Skull and Shackles

Interlude: She Chose Poorly

Posted By: Jennifer

“Thank you for doing this,” Feruzi said. “I think everyone would be more than a little distracted if she were on the Crisis during the race.” Ukele flopped into a chair in Pegsworthy’s cabin and glared.

“My pleasure,” Pegsworthy told Feruzi mildly. “The Bonaventure can’t enter the race, anyway. A bit too much damage during some of her recent adventures.”

“You mean, when you were helping us?” Feruzi demanded. Pegsworthy gave her a medium-strength glower.

“You’re going to try and offer some sort of payment, aren’t you.”

“Well, we ARE responsible . . .”

“Hm, no. I am responsible. And I can manage my own repairs, thank you. And I’ll thank you even more not to go implying that it’s charity or lust poisoning or some other nonsense. I may be soft in the head about women but I’ve been managing a ship for nearly as long as you’ve been alive.” Possibly longer, he thought, and isn’t that just the sort of boost your spirits need.

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Interlude: It Begins

Posted by: Jennifer

As they approached the gangway to the Crisis, Pegsworthy realized that Feruzi was counting down under her breath. He raised an eyebrow at her, but she shook her head minutely and continued to count.

“Hey, who’s the pretty lady?” Cog shouted down from the wheelhouse. The deck was instantly covered in pirates.

“Three . . . two . . . one . . .,” Feruzi continued muttering.

Ukele burst into tears and collapsed in a heap on the deck, a sight to appall a stone statue, which Pegsworthy was not. Fortunately, he was saved from having to make up his mind as a horde of Chopper’s solicitous crew rushed forward to offer their assistance—Fishguts firmly in the lead. A look of horror flashed across Ukele’s face, quickly concealed. Pegsworthy bit the inside of his cheek to control a smirk. This was going to be entertaining.

“Ye poor thing!” Fishguts slobbered while Ukele sniffled to a stop and managed a ‘brave’ smile. Conchobar appeared around the bulk of Fishgut’s stomach like a small moonrise and offered her a handkerchief with a bow as florid as only a gnome could make it. “Ye’ll be wantin’ a hot meal, I’ll wager,” Fishguts continued.

“Oh, yes please!” Ukele enthused. “And, perhaps, if it’s not too much trouble . . .”

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Session 29: The Spymaster

Posted by: Jennifer

“This is less an infiltration and more an assault at this point,” Chopper remarked as they cleared their way up to the second floor. Feruzi helpfully pointed out the arrow-studded corpse of the peculiar beast she’d discovered and subsequently killed. Snake-headed tentacles grew out of the shoulders of an immense red-and-black cat. Everyone took a look at it but no one could identify it—whatever it was, it was rare and probably not the cuddliest of pets.

Labella picked the lock on the southern door and opened the door with great care, avoiding some gooey substance smeared on the inside of the handle. The room beyond was an extensive alchemy laboratory. Chopper glanced inside and nodded to himself. “Toss it,” he said, and Ezikial promptly attempted to fit the entire lab into one sack, displaying impressive skill at multidimensional geometry. Sadly, the equipment was not as current on the application of space-time vortices and resisted this treatment, causing Ezikial to negotiate with Labella for the acquisition of a vehicle equipped with more real-world storage capacity. Barely resisting the urge to laugh, Labella left with Torkelsen and Pegsworthy’s dwarven sorcerer Durgrin to secure transport.

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Session 28: And Then it Exploded

Posted by: Jennifer

Jasperleaf Apothecary turned out to be a surprisingly large building—a decaying three-storey manor behind an apparently humble storefront. The window-shutters were closed and nailed shut. Reiko had spent some hours visiting with locals to learn what she could. Several people claimed that the shop was closed to the public but would open for a customer that called for ‘three jugs of terrap sap’. The officers of Crisis were debating their approach when the Bonaventure arrived in port. They decided to delay in order to meet with Pegsworthy and combine forces. The friendly Captain was looking a little more ragged than usual and had several new, pink scars; he related a fascinating tale of battle with an aboleth at the wreck of the Brine Banshee, a battle that nearly claimed his life.

“We heard that asking for ‘two pounds of powdered thileu bark’ was the code to get into this apothecary,” Pegsworthy finished well after sunset.

“Interesting,” Reiko said, stirring herself to light the table lamp. “We heard to use a different phrase.”

“That IS interesting.”

“Whatever they are doing in there they seem to be at some pains to keep it quiet,” Feruzi said. “So, front door?”

Reiko shrugged. “It can’t hurt. If that fails, we can go with our second option.”

