The Skull and Shackles

Alicia's Diary VI
Into the Depths

Interlude: Isabella

The cold water stung the cuts inflicted on her by the bastard pirate’s blade. She would heal. Avery, she had heard his ally call his name. He would pay. He would suffer. He would die. Her ears still hurt from the bitch’s scream spell. Isabella would heal. The girl would……..

Isabella’s mind went back to a place it hadn’t been for a long time. She’d been 12 when the raiders came. She could have run, could have escaped, but she’d gone back for her little sister. 8 year old Alicia had frozen in fear. Isabella had pushed her to run, to hide, but in doing so she had been caught. They had done things to her. Scarred her. Humiliated her. Hurt her. Changed her.

Now she did the things. She did the cutting. She did the humiliating. She did the hurting. And the killing. And the killing. And the killing. It was Alicia’s fault that Isabella had been taken. She had done something good when she was 12, saving the little sister she had loved. And paid in pain and torture. Never again had Isabella done something good. And now her ship was sunk. Her crew dead. And it was Alicia’s fault again. Alicia would pay. By Dagon, her sister would pay.

Into the depths

Standing at the top of the sinkhole, my mind was a whirl of emotions. I knew there was something I should remember. A sister? Somewhere in me, hidden memories threatened to stir. Shut away by a mind trying to protect a young girl from terror. Wagons. A campfire. Raiders. Fear. Too scared to run. An older girl with her arms around me. Trusting her. Hide here. Don’t come out. Don’t come out. Her screams as they caught her. Her screams as they…… Isabella!!!!!!

Oh, Desna, help me. She’s my sister. Where is Amaterasu? Help me. I think I must have fainted. The others woke me and I was shaking, but I remembered what had happened. Poor Isabella; what terrible things had happened to her, just for saving me. How had she been driven to what she was now? I needed to save her like she had once saved me, but I knew that Avery and the others would want her dead after she had killed Rosie. Something was happening; the three of them were drawn to the life of piracy and damn the consequences. I, Alicia, who had been the selfish one, the witch, Besmara’s whore, was thinking about the butterfly wings of Desna. About saving teenage prostitutes. About understanding how evil sorceresses had been driven to that extreme.

I did recover and we went down to the water level. The boys shared a potion of water breathing and I used the mermaid tattoo. I did get a brief thrill when Avery’s eyes were drawn to my breasts, outlined as my chemise saturated in the water. Concentrate! I guess I wasn’t quite as innocent as I made out. We entered a beautiful grotto, fronds of seaweed and bizarre rocks. Sadly, also sahuagin and an assault from above by a spell caster above the waterline in this cave. I was blinded by a spell, but Hajiko passed me his mask. Scent replaced vision in a bizarre and eldritch fashion. Of course, the caster was Isabella and I was traumatised to the point of madness when Avery cut her down.

I held her lifeless body in my arms, kissing her cold lips. Avery cast dispel magic which restored my vision and again I kissed her cold lips. Too cold. This was not a person. Not Isabella. A creation of magic. A simulacrum. Strange magic was afoot. She looked just like me, albeit wilder and with different tattoos. Not older as the real Isabella would look if she lived.

From this, we swam on, slaying several sahuagin and releasing a poor, maimed locathah female before entering a dark and terrible temple to Dagon. We faced a sahuagin priestess in brutal combat. Hajiko, badly injured, closed in to battle her. I dazed her by a scream and Tuatara closed into bite her. The battle was savage as Dagon protected her and empowered her. My amulet, gained from the rogue sahuagin grew warm in the temple, but her evil magic hurt my soul; more than the others. Is my soul warmer due to my love of
Amaterasu?

Swimming on, we opened a secret door to find the murdered corpse of Useme’s father, claiming back his sword from Avery. I was terrified again; I hate undead!! Even Amaterasu’s great grandfather. We did slay the revenant shogun and moved on after a brief rest. Tuatura ate another shark. I also made a decision to cast away the amulet of Dagon: it brought me powerful magic, but it was clearly evil. The old Alicia had no qualms about this, but I was changing by the day, growing softer, kinder, sweeter. I wanted always now to do the right thing, not to be selfish and manipulative. I wanted to deserve Amaterasu.

