Skull and Shackles

Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves...
It's a pirate's life for me.

Three weeks of sailing, cleaning the bilges, working the rigging and handing out grog. You are all starting to feel like real sailors, if not pirates. There’s a tension between the PC’s and their friends and Mr. Plugg and Master Scourges group. It’s a tension that Bloody Captain Harrigan is doing nothing to calm.

Over the week following the storm, the skies have been clear and breezy. Perfect sailing weather. The sounds of the ship have turned into a calming susurration that is starting to sound like home.

You could almost be merchants rather than pirates, but on the 21st day at sea, things change. A lookout shouts “Ship ahoy!”

The Cap’n himself rushes out of his rooms at the cry and moves quickly to the bridge, spyglass in hand. The entire ship seems to pause as Harrigan looks seaward. With a shout clearly heard by all the ship springs to life. “Hard to Port, Full sail.”

The old salts, those who have hunted ships before have an extra spring in their step, and the jokes become grim and bloody. These are people who have found a dark joy in killing and robbing.

That night, Fishguts tells the group “It’ll take a day or two to run the ship down. Merchantmen are heavy, but the shipwrights are always finding ways to slim down a ship and add more sail. The tempers will fray and fights will break out. By the time we run the merchant down, everyone will be ready to kill.”

His voice is a bit sad, and that night he doesn’t drink himself to sleep.

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January 26, 2014
welcome to the wormwood, ye swabs

Day 1

We wake up in the hold of a ship at sea, groggy. A large man urges two brutish men to push us all up the two flights of stairs to the main deck. Twenty rough-hewn characters circle us and watch as we blink past the blinding brilliance of the sun, only to realize that there was no land in sight in any direction. It is a small ship – 100 feet long by 30 feet wide.

On deck, the Captain introduces himself as Barnabus Harrigan. Some of us recognize the name; Bloody Captain Harrigan is infamous for flying the red flag. After all, dead men tell no tales.

We’re told to climb the rigging on the main mast as quickly as we can. One snap of Plugg’s cat and we all frantically begin climbing. Byrd (Andrea), reaches the crow’s nest first, 60 feet above the weathered deck. She’s ordered to serve as rigger for the day.

Amarinthe (Molly) is assigned as cook’s mate, to assist Ambrose “Fishguts” Kroop. Harrigan barks, “Report to the galley!”

Amarinthe clears her throat and asks, “Where’s the galley?” A snicker ripples through the crowd.

The Captain sneers. “Stupid; perfect for a cook.” He points to the foredeck. “Down the steps at the far end. Look for the bubbling pots.”

Zebulon Terreshar (Ryan), DEVIN, and (JOELY) are assigned as swabs. CECILIA must man the bilge.

Down in the galley, Fishguts reeks of blood and cheap rum. Two goats and three chickens nervously paced the room. A couple of barrels of rum are stacked in the corner. Fishguts looks up. “Who’re you?” he slurs. Amarinthe tells him that she’s been assigned as cook’s mate. “Good, I need the help. Captain Harrigan is celebrating tonight. We’ll need to butcher the pig. It’s in my room. Follow me.”

Warily, Amarinthe follows Fishguts to his room where there is indeed a pig. Fishguts tells her to slaughter the animal; she does so reluctantly. Sickened after butchering the pig, she sneaks a swig of the rum to ease her nerves. It hits her hard, and the rest of the day cooking passes in a blur.

A bell sounds at dusk from a giant clock at the top of the mast. It is decorated by carvings of krakens devouring sailors. The crew on deck begin to shout, “Bloody hour!” A man is brought out the sweat box. The crew watches as he is interrogated; at first he denies having stolen from the quartermaster’s store, but eventually he admits to the crime. Harrigan gives a quick command – “Keelhaul him.” – then strides down the deck to return to his chambers.

Scourge is pleased. Jake Magpie is bound with ropes, tossed overboard, and dragged across the barnacles under the waterline of the ship. When he is pulled up, he doesn’t even look human – what flesh remains dangles from his bones.

Still reeling from the fiery swig of rum she snuck, Amarinthe vomits over the side of the ship. Laughter and shouts of “Landlubber!” ring in her ears.

After The Bloody Hour, dinner and daily rum rations are served, and we have a chance to talk to some of the other crew members. None of the crew has been on the ship more than three weeks, and no one knows what happened to the previous crew. Jake Magpie probably was guilty of theft, which is common; there’s no honor among thieves. The ship is moving away from port to the West.

Some report that the captain is a good man, but check over their shoulder with a terrified look before saying so. Most say he’s a vicious man who flies the red Jolly Roger – an indication that there will be no survivors should some unfortunate ship encounter the Wormwood and a bit of a faux pas even among pirates.

Later in the evening, CECILIA is approached by Sandara, a cleric of Besmara. She is friendly and carries a pipe, telling CECILIA that the quartermaster Cutthroat Grok gave her something for CECILIA. She is handed a small object wrapped in burlap, which she quickly conceals.

On deck, crew members entertaining one another with stories, songs, and competitions. The stakes are raised for some ad hoc arm wrestling – across a plank laid over two barrels – by caltrops on either side where the loser’s hand would land.

Amarinthe sings a song of lamentation. One drunk man sings along.

CECILIA sneaks down to the sleeping quarters to unwrap the gift. It’s her gun! She decides to keep it on her person instead of risk its theft by keeping it in the footlocker that was assigned to her.

She returns to the deck, where Byrd is still probing the crew for information. Byrd meets Tillie, a stout woman with leather skin and her grey-striped hair pulled into a ponytail. She says the culture of the ship is all about the loot, and that you can buy your way off the ship for the price of 1000 gold. But the ship – “It’s poison. The hull listens. Harrigan is a nasty man, and Plugg is just as bad. He’d sell his own mother’s liver to the butcher.”

CECILIA chats with Sandara, who says that the quartermaster appreciates find songs and rare drinks. She tells her story: she prayed to Besmara for her life and was saved, then declared herself a cleric in the water spirit’s name.

Amarinthe sneaks back into the galley to look for something to sneak to the quartermaster. She finds brandy. Before bed, she wanders close to the officer’s quarters, trying to detect any magic on the ship. She senses some of the officer’s footlocker are locked with magic.

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First thing...
Waking up is hard to do.

You remember the night before – the ringing laughter, the smell of perfume, smoke and alcohol. The joy of a wild night.

Your memories flee before a pounding headache and the sickly taste of cheap wine in your mouth. You are vaguely aware of laying on a hard floor. The first sound you hear, as the fog clears from your mind, is the rhythmic creaking of a ship at sea. The room is swaying as if you were still drunk.

Then fresh sounds and sights come rushing at you like a hurricane; booted feet on wood, overwhelmingly loud in your ears; the harsh light of a lantern spearing into your eyes, so bright it’s hard to breath.

The CRACK! of a whip, and a coarse voice shouting “Still abed with the sun over the yardarm? On your feet, ye filthy swabs! Get up on deck and report for duty before Cap’n Harrigan flays your flesh into sausage skins and has Fishguts fry ye up for breakfast!”

Welcome aboard the Wormwood me hearties!

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