Session Recap Week 2: Blood on the Water

As the shock of their new situation turned to a cold acceptance — not that Master Scourge and Mister Lagraa gave them any choice in the matter — the unwilling new crew members of the Storm Reaver were assigned to their duties, and it was time to get to work.

Master Scourge, the half-orc whose temper belied his unusually small stature, set the cocky shifter Trucco to man the sails and run gear up and down the rigging.  The scarred old dwarf Torlan Kolladron, still clad in nothing but underclothes that had seen better days after having been stripped of his amour upon being brought on board, was sent belowdecks to take care of the ship’s rat problem, and Cyran skyknight Rus was tasked to be a runner, delivering messages at the regular crew’s beck and call.  Torlan’s goddaughter Daina, a former House Deneith mercenary, had been ordered by the fearsome first mate Mister Lagraa to report to the ship’s cook.

Down in the galley, Daina found a dwarf with a mug of ale in one hand and a skillet in the other.  He was juggling both of them with ease as he rocked back and forth with the motion of the ship, and it was rather obvious that he’d refilled his mug plenty of times that day already.  When he didn’t look up at her approach, she called out to him.

Turning his head, he gruffly sized her up as she introduced herself and asked what she should call him in turn.  He genially declared that his name was Krornik Kragshard, but everyone on board called him Fishguts.  He’d been aboard the Storm Reaver “three years too long,” and was glad to have an assistant at last.  He pointed at a row of harpoons propped against the wall and told Daina that he needed some turtles for that night’s stew.  She remarked that it was nice to have fresh food on a ship and asked what the crew normally liked to eat, hoping to ingratiate herself in ways that could benefit her and Torlan’s situation.  Fishguts scowled and told her it didn’t matter what the crew liked.  The Storm Reaver, he declared, was rotten to the core.  Her captain was the worst, meanest, most sour captain he’d ever met, and the first mate was no better.  As Fishguts shooed Daina off to get hunting, she told him that they seemed to have something in common, and that she’d be back later to share his ale.

After a few hours working the rigging, Trucco had become impatient with his situation and decided it was time to take matters into his own hands.  Hopping down to the deck and approaching Master Scourge, he told the pirate that he’d seen something wrong with the ropes used to move cargo, hoping to distract him enough to sneak away.  Ultimately, his distraction was handed to him on a platter when Torlan returned to the deck with some dead rats in hand, and Scourge turned his back on Trucco to lay into the old dwarf for not working hard enough.  Stealthily disappearing down a hatch, Trucco explored his way to a partially open door through which he could see a female half-orc working among a series of locked chests and well-stocked shelves — he’d found the quartermaster.  Hearing Scourge’s yelling grow louder, he quickly returned to the deck feeling confident that his absence had gone unnoticed.

As Master Scourge laid into Torlan, the old dwarf calmly replied that he’d been working his ass off and there just weren’t that many rats to catch, which only served to enrage Scourge further.  Torlan assured him that he’d keep at it, changing the subject to get a better sense of what daily life was like on board the Storm Reaver, and how Scourge fit into it.  He inquired as to how the pirate liked to spend his free time, and noted that it was curious that, on a ship like this one, that there had been no bets placed on the earlier climbing contest between Rus and Trucco.  Scourge sneered at the attempt at small talk.  Torlan, he growled, wasn’t a true Cloud Reaver dwarf.  After enduring some more insults, Torlan accepted that there was no progress to be made in speaking any further.

As far as Rus was concerned, no one on board could accuse him of slacking.  After a long afternoon of relaying messages back and forth, he found himself becoming quite familiar with the layout of the ship, but he was unused to this kind of exertion and soon found fatigue setting in.  On the main deck, in his first real moment of peace and quiet that day, a woman approached and introduced herself as Sandara Quinn. 

An unexpected ally comes bearing gifts

Furtively looking around, she pulled a wand out of the pouch on her hip and held it out to Rus, saying she’d seen it taken from him when he’d been brought on board.  She told him that she’d convinced the quartermaster, Cutthroat Grok, that Rus worshipped the Devourer and would curse her if she kept that wand in particular.  Rus asked Sandara how long she’d been on board the Storm Reaver, and she replied that she’d been press-ganged in Elysium less than a week earlier.  He asked if she knew what kind of action the ship was preparing for, and she told him that Prince Mika had recently suffered a streak of bad luck.  After a failed attempt at reaving that had ended in being chased down and badly damaged by a Karrnathi galleon, the Prince had elected to sail into Regalport for repairs, and Sandara mused that her decision to press-gang Rus from under Prince Ryger’s nose had likely been a way to feel better about failures.  Rus asked Sandara what her usual profession was when she wasn’t sneaking around and telling lies, and his undertones went over Sandara’s head or ignored as she told him that she’d previously been working with her late father, a fisherman.  Rus noted that she had spirit, and if nothing else, that was at least half of what it took to be a sailor if the stories were to be believed.  With that, he was shouted at to deliver another message, and they parted ways.

