Skull & Shackles: The Pirate's Life

Ancient Evils, New Alliances

The death of the Shrouded Queen and a quest for new friends

After several minutes of regrouping—patching wounds, doing their best to heal, and so on—the officers of the Fiontar decided that it would be best to return to the ship for the evening. Carefully, they made their way out of the Black Tower and, still more carefully, made their way down its outside and back to the ship. Fortunately, everything stayed peaceful and they spent the night in their own hammocks, resting up for their return to the tower.

Unfortunately, Lynn continued to suffer from the strange, illusory eel curse that moving the statue in the tower had inflicted upon her. She wasn’t hurt any more by the curse that night, but she woke up the next morning feeling nauseous, drenched in a cold sweat. Despite this concern, the party decided to continue their delve into the Black Tower in the hopes of finding Aiger’s Kiss. Returning the way they had come, they scaled the outside of the tower again, and proceeded through the tentacle-carved hallways down into the belly of the spire where they had fought the qlippoth the night before.

Proceeding ahead, they disarmed a pair of trapped and cursed statues depicting legendary sacrifices to Dagon from the past of the Mwangi, and proceeded into a small chamber. There they found two disturbing things: a trapdoor set in the floor and sealed shut with heavy iron chains, and a moldering skeleton next to a scrawled charcoal message on the wall: The Shrouded Queen yet lives below, bound by Blackfingers’ forbiddance and Aiger’s Kiss. Seek not entrance, for naught but her rotting curse awaits ye—let the slumbering darkness lie! The message was signed with a black handprint, the sign of the cult of Blackfingers, and aspect of the god Norgorber.

Putting the clues together, the group deducted that these must be the remains of Tevenida Aiger, the legendary elvish pirate captain and priestess of Norgorber who sailed to the Black Tower to do battle with the Shrouded Queen nearly a century ago. They also concluded (through other means) that her armor and the two rings she wore on her fingers were magical, so they promptly removed those and ignored her warning. Unblocking the trapdoor revealed a shaft plunging 60’ down the tower into a shallow pool of water, and Macoco and Dex could distantly hear some sort of scuttling noise. The group, cautious now, scanned the shaft for magic and found that the chamber below was sealed with a powerful spell that would damage any of them that dropped into it.

Deciding that the only way to proceed was to at least chance it, Macoco and Dex dropped into the chamber while the other three waited in the shaft above. The first things they saw were an altar at the far end of the shallow pool, and in the pool’s center a short sword plunged halfway into the stone floor.

Then they heard the scuttling sound again, and looked up.

The beast the Shrouded Queen had become was elephant-sized and horrifying: some unholy mix of a bat, octopus, and spider. The creature shrieked and unleashed a wave of necrotic energy as the group sprang into action. Blessed with speed by Dex, Macoco climbed his whip to the stone rafter that the qlippoth perched on and faced it, toe-to-toe; Sayyida dropped into the room to join them, while Lynn and John B. pummeled the creature with ranged attacks. It thrashed at them with brutal stabs, and plunged its fangs into Macoco’s side through his armor. Before it could unleash its full fury, though—barely before—the group managed to slay it, and it toppled from the beam to curl up on the floor.

Though badly wounded (Macoco’s bite quickly started to fester, clearly manifesting the “rotting curse” of which they’d been warned), the group celebrated and proceeded to loot the entire area. In addition to some mundane treasure stored about the room, the sword—which was wrested free from the stones with the help of an improvised pulley—was clearly Aiger’s Kiss, a powerful artifact capable of dealing tremendous blows against planar entities and sealing planar rifts and portals. With their loot in hand, the five-some climbed back to the top of the tower…where they saw that the Fiontar had been captured!

Yes, another ship had seized the Fiontar while they were delving. With the help of Lynn’s magical spyglass, though, they overheard a conversation between the enemy captain and his crew, and learned that their crew was alive and that he—Barracuda Aiger, come to claim his mother’s sword—was hoping to strongarm Macoco into giving it up. Since time didn’t seem to be pressing, the officers decided to rest on top of the Black Tower and make their approach in daylight.

