Skulls and Shackles

The Deathknell
The Return of Mr. Plugg

The party was forced inside in Quent for a night as a hurricane blew across the town. Having little place else to go that didn’t leak in the face of the storm, the Grumpy Parrot was packed that night with rowdy, thirsty patrons. Many of the PC’s got involved in a drinking contest, in which Sidon won by putting away an astounding 13 mugs of cheap rum before finally becoming insensibly drunk. He polished this off by impressively throwing a bull’s-eye in a dart game, before devolving into petty violence as he tried to force Kafei into restoring his senses.
By morning, thankfully, the storm had passed, now merely a light rain. The crew set out that morning for Tidewater Rock, planning to crack the rock and earn themselves infamy for the deed. What they did not expect, though, was what happened that very night.
As a fog settled in, the party noticed a ship pursuing them, with the faint ringing of a bell accompanying it across the vast distance. They were at first wary, but then outright unnerved as they realized it was keeping perfect pace with them, stopping when they did and never gaining nor losing ground on them. They realized that they were being pursued by the infamous ghost vessel Deathknell, sinker of ships and captained by the infamous Whalebone Pilk, a long-dead whaler. The ship was known in Shackles lore for stalking a target for three nights, attacking on the third night and then vanishing after taking out its mark.
In order to pause the timer, so to speak, the party chose to dock in the town of Little Oppara for a week, stocking up on lore and weaponry with which to combat this new threat. They purchased holy water, ghost touch ballista bolts, and alchemical fire bolts. Armed and prepared, they set out on a morning to make it to Tidewater Rock before sunset.
At Tidewater Rock, they were greeted first by a hungry moray eel, then by a far more hospitable Lady of the Rock, Agasta Smythee. They dined with her that afternoon, discussing a potential alliance to be able to use Tidewater Rock as a staging point. She proposed a Shackles marriage, a binding promise to marry Tetra for one year in which they would mutually share resources, after which either party could end the alliance/marriage at any time.
While an appealing process for its usefulness to the young crew, the idea of marrying a women old enough to be her mother was a bit of a throw for Tetra. She said she would return after dealing with the Deathknell, at which point she would have an answer for Smythee. Smythee accepted this, and sent them off with a keg of wine as a parting gift.
That night, the ghost ship pursued them again. They had chosen to find their own battlefield, the waters just south of the settlement of Goatshead. This would allow them to limp into harbor should their ship be damaged in combat.
The third night, the Deathknell struck. Coming out of a supernaturally thick fog, it opened up with a heavy ballista bolt that went wild. R’han saw through the fog that the ship had a new master. No longer was it controlled by Whalebone Pilk, but by the undead form of a bloated, drowned pirate: none other, it turned out, than Mr. Plugg.
Knowing the ship was corporeal, Tetra turned around to expose the Deathknell to a full broadside of fire-tipped ballista bolts. The bolts tore into the Deathknell, setting the ghost ship ablaze, along with all of its occupants. Tetra kept her distance to prevent boarding actions by either party, as ballista bolts from both ships flew through the air, embedding in Tetra, but also killing Mr. Plugg’s apparent necromancer allies. The ship spent the battle on fire, its zombie crew burning to ashes even as Plugg relentlessly pursued his targets for revenge.
The battle was clearly turned against Plugg, though, and whatever remained of his survival instincts seemed to kick in. After R’han scored an impossibly precise shot at his forehead with a hand crossbow, across the expanse of open sea, the Deathknell vanished, carrying Plugg with it. Frustrated, tired, and injured, the Triforce of Wisdom turned to port, choosing to dock at Goatshead for the day.

