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LeJerque



Joined: Sep 10, 2003
Posts: 219
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The Race for the Ruined Ring: Chapter 0 Reply to this Post
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Chapter 0: Prologue
Difficulty: None, barring dyslexia
Scoring: N/A
LeJerque sez: The wait is over. I hope you enjoy the story! Or, at least, I hope it tides you over long enough until the puzzles get here tomorrow. A few final disclaimers before we begin... if any of the locations in this story or the three ships sailed upon by our protagonists make you groan and hate me, please bear in mind that they are not my fault. British Sea Power came up with all of them, and I had a contractual obligation to let them have their way. The same applies for the character names! I was paid handsomely to include all of the pirates who appear in this tale--including myself; I swear I didn't want to be in the story--and I apologize for how out-of-character they are acting. To those of you who are surprised to find yourself appearing herein, you have some very rich benefactors to thank. I hope you're okay with your name being used this way, I promise you it is all in the spirit of fun and that your friends bought you the privilege because they thought you'd enjoy it. Now, without further ado... here is the precursor to the contest over six months in the making. Thank you for your readership!
LeJerque recommends: Eyedrops

***

So this was what death was like.

No bright lights, no sublime choir, no cruel flames. Death was cold, black, and hard--like lying on a stone slab... or perhaps the interior of a coffin. Yes, that had to be it; death was an eternal curse to dwell in one's own grave and ponder the errors one had committed in life... most notably the final error that had presumably lead to the end.

What had that error been? What could have been such an egregious offense that it should carry so great a cost? The mind raced in circles, pondering the hills and valleys that had once been the path of a life without consequence. Living for the moment, sailing where the wind blew... amassing the fortune of a lifetime, only to squander it before the sun rose, knowing that tomorrow might never arrive for a bloodthirsty pirate. In retrospect, that last part seemed right on the money.

A pirate's life was fraught with peril, that was never in dispute. But worse sailors had survived the likes of blockades, sinking ships, the clashing of blades and the firing of cannons. Cannons... could it have been? Even now, the distant roar of exploding powder seemed to rush through, the crash of splintering wood seeming to tear the head apart as well. Had there been a gunning mishap? An ill-aimed shot, tearing asunder flesh and bone more easily than a sturdy hull? There could be no other explanation for the continuing BOOM, BOOM, BOOM of endless cannon fire, echoing through eternity in a terrible, torturous cacophony; no other reason behind the swirling, wrenching, nauseating sickness that rolled back and forth like the most tumultuous waters, spinning like a whirlpool whose depths knew no end. Crashing and spinning, exploding and whirling... surely this could not be what justly awaited a hardworking sailor in the hereafter.

"Oi! It's yer turn to buy the next round, ye scabberous sea slug!" The pirate's eyes twitched, his stubble-covered cheeks grimacing in agony at the noisy voice piercing through his rock-filled skull. A terrible groan rose out of him like smoke from a doused campfire, exhausting every bit of breath that he had left. No, it wasn't death after all--it was far, far worse.

Mr. Smith had a hangover.

The room continued to spin like a gut-wrenching typhoon as the rum-soaked pirate dared to creep his eyes open. What might have once seemed like the inside of a coffin was now plainly nothing more than the underside of a table. Smith searched for the floor, tipping over a stool as he tried to determine which direction was up, so that he might push his overly heavy body to its feet. Gripping the table and lurching above its surface, his head throbbed miserably as it received a thunderous "Huzzah!" from a crowd of raucous onlookers. He cursed his fate with gritted teeth, knowing he could ask them not to shout if only he wouldn't have to shout himself in order to be heard.

The events of the evening returned to him in fragments and flashes, each piece bobbing out of the coursing sea of rum and ale that had taken the place of his mind. Smith remembered striding into the Pen and Puzzlement Tavern, same as any other night--the fire-warmed building of gentle, earthy color that surrounded him even now was as familiar as the well-worn blade which hung from his belt. He remembered the welcome sight of Mr. Oneiropoios at the bar, ready as always with a smile and a mug of the usual. Smith cast a scrutinizing look down at the table he found himself at, taking a moment to ensure that it, too, was his usual one. It was then the crucial detail came rushing back to him, and he looked back up with a start. There had been unfamiliar faces in his tavern tonight--a rowdy rabble of pirates who had beaten him to his rightful seat at his favorite table. A group of a dozen or so sailing men and women, three of whom had challenged him to a drinking contest (or possibly six drinking contests)... and who were, much to Mr. Smith's consternation, still here.

"Well! Look who be back on 'is feet!" teased a silvery-haired woman in blue. Smith blinked blearily, trying to place the face that was grinning back at him, teasingly, but not maliciously. She giggled and lifted a tankard in his direction before tilting it back and taking a loud, unladylike gulp. Sitting opposite the drinking female, a clean-shaven man in a well-fitting jacket chuckled through his nose and shook his head at her.

"Leave him be, Miss Pierut. Losing to you, of all people, should be humbling enough." The pirate in blue peered over her tankard, quirking an eyebrow at the jest.

"Ye'd think so, Spinn, an' yet it hasn't whittled yer ego any more'n Aiziril's, here. Perhaps the pair o' ye are happier gettin' drunk on yer own boastin'--"

"Are we drinking, or aren't we?" growled a third pirate between the bantering pair, leveling an annoyed expression at the taunting female. Smith stared directly across the table, giving his vision a moment to join two blurry figures into one clear image of this Aiziril--that of a slouching man with a beard of black to match his attire. An impatient smirk curled at the corner of his mouth as he leaned against his chair, his arms remaining stiffly folded. Smith slowly and deliberately took what he presumed had been his seat, silently pleading with his stomach not to expel its churning contents. The smirking pirate shook his head and sighed as if disappointed at something, tilting his head and letting his hat slide over his eyes slightly. "I'd not complain if ye gave up now, lad. As it stands, ye're down five rounds, a compass, and a pair of boots. If ye intend to catch up--or break even, even--you've got a long task ahead, Mister...?"

