Once they arrive at the outskirts of the deserted village, Zaiobe flies off to scout out the current position of the pirates.
“I’ve considered this carefully,” opens Toshio while Zaiobe is away, “and you should know my decision. I cannot ally with Zaiobe. If this Kikonu stands between us and our goal, we will destroy him. Because she rescued Jethrik and made a show of good faith by bringing him to us I will not take arms against her if she doesn’t force it. But I cannot be part of an alliance with a being of evil.” He finishes matter-of-factly with “I will tell her when she returns” and continues to his vigilance.
“Don’t we have to defeat the tengu if we are going to explore the Brinewall ruins and save Ameiko?” Jethrik asks. “You can’t sit that out! Can you?”
To Jethrik Toshio responds, “I didn’t say I’d sit that out. Only that I won’t be allied with evil creatures.
Jharad adds, “I agree with you Toshio, but tipping our hand early and eliminating any tactical advantage we may gain by waiting until we have at least met this tengu is foolish. Besides, did Ameiko herself not say that ‘in his shattered silent love we should seek aid?’ Do you at least not trust the advice of your… of Ameiko?”
“That wasn’t Ameiko,” Toshio says, overlooking Jharad’s slip. ”At least I don’t believe so. I think it was whatever is possessing her or using her to communicate. It is my hope that this won’t make any practical difference to us. I’ll still be going into the castle with you.”
Right after Toshio’s reply, Zaiobe returns. She tells them that the pirates are still in hiding amidst the rubble surrounding the lighthouse. The now overgrown village path has a branch that leads right up the cliff to the lighthouse. The forest encroaches on either side of the path and on the landward side of the lighthouse. It should be easy enough to get to it without being seen. Zaiobe also mentions that the pirate’s longboat is returning from the ship back to Brinewall. There only seem to be two pirates and the priestess of Calistria aboard it.
Jharad motions for the others to get ready to move and then asks, “How many pirates are hiding among the rubble then, and how long do you expect before the longboat reaches the peer?”
Zaiobe answers through Jethrik, “There are probably a dozen. And it will be some time before the longboat can make it across the bay and into the harbor.”
Toshio waits for Zaiobe to answer Jharad, then delivers his message. “Thank you, Zaiobe. We will be going into the castle eventually, but I can’t do so as an ally of evil. Because you rescued Jethrik and showed good faith in bringing him to us, I will not fight you unless you provoke it. If Kikonu stands between us and our goal we will destroy him.” He watches her carefully as she digests this. you unless you provoke it. If Kikonu stands between us and our goal we will destroy him.” He watches her carefully as she digests this.
Jharad slowly shakes his head and breaths out in Orcish to his friend, “Be ready Keng, our paladin has screwed us over again.”
Keng’s chest rumbles with a low growl, he tosses his head backwards his dreadlocks flipping over his shoulder, and says quietly in Orcish, “nothing is ever easy with him.”
“Killing for hire is not something I’m comfortable with either,” says Zeyala. “However, if we encounter roadblocks to find Ameiko’s cure, then we break them down for our needs. It should be that simple.
Turning towards Toshio, she asks, “Why not remain silent? Why create possible new road blocks?”
Zaiobe eyes widen in shock, her grip tightens on Jethrik and she tenses, as if to leap up into the air and take flight with him, but then she relaxes and smiles. She has Jethrik tell the rest, “That is fine. Then I will help you enter the castle and when Kikonu attacks you, as he is sure to do, I will be there to help you defeat him. After that, we leave each other alone. Will that ease your qualms?”
Jharad looks at Toshio, waiting to see if Zaiobe’s rewording of practically the exact same plan clears the muster of the paladin’s semantics filter.
“Yes. That will do nicely. Thank you for your understanding,” Toshio replies.
Zeyala starts to speak, but then says nothing. She bows to the harpy, visibly relieved.
“I’m glad the creature of evil has a cool head and a pragmatic outlook. Maybe you goodie two-shoes could learn something from her. Sheesh!” Jethrik shakes his head.
