Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jun 25, 2014

Skull and Shackles Session 57: Final Boss Fight

Two boatswain's mates on the main deck moved toward the main mast.  A charau-ka, an ape-like humanoid, readied a bomb while the more ordinary sailors cleared the deck, wanting to be as far away from the fighting as possible.  The sniper in front of Chopper dropped her rifle.  "I'm no match for you," she said.  "I serve the Gunworks of the Grand Duchy of Alkenstar, and I offer you the secrets of my trade in exchange for my life."

Arrows peppered the other sniper atop the second mast, most striking the wood but one eliciting a cry of pain.  Feruzi yelled as the bomb hit her, enveloping her in flames.  The air went cold and a pair of unearthly monstrosities appeared beside Reiko.  Chopper jumped from the tower to assist Reiko in fighting off the daemons.

Ezikial blasted the charau-ka alchemist to gibbly little bits, then finished off the boatswain's mates that were now menacing Feruzi.  One piscodaemon expired noisily under Reiko's sword, and the other wasn't looking so hot.  Then a spell hit Leila and she fell to the deck, stone dead.

Chopper screamed, charging toward the poop deck.  "There!" Ezikial yelled as something hissed angrily and the door to the captain's cabin flew open, revealing Bonefist in all his glory.  Or lack thereof.  Sandara threw a spell across the deck that purged the invisibility, revealing a tall woman with the lower body of a snake.  She whirled her scimitars and attacked.  Chopper was more than happy to return the favor, hacking wildly with his axes while Feruzi lined up a shot, piercing lamia through the chest.

"Your witch is dead and your crew has abandoned you, Bonefist!" Reiko shouted.  "You have no one left to fight for you.  Give up now and step down."

"I ain't forsakin' my throne fer the likes o YE."

"That's a shame," Reiko said, attacking with her katana.  Bonefist was blindingly fast with his rapier, fending her off despite his wounds.  He backed away, almost running into Chopper, who had jumped down the stairs behind him.

"Stand down, Reiko," Chopper said.  "This one . . . er, the REST of this one is mine."

"You still have the opportunity to surrender," Reiko said.

"NEVER!"  A bullet tore Bonefist's ear off.  Chopper shrugged, and buried his axe in the former Pirate King's skull.  He then turned away, looking sadly at Leila's body.

"I'll, uh, start prayin' for her," Sandara said.  "Once ye make sure this area is secure.  And find that treasure vault . . . you need that to impress the other pirate captains, an' all." 

"There will be time for that.  We see to Leila first."

A full exploration of the sea caves revealed no more opposition and, yes, quite an impressive treasure room.  After a night's rest, Sandara was able to raise Leila from the dead.  The delighted Chopper hugged Sandara, with instructions to transfer it to Leila.

"You big soppy," Feruzi said fondly.

"Summon tell Fishguts to quit choppin' onions," Chopper blubbered.

"So, your Majesty, what's your plan?" Feruzi asked.

"Guess I should get coronated.  Something, something, drink heavily, something, something, see about easing up on Sargavan tarriffs."

"I'm sure your mother will be thrilled.  You going to invite her to the coronation?"

Chopper suddenly looked pensive.  "I guess I might as well."

"I could handle that for you . . . I'm sure Merrill would like a nice, long, relaxing, UNEVENTFUL trip."

"Aye, fer once," Sandara said.

"And then we can see about getting you a PERMANENT wife."

Chopper raised an eyebrow at that.  "Let's go provide the Council with the proof of our deeds and leave nonsense topics tabled forever."

"He's still got the better part of a year to go with his current Missus, anyway," Reiko chimed in.

"Bah, with him it'll take months even if I start looking now," Feruzi said.  "Picky, picky, picky.  I'll have to get his mother to help.  She doesn't put up with him."

"Look here, you lot, I'm the bleedin' Hurricane King.  I'll not be henpecked by ye."

Feruzi snorted.  "Keep dreaming."

Sandara and Leila giggled.

"And after that, Reiko," Feruzi continued in a burst of extravagance.

"No," Reiko said.

Skull and Shackles Session 56: Number Two

The door to the next room opened, revealing Tsadok Goldtooth, who fired his pistol at Chopper.  "I told you that you should have let me fish him!" Feruzi said as Ezikial returned fire.

