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May 22, 2014

Skull and Shackles Session 50: Will The Real Pirate King Please Stand Up

Leila shuffled through Harrigan's papers as they made way toward Port Peril, racing to warn the Pirate Council of the imminent Chelish invasion.  "Has anyone noticed that this invasion plan seems to call for the Chelish armada to sail directly through the Eye of Abendego?"

"That's crazy talk," Feruzi said.

"Damn it," Chopper complained.  "I wanted to be the crazy one to suggest that."

"Witchcraft?" Sandara offered.  Chopper smirked.

"You, I like."

They arrived in Port Peril in a cold, drizzling rain.  The harbor was crammed with the flagships of pirate lords who, having received notification from the captured Wormwood, wanted to be on-hand for this meeting.  Kerdak Bonefist called the meeting to order.

"There's only one agenda item on this meetin's schedule:  this threat of a Chelish invasion.  Cap'n Chopper 'as tha floor.  Convince me."

"Welp, we have a fat lotta paperwork that sez Harrigan was treasonous scum instead of, you know, the regular kind.  Also, that the Chelish fleet thinks they can sail through the Eye this time.  So, that's different.  It don't mention how.  Was hopin' mebbe the Master of the Gales could shed some light," Chopper declared.

The druid looked a little surprised at this request, but only for a moment.  "A 'blessing' from their infernal masters would seem the most likely explanation."

"Ah.  So.  Water devils.  That's a thing.  Huh."  Chopper said.  "Point is, if the Chelish fleet be on its way by unconventional means, we have far less time fer the usual smash 'n' grab that has been enjoyed in times past.  I don't fancy wakin' up without me trousers and a randy fiend creepin' up behind."  Sorrinash and a few of the rowdier pirate lords laughed until Bonefist glared them down.

"That's odd, because you seemed to enjoy it pretty well that one time," Feruzi said blandly into the restless silence.

Chopper shrugged.  "I mean to keep a sharp eye on the . . . well the Eye, regardless o' what me fellow Council members have a mind t'do.  I reckon we can bloody 'em some before they sink us, but will it be enough to stop 'em running roughshod over the rest of the Shackles?  This don't strike me as a half measure, ladies and gents."

"Is there any possibility of counteracting their magic or whatever it is?" Feruzi asked.  "The Eye would do most of the work for us in that case."

"Calm yerselves," Bonefist grunted.  "There ain't no devil magic at work here.  Papers don't make nothin' true."

Ezikial abruptly stood up.  "Are you, then, so old and tired that you would rather close your eyes to what is happening so you can drool into your feather pillow in mindless comfort?  Are you truly so daft, or are you a pirate lord of the Shackles?"

Bonefist growled.  "Yer father was a brother-in-arms ter me, Besmara rest 'is soul.  That, an' that alone, is the reason I don't have ye flayed alive here an' now.  Erryone pay heed.  No matter who forged these here papers hopin' ter draw us inter an attack on an old enemy--even supposin this threat is real, I reminds ye that meetin' the Chelaxians on th' open sea only plays ter Cheliax strengths an' concentration o' force, 'specially their teleportin' diabolic allies.  Free Captains do best in battle wi' small strikes, or from defensive positions."

Feruzi leaned over and whispered to Chopper, " Did he say 'forged'?"  Chopper nodded.

"If this threat is real and not some farcical invention by untested Lords and Ladies eager to cast a disparigin' light upon their rival Harrigan--who they obviously feel deserves more humiliation than mere defeat can offer--let those devils try their hands against our ports after they have endured the wrath of Abendego isself!"

Chopper thumped the table after Bonefist finished his surly monologue.  "By the powers, yer right.  Surprise is a key strategy for men and women such as ourselves."

Bonefist relaxed a little, eyeing Chopper carefully.  "Aye."

"So, I ask you, what could be more surprising to the Chelish fleet than to find--for the first time in recorded history--the entirety of the Shackles power in one place, ready to meet them just as they escape the storm.  As you say, whatever their powers they'll be worn down by Abendego and therein will lie our key advantage.  If ye have no reason to take our word for it, look t' yer own information sources.  Ye'd be fools to take anything' said at this Council at face value.  And yer not fools."

"Enough!" Bonefist bellowed.  "Me mind's made up.  Lords o' tha Council, make ready yer squadrons fer when they be needed, but mark me words, what emerges from th' northern storm will be in no shape to take e'en a single atoll."  He glared down the table.  "ANY captains who sail north on this fool's errand might well find themselves branded traitors agin tha Shackles, 'specially if this be just a ruse ter distract our defenses."

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see you proved right, of course," Chopper said, bowing.  "Me, I'm sailing north."

"And those that value their lands and freedom should consider doing the same," Reiko added.

