The Pakthryxl Proxy

I Say Run!!! Cerulean Standoff!!!
Captain’s log found on the thole

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!

It’s a Long Shot!!! Storming the Colorless Lighthouse!!!
Captain's log found on the strake

The Lighthouse was a tiny white silver 2.5 miles away at the top of rocky island. Definitely, my fringe distance. But the conditions were ideal; the sun to my back, the west wind at 2 knots, high visibility, no precipitation, and a steady sea. It wasn’t impossible I could feel it. I calmly retrieved my smooth leather case without saying a whisper to the others. Lorenz, Mr. Finn, and Master Goethe were frantically arguing about the best course of action. The beacon charged up and it started scanning the sea, getting closer to us every second. Goethe figured we sailed into some sort of magic detection web. We’d be spotted in no time, which meant shrinkage and time in a bottle, according to Myrrh’s trusted report. Still calm, I unlatched the lock with a click and slowly opened the cushioned hard case. Inside, was a jigsaw puzzle of shiny metallic pieces, several honed barrels, a polished rosewood hilt, an elaborate scope with a top end magnification, and a tight row of copper-jacketed high caliber rounds. I grinned like a demon at the glorious sight. It had been ages since I last felt my special rifle’s cold rolled steel. With my steady hands, I expertly assembled my Longshot, maximizing its range capability with every tweak. The doubts in my mind faded fast!

“Lorenz, spot me” I commanded. The others were shocked to see me toting a rifle twice as tall as me with a telescopic scope. Alkenstar Gunworks and Bruner do not disappoint! I erected a sturdy tripod, locked the rifle into place, spun it hard around the swivel to check the balance, and after an incalculable number of rotations caught the hilt pleased as punch. The preparations were complete, I was locked and loaded. Lorenz came up behind me with his binoculars and tapped my on the shoulder. A surge of magical energy cemented my already steady hands. I lined up the energized beacon in my sights. My bird of prey vision coupled with the advanced scope, turned the once microscopic beacon into a peephole. I looked deeper, I just barely made out a pinhead sized discoloration that I bet powered the beacon. Did I imagine it? Fuck it, real enough I decided. I aimed for the colorless speck. Lorenz repeated the range and conditions.

“Shoot straighter than my enemy. I need to hit first. Hitting is all the matters” chorused through my head. Just a little closer…
Mr. Finn shouted, “100yards,thelightf’kingshrinkingthesea!" The Submerged Ship Jewel ready in his hand. His orders were to wait to activate it until after I fired.
“50-yards!” he called.
God damn it! If it can hit us; I can hit it! Just a little more…
Fuck, I need more time! Fucking show me! My heart raced like a loose stagecoach down a mountain pass.
“Caapptain? 5ive yardds!”
The discolored pinhead came into clear focus. A tiny colorless lantern ignited the beacon!
“BANG” the hollow shot echoed over the hush. It would take a moment to hit.
“Contacct!!!”, Mr Finn yelled.

I peeked an eye out to see Goethe’s illusion get shriveled up and dissolved. Wow, his countermeasure payed off aces! If that crazy light had hit the ship actual it would’ve been tiny curtains for us. But the illusion decoy was toast now so not all rainbows for us. The beacon switched directions. It was coming right for us! The ship started to dive but it would take some time. Given the strength of the beacon it might not even matter. I checked my sight, a shower of sparkles rained down from the shot’s impact like glass prisms in the sunlight. The beacon was still blaring. Shit! There musta been a protective glass dome surrounding the beacon room.

Now that my eyes adjusted to the target, I saw the pale boss Protean’s eye reflect off a mirror within the beacon apparatus. Those mirrors were a larger target! I took aim and squeezed off another round with Lorenz’s aid. BANG!!! The shot flew straight and hit true! The beacon fluctuated for a split second but soon regained its laser focused. The shrinking beam ran across the prow of the ship, right into Goethe’s waiting arms. I’m told that Master Goethe erected a magic shield to tank the magic beam. Bullshit! More likely he was so freaking pissed from absorbing a horde of devils that he tried negotiating with the Lighthouse light! It was a failed negotiation because he got blow back to the rear of the ship like he was shot out of a fiends-mount cannon. The ship’s prow began to distort wildly!

“Umm…Captain?”, reminded Lorenz, with a hand on my back. His support snapped me back to reality. My plan wasn’t impossible. The beacon could be extinguished, that last shot almost did the trick.
“Right! Let’s give the Colorless twat some of his own medicine!” I roared. I hunkered down and channeled all the Godly powers given to be from Apus and Dahak into my hands and eyes. The world faded away. I saw my target like a bullseye. There was no more time to doubt. My thoughts returned to, “Hitting is all the matters.” I fired my last shot with my last bit of grit. BANG!!!

The loud echo hung in the air for a long time. Much hope propelled that long shot. Once the sound dissipated, a cascade of cracking and shattering glass took its place. Next, a blood-curdling scream from the blind eternities roared, “AHHHHHHHHH!” The beacon went dark. I stood up and lit a cigar. Mr. Finn and Lorenz cheered. Goethe dusted himself off. “Okay, Lads. Let’s keep fucking the bastard’s day”, I sneered.

I wondered what that Coloress Fucklord thought? I’d bet a three inch platinum stack it was the first time his prey ever fired back at his ivory tower! It was the perfect distraction for Myrrh to escape, or better yet, add another steaming pile of shit on to the Protean King’s toilet bowl day. Myrrh was certainly capable of stirring up some shit. It would be extra hilarious if Myrrh got his dirty paws on another one of the Protean’s three crowns! The fact was that the loser Lord needed to suffer for hurting my crew. He would rue the day he faced Captain Holemaker and company! Just then an even louder scream howled from the Lighthouse, “Uragggagagagahhh!!”, thick with frustration. Our ship slipped under the waves, as I puffed away, satisfied to my core.

At the base of the island, 50ft under the water, hidden by jagged rocks Mr. Finn found a secluded sea cave. We anchored the ship and swam to the entrance. The dank tunnel led into a cavern with a shimmering pool of clear water and a pillar engraved with the slogan, “One Wish for One Life”. Off in the distance we heard something complaining about his poor luck. “He’ll have my neck if I don’t find it. Blast it! Where did that vermin run off too?” The voice trailed off.

“Sounds like he talking about Myrrh! Let’s go make friends” I ordered. Meanwhile, Goethe checked out the wishing pool, he signaled it was the real thing and not to bathe in its water. It would be fatal. Why would such a thing exist?
“Halt! Who goes there?” hissed a mixed up looking monster, it had snake legs, munthrek chest and arms, and a bird head. Its body shifted and contorted while also shimmering and shining like a chameleon trying to be noticed. Begads, it was all wrong! It reminded me of one those optical illusion paintings you see decorating a freak show.