Eventually we found the throne room of the four armed sahuagin King and in a brief but bloody battle slew him and his warriors. To be honest, it was made easy by his tactical stupidity. We finally gained the treasure of Cyrus Wolfe, in its magical chest, freed the locathah and her eggs, and returned triumphant to the ship, in good time to leave before Amaterasu’s father and his fleet. She flew into my arms as I gained the deck, and it was clear that she had been crying. As the incredible treasures were counted by the jubilant crew, she whispered to me, “they are wonderful, but the only treasure that really matters to me is you, safely back to me”. I kissed her. She looked down, then giggled slightly and whispered, “that said, I quite liked the two little gems that your wet shirt revealed when you climbed back on deck!” I think the crew were too busy running gold through their fingers to notice my blush!

A few hours later, sailing away as the afternoon shadows lengthened, we sat together in our favourite place near the back of the ship. I had told Amaterasu everything; about the caverns, about my confusion to do with whatever Isabella was, whether it was the same Isabella as had attacked us earlier, even if my memories were false, even who I really was. My princess had stroked my hair when I got upset, gently kissed me when I grew confused. She had told me of her fears that her father would catch her, of her fears that I wouldn’t come back from the tunnels. She told me how much she loved me.

Always.

Interlude: whispers in the deep

As the two young women cuddled on the deck, their lives as intertwined as their fingers as they clasped hands; as Hajiko Ronin sharpened his blade and practiced his sword style; as Tuatara ate some raw shark, the deep green amulet that had so recently hung between Alicia’s small breasts laying flat on his muscular reptilian chest; as Avery gave orders to the crew that now would follow him to the very hells, such was their belief in him now. As all this happened, below the deck, the Crown of Dagon whispered its message into the deeps, its power awoken by proximity to the two amulets. A whisper resonated in waters so dark that no light could ever brighten them. In waters where the broken ships of the ages lay in ruins. A whisper resonated. And something heard………

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Session 9

TBC

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The Legend of Henry Avery
The Tall Tales and Trials of a Pirate Captain

I grew up on shipboard. My family being old and distinguished mainly in the imperial navy I was following the family tradition.

So I hear father is involved in the Chexian Armada intent on scouring the Shackles free from Pirates, can’t say I am surprised. Always known that he had a deep burning hatred for Pirates. Married though? I never thought he would get over mothers death. Old Admiral Avery marrying without his son there to enjoy the party.

How rude.

I Also suspect that he knows where I am, let’s face it people already know my name, soon I am sure it will be on everyone’s lips… I guess I should take some responsibility for what happened, I did not have to kill the swine but by the gods he deserved it. It was a duel, the rules were not exactly broken. Anyhow my life is better out of the Navy than in it, I was not made to follow orders.

I don’t know if they seek me, thought it best not to risk it. The dead Lord had powerful friends back in the capital.

The pirate life suits me, freedom to go where I please, to do what I want. To forge my own legend as the most daring and famous pirate to ever sail the waters.

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Old Shoguns and sharp swords.

Alicia might well get me killed one of these days. Her flaming tattoo map only being translated by the bloody High Shogun himself… Though I was somewhat distracted by his daughter, a real stunner that one. Though I did see the look Alicia gave her, something the girl seemed to enjoy, that’s for sure.

We ended up at the Shogun’s father, he translated the map for us… It showed way to the legendary hoard of Cyrus Wolf, who was the most legendary and famous pirate of them all, well at least until I take his place. Turns out the son the old Shogun was planning on betraying us and sailing out to take the treasure himself.

Fuck that.

The old man had courage, I grant you that. He sensed his end was near and asked us to ease his passing. I am not one to be shy. I took up his blade, as my fingers touched the metal I felt something. Like a recognition, perhaps it could read the fates and see the riches and glory that lay ahead of me?

The man plunged his knife into his guts.

Messy.

I know when my time comes I want it to mean something… Though let’s face it I am not going to die anytime soon!

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I took the old guys head.