"Smith," hiccuped the woozy sailor. "My name is Smith."

"Of course it is," scoffed his black-clad interrogator. "If ye don't want to say it, I won't beg ye." Smith frowned, pursing his lips slightly.

"But it is. P. Smith, sailor and..."

"Ah, yes," smiled Spinn. "Undoubtedly the P is for Pirate. Truly, Mr. Smith, your anonymity does not bother us." Smith gave a slow glance at the man, grumbling inwardly, sure he was being mocked. Who were these strangers to make light of his good name? His eyes focused, wandering past his three opponents to their cohorts, several of whom were busy making themselves at home in his tavern. It was all Oneiropoios could do to keep up with their demands; fast and deft as his hands were at pouring drinks, they were no match for these pirates' mouths. Smith distractedly watched a fiery lass conclude an arm-wrestling match with a thin fellow, their hands slamming into a table with a jarring rattle. "Curse it, Artemis, ye cheat! Ye started early an' everyone saw it."

"Dry up, Righty. Arrr, yer new name be 'Lefty' from now on, says I!"

Smith's attention drifted to his old friend Oneiropoios, who was carrying a trio of mugs, maintaining his outward enthusiasm despite his obvious fatigue. "Drink up, me hearties! I know I been sayin' this fer every round ye've had, but this be the finest ale I've got!"

The drinks hadn't even touched the bar before they were greedily snatched up by three men, cheering and shouting wildly. "To the wind and sea, lads!"

"Oi, ye wait just a minute, Garf! It be yer turn to drink last tonight!"

"Aye, Hermes be right. Ye promised ye'd keep count o' how many we had."

"Oh, an' help ye break me record? Well... I already lost count, then."

"I'll kill ye!"

Smith rolled his eyes, and rubbed his forehead tenderly. It was indeed absurd that anyone might mock his name when there was somebody called "Garf" in the same room. For god's sake, it sounded like somebody laughing with their mouth full.

The three pirates at Smith's table continued to wait with polite amusement for him to gather his thoughts. "Right," Smith coughed, shuddering at the taste of his own tongue. His insides tightened around his chest, rebelling at the idea of any further poisoning for the night, but his mind assured him that he had to win back what he'd lost thus far, both in coin and in pride. The Pen and Puzzlement was more than a tavern, it was a home to him, and he was not prepared to be bested in his own home. He coughed again, wincing at the noise, and rasped back at his rivals. "Remind me again of the stakes."

The man who he'd heard referred to as Spinn smiled and nodded to him, repeating the answer as if he'd had to do so a number of times before. "A round for the winners' crews, of course. Beyond that, my friends and I are rather flexible."

"Aye," chimed Pierut, planting a hand on the table and leaning over it. "Whatever ye have that ye feel might make an interestin' wager. Arrr, I'll start us off, lads!" The grinning female fished into her pocket, wrinkling her nose as she fumbled through the contents. Her expression brightened with recognition, and she withdrew a small silver cup, its rim lined with gold. Pausing a moment to restore some of the trinket's shine with the hem of her coat, she set it in the center of the table with a flourish of her hand. Aiziril looked from the cup to its owner expectantly, receiving only a triumphant smile in response.

The black-clad contender threw up his hands in frustration, leaning over the back of his chair. "Must ye make a performance of everything? Just tell us what it is!"

"Don't ye ruin my fun, Mr. Aiziril," sniffed Pierut. "This be the drinkin' cup o' me first cap'n, it be! When we put into port at the end o' his final voyage, I remember he poured me a drink o' his personal ration in this very cup, an' told me it were mine to keep. 'To Vector,' he toasted, 'And to the fortune o' her new captain.' Arrrr, I do miss the old goat once in a great while!"

Across the table, Spinn gave a sad, understanding smile. "A familiar feeling, Miss Pierut. I regret having no goblet of my own to have offered you--perhaps you might have chosen to stay with the Looterati."

Aiziril gave what might have been his hundredth impatient sigh of the night, cutting the fond memories short. "Aye, it's a miserable tragedy. Crews change, Spinn. Men grow and learn, and most importantly, they move on. I left the Midnight Ocean behind when I brought Fortuna's Beholden out here, and all that went with it. If ye want to dwell in the past, lads and lasses..."

Spinn tightened his lips, leveling a stern, defiant gaze at his detractor. "When you command a crew as memorable as mine, Mr. Aiziril, perhaps you will know the value of treasuring your past. And speaking of past treasures, I believe my wager will demonstrate..."

"Spinn, ye put that triploon on the table, and I'll feed it to ye." Pierut shot her former captain a forbidding glare, and he slowly withdrew his hand, empty, from his pocket, glancing about innocently. "We've all GOT one by now, an' we're growin' sick of 'em!"

"I'll second that," growled Aiziril impatiently. "I wasn't even on this voyage of yours, and yet I've heard the story so many times I may as well have found the treasure myself."

Spinn clucked his tongue and shook his head. "Philistines. You have no taste for a proper tale," he said with folded arms.

"Oi! Demeter! Fronsac! Vainra! Ye lot ever hear about the time Spinn went in search o' the Luncheon fortune?" Aiziril turned around in his seat, calling out to the scattered pirates. Mr. Smith watched with surprised amusement as they answered in turn, not even bothering to look up from their various activities, as if meeting a rehearsed cue.

