Sails, Sabres and Swashbuckling on the Spanish Main

The Pirate Regatta, Part 2
To the finish

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Robert set off at a sprint towards the mast whilst Jiim found a good vantage point, levelled his musket and fired at the beast. His aim was as true as ever, but it was as if he was firing at a cloud – his bullet passed straight through the creature, with no discernible effect. Tregellan hollered “Get back to the maelstrom, I didn’t invite you!” and Bennett muttered a quick prayer to Neptune to remove the beast so that they could win the race for His Glory. Tregellan cast a quick confused glance in the Bosun’s direction, clearly thinking that the race was all about Anton’s glory.

The beast, perched up high in the crow’s nest, hurled a bolt of electricity at the nearest crewman, Croissant. The charge, amplified by the metallic weapons carried by the poor French crewman, burned him instantly beyond recognition, and his blackened body fell to the deck. Manuel, who was stationed near the bow, gathered up a length of wet rope and ran towards the mainmast. The captain readied one of his grenades and, somewhat improbably, hurled it with great accuracy and saw it nestle in the crow’s nest just beneath the beast. The resulting explosion vapourised the crow’s nest itself, but the shrapnel had no effect on the lightning.

Bennett, continuing his disconcerting trend of mental alacrity, rushed below decks. He reasoned that metallic objects such as bullets and shrapnel were having no effect on the creature, and remembered that they had a supply of wooden harpoons stored away. He began rummaging around for them as quickly as he could. Meanwhile, with no obvious targets available to the beast, it launched a bolt directly down towards the mainsail, instantly setting it aflame despite the pouring rain. And then it spotted Robert attempting to climb the mast below, and another crack of electricity was heard as a bolt shot towards him. Striking him in the chest, again amplified by Robert’s twin swords, it caused a vicious burn. Robert managed to shrug it off, but it was clearly enough to send the swordsman fleeing towards the bow of the ship once again to reconsider his approach.

Seeing the possible effects of even carrying anything metallic, Manuel continued to sprint towards the mast carrying his length of rope, and several thuds could be heard as the Spaniard flicked his daggers into the deck of the ship as he ran, to ensure they would not be swept away. Jiim, meanwhile, stowed his musket and other metallic objects and ripped off a length of wood from a nearby crate. Utterly fed up, the usual steely, quiet Dutchman finally snapped. Weeks of being at sea, and now finding himself in a storm, facing something that couldn’t be shot, finally tipped him over the edge. Wielding his improvised club, the landlubber ran towards the mast, cursing the beast, the sea, the boat, the storm, and anything else he could think of. The rest of the crew were momentarily shocked and a little terrified by the outburst from the normally-unflappable Dutchman.

Tregellan yelled an order for four crewmen to go below and fetch lengths of chain, which they reluctantly obeyed, having seen what happened to people carrying metal. The rest were ordered up the mainmast to put out the fire on the mainsail. Sadly crewman Browning was fried to a crisp with a bolt from the beast as he was obeying the order. Tregellan then sprinted towards Manuel and grabbed the other end of the rope that was being carried by the Spaniard, and then made for the edge of ship.

Manuel was struck with a bolt from the creature as he started his climb up the mast, which stunned him. Bennett emerged from below deck with four harpoons and lobbed one up at the thing. It definitely struck the beast, but did not appear to slow it down at all. But this was the encouragement they all needed. It seemed that wooden items could have some effect. The angry Dutchman started scaling the mast at a scarcely believable speed, as Robert reluctantly stowed his weapons as well, and Manuel recovered from the shock he had received.

The crewmen started shinning up the mast to put out the fire, as Bennett hurled his second harpoon, which seemed to have the effect of dazing the beast. As Tregellan removed his iron shirt and all other conductive items, Jiim once again scurried up the mast to draw level with the creature, which sizzled at him. Manuel was not so proficient, and couldn’t get a decent grip on the slick, wet mast.

Tregellan himself started to scale the mast and his natural agility made it look easy. Bennett threw his third harpoon, this time narrowly missing and it sailed over the mast and into the sea. As the crew kept climbing, Jiim braced his feet against the mast and clubbed at the beast, stunning it again. It quickly recovered, and electrocuted the Dutchman, causing a vicious burn and standing his hair on end. Jiim, after actually being struck by something, was fuelled by rage now. He shrugged off the burn, turned, spat, and glared at the being.

Manuel had managed to start the long climb up the mast carrying the rope, and the crew also continued climbing towards the sail, which by now was burning like a beacon. The slick conditions and the wind caught a couple of them out though, and they fell. Déjà vu recovered, but Escargot snapped his neck in the fall. Jiim beat the beast back with his plank, stunning it again, just as the last harpoon from Bennett buried itself in the beast. A loud crackle was heard – could that be interpreted as a howl of pain?

Tregellan finally reached the top and swiped at the entity with the two clubs he was wielding; both of them missing badly. “Shit, I brought my maracas” was the cry from the Captain. Bennett retreated below decks once more to search for more harpoons, and it was just as well that Tregellan missed as Jiim was in no mood to be denied. He lashed out with his plank once more, clubbing the thing into oblivion.

As soon as the beast was vanquished the storm started easing, and a few rays of sunshine could be seen poking through the dark clouds. Bennett re-emerged with another handful of harpoons, and was almost a little disappointed that he wouldn’t get to use then. The fire on the mainsail was quickly doused, and the crew surveyed their situation. Three crewmen had been lost, and the mainsail had suffered considerable damage from the fire. The top speed of the War Pig would be greatly reduced until it could be repaired. But in the now-improved conditions, there was no time to dwell, as they spotted the Red Knave a few hundred yards behind them off their starboard quarter. No other ships could be seen.

Seeing the small island of Coaming Point in the distance, and spotting the Kraken which marked the finish line, Bennett took to the helm once more and both ships hurtled across the waves. The Captain, clearly caught up in the moment, suggested hurling the anchor overboard to shed some weight – an idea that was quickly dismissed when it was pointed out that this was the usual way to stop a ship!

It was clear though that all the risks they had taken throughout the race, all the hazards they had faced, and Bennett’s skill at the helm had paid off. The Red Knave could not make up the distance, and with Tregellan standing on the bow with his arms aloft, the War Pig crossed the finish line, winning the Regatta. The Red Knave crossed a few minutes later, but Mauser did not stick around to congratulate the victors and continued on sailing into the distance.

Summoned on board the Kraken, with Tregellan donning his Tiger Skin hat, the crew were presented with their prizes. Firstly, the purse – 32000 pieces of eight. Tregellan was granted his seat on the Pirate Council, and the Master of Gales placed a broken silver manacle on his wrist, symbolising his freedom from the laws of nations. They were also granted the deed to an island close to the Spanish Main. However the deed is just a piece of paper. In order to lay claim to it, they will need to explore it and deal with anything they find on the ‘Isle of Empty Eyes’…

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The Pirate Regatta, Part 1
Into the Storm

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With the required proof in their hands, attention turned to the most immediate pressing priority, namely what accessories could Tregellan fashion from the magnificent white tiger pelt. Not an insignificant amount of discussion was had, and Anton decided that, of course, he would have a hat made. Bennett took the teeth to fashion a necklace, and Robert took just enough for a codpiece. Manuel requested a strip of fur that he could adorn hit hat with, which very nearly had him summarily executed for treason, and he eventually settled for adorning his bandolier instead. Noone in this crew is allowed to possess a hat that could possibly rival the Captain’s!

Anton once again questioned Manuel over his relationship with the Duke of Seville, now that the Duke had been mentioned directly in the communique to the Apothecary, and Manuel once again reiterated his innocence. Searching the rest of the building, the crew found little of value and no monetary wealth whatsoever. It would appear that Zariska was quite far down the line in winding up her business, and her coin had already been moved.

The crew headed back to Tessa to hand in their discovery. She is delighted with the proof that they have located, and this is now enough to bring the matter before the Pirate Council. She asked if they had any inkling of who the agent might be that was mentioned in the note. At first Bennett suggested (jokingly?) that it was likely Manuel, but then he remembered the names on the ledger and suggested it could be the Pirate Lord Endymion, who had no numbers next to his name. Tessa looked surprised at this, saying that no one was more loyal than him.

However, all of that would have to wait for the time being, as the annual Pirate Regatta was almost upon them. The Master of Gales would be announcing the course in the next few days, and they should take every opportunity to prepare. Tessa would stake the crew’s entrance fee of 2000 PoEs. Anton went to talk to the Armada harbourmaster to enquire as to whether Captain Mauser would be participating. He thought that would be more than likely.

As they waited for the announcement, the crew took the opportunity to get the War Pig careened and ready for action. Manuel put the crew through their paces, and they also took the opportunity to head to a tavern to find out some gossip on the competition. Word was that this would be the most open race for years, now that the Master of Gales was no longer participating.

At last the announcement came; the race would be starting in 4 weeks’ time at Cauldron Rock, a small island at the very north of the Caribbean, close to the Eye, at the very edge of most charts. Bennett organised a farewell rum-soaked party for the crew and all of armada, with free rum for anyone who toasts King Neptune and the War Pig. And with sore heads the following morning, the crew set sail north, stopping en route at Port Royal to see if their property had sold (it hadn’t) and at Nassau to check in on their pirate crew in the Footman’s Grave (they weren’t in port, but seemingly were doing well for themselves).

Arriving at Cauldron Rock, they saw a large flotilla of vessels, not only the competitors but also well-wishers, spectators, gamblers, and Pirate Lords. They spotted the Red Knave at anchor, and made a point of anchoring right next to it, ensuring the Knave had a good view of the Pig’s eight-pounders. The afternoon before the race, the Master of Gales called every Captain and their First Officer aboard his war frigate, the Kraken. Tregellan took Bennett as his number one, and they headed over. Among the other competitors there, Tregellan set eyes on Mauser for the first time since being marooned, who was there with his First Officer, Riaris Krine.

The Master of Gales explained the race route to all present and gave each crew a basic map. They would be required to sail north east, sail between ‘Iris’ Splinters’, two jagged towers of rock about a hundred feet apart, and then head north west, skirting the edge of the Eye. The would then need to round Pinnacle Atoll, a jagged rock surrounded by two concentric rings of razor-sharp reefs, and make their way south west to the finish line at a small island called Coaming Point. The Master of Gales, a formidable, tanned, weather-beaten man, reminded all the competitors that this was a nautical race – not a battle or the opportunity to avenge old slights. Any ship caught attacking or unduly interfering with another would be disqualified, or if necessary, sunk. Nature would be their most dangerous enemy, and they would be wise to remember that.

There were sixteen ships in all taking part in this year’s Regatta, of all shapes and sizes including brigs, barques, sloops, schooners, and pinnaces. The list of ships participating was: Albatross, Barnacled Bitch, Bonny Witch, Darcy’s Pillage, Dragon’s Tooth, Lord’s Favour, Phantom’s Price, Promise’s Bounty, Redcap, Red Knave, Sea’s Largess, Skullduggery, Stormrunner, Sullied Strumpet, War Pig and Wave Wraith.

The morning of the race dawned under leaden skies and squalls of driving rain lashing down from the Eye. After an hour or so of shouting and jostling for position, the competitors were all lined up behind the start line formed by the Kraken and another ship, the Ocean’s Revenge. All eyes were on the Master of Gales as he stood atop a rocky outcrop on Cauldron Rock, raised his arms and cast his gaze upwards. As a flash of lightning and clap of thunder struck, he lowered his arms signalling the start of the race. At that exact moment, the winds shifted from northerly to easterly, causing chaos among the ships on the start line. Bennett at the helm skilfully avoided all the other ships milling around and made a clean getaway and the War Pig raced off north east towards the first hazard, the Silted Shrouds.

