Grapeshot and chain bolts peppered the rigging of Abrogail’s Fury and Ezikial’s signature shot blasted the wheel to splinters. The Chelish flagship returned fire, severely denting the hull of Crisis and knocking the sails askew—Crisis slammed keel-first into the side of the Fury and seemed to skid, staving in the black ship’s hull. Both ships rolled on the swell, no longer making way. The Crisis officers jumped across to the Fury and were met by a force of Chelish marines. Admiral Thrune and her bodyguard stood on the quarterdeck, ready to back up the marines.
Chopper hacked at the enemy forces then reeled as a crossbow bolt slammed into his shoulder and seemed to explode with malevolent power. The Admiral sneered and handed her crossbow a crewman for reloading, accepting a second bow in exchange.
Ezikial ignored the swords of the marines and charged forward, screaming Besmara’s wrath. He fired both pistols at the bodyguard, a woman dressed in impressive spike-covered black armor. “You may be just my type, m’lady,” Ezikial gritted. “Let’s see how you bleed for me, shall we?” The bodyguard sniffed as her wounds partially healed themselves.
Chopper was in imminent danger of being surrounded by marines with boarding pikes. Feruzi fired her bow, downing one and wounding the other while Sandara skirted the pikes to land a healing spell on her teetering Captain. Reiko decapitated the wounded marine seemingly without noticing and, just like that, the way was open for them to charge the Admiral. The bodyguard readied to receive them while the Admiral cast a spell. Unholy fire burst on the deck, scorching them.
Ezikial continued firing at the bodyguard, who glowed again with healing power. She shoved him aside and hacked at Chopper with her bardiche. He winced in pain but endeavored to appear unimpressed, an endeavor that became more convincing as Sandara channeled energy and the wounds sealed over. Reiko snarled a challenge at Admiral Thrune but the bodyguard threw herself in the katana’s path, screaming as the blade bit through her armor. She collapsed on the deck, dead.
“And I thought we had something there,” Ezikial said sadly.
“Valeria! NO!” Admiral Thrune shrieked.
“You CAN surrender, you know,” Chopper told her.
“I will NEVER surrender! My soul is lost no matter what happens.”
A priestess of Norgorber suddenly became visible, flinging up a wall of blades in front of Chopper and Reiko. Feruzi and Ezikial fired their weapons, Ezikial wounding the Admiral, Feruzi skewering the priestess. Reiko wrenched herself free of the blades, her kimono slashed to ribbons, and finished Ezikial’s work, cleaving the admiral open from breastbone to pelvis. Chopper attacked the cleric, but nothing seemed to happen. Sandara quickly threw a dispelling field, revealing the illusion. Feruzi whipped around, grimacing, and spotted the cleric fleeing toward the other side of the ship.
“Hey, no running away, there!” she yelled and drew her bow. The cleric looked back and received an arrow in the eyesocket for her trouble. The remaining marines and crew shrank back, some even jumping overboard to an uncertain fate rather than surrender.
Reiko looked overboard as the Crisis crew herded the prisoners belowdecks. The battle seemed to be going well—many of the Chelish ships were breaking off the attack and fleeing into the storm. “Shall we raise our colors on this ship to announce its capture?” Reiko asked.
“Aye, make it so,” Chopper said. “Yer fookin’ welcome, Bonefist,” he grumbled under his breath.
With the Chelish armada broken, the Shackles fleet limped back to Hell Harbor and the predictable partying. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to pat Chopper on the back.
“Well, ye know, I have my moments,” he said modestly. “Question now is, what next?”
“There is really only one reasonable course of action,” Reiko said. “The King must be deposed.”
“Wait, he’s not supposed to be a useless figurehead?” Feruzi asked. “When did this happen?”
“He is clearly too arrogant for his position. It nearly cost us our freedom. As a Free Captain I take issue.”
“He weren’t so back in th’ day,” Fishguts said, “but thirty-eight years is a long time ter rule an’ recent events ha’ proved he ain’t the man he wuz.”
“He should have had some grandchildren,” Feruzi added. “It gives people something to do in their old age that is annoying but not harmful.”
Tessa nodded. “Then you call for a vote of no confidence?”
Chopper did a quick count of the assembled captains, gauging whether enough were present to make any actions official. “Fookin’ right,” he concluded. “Shall we show the old man the door? What say you?”
“AYE!” shouted, apparently, every pirate in the Shackles.
“I think it is clear which of you we would prefer to nominate, but the decision is still yours.”
Reiko glanced at Chopper, who grinned. “Very well, I accept,” he said. Another cheer went up.
“Our acclaim won’t be enough, of course,” Tessa said. “The title’s wholly empty as long as Bonefist wears the Hurricane Crown and sits enthroned in Fort Hazard.”
“And he cannot be expected to relinquish either without a fight,” Endymion said.
“Well, it won’t be our first raid,” Reiko said.
“Plus there’s the back door,” Feruzi added.
“Yes. Harrigan was planning to sneak in and assassinate Bonefist using a secret entrance put in by a former incumbent. The Chelish invaders were supposed to make Harrigan the new ruler of the Shackles—under their orders, of course,”
Endymion spat. “Treacherous bastard.”
“This is a surprise to anyone?”
The Master of the Gales nodded. “Then a stealthy assault on Port Peril is best. Overthrow Bonefist and send him either into exile or to a watery grave.”