"Fish?" Chopper asked, baffled.  A dwarf boatswain appeared beside the half-orc and launched himself on Chopper, pinning him down while a second dwarf ran up and began punching the Captain about the stomach.  Feruzi skewered one dwarf with arrows while Reiko surgically removed the other.  Sandara threw an ice storm at Goldtooth, who swung his falchion at Ezikial, who took a serious wound for, probably, the tenth time today.  Any more of this and they'd be taking him back to the Crisis in a box.  Reiko intercepted Goldtooth's next attack and treated him as she treated all opponents.

"Doesn't matter," the half-orc sputtered.  "The King'll kill you all."

"I bet fish looks like the nice option now," Feruzi said.

"What is it with you and the fish?" Chopper demanded.  "Seriously."

"What is it with you and the senile old-man memory?"

"'E's an old man," Sandara said brightly, mending their wounds."

"I hate you all."

"This is not news, Captain," Ezikial said.

"If he started liking us I'd be worried we weren't doing our jobs well enough."

The next room in the tower was a dining hall, dominated by a large table of polished teak and an ornately carved-high backed captain's chair.

"I vote we use the chair as a battering ram on . . . something that needs battering," Chopper said.  "Just for spite."  Ezikial pulled Bonefist's banner down from the wall.

"I vote we don't," Reiko said.  "It's a nice and probably expensive chair."

They left the tower, now empty of enemies, and headed for the docked ship, the Filthy Lucre.  An exquisitely painted figurehead of a beautiful, bare-breasted woman rose from the ship's prow.  Feruzi cast a spell of invisibility over them and they crept aboard the ship, apparently unnoticed.  Chopper began climbing the rigging to the crow's nest, where a sniper was watching the pier.  "Ahoy," Chopper announced, and gave her a violent shove. 

Skull and Shackles Session 55: Sushi Buffet

Chopper whooped in delight as the undead dragon eyeballed their tiny craft.  "I know, I know," he grumbled.  "You lot won't let me keep it."  The dragon's head whipped around and it snapped at Ezikial, almost throwing him out of the boat and delivering a powerful electrical shock at the same time.  Its wings whomped down, battering everyone severely.

"Bloody 'ells!" Sandara yelled.  A series of loud cracking noises indicated that somewhere under there Ezikial was doing his best to turn the undead dragon into puree.  Reiko bellowed and swung her katana, the blade cleaving into the dragon's neck and, amazingly, severing it.  It promptly exploded, giving everyone a nasty dose of electricity as the remains of the skeleton sank into the water.  Sandara waved her hands over the scorched group.

"Not sure how much longer I kin keep this up," she said.

"We 'preciate yer efforts," Chopper told her.

"We do have some potions to help . . . I think," Reiko added.  On the far shore, an alarm bell began to ring.

"I suppose they noticed us," Leila sighed.

"We've knocked, we may as well go in," Ezikial said.  He clambered out of the jollyhatboat and kicked in the door to the bastion.  The guardpost was lit by a smoky oil lamp.  Four big fellows with a patchwork of brown and blue-gray markings on their skin charged, becoming shark-like monstrosities as they moved.

"Are those contagious?" Feruzi asked, incredulous.  "Because they look contagious."

"Maybe you shouldn't let yourself get bit then, just to be on the safe side," Reiko told her.

"Yeah, I couldn't manage being that ugly."

"But you can handle being . . . scaly.  Right then."

Leila fired her bow at one of the weresharks, but the monster just lacked.  "I have silver arrows in my quiver for just such an emergency," Feruzi told her, firing her own volley at the monsters. 

The other door to the room flew open and an even bigger, MUCH angrier shark charged in, making a beeline for Chopper, grabbing him by the legs and swinging him through the air.  Chopper's delighted "whee!" turned into an "ouch!" as his head collided with Reiko's shoulder.

"Seriously?!" Reiko demanded, going after the shark boss with her katana.  Ezikial cut loose with the shooting and very shortly there was nothing left but a bunch of sashimi and some leftover enormous crescent-shaped bite marks.  Sandara shook her head as she summoned more healing magic.

"So how many more guards do you think Bonefist has in this little secret lair?" Feruzi asked.

"More'n three," Chopper grunted.  They left the bastion and crossed a patch of sandy beach toward what appeared to be a small fortress with familiar ship anchored nearby.  The boom of a cannon sounded and Reiko disappeared in a blast of sand.

"Er, you forgot to duck," Feruzi said as Reiko staggered muzzily to her feet.

"STOP WASTING MY CANNONBALLS!" Ezikial yelled, shaking his fist at the cannon tower.  They charged into the tower, encountering another group of weresharks and some human guards resulting in, yes, yet another furious battle, from which they emerged victorious.