Lorenz approached with open arms, “We are but weary traveling looking for a safe place for the night”, he crooned.
“Icouldn’thelphearin” garbled Mr. Finn. “Achaosmanlikeyou,gotsaboss?”
“ARRAAAGGGG, not this again?”, whined the beast. A new set of arms sprouted from its broad shoulders and held its head in pain. It sobbed like a little school girl with friend drama. I thought, “This is going to be easy!”

Suddenly it snapped out of its misery, something had caught its attention. It pointed viciously at Goethe, and thundered, “Master, despises your kind. Be Gone Devil!” An anti-devil wave of energy swept over the cavern. Goethe destabilized and was gone. He had a cross look on his face went he was discarded. My mouth gaped wide open at the radical turn of events. “Master will be pleased”, it said from its hindquarters. I readied for revenge!

“Sir, that was uncalled for! And here we came, all this way, only looking for a little hospitality” admonished Lorenz. He had his hands out giving the universal sign for simmer down now.
“I sent it back to once it came. Master would’ve teared him limb from limb. It was hospitality. Why are you here?”, hissed the amorphous monster again. It stepped up to Lorenz revived with new vigor.

“Okay the God’s honest truth is this! The devil you just cast out, came here to use your wishing pool. He has a terminal heart condition. His dying wish was to help out his poor ailing father and dull minded sister. We’re but his simple escort” charmed Lorenz. The protean’s faced melted, I couldn’t tell if it was Lorenz’s sob story or its face just melts.

“Well, I didn’t know that. You should leave”, it said meekly.
“Sheeesh! We came all this way to leave empty handed. Doesn’t feel right. That devil was going to be our big payday. We need to get payed. You owe us!”, demanded Lorenz.
“I don’t have time for this. I’ll take you to Master, but first I need to catch the red rat hiding in the walls” said the flabbergasted protean.

“We’re willing to work for our pay. Mr. Finn over there, can track a mosquito in a hundred mile bayou”, Lorenz offered. Mr. Finn put his nose to the ground; he tasted dirt, and picked up a tiny strand of crimson hair with a pair of tweezers.
“Gotcha!” garbled Mr. Finn. Noname NotNamed Nameless, our protean host, was happier than Goethe with a two for one coupon at a Katapeshi brothel. Maybe that’s where he went?
“Find him! I shall reward you” commanded Noname.

Mr. Finn led the group upstairs. Loud crashing and banging like someone ransacking a drum and cymbal shop echoed down the staircase. Curse words in an unknown tongue came afterwards. We neared the top. My heart thundered. Were we really just going meet the Colorless Lord so casually? We needed a better plan!

“Where is it?!”, rumbled from above, sinister as sin.
“Master is having a very bad day! His precious beacon mysteriously went dark” illuminated Noname.
“Why then do you call such a bumbling fool your Master? Noname?” asked Lorenz. I sensed a faint queasiness in his voice. It was understandable, since we were walking into the lion’s den down two men.
“I don’t have a choice. His First crown compels me” lamented Noname.
“Tell me more about this controlling crown…” pressed Lorenz. Whatever anxiety Lorenz had was gone now. It seemed maybe we had a plan after all. Hey, if my longshot planned worked like a dreamboat, why not Lorenz’s? This time I’d spot him for good measure.

The Soul Patch!!! Murk Returns!!!
Captain's log found on the sponson

I startled awake in the dead of the night to terrifying noises. I scrambled to my feet, grabbed my musket, and bolted to the top deck in an almighty rush. I prepared my nerves for the worst case scenario like monsters from the deep Maelstrom or Redbeard’s hairy fleet, what I found was more disturbing than I ever imagined. At amidships, Master Goethe stood half-naked, poised at the ready, his arms above his head in port de bras, and a wide smile on his face. He didn’t notice my skulking. Suddenly, he started singing a jaunty draconic tune and, I dare say, frolicking about. His eyes shone like that of a young child receiving a name day gift. This giddy, bubbly, and flexible dancing Goethe was a tremendous cause for concern. Why couldn’t it been a monster? I wasn’t alone. Lorenz and Mr. Finn were there with me fascinated to the root. We gave each other a knowing look that implied we were all thinking the same thought “He better not be possessed. Again?!”

Lorenz made the first move.
“You feeling alright there buddy?” , calmly questioned Lorenz.
“It just feels so good! When your lungs fill with the cool night air!”, Goethe curiously babbled, while quickly trying to compose himself. Unsuccessfully I might add.
“Yes, we all like breathing”, Lorenz agreed, “Why don’t you come over and sit down with us?”
“My, my, my, why isn’t that you Lord Vestin IV? It been ages…”, Goethe abruptly stopped himself. He skipped over while doing some twirls. Mr. Finn and I instinctively got into flanking position. He shook Lorenz’s hand and yanked him in close for a partial hug.
“mortal sensations are sensational”, I heard Goethe mutter under his breath.
“What going on?”, questioned Lorenz.
“Yeah,goethy-boy,yourmindgetscrambledlikeafishegg”, followed Mr. Finn.
“Normally I only see you smile that wide when you’re leering at a floozy”, I added. Goethe’s face lost even more color; he knew we suspected something.
“Ahh? How should I put this? Goethe had to go away for a bit”, spoke not-Goethe. A ton of shit, he’s freaking possessed! Fricking, possessed by what I had no clue. I bet it wasn’t a generous rich ghost-king come to tell us where his long lost treasure was buried. Luckily, Lorenz was still on point.

“Murk! What did you do with Goethe?”, roared Lorenz, his hand slipped down to his gun grip. Mr. Finn and I did the same.
“You see, I was forced to switch. Goethe’s in a rather delicate negotiation that only he has a vague chance of success. I do have my doubts”, replied not-Goethe, his voice syrupy and sweet. Switched? What the heck did that mean? I did recall that Goethe absorbed Murk in Westcrown during that whole ugly business with his father.
“Please, explain”
“Captain Redbeard may end up with the last laugh. This ship is prison to, oh, 6 or 7 hundred of Hell’s most vile rejects. There only escape is through possessing everyone on board. We’re in a quite unenviable position”. There was silence for a few seconds while the gravity of the situation pressed down on us. Fucking Redbeard!

“I knew it! We’re all gonna die!”, piped in Brittlehope, breaking the quiet.
“BALBAAL!”, shouted Balbaal at Brittlehope.
“But, I believe Goethe may have the key to unlock their cells. Despair has ruined them. They’re quite uncooperative and impatient. Even I, was only able to get them to agree to giving Goethe a single chance. You see, Goethe has to freely decide, I was powerless to tell him my plan by contract”, elaborated Murk-Goethe. He took great joy in explaining the details.
“A choice?”
“I suspect his devil talisman is the key. If he chooses to use its incredible power it might be able to sunder the cage. It depends on which artifact is stronger, the Soul Patch or the Talisman. But the cost is unimaginably cruel, and eternal. I wonder what Goethe will choose?”, mused Murk.

