The 11th of Davor was a beautiful mid-summer's day. That morning saw Captain Seamus ready for what he hoped was his final shake-down cruise of the Rattler. Brother Aust, cleric of Xoriah, was back from Kashin, along with his distant cousin, Lucian – and their presence would help make the next voyage of the Rattler a better shake-down: if anything went wrong, their mend spells and prayers would be necessary for the old ship. The crew was performing well enough, with Seamus as Captain, Xzax as the First Officer, Aust as Quartermaster, Gheledon as Bosun (with Angus as his apprentice), and Visik as the one and only marine.
One of the regular crewmen was cross-trained on seige warfare, and served as the Gunnery Officer. He wasn't very good, but he was the best they had.
Seamus had just enough crew for two shifts of twenty, plus the two caulkers, two caprenters, three cooks, two sailmakers, and his gunner officer – who had no real gunners, but was cross-training both shifts on the use of the light catapults (or cats) and the light ballistae. The rest of the party – such as N'Kara and Jena – served in other capacities under Aust, but senior to the crew.
Duke Henrik Kamus – who kept insisting that everyone just call him 'Prat' – had borrowed Lucian for a moment, and then returned with disturbing news. There were pirates about his island, using the north-western coves of the land as a base of operation. Lucian had seen two ships, which he described to Seamus. Seamus recognized a light galleon, and a brigandine. The Rattler was herself an undermanned light galleon, and it might be a difficult battle if it came to that.
The reason Prat needed the Rattler to take on the pirates, despite the odds, was because of the nation of Chandral. The Chandralan whaling fleets would typically go north during the spring months to track the whales, and then return in the autumn laden with oils and ivory. Teras had originally been born as a stop-off for the great fleets, and a good portion of the economy of the pre-Rakoran land was based off of the annual migrations of the whalers. The War of the Undead had put a halt to the Chandralan fleet. However, after years of work and recovery, the Chandralans were eager to return to their ancient maritime trades, before they became extinct. Though late in the year, the small fleet would be a test of the nation, to see if it could still do it for a short period of time, before the secrets were lost. The Chandralan fleet represented an enormous amount of potential profit for Rakore, especially if the great fleets would return the next year. The pirates would have to be dealt with, to preserve the delicate trade negotiations taking place. Even as Prat explained all this, close to forty Chandralan light galleons were in the harbor at Gridolin being outfitted and resupplied.
Captain Seamus talked to his senior crew, and decided that they could do it, despite the odds. Agreeing with Prat, the Rattler set sail around mid morning, ready for battle. They sailed north-by-northwest, following the forested coast, until they came to the spur of Mount Shivale. There, they turned around about mid-day, moving west-by-southwest, and following the hills and mountains – searching for coves or pirates.
The next morning, after an uneventful night, they resumed the search. Small storm clouds were gathering in the hills, and might represent a storm by evening or the morrow – or so the wilderness experts agreed. Otherwise, the seas were calm and the wind was good, with only small, fluffy clouds in sight – perfect weather for hunting pirates.
Around mid-morning, the crow's nest spotted the sails of another galleon – probably a 'light gal'. Captain Seamus had the ship brought about for an intercept course, and soon enough, the sails of a brig(andine) were sighted by the lookout. At that point, the crew felt they'd found their pirates. Tense moments later, the lookout could report, “Black Flag!” Pirates.
The brig, being slower, hoped to maintain an intercept for the Rattler, while the enemy light gal would try to circle it in, and have both ships flank the Rattler under withering fire from their light catapults and light ballistae. The ship's resident druid, N'Kara, changed that. Her swift wave sent the Rattler flying ahead and towards the light gal, leaving the brig behind. The Rattler got off several strikes, including Lucian's magic missiles, as she raced across the bow of the enemy ship.
Captain Seamus' directed the starboard guns to fire, and four light cats and a light ballistae let loose, wreaking havoc on the enemy ship's sails. The cats had been filled with chain which quickly shredded two of the light gal's mainsails. At that distance, they could make out her name: the Virgin Nun. Xzax let loose a withering volley of arrows from the crow's nest, even as N'Kara let loose an entangle that reached half-way up the masts.
The Virgin Nun, however, was not going to let another ship pass without a shot. Though her light ballistae were the only things poised to strike forward of her bow (and they did no real damage), the hundreds of pirates with shortbows and longbows let loose a storm of arrows so thick that they darkened the sky and left the Rattler looking like a pin-cushion – and a number of the Rattler's crew wounded. Five died in the first arrow barrage.