“Now?” Pegsworthy asked. “Or in daylight?”

“My guess is that night would be best considering their usual trade. We can try again in the morning if no one answers. If that fails also, we can go with the second option.” Reiko surveyed the group quickly: Feruzi, Ezikial, Leila, Sandara, and Chopper were present as usual, but Pegsworthy had also brought several of his own crew: Eggal Torkelsen, Labella Loor, and a dwarf he hadn’t introduced. “It might be best if we split up.”

“If you think that is best,” Feruzi said.

“We’ll try first, eh?” Chopper said. “Pegsworthy and company can rush to our rescue if things go in a southerly sort of direction.”

“Of course. We stand ready to assist you,” Pegsworthy said.

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Session 27: Various Assassinations

Posted by Jennifer

Feruzi came hurrying up to them as the Crisis hove into view, clearly returning from some errand of her own. She spotted Chopper and bore down on him. “I had an idea about these spies . . .” she said. Chopper covered his mouth to conceal a grin as Pegsworthy exclaimed, “There she is!”

Feruzi blinked, startled into silence. Undaunted, Pegsworthy continued. “How good to see you again, my lady. How fare you this day?” Feruzi began to look cornered as Pegsworthy advanced on her, clearly not going to be diverted this time. Chopper started to open his mouth and Reiko kicked him, causing a startled grunt. Meanwhile, some scrambling thought in Feruzi’s mind seemed to have gained a foothold, and she straightened into a posture of formal irritation.

“Feruzi is fine, thank you.”

“I am overjoyed to hear it.”

“And how are you, Captain Pegsworthy?”

“Well enough now that I’ve found my miscreant first mate. Go on, Mr. Torkelsen, the Bonaventure won’t make herself ready.” Pegsworthy clapped his hands together briskly. “Now then, where were we?”

Feruzi pulled the bow out from over her shoulder and held it in front of her like a shield. “Feruzi supposes she should return this to you, now.”

“It was a gift, my lady. The Eagle-Claw was always meant for hands such as yours. I would not have it gathering dust in my hold or back at Firegrass Isle.”

“Mmph. The bow is . . . lovely. But Feruzi is not sure it is . . . appropriate.” She fingered the carvings regretfully. “If Feruzi may ask, what are your intentions, exactly?”

Pegsworthy sighed. “I see our lives do not leave us much time for innuendos, so I will be direct. I find I wish to court you, in whatever manner befits a woman of your . . . stature. And in whatever manner makes you comfortable. Or, the least uncomfortable.” Another startled grunt came from Chopper’s direction and Pegsworthy glanced that direction, a bit unnerved. “I assure you my intentions are entirely honorable. It was not my wish to cause you distress. If you find me bothersome say the word and I will trouble you no more.”

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Session 26: Blood on the Deck

posted by Jennifer

“So, which of these paths are we to follow?” Feruzi asked when they returned to the Crisis.

“Well, I think they are both equally important,” Reiko said.

“If we had two ships . . .”

“Technically we do. They are just . . . elsewhere.”

“We should go after the wreckers,” Chopper said. “That’s our given quest.”

“I would hate to discover that the halflings had vital information, though,” Feruzi told him.

“We can always go after the other if Dindreann doesn’t net us enough information.”

“Well, Mr. Slip’s request was only to discover what has happened to the Brine Banshee. Technically, that can wait for a little while,” Reiko said.

“Wreckers it is.”

“I’ll chart a course right away, Captain,” Leila said.

The shoals Slip had suggested were only about six hours out from Bag Island, around the Rampore Isles. They reached the area after dark and began looking around.

“So, now what?” Feruzi asked. “Sail around until we hit something?”

“Never been anywhere near here,” Chopper muttered. “Perhaps drop anchor until the daylight?”

“Ship ahoy!” called Etto the lookout. “Ahead off the port bow! Tis a wee merchant ship with her sails lowered!”

“Then again…” Chopper grinned.

“Rosie! Grab the boys and load up!” Ezikial called.

“Aye aye, sir!” the halfling shouts.

“Why don’t we wait and watch. Maybe the wreckers lured that ship in. It’s not as if we announced to the world that we were coming here,” Reiko suggested. Chopper nodded.

“Settle. If it’s the wreckers and we stay put, hopefully they’ll grow impatient. If it’s a victim, they’ll keep the night.”

“I agree.” Chopper squinted into the gloom. Fishguts came up to the rail beside him. “Can you make anything out, Cookie?”

“Have ye got the Farglass, Cap’n?” Chopper handed it over and Fishguts scrutinized the distant ship. “She’s raisin’ sails. Must be ‘fraid of us. Rahadoumi colors . . . plate says Shinin’ Star.”

