Skull and Shackles: Pathfinder Adventure Path

Quad 20's - The Chelish Infernal Opera

short crew last nigtht – brother jamie, fens, rogald, and calder. we set out in drenchport with two goals – get info from a contact the halflings gave us decode the rope.

halfling contact was a artist who carved whalebones. we commissioned him to carve a statue of the captain. he sent us to find a man called Hayden Pike. We found Pike, sans head, in his hut and determined he was smuggling information through encrypted Chelish Operas. We know this because Fens double 20’d a history check and then brother Jamie double 20’d a perform check.

We went to another contact for the rope. Between the two of them we pieced together that Pike was gathering information about the Dead Man’s Gale (i didn’t write the name of the ship down) – a pirate captain who has some means of navigating the storms of the eye. Then they were relaying that information to the Chelish navy. We also picked up info about a contact in Quent the spys were reporting to.

We took what we learned back to Tessa in Quent. She said to keep following the path, as it was good information but we needed hard evidence to present to the pirate council. We went to that contact and found she had fled quickly, after killing an imp, and we brought more secret messages back to be decoded.

We now had two names of contacts in Hell Harbor. Hell Harbor is a pirate city, but there are Imps flying about and there are connections to the Chellish (although the pirate lord in charge doesn’t like the Chellish). One contact was a Tengu. We went for the tengu fist. As we showed up, someone was trying to assassinate him with poison crossbow bolts (same way pike was killed). We almost managed to get ourselves dead, but saved the Tengu.

So now we’re in Hell Harbor, we have one name to track down Zarkisa Gallenbar, as the contact who has been running the Chelsih Spy ring. Someone is trying to clean up the mess apparently.

We also learned that Kutch’s 1st wife is causing problems on the high seas with us in mind.

I think that’s it, I have something writtten down about port peril and the dark mistress but I think that ended up being Zarkisa. Next time let’s have someone not drinking take notes.

Outline - Formatting lost.

Skulls and Shackles

1. Pressganged by Barnabus Harrigan – training and whipping, rat killing, whipping, Sweet bunny and more whipping. OwlBear Fight and crab killing, ship boarding training and whipping.

2. Attack on The Man’s Promise.

3. Man’s Promise

a. Attack by sahuagin

b. Run aground.

c. Zombie island and Rescue from Sahuagin, Cog and Sandara

d. The Taking of the Man’s Promise and the death of Scourge and Plugg

e. The rise of Captain Gorbo and the Lesser Evil

4. Rickety Squibs

a. Ship Refit

b. Attack of the Water Naga

c. Mission: Albrecht and the Lost Ship Emperor of the Seas

d. Attack of the Bees

e. Chelish ship. Captain Pegsworthy

5. Emperor of the Seas

a. Spiders and Ghouls and a Squid

6. Absolomian Ship – Truewind.

7. Bloodcove

a. Met Vance of the Consortium (Slavers or not)

8. Attack on Mwangi village – Counterattack by Velociraptors

9. Sahuagin Ambush

10. Gortus Svard Hobgoblin captain of the Devil’s Parlor. Revenge for Captain Gorbo

11. The Ghost Ship of Whalebone Pilk.

12. The Rock

a. The Agreement to Marry for one year and a day

b. The sahuagin attack.

c. The dual with Captain Royce

d. The Wedding night attack, Isabelle Inkskin Locke

13. Mancatcher cove

a. Isabella’s Ship

b. The Tentacle beast in the Cove

c. The Sahuagin underwater dungeon

d. Skull Flowers

e. Rescue of the Locathah Queen

f. Underwater undead Wight and the demise of Fenns

14. Port Peril

a. The Trial of the Fish giant

b. Hurricane Kings party – Gorbo the Free Captain

i. Cooki the third Cook

c. Meeting with Tessa Truewind

d. Sighting of Caulki from Barnabus’s ship

e. Met free captain Pierrce Jerrell

15. Tessa Truewind – Trade for info of who put the mark of death upon us for information as to why the Chelish navy is encroaching upon the Shackles.

a. Island of Quint. Temple of Stolen Kisses (Calistri)
Offer to help in exchange for the return of a Calistrian idol.

b. Second Lead – Bag Island, Temple of Hidden Name

i. Paid for information about the Wreckers.

ii. Chelish information in exchange for information about the Brine Banshee and what makes her so fast. Seek retired doctor on the Island of Ollo.

c. Wreckers Led by Halforc wizard Varcarla, SE of Rampore island:
Fog, mirror image and flying pirate. Recover Calistri Ship

d. Return to Quint with recovered idol. Bruno has altercation with First Wife.

e. Ollo and the retired doctor. Henellious Finch tells us he can find the Brine Banshee if we can recover a ring from a local pirate that will track a person if you have a part of them already. Amputated leg.

f. Dryad’s Grave is taken to recover the ring. Milksop Morton and his wood golem.

g. Rahadoumi Ship – Liberated Cook Rashmed

h. Brine Banshee

i. Attack by Merfolk

ii. The Jelly fish and the lose of Tengo and Rogald

iii. The return of the Rogald and Fenns in Quint.

iv. Deep sea dive and the attack of the sea monster.
Still to do:
Find the Wheel of the Brine Banshee, Jalezar’s Wheel.
Head to Drench port to find Jamis Keft spy ring.
Return to Bloodcove and face Vance of the Consortium.
Return to the Rock and face the ire of The Window Smythee
The Free Captain Regatta.
Avoid Harigan

Things to Investigate:
Head in a jar from Mancatcher cove. Isabelle Inkskin Locke
Efffects of the Deep Platinum jewelry

Small vial of oil -

Meeting with Tessa Fairwind

Meeting with Tessa Fairwind at the Riptide tavern.

The party arrives at the Tavern in the afternoon feeling very under the weather due to the previous nights festivities, except for the ever sober Br. Jamie.

While waiting the party is approached by another free captain. Captain Pierce Jirelle of the Salty Flagon. A jolly good natured fellow who appreciates our brand of excitement.

Also while waiting, Bruno recognizes Caulki, captain Barnabas’s servant girl, And she is attempting to drug some prospective new crew. Calder spoils her plans with a timely drunken stumble but is recognized and she bolts for the door. Our new captain friend, thinks were starting a bar fight and slugs Captain Gorbo but captain Gorbo ignores this and races after the girl. Tilly points at the door and black tentacles reach out from the door and grabs the girl and several patron nearby. The other patrons accuse Tilly of being a witch and turn aggressive. But brother Jamie seemingly banishes the witch with invisibility and many of the patrons fall to there knees blessing Brother Jamie and become faithful followers. Meanwhile, Bruno runs to the door and drags the girl away. A nice distraction inside, Brother Jamie is tending to the ills of the patrons while outside Bruno and Captain Gorbo are questioning the girl. It seems Captain Barnabas is in port in the main city, and is up to his old tricks again. He has become crazier and more chaotic and has swore vengeance upon us. We know we are not prepared for that sort of fight, we don’t trust Caulki, so we decide to bring her with us. Tilly takes her back to the ship as well as three new followers of brother Jamie.

Eventually Tessa Truewind shows up. We question her about Barnabas and she agrees, we do not want to tangle with him, even though we are fellow free captains, he would be sure to attack us on site and destroy us.

Her proposal is for us to work with her, to find out more about the Chelish excursions into the Shackles and to find information out about their spies. In return, she will tell us who has put out the mark of death upon us and agrees to delay Barnabas in Port so we might set sale before he hears word of us. She tells us to investigate the House of Stolen Kisses on the Island of Quint and Temple of the Hidden name on Bag Island. We iset sail immediately to get ahead of Barnabus.

We spend several days traveling during which some of our crew think its funny to sit Caulki upon the strange throne in the hold. She because crazier by the minute. When we reach the island of Quint it doesnt take long for us to find the House of Stolen Kisses and after some uncomfortable discussion, manage to reach the preistess. She agree to give us information on the Chelish if we agree to help her retrieve a religeous idol that was on a Calistri ship that was sunk by some Wreckers. But we won’t know where until we travel to Bag Island and talk with them.

Hurricane King

Bruno wakes after three lovely days of matrimonial bliss. He could really get to enjoy this, it’s something he has wanted, but as wonderful as the Widow Smythee is, she is not the one, and this is not why he had come to the Shackles. “I’ve got to get back to my ship”, He say to both himself and his bed companion. The Lady Smythee “mm-mm” in acknowledgement. She is no stranger to men and their call of the sea and the freedom of a good ship. There is no need for a prolonged goodbye. Bruno rises, dresses and heads to the place he feels most comfortable on this Rock, the kitchen. There he asks the staff to summon Conch the gnome and begins to make the Lady Smythee a fairwell dinner. He talks over a few notes with Conch and gets a list of provisions the Rock will need from port. When he is finished. He asks Conch to deliver his breakfast to the Lady Smythee. A delicious Clam and egg Risotto with lamb liver bacon and hot honeyed wine. One of her favorites.
Bruno heads to docks and boards the ship ______. “Morning Captain Sendara, I need to get to Port Peril with haste.” “Right away Lord Bruno” she says with a sly smirk. Bruno heads straight to the galley to prepare the ships breakfast. For at least the next three days, the sailors with eat well, very well.
Two and Half days later the ship pulls into Port Peril. “You made good time Sendara, but you cost your sailors a last meal.” He says. “That’s alright, they eat much more of your food. They’ll be too fat to climb the rigging.” She replies. “Very well. You have the list of supplies from Conch. May the wind stay with you.” And Bruno departs.
Bruno meets up with the crew and they tell him of their exploits and there fight with some large fish giant and some sort of trial to see if they were worthy to meet the Hurricane King. These pirate ways are strange. Bruno’s simple comment “Did you save any to cook?”
(enough of that)
Bruno returns to the Lesser Evil and as he hears of the exploits for the previous day, Brother Jamie emerges from the hold and immediately says “I didn’t sit on the throne”, which seems a little suspicious.
Then it’s off to the invitation from the hurricane King.
The party takes ferryboats across to his fortress island. Bruno not grasping the seriousness of the meeting immediately heads to the food buffet to taste the fair. But there’s definitely a dangerous under-current that Bruno is not grasping. The Hurricane King gives the party one chance to impress him with their exploits or to die. This blatant threat, from so superior of a foe, shakens Brother Jamie and he is only barely able to convince the Hurricane King of their prowess and worth. Meanwhile Bruno is getting more and more drunk and dissatisfied with the food, so much he has to mention it to the disapproval of the Hurricane King. The Hurricane King accepts the party and our ship become part of the Free Captains. The party resumes, as does Bruno’s complaints. These don’t fall on deaf ears as several of the Kings crew feel the same. It doesn’t take long, after boasts and challenges, that Bruno is shown to the kitchen to prove his worth. With the help of the Kings crew, the head cook and the rest of the staff is pressganged to help. Over the next hour with much drinking and exuberance Bruno prepares a huge seaweed and cod soufflé topped with Ashberry marmalade sauce.

