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!
Studying the collection of nautical charts they’d amassed from the various ships they’d captured, the girls and Ambrose believed they’d figured out where Inkskin’s treasure map led. Dolce had resorted to interrogating Inskin without the use of magic since the captain had proven quite strong of will. To her surprise, Revel was the key to getting her to talk.
Inkskin was quite unhappy at the idea of suffering Revel’s teeth, and had eventually said she would tell Dolce all they wanted to know if Dolce would agree to end her life afterward, sever her body apart, and scatter it in different places. This told Dolce she was afraid of being brought back from death and made the elf wonder just what they’d be up against when they pursued her benefactor.
She relayed the woman’s wishes to Mirielle, who considered denying her and trying to bring the pirate to her cause, but Inkskin’s reputation was one of pure ruthlessness and hate. Mirielle ultimately didn’t want Inkskin in her crew, so she agreed. Inkskin gave them all the information they required, even showing them on the naval charts where the cove was located, confirming Ambrose and the girls’ suspicions.
They gave her death, and Dolce left Shade in charge of ‘preparing’ her body for the treatment she’d requested. The drow took the liberty of removing the map tattoo from her, skin and all, and preserved it so they could reference the poem beside it later if needed. He then did as bidden.
Ultimately it was Revel who ‘disposed’ of Inkskin’s remains. But rather than scatter them in differing directions, Revel chummed the water with Captain Inkskin’s blood and starting feeding sharks as they came near the boat, tossing a hand to one, a foot to another, until nothing was left. Dolce felt certain this fate would have horrified Inkskin, but the woman was no longer alive to suffer that mental anguish.
They took The Thresher back to Tidewater Rock, and there left eight of their most trusted pirates alongside an equal number of The Thresher‘s crew. Mirielle chose the less-able of the crew from The Thresher to remain behind. The entirety of the Rock was placed under Maheem’s authority, for Mirielle prized him quite highly and trusted his esteem for her to be a strong motivation. None of The Purr‘s crew particularly wanted to linger on the rock, but all were willing if their captain asked it of them. It made Dolce smile.
The Thresher itself was left with six ballistae, three to a bank, while The Purr claimed four of its original ten for her own banks. Now The Purr boasted Greed & Gluttony, her fearsome catapults, as well as ten light ballistae. The ballistae were named in pairs too, all by Mirielle, and situated opposite each other on the ship. They were called Ebony & Ivory, Secret & Riddle, Pleasure & Pain, Hope & Fear, and Rise & Shine.
It all amused Dolce very much, though she had plans for Greed & Gluttony. After all, with Greed positioned at the forecastle and Gluttony on the aftcastle, a line about leading with greed and following with gluttony seemed too good to pass up in her tavern songs.
On their second day toward Mancatcher Cove it was brutally hot despite occasional showers. Shade, still covered from head to toe, collapsed from the heat. His hat flew from his head and his silver hair was bared to the crew, causing much murmuring even as Dolce and Nasha quickly moved him to the sick bay. Quinn was close behind them, though paused as he saw Dolce pulling off Shade’s wrappings. “He’s a drow,” Nasha said.
Dolce snorted. “Aye, he is. Captain’s aware, says we’re going to keep him until he gives us reason not to,” she said it like she was talking about a dog more than a person, and peeled off his heavy coat.
“Drow are dangerous…” Quinn said quietly, but he moved to aid the elf.
“Aye, they are. She said she’s well aware, but she’s the bloody captain and I’m the bloody first mate so I do what she says.” Now Dolce was grumbling. When she had peeled off his coat, gloves and the wrappings he wore over his face around his dark goggles she said, “That’s enough of this shit though. Not gonna have him passing out when we need our Bosun. Tell him his coat and gloves are in his room, but I burned the rest and he’s not to wear those barring cold weather.”
The likelihood of them being in cold weather in the Shackles was slim. Dolce took off, leaving Quinn to deal with the detestable drow. Nasha closed the door to sick bay as she followed the elf. They went to the kitchen, where Dolce did burn the wrappings he’d been wearing. She used magic to set them ablaze where they wouldn’t catch anything else on fire and lingered to watch them burn.
