The Skull and Shackles

Interlude
Castle Daegarin, Cheliax

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Duke Adras called his son and heir to him, in his chamber at the highest tower of Daegarin Castle. He addressed the younger man, heedless of the two hulking Hellknight guards, “Evran, I have good news; her infernal majesty, Queen Abrogail has developed an interest in the pirate nest known as the Shackles, and has entrusted the venture to our House. Not only will we bring glory and power to Cheliax, in the name of our queen, and the great Asmodeus, but it also means we can gain vengeance on that Varisian whore who humiliated you in Absalom.”
The younger noble smiled coldly, “Good news indeed father. I have ached for revenge and you forbade me from harming my treacherous little sister. Alicia’s screams will be sweeter for the time that she has evaded my wrath.”

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In another part of the grim fortress, a darkly beautiful young woman stared into a crystal globe, mounted on an iron standard carved to resemble erinyes cavorting. The girl’s right hand moved inside her skirts as she thought about Alicia, causing her to moan softly in pleasure. After a few moments, Layana Daegarin grasped the crystal in damp, warm fingers and murmured a spell; pale red mists cleared in the globe as it responded to both her power and the taste of her intimacy, and the Chelaxian noblewoman saw Alicia on the deck of a ship, where a battle had clearly been fought. The tattooed young sorceress was dressed in piratical style, but just as beautiful as the last time Layana had seen her, when she hadn’t been dressed at all. “You are mine, my love. My father and brother will not have you to hurt. I will have you to love, to protect, to own. You are mine” Alicia in the globe shook slightly, and turned to look, as if sensing eyes upon her. The image faded and Layana began to make plans: she could not match her father’s power, but she could match his guile, and she knew exactly which devil would be interested in the kind of bargain she wished to make.

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Session Five 1
Blood in the Sea 1

Sahuagin Ambush

Bloodcove

Metting the Governer

The Wyvern

The Aspis Consortium

Buying Cannons

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Alicia's Diary
Entry One

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Alicia Stormborn sighed as she rose from her bed, and washed in the cold water of the bowl in her chamber. It was four nights now since that pig, Royster had used her last, and once more her courage had failed her from slitting his throat as he slept. He had hurt her before, and would do so again. She was tough, but not tough enough to face him down.

She looked at her body in the full length mirror. She knew how beautiful she was: bards had sung of her, men desired her, some women desired her too. Alicia swung her Raven dark hair, and admired her lithe body, her smooth shapely legs, her cute shapely butt and her small breasts. Her skin was tanned and perfect, and she examined the strange tattoos, inscribed by the witch of the moors. The treasure map that made her desirable, the twirling abstract that fortified her from physical harm, the dream catcher that protected her from fear, the blade on her left arm that protected her from physical harm, the stormcloud that allowed her to throw her shocking grasp and the mermaid above her left inner thigh that allowed her to swim as the sirens of the sea. Alicia thought she was perfect. Shame about her life situation!

She cast her mind back to Ianthe, the witch who had taught her magic, had inscribed her naked body with magical tattoos, had done plenty else to her naked body too. Her three months with the older girl had been amazing, but Alicia had wanted more than the uplands of Varisia, and they had parted. She still loved her in a way. Alicia was twenty now so Ianthe would be twenty five.

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Then Absalom; greatest city of Golarion. Delicious pit of intrigue with money to steal, fools to exploit, fun, music, easy drugs, easier sex. She loved Absalom, until the Daegarin scandal made it dangerous. Duke Adras Daegarin was the Chelaxian ambassador. Even Alicia wouldn’t go near someone that powerful, but his son, Evran was easy game to the seductive thief: he’d even wanted to buy her the expensive presents. Maybe seducing his younger sister, Layana, hadn’t been such a wise move, but the girl had been very pretty in that pale Chelaxian way. The two young women had made love every day and every way, until Duke Adras had discovered the liaison. Chelaxian nobles are not forgiving and they control Devils.

She’d needed a fast ship out, and the dashing pirate captain had been a wonderful answer, not to mention a wonderful lover. Surely the Shackles were beyond the reach of angry Chelaxians? The pirate life had been fun too; she didn’t especially enjoy the fear of their targets, but that was life sadly, as long as it didn’t happen to her.

Maybe she’d even loved Bertrand a bit, but then it had all gone wrong and that creature Harrigan, abetted by the pig Royster had murdered him. They would die for that! And even worse, they ignored her wiles. They “fucked” her for their own enjoyment with no thought to hers, but showed no inclination of bowing to her will. It was so frustrating, and even a little scary.

