Smuggled on the Ship of the Dead

Captain Keimura takes the adage dead men tell no tales as a crew management philosophy. An exceptional necromancer she has crewed her ship with reanimated corpses. Not only does she have the unwavering loyalty and silence of her crew, she doesn’t have to worry about food or shore leave. “Secrecy and Privacy” is the motto of Keimura’s smuggling operation. The very existence of her ship, the Black Sonata, is known only to a select few in the ports.

Should you have booked passage on the Black Sonata, a small row boat crewed by hooded figures will meet you on a beach at night. The Black Sonata is waiting out to sea, her sails flat and quiet. The stench of decay will greet you a you step aboard before an undead crewmember hands you a contract. The terms are simple – pay in gold, do not go below deck, do not go in the state room, place a sample of your blood in the vials provided. Cause trouble and you’ll become part of the crew.

Said crew are a mix of all the peoples who travel by sea. Some are relatively fresh with the cause of death evident to see. Others are just skeletons in rags that click across the deck as they work. Those accustomed to sailors will find the crew unnerving. They are precise and efficient in their movements and stand motionless at their stations until needed. All traces of individuality has been erased like their voices.  Keimura prefers to keep the crew out of sun so that they don’t decay quite so quickly.

The Black Sonata is bare of any decorations and her hull is a dull black that barely reflects any light. The metalwork is tarnished but not corroded. Only the ropes and sails are in good condition. Curiously there is no sea life on the ship’s hull at all. The forecastle has been stripped of all internal walls and turned into a barracks-like guest quarters. Hard wooden beds have been fitted to the walls and a low centre table bolted to the floor. Other than the single curtain around the latrine, there is no other furniture. The crew don’t enter the forecastle and generally ignore the passengers. No food, water or supplies are provided.

The state room is Keimura’s quarters and laboratory. She sleeps in an ornate red silk draped four posted bed that sits in the centre of the room. The bed is surrounded by magical circles that prevent anyone but Keimura from approaching it. Various bits of magical creature sit in jars on the shelves in between the many necromantic magical texts. The navigation charts includes maps of islands that don’t exist and routes between nowheres. Her desk is made of bones and is unnaturally dry to the touch. Occasionally flashes of light can be seen through windows throughout the night.

The second deck is a maze of rope lines that tie the the turnstalls to the rigging above. From here the undead crew can sail the ship in good conditions without having to expose themselves to sunlight. In this confined space the smell of decay is oppressive. A hatch amidships heads directly down to the third deck where the cargo is kept. There’s space here for the tonnes of cargo but it is almost entirely empty save for a few large crates. Should the passengers be aboard the Black Sonata on the rare occasions that it actually makes port, they’ll see these offloaded and a few new crates taken aboard.

At the bottom of the ship, the lowest deck is divided up into a three dozen low ceiling rooms. Each is filled with small samples of blood, organised by race, gender and alignment. The vials are marked with ancient gnomish runes and are held in a copper framework that connects them all to the ship’s metal clad keel. There’s a strange white mist that is ankle deep across the deck that trails around your legs as you walk through it.

Plot Hooks

  • Sheriff Fo wants to properly bury his brother but his corpse is a crewmember of the Black Sonata. His efforts to retrieve the remains have failed, how will the character fair?
  • The crown prince of Medria has been kidnapped and smuggled onto the Black Sonata. Can the characters find the ship before it delivers the prince?
  • Keimura is willing to give the characters a reduced cost passage if they’ll assist her in raising a shipwreck. The characters can have whatever treasure they find so long as they leave the corpses for her.

Image Credits