Skulls and Shackles

Crabpots

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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The Eye of Abendego

The rough day of work was winding down. Half of the riggers would normally have been down on the harddeck. But there was tension in the air so every seasalt was keeping occupied, minding their own business.That said, to a man (and woman) they were each looking at Scourge working at the portable forge. Fury and malevolence came off this man like waves of ocean spray as the sea pounds a cliff face.
With intensity and concentration the man in charge of discipline stoked the fire and fanned the flames of the forge on the starboard side of the top deck. A phoenix hot poker was being made to the ready.

Every pirate has an intrinsic understanding of the perils of his profession. The sea is dangerous and unforgiving. Life aboard ship is nearly the same. Pirates enjoy watching an occasional rowe , a fist fight, a beat down, or even a blanket party. If you shirk your duty or fuck up then all pirates understand that it was deserved for some red pain to seep out of you.

But this is different.

Buccaneers have been aboard ship with Scourge and Plugg for far less than a year, but they’ve seen this type of vendetta before. Even scurvy lads new to The Wormwood had heard tales of “Getting an Eye of Abendigo” on other ships, and that’s why there was so much tension. Was Scourge going to just give that little lout a face scar with the hot poker, or was he going to drive the searing point into the eye socket and hollow out a chunk of his skull in burning agony. Just the thought an getting an “Eye” made shivers run down hardened pirate spines. The cries of pain and agony are unlike most guttural sounds of death that they are long used to. No, this scream of pain strikes to the bone. It can be heard about a league away on a calm sea day. This scream of pain attracts sea monsters. This scream enters onto the winds, and comes back days later to be heard again by lads in the crowsnest. Pirates don’t like it, not one bit.

The tension mounts as 4 goons drag the stringy fourteen year old boy from below decks. His body limp from his ballsy but stupid ups-manship of Scourge hours earlier. He’d been tossed into a hammock to recuperate until it was time for The Bloody Hour. "Lemming"* was tied up to the Yardarm. Even his feet were bound in a spread eagle. All the while, the fire of the forge was stoked to a hot white heat. Scourge had a gleam in his eye, and a smurky snarl to his lips. But then, in the blink of a moment, a huge spray of seawater came roaring up from the starboard side as the ship must have dipped with the roll of the ocean and came towering down upon the forge, Scourge, and his croonies. The light wave of water doused everything but Scourge’s fury; which bubbled and boiled like lava. The veins in Scourge’s neck popped big fat and purple – large enough for pirates on the stern’s mast to see. Everyone waited to see him just explode, knowing that Lemming was probably just going to be flat out killed after all of this. But then something strange happened. Scourge just swallowed down all that hate like a dense pill. Witnesses could tell that he was still angry, for it held in his eyes. He reached to his side and grabbed The Cat at his hip. Uncurling it, he moved to position and whacked Lemming into unconsciousness.

With the tension over, movement in the ropes and sails signaled that things were back to the relative norm of a pirate’s life.

  • Lemming or Louie Lemming for swinging from the boom gallow onto a mast and trying to climb up the mast to escape the whole crew of the ship. During his escapade -Many pirates thought – what’s he going to do, fall off the boat like a lemming.
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Peenche. Ponchuu. Poncho.

“Peenche. Ponchuu. Poncho. Pinoche. Pinnncheee. Pin. Chey. PINCHEYA!” Fishguts chanted butchered versions of his name over and over. He’d been at it since his second bottle. He was currently well into his third. Or fourth. Pinche was too busy cutting, slicing, and chopping to give much attention to the cooks daily attempt to drown in booze.
His hands worked the knives in a blur, a skill developed in his youth for a much darker purpose. But it was a skill set aside years ago when he pledged service to the great and honourable Lord Maximo, and was now dulled by lack of use, age, and the Mwangi incident. A few days in the Galley had brought some of the old skill back, but by the Ancestors he still felt slow.
“Wha sort o’ name ish that anyways?” Fishguts asked a space a couple feet to Pinche’s left. “Bah. I thinksh I’ll jusht call you Squints.” He narrowed his eyes in imitation of the Tian eye, nearly fell off his stool, and scrambled to keep his bottle in hand, juggling it for a second before pulling it to his chest like a mother saving a child. His attention firmly back on his drink, Pinche hoped the new nickname was as transient as Fishguts’ span of attention. It was an insulting and unoriginal nickname, and one he imagined many Tians in the west likely burdened with. No need to add another.
Of course Pinche wasn’t his true name. He was certain that no one within a thousand miles, with the exception of his master, knew it. Beyond that, it was written in the secret scrolls of his clan, but never spoken once he donned the mask and joined their inner circle. A true name is a weakness for a good spy and assassin.
The knife made the last few cuts, twirled in his fingers, and flew across the galley into a chopping block he had set up to practice his aim. Fishguts turned to look at it with one round bloodshot eye, then turned back to Pinche and raised his bottle in a toast. “Nish thr…” He started to say, noticed the sectioned and diced ingredients on the table, and bellowed in surprise. “Argghh… no no no!”
Looking down in confusion, Pinche was sure he hadn’t missed anything, but the cook staggered to the table and pointed at some greasy purple goo. “You hash to GUTs them firsht! Put that in the shoup and everyone’d be heads n’ tails over the rails! Then they’d likely keel-haul ush both!” Fishguts slumped back on his stool and wiped sweat from his face.
Pinche didn’t know what to say. On one hand he almost got himself killed. On the other, he might have found the cook’s best weapon. “Uh, sorry.” He said, looking down in a subservient manner. But his mind explored the potential.
As he cleaned the ruined meal, retrieved his knife, and gathered new fish, he asked casually, being careful with his speech. “Are ahsome type of uh fishguts worse than a others?”

