Children running into izba,
Calling father, dripping sweat:
“Daddy, daddy! come — there is a
Deadman caught inside our net.”
“Fancy, fancy fabrication.”
Grumbled off their weary Pa,
“Have these imps imagination!
Deadman, really! ya-ha-ha.
“Well the court may come to bother -
What’ll I say before the judge?
Hey you brats, go have your mother
Bring my coat; I better trudge.”
“Show me, where?” — “Right there, Dad, farther!”
On the sand where netting ropes
Lay spread out, the peasant father
Saw the veritable corpse.
Badly mangled, ugly, frightening,
Blue and swollen on each side.
Has he fished in storm and lightning,
Or committed suicide?
Could this be a careless drunkard,
Or a mermaid-seeking monk,
Or a merchandizer, conquered
By some pirates, robbed and sunk?
Through the clouds, the moon was showing.
Well? the naked man was there,
Down his hair the water flowing,
Wide his eyes, unmoved the stare.
Numb the dreadful-looking body,
Arms were hanging feeble, thin;
Crabs and cancers, black and bloody,
Sucked into the swollen skin.
Long the dead man as one living
Rocked on waves amid the foam.
Surly as he watched him leaving,
Soon our peasant headed home.
— Alexander Pushkin
The battle won, our heroes went ashore to the wreckage of RIckety’s Squibs to look for survivors. They were met on the shore by three people coming down the cliff-trail from the lookout. Henrye was in the lead, followed by two women — Ellie Dryden, the captain of the Sea Lash, and Chandra Goodwin, sacred prostitute and widow of the old lookout. Beyond these three, the place was in ruins; every shack destroyed, every body slain.
Henrye made a bee-line for Leo and Rummy, his face wan with a mixture of fright, confusion, and shame. “Much as I hate to say it, I’m glad to see you…” he started. It took very little prodding to find that he had apparently, in less than a week of hanging out with the two women hiding from Herrera, been unfaithful to his wife, and was loath to return to Moonplum. That is, until Leo pointed out that Moonplum might have already been destroyed by Herrera in the nearly a year that they’d been gone, making his unfaithfulness moot. At which point his shame turned to rage and he began egging them to leave for home immediately.
Chandra, meanwhile, sidled up to Rummy and offered her services on the ship. He refused personally, siting that he was a one-woman-man, but said the crew would be happy to have her. Good enough apparently, given her general “Get me off of this rock” gist.
When Henrye was done blubbering, Ellie, arms crossed and glaring in the background, marched up to Leo and planted a stiff finder in his sternum. “You owe me a ship. That bastard was looking for you and he sunk my boat!” Leo made no delays in offering her captaincy of the Jóia Maldito so long as she stayed on with their armada. She readily accepted, what with the caravel being a decent upgrade from the junk she had been sailing, and having witnessed their success against Herrera’s iron-clad (and the fact that they now had an iron-clad).
They called the crews ashore to sift through the rubble for anything useful. Ellie went through the village animating the bodies of the dead squibs as a skeleton crew. Wunorse, the carpenter, pointed out that the Doomplum had taken a severe beating to its keel, what with being dropped out of the sky, and needed to be careened for repairs — again. The officers agreed to give him three days. The sheep quickly cleared the debris from the drydock and repairs on the Doomplum began immediately.
As the repairs were underway, Leo, Rummy, and Thaduk discussed what to do with their time. It was briefly opined that they might go exploring the island again, looking for treasure, until Leo pointed out that the only likely sources of treasure were sapient settlements and the only sapient creatures they’d met on the island were ogres. Instead, Leo had Captain Herrera’s body brought out and flexed a new spell — Create Treasure Map.
After churning out a map of Captain Herrera’s valuables, Rummy had the chest of corpse disposal hauled to land. The inside was filled with liquid — all that remained of the nereid. Leo, called for a bucket, to much haranguing by Rummy for being elitist and not getting it himself, and the striking up of a song with the help of the sheeple and the kittens. When a crewman delivered the requested item, Leo carefully scooped out the liquid (holding the bucket handle with his hook hand), poured it into a wide shallow dish, and used cork floaters to craft a treasure map from Amphitrite’s remains.
