The Battle of the Sandbars
We sailed north along the Draconic Coast for a few days as we headed towards Mgange Cove. The going was easy enough, and it was nice to ease ourselves back into our routines after almost a week ashore. The new recruits seemed to take to their new roles well enough and had already started forming friendships and joining factions.
On the second day we spotted a big storm on the horizon, we were headed straight for it. Captain Eikou, Chakka and Kitesh managed to plot us a new course to avoid the worst of the storm but we still skirted its edges and caught a few verses. For a while we were up against a solid wall of waves and I remember calling out a prayer to Besmara while all the women started stripping to appease the Sea Bitch’s fury.
By the end of the third day, we had made it through the worst but were a few miles off course and had to make some hasty repairs to the rigging caused by the story’s fury. Kaheed led the repair teams. He and Shivikah were really starting to settle into the roles, each bringing a slightly different perspective to each problem resulting in novel fixes. The ship’s lines had changed drastically since leaving Rickety’s Squibs. The ship was Alarisian before we squibbed it and I was worried that if Kaheed changed too much back to the Alarisian style he was used to, our ship may start to resemble the Man’s Promise again. Combined with Pete’s Shackles style rigging and Shivikah’s Lesshtan woodcarving, there wasn’t too much risk. Maybe I was just being too paranoid.
Around noon on the third day since leaving Drakeclaw, the lookout spotted smoke on the horizon to port. This far out of land it could only be a burning ship. Captain Eikou decided to investigate.
Navigating through the coral reefs and heavy sandbars south of Mgange Cove was difficult but the Bastard was nimble enough for out tasks. Eventually we came upon the source of the smoke- a burning Shackles drekar, the Vorsfang and behind her the assailant: a Capitavirate cutter, the Famished Mane .
We immediately turned to engage, Captain Eikou and Chakka on the helm expertly navigating through the sandbars as we weaves out way towards our new prize, Captain Van Helgen, Cog and Gian kept the riggers in line, relaying orders for more sail or to tack/jibe. As we approached, Titus gave the order to arm the boarding parties and Jasper and Kaheed did the rounds, psyching the men up and getting the squads ready for action. Cog and Rosie were informed that their squads would be boarding the Capitavirate vessel while Kroop and I were tasked with defending the ship. Jasper even told the boarding crews that the best team would get double rum rations that night, which got Cog and Rosie snarling at each other.
The Famished Mane had spotted us sure enough and she was coming about to engage, ballistae crew loading their weapons and armoured marines mustering on deck, their plate armour glistening in the noon sun. It appeared that they were trying to scuttle the Vorsfang as, still aflame it was heading straight for a small rocky island nearby. Knowing the Capitavirate’s hatred of pirates the crew was no doubt either dead or locked below decks awaiting a fiery fate.
We closed the gap, the Mane pulling to port and unleashing a devastating broadside of naval grade ballista bolts which hit home hard. Clearly they meant business and intended to have leave two dead pirate crews in their wake. Titus bellowed the order to fire and our own ballista crews opened fire in return but the volley was nothing compared to the Mane ’s well-drilled broadside. Tis fight would have to be won by cutlass and boarding axe across bloody decks. Just the way Bes likes it.
That was when we noticed the Vorsfang was coming around, it sails were full with the strong wind and it was turning at a very sharp pace. We could see sailors scurrying about her deck and rigging, completely oblivious to the fires raging across the her. The pirates of the Vorsfang apparently didn’t see their situation in the same light we did. Her crew must have broken free of their binds and had decided to have their revenge on the Famished Mane .
Meanwhile the battle between us and the Mane was joined. Captain Van Helgen gave the order to grapple and board, bringing the two vessels smashing together in a tangle of rigging and crossbow fire. Cog led his team from the front, swinging across and landing with his boarding axe in a marine’s face before drawing his new cutlass and laying into the next one. The Capitavirate marines were well trained and immediately began repelling boarders. They were armed with half plate and long boarding pikes and proved tough foes to bring down.
The battle raged on, the Mane ‘s Captain firing into our ship with his magical musket was answered by Jasper’s timely stinking cloud which effectively disabled the majority of their marines allowing Kaheed to board end engage the remainder. He wasn’t aboard long though, as the marines formed a wall of boarding pikes and forced him overboard. Kaheed managed to swim back to the Bastard easily enough for another go.
