As the wind and waves battered the Majestic Gryphon, Torlan untied Lagraa from the main mast and began dragging her over to the poop deck on the opposite end of the ship. Looking down at his unconscious foe, he shook his head — he was having second thoughts.
“Well, ya should have died,” the old dwarf sighed, “but yer gonna be at the mercy of the sea one way or another. You’re gonna get a nice view of things from up here while you choke on yer own spittle.” Seeing what Torlan was up to, Trucco swung down to the deck and handed his friend one of the items he’d found when searching Lagraa: the key to the arcane manacles that still hung from one of Torlan’s wrists. Transferring the manacles to Lagraa and chaining her to the mast in the same way she had chained him three days earlier, he continued to say his piece. “I should throw you overboard just like I did to your friend Narwhal” he told her, “but I’m not going to do so, with considerations for Daina—” “Yeah,” Trucco agreed from behind him, “that too— wait, what? What’d you say about Narwhal?”
“Considerations for Daina,” Torlan continued, ignoring Trucco’s question. “I don’t want to undermine her authority.” The shifter’s ears flattened a little as he gave Torlan a confused look, and the dwarf promised that Trucco could ask him about it later. Right now, they had work to do.
Back on the quarterdeck, Captain Daina ir’Lizani stood firm at the wheel as the growing waves began to splash over the Gryphon’s rail. “Is the storm here already?” Trucco yelled, his voice taking on frantic undertones. “What do I do???” “Go up into the mainsails” Daina shouted back. Eagerly following her orders, he began rallying the rest of the swabs. The Majestic Gryphon needed them; it was time to look sharp! It quickly became clear to Daina that the wheel wasn’t responding as well as she’d like or expect, a side effect of the damage it had sustained during the Storm Reaver’s attack — the best she could do was keep the ship faced into the wind and waves to ride the storm out so that they didn’t capsize. “We’re riding this one out!” she hollered back across the deck. “Rus, make sure everyone has a lifeline secured!” “Aye aye, Captain!” the former skyknight shouted back.
It was rough going and he lost his footing a few times as the deck heaved under his feet and the waves slammed over the rail and into him, and the few old Cloud Reavers weren’t accustomed to tying lifelines at all. As Rus began securing a line around Tamroth Scrimshaw, she jerked away and snarled at him. “What are you doing?” He ignored her and kept working. “First of all, captain’s orders. Second, if you’re not tied in, you’re going overboard. Not by me throwin’ you, but because of the waves.” Shouting at him for being soft, she shoved him backwards into the gunwales as a wave took him fully off his feet, knocking the wind out of him just in time to hear an order being relayed down the deck: the captain needed him.
From the rigging, Trucco hollered back down to the quarterdeck. “Do we keep the sails up, Captain?” Daina shook the spray out of her eyes. “There’s too much wind!” she shouted. “We can’t fight it. Bring in the sails until it’s over!” Most of the crew was up in the rigging at that point, but furling the sails was still a struggle in such a violent storm.
Though the sky remained dark, Daina began to make out the dark silhouettes of cliffs to the Gryphon‘s left and right in-between flashes of lightning — they had entered a channel. The ship continued to move with the waves, it was taking all her strength to keep the sluggish rudder from drifting them dangerously close to the rocks, and the Gryphon was beginning to sit heavy in the water and list in a way that had nothing to do with the wind. Answering her call as it was relayed down the deck, Rus made his way back to Daina. “I need someone down pumping the bilge” she shouted over the storm, “and Scourge is still on the loose. Rus nodded. “We can’t risk anyone else” he shouted back. “I’ll have to go down there myself.” Daina’s voice remained hard, but apologetic. “That’s exactly what I’m saying. We can’t risk Scourge finding one of the swabs. You’ve got to go down there yourself…and watch your back.” With another quick “aye aye,” Rus disappeared belowdecks.
As another wave came crashing over the bow, a gust of wind took the wheel right out of Daina’s hands before she was able to right the ship again. Looking down the hatch into the bilge, Rus removed his coat and stowed it aside before grabbing a lantern off a hook and climbing down into the water. Putting his back into working the pumps, he wasn’t able to lower the water levels by himself, but he was able to keep the water from rising.
In the rigging, Trucco was tired and anxious about the storm, but was excited about his newfound freedom, and began shouting encouragement to his fellow riggers. At the wheel, Daina was struggling as Torlan came over and lent his strength to help hold them steady and maintain their course. As the sky began slowly growing lighter, Daina could see that the channel around them was narrowing, and worse, could make out dark masses of rocks or reefs uncomfortably close to the surface of the water…and even worse than that…
“Boarders on the port side!” the captain yelled as she spotted a horde of tentacled creatures crawling up over the rail.
Up in the rigging and excited to be in the action, Fishguts threw his harpoon down to graze one of the creatures. Beside him, Rosie Cusswell hollered at him and the others to join her as she jumped straight down to the deck below. Up on the quarterdeck, Torlan pulled his harp off his back and began lifting his voice above the waves. “Foul spirits from the deep, to the bilges for what ye seek! Send Scourge to his final sleep!” Leaving his instrument behind, he leapt down and ran into the fray armed with nothing but his fists. “I’m with you, dwarf!” Trucco called down, swinging nimbly down beside him to slash at one of the boarders as they danced back and forth, feinting at Trucco and Torlan with their spears. From the quarterdeck, Torlan could hear Daina call out that she was managing the wheel just fine — it was up to him to lead the swabs to repel the boarders. As one of the creatures opened up his side with a sweep of its spear, the old dwarf felt the blood rage that had overcome him in the Storm Reaver’s bilge start to boil up again. Feeling uncharacteristically cautious, Trucco brought his sword up in a defensive stance as he backed away from Torlan and his foes while further down the deck, Owlbear yelled with rage at the boarder foolish enough to engage him and swung his club wildly at the creature’s head. Awkwardly swinging down from the rigging in a misguided attempt at being dashing, Conchobar rolled to his feet to smack at the closest enemy with his cane sword. The creature stumbled back and shuddered, caught off-guard by the gnome turning his clumsy failure into a swift, decisive strike.
