The Pirates Code: Equal share of treasure to the crew. Report looting and don’t take more than your share. The Captain and officers get more. Tend your weapons. Don’t be a coward. Don’t talk of leaving without 1,000 gold. No fighting between crew on ship, save it for land. Magic must be used to benefit the boat. Obey orders, don’t steal. First sail spotter gets first dib on treasure.
“By Besmara’s right ass cheek… what happened?” Cassandra mutters to herself as she stirs from her place on the floor and pushes herself up to her knees to look around. “I remember reading the cards… and then the barmaid…”
“You’ve been taken like the rest of us to sign up against our will for a little sea cruise,” chuckles a human male with long hair and a moustache sitting on the floor and holding his head.
Suddenly there is a blinding flash of light as a door from above is opened to briefly reveal the squalor that she was tossed into. “Look alive, land lubbers!” Bellows a voice from above. “The Captain will flog you for dereliction of duty if you don’t report topside!”
“Come on,” says Cassandra as she offers hands to the others to help them up. “We’re all in this together at the moment.”
As they stumble upstairs, the dark and damp squalor of below decks gives way to the salty air of the ocean and natural light of the sun. “Blessed Besmara… for she has answered my prayers,” mutters Cassandra before closing her eyes with a smile and inhaling.
“What… you prayed to be kidnapped into slavery on board a pirate ship? You got some low expectations there, mate.” offers another human to her right, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the human she saw before.
“But I’m on the ocean…” Cassandra replies. “This is where I’m supposed to be.”
“I’m Zack and this is my bother Jack, by the way. Perhaps you’ve heard of us?” A human male with long hair and a moutache points to another man who would be near impossible to tell apart if it weren’t for the clothing.
“Afraid I’m from much farther north than here,” Cassandra says with chagrin. “I wouldn’t mind hearing your stories one day, though.” Cassandra scans around the deck and scans over the greasy Gnome and the other humans gathered around what looks like the captain reading a scroll before falling on a Halfling gemale in a red cloak and a human female with red hair with tattoos very similar to her own. I may not be human… but I am a female… and in a place such as this we should know that we can look out for each other.
The older man looking at the scroll finally curls it up and hands it to one of the other humans before lumbering his way over to his new “crew” from below decks. “Welcome to The Wormwood! I’ve got two rules on me’ ship: DON’T TALK TO ME! is the first… and the second is DON’T KILL THE CREW! We’ve got a bit of a shortage, we have… and anyone making my life harder by killing off another crewmember I can’t afford to lose will soon find themselves walking a very short plank over shark infested waters. YOU GOT THAT?”
The man then stomps away and is soon replaced by a tall imposing bald man with many scars and crags pockmarking his skin, carrying a whip. “The name’s Mr. Plug! Don’t wear it out!” The weary group stands to attention as Mr. Plug scans over them all with a snear. “You and the Halfling,” he grunts as he points to Cassandra. “You two start scrubbing the decks. You other two,” he continues as he turns to the twins, “start climbing the rigging! I’ll assign permanent duty when I feel like looking at your lilly-lovin’ faces again.”
The day passes rather quickly when dealing with the monotony of scrubbing decks and hauling ropes. The Halfling Drogo is soon assigned to rat catching down in the bilges while Cassandra works on scrubbing the decks. She sits up from her scrubbing and pops her back with a sigh as she breathes in the salty air. “Could’ve been worse, I guess.” a female Halfing looks up from her scrubbing with a raised brow. “After getting knocked out at the bar, I wasn’t expecting to wake up at all, honestly,” Cassandra continues with a shrug. “When you’re alive, anything is possible.”
“All right, all right… I guess I’ve got to look at your faces again, so let’s line up and not make me have to do it for too long!” bellows Mr. Plug with a crack of his whip as they all gather at the base of the rigging. “I’ve got a little test for ye all… it’s called ‘Get your ass to the Crow’s Nest before you get hit with rotten tomatoes!’ GO!”
Cassandra grins to herself as she launches herself up through the rigging, much to the detrement of the cursing twins below caught surprised by the contest. It’s almost a relief to be able to stretch her legs in the climb, and she wants to be able to try to get a good view from the Crow’s Nest before they call them back down again. “Damn… no landmarks!” she mutters as she catches her breath at the top, and is soon followed by Drogo the halfling. “Impressive work, my friend,” she smiles as she looks down with a chuckle at the twins being pelted with rotten tomatoes.
“Fun’s over! Get your asses back down here on the double!” bellows Mr. Plug. “All right-y… which of you scurvy dogs knows how to cook worth a damn?” he grumbles as he looks us over.
“Actually…” Cassandra replies as she raises her hand. Her mother had taught her how to make the best of herbs and spices when one was constantly travelling with their clan.