The hilt of the blade went hot, the blood on the metal seeming to darken and then absorb into the metal itself. I felt an instant of communion as Useme’s soul become part of the weapon. My eyes were drawn to Alicia and Amerasru luckily they were too distracted by the old mans passing to notice anything out of the ordinary.

We had to make it back to the ship and get the hell out of there and find the lost riches before any other greedy hands got there first. We didn’t flee, but I admit we made good speed as we ran for The Last Laugh.

No one noticed the Beast as it erupted out of the ground and leapt at us, I nimbly dodged aside, Black was that instant too slow and took the brunt of it’s charge.

I slew the beast, the black bladed katana quickly dispatching its head from its misbegotten shoulders. As the beast died I could feel the old Shoguns satisfaction coming from deep in the blade, clearly some mystical connection formed as I used the blade to ease his suffering.

Blackmatch did not make it, the beast pretty much ripped off poor Blackie’s head from his shoulders. We paused, making ready to carry our companion back for a proper send off but even the fates had not finished with my pilot, the side of the cliff heaved, throwing his body out deep into the waters. Bloody bad luck that, I didn’t even get a chance to grab Sandara’s hat before the bloody deaths claimed his body.

Though we all know he had the social graces of a wounded shark no one could say he was a coward. Let’s be honest, not many a man would venture into a Ghoul Fuck Tent, let alone return for seconds. I remember meeting him for those first few days, down in the bilge he drawn steel on me. By Besmara he even had the audacity to swing at me with his knife… I spared him though I do admit I never forgotten that instant.

He died well and I shall miss him.

Inconvenienced by Blackmatch’s death I had to take the wheel myself, though how much skill was his or from the blessed hat of Besmara he stole from Sandara is a good question. Will need to pick up a new pilot, some good enough to fill Black Matches shoes. That is not going to be easy.

We sailed with all speed to Mancatcher Cove. I saw Alicia and Amaterasu whispering sweet nothings as they cling together. God knows what her game is this time, but what I do know is that it takes more than 5 seconds, a kiss and snuggle to fall in love. She come and spoke to me, I think she expected me to be angry or something. I guess the easiest lies are those that we tell ourselves.

I am not going to get in their way, it’s likely for the best anyhow, it’s not like I loved her and she was probably just using me. Though I admit she was good company, maybe I should talk her round.

Anyhow my love is for Besmara alone, and God knows it will be good to have our Priest ship side once more.

Turns out that Amaterasu is some kind of ninja, though between us I think she is more likely to cut herself than do any real damage. She was throwing these little discs about, not sure what she expected them to do against something the size of that beast, maybe she was just trying to distract the beast? I will have to pick up a good pistol for her… Something pretty and packing a good punch. She is a distracting girl, I can see what Alicia sees in her. An exotic beauty, reminds me of that girl I picked up at Tiger Lillies, I wonder if she has the same talents?

With her come a warrior named Hajiko, he looked like a real Samurai out of legend. Old and experienced with a steady hand. Looks real handy with his oversized Katana, I was planning on recruiting someone to lead the boarding crews, a Master of Marines even. He did say stuff about oaths, and that he broke his oath to the Shogun. Good on him, any oath to that bastard should be broken at least once.

Mancatcher Cove

With my hand on the wheel we made best time ever, though I suspect that Tua Tura with the right training will make a right skilled pilot. It’s good to be able to rely on someone, even if it’s a seven foot mountain of a lizard. He is a quick learner, he can even communicate properly now to the rest of the crew.

I spotted the shrouded cove, it was almost invisible but sharp eyes can pierce even the most hidden of treasure. Out of the Cove come the most disgusting ship I have had the misfortune of laying my eyes upon, even the most poor hard up begger would have been embarrassed to be anywhere near it. I took the reigns from Tua Tura and maneuvered for the attack.

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On board the wreak was some bitch, covered in tattoos far too similar to Alicia’s for my liking… She filed down her teeth, she almost seemed to fit in with the the filth she had masquerading as crew. The bitch was powerful, sending huge blasts of lightening into the Last Laugh, seeing that she needed more than Lightening to take us down she summoned a torrent of fire down onto me. I ignored the flaming rain and focused my will against the witches foul power as it attempted to throw me up into the sky. Rosie was not so fortunate. The poor girl was thrown up high and landed with a sickening lifeless crunch.