Skull and Shackles Session 54: It's a Trap

Sandara's magic got Chopper and Ezikial back on their feet, but Ezikial was left with a broad scar on his face.  "I canna seem t' mend it wi' the magics I 'ave," Sandara said.  "Yer face just gonna be ugly fer a while."

"Uglier than it already was?" Feruzi asked.  Sandara grinned.  "Well, shall we move on?" Feruzi asked.  Chopper nodded.


The stone doors opened into an octagonal room with another pair of identical doors across from them.  Leila froze as they crossed the floor.  "Wait," she called.  "The whole floor is trapped."  The doors behind them slammed closed and locked with an audible clack.

"Why does this not surprise me?" Reiko asked.  She ducked as crossbow bolts flew out of concealed arrow slits.  Whirling blades sprang up around them.  Ezikial sprang over a saw that would do a lumber mill proud and raced toward the opposite door, grunting a few times in pain.  Feruzi climbed up a wall and joined him by crossing the ceiling.  The snipers continued to fire.

"It's almost like they were expecting us," Reiko grunted, pulling a bolt out of her armor.  Chopper sprinted across the room, slamming into the doors and flattening himself but not impressing the stone very much.

"Let me get that, Captain," Ezikial said, and blasted the lock mechanism with his pistol.  Leila pulled a piece of junk metal out of her pack and threw it into the whirling blades, where it wedged, eliciting a truly fantastic medley of screeching and grinding noises, followed by a ground-shaking bang as the machinery tore itself apart.  Reiko crossed the room in a more leisurely fashion and heaved the doors open, revealing another room pretty much identical to the one they were standing in.  Feruzi cautiously stepped forward, triggering a second trap that slammed the doors shut and doused everything liberally with gouts of fire.  There was a lot of scurrying behind the walls and the helpful addition of yet more crossbow bolts.

Chopper pushed past Feruzi and repeated his door-charging trick, with equally unimpressive results.  Ezikial pulled grenades off his belt and tossed them into an arrow slit.  He then sat down, bleeding profusely from a pair of crossbow bolts in his chest.  The blast shook the room and produced a hail of earth and chips of stone, revealing two shocked elven snipers.  Reiko charged them while Sandara once again rushed in to prevent Ezikial from dying.  The space behind the walls resounded with shrieks and groans as Reiko dealt out retribution to the snipers.  Chopper finally managed to get the far doors open, revealing side passages that led behind the arrow slits.

"That was my fookin' gunner!" he snarled, laying into the retreating snipers with his axes.  Another explosion shook the room as Leila detonated the reservoir of alchemical fire powering the jets.  Soon it was over, aside from the usual magical cleanup of injuries sustained.

"I am out of grenades, Captain," Ezikial reported sadly.  "Fortunately I found this ring of keys."

"That might make it easier to get through the doors," Reiko said.

Past the trap, they found another long, dank tunnel that opened into a wider cave where a thin strip of beach bordered a wide expanse of dark water.  Sounds of surf echoed in the distance.  A wooden pier extended into the water.  Far across the cave a faint light shone from the window of a building standing next to a similar pier.  Sandara pulled her hat off and tossed it into the water, where it became a jollyboat. 

"Unless summon else has a boat," she said, winking.

"Not on me, no," Chopper said.

"I don't suppose your pipe turns into an oar?" Leila asked.

"Nope.  Reckon it'll be slow going, but it beats swimmin."

They jury-rigged some bits of wood together and set out.  The water was still and cold.  Chopper peered overboard, discovering an immense heap of bones at the bottom of the cove.  "Hmm, whale bones?" he asked.  Feruzi looked over and winced.

"Those are dragon bones."  Predictably, they began to stir, assembling into the shape of a dragon that reared up in front of their wobbly little boat.

Skull and Shackles Session 53: BOOM

The Crisis surreptitiously--well, as surreptitiously as a ship could manage, anway--docked at Lucrehold an hour or so after sundown.  Several warehouses stood on the island's southwest corner, along with outbuildings filled with apparatus for making olive oil.  Harrigan's notes indicated that the secret entrance was hidden beneath a tun in one of the warehouses.

"I think it's this one," Feruzi said, turning the map around and squinting.  "Or . . . maybe that one."

A quick reconnoiter of the warehouse revealed two entrances: a wide set of double doors, probably for wagons, and a side door for pedestrian traffic.  Both appeared to be locked, but neither were obviously guarded.

