Twenty Rumors

Skull & Shackles

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I wrote up twenty-odd rumors. I mean to print them out, cut them up, and hand a few of them out to my players whenever they happen to go ashore and visit a tavern. If you want to use them then it's up to you which of them, if any, is true. Or even remotely accurate. They are sailor's stories, after all, so you can bet half are lies and the other half exaggerations. You might have your players make the appropriate knowledge check to decide whether the rumor is plausible or utter wash.

Also: this is massive three or four page wall of text. And the grammar is atrocious.

Twenty Rumors:
They say Three Tongues Laschey managed to take a Slaver's Tradesman bound for Egorian with two hundred halflings in the hold. Well they cut the crew's tongues out, finished the voyage, and sold the whole lot for 130 gold Thrones a head! Course they only got 50 each for the crew on account of their tongues being cut out and their hands all mangled!

Tale is there's a bay near Long Dog Island what holds a who village of beautiful sirens. Any who find it are lured beneath the waves, but they don't drown! The kiss of the Siren fills their lungs and gives them life and they live in luxury beneath the waves with the comely sea women. And after a few years they're let go with a kiss and a wink and a string of fat pearls! Probably all rot, butwouldn't that be a fine thing?

Word's come that the Devil B**$& has sent a pair of pirate-hunters down into the Shackles to bring her own vision of hell to honest pirates. Captain's said to be a Hellknight name of Ardas and rumor is she's got a flock of harpies or some-such that flit about the rigging of her ships. And that's not all. Barley Finger's Bill was boarded by the Hellknight. She didn't find Bill's smuggling holds but he got a good look at her ships. Two cannons! Great bloody long ones, finest make with snarling devil's heads on each! Aye, that Hellknight Ardas will make a right mess of things until some Free Captain sorts her out.

I heard from me mate Rum Ron who had it from the carpenter's hand on the Red Aquila that he saw a whole island rise up out of the ocean! The Aquila's captain just had to have a look and hove to to send a boat over. Couple of sailor's alight on the strange island and it's all covered over in seaweed and slime. Naught of interest to honest sailors, y'see. But 'twas so big they spent half an hour exploring the nooks and crannies. Then the whole island shudders and there's a terrible scraping racket so they all scarper back to their boat. As they're paddling back to the Red Aquila a great cloud of scalding fog overtakes them! Cooks everyone on the boat stone dead and even burns some of the crew aboard ship! Well, the captain he don't like that one bit so he orders them to let out all sail and be away as fast as they're able. So me mate's mate, he's up in the rigging and he looks back the way what they come and he claims the islands all gone save for one great bloody huge rock standing up out of the ocean. And no get this, get this... he says the island has an eye! Tall as a man and staring back at them! Well he didn't want none of that so he fixes his eyes on his lines and when he chances to look back there ain't nothing behind them but their wake.

They say another ship turned up broke by a kraken. Masts ripped up, hull holed, and no crew to be found. I ain't even want to put to sea if such a beast is out there. Mayhap it's all hogwash and them ships was just beat up in a storm, but it puts the chill in me thinking about it.

That so called dragon pirate's been seen again in Port Peril. They say he comes over the horizon seated atop his ship rowing it like a holly boat! Just sculling along, happy as you please, and when the dockmaster finally bullies a pilot to go out and meet him the dragons just as pleasant as can be, doesn't even argue about his docking fees and pays up for a plum berth full in advance! Well me sister was down at the docks that day and she says the dragon's crew hauled out eight chests, each as big as a man and packed with silks stole off from who knows where! Imagine that, a dragon pirate! It'd be a sight to see, though I wouldn't sign with him for fear he'd just eat me up!

Aye, the Eye of Abendego is as bad as she ever was. Ain't natural, a hurricane that goes for a hundred years round and round one spot. And her daughter storms are worse this year than ever. Three mean hurricans spun down towards the shackles, two into the coast of Rahadoum and that was a fine mess with flooding and whole towns washed to see. And one spun up Cheliax way and damn near drowned Corentyn. They say water was standing in the streets for near a week and it was mud for three weeks after. Ain't natural, I say.

Banana crop is expected to be good this year. Me sailing masters planned the whole summer's voyage around being in Sargova at just the time to take on breadfruit and sail for Absolom. Winds willing we can bring em in for the noble's dainty dishes before they all go to rot and make good for the whole year.

I hear Sargovas in a bad way. Them inland Mwangi is forming up an army lead by some demon child to batter down the gates and cart all the Sargovans away as slaves or sacrifices. Awful thing really. The Free Captains squeeze them for protection from Thrice Damned Thrune while them jungle nations is pushing in from the interior. If there's still a single Taldane in Sargova in ten years time I'll eat my shoe

Goblin sailors, they say! Aye, search me how any goblin could belay his love of fire long enough to build a wood ship, but that's what they say. First ones were sighted off Wizard's Quay ten or twenty years back. Ain't seen much of them but once in a while, but now ships say they're coming across great mucking long sailing canoes with a hundred goblins in each one. Ship sails too close to a river mouth and these canoes just come dartin out at them, trying to take them at anchor. Course they is goblins, so half of them wants to steer right and the other half left, but apparently they do a good clip when they're all of a mind for it. And the stories come from the ships that got away. I don't like to think about what happens to the ships that don't.

Aye, more Hadozee in the Shackles than ever. Didn't used to see ought of them in me da's time but now it seems every fifth ship has a few. They're proper sailors, they are, and with those wings they can get about the rigging faster'n almost anyone else. Real dedicated, too. Once they sign on with a ship they stick wither til the ship drowns or the monkey drowns. Course you can't call them monkeys. They don't like it at all.

