Tales of the Shackles

Toilday, 5th Kuthona, 4711 A.R.

Yesterday’s wind’s died down a bit now. We were lucky to get into port when we did.

Th’ cap’n ‘n ’is boys went into town earlier an’ did a bit o’ drinkin’, though it were strictly fer the gatherin’ of information about that Raffles feller. Goin’ drinkin’ to GAIN intelligence. Heh. Crew and me ‘ad a chuckle over that. Still, dunno if they really learned much, though I did ’ear someone talkin’ about some ‘aunted lakes off in the north o’ the island, an’ some woman over in Rumbutter what would pay any group o’ fools stupid enough to go gallivantin’ off on some errand for ’er.

This evenin’, the cap’n, Perri an’ Bert went off to Raffles’ place fer some fancy dinner. Black ‘ands looked a proper chump in all ’is finery, Perri looked a bit fussy an’ overdone, but good ol’ Bert just went on up there in ‘is leathers, like ’ee was about to go scrub the bilge out. Anyway, Besmara knows what they all got up to there, but they come back with a new recruit. ’Ee’s called Xiao, and ’ee’s a Drow – yes, we all know it rhymes, but nobody makes no jokes when ’ee’s around. Gives me the creeps, to be honest. Those funny drow eyes, an’ ‘ee don’t make the natural amount o’ noise when ‘ee moves. It ain’t natural.

Cap’n wanted to know what we all thought we should do next. They all reckoned on settin’ a ‘eading fer down Rumbutter way to take this crazy woman up on ’er expedition. I told ’em all in me plain talkin’ that I thought they was madder than a galleon o’ monkeys. I said we should go look fer shippin’ to plunder. I think they got me message.

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Moonday, 4th Kuthona, 4711 A.R.

So ‘ere we are again, in Slipcove. Milibandi’s words ‘ave been eatin’ away at the Cap’n. Nobody likes to think they’re bein’ ridden like a pony, an’ I think the idea o’ that halfling livin’ it up in ‘is big ’ouse while the slaves ’ee’s supposed to be freein’ are sent back to the mines an’ the oars they’d just been unshackled from is too much for ‘im. ’Ee’s out fer vengeance.

Wind’s pickin’ up today. It just looks like what we call a Cabin Boy Squall – it’s got the enthusiasm but no stamina. It’ll unload everythin’ it’s got in one night and then be spent.

Now we’ve paid the ‘uge fee fer dockin’ ‘ere, we can come an’ go forever without ‘aving to ’and over another ducket. Cap’n’s gone ashore to sell off the spoils o’ their adventure aboard the Dominator, fer what it’s worth, an’ some o’ the crew ‘ave gone ashore to squander their pay in the taverns. Me, I’m stayin’ on the Mistress to inspect the deckheads and share the last bottle o’ Rahadoumi firewater with ol’ Fishguts.

This gatherin’ storm’s got me instrospective an’ moody. I know we’re strugglin’. There’s not enough gold in the coffers to keep the crew ‘appy, and cap’n’s dressed in finery an’ chasin’ ghosts. Perri an’ Bert are spendin’ their time in wi’ the cap’n, an’ maybe losin’ track o’ the crew’s concerns. I just ‘ope they can bring some good times in soon, or they might find themselves swabbin’ again just like when we was all the guests o’ Mr. ’Arrigan…

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Oathday, 30th Neth, 4711 A.R.

Well, it’s th’ last day o’ Neth, and the crew just got paid. I got to say I never seen a crew o’ buccaneers take their monthly purses an’ still look so miserable. It’s been a lean month for us. We took one prize, two weeks ago today, an’ all she ‘ad on board was a day’s worth o’ herring. Not worth pullin’ me cutlass out fer.

Cap’n gave all our dried food to that Meepa character, so we needed to pull up into a river on the island o’ Dahak’s Fang an’ forage. Truth be told, we ‘ad a pretty good day. Replenished the fresh water, filled a couple o’ casks up wi’ wild guavas, and even got a couple o’ live deer kids an’ a brace o’ kinkajou that’ll braise nicely. We got a chance to careen the Mistress as well.

Spirits were liftin’ slightly when we were sailin’ back toward the sea, but it didn’t last long. The mouth o’ the river was blocked by the biggest warship I ever seen. It were one o’ those Chelish pirate ‘unters, a ship o’ the line called the Dominator.

Some o’ the crew muttered it’d be fine fer us cause we were ‘ardly even pirates at the moment, ’aving only taken one ship. But Fishguts and the cap’n knew better.