During the night, Macoco’s wound worsened and Lynn was attacked once more by the spectral eels. With this to goad them along, the officers made their way down toward the Fiontar, hatching a plan as they went. When they approached, Macoco and Lynn snuck off to come at the ship from the water, approaching stealthily. Dex, Sayyida, and John B. came toward the ship and, when halted by Barracuda, began to spin a stunningly convincing story of Macoco’s death and their failure to find the sword he sought. As he did so, Dex wove spells into his story and turned several of Barracuda’s henchmen to his side with magic. By the time he summoned an illusion to provide incentive for the other crew to depart—as Lynn, invisible, freed the crew of the Fiontar belowdecks and Macoco prepared to come on board—he had a handful of “good friends” among his foe’s crew.

And as the other ship sailed away, Dex urged them to mutiny, with the promise of reward.

Not all of the charmed sailors followed this suggestion, of course. But enough did to severely wound Barracuda, and as the Fiontar drew up to his ship with ballistae at the ready, the other pirate realized he was overmatched. Macoco met him on the deck of the Fiontar and callously slew his half-brother, terrifying the other crew into compliance. With a powerfully magic sword and one more ship than they’d had when they arrived, the crew departed from the Black Tower, hoping to never see it again.

After a pit stop in Ollo to get Lynn and Macoco’s curses removed by a powerful priest of Besmara, the Fiontar sailed on to Port Peril. There, they sold some plunder, hit up some taverns, and finally got a solid lead on Scags Rotgram, former first mate of Barnabas Harrigan. Rotgram had last been seen heading for Dagon’s Jaws, a pair of iron-heavy islands known as a dangerous passage to sail through, in an attempt to evade pursuit. Rumors swirled that he might still be alive on one of the two rocks. The group also heard, though, that their friend and ally Pierce Jerrell had recently won a small squadron of Ulfen longships in a high-stakes game of towers, and had headed off toward Hell Harbor. Since that location was closest, they decided to start with Jerrell.

Pierce was easy enough to find in the dockfront taverns of Hell Harbor, and warmed instantly to their request for aid in the fight against Harrigan. He pledged his new longships and himself to their cause, and promised to meet them at The Island of Empty Eyes as soon as he could. On their way out the door, Lynn voiced a desire to meet with Arronax Endymion. Barely had she finished saying so when the crew met a representative of Endymion’s waiting for them on the Fiontar, carrying a chest of platinum and an invitation to meet.

Endymion hosted the crew aboard his ship, the Tyrannous, and explained his problem: a group of performers had started defaming him, claiming that he was a Chelaxian spy and undermining his authority. Since they were at this point rather popular, he could not move against them directly; but if the crew of the Fiontar was willing to do so, he would be happy to reward them with a squadron of warships. He asked only that they handle the matter discreetly.

That…sort of happened?

Rather than infiltrating the Theater of Corruption, as it was known, at night, as Endymion had suggested, the crew of the Fiontar decided to attend a performance. And heckle the performers. The lead of the troupe, a Chelish opera singer, was easily thrown off her stride by Dex humming along, and Sayyida quickly discovered that tossing popcorn at some of the illusory stage effects summoned by a person out of sight—whom Lynn tracked down hiding in an alcove off the main room—had the effect of causing the illusions to disperse.

It was when she started throwing popcorn at the second performer who wasn’t an illusion that things became hairy.

This man—clearly not too stable—snapped, and leapt from the stage to attack Sayyida. Patrons began to flee. The other performer, sick of the constant heckling, turned to engage Dex, and the stage hand turned invisible and began to proceed forward. The crew leaped into action, with Macoco charging the stage hand as Dex illuminated her with glitterdust, and Lynn plunging arrows into the blinded woman’s body. Dex and the other bard faced off across the stage and, though she ran from him and turned invisible as well, he managed to track her down and take her out. As she collapsed, though, a horrible spined creature, a barbed devil, crashed into the room through the ceiling! Barbed_Devil_1.png Macoco, Lynn, Dex, and John B. hacked at it—even as Macoco was seized and impaled on one of its horns—and wore it down despite its shrieking rage, finally killing it on the stage itself.

Meanwhile, Sayyida ran around and around a table, pursued by and occasionally attacking the enraged barbarian at whom she had been throwing popcorn. Dex stepped in and dominated the barbarian, enlisting his help in tracking down the stage hand, who had fled. They found her, dead from the wounds she’d sustained, in a nearby alley. As the enforcers of Hell Harbor arrived to round up the troublemakers, the crew turned over the two surviving performers and, exhausted, called it a night…looking forward to seeing Arronax Endymion in the morning.

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