Skull and Shackles

Session 37: Adventure Time

“Yet another day aboard the Crisis, sitting around waiting while our officers go off to do who-knows-what,” Kulio grumbled, working the winch that lowered the forward boat and the aforementioned officers. “When do we get some action?”

Dar grunted. “Kid, you ain’t ne’er had it so good. You got no notion of the stuff they cleans up afore we e’er sees it. There be horrors in the vasty deep the like of which none of us wish to be seein’.”

“Well, maybe not close-up, like, but there’s bound to be some stuff down there worth seeing. I didn’t sign up to wait around!”

“Oh, well, mebbe I kin help you with that!” Dar winced and turned around to see Rosie standing by with an evil grin on her miniature face. The halfling had a positive talent for going completely unnoticed until you had your foot, ankle, and possibly leg up to the knee lodged firmly in your gullet. One little halfling should not be able to contain so much malevolent glee at making people regret their ill-considered statements. Kulio, the poor fool, only looked intrigued. He was a slow learner, apparently.

“You got something we can do?” Kulio asked.

“You betcha. Concho came up with an idea for seein’ underwater an’ I think yer just the person to try it out!” The gnome materialized, holding up a glass hemisphere the size of his chest.

“Is that a fishbowl?” Dar asked, realization dawning.

“Well, not JUST a fishbowl,” Conchobar said with some asperity, looking defensive. “It screws on to this ring here, see?”

“Which you have attached to a big oiled canvas bag, I detect,” Kulio said.

“And a hose,” Rosie added.

“And some weights!” Conchobar finished.

“So, what yer have invented here,” Dar said dryly, “Is an ehr-normus fishing lure.”

“No, it’s an underwater survey apparatus!” Conchobar corrected hotly.

“Into which yer intend to seal one of the crewmembers.”

“We can pump air down the hose to inflate the bag, and they can tell us what they see by shouting back down the hose,” Rosie explained.

“Yer have lost yer—” Dar began, only to be interrupted mid-sentence.

“I’ll give it a go,” Kulio said. Dar spluttered.

“Yer ALL mad,” he managed, finally. “I warsh me hands of ye.”

It took some time—and cussing—to stuff Kulio into the oiled sack and secure the fishbowl. Not wanting to be completely helpless, Kulio made sure to take along a selection of knives and keep them in easy reach. If everything went to pot, he was going to cut himself out of the sack and to hell with Conchobar’s test. The gnome finally declared the preparations complete, attached the hose, and Insawa helped Dar unceremoniously dump the bag-of-Kulio overboard, where it slowly sank in a cloud of bubbles. Rosie hurried to the pump and began working.

“Ooh, not as airtight as I was hoping,” Conchobar muttered. “ARE YOU ALL RIGHT DOWN THERE, KULIO?!?” he shouted, pressing his ear to the end of the hose.

“S A LITTLE DAMP!!”

“Sorry about that! Can you see anything!?”

“Glass’s all fogged up, dammit!”

“Oo, that’s a point,” Conchobar said, making a note on a clipboard. “Can you wipe it off?!”

“Yah, yah, I can see a bit. It’s awful dark down here, though! I can see the officers! They’re swimming down toward this wrecked ship on the bottom!”

“Oooh!”

“An . . . BESMARA’S TITS! Those are some bloody enormous sharks! I never seen sharks so big! Pull me up! They’re coming!”

“No!” Conchobar yelled, batting Dar away from the winch. “It’s fine, Kulio, the sharks are far away!”

“NO THEY ARE NOT!!!”

“The glass is like a telescope! Everything will look much closer than it really is!”

“Are you SURE?!”

“I made the thing, after all!”

“Damn near pissed myself. Oh, no, what are they doing . . . they’re ATTACKING the SHARKS.” A series of loud booms echoed up the hose. “Besmara, what the hell! My ears are ringing! There’s shark bits everywhere!”

“That kind of sounded like a pistol,” Rosie remarked.

“It did, didn’t it,” Conchobar agreed. A massive corpse suddenly surfaced off the starboard side of the ship. “Wow, that is big.” Another series of booms followed several seconds later, along with more hysterical shrieks from Kulio, and a second corpse joined the first.

