Chapter 2 - You Can't Save Both of Them

The immediate area began to calm and the party realized that, in the distance, they could no longer hear the sounds of battle. There was still crying, a few shouts, and the crackling of fires, but the fighting was clearly over. They all looked to each other to determine what course of action should be next.

“Let’s go check out the pirates’ ship. There may be more of them,” Saris suggested.

“I want to be sure that Lavinia is alright,” Viselys stated.

As if on queue, Lavinia emerged from the smoke with a handful of others. The party recognized the four mercenaries collectively known as the Jade Ravens. The remaining figure they did not recognize. He was a middle aged gentleman, with a well-trimmed beard. He was adorned with fine Mithral chainmail and he held a longsword. All of them were spattered in the gore of battle.

“Uncle!” Avner exclaimed and rushed to embrace the Mithral-clad fighter.

As the older man received the hug, his expression seemed to clearly say “oh, no!” but instead, he patted Avner on the back and said, “Avner, what a surprise. It’s … good to see you.”

Lavinia, exclaimed, “Oh, thank the gods! You don’t even know it, but you saved my life,” and she dashed forward. Viselys smile and took a step forward, but she bypassed him to embrace Saris. “I was amazed at how much I’d learned,” she held up her sword and took a few demonstrative swipes at the air, “Without your training, I don’t think I would have survived. You taught me well.”

Saris was a bit surprised. “I did?” he asked, but then he caught himself, "I did. Of course I did. Well, you are welcome.”

Lavinia, too, caught herself, “Of course, I am so happy to see all of your. I forget myself, though. Introductions. You know the Jade Ravens, of course. However, you have not yet met Lord Mathalay Meravanchi, who has been the custodial leader of Farshore since my family’s absence. Mathalay, these are my personal heroes.” Although she did not notice, this last statement caused Tolin to bristle silently.

“Her personal heroes,” Avner scoffed, “If it hadn’t been for me, they would never have made it here. You should have seen what we went through. I had to kill…”

“Yes, I have no doubt. You can tell me all about it later,” Mathalay interrupted his nephew.

“You know what?” Avner said to nobody in particular, “I need a drink. Where can a guy get a Phoenix Down around here?”

“The Last Coconut,” Zan stated, “I’ll take you there. First rounds on you,” and the two headed off, much to everyone’s relief.

“Lavinia, what happened here?” Viselys asked.

“There is much to talk about,” she agreed. “Why don’t we all go to the chapel to talk.” She turned and saw the black score across the ground and up the front of the building marking the place where six pirates had stood. She paused for a moment, but then led the way inside.

Inside the chapel, the party recounted, in brief, their adventures since finding the Blue Nixie.

“So you did find my journal. Good,” she said, accepting it back from Viselys. “I assume you read it.”

“Only the last page,” Viselys stated, “and only to ascertain what had become of you. I did not want to invade your privacy.”

She gave him a quizzical look, “I intentionally left it on the remote chance that you would find the wreck. I did not know if I would survive the trek through the jungle, and I wanted my journal to be preserved; perhaps even published. I meant for you to read it.”

“I read it,” Ornrik offered, “In fact, I made a copy,” he reached into his satchel and pulled out a small sheaf of papers and handed them to her. She gave him an even more quizzical look that seemed to imply she found the gesture quite bizarre. However, Ornrik continued, “I suspected your intent and, since I had the time and opportunity, I though you would appreciate a copy to give to an editor or publisher so that you could maintain the original.

This seemed to make sense to Lavinia, “Oh, well, I thank you very much. It certainly was not necessary, but I appreciate the thought.” Then she returned her attention to all that were gathered around, “I had made it about half way across the big island when Adameus appeared.” She paused to look around, “Where IS Adameus?”

“He and Diamondback ran off to rescue someone from the half-orc pirate. They succeeded, but then they disappeared,” Viselys replied. “They probably saw some other emergency that they could help with. I’m sure they’ll turn up.”

Lavinia nodded and continued, “We had stopped to rest because Liamae had had a bit of an accident – she was struck by lightning and had been unconscious for nearly two days. Adameus arrived and explained that you had sent him to see us safely to Farshore. Luckily, the next morning, Liamae awoke, relatively none the worse for wear, and we continued our hike. When we arrived here, Adameus insisted that he return to you. It seems he was able to reconnect with you, then.”

