James (“Captain Bloodbeard”): Warrior/4
*Bjorn Berber: Dwarf/4
Wilber Wifflelinks: Halfling/3
Maladian the Red: Wizard/2
Thistle: Elven Forester/0
*We begin this episode with some background action…
While Toad was off having all the fun, Maladian the Red set himself to learning the magic shield spell from a scroll that’d been yoinked from the Emerald Enchanter’s citadel.
Bjorn continues drinking the pub - newly named the Devil's Head Tavern, with a logo that's probably drawing flies by now - dry, in an attempt to create demand for Dead Goblin Ale. So he's spending money with the intent of earning it back later. Krum keeps him company...pretty sure the dwarves have to help each other up onto the barstools. Remus keeps an eye on Bjorn, deeply concerned for his friend’s mental state (having lost half his Intelligence while fleeing from eyeballs in the walls).
Toad is intent on looking into the local slave traders, as he escaped the chains before becoming acquainted with his owners. In his covert diggings, he uncovers a reference to House Tormanu, but he’s not sure if they’re the buyers or sellers in the city of Great Bell.
Amariah, finding herself a fledgling wizard with a dim future, has been spending a bit of time dancing in some seedier establishments in order to gain a few extra coins.
Terezi, formerly a ropemaker for the gallows, is all about finding people with bounties on their heads, as they must be brought to justice. She is a bit surprised, therefore, to find a wanted poster tacked up in the thieves’ guild with woodcuts of very young images of some of her companions. A collage of six individuals (Bjorn, James, Garrett, Nalo, Morgren, and Wilber) is squeezed onto one page, and the caption declares the group “Wanted for acts of Piracy.” Instead of a “report to” or “see so-and-so for reward” byline, there is only an image of an eye, and the words “Squalor Court” stamped below.
She brings this page directly to their home base, Paragon, docked in the northern piers of Great Bell. Terezi demands answers of James and the accused halflings, who of course plead innocent (this is especially hilarious given James’s moniker and uniform of red captain’s coat, taken as spoils after killing Savage Quenn eons ago). They see no way of following the lead except to ask for directions to “the Court of Squalor” from a nearby deckhand. Soon they are wading through the tents of a crowded market, finally finding one stitched with weird sigils. The beaded curtain gives them pause, as they push through the tiny skulls of birds and vermin to enter. The crone inside has a third eye tattooed on her forehead and they’re sure they’ve found the right place. She bids them sit and shuffles a stack of cards, placing them in front of Rielle, the halfling gypsy, to reveal each.
First draw: The Moon. “The Matron’s cycle is one of give and take, exhaustion and renewal. She will remember the stillborn with the next waxen turn.”
Second card: The Fool. “Foolish is he who tries to undo the past. Better he is to return to his beginnings, and there rid himself of corruption.”
Next flip: The Beggar. “The home of the Lonely Mermaid has fallen, just as House Tormanu. The greedy one wishes to make the Tower rise once more.”
Last one: Death. “Death laughs at the ploys of forgotten women. Feathers, scales; skyward of skin-bound asea; all gamble the lives of their followers.”
Snarky comments follow each draw from the onlookers, but the old woman ignores them. Each person then selects a card they identify with, in return for a various boon of sorts to assist them in them in their perilous endeavors…although they’re not certain where to turn. The crone suggests they go play chess before deciding, so they immediately head to the Devil’s Head, hoping to join a game while filling in the dwarves on the madness thus far. There are no active chess boards, but as the group is regurgitating all of this to Bjorn and Krum, a deep voice chimes in from an old, dark-skinned man, who informs them that they have made a terrible enemy of Brady. Bjorn has the niggling sensation that he’s seen this man before, and James finally places him as Rook, the old seaman who helped them out back at the Lonely Mermaid, the first tavern they hit after taking over the Dead Goblin Brewery. Maladian puts the name to the clue from the fortune-teller, and the party presses Rook for further information. Brady, the merchant who sent them out to the cursed tower for the Black Pearl (“and then screwed us over,” Bjorn adds), has been after them ever since they so rudely refused to sell Paragon to him. Brady sent other sailors south on the Empyrean Ocean to catch up with them when they left the little shanty town. The Black Mariah (Quenn’s old ship) is currently in town – in the quiet/seedy south docks, away from the commercial traffic.