Meanwhile in the great Hall Rosie is putting on a marvelous show with the help of Tilly’s pyrotechnics. And Rogald is in private chambers having the finest night of his young pink life.
Brother Jamie and Captain Gorbo meet Tessa Truefind. A striking redheaded pirate captain who sits on the pirate counsel. She asks Gorbo what is it that we like most about being a Pirate. Freedom is his answer and she approves. She asks him to meet her the next day to discuss a proposal, she may know who put the Death mark on our heads.

Bruno returns with the soufflé and his followers. He moves about the room doling out dollops of his fine creation to the revelers satisfaction. Until he is summoned by the Hurricane King himself. The Hurricane king is very impressed and the orders the execution of his cook and tells Captain Gorbo he is stealing his cook. Bruno forestalls that, and explains that his cook has skills, but cooking on a ship is not the same as cooking on land. If he sends his cook with Bruno for six months, he will return him as one of the finest chefs in all the shackles. The Hurricane King agrees.

The night ends as you would expect, with most of the crew passed out in the Hall and a walk of shame back to the ship, plus one native Mwangi cook Jombo.

The next afternoon with little else to do the crew heads to The Riptide Ale House to await Tessa Fairwind.

To be continued


A Fine Feathered One’s Decision

      The fetid swamp air intrudes upon the scratch hut built on a tiny spit of an island surrounded by murky water. A small dung fire nestled among rocks beneath an inadequate chute of a chimney adds its putrid smoke into the drafty enclosure, the excess smoke finding its slow way through the many breaks of the overhanging thatch. With the bleak morning sun hidden from view by the damp mists of the swamp, an altogether unpleasant and uncomfortable reality of another miserable day awaits the small group of ruffians now stirring awake.

      Hidden deep within the Mwangi Expanse, few have known of this gathering place. And fewer still who visited have lived to tell the tale. Bordered by the foulest surroundings that nature and humankind can spawn, it lies far beyond the reach of any country’s regulation or influence. Ruffians and rogues alike, though, seek it out for protection. Sited on the edge of the world, it is a perfect place in which to enter into unwholesome alliances with other like-minded and cruel folk while seeking a bit of a reprieve from the law, at least for a time.

      A pair of new rogues had entered the shanty late in the evening, crusty and sodden from the long trek through the mire to the refuge. No greeting awaited them, and only unsleeping eyes slivered opened a bit watched as the two bedded down, all hands upon dagger hilts, tense and ready to draw at the slightest of provocation. Dark hoods covered their faces, with long stained cloaks draping their bodies. None within the hut were willing to risk challenging the legitimacy of the pair’s admission. Life was too fragile and brief to mistakenly accost the wrong person on the edge of civilization.

      One of the ruffians pokes at the fire, stirring the cold ashes to life as he tosses a handful of pellets upon the mix. A brief flame is smothered as yet more smoke issues from the crude fireplace. Nodding to his companion whom he had arrived with, who also is stirring awake, he stretches his arms out over the fire to gain a bit of its warmth.

      But from across the room, a murmured curse is uttered, breaking the brief peace and bringing still silence to the room. “Filthy bird fracker. “

      The ruffian ignores the gibe, and slowly continues to stretch his arms over the fire. As they extend, his sleeves peel back, revealing a pair of dark feathery limbs, each ending in an avian-like claw.

      “Leave him alone, scum” the other rogue threatens. “He ain’t no bad ‘un, and ern’t one ta mess wit.”

      “Scum? Scum you say?” the taunter mumbles, thrashing from his bedcloth and rising to his feet. Having woken up cold and uncomfortable, and still a bit groggy from the vile rum he had consumed the previous night, the bandit temporarily forgets the dangerous environ in which he had rested the night. “Ain’t no bird-dong sucker gonna call me scum.” With a quick flourish, the bandit pulls out a throwing dagger and with a flick sends it at the rogue. Surprised by the quick action, the rogue has time to only widen his eyes an instant before the dagger enters one of them, deeply embedding itself into his skull. The rogue slumps back against the wall, his other remaining eye still open, unstaring into nothingness.

      A quick scurry of bodies brings the hut to life, as the other scoundrels in the hut quickly exit. Not wishing to be involved in the fight, they take life over valor and flee into the swamp. Fights like these are an all-too common occurrence. But their duration is usually brief. A few hours to pass and the outcome will be settled. Time enough then to return. But for now, a brief stay in the swamp offers a continuance of life, brutal and mean though it may be.

      The figure warming his arms at the fire shakes his hooded head slowly. “That twer’ an unfortunate choice” he says with a slurred, tweet-like twang. “Now it do look like I ‘ave no friend to twavel wit.”

      “You ain’t gonna need no friend to git to war you be traveling, bird bather” the bandit spits. Reaching down to his side, the bandit pulls out his sword and advances the short distance towards the figure.

      With a quick sigh, the figure by the fire drops his head then spins quickly into a crouch facing the advancing bandit. The bandit pauses as the hood from the figure pulls back. With a broad beak dipping sharply down towards his chest, and two narrow eyes deep set on the sides of the narrow feathered face, the visage revealed is more bird-like in appearance, and yet stores an uncomfortable vestige of familiarity as a distant cousin of humans.

      “I knew ye be one of them bastard Tengu” the bandit exclaims. “Filthy bird lickers. Hate you all. Ain’t no place in civilized society for the lot of ye. I’ll be happy to set your bones over this fire and ‘ave ye for breakfast.”

      “Luky it be fer me we aern’t in no civil society”, the birded one responds, and slowly pulls out a long curved sword which gleams red over the soft glow of the fire. “I don’t t’ink I be accommodating yer request”.

      “Ain’t yer choice to make, feather fracker” the bandit calls, and charges in with a flourish.

      But the feathered one brings his blade up, quickly knocking the slashing sword down and to the side with uncanny ease. Then slashing his curved sword up along the same trajectory, the sharp blade slices a trail of red blood across the front of the bandit, causing the bandit to cry out in pain.

      Stumbling backwards, the bandit looks down in disbelief at the red slash across his breast. Blood quickly pools in the slice and begins to run down his front, first in a trickle, then in a rush. Looking up, he has but a moment to see a gleam of the curved blade slashing towards him, taking the bandit’s sword arm off at the elbow.

      Crumpling to the ground, the bandit gurgles in pain while desperately trying to staunch the rapid flow of blood, to no avail. Realizing futility, the bandit rolls onto his back. Throwing a last avian curse at the foe who has delivered the mortal wounds, the bandit closes his eyes in an attempt to squeeze out the pain while enduring his last few living moments.

      “I tire of dese swamps” the Tengu says to the bandit, whose rate of bleeding promises the imminent arrival of Pharsma to collect the soul. “And petty bandits lik yerself who prowl tru its muck. I believe it be time fer me fer a change o’ scenery. To the seas, aye. Been hearin’ o’ da tale o’ a band of new pirates out ‘un de’ Shackles. Makin’ high names fer demselves. Mus’ be gainin’ a purty penny as well, capturin’ ships, killen Free Capt’ns, lootin’ villages. A bit o’ real excitement.”

      Cleaning the blood from his elven blade on a hastily discarded blanket, the Tengu slides the blade back into his scabbard. Taking a long drink from a half-full water jug remaining from the night before, he then pulls out a grotesque looking mask from his own pack and positions it over his face. “If’n I kept dis mask on, maybe me friend would be alive wit me still.”

      Positioning his pack on his back, he then straps his crossbow and composite bow in place across either shoulder. Bending down to the rapidly weakening bandit who remains bleeding out before the fire, he quickly goes through his pockets. Collecting the bandit’s few coins, he drops them into his own purse.

      Now moving over to his companion with whom he had arrived the previous evening, he repeats the process of gathering coin. Pausing just long enough to ensure his companion is truly dead, he utters a soft prayer of relief to Gozreh that he did not need to complete the job. Not that killing matters much to him, but his preference is to avoid having to kill his own friends unnecessarily, mercy though it be.

      Tucking his now much fuller purse away, he turns his companion’s body onto its side so that he can reach the left hand. A quick tug and the ring comes off, which he then slips onto his own claw-like finger. “This little magical trinket will shore now ‘elp me more dan ye” the Tengu mutters, and rises to his feet.

      Offering one last look about the hut, he then heads through the door. Setting a course towards the coast, the Tengu begins to whistle while he slogs his way through the shallow muck of the swamp.

      “Been a long t’while since I rode ol’ Sharky, anyhows. Miss da ol’ guy. Sharky, here I comes. We gots us some pirates of de shackles to track down. Maybe even join ‘em. The Lesser Evil mite jus be the trick to add dat bit o’ fun and excitement I’ze be lukin’ fer.”

The Skull Island

The City of Saughin

     As day graced the visage of the steep cliff face of Mancatcher Cove, the shape of a skull is revealed carved into the rocky hillside. Quickly reviewing the skin map cut from the back of the pirate, the Lesser Evil considers the riddle presented:

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

     Divining at least a measure of the meaning of the riddle, and spying an opening upon the rocky cliff face, Gorbo leads the way onto the island that morning. Intent on his revenge, and the obtainment of the treasure horde, Gorbo is strident in his approach.

     Moving to explore the island, and the dark tunnels that riddle the island, Gorbo leads the Lesser Evil into a quick series of deadly encounters. First, an encounter with sharks, which confirms to Tilly that she is no fan of those beasts from the deep sea. Now moving through the tunnels of the island, a succession of roving bands of saughin are encountered and summarily defeated, until at last a room with a great challenge is presented.

     But the Lesser Evil succeeds in defeating the enemy saughin within, slaying the warriors, and in so doing manage to rescue the captured queen of the Locathah. Leaving Bruno and Caldor behind to guard her, the rest of the Lesser Evil move on to continue the exploration.

     Several more bands of saughin are encountered. And at each encounter, the pirates confer their rage and slay the saughin without mercy. In one such room, great warrior saughin swim in a pool with many other saughin of various size and age, all intent on engorging themselves on food as it is poured into the room from a rushing rivulet. The warriors are quickly dispatched by the Lesser Evil, and Fens calls forth his magic to re-animate the recently slain warriors. Now undead, and under Fens’ control, these saughin begin to brutally slay the remaining helpless saughin women, children, and ancients.

     Moving on, at last the Lesser Evil discover a sliver of a side passage from which an unnatural cold is expelled. Maneuvering through the passage, they stumble into a round room, ancient in construction, ill-tended, and long abandoned. But within, a quivering mass reveals itself, a humanoid struggling to be freed from bonds which keep it chained to the wall.

     Understanding at once the plight of the creature, certainly a denizen long since dead and now consumed in undeath, Fens approaches and attempts to loosen the bonds to free the unjustly held monster.

     But the undead has a different purpose. With pure hatred of the living its sole resolve, the thing lashes out at Fens. In its unholy undeath, the monster fills Fens’ lungs with a vile watery substance which causes Fens to begin to drown.

