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!
As they left Ollo and the Iku-tursos behind, a storm had come upon them. The weather was abrupt and violent and greatly hampered their progress. It took them almost three days to gain the distance they would have on one less turbulent day.
When the storm quieted Dolce found herself admiring Owlbear’s new cloak. He’d claimed it from The Pelican for he’d been the one to sight her sails. It was certainly a fine thing, expertly crafted of Shadoweave. For someone who was not as sharp of mind he’d made a good enough choice, though Dolce suspected it had been based primarily on the cloak’s appearance. Thankfully, he’d sounded the whistle correctly and hadn’t required discipline. Dolce suspected this was Nasha’s doing, for the lizardfolk was quite fond of Owlbear and had taken him under her wing when it came to mastering ship tasks.
Dolce was considering retiring for a bit of rest after the days on the turbid seas – it looked like the storm might return and she didn’t want to miss her chance to sleep while she could – when the familiar signal whistle call rang in her ears. It was a halfling Mirielle had recruited at Rickety’s Squibs that sounded the alarm. “SAIL ON THE HORIZON!!! STARBOARD!” For a halfling, Finrin sure had a good set of pipes.
Dolce yawned and drew the spyglass from her pouch as she climbed up the stairs of the aftcastle to have a better look. As she caught the ship in her focus she began reporting to Mirielle, “They’re bearing right down on us Captain… And… I’m pretty sure that’s The Red Mariah. It’s a Free Captain’s ship! Captain Aspogar Astian, the Switch of the North. Likes to torture prisoners he takes for fun.” She handed the spyglass to Mirielle.
The sleepiness was gone from her as she wondered what her aasimar captain would order. Mirielle delayed a good minute as she watched them in the distance, then returned the spyglass to Dolce. “BRING US HARD TO STARBOARD!” The aasimar’s voice, more often soft and placating than anything else, rang with resounding authority. This quality had made it quite tricky when Dolce had impersonated her.
They were taking on a Free Captain. The very prospect of it made Dolce smile as she looked over at Mirielle. Certainly the captain had adapted well to her new life, and with a nod Dolce headed down the stairs again.
“Where are you going?” Mirielle asked, though her eyes were passing from Dolce to the crew even as she asked the question.
Dolce paused, “I’ve some spells I’d like to change a bit before we engage, at least if I can manage. See they’re more general purpose spells for the ship and we’ll be wanting my more combative-“
Mirielle cut her off, “Very well. Be quick about it and get back to the rigging. We will need all hands against an actual Free Captain.”
“Aye, Captain,” Dolce said, slipping into the officer’s quarters below the aftcastle to study her spellbook out of the chaos of the deck.
The Switch of the North
The sea was calmer than it had been in days, but the hurried hustle and bustle aboard the The Lady’s Purr had not diminished in the least. When Dolce rejoined the deck she found sailors working in concert to bring them closer to The Red Mariah.
It certainly got Dolce’s adrenaline pumping. She joined in working the rigging as she’d been instructed, taking over leading shanties from Revel, who’d proven quite adept at the task. Dolce felt Revaress’ tentacles alight on her shoulder and nuzzled the octopus. Fond as she was of the sea she’d never imagined she’d grow to like such a creature. She cast a glance toward Mirielle, who carried a backpack on her person even aboard the ship to tote around her own familiar, Cupiir.
The elf shook her head and put her back into the rope work and her voice into the singing. When the distance between the two ships had grown small enough Nasha yelled at Conchobhar, “READY THE BALLISTA… FIRE!” Revel looked disappointed. It seemed she and Nasha were always competing to see who would give the order first, and the other inevitably spent their time and effort reloading for the next shot.
The ballista bolt flew true, striking the structure of The Mariah and tearing through part of the wood. It made Dolce smile to see flakes of wood splinter off into the ocean. Of course, they returned fire, and as their ballista struck true and flew clear through the officer’s quarters Dolce noted some of the crew losing their resolve. Not on her watch. She launched into a popular song about an encounter between the current Hurricane King and a vessel called Naiegoul. It was supposed to have been quite a defining point in Bonefist’s life and it was, after all, about seizing opportunity much in the way she and Mirielle had.
The song’s upbeat tempo and boisterous nature had the desired effect, rallying the crew even as Mirielle was giving a rousing speech of her own. Dolce heard the beats of it, this man thinks because he’s a free captain he can take us, this man is known for torturing people just for the pleasure of it. Keep that in your minds as we storm his ship, prepare to board….
Prepare to board? Dolce looked back toward the other boat. They were still a good ninety feet away and not faced to draw alongside… Unless she meant to… Surely not?
“FULL AHEAD!” Mirielle bellowed, and the crew leapt to life. They were heading straight for a collision!
