Session Recap week 19: In The Land Of The Blind

Jim nodded. His first impulse was to dismiss it as a problem for another day. That was wrong, though. Fuck-it-if-it’s-not-happening-right-now was crisis thinking, and if he couldn’t break out of it, it would only lead to more crises later on.

– James S.A. Corey, Leviathan Falls

Deep in the Majestic Gryphon’s bilge, Rus was hard at work keeping the water levels stable — and keeping an eye out for Scourge, who remained on the loose — when the ship’s bow began to buckle in front of his eyes.  The terrible sound of the Gryphon’s keel grinding and scraping against something hard and unmoving filled the bilge as the ship lurched, throwing Rus off his feet and down into the water.  Scrambling to his feet as the ship came to a hard and sudden stop, he could see serious damage to some of the planks along the hull, and water starting to slowly seep in.  As he made his way up to the main deck to give the captain a damage report, a cursory inspection of the cargo hold showed no serious damage beyond crates and barrels having come loose from their bindings — but the galley had another story to tell.  The webbing that held the ship’s casks of fresh water had been damaged, and all but a day’s worth had cracked and spilled.  

Up on the quarterdeck, the storm had turned to a light rain.  Grasping the wheel to keep her balance, Daina started barking out orders.  “Torlan!” she shouted.  “Take a head count, check for injuries, find Ms. Quinn.  Keep everyone together topside; I’m going down to inspect the damage.”  With the old dwarf’s assurances that he was already on it, Daina turned to Moira who had been helping with the wheel and enlisted her to come belowdecks.  The other woman eagerly agreed.  Her previous role had been as the Gryphon’s master carpenter, and she knew the ship well.  “That’s good news” Daina sighed.  “Tell me what the damage is, tell me what you need to fix it, and I’ll make sure you get what you need.  Let’s go.”  

The pick-me-up from Moira’s revelation was short-lived.  As Daina led the way down below, she lost her footing on the rain-slicked stairs for the second time that morning, toppling the rest of the way down and landing hard.  Shaking it off and regaining her composure, she continued taking the short route from the cargo hold to the bilge to assess the waterline damage first and work her way back up.  Dropping down into the water, she could see clear signs of damage…and no signs of Rus.  “Rus?” Daina called out, feeling panic start to rise.  The ship had hit that shoal hard.  “He might have been injured and fallen into the water” she told Moira, her voice revealing nothing of what she felt.  “Start sweeping below the water from the bow, I’ll start from the stern, we’ll meet in the middle.”

There was no sign of Rus.  No signs of a struggle, either.  He wasn’t there.

Daina feared for him, but now she had a crew to worry about as well.  As she and Moira completed their search and assessed the damage, it became clear that they were in no immediate danger of sinking, but wouldn’t be going anywhere either without at least a solid day’s worth of repairs.  They’d most likely have to take apart the less used parts of the top decks and use those planks to fix the hull.  It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it was better than she’d feared.  Ordering Moira to continue walking the ship taking a tally of who and what she would need in order to do her repairs, she began making her way back to the ladder before immediately belaying that order.  “Wait— come with me first.  I can’t leave anyone alone down here.”  Moira’s eyes narrowed at that as she threw a wary glance back over her shoulder.  “Scourge is still unaccounted for, huh.”  Daina nodded.  Once Moira found a buddy to work with her and watch her back, she could return.      

Back on deck, Torlan’s battle frenzy was beginning to subside, and in spite of Daina’s orders his focus turned to their fallen enemies.  As he knelt down to investigate a tentacled corpse, Unnao piped up that he knew what these creatures were: grindylow.  Up close in the daylight, they struck Torlan as looking like a cross between a goblin and an octopus.  It wasn’t common to run afoul of them, Unnao continued, but they were known to attack ships…and take their crew for food.  Were they known to keep to certain waters, Torlan wondered?  Did anyone have an idea of where they’d wound up?  “We wound up wherever the storm took us!” Fishguts shouted.  Glancing out over the island, Torlan could see dense jungle flanked by a tall outcropping of rock to one side, and a long ridge extending all the way around the edge of the island to the other.  His curiosity satisfied for the moment, he began taking a head count as promised.  Tamroth Scrimshaw and Sandara Quinn were missing.

