A battered fleet arrives in Maelstrom, carrying High Lord Victus and Princess-Consort Alarissa and Lady Lethe Tyde. It comes escorted by Duke Harald and Lord Ian and a large section of the Grim Fleet and one small, newly-battered cog its alternately cheerful and cursing captain calls The Magpie. As Victus sets Magpie and Mae Grayhope loose on Maelstrom, one brave shipwright has the presence of mind to ask hesitantly, "What's that on the bowsprit?" For impaled on the long spear of wood is a creature the likes of which has rarely been seen - save for some truly awful carvings in Maelstrom proper. To the east, a storm brews in the Darkwater.
The Unchained sails into the harbor at Arx with disturbing news. Marauders are being seen through the Isles. They're not even being subtle any more - flying the flags of House Marin, rousting villages in the dead of night - and all in the process of searching for... well, the crew of the Unchained isn't quite sure what they're searching for, other than women of a certain age. The latest incursion occurred at a small village west of Tyde proper, that was evacuated a few months ago by Duchess Tyde herself. Whatever they're searching for, it is important enough to make them bold.
Word from the docks is that the Ambassador of the Marin'Alfar was seen this morning swimming when a fin appeared in the water around him. The shark circled three times, and instead of being panicked he looked concerned. And then he pulled himself out of the water, summoned a few messengers which were sent off with brief missives, and then he jumped back into the water. As he disappeared so did the shark, and neither of them have been seen since.
Sailors pulling into port seem unsettled lately. They speak of a strange dark shape deep in the water as they sail to Arx, something lurking beneath the surface. Some say it must be a pool of yet more darkwater, deep beneath the waves. Others talk of krakens, though that's ridiculous; krakens, of course, aren't real. (And even if they were, how would one fit up the river?) Still others talk of giant eel-like creatures glimpsed beneath the surface, with far too many teeth and eyes. There is no end to the number of superstitious tales trotted out as the /true/ explanation by slightly-inebriated sailors in the taverns around the city.
Despite the wide range of stories, on one point they all agree: the darkness, whatever it is, is most often spotted near the statue of Mangata, where the blackish-green slime of the Dark Bloom has begun to grow thick, to the point that it's beginning to pool on the ground around the statue's base.
With that revelation comes a chilling report of a fight in the Grayson Ward. A group posing as tourists found their quarry, running Dame Zhayla of Old Oak, Sword of Deepwood to ground. According to the Mercies in the House of Solace, they also almost killed Princess Marian Redrain and Aksel Nygard, Sword of Stonedeep. Even now they're in the House of Solace, clinging to life. Other rumors say Count Artorius Magnotta, Lady Amarantha Sanna, Lord Ian Kennex, and Alarie Harall were also present, though they seem to have escaped relatively unscathed. Dame Zhayla's body has been removed to the Deepwood Manor.
Two Thrax vessels are seen sailing to the docks with skeleton crews. As the party disembarks, there's a bit of a stir at the docks. The bulk of the crew of both ships are not disembarking at all. Then the Duke of Grimhall appears, borne up by his son, Lord Valdemar Grimhall (looking rather bloody himself), as well as Lord Ian Kennex. The two of them have to help Duke Harald walk - his leg has been savaged and torn, too much so to walk of his own volition, even with his strong will. But then Princess Reese appears with Prince Luca at her side, her face streaked with tears. She is carrying the body of Lord Killian Ashford and, distraught, she heads in the direction of the House of Solace. No one knows from what doomed errand they are returning.