Pinche
“Fishguts” Kroop

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Look! It's an Eagle......
Wormwood day 4 & 5

Day 4. The 21st of Nexus – The PC’s are assigned jobs for the day with Louie in the Rigging, and Pinche in the kitchen with a barely functional Fishguts to help make the usual morning biscuits and evening fishstew. Whiplash was assigned to catch vermin around the ship. Things like rats, roaches and other vectors.

An hour after sunrise, and while the morning biscuits are being passed out, Pinche and Louie see Jack Scrimshaw running up to the top deck with a hand placed over his forearm and blood drip, drip, dripping on the weathered deckwood. The curious PC’s inch closer to take a look and listen. While Mister Plugg inspects the wound, they see that Scrimshaw has an enormous bite in his arm. They also overhear Scrimshaw explaining that he was in the Bilges and that enormous rats were down there and he got bit while escaping from them.

Plugg looks around for pirates to inspect the Bilges, very close bye are the PC’s.

*- translated from Pirate – “Since your buddy, Whiplash is on vermin duty, get him and get down in those bilges and kill some rats! Don’t come back up here until that lazy, good for nothing slacker gets it done!”

The PC’s ask for their weapons back (OOG: All their stuff was taken from them when they were impressed), to which Mister Plugg replies that they are just rats and that the PC’s are girly sheep herders if they need weapons to handle a couple small rats.

They gather Whiplash, who was found shirking his duties below deck, and get a butcher knife from the kitchen (Louie) and Pinche’ grabs a masterwork dagger he had procured and hid away. The three impressed men make their way to the bottom-most deck called the Bilges. This deck is accessed by a trapdoor and uses a barred ladder that leads to waist deep and brackish water. Pinche and Louie drop down into the water and look for anything out of the ordinary. Whiplash positions himself on the ladder and casts a light spell into the water to help with some of the visibility. The light spell is not very effective, but it does manage to give some definition of the bottom of the boat and reveals a ton of water soaked crap and crates. Movement under the water reveals Dire Rats that swim, scurry, and swarm both Pinche’ and Louie. Whiplash attempts to snipe at the rats from his safe position, but his ice spears miss their target as the water provides a buffer in attacking the Dire Rates. Pinche moves with grace and tumbles and jumps on top of the bilge pump to at least gain higher ground.

Louie is steadily harassed by the rats and calls for a retreat. With bloody legs and bites on his waist, he attempts to climb up the ladder, but Whiplash’s positioning and sniping of the rats keeps Louie from getting to someplace safe. With a panicked need for safety, he grabs Whiplash and pulls him down from his roost. Tossing Whiplash into the middle of the brackish boil of rats. Louie then moves his way up the ladder to escape the throng. Prone, disoriented, and betrayed by the burly fighter, Whiplash tries to get his balance and stand up, but the Dire Rats sense some easy food. Even the rats that were climbing the bilge pump to attack Pinche moved back into the water to try and overwhelm the skinny Druid of Water (worshiper of Besmara). Through the Sea Queen’s mysterious protection, Whiplash survives the rat fury and stands up and attacks back eventually defeating the enemy.

The PC’s spend some time investigating the Bilges and actually find a few items of use. Because they spent so much time in the Bilges, Mister Plugg heads down to the lower decks cursing them out and downplaying their wounds and accomplishments against “a bunch of bilge rats”.

