Skull and Shackles

"Where the hell am I?"
Day 1

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Day one finds our adventurers aboard the Wormwood helmed by the free captain, Barnabas Harrigan. An imposing man with a sordid reputation.

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Valignat the young and small red dragon has been cruelly chained through the nose to the bowsprit (which just so happens to be shaped like a rearing dragon), muzzled and shackled to limit his movement and hopefully aggression towards the crew. The previous ‘pet’ dragon, an ill-tempered green dragon, brought aboard the ship was slain and dumped overboard after it killed three crew members who did not respect its burgeoning power.

Mottled pits and grooves can still be seen about the bowsprit from where he breathed his last acidic blast in retribution. Cpt. Harrigan wishes to have a trained and submissive dragon as a ‘mascot’ and useful tool in attacking other ships in the ocean known as the Shackles. So far, Valignat is still very much on a short leash. The crew kicks and calls Valignat ‘the red dog’ whenever referring to it or passing it causes a smoldering flicker to pass behind Valignat’s eyes—and if any were wiser they would not continue to provoke the beast.

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Also, brought on board the ship is the mysterious gray and dark figure who calls himself Zan. He, or ‘it’ as he is often called by the arrogant human crew, has gained some of the officer’s limited ‘trust’ and has been charged, in addition to his other ship duties, with feeding, training, and working with the dragon since he seems to be the only one that can somewhat communicate with him.

When Zan first approached the beast, he spoke calmly and quietly in draconic telling him that together they would soon make the crew pay dearly but the time for revenge and retribution had not yet come, but soon would. Slipping the key in the muzzle’s lock he drops the painful restraint away from the dragon’s raw snout. Valignat turns in a flash, ready to blast the human’s cruel hands when he catches a glimpse of the Strix’s clipped wings—the same treatment he had received at the hands of these brutes. He holds his fire and in a brief, silent moment a truce is made and an alliance is formed between Zan and Valignat.

In guttural, growled draconic, Valignat swears, “They will pay dearly,” and the growl fades into a muddled, cough-like spasm that passes for dragon laughter.

“Indeed.” Is all Zan says or needs to say with a wicked grin that would surely cause a shiver in all but the stoutest of hearts.

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Zan cleans the raw flesh as best he can and as he slips the muzzle back on with a muted snick, he places a clawed hand on the top of the dragon’s head as he promises, “Soon.” in Strix.

Meanwhile, in the lower hold, darkness, stink, and nausea greats Phineas the Sorcerer, Dovahkiin the Wizard, and Harghast the novice Warpriest as they come to groggy consciousness. Heavy footfalls rouse them more fully as a menacing pirate with a whip and a cruel smile kicks them unceremoniously awake while six henchman look on.

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Master Scourge will soon come to be a hated man, but in the confusion and still hung over from the drugs they were slipped they shuffle up the stairs compliantly into the blinding sun.
As their vision returns they see Captain Harrigan looming above them as he addresses his crew.

“Glad you could join us at last! Welcome to the Wormwood! My thanks for ‘volunteering’ to join my crew. I’m Barnabas Harrigan. That’s Captain Barnabas Harrigan to you, not that you’ll ever need to address me. I have only one rule—don’t speak to me. I like talk, but I don’t like your talk. Follow that rule and we’ll all get along fine."

“Oh, and one more thing. Even with you new recruits, we’re still short-handed, and I aim to keep what crew I have. There’ll be a keelhaulin’ for anyone caught killin’ anyone. Mr. Plugg! If
you’d be so kind as to make pirates out of these landlubbers, it’ll save me having to put them in the sweatbox for a year and a day before I make pies out of ’em.”

As the Captain and his cabin girl disappear, the trio are quickly put to a test to see who can climb to the crow’s nest first 60’ above their heads. All make it, but Harghast is the first to make it and is therefore assigned as a rigger. Phineas is then arbitrarily assigned to be the cook’s mate and is escorted to the galley where he soon meets the drunk known as Ambrose ‘Fishguts’. They get along swimingly as Ambrose is passed out drunk.

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He makes it through the first day and succeeds at delivering dinner on time and edible. That’s a success on any pirate ship.

During the first day, Harghast is approached quietly by a pirate by the name of Sandara Quinn.

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She deftly hands him his lost holy symbol as she whispers sound advice to the new recruits. “Keep your head down, do your work, and try not to rock the boat, as it were. I know the anger and fear you’re feeling, but revenge is a dish best served cold. Bide your time and know you can have at least one friend on board.” She drifts back to her duties as Harghast stares down at the first piece of good fortune he’s had since this madness started.

Some time later, Sandara appears near Dovahkiin and while maintaining the appearance of performing her duties she holds out a weathered satchel to him, “Here, take this.” He does and turns his back to shield prying eyes as he takes a quick glimpse in the leather carrying case. It is his missing spell book. He turns around with an automatic smile with a bit of befuddlement. Before he can ask why she tells him Master Scourge press-ganged her as well when she spurned his advances and anything she can do to thwart these pirates without getting caught, she will. She also tells him that she got these items back from Cut-throat Grok the half-orc quartermaster of the ship and if he can manage to befriend her she is a good friend to have indeed.

All ultimately complete their assigned tasks, some with more admonishment then others, and at the ‘Bloody Hour’, as the sun sinks into the wide ocean, the pirates drag Jake Magpie, a crew member caught in the act of stealing, and lash him up and throw him over board to be keelhauled to the roar of approval from the scoundrel crew.

With his background as an amateur physician, or for what passes for one in these times, Phineas can see that Jake’s mangled body suffered moderately severe damage and ultimately drowned as a result of this punishment. His maimed body was dumped like so much garbage over the side where a swirl of fins and teeth quickly removed all trace of him.

As darkness fully takes the Wormwood, the party members set about gathering information, attempting to make alliances, and general skulk around or try to sleep.

Today was painful in many ways and tomorrow seemed to promise more of the same.

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The Beatings Will Continue...

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The days passed slowly for the new crew members as they worked under the whip of Mr. Plugg.

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Most of their time was spent forming alliances or sneaking around the ship, and doing their jobs.

About five days in, a pirate came from below decks, saying there were creatures in the bilge, and the group was ordered to go deal with it.

Entering the disgusting, murky pool that is the bilge, the group carefully looked around. Suddenly a spider came down and bit Valignat before retreating up into the webs at the ceiling. Moments later, a pack of dire rats splashed out of the filth.

