Morning came, and sails were on the horizon. Out on the open water, the horizon was a long way off, and the crew knew it would take a day or two to catch their prey as Scourge snapped at Rus, Trucco, and Torlan to get to their duties for the day. The old dwarf noted that Mika Rockface herself was on the quarterdeck this morning, an unusual sight to be sure, but he’d heard many rumblings that the prince was frustrated about her run of bad luck and itching to turn around the Storm Reaver‘s fortunes.
As the crew began to disperse to their duties, Trucco took a quick glance around and sidled up to where Rus was beginning to gather up some ropes, inquiring if he was okay following the previous night’s bloody round of arm wrestling. Removing his glove to show Trucco his bandaged hand, the skyknight and the rogue commiserated over Sandara Quinn’s skills and Trucco promptly got down to business – had any good bets been placed on the contest? Had Rus made some good money? Rus revealed that “Miss Daina” was working towards making some money of her own to retrieve something dear to her that the quartermaster was keeping under lock and key, and mused that Daina was having a little more trouble accommodating herself to the workings of a pirate vessel than Trucco had. Trucco nodded and suggested that acquiring Daina’s prize whether Grok was a willing participant or not might be just the ticket, and Rus agreed, but again reiterated that he didn’t think Daina had such an act in her and was more than likely not too skilled at it to boot. He knew she’d been trying to gain some funds in a less underhanded way, and to her credit she’d raised no small amount, but he’d been told that this item of hers was not only of great sentimental value but worth more than a few galifars as well. Trucco announced that he wasn’t the smartest, but he was quick, and Rus was smart, and perhaps together they could come up with a solution that would keep the gold in their pockets and see Daina’s treasure returned to her. Rus frowned a little. There were many things down in Grok’s stores, and he didn’t exactly know himself what the item in question looked like, but if Trucco were to ask Daina about it, she might very well be open to his particular brand of help.
“She might?” Trucco asked, “or she will?” Rus shrugged. He’d only known Miss Daina as long as Trucco had, and the best person to ask about her feelings was the lady herself. Trucco’s eyes began to sparkle. Perhaps, he wondered aloud, it would make for a nice surprise. Daina had been kind to him during their short acquaintance, and the thought of being able to indulge his mischievous habits and do her a favour at the same time sounded incredibly appealing to the irascible rogue. “If you wanted to do her a surprise,” Rus replied, “look for the fanciest knife in the quartermaster’s hold. That’s probably what she’s looking for.” If there were multiple expensive-looking knives down there, and Trucco was able to get to one of them, he’d be able to get to all of them and sort it out later. The shifter grinned and declared that he’d think about it.
Reaching into his belt, Rus produced his own tago knife, showing Trucco its fine narrow blade, ornate hilt, and the silver chain attached to its pommel with a medallion emblazoned with an eagle hanging from it. Trucco took a good look at it, and though Rus cautioned him that Daina’s would not look exactly the same, he felt that he had enough information to go on. Having cased the quartermaster’s stores before, Trucco knew that Grok regularly left her post to drink with Fishguts every afternoon, and he continued working with uncharacteristic patience until the time was right.
While Torlan tackled some repairs down in the cargo hold, Daina made an excuse to leave the galley for a few minutes and approached the old dwarf. She told him about the revelation that her and Rus’ paths had crossed before, that he was the one who had bought her and Maz one more week together, and that she remained unsure as to why he’d helped her at the gambling table in the manner that he had, but she was grateful regardless. As Daina abruptly excused herself to get back to work, and Torlan watched her go, he could tell that his normally steady goddaughter was off her game, and the wheels in his head began to turn.
Keeping an eye on the clock, Trucco found himself unable to pass up another chance to exercise his particular set of skills, especially for a good cause. Making his way down to the stores unseen, he gathered up his lockpicks and tested the handle of the door only to find it unlocked. He took that as a good omen, and made his way inside to the locker that his own gear had once been stowed in. Easily popping the cheap lock, he cast a practiced eye over a few flasks of alchemist’s fire, a battered iron box, and a rather ornate knife that easily resembled the one Rus had shown him. Snatching up the knife and one of the flasks, he replaced the locks and left with his prize.
As Torlan continued his work, Rus joined him in the hold to see to his own task of dealing with the ship’s persistent rat problem, and the old dwarf decided it was time to see what his enigmatic companion was made of. Casually approaching the reserved younger man, Torlan rumbled that Daina had told him what Rus had done for her the previous evening. Being Brelish, he’d never entirely understood the Cyran hang-ups about touching bare hands with a stranger, but he felt compelled to thank Rus on his goddaughter’s behalf all the same. “You don’t have to thank me,” Rus insisted. “She won her money fair and square.” Torlan frowned. Rus was Cyran himself – wasn’t it a little strange for him to be “shaking” her hand, according to their customs? Rus agreed that skin to skin contact was normally reserved for trusted friends and confidants, and he didn’t know Daina very well, but it had looked like she’d needed something that was weighing on her mind. As far as he was concerned, they might as well walk through that indignity together. Besides, he insisted, there wasn’t all that much to it. It was a silly tradition from thousands of miles away, buried beneath whatever in Khyber had happened to their homeland. Torlan mused that it was important to carry on those traditions, and that he supposed it was of some comfort to him after all. He’d been reluctant to trust Rus and Trucco easily, and while he wasn’t sure if Daina did, he suspected that she at least soon would.