As dusk fell, a loud call echoed throughout the ship: “Bloody Hour!  Everyone on the main deck!”  Looking up from the stew she’d been stirring, Daina turned to Fish Guts with a question in her eyes, but the dwarf simply shooed her out of the galley and returned his attention to his ale.

The whole crew was assembled.  Scanning the deck for Torlan, Daina took note of roughly half a dozen assorted dwarves and orcs, along with a couple of halflings and a gnome who was doing his best to stand out from the crowd.  Dressed in a gaudy purple outfit and sporting an eyepatch, he met Daina’s eye as she looked out over the deck and swept off his hat, bowing deeply and giving her a wink.  Sensing an opportunity, Daina sidled over to the gnome and asked him what was going on.  He gleefully informed her that it was the Bloody Hour — and though it would likely be too frightening for a dainty lass such as herself, who clearly didn’t belong on a rough vessel like the Storm Reaver, the Bloody Hour was a regular occurrence.  Tonight, however, he promised her that it would be different.

Before Daina could draw an explanation out of him, a group of pirates appeared from below, escorting the dwarf who had been chained up in Torlan and Daina’s cell that morning.  Looking down from the quarterdeck, clearly relishing the moment, a terrible grin sat on Prince Mika’s face as she declared that Jakes Magpie had been caught stealing.  Theft was a grave crime aboard the Storm Reaver, and he was hereby sentenced to keelhauling.  At Mika’s orders, Scourge and Lagraa bound Jakes’ hands and feet to a long rope hanging over the ship’s rail, and as Lagraa loosened her grip on her end of the line, Jakes was quickly pulled over the edge and disappeared beneath the surf.

Exhausted from his day’s work and still coming to terms with his new situation, witnessing this gruesome punishment was too much for Rus to bear.  Bile rose in his throat, and he ran to the rail to avoid vomiting on the deck.  As Daina watched, stone-faced, Torlan found her in the crowd at last and muttered that Master Scourge seemed to have it out for dwarves in particular — a suspicion Daina found herself believing as she observed that this keelhauling was looking particularly slow and painful.  Torlan turned to another dwarf nearby and asked her if she knew what Jakes had stolen.  The pirate simply replied that he had been caught stealing from the quartermaster’s stores, but didn’t say what he’d been accused of taking.  Jakes had confessed to the crime, but she suggested that his guilt was not quite as certain as Prince Mika made it out to be.

Trucco, for his part, had never witnessed a keelhauling before and watched the proceedings with a combination of fascination and fear.  He told Rus that it was a good thing he’d puked overboard, for throwing up on the deck was very bad luck, and inquired if he was alright.  Rus waved away the shifter’s concerns and said he was just tired, and Trucco complimented him on his ingenuity during their unwitting climbing contest — it had been an excellent game.  Looking around, the unflappable rogue loudly announced that this was a good lesson not to steal, then leaned in close and whispered that he knew where their belongings were being held.  He inquired if his new friend would be up for a little thievery, and Rus agreed to try should the opportunity present itself.

Meanwhile, as Torlan tried to get to the bottom of whether Jakes Magpie had been falsely accused, Daina sensed that the dwarf’s time was running out.  Unable to contain herself any longer, she stepped forward before Torlan could stop her and boldly told Mister Lagraa that it was time to pull Jakes out of the water.  He’d done his punishment, the Storm Reaver didn’t have enough crew to spare, and it was time to end it.

Turning to look down at Daina with a sneer, the hulking orc asked the brazen human what else she thought they should do.  Standing her ground, Daina replied that she thought they should pull Jakes up and let him get back to work.  Mister Lagraa’s voice grew darker as she asked Daina how she would run the ship, and Daina was not ignorant to the threat in Lagraa’s voice. She cautiously replied that it wasn’t her ship — she was just a woman with an opinion.  “Oh, that’s right!” Lagraa shouted.  “It’s not your ship!  So shut up, and don’t speak again.”

Unfortunately for Jakes Magpie, it was clear that Daina’s intervention had the opposite effect she’d intended.  While she and Mister Lagraa had been speaking, the orc had let go of the rope dragging Jakes entirely, leaving him fully submerged.  He was drowning.  Though Mister Lagraa’s warnings were clear, Daina saw no other hope for the dwarf than to keep pushing her own luck.  Raising her voice, she turned to look over the crew and again called out that they didn’t have enough people to let Jakes die. Though confident that there was little chance of appealing to the crew’s better nature, she hoped to at least make a last-ditch appeal to their pragmatism.

