Not all elders, wakened by a strange human in the night, are willing to believe what they are told, but a few acquiesce. It takes some doing to persuade the two other chief elders, one a massive white and scarlet mushroom, the other a bizarre lavender one whose fungal cap is inverted to form a bowl on its head which sloshes when it moves. They too speak of “I” and their aversion to becoming King, but eagerly agree to help defend the Kamorro from invaders.
Finally, the humans meet up near the north beach late the next morning, exhausted from their nocturnal excursions. Shid Na whispers to Walliss to swim around to the north and meet them there, then they hastily camp and collapse, sleeping most of the day away. Late in the day, Javelin arrives with Kamorro and vegepygmies in tow; over the next few hours, more arrive from around the island, though the full force doesn’t amass until well after dark. The shambling mounds are set to work clearing the underbrush out of sight from the beach, making room for all the Kamorro to comfortably settle and wait without getting too close to each other.
Meanwhile, the humans have been watching the three ships anchored offshore. In late afternoon, a dinghy arrives with only a few pirates; Shid Na goes out to them claiming to be “King of the Mushrooms,” at which they are confused, asking if there are still mushrooms alive from the civil war. “Yes,” he answers, “and they all serve me now.” He promptly takes them prisoner, creating a shield wall around them, then leads them into the jungle and ties them up. They are awed and terrified at the assortment of Kamorro gathered there.
Next, Walliss takes Kyler’s remaining molatovs and mantas out to the largest ship, which Ellara searches with her spirit vision and passes on via Shid Na’s whisper that beside the lower hold, nowhere is unoccupied, though the crow’s nest has only one lookout posted. Walliss promptly blinks up there, knocks the flat-footed pirate over the edge, then sets furiously to work trying to make a spark. The shriek of the falling lookout has gotten their attention, and men are swarming up the rigging to him; he finally gets a light and hurls down the molotovs—shouting “for the Mushroom People!” as he does so—then blinks away over the water before being seized.
This seems to create some chaos on the ship as they rush about putting out fires, but not having a clue where the guerrilla attack came from, make no further response. By this time, evening is coming on, and Shid Na decides to take one last gamble for the day. They tell the Kamorro to withdraw inland a bit, and left alone, the three pirate prisoners soon free themselves and run for their boat. Shid Na runs after them, having roughed up his appearance, crying, “I am overthrown! Take me with you!”
They are already pushing off, but he splashes out to them and they haul him aboard, promptly knocking him out with an oar. Kyler and Durzo don’t like the look of this… “I’m following him, as back-up,” Durzo decides. “Take this,” Kyler says, a little to his surprise, passing over his pearl of the sirines. It is the first gesture of real trust he has made toward his brother since allowing him to come along on this trip.
Shid Na comes to being hauled aboard the carrack, Rastafarment’s Wrath. He is held by six men, and presently Rastafarment the Horrible himself comes out to look him over, a big, bearded, bear of a man. Shid Na repeats his claim about the mushrooms having overthrown him in their civil war, and the pirate chief then heads over and knocks at the other cabin door. “Acheron Jotnar, sir?” he calls, a little warily.
The door opens. A man in a dark cloak emerges, and all Shid Na can make out is that he is wearing an iron mask; no skin is visible, he is even wearing leather gloves. The pirate repeats what he’s said, and the cloaked figure, Jotnar, approaches.
Jotnar studies him. At last he speaks, in a cold, contemptuous voice: “How did you come here?”
“Uh, I flew,” stammers Shid Na, taken aback by this unforeseen encounter.
“Why are you here?”
“For the, er, Kamorro’s gold. Their, you know, alchemical gold?”
“He is lying. Release him.” The guards let go of the young mage, and sidle away. Suddenly, Shid Na feels the air growing colder around him; frost forms on his clothes. He begins to shiver.
“Okay, okay, it’s true, I didn’t fly here. A ship left me here, then sailed away… but I was trying to get their gold.”
“A ship?” Rastafarment perks up at that, and quickly gives a few orders, sending his caravel, the Sea Witch, off to recon for the interloper’s ship.
The air around Shid Na is growing colder. He feels his fingers going numb, feels the frostbite on his exposed skin. But he also senses that quite a few of the pirates, having had no action for weeks, are excited by the mention of gold. (“Is that what Jotnar’s really after here?” he hears one mutter.)
So he decides to stick by his fabrication. “If you’ll just let me help you,” he pleads. “I can lead you to their gold! With enough of us, we can easily overcome them!” It has dawned on him that the pirates greed might be the only thing that can save his life, now.
Suddenly, there is a quiet thump and a scrape from the ship’s side. A pirate leans over the edge to see Durzo failing to climb aboard stealthily. “We’ve got another one here, sir,” he calls. Durzo, cursing, lets go and swims downward, confident in the pearl to let him breathe. “Uh, wait,” the pirate says. “He, um, just dropped into the water and, er, sank.”
“Sank?” asks Jotnar in consternation. He steps to the rail to see for himself.
And in that moment, Shid Na seizes his chance. He strikes Jotnar from behind as strong as he can, then makes a levitating leap off the other side of the ship before anyone can grab him again. He feels his necklace of amphibians turning his skin slimy, webbing his hands and feet; he swims down, then in to shore.
His friends are relieved to see him back, but they are unsure of what is to come, or what are the motives of the clearly dangerous wizard, Acheron Jotnar—who had floated to the surface, surrounded by ice, soon after being knocked overboard. Shid Na, glad just to be alive, manages to summon enough strength to send a whisper to Jade to warn her of the incoming pirate caravel. Kyler assures the antsy Kamorro that the attack will come soon, that they shouldn’t leave.
Then they settle for the night to wait, posting watches on the ships. Ellara wakes frequently, using spirit vision to spy on Jotnar, who at least seems to be having trouble persuading the pirates there isn’t gold on the island, but can make out nothing further. And then, around dawn, Javelin posted on watch quietly raises the alarm. Dinghies are being lowered from the carrack, loaded with men. The invasion they were hoping for is finally about to arrive…
"There's a grave threat to all your mushrooms, er, people, er, things..." -- Ellara, trying to persuade an elder
Immediately: “Mushrooms are people too!” -- Shep and Trevor, in unison, giving a new definition for "PC" in role-playing
"And by convince, I mean murder them." --Wallis, brainstorming how to get the pirates to attack