As they watched the burning Nasha said, “I’ve never seen you so agitated.. Well, not since The Wormwood at least.”
Dolce popped her neck. “You’ve never seen me around a drow.”
“Mm.” Nasha sounded like she was considering something. “Never have I seen one. Are they really so dangerous?”
“They are treacherous, is what they are. Some have command of magic. Most worship demons. Though, Shade claims he and his kin worshiped a devil.” She poked the burning fabric with a cooking utensil.
“So like the men from Cheliax?” Nasha asked.
The elf scowled. “Like them, I guess. But drow, and untrustworthy.” Her bias was ingrained. She’d never seen a drow in her life, but she’d been taught from infancy to hate them. In fact, her hatred for drow surpassed even her resentment of the elves on Kepre Dua who had given her such a hard time about leaving the place behind her.
“Mm. Maybe.” Nasha said quietly. Dolce shot her a questioning look and the lizardfolk continued. “You were not on The Lady’s Purr when Vulpius Scariano took his own life.”
“What about it?” Dolce asked sharply.
Nasha’s reptilian lips curled back in a semblance of a smile, though her eyes remained quite neutral. “He did it to protect his family because he was oathbound by a devil. If this drow worships a devil, perhaps he too will uphold his word, no?”
“Tch, not likely. He’s still a drow,” Dolce said flatly.
The rest of the burning passed in silence, and the elf supervised the flames til naught was left. They went above deck, where Dolce gathered the crew and said, “You all need to know, Shade is a drow. And because we can’t afford for his dark hide to be passed out in the heat of combat he’s not going to be wearing these anymore.” She shook the coat and gloves for them to see. “You will continue to respect him and listen to him, and you will do your jobs, or Revel, or maybe Shade himself, will take the cost of it in lashes, understood?”
They answered in a clamor of ‘Aye, Sir’s, and Dolce nodded, striding off toward Officer’s Quarters. She took the coat and gloves to Shade’s room. There had been a sign on his door that stated ‘Knock before entering.’ This she snatched off the door. She used Prestidigitation to clean the sweat from the clothing items and left them folded on his bed, the gloves set neatly atop the greatcoat. The sign, he would never see again.
Tempted though she was, the elf did resist the urge to go through the rest of his belongings, and simply went back about her business. Within the hour, the drow was above deck again and had everything running smoothly where the rigging was concerned.
It made sense that he and Revel got along so well, for they had become quite friendly discussing how best to wield a lash to garner the desired result. Dolce had overheard one of these discussions. ‘And how many elves tasted the sting of your lash to teach you those methods?’ She wondered bitterly.
Those That Live With Sharks
There was tension between Dolce and Shade, but Dolce found it was primarily on her own part. Shade, if anything, seemed amused at the elf’s agitation around him. Dolce supposed it was just as well for him.
She did find herself pondering Nasha’s comment regarding Vulpius Scariano’s honor. It was true, she knew, devils were more ‘honorable’ than demons or daemons. Still… they were devils and Shade was a drow. Then there was Mirielle. She’d made her presence felt in the aftermath of the crew’s revelation that they had a drow among them. She’d done it subtly, just being present on deck more than she might have, giving more orders directly. She was gauging the crew.
Dolce had every faith in her captain as a captain. She felt the aasimar was short-sighted about the drow, but… But she had also seen Mirielle’s ability to connect with people. She couldn’t help wondering if Mirielle would truly be able to win over Shade’s loyalty. If the aasimar did, Dolce would have no choice but to swallow her misery on the matter and just make good.
These thoughts were still tumbling around in her head when they found Mancatcher Cove. It was almost a perfect sphere in the face of the cliffs on the island’s edge. The ship easily fit within it. They sailed within and positioned themselves near one of the cliff faces in such a way that you would have to be facing the opening of the cove from a precise angle to even notice them.
The poem that accompanied Inkskin’s tattoo indicated that some secret would be revealed at dawn, and so they settled in to wait for the night. The crew rarely experienced such lulls on the sea. They were anchored and with nothing to do once the sails were furled. Soon gambling broke out on the deck.
