Monday, June 29, 2015

Actual Play: Daughters of the Eel (part 1)

After their rescue from the horrible lighthouse of Doctor Reichmann by a somewhat less-than-above-board crew of sailors, Kahl and Herman found themselves at the town of Blighter's Manse. Blighter's Manse, a port town known for being a haven for maritime criminals, provides ample opportunities to make quick coin for two stranded adventurers. Following the word on the street, the two sought a little temporary employment with Gentleman Jim, a tavern owner with his hand in the local midnight economy.

The Rended Ewe, Gentleman Jim's establishment, turned out to be a rough waterfront tavern. The pair were ushered upstairs to Jim's office where they found a lanky, nervous man attempting to wear his mismatched clothes in what passes for style in a pirate-infested town. It seems they had come to Jim at just the right moment; he was in need of a couple discreet souls to row out to one of the prison hulks anchored offshore and retrieve an item that had been stashed among the convicts--a place no one would think to look for an object of value (1). Besides, Gentleman Jim explained, it is customary for ne'er-do-wells new to Blighter's Manse to run an errand for the established brokers just to show that they're mindful of how things are run in the town.

The item in question was a leather case that holds multicolored glass lenses (2). They were given a letter of mark to explain the situation to the prison hulk's warden. Should be an easy job: go out to the prison hulk, meet with the prison's warden, get the lenses, row back, put the lenses into Jim's hand. Twenty-five pieces of gold now, twenty-five more upon their return. An easy night's work, eh?

Jim arranged a boat for them, which was to be rowed by a man named Petrus. Petrus was an old dog of the sea--scrawny and on his last legs, but born to the oars. He said little as he rowed the duo out to the prison hulk, and seemed to ignore Kahl's proselytizing and religious hectoring. The few words Petrus had to trade were about Vanessa, a powerful woman who called the shots on behalf of Blighter's Manse's burgomaster. They were warned that she is not someone you want to cross.

As they approached the ship they saw that in a former life it has been a third-rate ship of some naval force, but was currently in a state of ill repair. Each of the ship's three masts had been sawed off, rendering it unseaworthy. Furthermore, each of the gun ports were empty of cannon; the shutter of each port had been replaced with stout iron bars--presumably to keep the prisoners within. The name in faded paint upon the prow read "The Harrow" (3).

Petrus tied the rowboat to the weighted rope ladder slung over the side of the ship's main deck and vowed to remain below while Herman and Kahl went to retrieve the object of their errand. Once aboard the ship, they headed aft, climbing the stairs to the sterncastle deck where they discovered a room that had formerly been the navigation room. Now empty of sextons and charts--with only a few torn and useless maps remaining on the table--the room seemed to be a dead end and the ship was beginning to appear to be not as inhabited as perhaps it should be.

As they left the navigation room in search of the warden and the mysterious lenses, they caught sight of movement across the room's windows--bone-white limbs, scurrying across the ship's hull.

Kahl and Herman weren't alone on the ship after all.



(1) I've wanted to run an adventure set on a prison hulk ever since I re-read Great Expectations a few years ago. When you think about it, a prison hulk is literally a dungeon at sea.

(2) The lenses were inspired, in part, by Molly Tanzer's novel Vermillion, which I had just finished.

(3) It's actually more difficult that I expected to find good deck plans of historical ships!