That Wasn’t Part of the Plan

The defining feature of Captain Zucco’s reputation in the circles of influence in which he was known was and always had been his discretion. He was not the kind of man that drew attention to himself. He didn’t share the confidences of others. And he didn’t do anything without a well thought out plan. His critics, such as Captain Sabre, derogatorily referred to Zucco as being a meticulous little coward. While he was indeed careful and thoughtful in his scheming, there was nothing cowardly in how Divo Zucco went about carrying out his designs. Where he and others would differ is on the fact that Zucco did not believe one had to be foolhardy and brash in order to be bold. Zucco was rarely brash, and had only been foolhardy once. That wasn’t going to happen again.

When Captain Zucco had spoken with the three priests from Arcanum that had volunteered to help the Illyrians of Attica go up against the Fourth Imperium invasion force threatening Drepane it had not been a casual encounter. Nothing about this was haphazard. Zucco had made his own personal divinations about where to sail and determined with a reasonable degree of accuracy what he might discover once there. And as had always been the case his faith had not failed him. Zucco called it “the intervention of divine intent.” The three priests were somewhat guarded when he approached them, but soon enough his charisma had pushed their defenses down enough that they began to speak of a concern that weighed heavily on their hearts.

They spoke in riddles as was almost always the case when information of such weighty importance as this needed to be conveyed. In the hands of a dullard the details when revealed could prove disastrous. But if a person had the ability to decode the inner meaning of the messages, it would mean they also possessed the wisdom and insight to realize the danger that they were in if they pursued the matter further. On one thing they were clear, and made no mistake. A statue known as the Guardian of the Hades Forge had been found in their homeland, and spirited away by a powerful but as yet unknown person in Partum. The priests knew of these things but had not been charged with doing anything about it by their superiors. They were inquisitive enough though to try and see if anyone had heard of this statue, or who might have been responsible for its removal from the lost regions of Arcanum. Zucco had his suspicions. It was not his nature to have offered those ideas to these strangers, though. Instead he discreetly worked on them for more information and discovered a handful of tidbits that might prove useful if the statue was encountered. Weaving his own bit of mysticism into the conversation he realized where the statue might be headed. Sarande, a small port town in the land of Dalmatia, the realm of the Witch Queen.

Returning from the Illyrian encampments to his ship, the Queen Myrtle, Captain Zucco sought more answers. Using the information he had already gained to finely tune his own inquiries, the captain prayerfully sought just enough further details to zero in his search. The answers were provided clearly because the good captain had done enough work on his own to warrant a precise response. The Queen Myrtle set sail to the north once more, to sail to Sarande and retrieve this statue. It must not fall into the hands of the Witch Queen, and certainly mustn’t make its way to the Grand Imperator of the Fourth Imperium. He had two among his crew that he felt could do the job, his third mate and a gnome illusionist who had joined the crew looking for adventure. Adventure was now close at hand.

There was a plan. Not a great plan, but a plan nonetheless. The goal was to locate the statue, secure it, and return to the ship with it in hand. But there were things that were not part of this plan. Tossing a grappling hook through a second story window and then yanking the entire window, sill and all, down into the street on top of themselves was not part of the plan. Nor was a second attempt to throw the grappling hook so that it bounced off the wall and slammed into their forehead part of the plan. Once inside the warehouse, the plan did not entail falling headlong down a stack of crates breaking several things in the process. And once the statue had been found, it wasn’t ideally part of the plan to drop the heavy coffer containing it off the wharf so that it smashed through the skiff, sinking it, and lodging the box in the soft mud of the bay. But this is what happened. Luckily the box was retrieved by other crew members and the Queen Myrtle was able to slip out of the harbor at daybreak and sail into the welcome cover of a heavy fog. A decent plan oddly executed.

There would of course be repercussions for this bold heist. Captain Zucco had some idea of what to expect. But he couldn’t really be certain of anything right now. The important thing was to find a way to get rid of this damnable statue so that the Fourth Imperium couldn’t make use of it. It was time for a new plan.