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