Last session, four impromptu pirates managed to escape the Wexlish Navy, beach a stolen frigate, steal a much more sensibly sized ship from a veteran pirate crew. The PCs are:
Beatrix, a Tarraconese carpenter, engineer, and smooth talking hustler. Elected captain... because nobody else wanted the job.
Imran Goldmaker, an experienced merchant and occasional pirate from the Golden Isles. The ship's quartermaster (a job he's qualified for) and navigator (significantly less so).
Nyali Utugelu, a Chultan shopkeeper turned arsonist turned gun captain.
Gunter von Steenberger, a dockworker from the Ranstead League with near-mythical strength. Not much good with letters but he keeps the crew in line.
The slim coastal cutter The Magestic sailed around the south side of the Isla de Caracol, heading for the notorious pirate town of Porta de Caracol. Nominally Wexlish, the town's governor had been driven off years ago.
The town was significantly less impressive than the PCs expected. A few rotting warehouses dotted the long grey beach. Many pirates, vagabonds, and drunks slept in tents or under the open sky. Few wooden buildings exceeded two stories and there were only three stone buildings in town: the former governor's mansion (demolished and burned), a mysterious house on the hill (intact but windowless) and a ruined church (now a brothel).
The PCs sold the location of the wrecked Cimmeria to a local warehouse-keeper, held a sumptuous party to improve crew morale, restocked their supplies, and tried to decide what to do with their lives. Their safety was by no means certain. The Wexlish Navy, irritated by the loss of one of their most powerful ships in the region, could easily track them to the pirate port and burn the place to the ground. Their crew was not terribly loyal; a simple reward or offer of amnesty could ruin them all.
Captain Beatrix managed to arrange a meeting with the mysterious Sarah Soran, owner of the fortress-house, collector of "antiquities", former mistress of the governor, and, if rumour was to be believed, something not of this earth.
The PCs speculated wildly. Madame Soran was never seen outside her house during the day, always wore a large hat, never ate in public (but drank wine), and seemed to hold the pirates of the town in a fear-induced trance. Gunter thought she was "a night-creature, a wampyre". Nyali thought she might be a sea-goddess (not unknown in Chult, apparently). Beatrix thought she might just be one of those wise old ladies nobody fucks with; Imran wasn't convinced.
Whatever she was, Madame Soran mentioned a small fishing village west of the island. The isolated village had "a certain article, a brass sphere on a chain" that she desired. "The superstitious fishermen protect it with their lives," she said, "but I'm sure a small raiding crew could steal it without much danger. Anything else you take is yours, of course."
In exchange for accurate charts and a small reward, the party accepted her offer. The next morning, somewhat hung over, they set sail with the tide.
Note: this next section, between the next two pieces of art, contains spoilers for Michael Prescott's adventure The God Unmoving. You've been warned.
By the light of the full moon, the party eventually found the Bay Unmoving. Gulling the sleepy sentries into letting them pass, the Majestic slipped into the harbour. The village was nothing more than a collection of shacks scattered on a series of bare stone islands. One "edge" of the village was made of a truly gigantic wreck, a broken ship larger than anything the pirate crew had ever seen. Imran speculated it was a treasure-ship from Yoon-Suin, though how it had come to rest here he couldn't say.
The raid was a debacle. Though Beatrix tried to use the four capture fishermen as hostages, the situation rapidly spiraled out of control as the pirate crew, let loose on a sleeping island, began burning houses, smashing windows, and hauling anything valuable back to the ship. Approaching boats were sunk with cannonfire.
The PCs, with a hand-picked crew of raiders, rapidly rowed over to the colossal hulk to search it for treasures before the entire village could descend upon them. Their exploration did not go well. Although they found some gold and avoided a few traps, Gunter was devoured by hungry predatory fish in the bowels of the wreck. The remaining PCs found the "copper mace" they'd been sent to obtain. The mysterious relic was kept in a transparent bladder. When Beatrix touched the metal, her arm locked in place and green tendrils began to worm their way up her arm. Imran lopped her arm off and carried the half-delirious captain back to their boat, carefully keeping the relic inside its protective case.
