Tales of Lost Omens: The Sea's Vengeance

Wednesday, June 27, 2019

"Got us between Hell and high water again, Captain!" Giant ducked spray and shot a glare to her captain. She didn't have to duck much; even standing on a box step, the halfling was barely tall enough to see over the ship's wheel.

Devrin Arlos just laughed and eyed the six Chelish warships closing in on them. They'd chased Nightwave all the way from the Arch of Aroden, along the coast of Rahadoum, and through the treacherous Jagged Reach. They weren't likely to give up now. Ahead loomed the Eye of Abendego.

Illustration by Yasen Stoilov

"Wouldn't have it any other way. Don't worry! Nightwave can take it!"

She struggled with the wheel. "Maybe time to put a reef in the forecourse?"

"Long past time, but I was hoping—" A crack louder than a ballista shot pierced the howl of the wind, drawing his attention back to their nearest pursuer. "Hoping for that."

The foremost Corentine frigate's foretopmast shattered, falling with yards of shredded canvas and a mile of tangled cordage. Sailors scrambled to hack the wreckage away, but the ship slewed off course, and jibed her mizzen boom, ripping yet more canvas.

"Payback's a bitch!" Vulmia Manux, Devrin's navigator and general fix-it go-to, shook an ebony fist at the struggling ship. The Mwangi half-elf was still sore that Nightwave had been damaged by the Corentines’ hell-spawned minions. The Corentines were out of devils now, and clearly intended to overpower the Firebrand ship with brute force.

"Reef the forecourse and tops'ls." Devrin squinted forward. "Take her a point to starboard, Giant. Batten down and rig lifelines! We're going in!"

The crew responded without question. The outer wall of the perpetual storm towered in a burgeoning barrier of torrential rain and wind, mountainous seas, and deadly currents. A glance back confirmed that their pursuers were also shortening sail, but hadn't broken off the chase.

"Come and get me, you bastards!" Devrin shouted.

"You taking this personal, Captain?" Nightwave's bosun, Gaspiya, dropped down from the mizzen shrouds, eyeing him with concern, her lip curled back from her short tusks.

"No, but somebody's got to teach them that they don't own the whole damned sea!" He clapped Vulmia on her shoulder and grinned. "Don't worry. We've got them right where we want them."

"Sorry, sir." Vulmia nodded and squinted into the screaming wind. "I just think we might have bit off more than we can chew. Six to one?"

"I said, don't worry! That's my job, right?" Devrin flashed a rakish smile and pointed to the impending wall of the storm. "Give Giant a hand at the helm and hold fast! We're in for a trouncing!"

The storm hit them like a charging bull, with rain so thick he could barely see their nearest pursuer slashing hard enough to sting exposed skin. The seas mounted to vertical walls higher than Nightwave's topsails, their plunging tops threatening to overwhelm them. Nightwave staggered as a wave broke over the ship’s stern, and Devrin struggled to stay put in the waist-deep deluge. Lightning lit the sky in sheets, but the captain howled and laughed into the teeth of the storm.

"Captain!" Devrin's cabin boy, a stout young man from Katapesh, pointed abeam. "They're trying to cut us off!"

Devrin shielded his eyes and squinted at the Corentine frigate, Helldawn, plunging down a towering wave. "How in bloody blue blazes did they—" Then he spotted the tornado of animate water at the ship's bow, pulling on two thick ropes like a massive draft horse. "They've summoned an elemental!"

A webbed hand closed on Devrin's shoulder. "It's time, Captain."

He turned to look into the blue-on-blue features of Ris, an undine and recent addition to his crew. It had been Ris who had told him about the Chelish plan to dump tons of toxic mine tailings onto a submarine merfolk city in the Hellmouth Gulf. At his behest, she had delved the depths to warn the merfolk. With no way to forestall the Chelish, the merfolk had evacuated their city, saving tens of thousands of lives. Now was the time for retribution.

"You're sure, Ris? The seas—"

Another wave buried Nightwave's quarterdeck, but while the rest of them struggled to stay upright, Ris reveled in the torrent, her lips curving from pearly teeth in glee. The deluge flowed off her blue skin and sharkskin leathers, lending strength to her slim frame.

