THE BALLAD OF THE SKELETON CREW
as composed by their leader, Talsinew Vocelli, leader of the Skeleton Crew
In boxes of barley and oats and some grains
The Skeleton Crew forged their crate expectations
With maximum muscles and minimum brains
They took on a mission to start conflagrations
An hour at sea and the doldrums drew silence
Strong Grök soon burst forth as he charged through the ship
Dark Heath and lithe Shenzi, their thoughts turned to violence
First snuck through the hold for a fiery trip
At first briefly stymied by mithril and cages
Heath made the decision to start up the slaughter
Still knowing the treasure’s not lost to the ages
As Shenzi would shark it from under the water
An invisible man burst forth with the light
And Errich the charging would blast them aside
The flash and the bang that encompassed the fight
Left the slavers and traders with nowhere to hide
With Thunderwaves loud and Fire Spheres hot
The Skeleton Crew took the boat by surprise
A tactical lesson the crew was then taught
By half-orcs who gouged out their soft human eyes
Their elven mage captain and bosun did try
To cease all the fighting from high on the deck
Their chalk-covered arrows and force globes did fly
Raising all manner of chalk-covered heck
But Aramil and Jamros, paladins mighty
They held off the hordes that advanced through the depths
In holy light pillars and leaps all a-flighty
Dravell (or Dannik?) delivered the deaths
And Rasmas he cleaved through the hordes of the pirates
Laying some four score of bodies to rest
The ship then exploded! They’d lost all their pilots!
And sunk down into the Kraken’s deep nest!
A single small longboat escaped from the wreckage
The Skeleton Crew slowly paddled away
Astride their light Wishbone, they send forth this message:
Don’t mess with the Crew, or you shall rue the day
Slavers are shattered if they wouldst depart
The Skeleton Crew takes them back to the start
Heed this song’s tale and take it to heart.
The song’s final lyrics, crossed out and changed a dozen times during their day off, sat on Sin’s writing desk at the villa. The group had been kind enough to honour his request for a private, mostly soundproof room, although it meant he was sheltered two floors down in the basement, next to the wine cellar. It mattered not: the room was quiet, dry, and the rickety staircase gave him plenty of warning if anyone would approach.
Beside the lyrics was an instrument case half-filled with dented copper pieces: the tips he’d made from the previous night’s performance at the Tipsy Chalice, a pub over near the docks. He’d received an invitation from a few of the group to join them at the Rusty Flagon, their usual postwork bar of choice, but he’d put that off in favour of the Chalice, for a few reasons. They usually let him play on busy nights, which was a good opportunity to test out new tunes and make a little spare coin. He’d probably spent the equivalent of his night’s wages on pints of gutter-mead and shots of lauthinol, but it was better than nothing. Not to mention, with some of the liberties he took with the song, he wasn’t quite ready for his new coworkers to hear it yet.
The third item on the desk was a medical kit, bandages bloodied and disinfectants mostly drained. The magical healing he’d received from the halfling cleric Errich worked wonders, but there was only so far it could take one, especially when one had been bludgeoned multiple times, almost fatally, during a fight with a trio of Breakers. Still, the surest way to ingratiate oneself with new companions was to pass through a near-death experience, and this certainly qualifed. Sadly, his employer didn’t have bonuses for hazard pay. But that was to be expected.
Last but not least was the shallow iron basin Sin had dragged from the washroom. The twisting spark-match he now dropped onto the single page of script at its bottom hissed and sizzled as it tumbled through the air. The fire at the end of the spark-match illuminated the delicate feminine handwriting on the letter, the letter that had arrived via pigeon early this morning to his narrow window. The wax seal, torn and discarded, was marked with a ten-pointed star.
Hopefully this letter reaches you before you take off again. My apologies for the injuries; we’d suspected this new group would be a little more dangerous, but the Breaker fight was outside the realm of what we predicted. It’s good that you survived, Tal, and not only because your eyes and ears are particularly useful to us at this time.
Darius has sent his final report, and we’ve compensated him for his efforts in ingratiating yourself with this new party of companions you find yourself in. They’re closer to the ultimate goal, but not there quite yet, so consider this your next training exercise in preparation for the final infiltration. I know the Darius Game lasted almost a year and a half; this one might take something similar. I know I don’t have to tell you, but as a reminder, there’s no need to rouse suspicion with this faction; indeed, from what you’re telling me, they’re doing good, vital work, and we can learn a lot from assisting with their efforts.
I confess I find it a little amusing that you’ve already picked up a fourth tattoo, after only a couple days on the job. You tend to acquire those in your lines of work, Tal. In a way, it makes sense. Things don’t fade easily for you.
I’ll have to sign off quickly if I want the bird to return to you by morning. Lay low, gather information, and remember that your primary target within this group is the paladin; he holds the most intelligence we need. Ingratiate yourself with him slowly and we’ll tease it out of him before the Night Of-
The rest of the letter, along with the stylized ‘A’ that marked the bottom of the page, was rapidly consumed by flames. After watching it burn to ash, Sin rose from his chair, picked up his panpipes, and headed upstairs to find something to eat.