Alicia hated to admit it, but it looked like she actually needed help…….

And help duly arrived, though it needed a little manipulation in order to be fit for purpose.

A ship arrived, allegedly of friends to the odious Harrigan, though clearly way too nice for that. The captain, a young Chelaxian called Avery was interesting, and pretty fit too. Then there was a powerfully built lizard man called Tua Tura, who seemed disposed to loyalty, which is always a good thing. Black Hand, or Black Mane, or Black Head…..Black something anyway was pretty dense, but a handy fighter.

One self-inflicted bruise stirred their emotions, one letter delivered by her tattoo familiar, Lady Marmalade, turned their hearts and one final plan (clever touch putting a kiss on it) and the scary Royster lay dead and headless, and Tidewater Rock was hers once more. Alicia’s Rock; Alicia rocks!

It was a shame the hostage had to be sacrificed as part of her plan, but Alicia considered that a price worth paying. She was beautiful and important. He hadn’t been, so it was a worthwhile death.

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Life got even better when she and Avery discussed the new working partnership. Wide eyes gazing into his, the rise and fall of her small but perfectly formed breasts, a shy smile and she was in his arms. He was a wonderful lover, and she enjoyed the experience immensely, two nights in a row. He was ambitious too, and hard working. Alicia could get to like him.

Of course, she was still who she was, and there was an interesting red headed priestess in their crew. Sandara Quinn was the woman’s name, a few years older than Alicia, but clearly an interesting story behind her. Alicia turned on her flirt techniques, and the older woman was clearly both a little shocked and more than a little interested. Alicia had never slept with a redhead, and Sandara was pretty. Would Avery be the jealous type?

Oh well, she would find out soon enough.

In the meantime, her new friends re-embarked on their piratical career, chasing down a Chelaxian vessel. Did it have to be Chelaxian? The loot was good, but the important passenger now proved both threat and opportunity. She hoped Avery could sort this out to all their benefits.

A cloud crossed the sun and Alicia felt a chill on the wounded Chelaxian ship. An unwelcome memory of Duke Adras Daegarin crossed her mind and she shivered in fear. A memory too of the gorgeous Layana Daegarin; much more welcome. A different kind of shiver.

Alicia returned to the moment. Avery was busy itemising the haul. Sandara’s eyes were on her; Alicia smiled, and pursed her lips in a kiss gesture. The other woman blushed and looked away. Life was good.

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Session Four
Cracking the Rock

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Confident with your recent conquest you and the crew of the Last Laugh turn your attentions to the Tidewater Rock that captain Pegsworthy talked about. “Good fortune and sure sail” sounded most promising.

A few of the crew had heard about Tidewater Rock and the legend of its former owner the pirate lord ‘Iron’ Bertrand Foxglove. Barnabus Harrigan was once sworn to his service as a client captain and turned stag on him at the worst possible moment. Together with another ship, Sweet William Poore’s Red Courage, Harrigan sent Iron Bert to the locker leaving his young wife a widow. Your nemesis held the rock in all but name.

A plot was hatched to maskerade as a relief ship, with several of Harrigan’s former crew to give the lie authenticity. Badger medlar and Ambrosius Kroop were both well known figures amongst the crew and knew Roystan McCleagh, the officer left in command of the tower. As the Last Laugh approached the tower a loud retort echoed and a cannon ball landed in the water just off the bow. A warning shot. You took to the jolly boat with Kroop and Medlar and approached the barren rock. It was clear that the four storey tower was very defensivle, with a comanding view over the surrounding seas and approach. It overlooked a small protected harbour but aside from that the shore was rocky with crashing waves.

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You were allowed into the tower, provided you surrendered a hostage and Badger was happy enough to be taken inside. A few minutes later the sturdy door was thrown open and you were escorted to the top floor – taking careful view of the layout on the way. At the top a beauty woman and a thick set guard sat at a long dining table waiting for you. This was Alicia Foxglove the Lady of the Rock and her ‘guard’ Roystan. The lady had a black bruise above her eye and Roystan glowered sullenly. Negotations commenced and it was agreed that the Last Laugh could be repaired in the sheltered harbour and the ship resupplied with water and in exchange you would leave a proportion of your plunder on the island. You made arangements to have the plunder brought up the following morning and bid the lady farewell. Badger mentioned a crazy old man, who las locked in the cellar with him when he was a hostage. The old crackpot kept asking if it was ‘time’ and if the ‘time had come’, but wouldnt say who he was.