She killed one of my crew, for that alone I will hunt her from one ocean to the next.

I outmaneuvered the wreak, ordering the cannons to fire we filled her full of lead. Alicia putting her rigging ablaze soon slowed the wreak down. With one last burst of cannon fire we almost spilt the excuse for a ship apart. With a skilled twist of the wheel I pulled alongside and the grapples were thrown.

Sighting the Witch, I leaped across the decks and dodged past her sorry excuse for a crew and put my sword deep into the bitch’s ribs. Clearly surprised and outclassed by my skill the witch retreated back from my onslaught, she reached out stealing the life’s force of one of the men defending her in some paltry attempt to protect herself. I cut her once more, I could feel the Black blade thrusting for her blood and vengeance, if it was the old Shogun or the Blade communicating I was not sure. I took a moment to ponder what would happen if her soul joined that of the old Shogun Useme’s but she killed Rosie and had to die. As I made ready to take her head she stepped back, leaping over board and vanished beneath the waves.

The bitch, the cowardly scum. She will get what is coming, that I swear even if I have to sail every known sea.

There was not much loot to gain from the junk, taking what was worthwhile we let the wreak sink and made our way into Mancatcher Cove.

We went ashore to search the beach, finding nothing of interest we took the boat back and started for the Last Laugh, nearing the ship we were ambushed by giant sharks and fish men. Tua Tura and the Hajiko the Master at Arms cut into the beasts quickly dispatching the foolish creatures.

Things were looking like they would be quickly settled until the canopy above our heads shambled into life. Even the bravest pirate struggles to fight such a creature. It throw down huge tendrils which ripped into the men, one man it grasped and lifted up to its cursed maw and swallowed him whole.

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Seeing that this fiend was a real threat to my men and ship I threw myself back onto the Last Laugh, dodging its failing limbs I ran to the mast and started climbing.

I could see my friends and crew look stupidity at me with mouths wide open in surprise, but what did they expect? I am not going to let some mouthy horror kill my men. No one gets to harm my men, not without dire consequences.

Sometimes I even surprise myself.

Seeing it rip into my men I threw caution to the wind and almost flew up the rigging to the very top of the mast. Taking my grapple out I sighted on the beast and let fly, my aim as always struck true the grapple securing next to the beast. Climbing the rope, I dodged its attempts to strike me. Now I was close to the beast I could smell its foul breath, steeling myself against the acrid stench I summoned up my focus and with some intense blasts of magic blew the thing apart. Granted, I could have used my magic to become invisible but my men needed to see their Captain respond and put some steel into their spines.

The creature now dead lost its grip on the cliff top, quickly feeling the slack as it gave way and started to fall with me still attached to it. Uttering both a curse and a prayer I turned my fall into a dive… Luckily Alicia had seen the potential danger and had prepared her magics to catch me as I fell. Honestly it was likely Hajiko following in my wake and slipping be off that tipped her off. Will have to thank them both as it would have been a high dive.

We followed the clues and unearthed the burial location of the old Wolfs hoard. Even I was a little aghast when we found that a sinkhole had formed and had sunk the whole loot down deep into the water filled caverns below. Well he old Admiral did teach me that nothing worthwhile comes easy.

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Interlude

Aboard the Devils Breath, a Chelaxian Man O War and Admiral Avery’s personal command ship.

Inside the Captain’s cabin the admiral speaks to a figure swathed in midnight black, a hood obscuring his features though his eyes gleam softly red. “Report.” The admiral commands his tone one used to being obeyed. The figure replies his voice containing an almost snake like quality to it. “I am not yours to command.” It replies it’s eyes gleaming a deeper now almost blood red. The admiral replies his voice cold steel. “You are a gifted servant one that I will use as I see fit.” The creature glares almost murderously but his tone lowers
becoming more servile. “I found him, it was like you said; he was making no pains to hide. He is now Captain of his own Ship, the Last Laugh is how it’s known. Tales flow of his exploits for those willing to listen.”

