Skull and Shackles: Tides of Fortune

Interlude: Thieving

Posted by: Jennifer

The winch raising the longboat was far too slow for Leila today, with the angry crew on all sides nearly breathing down her neck. By the time they were level with the gunwhales, she could stand it no longer and nearly flung herself over the rail to clutch Feruzi’s arm, startling everyone so badly that they nearly fell into the drink.

“You have to DO something!” Leila hissed. She hesitated, then shot Reiko an apologetic look. Reiko’s eyebrows rose minutely.

“Is there some kind of problem?” the First Mate asked.

“I would say that there is,” a harsh voice behind Leila grated as Serhet, the bald Thuvian, started to reach out to pull Leila back into the ship. Leila flinched, horrifed, and Reiko’s eyes appeared ready to shoot out black lightning bolts. Serhet abandoned his boldness and shrank backward slightly and Feruzi climbed out of the longboat to look down at him.

“I believe you can handle this, Sergeant,” Reiko drawled, lending her own hand to the grateful Leila. Ezikial, Chopper, and Sandara followed, assuming various poses of relaxed but attentive interest. Sandara grinned broadly, which seemed to unnerve Serhet even more.

Feruzi nodded to Reiko. “So, what is the difficulty, then?” she asked, addressing Leila, not the Thuvian.

“He caught Simmed rooting through his gear,” Leila explained, then raised her voice sharply when Serhet started to interrupt. “And THEN he tried to gut the boy.”

Session 13: Breaking-in

Posted by Jennifer

It would be three days, Leila estimated, before they could reach Tidewater Rock. Well, three days with an ordinary crew, but there was really no telling with this bunch. Feruzi, Ezikial, and Reiko had spent an hour in the chartroom, dickering like fishwives, and come up with an organizational plan of sorts. At some point they decided to saddle Leila with the moony Lysaro to be her assistant and hopefully learn navigation, a discovery that had Leila feeling just a bit disgruntled this morning. Lysaro had already called her a delicate flower in addition to a dusky gemstone and something involving a deep well that may have actually been obscene if she felt any desire to decipher the poetic extravagance. Fortunately for her sanity and Lysaro’s continued survival, this appeared to be an ingrained reflex and not actual flirting; he’d settled down once she set the charts on him and made him try to calculate their position.

They left the Slithering Coast behind rapidly; the wind was cooperative even if the crew wasn’t. By evening, everyone on the ship was exhausted and sought their hammocks without even a token attempt at socializing. Or, almost everyone. Ezikial was just drifting off in his peaceful corner when he heard voices and saw a light flickering. Hoisting himself up, he saw Feruzi, Rosie, and Cochobar gathered outside the door to the crew quarters. He blinked repeatedly at the sight until he realized that the peculiar shadows were caused by elaborate designs in black and white paint.

Crisis Averted?

I’m Chopper the Eighth, I am,
Chopper the Eighth I am, I am!
I got married to the widow next door,
She’s been married seven times before
And every one was an Chopper
It wouldn’t be a Willie or a Sam
I’m her eighth old man I’m Choppery
Chopper the Eighth, I am!

Session 12: The New Crisis

Posted by: Jennifer

“Tatsumi? Tatsumi!” Reiko crossed the beach in a single bound and flung herself on her brother, who grinned a bit sheepishly.

“You . . . know her, then, Tatsumi?” the resplendent man asked, gesturing for his other crew to stand down. This close, his coat was visibly faded and somewhat threadbare, although the coat of mail he wore under it gleamed like silver. Tatsumi nodded at him respectfully.

“Captain, this is my sister. Although the last time I saw her, she was back in Genzei.”

Reiko bowed deeply. “I heard rumors that Tatsumi had joined your crew, Captain Pegsworthy. Thank you for taking care of him.”

“At your service, madam,” he said, pulling off a rather florid, courtly obeisance in return despite the slight awkwardness of his peg leg. “As you know my name, it seems the introductions fall to you.”

“Yes, of course. I am Nakayama Reiko, please, call me Reiko.” She gestured toward Ezikial, who holstered his pistols and nodded. “This is Mr. Ezikial Hands, he is our Master Gunner.”

“Hands? Any relation to Israel Hands, perchance?”

