“So, just guessing from our previous behavior, we’re not going to heed the warning and stop here, correct?” Feruzi asked. Ezikial grinned. "Do we at least have some kind of rotting curse repellent?
“Verily, I have remembered to bring my own repellent that I would be overjoyed to share with you,” Ezikial said, offering everyone his grenades.
“No thanks,” Feruzi told him. “I’d probably just set myself on fire. So how do we get the door open? Oh. Never mind.”
The chained and spiked trapdoor made a lovely explosion, revealing a smooth-walled shaft and a room far below. Ropes were brought out and they descended into a vaulted chamber with a lovely frieze of sea creatures intertwined with bones. A large stone altar overlooked a pool of stagnant water with a rather obvious sword stuck in the middle of it. A vast creature like an amalgam of bat, spider, and just plain ugly stirred as they slid down the ropes, flexing its tentacles in line with the overall Black Tower motif. It exuded a foul miasma that seemed to sap strength and will. So, they shot it.
Most of Feruzi’s arrows went wide, but one impacted somewhere in the folds of flesh. Ezikial had far better luck and the monstrosity howled and reared back on four leg-wings, lashing out at Reiko as she dropped down to menace it with her katana. Swinging wildly, Chopper also dropped, nearly landing on top of the demon, which shook him off disdainfully and leapt into the air, clawing and snapping at Ezikial until he fell to the ground, bloody but still in the fight. He jammed his pistol into the bloated, slimy mass of its body and pulled the trigger. The boom was muffled but gore exploded from the demon’s body and it fell. Chopper took one whiff and immediately pulled a scented candle out of his copious pockets. In the water, the sword beckoned.
“So is this a Chosen One type of deal?” Chopper asked. “Cos I ain’t certain we’ve the proper bona fides.”
“No clue,” Reiko said helpfully. “Probably not, though.”
“Well, let me shatter my soul against it, then you can pull it free and we can be on our way,” Chopper told her. Ezikial rolled his eyes and waded into the pool, grasping the hilt and giving it a good tug. No budging was in evidence. In the end, it took Reiko, Ezikial, and Chopper heaving mightily to de-wedge Aiger’s Kiss from the floor. The water drained away into the tiny hole left behind by the sword’s removal.
Reiko shook her head. “Perhaps we should leave now?”
Getting out was not a great deal more difficult than getting in, although removing the other valuables took some time. They rested on the beach, Ezikial taking out Aiger’s Kiss to get a better look at it.
“Sorrinash is going to be pissed,” Feruzi remarked. “So, who wants to leave a big sign on the beach for him?”
“I actually had Conchobar working on that before we left,” Chopper told her. They made their way down to where they’d left the boat, only to find a tall blond man leaning against it. A second boat lay nearby, surrounded by surly armed pirates.
“Parley?” the man said, bowing with rather more flourish than was probably justified.
“Uh, granted,” Chopper announced.
“Excellent. Captain Valerande Aiger at your service. Better known as . . . Barracuda.”
“This is Captain Chopper,” Feruzi said, pointing at that noteworthy. “Better known as Captain Chopper.”
“I . . . see. I can only assume you’ve come from the Black Tower. If you’ve recovered my mother’s blade, I must demand you turn it over to me as my rightful inheritance. Or face my wrath.”
“You want a kiss, you can fight your own chaos beast for it,” Chopper announced.
“It is quite unbecoming not to retrieve it yourself,” Reiko added. “Or did you just give up trying, because it was too hard?”
“If ye want to inherit it, ye might see if Reiko will adopt ye, but I ain’t givin’ good odds on that one,” Chopper said, smirking.
Valerande laughed and his pirates relaxed. “Perhaps we can negotiate for the blade, then. The pride of recovering it would still be yours, of course.”
“Eh, anything’s possible,” Chopper said. “The Shackles be a strange place.”
“I am willing to offer you the contents of my ship’s hold. The Wanton Wastrel’s taken many fine prizes of late, and I feel that this will be our year. I might even be willing to trade a magical item or two, depending.”
“I have another thought,” Reiko said. “But I’d like to discuss it with my Captain first.”
“But of course.”
“Arr, plunder we have, and magical trinkets aplenty,” Chopper began, then coughed violently. “Scuse me. Arr. Arr. Arr. Sorry. Watcha got, first mate?”
“I think we should offer to let Valerande wield the sword—provided he joins our fleet against the Chelish forces and uses the sword to our advantage in that fight,” Reiko proposed. Chopper nodded thoughtfully. “I also think we should turn over the sword to him at the upcoming meeting of our forces.”
“I like this plan. Let’s do it.”
Barracuda was amenable to the terms. The Wastrel and the Crisis both weighed anchor and left the environs of the Black Tower. The Crisis sailed on to Ollo so they could sell their plunder and purchase supplies. The ship was approached by a man who was present at the pirate council, but not a part of the deliberations. He introduced himself as Chambros Egrossa, first mate of the Tyrannous. Arronax Endymion’s ship.
“I apologize for the interruption,” Chambros said when Chopper appeared. "My Captain would like to speak with you aboard his ship.
Chopper shrugged. “I’m amenable.”
“Excellent. He gave me this purse, as a show of good faith,” Chambros added, passing it over.
Captain Endymion met them in the map room aboard the Tyrranous. “Greetings to you, Pirate Lords.” Oddly, the hard-faced old Captain seemed worried and distracted. “I thank you for agreeing to meet me. I know you have many demands on your time, so I will come straight to the point. You and your ally, Lady Fairwind, have been rooting around for Chelish conspirators.”
“And you have doubtless heard that I am one of those conspirators as a result. I assure you, though, that nothing could be further from the truth.”
“I thought such accusations seemed a bit too . . . obvious,” Chopper drawled.
“My hatred for Cheliax and her devil-besotted fools is deeper than the loathing of anyone in the Shackles. I appreciate your trust. Yet you must understand, these rumors persist. In fact, they’ve been spreading of late in my own home port of Hell Harbor.”
Reiko nodded. “Well then, we should be in a hurry to uncover the truth behind these rumors. The true conspirators and spies. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“I do, Ms Nakayama. I cannot directly move against the source of this latest campaign of falsehoods against me, but if you do
if you teach these slanderers a lesson-I’ll reward you with a squadron of my finest warships. Which, I am sure, you’ll find most useful in the days ahead.”
“Sold,” Chopper announced.
“There is a small group of exiled Chelish performers who’ve purchased a seaside tavern that they use as a cover for their campaign against me. Their performances are quite popular, and by the time I realized it was they who were slandering me, any overt move I make against them would only martyr them and ‘prove’ my guilt. Since it would look like I was attempting to crush those attempting to get the truth out.”
“I think we can handle that,” Reiko said.
“Excellent. Find proof of their work against me—or, at least, proof that they’re Chelish agents. And, if you find no such proof, then no harm is done. Hell Harbor has no shortage of entertainers.”