"I'm sure, my captain." Ris lifted a willowy arm to point to a towering swell, a hundred feet of sheer water. Lightning lit the sky behind the wave, illuminating thousands of sinuous shapes within.

Devrin's mouth dropped open at the sight. A vast school of merfolk, tridents in hand, their marine minions swimming along with them, shapes enormous and terrible, yet beautiful.

"Sing them a song, Ris!"

"I will, my captain." She pulled the lyre from her back, an enchanted instrument crafted from shell, narwhal horn, and mother of pearl. A wave crested to break against the ship's quarter, and Ris dove straight into the tortuous sea.

"Hope she hurries up!" Vulmia shouted over the roar of wind and water. "They're getting close!"

Indeed, Helldawn was closing fast. At the peak of a swell, the ship yawed, and ballistae cracked. The deadly bolts flew at Nightwave with unerring accuracy, holing sails, smashing into the hull, and impaling flesh. Devrin bellowed for the ship's cleric, Rikkan, to see to the injured, even as the holed sails tore to shreds in the hurricane winds. Vulma, Gaspiya, and the top-crews clambered up the ratlines like spiders to cut away the torn canvas, but the damage was done. Nightwave slewed with the uneven strain and nearly broached on a towering wave.

"Captain!" Giant screamed, fighting the wheel with all her strength. "She'll roll on the next one if we don't get some sail aloft!"

Devrin fought his way to the binnacle and flung open the hatch beneath the compass. There, in a golden frame, sat an apple-sized emerald glowing with an inner light, Nightwave's heart.

The captain placed a hand on the gem and spoke low. "Spirits of the deep, hear my call. Claim your places at my side! Make sail!"

The spirits of a hundred and one sailors lost at sea surged from the gem in a translucent torrent, racing aloft, untouched by the hurricane winds. Ethereal canvas billowed on ghostly winds to pull Nightwave upright. Her bow pointed down the next towering swell, and they raced forth. The ghostly sails faded away quickly, but they had saved the ship.

The burst of speed had taken them out of range of Helldawn's ballistae, but for how long? The peak of a wave blocked their view of Helldawn, but then both ships rose, and Devrin saw their salvation surging from the depths.

"She rises!" he bellowed, as the behemoth surged from the sea, an orca of such massive size that it dwarfed the leviathans of the deep.

The monstrous whale breeched to the height of Helldawn's main crosstrees, and came down amidships. Timbers snapped like kindling, planks exploding with the horrific impact. The ship's keel snapped with a report that Devrin felt through the soles of his boots. The ship foundered, broken in half, two hundred sailors, gone in one moment of vengeance.

"Payback!" Vulmia screamed from aloft, and the captain and crew of Nightwave cheered.

In a moment of eerie clarity, the torrential rains ceased. The remaining Corentine ships stood there, stark against the raging storm.

Then, from the sea, vengeance rose like a plague of demons from the abyss.

Tentacles ensnared one ship, tearing at wood and flesh, while the jaws of a megalodon ripped at the hull of another. Thousands of merfolk surged up the sides of a third, their tridents crackling with electricity, torrents of water blasting Chelish sailors and marines off the deck. A fourth ship surged upward as a vast shape thrust up from beneath. The dragon turtle's spiked shell smashed through the deck of the ship, and the beast thrashed, splintering wood and crushing sailors. The last ship in the armada tried to flee, but the sea behind them frothed with the fury of the merfolk. In their haste, the Corentine captain must have forgotten about the storm. A breaking sea took them on the beam, and the ship capsized, masts snapping like felled trees. When the wave rolled past, there was nothing left but flotsam.

Devrin stared in silent shock for a long moment. Six ships, twelve hundred sailors...gone.

"Captain." Ris touched her captain's shoulder, and he turned to see the undine's sorrow. "I'm sorry. I sang the song of vengeance to them. They needed no such encouragement."

"I wish we could have let that last ship go, just to take the message back to Cheliax." He scanned the sea, but it was clear that there would be no survivors. "Maybe it would have prevented another incident like this."

"Perhaps." Ris shook her head. "But the sea is a harsh mistress, and even Hell lacks the wrath to thwart her will."