"So, any witchcraft about?"  Chopper asked.  Feruzi rolled her eyes but cast a spell to reveal magical auras.  None were in evidence.  "I'm inclined to kick down the big doors," Chopper continued, "but I assume I'll be vetoed, so let's just go the other way."

Leila unlocked the door.  It was dark and quiet inside.  Chopper peered into the room nearest the door, discovering numerous dusty scrolls and ledger books.  "Witch room," he whispered.  "Or, you know, accounts payable.  One o' those."  The next door opened into a long room divided into stalls by low wooden walls, perfect for taking cover should any shooting be required.  Large barrels and ceramic amphorae were stacked within the stalls, filling the air with the smell of oil, wine, and beer.  Following Harrigan's notes, they located their specific tun of rum in the easternmost stall.

Feruzi stared at it in horror.  "We can just move it, right?  We don't have to drink it?"

"Er, we don't HAVE to," Chopper said uncertainly, looking at Ezikial.

"This much rum, even he might not survive," Reiko said.  "I know that's not putting much faith in his drinking abilities, but still . . ."

"I could go get Rosie and Grok," Leila said.

"Is it possible for a man to die of happiness?" Chopper asked.  "Surely there's some sort of hidden catch hereabouts.  Or a handcart."  Searching around revealed nothing.  Shrugging, Chopper hefted his axe and laid into the barrel, chopping a hole and letting the rum pour out.  Sandara grabbed a mug, filled it, and passed it to Ezikial, then filled one for herself.  With the barrel mostly empty, they were able to heave it aside, revealing a trap door that opened on a rusting iron ladder descending into a rough-hewn tunnel that ran north and east and terminated in a dank room.  A stone statue depicting Besmara stood in an alcove.  It was once painted in bright, gaudy colors, but most of the pigment had flaked off, revealing green stone.  Blue-green flames danced along the statue's sculpted hair.

Moving on, they discovered a number of vaults--some with niches in the walls that turned them into crypts.  The floor had subsided, allowing a pool of dark water to form.  Four barnacle-enrusted corpses with glowing red eyes rose out of the water as they approached.  Mist seemed to rise from them, obscuring the room.  Chopper cursed and a great deal of flailing about ensued, ending with the draugr sent to their final final rest and Chopper rather scratched up and disarranged.  Sandara helpfully cast some healing spells to restore his equilibrium and remove the after affects of too much undead mauling.

The traditional post-combat wrap up revealed a secret door in one of the burial niches, leading into another long tunnel leading north and east.  This one ended in a small, damp cave, this one laid out like a hall of sorts, with evenly spaced torches filling the place with disturbing shadows.  A collection of jagged metal heaved itself upright, extending an arm that ended in an enormous cannon barrel.

"Hello, my lovely!" Ezikial announced, charging forward.  The cannon boomed and Ezikial went flying through the air, landing flat on his back, covered in blood.  "Chopper!" he said indistinctly.  "I simply MUST have one!"

"What, am I going to deny you a pet?" Chopper demanded as Reiko charged past him to engage the golem.  Her katana blade scraped along the creature's chassis, leaving a surprisingly massive dent and knocking loose what might have been several vital parts.  The cannon golem sputtered and clanked ominously as it switched targets, winding up for another blast.

Chopper threw an axe at the golem, drawing its attention.  He grabbed his crotch suggestively.  "Oy, fullmetal ugly!  Suck my nuts and bolts!"  Strangely, the golem seemed to find this insulting.  It gave a metallic-sounding screech and headed toward Chopper while Sandara frantically tried to heal Ezikial.  Another boom and Chopper was flat on the ground.

A hail of bullets hit the golem, causing its torso to drop free of its legs with a horrible grinding noise.  The top half tried to pull itself along, then fell to the floor as the alchemical magic powering it faded.

"Well," Reiko said as Sandara scrambled after Chopper, "If they didn't know we were here before, they do now."

Jun 23, 2014

Skull and Shackles Interlude: Domination

The Thumbscrew screamed like a tortured man as it sank.  Massive grapnels clutched at her hull and tore the ship to pieces.  It was an operation Captain Pegsworthy had never seen before, but it was frightfully effective against the smaller vessels of the Shackles fleet.  Beside him aboard the Bonaventure, Labella Loor was scanning the battle, trying to figure out which ship was spearheading the attack.

"It's the Dominator," she said, lowering the spyglass.  "She's going after the Kitsune next, Captain.  You want I should signal the Crisis?"

"Chopper needs to deal with the Chelish flagship.  We'll handle this ourselves."

