Spoiler Warning: Many spoilers for the Skull & Shackles adventure path are contained within these story recap posts. If you don’t want your campaign spoiled, don’t read these!
What followed the first day of the girls’ lives aboard the Wormwood was a hard twenty days of work. It varied, of course, day-by-day… But Master Scourge had a personal grudge against Mirielle and associated all four of the girls with each other so he took every opportunity to make them miserable.
Dolce received lashes for not drinking her rum that first night, but resolved to never drink it again anyway. She saw how fatigued Mirielle was after being forced to imbibe the ration and she didn’t intend to let them addle her wits any. She might need them to seize the opportunity to advance on such a contentious vessel.
On the second day the bell rang to rouse them from their slumber and all of the lower deck emptied out except for five of the old crew. “Slippery”, a rather disturbed woman, “Jaundice” Jape, Narwhale, a grumpy dwarf, Shaveka, a human woman, and Ratline. Nasha had paused to wake Mirielle who was sleeping right through the morning bell, but when she finished and moved to go on deck Slippery barred her path.
Unimpressed, she tried to move around again, only to have Slippery step in her way again. The old crew informed them that they were getting broken in and advised them to just take their licks, but of course Nasha had no intention of doing so. Neither did Revel.
When Dolce ducked behind the hobgoblin there was a quick comment about, “Oh sure, now you want to fight with me,” before Revel started throwing punches at the trouble makers. The girls won the fight, though Ratline was knocked unconscious. When Dolce checked his pulse she noticed it wasn’t quite right and further inspection suggested to her trained mind that he had been damaged internally. Magical attention would be required.
They carried the halfling and the human woman, Shaveka, above deck with them and informed Mr. Plugg this one was dying even as he accused them of starting the trouble. Revel snarled something at Jaundice Jape, ordering him to ‘fess up, and when the man started to do so Mr. Plugg cut him off and said he had things well in hand.
The halfling was saved by a magic potion, the cost deducted from the girls’ future pay. They honestly hadn’t anticipated being paid after being press ganged so that news was both good and bad to them. Each was lashed three times in turn.
Things were normal for a short time. Nasha stayed out of trouble for the most part… The exception being that she developed a soft spot for Mirielle and found herself actively trying to look out for the human. Of course, she also developed a soft spot for Scrimshaw Jack, but she had expected that. She’d always been fond of children.
Revel applied herself to her work while working, but started making friends with the more brooding and sullen among the crew. Cog and Maheem were her primary candidates for camaraderie, and she and Cog ended up sharing a hammock on more than one occasion. Mr. Plugg noted how little Revel liked working on repairs and started assigning her this task frequently.
Dolce enjoyed her time in the kitchen and learned how to catch turtles alongside Fish Guts, who was fast becoming a friend. She also entertained the crew with songs at night, improving their attitude toward her through her efforts, though the officers remained mostly out of her reach.
Mirielle found herself on rat duty and bilge duty more often than not. Both were hard tasks for her for different reasons. Still, she applied herself and managed to do a decent job most days. She found herself talking to Quinn and Badger most of all, but also to other members of the crew and they took a genuine liking to her. When she had to heal her injuries she did it in moments of solitude, like those moments when she was alone in the bilges.
On one particular day Master Scourge took Mirielle aside and into the officer’s quarters. He explained to her that had she not captured Quinn’s attentions he knew he’d have no trouble charming the man into being his lover, and as such he planned to have her “entertain” a friend of his. Mirielle quickly realized what Scourge was implying as he took her into a room with the dwarf, Narwhale, and she shakily explained that this would be a grave mistake. Her divine healing powers came from her angelic ancestry, she explained, and her partaking in any “carnal pleasures of the flesh” would cause them to cease.
Of course, she hadn’t revealed she had healing magic and Scourge did not believe her until she stated this was why she had no lash marks after her discipline the day before. She claimed it was her angelic heritage causing her to slowly heal from the damage rather than her use of a spell upon herself. When he lifted her shirt and saw her unblemished flesh, he believed her and Narwhale said they probably shouldn’t risk losing access to magical healing as it is such an asset in their line of work.
Scourge snarled at Mirielle to get back to work and she did so hurriedly, shaken by what she had managed to evade. Later that day Mr. Plugg informed the crew that anyone with a sprained ankle could seek her out for healing and she quietly piped up “Only a few times per day,” lest the pirates expect more of her than she could provide. He said that didn’t seem very impressive, but she knew her healing was of value to them for the cost of potions was high, and he reinforced her belief when he ordered them to all keep their hands off her.. At least in the manner she had expressed.
