Skull and Shackles

Session 22: Dat Booty

Posted by: Jennifer

“That is—rather disturbing,” Feruzi said at last. Reiko frowned, evidently thinking hard, her expression inscrutable. She put the jar with its gruesome contents away for safekeeping and stood.

“Shall we continue on?” Chopper shrugged at Reiko and they continued their journey through the watery tunnels. They followed the cross-tunnel south, arriving at a small chamber on the left hand with numerous organic filaments running from floor to ceiling like squishy columns. Fist-sized pink ovoids were attached to these columns, bobbing gently in the current. Feruzi grimaced at the sight.

“It is going to turn out that Wolfe’s treasure was his collection of weird plants, isn’t it.”

“It’s lookin’ a lot like that,” Chopper agreed.

“Captain, there’s something in there. I can hear it moaning,” Ezikial said. They moved cautiously into the cavern, Feruzi taking the rear and flinching away from the gelatinous protrusions. On close inspection the ovoids were slightly translucent, revealing small tadpole forms inside.

“Is this some kind of sahuagin . . . hatchery?” Feruzi demanded.

“No,” Reiko said. "They’re locathah. They’re kind of like rivals to the sahuagin . . . usually. “I’m not sure how or why they’d be breeding down here with the sahuagin.”

The moaning turned out to be coming from a fishlike humanoid—a locathah—chained to the wall at the back of the cave. Someone had removed the creature’s legs and crudely stitched up the stumps. It seemed oblivious to its surroundings.

Session 21: Vines and Skulls

Posted by Jennifer

Once again, the waters of the cove were still—oddly still, considering the north wind was beginning to pick up, heralding another child-storm broken off from the Eye of Abendego. Clouds streaked the sky.

“So… Okay, I feel bad about that now,” Chopper commented, casting a wary eye at the weather.

“I feel like that might have been more productive at sunrise, Captain,” Reiko admonished.

Chopper emitted some unintelligible mumbles that ended with, “So’s your face.”

“All due respect, Cap’n, that don’t make sense,” Cochobar told him.

“It always makes sen . . . Oh, nevermind. For what it’s worth, I’m thinking the guardian monster ain’t tied to the sunrise. Just seein’ the Relevant Bit so we know where to climb.”

“Possibly, but it’s pretty dark in the cove any time during the day and night, except sunrise to probably around late morning. Who knows what the cove will look like during the morning hours?” Reiko pressed.

“Who ever heard of a guardian monster that’s afraid of the dark?” Chopper demanded.

“Afraid of the light, you mean,” Feruzi corrected.

“No, I said it right.”

“Sadly, you meant it wrong.”

“I didn’t mean to suggest that it was afraid of the dark, only that it will be much, much, MUCH easier for us to see when the sunlight is shining directly in there,” Reiko continued, beginning to get aggravated.

Interlude: Ezikial Hands, Journeyman Therapist
In Which we Learn that Besmara Has a Sense of Humor

Posted by Gurtchmann

Ezikial stood beside Captain Chopper, looking as intimidating as he could. Despite his desire to slaughter the captain of the Famished Mane, he left her be and watched the crew instead.

When Reiko took the man, Saburo, aside to speak to him, Ezikial noticed Leila watching them intently. She glanced away and saw him watching her and she turned, heading to the officer’s quarters of the Crisis. Thinking that it may be an issue of concern to the ship, Ezikial followed, still bloodied from the wounds he had taken. Catching up to her inside the cabin, he dropped his scowl and aggressive posture. “Leila, what is it?”

She glanced at him and then away. “It’s nothing, Mr. Hands. I’m all right, or I will be.”

This seems less like a “ship’s problem” and more like a personal one, he thought, but it would be better if I found out for sure. "Tell me,” he said, trying to soften his usual roughness. When she hesitated, he continued, “It isn’t as if I speak so much that I would spill your secrets. And you have become a shipmate.”

She paused for a moment and seemed to warm to the idea, then spoke: “I don’t know if you can. I don’t know if anybody can.”

Session 20: Legendary Loot

Posted by Jennifer

Studying the dead sorceress’ skin revealed an elaborate map—one curiously without labels or names. Chopper copied it down on a sheet of parchment and sent for Fishguts. The old salt turned the map around several times, then let out a whoop that echoed across the cove and nearly took Chopper’s hat off.

“This map mus’ lead ter Mancatcher Cove, Cap’n, if we c’n read it! What be these ‘ere scratchin’s?”

“It is Minkaian,” Reiko said. "In Taldane, it might read:

“From blue bight’s embrace
Spy the Grave Lady’s prize tooth
With the Dawnflower’s first kiss
Climb the Captain’s wayward orb
To claim old king’s hoard.”

“Some sort o’ riddle, then. Sorry, Cap’n, I heard o’ Mancatcher Cove, but that be all I know,” Fishguts said, sighing.