Now armed with nothing but a kitchen knife, Fishguts made his way down to the deck to slash at the creatures whose attention Rosie had baited, while Aejar — one of the Majestic Gryphon’s original crew — moved in to surround the boarders with him. With the creatures corralled and distracted by Aejar and Fishguts, Rosie swung her axe to dispatch both enemies with one blow. Seeing Trucco move safely out of reach, Torlan allowed his blood rage to take over and drove his fists into both of his opponents heads, sending them down to the deck in a crumpled heap.
Up on the quarterdeck, the sounds of the escalating battle had reached Daina’s ears, and she had to make a judgment call. Deciding it would be safe to entrust Moira with the helm for a moment while she helped the fight, Daina ran up to the nearest creature and a quick slash of her sword sent its guts spilling to the deck. Seeing Daina to one side and Owlbear to his other side still dealing with a boarder, Unnao felt his captain’s urgency to end the fight as his adrenaline spiked. Moving to close with Owlbear’s opponent, Unnao swiftly cut it down with his cutlass as a cry went up from the quarterdeck:
Navigating the rain-slicked deck as she ran back to the helm, Daina took the wheel from Moira as a break in the clouds and another crash of lightning revealed an island dead ahead…and then the sickening shriek of wood scraping on rock reverberated through the ship as the Majestic Gryphon lurched, throwing the crew off their feet before slowly coming to a rest. The winds began to die down, the storm was replaced by a gentle rain, and light began returning to the sky as the crew could now clearly see the island their captain had spotted. The Majestic Gryphon had run aground. The ship was battered and her crew was exhausted, but the storm had passed, and with any luck the island might prove a safe harbour to rest in while they made repairs. It seemed a lot to hope for, but for those who had survived the Cloud Reavers, it was their problem to solve as free men and women — and Captain Daina ir’Lizani knew that her crew needed to hope. And she intended to give it to them.
Behind the Scenes
- We took our third Advancement at the start of the session, with the exception of Michael, who was in and out over the course of the evening caring for a sick pup. Here’s what the rest of us chose:
- Rus: d8 in Fighting (took his full advance because it exceeded the type of his Strength die)
- Daina: d8 in Athletics and Intimidation (was able to increase both skills because neither increase exceeded the die type of their linked Attributes)
- Trucco: (Edge) Elan: allows him to add a +2 to Trait rolls when he spends a bennie to reroll them.
- Torlan: (Edge) Brawler: increases Toughness by +1 and rolls Strength+d4 when attacking with his fists.
- Michael, who plays Torlan, is a player who loves rolling with the punches when his actions have consequences. Ernesto (Trucco) asked permission to say Trucco was in a position where he could hear Torlan telling an unconscious Lagraa that he’d murdered Narwhal — a secret known only to himself and Rus until now — and Michael agreed. It led to a fantastic in-game moment, gave Ernesto an inter-party narrative hook to bite, and now the only PC who doesn’t know about Torlan’s role in Narwhal’s death is Daina…but the character most likely to blurt it out at an inopportune time does!
- We were rolling at so many penalties this session that there were several times as I decided to stop spending my bennies to try fighting them. Daina had to make four Boating rolls over the course of the session, the first at a -2 and all subsequent ones at a -4. All of Daina’s Notice checks were made at -2 because of the darkness and rain, and Trucco was operating at two points of Fatigue (carried over from being overzealous with his Shifting in the previous session) which added an additional -2 penalty to all his rolls on top of any other situational modifiers. Frankly, I’m impressed we accrued as many baseline successes as we did…and the only critical failure was incurred by Rus trying to convince Tamroth Scrimshaw to use a lifeline.
- Speaking of Rus, I had no idea that ordering him down to pump the bilge would result in him being benched for half the session! As a huge Age of Sail nerd, this session marked the first time in this campaign that I’ve been able to put my knowledge of the workings of a tall ship into practice, and sending Rus to the bilge was the logical narrative choice as Scourge is still on the loose and we have no idea where he’s gotten to. The fight broke out soon thereafter, Kevin was given four Allies to run in lieu of Rus, and he was quick to let us know after the session that he had a great time with it.
- We each ran the following Allies for the fight:
- Kevin: Rosie, Conchobar, Fishguts, and Aejar
- Michael: Sarina, Rosie on round 3
- Ernesto: Owlbear
- Elly: Unnao, Owlbear on round 1 when Ernesto was having technical difficulties
- The only Adventure Card played in this session was Seize the Day! by Ernesto, which allowed him to act for one round as if his action card were a Joker — a real boon to cancel out his -2 Fatigue penalty for a round, and Phillip agreed that, since Ernesto’s card was being treated as a Joker, we should all get a bennie for it as well.
- Exchange of the evening: Phillip: “Have we ever described what Torlan’s Rage looks like [when he goes Berserk]?” Michael: “He’s just more angry!”