They head to the south docks immediately (I don’t think they blinked before making that decision), and sure enough, a black caravel with a particularly attractive figurehead is docked alone. Save for the sound of waves lapping at the hull and the occasional shifting of the dock planks, it’s eerily quiet. Wilber wants to burn the ship. James is steadfastly against this. As a result, they are the first two on board, and James leaps up to the quarterdeck, where he is set upon by men in sailing garb with blue skin who seem to…flicker, as if having trouble remaining in existence. While he has no problem connecting with them in combat, they are not easily felled. Wilber encounters the same men on the main deck, including one with a tricorn who is dubbed the “Captain” of this semi-corporeal crew. Wilber, pipe in mouth, stands on the hatch and opens a vial of oil, then blows the lit ash down belowdecks, spending 5 pts of Luck for the action. (He is unable to see below and does not know what happens to it afterward.) Down on the dock, Terezi pines for a way to break into the rear cabins without having to wade through combat, so Amariah lends her a grappling hook and Terezi secures a rope inside the porthole so the two can begin scaling the rope. One of the blue sailors up on the quarterdeck wallops Wilber for his troubles – with a black stream of pain! Rielle and Thistle aren’t sure they can hold their own, and remain on the dock, firing arrows at the swarm of foes trying to overtake Wilber. Maladian sees the magic coming from the quarterdeck and retaliates in kind with his own magic missile. Remus remains on the dock as well, but casts paralysis and successfully pins 3 of the sailors on the main deck, making them easy targets for Krum, who runs up to assist Wilber in providing targets for the captain (the dwarf can’t land a hit to save his life, even against the paralyzed foes). James kills the first of the blue men, and the corpse flickers a couple of times…and fades from this plane. Wilber scores a critical hit on the enemy captain, but is nailed with the same in retaliation, killing the halfling. Terezi makes it into a disappointingly empty cabin, but Amariah falls off the rope into the harbor! Maladian uses force manipulation to create a disc to carry Wilber off the ship and back to the dock, where Rielle nudges Wilber. The crazy halfling makes the Luck check by 1 and comes to, murmuring, “I gotta go, honey, I’ll see you soon,” presumably addressing “his wife”. Many arrows are fired, only to land in the harbor on the other side of the caravel. The blue wizard on the quarterdeck is alerted to another magic-user’s presence by the floating disc, and directs a pair of black missiles to hit Maladian. James kills another couple on the quarterdeck, as a benefit of Mythender’s cleaving ability. Wilber clutches the home-spun doll gifted to him by the Carnifex (aka “his wife”) and pledges his eternal love to her…and feels a little better. Amariah crawls out of the water. Remus heals Wilber before the crazy little guy can run back up the gangplank. Maladian follows up, casting burning hands upon the paralyzed sailors. Krum finally hits, killing the blue captain. Amariah makes it up the rope finally, in the cabin. Terezi leads the way out onto the deck, garrote at the ready, and attempts to strangle one of the paralyzed sailors but she’s weak and he’s still way too healthy! Amariah casts ropework again, this time with the intention of entangling the remaining enemies; instead, the spell misfires, and two ropes appear and immediately begin attacking the nearest targets. James (the red captain) rolls yet another critical hit, this time dealing out 32 pts of damage to the last remaining flickering blue sailor (the caster). He jumps down to join the group in cutting 6 ropes into short wicks, for Amariah has failed to cast ropework yet again, with the same misfire result! Amariah herself is killed by the flailing ropes (later rolled over by Remus). As things are tapering down, the hatch at their feet flies open, and before them stands a short woman in damp, tattered robes, covered head to toe in a mass of crabs that scuttle down her body and beeline toward Wilber. Wilber yells out that he smells oil, and Maladian points his burning hands toward her, lighting her up, while Wilber and Krum stamp out the crab infestation. Rielle is instrumental in finishing the ropey threat, with the mighty scissors she inherited from the duke’s barber.
Wilber, determined to sink this ship, wastes no time in flinging himself below deck. With just the light from the hatch above, he bypasses the cabins and goes straight for the hatch down to the hold. Terezi, meanwhile, has searched the captain’s cabin as well as the wardroom, and is surprised at how spartan everything has been. Following Wilber, she makes for one of the officer’s cabins below, and finds a letter inside a drawer with only a few words not blotted out by the wetness of the environment: “Meet me at the Lonely Mermaid,” it reads. Remus and James join in the cabin search on the lower deck, hoping to find a crewman they can question. Instead, Remus is puzzled by an intricate carving done in half of a human tooth, and James is worried to have come across a weapon that looks a little too familiar – so much so that he makes sure his gloves are secure and finds a heavy cloth in which to wrap the chaotic scimitar. Maladian chooses a door and finds a ledger with vague notes such as, “Empyrean North: Cargo acquired,” and a debt shown to House Tormanu.