"Sailed to every corner o' the Midnight Ocean," piped Demeter.

"Defeated an invincible undead foe," chimed Fronsac.

"Found treasure beyond all compare," droned Vainra sarcastically.

"I wouldn't mind hearin' it again..."

"Shut yer gob, Mr. LeJerque."

Spinn became quite annoyed as the tavern broke into laughter, taking a slow breath to keep his calm exterior. "Hmph. Drunken louts, the lot of you. Very well, then--I shall wager this spyglass," he muttered, placing a small telescope next to Pierut's ante. "Unless, of course, you have grown tired of lenses, or some such ridiculous complaint."

"'tis a fine stake, Spinn," nodded Aiziril. The pirate sat up straight, reaching a hand behind his back to retrieve his own offering--a large dagger with a nicked blade and a grimacing skull mounted in the hilt. He turned it around once in his fingers before plunging it into the table and smirking proudly. "Aye, I know, it's a skull dagger, hardly seems interestin'. Well, mates, ye should know that I earned this blade from a walkin' skeleton I chanced across on me way here to the Ice Shards." He grinned a moment, and chuckled. "A skellie with no head, mind ye. At least, not anymore." Smith winced slightly, studying the skull again. Its empty eyes seemed to be looking to him expectantly, though he had nothing to give it.

The three captains at his table, he quickly realized, had begun to look to him as well, and he shuddered off the distraction with another hiccup. "Aye, aye... a wager. Arrrr, I've got somethin' suitable here." He began patting down his pockets, worry starting to creep into his brow as he found them largely empty. "Somethin'... just a moment, lads..." His opponents chuckled sympathetically as he continued to search for a trinket or treasure worth betting.

"Take yer time, Smith. We have plenty o' faith in ye to provide a lovely prize." Aiziril leaned quite far back in his chair, propping a foot against the table and balancing his seat on two legs.

"Aye, ye keep lookin', we'll prepare the match," smiled Pierut, turning towards the bar and placing a hand next to her mouth. "Mr. Oneiropoios! Set us up with another round o' yer 'FINEST!'"

The tavernkeeper was already on his way over to the table with four servings of rum, smiling and giving polite nods to its occupants. "Nothin' but the best for me close personal hearties. I had this barrel brewed especially for yer visit!" He hoisted the cups in one hand, beaming for a moment before shooting a sly look at Spinn. "Assumin', o' course, that ye bilge rats have the pieces o' eight to pay for it."

Spinn rolled his eyes and smiled. "Such an accusing tone, Mr. Oneiropoios. I would hate to think that you didn't trust in your former captain--even after he helped to pay for this prized tavern."

"Aye, and so ye see why I might suspect ye of bein' broke," quipped Oneiropoios with mock arrogance, giving Pierut a fit of giggling as he continued. "Fer example, I see there's no triploon in the stakes. Have ye spent them all, finally?"

"Don't ye start," Aiziril interjected. "Even mocking Mr. Spinn can get repetitive--though he provides ample opportunity. No, we're waiting on our good friend Smith, here." Everyone's attention returned to the frantically searching sailor, who was wearing a forced smile as he plunged his hand into yet another pocket. Smith's face lit up a moment, his slightly bloodshot eyes widening as he finally struck treasure. He pulled something small and shiny from his coat, and studied it a moment, looking worriedly from his prize to his opponents. He took a deep breath, gave a silent prayer, and slowly deposited a tiny golden ring upon the table.

The others looked dubiously at the new bauble. It was rather dwarfed by the other offerings--it appeared to be smaller than a single piece of eight. The shine was largely faded, showing its age, and to top it all off, there was a rather obvious gap in its form. A large hole sat staring out at the group, looking to be an ideal place where a jewel or precious stone might be set, but no such gem was present. In all, it could barely be called a treasure. Pierut blinked a few times, wrinkling her nose. "Well! That's... unique, I suppose."

Spinn reached out, plucking the ring from the table, rolling it over in his fingers as he pursed his lips. "Indeed. I suppose it does pique my interest, but that is primarily because I'm expecting that you have a VERY impressive tale to compensate for this... thing."

Smith's lip trembled, his mind hurriedly calculating the distance from his seat to the door, and dividing it by the number of pirates in his way. "Aye, well, o' course... it be a tale to be sure." He swallowed, the entire tavern seeming to grow quiet in anticipation of his story. Even the wandering crews seemed to have turned in his direction to hear his undoubtedly exciting tale. "Ye see, I were ridin' the ferry a fortnight ago, an' the seas get real calm-like. We're goin' noplace in a hurry, so I thinks to meself, what's the harm in droppin' a line to burn some time? I baits a hook with a bite o' bread and tosses 'er in, an' I gets a bite right away, see, an' I haul in a big fat snapper. I starts gettin' hungry right there, since I'd just used the last o' me bread, an' we're still just floatin' there in a dead calm, so I finds the ship's cook, an' offer to split the catch with him. He agrees, an' we starts cuttin' up this big ol' snapper. An' blow me down if that fish hadn't swallowed a ring, it turns out! A lucky day for me, eh?" Smith smiled hopefully, looking around the room at several expectant faces. "Eh?" he prompted again, feeling his heart make ready to escape out his throat.

"That's the worst story I've ever heard!" snarled a pirate at the bar.

"Hermes is right," spat Artemis. "Ye didn't even hold out yer hands to show how big the fish was! What are ye, green?"

"Oi, I fished up a dead rat the other day! Let's wager over it," laughed Fronsac.

