- The companions find themselves aboard the Shadow Swift again as the ship leaves Freeport
- Captain Ancias is murdered in the midst of child birth, completing Sil’s mission
- The baby, Sil’s heir, is birthed successfully; the dark onyx shard fuses to the child
- As Sil’s representatives, the companions take command of the ship as regents
- A course is set for Port Peril to resupply
- The ship’s rudder is intentionally damaged by someone on-board
- During the night, crew-member Fardell, the ship’s Chaplin, is murdered; the ship’s mast is also damaged
- An investigation into Fardell’s death is commenced while the crew begins repairs
- A ship crewed by Hellhound Social Club members and Kuru warriors attempts to board the Shadow Swift
The clouds clear as quickly as they formed, and the companions find themselves back on the deck of the Shadow Swift. The ship is casting off from its moor, a mass of civilians thronging the docks shouting and waving fists in their general direction. As if in a dream, the companions are drawn forward towards a door that, although they have not yet entered, is understood to lead to the Captain’s quarters. A sense of déjà vu washes over the group.
The burden of destiny tugging at their coattails, the companions led by a charging Romica burst through the thick door. An angelic creature sits atop a table in the midst of childbirth. A physician attends to her while a seasoned officer takes in the scene. The doctor turns toward the sudden intrusion, “Not a good time sailors.”
Sil’s mission was clear – end the life of the current Captain. Quicker than a blink, the halfling Anton rolls acrobatically onto the table to straddle the Captain. With surprising skill, he performs a crude c-section while keeping the Captain pinned under his body. Lando, not comfortable with his companion’s actions, casts web across the room, attempting to bring the conflict to a standstill. His actions are for naught as Freight, undeterred by the sticky web strands, moves effortlessly to the table and with a mighty chop fulfills Sil’s mission. The angelic creature’s body lies motionless on the table.
Anton carefully cradles the baby as the halfling drops to the floor. Lando slumps in the corner, aghast at the scene. The physician and officer remain rooted to the floor, stunned by the savagery of what just happened.
The physician is the first to break the silence. The tiefling walks over the lifeless body of the Captain, checks her vitals, and calls the time of death. He then turns to the group, “My name is Zwicket, I am the ship’s doctor. You have just murdered our Captain, Ancias. Mario Poffal, the ship’s quartermaster, is the one that made the puddle in the corner. I am assuming that you were sent by Sil?” A nod from Anton. “Ah yes, Captain Sil, always looking out for our best interests. What does he have in store for us I wonder – does he have a plan?” Another nod from Anton. “And is it a good plan?” The halfling glances between the physician and quartermaster, making sure to make eye contact with both before nodding a final time. Both appear content with the answer.
With Anton’s consent, the doctor checks the newborn. After he is satisfied of his good health, Zwicket calls for the cabin boy, a sprite youth by the name of Cecil. The two excuse themselves after collecting the body of Ancias for transport to the infirmary. The quartermaster, Mario Poffal, attempts to leave as well, but is asked to remain – the companions have questions for him. During their discussion, they learn that:
- The contract signed by the crew of the Shadow Swift was with Asmodeus, the Lord of Hell. In return for the power that binds the crew to the ship, Asmodeus receives the souls of those who die under contract, whether it be at sea or on shore.
- After many years aboard the ship, Captain Sil convinced the crew to partake in a brash mission – to infiltrate Hell and steal back the contract and release themselves.
- They bribed one of the Lieutenants of Hell to grant them entry through a one-way portal into the River Sticks.
- The mission did not go well. Many crew members died in the assault, many more in the retreat, and Sil was captured. This occurred a little more than a month ago. The Shadow Swift was in port for repairs and resupply, and to recruit new crew.
- Ancias, the wife and first mate of Sil, took over as Captain when he was captured. The ship was under siege during its escape from Hell and her first mate died in action. The post remains vacant.
- Asking about the relationship of Sil to the serpent folk, Mario advises that they have all had dealings with the serpent folk – indeed, there are several on the crew.
- Ancias was a lore-keeper, those that are tasked to keep the history of the ship. The bard, J-Todd, is also a lore-keeper.