“Talk, talk, talk. Always the talking. Now that Mr Fancy Pants has his panties adjusted Let’s get about it,” says Keng.
Toshio lets the verbal barbs pass without reacting. He is still suspicious of Zaiobe (though still relieved by her response) and feels there are more important things to do than argue with the gnome or the half-orc.
“Can you guys do me a big favor?” Jethrik begs. “Go after Captain Grudge and the priestess. If you do, maybe we don’t have to fight the rest. The crew are decent guys. I mean, for lawless criminals who make a living on murder, plunder and rape. So you know, maybe we can let them go.”
Jharad says with a look of regret, “I am not sure how we can do that, Jethrik. They may be decent guys, but they will be trying to kill us in defense of their captain. We can hold back if any of them give themselves up, but beyond that it will make our job much more difficult. Now, I suggest we try and draw them out from their cover into the clearing east of the lighthouse. I will engage them from a distance down the pathway into the forest, and that should get their attention from there and draw them out. The rest of you should be hiding in the forest to the north. As soon as they are drawn out you flank them from there. Sound good?”
Keng nods and moves off into the woods along the north side of the forest.
Toshio, for once agreeing with Keng that there has been enough talk, nods agreement with Jharad’s plan and moves along behind Keng.
Jethrik and Zeyala fall in line with the others.
As Keng and the others move off into the forest Jharad says, “Wait until I start firing at the crewmen at the trailhead then move in to flank. I will provide cover fire as best I can. You have 10 minutes until I begin firing.”
After the others move off the trail into the forest Jharad moves off the path to gain cover and concealment from the trees. Keeping the same distance into the forest he moves west along the trail until he has a good position from which to snipe the crewmen some 30 or so feet away.
Once in place he, begins firing after 10 minutes.
“Hmm… ” Jethrik muses “This might be a good time to use ghost sounds to throw folks off balance.”
The pirates are too wary, however. They hear the trees rustling as Jharad moves through the underbrush towards them. The others are even noisier, for Toshio and Keng are both unskilled at woodcraft and wearing noisy metal armor, while Zeyala also manages to step on every leaf and strike every hanging branch. Jethrik’s noise is negligible, however, and easily covered over by the din made by the others. “Who’s there?” Calls out one of the pirates by the path, “Captain, intruders!” calls out the other. They both lower their crossbows, one aims it down the path and the other towards the trees to the north. The first, however, falls with a cry as Jharad’s first arrow strikes him in the chest.
A rustling and clanking of armor issues from behind the trees just to the right of the remaining pirate. He wheels to confront it and fires an arrow into the underbrush out of sheer panic.
From within the lighthouse Captain Grudge calls out, “Get them me buckos! Whoever they be we’ll given them a hidin’ they’ll never forget!”
A white shimmer bursts from Zeyala as she whispers a prayer of blessing for her comrades.
Keng races from the woods towards the opening along the northeast side of ruins of the lighthouse and with his back to the wall just to the south of the opening and axe held in high ready position he waits for the pirates inside to come out. Soon enough one does appear, aiming his crossbow into the woods. Keng’s axe slams into the pirate’s left side, tearing his studded leather armor and drawing blood. The pirate screams and withdraws back into the lighthouse.
The other pirates within all draw their cutlasses. Three of them form a cordon around Captain Grudge, while a fourth lunges out the door and swings at Keng, who steps away and takes the blow on his steel-toed Doc Martens, which is more than adequate to ward the blow. From the north side of the lighthouse a pirate shouts, “Its Jethrik! Jethrik’s with ‘em! The traitor!” He fires a bolt at the gnome but it hits the tree he is taking cover behind instead. Two other pirates taking cover behind a tree on the south side of the lighthouse also loose bolts into the woods but come no closer to hitting anyone.
“I’m famous!” Jethrik cheers. “That’s right Captain Grudge, you can catch a gnome, but you can’t expect to hold on to one. No even with two hands. Why don’t you come over here and get me?”
Captain Grudge is too well-versed in such verbal games to allow himself to get riled by Jethrik’s mocking.