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The Silted Shrouds were an extensive series of shallow sandbars formed by the continuous action of the Eye. There were no up to date charts of the area as they are continually washed away and new ones form. The task fell to Tregellan to chart a course through the area, and to determine what speed they should travel at. With Sven’s Eye in hand, the Captain selected a moderate speed, and expertly guided the War Pig through the maze without once needing to backtrack, improving their chances in the race significantly as others would surely have had problems.

Once they emerged from the Shrouds, it would seem that they were not as unscathed as they had thought, as Bennett at the helm reported that the War Pig was handling sluggishly. The rudder had become jammed up with silt and sludge after having navigated the shallows. A sudden realisation dawned on the crew as it became apparent that nobody on board had any repair skills. All the officers tried their hand at unjamming the rudder, but when they failed, they turned to the crewmen to see if any of them could assist. As it turned out, Crewman Henry had a natural flair for ship repairs, and got them underway again. Bennett and the War Pig made excellent progress across the open water, until they came across the next obstacle in their path, the Raker Shoals.

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Raker Shoals were a series of low lying coral reefs. Tregellan proceeded to plot a course through the obstacle, instructing that Jiim, Manuel and Robert went on lookout to spot any uncharted reefs that could get in their way. Manuel went up to the vantage point of the crow’s nest, with the other two on deck straining their eyes to see the reefs in their path.

They proceeded with caution initially, and Manuel spotted a reef in their path a sufficient distance away that made avoiding it easy for Bennett. The Captain ordered that they accelerate, and again Manuel picked out the reef, just in time for Bennett to swing the War Pig around it. Maintaining their speed, the Spaniard in the crow’s nest clearly had his eye in and noticed another reef way ahead of them in the distance, allowing the War Pig plenty of time to tack around it. Filled with confidence now, Tregellan again ordered that they increase their speed. At this rate, it became a lot harder for the lookouts to pick out the low lying reefs in time – Jiim noticed one just over a hundred feet in front of them, and it required all of Bennett’s piloting skills to avoid tearing the hull of the ship on it. Perhaps seeing sense, Tregellan slowed the ship down, and Robert picked out the final reef with time to spare. The crew had successfully got through the dangerous reef, but once again the rudder became unresponsive. Clearly Crewman Henry had not managed to remove all the previous blockages. Once again the officers had no idea how to repair the rudder, so it fell to the crewmen; this time Crewman Croissant managing to unclog the mechanism. Emerging from Raker shoals brought them into the Devil’s Flow.

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The Devil’s Flow, more commonly known as the Devil’s Piss amongst sailors, was an area of powerful swirling ocean currents sweeping down from the eye. The crew had the option of sailing around the area, but Tregellan ordered that they plough straight through. Navigating the treacherous currents, whilst tacking into the strong winds, proved extremely challenging, and even Tregellan was slightly slowed, but the crew made it through much faster than sailing around would have been. The wind and the rain had left the deck of the War Pig slick and slippery though, and both Bennett and Crewman Shotliff lost their footing. Bennett managed to grab hold of a rope, but Shotliff was not so lucky and was washed overboard. The Captain feebly threw a rope in his direction, but the distance he had washed out was simply too far. In an act of heroism, Robert lashed a rope around himself and leapt into the swirling sea, swimming strongly through the currents to the stricken crewman. Manuel picked up the other end of the rope and hauled the pair of them back aboard. Shotliff was safe, but the crew had lost a little time, although this time was swiftly made up by Bennett as the War Pig skimmed over the sea at speed towards Iris’ Splinters, and the edge of the Eye.

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As they approached Iris’ Splinters, the two towers of rock, they spotted another competitor, the schooner Sullied Strumpet, ahead of them, about to thread the Iris. As it approached the rocks, a giant turtle-like behemoth surfaced from beneath the waves underneath the unfortunate schooner, capsizing her and sending her crew into the waters. The schooner quickly disappeared beneath the waves, and the turtle began feasting on the helpless sailors in the water. Robert asked if they should save the sailors, but Manuel was far more interested in not drawing attention to themselves, suggesting that they should “sail casual”. The turtle was close to the rock towers though, and although it seemed it was more interested in feasting on the sailors in the water, there would be no avoiding it. The small pinnace, the Redcap, now appeared in the vicinity, behind the War Pig.

Tregellan ordered that they approach the Splinters, and manned one of the eight-pounders on the starboard side, along with Jiim and three of the more proficient gunners amongst the crew. It did not take long for the behemoth to finish off the sailors in the sea, and began to move towards the opening between the rocks in an attempt to block the War Pig’s passage. However the War Pig’s greater speed and manoeuvrability , coupled with Bennetts skill at the helm, quickly brought the War Pig alongside the beast, allowing them to broadside it with all their firepower. Anton and Jiim both connect with the eight-pound guns, but its shell was tougher than any ship’s hull, and they only managed to wound it. Fortune favoured them, however, and they managed to reload and get off another shot before the beast could react. Anton’s shot bounced off the shell, but Jiim connected with it once again, and it was Crewman Moore, manning a four-pounder, that finally finished the beast off and sent it to the bottom of the sea. Bennett had no trouble threading the Iris at speed and sailing off toward the Eye.

The Eye itself did not seem to want any intruders, and a rogue wave crashed over the deck of the War Pig, sending everyone sprawling. Seven crewmen were washed overboard by the force of the water, leaving the War Pig no alternative but to stop and try to pick them up. Manuel launched the longboat and tried to get to the stricken crewmen as fast as he could, however only five sailors could be located. The Eye had claimed crewmen Pierre and Yarr, god rest their souls.

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Again, any thought of taking the longer route around the Eye was not even considered by Tregellan, and they set course for Pinnacle Atoll, through the fringes of the Eye. Once again, the slick deck caught out Crewman Metford who fell overboard, but was quickly rescued, only causing them a slight delay. And then, once again, that damn rudder jammed. This was starting to look like more than a coincidence now – had the rudder been sabotaged at some point, perhaps when the ship was careened? However future-ships-carpenter Henry once again repaired the damage and they got underway. The Eye now seemed sated, and presented no further hazards to the crew as they approached Pinnacle Atoll

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Pinnacle Atoll was a tower of rock, surrounded by the two concentric circles of Sharkskin Reef. The crew could go around the whole obstacle without danger, which would be a much longer route, or they could choose to go through one or both of the rings of reefs; both being the shortest, yet most dangerous route. It should come as no surprise to anyone that this was never really a choice, as Captain Tregellan ordered the ship to take the quickest, most dangerous route. All the officers kept an eye out for reefs, as the danger of a wave washing the ship onto the reef was very real. Sailing through the first ring, nobody spotted the danger, but the canny Bennett muttered a quick prayer to Neptune, who saw the War Pig safely through. Tensions ran high as they sailed through the second ring, with Robert spotting a jagged reef just in time for Bennett to avoid it. They rounded Pinnacle Atoll and sailed southwest. Manuel shouted the alert to Bennett this time who managed to avoid the rocks, riding the very last of his luck. One more ring of reefs remained, and Jiim alerted Bennett to the danger. With his palms sweating on the helm despite the rain, he swung the War Pig to port with the reef just gently grazing the side of the hull. They were through!

But, unbelievably, that damn rudder had gone, yet again! This time, Jiim himself managed to fix it, having taken note of what had been done before. This was certainly something that would need to be looked at once they got back to port.

But despite being on the home stretch, port seemed a very long way away, as they sailed into an electrical storm. As if that wasn’t enough, cries went up around the ship as the lightning seemed to coalesce on top of their mainmast into some form of beast. Bennett was the only one who wasn’t surprised by this, clearly having heard tales of such beasts in his days at sea. The beast formed around the crow’s nest, lightning crackling and the smell of sulphur filling the air, as the crew readied themselves.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Cutting to the Chase
Diplomacy, Stealth, and a tiger!

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The crew discussed their approach to the apothecary. Should they talk to her or sneak in and have a look around? Should they use the password they obtained from the assassin? What do they want to achieve by talking? Is this just a power play by Tessa? Should they just send one or two of them? Do they let Jiim do the talking? All points discussed in great length. Eventually they decided that conversation should be their first course of action, and with that Bennett decided to pose as a customer wishing to purchase something. But he found the store locked. Knocking at the door was greeted with a firm “We’re closed”, however Bennett stated that he wishes to purchase two pounds of powdered bark, and a few seconds later the sound of bolts being retracted were heard and the door was opened.

Two guards greeted the crew and beckoned them in, leading them through the shop into the back to a well-appointed waiting room. One of the guards stayed with them and asked them to wait, whilst the other headed off to fetch the owner. A few minutes later, Zariska Galembar, a dark-skinned lady, entered the room and joined them.

Bennett greeted her with a cheery “Buenos Dias”, in a feeble attempt to trap her, but she merely looked bemused and responded with a cheery “Good day. How can I help you?” It was at this point that the lack of an agreed approach to their questioning became apparent. Jiim took the lead, largely due to the complete lack of input from any of his colleagues. The Dutch not being renowned for their diplomatic skills, Jiim took the blunt approach:

“Let’s cut to the chase, we want to know what you are doing”

Zariska was somewhat taken aback “I beg your pardon? I’m running a business.”

“We know that you hired an assassin called Giles Halmis to kill spies. What’s going on?”

“I have never heard that name before. Now, unless you are here to make a transaction, I would kindly ask you to leave” she replied, unsurprisingly getting annoyed.

And with that, the crew couldn’t think of a retort and were escorted out by the guards, the door locked once more behind them. Leaving Manuel to surreptitiously keep the place under surveillance and report any unusual comings and goings, the rest did what all pirates would, and headed to the nearest tavern for some food and drink.

Manuel kept an eye on the apothecary from the shadows for the whole morning, and did not witness anyone enter or leave the store. Reporting this back to the crew in the pub at lunchtime, he was promptly sent back to watch for the remainder of the afternoon, while the rest of the crew made themselves even more comfortable and ordered another round of drinks.

After dark, the crew returned to the apothecary and quickly scouted it out, including the chimney on the top deck, but they found that this had an iron grate across it and could not be used as a means of entry. It would seem that the only way in was through the locked door. Monroe and Tregellan acquired clubs, not wishing to needlessly kill people should it come to that once inside. Eventually Jiim expertly picked the lock, and him, Manuel and Robert snuck inside.

Manuel heard voices coming from the room to the east of the shop, which sounded like men playing cards. The three of them snuck past to the south, down the corridor and proceeded to explore the back of the apothecary; a series of store rooms, workshops etc. Only the faint sound could be heard of bickering voices in the street as Anton and Leonard argued whether it should be called ‘Pestle and Mortar’ or ‘Mortar and Pestle’.

Arriving once more at a locked door at the back of the building leading further in, the scouting party decided to return to the front of the shop and fetch Tregellan and Bennett before going any further. Manuel and deJong snuck over to the door of the guardroom, but as Monroe made his way across the shop floor, the scent of herbs and spices proved too much for him, and he let off a sneeze. One of the guards opened the door to investigate, to be met with Jiim clubbing him with the butt of his musket. The guard avoided the blow and tried to land a hit of his own with his longsword, which Jiin nonchalantly batted away. Manuel grabbed him from behind and put his hand over his mouth, and Monroe ran up and clubbed him unconscious. The other guard, now yelling ‘Intruders!’ attempted to come to his comrade’s aid. Jiim flicked his musket over and pointed the business end of it at the guard’s face, but before he could even surrender, Manuel had knocked him out cold with a well aimed punch to the jaw. The two guards were then bound and gagged.