As Torlan began grilling the crew to determine when Sandara and Scrimshaw had last been seen, Rus appeared on deck. “Where’s the captain?” he asked.  “I’ve got a damage report.”  Torlan frowned.  She’d gone down to look for Rus and check on the damage herself.  “Ah, Khyber” Rus sighed.  “She must’ve gone down the other ladder.”  “Down the other stairs is more like it!” Torlan snickered, unable to help himself.  Well, nevermind that, he’d go down to find her while the others fanned out to look for their missing comrades.  Bringing up Rus to speed, the former skyknight confirmed that the ship wasn’t in any immediate danger, and they’d best take some time for a search.  Making his way along the starboard rail, Rus could make out slimy tracks, a frayed and cut lifeline, and — tucked into a corner — Sandara’s holy symbol of Arawai.  Behind him, he could hear that Daina had arrived back on deck, and they traded damage reports as the captain asked for a casualty report.  “No injuries” Torlan growled, a little too quickly, as Daina came over to inspect the grindylow tracks.  “I told her to tie off” Rus lamented, “I told her.  Stupid pirate pride…”  No, Torlan insisted, it was his fault for not having paid more attention to his surroundings as Rus insisted that he should have gotten physical and forced Scrimshaw to tie a line.  “Stop that” Daina interrupted, her voice firm.  “It’s no one’s fault.”  Did Torlan know anything about these grindylow?  He shook his head and waved Unnao over for Daina to question instead.  Were these creatures amphibious?  Would they drag captives underwater?  Where did they live?  Unnao shrugged.  He’d survived such an attack before, on a different ship, and he knew that they had a taste for flesh, but he couldn’t say where they’d call home.  

Daina nodded wearily.  They had a lot to do, and needed to set their priorities according to their limited manpower.   Asking Torlan to gather everyone together, Daina stood tall on the quarterdeck and looked out over her crew.

“Alright people, here’s the situation.  There’s damage to the hull.  We’re taking on water, but we’re not in immediate danger.  Moira knows she can fix it, but she’s going to need help — Moira, how many carpenter’s mates do you need?”  “As many as you can spare” Moira replied.  “Take as many people as you need, and leave me the rest.  Based on the damage, I’d say we’re going to need a day and a half’s work to get moving again”  Daina nodded.  “Good.  Next order of business: we have two friendlies missing and one enemy unaccounted for.  Scourge is still, to the best of our knowledge, loose on the ship somewhere, and Sandara Quinn and Tamroth Scrimshaw are missing.  I’m going to need people to find Scourge, and some of us are going to have to search for Ms. Quinn and Scrimshaw.  We need to go to that island anyways, because we need to refill our fresh water before going anywhere.  I know it’s a tall order, but you made it through that storm, some of you made it through much worse with me on the Storm Reaver, so—”

A rough voice from the deck interrupted her.  “If we’re missing two crewmembers, why not leave ‘em?”

 Daina slowly lowered her gaze from overlooking the crew as a whole, to stare directly at Aretta Taravan.  “Because,” she growled, her voice hard, “my name is not Mika Rockface.  In case it is in question, my name is Daina ir’Lizani, and I am the captain of this ship.  I am going to get you to port, and I am going to get everyone who is part of this crew to part, and that includes Sandara Quinn and your former crewmate, Arretta — Tamroth Scrimshaw.  Now, when we get back to port, anyone who doesn’t want to sail with me will be free to leave, no questions asked.  But until then, you are part of this crew.  You have a responsibility to each other, you have a responsibility to me, and I have a responsibility to you.  And that’s not up for debate.”

Turning her attention back to the crew at large, Daina got down to business.  They had to secure the ship before going to the island for search for Sandara, Tamroth, and a water source, and that meant finding and dealing with Scourge.  Ordering Rus and Torlan to each find two volunteers to help her search the lower decks, there was one last order of business to deal with before dispersing the crew: Slippery Syl, the last holdout among those who had been loyal to Scourge and Lagraa.  Striding over to where Syl had been chained to the mast after her refusal to work the ship during the storm, Daina knelt down to look the dwarf in the eye.

“So?  Are you ready to be part of the crew now?”  Syl glared back at her in silence.  Daina continued.  “Once we get to port, you’re free to leave with whatever you brought on board, but until then you’re either part of this crew, or are going to be chained up for a while.”  

