Taking the Dagon’s Valour
It was a chance comment of Cuana’s to King Conan in Velitrium which had led the Cimmerian, Dhak, Tullweim, and Xacksmith to sail a road of blood and slaughter on the Western Ocean. Cuana casually let it known that his wanderlust desired something different. The barbarian also let the King of Aquilonia know of the troubling behavior of his companions, the Stygian had always been a black-hearted fiend but the Aesir’s continued practice of carving into his arms was most troubling. Conan said he knew the solution to all that ailed Cuana. He told tales with great mirth followed by great melancholy of how he sailed as Amra, and the mighty battles on the high seas he took part in. The Cimmerian King stated he knew a man in Messantia by the name of Argentio who could get the adventurers onto a pirate ship, but warned they should take care, and not let their names be known as it could have deadly repercussions if a powerful merchant sought vengeance for booty lost. So Cuana told his fellows of the King’s offer and all agreed. The Cimmerian would be known as Malleus, the Aesir would take the alias of Hollan, the Hyrkanian as Cortos, and the Stygian would be called Abizar. The adventurers set out to the capital city of Argos, Messantia, the very next day.
In Messantia the adventurers met Argentio, a fat merchant who had introduced them to a pirate named Balthazar, captain of the ship, Dagon’s Valour. Balthazar was not keen on admitting land-lovers to his vessel but it was obvious Argentio had some hold over the captain and within a few days the adventurers were surrounded by glistening blue waters as far as their eyes could see. They had several weeks of riding the swells and looting fantastic ships which carried fortunes in cargo to and from distant lands. In the beginning of their seaborne adventures the party were considered lowly deckhands and spent their time scrubbing the deck and performing menial chores while most of the veteran crew did little but lie about and drink. Some hazing had taken place but a cracked skull or two caused by the now bearded Aesir and massive Cimmerian had quickly put the practice to an end. Tensions on the ship had increased in the last few weeks as Balthazar had stayed clear of all known shipping lanes for some time. And though there were several merchant ships seen, the order to attack was never given. The captain had set his crew on a course with an unknown destination.
Hollan had been scrubbing the deck along with Malleus for hours and still could not get relief as the ocean spray continued to splash and it seemed there was always some new mess to mop up. The Aesir finally lost his remaining calm when he saw a drunken pirate resting against the railing stumble and spill his drink. Hollan growled, lifted the man up and shoved his scrubbing brush into his chest yelling it was time he did some cleaning. The action was not missed by the keen hawk eyes of the ship’s bosun who angrily shook his coiled whip under the northman’s nose and insisted he do his duty or be tied to the mast and lashed. The Aesir snarled as he pushed the startled drunk down and returned to furiously scrubbing the deck. The bosun watched for a moment, then left below deck at a summons from the captain. Both Hollan and Malleus heard fresh grumbling from the rest of the crew. The Barachan pirates believed themselves to be near Stygian waters and were growing restless at the lack of bloodshed and loot. The Cimmerian made note to question the crew about the captain’s strange behavior and continued with his cumbersome labor.
As darkness fell upon the Dagon’s Valour, the crew prepared for bed. With no officers around talk and drink flowed freely. Malleus struck up a conversation with 3 of the Barachan pirates and learned they believed the captain had lost his nerve. Their displeasure at steering clear of even the easiest of targets to plunder had set them on edge. Malleus agreed, stating his own dissatisfaction at cleaning decks instead of spilling blood. The Cimmerian knew the attitude of these 3 was widespread among the crew and he wanted them to know whose side he was on should an opportunity present itself. Nobody said the word ‘mutiny’ yet, but the desire was easily seen. Abizar too was getting noticeably agitated. It had been some time since his last sacrifice to his demon master and the Stygian knew he would pay dearly if he did not quell Dekanawidah’s insatiable appetite. Abizar had noted one of the crewman with a penchant for drunkenness who boasted of having tried a variety of lotuses captured from vessels to the south. The Stygian whispered to the crewman that he had some opium and was looking to find a safe place to get lost in it. The crewman’s eyes widened and he told Abizar to meet him in the cargo hold in a half hour after the rest of the crew was asleep or too drunk to notice.
