The Final Skull

The old woman who goes by Grootmoeder stands afore ye, her wrinkled face twisted up like a mangled prune. She says, “I won’t just give ya the skull, ya sea-soaked rats! I’ll hand it over to none save he who can prove his worthiness through deeds, and not merely the flapping of ‘is lips! Bring me what I ask, an’ I’ll give ya the tools to rise victorious! An’ fer all ya layabout tidescum, ya can scrub me dishes fer yer meals when yer betters is threw with ya!” She cackles hysterically.

Ye wonder ‘bout the sanity of this old timer, but it seems that if ye can assist the loon in seein’ that yer the better pirate, then it might be worthwhile to play her little game. Ye’ll need to be gatherin’ Antilles Frog Eggs and Saba Gecko Blood to lay hands on them stones as’ll give ye power o’er yer rivals. An’ ye’ll find ‘em in many places, so keep yer ears open! If ye can prove yerself the meanest pirate alive, ye might just walk out with the final skull! It is rumored to have a livin’ map etched upon it…whate’er that means. But if ye can claim it, yer bound to get your share of Old Ironbeard’s loot!

Taking Sint Eustatius

The fire crackles in the night as you sit on a beach, the sound of the surf and cool air soothing your soul. One of the older men is telling the story of Ignaas’s death, and you lay against a coconut palm and listen. Though Old Ironbeard never married, he made a point of getting to know each of his sons, when occasion permitted.  Some of them even joined him in a life of piracy. Old Ironbeard’s eldest son, Ignaas, helped keep order among the men, and was made captain of the Shiny Teton. Many a night were enjoyed together by Old Ironbeard and his sons, enjoying the company of women, drinking, singing, dancing, and playing various sports and games of chance.

During an ill-fated attack on the Gensois, a vessel of the French West India Company, the Shiny Teton was secretly boarded by a team of assassins. They quickly found Ignaas on the deck, overseeing the artillery, and killed him. Some of them were struck down, but the rest slew several of the crew before disappearing into the water. They were known as the Leopard Seals, and Ignaas had not known that they were on the Gensois. French Admiral Casimir Dupont had been on board, and the elite sea soldiers had accompanied him.

Your compatriots turn toward someone coming down the beach. Ignaas approaches. He notices the silence at his presence, and grins crookedly.

He says, “My father’s testicles have miraculously regrown! After wallowing over the loss of that whore, Laurelia, he’s ready to do something other than mope about.”

You and your mates frown at the disrespect, but are not particularly shocked. Ignaas has become more capricious and dangerous these days. The men feared him as much for his unpredictable rage as his supernatural history. It was true that Old Ironbeard had been low in spirit following Laurelia’s treachery. He had muttered to himself more than once about how he wasn’t going to let that damned curse kill him. You recall overhearing him on one occasion, saying, “Maybe yer right, Laurelia. Maybe it is time I lay down my falchion and become and honest man.” Some of his followers seemed uncertain as to whether they should continue on with him. But Ignaas kept the crew in line. Ignaas was always looking for ever-more ambitious targets, and it was clear that his path, and that of the Cap’n, were about to diverge.

Ignaas continues, “We take Sint Eustatius tonight! That bastard, Casimir Dupont, is holding the island, and this time it’s his turn to face the Reaper! Ready the ships!”

You make preparations as the news is passed. The French West India Company had taken Sint Eustatius, an island with many Dutch settlers, including the family of Old Ironbeard…or what was left of it. Old Ironbeard decided that he would engage in at least one more conflict to regain the island for his brethren from the Netherlands, and to exact vengeance for his previous loss. Old Ironbeard had enlisted the aid of Grootmoeder, the secret matriarchal leader of the Dutch on the island. He would divide his followers into groups who would target key locations as they sought to overthrow the French. You didn’t know how all this would play out, but you did know that you were ready to do some serious damage to those misborn French pansies!

What a Lovely Skull You Have

‘Twas no easy battle, but ye an’ yer mates finally broke through the ships guarding the Gravier estate and fought past the Bokors. Hammerhead was right about them coins: they shielded ye from the spells o’ the sorcerers, and ye made short work of those who stood in yer way. Inside the estate, the dark corridors lead to a gallery. Within it are some impressive works of art and items of traditional or historical significance. At the far end of the gallery ye see a small human figure less than 5 feet tall, fashioned in the likeness of a woman and wearing feminine clothing. Atop the shapely manikin sits a skull adorned with petals, the skull of Laurelia Cariño!

Iron Beard, the great-grandson of the legendary pirate Old Ironbeard, rushes forward to seize the skull. But a sword snakes out and he throws himself to the side to avoid bein’ sliced open. Red Beard leaps from the shadows, a wicked grin across his face. The battle of the Beards commences! The two pirates exchange blows, each seekin’ to best the other in a series o’ deadly maneuvers. At last, Red Beard delivers a vicious blow that sends his opponent to the ground. He faces the skull grinning back at him from atop its woman-like pedestal.

He sweeps his hat from his head, saying, “Fancy meeting a woman like ye in a place like this!” He performs a graceful bow. “And if I may say, madam…what a lovely skull ye have!”

Red Beard gently touches his fingers to the cheekbone of the skull in an intimate fashion. “Pardon me roughness, madam, but I’ve a grim task to complete. Bein’ a pirate an’ all, I’m sure ye understand.” Then he tears the skull from the manikin and carries it under one arm.

Leaving the room, ye find the Pope performin’ an inquisition on one o’ the Bokors. The dark sorcerer is bein’ held down on his back by four men. The Pope looks pityingly upon the Haitian. “Thy refusals gain thee nothing.” says the Pope as a pirate grinds his boot into the Haitian’s face. “Thou shalt reveal unto me the location of the final skull.”

The Bokor, a dark-skinned man of middle years, says, “Souple, I cannot! I be curse if I speak!”

“Oh, a curse he fears? I think thy mind aught be harried up by more pressing concerns. Perhaps thou needest a bit more distraction from thy preoccupation.”

The Bokor cries out as he experiences further unpleasantness.

“Dey puneesh us all, ou konprann? De water spirits curse me ‘ole family!”

The Pope considers this. He says, “Well, then, allow me to remove so trifling a worry from thy mind. Thou shalt have no family to be cursed if thou holdest thy tongue! We shall hunt down each and slay them!”

The Bokor looks distressed and moans, closing his eyes. Then he says in a low voice, “Rete. I tell. You find de skull on de Dutch isle Sint Eustatius. Speak to Grootmoeder. Now, ki te’m anrepo’m!”

“As thou desirest,” says the Pope, and he gestures for the man to be released. The Haitian scurries away as the Pope turns to Red Beard. He asks, “Art thou ready, brother? Oh, and kudos on gaining the second skull.”

Red Beard looks at him earnestly, saying, “I may not ‘o been the only suitor to vie for the lass, but I finally won Laurelia’s affections.” He withdraws a pipe and lights it, offering some of his leaf to the Pope, who declines.

The Pope says, “I’m sure the two of thee shall find much bliss together.” Then they both smile and lead the way to the final skull.