Toshio moves swiftly to try to flank the pirate attacking Keng. but finds that his armor is slowing him down and the pirate is smartly staying just within the hole in the lighthouse so that there is no way to get behind him. He slashes at the pirate with Whispering Shrike, but his blow is parried.
Meanwhile, Jharad’s second arrow buries itself in the forehead of the remaining pirate who was watching the path. He falls without so much as a whimper.
Zeyala moves out of the cover of the trees and reaches out to Keng granting him guidance of the life-force. With all the power he can bear Keng swings his axe into the chest of the pirate confronting him, tearing through armor, flesh, and bone. The pirate falls and dies in a widening pool of his own blood.
The three pirates outside the lighthouse fire their crossbows again at Toshio and Zeyala, but only one bolt hits, merely nicking Zeyala’s left leg.
Two more pirates emerge from the lighthouse to engage Toshio and Keng. The first knocks Toshio’s blade aside and strikes his banded mail so hard he feels his ribs must be bruised. For a moment Toshio’s s wide open to an attack by the other pirate but he is able to spring back in time to avoid another blow. The second pirate slashes again at Keng but his cutlass is turned aside by the haft of Keng’s axe. Toshio’s counter-attack is also parried.
Jharad moves along the tree-line until he is able to get within 10 yards of the two pirates firing upon his friends from the south side of the lighthouse. He releases an arrow that lodges itself in the meaty part of the upper right arm of one of them. The pirate cries out but manages to keep his grip on his bow.
Jethrik calls out, “Keep at it, guys, Captain Grudge is going to run out of pirates pretty quick!”
Grinning broadly Jharad says to himself, “You just gotta love the little guy.”
Jethrik moves along the tree-line until he can see through the hole into the lighthouse. And there he see’s Captain Grudge as he shouts and gesticulates wildly to encourage his men.
Zeyala reaches out and brushes her fingers where the blade struck Toshio. ”Pharasma’s not calling you yet,” she says with wink as she retreats takes cover behind the trees again.
Keng yells out, “Someone cover the south west opening! Don’t let them escape!” The flat of his axe slams into the head of the pirate before him. The pirate reels back, staggered by the blow, and withdraws into the lighthouse.
Another pirate rushes out to take his place. He swings his cutlass at Keng who easily knocks it aside with his axe head. He is then slashed in the arm by the cutlass of the pirate fighting Toshio, whose swing goes wild.
The pirate to the north of the lighthouse fires a bolt at Jethrik but it flies past him into the woods. The two pirates to the south have no better luck in their efforts to hit Jharad.
Toshio finally penetrates the guard of his opponent and wounds him with a slash to the ribs that cuts armor and flesh.
Becoming as one with his bow, Jharad smoothly looses arrow after arrow at the two pirates, killing one and wounding the other.
Jethrik, keeping within the cover of the trees and underbrush, looses an arrow from his shortbow at the pirate aiming at him with his crossbow. The arrow hits the pirate and punctures his armor, but it seems to have been no more than a flesh wound as the pirate reloads to fire upon Jethrik again.
Captain Grudge, continues to shout at his men and waving his own blade in the air. “Carve them up me hearties! Rip out their hearts!”
Zeyala looks down where she was nicked by the arrow. “This will have to do,” she says as she reaches down to wipe away the blood.
Keng chops into the pirate before him, felling him. Stepping into the lighthouse he finds himself face to face with Captain Grudge.
Out of sheer desperation, the pirate that Keng struck first in the battle spring at him from the shadows to his left, but Keng easily evades his blow as the half-orc can see as well in the dark as in the light.
Outside the two remaining crossbowmen continue to fire from the cover of trees around the lighthouse at Jharad and Jethrik, but they still are unable to hit. One bolt does strike into a tree very close to Jharad’s face however.
Toshio’s next blow slashes into his foes left arm, causing the pirate to collapse in an artful spray of blood.
Jharad looses another arrow and drops the last pirate on the south side of the lighthouse. The way cleared before him, Jharad leaves the cover of the trees and races up to the tree where lie the corpses of the two pirates he has killed.