I pictured in my mind, Goethe standing face-to-face before an amphitheater of Pit fiends, Bone devils, and other miserable fiends. It was terribly hot and cramped. He was shouting like a madman trying to make a deal. The devils weren’t buying it. They remained fixated on the talisman hung around his neck. A portal materialized behind Goethe. The largest and most scary devils took flight and escaped through the gateway. A desperate Goethe tore GIGACETAN from his neck, screamed one last epithat, and then cackled like never before. He dropped the talisman into his open mouth and swallowed it whole! The chorus of devils bowed their heads and genuflected in unison. Something crazy was about to happen! I lost the picture. It seemed Lorenz and Mr. Finn may have had the same vision. Our connection with each other runs to the bedrock. We share the same fate.

Suddenly, Murk doubled over in hot pain, clutching his chest. Steam then flame then ash poured out from a wound over his heart. Lorenz rushed to perform magical first aid as best he could. Dark thoughts invaded my mind. My arms turned to claws, my wings into thorns, and my musket into a whip. A dark passenger took control of my body. I was powerless to resist. The devil jail break was on! Then another and another devil came on board. I sensed the devils testing my body. They seemed disappointed but excited to be out in the world. Right before they were about to take flight, they were pulled from me. They clung to me to their last fingertip, but got swallowed up by powerful wind tunnel emanating from Goethe’s empty heart. I came to the front. Inside, Goethe’s chest I saw the talisman was the source of the vacuum. The damn thing was consuming devils left and right! The trinket scurried into place. Tendrils sprouted from its surface and seeped into the gnashed veins and arteries; cauterizing them shut. The talisman pulsated once like it was switched on. Then again and again. Soon it was beating. GIGACETAN’s nightmare face turned more grotesque and gleeful like a murderous clown. Once satiated, the fiendish red face became Goethe’s entire left side.

Was it done? We caught our breath. Goethe was breathing, but unconscious. It was like the time in Westcrown, except a hundred times worse. I realized then that devil contracts are the worst kind of contracts. They literally become your beating heart.

“That was too close for comfort! We should be safe, now”, said a relieved voice from behind us. Leaning against the rail was a silvery draconic devil with scrolls draped all over his horns. His enchanting voice was oddly familiar.
“Murk? How did you escape?”, said a shocked Lorenz. The gray contract devil coyly smiled.
“Pardon me, I only have a short to finish this”, politely responded Murk. He pulled a large gray scroll from his crown and began writing. He could not be bothered. I had no idea what the fuck was going on.

The sun or whatever rises in the Maelstrom was about to rise.
“Aye Captain, youbettertakealooksee", said Mr. Finn. He pointed to the horizon. I strained my eyes then saw the faintest flicker. The Colorless Lord’s Lighthouse!
“Alil’birdytoldme…itbedangerousbecaughtinitsbrights”, finished Mr. Finn.
“Hahahaha! Perfect! Why not? Myrrh, better have prepared the welcome wagon for us”, I laughed.

“All Ahead FULL!”

Pirate’s Dice!!! Dreams of a Sailor’s Doom!!!
Captain's log found on a stemson

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!”

tropicalisland.jpgLater, 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.
“Where’s what?”
“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?”
“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.

Hello, Redbeard!!! Pirates vs. Devils!!!
Captain’s log found on the hank

To my left sat, Captain Redbeard, commander of the Sideburn. Known as Hell’s privateer tasked with spreading infernal justice to the Maelstrom’s wildest reaches; by all accounts he was succeeding. Soon the devil could be the next Archduke of Hell. I could see why. Begads! He was ridiculously huge, stood nearly 12 feet tall, broad and thick in every way, with massive shoulders and arms like ship masts. A fretwork of scars from countless battles covered his body, his powerful chest built solely for swinging his great glaive through flesh and bone, and his eyes were red coals. His terrible beard flowed down like a reverse cape that touched the floorboards. Each whisker was a long burgundy red vein like the kind ripped from a flayed man come back to life. The filthy beard constantly wriggled and hunted all around for its next meal. Sitting next to a wild beast who hadn’t eaten in seven days would’ve been safer! I’d sooner chop off my trigger finger than let him win.

Across the table, fluttered a disinterested looking Captain Cohol, of the Inscrutable Destiny. The she-ghost was merely doing her duty as a ship’s captain during a parley. If the mysterious she-ghost was anxious I couldn’t tell. In fact, I couldn’t get a read on her in the least, which made her just as frightening as Redbeard.

Sitting to my right sat another ghost, Captain Balta, a greedy bastard I killed twice before. From his smell alone he was more zombie than ghost, it was sorta like wet dog musk covered in barnacle shit. He looked like he died drunk with his disheveled brown hair curling up from under his bicorn, dead droopy eyes, and wormy checkerboard grin. Somehow the spineless fleck weaseled his way back into Besmara’s good graces, he was acting captain of the Kelpie’s Wrath, the goddess’ herald. Very odd? Since from my vantage, Balta was as useful as tits on a tortoise. I’d have to keep an eye on him.

Goethe and Mr. Finn looked nervous. The game to decide our fate was about to begin. I grinned wide, shook my tin cup full of dice, and slammed it down. Who would’ve thought that me a measly black kobold would get the chance to roll with legends!

Well mercy, mercy. I do declare. If half the fun of going is getting there! The fun started an hour earlier on the brink of the Cerulean Void. I quietly listened to Nomawyn’s silly songs while I worked the Destiny’s foremast rigging like a proper sailor. She out sang to me with her bright childish timbre.

Poor unfortunate Myrrh! So Sad! So Alone! Like a hangman’s noose he goes around and around, then loops back down and comes back around. Shrunken dancing, behind clear walls, all alone with no friends to see him moan. Quick! Best move quick! Only a brick crown to keep him from sick frown. His slick noose still taut and thick, bolstered by undead wick, and hidden behind the bleach dick’s all seeing eye. Time is draining, Time is waning, Time is reigning in the line!

Man and Merfolk go deeper and deeper, way down. So wet and undry! So dim and unlit! Threads can roil, threads can coil, threads can soil. Oh how their threads do toil! Wrapped up in free seaweed from head sea to knee. Followed by old friend made new, fostered by old foe made askew. Strings stress, strings mess, yet strings do impress! Taken to the next knot by royal Banshee decree. Oh what an interesting hue, a black and blue snare swashed in red hair and washed in silk air!

I’ve alway been trash with puzzles, but Nomawyn never said they were floating face down or belly up. All I knew was that Goethe and I needed to get off the Inscrutable Destiny as soon as possible to help them out. I hated feeling trapped. I hated that my ship went down. The rope work helped me relax some. Suddenly, the awesome KABOOM!!! of a freshly fired cannon shook me out of my deep thoughts. Then came another KABOOM!, from a smaller caliber, and another and one after that. I rushed to the bulwark to catch a glimpse, the shroud of fog lifted, it seemed Captain Cohol was preparing to make a rescue. My eyes guzzled the ship battle at sea like the last few fingers of good rum.

