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Sad Panda

The strange ship pulls alongside your vessel...

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> Fine, I'll be back later. Hopefully you'll have cooled off by then.

 

The air has gotten noticeably chillier, enough so to make your breath just barely visible. The ship rocking more heavily now, too, causing the cannonballs stacked on the shelve to rattle bluntly. Ellie reaches to steady a small gem propped on the floor next to her in a rickety-looking metal frame. It's only as she cusps her hand around the gem that you realise that it's emitting a faint glow -- her work light, no doubt, although her eyes must be quite keen to make do with the diminutive radiance, easily usurped by the light of Aloth's making.

 

The storm you saw approaching earlier seems to be preparing for its grand entrance, and you can hear the patter of feet on the deck above as the restlessness of the weather is mirrored by that of the crew. It might be a good idea to return and tend to your own ship while you're still able to.

 

> [snoop around]

> [examine the capstan]

> [go down to cargo hold]

> [go up to gun deck]

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> [go up to gun deck]

 

Aloth dims his light as you ascend the stairs, then puts it out entirely, as you find the gun deck better-lit than you left it. You had taken them for decorations during your earlier investigations, but now realise that the irregular chunks of crystal attached to the beams across the deck in fact serve as a rudimentary source of light, akin to Ellie's gem. The deck is now illuminated enough for you to get a better sense of the size of the crew, most of whom appear to still be sleeping. As you could have guessed from the fact that the entire crew was earlier able to fit into the gun deck at once, the galleon is not even nearly fully manned, though the by estimate five dozen Orlans still easily outnumber the company of your small sloop.

 

Two dozen or so hammocks hang empty, though only eight Orlans can be seen up and about on the deck, pulling in the cannons and latching shut the gun ports. A few more climbs down from the main deck and makes their way past you carrying a bundled-up sail, no doubt bound for the locked below. There is no overt urgency to their undertakings, suggesting the crew doesn't expect the arrival of the storm front to be imminent. Regardless, you hope your own crew has the good sense to take the necessary precautions without your explicit say-so.

 

The light in Numella's cabin is still out, suggesting she's either not present or a heavy sleeper. As you move away from the stairs, the pirates tending to the cannons notice you and appear alarmed, scattering out of view. It's only when they return that you realise they weren't earlier wearing their codpieces. The Orlans resume their duties, now again mightily obstructed by their characteristic attire, as if nothing had happened.

 

> [talk to the crew]

> [examine the crystals]

> [examine the cannons]

> [enter the cabin]

> [go up to main deck]

> [go down to orlop deck]

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> [examine the crystals]

 

You tap on the nearest crystal, causing it to flicker momentarily. Upon closer examination you quickly determine that the irregularly shaped rock is made up of several distinct minerals, only some of which appear to be emitting light. The polycrystal is held in place by metal wires which dig directly into the mass on one end and the wood of the beam on the other.

 

Aloth: "Curious... I don't detect a magical signature. These stones do not produce light by any means I'd be familiar with." He pauses. "But then, it's not exactly uncommon for us to encounter previously unrecorded forms of magic. I certainly cannot even begin to fathom how someone could indefinitely transmute a living creature into another species! Even the most powerful mages have been known to achieve such an effect only on a temporary basis, yet there is the proof it is indeed possible, just below our very feet. Truly I wish we'll get the chance to track down this 'witch' responsible, for I'd sorely want to familiarise myself with their methodology."

 

Pallegina: "Aloth..."

 

Aloth: "What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

 

Pallegina: "Nothing. Don't ever change."

 

Aloth: The wizard wrinkles his nose. "Well, I certainly intend to change! For all your vocal grievances over my... situation with Iselmyr, I would have thought you to welcome my attempts at personal growth, instead of..."

 

Edér: "Isn't it odd they just strapped the crystals on like that? I mean, they look like they were pried straight out of the earth. Wouldn't you normally, I don't know, refine them first?"

 

Pallegina: "Supposing it was possible to refine them, yes, that would undoubtedly enhance their efficiency. But in general, removing impurities is much too costly to be worth the effort, and if one wishes to acquire a piece of pure mineral, one must extract it as such. However, the scarcity of non-metallic, non-adra mineral deposits large enough to allow for crafting of more than mere trinkets tends to keep market prices very high, for which reason it is not uncommon to see imperfect products such as these utilised by the less affluent."