Dole took hold of the railing and bellowed in turn, “BRACE YOURSELVES!!!” All the while thinking, ‘What is she doing to my ship?’ She couldn’t question her aloud though, she’d nominated her to captain, after all. And they needed their momentum going into combat.
The Lady’s Purr slammed into the side of The Red Mariah and an awful splintering and groaning sound reached their ears. It had been a smart choice in a way, for the collision did far more damage to the enemy than to them and also closed the distance fast enough that Captain Astian hadn’t had the opportunity to fire off any more shots from his ballistae. Still, it pained Dolce to see the damage to their ship’s prow even as she was climbing across the ropes to board The Mariah.
She, Mirielle, Revel, and Nasha made their way to the wheel, dodging crossbow bolts and thrown weapons all the way. It was a feeling Dolce had grown accustomed to, and she, Nasha, and Revel had their fair share of scars from being hit in the crossing. Dolce had made certain Mirielle didn’t gain any, insisting that either the aasimar or Quinn used magical healing to knit any wounds she incurred. It was all going to be baked into her legend… The captain so skilled or gifted she’d naught a single scar upon her flesh.
At the wheel the four engaged Captain Astian as well as his lover and three marines. The battle was quite intense, but thankfully they had clustered up very well and Dolce rewarded them for this with Chilling Spray. Mirielle was targeted, but also safe behind Reven and Nasha, making it a hard shot for the opponents to hit her.
Early on Captain Astian was bold, asking whose idea it had been to ram his ship. Dolce had said naturally it was the captain’s and Astian had promised Mirielle he’d keep her alive… But of course, as his companions fell to their swords, claws, and fangs, his tune started changing. When he himself was killed, his lover jumped overboard. In the water she cast a spell that let her stand atop it.
Before anyone could say otherwise, Revel chased her into the sea. Dolce could have tried to snap Revel out of her bloodlust, she heard the woman surrender, but she didn’t particularly want the dead captain’s loyal, spell-casting lover alive to betray them.. So instead she moved to the edge of the boat and reported to Mirielle, “Two in the water, Captain.”
Mirielle did try to make Revel stand down, telling her to cease her attacks, but the hobgoblin was too far gone with bloodlust and ripped into the woman’s shoulder and arm, taking it clear off her body. Her attention then turned to another man who’d jumped overboard. One of the officers… She tore him apart too, ending their lives in quick succession.
Mirielle was quite displeased. “You will have to discipline her for that,” Mirielle said to Dolce.
Dolce knew Mirielle was right. The whole crew had heard her order Revel to stop her assault and the hobgoblin hadn’t listened. Quietly the elf responded, “It will be best if… you handle that, Captain.” She put emphasis on ‘you’ and met Mirielle’s gaze purposefully. The aasimar nodded.
They dropped the bodies of the dead into the sea. Easily Revel’s favorite part of any ship encounter because it never took long for the sharks to arrive. Of course the hobgoblin was aboard by then. While she took on their aspects, she had no special affinity with sharks and they would as soon eat her as the drifting dead.
They split the crew between the two ships, as usual, but before Revel and Dolce went aboard The Red Mariah the crew was gathered on The Lady’s Purr. Dolce slipped into the captain’s cabin with Mirielle for no more than ten minutes, and when they emerged the elf, now disguised as Captain Mirielle gave the order, “Dolce, bind the Master-at-Arms to the mast.” Mirielle, who now looked like Dolce, nodded and did as she’d been bidden before standing among the crew. The false Captain Mirielle continued, “You all heard the order given, and all saw the order disobeyed. Not only did our Master-at-Arms directly disobey me, she killed a woman who had surrendered. Good Quarters to be given when Craved.” She said the last as deeply and heavily as she could, trying to mimic the real Mirielle’s voice. The crew was quiet and murmuring agreement even before she continued, “We ALL signed the articles. We ALL agreed to these rules, and that means always. Whether we be in the heat of combat or on an idle day, these are the rules we live by. For Revel’s transgressions, thirty stripes lacking one.”
Dolce saw her own face registering surprise at that particular sentence. It was strange to see herself react, but kind of exhilarating, for no one in the crew seemed to realize the switch had taken place. Not even Ambrose or Quinn, who both knew Dolce had this ability. As far as the discipline went, she knew Revel.. Nothing else would sting enough to remind the hobgoblin to obey the articles in the heat of combat.
Mirielle, appearing as Dolce, nodded and moved forward. They had planned on this. Naturally, if the person responsible for issuing out discipline on the ship was being disciplined it fell to the Bosun or First Mate to mete out their punishment. Just as her disguised friend prepared the first strike, Dolce as the captain said, “Stand down, Dolce. I will see to this personally.”
The lash was handed to her then and she moved close to Revel, saying over her shoulder, “Remember this the next time you think to kill someone who has surrendered. Remember it when you think to act against my orders. Orders are given for a reason, and we all agreed to the articles.”