Ain’t nothing like the frenzy of pirate ships engaging in open water to get your blood pumping to the right spots. Two sleek man-o-wars with Besmara’s black sails flanked a titanic war galleon of epic proportions. The huge warship had a half dozen decks above the water line, mostly cannon decks, six masts, and enough red sails to catch a hurricane. I realized the floating fortress looked like the bigger badder brother of the Mutonchop and Chinstrap. Was this Redbeard’s flagship? A third black sail ship approached from the south, it was larger than the man-o-wars, but still half the size of its prey. Its waterlogged hull seemed familiar but I couldn’t get a clean look. The battle heated up.

The three pirate ships circled the huge galleon firing like crazy. The Hellish ship was on the defensive. Or was it? Suddenly a large crimson devil took off from the deck carrying an enormous grappling hook the size of an anchor in his beard. He then threw the heavy hook through the deck of one of the smaller vessels! The Hellish warship began slowly reeling in the little ship like a fish. Pirates leaped into the water one after another. Once the captured pirate ship was within thirty yards, two streams of concentrated flame burned it to a crisp like dragon breath. The red monster then instantly appeared on the weather deck of the second smaller man-o-war and started tearing sailors apart with his grisly beard. Who the hell fights like that?!

Devils versus pirates. Did we have a side? Not sure since my crew had business with both. We owed the Pirate Queen a favor and owed Hell’s privateers money. Maybe it was Nomawyn’s songs or Goethe’s deductive reasoning, but something in my gut told me that I needed to get involved. In the very least, I needed to know the victor. I was sure that would be to our advantage. Goethe concurred. Captain Cohol didn’t give a phantom shit if we left.

Goethe made us fly. As soon as we were out the Inscrutable Destiny’s light fog bank the ship disappeared from our sight! Too late to cry, we found a place in the clouds to watch the battle unfold. The cannon fire was rollicking and ear splitting from the hundreds of cannon balls being exchanged in rapid succession. We had chosen wisely. Lorenz met us in the sky! Turned out, he and Mr. Finn got picked by the Kelpie’s Wrath at the bottom of the sea after they were transported to the Deep Sea Current’s wreck. Lorenz told us the Wrath and Redbeard’s ship, the Sideburn, were the ships deadlocked below our feet. He and Mr. Finn were “helping” Besmara’s side presently. Thank the Gods, Lorenz found us! We needed a plan to ingratiate ourselves to the winner.

redbeard.jpg Redbeard had other plans. The hulking red devil appeared before us and engulfed poor Lorenz in his outrageous beard. His savage beard encircled us, blocked the possibility of escape. He angrily leaned in, still high on bloodlust, his voice could break stone, “Tell me mortals! How did you get here? Where is your ship?”
I tried to lie. Redbeard almost killed me. At last, I blurted out the truth, “Below, sails the Inscrutable Destiny…” Redbeard relented. He called for a captain’s parley, such was his reverence for the name. Redbeard was all to eager to meet Captain Cohol and stick it to the Kelpies Wrath. He kept poor Lorenz as his hostage.

At the parley, things got nowhere fast until Captain Cohol suggested a game of Pirate’s dice to settle things quickly. I couldn’t believe my luck.

The Inscrutable Destiny!!! Time for Misplaced Captains
Captain's log found on the davit

Dahak’s exit wormhole bent my outsides and churned my insides. I knew I was traveling an impossible distance, which was plenty alright by me. After tasting Dahak’s shit for the last day, I was ready to dine with my friends on-board the Current once again. I could see it clear as summer sky. The Deep Sea Current welcomes me with a respectful quake and drops the rope ladder to the crows nest. The crew rushes to me, tongues wagging, their ears hungry for titillating tidbits of my triumphant encounter with Dahak. Nomawyn says something cryptic, Tiny shares a pull from his bottomless bottle, and Tebrilith thanks me for the chance at command. Everyone swoons as I begin pantomiming mowing down the Flesh Golems, then outright shit their pants after eyeing my shiny new plunder. The banquet kicks off with a rousing toast, “To our Captain Reskafar, the best captain a bunch of mangy sea dogs could ever ask for!” Then we drink like we’re on a sea of no cares, eat the larder empty, and smash our moral compasses over each other heads. Yes, somebody might even get pregnant! More than one gets knocked out cold. A grand reunion.

My boots hit the deck. Something was immediately off! The trim deck boards ran port to starboard the opposite way they should and weren’t white. I reared my head, my jaw like steel, and cried out in uncut rage, “Telbrilith!!! What did you do to my ship?”

My outburst stirred the patchwork of sailors with unrecognizable faces that surrounded me. None were my crew. The caravel was in cherry condition, tight bowline knots, scrubbed decks, ornate details, and pristine sails of ghostly white. Almost as nice as the Current. An alien fog bank permeated around the ship like a forever smokescreen, obscuring the world beyond. At the helm, floated a calm she-specter wrapped in a vaporous white silk jacket and capped in an exquisitely pale tricorn. She might of been a beauty once she was alive, but now she was barely a candle flicker. Our gazes crossed. The she-ghost politely nodded. Where did that prick Dahak send me?

“Captain Reskafar? Is that you?”, a familiar voice, pulled me in. Tebrilith scurried down the main shrouds. She looked different. A fresh new eyepatch covered her left eye, a thin spider web of faint scars on the cheek below, and swollen indigo bruises from a busted nose.
“Aye”, I said.
“Captain…about the ship…”, she solemnly began.

Tebrilith shamefully confessed that the Deep Sea Current went down in the middle of the Maelstrom. The sobering fact slowly seeped into my crevices. Her next words barely registered. She dutifully explained that Hellish cannon fire compounded with the Protean warp waves inflicted too much damage. The ship’s keel was snapped in two like a twig cracked over a knee. Most of the crew was safe on-board the caravel. I didn’t catch the name. Some were lost to the Maelstrom. She apologized and apologized and apologized. I got queasy during her rambling string of excuses, then I came to my senses. How dare she sink my ship? I knew I should’ve put a hole in her lying face after our first encounter. Maybe she stole it? Afterall, she was a known ship thief! I saw the jealousy in her eyes on more than one occasion. Blood dripped down from my clenched fists. I burned so hot, I bet those little drops boiled away before sullying the deck. My eyes stared through her like she wasn’t there. She was nothing to me now. I slowly reached for my musket without thinking. I would make her pay dearly for losing my ship…

youngpirate.jpgMy steaming eyes caught the focus of a familiar munthrek behind Tebrilith. He didn’t look quite right, but there was no mistake. He had too few lines on his face, eyebrows not nearly bushy enough, and thick bronze hair not the scraggly gray I remembered. He was the right height and build, and had the same gray eyes and snarled lips. I brushed Tebrilith aside without saying a word. I would deal with her later. My breathing regained a normal rhythm, I approached the familiar munthrek. I had to know. He shouldn’t be breathing, not after what I saw.