Chopper shook his head. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”

“That is interesting,” Reiko said. “I had a thought. What if this ship is not directly, but indirectly related to the wreckers, as in, the people the wreckers sell their hauls to? And what if they made a trade quite recently? It would not be good to let them get away. Tracking them down later may prove difficult.”

“Thassa lotta conjecture.”

“Only one good way to find out whether she’s right or not,” Feruzi said.

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Session 25: Gather Information

Posted by: Jennifer

Chopper walked across the chartroom and booted Reiko’s door until she appeared. Fishguts bustled in behind him, carrying breakfast. “What do we know about Tessa Fairwind?”

“She is captain of the Luck of the Draw and one of the most popular pirate lords on the Council. Some say she is next in line for the Hurricane Crown,” Reiko said. “Captain Bloodmourne is part of her fleet.”

“Ye’re movin’ up in th’ world, Cap’n,” Fishguts said, peering at the note.

“Well, I guess I could head over. In . . . huh, three hours? I slept that late? Well, rustle up Feruzi and Ezikial then.”

“Feruzi hasna come back yet, Cap’n.”

“No? Well then fetch my Concho. Can’t go unattended.”

Tessa Fairwind’s dwelling turned out to be a very pleasant townhouse overlooking the harbor. Someone with a deft hand had seen to it that while rich and tasteful, the ornamentation stopped short of opulent display, a restraint unusual among pirates. Conchobar, acting the part of retainer, rang the bell and announced them, passing on the invitation. They walked through a little garden courtyard and into the house, ending in the dining room in front of a large bay window.

“Nice,” Chopper remarked. "There’s just something about dining halls that overlook the sea.

Tessa Fairwind was a slender woman with long red hair worn in a neat braid with a jaunty tricorne perched atop it; her clothes were a similar mix of practicality and fashionable finery. She had a refined, delicate beauty and pointed ears, speaking of elven ancestry and most notable when she smiled. “Isn’t there just? I’m Captain Tessa Fairwind. I welcome you to my home.”

“A pleasure. Captain Chopper, First Mate Nakayama Reiko, Gunner Ezikial Hands, and Conchobar Turlach Shortstone at your service.”

“Ma’am,” Ezikial grated out while Reiko bowed formally. Conchobar seemed to be radiating delight.

“Please, sit. Have an aperitif.” The liquor cabinet on the sidebar was extensive, even containing Tian sake. “Dinner should be ready soon. I congratulate you on being named Free Captains.”

“Thank you,” Chopper said.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there last night, but I had a prior engagement. Tell me, what do you know of the current political situation in the Shackles?”

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Session 24: Port Peril part 2

Posted by: Jennifer

Tsadok Goldtooth reappeared at the Crisis shortly after lunch. Another crowd of onlookers all waiting to be entertained gathered rapidly. Feruzi shook her head. “We are certainly attracting a lot of attention with this.”

Goldtooth ignored her and addressed himself to Chopper. “Have someone bring up a table and chairs.” Chopper gave a negligent wave and snapped his fingers. After several seconds of blank staring, Dar and Marteen ran off to fetch the table and chairs from the chartroom, nearly the only real furniture aboard the Crisis. “Who am I playing?” Goldtooth growled.

“That would be myself, Mr. Goldtooth,” Reiko informed him.

“This is my first mate, Nakayama Reiko,” Chopper added. Reiko’s chin came up just about to Goldtooth’s belt buckle as the half-orc scrutinized her.

“All right, then,” he said finally and waved a dwarf from his own crew forward, followed by a couple of swabs hauling a keg of rum. “Argus, the two of us, and nobody else at the table. Argus will be dealing.” Reiko bowed politely to the dwarf, who was nearly as tall as she was, if much broader. His thick, heavy-jointed hands strongly resembled building equipment, but he handled the cards deftly.

“Should I check the rum, Captain?” Ezikial muttered.

“Aye, do that.”

“Mr. Goldtooth,” Ezikial called. “Do you mind if I check the rum before you start?”

“Afraid we’re trying to poison the winner, Mister . . . ?”

“Ezikial Hands. I am something of a connoisseur.”

“Ezikial . . . Hands?” Goldtooth lingered over the name. “If you must, then by all means. I expect you will have much to discuss with the King . . . should you win an audience with him.”

Ezikial took a dipper of the rum, sniffed it appreciatively, then drank it off. “I will not deny that, Mr. Goldtooth. I almost wish I were playing just for the rum, Reiko-san. Besmara’s luck to you.”