Mister Lagraa was done entertaining Daina’s defiance.  Drowning her out with her own shouts, she ordered a couple of pirates to seize Daina and tie her to the mast while she pulled a cat o’ nine tails off her hip.  “No!!!” Torlan cried out in horror.  “Let me take the lashes instead!”  Craning her head back to meet his eyes as she was dragged across the deck, Daina shouted back that he would do no such thing as Mister Lagraa laughed that he’d likely earn his turn in time.  As the pirates finished tying Daina’s hands, another man under Master Scourge’s watchful eye pulled Jakes Magpie’s limp, bloodied body back onto the deck at last.  Scourge ordered them to cut the line and throw him back in for the sharks, and with that, Mister Lagraa stepped forward to deliver Daina’s punishment with a cruel grin on her face.  It was clear that she aimed to enjoy herself.

Daina was determined to not give Lagraa the satisfaction.  As the cat fell on her back once, twice, three times, she let out small sounds of pain through clenched teeth, and focused on the crew watching her.  Many of them seemed to be enjoying this spectacle a little too much, but one seemed uncomfortable at witnessing the beating, and she made a mental note to seek him out when it was all over.

As Mister Lagraa stepped back and ordered Daina to be cut down, Master Scourge called out “Shifter!  Your turn!”  Trucco looked up, confused, as Scourge ordered him to take Daina’s place at the mast as punishment for having spoken to Prince Rockface out of turn earlier that morning.  Despite Trucco’s protests, and Torlan’s attempt to avoid seeing another person beaten, this was one situation the wily rogue could not talk himself out of.  Unlike Daina’s punishment, however, his was much less severe.  Master Scourge delivered the lashes with a simple whip instead of Lagraa’s cat o’ nine tails, and though it still stung, the easier weapon combined with the scrawny man’s inability to hit nearly as hard as the hulking first mate left Trucco with his pride injured more than his body.

While Torlan pushed his way forward to assist Daina to a seat where he could tend to her wounds, the quartermaster Cutthroat Grok appeared on deck with a barrel of grog and began doling it out, ordering everyone to drink their ration or else face three lashes.  Daina raised an eyebrow and questioned that it must be pretty special grog, prompting a laugh from the quartermaster, who simply said that the captain required everyone to drink it before retiring for the night.  On edge after having had her drink drugged the night before, Daina gave the mug a cautious sniff and a small taste but couldn’t find anything off about it. After taking a deep drink, she held the rest out to Torlan and asked that he pour it over her back to try to stave off infection as she gestured to Rus and Trucco to come shield them from prying eyes.  That caught the attention of Sandara Quinn, the woman who had given Rus his wand earlier that morning.  She echoed the quartermaster’s orders not to spill any out, and offered to take a look at Daina’s wounds instead.  As Daina drained her mug under Torlan’s watchful eye, they made their introductions.  Sandara drew a small pot of ointment out of her pouch and began applying it, prompting Daina to question her access to important ship’s resources. The other woman replied that the ship had recently lost its healer, and she was the next best thing.  While Rus continued to sit in silence, Trucco perked back up as he enjoyed his drink and complimented Daina on her ability to take a beating.  Pulling her shirt back down, Daina carefully stood up, and the four newcomers made their way belowdecks.

Down in the galley, Daina decided to seek out the dwarf who had seemed to find her beating distasteful.  She found him sitting alone over his supper.  Looking up at her approach, he remarked that she’d handled herself well during Bloody Hour.  He gave his name as Giffer Tibbs, and told her that he’d been aboard about two years.  Lowering her voice, Daina asked Giffer whose choice it was for him to sail with the Storm Reaver.  He replied that he hadn’t come aboard all too willingly — not press-ganged, but he needed to make a living, and he hadn’t been doing too well with that.  Daina asked if the ship wasn’t doing well in that regard, and he growled that the Storm Reaver was a rough ship to be on, with the meanest captain and first mate he’d ever sailed with.  In spite of that, he had no complaints about Prince Mika’s ability to keep the crew paid.  She was very good at what she did, but his spending habits left something to be desired.  Daina chuckled and told him that she couldn’t help with that part, but suggested that he never knew when a better opportunity might present itself.  As they chatted, he complained about the harsh discipline on board, and spoke of a sharp divide between those who were in Scourge and Lagraa’s good graces, and those who were not.  The latter group suffered the worst of things by quite a bit.

