Read a full summary of Red Seas Under Red Skies, book #2 of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series, right here! This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in Red Seas Under Red Skies, then you are in the right place!
Gentleman Bastard Series
#1 The Lies of Locke Lamora
#2 Red Seas Under Red Skies
#3 The Republic of Thieves
Not Yet Published:
#4 The Thorn of Emberlain
#5 The Ministry of Necessity
#6 The Mage and the Master Spy
#7 Inherit the Night
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in Red Seas Under Red Skies?
Locke and Jean are trying to work their way to the most exclusive level of the Sinspire, the most famous gambling house in Tal Verrar. Their newest trick is a pairs’ game against Madam Durenna and Izmila Corvaleur. The men are losing to the women, and Locke and Jean have had to drink four rounds of the potent alcohol from the losers’ carousel, an attraction specific to this game and this level of the tower.
But their trick eventually works. The small amounts of poison they’re passing to Izmila from their fingers onto the playing cards make their way into her stomach as she eats her usual chocolate-covered cherries during the game. Mixed with just one dose of alcohol from one losing hand, Izmila passes out onto the table. Since she can’t complete the hand, Locke and Jean win.
This seems to catch the eye of Requin—the man they’re trying to impress so they can buy their way higher in the tower—as he watches from the shadows on the stairs.
Watching a duel of an old and young man on the dueling lawn bothers Locke, but in character as Koster, he has to pretend like it doesn’t.
Various merchants around town call Locke and Jean by their real names, and they can’t figure out how they know or who gave them the information. Then they realize the people are all under Bondsmage control. They chorus that Locke must answer for The Falconer. Jean wants to leave Locke to keep him safe since the mages know his real name, but Locke won’t hear of it.
The two men are summoned to Stragos, the city’s archon. The devious man gives them a slow-acting poison in their drinks, and he’ll only give them doses of a temporary antidote if they help him with his latest scheme.
Jean meets with a vault designer named Gallardine to ask her to break into the vault she designed for Requin. She says there’s no amount of money that will persuade her to do so and asks if he knows about Selendri’s special tie to Requin.
Jean and Locke meet with an alchemist to see if there’s any hope of finding an antidote to their unknown poison. There’s not.
Locke and Jean finally go back to the Sinspire. They wager with Madam Durenna about a boy fighting in a cage of deadly stiletto wasps that Requin brought in. Before Locke can watch the fight, Selendri sweeps him away because Requin wants to speak with him. He somehow knows about Stragos kidnapping Jean and Locke and wants to know why. Locke tells the whole story, inserting just one lie: He says Stragos is the one who hired the pair to break into Requin’s vault. Requin falls for the story.
Jean and Locke are attacked by a woman posing as a beggar. They think they have her bested, and Jean’s holding her up to question her when she’s shot through with a crossbow bolt. Merrain—the woman who picked them up for their first meeting with Stragos—just saved their lives; the injured woman had a poisoned blade concealed that she was about to wield against them.
Locke orders four very specific chairs from a woodworker. The carpenter is confused about the request but nonetheless agrees to build them. Locke pays an exorbitant amount to have them made immediately, in front of all other orders.
Locke is at The Amusement Wall in Salon Corbeau, which features humans as the playing pieces on the game board. They’re asked to do grotesque, cruel things. If they refuse, they’ll be beaten until they cooperate. A voice in Locke’s head tells him he should do something about the spectacle to help these poor commoners who are humiliated, beaten, and sometimes killed, all for the hope of a little coin, but he ignores the voice and leaves Salon Corbeau as soon as his new chairs are built.
Merrain takes Jean and Locke back to her boss. Before he tells them the real reason he summoned then, Stragos asks if they know who might have ordered the attack on them. They genuinely have no idea. Stragos says he will investigate it and asks them to stay in a narrow part of town until he knows who’s after them. They are indignant.
Then Stragos takes them to his garden and tells them he wants a reason to use his navy ships once again. He was given whatever money he needed in times of trouble, but now they’ve had several years of peace, he gets nothing. Stragos wants Locke and Jean to pose as pirates and make trouble at sea so his navy will be called upon once again. The pair has no experience as pirates, but Stragos assures them that won’t be a problem.
Locke wants to know the end game for Stragos’s power, if renewed. That’s when Stragos shows them the clockwork garden they’re floating to. He’s designed it all, and none of it is real. He’s tired of humans running scared from the Bondsmagi, and he wants humans to have the knowledge and power to build and do whatever they want. In addition to the antidote he’s promised them, he also says he’ll pay them. It won’t be a predetermined amount; instead, it be in proportion to how well they serve him. Locke and Jean signal to each other that Stragos is lying to them about payment.
Merrain contacts them posing as a waitress. They go to the contact point and then leave in a carriage in disguise. They boat out to an island and meet Caldris, a rugged old sailor. He will train them to be proficient enough in sea terms and practices to fool a boat full of men into believing they’re legitimate pirates.
