As the others investigate the Injustice, Wind-of-Embers sits with Barbafir Bloodmouth’s wives in the Sea Oasis, a ward against any potential trouble. She easily falls into talking about drink and food with Eremit, who is rather worldly in her tastes. When Hajuda and particularly Tiyesha seem somewhat threatened by the easy confidence and capability of their senior sister-wife, Wind-of-Embers neatly cuts away part of the tension. She subtly encourages Tiyesha and Eremit to discuss wine, and when Hajuda seems at a loss to participate, engages the orcish foundry-worker in a discussion of iron. All four women are having an interesting conversation about the art of glassblowing and bottle-making when the eastern wall of the Sea Oasis goes up on flames.
The wineshop explodes into chaos. Many of the sailors push immediately out the door, half of them shouting to cut the Sea Oasis’ raft free before the fire spreads. Hajuda hastens Tiyesha out the door, leaving Eremit, Wind-of-Embers, and a few of the braver patrons inside. As Eremit hurls water on the flames, Wind-of-Embers uses her enchanted earring to contact Aya. No sooner has she told the sorceress to have Kismet to bring the Dolphin Jewel to the wineshop than one of the fire-fighting volunteers pulls a knife and thrusts it at her heart, while two of the others attempt to seize Eremit.
Aya stares at the false Injustice, trying to recall some means of dispelling an illusion of that magnitude and remembering only stern warnings never to interfere with the elaborate illusions set about the Queen of Birds’ palace. The voice of Wind-of-Embers stirs her from her reverie. She obligingly sets about looking for Kismet, but completely fails to spot any sign of the elusive elf sailor.
Aya is not the only one. The Injustice crew overlooks her as they attempt to keep eyes on Attsu, shouting and firing arrows and bolts after him. He splits away from Kismet, deliberately continuing to draw their attention and fire. A bolt lodges in a crevice between his shoulder plating and torso, and the shifting metal shears it off as he runs, spitting out the mangled tip. He makes it to the main thoroughfare, still in cat form, and makes it well out of the ship’s line of sight. He pauses in a nearby shadow to listen to the rising uproar. The shouts come from all sides, but the two most prominent threads are “Fire! At the Sea Oasis!” from one side and “The Guide was attacked!” from the other.
Aya is still looking about for Kismet when Ramjat flies down to her, crying out news. “The Sea Oasis is aflame! And there is a fight aboard the Twist of Fate!” Aya takes to the air, the bird maiden’s cloak transforming her arms to wings. From above she easily sees the fire at the wineshop — but chooses to keep going towards her ship.
Wind-of-Embers moves almost without thinking. She takes a step away, just out of the jambiya’s reach, and calls upon the power of the Curved Flame. The blessing of Hakasarre settles on Eremit, flooding her with great strength, and with a second prayer Wind-of-Embers hurls a blazing javelin that slays one of the assailants and burns another. Eremit, still grappling with the two attempting to abduct her, elbows one of them in the ribs. The strike is like the kick of a mule, breaking several of the man’s ribs and sending him stumbling back. The elf wineseller pulls free from the second man as easily as an ogre might, a surprised look upon her face.
Kismet leaps from raft to raft, moving through the floating city. She’s confident that none of the false Injustice sailors are pursuing her when she sees the fire up ahead. She calls on the Dolphin Jewel, and dives into the sea, swimming in that direction with a conjured water elemental by her side.
Aya flies to the Twist of Fate, where several crew members have formed a cautious circle around a cloaked intruder with a peculiar posture. A wounded Notch leans against the mainmast, clutching his bleeding side and baring his teeth in a painful grin. Aya lands in the rigging, her wings becoming arms again, and sends a freezing blast of wind down toward the invader. The figure vaults away from her attack, landing with inhuman grace on the rail. Aya sees strange armor below the cloak, and realizes the invader may be a clockwork.
Attsu weighs both sources of alarm, and then races away from the Sea Oasis, pursuing the shouts about the attack on the Guide. Soon he reaches a small crowd where a few ranking corsairs are describing the attack. Several of the Guide’s guards were killed, but the attackers were forced to fall back. Thankfully, the attackers were seen — a white-haired sorceress, an elf woman, and a man made of metal. Attsu softly curses the ways of illusionists and fades into an alley, where he gathers his caftan about him and assumes the form of a dwarf.