"You don't think we're a little outmatched in this case?"

"And we've never been outmatched before?" Pegsworthy admonished.

"Aye, aye, Captain."  Labella shouted orders to the helm and riggers.  Below them, at the rail, Renvel picked up a grappling hook as he and his assault crew readied themselves.

The method behind the Dominator's attack became obvious as the Bonaventure drew nearer.  The grapnels--massive metal spears with retracting arms and lengths of heavy cable attached to them--were fired from a ballista.  The spear point would hit a ship below the waterline and penetrate the hull.  The drag of the cable would cause the arms to extend, anchoring the spear in the hull.  At the other end of the cable was a simple stone, probably in the neighborhood of a hundred pounds.  The stones must have some magical preparation, though--when they were thrown overboard they sank at a truly alarming rate, one stone acting as a powerful anchor, two ripping massive holes in the ship or even tearing it to pieces like the unfortunate Thumbscrew.  The cables were underwater and very difficult to reach.  Kitsune was already heeled over as one grapnel dragged at her.

Bolts of the more ordinary variety peppered the Bonaventure as she came into range, tearing the rigging and doing some damage to the forecastle.  Renvel's men launched their hooks, a few finding purchase on the Dominator.  Then the Bonaventure was suddenly awash with Chelish marines. Apparently, they weren't interested in waiting to be boarded.  Renvel's men fell back from the surprise assault.  In seconds, they were struggling to protect their own ship.

"You should have had the wit to stay away, Merrill!" someone bellowed.  Pegsworthy glanced away from the two marines attacking him and almost got an axe to the face for his trouble.  "Back off!" the interloper growled.  "He's mine!"

The marines obeyed and Pegsworthy found himself staring at a familiar face.  "Carson?  What--and I use the term advisedly--what in the HELLS are you doing here?!"

"A man has to eat, doesn't he?" Carson said, waving a hand in an insouciant gesture.  "Besides, House Thrune is taking over this place.  Lots of opportunities for a man to get in on the ground floor, so to speak."

"They're devil-worshippers.  Slavers."

"Oh, they're not so bad once you get to know them.  Besides, you're hardly one to talk."

"I have NEVER run slaves."

"Enough, old man.  Fight or I'll cut you down where you stand."

Behind and above Carson, the massive windlass on the Dominator's grapnel ballista had finished winding.  The crew officer snapped the trigger-hook into place and disengaged the winding mechanism.  "I don't have time for you," Pegsworthy said and ducked under Carson's too-wild swing.  Pegsworthy grabbed an unattended rope and swung over the narrow gap between the ships, landing awkwardly on the Dominator's poop deck.  The grapnel crew swore at him and drew their weapons,  but they were too late to stop him from hurling himself at the swivel lock.  It came loose just as the crew officer hauled on the trigger lever.  The ballista heaved, almost taking Pegsworthy's arm off, and the bolt crashed against the guide, firing uselessly almost straight up and splashing into the water less than thirty feet from the deck of the Dominator.

"Tatsume, you owe me," Pegsworthy grunted, getting a grip on his greatsword adn turning to fend off the ballista crew.  He was completely isolated.  His own crew were still busy clearing the deck of the Bonaventure.  By the sound of the shouting, more Chelish marines were on their way.  If he ran, the ballista crew would skewer him.  The only option was to dispatch these five and make a stand for it here, hoping his own crew would arrive before a lucky arrow or bullet took him down.

The Chelish crew officer had other ideas.  "Surrender!" she demanded.

"Oh, I don't think so," Pegsworthy said, somewhat absently as he weighed up the odds.

"You're surrounded, fool.  Surrender!"

"So you can sacrifice me to your patrons?  No, thank you.  I'm not THAT stupid."

"Fine then.  Kill him."

The first crewman shifted, uncertain, and Pegsworthy darted forward, ripping a long gash in the man's thigh with the tip of his greatsword.  The second crewman attempted to stab Pegsworthy in the back and got a face full of pommel for his trouble.  Spitting blood and broken teeth, he collapsed.  People always thought that big swords were slow and clumsy.  They didn't realize the reach and leverage it gave.  No need to make awkward, sweeping attacks like you were trying to chop down a tree.  Two down, three more to go.  He deflected a blade, ducked under a second, and grimaced as a sharp pain bit into his arm.  A short bolt, almost a dart, had neatly penetrated the chainmail and sunk into the muscle.  Almost immediately his arm began to go numb.

