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!
Dolce spent the next several days learning spells… Though on occasion she managed to fumble the process, frustrating her and drawing to light how she’d neglected her arcane studies. She translated more spells successfully into her spellbook than those she did not, but still it challenged her assumption that this would be an easy process and one at which she’d expend little effort.
The first spell she had learned had been Ghostly Weapon, for the memory of the night before The Purr approached Senghor was fresh in her mind. They’d entered a heavy mist, and passing by within grappling range had been a ship she was certain was known as The Honeysnake. With the crew spread thin between The Purr and their captured prize, Captain Mirielle had not allowed them to investigate it, but Dolce had gotten Revel to grapple her rail and rip a chunk off. It was amazing how strong the hobgoblin was.. The chunk of railing was retrieved by Nasha when it fell into the water. Now they at least had the means to try and find the ship later if they wished to. Still, she’d learned the spell first so that she could use it should they encounter any other ghost ships on the seas.
Mirielle’s course was for Ollo, a port of great infamy. The Free Captain who owned the port was rumored to be a werewolf and had a werewolf crew aboard his boat, The Blood Moon. It was said that on every full moon they came back to port and ran loose through the streets murdering, raping, and pillaging. Still, that was where they were heading, but taking their time about arriving so they would make port two days after the full moon’s passing. Mirielle wanted to be sure the pirates were gone before they arrived.
Why Ollo? Well, she was chasing a rumor Rickety had given them in exchange for the Decanter of Endless Water. The rumor of a shark that could eat islands contained in a magical egg somewhere in Ollo. Rickety’s rumor came in the form of a story and a treasure map, and Mirielle reminded them all that when a treasure map came into your path it was because Besmara was seeking entertainment.
Dolce had heard the saying, but still.. What would one do with a shark that could eat islands? On the other hand, no enemy fleet would survive them if they had command of such a creature… But what would it take to control it? Besmara was known for beating sea monsters into submission and using them like chained dogs to attack her enemies. Perhaps they would do the same… Only there was Revel to consider. The hobgoblin had more fondness for sharks than she did for most people.
Dolce supposed they’d figure it out when they got to Ollo and set about copying more spells. This didn’t last long though, for a cry rang out, accompanied by the shrill blows of a signal whistle. Dolce was at once pleased and displeased, for the whistles she’d gotten in Senghor to make sure every hand on deck would know when a sail was sighted. That part was working just fine, but there were distinct signal patterns decided. Short bursts for a sail, short and long for a monster, long bursts for anything else. Ratline wasn’t doing any of the three.
The encounter went without issue. They pursued, barraged the ship from a distance, boarded the boat, defeated the marines, and claimed victory. It was an Aspice Consortium vessel. A bold enemy to make when you were not yet a Free Captain, but Dolce was finding Mirielle had more teeth than she’d given the aasimar credit for. Mirielle, again, chose to spare the lives of all the crew, including the captain who had surrendered.
Ratline claimed the captain’s sword for his prize for sighting the sail, but Dolce gathered the crew and explained to them again the signals of the whistle. For failing to use it properly, Ratline was given a single lash. The Articles allowed discipline for failure to perform one’s duties to be meted out at the captain’s discretion, but in this instance the infraction was quite minor. He had blown the whistle, Dolce just wanted the crew to understand the signals served a purpose. It was helpful to know if roused in your sleep if a long pursuit of a vessel lay before you or if you should have weapons at the ready to deal with the denizens of the deeps.
Ratline was invited to join the officers for dinner, and Dolce even toasted his good spirits about the whole affair as they enjoyed Ambrose’s cooking.
They split the crew between both ships again, though The Kurstav required rowers. The captain and the single surviving marine were kept on The Purr while the rest of the surviving crew worked under Revel’s terrifying directions on The Kurstav. Dolce did her best to convince Mirielle to kill the captain, after all… Of all those who survived he was the most likely to cause them trouble in the future when they left all these souls stranded in Ollo. Mirielle agreed and Dolce was pleased.
The next morning, however, Mirielle had the most senior among the surviving crew, the one the rest seemed to be looking to in the absence of their captain and the marine, brought aboard The Purr. She spent about half an hour in conversation with the matronly woman in her cabin, and when she emerged and had the woman returned to The Kurstav she also informed Dolce, via Message, that they would not be killing the captain.
When Dolce inquired why the response was that they would not be leaving the crew in Ollo. Rather they were going to take them to Slipcove, a settlement under Captain Raffles and one that clawed its way out of the jaws of slavers. Chances were, many of the crew would survive Slipcove and manage to leave it in time. They would tell the stories of The Purr‘s assault on The Kurstav in great detail, at Mirielle’s own request. Mirielle explained that they needed to earn a reputation to survive in the Shackles. And this was how she meant to do it. The captain did not need to die.