“I know it,” Reiko informed him. “Nearly a century ago there was a captain called Cyrus Wolfe, a mage of some kind. He hunted the coast of Garund for the most part and was so successful the Free Captains offered him the Hurricane Crown. It is said that he laughed in their faces. It is believed that Wolve divided up his treasure and hid it in several different places, but most of them have either been discovered and pillaged or are simply lost. Mancatcher Cove is supposed to be his greatest hoard—and it still remains untouched. Wolfe selected an uncharted island shrouded in dense jungle and surrounded by forbidding cliffs, save for one cove said to be so deep it descended into the pit of Hell. Wolfe used his sorcerous powers to reach into that pit and call forth a guardian that could crush any ships attempting to enter the cove. Copies of this map are not all that uncommon in the Shackles, but no one who sets out in search of the treasure ever returns.” She stared levelly at Chopper and began counting under her breath.

“Except us, of course,” Chopper announced.

Interlude: How the Strife Was Won

Posted by Jennifer

“Run us over starboard a bit! I said starboard! STARBOARD!!!” Pyxes bellowed. Ionni hastily reversed the rudder, but it was too late—the newly-renamed Strife crunched to a halt on the gravel. "Ye silly bitch, don’t ye know what starboard means?!

“I be knowing yer words full well, ye yam-blasted scummat, but wich way be I turnin yon thingy?”

WHAT did you call me?!” the half-orc oarsman demanded. The drekar rocked violently as he struggled to get to her past the other crew. Ionni shrank back at first, but she sensed the disdain from the other remnants of Svard’s crew at her display of weakness. Her eyes narrowed as she sought backup. Pellal was solid, as always, and Kuun could be relied upon not to back down from a fight. The other two former slaves were unknown quantities. Salmonix was temperamentally unstable, a combination of his elvish ancestry and long indenture; he was the only one among them who was born a slave. That left Vrinege, the Mwangi pygmy. Even her facial expressions were indecipherable. She sat in the rigging with the halfling triplets from Svard’s crew, Knotte, Knoose, and Knobbe. Ionni glanced at them and was surprised to see Vrinege grinning widely and the halflings making surreptitious gestures of encouragement. It made sense, though—Pyxes was the largest of the oarsmen and appeared to lack any vestige of a sense of humor.

Heartened, Ionni straightened up and unleashed a torrent of abuse. “I called ye yam-blasted, ye lank-haired, slime-breasted, rot-breathed turd o’ a scurvy rat! E’en the fleas won’t bite yer filthy carcass, ye spindle-shanked, cork-eared, limp-knobbed blighter! Ye . . .”

“I’LL KILL YOU!!!” Pyxes bellowed and charged across the remaining deck. Ionni ducked and Pellal stuck out a foot, tripping the half-orc, who went over the side. Pyxes grabbed Pellal as he went down and they fell overboard together. Ionni jumped on the struggling men and began viciously kicking any part of Pyxes that was available. In seconds the melee became general, with the other oarsmen rushing to Pyxes aid. They never reached him, however; the sail came down and flattened them to the deck.

“What are they doing?” Reiko muttered, taking out the spyglass she’d inherited now that Chopper had a magical one. She watched as the assorted oarsmen of the beached Strife squirmed their way out from under the sail, only to be met at the edge by a halfling and forced to surrender or be skewered. By the look of it, no one was inclined toward the skewering option. Once they were all subdued, the dark-skinned little pygmy hopped up on a rock and addressed the group with a broad grin and a number of expressive gestures. The oarsmen exchanged baffled looks. Vrinege gestured emphatically. One of the oarsmen got to her feet, took two steps, made a grab toward the pygmy and was instantly on the ground, writhing in pain. Vrinege addressed the other oarsmen again. Emphatic head-shaking.

Herding the large, muscular brutes like a cattle-dog, Vrinege got the Strife back into the water, got the sail replaced, and without further incident the patrol around Tidewater Rock resumed. It was a good thing, too—the mast of the Crisis was repaired and it was time for her to set out again. Vrinege would make a good person to leave in charge of defending the island in her absence.

Interlude: Clothes Make the Woman

“Are you well, Lady?” Feruzi asked.

Lady Agasta seemed to give this some consideration. “Well enough, considering. I’m still alive, unlike poor Royster.”

“You were very fond of him?”

“Of course. I think his loyalty was all that kept me going, sometimes.”

Feruzi frowned. “He seemed . . . fond of you. More than fond.”

Agasta smiled sadly. “Yes. I know.”

“Then why didn’t you marry him? Why marry Chopper instead?” The frown deepened. “Why marry anyone?”

Agasta cocked an eyebrow at this series of questions. “Is something bothering you, my dear?”

“Marriage seems such a troublesome matter. Feruzi is only here because her sister Ukele ran away from it—ran away from it twice—and caused a mess of troubles. That, and no man in the village would have Feruzi for a wife, so she was available to do the chasing. Now Captain Pegsworthy is sending Feruzi gifts that make no sense. Why all this . . . this trouble.”

