They awake hung over. After the sobering events of the previous evening, the party took advantage of the nightly allotment of grog. And a foul batch it must have been, for each had awoken with debilitating headaches. As they begin to stir in amidst their hammocks, Sendara Quinn lounges near a porthole, sending delicate waifs of smoke through it while amusedly stroking her pipe having already completed her morning ablutions to Besmara.
“Consumed the grog, did ye all” she chuckles. “Well, that’s not an activity I would place highly upon my list. Certainly not the rot what is passed to the crew.” Laughing softly, she sends a few more puffs through the porthole as the rest of the crew within the hold stir awake.
A moaning Gorbo is perhaps the most miserable of the lot. It is apparent to all by his moans that the grog settled most disfavorably upon him “My poor temples – oohhh, my poor temples, why you hurt so bad?” Gorbo keeps up a litany of laments as he thrashes weakly in his hammock.
Rogald stands and stretches his long frame, then moves away from the grousing Gorbo. Sendara salters over and brings in tow a tall, sinewy fellow. Dressed in clothes appropriate for being at sea, ragged pants and tunic, the newcomer’s long hair is a bedraggled mess.
“This here’s Calder. Joined us last night. Master Scourge let him out of confinement. Something to do with performance of unholy acts.” Sendara explains.
“Ignorant fool” mutters the newcomer. “Scourge and the others have no idea the powers they trifle with.” With a nod to the companions, Calder moves away, preferring solicitude to their company, and remains aloof from the rest of the companions.
“Not much of a talker” Sendara admits. “But seems a fine enough sort. And anyone who’s sideways with Scourge has at least one likeable quality.” Sendara goes above to catch a breath of fresh air, and bit of quiet from the keening goblin, before the morning call to duty.
Which comes all too soon. The clang of the bell from above calls the party to above decks. But as they begin to ascend the stairs, they find their way blocked by a couple of surly pirates. They’ve seen them on deck before, but they’ve stayed apart from the newcomers. Master Scourge, standing behind the group upon deck, glances down once and then turns his back and walks away.
“So, what’s we have here” the largest of the brutes proclaims. “Looks like the bilge has spat out the whole lot of ye.”
“Yea, Phipps” another of the brutes agrees “they’s all floaters in the bilge, they are.”
Rogald pushes his frame up against Phipps. It hasn’t been a good morning thus far. Pounding headache, whiny goblin, and now accosted by a gang of brutes. Trying to push his way past, Phipps pushes back against Rogald, who is knocked back off the ladder. Brother Jamie, who had joined Rogald, now head butts Phipps with a loud crack.
Phipps complains loudly “Hey, that hurt. Why you hurt me?”
Taking advantage of the moment’s hesitation, Calder takes the opportunity to move forward and place his hands up Phipps and calls out “Oh blessed goddess, bring your favor upon your servant and heal the pain thus inflicted upon this man!”
Calder’s hands briefly glow an eerie green. But instead of a soothing salve, Phipps’ skin around the touch begins to crackle, desiccating in an instant as if all moisture has been drawn forth. Phipps winces loudly at the nauseating touch “Oh, I’m so sick. I’m gonna die – why’d you do that. Why you hurt me?”
The rest of the brutes surge forward, two male – two female, and fists begin to fly. Brother Jamie deflects the blows of the brutes and yells out “Master Scourge. There’s a sick man down here. He needs help!” hoping that Scourge, or someone, will hear and help stop the pending melee.
One of the larger brutes, a half-orc, stumbles and falls as he tries to get at the party. With the half-orc on his knees and vulnerable, Fens steps up and grasps its tusked maw in his hands. A bolt of blue shocking energy is released, and as the light fades, it takes with it some of the life force of the brute.
From ontop the companionway, Sendara appears “For Besmara’s sake, don’t kill anyone” and tries to make her way down to break up the scrum.
Rogald trades blows with the two female brutes. Gorbo is finally able to extricate himself from the entanglement of his hammock. Ignoring the pounding of his head, the goblin assists the northerner, trading blows with the skankiest looking female pirate upon the Wormwood, and perhaps the skankiest that ever sailed the Shackles.
The rumble below has now begun to attract attention from above, and there is cheering as the crew antagonizes the fight forward.
The half-orc tries to stand up, but Calder sends a flow of magic against him. The half-orc responds by violently vomiting. Finally making it to his feet and backing up, the half-orc cries out “Enough, enough. I give up. I don’t want no more – I give up.”
With the half-orc backed out of the fight, Brother Jamie and Phipps now begin to wrestle. But their combined large bulk is too massive for either to gain purchase upon the other.
The cheering crowd from above suddenly parts, and Master Scourge begins to ascend down the ladder. Looking at the half-orc backed-up and cowering from the fight, and Phipps and Brother Jamie comically wriggling against one another, Scourge builds into a rage.
