The universe flickered and Sandara abruptly fell into something sticky. Given the enthusiastic fighting styles of her compatriots this wasn’t too unusual an occurence but the sticky substance was usually not blue. Or, except in the case of really intense combats, three feet deep. Or floating in midair. Upside-down. If that was down. Sandara’s eyes crossed as she took in her surroundings and her stomach danced a jig as the perspective seemed to wobble and distort. The midair blob of cerulean goo lazily flopped over and dumped Sandara onto a small island covered in rusty red moss, which groaned and cursed.
“Feruzi? Izzat yer?”
“Ugh, what happened? Why am I covered in fuzz?”
“I don’t rightly know. Are ye hurt?”
“Well, ‘ere, have some healin’ then.” The reddish moss abruptly turned black and fell off, revealing Feruzi in more or less her usual state. She heaved herself to her feet and looked around. Slowly, her eyes crossed.
“Where the HELL are we?!”
“Dinna know. T’ain’t anywheres in th’ Shackles, though. Leastwise, I hope not.”
“This . . . ugh, my head . . . this looks like Limbo. Did we get sent to another plane!? We have to get back!”
“True enough, but how do ye plan ter do that? Ye know any portals that might be convenient?”
“I doubt it. And it’s not like there are any landmarks in all this . . . schlock.”
“Well, if we wait ’til mornin I kin ask Besmara ter plane shift us outta here.”
“Morning? But the others are fighting Harrigan right now!”
“Yer got a better option?”
“Well . . . no.”
“Then I guess we’re waiting.” The mossy island was comfortable enough, so Sandara pulled out her pipe and settled in to wait. Feruzi, on the other hand, fidgeted nervously, causing the entire rock to jiggle uncomfortably. “Would ye stop that,” Sandara grumped after several minutes of this.
“Go fer a walk or summat. Not too far, mind ye. Don’t get yerself lost.”
“All right, all right.” Feruzi awkwardly climbed down from the small floating island into the branches of a tree that appeared to be growing upside-down . . . if that was down. Probably best not to get too wrapped up in such distinctions, really. In a way Limbo felt like being really, really drunk, just unfortunately without the part that prevented you from worrying about it. Sandara briefly considered getting drunk on the off chance that it would serve as a remedy, then rejected this idea as almost certain to make the nausea worse while simultaneously infuriating Feruzi, who was not in the best of temper at the moment.
As if summoned by this train of thought, Feruzi called up, “Can you see that?” her voice weirdly distorted.
“That,” Feruzi said, pointing somewhat unhelpfully, as Sandara could not see her. “Over there.” Still less helpful. “It’s like something big is headed this way.”
Sandara squinted, then tried putting a hand over one eye, then the other. Yes, it did seem that something big and kinda gray was headed in their direction. Fast. And loud. The air filled with the sound of crashing waves as a howling tempest descended. Sandara was thrown from the island; Feruzi made a grab and hauled her into the tree just in time. Salty breakers battered them and the black hull of an immense ship loomed out of the storm above. Sandara screamed and shut her eyes.
Then, it was quiet. The surf lapped at the tree innocently. Sandara risked a look and discovered the giant ship had come to a stop only inches away. Feruzi had her fingers in her ears and her face scrunched up in a rather comical echo of Sandara’s recent panic. Chuckling weakly, Sandara nudged her.
“Iss all right, we ain’t dead yet.”
“Man overboard!” someone shouted. Sandara attempted to see the rail she expected was up there somewhere but couldn’t spot anyone. Then a porthole opened just above them and a black-haired man with an impressive mustache appeared.
“Um, hello?” Feruzi ventured.
“Don’t I know you?”
“I can’t imagine how you coul—Royster? Is that Royster? Wha . . . how did you get here?!”
“What be a Royster?” Sandara asked.
“It’s . . . he’s Lady Smythee’s Master-at-arms, remember? But how did he get here?”
“Oh, the usual way,” Royster McCleagh said imperturbably. He seemed to be rather enjoying himself at their expenses. “I died. But how did YOU get here?”
“There was a bright light an’ then here we was,” Sandara said, chuckling. “Some spell or other. Where’d ye get this great ship, I wanter know.”
“What, you don’t recognize it? And you a Besmaran. For shame.”
Sandara gasped. “What?” Feruzi demanded.
“Issa S’wrth!” Sandara squeaked incomprehensibly.
“It’s the Seawraith! Besmara’s own ship! Crewed by the piratin’ dead in tha’ afterlife!”
“No, it really is,” Royster McCleagh said. “Come aboard.”
“Do we have to be dead?” Feruzi demanded.
“Usually, but it’s a pirate ship. There aren’t many rules about that sort of thing.”
A rope ladder was lowered and the two women climbed aboard, Sandara emitting periodic squeals like some sort of deranged chipmunk. “Fruzi!” someone called happily as they emerged into the hold and Feruzi was enveloped in a hug by a huge, burly man.
“Owlbear?!” Sandara squeaked while Feruzi struggled for air. “Ain’t this a coincidence!”
“It’s the bleedin’ afterlife,” McCleagh said. “If the gods didn’t arrange coincidences you’d never find anything.”
“Oh. Right.” Sandara shook her head. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a thrill ter be here, but we need ter get back. Our friends could be in trouble. They was fighting Harrigan last we saw.”
Royster smirked. “That scumbag? He showed up here half an hour ago.”
“Yes. Want to see what Besmara did with him?”
“Would I e’er!”
“Come on, I’ll show you around a bit.” Royster led the way and Sandara scampered after, laughing at a muffled, “Put me down!” from Feruzi.