Tales of the Shackles

Moonday, 1st Abadius, 4712 A.R.

‘Appy New Year to one an’ all! Once again, the Night O’ The Pale passed wi’out so much as an ‘ows-yer-nancy, ’cept fer Perri reckonin’ he saw old Master Scourge in the streets o’ Quent.

Course ‘ee did. Saw a ghost on the spookiest night o’ the year. Me, I reckon he were drinkin’ that Katapeshi brandy all night, what they cut wi’ moon juice. It’s a wonder ‘ee ain’t seein’ weirder than that.

Still, we’re all in one piece, an’ I’ll be a sailmaker’s monkey if we didn’t hit the jackpot! Who should turn up but the man we’re lookin’ fer! Well, it weren’t Merril Pegsworthy ‘imself, exactly. It were one o’ his crew, walked right on up the gangplank an’ brought us this chest o’ fancy bread what they’d taken from a Chelish runner day or so before. Still ‘ad a little moisture to it, though, so I used it to soak up some o’ last night’s booze.

Anyway, we all goes onto Pegsworthy’s ship fer dinner. She’s the Cassomir Sprite, a fair-lookin’ barque wi’ a captain’s cabin all fancy-like, ready fer the kind o’ fancy ambassador’s reception we pirates’re always ‘avin’. Anyway, this salt’s Bo’sun Plate, an’ ’ee’s much too much of a delicate flower to be runnin’ a pirate vessel if y ask me. Not that anyone did, course. Still, ‘ee told us that Pegsworthy’s somewhere around, but away on business somewhere or other on Motaku. So it looks like we’re ‘angin’ on fer ’im.

Least, it did look that way fer a bit. Then, on the way out, Bert overhears these two sea dogs bangin’ on about how some potion-seller’d been ‘angin’ round on the jetty, tryin’ te tell ‘em all that their cap’n’s stolen somethin’ off ‘im (probably not quite garspin’ the notion for to Pegsworthy bein’ a Free Captain o’ the Shackles, an’ stealin’s in ‘is job description). Anyway, this cove’s off an’ dragged ’imself to the ’Owling Goblet up on Bluff Way.

So, bein’ the connoisseurs o’ fine alcyhol that they are, Cap’n an’ the officers all decide to pay the fellow a visit. Turns out ’ee’s some kind o’ wizard or somthin’, makin’ potions an’ tryin’ to sell ’em to a couple whores.

So a fight breaks out in the bar, as they invariably do, an’ the watch turn up. But no’ before Bert – Basmara bless ‘im – necks all these potions off the table wi’out so much as a by-yer-leave. ‘Ee grows these massive frog legs, turns into a ten-year-old boy an starts seein’ stars all at the same time. Nobody wants to punch a man like that, so ‘ee gets off pretty easy in the brawl. Cap’n fair silences the room in the end when it looks like someone’s goin’ to spill ’is pint. The barkeep gives ’im free drinks all night!

After the watch break it up, this bloke – Jeremiah Tollervey – tells ‘em that he’s had his map nicked, an’ that it found its way to Pegsworthy. The Cap’n and his mates agree to ‘elp this Tollervey go after Pegsworthy, what they reckon’s in somethin o’ a pickle on account o’ this not bein’ a treasure map at all but the map to some dead guy’s lab where a dragon lives. They’re leavin’ in the morrow – Good luck to ’em.

I’m stayin’ ‘ere to finish off the rest o’ this glorious bread.

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Sunday, 31st Kuthona, 4711 A.R.

Tonight it’s the Night o’ the Pale. Busy night fer me. My people – pirates, buccaneers and scalliwags – tend to be a superstitious lot. So all night they’re wantin’ me to chant some spiritual-soundin’ blather over ‘em on account of I’m the ship’s priestess. Course, Besmara don’t go in fer no spooky-soundin’ prayers an’ stuff, so mostly I just murmured a couple of rude limericks under my breath, and they mostly seemed ‘appy enough. Although Steptoe Clegg looked at me a bit funny when I did ’There was a young maiden from Quent’.

Anyway.

