Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Treasure Island

Not far from the first stop in their destination, the ship ran aground trying to avoid a storm. Thankfully, there were no injuries, nor was there much damage done to the ship - in fact, it provided space for the ship to have some repairs done, as the able carpenter Giles worked tirelessly night and day to get the ship, er, ship-shape.

Meanwhile, Baguette discovered a strange cave opening in the sandbar - thankfully, the ship avoided the rocky area, only scraping on the sandy shores around it. Baguette, Zuko, and Edison climbed down inside, noting that the water level inside was lower than the surrounding area.

Inside, they found carvings in the walls - strange, unreadable runes that looked like round, flowing cuneiform. There were also a number of other carvings of beasts, monsters, and various sea-related things like ships, storms, and so forth, all obviously added later than the original writing. A wide shelf ringed a pool, calm and clear; peering into the water, it was obvious that there was a tunnel that stretched back into the rock, though it was entirely filled with water. Zuko, the best swimmer of the three, dove in; after a quick look, he came back for a rope. The full length was too long for a single length of rope, but he found a room on the other side - pitch black, of course. He swam back, then added a second rope and returned once again. He gave a tug to signal the rope was well attached, and the other two swam over. Lighting a lantern and a torch, they surveyed the room. It was roughly oval, about 20 feet wide and 30 feet long... and the floor was covered in treasure! Mostly boxes, but statues and a few coins as well. Quickly, they swam back to fetch some other sailors, and returned to begin moving the boxes. Each box was quite heavy; it took two men to move a single box, and with the tunnel flooded, it was slow going.

As time wore on, however, the tunnel slowly drained, leaving the path clear. Zuko explored further in, and discovered some kind of altar; leaving it for the time being, he and the others searched through the boxes for anything interesting. Zuko found a well-crafted wooden box with 50 pieces of eight inside; Baggette, a firestarter kit with a magnifying glass, firesteel, flint, and all number of other things in a metal tube with a watertight screw-on lid. Edison found 3 flasks of what turned out to be alchemist's fire, stored in clay jugs, with a rag stuck in wax at the top to light. A little more searching turned up two bottles of fine wine for Baguette, and a small box holding a huge gem for Zuko (a n amethyst worth easily $300). Edison found a bundle of well-preserved meat, cheese, and other foods in an oilskin sack. Finally, Zuko uncovered another small box, this one with herbs and spices stored inside. The box held three rows of four spices per row, all in delicate metal boxes. The last spot was missing a spice, though a tiny note was wedged inside - one Colonel Sanders described his recipe for creating a delicious meal from chicken, via frying, and using this secret blend of herbs and spices.

After a while, Zuko's curiosity got the best of him, and he went to take a look at the altar again. The top of the altar had four grooves, one from the middle of each side, leading into the center, where a golden bowl, roughly two feet in diameter, was sunken into the top. A second bowl was fit on the of the first, forming a sort of clam-shell shape. Zuko carefully pried the top of the shell off... then leaped back as a swarm of black, biting flies rushed out! The others saw Zuko running towards them, waving his torch and slapping at the flies, and quickly dropped what they were doing and dashed for the exit. Some of the flies followed them out, but most of them stayed inside, swarming about.

Baguette took the initiative to invent a jar-within-a-jar, filled with black powder on the inside, and as much smoke-producing material as he could find on the inside. He lit it, ran in, chucked it at the back wall, and dashed for daylight. After waiting, Longarm began, "Say, how long-" and was of course interrupted by a ground-shaking roar. Black smoke belched out of the cave, and flies swarmed out. After a few minutes of waiting for the smoke to clear, they went inside - the air was still rank with smoke, but the flies were mostly driven off. As the others dragged box after box outside, Zuko and Edison decided to investigate the altar again. They pried the bowl off, revealing a hole barely big enough for a man to squeeze inside; Edison lowered in his lantern, but the warm air from the lantern rose back out the hole, carrying a terrible stench. They stuck a box on top of the hole, and went back to help carry boxes. The tide went out, then came back; seeing that the tide was coming in through a crack in the floor in the tunnel, Baguette patched it closed with pitch.