More often than not, the girls found themselves being volunteered for either the most difficult jobs of their stations (main sail work for Nasha, repair work for Revel, bilge duty for Mirielle) or for other undesirable tasks. Dolce held some immunity from this as Fish Guts dictated her tasks for the day and he had quickly become a friend to the elf. Grok, the half-orc quartermaster, had also warmed to Dolce, and so her days were usually relatively easy. Sometimes she did actually have to cook though when Fish Guts was too drunk to perform his duty.
She was not, however, immune to being volunteered for the other undesirable tasks that came up. One such task was ridding the bilges of dire rats that had infested it. This was done swiftly enough and the girls took their time going above deck. In the water of the bilges they found “Old Magpie”, a magical polearm that had once belonged to Jake Magpie. It made sense. The officers had sentenced him to labor down here the day that they’d keelhauled him.
Another undesirable task came when the ship weighed anchor relatively near a coral reef. The four girls were singled out and tasked with catching crabs. They swam out to the reef and carefully found a place shallow enough that those less capable swimmers would be able to stand. They did catch crabs, but their hours of carefully hunting the little beasts were interrupted when a pair of reefclaws attacked them. Nasha fought the creatures in the deeper part of the water to keep them from going after Mirielle, Dolce, and Revel.
Mirielle healed Nasha openly, Revel threw her javelin a lot (and missed… a lot. In nine throws I think she hit once). Dolce, meanwhile, dropped to her knees on the reef, which promptly shredded her pants. She used her magic under the water so the sailors on the ship wouldn’t see anything if they happened to be watching. The creatures were soundly defeated and the girls brought back not only a bucket brimming with delicious crab, but the two reefclaws as well. Later Mirielle discovered a stowaway in her pack in the form of an adorable turtle she would name “Cupiir”, or “Cuddles” in the Celestial tongue. Soon it was clear the pair shared a magical bond. Of course, she kept the stowaway hidden away lest Mr. Plugg or Master Scourge use it to hurt her somehow.
Dolce aided Mirielle in hiding Cupiir away when Mirielle first discovered the turtle. To her surprise, she dreamed of her own companion. She and a bright pink octopus swam through the coral reef in her dreams. On the first night she couldn’t quite keep up with the critter, and though she woke feeling as though she’d spent a day exploring the waves she found nothing unusual. On the second night she dreamt again of the reef and the octopus, and this time she followed it all the way through the reef and eventually back to the boat. When she woke up she felt a strange weight on her chest, and saw the pink creature snuggled on top of her in her hammock. She realized they shared a magical bond not unlike that of Mirielle and Cupiir. Dolce named the octopus “Revaress”, or “dream bringer” in the Elven tongue, and likewise kept it hidden from the crew.
The reef encounter really cemented the already forming bonds of the party, as well as the protectiveness of Nasha, Revel, and Dolce toward Mirielle. All three of the others had expected Mirielle to get herself killed, but instead they found she was managing. Sometimes with but a sliver between her and Mr. Plugg’s ire, but she didn’t complain.
As the days wore on, Mr. Plugg’s targeting of Mirielle grew harsher and harsher. She was assigned to bilge duty every single day, and quite often went to bed exhausted. Dolce took pains to stealthily dispose of her own rum ration before swapping her mug for Mirielle’s and doing the same with that, but was caught once. She was happy to take the lashes for Mirielle. When Revel was caught ditching slipping away from a mug of her rum ration she pinned it on Jaundice Jape and claimed the mug wasn’t hers. He’d been a previous offender and so the lie was more than readily received.
Dolce’s skill with spells continued growing, and because of her particular interest in subtlety, deception, and performance, my husband decided it would be fitting for her to learn Exchange Image. This led to Dolce replacing Mirielle and doing her labor on more than one occasion while Mirielle relaxed in the kitchen with Fish Guts (whose real name is Ambrose). Ambrose figured the ruse out soon enough, but since he had grown close with Dolce he didn’t say anything about it. He assumed it was Mirielle’s magic that made the switch possible, and Mirielle didn’t correct him.
Doing this let Dolce spread out the infractions she and Mirielle accrued, for her job was easy and if she made a mistake in the guise of Mirielle one day and as herself the next, it was only one step further in the punishment they received. She was, unable to save Mirielle from a day in the sweat box when a powerful storm required all hands in the rigging and Mirielle performed poorly… But it was just as well, for if the illusion had failed while Dolce was within that punishment would have likely proven quite severe.
Nasha routinely lurked in the kitchen when Dolce and Ambrose were not within. A few moments to search the cluttered space from time to time yielded rewards on several occasions. Grok’s fondness of liquor made it easy for the girls to buy back their possessions with the bottles of alcohol that had been misplaced in cluttered cabinet corners. Still, these little bits of helpful circumstance and trickery could only go so far.
