Beard the Lion in his den – and twist his tail besides!
Turning the tables
We have paused for breath among natural caverns, much of which is clearly under water at high tide. As we take stock of the villagers or sailors who have taken shelter with us, and the equipment we have left to us, Martel “Hammer of Justice” Guerra outlines two plans, one of which he advocates.
“Now, none of these villagers wish to be chased the breadth of the island with the faint hope of somehow seizing a vessel at some stage. So one obvious option is to hide and ambush our pursuers. But I have a better idea. We can hide, wait until they pass us, then return the way we came and take out the beach crew and seize the caravel for ourselves!” – Martel
He sketches out some devious devices, mainly using Carrick, the Elf mage, who can cast a convincing illusion; and ½-Jack the Halfling rogue who can easily hide and creep unseen. He quietly explains this to the villagers and reassures them, so that they are willing to follow us. With the ranger Elf Red’s supervision, we make sure tracks lead on convincingly, then retire into a fair-size side passage and, hoping that Carrick’s muttered spell-casting is inaudible against the sound of tidal races, wait on tenterhooks. ½-Jack is not with us: he has been given the dangerous job of creating the impression that we fugitives are not far ahead of the pirates!
He returns, quietly fording a tidal stream, and gives us the thumbs-up. We have heard a number of pirates tramp past quickly, perhaps only half a dozen or perhaps as many as ten. Martel’s plan has worked!
Seizing the advantage
We steal back, the villagers and sailors behind us. The tar-and-smoke-reeking cavern is crossed safely. Martel checks whether there be any means of securing the concealed door, but there is no easy way. It’s time to scout out the village.
Sweeping aside the last few caltrops, ½-Jack creeps towards the West tower. Red is not far behind: he’s been detailed to climb the tower if it is empty, and cover our advance. ½-Jack creeps closer, then closer still, then finally scrambles up the ladder. It’s clear! He waves Red on. Red steals up the ladder and soon reaches the top, to see ½-Jack wince as a crossbow quarrel strikes! [7 damage, pretty deadly] The bolt came from the South tower: both return fire, dropping one of the two guards there as best they can tell. ½-Jack can see the caravel’s lighter still drawn up on the beach, three pirates standing sentry. He hollers all this information back.
By this time, Martel and Br Abram Gaunt, cleric of Tempus, have stormed from the cavern to cover within striking distance of the South tower. The lighter is the vital objective, but the tower must also be neutralised.
“I’m hoping that by the time we’re ready to charge, the tower guards are dead and I don’t need to choose” – Martel
Round 3: Martel runs to the dubious cover of the South tower legs. ½-Jack shoots at and kills the last tower sentry with a fine shot.
“Tower clear – go for the beach!” – ½-Jack
Carrick, who has shepherded the villagers and sailors to shelter behind the West tower mound, hustles up the tower. Like Red and ½-Jack he is using a captured light crossbow. Red misses his shot. One of the beach sentries has a crossbow too, and targets Guerra, while his two comrades charge the paladin: they all miss. Gaunt moves out from his cover behind a hut, to within striking distance of his spells, and throws a Sacred Flame over one of Martel’s opponents.
Round 4: Martel’s Warhammer crushes the skull of the wounded pirate and he turns to face the remaining one. ½-Jack swashbuckles down from the tower [Acrobatics 20+] and runs to cover well towards the beach. Carrick tries along shot at the last sentry at the lighter: he hits! Red hits! The sentry falls dead! Now alone, the last pirate swings at Martel – ignoring the paladin’s offer of clemency – and misses. Gaunt charges in but misses, and he has no more Tempus-inspired extra attacks.
Round 5: Martel double-hands his Warhammer and misses with a blow that would surely have ended the fight. ½-Jack sprints on and gains cover behind a hut very nigh the fight under the tower. Carrick, concerned that the pursuers may have tumbled to our trick quickly, casts an illusion of a tar-trap outside the cavern, as he scrambles down from the West tower. Red descends with him, and rallies the villagers: we’ll need to board the lighter swiftly and with willing oarsmen. The lone pirate slams a shrewd blow in under Martel’s ribs [7 damage]. Gaunt misses, and curses colorfully.
Round 6: Martel misses miserably but ½-Jack runs up to the melee, slides between Martel and Gaunt, and delivers a nasty stab to the pirate [sneak attack for 12]. Carrick lets his illusion sit and follows Red and the villagers who are now working their way through the huts towards the beach. The now-seriously injured pirate misses, and dies cursing as Gaunt finishes him off.
