This is part 3 of my rather detailed summary of the first of what I hope to be a long-series I’m DM’ing. Expect a polished version, as well as insights on my hopes and dreams for this campaign, soon!
Once again, Captain Babette is absent from breakfast and is nowhere to be seen. First Mate Ironbrow eats his food on deck, as he is yet to leave his post at the wheel. Lily’s cooking is once again exquisite, with the omelets in particular being popular among the sailors. No one on board had ever tastes eggs quite like these.
The sailors resume their posts, with Little Ice once again manning the crow’s nest and Benjamin minding the deck. Ingvar joins his friend up in the barrel and the two spy around to see if they can find the dark shapes Little Ice had mentioned seeing earlier, but they appear to have gone. The waters are quiet and empty. A little too quiet, perhaps; there is not even the sound of gulls screeching overhead; only the gentle rolling of the waves and creaking of the masts.
Supper is another feast courtesy of the gourmet chef Petaltoes. At the dinner table, sailors are starting to openly wonder where their captain is; she hasn’t been seen for almost a day now, which is quite the accomplishment on such a small ship. Since she and first mate Ironbrow are the only ones that can steer the ship, the hard-working dwarf has been putting in over-hours. Little Ice is starting to get worried. Ironbrow ensures the tabaxi that it’s OK, though; he’s got some special juice that keeps him going. He snaps open a leather case and takes out a small vial of bubbly red liquid. As soon as he downs the drink he visibly perks up.
“You want some, lad?”
Little Ice, ever the curious cat, is delighted to try something new. He takes the vial and drinks the shot in one sip. The potion is impossibly sweet and seems to bubble with energy; Little Ice feels instantly refreshed and ready to run a marathon. He loves the taste.
“Flamel Energy; keeps you going.” says Ironbrow.
And going, and going; with an abundance of energy and no outlet, Little Ice can’t sit still, let alone close his eyes and sleep. Even during the middle of the night, when the whole ship is vast asleep, Little Ice is still awake, rocking his hammock back and forth like a swing. His insomnia has his keen senses attuned to every single sound the ship makes, as he is forced to listen to it for hours; and when, sometime past midnight, he hears a faint singing below-deck, he instantly latches onto it. This is no sailor’s shanty; the singer is an obvious soprano, singing a thin, almost eerie sound. He leaps up and shakes Ingvar awake. At first, Ingvar doesn’t hear the music and is cranky at his friend for waking him for no reason; but when he concentrates, he too picks up on the singing. Begrudgingly, he agrees to sneak out – again – to investigate.
They encounter no opposition. First Mate Ironbrow – still behind the wheel – sees them, but pretends not to and lets them sneak off as they please. Their pursuit of the singing leads them all the way to the lowest deck, where one of the locked doors – the one leading to the precious cargo – has been left ajar. The singing is coming from just around the corner.
Little Ice and Ingvar quietly approach the open door and peek around. Instantly, they see the singer: A beautiful, red-headed mermaid in an over-sized fishbowl. Not only did they find the mysterious singer, but the missing captain, too: Babette is lying asleep on the floor.
As soon as the mermaid spots the newcomers, she starts to gesture for them to leave, pointing to the way they came from and urgently miming they close the door on their way out.
Little Ice mouths “Are you alright? Do you need help?” to which the mermaid answers with a hurried nod. Little Ice and Ingvar are hesitant, as they have no idea what’s going on, but ultimately decide to comply. As the door closes, the sound is completely muted.
Not sure what it is they saw, they head back to their hammocks. They decide to bring it up with Ironbrow first thing in the morning.
The fourth day dawns, seeming much like the third; First Mate Ironbrow is still behind the wheel, looking more fatigued than ever, and Captain Babette remains nowhere to be seen. When Little Ice and Ingvar bring up what they saw last night, Ironbrow instantly hushes them.
“You didn’t see anything,” he urges, “you understand?”
“Not a thing. I’m sorry, lad…just – get back to your post.”
Begrudgingly, Little Ice climbs back up the crow’s nest, accompanied by Ingvar. And it’s a good thing that he did; parrot-man Polly was still asleep and so did not see the large figure drawing closer behind the stern. There was no mistaking it – it was a ship, with sails furled, going much faster than their own. The shapes Little Ice had seen in the water earlier surrounded it, swimming in formation. The ship was flying a mermaid flag.