- Mario is a protocol-keeper, those that are tasked with maintaining order and discipline upon the ship (i.e. the pirate’s code). The protocol-keeper acts as judge, the crew the jury. The ex-first mate was also a protocol-keeper.
- Discipline is relatively easy to maintain, as those that break the pirate’s code are dropped to the end of the list for shore leave. This is a bad thing, as shore leave represents an opportunity to recruit new sailors, thereby allowing veterans to complete their contract.
- Lastly, the companions confirm that the baby is Sil’s heir.
Lando, upon learning that Ancias was Sil’s wife, and therefore Kell’s daughter, becomes understandably distraught – he had agreed to look out for her with his parting words with Kell. The pain of the loss, as well as the knowledge that his companions were to blame, results in immeasurable conflict within the old gnome.
The quartermaster is excused and the companions have a moment to unwind. They survey the Captain’s quarters, their new living quarters – it is a large room complete with a closet for their clothes, a massive chest for gear, a writing desk, and a bed – one bed. Understanding the problem at hand, they draw straws for who gets the bed tonight. Before they come to a conclusion, the bag of holding in Anton’s gear begins to vibrate. A dark onyx shard, acquired on Brightglass Island during their previous adventure, appears from the bag. The shard hovers lazily, moving slowly towards the baby and attaches to his chest. There is no discernible effect as the shard fuses with the baby’s skin, seemingly becoming a part of him.
Freight is visibly upset and voices her displeasure at the turn of events, “Gentlemen, this is wrong, it feels wrong. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s wrong.” Lando sympathizes with her and detects magic. A tinge of evocation, necromancy, and conjuration emanates from where the shard has fused with the baby, but it quickly dissipates.
The companions recall that the shard, which appears to have been broken off of a larger formation, was found in a chest along with some articles. This included a journal which detailed the history of the shard – it was found by a fisherman floating in the ocean. It was brought on shore to the fisherman’s village, but was thought to have brought ill will and was quickly returned to the ocean. Other journal entries mention that the shard returns to the village on several occasions. The entries become increasingly disconnected, suggesting that the shard was corrupting the author. Feeling a heightened sense of responsibility for the child after failing his mother, Lando is compelled to learn more about the dark onyx shard and its possible influence on the child.
Fearing for the safety of the newborn, Zwicket is called back to the Captain’s quarters. He performs a second check-up on the child and confirms that he remains in perfect health. Further, there is no magical emanations as before. Arrangements for a wet nurse are made, and the doctor is excused again.
Before bedding down, the companions summon Pretty Ike the boatswain as well as Rockinsky the carpenter. The companions update them on their mission – that Sil had tasked them with killing Ancias and that the deed had been done. They thank the group for the update and advise that they had been visited by Sil in ethereal form as well. Their mission was to get the delivered portal up and running. When asked about the portal, they advise that is it not quite ready, although the group believes that they are holding back. In terms of next steps, they advise that Sil’s plan was to release his wife from the contract – to do this, she was to be killed so that her soul would be sent to Hell, and then rescued although the details did not mention how this would be achieved. That said, he may not have understood that she was pregnant, although the companions are confused as to how he would not know this.
This information provides a glimmer of hope to Lando, who appears somewhat relieved. The companions offer their assistance to Pretty Ike and Rockinsky. The two advise that reconnaissance is required – there are allies on the ship that may help, but there are others that will not be happy with Ancias’ death. They explain that Sil was always a pragmatic but brash personality. He preferred to meet conflict head on. The decision to assault Hell, and the subsequent failure of that mission, has rubbed many the wrong way. Ancias did things in a more rational manner. Her idea was to fulfill the original mission of the ship, which many thought was a rational choice.
Before being dismissed, Lando asks Pretty Ike and Rockinsky about the lore-keepers’ records. They advise that the bard’s quarters are right around the corner. As Captains, the companions have access to the lore-keeper’s records; however, it is not necessarily socially acceptable to do so. There are secrets kept within the records that are meant to remain secret. The two sailors agree to provide the bard, J-Todd, with a good word on their behalf. With that, the companions bed down for the night.