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The group stood against the squeaking, snapping giant vermin, and soon the beasts floated dead about the garbage. Valignat gleefully tore into the corpses and they searched the bilgewater for anything of value. Truly an epic beginning for the tale of our heroes.

On another occasion, Harghast, Zan, and Dovahkiin were tied to the mast, the half-orc and strix for failures with their work and Harghast for having been caught fighting. (Against a gang that attacked him.) Plugg was berating and beating them with his cat o’ nine tails. However, when Plugg turned away, Dovahkiin used his magic to yank his pants down. The ship fell silent for a moment as Plugg hurriedly replaced his fallen trousers. Storming back to the mast he demanded to know who was responsible, but nobody said anything. Frustrated, he struck with his whip again, and marched off. Dovahkiin may never realize how close to death he came that day.

In the course of forming alliances, Zan accidentally offended Crimson Cogward.

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Over the next few days, the strix’s attempts at fixing the situation made Cogward even angrier until eventually he lashed out, knocking Zan out. Two additional fights between them over time resulted in victories for the strix and firmly cemented a hatred between the pair.

Phineas spent much of his free time in the kitchen with Kroop. Having a kind friend to talk to was good for the old drunkard, and he seemed not to need the bottle as often anymore.

For his part, Dovahkiin attempted to build a relationship with Cut-Throat Grok, the quartermaster.

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At a coral reef, Captain Harrigan decided he wanted crab for dinner, and the party, along with Rosie Cusswell, were assigned to go get it for him. As they dove down and spear fished the party was attacked by a pair of reefclaws.

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The party battled the creatures and one entire corpse was taken in with the ordinary crabs (The other having been too badly burnt by Valignat). This pleased the Captain.

At mealtime one night Dovahkiin was caught not drinking his rum. Plugg responded by dragging him up and ordering him to fight Plugg’s “pet”, the man known as Owlbear, who had befriended the party.

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Although reluctant, the fight began, with attempts at gambling being hampered by the betting odds so vastly favoring Owlbear. Dovahkiin did extremely well however, managing to land hit after hit against Owlbear. Plugg was not pleased at this however, and tossed Owlbear a club, with which he easily defeated the unarmed mage.

Mr Plugg demanded that Owlbear finish him off, but he refused to kill his new friend, defiantly dropping the club. Plugg began to beat Owlbear, when the nearby, muzzled Valignat approached, snarling angrily. Plugg responded by snapping his whip in the small dragons face. At the crack of the whip the dragons restraint failed and he launched up at Plugg, screeching and hissing murderously as he gouged at him with his claws. Plugg slashed the dragon with his cutlass, and all the pirates around swarmed and beat the dragon unconscious.

Zan was punished (being placed inside the sweat box), being blamed for the incident as he was charged with keeping the beast under control, and Valignat woke to find he was manacled to prevent the same attack from happening again.

Some days later, Zan and Val were sent to the bilge to work.

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Plugg and Scourge searched them for weapons before they went down, and in the bilge was, along with three other pirates, Zan’s good old “friend” Crimson. As Zan worked the bilge pumps, he spotted concealed knives on the other pirates.

Sure enough the pirates soon sprung the trap, stabbing with their concealed daggers, as Zan fought them unarmed and the muzzled, shackled dragon attempted to trip and headbutt them. Crimson and two of the pirates were knocked unconscious in the muck, and a third made a break for the exit.

Zan flew over and brought him down, turning back to see Valignat stalking toward the helpless Crimson, a crazed, evil look about him. Before Val could be stopped, he had mangled Crimsons leg beyond repair.

As they dragged the injured pirates above deck, Plugg and Scourge stopped them, furiously demanding to know what had happened, but fortunately, Zan managed to spin a tale good enough that he and Val could not be killed openly for it at least. The ships doctor took a look at Crimson’s leg and clipped the remnants of the knee off with scissors, and he was left with a peg leg and a very bad attitude.

A storm hit the vessel, and Owlbear was nearly killed when he was swept overboard, but the group just managed to drag him back aboard by the slimmest of margins.

On the twenty-first day, sails were spotted on the horizon, and the Wormwood moved in pursuit of it’s new prey.

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Tropical Island Vacation

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The Wormwood closed on the other ship, known now to be the Man’s Promise, a Rahadoumi slaver ship. A day later, the ships closed together, as a fog suddenly appeared around them.

On the Wormwood, the crippled pirates (Including their newest member, Crimson) and the party were given their orders by Krine: Take the wheel, hold it, and kill anyone who attempts to escape on the lifeboats—leave the real fighting to the experts.

When the battle was joined Zan flew around the area, sniping effectively with arrows. Most of the pirates and party leapt over, except for Dovahkiin, who stood back, and some pirate who fell in the water and was eaten by sharks. Valignat and Harghast were repeatedly knocked into the water, but eventually found their footing and scampered back on board before being eaten by the thrashing sharks.

Phineas called Dovahkiin ‘chicken’ for staying back, and was color sprayed into unconsciousness in response. Dovahkiin paid a pirate who witness the act not to tell anyone, and had a change of heart afterwards, and leapt over to protect him.

Zan saw Captain Harrigan in battle, with a Rahadoumi creeping up behind him. Zan was faced with the difficult choice of whether or not to let him get stabbed. Making his decision, he reluctantly called out, and the captain struck down the sailor creeping up behind him and nodded at the strix. With an appreciative nod, Cpt. Harrigan reentered the fray as a deep fog enveloped him again.

The party shifted into guarding the longboats, killing a dozen Rahadoumi, including one wielding an extending trick pike.

As their part of the battle drew to a close, Zan saw Crimson’s broad exposed back, and shot him. Clearly a tragic accident of course…people die in battle all the time…tragedy really.

After the battle, the loot was divided up, Captain Harrigan either recruiting or killing the subdued Rahadoumi. A thirty six hour party ensued with Dovahkiin setting off impressive fireworks with his magic at its conclusion—to the agony of the hungover pirates.

At the end of the festivities, the Captain decided that Plugg and Scourge, with a skeleton crew of their choice, would take the Man’s Promise to Port Peril and pick up a crew, then meet up with the captain.

Plugg chose the party, Owlbear, Kroop, Krine, Sandara, Rosie, and several other rather unfriendly pirates.

There was an emotional parting between Grok and Dovahkiin, and Dovahkiin attempted to convince the captain to let Grok go with them, but before he could speak the Captain knocked him out…again.