Little Ice shouts to the first mate, who immediately pops below-deck to fetch the captain. Moments later, Babette finally shows herself for the first time in two days, rallying her men: “Look alive, ye scurvy dogs! All hands on deck!”
Everyone aboard the Maiden’s Virtue gathers: Lily Petaltoes with her son and his fiance; the impeccably dressed accordionist; the pig-cook and his dish-washer; Polly the parrot-man; Captain Babette and her first mate Ironbrow; Little Ice and Ingvar, Benjamin Dawnsurge and Seamus macArdan; they all watch the other ship draw closer. They can see the figure-head now: A menacing mermaid with its saber drawn, pointed right at them.
“Alrrright, I want ev’ry able-bodied fighter above tha deck,” shouts Babette. “The rest of ye, scurry down below and lock yer rooms. We’re about ta sail righ’ through some rough waters.”
The civilian passengers hurry below-deck, while Little Ice, Ingvar, Benjamin and Seamus stay with the crew. They move to the stern to watch the other ship draw closer. When it has nearly caught up to the Maiden, they see that what they thought had been the ship’s figurehead is actually its captain: A live merwoman, a vicious creature with scaled skin even above the waist and jagged, shark-like teeth, who shouts orders to the crew working behind her.
As the ships pass, the captains make eye-contact; Babette glares at the merwoman and the savage sea-creature returns the glare with equal if not greater hatred. Both captains yell: “Drop anchor!” and the ships halt next to one another. Everyone goes quiet as the mermaid pirates drop a plank to connect the two ships. A representative of the merwoman captain, a young half-elf woman, steps forward. Babette faces her.
“What do ye rotten pirates want?” says Babette, “Yer captain should know better than ta bother me.”
“Enough is enough, Babette,” says the half-elf pirate, “The jig is up. The Captain wants her daughter back.”
Little Ice and Ingvar make eye-contact. A merwoman’s daughter? A mermaid? Perhaps the one locked up in a fishbowl below-deck? The two friends sneak off unnoticed, and hurry below-decks to fetch the red-haided mermaid.
“First of all, tell yer Bitch of a captain that if she wants te speak ta me, she can do so ‘erself,” says a scornful Babette, “Second of all, tha only way she be gettin’ ‘er daughter back be in pieces. Tha’ can be arranged.”
“Enough with your bluffing,” scoffs the opposing negotiator, “Meredith can breathe underwater. Last time I checked, you and your crew can’t.”
“Aye? Ye goin’ ta risk hittin’ ‘er with yer little cannons, then?” taunts Babette, “Let’s see ye try.”
She turns to her crew. “Men! Man the cannons!”
“Aye aye, cap’n!”
“You’re making a big mistake, Babette” says the half-elf, “you’re out-manned and outgunned. We’ve got merfolk and we’re in open waters. You can’t win.”
“Well see aboot tha’” says a confident Babette as she smashes the boarding plank. “Weigh anchor! Ironbrow, hard ta starboard!”
“Aye aye, captain!”
Meanwhile, Little Ice and Ingvar arrive at the locked door in the lowest deck. It doesn’t budge, but that’s nothing a good shove from a viking won’t fix. Ingvar pushes the door off its hinges as the two barge in. The mermaid is still in her fishbowl as she looks at the two familiar intruders with fright in her eyes.
“You shouldn’t be in here! What if the captain sees you?”
“Forget about the captain,” says Little Ice, “it seems your mother has come to pick you up.”
“My mother? O no, that’s bad – you have to take me to the upper-deck right away! There’s no telling what she’ll do.”
Little Ice hesitates. “Well, she is asking for you. Do you want to go with her?”
The mermaid looks away and doesn’t respond. “Please, I have to get to the upper-deck right away.”
Unsure of her motives, but seeing no reason to deny her request, Little Ice and Ingvar help the mermaid out of her bowl and up the steps to the upper deck.
As the Maiden’s Virtue slowly starts to pull away from the pirate ship, the merwoman captain slithers from the bow to the starboard side and leaps like a dolphin onto her opponent’s deck. She yells to her crew: “No one else board.”