     Seeing the extreme distress which this has placed Fens, the rest of the Lesser Evil rush forward to lend aid. Tilly and Rogald begin to deliver blows upon the undead creature in an attempt to dispatch it quickly. At this close distance, the creature is revealed as a humanoid, wrapped in bandages, and yet exuding a putrescent watery ooze. As Rogald and Tilly continue their attack, the monster reaches out, breaking the bonds which chain it to the wall, and begins to inflict its vile fluid upon the pair.

     A number of desperate minutes pass, with Fens calling his undead minions forward to assist in the slaying of the mummified monster. With Gorbo slashing in, soon the creature is destroyed, but not before inflicting several with its vile curse.

     Rogald and Tilly are both afflicted. But they are able to overcome the vile effects. But Fens, perhaps too confident in his ability to control the monster, is still stricken. The rest of the crew gather and desperately try to aid the necromancer. But it is all for naught, as Fens gurgles in the cursed water which now fills his lungs. With a final heave, life flees the eyes of Fens, who in death accepts to continue his journey upon the second triad of creation, that of death.

     Perhaps at some future time, Fens may be called back into service. Either raised to life from the dead to continue his service to Urgathoa. Or brought to undeath to serve the Pallid Princess in other ways. For Fens, the choice matters not. Life. Death. Undeath. It is all the same. But for the moment, Fens lays his cares for Golarian aside as he enters his deep, unbreathing sleep. And for the first time in many months, Fens has found true peace.

A Hunt for Treasure

Mancatcher Cove

      The Lesser Evil slips from its berth at Tidewater Rock, with Rear Captain Bruno waving valiantly to his newly-minted bride who stands upon the docks. Lady Smythee quietly sniffles while she dabs at her eyes with a lace kerchief, her first gift from Bruno given to her upon this very dock many weeks ago.

      Having arrived at the Windward Isle after the wedding celebration, arrangements were made to properly garrison the Rock. Twenty four crew were selected and agreed to stay behind, all under the command of the original Tilly. Having two Tilly’s on board the Lesser Evil has been confusing, and the original Tilly was deemed well-suited to lead the new garrison as captain of the guard, as Royster, the former captain of the guard, now lies in rest below the decks of the Lesser Evil in repose, awaiting one last call to service by Fens.

      Four other guards were left behind upon the Rock. Unbreathing, never resting, always on duty, they have pledged their fealty to stand guard and protect the Rock from any intruders. And as reward, upon the return of the Lesser Evil to the Rock, they have been promised release from service faithfully performed.

      As the Lesser Evil turns with the wind, Windward Isle drops out of sight. The promise of a grand treasure lies before them, their destination Mancatcher Cove. A lonely group of nameless isles, purportedly guarded by a coven of sahuagin, awaits them. But for now, it is open seas. With a grunt, Bruno unties the leashes which hold his bulky armour in place, letting it drop to the deck.

      “Enough of that weight. Fishguts!” Bruno calls out.

      An uneven pounding of feet announce Fishguts as he responds to the call. “Take this blasted armour below to me bunk. Not going to wear an anchor around my neck on board ship”

      “But Rear Captain” a smirking Tilly cajoles “that armour was a wedding gift from your most permanent bride. That armour should feel light as feather. For certainly it is lighter than the burden that ring upon your finger has placed.”

      Picking up an empty crabpot and tossing it at the shape-changing wench, Bruno gives the squat gnome a harsh glare and goes growling below decks. “Time for the kitchens” he continues his muttering. “Ain’t had a decent meal since last I was at the stove me’self, and no squiggly watery gnome is going to stop me from me pans.”

      It is a five day sail to the Cove where lies the treasure, and Bruno immerses himself in his duties. Having been initially cajoled into wedding the mistress of the Rock, Bruno nonetheless fulfilled his matrimonial duties with vigor. Though initially a marriage for alliance, the sight of the lady standing upon the dock waving to her departing husband betrays that perhaps more has arisen with the holy joining of the pair. And while Bruno has grown a measure of affection for the lady, he is nonetheless thankful to answer the call of the sea once more. For one who has been unfettered so long does not take easily to the bonds of marriage. A separation of the sea between the pair, though, may help nurture the budding fondness in the unbound heart of the cook.

      On board the Lesser Evil, the rest of the crew labor with gladness at their duties. Having celebrated the marriage, and for once having had a sail without incident to deposit the lady and her entourage back upon the Rock, the morale of the crew is high for having had a respite from danger, brief though it may have been.

      Rogald the glowing berserker from the north, and Tilly the squid, continue to acquaint and train the many new crew with their duties. The other officers, though, practice the use of new skills gained. Caldor and Fens both seem excited about new discoveries they have made in their spellcraft, while Brother Jamie sings sweet hymns to Besmara while tending the wheel, taking advice on navigation from Gorbo who proudly lets the wind stream through both of his hairs as he stands upon the Gorbodeck. Five glorious days at sea with fine weather, excellent grub, and a crew as fine as any that sails upon the Shackles. Yes, life as a pirate has turned out to be the perfect calling for those who sail upon the Lesser Evil.

      And then, the cluster of islands for which they have sought searching for treasure comes in sight.

      One large island off to the west, with a dark gaping cove, beckons them as their destination. A number of other islands form a ring to the east about the archipelago, making the approach treacherous sailing. But for the moment, any thought of approaching the cove is put aside, as through his spyglass Gorbo spots a ship moored off the eastern edge of the islands. A quick look at its mast and flag reveals it is the vessel of the pirate captain who had attacked them after Bruno’s wedding. Though she had been slain in the battle that wedding night several weeks ago, still her ship flies her flag. It is now evident that after the captain had been slain, the crew had sought refuge amongst the sahuagin, rumored to control these islands, and with whom they are likely in vile league.

      “All hands on deck” Gorbo crackles. “We’ll take that ship as a prize!”

      Quickly assembling upon the deck, the officers of the Lesser Evil make preparations to board. The vessel, alerted to the Lesser Evil bearing down on them, rapidly gets under way just as Brother Jamie brings the Lesser Evil astride. A series of boarding ropes from each ship are tossed, bringing the two vessels together in a grind. Boarding parties from both ships leap the short distance, and a quick melee ensues.

      A quartet of pirates board near the bow of the Lesser Evil, and are greeted by Fens and a number of his zombies. A vicious fight ensues, and over the next several minutes, bloody howls issue from these combatants until finally the four pirates all lay dead, beaten into horrific demise.

      Tilly, meanwhile, had assumed the form of a water elemental, swimming to the far side of the enemy vessel to climb on board. Immediately, she is surrounded by pirates hoping to repel the aqueous invader. Thus besieged and sorely pressed, Caldor lends aid by announcing to all his newfound spellcraft. Having sent a large fireball to erupt amidst the pirates as they gathered to board the Lesser Evil, Caldor follows it with a second fiery burst centered squarely upon Tilly. Though a bit of damage is caused to Tilly, her watery raiment protects her, whilst the pirates who were attacking Tilly are all destroyed.

      That leaves the First Mate of the ship unchallenged, a huge bulking brawler of similar size to Bruno but viler still in temperament and language, if such is possible. With a bound he jumps on board the Lesser Evil and faces off against Bruno and Brother Jamie. Attacking the priest first, Brother Jamie soon finds himself staggered by the huge mauling fists of the brawler. Falling back, Bruno then takes on the attack while Gorbo strikes from behind.

      Having boarded the enemy ship invisibly to attack the brawler, Gorbo was frustrated only to watch as the First Mate had in turn jumped on board the Lesser Evil. So retracing his steps, Gorbo jumped back to the Lesser Evil and launched a deadly attack upon the backside of the brawler, drawing great gashes which send a flow of blood upon the deck. Beset upon by all sides, and with Fens joining the fray as a distraction, the brawler soon succumbs to the combined assault, and the enemy ship is captured.

      About a dozen enemy crew had cowered in the hold during the combat, not wishing to face off against the Lesser Evil and her undead minions. Pirates all, they soon swore fealty to the Lesser Evil – a better future than feeding the sharks now swirling about the ships. Sendara is assigned to the prize as its captain, and now the league of the Lesser Evil has two ships to prey upon the Shackles.

      Sending a complement of sailors from the Lesser Evil to the prize, soon both ships are underway, making the approach around to the cove which Gorbo had sighted several hours previous. Dusk is quickly approaching, so it is decided to anchor the Lesser Evil at the mouth of the cove to await the morning. Sendara anchors her ship a bit further out to sea to serve as advance warning for any approaching threats from the sea. But it was not the danger from out at sea that assailed the Lesser Evil that night, it was from above.

      The jungle growth which covered the island was most unusual in nature. Thick foliage entwined together appeared to offer an impenetrable mass of vegetation which darkened to black pitch as night fell across the Lesser Evil. And though only a few hundred feet across at the cove’s mouth, that distance would under normal conditions not allow for overgrowth above. But for this island, with sheer cliffs jutting up sharply from the water, a tangled covering of trees and vines had managed to form an umbrella of vegetation over the entire cove. Sounds of the jungle echoed out from the sides and above, as benign creatures such as jungle beetles, hornbills, and tarsiers twittered and jabbered out loud greetings to the Lesser Evil.

      As Brother Jamie steered the Lesser Evil to the mouth of the cove, anchor was set just inside the edge of the great overhanging jungle. At this point, it was nearly sixty feet overhead, high enough for the top masts of the Lesser Evil to fit comfortably underneath.

      But the growth above was not inhabited by benign creatures alone.

      As the evening hours passed, soon but a few guards trod the planks of the Lesser Evil. In this deep of the night, the jungle chatter is shattered by the fearful shrieking of one of the guards, stirring the officers of the Lesser Evil quickly out of their bunks. Alert for unwelcome intruders so close to an unknown and hostile shore, they rush on deck to discover their poor hapless crewman hanging entangled above the deck in a mass of sentient vines. Wrapping tightly about the twitching pirate, before their eyes the vines suck the life juices from the poor Cheliaxian. In just seconds, his vital juices are drained, and the vines drop the skeletal husk of the pirate upon the deck in a jumble of bones.

      Other vines had also dropped down from the jungle canopy above, and now begin to swing out to grab anyone moving upon the deck. Soon, Caldor and Fens find themselves caught in the vines, and feel their strength drain as the vines suck their life essence from their marrow.

      It is a difficult several minutes, as the party and crew fight for themselves and each other. Striking and cutting the vines is easy, but so many of them are active that as soon as one frees herself from the vines, another comes swinging down.

      Realizing that the vines seem to be never-ending, Brother Jamie casts a light spell up into the dark canopy above. And his suspicions are confirmed. A great body of a plant creature is outlined above, with a snapping petal maw sending out clicking sounds as it directs its vines to grab the food now running upon the deck of the Lesser Evil.

