Skull and Shackles

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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Session 10: Divers Alarums

Posted By Jennifer

Ezikial swept the torch through the air, leaving a trail across his vision but also revealing a cluster of tiny pink creatures, whether birds, bats, or insects he could not say. Two of them squealed and fell, impaled on arrows, as the rest of the creatures took wing, revealing long, needle-sharp beaks or stingers.

Reiko scowled as she readied her blade. “So, Ms. Feruzi, you said insects passed along the ghoul plague? I think these qualify.” One of them came at her, buzzing most unpleasantly, and she sliced it neatly in half, the blade continuing in a smooth geometric arc to intersect with another stirge bothering Leila. Ezikial skewered a third on his sword while Pluggsley the monkey clung to the back of his shirt and screeched.

With the stirge out of her face, Leila got a grip on her bow and sent an arrow into the darkness of the overhang. Something squealed and fell to the ground. Feruzi continued to fire, each shot movement deliberate yet still nearly too fast to see. More stirges fell to the ground, until the final one launched itself directly at Feruzi’s face. Chopper’s axe flicked out almost casually and swatted it.

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Writings: The Journal of Arron Ivy

Originally created by Krail Stromquism on the Paizo.com forums. Thank you, Krail.

Day 13
Everything’s gone to hell. If only I meant that literally we might have a better chance. I’m sure theres some devil that would give me better odds than this accursed isle…Im getting ahead of myself aren’t I? What should I say, so much has happened since we ran aground. That, I suppose is a good place. No doubt, if you are reading this, know that the Chelish ship Infernus has wrecked, as I am using the manifest as my personal diary. Indeed, the truth of it lies a mile to the west of small cove near the southern tip of the Isle. She struck aground and is held fast for now. We spent maybe the first week ferrying what we could salvage off the boat. The Captain has made some rather, shall we say grueling demands of us. We must have spent the better part of a day moving his damn bed while he cavorted with the ships whores on the eastern beach.

I’m tired and I’m angry and I can’t believe how selfish these fops are acting. I know one shouldn’t speak low of their crew, but we are on land and we are marooned. We all need to pitch in and help, who knows how long we are going to be stuck here? The ships Diabolis is nowhere to be found. Only a handful of us are left, the Captain and first mate, ships whores (3), a few riggers (4), two swabs, two of the gunner’s boys and of course myself. Shouldn’t we be taking this more seriously? Went I go out to scout the island for food, water and shelter, not a nice place to set up a tranquil spot for the whores to relax about in.

I need sleep and not to dream of the Westrcrown market. The smell of the roast hogs stuffed with quail! Thick gravy poured over mead soaked bread. hell if Im not hungry! Damn it all.

I arranged for the manifest to be lost, call it my price for all the extra hauling and scouting I’ve been doing. Devils know I need to speak my mind somewhere, to someone. Tis far better here in this stolen manifest than to the Captain’s face.

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Session 9: Cursed Isle

Posted by Jennifer

Feruzi jumped over the side of the cutter, enjoying the cool surf around her legs as she sloshed up the beach. The remains of mud huts peeked out of the jungle, but there were no signs of current habitation. Even so, after they tugged the cutter higher on the beach so it would not float away with the tide, Ezikial, Leila, and Chopper checked and readied all of their weapons. Reiko had no real need to do this—her katana and wakizashi were always in ready condition—but she made some show of fingering them anyway.

Chopper pointed his chin toward a high knob of rock on the eastern end of the island. “Which way? Should we get up on that tor so we have a better vantage?”

“Feruzi would wish to locate a defensible position before anything else.” She examined the remains of the village, but there was nothing of any apparent use in the rubble and overgrowth.

“I agree that we should get a general lay of the land. I think the tor, as Chopper suggested, would be a good start,” Reiko said.

Feruzi nodded. “These water barrels will encumber us severely in this terrain.”

“Right,” Chopper said. “Let’s leave ’em here until we find the water.” Ezikial scowled silently, but seemed to be more or less in agreement.

“Lead on,” Feruzi said.

They made their way slowly through the swampy salt marsh, harried by mosquitoes and other pests. The wildlife seemed abundant, but nothing larger or more threatening than frogs of the non-giant variety. The water deepened toward the base of the tor, almost chest-high in places.