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Woman Overboard
The Worst Rescue Ever

It didn’t take long for the Triforce to discover unusual control problems on the way home to Quent. An analysis of the ship found that its rudder had jammed once again, but this was highly suspect: after all, the rudder hadn’t jammed in the fight, to their knowledge. A closer look by R’han found the real issue: the rudder had been sabotaged.
Sidon, who had previously become suspicious of Sandara after she recoiled from a Besmaran symbol, took her into private to demand answers. She was evasive at first, but pressed further, she finally confessed to having broken the rudder… because, as it turned out, she was an undead. Sidon realized her true form to be a huecuva, before she dropped her disguise and revealed rotting flesh. Her brief attempt to overpower him failed, and Sidon didn’t hesitate in destroying the creature.
Another storm rocked the Triforce of Wisdom, albeit one a little less severe than their last. This didn’t stop a wave crashing into the ship from sending one of its occupants overboard, though: Rosie Cusswell tumbled over the side, sparking a prompt rescue from her boyfriend Sidon. He leaped into the sea, struggling in the storm-tossed waters just to keep the both of them above water. Kofe polymorphed into a fish and leaped in to aid, but this was where a terrible truth about the incanter was discovered: he couldn’t actually swim.
As the three pirates struggled to swim, Kixis leaped in to join them. In her haste, though, she miscalculated her dive and slammed against the hull of the ship, before being dragged under along the barnacles, effectively keelhauling herself. Luckily, she managed to dive deeper, away from the barnacles.
R’han, at this point, came up with a brilliant idea that worked much like his other ideas: he would shoot his ballista at something. In this case, he tied a rope off to it and, defying Tetra’s orders otherwise, fired it off, thankfully landing just between some of the floundering crew. To everyone’s relief, nobody drowned in the storm, despite stunning displays of bad rescuing all around.
Back in port, the party split off to work on selling plunder, buying an upgrade to the ship’s rudder, and earning infamy. Sidon and Kixis joined forces to fight the summoned dire apes of a powerful Mwangi conjurer named Chimwemwe, who reluctantly agreed to join their crew if they could first transport him to Andoran. Sidon was also met by Gossam Bluetoe, who designed both of his previous prosthetics and now wanted the monk to test out a new magical prototype – one with, most likely, a few bugs to work out.
Now the crew, at Tessa’s request, were preparing to find and crack Tidewater Rock, knowing it to be run by a Taldane noblewoman who may or may not be friendly. Sidon has plans to arrange for an alliance, but nobody yet knows whether the lady of the Rock is all too welcoming…

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The Dominator, Part 2
Back for Revenge

With the skies clear and sea smooth once more, the two ships set off once more. A few days passed before they reached the expected interception point, and were happy to see their expectations were correct. The outline of the four-masted man-of-war was clear on the horizon, and damage from the storm was obvious. It was missing ballistae and suffered serious damage along the hull.
The pirates sailed towards the mark, closing the distance with the battered warship. Sidon noticed through the telescope that the ship was far less well-manned than before, almost certainly due to the savage storms. He noticed also an unexpected but pleasant sight: bound by ropes, Sandara hung from the mast, seemingly alive. It seemed that the Chelish had taken her captive rather than killing her outright in battle.
An intense naval battle ensued, with the pirates circling the crippled man-of-war and raining ballista bolts upon it. After the ship was broken, it tried desperately to limp away from the ongoing assault. Rohn launched bolts upon the captain of the Dominator, impaling her multiple times before she finally dropped dead and left her ship uncontrolled. With the warship disabled, boarding was easy.
The fight didn’t take long to win. With the enemy leaderless and their first mate fighting Tessa, the party was able to fight off (and even force to flee) the lesser officers of the ship, while the two crews battled Chelish marines around them. In less than a minute, the battle was over, and the man-of-war was taken.
Plundering began as Sidon climbed the mast to free the cleric of Besmara. Sandara was grateful for the rescue, but that didn’t stop her from giving Sidon a shove, causing him to lose balance and fall to the deck of the ship.
After everything was looted, the alchemist Mel set up explosives at vulnerable points across the man-of-war. The pirates sailed away and launched a single alchemical fire bolt at the ship, triggering the chain reaction. As the man-of-war burst into a ball of fire on the horizon, the crews cheered. Revenge had finally been fulfilled.