Heading down to the locked door, Manuel this time picked the lock and peered in, but awaiting him were two further guards at the end of the corridor with muskets levelled. They fired, but both missed their mark as Manuel was covered by the door. Jiim moved up and fired in return, stunning one, as Anton also ran in yelling “Tell the mistress of the house that Anton Tregellan of the War Pig is here!” One guard stabbed out with his bayonet at Manuel who was drawing his daggers, as the other took cover round the corner to reload. Bennett leapt in to Manuel’s aid with a well placed throwing knife that stuck firmly in his target’s eye socket. Monroe at this point decided that wielding clubs was probably no longer necessary, and drew his blades. The Spaniard ran up to the corner and stunned the reloading guard, and Bennett finished him off with another well-thrown knife.

Heading further round the corridor, Anton peered round to see a staircase leading up with a solid wood-panelled bannister. On the stairs were two further guardsmen, covered by the bannister, who shot at Anton, but missed. Manuel ventured in through the coal store into the kitchen, and found a way around to beneath the stairs without the guards being able to see him. Borrowing a grenade from Tregellan, he moved to beneath where the guards were placed, and just as Jiim was wielding a pillow on the end of his bayonet round the corner to distract them, the grenade was thrown with pinpoint accuracy, blowing both guards to bits.

The crew headed upstairs, and Manuel opened a set of double doors to find a former dining room, which had a couple of large holes in the south wall. Looking round past one of these holes, he was surprised to find a large white tiger prowling around the room, what looked to be a former library. He hurled one of his daggers at it, scratching it, and ran back, closing the door behind him. Tregellan meanwhile looked into the room to the south, to find Zariska in her laboratory. She started to run away to the west, and as Anton gave chase, he was confronted by the tiger who had doubled back. Tregellan was clearly momentarily distracted by the thought of all the wonderful accessories that could be crafted from this creature’s fabulous pelt, that he failed to defend himself properly and the tiger mauled him.

Bennett and Manuel both hurled knives at the beast, both hitting and wounding it, as Zariska continued to flee. Manuel finally finished the beast off, and Bennett gave chase to the apothecary as she disappeared into the next room. As he opened the door, he spotted a ladder being lifted up through a hole in the ceiling, as the captain was busy laying claim to the tiger skin.

Beckoning their captain away from his prize, Manuel and Bennett proposed boosting Tregellan up through the hole to give chase to the apothecary, whilst Monroe and Jiim engaged in a foot race round to the staircase up to block off her escape. As Tregellan was being lifted up, a small glass vial was hurled down through the hole onto the trio, breaking and spilling acid. Tregellan lithely leapt up through the hole escaping the blast, but the other two were stunned by it.

Zariska was waiting for Tregellan in the room above and lashed out with her dagger, catching him off guard and wounding him badly. The poison on her blade only added to his injury, and it was only thanks to the Cornishman’s hardy nature that he managed to stay on his feet. He in turn tried to push her back down through the hole, but she proved too strong.

Manuel showed his strength by boosting Lennie up through the hole single handedly so that he could join in the fray with Anton. Once up, Lennie kicked the ladder down through the hole for Manuel to come up and also join them, while Jiim and Robert continued their personal race to the stairs. Zariska, now faced with three opponents was starting to worry, as the three of them persistently tried and failed to disarm her of her poisoned dagger. As Robert and Jiim reach the top of the staircase, Manuel finally managed to knock the dagger out of her hand. A small click was heard and she dropped down dead.

Bennett expertly patched up Anton’s wounds, and then took the poisoned dagger for himself. Searching her body, they found an incriminating note. Written in invisible ink which Zariska had already unveiled, the note said “Silence is now key. Our plans will go into full force once our agent finishes his preparations. Destroy any remaining evidence, liquidate your network and sell your business. Report to the Duke of Seville for your next assignment.”

This would appear to be the proof that they were after for Tessa, and with a few accusatory glances towards Manuel, they prepared to deliver the news.

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Spy Huntin'
or should that be Huntin' the Spy Hunter?

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Arriving at St. Kitts, the first order of business for Bosun Bennett was to find a bank to bequeath 500 PoEs for his friend, a certain Bull McLean. The rest began their search for the scrimshander, with Tregellan asking at the docks, and Jiim enquiring about a craft quarter in town. Anton has no luck, unable to find anyone suitable who would talk to him, however Jiim quickly located the craft quarter, and indeed the Carver’s Hall, a communal building where all the scrimshanders of St Kitts would collaborate on larger projects and sell their wares.

The craftsmanship was of a very high standard, and as the crew entered the hall, Anton immediately started talking to one of the craftsmen and commissioned a scrimshaw helm for a rapier, with the image of his face on it. Getting directions to Jamie, they headed over, with parting advice from Bennett to the scrimshander “Pay particular attention to the hat!”

Jiim covered the exit to the hall, and Bennett approached Jamie and told him that he would like to commission a very personal piece of work, could they possibly retire to a tavern to discuss it where Bennett would shout a meal for him. Keft was more than happy to accept the offer and they made their way out of the hall towards a local tavern, Anton wearing a confused expression and muttering “When did the Bosun become competent?”

Once settled at a table in the tavern, Bennett comes clean and reveals that, whilst indeed he did want to commission a work, they were also interested in information he may have regarding spies in the Caribbean. Initially cautious, a large purse of 100 PoEs placed on the table soon had Jamie talking. He told the crew that he had his suspicions about a man named Haddon Pike, a fisherman, beachcomber and occasional smuggler. The thing was, Pike would make numerous trip west in a hired boat, presumably to smuggle goods, however Keft knows the black market very well, and Pike would never buy or sell anything before or after making these trips. Keft gave them directions to Pike’s cottage on the outskirts of town overlooking a cliff. Bennett thanked him and commissioned a scrimshaw of a figure of Neptune, which Keft was more than happy to take on.

Making their way out of town, they soon arrived at the small driftwood cottage described by Keft. Anton and Bennett stand back to let the more ‘sneaky’ members of the crew scout it out. Manuel crept up to the door and put his ear to the keyhole to listen, but the only sounds he could make out were the loud voices of Tregellan and Bennett discussing picnics. The Spaniard deftly picked the lock and carefully opened the door, to reveal a scene of chaos. The cottage had been ransacked, and there was a body who’s head was immersed in a fish tank, with two crossbow bolts sticking out of his back. The pet piranha in the tank had taken care of most of the victim’s face. Jiim traced the flight of the bolts through an open back window, and around eighty feet away in the grass he found a discarded glass vial, the contents of which had since washed away. Bennett determined that he had been dead for four days or so, meanwhile the rest of the crew searched the body for clues, but found nothing.

Jiim returned to the cottage and quickly located a false panel in the base of the fishtank – and contained within was a sealed whalebone scrollcase. Quickly opening it, they found a manuscript of an Italian opera ‘L’Orfeo’, and a small piece of paper containing letters, which Robert quickly identified as Roman numerals. Initially confused, with the cultured Lord of Tidewater Rock having to explain “This is what we call… music!” they quickly made sense of the number cypher, realising that each three-digit number represented an act, a stanza, and a letter. Decoding the whole message, it read ‘Report on movement of ships visiting St Christophe. Esp. those of Master of Gales. Contact Rovena Kallet. Tortuga.’

Robert knew of the reputation of the Master of Gales – a Pirate lord operating out of St. Kitts. However no one knew the whereabouts of St. Christophe no matter how hard they taxed their memory – and possibly soiled themselves in the process? Tregellan once again failed to convince any locals that they would be better off as goat herders on a tiny rock of an island, but on returning to the ship they asked Fishguts about St Christophe – to which he explained that they were there already – St Christophe being the former name of St Kitts. Jiim quickly retorted “Yes, we knew that – well done crewman. We just wanted to test you.” Asking around about the Master of the Gales, they discovered that he wasn’t currently in port. This year he was arranging the Pirate Regatta – after having won it the previous four years. The news of such an event certainly caught the attention of the crew, Tregellan in particular.

The Dutchman had the idea to check the port to see whether the golden wasp statue had been seen or trafficked, but no one had seen or heard of it. The crew discussed who would want to take out the spy? Monroe suggested that perhaps the lurkers had another client that wanted to know if anyone enquired about the spy.

After much discussion about where to head to next, they decided to forego the lead in Anguilla, despite its proximity, and head to Tortuga, given recent events it seemed that they were perhaps on the chase and that time was of the essence. With expert navigation from the Admiral, they shaved two days off the estimated travel time and arrived without incident.

Enquiring in Tortuga about Rovena Kallet, it didn’t take the crew long to learn that she was a local harbourmaster, in the employ of the local Pirate Lord of Tortuga, a certain Arronax Endymion. They also learned that she had recently gone missing, but nevertheless they got the addresses of her house and the warehouses she was in charge of. Jiim, full of ideas, suggested that they report on movement of ships to the Pirate Lord himself, pretending to be the spy, to acquire some more info. However they realised that most of the crew were already reasonably well known, so all heads turned towards Robert, who in turn suggests that the Pirate Lord may not be party to this conspiracy. The crew decided to start the investigation at her house.

Arriving at the address, they discovered once again that they had been beaten to it. The house had been ransacked, and there was no sign of the harbourmaster. Searching through the chaos and papers littered everywhere, they nevertheless located a document of interest. It appeared to be a ledger of some kind, listing the names of all the Pirate Lords, including the Pirate King himself. Each name had a large number next to it, in the hundreds of thousands. One name stood out, though, that of Endymion, the Pirate Lord of here in Tortuga. His name just had a dash next to it. Scribbled at the bottom of the page were the words ‘Send with Corlan’. The crew pondered what these numbers could mean – net worth, debts, payoffs?

Asking around in his unique savvy way, Tregellan found that Corlan was an associate of Kallet’s, who lived in a small town house in Tortuga. Taking the ledger with them, they made their way to the address, a small house on a T-Junction. The door was locked and there was a light coming from inside. They all positioned themselves around the house, with Manuel sneaking up onto the roof, although Tregellan and Bennett took some time to decide whether the left or right approach to the house was the optimal solution…

Once in position, Monroe knocked on the door, and it was answered a few seconds later by a small dark haired man matching the description of Corlan. ‘Yes?’ he said, but just as Monroe began to ask him a question, the poor man was pierced by two crossbow bolts, one in the eye socket and one through the throat, dropping him to the floor instantly. Spinning around, they noticed a man on the roof of the building across the street, moving swiftly towards the staircase.

Bennett hurled a dagger at the moving target, but the range was simply too great and it harmlessly pinged off the side of the building. Jiim, in one slick move, unslung his musket and loosed a shot, striking his mark as usual and stunning him, but the assassin quickly shrugged it off. Manuel climbed down off the roof of Corlan’s house, and the assassin moved to the far side of the roof, to the sound of Tregellan demanding an explanation.
The crew quickly all ran to intercept the killer as he was descending the stairs. As Manuel ran into position behind the building in an attempt to climb up and flank him, Bennett stabbed out on the staircase and wounded him. Robert ran up behind Bennett and Anton tried to vault the pair of them and grapple the man, but failed.

The assassin stabbed out at Anton with the bayonet attached to the front of his double crossbow and pierced his armour, but the hardy Admiral shook it off. With Manuel creeping up behind him, Bennett slashed his dagger across the man’s forehead, causing a superficial wound but more importantly causing blood to trickle down into his eyes. This left an opening for Tregellan to disarm the killer, causing him to drop his crossbow, at which point he yielded.