According to Imran, Nyali, and several surviving pirates, their rowboat was pursued by a "great glowing sea-monster, a hundred-armed thing with a body made of light". They fended it off with pistol shots and bombs thrown into the water (Nyali exhausting her legendarily prolific supply of gunpowder), raced back to the Majestic, made sail, and tore out of the bay as quickly as they could. Though the Majestic was lightly damaged by their hasty escape and a few tardy pirates were, no doubt, lynched by the enraged villagers, but as the sun rose the crew of the Majestic were richer, if not happier, than they'd been the previous day.
Enriched by their labours, if slightly worried about sea monsters and "bad magic", as Nyali put it, the crew let loose with another riotous party. Convalescing in the Majestic, Beatrix came up with a long-term plan.
The Majestic would be renamed the Magnificient, re-dedicated, and repainted. It would be careened, a ludicrously undignified process, to clean and patch the hull. They'd take the ship south, pass through Valois and Tarraconese territory, then head out to sea for the long journey to Chult. That vast continent had barely been explored and Beatrix was sure there were vast profits to be made far from the reach of the Old World powers.
Attempts to recruit a trained navigator were unsuccessful, but Imran did manage to find someone with "sufficient book-learning" to read a chart.
John Wex the Bastard, a disgraced sailor with scraps of an education, was renown in port as an expert on "books of all sorts." With the authority of Bullfighter's Mythology, Fraiser's Golden Sticks, and Salty and Salacious Tales of the Sea Volume IV, John Wex could offer advice on any situation natural, supernatural, historical, or practical. His advice wasn't good but it was cheap.
After two weeks of work (for at least two hours a day), drinking, whoring, and fighting (for up to the remaining twenty-two), the crew of the Magnificient finally set sail. Nyali performed some obscure rituals to placate the wrath of the sea (all of which involved drinking more rum). The sea was calm and the weather was fine.
No ships were spotted for the first two days but on the evening of the third, with the sun fading, the lookout spotted lights on the horizon. The Majestic slowly crept closer in the dark. By the light of dawn the crew realized they'd come up on a slow-moving Tarraconese convoy, spread out by weather and by poor seamanship.
Beatrix picked out a slow-moving eight-gun vessel near the rear of the convoy and, with very favorable winds, approached from dead astern while flying a Tarraconese flag. When they were a few hundred yards apart, the Majestic ran up a red pennant (a traditional pirate flag), fired a warning shot, and hailed the vessel. After briefly attempting to flee, the ship hauled down its flags and closed its gun ports.
The reason for this abrupt surrender became clear when the Imran and company boarded the vessel. Their cargo was gunpowder; the entire hold was full of barrels. A single shot would have destroyed both the vessel and its crew. Beatrix ordered total restraint: the Tarraconese crew was spared, personal property of the sailors was not touched, and only the most choice cuts of meat and barrels of drink were taken, along with a hold full of the finest and driest Tarraconese gunpowder. John Wex, recognizing the value of paper, thoroughly looted the captain's diplomatic and trade documents.
Flush with success, the pirates put up the Valois flag and sailed into Red Sand Port. Combining all their expertise, they forged documents showing that they were legitimate traders in gunpowder; the Tarraconese marks on the barrels were hastily scraped off and replaced with inventive new designs. The tiny port welcomed these "legitimate traders"; pirates or not, they had goods to sell and the town's governor, Captain Henri Blane, was more than willing to buy. He offered Beatrix some advice on piracy and sent them on their way rich and happy.
From Red Sand Port, the Magnificient sailed towards the open sea, then cut south and away from the Merabaha Islands.
Two months later and low on food, the Majestic's lookout spotted the unmistakable grey line of the Mistcliff, the unmapped western coast of Chult. By luck more than skill, the crew had managed to hit the right continent, but they had no idea where precisely they were.
Would the PCs survive in this uncharted land? Would Captain Beatrix continue to avoid death and further dismemberment? Find out next time.