"Gods damn all Chelish poisoners!" he swore as the crew officer smirked and lowered her hand crossbow.  "I am so"--he took of the third man's head--"bloody sick of your wretched"--a quick exchange and he disarmed the fourth and laid the man's gut open--"CHEATING!"  Pegsworthy panted, struggling to ignore the alternating sensations of freezing and burning that were beginning to creep across his chest.  "Even one-legged and alone I'm still worth four of you."

"Too bad there's five of us," the crew officer sneered, raising her blade.

"He's MINE!" Carson bellowed, charging up.

"Oh, hello again," Pegsworthy said.  "A bit slow, aren't you?"

"Well look at you, barely able to stand.  I'm going to enjoy this."

"Better hurry, then," Pegsworthy told him.  His good leg buckled and he fell to one knee.  The crew officer sheathed her sword and turned to her ballista.  Carson grabbed a handful of Pegsworthy's chainmail and hauled him down to the main deck.

"I think I'll cut off your other leg.  For balance.  Then your hands."

"I don't think my wife will like that very much."

"Maybe I'll look her up when this is all over.  I bet she and her sister would make great concubines.  Maybe I'll even leave you alive, so you can watch.  How about that?"

"You know," Pegsworthy gasped, "you really are a complete and utter scumbag.  In a way, it's kind of liberating."


"Because now I don't have to waste time wondering, what would Carson think?  I always thought of you like some kind of martyr.  It's amazing how wrong you can be about someone."

Carson bared his teeth.  "I think I'll cut off your balls, too . . ."

"Trouble, Captain?"

Carson jumped and glanced over his shoulder.  Pegsworthy essayed a wave, but his arm just flopped uselessly.

"Hello, Markuss.

"Is this your rescue, Merrill?  It's not even armed.  I really didn't expect it to be THIS easy."

"Captain?" Pinch persisted, still pressing toward them.

"Just go, Markuss.  I know you don't fight.  It's not worth you dying."

"Who said anything about dying?" the quartermaster asked.  He removed his smoked spectacles, revealing alien slit-pupiled eyes that seemed to glow.  Carson swung and, almost idly, Pinch caught his wrist in one frail-looking, long-fingered hand.  Carson's eyes widened in shock as Pinch casually disarmed him, wrenching the sword from Carson's grip.

"I'll not suffer the likes of you to abuse my Captain," Pinch said.  Carson let go of Pegsworthy and drew a knife with his other hand.  Pinch frowned, a terrible sight.  "Did you not hear me?"  The dagger struck Pinch's side, bent, and broke.  "They made me what I am . . . stronger than you.  Don't make me tell you again."  Seeming oblivious to Pinch's words, Carson scrabbled for another weapon.  Pinch sighed.  "So be it."  A dark, purplish emanation seemed to leak from the tiefling's skin.  Carson screamed as the flesh seemed to shrink on his bones.  In moments, all that remained was a brittle, desiccated skeleton.  Pegsworthy winced.

"Are you all right, Captain?" Pinch asked, brushing himself off fastidiously.

"Ahh . . . yess, I think so.  This drug or whatever seems to be passing off."

"Good.  Shall we see to the ship?"

Pegsworthy eyed the pile of grapnels and anchors.  "I have a better idea."  With Pinch's help, he bound two of the grapnels together and hauled them across the Dominator's deck, which was now filled with struggling men.  Ignoring the battle, Pegsworthy rolled one stone off the starboard rail while Pinch threw the other off the port side.  The cable went taught, then the deck began to creak ominously, audible even over the noise of the fighting.

"Everyone off the ship!" Pegsworthy bellowed, waving at Renvel.  By the time they were back aboard the Bonaventure, the Dominator was beginning to break apart.

"Well done, Captain," Labella remarked.

"Yes, I rather thought so."

Jun 5, 2014

Skull and Shackles Session 52: This Also Seems Familiar

Grapeshot and chain bolts peppered the rigging of Abrogail's Fury and Ezikial's signature shot blasted the wheel to splinters.  The Chelish flagship returned fire, severely denting the hull of Crisis and knocking the sails askew--Crisis slammed keel-first into the side of the Fury and seemed to skid, staving in the black ship's hull.  Both ships rolled on the swell, no longer making way.  The Crisis officers jumped across to the Fury and were met by a force of Chelish marines.  Admiral Thrune and her bodyguard stood on the quarterdeck, ready to back up the marines.

Chopper hacked at the enemy forces then reeled as a crossbow bolt slammed into his shoulder and seemed to explode with malevolent power.  The Admiral sneered and handed her crossbow a crewman for reloading, accepting a second bow in exchange.

