Skull & Shackles

Day Five aboard the Wormwood
Abadius 14, 4712

In the morning, Hamish seems fine, but Shango’s leg, where he was bitten by the rat, is red and inflamed. Despite healing the wound, it seems that he may have been infected with filth fever. His leg hurts a bit, but he seems able to work. Mister Plugg, during the morning watch, assigns each of them their tasks for the day.

Bahram is assigned to assist Ambrose ‘Fishguts’ Kroop with the day’s cooking, but the chef is once again inebriated, and Bahram has to do all the work again. He attempts to talk to Caulky Tarroon when she comes to pick up the meals for the officers. She warns him that Captain Harrigan disapproves of any of the officers fraternizing with the crew, but the affable, charming Faiz convinces her to talk just a bit. She says that Kipper, the Gunner’s mate, scares her because he is so unpredictable, and Riaris Krine, the Master Gunner, makes Rosie Cusswell seem like a nun. She does warn him that while Plugg and Scourge are ill-tempered, you will never know when Harrigan is mad at you until it is too late.

Theodric is assigned to work as a lookout today, and he accomplishes his tasks with ease, spending time talking with Ratline Rattsberger, who presses him for lots of information, but doesn’t seem to really take a shine to the friendly priest.

Zalamesh is assigned to work on repairs on deck, and busies himself with the ropes and knots. He speaks with the comely Barefoot Samms, who seems a bit intimidated with him initially, but soon opens up to him after he compliments her on her deft work in the riggings. She was initially put off by the reputation of Bekyar, and Zalamesh seem to avoid her, at least, compared to a lot of men.

Hamish is assigned to work as a runner and spends most of his day trotting around the decks of the ship relaying messages, information, and orders, wearing himself out a bit. He does find the time to flirt more with the fiery-tempered Rosie Cusswell, and the fiesty halfling seems to enjoy his company as much as many of the women on board.

After the rum ration, and the rather disappointing meal from Faiz, Mister Plugg interrupts the evening’s anticipated revelry, bringing the shackled Owlbear on deck. Many of Scourge and Plugg’s mates circle around the deck, barking and growling ominously. Plugg, a comfortable distance above it all on the poop deck, announces that one of the ‘new swabs’ must fight it out with Owlbear. “No weapons, no magic—just two of ye swabs fighting ’til one drops.” None of the men seem particularly eager, but Plugg tosses a hefty purse of clinking coins on the deck. “There’s a hundred gold there for the taking, ye swabs!”.

The men quickly nominate Hamish to fight the truculent, unhinged Owlbear, who stands a fair bit taller than the half-orc, and seems to outmass him as well. Hamish starts the fight cautiously, and bobs and weaves, retreating before Owlbear’s powerful swings. The hulking simpleton is a skilled fighter, however, and lands several painful punches on Hamish. At one point, however, he trips and stumbles, and Hamish punishes him with a painful fist in the kidneys. Owlbear seems not to notice, and slams his own fist into Hamish’s gut, staggering him as well. Owlbear whimpers in pain and retreats from the fight, but Hamish keeps up his guard. Fipps Chumlett pushes a belaying pin into Owlbear’s hands, however, and several of Scourge’s toadies push the bruiser back into the fight. He swings the pin menacingly, but Hamish dodges it cautiously, and Zalamesh uses the commotion of the crowds to cast a quick spell, commanding Owlbear to drop the rule-breaking weapon! Hamish and Owlbear trade a few more punishing strikes, but Hamish’s persistent jabs have worn down Owlbear, and the big lummox staggers and collapses before he can land any more punches on the bedraggled half-orc. Hamish is badly bloodied and bruised, but he claims the prize purse with steady legs!

Theodric heals his mate Hamish, while Zalamesh tries to befriend the battered Owlbear, offering the bruised lummox some rum and his healing magics. Bahram talks to Rosie Cusswell and cracks her foul-mouthed exterior. He tries to use his time on deck to figure out the location of the Wormwood based on the moon and stars, but cannot quite figure out where he is. Hamish, finding the diminutive Ratline listening on his conversations with Samms, bellows at the halfling, putting the nosy little sailor in his place. Theodric stays up late to drink with Cut-Throat Grok and bargains with her for his fiddle, getting a good deal on his beloved instrument from the tipsy quartermistress.

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Day Four aboard the Wormwood
Abadius 13, 4712

On the fourth day at sea, Mister Plugg assigns Zalamesh to rat-catching duty, and orders him to assist the ‘hopeless’ Hamish at this simple task. Theodric is again assigned linework in the riggings, and Bahram is cautioned that Fishguts is drunk again, so he must manage the galley unassisted.

