Skull and Shackles: Tides of Fortune

Session 53: BOOM

The Crisis surreptitiously—well, as surreptitiously as a ship could manage, anway—docked at Lucrehold an hour or so after sundown. Several warehouses stood on the island’s southwest corner, along with outbuildings filled with apparatus for making olive oil. Harrigan’s notes indicated that the secret entrance was hidden beneath a tun in one of the warehouses.

“I think it’s this one,” Feruzi said, turning the map around and squinting. “Or . . . maybe that one.”

A quick reconnoiter of the warehouse revealed two entrances: a wide set of double doors, probably for wagons, and a side door for pedestrian traffic. Both appeared to be locked, but neither were obviously guarded.

“So, any witchcraft about?” Chopper asked. Feruzi rolled her eyes but cast a spell to reveal magical auras. None were in evidence. “I’m inclined to kick down the big doors,” Chopper continued, “but I assume I’ll be vetoed, so let’s just go the other way.”

Leila unlocked the door. It was dark and quiet inside. Chopper peered into the room nearest the door, discovering numerous dusty scrolls and ledger books. “Witch room,” he whispered. “Or, you know, accounts payable. One o’ those.” The next door opened into a long room divided into stalls by low wooden walls, perfect for taking cover should any shooting be required. Large barrels and ceramic amphorae were stacked within the stalls, filling the air with the smell of oil, wine, and beer. Following Harrigan’s notes, they located their specific tun of rum in the easternmost stall.

Feruzi stared at it in horror. “We can just move it, right? We don’t have to drink it?”

“Er, we don’t HAVE to,” Chopper said uncertainly, looking at Ezikial.

“This much rum, even he might not survive,” Reiko said. “I know that’s not putting much faith in his drinking abilities, but still . . .”

“I could go get Rosie and Grok,” Leila said.

“Is it possible for a man to die of happiness?” Chopper asked. “Surely there’s some sort of hidden catch hereabouts. Or a handcart.” Searching around revealed nothing. Shrugging, Chopper hefted his axe and laid into the barrel, chopping a hole and letting the rum pour out. Sandara grabbed a mug, filled it, and passed it to Ezikial, then filled one for herself. With the barrel mostly empty, they were able to heave it aside, revealing a trap door that opened on a rusting iron ladder descending into a rough-hewn tunnel that ran north and east and terminated in a dank room. A stone statue depicting Besmara stood in an alcove. It was once painted in bright, gaudy colors, but most of the pigment had flaked off, revealing green stone. Blue-green flames danced along the statue’s sculpted hair.

Moving on, they discovered a number of vaults—some with niches in the walls that turned them into crypts. The floor had subsided, allowing a pool of dark water to form. Four barnacle-enrusted corpses with glowing red eyes rose out of the water as they approached. Mist seemed to rise from them, obscuring the room. Chopper cursed and a great deal of flailing about ensued, ending with the draugr sent to their final final rest and Chopper rather scratched up and disarranged. Sandara helpfully cast some healing spells to restore his equilibrium and remove the after affects of too much undead mauling.

The traditional post-combat wrap up revealed a secret door in one of the burial niches, leading into another long tunnel leading north and east. This one ended in a small, damp cave, this one laid out like a hall of sorts, with evenly spaced torches filling the place with disturbing shadows. A collection of jagged metal heaved itself upright, extending an arm that ended in an enormous cannon barrel.

“Hello, my lovely!” Ezikial announced, charging forward. The cannon boomed and Ezikial went flying through the air, landing flat on his back, covered in blood. “Chopper!” he said indistinctly. “I simply MUST have one!”

“What, am I going to deny you a pet?” Chopper demanded as Reiko charged past him to engage the golem. Her katana blade scraped along the creature’s chassis, leaving a surprisingly massive dent and knocking loose what might have been several vital parts. The cannon golem sputtered and clanked ominously as it switched targets, winding up for another blast.

Chopper threw an axe at the golem, drawing its attention. He grabbed his crotch suggestively. “Oy, fullmetal ugly! Suck my nuts and bolts!” Strangely, the golem seemed to find this insulting. It gave a metallic-sounding screech and headed toward Chopper while Sandara frantically tried to heal Ezikial. Another boom and Chopper was flat on the ground.