“After a fashion,” Viselys replied. “It might be more accurate to say we reconnected with him.”

Ornrik interjected to explain, “He had been captured by a big ape demon and beaten and tortured. We found him and rescued him.”

Viselys immediately jumped back in to calm Lavinia and move on. He quickly summarized the rest of the journey to Farshore and the battle once they’d arrived. “How did this attack occur? Was there any warning?”

“None,” Lavinia replied, “They pulled into the harbor and debarked en mass. This was less than an hour before you must have arrived.”

Just then, a group of townsfolk burst into the chapel. One of them explained, “We’ve just come from their ship. We found their log and some papers. It would appear that they are from the Crimson Fleet and that they were just a scouting crew.”

Tolin spoke now, “We will need to look these documents over closely, but first, we have one of the pirates captive in a nearby building. He should be questioned.”

Lavinia nodded, “That’s right. Why don’t you take Viselys over there so he can start on that right away?"
Both Tolin and Mathalay did not seem pleased by this as they spoke over each other – “By what authority?” Mathalay was demanding while Tolin complained, “He’s our prisoner; we captured him.”

Lavina directed her response to Mathalay, although it was clear she was addressing both concerns, “Viselys is a guard of Sasserine. He is trained and experienced with interrogation of criminals.”

Viselys did not feel that Tolin’s concerns had been adequately addressed so he said to him, “Tolin, I respect that this is your prisoner. Perhaps we could work together on this. There is a technique we often employ in the Cudgel District called ‘Good Guard/Bad Guard,’ and it requires two interrogators working as a team. The first interrogator acts mean and violent, and the second comes to the prisoner’s rescue and gains his trust.”

This got Tolin interested, “So, I’d be, like, the Bad Guard and I’d go in and yell at him and knock him around a bit, and you’d come in and, like, pull me off of him?”

Viselys was concerned about how ready Tolin was to ‘knock him around,’ but he said, “Right, if you’re willing.”

Tolin was and he led the way. Before he entered the building where the prisoner was being kept, he stopped and turned to Mathalay. He reached out and wiped some blood from Mathalay’s armor and smeared it on his own face. He gave a wry grin to Viselys and threw open the door.

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The prisoner was a pitiful scoundrel whose features were bruised and sunken. His skin was hot to the touch, one of his eyes was blackened, and his left hand was missing, though this last was an old wound.

Tolin started in right away, “Who are you? Why did you attack us?”

“I don’t gotta tell you nothin’!” he spat. The words were barely out of his mouth before Tolin delivered a punch across the jaw.

“No, you don’t gotta,” Tolin replied, “In fact, I’ll enjoy this more if you don’t.” He threw another punch at the, now terrified, pirate.

Just then, Viselys came in with Ornrik right behind him. “Tolin! What are you doing?! Leave this man alone!” He pulled Tolin away from the prisoner and turned him around. Tolin, at first, was confused, but then he figured it out.

Then he pushed back at Viselys, “You damn bleeding hearts are all alike! Fine, see how far you get with him,” and he stormed off towards the door. Before he closed the door, he turned and smiled at Viselys and gave him a thumbs-up. Luckily the prisoner’s back faced the doorway.

Viselys knelt down to examine the prisoner. He looked at Ornrik who put his hand on the prisoners right hand. “He’s got a fever,” Ornrik said, “Could be illness, could be sepsis. I won’t know until I can see his wounds.”

“I’m going to untie your bonds,” Viselys told the pirate, “and you are NOT going to attempt escape.”

When Ornrik had had a chance to examine his patient, he said, “This isn’t good. See this small wound in his abdomen? Its all red and inflamed. Whatever cut him nicked his bowel. He’s septic. I can heal his wounds, but removing the disease will take longer.” He cast his healing spells and almost instantly the rogue looked much better. Ornrik looked him in the eye, “Your wounds are healed, but you are still sick. I need to go and meditate in order to cure you. For now, keep warm and drink plenty of fluids.” Then, as an afterthought, he added, “Water, not alcohol. At least until I can cure you.” Then he handed him a water skin and left the hut, closing the door behind him.