To Dolce’s delight, both Rosie and Lyric, the guitarist from The Thresher, were playing music. And not just cordially, they were competing for attention, each evolving notes from the others’ performance directly before their own and trying to steal the spotlight. It helped chase the thoughts of Shade from Dolce’s mind.
When night was coming on, Dolce was roped into the gambling and drinking. Still, her sharp hearing carried Revel’s words to her when the hobgobglin said, “Huh, that’s a lot of fins.”
Dolce got up from the game, snatching her gold before it vanished, and walked alongside Revel. The hobgoblin was watching the narrow slit of sky in the distance between the opening of the cliff faces. “Fins?” She asked.
“Yeah, they was right there. Shark fins, I think.” Revel didn’t know much about the natural world, but she loved sharks. Could tell you just about anything about them. “There were three of em and.. moving kinda odd.” Dolce watched the water with Revel for a few moments, but Revel seemed to decide the matter bore a more direct investigation even though she had no actual affinity with the creatures. “Be right back,” the hobgoblin said, and hopped overboard. Dolce snorted a little, but hardly had time to respond before Revel called up, “Sahuagin! They’ve jammed the rudder!”
Nasha was overboard next with a splash of her own. Dolce, meanwhile, fished into her satchel and retrieved two Potions of Waterbreathing. She had access to the spell, but it wasn’t prepared and she didn’t really have time to swap it out. Even if it had been, it took a minute to cast. “Here,” the elf said, offering one of the potions to Mirielle.
In the water were three sahuagin accompanied by three sharks. Revel looked over at Nasha. “I’m not keen on fighting sharks,” the hobgoblin said.
“Mm. So fight the ‘riders’.” Nasha prepared herself and waited for the sharks and the sahuagin holding onto their bellies to draw nearer… Revel did the same.
Mirielle took the offered Water Breathing potion and drank it before jumping into the water herself. Once in the sea she called forth her halo in preparation to bolster her healing powers for her comrades.
Dolce had her hand on the rail and was about to drink her own potion when something slammed on the deck behind her. Turning back she saw a creature composed of vines. It seemed to come from the canopy above. Before Dolce could even draw her blade, the creature’s vines lashed out and coiled around her. The elf called out in pain.
The sharks did advance, swimming to the side of Revel. It got a nasty bite in her, but as soon as it had Revel visited similar aggression on its rider, chomping ruthlessly into the sahuagin’s flesh. Nasha swam up behind the sahuagin, who was already quite desperately wounded, and clawed into its back. The life left the creature’s eyes and it’s body drifted from the shark.
The other two sahuagin, seeing this, drew close, but stayed together and had their weapons ready. Their intent seemed to be to force Revel and Nasha to close the distance.
Mirielle, who had heard Dolce cry out above her and seen blood in the water near Revel and Nasha, was quite torn. Rather than choose between her friends she pulled further on her angelic heritage. Her halo grew brighter as the wings of light spread from her back and she took to the air, hovering between her companions in the water and the sailors contending with the creature.
Dolce identified her attacker as a Canopy Creeper. Weak to cold. Great for Dolce, who always had one Chilling Spray prepared in case she needed to slow down her opponents. She struggled against the vines, but was unable to get free. Rather than continue struggling fruitlessly, the elf struggled to free her rapier. She managed to draw the blade, but could do little else.
Just as the plant creature was pulling her toward its gaping maw, another blade cut through the vines. Shade’s blade. ‘Of course it would be the drow that rescues me,’ Dolce thought bitterly. But soon enough he’d cut her free of the vines and she fell to the deck. The crew was engaging the creature, and Dolce saw the glow of Mirielle’s wings nearing the deck.
Revel, with her adrenaline pumping and her fangs bared, shied at the prospect of harming the shark the sahuagin had been clinging to. Nasha could tell her friend was reluctant to attack it, and the lizardfolk said. “Go on, I will handle this.” Revel nodded, and swam off after the other two sharks with their ‘riders’.