      Pointing out the creature’s main body, Bruno calls out “Man the ballista! Aim for that body above.” Rushing to the nearest siege engine, Bruno rapidly loads a bolt into the ballista and fires it up. It sticks quivering into the mass above, causing a high pitched shriek from the plant, which shivers it down to the ends of its trailing, grasping vines.

      Several crew rush to the other three ballista and begin to fire as well. And though nearly a half-score crew are eventually grasped by the viney creature, only to have their desiccated hulks dropped back down onto the deck, the crew stand firm and deliver efficient fire at the creature above.

      Gorbo leaps into action as well, infuriated and insulted that his ship has come under attack. Shouting “I’m going to kill you moth flubber!” he scrambles, flailing quickly up the vines while ignoring their painful grasps, and begins to stab wildly at the body of the creature sixty feet above. “Die you ant sodden flubber! Die!” he continues to shriek as the vines continue to grasp and drain the life fluid from the maniacal goblin.

      Fens, hopeful that his zombies may divert the attention of the vines from the living to the dead, calls up a half dozen of his zombies from below to join the attack, as well as protect him from the deadly pesky vines which several times deliver their freezing touch upon the quickly weakening necromancer. While he is now protected, the drain upon his strength is severe. Calling forth one of his newly discovered magicks, Fens raises his hands above his head and shouts “Rise, my children! Rise and destroy the plant creature above.”

      And in response, four of the dead, desiccated pirate crew of the Lesser Evil rise up from the deck, boney husks with scimitars grasped in their skeletal hands. They respond to Fens’ exhortations and begin to scramble up the vines. But their dexterity and climbing ability is no match to Gorbo’s talent, and they make but little headway. But worse, the plant seems to totally ignore the undead creatures. The plant, being a living creature, must feed as well on the flesh of the living. So Fens’ undead zombies and skeletons are disregarded by the plant, as yet another crewman is dropped lifeless to the deck of the Lesser Evil.

      But soon it matters no longer. Weakened by ballista bolts and the frenzied thrusts of the goblin, the plant shivers once more as Gorbo buries his dagger into its pulpy mass, striking a solid core deep within. Its vegetal heart thus pierced, the creature goes limp, and the huge form unwinds itself from the canopy above to come crashing down, landing heavily upon the deck of the Lesser Evil.

      Swept up by the falling detritus, Gorbo drops as well, thumping painfully upon the deck. Struggling out from the now lifeless mass of growth, he clambers on the top of the mass, and proceeds to stab at the plant over and over while delivering a ceaseless litany of goblin curses. Soon, Brother Jamie is able to reach Gorbo, and with a few words calms the frenzied fanatic. Out of breath, Gorbo steps back as Fens inspects the dead creature.

      “This one is useless to me” Fens declares, then moves to gather the bones of the fallen pirate crew. More servants to join his depot below.

      “Well, maybe to you” Bruno says, wiping sweat from his brow with his meaty hand as he swings the ballista aside. “But not to me. Fishguts, get your cleaver. It’s vegetable stew for the crew!” as he begins to slice off great strips of pulp to use for his meals on the morrow.

      “Capt’n” Rosie calls out. Clambering up from down below, she had been directing the efforts of the crew during the battle. “Our blinkering rudder is gone. Cut away during the flacking battle. Catlicking sahuagin must have been at it while we were bass-flipping distracted.”

      “Well” Gorbo says, now a bit soothed from his frenzy. “Nothing for it this night. We’ll needs work to repair it tomorrow. But I intend on landing on that bleazing island at first light and deliver wrath. Attack me ship, will they. Argh, we’ll see how they like what I have in store. And gain that treasure we’ve heard so much of.”

      Shouts of praise ring out from the crew at the mention of treasure. Then, taking another breath, Gorbo turns to his exhausted crew “Now, crew, get to work. Get this ship back in order. Looks like we’ll not have much rest this evening after all!”

A Bloody Wedding

Cracking the Lady of Tidewater Rock

      • The captain of the guard challenged Bruno to a duel to the death in order to attempt to prevent Bruno from wedding the Lady of the castle. Despite a powerful blow from the captain’s greatsword, Bruno was able to deliver the knockout punch, but intentionally left him alive. Bruno told the Lady the captain would be dropped off at the next port. However, upon taking his unconscious body to the ship, Fens had other plans for the captain. He never made it to the next port.

      • Lady Smthyee wished to leave Tidewater Rock with the Lesser Evil to arrange her wedding elsewhere since she had been isolated here for far too long. The remaining guards were left to defend the keep.

      • The crew decided X (can’t recall the name) port would be best for hosting the wedding because of its massive size and safe location. After some discussion among the officers, it was decided that a large amount of plunder would be spent in order to throw the Lady a beautiful wedding and an impressive one for all those in attendance.

      • During time in port we believe we figured out why the Sahuagin have been following and attacking the crew of the Lesser Evil. During one of our early encounters with them, one of the creatures had a non-magical necklace of great value on his person, which the party sold soon after finding it. The Sahuagin have been attacking us all this time to in order to retrieve their precious item back. Brother Jaime called on a favor, using his divine magic, of Vance at Bloodcove to help us find and buyback this necklace so we could gift it to the Lady as her wedding present.

      • The night before the wedding was Bruno’s bachelor party, which consisted of the officers of the Lesser Evil getting drunk as they usually do when on shore leave.

      • The Lady of the Rock and the Rear Captain of the Lesser Evil were wed in Besmara’s church by Brother Jaime, with Rogald as the best man, and Gorbo handing off the Lady. Rogald made sure to show off his new greatsword obtained from the captain, defeated by Bruno.

      • In addition to the many hundreds of locals attending the wedding, there was also a familiar captain and friend of Gorbo’s whom we met at Rickity Scribs.

      • During the wedding reception, as Brother Jaime made the rounds, Vance appeared suddenly in front of him, presenting Brother Jaime the necklace he requested. There was a quick exchange between two, indicating Vance would return for a favor another time, and then he vanished. Brother Jaime presented the necklace to Bruno to gift to his wife, which she was thrilled to receive.

      • The reception and after party lasted the rest of the day and into the night. However, by early morning, before dawn, the party was dispersed and sleeping in the most convenient spots they could find. Rogald had found himself two wenches whom he brought to the nearest jolly boat to pass out with. Gorbo, Brother Jaime, Caldor, and Tilly were tangled in one pile on the adjacent pier to the one Rogald’s boat was attached to. Bruno was sleeping with his wife in the inn the officers had rented out for the wedding, with Fens sleeping underneath their bed.

      • A thick fog crept up to the port with a few small boats filled with men following it. The group was able to stir awake upon hearing the sound of rustling out in the water. One boat landed near Rogald and the other on the adjacent pier. A magical blast of energy shattered the roof of the inn above where Bruno slept and a female form dropped into the room. Bruno instantly jumped up to confront the woman, but his blows could not harm her. Fens rolled out from underneath the bed and took Bruno’s wife, who had let out a scream after the explosion, with him out the window. Seeing he had little hope of taking her down on his own, Bruno also escaped out the window, after Fens threw his own fog into the inn, hoping to confuse the woman of their whereabouts.

      • The rest of the officers managed to dispatch the men who landed on shore, although Rogald took quite a beating, barely managing to defeat the three men who surrounded him in his jolly boat.

      • After dispatching the attacking pirates, the party reassembled at the docks, including Bruno, Fens, and the Lady of the Rock. But the woman who had attacked Bruno and the Lady returns. Hovering in the air, she entered into Rogald’s mind, using magic tricks, convincing him to protect her from his fellow officers, especially Captain Gorbo, who she claimed was not kind to her the previous night. Rogald was quick to comply, seeing an opportunity to take Gorbo out.

      • Prior to her arrival, Gorbo had shouted to Brother Jaime, alerting him that Rogald needed healing, so Brother Jaime made his way over, but was knocked into the water by a gust of wind from the female attacker. Tilly sent her alligator to aid Brother Jaime in getting back on the pier, with Rogald also lending a hand. Brother Jaime then quickly sent a wave of healing out to aid the party.

      • Meanwhile, Tilly and Gorbo came up behind Brother Jaime and Rogald, heading towards to the caster who had slowly been descending towards to the pier. Bruno had run with his wife inside the nearest building to hide her, with Fens not far behind.

      • Seeing an opportunity with most of the party lined up, the caster sent a bolt of lightning through their ranks, knocking Rogald out, therefore releasing her hold on him. Reaching the rooftop of the building just in time to see the caster bring down one of his fellow officers, Bruno needed to act swiftly, so he leaped from the roof, his apron billowing in the wind and the moon behind him illuminating his many curves, onto the caster, using his weight to drag her down to the earth.

      • From there, the party was able to surround her, so when she got up and attempted to fly away, numerous blows were inflicted upon her, with the last being a snap from the alligator, tearing off her legs just as she took off. Fens was quite disappointed at the mutilation of such a promising new subject.

      • As the party looked around for anymore attackers, they saw a ship sailing away in the distance, likely the one that brought the attackers here. Even at the speed Tilly could swim in her water elemental form, she wouldn’t be able to catch the ship since it had already reached open waters.

      • Upon examining the woman more closely, they discovered she was a well-known and feared pirate of the Shackles, with her most noticeable features being wooden teeth, acting as a sign of her admiration for the Sahuagin, and a tattooed map on her back. Bruno snatched one of Gorbo’s many knives and carved the skin off her back.

      • The map, which was thought to have been lost forever, since its last copy had not been seen for a long time, was from another famous pirate who buried his treasure in a cove within the small archipelago Mancatcher Cove in the Shackles, hidden so deep that it is said Hell and its creatures guard it. The Lesser Evil now had a new objective: find the treasure. They spent a few more days in port to gather more crew for both the ship and some to station as guards at the Rock to protect the Lady and replace her lost men. The Lesser Evil arrived without incident to the Lady’s home and dropped her there along with the guards and new supplies for the castle, which the Lady had wisely purchased from the coin obtained from selling her many wedding gifts. The Lesser Evil was now ready to hunt for the lost treasure.

The Rock

Cracking the Rock

      It is said that good fortune and fine sail await those who can control the Rock, a rugged clump of rocks barely one mile wide by two long. Tidewater Rock. Scourge of the Hurricane. A small fortress protects Windward Isle. But a fortress nearly impregnable to assault. Treacherous waters and unpredictable tides about the isle offer but a single, difficult entry for an approaching ship. And many are those who have faltered upon its rocks. And once within the narrow, secure harbor, tall walls await in overwatch, which when manned with but a few defenders, certain destruction rains down upon those unwelcome. It is no easy task to crack the Rock, and no one has been able to accomplish the feat in hundreds of years, though the bodies of the unsuccessful are plentiful in the waters about.

      Undaunted, the Lesser Evil has taken up the challenge. Success has followed them thus far, and the desirable location of the Rock within the Fever Sea offers a convenient base for pirating activities with easy access to major trade routes through the Shackles.