Chris A. Jackson
Contributing Author

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Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Web Fiction
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13 people marked this as a favorite.

Huzzah!

It was great to work with Chris on this piece. The art depicts the Nightwave, a ship originally from a home campaign of mine. It's a pretty amazing feeling to get a great author like Chris to write your characters into a cool piece of fiction.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Wow. I loved this one. Skull & Shackles was one of my favorite APs, and that storm is as much a character as any other! Bravo!


3 people marked this as a favorite.

This is AWESOME!!

\(^o^)/

Carry on,

--C.


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Well done. I felt like I too was on the deck of the Nightwave.

Grand Lodge

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

As a veteran of Skull and Shackles as well, this was masterfully done.


6 people marked this as a favorite.

... Holy ship, this was fantastic. Perhaps a couple characters too many and gods know I can't understand all those nautical terms worth a damn, but still! Honestly awesome fiction, loved it, great pacing and imagery...

Oh and by the way, love the art (yes - really! Mark your calendars).


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Another veteran of Skull and Shackles, going to return again some day. Loved the story and the art work. When can we see Pathfinder Novels again! Really looking forward to another Dave Gross books, one of my favorite authors!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Let's see what I remember from reading Hornblower.

Reefing means shortening your sails by folding or rolling them. Lowers your speed but also reduces strain. Balancing speed vs. strain is really important with sailing ships. The courses are the biggest, lowest sails on the masts, and the topsails (or tops'ls) are the ones right above them. Above that are topgallants (t'gallants) and royals if your ship has them.

Foretopmast is the second segment of the fore mast. Where the tops'ls hang.

The mizzen boom is like a side arm on the rear (mizzen) mast, I think with a staysail (attached to a stay, a line running fore or aft from a mast), and jibbing it just means moving it to the other side of the ship. Since it was presumably tied down, the storm had to rip things to move it.

The crosstrees are where the shrouds (lines that support the mast) meet the mast. Probably near the tops (platforms on the masts, where topmen hang out). So decently high for the whale to reach.

"On the beam" means the waves hit right on the side of the ship. Very bad. You want to steer into waves.

Confirmed some of this with the internet, but it's confusing stuff.

The Exchange

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

This tale of lost omens was my favorite by far.
By enough to get me to post, something I rarely do.

Huzzah indeed!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Oh I f&$+ing loved this. I’m planning a Pirate Campaign for my party and this was beautiful.

Beware the Daughter of the Sea!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Great story! Too bad they stole my idea of a Halfling named "Giant" though. :P

(At least this one isn't a 4'6" tall gladiator like mine...)

The Exchange

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Aye, t'is a fine tale! The crew shall sing a mighty sea shanty to honor the tale. An extra rum ration for the author!

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Luis Loza wrote:

Huzzah!

It was great to work with Chris on this piece. The art depicts the Nightwave, a ship originally from a home campaign of mine. It's a pretty amazing feeling to get a great author like Chris to write your characters into a cool piece of fiction.

Awesome!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Gwaihir Scout wrote:

Let's see what I remember from reading Hornblower.

Reefing means shortening your sails by folding or rolling them. Lowers your speed but also reduces strain. Balancing speed vs. strain is really important with sailing ships. The courses are the biggest, lowest sails on the masts, and the topsails (or tops'ls) are the ones right above them. Above that are topgallants (t'gallants) and royals if your ship has them.

Foretopmast is the second segment of the fore mast. Where the tops'ls hang.

The mizzen boom is like a side arm on the rear (mizzen) mast, I think with a staysail (attached to a stay, a line running fore or aft from a mast), and jibbing it just means moving it to the other side of the ship. Since it was presumably tied down, the storm had to rip things to move it.

The crosstrees are where the shrouds (lines that support the mast) meet the mast. Probably near the tops (platforms on the masts, where topmen hang out). So decently high for the whale to reach.

"On the beam" means the waves hit right on the side of the ship. Very bad. You want to steer into waves.

Confirmed some of this with the internet, but it's confusing stuff.

That's an awesome list of meanings you've gathered, I knew practically nothing of these terms (I stop at forecastle, keel, that kind of basic stuff). Is there a way to bookmark not the whole blog but just your post? I bet I'll need it in the future.