‘S been a pretty evenful journey back ’ere from Little Oppara. We was comin’ up the leeward side o’ Motaku when the lookout called a sail. She were a little schooner, ‘ardly worth stoppin’ for, really, but there were a dirty great ‘ole in the side, an’ she were takin’ on water. Now, Perri’d been makin’ noises about wantin’ more adventure out o’ life, so Black ‘ands, ’ee just grabs Perri, ties a rope on ’im, an’ points under the waves to where this fishin’ boat’s lifeboat is just disappearin’ into the murk.

“You want more adventure?” he asks. “You go check that boat”.

Then, smart as brass, ‘ee just bowls the ’alfling right over the gunwales. Still, I coulda sweared that Perri was grinnin’ all the way down.

All the way, that is, until these sahuagin start pourin’ out o’ the ‘ole in the side an’ swim toward ‘im. I go over and ’elp the cap’n to haul ‘im back over the side, but not before he gets nipped a couple times by them dirty tridents the buggers love so much. Anyway, Bert’s firin’ the ballista and what with the cap’n’s sour face an’ all, they all up ‘n’ swim off. Or so’s it looked. But this lot, they’re not so easily fooled. Cap’n felt certain they’d all be a-hangin’ round the keel like barnacles wi’ a grudge, and the officers all thought they’d be back that night. So they set up a nice ambush for ‘em. Whole thing went off with hardly a hitch, really. Sure enough, here they come climbin’ up the sides, and Bert just pegs one through the noggin with the ballista wi’out even bein’ noticed by the others. Long and the short of it is that in a couple o’ seconds, all but one o’ the sahuagin’s dead or bleedin’ out on the deck. Black ’ands’d managed to sit on one long enough to get ‘is ’ands tied behind ’is back, but before they could ask ’im anythin’, he just kind of… dies. Nobody really knows why. Poisoned ’imself’s the most likely, but it’s a bit of a mystery.

Still, Bert’s got the top of a sahuagin’s ‘ead, which ’ee’s goin’ to ’ave made into an ’elmet, and the childish smile on ’is little face makes the whole thing worthwhile.

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Wealday, 27th Kuthona, 4711 A.R.

‘S been a quiet week for me. We pulled into Little Oppara best part o’ a week ago, so I’ve ‘ad plenty of time to… catch up on me embroidery… while the boys’ve been runnin’ around tryin’ to sell Pilk’s plunder an’ talk ’emselves up in the taverns.

‘S a nice enough town, actually. Not much goin’ on, an’ I was right about all the poets, but it smells a sight better than Port Peril and yer much less likely to wake up in irons aboard a new ship. Course, it’s a lot smaller, an’ I’ll never get the ‘ang of all that formal duellin’ over ‘perceived slights’ whatever they are. Bunch o’ nonsense fer people wi’ too much time on their ’ands.

This evenin’, however, some o’ the officers found somethin’ more to our level. They ended up in Jug Street, in a little tavern called the Rat’s Tail, where the local thieves’ guild ‘ang their ’ats. ’Course, Perri wants to pick a fight, despite Calliope (who were with ’em) tellin’ him they weren’t messin’ about. Still, Black ‘ands calms everythin’ down, even when Bert and Xiao tried to nick the darts off the board. You got to ‘and it to ’em – they might not be too bright, but they’ve got the right scoundrel’s spirits.

We sail on the morrow, ‘eadin’ back toward Quent. Cap’n’s lookin’ for our friend Merril Pegsworthy to preside at the weddin’ o’ Bert and Lady Smythee. Or Lady Bert, as I suppose she’s goin’ to be known for at least a year.

Rather ’er than me.

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Starday, 23rd Kuthona, 4711 A.R.

’Ee came. Just like we knew ’ee would.

But we were ready for ‘im. Well, as ready as we could be. An’ with a bit o’ quick thinkin’, maybe we rid the Shackles o’ one o’ its nastiest threats.

The Deathknell came while we were makin’ for Little Oppara. Night fell, an’ we all ‘eld onto our weapons an’ waited.

There ‘ee is. Comin’ out o’ the gloom. An’ the two ships meet. Over go the officers, an’ ‘ere come Pilk’s crew. It were like a cultural exchange. Aye, between the livin’ an’ the dead.