The creature pauses, his look calculating. “The mission was successful, the pieces are in place and the boy has no idea.” It nods more respectfully “An impressive plan my lord. Getting someone close is a wise, she will…” With a sharp motion of his hand the Admiral cuts the creature off. “Enough.” He commands. “Leave me.” The creature flourishes a bow and vanishes in a flash of smoke.

“Henry why did you run?” He whispers to a now empty cabin.

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Alicia's Diary V
Sisters and Sinkholes

The sea at night is just beautiful; beautiful and romantic. Maybe it’s the soft noise of waves against the wooden hull, or the gentle swell of movement as the ship rises and falls. Perhaps it’s the sense of unfathomable depth below the fragile ship, or the shimmering reflection of the stars and moon on the moving waters. Or the gathering cold in the air, touching our faces, but not our hearts or our bodies as we snuggle beneath the blanket, leaning back against the coil of thick ropes. The word “snuggle” fits so well; I’m in love with her so quickly and so completely. As we drift towards sleep, she kisses my cheek drowsily. I know that tomorrow will come, but for now I’m so perfectly happy, just “snuggling” with Amaterasu.

We sailed on to the disturbingly named Mancatcher Cove, site of the famed treasure of Cyrus Wolf. On arrival, we were attacked by a ship crewed by savage degenerates, led by a vile sorceress. She was pretty enough, but depraved and wicked; her teeth filed to points, her hair wild, face twisted with hatred. Yet there was something strange; her body was covered with tattoos, not the same as my own, but identical in style.

Her crew fought like maniacs, but our cannons were too much for their decrepit vessel, and our strength in the fight too great. Sadly, though, poor Rosie Cuswell died by the tattooed sorceress’ power.

She and I spell-duelled, and though she was the better caster, I held my own and with Avery closing in on her, she leapt over the side, using her mastery of water magic to escape. Yet before she fled, she snarled at me and cried, “farewell, sister. We will meet again.”

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I was shaken by this. I turned to Amaterasu for solace and she held me in her arms, stroking my hair as my head rested on her shoulder. I have no sister. Who is this fierce woman? What story could drive a young woman to be like this? I had called her a bitch in the fight, and tried to kill her with my magic. Perhaps she needed my help instead? I nestled in the arms of my princess. I should mention the shadowy ronin who had joined us earlier. Hajiko was his name I think. An older warrior, worn down by life, yet sworn to protect
Amaterasu. That was just fine by me. He was clearly capable, and she was the most precious thing in the world. He used a large curved blade and wore really cool blue armour, and had a mask that made him look like a blue metal dog, with a sword . Hajiko was good by me.

Inside the cove was strangely beautiful. A dark lagoon, made almost cavelike by a high shroud of what we initially, and wrongly as it happened, took to be tropical vines and lianas. The three boys set out in a rowboat to explore one of the tiny beaches. I stayed, and went into the cabin with Amaterasu. She whispered the word “always” and we were in each other’s arms. Our kisses before had been romantic. These quickly became passionate, frantic. She whimpered and my hands roved over her body, still over her clothes. Her hands cupped my breasts over my blouse, and she then moved her fingers to the buttons, our tongues still tangling in a deep kiss…….

And then the screaming started! Startled, we pulled apart and raced outside to a scene of horror. In the boat, Hajiko, Avery and Tuatara fought against sahuagin mounted upon tiger sharks, but there was worse. The mass of vegetation above had coalesced into a vast beaked creature, like some giant vegetable squid, and was lashing great blood sucking vines down, seizing crew to either drain their life, or draw up, screaming, to its chomping beak. The fight was savage. My spells could only do so much, and it was eventually the courage and agility of Avery, scaling the mast, grappling the beast with a rope, and heroically climbing to close enough to use his cold magic that finally won the day. He was amazing and I was pleased to be able to save him with a feather fall as he fell. He’d been the closest I’d been to finding a man I respected, but I’d realised that I preferred girls, and he’d been good enough to understand that. I cared for him a lot.

Tuatara ate a shark.

