For certain minutes at the least
That crafty demon and that loud beast
That plague me day and night
Ran out of my sight;
Though I had long perned in the gyre,
Between my hatred and desire.
I saw my freedom won
And all laugh in the sun.
Now that the loud beast ran
There was no portrait in the Gallery
But beckoned to sweet company,
For all men’s thoughts grew clear
Being dear as mine are dear.
But soon a tear-drop started up,
For aimless joy had made me stop
Beside the little lake
To watch a white gull take
A bit of bread thrown up into the air;
Now gyring down and perning there
He splashed where an absurd
Portly green-pated bird
Shook off the water from his back;
Being no more demoniac
A stupid happy creature
Could rouse my whole nature.
Yet I am certain as can be
That every natural victory
Belongs to beast or demon,
That never yet had freeman
Right mastery of natural things,
And that mere growing old, that brings
Chilled blood, this sweetness brought;
Yet have no dearer thought
Than that I may find out a way
To make it linger half a day.
O what a sweetness strayed
Through barren Thebaid,
Or by the Mareotic sea
When that exultant Anthony
And twice a thousand more
Starved upon the shore
And withered to a bag of bones!
What had the Caesars but their thrones?
William Butler Yeats
Our heroes were standing in the ritual chamber, surrounded by broken bits of baboon-golems and bloody orangutan chunks. Doña Teresa was free, but severely bloodied, most of the skin on her arms and legs having been flayed off. Leo and Rummy put their heads together and decided to attempt a spur-of-the-moment skin graft operation — they did, after all, at least have basic surgical tools with them. Of course, when Leo accidentally handed Rummy a bone saw when he asked for a suture kit, things quickly went south, and she soon passed out from blood loss. Caddis stepped in and, together, he and Rummy were able to at least stabilize the Doña.
They then carefully examined the five large pearls lying about, and, finding them to be magical and not trapped in any apparent way, distributed them — one each to the five officers. Rummy expressed an interest in copying the writing on the walls, in hopes that it would be a further continuation of his book. Adriana and Thaduk gathered up the Doña’s battered body and hauled her out to rest and recover with the sheeple, while Caddis and Leo hung back to help Rummy.
It took a solid hour to make rubbings of the etchings in the ritual chamber. Once completed, they described a process by which large numbers of people could be converted into their demonic selves without having to be killed first, and with only a single sacrifice necessary. In a much longer and more elaborate process than the others described in the book, the sacrifice would be slowly tortured to death and their tortured soul converted into a gem — a large black pearl to be exact. One of these pearls, anointed with blood and crushed, would then enact the demonic “resurrection” on all living creatures in a very large area.
They backtracked through the temple complex looking for other rooms with similar etchings. In the room with the handles gorilla statues, they copied a text describing torturous process by which one could graft demonic limbs onto an injured (or not-so-injured) mortal frame. Then they remembered the room with the mob of baboons, and that its walls had also been inscribed.
Wounded and heavily depleted of spells, they discussed at length how they might deal with the baboon horde. They had a fair number of tools at their disposal — including Leo’s bells and Rummy’s snowglobe. Finally Caddis pointed out that he still had a wand of arrow eruption and that they were all packing crossbows.
Luck, it seemed, was on their side with the simple approach. They kicked open the door and Rummy, the best shot among them, fired a bolt that went strait through three of the baboons, killing all three instantly. A quick wave of the wand from Caddis and this deadly bolt exploded into a hurricane of shrapnel, tearing the rest of the monkey horde apart.
Rummy immediately went to work cleaning the blood off the walls to get to the etchings, while Caddis and Leo made their way across the room to examine the throne on the dais at the far end — which resembled a monkey sitting cross-legged, with the legs forming the seat. The floor immediately in front of the throne was worn smooth, with scuff marks indicating that the throne had been dragged away from the wall behind it on multiple occasions.
Dragging the throne away, they found a small room with a pair of iron chests. Caddis and Leo managed to distract Rummy from his rubbings long enough for him to confirm that the chests were locked but not trapped. Of course, as soon as he picked the lock and lifted the lid on the first, it erupted with gouts of flame, mostly to Leo’s detriment, and appeared to be empty. Caddis searched the inside of the “empty” chest and found a false bottom. Lifting it he found a beautiful, red stoneware mask of a baboon’s head, which radiated considerable magic.
The second had no such dangers, and was filled with piles of spanish coins, a shining metal buckler, a wand, and an iron left-handed gorilla paw. Caddis took one look at the buckler and said, seemingly jokingly, that it must be cursed and would probably melt your hand off. Rummy, of course, yelled over to Leo, who was off nursing his wounds, that they’d found a nice buckler for him. Leo obligingly reached in, and promptly started screaming in pain as all the flesh on his left hand melted away, leaving a useless skeletal claw. Already charred and battered, Leo passed out from the pain.
After another hour, Rummy finished his rubbings, this time revealing ways to use the power generated by human sacrifices to enact lesser forms of healing—curing diseases or regenerating lost limbs—rather than wholesale resurrection. Shoving this fourth appendix into his book, they gathered up Leo’s body and made their way out to meet the others.