After a long minute, Syl broke her silence.  “I don’t think you’re going to kill me one way or the other” she muttered.  “I’ll go ahead and stretch my legs…fine, I’ll be a part of your crew.”  Daina stared back at Syl with an unsettlingly neutral expression.  “Oh no,” she replied.  “You’re mistaken.  If you turn on myself or anyone else on this ship, I will kill you where you stand.”  Syl shrugged as best she could with her hands chained, and Daina could sense an all too familiar quality about the dwarf: opportunism.  Syl didn’t seem to be impressed by her new captain one way or the other, but Daina didn’t get the sense that she’d try anything funny.  “Alright” Daina agreed.  “What was your job on the Storm Reaver?  Rigger?  Good.  Then you’re handy enough to help Moira make repairs and do what she tells you.”  Syl curtly affirmed her orders, and Daina set her free.

Gathering up her teams, Daina started handing out assignments.  “I’m not gonna make you have another date with the bilge right away if you don’t want to be there” she told Rus, “I’m happy to take that deck.”  Her fellow soldier shrugged.  “I’ve already been down there, already smell like it.”  That earned him a slight grin from the captain. “I wasn’t going to say anything, but…  Alright, watch your back.  Torlan, you take the weapons deck; I’ll search the officers quarters and brig.” 

The Majestic Gryphon wasn’t an opulent vessel, and her officers quarters were pretty spartan and easy to search.  Daina, Cog, and Unnao found nothing out of order among the cargo either — the place Daina had thought Scourge most likely to find a hiding spot — and their lack of success was just one more addition to Daina’s stress.  In a span of less than eight hours, she’d led a mutiny, taken command of the Gryphon, guided her crew through what could have been a deadly storm, and now the ship was damaged and two people were missing.  Finally reaching the bow, she began to search the brig in earnest when she heard a click behind her: somehow, Unnao had managed to lock her in.  Half and hour later, having had no luck finding a key, they sought out Trucco and he put his skills to work freeing Daina — but not without a steady stream of snide commentary about her situation.  In other circumstances, she might have played along with the incorrigible rogue, but in this circumstance, she simply leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, tuning him out as she centered herself.      

Up in the galley, Daina’s bad luck was spreading as Torlan caught his foot on something and fell hard against the remaining casks of water, spilling even more.   “Aejar, you dolt!” Torlan yelled at his companion, angry and embarrassed.  “Watch where you’re going!”  Where there had previously been enough to wait until tomorrow, replenishing their stores had just become an even more urgent concern.  Down in the bilge, Rus swept the now very familiar room from bow to stern and came up empty-handed, as did Trucco on the main deck.  Returning to the deck, Daina checked to see if any lifeboats were missing, but everything was in order.  Had Scourge succumbed to Torlan’s curse?  Had he thrown himself overboard?  Whatever the case, it was clear that he was no longer aboard the Majestic Gryphon.   

As Torlan collected himself among the ruins of the water casks, he felt a sharp pain in his side, and saw the spilled water tinged with red where he had fallen.  “Ah, shit” he growled.  “Conchobar, finish up here — I need to take care of this.  Hopefully my gear’s not in the same sorry state as the rest of me.”  Making his way to the armory, he shoved past Rus in the hallway, loudly announcing that his search had come up empty and he just needed to find something.  As Torlan dug out a healer’s kit and began awkwardly trying to unroll some bandages, Rus poked his head around the corner.  “Need anything?”  Torlan began to wave him off, and then paused.  “Yeah, why don’tcha.  Many hands make quick work.  I have trouble reaching around my back sometimes.  Dwarven proportions.”  It was far from the first time Rus had seen blood, and he easily cleaned Torlan’s side and secured the bandages in place.  Strapping his armour back on, he asked Rus if he needed any of his own.  The evoker shook his head.  “No, I can’t.  Not if I wanna stay spellcasting; I gotta keep it light.”  Torlan remarked that that seemed like a risky proposition as Rus explained the arcane protection he used, and the old dwarf noticed that the young human was trying to put on just as good a face as he’d been in spite of injuries.  Growling at Rus to quit squirming as he began tending to his injured ribs, his fingers dug in-between the bones as Rus audibly winced.  “It’s alright” he gasped, “this isn’t payback for the drinking contest, is it?”  “To my recollection, I won that contest,” Torlan replied.  “But I gave you a run for your money” Rus reminded him with a pained grin.   