Exchanging a few last pleasantries about the stew, Daina excused herself for the night, and Torlan quickly followed her back to the weapons deck where Rus had already strung his hammock and was fast asleep.  Sitting her down on a crate, he insisted on inspecting her back for himself.  Gently feeling the wounds for any sign of infection setting in, he had to admit to himself that Sandara’s ointment had done an excellent job.  He’d seen much worse damage from a cat o’ nine tails, but still rumbled that it was good that his young charge would be working down in the galley and not exposed to the salty sea air that would cause her wounds to sting.  Daina tiredly assured him that she’d been fine, for she’d seen worse.  He sighed and reminded her that after all their time traveling together, she’d agreed to tell him before acting on her brazen plans so that he wouldn’t have to be so damnably worried. 

“What was I supposed to do, Torlan?” she replied sadly.  “He was running out of time.”  Besides, the more attention there was on her, the less there would be on him.  Torlan raised an eyebrow at that —  there was hardly any attention on him, beyond it seeming that Master Scourge had it out for him in one way or another.  Alarmed at the news that Scourge had Torlan in his sights, she admonished him to keep his head down and stay out of trouble, and that he should let her handle any trouble that came his way.  He shook his head ruefully.  That’s what made her a good person, he said, pride slipping into his voice.  He knew she had wanted nothing more than to save poor Jakes Magpie, with no thought for herself.  She sighed and reminded Torlan that she’d failed to save Jakes.  He wasn’t the first, and he wouldn’t be the last.  But she had to try.

Quickly changing the subject to put Torlan off fussing over her, Daina asked her godfather what his first impressions were of the shifter and skyknight who had been willing to help her after Bloody Hour.  He felt that the shifter seemed a decent sort, but he’d had more than his fill of the other one’s type, though he conceded that anyone who shared in their current troubles was an ally.  Daina expressed her desire to approach Rus, thinking that the more common ground she could find with other crew, the better their chances were of improving their fortunes.  She had, after all, served alongside Cyran regulars for many years during the war.  Torlan cautioned her against trusting Rus. He suggested that an insignia coat could be purchased anywhere these days, prompting a small laugh from Daina.  Who, she questioned, would be selling a Cyran skynight’s coat all the way out in Lhazaar?  Torlan conceded that the man did seem awfully attached to that coat, and Daina again insisted that she would seek him out tomorrow.

As the hour grew late, the deck began to fill up with sailors hanging their hammocks for the night. Daina and Torlan did the same, claiming spots near where Rus and Trucco were already fast asleep.  Though not without incident, the four new arrivals had survived their first day aboard the Storm Reaver, and could only guess at what tomorrow would hold.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the Week: what are your feelings about the Treaty of Thronehold and the end of the Last War? If you’ve been reading the recaps for Seekers of the Ashen Crown, you know all about the Question of the Week, and if you don’t, I am going to tell you about it! DM Phillip has a table of background questions, many of them Eberron-specific like this one, and rolls on it at the start of every session. Answering the question not only helps us enrich both our characters and the game world, but we get a bennie for it too, allowing us to start the session with four bennies instead of the usual three. It’s something we all look forward to.
  • Everyone’s new duties were played out similarly to a Quick Encounter. We each made one roll specific to our jobs, the outcomes were narrated, and failure to meet the Target Number of 4 resulted in taking a level of Fatigue.
    • Trucco was given the choice to roll Athletics or Boating to work the rigging. He chose Athletics, and succeeded.
    • Torlan was given the choice of Stealth or Survival to catch the rats. He chose Stealth, and also succeeded.
    • Rus was required to roll both Athletics and Vigor as a runner. He failed his Vigor roll and elected not to bennie it, taking on a level of Fatigue.
    • Daina was required to roll Survival. Though Untrained and rolling a d4-2, a sufficient dice explosion ensured that she completed her turtle hunt with no ill side effects. Which was a good thing, considering what happened next…
  • Both Daina and Trucco earned their beatings by playing to their major Hindrances. Trucco’s overconfidence meant he couldn’t resist talking to Mika Rockface in spite of being ordered not to by the Prince herself, while Daina’s strict code of honour would not let her stand by and watch Jakes Magpie drown. Resisting the cat o’ nine tails required a Vigor roll made at a -1, while the roll to resist the easier whip was made at a +1.
  • Each day, we are allowed to take two Shipboard Actions: one during the daytime, and one or two at night. Trucco’s decision to sneak away from Master Scourge to explore the ship was his Shipboard Action for the day, while Daina’s attempt to seek influence with Giffer Tibbs was hers for the night. Like their jobs, both these actions were resolved with a single roll.

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