Gambling is by far one of the best things the civilized world has invented. It outranks money, magic, and firearms. It’s close second to sailing the free seas as a captain of a feared and respected crew of miscreants. The great thing about gambling is that it solves so many problems in short order that it should be illegal. Well it’s mostly illegal, except if you’re Pirate, then it’s your way of life. Gambling is all you need when a parley goes to shit, as they do, when bickering captains bicker like bitches over bric-a-brac. Just whip out your ivory dice, down your rum cup, and, most importantly, hoist your nuts on the table for all to see. Any captain with a sturdy pair of sea legs with a baby’s arm dangling in between will do the same. It’s alway best to think of gambling as a panacea, the cure all, for whatever ails you. Stalled Parley? Roll the dice. Too poor? Double down. Need a new ship? Win one. Need to survive? Bet your life.
I could’ve full on french kissed Captain Cohol on her wispy dead lingering lips when she suggested Pirate’s dice! I wanted to do the same, but doubted I’d get any takers, given I garnered as much respect as a retarded seagull with scurvy. First, the terms had to be negotiated. This took a long time. In the end, I may be wrong, but I’m certain Redbeard got to beard rape us hard if we lost, Balta got to charge us an exorbitant fee for raping us, and Cohol, the gentlest rapist, would only fuck over a single member of each crew. Hahaha! Our poor assholes would be stretched wide enough for an ogre’s fist if I lost! But if I won, Redbeard’s Soul Patch was mine and Lorenz released , Balta would be my personal dragon delivery bitch, and Cohol would deliver my crew to Axis among other favors. Such is the genius of gambling! If you win, not only do you avoid getting fucked, you get to do the fucking! After the terms were locked and loaded, we began shaking our cups for the ceremonial opening round. The onlookers began to cheer wildly in anticipation.
My heartbeat was as hollow as a beehive, until it wasn’t, the slow slow thumps sped up faster and faster into a frenetic swarm of stings. Each sting infected my thoughts. Who was the best liar? Who was Lady Luck going to favor? Would terms be upheld? Any cheaters? Should I cheat? Whirring tingles chain reacted up and down my spine and my mind buzzed with dauntless anticipation. The pure carnal rush, the uncertainty, and the obscene stakes were the drug cocktail that kept me coming back for more of gambling’s drops of honey. I crazily smiled at the others, then slammed down my tin cup full of dice, bottoms up. It was time to see who’d end up on top!
I sharpened my senses perfectly, not to brittle, but hard like wrought iron. I needed to find their tender spots before the game got away from me. Before we even sat down, I already started studying them like navigation charts through a ship breaker bay. Redbeard took up a mountain of space, he shifted in his chair every few seconds, and his untamed beard was in constant motion. He was a red devil of supreme action, probably accustomed to taking what he wanted instead of relying on more cunning methods of doing business. I suspected he may be out of practice. Captain Balta was a well-seasoned Pirate and probably done this more times than numbers. But I had a faint inkling. He was too proud of being Besmara’s flunky, I bet the bastard couldn’t wait to call out bullshit to prove his worth. His undercurrents yearned for it, right down to his briny bones. Captain Cohol was a complete mystery. Reading a ghost’s body language is as fruitless as coconut trees at the poles. Hopefully she’d be uninterested and drop out quickly.
Myself, I prefer to throw out more signals than a Katapeshi hooker. I burn through my adrenaline to fuel a barrage of non-stop twitching, unending ticks, unpredictable facial expressions, and ceaseless table talk. This manic approach came naturally to me. I mighta spent some time locked up in a sanatorium in a past life! Doing the opposite, the robotic and taciturn approach is more boring than watching tar dry. Don’t those tedious idiots know gambling is forever and always meant to be as exciting as possible! Let Redbeard and the rest sift through my deep bag of shit to find my tells. I say give your opponents everything and see if they can truly understand you. Most can’t. Hell most people don’t even understand themselves.