Nasha began laying into the shark the first sahuagin had been riding, and her claws cut cleanly through its thick skin. The shark bit back, of course, and Nasha was soon bleeding in the water. Mirielle moved as high as she could while keeping Nasha in the range of her halo’s light and healed her friend in the water. She could see Dolce now, sprawled on the deck while the agitated plant creature turned its attention on Shade.
Dolce was keenly aware of the vines that lashed out and wrapped around Shade. He’d just saved her life and drawn the thing’s attention, and now he was the one tangled up in it. The first barrage had missed, but the drow was snugly wrapped now, and being dragged nearer to the plant creature’s maw.
Dolce got to her feet, rapier still in hand. She hacked at the vines binding Shade, with little effect. Wish some agitation the elf redoubled her efforts, she did just enough damage to cut the drow free. She’d be damned if she’d be in his debt.
Revel bit into the first sahuagin, but she was soon surrounded by both the sahuagin riders and the sharks they rode on. Bite after bite landed on the hobgoblin and the zest of combat wore thin until their attacks were leaving her more ragged.
Nasha, meanwhile, brought the first shark down, leaving it dead in the water, she swam to join her companion. Mirielle flew overhead, looking between Dolce and Revel, she decided the elf was capable of taking care of herself and moved to Revel’s aid. Healing magic reached forth and embraced her companion, knitting her bleeding flesh and granting her renewed determination.
The vines of the plant creature lashed for Dolce again, missing the first time, but securing her the second. It drew her toward its maw and she writhed in the vines, trying to free herself, but again had to be cut free. And again, Shade was the first to do it. The elf scowled, but wasted no time scrambling to her feet and running to the railing.
Revel still looked damn bloody, and Dolce was not comfortable with that. After a moment of consideration she bellowed, “Conch – Fire the ballistae! ALL OF THEM!”
The gnome’s voice boomed with enthusiasm, “Aye aye, Sir! YOU HEARD HER, FIRE THEM ALL!”
Dolce heard him cackling maniacally as the crew scrambled to do as they’d been bidden. Normally it would have amused her, but right now she was just concerned for her friends. The ballistae fired, the shot was awkward because they were so near the ship and in the water, but luckily Revel had baited them close enough to the surface that some of the bolts connected. One of the sharks died. It would take too long to load the ballistae again, so Dolce prepared to dive into the water.
Revel ripped the throat out of one of the two sahuagin and swam at the remaining one. Nasha flanked the opponent, her claws striking true. She nearly laid the creature low. Mirielle’s healing ushered forth, restoring fresh wounds on the hobgoblin. Her wings were beginning to fade.
Dolce was grabbed a third time, and this time the monster actually got its teeth on her before the crew finally slew it. The elf scowled as she pulled herself free of the vines and moved to the edge of the ship to see how her companions battle was going.
The sahuagin and shark made an ineffective onslaught against Revel, and then they were slain at last. Dolce sighed with relief, and even as she did Mirielle alighted on the deck beside her. “That almost seemed coordinated,” the aasimar observed.
“Mm, maybe planned, but I’m doubtful of coordination. Canopy Creepers are not particularly intelligent, but they are normally dormant in the daylight.” Dolce cast her eyes up at the darkening sky.
“Planned then. Did anyone else fall?” Her eyes were scanning the crew, faces both familiar and new.
Dolce shook her head, “Shade and I kept its attention.” She sighed, realizing that in the end he had freed her twice and she was indebted to the bastard. She reached into her satchel and pulled out her healer’s tools, beginning to bandage her wounds. When Shade started to walk away she said, “Hold still. And REVEL, GET UP HERE!”
She needn’t have yelled. The hobgoblin was already climbing aboard the ship. Soon enough Nasha, Revel, Shade, and Dolce were all tended to. Their wounds bandaged and stitched where necessary, and soothing salves applied where they would help.
Nasha had brought a sahuagin aboard. The only one she’d tried to keep alive. Mirielle was quick with the use of a cantrip that let her keep it from slipping into death, and they had one prisoner to question.