As the tidal pressure built, finally the pitch gave way with a bang; the crew sloshed out of the cave, avoiding the high-pressure water. Once the tide went down again, they went back in - this time, the water was warm, unlike the bracing chill of before. As the others dragged out treasure, Zuko decided now was the time to climb down. It seems that the box he and Edison had set over the hole had been broken by... well, pressure, he presumed. It had fallen down inside. Luckily, it also had cleared out some of the smell, so it was at least bearable now. He set his rope and climbed inside, worming down into the nasty, sludgy water below. The room was rank; he barely kept hold of his lunch. Spotting a glimmer, he fished something shiny out of the black muck - a gold tooth. As he sloshed ahead, he broke through the film of blobby oils on the surface of the water, releasing a horrifying smell. A noise suddenly broke through the quiet - a low sound, halfway between a moan and a growl. Bracing himself, he moved forward. Finally, as he rounded a corner, he came face to face with a creature! He froze, his torchlight playing off its two amber eyes as it stared at him, unblinking... after a moment, when it didn't move, he took a step forward, then another. He suddenly realized it wasn't a creature at all, but a lifelike carving of one. Two cruel sword-like claws rose from its back and curved overhead; its feet were set as if it has squeezed into a hole in the rock, and plugged it with its body. Its mouth was open wide, razor-sharp teeth gleaming dully in the dim light. Zuko poked it with his torch, then feeling braver, tried to pry out the gemstone set in the eye-hole, but was unable to manage it.

Suddenly, the groaning roar came again - it was coming from the statue! At the back of its throat, behind its tongue, was a kind of whistle, or perhaps pipe-organ's pipe. As air moved through the hole, it let out a deep, reverberating growl. As it turned out, there was also a gem behind its tongue - a golf-ball-sized gem, perfectly spherical, that glowed with a bluish light when the torch illuminated it. As it moved away from the light, it seemed to hang onto it somewhat, glowing dimly for a second or two before going dark.

Zuko returned, shimmying up the rope and squeezing out unassisted; the water had once again begun to rise, and as he swam to the other side, he realized the water was quite warm. Warning the others, he pulled out one final box, and they climbed out of the hole. The water filled much faster, this time overfilling the hole, and suddenly, there was a grinding sound, and a puff of steam drifted out of the cave! Deciding that maybe it might be too dangerous to return, the crew helped Giles get the ship out to sea (having finished the repairs he was able to complete), and loaded up the boxes.

The Captain ordered one of the boxes opened - it contained tightly-packed tapestries, worth at least 2,000 pieces of eight, according to the first mate. The second box was filled with silver ingots! The first mate suggested perhaps leaving the rest untouched, but the captain agreed with Baguette, that the treasure should be cataloged. When all was said and done, the treasure amounted to nearly 32,000 pieces of eight. The captain decided everyone would be awarded shares, according to their station.

Later, Sauvage approached each sailor and asked if they thought it was fair that the captain would get the lion's share; the others refused, and Zuko gave him a good punch, which was met with a scratch by a knife, before he bashed Sauvage in the head so hard he nearly passed out. The sailor retreated, grumbling, and got patched up by Edison - who was also unsympathetic to his cause.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

More Curses Than (Then?) Pirates

Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning - the early skies had a lovely sunrise, which set the sailors on edge. And for good reason; by mid-morning, a storm had blown up, gray clouds swirling over the horizon. The Captain ordered a course correction, trying to avoid the worst of the storm, which sent the ship even more off course than it already was. A few of the crew noticed the captain was worried...

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Ghosts and Doldrums

(This marks upgrade 1)

The Quartermaster figured out that food reserves are lower than expected; it was masked by finding the island, but it seems stores are depleting faster than usual.

An albatross landed on the ship; the superstitious crew freaked out, and someone mentions that the ship cat hasn't been seen in a while. There's a quick search, finding the cat eventually, preening itself.

Meanwhile, before being tackled, Douglas... tries to shoot the albatross.

A few weeks into the journey, the lookout called down that he sighted a ship. Its sails were bedraggled, and it didn't seem to be flying a flag. There was no sign of movement. As they drew closer, it was obvious that there was no one aboard the ship. The Captain sent volunteers over to see what was going on. Most of the crew refused outright, while the castaway moaned about ghosts and demons.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Island of Misfit Sailors

Along with the two Spaniards guarding the box, a third crewman was transferred to the SS Horizon: Edison Hawking, an English explorer.

Simon spotted an unmarked island; it seems volcanic, about an acre of land jutting up out of the ocean. The Captain ordered the ship to stop, and allowed the men to disembark. A handful decided to investigate - Tibby Snider, Jack Crow, Billy Bones, Jean Benoit, and Giles, Baguette, and Hawking. The island was vaguely circular, with a "bite" out of one side, where a soft sandy beach made for a good landing spot. The ship dropped anchor, and the men rowed ashore.

While Tibby, Billy, Jack Crow, and Hawking headed around a path, looking for an easier way up, Benoit, Giles, and Baguette attempted the more direct route: scaling the 20 foot cliff. Baguette brought climbing gear, and was able to scale the cliff with ease, spiking a rope at the top. Giles and Benoit followed.