Smith sheepishly lowered his head, biting his tongue. Spinn held the ring up between two fingers, shaking his head disappointedly. "I'm afraid my interest has passed, Mr. Smith. Oneiropoios, we may need a few more minutes to be ready for those drinks." Oneiropoios did not take the rum back to the bar, however. Spinn looked up, realizing his old crewmate was staring at him with a very changed expression. His eyes were open in wonder and amazement, his face frozen widely in a look resembling hunger or desperation. Spinn had barely begun to form the obvious query when the tavernkeeper snapped forward, his hand flashing out to snatch the ring from Spinn. Bewildered, Spinn pushed his chair away and rose to his feet, gaping at Oneiropoios with a mixture of shock and betrayal. "Are you mad?! What on earth has possessed you, Oneiro--"

The name was too long for Spinn to complete before the suddenly-crazed barman turned and made a dash for the door, the ring clutched tightly in one hand, and four servings of rum in the other. Aiziril sputtered a surprised yelp as Oneiropoios ran right past him, tilting his chair completely over and falling onto his back in a confused heap. Spinn shook on the spot, his hand trembling near the hilt of his sword, torn between an old friendship and a new insult, his hesitation allowing the thief to make his escape. Pierut pointed to a woman by the door, shrieking out to her. "Jacquilynne! Stop him!" The surprised pirate looked up from her mug, blinking rapidly as she watched Oneiropoios flee right past her and out into the night. She looked back to her captain, who was now staring at her with dumbfounded anger.

Jacquilynne sniffed, shrugging and taking another drink of ale. "What? It's not like he can steal his own rum."

-----

In all the islands that comprised the Tourmaline Archipelago, the one called Ice Shards was among the oldest to have been colonized. Though it had yet to earn a history as rich as that of the Midnight Ocean from whence its settlers came, it had been established long enough to carry a palace, a modest navy, and enough businesses to attract a regular crowd of sailors. Traders, opportunists, and wanderers had long since grown accustomed to the regular sights and sounds of the island. Judging from the number of turned heads, though, it was entirely possible that nobody had before watched the local tavernkeeper racing through the loosely cobbled streets, chased by a furious band of screaming, sword-waving pirates.

Oneiropoios cursed fate for not giving him adequate time to break in his new boots as he kept up his sprint, nearly tumbling over as he rounded a corner. Not daring to risk a look over his shoulder, he instead looked down at the mysterious ring in his hand, praying between breaths that his suspicions were worth risking his good health for. He was one man against twelve; confronting the mob was not an option. He simply continued to run as quickly as he was able, counting on eluding his angry friends long enough to get the treasure to safety... if there could, in fact, be a safe haven from a band of angry buccaneers.

"Stop, ye limey thief!" Pierut shouted, hissing gasps of exertion through her teeth as she ran after her quarry. So often an escaping foe was remedied by a quick yell to the sailmaster--it had been too long since she'd had to catch one on foot.

Just behind her, Aiziril held onto his hat with one hand as he, too, chased their mutual prey. "He didn't stop the first six times ye demanded it, lass, he ain't stoppin' now! I don't know what's so bleedin' special about that ring, but I'm not about to let some barman steal my chance to find out!" Spinn, hot on his mates' heels, opened his mouth to offer assent, but chose instead to save his breath for the chase. Behind their three captains, the mingled crews chased as well, blades drawn.

"Arrr, get ye back here with that rum, ye scum!"

"Ye tart, Artemis, It's a ring he stole!"

"Aye..? Well, dibs on the rum when we catches him, anyway!"

"Where be the rat fleein' to?"

Hermes lifted his blade, and pointed it towards a massive, opulent fortress at the end of the street. "'tis the governor's palace!"

The palace, at first glance, might have deceived a visitor into thinking the structure was older than it actually was. Its apparent disrepair was the sort often found in abandoned, decades-old buildings, long ago razed by looters or vandals. In truth, however, it had only started to look this way recently, despite still being in regular use. Even at this hour of the night, in fact, the torches still burned and the front door was still guarded by a pair of tired-looking swordsmen. They blinked off their sleepiness at the surprising sight of Oneiropoios dashing headlong towards them, carrying several servings of rum.

"Ahoy there, Mr. Oneiropoios! Ye're in an awful hurry, aye?" smiled the guard, tipping his tricorne to the familiar (if somewhat panicked) face. The tavern owner panted, gaping down at the rum in his hand, barely even remembering where it had come from. He thrust the cups into the guard's surprised hands, and lurched towards the door.

"Here... 's on the house... got... see guv'ner... have ye... good night!" The guards blinked, watching Oneiropoios as he stumbled exhaustedly and desperately past them into the palace. Glancing from their sudden gifts to each other, the pair of sentries could only stare. It was an unusual situation, certainly, but the owner of the Pen and Puzzlement was a well-respected member of the community, and had a standing invitation to take an audience with the governor. Shrugging, they smiled and raised their cups towards one another, and tilted them back for a pleasant drink. The rum warmed their palates, coursing like liquid fire under their tongues, and sprayed out of their lips in a splatter as the moonlight reflected into their eyes from a dozen or so threatening blades, slowly advancing towards the entrance. The blades' owners did not look to be in a reasonable or friendly state.

Garf leveled a glare at one guard, and tightened his grip around his sword. "One way or another, matey, I'm gettin' that rum back."

-----

Spinn gave a distasteful frown as he carefully stepped over a fallen guard. The man wouldn't be fencing--or doing anything--with his good hand any time soon, and it was doubtful if he might ever know the joy of solid food again, but at least he was alive. Straightening his coat with a neat tug, Spinn slowly walked into the foyer. As eager as he was to locate Oneiropoios, he couldn't restrain a smile as he admired the architecture of this marvelous building. Letting such artful surroundings fall into such shoddy condition was nearly criminal, in his eyes. Behind him, Aiziril was barking orders to the assembled group. "Lads, we know he's in here someplace. Vector, ye take the upstairs, an' Looterati can take the bottom.... and Mr. LeJerque, please tell Demeter and Artemis to stop fighting over that man's hat and leave it be."

