Phase Three, Jaunt One
December 18th-January 28th
The Powder Keg
The gunpowder smuggler Pulao has had a long, uncomfortable voyage. Last summer, she arrived at the secret port on the Bando Peninsula to find a province deeply in revolt, no longer selling gunpowder but manufacturing it for its own use. The captain was blackmailed into carrying away a group of prominent Bando rebels fleeing half a step ahead of the emperor’s assassins. Following an exiled scholar’s rumor, the harried pirates sought a paradisical haven past the edge of mapped waters… but they were not the first to find it. The Pulao was waylaid at the edge of the Labyrinthine Shoals by a school of mermaids, bloody-mouthed and flint-speared, wearing coral and shell armor and ready for war. The mermaids have come, they say, looking for their kin, and like lampreys they latched onto the Pulao and helped it navigate to the center of the Shoals.
Two years and three months ago, a fleeing band of rebel mermaids and three pirate ships met by chance formed a tenuous alliance and plunged through the Shoals to find the mountainous atoll and clear lagoon in their center, escaping pursuit by both naval forces and a kraken sent by the Dread Empress of the mermaids. One of the three ships sank in the shallows just offshore. One was grounded and cast up the beach on its side. And one made anchor safely. Christening their new home Crownbreaker Isle, the pirates settled into the lush tropical jungle that shrouded just above the beach, and the merfolk divided into two groups - the Stricken, with their dangerous, cannibalistic disease, went into the reefs about the Isle, while the healthy mermaids remained in the lagoon in the island’s interior. Within a week of settling, a disturbing number of the sailors vanished, all at once - and suspicion has never entirely lifted from the Stricken, although shrewder minds noticed all the vanished came from the same wrecked vessel, and wondered.
Six months of shore leave, however, are enough to make any wanderlust-driven buccaneer run mad, and eighteen months past, the Harbinger set sail, taking with her both pirates disillusioned by paradise and mermaids who wondered if their ongoing fight for freedom still continued in the depths. The isolated community has suffered leadership struggles, the odd duel or feud, but it has flourished, scavenging the wrecked and beached vessels for good waterproof timber with which to build a village.
Then, they see sails on the horizon. And those sails do not belong to the Harbinger. Stricken scouts report armed mermaids in charge - the newcomers have guns, magic, a working vessel besides. They’re a threat, an unknown, and even making them disappear might draw further foreign attention. The only advantage the Crownbreakers possess is their familiarity with the island and its reefs.
The Burning Fuse
A game of hide and seek ensues, using jungle copses, underground springs and pools, the impression of a haunted island left in the form of an abandoned ghost town. But it cannot last. Will discovery bring trust or conflict, acceptance or conquest, unity or yet another exile? Who is to blame for those - on both sides, new and old, human and mer - who go missing? As the Investigators arrive - aboard their own ship, seemingly conjured from Liminal Space - they represent another dangerous unknown to all involved. And after the first night all spend on the island, a distant, throbbing song sounds from the deeps beyond the Shoals, leaving Sirens glassy-eyed with wonder...