At the prescribed time Abizar slunk out of bed with his sword strapped to him and a small parcel of opium in hand. Stealth was hardly necessary but the Stygian’s catlike eyes were needed to avoid stumbling over the many wastrels on the floor. He arrived at the cargo hold which had laid woefully light for many nights now. As he stole further into the hold he heard a faint call for him to step closer. There was little light but Abizar could see one form standing about 50 paces in front of him and cautiously moved towards the figure. Just as the Stygian came within a few feet of the pirate 2 skulkers leapt from their hiding places and drove their poniards deep into the sorcerer’s side. The third pirate rushed forward but Abizar deflected his poniard with a desperate invocation. The Stygian drew his arming sword and struck twice with such finessed point control as to pierce the same wound on one of his attackers, bringing him to the floor with a death rattle. The others stabbed twice with their weapons but with a show of intricate swordplay Abizar was able to deftly parry both. The next lunge by the Stygian caught one of the pirates squarely in his chest, the point of his blade piercing clear through to the man’s back.
Abizar turned to the remaining Barachan with a steely gaze and his sword pointed at the pirate’s throat. It was no coincidence the last foe standing was the one which the Stygian had told of the opium. The pirate quickly dropped his weapon and pleaded for his life, claiming he was a victim at the mercy of his vices. Abizar shushed the man and placed his hand firmly against his face. The Stygian smiled as he saw the pirate’s eyes grow wide between Abizar’s fingers as his senses were robbed to power the sorcerer’s mystical might. Abizar called out in the demonic speech of his master and offered the Barachan as a sacrifice as he plunged his sword in the unconscious man’s form causing a spray of blood to hit the Stygian’s face. Knowing he would need to dispose of the evidence of his blasphemous deed Abizar used the power absorbed from his victim to cause the dead to rise. He then peeked out the cargo door and once he saw it was clear ordered the shambling corpses to the deck. In the moon’s light 3 corpses threw themselves over the railing while a necromancer chuckled painfully and clutched his side.
The Stygian stole back down to the crew’s quarters and made his way to Malleus’ side. He quietly woke the Cimmerian and asked for aid in stitching his wounds. The tired barbarian pushed Abizar aside stating it was too dark to do anything and he’d likely do more harm than good. The Stygian miserably grunted his understanding and returned to his bed holding a rolled up shirt taken from one of the slain Barachans against his wound. It felt like only a few short hours had passed when the crew were all awakened and ordered on deck. Abizar searched for a different shirt to wear, fearing to go above deck in his slashed and bloodied top. He quickly found one in the chest of the pirate he’d sacrificed while the rest of the crew raced up deck. The sun’s light was dim over the horizon and the pirates were up much earlier than they expected to be. Captain Balthazar stood in a demeanor of obvious anger as he walked slowly down the line of sailors telling of the night lookout witnessing 3 crewmen jumping overboard the eve before. The captain intended to learn why they did such a thing, likely becoming shark food in the open ocean. As Balthazar spoke the Stygian appeared on the deck and got into line in a grubby shirt stained with weeks of sweat. The captain shouted for the bosun to grab Abizar and tie him to the mast for his tardiness.
Malleus was about to intervene but a look from Hollan and the seeming indifference on Abizar’s face stayed him. The Stygian’s stolen shirt was torn from his back and his arms were tied to the mast. The bosun delivered 50 lashes with increasing anger as through an astounding show of willpower Abizar stoically took the beating. Finally Balthazar ordered the bosun to stop and release the Stygian. As this was being done Hollan stepped forward and hollered his displeasure at doing nothing but scrubbing decks when the pirates could be raiding. The captain rounded on the Aesir and grimly asked if he wished to join his friend on the mast. The bosun looked quite eager to use his whip again, positive he could get a squeal out of Hollan. The Aesir backed down but looks were exchanged among the crew. The captain seemed he would set back to interrogating the crew about the 3 men who’d given themselves to the ocean’s embrace when a call from the lookout shouted, “Land ho!” A grim smile came across Balthazar’s face and he shouted orders for the crew to prepare to make landfall.
The pirate crew had barely finished rowing their small crafts to the beach from the anchored Dagon’s Valour when Hollan shouted a challenge at the bosun to a death duel for his rank. The experienced sailor glowered at the Aesir as he rounded and both drew their weapons, the bosun’s cutlass looking as small and feeble as the officer himself when compared to the size of the Aesir with greatsword in hand. The combat was as brief as it was bloody as the bosun gashed a deep wound in the barbarian’s chest. In response, Hollan’s blade carved through the bosun twice as the white sands of the beach were stained red and the officer’s mangled flesh fell. The crew was as shocked at the outcome as the captain was enraged. Balthazar drew his weapon and shouted for Hollan to stand and deliver. The captain very quickly saw the error of his ways. Though he was a skilled pirate and seaman he was out-matched with the amount of sheer punishment Hollan could withstand and devastating wounds the northman’s greatsword imparted. Even the most grievous wounds Balthazar caused seemed to have little effect on the Aesir’s bearing.
