As the reverberations of Rus’s thunderwave began to wane, Trucco remained focused on his task at hand. He was a skilled thief — one of the best! — but the complexity and arcane nature of the lock binding Torlan to the mast was proving to be a pairing that was testing his skills to their limits. “Leave me!” Torlan cried. “Go check on the others! Make sure they’re okay!” Undeterred, Trucco ignored Torlan’s pleas and continued to work. He was, admittedly, very curious about what had just transpired belowdecks, but he had his orders, and as he navigated his picks through the pins of the lock, he could feel them pop one by one. He was nearly finished, and he was not about to leave his job incomplete. “That’s my goddaughter down there!” Torlan shouted at him, growing increasingly agitated. “Just wait a second—” Trucco hissed through clenched teeth before Torlan cut him off. “She could be injured!” the old dwarf yelled, panic creeping into his voice. “Just wait a second!” the rogue repeated. Shoving aside the stress he could feel washing off of Torlan as he tuned out the dwarf’s pleas, Trucco’s hands remained as steady as ever. He had never been one to back down from a challenge — and he was not about to start now.
Down on the weapons deck, the muffled shouts from the officers quarters continued to grow louder. Leaning over the hole Rus and Rosie had jumped down to barricade the door leading to the cargo deck, Daina called down to her fellow veteran. “It’s time to pick a bottleneck! High or low?” “High” Rus called back. “We’re comin’ up to you. Go get Lagraa — we’ll hold ‘em down here.” Daina shook her head. “There’s gotta be five or six of them down there. You sure you’ll be okay?” “We’ve got a chokepoint,” Rus replied. “You go do what you gotta do. We’ll hold.”
Crouching down at the edge of the cargo access, Daina held her hand out to help pull Rus, Rosie, and Owlbear back up to the weapons deck as the sounds of banging and shouting began to reverberate from both the hatch Cog and Sandara were guarding, as well as the door Rus had barred below. He assured her that he’d barred it well, and it would take them some time to destroy the door and get free. Daina nodded, but insisted that they still leave people down below to start the chokepoint at the door. “If they start coming up this access” she declared in no uncertain terms, “you’ll be fucked.” A cold smile played over Rus’ lips. “If they start coming up there, I unleash Khyber on them.” Daina raised an eyebrow. That explosion she heard had been courtesy of Rus? “That was me” he replied, some pride slipping into his voice, “and I can do it again, too.”
That was good enough for Daina. “They’re yours now,” she told him. “Good luck.” He nodded back. “Good luck.” With that, she began making her way back through the dark to face Lagraa once and for all.
Up on the poop deck, Trucco continued to keep his cool as Torlan continued to shout and beg him to go help Daina…until they both heard the door to the captain’s cabin fly open, and Torlan looked up to see Lagraa in her nightshirt, sword in hand, standing over Salty’s body at the wheel as she cursed loudly and turned to look directly at Torlan. “So I see we have a mutiny on our hands!” she snarled. As she reached over to ring the ship’s bell, Trucco felt the final pin of the lock binding Torlan’s chain snick loose as one of his manacles fell off and the chain pulled away from the mast, dangling off his other wrist. “See, I told you I would— oh, shit!” Trucco startled as he dropped his focus and became aware of Lagraa behind him. Shoving the cutlass Daina had insisted he bring with him into Torlan’s hands, Trucco spun around to face Lagraa as she spoke some indecipherable words and a wave of water spewed from the pommel of her sword, crashing into him and Torlan. Bracing himself for the onslaught, Torlan held steady…but saw Trucco become caught up in the wave and go flying past him, over the rail, and off the side of the ship.
Down below, Rus could hear the sounds of someone taking an axe to the door he’d barred in the cargo hold. Sending Rosie, Owlbear, and Unnao to guard the ladders, he stationed Conchobar, Sandara, and Crimson Cog along the opening to the hold in anticipation of the officers breaking through. “Take them alive if you can” he ordered. “But if the only option is death, don’t sacrifice yourself.” Looking down towards the sounds, Sandara told Rus that she had an idea. Reaching out her hand, she spoke a few words, and the cargo hold began to fill with a dense, cold fog. The officers escaping was inevitable, but she hoped this would slow and disorient them.
