The galley's new grease-monkey ...

The galley’s new grease-monkey …

When we last left our heroes, they had just captured a large galley, killed its captain in cold blood and won a Letter of Marque from the government of Five Fingers. Now authorized to conduct piracy against the ships of other nations, our group of characters were able to set in motion plans for a life of officially-sanctioned larceny and violent crime.

Nonetheless, our PCs were not happy about how events had turned out in capturing the Urcaen’s Call. Carmichael the Warcaster’s decision to kill the captain in cold blood – slitting his throat in front of his entire captive crew – left the PCs in a significant bind. Captain Mayhorn’s family and patrons were almost certain to seek vengeance for his death, and practically the best way to protect themselves from such reprisals would be to kill all the crew and dump them at sea, or maroon them and leave them to cannibalism and death; but none of the group wished to stoop to such barbarity. Carmichael’s arbitrary action also encouraged an atmosphere of lawlessness amongst the surviving crew of El Pollo Diablo, and would make them much more difficult to control in battle. Since they could not bring themselves to commit slaughter and rule by tyranny, the group decided to make an example of Carmichael through a public whipping and a speech by the Captain, and then dropped their captives at a town far from Five Fingers, drunk and with enough money to keep them drunk for months. They hoped through this tactic that the crew’s information would take a long time to reach Five Fingers, would come accompanied by stories of their drunken excesses, would likely not be believed or accurate in its descriptions of the group, and would probably also be distorted by passing second hand through many tellers.

Nonetheless, Carmichael’s actions had put them at risk, and they decided it might be wise to get out of town for a while. After recruiting new crew – including mechanics and other specialists for their new galley – the PCs took a job for the rich young daughter of a local crime boss, one Katrina Craslovini. She was mounting an archaeological expedition to the Scharde Islands in search of some kind of mythical building (or its ruins) and needed a ship and bodyguards to go with her. This presenting a perfect opportunity to get out of town, the PCs jumped at the chance (and the excellent remuneration on offer), and agreed to go with her. After a short but thankfully non-violent conversation with her father, who tried to dissuade them from travelling, they set off for the Scharde Islands.

They managed to convince Katrina to allow them a few personal stops of their own on the journey to the Scharde Islands, one of which was to be a visit to Carlass’s extinct tribe, therein to worship at the runestones of her tribe. The first stop, however, was to be at a small and irrelevant town south of Five Fingers, where Sharajin wished to investigate the trail of a man she was pursuing. Sharajin is a monk of the Menoth church, likely some kind of Inquisitor, and probably an extremely nasty person when left in a darkened room well-stocked with sharpened pieces of metal and overly open-minded fellow citizens. So it is likely that the group put into this small bay in search of a man who had perhaps simply had the temerity to claim the sun was hotter than the fires of Menoth, or some such foolishness. Nonetheless, Sharajin was one of us, and so as a team we went to that small and sun-baked town in quest of a free-thinker, that we might hand him over to Sharajin’s tender ministrations.

Or so we thought …

Carlass stood at the helm with Hrif the Younger, enjoying the sea breeze, as they put into the small bay where the town lay, lazy and quiet in the sun-drenched morning. Carlass, proud chronicler of a hunter-gathering culture, grunted in disgust at the patchwork of fields that stretched out into the hills beyond the town like a haphazard chessboard of yellows and greens. Smoke rose from town chimneys, occasional farmers and townsfolk stopped in their labours to stare at the unfurled sails of El Pollo Diablo, and somewhere on the road near the town an ancient labour-jack glinted in the sunlight as it clacked along the furrows of a new-ploughed field.

Once the ship had put into the port, the PCs disembarked. They had decided to take a day’s shore leave, so the crew were soon scampering off to restaurants and brothels on the seafront. They left their crew behind and visited the local notables – that is, the local Priest and Nobleman – and inquired as to the man Sharajin sought. Had they seen a scientist fleeing heresy, a unionist covertly escaping torture for wanting to better the lot of salt miners, some foolish woman who had thought to protest her husband’s beatings?

No, they hadn’t, but a man had been seen heading out of town, and it was possible that he was in the ruins beyond the town. As the sun rose to its zenith and the local farmers broke off their harrowing and scrannetting to rest in the shade of their hedgerows, our little group of heroes set off up the road into the hills beyond town, to find Sharajin’s target. They had been told he was meeting with an old woman of ill repute who was perhaps connected with some religious cult laired in the ruins. Perfect! Sharajin’s eyes lit up with that cold Mennite malice at the thought of a whole religious cult to extinguish, and everyone (except Hrif the Younger and Captain Breaker) had to speed their step to keep up with her.

