I haven't written much for quite a while, but felt this adventure we had was worthy of a tale - it really is a testament to great leadership, a crew that works well together as well as a good deal of ingenuity and determination :)
With thanks to @eredhar @RL-Captain-Nemo and to @CaptainPheebs
'Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath, now for ruin, and the red dawn.'
Well, except our crew that is. Eredhar, Nemo, Pheebs and I. We were makin' preparations at old Daggertooth Outpost to head out and lock swords wi' the Shadows of Fate and their baleful leader, Captain Gideon Graymarrow, to send them back to the depths from whence they came. We were sailing for glory, not gold.
Come closer and I'll share the tale, although me skin crawls wi' the memory of it.
Twas October. When the wheel o' the year turns and the veil between worlds grows thin. Did they choose this time deliberately, knowing they had the greatest chance o' success? Mayhaps. But the Skeleton Lords' hands gripped the seas and dank fog lay across the waters, it's whispering tentacles wormed their way into the minds o' pirates an' merchants alike. Alliances were rare and ye were more likely to meet the muzzle of a pistol than a friendly greeting, life were cheap and greed and betrayal the order o' the day. Dark times.
Duke, that gullible fool had succumbed to those whispers and unwittingly or not, aided the cause o' the cursed. We'd been across and talked wi' Stitcher Jim, that weasel who now claimed to ha' gazed into the Box o' Wondrous Secrets and seen his true self and been appalled - maybe love softened his cankerous heart, mayhap his master had cast him out - who knows. But in his guilt he had news to share of Old Boot Fort, of dark relics and infernal rituals. So we set out, the camaraderie of our crew keeping the dark at bay, the laughter and song drowning out the whisperings.
First to find a Ritual Skull or two. These were easy to come by, Duke himself had a stash o' maps showin' the locations o' Shadow Captains guardin' these 'ere skulls but we could comfortably find one or two p'raps, from the maps held by Cursed Captains roamin' the shores. A rapid scan o' the horizon showed us the sails of another galleon, anchored at Shipwreck Bay - we thought to try our luck and gain some strength in numbers and, well provisioned, we set a course towards them. As it 'appens, they were on a quest provided by the Pirate Lord 'imself, uncoverin' the secrets that lay hidden across the Sea o' Thieves but they allied wi' us happily enough an' were kind enough to provide Eredhar the opportunity o' gainin' our first Flame of Fate, a glowing beacon o' pink. Buoyed by their generosity and hearts warmed by the sight o' their flag on our map, we turned our bow towards Marauder's Arch. The weather were set fair an' the malevolent cloud o' the Fort o' the Damned behind us.
Marauder's Arch gave us a map, a rowboat an' more provisions. We didn't linger but headed west towards our destination, a small island known as Black Sand Atoll. Fortune or the blessing o' Ramsey were with us, not only a buried skull but the island were guarded by a Skeleton Captain, so we relieved him of his skull an' map and sent him back below. Twas at this time we also had our first encounter wi' other treasure seekers on the seas - a holler from Pheebs and we watched as a sloop came barrelin' towards us, bows dippin' and risin' through the waves. We watched them approach, tryin' to discern their intentions from the course they set but turned our cannons towards 'em just in case, twas always better to be prepared fer the worst and the worst it were as they drew up parallel to the galleon an' fired a shot towards us. We were surprised at this, bein' as our ship towered above 'em, four cannons trained on their hull an' mast and a crew just itchin' fer combat. Nary a word were exchanged as they sank silent beneath the seas, as swifly as the glowering sun set beneath the horizon. Sad to say their chicken were lost in the scuffle, but they did provide us wi' a few pieces o' plunder which rose to the murky surface.
There be nothin' like a swift an' easy victory to warm the cockles of a pirate's heart, the portents held good and in high spirits we went about our business collectin' all we needed fer the battle ahead.
