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We began our campaign last night with a lot of anticipation.
Callous Deepsea - NE Dwarf Druid (Shark Shaman)
Jaqueline "Jack" Scissors - NE Undine Rogue (Pirate)
Trina Smoke - CG Half-elf Witch (Sea Witch)
Aznap - CN Lizardman Fighter (Corsair)
Nijoo Jooricki "Joo Joo" Calhoon - CN Halfling Bard (Sea Singer)
We're utilizing Wounds & Vigor from Ultimate Combat. I pretty much hate hit points as the least interesting way of abstracting damage in combat ever invented.
We'll also be using a form of Action Points which we haven't worked out quite yet.
I'm allowing Firearms but with some significant adjustment to make them a bit more dramatic and unpredictable.
I am also starting our weekly game with a little mood music. Our Theme Song by Alestorm.
Enough background material. The next post will be the first journal entry.
Waking from a drugged and drunken stupor is a bad experience at the best of times, but when you don't recognize your foul smelling surroundings and you here the crack of a whip and feel someone rousting you, lifting you bodily to your feet in a most un-gentle manner it is especially unpleasant.
Before she even opened her eyes, Jack let her fists fly at whatever botfly-breath bastard was shaking her by the lapels and screaming in her face. A natural 20 rung his bell rather nicely and a moment later he was spitting a tooth in her face and preparing to haul off with a vicious beating.
An oily man in a long coat with and an angry growl cracked the whip to stop the incipient brawl. "On the deck, now, or you'll be the sorriest you've ever been in your pathetic lives!"
Joo Joo Calhoon hurried on deck, nearly colliding with a brute right by the hatch, before remarking with a wide grin and a romantic glaze in his eye, "This is the most authentic looking (and smelling) group of piratical scoundrels I've ever seen in my life! Thank you so much for inviting me to be part of your crew!"
That got a chuckle from some of the swabs, but drew a naked scowl of contempt from the bosun Mr. Plugg.
After being "welcomed" by the infamous Captain Barnabas Harrigan whose mere glance set all their knees knocking, the new press-ganged members of the Wormwood crew were set to tasks by Mr. Plugg and his whip-wielding mate Master Scourge.
"You, witchy wench, you've probably boiled a meal or two in a pot afore."
Trina: "Aye sir, and my name is..."
"I don't give a good **** what your name is, just get down to the galley. Fishguts needs a new mate after we ground the last one and put him in the sausage."
Aznap raced right up the rigging into the Crows Nest like, well, a lizard. But when Jack started to get dizzy her fear of heights made her intentionally fail the climb test, which Mr. Plugg didn't fail to notice.
"You think it's funny slacking off and playing dumb do ye? You'll spend the first day in the bilges then and it'll be three rope bashes at the Bloody Hour for thinking me stupid enough to fall for it."
Callous Deepsea was set to repairing a couple stanchions come loose from the gunwales during which he met the helpful priestess of Besmara, Sandara Quinn. She warned him to keep his head down around the Bosun and his friends, but to do his best to make friends with the rest of the crew. "You can't have enough friends on a ship full of thieves and murderers."
She also slipped a dagger to Jack that she'd gotten back from the purser Cut Throat Grok. "We ladies need a bit of extra leverage when it comes to protecting ourselves from unwanted advances, wouldn't you agree?"
Meanwhile Joo Joo, who also got the unfortunate job of cleaning the bilges, was chatting it up with a real pirate - Jakes Magpie! Mr. Magpie was in chains in the bilges for having stolen a masterwork cutlass from the purser's store. They shared some Gallows humor and Mr. Magpie tried to dissuade the green Halfling from his rose-colored view of piracy - especially the way the crew of the Wormwood practiced it.
In the rigging Aznap was busily making enemies out of fellow riggers Crimson Cogwell, Conchobar Shortstone, and Rosie Cuswell with his gruff demeanor. Crimson Cogwell challenged him to some arm-wrestling that night on deck and though Crimson won, smashing Aznap's arm into broken pottery shards, the lizardman left his mark with his claws on the sailor's flesh. Unfriendly ----> Hostile. Accomplished.
Jack bore her rope bashes without flinching, earning an additional bash for some lewd gestures with the mainmast.
The Rum rations laid them all quite low and they awoke late in the morning. The rest of the crew had already gone up on deck and as they rushed toward the hatch trying to avoid more "discipline" they were cut off by a gang of angry crewman looking for a little brawl. They got more than they bargained for with Callous sending one swab running with cause fear and horrifying another with his bleeding touch. Another pirate made his save against Joo Joo's daze but still got raked with Aznap's claws. Two of the lady-swabs ganged up on Jack, and regretted it for the ferocious pummeling they received.
Unfortunately all of them were late for the bell. Master Scourge falsely reported that the newbies were the instigators and Mr. Plugg sentenced them all to three lashes except Jack who it turns out had bloodied the eye of a girl Master Scourge fancied. Jack got six - and the discomforting knowledge that already on day two she was the Bosun's primary target for abuse.
Forgot to mention...
The real star of the "Bloody Hour" was Jakes Magpie who was keelhauled for his crimes much to the horror of the PC's. He was pulled out of the brine flayed by the barnacles and pronounced dead by the surgeon. His head was sawn off and his body tossed unceremoniously in the drink. The head was planted on the poop deck as a friendly reminder to the rest of the crew never to steal from Captain Barnabas Harrigan.
As written by Nijoo Jooricki "Joo Joo" Calhoon
After many years of listening to wonderful tales of plunder, gold, and far off places. Plus the many attempts to become apart of the prestigous group known as pirates. I have finally been press ganged to the despicable (WONDERFUL) ship Wormwood. I finally figured out that I was wasting my time trying to volunteer some look upon that as just plain craziness.
Mom I have to tell they have went above and beyond to make this experience as authintic as possible. I mean one minute there I am telling the story of the time I sailed through the Eye of Abendego on a rowboat hoping someone would believe me and offer me a spot on their ship. Mean while some old salt (that mean sailor mom) is busy slipping me some drug that will later have me flat on my a**. I wake up the next morning to find myself and a few others who also had the wonderful oppurtunity to be selected on board the Wormwood.
So there I am being awakened to the sweet sweet sound of some gruff and upset pirate screaming at the top of his lungs "Get your lower posterior on deck right now before I make fishguts out of the lot of ye". Pretty cool I think; however some humanoids are not morning people and do not handle their drug fill liquor well. A Udine (some type of fish on two legs) woman gets hauled out of bed and before she even open her eyes gives are host the old one handed clap and knocks a tooth out. Come to find out her name is Jaqueline "Jack" Scissors but I call her Scrappy Jack because as of right now we have only been on this ship three maybe for days and she has already gotten in to three maybe four altercations.
So anyway our pirate host asks a to get on deck and well of course I wasn't going to let all the tall folk like the 7 or 8 foot (hard to guage the height from down here)lizard man go first and block my view. I make my pleasantries to a truly authentic crew and meet one the the most nortorious free captains of Port Peril. I also meet the guy in charge of the ships day to day business Mr. Plugg. He acts like a sour fellow but I can tell he loves his job. When assigning positions he puts me on the ropes but soon realizes that I have potential and promotes me to the bilge. Mom its the most important job on the ship aside from being the captain.
Mom I have met the most wonderful halfling woman here, her name is Rosie. She must have been press ganged like I was which means that we must have the same passion in life!! She says that I have a shot with her as soon as I find out what Va Va something means. She also plays the fiddle which I think is awesome maybe we can be a duo. Well mom I have to go and will write you later give my twelve sisters and eight brothers hugs and kisses
Your with love
Magnificently Glorious Pirate Bard Nijoo Jooricki "Joo Joo" Calhoon
P.S. I also got jumped and 3 bashes isn't that great.
It turns out that catching Dire Rats without any weapons or armor or tools is a challenging task. On the fourth day of their "volunteer" voyage our heroes were ordered to the bilge by Mr. Plugg to kill whatever it was that bit the poor lad Scrimshaw. They found four Dire Rats swimming around down there, but with only one dagger between four of them they were more than a little hesitant to jump in the water.
Enter silver-tongued Joo Joo our delusional Halfling Bard. He wrapped the quartermaster Grok around his little finger with some honeyed words and managed to get permission to purchase a net and a pair of clubs.
With our burly Lizardman (not name Aznap as I thought, but Varanus) hauling on the line they dragged netted Dire Rats into the middle of the group and proceeded to beat and stab them to death quite handily. A little patience and searching found two more rats still lurking in the middle decks, and a poison trap took care of a clutch of baby Dire Rats (more about them later).
The Rum Rations and the evening entertainments with the crew of the Wormwood were dangerous to say the least. After winning a game of Towers Jack was accused of cheating and attacked by one of hot-tempered Arietta with brass knuckles. Jack danced backwards and Arietta stumbled over the gunwales into the drink. Master Scourge gave her 6 more lashes for "attempted murder" on that one. She really hates him.
Our heroes were trying to follow the advice of Sandara Quinn and make friends. Poor Varanus is just not an eloquent fellow and wasn't having much luck of it, but he won a competition of speed through the rigging and gamely lost at a bout of insults with the poseur Conchobar, at least making a good showing for himself. Joo Joo used his new goodwill with Grok to get Rosie's fiddle out of captivity and learned that Conchobar was very unhappy with the way Joo Joo was trying to usurp his bardic role on ship. Callous meanwhile laid low and just excelled at his various jobs.
One evening Mr. Plugg brought his pet, an 8' tall man nicknamed "Owlbear", on deck and offered a 100gp purse to whoever beat Owlbear in a fist fight. No one volunteered so Mr. Plugg ordered Joo Joo first (who refused and was given 6 lashes for his impertinence). Mr. Plugg ordered Callous next who reluctantly went in and observed that Owlbear was blind in his left eye making his blows avoidable. Callous gave Owlbear a good fight for a while, but then Mr. Plugg tossed the brute a club which reversed the trend immediately. Callous yielded before his skull was crushed, but Mr. Plugg was far from satisfied.
Jack was sent in next and she just dodged around a while getting the gunwales and mast smashed up in her wake and enraging Mr. Plugg pretty good. Eventually Owlbear got lucky and caught her so hard she was compelled to yield also. Varanus was sent in last and he let fly with his claws even though Mr. Plugg was shouting that he'd get a lash for every scratch on Owlbear. Owlbear cowered and tried to yield, but Master Scourge sent him back into the fight cracking his whip. Varanus refused to attack Owlbear any longer, disobeying a direct order and earning 12 lashes. Mr. Plugg stomped off in a huff taking his purse with him saying that the lizard had cheated and everyone was proper outraged.
Having taken quite a beating they all tried to play it relatively safe for a few days.
At sundown one evening dizzy from his rum rations, Joo Joo managed to get Rosie in front of the whole crew and extract a promise of a kiss from her if he returned her fiddle, which he promptly flourished. She cussed him out good (but kept her promise) and Joo Joo managed to simultaneously win the friendship of Rosie and Grok while pissing off Conchobar something fierce who'd always fancied himself a natural match for Rosie Cusswell.
On the 8th day of their voyage a storm struck and they learned how exhausting unbroken shifts in the rigging with no rest can be. Jack fell asleep on deck (earning still more stripes - her back is a labyrinth of scars by now) but still had the wherewithal to leap into the churning seas with a rope around her waist and catch little Rosie who had fallen overboard. It was a near thing, but they clasped hands just as the rope snapped taut and the Wormwood drug them both in its wake.
When the storm subsided after a couple days they'd been driven far west and had to stop to get their bearings in the hot sun near a coral reef. Our heroes were sent with crab pots out to the reef to fetch the captain's supper. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems though and they were ambushed by a pair of reefclaws. The fight was a near thing since the Reefclaws were excellent grapplers and our heroes were not such superb swimmers (except Jack). Joo Joo was nearly dragged to a watery death, but the concerted teamwork of Callous and Jack saved his life and they all got back to the ship with a bonanza of crab, lobster, and reefclaw.
For once they were rewarded with a healing potion and the return of their gear by the the quartermaster. Not everything that happens on the Wormwood is terrible... but then, they don't know what it coming next.
About those baby Dire Rats... Jack snuck below decks while everyone was distracted with the Owlbear tussle and took the poisoned corpses of the baby Dire Rats and piled them up under the hammock of Arietta. She then cut a nice slit through the middle of the hammock. That night when Arietta hit her bunk she fell straight through the hammock into the rotting pile of baby rats and freaked out. Nearly a week later Jack still hasn't stopped chuckling to herself.
Trina, our witch, had missed the previous session and needed to catch up with events. As the cook's mate she'd become close with Kroop and pretty much adapted his perspective on the crew of the Wormwood. She had a deep hatred of Tam "Narwhal" Tate who enjoyed kicking the cage of her familiar dwarf caiman, "Sugar". I see that relationship descending to violence sooner or later.
Jack had 12 lashes to endure from falling asleep in the storm that Mr. Plugg decided to space out over a couple days, and Varanus got caught pouring his rum out and earned himself a few lashes too. Master Scourge also thought it appropriate since Varanus didn't like his Rum to pour a half-pint of the stuff down his freshly lashed back.
Sandara Quinn pulled our heroes together on the 13th night of the voyage along with Giffer Tibs, Rosie Cuswell, and Tilly Bracket for a little pow wow. They agreed that Mr. Plugg and Master Scourge were getting a bit out of control with the hazing and playing blatant favorites. It was suggested that they make a pact to watch each other's backs and particularly to try to catch the attention of Captain Harrigan during a raid and try to address the matter with him. Everyone cut their palm and shook hands. Since then there have been a lot of conspiratorial glances.
Even though Jack was working diligently during the day and laying low at nights trying to avoid more lashes she couldn't help herself still plotting bits of revenge on Arietta and Syl. She killed some rats and hid their bodies away to make her own little maggot farm. Maggots she harvested and stuffed in Arietta's locker. She rubbed decay and filth in Arietta's hammock which got poor Arietta nicknamed "Aroma".
Callous meanwhile was learning that there was no Dwarven brotherhood between him and "Narwhal". He spent time shooting the breeze with the ship's surgeon Habbly Quarn, and with the pursor Grok. Somehow our NE shark shaman feral dwarf has managed to lay low and attract the least hate of the heroes.
The 14th day of the journey was Boarding School. Master Gunner Riaris Krine tried to get all the new "volunteers" trained up for their first real action. Poor Varanus' normally dextrous lizard fingers couldn't throw the grappling hook straight while Callous and Jack and Trina and even Joo Joo got theirs attached right away. When it came to the climbing though Varanus put everyone to shame while Callous spent all his time swimming back to the ship's boat after a dunk. The crew of the Wormwood had a wonderful time heaving buckets of bilge water and rotting food at the volunteers. Arietta smashed some fish guts in Jack's face, but Jack scooped them up and splattered them in Arietta's hair.
Riaris then had the "boarders" line up by the gunwales while crew members charged them with poles and tried to knock them off the boat. Joo Joo went flying so far through the air when Conchobar bull-rushed him that he's now being called "Joo-Joo Bird". Callous had an unlucky break and ended up in the Fever Sea too. Varanus got tripped, but lashed out with his club from prone and gave Crimson a bruised shin he'll be treating tenderly for a few days. Jack flipped and tumbled around avoiding her assailant and giving out lumps with the club. Trina hunkered down just long enough to pass the exercise.
That night Kroop held an impromptu "awards" ceremony on deck handing out carrots carved into little statuettes for the new graduates of Boarding School.
Several days passed in relative calm. Well... one of those evenings Varanus got roped into a game of Heave. Everyone placed their bets on who would be the last standing after swigging cask-strength rum. Grok won the game, but Varanus was in it till the last round and he'd bet wisely earning himself some coin and a pounding headache.
The next day Syl (who'd been a loser in the game of Heave) was woozy in the rigging and took a fall. Varanus saw it coming and decided to make her day a little worse. He set a rack of belay pins out to break her fall - breaking her leg in the process. Master Scourge interrogated everyone who saw the accident, but though he knew he was being lied to got no answers. So he passed out some lashes and some extra duties to Callous and Varanus.
Having made it out into the open Fever Sea and the shipping lanes the lookout spotted sails on the 18th day. Sharp eyes recognized Chelish colors and Captain Harrigan decided not to pursue, a choice several people found odd.
Scourge must have arranged for some healing magic for Syl, because on the 19th day she and Arietta were BOTH assigned to the Bilges with... Jack. Jack knew immediately she was in trouble. She signaled to Giffer Tibs, one of her co-conspirators that she might need help and went down into the bilges. She hadn't been there long when the hatch was closed and locked and Arietta and Syl both pulled daggers. Jack had a hidden knife of her own and what followed was far from pretty. Jack got cut up pretty bad, but two women sunk in their own blood and filthy bilge water and Jack wasn't one of them. Giffer Tibs showed up too late to help, having been held up by Fips Chumlett.
Arietta was dead before the surgeon got to her, but Syl is still clinging to life for now, though she's contracted a nasty case of Filth Fever and is shivering in a hammock in the bow of the Wormwood. Master Scourge could have killed Jack right there on the deck, but Mr. Plugg thought it better to give her a day in the Sweatbox and an appointment for Keelhauling to cogitate on.
The mood on the ship was tense that night. No one, even the crew members who had no love for Jack, felt she deserved a trip under the Keel. Two Keelhaulings within a month? Something has to be done about Mr. Plugg. Soon.
But all of that will have to wait, because on the morning of the 20th day more sails were spotted: a Rahadoumi merchant ship all by her lonesome heading south toward Blood Cove. Captain Harrigan strode up to the bow and had a look through his glass before turning with a grin to the crew of the Wormwood, "We pursue!"
Next time our heroes get their first taste of piracy.
Pursuing the Man's Promise took hours and everyone was balanced on a razor's edge with excitement as Master Gunner Riaris Krine gave orders and made her battle plan. Those without their own armaments were issued cutlasses for the boarding action. Our heroes were ordered to seize and hold the aft deck and the Ship's Wheel, with the Lizardman Varanus' grappling out front as "reward" for his poor showing in Boarding School.
Jack outrolled everyone on initiative though and ignored the grappling action, choosing just to leap over the water. Varanus and Trina were the next across. Sandara Quinn and Shivikah were trying to lay boards across the gunwhales, Joo Joo the ebullient was singing a merry ditty that completely undermined the drama of the scene, and Callous Deepsea was trying to bull-rush his way onto the deck of the Man's Promise.
The fighting got suddenly complicated when Peppery Longfarthing unleashed some massive Fog Clouds making ranged work near impossible and turning even the melee into a bit of a slapstick routine. Our heroes did manage to take the Aft Deck. Jack and Varanus took turns eviscerating poor Rahadoumi sailors, while Trina distinguished herself with a lucky blow with her cutlass and tossing a sailor she'd put to sleep to the sharks. At one point Varanus was bull-rushed over the railing, and found himself climbing around the outside of the hull with Jigsaw sharks snapping at this ankles.
During the fight a Rahadoumi sailor tried to sneak up on Captain Harrigan and Jack, seeing this about to happen not only didn't warn the Captain she drew his attention the other direction with a bluff, distracting him long enough for the sailor to get a punishing sneak attack in. Captain Harrigan turned and cut his assailant in twain and glared at Jack, letting her know she would pay.
When it was clear that the Rahadoumi merchants were losing they began trying to flee on the Ship's boats, but Joo Joo had Greased everything up and began Charming anyone who tried to release the boats. An officer joined the fray with her Boarding Pike of Repelling lengthening on command to strike at Varanus and Callous. She did some damage, but ultimately Callous took her down as Captain Harrigan strode to mid-ship firing a pistol and holding a human heart demanded immediate surrender. The crew of the Wormwood let out a raucous cheer.
Harrigan sailed the two ships a few hours to a nearby cove out of sight of the shipping lanes to complete the ransacking of the Man's Promise. Jack, who was still owed a Keelhauling for the murder of Aretta, and now assisting an attempted murder of Captain Harrigan himself saw her chance and dove into the water trying to escape to shore. Her Undine heritage served her well. Fipps Chumlett, Nate "Narwhale" Tam, Maheem, and Patch Patchsalt chased her in the Cutter with a net. They caught up to her, and got her in the net, but she wriggled free again just as quickly. Jack dove under the water and pushed up on the centerboard of the Cutter. She caught the bumbling foursome offguard and dumped three of them in the drink. She made it to shore and disappeared into the jungle, losing her pursuers.
That night Harrigan and Plugg made their plans and the plunder was all moved over to the Wormwood while the crew celebrated their victory. Jack sat alone on this strange island, heard strange tribal chanting and saw a procession of torches farther away on the island and remembered stories about cannibal tribes on these remote western islets. She decided she had to sneak back aboard one of the ships somehow.
The crews would be divided and all of our heroes were assigned to Plugg's skeleton crew for the Man's Promise. Plugg grinned at them with bad intentions. Joo Joo was saying tearful farewell's to Grok who returned all of their gear as a parting gift. Kroop and Trina took what supplies they needed from the Galley. Callous was enjoying his sizeable reward for capturing the Rahadoumi officer alive. Jack with Sandara's help, managed to stowaway on one of the Ship's boats on the Man's Promise.
As the Wormwood sailed over the horizon there were mixed feelings. Were they free of Captain Harrigan? And had they just landed with an even worse master in Plugg? Also, the course Plugg set was not toward Port Peril as Harrigan had ordered. What was Plugg's game? Did he mean to double-cross his boss?
The days on the Man's Promise were worse than they had been on the Wormwood. Suspicion and discontent were rife through the whole crew. Master Scourge outlawed gambling on ship. Rum rations were strictly enforced. Duties were harsher than ever and shifts were long. There was a growing sense that this could not be tolerated much longer.
But they wouldn't get a chance to act on those feelings because a squall hit from the north driving the Man's Promise into dangerous waters. Fighting the storm was brutal, exhausting work. Never were they more grateful to Joo Joo for his Sea Chanties lifting their spirits and rejuvenating them.
In the middle of the storm a group of Grindylows snuck onto the ship to kidnap sailors. The heroes fought desperately on the heaving decks. Varanus was dragged to his back by their tentacles, using his claws to defend himself. Joo Joo and Trina were bull-rushed into the roiling seas. Jack cut the ship's boat free and plunged into the waves, rowing madly to rescue her friends. As she rowed she saw the pale white shape of a coral reef rising out of the water below.
