The party crept up from the sea onto the eerily silent and vacant deck of the Nightmare. For Dovahkiin the stillness was broken only by his telepathic alarms.
Suddenly the door to below deck creaked open and Sandara urgently whispered for the group to get inside. Before the party could move though, green tendrils descended from above, grasping at them and dragging them into the air.
The plant monster dragged its furiously struggling victims closer and closer to its maw, and finally fell when it pulled up Gork and got a raging barbarian to the face.
For the next three days, the party dragged up treasure (mostly the gigantic throne of Krelloort) . Dovahkiin ceased to sleep due to newly learned magics. Harghast was feeling conflicted about his actions as a pirate and went on a pilgrimage to center himself. Similarly, Zan got a message implying his family who had been seemingly killed by slavers may have actually survived and left to pursue the lead.
As soon as the Nightmare left Mancatcher Cove a warship ambushed them. Gork leapt into the fray against the enemy crew as Valignat battled the rival leader Captain Gortus Svard.
Eventually, Dovahkiin’s fireballs and Val’s savaging crippled the enemy Captain hobgoblin who surrendered. The hobgoblin was intimidated by Gork, and he said that he was a mercenary authorized by the ruling pirates of the Shackles to attack any pirate not affiliated with the Free Captains, and that he had waited until the party had done all the work of getting the treasure for him to strike and take their booty and bounty.
Captain Svard desperately tried to get the party to take him with them, but was abandoned on Mancatcher Cove. The party then proceeded to kick dogs, steal candy from babies, and prevent old ladies from crossing the street. This was done without Harghast’s knowledge
Deciding to become Free Captains (a decision made easier by the fact they would be under constant threat of attack until they did) the party set a course to the Shackles capital, Port Peril. On the way, some locathah showed up to thank the party for freeing their matriarch, and gave them a magic helmet as a gift.
The Nightmare arrived at Port Peril, and the party sold treasure, while also sending out a tribute payment to the ruler of the Shackles, Hurricane King Kerdak Bonefist. They also met Phineas, who warmly greeted the party after relocating to Port Peril.
Dovahkiin purchased a silver mirror and the next day used it to Scry on Grok, finally regaining contact with the lovely half-orc.
They caught up for a bit and Grok revealed that she and the Wormwood were also currently in Port Peril and that Captain Harrigan had become much harsher in the wake of the Nightmare being stolen. Dovahkiin offered to rescue her, but they couldn’t see how to do it without being crushed by Captain Harrigan’s reprisals. Dovahkiin also asked if, in her time with him, if she had noticed anything strange about Kroop’s chicken. As they talked, they were suddenly interrupted by Tsadok Goldtooth a pirate who bore an oddly close resemblance to Dovahkiin.
As a crowd gathered, Tsadok explained that the party’s request to become Free Captains had been heard, and that they would need to complete a set of three pirate challenges. The first challenge would be a race to climb a mast and unfurl a sail, the second challenge was gambling, and the last one was having to defeat an attempted boarding of their ship. As Tsadok explained, Dovahkiin attempted to ask some questions, but Tsadok repeatedly insulted him for it.
First up was the race, and being the best suited for it Gork was chosen. His opponent was a human named Haynes.
Tsadok drew a pistol (the first one the party had seen to date) and fired it to announce the start of the race. Gork and Haynes took off. Despite Haynes skill and even outright cheating by his rivals, Gork won the race. Haynes fell from the mast and Gork wished him better luck next time.
Next up was the gambling, and Valignat was chosen for it. Various other contestants were gradually cleared out, leaving only the dragon and Tsadok. After many rounds, the dragon was ultimately victorious. Also, he scared Tsadok out of trying to steal back the prize money, and completely shrugged off 10+ drinks of extremely strong ale. Note to self: don’t get in a drinking contest with a dragon (or dwarf.)
Finally came the last contest, the combat trial. A huge cage under a curtain was rolled up to the ship. The curtain was pulled away, the cage opened, and Fishpork the marsh giant was released.