Sandara (NPC) heals Whiplash of his wounds, but doesn’t know the other crew members well enough to pro-offer aid.

The crew finishes their normal jobs, with even Whiplash actually completing his task for the day, but his mouth earned him more lashes from the whip.

Day 5 – The 22nd of Nexus

The next day is much better and the ship is humming across the Peril Sea to an destination or shipping lane unknown. Day Five, and Whiplash is up to his old tricks once again. Assigned to swab the fore decks, he loafs and shirks . Scourge is infuriated and threatens to not only put Whiplash in “The Box” but to advance to using “The Cat” instead of a normal whip. Whiplash scoffs at this and earns a rope punch. Scourge also turns to the rest of the swabs and tells them that each time Whiplash gets a punishment, then they get an equal number of strikes. By this time, Whiplash has already earned enough time on the yardarm that he loses consciousness at that evening’s “Bloody Hour”.
Entertainment ensues and the rum rations are passed out. Louie quickly takes his required share and makes his way to his hammock to try and recover from the previous day’s fight. To add to the evening’s entertainment Mister Plugg brings up a chained and hulking man from below decks. This is Owlbear. It was Mr. Pugg’s originally intent to have him fight this “new Guy with all the muscles” for some fisticuffs and fun. Since Louie can’t be found, Mister Plugg stares at Pinche the cooks assistant and smiles. He then whispers lies into Owlbears ear that Pinche was one of the mean sailors that tarred and feathered poor Owlbear the other day ( see picture of Owlbear). Pinche overhears this and quickly tries to deny it and beg out of the fight. Owlbear is not smart, and so he doesn’t know what is going on or what to do. And in case of confusion Owlbear has always relied on the option that allows him to hit something. With Owlbear advancing, Pinche tries to feint the dumb hulking man, but says the wrong thing.

" Look! An Eagle!" – Pinche exclaims – pointing off into the distance- first hoping to draw Owlbear’s attention away so he could rabbit punch his kidneys when the enormous brute was off guard.

Instead, Owlbear thinks that Pinche is poking fun at him for being tarred and feathered and calling him “Eagle”. It’s usually hard for Owlbear to think logically, but this was simple. He didn’t like being tarred and feathered by this scrawny small eyed man and his mean friends (well, he doesn’t remember the scrawny man being there, but he remembers his mean friends – and Plugg said the mean man was there). He also doesn’t like being called Eagle, when his name is really Owlbear.

THIS MAKES OWLBEAR MAD. VERY MAD.

He’s going to teach this man with the small eyes a lesson. Owlbear throws a big meaty right hook. And connects.

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SaS - Getting their equilibrium
Wormwood Day 3

Part 2
Day 20 of Nexus. DAY 3 on the Wormwood.
The newly impressed men start to understand their duties and the schedule/ rythmn of the ship better. While that doesn’t help Whiplash, it does give Louie’s character an opportunity to talk with others on the boat. Regrettably he’s both ugly and doesn’t talk very well so he find it hard to connect with Shortstack or Mollie (impressed halfling and gnome ). Whiplash gains a very good friend in a beautiful lady who also seems to have lots in common with Whiplash. Most notably Scourge’s malice and angst.

Meanwhile, Pinche finds Fishguts kitchen to be a hot-mess straight out of an episode of Hoarders. He spends any free time over the next three days organizing the rats nest while Fishguts is usually passed out drunk in his cot. Pinche finds some useful and bizarre items as he begins to re-equip himself.

Later that evening, as usual, the Top deck is full of sailors drinking their required Rum ration, playing music (Mollie is temporarily given her fiddle), games , bullshitting and carousing. This happens each night, but Louie’s character is approached by Skimshaw (named so after one of the games played on deck) and asked to “be his guy” in an armwrestling match they are having. He’s offered 10 SP . After agreeing, he sits into the chair and measures himself against the guy opposite. Louie’s character has a distinct strength advantage, so he’s confident. Until the other pirates takes some rum bottles, breaks them up and scatters the shards atop the arm wrestling table. Louie gulps.

He wins his first match. driving the opponents fist into the table so hard, the guy yelps in pain as the glass turns his fist into a bloody mangled pulp (5 points of damage) . Feeling cocksure, Louie bets his 10 SP on his next match. While he still is obviously stronger than the other pirate, he instead loses. and feels the pain of the pirates version of the aaarrrrr-mwrestling. He’s on the hook for yet one final bout and while he wins, he only barely beats the guy out.

Games to be played:

Butchers Block (card game)

Skimshaw (card game)

Armwrestling

and two other drinking games – their names escape me while I’m at work.