Noticing Scourge storming down the ladder, Brother Jamie suddenly yells out and throws himself upon the deck. “I’m stabbed! I’m stabbed! Blessed bounteous Besmara, I am afflicted. Save your servant. Oh Phipps, why, oh why did you stab me, Phipps!”
Scourge has made his way amongst the ruckus now, and the blows between the combatants instantly cease.
“But I didn’t stab you” Phipps proclaims his innocence. “Why would I stab you, I wouldn’t stab anyone, I wouldn’t, honest, Master Scourge.”
As Phipps asserts his innocence, Sendara slices through the press and hovers over Brother Jamie. Laying her hands upon the prone and thrashing oracle, she sends supplications to Besmara on behalf of Brother Jamie.
“Silence!” rages Scourge. “Enough! There will be no more fighting amongst the crew upon the Wormwood.” Scourge looks the scene over, and glances above at the crowd of crew above.
Then he turns on Phipps “You’ll be called to task this evening during the Bloody Hour.”
“But I didn’t stab no one. I don’t even have a knife. Honest, I didn’t do it, we wuz just having some fun.” Phipps proclaims still further.
“Enough!” Scourge shouts. “Everyone, up on deck. To your duties.” Then glaring at Phipps, Scourge promises “You, Mister Chumlett, I will tend to you personally tonight. Now move!”
Continuing to avow his innocence, Phipps dejectedly moves up the ladder, trying to convince anyone who would listen that he would never bring a knife into a fight on board – a serious violation, that.
“Seems like this lot won’t be messing with us anymore” a pleased Calder mumbles under his breath. “They should’ve known better than to mess with folk from the River Kingdom. But now, ah, they’ll think twice afore they try that agin.” Satisfied with his performance in the brawl, Calder follows the rest of crew onto deck.
As Brother Jamie, now apparently miraculously healed, passes Scourge, Scourge presses a hard fist into the flabby chest of the oracle. “I don’t like you, fat boy.” With a shove, Brother Jamie is pushed back, and Scourge storms up the ladder.
“Congratulations, you seem to have made yourself quite an enemy, Brother Jamie” Sendara cautions the corpulent man. “Best to watch yourself closely. Scourge is not one to forget a grudge. But let’s get up deck. I’m afraid it’s going to be a hard day for all of us.”
Sendara’s words were prophetic. Mister Plugg and Master Scourge worked the crew without mercy the entire day. As Rogald turned interesting shades of pink under the blazing sun trying to convince the sails to take a bit of wind upon the now still waters, Fens spent time attempting to complete his tasks. And it was a good thing that Fens ran across an amicable pirate, Scrimshaw Jack.
“You see, I’ze been on many ships afore” Scrimshaw explains to Fens as he helps him with his tasks. “They’z always be pugs like Scourge and Plugg, and they always use the likes of Plugg to torment anyone who’s not akin to their liking. And wit cap’ns like this ‘un on board, well, the voyage promises to be harsh. Jus’ keep yor ‘ead low and you’ll be fine.” Having passed on his advice, and wanting nothing more than peace on the ship, Jack moves on from Fens, having saved the caster from a certain lashing during the Bloody Hour.
While the crew worked hard above, Gorbo was sent below decks into the bilge.
“You be ‘bout the size of a rat” Plugg derisively remarks.
“Rat-size?” Gorbo wonders. “Must be a big rat if it’s as big as me. Now I don’t think I’m all that big, but the size of a rat? Well, I come from a long line of goblins of a particular diminutive nature, and…hey, ok, ok, enough with the cat o’ nine tails. Ouch…”
“Enough blabber” Plugg declares. “To the bilge – there be movement down there, I hear. Clean out the rats, and clean them out good.” With a crack, Plugg sends the suddenly enthusiastic Gorbo below.
“Oh, wee. I gets to explore. And take a bath, too” an excited Gorbo pronounces. “Now my friends won’t cover their nose when I see them anymore.”
“What an adventure, yes” agrees Brother Jamie. “Now run along, Gorbo, we’ll see you soon.”
With a crack of the whip, Master Scourge has come up to what the delay is. “Maggot, to the bilge. And fatboy, on your knees and scrub this deck. Or we’ll use you for chum bait.”
“Oh thank you, Blessed Besmara” Brother Jamie declares. “May your strength guide me in this most difficult of tasks, and may I perform it well…”
Brother Jamie continues his loud praising of Besmara. Yet while he proclaims his ardor in his task, he has yet to commence it. In disgust, both Scourge and Plugg move away in search of other recalcitrant yet less vocal souls to torment.
