A common theme among those that study the behaviors of others is the observation that doing anything when angry rarely ends up working out well. Anger and frustration can usually drive an otherwise sensible person to do foolhardy things in order to satiate their emotional state. This is an understandable condition that can be found in virtually every sentient species of life. Allowing one’s basest impulses to guide one’s actions is a recipe for disaster, especially when life and death are on the line.
So it was with Captain Sabre midway through this crisp morning at sea. He had been hugging the coastline of Dalmatia looking for any sign of his archenemy, Captain Zucco. His crew had orders to find any suitable vessel for pillaging, but if they saw the Queen Myrtle they were to drop all other activities and focus only on getting the Blue Skull within range so that it’s cannon could tear great holes in Zucco’s ship. Sabre only had four of these big guns aboard his ship, two on each side, but that was all he would need. One broadside, two at the most, would cripple any merchant vessel. After that his crew would swarm aboard and their savagery would inevitably finish off any resistance. Captain Zucco was a crafty opponent, but Captain Sabre was fueled by his anger to bring this duel to a close.
Luck played a hand in the day’s events, and while Captain Sabre would not realize it he had more good luck this day than he did bad. In retrospect this wouldn’t matter. Because where luck ends is where methodical planning takes over. The men on duty in the crow’s nest of the Blue Skull spotted a vessel to the south and identified it as a caravel, well taken care of and in pristine condition. No sooner had Captain Sabre given orders to close on it than the other ship spotted the Blue Skull and began to turn away from its course. Undeterred, the pirates gave chase, eager to draw blood and loot from this handsome prize. As they closed the distance the pirates were able to see plainly the name of the ship they were pursuing. It was called the Kindred Spirit and was flying the flag of San Marco. Undoubtedly the property of one of that city’s wealthy merchant houses, this was now an even more enticing prey. The Kindred Spirit seemed to be trying to outmaneuver the Blue Skull by turning in lazy figure eight’s in and out of a large rocky bay. A single pile of dangerous rocks formed an island on the seaward side of this bay and the two ships found themselves dancing all around it, the pirates trying to get a favorable angle for their big guns and the other ship doing all it could to prevent that.
Captain Sabre would never learn why his prey was behaving as it was. All he knew was that this couldn’t possibly go on forever. The two ships were close enough that the pirates dared not try to cut them off or else their shot would be ruined by their target turning the other way and making good their escape. But they were far enough apart that arrows and crossbow bolts were of no practical use. The tension was palpable as the two caravels danced about in the bay. And then one of the pirates noticed something. The ship that they were chasing was picking people out of the water. Two humans, a gnome, and what had to have been a sahuagin, or fish man were pulled out of the waves of the bay. Suddenly the Kindred Spirit seemed to pick up speed and with one last sweeping turn it headed out of the bay and away to the sea. Captain Sabre’s mind began to race. His anger gave way to puzzlement, and then to concern.
“Check every corner of the ship below the water line! They were up to something down there, get searching and find out what they did!” A half dozen men sprang into action and dove below decks to scour the hold for any signs of sabotage. In the skies above the ship the lookout called down that a small bat-like creature was approaching and had already flown over the Kindred Spirit. Captain Sabre looked up and scanned the skies before spotting the winged beast. It was small, about the size of a kobold, but it wasn’t an urd as near as the pirate captain could tell. The creature flew around the Blue Skull a few times, diving down near the rear of the ship and then it flew off towards land in a dreadful hurry.
The sky began to darken unnaturally and the winds changed course suddenly and with great strength. Rain began to fall, and the waves took a nasty turn as the waters of the sea itself seemed intent on doing the Blue Skull harm. The ship they had been chasing continued undeterred away from it all as the terrible tempest rose up from the depths of the sea and crashed down from the black wicked clouds. The elements raged and pushed the Blue Skull up against the rocky island at the edge of the bay with such force that the keel was shattered. A tremendous crashing sound resulted and the crew was thrown about in the wreckage, with some being cast into the enraged sea.
Then the lightning started. As if pinpointed by the god of thunder himself, bolts of deadly electrical energy flew from the heavens and struck the wrecked ship repeatedly. The crew of the vessel scrambled to find safe haven in the rocks, but it did little good. Bolt after bolt the lightning poured down with disastrous consequences. Captain Sabre picked himself up out of the debris of his once proud vessel and took a look around. Bellowing to make himself heard over the maelstrom, he rallied a few of his men to get the skiffs free of the broken caravel and to get away from this island as quickly as possible. Working against the full force of nature’s most terrifying powers the drenched and injured men managed to drag the skiffs off the rocks and into the boiling sea. Rowing as though their lives depended on it, because they surely did at this point, the men headed for the northern part of the bay where the storm wasn’t as intense.
Through the blaze of the lightning and the crushing rain Captain Sabre saw an ominous sight in the distance on the other side of his now destroyed ship. It was the other ship, braving the other edge of the tempest just long enough to use a catapult to fling jars of Greek fire at the pile of broken lumber that had been the Blue Skull. No mere merchant ship would have been so bold as to approach what had to have been a supernaturally summoned storm of this magnitude just to do that. That was the act of somebody who had a grudge against Captain Sabre.
The grizzled pirate captain growled low under his breath, “Divo Zucco, you miserable bastige.” The storm drowned out his proclamation and it would have been quickly forgotten at any rate because down from the stormy clouds descended a swarm of bat-winged undead, some of them clutching swords and lanterns that gave off an eerie light blue aura. Every mariner along the coast of Dalmatia knew these to be the Harbingers, minions of the Witch Queen that would fly about her borders and her coasts making certain none trespassed. They would have to be dealt with eventually, but for now they seemed more interested in the wrecked ship than the two skiffs of survivors frantically rowing for safer waters. Captain Sabre might just live beyond this miserable day.