Some may have noticed the captain thoughtfully scanning the horizon all night after defeating Ssilla’Meshnik. His abrupt absence came as no surprise when everyone woke from rest. Over the course of a few days, the Maelstrom (ship), the Salty Gear and even Quartermaster Septimus were restored to their original forms using the beacon of Ssilla’s lighthouse. It took great ingenuity on the part of Alcades and a new ally, the gnome mage Serucest of the Salty Gear. Despite intense discussion, Captain Boniva’s last standing order to keep the remaining bottled ships stored was honored by First Mate Samdi who stepped up as acting captain.
A week’s passage of strange ecological shifts and lesser protean threats kept the crews on their toes as the Maelstrom (ship) and Salty Gear sailed deeper into the Cerulean Void, Here, Serucest could finally continue her planar pilgrimage. Their friendly escort parted ways near the magically explosive domain of Nethys. A feminine being known as the Arcanothein welcomed her, informing both crews that Nethys was away, attending a divine council on the current state of dragonkind. Alcades turned down the flighty being’s invitation to study in the archives of Nethys and was given a copy of the god’s holy book instead. For their trouble, Serucest bestowed the crew with two pristine wood golems.
Another week in the heart of the Deep Maelstrom saw more quasi-real changes in the environment. The starless skies glimmered with magic ambiance that one could scarcely distinguish from the wind and waves. What appeared to be a distant moon was identified as Groteus, god of the end times.
Then, Redbeard abruptly teleported on board. He tried to hide his surprise over the crew’s success with the lighthouse and asked if it was time to bait the hook for the Pirate Queen’s herald. In the days that followed, the Sideburn joined with the Maelstrom (ship). In what had become a common occurrence, the Inscrutable Destiny was also spotted on the horizon. Finally, the Kelpie’s Wrath appeared. All hung flags of parley.
Araris flew ahead to great the Kelpie’s Wrath and found a familiar face – Captain Balta, now a petitioner in Besmara’s service. Captain Papa positioned the Maelstrom (ship) between the Sideburn and Kelpie’s Wrath, ready to use the diving pearl should the parlay turn violent. Unfortunately, a froth of air bubbles rose from below. Besmara’s sea serpent was here to back up Balta’s bravado. Unexpectedly, Captain Cahol of the Inscrutable Destiny silently appeared on deck. At this point, small tidal waves began rolling in.
Any good graces between crews were lost as threats were made and true intentions were revealed. The parley only seemed to postpone the inevitable, so Cahol recommended a game of Pirate’s Dice to settle matters. If Redbeard won, the Kelpie’s Wrath would turn over it’s plunder. If Balta won, Redbeard would willingly sail away. If Cahol won, he gained the service of a crew member from each ship. And if Samdi won, everyone was free to murder each other AFTER he finished his business with Besmara and AFTER the Maelstrom (ship) and her crew had sailed away. Around this time, soft snow began to fall.
The captains gathered with their cups on the Maelstrom (ship). Having won Kaledith in the last game, Redbeard was confident. With a goddess of luck on his side, Balta was smug. With inscrutable destiny watching over him, Cahol was unconcerned. With Alcades hexing his cup, Papa was… well, still a little nervous! As the waves peaked around 200 feet, keeping the dice from rolling over on the table became a challenge, but not for Papa. Whether calling or called a liar, the final count was often in his favor. With a knowing wink, Cahol conceded that Captain Samdi was clearly the superior dicer. The snow became like a blizzard and slush collected on the water’s surface.
All ships began to descend a new wave of even larger proportion. At it’s crest surmounted a Tien treasure ship, Chelish naval frigate, orc raiding galley, undine nautilus, cruising star hulk or anything else those gathered witnessed to be Besmara’s legendary Seawraith. Balanced on the crow’s nest, a garish woman’s silhouette raised a musket in the shallow albedo of Groteus. The bullet fired like a comet and froze the waves into disintegrating mountains of hollow ice.
Three ships began to slide. Redbeard leaped over the Sideburn’s prow to keep the bulky ship from leaning and rolling into the avalanche. His beard quivered and blossomed into steal tendrils of crab-walking pitons while his own huge stature strained to brace the forward keel. Like Redbeard’s crew, the Maelstrom’s (ship) sailors threw their anchors to port. Weyland hoped their drag would prevent a starboard fall. Likewise, Papa commanded every chain at his disposal. The Maelstrom (ship) risked unfurling her seldom-used gliding wings for the unavoidable plummet. Fairing far worse, the Kelpie’s Wrath immediately toppled towards the Maelstrom (ship). She gouged a sideways roll and her masts swung hard into the new landscape. The long sigh of bending timbers and a buckling explosion of heavy splinters kicked her into energetic bouncing barrel rolls, all of this just below the Maelstrom’s airborne keel!
Alcades was already flying towards the Seawraith, arriving just in time to land before the colossal nautilus shell he saw flew deftly beyond the ice formation. If this was indeed the Pirate Queen, she was tailing the Maelstrom’s descent. The undine inquired what in the nine hells was going on, and she promptly handed him a huge conch shell along with a dastardly knowing smile. Believe it or not, he was silent and waited.
Crazy devil gunners had opened several hatches and dropped all pretenses, opening fire on the now derelict Kelpie’s Wrath. However, that was behind them. The Maelstrom (ship) banked into a great valley formed by a trough in the frozen waves. A few thousand feet and she would clear the ice with room to spare.
Meanwhile, Besmara silently dove the Seawraithe as a shipbreaker seaserpent with eyes the size of wagon wheels silently approached beside them. The Pirate Queen spared Alcades only a moment’s glance while taking a very athletic posture and leaping from the submersed magical habitat of her ship. Recently blessed with a lack of good sense, he joined her. Recently blessed with dragon’s might, he was able to withstand 300 ft. of current! He watched as the beast’s head broke the water’s surface and Besmara climbed to stand atop it. Then, after taking a moment to look presentable, she casually stepped from snout to the aft castle of the gliding Maelstrom (ship) as it touched down.
Most were shocked or dumbfounded by the presence of the sultry goddess. Behind them, ice formations cracked and fell apart like thunderous summer icebergs. So, the Queen gestured at Alcades. He activated the conch shell, bringing forth a sudden sea shanty that few could resist singing and dancing to. Even Besmara took to the jig, exchanging dance partners and sharing private conversations with the officers. This included one flirtatious dance, in which Besmara simultaneously evoked jealously in Kaledith and caused Weyland to burn with new feelings! Once the ice had broken, so-to-speak, and her distractions were all in place, the queen asked Papa for Vaghol (living rune). She bit her lip as he pulled the rune out of his armpit tattoo!
Vaghol whirled around the adamantine cannon ball furiously as Besmara held it in mid air above her palm. She then invited Akane into Kaledith’s extravagant quarters. No one protested or eavesdropped. Few even noticed. She handed Akane a leather map and told her to clear a table. Akane obeyed with a wince and rolled out the parcel, upon which Besmara slammed the cannon ball. Unseen force and divine concentration darkened the room. Vaghol pushed against it, but slowly slid onto the map, becoming a mark of fluttering ink joined with countless others. “There now, go and play with your friends,” she smiled.
Not amused, Akane was sent for cups and rum. As she poured for the goddess, Besmara enticed her, “Thank you Akane. Now, I’m ready to grant your wish…”