolts…a Small, Cursed Child, who shot full-sized fire elementals from a magical pistol. Za story goes, za Witch was *finally* thrown to za ground, and a Shifter they have dubbed “Oso del Trueno”, who was eleven feet tall, with teeth of red metal, *BIT* Faye’s head cleanly-off. And, at za zame time, the Sun Prince’s top lieutenant POLYMORPHED into a Purple Worm to kill Iquim, destroying the Grey Maw is za process!”
Puulp the Priest seems to be close to giggling, or whatever the fishy version of giggling would be. At a loss, the Kuo-toa turns back to Oak, and simply shurgs. “It is, za way of rumor, I am afraid. Za Sun Prince has many eyes and ears, not to mention mouths, around za Expanse. It does make sense, he would attempt to profit off the situation…”