And so, the Wormwood and Man’s Promise separated. One night, while eavesdropping, Sandara found that Plugg had his own plans. Instead of going to Port Peril, he would visit Rickety Squibbs, that’s the port, and Rickety Hale who runs it, and get the Man’s Promise squibbed (changing it’s appearance) and go into business for himself—right after killing everyone on the Promise he didn’t like.

Before any plans of mutiny could be acted on, a powerful storm hit the ship.

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Valignat was washed overboard, but through the combined power of the team, Harghast removing his blindfold, and the dragons tiny wings frantic flapping, they barely pulled him aboard.

Then, little goblin-squid-shark creatures called grindylows swarmed aboard, attacking the party. Half the creatures were quickly killed, and the rest accepted an offer to retreat from Harghast, who fortunately spoke Aquan.

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After the storm and attack, the Promise ran aground on reef just off a tropical island.

Phineas’s woodworking skills quickly analyzed the problem, and he declared that the ship would need repairs soon, or it would sink. Sandara and Rosie were noticed to be missing, and evidence of where they were dragged off by grindylows by the rails was found. Plugg refused to allow a rescue mission however, and forbade any other talk of alleged monsters.

Plugg then ordered his pirates to repair the ship, and the party to go ashore for food, water and supplies.

Heading ashore the party passed skeletons arranged as sculptures. Dovahkiin took ones arm for further study.

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Landing ashore, they found a deserted mud hut village and a path going inland. Traveling down the path, they came across a swamp with a few log pillars just above the surface. As they hopped across, some giant frogs leapt out from the brackish water with a mighty ribbit.

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The frogs bit the party and pulled with their tongues, but working together, the party killed the frogs. One could even say they croaked. [ed. Haha!]

Deeper in the swamp, the party came across a tent. Harghast wanted to burn it down, but instead the party crept closer. Zan peeked into the tent and saw three female ghouls.

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The creatures charged, and so did the party. Harghast chopped with his greatsword, Zan fired arrows, and the dragon tore at them like an animal as Phineas fired magical blasts. The decisive blow was struck by Dovahkiin, with his Color Spray spell leaving most of them helpless. Unfortunately, he was infected with ghoul fever in the process, and barely recovered. Also he took a ghoul finger for some reason.

After the tent was searched for loot, the party agreed to Harghast’s original plan, and the tent swiftly fell to dragonfire.

Moving on, they were attacked by a swarm of biting insects. The first of many.

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With torches and dragonfire, the group was able to drive them off, although the dragon was badly bit.

Near the edge of the swamp, a giant crab dropped down on Dovahkiin.

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Not that giant.

The party killed it, and, identifying nearby ambush points for other crabs, drew out and killed them, collecting their meat.

Leaving the swamp, they found a huge, overgrown cornfield, with heads on pikes sticking out.

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Considering them, the party looked around, and eventually began firing arrows and crossbow bolts at the heads. An impact jostled the head, and another insect swarm rose and charged the party. Valignat responded with fire, and the whole field burned. The dragons eyes gleamed at the devastation.

Searching the smoking ex-cornfield the party found a burnt corpse with singed equipment. As they searched it, an ankheg burst from the ground.

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It was soon killed by the party, but unfortunately, Valignat ripped it apart in a burst of madness. No ankheg armor today.

The party scaled a nearby hill, finding a stockade at the top. They very slowly and cautiously moved in with Zan flying to the other side. Only Phineas’s keen eyes kept them from being taken by surprise by the vine chokers that leapt from ambush down from above.

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One tried to strangle Zan, but was brought down by his wrist dart gun to its face. Another was killed by Harghast (I think) and the last started to drag Valignat away, but was killed first. The party surrounded the nearby building, and inside found a corpse hanging from a noose.

When Harghast approached it animated, bracing against him and escaping from the noose as a swarm of flies was disturbed. Harghast annihilated the ghoul in a single mighty blow and the party burnt away the flies which had attacked Zan and Valignat. Apparently bugs hate dragons [ed: or are attracted to its stink.]

A singed journal found in the shed told the tale of how the Chelish ship Infernus had shipwrecked on the island, it’s pack of ghoul shock troops escaping and ultimately infecting most of the crew. Arron Ivy, the writer of the journal had built the stockade and cornfield, but was eventually infected with ghoul fever. He had attempted to hang himself to prevent rising again, but botched the hanging and hung there until he starved to death.

The resulting ghoul had hung there for three years waiting for someone to come by so it could escape, whereupon the Oread warpriest killed it in about two seconds.

Along with other loot found in the house, a spyglass on the wall was noticed to be deliberately aimed out at the coast. When they looked through it, the party saw a shipwreck under the water and grindylows at the entrance to a cave. One of them was wearing Sandara’s hat.

A fresh water spring was in the stockade, and the party chose to rest there for the night.

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Water tunnels and a Dragonbomb

The next morning, the party went down to the coast, and attempted to enter the grindylow caverns, but were immediately beset by stirges.

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Some hugged the walls, others walked underwater with potions of waterbreathing. As they moved through the tunnels they battled numerous grindylows, interrogating several about Sandara, executing them when they were no longer useful.

At one point some ghouls attacked Valignat when he attempted to remove an underwater grate and were slain by Harghast.

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The party was stopped by a room full of disgusting inky blackness. When the cloud cleared, a devilfish was seen inside.

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Harghast and Valignat charged, Zan and the orcs opening fire from range. Injured, the devilfish attempted to swim away, but the dragon doggedly attached to it’s face finished it off.

Eventually they found the leader of the grindylows, the Brineblood queen and her bloated son, surrounded by grindylows.

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Sandara and Rosie were tied to the ceiling, and when she spotted the party the Brineblood Queen shouted “Time to eat!” and dropped them into the water.

Phineas fired blast after blast of magic, and Dovahkiin assisted as well as he could, being mostly out of spells.

Zan flew around the room, saving Sandara and Rosie’s lives with an impressively deft acrobatic flying move.

Harghast aided, but was brought down by ghouls chained to the bottom of the pool. Dovahkiin moved in and rescued him.

Valignat killed the fat grindylow, bringing a shout of grief from the Brineblood Queen, at which the dragon mockingly laughed.

The queen and her pet octopus moved in on the cruel serpent and the octopus was killed while the Queen was wounded.

The Queen and her minions jetted away, and Phineas nearly brought her down with a well-placed dagger.