Dolce felt flummoxed. This open advert of their abilities and battle prowess ran counter to her own personal preference of not letting on about what she could do in the field of combat. She preferred to be an unknown quantity in any equation, and wondered if it was not a mistake to be advertising their conquests in such great detail. Mirielle would not be deterred though, so the elf sulked about The Kurstav as they made for Ollo.
On the fourth day of their leisurely sail to Ollo they came across a ship adrift. The sails were not maintained and no men were sighted on the deck. Rather than board the vessel, Mirielle decided she, Revel, Dolce, and Nasha would investigate. The four made their way on a ship’s boat. The vessel was called The Pelican, and on the deck they found weapons and clothing, but no sign of people. The same was true below. When they explored the entirety of the ship they found the reason why. Two Crystal Oozes lurked within. The creature devoured flesh, but left metal and other materials unharmed. Dolce recognized them as they lurched up from the bilges and slammed the door in the nick of time so the girls could prepare. They positioned themselves ideally for the fight as the oozes slammed on the door.
When the door broke, Revel and Nasha slowly pummeled the oozes to death with brass knuckles and fists rather than claws and teeth. Dolce spent the combat hurling Rays of Frost at the creatures. It was a slow process, but relatively harmless. When they won the day they had the crew remove everything of value from the ship and scuttled it. Splitting their manpower between three boats would have made each unmanageable.
They continued toward Ollo.
They arrived two days after the full moon. No sign of The Blood Moon in sight, but evidence supporting every horror story they had heard at every turn. Clawmarks on the docks, bodies floating in the water or slumped in chaotic corners. Even the dock master had fallen casualty to the madness, his door ripped clear off its hinges. Revel tipped the young man now falling into the Dock Master’s job well and helped him move the body to the harbor when she paid their docking fees.
They sold The Kurstav, as they’d intended, and Dolce spent the day spreading their tales of success while gathering rumors about the egg.
Dolce’s activities drew attention from more than she would have liked, but with it vital information. A single person, at the end of her long day of asking questions and telling stories, not only told her where the egg was, but gave her a map of the private estate it was held inside. Of course, she’d agreed to procure the egg for him in exchange.
She took the information she’d gleaned, all of which she felt was accurate, to Mirielle. They roped in Nasha and Revel and had a discussion about the whole affair. Revel was keen to steal the egg. A shark that could eat islands was of great interest to her even after Dolce reminded her they couldn’t just toss it into the sea and let it run amok carelessly if they succeeded in capturing it. Nasha seemed fine with whatever the other three decided.
Mirielle, upon hearing the egg was in an estate owned by Avimar Sorrinash, Captain of The Blood Moon, decided they would steal the egg. That very night. The map Dolce had procured showed the routes of guards on patrol as well as laying out an entry. Mirielle decided not to use the intended route proposed by their strange benefactor. She didn’t particularly trust him not to be seeking the egg himself. She couldn’t have known Dolce had agreed to sell it to him since Dolce kept that bit of their conversation to herself.
Nasha went to scout the estate and verify the map’s information. Revel made contact with a guard by befriending him at a tavern where he was winding down from his shift. Dolce acquired disguises for the lot of them, and Mirielle bribed the guard Revel had befriended handsomely. It was a busy evening that would lead up to a busier night.
The heist went well. They managed to infiltrate by climbing an adjacent building and jumping across to the estate’s roof. There they found a hatch that was locked, but Dolce’s thieves’ tools made quick work of it. In the attic were a number of costume pieces, some of which Dolce incorporated into the servant’s disguises they all wore. They also found an old box marked ‘donotion’ containing golden jewelry. All of that went into their Bag of Holding.
Revel was spotted on two occasions. On one Revel convinced the person she was supposed to be there, on the other she flustered the guard and his servant lover enough they didn’t verify if she should be there or not – After all, she’d interrupted them having sex on the stairwell when they should have been working.
They took a small detour to investigate the bar, stealing literally every bottle of exotic alcohol within the place while the halfling bartender slept on the bar itself. Dolce nearly dropped a bottle on him, but caught it at the last second thanks to her Elven reflexes. They left the shelves barren and their bag of holding was starting to get quite full, but the alcohol would net them a tidy profit, well worth the effort.
They then descended to the first floor, where the trophy room was located. Approaching by the hallways they saw a very heavy door. Dolce had been brushing up on her familiarity with traps since the incident of the jungle temple, and was now quite thankful for it. This trap wasn’t particularly subtle with its glowing runes, but she felt certain she knew its effects thanks to her additional studies. She did not wish to be disintegrated, and so they crept outside and sought another entrance.