Meanwhile, Hawking encountered a gap - the path continued on, and looked like it actually met up, but... that 15 foot gap was a bit of a bother. Especially when Hawking took a running jump, and hit the other side... about five feet short. He managed to hang on, but couldn't quite climb back up! Tibby thought it was hilarious, of course.

Billy Bones quickly ran back to the others; Giles tossed down his grappling hook, which Billy proceeded to chuck directly into the ocean. Oops. As Tibby rolled on the ground, alternating between shouting with mirth and gasping for breath, Billy ran back, and managed to convince Giles and Baguette to chuck down another rope Together they managed to pull poor Hawking up. Eventually, the other sailors climbed up as well, while Giles, Hawking, and Baguette went exploring.

As it turned out, the landmass was hollow inside, with soft, sandy soil, small bushes and tufts of grass, and a forest of coconut palms. There was a small trickle of water, barely a few fingers across at the widest, that washed out of the ground and eventually out a crack in the cliff - in fact, it was the reason the path Hawkins was on washed out and fell.

Hawking was very interested in looking for treasure - he and the others carefully moved through the palms, finding a rusted sword of unknown origin. After combing the area, they found a tree with some old scars in the center of the caldera; digging around beneath it, they first uncovered some bones, wrapped in a tattered uniform, and finally a magnificent sword in a bejeweled sheath! It's a STR + d6 sword, AP 1, worth 10,000 pieces of eight!

The uniform was from a Spanish sailor - Giles realized it was from the ship Trinidad Valencera, a lost treasure ship!

On the other side of the caldera, they found a few bushes, covered in berries. They carefully picked them, filling Hawkins' helmet, and took them back to the others. Jack Crow had set up a hammock, and when they returned, he noted what Giles had noticed - while the berries weren't poisonous, they were certainly not entirely ripe, and eating more than a handful would result in a case of "the runs". Billy Bones wasn't 100% sure, but politely refused just in case. Poor Tibby had no idea, and ate several handfuls. Billy Bones told some good sea stories, including some lovely stories of ghost ships, but Tibby had very little time to listen. The sailors that opted to stay on the other side pulled up a few very nice fish, and were kind enough to share, with Jean running between, taking fresh water to the ship, and hauling a few fish back over the "wall".

At daybreak, the sailors packed up and headed back to the ship. Hawkins tried to hide his new sword, but only managed to look as if he's stuffed a branch down the leg of his pants. The ship put out to sea.

The next morning, the crew awakened to a fight - Simon was hotly accusing Pete Grubbs of stealing his spyglass. As Pete scoffed as the very idea, others found items of theirs had also gone missing, including some tools of Giles' and some blueprints from Baguette. As more crew realized things had been stolen, they joined in, searching for the missing items, and trying to keep Pete from getting lynched. Among the missing items was the fancy sword, as well...

After much fighting, the crew started going through everyone's stuff, and found a "hidden" compartment in Pete's locker, with a number of things stashed inside! Just as the fight was about to get ugly, Killian Sauvage stalked in, and dumped a burlap bag of items onto the deck. He sneered, saying that he found the items in Giles' workroom, hidden in a pile of wood shavings. "And 'ow can we trust zees man, 'oo we 'ave known only a short time? Eh?"

The crew argued, eventually ending up on two sides: those who accused Pete, and those who Accused Giles. Baguette followed up on Sauvage's claim, and talked to the Spaniards, who backed up Sauvage's story, at least as far as as timing was concerned. Finally, they went to the captain. After a trial, the captain decided that since all the items had been recovered - as well as a handful of items that were not supposed to be on board - that no one would be punished... but the next thief would be met with a keel-hauling.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Stormy Seas

After a few days of good weather, a storm rolled up! After spending a few minutes battening the hatches and so forth, the storm struck, lightning flashing all around, and towering waves sweeping over the ship. A huge wave knocked the crew flying; Baguette managed to (barely) tie himself down, and the others grabbed something and kept their footing... all except Douglas, who was thrown overboard! As he washed over the railing, Zuko managed to chuck a rope to him... the same rope that was tied around Baguette! After a harrowing scramble, Baguette managed to get his breath back, and Douglas was hauled back aboard the ship. Just in time for the next wave - Zuko grabbed two men, and Baguette was once again used as an anchor as Douglas caught another. Baguette noticed the navigator smack his head and go down, and quickly rushed to keep the ship from lilting over as the next wave hit it. He managed to straighten the course, and with some kicking and cursing, managed to rouse the navigator.

Finally, the storm abated; the sun was setting, when suddenly, the ship scraped across something! Investigating, the crew found pieces of a ship scattered about the waves. Lowering the life raft, Baguette went searching for anything shiny - and found a survivor, as well as a box with some trinkets, some barrels of food, and two boxes, one full of gunpowder - miraculously dry - and one full of bombs!

