The crew of the Twist of Fate and its heroic passengers drag the corpses of the sea-raiders onto drier ground to take a look at them. The creatures are strange — part human, part fish, but not quite symmetrical, as if they were not a proper species. The raiders wore web-pouches that contained fresh rations and a few oddments, but most notably each one owned a greenish pearl with a faintly eldritch luster. Abd and Aya recognize them as a magical gift allowing air-breathers to function underwater if swallowed. The reason for these net-bearing raiders to carry such pearls that they did not need themselves is sadly obvious. A head-count reveals that three of the crew are missing, likely dragged away in the melee.
Abd immediately volunteers to pursue the kidnappers and liberate their comrades.Several members of the _Fate_’s crew volunteer to come along, but Abd and Aya reason that they’ll need only three, and the spare pearls may be necessary to bring back their kidnapped companions. Tairasha and his crew wish them all good luck. Abd, Aya and Kismet swallow the pearls, and slide into the water.
The sensation is remarkable. They move as easily as fish through the water, and can see well even though the light is limited. They emerge from the colosseum-like structure into what appears to be a temple district. Complicated buildings and regal statues of powerful figures, all crusted with coral or shells, line either side of a large highway. They quickly spot a small blood trail leading through the water, and quickly pursue it. To their good fortune, the sharks visible high in the waters overhead seem to be ignoring the blood.
The trail leads through the temple district, at the level of most of the rooftops. In the distance, they see what appears to be red ribbons spiraling outward — and then they recognize trails of freshly spilled blood. They draw near to a terrible fight between half a dozen of the strange fish-people and what seems to be a massive cross between human and shark, with a terrible bull shark’s head and heavy tail. The lesser creatures cast net after net on their outnumbered prey, attempting to subdue it as it fights to tear at their flesh.
Though they cannot tell if the shark-beast is a friend, certainly the lesser beasts are enemies. The three dive into the melee to even the odds. Unfortunately, even with the pearls’ magic reducing water resistance, Abd and Kismet have trouble adapting at first to using their swords in the sea. Happily, they are quick learners. An injured sea-raider freezes solid as Aya channels her icy winds into deadly cold currents. Kismet snaps from awkward to murderously lethal in an eyeblink, finding her footing (so to speak) and neatly executing an enemy before it can feel her strikes. Abd hacks at the ropes holding the nets in place, helping to free the shark-monster. It tears into their mutual enemies, and the surviving sea-raiders flee for it.
The shark-creature pulls the last of the nets free. It surveys the adventurers without any discernable expression, then looks to the shark-tooth necklace around Aya’s neck. It performs an odd bow, then gestures for them to follow. Its form blurs into that of a large bull shark, and then it swims away. The three follow it down to a ramshackle, coral-encrusted shipwreck of apparent goblin construction. It guides them to a small pocket of air trapped in the hull, and as it breaks the surface, it changes form again, into a sleekly built young man of predatory intensity.
He introduces himself as Shazal, and thanks the three for their aid. He describes himself as one of the Bani Murjaan, the people of the reefs. He knows the raiders by name as well — the saha-jin, once-men who were mutated by the manipulation of one of the Fonts of Rebirth.
Shazal is clearly no storyteller by trade or passion. But he tells the three a bare story: that of the great Tsirithian cities that once plied the Jadesea, all three sank in a war with the pale elves, a war fought over the Fonts of Rebirth. One of the cities died, one was abandoned, and one… changed. The city they stand in, Vorun Tsaa, was abandoned. The saha-jin are children of Abloth Tsaa, the city that changed, and they have a hunger for capturing live mortals to take to their fonts and swell their numbers.
In return, the adventurers explain their quest for the Dolphin Jewel. Shazal says that his grandfather owns a stone of that description. He will help them, but first he must settle affairs with the traitor Maqua who joined with the saha-jin, and captured Shazal’s sister. The three offer to assist him with that matter first, as it seems likely their crewmates and Shazal’s sister will be held in the same place. Shazal leads them back into the water, soothing the morays in the reef as they extend themselves curiously.
He guides them to a tower standing alone in the city, a strange sorcerer’s abode. The building’s walls teem with sea urchins of remarkable size. The top of the tower was once carved to resemble a lotus, but now with great sea-worms combing the water around them, it looks more like an anemone.
Shazal points out two entrances: the ground-level doors, and a balcony leading into an upper story. They choose the balcony, and swim into an upper balcony that must have been luxurious back its day. Barnacles cluster on a mirror, tatters of peculiar cloth wave in the currents, and fish dart through a broken wardrobe. As they leave the room, something comes undone on a vanity-table, and a small shell-encrusted silver jewelry box slides free. Kismet catches it without thinking, and tucks it away to examine her lucky windfall later.
They swim downstairs, passing through another long-abandoned room of luxury, and then push through a “skin” of water into a pocket of air. The large room that the stairs wind into is still full of fresh air, clearly the work of some magic that keeps the water at bay above and below. In this ruined laboratory, a glowing font stands at one wall — a living thing, something like a nautilus, its shell full of a luminescent fluid. A saha-jin with more ornate ornaments and a peculiar knife-staff looks up from its attentions to the Font. With this… priest or wizard or scholar, perhaps, stand not only a smattering of saha-jin — including one of those badly wounded in their initial skirmish — but a bald Bani Murjaan man who spits out Shazal’s name. Shazal replies “Maqua!”, and shifts as he leaps down.