The Man's Promise hit the reef, scraped, lurched, and stopped. The ship was holed below the waterline. Scourge was frantically ordering hands to work, pumping and shoring the breach.
The Grindylows were driven away, but Callous found signs that there had been other Grindylows on the ship during the confusion - and in a trail of blood and sea-scum he found Sandara Quinn's tricorn hat. Both she and Rosie Cusswell had gone missing.
Sorry I haven’t wrote but it not like they actually have a mail carrier, carrier pigeons or put into port a regularly. I tried to send you a letter once by seagull didn’t turn out so well. The bird was attacked by other birds because they thought the letter he was carrying was food and then he fell into the ocean and was quickly consumed by one of the many sharks that follow the wormwood. Funny thing about sharks, they remind me of Uncle Ridgemont always around waiting for his next free meal.
So where was I, oh yea since I last wrote a lot has happened so let’s start from the top. After a week or so aboard the wormwood we (Jack, Varanus, Callous, and me) are assigned our first mission to seek out and eradicate a dire rat infestation. Well of course they do not assign us any weapons or tools to take care of these vermin because they want to test us on how resourceful we are and how we work as a team. So of course having a way with people in general I offer my services to go speak with our purser Cutthroat Grok. After some financial haggling (and collecting my purse from Callous) we manage to get clubs and a net to catch and beat the dire rats which we found in my office (the bilge). We find more and a nest of babies which we exterminate with poison. The crew is so relieved with the way we handled the dire rats and to show their appreciation they ignore us and go about their business. Which is a great compliment because too many good jobs makes you look soft (we are mean and fearsome pirates).
I mentioned in my last letter I wrote, about a woman that I met by the name of Rosie Cusswell. Well at the time she had mentioned to me she likes to play the fiddle and Cutthroat Grok was keeping hers. Well of course “at the time” I just took this as an opportunity to please Rosie and in the process please my self. So I went to Grok to see if my charms or services could be useful in getting Rosie’s (the love of my life) fiddle. Well don’t you know it Grok finds me amusing (which is a no brainer) and is willing to owe me a favor if I would do her a favor which is have Rosie Cusswell give me a kiss in front of the gnome bard Conchobar. Come to find out Conchobar doesn’t like me on the ship because he can’t stand friendly competition and he thinks he has a chance with Rosie. Well at this time you can obviously see where this leads, I get a kiss from a beautiful girl, a favor from an officer, and a fey nemisis (Oops did I say fey I mean gnome). So I agree to do this favor for Grok with a straight face, but I tell her to make this a smoother transaction I will need the fiddle that Rosie likes. She agrees to this and a couple of days later in front of an audience I am able to get not one but two kisses from the mouth that cusses well.
After a terrible storm of which we didn’t not get a break we settle near a corral reef to rest and to get our bearings and Mr. Plugg assigns us “the crew” to go and get crabs (he he) for the captains supper. While out (trying not to drown) catching crabs (he he he) we met a trio of reefclaws. They must like Halfling bards because they kept trying to take me to their hidey hole under water but thanks to Callous and Jack I was able to get free and we were able to bring reef claw and crabs back to the ship.
The only thing that I have to offer at this time is I was sabotaged in boarding school training by my Nemesis the long boat sinking, mast hugging, grease wad, galley raiding, cutlass flapping, dangly ear-ringed , cannon corking, grog headed, yellow livered, frigate dodging, worm riddled, dilly dally, dolphin molesting Conchobar. He has given me the nickname Joo Joo bird because I was bull rush very far over board. Well in response to that I have taken the woman he was never going to get. Everybody has the right to be ugly but Conchobar has abused this privilege. I just can’t figure out how he got on this ship, I bet his parents asked him to run away from home. He might not be stupid he could be possessed by a retarded ghost, he is however the kind of gnome you would use to build an idiot. I will end this letter with this final comment about Conchobar. Since we are both bards (him a comedian myself a sea singing master of ceremonies) I would like to try to see things from his point of view but I just can’t seem to get my head that far up my a##. I will write you as soon as we put into port until then
I love you mommy.
Magnificently Glorious Pirate Bard Nijoo Jooricki "Joo Joo" Calhoon
"Everyone below! Pump for your lives!" Master Scourge shouted into the dwindling storm as the Man's Promise and her beleaguered crew foundered on the shoals.
The Mizzenmast mainsail whipped loose from her bonds and thrashed in the wind, turning to ribbons. Varanus scaled the perilously leaning rigging to attempt and secure the cloth. Callous searched above and below for Sandara Quinn and Rosie Cuswell - both gone missing during the storm, perhaps kidnapped by Grindylows. Trina and Joo Joo and Jack steered the cutter back to her berth having escaped the Grindylows for now.
Plugg was in a rage blaming everyone for this predicament. "Ratline! You were in the crowsnest! Why didn't you call out a warning about the reef? Patch! You were at the helm. You've run us aground you blithering idiot!"
Scourge set teams to work bailing and working the bilge pump in rotations to keep the Man's Promise afloat. By morning they'd achieved some equilibrium and the storm had abated so they began dismantling the deck to repair the breach. Unfortunately the crash had destroyed the ship's water barrels so Plugg called our heroes together.
"Row south to that island looming a half-mile out. Take these barrels and fill them with fresh water and don't dare come back without enough for several days journey for the whole crew or I'll shoot you in the head myself."
Almost instantly Callous realized he could just fill the barrels magically. Plugg complained he didn't trust "magic water" in case it might be poisoned, but our heroes saw right through that excuse. Just test it for poison, right? Plugg was adamant and with a sinking feeling they realized he probably had ulterior motives for sending them off ship. The tension on board this past week had been palpable. Perhaps whispers of mutiny had gotten to Plugg's ears. Perhaps he intended to maroon them on this foreboding stretch of land.
In no position to fight at the present moment (being in pretty poor condition from the encounter with the Grindylows) they rowed to shore, spotting creepy skeleton statues perched on the reefs around the island. They set down on the beach in a ruined village, Joo Joo pulling out bits of lore about Bonewrack island and the mysterious deaths of a hundred villagers a decade back. It didn't make them feel any better about their predicament.
Callous explained that it would take about 36 hours or so to repair the Man's Promise. So they should just find a quiet place to rest on the island, heal, and get their strength before returning under cover of night to attempt a mutiny. They headed inland looking for just such a quiet place of repose.
Instead they found Giant Frogs, Ghouls, Botfly Swarms, Angry Coconut Crabs and worse.
Hopping across a salty mire on the rotting pilings of collapsed bridge Callous was dragged into the muck by an elastic tongue. Jack and Varanus eviscerated some grotesquely enlarged amphibians, but not before Callous engaged his totem shift turning his mouth into a gaping maw of shark teeth and sending Joo Joo running screaming (melodically) into the Jungle.
Later a becalmed Joo Joo was the one to point out a gaudy tent hanging from a tree in the middle of the swamp decorated with sundry rotting humanoid body parts. The woman of the night who came shambling out of the silky enclosure looked a little worse for the wear. Jack immediately started to hightail it, but Varanus was enthralled a moment too long. Her soiled fangs took a large piece of his neck out and left him paralyzed. Both Joo Joo and Callous' magic proved ineffectual and Jack (shaking her head in aggravation) threw a dagger which whirled off into the swamp. The Ship's Whore continued feasting on Varanus sending him deep into "dying" territory while Callous and Jack finally got a winning combination of slice + Produce Flame going. Her 2' tongue continued probing for human blood while her face melted under Callous' fiery hands.
Carrying a bleeding and diseased Varanus, they stumbled out onto a new beach just to realize they were surrounded by coffee-table sized coconut crabs with pincers strong enough to crack their rib cages like, well, coconuts. They climbed some trees to hide, made some hammocks and prayed to Besmara that they survived the night. So much for going back to the Man's Promise under cover of darkness.
In the morning, having expended significant magical resources, Varanus was conscious and moving, but still horribly wounded. They also hadn't found any water yet and their plan of a nighttime mutiny was ruined. Better to press on and hope they might find some signs of Sandara & Rosie. Joo Joo had sent his parrot, Pluck, to search the island and knew about the stockade up on the hill so they headed that way, cutting through the jungle rather than take the path which seemed likely to be watched or traveled by Ghouls to them.
Up on the plateau they found the gate to the stockade open and debated whether to go in. Jack was firmly in the camp of searching for Sandara & Rosie who would be where the Grindylows were (probably on the shore somewhere). Callous and Joo Joo seemed tempted by the prospect of loot in the stockade. Their decision was made for them when they heard the running footsteps of a pair of ghouls coming up the hill from behind. They hurriedly went into the stockade and closed the gate.
Callous and Joo Joo let fly Entangle and Grease which made the ghouls' lives miserable. Varanus had climbed up the fence and was using his whip to great effect on the ghouls when Joo Joo was yanked silently up into a tree. Jack spotted the Vine Creepers lurking there and started climbing to help get Joo Joo free. The fight was chaotic, but our heroes proved their mettle with surprising efficiency killing both ghouls and one of the creepers and driving the other creeper away.
It was then that they heard the fiddle playing to the West. They peered over the stockade wall and spied a small cove where a couple of Grindylows were playing around with Rosie's fiddle. A stroke of luck! Perhaps this nightmarish island expedition would have a good ending after all.
Before they set off to rescue their friends Callous and Varanus decided to peek into the lodge here inside the stockade. They detected magical items within, after all. Inside the rotting corpse of a man who had hanged himself swung unattended by anything, but an abundance of botflies. Callous went in to remove the ring from the dead man's finger - and the dead man grabbed him back.
A repulsive stench wafted from the Ghast's form and the botflies mobilized into a swarm, surrounding our heroes with a cloud of agonizing death as they contemplated how much they hate Plugg and Scourge.
Aaron Ivy, the Ghast who had grappled Callous, nearly killed them all. He paralyzed Callous, knocked Varanus out and paralyzed Jack all in short order while a swarm of botflies ate them alive. Joo Joo was singing his little heart out and loading a crossbow without much hope as Ivy stalked out toward him. Callous broke out of paralysis just in time and blasted the swarm into oblivion with a Gust of Wind that unfortunately coated Joo Joo in bug guts like a radiator grill on a hot freeway.
Ivy paralyzed Joo Joo and Callous again, but they each did a bit of damage and when Jack got free she finished him off. There were some more failed saves in there too. The entire party was afflicted with Ghoul Fever by this point and they'd expended every resource and were still on the brink of death. Bonewrack Isle was proving to be a deadly place.
They knew there was no chance they would rescue Sandara or Rosie in the state they were in and no way they could afford to rest and still make it back to the Man's Promise before Plugg finished the repairs and marooned them.
They searched the lodge and carefully surveyed the island with the spyglass they found there. They found and read the log of the Infernus, learning the sad story of that ship's crew and pondering what it might mean that a Chelish scout ship was this close to the Shackles. There was also a wand of Cure Moderate Wounds in that hut, thank Besmara, which gave them just enough juice to make the trek back across the island to the beach where they could get out to the Man's Promise.
Under cover of night Callous used his totem transformations to swim out of sight below the waves alongside the ship and use a few Warp Wood spells to undo the repairs and buy them all more time. Time enough, to hopefully rescue their friends and return in strength to start a mutiny against the hated Plugg and Scourge.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Callous, a Giant Moray Eel was swimming up beneath him. It caught him by surprise successfully biting and grabbing him before he could react. A second bite finished him off completely as he drifted into unconsciousness.
Joo Joo sent his parrot Pluck to try to get Trina's attention for a last ditch rescue attempt. Trina and Sugar dove into the water and she used her Sea Witch Hex to befriend the Eel and send it away before it took a killing bite. She stabilized the dying Callous and sent him back to shore on Sugar's back.
Wounded, out of spells, out of potions, and out of hope, our heroes were ready to declare defeat and just return to the Man's Promise without Sandara or Rosie. They would use the time they had bought by undoing the repairs to heal up, and then row back to the Man's Promise with the intention of forcefully displacing Mister Plugg.
A cutter with her sail down slowly rowed her way through the darkness out to the Man's Promise. She made it almost the entire distance from shore without being spotted.
In the last hundred feet Scourge, on the night watch, called out "Who goes there?"
Callous and Joo Joo replied, "We're returning sore pressed from that infernal island with the water Captain Plugg sent us to fetch. Two of our number died in that death-infested jungle."
With a conspiratorial smile Scourge nodded, "Come round starboard and we'll give ya a lift. We'll have ya send the barrels of water up first if that's no mind as proof of yer good will."
But good will there was none in this bunch. The lizardman Varanus and the undine Jaqueline "Jack" released their grip on the sides of the cutter as she passed beneath the Sterncastle of the Man's Promise and silently began their climb up the Stern and the Port sides respectively.
"Here's the first barrel," Callous pulled the rope to signal it was ready to be hoisted aboard. He looked at Joo Joo nervously. Something wasn't right. Scourge seemed to be talking to other crew on deck, but they were staying suspiciously out of sight. "Now bring us up!"
Scourge shook his head, "Not before all the water's on deck. Send the next barrel."
Varanus peered through the smoky glass of the Sterncastle into the captain's cabin. Inside he saw Plugg, back to the far wall peering out the door onto the deck with a loaded pistol in each hand. Owlbear sat glumly on the floor in the center of the room, chained to the mast.
Callous nodded at Joo Joo, grabbed the rope they lowered for the water barrel and began to cast Stone Call which set off a flurry of sudden activity... Four sailors jumped to the gunwales tossing flasks of Alchemist's Fire down onto the cutter showering Callous and Joo Joo in hot sticky pain. Varanus bashed through the glass of the Sterncastle with his fist and Plugg, spotting him took a shot with his pistol, but it misfired catastrophically, the ball jamming inside and spitting sparks and smoke. Jack rushed up the Port side stopping just below the railing, while Pluck the parrot released a held Vanish spell on Varanus... THEN it began to rain stones from the sky all over the deck of the Man's Promise.
Scourge laughed at the helpless position of Callous and Joo Joo drawing his bow - just before he got kicked in the back of the head by a swinging Ratline Ratsberger and sent tumbling into the drink. The Rahadoumi sailors seeing an opportunity with a heavy barrel of water perched on the railing just above the cutter, gave a heave and with a crash Callous and Joo Joo were crushed under hundreds of pounds of splintered wood and water.
Patch Patchsalt awoke from his bunk and ran to try and join the fight, but a "drunken" Kroop leaned heavily against the door to the officer's cabin and couldn't be budged. Oops.
Varanus slipped invisibly through the broken window into Plugg's cabin, and Plugg rather than wait around for a sneak attack ordered Owlbear to crush anyone he could find and stepped out onto the deck prepared to fire his other pistol at the first target that presented itself.
The most open target, unfortunately for Plugg, was his own back as Jack slipped silently up the Port side and threw a dagger right between his shoulder blades. He whirled on her, glad to get the chance to put a bullet in her face, and took his shot. It went clean through her shoulder, but she hung tenaciously onto the ship.
From there things got confusing. Fipps Chumlett was stabbed in the back by Barefoot Samms, the Rahadoumi fought against our heroes, until Crimson showed up having set Marta the Rahadoumi officer free from the brig who convinced them all to switch sides and fight against Plugg. Owlbear was freed and in his confusion attacked his friend Varanus (feeling very guilty about it afterward). Joo Joo charmed Scourge, except he didn't, and Scourge got a surprise blow in that almost felled the glorious bard. Scourge didn't get another though, as a Giant Moray Eel dragged him, panicked, to the depths.
Meanwhile Plugg and Jack were taking turns stabbing each other in an up close and personal battle of mutual hatred. Varanus tripped Plugg who went down with Jack slipping on the bloody deck. Plugg was on death's door when he ran his Tidewater Cutlass through Jack's middle, twisting as he went, and hypocritically promising "all mutineers die badly". As Jack's vision went black she saw Varanus' whip wrap around Plugg's neck.
Callous made his way up the rope to the deck tossing out a Cure Moderate on himself and a Heat Metal on his opponent's weapons. He grinned a shark-y grin as he saw Owlbear cave Tam "Narwhal" Tate's skull in. Deathknell. No more Narwhal.
With that last emphatic flourish the mutiny was suddenly over and a tense standoff between the various survivors ensued. Who was on who's side? Who would take command here?
Kroop intervened in his inoffensive way and suggested they tie Plugg to the mast, revive him and hold a trial for his crimes against the whole crew. They did just that and the sentence (shock) ended up being Keelhauling till dead. He took a good long time to die.
Jack, for her role in antagonizing Plugg was elected Captain, while Callous was given the 1st Mate/Bosun's job. Joo Joo became the 2nd Mate/Navigator, and Varanus became the Master at Arms. Marta accepted the role of Pursor.
With the ship repaired, the odious Plugg and Scourge disposed of, and our heroes suddenly in charge their horizons seemed to open up. Only one thing kept them from departing Bonewrack Isle immediately - Sandara and Rosie might still (somehow) be alive. What kind of message would it send to the crew for their first act as officers to be abandoning members of the crew to the savage Grindylows? Time to be big damn heroes. They prepared themselves for the dangers of Riptide Cove.
Nothing could have prepared them for Riptide Cove. They went in at low tide, the only times the caves weren't completely submerged. Making their way through the heat and jungle, being harrassed by Stirges as they dove into the waters, climbing through dark, dripping caverns, wading through thigh-deep saltwater and slipping over the seaweed, they'd begun battling their way through groups of Grindylows and regretting their sentimental attachment to Sandara Quinn and Rosie Cuswell.
The Grindylows kept just under the water, making it cussed impossible to hit them from above, and forcing ungainly bipeds to fight at a disadvantage. Jack, being an Undine, was nimble enough, and Callous used his totem-shift to take the aspect of a shark, but noble Varanus, Crimson Cogward, and poor Joo Joo were struggling.
Untangling himself from hook-lines hidden in the seaweed, Joo Joo tossed a Glitterdust into a grouping of Grindylows. Blinded they jabbed wildly with their spears doing more damage to themselves than the heroes. Crimson quickly capitalized dealing out a lot of sneak attack damage and spilling ichor into the water.
Our heroes pushed deeper, negotiating the tight caverns and the uneven footing, swimming where the water pooled up getting salt in their wounds. They came to a beautiful chamber where a small crack let the sky in and a cataract of fresh water tumbled like crystals into a black pool below. They sensed something lurking down in those depths and shivered.
Quietly they glided across the water toward an opening on the North side. Callous unleashed Hold Animal on whatever it was that was stirring below and they rushed toward the next chamber, but alas Callous and Joo Joo were both snared in those annoying hooks.
Jack gasped as she looked into the Cauldron and saw Sandara and Rosie suspended above a roiling, churning, whirlpool of scummy water, silver ingots dangling from their bound feet. Suddenly a ululating cry of battle rang through the cove as the Brinebrood Queen cut the captives free, sending them plunging into the dangerous waters. Then she and her deformed son, the bloated Whale, attacked.
Jack dived at once after her plummeting crew mates (she found time to get a sneak attack in on the Queen on the way down). Varanus took a shot with his newly acquired pistols narrowly missing the Brinebrood Queen, before leaping out to engage. Callous summoned a Squid and then an Octopus to harrass the Queen while Crimson went toe to tentacle with the Whale. Joo Joo sang to bolster everyone's spirits before looking back in panic at the enormous Devilfish rising out of the water behind him.
In the black waters at the bottom of the Cauldron Jack and Sandara and Rosie found a terrible surprise. Lacedons, from the Chelish scout vessel Infernus, were chained to the bottom just waiting for their dinner to be delivered to them. Jack cut the ingots away from the feet of the prisoners, swimming against the powerful riptide current. Rosie kicked with all her might and managed to stay out of reach of the Lacedons, but Sandara, exhausted, was dragged low enough to be mauled and paralyzed.
Varanus was tripped by the ever-hungry Whale and sent plummeting to the bottom of the Cauldron. Joo Joo took a terrible whallop from the Devilfish before Vanishing while the Queen shrieked in rage at the Squid and the Octopus thrusting her Harpoon at them again and again. Things were looking bleak for our heroes and then they heard the shouts of more Grindylows rushing up from behind to join the battle.
Callous turned back to the fifteen foot thrashing tentacles of the Devilfish and stared into it's evil eye. Charm Animal! Against all odds it worked. The beast turned and ate the Grindylows pouring in from behind, scattering the rest with its sudden but inevitable betrayal.
Jack wrenched Sandara from the Lacedon's grasp, dodging claw and teeth and ascending through the water until... one final bite caught her in the calf, draining her life and sending her into unconsciousness. Varanus, dove, and caught Sandara and Jack in his arms. Nowhere near strong enough a swimmer to pull them all out of this current, he used his whip to grasp the wall and held on. Hoping. Jack began to drown.
Miraculous rolls from Callous' summoned creatures combined with the Bleed from Jack's initial sneak attack finally took the Brinebrood Queen down. The whale went into a rage biting and swallowing Callous, but Crimson had done enough damage that the Whale himself began to sink with the current.
Sandara's paralysis faded just in time for her to cast Water Breathing on Jack. Varanus, with superhuman effort, slowly but surely inched the three of them up the wall of the Cauldron. Meanwhile, Joo Joo, rope tied around his waist, jumped into the water to rescue his lady-love Rosie. A speartip bloomed from the gullet of the Whale as Callous cut himself free, swimming out just before the Whale sunk into the welcoming arms of the Lacedons who had never had such a feast.
They dragged themselves out of the viscera and churning saltwater onto the slimy rocks and collectively gasped. Several of them were bleeding, diseased and nearly dead. All were fatigued. It had very nearly been a total disaster.
Then they felt the tide starting to come back in.
"Parlay!!!" A high pitched voice, shouting in Aquan echoed through Riptide Cove.
Varanus and Callous were deep in the Cauldron. Having recovered the Brinebrood Queen's magical harpoon, they were using it to kill the Lacedon's chained there. Unfortunately the second Lacedon grabbed the harpoon after being impaled by it, and began using it against them. They retreated to the surface, frustrated.
Jack, being the only one in the group who could speak Aquan replied, "What do you want?"
"You kill Brinebrood Queen. Want parlay with King of two-leg invaders."
"Fine. Come out where we can see you."
A Grindylow swam into view, wary of the still charmed Devilfish.
Jack grimaced, trying to hide the extent of her (and everyone else's) injuries, "Speak, Grindylow."
