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.
“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.
“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!”