All the cups were down, next came the bidding. The galley around us was packed to the rails with bearded devils, Besmara pirates, and my crew. Redbread was to my left, Balta to my right, and Cohol across. We all stared at each others upturned cups. There were twenty dice under cups to bet on and I only knew my five. Cohol was first to bet.
“I say two 2s”, whispered the she-ghost. A conservative bet. Balta was next.
“Three Sixes”, hollered the zombie man. Next was me.
“Six Sixes!”, I wagered. Certainly a bold move, but calculated. I had three sixes and I was sure Balta had at least one or two sixes. Redbeard was last in the turn order.
“You lie little kobold”, accused the giant red devil. We all lifted our cups. Me 1-2-6-6-6, Balta 2-3-4-6-6, Cohol 2-2-6-6-6, and Redbeard 1-2-3-4-5. Winner Winner! I ate Redbeard’s dinner! Redbeard scowled and threw a die a mile into the Maelstrom. By the look, it was first time he’d lost something in ages. Expectedly, Balta started out testing the water like a seasoned veteran. That’s why I went the opposite direction and came out firing. On the other hand, I had poppycock on Cohol.
The rounds flew by like the wind breeze during hurricane season. Redbeard kept taking in on the chin, it was delightfully hilarious. Soon he was down to his last die. Lady Luck sure had bent him over good. Honestly, I had fun rubbing it in each time he lost a precious die.
“Maybe you should leave this to the professionals.”
“Go Fish might be more your speed.”
Begards, he got madder than a pooped out monkey without any feces to throw. He was so on tilt I almost pitied the poor devil, almost. He lost on the next roll to my bluff like I planned. Redbeard promptly punched a hole into the deck of his ship in a fit of rage. I held back my biting tongue and didn’t make eye contact with him for fear of him squashing me like a cockroach. But inside my ecstatic mind meat, I was screaming, “One down, two to go!”
After Redbeard’s fall, Balta was left with three dice, I had four dice, and Cohol the full set of five. Unfortunately Captain Cohol was paying close fucking attention to the game. She was out for blood and guts and perfection. Thankfully I wasn’t sitting next to the cutthroat bitch. Defeating her was going to be harder than getting Goethe to admit to being wrong. Luckily during the early game, I sensed that Cohol had it in for Balta. Balta’s continual over-eager challenges to her plays was hard to miss. He had lost both of his dice trying to one up her. I thought entered my mind. I wondered if Cohol was game? I cocked my head towards Balta ever so gingerly while maintaining eye contact with her. Cohol nodded in agreement.
Our temporary alliance crushed Balta’s raggedy bones to seaweed. Cohol expertly goaded Balta into making some bad bets which I collected on like the crown. Balta did not disappoint us, he obstinately never backed down and raised and raised the already outrageous bets. To his credit, he didn’t lose graceful, he lost in a rant of swearing and empty threat that would make the grim reaper blush. He lost like a first rate pirate!
At last, I was head-to-head with the legendary last hope of shipwrecked sailors. Cohol had the upperhand with four dice to my three. I still didn’t have a great read on her but learned a few things when we teamed up to knock out Balta. Against Balta she was overly aggressive compared to the early game where she was more textbook and played within the margins. If she reverted back to a more calculated style I could use that to my advantage because she would be less likely to bluff. I was determined to find out where she was positioned during the next roll. I didn’t have time or resources to wait her out. The next roll I was going on the offensive!
“Looks like two legendary sailors are left. Clearly, not all legendary sailors are created equally”, I squawked, while I slammed down my cup. “Be carefully not to lose, I hear it’s embarrassing to lose to a Kobold”
“As if I would”, Cohol confidently responded, with a slim smile. She checked her cup a second time, the first time the whole game.
Cohol bid two sixes. I had 1-2-3, no sixes. What in the hell do I bid? Was Cohol bluffing? My gut told me I may have rattled her with my last comment. I knew even ancient ghosts think they are the better of Kobolds. My own pride kicked into overdrive.
“Three Sixes”, I forcefully bluffed. She paused and looked at her cup again.
