In this session of the Skulls and Shackles campaign, four months have passed since the events of the End of Eternity. During this time, the Femme Fatale pirates have started a new colony on the Island of Empty Eyes and many members of the crew are seeing to their own personal downtime. De’de and Wynter oversee much of the town’s construction and perform little side projects of item creation, Gage conducts studies into the arcane, and Tidus seems to loiter about, creeping out the newcomers with his profane aura. No one is sure what the blue goblin Dalvika is up to and the party’s on again and off again ally, Mary, is somewhere off at sea.
The colony on the island is mostly made up of followers of Quade who have arrived for various reasons. But during the downtime period, the colony has drawn the attention of the drudic order known as the Stormkindlers, the Cult of the Eye, and have been dealing with the aquatic menace of the incutilis.
Upon the end of the fourth month, the party’s downtime is interrupted when Quade decides to take the Femme Fatal and his crew to the capital, Port Peril. At the pirate capital of the Shackles, Quade sends out a messenger carrying a chest of gold to buy an audience with the Hurricane King in a petition to join the Free Captains. The next morning, Kerdak Bonefist’s first mate Tsadok Goldtooth publicly meets the Femme Fatal officers at the docks. Tsadok arrives with an entourage of cronies, and many spectators gather to see the entertainment as well. Tsadok starts with introductions, declaring he’s there as the Hurricane King’s formal representative. He plays to the crowd as he explains the situation. It’s unusual for a new, successful, but relatively unknown ship to request a letter of marque without the sponsorship of a recognized Free Captain. In this case, the Pirate Code requires the ship’s captain and officers to undergo “Testing” to determine whether they’re worthy of becoming Free Captains themselves. While this Testing is often merely a formality, Bonefist has sent Tsadok to make a show of it.
Tsadok is callous and rude to the Femme Fatal officers, making jokes at their expense and hinting that they’re just playing at being pirates. Some among the crowd laugh at his gibes, but others scowl or remain silent, hinting that many aren’t fond of Tsadok. Quade is just as quick with his responses and mocks the half orc and the proceedings with an air of disinterest.
Tsadok’s first test is to see whether the pirates are passable sailors, not just “fancy jackets” who found themselves in command of a pirate crew. The ship used for this challenge is the Stingray, a brig with two tall square-rigged masts. One of the Femme Fatal officers must swiftly climb to the top of the Stingray’s foremast and complete the tricky task of unfurling and setting the sail from the top yard without assistance, before one of Tsadok’s crew does the same on the mizzenmast. Magic is illegal, and the contestants must unfurl the sails themselves. Tidus volunteers for this challenge, but is surprised to learn that his challenger is an ape man known as Powderpot. The officers of the Femme Fatal begin to worry that the deck is stacked against them as Powderpot easily climbs up the mizzenmast and mocks Tidus as the lumbering armored champion of Besmara attempts to reach the top spar.
Mary happens to also be in the crowd, and she reminds the other companions that this is a pirate contest. So they should think like pirates.
Once they reach the top, Quade creates a distraction by flinging gold into the crowd while De’de and Wynter assists Tidus with their magic. Tidus nearly falls off twice when Powderpot flings a bag of monkey offal at him and when someone sneakily had cut the forestay boom free, causing the boom to slam into the foremast. But thanks to De’de and Wynter, their combined magic is able to throw Powderpot from the ship’s top rail and send the ape man sprawling down into the harbor. Tidus prevails in the challenge.
Shocked that the Femme Fatal Pirates had passed the first test, Tsadok then announces the second challenge to be a game of chance. Quade volunteers to take up the challenge. Everyone returns back to the Femme Fatal where Tsadok’s men clears the deck of everyone, except for the half orc first mate, the card dealer, and Quade. The card game is Bastard’s Fool. Bastard’s Fool is a popular game on pirate ships, and is played using a deck cobbled together from several partial decks. Even a down-on-his-luck sailor who doesn’t even have a full deck of cards can play Bastard’s Fool, as each player brings whatever cards she has, and combines them with other players’ cards to create a new deck. Bastard’s Fool is a bluffing game similar to poker, but Tsadok adds an additional “Port Peril” rule to the game: the winner of each hand must drink a ration cup of Gutburn rum.
The game begins with everyone paying the minimum buy in of one platinum and then collecting their cards. But Quade goes all in without even picking up his cards. This unnerves Tsadok, as the half orc wasn’t excepting this tactic so early in the challenge. Bertok manages to perch himself in the rigging and look down to notice that the half orc had drew a full house. With tension rising and Quade refusing to look at his cards, Tsadok sneers and matches the bet, revealing his cards and draws a cheer from the crowd. But everyone is shocked to find that Quade drew a high royal flush. Tsadok grudgingly congratulates Quade and tries to retrieve his own coins, stating that it was just a friendly game for show, not for real stakes. But after some words between the two, Tsadok relents and lets Quade keep the winnings. Quade prevails in the second test.
In the final test, a pirate needs to be able to fight, so Tsadok’s third challenge tests the group’ combat abilities. All of the officers of the Femme Fatal prepare for battle stations as Tsadok’s men pushes in a cart containing a covered cage. When the covers are pulled back, everyone in the large crowd is shocked to find that it is the legendary ogre gladiator of Port Peril, Fishpork. The ogre had retired undefeated but came out of retirement to act on the Hurricane King’s behalf to challenge the Femme Fatal Pirates.