PULL ME UP!!!”

“Don’t be a sissy!” Rosie bellowed. “The sharks are dead!”

“Imma wring yer little halfling neck!” Kulio yelled.

“You and what army? What else is happening?”

“Nothing, they’re just swimming down to this coral maze. It’s kinda pretty, really.”

“Well, let us know when something else happens.”

Long minutes of back-and-forth “Anything?” “No!” followed. Rosie made Dar take a turn at the pump.

“Oh, hey, something’s happening!” Kulio shouted. “There’s this kind of blue glow . . .”

Rosie pointed overboard. The seawater was, indeed, glowing faintly. “What is it?” she demanded.

“I dunno. Can’t really see.” A spark leapt from the pump to Dar’s arm and he winced, cursing. Conchobar’s eyes went wide.

“Everybody down!” the gnome screamed. The blue glow pulsed. Electricity arced from the water, forming tiny glowing balls that danced like fairy lights and vanished with a crackling, sizzling noise. The pump squealed as it violently overheated and burst.

“Wow, what a show!” Kulio shouted. “This is amazing!” Then: “Hey, the bag is shrinking!”

“Just hang on!” Conchobar shouted. “A little technical problem up here . . .!”

“Hey! Pull me up!”

“Not yet!” An enormous jellyfish, glowing faintly blue, surfaced alongside the ship.

GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

NOT YET!”

“Screw this, I’m outta here!” Kulio announced. Ripping noises echoed up the tube, then gurgling noises. The water bubbled violently.

“Gosh, I hope he’s all right,” Conchobar said, peering over the side.

“No thanks to you,” Dar told him. A long minute passed, then Kulio surfaced, gasping and waving a knife.

“Imma . . . kill . . . all . . . you . . . fuckers . . .”

Conchobar grinned and pulled out his clipboard again. “Experiment success!” he enthused. Kulio glared up at him. He eyed the rope leading from the winch down into the water. He fingered his knife. Conchobar screamed in horror as Kulio neatly severed the rope that was holding the apparatus to the ship; it instantly vanished into the water. The hose parted company with the ruined pump with a slurping sound and followed in mechanical solidarity.

“Noooo!” Conchobar yelled. “My fishbowl!”

“Had enough adventure, I take it?” Dar asked as they hauled Kulio back aboard.

“Yes, thank you.”

The officers soon returned and the remainder of the afternoon was spent hauling goods up from the ocean floor. “That’s how it should be,” Kulio announced. “Exciting adventure, then loot.”

“Sadly, there’s nothing back on shore ter spend it on,” Dar grumbled.

“Something will turn up,” Kulio said.

“Your optimism is starting ter annoy me.” Yet, when they reached the dock, now nearly completed, there was another surprise awaiting: a crowd of scantily-clad women, clearly waiting for Crisis to return. The crew gathered at the side of the ship to gape while the officers climbed down to speak to them. The ladies and the officers headed toward the now-repaired fort while Rosie returned to the ship.

“What’s going on?” Dar demanded.

“They’re prostitutes,” Rosie said, shaking her head. “They want some kind of asylum or somethin’. Think the Cap’n’s gonna accept.”

Kulio grinned.

“Did you PLAN that?!” Dar demanded.

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Session 36: Cleanup

Posted by: Jennifer

Ezikial winced as Sandara’s spell took effect, restoring his eyesight. The first thing he saw was the Dreamstone sitting on the chartroom table with both Reiko and Feruzi glaring at it as though they could force it to render up its secrets through sheer willpower. Leila, Rosie, and Conchobar sat perched around the edges of the room. Ezikial’s hand went automatically to his flask. A swallow of rum only dulled the headache brought on by the morning sunlight glinting through the windows.

“As nearly as I can determine,” Feruzi said, finally, “smashing the stone would solve most of our problems.”

“Would that get us th’ Cap’n back?” Sandara asked.

“It should. That’s how the spell works . . . although it’s generally supposed to be much more limited in scope.”