Viselys looked at him and nodded, “You look a lot better. How do you feel?”

The pirate looked uncertain, “Yeah, I feel better, except I feel hot and my side is sore.”

Viselys pulled up another chair and sat so he would be on the same level as the pirate, “Okay, why don’t we just start with introductions. My name is Viselys. I’m from Sasserine. What’s your name?”

Still weary, the prisoner said, “They call me Lefty, for obvious reasons,” he held up his stump.

Viselys nodded. “Okay, Lefty. Here’s the deal. I want to help you. I really do. But outside this hut there are a lot of people just like Tolin who would prefer to beat whatever information they can out of you and then, frankly, kill you. Now, I want to make sure that doesn’t happen. For one thing, everybody talks eventually, so wouldn’t it just be easier and less painful to just tell me what you know? Then I have something to bargain with when I go out there and argue on your behalf.”

“Why would you do that?” Lefty asked, quietly.

“I’d like to say, ‘Because I’m a nice guy,’ but that wouldn’t be the whole truth,” Viselys replied. “The fact is, I just don’t believe in condemning a man until I’ve heard his side. I also believe that all those people out there feel the same way, they just need to calm down enough to realize it. So what do you say, Lefty? I won’t even ask any questions. I’ll just sit here and listen to your story.”

“I was part of a merchant ship. The crew mutinied when the captain cut our pay and rations. Me and two others took a dingy and fled south to avoid being captured with the others. Our boat got caught in a current and we smashed on what I later found out was Scorpion Isle. We were able to cobble together a raft to get to Emerald Isle where we met up with the pirates of Rat’s End. They told us that they had need of one more sailor – only one. The captain, Slipknot Peet, gave us the choice of fighting it out amongst ourselves to see who got the job, or walking the plank.”

Lefty hung his head as the implications became obvious to Viselys. Then, Lefty did something that shocked Viselys – he wiped away a tear with the stump of his left arm.

He took a deep breath and continued the story. “The Rat’s End pirates claimed to be part of the Crimson Fleet, but in reality, I think they were just outcasts. The captain did maintain contact with the fleet, apparently by magical means, but I don’t really know much about that. Captain Peet told us that we had been ordered by the fleet to scout out Farshore and watch them for the next couple of weeks. I overheard him telling the First Mate that we’d be given a proper place in the fleet for performing this duty. Apparently, the fleet was planning on coming to the Isle of Dread on ‘other business,’ and wanted to raid Farshore for supplies and establish a base. But the captain got impatient and greedy. After scouting for a few nights, he decided that we could take the village ourselves, so he got every one of us at Rat’s End aboard the Hellfish and we attacked. He never said how many ships the fleet was bringing, but he did say that we had two months to loot the place and escape to other waters before the fleet arrived.”

Viselys had thought that Lefty was done. After all, he seemed to have covered all the bases. Lefty had more to say, however, “Look, I didn’t want to attack this town. I never wanted to be a pirate at all. I just did what I had to in order to stay alive. Gods’ forgive me; I just didn’t want to die!” Viselys prided himself on being able to sense a person’s motives, and he was convinced that Lefty was sincere. In fact, he was near tears. He was scared, but this was clearly not the only cause of his remorse.

“Here’s what I’ll do for you, Lefty. As I promised, I’m going to protect you from those people out there. I’m going to personally vouch for you, but I have no doubt that you will have to pay for your crimes, and while I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like, I’m sure that the information you have provided will be a mitigating factor. Further, we will need every able body to defend against this invasion. If you would be willing to help us, I’m sure that would be points in your favor, too. What do you say, Lefty? Is it a deal?”

Lefty smiled and saluted with his good right hand, “Aye, aye, Capt'n. I’ll do whatever you say.”

Viselys nodded and made a motion for Lefty to follow him. The former pirate hesitated for only a moment, but then seemed resolved to put his faith in his newfound patron and kept close to him.

Outside, the others were waiting. Mathalay was the first to speak, “And where exactly do you think you are going with the prisoner?”