Agasta’s chuckle was deep, resonant, and cultured. “Exactly how old are you, dear?”

Feruz bristled. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Humor me.”

“Feruzi has nineteen summers, if it matters. Ukele has only sixteen, but every man in the village was after her like a pack of dogs after a bitch in heat.”

“Oh, how very flattering.”

Session 19: The Honeymoon

If Tidewater Keep was so crowded with all these new guests, McCleagh grumbled to himself, why couldn’t he find any of them? It was early morning, a time when most pirates were snoring in their bunks, but from the looks of things nearly all of them had risen early, belted on their weapons, and wandered off. At least their Captain was still in Lady Smythee’s rooms, a fact that did little to brighten McCleagh’s mood. He suppressed bitter thoughts with the efficiency of long practice. Lady Smythee looked favorably on the arrangement, and that was all that should concern him. Well, perhaps not all.

“I’m concerned about the safety of the castle’s inhabitants while they’re about their duties,” he told Chopper when the man finally emerged in search of some breakfast.

“Seems you should be, aye. Are ye thinkin’ there’s a nest o’ the fish men hereabouts?”

“I’m not sure. They could be coming to attack from miles away.” McCleagh sighed. He hated to ask, but there was no doubt the pirates were competent. “Could you . . . keep an eye on the people?”

Interlude: Uh? Captain?
I'm not wearing any pants!

I will have to say that our Captain is truly a… an inspiration to us all. – Gurtchmann

I’ve just come down
From the tower on high
I’m so very big and I’m not at all shy
And the crewmen shout when I go by
”Captain, where’s your trousers?”

Let the wind blow high
Let the wind blow low
Through the sea
In the buff, I’ll go
All the lassies say “Hello,
Captain, where’s your trousers?”

A lassie shocked me to my balls
And it was close-packed in the halls
And I was feared that we would fall
And I had not on my trousers!

Let the wind blow high
Let the wind blow low
Through the sea
In the buff, I’ll go
All the crewmen say “Hello,
Captain, where’s your trousers?”

I tackled her from the height
It is not wrong I know it’s right
The Sorceress died in fright
For I had not on my trousers!

Let the wind blow high
Let the wind blow low
Through the sea
In the buff, I’ll go
All the lassies say “Hello,
Captain, where’s your trousers?”

Hey, Chopper, where’s your trousers?
Hey Captain, where’s your trousers?
Yeah, hey, Captain?
Where’s your trousers?

Session 18: Opportunity and Knocks

Posted by Jennifer

“Ships ahoy!” called the lookout and the officers assembled onto the deck of the Crisis to see for themselves. Two ships were visible near the horizon, quite close to each other.

Ezikial’s reaction was immediate: “Bring up the ballistae!”

Reiko frowned slightly while Chopper examined them through his spyglass. “Captain?” she inquired. One of the ships was clearly chasing the other, engaged in a full-out battle, but the colors were indistinguishable at this distance.

“Eh,” Chopper shrugged, “take the winner?”

“Would it not be best to know why they are fighting, first?” Feruzi asked. “Or even, who they are?”

Chopper glanced at her. “Maybe, but . . . pirate.” He shrugged again. “Feelin’ lazy today. Steady as she goes. We’ll get there soon enough.”

“Right,” Reiko said. “Maybe you could go take a nap and we’ll let you know when the good stuff starts?”

Chopper seemed to give this consideration. “Nah.”

“Right,” Reiko drawled. “You just leave everything to me.”

“Duh. I had to do all the work with the Dominator, so you layabouts should do something. For once.” Reiko struggled to conceal a smirk as she turned away and began ascending the rigging. Feruzi glared openly at Chopper.

YOU did all the work?” she demanded.

Session 17: Tooth and Nail

Posted by: Jennifer

The jungle seemed to close in around them; landmarks vanished into a mass of vegetation and the faint rustle of the river was quickly drowned out by the drone of insects. Sandara tried swatting them away from her face, but it was futile. “This makes Bonewrack Isle look like a paradise,” she complained. Feruzi shrugged and continued her examination of the underbrush.

“There do seem to be jaguars about,” she said finally. “They climb trees. Better than we do. So watch above as well as to the sides. There are larger creatures about as well—solitary ones—but I do not recognize their markings. They are almost like midget elephants.”

“Dinosaurs?” Reiko asked. Feruzi blinked.

“Oh, those great beats? I have seen them. My father had one as a pet for a time, but it looked nothing like these tracks.”

“I’ve never seen one myself, so it’s only a guess.”

“Do they climb trees?” Feruzi asked.

“Not these,” Chopper said, looking over the tracks. “Herbivores, by the look of it. Maybe horse-sized.” Sandara sighed in relief.

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“Well, they still might trample us, but at least the meat would go to waste. Until the scavangers got to it, of course,” Chopper concluded cheerfully. Sandara shot him a dark look.


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