As none of the locations on the maps were nearby, and certainly none on the island, they opted to chill the fuck out for a while and get some much needed rest. Thus, three days later, the Dümplom, the Red Vengeance, and the Jóia Maldito set sail for Moonplum — in good repair, with the officers fully recovered, and the crews well rested (if not necessarily in good spirits after the recent carnage).
Three days out from Nouvelle Calédonie, they spotted a quartet of Imperial Frigates on the horizon, sailing on a similar course. Leo suggested that it looked like they had not yet been spotted. The suggestion to attack was struck down on the grounds that they were still seeking an official Letter of Marque and Reprisal from the Empire, and thus should probably not piss off the Imperial Navy. After some debate about whether to change course and avoid them entirely, it was decided that the the Dümplom and Red Vengeance should hang back and the caravel sail on under an Imperial merchant ensign to seek information.
The three ships withdrew and transferred crews, moving the officers to the Jóia Maldito and hiding Ellie’s undead sailors belowdecks. Thus a commandeered Happsburg caravel, christened in Portuguese, flying an Imperial ensign, with a non-uniformed, mixed-race, mixed-gender crew and no letters set out to make contact with with four fully armed fifth-rate ships of the Imperial Navy.
Leo accelerated the Jóia Maldito with some conjured wind and they soon neared the frigates and hoisted a flag calling for parley. The trailing ship, the HMS Bridgewater, caught sight of them and slowed and drew alongside. A stiff-necked lieutenant shouted across to them through a bullhorn.
The conversation was short and polite, as the navy-man informed them that there was an unusually high amount of pirate activity in the region of late, and that cannon-fire had been heard around the north-coast of New Caledonia not three days prior. Rummy said that they were merchants, and informed the naval officer that they’d been involved in the fire-fight, and had killed the infamous Captain Herrera.
He lied well, though not entirely consistently, and the lieutenant nodded along and seemed to hang on his story for a while, even suggesting that they should tow the hulk of Herrera’s ship to Port Montague to claim the bounty. Leo, meanwhile, noticed that the Bridgewater’s signaler was signing to the other ships to come about and circle the Jóia Maldito. Leo nudged Caddis and Thaduk as Rummy continued to try to sort out his story.
As the other ships began to change course to intercept them, Caddis gave the order to leave no witnessess alive. Caddis apologized to Rummy and started singing. Twenty-four of the Bridgewater’s sailors dove overboard and started swimming towards them. Thaduk grabbed a long boat and chucked it at the other ship, hitting the wheel squarely, shattering it and sending the helmsman toppling over the far rail. A gust of wind and a spin of the wheel from Leo turned them around, heading back for the safety of the rest of their little fleet.
As the three other frigates closed, the Dümplom, acting-captained by Adriana, and piloted by Zarina, dropped out of the clouds and opened fire on the trailing ship, the HMS Anglesea. Thaduk grabbed another long-boat, which Rummy hastily doused with a flask of alchemist’s fire, and chucked it at the Bridgewater, lighting up their sails. With no helm, no sails, and more than a score men overboard, it was quite effectively taken out of the fight.
The Red Vengeance rowed in, driven by a couple hundred enraged sheeple, and unleashed full broadsides on the two remaining ships — the HMS Torrington and the HMS Mermaid. With Riaris Krine commanding the gunnery teams, and fifty-three cannons at her disposal, the Torrington was quickly blown to Kingdom Come with most of the crew dying before they could reach water. The Mermaid returned fire, but the heavy metal plating on the Vengeance turned aside all but a few grazing cannon balls.
Thaduk yanked Herrera’s Coat off of Caddis and threw it on. In an instant, he vanished, appeared right beside the Mermaid’s helmsman, caved in the man’s head with a swift kick, and reappeared on the Jewel (and promptly returned the borrowed coat). Caddis followed up by dropping glitterdust on the aft-castle, blinding the rest of the command crew, while Leo unleashed a swarm of monkeys into their rigging.