So all’s I can do is hack an’ slash at ‘em. The ship’s overrun with ‘em, stinkin’ undead whalin’ crewmen. Some wi’ ancient cutlasses, some o’ them just clawin’ at our faces. One o’ them just ups an’ picks poor Jack Scrimshaw up, an’ plunges over the side, down into the brine. Lost forever.

Meanwhile, over on the Deathknell, our officers end up in a battle wi’ Pilk ‘imself. They get up onto the fo’c’s’le wi’ ‘im, and ’ee’s ringin’ on that big ship’s bell an’ reachin’ out wi’ that cold ‘and o’ ‘is, through Black ’ands’ flesh, an’ graspin’ right at’ is very ‘eart, squeezin’ the life out o’ ‘im. It’s Perri what ‘as the idea to sunder the ship’s bell, an’ after a deal o’ effort, the bell’s smashed to smithereens.

An’ that’s it! Pilk screams ‘is last – probably a mercy, if you believe any o’ the tales Perri told us about ‘im – and the rest o’ ‘is crew return to their deathly slumber. But the ’old’s full o’ treasure, so we form up a line an’ chuck all o’ the boxes out o’ the ‘old while Perri screams at us – ’ee used to be such a mild sort, now ’ee can scream like a banshee. Still, we got all the treasure out, an’ finished our journey to Little Oppara wi’ the bones o’ the once-mighty Whalebone Pilk lashed to the figurehead!

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Oathday, 21st Kuthona, 4711 A.R.

I’ve got a chill about me.

After we left Goats’ead the other day we set a nor’norwesterly course which brought us up the channel between the south side o’ Motaku Isle an’ Taldas Isle. Blank ‘Ands an’ ‘is boys wanted us to ’unt for some shippin’, so the rest o’ the crew spent the day busy on the lines while I took the day off an’ lounged around on deck enjoyin’ the sun. I knew they wouldn’t catch nothin’ in these waters so late in the year, and besides, I figure I do enough for them curs to gift meself a ’oly day once in a while. I reckon Besmara would approve.

Anyway, they did a lot o’ shoutin’, and a whole bunch o’ runnin’ around, and a great deal o’ nothin’, an’ they didn’t catch no ships. Still, just as th’ sun’s dippin’ behind the western ‘orizon, there’s this ship. An old whaler, looks like it might be out o’ somewhere in Varisia by ‘er lines. She’s spry, an’ she’s out o’ the reach o’ the Mistress anyway, but she’s sailin’ right into the wind. There’s this long shadow, then there’s nothin’.

Well, nothin’ but the last plaintive ringin’ o’ ‘er ship’s bell.

Them chimes stayed wi’ me while I tried to sleep that night. Somethin’ not right about ’em.

So next day, we carry on in toward Taldas. The officers are thinkin’ about takin’ a break in one o’ the towns round ‘ere – gods know why. There ain’t nothin’ to see ‘ere but them pointy-nose poets an’ a load o’ misguided blokes what reckon they’re knights. Good place to go see some opera, maybe, but that ain’t exactly my mug o’ grog. Anyway, it takes us most o’ the day to navigate through them tiny pinpricks o’ land that dot the seas round ‘ere, and we all need to think pretty ’ard, and keep our good eyes out fer reefs and that. By evenin’ we’ve all but forgotten about that whaler, then there she is again! Comin’ out o’ the gloom, that cursed bell ringin’.

She’s listin’ ‘ard to starboard, an ’er gunwales are rottin’ an’ worm-eaten. Bes knows ‘ow she’s still sailin’. Ain’t no natural way a ship like that could outrun us so easy into the wind. Then Perri spies ‘er nameplate – Deathknell. ’Ee knows all about this ship – it’s the ghost ship o’ Whalebone Pilk, the whaler what returned from the grave an’ chases ships out on the open sea fer three days before takin’ ‘em wi’ all ’ands.

This mornin’, we pulled into a safe cove an’ stayed off the ocean. But I know once we get back out on the deep blue, Pilk’ll be only too ’appy to resume ’is ’unt.