After a brief but impressive fight, the giant fell.
Tsadok announced that the party was victorious, and invited them to a feast at Bonefist’s base that night. The party traveled out to the feast and the Hurricane King began a speech.
Bonefist announced to the crowded room that the party was aspiring free captains and challenged the leaders of the nightmare to justify why they should be allowed the honor.
Gork responded by rising up and in a rage boomed forth, “Now listen well you bloodbag pukes! If you fail to recognize the mighty crew of the infamous Nightmare before you I will be your personal nightmare as I grab you up with my bare hands and rend your limbs from their sockets and beat your skull from your shoulders until your head rolls to the side. I will then spit down your trembling neck holes as I stomp whats left of you into pools of spasming piles of vomitous filth!”
Gork then grabs a hunk of venison, jumps onto the table and rips the flesh in two, and throws it violently to the table before stomping it beyond all recognition as the dragon transforms into his menacing natural form with a burst of dragonfear radiates out from Valignant.
“We have passed your tests, paid your tribute, and I stand before you now hoping against hope that one of you will please step forward and challenge our entry into the brotherhood of Free Captains so that I may rain blows down upon you and pulverize each bone in your wretched scurvy ridden corpses into fine powder. I beg of you…step forward and make your protest known you quivering poopstains!”
Gork stood trembling with rage on the table waiting and hoping that some fool would step forward.
A moment of utter silence follows as the echoes of his outburst ring and fade away.
A still moment later and the crowd erupts with cheers and raised tankards of ale. “Hazaah!” With a slow grin spreading across his face, Bonefist responds by making the party official Free Captains, “Welcome brothers!”
At the party, Dovahkiin attempted to fool Bonefist into believing Harrigan had spoken against him, but failed.
Later on, Phineas invited them over to his favorite tavern, the Riptide Alehouse. The party went over, (Valignat had to assume his human form, as the Riptide Alehouse has a strict “No dragons served” policy) and began to order drinks at the bar. In the corner Gork spotted Caulky Tarroon, Captain Harrigan’s old cabin girl, surreptitiously poisoning drinks, presumably to capture new crew members, much like most of the party.
Caulky realized she’d been spotted, and tossed a drink at a sailor, provoking a bar fight to cover her escape.
Dovahkiin attempted to rush over and cripple her with a curse, but then a friendly pirate named Pierce Jerrell stood up in front of him and tried to strike up a conversation.
Val turned back into a dragon and swooped across the bar to cut off Caulky, who was running up some stairs and across a balcony. Unfortunately, a drunken sailor decided to punch him. Val dropped snarling to the floor, gnashing his teeth as he attempted to control the urge to slaughter. He succeeded this time.
Meanwhile, Dovahkiin continued to try to get past the confused sailor, threatening to forever remove his ability to drink alcohol when two brawlers took the sailor down.
Dovahkiin ran after Caulky and Gork stopped to swat away the attackers and help up the sailor, who introduced himself as Pierce Jerrel, swashbuckler extraordinaire
Regaining control of his psychosis, the dragon released an ominous hiss and the fight cleared out around him. The party rushed up to Caulky and brought her down, just as the sounds of the guards approached (apparently pirates have police.)
Pierce helped them escape, and they dragged Caulky off to question her. After a rather fruitless interrogation, the party let her go, but not before Dovahkiin stole a bit of her hair for magic spying. And also her eye-patch, for no particular reason.
Later on, at Phineas’s home, Dovahkiin contacted Grok. She said that the Wormwood was leaving the next day, and it seemed the two would be split up again when Valignat suggested faking her death. Dovahkiin responded excitedly to the idea, declaring he could alter any other corpse to look like Grok. A plan was worked out: Grok would fake being drunk, “accidentally” fall off the ship, and the party would slip in with a boat under Sandara’s summoned fog, then leave the altered corpse behind for the Wormwood to find.
After buying an old rotten corpse taken from a grave for 300gp (Dovahkiin was in a hurry) from Pierce, the party rowed out to the Wormwood and successfully rescued Grok, rowing away into the fog.