Planting his feet firmly on the deck, Torlan held his cutlass out in front of him. “Have at ye!” he snarled as Lagraa advanced on him with a sneer of her own. Torlan was tired of waiting, and he was faster than she was. Striking at Lagraa before she could deal a blow of her own, he sent the large orc staggering back on her heels before taking a defensive posture and moving in-between her and the stairs. Easily parrying her next strike, the old dwarf laughed and taunted his much larger foe again to come at him…and his grin grew wider as a pair of knives came flying down out of the darkness. Though they missed their target and sunk into the wooden decking instead, they announced loud and clear that Trucco had not only managed to avoid plummeting into the sea, but had returned to his rightful place in the rigging overhead. And he had Torlan’s back. Thoroughly enraged, Lagraa advanced on Torlan again, but again, the old soldier was faster, and blood splattered over Lagraa’s nightshirt as Torlan’s cutlass slashed across her midsection. Filled to the brim with anger, adrenaline, and with his urgency to find Daina and make sure she was safe continuing to override much of his conscious thoughts, Torlan continued to press his foe before she could react again. Raising his cutlass overhead to take Lagraa’s hat clear off, he continued his motion downwards, slashing his blade across her throat as the big orc fell to the deck with a loud thud. It was over.
“Trucco!” Torlan yelled, looking around wild-eyed. “I’m going to find Daina!” Without waiting for a reply, he barreled down the stairs towards the weapons deck — and ran into his goddaughter near the galley as she was running up to find him. Her relief at seeing him free and unhurt quickly turned to panic as she realized that he was alone. “Torlan!” she gasped, “where’s Trucco?” Overcome with an awful combination of exhaustion and adrenaline, the old dwarf seemed to neither see nor hear her as he kept running, his eyes fixed on the far door. Quickly moving to cut him off, Daina grabbed his shoulders, stopping him in his tracks. “Torlan, stop. Stop!” She tightened her grip on the old dwarf, bending down to look him in the eye, trying to snap him out of his daze. He jerked his head up to see her, startled as if he’d just woken up. “Oh, Daina!” he said, his eyes still wild and his voice slightly hysterical. “Everything’s okay! I have something that belongs to ye-” she cut him off. “Where’s Trucco???”
Right on cue, the incorrigible rogue dropped lightly down the stairs behind Torlan. His hair and clothes were sopping wet, and he was cursing up a storm about it. But Torlan, he declared — Torlan had been incredible! The way he’d baited Lagraa to her doom, even Trucco had to admit that it had been a tremendous show of cunning and skill. Relieved to see him alive and well, Daina closed her eyes for a brief moment to center herself and opened them to see Torlan holding Lagraa’s trademark red tricorn out to her as he proudly declared that she was food for the seagulls. Daina wedged the hat into her belt. It would serve them well to show proof of Lagraa’s defeat to the officers, but it wasn’t time to celebrate just yet. She needed to get back to Rus and the others, and Torlan needed to get the harp that served as his spellcasting focus — and that was when she realized that neither of them knew where it was being kept.
“Alright” she said, “you’ve got a sword. That will have to do.” She turned to Trucco. Had he found anything on Lagraa that could help them in this fight? The rogue’s eyes went slightly wide as he realized that he’d been so caught up in the moment that he had uncharacteristically not looted Lagraa’s body, and he immediately began bounding back up the steps two at a time and Daina called after him to search the captain’s cabin as well. Satisfied, she told Torlan to go to Rus and she’d be right behind him — she had to check on Fishguts first. Grabbin Torlan to her in a quick hug, the dragonmark wrapped around her right eye flared to life as dancing blue sparks and flame began dancing around her body and flowed off her arms, wrapping themselves around Torlan. “Be safe” she whispered as she reluctantly let go. “Well, I can’t promise I’ll be safe” Torlan replied with a wink, “but I think we’re on the up and up with this!” He paused in the doorway, looking back at his goddaughter as pride welled up in his eyes, and spoke two words so softly she almost couldn’t hear him: “for Mazello.”