Jethrik looses another arrow at the pirate behind the tree on the north side but misses.
Captain Grudge, still cursing Jethrik and his friends, lunges at Keng with his rapier, but the tip of the blade is turned by Keng’s bracers.
Zeyala casts guidance on Jethrik. “May your arrow find it’s target.”
With a great bellow Keng charges into Captain Grudge to push him back and clear the doorway for the others to come through. Though the pirate captain manages to prick Keng in the side as he rushes him he is still forced back into the lighthouse.
The remaining pirate within the lighthouse comes up on Keng’s blind side and strikes with his cutlass, but Keng’s armor is proof against it. Toshio cuts that pirate down as he follows Keng into the gap.
Outside the pirate on the north side of the lighthouse fires another bolt at Jethrik but again it is lost in the trees.
Jharad positions himself outside gap on the southwest side of the lighthouse and gets a clear shot at Captain Grudge, which he takes. The arrow sinks into the pirate captain’s back. Captain Grudge screeches in pain and rage, but the blow was not a mortal one and he is able to fight on. Jharad notes out of the corner of his eye that by the wall to his right one of the wounded pirates has collapsed but is still conscious.
“Damn, yesterday they chickened out much faster than this!” Jethrik calls out. His next arrow goes wide and it is then that Jethrik begins to suspect that his bow must be warped and needs to be realigned. ‘Who packed up my stuff? Jharad? Where are you you stupid elf?’
Captain Grudge retreats from Keng and Toshio, backing away until he is within striking distance of Jharad. With an anguish he can’t keep stifled, Captain Grudge cries out, “Where is Ishana, Jethrik! Did your friends touch her when they rescued you?”
Zeyala tries to rush the pirate behind the tree and stabs at him with her longspear, but the pirate simply ducks around the tree. “Oops. Perhaps I should stick to healing,” says Zeyala. The pirate decides that now is the time to flee. He drops his crossbow and runs off, around the west side of the lighthouse.
Keng relentlessly pursued Grudge and strikes again with his axe, “time to pay your debts pirate scum!” He swings with his axe and misses taking the top of Grudge’s head off by a hair, but a quick follow-up thrust cracks the pirate captain in the head with the head of the axe. Though greatly discomfited, the captain wards Keng off with his rapier.
Toshio also presses the attack and gets past Captain Grudge’s guard, but his blow is not hard enough to slash through his studded leather armor.
Jharad backs away from the melee. In quick succession he looses two more arrows at the captain. The first misses, but the second hits him in the right arm. Captain Grudge instantly drops his rapier and then falls to ground unconscious and dying.
Jharad turns and points his drawn bow at the pirate who had run from Zeyala and is now standing gaping at him and the fallen captain. “I strongly suggest that you return to the lighthouse here as we would like to have a quick word with you. You are welcome to keep your cutlass as long as it remains un-drawn. I am quite sure you realize that attempting to do so would mean your instant demise.” The pirate nods and slowly, with his arms, raised and hands up, walks over to Jharad. Toshio has his eyes the no-longer fleeing pirate (the only one that might present a threat) and Jharad. They present the only probably combat, so he is attentive to how that develops. He isn’t paying attention to Keng.
“Hello Rutilus,” Jethrik mumbles to the surrendering pirate. “I’m sorry about all this. It’s good to see you pulled through.”
Seeing that Keng is readying his axe to finish off Captain Grudge, Jethrik rushes over to him. “Guys, let’s tie him up and then I can heal him.” Jethrik implores. “There’s no need to kill him, and maybe we’ll need him to save the other captain.”
“No we shall not heal the filth. We owe Sleyg his head otherwise we would not have found you Jethrik. His sins have finally caught up to him.” Keng picks Jethrik up by his collar with his left hand and with the axe in his right he beheads Captain Grudge.
Keng gently sets the Gnome down. He quickly cuts Grudge’s cloak off using to tightly wrap the head and ties it to his belt for safe keeping until they get back to their packs. He stands up saying, “Pirates ain’t so tough.”