“Captain Digger is that you?”, I questioned the young sailor.
“Aye! Ain’t no Capt’n, tho Digger is me name. Who might ye be?”, boomed Digger. His voice as forceful I remembered. I followed countless orders by that hard voice.
“It’s me, Hole Maker. You hired me on the Old Dirty Bastard two years ago”, I answered.
“I don’t know ye. I don’t have a ship by that call’in”, said Digger.
“I hitched up at Raptor Island”, I tried to jog his memory.
“You must be mistak’n. I be only at Rapt’r Isle once after a rek’t. Ain’t n’ver seen you bef’r”, rebutted Digger.

What the fuck was wrong with him? What enchantment was he under? I’m sure Captain Digger would remember me. Com’on, how many Shackles’ Captains have an awesome musket toting, black Kobold on-board? The answer was freaking one. Me! If he didn’t recognize me then it mustn’t be him or he’s turned soft upstairs.

“Listen bastard! Don’t fuck with me after the day I just had. You best remember this”, I shouted. I pulled up the sleeve of my fancy new red jacket to show off my Shackles tattoo stylized the same as the one on his bicep.
“Wh’re in the five seas did you get my mark, liz’rd?!”, replied a visibly shocked Digger.
“From you!”, I shouted.
“Li’r! Ain’t n’ver seen ye bef’re”, grumbled Digger. I closed in angrily, close to fisticuffs. He snarled likewise and leaned in.

inscrutabledestiny.jpgSuddenly, Goethe tapped me on the shoulder. A touch of relief washed over me, at least Dahak sent some of us to the same garbage fate.
“Captain, I think there is something you should know”, he calmly said, “I don’t know if you realize this but we are abroad the Inscrutable Destiny. This man is and isn’t the man you know."
“Bullshit! That’s a fairy fucking tale. This ain’t no fancy caravel, captained by a ghost, that takes marooned sailors home in exchange for working the ropes…”, I trailed off, I looked left and right, up and down. My brain meat sizzled.
“You see it now”

The moment dumbstruck me. The Inscrutable Destiny, the last hope of every stranded sailor, existed! Begads, there’s more sea shanties written about the ship of Destiny than about fucking! I lost it, big time. My hearty laughter perpetrated everyone’s’ ears like a bad joke. Nothing should’ve shocked me anymore, not after the things I saw, but everything still did. I gave up. From that day on I vowed to believe in every mythical fart and legendary fuck I came across.

“We should speak with Captain Cohol”, said Master Goethe. I composed myself enough to speak to a ghost. Goethe and I went up to helm to greet he mysterious Captain of the Inscrutable Destiny.
“I be Captain Reskafar. I owe you many thanks, mi’lady, for the safety of me crew”, I kindly said.
“You are to kind. Do you require safe passage? Serve me for a time, and I will take you home”, said Cohol, her wispy mouth hardly moving. Her voice a raspy elegance like a harp.
“Please tell me, Captain Cohol. Does this ship sail the sea of Time? Is this why my Captain’s acquaintance does not recognize him?”, questioned Goethe.
“Time or place has no meaning to the stranded”, Cohol coldly responded.
“What of the others of my crew?”, I asked.
“Only the stranded are here”, she replied. Goethe and I gave each other a look, we figured that meant they found their own way. Goethe tried to pry more information from Cohol, but she was politely tightfisted. On the other hand, I was thankful. We found an oasis in the chaos. A patch of green in the desert. The only lifeboat in the Maelstrom. No wonder Captain Cohol was revered as a God to some. She had impeccable timing!
“We humbly accept your terms Captian Cohol. It will be an honor to work your ropes. At this time, we do not know where we belong. Please give us time to figure out where we need to go”, I respectfully said.
“All I have is Time”, she nodded.

Later, I met another familiar person on deck, Nomawyn, was dancing and singing like she was at a Summer Sun festival. In fact, many of the crew were there, safe and sound. Only my ship, Vaghol, Pipp, Lorenz, Mr. Finn, Thuxfeldt, Brittlehope, and Myrrh were gone. Poor bastards. I wondered if they were dead or alive.

“To – make a quilt – you need – colors and string…To – make a skirt – you need – fabric and – scissors…To – make your Fate – you need – a stitch of luck. I knew you’d come Captain, I saw your cable branch and grow. It’s strong as a whale with a ways to go. Do not snort, the missing lines are not short, only corked. To – fix a twine – you need – patience with Time…”, Nomawyn whimsically sang out.

At least, I nailed Nomawyn’s cryptic greeting. The rest of it wasn’t the reunion I hoped for. No big banquet, grand toasts, or drunken debauchery. My crew was splintered in two places that no map can connect. Heck, I wasn’t even on my own ship! Yet, it wasn’t the worst, not really even a disappointment, if you thought about it the right way. No fatalities, that’s good. We luckily hitched a safe ride with a mythical Captain, who’s free of Time’s shackles, in the most dangerous sea there was. We no longer had to take Dahak’s boot to the face, Apsu’s power still flowed through our veins, and most exciting of all, the Gray Dragons’ hoard still begged to be plundered. I looked to the great blue yonder of the Cerulean Void up ahead. It was so blue the fog couldn’t keep it out. Certainly not the the last reunion I expected to go sideways.

An Audience with the Sorrow Maker!!! Promises of Power!!!
Captain's log found on the genoa

“Fuffuffuffu! I applaud you! Most entertaining! You’re the first mortals in over a thousand years to make it this far”, exuberantly catcalled Dahak within earshot. Shitballs! Dahak was literally around the next corner. How do you prepare to meet the evil God of Chaos? What do you say? Where do you put your hands?

Whenever faced with a life or death decision, I close my eyes and see the same picture. I ask myself, will my next action make that picture a reality. If so, I pull in out of my mind and make it so. A picture of me in my twilight years, resting in my own bed, a belly full of rum, and the world’s greatest treasures at my fingertips. A beautiful sight! You see I have a healthy fear of death. Dahak already proved numerous times we’re his playthings. About to face the demented God, my instincts instructed me on the best course of action to further my picture. No more insults. No more outbursts. I licked my lips getting ready to pucker up!

The path ahead was ominous, a long bloody trail and greedy laughter, but to what ends, nobody knew. Why had Dahak kidnapped us? Did he even have a reason? What was Dahak’s role in the wars to come? And most importantly. Is he going to murder us? We limped about slowly. Prepared for the worst and hoping for the slightly worse. We entered Dahak’s feeding chamber. Gnarled chunks of fresh meat, chewed bones, and congealed blood littered the stainless steel floor like the result of a battle gone wrong. I remember thinking, “I never knew Gods ate.” Just a few more steps until the moment of truth.

“Come closer! Sweet Champions!”, Dahak beckoned. His laughter was merciless. We turned the corner, grit our teeth, and faced the Destroyer of Worlds. A colossal head as black as midnight coal was all I saw. Dahak was ugly, scarred, covered in spikes, and his eyes burned of hatred. Copious amounts of thick saliva dripped from his maw due to a missing barbed fang the size of a rusty ships anchor. Black-Dragon-l.jpgThe wound bled black blood and looked impossible to heal. I couldn’t comprehend his presence. I couldn’t comprehend anything. My mind went numb like a phantom limb. We bent our knees before the God of Endless Destruction. He erupted in laughter again at our sorry state. The cracking rumbles shook the very earth with terror. A fitting father of the chromatic dragons.