Daina watched him go and braced herself to confront Fishguts. She hadn’t tried to share any of her mutiny plans with the drunk old cook, deciding to play it safe as she never knew what state she’d find him in, but she had grown quite fond of him and now that the mutiny was in full force, she didn’t want him to get hurt and—
“Yeeeaargh!” Fishguts yelled, bursting out of the galley swinging a harpoon out in front of him like a spear. “What’s going on! I heard some thunder!” Daina quickly brought her hands up in a calming gesture. “Easy, easy” she said, low and steady. “It’s me, it’s Daina…” Fishguts glared at her, still brandishing his harpoon. “I know who you are, I’m not daft!” he hollered. “What’s going on?” Daina kept her hands up, but instinctively stepped into a defensive stance, looked him right in the eye, and broke the news. Lagraa was dead, and she and her friends were taking over the ship.
Fishguts wild snarl quickly morphed into a wide grin. “Hey!” she shouted. “You’re not half bad!” Relaxing her guard, Daina took a closer look at the cook. He didn’t reek of alcohol as strongly as usual, and his eyes seemed bright, but she knew letting him fight could be a risk not just for him but for his comrades — but she was also keenly aware of the despair that had held a death grip on Fishguts for so long under Mika Rockface’s thumb, and now he had the power to do something about it. She had to make a call.
“Fishguts,” she said, looking him square in the eye, “if you’re in shape to fight, I’m not going to deny you your revenge.” She paused, racking her brain for a way to give him an out without feeling shame. “But after this is over, there’s going to be a celebration, and that means a meal to match, so if you want to stay back and take care of that…” Fishguts puffed his chest out indignantly. Stay back and cook when there was a fight to be had? Clearly, Daina didn’t know what mettle he had. “Above decks or below decks?” he demanded. “Below” she replied as he made a beeline for the stairs with Daina hot on his heels.
On the weapons deck, Rus looked up to see Torlan come barrelling down the stairs as he heard a decisive smash from the cargo deck: the door had been breached, and Slippery Syl was hollering in confusion as she found herself surrounded by Sandara’s fog cloud. Rus immediately sent another concussive wave of thunder down into the hold to further disorient Syl and the others, and cries of alarm rose to greet him as he turned to greet Torlan. “Officers are down below” he said tersely. “They’ve broken through.” As Torlan’s attention shifted to retrieving his harp, Daina ran up next to Rus. Quickly bringing her up to speed, he abruptly realized what her presence signified. “Wait— what happened to Lagraa?” Daina’s face relayed a combination of pride and disappointment as she told Rus that Torlan had taken out the Majestic Gryphon’s latest captain before Daina had even made it up on deck. “You hear that?” Rus called down the hole. “Your captain’s dead. Time to surrender.” Daina squinted down into the fog. Could Rus disperse it? Had he caused it? “Ms. Quinn caused it” he replied, “but are you sure you want it taken down?” Daina nodded. “Just make me a hole. Ms. Quinn!” she shouted. The fisherwoman called back from the opposite side of the opening that there was no making a gap; it was all or nothing. Hearing nothing more than some quiet murmurs coming back up, she ordered Sandara to hold and addressed the officers directly.
“Mister Lagraa is dead” Daina called down into the fog, a decisive authority reverberating in her voice. “My name is Daina ir’Lizani, and I am taking command of this ship. Come out one by one, and you will be spared if you surrender.” Rus murmured that a peaceful surrender might not be in the cards, earning him a gentle rebuke from Daina. She knew very well that things didn’t always go that way, but she had to give them a chance. “Come out from where?” Aretta Taravan shouted back. “Where does this fog end?” Looking back up at Sandara Quinn, Daina ordered her to end her spell and gestured to the rest of the swabs to surround the opening, weapons ready before taking her place at the head. Removing her own hat, she replaced it with Lagraa’s. Wearing the hat of a sadistic murderer made her stomach churn, but as a former mercenary of House Deneith, she was keenly aware of the power of symbolism, especially on the battlefield. And the Majestic Gryphon was still, for now, a battlefield. Lagraa had been Syl, Aretta, and Scourge’s captain, and Lagraa’s captain had been their captain before that. Daina ir’Lizani was their captain now, and wanted everyone to know it.