Everything really came to a head when one day Mirielle found herself working the bilges with Narwhale and Jaundice Jape. About midday Jape came back up from above and closed the hatch out of the bilge with a quiet knock. Mirielle failed to notice as she was getting another bucket of water to take above and cast overboard. She soon found herself caught between the dwarf and the human, with the human blocking the ladder up.
They made clear their intent to torment her before they killed her because they “didn’t have to worry about her spells anymore”, and Mirielle felt panic seize her.
Luck would have it that Dolce was on fishing duty that day and was bringing in the catch for Fish Guts to make lunch and noticed one of the pirates sitting on a crate pushed over the trap door to the bilges. She knew Mirielle had been assigned bilge duty again and immediately suspected something was amiss. She asked the pirate what was going on, and the pirate responded it was none of her business. Dolce immediately dropped the fish she’d been carrying and the pole she’d used to catch them, drawing her rapier with impressive speed she faced the woman.
No one had seen this side of Dolce, for her preferred method of manipulation was through music, merriment, and kindness. Generally speaking these tools had better results, but with a friend’s life on the line all warmth was gone from her eyes and her expression was set and cold. “I suggest you move if you don’t want your liver on the tip of my sword.” Her voice had an entirely different feel to it, one of menacing anger and surety, and it shook the pirate to her core. She slid off the box and stepped back, watching Dolce warily.
The elf, meanwhile, kicked the crate toward her and threw open the hatch. She began springing forward as she saw the scene below, but not before calling, “Revel! Trouble in the bilge!”
Revel was only a few feet away and promptly dropped what she was doing as well, turning and jumping through the hatch with no regard for her safety. She tried to land on top of Jaundice Jape, but he deflected her and she fell on her knees in the water. Revel saw Narwhale catch hold of Mirielle by her hair. The human girl struggled, but she lacked the strength to break free and Narwhale was preparing to stab her.
Revel had little time to consider that as Jape attacked her, and chaos ensued. Soon Dolce joined them in the Bilge and Mirielle changed tactics from fruitless struggling to calling upon her divine heritage to create the halo of light around her head that often appeared when she was performing healing and praying aloud, “Dear gods, please be merciful to these men, for they know not what they do. They don’t understand how acting against your progeny, however far removed, still angers and offends you-“
Narwhale was shaken to the core, releasing his grasp on her hair and taking half a step back as he looked between Mirielle and Dolce in indecision, but Dolce focused on Jape, and she and Revel inflicted significant injury upon him. As he seemed to settle back on Mirielle as a target, though with differing intent, he realized his mistake. She’d taken those moments of his distraction to ready her mace and struck him in the face as hard as she could.
Two teeth flew from his open mouth as he cursed her loudly and stabbed her in the abdomen. Mirielle shrieked and gripped her wound with her free hand, feeling the blood flow between her fingers when Nasha’s voice from above called down, “The captain’s coming. Don’t kill them.”
They’d been promised keelhauling if they murdered another member of the crew, and even in these circumstances Revel figured they might receive it, but she also remembered the last time five crew had picked a fight and only they had brooked the punishment for it. With a snarl and a menacing snap of her teeth she caught hold of Jape’s collar and whirled him toward her. “You, you fucking scream out just what you’re doing and why at the top of your lungs or I swear by all the gods I will kill you now even if it means I’ll be dying with you!”
Jape, already scared of Revel from their previous dealings, did as he was bidden, proclaiming for all to hear that Scourge and Plugg had ordered them to murder Mirielle.
The captain was unimpressed. Mr. Plugg he called incompetent, Master Scourge, as well as all those involved in the brawl including the girls, he said he would keelhaul… But no sooner did the words leave his lips than little Jack Scrimshaw called down from the Crow’s Nest, “SAIL!!!! SAIL ON THE HORIZON!”
The captain laughed coolly and said they’d been gifted a chance at redemption as he ordered them all to work. Revel couldn’t help taunting Scourge as she made for the mast, her blood still raging from the combat, “I hope you survive this, Scourge. I’m looking forward to round two.” Scourge made to strike her but Mr. Plugg punched him in the face and ordered him to get to work.
The days passed in tireless hours of toil, though the girls had reprieve on the last day before they caught the vessel. The captain wanted them in fighting shape since they were on the boarding party. Their assignment, of course, the most dangerous.. Take the wheel and keep the enemy from reclaiming it.
