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Lore:Pirates' Skyhold

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A Treatise on Earth Motes[edit | edit source]

With the recent prevalence of floating rock and earth formations, colloquially referred to as “earth motes”, some interesting ecologies have developed. One first notices the uniformly aerial organisms that inhabit the smaller motes; with such a small habitat, there is not much forage for moderate-size fauna. This leads to an abundance of insect life which in turn attracts flocks of small birds and other flying creatures. These micro-ecologies are fascinating in their own right, providing an environment in which species develop unmolested by the rest of the world.

Even more fascinating are the larger earth motes. On these, we often find small groups of grounded animals, isolated from the rest of the world. In most cases, they are the survivors of the native population before the earth mote was flung skyward during the Spellplague. In other cases, they have been introduced by a variety of conveyances: from other earth motes, natural disasters, magical phenomenon or sentient intervention. Even some intelligent humanoids, primitive and unable to easily leave, can be found living on the larger motes. These tribes often develop entirely unique cultures in their isolation and frequently come to domesticate their small domain entirely. It is even possible that this environment may lead to swifter cultural development, if their tribal societies remain stable. After all, predators and external threats are less likely.

--Glipp Inkwell, 1430 DR

Ballistae and Skyships[edit | edit source]

While the catapult remains the preferred non-magical weapon against warships, its utility is severely limited against warships that sail through the skies. Both the catapult’s design and the training of their operators assume that the weapon will be used against a target at a more or less similar elevation. Even with a highly skilled operator, successfully hitting an aerial target with a catapult is difficult at best.

Ballistae, on the other hand, have proven to be highly successful in hitting such targets. Although they deliver less raw force, their construction allows them to sit atop a universal joint, meaning that they can aim in any direction and track the target through any evasive maneuvers.

Black Dragons[edit | edit source]

Like all chromatic dragons, black dragons are evil, greedy and predatory. They bask in the adulation of lesser creatures, often installing themselves as figures of worship and demanding tribute from their followers.

Black dragons prefer to build their lairs in dismal forests, gloomy swamps and other places where Shadowfell’s influence is strong. When threatened, they breath blasts of caustic green acid from their mouths. Some black dragons have the ability to foul water, corrupting the streams, lakes or swamps near their lairs to assert their dominance.

Blackdagger's Plunder[edit | edit source]

These last few months have been top-notch for us. We’ve looted heaping mounds of precious stones and metals from Mirabar, Settlestone, Everlund, and Sundabar. We’ve plundered piles beef and mutton from Longsaddle, bags upon bags of grains from Elturel, and a veritable mountain of those delicious crumblecakes from Red Larch. We even visited Yartar’s famous markets so we could help ourselves to the exotic goods from faraway lands sold here. We are all rich and happy pirates, thanks to our beloved pirate king. I would serve him unto death, and beyond.

--Richorn Dravers, 1429 DR

Cannibalism and Undeath: Ghasts[edit | edit source]

Humanoids who indulge in or resort to cannibalism become ghouls when they die, hungering insatiably for living flesh. Less well known, however, is what happens to ghouls who are unable to feast on said living flesh. Amazingly, these ghouls appear to starve, rotting from the inside out and releasing a stench of overwhelming foulness. This does not kill the ghouls, as they are already dead. Instead, this process transforms them into ghasts, granting them even greater strength and ferocity in their desperation to feast on the living.

Company Yargo[edit | edit source]

Company Yargo is led by the prominent Yargo family of halflings. The Yargos are said to be descended from the infamous Pirate King Yargo that ruled Yaulazna a century ago, before the Spellplague rent Halruaa asunder. The Yargo family is in turn led by the brash and daring Shil Yargo, who captains their skyship, the Buccaneer’s Tear.

Captain Yargo and her company take all sort of work, and its members aren’t reluctant to spill blood for the right price. It is rumored that Company Yargo does its own “work” more often than not: Shil Yargo and her crew have been implicated in acts of piracy, although no formal changes have ever been brought forward.

Control Rods[edit | edit source]

Originally, Halruaan skyships were flown by small crews of wizards who maintained the enchantments that kept the ships aloft. With the decimation of Halruaa under the Spellplague, a more stable way to maintain skyship flight was needed.

“Control rods”, magical artifacts bound to permanent flight enchantments on the hull of a skyship, proved a stable and accessible solution for would-be skyship captains. The control rod allows anyone who knows its command words to fly the skyship to which it is bound. With theft of a skyship now a very real possibility, control rods have become highly prized and closely guarded tools for those fortunate enough to possess them.