Ezikial ignored the swords of the marines and charged forward, screaming Besmara's wrath.  He fired both pistols at the bodyguard, a woman dressed in impressive spike-covered black armor.  "You may be just my type, m'lady," Ezikial gritted.  "Let's see how you bleed for me, shall we?"  The bodyguard sniffed as her wounds partially healed themselves.

Chopper was in imminent danger of being surrounded by marines with boarding pikes.  Feruzi fired her bow, downing one and wounding the other while Sandara skirted the pikes to land a healing spell on her teetering Captain.  Reiko decapitated the wounded marine seemingly without noticing and, just like that, the way was open for them to charge the Admiral.  The bodyguard readied to receive them while the Admiral cast a spell.  Unholy fire burst on the deck, scorching them.

Ezikial continued firing at the bodyguard, who glowed again with healing power.  She shoved him aside and hacked at Chopper with her bardiche.  He winced in pain but endeavored to appear unimpressed, an endeavor that became more convincing as Sandara channeled energy and the wounds sealed over.  Reiko snarled a challenge at Admiral Thrune but the bodyguard threw herself in the katana's path, screaming as the blade bit through her armor.  She collapsed on the deck, dead.

"And I thought we had something there," Ezikial said sadly.

"Valeria!  NO!" Admiral Thrune shrieked.

"You CAN surrender, you know," Chopper told her.

"I will NEVER surrender!  My soul is lost no matter what happens."

A priestess of Norgorber suddenly became visible, flinging up a wall of blades in front of Chopper and Reiko.  Feruzi and Ezikial fired their weapons, Ezikial wounding the Admiral, Feruzi skewering the priestess.  Reiko wrenched herself free of the blades, her kimono slashed to ribbons, and finished Ezikial's work, cleaving the admiral open from breastbone to pelvis.  Chopper attacked the cleric, but nothing seemed to happen.  Sandara quickly threw a dispelling field, revealing the illusion.  Feruzi whipped around, grimacing, and spotted the cleric fleeing toward the other side of the ship.

"Hey, no running away, there!" she yelled and drew her bow.  The cleric looked back and received an arrow in the eyesocket for her trouble.  The remaining marines and crew shrank back, some even jumping overboard to an uncertain fate rather than surrender.

Reiko looked overboard as the Crisis crew herded the prisoners belowdecks.  The battle seemed to be going well--many of the Chelish ships were breaking off the attack and fleeing into the storm.  "Shall we raise our colors on this ship to announce its capture?"  Reiko asked.

"Aye, make it so," Chopper said.  "Yer fookin' welcome, Bonefist," he grumbled under his breath.

With the Chelish armada broken, the Shackles fleet limped back to Hell Harbor and the predictable partying.  Everyone, it seemed, wanted to pat Chopper on the back.

"Well, ye know, I have my moments," he said modestly.  "Question now is, what next?"

"There is really only one reasonable course of action," Reiko said.  "The King must be deposed."

"Wait, he's not supposed to be a useless figurehead?" Feruzi asked.  "When did this happen?"

"He is clearly too arrogant for his position.  It nearly cost us our freedom.  As a Free Captain I take issue."

"He weren't so back in th' day," Fishguts said, "but thirty-eight years is a long time ter rule an' recent events ha' proved he ain't the man he wuz."


"He should have had some grandchildren," Feruzi added.  "It gives people something to do in their old age that is annoying but not harmful."

Tessa nodded.  "Then you call for a vote of no confidence?"

Chopper did a quick count of the assembled captains, gauging whether enough were present to make any actions official.  "Fookin' right," he concluded.  "Shall we show the old man the door?  What say you?"

"AYE!" shouted, apparently, every pirate in the Shackles.

"I think it is clear which of you we would prefer to nominate, but the decision is still yours."

Reiko glanced at Chopper, who grinned.  "Very well, I accept," he said.  Another cheer went up.

"Our acclaim won't be enough, of course," Tessa said.  "The title's wholly empty as long as Bonefist wears the Hurricane Crown and sits enthroned in Fort Hazard."

"And he cannot be expected to relinquish either without a fight," Endymion said.

"Well, it won't be our first raid," Reiko said.

"Plus there's the back door," Feruzi added.

"Back door?"

"Yes.  Harrigan was planning to sneak in and assassinate Bonefist using a secret entrance put in by a former incumbent.  The Chelish invaders were supposed to make Harrigan the new ruler of the Shackles--under their orders, of course,"

Endymion spat.  "Treacherous bastard."

