S&S: Session 24 – Stars

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!

The next six days were agonizing for Dolce. Each one bringing her closer to the isle she found so loathsome. Shade provided some distraction with his harsh education, and now they had a audience slanted in Dolce’s favor. The elves, those who didn’t immediately vacate the area when Shade drew near, seemed to enjoy watching Dolce best the drow.

Somehow that aggravated Dolce more than Shade catching her off guard did.

On The Purr, Sanev was getting to know all of the females on board. A number of them took the charismatic elf up on his affections. On one particular evening the man approached Nasha as she was stargazing. “It’s Nasha, isn’t it?” He asked.

The lizardfolk looked over at him for a moment before nodding and returning her gaze to the heavens.

“Well, it’s very nice to meet you,” he said, offering his hand. Nasha didn’t notice, so he let it fall back beside him. “I wondered if you would enjoy some company.”

Now Nasha turned toward him again. “You may join me, if you wish to.” She was not accustomed to people making an effort to spend time with her, aside from Owlbear and Jack, but even they had started seeking her out only after she’d made an effort to befriend them.

The male elf sat beside her, looking up at the stars as well. “They are quite wondrous, aren’t they?” Nasha nodded, but said nothing. After a bit of silence the elf said, “What do you find most spectacular about them?”

Nasha was quiet for a time. She got the sense that wondrous and spectacular were words expressing appreciation for the stars… But this was merely from the tone of his voice. Truth be told, Nasha didn’t have the largest vocabulary. Though.. it was growing. “They give us answers about the future,” the lizardfolk said at last.

“Do they?” This seemed to pique the elf’s interest and he was facing her now. “What do they tell you about the future?”

Nasha blinked at the question. She had said ‘us’ but it was not really what she meant. “Nothing.. I am not skilled at reading them in that way.”

“How are you skilled in reading them then?” Sanev asked.

“To guide the way. It is how I know where we are on the ocean. That and the shorelines. Very telling.”

“Hmm.” The elf said, and fell quiet for a few minutes. Eventually he said, “I think I can see a future in them, involving the two of us.” He was attempting to flirt, and conveying as much with his tone and positioning as he angled himself toward Nasha.

The lizardfolk had never been hit on by anyone, and completely missed his cues. “Do you?” She was looking straight at him, wondering what the stars foretold of them.

Sanev blinked as he realized she hadn’t picked up on his intention. “Erm, yes. You could say, of our.. immediate futures intertwining.” Nasha continued waiting for him to further explain. He sighed and placed his hand on hers, “Do you want to sleep with me?”

She still didn’t take his meaning, asking, “Why? Are you cold?”

Flustered, the elf spoke slowly, as though she didn’t know common well, and asked, “Do you want to have sex with me?”

Now Nasha knew what he meant. What an odd and fumbled way to convey his desire. And.. what an odd desire. The feel of his warm hand on her cold scales was nice, but no. She decided she was not interested in elven mating practices. Surely her tribe didn’t need her to gather knowledge of those particular customs. “No,” she said simply.

The elf sighed and got to his feet grumbling, “Your loss.”

Nasha watched as he stalked away toward the hatch that led below deck. “Strange…” Then her gaze returned to the heavens and she didn’t give Sanev a further thought.

Homecoming

As they drew nearer to Kepre Dua, Sanev sought an audience with Mirielle. It was easy enough to obtain since they were on relatively good terms. The man had not hit on Mirielle and had somehow managed to sleep with various females among the crew without making them angry at one another.

“What can I do for you?” Mirielle asked.

“Right to the point, Captain. Well, we are nearly at Alendruan Harbor. I wanted to discuss the means of you gathering your reward,” Sanev said.

“Very well. When we reach the harbor The Barbarous Hook will dock and Dolce will go on land to collect our ‘reward’ before we release you. I’m sure your father wouldn’t want anything to happen to you,” the captain said.

The elf nodded. “This is true…” he admitted, but then went on, “I think however, you would gain more benefit from approaching the matter in a different manner.”

Mirielle fixed him in her gaze and said, “Enlighten me then.”

