For thirty years, I’ve sailed the seas and seen good and bad, better and worse, fair weather and foul, provisions running out, knives going, and what not. Well, now I tell you, I never seen good come o’ goodness yet.
At the end of our last episode, the Castaways were in a quandary: surrounded by the scoundrelly smugglers of the Red Gull, with a chance of being sold to slavery or, if things went well, sold out to a known crime lord. As the party debated their options, Kor’lec snuck off and murdered Captain Snake-Eyes in his sleep!
To dispose of the body, the desperate druid was forced to drag the pudgy carcass of old Sigurd onto the caravel’s deck, where his crime was reported — loudly — by the ship’s lizardman lookout Gortross.
If anyone could have asked Kor’lec, just then, why he did what he did, there might have been one answer: he was too fat to stuff through the porthole.
Spring Upon Her Cable
Back in the cargo hold, the Castaways heard the hue-and-cry and prepared for action. Already, the rest of the crew were responding to the lookout’s barking claxon and rousing themselves against the implicated passengers. Likewise, the Castaways’ allies awoke to the sounds of imminent combat. “How long was that?” asked Gelik, to Jask, who was sitting up in his bedroll. “About thirty-six hours,” answered the priest. “Ha!” the gnome exclaimed, “I’m way closer! You owe me ten crowns. Pay up old-timer!”
“What’s happening?” asked a sleepy-eyed Aerys. “Looks like we’re going to take over the ship,” replied Kishtari, nonplussed. Aerys broke into near-hysterics. “We cant! We’re guests! There’s a code!” blurted the pirate before somehow managing to explain that as evacuees, they had a debt to their rescuers. Betraying that hospitality discouraged ships at sea from rescuing other stranded souls.
If Aerys was in near-hysterics, Monica was full-fucking-on — then just… snapped.
“Listen to her! We can’t do this! I don’t want to be a pirate!” the human archaeologist protested.
Meanwhile, the ship’s bosun, the hideous Foul Frithoth, emerged from his cabin aft of the cargo hold where the Castaways were arrayed. He was leveraging a pistol to his left. “Best you stand down,” the smuggler gloated, “lest the little girlie here get shot, point blank.” The weapon was trained on Sasha, or at least, the shadowy nook where the teen was thought to be sleeping. The heroes couldn’t see her from their position, but it was a good bet Frithoth wasn’t bluffing.
Speaking of shadows, Tyst was like a blur, his exotic straight-blade drawn as he vaulted to within stabbing distance of the smuggler. The cagey Frithoth sidestepped the blade and started to squeeze the trigger before he swooned and collapsed in a slumbering heap.
“You’re welcome,” Kish said, her eyes aglow from the psionic expenditure.
The next thing Tyst saw was the peacefully sleeping Sasha roll out of her sleeping bag in one fluid motion, kukri in hand, giggling as she ran the curved blade across the unconscious gunman’s throat. The blood sprayed and pooled around the assassins. “There’s a girl,” Tyst praised, before his emerging inner beast began to take hold in a gruesome metamorphosis.
As the halfling’s muscles and bones twisted, bolts fired from the crew’s sleeping area fore of the cargo hold plinked around the heroes. Four of the smugglers had kicked over their room’s card table and were firing from behind it. Their aim wasn’t that good, and the party paid the volley little heed as they quickly coordinated their response. Dornas had a tough time believing that that Kor’lec, presently absent from view, was responsible for whatever the Red Gull crew were accusing them of. He insisted on going topside, and Monica followed, still urgently echoing Aerys’s protests about hijacking their rescuers’ vessel.
“I’ll protect the treasure!” Likki said, before heading down to the bilge where he’d been catching rats that were, to his savage mind, more valuable and delicious than anything that glistened. “Better follow us,” Dornas corrected. The rest stayed in the lower deck to deal with the crossbowmen, though Kish turned to Aerys with an intent to calm the Shackles-bred woman down.
Kish knelt in front Aerys and looked deep into her eyes before accentuating her calming words with a little psionic coersion. Kishtari felt her charm fizzle against the rugged half-elf’s will. The telepathic persuasion failed, and Aerys’s determination and passion won out.
Aerys grabbed Kishtari’s head and pulled her face to hers, and with the sounds of battle and incoming missile fire fading into the back of their thoughts, the women lost themselves in a long yearned for — and long-lasting — kiss.
Dornas emerged on the upper deck to find Kor’lec and Kai beset from all sides. The druid presented a swashbuckling figure with his tricorne hat and cutlass, his curved blade desperately parrying punishing blows from the burly lizardman’s bastard sword. Smugglers were shooting crossbows at them from the raised forecastle, poop deck, and crow’s nest. The scowling Taldan moved to his comrade’s side and rapped him on the shoulder. “Congratulations,” Dornas chided, “you’ve put a big red target on ‘your’ island.”
From the poop deck, the Kaava halfling Punketah took to the air, revealing wild psychic abilities as he levitated hovered over the melee. His veiny forehead pulsed and bulged as he called down to the Castaways. “Lay down your arms or be annihilated!” he rasped. At the wheel, the dwarven First Mate, Bloodbeard Bjorn, echoed his pygmy crewman’s warning. “Best do as he says, landlubbers!”
“No, keep fighting,” Gortross hissed between chops of his broadsword, “so I can swab the deck with your guts.” Kor’lec twisted and deflected blow after blow while Kai was being harried by the lizardfolk’s airborne companion, the averaptoran Craw-craw.