      So She approaches the Rock just before day’s break, Brother Jamie at the wheel assisted by Tilly, for the tides prove to truly be vagarious. Fens issues a wall of fog to go roiling before them while Rosie plays a mournful song upon her fiddle. The bell tolls slowly, Cog keeping up his slow, steady beat chanting “Death” with each strike. Fens’ undead line the deck of the whale-boned skeletal ship. The bloody flag of piracy raised high on the top mast, a more terrifying aura could hardly be achieved.

      But with a nod and wave from Gorbo, Rogald, positioned high upon the mast, brings down the red flag. And in its place, a white flag is raised. The flag for parlay. A flag which offers those upon the Rock a chance to survive, confident though they may be, secure in their hundreds of years of autonomy.

      In the Shackles, the parlay flag is not one lightly dismissed. And so it is to the Mistress of the Rock, Lady Agasta Smythee. For many years a widower of the famous Free Captain Iron Bert Smythee, who was betrayed and slain by Captain Harrigan, she nods to her captain of the guard. Captain Royster, long a faithful servant of the Rock, and the Lady, clenches his fist in frustration, yet bows to the Lady and proceeds down to the dock to receive the guests.

      Having successfully maneuvered into the small bay, Brother Jamie leans heavily on the rail of the ship as the anchor finally drops down. It was a tiring task sliding between the deadly rocks upon approach, and he is exhausted from the effort. Bruno offers him a water skin, which Brother Jamie gladly takes, then smiles when he realizes that more than water are its contents. A bit early, perhaps, for the libation, but a welcome reward for duty so strenuously achieved. Refreshed, he joins the rest of the officers in the jolly boat and glides to the lone dock, skillfully oared by Tilly and Caldor. Tumbling out of the boat, they gather upon the dock as a contingent of guards approach, led by the captain of the guard.

      Greeted with suspicion by Royster, Brother Jamie takes the lead and introduces the officers of the Lesser Evil.

      “And finally Captain Gorbo Gutstabber, First of His Name, Destined for Greatness” Brother Jamie announces, as Gorbo pitters forward and bows grandly, sweeping his over-sized hat before him.

      “A mangy goblin as captain?” an astonished Royster replies. “Unbelievable. What sort of devilry is this, for no serious ship of the Shackles would run under a goblin.”

      “Oh, Captain Gorbo indeed” an unperturbed Brother Jamie continues, now accustomed to the bewilderment betrayed by those who have yet to hear of the Lesser Evil and her goblin captain. “And yet great accomplishments we have achieved, one most recent of which is the taking the Wormwood and the slaying of Captain Harrigan, cruel scourge upon the Shackles.”

      “Captain Harrigan you destroyed” an unbelieving Royster proclaims. “Most doubtful.”

      “Ah, but it is true nonetheless. Blessed Besmara guided our hands, and the Wormwood is no more. In fact, if you gaze closely at the vessel in which we have arrived, perhaps you will notice a similarity to the Wormwood?”

      “Well, perhaps it is of similar shape” Royster admits “but of many ships could be said the same. A quick squibbing would all that be’s needing to accomplish. What true proofs have we that you even know the wrath of Harrigan, much less defeated the villain?”

      At that, a silent Fens glides forward. “It is these scars upon my back that prove my acquaintance with that menaced one” he declares, his ghostly appearance even more disturbing than usual in the chill morning breeze. Turning his back to Royster, Fens lets drop his robe, revealing the many permanent scars crisscrossed across his back. “These were bestowed upon me by Plugg and his sycophant Scourge, who served under Harrigan. But no longer will they wield the whip, for all three now serve a new master, yet in life no longer.”

      At that, Fens moves back to join the other officers, as the normally implacable Royster gives a shiver in response.

      Lady Smythee then comes forward from the shadows within the main gate, from whence she had listened with intent the tale. Hearing the claim that the Lesser Evil’s latest victim is Captain Harrigan, she is hopeful that her long-time bane is finally destroyed. Her long dark hair streaked with grey billows about her shapely form in the wind as she greets each of her guests and bids them welcome. She then instructs her servants to bring them inside so they may refresh themselves. “Time enough for further discussion this evening at meal” she proposes. “The wind is chill this day”, then turns and re-enters the Rock.

      Royster frowns at the officers of the Lesser Evil, and then grumbles a command to one of his soldiers. The soldier steps forward, and ushers them quickly to the guest quarters, which are gratefully received. As security, though, Bruno is lead separate from the group, as insurance that the tales spoken are true, and that the Lesser Evil are indeed intent on true parlay.

      The chamberlain, Albers, attends to the needs of the Lesser Evil.

      “Welcome lords. My name is Albers, and I will attend to your needs.” Old and wiry, yet still Albers has a bit of spring to his step

      Thinking to have a bit of fun, though, Gorbo speaks up. “Owlbears? Owlbears? Why, we have a crewman called Owlbears on board the Lesser Evil.”

      “Not Owlbears” a patient Albers says. “Albers!”

      Acting bemused, Gorbo continues on “Yes, Owlbears. He’s a large one, and strong. Can pull the anchor up by hisself, he can.”

      “Sir” a tolerant Albers tries again. “My name is not Owlbears. It is Albers, if you please.”

      “Oh, Owlbears pleases and serves the Lesser Evil quite well” Caldor says, thinking to join in on the jest. “A true and trusted crewman.”

      Clearing his throat a bit awkwardly and loudly, Albers tries again, speaking very slowly. “My lord. It is Albers. Al – ber – s.”

      “Oh” a suddenly enlightened Gorbo confesses. “Albers! Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place” and turns away with a sly grin on his face.

      Despite the bit of fun, and with a bit of a sigh, Albers proceeds with duties befitting the host, of which he is well acquainted after long years of service to the Rock. Bringing some light food, and making available baths and a refreshment of their clothing, much of the day is spent in preparation. Fens, though, approaches Albers during the preparations.

      “Albers” he says “I have need of platter. Can you fetch me one?”

      Albers, with a quizzical look in his eye, stammers “A planter? A planter? What would ye do with a planter?”

      “Not a planter. A platter!”

      “I don’t believe we have any planters about. Perhaps me wife Birney, or the gardener mayhap, knows where one may be found.”

      “Not planter, fool” Fens remonstrates. “A platter. P – l – a – tter.”

      “What are ye planning to grow?” a hardened Albers continues.

      With a swift slap, Fens gets the full attention of Albers. “Bring. Me. A. Platter.” Towering over Albers with a look of menace, it seems Albers finally understands the request.

      “Oh, a platter” he finally guesses. “Well why didn’t ye say so right off. I’ll go and fetch one from the kitchens, master.” Turning from Fens, Albers glides from the room, stifling a small smirk that betrays his little prank with the necromancer.

      “Idiot” a furious Fens hurls at Albers as he closes the door behind him. “The sooner we’re done with this business, the better. Now, what are our plans?”

      The officers of the Lesser Evil discuss their strategy for the coming evening. It seems as though an opportunity exists to make an alliance or an understanding with Lady Smythee. The tale of the demise of Harrigan seemed to go over well with her, though perhaps less so with Royster. If an alliance could be wrought, the Rock could be used as their base of operations, being well situated within the Shackles, proving beneficial to both the Lady and the Lesser Evil.

      Presented at dinner that evening, the Lesser Evil enter the banquet hall into which the Lady Smythee had already arrived. Albers presents each formally to the Lady, and she greets them with comfort and sincere welcome as before. Bruno, released from his hostage, also arrives. Last is Fens, who enters with the platter which Albers had so adroitly provided, and presented it to the Lady as a gift. Upon the platter were a fine pen and ink set, as well as a wrap of parchment pages.

      The Lady seemed taken back by the gift. “It is not often we welcome visitors. And fewer still offer gifts. And though but a simple item, still it is well received, for long it has been since a trade vessel has presented itself to the Windward Isle. Instead we have become accustomed to being presented with demands and threats from the thieves who ply the waters of the Shackles.” A tear begins to slide down her check, and she looks down to retrieve a kerchief. Not finding one, Bruno is quick to offering her his own, freshly laundered that afternoon by Albers, and unspoilt.

      “Ah, Lady” Bruno declares. “Perhaps it be hard times, but things will look up. You’ll see.”

      Thanking Bruno, see dabs at her eyes. “Oh, the days are long gone when Iron Bert commanded such respect throughout the Shackles. My poor husband. Lost, certainly withered and dead now. Much like the glory days of Tidewater Rock.”

      “Good days will return, me Lady. Of that I promise. And now, my gift.” Clapping his hands, he calls out to the kitchen staff with whom he had worked all day, who enter carrying a marvelous and wide assortment of food, fitting for a feast not long seen upon the Rock.

      The food indeed is the best the Rock had seen in many years. Even Royster reluctantly admits the fare is palatable, high praise from one so openly distrustful of the objectives of the guests.

      Lady Smythee takes to trying to talk with Rogald. A chore for even the most loquacious in the best of times.

      “Tell me, large bright gleaming one” she teases, “what is your intent to do with me?”

      Rogald puts down the chicken carcass which he had savagely stripped clean of flesh. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he drinks a draft from his mug while pondering his answer. Agasta awaits his answer with patience.

      “Well” Rogald finally rumbles, examining the remnants of his mug. “It depends.” He looks first at Royster, then slowly back at the lady.

      “You see, we may kill ye. Or, maybe we won’t.” Swirling the mug one last time, he drains the contents and thumps it on the table.

      Royster slams his fist down on the table, and begins to bark in outrage before Lady Smythee interrupts.

      “Now Royster, these are our guests” she says, bestowing on her captain a small smile of admonishment. “I offered the question. And what Rogald here has offered is a good thing. Honesty. Another rare gift conferred this evening. I am pleasantly surprised. Though I must admit I hope I may have influence in your decision.” Rogald grunts to the comment, then reaches for another fowl.

      She ponders for a few moments in silence, and then continues “My hatred of Captain Barnabus Harrigan is boundless. He is my one true sworn enemy. I believe your tale, Brother Jamie, of the demise of that hated villain and his cronies as a true deed accomplished by the Lesser Evil.”

      Holding up her hand again to Royster who was about to protest, she continues. “For too long the Rock has been without a master. And too long that I have been without a husband. Therefore, I propose a bond of marriage between the Lady of Tidewater Rock and the master of the Lesser Evil.”

      “Wee Hee!” and elated Gorbo shrieks, thinking he is being offered a fabulous prize, while a flustered Royster sputters in anger.

      “I am not sure that will exactly work between you and me, diminutive one” a smiling Agasta says, while again casting a scalding eye towards Royster. “Besides, you are much too famous and important and handsome to want to be married to me, an aging and decaying owner of but a small, unimportant island.”

      “That’s right!” Gorbo declares, after briefly considering the constraints of the possibility. “I’m still young, and need to sow my oats a bit, if ye know what I mean. And besides, I need someone rich. And famous. No disrespect meant to ye Lady. And yes, maybe a bit greener and shorter!” he admits with a hint of shyness.

