S&S: Session 16 – Strange Winds

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!

Revel and Dolce had crossed over to The Sandbalot once they were well away from The Dominator. It only took two days to reach Senghor. Once again the guardians of the city boarded The Purr, but this time it didn’t seem to take very long. Dolce asked Mirielle why that was with Message and the Captain simply responded that the commander had taken her word they had no prisoners aboard.

If Quinn was to be believed, the commander had a thing for Mirielle, and this made Dolce suspect he was right. She didn’t harass Mirielle about that though. She was already causing her captain enough problems by making sure people knew her not just as a fierce tactician, but also as a pirate who still blushed at lewd comments and jokes.

They didn’t tarry in Senghor this time, simply paid the docking fees and sold The Sandbalot. Once the matter was handled they were back out to sea again. Of course, Dolce made time to share her new song in every tavern she could visit over a single night. Clipping the Dominator was well-received by every crowd she performed for. She was sure the tune would eventually make it back to the ship she’d written it for.

Maybe not the smartest enemy to make, but an enemy that they would have had regardless of if they pissed them off or not. The elf wasn’t too worried for the time being. It seemed Mirielle had finally set her sights on Tidewater Rock. This because she wanted a place to stash some gold in case their ship got stripped from them and they somehow survived. Enough, she said, to buy a new boat and new armaments for her.

Her goal, ten thousand gold coins. Dolce was still pondering how they would hide such a fortune without risking it being claimed. She had an idea, but she was still fine tuning it. Ten thousand coins would be easy enough to hide in an extradimensional space. The real question was, who did you trust to guard something so important to you (and so valuable)? But Dolce had ideas about that too.

Unnatural

Just two days out from Senghor they had their first sighting of another ship. The winds were coming out of the west, which was where the ship was when they saw it disappear on the horizon. “Strange that,” Shade said.

Mirielle looked toward him, “What’s so strange about it?”

“They sailed into the wind, but their sails were full.”

Mirielle had noticed too, but her mind had immediately turned to magic. “Not so strange if they have magic aboard.”

“Aye, Captain,” Shade said, returning to overseeing the rigging work.

Mirielle watched him and the crew performing their tasks, but as she observed she swore she heard a distant bell tolling. Her gaze was drawn to the sunset again.

The next day the weather was turning sour. Not so harsh as the storms they’d encountered with Mr. Plugg and later on their course from Ollo to Slipcove, but still enough to keep them busier than usual. When sunset came a strange fog seemed to creep up on them, and at the last moment possible a ship was sighted within.

A sonorous bell rang, and the sound was familiar to Mirielle. The collision was avoided and the ship seemed to withdraw as quickly as it had come upon them, taking the mist with it. “Fuck me,” Dolce said as she watched the mists receding.

“What?” Mirielle asked.

“That’s The Deathknell. Renowned ghost ship. Stalks its prey for three days before attacking. Same ship we sighted yesterday, and the reason we heard the bell.” The elf was pacing. She had copied the Ghostly Weapon spell to her spellbook, but wasn’t sure what kind of creatures served as The Deathknell‘s crew.

Mirielle scowled before saying, “And what kind of safeguards can you supply against a ghost ship, Dolce?”

The two started going over details, though shortly moved into the captain’s cabin and left Shade in control of the ship. Mirielle decided not to make for an island. After all, legend said if you sought shelter the ship simply waited until you left again to resume its stalking.

Dolce prepared one casting of Ghostly Weapon since it would benefit primarily her out of The Purr‘s strongest fighters. The magic would not take hold on Revel’s fangs or Nasha’s claws. She also prepared Lightning Bolt and Chilling Spray, though their effectiveness would depend upon the nature of The Deathknell‘s crew.

With plans set in place Mirielle and Dolce left the cabin and informed the crew they intended to fight The Deathknell. No one was particularly pleased and some seemed downright wary of the idea. Many cursed Narwhale for sighting her sails the night before.

Mirielle managed to raise the crew’s spirit while impressing upon them how important it was why fight without mercy. Their enemy certainly wouldn’t show any, and if they had their way the crew of The Lady’s Purr would never be seen again.

The Bell

On the third night the mist formed again, and soon after they all heard the sounds of the bell tolling. Rather than flee the ghost ship, Mirielle ordered them to make toward it. The combat was fierce before the ships even closed the distance between them. Greed took a good bite out of The Deathknell‘s sails, but their artillery proved superior, completely shredding The Purr‘s own sails.

Mirielle used the last of their momentum to ram into the decaying ship. The maneuver was not a risk like it had been in their battle with The Red Mariah because Mirielle had paid for a proper ram to be installed on the The Lady’s Purr along with all of the other improvements made in Slipcove.

