Pirates! Session #3
- “Dirty”, better bosun than captain
- Gabby, better gunner than pilot
- Mo’, better thief than sailor
- Raphael, better interrogator of spirits than fearsome pirate
Players absent, and thus receiving no screen time:
- “Papa” Sean Geaux, quartermaster and head bokor
- “Mad” Mags, ropes and swift justice
Picking up where we left off, the beaches of Port Royal were under attack by a force of reanimated drowned sailors. The air was full of screams and smoke, as the attackers chased townsfolk and put several dockside buildings to the torch. Boats at anchor were also under attack, with zombies climbing aboard. Their battle cry: “Give us Van der Decken!”
Our “heroes” had rendezvoused on the quarterdeck of their single-masted sloop, La Fille Joile, where Captain Courvoisier was shouting orders at the diminished crew. Several crew members were patrolling the rail with pikes, pushing back any approaching dead men. Furthermore, the harbor mouth was threatened by a two-masted Spanish frigate. Courvoisier asked for ideas.
Dirty suggested that they leave the harbor as quickly as possible, to get out of the area of zombie infestation, and if the Spanish ship tried to stop them, they should flee, making a race of it. It was pointed out that all things being equal, the Spanish ship was likely to have a bit of a speed advantage over the sloop.
Gabby liked the overall plan of leaving town, but instead of running, wanted to engage the frigate with cannon. She was confident that they would prevail in such a contest. It was pointed out that given the size of the other ship, it likely carried more cannon, and would put up quite a fight.
Mo’ offered a variation: rather than a blast-’em-to-splinters battle with cannon, what if they played to their own strengths, boarded the frigate, and took the battle to hand-to-hand? Courvoisier tossed Mo’ his spyglass and sent him aloft to get a look at the other ship. (Later, it was noted that he never asked for it back, so now Mo’ has a high-quality spyglass!) Close examination showed the warship to be well-manned, unlike their own ship, with a large compliment of soldiers with muskets.
Raphael said he didn’t care how did it, he would be happy with any plan that killed Spaniards. They destroyed his family, he said, and now they needed to pay.
Courvoisier invoked his mantra (“Is there money in it?”) and announced his plan. They would head for open water, hoping for the best. If the Spanish ship tried to stop them, they would fight back: he instructed Gabby to go below and get the cannons ready to fire on the other ship’s masts.
As our heroes’ ship came around to make a run for the ocean, almost all eyes were aimed ahead, at the Spanish ship. From his post aloft, though, Mo’ was keeping an eye out in all directions. He saw that they weren’t the only ones leaving town. Several other ships and small boats were heading in the same direction; some appeared to be other Brethren of the Coast, but at least one rich man’s yacht was in the impromptu fleet. With a shout, Mo’ drew the others’ attention to this fact. Quickly, the pirates modified their course, allowing several of the other ships to draw ahead, allowing them to be the first to engage.
The Spanish ship moved to block the harbor, and was the first to fire, sending a warning shot over the bow of the lead boat. The Port Royal ships responded with ragged cannon fire. Courvoisier gave the order to fire, and Gabby went to work, pounding at the frigate’s masts with the ship’s 12-pound guns. Visibility declined rapidly as black powder smoke filled the air across the entire harbor mouth.
On the deck of La Fille Joile, one the the men handling the sails took a bullet and fell. A rope went slithering away, loose, and a sail started flapping, dumping wind, which brought the entire ship up short. Most of the crew slipped and fell at the unexpected change in speed. Atop the mast, Mo’ just took a firmer grip and rode it out without complaint.
Gabby ordered the cannons reloaded with chain shot, and fired another volley. With loud splintering and screams from the men aloft, one of the frigate’s masts came down, falling across the deck and dragging in the water to one side. Obviously, this severely affected the frigate’s handling. It slewed off-course and slowed considerably.
Meanwhile, Raphael had gone tumbling across the deck after the loose rope. He caught it, got a good grip, and leaned into it with all his might. Between his quick action on the deck and Mo’s efforts aloft, they managed to get the sails under control. Seconds later, with the rest of the crew back on their feet and at their stations, they were again able to get up to speed.
At that point, it became a limping chase. Courvoisier gave orders, and they executed a classic pirate maneuver to shake off pursuit. They took the ship across a nearby reef, where the water was deep enough for their small sloop, but not for the deeper draft of the Spanish frigate. Shortly, the pirates considered themselves free of pursuit.
At which point, Courvoisier slumped sideways and fell to the deck, unconscious.
The kids, Gabby and Raphael, rolled the captain onto his back, revealing the spreading red stain on his shirt. At some point during the recent action, he had caught a bullet. Dirty knelt next to the captain and began muttering prayers. Mo’ turned and went straight to the captain’s quarters, where he started looking around for valuables to pocket.
Over the course of several minutes, Dirty’s prayers grew in volume and vehemence. His eyes rolled back in his head. He foamed at the mouth. Blood began trickling from his nose. As he shouted at the spirits, the bullet popped out of Courvoisier’s wound and fell to the deck! (Later, Raphael would look for the bullet, but couldn’t find it.)
