Session 9: Hemalurgic Rage
The few pirates who manage to swim to shore disappear into the cave along with Pewter Pete. With the pirates' ship out of commission, the Crew drops anchor takes their time to put together a plan: ZoRaah will mimic one of the pirates killed in the ship battle, swim ashore and call for help. Feigning shock from injuries should give her some leeway for imitating someone whose behavior she never had time to observe. The rest of the Crew use their ship to tow the pirate's ship away, while a small raiding party will come in on a small rowboat under cover of mist.
(aside: During the discussion of the island's layout we decide the the "eyeholes" of the skull are small lakes, one of which has a single disappointed tributary trailing southward.)
ZoRaah takes inventory, meaning she inspects the bodies to see how many new skeletons she can add to her collection and finds that five are salvageable. She selects one who was carrying vials of pewter and does her Kandra thing.
ZoRaah swims to shore, opens up several wounds on her body, and begins wailing for help. After a short time some of the pirates come out to help her and carry her into the cave. They try to talk to her but all she does is grumble for pewter until they give her some, at which point she relaxes and appears to pass out. Her imitation isn't perfect, but under the circumstances it doesn't have to be. Someone comes along and binds up her wounds, and she waits a few hours until it sounds like many of them have gone to sleep.
In the meantime, the rest of the Crew sneaks onto the island far from the cave and sneak around the shore.
ZoRaah "awakes" and begins walking around, scouting the area while continuing to feign delirium. It's not too long before she finds Pewter Pete himself sitting outside of a chamber, as if guarding it. He has a bag full of pewter beads which he is eating as if they were popcorn, chewing and swallowing several at a time. She sits down nearby and tries to make conversation and see what information she can get out of him, but he's not especially talkative.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Crew sneaks into the cave, stealthily taking out several guards in the process, (including a moment where Varrus silently breaks a man's neck while diving over a barricade, like Schwarzeneggar in True Lies level nonsense).
Eventually they group comes upon Pewter Pete and ZoRaah, with Celler using the advantage of surprise to flare steel and push hard on the beads of pewter as Pete is holding one of them up to his mouth.
(At this point, one player's eCigarette falls apart as he is cleaning it and the atomizer hits the ground. The GM picks it up and hands it to back to the player and, without thinking about the consequences, licks the liquid off his thumb. Instantly half of his mouth goes numb as a concentrated nicotine solution hits his lips. Gameplay pauses for a few minutes as the GM washes his mouth out and everyone takes the opportunity to remind him his dreams are not reality, and not everything is food. As the GM has never been a smoker, the rush of nicotine fixes his eyes wide open for the rest of the session and most of the evening afterward.)
Pewter Pete reacts quickly, turning and spitting the bead from his mouth while wrestling the bag away before the beads blast through him like a shotgun. He scrambles to his feet and bellows a yell loud enough to deafen.
Celler, with the enhanced steelsight from his eyespike, notices spikes protruding from Pete's trapezius muscles. Celler sees this heresy and flies into a rage, determined to remove those spikes.
ZoRaah uses the opportunity to slip into the now-unguarded room and finds three cages, two holding women, one holding a young boy. She also finds a woman fitting Annika's description not locked up, sitting up on a cot, looking like she just woke up, and using a regal-looking purple cloak as a blanket. She says, "Are you here to rescue me already?" in an almost disappointed tone, "This is the most fun I've had in months..."
Meanwhile, outside the chamber, Pete is inhumanly strong but it's six on one and after only a few rounds of combat he's nearly Defeated. He turns and runs into the chamber with ZoRaah, sobbing loudly, and collapses to his knees.
The crew is beginning to question the situation, with the exception of Celler. Still in a rage, he dashes up behind Pewter Pete and grabs hold of the spikes in his shoulders. Varrus tries to stop him, saying that something is wrong, that Pete is , Celler responds that he is going to help him. With a heave, Celler yanks the spikes out of Pete, who begins bleeding profusely from the wounds. Celler screams at anyone who attempts to approach them.
Pete flounders, gasping for air, bleeding to death, and manages to say, "I just wanted to be a pirate king like in the story books..." The entire crew reassures him, tells him he did great things. Jem draws her bow and gives him a mercy killing.