Later that night, as we rested, I kissed my princess again, softly this time. She smiled and we decided to wait until we were in a port, with a room and a bed, and candles and wine……and no lurking vegetable carnivores! I loved her so much, so soon.

Sarenrae dawned, and we spied the stair, following the clues till we found the buried treasure, or at least where it had been buried those centuries ago, till a sinkhole had opened and swallowed it to a pit of water. What now, brave pirates? We only have a day before the shogun is likely to arrive. Does the sinkhole link to the waters of the lagoon? Are there more sahuagin lurking there, perhaps with Wolfe’s treasure in their possession? Where is my tattooed “sister”?

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Session 8

The Thresher

Mancatcher Cove

Old Man’s Horde

The Sink Hole

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Alicia's Diary IV
Beauty and the Bulette

We did defeat the undead menace, though to my shame I did little in the battle, save cast a few ineffective spells. Black Match defended our own vessel bravely, whilst Tuatara and Avery leapt heroically on to the ghost ship and brought down Whalebone Pilk and his foul necromantic bell. Avery was sorely hurt by the power of death, but he recovered.

We sailed on to the Ushigawa Isle, where we hoped to decipher the strange writings tattooed on my back. I loved the place; the strange mix of delicate beauty and ritual of the Minkai culture was intoxicating, as was the rice wine!

I visited a lovely geisha called Tigerlily; we talked about poetry and calligraphy. We performed a dance of my relationship with Maksana. We drank tea in a strange ritual. We did make love, but it was weird; what came before was just as special. She was so sweet and pretty.

The next day we visited a scribe, but he refused to translate the tattoo. He actually seemed scared, telling us that it was in the Royal script and that only the Shogun could translate it.

After Black Match bought a lemur, we visited a dwarves smith to find out about the mantis blade. I’m ashamed to say that the old Alicia resurfaced, and I teased BM with a made up story about his father.

Anyway, by chance the Shogun visited the smithy, and we were able to speak with the formidable Minkai Lord. And everything changed……….

He was with his daughter, Princess Amaterasu. I can’t find the words to describe her beauty when I saw her. Her hair was purest white, her eyes were sapphires, her kimono of saffron silk, her face entrancing with a modest fan in her delicate hand. She was so perfect. Our eyes met. I can’t describe the feelings that went through me. Nothing mattered anymore from the instant I saw her.

Almost in a trance, I was aware that the shogun, who seemed far nicer than his reputation, examined the tattoo, and offered to come to our inn the following day having consulted ancient scrolls. Looking back, maybe we should have suspected that a man of his station was willing to come to us?

That evening, we received a message to visit an alley in urgency. Half suspecting an ambush, we were met by a black clad ninja. Clearly female, with a figure to die for in close fitting silks, and when I saw her eyes, I knew who she was. Beauty like Amaterasu’s could never be disguised. She was the sun and the stars.

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The princess explained that her father was an evil man; he had immediately understood the writing on the treasure map, and planned to kill us at the appointed hour on the morrow. Amaterasu promised to take us to her grandfather, the former shogun, now imprisoned in a small house, set within a wild garden guarded by a terrible beast.

We reached the old man without encountering the beast. Amaterasu had already slain the two human guards. The former shogun was a great man; he embodied honour. He translated the message, but only if we would assist him to commit seppuku, and that Avery would then wield his katana with honour, unlike his treacherous and greedy son.

I stood next to the trembling Amaterasu as her father prepared. I whispered to the old man that I would protect his granddaughter with my life and my soul. She slipped her arm around me, and we held each other as the deed was done. The current shogun would face that a greater man than he had died with honour.

We had to meet our ship at the bay at the edge of the city, so we fled quickly. Amaterasu’s small hand held mine as we fled. It felt so special.

But then the beast attacked. Bursting through the ground. Huge, horrific, like a shark, with clawed feet and savage teeth and thick armour. It leapt into the air, and crashed down on Black Match. I heard the sound of breaking bone; Black Match cried in pain, and weakly lashed out with his sword, but the monster had him pinned. Avery and Tuatara rushed in, swinging weapons into the beast. Amaterasu threw two shuriken, I blasted the power of lighting into it, but could only scream as its jaws closed over the helpless ranger and bit hard. So much blood.