Monica emerged to proclaim, in a shocking turn, “we surrender!” In an even more shocking turn, the archaeologist drew her double-barreled pistol and aimed it at Kor’lec! For a moment, her trusted companions believed the Taldan woman had some trick up her sleeve. Then she opened fire, putting a bullet in Kor’lec’s lower back before dropping the weapon and kneeling, hands behind her head.
Dornas joined her. But Monica’s countryman had something up his sleeve. The magus picked up her very expensive gun and tossed it overboard. “We don’t surrender, actually.” Dornas stared knives at Monica before taking to the air to deal with the flying halfling.
“No quarter!” shouted the First Mate.
Fervor Down Below
“I… I love someone,” Aerys meekly whispered, before Kishtari drew the half-elf’s lips back to her own. They were fighters, acutely aware of the battle around them, their own place in the line of enemy fire, and Tyst in full beast-form barrelling past them on the way to do something to their foes that the word ‘murder’ seemed too gentle a word for. But in that moment Kish and Aerys were invincible in their vulnerability, and nothing else mattered save yielding to the world and to each other.
One of the smuggler’s bolts tore Kishtari’s flank as it zinged past. “Hold on,” the psion said, and with a hand wave three of the four crewmen dropped their weapons and crumpled into quiescence. “Thanks for leaving ONE,” roared Tyst, barely intelligible in dire badger form. The last of the crossbowmen gulped, emptied his bladder and bowels, and was mauled with the ferocity of a dozen bears.
All Hands on Death!
Likki passed Monica on the way to heal Kor’lec, shaking his head. “Why you hurt your family?” The sentiment was plain — but in Abyssal, as Monica herself once pointed out, it sounded like the harshest curse. Meanwhile, the halfling witch-doctor had blanketed the melee beneath him in magical webbing. Monica and Likki were held fast, as was Kor’lec and his reptilian aggressor. Dornas deftly skirted past the sticky strands on the way up to meet Punketah in aerial combat, staff twirling. “I’ve longed to measure my power against a magus,” boasted the halfling, “now BURN.” Flames fanned out from the Kaava pygmy’s fingertips, singing Dornas.
Monica freed herself from the webbing and reminded the Red Gull crewmen she wasn’t on the side of the hijackers, a.k.a. the people whose lives she’d equally saved and depended upon for the last few weeks. “Then help us take ’em down!” shouted Bloodbeard Bjorn, still fighting with the ship’s wheel on the choppy sea. Kor’lec was battling blood-loss, the webs, and a bloodthirsty lizardfolk — and losing. “Could use a little help here, Likki,” reported the druid. The oracle needn’t of understood the exact words to know his friend was hurting for curative magic. “I sorry I stuck!” apologized the monkey goblin in the demon tongue. “I’ll take care of him,” threatened Monica, before flashing her rapier at the injured half-elf.
Dornas answered Punketah’s not-really-all-that-impressive fire magic with a little alchemy, and hurled a tanglefoot bag. The goo burst upon the halfling, effectively neutralizing the spellcaster and rendering him a little less sure of his aerial alacrity.
Finally, the others emerged topside. Tyst, Kish, and Aerys, the latter still sort-of complaining about circumstantial maritime codes. Kishtari had mollified the pirate a bit by promising her captaincy of their brand new ship — if the kiss hadn’t done so already. Sasha remained below to make sure the sleeping crewmen wouldn’t be any more trouble, and everyone understood that really meant making sure they couldn’t be any more trouble, forever.
In her smartest move of the night, Monica surrendered, again. Tyst and Kish were around now. Tyst in beast mode could barely tell friend from foe under the best circumstances and Kishtari was even less likely to put up with any of Monica’s apologist nonsense. Kai finally broke away from the flying dinosaur and the human crewman she’d been tangling with, to help her master put the old flank-and-finish to Gortross. As he hissed out his final breaths, it was the lizardman who noticed he was swabbing the deck with his guts, while his animal companion, now just an animal, flew away.
Kor’lec managed to weave his webbed hands into a spell that burst radiantly on the poop deck, blinding and injuring the villains arrayed there, including the glue-covered halfling who was floating back down to regroup with his allies. Punketah called out for someone to help him remove the tarry goop from his person, and received only snores in return, thanks to Kishtari’s psionic lullaby. In desperation, the witch-doctor blindly flew off for the shore — and was intercepted in mid-air by Tyst. The lycanthrope ninja had clawed up the wall of the aft section and launched himself an impossible vertical distance toward the fleeing smuggler. Claws met flesh, and with a sickening rip, the Kaava pygmy’s midriff and legs plopped down on the deck in a deluge of gore, while his torso continued to soar, for a short distance, over and into the sea.
Tyst landed, and spat the chunks of vertebrae off of his tusks. “Creepy halfling,” he growled, and shook blood from his splattered pelt.
Red Gull Smugglers, CR 10: 4,400
+ 250 for Finishing Move on Punketeh
Total: 4,650 ÷ 5 = 930
26% percent of the way to level 6
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The lessons of course are based on the information you had at the time, which is being retconned so that all the players can continue to play their characters, and all the players can, more or less, trust the other characters in dangerous situations. That’s the foundation of the game, and that’s why I’m never again entertaining actions that put that foundation at risk. No conscious (i.e. some “in-game” effect) PVP.