Early in the Morning…
Mr. Finn crept daintily in front of us. I’ve never seen him track personally. Very meticulous and careful, he took his bloody time. A crimson hair here, a dead scent there, and a fine fox footprint there… The tyrannical rampaging and incredulous screams of the Colorless Lord going bananas were barely a distraction to the merfolk man. Mr. Finn was locked in like some sort of shark hound mating. It was cool and all, I’m glad he could do it, but the freaking pissed-off Colorless Lord was right around the bend! I clutched my musket tight. I saw Lorenz behind me in a trance; his lips were moving without sound, he was either rehearsing the upcoming negotiation or gone schizoid. I prayed he could a pull foot long miracle out of his ass cheeks to prevent all hell from breaking loose. Damnit! Master Goethe getting himself dismissed like a naughty lad at recess was another huge problem. His skills were greatly needed in magical Lighthouse land. Seriously, touching anything had a high likelihood of changing you into a helpless tiger prawn. Begads! I just wanted to grab Myrrh and split! No use getting killed during a pit stop. Strictly smash and grab as far as I was concerned. Once we had him, “I say run!”
Mr. Finn silently slipped past the entrance of the room with the raging Colorless Lord. He stopped at the other side of the opening and gave us the “Hold” hand sign. This was good! Myrrh wasn’t in the room with the outrageous murder potential! The Lord thundered, “Where is it! Where did it go! #
#$%$!!!” I took a practiced breath and cocked my musket. Its murderous intent hung in the air like wet humidity. Having a face to face with that beast was not on my dance card.
“Noname! Come to me!” furiously shouted the Lord. His booming voice magically amplified through the halls like a souped-up loud speaker. Instantly, Noname green eyes went empty then it stepped into the light of the doorway like a brainwashed drone. I guess the poor chaos grub was a slave after all. A beam of chaotic warp waves flickered through the doorway, cracking the polished plaster off the wall. “We’re dead!” thoughts raced through my mind at light speed. My pitiful Kobold instincts were taking hold.
Mr. Finn got our attention from across the way. Standing in the palm of his hand was tiny red mantis assassin in full regalia. We got Myrrh! I’ve never been happier to see a tiny munthrek. We can leave! No need to fight it out! I motioned for them to come down to the moon pools. Mr. Finn shook his head and pointed up. The crazy bastard wanted to go up!
“Tell me, where you have been!!” demanded the Colorless Lord. Noname started giving the Colorless Lord an information dump. It told the story of how one of the shrunken wooden figurines came back to life and ran away with the Sextant crown. The rat was incredibly hard to find, but luckily several guests were helping him track the vermin this very moment.
“WHAT!!!!” bellowed the Colorless Lord, for a long ten count. A flurry of warp waves sizzled in front of me like an arc trail. It was too close!
I bolted down the stairs without thinking! I’m sure Mr. Finn was either behind me or had some sort of plan. He knew the objective was achieved; it was time to run. Not my proudest moment, but I like breathing. Lorenz masked our sound and together we dove into the moon pool at the bottom of the Lighthouse. We swam our tails off to get to the underwater anchored ship. I don’t think we were followed. As soon as we set foot on deck, Mr. Finn dove through the air bubble with Myrrh in pocket! I knew he had to be maximum crazy in order to swan dive from the top of the spire into the rocky coast. Before their mighty leap they managed to aid our escape by irreparably damaging the beacon enough to make vexgits proud. See, I knew he had a plan! I’m not a coward.
We sailed the ship along the deepest part of the Maelstrom seafloor as best we could figure to dodge detection. No doubt, a hell-bent Protean Keketar was on our heels. I could hardly believe it! We just successfully kicked down the Colorless Lord’s Lighthouse door, peed on his face, and got away with it! To mention a few details, I shot out his beacon, we tricked his subordinate left and right, and Myrrh the wily fox got his bloody paws on two of the Lord’s priceless crowns; the wooden Vaghol and a spooky looking Lantern. The intricate Lantern was made of numerous layered crystal lenses with no way to tell which side was up, down, left, or right. I’m told one of its mysterious purposes was igniting the Lighthouse beacon. No Lantern, no shrink ray! I planned to send the Colorless Lord a thank you note in a few years, just to let him know what happened, in case he never figures in out. So we best get to Axis on the double!