Bahram Faiz, concerned that his string of luck has run out, decides to consult the massive culinary tome he unearthed in the clutter of the galley, and is certain that the recipe he has selected will be successful, despite quite a number of steps, as the book covers them in detail.

Zalamesh, easily able to capture the rats that he needs to demonstrate his work for the day, tries to get his juju mask back from Grok. She blanches and seems quite chagrined when he claims that the mask has powerful black magic properties, and Shango realizes that the quarter-master completely believes him about the mask’s alleged cursed nature. However, Cut-Throat insists that such a powerful fetish must be worth more money, and, though she dreads its power, she cannot simply hand over powerful magic without some recompense to show for it. Shango fetches the heavy mace he unearthed in the bilges and trades it to the relieved half-orc.

Hamish, scrambling unsuccessfully around the ship trying to scrabble for rats, flirts idly with Giffer Tibbs. Though he has no strong romantic interest in the little gnome, his banter draws her out of her shell and she talks to him at length about anything running through her head. It seems that Giffer believes the clouds above are like great beasts of the air, travelling the world on the winds, rather than ephemeral phenomena that shift from hour to hour.

Before Hamish can capture any rats (to the irritation of Mister Plugg), Jack Scrimshaw rushes up from the bilge looking ashen and pale, clutching a bleeding wound on his leg. The young sailor claims that when he was working the bilges, something came out of the dark waters and bit him! Plugg orders Hamish, Zalamesh, and Theodric to proceed down into the bilges, find whatever bit the lad, and kill it. He even orders Faiz out of the kitchen in the middle of his cooking to assist. Mister Plugg brooks no delay, but a quick glance of the wound reveals to Shango that young Jack has likely been bitten by a dire rat, and may be in danger of contracting filth fever.

While Zalamesh fetches his handaxe and buckler from his locker, Theodric and Hamish go to fetch Faiz, who supplies them with a shortsword and handaxe from the galley, each of which had previously been used as cooking utensils in the formerly disorganized kitchen. Zalamesh chants a prayer urging the spirits to protect each of the four, and Theodric prays to Besmara to bless their weapon arm and boost their courage. Bahram, revealing his sorcerous powers for the first time, creates a shimmering shield of force to protect himself.

The bilges are dimly lit, and other than Hamish, the men can see little in the shadows. Zalamesh chants and his buckler begins to glow with light, but the tall Mwangi still allows Hamish to proceed down the rungs to the bilge first. The half-orc can see little in the crowded bilges other than the knee-deep water and the cluttered, water-logged crates, but suddenly, huge, vicious rats leap out of the water to gnaw at his legs!

Hamish slashes one with his handaxe, but despite opening a deep gash in its side, the frenzied dire rat continues to menace him. As Zalamesh descends the ladder quickly, Hamish kills one of the huge rodents with a chop of the axe, but another sinks its filthy yellow incisors into the flesh of his leg. As Faiz joins his companions, one of the rats bites Zalamesh, but the red-eyed beasts have trouble doing more than simply scratching Hamish’s thick hide, and he slays another two of the rats before all of his companions are knee-deep in bilgewater.

Bahram attemps to incant another spell to slay the rats, but a sudden lunge from one of the creatures breaks his concentration as he flinches from the attack. He slices one rat with his scimitar, and Zalamesh kills another with his handaxe. Theodric skewers the last rat with his shortsword and the threat seems to be over. Zalamesh heals his wound with the aid of the spirits that swirl around him, and Theodric prays over the injury in Hamish’s leg, mending it.

Finding themselves alone in the brig, the men discuss their predicament and search the brig more thoroughly, finding two heavy maces, a vial of some magical liquid, and several gold coins, as well as some mundane supplies. Shango continues to shout and curse, striking the mast with his sword, to continue the ruse of a desperate battle. The four captives resolve to work together, as they seem to already be despised as a group by some of the crew, and plot to sway as many of the crew as possible over to their side.

When they emerge with the corpses of the dire rats, Bahram realizes, to his dismay, that his absence from the kitchen has burned the meal and spoiled his recipe! However, possession of the dead dire rats means that Mister Plugg can not plausibly deny that both ratcatcher have been successful at their jobs today.

When Bahram serves the dry, blackened mess he has made of dinner, Plugg bashes him in the head with the tarred end of a hawser. “Only a damned fool could burn food with water all around him!”, he cries. Hamish excuses himself after the rum ration and meal, going belowdecks with an eager Barefoot Samms. Zalamesh seeks out the quartermistress Grok and sups his rum ration with her. She seems pleased with the company, and when he alludes to his need for privacy for his wendo rituals, she offers the use of her bedroom, leering slightly. Theodric seeks out Fishguts Kroop, commiserating with the cook about their plight on the ship. Zalamesh sneaks out after hours to speak with Grok again. Though the wiry half-orc wench seems to think that romance is perhaps on his mind, Zalamesh instead takes her up on her offer to open the ship’s stores for him, and he buys his own tobacco back from her, befuddling the sleepy and tipsy clerk with a stream of blather, in order to pocket more change than deserved.