      A relieved Agasta continues “Yes, you show wisdom, and are most correct, Captain Gutstabber. But I believe it must be one you nonetheless.” She looks over the rest of the officers, and her questioning eyes rest upon Fens.

      “Nay, lady, not I. Though my duties involve all aspects of the Triad, for now my craft must needs my talent to concentrate upon those of death and undeath. For the pleasures and pursuits of the living, I must leave to one of my fellow companions.”

      Nodding acceptance, she seems a bit relieved. Though he exudes an unsettling cryptic aura, Fens does betray a certain magnetism which she finds unusually difficult to resist. But accepting Fens’ decision, she reviews the rest, and then sets her sights upon Bruno.

      “It is you I have selected, master cook” Agasta declares, rising from her seat. “If the Lesser Evil accept this bond, then to you I shall find marriage, according to the code. For a year and a day we shall commit to one another. And perhaps more, if we both find it an acceptable embrace.”

      “A blinkering cook!” Royster finally shouts, unable to contain his anger anymore. “This cook is barely fit to provide provender for you, much less sit at your table. Though for some reason, of which I do not understand, you seem to think otherwise.” Slamming both fists upon the table which knocks askew several of the mugs, though not Brother Jamie’s who wisely anticipated the outburst and thus saved the precious contents within, Royster continues. “There is malevolent arcana involved here, of that, I am certain. I’ll not allow the bond. Never. The honor of the Rock to which I am pledged would be stained forever.”

      A stormy silence fills the room, with the maids and servants standing silent in unease. Finally, Lady Smythee’s chambermaid breaks the silence and steps forth. “Royster is correct” Birney says, perhaps speaking out of place. “It would not be fitting for the Lady of the Rock to enter into marriage to a mere cook, no matter how valiant his deeds.” Herself married to Albers long years ago, Birney has lived her entire life upon the Rock, and well understands duty to the Rock. And chief amongst them has been tending to and advising the Lady Smythee, whom from her breast she had nursed many years ago.

      Holding up a finger to still her chambermaid, Lady Smythee nonetheless considers the advice. “Perhaps you are right” Agasta muses, accepting the unsolicited advice from her longtime maid and companion. “Well then, love, we must grant you a new title. One which is befitting of my honor.”

      Bruno stands stricken, much like the servants before him, unable to respond to the quick turn of events.

      “Rear Captain!” Gorbo suddenly proclaims. “That’s what you’ll be. I’ll promote you to be my Rear Captain.”

      With a groan, Caldor strikes his forehead with the palm of his hand. “Does this goblin even have a brain?” he mutters in disbelief, certain that the goblin knows not the words he has spoken.

      “What?” Gorbo asks, befuddled that Caldor did not take instantly to the honorific. “Rear Captain is a good title. I’m the Captain, Bruno will be my Rear. It makes sense. I say we do it!”

      “Rear Captain suffices” Agasta accedes, smiling at the innocence of the goblin.

      Banging upon the table once more, Royster stands up, frothing in a rage, unable to form words sufficient to portray his anger.

      “My Lady” Tilly speaks up before Royster can form words. “This bond between the Rock and the Lesser Evil is wise. But the joining must be accepted by all, or else those of the Shackles will know that the pledge is weak, which may draw enemies to exploit the perceived weakness of the Rock.”

      Tilly had been observing the captain of the guard throughout the evening, and it is clear to him that Royster has betrayed that his feelings for the Lady go far beyond his duty to the Rock. Thinking to have a bit of fun with the captain, though, Tilly continues. “For this reason, I feel that it is imperative that one respected upon the Rock give you away in marriage for all to see. That way, there can be no doubt of the verity of this marriage.” Casting a quick glance to Royster, with a small smile, he concludes “Royster, Captain of the Guard of Tidewater Rock, holds the proper station for such duty. He must present you in marriage before the Free Captains of the Shackles.”

      Pleased, Agasta proclaims “Marvelous!”, while once more granting a measure of lenience towards the rage demonstrated by Royster who again slams his fists upon the table. “Royster” she continues, turning to him “you shall walk me down the dock when Bruno and I marry. But it must be soon, and it must be spectacular.”

      Royster can contain himself no longer, and stands up throwing his goblet against the far wall, splattering a maid with its contents. “I will not tolerate this! Lady, I beg thee. Turn from this ill-advised course – for no good will come of it, I assure you!”

      “Enough!” Agasta shouts, finally having enough of Royster’s impudence. “The marriage shall take place as I say. And you, Royster, shall give me away. The Lady of Tidewater Rock has spoken. It shall be so!” she concludes with finality.

      Royster growls once more, and storms from the room, knocking the heavy oaken door aside, tearing it from its hinges.

      The servants and maids look on in horror, stricken in place. The Lady Smythee, long accustomed with Royster’s moods and affections, puts them aside for the moment. She has a higher duty to consider. That of her duty to the Rock and its return to prominence. So instead, she stirs her servants into action. Clapping her hands, she commands them to clear the broken crockery, and they respond swiftly. Soon the table is cleared, the servants all retreating from the room in relief. Only Lady Smythee and her chambermaid, Birney, remain behind with those from the Lesser Evil.

      “But know this, my love” Agasta says, standing and gliding next to her betrothed “betray me with unfaithfulness, and you shall know my sure wrath” and delivers a kiss upon his check.

      Stuttering and not sure how else to respond, Bruno stands and clumsily bows. “I accept the terms, Lady”, while beads of sweat begin forming rapidly on his brow as he looks in vain in his pocket for his kerchief.

      “Woo hoo!” an elated Gorbo shouts. “We’re going to have a wedding” and begins to caper about the newly minted couple.

      They spend the rest of the evening celebrating and discussing the upcoming wedding. Lady Smythee presents a dowry of gifts. A variety of trinkets she bestows to the Lesser Evil to help offset the cost of sailing. To Gorbo, she presents a far seeing spyglass, magically enabled to looks further than any mundane spyglass. But it is to Bruno that she provides the most special gift. An iron shirt finely woven, it also is magical, and was once the property of her late husband, from which he had received his nickname Iron Bert.

      After breaching and draining the finest cask of wine from the Rock’s stores, the unsteady officers of the Lesser Evil finally seek out their beds to rest for the night. But as is often the case, the repose of these pirates does not proceed without interruption.

      Deep in the night, cries of alarm ring out, awakening the officers of the Lesser Evil. Stumbling out of their beds, they go into the greeting hall where Royster has gathered a number of guards and is questioning an old man, whom Bruno recognizes as Tidewater Rock’s cook. Having spent the day in the kitchens with the man, he was kindly enough, but of limited culinary talents.

      He tells Royster the tale of his grandson, Mortiss. Having returned to his home on the far side of the island after the feast, he came back to discover that Mortiss had been attacked and grievously injured while tending a flock of sheep.

      “We ne’er should ‘av let him tend the sheep alone” the grandfather explains. “The lad is too young. But we made him as comfortable as possible, and I left Mortiss with me wife and returned in haste to the keep.” As Lady Royster enters the hall, he beseeches aid be sent.

      Looking at Agasta, Royster declares “We must send aid, that much is sure. My Lady, may I recommend you send your newly betrothed to fetch the boy?”

      The night has turned stormy, torrents of rain pouring down, and the chill wind from the morning has not abated. Lady Smythee frowns, not at all pleased that Royster has decided to not send Tidewater Rock’s guard on the errand. It is a foul mission with the weather, making the prospect of trekking across the island a miserable affair. Clearly it is not one that is suited for guests.

      “Captain Royster, I am not at all pleased to send my guests on this task. Cannot you send some of the guard to fetch the boy? If someone or something out there attacked the boy, it is your duty to investigate.”

      “Ordinarily, I would, my lady. But my first duty lies to the safety of the Rock, and to you. I can spare no guards for such a task whilst a pirate vessel is docked in our bay.”

      “Captain, you are talking about my husband to be.”

      “And foul though the task may be” Royster admits” I intend to make sure you are delivered safe to your wedding. My decision is final. Either your guests attend the task, or the cook can return with a cart and fetch the boy hisself.”

      Still not pleased at the petty display, Lady Smythee realizes that the decision is his to make.

      Turning to Bruno, she begins to speak.

      “Of course we’ll go” Bruno interrupts, before she even has the chance to ask. “But we will need someone to show us the way.”

      The decision made, Royster dispatches four of his guards to accompany the pirates. Lady Royster promises to follow in the morning with more of the guard to investigate.

      Into the howling wind they walk, girding themselves against the whips of rain lashing down from the flashing sky. A miserable walk for all, Brother Jamie in particular is unceasing delivering his litany of complaints. Not in the least pleased that he was stirred from bed, still feeling the effects of the banquet and its excesses. But fortunate for all, the island being rather small, within forty minutes they manage the trek and arrive at the hut where Mortiss lay.

      Brother Jamie, continuing the litany of curses, nonetheless examines the boy, barely twelve years old. The leg is severely torn up. It is a good thing they arrived so soon, for the wound is critical. Brother Jamie tends the boy, and casts healing into his leg. Thus stabilized, the boy speaks of green devils who came and attacked him and the sheep. He was able to scare them away, but not before the devils killed one of the sheep. The exhaustion of the wound and experience finally sends the boy into a slumber.

      While Brother Jamie tends the boy, Fens and Rogald scout the area, discovering the dead sheep surrounded by a large number of unusual tracks. Evidence of claw marks tell the tale of the sheep’s brutal death. Fens gathers the remains, and they return to the shepherd’s hut.

      Insults soon fly as Fens enters with the dead sheep. They had seen Fens’ power revealed in bringing the dead to unlife, including humans, elves, saughin, and even velociraptors. But bringing a sheep back presents an especially unsavory set of possibilities that Fens’ companions explore and expose upon in vulgar detail.

      Scoffing at their banality, Fens ignores them and takes the sheep to the butcher’s block in rear of the building. Calling to Bruno, it is decided a shame to waste the flesh and wool of the slain animal. Under the skillful knife of Bruno, it is soon butchered, with Mortiss’ grandmother taking the carcass into the small smokehouse to cure. The task complete, Fens removes himself to rest, openly showing his disdain for the others.

      In the morning, Lady Smythee herself comes to check on her subjects. Accompanying the lady is Royster and a half-dozen guards. After discussion, it is concluded that the most likely assailants were the sahuagin. Agasta explains that from time to time, the sea beasts had raided the island. But such an occurrence had not happened in many years. It seems like too much of coincidence that the attack has come the same evening the Lesser Evil arrived. Royster is none too coy about believing the pirates are in league with the sahuagin.

      “What about your ship?” Lady Smythee asks, dismissing Royster’s mistrust. “Is it OK? Perhaps this attack is but a diversion.”

      Startled by the possibility, swift decisions are made. Caldor offers to go directly to the ship. “With my magic, I can make the ship quickly. I’ll then return to the keep.”