The doomed captain cried out for aid and all the remaining officers closed on Hollan with swords drawn. With the pirate’s code so broken, Abizar, Cortos, and Malleus joined the melee. The captain and officers focused their strikes on the Aesir as they desperately tried to dodge his companions. It was not long before the officers fell to the finessed incisions of Abizar and Cortus and the rending strikes from Hollan and Malleus’ blades. In the brief moments of bloodshed the Aesir decided the captain was to remain alive and used the flat of his blade to knock the man down and rob him of his senses. Afterwards, Hollan turned to the rest of the crew and proclaimed himself captain, promising to begin actively raiding any vessels they came upon. An immediate cheer resounded from the sailors and the Aesir named Malleus as first mate, Abizar as the new bosun, and Cortos as the bosun’s mate. The Cimmerian and Hyrkanian quickly bandaged Abizar and Hollan’s wounds. Malleus then suggested a search for fruit, fowl, and fresh water and Hollan agreed saying not to travel far and sending a few of the men with the Cimmerian.
Hollan called out that the remaining crew could enjoy some leisure time on the beach as he grabbed the captain and dragged him from the beach with Abizar and Cortos following. They stopped a good 100 feet into the trees where it was believed none of the crew would hear. The Aesir ordered Abizar to rouse the captain and when the shaken man opened his eyes Hollan demanded to know what the purpose of bringing the Dagon’s Valour to this island was. With 2 swords held to him and a giant of a man standing before him with his sword in the ground Balthazar replied, “you dogs would not understand. ‘Twas a year ago this day in which my beloved wife Cassilda was killed. We had just fought off a Stygian warship and she’d been fatally wounded. With no other land nearby we beached here and I buried her on this island.” The adventurers were dubious of Balthazar’s words but then the former captain produced a pair of rings of exquisite beauty which he wore together with a chain around his neck. Balthazar explained it was their wedding bands and he kept them as a keepsake. Hollan nodded and told the former captain his fate would be to remain on this island for the rest of his days and if the Aesir ever saw the man again he’d kill him without a word.
Within the hour Malleus and crew arrived back at the beach. The Cimmerian’s skills as a woodsman had produced as good results as they could as the Barachan pirates carried a small bundle of fruit, a few dead birds, and a bucket of fresh water. Hollan ordered the crew to man their row boats and head back to the Dagon’s Valour. The Aesir smiled at having a group of men under his command again and his companions were glad they did not have to do any of the rowing on the return trip to the ship. None looked back on the lone figure who stood watching from the tree line and Balthazar’s hard face showed a wide smile. The former captain thought the fools who stranded him would make poor pirates if they could not see through such an obvious lie. He was certain the day would come when he would be off the island with that which he’d come to it for. And he was as sure the day would come when he’d find those fools again and repay them for their mutinous actions with his blade through their throats.
Ill Omens and the Wrath of the Driving Seas
The crewmen were ordered to take their meager supplies to the cargo hold and pull up anchor. When asked for a course, Hollan grit his teeth knowing they’d slain the ship’s navigator so instead called to be taken in the opposite direction they’d sailed by. The Aesir hoped the chosen course would return them to Messantia or at the least put them through some shipping lanes with the promise of battle and loot. The thrill of the open ocean filled the adventurers as they were able to stand against the sea spray with thoughts of their newly won freedom and command. No longer would they answer to any man. They followed the road of the restless gull, as free as a vagrant breeze.
In the dwindling sunlight a cry from one of the Barachan’s roused the adventurer’s attention. The object of the pirate’s dismay was a crow landing on the figurehead of the ship. The look on the other crewman’s faces matched the man who’d seen the bird. Abizar whispered to Hollan a crow on the figurehead of a ship was considered an ill omen which meant the ship would sink in the near future unless it was slain. The Aesir ordered Cortos to kill the bird and the Hyrkanian responded with an arrow which looked to have hit true. Astonishingly one of the pirates shouted the bird still lived in the water! Malleus launched himself over the rail, intent on grabbing the bird and crushing it in his hard hands. The Cimmerian was ill prepared for swimming in the harsh current and swells of the open sea. Malleus lost sight of the crow between the lurching of the water and when he saw it again the bird was further than he expected, desperately using its damaged wing to attempt flight. The leather armor Malleus wore did not aid the barbarian in his struggle to swim and the violent pitch of water plunged his head under. He struggled to breach the water’s surface and when he did he could find no sign of the bird in the gathering gloom. Frustrated and exhausted from battling to remain afloat in the strong current the Cimmerian swam back to the now cursed Dagon’s Valour. The mood aboard the ship was as grim as a funeral’s pall.