I just wish I had this kind of help for my first language, Italian. Right now I don't plan to write nautical-themed stories but I hope in the future I'll be able to, and I need to find something as good as your explanation. I wouldn't know how to even begin translating any of the words and phrases you touched upon! XD


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:
Gwaihir Scout wrote:
Cool nautical jargon.

That's an awesome list of meanings you've gathered, I knew practically nothing of these terms (I stop at forecastle, keel, that kind of basic stuff). Is there a way to bookmark not the whole blog but just your post? I bet I'll need it in the future.

<snip>

Hey Roswynn,

Unfortunately, there isn't a way to bookmark posts...

However, when I want to 'bookmark' a post, I favorite it. Then I can go back to it from my Profile (under 'Favorites').
Of course, you might already know & do this. Also, if you've favorited a lot of posts, this wouldn't be as convenient as a bookmark...

Hope this is helpful to you.

Carry on,

--C.

Contributor

8 people marked this as a favorite.

Thanks everyone for the comments, and thanks again to Luis for letting me use his ship and characters! Heavy weather sailing is terrifying and, at the same time, awe inspiring. Glad that came through. I really wanted the sea to strike fear in the Chelish...

I ran Skulls and Shackles for my group, and we had a great time with the AP, and had a really eclectic crew. Sorcerer/barbarian captain, Besmara cleric first mate, badass peg-leg bosun, and a gillman rogue master at arms. I loved using the ship flip-maps for ship-to-ship combat. Deck combat was so awesome!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Roswynn wrote:
Is there a way to bookmark not the whole blog but just your post?

You can click on a post's timestamp, and that gives you a link that takes you directly to the post. Glad you found it helpful.

You should see if the Hornblower or Aubrey-Maturin series are translated into Italian.

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Huzzah indeed! Well done, Chris, well done! :)


1 person marked this as a favorite.

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHA! STUPID HUMANS! Shoulda tried biting those sea-thingys. Oh well!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Gwaihir Scout wrote:
Roswynn wrote:
Is there a way to bookmark not the whole blog but just your post?

You can click on a post's timestamp, and that gives you a link that takes you directly to the post. Glad you found it helpful.

You should see if the Hornblower or Aubrey-Maturin series are translated into Italian.

Thank you, it worked! (Thanks to Psiphyre too for the valiant attempt! ;) )

I'm sure those series have been translated... I'd prefer something more akin to your post though, like a list of terms and their related meanings in muggle-talk - I think I'll need to check Wikipedia and very likely google around for some sites discussing the topic. I've found many glossaries and informative articles for hoplology, European martial arts, ancient weaponry and so on, even in Italian, so I believe I should be able to dig up some dirt if I put my mind to it...

Thank you! ^___^


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Queen Abrogail II of the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune learned a harsh lesson that day! She may be mistresses of the kingdom of Cheliax, but the ocean has no masters and Abrogail's kingdom ENDS as soon as the safety of solid land meets the maelstrom of the SEA!

Shadow Lodge

Why did the Chelaxians decide to dump mine tailings on merfolk city?

Shadow Lodge

14 people marked this as a favorite.

Capitalism.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Serum wrote:
Why did the Chelaxians decide to dump mine tailings on merfolk city?

Probably because they hated the Merfolk and thought dumping their crap into the ocean would be convenient. Two birds, one stone. Unfortunately for House Thrune, the decision came back to bite Cheliax in the butt REALLY HARD!

Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Serum wrote:
Why did the Chelaxians decide to dump mine tailings on merfolk city?

They were running behind on their Pointless Evil quota for that month.

Dark Archive

Serum wrote:
Why did the Chelaxians decide to dump mine tailings on merfolk city?

Probably tried to get the merfolk to A) acknowledge Cheliax as their sovereign and make them their gumby, like Isger, B) get the merfolk to pay tribute / taxes, and / or C) get the merfolk to attack / harrass their competitors on the open sea, like Andoren anti-slavers, and got told to go fish by the merfolk, and are retaliating by dumping toxic garbage on them, since it's the easiest way to attack a merfolk city.


Post's missing the Tales of Lost Omens blog tag, yarr

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