"Not to mention those who value not letting us have ALL the plunder," Feruzi continued.

Chopper stood, surveying the gathered Pirate Council, then turned and walked out.

"Erryone's life is his ter throw away," Bonefist growled.  "This Council be dismissed."

A few hours later, as they were transferring their equipment from the Wormwood to the Crisis, a number of pirate lords--some under their own initiative, others at Reiko's invitation--convened.  Lady Fairwind, Cerise Bloodmourne, Arronax Endymion and the Master of the Gales all accepted cups of grog and settled down to chat.

"I remain in your debt after you cleared my name," Endymion began.  "My personal squadron is yours to command.  After your victory over Harrigan's armada, I am comfortable deferring to your expertise."

"I have long feared that Drenchport would be the first target of a Chelish invasion," the Master rumbled.  "Your timetable confirms my fear.  As a result, I have left my ships at Drenchport.  I will gladly offer you my personal aid, though."

"Ooh, Druid spells!" Feruzi enthused.  Chopper quirked an eyebrow at her, smirking.  "Don't even think of saying that word," she added.

"Huh?  Oh.  Witchcraft.  Right.  Doesn't apply.  He and nature have an understanding."

"My squadron is with you, too," Tessa said.  "And if, no, when we win I will certainly support you in any bid to make for rule of the Shackles."

Chopper blinked.

"I think we may be able to get a few of the other Free Captains on board with that," Reiko said as if this were the most natural notion in the world."

Cerise snickered.  "Pity ye've no taste fer rule yerself, Tess."

"Bonefist stays locked away in Fort Hazard for weeks at a time.  I still have the love of the open sea in my heart."

"Just because you have his job doesn't mean you have to do it the way he does," Feruzi said.

"True, true.  But I still don't want the job.  Not as badly as some of you might," Fairwind said, winking at Chopper.

"Well, that is not something that needs to be decided at this point in time," Reiko said.

"But we are agreed that a change in leadership is needed," Endymion said.

"For now, I think it prudent to make ready for an early morning departure.  Thank you all for coming tonight," she said, bowing to the other pirate Captains, who made their way off the Crisis and toward their own ships.

"Are you seriously considering making a bid for Pirate King?" Feruzi asked, eyeing Chopper.

"Yes.  It's perfect.  I don't think I ever told you this, but I came out to sea to do what I could to lessen the hold of the Shackles over Sargava."

"Ah.  I was rather looking forward to, you know, settling down."

"And you should do what your heart tells you. This has been my dream for a long time. I just never expected an opportunity to fast track it to present itself so readily."

"I'm just worried about someone stabbing you in the back if you don't have anyone to look after you. There are just as many people who dislike you as adore you.  And if this Chelish thing comes off there will be even more."

"Well, there's always Mister Hands. He would be murderously annoyed, I think, should I come to harm."

"Mm.  We'll worry about that when it happens, I suppose."

May 15, 2014

Skull and Shackles Interlude: Best Spell Evarr

The universe flickered and Sandara abruptly fell into something sticky.  Given the enthusiastic fighting styles of her compatriots this wasn't too unusual an occurence but the sticky substance was usually not blue.  Or, except in the case of really intense combats, three feet deep. Or floating in midair.  Upside-down.  If that was down.  Sandara's eyes crossed as she took in her surroundings and her stomach danced a jig as the perspective seemed to wobble and distort.  The midair blob of cerulean goo lazily flopped over and dumped Sandara onto a small island covered in rusty red moss, which groaned and cursed.

"Feruzi?  Izzat yer?"

"Ugh, what happened?  Why am I covered in fuzz?"

"I don't rightly know.  Are ye hurt?"


"Well, 'ere, have some healin' then."  The reddish moss abruptly turned black and fell off, revealing Feruzi in more or less her usual state.  She heaved herself to her feet and looked around.  Slowly, her eyes crossed.

"Where the HELL are we?!"

"Dinna know.  T'ain't anywheres in th' Shackles, though.  Leastwise, I hope not."

"This . . . ugh, my head . . . this looks like Limbo.  Did we get sent to another plane!?  We have to get back!"

"True enough, but how do ye plan ter do that?  Ye know any portals that might be convenient?"

"I doubt it.  And it's not like there are any landmarks in all this . . . schlock."

"Well, if we wait 'til mornin I kin ask Besmara ter plane shift us outta here."

"Morning?  But the others are fighting Harrigan right now!"

"Yer got a better option?"

"Well . . . no."

"Then I guess we're waiting."  The mossy island was comfortable enough, so Sandara pulled out her pipe and settled in to wait.  Feruzi, on the other hand, fidgeted nervously, causing the entire rock to jiggle uncomfortably.  "Would ye stop that," Sandara grumped after several minutes of this.