The poorly-groomed sailor glanced at his crewmates, who were cursing and snarling as they fought a tug-of-war for the tricorne, and blinked incredulously back to his captain. "Ye do it."

Pierut started up the grand staircase towards a set of double doors, stowing her sword. She, like Spinn, was not yet entirely sure she wanted to cross blades with her former crewmate Oneiropoios when she caught him. Her blade was drawn out awfully quickly, however, when the doors ahead of her were flung open with a loud bang, drawing the attention of the entire mob. Pierut shook off the surprise before she fell backwards into Righty, and held her sword aloft, ready to defend herself against a slender woman wearing a long dress and an irritated expression. "Stop right there! Just who do you pirates think you are, barging into the Governor's Palace whenever you please? Get out, the whole bloody mess of you!"

The invaders looked at the fiery woman, striding brazenly down the stairs towards them, unarmed and alone. Hermes smirked, stepping out from behind Pierut and jabbing a finger towards her. "Now see here, lass, we be pirates! We'll not hear any o' yer--Arr, what're ye doin'?! Avast! Leave off!" The brave pirates stared, dumbfounded, as the woman proceeded to box Hermes' ears, swat the back of his head, and give him a thoroughly brutal scolding, making the poor sailor retreat down the stairs.

"Don't you 'lass' me, you braying mule! You unmannered lout!"

"Stop--stop it! Don't be hittin'--Cap'n Pierut, help!"

It was only when the entire group had managed to act as a barrier between Hermes and the woman that she finally stopped her assault, growling at the cowed sailor in the back. She took in a long breath to force some semblance of calm into her demeanor, and hissed at the pirates from gritted teeth and narrowed eyes. "Now, begone from this place, you filthy scoundrels, and never darken our door again."

"I think she be havin' somethin' against pirates, cap'n," offered Vainra helpfully.

Spinn smiled calmly at his Lieutenant. "Duly noted, Miss Vainra." He turned to the woman in the dress, removing his hat in a show of chivalry. "Madam, I assure you, our only intention is--" Within moments, Spinn was using his broad hat to awkwardly parry the woman's renewed attacks, shielding his ears and head from her admonishing blows.

"That's Lilymorgan--Miss Lilymorgan to you, pillaging fiends--and as vizier to the governor, I can assure you that you pirates are not welcome in his home!"

"But, ye let in that thievin' Oneiropoios," protested Jacquilynne from her safe ground behind Spinn, "An' he's as scurvy a sailor as they come!"

Lilymorgan stopped hitting Spinn, staring with angry, wide eyes at the interruption, prompting Jacquilynne to duck back behind the rest of her crewmates. "That rum runner is in this house?! At this hour?"

"Aye, an' it's him we seek," piped Garf, capitalizing on the sudden change of subject. "Turn him out, an' we'll trouble ye no more."

Shoulders shaking, the vizier stepped away from Spinn and exhaled slowly. "Very well... I can guess where he's gotten to. But if this is another of your pirate lies...!" The assembled group flinched and covered their ears reflexively.

"No ear-boxin'!"

"Arrr, I hate that," complained Pierut.

Lilymorgan turned to start walking up the stairs, followed extremely hesitantly by the three crews. Even if it had occurred to them to snitch a treasure or two despite their captains' orders, it struck the group as odd that no such baubles were to be seen. No paintings hung on the walls, no exquisitely woven rugs lined the floor under their feet. Not so much as a bronze candlestick awaited the discerning eye or the greedy hand. Aiziril glanced at his crew, wondering if they, too, had drawn the possible connection between the absence of treasure and the vizier's distaste for pirates. He suspected he would find out before the night was over.

Finding themselves before a large oaken door, the pirates halted as Lilymorgan raised a hand, and put the other to her lips, shushing them silently. She gently and slowly leaned towards the door, pressing an ear against a small keyhole, and quickly straightening back up with a snarl. "He's snuck into the governor's room! You pirates may just get to use those fancy swords of yours after all." Spinn looked to Pierut with an expression of worry. Had Oneiropoios changed so much from the honorable sailor they knew? Before they had much time to dwell on it, however, Lilymorgan shoved the door open and barged inside, followed quickly by the increasingly edgy band of pirates.

A battle cry died on their lips as the surprised crews surveyed the scene. The governor's bedroom was, like the rest of his palace, reduced to a state befitting that of a pauper, composed only of a modest bed adorned with dingy sheets, a small desk with ink and quill, a wooden stool with three of four legs intact, and a flickering oil lamp which provided barely enough light. The governor himself, dressed in a ruffled shirt and blue pants, glanced to the noise of intruders; his face was wrinkled and his greyed eyes showed few signs of recognition, surprise, or in fact any outward reaction whatsoever. He tightened his lips from behind a white, ancient-looking beard, the curled hairs appearing to have the texture of burnt grass. Standing in front of the old man was Oneiropoios, looking to the pirates with a mix of determination and dread. He swallowed, turning towards the rapidly approaching woman. "Ahoy, Miss Lilymorgan... I be sorry fer the intrusion, but as ye can see, there weren't time to ask ye to show me in," he muttered, waving towards the glaring group.

"I'll show you right back out, you boor," snapped the governor's aide, jabbing a finger towards the tavernkeeper's nose. "I don't care if you are Julius' friend, you've got some nerve to take sanctuary in his bedroom! Tell me this very instant why I shouldn't let this mob keelhaul you, or some such nautical punishment."