Dragging him back into Corlan’s house out of sight, they questioned the killer. He was quite happy to divulge what he knew, once Robert had assured him that he would be let go. He told them that he had been hired to kill the three targets by Zariska, the apothecary on Armada. If they want to gain access to the apothecary, they should use the password “two pounds of powdered bark”. He didn’t know why she wanted these people dead, nor did he ask. He was just fulfilling a contract. Despite Tregellan’s wanting to keep the assassin, the crew honoured Robert’s word and they let him go, keeping his double crossbow, bayonet, and two vials of what was presumably poison, these last two items being of particular interest to the Dutchman. Not finding anything else of interest in Corlan’s house, they tried to figure out what was going on. Why were these ‘spies’ being killed?

Without any further information to go on, they headed back to Armada and met up with Tessa Fairwind once again. When she asked what they had discovered, to which Anton replied “I don’t know. Crew – what have we discovered?”, they explain that they believe that the apothecary in Armada had the spies killed – the smuggler in St Kitts that was reporting on the Master of Gales, and Rovena Kallett and her associate in Tortuga, who had a ledger of all the Pirate Lords which cast some suspicion on Arronax Endymion.

Tessa was impressed with their findings thus far, however without any proof of the apothecary’s involvement it wasn’t enough to bring before the council. The crew vowed to go and get the required proof, and requested that Tessa sign them up for the Pirate Regatta, which she was more than happy to do. The crew paid their entrance fee, and as they were departing Anton presented Tessa with a necklace. With a resigned sigh, Jiim had to drag Anton away once again.

Anton commissioned his rapier with a local bladesmith before the crew headed to the apothecary to see what they could find.

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Diving the Wreck
Deep sea creatures, sunken treasure, and... Lard?

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Reconsidering, after removing Brine’s Sting, the Deep Platinum Necklace and her coin from Louise’s body, Bennett returned with Louise’s lifeless form to the War Pig. Once on board, he convinced Fitch to join with the crew in the exploration of the wreck

Once on the main deck, they spotted three doors leading forward, only the leftmost, now lying closest to the sea bed, was obscured by bits of broken mast and debris, and could not be accessed. Opening the middle door, they found a spiral staircase leading down, which Bennett and Manuel decided to explore. Tregellan took the final door, and found himself in a cabin. All the unsecured furnishings now lay against the port wall, and a quick search from Anton using the tip of his knife revealed an expertly crafted silver sextant, which he pocketed, and another door in the port wall (now the floor). Trying the door, he found that it had swollen, but without missing a beat he tied a length of rope to it, and using the corner of the cabin wall as a fulcrum, he single-handedly heaved the door open, revealing another cabin. Inside what was clearly the quartermaster’s quarters, again a brief search revealed a locked iron-bound chest, which he heaved out onto the main deck where Jiim and Fitch were waiting.

Manuel and Bennett, meanwhile, descended the spiral staircase onto the gun deck, to find the ships cannons all strewn along the port wall, sea-damaged beyond use. Two further staircases led down forward on either side of the ship, and they took one each and went forwards into the cargo hold. There, they spotted a giant jellyfish had made its home, sheltering from the currents. Bennett came up with the ingenious idea of using some sailcloth to shepherd the jellyfish out of the way. Fitch returned to the War Pig with the chest and himself had a brainwave, returning to the wreck with an upturned barrel, with enough of an air pocket within to allow the crew to communicate, two at a time. Using this device, Bennett coordinated the deployment of the sailcloth, dropping it from above to the waiting Manuel, and the gently moving the beast into the bow of the ship and out of the way.

Now free to search in the bowels of the forward cargo hold, they found a few chests containing furs which were now ruined. However they also found some small sealed metal barrels, and some packing cases that seemed undamaged, so these were salvaged. With no more of the bow section left to explore, the crew ascended to the War Pig.

Attention first turned to the chest that Anton had found in the quartermaster’s cabin. It was locked with two locked that had now badly rusted. Manuel, keen to prove his worth to his new crew, produced his tools of the trade, but found he couldn’t disable a lock. The quiet Dutchman, who had been overseeing the attempt with a mixture of interest and scorn, smirked imperceptibly at the Spaniards failure, and proceeded to expertly pick both locks on the chest. Opening it revealed a stash of silver coins, which they surmised must be the undistributed portion of the crew’s payroll.

Now they examined the barrels, which were metallic and completely sealed. Manuel, desperate to make up for his failure, offered himself to open one, at sea in a longboat if necessary. Having established that they contained some form of liquid by sloshing it around, the crew were deeply suspicious of them, and amid aspersions from Bennett that they contained liquefied ghosts, they left them untouched and unopened for the time being. The packing cases provided a more joyous find, each containing a dozen bottles of very fine rum. The Bosun was quick to request from Fitch if he was willing to donate one of the crates from his share to the ship’s crew, as would they, to which Fitch readily agreed.

They had yet to discover any clue as to the secret of the Banshee’s nimbleness, however. It was clear that, if there were answers, these must lie in the stern section, down in the rift. The crew discussed ways of providing a source of light at depth, but with the tools they had to hand they couldn’t think of any possible way. Fitch then suggested that the cold temperatures down there would also be a concern. Manuel suggested that they all need to apply a layer of grease to their skin beneath their clothing before diving. Unable to think of a better suggestion, they all retired to their quarters with lard from the ship’s supply. Reuniting on deck, all looking a little sheepish, Anton orders “Never speak of this again!”. And with the Dutchman quipping “First one to turn back is a sissy”, they dove over the side and down into the rift.

Eventually they located the stern section, resting upright on a shelf around 180 feet down, with the void continuing beyond even further into the depths. Visibility was severely reduced, and the crew could only see a few feet in front of them, but the found themselves on the poop deck. Bennett quickly dove to check the rudder, but finding nothing unusual he rejoined the rest. Feeling their way along the rail, they eventually made their way to the centre, where they found the ship’s wheel, ornately carved with bone handles and decorated with skull motifs. Lashed to the wheel were the remains of the captain. The wheel certainly looked special, but the crew left it in place for the time being to further explore the wreck.

They quickly located the captain’s opulently appointed cabin, and whilst all the paperwork, charts and logs had long since been destroyed, Tregellan did locate a silver dinner service, which he appropriated. Further exploration revealed the ship’s stores, the crew’s quarters with a dozen or so mouldering corpses, and the ship’s gally, which Jiim had to force open on account of the debris behind the door. There they found the remains of the cook, his legs trapped beneath a heavy bench. Further into the ship they found the officer’s quarters, along with the remains of Vargus Brack, identifiable by his peg leg, and the incessant vibrations of the ring on Anton’s finger. Fitch took a quick look at the corpse of his old friend, and saw that he had been badly burned at some point prior to his death.

Now descending into the main cargo hold, the lack of light had Bennett almost collide with the hold’s new occupant, a Deep Tiger Anemone of huge proportions. Reacting to defend its lair, the creature expelled a forceful jet of water at the Bosun, sending him hurtling backwards over the side of the deck thirty feet or so away. Jiim stabbed out at the beast with Zul, and retreated again to distance, however the creature’s tentacles could still reach him. Anton delivered a blow with Brine’s Sting which the anemone took, and Manuel rushed in close to stab the beast, managing to slice off a small piece which the Spaniard would keep to eat later. With Bennett swimming as fast as he could back into the fray, the others all found it hard to penetrate the creature’s slimy exterior. The anemone’s tentacles lashed out at all who were trying to harm it, and one of them swiped Manuel, lashing him across the chest. The pain was considerable, however the Spaniard’s fortitude warded off the effects of the anemone’s venom. Jiim finally spotted an opening, and thrust his weapon at the beast, slaying it. Fitch expertly patched up the Spaniard’s wound.

Examining the cargo hold, the crew noticed that the wood by the hole in the ship was covered in strange-looking pale crustaceans, cream coloured and resembling a cross between a crab and a prawn (quickly christened a ‘crap’ by Tregellan). They also located three undamaged crates here. The door to the rear led to what was clearly once the ship’s brig, but the door was now hanging off. Stored in the brig were several chests bearing a Spanish seal. Taking these, plus the wheel, with Bennett being careful to pay respects to the captain, and saluting him as they deported, they once again ascended up to the War Pig.

Bennett attempted to convince Fishguts to tell Tregellan about the existence of scalding ghosts, much to the sailor’s confusion. As Anton attached the Banshee’s wheel to the War Pig, and proceeded to hear voices in his head as he did so, the rest arranged a service for all the Banshee’s crew, and Louise, with Bennett leading the prayer to Neptune to grant them peace.

In the cases from the cargo hold they found ivory, whilst in the chests from the brig they found that they contained gold ingots! After valuing everything obtained from the wreck, Fitch was more than happy with his share of over 8000 pieces of eight, and requested that he be dropped off back at Nassau to make his own way back to England. Tregellan muttered something about killing Fitch now and taking his share, and despite no one being sure whether he was serious or not, they honoured their word and sailed back to Nassau. They parted ways with Fitch, with Tregellan giving him a letter to take back to England to his relatives, encouraging them to make their way to the Caribbean for a life of excitement and adventure on Tidewater Rock.

In a tavern in Nassau they met a brooding, dangerous looking man by the name of Robert Monroe, who said that his luck had been on the wane and he was looking for opportunities. Ever the salesman, Tregellan told them of his crew of free captains, and their life of adventure as buccaneers. Establishing that Monroe was more a swordsman than a sailor, Anton started losing interest, but the others were keen to see what he had to offer. A brief spar later with Manuel convinced them that he was indeed highly skilled with a blade, and he joined up.

They then set sail for San Juan to deliver their information to the Lurkers. Slip once again met them, and upon learning the secret of the Banshee lay with the vessel’s wheel, he was more than happy to impart his knowledge. He told them that a scrimshander in St Kitts had knowledge of a spy within the Caribbean, he should be their point of inquiry. The crew also asked about the wreckers in Anguilla and the Lady’s Sting, but not having any information to trade, and with Slip not accepting the promise of future info, a small ‘donation’ of 1000 PoEs revealed the information that the ship was wrecked by a group led by Varkala operating out of the Rampart Islands to the south east of Anguilla. Their final action in San Juan was to hand in Morton for his bounty to the Spanish authorities, who were overjoyed to be presented with the pirate and happy to pay out the 3000 PoE bounty.

With that, the crew set forth to St. Kitts, to find the scrimshander.

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On the Trail of the Lonesome Brine (Banshee)
Clues, Pirates, Magic Rings, Sharks and Death

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Prior to the crew’s departure from San Juan, they once again purchased more provisions for the ship, with a muttering from Louise “All this sailing around is damn expensive!” As their next port of call would be Port au Prince, they decided to call back at the island that had been christened Tregellan Island following the sinking of the Sea Cat. They wanted to meet up again with ol’ Jesse and let him know that the evil Baron Sanchez had been dealt with.

During an uneventful journey in which the only excitement was the sound of Rotgut endlessly carrying sets of keys to the Bosun, Anton located Tregellan Island with no difficulty, and they sailed into the cove where they first acquired the War Pig. Jesse was still there, and was overjoyed at the news that the crew brought him. All he wanted to do was return to England, and as a gesture of gratitude, he gave them the title deeds to a property in Jamaica just outside of Port Royale. All he asked for now was transport back to Port Royale so that he could make his way home, and the crew readily agreed.

Port Royale was only a few days away, and the crew and Jesse parted company. They decided to check out their new property, a nice two-storey town house with a large gated garden. It was clear that it had not been attended to in a while, but was nevertheless a good property. Initially they discussed the possibility of hiring a couple to look after the house in their absence, but then baulked at the monthly cost this would incur, and therefore decided to engage the services of a lawyer and sell the property, for a 10% fee. Leaving the house in the hands of the lawyer, they finally left for Port au Prince.