Captain Seamus, seeing the difficulty those bowmen presented, tried instead to let his cats do the work while the swift wave took the Rattler out of harm's way. The battle was intense, and in the end, only one of N'Kara's powers managed to save them. With the helm locked into position by her entangle, the pirates were stuck on a straight course. The Virgin Nun was allowed to move away at half-speed, with her sails tattered and her deck burning from the ship-to-ship battle. The Rattler, slightly wounded from the exchange, turned about to engage the brigandine then entering the battle.
The brig – named the Green Demon – had a seasoned crew. The battle with the Rattler was intense, and the arrowstorms killed off two more of the Rattler's crewmen. It was then that Captain Seamus – short of men before he even took to the sea – decided that they could not entirely chew what the party had bitten off. Despite his misgivings, the brig's crew eventually mutinied – perhaps because of Aust's shattered planks right at the water line. While not enough to sink the Green Demon, it was enough to slow her down significantly – especially after her mainsail took some nasty hits, and N'Kara unleashed a bit of nature's fury on the deck.
As the marines aboard the Demon fought with the regular crew for control of the vessel, another brigandine was seen by the lookout, aiding the Virgin Nun. As the Virgin Nun was getting back under way, Captain Seamus had a few tense moments. Eventually, the crew of the Green Demon took control of the vessel from her officers, and she succumbed to the Rattler's flag-message of Heave To and Surrender with a flag-message of their own – a white flag: Surrender/Parlay.
Captain Seamus sent the Green Demon to the bottom of the sea, not having enough crew to man her and the Rattler at the same time. Barely containing the mutinous pirate crew aboard his ship, he fled for safer waters.
Around mid-day, safely away from the Virgin Nun and the other brigandine, Captain Seamus called for a trial. He hoped to execute as many of the pirates as possible, to lesson their chances of taking over the Rattler. That done, the Rattler could return to Gridolin for repairs, and Captain Seamus could become Plain Old Seamus – as Jena's leadership would take the landing party to the pirate's cove. A careful interrogation of the mutinous crew's bosun had revealed all.
The Green Demon and the Virgin Nun were pirates from the distant continent of Grucheth. They had come to find whatever they could, and the Chandralan fleet looked fat and ripe for the taking. In fact, their first catch had been a Vridaran Imperial Navy ship, the Scarlet Skies. The Scarlet Skies had apparently been fleeing Vridara itself, and was crewed by mutinous sorcerors and wizards and elves. The pirates had quickly taken the Scarlet Skies, renamed it the Grinning Skull, and hoped to find a way to make the mages work for them – a terrible threat to the high seas.
Animal messengers were put into use, and seagulls sent quickly to find Prat, and even the Chosen of Xoriah.
Armed with the knowledge of where the cove was, and the pirates' overall condition, Captain Seamus held his trial, with Jena acting as Paladin of Justice, and Aust acting as Cleric of Mercy. Two of the pirates could successfully be integrated into the existing crew – their tendancy for evil washed out by fear and loathing of evil. Two of the pirates repented – but too late, by Captain Seamus' judgement. Five at a time, they were sentenced to hang. After each batch was hung, Aust comitted their bodies to Olorin's seas, until all were gone – save five. All in all, twenty-seven pirates were sentenced to death. Three were clapped in irons – including the treacherous bosun traitor – to receive Duke Henrik's justice.
The incident was grim for the party. The laws of the seas were firm, as Aust and Jena were well aware. For young Lucian, however, it was too much. He ranted, railed, and all but attacked Captain Seamus for the murders – in front of the crew. When Xzax realized that the crew's confidence and morale were plummeting, he asked the two (quietly) to straighten things out. Lucian, however, wouldn't budge, and continually violated Seamus' orders. Just as Captain Seamus was forced to order Lucian clapped in chains, Lucian used one of Prat's spells to leap overboard, and disappear. Alora took flight, and flew gently off towards the island, some miles away.
The violent break with one of the party's members left a terrible pall over the party.