“Oh wise and powerful Dahak, the Harbringer of Endless Destruction, the Smiter of Planes, the Scourge of All. We are humbled to be in your presence”, eloquently spoke Lorenz, without so much as a quiver in his voice.
“Closer. Come Closer!”, Dahak snarled. We half-hearted stepped in. Dahak rose his enormous spiky black head to the ceiling and peered down us from a position of absolute power. I’ve felt small my whole life, but never that small. Dahak’s examined us like a microscope.

“I see opportunity. Opportunities for destruction and sorrow. You pitiful mortals are the key to my grand vision”, cackled the towering God.
“What would you have us do?”
Dahak’s laughter ceased, he brought his head down low.
“Become calamity!”, Dahak sharply responded, as serious as sin. “Insure the mutual destruction of those bastard Grays and my benevolent Father. Spoonful by spoonful, feed them the ashes of their ruin. Feast on my supreme power. Drink from my bottomless well of knowledge. It’s all yours for the taking. Become my servants”, offered Dahak, smooth as Taldoran butter.

The next few minutes we parlayed. More like he bragged and threaten, while we cowered and listened. Dahak’s feeling on the Grays were complicated. He lauded their efforts in making Apsu suffer by killing many true dragons, but was jealous of their success. He praised Grey Scale as a maestro, but felt he was unworthy due to his relation to the last platinum dragon, Brilliant Moon. In fact, it all boiled down to one simple point, Dahak wanted to get in the great game. A position he thought he deserved. The the pakthryxl had elevated past the consequences of the mortal plane. The Gods had taken notice. The influx of dragon souls to the outer planes was causing a panic. Whenever there is panic, a savvy investor always tries to get in the game, to leverage, to profit, to win. Likewise Dahak, equally hated Apsu, his father, for obvious reasons like being banished to the adamantine pit for starters. Thinking of Apsu suffering excited Dahak like a virgin boy with a glandular disorder at a brothel. He cared not what we did as long as the Grays or his Father suffered mightily and knew who was responsible for it all. Like I said before, Dahak possessed an unrivaled pettiness and uncommon meanness of spirit.

Dahak mused about a few other details. Apsu was seriously on tilt, bartering with the Lady of Bones. Gray Scale was everywhere, but could not be seen. Yigorin Slate was also beyond his godly sight. The gray dragons mockingly put up altars to Dahak to piss him off, whenever they get the chance. The pakthryxl that occurred a century ago also happened during a time when the the Gods were fearful, the god Aroden’s death. The Grays musta used that time as a proof of concept, then in the interim, built up their vast infrastructure to murder more dragons and liquidate more hoards. Using the ill gotten gains for an unknown purpose. Goethe and I theory crafted wildly with this divine insight. Perhaps Gray Scale was linked to all gray dragon bloodlines like half-dragons and kobolds. Maybe the Grays planned on killing a God or two? What other divine countermeasure did the grays developed?

“I grow bored of this meaningless exchange. I have more hunting to do. Now then. What say you? I will grant you each one request of me as a reward”, impatiently demanded the False Wyrm. We turned to each other in a panic. Mr. Finn was the first to go.

“Ithankyeforthekindinvitation…Ijustneedtodiscussitwithmepartner, rambled Mr. Finn. Poof! Mr. Finn was gone like yesterday’s farts. Dahak wasn’t playing around.
“Please remove your harness from Myrrh and return me to my sister, politely declined Goethe. He was gone in a snap. Myrrh appeared from the slaughterhouse behind us. He still looked like a zombie but had his wits.
“Gentlemen”, he nodded. We nodded back. He handed me back my musket. Dahak’s heavy gaze fell to me.

The more I thought of it, the more I realized having Dahak in my corner wouldn’t be such a bad thing. He had many answers and boat loads of power. His aims were similar to my own, albeit more barbaric in presentation. I wanted the Gray Dragon’s riches and Apsu’s power. What’s wrong with plundering the Gray Dragon’s riches from their dead corpses while basking in Dahak’s splendor? A picture entered my mind. A life or death decision was imminent.

Lorenz knowingly looked at me and gave a little head shake. In my mind, I saw my elderly self reclining, guzzling tasty dark spiced rum, fondling a brilliant gem that made the lifegiving sun look like a cheap trinket. “What will you say to Apsu?”, whispered Lorenz. He brought up a good point. Apsu has proven he could be very unruly and unreasonable at times. Plus a trusted confidant, a long time supporter, was questioning his Captain’s decisions. Hard things to consider. I closed my eyes. I saw the shiny golden globe, the bottle of expensive rum, and my throat slit ear to ear. Fuck! Wise man knows how to fuck!

“Listen Dahak. It’s not that I don’t want to accept, but my hands are tied. I do value your counsel. Please always lend me your wisdom? I’m thirsty for it!”, I pleaded. Dahak looked disappointed in me.
“Oh yeah, please send me back to my crew”, I sheepishly added.
“Done. Gather all the treasure in the Morass, you’ll find what you seek. Be gone”, he dispassionately phrased.
“Send me to the ship, I heard Lorenz say as I departed.
“My crewmates need me. Send me to the ones who need me the most”, Myrrh urged. A strange choice I thought, but should work out in a very Myrrh-y way.

magic-items-01.jpgI went about gobbling up the marvelous treasure like a fat kid in a candy store. A new jacket, fancy amulets, ancient dragon bones, and other fancy magic items. My mind wandered to the Grays as I foraged for shiny objects. Just think of the mountain of treasure they possess. Enough treasure to buy anything in this world or the next. Enough gold to make you a living God!

Wait. Stop the presses…

I flickered out.

Game Over!!! Juju Myrrh Strikes!!!
Captain's log found on the fiddley

“RUN NANCIES!!!”, howled Mr. Finn. The shattering of ice grew nearer. Heavy footsteps came in like thunder.
“This will all end in tears…”, huffed Brittlehope, as he shuffled away.

Mr. Finn took to the north. It was a total hip shot on his part, but better trust Mr. Finn’s intuition than die planning. We fled fast. The creaking of bones and dull thuds of flesh against flesh pursued us through the maze-like corridors. Thud! We ran faster. Crack! We took a wrong turn. The gangrenous hoard of flesh golems were gaining on us!