The Anglesea, seeing the havoc done by the Red Vengeance, raised sails and ran. It ran out cannons, and tried to fire a broadside on the harrying Dümplom. Unfortunately for them, a mishap explosion within blew out a side of the ship and told the pirates of a mishap on their gunnery deck. The Vengeance and Dümplom chased it down, and quickly boarded it, unleashed a wave of flesh-eating demonic sheep which quickly overwhelmed the ship’s crew.
The Mermaid, with its command disabled and its rigging tangled with monkeys tried to retaliate against the Damned Jewel. The Jewel took a broadside, hard, and fired back with its four guns — no real match for the Mermaid’s thirty. Thaduk, thinking fast (for Thaduk), ordered one of the crew to fetch him a cannon ball. Two crewman carefully balanced the ball on the rail using lighting poles, while Thaduk assumed horse form and turned around, looking back over his flanks. One amazingly well-placed kick sent the ball careening with near-cannon force to strike the Mermaid right at the water line, blowing a sizable hole in her hull. The Mermaid began to sink and a return pass from the Dümplom finished her off, with all remaining hands abandoning ship.
With two frigates completely destroyed and a third killed to a man by sheep, the Jóia Maldito pulled abreast of the Bridgewater and demanded their surrender. Rummy and the skeleton crew escorted the stiff-necked Lieutenant, Robert Pett by name, and a hundred other sailors down into the hold to be locked up.
Caddis, meanwhile, dove into the water to round up or finish off the other survivors and was immediately stabbed by mermaid armed with a wicked (and wickedly electrified) trident. Dozens of Imperial sailors flailed in the water nearby. He howled, using the power of his mask to turn the drowning sailors into much-more-rapidly drowning baboons, then used Herrera’s coat to jaunt back to the Jewel, leaving icy death in his wake.
Back on the ship, Caddis told the others about the mermaid threat. They put their heads together to figure out what they knew about merfolk. Leo and Caddis knew quite a bit about mermaid anatomy — they were exclusively female, gave birth to live young, one-in-three could grow legs and walk on shore. Thaduk, in a flash of inspiration, told them a story he’d heard about a small group of mermaids that had been knighted by Emperor Prospero and given special dispensation to serve in the Navy despite being female.
Rummy, still sorting out prisoners, looked over the rail and noticed that he could no longer see any sailors thrashing in the water. In fact, he could see no one in the water at all, save a few dead baboons. Caddis went invisible and dove overboard again. He soon messaged the others to tell them that a small army of nearly three-hundred apparently deliberately-drowned sailors were swimming towards the now empty Anglesea, led by the mermaid.
He swam after them and caught the mermaid and several of the drowned in another blast glitterdust, blinding them and lighting them up to those up above, but could not stop the swarm of undead from swimming under the Anglesea and opening all her bilge-hatches, scuttling her completely.
The mermaid, blinded, began to sing, conjuring up a cloud of near-impenetrable inky darkness around herself and Caddis, almost like an octopus. Caddis, nonplussed, messages the Jewel to deploy fishing nets. A quick pass, guided by both the inky smear and the glittering motes in the water, netted them a struggling and well-armed mermaid…
To be continued…
Experience and Rewards:
- Most of your crew has leveled up
- Captain Herrera’s Treasure Map
- Amphitrite’s Treasure Map
- 1 5th-rate Imperial Friggate, the HMS Bridgewater (30 guns, crew up to 200, 1450 tons). Sails burned, wheel smashed, and covered with British ensigns. Definitely going need to get that baby squibbed…if the squibs weren’t destroyed.
- ~100 prisoners taken from the Bridgewater, including Sr. Wardroom Officer, Lieutenant Robert Pett. The Captain was not found aboard.
- A mermaid in a net (still well-armed and still struggling)…