Wilber finally gets the lowest hatch open, and lowers himself and a lantern very carefully – and, miraculously, does not drop the lantern when greeted with the faces of six lampreymen. He hangs there for a few moments, trying to gauge whether or not he’s going to be their lunch, noting that the walls and bottom of the hold have been smeared with a thick, dark substance. The creatures themselves – later dubbed “prison-fish” – do not leap toward the hatch to attack. Their gaping maws working ineffectually in the lantern’s wavering light, they mill in small circles, and Wilber finally realizes they are chained to the mainmast in pairs. He calls to Amariah, who casts comprehend languages like she’s been doing it all her life, and she is able to deduce that the captives have been taken from their home unwillingly. Wilber sets to freeing them, with the help of Thistle’s 10-ft pole (!) and his own cast iron frying pan.
Meanwhile, Krum mills about the tight space, gawking at the prison-fish, and an elf in sodden leather approaches him from the dark corner not yet explored. The elf’s exposed skin is covered in coral, and the sharp edges scrape Krum’s face, inflicting 3 pts of Strength damage as he is poisoned. James rushes over and kills it in one blow, but the damage is done. Krum runs into one of the empty cabins and attempts to purge the poison from his body. Thistle, the ever-helpful elven forester, offers him a pinecone, and many bets are taken as to whether he’d benefit more from eating it than using it in the privy.
Maladian, curious about the one door on the lower deck not opened, is greeted by the cooks’n, who’s been waiting for him. Maladian is knocked to half health and thrown back several feet. Remus was approaching to share notes on their finds, and lands a glancing blow on the rude person who just hit his party member. Unfortunately, he comes into range just in time to be attacked by a huge moray eel that bursts out of the cook’s chest -- and into his. Maladian casts magic shield on himself, to prevent the need for more work for Remus. The cook’s subsequent attacks miss, although the eel keeps doing damage to Remus. Amariah tries to redeem herself and casts ropework again while everyone cringes – but it works this time! Sadly, the cook makes his Reflex save with a Nat 20. Maladian casts animal summoning, gaining a pair of dire wolves that gradually come into being, skeleton first, then muscle and skin and fur. (Legitimate question raised by all: Do wolves get seasick?) James leaps in, ever the hero, and with one mighty swing, he nails the cook to the ceiling of the galley. Rielle gingerly attacks the moray, not wanting to do in the poor cleric, and with group efforts the thing is finally killed and detached.
By this point, Wilber is ushering the lampreymen up out of the hold, but the creatures continue to mill about, mouths opening and closing uselessly, still looking dejected and defeated. Amariah, on a roll, casts comprehend languages again, this time succeeding well enough to get full words instead of just a general understanding. “They took our young.” James, retrieving Mythender from the galley, looks over to the corner, spotting a large tub, about three feet deep, filled with water and...countless eggs. When revealed, the change that comes over the prison-fish is easily evident to all: They scuff the remaining black goo off their feet, willingly climb the ladder without assistance, and they work amongst themselves to maneuver the tub up to the main deck. Amariah finds out they have been gone for more than one cycle of the moon, and their home is north, not far from the strange tower in the water but apparently not far enough away from land. “Your kind often takes our young, sometimes to eat.” When she asks if they want to go home, the party is weirded out by the expression of hope and uneasy trust that enters the eyes of the monsters. Once off the ship, the creatures take turns submerging and refresh the water in the tub of eggs.
Before the last party member disembarks, plans are made to get Paragon to the south dock straightaway, where the prison-fish can be loaded safely, and the Black Mariah shall be presented to Duke Magnussen as a gift from Oak, the fresh-faced warrior who’s been working on his wooing skills, for he desperately wants the duke’s daughter.
Tower of the Black Pearl – Harley Stroh / Goodman Games
Blades Against Death – Harley Stroh / Goodman Games
The Sea Queen Escapes! – Michael Curtis / Goodman Games
Stormwrack: Mastering the Perils of Wind and Wave – Baker, Carriker, Clarke-Wilkes / Wizards of the Coast
Amariah: +15 XP, +3 Luck
Rielle: +15 XP, +1 hp
Thistle: +15 XP
Krum: +15 XP, +7 hp
Remus: +14 XP, +7 hp
Growlen: +1 XP, +2 hp
Wilber: +15 XP
James: +15 XP, +3 Luck
Terezi: +15 XP
Red: +15 XP, +4 hp