I started to lag behind realizing someone needed to stall them. My crew saved me a half dozen times in the game so far, so it was time to repay my debt. It figured, I was the best equipped to take down the anti-magic bastards. Now I wasn’t foolishly planning to sacrifice myself for my crew, I tried that before and it didn’t work out, but I was crazy enough to risk hearing the golem’s death song again. I found a tasty choke point at the end of long narrow hall with unobstructed firing lanes. The enormous ghoulish gorillas would be forced to attack in a single file in order to reach me. When they did, I would mow them down like wheat stalks before the reaping machine, then high-tail it. The thunderous flesh stampede was inches from entering my gun sight. I packed my powder, cocked my musket, and knew I couldn’t lose this time.

ninjaassassin.jpgI didn’t see the invisible bastard. I had no way of knowing. I thought he was on my side, not beside me with knives ready to stab me in the back. The first stab put me in circulatory shock. Musta nicked my spinal cord and dulled my pain receptors. The second stab hit me between the fourth and fifth rib, puncturing my left lung. That one fucking hurt. I slumped over just in time to receive a third stab wound in the soft tissue of my right armpit. That stab hole put me as close to dead as kobold-ly possible. I fell prone, the light in my eyes quickly going dark. The assassin’s large paw pressed down on my back while he pulled out the hilt buried knives one by one. Short curls of blood red fur fluttered down in front of me like late autumn leaves. “That cunt! Myrrh!, was my last thought before losing the light.

I dreamed of wide open ocean and strong headwinds. I stood at the helm of the Deep Sea Current, the lead ship, in a vast armada of pirates ships with black dragon jolly rogers. Not a care or responsibility in sight. I was the freest Kobold on the seas! The Pirate King!

Then potent spirits of hartshorn aroused my consciousness like a mule kick to the gonads. It was the second time in as many minutes that I woke up to Lorenz’s busy hands. And there I thought, I’d outgrown the need of a babysitter! I’d much rather of stayed in my wonderful dream, than waking in the stupid cave with berserking flesh golems and an invisible stab happy assassin. Dahak’s game sucked.

“Was it Myrrh?”, asked Lorenz, frantically.
“I reckon”, I wheezed.
“He may be Dahak’s puppet. We have to move! The flesh golems joined”, commanded Lorenz. Goethe and Brittlehope used their magic skills to seal the newly sewn cadaverous brute behind walls of illusions and ice. It wasn’t going to last long..

dahasymbol.jpgMr. Finn the lucky sack of gills was right! He found a way out through the mother of all scary doors. Bloody Hell! Engraved corner to corner on the massive adamantine door was Dahak’s ominous blazon of a falling burning scale. It was the first freaking door we’d encountered so either it was an obvious trap or Dahak’s personal chamber. Like a whirling inferno consuming accelerant the flesh colossus crashed into the antechamber with an explosion of ice, flesh, and bone. I didn’t have my musket, probably taken by the juju backstabber tit puncher asshole, so fighting seemed reckless. My plan. Stage one, get behind the door. Stage two, bar it. Stage three, pee on door. Lorenz, Goethe, Brittlehope, and Mr. Finn bum rushed the gate and escaped.

I tried, but couldn’t follow. Dahak’s symbol towered over me. My animal brain broadcasted the universal sign of fear, I epically peed all over myself, then fled like a chicken shit. My dilemma, fleeing two equally scary things that are flanking you when trapped in a small room, so I hid myself in a treasure trove in the corner. Goethe’s imp familiar, Blatz, joined me. The grave titan remained stationary at the gate. It appeared it didn’t have permission to enter Dahak’s bedroom. It turned from the gate and searched for me with its hundreds of undead eyes to no avail. I‘m good at hiding!

After my courage budded again, Blatz and I devised a plan. Blatz lured the rotten giant away using clever illusions. While the monster’s back was turned, we bolted for the protected door. My heart began pounding like a timpani drum as I entered the sigil’s threat range. In one big gush, I let go of all of all of Apsu’s divine power to stave off the fear. It wasn’t enough, I slowed. Terror crept down my spine, I knew, I was a goner if it reached my legs. The titanic sutured ghoul heard me, it reversed course in an instant by bone shattering all if its joints the wrong way, and aggressively swiped at me. Right before my will broke to pieces at the gate’s demarcation line, Lorenz’s fist grabbed me by my collar. I forgot the fear for an instant and took the last step across. The third time Lorenz saved my skin in as many minutes! I turned back to see the flesh colossus’ putrid grasp paralyzed like a statue inches from my face.

I took a deep breath. Drew my tertiary gun and opened fire on the helpless flesh colossus from the safe side of the door. Laughing like a madman the whole time.

“No! Coward!”, erupted Dahak like an angry volcano.
“Screw You!”, I screamed, whilst firing another shot.
“I told you to STOP little Kobold!”, roared the God, with almighty authority.

Dahak is very petty. How was I suppose to know that? I crashed to the ground in crushing pain like a swatted fly and instantly slipped back into my happy place. The wind was sublime. It looked like I was well on my way to being revived for the the fourth time in as many minutes.

Dahak’s Most Dangerous Game!!! Cursed to Struggle
Captain's log found on the leeboard

“Welcome Heroes!”, rumbled an ancient voice like rusty chains against Varisian sandstone. I stopped dead in my tracks in-front of the trio of freshly slain flesh golems. If I had hairs then would’ve been standing on end like tiny erections. The Sorrow Maker alas decided to welcome us to his adamantine pit. His errant low grumbles gradually coalesced into a playful chuckle, “My father has chosen wisely. You fight like true champions, but I grow bored seeing my meat toys broken. Let me adjust the odds! Your misery will amuse me for a little while longer.” His wispy snigger amplified a hundredfold into raucous laughter that bounced off the impenetrable walls with violence. My outmatched senses saturated with the flavor of unbridled dread that only a god can cook up. Dahak was surely about to bend us over and fuck us.

Dahak’s invisible wave struck me like a blacksmith’s hammer ping against a steel anvil. The searing pain rang down into my bone marrow until my very root spurned me. My organs wrenched counterclockwise while my head corkscrewed the opposite. I swear the divine raping lasted at least a 1000 years; and without gentleness, but by a prolonged pileated pecker. After the bad touch subsided, my body was left heavy, numb, and depleted. Getting robbed of your power and purpose leaves a man like me only one card left to play. Rage! I never said it was a good card.

“Is that the best you got!”, I roared, “Does festering meat mean that much to you, Dark Lizard? Am gonna blast them to bloody bits!”
“Such…faith…in worthless trinkets”, smirked the faceless God. Suddenly, my musket jumped out of my hand and slide across the cavern floor a dozen feet. I tried to retrieve it and it again slipped out. Dahak the pissant just lubed me up! In fact, all of my guns were compromised. The cockbiter.

“Losers say what?”, scoffed Dahak.
“What?”, I shouted. Another curse hit me like a dragon tail’s whiplash. It was not a physical manifestation of pain like the previous salvo but a sweet release of my inner being. A total release from fear, from laws, and from morals. Thoughts of savagery entered my mind meat. All my heart’s desires were mine to be taken. There was no price too high to pay or bond to important to break. All others were peasants destined to lick my boots! My crew noticed the change in my demeanor. Probably because of the maniacal grin chiseled on my maw.