"Go fer a walk or summat.  Not too far, mind ye.  Don't get yerself lost."

"All right, all right."  Feruzi awkwardly climbed down from the small floating island into the branches of a tree that appeared to be growing upside-down . . . if that was down.  Probably best not to get too wrapped up in such distinctions, really.  In a way Limbo felt like being really, really drunk, just unfortunately without the part that prevented you from worrying about it.  Sandara briefly considered getting drunk on the off chance that it would serve as a remedy, then rejected this idea as almost certain to make the nausea worse while simultaneously infuriating Feruzi, who was not in the best of temper at the moment.

As if summoned by this train of thought, Feruzi called up, "Can you see that?" her voice weirdly distorted.


"That," Feruzi said, pointing somewhat unhelpfully, as Sandara could not see her.  "Over there."  Still less helpful.  "It's like something big is headed this way."

Sandara squinted, then tried putting a hand over one eye, then the other.  Yes, it did seem that something big and kinda gray was headed in their direction.  Fast.  And loud.  The air filled with the sound of crashing waves as a howling tempest descended.  Sandara was thrown from the island; Feruzi made a grab and hauled her into the tree just in time.  Salty breakers battered them and the black hull of an immense ship loomed out of the storm above.  Sandara screamed and shut her eyes.

Then, it was quiet.  The surf lapped at the tree innocently.  Sandara risked a look and discovered the giant ship had come to a stop only inches away.  Feruzi had her fingers in her ears and her face scrunched up in a rather comical echo of Sandara's recent panic.  Chuckling weakly, Sandara nudged her.

"Iss all right, we ain't dead yet."

"Man overboard!" someone shouted.  Sandara attempted to see the rail she expected was up there somewhere but couldn't spot anyone.  Then a porthole opened just above them and a black-haired man with an impressive mustache appeared.

"Um, hello?" Feruzi ventured.

"Don't I know you?"

"I can't imagine how you coul--Royster?  Is that Royster?  Wha . . . how did you get here?!"

"What be a Royster?" Sandara asked.

"It's . . . he's Lady Smythee's Master-at-arms, remember?  But how did he get here?"

"Oh, the usual way," Royster McCleagh said imperturbably.  He seemed to be rather enjoying himself at their expenses.  "I died.  But how did YOU get here?"

"There was a bright light an' then here we was," Sandara said, chuckling.  "Some spell or other.  Where'd ye get this great ship, I wanter know."

"What, you don't recognize it?  And you a Besmaran.  For shame."

Sandara gasped.  "What?" Feruzi demanded.

"Issa S'wrth!" Sandara squeaked incomprehensibly.


"It's the Seawraith!  Besmara's own ship!  Crewed by the piratin' dead in tha' afterlife!"

"You're joking."

"No, it really is," Royster McCleagh said.  "Come aboard."

"Do we have to be dead?" Feruzi demanded.

"Usually, but it's a pirate ship.  There aren't many rules about that sort of thing."

A rope ladder was lowered and the two women climbed aboard, Sandara emitting periodic squeals like some sort of deranged chipmunk.  "Fruzi!" someone called happily as they emerged into the hold and Feruzi was enveloped in a hug by a huge, burly man.

"Owlbear?!"  Sandara squeaked while Feruzi struggled for air.  "Ain't this a coincidence!"

"It's the bleedin' afterlife," McCleagh said.  "If the gods didn't arrange coincidences you'd never find anything."

"Oh.  Right."  Sandara shook her head.  "Don't get me wrong, it's a thrill ter be here, but we need ter get back.  Our friends could be in trouble.  They was fighting Harrigan last we saw."

Royster smirked.  "That scumbag?  He showed up here half an hour ago."


"Yes.  Want to see what Besmara did with him?"

"Would I e'er!"

"Come on, I'll show you around a bit."  Royster led the way and Sandara scampered after, laughing at a muffled, "Put me down!" from Feruzi.

May 1, 2014

Skull and Shackles Session 49: Ex-Harrigan

Finding themselves in command of the courtyard, the Crisis officers climbed up to the gallery and entered what appeared to be a warehouse, occupied by numerous crates, boxes, barrels, chests, and a multi-legged, multi-eyed beast waving sharp claws.  Ezikial promptly shot it and it staggered, wavering.  Chopper shrugged and buried his axe at a point roughly equidistant from its numerous eyes, eliminating the threat before Reiko and Feruzi could even raise their weapons.

"Well, I mean, I get the appeal of finishing things off so quickly," Chopper said, retrieving his axe, "but where is the pageantry?"

Feruzi smirked.  "It's about time you boys handled something on your own," she said.  Reiko nodded.