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Power of the Eye
The Unending Storm

Rohn recruited two new crew members from a tavern called The Grumpy Parrot, including the owner herself. He regaled them with tales of their valiant battle against the captain of the Devil’s Pallor, in particular his own use of a ballista to finish the fight (though he definitely embellished his story).
Meanwhile, Sidon met with Tessa to request that they attempt to board and loot the Dominator before bringing it down, seeing as a ship of this size would certainly have valuable treasure on board. Tessa reluctantly agreed, but stated firmly that the ship must be sunk, not taken as a prize.
They set out from Quent overnight, the party on the Triforce of Wisdom and Tessa on the Luck of the Draw. Cloud cover heralded an incoming storm that would arrive by morning, but neither ship was discouraged, considering the mission too critical to delay.
The storm hit hard, weather of the fifth verse. As rain pounded the ship, and waves broke against its hull, Tetra made her best efforts to keep everything steady. The storm wore on and on, minute after minute, hour after hour, testing her resolve and skill. For over twenty-four hours she stayed at the helm, forced to drop anchor just to keep the ship afloat. Rudders jammed and sails tore. With only magical aid to keep her awake, Tetra stayed. This, though, was but the prelude.
Sidon alerted the crew that the tropical storm was but the herald of a far greater danger: a hurricane, bound straight for the two ships. Tetra raised anchor and ordered sails unfurled once more, hoping to dodge the hurricane. Offerings were tossed overboard to Besmara, in hopes that she might spare the ships from a watery grave. These offerings, though, did little.
The hurricane finally slammed the Triforce, blinding rain and howling winds all but ending any chance of legible communication between the two ships. Every minute felt like an hour in the face of the ninth verse, and even for Tetra’s skill, there was little she could do but hope that they made it out alive.
Sixteen minutes later, the hurricane finally moved on, replaced merely by the tail end of the storm. Tetra finally went below deck, collapsing onto her hammock while Sidon took the helm. Just over an hour later, the sun finally peeked out from behind the clouds, a shining light unseen for almost two full days.
Sidon cried.
To their surprises, when Tetra and Sidon again checked their cabins, they each found enchanted rapiers, with holy symbols of Besmara obvious upon the hilts. It seemed Besmara had found their offerings attractive, after all.

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The Dominator
Pirate Hunters

The party, rightfully alarmed at the prospect of pirate hunters finding them just a short distance inland, scouted out the new danger. They saw a heavily-armed man-of-war anchored just a hundred feet from the inlet, evidently unaware of the ships further in. It was a heavily-armed ship, with ballistae on both sides and what was likely to be hundreds of hardened Chelish soldiers. A head-on battle would be suicide.
A plan was concocted to sneak Sidon and Rohn aboard the ship, where they would cut the tiller rope and disable the ship long enough to free the pirates from certain doom. Together they swam out to the ship, but not before being detected by the marines on watch there. As alarm bells rang, the two desperately attempted to clamber up the sides, to no avail. Force into full retreat by crossbow fire, they returned to the pirate ships and reported that their presence was now known.
Kroop suggested a dire new plan: a skeleton crew would sail out to sea on the Devil’s Pallor, sacrificing themselves to the Dominator to provide the remaining ships with an opening to escape. Sidon and Sandara volunteered for the mission, taking nine other crew members and setting out to face certain demise.
The Dominator took the bait, not knowing there was more than one ship within the inlet. It pursued the Devil’s Pallor, ballista bolts and catapult stones flying through the air. After the Devil’s Pallor was crippled, Sidon did as the plan dictated, leaping overboard and returning to the now-fleeing Triforce of Wisdom, while Sandara remained behind with most of the crew to fight off as many Chelish soldiers as they could.
The Triforce followed favorable winds back to Quent, where they somberly reported the man-of-war to Tessa Fairwind. She immediately offered to help them fight off the man-of-war before it could return home to Cheliax, intercepting the Dominator with her own sloop-of-war Luck of the Draw. The party eagerly accepted the help, and plans were arranged to take revenge on the pirate hunters.