      Rushing down to the water’s edge, Caldor dives smoothly into the water and begins to speedily swim. Enabled by magic, Caldor can reach the vessel much faster than if traveling over land.

      In a short time, he arrives at the Lesser Evil. Greeted by Sendara, she relays that the ship was indeed assaulted during the night by sahuagin, but the creatures were repelled. With all hands on board alert, nothing more is to be done, so Caldor makes his way back to the keep.

      While Caldor checked on the ship, the others decide it best to return the Lady to the safety of the keep. Gorbo, Fens and Bruno accompany Lady Smythee, Royster, all but four of the guards, along with Mortiss and his grandmother. Brother Jamie and Rogald remain behind with the four guards to further explore the environs about the hut now that day has come.

      When Lady Smythee’s party arrives back at the keep, they meet Caldor who tells them of the sahuagin assault upon the Lesser Evil. It is clear to all that an all-out assault upon the Rock is imminent. The sahuagin had never before acted so bold and brashly. Tidewater Rock must be prepared, and all hands must return to defend it.

      So Bruno makes his way back to the hut to alert the others, while the rest of the party stay behind to help prepare the keep for an expected sahuagin assault.

      But back at the hut, suspicions have begun to set in. Brother Jamie and Rogald move aside and discuss the situation. Brother Jamie relays to Rogald his distrust of Royster. The attack by the sahuagin was too convenient, and to Brother Jamie it is apparent that Royster is making a play for the lordship of the Rock. Rogald is easily convinced of the plot, and determines that the four guardsmen left with behind are part of Royster’s nefarious plot.

      Not wishing to be taken unawares by Royster’s perceived machinations, Rogald approaches the guardsmen while they are huddled outside near a small fire for warmth. Growling, with Brother Jamie at his side, the two present an intimidating façade, and the guardsmen meekly submit without a fight. Without Royster to steel them, they are of a mind to survive rather than fight, and they certainly are unwilling to test their meddle against an enraged northman.

      Rogald and Brother Jamie truss up their captives and place them in the hut while awaiting word back from the keep on the state of affairs.

      When Bruno arrives back at the hut, he sees what Brother Jamie and Rogald have done, and demands that the guards be released. But Brother Jamie explains his suspicions of Royster, and is adamant that the guards stay as prisoners. Further, Brother Jamie proclaims that the party should immediately return to Tidewater Keep and kill Royster and his guards, taking the Rock by force and thus breaking his league with the sea monsters. An argument ensues, and after many tense moments, Bruno storms out of the hut.

      “I’m heading back for the Captain. Any decision we make he must be part of” Bruno declares.

      “Which one, the Captain in front, or in the Rear”, an amused Rogald mocks. Ignoring the gibe, Bruno stomps away after admonishing no harm be wrought upon the prisoners.

      Bruno soon makes it back to the keep, a trip with which he is quickly becoming all too familiar. Gathering the rest of the Lesser Evil officers about, he tells them of the happenings back at the hut, and of Brother Jamie’s suspicions.

      “Oh vey” a suddenly Hassidic Gorbo exclaims, “we must return to the hut and sort this out.”

      So Bruno puts his rapidly wearing boots back on, and they trudge back to the hut to decide the Lesser Evil’s next move. Fens is disinterested in the predicament, so elects to stay behind to keep an eye on Royster.

      “Let me know the decision” a bored Fens says. “It matters not to me, so long as I continue in my studies.” Though confessing his disinterest, Fens does manage to stay close to Royster over the next several hours to watch over his actions.

      But Royster stays true to his task, and appears with veracity to busy himself in making proper preparations for the garrison, bringing in supplies and peasants from the few nearby farms. But Royster also demands that Fens stay near to him. It seems the distrust which the Lesser Evil has for Royster goes both ways, and he is suspicious of the frequent back and forth trips to the hut which Bruno is making. The sahuagin attack coming the same evening as the arrival of the Lesser Evil is just as compelling an indictment of malevolent intent to Royster as it is to Brother Jamie. Paranoia is rampant, indeed.

      Arriving back at the hut with Caldor and Gorbo in tow, a fresh argument ensues as they gather about the small campfire outside. Brother Jamie offers plots and twists where Bruno sees none. Of particular issue is how a mere boy could fight off a gang of sahuagin by himself. It is improbable. And as evidence, damning.

      Tired of the arguing, Rogald decides to take action. Grabbing a firebrand, he tosses it onto the roof of the hut, setting it afire with the captors still within. Shrieks of dismay sound from Gorbo and Bruno, and shouts of fear come from within. Caldor, not yet decided on which side he is on, quickly quenches the fire with a spout of water emanating from a spell casting.

      But despite the water hosing, it does not drench the paranoia. The argument continues unabated and heated.

      Finally reaching his limit, Caldor proclaims “Flute it, burn the skanky hut!” Rogald quickly responds, once more tossing a burning brand at the hut, which soon begins to smolder again to shouts of fear.

      But Caldor promptly changes his mind, and again casts a spell to quench the fire.

      Back and forth it goes, and soon it is clear that no clear decision is in the offing. Finally, Gorbo has had enough.

      “That’s it. I’m the Captain” he declares, drawing himself up to a towering three feet of height on his tippy toes. “And knock it off, Rogald!” stopping the crude comment which the burnt one was about to offer.

      “This is how it’s going to go. We’re heading back to the keep. We’ll keep watch during the night. If the sahuagin are gonna attack, it’ll be tonight. Then, we’ll see which side Royster plays. Brother Jamie, yer to be the one staying near to Royster. If he twitches wrong, ye can kill him. But if not, no harm shall come to him. We got Bruno pledged in marriage to Lady Smythee, and that is a pledge given under the pirate code. Like it or not, to that we’re beholden.”

      “We’ll leave these guards here for now, and release them in the morning, if Royster stays true. That is if any of us remain alive to do so. Now back to the Rock. It promises to be a bloody night, and I hope it’s sahuagin blood that wets me blades this eve.”

The Ghost Ship

For Whom the Bell Tolls

     For the next several hours and through the twilight hours, the entire crew of the Lesser Evil worked to repair the damage upon both vessels during the fight. Much of the damage was superficial, but the work was necessary even at the end of a long and wearying day, a day that saw loss. When at last both ships were deemed to be in passable shape to begin sailing the next day, Gorbo called a halt to labor and allotted a double bounty of rum, which none of the crew denied.

     Bruno had prepared an especially hearty meal, culling his supply of livestock and presenting a stew thick with chicken and root vegetables, and fresh bread and butter to soak up the juices. With the food providing strength for the body, and the rum providing salve for the soul, the crew recalled the several crewmembers they had lost during the battle. But such is the life of the pirate. Feast when ye can, for the time of one’s death is unknown, but certainly much nearer to hand than one may suspect.

     And so it was that the remaining pirates from the hobgoblin ship were offered a decision. Feeling no loyalty to Captain Svard, who was a harsh taskmaster, they all agreed to provide service to the Lesser Evil and help sail the prize to port. Several also readily agreed to permanently join with the Lesser Evil, as the labors of the evening were fair and the provender provided the best any had had while at sea. The offer of a fair lot and good provender, combined with the likelihood of success, was more than most pirates could expect, and they were easy converts to the Lesser Evil.

     But still there was uneasiness. While the crew labored on repairing the damage to the vessels, Fens had labored away at his own tasks, securing the many fallen dead below into his hold.

     Providing care for the dead after combat was never a joyful task. The harsh reality at life aboard a pirate ship could never quite overcome the burden placed when crew with which you had served and broken bread find sudden and violent death. But at least the bodies of those fallen comrades could usually expect a quick and suitable burial at sea. Under Fens’ direction, though, the bodies were not to be discarded so.

     Instead, they were lain below on wooden slabs, Fens carefully moving from body to body examining the remains and cautioning the crew to handle the dead with care. Many of the bodies were severely mauled, especially those whom the zombies had slain during the fight. Fens would have much work in the coming days to make these ready for their next service.

     The pirates from the Devil’s Pallor were repulsed by Fens’ particular ministrations. They had just fought a legion of Fens’ zombies, and their nerves were still unsettled at the ferocity and the unquestioned loyalty displayed by just such creations.

     But they also noted that the Lesser Evil crew, those still in the ranks of the living, seemed somewhat accustomed and accepting of the allegiance. It was clear that several of these crew members showed particular devotion to Fens, obediently laboring under his direction with zeal. But others of the Lesser Evil maintained their separation, resigned to accepting Fens’ peculiar methods as a forgone necessity while serving the Lesser Evil. It would take longer acquaintance for the new pirate crew before they would be fully comfortable with working and battling alongside the dead.

     After the last crew had gone below to catch a few hours of rest before dawn, a few lonely, tired sentries paced the decks of the Lesser Evil and the Devil’s Pallor. Though perhaps tempted to shirk their duty and catch a quick nap, the sentries all understand the potential dangers that lie at sea so soon after such a bloody affair.

      “Ye keep a sharp lookout” Rosie admonishes the watchers. “There be danger tonight, I feel it in me bones.”

     Crimson tinged waters beckon to all sorts of creatures both malignant and benign. And though for a while after Fens’ zombie gave themselves back to the sea, thereby creating a zone of forbiddance about the ships, the glamor had faded as the bodies had settled to rest upon the sea’s floor. But the bodies and severed parts of many of the slain crew still litter the waters. And it was those that act as a beacon for dread, and Rosie had sailed the seas for years long enough to understand the danger now posed.

      “Ere’one else can slumber in their hankin hammocks” Rosie continues to storm. “But any of ye watchers will be chum for the sharks if ye don’t stay alert tonight.”

     Shaken by Rosie’s words, for they all have seen Rosie in action and know how she can work herself into a froth, the crew maintain their attentive watch. Ensuring no shirking occurs on her watch, she pounds back and forth about the decks of both vessels, headless of the muffled cries of protests from below to keep quiet. Rosie’s veins still burn with vigor from the recent combat where she had slain three of the Pallor crew herself. For each victory she had granted herself a double measure of rum. The alcohol does not have a quieting effect, though, and instead she pulses quicker, with even less tolerance for others than usual. The watch know well Rosie’s moods, and maneuver to stay clear of her and her stomping boots, but they maintain their vigilance.

     With the promise of a new day nearing, and with the darkness of night still full, a fog begins to arise from the sea. Soon, the fog envelops both ships and the seas about. The moonless sky provides even less light than usual, cutting visibility further. As all lights were extinguished upon both vessels once all repairs were completed, the night’s blackness is deep.

     With only the hammering of Rosie’s boots ringing out in the night, another distant sound makes itself known to the watch. A heavy, deep bell clangs out a slow, mournful toll. At first faint, the watch are unsure if they actually hear anything. But as the clanging grows louder, it soon becomes clear that not only is the sound more than an active imagination, but that the source of the clanging draws closer. The fog is dense, though, obscuring sight to just a few dozen yards.

