With the Gang of Five making connections, winning allies, and gathering supplies on the island, things back at Farshore had grown tense. New Olman recruits arrived in advance of the party’s return, and not all of Farshore had welcomed them as friends. The ongoing feud between Lavinia and Manthalay for control of the town was scheduled to come to an end with the nearby election, but until then, Farshore remained a colony divided in all but the driving impetus to prepare their fledgling home for an assault they knew it was unlikely they would survive.
After returning victorious from their circuit of the Olman tribes, one major goal away from Farshore remained: recovering their vessel, the Sea Wyvern, from her wreck at the north end of the Isle. Preparing for such a task would take time and supplies, not the least of which was tar, for which a second trip would have to be made now that they had been liberated from the tyrant king of the Isle. The required preparations were initiated as the group, now back in Farshore, surveyed their progress and adjusted or instructed as necessary, helping to acclimate their new Olman friends, making peace between the Farshorites and the Olman to better facilitate an exchange of skills, and performing feats of magic and of strength that greatly aided the colony’s readiness.
Much had changed in Farshore since they had arrived, in fact: Amella, a near-shattered victim of the trauma she faced in losing her ship and then being kidnapped by Olangru, began to flourish again in a role of leadership in instructing the laborers of the colony how better to shore up their naval defenses, and her relationship with Traxen slowly began to mend.
Tavey had, rather happily, been taken in by a childless vintner and brewer who owned a farmstead flush against the outside of the Farshore wall. Kizziar, still deeply concerned for the boy, paid the couple a visit. Tavey was, at the time, away with friends, a small mercy he was thankful for: both the grim gunman and the boy’s new family agreed it may be best for his healing if he avoided reminders of the ugliness that befell him. Still very fond of the boy, Kizziar handed over his first pistol, a battered pepperbox, to Tavey’s adopted father, telling him that it was a gift for the boy from his hero, when he was older, if his new father deemed it wise. The couple smiled and thanked Kizziar for his influence in the boy’s life. Kizziar left, with high hopes that Tavey’s life from here out would be one of peace and joy.
Ever resilient, Urol seemed to be making strides in his own recovery, though by all appearanced he had lost the hand of the much younger Telda Syren, Farshore’s doctor, to the advances of Kaskus Kiel, the handsome dwarf. Spurned, but not despairing, he spent as much time as possible with Hevrik Aldwattle, the alchemist, contributing his formidable knowledge to the cause.
Of all the survivors of the trek across the Isle and the wreck of the Wyvern, however, Avner was, surprisingly, the one who seemed to be changing the most. Seeing him adopt a more submissive role in the face of his overpowering relative was one thing, but the bedraggled, tired man they returned to find was another completely. Still perforce campaigning for his uncle’s election to the office of Mayor of Farshore, he caught up with Dorian while taking a break at The Last Coconut and, to Dorian’s surprise, apologized to him, repenting his terrible behavior and thanking he and his friends for saving him and seeing him safely through the jungle. Dorian was more than willing to let bygones be bygones, and embraced Avner’s new attitude as a friend. By Dorian’s approximation, Avner had begun, at last, to start growing up, and his trials were forging a better man than he was.
The weapons and aid the Gang returned from the Isle interior were impressive; so much so, in fact, that Ulvar Kabbanja, leader of the Farshore militia and staunch supporter of Manthalay for mayor, rescinded his opposition to the group’s presence in Farshore. Showing himself to be a reasonable man, he made plain that while he wouldn’t be changing his vote, he also didn’t hate or fear the Olman, and was happy to have their skills and their sword arms, and expressed a desire to have a positive relationship with the men going forward. This new relationship was further cemented by Othar and Dorian’s successful attempts to recruit otherwise unwilling men of Farshore to the militia to participate in the colony’s defense. Meanwhile, Othar’s attempts to rebuild the chapel pacified the rage of Vesserin Catherly, who had spent the intervening month administering the repairs with a handful of volunteers. Hevrik, Telda, Dranys, Kaskus, and Jeran plied their respective trades in preparation for Farshore’s defense, all of them not willing to make a spectacle of their vote for leadership of Farshore, lest their efforts to defend the colony become hampered by politics.