Another week’s travel saw them arrive at the French port. Bennett swapped their flag for a French one, and Anton donned his French Captain’s hat, and they sailed in without incident. Asking a dockworker about the House of Stolen Kisses, he indicated a large ornate building by the waterside. As Bennett was unsuccessful in finding a non-French speaking tavern, the whole crew headed to the Temple of Erzulie.

Whilst Manuel and Jiim discussed the merits of scouting the back doors, Tregellan, with uncanny recollection, remembered the note he was given by Tessa and knocked on the door. Presenting the note, the team were led through the sensually decorated corridors of the temple by scantily clad acolytes to the chambers of the Temple’s High Priestess, Dindreann. As Anton muttered a somewhat creepy “Hello!” under his breath, she greeted them and offered them refreshments of exotic fruit juices, and when they were comfortable on the plush cushions in her chambers, she asked what she could do for her dearest friend Tessa.

When asked about the Spanish spies, Dindreann explains that many secrets are shared in confidence within the temple, and she cannot simply part with them for free. However the crew may be able to do a service for her. One of the Temple’s ships, the Lady’s Sting, recently went missing. She believes that the ship was lured by a group of wreckers, and whilst piracy is a part of life in these parts, this vessel carried a sacred relic to the temple, a golden statue of a wasp. Dindreann wants the statue returned. Bennett and Manuel both realised that wreckers were not uncommon, and that finding a specific group would not be an easy task. Further questioning revealed that the ship went missing around Anguilla.

When asked about the Brine Banshee, Dindreann was much more forthcoming with information. She told the crew that a retired ship’s doctor named Haneilius Fitch in Nassau claims to have a means to locate the missing ship, and is looking for someone to bankroll his expedition to recover it. Dindreann also states that she knows nothing of Captain Mauser or the Red Knave.

Bennett decided to engage the services of a temple acolyte for a donation of 100 PoEs, whilst Anton arranges shore leave for the crew, including beer and a party with plenty of ladies of dubious moral character.

After discussing which lead to follow, they eventually voted for heading to Nassau, despite Jiim’s suspicions that the priestesses may have sabotaged their own ship. Once the crew had recovered and the ship was reprovisioned, they set sail north. A twelve day journey saw them reach Nassau without incident, and raising the English flag on the War Pig, they put into harbour. Nassau was a very run down, impoverished port. Once again rotating the crew for shore leave, with instructions not to cause too much trouble, the crew headed to a nearby tavern to try and locate the doctor. It didn’t take long for Anton to persuade the barkeep to part with the address of Fitch’s surgical office in town, and finishing their drinks they headed off.

As the crew entered the office, Fitch, a grey haired man with a very posh English accent, introduced himself and enquired how he could be of service. Anton, instead offered the services of himself and his crew, and once Jiim mentioned the Brine Banshee, again Anton didn’t take long to persuade the doctor that they could be trusted. Fitch went into a back room and reemerged with a glass tube containing a human leg bone in preserving liquid.

“This tibia previously belonged to Vargus Brack, one of my old shipmates. Vargus was grateful to be rid of it – he’d have died of gangrene if I hadn’t amputated his leg. It’s a good thing I kept it as a specimen, since he was an officer on board the Brine Banshee when she last sailed. Vargus and I were good friends – he came to visit me the last time the Banshee was in Nassau. He mentioned in passing the course the Banshee would be taking. The Banshee had an abundance of riches aboard her, and together I believe we can salvage them. Are you interested?”

Fitch wanted half of all treasure that they recover from the ship in order to provide the means of locating it. The crew discussed it amongst themselves and Louise was keen in accepting the deal, and quickly convinced the rest of the crew. The deal was struck. Fitch went on to explain that whilst he knows the course of the ship, he doesn’t know its exact location. There is a ring, enchanted by voodoo magics, that can be used to track a corpse, provided the wearer already has a piece of the body – hence the leg bone of Vargus Brack. If the crew can obtain such a ring, they would be able to sail together to locate the Banshee. Fitch also knows the whereabouts of such a ring. A local pirate captain, named “Milksop” Morton, wears one. That’s where the crew and their ship come in. If they are strong enough to take it from him, they would be in business. Morton sails in the Footman’s Grave and is due in Nassau within the next week.

Back at the War Pig, Fishguts told the crew what he knew about the pirate. He was an independent, seeking to make quick profits from other independent unaligned pirate crews. With Fitch on board, they made quick preparations and set sail to intercept. No more than a day out of port, they sighted a sail on the horizon.

Anton spied through the Farglass that whilst the ship was hostile, it had raised its flag for parlay, and was approaching. The War Pig also approached cautiously and when they were in hailing range Morton called out to the crew to enquire where they were headed. Although Anton lied ‘Anguilla’, the War Pig was still approaching slowly, and when Morton called for them to stop and they did not comply, the conversation was cut short as the Footman’s Grave turned to port and brought her guns to bear, one shot hitting the War Pig but failing to penetrate her armour. This called for Anton to cry out an insult “Milksop? More like Milk Maid!” to which Louise took offence at the suggestion that being a woman somehow implied weakness.

Tregellan raked the Footman’s Grave with chain shot from one of her 8-pounders, taking out some of her sails and reducing her speed. Bennett skilfully guided the War Pig through a tight turn at speed, and Anton hit again, this time taking out a cannon and a mast. With the Grave reduced to a crawl, Bennett maneuvered the Pig behind the stern of the Grave and crossed her T, allowing all the guns to be brought to bear. This time crewman Leech struck the telling shot, taking out the Grave’s final mast and leaving her immobile in the water. Calls to the Grave to surrender went unanswered, so Tregellan changed tack and called to the crew to turn over their captain if they wanted to live. This worked, and Morton was attacked by his own crew, which allowed the War Pig to pull alongside and board the stricken vessel with ease.

Morton managed to take down two of his now-former crewmates when Bennett boldly stepped forward, pushing the crew aside, to take on the captain single handedly. This foolhardiness prompted Louise to apologise to Fitch. Morton was concealing a fistful of gunpowder, which he threw in Bennettt’s face as he attacked, and followed it up with a thrust from his rapier, but Bennett managed to shrug it off. Anton grabbed a still-smouldering fuse cord and cheered along with the crew, whist the rest now joined in the fight. Bennett, calling on Neptune, struck a good blow but again failed to damage the pirate captain. Louise also hit, but Manuel missed with his throwing daggers, unused to the movement of the ship’s deck beneath him.

Seeing that he is now completely outnumbered, Morton surrendered. Bennett demanded all his rings so that Fitch could identify the correct one. As Bennett is about to place the captain in a launch and set him adrift, Fishguts whispered in his ear that Morton had a bounty on his head, which caused an instant change of mind. Anton suggested putting him in a barrel, whilst Jiim, somewhat more darkly, suggested killing him and checking whether the ring worked by seeing when his corpse arrived with the Spaniards. Discussions around pickling him, or selling him in Nassau also take place, but nonetheless they decide to keep him alive and on board, for now.

Anton struck a deal with Gratton, who was seemingly the most senior of the Footman’s Grave crew. They could live and sail under Tregellan’s banner. The War Pig would tow them back to Nassau for repairs, and beyond that for a tithe of 40% of their takings, they could raid in this area. As the alternative seemed to be certain death, this sounded like a good deal.

With the ring now in their possession and worn by Anton, they set sail northeast towards the fringes of the ‘Eye’, a powerful hurricane, which was the Banshee’s last course. As they approached, the ring started vibrating on Anton’s finger, and it didn’t take long to pinpoint the location where the vibrations were strongest – an area of open water. Going over the side wearing their deep platinum necklaces (although Manuel was sceptical at first), they see that the ocean is only sixty feet deep here. They can clearly see the bow section of a ship, lying on its side at a slight angle on the sea floor. It was lying next to a rift, and it appears clear that the vessel split in two when she sank and the stern section has dropped into the rift. The vibrations from the ring pointed to the fact that Vargus’ corpse was in the rift somewhere. Louise suggested that they move the War Pig away and leave a lifeboat anchored – as whatever caused the Banshee to split in two could still be around.

Not seeing anything on interest on the deck of the ship, they swam towards the broken hull to investigate the interior of the bow section. A group of four hammerhead sharks swam out of the hull to greet them, the scent of fresh meat spurring them on. Louise and Anton were at the front of the group, and instantly dispatched two of them as they approached to within striking distance. A third one badly mauled Louise, whilst the fourth stunned Anton. Jiim followed in and tried to help Louise by pushing her out of the sharks’ reach, but as he did so the giant fish took another enormous bite out of her, which sadly proved fatal. Not even Bennett could come to her aid this time. RIP Louise Brempton. Jiim finished off that shark, and Bennett moved in and slew the last one.

Mourning the loss of their crewmate (and sharing out her stuff), the crew decided to keep on investigating the wreck, whilst weighing down Louise’s body so that they could recover it later.

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Pirate Politics
Violence, Intrigue, and an old foe reemerges?

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Following their acceptance into the pirate brethren, the following day Bennett made himself scarce, not only to commission his multi-purpose hook, but also to purchase a horse. As a lay priest of Neptune, Bennett was none too comfortable with having a figurehead of Besmara, the Pirate Goddess, fitted to the War Pig, so he took it on himself to appease Neptune in the only way he knew how. After purchasing the horse, he found a quiet spot on the edge of Armada and drowned the beast as an offering.

That evening, the crew went to the Riptide Alehouse, to have a few drinks and see if they could rustle up a few more bodies for their crew. As they strolled in, they were recognised as the newest Free Captains and a cheer rose up from the patrons, who also vacated the table nearest the fireplace for them. Tregellan generously offered two rounds of drinks for everyone present, which was greeted with an even bigger cheer. As the crew settled down at their table, Anton worked the room trying to recruit some more sailors, however despite his offers of adventure, excitement and mackerel pate, he only managed to convince another four sailors to join up. Distinctly unimpressed, he muttered “We might as well have hired the French!” However he did manage to recruit a ships surgeon to join the team – a certain Doctor McCoy.

Whilst Anton was doing his rounds around the bar, a handsome rogue approached the table, clearly very interested in Louise. Introducing himself as Pierce Jerrell, he lavished numerous compliments on her, from her beauty to her fighting prowess at taking down the Chastener. Louise seemed unimpressed.

Whilst this was going on, the Dutchman spotted a familiar looking face on the other side of the bar. He recognised her instantly, that was Caulky Tarroon, the cook on board the Red Knave, the ship that had originally brought them to the Caribbean which suffered a coup (as Louise put it) at the hands of Captain Mauser, ending in them being marooned. This could be the very person that had drugged them in the first place! Jiim explained the situation to Bennett and Manuel and how they were all very keen to have a ‘word’ with Captain Mauser. Caulky herself was busy lacing the drink of one of the bar patrons with some substance.
Caulky had not yet spotted the crew, and they moves surreptitiously into position to try and intercept her. However at this point the bar patron with the spiked drink noticed that his glass had been tampered with, and threw his drink over his shoulder, landing on another pirate who took a swing at the man standing next to him. Almost instantly, a brawl broke out in the alehouse.

One of the pirates that Anton was trying to recruit took a swing at him, and managed to stun him. Another rushed at Louise but she clobbered him as he was rushing up and floored him. Yet another patron rushed over the table punch Manuel, but the quick-thinking Spaniard tipped the table over and sent the pirate tumbling, however he managed to keep his feet.