"Want make deal. You swim good and strong. You kill Brinebrood Queen. You stay as new queen. We let rest go. No eat."
"I'm not staying in here with you. You can forget that."
"Fine. Leave weakest one for us dinner. We let rest go. No eat."
Something in our optimistic little bard's head snapped. Maybe it was fear. The constant danger of death. The seemingly impossible situation they found themselves in. He tugged on Jack's sleeve, "Maybe we should. Maybe we should leave *cough* Rosie and just get out of here!"
Rosie Cusswell looked shocked. Then hurt. Then angry. That relationship went sour fast.
Jack shook her head. "We're not leaving anyone."
The Grindylow said. "Yes, you leave us one for dinner or you no get out. You no have time to argue. While you fight Brinebrood Queen, we sneak out and hole you boat. Now you boat sink fast. Ha ha ha!"
Jack went pale. Varanus went angry. Callous went for the kill. He sent the Devilfish after the Grindylows, but they jetted away.
Time to get out of Riptide Cove, and fast. Callous and Varanus wanted to loot, but Captain Jack permitted them no time.
They sent the Devilfish in front of them through the caves. Grindylows came in from behind once the Devilfish was out of reach around a narrow bend in the cavern. Varanus fought valiantly, but was tripped and knocked unconscious. Joo Joo killed two with his crossbow (his first kills!), while Callous chased the Grindylows who were dragging Varanus' body away, back to the Cauldron for their dinner.
Jack, Crimson, Sandara and Rosie kept close on the tail of the Devilfish fighting it's way out of Riptide Cove against the guerilla tactics of the Grindylows. They made it back to the entrance after many near misses, and waited to see whether Varanus, Callous and Joo Joo would emerge.
The Grindylow had dragged Varanus' corpse back to the Cauldron and dangled it over the lip, threatening to let the lizardman sink to his death. Callous prepared to charge and unleash a Cause Fear but just then the head of a harpoon burst through the Grindylow's mouth killing him. The remaining Lacedon, having freed itself rose up out of the water preparing to devour the weakened heroes.
Callous touched a nearby downed Grindylow, Deathknell, and charged into melee. The Lacedon struck but Callous resisted paralysis and struck back. Joo Joo fired... and tore the throat of the aquatic ghoul right out.
No time to celebrate, Varanus was still plummeting unconscious underwater. Callous dove in and retrieved his body. A Mage Hand assisted thump to the chest made him cough up the water in his lungs and a quick Stabilize stopped him bleeding on the very brink of death.
With no Captain around to tell them otherwise, Callous and Joo Joo took the time to loot the Cauldron. Dragging everything behind them in a bulging net they attempted to escape Riptide Cove before the tide came back in entirely.
Jack, Crimson, Rosie and Sandara ultimately gave up waiting and dove into the water of the Neck, rushing with the current through a hundred foot tunnel of sharp rock and out to the open sea. They flashed their cutlasses in the air sending signals to the Man's Promise to launch the gig. They pulled themselves into the longboat, thanking Besmara, just before the other three made it out of the tunnel themselves.
They rowed back to the Man's Promise to find that the Grindylow's threat of sinking the Man's Promise had been somewhat exaggerated. There was damage below the water line, but easily repaired. The still friendly Devilfish had plugged the whole with its beak and it eagerly gobbled up the now fetid remains of Tam "Narwhal" Tate as fed to it by a restored Varanus.
One more day of rest and healing, as our heroes took stock of their situation, fished the reef, divvied up loot from their adventure and generally sighed in immense relief. That evening, as the tide rolled out, they set their sails and plotted a course toward Rickety's Squibs, a future of piracy beckoning.
As written by Nijoo Jooricki "Joo Joo" Calhoon
Part one begin
Let me begin this letter by saying that while being near death is exlirating and opens one self to a number of epiphanies, it is very over rated. I am writing this letter from the safe haven(for now at least) of rickety's. Over the last month have seen a fair share of what it is really like being a pirate. Some of it I enjoyed thoroughly some not so much. While I would like to give you a play by play of events that led me here I thinks its best if I stick to the highlights.
So since I last wrote I have seen my first ship battle which was pretty awesome since we won (everything is better from the winners circle). We took the ship and split the crew and the plan (at the time) was to sail to Port Peril. Plugg must have forgot or not have heard him and was most likely taking us on a intercept course back so that the good Captain could repeat those orders (Dont see why he would do that he could have asked us I heard him clearly). While doing this we ran smack dab in the middle of a big storm that had us all working double and triple shifts. But never worry mother do to my uplifting words I was able to wipe the fatigue away.
So as we are clearing the the storm we were attacked by some Grindylows that we beat easily enough but they managed to take Sandara Quinn and the D.I.D. Rosis Cusswell (Damsel in Distress). Also due to the fact that no one was in the crows nest or at the wheel (ODD) we ran a ground on Bone wreck isle. Well of course Mr. Plugg doesn't like this at all so he starts shouting out commands. I believe that he wasn't thinking this through because he sent his fearsome four (Varonous, Callous, Jack, and myself) to go get water on that isle.
Part one end
Our heroes enjoyed some well-deserved shore leave at Rickety's Squibs. Being a very small port they knew they wouldn't get the best price for their haul off of Bonewrack Isle, but they took it anyway. Their ship needed repairs, desperately. They needed a crew. They needed to draw up articles that their mates would agree to. And they wondered constantly if Barnabas Harrigan might come sailing over the horizon.
The heat rippling over the estuary was surprisingly dry. Signs of a drought were plentiful. Maybe it was the heat that was making Callous have such strange dreams - sleeping visions of being drug under the waves by the Wormwood herself. It was certainly the heat that was making Joo Joo cackle and imagine that they had a chance together of cracking the infamous Tidewater Rock - a place he only learned about in a ballad sung here at Rickety's.
They signed back everyone who had been part of the mutiny except Fipps Chumlett. Sandara Quinn took the surgeon's job. Crimson put his mark on the ledger without even reading the articles. They picked up a few extra swabs that had been lingering at Rickety's and grown tired of carpentry.
They were in no rush. They negotiated the sale of their goods at leisure. They purchased a few necessary items. They interviewed sailors over grog and made plans for how they would ply the sweet trade in the Fever Sea. They had hopes of earning enough respect to merit an audience with the Hurricane King, to plead for a letter of Marque. They smiled to themselves imagining Scrappy Jack as a Free Captain of the Shackles.
During their free time they drank and gambled and played nine-pins with the workers in the boat house. One such game was suddenly interrupted by a maddened Water Naga, named Selissa. Insane with hunger and thirst she nearly ate a couple of our heroes before Joo Joo rode a barrel of salted cod down the dock straight into her gullet. Grateful to be restored to her senses she offered them a couple small boons.
She would vouch for Callous with the River Mother upstream - an elder Water Naga who might be able to help him interpret his dream. She would also bless their ship when it was finished being repaired. The ship they had decided to rechristen The Instigator.
Whoever said "idle hands do the devil's work" would be gratified that the crew of the Instigator is getting no rest.
The morning after the attack by the starvation-addled Naga, Selissa, swarms of wasps and Giant Wasps descended on Rickety's humble establishment. Like good pirates Jack, Callous, and Joo Joo all took care of themselves first and only. Varanus alone couldn't miss the opportunity to discharge his new firearms and jumped to the assistance of a little girl Elia, who was being carried away by wasps. For his trouble he earned the close scrutiny of a swarm that chased him across rooftops into the jungle.
During the commotion a Chelish Galleon, the Strix, sailed blithely into port and dropped longboats. A look through the glass revealed the colors of a Free Captain. Scrappy Jack about had a conniption fit, spreading word for her crew to assemble in the drydock, out of sight, and prepare for... whatever happened next.
Rickety, imagining a showdown between two pirate crews destroying his home and business, was a little pale when he went out to meet the man in the knight's surcoat and his company of "chelish marines". A parlay was called for between Captain Jack and the man who introduced himself as Captain Merril Peggsworthy. Cautiously, (weapons ready) Jack and her officers approached the docks.
Captain Peggsworthy offered his apologies for impolitely barging into private business. There had been a miscommunication - the watchman, Lyle Godwin, never sent up the flag for Peggsworthy to stay out of the harbor. By the time he realized there was already a ship in the dry dock it was too late and he wished only to make the best of an ugly situation. Would they allow him to furnish drinks for an afternoon of revels and exchange news of the comings and goings in the Shackles?
Jack agreed. A keg was tapped and Rickety sighed in relief. Relief that was short lived. If Godwin hadn't sent out the signal that could only mean something had gone wrong at the watch tower. With regret he asked our heroes if they would mind venturing out to discover what happened to his watchman.
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Hiking along a narrow ridge out to the watchtower they ran afoul of a wild boar. Their Druid Callous, who has deep and meaningful relationships with all types of fish, just couldn't get the boar to see his side of the situation. The boar charged and gored him rather nicely.
Jack flipped over the pig and stuck it with her daggers bleeding it like a... well. They strapped that boar to a pole fully intending on holding a luau later.
As they approached the tower it was just a little too quiet for everything to be alright. Botflies (their old friend) buzzed in a cloud above and a faint whiff of brimstone was in the air. Joo Joo cast Vanish on Jack and she snuck her way up the stairs.
At the top she found Lyle Godwin's corpse festering. Something had carved infernal letters in his skin and stretched his bowels around the rafters in loops. A variety of local small fauna hung dead from the intestine-net.
Jack spotted something small and humanoid creeping along a branch overhead. She tracked it preparing to throw a dagger when she was hit from behind by a little burst of flame. She thrust her silver dagger upward hitting and hearing a sizzling sound. An imp burst out of the foliage flying out into open air and letting loose a stream of infernal curses.
The other humanoid dropped out of the tower and went rustling through the bushes back toward Callous and Joo Joo. Joo Joo took a blind shot with his crossbow into the brush and was rewarded with some pitiful whimpering sounds.
Callous dropped a Stone Call on the imp sending it skittering for cover under a palm tree invisible. Joo Joo hit the tree with a Glitterdust blinding the imp, so the imp gave Joo Joo the petulant Suggestion that he take off his clothes and go jump in the ocean. Joo Joo agreed that seemed like the best thing to do at the moment and promptly began to strip.
With some final threats promising reprisals after he reported everything he'd seen, the imp flew away.
Jack searched the bush for whatever it was Joo Joo shot, while Callous held the naked bard down to keep him from diving off a 50' cliff into rough seas. Jack found a pitiful looking gibbon named Rotgut, Lyle Godwin's beloved pet, with a crossbow bolt in its belly. She picked it up and they headed back into town.
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Luau! With a whole pig on the spit over coals Rosie Cuswell put together a spontaneous band and the people of Rickety's and the crew of the Instigator tried to forget the wasp attack and the death of the lookout Lyle Godwin. A dancing contest ensued, lubricated by rum, which Joo Joo ran away with, though the lizardman Varanus proved surprisingly able to shake some scaly tail.
Callous would have nothing to do with the dancing, but he and Crimson started playing a series of games of Knivesies. A Hydraulic Push ended the first match in a hurry with Crimson on his back in the mud. The second match was a little more contested, but Callous ultimately won it as well, which Crimson took as an opportunity to set Callous up against Kormu the smith. Before Callous had even read his poor initiative roll he was on his back looking up at the starry sky. Not to be outdone, Callous then set Kormu up in a match with Owlbear who accidentally broke the smith's arm by slapping him in the face too hard. For some reason no one wanted to challenge Owlbear after that.
The next morning our heroes poled their way up the estuary on a raft loaned to them by Rickety Hake. Joo Joo idly made up lyrics, while Varanus scanned the trees on the banks for any sign of danger. They came to a fork in the river in the center of which was an island. The broken stone head of a Cyclopian statue was sunk in the mud on the banks. They poled into a grotto completely obscured by curtains of algae covered vines. In the grotto the stone arm of a giant rose out of the murky water, holding the broken haft of a copper polearm green from verdigris.
The River Mother, an elder Water Naga slithered up out of the water spiraling the statue's arm and looking down on raft of foolish humanoids who had come into her lair.
"Who invades my privacy? Come closer so I can eat you!" she hissed.
"I come seeking your wisdom in the interpretation of dreams," Callous ventured.
"And we brought you food," Joo Joo added helpfully.
"Dreams. Visions. You seek knowledge because you are pathetic and you have none. Fine. What is your dream?"
Callous shared the dream he had with her of the Wormwood.
"This is not you. This is one who has wronged you. Your fates have been bound together and if you do not unravel them this Wormwood, it will destroy you."
The heroes exchanged a look. "How can we unravel them?"
"The knowledge is in you. Perhaps it amuses Gozreh those who ply his waves tear each other apart. I can unlock this knowledge, but it may lead to your death not your salvation. Come, accept the kiss of the River Mother." She opened her sharp toothed mouth, lowering it to the height of Callous' forehead.
He accepted her kiss and at once a rush of visions overcame him at such a speed that he could not absorb them all. He saw a woman with a tattooed back winking over her shoulder. He saw a Mwangi boy training as a mercenary for the Aspis Consortium. He saw a barrel chested man with a great beard in the prow of a monstrous ship, grasping the rail with a bony fist. He saw many things, but once he opened his eyes again he couldn't see at all. He was blind.
Back at the village Sandara Quinn could cure the blindness, but none of them could make any sense of the visions.
Their remaining days at Rickety's passed without incident and with little fanfare (they did smash a bottle of Chelish Brandy on the hull) the Instigator was lowered into the harbor. The water naga Selissa came out to bless the new ship, calling it "Sea Friend" and promising that it would always be viewed favorably by the native creatures of the sea.
Their eyes fixed on the horizon, they unfurled their sails and charted a course for the trading lanes of the Fever Sea. With spirit's high, they trained on the Ballista, trained boarding skills and combed the waters for likely vessels not traveling in a convoy.
After a short week and a half at sea they came upon a keelboat, the Elten Baide. Small and alone in open waters near Sargava she was a perfect first run at the Sweet Trade. They closed fast, too fast for a little vessel like the Elten Baide to escape. Scrappy Jack ordered the crew to board and aim for subdual. She made good on that herself by knocking out a marine with the pommel of her dagger after Varanus had tormented him with his whip a bit. She pointed her blades at the dwarven captain of the ship, but before she could do anything more the long tentacles of a Devilfish reached over the gunwales, grabbed a marine by the legs and smashed him like a child with a toy hammer against the deck a dozen times.
"That Devilfish is ours you pathetic scum," Callous bluffed at the top of his lungs. "Surrender or die!"
The Elten Baide surrendered.
As it turns out the Devilfish was the same one that had followed them from Tidewater Cove. A genuine friend from the sea.
The haul from the keelboat was not remarkable. Fish and a small amount of coin. No matter, it was more a symbolic catch than anything. The magnificent pirate-bard Joo Joo offered the fishermen a chance to volunteer, which a handful took. The rest were dropped penniless back to their boat and sent scurrying back to Sargava.
Only two more days passed before a much more juicy prize offered herself up: the Chelish Caravel, the Dowager Queen. The chase was long. Bolts and Stones were exchanged as the catapults on the Chelish vessel and the Ballista on the Instigator took aim. The Caravel's tiller was disable by a lucky shot and as they closed in for boarding the captain of the Dowager Queen could be heard shouting to his crew, "50 Gold for every scurvy pirate corpse you bring me!"
Grappling hooks sailed through the air. Bloodthirsty cries and the clanking of sabre on sabre masked the splash of the water and the creak of the hulls as the Instigator swarmed her prey. Chelish Marines lofted crossbows and boarding pikes, but found themselves no match for our heroes. Jack left a bloody X marking the spot where a living marine stood a moment before. Callous put an end to a last ditch attempt to turn a catapult on the pirates with a well-timed Warpwood.
Something cackled in infernal from up in the Dowager Queen's rigging. A swarm of bats battered Varanus bleeding him, and then rushed down on Joo Joo after the meddling bard threw a Glitterdust after the invisible caster. Varanus climbed the rigging to make his way up toward the mad imp Melchorax (the same one they'd met a couple weeks back at Rickety's). His progress was hindered by the sudden arrival of a group of Lemures who badly wounded him with their fleshy claws.
A sudden Bull-Rush from one of the last Marines standing sent Jack sprawling into the sea. The Marine never even got to celebrate. A bullet from Varanus' pistol made pudding of his head. Jack gathered her wits just in time to avoid the charging Great White Shark jaws agape. Terrified she scurried between the hulls of the ships using her daggers to climb away from all of those teeth.
Running from the infernal bat swarm Joo Joo got a glimpse of Melchorax and saw something bizarre. The imp's form seemed to waver and fade and beneath the illusion of imp-flesh Joo Joo saw a creature which had the torso and head of a cherub with the thorax of a giant fly. Melchorax looked back at Joo Joo with jet black eyes that sent shivers through the halfling.
The Instigator was clearly getting the best of the battle, so Melchorax made a melodramatic monologue promising to always be one step ahead of them before teleporting away. The Lemures and swarm disappeared too - giving a badly injured Varanus a good deal of relief.
What a bounty they had just landed upon. The Dowager Queen was carrying a pretty pile of gems and grain. She was a ship of some value herself, and her captain turned out to be a minor Chelish noble worth ransoming. He, of course, made threats of calling the entire Chelish Navy down upon them, but they gagged him and trussed him and threw him in their brig.
Captain Jack gave Callous charge of the prize crew and together they set careful sail for Bloodcove to sell their ill-gotten gains.
Misadventures in Bloodcove
Even being admitted into the harbor at Bloodcove involved bribing the Aspis Consortium, and once inside our heroes found it to be a company town. Everyone in Bloodcove, in one way or another, profits off of the unscrupulous actions of the Aspis Consortium. And everyone has to shop at the company store too.
This made Bloodcove a strange sort of place where they could be quite open about their piratical exploits, but found profits to be thinner than hoped. They recruited some new crew, sold their plunder, and planted seeds of their infamy in every tavern and inn they could find. They also had a few interesting distractions from their primary business.
The Drunk Scrimshander
The Tickling Keelhaul is the kind of dive that gives dive bars a bad name. Why Varanus chose this place to frequent is anyone's guess, but he ended up running into a man who calls himself Tom Swick, the greatest Scrimshander in all of Garund. Of course, Tom is a complete drunkard who no longer practices Scrimshaw and no longer even bothers to run his shop, which still sits full of works of art covered in dust. Instead Tom stumbles from tavern to tavern begging for drinks and telling insane stories at the top of his lungs about the time when he, well not he but his best friends, well not his best friends, but friends were the most feared pirates in the Shackles.
Varanus humored him, listening to his stories and keeping his drunk going, so Tom immediately regarded him as a bosom buddy. They played cards together, threw the bones, and Varanus won a bet which resulted in him getting a peek into that abandoned shop. A shop which was indeed full of the best scrimshaw he'd ever seen. He walked out with an elaborately carved walrus tusk powder horn and a new set of dice.
Of course, taking the little sidetrip to Tom's shop required him to ignore the Captain's orders not to leave dockside, but what she didn't know couldn't hurt him.
The most magnificent pirate bard Nijoo Jooricki Calhoun had played his concertina and boasted of his booty in the common room of a dozen inns through Bloodcove. The story of how they took the Dowager Queen and ransomed her foppish captain got grander with each retelling. It had attracted a pretty Halfling lass Myra with turquoise pools for eyes who flirted shamelessly and kept his flagon full.
On the 4th night in port Myra asked Joo Joo if he would stay the night with her. Nodding through his happy buzz, he learned that she worked at a fancy place called The Embassy which he took to be one of them fancy brothels. She dragged him with kisses and giggles across the boardwalks of the city out of dockside (against Captain Jack's orders) to an imposing structure with a colonnade in front. Inside the grand entryway he was welcomed not by courtesans, but by Chelish Marines and shackles.
Joo Joo met the Ambassador in his dressing gown and hastily donned powdered wig, up in his office. Captain Irius Trock, formerly of the Dowager Queen glowered from a chair by the fireplace.
"I'm prepared to make you an offer Mr. Jooricki, as navigator of the pirate ship Instigator. This is not a negotiation. You may either accept my offer or you will be handed over to Earl Trock here, who will transport you back to his estate in Cheliax and I assure you it will not be a pleasant visit. Are you prepared to hear my offer?"
Joo Joo nodded, "Trock wants a Halfling buttpig, does he?"
The Ambassador rolled his eyes, "I will give you a thousand Chelish dragons now," he said pouring the gold coins onto the desk, "and you may go free back to your ship. In return you will help me arrange the capture of the Instigator by one of our Pirate Hunters which ply these waters, at which point you will receive an additional two thousand gold and have your crimes against Cheliax pardoned. You will then be free to make your way wherever you like, much richer."
That was when Joo Joo started fast-talking. He could offer the ambassador something better than Captain Scrappy Jack. He could offer up Barnabas Harrigan (a name the Ambassador recognized). Or something else. Just give him time to think. The contract in infernal rested on the desk promising Hellish consequences if he accepted the offer and tried to double-cross them. Despite his best efforts he could see it wasn't going his way.
A Marine tried to drag Joo Joo to the dungeon. Grease! His fingers found no purchase on the lard covered bard. Joo Joo ran for the window. *crash* He tumbled into the garden below. Glitterdust! He blinded a group of guards rushing at him. Vanish! He slipped out the gates of the compound and lost his pursuers.
"I'm nobody's buttpig!" He shouted into the night as he fled back to the Instigator.
The Paulus Herpetorium
Captain Scrappy Jack was enjoying a glass of Mwangi spirits in the Witchlight Inn when the barmaid came and put down a fresh pint of ale. "From that man over there," she pointed at a cloaked figure walking out the door.
Under the pint Jack found a note scrawled on palm leaves: Meet me at the Paulus Herpetorium at midnight if you're interested in a job worth thousands of gold. She crumpled the note, finished her drink and went to find Callous.
Jack was going to err on the side of caution, but Callous, eyes full of gold coins, encouraged her to go. Together they made their way to the herpetorium in the middle of the night.
Inside, serpents slithered, crocodiles snapped, and toads and lizards perched in cages and in pits all around. The cloaked man stood tossing chunks of raw meat into the crocodile pit and chuckling to himself.
"Names, Gren Ilsa," he said. "I've a job for you worth thousands of Gold and the friendship of the Aspis Consortium. If you're the type. Won't be telling you for free though. 200 Gold if you please."
