4 different people are press ganged to serve aboard the Wormwood, a pirate ship. None of them knew each other and they are as follows:
Arhalien, an exotic elven inquisitor. Skilled in both melee and divine magic. Strangely enough set into service as the cook's helper. Baolo, the raging human barbarian. Strong and willful in equal measure. Working as a swab. Caio, the swagbuckling pirate. Quick with blades and words. Also working as a swab. Corwin, a gun-toting human warrior, closing into the fray of melee when needed. Won a race to the top of the main mast and earned a position as one of the riggers.
The four join a crew that features already many others recruited by the way of impressment. The captain, a man named Harrigan is very detached from the day-to-day of the ship, instead letting his First Mate mister Plugg work the crew. Plugg, a vile man, favors others while giving both threat and whip to those he views with distrust. Under him serves Master Scourge, the mate's mate.
The four fellows are thrust together, forced to work on the ship as it sets on its way. Stripped of their possessions, they are forced to make do with what little they have although eventually everyone recovers most of what they owned. They make friends and enemies in the first week on the sea. The events include fistfights, different types of contests and tasks. The group manages to befriend a priestess of Besmara, the ships cook and quartermaster and some of the ordinary crew. Every and each member of the party contributes to the successes, be it with a kind word, a favor done or a life saved. They are also given the task of investigating the bilge when something strange appears in there. Direrats are found, but they pose little threat and are dealt with in swift manner. Baolo tries to toss one around and strangle it.
Cut-Throat Grok the quartermaster hangs an ordinary looking buckler on the mast on the lower deck, declaring it to be a holy item of Besmara that protects the ship from ill luck. She sprinkles sea water on it daily to maintain the supposed blessing on the item.
Plugg and Scourge, with their minions, view the newcomers with dislike bordering on hate and their deeds and growing fame only work to fester these feelings.
Tensions rise on the ship as words, blows and mischief are exchanged between the minions and the group, culminating in the attempted murder of Baolo. He fights bravely, trying to grapple and strangle one of them, only to be struck down and unconcious. Only the timely intervention of Arhalien and Caio saves him, leaving two of Plugg's minions dead in the bilge. Baolo is imprisoned on the charge of murdering the two, leaving the three others and their friends in the crew trying to come up with a way to save the brave barbarian.
The plotting comes to an abrupt stop as a merchant ship is spotted in the distance and captain Harrigan gives the order to intercept the vessel. The officers and crew prepare for battle...