What will we do with a Drunken Sailor…
The Soul Patch was on high alert for several hours after our escape, but somehow it was all clear. Well, except for the God’s face on the moon watching us, other than that no one was on our ass. Apparently we were getting close to the Boneyard or some shit. Luckily for us, the Colorless Lord stunk at tracking ships. Goethe does not. He found us in the deepest part of the Maelstrom, the Cerulean Void, with his magic tricks a few hours after our perfect escape.
“Is Myrrh aboard?” he asked as soon as setting foot. He remained invisible. Frankly, it was a relief to know he had others on his mind and not his own self interests.
“Why, yes! He’s in the crown’s nest with quite the treasure haul. He’s got Vaghol and…wait for it…”, I beamed.
“Oh that’s nice captain…so the crow’s nest you say…” trailed off Goethe like he was talking away from me. His tone focused like hot fire. I heard him pace in a circle. Infernal mumbling was barely audible beneath his breath. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but was sure I’ve seen Goethe like this once or twice before. I don’t think the results were positive. Tiny Myrrh jumped down from the nest behind Goethe holding two of three Colorless crowns; a wooden figurine of Vaghol shaped like a sextant and the translucent Lantern made of smooth glass and crystal. Truly treasures beyond belief! Myrrh had a genuine smile painted on his face. Eager to show Goethe the epic marvels. Surely, Goethe would shed some light on the artifacts or, in the very least, have ideas on how to de-lignify Vaghol.
“Myrrh do you have anything to tell me?” questioned Goethe like an overbearing parent. Myrrh started acting out his daring accounts of the Lighthouse.
“Not that…anything else you want to tell me?” pressed the unseen Goethe. More thuds of pacing and infernal mumbling. Does planar ousting make you a dill hole? Myrrh scrunched his brow and cocked his head.
“Curses! I will need to cure the undead-ness, then modify spell, then…learn,…then reveg…” Goethe babbled lowly. The hostilely was not uncommon but its direction was. Where in the bloody hell did Goethe get kicked to? Obviously, he came back with an agenda. Did something happen with Myrrh?
Lorenz and Mr. Finn tried to calm him down.
“Goethe, Why don’t you drop the invisibility routine? You’re among crew”, cooed Lorenz.
“soundn’weecrazymate” added Mr. Finn
“Leave Me ALONE!” retorted Master Goethe.
“That’s quite enough of that” Lorenz responded while giving the deck a good stomp. Goethe’s invisibility veil shattered. The Goethe we knew and loved stood idle on deck furiously rubbing his temples while mumbling. Either he was conquered by his thoughts or trying desperately to subdue them. He didn’t seem to care or notice that there was a large pale pink spiky conch shell stuck to his head.
“What’swiththeconch?” asked Mr. Finn. Goethe snapped out his rough chop thoughts. He frantically grabbed the shell and through it on the ground like was a spider crawling on his neck. Mr. Finn picked up the beautiful shell.
“Sorry, I don’t know what came over me…Myrrh I’m just very happy to see you” he offered poorly. He walked over to the crowns and started fiddling with them. I heard under his breath, “Maybe the Lantern can be used to reverse the condition…”
Lorenz shrugged and let it go. Myrrh happily handed over the crowns. I didn’t trust it but he seemed a bit better. Motives will always surface in due time. Then of course, Mr. Finn couldn’t help himself and blew the conch shell. Since that’s what you do with a strange shell stuck to a guy’s head.
Shave his belly with a rusty razor…
My foot started to tap. Lorenz’s and Myrrh’s too. My knees swayed to a rhythm in my mind. It was nice, I called out with gusto “Way Hay and up she rises!”