 

Aloth: "Oh, you're familiar with this substance, then?" The elf appears to have recovered from his indignation over having been belittled and then interrupted in a flash.

 

Pallegina: "Not one bit. I am however well-acquainted with the economics of precious ores."

 

> [pry a crystals loose]

> [talk to the crew]

> [examine the cannons]

> [enter the cabin]

> [go up to main deck]

> [go down to orlop deck]

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> [enter the cabin]

 

You tug at the handle, finding it not to bulge. In fact, it doesn't even rattle. Despite the door sitting in its frame visibly loosely, you can't with all your might move it an inch. You have Aloth shine a light first through the window and then the gaps between the door and the frame, only to have it vanish into the utter darkness beyond. Clearly, the door is sealed by some magical means. Risking a more forceful approach, you bring your fist down squarely on the centre of the seemingly fragile contraption. Whatever spell holds the door in place seems to absorb even the sound of the impact almost in full, though it might still be possible to break the door down. Alternatively, you could see if Aloth could find a way break the enchantment.

 

As you turn away from the door to assess your chances of breaking your way in without causing an incident, you catch the pirates tending to the cannons hastily returning to that task, only now realising the sounds of their labour had stilled while you were examining the door. They try and act nonchalant, but keep stealing glances at the stairs leading up to main deck. Following their eyes, you see some of the other crew members are in the process of attempting to stealthily haul armfuls of codpieces up the steep steps. They panic as they realise the jig is up, the Orlan on the front nearly toppling on his peers. He only manages to avert this sorry fate by letting go of his bounty, which clatters on the wooden floor sharply. The loud noise does nothing to rouse the rest of the crew, who stubbornly remain in their hammocks -- though, you note, already in significantly lesser numbers. Apparently they have been stealing away whenever your gaze averts, possibly to avoid being seen in their indecent, codpieceless state.

 

> [return your attention to the door]

> [talk to the crew]

> [examine the cannons]

> [go up to main deck]

> [go down to orlop deck]

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> [return your attention to the door]

 

You leave the pirates to whatever the hell it is they're up to.

 

Edér: "I don't think anyone's home, boss."

 

Pallegina: "I don't think <%IF(%PCSex==male;he;she)> cares."

 

> Aloth, any ideas?

> [break thought the door discreetly]

> [bREAK THROUGH WITH MAXIMUM EFFORT]

> [leave the door alone]

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> Aloth, any ideas?

 

Aloth: "Well, there are no glyphs visible on this side, so that makes determining the exact nature of the seal difficult. However, if I were to systematically map its responses to various stimuli, I should, given sufficient time, be able to reverse engineer the spell and devise a counter..."

 

Aloth appears quite excited over the prospect of unveiling the secrets of the door. He produces from the folds of his robes what looks like a tuning fork, which he brings near the upper hinges of the door. A sharp poke from his finger causes a spark to briefly flicker between the prongs, to no visible response from the door. He moves the fork a little ways down and repeats the process, again to no evident gain. After circling the entire door he makes a few more attempts around its centre and the window, then puts away the fork and takes out what looks like a tiny nutcracker. Squeezing the delicate handle produces a brief but steady flame of blue hue at the tip, and Aloth again begins to works his way around the frame. Near the handle, there is finally a response, as the wood monetarily pulses with blue light revealing the outline of the magical barrier.

 

Aloth: "Ah! Now we're making progress!"

 

The wizard hastily pulls out his notebook and pencil, produces a fairly intricate sketch of the scene, and marks the spot of interest. He then continues teasing the door with the flame, taking particular care to map the surroundings of the handle, which remains the only area in any way responsive to his efforts. Unless he happens to get extraordinarily lucky, this is looking to be a very long process. You could stay and provide cover for his activities so they wouldn't maybe be so evident, or you could go attend to other matters.

 

> Let it go, Aloth. This is taking much too long.

> [stick around while Aloth works]

> [talk to the crew]

> [examine the cannons]

> [go up to main deck]

> [go down to orlop deck]

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> [stick around while Aloth works]

 

You crowd in front of Aloth to shield him from prying eyes. The pirates who had earlier been tending to the cannons have finished their work, but are still busily making a show of having something to do. One picks up a stray cannonball and turns it in his hands appraisingly. Another opens the breech of the nearest cannon, closes it, opens it again, then closes it once more. Third fiddles with the cannon's wheels as if discovering them for the first time. All the while they maintain nigh-unbroken eye contact with you. You nod and smile. They nod and smile in return. There is absolutely nothing suspicious going on here.