Revel murmured her understanding, and Dolce earnestly believed the hobgoblin hadn’t intended to murder the two survivors who had fled… She just got so damn caught up in the taste and scent of blood all reason left her. The elf felt a little guilty to be punishing her for something she’d allowed to happen. After all, the death of the woman had suited her and she suspected her voice could have cut through the cloud of Revel’s bloodlust if she’d directed it like she had just now… But… This way she didn’t have to deal with containing a spell caster that would certainly hold a grudge.
She moved back, and one by one the lashes fell. With her expert precision, she made sure none were too harsh and none too gentle. To her surprise, Revel remained conscious throughout the vast majority of the discipline. Only in the final lashes of the twenty-nine she’d been prescribed did she fall unconscious. When the deed was done, Dolce also noticed that Mirielle was still watching. She’d not expected that. So extreme had been the aasimar’s reactions on The Wormwood to witnessing such disciplines that Dolce hadn’t thought she’d had the stomach for it.
The crew likewise seemed surprised that Mirielle had meted out this punishment herself. This was as Dolce expected and why she had switched places with Mirielle to begin with. The crew needed to believe their captain capable of meting out the punishments they’d all agreed to. As well as to believe she could give a proper dressing down. Sure, they would have likely followed her anyway, but the air of respect they would show her would change after today.
“Master Surgeon, you may tend the Master-at-Arms’ wounds, but not with magic. Am I clear?” She was addressing Quinn, who nodded his understanding and took Revel to care for her.
She went about her business as Mirielle for a time, not wanting Quinn, Ambrose, or anyone else to be suspicious if they disappeared back into the captain’s cabin again after the discipline as well as they had before. To her surprise, Quinn caught up with her after treating Revel, finding her alone near the kitchen to say, “I didn’t think you had it in you, Mirielle.”
She feigned Mirielle’s discomfort with violence and said, “I only hope it’s not necessary again.”
Quinn smiled and leaned in, kissing her on the lips. Dolce’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, but luckily his eyes were closed. She had suspicions the two were growing close from watching them aboard the ship, but hadn’t thought they were actually … courting? This gesture seemed relaxed and expected and as though it would be strange if Mirielle rebuffed him, and so she did not.. She returned the kiss and was thankful it was but a brief peck on the lips and nothing more intimate. “You did well,” Quinn assured her as his eyes opened again. Dolce supposed she’d managed to mask her surprise well enough when he didn’t look confused.
“Th-thank you. I need to speak with Dolce about something now though. Perhaps we can catch up later, over dinner?” Dolce was tempted to intimate that more may happen over dinner, just to mess with Mirielle, but if the two were getting along she didn’t want to complicate things. She liked the idea of them together.
Quinn nodded and she darted off to find ‘Dolce’ and took her to her cabin before swapping appearances again. “Quinn kissed me!” She said when the door was closed.
“He did?” Mirielle asked.
Thankfully it was but a moment to drop the spell and the two looked like who they really were again. “Yes. Thinking I was you. Are you sleeping with him?” She didn’t suspect they were, but if they were it would mean trouble… When Mirielle’s cheeks grew dark red, Dolce knew she was right. “Well, if that changes you let me know. Being pregnant on a pirate ship as its captain would certainly complicate things.. And growing up on one is no place for a baby.”
Mirielle agreed and they separated. Now Dolce and Revel went to The Red Mariah with a few other members of their crew. They had seen Finrin take the captain’s hat and knew he’d be dining with the other officers on The Lady’s Purr tonight while they ate in the captain’s cabin here.
Except, the storm picked back up and Revel and Dolce didn’t have enough crew aboard The Red Mariah to break for dining at any length. They each snatched a bite and continued working. The rest of the trip to Slipcove proved wretched and slow.
The terrible storm that slowed their progress was actually a result of me miss-measuring the travel time between Ollo and Slipcove and my husband deciding rather than altering how long it took to arrive we’d just make their travel slower.
Mirielle’s authoritative voice is the random aasimar trait we rolled for her from the table in the third party supplement we are using. Specifically it states: “You speak with authority, and your voice is a strong, deep bass that resonates in people’s hearts when they hear it.” To reflect this, impersonating her actually has a higher DC. Likewise, all of her deception checks to pretend to be Dolce when they switched places had a higher DC as she had to intentionally mask that quality of her voice.
Another note on this, when they switch places describing who is doing what becomes quite fun and convoluted. Generally I do it with air quotes.
Dolce can take ten minutes to replace a single spell she has prepared in a day for another spell of the same level thanks to her Arcane Thesis of Spell Substitution. She frequently does this when they approach enemy ships because the spells she prepares for ship emergencies (things like Feather Fall and Air Bubble) aren’t as useful in combat