“Well, Captain, if we make land and Dolce goes seeking your reward it will seem rather as though you are ransoming me… Which, you are welcome to do if that’s how you want to handle that… But Captain Haryk is not really in a position to be making enemies right now… So if you instead send Dolce and myself ashore together perhaps you can come out of this with an alliance.” He was smiling. He didn’t seem to have ulterior motives, except perhaps appearing less foolish in his father’s eyes.

“Know that there would be consequences if she returned empty handed. Perhaps not today, in your home port, but at some future date.” Mirielle was being serious, primarily because this conversation was had in the open air outside of her cabin’s privacy and her crewmen would soon see her let their guarantee of payment leave the ship with only Dolce beside him.

“Yes, I- I understand, Captain,” Sanev said.

Mirielle nodded and moved to the railing on the side nearest The Barbarous Hook. She used one of Dolce’s prized signal whistles to make a single long tone until she heard Dolce’s voice whisper in her ear, “Yes, Captain?”

Mirielle said simply, “You will accompany Sanev on shore.”

Dolce scowled, but would obey. They needed to transfer Shade back to The Purr anyhow. He would not live long if he docked with The Barbarous Hook. Indeed, none who landed on Kepre Dua that weren’t of elven lineage lived long.. Not even half-elves.

Dolce and Sanev went directly from the docks to Haryk’s estate. The servant received them readily and guided them to the lord of the residence. Dolce was shocked when she saw Haryk. He was missing his legs completely and seated in a chair to which wheels had been mounted. Thanks to her skill at deceit, Haryk was none the wiser. Haryk grumbled a greeting to Dolce and his son.

Sanev explained that The Purr had aided The Hook in returning to port, raising his father’s ire. When he further explained that The Purr had not been the cause of The Hook requiring assistance, his father asked what was… Sanev sheepishly admitted they’d damaged their vessel on a shallow reef and was soon met with cursing and ridicule before being dismissed by Haryk.

Dolce was just wondering if Haryk remembered her when the elf said, “It seems you’ve made quite a name for yourself, Inara.”

She felt satisfaction. She’d begged the man to let her take any role even aboard his weakest vessel and been turned away, but regret was clear in his voice. She hid her smugness, difficult though it was to do so and said simply, “I have come a long way.”

“The boy said he promised you a reward, eh? There’s plunder in the hold of The Sodden Manger. I won’t be in a position to sell it any time soon, that much is for certain. Is this acceptable to you and your captain?” His voice was dry, but a hint of humor carried in it.

Dolce was impressed he could make a joke about his ‘position’. She didn’t think she would have been able to if she’d lost her legs, and thus the sea. She simply nodded, “I’m sure it will suffice, Captain.” Much as she enjoyed having overcome his doubts about her inexperience and abilities, Dolce still respected the elf as a pirate.

“Very good,” he said and turned his chair with his arms. A servant moved to push him forward in it, but he struck their hand hard and they quickly withdrew. “She’s this way.”

The Sodden Manger was one of Haryk’s favored ships, though not his flagship. Haryk had many, but Dolce was fairly certain she knew them all. It was strange passing through town. Both on the way in and the way out Dolce had taken note that most of the elves seemed almost in a stupor. It gave her shivers and made her want off the island even more urgently.

When they reached The Manger, Dolce received permission for The Purr to come abreast of her to unload the hold. No boots would set foot on the dock, she assured Haryk. He posted guards to be certain it was so. Dolce oversaw the transfer of the goods and bid Haryk farewell before boarding The Purr again. She could have visited her parents, but she hated being on the island again at all and had no wish to spend the time necessary to hunt them down.

So it was that as quickly as she’d come to Kepre Dua, she left it again. She did, however, make time to tell Mirielle, Nasha, and Revel that her born name was Inara. She explained to them that it was not the elves’ custom to share their birth names with non-elves, but that she felt like these three were closer to her than her own family and it seemed strange relative strangers like Sanev and Haryk should know her true name while her chosen ‘kin’ did not.

Port Peril

They docked at Port Peril. Here the plunder would be sold and Dolce would spend a good bit of coin outfitting Kuzayoni with a fine alchemist’s lab and tools to use with it. As they were overseeing the unloading of their cargo a familiar mast caught Dolce’s eye. It was the Bonaventure and aboard none other than Captain Merrill Peggsworthy.