Jack scoffed, "You want me to pay you before I hear any of the details. Hardly. Enjoy your lizard hut."
"Fine," Gren allowed, "I'll tell you enough to whet your appetite, then you pay me."
"Not 200 though. 150 - if it's good."
Gren looked defeated, "There's a ship belonging to the Pathfinder Society called the Ancient Rumor. She paid a good sum recently to the Free Captains for safe passage through the shackles and salvage rights in some ruins of Gol Gan. She'll be coming out laden with valuable artifacts which the Aspis Consortium will pay a good price for so long as its not traceable back to them," he paused. "What do you think worth your coin?"
Jack grinned and nodded. Callous handed over the coin.
"Okay, here's the details. The dockmaster in Senghor expects the Ancient Rumor to make berth there in 3 weeks time near the full moon. Between now and then she'll have to cross the South Fever Sea. She'll be vulnerable. If you find her and take her, don't come straightwise back to Bloodcove and don't breath a word about the Aspis Consortium to anyone, but they'll pay you top dollar for whatever relics you recover from that ship."
Later Jack and Callous conferred. Jack had her doubts that Gren's story was reliable. Doubts which were dispelled the next day.
A Hobgoblin named Gortus Svard, Captain of the Drekar Devil's Pallor came upon Jack from behind and growled in her ear, "If I were you I'd disregard any ancient rumors I hear. That prize is mine, you understand?"
Jack regarded her new rival with a steely glare. His back wasn't turned a moment before she turned to Callous, "Bosun, I think the Devil's Pallor might be in need of some repairs before they can leave Bloodcove."
Grinning, Callous dove into the harbor, and made his way for the Drekar preparing a casting of Warp Wood.
Spies & Harpies
The hunt for the Ancient Rumor began and they had a headstart on their rival Gortus Svard due to some mysterious damage which had to be repaired to his tiller.
The officers consulted. Joo Joo's misadventure at the Chelish Embassy had them concerned. Clearly, they were on the Chelish Navy's naughty list. Sufficiently so that they were willing to expend some coin to wreak they vengeance. The most worrying detail was the Ambassador's remark to go ahead and employ some "mercenaries" as Joo Joo made his escape. Mercenaries for what? If they'd tried to pay Joo Joo off, had they paid any of the crew to turn traitor?
Jack and Callous worked out a plan. Sandara Quinn would cast Zone of Truth and they would interrogate everyone on the crew.
"Have you taken any money from the Chelish Navy?"
"Do you intend to betray the officers or crew of the Instigator?"
"Are you in the employ of anyone besides Captain Jack?"
With Callous scowling over each swab and Owlbear casually swinging his scourge everyone swore their innocence, before Besmara and Gozreh.
Everyone except a pair of unlucky schmucks from Sargava. The one was a volunteer they'd taken from their first prize, the Elten Baide. The other was his cousin who had just signed up in Bloodcove. They'd met there by chance and been approached when they were deep in their cups by a young halfling girl named Myra to sell out the Instigator for a small hillock of Chelish gold.
The penalty for attempted mutiny is keelhauling. Jack ordered them strung up and Callous eagerly complied. Before they went in the sea they begged and pleaded, offering even more information. Jack held her finger up.
"We didn't mean no harm. Please. We like getting paid by you. They just offered to pay more and it didn't seem so bad what Myra wanted. We just gave her a belaying pin off the ship. That's all! We weren't never gonna go through with betraying you!"
Neither man survived the keelhauling.
Back in the Captain's quarters they considered the meaning of the fact that the Chelish Navy had a piece of their ship.
"Could be they're scrying on us right now," Joo Joo said. They all looked up. Callous made a rude gesture at the sky.
There was nothing to be done, but sail on and perhaps change ships in the near future.
A few days later they spotted sails on the horizon. The Drekar Devil's Pallor had somehow beat them out here and was bearing down hard on a small galleon flying Sargavan colors - the Ancient Rumor!
They joined the chase, exchanging siege engine fire with their rivals and maneuvering for a better boarding position. Harpies with bright tropical plumage came flying off of the Pathfinder vessel and perched in the rigging of the pirate ships sounding their captivating song. Most of the crew immediately fell under the spell, mindlessly ceasing their tasks and climbing toward the harpy.
Their ships raced on out of control. The Instigator was struck hard on her aft port by the Hobgoblin Drekar sending splinters flying through the air.
The harpy knocked docile crew off the yard arm, plunging to their death in the waves. Joo Joo began playing a discordant song on his concertina shaking some of the crew out of their trance. Jack shouted a stream of verbal abuse up at the harpy, who dove out of the ratlines smashing Jack in the chest with her morningstar.
Varanus strode up behind the harpy leveling his pistol and sending a ball exploding through her wing. Jack's knives sprung into her hands and she set to carving a relief in the harpy's flesh. It wasn't long before the harpy realized her alliance with the pathfinder wasn't worth losing her life over and flew away.
Callous ordered the crew back to work, grabbing the helm and determining to make up lost ground in the chase for the Ancient Rumor.
As they closed in on their prize they could see that their rival was coming in fast behind them, huge square sails full and all their oars in the water. Ahead, the Pathfinder Zoe Feathers stood on the railing of her quarterdeck, scimitar in hand.
Joo Joo shouted, "Let us board. We'll help you repel the pirates from the Devil's Pallor."
"You mean to tell me you're not pirates yourselves?," She replied with a wink, "Thank you, but the Pathfinder Society politely declines your offer of assistance."
Jack shook her head, "We're coming in anyway," then turned to her crew, "All hands prepare to board!"
Zoe Feathers' hand moved in a series of intricate gestures. "In that case consider this a little present from me to you." And with that a Flaming Sphere appeared midship on the Instigator.
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"Fire!" came the shout from the crew of the Instigator as a Flaming Sphere rolled its way around the deck and over a catapult igniting everything it touched.
"Put that fire out!" Callous roared.
Captain Jack attempted her usual maneuver of leaping across to take the enemy ship, and got stiff-armed by the Pathfinder Zoe Feathers straight into the brine. Varanus lashed at the Pathfinder with his whip, connecting, but recoiling in agony as her Defensive Shock spell triggered sending a powerful jolt up his weapon. He recovered his wits and swung across to the quarterdeck of the Ancient Rumor, which he instantly regretted. Zoe unleashed a whirlwind of electric-acid-metal agony dropping him instantly into a severely wounded and staggered state. The look of 'Oh crap' on everyone's face was priceless.
*Crash* the Devil's Pallor rammed the stern of the Instigator sending splinters flying and crew tumbling. Ballista bolts ripped through the rigging and sails, and the fire continued to spread up to the ship's wheel and climbing the mizzen-mast.
Joo Joo sent his familiar Pluck to tag Varanus and deliver a Vanish saving his tail from what would certainly have been a killing blow from the Pathfinder. Callous summoned a Fire Elemental to return the flaming favor on the Ancient Rumor while Jack snuck back up the hull to rejoin the fight. She arrived in time to receive a second near-lethal dose of Zoe's Magus mojo, and watch Varanus (having revealed himself by firing his pistol) get thrown off the quarterdeck by a pair of marines.
*Kaboom* the Devil's Pallor t-boned the Instigator and a horde of goblin pirates came flooding on deck. Our heroes were now taking abuse from both directions. Callous unleashed a Stone Call on the incoming Goblins and jumped over to join the fight against Zoe Feathers Shillelagh in hand. He got a blow in with a flanking assist from his Fire Elemental, but she repayed him immediately with enough electricity to knock him unconscious.
Joo Joo, watched in horror as Zoe had nearly killed all three of his compatriots in short order. There was only one thing to be done. Grease! the scimitar slipped from her grasp. Jack plunged her blades into the Pathfinder's back and suddenly, Zoe was willing to negotiate.
"You have me at a disadvantage, Captain Jack," Feathers said. "But it seems you're in a spot of trouble yourself given the veritable army of angry goblins presently boarding your vessel. I'm prepared to offer the following terms for my surrender: I help you fight off the Devil's Pallor. You get half my plunder and you let me and my crew sail away without further harm."
Jack grinned, "I pick which half of your plunder."
Zoe sighed. "Done."
Hobgoblin Captain Gortus Svard of the Devil's Pallor climbed onto the bowsprit of his vessel and brandishing his falcata roared encouragement to his raiders before leaping into the fray himself. It was a short-lived display of ferocity before Callous made him suffer the indignity of a Cause Fear. Retreating Hobgoblins are noticeably less intimidating than the charging variety. Joo Joo decided to add to his humiliation with a Glitterdust.
The fire continued to rage on, devastating the sail and rigging on the mizzenmast and blackening much of the poop deck. Callous ordered the whole crew to turn their efforts to the fire - a hard thing to do with dozens of murderous goblins swarming the decks. In the fighting Crimson Cogward was seen leaping from the main yardarm into the goblin Drekar, and Owlbear was scaling the hull of the enemy ship without grace, but with brute strength.
One of the Goblins aboard the Instigator had snuck off into the captain's quarters. Varanus pursued him and found him smashing open cabinets and trying to pry open the drawers on the captain's desk. No one quite knows what happened in there, but somehow Varanus managed to decapitate that goblin... with a whip. It was bloody.
Some chanting in goblin was overheard and Gortus Svard reappeared in the prow of his ship freed from the spells that had blinded and feared him. With one clean chop he took Owlbears arm off and sent him plummeting back to the deck of the Instigator. He turned to do something similar to Crimson, but seeing that the Pathfinder and her crew had joined with our heroes and his goblins were being massacred he shouted the order to disengage. The oars of the Devil's Pallor dipped into the water and she began to draw back, but not before Jack caught ahold of a ratline and started climbing. While Jack was pursuing, Callous plunged into the water, totem-shifting to a swimming form and casting Warp Wood on the Devil's Pallor till she sprung a leak.
Meanwhile, Joo Joo was making friends. With a little Charm Person and a little diplomacy he was convincing a sailor aboard the Ancient Rumor to divulge a little too much about their precious cargo. He learned that there were four stellae they'd recovered from a Gol Gan ruin of particular value and poking around in the hold he found secret bulkheads in which the stellae were concealed. He rubbed his hands together sure that this would please Captain Scrappy Jack.
That is, if Scrappy Jack survived. Having boarded the Drekar she found herself face to face with its captain Gortus Svard. They exchanged blows and his falcata was brutal enough she started to have second thoughts. She turned and dove overboard only to be caught in a net by a team of goblins. The brief submersion had been enough to activate her fast healing and give her just a small boost. Deposited on a heap on the deck of the Devil's Pallor and surrounded by goblins she saw Svard beckoning her to her feet. She heard ballistas firing and knew that they were shredding what little was left of her sails.
"I made you a promise sweetling. Your boat is dead in the water. I'm going to circle round, take that Pathfinder ship, murder everyone of your crew, and then scuttle it and send it to the bottom of the fever sea. But before all of that I'm going to take my time enjoying your flesh."
Jack stood calmly, pulled a potion from her belt and took a long swig. Then she took a dagger in each hand and said, "I'd hate for you to get a reputation as a coward and an oathbreaker."
The captains circled, slashing at one another as dozens of goblins screamed obscenities and clanged their weapons together. Gortus had the advantage of strength, was healthier, and better armed. Jack had her wits. She feinted, and he over balanced. Both daggers found their marks: one in the ribs, one under his jaw. He gurgled and coughed blood in her face, then passed out.
For a moment none of the goblins knew what to do. She took that moment to pick up Svard's falcata, back over to the railing and then make her escape. The Devil's Pallor took one more half-hearted volley at the Instigator but quickly headed for the horizon. Gortus Svard had been left breathing and they knew they'd probably be seeing him again.
By the time Jack and Callous made it back to their ship the celebration of victory had already begun. Zoe Feathers and her crew were ready to formally surrender, having honored their portion of the bargain. The fires had been put out, but the Instigator was in bad condition. Her crew was tore up bad too. It didn't matter. They'd just defeated two arguably superior ships at the same time. This was a story that would get some attention in any port they visited.
Joo Joo reported his discoveries to Jack, who taking Captain Feathers' hand, informed her that her crew would be taking half of the plunder not by value, but by volume. The Pathfinder didn't take this twist on their agreement very well, but she wasn't in a position to argue. She merely assured our heroes that the Pathfinder Society would be hearing about them.
Some necessary repairs made at sea, they limped back to port to replenish supplies, recruit more crew, and brag of their misdeeds. Meanwhile Callous, translating ancient Cyclopian and solving riddles in the inscriptions on the four stellae was learning the secrets of a relic of Gol Gan that might just be too juicy to pass up...
I am sorry that it has been a while since I have wrote, but to my defense I have been busy working on my pirate bard rock career. The Instigator (which is the name that I picked for our ship) is doing quite nicely. We are currently harbored in Port Morgan which I believe was named after the captain that found that famous spice rum that I like so well. I cant get into the details of our last mission due to the items in question. Captain has us on strict orders to keep that information between the crew.
However I can tell you that we are becoming very successful pirates we have taken a Chelish ship and pissed off the Chelish navy. I did have that incident with the Chelish abassador due to a Chelish groupie (I am no one's Butt Pig). Our captain which happens to be Scrappy Jack (go figure) happens to pretty good captain (sometimes I believe she is to lenient). We ll mother at this time I am being called back to the stage for an encore. So catch my memoirs of an instigating pirate as this will be my last letter to you (because my popularity could put you at risk).
Sincerly, Magnificently Glorious Internationally Notorious (and the halfling I we call when our men bore us) Pirate Bard Nijoo Jooricki "Joo Joo" Calhoon
The thrilling tales of the Instigating Pirate
As I sit here on our ship in Port Morgan drinking that famous rum for which this Port is named and listening to the adoring fans wanting more stories of the famous Instigator (on which I sail). I think of how we came to be this entertaining and the only thing the comes to mind is...... ME. That's right me the Magnificently Glorious Internationally Notorious (and the halfling we call when our men bore us) Pirate Bard Nijoo Jooricki "Joo Joo" Calhoon. Yes it is true that I am not the most violent one of the crew (I leave that honor to the shark druid Callous) I have a very big, very famous and very useful mouth (yes ladies I said VERY USEFUL).
I hear our captain screaming out to me to send my bird Pluck after some kind of aquatic creature that has just took off with our recently bought flags from which my bird replies "go pluck yourself". Callous seem to be pondering on what this creature is as he is sails with Veronous to retrieve our flags. Long story short Veronous wants to make friends with the little clepto and it makes off with some of the gifts that are given to it in exchange for our flags (seriously its a better pirate than we are). After it is all done we finally decide to take Tidewater Rock (YEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAA).
Tails & Spines
The colors of the Instigator depict an Undine defiantly holding open a shark jaw. It was the first time the world had gotten a glimpse of the banner waving from their mainmast anchored off of the hamlet of Port Morgan. It wasn't a lengthy viewing because a Coral Capuchin plucked the silk flag off the line and flew away chittering.
Captain Jack was in her cabin and didn't see the offense. Callous, Varanus and Joo Joo decided to keep it that way, rowing off in the Jolly Boat after the filching primate. The comedy of these three stooges coaxing, then capturing, then wrestling with the Coral Capuchin was golden, but the flag was restored without Scrappy Jack ever knowing it had been taken.
A siege engineer, retired from the Senghor navy to this little hamlet, offered to build them a catapult and train their crew in its use. Since it was going to take a couple weeks for that to be accomplished they set off to engage in a bit more piracy.
Not far out to sea they came across a derelict - a fishing trawler listing high to starboard. Her ship's boat was missing and no crew were to be found. Captain Jack asked for volunteers to search for salvage and the crew as one took a step back leaving Varanus alone. Glaring at them with his reptilian eyes he tied a rope around his waist and hopped down to the derelict.
He spotted signs there'd been a fight on board. Climbing below decks a trap was sprung. An entangle spell immobilized him and something was shoved through the holed hull - a giant blowfish which immediately panicked and swelled, filling the cabin and spearing Varanus with poisonous spines.
Meanwhile they heard a grinding sound coming from below the waterline. Callous leapt into the water and found four Sahuagin running a coral auger near the keel of the Instigator. Little did they know that he had recently learned to summon small armies of stingrays. By the time Jack and Callous had finished making sushi out of the giant blowfish there wasn't much left of the Sahuagin either. Jack and the stingrays mopped up. It hadn't been a very successful ambush.
It was time to go after some bigger fish. Jack had Joo Joo chart a course for Windward Isle. They were headed to crack Tidewater Rock.
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The Rock Cracks
Sailing under a flag of peace, the Instigator approached Tidewater Rock. Sergeant at Arms Royster McCleagh signaled their safe approach and negotiated a formal parlay with the lady of the Rock. Our heroes would have to send a hostage up first, to be treated with all hospitality, until such time as negotiations were peacefully resolved.
They elected Callous Deepsea, and his famously gruff demeanor, to sit in the penalty box for what they hoped was a very diplomatic encounter. As Callous sat in a moderately cozy cell beneath the tower conversing with a pair of nervous guards he began to sense that something unpleasant was afoot - and there was nothing he could do about it.
Captain Scrappy Jack, the lizardman Varanus and Nijoo Jooricki Calhoun rowed in the jolly boat up to the rock, and ascended to the tower. An impressive portcullis closed behind them as they were introduced to a surprisingly attractive middle-aged woman of noble bearing. Lady Agasta Smythee, the widow of Iron Bert, and lady of the rock, greeted them and welcomed them to a feast in her dining hall on the top floor. As they climbed the ladders up through the tower Jack too got the disturbing sense that their hosts were a little too composed.
They did not have to wait long for the other shoe to drop, but neither were they afforded an opportunity to avoid the trap as they were led into the feasting hall and directly into the presence of an armed company of Chelish Marines and their commander Kyan Kain. Joo Joo's mouth hung open, uncharacteristically silent. Varanus' fingers twitched for the butt of his pistol. Commander Kain merely smiled as he invited them to join him for supper. Seeing no real choice they sat down for one of the least comfortable meals of their probably short lives.
Meanwhile, Callous in the cell was let in on a little secret. The guards informed him that Lady Smythee was prepared to make a deal with the officers of the Instigator. She would contract to give them ownership of Tidewater Rock for a year's time if they could help her lead this unwanted Chelish presence away. As they spoke, a massive Chelish Man of War, the Dominator, was sailing into position to take the Instigator while her officers were away. Without question this was a force neither the Rock, nor our Heroes could withstand, but they might be able to live to fight again another day.
Callous was instructed to sneak aboard the Dominator, finding a way into her tiller cabin and sabotaging her controls. At the same time they would arrange the escape of Captain Jack and her officers upstairs. They would all rendezvous on the Instigator and sail off leading the Chelish Man of War on a merry chase FAR from Tidewater Rock. Callous grinned his sharky grin and moments later he was being lowered through a hidden tunnel into the roiling surf.
The tongues were sharper than the cutlery at the feast in the top of the tower, but the false civility couldn't last. Suddenly Royster stood and hurled the table over as weapons sprang into hands all around the room. Our heroes were unfortunately caught off-guard by this sudden change of tactics from their hosts. Chelish boarding pikes and cutlasses took their tax of pirate blood before they had gathered their wits enough to fight back.
Commander Kain pointed his rapier at the chest of Varanus and challenged him to direct combat. He never had it in mind that the marines would cease their assault to permit a gentlemanly duel. Varanus took several painful gashes fighting his way to the corner to put his back against a wall.
Joo Joo ducked and dived, whistling an encouraging tune, and trying to make heads or tails of who exactly was on what side. Jack had no hesitation about burying her daggers in Chelish flesh. This was such an absorbing task that Joo Joo had to point out the signs of combat and gouts of flame in the deck of the Instigator out a large picture window. The drop was a good 70 feet to choppy seas, but it did offer their best chance of escape.
Spider Climb made Callous' job of climbing aboard the Dominator surprisingly simple. Squeezing through a narrow window into the tiller cabin he unfortunately broke some glass, alarming a couple Chelish marines in the next room. He summoned a few Dire Rats to hopefully serve as a distraction, while he tried to free his leg, caught on the broken window. The marines made quick work of the rats and quickly realized there was a stowaway aboard. Callous abandoned all pretense, tossing a Flaming Sphere and summoning a Giant Spider to web a marine who attempted to run and sound the alarm.
One man against three isn't great odds. Callous burned the Dominator's tiller rope, disabling her steering, and rolled the flames over the marines harassing him, but they were quickly wearing down his defenses with their pikes. Drawing his terbutje he growled and laid into them with conviction, at last defeating them and dragging his wounded hide back out the window into the sea. His last act of sabotage was to leap the Flaming Sphere into the sterncastle, setting pitch coated trebuchet stones ablaze.
Jack couldn't believe her eyes. Commander Kain's blade plunged through Varanus' scaly breast in slow motion. He gave his blade a vicious final twist and ripped it out spraying arterial blood across the chamber. The light in Varanus eyes winked out instantly and as his heavy reptilian frame hit the floor his forked tongue lolled out and was still. With a look of utter certainty Commander Kain pointed toward Captain Jack and whispered, "you're next."
Joo Joo Vanished. Time to retreat, capn! Jack turned and dove out the picture window into the waves. Joo Joo followed invisibly. They swam with haste out to the Instigator, climbing the side to peer with trepidation at the carnage aboard. A veritable phalanx of Lacedons and a pair of Hellhounds prowled the darkness at midship. As they considered how to retake their vessel from these intruders, a Stone Call rained out of the sky.
Callous reunited with them, casting Call Lightning to fry Hellhounds with. Their fiendish nemesis Melchorax laughed at them from above, but his laughter turned to rage as he watched his ghoulish army disintegrate. Jack antagonized the little devil drawing it down for a fight. Joo Joo nailed him with a Glitterdust. Spewing bile he ordered the lone pair of Lacedons remaining to kill the bard! As he gave the order Jack's sneak attacks whittled away his health and he was forced to Teleport away promising vengeance yet again.
Sandara Quinn and Crimson led the crew out of their hiding below decks to drive the Hellhounds away, and with a great whoop, reclaim the Instigator.
Our heroes, weighed anchor and plunged full sail ahead into the dark. The Dominator, unable to steer, fell far behind, but with so many more yards of sail she eventually began to recover. A fierce night chase ensued, our heroes heading into the Shackles looking for any advantage to lose the larger and faster Chelish ship. Finally, sheltered in a narrow cove, they hid and waited, hoping they would never see those sails on the horizon behind them again.