You brought the last laugh into port, but that evening a small otter climbed over the side of the ship carrying a note. It was from Lady Alica and said that she was being held captive against her will. She offered to share the rock if the party would rescue her from McCleagh. She also promised to protect any hostage given into the towers care. You mae your plans to attack the tower from the inside after relying on Alicia’s promise. Crimson Cog’s name was drawn by lot, despite Blackmatch volunteering. The following morning you returned to the tower and to the dining room overlooking the bay

You quickly overpowered and dispatched McCleagh who was taken off guard by your surprise attack. Alicia’s magic helped as well. She and Tua’Tara headed to the roof where they prevented the cannon being used on the last laugh and Avery and Blackmatch headed down, killing the guards protecting the tower a level at a time, until the ground floor where the last guards were trying to load a rowboat with plunder to carry down to the sea. They fought hard but surrendered when the numbers turned against them. Checking in the cellar, you saw that one of the pirate guards had slit Crimson Cog’s throat.. you were not impressed! The old man was still chained down there though, and he asked the same question again “is it time yet?”

Turning on Alicia, she appologised for misleading you about Cog’s safety and made it clear it was him or her. She also told you about a huge potential haul and showed you a map tattooed on her back. She also explained that she had no idea who the old man was, but that once a year a ship came from port Peril with 2,000 gold coins provided the old man was kept locked in the cellar alive, but able to see no-one. After some discussion you decided to free the old man, who turned out to be Ishmael Pequod, a ship builder from Absolom, who claimed to have built Kerdak Bonefist’s ship the filthy lucre. The Hurricane King had him locked away so he could no longer build a ship to rival his, but alive in case he needed the old shipwright again. You invited Ishmael to join your crew and he gleeful agreed to serve aboard as ships master provided you promised to one day kill Kerdak Bonefist. He even told you of his plans for a ship that was faster and stronger than any seen to date, if only he could find enough darkwood. As even a darkwood shield fetched a tidy sum, let alone a who ship, you were convinced that the old man had partly cracked during his imprisonment.

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Lady Alicia insisted on coming with you in order to track down the treasure, and as she was an acomplished sorceress she was made Ships Mage and given officer status on the ship. She changed into more suitable attire than her fine dresses and drew the eye of the whole crew. Rosie Cusswell was left behind with 12 crew to protect the rock and the party left two of the nine pound cannons atop the tower and had the other two and sufficient powder and shot winched down to the Last Laugh.

Newly armed with cannons the Last Laugh took to the Fever Sea again and a few days later found more prey, a Chelish Merchant Schooner, The Dowager Queen, whch turned to run but was easily outdistanced despite sailing almost into the wind. It was guarded by more than just sailors – a platoon of Chelish Marines armed with firearms – the latest muskets. It transpired that aboard the ship was the son of Governer Hardwick Barzoni, one Maracomb Barzoni. A young man of education and means who was travelling to Bloodcove at the request of his father. Thinking of the fortune that could be made by returning the young man safely the crew voted to take him themselves. The Dowager Queen was left with enough rations to see them to port and a broken aft and rudder. It would be several days before it could sail again.

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Session Three
Rickety' Squibbs

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As the sails were set and the rahadoumi schooner made way, the Man’s Promise was no more and The Last Laugh began its voyage. To protect its identity from authorities – not to mention Captain Harrigan – you decided to continue with Mr Plugg’s original plan to get the ship ‘squibbed’ – disguising its rigging profile and defining features to hide the ship’s identity.Ambrose Kroop remembered a small place off the slithering coast where Old Rickety Hake had the expertise and discreton to complete the works.

Rickety’s Squibbs was a classic pirates hideaway, whores, ales, rum and solid land beneath your feet for a few days. It was a collection of shacks and boat housese in a hidden cove, protected by a guard tower. Ships would wait round the point until the watchtower indicated it was safe to approach. A price was agreed with the old carpenter and his team of fifty or so workers swarmed the ship. You told the tales of your adventures so far – exploring Bonewrack isle; the ghoulish fucktent; and the mutiny against Mr Plugg – and the inhabitants showed you a new found respect.

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The drinking and whoring continued until a sailor’s cry drew you down to the river side. A huge snake creature with a human like head had attacked a sailor in the shallows. The creature, you identified as a naga, attacked in an uncontrollable rage. You were badly scorched by lightning it summoned and Tua’Tara was poisoned by its wicked stinger but the creature was eventually dropped. You identified the beast as a naga, and Rickety explained that he had made an agreement with the Naga of the Slithering Coast, treasure in exchange for freedom from attacks. Testing the water you found that it had been poisoned in some way and that had enraged the giant water snake. Rickety asked you to head up stream in a row boat to investigate up river and try and discover what had happened.

