Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Beyond the Shore: Session 2

He rose at dawn and, fired with hope,
Shot o’er the seething harbour-bar,
And reach’d the ship and caught the rope,
And whistled to the morning star.

And while he whistled long and loud
He heard a fierce mermaiden cry,
“O boy, tho' thou are young and proud,
I see the place where thou wilt lie.

“The sands and yeasty surges mix
In caves about the dreary bay,
And on thy ribs the limpet sticks,
And in thy heart the scrawl shall play.”

“Fool,” he answer’d , “death is sure
To those that stay and those that roam,
But I will nevermore endure
To sit with empty hands at home.

“My mother clings about my neck,
My sisters crying, ‘Stay for shame;’
My father raves of death and wreck,-
They are all to blame, they are all to blame.

“Gods help me! save I take my part
Of danger on the roaring sea,
A devil rises in my heart,
Far worse than any death to me.”

-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Just after the narrow escape from the angry Quartermaster, Caddis slipped out into the ship's middle hold and narrowly avoided being tripped by a shapely leg. The leg, in turn was attached to a half-elven wench, who stepped close and shoved him into a darkened alcove. The wench, who introduced herself as Sandara Quinn, shoved his Rose and Thaduk's Bugle into his hands, saying that she'd snagged them as they were being dragged aboard. Sandara also told him that she would set up someone else to take the blame for breaking into the quartermaster's stores, and all they needed to do was keep mum.

When Caddis called her on her unusual level of helpfulness, she explained that she was impressed by how Caddis and his friends had handled themselves during the attack on Moonplum. "On a ship," she said, "it's not what you know, but who you know that keeps you alive." Since Caddis and Thaduk were clearly disliked by First-mate Plugg, that meant that they were her friends by default, and potentially useful ones to boot. She also told him that any weapons the party had would have been put in the weapons locker (in the room where the ship's officer's slept) and not left with the quartermaster. Sandara then scurried up to the deck, reminding him that anyone caught shirking their work typically earned six lashes...

On deck, Thaduk was worn out from his day spent sprinting around the ship as the Bosun's message-boy. When the last message was delivered, he finally looked up enough to notice the sun setting...

From the aft-castle, the bell began to ring, signalling sun-set and the "bloody hour". As everyone else went up on deck, Caddis returned to the kitchen to find FIshguts still passed out on the floor and a pair of girls waiting for him (wow there were a lot of women on this ship). One was a young girl, no more than twelve or thirteen by the look of her, but with the hard-eyes of someone who'd spent a long time at sea. The other was his sister, Jessica, the deaf mute, standing rigid, her face streaked with tears.

'Caulky' Tarroon
Caddis tried to talk to his sister but got a poke in the chest and a glare from the younger girl. The girl, who called herself 'Caulky', told Caddis that the captain expected his dinner to be served in 15 minutes. Caddis looked alarmedly at the unconscious, drunken cook, then noticed the big cauldron of soup boiling over on the ship's stove. He spooned out a bowl and asked if it was okay for the captain. Caulky dipped a finger, tasted it, and, after waiting for about a minute, pronounced it acceptable. Caddis quickly filled bowls for the rest of the ship's officers, which Caulky piled on a tray carried by his sister. The two girls left quickly for the far end of the hold and the stairs to the captain's chambers.

Caddis had just started to relax when a shrill whistle from up above signaled 'all hands'. As he reached the ladder up, he ran into two sailors dragging a third who was bound in fetters. Up on deck, Mr. Plugg announced that 'Jakes Magpie' had been witnessed breaking into the quartermaster's stores, found guilty of stealing from the captain, and was thereby sentenced to be keelhauled.

Caddis sidled over to where Thaduk and his uncle were standing. The three watched impassively as Jakes Magpie was tied hand and foot to a rope dangling over the taffrail of the ship, which was in turn attached to capstans at both fore and aft. Once he was set, the Bosun shoved the man overboard, sending him plunging into the water, the rope running out behind him. Once submerged, Mr. Plugg gleefully began to turn the fore-capstan, dragging the man along the underside of the keel. After a long minute, Jakes appeared near the bowsprit, bloody and gasping, only to be quickly jerked back under by the Bosun turning the opposite capstan.

Finally Jakes' body, shredded by barnacles and very, very dead, was dragged back aboard and cut loose from the keel-line. The crew ran to the rails and watched as his dead body was then thrown back over the rail to be torn apart by waiting sharks, attracted by the blood already spilt by the ordeal. Once the last traces of Jakes Magpie were gone, the Bosun's mates grabbed Adriana and a pair of other riggers from the crowd and tied them to the mast (though not without a struggle), where they were beaten for not appearing at their posts.

Then all eyes turned to Caddis. Everyone on the ship stared at him expectantly...

He felt a tap on the shoulder and Sandara whispered in his ear that they were all waiting for their dinner. Seeing the faces growing steadily grimmer, Caddis grabbed the Thaduks and raced downstairs. Smith grabbed the big cauldron of soup, Thaduk grabbed a barrel of rum, and Caddis rounded up all the bowls and mugs he could carry. They made it up top, set up, and served everyone in record time (despite Caddis forgetting a ladle), while Mr. Plugg tapped the keg and passed out everyone's mandatory rum rations (only on a pirate ship is failing to drink enough liquor a punishable  offense).