There was a window into the trophy hall, and they crept closer to attempt opening it. They were seen here by a single guard patrolling, but it was the guard that had been bribed so he just shuffled along his way after recognizing Mirielle. The window lock was harder than the lock on the roof, and it took a bit of time for Dolce to crack it. In fact, she broke a pair of picks, but thankfully she always had an extra set on her. They opened the window and moved inside.
There were traps on each item, and tempting as it was to steal even more than they already had, disabling every trap was a daunting prospect. The girls stayed focused, breaking but the one trap and placing the egg into their bag while placing some of the golden jewelry on the scale it had been resting on to avoid setting off the trap by weight disparity.
As they retreated Nasha covered their trails. Rather than go back to the attic, they found a portion of the wall in deeper shadows than other parts of the estate and climbed over that. Knowing full well she had been sighted asking after the egg in town, Dolce informed Mirielle she might have a buyer if she wished to sell it.
Revel protested and Mirielle decided to humor the hobgoblin. They made for The Purr and set off to sea as soon as the tide allowed.
Thief in the Night
They were one night out from Ollo, the captain and crew of The Kurstav still aboard. They were all still feeling the high of their successful heist, and Slipcove was getting closer by the hour. Dolce woke up from the sound of someone moving in her room. Her keen, elven ears missed very little. Subtly and slowly she reached for her rapier, thankful she always kept it close at hand.
When she had it in her grasp she cast the spell Dancing Lights. The faint, will’o’wisp like lights illuminated her chamber in soft hues of green and purple and there before her was the thief she’d agreed to acquire the egg for. He had been searching through her things.
“I had hoped to do this without waking you,” he said simply.
Dolce tumbled to her feet, grabbing her extradimensional satchel as she went, for within was what he was here to claim. “INTRUDER!” She yelled loudly, thinking surely he wouldn’t have come alone.
The man winced a little from the volume of her cry, but said only, “That isn’t necessary. Please, I don’t mean to fight you. I wouldn’t stand a chance.”
She couldn’t discern any lie in his words, but it made her uncomfortable. What man who felt he wouldn’t stand a chance against a single woman in a nightgown with a rapier would board a pirate ship in the dead of night to steal from them? “Out!” she demanded, gesturing with her sword.
The man listened, leaving her room and moving out of the narrow space leading to the other officers’ quarters. They were on the deck. “Why are you here?”
Owlbear came bounding toward her, looking apologetic. She noticed the other two sailors who’d drawn night shifts were unconsciousness by the mast. The man simply said, “To get what we agreed upon. We mean to pay you.”
Her eyes searched the night. Alas, her vision was not as keen in the dark as Revel’s or Mirielle’s. Still, there was enough of the moon for her to see by and she could detect no other creatures in the shadows. “We?” Quinn and Ambrose were on deck now, weapons in their hands as well. To Owlbear Dolce said, “Wake those below.”
Owlbear nodded eagerly and threw open the trap door to go below. Soon enough she heard him bellow, “WAKE UP! SOMEONE’S ABOARD!!! WAKE! WAKE!!!”
The man, still at the point of her rapier chuckled. “Really this isn’t necessary. We just intend to transact our arrangement.”
Mirielle, in a long, white nightshirt, came onto the deck as well now, from the captain’s cabin. “What is going on?”
Dolce frowned. “This one here’s the one that gave me the map. There’s not a ship in sight, but he says ‘We’ve come to finish our transaction’.”
Mirielle looked from Dolce to the man as bleary eyed sailors began emerging from below. “Transaction?” She asked.
“Yes, you were to acquire the egg for me. Did your First Mate not tell you? We had an arrangement.”
Mirielle’s eyes fell on Dolce again, “Perhaps you’d best explain.”
With a sigh Dolce said, “I- I did agree, technically, but I said before I’d see what you wished to do with it. And I did ask, but you wanted to keep-“
Mirielle was annoyed now, “I did indeed, but you still should have informed me, Dolce.”
Revel’s eyes were gleaming with delight, and Dolce could only assume she was hoping Mirielle would deem the transgression worthy of discipline.
“Ladies, there isn’t much time. My companions will sink your ship if we don’t conclude this quickly,” the man said. It was unnerving how calm he was.
Dolce told Revel to keep an eye on him and the hobgoblin responded by clapping one of her strong hands down on his shoulder. Dolce handed her Rapier to Quinn and fished through the satchel, producing manacles they had not yet had occasion to use. These were known as Shackles of Compliance. When Dolce snapped them on the man’s wrist she spoke the word of power – ‘acquiesce’ – to cast Suggestion through the shackles and said, “I suggest you cooperate with us so you don’t endanger your life.”
