Nemesio Diaz always prided himself on being knowledgeable. He found out early on that knowledge was power. Knowing his the weaknesses of Spain’s enemies meant he was valuable to the king. That kept him safe, and wealthy to boot. As his influence grew, he was able to make bigger changes. A well placed bribe could prevent certain cargo from being loaded onto an American ship. Paying for a round or two of drinks might mean that a new upstart missed his ship setting sail. Nemesio became an expert of manipulating things behind the scenes.
Walking across his room in Marcador, Nemesio sighed. Even Pirates could be figured out. Most were easily distracted by gold and rum. Those were no fun. Sometimes though, an idealist would take to plundering Spanish ships, but they had weaknesses too.
His new assignment though? Was perplexing. Nemesio sighed and strolled across his study to look out at the ocean waves. This was perplexing. Nemesio normally felt great pride looking out at the seas he helped tame for Spain, but now, there was a bit of something else…. Fear maybe? No, no, that couldn’t be rational. It couldn’t possibly be the solution.
The island port of Marcador was raided. A ship sailed into the bay, with boarding crews sent aboard docked ships. Searching for witnesses proved a dead end. Any security those ships had were slaughtered.
Focus, he thought.
Okay, now what went missing?
Not a lot, as most of the ships were just sitting at ports. Goods unloaded, with nothing new to be loaded until they would set sail.
So you’ve dealt withworst , Nemesio thought. Remember that one man who fancied himself a viking? Come to think of it, a lot of those silly longships were good at sailing into ports undetected… So who ever this is, they aren’t the best.
But there were witnesses.
Drunkards, they had to be. Their testimony was useless, more than useless, it actively was getting into Nemesio’s way.
Because their was a whole ship of them, he admitted to himself. A whole ship full of drunkards who were somehow alert enough to notice the Monkey's Paw when no one else did, and sail up to intercept her. The contradictions pilled up. A whole ships worth of crew told him, to his face, that the Monkey’s Paw sailed right through their boat. No damage to either vessel, no chances to board. Nemesio sailed to Marcador himself because he couldn’t believe the reports. But remarkably, no contradictions were found in the testimony. They all described the same bone-white ship, with the same captain. The same black outfit, they all mentioned the deadlocks floating in the air around his head as if it were water, the pale deathly tone to his skin, and the fires of hell in his eyes.
Ugh, he couldn’t get these testimonies out of his mind. Dropping into his chair again, Nemesio turned to look out the window again. It was nearly night, another day gone. He was getting no where fast. As much as he hated the Comandante for this assignment, he still needed to produce results.
One night off. One night giving in, he thought, to the absurd. That’ll be what it takes to get this damned raider off my mind.
First grabbing some lose paper, and some ink, Nemesio started looking in his possessions. Finding what he was looking for, Nemesio pulled the small tome off the shelves. As silly as it was, he kept this book around him for good luck. His mother would read to him from this book, telling him tales of ghostly pirates damned to haunting the seas for their greed. Tucking it under his arm, Nemesio went down to the local tavern.
“What’s the book for?” The old bartender asked as he delivered Nemesio’s drink. “Hunting down ol’ El Fantasma himself. For the crown, no less,” Nemesio chuckled as he interjected the last part, referencing the old ghost tales. “Well I’d hope the crown knows that’s just some old wives tale to scare children.” “You’d be shocked,” Nemseio quickly added, “I’ve seen the records myself. An old pirate captain terrorized the Caribbean by that name. Old Comandante de Silva himself took the ship down.”
As the bartender slyly smiled and walked away, Nemesio pulled out his book and nearly spitting out his beverage. Greeting him inside his book were a pair of fierce eyes. The portrait of El Fantasma as supposedly seen by the author. This drawing haunted Nemseio’s dreams as a child, but he felt a new kind of fear, as it was exactly the face described to him by these crew. But they couldn’t all have seen this particular artist’s rendition. Such a ruse wouldn’t be tolerated, but nor was is possible...
Strategies and game play:
Nemesio’s mind started rushing. El Fantasma seems to be able to have the ability to raid ports for gold that should otherwise be safe. This isn’t something that often changes the tides of skirmishes over new island territories, but it can be vexing to deal with, as it would force Spain to redivert precious ships and resources to countering any attack. If sent to territories where the gold is known to be more all-or-nothing, or where there are priceless, unique-treasures, the consequences can be more dramatic.
Nemesio started to write these things down in his notes. He thought back to his research of similar smugglers. Mortal ones weren’t often so bold, trying to sneak towards enemy strongholds without being detected. Most admirals would notice a ship moving in their direction, so their ships needed to be fast, and smugglers preferred them to be well armed, just in case.
