As the pirates head after Taru’el and Ash’erah, they notice a sheltered cove with a stone quay. A variety of ships are docked there, including Bermuda sloops, Chinese junks, and even a Viking drekar. Captain Aubrey draws a knife and scores the stone of the quay. “Rhyolite,” he says. “A very sturdy rock.” Gesturing toward the vessels, Golden Eye says, “I’m a little more interested in finding out who these belong to.” lightchest says, “I say we continue our pursuit. It will likely lead us to some answers faster than looking around here.” Then he leads the way into the passage in the cliff taken by their adversaries.
After passing through a narrow defile, the ice cliffs lead to a cave. The pirates look at one another, and Maharg shouts, “Last one in is a rotten penguin egg!” He disappears into the opening. Mister Morganis follows him, but stops short and waits for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Meanwhile, a loud thump is heard followed by cursing and a groan. Mister Morganis sniggers, then looks back with a straight face and says, “The fool.”
The Pope ventures inside slowly, saying, “As we have witnessed, these premises merit caution. Let us proceed at a prudent pace. Watch thy heads.” Not far in, lanterns illuminate the path. The group passes stalactites, stalagmites, and soda straws which decorate splendid galleries of stone and glassy pools of clear water. After a short walk, they reach a wooden door. capnbigc thrusts his way forward while the rest hesitate. He says, “No use standin’ ‘round like a bunch o’ sissies,” and throws open the door.
The pirates slowly enter a large well-lit chamber, full of noise. There are people of all ethnicities standing or sitting at tables while they play games of chance. A bar lines one side of the room, and servants wearing pale blue shifts belted with white sashes provide drinks to patrons. Similarly-dressed servants are found at intervals throughout the establishment, and some appear to be armed. One of the more innocuous-looking servants approaches: a young woman of pale hair and paler skin. She smiles as she asks, “May I assist you in finding a table? What is your game of preference?” She is met by confused stares. “Why don’t you start at the banquet hall? Food and drinks are available to suit any taste.”
Red Beard steps toward her. “Pardon me, my dear. We’re not from around here—” “And no one else seems to be, either!” interrupts Groany. “Why are all these people here?” She replies, “We serve the Illustrious Ones of all nations. They are invited here to engage in civilized contests of might and wagers of wit as they seek the betterment of their stewardship.”
Groany looks even more confused. He mutters, “…not sure that answers my question.” Red Beard addresses her again, “As I was sayin’, lass, we’re lookin’ fer the Icy Mistress o’ this land an’ her mate. Surely a dame as enchantin’ as ye can lead us in the right direction?”
The young woman’s smile fades. “I will not answer questions of that nature. Perhaps you would do better to get the help of another.” Then she walks away.
Cpt Henna says, “Looks like your charm fell a little short there, Mr. Skullbearer!” His jest is met with a scowl. Lightchest suggests, “We need to find out what’s going on here, and where those two troublemakers are. Why don’t we split up? I’m sure one of us can find the way with the right persuasion.”
Ghostdemon says, “Do whatchya want, I’m hittin’ the trainin’ room!” and he dashes off toward an adjoining chamber full of weights and fighting dummies.
lightchest shakes his head and pays for some chips. He has a seat at a card table, slips his neighbor some gold, and asks, “So, what’s the news on these Taru’el and Ash’erah characters I’ve heard about? When do I get to meet them?”