The four men awake on the lower deck of a ship at sea, with a bitter taste in their mouths, in confusion.Mister Scourge stands over them, screeching at them to get on deck, and six other pirates stand around the Bosun, blackjacks in hand. His cronies include“Slippery” Syl, “Jaundiced” Jape, Aretta, Fipps, Maheem, and Sivikah.
Bahram Faiz is one of the men slowest to respond to the strident orders of the bosun, and Scourge lashes him brutally, slicing open the flesh on his leg, as well as the linen of his blousy trousers. Zalamesh insolently stretches out from his sleep, but Faiz further infuriates Mister Scourge with a thoughtless remark. The lanky bosun lashes out again with the whip, slicing open Faiz’s cheek with a brutal stripe, and the handsome Keleshite collapses to the deck. Theodric and Hamish quickly carry the unconscious man up the stairs.
As the captives are ushered upwards, they see two of the crew watching them curiously from the galley, ‘Fishguts’ and Cut-throat Grok, while another crewman, Owlbear, crows like a rooster and shouts merrily at them, chained to the foremast.
Emerging blinking onto the quarter-deck, the men find themselves among the crew of the Wormwood, who are gathered about there, awaiting word from the men who stand on the poop deck. The pirates usher the captives forward, and the unconscious Keleshite is deposited on the deck. An attractive red-head sidles between Hamish and Theodric, and kneels down beside Faiz. Her prayer to Besmara heals his wounds, and he awakens.
A few pirates, ship’s officers from the look of them, stand about on the foc’sle, but all attention is directed at the two men standing athwart the ship’s wheel on the stern castle. Captain Harrigan introduces himself and mockingly welcomes them to the Wormwood. He cautions the men to keep to themselves, and warns them that “’there be no killing” amongst the crew. Then he tasks his First Mate, Mister Plugg, to turn the captives into pirates proper.
Mr. Plugg, grinning unpleasantly, orders the men to chivvy up the riggings to the crow’s nest, as he is in need of a rigger. Theodric scrambles up the ropes far quicker than any of the others, and Plugg assigns him the role of a rigger; today he is to be serving as lookout. Plugg inquires to the others as to their skill in the kitchen. Faiz makes an off-handed remark, and Plugg seizes upon it, telling the well-dressed man that he will be serving as cook’s mate to ‘Fishguts’ Kroop. Plugg informs Hamish and Zalameshthat, as they have no particular talent, they shall be serving as swabs.
Zalamesh is tasked with manning the bilges, and though he is tired by the hard work, he finds a heavy mace, a buckler, and a few silver coins amid the damp, forgotten mess in the bilges. He avoids the bilge spiders scuttling across the roof of the bilge, and listens without much sympathy, to the woeful tale of Jakes Magpie, who has been chained in the brig to await keelhauling for stealing from the ship’s stores.
Theodric works as lookout, but spends some of his time talking with Barefoot Samms Toppin, who climbs through the riggings like a monkey. The scantily-clad, attractive woman seems to like talking to him about her life, both before and after joining the Wormwood.
Bahram finds Fishguts in the galley, and is appalled by the stench and grime within. Chickens roam freely across the floor and several goats as well. Kroop, a short, fat man with a thick Shackles accent, appears insensibly drunk, but takes a shine to Faiz. Though the drunkard leaves Bahram to muddle through preparing the evening meal by himself, he does tell his mate about the Wormwood, his own sad story, and more than a little about his beloved chickens.
Hamish is tasked with maintaining the ropes today, and sets himself to splicing and tarring them competently. The half-orc’s roving eye spies Samms in the riggings, but he flirts with Tilly Bracket, who is working on deck as well. The pretty tomboy enjoys the attention and soon she and Hamish seem to be fast friends.
That night, the crew is called on deck for the Bloody Hour, where the day’s discipline is meted out. Jakes Magpie is brought up from the brig, tied about the chest with rope. Harrigan calls for volunteers and several of the crew step up to take up the ropes. Magpie is lowered over the side calling out piteously for mercy, and then the crew haul the ropes to drag him under the waves. Zalamesh notices that Plugg heaves on the ropes with particular satisfaction, and before long, a bloody, tattered mess emerges from the water on the other side of the ship.
Theodric moves to attend to Jakes, but Plugg bellows at him to belay that, instructing that the bloody chum should be cut loose before it soils the deck. Theodric pleads his case, trying to convince Plugg, or the distant Harrigan, to save Magpie, but Plugg scowls and avers that keelhauling is too kind for a thief who would steal from the captain.
After the bloody hour, the rum ration is distributed, but Harrigan does not allow a leisurely tipple. Knocking back the strong drink so quickly gets Theodric a little tipsy, but he soon launches into some fine sea shanties, to the delight of the crew. Zalamesh encourages his new mates to enjoy themselves, giving him time to surreptitiously watch the crew interact with each other. Hamish, noticing that Theodric is otherwise occupied, sidles up beside Barefoot Samms, complimenting her on her perfume and attire. Soon, he is chatting with his arm draped around her midriff and she is quite friendly with the broad half-orc mate. Bahram seeks out the beautiful Sandara Quinn, thanking her for her aid that morning. Sandara responds with a wry smile, warning him gently that he must mind his friends and enemies on board a ship full of scalawags. She plucks a small vial from her bosom and presents to him his own potion of healing, explaining that everyone needs a friendly favor on occasion.
Sandara makes her way over to Zalamesh, complimenting him on his fine words, and presents him with his battered top-hat, to his delight. She then seeks out Theodric, greeting him as a fellow servant of the Black Queen. She doffs her tricorne and produces his holy symbol, returning it to him. The priest thanks her deeply, and expresses his wish to recover his favorite fiddle. She informs him that he is not the only crewman with a fiddle in the quartermaster’s store; Rosie Cusswell evidently has a fine violin held in the lockers there as well.
That night, the new crew sleep in their hammocks, save Shango, who seeks out a quiet spot for his daily rituals to the loa. He enters the galley, but disturbs the chickens. The racket wakes up Fishguts to see who is bothering his birds. Zalamesh claims that he was only looking for a little rum—an excuse that delights Fishguts, and Zalamesh finds himself spending several hours drinking in the galley with the portly cook, who tells him Black-hearted Bezebel, his favorite bird, sometimes speaks to him when he’s alone. Shango enjoys his rum, but knows he will regret it in the morning, hangover or no.