Lorenz was in full jig, returned, “Way Hay and up she rises!” Myrrh did tiny cartwheels and whistling along. All my burdens were tossed aside, all of my stress evaporated, I was light; just a babe in the woods again!
Suddenly, Goethe slide to the middle of the deck in his socks and underwear, he unleashed a hearty, “Way Hay and up she rises!”
All together we howled in full song, “Early in the Morning!” I swear I heard a full chorus of sailors boisterously backing us up. Mr. Finn and Goethe did do-si-dos, Lorenz clogged, and I swung on the ropes. Brittlehope and Balbaal looked on in utter confusion at our song and dance routine.
The fever did not subside. It was too much fun so why stop? Eventually Mr. Finn came to his senses when the song came around for the fourth time. Something was up! He didn’t know we were enslaved to the music and was just dancing along. He tried everything to stop our revelry to no avail. Screw it all! It was dancing time!
Way hay and up she rises…
On the starboard side, the sea began to bubble up planks of driftwood and wooden barrels like from a shipwreck. The sea mushroomed. Its center a hungry shadow loomed. Out bursted a wailing banshee carved in soggy mahogany, the figurehead, of a great galleon held together by tattered sails and fish bones. The Kelpies Wrath appeared! The Wrath’s gun ports were open, its catapults armed, and two large zombie boarding parties lurched forward holding gang planks. Standing amidships on the rotted out deck was the rotten Captain Balta dressed in a fine red leather coat surrounded by a score of shambling zombie sailors. All I could do was laugh and dance. The song in my heart stops for no one. Suddenly, Mr. Finn blew the conch again!
The horde of zombies including Captain Balta focused their attention on us all at once, they snapped to the right, and then bobbed their heads like their necks were swivels. They shimmied forward a step then did a shoulder shrug in tight harmony. They scuffed and stomped their feet to our beat. Their arms held like a T-rex’s jaws, swung to the right, then left, then right-right, and left. Their choreography put ours to shame!
Storming through the Maelstrom fog like a sucker punch was Redbeard’s ugly mug and his colossal ship the Chin Strap. It shouldn’t be in the deep Maelstrom that was the agreement. I’d have harsh words for him. We watched the ship approach to our port side. We took no evasive actions, we only danced. At least, we were in good spirits. Two rows of bearded devils lined up at the rail, each had a long bow nocked with a tarfire arrow. Redbeard towered over his men, his massive iron anchor rested on his right shoulder and his beard wrapped around his body like impenetrable armor. Redbeard demanded we hand over Vaghol.
“Fuck off! Like I’d give in to a man who goes back on his word!” I sang out. I pea sized bullet fired from his red beard hit me in the shoulder.
“That’s enough out of you, Kobold” roared Captain Redbeard, “Now stop dancing!”
The conch blew again! Redbeard did not stir, but his line of bearded devil bowmen stood at attention, pressed their arms against their sides, and began whirling their feet about like their right leg was dueling the left. Their perfect synchronization and rapid speed was magnificent! A bewildered Redbeard got even more furious; his epic entrance was foiled. The Chinstraps gun ports opened wide and cannons pushed through the hatches. There was enough firepower pointed at us that not even a wood chip would be left of our ship. Oh well, dancing was more important.
“Finally, I found you” hissed a hateful voice, “Foolish to have a party when I’m hunting you!” A thirty foot long albino serpentine protean lord landed on our prow. A single glowing crown adored its head. There was definitely room for two more. The Colorless Lord took stock of the situation; he reached out his arm, he trembled “Quick, give it to me” Sadly the conch didn’t blow again.
What do you do with a drunken whaler…
The happy music slowly died and grew darker and colder. Our dancing lulled, a little more clarity soaked in. It started to snow! From the rear, splashing and gurgling drowned out the music. The ships roiled from the avalanche of water being displaced. A great serpent’s head the size of the Soul Patch rose from the sea! It could’ve swallowed us whole in one gulp! I knew this serpent of legend; its name was Shipbreaker, another herald of Besmara. The legends say it has sunk entire fleets. It looked like we were next.