Meanwhile, Mo’ had found the captain’s locked sea chest. Using a handy rock paperweight, he beat the lock until it broke. This attracted Raphael’s attention, since he had moved away from the nausea-inducing blood and heathen goings-on back on the quarterdeck, putting him close to the hatch to the captain’s quarters. While initially aghast at Mo’s blatant thievery, he was soon convinced to join in.
Inside the chest, they found half a dozen doubloons, which they split, and a leather pouch, wrapped three times with a red cord and tied in an elaborate knot. Raphael pointed it out, saying he knew what it was: it was the magically-taken tongue of the captive they still had in the hold! The two dithered about what to do with this piece of loot. This already-murky decision was further complicated when they realized that, when it comes to these kind of occult dealings, one would be wise to be wary of untying elaborate, possibly-mystical knots.
Back above-decks, Mr Doolittle, the ship’s surgeon, had finally arrived. He had the crew pick up Courvoisier and carry him below, to the surgeon’s area, for further treatment. Finally having a moment of peace, the crew looked around and took stock. The quartermaster was located, dog-drunk and uselessly unconscious in his galley. With the captain and the quartermaster disabled, by chain of command, this left… the bosun… in charge.
Dirty was at least as surprised as everyone else.
Motivated partly by “If I were to be a thieving crew member, where would I be right now?” and partly by “I bet the captain has some really fine liquor stashed away”, Dirty went to the captain’s quarters, where he discovered the ongoing mutiny. After some scolding, he decided to throw in with the other two once he was shown a bottle of brandy.
Having seen that Dirty had some knowledge of the supernatural, they showed him the suspicious knot. He declared that it was just a knot, then urged Raphael to untie it. The boy was doubtful, and asked for Dirty to untie it, instead, if it was as safe as all that. The two engaged in a battle of wits to see who would do the deed, which quickly evolved into a battle of intimidation. Raph’ tried his trademark intimidating glare, but was finally unnerved when Dirty bared his not-so-much-teeth-as-rotten-stumps at him.
Meanwhile, having been left unsupervised, Gabby was engaging in her favorite hobby: practical joking. She crept stealthily around the ship, first stealing some makeup from Mags’ chest, then using it to give the unconscious captain a makeover. After that, she noticed that nobody was paying that much attention to the ship’s wheel, and decided to go play with it…
In the captain’s quarters, Raphael opened the bag to reveal a moist human tongue. To his horror, it began to move and speak! He dropped it on the charts atop the captain’s desk, where, under questioning, it told its tale.
“I am Willem Van der Decken,” it announced, “and I sailed under Captain Hendrick Jacobszoon Lucifer.” It told of how Lucifer’s fleet of three ships took a Spanish treasure ship and looting a tremendous amount of treasure, including indigo, fine furs, jars of frankincense, and a variety of unique items, particularly including an old book with a sinister aura about it. The fleet split up after the battle, with Van der Decken’s ship heading for the Moskito Coast. As they neared land, there were omens and portents, strange atmospheric disturbances, and an outbreak of St Elmo’s fire. The ship, the tongue said, fell into the ocean and came out in Hell. Among other bits of disjointed rambling, the tongue mentioned “terrible beasts”.
This, the tongue continued, was too much for Van der Decken. Assisted by his buddy, a Moskito Indian named Jacob, he took the ship’s boat and fled, leaving the ship and its crew to its fate. Jacob and Van der Decken rowed like mad, back the way they came, with Jacob muttering prayers to his gods the entire way. Just as Van der Decken thought they were lost, they “fell back through the ocean” and returned to the mortal world. With some difficulty, they made it to shore, where they split up. Jacob went to return to his people, while Van der Decken struck off on his own to seek rescue. Sadly, he was picked up by the Spanish, who took him prisoner and questioned him under torture.
Dirty had just poured a generous portion of brandy over the tongue, it having complained of being dry from all this talking, when the ship suddenly changed direction. The hanging lantern swung over and everyone had to change their footing to remain upright. Raphael quickly wrapped up the tongue and slipped it into his pocket, as the three moved outside to see what was going on.
What they found was a scuffle taking place around the ship’s wheel. It wasn’t immediately apparent what was going on. Really, Gabby had tied the wheel to an incorrect course, as a prank, but unbeknownst to her, had aimed the ship on a course that would see them broken on the shore. Several crew members had rushed to make corrections, but Gabby was hiding and striking from stealth to spoil their efforts, pitting one against the other to incite a brawl. Meanwhile, the ship drifted ever-closer to ruin.
Firing a shot into the air, Dirty put a stop to the horseplay. Things were put right and the ship made safe again. Everyone ignored Gabby’s suggestion that they go check on the captain.