Anton, unaccustomed to being punched like that, kicked one assailant and punched another, stunning them both whilst exclaiming “Well played sir!” Caulky spotted the crew amongst the stramash, and recognising them for who they were, she ran towards the back of the bar. Jiim set off in pursuit, punching a patron in the stomach, but this had no effect other than to cause the patron to smile a three-toothed smile at the Dutchman. Bennett drew one of his knives and held it to his assailant’s nether regions stating “Back off or you’ll lose them!” – which the terrified pirate duly did. Pierce Jerrell, still trying to impress the unflappable Louise, struck out at one of the men next to her, but missed.

The ingenious Louise called out at the top of her lungs “50 pieces of eight to the man that brings that one-eyed bitch down!” This had the instant effect of causing the brawling pirates to all rush towards the terrified cook. Manuel and Jiim ran towards the main doors, and Pierce, sensing that his chances with Louise would be improved if he were to take down Caulky, set off in pursuit. Louise seemed to be warming a little to Pierce, possibly because Captain Tregellan had taken a dislike to him?

Bennett found himself only a few yards from Caulky, but with a great many drunken pirates between himself and his target. In a daring feat, he leapt up and grabbed a chandelier, and attempted to run across the shoulders of three men before diving onto the cook. He swang up, ran across one, across a second, and uttering a quick prayer to Neptune, ran across the third – however even this was one step too far and he lost his footing and collapsed to the floor in a heap next to Tarroon. Tregellan was on the other side of the alehouse, so he casually slammed the two pirates in front of him together with a bone-shaking crunch, dropping them both to the floor, and he took up a flagon of mead and sat down at a table, mopping up the mess.

Caulk, now with a whole bar after her, smashed a window next to her leading onto the street and started climbing out. As Jiim and Manuel sprinted for the front door, Louise broke another window further up the street, and Bennett called out for the horde of pirates chasing Caulky to grab her by the legs. They tried, but couldn’t quite hold on.

Anton continued to sip on his drink, fully expecting his crew to capture the cook. As Caulky ran to the corner of the building, Jiim levelled his musket and loosed a shot, deliberately trying to catch her in the leg. As usual, his aim was true and the bullet passed clean through her thigh, causing her to let out a scream of pain. The horde of pirates, eager to claim their bounty, rush through the broken window after her. Caulky limped around the corner of the building out of sight of the crew, and Anton finally decided to take matters into his own hands and rushed to the back door leading to the alley, and flattened himself against the wall. As Lennie decided to start eating the bar snacks, Manuel rounded the corner to find that there was no trace of the cook. Louise attempted to track her, but found the trail of blood from the corner of the building from her leg wound simply stopped.

Anton rounded the corner and on seeing his crew shouted “Well?” Jiim explained that he had shot her through the leg, and her disappearance must be supernatural somehow. There were definitely strange forces at work here – after all Jiim had punched a pirate in the stomach and it had had no effect! Tregellan was more inclined to believe in Jiim’s poor marksmanship than the supernatural, however it did seem that the devious cook had eluded them.

Anton immediately set off to find Armada’s harbourmaster to enquire after the Red Knave. It turned out that indeed the Red Knave had been docked up until very recently, and had departed very soon after the crew had completed their third trial for an unknown destination. A coincidence? After instructing the harbourmaster to keep them informed as to any news on the Red Knave’s whereabouts, the crew headed back to the War Pig, to find a messenger awaiting them. The messenger bore a letter from Tessa Fairwind, inviting the crew for dinner the following evening at her townhouse in Armada. Anton immediately recognised her name and reputation. Tessa was one of the most popular Pirate Lords on the council, known for her charm, attractiveness and promiscuity. Her flagship was the Luck of the Draw, a sloop-of-war. Rumour has it that she in next in line for the Pirate Crown.

The following day Anton decided that acquiring a new hat for the occasion was the top priority, whilst Louise also got herself a new outfit in fetching black and purple. Chancing his luck, Anton also decided to check in with surgeons and barbers to see if anyone had called in with a leg wound needing attention. The lack of anyone reporting such an injury further convinced Anton that Jiim had simply missed his target. The rest of the day was spent showing their new crewmen around the ship, and come evening they set off for Tessa’s townhouse. They were led in by one of Lady Fairwind’s retainers into a windowed dining hall overlooking Armada harbour. The table was laden with fine cold meats and cheeses, French wine and brandy.

Tessa entered the hall, an event which immediately causes Anton to question what the local laws are on bigamy, and congratulated them on their achievement of becoming Free Captains. She then asked them what they know of the current political situation in Armada, to which they honestly answered that they know very little. She went on to explain that Bonefist’s hold over the Pirate Lords is perhaps not as strong as it might appear. When her own candidacy for the position was mentioned, she vigorously denied having any designs on the position, but nevertheless Bonefist’s days as king were likely numbered.

She then went on to explain the real reason for calling them tonight. She has heard whispers of Spanish designs on Armada. Whilst the Spanish hatred of pirates is nothing new, lately the rumours have been hinting at a Spanish attack on Armada – a horrific idea for all Free Captains. She is convinced that there is truth behind these rumours, but she needs solid proof to put before the Pirate King and Council to force them to act. She can’t investigate these herself, she is far too well known, and is therefore asking the crew, ‘resourceful newcomers with no previous allegiance’ as she put it, to investigate. She’s prepared to offer 5000 PoEs for any solid proof that she can put before the council.

“I am convinced that Spain has spies and informants operating in Armada.” As all eyes turned on Manuel. “I can only think of two places that might have some knowledge of these traitorous informers in our midst. The first is the House of Stolen Kisses in Port au Prince, a temple of Erzulie, and one of the best information brokerages in the Caribbean. Use this note to obtain an audience with the temple’s High Priestess, and my good friend, Dindreann. The second is the Lurker Guild in San Juan, I have no contact with them, but their currency is information. I hope you can convince them to reveal what they know.”

The crew, and especially Anton (with comments like “never let a day go by”), eagerly accepted the task, and they left, with Jiim forcibly pulling Anton away, as Tessa cheekily winked at him. As they departed, Tessa presented Anton with a very fine chart of the Caribbean.

Discussion ensued about where to head to first. Port au Prince or San Juan? Should they stop by Tidewater Rock or Tregellan Island on the way? Tregellan eventually made an executive decision that San Juan would be the first port of call, and amid discussions about ‘Drowning the Dutchman’, and exactly what that meant, they set sail.

The thirteen day journey only took eleven thanks to Anton’s fine navigation skills using the new charts provided by Tessa. When the captain was asked how they should go about locating the Lurker Guild in San Juan, his reply was simply that he would leave it to his shifty contingent. As they dock up in San Juan, with no resistance thanks to their Letter of Marque, Louise sets up a shore leave rota, and Bennett proceed to carve up Manuel’s hat and accuse him of being a Spanish spy. Eventually they got out of Manuel his true story that he had stolen from the Duke of Seville, and had been forced to spend these proceeds in engineering his escape. Bennett, satisfied that Manuel was ‘too inept to be a spy’, enquired if there was a bounty on his head. Piratical tendencies seemed to be spreading. Eventually, the crew headed to a local tavern, La Real.

Manuel, realising that asking openly about the Lurker’s Guild would not be a good idea, questioned the barkeep about Captain Mauser. When the barkeep stated that he didn’t know the name, the canny Spaniard asked if there was anyone nearby who would? He was directed to a local nondescript warehouse near the docks, and they set off, tipping the barkeep as they departed. Locating the warehouse, they were greeted by a small man, clearly English, who introduced himself merely as Slip. When it became clear that the crew wished to trade information, they were invited in off the street.

Firstly the crew enquire about Captain Mauser. Slip explains that the Lurker’s Guild deals in secrets as their currency. If they wish to know something, they must provide a secret of equal value in return. Comments such as ‘The Bosun wears women’s pants’ and ‘Tregellan is gay’ were not accepted as legal tender, but the crew eventually stumbled across giving away the location of Mancatcher Cove. This was deemed acceptable and Slip told them all the information they had on Captain Mauser. He had risen to prominence fairly rapidly and now operated in the western Caribbean mostly. He had an island base, and the name Gannet Island had been associated with him, however the Guild did not know it’s location.

The crew then proceeded to enquire about possible Spanish spies within Armada. This was a far bigger secret, and that knowledge would require some information that the Guild wanted. Slip went on to explain that a ship called the Brine Banshee mysteriously disappeared several months ago. She was said to have been one of the fastest and best handling ships in the Caribbean. If the crew were to discover what happened to this vessel, and the secret of her unprecedented speed and maneuverability, they could trade this knowledge for the information they sought. The ship disappeared somewhere near Nassau, but it did call at Port au Prince on its final voyage. Perhaps that would be the best place to start?

Stopping at the tavern once more on the way back to the ship, Bennett tries to recruit some extra hands to serve on Tidewater rock, but fails miserably to convince anyone to join them. They set off in the direction of Port au Prince

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Armada
Finally becoming Free Captains

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Anton returned to Tidewater Rock, followed a few days later by the rest of the crew returning from Santo Domingo. Anton initial concern was for the War Pig, of course, but on seeing that it was unscathed, he turned his attention to the fact that the crew were one and a half men light.

“What happened to Hall?” he asked.

Bennett, a man of few words (and limbs) replied “Got stabbed sir.”

“And your arm?” “Got cut off sir”

Sensing he wasn’t going to get any more information than that, he turned his attention to Captain Pegsworthy, who had based himself at Tidewater Rock waiting to take the crew to Armada. In recent days, he had captured and sunk a small Spanish schooner. Four crewmen, and indeed one passenger, had requested to join him, and as Merrill knew that his hosts were a little short-handed (quite literally in Bennett’s case), he took them on and offered them up to the crew. The four sailors were placed with Knuckles on the Thresher to bring him up to a minimum complement, and their attention turned to the passenger, a certain Manuel de Streza.

Manuel seemed keen to join the crew, and following some questioning in which Manuel was not altogether forthcoming about his talents, they did establish that he had no love for the Spanish and was quite at ease with reappropriating the property of others, and they took him on.

Anton kissed his wife goodbye and they set sail, following Pegsworthy to the Pirate city of Armada. Anton ordered that his banner be raised, which was quickly followed by the Bosun quietly mumbling to the crew to actually make a banner, which was hastily done and raised to the top of the mast.

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After a few uneventful days sailing southeast, Merrill eventually led them to Armada, a floating city made up of hundreds of ships of all shapes and sizes. A magnificent sight. They docked the three ships up, and could see a man approaching, followed by a huge retinue of onlookers and cronies. Anton hailed him, having spent the journey ensuring that he looked magnificent, and the man introduced himself as First Mate Goldtooth, formal representative of the Pirate King. Goldtooth told the crew that they had been expected for some time, however before they could relax and enjoy the wonderful hospitality of our city, by the Pirate Code they must prove themselves legitimate pirates.

“Who is your sponsor?” cried Goldtooth, clearly playing to the crowd of onlookers.

“I am” shouted Captain Pegsworthy in response, with Goldtooth looking particularly impressed.

“Very well. You will face three tests, the first two must be completed by one of your number, and the last is for all of the officers. The first test is to see whether you are passable sailors, rather than just fancy jackets that found themselves in command of a pirate crew! When you’re ready, follow me.”

Goldtooth led the crew along the docks to another ship, the Stingray, still followed by a crowd of onlookers.

“Your task will be to unfurl and set the sail on the mainmast, before one of my crew does the same on the foremast.”

Sadly it seemed that Bennett would have been the best man for this task, but given his injury he would have been seriously hampered in climbing the mast and handling the ropes, so therefore Tregellan himself volunteered. This seem to impress Goldtooth, the fact that the captain himself would take on the task.

With the rest of the crew and onlookers assembled on deck, Anton would be up against Haines Boyne, one of Goldtooth’s experienced sailors. Merrill gave Anton a quiet warning that he should remember that they are up against pirates, who WILL cheat.