“Dispel it?” Ezikial suggested, looking at Sandara, who shrugged.

“I’m less sure what the effect of that would be, if she even can manage it,” Feruzi said. “I wish I had more books.”

“Might be nice ter ’ave that genie still ’ere,” Sandara said softly.

“There was a genie?” Leila asked eagerly.

“Are you willing to risk the Captain’s life by smashing the stone without knowing exactly what will happen?” Reiko asked.

Feruzi held up her hands. “Tell me what you require to be certain enough and I will try to provide it. If you think I’m not knowledgeable enough, that is fine. Who else would you like to consult? We could ask Durgrin, or any other spellcaster you know. Of course, it would take two days at minimum for them to receive the message and send a reply.”

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Session 35: Serenity Now

Posted by: Jennifer

Bereft of their leader, the remaining cyclopes avoided contact, leaving the Crisis officers generally in command of Sumitha. Sandara healed the worst of their injuries while they surveyed the ruins.

“So, I guess we go look at the ‘wish woman’ now?” Feruzi asked.

“Aye, I reckon,” Chopper said. They approached the outdoor monument in the center of the ruins, a raised dais surrounded by decorative archways and alabaster columns. The triangular pool at the center shimmered and a vaguely female form—giant-sized—manifested.

“Welcome,” she said.

“So, what’s the what, now?” Chopper muttered.

“Greetings,” the woman said. “I am Vailea, the marid.”

“More ghosts?” Feruzi asked.

“I am no ghost, but a creature of elemental water, trapped here in the waning days of Ghol-Gan by ancient cyclopean magics.”

Feruzi crossed her arms over her chest. “And I take it you want our help to get loose?” She looked at Chopper pointedly. “I don’t suppose there’s any use in pretending we’re not going to help.”

“I will not deny that I greatly desire this, but I can only be freed if someone uses one of my wishes to free me.”

“Wishes?” Chopper asked. “Elaborate.”

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Session 34: Off to See the Ishtoreth

Posted by: Jennifer

After spending the night on the Crisis, the executive officers left Leila in charge of the ship and took the ship’s boat, passing the Chelish fortress and rowing upriver until they reached a placid lake. They pulled the boat up on the eastern shore and discovered this area was not a trackless wilderness after all—someone had built a gigantic corral out of whole trees nearby. It was an imposing, if crude, edifice, yet it clearly hadn’t been imposing enough. The beams lay broken and smashed on the ground and massive clawed footprints led away into—or, more accurately, over—the brush.

“What the fook made that?” Chopper asked.

“More dinosaurs, it looks like,” Feruzi said, surveying the prints.

“Like Koro-koro?”

“Probably a big herbivore,” she told him, grinning. “Isn’t that a great word? Herbivore.”

“Ah, less bitey, then.”

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Session 33: Fort Secured

Posted by: Jennifer

Bikendi Otongu faded from sight.

“Well,” Reiko said, “That was interesting.” Ezikial nodded agreement. “I am fairly certain he wasn’t giving us the full truth about needing to take over one of our bodies to do this ritual, though.”

“We will need to do something to get these spirits off the island,” Feruzi said. “All these risen dead will prove problematic.”

“I don’t disagree with this notion, but I am not willing to let something take over my body,” Reiko insisted.

“We should not discuss it standing in this room, I think,” Feruzi said.

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Interlude: The Tale of Bikendi Otongu

Posted by: Jennifer

“Millennia ago in that heyday of the Age of Serpents, before there was an Eye, before humans even came to these lands, the Cyclops of Ghol-Gan ruled here. Many of their ruins still stand, relicts of a lost empire whose greatness few today can comprehend. One such ruin, a mountain retreat known as Sumitha, stands on this very island. Here the Cyclops constructed a hidden vault known as the Eye of Serenity to hold a sacred artifact, the Lens of Revelation. The Cyclopean seers of Sumitha guided their fellows in war to survey the lands and even to know the will of the divine, but when their civilization waned the Lens turned dark and they abandoned Sumitha to be forgotten. Many of them retreated to the Darklands, and those who stayed degenerated into savagery. The men who came centuries later saw only the eyeless statues on the Island’s shores and hillsides, the fist-sized gems that once decorated these monoliths long since taken and lost.