The funeral for the seven that died in all the fighting was held just a few marks shy of sunset. Aust performed a masterful ceremony, and Seamus' mourneful dirge left not a single dry eye in the crew. After the ceremony, they found a secluded cove, and Aust 'unofficially' broke into the ship's alcohol stores. The crew's morale took a deffinate upswing, particularly after Captain Seamus returned to his quarters to drown his misery and supposed failure with brew. Xzax and some of the others kept a vigilance all night long, just in case the Virgin Nun were to appear…
That next morning, Seamus and the party were dropped off on land, by way of the longboats with the Rattler. Gheledon's orders were strict – take the Rattler back to Gridolin, and report to Duke Henrik. Hopefully, he would be able to send reinforcements to the cove. Saving the mages was paramount, and the party secretly hoped that Prat would send aid in the way of himself, and a small army.
Ashore, Xzax took the lead, with Jena in overall charge of the mission – driven by Seamus' hatred for the Inquisition, and mages held against their will. Though they bemoaned the loss of young Lucian, they understood that the young elf had made his choice.
Nightfall brought them almost on top of the pirates' cove – where the Virgin Nun and the Grinning Skull were both ready to flee at a moment's notice. Marines and boarders lined the shore around several bonfires, and lookouts watched out to sea. Patrols moved about in twos, and the situation looked very grim for the party, even as the storm clouds began to unleash big, fat drops of rain.
Cleo's scouting could not seem to reveal the whereabouts of the mages, and the party was forced to conclude that they were deeper in the mountains, somewhere hidden yet from them. Late that night, however, fireworks from the light galleon revealed the mages to be aboard the Virgin Nun.
Xzax and Cleo silenced the lookouts, while Seamus sewed chaos in the ranks of the boarders on shore. Invisibility was his ally.
N'Kara put paid to half the pirates in one fell swoop, as her entanglements took down a mass of them. The heavy rain and dark clouds made the pirates desperate to see the situation, especially after Cleo's darkness descended on the brigandine and its crew. One of the captured Vridaran mages was forced to send up a bright, fireball-sized flare that let the pirates fire sodden arrows through the rain to fall upon the party.
Up close and personal, toe-to-toe with the pirates, the party held its own.
Of course, two four-hundred pound tigers might have had something to do with, coupled with Aust's devestating firepower, Xzax's horrific and enchanted arrows ricocheting around, and Jena's aura of sheer command.
Despite holding its own, Seamus knew that things could turn horrible in an instant. As the flare faded, he managed to sneak one of the longboats over to the party, even with an arrow in his shoulder. Rowing for all they were worth, they realized that the mage had Hell up his sleeve when he pounded Seamus with magic missiles – three of them, on an even keel for firepower with Lucian at his best. They all crowded onto the longboat, and rowed for all they were worth towards the Virgin Nun, even as Cleo single-handedly took control of the Grinning Skull.
A devestating fireball detonated where the rowboat had been mere moments before, briefly illuminating the hundreds of sailors, boarders, and marines that were trying to kill the party.
Jena took the situation into her own hands, flying through a veritable storm of arrows to rescue the Vridaran mage that had just directed the awesome fireball at the party. The mage, an older elf in orange and red robes, quickly pledged his support to the Paladin of Yatindar that would dare to rescue him, instead of kill him. His next fireball devestated the deck of the Virgin Nun. Eshir Anyalethelis, a sorceror of no small power, risked everything to aid the party in unleashing hell upon the pirates.
Aust's prayers fanned the flames, despite the heavy rains. Another sorceror, a human by the name of Xavien, had earlier escaped the pirates. Eshir, having been told Xavien would be put to the death if he did not cooperate, was over-joyed at seeing the young human still alive – scooped up by the party as they moved through the darkness of the night. With Xavien alive, hell broke out again and against on and within the Virgin Nun. Aust shattered the rudder's shaft, even as the sails filled with storm-wind.
The Virgin Nun drove herself onto the rocks, as Angus and Jena unleashed hell on the remaining deck crew, while Xzax and the others thwarted pirates all about. Aust walked into the blazing infernos on the deck without fear, Xoriah's Fury keeping the flames at bay. His command was simple: Surrender.
After all was said and done, the pirates did surrender – especially with the Black Mamba, a heavy galleon, arriving just in time to blockade the cove, despite the choppy waters and the darkness. The Mamba's one-hundred marines (including twenty tomanths) helped secure the remaining pirates, and begin the mop-up operation. The Mamba's captain had this to say in her log, about Captain Seamus: “Whatever he may lack in experience as a skipper, he more than makes up for in guts, glory, and a grim capacity to do whatever needs doing.”
