The "Lucky Strike" Casino Lounge and Airship Piratin' Society

"I Hate Him Already!"

In Which we are Introduced to our Protagonists, and they in Turn are Introduced to Trouble.

We began with a bit of die-rolling practice, as our gallant crew of bloodthirsty cutthroats aboard the Fortune Hunter spotted a cargo ship among the clouds. It was the Santa Maria, flying under the flag of the Duchy of Irontree-Dragonrock. Even before they ran up the Black Flag, the cargo ship turned tail and fled. So naturally, they gave chase.

With James Blackpaw at the helm, they caught up in only an hour or two, and he even managed to jink the entire ship just enough to dodge a desperate long-range shot from the Maria’s stern cannons.

Then it was time to fire the forward-mounted lightning cannon. Tiberius Thunder had been tinkering with it to extend its range, so they didn’t need to close in any further once they reached small cannon range. He was certain of that; mind you, he hadn’t actually tested it or anything…but hey, who’s the expert on electrical engineering, anyway? And of course it worked. Didn’t do a whole lot of damage, but it slowed them enough to cut across their prow and let them have a broadside to the face. At that, the Santa Maria struck their colors and surrendered.

The NPC captain was classy enough to show them the cargo manifest as soon as they got on board…though it neglected to mention the hidden compartment full of strange artifacts — statuary, tapestries, hanging scrolls and a lacquered cabinet — from a far-off and near-legendary land called China. Apparently, the captain and crew were required to leave the ship while these were loaded; they didn’t even know what they were carrying.

Although unable to decide how to dispose of The Chinese Artifacts, the rest of their haul was worth enough that they could now afford to dock at Isla Aether and register for the Cultural Arts Festival. They found a berth between a circus ship, the PT Bridgeport, and a somewhat earthier ship called the String of Pearls.

The festival was a fun time; there were highbrow theater ships performing Shakespeare, band ships…even the Ophelia, where they were selling cylinders of their latest songs. The PT Bridgeport’s main tent was set up in a nearby market plaza, but the sideshow was aboard the ship.

It wasn’t much of a sideshow — the Mammoth Man was a misbegotten, seven feet tall and stocky and covered with real fur, but the elephant ears were leather and the tusks were carved from wood; Chondu the Mystic, Master of Snakes had only one snake, and it had been heavily dosed with laudanum; and the Snow Fairies were just a pair of albino twin teenage girls (though quite small for their age), who were clearly not there by choice and quite miserable.

After the show, Tiberius went to the circus tent to speak to the Captain and Ringmaster about buying the two girls. In the middle of the conversation, the Bridgeport’s bosun arrived and pulled the Ringmaster aside; after they conferred, the latter gave Thunder a look, then came back and agreed to discuss the matter on the Fortune Hunter the next morning, say…10:00?

That evening, the Fortune Hunter opened its onboard casino, the Lucky Strike Lounge, providing a congenial atmosphere for gambling and drinking, while Randolph Ash played mood music on the small stage. Later that night, Tiberius was on watch when he heard a faint thump and some scrabbling on the hull. Looking down, he saw the cloaked figure of one of the twins, Ivy Jolie, trying to climb to the deck. After he helped her up, she begged for asylum, and for help to rescue her sister Holly, who was about to be sold to the String of Pearls. She said she’d been setting up an escape plan, but so far it was only good for herself, and she couldn’t use it until she’d added in provision for Holly.

After determining that Ivy was in good health (and expressing some consternation at her lack of coloring — he’d never seen an albino before), Blackpaw gave her a place to sleep. The next morning, he awoke Captain Swan with some freshly-brewed coffee, which the Captain knew always meant there was a problem.

So everyone was up and ready to meet the delegation from the PT Bridgeport…but nobody showed up. Scanning the circus ship with a telescope, they noted that there was nobody on deck, nor in the rigging. The ship looked deserted. After conferring together, the PCs decided that Tiberius and Randolph would go over to have a look, while Dr. James and the Captain would hang back and observe.