Slippery Syl was the first to emerge, unarmed as ordered, and Moira and Aretta followed her..but there should have been one other behind them. “Scourge!” Daina shouted back down into the cargo hold, her voice hardening, “there’s nowhere to run.” At the other end of the deck, Torlan had finally broken through the door to one of the officers-only areas of the ship, and found his harp at last. Returning to Daina, he asked her what the plan for Scourge was. He knew Trucco had plans, but he wasn’t with them right now, and if Daina didn’t have the stomach to deal with Scourge, he did. She shouted down to Scourge one more time. “Last chance.” Rus put a hand out in front of her. “Wait thirty seconds before going down there” he advised. Rus had been given a potion of invisibility by Mika Rockface as part of his reward for taking the Gryphon, and it didn’t seem out of the question for Scourge to have one of his own. Daina nodded and ordered the swabs who weren’t guarding Syl, Aretta, and Moira to reposition themselves at the hatches in case Scourge decided to try one. Unfortunately, she knew that there was one more access to the bilge from the cargo hold, and if Scourge went down it, he could re-emerge almost anywhere.
“Send me down there” Torlan rumbled from behind her, holding up his harp. “I know what to do to bring him out.” Daina looked down at her old godfather. What was he thinking? Torlan’s mouth curled into a cold, coy smile. “I…will cast a spell. With my harp. And he will come out.” That wasn’t good enough for Daina. Which spell? She needed to know what he was planning. “I don’t think you’ll have any problem with it” he declared. Daina steeled herself. She didn’t like telling Torlan what to do, but this wasn’t up for debate. “Torlan” she said, her voice low, steady, and hard, “like I told the others…I’m taking command of this ship. I need you to tell me what you’re planning.”
Torlan relented. He knew that Daina lived by a strict code of honour, but he also knew that he couldn’t defy her in front of the others in the first moments of her captaincy. “I’m going to curse him” he announced, a tinge of satisfaction creeping into his voice. “He, like all other sailors, is a superstitious lot. He’ll come out when he hears what I have to say.” Daina pointed over at Rosie Cusswell and ordered her to go with Torlan. “You bet’cha!” the excitable little bard bounded over with a nasty gleam in her eye. “I can’t wait to see that son of a bastard die!” Taking Torlan and Rosie’s hands in both of hers, Daina’s dragonmark flared to life again as she shielded them, and she could feel something unfamiliar inside her starting to push its limits. “Don’t concern yourself with me” Torlan rumbled. “I can see you’re growing tired.” Daina squeezed his hand a little tighter. “I’m fine” she insisted. “Rosie, go with him. Keep him safe.” The old dwarf barely made it down the hole ahead of Rosie, who jumped after him with the same enthusiasm she brought to everything. Casting his keen eyes across the dark cargo hold, Torlan sent his companion to watch the door at the opposite end of the deck, brought his harp up across his body, and began to dance his fingers over its strings as a discordant cacophony of sounds arose.
“Scourge!” he bellowed, his voice booming throughout the hold, his eyes glinting with a dark fury that few had survived seeing. “Scourge, listen! Hark! Hark, Scourge! Hark, Devourer! Hark! See ye this blige-swaggler, sputtering, salt foam of speech, and rise from the depths, full foul in yer fury! Curse ye this maligned murderer if he does not come out and surrender! Curse him forever more! So long as he is on the sea, the brine-king will burst his gullet!”