With the supplies to repair the ship gathered, Kizziar, Traxen, Dorian, and Lefty sailed Lavinia’s ship, the Blue Nixie, northbound towards the fateful wreck of the Sea Wyvern. Othar opted to remain behind in order to continue aiding Lavinia’s campaign for Mayor, to oversee the tactical upgrades to the colony port, and to to use his battery of daily spells to help repair and bolster the colony’s defenses. Amella, an otherwise natural choice to come along on the ship recovery, instead stayed behind, still unable to face her perceived failure on so visceral a level.
Three days passed as the Gang of Five – less Othar – sailed to the northeastern tip of the Isle of Dread, along with Lefty and a crew of miscellaneous phanatons, Olman, and Farshore citizens who were handy at shipwright’s duties. The ship looked much as it had been left, sitting atop the reef that shattered her hull. Thinking it most prudent to scout the ship’s corpse before sending in a work crew, the five men paddled the ship’s boat to the broken-toothed hole punched into the vessel’s starboard side.
The caution they showed proved to be wise. In the weeks since the vessel became abandoned there, it had become home to an aquatic, spellcasting abomination later identified as a kopru, an abomination with a suckered mouth wreathed in tentacles, the puissant upper body of a humanoid, and the lower body of a shark, with a tail tipped with poisonous barbs. Clearly intelligent, the creature nonetheless seemed to be willing to brook any discussion, and attacked immediately, flinging spells and calling upon his companion, a massive, aquatic thunder lizard that – to everyone’s surprise – seemed to have conducted savage fever.
The battle was difficult, but ultimately the lone creature proved no match for the combined efforts of the heroes. The living quarters this creature kept, they found, were ghastly: bits of body parts were strung around a foul-smelling, barnacle-covered room, the centerpiece of which appeared to be a small shrine, but to what nobody could tell. As night began to fall and the tide receded, Traxen observed that the ship was functionally dry-docked when the tide was out. Work began in earnest to make repairs enough for the vessel to limp back to Farshore. By Traxen’s estimation, it would take a few days.
The days went quickly, with time spent not repairing the boat instead spent giving proper burials to the unfortunate victims of the crash, hunting for food and sport, and bonding. Thanks to his courage on the Isle in the weeks prior, Lefty was at last welcomed into the ranks of the group proper, an opportunity which he took to again recant the sins of his past and express a desire to start over and walk the straight and narrow. This time, he was welcomed in without reservations.
With the repairs complete, the two ships set sail in tandem for their return to Farshore. Weather was mild, and the return of the two ships was met with still more good news: in their absence, Lavinia had won the mayoral election, largely thanks to the efforts that Othar and Dorian had exerted in the days prior, and moreso the efforts that all four men and their allies had undertaken to defend and improve the colony since their arrival. Manthalay was furious, of course, but still retained enough sense to not jeopardize the lives of the people of Farshore for his pride. There would be time enough to plot against Lavinia after the battle, and if she should fall during the melee, well, naturally he’d be available to rise to the occasion.
As the Olman recruits and Farshore shipwrights set about repairing the Sea Wyvern, there remained much to do and precious little time in which to do it, with the arrival of the Crimson Fleet expected in only four short days. Traxen spent three of those days vanished inside the jungle interior, but when he returned, he did so accompanied by a veritable herd of thunder lizards, whom he had tamed and enlisted in the fight against their enemy. Kizziar, meanwhile, continued to oversee the construction of the siege weaponry to be fitted on the towers and palisades surrounding the harbor. Othar, having spoken to Vesserin during their restoration of the chapel, had learned that the people of Farshore were fearful that their loved ones recently deceased of the last raid would be raised up against them using necromancy, and so beseeched the Olman elders of Tamoachan for their aid in cleansing the Farshore cemetery, hallowing it so as to ensure that no restless dead would rise there. But Dorian, most of all, noticed the absence of certain players above all else: the Jade Ravens seemed to be entirely out of the fight. Something would have to be done.
