They brought their captive into the next ship through the stern porthole. This was a small craft, full of jail cells in which a few merfolk languished, evidently awaiting their trial by combat. Freeing them and continuing on into the next ship, the party encountered a strike force of merfolk, making ready to break in and rescue the merfolk prisoners! This team welcomed the party, thanked them for breaking up the gladiatorial business, and led them back into yet another vessel.
This next ship was a massive upturned freighter, apparently converted into a kind of merfolk town square. Up at the bow was a raised dias and alter, where a triton priest stood sermonizing before a congregation of merfolk seated in several rows of pews. Towards the stern was an iron cage, suspended from the ship’s hull, containing a snarling saguahin shaman.
As the party settled down to rest for a moment, the priest bemoaned his failure to solve a riddle given to him by his divinations, and inquired of his congregation:
Riddle me this!
I spread and rise you can’t hold me down
Have enough of me you will probably die but not drown
Dark I am, I emerge from destruction
As a verb I’m a detriment to health, otherwise I serve no function
What am I?
It must have merely taken an outside perspective to solve, for Korog quickly grunted, “It’s obviously smoke.” Indeed, at this utterance, the saguahin in the cage at the back began hissing and shrieking, as his flesh began to smolder and sizzle. The triton’s god must have been waiting on their understanding to punish this heretical shaman. The congregation rejoiced, and in a moment when the saguahin collapsed and stopped thrashing about, his body was removed from the cage, butchered, and a feast of smoked fish was prepared.
Over the meal, the triton priest came to thank the party, and spoke with them for some time. He relayed a brief history of the current sea floor dynamics. According to their history, the Reef Lord who the party is after is actually the 3rd Reef Lord. The saguahin Saline Bath cult (colloquially known as the Bathists) used to be the dominant thugs of the original Reef Lord’s brutal authoritarian regime, terrorizing the merfolk and often invading the land for captors who would be “bathptized” into slaves. But this practiced angered the surface-dwellers, and with their foreign intervention, the merfolk resistance was able to remove the Reef Lord from power, and a new Reef Lord was installed who was really just a Selkie water-elementalist. This “Moist Mage” as he was also known engaged in an aggressive policy of “de-Bathification,” purging the Reef Lord’s domain of the cruel saguahin cult and replacing them with docile but surfacer-friendly merfolk. Now, the saguahin have been resenting this new order for decades, and have been hiding out in the arctic caves on the undersides of icebergs, biding their time. Now these ICELESS extremists as they are known, are slowly conquering territory once again, advancing inexorably back into the Reef Lord’s domain. In fact they have recently assassinated the Moist Mage, and a new reef giant (in league with the surface-dwelling giants) has just taken his place, hence the recent upheaval. Now the subservient merfolk live in fear of persecution by the Reef Lord and hope the party can subdue him.
Finally, the party ate their fill and had a chance to rest. Then the merfolk escorted them through a few more ships, including a pleasure barge, to a final shop with a huge porthole door, painted with a mural of a giant castle entrance. The merfolk explained that beyond this door was the sunken corpse of a leviathan, which the Reef Lord was using as his stronghold.
The party opened the door, flooding the ship. They swam through the entrance, a humongous toothy maw, into a dark, fleshy corridor. A few merfolk spearmen escorted them, and they traveled some distance before encountering a triton sentry, who quickly alerted the Reef Lord. The giant lord of the sea, along with his queen, several sentries, a giant shark, and a giant octopus soon came hurtling down the corridor, and battle was joined!