Aboard the Teeth of Araska the previous evening, Ishana leads the pirates in a solemn prayer for the soul of Solemn Jack. She prays to Calistria, the Savored Sting, to watch over him and to bring him into her loving embrace in her celestial mansion in Elysium. Failing that, Pharasma, the Lady of Graves, is beseeched to give Solemn Jack her fair and impartial judgment and to send him to his just recompense. Besmara the Pirate Queen is also beseeched to put in a good word for Solemn Jack to the Lady of Graves for all his years of dutiful service to the goddess of piracy. After that, Solem Jack’s corpse, wrapped and bound in a sailcloth, is consigned to the waves.
That night as Jethrik lies in his hammock in the darkened crew commons Tubbs, lying in a cot across from him, asks, “Say Jethrik. What is the prize we are after here? What were you and your friends seeking? Raiding this castle has already cost the life of one of our crew. This is no soft merchant ship whose sailors quickly surrender their goods to save their lives. These creatures are vicious and uncanny! There seems to be many of them, and many kinds! What is in there to risk our lives for? And will your friends be after us as well, especially since you’ve turned on them by joining us and telling us about their quest?”
“I wish I knew the answers to all those questions. The only thing I can say with confidence is that my friends from the caravan won’t fight to get me back when they hear I want to stay. I mean, Captain Grudge is going to get me more gold than I’ll ever see following some mule driver. They can see that. Besides, what gold I had I sunk into that stupid caravan. They’ll probably keep that for themselves! What hope of a real payoff we had was finding something here in Brinewall. There’s this lady… isn’t there always! Her family comes from far off and supposedly there’s some family secret hidden here. That’s all I know for sure. We all supposed it would be something that would turn out to be valuable one way or another, but I really don’t know. I’m a sucker for long odds and pretty faces. I guess I’m not the only one, eh? I had no idea there would be creatures like we’ve seen! I hear you about being ready to go up against it when you need to. My old pack, we’ve been through some scraps too. But I don’t think they’re ready for this, and I’m sorry if I dragged you into it.”
Jethrik comes up on deck at dawn to see that one of the longboats has already been taken out. Captain Grudge, Selis, and that half of the crew that stayed behind the day before have already gone ashore. Ishana, however, has stayed behind and she is watching the mouth of the river with concern.
Ishana notices Jethrik and commands, “Get up into the crow’s nets. You gnomes are said to have keen senses. Relieve the lookout and watch for the captain’s return.”
“Aye! Aye!” Jethrik replies dutifully. He then sets to climbing the mast.
After a few minutes he sees that the longboat is being rowed back, but only by a couple of pirates. Other than those two rowers the longboat is empty. He also sees that something is flying towards them from the castle. As it gets nearer he sees that it seems to be some kind of humanoid with wings, too far yet to tell if it is the same winged corbie or tengu or whatever it was that they encountered in the throne room of the castle.
Jethrik sounds the alarm and points to the flying humanoid.
The pirates quickly load their crossbows and prepare to loose their bolts upon it. As it gets closer, Jethrik sees that it is not the black feathered winged man from the day before. This one is female and her wings are have the colorings of a hawk. Her legs end in wicked looking talons and instead of body hair she seems to have feathers, but otherwise she looks like a winged woman, though her countenance is sharp and cruel. She is heading right for the crow’s nest. As she gets closer he sees that she wears a quiver upon her back and carries a strung bow in her left hand, but she has not nocked an arrow. Seeing the crossbows aimed up at her she gestures and a chaotic blast of multicolored hues surrounds her. She continues for the crow’s nest. When she is 160’ away and Ishana believes they pirates might be able to hit her she commands them to fire, but the bolts either miss or are deflected by the colored lights. Then it is too late, for within seconds the creature has landed upon the crow’s nest and grabbed Jethrik. Now within the sphere of the entropic shield, he sees that she is also wearing a chain shirt and so is fairly well armored against attack. Up close she reeks of cheap perfume and beneath that the smell of carrion.
In his mind, but not aloud, he hears her voice saying, ‘I mean no harm to you or your crew. Tell them to stand down, for I have an offer to make for our mutual profit.’ It occurs to Jethrik, who is wearing the plumed hat given to him by the crew, that she has perhaps mistaken him for the captain. Below him he hears Ishana shouting more orders for the pirates to take to the rigging and capture the foul thing. ‘Did she intend that pun?’ wonders Jethrik.