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Session 32: The Hold of Nightmares

Posted by: Jennifer

The first building they entered proved to be a chapel, only a handful of the simple pews still intact between the others that lay scattered and broken on the floor. A golden symbol hung from the ceiling, a winged eye in a ring, the symbol of Aroden. Once the patron deity of Cheliax and a number of other major countries, Aroden had disappeared nearly a century ago when all of Golarion was wracked by terrible storms, ending in the formation of the Eye of Abendego. Aroden’s former worshippers had mostly abandoned him, converting to other faiths or, in the case of Cheliax, to the worship of devils. This chapel could have lain abandoned for decades or centuries, there was no way to tell.

“Is that real gold?” Feruzi asked, eyeing the symbol. Leila studied it for a moment.

“I believe it is, Feruzi,” she said at last.

“That much gold undefended for this long? It must be cursed,” Feruzi continued as Leila looked around for some way to reach the symbol. Four large, spider-like creatures with eerie humanoid faces suddenly flashed into view, snapping their mandibles. Chopper knocked one away before it could poison him and it tore a long gash in his wrist. Leila shouted as another one clamped down on her leg. Then the spiders vanished as suddenly as they appeared.

Ezikial waved his pistols furiously, seeking a target, while Feruzi pressed her back to the wall and cast a protective spell. The spiders burst into existence again, clawing and biting at everyone. Ezikial shot one in the abdomen before they could vanish a second time.

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Session 31: The Reception

Posted by: Jennifer

Feruzi shrugged at Chopper. “That was . . . not as bad as it could have been, I suppose.”

“Codswallop is what it is, pure and simple,” Chopper growled. Ezikial scowled in agreement.

“Are you all right, Merrill?” Feruzi asked. Pegsworthy sighed.

“I will be. It might take some time, though.”

Feruzi began to fidget, glancing over at Chopper again, who tilted his head to the side and regarded her curiously. “I have a . . . favor I want to ask you,” she said, speaking to Pegsworthy. “If you don’t mind. And, er, if Chopper doesn’t mind.” Chopper’s eyebrows shot up and Pegsworthy visibly shook off whatever was occupying his mind.

“Of course,” Pegsworthy said. “Anything.”

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Interlude: Arbitrary Arbitration

Posted by: Jennifer

Is it a good sign or a bad one that Kerdak Bonefist looks more than a little hung over this morning? Pegsworthy thought as the Master of the Gales escorted him into the audience chamber. From the sound of the celebrations last night—audible even in the brig of the Kraken—there wouldn’t be many pirates eager to face the day. The Council table seemed to bear that out; only Tessa Fairwind and Avimar Sorrinash were arrayed beside Bonefist. Tessa gave Pegsworthy a faint, restrained nod, which he returned. Sorrinash merely sneered. The audience chamber was otherwise nearly empty, only a few random hangers-on occupied the benches. Harrigan was nowhere in sight.

“Whass this about, then?” Bonefist demanded.

“The Master requests us to sit in judgment of Free Captain Merrill Pegsworthy, who stands accused of breaking the Truce of the Free Captains’ Regatta by attacking three of Free Captain Barnabus Harrigan’s men, Lord.” Tessa’s voice was firm and to the point, betraying no touch of personal consideration.

“Izzat so? Never liked that Harrigan. I take it ’e were provoked?”

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Interlude: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Ukele

Posted by: Jennifer

“Where is my sister?” Feruzi asked as she watched the immense eagle bearing Pegsworthy land on the Kraken. Without a word, Labella led her down to the Bonaventure’s brig, where Ukele was sitting curled in misery on a rough wooden bench. Feruzi stared mutely for several moments, then said, “Would you excuse us, please?” Labella was gone before Feruzi finished speaking the third word.

“It’s all my fault!” Ukele wailed and burst into tears. Black fury seemed to rise in Feruzi’s stomach and meet a sinking sense of heavy numbness. “I want to go home!”

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