The Wormwood heaved and rocked gently on the relatively calm waters of the Shackles as five confused souls slowly awoke in her hold. Each remembered bits and pieces of their previous night. They had been at the Formidably Maid the night prior, taking in the heady joy of excess. The ringing laughter of a wild night in a pirate port was still fresh in their minds. For some, the scents of rich stewed meat and perfume even lingering in their nostrils.
The most common trait these five shared was a pounding headache, as all of them had been beaten in some form or another and dragged into the hold. There was a rhythmic creaking noise, and some felt the room swaying, causing doubt in their sobriety. Before any could do much more than sit up, however, several pairs of heavy footsteps came down some ships stairs into the dark room. The harsh light of a lantern painfully speared any who looked towards the sound, and when they recovered, they could see the outline of seven pirates.
Master Scourge, the Wormwood’s boatswain, master-at-arms, and infamous disciplinarian, sneered down at his marks. He’d been instrumental in their capture and now had the duty of ensuring they make it to the top deck as they came to grips with their predicament. He surveyed his catch, his sneer, so gnarled that it seemed to bruise his face, could have been mistaken for a look of pain though it was clearly an attempt at a smile.
“Still abed with the sun over the yardarm?"
His voice shattered the silence and echoed through the hall accompanied by the sharp crack of the whip in his hand.
“On your feet, ye filthy swabs! Get up on deck and report for duty before Cap’n Harrigan flays your flesh into sausage skins and have Fishguts fry ye up for breakfast!”
The bedraggled group of gang-pressed sailors included a nagaji, an aasimar, a strix, a suli and a gnome who put up no resistance in the face of their captors. Scourge and the pirates ushered them topside to the Wormwood’s main deck without incident where they joined the rest of the crew who were assembled and looking up at the aft deck. It didn’t take long for the group to realize the severity of the situation. Each realized in turn they were on a sizable ship in the middle of the ocean, far from any land. In fact, Port Peril and the mainland of the Shackles a mere ochre haze many miles astern.
They joined the majority of the crew who clustered around the ship’s mainmast, looking up at the higher deck on the stern, where two figures stood. One of them was a broad, muscular Garundi man with a shaven head, a long beard bound with gold rings, and an eye patch. His imposing stature and demeanor made it clear he was in command. The other, a younger man, also balding, save for a long black ponytail, wore a long coat and looked somewhat uncomfortable as he fumbled with a rather menacing looking and well-used cat-o’-nine-tails. Captain Harrigan whispered something to the second figure before stepping forward to the rail to address the crew.
“Glad you could join us at last! Welcome to the Wormwood! My thanks for ‘volunteering’ to join my crew.”
The Captain’s voice boomed out over the deck as he grinned and looked down at the group below. Several of the more seasoned pirates jeered and whistled at the Captains worlds. He took a moment to quickly survey the two dozen or so bodies below him. It wasn’t hard to pick out the new additions from the old. This whole speech was for the benefit of the eight new arrivals they had picked up in their last ten days at Port Peril and the two they had captured in a ship raid just four days prior to that. The newer faces stood out, set apart by their relative cleanliness and their apparent unease with their new-found situation. The rest stood about on the deck or in the ship’s rigging, much more comfortable with the ship and intently listening to the captains words.
“I am Barnabas Harrigan! But to you lot, Captain will do nicely, not that you’ll ever need to address me. I have only one rule! Don’t speak to me. I like talk, but I don’t like your talk. Follow that rule and we’ll all get along fine. Oh, and while I’ve got your attention, even with the new recruits, we’re still short-handed, and I aim to keep what crew I have. There’ll be a keelhaulin’ for anyone caught killin’ anyone. Am I clear?”
The gathered rabble generally murmured in assent at the Captain’s orders as he turned to the balding man before continuing.
“Mr. Plugg! If you’d be so kind as to make pirates out of these landlubbers, it’ll save me having to put them in the sweat-box for a year and a day before I make pies out of ’em. Dismissed!”
Mr. Plugg stepped up, and with a shrill yell, took command of the situation barking out commands to those who knew the drill and ordering the man with the whip to take charge of the daily routine. At this point six people were looking rather dumb founded on deck as Mr. Plugg walked down the steps to meet them brandishing his Cat.
“Well you green bastards, look like your mine. Let’s get one thing strait, you’re tools, my tools. If I say climb, you say how high. If I say kneel, you kneel…. and if anyone of you get’s any ideas beyond what you’re told…
Mr. Plugg cracked the cat-o’-nine-tails in the air for effect. Then motioned over to the mast ladder of the main mast.
I’ll be conducting a series of test to sea where you belong on-board the Wormwood! First, into the rigging with you, let those who wish to live reach the crows nest first.
Mr. Plugg intended to test the quality of this green lot, and he would start with their climbing skills. The Wormwood needed another body in the rigging, preferably not keeping the company of old Harmak Gruft though Plug wasn’t opposed to the idea of adding more decorations to the ship. With a bitter curse he watched as the new blood clambered up towards the crow’s nest on the mainmast as fast as they could. Harvus took an early lead in the climb with Conchobhar trailing only slightly as he scrambled up the rigging on the opposite end of the boat. It was a rather dull climb to watch, the broken bird and gnome having the lead despite climbing carefully. Plug was offered a bit of amusement when Mirei fell from the rigging at his feet, he whipped her with a savage snarl ordering her back into the rigging but making a mental note that it probably wasn’t where she belonged. It wasn’t long before Harvus made it to the top, followed shortly by Chonchobhar.
The crows-nest itself was some sixty feet above the main deck and offered an impressive perspective on the sea surrounding the boat. There was no time for the view however as the balding wretch of a first officer was already howling orders up at Harvus as soon as he had reached the top. A few minutes later all six of the new crew members were back on deck and lined up for another of Plugg’s tests. This time the test was simple, he stopped in front of each person and looked them in the eyes for an unsettling moment then asked if they could cook and each in turn gave some sort of negative.
Mr. Plugg refused to be flummoxed by this turn of events, the ships cook Kroop had been unusually drunk as of late and regularly failed to adequately provide for the officers meals. This needed to be corrected, and a cooks mate was the way Plugg intended to do it. He looked over the group, his eyes resting on each one. The Strix and the Gnome were already assigned as riggers after the last display. His eyes passed across the human, aasimar, and suli. Any of them could fulfill the role, but how to choose. Finally his eyes rested on the nagaji with some amount of distaste, his one encounter with a true naga had been less then pleasant and this hybrid didn’t add anything for him. Having him in the galley would ensure minimal contact; as good a reason as any. His mind quickly manufactured an excuse for this decision, seemingly uncomfortable with it’s own discomfort. The snake looked well feed, it must be able to cook, and so it was decided. Each was assigned their various tasks, the swabs reported directly to Mr. Scourge, the riggers to Mr. Plugg and the snake to Mr. Kroop.