To Squib a Ship
Brother Jamie is basking in his adoring crowds. Throughout the night, he has woven tale after tale, recounting his heroic deeds over the past days since the Lesser Evil had first set sail. With each telling, demands would arise for a new tale, or a request to go further into details of a particular outstanding deed. Indeed, all week a similar scene has played out, and Brother Jamie exalts in the glory. And as he nears the completion of his most recent tale, the excitement of the evening builds to a satisfying crescendo.
“On the morning breeze the Lesser Evil cast off from that foul archipelago. The natives upon that island were sadly few and depleted due to the depredations by the foul denizens who had so besieged their commune. But they were most obleeged that we had rid them of their foes. Foul undead spirits, ghouls, and fiends had cursed their tropical lands. But now free once again, they stood upon the beach with kind and naked breast to bid farewell to our gallant ship and crew. We had explored the island and purged the evil which had set plight upon the populace, and with that riddance have returned opportunity for peace and good life to those happy indigenous people.”
The women in the crowd wistfully sigh, sensing the glee of hope bestowed upon those people by the gallant of the Lesser Evil. The menfolk are affected as well, staring off, perverting the images Jamie had conjured in their minds into shapely, sparsely clad women tossing flowers of farewell upon the surf as a final token of farewell and gratitude.
“And so with Gorbo Gutstabber captaining the ship, I your most humble servant took the wheel and set course to this fine town, Rickedy’s Squibs. Most graciously have you welcomed us into your homes and town, and for that we the crew and officers of the Lesser Evil are most humbly appreciative. Thank you for your toil on our and our ship’s behalf. May the blessing of the most merciful Besmara lay kindly upon your labours.”
Cheers erupt as the townsfolk express their appreciation of the heroics thus relayed. Since arriving in Rickedy’s Squibs nearly a week ago, Brother Jamie had frequented the solitary tavern in town on a nightly basis, regaling the townsfolk with the exploits of the Lesser Evil. Though the ship had only been at sail for a short while, the tales and legends that Brother Jamie offered are sure to spread the fame and infamy of the capable pirate vessel far and wide across the Shackles. On this, the last night before the Lesser Evil is scheduled to set sail for further adventures, the townsfolk are spread along the beach celebrating their successful labors and the impending departure of the refitted Lesser Evil.
Understanding the need to overhaul the vessel previously known as Man’s Promise, Gorbo ultimately agreed to make for this small village lying along the inlet of a nameless river along the Slithering Coast. Rickedy’s Squibs is known in certain circles to offer specialized services, modifying the look and profiles of ships for captains and crews who wish to maintain a certain anonymity. Squibs provides an opportunity to discretely create a new identity for the former Rahadoum vessel, albeit at a hefty price.
The town is little more than a handful of assorted houses and shacks built amongst the encroaching jungle, with one large mansion overbearing the expanse. Owned by Rickety Hake, self-proclaimed mayor and ruler of the town, the villa was originally constructed as a vacation escape by a rich merchant. But many years ago it had become run down and abandoned, the former owners unable to fend off the frequent and brutal intrusions of naga from their jungle warrens upriver. Hake took ownership of the village and through stern strength, was able to gain a measure of success in repelling the naga. For now, an uneasy truce exists between the town and naga. Rickedy’s Squibs has prospered under Hake’s leadership, and now includes several hundred inhabitants.
Upon its arrival, the Lesser Evil was greeting by Hake, who first expressed his astonishment and horror at the ship being commanded by a fart-sucking goblin. After acknowledging the error of their ways, but that indeed Gorbo had been proclaimed captain in absentia of Fens, Hake accepted the commission to re-tool the Lesser Evil, to squib it, for a harsh price of two-thousand gold. Negotiation not possible, and realizing the undesirability of being indebted to the man, the price was accepted.
Re-fitting of the Lesser Evil had proceeded quickly, for the entire town was established to perform just such a task. Each town inhabitant was well acquainted with their trade and assignments, for this is not the first, or last, vessel that will be squibbed in Rickedy’s Squib. In short order rotted beams are replaced, tar is brought in and applied, fouled sails and ropes are either fixed or replaced, and a myriad of other tasks are embarked and carried out with efficiency. Fresh supplies are also gathered to allow the ship to scout the seas for many days without requiring a call to port.
Upon the prow of the ship, a strong battering ram shaped in the guise of a skeleton whale is stolidly affixed. The whole ship has taken on the aspect of a plagued behemoth erupting from the sea. But the appearance of the ship has not detracted from its functionality, and the inherent nimbleness and speed of the vessel is maintained and improved. It is sure to set fright into other vessels, or so the craftsfolk at work assure the crew of the Lesser Evil. All should soon be complete, allowing the newly squibbed ship to sail freely upon the Shackles, its former Rahadoum identity as the Man’s Promise suitably erased and replaced.
With the ship being refurbished, the crew and officers of the Lesser Evil have made the most of their time ashore. The crew, purses bulging with coin bestowed upon them by Captain Gutstabber, spends their off-duty hours in tavern, telling tales of their own, further spreading the renown of the Lesser Evil while relieving themselves of the stresses at sea.
The officers stay engaged and several new crewfolk are added who decide to cast their lot with the Lesser Evil, including several of the former sailors of the now converted Man’s Promise. Of especial note an inseparable threesome who bungles along together, going by the names Lawrence, Mole, and Baldy. Insufferably inquisitive and clumsily awkward, they nonetheless take to the pirate code with fervor, and promise to be steadfast mates upon the Lesser Evil. Rogald spends time with the new crew, assessing their skills and ensuring that their loyalty to piracy and the Lesser Evil are sincere.
