Skull and Shackles

Press Ganged!

Skull and Shackles Session 1 part 1

The group awoke with pounding headaches and the sickly taste of cheap rum and spicy food on their breath. The ground rolled underneath them as footsteps descended a staircase at the end of the dark room.

“Still abed with the sun over the yardarm?
On your feet, ye filthy swabs! Get up on
deck and report for duty before Cap’n
Harrigan flays your flesh into sausage skins
and has Fishguts fry ye up for breakfast!”

A bony man with a mouth full of gold teeth surrounded by a half-dozen men uncovers his lantern. They found themselves in the hold of a ship, and were quickly rounded up and forced up the stairs to the deck as they began to shake off the haze of last night.

A number of them recognized the gold toothed man from the night before, he was buying drinks… The druid recognized the aftertaste of taggit oil underneath the rum that remained on her breath, a poison favored by kidnappers and press-gangers.

The hatch above them breaks open and they find themselves blinded by the brightness of the sun. As their eyes adjust they see a deck full of buccaneers, four others are standing with them on the deck, set apart by their relative cleanliness and
their apparent unease with their newfound situation. A dozen or so other pirates, clearly existing members of the crew, stand about on the deck or in the ship’s rigging.

A man emerges from the cabin doors. Tall and dark skinned he wears a gold eyepatch over his left eye and carries a massive curved cleaver-like sword on his hip.

“Glad you could join us at last! Welcome to the Wormwood!
My thanks for ‘volunteering’ to join my crew. I’m Barnabas
Harrigan. That’s Captain Barnabas Harrigan to you, not that
you’ll ever need to address me. I have only one rule—don’t
speak to me. I like talk, but I don’t like your talk. Follow thatrule and we’ll all get along fine.

Oh, and one more thing. Even with you new recruits, we’re
still short-handed, and I aim to keep what crew I have. There’ll
be a keelhaulin’ for anyone caught killin’ anyone. Mr. Plugg! If
you’d be so kind as to make pirates out of these landlubbers,
it’ll save me having to put them in the sweatbox for a year and
a day before I make pies out of ’em.”

One of the sailors steps forward, bald save for a long ponytail at the back of his head and carrying a cat-o’-nine-tails.

Eye walks across the ranks of the newly press-ganged men, and pokes Valmont Goldsash, a rotund and well groomed dwarf, in the stomach with the butt of his cat’. “You look like you like food enough, you’re the new cook’s mate” “Do you know who I am?” the dwarf responds. Mr. Plugg quickly turns on his heels and responds “You’re the new cook’s mate” and tugs the leather of the cat-o’-nine tails threateningly.

“We need two new riggers, lost two in a storm last week and we’re still cleaning bits of brain out of the deck. Dwarf, get down and start helping Fishguts cook the meal figuring he isn’t too drunk to stand up, the rest of you start climbing.”

With a crack of the cat, the remainder of the party scrambles up the rigging. Artaith stumbles out of the block and falls after just a few feet while the Grippli Hobblin’ John and the Catfolk Finn Hornigold race up at speeds unknown to this ships crew. The two climbers spot each other on the rigging and race to the top, with Finn narrowly beating out the John.

Mr. Plugg gives out a quick laugh of excitement “You’ve grabbed a couple of keepers Scourge!” he smacks the gold toothed man on the back as the climbers descend back to the deck.

“That leaves you three.” he directs his attention to Artaith and Emyris, two Sylph and the Gilfolk Ingrit. “You’ll be fillin’ in other duties as swabs”

The day’s work is hard. Finn and John spend the evening hauling rope and repairing the rigging, Emyris does carpentry work repairing damage done to the ship during the last storm, Ingrit acts as a runner delivering messages across the ship while Valmont prepares dinner by himself as the cook is passed out drunk. Artaith, failing to climb the rigging finds herself cleaning out the bilges. The work is difficult and is ultimately unfinished at the end of the day leaving her exhausted.

Before dinner the crew is called on deck for “Bloody Hour”. A man is to be punished for thievery on the ship.

The gold toothed man Master Scourge has the thief tied up and leaning against the stern railings.

“We’re here to set an example for new and old that the captain’s word is law on this ship. This man was found to be a thief and has been sentenced to keelhauling, but first, we need to deal with new business” He walks to the middle deck and approaches Artaith. “Shirking one’s duties is not to be tolerated on this ship, and those bilges were plenty filthy and underpumped at the end of the day. You’ll be gettin’ three lashes for unfinished work, tie her to the post.”

Not wanting to be touched, Artaith erupts in a burst of air knocking one man overboard. Finn the bard draws another pirate’s cutlass and begins climbing the rigging as he tries to formulate a plan.

…to be continued in part two: The Bloody Hour

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