Jethrik quickly grabs the feather and tiny tarts with his left hand and cast them in the air saying, “Unnecessary roughness! Ten yard foul!” The bird-woman’s expression grows stern and she thinks to him, ‘I am not amused. Now tell the pirates to stand down or I will fly you high over the rocks upon the shore and release you there.’
With dread and resignation, Jethrik calls down to his shipmates, “She says she won’t harm us if you put down your weapons!”
Ishana laughs. “As if she could harm us! But I am curious. Very well, everyone as you were! What does she want Jethrik?”
‘Very good,’ says the creature in Jethrik’s mind as she continues to clutch his right arm. ‘Tell this to your leader, the priestess: My name is Zaiobe. I see that your leader here is a priestess of Calistria, the Savored Sting, the Goddess of Revenge. Well, it is vengeance I am after against a lover who mocked me for the last time. If you help me take down the tengu named Kikonu who leads the dire corbies, then I will have my revenge and you may have your run of Castle Brinewall. Also, to sweeten the deal, know that Kikonu possesses a weapon named Dancing Wasp. It is a sickle and chain that if twirled above one’s head will summon a giant wasp to fight as the wielder desires. What better weapon for a priestess of Calistria? Help me kill Kikonu and it shall be yours! Now tell her, gnome!’
“OK, so there’s a bad relationship involved. Isn’t there always?” Jethrik attempts a laugh but it sounds rather weak in his current state of discomfort. “Hang on a sec. She’s got a lot to say. This may take a while.”
In a lower voice he says to Zaiobe, “These guys aren’t terribly trustworthy. And the tengu handed Captain Grudge a pretty good beating yesterday.” Jethrik says to the creature. “We might want to discuss this more. These pirates kidnapped me. So far I haven’t seen much that impresses me about them, but I haven’t been able to get away. I can’t swim far enough… or fly. I have some friends that might be nearby. They are much more impressive. I just don’t have anyway of getting to them myself, and finding them may be tough in the forest. They are coming up by caravan, so we might be able to find them from the air. If you follow me. Wink, wink.”
Zaiobe gives him a sly look and then thinks to him, ‘Yes, I want to know more about your friends. These pirates are weak anyway. Kikonu already drove them out of the castle once and now he’s prepared. You’re coming with me then so we can talk some more.’ She spits over the side of the crow’s nest at the gaping pirates in the rigging below and then launches herself back into the air, grabbing Jethrik by the shoulders with her taloned feet. She cackles as she and Jethrik fly at speed away from the ship. The pirates in the rigging shake their cutlasses in futility and shout for Jethrik, while the pirates on the deck hurriedly fire their crossbows at Zaiobe upon Ishana’s orders, but again the bolts either miss or are deflected by her entropic shield.
As they fly off Jethrik yells. “Ah! She’s going to eat us all one at a time!” He then looks up and says, “And if you do want to eat them, feel free. I won’t miss them and couldn’t stop you anyway.”
Zaiobe passes over the longboat being rowed back to the Teeth of Araska, and soon she is flying over the castle and village whereupon she and Jethrik see that Captain Grudge and several of his crew are in hiding around the rubble of the lighthouse. In the woods what appears to be an enormous butterfly dives back under the canopy of the trees. Zaiobe snarls at it but it is already out of sight. As she flies due east she thinks to Jethrik, ‘So tell me about these friends of yours. How many of them are there? Are there any strong fighters in your group? Anyone who can cast arcane or divine magic? Any stealthy assassins perhaps? Where do you think these friends are liable to be? By the caravan trail?’
Jethrik replies, “So many questions! Let’s see… Depends on who you count… five of us adventurer types and a caravan crew. I guess you don’t care about them. Yes, yes and yes. And I guess I am the only sneaky one. I am hardly an assassin and not very dangerous at all. At least not all by myself. And I don’t know so well. I imagine the caravan is by the caravan trail, but I saw Jahard the elf sneaking around in the ruins.
As they are nearing the eastern edge of the forest where the trail to Brinewall enters it they hear a Shoanti war cry from the south. Jethrik recognizes Keng’s voice. ‘And that would be one of your friends, yes?’
“Yes, that would be the half-orc” Jethrik says “He’s a bit impetuous.”