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Third day aboard the Wormwood
Abadius 12, 4712

In the morning, Plugg assigns Zalamesh to rope work on deck, and Theodric to line work in the riggings. Hamish is sent to work the pump in the bilges today, and Plugg informs Bahram that the captain has requested a special dinner of roast pig tonight for a celebration.

Not only does Captain Harrigan require a roast pig for dinner, the pig has to be slaughtered and cleaned. Unfortunately for Bahram, Ambrose ‘Fishguts’ Kroop is soundly, roundly drunk, and of no use whatsoever. Despite being a bit out of his depth, Faiz not only manages to slaughter the hog without much trouble, but succeeds in preparing an acceptable roast out of the beast. With Kroop insensibly drunk, Faiz surreptitiously uses his magic, which he has not revealed to anyone on board, to thoroughly clean and organize the galley. Amid the clutter of Fishgut’s kitchen he finds a well-made dagger, several hand axes used as cleavers, a short sword, a bottle of holy water, a well-made lock, bottles of fine wine and rum, and a huge, leather-bound cookbook. Behind one of the cabinets was an silver-trimmed ivory peg leg, and several harpoons and a grappling hook were mounted on the walls behind the pots and pans! When Plugg comes to check on his progress, he is surprised at the neat state of the mess, but warns Faiz that, since he had so much time to waste cleaning up the kitchen, the dinner had better be exceptional!

Zalamesh works dilligently on the ropes, repairing frayed ends and tightening knots, though Plugg finds fault at every opportunity. The tall Bekyar is questioned endlessly by Ratline Rattsberger, who asks him many questions about himself and the other new crew. Zalamesh puts the halfling in his place, but the gossipy Ratline seems satisfied with the pecking order and eager to put himself in Shango’s good graces.

Theodric is adroit in the rigging, doing an excellent job, but still receiving criticism from Plugg on his handiwork. The devotee of Besmara seeks out Fipps again, and doggedly tries to bury the hatchet, offering again to help ease Chumlett’s wounds. The rotund swab relents and allows Theodric to heal him, but warns him to steer clear of Hamish. The half-orc’s success in easily wooing the widely desired Barefoot Samms has irritated many of the crew who had hoped to bed the limber sailor, in particular Scourge himself, who had a lustful eye upon her.

Hamish works a long, hot shift in the bilges, emerging drenched in sweat. One of the bilge spiders in the dark, dank chamber had emerged and bitten him, but the half-orc shrugs off the bite, seeming to suffer no more than a reddish irritation. When he could spare a few moments away from his work, Hamish flirted with Cut-throat Grok, the two half-orcs snarling and cursing at each other in a stream of incomprehensible orcish that, nonetheless seemed to flatter the lanky woman.

Before the rum is rationed out, a pretty, slender girl emerges from the cabin’s quarters and proceeds to the galley to inspect the roast pig Harrigan ordered. Caulky Tarroon is her name, and she is Harrigan’s ‘cabin boy’. She samples the food and pronounces it acceptable, before having one of the crew take it to the officers.

After Cut-Throat ladles out the rum, the crew take their recreation on deck. Hamish, a bit tipsy, flirts with Sandara Quinn, who cuts him off decisively. Theodric, also a bit impaired in his judgement, tries to ingratiate himself with the shapely Quinn, but the fiery haired wench is having none of it, from either of them. Zalamesh talks and drinks with the crew, getting many of them in good spirits despite his slightly unnerving aura. Bahram flirts with Barefoot Samms a bit, getting the pretty fisherwoman in his good graces. Though she is still obviously infatuated with Hamish, she receives the attention in good humor. Bahram excuses himself and extricates the bottle of fine rum he found earlier from the kitchen, trading it to Grok for his scimitar.

That night, Zalamesh creeps out to find a place to appease the wendo unobserved, and Hamish, though he should be sleeping, stays up and flirts with the receptive, brash Rosie Cusswell. Despite working in the bilges all day, and staying up half the night chatting up Rosie, Hamish seems rested and ready for work the next day.

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Second day at sea
Abadius 11, 4712

The men awake in the dark, muggy hold, and set about preparing for the day’s work. Zalamesh has a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach, and turns about to find that four of the crew have maneuvered themselves between him and the other new crew and the stairs topside. Some of the crew have quickly made themselves scarce, while others are loitering on the steps to watch. “Jaundiced” Jape, “Slippery” Syl Lonegan, Aretta Bansion, and Fipps Chumlett stand before them with threatening glares.

