At the conclusion of “The Wormwood Mutiny,” you mutinied against Barnabas Harrigan’s prize crew under Mr. Plugg and Master Scourge, and claimed their own ship, the captured Rahadoumi vessel Man’s Promise. Though you are now free to commence your own careers as pirates, you must clear up a few matters first. They now control a ship that was seized by one of the most notorious Free Captains of the Shackles, and he likely still considers it to be his property. The wrath of Captain Harrigan, should he catch up with you and the Man’s Promise would be terrible indeed.
Most ships that sail the Inner Sea region, such as the Man’s Promise, were crafted by hand in shipyards throughout Avistan and Garund. Though ships of the same type are similar in attributes and size, they each have their own look and lines, which the practiced eye of an experienced sailor can recognize in the dark by the silhouette alone. Successfully stealing a ship and hiding it from its owners requires more than a name change and a new coat of paint—there must be a complete rebuild of the superstructures and rigging in order to change the way it looks. Such an overhaul is superficial in nature and changes none of a ship’s characteristics, but it does give a ship a different appearance and lines so that even someone familiar with the original ship can only determine the falsehood after several minutes of careful study.
Changing the identity of a ship in such a way is not cheap and must be done in secret or word would quickly get out of the ship’s new identity. Powerful Free Captains with their own home ports are able to do such modifications in their own private shipyards and dry docks. But you do not have such a resource so you will have to look elsewhere for a place to do it for you. Just such an outfitter called Rickety’s Squibs, located in a remote estuary on the Slithering Coast, is relatively close your current position. So you head there to get squibbed.
Rickety’s Squibs refits and modifies the lines and profiles of ships without changing a ship’s size, characteristics, or deck layout, providing both discretion and a new identity for a price. These rebuilt vessels are referred to as “squibs.” In fact, “It’s like as not to be a squib,” is a common saying among the pirates of the Shackles for a ship of suspicious origin.
Rickety’s Squibs lies in the estuary of a nameless river on the Slithering Coast. The river mouth is concealed from passing ships by a protruding headland, so that it is difficult to find if one doesn’t know where to look, and the facilities are hidden under the eaves of the encroaching jungle, further warding them from prying eyes.
Another obstacle (perhaps the most important) remains, however—the matter of sailing within the Shackles. Even if you manage to remake the Man’s Promise into a new vessel that will not be recognized by Captain Harrigan or his associates, you still face the prospect of being a new ship in pirate waters with no reputation to back them up. The Free Captains of the Shackles have a name for this sort of vessel: prey. Unless you want to constantly fend off attacks from their fellow freebooters, they have to make a name for themselves as pirates along the fringes of the Shackles first in order to be accepted and respected as peers among the other Free Captains. In order establish this name and acquire a reputation, you must accumulate both plunder and Infamy by performing acts of piracy.
After having set up yourselves as officers and determining who in the rest might be helpful officers, you set sail for Rickety’s Squibs. Along the way you manage by some wonder luck to change all the crew you have over into a helpful attitude.
Rounding the tall headland reveals a hidden cove at the mouth of a wide jungle river, its sluggish brown waters staining the waters of the blue sea like an ugly bruise. A series of docks has been built upon this estuary, with buildings concealed beneath the overhanging limbs of the jungle beyond. A wooden watchtower stands upon the promontory of the headland, carefully concealed among the trees to provide a clandestine view of the seas.
A small, single-masted longboat soon sets out from the boathouse on the estuary to meet the Man’s Promise, and its crew hails the PCs, asking them to drop anchor to discuss terms. Rickety is accompanied by six sailors armed only with dirks. Once he is allowed aboard, Rickety gets right down to business, inspecting the ship to see how much work will be needed to “squib” it. Rickety quotes a price of 2,000 GP and 8 days to squib her. The party agrees to the price and time, so the ship is dry docked by Rickety’s people.