The Virgin Wind was forced to remain behind, aground on the rocks of the cove.
The Grinning Skull was, under the laws of the seas, Seamus' property. She was towed back, behind the Mamba, as the heavy galleon headed back towards Gridolin with a glowing report.
Back in Gridolin, Duke Henrik Kamus acknowledged Captain Seamus' actions, filled him in a bit on things, and then ordered Captain Seamus and his senior crew to report to him at dawn – or else.
Captain Seamus made sure the Rattler and her crew were all right, had to settle accounts with the Gideon Enterprises representatives, and explain things to his crew.
Xzax, meanwhile, had received a package from his Aunt Blud. A partial share of his grandfather's treasure had been transported to the rooms he shared with N'Kara – and the gems and magical items were piled so high, that he could barely walk to his bed. A letter from Aunt Blud explained what most of the items were, and it said that he would receive the rest of his share of the treasure when he reached his majority among the dragons. A portion of Xynosalionisis' share of the treasure was appropriated by Sthis for the use of the Dragon Nation, and the rest went to Aunt Blud and the elves that Xzax's grandfather had labored to hard to save.
When Xzax informed the party, many jaws hit the ground. Angus positively drooled.
There were other concerns, however – for on the morrow, Duke Henrik Kamus had official business with the crew. Captain Seamus had a bad feeling that it might have something to do with the high justice he had rendered aboard the Rattler, putting so many men to death. The duke's policy was to use hard labor for criminals unless death was absolutely warranted. Indeed, all of Rakore had sent Duke Henrik it's convincts and felons, emptying out many of its dungeons and prisons for his unusual request of 'work-bodies'.
A dozen prisoners had once escaped together, and Duke Henrik had shape-shifted into a man-bear to track them down. When several of them attacked with captured swords, he eviscerated them with such ferocity, that blood was found a half-mile away. Few prisoners had tried to escape, since.
Captain Seamus swallowed when the sun rose the next day, and he hoped that Prat's iron will would not come to bear on him unfavorably.
It turns out that, in the Great Hall of the Sandstone Fortress, Captain Seamus was dubbed Knight of Rakore, subject only to the King's commands, through Duke Henrik.
Seamus was flabber-gasted, particularly when the title came with it nine hectares of land about twenty miles north of Gridolin.
N'Kara, Cleo, Xzax, Jena, Aust, Angus, and Gheledon were also summarily knighted for their bravery on the high seas, and in the pirates' cove. They all received adjacent land to Seamus', each at about nine hectares.
At the celebrations that went on the rest of that day, with the Chandralan fleet lord and his crews there to help, Seamus and the party had a rolicking good time.
They were curious about why some of the pirates had referred to Captain Seamus as the 'Dread Pirate Antilliahnus'. Many of the pirates reckoned Seamus a dead-wringer for the dread pirate that operated off the western coasts of Grucheth. Most simply shrugged, and filed the information away for later date.
However, during the height of the evening's festivities, a drop of water splashed into midair near Seamus. The water stayed in midair, and went nowhere, simply distorting the background behind it. Prat, who happened to be nearby (and finally tipsy) said, “Hunh. Someone's scrying on us…” The illusory images of Arpelos and Galgiran appeared around the droplet of water, and it sizzled and evaporated. Prat said, “Undead. (hic!) Undead spyin on us.” He growled, and so did Cleo.
There was no doubt in the party's mind about who it was: the vampire-medusa. And the party wanted payback.
Thus ended the 15th of Davor, 1329 Avard.
It was a bit of a late start, because Pam and I had to pick up our new washer and dryer, but once we got it unloaded (with some help from the crew), we got under way. We all met at Brandy and Mac's house, as usual. Adam's job looked to take him out of the loop for Saturday nights for quite some time, so we found a way for him to bow out his two characters rather gracefully in the last session. Otherwise, we were all there: Pam, Harry-Mac, Phili-Mac, Brandy, Tom, Paul, and Fred – plus myself.
There were a few logistics to work out, such as Xzax's share of his grandfather's treasure. At first, I was rather hesitant to allow him any share of the hoarde, which must have been vast. After some deliberation, however, I allowed Phili-Mac to roll a d100 to determine the number of minor and medium items, which came out to 98. Jamis Buck's treasure generator easily handled the list, which totalled some 770,000gp worth of items. I rounded the list out to about a million gold with coin and gems, and decided to let Xzax know what most of the loot was.