“Where d’ye think ye be going?”, inquires the fat Fipps, shoving Hamish insolently. Hamish roars and grabs Fipps by the back of his neck, jerking the fat bully forward into a stout punch from his other hand. Fipps falls to the ground, blood streaming from his face. A brief scuffle breaks out, with Aretta attempting to kick Zalamesh in the groin before he intimidates her with his fearsome reputation as a Bekyar demon-worshipper. Bahram and Syl trade blows ineffectually before he plants a boot in her stomach and shoves her back. Theodric attempts to reason with Jape, but the half-orc is having none of it, until Zalamesh musters his spiritual energies and commands the swab to drop to the ground. Fipps attempts to struggle to his feet, but Gibbs stamps on the fat man’s back, then drops an elbow into the small of his back, leaving him struggling to remain conscious.

The two women flee for the stairs, while Shango attempts to interrogate Jape, a task which is made harder by Theodric’s offers to heal the aggressors. Eventually Zalamesh pulls Jape’s focus back on him, and the sullen swab tells him that Scourge doesn’t like the new crew, and sent them down here to rough them up a bit and make them late for morning roster—and they may already be too late!

The men quickly trample their way up the stairs, each eager to avoid getting any punishment. Hamish grapples with Fipps Chumlett and “Jaundiced” Jape, trying to keep both of them from arriving before him. Jape, however, has a good head start, but he, Hamish and Fipps all end up being late, and sentenced to three lashes during the ‘bloody hour’ after work.

Zalamesh is assigned to the bilges again, and, as it is quite a hot day, he gets quite tired, but he finds a leather cuirass and a well-crafted boarding axe in some of the flotsam floating around down there.

Bahram, being the cook’s mate, has to help Fishguts again, but Fishguts is relatively sober today, and Faiz has little to do other than drink rum and listen to Kroop as he laments his fate in the kitchen. Faiz has has time to chat with Cut-throat Grok, and he flirts with the gravelly-voiced quarter-mistress. He learns that Rosie Cusswell has a fiddle in the booty like Theodric. Having little else to do today, Bahram also talks to Tilly Bracket, who tells him that the widely-disliked first mate, Plugg, is deathly afraid of crows. Tilly joined up about six months ago on the Wormwood, when many of the crew, including Plugg, were taken on.

Plugg assigns Theodric to rope work today, and despite doing an exemplarly job, the first mate always seems to find fault in his work. Theodric finds time to talk with Rosie Cusswell, who was also press-ganged onto the Wormwood days before he and his mates. She lost her temper trying to get her prized fiddle back from Grok, but really wants the valuable instrument back. Rosie has a fiery temper, and particularly despises Mister Scourge.

Hamish is tasked with catching rats aboard the ship today by Mister Plugg. The half-orc is utterly unsuccessful in the task, to the vocal displeasure of the critical first mate. Hamish’s poor performance may have been somewhat due to his determination to spend as much time flirting with the alluring Barefoot Sams, who, to many of the crew’s surprise, seems to respond with enthusiasm.

During the Bloody Hour, Scourge whips both Jaundiced Jape and Fipps with a wicked laugh, despite each of the swabs being ‘mates’ of his. Scourge’s special ire is reserved for Hamish, however, as the half-orc’s thick skin seems indifferent to the first few lashes of the whip. Scourge finally lashes out with a vicious swipe and peels a strip of hide from Hamish’s back, though a surreptitious blessing from Zalamesh beforehand has softened the blow somewhat.

When the rum is rationed out, Theodric tends to Hamish’s wound before seeking out Grok herself and drinking with the half-orc. Grok gets more foul-mouthed as she drinks, but despite her tongue, her mood improves. Theodric tries to get his fiddle back from her, but she explains that the loot taken by captives is pirate booty, and she’ll have to account for it to the captain. He can buy it from the stores, but she’ll not be returning it with nothing to show on the ledger.
Theodric also attempts to heal Fipps from the thrashing he received from Hamish, but the fat swab is having nothing to do with him and brusquely waves him off.

Zalamesh seeks out the other Bekyar aboard, Shivika, speaking to her cautiously in polyglot, attempting to come to an understanding. Shivika is blunt with him: She and Scourge are mates, and Scourge doesn’t like the new crew, so she doesn’t like them either.

Hamish spends little time on deck after the rum ration, as he and the very affectionate Samms find a warm hammock below deck and entertain themselves while the crew relaxes on deck.
Bahram, who fell asleep soundly after the rum ration, wakes up late at night on deck, and talks to Jack Scrimshaw, who also signed up with Harrigan on the Wormwood six months ago. Jack was intimidated by Harrigan’s reputation as a hard master, but hoped his sailing skills would prove sufficient.

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First day at sea aboard the Wormwood
Abadius 10, 4712

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.

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