Oneiropoios locked eyes with Lilymorgan, and without hesitation, held up the mysterious golden ring. Her face softened in a heartbeat to awe and disbelief, the fury in her eyes replaced by a gentle shimmering, tears nearly escaping down her flushed cheeks. "It can't... it can't possibly be!" She rushed forward, pushing aside the mobbed pirates and grasping Oneiropoios' hand to pull it close, examining the treasure he possessed. "Oh, Mr. Oneiropoios, you're a marvel! You are going to be a very rich man!" She hurriedly took the ring and placed it in the governor's wrinkled hand, and stepped away. As she watched expectantly, the bearded senior pressed his fingers together around the trinket, feeling it quite thoroughly, his wizened face twinkling with a distant happiness--a happiness that, all too soon, changed back to sadness and exhaustion. His hand opened, and he let the ring fall to the floor with a soft clink, wheezing a long sigh. His loyal vizier looked down at where the ring had fallen, her breath catching in her chest, her shoulders slowly slumping. "Oh, no, but... the stone... it's not here."

Thoroughly filled with incomprehension and impatience, Aiziril stepped to the front of the crowd, folding his arms sternly. "I'm sure that worthless trinket is truly special, Miss Lilymorgan, but it happens to be mine."

Pierut snorted, pushing her way to Aiziril's side. "The devil it be yers! Ye haven't out-drunk me fer it yet!"

Spinn made his way next to Pierut, smirking across to her and Aiziril. "Or me, for that matter, Mr. Aiziril. And, Oneiropoios, shame on you, my lad. I thought better of you than stealing our prize... and certainly better than to try and squeeze the last bit of money from a poor old gentleman as some sort of reward."

Lilymorgan whirled around, silencing them with her frosty tone. "Worthless--drunk--POOR?!" She waved a hand towards the governor, sniffing haughtily. "This 'poor old gentleman' is Julius the Orange, governor of the Ice Shards, builder of Crystal's Palace, and wealthiest landowner in the entire Locum Ocean!"

The pirates blinked to one another. "Oi, this be Crystal's Palace?" murmured Fronsac.

"Indeed," spat Lilymorgan, "So show some respect."

"Impossible! Crystal's Palace is filled with riches an' finery," cried Demeter.

"Aye, an' enough gold to choke a kraken," insisted Righty, looking around at a distinct lack of any such treasures.

Lilymorgan nodded, sighing and sitting gently on the rotted wooden stool. "It still is. Jewels and antiques and thousands of pieces of eight."

A hush immediately fell over the group, their attention now entirely focused on the vizier, who merely sat and sighed to herself, eyes closed in thought. The pirates watched her, expectantly and eagerly, for fully ten minutes.

"Well... are ye goin' to tell the tale, or aren't ye?" shrieked Artemis, unable to stand the awkward silence any longer.

"Oh, very well," muttered Lilymorgan, though it seemed perfectly obvious she had been waiting for the opportunity to do exactly that. "It's obvious that you wouldn't understand--why would the richest man in the ocean let his palace fall into ruin, and live in apparent poverty? What you do not know, pirates, is that he has lost a treasure whose worth cannot ever be adequately assessed... the affection of his daughter.

"Julius the Orange and his little girl never did see eye to eye... while he always wanted for her to one day take his place as governor of the Ice Shards, she told him she would much rather set out on a grand sailing vessel and cross the Locum Ocean... to see the islands beyond the horizon, and perhaps one day even reach the waters of Midnight, where brigands run rampant, and every harbor hides adventure and oddly-named shoppes. Julius might not have been happy with her desires, but he valued her happiness too much to stand in her way. He promised the child that, when she came of age, he would be there to christen her ship himself.

"It was just about two years ago that Julius' daughter fell in love with a dashing privateer. He was very rough around the edges, smelled of grog and coconuts, and though he had both legs, he was always carrying around a peg 'just in case.' Still, his skill at the helm of a ship was second to none, and his beard was finer than that of any man or woman in the archipelago. When he came to Julius to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage, Julius happily agreed. He believed that it would be an ideal union--not only did his daughter love this captain with all her heart, but Julius knew that she would be far safer sailing with him than by herself.

"Together, Julius and the captain arranged a surprise for the bride-to-be. Her lover boasted of a jeweler he knew on a distant island, and promised to return with a wedding ring of his own design, set with a beautiful, perfect gem that would perfectly express his love. Julius, delighted by the idea, gave the young man all the gold he'd need to commission this perfect ring, and one other piece as well; an adornment whose identity he revealed to nobody but the captain--not even to me. Julius planned to surprise his daughter with this treasure as well on her wedding day, to forever remind her how much he loved her as she went off to seek her own fortunes. The captain set off to get these two pieces, and Julius began to plan a wedding his daughter would never forget. And it was unforgettable, indeed... in all the wrong ways.

"Months later, Julius' soon-to-be son-in-law sailed back into port with a thin crew and a nearly sinking ship. He had neither of the pieces, nor the money Julius had given him to acquire them. As Julius and his daughter listened in horror, he told them that he had sailed out and purchased the jewelry as promised... and then, merely two leagues from the Ice Shards, his vessel was intercepted by a pirate ship. He fought fiercely, but he was outgunned, outnumbered, and taunted most cruelly. Shuddering, the captain went on to say that he was finally boarded by a brute of a man who cornered him with a hatchet-like blade... none other than the dread Captain Cleaver."

A gasp rose from the intently listening pirates. "Impossible. Cleaver be a sailor's nightmare--a tale ye tell over too many ales, or in a chantey what don't always rhyme right an' be havin' inconsistent meter," breathed Vainra.