The Vorsfang was still coming however and was picking up pace. Her massive ram-covered prow leering at us as it got closer. They intended to ram and board us! Our squads opened fire at them and Jasper even put more stinking cloud on them but it didn’t stop the ship from crunching into our flank, sending splinters flying. Through the green mist came their first boarders: massive humanoids with shark heads and bulging grey muscles. Their teeth dripped with briney rage and they weilded huge tridents! It was my first experience with weresharks and one I shall never forget…
The Vorsfang ’s lycanthropic crew stormed into us as my squad lowered crossbows and fired a volley into their ranks. The bolts seemed to just bounce off them, those that found their mark were quickly forced out by the rapidly healing flesh of the monsters. They snarled and snapped, barging into the front row and sending them sprawling on the floor. Captain Eikou relinquished control of the helm and fought bravely against the main mast, her sansetsukon spinning around and rebuking her foes. Gian, the spider in the rigging found her prey and leapt down to slice up one of the weresharks as they squared off against Mameha. Severely wounded it spun around and knocked her to the floor with a vicious head but before impaling her to the deck with its trident! Gian squealed in agony, barely spinning in time to avoid the weapon rupturing vital organs. The wereshark was finished quickly and Gian sprang to her feet, anxious to return to the safety of her rigging webs.
Over on the Mane , the timely arrival of the Vorsfang meant that the Capitavirate marines had to split their forces to face the Bastards and the wereshark-led pirates. This gave Kaheed and Titus the opening they needed and they sprang aboard the enemy ship as Jasper greased the Captain’s musket right out of his hands. It landed with a ‘plonk’ in the sea and sunk to the depths. The Captain instead drew two duelling gladii and held his own impressively against the Bastards despite Kaheed picking off his allies one by one, leaving a trail of broken arms and bruised faces strewn across the deck.
My squad was still pumping crossbow bolts into the Vorafang lot and Kroop’s boys had joined in too but it was hard going. Both sides were taking injuries when out of no-where the Vorsfang ’s Captain appeared out of a burning hole in her mainsail 50feet above the decks. He had been standing there watching for a few minutes but now decided to get involved. Throwing is empty grog bottle into the sea he thew his arms up as a massive column of glowing fire shot out of the sky and thundered into the deck of the Bastard ! Mameha, Gian, Myself and most of our crew were hit by the barrage and multiple fires were started on the Bastard . Casting another familiar spell, the Captain was surrounded by 4 illusory copies of himself. Targeting the real him would be difficult. Regardless we gave it a go. Most of the bolts went wide, fanned by the rising heat of the flames or hitting stray sail or rigging but me or two found their marks, slowly reducing the number of copies.
And so the three-way battle raged, Bastards against Marines against Weresharks. The situation was getting desperate as the decks were starting to get slick with blood and the many fires were producing thick columns of smoke, reducing visibility. The Vorsfang ’s Captain clearly saw this also and as his men were forced back to the gunwales of the Bastard , he floated down from his perch atop the mast, grinned and said simply
With no time to argue, Captain Eikou agreed and the two parade crews formed an uneasy alliance.
Against the combined might of our crews, the marines didn’t stand a chance. Before long their Captain was dead and Titus and Kaheed had weapons to the throats of the remaining sailors who had surrendered.
The Captain of the Vorsfang introduced himself as ‘Shanks’ Guffy, Free Captain sailing under Avimar Sorrinash of Ollo. He and our two Captains retired to the Bastard ’s quarters to discuss terms. When they emerged, they seemed happy with the outcome. We would get all the plunder from the Mane as well as whatever is in the Vorsfang ’s hold of worth. In return, Guffy and his men would take the Mane herself along with any and all captives to replace the losses he had taken to his crew that day. All three captains shook on it and the crews were separated onto their respective ships.
It wasn’t until Guffy went back into his cabin to retrieve an item for Mameha that I got a good look at him. I recognised him. I’d definitely seen him before but couldn’t quite place it. My attentions were quickly drawn to the impressive gift he bestowed upon Mameha however: The Boots of Speed.
Later that day we finally arrived at Mgange Cove. The beautiful island was a green paradise of verdant jungles, sunlit pools, interesting rock formations and colourful plant life. As we sailed into the capital of Ngozu, Giffer briefed us on Juju etiquette. The rules were daunting and labyrinthine and I quickly lost interest, instead climbing the rigging to get a better view of the magnificent cove which cave the island it’s name and sheltered Ngozu at its’ far end.
A beautiful waterfall marked the northern shore of the cove and beyond the thick jungles gave way to hills and volcanic mountains in the distance. I glanced down and saw Mameha talking to her new familiar, Taishō-Sei as she leaned on the port gunwale and he stood atop it perfectly balanced with the rocking of the ship. I couldn’t hear what they were saying properly as they were talking Kepician but luckily I had thought ahead.
Grasping my holy symbol i muttered a short prayer to Besmara, asking for understanding of foreign tongues as a sailor must from time to time. it sounded like the little statue-like creature was talking excitedly about the waterfall and pointing to the jungle beyond.
“This looks like the place little miss!” He said pointing at the cove.
“We shall have to see what the townsfolk have to say, maybe they have heard of the Ikazuchi " Captain Eikou replied.