Back up above, Rus began checking the captured officers for any magical items they may have hidden, and Daina left her post at the cargo hold access to join him. Striding up to Moira, who had been one of the Majestic Gryphon’s original crew, she looked the other woman in the eye and demanded to know where in the cargo hold Scourge might be able to hide. “I— I don’t know” Moira stammered. Daina’s eyes grew dark. “I don’t believe you” she replied, her voice remaining steady but taking on a dangerous tone. Moira’s eyes darted from side to side “I mean there’s the quarters, and the map room, and—” Rus cut her off. “Where’s Scourge?” he demanded, joining his voice with Daina’s. “I don’t know!” Moira insisted. “That cloud hit, and that was the last I saw of him!” Daina continued to stare at her without so much as blinking. Was Moira, a veteran of the Gryphon, really expecting Daina to believe that she had no idea how someone might be able to sneak out of the cargo hold? “Do you think I know him?” Moira protested. “I think you know this ship!” Daina shot back, allowing anger to creep into her voice at what she believed to be Moira’s evasive bullshit. “I don’t know where he went!” Moira protested again. Daina’s anger began to seethe. “I’m not asking you where you think he went!” she snapped. She had no patience for dancing around matters, and it was getting more and more difficult for her to remain calm. “I’m telling you to tell me where someone on this ship could go!” Moira stared back at her defiantly. “I just told you! There’s no smuggler’s hold on this ship, what you see is what you get! He’s wherever we’re not!” Daina held up her hand signaling Moira to shut up and turned to Unnao who was guarding her to confirm Moira’s story. Was she telling the truth about the ship? He agreed that there was no smuggler’s hold, and insisted that there were no other accesses they didn’t know about and—
“The bilge” Rus realized. “No one’s been down there.” Scourge had access to it from the officer’s quarters, and there were two more ladders at the bow leading back up to the second deck. Daina called for Torlan and Rosie to come back up, and then ordered Rus to come with her. They were going down to the bilge. “Aye aye” he replied. Daina then ordered Sandara to help guard the prisoners while Unnao went above to man the helm before turning her attention to the elephant in the room: Tamroth Scrimshaw. She was one hell of a wildcard. She’d volunteered to sail with Mika Rockface, had gladly and willingly served under her, Lagraa, and Scourge…and yet, she’d also tried to help Torlan after he killed three of her fellow swabs. And yet, when the mutiny had begun, she’d remained in her hammock, refusing to take a side, patiently watching to see who would come out on top. And Daina knew that she could not allow anyone aboard the Majestic Gryphon to remain in the middle, uncertain of where their loyalties lay.
The orc had finally left her bunk and begun to move around the deck. She hadn’t armed herself, and she had come over to stand near Daina and the others. Walking up to Tamroth and looking her straight in the eye, Daina gave the woman an ultimatum. “It’s time to make your choice, Tamroth. I told you there was no more time to stay in the middle.”
Tamroth shrugged. “There’s no choice to make. You’ve slain the captain, you become the captain.” Daina nodded. “Good. Come with us.” The orc hesitated, her eyes going wide. “Is there a problem?” Daina asked, her voice suggesting that there had better not be. Tamroth stared at her cautiously. She could arm herself, right? Or was Daina planning on using her as cannon fodder? “You can arm yourself,” Daina replied. “But if you draw on either myself or Ruskel, you will be killed immediately.” Tamroth’s expression grew somber. If she hadn’t done that before, she pointed out, she wouldn’t do it now. “Good” Daina replied, but she wasn’t fully satisfied just yet. She hadn’t forgotten Tamroth’s assistance to Torlan on the Storm Reaver, but she would not and could not abide someone whose loyalties were too flexible. Did she and Tamroth understand each other? The orc nodded. “Yes, Captain.” That was good enough for Daina. Quickly determining that arcane light wasn’t within Rus’ purview, she ordered him to get a lantern instead, and led the way down to the stern of the bilge.
Beginning a slow sweep of the bilge with Daina in the center and Rus and Tamroth flanking her along each wall, Daina called out to Sourge again. It was over. There was nowhere to run. If she found him first, and he surrendered to her, well, she just might have to break her promise to Trucco and let him live.
The only reply was silence.
“Say Rus,” Daina said, “why don’t you shake up the water a little? Do that thing you did in the cargo hold before.” Rus moved to the edge of the lamplight and spoke his command word as sparks sputtered from the end of his wand, bounced off the water below, and flew back up to engulf him as a shock reverberated through his and sent his wand flying clear out of it. “What happened?” Daina hissed, alarmed. “Were you countered?” No, Rus assured her, nothing like that. “I’m still trying to figure out exactly how these wands work. There’s an intricacy to that, these are not Cannith wands…” Daina let out a small, relieved laugh — she could now relate to the difficulties of learning command of arcane skills on the fly. They continued to sweep forward in a line, covering the width of the hull as Daina kept talking in hopes of coaxing out their prey.