Lilymorgan nodded slowly, looking up at her for a moment. "That was what Julius said. Furious, he accused the young captain of claiming the gold for himself, and rescinded his marriage blessing. The captain, in return, stormed off at being called a liar, vowing never to return. Julius' daughter was, needless to say, heartbroken, something that did not improve when her father told her that this was what came of being a pirate. She sailed off that same night, without her father's blessing, and has not come back to this island since."

There was another silence as Lilymorgan slowly stood up, each of the twelve sailors reflecting on the sad story as the vizier picked up the discarded ring. "Since then, Julius has been a shell of a man. He spends no more time or money on his palace, ignores his official duties... barely even eats. The last words he spoke to me were a plea that I, tragically, could not fulfill... he offered me the entire treasury to recover his daughter's gifts, and prove to him the truth behind their disappearance that fateful day. Alas, were I only to bring Julius the Orange some peace of mind while he still breathes!" Lilymorgan buried her face in her hands, and sat back down with the ruined ring, moaning quietly. The assembled pirates, however, were now looking quite eagerly towards that tiny ring which had seemed so pitiful at first glance.

"Oi. Ye said the entire treasury...? Just how much booty are we talkin', then?" prodded Pierut.

"More well than you can imagine, pirate," sneered Lilymorgan indignantly.

"I don't know, Miss Lilymorgan, I can imagine a lot," smirked Aiziril.

Spinn gazed up at the ceiling with a growing smile, stroking his chin as he spoke. "Two meager treasures worth a combined fortune. Who better than pirates to claim such a prize?"

Garf moved to Spinn's side, piping up in enthusiastic agreement with his captain. "Aye, an' who better than the cleverest crew in the Locum Ocean to track it down! Huzzah fer Looterati!"

Demeter scoffed, and put her hands on her hips. "Belay that, Mr. Garf. 'tis Cap'n Aiziril an' Fortuna's Beholden who'll find it first!"

"Aye, what the tart says!" Artemis put in.

"Ye're both tarts, an' Cap'n Pierut be a better tart than any o' ye!" shouted Hermes, raising his voice above the growing boasts and arguments. "Worry not, Miss Lilymorgan, Vector will have yer treasures back before ye can box a single ear!"

Aiziril looked at his loyal sailors, squabbling with their new rivals and refusing to back down from their jibes and insults. "They make it sound so easy."

"How hard can it be?" smiled Pierut, rubbing her hands eagerly together. "We already knows Cap'n Cleaver's name, an' barrin' any armies o' the undead, we're already halfway there!"

"Always thinking ahead, Miss Pierut," chuckled Spinn. "Now, Miss Lilymorgan--you say we're to recover the gem that belongs to this ring, as well as Julius' own gift for his daughter?"

"Yes--find those, and you'll likely find the thief, as well."

"Quite. Now, this stone--you said the captain intended to select a rare, personalized one for his bride. Do you know what sort it was?"

"No."

"Ah. Well, what of Julius' gift, did you hear anything about what it might have been?"

"No."

"I see. Well, I don't suppose you might have an idea where Julius' daughter, or her lover, or perhaps Captain Cleaver might--"

"Afraid not."

Spinn pursed his lips, and turned back to Pierut and Aiziril, blinking. "Well. Thus ends the quest. Not that it wasn't a thrilling race, my friends. Bravely fought."

Pierut smirked, shaking her head at Spinn. "Arrrr! Someone's got to know somethin', says I!"

Aiziril narrowed his eyes, starting to turn around. "Someone does know something." He turned further, and his eyes darted about the room, his fists suddenly clenching. He hissed in an angry breath, roaring, "Where's that tavernkeeper gotten to?!" The group stopped their arguments, suddenly looking about frantically as well for Oneiropoios, who was conspicuously absent from the room. In a flash, all eyes turned to the door, which was ajar, and to LeJerque, who was standing absent-mindedly next to it, shuffling his feet guiltily.

"Arrr... he told me he had to use the head."

Aiziril covered his face with the palm of his hand, sighing irritatedly.

-----

Leaning over the stern of the Tourmaline Ferry, Mr. Smith watched the Ice Shards slowly disappear into the night. He patted a hand over his pocket, and smiled, coughing an odd chuckle. He'd been in more than his fair share of drinking contests, but he'd never before seen a triple-forfeit. Still, with his new skull dagger, spyglass, and lucky drinking cup at the ready, he was very sure he'd find another worthy contest in the next port... wherever in the Locum Ocean that should happen to be.

***

And there's the prologue. See you tomorrow!
----------------------------------------
I have stolen all the fiber from your mind!

Tune ye in to Shanty Raid-io!
http://shantypp.servemp3.com:6328
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ElSpoom



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As nobody's said it yet, very nice story. Look forward to tomorrow!
----------------------------------------
- Spoom
[size=10]Captain, Pie Revolution

Diamond: Because I'm lazy.
Katattacksme wrote: 
Crack holds no sway on the human mind like that of YPP.

[Aug 22, 2004 5:54:48 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://uberm00.net/    SpoomApex    SpoomApex    54460376 [Link]  Go to top 
kaosfere

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"Impossible. Cleaver be a sailor's nightmare--a tale ye tell over too many ales, or in a chantey what don't always rhyme right an' be havin' inconsistent meter," breathed Vainra.