"This is a surprise to anyone?"

The Master of the Gales nodded.  "Then a stealthy assault on Port Peril is best.  Overthrow Bonefist and send him either into exile or to a watery grave."

Skull and Shackles Session 51: Didn't We Just Do This?

After some further gathering of forces, it was decided for the combined Shackles Fleet (Unofficial) to assemble near Hell Harbor.  The numerous spellcasters distributed through the pirate fleet exercised their scrying magic, and the great invasion fleet of Cheliax did not disappoint.

"Shoot them harder than they shoot us!" Chopper crowed, waving vigorously at his crew.  There were over forty enemy ships, including the easily-recognizable Dominator.  "Oh, hey, those guys!" Chopper continued in undiminished good spirits.

"Don't get hurt," Feruzi told Pegsworthy severely as he prepared to disembark for his own vessel.  "Well,  unless it's absolutely necessary.  But even then, go for more of a flesh wound."

"Of course, dear.  Even those devil worshippers don't deserve YOUR vengeance."

"That's right.  Best to be merciful."

"Looks like we have plenty of targets, at least," Ezikial grunted.  "Captain, may I sink them?"

"Well, I suppose," Chopper said.  "Just don't expect a birthday present."

"We should at least give them a chance to surrender," Feruzi said.  "Since our forces are so clearly superior."

"It's all about quality, not quantity.  Still, I would not suggest holding your breath," Reiko told her.

As the Crisis grew closer to the Chelish fleet, a squadron of flying devils suddenly appeared in the air.  Reiko pulled out her new bow and began shooting.  The arrows seemed to connect, but Reiko shook her head.  "These are not real," she announced.

"Good," Chopper said, drawing his axes and scanning the sky.  Five more devils appeared as they launched their attack.  The apparent leader of the devils tossed a feather token to the deck, causing the Crisis to shudder and slow violently as the magical anchor weighed her down.  "Fucking WITCHCRAFT!" Chopper complained violently.  The four remaining devils charged Reiko and Ezikial, vomiting noxious clouds while swinging their polearms.

"Forget to use your mouthwash this morning?" Reiko asked.  A positive hail of bullets, arrows, axe and katana blows followed until the Crisis officers were bleeding freely and the devils were all reduced to something akin to paste.  With the assault temporarily in abeyance Sandara dispelled the anchor token and distributed some healing.

"As if devils weren't bad enough, we get stinky devils," Feruzi grumped, collecting her spent arrows.

"Are we taking on the Dominator, Captain?" Ezikial asked.

"Well, it'd be rude not to, don'tcha think?  Personal service and all that."

"I am in agreement," Ezikial replied with an evil grin.  "Make sure we're all loaded, Rosie!"  They began making way again,  but in the scrum it looked as though the Bonaventure would close with the Dominator long before the Crisis was in any position to be of assistance.  Chopper shook his fist in that direction.

"Save some for us!"

"Looks like their flagship over here," Ezikial said.  "Abrogail's fury."

"Fine, fine, we'll do that one."

"Bring me to within 600 feet and I'll take it from them," Ezikial said.

"That, I can do," Reiko told him, resuming her place as pilot.

The Bonaventure abruptly changed course, forcing the Dominator into a slow turn that brought her weapons out of line, leaving the Chelish dreadnought vulnerable to a devastating volley from one of Endymion's warships.  Ezikial shrieked in glee as the Dominator was holed at the waterline and began sinking with impressive speed.  The Crisis gained on Abrogail's Fury, seeking an advantageous angle for attack.  Four more devils appeared on the Crisis, serpentine fiends with frail-looking wings and muscular arms that terminated in masses of tentacles. 

These devils moaned and an expanding coldness filled the air with a murky heaviness like drowning.  The crew coughed and choked as Ezikial and Feruzi fired, killing one of the devils and wounding a second.  Chopper and Reiko struggled against the magical fugue while the fiends attempted to summon reinforcements, but they were interrupted by yet more persistent axes, bullets, katanas, etc. and shortly the deck was devil-free once more, leaving them free to continue closing with the sleek, black-hulled man'o'war that was leading the Chelish fleet.  Her sails were crimson and black and the flag of House Thrune flew from the masthead above a banner emblazoned with an argent dagger.

"So Admiral Thrune herself has come to take the Shackles.  How nice of her," Reiko said.

"An' how's that workin' out fer 'er?" Rosie aske.

"I'll let you know shortly," Reiko told her.