Twas on our way back from the Devil's Roar that there were the merest suggestion that things might not be goin' our way. Twas not much, a Flame failin' to light our lanterns, a distant galleon skirmishing wi' a Skeleton ship or two, other faint sails on the horizon as pirates o' all callings pursued their business on the Sea of Thieves. Our allies were away in the Shores o' Gold as we swept across stormy seas towards our destination - a glowering cloud o' the densest gloom.
Our hearts sank as we approached. The dank and dreary fog seeping into our souls, casting an ominous chill across our minds and doubts surfaced, would we be enough to weather the onslaught o' the Damned? Where were our allies? Wi' only four crew, would we prevail, could we prevail and hold both fort and the fabled treasure it held?
Eredhar rallied us wi' orders and strategies, his voice ringing out against the dark and wi' our hands busy wi' glowing lanterns and the grip o' the sword and pistol we braved the Shadows. Wave after wave they came but we were ready, food stored against hunger, kegs hidden away for the final test against Graymarrow hisself, quips and jokes and laughter a shield against the baneful eyes o' the hippocampus and the obscene altar quartered in the belly o' the fort. The Ferryman sent us back time and again as we mustered and fought on, becoming more skilled as the battle progressed, our tactics evolving with each wave until the final claxon tolled, dire and horrible. Graymarrow. The vicious Captain o' The Twisted Horn emerged from the detritus to face us. Taunting us, he raged. Summoning his Shadow minions, he cast us out o' the Fort and we battled him across the rotting terraces, the cursed sands lit only by the glimmer o' foul candles until we were forced back to the shore itself. And that were his mistake, ye see? Withdrawing to the decks of our galleon we pounded him wi' volley after volley, the cannons roared and sang as we ran frantically to reload and restock, relentless in our fervour. Rocks splintered an' the glare of the explosions showed his terror. Praps he called across the waves fer aid, praps twas the Gold Hoarder hisself placin' thoughts o' gold in the heads o' pirates an' urgin them to take the risk, but a brig hove into view, closely followed by a small sloop - though the latter were consumed in a fight against a Skeleton Sloop and we deemed them of little concern.
The brig however, were another story. Wi' Graymarrow still undefeated for the second time, we needed to prepare for a battle of a different sort. We had no doubts as to their intentions as they barreled towards us, and we scrambled to make ready. They were coming up alongside within cannon range...... voices shrieked alarm and orders as I turned the ship, the first salvo was let loose against them! Yet foolishly we'd been free wi' our use of cannons against our ghastly foe and were runnin' short of shot..... Eredhar leapt across the water and boarded the brig, as it turned out they'd anchored themselves and while he dispatched as many as he could, they were a sitting duck! Four cannons blazed and rang out, pistol shots whizzed across the gap between us and the brig slowly settled to the bottom of the sea. The remaining crew swimming fer their lives or mayhap they were still confident o' securin' our ship fer themselves and a few tense moments followed as we scanned fer signs o' mermaids, or sharks or any flash o' movement in the water.... Pheebs yelping as a stray shot from the cursed Shadow Skeletons winged her - we spotted one adversary beneath the waves, then another and once again pistols rang out and to the Ferry they went.
We hurried then, wary of the risk - Reaper's chests already blazed wi' a hellish light below decks, marking us not once, but twice for all eyes to see - a prize hard to resist for any dyed in the wool pirate. We needed to dispatch this fiend as rapidly as we were able. Graymarrow cackled and bellowed at us from the shore, confident in his mastery of the dark arts, summoning yet more hellions to his aid, gathering the dismal fog around them like a cloak. There were one chance, as we fired our dwindling stock of cannonballs, of ending this. We knew Graymarrow was weak now, failing in his power - and when a Shadow lackey scuttled into view bearing a lit keg, intent on causing harm to our ship, the chance came. Straightway I jumped overboard, determined to wrap my arms tight around Graymarrow's shade, hold him close as the mindless Shadow took us both to perdition.