“Tha’ cockiness is wha’ I hate aboot ye,” says Babette, unsheathing her saber. “Among other things. Boys, light ‘er up! Fire at will!”
The two captains begin their duel. Steel clashes against steel as the rattling of sabers sends sparks flying. They appear evenly matched, neither able to gain an upper-hand over the other.
Heeding the command from their captain, the Maiden‘s sailors fire her canons. One cannonball zooms across the opponent’s ship. The other shot stutters as a nervous sailor sets off the gunpowder prematurely, blowing up the canon and taking a big chunk of the hull with it.
Seamus mcArdan, who had been watching these events unfold from a safe distance, calmly strides port side and calls upon the spirits of the ocean to delay the opposing ship. Heeding the call of its druid, the seas respond by sending up snaking kelp to snatch her anchor is it is being weighed, but its reach falls just short. Seamus sends the emerald snake to swim towards the rudder instead and successfully clutters it up, rendering the ship unable to adjust her course. They have no choice but to sail straight ahead while the Maiden pulls away starboard side.
Benjamin, after having helped weigh the anchor, approaches the two fighting captain but stays his blade, as he does not deem it appropriate to intervene in a duel between what appear to be rivals. Intervention, as it turns out, comes from below as Little Ice and Ingvar rush up with the mermaid. As soon as Babette spots her, she screams: “Ye bloody idiots! Get ‘er back down! What do ye think yer doin’?!”
“Meredith!” yells the merwoman captain, “Get over here this instant! We’re leaving.”
Meredith hesitates, but ultimately slithers towards her mother. Captain Babette tries to snatch her, but is stopped by Benjamin.
“Now, captain, don’t you think it’s about time you explain this all?”
“Out of me way!” Babette screams in a shrill, panicked voice, “We musn’t let ‘er get away!”
“Stay away from my daughter.” The icy merwoman slithers forward and attempts to strike at Babette, but Benjamin positions himself between the two captains. “Ladies, please, there’s no need for further violence.”
The two opposing captains, now united in a common enemy, struggle to get free so they can have another go at each other, but Benjamin’s grip is iron.
By this time, Meredith has reached her mother and tries to reason with her. “Mother…please. I want to go home.”
Responding to this, the merwoman says: “Let me go and we leave.”
Benjamin looks at the mermaid girl to gauge whether she really does want to leave with this savage-looking sea beast. Meredith returns the gaze, looking at the aasimar with tears in her eyes. “Please,” she asks.
This distraction weakens Benjamin’s grip on Babette, and the sly captain wrestles loose and readies her blade. “Thank ye, lad; just hold ‘er down like tha’, tha’s real good…”
Benjamin lets go of the merwoman captain just in time to block Babette’s attack. The instant the merwoman is loose she grabs her daughter and jumps overboard. Babette dives after them, screaming desperately. Once both are in the water, it is an easy feat for the sea-monster to grab the half-orc and drag her underwater, into the depths.
Benjamin, remembering the girl’s watery eyes, grabs a rope and jumps after her, ready to swoop up the mermaiden to rescue her from her ugly mother’s clutches. Meredith sees this gesture, looks at the aasimar one more time and swims away towards the pirate ship. Her mother follows, taking the drowning Babette with her underwater.
First Mate Ironbrow had left the steering wheel in parrot-man Polly’s questionable care as he went below deck to deal with the explosion. With the help of the passengers – included Lily Petaltoes, her son and his fiance – the fire was brought under control and he could resume his post above-deck.
To his suprise, he finds the pirates – as well as his captain – are gone. Since Seamus ha cluttered the pirate’s rudder they had been unable to pursue the Maiden. They were in the clear, for now.
The druid explains the whole situation to Ironbrow. “I know you don’t want to go against your captain’s orders, sir, but I think we should-”
“Son, you’re talking to the captain right now,” says Ironbrow, “and I say we’ve seen enough excitement for today. Take her straight ahead, boys! Let’s get the hell out of here!”
Forced off-course through merfolk-infested waters with a hole in his ship, Ironbrow’s first voyage as captain would prove to be quite the challenge.