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The beast expired with further blows and magic, but we were too late. Black Match was dead. I’d been horrible to him, and I regretted it now though too late. I needed to be better.

Time meant we had to flee to our ship, joined by a ronin warrior who was exiled from the shogun’s service, and we left, sailing into the night. We knew where to go, but also knew that the wicked shogun also knew the way, and that we would meet him again, especially now that he would be enraged at his own daughter.

His daughter. His daughter. As the lantern lights of Ushigawa twinkled in the receding distance, I stood on the stern castle, hand in hand with Amaterasu, looking back to her homeland, possibly for the last time. She was so beautiful.So gentle. So courageous. So the person I wanted to be with forever.

She looked into my eyes. Sapphires and emeralds met, and she whispered a question in a single word, a question that asked a million words;

“Always?”

I answered, “always.” We kissed gently. Alicia and Amaterasu. Always.

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Session 7

Defeating Pilk

Genzai

Useme

Bulette

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Alicia's Diary III
Entry 3

Pilk.jpg

Alicia arranged for her girlfriend to have passage home to her family in Andoren, and the two young women parted tearfully at Bloodcove docks. After three solid days of kissing and lovemaking the pirate sorceress and the teenage prostitute had found strength in each other, and Alicia in particular seemed to have changed. The selfish, manipulative witch had turned into a gentle, caring girl, at least as far as Maksana was concerned. Alicia waited a long time, watching as the Andoren privateer sailed over the horizon, and tears flowed freely from her green eyes as she finally turned away.

Of course, gentle and caring doesn’t happen all the time! Alicia took great delight in using emotive appeals to manipulate Blackmatch into paying over the odds for two slaves from the Aspis. She also didn’t seem to see much contradiction between loving Maksana and resuming her sexual relationship with Avery. The group also discovered the need to sail to a Tien pirate isle in order to translate the strange script tattooed on Alicia’s back so long ago.

On the way a Chelaxian galley was surprised by the Last Laugh as it defeated a smaller pirate vessel. A savage but brief fight ensued and ended with the capture of the Chelaxian vessel. Avery now commanded a fleet! They returned briefly to Tidewater Rock. Blackmatch attempted to bully Alicia over the earlier death of the hostage, but a brief tremble and tear-filled eyes soon pulled Tuatura and Avery to her side and forced an apology.

But Alicia’s triumphant smile was soon to be wiped from her face ad the party was to be the prey……..the prey of Whalebone Pilk and his ship, the Deathknell!

" life was so good. I was still in love with Maksana; I think I always will be, but I had done the right thing in arranging for her to go home. She was so beautiful, but too gentle to long survive the life so brutally forced on her, and I would never be able to protect her in the Shackles. Because I loved her, I let her go. I still wanted her, but I had done the right thing.
I found some consolation in Avery’s arms. I found some consolation in manipulating Blacksand. But I wanted my Maksana!

We did gain a Chelaxian ship and then headed on to a Tien pirate to translate what was on my back, and try to follow the strange messages, and then it happened. We saw the fog, we heard the tolling of the bell, and the old crewman Croop told us the legend of Whalebone Pilk, and how he hunted eternally for victims to feed his obsession, to feed his undead crew.
I’m shaking uncontrollably as his whaler closes in, I can barely breathe, I’m crying, I’m shaking in terror, I feel like I’m going to faint. The undead are coming and I can’t face them. I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t. Help me. Maksana, help me. They’re going to get me. Please no"

The witch of Tidewater Rock shook helplessly in terror as the brine zombies advanced.

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Session Six
Voyage to Genzai

Bloodcove

The Famished Mane

Return to Tidewater Rock

Whalebone Pilk

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Alicia's Diary II
Entry 2

Whore.jpg

We set sail for Bloodcove, with a view to ransoming Marracone to his father, but happened upon an abandoned whaling ship, sitting heavy in the water. I was nervous; fear of haunted ghost ships scare me, but what lurked there was equally terrible. Sahuagin! The sea devils attacked us in numbers, aided by a shark, in the hold of the listing vessel. I used my magic in battle, and Avery risked his life to save me from one of the beasts. He is a good man, and near paid a price for helping me. Black Match battled their mutant leader in the briny darkness. I’d never been in a fight so bloody and fierce. It was truly scary to face death in a salty hold, from fish men, who are known to rape human girls before eating them. I actually wanted to cry when we prevailed, from the shock of battle, but I held it together. The wound in my side hurt so badly!