As the two Bani Murjaan take on their sharkbeast forms and brawl, the three adventurers pursue the saha-jin. Abd is clearly more comfortable in air, to say nothing of the wind-born Aya, and they swiftly cut through the sea raiders. The priest conjures the very blood spilled from his fallen comrades, shaping it into claret knives to stab into the surface-dwellers, but it is not enough. Kismet channels another bout of inspired bladeswomanship, with results not so very different from a Bani Murjaan’s feeding frenzy. Soon there is nothing left but Maqua, and the traitor cannot endure.
As Shazal takes a moment to calm down, wiping the blood from his mouth, Kismet notices that there’s a largish jewel in the font itself. She carefully modifies a saha-jin harpoon to be more like a three-pronged spear, and carefully fishes out the jewel while keeping well clear of the font’s fluids. The gem is an emerald of rare quality, though sadly it does not match the description of the sapphire-blue Dolphin Stone.
They pass down from the font level, back into the water. They swim through a room where the unnamed sorcerer once entertained guests, and into the lowest level. There, in the foyer beyond the main doors, they find a small group of saha-jin watching over the captives — three air-breathers, and an unconscious young woman who bears no small resemblance to Shazal. If the beast that stands over her was ever once a living man or woman, then it drank far too deeply of a Font of Rebirth, for it has become a crustacean-like hulk with urchinlike spines on its shelled back and an outsized claw to balance its far too humanlike arm.
But the hulking thing is not particularly fast or clever, despite its strength, and Shazal still fights with the fury of a bloodthirsty shark. It is a telling advantage, and with the Bani Murjaan man’s assistance, the three tear through the saha-jin raiders.
They cut the captives free, and Shazal frees his sister. As she comes to, they gesture for the stairs. The two Bani Murjaan lead the others into the font’s room, where they’re free to talk. The rescued crewmates proclaim gratitude and their confidence that they’d be rescued, as well as some lower-voiced appreciation of the sleek, tattooed young woman. Kismet is very clear to them that she’s as much shark as her brother.
The Bani Murjaan woman introduces herself as Zisha, and offers her thanks as well. Her manners, like Shazal’s, are not quite refined, but show some measure of surface-culture awareness. The two Bani Murjaan invite the adventurers to follow them to their home, where their grandfather can tell them about the stone.
The three follow the shark-shifters to the heart of the sunken city, and into the overgrown ruins of the grand palace. Inside, they find that old enchantments have kept a measure of fresh air, and the Bani Murjaan seem comfortable enough walking and talking in human form. Shazal and Zisha lead them to a portion of the royal apartments that is replete with the trappings of the adventurers’ world — maps, charts, furniture and finer that seems to have been gathered from a dozen well-travelled ships. There they meet Shazal and Zisha’s grandfather, a clearly Khavayish old fellow who seems delighted to meet countrymen. A Bani Murjaan woman stays in his company and watches the visitors. She seems possessive enough to be his wife — though if she is indeed the grandmother to the young siblings, then the Bani Murjaan must age very well.
Abd introduces the venturers respectfully, and offers that they had the honor of coming to Shazal’s aid against the saha-jin raiders. “He will tell you the story,” he says.
Shazal nods. They all look at him expectantly for a long moment before he decides they mean for him to tell the story now. “They fought the saha-jin who were attempting to capture me,” he says. “They stood alongside me when I fought the traitor Maqua, and they aided me in freeing Zisha. Three times they have come to my aid.”
“Well,” says Farid, “my grandchildren are certainly worth the jewel. Take it, with my thanks.” He reaches into his tunic and removes a brilliant round jewel, deep sapphire in color. As he passes it to Abd, a starry outline of a dolphin stirs in its depths, then resolves itself into a zodiacal sigil.
Abd nods, and the old man chuckles at the recognition in the three venturers’ eyes. “Yes, you have guessed correctly. I am Farid of the Horizon, once quite the seafarer and explorer. I have known many great people in my time, even the Immortal Sage himself. Now I live among the Bani Murjaan.”
Aya glances at the Dolphin jewel. “We don’t mean to remove your ability to go home.”
“Oh, that!” He laughs. “No, no, I live here now. It’s probably about time I allowed her to turn me, anyway,” he says with a glance at the older Bani Murjaan woman.
“You should have bared your neck to me long ago,” she replies.
He laughs away the suggestion, and pours cups of a strange sour drink for the visitors. “Please, before you go, I would love to hear what news you have of the world above.”
They easily spend two hours talking with the old explorer before they excuse themselves to return to the Twist of Fate. Shazal and Zisha insist on escorting them there for safety’s sake. They are rewarded with quite the awe and admiration when they return, not just with their rescued comrades, but in the presence of two beautiful and terrifying shark-shifters. Kismet is somewhat perturbed to note that Zisha eyes Captain Tairasha appraisingly upon their introduction. “After all,” says Aya carelessly, “it wouldn’t matter to her if he can’t set foot on land.”
Kismet makes a sour noise. “But that’s my captain.”
Later, Kismet opens the jewelry box and finds a dancer’s anklet within, one that has a minor enchantment to protect its wearer against unwanted attentions. She also notes that the emerald she retrieved from the font of life seems to have movement within it — a small, shadowy form.
Aya also finally devotes enough of her focus to the odd wind-lock on her tiny coffer to solve the puzzle. Inside she finds an orb made of lightning-glass that seems to contain a storm. The power feels… correct in her hand.