It were decided that we’d make a run fer the open sea an’ the welcomin’ arms o’ Besmara, while Cap’n, Perri an’ Bert crept aboard th’ Dominator an’ sabotaged th’ tiller pulleys. A’ that’s exactly what ‘appened. They made it over to the ship silently, got in through the windows, busted the tiller lines, chucked all the repair stuff out the porthole, and got away scott-free, only ’aving to kill a few officers in the process. Sure, the alarm got raised, it’s true, but the whole caper were a success in my book, an’ sort of restored my faith in the officers.

Maybe we can make this work after all!

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Wealday, 29th Neth, 4711 A.R.

It’s been a funny day.

Crow’s nest spied a golden-decked galley out of Ghrinitshahara just after the sun ‘ad crossed th’ yard-arm. Cap’n flew the parley flag an’ went over to meet wi’ the Rakshasa cap’n. I don’t trust these sorts. Dressed in all silks but wi’ a badger’s ‘ead – how is that normal? An’ such a mouth on ‘im – won’t give you a bag o’ nuts but fer a king’s ransom. Most o’ what these lordly types spout is naught but pig’s ribs, an’ when they’re children o’ demons too?

Still, this one, Milibandi, seemed on an even keel. ‘Ee told us where to find the slaver’s galley, the Breath of Fire, an’ even warned us that the crew were fire creatures into the bargain. ‘Ee also said somethin’ cryptic about Raffles, an’ where ’ee gets all the gold to kit out ’is manor so tidy… could ’ee be a slaver too, on the quiet like?

Anyway, Milibandi didn’t tell us none o’ this fer free – cap’n ‘ad to give up ’is favourite ’arp, which ’ee’d been keepin’ in ‘is cabin all this time. Still, at least that means ’ee ain’t goin’ to try to learn to play the thing.

So we ambushed th’ Breath of Fire in short order – it were right where Milibandi reckoned it to be. But that crew weren’t nothin’ natural. The rowers we never even seen, but the crew were magma mephits – imps made out o’ lava. It weren’t a fight we were in any shape to win, an’ when their cap’n emerged – looked like a kobold, but flyin, and wi’ all sorts o’ magic – we were beat. In fact, cap’n seemed to take ‘im as a new master pretty much straight away. It looked like sorcery to me, but when ’ee told th’ crew to down weapons an’ even Perri talked us into a corner, it seemed we were beat. Not before Bert put a ballista bolt through the middle o’ one o’ those mephits, though. It were a shot guided by Besmara ‘erself, but it didn’t even drop the thing. Ain’t no fightin’ stuff like this… least, not without no magic o’ our own.

Still, ’ee’s a funny cove, this Meepa fellow. Seemed to act like we was already ‘is slaves, and that we’d be sailin’ in ‘is name from now on. Cap’n made us empty the hold into Meepa’s galley, an it were only cause o’ Perri and Bert bein’ such light-fingered scalliwags that we managed to ‘ang onto any o’ the loot at all.

We were over the ‘orizon an’ ‘eading back down toward Bag Island before th’ spell broke on the cap’n. ‘Ee went down into ’is cabin an’ before long we could all ‘ear some smashin’ noises.

I reckon we’re goin’ to need a new treasure chest.

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Moonday, 27th Neth, 4711 A.R.

Cap’n wanted to chase up on this slavery thing. Turns out ‘Ee has ’eard that Jolis Raffles, the pirate lord who rules over that ’Alfling colony on Bag Island, was givin’ out commissions for to track down this slaver an’ put paid to th’ whole thing. So we just rock-dodged across the way an’ into Slipcove this mornin’.

Funny place, Slipcove. Almost all o’ them are halflings, and nobody’s an officer o’ the law but all of ‘em are. They take up them little crossbows they’s so fond of, an’ come an’ meet us comin’ ashore. 800 reals, they charged us, fer the privelige o’ comin’ ashore to meet their high-up-man! ‘ardly seems fair when we’re only comin’ to do ’im a favour.

Still, Cap’n an’ his officers got an appointment to see this Raffles fella. Talk in th’ taprooms is that ‘ee escaped from them Chelish slavers years ago an’ took to liberating any an’ all slaves ‘ee could find. They set up ’ere on Bag Island, an’ used it as a base to free a barrel-load more slaves, who stayed on the’island, swellin’ the numbers like a rum cask left in th’ sun.