“Really, this isn’t necessary. I’m quite a bad liar,” the man said.
“Where are your companions?” Dolce asked, ignoring him. He did seem to be a bad liar, but that could have just meant he was particularly skilled at deceit.
“Below the ship. They swam me aboard. There are no other vessels here.”
This brought a new question to the fore. “What are your companions?”
“They are Iku-tursos.”
Dolce wracked her brain. She knew of these creatures. They often worked alongside Sahuagin and proved quite a problem for sea-faring individuals like herself. “How long do we have before they sink the ship?”
He smiled. “About five minutes, I believe. If you want to know precisely, there is a watch in my pocket.”
Stranger and stranger, a watch in his pocket. Dolce moved forward, reaching inside and pulling it out. His estimate was on the nose. “Why aren’t you concerned with your life?” She met his eyes as she asked this question. She couldn’t understand how he could stand here knowing he couldn’t harm them in any meaningful way and not seem afraid in even the slightest.
“The Iku-tursos gave me this life. I have nothing to fear.”
“What do you mean?” Mirielle asked, sounding surprised.
“I mean, I had been involved in a shipwreck and floated in the sea for what seemed like days. I remember drowning, and yet I awoke and they had taken me into their care. They gave me this second chance. I have nothing to fear from you.”
He said it as though it were factual. Dolce frowned. “You said you wish to pay us?”
He nodded at this. “Yes, they brought the coin. They’ve no concern with you. They simply want the egg.”
“So we steal the egg, you make sure the blame falls upon us. What good is gold when Captain Sorrinash will hunt us down tomorrow?” Mirielle again.
“Captain, we made certain that suspicion would not follow you. There was another boat in port as fate would have it. Her name, The Swift Lady. Even now they are finding “the egg” in her hold, for evidence led them to it.” He was still unnervingly calm.
Mirielle frowned. “Enough. Take him below.” Ambrose nodded and took the man below deck.
“There is no point to this!” He called as he disappeared through the trap door.
The girls made ready before diving into the sea to face the Iku-tursos. As they were fighting it finally clicked for Dolce why the man was so indifferent to his life. Iku-turso were known for creating mind slaves. They did it through a disease. She warned Revel and Nasha to try not to get hit, but that was really the best she could do for them at this point.
Of course, both did get hit, and more than once. One of the creatures swam deep below the water and created a fascinating light effect that caught Revel’s attention. Dolce was afraid Revel would drown herself, swimming below the surface to float among the lights. Why hadn’t they taken the time to cast Water Breathing?
Nasha was pretty heavily injured, but managed to finish off one of the creatures as Mirielle’s magic bolstered her flesh. Dolce finished the other with an Acid Arrow. For once, the spell seemed to perform to her expectations.
Revel surfaced from the water at the last possible moment, gasping for air and asking, “What the hell was that?” Her blood frenzy had clearly subsided.
Dolce chuckled as they swam for the ship, noting that Nasha had sunk into the water after one of the bodies. The lizardfolk returned shortly bearing a satchel over her shoulder. When they climbed on deck they took stock of its contents… Eight thousand gold coins in ancient currency.
They had the egg, they had the coin, and now they were free of the thief. More free than Dolce realized for Ambrose’ call reached them, “Captain! Captain you should see this!”
When they went below deck they found the thief not only dead, but rotting. And also… de-aged. He looked like a young boy who’d been adrift in the ocean for days. It was quite unsettling, but Dolce was convinced now that she was right. He’d been one of their mind slaves, for once created their lives were linked to the one which made them.
They returned his body to the sea with his masters. As they left the bodies behind Nasha said, “Something strange happened while we fought.”
Dolce looked toward her and asked, “What’s that?”
“I- I heard music… and… and I could breathe the water,” Nasha said. She looked down at Dolce from her seven foot height, lean and muscular, but looking uncomfortable. “I still hear the music.”
Dolce frowned and called, “MIRIELLE! We need you over here!”
Mirielle came and asked what was going on, but needed to hear little before she called upon her divine magic to try and abolish Nasha’s disease. The first casting did not work, for Nasha still reported the eerily beautiful music. The second seemed to cast it out.
“Thank you,” Nasha said simply, bowing her head to Mirielle.
“You just, you just tell me if you start hearing it again, Nasha. Don’t want anyone succumbing to that noise on our ship.” Nasha nodded at Mirielle’s words and the aasimar watched as she went below deck. The seas were certainly dangerous…
But the girls relaxed. They’d won their prize and the pay for it, and now were safely heading for Slipcove. Dolce had another reason to celebrate. It seemed she wouldn’t be tasting the lash for keeping Mirielle out of the loop after all. The night’s distractions had proven enough to make the aasimar forget her transgression.