They finished their search from the stern to the bow. Scourge wasn’t there.
On the weapons deck, Torlan began to hear the ship’s bell ring in a familiar pattern — Unnao was calling the crew to quarters to deal with the storm the old dwarf had seen rolling in earlier. Assessing the situation, he knew that they would need all hands on deck if the storm was as bad as it had seemed, and that meant all hands on deck. “You three,” he rumbled, pointing at Syl, Aretta, and Moira who remained under guard, “if you all want to live through this storm, we’re going to need everyone at their stations in the rigging and on deck.” Syl sneered at him, a mocking grin creeping up the corners of her face. If he and the others had planned a mutiny without taking that into account, she declared, that wasn’t her problem.
Though Torlan had previously urged Daina to use diplomacy, as far as he was concerned, the time for talking was over. Poking his sword into Syl’s back and goading her forward, he gave her an ultimatum: she could serve the ship on deck, or she could serve the ship off the ship as an offering to the Devourer. Syl refused to budge. “You don’t have the guts” she sneered. Throwing herself down on the ground like a child having a tantrum, she repeated her earlier refusal. The mutineers being short-handed wasn’t her problem.
“Alright” Torlan shrugged. Shoving his sword into his belt, he began dragging Syl kicking and screaming across the deck as Daina, Rus, and Tamroth reappeared on deck. “We’ve got crew refusing to follow orders” Torlan announced. “We’re not your crew!” Syl yelled back. “You didn’t plan this out, that’s on you!” Torlan continued dragging her across the deck, unimpressed by her defiance. “Nobody plans a storm” he retorted. “You’ve already made it clear that you don’t want to live, so I’m just hastening the process. You can save the rest of us in the meantime.” Turning to Aretta and Moira who remained under guard, Daina put the same question to them: did they want to live? “I don’t believe we have any guarantee that you’ll keep us alive” Aretta replied, doubling down on Syl’s insistence that the mutineers were simply victims of their own poor planning. “I promised you that when you surrendered to me, you would keep your lives” Daina replied calmly. Moira glared back at her. “That remains to be seen. It doesn’t seem that way” she said, gesturing over to where Torlan continued to wrangle Syl towards the stairs. At that, the old dwarf unceremoniously dropped his prisoner to the deck and asked Daina what her orders were. Ignoring Syl as a lost cause, Daina focused her attention on Moria and Aretta. She was not Mika Rockface. She was not Lagraa. She had promised them their lives, and she would keep her word, and if they did not get to their stations, they would more than likely die in the storm anyways. Grudgingly, the two women agreed to get to work and take the captain at her word. Ordering Torlan to chain Syl up on deck where they could keep an eye on her — and where she might change her mind about helping out if she didn’t enjoy being tossed around by the storm — Daina cast her eyes over the rest of the swabs. “All hands to stations.”
Up on deck, the wind was whipping through the sails as sheets of rain began pelting down. It was a bad storm. It was about to hit them hard, and when it did, the crew of the Majestic Gryphon would be pushed to their limits as the mutineers found themselves out of the frying pan and into the fire. “We’re all gonna be tasting clouds tonight!” Rus shouted over the howling wind. Jumping up to take her place on the quarterdeck, Daina braced her feet as the ship rocked beneath her and raised her voice in a way she hadn’t since acting as Mazello’s de facto second in command all those years ago.
“Alright!” she bellowed. “You all know what to do! Those of you who were on the Storm Reaver, well, you’ve all seen how well we can weather these storms together. Do your jobs, do what you know, follow your orders, and we’ll all make it to port. I’ll get you to port!” On the deck below, Torlan felt himself welling up with pride again as he let out a loud cheer.
In spite of the storm’s urgency, Sandara Quinn had taken it upon herself to inspect those who had been cut down by Torlan, Trucco, and Daina earlier. Approaching the quarterdeck, she told the new captain what she’d found. Sarina and Aejar were clinging to life…and so, amazingly, was Lagraa.