When the order to start was given, Anton shimmied up the mast at an incredible speed, making it to the top before Boyne is even half way up. The sail was tied up at four places. Anton had enough basic sailing know how to realise that the two inner knots should be released first, else the sail would flap about in the breeze making unfurling the other side a lot trickier. Perhaps filled with overconfidence (Who, Anton? I hear you cry), he tried running along the yard to the first knot, but he lost his footing and slipped off, managing at the last minute to grab onto the rigging and haul himself back up. By the time Boyne had made it to the top of the mast, Anton had already untied the first knot with a flourish.

As Boyne made it to his first knot, Louise hurled insults at him in an attempt to put him off and distract him. Boyne was a grizzled old sailor though and took no notice of him being compared to a three legged cat.

As Boyne untied his first knot, Anton had already crossed over and reached the second, slipping once again in the process but again managing to hang on to the rigging and pull himself back onto the yard. At this point, the crew on deck noticed that one of the ‘onlookers’ had made his way to the side of the deck and was surreptitiously cutting through a rope. Bennett realised that his was holding the forestay boom in place on Anton’s mast. Were it to come loose, it would crash into the yard with a huge jolt. Louise charged at him, and Jiim let loose a shot at the man’s feet, the crack silencing the voices on the deck. Looking sheepish and pleading innocence, the pirate made no further move.

Anton reached his first outer knot and again untied it with a flourish, and then attempted to cut one of the ropes and swing round the mainmast onto the yard at the other side, in true swashbuckling fashion. He couldn’t quite manage it, but the crowd certainly appreciated the attempt. Boyne, meanwhile, was struggling with his first outer knot, and Anton, spotting this, graciously shouted over to offer him a hand (no offense, Bosun!). Once Boyne had finally got it untied, he realised that he was now a long way behind Anton and ran along the yard to catch up. He lost his footing, and was unable to catch the rigging as he fell, and unceremoniously fell into the harbour waters. With a huge cheer going up from the deck and the sight of many coins changing hands, Anton leisurely completed his task and descended the mainmast to be greeted with applause from his crew and Goldtooth.

The next test, Goldtooth explained, was to see how lucky the crew was. Real pirates need to have Lady Luck on their side. One of them was to take on Goldtooth in a game of Bastard’s Fool, a popular pirate card game. The stake would be 1000 pieces of eight, and the first to clean out their opponent would be the winner. There was a twist though, in that the winner of each hand would need to drink a flagon of gutburn rum. After some discussion amongst the crew, and coming to the realisation that none of them possessed any particular skill at gambling, Louise would take him on. A table was set up on the deck of the Stingray, and the game began, with the onlookers and the crew crowding round to watch.

Goldtooth won the first hand, and Louise took the second and third, and the rum seemed to have no effect on either player. Louise then took the next one, and this time the rum certainly seemed a lot harder to swallow for her, but she did manage to knock it back and suffer no ill effect. Goldtooth took the next two small pots, but then Louise took a large pot off the First Mate, leaving him with around half his stack. The very next hand saw Louise put Goldtooth all in, which he called. To his dismay, Louise revealed that, whether through luck or sleight of hand, she held 19, beating Goldtooth’s 17. Louise had won, and still suffered no adverse effects from the foul rum.

Goldtooth once again is impressed with the crew, and explains that the final test is for all the crew, and will take place in the morning on board their own ship. Pirates, of course, need to know how to fight. The final test will see how they repel boarders on their own vessel. They can prepare overnight. When the question is raised “how do we normally defend our ship?”, the answer is quietly uttered by almost everybody “by ramming”.

The crew, including Knuckles, spread themselves out around the deck of the War Pig, not really knowing what to expect. Anton tried to get some caltrops fashioned, but was unable to in time. In the morning, Goldtooth and his now familiar retinue of cronies could be seen wheeling a huge covered cage to the side of the ship. Goldtooth took the cover off the cage, revealing what was inside – a giant of a man, over 9 feet tall, wielding a huge scythe. As the cage was opened, the giant leaped over the gangplank and engaged Louise, the closest target.

Louise lashed out as soon as he approached, but it was clear this huge man was a very gifted fighter, and she did not even come close to breaching his defences. He battered her with the flat of the scythe’s blade, but clearly still fortified by gutburn rum, she shrugged off the hit. Manuel tried to sneak up round the side of the huge man, but in broad daylight, his moves were obvious. Bennett, mysteriously, ran down below into the galley. As Jiim levelled his musket at the giant’s head, Anton cheerily called out that they are expecting attackers any time soon, would he mind calling back another time?

Louise managed to stun him with Brine’s Sting, and Jiim, sensing that the giant wasn’t trying to kill them, switched his aim to the man’s arm and hits, but once again the huge man didn’t seem to be affected. Anton, determined to swing on a rope at least once, cut a nearby line and swung over to attack. The giant swung his scythe at Manuel but missed. Bennett emerged from the galley and he and Jiim both ran into the fray, the Duntchman reloading as he ran. Anton connected with both his sabre and his dagger, but again couldn’t damage this beast of a man.

Once again the big man swung at Louise, but missed by virtue of Louise’s femininity. Bennett emerged with a fistful of pepper that he had obtained from the galley and flung it in the giant’s face. But this too had little effect, other than to draw a few cheers from the crowd in appreciation. Anton desperately tried to disarm the man, but he proved far too strong. With all the crew now surrounding this formidable foe, Jiim took a shot into the melee, striking him in the head and stunning him.

The Chastener smacked Manuel with considerable force, knocking him to the ground. Jiim, reaching over Bennett with his bayonet, tried to bat the scythe away making it easier for his crew to connect with their strikes. Knuckles then managed to stun him, Louise hit him twice and Anton finally delivered the knockout blow, and the huge man crumpled to the ground unconscious.

Again, a huge cheer erupted from the docks, and Louise tended to the wounds of Manuel, and sportingly, the enemy.

Goldtooth announced to the crowd that the crew had passed the tests, and that they would have an audience with the Pirate King in the Great Hall this evening. The crew discussed whether they should take a gift for the king, and settled on one of their Deep Platinum Necklaces.

In the evening, the crew went to the Great Hall to find that the revelry was already in full swing. Tables were laden with roast meats and flagons of ale, mead and rum, and there were numerous buccaneers drunkenly staggering all over the place. As they were brought before the King, sitting on his teakwood and gold throne, looking more pirate than king in his tricorn hat and longcoat, they noticed that his most noteworthy feature was his skeletal right hand. It was also clear he was already well into his cups as he stared blearily down at the crew as they were introduced.

He roared for silence, which was ignored, so he fired his pistol into the air and a quiet fell over the hall.

“This fresh catch of scallywags want to add their fine ship to our brethren of the sea” he said, waving his still smoking pistol in the direction of the crew. “But before we make them Free Captains, I say we hear from them. What say you tell us a tale or two about how you came by the plunder in your hold?”

Anton stepped forward and told the tale about how they were attacked by creatures from the deep, wearing necklaces like this one, and threw the necklace towards the King. Anton continued his tale, ending with the crew finding their lair and gutting them like the fish they were.

The King finally presented them with their Free Captain’s Jolly Roger, and told them that Armada was now their city which they were free to explore. The first order of business was to resupply – Anton acquired a couple of grenades, and Bennett had a modular hook commissioned, at considerable expense. It would have a hook, a parrying blade, a swimming paddle and a climbing claw modules. They also decided to upgrade four of their 4-pdr cannons to 8-pdrs for the War Pig.

Next, attention would turn to the recruitment of more crew.

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Santo Domingo
Searching for Baron Sanchez

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Following three solid days of drinking and celebrating the recovery of Captain Wolfe’s fabled hoard, Admiral Lord Tregellan decided to take his lady wife Agatha on a honeymoon for a few weeks before they all depart with Pegsworthy to Armada. Pegsworthy was more than happy to spend a few weeks enjoying the hospitality of Tidewater, but the rest of the crew decided to follow up on Ol’ Jesse’s lead about Baron Sanchez. With Anton’s parting words of “If you dent either of my ships, you’re paying for the damage bosun!!! Now where’s my crown?” he and Agatha left, no doubt to found Tregellania somewhere. The rest of the crew pondered how best to proceed.

Jiim recalled Jesse mentioning the Spanish port of Santo Domingo in his tale of Rafael Sanchez and his son, Paco, so that seemed as good a place as any to start their search. Jiim also remembered that when they captured the French ship, they recovered a small jewel chest that bore the crest of the Governor of Santo Domingo, and figuring that would be a useful bargaining tool, they decided to take it with them. The snag was, the crew had given it to Agatha as part of her share. But as Agatha had now left with Tregellan, the crew repossessed the chest and jewels, leaving a note and monetary compensation behind. Taking all their crewmembers with them, they set sail in the War Pig, leaving the Thresher behind at Tidewater.

Eight days of incident-free sailing later, they arrived at port and moored up, and discussed plans. A discussion was had about how best to kill the governor, which was quickly dismissed as they realised that the governor and Baron Sanchez were not the same person, once Louise had called out over the side of the ship and leaned the Governor’s name. They then devised a plan of removing the jewels from the chest and penning a letter; “To the most esteemed Governor Hernandez, we find ourselves in possession of an item of interest to you. At your convenience, we’d like an audience with you to return the item.”

As they made their way up through the streets of Santo Domingo towards the Governor’s villa, it became clear that the town had seen better days. The streets were virtually empty, and once they arrived at the villa, they noticed the rusty gates, the dilapidated palms and unkempt garden. There were no guards barring their way into the grounds. Once they reached the doors, a lone guard greeted them. The crew stated their purpose and the guard took the box and accompanying letter into the house. Shortly after, they were all ushered in and led to a once-grand dining room, originally built to seat dozens of people, but now there were just three people sitting at the long table. One of them rose and introduced himself as Governor Hernandez.

Bennett took the lead of speaking to the governor, explaining that they had come into possession of the chest on board a French pirate vessel, and they were looking to return it, in exchange for, perhaps, a reward of some kind. The Governor was extremely grateful and surprised at the honesty of the crew, but he explained that the town had fallen on hard times, at the mercy of pirates, and that the Treasure Fleet had not called into port for over six months. Sadly, he was unable to offer any financial reward for the return of his possessions, but he was more than happy to offer a Spanish Letter of Marque in exchange for their return. After a brief conference amongst the crew, they decided that a Letter of Marque would indeed be a very useful asset, and they agreed. Bennett then asked about Baron Paco Sanchez, at which point the Governor’s face darkened. He explained that the Baron was a bad influence on the town, conducting various nefarious dealings, and that he had many of the town guard in his pocket. The Governor would be quite happy to see him ‘removed’ in some way. Which was all the crew needed to hear. Hernandez went on to tell them that Sanchez could often be found of an evening in the local Cantina, that would be the best place to start their search. He also gave them a description of the Baron so that they could recognise him easily. With that they bade the governor farewell, along with his friends, who were introduced as the Governor of Maracaibo and a local priest.

Heading down to the Cantina at the wharfside, they congregated outside the door, and hear music and the sound of many voices coming from the inside. Louise made her way in, and spotted the Baron at the back of the tavern. However she too was spotted at the door, and the barkeep shouted out a warning to the Baron to make a run for it. How had they known to expect them so quickly? The Baron made a dash for the back door. Louise ran out of the bar and started heading down the alley to the right of the building. Jiim sprinted off down the alley on the other side to intercept, as Bennett and Hall ran through the bar and made for the back door.