One strange thing; the mutant sahuagin had an amulet of deep platinum, with jade colour that matched my eyes and a strange magic that stirred as I touched it.

Two nights passed. I slept with Avery and flirted with Sandara, albeit with limited progress before arriving in the slave port of Bloodcove, built among the roots of what must be the God of all mangrove trees, rising slim idly from the iron rich waters of the Mwangi river, and slick with the moral detritus of centuries of slavery, depravity and piracy. It was Alicia’s kind of town! Drink, fun, sex and partying.

The Governor was a somewhat disheveled backwater colonial, who dismissed us with nary a word about reward, and our day got worse when a fire breathing wyvern attacked us at the docks. Welcome to Bloodcove!
The battle was horrific: both Avery and Black Head were scalded by its breath, and temporarily blinded, leaving Tuatara and myself to battle the beast with spell and spear. In the end we triumphed, slaying the wyvern, but not before poor Avery and Black Match nearly died from the beast’s poison sting.

Still, the scary battle saw us gain a good relationship with the Aspis consortium, whose agent was also on the dock when the creature, maddened by the scarlet ague it transpired, had attacked. She did us a good deal on our plunder, despite Black Beard having shouted threats to her in false assumption that she had summoned the monster. He is a mighty warrior as long as intelligence isn’t an issue.

Finally, we were able to party in the Witchlight Inn. Avery and I had discussed and agreed that our relationship was an open one, and that we didn’t own each other. I drew many admiring glances from pirates as I danced, but I was in softer mood after such traumatic battles, and wanted soft arms around me, not muscular ones. Sandara was so pretty, but only seemed interested in alcohol; oh well, she’d had her chance, and I wasn’t going to weep if she didn’t want to play……

The girls and women working the inn were all of a type, save for one. She was about my age, maybe a year or two younger, auburn haired and pretty, but her face was marked by three scars, made by blade. I offered her a drink. She accepted. “My name is Alicia.”
“I’m Maksana,” she replied. Her eyes were blue, and intense, meeting my green. She sipped her drink nervously, “I….I need to work” she murmured, beginning to rise.
“I know” I took her hand and led her from the common room, ignoring the stares and whispered comments, walking hand in hand to the stairs.
“why me?” she asked in the bedroom, “I’m not pretty”, she touched the scars.
“You’re beautiful”, I answered, my own fingers gently tracing the same scars, “who?”
“A Chelaxian Lord. I displeased him. He had me whipped, then cut my face, then left me here as he sailed on to Sargava.” Tears were in her eyes.
I kissed her.
I kissed her again.
“Only if you want to…..” I whispered. She answered by her fingers unbuttoning my blouse.

Hours later, I awoke with the light. Maksana lay beside me. I traced my fingers softly across her naked body. She woke and smiled at me. I lost myself in that smile and in the memories of the night before. “I want to stay here all day”, I murmured, “making love to you”
This time her answer was her left arm sliding around my neck to pull me down to her kiss.

Something weird was happening to the Witch of Tidewater Rock. I was going all soft for a scarred and abused girl in a smugglers inn. Soon the Last Laugh would be repaired and supplied. Avery, Tuatura, Black Death and the rest would want to sail.

Far, far beneath in the abysmal deep, something stirred. Something vast awakened. Sandara, flame haired priestess of Besmara, felt a faint disturbance as she prayed for her prayers, but put it down to too much wine. Tuatura shivered slightly as he feasted on his chicken breakfast. Avery could not explain why he felt a twinge of unease as he left the inn to search out cannons to buy. Alicia cried out in passion as Maksana’s tongue did its work, and clung to her young lover with a fierceness born of more than just sex. Black Leg didn’t notice; he was in the outhouse having a shit.

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