Throughout the combat all but Mirielle had a turn being pushed off the deck and clinging to the ship for dear life. The waters had been chummed by the Wormwood’s crew and sharks happily devoured all who fell into the waves below. Nasha, Revel, and Dolce all managed to stay aboard, if only just. Dolce in particular was pushed to dangling three times throughout the struggle. Still they overcame, and Mirielle’s Bless spell had time to grow to it’s most potent reach, empowering not only her immediate allies but all of her allies fighting on the deck of the Man’s Promise.
In the chaos of battle she saw one of the ship’s sailors sneaking up to attack their captain and called out to warn him. She didn’t think the man stood a chance of killing the captain, and if he did… She supposed Plugg would have even more power to make her miserable. The last thing she wanted was to see him as captain.
They won the confrontation and claimed the treasures of the ship’s hold. Captain Harrigan even presented Mirielle a jeweled sword for the warning she had given him. Then he declared they would sell the ship in Port Peril and divided the crew… Mirielle’s worst fear came to be when he put Mr. Plugg in charge of the second ship and let him choose his crew. Among the first he claimed for the voyage were Dolce, Revel, Nasha, and Mirielle.
New Ship – Same Problems
With their passage to the Man’s Promise came at least one good turn. Mr. Plugg didn’t believe in the rum ration. Said it dulled their ability to work. The labor didn’t change, and discipline became exclusively at the end of the cat-of-nine-tails rather than the single throng whip. He worked them all at the jobs they hated most, except Dolce again because Fish Guts had been sent on this ship and he still directly oversaw the elf. Mirielle had her days of reprieve when Dolce changed places with her. Basically every other day just before Bloody Hour the elf would cast the spell or let it fade, taking punishment for both of their mistakes. And just after that, Mirielle would heal her as far as they could get from prying eyes.
The girls stayed together, but were prevented from making more headway with the crew by the hard hours they were worked. Singing was no longer allowed after lights out to prevent Dolce’s sweet music from winning them favors, and punishments were assigned and administered for even the smallest infractions.
Nasha, who had taken to sitting at the front of the Wormwood in the first hours of evening to eavesdrop on the officers below while enjoying her view of the ocean, found herself ordered below deck after dark on the very first night aboard the new vessel. She did as she was bade, though she lingered on the stairs just below the hatch straining to hear. Soon enough she did hear Mr. Plugg giving orders to change their course. They weren’t heading to Port Peril at all.
Nasha conveyed this to the others who talked among their friends on the rare occasion they could steal a moment to do so. Ambrose told them he suspected Plugg and Master Scourge were stealing the ship and were currently heading for Rickety Squibs to get their ship squibbed (I don’t honestly know if the word can be used this way, but I’m doing it anyway). Reprieve came in the form of a massive storm that overtook them… If you can call working the rigging in torrential downpour a reprieve.
The girls did their part, though Revel was assigned sail repair and botched the task. After she failed to climb the mast Plugg told her to stay out of the way and sent Cog in her place. He made it up without issue and installed her shoddy work, but had to do an additional repair on the spot to compensate for her. He ended up falling from the mast, but was fortunate enough to have his fall broken by another sail before he hit the deck and he didn’t perish from the fall.
Shortly after the sail groaned under the strain from the storm and part of it snapped clear off. Plugg bellowed for Revel, Nasha, Dolce, and Mirielle to go and get the replacement and the girls went to do so. Below deck, where the supplies were housed, they were met with a horrific sight. Tiny creatures resembling goblins had infested the ship and Narwhale was currently unconscious between them. There were six of the creatures in total, one was pressing a strange leaf to Narwhale’s lips.
They saw the girls and began shouting in a strange language. Dolce quickly ordered Nasha and Revel to let the small monsters come to them, for grindylows are notoriously hard to keep pace with when you engage them. Nasha, Revel, and Dolce formed a line, each blocking the way to the entry to the stairs behind them. They could feel the ship listing even as they prepared for combat.
It was a taxing encounter, but ultimately only one of the creatures escaped. The girls killed the rest as quickly as they could and then claimed the beam required for the sail and took it above, though Mirielle stayed behind and healed Narwhale. The dwarf seemed surprised to be awake at all, much less to see her standing there. He tried to speak, but couldn’t and clawed the leaf from his mouth. Mirielle took it from him and watched as it dried up and decayed before her very eyes.
The storm raged on, a few hours more, but the sail repair was successful and no one was lost to the sea from the waves or the rain. After the calm came it was discovered that Quinn and Ambrose were missing. The only logical conclusion was that the grindylows had taken them. Mirielle and Dolce were devastated, but an island was in sight and Plugg made for that. Their water barrels had ruptured in the storm because Jape failed to secure them well and there were more repairs to be made. Dolce only hoped the girls would get an opportunity to sneak away and see if any caves could be found on the island, for that was likely where the creatures would lair and it certainly seemed they had tried to take Narwhale alive…