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Fine Kettle of Fish(guts)
Wormwood days 1 to 3

Day 1: The 18th of Nexus.

The PC’s awake to the sounds of bootsteps walking down wooden stairs. Their head is thumping and their tongue is thick from the effects of a strange poison that was used on them the night before while partying in Port Peril at a hot spot called Conveniently Maid. None of the PC’s know each other, but they are all in the same trolling net as they come to the realization they have been shanghaied!

Being escorted by their captures, they make their way onto the top deck to see miles and miles of rolling sea and a large crew of about 20 scurvy men and women moving about on the nearly 100 foot and three masted Gallion.
They are stuck, and the PC’s know it. All their equipment has been taken and they only have the clothes on their backs- and their lives aboard The Wormwood.

They are run through a small number of tests and asked questions to best determine what forced labor they are going to perform on board ship. Pinche’ is quickly assigned to be the cook’s assistant - only because he was the only one that said he could cook (even though he couldn’t). Louie’s character was assigned to be a rigger and do work in the masts/sails.
Whiplash
Al’s character was assigned as a lowly swab.

Well, the pirates did not exactly have a good eye for sailing talent as Pinche’ soon became horribly seasick while trying to hunt for turtles and fish. Whiplash found his hard plodding tasks tough and earned 3 strikes of the whip for not completing his duties and another 3 for mouthing off.
Only Louie’s character did well, and he actually did exceptionally well impressing a fellow rigger.

The party also notices 4 others that appeared to be impressed men/women working as swabs.

Day 2: The 19th of Nexus
The ships bell rings furiously at first light and the crew lumber upstairs to assemble. But, 4 pirates block their way. Pinche’ notices that there are other pirates looking on from various spots and quickly deduces that they are about to get their ass kicked for the ships entertainment.
But, the unequipped and out manned (3 vs 4) PC’s mop the deck with the enforcers. Breaking noses, throwing snowball slushies, and sneak attack Karate Chopping the hard knock thugs.

Message Delivered: We might be landlubbers, but we are not pushovers or chumps.

Whatever positives the PC’s got from their handy defeat was soon wasted as all three got more whippings during The Bloody Hour. Pinche’ was still suffering effects of being sea sick, but just starting to get sea legs, Louie was mouthing off and crowing like a rooster, and of course Whiplash was establishing a bad reputation and earning yet more loathing from Scourge and Mr. Plugg- the Man at Arms and Second in Command respectively.

The day before, Pinche was shown to the cook’s kitchen where he met “Fishguts” Kroop. A slovenly, nasty, rum reeking wreck of a man. Pinche’s debilitating seasicknees earned him three strikes of the lash, but also got him into his hammock for the day, so Day two was his first day prepping the ships meals and fishing for the evening’s catch. Taking a subservient posture, and trying to do as he was told, Pinche’ found that being the ships cook might have been the easiest task and offered him a good amount of freedom aboard decks. Fishguts always appeared drunk or at least on his way to deeper levels of drunkenness, and chopping fish and working with knives was right up his alley.

“You eremind uh me of a old masta.” Pinche observes of Fishguts as he cuts and chops fish with amazing speed and accuracy. “He drink rike fish too! And sometimes pass out and forget tings… And… uhh.. rell, actuary you noting rike old masta…”

Days 3-6 to be continued.

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Shanghai'd!
Wormwood

Location:Miles off the Shore of the Mungi Continent and away from Port Peril.
Time: Pirates and Sailors work from Dawn ‘til Dusk. For this story – it’s somewhere close to Dusk, and a time they call: The Bloody Hour.

One of the recently impressed men that they picked up from Port Peril is strapped , YET AGAIN , to the Yardarm. Stretched out to give Scourge (the Man At Arms and in charge of discipline) a full canvas of his unclothed back. This landlubber, has a loose flapping tongue with his jaw open so much that some of his brains had to have seeped out. Whiplash (that’s what we call him now) is crazier than a Bilge Rat for how many times in just 5 days he’s been whipped.

“I ain’t doing your bullshit work! FUCK THIS SCRUBBING THE DECKS CRAP. YOU AIN’T GOING TO BREAK ME!”, yells Whiplash right before the first crack of Scourge’s whip strikes the canvas and streaks of red paint erupt from Whiplash’s fleshy frame. 5 more lashes and a limp, bloody body is untied from the yardarm and dragged onto a hammock located below decks.
Three more people are in line to be given into the hands of Scourge so that he may both teach, punish, and make his art.

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