 

The air appears to swiftly grow colder, and the ship seems to be creaking more audibly as it braces the waves, though that might only be because you have nothing else to do but to listen to the noises of the night and contemplate how cold and hungry you are. Now and then you think you can hear the muffled sound of thunder somewhere in the distance. You glance over your shoulder to see how Aloth is doing, to find him sprawled over the floor with his legs spread like a hermit crab, holding in his outreached claws two strange instruments which he's furiously shaking about. His notebook has become such an indecipherable mess of notes scribbled atop each other that the original drawing of the door would be all but impossible to make out if you didn't know it was there.

 

> Let it go, Aloth. This is taking much too long.

> [continue to twiddle your thumbs]

> [talk to the crew]

> [examine the cannons]

> [go up to main deck]

> [go down to orlop deck]

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> [continue to twiddle your thumbs]

 

Surely Aloth must be close to the solution by now, and by the gods, you're going to twiddle your thumbs in his support until they catch fire if you have to. The wizard is currently engaged in what is either a very involved somatic component or a single-player game of Patty Cake. You return to the grave task of ignoring the world around you and hoping it ignores you in turn.

 

As long minutes wear by, you conclude that you definitely weren't imagining it earlier: There is a sinister chill in the air, and the ship around you rocks and creaks erratically as if shivering. The sounds of thunder rings much clearer, and you realise all the hammocks now swing empty, what crew can be seen on the deck securing loose objects in place with an increased sense of urgency. Suddenly there is a loud crack and the galleon violently lurches back and forth, almost causing you to lose your balance.

 

Aloth: "My mage's shakers!"

 

Edér: "Is that what he calls... oh, never mind, it's just more of his weird doohickeys."

 

Pallegina: "They are raising the anchor, Watcher." The paladin takes you by the shoulder, both to steady herself and to underscore the seriousness of her words. "We need to return to our ship. Immediately."

 

Edér: "That storm still sounds ways off, though. We have time, don't we?"

 

Pallegina: "No, we don't. If they're raising the anchor, then they will soon cut our ship loose, as well, if they have not done so already. They can't keep the ships tethered in a storm; the hulls would smash apart against each other. And only a fool would wait until the last minute."

 

Edér: "The captain knows we're down here, though, doesn't he? He'd send someone to fetch us if it was go time, right?"

 

Pallegina: "I would not count on it. Despite what Ellie said, we don't know if he has any intention of letting us go freely. On the contrary, this might be our only chance to slip away without a fight, while the crew is occupied with the preparations."

 

> Alright, let's make for the sloop.

> Let's go up to the main deck and see what the situation is first.

> I trust the captain. He wouldn't just leave us stranded.

> We go when I say we go, and I don't want to hear another word of it.

> [ignore them] Aloth, get back to work.

 

((Won't probably be any posts for the next few days, since I'll be out of town.))

Edited by Sad Panda

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> I trust the captain. He wouldn't just leave us stranded.

 

Edér: "Your faith in your fellow kith never ceases to amaze me, boss." He pauses with his mouth still slightly open, closing it sharply after a brief moment. "Although I guess that's worked to the benefit of us sorry buggers. Were I in your shoes, I'd have seen me off with a firm 'Thanks, but no thanks', probably."

 

Pallegina: The Godlike groans and brings her hands up to massage her temples forcefully as she speaks. "Captain, whatever accord you think you have build with that... man, the fact of the matter is that you are on the verge of abandoning your ship." She locks eyes with you. "Many are the misdeeds I am willing to overlook, but the bond between the captain and the crew is that of sacred trust." The paladin's tone does not suggest she's opening the matter for debate.

 

> Alright, let's make for the sloop.

> Let's go up to the main deck and see what the situation is first.

> We go when I say we go, and I don't want to hear another word of it.

> [ignore them] Aloth, get back to work.

Edited by Sad Panda

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> Alright, let's make for the sloop.

 

You hurriedly make your way to the main deck, just in time to feel the first drops of rain fall -- specifically feel, as it's only when Aloth emerges from below and rekindles his magical light that you're able to see the wispy driblets hitting your face almost vertically in the sharp wind. The crew is busily taking down the last remaining sail and tightening all ropes and straps. All loose objects, such as the crates and barrels among which you lucked on the sandwich earlier, have either been moved below decks or secured in place. The lanterns of the pirates buzz about like fireflies, all but their most immediate surroundings hidden by the pitch black darkness which grows more oppressive by the second.