     Reacting to the approaching sound, Rosie rushes to the railing, positioning herself to raise the alarm if necessary. Straining her eyes, one of her fellow watchers, Tarback, a half-elf whose particular breeding has produced a slim profile which betrays little of a womanly figure, is able to discern little but the thick, soupy fog.

     Suddenly, an image of a vessel shows itself, causing Tarback to raise her hand pointing out its quick passage. Rosie’s eyes rivet to the point, just catching a glimpse of the ship as the bell from the ship tolls out one last time. A three-masted vessel of nearly the size as the Lesser Evil, she glides smoothly through the water though her sails are in tatters. A quick glimpse of a pair of glowing eyes positioned near the foredeck reach through the fog before the ship vanishes silently back into the fog.
“It’s gone” Tarback trembles. “It’s gone. Gone into the mists.”

      “A ghost ship she were” growls a suddenly pissed off Rosie, snatching her cutlass from her side. “Flogging frog flappers. Let them come back. They’ll not mess with me.”

     Continuing to look out into the fog, minutes pass, no further sounds are heard, and no further appearance of the ghostly ship are revealed.

      “Back to your wonking watch, Tarback” Rosie commands after a while, giving a nudge to the shaking half-elf. Rosie turns back to the fog, peering into nothingness. “But just let them come back. Be the last time those flackers flap the waves.” Slamming her cutlass away, Rosie starts her stomping across the deck once more. But this time, no groans of protest come from the crew, who either now lay exhausted in sleep, or feign such as the ghostly tolling bell sounds no more.

      “The legend of the ghost ship is infamous across the Shackles. And the word has spread like wildfire amongst the crew. That ship is out there. And now that it’s seen us, it will pursue us relentlessly, awaiting an opportunity to attack. While it is only a legend…”

      “Ain’t no limey legend when she was within pissing distance of the Lesser Evil” Rosie spits, still maintaining a fine froth from the past weeks activities. Rosie had given report to the officers of the appearance of the mysterious vessel, and they had hurriedly sailed at top speed to reach Bloodcove. The sail went without incident, and now the Devil’s Pallor and her loot has been entered for sale. But the celebration of the success has been put off while the officers gather once again at the Witchlight Inn to discuss the danger the ghost ship poses. While Caldor has heard of just such a vessel, some of the others are more skeptical.

      “As I was saying” an interrupted Caldor continues with a glance towards Rosie, though with a hint of humility for fear of enraging her further “the legend tells of a ghost ship crewed by undead which prey upon the waters of the Shackles. The description Rosie provides, confirmed by Tarback, gives credence to the tale. The tolling of a lonesome bell announces its presence, a call to its past when it served as a whaling vessel. That bell would toll when the prey was spotted. And now, it tolls when its next victim is sighted.”

      “Well, that’s something for us to worry about another day” Bruno interjects. “We didn’t see this ghost ship on the way here, and now that we’re at Bloodcove, I intend to get smashed and not worry about it.”

      “Stupid drunken chicken poker!” An enraged Rosie glares a last time at Bruno and the rest of the officer’s. “Drink yer rum and wet your finger. But that ship will be waiting for us when next we sail. I feel it in me bones.” Draining her own mug in a dash, Rosie storms out through the Witchlight’s doors. She’s not done drinking this day at all, but she intends to find less foolish company with which to get drunk.

     The Lesser Evil stays docked at Bloodcove for several days, waiting both for the final disposition of its loot and to celebrate their victories. Once again, Vance of the Consortium acts as intermediary to find a buyer for their prize. Expressing surprise at the rich success the Lesser Evil has found, Vance has gained a bit of admiration for how quickly they gained revenge upon Svard. The Consortium and the Lesser Evil have turned quite a nice profit from the recent sailings, and Vance is beginning to become a bit of a proponent for the pirate crew. The story of the Lesser Evil spreads further, increasing their infamy, and lends itself to an easier time of recruiting new crew.

     The demands placed upon sailors at sea are harsh even under the best of conditions. Long sailings under treacherous conditions, faced with threats of nature, man, and beast, tests the strength of the crew of any vessel. These conditions are common upon any vessel, but for pirate ships, they are presented with a few unique problems. Many pirates tend to come from the fringes of society, often lawless, and have an almost universal requirement for the acquisition of loot upon which they utilize to live a vicarious life. Once a pirate has a bag of gold, it is common for her to enter into a tavern and not exit until that gold is fully exhausted, and sometimes quite after that time, taking her few last drinks from the tavernkeep who is unawares that the purse contains but lint and no gold.

     So often the pirate who is seeking to join a vessel makes that decision in haste and need, for it is the only way to acquire subsistence in the harsh world in which they live.

     But sometimes a pirate crew begins to gain a loyalty to a vessel on which they serve. If treated properly, with regular food, few beatings, and success in combat which leads to a full purse, pirates gain a bit of pride in their ship’s accomplishments and will go to sea willingly even when their fair time has been served. It is becoming such upon the Lesser Evil. Already having acquired several prizes, and having been awarded with a nice amount of loot, the vessel is gaining a reputation that promises to grow through the Shackles. Being a part of this success is another point which helps keep and draw crew to the Lesser Evil. Serving upon the Lesser Evil offers a true promise of a better lot in life, and with the successes it has had makes attracting new crew a much easier task.

     The ship departs Bloodcove with about a dozen new crew on board, replenishing the ranks of those who had recently fallen, and the one or two pirates who decided to stay in Bloodcove for a bit longer to inflict self-punishment upon their livers and souls. The newly recruited crew assimilates quickly to their tasks onboard under the guidance of Sendara with a gentle hand, and Rogald with a firm demeanor.

     Gorbo has set course for a return to Rickedy Squibs. With a fair amount of gold, the officers of the Lesser Evil have decided to spend a portion of the loot to better equip the vessel. New and better sails and perhaps another ballista or two will make the Lesser Evil much more agile and formidable in combat.

     The first day at sea brought stormy weather. A steady rain throughout the day made life miserable among the crew, who just hours ago had been nestled comfortably among the pleasures that Bloodcove offered. At least the wind was constrained throughout the day, and the waves as mild as could be expected. So the crew soldiered on with their tasks, the vessel making good progress. By the end of the day, the visibility became poor as mists rose from the sea in response to the continual light rain. And with the mist, a tolling of a bell began to sound in the distance. All aboard the Lesser Evil shivered at the lonesome sound of the tolling. For a few minutes, it sound of the bell approaches. It is apparent to all onboard that this time, the ghost ship will not pass in the night. No commands are necessary from Gorbo – all hands turn out on deck with weapons, and the ballistas are prepared.

     Minutes more pass, and the ringing continues to get louder. With a bright flare, a red glow dashes its way through the fog, illuminating the night in an eerie red mist. The ghost ship is revealed.

     Just as Rosie had described it, the ship was three-masted, its sails in tatters even as it plowed effortlessly through the water. Two great flames cast the red light from its fore and aft, and figures can be seen moving about the ship. And at its rear, a dark figure stands, banging upon a great copper bell that glows with a fire.

      “Hard to port” Gorbo calls out to Brother Jamie, who steers the ship onto a collision course with the ghost vessel. Not willing to lie idle in the defense, Gorbo has decided to press the attack and board the ghost ship, with the hope that the sudden tactic will gain an advantage for the Lesser Evil.

     Ballista bolts begin to fly, and several dark figures on the ghost ship are impaled and thrown overboard.

     With a great clash, the Lesser Evil slams into the ghost ship, and Rogald, with Gorbo and Tilly, immediately leap across the short distance and engage the dark figures.

     Moving with an alacrity that betrays their undead nature, the dark figures have been raised to an undeath greater than the zombies that Fens has been calling to service. Their quickness catches the boarding party by surprise, and they begin to surge towards the heavily outnumber party, inflicting wounds with the jagged and rusted weapons they wield.

     Understanding the deadly straits they have found themselves in, Caldor knows that something must be done to delay the crushing onslaught of undead. Recalling that the great whale skull which serves as the figurehead on the Lesser Evil contains several magical abilities, Caldor rushes over and speaks the words to unleash one of the magical enchantments upon the undead crew of the ghost ship. With a tearing sound, a shimmering barrier forms itself into a great globe nearly half the size of the ship and springs itself upon the ghost vessel. With a single spell, most of the undead creatures now find themselves captured within the barrier and unable to get to the crew of the Lesser Evil.

      “Hurry” an emphatic Caldor calls from the fore “it won’t hold them long.”

     The greater threat thus contained, the Lesser Evil in turn surges forward and begins to hack their way through the few undead creatures who remain outside the entrapping sphere. But the ones who are free still present danger, and it was upon Rogald, always in the forefront of battle, upon which the blows begin to land heaviest.

     Brother Jamie and Fens now join in the assault. Brother Jamie lends aid to Rogald, while Fens selects individual undead to push them back with his necromantic castings.

     Seeing that his minions have been trapped and are being pushed back, the great figure who had been ringing the call to battle upon the bell at the rear of the ship charges forward, enraged that such a powerful magic has been used against his ship to such great effect. But that would be the undead master’s undoing.

     Rogald and the undead master trade blows, but it is Gorbo who positions himself on the flank of the opponent who unleashes a barrage of deadly strikes. Quickly weakened, the undead master tries to lash out one last time to at least fell Rogald. But his strikes fall astray.
His energy weakened by the damage which had already been inflicted on him, a final series of blows from Rogald and Gorbo, as well as a magical strike from Caldor which delivers a series of energy-enabled hammer blows, fells the undead master.

     With their master now destroyed, the rest of the undead crew fall into confusion. Fens steps in and begins to command them to disperse. With the unholy bound now gone between master and servant, the undead denizens flee from Fens and the rest of the crew of the Lesser Evil, and drop into the sea for their final rest.

     But Brother Jamie is not focused now on the undead leaping into the water. Rather, he sees the bell upon the undead master had been tolling begin to glow an eerie green. It was as if the evil energy that had thus been released by the death of the undead master and his minions is now flowing towards and into the bell.

     Alarmed at the possibilities and acting on his hunch, Brother Jamie oozes towards the bell while calling out “Hurry – the bell must be destroyed, lest the undead master return.”

     Seeing the bell glow with an unholy aura, Rogald and Tilly begin to rush the bell as well. But Rogald is the first to arrive, and using the last of his strength, swings his lucerne hammer into the bell. With a crash, the bell bursts asunder, and the green glow blinks out in a wisp. The magic that sustained the ghost crew and ship is dispersed, and with it the vessel begins to sink into the seas.

     Realizing their danger, the pirates turn back and run, returning to the Lesser Evil. As the last of leap back across the short distance to their ship, Gorbo calls for the lines to be cut, but sees that Sendara is already at the task with her cutlass slashing and directing a the rest of the crew to do the same. And just in time, for within seconds, the deck of the ghost ships sinks below the waterline, and soon, the entire vessel disappears without a trace. The ghost ship which had long tormented the Shackles has been destroyed forever, adding yet another tale to the growing journal of achievements of the Lesser Evil.


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