Immensely grateful for the rescue, Sandara gave Zan her hat, which could turn into a magic boat. She also shared that Plugg intended to betray and kill the party as soon as they returned to the ship.

The party rested and healed for a time at the stockade, and finished looting the now empty grindylow caves. They also visited the shipwreck, driving off a giant eel and looting the ruined vessel.

Faced with Pluggs planned betrayal, the party came up with a plan to attack the Man’s promise once darkness flowed over the island.

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The original boat the party went to the island on approached from the front, laden with dummies and supplies and pushed by summoned creatures as a distraction.

The actual party however, crept up behind in Sandara’s magic hat/boat.

Zan carried Valignat with him into the air as the pirates moved to the other side of the ship to ambush the dummy boat.

Plugg was alone, and Zan began the attack by dropping the ‘dragonbomb’ directly on Plugg’s shoulders. Plugg was knocked to the ground, his doom literally upon him.

Speaking in common for the first time, Val looked down through cruel eyes on Mr. Plugg and whispered. “Hello Plugg”

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As Plugg was torn apart, Zan swooped in and knocked the pirate in the crows nest to his death on the deck and began sniping. He even got some arrows into Plugg’s bald head before the dragon finished him.

The rest of the party climbed aboard. Sandara and Rosie entering the fray as Harghast and Phineas turned the ships own ballistas against the crew.

As the fight began, Owlbear knocked Krine overboard, and her cursing was finally ended by the sharks. A satisfied grin spread across Owlbear’s face. Kroop also moved, throwing daggers in an attempt to aid the party, and was wounded for his trouble.

Dovahkiin magically rendered some pirates and Scourge unconscious, Harghast executed Scourge.

Zan demanded the survivors lay down their weapons. The pirates surrendered and the battle was won.

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A comically dressed gnome pirate crept up from below decks, approaching the party with daggers drawn, but was spotted by the strix, hitting the deck with an arrow through each of his eyes.

The Man’s Promise was now the party’s. They now owned their own 10,000gp ship, and the new captains made their plans for the future. What will the future hold?

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Yo ho, Yo ho, a pirates life for me!

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Now in command of the Man’s Promise, the party decided to take to Rickety’s Squibs to get the ship squibbed. The journey took place without incident.

Upon arrival at Rickety’s, a small crowd began to gather. As the party continued to sail toward the dock, Ambrose came up from below deck with his chicken and demanded to know just what the party thought they were doing.

When they explained they were taking their ship into port, Ambrose explained to the newbies that standard procedure was to wait until Rickety Hale came over in a rowboat to discuss terms.

The party stopped and soon enough Rickety arrived in a rowboat.

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He went immediately to work assessing what needed to be done to the ship to properly disguise it. He discussed terms with the group and asked for 2,000gp in payment, taking half up front after Harghast suggested the idea. Along with the squibbing, the party also added a hidden smuggler’s compartment, silk sails, and a battering ram.

Hale let the group know that the job would take eight days.

The Man’s Promise was taken in to dry-dock, where a crew immediately began to work on the ship.

The party was able to choose the design of the high-quality silk sails they had purchased. Valignat was very pleased by the group’s decision.

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The party began their shore leave and decided to go to the local inn. Unfortunately, Rickety’s Squibs was a very small town and didn’t have a bar.

Our adventurers, confronted with a such a fundamentally bizarre and wrong situation as a tavernless town went to the closest equivalent it had; an old, beat-up commons building.

Inside, Harghast made some friends, and was invited to play nine-pins at the docks later on. Dovahkiin decided to try his hand at gambling.

The Half-orc mage won 50 gold and taunted the angry pirate he had just beaten. The two began a rather slow and ineffectual brawl, which ended when Dovahkiin escalated to casting sleep and was pummeled by the pirate’s friends.

The party was warned against similar behavior in the future, although ordinary fighting was alright.

The party went out to the nine-pins game. When they arrived, a violent scene was taking place. A man was being pulled into the water and a woman was struggling to save him.

The party sprung into action, and spotted that the creature in the water was a River Naga, driven to rage by a drought going on at the time.

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Armor and all, the Warpriest leapt into the water to save the doomed man, and was badly wounded by the naga. Dovahkiin, Phineas, and Zan opened fire at the naga, and the now human-sized Valignat fought from the air on his newly grown functional wings.

The Naga was killed, and the hapless civilian and Harghast were pulled from the water. Luckily, both managed to survive the naga venom they had been injected with.

For saving the naga’s victim from a watery grave, Rickety gave the group a discount on their squibbing (500gp). Dovahkiin got a new pair of naga-leather boots as well.

Later, the Warpriest was feeling conflicted about his new life as a pirate, and went looking for a fight. Dovahkiin suggested a friendly duel, and the two prepared for the contest.

However, they had not established whether or not Harghast could wear armor, and a dispute broke out.

Around a day later, a panic broke out in town. Dozens of giant wasp-like creatures were descending upon the town as a massive cloud. People were screaming as they stun people, paralyzed them, and carried some of them away.

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Everyone was fleeing to the commons and the party headed there as well. Valignat breathed a parting shot at the wasps before retreating.

From inside the commons, everyone watched as the wasps finished their attack.

As the wasps were flying away, someone cried out in horror from close by. A pair of waspies had stayed behind and were moments away from killing someone.

The group rushed out, Valignat charging and breathing fire, Zan moved to fire arrows, the half-orcs opening up with their spells, and Harghast fired a beam of light from his palm.

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The giant waspies turned to battle the party. As is seemingly usual for their kind, the bugs attempted to attack the dragon, but were unable to reach him and so went for the Warpriest instead.

The wasps were killed and the party was again cheered as heroes.

Moments later, the people began to panic again. A ship had pulled up to the harbor unnoticed in the wasp attack.

The party moved out to meet the newcomers, Valignat alighting on a rooftop as Phineas drew his bow.

Someone spotted that the ship was Chelish, but the disembarking group wasn’t wearing Chelish uniforms.

Upon seeing the threat, the newcomer’s formed a defensive circle around their leader.

After a tense moment, with the dragon ordering the newcomer’s to lower their weapons, the new arrivals leader introduced himself as Merrill Pegsworthy, one of the Free Captains of the Shackles. Certainly not Chelish and a man whose reputation preceded him.

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Pegsworthy asked what the party was doing there and the group told him their story.