“Four Sixes”, she said.
“WEAK! Too weak!”, flared in my head. “Bull shit!”, I yelled like a frothing madman. I lifted my cup displaying 1-2-4. Her cup 6-6-6-1.
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts! I gained the upperhand with that one roll and never let go my stranglehold. I saw through her plays just as easily as I saw through her titties. The gathered crowd was silent and dumbstruck as I confidently dismantled her with each roll. I took a two to one dice lead into the last roll. Cohol led with a terrible bid that was almost certainly wrong.
“This win is mine, Captain Cohol. Don’t worry about your reputation. Once I’m done with history, this moment will be one of your greatest honors. I call bullshit” , I smugly concluded. The dice sided with me! Mr. Finn and Goethe were utterly speechless at my victory. Cohol bowed and floated back to her ship. I turned to a stunned Redbeard and Balta, my eyes demanded, “Pay up!”
Later, as I drifted off to sleep after the party on the Soul Patch, I knew I was the luckiest kobold in the history of the world. That’s even counting the legendary Kobold miner, Apzen Shit, who a 1000 years ago dug his shit pit into a forgotten gold vault of Tar Taargadth. Old Apzen was the richest Kobold on earth for about seven seconds until the vault’s traps triggered and he got himself exploded. But no one can deny those glorious seven seconds! After running through the rest of top contenders in my head, I firmly took the top spot. I bet my dreams were going to be sensational after the day I had.
I awoke to the brightness of day. I staggered to feet. An inviting tropical island, outlined with pearly white sandy beaches and painted in with groves of feathery palms, was in the distance. Everything around was perfect. The sky was bluer than an azure sapphire in full sunlight, a divine summer breeze blew sweetly, and the sound of the rhythmic waves was mesmerizing. We were in paradise! Goethe, Finn, and a miniature Myrrh happened to be with me. This had to be a dream. Normally, I don’t dream about my crewmates, my dreams lean more carnal in nature, but this time it was welcomed. The only thing off, other than Myrrh’s stature, was the sailing ship carrying us was not the Deep Sea Current. I wished it was. As soon as the thought left my mind, the ship transformed into the shiny Current in a flash!
We are turned to one another in disbelief.
“What the hell just happened?”, I asked, “I wished to be on the Current and it just happened!”
“Letmetry”, garbled Mr. Finn. Suddenly the ship was surrounded by ten thousand topless mermaids. Mr. Finn grinned. The mermaids disappeared. Mr. Finn frowned.
“Interesting”, said Goethe, “I believe we are in a shared lucid dream world. We can effect anything in this world, except one another” I tried to turn Goethe’s head into a potato but it didn’t work. I nodded in agreement.
“How’d we get here?”
“No clue, maybe Dahak’s doing. He’s fond of kidnapping us”, replied Goethe.
”So Myrrh why are you so freaking tiny?”, I asked. Myrrh in high pitched voice told his story of being shrunk by the Colorless Lord’s lighthouse beacon while trying to rescue Vaghol. He had just escaped his ship in a bottle prison when he got really sleepy. We updated him on our situation. The information sharing was quite beneficial.
“We will come for you Myrrh!”, I told him. “All you have to do is deactivate the beacon, save Vaghol, and not get killed. Then we will swoop in and pick you up!”
Tiny Myrrh bowed in thanks.
Before we realized it, the dream ship ran aground on the beach of the mysterious island. I thought we were a wide distance away but in dreamland that didn’t seem to matter. Our host must of grown impatient with our chit chat. From the beach, we all heard a fire crackling and could see its smoke nearby. The sweet smell of caramelized pineapple and fried coconut filled the air. Was dinner being served? It seemed our gracious host was beckoning. Oddly, I didn’t feel the same level of dread as back when I approached Dahak in the Adamantine Morass. Maybe it was the colorful flocks of parrots or the peaceful exotic surrounding, but I had a skip in my step. Fear was the last thing on my mind. We approached.