Anyway, this Raffles ‘as as nice a manor as any I seen in Port Peril, saves the ’Urricane King’s own gaff o’ course. All shiny stuff an’ servants – quite the swanky palace. ‘Ee already ’ad another cap’n lined up for the slavery job, a big orc called Gilliam LeSable, of the Dead of Night. She’s a black-hulled brigantine moored near the Scorned Mistress. Anyway, they decided to let it be a contest – whoever gets the slaver first wins Raffles’ purse o’ gold.

We sail with the dawn.

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Starday, 25th Neth, 4711 A.R.

We cleared what was left o’ Plugg’s ill-gotten loot from the ship today, makin’ room for us to ill-get another haul. ’Opefully soon.

I think Cap’n made the right choice not to jettison the plunder at Goatshead. ‘Ee got a much prettier price fer it in the merchant’s quarter o’ Quent – or should I say ‘is boys Perri an’ Bert did – Cap’n thought it’d be a good idea ta squander the loot on a couple o’ new jackets. I’ve seen cap’n’s do the same thing in the past – they’d come ashore in Port Peril, full o’ their first taste o’ plunder and nary a starfish in the beard to mark ‘em as men o’ the sea, an’ they’re all buyin’ jackets wi’ fancy runnin’ boards on the shoulders an’ gold braid like they’re admirals o’ the fleet.

Never ends well for ’em.

Still, Cap’n’s a big lad. ‘Ee might be alright yet, so long as ’ee fills th’old up wi’ treasure again sharpish.

I went out an’ kept me ear t’the bo’sun’s ‘orn in a couple o’ Quent’s famous taverns. An’ there were plenty to ‘ear, too. Turns out one o’ Bert’s cousins, a shipwright called Tiber, was takin’ one o’ his new ships out – a barque called th’ High Winds, an’ it were sent to kiss th’ mermaids by a ship full o’ blackbirds – slavetakers, y’know – somewhere eyewards, pro’lly up near Rampore. Cap’n were int’rested by this one – I reckon ’ee’s got a flea in ‘is ear about slavers. Slavers in th’ Shackles be like weevils in a galley, though. Ye’ll never get rid o’ every last one.

Anyway, I also ‘eard a strange tale in one o’ those pubs (I forget which one). Seems there’s a new tale goin’ round: The Tale o’ the ‘Owlin’ Urn! Word in th’ coconut mail is that a fellow by th’ name o’ Grinning Jalad sailed into the Shackles wi’ a hold full o’ plunder a month or two ago. ‘Ee were eager to trade it all for a lost relic called the Howling Urn. He wouldn’t tell a sould what it were for, but immediately sailed off to Raugsmauda’s Reach following some lead or other, an’ none ‘ave seen ’im since. Scary place, Raugsmauda’s Reach.

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Fireday, 24th Neth, 4711 A.R.

I know I said it before, but I’m well ‘appy to be pullin’ into Quent today. She’s a proper jewel in the crown o’ the Shackles – a right pleasant place to be, an’ doubly so if you ‘appen to be a pirate. Taverns, inns, ale-’ouses an’ pubs as far as the eye can see… not that I know the difference between ’em.

We’ve ‘ad what I suppose you might call a quiet week at sea. We stuck our ’eads in at Goatshead for a bit, to pick up some new boys and jettison some o’ the squeaky wheels. Got into ol’ Plugg’s treasure chest, too. Just a couple bolts o’ rahadoumi linen… probably valuable, but not exactly the piles o’ emeralds we was all ‘opin’ fer.

Sailin’ up through the islands is always an adventure, and we musta chucked a thousand buckets o’ rainwater over the side if we chucked one. Lucky we all got our sea legs now, and these new ‘ands are workin’ out nicely. I’ve got to remember that – Goatshead is a pretty decent port to hire on salty dogs.

Anyway, storms an’ pirates an’ Fishguts’ soup couldn’t kill us, so I reckon we’re all pretty ‘ardy salts now. Captain managed to sell those linens at a goodly price, then went an’ spent the whole lot on a brace o’ fine jackets. Never ‘ad that one down as a dandy. Goes to show that underneath it all, every slave or ex-slave thinks o’ ’imself as your master.

Where next? I’m just glad to ‘ave a couple nights ’ere in Quent, for me sins. After that, my guess is that the captain’s spoilin’ to free a bunch o’ slaves. If ‘ee can pull that off, then maybe ’ee’l get it all out o’ his system, and we can all get on with the important business o’ plunderin’ a couple o’ juicy merchantmen!