The Shadow Swift easily outruns the Freeport Armada and morning comes soon enough. The bell boy, Cecil, is instructed to call the officers together on deck. The companions introduce themselves as the new Captains of the ship. They inform the crew that Ancias died in child birth, although the baby was saved and is in good health. As Sil’s representatives, the companions have been entrusted by the good Captain to look after his heir in his absence, and will take command of the ship for the time being as regents. The officers accept the story without question.
A general report is provided by the officers. The ship was hastily repaired in the aftermath of it’s assault on Hell, leaving the coffers in bad shape. That said, some of the cannons were not yet loaded and have been left in Freeport. Along with several crew-members that were on shore leave. Morale is relatively low given the failure of their last mission. And stores are in bad shape given their early exit from Freeport. The ship’s cook, Potvin, estimates there are 3 days of food and water available. On the flip side, there is plenty of grog available should the Captains wish to improve morale. Lastly, the ship’s sails are in good condition; however, Telecum, the ship’s engineer, advises that he would like to chat in private.
The companions put their heads together and come up with a plan – the ship is to sail for Port Peril, about three days away, to complete repairs and restock. Further, the companions will ask the Mage’s Guild to provide a message to the orc crew aboard the Bloody Vengeance – if they can deliver the Shadow Swift’s cannons and missing crew-members to Port Peril, they will be granted ownership rights to the Vengeance, including the lucrative privateering writ. Lastly, Lando wishes to consult with the Mage’s Guild regarding their knowledge of the black onyx shard.
The course is set and the Shadow Swift sails for Port Peril. Feeling good about their plan, the group meets with Telecum after the officers disburse. He reports that someone has tampered with the rudder, intentionally. It appears as if some sort of detonation has damaged the steering mechanism. It will be challenging to steer the ship in tight quarters without the rudder, although the ships’ sails should suffice on the open water.
This information suggests to the companions that there could be someone on-board looking to undermine their command. Wanting to get the rudder fixed as efficiently as possible, the group calls on the services of their friends Sprocket and Glurp. The goblin and gnome are happy to assist and get to work investigating the damage.
The companions decide to retire to the ship’s common area, where they bump into J-Todd. The bard pulls up a chair and several drinks, and the companions reminisce about their time in Freeport. Lando and J-Todd hit it off, and the bard agrees to let the gnome come by in the morning to check out the lore-keeper’s chronicles.
At this time, Sprocket and Glurp make their report on the rudder. The steering mechanism was not seriously damaged, but the rudder needs to be replaced. To do so, they will need some timber to hew, which they can likely obtain in Port Peril. The companions thank them for the good news, and given that its getting late, retire to their quarters.
The weather becomes rougher as the night wears on. In the wee hours of the morning, the companions sleep is interrupted by violent swells and howling wind. It is not long thereafter that voices can be heard on the wind, then a crack of lighting and a giant bang, followed by shouts of alarm. The companions quickly dress and make their way topside.
The sun has recently crested the horizon making for a hazy light. The main mast has been struck by lightning and has exploded halfway up the shaft. Further, the sail is on fire. Mario Poffal, along with several other officers, are on the opposite side of the ship directing crew-members to the fire. The quartermaster also appears to be keeping sailors clear of some sore of disturbance.
With many sailors already attending to the fire, the companions investigate the disturbance on the other side of the ship. As they close on Poffal’s position, a dead body, charred and bloodied, can be seen on deck. The quartermaster has enforced a perimeter to preserve evidence. Poffal waves to the group and indicates that they may examine the crime scene. He identifies the murdered crew-member as Chaplin Fardell, a resident priest of Besmara. A tattoo of holy grog can be seen on his hand. As Chaplin, he counselled crew-members and collected tithes on behalf of Besmara. Not surprisingly, the quartermaster advises that Fardell was universally loved and respected on the ship given his relationship with the Goddess of Piracy. His death will be seen as an ill omen. The companions request that his room be locked down until they have a chance to search for clues.
