Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Beyond the Shore: Session 25

•atop the mast billows
my wind-tossed rag•grinning skull embla-
zoned proud•the starkness of black upon my flag
•piercing the encroaching sea mist and shroud•her-
ald the sight of the jolly roger • instilling trepidation
in all who sail through my turf • fuelled by the thirst
to pillage and plunder•others before, have sunk into
graves beneath the surf•my salt encrusted timber
creaks           a frightening low           growl•
my hull               would pum-               mel thro-
ugh the opposing waves•    my sails bloat full trapping
winds that howl•my      deck bears the screams
of a thousan-           d slaves•know
me, seafarers… i am no legend but
truth•avast! seafarers, i am the tale
that looms•believe me, seafarers for i
am ca-     pable     of all     things

uncouth                      •fear me,
seafarers for            i am your
doom•you could      sail the seas with
the world’s most     skillful of crew•
you cannot deny the
heavy hand of fate•
because once my vessel comes
within view       •you would
know for certain           that it’s already
•••••••                      •••••••

too late•

by Ryn

The Dümplom was two weeks out from the Falklands. The new members of the crew were settling in, Riaris ran the Spaniards through daily drills with loading and aiming the cannons, Chumlet was starting to beat some basic sailing knowledge into the new swabs, and, other than issues with the language-barrier from the now two-thirds Spanish-speaking crew, things were going smoothly.

As morning dawned, Leo once again called the other officers together to discuss their route. The old map they’d taken off the body of of the Puritan, Praise-God Barebones, pointed to a location less than a week’s sail south and west of them, and not too far out of their way. There seemed to be collective interest, so Leo made the slight course correction.

Given the generally poor job Henrye had been doing on watch over the last several weeks, Caddis ordered Tilly and Marina to join him. Around noon, the shout came from the three of them, three ships had been spotted to the north, heading in their direction. Leo pointed out that, no matter how intimidating their decorations or heavily armed they might be, the Dümplom was loaded to capacity and riding low in the water, a tempting target for anyone. Caddis ordered all cannons loaded and the entire crew to be roused on standby, but told Leo to hold their course.

Two hours later, the three ships had converged and were now closing on them, sailing in formation, black flag flying. Leo recognized the flag as belonging to the Thresher, under the command of the notoriously cruel Captain Inkskin Locke. The ships closing on them were Chinese-style Junks, each much smaller than the Dümplom, but less laden and fitted out for increased speed. Caddis ordered all hands on deck, but left the gun-ports closed and the sails set, drawing the enemy in.

Late in the afternoon, the ships were drawing within firing range and spreading out to cut them off fore and aft. Rummy pulled out a glass and noted two more smaller longships which had been hiding in the junks’ wake. As the four other ships spread out to surround them, the central junk, mounted with a single, massive. 48-pounder cannon and a ram, was accelerating to ramming speed.

Caddis suggested he could swim under the ship and incapacitate its crew with his fey magic. He called on Besmara’s Blessings to allow Thaduk to breathe water as well and the two dove in. Once under the water, they could see that the small pirate fleet was being trailed by a squadron of twenty four-armed shark-like creatures.

Caddis and Thaduk quickly grabbed a rope and climbed back aboard the Dümplom, just as Leo was ordering it to take off. They narrowly avoided a shot from the cannon, then flew over the charging ship. They tagged the sails with some flasks of alchemist’s fire to slow it down, then veered towards the western-most flanking ship.

As they closed with this one, they could see that it had banks of ballistae, manned by animate skeletons. The ballista bolts fell short of their mark, but a bolt of lightning from the deck raked their hull as they flew by. The Dümplom banked and strafed the ship with a full broadside, damaging it significantly.

Below, they spotted a tattoo-covered woman apparently controlling the skeletons like puppets. Caddis ordered the crew to concentrate musket fire on her. There was another bolt of lightning, this time aimed for the deck. Leo narrowly dodged, leaving him very slightly scorched, then blinking and dazzled by the flash, they saw the tattooed woman standing on the deck. Before she could do anything else, though, Thaduk reared and pounded her into a fine pulp under his hooves. As the woman died, the skeletons on the deck below collapsed into piles of unmoving bones.

The Dümplom made one more pass unleashing a second broadside into the ship’s rigging, then turned towards the third junk, which had already turned to flee. As the Dümplom passed over it, Thaduk roared out in Infernal, “Would you like to join us for some plum wine?!”

Clearly already understanding that she was outmatched, a dark-skinned woman yelled up, also in the Infernal tongue, “Of course!” She quickly ordered her crew to stand down and strike the sails, then climbed up into the crows nest and accepted a couple bottles of wine which they lowered down.

They saw that the ship with the cannon had the fires put out and was starting to move again. The Dümplom swung about again and bore down on the ship for a second time. They avoided another shot from the massive cannon, then, as they passed over, Caddis attempted to swing down to the deck. He misjudged the distance and landed hard, flat on his back, and was quickly knocked out by a boot-to-the-head from the ship’s captain. Fiona and Rummy swung down, more successfully, and quickly dispatched the captain with a one-two club/backstab combo. Sandara and Thaduk followed, bringing Caddis up and frightening the rest of the crew into submission.

Zarina brought the Dümplom back down to the water, right between the two smaller boats. Riaris ordered all of the hidden gun-ports opened, and, presented with the threat of a full 150 pound broadside each, the two smaller boats quickly raised the white flag. Caddis and company explained to the other pirate ships that the Dümplom was now in charge of their little fleet, and passed out two cases of plum wine to each of the other ships to celebrate the new ‘arrangement’. The crews of the three junks readily agreed to their new leadership, and the wine-fueled celebration went on for a couple of hours.

Thaduk, meanwhile, snatched Amphitrite’s Shawl from Leo and sent the nereid down with orders to negotiate with the shark-people. After a rather lengthy discussion, she returned to inform them that the sharks would like to speak with Captain Caddis directly. Caddis and Thaduk dived in and the shark-people quickly snatched the shawl away from Thaduk, returning it to the angry nereid.

Amphitrite explained that, given the results of their last encounter, she had no desire to fight them again, and only desired to go home. Caddis suggested a trade. They would give her one of the longboats so that she could sail back to the storm-gate, if she would convince the sharks to aid them in their piracy. After a brief discussion with the shark-people, Amphitrite explained that they would follow in the ships wake and deal with any underwater threats so long as they were given free reign to do what they want with anyone that fell overboard. Caddis agreed and ordered one of the longships cleared. Soon, the small ship was floating away, manned only by the nereid, floating on its own private current.

Once Thaduk and Caddis were back aboard the ship, the officers set about organizing the new fleet. Two of the junks, the Thunderer and the Thresher had lost their captains. The first-mate of the Thunderer was promoted to captain, and the first-mates of the Sea Lash (the first ship to surrender) were moved over to become co-captains of the Thresher. In order to ensure that they had a loyal man on each ship, Caddis sent over Henrye, Ratline, and Chumlet to serve as first-mates of the Thunderer, Thresher, and Sea Lash, respectively.

It was dark by the time everything was sorted out. Leo put them back on a course south and west, towards the Forbidden Island, with orders to the other ships to simply follow them.

To be continued…