Argus set out a hundred platinum coins in small stacks in front of Goldtooth then looked expectantly at Reiko.

“You mentioned that you brought along a moneychanger?” Reiko said smoothly. The dwarf nodded and they bent their heads together to dicker, finally settling on a sum of coins and small jewels as equivalent stake and exchanging them for the platinum coins. Goldtooth and Reiko each threw in their ante and Argus dealt the cards.

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Session 23: Port Peril part 1

Posted by Jennifer

“His Kingliness, Kerdak Bonefist, has consented to an audience tomorrow night, Captain Sir,” Conchobar declaimed, posing next to their table at the Riptide Alehouse in Port Peril. The gnome had to raise his voice to be heard over the exuberant crowd. “Since we don’t have the sponsorship of a recognized Free Captain, we’re likely to undergo ‘Testing’.”

“Bring it on,” was Chopper’s response. Reiko shrugged.

“It would be convenient if Captain Bloodmourn were in port.”

“Would she sponsor us?” Feruzi asked.

“Probably, although I would have to talk to her first. And she would want to meet Captain Chopper and the rest of you.”

Feruzi eyed Chopper for a moment. “Well . . . perhaps it’s better she is not here.” Reiko smirked.

“I’m sure she’d appreciate his unique personality.”

“That would be a first, then,” Ezikial growled. Chopper replied with a friendly grin.

“You’re lucky I’m not convinced you won’t shoot me, Mister Hands.”

“Are you convinced I won’t shoot you, then?” Feruzi demanded.

“Mostly. Pretty sure it annoys you every time I am obstinate enough to get myself shot.”

“Well I wouldn’t want you to think I was getting soft. One of these days I’ll have a chance to pay back that debt and you can go get yourself shot with my blessing.”

“Well, I already have plans to re-up muh policy with your honor, should it ever come t’that.”

“We’ll see. So is there anything special we should do to get ready for this meeting tomorrow?

“Don’t go dying beforehand?” Reiko offered. “Or getting yourself killed, as it were. That might look unprofessional.”

Feruzi shrugged. “In my nation, formally meeting a King has more . . . significance. Or so I hear. My own meeting was not so formal.”

“I shouldn’t worry overmuch. A king’s just a man, same as any other. A might more prickly about respect, mayhap, but I can mind m’manners if and when the occasion calls for it,” Chopper informed them.

“Pirates ne’er stood much on formailty,” Sandara said. “E’en the ones in charge.”

Chopper nodded. “I’m counting on it. Who’s this now?” he added as a tall, lean man with tousled blond hair and an eyepatch muscled up to their table. His clothes were simple but fine, and he carried himself like a fencer.

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Interlude: On Magic

Posted by: Jennifer

Genzei was a maze. Feruzi surveyed the narrow, winding streets that fed off the docks with considerable trepidation. In theory, it wasn’t any more foreign to her than any other port in the Shackles, but Genzei felt more than foreign, it felt frenzied, like she wasn’t going shopping but preparing for war in completely unknown territory against an unguessed foe.

“Ah, you go out, fierce hunter? Or stay in ship?” Feruzi jumped and turned around to see Tenchin grinning at her.

“What?” The man spoke Taldane well enough, but even when the words were clear the meaning was rarely so.

“Go or stay, but not block plank.”

“Oh.” Feruzi stepped onto the shore to let the little old man past. He stumped down the gangplank and struck a pose on the dock, leaning back with his hands on his hips. Tenchin took a deep breath and smacked his lips appreciatively.

“Ah, good to visit civilization again. Smell proper air.” To Feruzi, the port smelled much like any other—rotting fish, seaweed, and weird cooking smells. Maybe a little less of the urine and feces here, but the appalling noise more than made up for it. “You visit Tien before? Yesno?”

“No.”

“Ah, you come! You eat real food! Should not miss!” Without waiting for her response, Tenchin latched onto her arm and barreled straight at the crowds. Feruzi found herself bouncing helplessly off a pile of caged chickens, bowling over an elaborately-dressed prostitute, and putting her foot through some kind of drum as she staggered after the tiny old man. There was no point in arguing, so she concentrated on keeping her feet until they fetched up at what appeared to be a combination alchemical shop, tannery, and rubbish heap. There Tenchin engaged in rapid-fire speech with the equally tiny and elderly shopkeeper, who began picking up bits of rubbish and alchemical concoctions and throwing them into a smoking, sizzling pan. He then decanted the result into a bowl and handed it to Feruzi with a sneer. Feruzi stared at the greasy mess in horror.

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