Viselys responded calmly, “He has agreed to help us repair the damages and fortify the city against the coming invasion fleet. I’ll personally vouch for him and he will remain with me at all times.”

Mathalay turned to Lavinia, “And what do you say to this?”

“Viselys has a history of reforming those who were once criminals,” Lavinia conceded. “Besides, we can use all the help we can get.”

Mathalay grinned, “So be it. This will only help me in the election.” With that, he turned and left.

“Election?” Viselys asked Lavinia.

Lavinia nodded, “While Farshore has had a council of five, including Mathalay who has been leading the council in my family’s absence, my return upsets the balance. As a legacy, I deserve to lead the council, but Mathalay doesn’t deserve to give up his position. The council voted that instead there should be a Mayoral election. The winner would be the executive of Farshore while the runner-up would be the council chair.”

“If it’s not out of turn,” Lefty interjected, “this humble minion thinks that makes a great deal of sense,” he held his hand to his chest in indication of himself.

“Well, I’m glad you think so,” Lavinia responded, “because you may prove to be my biggest PR obstacle to overcome.” Then she turned to the rest of the party, “You are free to stay wherever you wish, but I have six rooms at Vanderboren Estate and you are welcome to stay there.”

Viselys nodded, “What about the Jade Ravens?”

Lavinia shook her head, “They are all staying in different places, none at Vanderboren Estate. They have been having some … issues … since you last saw them.”

“And what of Amella?” Saris asked.

“She has been staying in a room at the Last Coconut,” Lavinia replied.

“It’s a pub AND my girl is there. That’s two excellent reasons for me to head over there. I’ll catch up with the rest of you later,” and he started off down the road.

“Wait,” Lavinia called after him, “don’t you need directions?”

“My dear lady,” Saris bowed deeply, “I am Saris Van Sky. I can find the nearest watering hole in my sleep, but thank you, nonetheless.” With that, he turned with a flourish and headed off.

Viselys chuckled and turned to Lavinia, “I, however, will need directions to your home. I would like to get Lefty washed up and then take him for some new cloths. It won’t disguise him, but at least he won’t be walking around looking so much like … well, a pirate.”

“I’ll catch up, too,” Ornrik said. “I’m going to get a quick drink myself, and then check on them at the Hall of Records.”

“I’ll go with you,” Urol said, and the two jogged off after Saris.

* * * *

By the time Saris arrived at The Last Coconut, Zan and Avner had already put away a couple of drinks – not enough to be boisterous, but just enough to be mellow. However, these two were not the ones that immediately drew Saris’ attention.

Near the bar, a handsome man was strumming a tune on a lute while a familiar female ship’s captain sat uncomfortably close to him, hanging on every note.

Saris was stunned, “Amella!”

She looked up, surprised, but not ashamed, “Oh, you made it.” There was no enthusiasm in her voice.

“Well, aren’t you glad to see me?” Saris asked. “Didn’t you miss me?”

“Miss you?!” she spat, “You were the one who sent me away! I wanted to stay with you!”

“And I wanted you to be safe,” Saris offered by way of defense.

“Safe? I’ll give you safe! I’m a ship’s captain. I fought with you against all manor of beasties on the trip here. I can take care of myself, I can stay where I want and I can go where I want, when I want” With that, she stormed off up a set of stairs and slammed a door on the second floor.

Ornrik’s eyes were wide and he turned to whisper to Urol. Whatever he said, Urol nodded in agreement.

With no target for his anger, Saris turned to the lute player, “And where do you get off moving in on another man’s girl?”

“Didn’t know she was ANY man’s girl, mate. I certainly didn’t set out to offend you, since I don’t even know who you are.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll deal with you later. After I’ve had a drink.” Saris walked up to the bar, sat on a stool and shouted, “Barkeep!”

The man with the lute walked around the bar, put the lute down and grabbed a glass, “What’ll it be, mate?”

“You’re the bartender?!” Saris said in shock.

“Bartender and proprietor. My name’s Malfus Fairwind and this is my pub, The Last Coconut.”

Saris hung his head, “Give me a Phoenix Down.”

