Skull and Shackles

The Bloody Hour

Chapter 2:

MAN OVERBOARD!” multiple voices rang out as ropes were tossed over the port railings. Artaith’s blood was that of those who live on the elemental plane of air, the very blood that powered the massive burst of wind that knocked the shipmate overboard. And for a moment, she was as she desired, untouched.

Finn was well above the other sailors, but quickly realized that he had not fully thought out his course of action. He was now being chased by four well trained buccaneers on a boat surrounded by miles of ocean and he did not know how to swim…

Meanwhile, Valmont, Hobblin’ John, Ingrit and Emyris abstained from combat, hugging the fore-castle wall.

Desperate for some form of plan, Finn slashed at the rigging ropes, knowing little about the sails of ships and which would give him time and which would spell his doom.

The rigging fell out from underneath him as he plummeted towards the deck. He grabbed for rope whirring past him, only managing to slow himself down slightly. Ingrit rushed under him and managed to break his fall, leaving them both on the deck.

The crew quickly lifted him to his feet and apprehended Artaith. “Master-At-Arms, deal with your greenhorns so we can get on with the day.” spoke the captain.

Master Scourge’s gold teeth formed into a wide smile. “First the lady. Three lashes for shirking duty, double that for resisting, and another six for the man we had to pull from the drink.” He wound back the whip and let the first lash land. With that, the bard yelled out “I’ll take the lashes!”

The crew erupted in laughter as Artaith was untied from the post. “That’s my boy, stupid enough to pay for other people’s mistakes” Scourge wound back and lashed until Finn lost consciousness. “Quinn, get over here and revive this man so he can receive his sentence after he’s done receiving his friend’s”

A woman with a shock of long red hair pulls on a tricorne hat she’s kept in her hand, clearly reluctant to carry out her orders. Kneeling next to the catfolks body, she says a few quiet prayers, healing Finn. He awakes with a storm of half-coughs and screams.

“Two more boy, then you get your dues” Scourge finished the bard’s punishment, leaving him exhausted. “You raised a blade against your shipmates, cut up my rigging and left my arm tired from all the whipping. You’ll be spending the rest of the afternoon in the hot box.”

A crewman opened up a cramped metal chest bolted to the deck made a welcoming hand gesture towards the space. Finn was unceremoniously thrown in and the chest was locked shut.

“Now to old business” the captain shouted. Jakes Magpie here is due for a keelhaulin’ and I’m not the kind of man to keep him waiting any longer." The captain throws a buoy overboard where it’s lifted from the bow by a yellow-skinned orc. “Best of luck Jakes, tell Besmara I send my regards” and with that the captain shoved Magpie over the railing.

His body made sickening thumps as it scraped across the belly of the ship. The orc and a fat sailor pulled him back up from the bow and threw him on deck. He was dead, covered in deep bloody cuts from the barnacles and other hangers on to the ship’s keel. Scourge ordered his body to be thrown overboard and the remainder of the crew filtered down towards the lower decks to eat.

The party lingered on deck. They were approached by Sandra Quinn, the cleric who had healed Finn during his lashings. “Your friend needs to know how to mind his own business Ingrit” Ingrit turned and agreed. “It’s quite fortunate that you managed to get press-ganged onto the same ship I’m on. I knew you were on board the moment I saw these.” Quinn handed Ingrit a trident and a neatly folded net. “The rest of you and your group’s belongings are in the quatermaster’s hold, you’ll have to buy them back or convince the owner to return them. They’re technically the Captain’s loot, but the ship runs on gold, not backpacks. I managed to get this too, figured it was your friends.” She pulls Emyris’ spell book out of a waterproofed leather bag. "Thought he’d need this and Grock doesn’t have much need for the written word.

As for your friend in the box, he’s going to need some help to make it to the evening.

Continued in part 3: Day’s End

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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