Merrain comes to retrieve the men and advises them to stay in. Locke says he can’t; he needs to meet with Requin. She eventually agrees to send a carriage for him. Locke delivers the four chairs to Requin that evening, claiming he won them in a bet and has no use for them, and Requin is delighted bytheir intricate design.
Locke is also there to explain his upcoming absence to Requin. He says Stragos is sending him and Jean to sea for a while. He’ll check in with Requin as soon as they return.
They train for weeks with Caldris, slowly, begrudgingly learning everything they need to know about life at sea.
One evening, they’re drinking at a local bar and a naval captain buys a round of drinks for everyone there. Locke and Jean want to stick with their wine, so they pass the dark ale to a girl at the next table. She soon dies of poisoning. A respected local physiker can’t even save her. Locke and Jean know the poison was intended for them and notice the barkeep assistant who served them their drinks has left the building.
They are approached by large man when they leave the bar and tackle him because they think he’s after him. He’s actually just be sent by Merrain and gets them back to their hotel safely. The next morning, they check out, leave a healthy tip for the whole staff, send a note to Requin, and head to their ship.
Soon Caldris says they’ve learned enough. They retrieve their ship and discover who will make up their crew: a group of prisoners they’ll rescue. Not all are sailors, and not all are in good health. But they’ll have to do as Locke and Jean’s crew.
Caldris acts as the actual ship’s captain but only behind the scenes. They get along okay at first, with not too many missteps by Locke, but on the very day that Caldris discovers Locke forgot to bring a cat along as a good luck charm for the boat, the old sailor dies and a storm batters the ship. The men quickly learn that Locke isn’t a true captain and isn’t sure how to manage the ship. His orders save it somehow, but five men die and four are severely injured.
The next morning, Locke and Jean wake up to a mutiny led by the sea savvy Jabril, who had been the most suspicious of Locke during his poor handling of the ship during the storm. Locke begs an audience with all men aboard, and Jabril allows it. Because of Locke’s fast talking and reminder that he rescued them all from prison, he’s allowed to leave on the ship’s small life boat. But the crew takes all of the food and water out of it.
Locke wants Jean to stay behind because he’s not suspected by the men, but he refuses to. So both men are lowered to the ocean to face the elements without sustenance or much hope of seeing land again.
They’re not in their lifeboat for long before they see a second boat on the horizon. It turns out to be the Poison Orchid, a pirate ship crewed mostly by women. They take Locke, Jean, and their former shipmates captive. If they prove themselves, they’ll have the opportunity to become full-fledged members of this crew.
They encounter a merchant ship, and even though it’s guarded by Jeremite Redeemer priests, Captain Drakasha says they’ll try to overtake it. The men battle well, and, unbelievably, they triumph against these warrior priests. By dumb luck, Locke looks skilled well beyond his abilities and earns the respect of the captain.
Locke is disturbed by the fact that Jean seemed to watch out for a woman named Ezri (the captain’s lieutenant) instead of him during the fight. And Jean always protects Locke if they’re in a fight. While the crew celebrates the victory over the merchant ship and all the new goods they acquired, Ezri comes over to Jean and comes on to him. Even though she’s injured from battle, they head to her room together.
Drakasha asks Locke for his true story. She knows what he’s told his former crew isn’t true. She can see through the story, but her guess is wrong. He contemplates how much to tell her and decides he can give her most of the truth because he’s come to trust her. She has a lot to think over and can’t decide whether to help his cause or not. She says she’ll give Locke her answer when they leave the next port.
Captain Drakasha had to take the route to Port Prodigal that made those aboard her ship hear things supernaturally in their minds. Most have been through it before, and she warns the newbies. Everyone makes it through okay. They arrive in Port Prodigal to sell the goods they confiscated during their latest ship raid.
Jean and Locke convince Drakasha to take them with her to scout the port before everyone else comes ashore. They arrive at a bar and kick another captain out of the high table. She’s on the captains’ council just like Drakasha.
Rodanov, another captain on the council, shows up next. He’s almost 7 feet tall and is pretty jolly. He feels no need to flex his muscles, so doesn’t volley for the head table. Drakasha calls a meeting of all captains currently in port (five total) the following day.
They all show up to the meeting, and Drakasha makes her proposal. Rodanov is the last to vote in favor of her plan. He has a plant on her ship named Utgar and pays him off before the ship leaves. He also passes along a secret parcel to Utgar.
Ezri is furious with Jean for not telling her about the poison, something she had to learn in the council meeting as Drakasha told Locke and Jean’s story to the captains. Ezri tells Jean she loves him and asks him to stay on the ship with her once all of this is over.
Jean and Locke talk about how they don’t feel any effects of the poison yet even though they’re due for the next dose of antidote soon. Jean then tells Locke about Ezri’s offer. He says he might want her to come with them instead. He’s skeptical at first but decides he might be okay with the three of them against the world if that’s what Ezri and Jean decide to do.