As the two ships collided, Mirielle ordered the grapple. The ropes flew through the air and they caught hold, The Purr‘s crew boarded the ghost ship before its unliving crew had the chance to board their vessel. The crew was not ghostly, but rather composed of more substantial undead.

A deep voice rang out when Nasha, the quickest of the girls, first set foot on The Deathknell. “What is this? They’re boarding us!? No one has been so bold as to board us in decades, mates!” It sounded jovial, but also menacing, and issued from the remains of Whalebone Pilk, the damned captain of The Deathknell. “Let’s make them feel welcome!!!”

The decaying crew of The Deathknell started shambling forward, but one bumped into the bell by Captain Pilk. His voice rang out almost in time with the bell, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING! GET THE FUCK OVER THERE!”

The undead that had done it shrank from his yelling and said, “Sorry, Captain,” as it shuffled off toward the girls. The creatures were quite slow in reaching the girls.

Dolce and Mirielle discussed something in Celestial as they fended off the initial surge of the sluggish enemy crew. The two seemed to be in agreement, and their agreement didn’t require Nasha or Revel to understand.

The hobgoblin was reluctant to bite into the undead at first, but her fists – even with her brass knuckles – proved inconsequential to them. She started tearing chunks up, though the taste was enough to make her wretch.

Nasha basically cut down anything that came near her and made her way toward the aftcastle. She seemed intent on facing off against the captain beside his wheel.

Captain Pilk set his sights on Mirielle, most likely because she was the captain of his target vessel. He extended a decaying hand and an incorporeal shadow of it appeared, snatching at the aasimar. He caught hold of her throat with his spectral hand and started trying to squeeze the life from her.

Mirielle gasped for air, but her eyes narrowed as she pointed a finger toward Captain Pilk and sent a ray of holy, fiery death at him. The spectral hand almost foiled the casting, but Mirielle choked out the words of power just well enough to keep from losing it.

When the ray struck Pilk he called out in anguish, and when that cry faded he snarled, “KILL THE ONE IN THE HAT!”

Immediately the shambling crew made for Mirielle. Revel capitalized on their careless movements to take one down, but the captain fielded three attacks in retaliation for her spell.

Dolce took advantage of the crew’s distraction and made her way onto the aftcastle with Nasha and Pilk. She moved right past the undead captain, putting his precious bell between them before unleashing her first Lightning Bolt spell of the battle.

The captain seemed to reel as the electricity coursed over the metal and wood of the bell and his own body. “NO!!!!! I’LL KILL YOU! KILL THE ELF!” He bellowed, immediately overriding his previous command. For his own part, he tried to stab Dolce. The attack was true and she felt her flesh rend, but it was not a mortal wound.

The crew, slow as it was, tried to obey his command and crossed almost the entire length of his ship to do it. They were cut down by Revel on their way, and slowed by Nasha as they topped the stairs. Only one swung on Dolce before she released another Lightning Bolt in tandem with Mirielle’s second Searing Light spell.

The bell still stood, but between Mirielle and Dolce’s attacks, plus a few strikes from Nasha, Captain Pilk was undone. The necromantic energy that bound him fizzled out and his body fell to mist. The shambling crew did as well.

Consequences

For a moment all was still, but the moment passed quickly. The ship began to tremble and the water around her rippled perilously. “BACK TO THE PURR!!” Mirielle bellowed.

The crew largely obeyed. Four crew members were fallen, dead or merely unconscious. Revel lifted two, Nasha and Ambrose took one a piece. Dolce, however, started pulling her thieves’ tools out of her bandolier. Mirielle was already back on The Purr when she noticed. “DOLCE!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

Dolce looked straight at Mirielle, “I’LL BE FINE!” It seemed a storm was brewing, but Dolce and Mirielle had agreed at the start of this combat that they needed to destroy the bell. Ghosts were often anchored to the world by but one simple thing or simple motive. If his was not simply to plunder, surely it was this instrument he was so fond of.

Dolce nimbly worked to free it from where it hung, for she hadn’t the strength to just shatter it and if two Lightning Bolts hadn’t gotten the task done… They would need more time. Sweat beaded on her brow as the ship continued trembling. It started slowly sinking in the water. She heard Mirielle give the order to cut the lines excepting those to the aftcastle.

The elf worked faster. Every time a tool slipped her heart skipped a beat, but if she could just get this last bit… And then the bolt came lose and the bell fell with a loud clang. She tucked the tools away and reached for it just as the ship lurched. The bell rolled toward the edge where it would fall into the ocean and likely be lost.