"I couldn't agree more.  It's nice to avoid the explosion of internal organs all over me for once."

"The thunder of my guns and the spraying blood are enough for me," Ezikial said, reloading his pistols.

The door on the western side of the warehouse was locked--Chopper kicked it and six spikes shot out, impaling his leg.

"Oof!" he announced as Sandara rushed forward with a healing spell.  "Door kicked me back.  Ruse, can you witch it open?"

"Er, no."

"If only we 'ad someone good at blowin' up locks . . ." Sandara said unsubtly.  Ezikial pulled out a grenade.

"Shall I?"

"Fire in th' hole!" Sandara added helpfully. 

The explosion rattled the warehouse and the door was reduced to expedient splinters.  They rifled through the rest of that floor without finding anything too terribly interesting, then mounted the stairs.  Or tried to: the doors above opened and four pale-skinned, dark-winged women wearing not many clothes but wielding more than enough weapons to make up for it charged them.  Two of them fired flaming arrows at Ezikial, the other attacked Reiko with a flaming rope that coiled as of its own volition.  The fourth erinyes cast a spell and a miasma of cold, greasy darkness rolled over them.

Chopper shouted and charged, wielding his axes.  "Put on some clothes, ye harlot," he growled as he fenced with the spellcaster.  Ezikial shot that one and, without a pause, continued on to the next.  Reiko shook her head.

"Why am I even here today?" she asked.

"Because it takes me a while to reload," Ezikial grunted.  Feruzi fired up the stairs, downing a third devil while Reiko attempted to disentangle herself from the rope.

"HARRIGAN, COME OUT AND PLAY!" Ezikial roared.  Sandara channeled divine energy, burning the remaining erinyes, and Ezikial finished her off.  The east door, behind them, opened and the familiar, painful sound of a Chelish opera sung by a powerful, piercing soprano filled the room.

"Oh, not this again," Feruzi said, wincing.  The diva strode into the warehouse and cast a spell at Reiko, who didn't seem particularly overcome.

"Yer flat," Chopper announced as a bolt of lightning hit Feruzi in the chest and arced, singing everyone except Chopper.  Ezikial cringed as phantasmal magic struck at him, but he shook it off.  Harrigan suddenly appeared next to the Chelish diva, the skulls on his armor howling fearsomely.  He struck at Feruzi, who didn't quite dodge in time.  Reiko drew her katana and cleaved the Diva while Chopper attacked Harrigan.

"Besmara calls for your blood," Ezikial growled.

"Then come an' take it, Mister Hands," Harrigan growled back.

"I believe that I shall."  Ezikial's bullets punched holes in Harrigan's flesh.  Doloruso, the spellcaster, appeared behind Harrigan and threw a spray of prismatic energy over Feruzi and Sandara, both of whom vanished in a blast of violet light. 

"What the what?!"  Chopper demanded.  Reiko growled and shifted her grip, drawing her short sword with her off-hand.  With a flurry of blows, she assailed the diva who fell dead at her feet. Chopper cheered happily but was cut off by Harrigan's equally furious assault.  Ezikial's pistols thundered once more as Chopper forced Harrigan back, and with a hiss of rage that ended in a spray of blood, the former master of the Wormwood finally met his end. 

"You can't stop what's coming!" he gasped as he expired.

Doloruso blinked. "I yield!" she announced.  "No more, I beg of you!"

The translucent, ghostly face of Nightshade appeared.  "Traitor," she hissed, casting a spell at Doloruso, who recoiled.

"My allegiance was always a temporary convenience," Doloruso said.  Nightshade began to cast another spell, but Reiko leaped forward, severing both her arms at the wrist.  With a shriek, Nightshade expired.

"I accept your surrender," Chopper said.  "So does Mister Hands."

"Oh, thank the Black Queen."

"And Feruzi isn't here to gainsay me, either.  So, where IS she, exactly?"

"Not to mention Sandara as well," Reiko said, feeling her burns.

"They caught the violet ray of my prismatic spray, so they must have been sent to another plane of existence," Doloruso said.

"That could be problematic," Reiko mused.

"Your cleric can probably bring them back . . . assuming they ended up in the same place."

"What did Harrigan mean by 'what's coming'?" Chopper asked.

"Cheliax is planning an invasion.  They told Harrigan they would make him the Governor once they'd taken over."

Searching Harrigan's effects revealed a great deal of information about this proposed invasion, as well as a secret entrance to Fort Hazard created by a previous Hurricane King.  They also discovered Peppery Longfarthing and Habbly Quarne in the prison, victims of Harrigan's wrath.

"Secure the prisoners and contact the crew," Chopper announced.  "We're getting off this rock.  Feruzi and Sandara will have to fend for themselves.  They should be up for it."