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Dangerous Waters
Storms of the Fever Sea

The caravel, rechristened Triforce of Wisdom, set out from docks to find a long storm awaiting them. Inexperienced with sailing even in calm waters, Tetra chose to put off the maiden voyage until after the storm subsided a week later.
When they had the chance again to sail, they set out to monitor the coastline of the southern Fever Sea, watching for targets ripe for plunder. They found after a few days that a Sargavan merchant vessel was being attacked by a Shackles drekar. They chose to save the merchants, valuing the Shackles’ relationship with Sargava over any immediate plundering opportunities. The enemy ship, the Devil’s Palor, was captained by a hobgoblin. He enthusiastically waged battle over his prize, attempting to board the Triforce. He was surprised when the party flipped the tables, boarding his ship instead and laying into him with unexpected fury. Within thirty seconds of being boarded, his face had been ripped off by a ballista bolt from the adjoined ship, and the remaining crew surrendered.
The new ship was given to Sidon, and they joined up with the merchants to arrange for an escort back to Sargava. With a damaged ship and few remaining crew members, the captain was grateful for the help, and gave the party half of their goods as thanks.
On the route southward, another storm brought the party to a coastal inlet for shelter. The respite was short-lived, though. Jack reported a fourth ship waiting at the exit when the storm passed: a man-of-war sporting Chelish flags. The pirate hunters had found them.

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Shark Hunting
The Quest for a Caravel

To earn a caravel and a place in Tessa Fairwind’s fleet, the party set out for Rapier Bay to convince the swordsmith Halgo Tewey to move. They learned from his sons that their two sisters had been kidnapped, and a large supply of swords stolen by a gang called the Red Sharks. The gang mainly worked extortion rackets, but had recently become far more violent.
The party infiltrated a gambling and drug den where the Red Sharks had a known hideout. There, they convinced the Red Sharks to let them meet the second-in-command, who they surprise attacked and took down with ease. From her, they learned of the main hideout beneath an alchemy shop, where the boss Mercy was keeping the daughters.
A tense battle broke out in the dockside hideout, where several crew members flirted with death. In the end, though, they were victorious, killing Mercy and freeing the daughters (as well as quite a bit of plundered goods).
Halgo Tewey, in exchange for the safe return of his daughters, agreed to the party’s expectations. He promised to move to Quent within the month, taking up shop in a pre-built forge. Their mission successful, the party returned home and was rewarded with a caravel and crew.
Before they set out for a Free Captain’s life, the party was given advice on where to ply their trade, and a warning: Chelish pirate hunters stalked the Fever Sea.

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Pirates and Prostitutes
Quent, the Deepwater Port

Finally reaching the popular port city of Quent, the party split up to attend to their own business after selling off treasure they had found. Tetra found a shop selling black powder for her gun, the shop appropriately named Black Powder. Sidon went to The Hooked Hand, a prosthetics shop where he ordered a mechanical arm with a clamp for a hand. Kofe met Doctor Bocul at the Lake Lily Clinic, getting a job there helping sailors back to their feet. Tael took Concho to the House of Stolen Kisses, a Calistrian temple and brothel.
Rosie and Sidon finally got together when in port, sharing a room and being startled awake by Tael’s shenanigans.
After a night’s rest, while everyone else was finding work throughout the city, Tael met Tessa Fairwind at Lilibeth’s Tavern and Hostel. She agreed to get the party a caravel in exchange for completing a job for her. The party would need to meet Halgo Tewey, a swordsmith from Rapier Bay, and convince him to move his shop to Quent. She had herself tried in the past, but the swordsmith stubbornly refused to move.