A hail of bullets hit the golem, causing its torso to drop free of its legs with a horrible grinding noise. The top half tried to pull itself along, then fell to the floor as the alchemical magic powering it faded.

“Well,” Reiko said as Sandara scrambled after Chopper, “If they didn’t know we were here before, they do now.”

Session 54: It's a Trap

Sandara’s magic got Chopper and Ezikial back on their feet, but Ezikial was left with a broad scar on his face. “I canna seem t’ mend it wi’ the magics I ’ave,” Sandara said. “Yer face just gonna be ugly fer a while.”

“Uglier than it already was?” Feruzi asked. Sandara grinned. “Well, shall we move on?” Feruzi asked. Chopper nodded.


The stone doors opened into an octagonal room with another pair of identical doors across from them. Leila froze as they crossed the floor. “Wait,” she called. “The whole floor is trapped.” The doors behind them slammed closed and locked with an audible clack.

“Why does this not surprise me?” Reiko asked. She ducked as crossbow bolts flew out of concealed arrow slits. Whirling blades sprang up around them. Ezikial sprang over a saw that would do a lumber mill proud and raced toward the opposite door, grunting a few times in pain. Feruzi climbed up a wall and joined him by crossing the ceiling. The snipers continued to fire.

“It’s almost like they were expecting us,” Reiko grunted, pulling a bolt out of her armor. Chopper sprinted across the room, slamming into the doors and flattening himself but not impressing the stone very much.

“Let me get that, Captain,” Ezikial said, and blasted the lock mechanism with his pistol. Leila pulled a piece of junk metal out of her pack and threw it into the whirling blades, where it wedged, eliciting a truly fantastic medley of screeching and grinding noises, followed by a ground-shaking bang as the machinery tore itself apart. Reiko crossed the room in a more leisurely fashion and heaved the doors open, revealing another room pretty much identical to the one they were standing in. Feruzi cautiously stepped forward, triggering a second trap that slammed the doors shut and doused everything liberally with gouts of fire. There was a lot of scurrying behind the walls and the helpful addition of yet more crossbow bolts.

Chopper pushed past Feruzi and repeated his door-charging trick, with equally unimpressive results. Ezikial pulled grenades off his belt and tossed them into an arrow slit. He then sat down, bleeding profusely from a pair of crossbow bolts in his chest. The blast shook the room and produced a hail of earth and chips of stone, revealing two shocked elven snipers. Reiko charged them while Sandara once again rushed in to prevent Ezikial from dying. The space behind the walls resounded with shrieks and groans as Reiko dealt out retribution to the snipers. Chopper finally managed to get the far doors open, revealing side passages that led behind the arrow slits.

“That was my fookin’ gunner!” he snarled, laying into the retreating snipers with his axes. Another explosion shook the room as Leila detonated the reservoir of alchemical fire powering the jets. Soon it was over, aside from the usual magical cleanup of injuries sustained.

“I am out of grenades, Captain,” Ezikial reported sadly. “Fortunately I found this ring of keys.”

“That might make it easier to get through the doors,” Reiko said.

Past the trap, they found another long, dank tunnel that opened into a wider cave where a thin strip of beach bordered a wide expanse of dark water. Sounds of surf echoed in the distance. A wooden pier extended into the water. Far across the cave a faint light shone from the window of a building standing next to a similar pier. Sandara pulled her hat off and tossed it into the water, where it became a jollyboat.

“Unless summon else has a boat,” she said, winking.

“Not on me, no,” Chopper said.

“I don’t suppose your pipe turns into an oar?” Leila asked.

“Nope. Reckon it’ll be slow going, but it beats swimmin.”

They jury-rigged some bits of wood together and set out. The water was still and cold. Chopper peered overboard, discovering an immense heap of bones at the bottom of the cove. “Hmm, whale bones?” he asked. Feruzi looked over and winced.

“Those are dragon bones.” Predictably, they began to stir, assembling into the shape of a dragon that reared up in front of their wobbly little boat.

Session 55: Sushi Buffet

Chopper whooped in delight as the undead dragon eyeballed their tiny craft. “I know, I know,” he grumbled. “You lot won’t let me keep it.” The dragon’s head whipped around and it snapped at Ezikial, almost throwing him out of the boat and delivering a powerful electrical shock at the same time. Its wings whomped down, battering everyone severely.