Mr. Plug looks at Cassandra with a raised brow. “Fine then, you’re now the cook’s mate. Halfling, you’re a rigger. You two…” he gazes at the twins stained with tomatoes. “Start swabbing the decks. You’ve each been assigned hammocks in the common room as well as your daily ship duties. Do your jobs, keep your nose out of where it doesn’t belong and don’t talk back, and maybe you’ll live to see tomorrow!”
Cassandra grimaces as she’s escorted past a man bolted to the mainmast for trying to sneak into the Captain’s quarters. “Come on, kitchen’s this way,” mutters one of the crew. Eventually she’s taken to a cramped room stuffed with dishes and boxes from floor to ceiling and covered in cooking grease. In the middle of it all is a rather fat and drunk human currently trying to sleep off a hangover. “So what am I…” Cassandra turns to question her escort only to find that he’s gone back to his own duties. “Well… guess I can aquaint myself with the supplies, at least.” After an hour of crawling over boxes and pans she’s able to find a rather servicible dagger that she tucks into her sleeve… but still no clean pans.
The sun sets over their first day on the Wormwood as the bell rings once again on deck. Cassandra grunts at her futile attempts to organize the kitchen area and runs down to join the others lining up in front of a pacing Mr. Plug and a redheaded human covered in muck.
“It seems this piece of scum was stupid enough to steal from the ship stores! Perfect time to demonstrate to the crew what we call Ship’s Justice, eh?” he cracks the whip towards some men with rope on each side of the deck. “Show them how we clean the barnacles off the hull, boys!”
Cassandra and the others grimace as ropes are tied to the legs and arms of the man with the ends going over each side. With a pull of the ropes he is taken overboard, his screams turning into gurgles as he’s quickly pulled under to scrape along the barnacles underneath.
The dull scraping sounds along the hull are nearly enough to make Cassandra’s stomach turn… but instead she bites her lip and breathes deep through her nose as she does her best to remember happier times. The sickening scraping soon comes to an end… only to be replaced by the sounds of excited sharks gathering off portside to feed.
“Entertainment’s over! Get your ass back to the kitchen and start serving up the stew!” Pug rails at Cassandra before cracking his whip over his head and stomping off.
Cassandra heads back to the kitchen to the sounds of nausea from some of the crew at eating after such a graphic display. Focus on who you can help, Cassie… some people just have to make their own fate. She soon returns with a large pot full of what can only be called soup, considering how watery it is. “I’m so sorry…” she says to each of the crew as she spoons out the rotgut soup. “When he lets me near the food, I swear I’ll make something better…until then, the rum will kill the taste.” The redheaded female and a few of the crew offer slight smiles at her sincere apology, as no one ever cared about the food before.
Hmmn… perhaps we can compare tattoos later… Cassandra chuckles to herself as she finishes up and totes the pot back to the kitchen. Since magic is so prized on this ship, though… perhaps sharing knowledge of my skills with her might help her situation with Mr. Plug. In a place like this, people you can trust are the true measure of wealth.
The evening finds the crew doing their best to stretch out sore muscles and backs as Drago plays a flute alongside a red furry lizard-thing doing a jig… and rather well.
“I’ve heard tales of summoners and their magical companions… but I must admit this is the first one I’ve seen,” Cassandra comments in awe. “How did your friend come about?”
“Just something I was born with,” Drago replies with a shrug before going back to his music.
So much for conversation… Cassandra turns to the female halfling looking rather longingly at Drago’s flute. “Lucky bastard,” the halfling girl named Rosie mutters. “At least he has an instrument… they went and took away my fiddle.” Cassandra opens her mouth to comment, but is interrupted by the clanking of metal as a rucksack is dropped at her feet in front of her by the redheaded female. “It pays to have friends,” she winks. “If you know how to talk to her, sometimes you can get things back from the quartermaster,” she offers before heading into the next room.
“Thank you,” Cassandra calls after her before opening the sack in joy… because right on top is the worn blue leather cover of her spellbook. Thank the Gods! She whispers thanks to Besmara and tucks the book carefully into her jacket before pulling out a set of wooden armor and two monogramed rapiers that are quickly taken up by the halfling and the twin humans.
“You know, our grandfather Jareth Teashanks is the one who passed down these swords to us,” begins one of the twin brothers with a smile as others settle in around him for a story. Cassandra can make out something about cannonballs and mechanical body parts before sleep takes her and she passes out on one of the cots.
Cassandra is woken from a dream of rabbit princes and ant queens by the sounds of the morning bell, signifying a new work day. She mutters a quick cantrip that cleans the remnants of yesterday’s efforts from her clothing before making sure the others are ready in time. No sense starting off the day on a bad foot…
As she jogs up the steps with the others, however, they find their way blocked by four humans looking to start trouble. “In a hurry?” the slightly bigger one in front asks with a swagger as he shoves Jack down a few steps. Zack quickly moves up to defend his brother as Cassandra pulls the dagger from her sleeve with her best intimidating sneer.
“Look… I obviously can’t kill you all… but I can certainly make you wish you were dead if you make us late. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll even get the job of cleaning up your blood afterwards.”