“Leeches, no doubt,” Chopper groused with a long-suffering sigh. “I hate this island.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Reiko said.

Feruzi looked somewhat amused. “You whine too much,” she told Chopper.

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Interlude: Unvirtuous

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

24 Sarenith, 4712 AR

Feeling weightless in her hammock, Leila had lost track of the hour; neither time nor space had any hold on her. Though exhausted from two days of hell in the rigging, she had never felt less sleepy. But the risk of getting caught sneaking around the ship bothered her more than it had yesterday, and with nothing else to do, she stared at the ceiling and tried not to think.

When that failed, she turned her mind back to making sense of everything that had happened in the last two days, which meant turning her mind back to Nakayama Reiko.

Nakayama would be her family name, in the Tian fashion. She was probably of Tian-Min descent – pilgrims from Minkai had settled an island of the Shackles a couple of centuries ago, though Leila couldn’t think of the name – and a samurai, though she was adopted, not born, into the warrior caste. Unless her pirate birth parents had once been samurai, too? This was why Reiko searched for her brother, Tatsumi: to find out who her parents were, and to find out who she was.

I have no family of my own, Leila thought, and she has two families. A pang of jealousy shot through Leila, which shamed her… painful as her own losses had been, Leila was free in a way Reiko wasn’t, and never could be. Rahadoum was not so different from Reiko’s world… the things they found honorable differed, but the importance of honor was the same.

As most outsiders knew, the Laws of Man governed Rahadoum, forbidding the worship of the gods. But many philosophies existed under those Laws, so the culture varied from city to city, from district to district, and even from household to household. Most Rahadoumi placed the same value on honesty, generosity, hospitality, valor, and loyalty. One’s word, once given, was never taken back; punishment always fit the crime. Dishonorable acts reflected on one’s family, and insults to honor demanded satisfaction.

But the philosopher Yazan went beyond this in his search for purity. All physical contact between men and women who weren’t married became taboo – and in less enlightened places, even a flirtatious glance could be more insulting than complimentary. Women had their own place in the house, where even the husband never ventured without first asking permission. In Yazanite lands, amorous impropriety was the only crime besides murder that was punishable by death.

Kamal al-Saif raised Leila in the Yazanite manner.

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Interlude: A Slow Burn

Posted by Gurtchmann

It was too much… too much to bear without a word.

It would have been tolerable to be lashed for the trumped up charge of Failure to Perform Satisfactorily; it would not have been the first time he’d been whipped at sea. Even knowing that it was only for Plugg’s vanity was tolerable and could be taken in stride. But the disposal of his whiskey and then the brandy, a gift from a true shipmate, all on the word of a self-important lack wit like Plugg was almost too much. Only the thought of the repercussions to his shipmates, and his remaining stash of fine whiskey, the gift of a woman likely to understand him, kept him from drawing and shooting the self important jackanapes that was Plugg on the damn spot.

But, damn him, the letter for Chopper. Ezikial cursed himself for a fool for not hiding the damn thing better. He should have guessed that he’d be searched for “contraband alcohol” and the letter found. Plugg, being what he was, would read it and make mock of it to be sure, and mayhap make trouble for Sandara and Chopper along the way…all to feed his festering ego.

When Plugg called all the crew to bear witness to his mockery, the adrenaline surge very nearly made Ezikial sober enough to lose his grip.

It had been years since had last lost control. The last time was in Cheliax, when a dockworker made too many unwelcome advances towards a female crewmember, and then actually laid hands upon her. Ezikial had vague memories of reloading his pistol several times, turning the fellow’s skull into mush and skinning the remains. That had resulted in a lashing and a discharge from the Seafire, for use of “Excessive Force”.

Reading the letter out loud to the crew and mocking Sandara and Chopper had just lit Ezikial’s fuse.

Thankfully, Chopper was able to choke out some words that kept Ezikial from going off half-cocked “You’re a real son of a bitch, you know that? A true rotter.”
When Plugg replied: "I’ve heard that said, yes. But it takes a son of a bitch to manage a gang of cutthroats like this,” it was too much to bear silently and Ezikial spoke beyond his normal terseness.

“Sadly, you are mistaken, sir. I, at least would have worked with a will and willingly if you had any idea how to lead men.”

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