As Louise rounded the corner of the building, she saw not the Baron, but a Spanish Marine, armed with a musket and longsword, and wearing a plate chestpiece and helmet. Not knowing whether the soldier was friend or foe, Louise continued to run down the alley towards him. That question was soon answered, however, when the marine levelled his musket and shot at Louise, the shot clipping her but doing no lasting harm. As Bennett and Hall burst out of the back door, however, they were greeted by the sight of three more marines. One shot at Bennett, but the tough old sailor shrugged off the wound. The other two shot at Hall, but failed to connect with the nimble Captain.

Louise ran up and engaged the soldier in melee, but found she couldn’t get through his armour. If only she had thought to bring Zul with her. Similarly the soldier was finding it difficult to strike Louise; being male was clearly a disadvantage. Jiim rounded the other corner of the building, to find the Baron cowering behind yet another three soldiers. Jiim levelled his musket and took one out, the bullet going straight through the armour as if it were not there. Bennett and a soldier sparred without connecting, but another marine drew his longsword and struck a sickening blow to Captain Hall’s belly, causing him to lose a lot of blood.

Jiim ran in with his bayonet and took out another marine on the left, and Louise takes careful aim at an unarmoured leg of the one on the right and also delivers a fatal blow. However things were not going so well by the back door of the tavern. The marine engaged with Bennett finally got through his defences with his longsword, and neatly severed the poor Bosun’s left arm between elbow and wrist, causing him to collapse to the ground, bleeding badly. Hall, already weakened through a loss of blood, could no longer adequately defend himself, and was run through the heart, dropping dead to the ground. RIP Captain Caird Hall. Your razor-sharp insight and keen situational awareness will be sorely missed!

Jiim ran past the last marine blocking his path to the Baron, and knocked him out cold. The soldiers, seeing their leader go down, started to waiver and run, as Louise ran up to the stricken Bennett and patched him up as best she could – finally returning to Bennett one of a number of life-saving favours. She then collected up Brine’s Sting from Hall’s dead hand and struck down the soldier as he attempted to retreat. Two of the marines did manage to get away.

Louise took a set of the Spanish armour, and they carted back the body of the Captain, the unconscious Baron and the stricken Bennett, along with five muskets, back to the War Pig. On searching the Baron, Jiim located the other half of the map, hidden in the lining of his jacket.

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Bennett then dispatched the Baron with a cold-blooded knife to the throat.

Studying the clues present on both parts of the map, Jiim came up with the idea that ‘Beyond Death’ could mean the graveyard. As the second map clearly indicated that the location is Santo Domingo, the crew headed up to the graveyard, and in the very north quadrant they spied a lonely grave on top of a small hill, with a large stone coffin on it. There was no epitaph, just the carving of a star. Heaving the heavy stone lid off the coffin, they found it to be empty, with just a wooden floor at the base. Louise jumped in and tapped the floor, discovering it to be hollow, so the crew made short work of ripping up the planks to expose some rough hewn steps leading down. Lighting a torch, they made their way into the darkness.

At the bottom of the steps was a small cave, with three passages leading off it. Taking the left one, they found it ended in a small pool with a few hundred coins in it. Looking up, they could see the stars above, as they were at the bottom of a pit. They surmised this must be the town’s wishing well, and they left the coins where they were.

Taking the middle tunnel next, it ended shortly at a small cave with three large sea chests in it. As Jiim opened one, the faint sound of breaking glass was heard, and a foul gas was released into the chamber. The crew all coughed and spluttered, but were otherwise unharmed. They realised that they had not solved the final clue yet.

Taking the final tunnel, they arrived at the top of a small set of steps, six in all, leading down. They lashed themselves together and sent Jiim down the stairs first. With a click, the steps slid back to a smooth slide, and a pit opened up at the bottom, but the crew held onto Jiim and slowly lowered him down. At the bottom was a small chamber with a coffin in it, whose lid was bulging and the glint of gold could be seen beneath. Lifting the lid off, they finally found the treasure, a large haul of English gold coins, Crowns and Guineas.

After splitting the treasure, they decided to spend Hall’s left over cash on a service for him and a feast for the crew. The priest held a sombre Catholic service for the Captain. After a couple of days they made their way back to Tidewater Rock. They will need to tell Ol’ Jesse of their success at some point, but as none of the present crew could navigate back to the uncharted island, that would have to wait for another day.

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Wolfe's Hoard
Claiming the loot

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They continued South through the underwater tunnel system with Jiim taking the lead, as he was uninjured. The tunnel quickly opened up into a new chamber, guarded by two fishmen and a hammerhead shark. As the other caught up, Jiim lunged at a fishman with his bayonet and stunned it. As the others entered the fray, one of the Fishmen stabbed at Lenie with his trident and struck him. Anton, despite his wounds, lunged at the shark and drove his blade through the beast’s brain. Caird struck at the uninjured fishman with Brine’s Sting, the salty blade ensuring that it suffered an agonising death. And finally Jiim acrobatically swung around Anton and finished off the stunned one.

Further into the tunnels, and they came across a room with numerous strange, organic filaments that filled the chamber, running from floor to ceiling. Fist-sized pink ovoids floated from the filaments, bobbing around in the lazy current. Jiim approached cautiously and severed one of the strands, and it floated slowly away. Closer inspection showed Jiim that there were tiny tadpole-like creatures twitching within each sphere. Surmising that these were eggs of some sort, they retreated and headed the other way, down a tunnel that sloped steeply downwards.

They soon entered a chamber in which the water was murky with the haze of fresh blood and gobbets of flesh floated in the water. Three fishmen were in the chamber, and seemed to be engaged in some sort of feeding frenzy. Whilst the others positioned themselves behind a seaweed curtain, Anton tried to attract them over into an ambush, but their attention was solely on their food. Anton approached up close and tried to sweep the lot of them with one huge attack, injuring two and killing the third. They failed to shake off their wounds, and Jiim stepped in and took one out. Whilst the rest of the crew, now clearly suffering either from their wounds, or having to operate in this alien environment, all failed to finish off the last one, Jiim stepped up again and quietly took care of business, in his usual calm fashion with no fuss or fanfare. Quickly examining the chamber behind the curtain, they see that this room contained the sick, the young and the old fishmen. They seemed malnourished and of no threat, so the team left them alone and continued.

Encountering another of the curtains hewn from seaweed covering a passage, Jiim stuck his head round to take a look. Inside this chamber the water swarmed with fishman hatchlings. As soon as the curtain was pulled aside, a few swam out and escaped. The room also contained a further three fishmen, and what appeared to be some sort of fishman Matriarch. Bennett devised a cunning ambush, to cut a hole in the curtain and allow the hatchlings to swim out. Once the fishmen had spotted the disturbane, they would come and investigate, to be pounced on by the team from behind the curtain. However once the hole was cut, Anton stuck his head through and shouted “Burble! Burble!” at them, much to Bennett’s dismay. The fishmen all swam to Anton, but failed to strike him. Caird moved up and dispatched one, and Jiim took out the matron. Louise, swimming a little slower due to her injuries, made it to the battle and took out a third, and Bennett ducked inside the trident’s reach and sliced the last one open.

A short distance further on, the team encountered what appeared to be a ‘corral’ of sorts for the Fishmen’s sharks, containing four of the hammerheads of the type they had seen earlier. With Anton making a comment about boots and soup, he jumped into the middle of them and tried his massive sweep again, missing this time. Jiim once again brought his bayonet to bear and downed one, but the sharks, their senses heightened by the fresh blood in the water, snapped at Louise and Anton, dazing Louise and injuring Tregellan badly. Louise recovered swiftly and killed one, and Jiim, once again proving the unsung hero, injured another, and swiftly finished it with his next strike. Caird polished off the last one again with the help of Brine’s Sting. With several of the team now bearing some vicious wounds, they decided to retire to Isabella’s chamber out of the water to regroup. Louise managed heal Bennett, and whilst Bennett himself, skilled in first aid, failed to help anyone, both Jiim and Caird, knowing nothing of the healing arts, managed to patch up Tregellan and Louise respectively.

Heading back down through the shark corral, just beyond they spotted the underwater exit to the lagoon itself, guarded by an enormous jellyfish that was anchored to the side wall. Deciding that they still had tunnels to explore they turn around and head the other way, through a tunnel leading upwards. A small antechamber here contained one hammerhead, which Caird soon dispatches to the sound of Anton’s now familiar burbles. The noises, however alerted the occupants of the next room, a room with curtains of golden seaweed at both sides and a stone throne of huge proportions decorated in strange runes and symbols that had been eroded over the time it had been underwater. The room was home to the chieftain, Krelloort, a giant four-armed mutant fishman, and five of his tribe.

The fishmen quickly formed a barrier in front of their chief, with one of them managing to strike Caird, which he was able to take. Bennett ran in with his familiar abandon and sliced the throat of one of them, but the next four all retaliated on him, luckily missing. Jiim injured one which Caird finished off, and Louise killed a third. Krelloort lunged at Bennett with his strange trident, seemingly made from coral and sea shells, and stunned him. Anton dived into the fracas and managed to down the two remaining fishmen, leaving Krelloort on his own. Jiim stabbed the creature, and Anton also swung and struck with two vicious blows, but the beast seemed to absorb them all. Louise finally stepped in and carved him in two.

Inspecting the strange trident he was wielding, Louise decided to take it, as Anton, of course, decided to sit on the throne. A strange sensation briefly passed over him, but it was gone in an instant. In a small cavern behind the throne, they located a modest-sized iron bound chest, decorated with skulls. Disappointed, as they were clearly expecting much more from Cyrus Wolfe’s most famous hoard, they opened the chest carefully from a distance with a blade, and were astonished to see that the chest contained far more that was physically possible from the outside! There were numerous silks and furs, which had all rotted, but the chest also contained several jars of rare spices, a jewelled box containing gemstones, some gold and silver ore, and a vast quantity of gold coins. Also in the chest was a beautiful astrolabe, a sinister ship’s figurehead, seemingly made of bone, and a crown, fashioned from deep platinum, the latter quickly appropriated by Anton of course.

They carted the treasure back through the tunnels, collecting the sharks and crab along the way to supplement the ship’s stores, and headed back to the War Pig, only to see another vessel anchored close by, with a white flag raised. Checking through the Farglass and establishing that the ship had friendly intentions, once the treasure was stowed, they rowed over. The ship was an oriental-looking Junk, named the Thresher, and the captain introduced himself as Knuckles Grype. He explained that this was Isabella’s vessel, and he was the first mate. Since Isabella is now dead, and the Fishmen are no longer a threat, and given that he had barely enough crew to operate the ship as the former crew had been wiped out at the Battle of Tidewater Rock, Knuckles offered to join forces with the War Pig and sail under their banner, in exchange for fair shares. Knuckles told them a little about Isabella, how she had been driven mad in captivity by the Fishmen. Louise, half-jokingly, tried to dissuade Knuckles from joining them, but he was ultimately accepted to the delight of Tregellan, who now started referring to himself as ‘Lord Admiral’, now that he had a ‘fleet’.

They sailed slowly and carefully back to Tidewater Rock and on arrival saw a galleon anchored offshore. Although they didn’t recognise the ship, after its squibbing at the hands of Rickety, they were delighted to see their old acquaintance Merrill Pegsworthy. He told them that the Pirate Council had been keeping an eye on their progress, and they were now invited to attend the Pirate Council with a view to becoming Free Pirates in their own right. Again delighted at the news, they settled down to a huge feast on the beach, inviting all three crews to attend, along with the Rock’s inhabitants, where copious amounts of French Rum were consumed.

They now settled in to recover from their latest adventure, before following Pegsworthy to the Pirate Council at a place called “Armada”.

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