 

If Captain Thundernipples is on the deck, you've yet to catch sight of him. Were you able to, you'd be inclined to express dismay over your misplaced trust, as you quickly come to realise your sloop is no longer tethered to the galleon and is instead drifting far out in the sea, its now-distant lights periodically hidden by the pitch black waves. Apparently no one on board thought it worthwhile to notify you of the matter, and had you dallied even a minute longer you might have missed the opportunity to return entirely. Especially in light of the lecture you just received from Pallegina, this certainly would've reflected poorly on your reputation as a captain.

 

Already having committed yourself to leaving and seeing no other means at your disposal, you and your companions hurl yourselves overboard and make for the Watcher. The task immediately proves more difficult than anticipated, as the darkness had hidden how unruly the sea had become in your absence. Sailing on a much smaller vessel, you had gotten used to even slight changes in the weather being felt throughout the ship, but clearly the Musical Fruit boasts much greater stability and can simply shrug off all but the most fearsome waves. Pallegina is almost pulled under, and your party is grudgingly forced to strip off several unique pieces of armour for the sea to claim lest it claim you as well. Eventually you do make it to your ship, by which point the drizzle has morphed into a deluge. Exhausted, you and your companions are fished up by the rest of your crew, who fortunately have had the foresight to make all the necessary preparations for the storm that is already upon you. You brace yourself for a night that promises little rest and many further calamities.

 

The storm rages into the small hours of the night, at times threatening to overturn the ship entirely. You direct your crew in a desperate effort to keep the Watcher in one piece and above water, waves tall enough to lick the underside of the crow's nest washing over the deck one after another. Drained, grey clouds still spout drizzle on your tired crew as the first light of day begins sneaking in from behind the horizon, and you collapse on the deck, completely spent. You count yourself lucky for having lost no one to the waves, although there are many injured. One man nearly lost his foot as the top of the mast came apart and was carried out to the sea, one of the ropes still attached to it snapping around the leg of the hapless crew member and threatening to grind its way right through both flesh and bone. Only quick thinking and an even quicker slash of the sword on Edér's part had averted the tragedy, although the sailor would still walk with a limp for a good while.

 

As could be expected, the pirate galleon is nowhere to be seen come morning light. With most of the mast gone, it would take you several weeks to make your way back to Neketaka, and all thoughts of pursuing the pirate vessel had to be stricken from mind. You would not see Captain Thundernipples or his crew again.

 

Some months later, you to your surprise find a beautifully scripted copy of And Gods Bore Witness: The Pirate's Wager, bearing the official seal of the University of Ozia, in one of the local bookstores on Neketaka. The clerk is quite enthusiastic about the tome, telling it had made quite a splash in the academic circles around the Republics, and is more than happy to gift you a copy once your hand in birthing the work becomes known -- in exchange for autographing several more copies, which will no doubt turn her a tidy bit of profit. The edition you receive is something of a deluxe one, featuring skilful carvings depicting you and Thundernipples -- credited as the primary authors -- in midst of the debate, as well as those of Pallegina and Aloth -- both credited as contributors -- engrossed in their clerical duties. Even Edér is featured, pictured on the very final page of the tome merrily matching up against the pirate lieutenants. You get the feeling his inclusion was more for marketing purposes than to service the discourse.

 

You tuck the book away, a memento of a small adventure among many, and continue on your journey.

 

 

[NEUTRAL END -- Could've been better, could've been worse. Feel free to pick any earlier point in the story to see where a different path might take you!]

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Edér: "Your faith in your fellow kith never ceases to amaze me, boss." He pauses with his mouth still slightly open, closing it sharply after a brief moment. "Although I guess that's worked to the benefit of us sorry buggers. Were I in your shoes, I'd have seen me off with a firm 'Thanks, but no thanks', probably."

 

Pallegina: The Godlike groans and brings her hands up to massage her temples forcefully as she speaks. "Captain, whatever accord you think you have build with that... man, the fact of the matter is that you are on the verge of abandoning your ship." She locks eyes with you. "Many are the misdeeds I am willing to overlook, but the bond between the captain and the crew is that of sacred trust." The paladin's tone does not suggest she's opening the matter for debate.

 

 

> [ignore them] Aloth, get back to work

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> [ignore them] Aloth, get back to work

 

Pallegina: "Captain...!"