The elf smiled and used a Message spell to whisper in his ear, “Fancy seeing you here, Captain Pegsworthy.”

The man startled and looked around him before catching sight of Dolce on The Purr. He shook his head and waved at her before leaving his own ship to make his way over to theirs. “Dolce!”

“Captain,” Dolce inclined her head before hugging Pegsworthy. The two had established rapport in Rickety’s Squibbs. “What brings you to Port Peril?”

“Oh, business as usual. And there is the lovely Free Captain Mirielle!” He did a flourished bow to Mirielle. “Congratulations!”

Mirielle beamed at Captain Pegsworthy. “Thank you.”

“I was sad when I heard I missed your celebration. I tell you what, let’s have another one, shall we? I know a good place, and it will be my treat!”

“Careful offering that, I can drink a lot!” Revel exclaimed from behind Pegsworthy.

Captain Pegsworthy looked over at her and smiled. “Can’t be as much as my first mate.”

Brimvi, Pegsworthy’s dwarven first mate, indeed had a reputation for drinking, but Revel didn’t know this as she said, “That sounds like a challenge.”

Captain Pegsworthy laughed good-humoredly and looked back to Mirielle. “Well, how about that celebration?”

“Sure,” Mirielle said. “We’ll meet you there as it’s growing dark?”

“Sounds like a plan to me. I’ll see you at The Riptide Alehouse then,” Pegsworthy said. He tipped his hat to them and left the deck of The Purr to oversee his own ship’s operations.

They met at the appointed time. The girls arrived before Pegsworthy. They had brought Quinn and Kuzayoni along. Dolce had taken advantage of the opportunity to show Kuzayoni the city on the way. The woman was rather overwhelmed by the sheer amount of bodies in the city, but still didn’t seem adverse to the idea of enjoying a drink with an old friend of theirs.

Just as Pegsworthy had approached the table Mirielle caught sight of a familiar face. Caulky Tarroon. She was the cabin girl from The Wormwood, and she had slipped something into someone’s drink. Caulky saw Mirielle looking at her before the aasimar could look away. “We might want to choose another tavern,” Mirielle said softly.

“Oh? Why’s that?” Pegsworthy asked.

“Looks like The Wormwood is recruiting in this one,” Mirielle said. again keeping her voice quiet. Pegsworthy followed her gaze.

“What is this swill” An angry voice demanded from near Caulky. Revel quickly realized a fight was about to break out when the tainted ale sloshed onto another man who bellowed in turn, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

The hobgoblin also noted Caulky was about to slink away. She sprang to her feet and from her 4’4″ height bellowed, “YOU BETTER STAY STILL AND SHUT UP!” Her eyes made contact with several people, in particular the ones who seemed the rowdiest and Caulky herself. All of them froze and the noise of the establishment came to a complete standstill as Revel singled out Caulky. “You, come here.”

Caulky visibly trembled, but nodded and moved forward. Dolce, watching this unfold before her, quietly said to Pegsworthy, “That’s why we call her The Shark.”

The Free Captain looked impressed as he nodded. Then all but Dolce and Nasha followed Caulky and Revel outside. It was clear chaos was going to break out only moments after Revel left, for everyone’s fear lifted and they started yelling again. Dolce tried to quiet them, raising her voice above the cacophony to say, “Please, calm down, there’s no need for trouble.”

No one responded to the elf’s request. She tried a time or two more and then shrugged her shoulders at the bartender, mouthing ‘I’m sorry’ before following Mirielle and the others out front with Nasha. The guard in Port Peril did not take kind to disruptions like this and Dolce had no desire to be detained.

It wasn’t hard to catch up to the others. When they did they heard Caulky confirming that The Wormwood was still recruiting because they were hard up for crew. The girl then said, “Please, if you let me go I won’t tell Captain Harrigan you’re here.”

Revel blinked, realizing this plea was motivated by fear. The hobgoblin snorted and said, “Relax, Kid. I don’t eat children.”