As they waited anxiously for the dawn, they contemplated their good and ill fortune. It would appear they had cracked the rock. Jack would be the Lord of Tidewater Rock for one year, at least. But in the process one of their own had been killed and the Chelish Navy seemed more determined than ever to take them out.
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As the sun crawled over the horizon Sandara Quinn doffed her hat and said some words for the lizardman Varanus. "Besmara, take him for your eternal crew." The solemnity of the moment was somewhat undermined by the crew remarking how "cold-blooded" their former Master of Arms was. How few pirates would measure on the same "scale" as him. etc...
With no sign of the Dominator in nearby waters they slipped out and tried to make a run for it. Unfortunately, as they rounded the peninsula they spotted the sails of the Chelish Man o' War and were spotted in return. The furious chase started once again, with the Chelish ship yard by yard gaining on the smaller and slower Instigator. Just as it seemed that their cause was lost more sails were seen ahead, an entire fleet of ships flying the Shackles Ensign.
Captain Merrill Peggsworthy on his flagship the Bonaventure with the rest of his fleet approached steadily giving the Dominator time to scan the fleet and see how many catapults and men she would have to take on if she decided to press the engagement. Scrappy Jack called for a parlay and immediately recognized Peggsworthy's smirking laugh.
"Appears you're in a spot of trouble. If you want out of it, seems you'll be owing me a favor," Peggsworthy grinned.
Jack was all big-talk when parlaying with Peggsworthy, but as they made for the horizon watching the Dominator break off pursuit to avoid engaging the fleet, Joo Joo remarked "isn't anyone else here worried that we now owe a free captain a favor?"
Jack nodded, while Callous at the helm said, "I already filled my britches a couple hours back."
Everyone let out a huge sigh of relief when they broke out of the Shackles into the open Fever Sea and let their sheets out, happily putting many leagues between them and the catastrophe they'd just avoided.
A couple days of sailing later, they heard a shout of "Man overboard!" and spied a castaway clinging to some flotsam in a ravaged state. They pulled the delirious Aasimar aboard and he went into a terrific fright when he looked down and saw that a zombified severed hand still clung to his ankle. They tried to question him, but he merely raved about "creampuffs".
It took a couple days of healing to restore his mind at which point Joo Joo extracted his story from him. He'd been the pursor aboard the Chainbreaker a ship in the fleet of Free Captain Jolis Raffles. They'd been plying the Fever Sea when they were attacked by a Magnimarian Whaler that rose up beneath them from the depths and was crewed by the most horrific undead. Every soul aboard the Chainbreaker save this poor cleric of Besmara was dragged to the depths as their vessel sunk.
Hearing this tale, the crew of the Instigator made various signs of warding and muttered under their breaths. They all knew the legend of Whalebone Pilk and his cursed ship the Deathknell. Many privately wondered whether it wouldn't be best to toss this unfortunate fellow back into the sea lest Pilk return to get what escaped his grasp the first time. Captain Jack, not being the superstitious type, offered this man (Mayben by name) a spot in her crew, and set a course back to Port Morgan to retrieve the team they had left there for training in siege engines.
They arrived in Port Morgan to find it a shambles, having just been attacked. The docks were smoldering, and people were in a panic. They told a story of rats raining out of the sky and a foul green smoke spreading through the streets. People collapsing in coughing fits spitting up blood and mucus and boils swelling in their armpits. A ship with green sails had been the source of the attack, but after assailing the town for a few hours it merely sailed away without landing a raiding party.
Joo Joo recognized this as the method of the insane captain Skivven Snoutboil and his all Ratfolk crew of the Cesspool. Known for raiding small coastal settlements, Snoutboil, a devotee of Urgathoa, loves to first attack a town, infecting them with a virulent strain of plague. He burns their ships and cuts off their routes of escape. Then he sails away and lets the plague do its work. After a week or so he returns to pick the bones and cut down the weakened survivors, leaving nothing but a heap of disease-scarred carcasses behind.
Without needing to say a word our heroes were agreed that they wanted nothing to do with this madman or the infected people of Port Morgan. They tried to arrange to extract their crew and turn their bow for friendlier waters, but it wasn't going to be quite that easy. The people of Port Morgan were desperate. They held their crew members hostage and offered a payment to the Instigator for defending them from the Cesspool.
They debated. They considered simply cutting their losses. They considered sacking Port Morgan themselves. The new swab, Mayben, tried to encourage the more heroic option, but was quickly told to stop his hole. The eventual deciding factor was the likely infamy they would gain for taking out this poxy ratman. They agreed to intercept the Cesspool.
A week of preparation makes any confrontation a different affair. By the time they spotted the green sails coming over the horizon one evening, their strategy was well laid out. Both vessels put out a thick fog - a greenish miasma in the case of the Cesspool, and the battle raged in a confusion of mist which greatly hampered Skivven Snoutboil, the master of the plague ship since his principal weapon was alchemical bombs.
His fearsome bodyguards, the Poisontails, proved dangerous lashing Callous and Jack with their puss soaked tail blades. Nearly everyone came away from this conflict crawling with diseases. But the Poisontails couldn't out-rogue Jack whose feints positively decimated them. Neither could they handle the tandem of Mayben and Callous. Alas poor Joo Joo spent most of the battle being chased by Dire Rats and cursing their sense of smell.
Snoutboil did manage to launch a few Acid Bombs through windows in the fog, but in the end he recognized his poor position and called for a retreat. Even as he took the helm of the Cesspool though he was surrounded by Callous' summoned Air Elementals and Scrappy Jack rising menacingly out of the mist. His rodent cries rang out for a moment and were sharply cut off.
Somewhere in the bowels of the rat-ship an explosion started, ignited by Callous' Flaming Sphere. Jack grabbed what loot was at hand and dove back to the Instigator. Thousands of rats and dozens of Ratfolk had the same idea, swarming the lines, as they fled the doomed sloop. "Hold them off!" Joo Joo shouted, but you might as well try to push back the wind with a spear.
They'd won. It was a victory well worth bragging about in every port, but in the process they'd picked up an infestation which would plague them (pun intended) for quite a while.
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Lady & Lady
The surviving ratfolk crew of the sunken Cesspool quickly surrendered. Their self-appointed spokesperson Agiz begged Captain Jack for mercy, which she granted after a fashion. She put them all to work clearing her ship of the infestation of plague rats before marooning the majority of them on the Mwangi coastline. Only Agiz and his sister Kitch volunteered to join the crew of the Instigator.
During those 5 days by the beach Callous and their new celestial swab Mabon went to work curing the disease which had laid most of the crew low. The plague, though tenacious, proved easier to cure than the rat problem. Though hundreds of rats were caught, killed or lured off the ship, an unknown number of survivors still lurk in the hold waiting to spread pox and ruin food stores.
The people of Port Morgan were grateful to be rescued from Skivven Snoutboil's foul crew. They paid the promised pile of valuables and returned the hostage sailors, whereupon our heroes made immediate departure for a less depressing port.
In the next hamlet they were approached by an Undine captain named Jamash, who wanted to talk business. Over a game of dice he told them how he used to trade in the bustling piers of the Purple Coral Bight, but was now banned from docking there due to an unreasonable prejudice and vicious rumors about his person. All untrue of course. As such he was in the market for a little revenge. Knowing the habits of some of the treasure ships that call in that port he was willing to sell the information of where and when these vessels would be plying the Fever Sea in return for a percentage of the plunder.
Callous, ever the greedy bastard (pirate), talked Jamash down a bit in his asking price. Jack absorbed the information that a dwarven vessel from the cape would be returning from the Purple Coral Bight by way of Port Eleder in about two moons time, her hull likely loaded with rare ores found under the sea.
Their credibility and their business opportunities increasing daily, our heroes returned to Tidewater Rock with high spirits.
At the rock they found Lady Agasta Smythee ready to greet them with a contract drawn up to honor their verbal agreement from the previous encounter. The heading of the contract said "A Contract of Marriage under Shackles Law for One Year Certain". Jack did a double-take. Did the Lady Smythee really intend to marry her?
Not only was the arrangement real, Lady Smythee was very traditional about the whole thing. She gave a dowry of a powerful spyglass and a magical breastplate to her new spouse, and threw a feast to commemorate the occasion. The more juvenile members of the crew laughed themselves to sleep that night.
Their stay at the rock was not long. Captain Jack had determined it was time to track down the Ghol Gan shrine which they'd learned about on the stellae they took from the Pathfinder ship Ancient Promise. This meant sailing into the Shackles without the protection of a letter of marque - right to the home port of one of the most infamous of the Free Captains, Avimar Sorrenash.
As they sailed they were plotting how they would get in and out of Ollo without drawing unwanted attention from Sorrenash's fleet. They might have focused on more immediate dangers, because the very first night among the isles of the Shackles they came bowsprit to muzzle with a three story Sea Drake. As Ball Lightning flew from its teeth, they contemplated whether they might have made a wrong turn.
No one can ever say that Captain Scrappy Jack is anything but bold. Facing a towering Sea Drake breathing lightning on her crew, Jack drew her knives and shouting to her crew to man the Ballistas she disappeared over the gunwales. Callous wasn't far behind, Summoning a pair of Water Elementals to tangle with the Drake.
Jack and the Water Elementals caught up with the Sea Drake 30' under water in a churning maelstrom of teeth and scales and knives and electricity. The massive sea serpent annihilated a small army of summoned creatures from Callous and Mabon and dealt heavy punishment to Jack - who gave it right back even harder prying scales away from its belly and filling the water with blue-black blood.
Mabon went Invisible and attempted to climb down from the crow's nest with more haste than he should have - a fall from 55' knocked the wind out of him. He and Joo Joo sat helplessly unable to see through the night what transpired below the waves. The darkness also blinded them, unfortunately, to the silent approach of the Junk Thresher.
The low blast of a horn reverberated through the area and the Sea Drake unleashed its Ball Lightning on Jack once more before making jetting away. On deck the crew turned at the last moment to see the bow of the Thresher bearing down on them. They fired their Ballistas, but it was too late.
A Geyser of superheated water burst from the deck beneath Joo Joo raining scalding pain on the crew of the Instigator. A second Geyser followed a moment later and they looked into the night sky to see the silhouette of a lithe woman hovering above their mainmast, lightning sparking from her fingertips.
"This is your lone chance to Surrender without loss of life!" She shouted. Joo Joo, the ranking officer on deck, shouted his defiance back.
Callous and Jack headed for the surface, but Jack came up unawares just as the Thresher bore down hard. She bounced off the hull of the Junk cracking ribs and sending blood running down her forehead.
"Who is your captain! Show yourself!" The woman called Isabella "Inksking" Locke screamed from the sky.
Scrappy Jack, angry and bleeding, lost her patience with whoever this woman was screaming threats and shouted back, "Down here you thundering imbecile!"
Captain Jack never saw or heard the Lightning Bolt that took her life. It flashed through the air, scorching her battered flesh and obliterating her spark of life. Scrappy Jack floated face down, bobbing with the waves and sizzling.
"Who is of next highest rank? Surrender now or die!" Inkskin shrieked.
Stunned, Callous shouted from the water, "I, Callous Deepsea, am First Mate of this vessel and we surrender." He could hardly believe the words coming out of his mouth. A cold rage was slowly building inside him.
On the deck of the Thrasher Inkskin laid out the terms, "I don't care about that filthy barge of yours or your worthless crew of lazy scum. I have good information that you are carrying ancient stellae of the empire of Ghol Gan stolen from a Pathfinder. I will be taking them. If you make me waste my time searching your hold for them I will start killing your officers and crew one by one. If you hand them over quickly I'll let you sail away from here and I advise you never to cross my path again."
Gritting his teeth, Callous accepted. He watched as the priceless stellae were carted over to the Junk, and he began treasuring a plan to wreak bloody and protracted vengeance on this woman.
After the Thresher had disappeared over the horizon they fished Jack's corpse from the sea. The crew was completely silent. They looked to their new captain and saw his jaw set, and a flinty gaze watching the wake of their enemy. Callous quickly appointed the Rahadoumi woman Marta as the new Bosun and the priest Mabon as the Pursor in her stead. He then ordered pursuit and no one hesitated.
For six days and nights they were tantalizingly close to catching the Thresher. When they passed fishing and trading vessels they parlayed and always heard that a Shackles Junk had sailed that way only hours before them.
On the third night, near a small rocky island they were approached by a rowboat asking to parlay. A hooded group of Undine speaking in hushed tones asked permission to take Captain Jack's body and give it proper Undine rites - something they preferred no landwalkers to take part in. Callous deemed it appropriate and as the mysterious men in the rowboat disappeared they wondered if this could really be the last of Captain Scrappy Jack.
It had become clear they would not be able to chase down the Thresher, but another option remained. Callous had taken many rubbings of the stellae and deciphered their clues - a series of landmarks leading to an Island called "The Blue Ring", and an ancient shrine. If Insksin was hunting for this island too, then they could beat her to the punch.
That meant sailing into Ollo, port of the infamous Free Captain Avimar Sorrenash, which they undertook with grim determination.
For a copper-haired great-grandson of some angelic being, Mabon is a deceptive young man. He finished his efforts to disguise Joo Joo and Callous, while they rehearsed their story.
"We were passengers on the Man's Promise out of Rahadoum when it was taken by pirates and we were press-ganged. We finally escaped on this rowboat. We only have a few silver to our name and we're just looking to leave this whole ordeal behind us."
It was a late afternoon when they rowed into Ollo. They surveyed the salt and dirt stained adobe town, most importantly taking in the flags of each ship in the harbor. A number of boats belonging to the Free Captain Avimar Sorrenash, but no sign of his flagship the Blood Moon. They breathed a collective sigh of relief. But there, quietly rocking against the dock, sat the Bonaventure flagship of Captain Merril Peggsworthy's fleet.
Callous, coated in more grime than usual and his beard tied up and stripped of its customary shells and decoration, ordered Joo Joo to find a high place. The rubbing of the Stella suggested they were looking for a landmark called the Legs of the Centipede.
While Joo Joo climbed a lighthouse, he and Mabon went to a local pub to listen for news. The Thresher had indeed been this way ahead of them and Isabella had freely spread the word that a vessel called the Instigator might be coming behind, loaded with plunder. Others in the port were excitedly talking about the festivities planned for the next day when a local group of Tengu would put on a kite battle.
Joo Joo came sneaking back in saying as he looked out toward the setting sun he saw a green flash and revealed in the green flash were white coral formations like spines or the legs of a dead centipede just under the water. He was sure that was their landmark.
No more had they risen to make their way out of Ollo than they were approached by a Tengu named Jawak, "My captain desires a moment of your time. You see a vessel of Rahadoumi make called the Instigator is anchored a ways out from Ollo, but we have spotted it, and if you don't wish to meet with my captain he will tell the whole port about this juicy prize."
Cursing the heavens and the hells and the elemental planes for good measure Callous agreed to follow Jawak back to his captain - who turned out to be none other than Merril Peggsworthy.
He poured them each a drink in his cabin, smiling, and assuring them he only wanted to visit because he has a soft spot for underdogs and since he had an idea of what they were after he thought they deserved a bit of information.
"Isabella Locke is after something more personal and important to her than you probably realize. You see, she was a captive when she was only a child of Captain Cyrus Wolfe, a fierce buccaneer who might have even been Hurricane King himself if he hadn't backed his friend Kerdak Krupt for that job. After Wolfe disappeared there were all these rumors about his hoard of booty, which still hasn't been found. Rumors you can no doubt hear if you ask any random stranger in any tavern in the shackles. To keep the location of his loot so well guarded he must have killed those who knew its whereabouts, especially his navigator Preston Locke: Isabella's father. She believes that this Isle of the Blue Ring is where Wolfe hid his treasure and she thinks she might find some clue about her father's fate hidden in that pile of gold. So if you chase after her you're not just getting between a pirate and her prize. You're getting between a girl and her father. Beware that she won't take that lightly."
Callous with complete sincerity replied, "I don't care about her sob story. Inkskin is going to bleed before I'm done with her."
Peggsworthy laughed, "I thought that might be your answer, so again, because I like you I'll offer some small assistance. I've made copies of some charts showing the reefs and dangers in the waters around here. I'll also take the liberty of throwing these sharks off your scent here in Ollo. I'll say I've spotted your sails heading the opposite direction - but this makes the second time I've come between you and danger, so if Wolfe's treasure is on that island there's a personal item of his I would like you to deliver to me: his hat."
None of them liked the fact that every time they met Peggsworthy it seemed like they walked away even more indebted, but surrounded by his crew it wasn't like they had many options. They rowed back out to the Instigator and set sail for the Legs of the Centipede.
It was dawn the next day before they'd navigated that treacherous reef and made it to their next landmark - a spot of open water between three islands known for some rather chaotic localized weather patterns. The instructions on the Stella read "Speak with Stormfire", a phrase which made no sense, but was about to.
A sudden squall seemed to rise out of the ocean itself, sending crew scrambling into the rigging to lash down the canvas. In the midst of the storm an eerie green orb of plasma attached itself to the yardarm, pulsing and sending out occasional bursts of energy. Superstitious whispers through the crew were reported by Marta to Callous who scaled the rigging muttering to himself about why captains have to do everything.
"What do you want?" he called out to the stormfire - a sudden tentacle of plasma lanced out and struck him in the chest igniting his entire torso. There were gasps from below and Mabon briefly considered risking the dangerous climb to pull Callous out.
Inside the flame Callous could hear a voice like pipe organs in Cyclopian opining about the beauty of the weather. Yes Yes. Beautiful he thought. Where should we go? He asked the voice in his head. Nowhere. was the reply. Become one with the storm it said. We'll pass, Callous thought. The one-eyes. The ones who taught you this language. Where did they go? Ah - you're after the isle of Blue Ring?. Yes yes! Isle of Blue Ring! Where is it? Turn the clock to 6. Then let it go round three times. At the first mass count 13 in the chain toward the rising sun.
With a sudden explosion of energy the Cormozant Wyrd disappeared and the squall abated.
The Wyrd's clue wasn't exactly transparent. An argument ensued among the officers for how to interpret it, but at length they settled on heading due south for 18 hours - a choice which led them to a large island in an archipelago which stretched east beyond the horizon. Sailing toward the rising sun they dropped anchor at the 13th island in the chain. It was an old whose lava flows had hardened in spiral arms covered in jungle. At the heart of the star-shaped island a deep crater filled with dark blue water rested. The Isle of the Blue Ring.
Captain Callous Deepsea ordered everyone to be on the lookout for the sails of the Thresher, "We're here for ancient treasure and for pirate gold, but most of all, we're here for revenge - for Scrappy Jack."
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Our heroes craned their heads back to look up at the massive stone arch spanning the gap between the two south-most arms of this star-shaped island as the jollyboat made its way up the inlet to a sheltered beach where they'd spotted longboats they suspected belonged to the Thresher. As they neared shore they spotted the colorful hide of a large reptile hidden behind the foliage. An unblinking eye watched them between leaves as the deinonychus bent down and took a large bite out of the corpse of a buccaneer.
"Dinosaurs!" Joo Joo shouted in exasperation. Crimson stopped rowing and Mabon was giving second thoughts to landing on the island. But land they did, hoping their numbers would scare off the lone lizard. The deinonychus departed, but they had a feeling it wasn't a final farewell.
They investigated the beach, finding that a party from the Thresher had come here before them and cut their way through the jungle. Mabon didn't fancy following their tracks exactly since it seemed likely the dinosaurs would view this as a game trail. They began hacking their own way through the dense jungle, making slow progress against the heat, insects, thorns and steeply sloped terrain. Before long they knew they were being followed - hunted, by a pack of hungry reptiles.
Night was falling as they burst out of the jungle into a clearing at the bottom of a steep ravine. Two-hundred foot tall cliffs covered in verdant clinging life enclosed the best path up toward the isle's center. The deinonychus pack was closing in and they didn't fancy trying to climb that ravine at night so they made camp. Callous dug a trench around their position and filled it with kindling to make a fire to keep their predators at bay. His angry lizard sounds, wild-eyes, and foam-flecked beard probably helped as well.
Meanwhile, just a few miles to the north a dagger spun round and round on a flat stone. It came to a rest pointing West and slightly South. A black-gloved feminine hand retrieved the knife and the cloaked figure to who it belonged set off in that direction.
She came to the lip of the caldera. Looking out from behind her mask she saw the Thresher, sails drawn, floating impossibly like a ship in a bottle, in the black waters of the volcano below. To the West, she saw the ruins of an ancient shrine. A few buccaneers sat under the eaves of the shrine, or leaned against columns, on guard. The dagger pulled gently in that direction. She would find her target there.
Callous was taking second watch when a low rumbling sound alerted him to wake the others. It was approaching fast... a volcanic eruption? No. An earthquake? No. A landslide... close, but no. A terrified herd of parasaurolophus churned down through the ravine. Each beast was 30 feet and 5 tons of scales and bone. Clearly, frightened out of their minds they were stampeding right for the camp of our heroes.
Joo Joo shrieked and made a dash for the canyon wall. Callous followed. Mabon and Crimson made a break in the opposite direction. Climbing the vine covered cliffs would have been childsplay for their former comrade Varanus, but fear and haste did not serve this group well.
Callous didn't even try to climb. Rather he Summoned a Giant Ant to use as a mount and have it do the climbing - a plan which nearly worked, but when a huge parasaurolophus collided with the cliff face just below him the shards of stone and dirt and the rending of the vines tangled the legs of his mount and they tumbled into the stampede.
Crimson too was knocked from his hold on the wall, and took a hoof, hard, to the side of his head. Bleeding and dazed he laid in the path of the herd. Mabon tried to Channel Energy from his place on the wall and in his distraction slipped down into danger. Only Joo Joo clung for dear life to the cliff-face above the rush of hooves and horns below. As he looked up toward the top of the ravine he saw men, buccaneers, driving the stampede forward with whips and pistols and shouts. Knuckles Grype, first mate of the Thresher was among them.