They say the Red Mantis whacked one of the Beys of Botosani. Strange thing is everyone thought he was the Bey's nephew til he puts his hood back and everyone see's that creepy mantis head of theirs. Kills the Bey in two flicks of his saber and disappears in a blast of smoke. Later they find out what ship he'd come on on by account of everyone on the ship was dead. Shame, really. Word is the Bey had a bit of a business on the wayside smuggling this and that. Some smuggler's purse is going to be thin til they can find a new contact.

Speaking of which Botosani's still caught up in famine. Damned fool atheists, what should they expect but to go hungry if they shun all the Gods. Even Erastil, and you'd never find a more pleasant bunch of priests nor ones better suited to lift a famine. But that's not here or there for us sailors. For us the word is that grain is worth its weight in gold, and the nobles are paying thirty golden Hands a head for beef on the hoof!

No, see, one Cheliax Throne weighs as much as two Taldane Royals, unless the Royals' been clipped. And each Royal is as much as three silver Pearls, which isn't the same as real pearls, except when it is. And them Rahadoumi Hands is as much as a Throne and just a bit more, so they're right fine to get paid in, but don't spend them in Cheliax on account of the moneychangers got a law says you can't spend ought but Thrones and they only pay one Throne for one Hand. And then you got the Shackle's own press, the Anchor, but you'd have to be a fool to take pay in Anchors on account of no one trust's the King's mint not to skimp on the gold for them. But if they was all gold they'd be seven Anchors to one Throne. Course you can use Taldane royals in Cheliax, some legal exemption or somesuch, so they're a good piece to take your pay in. And if you ever come across an oblong coin with a bug on one side and some funny little pictures on it you hold on to that. It's a Osirion Scarab and it's said they're the purest gold in the Inner Sea. It's five Scarabs to seven Thrones by weight, though you'd best be watchful for fakes and forgeries, for there's always some rascal forger that means to cheat a soul. And of course you should never take Sargova scrip unless you got no choice or they're having a plum hear for bananas and slaves. In a bad year that paper ain't worth anything but to roll up and smoke, but in a real good year they'll honor the face weight in Sargovan gold Reals, and it's eight Thrones make ten Reals. Ain't many Reals around so them Sargovan's make a point to keep the gold in them.

Aye, so the Master says to teh Captain we're putting in at some God's forsaken little spit of a village in the Sodden Lands to take on a lot of rice. And the Captain, he thinks the Master's gone mad and it's clear on his face, but he's no fool and knows who holds the purse strings. So we sail up the coast til we find the place and we put down anchor. The boats go out with the Master and they come back and say all's well and the locals start rowing out their scows loaded with rice. We're loading it into the hold and tying it down, all very nice and how does it please. You. Well we don't have the last crate in the hold when someone starts calling out "fire, fire!" from the rigging. And sure enough on the far side of town there's a lot of smoke coming up and a great ruckus. Master says he wants not part of it and we haul up anchor and let out some sail to be away from there. Well, later I hear the whole town was run down by Boggarts and they put everyone they found to the slave's chain and ate the dead! Horrible thing, and I'm glad we were clear of it.

Don't pass it around too loud, but I heard a rumor that big ugly lad who was in here last week was a scout for the Grey Fleet. They say he broke into Cut-eye Mag's place, killed her in her bed, and rifled all her papers. Which means he's got the schedules for at least a few month's voyages of half a dozen companies. On his way out he breaks the locks on the slave pens and he' vanished by morning. Only way they know it was him is they get the priest of Asmodeus down to do some magic on a spot of blood. Well, no need to say there's a price on his head and another on those papers. But if he is what they say he is then there's a Grey Fleet Squadron somewhere in the Shackles. I wouldn't want to be caught up with slaves in the hold by them.

Aye, sea turtles. Word is he straps one of them on each of his feet and rides them all the way back to Port Peril. Of course it's wash, you oaf, but wouldn't that be a funny sight to see?

Aye, White Pensheaf found his brother all right. Still know one knows what happened to the Flying Maiden, but Black Pensheaf he found marooned on a tiny island out near the tip of the shackles. I guess the seer's word was true, for all the good it did. Whoever put Black Pensheaf off left him with a dozen of his crew and officers. When White Pensheaf rowed ashore he found Black Pensheaf stark mad and surrounded by gnawed bones. Black Pensheaf rushed him with a bent cutlass and White Pensheaf had to cut down his own brother what he spent near a year and a hell of a fortune to find. They say the last Pensheaf ain't come out in public since, but he's laid out a good price for any information what lead's him to them as took the Maiden and drove his brother to madness.

Nah, I'm telling you, I saw a mermaid. Aye, I know we've all seen mermaids, but this one was different, right? She ain't got the back end of a fish, you see, but a whole great striped shark's arse! Aye, and a her face was too long and full of teeth. Like a mermaid is half a woman and half a fish but this one was like as half a shark! Well we were in the boat when she came up and thought she maybe wanted to do a bit of trade but when she got close she lunges at poor old Olaf and chomps off his hand! Jari clocks her in the gob with an oar and she dives down, but Olaf near bled to death and then near died again when he took a fever. He'll be wearing a hook for the rest of his days. I hope to never meet one of them shark-maids again, I tell you.

I heard the ropeworks in Bloodport burned down to ashes, and a few blocks of warehouses as well. Aye, it's a shame, they made damned good lines and hawsers. It'll be a year before they're all up and running again. Price of lines and rigging will go up, mark my words. You had best look over your books and make sure you spot a bit more for keeping up your ship if you want to make it through next year.

Very nice, FM. Let's see some more from other folk's campaigns! :D


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