Something about the way Caulky had responded to Revel’s statement tickled Dolce’s mind. Satisfaction about a.. deceit? The elf passed her hand over her magical astrolabe, Svingli’s Eye it was known as. She’d plucked it off the corpse of Captain Inkskin before leaving her with Shade. It had a unique property.. A single time per day if a person focused upon the astrolabe while looking at their surroundings they could see things as they truly were. This momentary action made Caulky suddenly appear as a ghostly image overlaying a rather short, human female. An adult by all accounts. Interesting. Dolce made no indication of what she now knew and watched as Revel continued talking with the ‘girl’.

Meanwhile, Revel went so far as to ruffle Caulky’s hair before saying, “What have you been doing anyway? Harrigan’s been busy for quite a while now.”

“I don’t know. He doesn’t tell me what he’s doing,” Caulky said, sounding distressed. “We’ve just been travelling a lot and we need more crew. Can I go now?”

Revel hesitated and looked at Mirielle, who nodded. “Yeah, pipsqueak. Get lost.” No sooner had she said the words than Caulky was running away. “She’s gonna tell ‘im,” Revel said when she was out of earshot.

“She certainly will,” Mirielle said. She’d sensed the lie was just an effort to get away from the scary hobgoblin. She didn’t blame Caulky for that. She was sometimes scared of Revel’s antics and Revel was on her side!

“In the future,” Dolce said softly, “You needn’t worry about harming her. She’s not a child.”

They all blinked in surprise and looked at her. “What the hell are you on about?” Revel asked.

“It is a magical disguise.” the elf explained.

“You mean she’s got-” Revel started.

Dolce realized quickly Revel had thought of Dolce’s own preferred spell to disguise herself and so she cut the hobgoblin off before any of her tricks were revealed to Captain Pegsworthy, who was still among them. “Transmutation magic, Revel. She’s actually a very rare creature, much like our Captain.”

“She’s angel-blooded?” Revel asked now.

Dolce saw Pegsworthy take another look at Mirielle, like a puzzle piece had just fallen into place for him. Those rumors of Mirielle’s heritage were ones Dolce did want to go around, so she made no effort to deny that. “No. She’s a changeling. They can change their appearance with the use of a spell known as Humanoid Shape. However, it is usually a fleeting effect. Caulky must have some method of extending hers”

Mirielle absorbed all of this and then turned her attention back to Captain Pegsworthy, “Well, whether or not she tells Captain Harrigan we are here, we’re safe for the time being. Do you want to get that drink elsewhere?”

“Yeah!” Revel said, “And where’s your second?”

Captain Pegsworthy blinked at the hobgoblin’s question. “I, didn’t realize I should bring him,” the captain said.

“How am I gonna drink him under the table if he isn’t here?” Revel asked.

Pegsworthy chuckled for a time. “Let me go and fetch him. There’s another alehouse just up the way. We’ll meet you there, alright?”

Revel nodded. Nasha, who had remained quiet this whole time, simply shadowing her friends and taking in everything they were learning, asked, “Why does it not bother people that Revel eats those she battles?”

The other girls blinked in surprise at Nasha’s question. Mirielle was the first to speak, “If I’m being honest, it does… well, unnerve me a bit. Especially when she screams about how good it tastes after taking a bite out of someone.”

Revel blinked now and looked at Mirielle. “Why would that bother you?” the hobgoblin asked. “Not like I’d ever bite you!”

Mirielle blushed under the scrutiny of her Master-at-Arms. “Well, it’s just- It, it’s rather violent.” Dolce stifled a giggle, but Mirielle still caught it and fixed the elf in her gaze. “Does it not bother you, Dolce?”

The elf looked at Revel and then back at Mirielle. “I mean, it’s weird, but it doesn’t concern me.. Anymore… It did take some getting used to, but… if anything I think it makes her scarier to our enemies, and that’s a good thing in my book.”

“So you do not object because you like that it bothers others?” Nasha asked, looking at Dolce. Dolce considered that for a moment and nodded. The lizardfolk turned her gaze on Mirielle. “Why do you not object?”