They returned topside where Daina, having completed her own search, stood on the quarterdeck addressing the crew again.  Ordering Fishguts to prepare a midday meal to be served on deck — and insisting that everyone sit down for fifteen minutes while they ate — she waved Rus, Torlan, and Trucco to follow her as she headed towards the captain’s cabin.  Torlan piped up that he was quite hungry himself, and Daina reassured him that if there was nothing to eat in the cabin, she’d have Fishguts bring something up.  The Majestic Gryphon’s cabin was on the small side, but it seemed comfortable, and Daina asked the others to take a seat wherever they could find it.

“I’m sure what you have to say is real important,” Rus interrupted, “but boy, would I love to get out there and start looking for our missing crew.”  Daina ignored his undertones as she took a seat of her own.  “We have to do one thing at a time.”  Hearing the weariness in her voice, Torlan’s face and voice softened.  “How are you, Daina?  How’s the weight of captaincy on your shoulders?”  Daina’s hand dropped down to the hilt of her tago knife and her fingers began playing across it.  “That’s what I asked you all in here for.  It wasn’t something that got discussed, but something had to happen in the moment to keep the crew of the Gryphon unified, to keep the old crew of the Reaver unified, and that was what I did.  That might be what we need to keep up in order to get to port now that I’ve run with it, but—” Torlan cut her off.  “It’s what we need right now, in times of hardship.  Somebody needs to make decisions.”  Daina nodded.  “I know, and I intend to.  I’ll do this as long as you three want me to.  You hear what I’m saying?”  Torlan reached over to put a hand on her shoulder.  “I’m sure you didn’t need to ask me this, but you’ve got my undying support” he rumbled.  “I do think later on, once we’re back at sea if things go that way, we should consider running things more like a fishing vessel.  The Cloud Reavers ran things real strict…”  Daina nodded again.  “I don’t intend to sail under any more tyrants.  If this works for now, this works for now.  Rus?”  He remained unreadable.  “I don’t really know what you want from me.  Undying loyalty?  It’s a pirate ship…ma’am.  I’ll sail with you far as I can.”  Daina’s eyes hardened, not inclined to ignore his subtext this time.  “Who’s talking about undying loyalty?  Don’t worry about Torlan, he’s got an…arrangement with my family.  You just worry about you.”  Rus stared back.  “We have to find our missing people. Permission to leave the ship right now.”

Daina sat back in her chair and looked him up and down.  Rus was favouring one side, and Trucco was clearly exhausted.  As Torlan began shooting off ideas for how to begin searching the island, he and Rus pushed back hard against Daina’s insistence that they take a quick nap first to be in better shape for the rescue as she began unrolling the former captain’s charts to see if she could learn anything more about the island before going to shore.  It seemed that the ship had passed through the narrows between Traglorn Island and the Brine Mountains, but their current location wasn’t on the map.  At that moment Fishguts appeared with Torlan’s meal, and peered around Daina to see the routes she was mapping out with her compass.  “Doesn’t surprise me we’re headed in that direction!” he declared.  “I had a suspicion we were headed there.”  She glanced back over her shoulder with a frown.  What was he talking about?  “I noticed Mr. Lagraa changed course from Port Krez” he continued.  “Seems she was heading towards Rickety Haik’s to get the ship squibbed.”

Rus immediately knew what Fishguts was talking about.  “Squibbing” was when ships — ones that had been stolen or taken as prizes — were retrofitted so that their former affiliations were unrecognizable.  A good squibber would change the lines of the masts, the rigging, replace the figurehead, and even alter the shape of the bow before rechristening the vessel.  Torlan knew all that and more.  He knew Rickety Haik by reputation, and his squibbing operation was known for its secrecy and integrity.  If Haik squibbed your ship, no one would ever be the wiser.  Daina raised an eyebrow.  “It’s seems that our friend Lagraa was looking to go rogue.”  