Wind-of-Embers sends another fire javelin into the man with broken ribs, ending his pain. She shouts to Eremit to take one for questioning. The other knife-wielder considers his situation and flees the building. The remaining would-be kidnapper makes one last try to subdue Eremit, but with her divinity-infused strength, the dark-skinned elf wraps an arm around his throat and chokes him out. As she does so, a wave of seawater crashes against the wineshop’s blazing wall, extinguishing most of the fire. Eremit starts, and looks over at Wind-of-Embers.
Wind-of-Embers shakes her head as the elemental brings another wave of water against the fire. “A friend.”
Eremit nods, not quite confidently, and hefts the unconscious sailor over her shoulder. She pauses, suddenly taken with the ease of the gesture. “The blessing of Hakasarre,” says Wind-of-Embers. “It won’t last forever. Let’s go outside.” They do so, and as the water elemental quenches the last of the flames, they meet with Kismet, who has been joined by Hajuda and Tiyesha.
Farther up the island, the clockwork assassin is in full flight, with Aya pursuing. She hurls another bolt after the fleeing construct, but it is too swift, and she manages only to freeze a clothesline of laundry. Aya sends Ramjat ahead to keep the clockwork in sight, and simply moves up the main street. She conjures a small wind to carry her words to Kismet — “Notch is wounded. Get Wind-of-Embers to the ship.” That done, she loses sight of Ramjat almost immediately.
As Attsu continues to eavesdrop on the crowd, a striking figure arrives — Captain Aribasa the Splendid, corsair queen of the Gilded Peacock, Firstmost of the Seahawk Fleet, flanked by a pair of her seconds. She demands explanations. The more disciplined members of the crowd tell her what they know of the attack on the zaratan’s Guide — and then a tattooed woman wearing the colors of an Injustice corsair suggests that the culprits match the descriptions of sailors on the Twist of Fate. Attsu sticks close by as Aribasa, followed by the mob, marches toward the harbor.
With the fire at the Sea Oasis extinguished, Kismet and Wind-of-Embers race to the Twist of Fate. Ruska meets them as they arrive, telling them that Notch is badly injured. Wind-of-Embers examines the wound and discovers that the gnoll was shot by a quarrel-like metal bolt poisoned with some kind of hemotoxin. Notch chuckles through the pain and says that his attacker looked “like Attsu’s shore woman.” The priestess calls on Hakasarre to fill her hands with healing power, and the wound closes, the discoloration fading and the fur regrowing over the new skin.
Notch’s ears twitch. “Impressive.” The gnoll chuckles. “The healing, not the wound… ah, all right, I admit that the wound was also impressive.”
Attsu, carefully split ahead from the others, also heads to the ship. Aya considers the likelihood that the clockwork has already doubled back, and decides to return to the Twist of Fate as well. As she walks back, Ramjat rejoins her, both apologizing for losing sight of the clockwork but confirming that it seemed to also double back to the harbor.
Attsu arrives before Aya, warning his companions that a large mob of angry corsairs led by a Firstmost are on the way. Aya, quite ruffled, appears soon after. With all the venturers present at once, they explain the entire situation to Tairasha: the false Injustice, the illusionist, the attempt to frame the venturers for an attack on the Guide, and most likely the clockwork assassin as well.
“What do we do, then?” Captain Tairasha’s brow is stormy. “Do we hide? Do we flee?”
“No,” says Aya. “We expose the whole thing.”
The venturers and the Twist of Fate crew stand firm as seemingly half the corsairs in Zarat amass on their dock. Aribasa is at the front, with not only her seconds beside her, but the corsair captains Bachuun the Bottler and Turgura the Cannibal as well. Tairasha goes down to the dock as Aribasa levels the charges against him of sheltering violators, attackers who struck at the heart of Zarat itself. Tairasha responds by stating that they were framed by an illusionist, as Kismet and Aya and Attsu walk down to stand with him.
“Look among your own ranks,” says Attsu. “See who is conspicuously absent among you.”
Aribasa muses on their words, and does as Attsu asks. Kismet produces the manifest of the Phantasm and hands it to Aribasa, telling her they found it on the ship posing as the Injustice. The Firstmost leafs through the manifest as one of her seconds holds a light close. Finally the corsair queen nods. “The Phantasm. I see. I know its captain by reputation — Zaerdahil. He could do this…”
Finally, Aribasa bows to Aya and apologizes. She turns to speak to the crowd, saying that there is reason enough to doubt and look further. She rallies the others to address the threat to security, and promises they will discover the truth from the Injustice or the Phantasm, whichever it may be. The venturers and Tairasha march alongside the Firstmost and the other captains — Bulukh the Buffalo now among them as well — to the docks where the Injustice is moored. But as they arrive, they see a thick fog bank where the ship should be…