 

You turn to Aloth, who's obviously quite uncomfortable in getting caught up in the argument, and unsure as to whether or not following your order is really the best course of action. The wizard sits sprawled on the floor in front of the onerous door, appearing to have made little progress on it, although perhaps a little more hands-on management will produce results more expediently. Before you get the chance to test the theory, however, the ship again lurches to the side forcefully, causing you to momentarily lose your footing. You feel a sharp pain at the back of your head and the world around you grows blurry: For some reason you can't quite place, you find yourself staring at the ceiling, while three obscured figures loom over you. Another visit from the gods?

 

Figure 1: "Oh, dear. What an... unfortunate accident. He must have... fallen and hit his head, right? Right?"

 

Figure 2: "Well, it's a very low ceiling and all. Easy to bump your head on one of the crossbeams."

 

Figure 3: "Whatever. Just help me carry the oaf to the sloop. I can't be done with this nonsense soon enough."

 

Figure 2: "Hey if we dump his gear, we can probably use <%IF(%PCSex==male;his;her)> big head as an improvised floatation device if need be..."

 

You wake up on your own ship to find both the night and the storm passed. The crew appears to have weathered them well enough in your absence, although the officers having had to drag the captain back to the ship in a time of need -- not to mention the said captain then having soundly slept through said time -- hasn't endeared you to them any, and it looks like you'll be lucky to avoid an open mutiny before reaching shore. Which by the looks of it won't be any time soon, as the besides robbing you of your memory and your gear -- which Pallegina tersely explains had to be dumped into the ocean to ensure they got the other dead weight attached to it safely back on board -- the storm appears to also have robbed you of most of your mast. The damage to the ship looks pretty bad in general, although she yet floats and the crew is all accounted for.

 

Having spent the entire day arsing around, you never found out the secret to the Musical Bean, and would not see Captain Thundernipples or his crew again. Some months later, however, you to your surprise find a beautifully scripted copy of And Gods Bore Witness: The Pirate's Wager, bearing the official seal of the University of Ozia, in one of the local bookstores on Neketaka. The clerk is quite enthusiastic about the tome, telling it had made quite a splash in the academic circles around the Republics, and is more than happy to gift you a copy once your hand in birthing the work becomes known -- in exchange for autographing several more copies, which will no doubt turn her a tidy bit of profit. The edition you receive is something of a deluxe one, featuring skilful carvings depicting you and Thundernipples -- credited as the primary authors -- in midst of the debate, as well as those of Pallegina and Aloth -- both credited as contributors -- engrossed in their clerical duties. Even Edér is featured, pictured on the very final page of the tome merrily matching up against the pirate lieutenants. You get the feeling his inclusion was more for marketing purposes than to service the discourse.

 

 

[sLIGHTLY WORSE END -- You'll have to load a much earlier save if you want to significantly alter the ending -- the storm will always limit the time of your visit to a single day.]

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"The banging of the codpieces instantly cuts off. The lone figures lies very still on their face, their rapier having escaped their grip and rolling back and forth the swaying deck. After a very long moment, they pop their hairy head up with a sharp inhale, eyes darting around in confusion. Before enyone has the chance to react, the Orlan jumps to their feet and point at you with their clawed finger, letting out sharp snarl that reveals their pointed (and very yellow) teeth. The codpiece orchestra picks up with a vengeance, thundering on their instruments with wild abandon.

Aloth: "What... what is happening?!"

Orlan pirate: "Ssshaaah! A wily foe you be, but ye'll not defeat Captain Thundernipples so easily!" Though they seem to have regained their bearings, a trickle of blood sneak its way across the hair of their from the bruise on their forehead."

 

> Are you alright? You're bleeding.

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> Are you alright? You're bleeding.

The Orlan throws his head back in a bellow of laughter. The alarmingly copious stream of blood is split into numerous tiny streams by his scraggly bears and deposed as raindrops into his surroundings as he moves.

 

Captain Thundernipples: "Bleeding?! I'm not bleeding! You're bleeding!"

 

> What are you talking about? I'm not bleeding.

> Would you please stop soiling the woodwork? We just scrubbed the deck.

> [draw weapon] Well, you're certainly not bleeding as much as you're about to, that much is true.

> Please, sir, sit down for a moment, you're clearly disorientated. I'll have someone dress your wound.

> Riiight... Edér, you deal with this.

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