Twisting the lion’s tail
Br Gaunt has healed Martel, for the two of them are the front line of our planned attack on the caravel. As swiftly as practicalities allow, the lighter has been loaded and manned and we row out, Carrick using an illusion of pirates to throw doubt into any lookout’s mind. It’s not a good illusion but we have the sun behind us and a vague suggestion of piratic is much better than none.
As we hoped, the rope ladder has been left lowered. Martel clambers up as swiftly as he can [Athletics] and draws his sword, his Tyr-given power causing it to blaze with righteous light! His arrival on the deck is met with a splash as the last of the ship’s skeleton crew depart for the shore: the ship is ours!
Not resting on his laurels, Martel bounds up to the poop deck (or master’s platform) of the caravel and across to the far gunwale. He readies his crossbow while shouting duties to we others now boarding. Several rounds later, one wounded pirate staggers into full cover among the huts; the other pair are dead. ½-Jack and Red report no enemy left and much accounting and assessment of charts to be doing. Martel asks ½-Jack to bosun the sailors and villagers to their sailing duties while flame-quarrels are readied. He peppers the outriggers with those, until we are ready to sail.
By the time we are under way it is dinner time (as ½-Jack reminds us) but he lays in a course around the spits of mainland, the sailing proceeds with no hitch, and we rest and lay in at Lizardman Cove. Carrick stands watch.
The weather now threatens and we double-anchor, and attempt to sleep in the pitching and yawing that follows. We cope well, save for Br Gaunt who proceeds to feed the fish most diligently, all night.
Reunion with Ryhab
The next day, we reduce to a single anchor, which allows Gaunt to sleep. ½-Jack, now fresh and keen as mustard for new adventure, has totted up the coin remaining and compared his chart with Greg’s sailing charts. He points out a swampy-looking delta on the mainland’s west coast: it has a mark that suggests it is significant. “Or that the pirates marked it as somewhere to steer clear of,” Martel points out, though he too is keen.
Overnight, the weather calms and we even spot a couple of outrigger sails bearing toward Port Tarfoot (the pirate village, now renamed in ½-Jack’s honor and also because he has the chart). We bear swiftly and straight as possible to our own ship, flying a white flag as a mark of friendship. Our ship is renamed the Yolanda.
We have come just in time. Ryhab has obtained help from Tanaroa and is about to refloat the Winehouse. Yolanda helps once a hawser is rowed across and we draw the Winehouse to even keel. Our villagers are shipped to Tanaroa by lunchtime, as promised.
At Tanaroa, we are feted as becomes heroes that rescued so many. We recruit a prize crew of eight doughty warriors and two specialists who can help with carpentry and sailmaking. Martel soon has them fashioning wicker-basket shields for the warriors.
Bearding the lion in his den
For by no means are we done with Greg and his gallow-bait crew. Port Tarfoot appeals as a nice safe anchorage from which trade can be conducted with several villages, and the mainland explored. And we don’t want Greg interfering.
We arrive in the mid-afternoon of the following day, and Martel has the warriors ready with sand or shields while we all are ready with crossbows. Like Greg did before, we sail in from the north. We can see four outriggers drawn up on the beach. We obliterate the North tower sentries, though a shield-bearer falls. Br Gaunt administers Spare the Dying to save his life.
As we know where the Yolanda anchored safely before, that’s where we also anchor, turning our fire on the South tower and slaying those sentries as well. Martel has cast Divine Favor and his heavy crossbow knocks one clean out of the tower!
It’s now time to land! We row furiously with the lighter and the pirates ashore shoot ineffectually. We land and make our way forward towards the West tower, for we suspect they will use the escape tunnel. Ryhab’s crew arrives after us. (Martel has ensured that a good strong skeleton crew remains on each caravel.)
As we advance around the southern huts, Carrick casts the illusion of ourselves, advancing into the open. It has the desired effect and several bolts are wasted on it, though it does not provoke a rash counter-charge by the pirates. Carrick adjusts the illusion and “we” look hurt. ½-Jack spots one of the snipers in the cavern mouth and slays him with an accurate crossbow bolt [13 damage]. Br Gaunt casts Light on a quarrel and Red shoots it into the cavern.
And shouting our battle-cries, we run towards the cavern mouth!