Acts of Piracy

After a few protests by the normal deckhands about memorizing “Rivershire” lore are entertained, the Last Born work out a few details and turn in to their assigned compartments aboard the Black Drake for the night.

A few precious hours of sleep later, everyone wakes to the sound of the ships bell ringing furiously. Captain Tenth arranges a fire drill for his new crew mates, but a quick deluge of water followed by a barrel of sand teach him (and the deckhand waving the red rag to simulate a fire) there’s nothing to worry about; the Last Born already function like a team.

While the sand barrel is refilled and few sarcastic words are exchanged, the helmsman announces that the ship has reached the corridor, a hidden passage allowing the ship to pass between spheres without risking the dangers of the phlogiston. Darkness swallows the ship as it enters the passage and vanishes as it enters the new sphere. The stars have changed, and planetoids smaller than the home world of the Last Born turn silently in empty space.

Up ahead, a silent explosion calls the attention of the captain and crew. Warning that it could be a trap, the ship approaches cautiously to look for survivors (as the directives of Sanguine demand.) Drifting away from the fires, the ship encounters a lone humanoid lashed to a mystically illuminated barrel. The unconscious female is brought aboard (once the barrel is determined to be harmless) and taken to the captain’s quarters, but caution remains as a landing party is launched to look for further survivors.

The smoldering ship is badly damaged with only four humans dead on the deck, but tell-tale holes in the deck and side of the craft reveal little about what caused the destruction. Below, the Last Born find ship’s helm damaged beyond repair and the stores looted, but the lack of bodies amidst spots of blood worries the crew. Xax relays their findings to Captain Tenth via mind link mere moments before a neogi Mindspider appears out of the darkness and drives a massive pincer through the aft decks of the Black Drake.

Wasting no time, the Last Born quickly make their way back aboard but wonder why nothing further followed the effective surprise attack. As if in reply, two hissing neogi drop to the Drake’s deck. Hanos casts a sleep spell to full effect, instantly dropping one of the spider eel creatures while the second seemed to be out of sorts. Angus took advantage of the creatures confusion to crush the monster while Xax ensured the sleeper never awoke. Taking a queue from Captain Tenth to press their good fortune, each of the Last Born makes their way the command deck of the neogi ship while the deckhands hack away at the pincer embedded in the deck to free the ship.

A third neogi falls quickly, but the heroes did not expect to find a ship so badly damaged. If these were the same neogi that attacked the burning ship earlier, what had attacked the neogi craft to cause such damage? In the Mindspider’s lifejammer helm, a spent human begs to have his life taken, which Xax mercifully obliges when the victim is found without hope of surviving removal from the chair. As the wreck the Mindspider is cut loose, the Last Born rejoin the crew and begin salvaging the burning ship, the Demeter, for planks to repair the Drake.

Later in the captain’s quarters, the copper-skinned female with the long dark hair wakes to find herself the target of an interrogation. She introduces herself as Zyn, daughter of a netmaker from the human planet of Hyetal, a water world. When she was old enough to leave the planet, she worked on barges between elven and human worlds transporting fish. Witnessing elven cruelty firsthand, her first outing on a pirate ship turned out to be disastrous and she pledges to serve in any capacity to barter passage home. When examined more closely, it is discovered that Zyn has at some time cut her ears to round them out and pass for a human; when pressed, she confesses to being half-elven.

Xax finds the admission of being a pirate confession enough to condemn her. While showing genuine remorse for the events leading to her current situation, Zyn’s description of the Elven Empire’s cruelty and enslavement of humans sound sincere but offer no proof of loyalty let alone innocence. Xax pressures her with accusations until her pride exceeds her instinct for self-preservation, spurring her to question Xax with the same ferocity and revealing that she has skills as a mage and helmsman. At the precise moment Zyn seems most convinced her life is forfeit on suspicions alone, the captain calls everyone outside the cabin and discusses options with the crew.

Hanos takes duty on the helm and peeks in on Zyn alone in the captain’s quarters, seeing only a frightened young woman who understands that her life is the hands of the only people who can decide if she’s worth allowing to live. Speaking with the captain and the rest of the crew not working on the repairing the ship, Xax suggests sending in Mal to befriend Zyn and see how she responds, all the while keeping a close eyes on her for any sign of betrayal.

Mal takes Zyn a meal and talks to her, showing genuine interest. When she asks about the Last Born and the ship’s mission, Mal mentions their loyalty to Sanguine. Shocked to hear anyone openly showing allegiance to a non-elven god, Zyn asks for details about Sanguine, to which Mal reveals that Xax is Sanguine’s priest. Reaching an understanding, Mal convinces Zyn to take a birth in the crew compartment and rest up. While seemingly little information enough, Xax later tells Mal that Zyn already knows too much and can never leave the ship with what she knows. Afterward, Xax takes the next shift at the helm.

CONTINUE READING WITH “Scavenger and Potatoes…”

Session XP: 1550 per player (before applicable 10% bonuses)

About Kevin A. Ranson

Content Creator, Horror Writer, Film Critic. Heeding a macabre calling listening to "Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes" in kindergarten, Kevin started writing in grade school and filled countless notebooks with story ideas while touring the Mediterranean in the US Navy. He is the author of The Spooky Chronicles and the vampire thriller series The Matriarch, creator/critic for and "ghost writer" for horror host Grim D. Reaper. WEBFACEBOOKTWITTER
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2 Responses to Acts of Piracy

  1. Pingback: At World’s End « SPELLJAMMER: BIRTHSTONE

  2. KevinR says:

    “Zyn” is what I like to call a paradigm character. This is an NPC (non player character) that travels with the player characters and even advances with them but always equal to the lowest player’s experience.

    Ideally, the paradigm character allows the GM to demonstrate an expected level of game participation from the players by example. Once established with the party and trusted, the GM can warn or suggest actions through the paradigm character to the player characters. It also acts a nice token to let the players know that the game isn’t GM vs. player but instead fosters cooperative storytelling.

    This kind of NPC should never, EVER be positioned to back stab the party unless the party’s actions have warranted such an act.

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