Normally, outmaneuvering smugglers could help corner them to be destroyed by a gunship, but that didn’t seem to be the case with El Fantasma’s ship. The reports said that ships in the harbor tried to ram the enemy ship, but it managed to sail right through them. Nemesio took a moment to think if he could do anything to stop this. Charms, trinkets, spells perhaps? Not standard practices for a sabateur like himself, but desperate times could call for desperate measures. If he started researching these things now, he could be very valuable to Spain, if these attacks continue...
Combos with other miniatures:
Speed, depths of your cargo hold, and the ability to survive are what makes a good smuggler survive, at least as a mortal, Nemesio jots down in his journal. For the undead and formerly living, these tenants become complicated. Picture, if you will, a ghost ship, Nemesio wrote, trying this line out for a report, the ship is likely missing it’s sails or stuck repeating the actions she took in the poor sailing conditions of a storm. Speed doesn’t seem like it would be a strength for these cursed ships. While there are stories of exceptions, the vessels described are small and likely to be forced to leave after having stolen very little.
Many stories of undead sailors characterize them as possessing the qualities of a rotting corpse. With bones showing, and pale flesh still rotting. This suggests that the undead can be fought. A splintered skeleton on the ocean floor might not pose a threat anymore, even if not sent back to hell. Survivability seems like something would still need to be emphasized.
If such stories are to believed, or taken seriously in this unsure time, there are a few I would like to highlight.
The Grinder - A ships characterized to be fast, even without her sails, and with a captain just as cruel to her enemies as they are to the damned souls inside the Grinder’s hull.
The Executioner - Said to be a ship that raids others, the stories supposedly told by survivors- Nemesio, pauses, writing (research?) to his draft- If El Fantasma decided to ride aboard her, this would likely be a sign of a warship that chooses to smuggle on the side. The ability to avoid being rammed would keep her flexible. Likely wouldn’t have as many souls of specialized crew on the ship to keep some of her hold free. This would be tougher to deal with in combat, but would likely steal less from Spain if she appears.
The Sea Monkey supposedly ended up crewed by monkeys. Ignoring how that works, it would seem the monkeys crew the Sea Monkey skittishly. Attacking enemies, then quickly fleeing. El Fantasma could use that to his advantage trying to escape ports he was trying to rob, not having to decide to flee or attack.
The Celestine would be an interesting choice, for sure. Within the stories of her, it is said this ship can change the very tides of the world. Giving her almost unnatural speeds with these currents, while potentially slowing down our own navigators. She's described as a small ship, but if she can't be rammed, she won't be quite as vulnerable.
Ways to counteract it:
Perhaps with spells, or charms, I could manage to cancel one of El Fantasma’s abilities, same as I always do with any threat to Spain. I could likely only protect the port, or stop his ship from becoming ghostly, but either way, I should be able to stop something. If I protect the port, his trip out will have been a waste, if I prevent him from becoming ghostly, we can ram and board his ship, taking any gold back, or even disposing of El Fantasma himself. Even if his undeath is permanent, it will take time and resources for him to procure a new boat before he can even dream of being a pest again.
As with all smugglers, however, in my experience, the best ways to defeat them is to be better than them. Gold and arms hold the secrets, as they always do. Either run more gold than they can take, or crush anyone who dares try to steal from our empire.
A smirk came to Nemesio’s face as he wrote that, “Wasn’t that how he fell the first time?” Chuckling, Nemesio continued on.
El Fantasma may have picked up some new tricks, that is true. Among smugglers, he can now set himself apart through his supernatural tricks.
But ultimately, he is the same poor soul as before. He’s not the most efficient these days, and smuggling is hardly how empires are made. Just a hassle, used by those who want to rebel and make those blessed with power have to swat them away.
Artwork, Aesthetics, and Overall Rating
Despite his fearsome appearance, I imagine this is threat Spain is more than capable of dealing with only moderate preparation. Perhaps 5 doubloons of the usual 10 I spend.
Looking up from his fevered writing, Nemesio is greeted by a quieter tavern. Those who stayed conscience had mostly already left, with the staff trying to push out those who were passed out on the floor. Trying his best not to smell them on the way out, Nemesio paid his tab and stepped into the cool Caribbean air. He was confident in his conclusions. It might be something he sits on, no need to appear mad at the moment, but when these attacks continued, he would be the only one in all of Spain’s mighty empire to be prepared. As he approached the docks of Marcador, Nemesio paused and stared out the see. Seeing the moonlit waves was a beautiful sight, and Nemesio wondered if the sea had anything he couldn’t be prepared for. Going to turn back to his room, he felt something slimy tighten around his ankle.
With a splash, the best warning the world would have was gone. Of course, not even Nemesio had truly begun to understand what was next for the world. As death relaxed her icy grip, the seas were going to get a whole lot more dangerous.