The storm went nuts. The swells tossed the ships left and right like toys. Snow and ice settled on the water. I held onto the helm for dear life. The icy spray made visibility zero, but I knew Balta, Redbeard, and the Colorless Lord were keeping up. Being cornered by your enemies is one thing, but this was too much! No good options. Nowhere to run. Everyone wanted to make us hurt. In the face of such odds, even our bestowed powers were vestigial crap. The winds of fate had finally given up on us. I wished for something to rescue me. I wished hard.
Off in the distance, between the massive waves, I swear I made out a marvelous Shackles ship that made the Hurricane King’s caravel look like scuttlebutt. The others saw it too. It seemed to hover above the waves, unaffected by the blizzard. It disappeared when the ship caught an eighty foot wave that just kept on rising like a stairway to heaven. Time seemed to stall at the crest.
Slice his throat with a rusty cleaver…
The Colorless Lord was still lashed to the prow, Balta and the Wrath still portside, and a hell-bent Redbeard to the starboard. The wave froze above the storm locking the ships into place! To the rear, Shipbreaker dipped its great head near us. A somber whistling filled the air like children singing and heavy footsteps from someone climbing the endless serpent echoed. The last member of the party was about to join the table. I knew before I even saw her. She promised she’d meet us again. But, why pick this time? The Pirate Queen Besmara stood atop of Shipbreaker’s massive crown. She had the conch shell in one hand and in the other she pointed a handsome pistol at my face! With a wicked smile, she ordered, “Captain my map, please?”
A Goddess, an Archfiend, a Protean Lord, and two demigod heralds had us boxed in! Lorenz was quiet and glassy eyed. Myrrh was hiding. Mr. Finn was about to have a heart attack and Goethe an aneurysm. I wanted to run. Every cell in my body yearned for it. The plan was to throw Vaghol down the icy slide and take flight to warmer climates. This was a no-win, no-win, no-win, no-win situation with the biggest loser being us. I pleaded for parlay, for mercy, for safety, for anything. Our legendary foes prepared for battle! I heard Besmara’s pistol cock. Fuck! I didn’t want my miserable life to flash before my eyes. It’d be depressing. A life riddled with fear, cheap tricks, and lucky breaks. Did I even do one thing on my own?
I decided to at least I could die on my own terms; I pointed my musket at Besmara’s face. Fuck her! My lead charged with Apsu could hurt her, I was certain. I’d leave my scar on the Pirate Queen. Redbeard’s too. I will not be forgotten so easily. My crew would not be forgotten so easily. “Lads, I say fuck running! I say we fight!” I commanded.
Besmara nodded. She moved her pistol from me to the frozen wave. Redbeard cried out, “Don’t you dare, you filthy sea hag!”
Besmara gave us a wink then fired, BANG!
The ice cracked like a spider web. The ships shifted and slide out of place an inch or two. I liked the sound of that! I unloaded on the ice sheet. A glacial chasm opened beneath our ship and we tumbled through. The Strap and the Wrath cannons went wild! Chunks of ice the size of rowboats broke away from the shattering wave. It was anarchy!
Several of us took flight. The Colorless Lord hit us with a flood of warp waves. I shrugged it off, but poor Goethe got turned into stone and fell straight down. I returned fired back. The Soul Patch smashed like a bowl of eggs on the sea below. Myrrh and Mr. Finn were still aboard or so I thought.
“Capppptinnn…flies?” moaned a hollow voice. A dragon-y figure swooped by and grabbed me, a moment before another warp wave blast hit. The surface holding me quaked with familiar excitement. I felt safe. It felt like home. Mr. Finn, Lorenz, Myrrh, and Goethe’s statue were there with me just like in our shared dream. This time I didn’t need to wish for the Deep Sea Current to catch the wind for us. This time the Deep Sea Current was the wind! “Thank you old friend, thank you very much”
That’s what you do with a drunken sailor!