With everyone completely spent, wounded, and exhausted, they pitched camp in the ruins outside the temple and slept peacefully through the night. When Leo came to the next morning, he used his magic to heal himself and Teresa to the best of his abilities. With Teresa restored, the sheeple resumed human form and quickly packed up for the long trek back to the village.
As the traveled, Doña Teresa brought up their previous contract. “I know we agreed that Tauranga would serve as a safe port of call for you and your ships, but, I can’t stay here knowing that those things live on the island. Take us with you…” she pleaded. Caddis agreed, but was skeptical that the sheeple would be of any use to them.
Then, of course, Rummy and Leo, eager to test out the shadow pearls suggested that they might be able to use them to convert the sheeple en masse. Leo pitched the idea to the Doña as a ritual by which they could “instantly make the sheeple into better fighters and sailors”. After her capture, flaying, torture, and near-sacrifice, she was much too afraid of being left behind to refuse.
After two days of uneventful backtracking, they arrived at Tauranga. The Doomplum and the Damned Jewel were called in and the village was stripped. By nightfall, everything was loaded up. Caddis ordered the Jewel to withdraw to the horizon, as far as the could sail while still be able to see the village. Teresa ordered the sheeple to assemble and form ranks on the shore, while she and the officers boarded the Doomplum and took to the skies above them. Once they reached a seemingly safe height, not really knowing how large of an area the pearls could effect, Rummy pricked Teresa’s hand and told her to rub the blood onto one of the pearls.
The pearl immediately began to hiss and smoke. The pitched it over the rail. As it fell, it left a stream of blood-like droplets behind it, and belched out clouds of sickly smoke, among which could be seen strange demonic faces with gnashing teeth. It struck the ground by the sheeple with a massive explosion, sending out a shockwave like a boiling wave of blood. The wave of blood spread and spread, out to nearly a mile (though thankfully not up), much too reminiscent of the strange vision the officers had when they brought Thaduk back.
Immediately the sheeple all began to transform, becoming neither sheep nor human, but some kind of savage hybrid, wild-eyed, crazed, and thirsty for blood. As the sheeple transformed, the Doña screamed and began clawing at her own temples. The demonic sheeple turned on each other, biting and clawing.
Leo grabbed Teresa’s shoulder and tried to calm her down. She looked up, her previously pale eyes flashing red, and soon resumed a veneer of calm. Below the sheeple, clearly still linked to her, left off their attacks and reformed their ranks. They had lost a few lambs to the slaughter, but not enough to matter.
Of course, the sheeple had not been the only things effected. The horses in the village had turned to twisted, equine mockeries (Thaduk would probably approve), but so had everything else within a mile of the village. Tiny fire breathing ants boiled up from the ground, flocks of demonic petrels and shearwaters wheeled up from where they’d been nesting on the shore, and the ground shook as a half-crazed diplodocus thundered out of the forest.
Caddis signaled for the Damned Jewel to come in before things could get too out of hand. With brain-washed precision, Doña had the sheeple pile into the Jewel, packing themselves cheek to jowl in the hold, like they’d been on the ride over. Tilly and her sailors transferred back to the Doomplum, and Leo, Teresa, and Thaduk took command of the jewel. Within an hour, the crews were sorted out, with the Doomplum’s original compliment restored and the Damned Jewel manned entirely by sheeple, directed by Teresa’s telepathic commands and Leo’s instruction.
Once the two ships were underway, Rummy and Caddis went down to confront their two remaining prisoners. It had been several days and Fishguts was starting to get hungry for a sacrifice again. The two officers approached the prisoners and gave them a simple choice, give them something useful or valuable, or die. The prisoners put their heads together, talking in hushed tones in Latin, hoping the “uneducated pirates” would not understand. Caddis, of course, was not uneducated and overheard them discussing, but dismissing, revealing the routes used by the Spanish treasure fleets bringing gold back from the new world.
Rummy took the comte aside to interrogate while Caddis worked over the treasurer. The comte turned the tables of the negotiation on Rummy, invoking again his great value as a hostage, such that Rummy could not bring himself to sacrifice the man, though that did not stop him from cutting out the comte’s tongue.
A quick charm spell from Caddis easily got the treasurer talking though, and the man soon happily added the treasure routes to the Doomplum’s charts. The “Golden Galleons” were likely to be off the coast of Acapulco this time of year, so they would have plenty of time to finish their business at Rickety’s Squibs and Moonplum before making plans to intercept the ships near Manilla.
The beans thus spilled, Rummy and Caddis lead the treasurer down to the bilges and proceeded to hang him upside down, saw him in half, and toss the leftovers to Fishguts.
Experience and Rewards:
- Other Rewards:
- 4 Shadow Pearl WMDs (weapons of mass demonization)
- 3 additional appendixes for Rummy’s Demonologia Sexualis (detailing how to use human sacrifice to perform lesser healing, how to graft demonic body parts onto mortal frames, and how to create Shadow Pearls)
- 250 pieces of eight and 250 Spanish reales (2250s value)
- a Wand of Aid (50 charges)
- a left-handed Gorilla paw made of iron
- the Mask of Demogorgon
- Doña Teresa and 417 Demonic Sheeple shocktroops added to the crew
- Detailed shipping routes for the Manila Galleons (the infamous Spanish treasure ships)