“Aye, sir, my father.”

Captain Pegsworthy was sharply taken aback. “Truly! How remarkable. I’ve heard your father was quite a meritorious pirate. Served under the Hurricane King himself.”

“So I have heard, as well, sir. Perhaps we can discuss this over a drink.”

“A better idea has rarely been voiced.” Pegsworthy nodded again to Ezikial and turned his attention back to Reiko, who recognized her cue.

Session 11: Dry Land

Posted By: Jennifer

It took three days for the Man’s Promise to limp its way to the Slithering Coast, but in the frantic scramble to do with eleven what a crew of more than twenty found hard going the minutes took on a strange dual quality. Each moment seemed endless, yet once they passed the memory of them vanished in the next crisis and it was somehow shocking to realize that an entire hour or morning had suddenly flashed by. When the land finally crept into view it seemed more like an illusion, even as they rounded the tall headland and sailed into the greenish-brown outflow of a sluggish jungle river, visibly withdrawn from wide banks of red mud that had become a landscape of cracks in the sun. The dense jungle foliage surrounding the cluster of buildings and piers at the river’s mouth was yellowed and wilted, and there was little visible activity anywhere ashore.

A lone red and yellow flag flickered at the top of a watchtower, followed by a similar sign from the roof of the massive shed that obviously housed the drydock. Like ants with a disturbed nest, dozens of figures emerged from the buildings to gather on the pier. A longboat was manned and launched and arrowed straight toward the Promise, where the crew put down their tasks and gathered at the rail, looking at their shiny new Captain for instructions.

Interlude: The Abyss
In Which the Queen's Wrath Takes Form.

In madness and rage she swam down into the deepest trenches of the darkest oceans, until at last, she found a place where light had never been known.

She had not eaten. She had not slept. She had not cared. There was only the pain of her loss.

Her precious Whale, grandson of Lamashtu herself, whose bottomless hunger her grindylows had worked so tirelessly to ease, was dead, slain by those two-legged air-breathing bastards.

They would pay. Oh, but they would all pay.

She whispered to the darkness in that abyss, calling it to the surface to avenge her beloved son. She had found what she’d sought, an evil so alien, so obscene, that merely gazing upon it could drive someone mad.

Of course, when the darkness answered the Brinebrood Queen, she was already well and truly mad.

Interlude: Ezikial Hands, Apprentice Therapist

Posted by Gurtchmann

Ezikial checked that set of the sails and the state of the sea; the ship was running well and could spare him for a few minutes. As he was to be, at least partially, responsible for the ship’s armory, he decided to do a little more work below deck making the armory fit to use again.

As he swung down from the main deck, he could see that he wasn’t alone on the armory deck: a figure knelt before a bench, apparently praying. In the dim light, Ezikial recognized Sandara. She didn’t seem to notice him as he moved and when he got closer, he realized that she was weeping.

Concerned, Ezikial moved up to her and cleared his throat.

She started, looked over her shoulder at Ezikial, and wiped her nose on her sleeve. She squeezed tears from reddened eyes, drug the back of her hand across her face.

“Oh, aye. Cos I needed t’ find ‘nother way t’ embarrass m’self.” She stood up, shaking her head.
He raised an inquiring eyebrow at her and offered her his flask.

Sandara accepted the flask and took a long swallow form it, she held the flask out to Ezikial, but he waved his hand indicating that she should hold on to it.

“Need to talk?” he grated out.

“No,” she said, sharply.

Then, quickly: “Wait. Sorry. Yes.”

Thinking of the ship and work to be done, and his current state of inebriation, “Can it wait ’till after dusk?”

“I suppose…?” She smirked. “Are yer duties so pressin, or d’ye jist not care t’hear ’bout all my girl problems?”

“Better at talking when I’m more sober…” Ezikial replied, a little ruefully. He knew that he was a poor choice to come to for any kind of comforting, but Sandara was a true shipmate and deserved all the focus he could give her.

“I reckon it’d help me more if’n I say m’ piece now.” She leaned back against the bench to help herself to stay upright.