Pegsworthy laughed heartily at hearing that Harrigan got swindled, and asked to rechristen their ship when it was finished—a great honor.

Pegsworthy agreed to leave, and wait until the work on the parties ship was finished before he returned. Dovahkiin suggested an alliance to help take down Captain Harrigan and Pegsworthy replied that he might be interested—after the group had proven themselves.

Later on, Hale approached the party. He offered them another 100gp off their ship’s squibbing if they went and checked on the lighthouse to see why it hadn’t signaled Pegsworthy not to approach.

The group agreed and set off along the path up the ridge to the lighthouse.

Along the way, Valignat spotted a pair of wild boar lying in wait.

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The dragon swept by killing one in a burst of flame. “I love the smell of roasted pork in the morning!”

The other pig, wreathed in smoke, attempted to shove Harghast off the cliffside path, but was killed.

After the party put out the fire Valignat had started the bacon was taken and the team moved on.

Nearing their destination, a parrot came down to the party.

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The bird repeatedly cried “Shoo fly, don’t bother me!” and then flew off to the lighthouse.

On arrival at the lighthouse, the party climbed up and discovered the lighthouse keeper had died as a result of being stung to death during the wasp attack.

The parrot became Zan’s and the party took the lighthouse keeper’s body back to Hale. (Minus the +1 morning star they found.)

Hale took the corpse,and kept his end of the bargain, lowering his price.

Finally, the ship was ready. In a quick ceremony, it was rechristened ‘The Nightmare’.

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The Nightmare begins.

As he broke the bottle on the ship, Captain Pegsworthy saying, “Good fortune and sure sail await what one can crack the Tidewater Rock,” which Zan recognizes as the legendary Tidewater Rock that grants a blessing and luck to anyone who rules it. The newly minted party considers that capturing it would help a new pirate’s reputation considerably.

The party left the island headed to the rumored tower.

The group settled in on the Nightmare, Dovahkiin mounting the reanimated skulls of the grindylows all over the ship and programming them to watch for violence. He also did some fishing and caught a lovely red snapper.

Zan took up residence in his own little room atop the crow’s nest, Harghast spent much of his time sparring with Owlbear (winning about 75% of the time) and meditating, and Valignat took a spot near the groups treasure and tried not to laugh maniacally.

The little dragon had finally achieved his desire to have a hoard.

One night, when Harghast was at the wheel on watch, some sauhaugin suddenly crept aboard.

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The skulls detected the imminent violence alerting Dovahkiin and the rest of the crew. Harghast and a random pirate finished the fishmen, just as Dovahkiin and the others burst onto the deck.

As the Nightmare sailed towards Tidewater Rock they came across ships (aka Loot Pinatas). The first ship they encountered escaped despite Captain Dovahkiin’s skillful piloting.

The next ship to face the Nightmare was overtaken, but when the pirates came aboard, it was only a fishing boat, and had nothing of value, aside from the (meager) value of the ship. Harghast slyly paid the fishermen back for the 50gp worth of fish they took.

Up next was the Dowager Queen, a Chelish slaver ship. Captain Dovahkiin outmaneuvered them and the party stormed aboard, quickly overwhelming the Chelish marines aboard.

The ship was taken, the slaves aboard made free, and Sandara and Cusswell were sent with the Dowager to sell it at a local friendly port, Senghor.

Dovahkiin interrogated one of the prisoners the party had took, and found out they had bought the slaves from the slaver village of Cleve Land.

At the urging of the newly freed slaves, the party changed course to return the slaves to their land and wipe Cleve Land off the face of the planet.

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The Burning of the Village of Cleve Land

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Phineas, Sandara, and Owlbear went to sell off the Dowager Queen, and the holes in the team’s roster were filled by one of the rescued slaves, a half-orc berserker by the name of Gork.

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Going off the information they had taken from the Chelish ship, the party set out to destroy the slaver village of Cleve Land. The party followed Ambrose’s advice, and attacked at night. Zan silently flew to shore, and scouted out the village, and seemed to spot a familiar face.

One of the slavers looked almost exactly like Mr. Plugg. Almost.

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Flying back to the ship, Zan reported in, and a battle plan was made.

On the shore, Valignat swept into town, roaring and blasting a building with fire. As the slavers sounded the alarm, Zan began sniping from where he had re-hidden in the trees.

The dragon swooped away to the eastern half of the village, and the rest of the party stormed in from the west. A huge melee began between the party against most of the slavers and ‘new’ Plugg.

Many fell to Gork’s brutal axe. He had proven to be a mighty addition to the terrifying crew of the Nightmare.

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Meanwhile, near the slave pen, the dragon battled a squad of supremely unlucky pirates—and their little dogs too!

The party got the upper hand, and New Plugg fled into the forest, pursued by Dovahkiin. Eventually, Dovahkiin quit chasing him after tossing a parting rock. Meanwhile, the party finished up in town, and Zan chased down New Plugg.

The strix’s nightvision and flight quickly overtook the slaver captain, who surrendered. Zan accepted, and promptly put an arrow through his eye.

The dragon killed or drove off all his opponents and then got their little dogs too.

The freed slaves invaded the town, reuniting and trashing the place of their oppression. The dragon went off into the forest to inspect “Mr. Pluggs” corpse and see if his hated enemy had really returned, finding it was likely a close relative. In the slave pen, Dovahkiin tried to comfort a pale-skinned little girl among the captives.

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He picked her up and she responded by trying to eat his brain. As Dovahkiin dealt with his intelligence being drained away and his mind flooded with thousands of images and memories, Zan, Harghast, and Gork arrived. They struggled with the memory child as it taunted them in their minds. Burying his conscience, Harghast struck down the memory child.

Cleve Land was looted and razed to the ground, and the party set out again for Senghor.

As they traveled, the group came across a strange abandoned fishing trawler, listing gently in the sea. Carefully approaching, Zan and Valignat flew around, spotting signs of battle that had been hastily cleaned up.

Returning to the Nightmare, Zan and Val took Gork and Harghast with them, and went below decks to search for what had caused the disaster. In the lower decks, Val smelled something alive. The group moved in on the door, and threw it open. Inside were a pack of sahaugin, lying in wait.

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The team fell upon the fish-men, promptly pulverizing the pugnacious piscine plunderers. Afterwards, the group decided to slaughter all the sharks around the ship, for some reason. Gork and Harghast even jumped in with the creatures. AS the last shark faded into the depths of the water a ghostly ‘DING’ echoed faintly across the water as all party members felt strangely stronger.