* * * * *

Ornrik and Urol didn’t even stay for that one drink. Neither of them wanted to hang around and both were eager to check out the Hall of Records, which they had both worked so hard to save from fire.

“So do you really think that Amella…” Urol started to say.

“I can’t be sure, and neither can you,” Ornrik cut him off. “Let’s not talk about it until we’re sure.”

When they arrived at the Hall of records, they found the front door open, presumably to ventilate the smell of smoke. Inside this modest building, they found the damage not as bad as they had expected. Some loose documents towards the front and a few works of art were charred, some beyond repair, but the fire hadn’t spread to the back, where iron cabinets stood, presumably housing the more important documents.

Emerging from those stacks was an energetic and bright-eyed man in his late forties. He had a broom and dust pan in his hand, but he dropped both when he saw them, “Urol Forol!”

“Jeran Emrikad!” Urol waddled over to the much taller man, who got down on one knee to accept an embrace from the gnome. “Jeran, this is my friend, Ornrik, ” he indicated the dwarf who came forward to shake Jeran’s hand, “Ornrik, Jeran was with me on my first trip to Farshore. Well, my only previous trip.”

“Urol, you should have stayed. I’ve had a great time visiting with the Olamns!” Jeran shared.

Urol shook his head, “I couldn’t. I had an obligation to the Vanderborens. I’m back now, though and I’m all ready to get caught up. By the way, on the return trip, I got to investigate the Lost City of Tamoachan!”

“All right, now I’m jealous,” Jeran said. “:Please, tell me all about your adventures."

Urol spun a good yarn, with Ornrik helping to move the story along. Then Jeran took his turn.

“I’ve just recently learned of a local legend of a mysterious eighth Olamn village said to have been located here on Temute,” he said, “As the legend goes, the Kawibusas had a marked taste for warfare. Their warriors and zombie-masters braved the jungles beyond the Great Wall often to explore the ruins of the island’s old ‘gods.’ On one of their forays, they uncovered a sunken temple deep within the jungle that contained an idol of a great ape, carved from a thick piece of obsidian encrusted with gemstones. The Kawibusas proudly carried the stolen idol to their home and placed it at the center of their village. That very night, a great fog rose up and engulfed their settlement. By dawn the entire tribe had mysteriously vanished. Olman visitors who came to the site several days later found the Kawibusas village empty, save for the ominous ape idol. They buried the idol, hoping to end its curse, and never returned. Since then, the story of the eighth tribe has become a popular tale among the Olmans.”

“That’s quite a story,” Urol said in awe.

I’d very much like to discover the site of this lost village and the strange idol,” Jeran stated. "Maybe together we could manage it?"

* * * * *

When Lefty was clean and dressed, Viselys took him to the clothing shop to buy him a couple sets of decent cloths and a nice dress for Diamondback. It was evening by the time they got back to Vanderboren Manor. Just as they arrived, they saw Diamondback approaching from the other direction. She was a mess and, while otherwise undamaged, her leg had been burned and she was limping slightly.

“Tara, are you okay?” Viselys asked, “Where is Adameus?”

She nodded, “I’m okay. We were separated and I don’t know where he got off to. Right now, I just want to wash.”

The three entered the manor and went upstairs to the bedrooms. Viselys stopped of at his room and deposited all but the dress. “Lefty, you’re going to have to stay here. You can’t leave, do you understand?”

“Not a problem, Capt'n. I’m so beat, I’ll be dead to the world until sun-up. You’ll call me for turn out?”

“You bet, Lefty. Sleep tight.”

“Aye, Capt'n. And thanks for the new duds.”

Viselys smiled as he closed the door. He took a slip of paper from his pocket and tucked it between the door and the jam so he would know if Lefty had opened the door in his absence. Then he went with Diamondback to her quarters where he showed her the new dress.”

“That’s very nice,” she said. “Thank you. Which way is the bath?”

“Come on, I’ll show you,” Viselys said, “we can talk on the way.”

She grabbed a clean bodysuit to change into after her bath and they walked down the hall. It would take a while for the tub to fill, so Viselys sat and proceeded to fill her in on what had happened since they’d seen each other last. He was in no way prepared when she reached behind herself to undo the claps on her jumpsuit and peel it down facing him. Her breasts were bare and she began to push the skin-tight outfit past her hips. Viselys got a hold of himself quickly and looked up at the ceiling.