Mirielle blinked as all three of them looked at her again. “Umm, well, it’s just.. she’s rather in the moment… You know, like, caught up in the heat of battle? And it’s.. it’s how she fights. I mean, I probably would object if she tried to eat someone when we weren’t actively fighting them?” She fidgeted, her cheeks were still pink from being under their scrutiny.

Revel snorted. “You don’t have to worry, Cap. Blood just tastes like blood when I’m not The Shark. There’s something about it when that energy overtakes me… Even my sense of smell is sharper in the thick of things.” Her eyes almost rolled in delight, like she was conjuring to mind the taste of her favorite chocolate. Mirielle shuddered a little. “You’re cute though, Cap,” the hobgoblin said, and then bopped Mirielle’s nose.

Dolce now burst into giggles as Mirielle’s cheeks turned a much darker red. “You’ll never escape it, Captain, you know that right?”

The aasimar actually covered her cheeks. “I would if you wouldn’t egg people on!” she insisted.

Dolce had a habit of singing about Mirielle as a fearsome tactician on sea and a leader who could rally her men as well as revitalize them, but relating stories to tavern rooms of her captain blushing. The result being that half the time people spoke to Mirielle with deep respect, and the other half they tried their damnedest to turn her cheeks pink.

The girls moved along toward the alehouse Pegsworthy had indicated. The rest of the night passed peacefully enough, with Revel drinking Brimvi under the table. Dolce lost money betting on the dwarf, but Mirielle made it back betting on Revel, who told Dolce her loss served her right betting against a friend.

Dolce made sure Kuzayoni had comfortable quarters at The Gelded Devil, her and Mirielle’s inn of choice. Kuzayoni drew a small bit of attention for her clothing of choice, but bare-breasted women weren’t that uncommon in Port Peril. They went shopping in the morning. While she was still rather overwhelmed by the mass of people in Port Peril, Kuzayoni retained enough clarity to appreciate the quality of the tools she and Dolce procured while there.

Unfamiliar Customs

Mirielle and Quinn stayed at The Gelded Devil as well, sharing meals with Dolce and Kuzayoni while they were there. Revel and Nasha had gotten rooms at The Copper Topper again and enjoyed their stay at the noisy inn.

On their second day in Port Peril Jack Scrimshaw noticed Nasha was behaving oddly. Rather than following him around to keep him out of trouble and playing with him, the lizardfolk was keeping to their room and seeming introspective. Eventually the youth asked, “What’s wrong, Mama Nasha?”

Nasha was surprised by his question and returned it with one of her own. “Why would you think something is wrong?”

Jack put his hands on his hips and said, “You’re acting weird.”

“Am I?” She was asking in earnest, though she soon realized why he thought it was strange. “Ah, I see, I see. Today, young Jack, is the completion of my 27th year of life outside of my egg. On these days I reflect upon my journey thus far.”

Jack looked at her for a moment in confusion, then said, “Wait, it’s your nameday!?”

Nasha nodded. “I believe that is what you call it, yes.”

“And you didn’t tell me!?” Jack asked, sounding quite upset.

Nasha blinked slowly and said, “I did not think it was a matter of significance.”

“What!? Of course it is! What’s wrong with you, Mama Nasha!?”

He was gone before she could respond. Nasha wondered what had him so flustered. She shrugged it off and returned to her meditation. She did not see Jack again until mid-afternoon, but when she did he came inside with a plate bearing a cake covered in blueberries.

He set the plate down in front of Nasha on the bed. “There! Sheesh! You can’t do that! Namedays are important!”

“Important,” Owlbear echoed Jack, bouncing up and down a little and eyeing Nasha’s cake like it might try to crawl away if he didn’t watch it.

Nasha tilted her head a little. “I have seen this before. It is a nameday celebration?”

Jack sighed and sat down on one of the other beds in the room. “Not always. Sometimes people just want cake, but most people have some on their nameday.” Nasha nodded a little, but seemed to be waiting for further explanation. Jack ran a hand through his hair and said, “You do it with your family and closest friends. I couldn’t not do something with you, Mama Nasha.” The lad actually looked like he might cry a little.

Nasha, who found herself rather touched by his explanation, reached over and pulled on Jack’s arm, tugging him into a hug. “You are a sweet boy, Jack.”