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Sunday, 17th Kuthona, 4711 A.R.

All day in the tavern usin’ ‘is own brand o’ storytellin’, and Black Hands has the locals all cowerin’. Takes some big boots to make these lot shake, but the story about Maheem’s ’and making his way into the soup seems to ’ave put the crew of the Scorned Mistress on the map.

Tonight, we found Karell Heidegger dead in ‘is bunk, two daggers stickin’ out o’ his back. Nobody’s got a clue as to how or why it ‘appened. They’ve been ashore to pay Heidegger’s bank to ’is beneficiary, some barkeep called Blind Aachen, him what runs the Cat and Anchor. They told the whole taproom that whoever brings ’em word of the killer gets two hundred caps.

Turns out greed’s more powerful than fear – obviously, or none of us’d be on this ship, eh? These two chancers roll up the jetty with some lush propped between ‘em. They reckoned ’ee was the one what murdered poor old Karell. Course, it don’t take an oracle to recognise a barrelful o’ hogwash like that, an’ Cap’n sent ‘em on their way with a stern word and a slash o’ his sharp falchion that cost one o’ ‘em the tip o’ one finger. Glad he did that, else we’d be having to deal wi’ the same old thing all night long.

This poor drunk, funny-soundin’ man name o’ Hildebrand Robespierre, somehow got offered a place on the crew, on the basis o’ happening to be drunk in the wrong place at the wrong time. Welcome aboard, says I!

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Starday, 16th Kuthona, 4711 A.R.

We pulled into Goats’ead again last night. Funny to be back ’ere again, only a couple weeks later but lots seems to ’ave ’appened to us all in those short weeks.

Anyway, Cap’n’s trying to shift some of the plunder in the markets and pick up a couple locksmiths kits – Reckon gettin’ stuck outside that tower doorway must’ve made ‘im rethink a couple o’ things.

Perri spent the day tellin’ tales in the pubs and taverns, but from what I ‘eard, ’ee’s learned that not every audience is the same, and the things what might impress most o’ the scoundrels o’ the Shackles ain’t goin’ to cut the mustard in Goatshead.

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Wealday, 13th Kuthona, 4711 A.R.

We’ve been on a southerly ‘eading for a couple days now, cause the boys ’ave decided they’ve got to ‘crack the rock’, like they say in the Shackles toast. “Good fortune and sure sail await what one can crack the Tidewater Rock”. We’ve all ’eard it – they drink to it from Port Peril to Blackblood Cay.

Black ‘Ands an’ ‘is boys reckon that they want to see if it can actually be done. An’ tonight’s the night they’ve picked for the job. It’s a full moon out there, but it’s pourin’ wi’ rain – a nasty night fer any kind o’ business.

So the first plan’s just to sail into the ‘arbour by the big tower o’ Tidewater Rock an’ just sort o’ call out to ‘em. Perri pretends to be the cap’n, and demands entry so we can resupply. Course, the Tidewater lot ain’t ‘avin’ none o’ it, so they move up to Plan B. The usual suspects all creep up to th’ place under cover o’ a full moon, and try to sneak Perri up the latrine ’ole.

I’m not makin’ this up. It gets better – none o’ the rest of ‘em can get in, but they’re all spotted from the roof while they’re tryin’ to get the door open (none o’ them ‘as a lockpick to ’is name, o’ course). Perri scampers around inside, lookin’ fer Besmara knows what, alertin’ the whole place before ‘ee drops down the stairs into the ground floor. Now ’ee’s on one side o’ the door, an’ Bert an’ Black ‘Ands are on the other, an’ neither lot can get the blasted thing open.

The guards mighta taken a minute to rally, but eventually they get all their little men in a row, an’ some bloke called Royster McLeagh shows up. ‘Ee locks Perri in a store room, and tells the rest o’ them that ’ee’s got their cap’n, and if they don’t show ‘im their ’eels pretty smartly, ’ee’s goin’ to do terrible things to ’im. So they all slink back to the Mistress.