Torlan shifted his weight and looked at Rus a little more intently. “I expect that you’ve known dwarves before,” he said, his voice hardening a little. Rus agreed that he had. “Do you know much about us?” the old talespinner asked. “They trained our air corps,” Rus replied, and everyone knew that some of the best flyers came from the Mror Holds. Torlan nodded. It was good that Rus had a proper baseline for dwarves aside from these Cloud Reavers, and that he should know that most of his people were very careful about the bonds they forged, and even more careful about keeping them – they wouldn’t stab each other in the back over a pouch of sovereigns, unlike their present company. The point, he declared, was that it wasn’t easy for him to trust people, but that he found himself in need of it. Rus observed that such a thing was hard to come by on the Storm Reaver, and he figured that you just had to latch on to what you could get.
“Look,” Torlan sighed, “I’m just going to come out and say it. I want you on our side. I’m going to watch your back, and I expect that you’re going to watch my back. Is that a fair assumption?” “Certainly” the younger man replied.
“That’s good,” Torlan rumbled. “You should know this, though. If I place my trust in you – you’re still as of yet a bit of a stranger to me. I expect – I hope – that that will change in the future, but just don’t ever, ever, turn on me or my family. That means Daina. If you did, if you do, well, you’d better have killed me first, because if you do, it won’t just be me who comes calling on that feud. It will be my remaining son, when he learns of the betrayal, and he’ll carry on that quarrel even if you perish before that debt is settled. And if you have any children, that feud will carry on to them. You see what I’m saying?”
“I do” Rus replied. “I don’t plan on betraying Daina, but if I do, should I know who all I need to kill first?”
“That’s a reasonable question,” Torlan replied.
“I’ll let you think about that one,” Rus said. “That sounds like it may take a bit of time. You don’t have to answer it now, there’s no plans to betray Daina currently at the moment.”
Torlan’s eyes grew even harder. “Don’t try to make a fool of me, boy.” Rus held up a hand. “Oh, I’ve seen you in combat. I’ve already been made a fool of plenty times on this ship.”
“Any one of us could turn on each other, put a word in Mister Lagraa’s ear, and that would be the end of it” Torlan remarked. “Oh, we could,” Rus replied. “But I don’t get the sense you’re about to, and I’m not either.” “It’s not in my best interests” Torlan replied. “It wouldn’t serve any of us,” Rus reminded him, exasperation creeping into his voice.
With that out of the way, Torlan declared, he found himself in need of relieving a burden of his own. He’d noticed the officers paying special attention to himself and his fellow captives, and wondered if it wouldn’t benefit him to have someone else know what he’d done and could help look out for signs of the tides turning on him. That missing dwarf, Narwhal, who had gone missing during the squall? It was he, Torlan, who had thrown Narwhal into the sea.
Rus winced. “Oh…I wish you hadn’t told me that. But you did.” “I did,” Torlan replied. He was worried that Mister Lagraa now suspected him, and if that were the case, he might need Rus’ help in throwing off her suspicion. Rus sighed. He was no liar, and he wasn’t much good at it. Besides, it wasn’t just Torlan who was catching unwanted attention from Lagraa – in fact, Rus had thought it was just himself. He pointed out that no one had so much as mentioned Narwhal since Torlan’s eulogy, and that Lagraa seemed to just be angry for the sake of being angry. Torlan would keep an eye out for Rus, Rus would keep an eye out for Torlan, and that was that.
As the afternoon grew late, the sky began to darken and the sea began to swell. Noticing Jaundiced Sudak leering at him again with a cruel smile on her face, he couldn’t shake the feeling that the silent orc was plotting something against him, and he was well aware that she was one of Master Scourge’s favoured cronies. Making their way up to the quarterdeck, Torlan and Trucco found both Scourge and Prince Mika herself on edge at the prospect of losing their prey in the storm, a fear which was justified after the other ship turned and sailed immediately into the squall – a path the Storm Reaver’s captain grudgingly chose not to follow.
In the face of another brewing storm, many of the crew remained on duty, and even Bloody Hour was announced to be postponed until tomorrow — though Rus and Torlan were each called out for laziness and assigned six lashes. Though they’d tried their best to maintain a semblance of working throughout their conversation earlier that day, the increased scrutiny on them was coming home to roost. Jaundiced Sudak leered at Torlan again with her cruel, silent grin, and the old dwarf remarked that the severity of the punishments had increased. Torlan had noticed the other storm brewing on the Storm Reaver, the one in which tensions between the officers were beginning to run high as they continued to find themselves unable to take a prize, and still hampered by the damage the ship had suffered several weeks earlier.