Our ship's timbers groaned under the weight of the plunder taken from the cursed vault, as we ferried still more from it's dark clutches. Yet whatever malevolence lay across the seas that day was not done with us. It's tendrils still crept across the swelling seas, insinuating themselves into the nooks and crannies o' hearts and minds, redolent with thoughts of violence, pregnant with ponderings of easy plunder. And they found a willing crew.
We were halfway done loading the galleon, some trinkets and crates still lay unclaimed when we spied on the horizon the sails of the brig. Like an arrow they sped before the wind, like an arrow their course were straight an' true. To us. We were in dire straits, short on both food an' firepower, our intent to head for Plunder Outpost and disgorge this hoard of cursed loot immediately. But we knew the crew of the Brig would not only be thirsting for revenge but their minds glazed over with the greed for the gold that we held. We watched in dismay as they hurtled closer, sails dropped and we fled before them. A fanfare sounded and horror of horrors, a Skeleton Galleon rose from the deep, summoned to regain their cursed hoard. Clashing their swords and howling revenge they fired on us - venomballs and a rain of iron. South and south and into the wind..... no time even to graze the dock of Stephen's Spoils, share a grog and tell him our tale, or hand over our gems to a grinning Merrick... no, we sailed on and on now in fear of two swift foes pursuing us!
We had no wind, we had no wind! The brig ever closer, we could see the gleam in their eyes and we ran before them cursing the turn of our luck, the Skeleton ship turned away by the Seapost now setting course for us once again. Our only hope was to turn East, but that would leave th' Outpost on our lee and still give the advantage to the speed of the brig! Discussions ensued, what to do... we had no kegs... could we board them while we sailed on short crewed? No....our hope was to keep the sails trimmed and eke out whatever speed we could, to plunder barrels as we ran. To Thieves Haven, Eredhar yelled out! It was a desperate plan but the island and it's hidden refuge had served us well in the past - t'would take some keen sailing to squirrel ourselves away in the heart of the isle without losing speed and bein' caught in open water! We grazed through the northern entrance, helped by judicious use of the harpoon and while the Skeleton Galleon circled the island, firing on us at opportune moments, the brig was strangely hidden. We knew now that they'd try to board us, twas their only option really, as bein' pursued by the noxious cursed galleon they couldn't hold fast an' fire at us through the entrance. We scanned the cliffs desperately, for a sight or sound of hostile crew and were rewarded by pistol shots from above, skimmin' the deck as they sought a target. Water splashed and the sounds of hands on the ladder confirmed our worst fears... Guard ladders! The cry rang out! We turned and fought and died - no swords had they, but two firearms - first Eredhar, then I sent to the Ferryman yet Nemo triumphed! Then one in the water sent on and we dropped sails and ran again and this is where the skill, fortitude and cunning of this Captain and this crew came into it's own. Thieves Haven might not have deterred the brig and it's scallywags but we still had a trick or three up our sleeves plus a few more resources garnered from Ramsey's isle.
East again, yes and what was to the east? There was the opaque whiteness of fog on the horizon but something else too.
Having sailed the brig a time or two, one conclusion we oft came to was - Don't Take a Brig into the Devil's Roar. Tis only one deck and that made of eggshell. Bein' pounded by fiery rocks from above is not the preferred occupation o' brig crews seekin' treasure nor adventure. To the Roar!
This didn't deter our foes however, or p'raps the power o' the Shadow Lords were still confuddling their minds. They followed close as we turned north east, our sights set on the flaming beacons before us.
More fool us. The volcano we chose was tall, steep and bounded by sharp, jagged rocks. Lava and boulders rained down upon us and we were sent below deck to avoid death and repair damage while one remained on deck to steer and keep watch. The brig followed us...followed our every move. Not only followed but caught us with their harpoon, surviving the onslaught of fire and brimstone! We broke free again and swept north - could we rid ourselves of these cursed Reaper chests at Morrow's Peak? Take the bullseye off our foreheads at least and then slip unseen into the whiteness of the fog or on to Galleon's Grave? No... no time, they were on our stern, drawing ever closer.