Daina’s eyes remained hard, the rest of her face gave nothing away. How bad was Lagraa? What were the extent of her injuries? “Very severe,” Sandara replied. “There may be some permanent damage if her wounds are not attended to.” “Well that’s a shame” Daina replied, “because your job is to deal with this storm.” Waving Torlan over, Daina filled him in on the situation, and the old dwarf paused before telling his goddaughter something he knew she wouldn’t want to hear.
“Lagraa is our enemy” he reminded her. “You know with the Devourer…if we offer him a sacrifice, he might look elsewhere. There’s nothing better to use Lagraa for. We could use her for that.” Daina’s lips drew back in a thin line. “Torlan, you know I can’t do that—” “You could command me to do that!” he interjected. “Keep your hands clean!” Daina let out a sharp breath and looked down at him sadly. They had always survived because he’d followed his instincts and the vow he’d made to the Morenno family to protect her. He knew that she could not do what he was asking of her, and she knew that she could not ask him to do anything less than protect her. “Lagraa’s in a bad way” Daina told him. “She might not survive the storm unattended and if she does…then…she’s our prisoner.” She met Torlan’s eyes, unflinching. “That’s what I’m going to do. I can’t tell you to do anything less than what your own conscience dictates. I’ll tell the crew what to do, but I can’t tell you to break your vow.”
Torlan nodded. “Very well.”
The rain began to lash down harder than before as the storm caught up to the Majestic Gryphon in all its fury at last. Taking the wheel from Unnao, Captain Daina ir’Lizani pushed all thoughts out of her head but one: getting her crew home safe. Friend or foe, the men and women of the Gryphon were her responsibility now. She knew every last one of them was a capable sailor, but she also knew that the sea didn’t care. It would be a long, trying night. Now was the time for the crew — and their captain — to prove what they were made of.
Behind the Scenes
- Question of the week: Do you have a notorious or celebrated ancestor? Tell a tale about how they gained their notoriety or did something you find particularly memorable.
- The bennies were played fast and free this session — including by the DM! As per SWADE rules, Phillip starts the session with as many bennies as he has players: so, in this case, four. He can only gain new bennies if one of his enemy NPCs draws a joker on initiative, but all NPC wildcards, friend or foe, each come with two bennies of their own on top of the DMs general bennie pool. In this session, he spent his first bennie for a new initiative card as soon as Torlan, Trucco, and Lagraa entered combat, and he did indeed make it to the top of the order…and then proceeded to burn through them in the following rounds trying and failing to hurt Torlan. By the time Torlan successfully baited Lagraa into his trap at the door, Phillip had expended every last bennie at his disposal. I’ve always said that at this table, because the bennie economy is a very comfortable one, us players will gladly burn ours on the rolls that matter to us. Well, it seems that philosophy extends to both sides of the screen.
- We have to talk about Torlan. Because the way Michael made use of both standard game mechanics and Torlan’s Edges and Hindrances in order to set up Lagraa and control the flow of battle was nothing short of genius.
- First of all, Torlan is Hesitant, which means that in combat he must draw two initiative cards and take the lower number. However, Michael has paired that with the First Strike edge, which gives him a free attack once per round on any enemy who moves within his reach, before they are allowed to attack him. Phillip doesn’t metagame any more than we do — which is to say, he doesn’t. He doesn’t run NPCs according to knowledge that they don’t have in order to try to “win” or pull a “gotcha!”, so not only does Lagraa not know squat about what game mechanics might give Torlan an advantage, but it has also been very well established that she is mean, vengeful, and arrogant. There was no good roleplay reason for her to not continue moving into Torlan’s reach to keep swinging at him after he’d moved away, so that’s how Phillip played her.