Bruno spends time in the kitchens of the tavern, displaying and sharing his culinary talents, accepting the gratitude of the tavern’s patrons for the improved palatability of the fare which now is offered by the cooks of Rickedy’s Squibs.
Caldor and Fens spend time practicing their mystical crafts within their rooms upon the Lesser Evil, though the work of refurbishment has proceeded all about them. Tilly stays with the ship as well, helping out with the repair of the vessel while keeping a sharp and critical eye out on the quality of the work. And Gorbo, anticipating future sailings of the Lesser Evil, has worked to gather information on the waters about the Shackles and the challenges and opportunities that may be presented.
“A fine talespinner, Brother Jamie” Hake proclaims. “Ye truly bring to life the toils of a pirate, and the many varied challenges awaiting those of like ilk.”
Bowing his head, Brother Jamie accepts the praise, and then wearily proceeds to weave his way through the gathered townsfolk to refill his mug. The long story-telling session has been dry work, and he moves to refresh his spirit and draw a draft from a large keg of ale set in the surf to keep it chill.
Accepting additional congratulations along the way, one of the townsfolk beckons to Brother Jamie to join him as he tops off his own mug from the keg. Smiling in return, Brother Jamie begins to enter the shallow surf when, in an instant, a tremendous black appendage leaps from the sea, grabbing the villager from behind. With a muffled shout, the hapless man is pulled into the surf, quickly disappearing beneath the water with a splash before emerging dozens of yards away thrashing and struggling with the slimy limb.
Alerted by the cries, the townsfolk on the beach begin to cry the alarm, and guards begin to rush to gather their weapons. Moments only have passed, turning the tranquil and enjoyable outing into mayhem as townspeople cry out and run in all directions away from the shore, sounding cries of “Naga! Naga! Run for your lives.”
Amid the commotion, Fens springs into action. Rushing down the short dock, he unties a small boat, thrusting it into motion in an effort to paddle out to help save the poor man. Gorbo, seeing Fens and realizing the intent, leaps into the boat as well.
“Row” Gorbo urges. “The poor sot has little time! Get me near as close ye can.”
With Fens and Gorbo quickly approaching the creature, Caldor enters the surf and casts a spell towards the struggle. A simmering cascade of air settles down and encases the villager, as Caldor has cast an air bubble about the man to protect him from drowning.
Ignoring for the moment the prestidigitation, the naga continues to dunk the man into the sea in an effort to drown and subdue him. But sensing that further magical attacks are forthcoming, the naga lifts her head above the water and snarls at the group in menace. Then, with a quick convulsion, she casts her own magic, and several illusionary images of her form appear.
Unable to discern which of the images is the true naga, Bruno enters the surf carrying a pot loaded with stew that had been warming over the fire, and tosses it at the naga. In a poof, one of the forms disperses as the pot bursts the glamor. But other images remain. Caldor, also unable to determine which the true target is, casts a spell, and several hammer shaped force fields erupt from his upraised palm, slamming into the creature. But the targets struck were actually just false images, and as each hammer of force hits its mark, the image is dispelled until just a single target remains, that of the naga.
Rogald, having swum out to the melee, begins to swing his huge poleaxe and pounds the creature, wounding it with his heavy strokes. In unison, Fens has managed to bring the rowboat close to the fight, and Gorbo dives overboard, dagger clasped between his teeth, to add his attacks upon the monster.
Desperately besieged, the naga lashes out in defense, and catches Gorbo with her poisoned tail. Reacting instantly to the vile poison, Gorbo paddles back a bit to deal with its effects. But in doing so he manages to help distract the naga, opening the beast up to a full-on series of attacks from Rogald. Thus exposed, and further accepting a series of bashes from various objects which Bruno had managed to gather and toss, the naga releases the village victim to focus her defense and attacks on Gorbo and Rogald.
But her defense is too weakened, beset upon on all sides. With a final great swing, Rogald connects with a solid crunch across the naga’s head, tearing it from the fiend and killing it in an instant.
Fens pulls the wretched villager into the rowboat, and the entire party makes their way back to shore. The guard of Rickedy’s Squibs has since gathered, and helps haul in the now exhausted party. Gorbo in particular is in need of aid. Tended to by Sendara, she is able to call upon blessings to extract the poison from the diminutive goblin’s veins.
Last from the surf is a triumphant Bruno. Exultant over the victory, he has drug the headless body serpent ashore. Promising to all in a loud voice that ‘Succulent squid will soon be served!’ he brandishes his butcher’s knife and begins to prepare a new feast for the village. Thus relieved of their fears, the townsfolk begin to return to the beach with a newfound appreciation of the talents of the Lesser Evil.
Hake in particular is impressed. “Perhaps I have underestimated thou chances to survive the trials of these merciless Shackles. I’ll arrange an extra ballista be installed upon yer ship, in recompense for yer efforts this evening.”
The party thanks Hake, but for the moment they are more interested in calming their nerves after the quick but deadly encounter. The keg is rescued from the surf by a now buoyant Gorbo. Brought safely onto shore this time, it is quickly drained, and then replaced by another.
Another harrowing tale to add to the infamy of the Lesser Evil, and long into the night the celebration of the successful defense continues. And when the first morsels of the naga are served, few complain to Bruno of the poor tasting meat – for victory over one’s enemies is a savory herb that dispels the most bitter of meals.