Callous took cover beside a boulder and cast Cure Light Wounds on himself. Mabon grabbed Crimson and dragged him aside using his magic to keep them both alive. The stampede plowed on over top of them, battering them hard, before continuing on out of the ravine and tearing a swath of destruction through the jungle. From the top of the ravine Grype gloated, grabbing his crotch and daring them to come up and challenge him. Callous looked over at nearly dead Crimson, and down at his own bleeding leg and bruised ribs, and shook his head. Revenge was still on the menu, but it would have to wait a little longer.
Or would it...
The black-cloaked figure had moved within earshot of the ruins and was observing, making a plan. She heard Knuckles Grype and his group of buccaneers returning from their sabotage in the ravine, laughing and congratulating each other. As they walked up to the ruins the moonlight showed Grype's face and a livid bruise was spreading across his forehead, the bridge of his nose, and around his left eye. She knew now who her target was. Time to act.
A sound from the jungle of furtive movement. A rock hit one of the guards in the back of the head. Grype thoughtlessly sent half of his men to go investigate. A snare was triggered. A dagger flew out of the darkness whizzing by the ear of one guard, who turned and grabbing his friends went in search of their attacker. Grype was left standing alone on the steps of the shrine, still laughing to himself about the stampede. He didn't see the Onyx Wasp rising up behind him.
Flashes of steel in the night. A spray of blood on the marble steps of the shrine. Knuckles Grype throwing wild punches and shouting threats at whoever this is that suddenly attacked him. A final slash opens his jugular just as the buccaneers, realizing their mistake, come rushing back out of the jungle to the shrine. The cloaked figure is suddenly blurry and indistinct. She runs and leaps from the edge of the caldera, the cloak opening into insectile-wings, and flies away. Grype is dead, a bloody wound right in the center of the strange black spot which grew on his face in recent days.
By morning Callous and his group of explorers were healed and ready for some mischief. They would find Isabella "Inkskin" Locke somewhere on this island and pay her back for her various crimes against them. They ascended the ravine - looking across the expanse of the caldera and wondering how the Thresher had come to be resting INSIDE the basin. A look from the Farglass showed them that something was amiss aboard the junk - there were Sahuagin aboard, and no sign of the crew.
Making their way quietly through the jungle around the peak, they moved as close as they could to the shrine without drawing attention to themselves. Spying as they went they determined that Inkskin must be inside the shrine. Her guards were definitely alert on the steps of the ancient building. They debated whether there was some subtle way to accomplish this, but decided to simply prepare as many defensive magics as possible and then assault the bloody shrine.
Callous unleashed Entangle on the guards as they charged toward the Ghol Gan ruins, hoping to catch Inkskin unprepared. She came angrily storming out of the shrine, electricity crackling from her fingers as she wavered and turned Invisible.
"You will regret your choices this day!" she shouted.
But as she did scaly arms came over the edge of the Caldera and pulled a hulking mutant Sahuagin onto the volcanic plain. He was clad in heavy armor, carrying a formidable trident and backed by a small army of his brothers and sisters. He smiled a shark-y smile and said, "No Inkskin. I think it is you who will be feeling regret."
Buccaneers rained like blood. A crossbow bolt from Joo Joo took one. Crimson's shortbow took another. A pair of Sahuagin warriors dragged a third in a net and threw him from the cliff plummeting 300' to the surface of the water - like concrete from that distance. Most distressingly, Kreloort, the four-armed Sahuagin mutant that growled his challenge to Inkskin skewered a buccaneer on his trident and ripped him apart with his extra arms. A limb flew over Callous' shoulder. A head and severed spinal column bounced into the caldera. The remainder of the body transformed into coral and crumbled.
After that, no one wanted anything to do with Krellort.
A Geyser burst from in front of the door to the shrine. Inkskin's voice came from within, "Men! Keep that monster out of here!"
Callous' dismissed the Entangle so they could approach. He beat a Sahuagin to a pulp with his Shillelagh while Mabon sent two flying over the cliff with a Channel Force. Not a moment too soon either - he shook himself free from their net with relief.
Within the shrine it sounded like a horror movie of agony and blood came running under the heavy bronze doors to be washed away by the boiling rain from the Geyser. The last sound was a high pitched scream of a woman dying, followed by the angry roar of Kreloort - a roar which brought an entire company of Sahuagin clambering up the cliff and greatly complicating the battle.
"Did that scaly bastard steal my kill?" Callous shouted as he fought back to back with Mabon.
Joo Joo's Glitterdust exploded nearby, blinding some of the shark-lovers, and Crimson had a little too much fun filleting his fishy foes.
Kreloort burst back out of the shrine and charged Mabon and Callous, laying into both of them with murderous abandon. Mabon's leg began hardening into coral just as a Lightning Bolt ravaged all of them, and Inkskin wavered into view flying above the caldera.
"All of you will die!" she shouted as another Geyser bloomed under Mabon's feet sending him flying over the edge plummeting toward death... a death barely escaped by virtue of a missed attack of opportunity and a Sudden Shift. He lay for several moments on the soaked marble stair panting in gratitude for the solid ground by his face.
Lightning flashed from the sky striking Inkskin, and a Dispel Magic deprived her of Flight for a heartstopping moment, but they heard a Featherfall prolonging her life (and the combat) a second later.
Crimson levelled his bloody cutlass at Kreloort and threatened protracted pain-dealing, which surprisingly sent Kreloort calling for a tactical retreat. A flash of Lightning caught the mutant Sahuagin on his way down the cliff and sent him tumbling into the caldera, to sink out of sight.
Boiling rain still spattered all around our heroes on the blood stained steps of the shrine as Inkskin floated into view once more, electricity snapping along her forearms. "If you can hold your water for a few moments, I would parlay with you, now," she said.
Callous grunted, "I'm captain of the Instigator now. I'll spare your life for a second to hear what you have to say," but while he spoke he nodded to the others to take position.
Inkskin hovered slowly toward solid ground - away from the precipitous drop which another Dispel Magic might send her on. "As you and that scaly mother-buggerer have murdered my men... and it seems, taken my vessel, I would be willing to set aside our feud and split Cyrus Wolfe's hoard with you. I know how it can be found, and I am in this for personal reasons that don't concern you. If you help me retrieve it, I will let you have the loot. I desire only my father's belongings."
Callous laughed, "Ha! and why shouldn't we just kill you now and take the map off your body."
She snapped back, "You idiot! You think everything you need is tattooed on my skin? Without the knowledge in my head these markings are useless to you. Go ahead. Kill me. You'll get nothing!"
She caught sight of Crimson leaping from the side, a moment too late. His burly arms closed around her waist, pulling her to the ground in a firm grapple. Joo Joo took her out at the knees and Mabon charged in next, grabbing her arms and leveraging onto her back. Pinned, she thrashed back and forth, without luck. Even the lightning bolt she had been holding didn't shake her assailants loose.
Callous slowly strode over to her, drawing his Terbutje and grinning his deformed shark-y grin.
"I'll give any of you half of Wolfe's hoard to turn on your captain and help me out of this!" She shrieked.
None of them budged.
"Three-quarters!" she howled.
Callous set the Terbutje against her neck and drew it back for a fatal blow.
A raging Geyser erupted directly beneath her, launching all of them 50' into the sky and scattering them around, in pain, broken, nearly dying. But Inkskin fell right into Callous' welcoming arms. His blade flashed. Her blood cascaded across her breasts, over her belly, and ran pink into the caldera. Inkskin was no more.
They retreated into the shrine, and while Mabon set about healing them, Callous indulged some unspeakable retributive urges with Inkskin's corpse. Afterward he had three treasure maps made from her flayed skin. One which had been tattooed there already, and two which he created with a spell.
They turned their attention to the shrine, reading over the rubbing of the stella which had led them to these ruins. Following the instructions the lit the braziers, focused the mirrors in the room so that the moonlight shone onto the altar and filled the basin in the altar with Inkskin's blood. The crimson pool ignited, pouring black smoke into the air.
As the puddle burned down an ancient dagger appeared. A saw-toothed dagger sized appropriately for an immense Cyclops. For a dwarf it made a perfect Terbutje. Cyclopian magic radiated from the blade, and designs etched along the cutting edge looked like stylized mouths. Callous' deep and resonant chuckle made them all a little uneasy.
After resting, and stripping Inkskin of her valuables, they set off into the caldera, following the map to the cave where Cyrus Wolfe had buried his treasure. They inched carefully down the cliff face, keeping watch for Sahuagin, and cut their way through the vine covered entrance to the cavern. They climbed up into the darkness, finding a spot at the back beneath the roots of an old tree, where it appeared that an ancient man's face stared out of the rock. There they turned the earth up, a greedy gleam in their eyes.
Their spades struck wood a while later and as they brushed the dirt aside they found thick planks covering a tunnel. The tunnel plunged deep below the island, into a sea cave. Someone had been here before them. Someone from below had come and stolen Wolfe's hoard. The Sahuagin.
The sound of their cursing echoed around the caldera and set a flock of jungle birds fluttering into the sky.
Meanwhile, in Port Peril, an old woman fell dead to the ground, a livid black spot spreading across her face.
Chasing Wolfe's Booty
There was a 100' climb down a narrow shaft into pitch black waters to enter the Sahuagin lair. They had prepared as best as possible with Water Breathing, a casting of Slipstream for each of them, and a Daylight from Mabon to push away a little of the claustrophobia. Sploosh.
No sooner had their spelunking begun, but they found themselves in the middle of a Jellyfish Swarm. Nothing like the wonderful feeling of rolling around naked in a bed of nettles. They scrambled for the sides of the cavern, and quickly realized their only way out was to dive - and so they did. The scars from the jellyfish stingers livid in the salt water they kicked their way down into the pressure of the deep caves.
Squeezing through an opening at the bottom of the chute Crimson and Joo Joo were arrested by the sight of something like a cross between a giant sea turtle and a crab blocking the way. It lashed out with fierce pincers, threatening to grind them against the cave wall like a pestle, and then it disappeared. Or rather, everything disappeared. Inky blackness enveloped them all, and the fight in cramped quarters went on, Callous and Mabon slashing blindly at Besmara knows what. Crimson felt his dagger plunge into something meaty. He twisted it hard, holding onto the jagged shell of this aberration until it went still.
They pushed the Tojanida (as they later learned it was called) out of the tunnel into the chute hoping to provide dinner and a distraction for the Jellyfish. Then they swam along the tunnel till it opened into a wide cavern with murky water, heavy with blood and entrails - the chum hall of the Sahuagin tribe.
A morbidly obese mother Sahuagin greeted them, "Welcome to our dining hall. Children... tear them to shreds!" She made a quick exit while from either side a phalanx of shark riding Sahuagin warriors rushed in for the anticipated feast.
And a feast it was, but not for the Sahuagin. Mabon and Crimson teamed up on one side to fight the scaly attackers, while Callous began to metamorphize. He swelled to enormous size, becoming a shark of such ferocity it set even these shark-kin back on their heels. With a chomp her tore one Sahuagin in half. The blood in the water set the other sharks to frenzying. Mounts were turning on riders. Sharks were taking hearty bites out of other sharks. Callous was swallowing great gobbets of blubber and muscle and laughing and laughing.
Joo Joo unleashed an Ear-Piercing Scream at one of the riders who was then devoured by the frenzying sharks. Soon the room was so thick with gore no one could see. With a cold-blooded stare Callous sent the remaining unfriendly sharks fleeing from the room, while he followed his nose toward the heart of the Sahuagin lair.
They swam through curtains of golden seaweed into a mockery of a throne room. A massive throne, marked with runes and sigils of Ghol Gan, perched precariously on piles of colorful coral and sundry tribute to "king" Krelloort. The four-armed Sahuagin Mutant they'd encountered the day before during the fight with Inkskin lounged, nonchalantly, slurping a slice of human liver out of a gaudy gold plated conch.
"More supplicants. Pathetic worms come to grovel in homage to King Krelloort," He said. Behind him the obese Matron nodded, but also used the throne for cover. Joo Joo silently read their body language and concluded correctly, this man is completely insane.
Crimson looked to Callous with a raise eyebrow as if to say, "plan?". Callous used no words but cast Dominate Animal on a nearby shark and ordered it to charge the Matron.
Mabon's Channel Force slammed Krelloort against the throne, perhaps not the best idea since it brought him out with a vengeance crying "Zul Arrack!" and slicing the water with his trident. Krelloort proved to be a terrifying warrior. No matter how they surrounded him he wheeled around, plunging the tines of his trident into their flesh, leaving coral scars, draining their vigor, ripping the flesh from their bodies with his claws, and savagely biting through clothes and leather.
Every ounce of healing magic our heroes could dispense was employed. Every trick in their arsenal was exhausted. Crimson covered his cutlass in blood before he was knocked out of the fight. Mabon tapped his last ounce of energy before he too was sent tumbling unconscious. Even the dominated shark was shredded by the Matron, before it was over. Krelloort had withstood an incredible amount of punishment, and dealt out several times that much. Only Callous and Joo Joo were left. Callous was severely wounded with no chance he would survive even one more barrage of the Sahuagin King's malice. Joo Joo had one more Cure Moderate to offer. Should he use it on Callous and hope the Shark Shaman would be able to dish out enough to end the fight?
Joo Joo cast it on Crimson, reviving him as Krelloort closed in for the decisive kill. Crimson jumped behind Krelloort and he and Callous both attacked - somehow stopping the juggernaut from completing his rampage. His eyes rolled back in his head and his trident floated out of his grasp.
The Matron fled in terror, calling her children throughout the lair to join her in making their way for the open sea.
The relief was so immense it was several minutes before someone remembered they were here to claim a legendary hoard of treasure. They began digging around and besides the tribute and valuables scattered around this room they found a tight passageway down into a treasury behind the throne. Piled in this room, largely in two enormous chests, were silks, furs, precious metals and stones, jewelry, and works of art. The largest deposit of what remained of a lucrative career in piracy. The booty of Captain Cyrus Wolfe.
Amid the pile they found a small music box, no longer working. On the bottom the words were engraved, "For my darling Isabella." Perhaps the proof that Inkskin had sought of her father's end.
How to haul all of this lucre out of here is a question they would strive to answer soon. For a few moments, they just enjoyed the conquest.
The thrilling tales of the Instigating Pirate
So here we sit (Callous, Crimson, Mabon, and I) in the Sahugin lair looking through Captain Cyrus Wolfe's hoard wondering how are we going to get all the loot out of here. Something that I have never thought about in being a pirate is how they move all that loot. Usually when I hear the stories of pirates finding buried treasure they always seem to leave the part out about how they moved the treasure. However at the same time I never really cared how they moved it out I was to busy fantasizing about when I find my own hoard.
Now here I sit with a lot of loot (and a new concertina) and making a mental note to tell the part about how we get all this sh** out of here. However while thinking on this Mabon notices a bit of gold under the throne of the Sahugin king. Being the ever curious pirates that we are we decide that we will lift up the throne and see what under it. And what do we find.... THE REMAINS OF INKSKINS FATHER (who happens to be a mummy). Well of course you know what he does next, he grabs Mabon and vomits some nasty a** bile in his mouth (and I mean NASTY).
I take this opportunity to try out this new concertina that I picked up and I say this now I LOVE THIS THING. I find out that I can teleport, I have a new song, I can teleport, and I can do some nasty a** sonic damage and oh yeah I CAN TELEPORT. So as I am enjoying this new found concertina and I start to hone in on this mummy he recognizes me as a threat (LMAO) and he curses me with his vile throw up kiss (again I say NASTY). I give him another blast of sonic damage and end him (I would say killed but he his already dead).
Now that we have dealt with the father of the evil witch it is time to get out of here because now my days have been numbered to minutes. So we head out and come up in the caldera and see the rest of the sahugin ransacking Ink Skins junk (he he he). I have only minutes before I die so I think that it is only logical to see if maybe the ship that they are ransacking has something that can end this vile curse. Because lets face it I just goat a bad a** concertina and I took out a mummy I kinda want to celebrate my victory. So after letting the Sahugin go and some serious searching we find the stella and three scrolls (one of which is a remove curse).
Once again my racial luck prevails and I am still here doing what I do best. We take a long needed rest on the pillaged junk and wake up the next mo survival on this island.rning to the sounds of our crew from the Instigator looking for us. We quickly explain what happens and I find out that owlbear won the bet due to my survival. So we get the loot and Mabon has been successful in getting the Instigator in the culdera. However he come in bearing bad news the Wormwood has been spotted and is headed our way right now. Callous flys to the top of the island to see whats going on and how many ships Harrigan has at his disposal. Harrigan cast some kind of magical spell and his able to scry on us and knows that we are here. So now we are planning a way to escape this island and flee from Harrigan (yeah right).
So as we are sitting here planning our defense out of nowhere comes flying in a figure with a cool a** cloak. The first thing this figure say to me is who is the Captain of your ship. Still in shock from the sudden appearance and question I point to Callous. She states that she wants to help and that we have a traitor on board that has led Harrigan right to us. She is the onyx wasp (basically a assassin) sent by Calistria the goddess. So she is here to kill the traitor which come to find out is the Croup the cook who by the way decides to kill himself because the black spot of death started to appear (honestly I would to).
Well come to find out the onyx wasp is Scrappy Jack (YEAAAAAA Jack is back). Now that she is here Jack and Callous are arguing over who is now the current Captain of the Instigator. While they do this I run upstairs and tell everybody that “Captain” Jack is alive and well. Toon in next time for the escape from the Blue Ring island.
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The Onyx Wasp Part One
These vignettes tell the story of the Onyx Wasp - at least the one from Calistril of 4708 AR.
Hello. My name is Livdana Giedrence. You are the pirate captain Jaqueline, who some call "Scrappy Jack". I have an offer for you.
No, don't try to move. You are dead. The work of another pirate, Isabella Locke. I have called your spirit here so we may talk, but you are not alive and cannot move your body. Just consider my offer and I will explain everything to you.
I am a priestess of Calistria and mistress of the Siren's Lash, a most famous brothel and... let's say information brokerage, in Port Peril.
Every year we have a little festival to honor the Savored Sting and one thing we do is invite wretches like yourself, sailors who have been wronged, to bring their complaints. Every pirate begins their career with visions of hoards of gold coins, but most end up crippled, drunk, impoverished or all of the above.
What we do is offer them... Did you say hope? Don't be silly. It's Calistria we're talking about here. We offer them something better than hope - vengeance.
None of them could afford an assassin in their sorry state. So we have created a little fiction, an avatar of revenge we call the Onyx Wasp. Each year during Calistril we fulfill ten of these poor bastard's revenge fantasies. We have the Onyx Wasp deliver a bloody little message to whoever it was that wronged them. Calistria helps us by marking our future victims with an indelible black bruise on their face. It's all very... delicious.
Here is where you come into this. There is no Onyx Wasp in truth. We have to create one. I can offer you a True Resurrection - a costly working of magic, but in return you must accept a Geas to fulfill these ten contracts. You must don the mask and wings of the Onyx Wasp.
What do you think?
Being First Mate of the Thresher was almost the best thing Knuckles could imagine. It offered him a steady supply of scum to beat the tar out of whenever he had a whim. Inkskin let him indulge his more depraved needs on captives and mercenaries and whoever else they ran up against on the high seas, and the pay wasn't bad.
Before he'd found his place on the Thresher he'd been a predator in the alleys of Port Peril. He would catch women or young boys and drag them into alleys, beat them senseless, force himself on them and go through their pockets for small change. Not really a good living, but quite a laugh depending on the victim.
One girl in particular had pissed him off when she kicked him in the balls mid-assault. He used a rusty cleaver to cut both her legs off at the knees before he finished his little game. He'd left her in the alley expecting her to bleed out and die. He never knew she lived, that she was still a beggar and sometimes whore in Scrimshaw, and that she petitioned the Siren's Lash for vengeance.
Knuckles was an idiot and a brute. He never understood why he was being attacked by the mysterious figure in the black mask. That crippled girl wasn't the last thing to go through his mind. The point of a black dagger was the last thing.
You will have a few tools to help you do your job.
This dagger will seek out your next target. The names have already been given in prayer to Calistria. She will mark them with the black spot and then you will be able to hunt them, wherever they hide. The sting of this knife will be excruciating to them. We will give you a generous amount of Giant Wasp's Venom which I heartily encourage you to liberally employ.
This cloak will hide you from the light, and carry you through the air like wings should you command it to. Many who have donned the mantle of the Onyx Wasp have also chosen to hide their features behind a mask, color their hair, even disguise their voice. The Onyx Wasp is feared, but there are still some arrogant enough to come after you if they discover your identity.
Lastly, this ring will blur the vision of your enemies, making it easier for you to avoid their attacks. The ten clear stones will turn cloudy and black as you complete your objectives. Once the last contract is fulfilled all of these gifts will return here to the Siren's Lash where we keep them until the next year, and the next Onyx Wasp.
Do you understand?
Every old person was once young. Their frail bodies were once virile. Gwenhilda was bent with age now, but in her youth she had seduced a Mwangi Free Captain while secretly in love with his rival. She had bedded him and drugged him while he slept. He awoke in chains in the Saltfish Camp, a slave. She and her true love stole his ship and sailed the Fever Sea tormenting merchants for almost a decade before her looks faded and her lover cast her aside for a younger woman.
When the Black Spot appeared on her wrinkled face she remembered that little piece of treachery and wondered how the Mwangi Captain had gotten himself out of slavery. The Onyx Wasp slipped in through her bedroom window silently. She didn't fight and the end came quickly.
It had been a couple days since Olin Varrus had been able to sleep easy: ever since that Black Spot had appeared. Outside his richly appointed bedroom mercenaries stood guard, and more mercenaries patrolled in front of the door to his magnificent town house. His bedroom window was boarded over.
He did not intend to leave this little fortress until the spot disappeared. His food was brought into him and tasted first by a servant. His room was beginning to smell of sweat and urine. He jumped at every sound from outside.
These days Olin was a wealthy, semi-legitimate textiles merchant, but he could never forget how he had first come into wealth: by selling his partner to a Chelish Pirate Hunter back when their business had been a little more colorful. The sadistic Chelish Admiral had made him listen as they flayed the skin from his partner's back. The silver ingots had comforted him plenty that night, and his partner's wife had been comforting him many a night since then.
His partner was dead. He was sure of it. How then should the Onyx Wasp be coming for him?
He never figured that out. Just like he never figured out how the Onyx Wasp slipped by his mercenaries and woke him from his fevered sleep with a gentle finger to his lips telling him to keep quiet. He wasn't quiet at all though, when the dagger slipped between his ribs.