The party repaired the wrecked vessel and towed it back with them for sale.

Arriving at Senghor, the group reunited with Sandara and Owlbear, Phineas having decided to remain at port having grown fond of it. Gork was more than happy to join the pirates as he always wanted to travel the high seas. The party spent the next few days resupplying and selling plunder.

Harghast decided to get a new suit of armor. He was a bit short of funds, but Valignat chuckled at the grim apparel he had chosen and helped pay for it.

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Dovahkiin asked to use his new discovery of speaking to animals to talk to Ambrose’s chicken, Bezebel, but was rebuffed. Dovahkiin had grown suspicious of the bird, and later quietly attempted to detect magic on the bird, seeing strong traces of magic.

Later, Ambrose identified a Deep Platnium necklace the party had found with the sahaugin, revealing it to be very valuable. The item was promptly sold.

The party set out for Tidewater rock again, and Dovahkiin attempted unsuccessfully to use magic to force the chicken to reveal itself. Ambrose leaned over to listen carfefully to his chicken. He then strode stoically across the deck and punched out Dovakhiin’s dog.

On the way, they came across a Rahadoumi ship, the Sanbalot, and began to chase it down. It took a long time, but eventually Dovahkiin out-piloted them, and the Nightmare moved in.

As the ships closed, a manticore took off from the Sanbalot.

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Valignat launched into the air at it, and after a exchange of dragonfire and quills, the two monsters clashed together in an aerial battle, leading to the manticores death at the dragons hand.

Zan shot the captain of the Sanbalot, wounding him and ending the chase. The Rahadoumi ship quickly surrendered, and was looted before being sent with Owlbear and Sandara to be sold.

Later, a plume of smoke was spotted off in the distance, and the Nightmare moved to investigate. On approach, the situation was seen to be that of the Chelish ship Famished Mare having attacked and captured a pirate brig ship, the crew being lead below the flaming deck to be burned alive.

The party moved to the rescue, their battering ram crunching into the Mare. Zan rained down arrows, and Valignat leapt aboard, the dragon deciding to amuse himself by going out of his way trying not to kill his opponents. Harghast and Gork jumped onto the other ship, but failed to stick the landing, and were surrounded by Chelish marines and sailors.

The enemy ballistae crews targeted Pilot Dovahkiin, their bolts all but riveting him to the hull, forcing him to retreat below deck, where he got into a heated argument with the chicken on the way. “Bock Bock bock!” “No bock you, you bocker!”

Harghast was nearly killed by the marines, and Valignat resorted to trying to burn the oread’s attackers away, lighting the Chelish ship on fire in the process.

The battle turned in the party’s favor, but the remaining marines refused to surrender, leading to their near-total slaughter at the groups’ hands (and claws). Harghast and Gork rose and all that was left to fight was the overconfident civilians manning the ballistae.

Moments later, the battle was over, and the fire was put out before it caused too much damage.

The pirates were grateful, and the loot was divided up as the party decided what to do next.

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The New Lords of Tidewater Rock

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With the captured Chelish ship, the Famished Mare, in tow the party sailed to port, sold it, and picked up their other crew members. At port, Zan was visited by another strix, who congratulated him on his progress and gave him a powerful ancient enchanted anti-human bow. He left as silently and mysteriously as he arrived, but only after advising him to, “Never give up the hate.”

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The party left the port and set off for Tidewater rock again.

A dark ship was spotted off in the distance, the party eventually deciding to go after it because Zan recognized it as the ghost ship Deathknell, which according to tall tales and legends appears three times over three nights before dragging sailors to a watery grave.

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As the party approached, it vanished. When they arrived no trace of it could be found.

Later a fog rolled in. As a bell steadily and dully rang out, the ghost ship Deathknell came right up to the Nightmare before vanishing again.

Finally, the following night, the Deathknell appeared for the third time. The Nightmare responded by turning about and catching the ghost ship on its ram. The battle of the terrorships had begun.

The party charged to the stern as the undead crew of the Deathknell boarded them.

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As the battle raged, a sailor from the Nightmare was speared by the harpoon of the undead Captain Whalebone Pilk who continued to mechanically ring the rusty ship’s bell.

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The dragon leapt down and severed the harpoons rope in an effort to destroy it, but was speared in turn. Valignat leapt at the captain and there was a brief fight between them, finished when Zan perforated Pilk with arrows, causing the undead crew to spontaneously fall into puddles of odd cytoplasmic goo. Dovahkiin scooped some of the goo up for later research.

The Deathknell began to slowly sink, but not before the party looted it, taking plunder and magic items that almost seemed deliberately designed for them.

Seemingly having vanquished the dead, the Nightmare sailed on at last reaching Tidewater rock.

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The party came ashore, and managed to secure a meeting with the local leader, Agasta Smythee.

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The Tidewater residents demanded a hostage as a show of good faith, and Owlbear agreed to the role. Over a dinner that somehow didn’t turn violent, the party and Agasta allied over the shared goal of bringing down Captain Harrigan. Agasta said she was unwilling to give up sovereignty over Tidewater rock, but suggested a political marriage under Shackles law, which would: allow two parties to agree to a mutually beneficial marriage relationship for a set period of time. During that time, each party enjoys the full benefits of marriage to his or her spouse and concomitant resources. Once the agreed-upon time period is up, however, either party can choose to divorce simply bystating as much, and each party returns amicably to his or her own holdings with no further strings attached.

This was a particularly beneficial arrangement in the turbulent politics of the Shackles, as a Free Captain could marry a rival captain for a set period of time, thus ensuring that her rival’s fleet would not take action against her own.

If love developed under such an arrangement, the marriage could continue indefinitely if both parties agreed to it.

The benefit to the party for this arrangement is lordship of Tidewater Rock and access to its resources and strategic position for that time period. In addition, Lady Smythee is nothing if not traditional, and gives her new spouse a dowry upon their marriage—her farglass and her late husband’s “iron shirt”—though in the event of a divorce, she expects them back, of course.

It was obvious to anyone paying attention that Sergeant McCleagh has his own feelings for the Lady of the Rock. However, he is nothing if not loyal, and reluctantly accepts the marriage arrangement.

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Choosing her husband was a bit awkward, given the generally monstrous nature of the party. Eventually Harghast agreed to it, and the two were wed.