Time fer a new plan. They swim up to the outside o’ the tower, an’ Bert makes a whole fuss to get the eyes o’ the guard on ‘im while the others creep round the back. An’ there’s Xiao, creepin’ up the same crap chute as what they shoved Perri up earlier. ‘Ee makes ’is way through a couple guards, gets ’em all chasin’ after ‘im, and somehow makes it down to the door an’ lets the Cap’n in.

So no all ‘ell breaks loose. Somehow, Perri manages to get out o’ the cell, an’ there’s an almighty pitch-up right in the passageway. Xiao tries to swing on an old candelabra an’ lands face-first on top o’ Black ‘Ands, but somehow they made it through to the smithy, where they get in a tussle with the sergeant at arms, some moustachioed guy called Royster McLeagh. Somehow, they all manage to survive, an’ put Royster to sleep.

Not really sure what ‘appened next. They all go on up the stairs, talk to Lady Smithee, an’ five minutes later she’s engaged to Bert an’ the tower is theirs. They need to get a Free Captain to oversee the nuptials, so they’re lookin’ round for Merril Pegsworthy, seein’ as ’ee’s about the only Free Cap’n in the Shackles what’ll vouch for ’em!

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Toilday, 12th Kuthona, 4711 A.R.

We put ashore down in the islets around Taldas today, an’ gethered fresh water an’ coconuts. Crew ‘ad all been chattin’ about the attack last night, an’ they’ve got it in their ‘eads that Cap’n ought to stick up fer ‘em an’ chuck ‘em a little gold once they’ve died on the ship. Somethin’ to pass on to their families or whatever they ‘ave. Me? I’d ‘ave the Cap’n chuck it over the side if I got thrown to the fishes – they say ya can’t take it with yer, but I’d still like to take the chance.

Anyway, a gang of ‘em goes up to the cap’n and shares their grievances with ‘im. They want eighty crowns if they’re killed on duty, passed to their next-o’-kin. It were Giffer Tibbs, an’ that funny fellow Abendi, an’ of course, Maheem.

That big Rahadoumi don’t do much but glare at ya most o’ the time. But ‘ee seemed to fall in line behind the others. When they went down wi’ the cap’n for a word, Maheem came up without one o’ ‘is ’ands. All very well fer shuttin’ the rest o’ them up, but ’ow’s ‘ee goin’ up the riggin’ now? We’ll ‘ave to send ’im to clean out th’ bilge – it’s all ’ee’s good for now. Unless we need some scowlin’. If anything, ’ee’s got a bit better at that.

So the crew gets their way – forty coins from the cap’n, and forty from their collected crewmates if they die on the ship. But they also got somethin’ else that night – I don’t reckon the meat in the cap’n special stew were chicken. Tasted more like… Rahadoumi hand.

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Moonday, 11th Kuhona, 4711 A.R.

Ascendance Day, for those what care about the gods an’ stuff. The day that a mortal got drunk an’ woke up a god. Actually, it should be one o’ me favourite holy days, but it never is. The day a lover o’ freedom rose to the challenge o’ godhood an’ succeeded where all those stuffy mages an’ knights an’ stuff had failed? Makes for a great yarn. Still, it seems strange an’ inexplicable stuff always ‘appens around Cayden’s day o’ godhood. Maybe it’s the Lucky Drunk’s influence. Prob’ly it’s all just blind chance. Maybe they’re the same thing, though, eh?

It were right before eight bells, an’ most all o’ the crew were sleepin’ off the night before. Still, Cap’n always wants a couple o’ them up on deck, lookin’ out. Well, I guess this is why. We were attacked from over the sides by Sahuagin, an’ nobody’d be none the wiser if Bert ’adn’t needed a piss. Up ‘ee gets, clambers up top (though why ’ee don’t just go in the bilge like the rest o’ us is anyone’s guess), an’ there’s these sea devils carryin’ off the night watch. Just ‘oppin’ over the side like as ‘appy as ’ow’d’ya do.

Well, our Bert, bless ‘im, grabs up ’is rapier an’ makes a couple ‘oles in the slowest one. Rest got away, an’ took Badger Medlar an’ old one-eyed Dillyn O’Calley with ‘em too. They’ll be a hearty supper for the slimy beasts, doubtless.

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