Luckily they worked fast, and the angry glares of the crew melted into good-natured ribbing at the expense of the new cook's mate (helped largely by the rum). While everyone was working their way through the soup-line, Thaduk made a point of picking out the swab he'd scared during his whipping that morning, one Fipps Chumlett by name, and growled at the man like some hungry beast. Thaduk knew immediately from the look in Fipp's eyes that the poor wretch would throw himself off the ship if Thaduk wished it so.

After everyone had eaten, Thaduk volunteered to take the bowls and cauldron back down to the kitchen. Finding the place otherwise empty, and Fishguts still passed out drunk on the floor, he helped himself to a knife, carefully stowing it away in the folds of his breeches with the bugle. Caddis came down then, and the two of them helped haul Fishguts to his bunk. Coming back up on deck, they found the night-life of the ship in full swing. The officers had withdrawn, the rum barrel was freely available, and one of the crew had broken out a fiddle.

Caddis, already rather buzzed after drinking with Fishguts, plus his required ration, filled a mug with water, another with rum, and made his way over to the nearest sailor, a middle-aged man with an enormous, very ugly nose. He tried to be smooth, mentioning something about feeling 'naked' and needing something to cover himself (presumably trying to souse out where to obtain a weapon), but his innuendo went un-noticed. When it was clear that the sailor thought he was talking about needing actual clothing (despite being fully dressed), Caddis backpedaled with some comment about liking fashion...

"Ooooh," the sailor replied, "sorry I don't go in for boys. You should maybe go talk to Maheem..."

Caddis, wisely, quickly excused himself from any further conversation.

Thaduk found where a number of the sailors were taking bets on arm-wrestling matches. A table had been set up on top of a big barrel. On either side of the table were piled broken glass, caltrops, and knives, with the wrestlers arms squared off between them. Thaduk watched for a while, as various challengers matched up with no clear champion standing out. Finally a wiry old woman, with her gray hair shaved into stripes, responding to cheers of 'Badger', won five consecutive matches. At which point Thaduk shoved the next challenger, poor Chumlett no less, out of the way and sat down.

The match was over before it started, as they say. As soon as the cry of 'begin' was given, the old woman's hand was slammed down onto the already bloody pile of sharp objects with such force that her hand was nearly severed. There were some muffled cheers, but much more grumbling and glaring, as not even a pirate could think that an old woman vs. the world's burliest orc constituted a fair match. 'Badger' was hauled off to the ship's surgeon (who is also the carpenter), likely to have her hand removed the rest of the way and fitted with a wooden prosthesis as was typical, and Thaduk asked if anyone else wanted to challenge him.

Caddis, meanwhile, made his way over to another sailor, this one a lad a bit younger than Caddis. Unlike the previous fellow, this one, plied with some extra rum, quickly caught on to Caddis' implied need for protection. "Oh aye," the boy, Jack, said, "don't worry friend...I've got your back if anyone decides to start something." Then, of course, the conversation was quickly cut off by Thaduk's defeat of 'Badger'. When old woman was hauled away, and it appeared that no challenger was forthcoming, Jack suddenly shouted "Bring up the Owlbear!"

The shout was quickly taken up by the rest of the crew, becoming a chant of "Owl! Bear! Owl! Bear! Owl! Bear!" accompanied by much stomping. Soon four crewmen came up on deck, dragging a heavy chain. At the end of that chain followed a tower of a man, nearly seven feet tall and rippling with muscles. He had been shaved hairless, tarred, and feathered. A metal ring was round his neck, to which the chain was attached, crabs swarmed over his hands and legs, and the stench of the bilges clung to his tattered, rotten breeches. The sailors dragged the Owlbear to the seat across from Thaduk and shoved him into the chair.

The Owlbear
Thaduk watched his opponent carefully as he came up the stairs. The Owlbear was clearly almost (but only almost) as muscular as Thaduk, but also clearly an imbecile, barely able to walk strait on his own, and blind in his left eye. This was quite the revelation, Thaduk was, for the first time in his life, not the dumbest creature in the room.

The two squared off and soon started straining. The Owlbear at least knew his business once his elbow was on the table. Muscles bulged and the table creaked. Thaduk gained a quick advantage, nearly flattening the Owlbear in the first seconds, but the Owlbear slowly wrenched Thaduk's hand back upright, and then began to bear him down. Thinking quickly, for Thaduk, Thaduk stomped the Owlbear's foot on his blindside, startling him enough for Thaduk to quickly slam the Owlbear's hand down onto the pile of glass still soaked with 'Badger's' blood.

A gasp went up from the pirates at the defeat of their champion and the Owlbear roared to his feet, blood splattering everywhere from his damaged arm. As he rose though, Caddis caught the Owlbear's gaze and...

...The Owlbear fainted, apparently from shock and bloodloss, but actually from Caddis' evil eye (and a sleep spell).

As Thaduk rose from the table and headed towards the hammocks that had been set aside for the new crew down below, everyone gave him extremely wide berth.