“Does anyone else in class have anything to add?”, demanded Dahak. The others were quiet staring down at their feet. Lorenz quickly tackled me right before I was going to run my mouth again at our dick referee.
“Good! If you entertain me well, I will grant you an audience”, it trailed off. Ahh! There was the carrot! Gods always dangle a carrot. I fucking hate carrots.

Luckily, Lorenz’s was able to partially undo Dahak’s mind fucking me and cleanse the slippery magic coating my musket before we explored the pit further. The man was invaluable! Mr. Finn put his ear to the ground and led the way. A thousand paces into the stinky black cave, we heard the familiar guttural roar of the flesh monsters. They came at us in waves. Each one more hideous, bloody, and outrageous than the next. One appeared to be a hoard of stitched together munthreks, another gnomes, another devils, and the last one dragon bits. I expertly shot down the nearest ball of limbs barreling down on us with glee. Suck my trinket Dahak!

The three remaining flesh golems stampeded towards us at a thousand mile per hour on a thousand amputated legs. I was confidant I would lay them to waste. Goethe had other plans. He did his magic dance and summoned a pit below my feet. I don’t think it was for me but you never know with that guy. Normally, I could’ve avoided such an obstacle, but my legs were still lifeless from Dahak’s thumping. I fell into the hole. I had no way to climb out of the smooth walled stone pit. God Damnit! I heard the others fighting above and looked up, needing to shield my eyes from the rain droplets of blood and bits of flesh.

fleshgolem.jpg“They’re joining!”, screamed Mr. Finn. I saw flashes of the titanic creature from the opening of my prison. It was a mass of smashed corpses clinging to one another in a grotesque embrace that you can’t unsee. Amazingly, the sound it made was even worse than its foul appearance. Each of its ungainly movements was accompanied by the sharp snapping of bones as its corpse structure torqued and shifted under its own immense weight. Dahak’s sense of humor was super fucked up to employ such a death fueled abomination. I hungered to fight it tooth and nail, but I couldn’t traverse the pit’s lack of footholds. I cursed my shriveled wings. I cursed my short arms. I cursed Goethe.

Thankfully, spidery Myrrh came to my rescue. He jumped down the pit with acrobatic ease, scooped me up in his strong arms, and dashed away. So glad Myrrh was on my side! At the top, an enlarged Mr. Finn was hacking away layers of interlocking festering body parts from the towering undead golem. I opened fire, Lorenz bolstered us, Goethe summoned fire, and Myrrh found fulsome organs to stab. The flesh colossus was fading fast under our collective efforts. Just as it was about to collapse inward the blood shot eyes of hundreds of inlaid severed heads suddenly opened wide, their saggy mouths stretched open beyond jaw limits and wailed the song of death. The song was damn beautiful. A melody so irresistibly sweet it made you want to close your smiling eyes forever and drift away. My eyes got very heavy. And shut.

How pathetic? Killed by a flesh peon. Killed after falling into a hole. Killed by a song. The bards will surely sing songs of my last stand!

I soon felt a squeezing on my chest right over my heart. Breath not my own filled my empty lungs. More rhythmic compression. More foreign breath. The cycle repeated until the deadly tune dissipated and the sleepiness subsided. My eyes opened to Lorenz’s busy hands. Rescued three times in one day ain’t half bad. Pathetic, yes, but not bad. Myrrh wasn’t so lucky. His eyes were smiling.

“A death most unworthy”, pleaded Goethe, “The Kitsune can still entertain you!”
“hemuchfunwhenkicking”, garbled Mr. Finn.
“That was a shit death! Let him struggle!”, groveled Lorenz.
“What Myrrh’s dead?”, I blabbered in a quiet haze.
“Fuffuffuffu! So be it”, a gravelly omnipresence voice responded. All eyes shot to Myrrh.

crazysmile.jpgMyrrh’s slowly and eerily sat up. The smile left his eyes. Without making a sound or taking a breath he stared at us for a spell then a wide grin formed like time-lapsed photography on his otherwise unanimated face. He vanished.

No one was sure what just happened.
“Thank You Dahak for reviving him! You’re not that bad of a guy”, I cheered. Lorenz looked at me in disbelief.

“I think you ought to know…”, deadpanned Brittlehope. The bone devil paused.
“Well?”, asked an irritated Goethe.
“You’re not going to like it…”, sighed Brittlehope.
“Spit it out!”
“…my ice walls are failing. More flesh golems are coming to kill us. Ghastly isn’t it?”, said Brittlehope flatly.

Pipp's log
to shrimp and back again

I must catalog this most extraordinary event. There I was in intrigued conversation with the large creature of chaos. A protean they called it. How such a being full of seeming wanderlust could be subject to such a structured hierarchy was of most interest to me. Although he allowed me to pursue this line of curiosity, it was at once a selfish endeavor as well as a means to detract him from his obvious objective: he means to acquire the living rune they call Vaghol. Though I have chronicled the captain’s logs which tell of their relation with Vaghol and the Pirate Queen, the captain’s intentions were still unclear. If Master Torrentail has imparted in me no stronger message, it is that a crew remains loyal even in the face of the storm itself.

After the conversation grew stale, and the creature’s ire and ambition overcame it, I offered to guide it through our ship in the hopes that I might prove to it Vaghol is quite a wily fellow not so easily coaxed to one’s palm. This deception proved eventually unfruitful.

Although I would like to say that I fought bravely, and with great tenacity, I’m afraid something much more mystical happened. Upon the onset of clenched teeth and fists…upon the spark of war in the air… as the first blades were borne, I felt my form shift under the waves of chaos. My hands no longer full of phalanges, but writhing feet. My form shrank and my eyes detected more than they have ever beheld before. A kaleidoscope of what I can only describe as colors came to view, though no colors that are beset in any rainbow nor sunset. Amidst this strange background, I managed to make my way across the deck. Though combat was rife and much larger than I have ever experienced, I climbed amongst the warring giants. To the banister I had just moments before used as an armrest to speak to the creature of chaos I climbed. A foe now I knew him to be, and did my best to drum and squirm forth a dirge to weaken his resolve. Even now, I can see the magic emanating from my prawn fingers. So many colors. It must have found purchase in his heart for he stayed paralyzed as the boxer planted a fist firmly at his temple.

The rest for me was a tempest of movement. Thrown from one hand to the next, then thrust into the waters of the maelstrom. Swimming had never come so easily, and to breathe…to breathe water…what a strange sensation. As my body and the kaleidoscope settled, I found my mind lost in the tides of magical auras surrounding me. I may have been lost for ages had it not been for the fortuitous visage of Master Torrentail coming to view. Thankfully it only took a bit of strumming my feet against his forearm for him to recognize me.

After him swimming around for a bit muttering something about saving the writings, we emerged to a grand vessel that would prove to be our salvation. Amidst the new vessel, ten times larger than the deep sea current, the hellknight was able to restore me to my human form. Though I am relieved to feel like myself again, able to write and chronicle this amazing experience, I fear I will never look at a shrimp cocktail in the same light as I once did. Truly, I have been transformed.


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