“Bloody ’ells!” Sandara yelled. A series of loud cracking noises indicated that somewhere under there Ezikial was doing his best to turn the undead dragon into puree. Reiko bellowed and swung her katana, the blade cleaving into the dragon’s neck and, amazingly, severing it. It promptly exploded, giving everyone a nasty dose of electricity as the remains of the skeleton sank into the water. Sandara waved her hands over the scorched group.

“Not sure how much longer I kin keep this up,” she said.

“We ’preciate yer efforts,” Chopper told her.

“We do have some potions to help . . . I think,” Reiko added. On the far shore, an alarm bell began to ring.

“I suppose they noticed us,” Leila sighed.

“We’ve knocked, we may as well go in,” Ezikial said. He clambered out of the jollyhatboat and kicked in the door to the bastion. The guardpost was lit by a smoky oil lamp. Four big fellows with a patchwork of brown and blue-gray markings on their skin charged, becoming shark-like monstrosities as they moved.

“Are those contagious?” Feruzi asked, incredulous. “Because they look contagious.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t let yourself get bit then, just to be on the safe side,” Reiko told her.

“Yeah, I couldn’t manage being that ugly.”

“But you can handle being . . . scaly. Right then.”

Leila fired her bow at one of the weresharks, but the monster just lacked. “I have silver arrows in my quiver for just such an emergency,” Feruzi told her, firing her own volley at the monsters.

The other door to the room flew open and an even bigger, MUCH angrier shark charged in, making a beeline for Chopper, grabbing him by the legs and swinging him through the air. Chopper’s delighted “whee!” turned into an “ouch!” as his head collided with Reiko’s shoulder.

“Seriously?!” Reiko demanded, going after the shark boss with her katana. Ezikial cut loose with the shooting and very shortly there was nothing left but a bunch of sashimi and some leftover enormous crescent-shaped bite marks. Sandara shook her head as she summoned more healing magic.

“So how many more guards do you think Bonefist has in this little secret lair?” Feruzi asked.

“More’n three,” Chopper grunted. They left the bastion and crossed a patch of sandy beach toward what appeared to be a small fortress with familiar ship anchored nearby. The boom of a cannon sounded and Reiko disappeared in a blast of sand.

“Er, you forgot to duck,” Feruzi said as Reiko staggered muzzily to her feet.

STOP WASTING MY CANNONBALLS!” Ezikial yelled, shaking his fist at the cannon tower. They charged into the tower, encountering another group of weresharks and some human guards resulting in, yes, yet another furious battle, from which they emerged victorious.

Session 56: Number Two

The door to the next room opened, revealing Tsadok Goldtooth, who fired his pistol at Chopper. “I told you that you should have let me fish him!” Feruzi said as Ezikial returned fire.

“Fish?” Chopper asked, baffled. A dwarf boatswain appeared beside the half-orc and launched himself on Chopper, pinning him down while a second dwarf ran up and began punching the Captain about the stomach. Feruzi skewered one dwarf with arrows while Reiko surgically removed the other. Sandara threw an ice storm at Goldtooth, who swung his falchion at Ezikial, who took a serious wound for, probably, the tenth time today. Any more of this and they’d be taking him back to the Crisis in a box. Reiko intercepted Goldtooth’s next attack and treated him as she treated all opponents.

“Doesn’t matter,” the half-orc sputtered. “The King’ll kill you all.”

“I bet fish looks like the nice option now,” Feruzi said.

“What is it with you and the fish?” Chopper demanded. “Seriously.”

“What is it with you and the senile old-man memory?”

“’E’s an old man,” Sandara said brightly, mending their wounds."

“I hate you all.”

“This is not news, Captain,” Ezikial said.

“If he started liking us I’d be worried we weren’t doing our jobs well enough.”

The next room in the tower was a dining hall, dominated by a large table of polished teak and an ornately carved-high backed captain’s chair.

“I vote we use the chair as a battering ram on . . . something that needs battering,” Chopper said. “Just for spite.” Ezikial pulled Bonefist’s banner down from the wall.

“I vote we don’t,” Reiko said. “It’s a nice and probably expensive chair.”