Some DMs would have a horrendous problem here, giving a million gold pieces worth treasure to a single character at only 6th-level. Phili-Mac's character is aware of such modern concept as 'economics', partially due to his dragon heritage, and partially due to the whole economic status of the Rakoran nation-concept. He knows he can't liquidate his entire treasure, he actually couldn't use more than an item or two from the entire hoarde (save the raw money), and he's also becoming aware of taxation. To me, as a DM, I'm actually quite curious to see how Philip handles this issue. With the setup in Rakore, it's not a matter of going down to the local bazarre and buying a castle or a keen longsword +5. I think Phili-Mac will handle this issue deftly, especially since he's already agreed to share with the party equally – despite the fact that he didn't have to. This sharing mentality may help him liquidate the hoard sooner, and it also should play off of his keen sense of duty to the quest and his families (both draconic and acquired).
Pam has opted to give up a chunk of XP to become a were-tiger. Ordinarily, this would be a difficult thing to work into a story-line, but in this case, it's already taken care of. As a drow'ari, N'Kara is a drow with certain cat-like looks – slitted eyes, claws, retractable fangs, and so on. As a druid, her chosen wild shape is a black tiger of modest size. For her to become a were-tiger, with most of the good and little of the bad, is only a matter of her matching her druidic talents with her natural state – and as a 6th-level druid, I think she deserves the right to research the method, over the nearly six months of gaming time that have gone on in the last two sessions.
Fred's decision to abandon Lucian, and take on a new character, was one of the most amazing role-play decisions I've ever seen. Away from the table, these guys smoke and joke, but at the table, they're seriously into their characters. Lucian simply could not stay with the party any longer, and I agree with Fred's rationalization – he was simply too young, and couldn't handle the adult mindset needed to deal with Seamus' hangings on the high seas. Fred's agreed to bring a trifle older character that should get along better with the party, though I'm a bit miffed that he hasn't played anything in 3rd Edition other than sorcerors or sorceror/mages. A little variety might do him some good, but as long as we're all having fun, I'm not going to limit him like that.
I could tell Paul was getting a trifle bored. There's only so much a melee dwarf can do in a naval battle, or a battle in which water and distance hampers his bathing (in blood). With seven players at the table, it's amazing that Paul or one of the others hasn't left the table already – for good. I appreciate all my players' patience while waiting their turns during combat. Outside of combat, these guys role-play quite well, and Paul's no exception to that rule. He and Tom together have added some new blood to the game that makes it work quite well. Tom may like to 'burn' a bit much, but he's doing a level-good job of playing a cleric of the Goddess of Fire. Kudos to both of you.
Harry-Mac did a good job of playing Seamus and Cleo, when whichever character was needed. As Captain Seamus, he did a fair job of commanding a ship during an over-matched battle, and he learned some considerably valuable lessons about ship-to-ship combat. His 'mourneful dirge', with a performance (bagpipes) check of thirty-something, was masterful – as was his performance with Lucian, regarding the trial on the high seas. Cleo did an excellent job solo of sewing chaos in the ranks of the pirates, and her intimidation and bluff rolls helped her out considerably.
Last but not least, is Brandy as the paladin Sin Jena. We discovered last time, during the wedding, that Gunju's familial name is 'Sin' – and this was by coincidence, as Adam had chosen something that sounded, to him, Oriental. That Sin Gunju (familial names first, in Asian cultures) married a paladin wasn't something anyone had considered until the wedding. 'Lady Sin' for a paladin just sounds vaguely disturbing – but Brandy does a good job of working with this as best she can. Jena's performance at the trial of the pirates, and for the battle there-after, were wonderful additions to the party. I have one thing to say about a flying, full-plated, twin-longsworded paladin: “Jump on my swords while you can, Evil! I will not be so merciful!” -Minsc the Ranger, Baldur's Gate II.
By the time we were finished, it was nearly five in the morning, so many of the party's decisions at that late hour may have been in err – but we did pretty well, over all. And of course, Duke Henrik 'Prat' Kamus managed to find a way to get rid of plentiful land, tax it, and get it cultivated at the same time. “Yay, Capitalism.”
XP Awarded: 2,300 (total to date is 21,150)