There was some trouble on the way out of town as the townsfolk made the mistake of thinking that Hrif the Younger had come to kill them all, but he managed to smooth out their concerns.

They found what they sought soon enough – an old burial mound, door newly-affixed, that was guarded by two local men who looked a little like militia. Alyvia approached to try and talk to them, but they opened fire with their rifles immediately, and so the party were forced to kill them. They then entered the burial mound, and soon found what they sought. An inner room had been converted into some kind of workshop, and a group of mechanics were working rapidly on a war-jack, under the watchful eye of a middle-aged woman of ferocious demeanour. The war-jack was obviously built to fit a Mennoth design, and the woman was exhorting her labourers to build it faster. In the corner of the room was a vat of some kind of filthy liquid that was being poured slowly and steadily into a fast-running stream. That liquid was clearly not intended to do good, and the stream obviously ran out of this burial chamber to somewhere downhill…

Captain Breaker takes the fore

Captain Breaker takes the fore

The PCs leapt into the attack, but discovered themselves suddenly facing off with a group of zombies that the woman managed to conjure forth. She was a necromancer, most vile of heretics! A short and nasty battle followed, in which the woman’s magic nearly felled Captain Breaker, but in the end neither nor her zombies were much of a match for the group. As the battle unfolded, Carlass stopped the poison flowing into the stream, and was able to identify it – swampfoot fever, the same disease whose cure had been stolen from the Golden Crucible and carried north on Captain Mayhorn’s ship just a few weeks earlier.

What a remarkable coincidence …

In the room the PCs found a set of plans for Mennoth war-jacks, and now they learnt who it was that Sharajin was chasing: a spy who had stolen plans for Mennoth war-jacks, and aimed to sell them to the highest bidder. He was gone, and had obviously made his profit, but now Sharajin had possession of the plans. The necromancer of course had to die, and told them nothing useful except that the poison was for the town water supply – she would not say why or who she was working for, but no doubt she was a member of one of the standard cults that venerate the sick and the dead. They killed her.

The PCs then returned to town, bringing with them the parts and plans for the warjacks, and the warjack itself they reconfigured as a labour-jack and donated to the townsfolk. They then returned to their boat … and encountered a strange epilogue.

This nameless little town was officially in the territory of the kingdom of Cygnar, and as they returned to the bay the PCs saw a sloop of the Cygnar navy at rest in the bay. On the beach, Katrina and the crew they had left on the ship were being held at gunpoint by Cygnaran Marines. Why? Captain Breaker approached, leaving the PCs and their war-jack at a suitably menacing distance, and negotiated with the Marines. It appeared that they simply suspect the group of being pirates, and once they had seen Breaker’s Letter of Marque and confirmed his mission was to the Scharde Islands they let Katrina and the other crew free. However, as the captain prepared to return to his sloop he stopped and asked the Captain,

Have you by any chance seen or heard anything of a ship by the name of Urcaen’s Call?

Feigning innocence and appearing as concerned as one mariner should for the fate of another, Breaker declared he had not, nor had he heard of such a vessel, but why were the navy interested? Should he be concerned about pirates?

The captain’s response sent a chill down everyone’s spine:

It’s nothing. We were due to rendezvous near here just a week since, and have heard nothing of her. Thanks for your concern.

And off the captain went, returning to his ship.

The PCs had ambushed the Urcaen’s Call as it headed towards these waters from Khador, and it had been carrying a large quantity of treatment for the very disease they had just seen being poured into the town’s drinking water supply. Could it be that the Cygnaran navy captain had intended to appear as a hero to this town, arriving just in time to cure them of their disease? If so, then he must have a connection with the necromancer they had just killed, or to her employers. And if so, then Captain Mayhorn had surely been deeply involved in whatever plot this was, and perhaps his death had not been so ill-omened. Furthermore, was it just this one Cygnaran captain, or was the Cygnaran rulership involved in poisoning its own people … and why?

It appeared that in ambushing the Urcaen’s Call the PCs had interfered with a devious plot connected with both the Cygnaran navy, a Mennite traitor and some powerful necromantic group. Which must also mean that the stevedore’s union that hired them was opposed to this sinister scheme for its own reasons. By taking one simple job, the PCs may have embroiled themselves in evil designs connecting sinister organizations and the governments of at least two countries…

Perhaps, after all, the safest bet would be an extended tour of the Scharde Islands …

Picture credit: again, these pictures are by Captain Breaker’s player.