Interlude: Digging

Posted by Jennifer

“Poor soul,” Feruzi said for probably the third time as she arranged Owlbear’s corpse on the beach and began looking for a good place to dig. The words were inadequate, but what could be adequate to sum up the life of a man of ferocious strength who was yet too simple to defend himself? This seemed as good a time as any to bury the man; the early morning heat was not yet stifling and almost everyone was still resting from their exertions. They would no doubt help if she asked them, but this felt like something she should do herself. After some deliberation she selected a shady spot near the base of a coconut palm. The grave would need to be deep so the tree-dwelling crabs would not disturb his final rest. Nothing to do but start digging.

“I must confess, I didn’t know him. Will you honor me, and him, by telling me about him?” a hesitant voice asked. Feruzi looked up to see Leila standing nearby, looking anxious as she always did.

“Feruzi knew little herself—perhaps there was little to know. He was a simple creature, a man with a boy’s mind, innocent even of the cruelties he inflicted himself.” She looked down at the ground and scowled. “It is the fate of many such to be ill-used by those of greater wit and less compassion.”

Interlude: The Mission

Posted by DarkRose16

Death is a relatively simple matter, as is ending another person’s life. After everything was said and done, after Chopper and Reiko gave Plugg a chance at life, his had still ended the same as his followers; all despite Chopper’s attempt at bringing the finale of this grand mutiny to a close with at least one of their opponent’s life moderately intact. It’s easy to kill, but living with the blood of another on your hands; that’s the hard part. But the living must continue moving forward after the passing of friend and foe alike, bearing the weight of their deaths as a burden, or in some cases perhaps just a light whisper, on the heart.

And Reiko did just that, organizing the remaining crew to help clear the ship of the dead, leaving only Owlbear’s corpse in Feruzi’s hands. Her lack of a full night’s rest in three days had her worn thin, but one thing needed to be resolved before she could rest easily. It had been clear that the crew wanted to know who would take over as Captain, but Reiko had subverted their immediate need for an answer, much as they had Plugg’s ambitions.

Once it’d finally calmed down, Reiko found Chopper, since the decision of who would become captain of this ship would seemingly come down to the two of them.

“Mr. Chopper… " He looked up with a sullen expression on his face. “I think it would be a good idea for us to have a conversation now. I realize that you are probably as tired as everyone else, but a decision needs to be made.” Reiko’s own fatigue was made clear by the circles under her eyes.

Continuing: “Before coming here, I spent about half a year on another pirate ship, as well as many other ships over the past three years, and the only reason I came aboard the Wormwood was to follow a lead on my brother. So I know I have the experience, but I do not have the desire to captain a ship at this point. Being the captain of a ship, pirate or otherwise, carries with it responsibilities that I am not prepared to carry. That being said, I will not leave these fine people hanging in limbo over this situation either.”

Chopper nodded slightly, thinking about his response. This was the first time Reiko had been so free with her words to him. “I wanted to be captain, but now… I’m not so sure.”

Interlude: Desert Rose

Posted by Darth Krzysztof, from a conversation with DarkRose16

26 Sarenith, 4712 AR

The light of the half-moon filtered down through the great vine-choked tree, barely illuminating the bubbling spring. Leila held one dying sunrod out to find her way through the gnarly roots; ahead of her, Reiko had already reached the spring, removed her sash and linen robe, and laid them on a large boulder that someone had dragged here to serve as a bench. Leila nearly tripped, unable to take her eyes away from the samurai as she stepped out of her woodblock sandals. Reiko’s loincloth did little to hide her backside from view, and then even that was gone, placed next to the robe.

Leila noticed the hitch in her own breath. She’d seen Reiko’s grace, her vulnerability, her skill in battle – but never her skin, or the strength beneath it. Every muscle in the samurai’s body came into lean definition as she unwound her chest wrap, but it took nothing away from her femininity. Leila saw the fringes of a tattoo on Reiko’s shoulder blades; as the wrap fell away, the image of a great tree came into view, covering most of her back. The samurai turned to pick up her clothes, then carried them toward the spring, sparing Leila a smile as she passed.

Reiko used a battered old bucket and a bit of soap to clean her clothes, hanging each item in turn on one of the thicker vines. She seemed so comfortable scrubbing away in the nude on a hostile, deserted island in the middle of the night… and why shouldn’t she be? Someone with her looks, with her body, with her talents, had nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to fear.

I can’t do this, Leila thought.