When battle begins, Quade scorches the ogre with a lighting attack but barely dents the creature’s massive flesh. It is Wynter who prevails in the challenge as she quickly appears before the ogre and defeats him with a slumbering hex. Fishpork falls and everyone in the crowd, including Tsadok, is shocked at the sudden turn of events.
Once the Testing is concluded, Tsadok has a quiet discussion with the Femme Fatal pirates, acting with false magnanimity, heartily thanking them for being “good sorts.” Tsadok then steps in front of the crowd and proclaims the Femme Fatal pirates are indeed deserving of becoming Free Pirates of the Shackles, which receives boisterous cheers from the crowd. Tsadok further announces that Hurricane King Kerdak Bonefist himself will grant the pirates their letter of marque this very evening. This announcement receives significantly less applause.
Happy with the results of the tests, the officers of the Femme Fatal bade their crew to have shore leave in town. The officers then decide to spend their time at the Mermaid’s Bucket in Crimson Harbor, enjoying a round of drinks and feasting on fine food. Wynter notices a familiar face within the bar: Nefti Unwesha. The last time the adventuring pirates encountered the Mwangi spy, she was in Blackblood Cay and she had delivered a smuggled Augusta Smythee to the group. Wynter attempts to hold a conversation with the woman, but Nefti doesn’t seem to remember who Wynter is. When Wynter leaves to rejoin her companions, Nefti leaves the tavern. Bertok attempts to track her but loses her when the group realizes she probably left thru another route then the back door of the Mermaid’s Bucket.
Once evening comes around, a ferry is waiting for the Femme Fatal officers to escort them to Fort Hazard. When they arrive in Fort Hazard, the revelry is already in full swing: tables are laden with roast meat and flagons of ale, mead, and rum, and loud, drunken buccaneers swagger and stagger around the main hall. Tsadok greets the pirates and introduces them to his captain, the Hurricane King Kerdak Bonefist. Bonefist is already deep in his cups and welcomes the group with a drunken slur. When his words are drowned out by the celebration, the Hurricane King is forced to use his pistol to shoot a shot in the air to shut everyone up. Once there is deathly silence, Bonefist congratulates the group for passing the tests but asks for a story on how they acquired their plunder.
Quade steps forward and begins to go over the group’s past exploits, including insulting Avimar Sorrinash, the Pirate Lord of Shark Island. When he begins to speak of the group’s encounter with the fey enchantress, Blue Hesmene, he is shocked to see that the fey woman is in the crowd and watching with a bemused smirk. The fey sorcerer is disguised as an elven maiden, but Quade manages somehow to recognize her. It is at this time when suddenly three hecklers begin to distract Quade. The other companions quickly subdue the hecklers with subtle magic and intimidation. Once Quade finishes his story, the crowd breaks into a roar of applause. Happy with the crowd’s reaction, the Hurricane King motions for his second in command to retrieve the letter of marque.
But the Hurricane King is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Avimar Sorrinash. The Pirate Lord protests against the idea of granting the Femme Fatal pirates membership into the Free Captains, claiming that they’re thieves and mutineers and enemies of the Shackles. Quade denounces Sorrinash, calling him a coward, a kidnapper, and bringing up the challenge that Sorrinash never answered. Sorrinash then agrees to answer the challenge, but under his terms. He accepts Quade’s challenge but seeks to face the Femme Fatal pirates in the upcoming annual Free Captains’ Regatta. The loser of the challenge will sacrifice their ship, their crew, and be banished from the Shackles. The crowd roars in approval and Quade accepts. The Master of Gales, watching from the sidelines takes this opportunity to interrupt both sides. “And so let it be known that I will step down as a contestant this year and will instead act as judge.” He then turns to regard Sorrinash and then Quade, “and if young Sorrinash would lose this competition, also let it be known that there will be a vacancy at the Pirate Lords’ table.” Not wishing to be out done, the Hurricane King then speaks up, “Let these bloody matters be put on hold until the race, and instead welcome our new brothers and sisters as Free Captains.” With another roar of approval, the pirates of Fort Hazard welcome the Femme Fatal pirates as Free Captains. Sorrinash leaves in disgust, followed by his supporters.
After a night of revelry and back in their own ship, Wynter is notified by Grok that there is a messenger from Tessa Fairwind waiting for the captain. Wynter awakens Quade from his slumber and the sylvan captain greets the disapproving female messenger. The group learns that they’re invited to Fairwind’s manor for dinner this evening, and they’re free to bring the other survivors of Smuggler’s Shiv with them. Intrigued by this news, the group decides to accept the messenger’s offer.
After a day of shopping in the city, the group then arrives at Fairwind Manor. They’re greeted by a Mwangi man who seems familiar with them. They’re shocked to learn that the man is none other than Jask, their old companion from Smuggler’s Shiv. Reunited with their old friend, he explains that he has been working for Tessa Fairwind and that the pirate lord seems interested in helping clearing his reputation. The group enters the manor and is welcomed by Tessa Fairwind. After a lovely feast, the pirate lord of Motaku gets down to business. She hires the group as independent contractors to investigate rumors of Chelish spys operating within the Shackles. In return, she offers to part with her family treasure, one of the pieces of Eight. The half elf has no problem with parting with the treasure as she has no designs for the Hurricane Crown. Quade attempts to flirt with her, but he is reluctant to join her fleet when offered the opportunity.
With a new mission, one step closer to collecting another piece of Eight, and reunited with an old friend, the Femme Fatal Pirates are launched upon a brand new adventure.