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Oathday, 16th Neth, 4711 A.R.

We’ve been on a western ‘eading for a couple days when the lookout spots a sail off th’ coast. It’s this little Sargavan fishin’ schooner, an’ Cap’n reckons it’ll be a good first strike for us.

‘Ee catches the wind an’ swings the Mistress round in front o’ the schooner – which was called the Eltan Baide, as if anyone cared – an’ it’s less than an hour later we’re a-swingin’ through the riggin’ to find someone ta punch. Cap’n took ‘is time, though, and chucked ’is sword around the place all fancy-like. Them fishermen didn’t like the look o’ a seven-feet-high ‘alf-orc wavin’ a massive razor at ‘em, an’ most o’ ‘em chucked ’emselves over into the drink sharpish! There was about three o’ ‘em left abovedecks after ’ee’d finished. Pretty shiny way to spook a couple fishermen! Don’t know ‘ow it’ll stand up against a proper crew, though. We’ll see.

‘Twere a splendid waste o’ our time, though. All they ‘ad were a couple boxes o’ kippers. Not even a copper piece to their names! Crew were a little put out till old Fishguts chucked together a ‘erring stew with all what was left o’ his ‘erbs. Mighty good nosh from an old sot like ’im! Maybe ’ee likes the tast o’ freedom.

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Toilday, 14th Neth, 4711 A.R.

So we’re all lookin’ forward to a good trek out into the Shackles, but looks like Cap’n’s got other ideas. Soon as we round the point and ‘ead out into the sea, ’ee gets us all up on deck and chews us out fer lettin’ ‘is pet, Master Scourge, get away! I know it weren’t me, and I don’t reckon the rest of ’em ’ad anything for te gain from it, so Besmara ’erself knows who let the stinker free.

S we sits there, like beached plums, while Cap’n an’ ‘is boys go back in the jollyboat to see if they can find ’im. Shouldn’t be too ‘ard, you’d reckon, seein’ as ‘ow Scourge’s feet’s been all but nibbled off at the ankles. Still, Cap’n comes back wi’ no sign o’ nothin’. We sat around all o’ yesterday night and all o’ today. Couple o’ lads went ashore ta do a little ‘untin’, but that was it. Writeoff of a day, really, if you ask me! Scourge’s in such a bad state ’ee’l be pushin’ up the daisies in a week’s time tops. Let the jungle ’ave ’im, says I!

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Moonday, 13th Neth, 4711 A.R.

Finally! Besmara’s knuckles, I’m glad to be leavin’ this dump. Rickety’s a nice enough cove, I suppose, but the place ‘as the stink about it, and now the ship’s squibbed, I’m ‘appy to leave the place to Pegsworthy an’ ‘is lot. ’Ee came out all ’appy lookin’ this mornin’ wi’ a brand new peg leg, an’ christened th’ ship wi’ ‘er new name: We now sail on the Scorned Mistress.
Afore we left ’im, Pegsworthy gave us one last toast: “Good fortune and sure sail await what one can crack the Tidewater Rock”. That got some of us thinkin’ about the old place – Tidewater Rock. It’s said what pirate can get ‘imself in the doors and take the place for ’is own will ’ave nothin’ but good luck. I reckon that were Perri the captain, we’d be settin’ sail fer Tidewater today. Maybe Black ‘Ands will listen to the ’alfling, or maybe ’eed rather we said fer our first prize.
But we got some thinkin’ to do before we move on. The crew… well, they’re a rum gaggle o’ ‘alf-assed cod-bonces with naught but wet sand between their ears and no more wits between the lot of ’em than you could ’old in yer ’and. We got about enough food fer about a week before we’ll need to make port or ‘ave to go foragin’ in the bushes. The ship’s seaworthy as she’s ever goin’ to be, an’ there’s plenty o’ room in the ‘old, aside from the food and water an’ a couple o’ boxes o’ farm tools what Plugg ‘ad from ’is haul o’ the loot. Looks like we got a couple o’ choices ahead. Go lookin’ for a ship to raid, or a native village to rob, or maybe ‘ead toward Tidewater Rock. Or find a proper port like Bloodcove or Port Peril to pick up a little gossip an’ sell Plugg’s plunder, maybe pick up a couple more useful crewmen.
Or just sail off, into the Shackles, an’ see what Good Queen Bes has up ‘er blessed sleeves for this crew o’ foul-smellin’, grog-swillin’ pigs!

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