Roasting coconuts over the fire was a young munthrek girl, wearing a ruffled white blouse, a black vest with gold buttons, and a ratty red bandanna. She was stuffing her her round cheeks with the fruit. She stopped and smiled sweetly.
“Jeez, took you idiots long enough to get here. I’ve been waiting forreeevvvvver”, she teased in a rolling childish voice. She casually offered up some morsels of food. The pineapple was divine.
“Where might this be?”, asked Goethe.
“The Maelstrom of course, silly. Now where is it? You owe me!”, she demanded like a preteen.
“My map scrap of course! You came here to return it, right?”, she gleefully responded.
“You know my dearest treasure map from the sea cave”, insisted the girl. She seemed taller than a moment ago, a bit thinner in the face.
“You mean Vaghol?”
“It’s my very favorite. See it’s the last missing piece to my special map!”, she squealed, then the little princess pulled out a fancy map that shone brighter than the fire when unfurled. She tapped her finger on blacked out portion. I could tell the map was important. Maybe a secret chart of the planes? I wanted it oh so badly. She quickly rolled up the map in a snooty manner. I realized that her hair had grown out black and straight, her voice was an octave lower, and most striking of all, her child sized clothes now tightly hugged a very mature and stacked coed. Goethe’s eyes bulged out of his face five big inches. He claimed it was due to the fancy map, but I know better. I’d seen this woman’s depiction at every Pirate tavern from the Eye to the Obari. I was right to be excited!
“You see lads! I get what I want, when I want it!”, she enforced with an overwhelming presence. Her transformation was complete down to her vibrantly violent tattoos, jeweled saber, and black tricorn with skull and crossbones on it. The Pirate Goddess Besmara stood before us!
“We lost the poor bastard, Great Banshee. We lost everything”, I mumbled.
“Yes, I know. Now you have to go retrieve my magic scrap from the Colorless Lord”, she replied.
“Holdittheremissy”, piped in Mr. Finn, “Ibewantatoaskyousomin”
“Ithinkyoubeenpullingtheshadeovermecapseyes”, garbled Finn.
“Oh? Do tell!”, gasped Besmara, feigning concern.
“Baltaspatitout…youandhim…thickliketheives”, pronouced Finn. Besmara considered the word for a long pause. I looked at Mr. Finn in disbelief. Besmara noticed my chagrin.
“Hafhafhafala”, giggled the Goddess, “Balta’s always been my dog! You fools were so easy trick. Pathetic! Unfortunately for you it changes nothing about our arrangement”. Her devilish smile cut to the bone.
Damn it hit me like a ton of bricks to the testicles! After hearing it out loud, it was clear as a starry night just how big of idiot we all were. How did we not suspect something so obvious? Balta’s haunted bicorn was a setup from the get go! I had a feeling Balta’s whole legend was a fabricated lie, he didn’t steal anything from Besmara, and that Vaghol was likely planted for us to rescue. It was all a ruse to indebt ourselves to the pirate Goddess! Then another piece fell into place. Whatever the Grays have cooked up is sending the Gods into a feeding frenzy. The Pirate Queen also wanted a piece of the the Gray Dragons!
In the grand scheme of things I wasn’t actually all that pissed off from being tricked. I’d much rather be tricked into something than forced or even worse yet, ordered. I had to tip my hat to the Goddess. She got us good. The others had different reactions to the revelations. Goethe looked mortified, tiny Myrrh had a tiny frown, and Mr. Finn was brimming with confidence. Now that everything was out in the open I was sure that a proper parley could be had.
“I didn’t expect that you bumbling soil stains would go and lose my precious map the very second you got to the Maelstrom, though. Hmm. That’s a pickle”, Besmara sighed with no more acting or pretense. Mr. Finn had ruined her playtime.
“I got it!”, she smiled, “I’ll give you 7 days to fetch my map. Or else!”.
“Or else I will keelhaul each and everyone one of you from now until the end of time. You will serve as a reminder to all those who might disappoint me”, Besmara roared. She flickered out.
Now I was annoyed.