- As I said, there are also standard mechanics everyone has access to that Michael made excellent use of going toe-to-toe with Lagraa: namely, Hold and Defend. The combat lasted three rounds total. The first round saw Trucco go overboard. The second round saw Lagraa close in on Torlan and get Shaken by his First Strike attack, after which Torlan took the Defend action to move out of her reach again under the narrative reason of blocking her access back belowdecks. Defending gives you +4 to your Parry for that round, but it is a full action, and while you retain your movement when Defending, you cannot attack and Defend on the same turn, and you cannot play Defend on a multi-action either. However, Torlan already had an attack that round thanks for First Strike, which made Defending, moving, and being able to shrug off Lagraa’s opportunity attack because of it a fantastic strategy.
- On that final round, Torlan wound up ahead of Lagraa in initiative in spite of his Hesitant hindrance. Phillip had no more bennies to get her a new card, but she wound up acting first anyways because Torlan went on Hold. In order to come off Hold, you must win an opposed Athletics roll against the next person in the initiative order unless they are an ally to willingly cedes it to you, or unless you are acting on a joker. However, in one-on-one combat, that didn’t matter: it simply meant that Torlan allowed Lagraa to act first while he waited to respond to her actions. He had plenty of bennies left for Soaking wounds if needed, and nothing to lose by waiting…especially since she remained Shaken, and with no bennies of her own to unshake with, all she could do was move. He took his First Strike attack and then performed a Wild Attack (+2 to hit and to damage), spent a bennie to reroll for a raise on the damage (adding an additional d6 to his damage roll), and finished her in one final blow. It was some of the best playing I’ve ever seen, and the best part? Every last bit of it was completely, one hundred percent in line with Torlan as a character. That fight was the whole package.
- But, as it turned out, Torlan did not get his revenge after all. It is perfectly within the rules, following a combat, to roll to see if defeated enemies are alive or dead if the DM feels it suits a narrative purpose to do so. And while us players were caught off-guard when it was announced because this hasn’t come up at this table with narratively important Wild Card enemies before, Phillip felt it was narratively appropriate in this case to roll for both the swabs and Lagraa. Well, now we have some serious narrative on our hands what with Torlan deciding to finish the job by feeding Lagraa to the Devourer right under Daina’s nose…
- Spellcasting shenanigans! Torlan was able to cast Curse only because of the Arcane Spike adventure card, which allows him a one-time casting of any power available in the setting — you may remember Rus playing the same card in Session 13 for his own very narratively appropriate moment. We realized after Torlan had completed his curse (and yes, he was absolutely riffing off of Willem Defoe’s famous monologue from The Lighthouse there) that the range on Curse, as written, is touch. But it was such a fantastic idea, and played out so well, that Phillip let him have it as a ranged spell just this once. It was, however, still an opposed roll as written, and we have no idea if Scourge passed, failed, or was even in hearing range of Torlan at all. So while we got a little antsy about Lagraa surviving the mutiny, that decision followed by waiving the range requirements for Curse because it made a great story combine into one perfect example of a DM who genuinely puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to putting the story first, and without playing favourites between us PCs and his NPCs or being otherwise adversarial.
- Spellcasting shenanigans part deux! Rus critically failed Daina’s order to cast Thunderwave as a radar of sorts to try to shake Scourge out from wherever he might be hiding, earning him his first trip to the Dynamic Backlash table. Dynamic Backlash is an optional rule that adds a layer of risk to spellcasting, and the penalty Rus wound up rolling was that along with the spell failing, it not only consumed the power points it would have cost on success, but an additional three points on top of that — meaning he lost six power points and gained nothing. And that is genuinely one of the better outcomes you can hope for on the Dynamic Backlash table. It’s a doozy!
- The other critical failure of the night: Torlan trying to convince Syl, Aretta, and Moira to assist with the storm. Fortunately, Daina was able to persuade Aretta and Moira to comply by, with the help of my last bennie, rolling a 21 (success with three raises, -2 modifier to the roll because of the narrative situation). That was a cool way for the dice to help tell the story, adding another layer to Daina claiming captaincy of the Majestic Gryphon and all that entails.
- And on that note, in case anyone was wondering: the captaincy of the Majestic Gryphon was agreed on prior to the start of the campaign. Phillip told us that the overarching story would include us eventually gaining our own ship, and one of us would have to captain it. He explained what that would entail both in and out of game, we made a decision, and now it’s come to fruition.