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You agreed and after five or six hours travel upstream you found the source of the poison. A mighty catoblepas was decaying in the river, it’s poisonous efluant leaking into the surrounding water. Making to drag the stinking creature out of the river, you were attacked by a band of troglodytes that didnt smell too fresh either. The chieftain was a particular challenge. Mid way through the fight poisoned arrows arced across the river as strange humanoid snake creatures shot at you from the far banks. They continued to assist the troglodytes until you killed their leader at which point the snake men faded back into the jungle. Dragging the catoblepas to a safe distance you headed back down stream – pausing only for a quick nights rest filled with the noises of the jungle.

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Returning to Rickety’s you find a settlement under attack from giant wasps, each the size of a pony. The creatures swarm over, attacking with their cruel stings and several sailors have been stung and carried away. You defeat the wasps and are about to make good when you realise a rival capatin has sailed his ship into the cove and can now see the unfinished ship – with all that entials. Opting for the peaceful option rather than combat you are introduced to Captain Merrile Pegsworthy – a former Andoran officer – turned Free Captain of the shackles. Pegsworthy offers you a deal of advice and even christens your new ship – the Last Laugh. As he does, he echoes the traditional shackles toast – “Good fortune, and sure sail await what one can crack Tidewater Rock.” The Rock is a small fort on the south west tip of the shackles – in a perfect postion to tackle the Sargavan shipping lanes.

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Preparing to set sail in seach of plunder and adventure you recruit some of Rickety’s men for the ship and head into the Fever sea. After a few days sailing you come across your first plunder, a fishing vessel named the Eltan Blade. The Captain’s son was killed in the attack, and the Captain sullenly surrendered – but his cargo was nothing but fish. Their next prey was more worthwhile an Absolom barque carrying grain and weapons which were yours once the ship was chased down, grappled and boarded. This booty cheered the spirits of the crew no end, your first major haul!

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Session Two
Bonewrack Isle

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Your jolly boat set out for Bonewrack Isle, carrying you to the deserted shore. You landed on a beach on the north east side of the island. Ahead of you lay a low mangrove swamp and beyond that an expanse of grassland with a mountainous ridge rising from it. You could just make out some form of structure on the ridge.

An ancient road of some description led into the swamp and you followed it, your route only impeded by the constant swarm of midges and one point where the road disappeared into the much. Instead of wading through treacherous mud you took to the trees and swung across the sunken road. You spied a strange tent through the mangroves, draped with rotting silks. Scouting ahead Blackmatch pulled back the drapes to reveal a bevy of carniverous undead whores. They erupted from this ghoulish fuck tent and almost paralysed Blackmatch with erotic poisons but his compatriots ran to the rescue dismembering the bitches and looting their decaying finery.

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Clear on the otherside you found that sandy beaches on the south west shore rose up to grasslands. Some of which had been cultivated and now tall old maise had spread wildly. Along the beach you found strange bone statues, formed from skeletons from all kinds of beasts – including humans. They were waited and decorated with seaweed making them float upright on the lapping tides. The PCs named the isle Bonewrack after these strange markers.

Exploring the cornfields you were attacked by a horse sized insect that spit acid from its mandibles. It burrowed out of the loose soil and attacked only defeated when the PCs floundered through the corn and attacked it together. Climbing the ridge at the centre of the island you found a lonely stockade seemingly abandoned and overgrown with a huge tree. As you crossed the threshold vine like creatures with reaching, grasping arms swarmed down from the tree and tried to throttle the life from you. The choking beasts nearly defeated you, as they wrapped their thick fingers round your necks. Fleeing you were able to return prepared and kill the creatures – driving them into the upper branches and burning them out.

Inside the stockade cabin you found a spy-glass and several items of worth, along with the hung body of the cabin’s occupant. Unfortunately he had animated as ghoul. It seemed the flies of this cursed island carried the ghoul fever and Blackmatch began to feel a little peaky. There was no sign of the captives but looking through the far-glass you saw two of the strange squid like goblins cavorting in the foam of a cove below waving Sandara’s magic Tricorn hat.

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Exploring the flooded caves at low tide you were assaulted by several of the Grindylows before encountering a large cave containing a huge behemoth of a grindylow and its wicked mother – the brineblood queen. Sandara and Badger hung from their wrists above the churning cauldron, already one of Badger’s legs had been gnawed off. As Grindylows swarmed you, the queen cut the rope holding the two aloft, dropping them into the water. You prevailed defeating the monsters and taking their treasures. Sandara and Badger were rescued alive if shaken.