The cleric Freight inspects the body, concluding that the crew-member’s death was caused by an explosion. A red piece of embroidered fabric, possibly ripped from a piece of clothing, is found in the left hand of the body. Glurp, the ship’s explosives expert, is called to the scene. He examines the blackened deck but is unable to tell if the blast was initiated by magical or natural means. That said, he finds an explosive residue near the gunwale that he recognizes as gun powder. It is fairly damp, meaning it has likely been there for some time. In discussion with the companions, they learn that gun powder distribution is controlled by Glurp. It would take a significant amount of the substance to produce an explosion of this magnitude, of which the gnome advises is not missing from his stores. The companions thank Glurp for his time and excuse him from the scene.
Wishing to help the investigation, Lando detects magic and isolates an aura of evocation that lines up with the blast marks on the deck. He also recognizes a faint aura of necromancy coming from the cargo bay below. The other companions scour the immediate area and find:
- a long gnarly staff on deck near the stairs below deck; it is not magical in nature, it appears to function as a walking stick
- a cold iron trident leaned up against the gunwale
- uneaten rations tucked behind the water-barrel
- a message pad lying face down on deck, wet from the rain; Lando places the pad in a special tube designed to dry papers for later examination
- a trail of blood leading from the scene to the entrance of the rigging stores
- an empty bird cage that appears to be crushed, the door is askew and there are white feathers inside; Cecil uses birds to run messages across the ship
- a poodle is found cowering behind the rigging, it is wet and shivering, the dog has a pink leash with a brass tag that says “Perfect”; no one has seen the dog before
- one of the large doors to the cargo bay is slightly askew
Their initial investigation of the scene complete, the companions discuss next steps. First things first, the fire in the sails has been bested and repairs need to be attended to. Several officers are summoned and tasked with facilitating the repairs. At this time, a lookout calls down to the crew. A massive galleon, black and heavily armored, has been spotted on the horizon anchored off nearby islands. With the mast down, the Shadow Swift sits low in the water. The companions instruct the crew to camouflage the ship as best as possible in hopes of avoiding detection while repairs are completed.
The quartermaster, Poffal, returns to the deck once he has secured Fardell’s quarters. He provides the companions with the key. The group asks for a roll call of those on watch at the time of the murder. Poffal advises that there were four crew-members on watch: Creston Burge, Loquacious Winding Tam, Gary Soldana, and Dragor Redblade. Everyone on the crew is accounted for with the exception of Loquacious and the physician Zwicket.
The companions put Poffal in charge of monitoring the galleon so that they can continue with their investigation. There are two clues that require immediate attention – the trail of blood and the slightly askew door to the cargo bay. Understanding there is only one exit from the cargo bay, the doors that lead topside to the deck, the companions put the door under watch while they follow the trail of blood. The droplets lead away from the scene, as if some was staggering, then double back in a smeared fashion, suggesting the body was dragged.
The trail leads below deck to the infirmary. Inside, the ship’s doctor, Zwicket, is attending to a female human. She is in rough shape, with burn marks that would imply she was wounded by an explosive force. The doctor is not in the mood to speak, but advises that she is indeed the missing patrol person, Loquacious Winding Tam, and that he transported her here after finding her near death on the deck of the ship. The companions note that neither are wearing a red coat.
Alarm bells sound from above and the group quickly returns to the deck. A sleek ship, smaller than the galleon spotted earlier, quickly approaches the Shadow Swift. The ship is flying a standard adorned with a spear piercing a flag, a pennant affiliated with Freeport. On the deck, a stout male human shouts orders to his crew. The companions recognize him as Dunbar, the head of the Hell Hound Social Club. Further, several members of the crew are identified as Kuru, a cannibal clan of fierce warriors. Neither the Club nor the Kuru are known to ply the waters, but extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.
Anticipating impact, the companions instruct the crew to man the cannons and to unfurl the sails in hopes of picking up speed and making boarding more difficult. The ship manages to successfully navigate alongside the Shadow Swift. Grappling hooks are attached to the hull, and the opposing crew prepares to board.