Zuko spotted something dark in the waves, and using his grappling hook, snagged it and hauled it aboard. It was a pirate flag! Wrapped inside was a really fancy musket, worth a pretty penny, for certain.

Meanwhile, Giles carefully patched up the ship, though never managed to repair a scrape on the lifeboat.

Everyone dragged themselves to bed after a rough day, wondering what else was in store for them...

Thursday, July 9, 2020

A Fine Day For Sailing

A call has gone out for crew, paying well - rumor has it that the King and Queen of Spain are financing the journey, though for what reason no one can say. A handful of rough-and-ready crew gather on the docks, including:

An elderly carpenter named Giles Wright
An elderly bomb-maker named Curie Baguette
A landlubber gunfighter named Douglas Dubhghlas
A somewhat confused noble named Zuko
(and somewhat later)
Edison Hawking, and English explorer

As they gathered on the docks, they caught sight of the ship in the bay - not a huge ship, but certainly pretty, its green and gold paint shining in the morning light. The name was clearly visible: "Horizons"!

The captain looked them over, and signed them on. He introduced himself as Captain Solomon Fisher; the voyage was one of exploration in the West Indies; the way is known, but can be treacherous, with storms, pirates, and... more. It is expected to last three months.

The new sailors joined the existing crew:

Captain Solomon Fisher, a seasoned sailor, explorer, and Navy officer; calm, calculating, and willing to give everyone a second chance.
First Mate Jauques Bellefleur, a somewhat smarmy Frenchman who doesn't seem to like the crew very much.

Navigator Eckhard Glas, an elderly though capable navigator; German, and a graduate of one of Europe's finest cartography schools.

Quartermaster Rudyard Rennold, a street-smart and capable man, if not particularly imaginative.

Killian Sauvage, a scarred, mean-spirited Frenchman
Kurt Steine, a friendly blond-haired, blue-eyed sailor with a German accent
Herb Broadbent, a largish fellow, though quiet and shy; very English
Tibby Snider, a skinny, talkative Englishman
Pete Grubbs, an Englishman who claims he is easily swayed by money, eh, eh, if you know what I mean? Eh?
"Longarm" Smith, a laconic brawler with some impressive muscles
Dominic "Dom" Ramone, who is quite the ladies' man, judging by his stories (and probably his Spanish accent)
Jack Crow, a veteran sailor with plenty of stories from the sea
Billy Bones, supposedly an ex-pirate, covered in tattoos; Portugese, though speaks English fluently
Jean Benoit, a monkey on the ropes, and proud of it; French
Simon Madras, a superstitious Spaniard, though an excellent watchman

The first day of sailing was easy enough, apart from poor Douglas, who only managed to stay aboard because they had already set sail. After a few games - Jack Crow nearly managed to beat Giles in a (mop-based) swordfight, but both were beaten by Dom. Zuko and Longarm duked out a few rounds of fisticuffs, and Longarm managed to land a head-spinning uppercut, but Zuko finally managed to hit back with a blow that knocked Longarm cold. Douglas won at gambling when Billy Bones' dice cracked open, and he was revealed as a cheater.

Soon, Simon called out that another ship was approaching; they pulled up near what seemed to be a Spanish ship, very military, and the Captain escorted a heavy box of some kind over, setting it in the hold, with two guards from the Spanish ship accompanying it:
Diego Fernandes, a bright-eyed, fast-talking swordfighter
Lucio Ángel, a skilled gunfighter with an impressive mustache

Neither spoke much English, but Zuko managed to hold a conversation with them in Spanish, learning that they were very attached to their job, and would kill anyone who tried to get near the box.


Finally, it was the big day. Nobody slept well; they met up early for breakfast, but skipped the rest of the usual graduation fanfare. After a bit of looking around, the group managed to find GlenMac; he looked a big haggard, and was in a hurry, but the group stopped him and pressed for information. Jackson was, after all, sure that GlenMac was a part of it. After a drawn out argument, they finally managed to convince him that Monica was in the wrong. He agreed to help, and handed over keys to a secret elevator in Belcher Center. Suddenly, his phone rang - he was needed to help Monica. Creatures were coming out of the Burn, and he needed to be there to keep everyone safe.

Inside Belcher, faint music was drifting out of the main auditorium; Alistair cracked a door open, and nearly lost James to the hypnotic tones! They pulled him back, and headed for the elevator, but not before watching a few friends and family walk inside... for the time being, they reasoned, it was probably safer in there than outside fighting demons.

They went down...