Celler turns and leaves the chamber, picking up Pete's bag of pewter beads on the way out. He takes off his eyepatch and strips to the waist, revealing the spikes in his body, and proceeds to methodically hunt down every last pirate still on the island, even as they surrender.
The rest of the crew look at each other in silence for a few moments. Finally, Gerald orders the kidnapped victims escorted back to the ship, along with any plunder they can carry, and the body of Pewter Pete. They don't wait for Celler before hauling anchor and sailing off.
Back on the ship, Varrus cracks open a bottle of rum, finds a quiet corner of the ship, and cries silently. Gerald sits next to him, and they drink together wordlessly for a few moments. Varrus says, "After seeing that, I know what I could have become back at that plantation. So I'm going to make you a deal, captain. If we face Lord Tanniker, or any other member of house Conrad, we take them alive, and I will deal with them. But I will not go into a rage like that. I am not a monster."
ZoRaah examines Pete's body, and comes to a chilling conclusion. Despite his enormous build, the facial and bone structure indicate that he was at most fifteen years old. She also finds the spikes to be iron, made to seal human strength. The placement is different from Koloss spikes, and there are only two of them. Among the physical abnormalities, the skin is ossified making it much harder than normal, pituitary and adrenal glands are overly large, and there are extra growth plates on the bones. The abnormal physical changes look like they began about three years prior.
Gerald and Jem come to ZoRaah's room as she is finishing the autopsy. She shares her findings, and explains that while these changes are obviously not natural, she has no idea what could cause them. (She suspects Hemalurgy, but has never seen it used this way before.) The topic moves to what to do about Celler. She explains that Inquisitors are prone to fits of bloodlust and extreme emotion, but typically this state only lasts an hour at most. He'll get better at controlling it with time, but right now, the best course of action is to stay out of his line of sight. He's not getting off of that island on his own.
The crew then approaches Annika to question her. Varrus, in his current emotional state explodes at her over her comment about "fun" back in the cave. He catches himself, calms and apologizes. Annika explains that her father had sent her to live with her uncle in Daral, to "see more of the world" but she rarely got to leave the Keep. The pirate attack was terrifying, sure, but once she and the others were taken Pete was a perfect gentleman, and didn't let any of the other pirates touch them. He was sitting outside of the chamber to keep watch for them when the Crew came. He'd seemed confused, like he was in over his head, and embarrassed that he'd kidnapped the governor's niece instead of daughter, like in the storybooks. It was kind of cute, actually. Suddenly all of the pirate stereotypes and unimaginitive naming make sense: Pete was just a kid who thought he was playing a game.
They ask about the spikes, she says that the Great Pirate Lord Felstrom gave them to him. The spikes are what made him big. He'd seemed proud of them. Felstrom granted him the spikes, brought together a crew, made him into a real pirate, one bound to become a legend. But then, about six months ago, Felstrom left suddenly, and things began to fall apart. Food and supplies were running out, the crew was on the brink of mutiny. The raid on the city was an attempt to pull things back together.
The crew then talks to the other captives. The other women have no additional information, and are just relieved to be heading back home. The young boy is a little too excited about the situation and asks them "Are you guys pirates too!?" and keeps trying to touch Gerald's hat. They talk the kid down and tell him they're taking him home, hoping that the kid's parents are still alive.
The crew sails back to Daral to collect their reward, unsure of what to do with Celler. Do they go back and see if he's calmed down, or do they leave him on that island?
Sorry this update took so long (LITERALLY OVER A YEAR WTF) to write up. Partly because of the usual "life happens" but also because the end of this session went grimdark and I was reluctant to relive it. I had originally intended Pewter Pete to throw a comical little temper tantrum upon being defeated, and from there the Crew could have talked him down, and maybe even added him as an ally, where he would turn out to be a gentle giant. However, Celler's player had different plans. In his defense, he'd thought the Pete could survive the removal of the spikes, and that Celler's actions would ultimately help Pete. I (and everyone else at the table) disagreed with this assessment: he was at 1 Health and the 6-inch spikes were going straight down into his torso behind the clavicles, so I decided "Well, it's the Final Empire, and everything is horrible. Let's see just how dark I can make this."
There was definitely some tension between Celler's player and the rest of the players during the fight with Pete, but honestly he was playing Ruin's influence on Celler's psyche really well.