Place: Hensteeth (Miami Beach, FL)
Time: December 6
After Nibbles’ unexpected revelation that The Court of Wrath has begun posting its own guards to the JFK Causeway, effectively sealing the Brotherhood of the Willow off from support, Jeremiah Sleet apologizes to the Brotherhood. He says that while he won’t turn them out on the street, he has to put his own Court first. Winter can move around on their own to get past Grandfather Thunder‘s guards if necessary, but they can’t afford to compromise the secrecy of their movements. However, since they are his guests, he points them in the direction of assistance: The Neptune Society maintains much of its fleet at the Miami Beach Marina at the southern end of the island, and if the Brotherhood can make them an offer, they might be able to get a lift back to Autumn territory. Sleet tells Nibbles to escort them, unseen, to the marina. Sleet sets to making preparations to move Hensteeth to a new, more secure location.
Nibbles leads them an uneventful few blocks to the marina, where they see a breathtakingly-beautiful mer-woman climbing out of the water. (Alexandre‘s reaction is typical; he lays it on thick, even going so far as to actually kiss her hand. She does not seem to accept his advances.) She sees them as well, and introduces herself as Melissa, a member of Maria Espina’s retinue. She observes (correctly) that they are quite far from home, and she knows that Summer has posted guards to all the land-routes in or out of Miami Beach. Assuming (again, correctly) that they’re here to get a ride from the Neptune Society, she urges them to reconsider: the Society is weak in Freehold politics, and unpopular with Shimmering Spring (a.k.a. Vichy Spring) in particular. Associating themselves (and by extension, the Autumn Court) with the Neptune Society would be “social suicide”.
Melissa offers them the support of Shimmering Spring, but admits that they don’t really have a way to get them home right away, though “anything would be better than hanging out with those losers, right?” Jack thanks her kindly, and manages to change the subject to Isabel Espina’s upcoming Yuletide celebration, which puts Melissa on the defensive, since she is, of course, “better-informed than anyone” about Miami’s social calendar. The mermaid’s interest is piqued, but the Brotherhood excuses itself, leaving the Shimmering Spring courtier quite put-out.
The Brotherhood makes its way to the harbormaster’s office, where they meet Captain Larus Mollymawk, master and commander of the S.S. Gossamer, and a ranking officer in the Neptune Society for more than four decades. He is gruff and mistrustful of them at first, but upon perceiving the attention they could bring him, he explains the situation more fully to them.
The Neptune Society is part of the Freehold of Miami, but not part of any Court: they serve the Freehold, not any particular ruler. This has, understandably, made them unpopular with many rulers, but especially with Grandfather Thunder. This lack of official support has cost them much of their funding and other resources. Much of the fleet is in disrepair, and the Neptune Society has difficulty even making the basic patrols necessary to keep the Trident safe from the horrors of The Deep. Mollmawk is willing to cut a deal with them: he will provide them safe passage, free of charge (a rare offer indeed!), in exchange for their Pledge to set up a meeting between the Neptune Society’s senior officers and the Queens of Autumn and Spring, to discussed increased funding and support for the Society’s operational budget. Seeing little choice otherwise, the Brotherhood agrees.
Captain Mollymawk takes them to his ship, the S.S. Gossamer, and introduces her crew: Big Bertha, the quartermaster; Willard Seacrest, the Engineman; and Monique Washington, Master-at-Arms. Mollymawk gives the order to cast off, and soon they are under way. The captain explains the because Summer has recently mined the harbor, it will be necessary to take them home by way of The Deep. About midway through the voyage, the Gossamer is boarded by a sharklike monstrosity which (after nearly attacking it), they are told is actually a member of the Gossamer’s crew: Bruce, their Special Reconaissance Operative.
Bertha spots a strange cloud off the port stern. Monique takes a closer look, shouts in dismay, and disappears to warn the captain. The cloud is not a cloud at all, but a massive, shrieking flock of bronze-feathered Hobgoblins called Stimmies, and they’re getting closer. Willard throws everything he can into the engines, but the flock overtakes them. A fierce battle ensues, leaving Jack seasick, heavily wounded, and slightly shotgunned, but the crew manages to pull through and drive off the flock, and bring their passengers safely to shore, in accordance with their end of the bargain.