They left the tower, now empty of enemies, and headed for the docked ship, the Filthy Lucre. An exquisitely painted figurehead of a beautiful, bare-breasted woman rose from the ship’s prow. Feruzi cast a spell of invisibility over them and they crept aboard the ship, apparently unnoticed. Chopper began climbing the rigging to the crow’s nest, where a sniper was watching the pier. “Ahoy,” Chopper announced, and gave her a violent shove.

Session 57: Final Boss Fight

Two boatswain’s mates on the main deck moved toward the main mast. A charau-ka, an ape-like humanoid, readied a bomb while the more ordinary sailors cleared the deck, wanting to be as far away from the fighting as possible. The sniper in front of Chopper dropped her rifle. “I’m no match for you,” she said. “I serve the Gunworks of the Grand Duchy of Alkenstar, and I offer you the secrets of my trade in exchange for my life.”

Arrows peppered the other sniper atop the second mast, most striking the wood but one eliciting a cry of pain. Feruzi yelled as the bomb hit her, enveloping her in flames. The air went cold and a pair of unearthly monstrosities appeared beside Reiko. Chopper jumped from the tower to assist Reiko in fighting off the daemons.

Ezikial blasted the charau-ka alchemist to gibbly little bits, then finished off the boatswain’s mates that were now menacing Feruzi. One piscodaemon expired noisily under Reiko’s sword, and the other wasn’t looking so hot. Then a spell hit Leila and she fell to the deck, stone dead.

Chopper screamed, charging toward the poop deck. “There!” Ezikial yelled as something hissed angrily and the door to the captain’s cabin flew open, revealing Bonefist in all his glory. Or lack thereof. Sandara threw a spell across the deck that purged the invisibility, revealing a tall woman with the lower body of a snake. She whirled her scimitars and attacked. Chopper was more than happy to return the favor, hacking wildly with his axes while Feruzi lined up a shot, piercing lamia through the chest.

“Your witch is dead and your crew has abandoned you, Bonefist!” Reiko shouted. “You have no one left to fight for you. Give up now and step down.”

“I ain’t forsakin’ my throne fer the likes o YE.”

“That’s a shame,” Reiko said, attacking with her katana. Bonefist was blindingly fast with his rapier, fending her off despite his wounds. He backed away, almost running into Chopper, who had jumped down the stairs behind him.

“Stand down, Reiko,” Chopper said. “This one . . . er, the REST of this one is mine.”

“You still have the opportunity to surrender,” Reiko said.

NEVER!” A bullet tore Bonefist’s ear off. Chopper shrugged, and buried his axe in the former Pirate King’s skull. He then turned away, looking sadly at Leila’s body.

“I’ll, uh, start prayin’ for her,” Sandara said. “Once ye make sure this area is secure. And find that treasure vault . . . you need that to impress the other pirate captains, an’ all.”

“There will be time for that. We see to Leila first.”

A full exploration of the sea caves revealed no more opposition and, yes, quite an impressive treasure room. After a night’s rest, Sandara was able to raise Leila from the dead. The delighted Chopper hugged Sandara, with instructions to transfer it to Leila.

“You big soppy,” Feruzi said fondly.

“Summon tell Fishguts to quit choppin’ onions,” Chopper blubbered.

“So, your Majesty, what’s your plan?” Feruzi asked.

“Guess I should get coronated. Something, something, drink heavily, something, something, see about easing up on Sargavan tarriffs.”

“I’m sure your mother will be thrilled. You going to invite her to the coronation?”

Chopper suddenly looked pensive. “I guess I might as well.”

“I could handle that for you . . . I’m sure Merrill would like a nice, long, relaxing, UNEVENTFUL trip.”

“Aye, fer once,” Sandara said.

“And then we can see about getting you a PERMANENT wife.”

Chopper raised an eyebrow at that. “Let’s go provide the Council with the proof of our deeds and leave nonsense topics tabled forever.”

“He’s still got the better part of a year to go with his current Missus, anyway,” Reiko chimed in.

“Bah, with him it’ll take months even if I start looking now,” Feruzi said. “Picky, picky, picky. I’ll have to get his mother to help. She doesn’t put up with him.”

“Look here, you lot, I’m the bleedin’ Hurricane King. I’ll not be henpecked by ye.”

Feruzi snorted. “Keep dreaming.”

Sandara and Leila giggled.

“And after that, Reiko,” Feruzi continued in a burst of extravagance.

“No,” Reiko said.