Harr! Well played!
----------------------------------------
I alone have the flet!
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Setheran



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That was great; you clearly have a talent for writing.
----------------------------------------
Captain of the crew Rogue Disciples
Lord of the flag Equinox
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[Edit 1 times, last edit by Setheran at Aug 22, 2004 8:13:53 AM]
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calliecat



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lol
guess i know now why you didnt want to be in the story!

can't wait for the puzzles tomorrow.
----------------------------------------
=^.^=

Calliecat of Red Dawn
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lilstuffin



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abosolutely wonderful Reply to this Post
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That has been some good reading..very much looking forward for more
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Myrrima
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Drachenwing



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LeJerque wrote: 
Chapter 0: Prologue
Difficulty: None, barring dyslexia


'ey!! I be offended. I be dyslexic an' I read ye story jus' fine ye scurvy dog.

- Drakeeye team Cap'n o' The Moose of Doom
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Queanie

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Harr that was great! I'm afeared I'll be enjoying the story to much to focus on the puzzles arrr!
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Jezabella
Supposedly retired, but recently seen skulking around on various botes
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Martai_Khan



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Arr, that be a piratey story and a half Mr LeJerque! This "Mr Smith" be a right-real-rogue, just my type of pirate! Forget the ring, I'm off to find the enigmatic "Mr P. Smith"!

/me heads to the dock to board the Tourmaline Ferry
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[size=9]Martai
Proud to be Captain of The Privateers
Honoured to be Prince of Midnight Armada

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Frostburnx

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Very nice story indeed. I be assumin when i say im guesin all those pirates are outa character (and they are almost the whole lot of em, but not by much) because you prolly dont actually know the lot of em, but very nice anyway! Aiziril is altually right on the money and Fronsac wasnt too off either. :)

I await Chapter One excitedly!

Be feared ye dirty dock monkeyin' teams! Batten Cordon ganna get yers and beatcha down!!
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Liliene on Cerulean
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deathprog23

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Great stuff matey! If I quoted all the bits that made me laugh out loud or want to applaud, I'd double the length of this thread... and your head might explode with pride, which would be no good, eh?

Fantastic job of managing being forced to write yourself in too - hope you enjoyed the writing as much as we enjoy the reading!

And what's more - looks like an early head start for Oneiropoios, aaarrrr!

OP
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"I wanna be like the ocean, no talkin' an' all action." Jane's Addiction, Ocean Size
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Matthias

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Ooh, good stuff! I can't wait for the puzzles!

Matt, who's keeping all his favourite bits quiet in case they turn out to be significant to the plot
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I took my own advice.
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mantus23

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When I read that to meself fer some strange reason all the voices seem to sound like a drunken man on a street corner. Strange OR weird? You be the judge!
----------------------------------------
"The Colonel" Sanders
Blockade Technology Division: Notorious Fandango
Not not not Governor of Endurance or Nu.
Not Spoppy's husband
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joedigriz

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mantus23 wrote: 
When I read that to meself fer some strange reason all the voices seem to sound like a drunken man on a street corner. Strange OR weird? You be the judge!

Bizarre. I had the same dream.
----------------------------------------
Garbuck - Red Mantis Scapegoat and Pretty Pretty Princess
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Muria



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It's Monday... Reply to this Post
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It's torture being in EDT. Instead of having to wait another hour and 15 mins for the next installment, I have to wait another 4 hours! And I've already been up 2 hours thinking about it!

Enjoying the story already though. I always was the type to sit up half the night finishing reading the book rather than wait till morning... this is a severe test of patience. :)

Arrgh!
Parlia
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Doh, that's right, you people operate on PST don't you. Dur, i'm a moron.

Shanoyu,
Who unfortunately is too busy playing with graduate classes to do this now. :(

edit: after walking into a room and hearing the words "Six hours of field research daily" combined with "Ya know you undergraduates might want to take a class not so physical labor intensive to satisfy your honor requirements" my schedule has now rectified itself to said puzzling.
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His Holiness, The Dope
[Aug 23, 2004 2:04:21 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Muria



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No chance of it being posted early, is there? :)

Less than 15 mins to Chapter 1!!! :)

Parlia

PS Yes, I have nothing better to do. :) Well, there's feeding the kids, buying groceries to nurse my poor sick husband (head cold), laundry, dishes, change a diaper, walk the dog, but come on. Is that more important than a "Less than 15 minutes to Chapter 1" post? :)
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thoren



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I'm sitting here with 3 minutes to noon getting all excited because I see LeJerque browsing this forum. [size=7]Not that seeing LeJerque gets me excited or anything.

shut up
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Trilse
[size=7]Mostly Retired SO of Extremely Happy Pirates
[size=7]Mostly Retired ex-Lord of Water Sleeps
[size=9]Callahans : Mmmmm... Spicy!
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LeJerque



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I'm actually trying to post the damn thing. The posts are too long and it breaks the forums!

I tried to post it some 10mins ago, so in theory it should pop up any minute... this is the same thing that happened yesterday, and the reason why there were 2 or 3 duplicate threads.

I apologize for my wordiness!
----------------------------------------
I have stolen all the fiber from your mind!

Tune ye in to Shanty Raid-io!
http://shantypp.servemp3.com:6328
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Muria



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Have you considered posting it in sections in multiple messages, at appropriate breaks in the story? (Like for Chapter 0, when the tavern keeper (whose name I cannot spell off the top of my head) heads out the door would be a good cliffhanger for the first message. Continue on to the next message with the next paragraph (or a Part 0-continued heading).

Just a thought if you're having that much trouble.

Gonna go see if it's working yet. :)

Parlia
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spinn

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LeJerque wrote: 
Spinn pursed his lips, and turned back to Pierut and Aiziril, blinking. "Well. Thus ends the quest. Not that it wasn't a thrilling race, my friends. Bravely fought."

Heh heh heh. That's my favorite bit, and only half for the ego reason.
----------------------------------------
And thus, the message is concluded.
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