Garrundar the Vile[edit | edit source]

Garrundar the Vile hatched several hundred years ago in the Vast Swamp, which resides at Cromyr’s Easter border, just north of the great lake known as the Dragonmere. A dark and dismal place where fog from Dragonmere rolls constantly inland, the Vast Swamp is forever enshrouded in a grey pall.

Some forty years ago after Spellplague, Garrundar matured and grew powerful enough to claim the entirety of the Vast Swamp as his domain. Though the Vast Swamp is aptly named, Garrundar coveted the land beyond its borders as well. Unsatisfied with the swamp’s sluggish, crawling expansion, Garrundar began to magically quicken the process. Soon the swamp threatened to block overland travel between Cormyr and Sembia if left unchecked.

This impending catastrophe prompted a response, and after several hastily-assembled groups failed to oust the dragon, a powerful and savvy party of adventurers were finally able to defeat, although not to kill, the foul wyrm. Garrundar fled the Vast Swamp in a rage.

Halruaa's Rise and Fall[edit | edit source]

Located in the south of Faerûn, Halruaa was a prosperous magocracy founded by wizards who fled from Netheril in their skyships before the nation fell. Determined to uphold the cause of good and law, these prodigal wizards used their arts to protect and enhance the lives of the shepherds who originally inhabited the land that would become Halruaa. With roughly third of their population capable of arcane magic, Halruaa was both wondrous and strictly governed. The magocracy thrived peacefully for millenia, baffling scholars.

In the end, it was not the hubris of mortals but the hubris of gods that destroyed Halruaa. The death of Mystra, goddess of magic, devastated the magic-dependent nation. He storm that heralded the Spellplague began over the Mahir Jungles near at hand, quickly spreading to encompass the realm. What once was Haluraa (sic) is now known as Plaguewrought lands.

Journal: Captain Kayliss[edit | edit source]

It has been too long since we have been free. Many times during these decades, we thought we had managed to defy the curse, but with each experiment, the crew of the skyship we sent out painfully rotted away to nothing just as they crossed the threshold. With no one crewing the sails and rudder, ships rolled and smashed themselves to pieces in the floating shoals and wreckage offshore. We have only two ships left: Bartholomew’s and mine. We both refuse to risk them without assurance of success.

And now, we may have a chance at that very assurance. We are not wizards, and we cannot undo the magic that binds us, but a band of adventurers has flown here in their own skyship. No doubt they search for our treasure. Even now, they make their way towards us. We will capture those of them who can use magic and slay those who cannot. We will force them to undo the fetters that binds us to this mote. And then, we shall be in Undeath as we once were in life: Blackdagger’s sky pirates, the scourge of the Sword Coast! --Captain Kayliss

Journal: Commander Hames[edit | edit source]

Eleint 18: Curse our luck! If we had been attacked only a month earlier, this inner fort would be full of the delicious and exotic foods we’ve stolen these past weeks. But no! It was nearly all sold to merchants preparing for Highharvesttide. As it is, we’ve had to ration our supplies heavily, and after nearly a tenday of meager meals many of the crewmen are becoming restless. I’ve heard nothing further from anyone near the docks, not from Blackdagger nor any of his captains or lieutenants. I know not what it is that awaits us outside, but it is large and has no issue with making its presence known to us. Those few who volunteered for scouting missions have not returned, so it seems the best course of actions for now is to stay put. --Commander Hames

Eleint 25: Nearly a mutiny on my hands! There was deadly altercation between the acting quartermaster and several of the crewmen who wanted more food. Now I have four dead crewmen on my hands, but it’s even worse than it sounds: The fools fought so viciously that they damaged the mechanism that opens the inner fort door! It will take time to fix although with the monsters outside it matters little for now. --Commander Hames

Journal: Commander Hames, Part 2[edit | edit source]

Marpenoth 11: I’ve had little time to write this past tenday or so, as disaster after disaster befalls us. We had nowhere to put those killed in the ration riot, so we dragged them near the entrance of the inner fort, as far away from the food as we could. Several days after their death, they rose again as undead! Foul magic is surely afoot. Several more were killed by the shiftless rebels, and now they block our path to the door to the inner fort. After over a month of meager rations and stagnant water, we have not the strength to fight our way through them. We are truly trapped now. --Commander Hames

Marpenoth 17: We are damned. Today we discovered that our water supply was somehow polluted and turned to poison. Only too late did we realize; nearly half of us drank from it, myself included. My chest is on fire, ad I can barely hold my quill in shaking hands. When I die… will I rise as an undead as well? Perhaps this is our fate: to guard this for against intruders for all time. --Commander Hames

Lightfoot Halflings[edit | edit source]

(Available to Halflings only)

The Lightfoot are one of three main halfling tribes, and undoubtedly the most well-known. Famous for their insatiable wanderlust, Lightfool halflings can be found almost anywhere in the world.