Dolce dove after it! She wrapped one arm around it and grabbed the edge of the ship with her other, coming to a halt just short of sliding overboard herself. “Fuck me…” She clambered to her feet and ran for the last remaining grapples, keenly aware of how low in the water The Deathknell now seemed to be. Once she had a good hold of the rope she cut it on her side.

“Cut every line but that one!” Mirielle bellowed, and the crew obeyed, though they almost cut Dolce’s too in their enthusiasm. Only Nasha’s steady hand stopped the blade from going too far and to do it the lizardfolk got cut.

Dolce swung into the side of The Purr, but held tight to the bell. The crew pulled her up. On deck she set the bell flat and looked behind her. The Deathknell was sinking further into the water. Mirielle ordered them to pull away, and they did as best they could.

Dolce suspected Besmara was watching over them, for they managed to escape the sinking ship without getting pulled under themselves. When that was done she took to her pack and pulled out a hammer. With all her might she struck the bell, but all she accomplished was sending a spine-tingling ring echoing across the ship.

Dolce sighed. “Revel! Break this damn thing.” She held the hammer out.

Revel grinned, “With pleasure, Sir!” The hobgoblin seized the hammer and swung it hard. She too created an ominous ring, but also furthered the cracks Dolce’s electricity had put into its metal surface. Enough hammering eventually caused the whole of it to shatter and crumble.

Seemingly in tandem with the bell breaking, the weather started to improve. Of course, it was possible that was related to the ghost ship finally coming to a rest below and the seas in the area growing calm as a result.

Dolce collected the bell’s shards in her satchel and reclaimed the hammer. “Well done, Master-at-Arms.” Revel just grinned at her in satisfaction. “Well then, Captain, are we going down below to see what was in their hold?”

Mirielle just stared at Dolce for a moment before saying, “Are you serious?”

Dolce shrugged. “We are pirates. We do have the means.”

Mirielle sighed. “Narwhale’s dead.”

A cloud settled over Dolce, but then she said, “Wouldn’t want it to be for nothing. He sighted the sails, you know. We’re just shy of what you wanted before seeking to join the Free Captains.”

Mirielle’s expression softened and she ran her fingers through her golden hair. In the moonlight Dolce could see a strange pale impression of a hand on the captain’s throat. “You’re right. Besides.. I’d like to know he won’t be returning.” She cast her gaze out to the sea.

Captain Pilk had been slain before, but always returned. So the legends said. The girls took the time to prepare, Dolce changing her remaining spells around and collecting what belongings she thought would help them most in the water.

A casting of Water Breathing infused with more powerful magic than it required gave the girls and Owlbear until morning. Mirielle cast a spell known as Wanderer’s Guide to lead them to the ship’s resting ground. What followed was a long night of hard work lifting loot from the hold of the sunken Deathknell up above to The Purr. Several Ant Haul spells were cast to alleviate at least some of the task, and Dolce’s magical satchel was emptied of its contents on the first trip back up so that it could be used to carry some of the weight.

By morning they had lost another soul. This one had been badly injured, and try though he might, Quinn just couldn’t save him. The man’s name was Rollo, and he had joined them in Bag Island. Two deaths. The first since they’d mutinied.

Revel, Nasha, Mirielle, Dolce, and Owlbear slept late into the day after their hard day’s labor. The next day they continued their work, but also took Maheem, Shaveka, Barefoot, Calden, and Cog along with them. By the end of that day they’d emptied two thirds of The Deathknell‘s hold. They’d also all spent quite a long time around the mass of skulls in The Deathknell‘s hold. Apparently they were collecting them for some reason.

Before they drank that day, a new tradition began aboard The Purr. The crew was gathered on the starboard side and Mirielle said, “Two of our friends are fallen, but we can rest easy knowing they were not claimed for eternal unlife like the crew that took them. I want us to remember those we lose. Now is the time for this remembrance. Who will share a memory of Narwhale?”

The next hour was spent sharing stories of Narwhale and then of Rollo. Most of the latter from the halflings who had joined them in Slipcove. Then Narwhale and Rollo were released to the sea. The crew’s spirits were pretty high, all things considered. Moments of silence and stories of their lost friends were shared throughout the night above deck.

Dolce suspected Mirielle had or would cry over the loss of Narwhale. She’d grown rather fond of the dwarf. The elf joined in on the stories until she was ready for sleep, and then slipped away to her tiny private room in the officers’ quarters. There she contemplated how fleeting life could be. Many elves didn’t form bonds with those of other races. They’d grown too jaded from watching them die, but Dolce supposed in her line of work even an elf was likely to be quite short-lived.

Dolce used magic to clean herself up from her days of swimming in the ocean and set about to penning the lyrics of the song she’d sing in their next port to regale taverns with the story of their victory over The Deathknell.

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