They arrive back in Tal Verarr after being gone for seven weeks. Locke gets 250 solari from Drakasha to use for a bribe.
Locke and Jean leave in the small boat the Poison Orchid first found them in. They tow it straight to the waterfall leading to Stragos’s compound. The two men hope to make it to the alchemist and try to bribe him. But they go to Stragos first. They tell him how Drakasha knows she’s supposed to stage a fight. He’s mad she knows the truth, but in the end, he thinks the plan will work. He gives them their temporary antidote and says they just might earn the permanent one soon. They wanted to speak to the alchemist when he brought in the antidote, but they don’t get the chance.
Locke and Jean visit Requin next. They tell him they came across an amazing clockwork artist in Port Prodigal. The two men get Requin to write an unsigned letter using his wax seal to try to tempt the artist to come to Tal Verrar. They say they’ll journey back to the port to try to convince the man to come.
Locke knows this tangled web of lies could come crashing down very easily. But at least they’ve bought a couple more months’ worth of leeway with both Stragos and Requin.
Back in Port Prodigal, Jacquelaine Colvard (one of the captains from the council) comes to Rodanov to tell him she’s noticed he’s preparing to leave. She knows he was suspicious of the council’s decision and is likely going after Drakasha. He admits he is, and she shares her idea. She wants to go back on their word to the council and sacrifice Drakasha to Stragos to try to win his favor. She hopes this will win their free, uninterrupted reign of the northern seas once again.
We get back to the opening scene of the book where Locke and Jean are being attacked by two men. Jean appears to betray Locke and turn his gun on him. Locke watches closely for a hand motion from Jean to signal he’s lying but sees none. Once the scuffle is over, Jean thinks Locke is crazy for questioning his loyalty and says he absolutely signaled. Locke just missed it. They can’t figure out how someone found, recognized, and tried to attack them after so little time back in Tal Verrar.
With the time Locke and Jean bought, Drakasha’s ship is able to leave Tal Verrar. In the open sea, they discover a ship headed right for them. Drakasha soon recognizes the boat and realizes Rodanov is coming for them. A huge fight ensues.
The package Rodanov gave Utgar when they left Port Prodigal was alchemical fire. He’s going to burn Drakasha’s ship and all of her crew with it. Ezri somehow grabs it from Utgar and jumps to Rodanov’s ship. That ship burns completely, and the Poison Orchid and those still alive from the battle are saved. Ezri perishes after the fire badly burns her. Jean is devastated to lose her.
Locke and Jean visit Cordo’s house to get his help in defeating Stragos. They discover he’s the one who has been sending assassins after them at the Magi’s bidding when they’re in Tal Verrar. Cordo’s son soon makes and appearance doesn’t want to trust Locke and Jean. But the elder Cordo knows they would’ve already killed him if their intentions are other than what they’ve stated. They tell him their plan to take down Stragos. All they need from him is to have some of his law enforcement men, the Eyes, to come arrest Locke and Jean when they leave Requin’s place.
How did Red Seas Under Red Skies end?
Locke and Jean go back to Stragos and kidnap him. He’ll be strapped to the bow of the Poison Orchid to starve, go mad, and die. Before they leave, Locke and Jean get one dose of the permanent antidote. That’s all that the alchemist has made. Its formulation makes it such that it can’t be tested for ingredients, and the only preparatory instructions are in the alchemist’s mind. He unfortunately dies in the scuffle to kidnap Stragos, so Locke and Jean only have one vial of antidote. And just half of the dose won’t work. The full dose is needed, or they won’t recover.
Locke and Jean visit Requin’s place next to make their heist. They don’t rob the vault like Requin always believed they were going to; instead, they take ten of the very expensive paintings right off of Requin’s walls. The tools they need to overtake Selendri, cut the paintings down, and store them safely for travel are all stowed in the four chairs Locke gave Requin. After Locke and Jean are gone and Requin discovers what they’ve done, he tells Selendri that the paintings were replicas. He suggests they go get the originals out of the vault to decorate the bare walls.
Locke and Jean travel to their buyer. His expert eye recognizes that the paintings are all fakes. Good fakes, but fakes indeed. He will only pay 2,500 solari for them instead of the 30,000 he’d promised for the originals. Locke and Jean are forced to take the deal.
The two decide to set out for somewhere brand new that neither of them have seen before. Locke secures a boat for them. During their first dinner on the boat on this new adventure, they know it’s time to discuss who should get the antidote. They each unselfishly want the other to have it.
Locke then reveals that it’s not that he won’t take it; it’s that he can’t take it. Jean is confused. Locke explains that he can’t take the antidote because it’s already gone. Jean just drank it mixed with the wine Locke poured for him. Jean is cured, and Locke is left with the poison in his body and no antidote.
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