Although they often portray themselves as open and friendly, it is folly to assume that lightfoots are naïve. Many a dismissive adventurer has found themselves missing their purse after dealing with an enterprising lightfoot.

Lizardfolk[edit | edit source]

Lizardfolk are a very diverse species. Though typically similar in size to humans, several breeds of Lizardfolk are much larger or much smaller than average. Notable examples are the fearsome Blackscales who tower over most humanoids at 9 feet tall, or the timid pygmie lizardfolk who are not much taller than average Halfling. While some tribes of lizardfolk consist of one particular branch of their species, many tribes exhibit great diversity and are often stronger for it.

Though not inherently evil, lizardfolk are viewed as barbaric by most civilized species and are often hostile to outsiders. Those who speak draconic may wind that they are able to reason and bargain with them, but as with all savage cultures this is generally a risky proposition.

--Glipp Inkwell, 1430 DR

Lord of the Mire[edit | edit source]

This will be my last entry for a while. I have been living on the mountain slopes of this mote- MY mote- for almost three years now. The lizardfolk have never caused me trouble before. They may be savages, but who am I to judge? I live separated from my kind, with only m books and my studies to occupy my mind.

Then HE came. Whether he appeared or simply woke from a long sleep, I can’t say. He changed them, whipping them into some kind of frenzy. I think they worship him, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. I’m pretty sure that he’s the one who is poisoning the swamp!

The lizardfolk can’t drink this toxic sludge any more than I can. Now the ones who’ve seen me up here in the past are searching for me, as If my presence can no longer be tolerated. Their eyes are keen, but I’m quick, I’m clever, and like I said before, this is as much MY mote as it is theirs! Even so, I can’t stay here much longer, or I’ll be staying here forever. As a dead person. There’s no way I would survive the fall without plan. Tonight, I’ll see if I can cobble something together out of my belongings. Never let it be said that Glipp Inkwell was a quitter!

--Glipp Inkwell, 1430 DR

Piracy in the Skies[edit | edit source]

On the high seas, piracy is constrained to coastal ports and shipping lanes, but the limits on pirates who roam the skies are far fewer. Pirates who control a skyship can loot and ransom across all of Faerûn. Worse, such pirates are especially difficult to bring to justice as their raids come with little warning and leave no trail to follow. The benefits of a skyship are obvious to any cunning pirate, and for those who can maintain control of these mighty vessels, a life of infamy and riches is almost assured.

Shamanism[edit | edit source]

Practiced by some ancient cultures, and often by more simplistic and barbaric tribes as well, shamanism is essentially the art of bargaining with the spirits of nature. Shamans are those who are able to sense the spirits around them and communicate, often striking deals with these natural forces and acting as an intermediary between them and the physical world.

Valued for their wisdom and the powers that their spirit allies grant them, shamans often rise to positions of leadership or respect among their associates. However, not all shamans are benevolent creatures, and particularly among the more savage tribal cultures shamans may lean more towards the predatory and vicious spirits of nature.

Skull Fortress[edit | edit source]

Establishing their skyhold on a floating earth mote kept the sky pirates safe from almost any invasion force, but they quickly discovered that they were not the mote’s only inhabitants. A savage and territorial tribe of lizardfolk also lived there, and after several crewmember were lost to a string of raids from this tribe the pirates hastily began erecting fortifications facing the swamp in order to better defend themselves.

As time went on and the pirates continued to add pieces onto them, the fortifications grew into more of a fort-like construction.

Skyships[edit | edit source]

Skyships are specially-designed Halruaan vessels enchanted with powerful flight magics. Often employed for exploration, transportation, and combat, these ships were crafted by wizards of Halruaa before the Spellplague.

With Halruaa now in ruins, such vessels have become exceedingly rare and therefore exceedingly valuable. The secrets of skyship construction may be lost, but repairing even a badly damaged vessel is still possible with skilled craftsmanship and wizardry.

Smuggling and Piracy[edit | edit source]

One problem that Blackdagger’s pirates faced was what to do with all of their plundered goods that they could not use themselves. Although skyships made outright piracy much easier, their infamy made selling those goods difficult. It ever they were disembark at a port, they would surely be arrested.

Conveniently, however, many independent, unscrupulous merchants made their living smuggling and distributing stolen goods. Many such merchants devised ways to contact the sky pirates to offer their services. By the time of Blackdagger’s disappearance, he and his pirates profited from very lucrative business arrangements with nearly every smuggler and black market merchant in the Sword Coast.