You settle in the Commons, a once-grand building with broad wings extending from its ground floor stands at the end of the docks, its octagonal dome topped by a cupola. It was obviously a fine villa in its day but time and the harsh sun and rains of the Slithering Coast have faded its paint and cracked its boards, leaving it a gray ghost of its former self. A painted board above the veranda names it as “Rickety’s Squibs.” Smaller, less grandiose hovels and sheds clapped together of flotsam and jetsam surround the larger building and merge into the jungle behind it. Rickety’s main building was once the summer retreat of a Sargavan noble until resentful water nagas forced her from their territory. Rickety was much more careful to negotiate his use of the lands with the nagas, which has enabled him to exist here peacefully for 13 years.
You manage to sell off one of your plunder points to pay your new crew. You are a bit short handed so you start to look for additional crew. It is recommended that you do not “press” any one into service here at Rickety’s, but are free to find people to hire. You have the barkeep spread the word that you are looking for crew.
For the first few days not much happens that is interesting. You find out the area has been experiencing a drought of late. It has been getting so hot and dry from the heat, which the workers take off during the middle of the day. During this down time, they fish, gamble, or just find shade somewhere. You start to investigate the area a little bit more. You find that to the west of the harbor is some opened up area that is not jungle but is farmland. These are the farms that help support the village and Rickety’s business. The farmers are very suspicious of anyone they do not know for fear of pirates looking for new “hires”. You discover a druid, named Chandra Bristlewick, is assisting the farmers through the drought.
Your crew and Rickety’s start to intermingle well, which is a good thing. You too start to relax more with the locals. On one day, of an afternoon break, you are on the docks with some of the locals when a couple of them are attacked and dragged off by a water naga. With some daring acrobatics and cunning struts, you defeat the naga and rescue the locals. Lucky for you, the locals you recued just happen to work for Rickety and he agrees to knock off 500 gp from the price of the squib. Instead you ask if you can install a broad rudder and he will make it so. You take care of your injuries. You retrieve the captain’s special hammock off your ship to help with the healing.
The following day, soon after everyone starts to head back out after the afternoon break, the village is attack by what you first think is a flock of birds but these birds are buzzing. The birds turn out to be giant wasps. You manage to kill off the wasps that attack the area you are in.
Suddenly, someone shouts an alarm and people once more scatter for cover. A Chelish galleon can be seen anchored in the cove and an armed party is clambering onto the docks from their launch.
Normally when the dry dock is already occupied, the lookout signals to shore and Rickety launches the longboat to meet the incoming ship and advise the crew to return at a later date. The Free Captains are careful to honor Rickety’s requests for privacy to protect the identities of the ships he is working on because they know the same courtesy will be afforded to them.
The ship in the cove is the Chelish galleon Strix, recently captured by Free Captain Merrill Pegsworthy and brought to Rickety’s to be squibbed. While those ashore were dealing with the hornets, the Strix entered the cove unnoticed and Captain Pegsworthy and a landing party was able to row to the docks before anyone realized they had arrived.
Captain Pegsworthy and eight buccaneers are just climbing onto the docks when they are spotted. Once on land, Pegsworthy can see that the dry dock is occupied with a ship currently being squibbed and immediately realizes the jeopardy that he has placed himself in with the ship’s original owner. As a result, he orders his buccaneers to form a defensive semicircle on the dock.
After some very tense moments, Pegsworthy asks to parley with what he hopes to be the captain of the ship in dry dock. Pegsworthy admits his error in coming into harbor without being signaled. But he also states that there was no signal at all and he was curious as to why there was not. From your parley with him, you find him an amiable sort. He recognizes the Man’s Promise by its distinct Rahadoumi lines and the recent tales of its theft from Captain Barnabas Harrigan. No friend of Harrigan’s, Pegsworthy fully supports your actions and assures you its secret is safe with him. In fact, he even requests permission to rechristen the vessel when its refitting is completed in the next couple of days.
Pegsworthy and his landing party head back out to his ship until evening. As Pegsworthy heads out, Rickety shows up and asks you to investigate what has happened to his look out.