“…and … um …and then I … that is to say … we … me and the others … er …”

“Viselys, relax. It’s alright,” she said in a husky voice. He heard the sound of water sloshing and he knew she was getting into the tub. He dared a glance at her and was relieved that she was hunched over so he couldn’t see anything inappropriate. But then she smiled at him and leaned back.

“You know,” he told her, “I cannot apologize enough about what happened.”

She picked up a sponge and trickled water down her neck, “That’s okay, these things happen.”

Viselys was shocked. Clearly she had no idea what he was talking about. Could she be repressing? Then he had a shocking revelation – Diamondback’s hair was done up. She never wore her hair up. She sometimes wore pigtails or just left it down, but never up.

“Viselys, why don’t you come join me?” she offered. This time Viselys really looked at her. As he did, her outline became fuzzy. The image of a naked Diamondback became translucent, then transparent. As he suspected, it was an illusion. The real bather was a corpse with matted red hair.

“Rowyn!” Viselys exclaimed, stepping back and drawing his sword. Silently he cursed himself for not asking Adameus about the Comb of Disguise. How had Rowyn gotten it? How was she even here? They’d killed her and dumped her body in the middle of the ocean!

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Rowyn dropped the sponge, “Well … shit,” she said in a mild tone. She stood up and removed the comb. Still naked, she was anything but alluring. She really was a pale, emaciated corpse. She glared at Viselys and he was paralyzed. She dried off and put on the clean bodysuit. Then she strolled close to Viselys and whispered luridly in his ear, “I did so hope we would have tonight together. Oh, well.” She was holding a rolled up piece of paper that had apparently been folded into the jumpsuit. She put the scroll in his pocket and again whispered in his ear, “You can’t save them both.”

A second later, Viselys was free to move, but Rowyn was gone. He ran out into the hallway but couldn’t find a trace of her. He threw open the door to his room, scaring Lefty half to death.

“What’s going on, Capt'n?” He said, jumping out of bed.

“Come with me,” Viselys said, already running towards the front door.

Rowyn wasn’t outside, either. “Come on,” he told Lefty, “we have to get the others,” and he headed off towards The Last Coconut.

* * * * *

Saris had a line of empty glassware in front of him. There were about half a dozen shot glasses and two tall glasses. He had a third tall glass in his hand and he drained it.

“…and another thing,” he slurred, slamming the glass down, “when I’m done here, I’m gonna KICK your ass you, you, that’s what you are! You don’t rub another mans rhubarb!”

Malfus said not a word as he brought Saris a coconut with a straw and a paper umbrella sticking out of it.

“Awe!” Saris drooled, taking the tropical drink, “You’re such a nice guy. I LOVE you.” He took a sip and turned his back on the bartender, “Ya’ bastard!”

Just then Viselys and Lefty burst into the pub, “Saris, come on. We gotta go save Diamondback!”

“What, again?!” Saris spat and then made several attempts to find the straw with his lips.

“No, you don’t understand!” Viselys slid the glassware aside with his forearm and laid out the paper that Rowyn had given him. It was a hand-drawn map of the southern portion of the Isle of Dread. There were two red Xs with a note next to each. One said “Diamondback” and the other said “Adameus.” Across the top was written exactly what Rowyn had said, “You can’t save both of them.” Across the bottom were the words, “You have until high tide tomorrow.”

Viselys help up a metal key, “This was wrapped in it.”

Just then, Urol, Ornrik and Jeran entered the pub. They were in high spirits until they saw their companions.

“What’s going on?” Ornrik asked. Viselys filled them in and Ornrik took the key to examine it. He put on his monocle and turned the key over several times, “It’s adamantine and it has a Wizard’s Mark. This mark was cast by a wizard of much higher level than me, but even if I was the same level, I couldn’t tell you what the mark is for. It could be a focus, a spell trigger, any number of things.”

“What are we going to do?!” Saris said, standing up from his stool, taking a step and falling on his face.

Continue to Chapter 3...

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