The Blackdagger Mutineers[edit | edit source]

As Bartholomew Blackdagger’s piratical exploits became more and more successful, his crew grew larger and his grip them tightened. He was no longer a pirate captain: he was the Pirate King.

Not all of his crewmembers wanted to serve a king. A small group tried to mutiny and leave the island on one of the skyships, but were stopped by Blackdagger loyalists. Some were captured and executed, but many escaped into the swamp.

With no way off of the island, they survived in the wilderness for years, living off the land and their wits. Over the decades, however, their numbers slowly dwindled as they fell one by one to the now-cursed Blackdagger pirates, to the Lizardfolk, or to starvation and exposure. Only a handful now remain, still chilling desperately to survival.

The First Blackdagger[edit | edit source]

Over Half a century ago, a band of pirates somehow acquired a small fleet of lying Halruaan skyships, terrorizing the Sword Coast and lands beyond. They were led by Bartholomew Blackdagger, whose infamy as a murderer and plunderer was outstripped only by his renown as a skilled leader and tactician. Establishing a “Skyhold” on a massive, floating earth mote to the northwest of Neverwinter, Blackdagger’s fleet was too powerful for any local township to resist yet nimble enough to avoid retribution from the powers along the Sword Coast.

One day, several decades ago, Bartholomew Blackdagger disappeared, never yet heard from again. Years later, Blackdagger pirates once again plagued the Sword Coast, though by se rather than air. The question of whether these new Blackdaggers were relations or simply so impressed with the man they decided to carry on his legacy has yet to be answered.

The Five Companies[edit | edit source]

The Five Companies, of which Company Yargo is one, are a neutral mercenary pact between Halruanan survivors of the Spellplague and the pirates of Yaulazna. The first meeting of the two factions collapsed into a conflict that tore Yaulazna apart, sparing only a portion of it as a floating earth mote. Eventually, the two groups came to an accord for mutual protection and survival. Calling the remainder of Yaulazna home, they transformed the floating shard into an aerial freeport watched over by a council of the mercenary companies and the townsfolk.

The Five Companies are so named for their five skyships, and the mercenary company that crews each. Each company uses their skyship to ply their particular brand of “trade”, often including unsavory activities like smuggling or outright piracy.

The Plank[edit | edit source]

Successful pirate crews tend to be close-knit, as every raid required them to put their lives on the line for each other. For this reason and many others, these unscrupulous brothers-in-arms treat traitors in their own ranks extremely harshly. Blackdagger’s sky pirates are no exceptions.

To deal with traitors, they constructed a gangplank at the edge of a tall cliff. Traitors were forced to walk off of this gangplank, plummeting hundreds of feet down to the churning ocean. Blackdagger’s leadership and consistent success in piracy ensured there were very few traitors among the crew. The sky pirates so enjoyed meting out this punishment, however, that they took to using it to punish other, lesser crimes, like theft or disobedience.

The Vile Curse[edit | edit source]

Even at the height of his primacy, Bartholomew Blackdagger avoided taking foolish risks. For ten years, his pirates raided the Sword Coast and beyond, but through shrewd decision-making, Blackdagger avoided provoking those with the power to oppose him.

What would drive such a man to make the fateful decision as Blackdagger made, none can say. Returning from a successful voyage, he and his men spotted a black dragon flying nearby, and Blackdagger ordered it to be captured and brought back to their skyhold. This dragon, however, was a wyrm of great age and power named Garrundar the Vile. It soundly defeated Blackdagger, killing his entire crew, and he fled back to his skyhold with Garrundar in pursuit. Fearing the dragon’s wrath, he ordered many of his men to shut themselves inside the forts.

Garrundar, however, would not let one who had attacked him escape so easily. He patrolled outside the forts day and night, ensuring that the pirates could not escape, and at the same time weaved a powerful curse through ritual magic. The curse bound Blackdagger’s body and soul to the floating earth mote upon which his skyhold was built, trapping him forever in Undeath. Unable to leave their forts, the pirates’ stores of food and water were soon depleted. Refusing to see his reign ended in such a way, Blackdagger willfully spread the curse to his men, ensuring that they would be able to help him in his schemes for revenge.

Treasure Hunting[edit | edit source]

(Available to Trickster Rogues only)

Treasure hunting in Faerûn is a profession for the brave, desperate, and insane. Be it a dragon’s hoard, a haunted barrow, or an ancient ruin, if the treasure was easy to get, someone would have taken it already.

Even with all its difficulties, there are techniques that can greatly extend a treasure hunter’s lifespan. Always keep a long stick - about ten foot in length - handy for poking things. Never climb without at least fifty feet of rope. Choose the rumors you investigate carefully. And if it sounds too good to be true, it is.