Throughout the day, Gorbo swims and splashes throughout the bilge. There is much movement amongst the water, and it doesn’t take long before Gorbo brandishes a full belly. He’ll be passing on victuals tonight, content to patting his stomach as he feasts on one more and final plump and tasty rodent.
As promised, during the Bloody Hour, Phipps is given the lash, despite his continuing proclamation of his innocence. At the conclusion of the three lashings, Phipps looks on Brother Jamie with kindled hatred. Though Brother Jamie may have gotten the best of today’s encounter, Phipps unspoken promise is to return the favor in kind.
Brother Jamie meanwhile had taken to standing with Cog during the whipping. As each lash is laid upon Phipps, Cog responds with a primal passion. Brother Jamie encourages Cog’s visceral reaction, whispering into Cog’s ear that the punishment upon Phipps is deserved. Cog stares as if in a trance as Brother Jamie weaves his influence upon Cog.
He who is Phipps must be killed, Brother Jamie whispers, as Cog nods in unblinking approval. The next time Phipps steps out of line, Brother Jamie muses, Phipps must be killed. The oracle further weaves the tale that it is the destiny of Cog to kill someone. Someone big. A malevolent glare radiates from Cog. As Phipps is lead away, Cog’s eyes narrow with hatred upon his now sworn enemy. An enemy who now must die.
Two other sailors receive their punishment this night. First is a female gnome, whipped for dereliction of duty. Her one eye is steady as she receives the punishment – it is not her first time under the lash. The second recalcitrant is Ratling. It seems that even though the wind was rather calm that day, Ratling was clumsy and slipped as he helped Rogald with the rigging. Falling fast and thudding hard on the deck was not enough punishment – it was the whip for dereliction.
After the whippings, Fens is able to take Ratling to the side and commiserate with him. Ratling takes the offer, and Fens invites him to eat with them this evening. With an added promise of a finer share of grog, one which won’t leave him so debilitated in the morning, Ratling accepts the offer and appears to accept entrance into the now growing band of allies.
One other pirate joins the party for the meal. Her name is Tilly Bracket. She has a burning hatred for Phipps. Tilly, not unacquainted with the whip during Bloody Hour herself, is happy to side with the group that is in opposition to his tormenting.
That evening, at the daily distribution of grog, Brother Jamie gathers all the new friends together and sends out a prayer “Oh Blessed Besmara, grants us your favor and bless this benison of victuals and grog we offer this eve. As you have so graciously calmed the seas, may you also calm our humble partaking of this meal. And with your gifts so bequeathed, may we be more able to accept your boundless wisdom and guidance.”
As the gathered drink their grog, it seems as though it is less nasty than usual. Indeed, later that evening, the sleep they manage that evening is pleasant for once. The next morning, they all awaken with a renewed strength of spirit. Brother Jamie promises to purify the drink for each remaining night of their voyage to keep the party strong, an offer which is gladly accepted by the party.
The following day, the sea has becalmed. But though the meteorology is calm, a storm tempest still churns with strength. And that storm is wrought upon the Wormwood all throughout the day as Master Scourge and Plugg work those of the party without respite. Harsh though Phipps’ punishment was the night before, at least it was of brief duration. No such fleeting torment would be conferred upon the party. Rather, a torment persistent and severe was exacted. Any time one of the group would pause in their toil, the crack of a whip would sound, accompanied by a rash of cursing and berating. It became very evident to all aboard the Wormwood that anyone associated with this group would be harshly punished.
But as the day’s labors come to a close, several of the group manage to break away and go to the quartermaster. Cutthroat Grock is her name, and well acquainted with the sea is she. Half-orc in heritage, she is quick and abrupt as she tries to dismiss the group. It is late in the day. She, as many others of the crew, looks forward to the promised daily allotment of grog.
But Brother Jamie is not so easily dissuaded. Consulting with Fens, Brother Jamie puts on his best airs, and begins to sweet talk the mass of half-orc-humanity. And his flirting finds purchase, for something stirs deep within the primal urgings of Grock. She soon is besotted with Brother Jamie, fascinated as much from his smooth tongue as his wonderfully soft and bulbous frame. A boon she demands of Brother Jamie.
“Call me Sweet Bunny, my love.” Squelching a shudder, or was that a quiver of exaltation, Brother Jamie smiles and complies.
In short order, Brother Jamie has managed to arrange the release of the gear that was commandeered from the group upon their kidnapping. Sweet Bunny then also displays a long bill of items for sale. Various mundane and mastercraft equipment are offered, as are a few minor magical items. But perhaps the most interesting of items is a fine fiddle that she had recently received.
Clearly, this fiddle was the filched fiddle of Rosie, the hot-headed Halfling who had promised painful death upon that person who had stolen her fiddle. But the price requested by the quartermaster for the fiddle was high. One hundred fifty gold coins were needed. An alternative, a fine flask of spirits would do.