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The party settled in on the island for a while. Eventually, the brief peace was interrupted when a goatherder named Mardus was injured, and a guard killed by sauhaugin raiders. A funeral was held for the guard and the party was thanked for healing Mardus (and from helping him avoid permanent disability.)

Later, the party was walking along a beach back towards the fortress as the evening approached, when a band of sahaugin rushed from the sea.

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A guard was dragged into the ocean and torn apart by the fish-men and their sharks, and Harghast nearly suffered the same fate.

Afterward, the party settled back in on the island as they planned their next move.

One night, as Zan was on watch atop the roof of the castle, the door of the keep was suddenly blasted open by a tremendous explosion of lightning, and about 30 pirates swarmed in from the fog that had rolled in.

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Alerted by the blast. Valignat rose from the ship anchored in the bay and flew toward the noise. Gork and Dovahkiin took defensive positions in the tower. An invisible servant was summoned and put into place by Dovahkiin to trip the first enemy to come through the door. Harghast warned his new wife of the danger and rushed down to join them.

Zan sniped a pirate, but then their invisible leader and a summoned mephit floated up behind him and got him with a surprise attack.

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Zan turned and dueled the pair, but was badly wounded by Isabelle’s lightning spells and the mephit’s moisture draining. Throwing his bow as a distraction, he flew down to the ground. Isabelle picked it up and was badly hurt by the magic trap in the bow.

Inside, the mob of pirates swarmed into the crowed foyer of the fortress, one by one climbing higher through the ladder/choke point. It was then that the dragon landed at the mangled ground floor door of the keep.

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In a single breath of fire, nearly the entire horde of hardened pirates was reduced to screams and smoking ruin. Valignat chuckled quietly to himself with a haughty subtle smirk. Zan arrived, and the survivors didn’t last much longer. The salt mephit joined the battle and was swiftly killed. Only a single pirate managed to flee.

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Inside, Harghast and Gork held the line against the pirates who had already entered the castle, before Dovahkiin color sprayed them into submission and tied them up.

The party regrouped as Harghast spotted Isabelle flying away to her ship due to the magic effects of his newly acquired enchanted helmet. His newly betrothed dangled unceremoniously from a tether high above the ground. Valignat picked Harghast up and they gave chase, along with Zan. As they seemed to be closing in, Isabelle dropped Agasta 60 feet to the ground. Fortunately, Agasta is extremely hardy and with a sickly bounce she stood up, whipped blood from her mouth, and cursed her invisible kidnapper.

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The party broke off pursuit and briefly recovered as catapult shots smashed against the castle. Harghast healed his wife, Zan retrieved his bow, Valignat went back to revel in his massacre at the tower, and the two half-orcs argued over who would get to murder the incapacitated prisoners in order to empower their magic items. (Dovahkiin got most of them.) The newly acquired magic items seem to have brought some strange evil urges into the party’s dynamics.

The party boarded the Nightmare and went after the intruders, the chase soon ending as the Nightmares battering ram crunched into the enemy ship. A massive battle began.

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Soon Sauhaugin joined as well on the enemy’s side, one of them throwing Dovahkiin’s poor dog to the sharks. Through extreme effort and luck Dovahkiin and Gork managed to save it to the detriment of all others.

Harghast and Gork (who Dovahkiin had temporarily turned giant) battled hard on the ground. Zan found himself in a practical shooting gallery of human targets. Isabelle flew into the battle, and her lightning bolts once again rained down nearly killed multiple party members. Valignat relentlessly pursued and attacked her, finally cornering her in the captain’s quarters. Unfortunately, she managed to turn the dragon away briefly with a charm spell.

Isabelle’s pet snake attacked Harghast, but eventually he managed to kill it. Isabelle enraged at this, and after she healed, she returned to blast the party again with her brutal lightning. Gork climbed the rigging and leapt at her, but missed and ended up in the water with the sharks. In a spray of blood and a final chomp the sharks died. Valignat attacked Isabelle again, and she flew back over her ship where she was finally shot down by Zan.

The party looted the ship, and found that the tattoo on Isabelle’s back was a treasure map. Without remorse or empathy, one of the party flayed the skin with the map off of her still warm body.

In the distance a dark ship slipped ominously past the setting sun—against the wind.

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Finally, Mancatcher Cove!

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The party left Tidewater and returned to Singhore to sell their loot and surplus ships. Following some brief shore leave and replenishment of supplies the party decided to follow the treasure map from Isabella’s map tattoo which promised to lead them to Mancatcher Cove.

As they left, the Deathknell and its ringing bell made its characteristic second appearance, and then later moved in for the third and final time. The party didn’t try to run and the two ships clashed head on again. The zombies and the party met at the bow, where the majority of the zombies were killed by Zan and Harghast.

As the dragon attempted to strike from the air, Whalebone harpooned Gork, and dragged the berserker across the deck as he struck down zombies. The wisdom of this plan was questionable. As the battle raged, Dovahkiin snuck a Detect Charm on Kroop and found that as far as the spell could tell the chicken wasn’t controlling him.

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As Gork reached the captain, Zan killed Whalebone again. This time, the party destroyed the bell, forever ending the menace of the Deathknell.

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Up in the air, just as the bell was destroyed, Valignat detected a strong smell of fish as a large dragon blindsided him.

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Valignat’s magic gem flashed and blinded the other dragon and a new battle began.

The reason for the attack was the Brineblood Queen of the grindylows from Bonewrack Island, who had survived the battle in the caves many weeks earlier, mourning the loss of her son, had gone and pledged her service to a brine dragon in return for the parties death.

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Back in the present, Valignat repeatedly made guerrilla strikes against the blind brine dragon, and was badly injured by its teeth, claws and acid spray.

Meanwhile, In the hall of justice, Dovahkiin’s dog was dragged overboard by the Queen, who had crept up the side of the ship with her pet octopus, who bit Dovahkiin and grappled him. A shark swam up, swallowed the dog whole, and was preparing to swim away, but then Gork jumped in and killed the shark, hurling it’s corpse up onto the deck, where the dog was soon freed—to the detriment of everyone else. Gork then finished off the Brineblood queen as well in an abrupt battle.

Eventually, the blinded dragon flew down to the Nightmare’s deck, where it flailed about killing sailors. Dovahkiin tried to get into the battle, but the thrashing octopus attached to him knocked him off the deck. Harghast made it down the stairs and ran the brine dragon through, ending the battle.