So we were here for that airship after all. Mameha had mentioned it before but we were under the impression that we were stopping off at Mgange Cove to search for a mysterious toucan. Perhaps our captain meant to shoot two orcs with one arrow, perhaps she had other reasons for being here. Either way I decided not to mention this to the rest of the crew. If word got out that there wouldn’t be any avian loot after all, things could get ugly. I decided to give Captain Eikou a chance to produce some loot first.
Ngozu was a spectacle all of its own. The jetty leading to town was lined with hands, heads, feet and other various body parts all since picked to the bone by scavengers and the sea air. Giffer informed us that these were the limbs of outsiders (or ben kudu meaning ‘lost ones’ as the Mgange folk were fond of calling us) who had broken the laws of the paradise island. Keeping my spell active I wandered the streets of Ngozu along with Rosie, Athelinda and Melanie stopping to try some of the local fare on sale in the vast market along the docks. There were too many sizzling meats, sweet fruits and aromatic dishes of unknown origin to try them all but we made a good attempt either way. A few silver pieces went a long way here and we returned to the ship with full bellies.
We found the officers in a dockside tavern called the Brown Bear. Not a very imaginative name but the building stood out like a sore thumb seeing as how it was made of bricks rather than wood or mud. The owner had opened up the lower floor by removing most of the walls creating a huge beer garden which stretched for some 80feet in each direction and was full of tables and overturned barrels all with customers sat with food and ale. Most of them were bastards and all of them were drunk. This sort of establishment would be very popular in Salamonis or Quent I thought to myself as I ducked under the door frame and looked about.
Up on the balcony surrounding the main taproom Titus, Japser and Edward were getting friendly with another group of pirates led by the notorious Pirate Lord Femi Ekua, leader of Mgange Cove and the surrounding waters and member of the Pirate Council but more specifically their guests- a middle aged noblewoman by the name of Agasta Smythee and her uncomfortable looking teenage children, Ambellina and Timothy. The Smythees were being ‘entertained’ by the pirates but didn’t look to comfortable at the situation. They smiled weakly when the pirates raised a toast or pretended not to notice when one of the pirates threw up or swore. Titus, Jasper and Edward were playing the ultimate gentlemen, vying for the attention of Lady Smythee and her attractive daughter while the son looked on a bit bewildered. I thought about going up to join them then noticed the plate-armoured knight wielding a great sword as if a switch guarding the stairs. Clearly the Smythees’ retainer. I didn’t fancy my chances against him so decided to get a round in for the Bastards and join them in the sunshine.
As I was leaving Kaheed arrived. He chatted to me at the bar briefly before noticing the others upstairs.
“Good luck getting past that old boy” I said nodding to the disgruntled looking knight.
“I don’t need luck” he responded in his usual clipped accent, not a boast I realised- just a statement of the facts. Kaheed casually walked up to the stairs then leapt clean into the air and backflipped order the banister landing perfectly on a chair at the table with the nobles.
I laughed out loud seeing such a flagrant display of athleticism and showmanship but the pirates didn’t take to kindly to the sudden movement and noise, leaping from their feet and drawing cutlass and pistol with loud rattle and shocked gasps of indignation. The situation was quickly diffused however and I left the boys to their brown-nosing. I guessed they were on the hunt of some work which would hopefully lead to some more plunder in our hold. What I didn’t realise was that Jasper and Edward were getting engaged.
Jasper apparently proposed to Lady Smythee on the grounds that once the bastards had helped her retake Windward Isle (her rightful home), a Shackles arranged marriage would help to settle any future revolts against her rule. Oh and Jasper would become Lord of said isle and its prominent defence: Tidewater Rock. Edward had also proposed to Ambellina Smythee to further secure the Bastards’ place foothold on Tidewater Rock. Somehow I couldn’t help but think that Edward got the better end of the deal, but maybe that was just jealousy.
I had told myself that the night Jasper and I spent together was nothing more than a drunken fling, Bes knows I’ve had my share of ‘em. I also told myself that Jasper’s engagement was purely for business, it made sense to want to secure some holdings as burgeoning pirates for stashing our loot but also because of the rumoured ‘luck’ involved with ‘cracking’ the Tidewater Rock (he’d be cracking something that night- Lady Smythee looked like she hadn’t seen action for a decade). Despite this, I couldn’t help feel a pang of… something when I heard the news. I put on a smile and laughed it off as another of his crazy schemes and pretended not to care.
I don’t remember the rest of that night, which is about right as the one thing i do remember is drinking to forget. I woke up the next morning on the beach of Mgange Cove with a sore head and surrounded by bottles. I got up and walked back to town, leaving Paucel asleep on the warm sand. I found a few of the Bastards sleeping around the tavern and a couple inside drinking- whether they had started early or hadn’t finished last night yet was unclear.
“Felix” I said “Where’s Jasper? The Captains?”
“Left early” the Jaeger replied, pissed out of his skull “off on some mission on the island somewhere”.
I toyed with the idea of following them but instead decided to continue working on my wand. It was coming along nicely.
Besides Jasper could wait.