But the haggling for the acquisition of this prize would need to await a later date. For a more immediate claim was necessary. And so Brother Jamie is led by Sweet Bunny to a back room. The enamoration of Sweet Bunny is complete, as so too her desire. As the night waxes and treks unto morn, the passionate revel between Sweet Bunny and Brother Jamie is consummated with passion, and is decided by both to be glorious.
The next day, a serious test for the party awaits. The weather is hot again, and little wind is present. Despite the crew’s best effort, the Wormwood makes little headway. But the lack of progress soon becomes moot.
“Mister Plugg, Mister Plugg!” a frightened Scrimshaw Jack calls out. He had been sent down to man the bilge pumps, but has now abandoned his post and scrambled back up on deck.
An annoyed Plugg shouts out from the quarterdeck “Scrimshaw, what in bloody Besmara’s bosom are ye doing? Ye should be down below manning the pumps!”
Jack is clearly shaking in fear, and it takes him a moment to compose himself before he is able to respond. “Mister Plugg. Down below. Great monsters. Dozens. At least. I saw them.”
“Dozens of monsters below” a bemused Plugg ponders. “But the bilge was cleared yesterday by our noble goblin, correct, Gorbo?”
“Oh, yes, yes sir” an enthusiastic Gorbo chirps up. “Lots of rats down there. I filled my belly. But when I was done catching, I didn’t see anything else down there.”
“But Mister Plugg” Jack continues. “I saw them. Large, hairy beasts with shiny eyes. I’m not disputing Gorbo, but truly I was lucky to make it out with my life.”
“Well, well, well” Plugg considers, and soon, a smile crosses his expression. “Oh Brother Jamie” Plugg calls out sweetly.
“Yes, Mister Plugg. How may I, your servant of Besmara, serve you” the noble oracle asks.
“Gather your friends, Brother Jamie” Plugg explains. “Seems as though we have an infestation down below. Take your friends and cleanse the bilge of these nasty creatures, if indeed they exist.”
Bowing, Brother Jamie calls to his friends and gathers them together. Plugg allows Brother Jamie to take Caldera, Fens, Rogald, and Fens down below.
Scrimshaw Jack, thankful that he wasn’t chosen for this task, moves over to Fens “They’re down there. Be sure of that. Hairy creatures. Swimming in the bilge. Take care below.
With a nod of thanks, Fens follows the small party below decks to investigate and purge the threat.
The plank leading down the bilge is open, hastily thrust aside as Jack raced from below. It is dim below, but enough light leaks thru that no additional light source is needed. Cautiously, Rogald and Gorbo lead the way down the ladder into the bilge.
The water in the bilge is about a foot deep. Clearly, the pumps are needed to be put into action. While a seaworthy vessel, the Wormwood is definitely prone to taking on water. Slowly, the party spreads out and begin to move towards the rear of the boat.
Some objects are floating in the water, but nothing is moving. The party is quiet as they advance, and soon, they spy movement ahead. Coming to a halt, the party pull out the weapons they had retrieved the night before from quartermaster. Muttering a thanks to Sweet Bunny, Brother Jamie brandishes his staff as a wave of large shapes charge at the party.
Scrimshaw Jack was correct, mostly. These were indeed large hairy monsters. Oversized rats, they had somehow evaded the searching of Gorbo from the previous day. But instead of dozens, there were in reality just over a half-dozen. The rats close quickly, and the melee is furious.
Fens stands behind Rogald, who begins to bash rat after rat with his heavy lucerne hammer. With each swing, another rat is smashed to death.
Gorbo and Brother Jamie work together. They manage to fend off the attacks of the rats while Calder casts spells, and the number of alive rats begin to dwindle.
But Fens is having problems. Casting a successful spell against one of the oversized rodents, he becomes entangled in fang-to-sickle combat with one of the rats. A successful strike of Fens’ sickle, though, does not match the ferocity of the rat. And with a series of rapid bites, Fens is stricken unconscious, falling into the nasty bilge.
Seeing the fallen Fens, Rogald quickly turns and dispatches the rat. And in short order, the last of the rats are destroyed.
While Brother Jamie tends to the fallen Fens, casting healing spells and reviving him to consciousness, the rest of the party searches through the bilge. No more rats are found, but a number of useful items are discovered. Ignoring the occasional chomp and slurp from Gorbo who is dealing with the bodies of the rats, the party soon collects a nice assortment of items to supplement their gear. Secreting most of it away for later use, the party choses a few items to keep with themselves.
Unsure of the greeting they will receive when they relay their success to Plugg, they gird themselves and begin to ascend to the deck above.