A peculiar letter emerges from among Tabruz’s papers. The venturers examine the crabbed writing:
Favored Servant Tabruz:
Commendations from the Court on your recent success in collecting Abn-Kha’s Lantern. Remain in the Harbor, for our Queen has further interests there. We require two more items:
The figurehead of the Sultana’s Remorse
The oldest daughter Savadra
The bearers of this missive, Hagwaan and Vekmeer, will aid you in this. In return you will act as their hand among the living. Savadra is not to be slain — but pacified, that she may come to accept her rightful Queen.
May your senses be keen and your belly full!
The three take the letter and the map and exit Tabruz’s apartment. They quickly hunt down an authority and find Zalil, the youngest daughter of the Widow Razira. They give her Tabruz’s letter, and the girl is immediately alarmed to see the reference to abducting her older sister. She gives the letter to one of her men, ordering him to run it to her mother. She then agrees to take the venturers out to the edge of the cove, where the turtle emblem is marked on Tabruz’s map.
Zalil recruits a pair of rowers, and loads the three aboard. She takes a single lantern at the prow of the boat and finds the way through the dark. As the craft is nearly free of the jagged stone teeth, Zalil aims a thin beam of light at a large shape like a small mountain, the farthest of the spars.
“There,” she says. “That rock. That shouldn’t be there.”
Flute music rises above the sound of the surf. They spy a pale figure crouched on a small spar near the unfamiliar rock. The venturers brace as the boat draws nearer. Suddenly, the already nervous rowers cry out — something has taken hold of the oars. Drowned men emerge from the water, pulling themselves up over the rim of the launch.
Aya immediately blasts two of the corpses with lightning. Abd calls on the sacred wards of Jalisa, and two more are disintegrated in a pulse of light. Attsu leaps wholly from the boat, changing in midair, and lands on the spar next to the pale flutist. His claws tear cold flesh from the musician’s torso, and he recognizes the bestial frame and talons of a ghul. It scampers away from him and plays a strange series of notes on its bone flute, but the hypnotic tones fail to entrance any of the venturers. With a hiss, the ghul dives into the sea, Attsu’s claw just missing it.
Attsu dives into the water after it, shifted into his cat’s form. Beneath the ocean’s surface, the nature of the foreign “rock” is revealed — it is a portion of the shell of an unliving zaratan. The immense turtle is the size of a warship, and flesh has clearly fallen away from much of its bones; what skin remains on the flippers appears to have been preserved and stitched in place. A handful of humanoid forms float in the water around it. Attsu spots the ghul musician swimming into the skeletal beak and down the zaratan’s throat. He surfaces to warn the others, then dives below and follows the ghul inside.
The interior of the zaratan is more like a vehicle, or even a residence, than the guts of an undead beast. The flesh of the giant turtle is mostly gone, and what remains is taut and preserved. A ship’s steering wheel has been lashed to the “floor” near where the heart might once have been, tied into some peculiar pulley system with ropes that go running away. An ocean chart stretched on a framework stands by the wheel, a plumb hanging by a thin chain over it. The rear part of the cavernous chamber is taken up more with living quarters and storage, lit by lanterns of curious make.
Attsu spends little time examining the details. He scans for the ghul musician, and quickly spots it above. The creature has taken refuge on one of the detached ribs that serve almost as rafters. As Attsu scans for the best way to reach it, it cuts a line — and a mass of flesh hung in a net drops from the ceiling. The decaying bulk bounces once, then uncoils limbs and staggers to its feet. Attsu stares up into the filmed-over eyes of an undead ogre.
With the last of the animated corpses cut apart and thrown back into the sea, Aya and Abd make to follow Attsu. Abd takes the Dolphin Jewel in hand, and swims as naturally as a fish. They find their way through the zaratan’s throat and emerge into the stale, preservative-scented air of the hollow. They ready their weapons as they see Attsu leaping up to rake at the ghul.
Aya and Abd focus on the animated ogre carcass. He closes with it, drawing its attention with a scimitar slash. Aya also lashes out with her aeromancy, but as she does, the water in the zaratan’s throat churns behind her. More of the drowned men pull themselves out of the sea and stumble toward her.
Attsu runs to the side where the ribs of the shell meet the floor, and begins climbing up one of the ribs after the ghul musician. Abd cuts again into the undead ogre, but his shield arm isn’t strong enough to deflect its massive swing. He staggers and nearly drops to a knee from the impact. Aya freezes several of the drowned men, and rolls with their blows as best she can.
The ghul flutist scrabbles farther up, attempting to flatten itself against the shell. It whistles, and Abd feels the unsettling presence caress his mind. But the paladin’s will is far too strong, particularly with the distraction of the pain. He shakes it away as Aya sends another freezing wind into the ogre, stiffening its flesh. The power of Jalisa fills him a second time, renewing his flesh and strengthening his arm. His strike severs half of the ogre’s torso, and the immense cadaver crashes to the floor.
Abd and Aya then turn their attention to the remaining drowned sailors. Just as they are cutting the last apart, the ghul drops down behind Abd. But the shapeshifted Attsu is right behind it. The mechanical cat-monster leaps, and when it lands on all fours, it has the ghul’s severed head in its jaws. Attsu spits out the noisome morsel, and the venturers make short work of the remaining undead minions.
After a brief discussion about the importance of setting the undead hulk on fire, the venturers check for objects of interest. They find a coffer of valuable currency, even if many of the coins seem a little antique. A pot of enspelled grave earth comes to their attention, and Abd and Aya deduce that it is likely a transportation device for one to reach through to another tomb — or the inhabitant of said tomb to reach through. With no sign of the lantern mentioned in Pergu’s letter, it seems likely that the ghuls used the pot to send it away.
Also among the various goods is an egg the size of Aya’s torso. Its shell is whorled and striated, seeming as much a precious stone as anything. They determine that this is likely the zaratan’s egg that Sessuun requested, albeit magically altered to a more portable size. More curious is a glass coffin, containing a strikingly beautiful young person that is perhaps asleep, dead, or somewhere between the two. Abd notes a glyph on the sleeper’s skin that he has seen before — a token of the Immortal Sage himself.
The venturers take the coffer of money, the egg, the coffin, and the pot, moving them to Zalil’s boat before they set the remainder of the goods on fire. They then row back to the docks, where they find a commotion has enlivened the evening.
An agitated local tells them that The residents are hunting Tabruz. He vanished from sight not long ago, and both Kismet and the Widow’s daughter Savadra have gone missing along with him. The three are about to split apart to aid the search when Ramjat Azmeil Hashaban Fazim Omnibus Prismatica jin Ramjat jin Ramjat puffs out, and tells Aya that an ally is close at hand who might know more.
The gentleman in question is a dark-skinned man with proud and slightly cruel features, with a tassel of feathers attached to his fine cloak. Aya recognizes him as one of the shrike officers in the Queen’s service, and he reintroduces himself as Impalement of Glory. He informs Aya that their prey has gone above, taking refuge in the abandoned eyrie of the harpies that once plagued the cape. He wishes them luck in rescuing the captives and taking fine trophies.
They find the headwoman Razira and tell her that they know where her daughter has been taken. The three volunteer to lead the charge to the harpy eyrie, if there’s a way up. Razira points out an old pulley system that was used to move goods out of the cliffside lair during the town’s founding, and intermittently by the occasional group needing to temporarily place goods somewhere out of the way.
A light comes over the water — the hollow zaratan’s shell has cracked, and the fires set by the three are now venting into the night sky. The venturers brace themselves to scale the cliff in the dark.