It is important that we maintain the mystery which attaches to the persona of the Onyx Wasp. For this reason we encourage you to use stealth as much as you can. Avoid speaking where possible. Leave as little trail as you may - including excess murder. Ten bodies is enough to slake Calistria's bloodlust. Try not to be too eager.
We have procured, at great expense, a few scrolls of Greater Teleport which we will use to arrange most of your travel around the Shackles. We hope to complete all ten contracts within ten days. A feverish pace to be sure, but it will only add to the mystique, giving the impression that the Onyx Wasp can be in many places at once.
I can see by your smile that you are already enjoying this. Good. Calistria approves of pleasure as much as she does vengeance.
You wouldn't think a mediocre pickpocket and fourteen-year-old thug from Drenchport would have lived long enough to earn the kind of enmity that gets one picked for a visit from the Onyx Wasp, but that was Trick. Always precocious. Gifted. Even a bit of a prodigy if you asked him.
He was adopted by an alchemist and his plump wife and three natural-born children when he was just four. No one knew who his real parents were, but Trick told everyone his father was a famous ship's surgeon. One of the best. Probably sailing with the Hurricane King. Or Arronax Endymion. Or someone like that. Too busy to look after a kid, no doubt. And why should he? When there were perfectly ignorant people like the alchemist to take him in and feed Trick for free.
Trick liked practicing to be a surgeon himself one day. Mainly on stray dogs and cats, but he did it to the family pig once and got treated to the switch for it. So one night, late, after his adoptive parents were in bed he snuck in and practiced his surgical skills on them. He knew this would upset his adoptive brothers and sisters, so he'd thought ahead and locked them in their room. He grabbed one of the Alchemist's smoke bottles and threw it under the door to put them all to sleep. Then he loaded up his bag full of things worth selling and bought passage to Port Peril where he hoped to find his famous surgeon father.
Trick never found his dad, but he found the Onyx Wasp. She was pretty good with a knife, so it was kind of the same thing.
Morton Woodgrin died laughing. He was not surprised at all when the Black Spot was staring back at him from the mirror one morning. After a life of selling cheap rum to pirates, running a notorious gambling house, and generally cheating everyone he possibly could, he didn't even bother trying to figure out who in particular had finally appealed to those whores at the Siren's Lash for his blood.
So be it. He took a long swig of something that must have been distilled from donkey urine and grinned, admiring his full set of wooden false teeth.
He thoroughly enjoyed his last day. He drank even more than usual. He told his customers and his employees what he really thought of them (not much). He broke up one game of Bastard's Fool by climbing on the table and pissing on the players. He went to a brothel he often frequented, but for once he worked up the courage to go directly to the matron of the house and paid her 1,000 gold pieces just to give him a kiss. He almost worked up the courage to tell her he loved her, but he vomited instead.
He stumbled out into the rain-soaked street laughing and screaming in his hoarse voice, "Come get me you Onyx bit-"
She got him.
The Savored Sting doesn't deal in gratitude. Once you have completed your ten contracts you owe us nothing further. You will be free to return to whatever life you want - perhaps to pursue a little vengeance of your own. Calistria would certainly approve of that.
You will not, of course, have the tools of the Onyx Wasp any longer and we would frown on you continuing to use that mantle in anyway in your future dealings. There will be a new Onyx Wasp next year, and another the year after that. I suppose you might earn a little notoriety in certain water-side taverns for bragging about your exploits, but it is just as likely that some will despise you for what you've done. Every buccaneer has enemies, and they tend not to like the person who makes them pay for their crimes.
Now, are you ready to begin? Someone in the Shackles is surely wearing a fresh Black Spot this morning.
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The Onyx Wasp Part Two
These vignettes tell the story of the Onyx Wasp - at least the one from Calistril of 4708 AR.
It will not be your privilege to know the stories behind each of your kills. But you're not really in a position to begin experiencing an intrusive conscience are you? This is why we chose you, and I can see that we chose very well this year.
Trust me though, these are tales of woe to make even a prostitute's heart soften. Every year during this festival we hear hundreds of petitions from the dregs of humanity clinging feebly to their diminished lives in every port in the Shackles. Once, I even got misty-eyed myself listening to some child beg us to hunt down and murder the ruffian who attacked his mother. Funny. I can't remember if we accepted that kid's petition or not. No Matter.
The point is that you shouldn't waste time trying to get your victims to confess their crimes or repent or any other such nonsense. This isn't something idiotic like justice we're dispensing here.
The jollyboat bobbed up and down with the waves in the dark. An oil lamp swung back and forth from its hook and Flynn Durnock sitting alone, miles from the shore, scanned the horizon for any sign of the Onyx Wasp. In his hand was a bit of exotic hardware from Alkenstar: a black powder pistol.
Part of him had enough courage left to see the humor in his situation. As a Free Captain he had once been a terror to everyone on the sea. At the height of his career he had three ships under his command. Now he was captain of a dinghy and nothing else. Everything on the sea now terrified him.
He knew exactly why he now bore the Black Spot. Every seaman on his vessel had sworn vengeance against him the day he turned informer for the Chelish Navy. The Chelish granted him immunity, but they strung the rest of his crew up by their necks. A few escaped. One was his former first mate and lover, Wyra.
The Chelish had not ultimately treated him kindly, when they found out he wasn't very well informed. Now he was alone and destitute; a pistol with a single bullet to his name.
A shadow came rushing silently out of the sky, blocking the stars. He put the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Misfire. Of course. The Onyx Wasp moved in for the kill.
Vesyllia was not from the Shackles originally so she had to ask some of her slaves to explain the whole Black Spot thing to her. She did not take it well. She beat the slave who did most of the explaining to within an inch of his life. Then she strangled him with her bare hands.
She went to the Calistrian shrine in Ollo, a sad wet place with sad wet whores working there, and tried to bribe her way out of it. They cackled and told her there was no escaping the Black Spot, but for a price they would be happy to "entertain" her for her last remaining hours. She attacked that stupid whore with a candelabra and managed to pluck an eyeball with her thumb before they dragged her out of there.
She made her slaves carry her palanquin up the muddy hill to the fort of Avimar Sorrenash. She intended to give him an earful about this moronic Black Spot tradition - after she had sold him how many hundreds of Mwangi and Bonuwat slaves at reduced rates? He owed her his protection from whoever this Onyx Wasp person was.
Every gate was closed. The moment anyone saw her Black Spot they simply refused to talk to her. Sorrenash, the bestial bastard, wouldn't take her in anymore than one of the tribes who her mercenaries had been "procuring" her slaves from all these years. Once her household realized this even they abandoned her.
Vesyllia was alone in her foyer when the Onyx Wasp arrived. She held a bullwhip that had belonged to her former foreman. She'd dipped it in glue and rolled it in broken glass, a favorite trick she liked to use on rebellious slaves. She did not die easy.
Because Grohog was simple they thought he didn't understand. An orphan in the filthy back-alleys of Quent, Grohog made his living by amusing the merchants and buccaneers. Usually it was by doing depraved or embarrassing things they dared him to do, like fornicating with animals, or eating sewage, or picking fights with drunkards.
As he grew, the interests of the crowd turned increasingly to violence. For alms he would take on challengers, accepting beatings to make them laugh. Until one day he snapped. He killed the man who he was supposed to let beat him up - broke his femur with one hard kick and then held his face in a mud puddle till he stopped squirming. And the crowd loved it.
From that day forward he fought in taverns, then in pits, against slaves, and prisoners, and whoever they threw at him. They always thought he did it because he didn't know any better, but he knew. He understood. He cried when they weren't watching.
On his very worst day they threw an entire family into the pit with him. The father was sitting tied to a post and forced to watch as Grohog abused and then killed his entire family. It was some kind of punishment for the man. At the end of it the man was untied and he cradled his dead children for what seemed to Grohog for hours.
The next morning Grohog stopped fighting. Managers and bookies yelled at him and whipped him, but he ignored them. Eventually they cast him back into the street where people laughed at him again and he starved. Sometimes he would still do embarrassing or depraved things to get some coins from the sailors, but mostly he just waited for time to pass.
The morning he discovered the Black Spot he cried again, this time with happiness. That day he spent sitting on the beach watching the waves. Around sunset he went to sleep and never woke up.
If you must you can consider this the soft side of Calistria. This is our way of doing charity. Any prostitute learns that it isn't really her holes that her client needs filled. It's the holes in their own souls that drive them into our embrace. The Onyx Wasp is just an extension of our more hedonistic ministries. We're filling holes that can't be filled any other way. Vengeance is sometimes the only option.
Tragically, for the poor even vengeance isn't usually possible. So once a year we give them a little gift. You.
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Her vision cleared, the fog of teleportation lifted and she looked out from a secluded beach over smooth waters. Three ships sailed by night to the South and East. Her dagger pulled toward them. Her penultimate victim would be on one of those vessels. There would be no more spells to help her travel. Her last victim would be somewhere nearby too. Then her contract would be finished.
She spread insectile wings and hovered out over the sea. As she got closer she spotted the colors of the middle ship: a whale corpse full of worms. The Wormwood. Harrigan.
Fortunately her dagger was not directing her toward Harrigan's flagship. It pulled toward one of the smaller vessels. A craft bearing the name Briarpatch. She swooped silently down to the stern and peered through the smoky glass into the captain's cabin.
Inside a stern woman sat writing in a log. The Onyx Wasp slid through an open window, sliding like oil across the intervening space. She spied the Black Spot on the captain's brow and without hesitation she struck.
A tussle ensued, the captain trying to get enough distance to begin casting some defensive spells, the Onyx Wasp trying to complete the kill before alerting the crew. Suddenly a Dimension Door opened and the captain stepped through, disappearing.
From outside the cabin, on the deck of the Briarpatch the Wasp heard the captain's voice call, "Let's see if you're courageous enough to try me in the open air, with witnesses."
Sigh. Things were not going as smoothly as hoped.
She went out onto the deck cautiously to meet her quarry. The captain stood behind a rank of her crew, grinning, "Grab that coward assassin, boys! Tie her down so I can take my time killing her."
The crew moved, but not toward the Wasp. They parted like water before the bow of a ship, lining the gunwales. The captain screamed at them, "What are you doing?! Attack her!!!" but they stared guiltily at the deck or out to sea and shuffled their feet.
The first mate, a dwarf with his beard dyed tangerine orange worked up the courage to speak, "You've got the Black Spot mum. We'll not interfere with the Avatar of Calistria, beggin' you're pardon."
The color drained from the captain's face as she realized she was being betrayed by her entire crew.
Meanwhile, Crimson and Callous were straining to move the huge stone throne off of its plinth. Mabon had spied a hint of gold beneath the throne and being pirates... no gold piece would get left behind.
When the throne toppled over what they saw was macabre. On top of a pile of gold ingots as a ship's wheel and chained to the rotting wheel was a rotting man - the mummified corpse of an ancient mariner. He wore the clothes of an officer and carried the tools of a navigator - Cyrus Wolfe's old navigator, Preston Spar, the very many Isabella "Inkskin" Locke had been searching for: her father.
Mabon leaned in for a closer inspection of his pendant only to be grabbed by the neck and pulled in for the most disgusting kiss of his life. The mummy regurgitated bile down his throat, choking and nauseating him. In pure terror, Mabon fled, while the others tried to destroy this abomination from beyond the grave.
Crimson was soon afflicted with the mummy's choking curse too and Callous, still in the form of a massive Great White Shark was taking terrible punishment from the mummy's claws. Joo Joo, still holding a delicate and valuable looking concertina from the hoard of loot did the least logical thing any of them could think of: he started playing a tune.
The jaunty tune that emanated from the concertina gave them all the sudden urge to dance. As Mabon, recovering from his terror, fell in step with the reel he felt his weapons vibrating with sonic energy. His next blow against the mummy was potent with magical force. Suddenly, Joo Joo struck an accidental note and he disappeared in a whirl of color, reappearing in a spray of harlequin diamonds on the other side of the room.
The mummy continued pressing Callous back, and seemed quite capable of killing them all, weakened as they were after their confrontation with Mad Krelloort. It was then that Joo Joo decided to go postmodern and atonal with his composition, collapsing his concertina into a sharp and discordant crunch which resulted in a wave of sonic energy shooting out of it and pummeling old papa Spar quite brutally.
MORE OF THAT - the rest of our heroes said, and Joo Joo commenced dancing around the mummy in the most ludicrous fashion blasting him repeatedly with magically awful chords. Before he could be sent into his permanent rest the mummy grabbed the wee bard and gave him the curse of the deep as well. One last press on the squeeze box emphatically ended that encounter.
The curse sent them scurrying for the surface.
They came out in the caldera near the Thresher, which the Matron and her Sahuagin clan were busily ransacking. Having no interest in tangling with the landlubber demons that murdered Krelloort the Sahuagin fled (with their bundle of salvage) leaving the sacked Thresher to our heroes.
They boarded and found their Stellae, and a scroll case with a lifesaving Remove Curse within. Everything was going their way.
Things had not gone well for the captain of the Briarpatch. In her fury she'd unleashed some fiery magic on her own crew, but she could not escape the implacable vengeance of the Onyx Wasp. Her corpse was tossed the the sharks with less ceremony than most people give their bowel movement. The ninth stone on the ring went dark.
The Wasp turned, ready to launch into the air and go in search of her final victim, when the first mate approached.
"Excuse me, mum," The tangerine-bearded dwarf said. "It's a bit unorthodox ma'am, but seeing how Harrigan isn't the type to accept excuses so our position with him is frightfully insecure now that Capn's dead... well the crew was wondering if you'd consider taking command of the Briarpatch, mum."
She paused. This was a turn of events she hadn't considered. Sailing to her last victim would work as well as flying, and once her turn as the Onyx Wasp was done, she would need a ship. She smiled. That makes two ships she liberated from Harrigan.
The Briarpatch broke formation with the Wormwood, which was noticed. They sent a garbled message about "taking on water" and "catching up later" which probably didn't fool Harrigan, but the Wormwood and her other companion the Sumac stayed their course.
"What is Harrigan after in such a hurry that he'll just leave one of his ships behind?" The Wasp asked her new first mate.
"Oh, he found out someone who stole from him is sailing in these parts and is intent on vengeance, mum. We were all after a ship once called The Man's Promise but lately sailing under the name the Instigator."
The expedition to recover the hoard of Cyrus Wolfe from the bottom of the Sahuagin lair under the caldera was proving a huge success. That morning Owlbear (with his new hook hand after the fight with the captain of the Devil's Pallor), Sandara, Kipper, and Agiz showed up walking around the lip of the caldera. They'd been sent as a search party after two days had passed with the captain on the island and no sign of him. Together, with the aid of Water Breathing magic they were slowly raising eyebrow raising amounts of plunder from the deep.
Mabon, meanwhile was examining the tattoo they'd peeled from Inkskin's ribs that seemed to explain how she'd maneuvered the Thresher into the caldera. Four ancient words of Gol Ghan cause a previously imperceptible gap in the wall of the volcano to appear, just wide enough to bring the junk through. Mabon and Joo Joo took the Jollyboat which was formerly Sandara's hat and rowed out to guide the Instigator into the safe interior of the Isle of the Blue Ring.
After sharing the news of the incredible haul with the crew, a cry of "sails" was heard. Joo Joo looked through the Farglass and spotted the oncoming Wormwood and Sumac. They raced the Instigator into the caldera where Harrigan could not follow, but they had a strong feeling that their run of good fortune had just struck a reef.
She slowly hovered down into the caldera admiring the sight of her former crew hauling such lucre out of the water. She'd left the Briarpatch anchored a short distance to the north and followed her dagger to her final victim. With some regret she realized that it was leading her directly to the Instigator.
She landed on the deck of her old ship without any attempt at stealth. Alarmed swabs shouted and Captain Callous DeepSea hollered, "Who the devil are you and why are you on my ship?"
"I am the Onyx Wasp. If you haven't heard the name, ask any of your crew, or just look at their faces now and you'll know that I'm no one to be trifled with. I'm here on Calistria's business. It doesn't concern you, but someone below your decks is destined to die this day."
"You're telling me you plan to kill one of my crew and it doesn't concern me?" Callous thundered, but at that point Mabon came up beside him and whispered in his ear what he knew of the legend of the Onyx Wasp. Callous was adamant, "Calistria can go..."
Joo Joo cast Vanish on the Onyx Wasp. "Sorry Captain, sir. You can flog me as you need to, but I don't want to get in the way of an avatar of the goddess of vengeance."
She darted through the hatch and followed the insistent tug of her dagger to the stern of the vessel. Her heart raced a little faster when she saw Crimson Cogward stepping out of the door of the galley - she'd always thought she would end up killing this bastard... but when he looked her direction (not seeing her invisible form) there was no Black Spot on his face. He even seemed sad.
She let Crimson move past her down the corridor while she pushed the door to the galley open. Kroop lay dead on the floor, his wrists slashed and blood drained all across the boards. On his face a livid Black Spot lingered.
Callous came angrily charging below decks, followed by Mabon and Joo Joo. They arrived in the galley just in time to see the Onyx Wasp tenderly closing Kroop's eyes. They watched as the tenth stone in her ring turned black, and with a swirl of shadow her cloak, her mask, her ring, her dagger - all of the accoutrement of the Onyx Wasp disappeared. In the assassin's place stood a defiant looking Undine woman with a familiar smirk.
Scrappy Jack was back.
Okay, this is just a comment from the peanut gallery.
As a player I hate this kind of deus ex machina. You've killed off some loose ends, gotten a way to resurrect a fallen pc that fits into the plot.
As a dm, you can end it it there I suppose, since you control the storyline after all.
But as a player what makes Calistria so special? I mean now that you've done this, why can't the Church of Iomedae summon or create the "Crusader of Iomedae?" Or the Church of Abadar, "The Primal Balancer?" The Church of Lamashtu "The Rough Beast?"
Perhaps the Crusader might pay a visit to the Temple of Calistria and inform them that they are going to face a trial, and answer for their crimes? As a matter of fact there is a "Holy Flame of Inquisition" over the heads of all the Calistrian Priests right now.
Like I said, as dm you can run it any way you want. But as a player I have to wonder why all the gods aren't doing this, since apparently it's ok with whatever constrains the way gods interact with mortals.
I'm also curious. Let's say the priest of another god was one of those marked for vengeance. Would there have been any repercussions of that?
It just seems to me that putting this in a campaign opens things up for "Avatars," as you put it, to duke it out willy nilly over the campaign setting.
But as a player what makes Calistria so special? I mean now that you've done this, why can't the Church of Iomedae summon or create the "Crusader of Iomedae?" Or the Church of Abadar, "The Primal Balancer?" The Church of Lamashtu "The Rough Beast?"
Perhaps the Crusader might pay a visit to the Temple of Calistria and inform them that they are going to face a trial, and answer for their crimes? As a matter of fact there is a "Holy Flame of Inquisition" over the heads of all the Calistrian Priests right now.
Let's say the priest of another god was one of those marked for vengeance. Would there have been any repercussions of that?
I'll try to answer your questions. As always the big "your mileage may vary" disclaimer stands over these kinds of conversations. Feel free to play the game the way you want and I will do the same.
#1 - My top 2 reasons for playing any roleplaying game are FUN (the most important) and STORY. With this in mind whenever a player dies in my game I offer them the choice of whether they want to find a way to continue with that PC or to start with a new character. I want them to do what they will find the most fun. The player who was playing Varanus for example chose to let Varanus stay dead and come back as Mabon. The player who controls Jack wanted to keep playing Jack.
#2 - this is pretty much normal in D&D. The default assumption seems to be that anyone who can afford a True Resurrection spell can get one in a city of sufficient size. Why would it be just fine for priests of Sarenrae to sell True Resurrection spells to any random adventurer, but not for Calistria to use the same magic for her own ends? She's a goddess of vengeance after all. Raising someone for the express purpose of doling out some vengeance seems perfectly within her character. It is also a trope of I don't know how many movies and stories (the Crow anyone?).
#3 - Nothing stops other churches from doing the same that have priests of a high enough level to cast True Resurrection. In fact, I assume they do those things. Golarion is a big world. Plenty is happening that we don't have the scope to cover in a given campaign. By the way, I like the names and ideas you presented for the various faiths. Why wouldn't those things be happening in various parts of the world where their cult was strong. Calistria is one of the strongest cults in the Shackles after Besmara. It makes sense for her to have a visible presence here. I find it much more believable that different cults would use powerful magic like resurrection for their own ends rather than selling it like some crass vending machine. Maybe Iomedae commands his priests to only give Resurrection spells to truly worthy crusaders. Or Abadar has resurrected subjects sign contracts promising to behave in a civilized fashion.
#4 - perhaps you're under the impression that Jack as the Onyx Wasp had special powers granted by Calistria? She was loaned some gear (all appropriate for her level) which was specifically suited to the task, but otherwise she had no supernatural power. The whole Avatar of Calistria angle is more playing on the superstitions of pirates in the Shackles than any factual divine power she was granted. Most of what happened with the Onyx Wasp was also off camera. It was just something worked out between me and the player as a more satisfying way to reenter the story as Jack then to simply sail to Port Peril and pay 10,000gp to your nearest resurrection vendor.
#5 - To me the Onyx Wasp makes great sense within the context of the Shackles an essentially lawless place. It's limited to 10 victims a year and perceived by the populous as a natural limiting factor in a place where might usually makes right. If you are too much of a monster, eventually one of your victims might bend the ear of Calistria and you might find yourself wearing a Black Spot. It encourages a small amount of fairplay among pirates - exactly as the Black Spot worked in Stevenson's novel.
Ultimately, you're free not to like whatever you want. Thanks for reading our campaign journal.
Escaping Harrigan's Wrath
Joo Joo was ready to break out the band for the heartwarming reunion, but Callous and Jack just scowled at each other across the hallway. Only one of them would be captain of the Instigator and they both knew it.
"I've brought in more booty in my time as captain than ten of your entire careers," Callous bristled.
"I got you the map to that booty and came back from the dead as a legendary angel of vengeance," Jack retorted.
Mabon grinned awkwardly, "Um... angry Harrigan just outside this cozy caldera?"