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The Wilds of Motaku Isle
The Wandering Weeks

After landing on shore, the party waited out the storm they’d fled in while coming up with a plan to reach civilization. Between the crew members, they ascertained that Quent was the nearest city to their location on the east edge of Motaku Isle, but getting there would be difficult, especially with no supplies. After a week spent trying and failing to build a pontoon from wood and the two ships they stole, they chose instead to go ahead and take the long way, foraging for food as they went.
Their first trial would be getting through a range of hills. On their first day in these hills, they met a young adult copper dragon named Rokiere, who demanded treasure in exchange for safe passage. The party agreed, killing a manticore and mining gems for the dragon so that they could pass. After two days mining, they finally set off again.
They soon met a new face, a woman in a similarly shipwrecked state who had been wandering alone for a while. They allowed her to join them on their journey to Quent.
After a few more days, they were set upon by a group of hobgoblin raiders, who attacked them in their valley from the hills. While not an easy fight, the party prevailed, even as Rosie nearly died from focused fire upon her.
When the party finally reached the border where the hills met the forest, after a full week of walking, they rejoiced and took a break. There, the party schemed to figure out how they would get a ship, and the authority they’d have upon it. They decided they would try and meet Captain Tessa Fairwind, a popular Pirate Lord and ruler of Motaku Isle. With her help, they figured, they could eventually acquire a ship and strike out on their mission of piracy and revenge against the Wormwood.
Before they could get into the drier sections of forest, the party was forced to slog through a marsh. This was bad enough on the first day, with the shorter members of the crew forced to be carried by taller members (the gnomes with Owlbear and Rosie with Sidon). It got ten times worse on the second day, as a storm hit the island, making walking conditions even worse and stirring a giant frilled lizard, which attacked them. With little effort (even as Rosie again was nearly killed), they dispatched the lizard and pressed on.
Finally reaching the dry depths of the forest was welcome respite, but not for long, for the party’s final and most desperate trial was yet to come. After a few days journeying through the deep forest, Sidon stopped the party just before walking into a massive spiderweb. Looking up, they saw dozens and dozens of man-sized spiders among the trees, and they realized they would need to navigate a maze of webs and fend off attacks from dropping spiders. They advanced slowly, with Sidon catching himself in webs twice and Rosie once. They pulled two bodies of previous victims, retrieving still-usable equipment from the bodies. When they finally reached the end of the maze, Tetra lit a torch and sent the forest up in flames behind them.
Finally, a few days later, the party met a group of adventurers who directed them over a large field to their final destination: Quent. Their weeks of trials and tribulations were over, and finally, they found civilization.

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Escape from the Wormwood!
A Stormy Opportunity

The night after losing his arm, Sidon spoke to Rosie Cusswell about helping her obtain her violin. With little issue, he convinced his friend Cut-Throat Grok to let him take it back to her. Rosie was very grateful, promising to have Sidon’s back.
Meanwhile, Tael only barely survived his lashings from failing to finish his work the day before (due to heatstroke). He silently promised to have his revenge.
An opportunity came the next morning. All hands were on deck as a storm rocked the ship. Tael sneaked in a spell, charming Mr. Plugg. Convincing the rest of his allies to back up his claims, he convinced Mr. Plugg he was going to be imminently keelhauled. Horrified, Mr. Plugg aided them in stealing two lifeboats to escape. Immediately, a scuffle ensued, as Master Scourge, the only available crew officer, worked to stop them from escaping. His efforts were futile, though, and soon the party’s lifeboats were in the stormy waters.
Rowing through the storm was no easy task, but lashing the twin boats together, they managed. Before reaching Motaku Isle, the largest island in the Shackles, the crew of Mr. Plugg’s lifeboat tossed him overboard. He was sent to sea in the middle of a storm, never to be seen again… or at least, so it would seem.

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