Evening fell, and with the usual entertainment and merriment being postponed, Torlan decided it was time to get some revenge on Jaundiced Sudak — and, just like Trucco’s own venture the previous morning, it would kill two birds with one stone and satisfy his desires while helping his goddaughter. The rogue had kept his retrieval of the tago knife he assumed to be Daina’s to himself, and without that knowledge and with the story of Rus and Daina’s encounter at the gambling table fresh in his mind, the old dwarf knew he must do what he himself could do to help ease her burden. Quietly making his way down into the hold where the crew strung their hammocks, he sought out Sudak’s footlocker and popped the cheap lock without too much trouble. He helped himself to the orc’s gold and silver, took care not to disturb any other items, replaced the lock, and returned to his duties without a word.
Morning came and Rus, Trucco, and Torlan found themselves gathered on deck along with Crimson Cog, Conchobar, and Sandara. Master Scourge that morning was angrier than unusual, while acting a little sheepish towards the other officers…and sporting a black eye. Striding up to the group, he growled that they’d be working for Master Crines that day. She announced that they’d be practicing boarding actions, and ordered them out into the dinghies in two groups of three. Rus quickly approached Sandara and told her to stay near him, while Torlan sized up Conchobar, having recalled Daina’s mentions of the foppish gnome putting on a show of being more comfortable at sea than he actually was. To their surprise, Master Crines got in the dinghy with them, and began instructing Rus to throw his grappling hook back out to the Storm Reaver. In the second dinghy, Trucco easily secured his own line and began to shimmy across it back to the ship as several of his fellow swabs appeared on deck and began pelting him with rotten apples, fish heads, and whatever odds and ends they could find to try to knock him off. Easily dodging the projectiles, the overconfident rogue yelled back that Scourge would have a much harder time at this than he did, what with his bad eye. As Trucco drew closer, Scourge himself appeared at the rail and threw a knife at him, shouting that he’d just earned himself three more lashes. Rus easily followed, calling back to his training in the aerial corps, while Crimson Cog fell and had to return to the dinghy and Conchobar continued struggling to secure a line for himself.
As Trucco gracefully dropped onto the deck in front of Master Scourge, the furious half-orc caught him across the head with his fist and snarled that he’d be joining Rus and Torlan at the mast that night. Safe on deck and seeing Crimson Cog continue to struggle, he began to shout out advice and encouragement to guide Cog back to the ship as Sandara took a bottle straight to the face, knocking her off the line as blood flew from her nose. Having been her third failed attempt, Master Crines rewarded Sandara with lashes that evening — but a lighter punishment than ones the others had been doled out. Seeing Conchobar continue to struggle as well, Trucco yelled out that he’d give the gnome two galifars if he made it back on board before Torlan did. Yelling back at Crines not to pop a blood vessel, he was almost back on board when a volley of empty bottles sent him into the drink before he managed to clamber up.
Bloody Hour came, and Rus, Torlan, and Trucco each found themselves facing six lashes. Trucco and Rus bore their beatings well, but Scourge caught Torlan in some of the sore spots he’d suffered earlier. Down in the galley that night, Trucco sat with the others and wondered aloud if the conflicts starting to brew between the ship’s officers could benefit him and his new friends in any way. Torlan questioned what else they could do unless they planned to foment a mutiny right then and there, and Trucco changed the subject towards the Storm Reaver having failed to reave yet again. Torlan questioned the Cloud Reaver’s skill as pirates of legend, and Rus wondered if the ship was hiding something — it seemed odd to him that Mika Rockface’s flagship didn’t have so much as an elemental ring. As they spoke, Conchobar approached Trucco. He believed he was owed two galifars. The rogue tried to weasel his way out of it as Torlan reminded him that a promise was a promise, and Trucco offered to try his luck against Conchobar at the card table instead. He came away with three galifars to his name, and offered them to the gnome, who gladly accepted. Getting up from the table, he turned to see Daina enter the room, and gathered Rus and Torlan to him before waving Daina over. He had business with the lady, and was never one to turn down an opportunity.
Behind the Scenes
- I (Daina) was away this week (check out my and Kevin’s PAX Unplugged adventures on Twitter!), and it is safe to say I wasn’t expecting Trucco to conspire to retrieve Daina’s tago knife within the first twenty minutes of the session. This particular quest has been a real thorn in my and Daina’s side in as far as it’s bumped up hard against her hindrances, and I am not upset at all that Ernesto decided to take matters into his own hands while I was gone and resolve the problem in a way that both made sense for Trucco, and greatly helped me out as his fellow player.
- I highly recommend complimenting this week’s recap with the audio if only to listen to Torlan and Rus play out that conversation in the bilge. It was a fantastic moment and Rus asking Torlan for a list of who he’d have to kill first had the table in stitches and was a very well-deserved bennie.
- Practicing boarding actions was done as a Dramatic Task, but slightly different then how we’ve been doing them. In this case, each individual character had to accrue six successes over four rounds, as opposed to accumulating successes as a group.