Fishguts agreed.  Lagraa had been hungry for her own ship for as long as he’d known her, and even though she’d managed to climb the ladder fast, she’d never earned much in the way of Mika Rockface’s respect.  Filing all this information away for later, Daina ate the last of her own meal and began rolling the charts back up.  “Alright, folks” she declared.  “Rus, you’re right, there’s still plenty of fight left in us today.  Let’s go get this done.  I’m going to try to find some better gear, at least something to help turn a spear if I need to, and I’ll see you on deck in ten.”

Down in the armory, Daina began buckling on the leather chestpiece Torlan had found while they took stock of the other items they’d acquired.  Neither of them knew how to work the magic embedded in Lagraa’s cutlass, but it was still masterfully made, and Daina buckled it on opposite her rapier.  Back on deck, Rus found himself uncharacteristically murmuring a prayer to Arawai as he cradled Sandara’s holy symbol in his hands, and Torlan advised Daina to lock Lagraa in the brig under Owlbear’s watchful eye while she pocketed the key and took it to the island with her.  Weighing the need of all hands on deck against mitigating any trouble while she was gone, Daina ordered Slippery Syl to join them on the island to keep an eye on her while giving her a chance to prove herself.  After telling Unnao that he had the ship while she was gone, there was one last order of business.  As the others began climbing into the longboat, Daina pulled five galifars out of her pocket and leaned over the rail, letting them slip from her hand one by one into the sea as she whispered something over them.

With that, they arranged themselves in the longboat.  Rus and Torlan manned the oars while Trucco stood in the bow at the lookout and Daina handled the tiller.  As they drew closer, Daina could see what looked like a small village, but a series of collapsed buildings mingled with no signs of life or movement told her that it was likely abandoned.  Torlan proposed starting their search at the tall outcropping on the eastern side of the island, and they brought the boat in at its base.  As they reached the summit, they made an unsettling discovery: a signal beacon that had been constructed, but never lit.  Between the unlit beacon and the abandoned village, Daina began putting the pieces together, and it wasn’t a promising story.  It seemed that some people had tried to make a home on this island, and had more than likely died in the process.  Behind her, Syl piped up that a beacon was usually used to hail passing ships, and that it seemed more likely to her that someone had been stranded here as Rus began to worry aloud again.  “Khyber, I want to take that potion of water breathing and go back to look under the ship right now.  What if she’s down there?”  Under the sea, Torlan reminded him, there wasn’t much visibility.  “I know,” Rus replied, “I’m just worried.”  Hearing the stress in his voice, Daina got up from where she had been inspecting the beacon to quietly stand beside him. 

“It was the winter of ‘91.  My unit was always called in where it was needed the most to help shore up the regulars, and there was one time we got called in to find a missing patrol.  They were across the border, and there was a trail of bodies.  We couldn’t tell if it was theirs or not.  Long story short, those people all made it home, and ours are going to make it home too.  If they’re there, we’ll find them.”  Looking back out over the jungle, Daina could make out scraps of faded, multicoloured cloth amidst the trees, and down towards beach, some fields that had been worked in the past.  They were overgrown now, but there was no mistaking it.  Across the ridge to the west, Torlan could see some kind of wooden structure with a path leading up to it, and stashed beside the beacon, Rus pointed out a cluster of torches and some tindertwigs.  That was a good find, Daina affirmed; whether they wound up exploring the ridge or under the jungle’s canopy, they’d more than likely need some light.  Torlan wondered about taking the boat around inland to the jungle beach, and Daina agreed that it was a risk in terms of being spotted by hostiles, but it would be much faster than traveling overland, and Rus pointed out that worked fields meant a fresh water source as well — which they also sorely needed.  Returning to the boat, they made their way around the rocks and began rowing up towards the beach.  The jungle seemed quiet…for now. 

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: what is something that you are afraid of, and where does that fear come from?
  • Starting with Daina’s Notice roll that resulted in her falling down the stairs (again) and completely missing Rus on her way down to inspect the damage, we racked up four critical failures within the first hour of play — two for me and one each for Kevin and Michael, quickly followed up after the break by a critical failure on the roll to heal Rus’ fatigue. While critical failure consequences are a baked-in part of Savage Worlds that our table has really come to enjoy, this many in the first hour is a new record, and also one more reason why odds and probability mean absolutely nothing to me when it comes to critical failure. 😀

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