The crew were anxious to know if the crow was slain. Malleus spoke of the bird’s mangled wing and of it floundering in the water. The Cimmerian pointed out it could not walk, swim, or fly and he was sure of its death which relaxed the superstitious pirates somewhat. Afterwards the adventurers traveled below deck to inspect their newly won chambers. All the adventurers enjoyed the space they could call their own. Cortos found a locked chest in his room and a few minutes with his pick opened it. Within he found a bit of silver and several gems. Abizar went into the dead navigator’s room and pored over the maps and star charts in an effort to make sense of it all. Hollan and Malleus simply opened up the bottles of liquor and went to sleep to the sounds of waves against the hull. For that night at least, the adventurers troubles were passed. But tomorrow was another day full of the promise of peril, plight and plunder.
The next morning quickly lapsed into midday as the party got used to running things on board. The promise of looting had done quite a bit for the mood of the crew, who worked with a refreshed demeanor. Rigging was inspected, boarding hooks and coils of rope were made ready, blades were sharpened, and sails were unfurled and angled for maximum speed. Early in the afternoon a ship, which was quickly identified as a Stygian warship, was spotted. It too had spotted the Dagon’s Valour and was closing. By the profile the galley cut it was plainly seen to be a larger craft than the pirate ship, and the reputation of the Stygian navy was such as to make all on board nervous. Hollan quickly called out orders to flee. Though he knew the Barachans were eager to spill blood, the Aesir would rather it was of merchants as the cost in lives of fighting soldiers was like to be high. But the Stygian galley was powered not just by sails but by many slave rowers and continued to bear down upon the pirate ship.
A hail of arrows darkened the sky from the warship, their pointed ends driving deep and bringing many of the pirates to their end. Few of the pirates had missile weapons but Cortos lifted his Hyrkanian bow and returned fire. A satisfied smile came upon his hardened face as he saw one of the Stygians fall into the depths below. Hollan called for the sails to be unmanned and for the men to ready their weapons as the warship slammed into the Dagon’s Valour. Regaining his feet, Abizar could see the writing on the side of their attacker’s vessel, naming the galley, Pa-Userukhet-enpa-Iumahu-Khesef, or The Wrath of the Driving Seas. Amid another volley of arrows, boarding hooks were thrown from the warship, and the Stygian soldiers stood at the ready with khopeshes drawn. The Stygians surged towards the Dagon’s Valour, steel flashed, and screams rang out as the Stygians were amazingly pushed back by the Barachans, emboldened by Hollan’s orders and the battle worthiness of his officers. Though the first attempt to board had been paid with a high cost of lives the Stygian captain ordered his men to push forward. Again the Stygians pressed onto the Dagon’s Valour’s deck, their curved blades slashing murderously, and again the battle starved pirates repelled them with a bloody swath.
The Stygian warship’s losses had been great and the fear of death showed in their eyes. Hollan roared out for the pirates to board the galley and the Barachans surged onto the Stygian deck cutting into their ranks. Malleus too leapt to the warship and in 3 vicious strokes slew as many enemy soldiers. Abizar and Cortos fired their bows from the Dagon’s Valour, felling the Stygians who tried to close on the Cimmerian. Hollan took advantage in the gap of Stygians the Cimmerian had created and stepped back to back with Malleus, driving the point of his greatsword out the backside of an attacker. With a few more sword swings delivered by the Barachans the Stygian soldiers were routed. Only one remained to attack. Dressed in the gear of the ship’s captain, the Stygian charged Malleus. The captain’s khopesh sliced into the Cimmerian’s shoulder and Malleus responded with a devastating sweep of his greatsword which opened the length of the captain’s torso. With hate in his eyes and blood gurgling in his throat the Stygian captain fell at the Cimmerian’s feet. One last Stygian cowered before the pirates. The man wore priestly garments and raised his hands pleading to be spared. Abizar rushed to the barbarian’s side and bid them stay their hand. The sorcerer stated simply a priest of Set could be of some use to the party. Malleus nodded and Hollan shouted the galley was theirs. A loud cheer rose from all directions and the Aesir shouted orders to recover any goods the warship held.