Three of the thugs back away in fear, leaving the leader who grins and pulls out a dagger of his own. “That butter knife don’t scare me,” he snorts.
“Try this then,” offers Jack as he unsheaths his rapier. The thug gulps visibly and tries to run up the stairs, but gets cold-cocked in the back of the head by the rapier’s hilt instead.
“Serves you right trying to make us late,” Zack mutters as he kicks him in the side for good measure before joining the rest of them continuing up the stairs.
“So glad you all decided to make it!” Mr. Pug growls as they manage to line up before the fading of the last bell ring. “Time to show us how well you can fish, Elf girl!” he waves the hilt of his whip towards some nets along the side of the boat before growling at the others. “The rest of you get back to your duties!”
After a fruitful day with a decent catch, Cassandra totes the fish back to the kitchen in the hopes of making something less offensive to the stomach for the crew. A search through the shelves doesn’t turn up any spices, unfortunately… but she does find a brace of daggers in a wooden box shoved under some frying pans. Hmmn… I wonder if I can trade these with the quartermaster to get back my cards? She draws a symbol in the air as she mutters a spell, and the air ripples for a moment as her Unseen Servant pops into existance. “Clean and prepare these fish for dinner for me… I’m going to go see if I can conduct some business,” she orders before slipping out the door.
“GO ’WAY!” growls a sleepy voice as a bottle shatters against the inside of the Quartermaster’s door. Well… so much for that.
The fish goes over reasonably well that night, causing the rum to flow a bit more freely as laughs and stories are shared all around. Even Ambrose the cook was more verbose than unconscious, and shared stories of the crew with Cassandra before passing out again. It’s a particular bit of information about the quartermaster that gives Cassandra an idea or two about getting their things back…
“So what do you say… maybe between my illusion and your hillarious impersonation of Mr. Plug, we can fool that old hag guarding our stuff?” Cassandra asks the human girl next to her with only a slight slur.
“Oh no,” replies Tilly Bracket with a wave of her hands. “As much as I’d love to pull one over on old Cuthroat Grok, I don’t even want to think what might happen if it doesn’t work. Cool idea, though.” She leans over to Cassandra and whispers, “Besides… I’ve heard that she’s afraid of cursed things, so that’s probably the way to go.”
“Hey… where’d you get even more daggers?” complains a burly human. On second glance, Cassandra identifies him as the one who pulled a dagger on them on the stairs.
“Amazing what you can find when you actually bother cleaning around here,” Cassandra replies with a roll of her eyes.
“I’d start with yourself, Fips,” adds Tilly as she holds her nose and waves for him to go. Fips scoffs and shuffles into the other room with a mutter… soon to be followed by Jack.
“Hey Sindara, love the tattoos! Want to see mine?” the redheaded female turns at Zack’s voice and laughs heartidly at the sailor bent over with his pants down.
“Believe it or not, that reminds me of a song,” says Drago as he pulls out his whistle and his creature twirls about in joy.
The next day begins with the now-expected bell ringing… but this time when they line up there’s a young man covered in bilge water with a rather nasty wound on his leg standing by Mr. Pug. “It seems something decided to eat early and take a chunk out of ol’ Jackie-boy here!” he grunts as he waves his whip handle at the boy. “I vollunteer you four to go down into the bilges and take out whatever did it!”
“Will we have access to any equipment for the task?” Cassandra asks hopefully.
“Looks to me you’ve been supplying yourself just fine,” sneers Mr. Pug as he lumbers off. “Don’t come back up till it’s done!”
“That’s one really nasty rat bite,” offers Jack to the others. “Best be careful.”
Zack nods to his brother and mutters his own incantation before a globe of soft light floats in front of him. “Come on… let’s do this.”
Cassandra can’t stop the shudder that goes through her at the sight of numerous spiders and webs in the dark dank corners of the bilge.
“It’s as hot and smelly as an ogre’s armpit in here,” grunts Jack.
Zack’s ball of light floats forward until it glints off the red eyes of at least six rats some 5 feet long huddled around a pile of garbage. Between the four of them it doesn’t take long before the rats are just one more corpse floating in the bilge water. All but Drago’s pet remain unscathed… but fortunately its hardy constitution seems to have protected it from any disease the creatures might have been carrying.
“Let’s look around real quick before they call us back up!” exclaims Jack as he discovers a water-tight pouch in one of the crates in the corner. A quick search by the rest of us reveals a suit of leather armor for Zack, as well as a masterwork hand axe and a vial of holy water for Cassandra.
“Sweet… maybe I can trade this armor to get my hat back!” exclaims Zack.
“I was going to talk to her too today,” Drago replies. “Good luck to you!”
Cassandra smiles at the others as she formulates her own plan for the quartermaster in her mind. Curses were the bread and butter of Varisian gypsies… I think I can drum up a few good ones regarding a fiddle…