Once again, Dirty expressed his amazement at being left in charge. He drank more brandy. There was some discussion as to next steps, and a quick inventory. The ship was fully stocked, particularly with rum, thanks to the quartermaster’s earlier efforts. Several of our heroes called for a return to Port Royal, either to rescue the place from the walking dead or to press the attack against the Spanish frigate. At this point, they realized that none among them was competent to conn the ship, much less navigate.
Our heroes landed on a new and more complicated plan. The first step was to take the ship’s boat out and capture a smaller Spanish vessel. They took a swivel gun to mount on the boat, loaded up a crew of volunteers, set up a small sail, and set out. (While none among them could handle the command of a full-sized ship, there are several experienced boaters among our heroes.)
This cruise was marked by disagreement and derision. Raphael maintained that they were wasting their time, and should simply sail the boat back to Port Royal to attack the frigate… from the ship’s boat… with a single swivel gun and raw enthusiasm, apparently. This plan was shot down as impractical and the product of too much reading. Several plans of attack were suggested and rejected, including at least one that appeared to involve using small boats to take larger boats and thus trade up until they, themselves, had a warship as big as the frigate.
Finally, towards the end of the day, just as they were about to turn around and return to the ship, they stumbled onto a small fishing boat. They hoisted their stolen Spanish flag. The fishing boat responding in kind, and one of its crew came out to hail them. In Spanish, of course.
It was then that the crew realized that only one among them spoke Spanish: Mo’, not generally considered to be much of an actor. He did surprisingly well at allaying their concerns, until Raphael’s calls to attack became somewhat audible. Spooked, the Spanish crewman vanished from the rail. The fishing boat’s sails shifted, and they began to quietly sail away. Armed as they were, our heroes didn’t have many options to stop them. So, dejected, they returned to the ship.
Arriving after dark, they found a party in full swing. A barrel of rum was open on the deck, every lantern on the ship was lit and hung up, the musicians were playing, and there was vigorous dancing. Surprised, the heroes came aboard, finding themselves face to freshly-scrubbed face with Captain Courvoisier, leaning heavily on a crutch. He was less than pleased with the outcome of Dirty’s time in command, but didn’t seem to have an specific evidence of wrongdoing. He ordered Dirty to stay up all night making sure the ship was clear of evil spirits.
During the night, while everyone else slept, Dirty walked the deck, burning herbs and muttering spells. (He may not know anything about talking with spirits, but he knows how to put on a good show.) On the quarterdeck, he noticed a flicker of movement. Quick as a striking snake, he drew a flintlock and fired. Only then did he look closer to see what he had shot. He expected a rat, but what he found was far stranger: it was an over-sized bullet, apparently the one he had extracted from the captain, but now dented and vibrating, seemingly full of unholy life, but now wounded!
The sound of the firing flintlock drew attention from the sleeping crew, and so shortly before dawn, our heroes joined the captain in his quarters. The bullet buzzed inside an inverted tin cup on the desk with a couple of books set atop it. Dirty confirmed that it was a charmed bullet, similar to those that he himself used on occasion.
The captain decided to let our heroes in on his plans, somewhat, since by now they had all heard the story told by Van der Decken’s loose tongue. “You who have sailed with me for some time know that I am a student of history. I believe,” he said, “that Túpac faked his death.”
He explained how Túpac Amaru, the last emperor of the Incas, came to die at the hands of the Spanish Empire in 1572. After three weeks of siege at the city of Vilcabamba, Túpac’s people fled. A hand-picked group of Spanish soldiers pursued Túpac hundreds of miles down-river, then fifty miles cross-country, only catching him because his wife was in labor and they stopped for a short rest. History records that Túpac was brought back by the Spanish, given a show trial, and executed.
Courvoisier said that he believed history was wrong. He believed that Túpac was able to evade the Spanish so effectively because he had access to powerful movement magic – the Path of Crossroads, though he didn’t call it by that name. Furthermore, he believed that this magic was contained within a book, Túpac’s Codex, which was…
“The book from Van der Decken’s story!” our heroes exclaimed.
Courvoisier agreed. He explained that his plan was simple. They would follow in the footsteps of Van der Decken’s story, track down his former ship, and take from it all of its loot. As a first step, this would make them all fabulously wealthy. As a second step, however, it would put the Codex in their hands.
“Imagine,” the captain said, “being able to sail a ship through the oceans of Hell and return to the world in another place, unobserved. A ship that could make that kind of voyage would be unstoppable.”
Our heroes agreed that this sounded like a worthy plan, which any hearty pirate would cheerfully embark upon, and drank to the captain’s health and their collective future enrichment.
Cool Point: Earned by Dirty, for being so manifestly unfit for command – “I built this character to specifically never be in charge!” Whenever the group started coming up with ideas, his Disadvantages forced him to favor the most violent and foolhardy. The more suicidal the idea, the more he endorsed it. Worse, he has sufficient Charisma that the crew mostly went along with anything he ordered.
The moral of the story: It’s good to have a backup navigator/pilot/doctor/whatever for when the primary isn’t available.