On the Bridgeport, there were subtle but unmistakeable signs of violence. Someone had boarded, captured or killed the crew, and cleaned up the scene — while the ship was in port too; no small achievement.

While pondering their next action, they heard footsteps coming up the gangway, and several people emerged on deck. Their leader, “Lord Sintallon,” was casually wiping blood from a dagger and lamenting his having had the albino twins in his grasp, only to pass them on before realizing their value. His automaton butler, Catherwood, was offering supportive comments, but broke off when he caught sight of Thunder and Blackpaw.

After heaving an exasperated sigh and muttering “witnesses,” Lord Sintallon greeted the PCs jovially and engaged them in conversation. He mentioned “the girl who escaped this ship last night,” and once he was certain they knew who he meant, he and his men attacked. The transition from genteel banter to brutal violence was immediate and total. Perhaps more frightening than this was that Sintallon drew no weapon; he attacked with fists alone, clearly keen to take prisoners.

Comments

- Doctor’s Log, James Blackpaw:

They say the world used to be a better place… well, better before huamanity found a way to ruin it, of course. And despite destroying Spirit-knows how many civilizations, humanity seems to have learned nothing over the long, dark years.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. The floating sky cities are impressive works of science, as are the many airships that travel the cold skies above, and who can deny the marvel of clockwork automatons – humanoid machines that live? But once one looks past the new technology, humanity still revels in debasement and evil. Slavery, torture, murder… one can see all of these things in a single day at almost any city in this misbegotten land.

Isla Aether is one such place: a gleaming jewel in the clouds that conceals a murky core. Our crew arrived there in good spirits after relieving another airship crew of their stolen goods, and it took less than a few hours to stumble across something far worse than ill-guided smugglers. The PT Bridgeport a “circus airship” that was docked next to us in port, was a disgrace and quickly became the focus of our adventures.

Oh, the commoners love the freakshows that are often found on such ships. It is sad to watch them laugh and point at others less fortunate than themselves… and quite frankly, some of the visitors to that ship could have starred in a freakshow of their own! None of them bother to ask the question “why are these people here?” I suspect they’d be less inclined to spend their Helios on freakshows if they knew how common slavery was in that industry.

We found a pair of twin teenage girls who were kidnapped and forced into service on the PT Bridgeport. Our ship’s engineer seemed smitten with them – this is perhaps the first time I’ve seen him show interest in anything other than machines – and investigated the matter further. That is how we discovered that they were captured… worse, they were going to be sold to the “String of Pearls,” which is a ship of “ill-repute.”

Efforts to purchase the twins freedom went terribly wrong when a Lord Sintallon – an arrogant, bloodthirsty man with the air of a false aristocrat and the malice of the worst of serpents – showed up in the early morning hours and apparently murdered the crew of the PT Bridgeport. Thankfully, he failed to find one of the twins; Ivy had escaped earlier that night, but her sister Holly was less fortunate.

Efforts to negotiate with Sintallon failed (not surprisingly) and a bloody battle broke out on the deck. Between Ivy’s ruse – she deceived nearly everyone into believing she fell to her death on the rocks below – and the combat skill of our crew, Sintallon was driven off, for now. Unfortunately, the “String of Pearls” had departed with surprising speed and stealth before the battle began, so we must now give chase in an effort to rescue Ivy’s sister.

The ship’s crew faired well enough during the battle, though I’m surprised that the Captain’s recklessness didn’t get her killed. Still, I’ve written that often enough in my logs over the years that one can only assume some sort of fortune smiles on her. That, or she’s just really lucky. As for Ivy, she is a natural albino and unusually short and slight of build. Since she was only recently taken into slavery, this is unlikely to be the effects of long-term malnurishment, so perhaps she descends from a race of short albinos. She won’t speak on the subject, but I suspect time will tell.

"I Hate Him Already!"
jso jso

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