First and most accessible of the Ravens would be Kaskus, who was easily found at the side of his new lover, Fareshore’s Doctor Telda Syren. Dorian asked if the Jade Ravens had any plans for the battle, or at least what they meant to contribute. Kaskus looked somewhat ashamed as he told Dorian that he believed that the Ravens were “over”; things had changed since they’d arrived in Farshore, he reported, and while Kaskus was at his happiest and most at peace in many years, the others had strained and broken:
“Liamae”, he started, “Thass a sahd story, ‘tis. Dooring the sehm stahrm that soonk thah Sea Wehverrn, she wus’ tryin’ tae settle the tempest wi’ magics. Boot…somethin’ went wroong. Ah boolt o’ lightnin’ ‘it ’er smack-dead, an’ she passed oot. Weh all thooght she was dead. Non’a us could check on ‘er, what with jus’ tryin’ tae keep the Nixie afloat. Nex’ day, weh find the lass is stehl with us, but she don’ wake f’r dehs. When at last she doos, she’s all barmy, spekkin’ ‘boot divine intervention, an’ gevin’ up her life tae serve the gods, an such. Poor thing’s been stickin’ tae th’ chapel an’ actin’ like someone I doon’t know ever since.”
“Zan”, Kaskus wrinkled his face in disgust, “Zan never wonted tae come in th’ first place, an’ ah soospect th’ only reason ‘e did was tae make Tolin ’appy. E’s been a depressive hoosk ever since we arrived, an’ spends moost of his days in his coops.”
“An’ Tolin”, he sighed, “Tolin was dooin’ rather well…until ye all returned. The wehks between our gettin’ here an’ yours, why, yeh’d think the man’d trned et all around. ‘E was ’appy, ’e was confident… An’ then yeh rehturned, er mahr ehmportantly, Oothar, rehturned, an’ Tolin ‘ad all ’is dreams’ve bein’ ehble to sehduce Lavinia dashed. Off tae the farrest with ’im, quick as yeh like, as soon as ’e rehlized yeh were back.”
None of this news was good, but all of these obstacles, Dorian was confident, could be overcome: with the help of Othar and a potion from Hevrik Aldwattle, Dorian managed to beat Zan into sobriety long enough to agree to fight in the battle, but only on the conditions that Tolin return to lead them, and that Zan be granted transportation back to Sasserine when the battle was over. Othar begrudgingly agreed, and he and Dorian set off to recruit Liamae, who, despite her lack of interest in her old life, was persuaded to the cause thanks to Dorian’s silver tongue, which persuaded her that thrusting herself once more into the breach would be the ultimate test of the gods’ favor upon her. She, too, though, would only come if Tolin could be brought back. For obvious reasons, Othar left his unhappy task in Dorian’s hands.
Simply finding Tolin took some doing, but when he was at last located, Dorian succeeded in convincing Tolin of both the importance of his and the rest of the Ravens’ presence at the battle and in his own need to get over Lavinia. With his pep talk having seemingly sunk in, Dorian was assured that the Jade Ravens would fight in the upcoming battle.
As the appointed hour drew close, the citizens of Farshore, their Olman allies, the Jade Ravens and the Gang of Five, and the various beasts and individuals whom they had recruited from the island interior stood ready to beat back the invading Crimson Fleet horde. By ninth bell, the tall and dark masts of a veritable fleet of ships could be seen on the horizon, each flying the menacing jolly roger of the Crimson Fleet.
Scores of ballistae and massive rocks began to sail through the sky, their opening volley smashing Farshore’s warehouse stores to bits even as throngs of bloodthirsty pirates rowed for shore while diabolical sorcerers on the decks of some of the ships began to cast area-wide destruction spells into the largest concentrations of people they could spot.
The Farshore defenders were ready, though, and fired back with a volley of ballistae and catapults of their own, and the defenses they erected miraculously held. Casks of flaming oil and the aid of friendly spellcasters ensured that the bulk of the boarding parties would never reach shore. The assembled forces stood at the harbor’s edge and fought the pirates even as they came aground. These men proved little difficulty for the heroic Gang of Five, but almost immediately their attentions were diverted elsewhere as a quartet of flesh golems breached the shore from underneath the violent waters. Nearly impervious to magic, Traxen and Kizziar met these beats blow for blow, finishing them in short order and spectacular fashion as Traxen summoned his army of thunder lizards to gorge themselves on the constructs.
The Crimson Fleet brought many waves of attack to bear, however, and