They agreed there was no point comparing, um, dagger size at this very moment. Right now they had a powerful mad free-captain to somehow deal with. Jack would return to the Briarpatch and bring it around from the East to engage either the Sumac or the Wormwood depending on how it played out. The Thresher would be coated in pitch and Callous would sail it out the strait, light it like a torch, and ram it into whichever ship Jack wasn't engaged with. Hopefully that would buy enough time for the Instigator, piloted by Joo Joo, to slip out and make a run for it.
The crew of the Briarpatch was a little thrown off by Jack returning without her Onyx Wasp regalia. Once the first mate realized who she was he had to chuckle with his huge tangerine beard at the predicament he found himself in. Not only had he betrayed notoriously vengeful Barnabus Harrigan, but he'd done so with the very person Harrigan was currently obsessively enraged with. Not exactly a recipe for escaping attention.
In for a copper in for a pirate's hoard.
Scrappy Jack sailed in from the East, ignoring Harrigan's command to stay back, and aiming her Heavy Ballistas at the Wormwood, which moved to intercept her while the Sumac moved into position to block the strait which was the only exit from the Isle of the Blue Ring.
A flaming Thresher appeared in the gap with mad Callous Deepsea at the helm driving her straight for the heart of the Sumac. A Flaming Sphere rolled over the deck of the junk setting the pitch ablaze, while heavy stones rained out of the sky from enemy catapults. The collision sent shards of wood and gobbets of burning pitch heaving into the air. Callous ran from the helm, leaping over the stern of the ship and diving into the sea. The moment he hit the water he shifted into a Great White Shark.
While the crew of the Sumac was tamping out fires and pushing the burning husk of the Thresher away, Jack's Ballistas were tearing holes through Harrigan's sails. From the deck of the Wormwood Peppery Longfarthing was launching Fireball after Fireball at the Instigator which had just appeared in the gap the Thresher left.
Another volley of catapult stones came down, this time on the Instigator bashing great holes in her deck and sending crew scampering for cover. Joo Joo steered her as well as he could, using his Sea Singer prowess to conjure a strong Gust of Wind to skip her over the waves. Callous came swimming alongside her and grabbed a rope, shifting back to his dwarven form, as ten swabs led by Owlbear hauled him in one swift move out of the water and onto the deck.
By then, Jack had brought her vessel up alongside Harrigan's and he looked from his position at the helm across the intervening water to spot her on the wheel of the Briarpatch. Despite a quick attempt at a disguise he recognized her and a vein in his forehead began to throb.
"Peppery! Blow that Undine traitor to smithereens!" he roared.
The Fireball erupted around Jack before she had a chance to duck. She gritted her teeth and held on through the burning pain, taking a great deal of satisfaction in having upset Harrigan so.
Callous took the wheel of the Instigator just in time to swerve hard to miss the wreckage of the still-burning Thresher and the reloading Sumac. Just then a white-hot geyser of flame erupted from the fires on the Thresher flying into the air and dropping liquid fire on everything for 60'. Most of the sailors were instantly blinded and severely scorched to boot. Mabon found himself running up the deck Channeling Energy like a man possessed merely to keep some of them alive. A not inconsiderable number of the crew fell screaming, and aflame into the sea.
The Wormwood's sails were badly damaged, but Harrigan managed to maneuver her to block the Instigator's only path to the sea. Jack's Ballistas crippled her sails in the next moment and as the Instigator closed for an unavoidable collision he ordered his crew to brace for impact and then prepare to board.
Callous leaned hard on the wheel. His ship turned, just slightly. They connected with the Port Stern of the Wormwood and bounced off - they were going to get clear with nothing, but calm seas in front of them!
Cursing Besmara and Gozreh and Dagon and anyone else he could think of Harrigan ran in a fury leaping from the gunwales to cross the gap between the ships. He landed with a shock on the deck of the Instigator and drew his blade vowing to kill every man, woman and animal aboard, when... KRABOM! Mabon Channeled Force into his chest, and having not quite gotten his feet under him, Harrigan tumbled overboard and was dragged beneath the ship.
The Sumac having finally disentangled from the Thresher made a late effort to come around and give pursuit, but they were not fast enough.
Callous took his badly damaged vessel, laden with plunder, as fast as he could toward the horizon, with the Briarpatch covering the retreat. As Joo Joo watched through the Farglass Harrigan was pulled out of the sea, unharmed, but seething with rage. His sails crippled there was nothing he could do, but watch his quarry escape.
Three Days later the two ships dropped anchor back at Tidewater Rock, in bad need of repair, but triumphant.
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Ripples of Infamy
The scowl Callous and Jack shared was legendary, but it lasted only a few seconds. Callous burst into a grin and in front of the entire crew said, "Captain Jack! We're so glad to have you back. I've made your crew rich in your absence, but I'm eager to be relieved of the responsibility."
Jack almost didn't believe this coming from the shark-toothed Dwarf, but she wasn't about to look a gift ship in the bilges. She immediately announced a huge celebration and the whole of Tidewater Rock drowned itself in rum for a few days no one really remembers.
The repairs to the Instigator took a while, giving them time to make plans for the Briarpatch. It was decided to raise the impertinent tangerine-bearded dwarf Kregmor to Captain, and to send Marta over as First Mate with her loyal Rahadoumi sailors. The Briarpatch would be sent to ply the Fever Sea for loot, remaining in Scrappy Jack's fleet and returning to Tidewater Rock monthly for provisions and to report.
Meanwhile, our heroes had a pile of ill-gotten gains burning a hole in their hold. They made for Senghor to unload a goodly portion of their loot, with which they had copper plating added to the Instigator. They widened her tiller, improved her sail, added weapon ports and loaded 6 new Heavy Ballistae onto her before they were done spending coin.
Joo Joo meanwhile spent his evenings in the taverns, boasting of their accomplishments, recruiting crew, and generally making trouble.
There were a few misadventures in Senghor - the kind that happen when sailors are too long in port with too much coin to spend. There was an unfortunate incident with a Rock Troll in the Grand Bazaar. It's possible that a member of a pygmie tribe of Kech contracted a bad case of megalomania from sitting in a cursed throne. And then there was that embarrassing episode with Mabon's parents come all the way from Absalom to "rescue" him from a life of degenerate piracy. But no one likes to dwell on such things.
By the time they sailed out of Senghor the Instigator was practically a new and more deadly ship and the word of their exploits was spreading fast. The first ship they encountered that week simply lowered their colors and surrendered. In Bloodcove, where they sold the stellae which had proved so valuable, they heard some of Joo Joo's boasts being whispered.
Mabon took the time in the Aspis Consortium city to drink with old Tom Swick and his elaborate fibs about his pirate "friends". His curiosity was piqued when he heard of fetishes consecrated to Besmara with magical powers. Some time spent in the Consortium guildhouse library was more tantalizing still. A pirate always follows rumors of treasure.
They were nearly ready to sail to Port Peril and seek a letter of Marque from the Hurricane King. They relished seeing the look on Harrigan's face when they next confronted him as equals - Free Captains of the Shackles. But there was one more lead they had to follow, a dwarven vessel from the Cape, supposedly bound for Port Eleder fresh from the Purple Coral Bight and loaded with rare ores from undersea.
They made for the waters near the mouth of Desperation Bay, keeping someone in the Crow's Nest with the Farglass watching for their next prize.
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They had been chasing the blasted clanking, smoking, Dwarven vessel Bronze Nautilus for what felt like weeks, but was only hours. Every time they closed in the thing would catch some infernal burst of speed even though it was sailing almost directly into the wind. Callous employed every sailor's trick he knew to keep pace and Joo Joo sang his little lungs out stirring up a breeze, but it was no use.
Mabon fired their new ballistae into their sails, but it had no effect. The stern of the Dwarven ship opened up like some metal maw and a powerful Dwarven trebuchet returned fire. It had an effect. It wasn't pretty.
Callous handed the wheel over to Jack and dove into the water shifting into his shark form. He rushed through the sea as fast as his powerful tail could propel him, just catching the Bronze Nautilus and seeing an enormous wheel churning under its stern, propelling it forward.
Warp Wood! No effect.
He shifted back into his dwarven form and attached an Anchor Feather Token to the keel of the boat. Nothing. It was warded against magic, impossibly fast moving into the wind, and packing some unpleasant firepower.
For the first time our heroes watched a prize slip over the horizon. It hurt their hearts thinking about all that valuable ore locked up in that hold. Dejected they set a course back to the North, toward the Shackles.
That night Jack awoke with a shiver. In the distance a bell was ringing. She walked out on deck and put a glass to her eye to spot a Magnimarian whaler, cut low to the water, cruising across a nearly full moon: the Deathknell.
None of the crew slept that night. Mabon rocked himself back in forth in terror, muttering about "creampuffs". Joo Joo seemed to almost take pleasure in retelling every story he knew about the Whalebone Pilk and his crew of Brine Zombies and Horrors from beyond the grave. Jack and Callous conferred over a map of the Mwangi coastline.
They were a week or more from Senghor. No villages or known harbors to speak of in this dangerous part of the coast. The only port close enough to offer hope was Eleder, two days back to the South. It was not where they wanted to head, but there hardly seemed to be a choice. All the legends of the Deathknell said that on the third night of stalking it rose up right under her prey and consumed every living soul aboard.
They sailed the next day with determination, eating up the miles to the horizon. That night they spotted the ghost ship again. This time a fog arose beforehand, and they heard that bell clanging. The fog lifted just long enough for them to make out the peeling letters on the rotted wood of the bow: Deathknell. It disappeared again.
They pressed on through the night into the very opening of Desperation Bay, but in the morning: disaster. Their sails went slack. Their colors drooped. They slid to a dead stop in the water. They were becalmed.
It would take a full day of sailing with good wind to make Eleder before nightfall. That was impossible now. The shore was out of sight, maybe 15 nautical miles or more away. If they sank here they would all die.
Jack ordered men into the longboats, and spewing threats like she never had before she drove them through the heat and sun toward the shore. Late afternoon they heard the cry of "Land Ho!" By dusk they were getting close, but it would be too late. The fog began rolling in.
"Creampuffs!" Mabon screamed from the Crow's Nest as a bell began ringing. Dread gripped every heart aboard the Instigator.
But Joo Joo wasn't ready to give up. He struck a chord on his concertina and called up a wind. Using every last ounce of his Bardic savvy he ran the Instigator aground.
The shock sent crew flying overboard and a spray of salt and sand rushed over the bow. The copper-plated vessel turned with a terrible croak and fell to her side on the beach.
Offshore the Deathknell slid into view. Old Whalebone Pilk his rotted flesh peeling from his skull stood at the mast ringing the bell like an insane acolyte. He pointed a bony finger toward shore and shouted, "They would try to rob us of a prize, my boys! Go and bring me their souls!"
At that a horde of Brine Zombies, Skeletons, and Lacedons gripping rusted cutlasses and pikes leaped over the gunwales and waded through the surf toward our heroes.
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Death of Deathknell
Mabon, confronting his personal nightmare, dropped his cutlass and his holy symbol, turned, and ran into the jungle.
The undead sloshed their way through the surf toward the beached Instigator and her apprehensive crew. Callous called lightning on Whalebone Pilk and dropped a Stone Call on the horde of walking dead. Jack made her way around the side of the battle seeking an advantageous position, while Joo Joo confronted the horrifying reality of being completely out of Bardic music - which he also uses to activate his enchanted Concertina, thus severely crippling his utility in the fight.
The clang of cutlasses, the crash of the waves, and the roars of death and dying filled the air.
Joo Joo summoned all his chutzpah to taunt Whalebone Pilk away from his safe perch on the Deathknell. Pilk obliged and charged up to the halfling, sending a spectral hand out to choke the very life out of him. Callous interrupted that with some larcenous mad monkeys who quickly stole Pilk's Harpoon, and Jack rushed up from behind to savage the undead captain with her blades - one of which was a new find hidden among the belongings of the former captain of the Briarpatch, and shimmered with arcane energy.
Pilk dished out some pain, fearlessly laughing as they hacked his rotted ribcage apart and knocked his jaw spinning into the sea. Jack's final blow completely severed his spine, but he merely roared with mirth as his body dissolved into salt water and disappeared. A blink of an eye later the entire crew of the Deathknell exploded in a carnage of barnacles and bone grievously injuring more than a dozen flesh and blood sailors.
All was calm for only a moment, before they heard the bell on the Deathknell start chiming again.
"They're coming back!" Jack shouted, and it dawned on each of them that even if they repulsed them a hundred times this fight would never end well for the living.
Mabon, having finally mastered his fear, strode back out of the jungle and retrieved his holy symbol. He looked across the water with steely eyes and said, "Pilk does seem fond of that bell, doesn't he?"
Nothing more had to be said. Callous was already swimming in Ray form out to the ghost ship. Jack, too was plunging through the waves. Mabon, wearing the Buccaneer's Breastplate walked over the water with purpose. Only poor Joo Joo was left spitting salt-water and paddling ineffectually and saying, "wait for me!"
Pilk dropped like a cloud out of the bell his eyes like blue fire, cackling madly as he ordered his crew re-formed to attack once more. They poured into the water around Jack and Mabon, hacking and tearing. Mabon steeled himself and calling on Besmara let forth a burst of positive energy to pummel the un-life all around. Again and again Mabon surged with divine power, devastating the horde, but more climbed out of the bony hold each passing moment.
Jack scaled the hull and launched herself at the bell, which sent Pilk into a rage. Callous Called Lightning down from the sky to assault the bell, and was set upon by Brine Zombies for it. A Lacedon paralyzed Jack and Pilk started squeezing the breath from her lungs with his spectral hand. Callous drew his attention away with another strike at the bell.
Another surge from Mabon sent most of the skeletons clattering into heaps and sinking, but a concerted effort from the remaining zombies and ghouls saw him surrounded, grappled, pinned, and paralyzed. They prepared to have an unholy feast at his expense, while he could do nothing but watch his worst fear realized.
It was then that Joo Joo finally swam far enough out to cast a Reach Spell enhanced Cure Moderate on Mabon. Not exactly an earth-shattering act, but it was enough to buy the Aasimar another moment.
A moment was all it took for Jack and Callous to destroy the bell.
The crew of the Deathknell dissolved into salt water, while Pilk raged and thrashed. The ship quaked and began to sink, rapidly. Jack made her escape and Callous turned to do the same, when a thought occurred to him. His ancient Terbutje had a way of hungering. Once in a while it would unleash a deathknell on a victim, a bit of necromatic magic that would ordinarily have no effect on the undead. But Pilk was no ordinary undead. With the bell that chained him to this plane now sundered perhaps...
He struck Pilk's crumbling body with the Terbutje and a surge of negative energy poured out of the old whaler's corpse, and out of the ship itself. The whole thing was absorbed in a sudden cyclone of dark power and sucked into this artifact of Gol Ghan which thereafter pulsed with black light. He had deathknelled the Deathknell.
Our heroes dragged themselves ashore laughing and lying in the warm surf. Even if Joo Joo tried he wouldn't be able to exaggerate this one much in the ports.
Hot labor and magic dug the Instigator out and got them back on the Fever Sea. They made their way back to Tidewater Rock for repairs and provisions. Then on to Port Peril. Surely not even the Hurricane King could deny that they had earned the right to join the Free Captains.
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Oh, I have seen wonders you never have dreamed,
And taken my fair share I must say.
Holds full of booty I happily seized,
From crews who would not see a new day.
Chelish gold came and went, and gemstones were sold,
And I knew more lay on the horizon.
Yet the beer was too good, and gals were too sweet,
And now in my old age, it's gone.
These memories were bought with the lives of good men,
A price that I paid without scruple.
So many so suffered so I could get drunk,
And swagger from brothel to brothel.
Now for what? (HEY! )
It's been many years,
The screams of the vanquished still ring in my ears.
But for what? (HEY! )
I've blood on my hands,
I wait for my place in the halls of the damned.
And if I could go back and make my amends,
I'd make all those mistakes again.
I'D KILL EVERY LAST ONE OF THOSE BASTARDS, MY FRIENDS!
Callous sang along, slamming rum after rum down into into his bearded gullet. JooJoo had comandeered the stage and was leading TWO bands in a deafening ruckus. Despite growing up in the Mwangi expanse in a small tribe of dwarves, he had come to love the rollicking press of humanity and the ever present threat of violence in the ports of the Fever Sea. The rum and whores weren't too shabby either. The minute the crew had been warned off the Mermaid's Bucket, Callous knew that he, Crimson and JooJoo were bound to tear it up. Even Cap'n Jack's babysitting presence couldn't put him off his mood, buoyed by the Bucket's "Bucket o' Rum" special. Lost in his rum and good feelings, Callous completely tuned out Maben's warning. But suddenly, while he was humming along, the tune changed, JooJoo's voice seemingly pitched to convey a note of warning. Callous felt a shove and an elbow jostle him as people moved out of the way. A row! Just the thing to set the night off proper. Turning around, Callous spotted a group of hobgoblins surrounding his Captain. He smiled a terrifying smile, his jaw extending and drooping to revel row after row of serrated shark teeth. These fish-bellied goblin sons of whores shouldn't be a problem for him and Jack. Callous wasn't wrong, as one by one they dropped to Jack's flashing daggers or his fists and teeth. The faces of the goblinoids twisted in fear and anger. Callous wondered why they seemed so intent on Captain Jack. They hadn't even scratched him. Tackling the final attacker, Callous slammed him into the floor asking, "Who sent ye?" A sullen silence greeted him. "Seeing as yer boys are dead on the floor, ye might want to answer, else ye'll be joinin' 'em." Glancing around, the wounded hobgoblin spit a name. "Gortus Svard's our Captain and he paid for her death." "Thanks", said Callous and with a meaty rip tore the goblin's throat out with his teeth. Searching the bodies Callous came up with a handful of purses. "Drinks!" he roared. In all the commotion he had completely forgotten Maben and JooJoo...
Welcome to Port Peril
Most of her sails lowered, the Instigator, slowly slipped by the Dead Man's Dance Hall on her way through the narrows into the bustling sheltered bay of Port Peril. Gruesome skeletons and less decayed corpses dangled in cages and from chains under the stone arch not-so-subtly promising a bad end to those with silly ideas of crossing the Hurricane King.
A scintillating illusory bird appeared midship and with a squawk demanded their name, business, and provenance. Scrappy Jack replied matter-of-fact, and the bird commanded them to pull into a berth in Crescent Harbor for quarantine and inspection.
Amid a forest of masts, and ant-trails of jolly boats squeezing through the traffic they lowered their sails and tossed lines down to the docks, which were caught by able hands of every race and ethnicity rapidly going about their work. The harbor master was a dwarven Wizard being trailed by a buzzing cloud of homonculi delivering messages, awaiting orders, and helping him to oversee the whole operation. He asked permission to board and clicking his many rings together he quickly assessed our heroes.
"If'n you want an audience with the Hurricane King, you'll need to send a message to Fort Hazard with a suitably impressive... gift, for his saltiness. Your ship has to stay in quarantine a week, though you and your crew can enjoy the Crescent Island while you wait. Have a care, if you start trouble with a bigger shark than yourselves, no one is likely to care much if you get swallowed here. This is Port Peril, not Port Cozy."
Conferring quickly they determined to offer the Harbormaster a healthy kickback if he could "expedite" their audience with the Hurricane King, and shorten their quarantine. He smiled, dropping the coins into a extra-dimensional space in his robes, and assured them that most things could be "expedited" in Port Peril. He warned them that he would be having their ship searched though, best just to play nice, and with that he departed leaving a small group of dock hands to do the searching with True Seeing ointment.
An eager hand offered the friendly suggestion that they steer clear of the Mermaid's Bucket, "An overrated tourist trap, to be sure," and instead patronize the Riptide Alehouse. Callous nodded and waited for the man to leave before turning to Crimson and laughing - "Mermaid's Bucket it is!" he roared.
Captain Jack saw it all going wrong, and she tried to stop it, she did, but the magnetic pull of the biggest and most depraved port in all of Garund was too strong. Next thing she knew, she and all of her officers and a goodly portion of her crew were in the Mermaid's Bucket drinking pots of Fire Rum, cavorting with ladies of the night, gambling and worse. Joo Joo had somehow taken over two separate bands shortly after arriving and was leading the whole ensemble in some raucous performing, while Mabon used his slippers of spider-climbing to dance on the ceiling and spill more rum than he was drinking.
Mabon had the perfect vantage point to see the ambush coming. A group of Hobgoblins surrounded Jack and began pummeling her with spiked knuckles. Chaos broke out in the taphouse, and a young familiar looking girl tried to slip out the door unnoticed. Mabon saw her slipping a vial in her sleeve after having put something in a patron's drink.
Callous, Crimson and Jack went merrily about crushing skulls and breaking ribs between swigs, while Mabon alerted Joo Joo to the suspicious girl. Joo Joo recognized her as the former cabin girl from the Wormwood, "Caulky" Taroon - and he was suddenly very alert.
He activated his magical concertina and surrounded her with a Wall of Sound. She pushed on through, ignoring the pain and tried to run for it, but Joo Joo took a quick Jester's Jaunt and annihilated her with several blasts of sonic damage. She crumpled into a heap and he blasted her again. Admittedly, it didn't look the best to passersby for him to be magically obliterating an 8-year-old girl.
Inside they'd taken care of the ambush and Callous was interrogating the remaining conscious Hobgoblin. He learned, to no one's surprise, that they'd been sent by Gortus Svard, an old foe from the Devil's Pallor. Apparently the green guy was holding a grudge against Jack. Mabon healed them up and went out to check on Joo Joo...
...who had suffered an embarrassing turn of events. A brown-toothed Orc named Imgruk had tackled and pinned, and then hog-tied him growling something about not tolerating men who beat on little girls. Apparently Imgruk didn't see the irony of their significant size-difference, and Joo Joo only just talked his way out of a fatal beating. Instead, Imgruk stood up, grabbing the precious concertina and said he would take it to be sure that Joo Joo didn't use it to abuse anymore children.
Mabon, might have offered assistance, but he was doing his best to keep from passing out with laughter, while he healed "Caulky", narrowly saving her life. Imgruk disappeared into the crowds of Port Peril with Joo Joo's concertina.
No one could persuade Callous to leave the Mermaid's Bucket so Jack and Mabon cut Joo Joo free and carried "Caulky's" broken body back to the Instigator wondering what on earth they were going to do with a child who owed her loyalty to Barnabus Harrigan.