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Dovahkiin was pulled from the water, the octopus quickly finished off, and the loot was divided up, including the brine dragons hide, to be made into armor at a later date.

Later, as the Nightmare sailed on, Zan spotted a strange human walking around on deck. The alarm was sounded, and the party and crew ran out to question the stranger at sword point. After a brief, tense exchange, Zan decided to simply kill the intruder, it being human and all, but befoee he could loose his arrows the human morphed back into Valignat who had gained the ability to assume humanoid form and was trolling the group. Afterward, the party sailed into Mancatcher Cove in the late afternoon.

The party attempted to solve the riddle that had come with the map, and entered the cove as the sun went down.

Up in the crows nest, Zan somehow heard noises under the ship. Strix hearing, I suppose.

He told the party and carefully scouted it out invisibly finding sauhaugin shark cavalry trying to sabotage the rudder.

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Although Harghast stayed above due to his heavy armor, the party went below and killed the saboteurs. Notably, a good chunk of the squad was killed by Dovahkiin in a blast of steam from a submerged fireball spell. Afterward, the party decided to scout out the endless abyss under the cove, where Zan’s incredible vision spotted hidden caves.

The party took potions of water breathing and went down to one of the entrances, but not before Dovahkiin specifically ordered his dog to hide under the bed and Harghast was tied to the dragon for safety. It was blocked by a curtain of jellyfish. With a careful search a conch shell was found mounted nearby.

The party blew the horn, and a cloud of ink rolled out. The team was hesitant, but the cloud began to fade as the jellyfish rolled back in, so they quickly swam through. On the other side was a tojandia.

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The party surrounded and killed the strange creature, and moved on into the tunnels, having entered ass backwards and avoided having to solve the riddle or avoid traps, although Dovahkiin had identified most of the clues.

The tunnels were inhabited by numerous sauhaugin, and probably was the source of all the fish-men that had been attacking the party. The party fought through a shark corral, where sharks were eating a dead locathah, a relatively peaceful aquan.

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In the next hall, Zan, who was carrying a deep platinum necklace harvested from the sauhaugin raiders weeks earlier was drawn to a hidden chamber. Inside was a corpse, hanging in an anchors chains.

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The party carefully looked around, and when they drew too close, he attacked. It was badly damaged right away by Zan, but paralyzed Harghast with magical fear and disgustingly grabbed his face, locked lips, and vomited mud, filth, and gall down his throat just before Valignat took him down for good—or did he?

Harghast hacked and coughed for a bit, another deep platinum necklace was taken from the undead mariner, and the team moved on to a room filled with seaweed. A sauhaugin was seen sleeping, wrapped in the plants. Further down, the hallway past the room was also blocked by seaweed.

Zan tried to kill it in its sleep, but the distant clatter of a clumsy one being rolled woke the sauhaugin who quickly swam off into the kelp forest. The party pulled back and waited to stand against the attack.

After it didn’t immediately come, Valignat slashed open the hallway curtain revealing a large squad of sauhaugin. They and the other sauhaugin hiding in the kelp took this as the moment to attack, and a small army of fishmen descended on the group. Gork and Dovahkiin moved in on their half, and Valignat dragged Harghast down the hall after the rest as Zan fired arrows. The party was victorious and moved on.

In the next room was a large chamber, with several options for going forward, consisting of three seaweed doors and two tunnels. Behind door number one they found the Matron and her guards.

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As the battle commenced, Dovahkiin threw a spell at the ground in front of the sauhaugin, and called out in Aquan “Telegram!” Most would know better, but a few of the guards glanced down and read the message.

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The magical trap exploded, and several sauhaugin were killed. The fight ended, and behind door number 2 were countless sauhaugin eggs and babies. The group spared them, although Zan was against it.

Behind door number 3 were the weak, old, and young sauhaugin. The party questioned them, and they said that down one tunnel was their boss, and the room where a humanoid used to live, and down the other way the locathah slaves and eggs were being grown. As they talked, Dovahkiin suddenly stabbed a young innocent sauhaugin, much to the annoyance of the rest of the group, particularly Harghast. Panic insued and the fish people frantically swarmed out. With a collective sigh the group moved on.

They started with the slave tunnel, which was guarded by a single quickly dispatched shark. Inside the party found pink floating locathah eggs and the locathah matriarch.

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Harghast healed her injuries and the matriarch gathered up her eggs and rushed away to return to her people.

Having cleared everything else, the party headed down the boss’s tunnel. They found a giant rock crab, but it didn’t attack them, so they just left it there.

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(Here’s the minifig you never got to see.)

After further exploration, they found the underside of the original treasure room the clues lead to, which had been looted by the sauhaugin.

Next up was a dry room full of plants and furniture, raised up from the sunken caves. When the party entered, all but Harghast and Valignat fell unconscious. The plants rose up, and attempted to eat the fallen pirates.

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Still angry about the needless murder earlier, Harghast woke Dovahkiin by cleaving through a plant and hitting the half-orc with his sword’s hilt. The plants were easily dispatched and the party investigated the room.

It had belonged to Isabella, who, according to the journal recovered in her quarter’s here, had lived a hard life. She had been born to a normal life, and had just discovered her talents as a sorcerer when she was captured at a young age by the sadistically cruel Tian pirate Soshimira and raised as a slave. Soshimira met his end when he tried to find the treasure of Mancatcher Cove, and was killed by the sauhaugin.

(His pickled head was found in a nearby jar.) Isabella had survived through magically charming the sauhaugin chief, and she lived among them growing more and more cruel. Eventually, she got the chief to give her a ship of her own. Finally, her death came at the party’s hands when she attacked them at Tidewater to avenge the chief’s son (who was one of the sauhaugin on the lost whaler) and recover his deep platinum necklace.

After another lone shark was smacked down the party entered the throne room. In a massive throne sat Chief Krelloort, with four female sauhaugin.

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The chief cried out “You killed my boy!” and charged. He soon fell under Gork’s axe, and his guards quickly followed. The party looted the room, (Dovahkiin ‘Leroy Jenkins’ having some trouble with traps) and found the ample treasure trove of Mancatcher Cove!

The moon hung over the sky as the party returned to the Nightmare, and when they arrived no one was on deck and a ponderous cliffhanger awaited them!
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View
Tendrils, contests, and conspiracies.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Caulky realized she’d been spotted, and tossed a drink at a sailor, provoking a bar fight to cover her escape.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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