North then, to another volcano but then? Hope was fading fast. Our stores still low we couldn't survive a pitched battle and to lose what was so hard won was a fate we couldn't contemplate. North again. When you're at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.
In desperate times the wildest ideas come they say, and we grinned as the latest was proposed, grinned and laughed. As we cruised past Morrow's Peak and left it in our wake, intent on a flaming fate, our Captain proposed that we vote on a voyage. Not just any voyage though, this one would need a visit to Grace Morrow.
No time to lose! The next volcano loomed ahead, showers of cinders already scorching the deck, the water roiling hot beneath the timbers. Surely this time the fire would do it's work? Desperately Eredhar took the wheel, Pheebs and Nemo and I headed down to prepare for the worst the conflagration could throw at us. The sky was roaring at us, hell descended red and orange and ablaze. Pyroclastic purgatory was upon us. The plan was to harpoon the rock, make a fast grazing turn, see the brig disabled at the very least and head back to Morrow's Peak. It didn't quite go that way.... the ship turned, the rock was harpooned, the ship turned more and.... was faced squarely with a gap the size of a rowboat. Panic ensued. The brig at our stern harpooned us, fired on us, timbers splintered above and below deck, boiling water surged in and our galleon lurched backwards against the collision. In desperation Eredhar harpooned the rock again - You will go through!! He screamed! Water flooded the lower decks, to our waists, our chests, we bailed and healed and patched and boiled, health dangerously low and the water furiously pourin' in around us. The ship's timbers screamed, shattered as she was forced over the rocky shallows. Inch by inch she moved forwards, reluctantly, fighting every step of the way until...finally...with a last gasp she was through!
Even then, in the midst of our celebration, we watched the brig slowly circle the edge of the erupting volcano. Slowly, doggedly they followed.
Yet now we had a plan and a small advantage against them, south to Morrow's Peak and Grace would provide our salvation. With luck they'd think we were trying a drive by to turn in the most precious of the treasure, with luck they would not have an inkling of our real intent.
South again and under pressure, with their speed they were almost upon us once more as we came close to the Peak. It was then we spotted two other ships, brig and galleon to the south, too close for comfort, lured by the Reaper's chests no doubt and heading our way. Nothing we could do as the brig behind harpooned us again and pulled us close, no choice but to board them in this last instant, try and deter them somehow and give us that space we needed. The harpoon was cut free, pistol shots fired and 2 died as the second brig sailed into firing range. Cannons rang out, but not those from our galleon, from the first brig! A canny ploy to keep the crew occupied and fightin' another ship while we fled to Morrow's Peak. It gave us the precious minutes we needed and as we headed up the western side of Morrow's Peak we fired ourselves ashore and voted, trusting our worthy ship to keep to her course northwards. As we returned, the Shroudbreaker attached itself to our helm.
Jubilant now, we headed north to Galleon's Grave, with a wary eye kept on our wake for signs of pursuit. It seemed as if both brigs were otherwise engaged and finally we could breathe a sigh of relief. We docked, still shaking from our encounters and narrow escapes, feeling the pressure and the fear slowly lift from our shoulders and unloaded. And yet. Halfway into unloading, the galleon we'd seen to the south was spotted careening north towards us. Well. Twas a shame we didn't get to test our escape plan yet, so we dropped sails, emptied our pockets into the storage barrels, took inventory and headed north east towards the Shroud. The Shroudbreaker began to sing and the seas became red, the galleon followed. We raised sails and turned towards them, and the galleon followed. Something must have been distracting them because the galleon kept on going right past us, at least until she sank beneath the waves that is, her crew of two astounded at their fate even up to the point that we sent them to the Ferryman when they tried to seek safety aboard our ship.
~ Kat Truewalker ~