“Aww, stop it!” Jack hugged her back briefly despite his protesting, but soon tried to wriggle out of her grasp lest she get too used to this.

Nasha let the boy go and watched as Jack cut a slice of cake for her. “Try it! It’s blueberry, to match your scales!”

The lizardfolk blinked. She’d not even thought of the fact that she had blue scales when she’d seen the cake he’d chosen. It was a strange reason to choose a food. “Does the closeness of something’s color to your skin make it taste better?” This honestly had never occurred to Nasha as a possibility.

Clearly it hadn’t occurred to Jack either who regarded her with surprise and said, “What? No! Just try some!” Nasha took the piece of cake from him and used her claw to cut out a portion. She gulped it down, hardly giving it a moment in her mouth. Jack definitely noticed as he said, “What are you doing!? That’s not how you eat cake!”

Nasha started chuckling, a sound she did not often make and which could be confused with hissing. Jack blinked and then put his hands on his hips again. Nasha took another bite, this time normally so she could actually taste the ingredients. “It is good, Jack.”

Jack smiled and hugged her again. “I’m glad. I love you, Mama Nasha.” He nuzzled into the scales of her chest as he said it.

Nasha felt more than just the warmth of his body in her scales as he spoke the words. She had been reflecting on what it meant that she was beginning to feel closer to some of the pirates than her tribe before he’d questioned her about her ‘strange’ behavior. Now she knew they were truly her new family and she quietly said, “I love you too.”

New Friends

Four days into their stay, as The Purr was getting refitted with rapid-deploy sails, a Vudrani man approached Dolce, Mirielle, Quinn, and Kuzayoni as they were eating dinner. He gave his name as Asemari and informed them that he was an agent of Captain Tessa Fairwind, a well known Free Captain with an impressive fleet. He said they had been invited to dinner with her on the following day and handed them a sealed letter.

Mirielle opened the letter, which shimmered with some faint magical effect, and read its contents. Indeed they had been invited to dine with Tessa Fairwind, but she bid them come at lunch rather than dinner. It was rather curious to Mirielle that she should go to the effort of misdirecting observers, but the captain met Asemari’s eyes and said she would join Captain Fairwind for dinner.

When they went the next day Dolce used a Veil spell to disguise them. The servant greeted them at the door and Dolce dismissed the effect on just Mirielle to gain them entry. Within they were led to Tessa Fairwind and enjoyed a lavish meal with her as she explained she wished them to investigate the possibility of Cheliax spies in the Shackles. She also extended Mirielle the offer of allying with her, which Mirielle declined.

They left the meeting and finished their business in Port Peril before heading off to Quent as Tessa Fairwind had suggested.

OOC Notes

So Nasha is decent at reading people, but she’s been living among humans for 11 years and mostly viewed as a strange creature by them. It never occurred to her that anyone hit on her, resulting in the bruised ego of Sanev after their humorous conversation.

So Revel specializes in intimidation. She has feats that let her do it after a single round of interaction (so 6 seconds) instead of a minute, as well as feats that let her target more than 1 person at a time. She can target 10 people with the same check. It felt pretty epic to just stand up and just be like, ‘You better shut up and listen to me’ and have the fight stop for a second. Most of my characters don’t go the intimidation route so it’s definitely a change of pace.

Owlbrarian told me he had completely forgotten about the ability granted by Svingli’s Eye until I used it. Only Dolce made the perception check to notice Caulky’s reaction because Dolce is suspicious of everyone that isn’t part of The Purr‘s crew. It just so happened I’d assigned the astrolabe to Dolce. It’s a small necklace she’s wearing. So when I picked up on amusement from Caulky I used the item, and got some bonus exp for figuring out Caulky’s surprise.

So, I could have fleshed out the meeting with Tessa Fairwind, but mostly it was just a meeting with a charismatic and scheming free captain that Dolce respected, so I decided not to. I really wanted to be caught up when we play again tomorrow, and this post officially has accomplished that, but if I’d fleshed out that meeting I might well have decided to make yet another post. I’m sure we will meet with Fairwind again, and at that time I’ll give her a bit more attention.

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