Skulls and Shackles

Pinche frowned at the four crab pots filled to the brim with caught crabs, along with two of those creatures the pirates were calling reefclaws that nearly turned them into dinner instead of the other way around. Those dumpling-faced goat-humpers had left it to him to haul everything down to the galley alone. The boy who always seemed to stutter his name was not going to help – he seemed determined to earn another night on the yardarm and was currently lounging in the shade of the mainmast. Whiplash would likely have been sitting right next to the boy if he hadn’t been laid out, bloody and unconscious on the deck from the unexpected encounter on the reefs. The wizard might have helped, but had been assigned another job immediately upon their return to the Wormwood.

More than heavy, the crab pots were awkward to handle, carry, move….. everything! Even if he managed to get two pots balanced on his lithe arms, the contents of the damn things were still living and tended to shift. Normally it wasn’t hard labor, and anyone else would have just carried each pot to the kitchen one at a time, but he had taken it a personal challenge to carry two at once – and was getting frustrated at his failure to succeed. Pinche does not fail. Not at this – a test of himself and his skills against his environment. The other pirates didn’t care, wouldn’t care, about this battle. It was too dull for them, which was exactly what Pinche wanted, because it allowed him to train right under their noses, yet maintain the illusion that he was nothing more than an insignificant cook’s assistant to Fishguts. At night he could sit on his hammock and meditate in the dark without any eyes upon him, focusing hard on the faint flicker of his weakened ki, coaxing it like a tiny spark in a tinderbox. During the day he had to find ways to turn everyday tasks, like carrying crab pots, into techniques to train his pitifully diminished skills. To him it was not about getting crabs to the galley, it was about honing his mind and body to do what it used to do without effort – a personal test of his physical skill, mental discipline, and spiritual honor. So, when the left pot wiggled and moved and ultimately came crashing to the floor, he picked it up, and hauled both pots right back to the top deck and started over. Again.

Finally making it down to the storage area of the second deck, Pinche sees the hulking form of Owlbear move toward him.

HHHMMMMM. Eagle-man. Owlbear no like you.”

He sniffs the air and turns his head to better face the rightmost crabpot. (Again reconfirming to Pinche that he’s partially blind in one eye). Without so much as a word, Owlbear takes one of the moving crabs right from the fishing pot.

“Ah Masta Owlbear, Deese for Masta Cap-tain. No one should take. No should take.”.

Owlbear does not answer and begins gnawing on the live and squirming crab. Breaking shell and appendage in his maw. He moves back to his normal spot protecting the Captain’s personal stairway.

“Hahhaaha. It tickle toungue. Hahahaha. " can be heard from Owlbear as Pinche takes the crab pots another 15 feet to the kitchen.

Sometime later, Pinche is busy watching over the boiling pots. Fishguts is laying horizontal on his bed and opens a bloodshot eye ball. The forked red veins and white of his eye are the only things seen for a few seconds as the pupil starts to roll into view and then center and focus. He bolts upright like he was hit with a haste spell and spews out the drunken words," Wull Hot Damn! Lobsters! I luv crookin Loobster!". Fishguts climbs to his feet and moves closer to the crabpots.

“Apologies sir, Da ahsome crab, no Lobster”. meekly exclaims Pinche.

Holding up the pot stringer now half filled with crabs in one hand and unconsciously grabbing a thin bottle of spiced rum to hold in the other.

" I am gonna (glugg, glugg ) cook (glugg , glugg) tech ya moudth watering (glug). "

“Spishes! Dats wha you need! Spicesh! "

“Lesson 2: (holding up one finger) . When your quarder mashtor is at port. Alway, al-ways, alo- ways make her buy spices at the dock. Only THE BEST! Then-ms hide ’em from the crew.

“Ah! For crabs the best spice in the world is Alkenstar pepper. iz gots some rite hear.”

Fishguts puts down the crabs and his drink and starts searching , not in the spice rack, but over his bed, where there’s a disorderly mess of a long shelf (set up with a lip to prevent stuff from sliding during sailing). He moves a couple things, and doesn’t find what he’s looking for. He starts moving more things. He gets to the broken rum jug that Pinche used not 4 days ago to cover up the spot where Fishguts’s magic grappling hook used to be securely stowed. With an unconscious glance to where Pinche hid the stolen item in the goat pen, Pinche takes a deep breath, and grabs a cooking knife, not certain how this situation will end.

Fishguts picks up the broken jug and mumbles “damn shame” and moves it out of the way. the empty spot that should hold his personal and magical item is vastly apparent.

Fishguts pauses.

Pinche turns pale. His mind racing for options on how to respond….

“Dare it is!” The sound of victory from Fishguts voice as he reaches for a pint sized container. “dis is Alkenstar pepper”.

He puts the broken rum jar back where it was, and steps off the bed to the floor with his new found prize. Fishguts pauses, turns his head back to the shelf as if some section of his non-pickled brain was trying to make it’s way through the morass to his mouth. A full two seconds pass.

Pinche , seeing an opportunity,“Are ah you to add Pee-ppp-er to whater or after cook Crab.”?

The last remnant of Fishguts’s clarity just lost the race. Pinche’s question snaps him back to address Pinche, grabbing the thin bottle of rum in his free hand and exclaims how lesson 1 in cooking lobster – and he pours some rum into the boiling water is that while spices are good, Rum’s the best thing to add to every meal!!

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