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Returning to the beach you saw some of the crew carrying the ships barrel down from the cliffs to where the ship was anchored. Would they have waited if you hadn’t arrived at that time? Your return brought the unpleasantness to a head and with no other choice you took up arms against Mister Plugg and his cronies. A battle on deck ended with Avery slicing both Master Scourge’s arms off with two precise and powerful blows. As the battle turned against Plugg he leapt for the balista and turned it on the sailors on deck. Missing his shot in panic he was cut down by you as the rest of the crew that hadn’t already joined you, surrendered. Avery was named Captain with Blackmatch as Master of Sail and Tua’Tara as ships Surgeon.

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Session One
Pressed Aboard the Wormwood

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You remember the night before – the ringing laughter of a wild night, the heady joy of excess, the scents of rich stewed meat and perfume lingering in the nostrils. Now you feel a pounding headache, the sickly taste of cheap wine in your mouth, the hard floor, a rhythmic swaying, as if you were still drunk. The footsteps from above reveal you are aboard a ship and not in a Port Peril wineshop.

You had been press ganged aboard the Wormwood. A pirate ship captained by the fearsome Barnabus Harrigan, a shaven headed garundi giant. His key rules: do not kill other crew members and do not bother him. He delegated responsibility for your training to the sadistic bo’son Master Scourge and the sly First Mate, Mister Plugg. It soon became clear that Mister Plugg was a tyrant, who took every opportunity to denigrate you, assigning Tua’tara to the rigging as the fastest climber, and Avery to the kitchens to serve as cook’s mate. Blackmatch was left to swab the decks.

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Plugg’s coterie of lackies and lickspittles tried to bully you in the hold before your punishing day of duties, but fang and blade soon taught them that you were no easy meat. Your duties were not so easily dealt with, a punishing routine of work in difficult conditions leaving you exhausting at the end of the day. Avery seemed to have it easy, but the ships cook – Ambrosius Kroop was catatonically drunk as often as not, leaving him to prepare food for the seventy odd crew of the ship. Despite this he was able to recover most of your belongings from the quartermaster. In the evenings you got roaring drunk the strong grog and made friends among the other pirate crew. Slowly you realised who was firmly in Pluggs camp and those not. Rosie Cusswell, Badger Medlar and Sandara Quinn were all friendly once they came to trust you. Even one of the thugs that accosted you on the second day, a half-orc named Jaundiced Jape.

Slowly over time you became accustomed to your role. However Scourge enjoyed punishing any infraction and Blackmatch suffered worst, being regularly lashed by the ‘cat’ and even locked in an iron box for a seemingly endless amount of time. Finally Blackmatch was pushed too far and refused a direct order from Plugg to handle his only recently regained saw-toothed sabre. Locked in the bilge as punishment Blackmatch was scheduled to be keelhauled the next day.

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His fate was averted by the appearance of a sail on the horizon. A rahadoumi schooner named the Man’s Promise. Throwing newly slaughtered livestock into the sea the pirates launched their attack – a brief cannonade followed by a grapple and the bloody slaughter of a pitched battle on deck. You were part of the boarding party and cut your way to take and hold the bridge of the ship. At one point Avery warned Harrigan as a rahadoumi sailor tried to sneak up on him Harrigan nodded and decapitated the sailor smiling as he did so.

You were rewarded for the successful assault with a share of the loot and Avery receieved an amulet from Harrigan himself. You were also picked for the skeleton crew to return the Man’s Promise to Port Peril for sale. Mister Plugg and Master Scourge commanded the vessel but a few days after leaving Harrigan and the Wormwood behind they were holding secret talks in the captain’s cabin. The bearing indicated that instead of Port Peril, the ship was heading to a secret cove called Rickety’s Squibs where ships called be disguised – your new Captain intended to steal the ship from Harrigan!

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You redoubled your effeort to recruit the crew to your side. This was interrupted by a terrific storm that forced you all to the rigging to save the ship. Fighting the elements for nearly twenty four hours straight there was a lurch as the ship struck rocks. When the storm subsided it became clear that Sandara Quinn and Badger Medlar were gone. Strange slimy tentacle trails gave the clue that they might not just have been swept overboard.

The ship was beached off the coast of a strange isle. A rocky ridge rose out of the centre beyond a dismal mangrove swamp. Mister Plugg ordered you to shore to find fresh water to refill the ships water stores that were damaged in the storm. You took the Jolly boat and headed inland, hoping to find what happened to Sandara and Badger.

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