However, all was not well, as a pair of pirates heard the splash of Grok hitting the water and pulled the decoy aboard. One pirate was fooled but the other wasn’t so they dragged the corpse off to Captain Harrigan, who saw through the forgery.
The party returned triumphantly to the Nightmare, where they quietly celebrated. Dovahkiin proposed marriage to Grok and she said she’d think about it. It was decided that Grok should keep a low profile until the Wormwood left town.
The next day, the party got an invitation to the townhouse of the popular Free Captain Tessa Fairwind that evening. The party went out to meet her.
She talked about Shackles politics and mentioned that Bonefist was not the most popular ruler and that she wasn’t interested in being Hurricane King. Then she got to the reason she had called the party over. Tessa said that she had been hearing disturbing rumors that Cheliax had been sending spies into the Shackles in preparation for possible invasion, and that she needed the party, as relative unknowns, to investigate for her, if they would, and bring her concrete proof of the spies that she could present to the whole council of free captains.
Before she would part with her information however, she suggested the party should secretly join her fleet, and that when the time was right reveal their allegiance. She also flirted with Gork a bit. The alliance would mean the Nightmare would keep primarily to its own devices, but that if she called they should come to her aid and visa versa. The party agreed to the alliance, although Valignat was severely reluctant.
That settled, she revealed her primary leads were the temple of Norgorber (dark god of assassins and secrets) on Bag Island, a halfling settlement and the temple of Calistria (the morally ambiguous elf goddess) in Quent.
The party started with the warehouse “temple” of Norgorber, where the spokesman, a halfling named Sting, said that they would part with the information on Chelish spies if the party would go find the ship called the Brine Banshee and learn its secrets regarding its legendary speeds and disappearance. Sting said the party should go to the temple of Calistria to find out where it is.
The party headed over to Quent where they managed to sufficiently offend the priestess in charge enough that she demanded they go on another quest to first retrieve the Golden Vespal, a holy relic of their faith. The priestess said that, while she didn’t know where it is, the temple of Norgorber most certainly will.
Making a u-turn, the party headed back to the Norgorber temple again, where they traded the location of the Golden Vespal (In the hands of wreckers who had taken down the ship carrying it) in exchange for hearing about what had happened to the Infernus (the Chelish ship carrying ghouls from the island where Plugg died.)
The party headed out to where Sting had said the wreckers operate in order to find the Golden Vespal for the Calistrians to get the location of the Brine Banshee for the Nogorberite cult so they could find out where to look for the Chelish spies. After a while of searching, they saw a ship, the Shining Star, floating motionless in the water.
The party moved in, not seeing anything suspicious, when they suddenly ran aground on a rocky reef hidden behind an illusion. The whole area was a disguised trap from the wreckers.
As the party picked themselves up and assessed the damage, Dovahkiin was almost slain by a terrifying Phantasmal Killer spell. The wreckers stormed the ship out of an Invisibility sphere, and were generally losing when Dovahkiin spotted a well hidden figure in the crow’s nest. It was Captain Varkarla, the wizard leader (with an abnormally small head) of the wreckers.
The party began battling the flying mage, and Varkarla dropped Dovahkiin with a wall of fire. The fire-immune dragon swept into the flames to save Dovahkiin by carrying him off and dumping him in a rear window for Sandara to heal.
Meanwhile, Gork pursued after Varkarla, making a (unfortunately unsuccessful) attempt to reach her in the air by leaping off a catapult, and her pet monkey threw poo in his eyes in response. As Gork wiped his eyes clean, Val and Dovahkiin moved back into combat, and the fight finally ended when Varkarla approached Gork invisibly and attempted to drain his life force for healing. This plan didn’t work out very well at all, especially given that she was promptly cut in half. Good riddance.
The surviving wrecker surrendered, and was interrogated to find the wrecker base. The Nightmare’s damage was repaired, and the party looted the base, finding the Golden Vespal among other treasures and plunder.
They headed back to Quent to return the idol to the temple of the stolen kiss.