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LeJerque



Joined: Sep 10, 2003
Posts: 219
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The Race for the Ruined Ring: Chapter 4 Reply to this Post
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Chapter 4: Inn Cognition
Difficulty: Fiendish
Scoring: 22 Promising Pirate Points
LeJerque sez: Although I'm terribly fond of this chapter story-wise, today I've slowed down the puzzles a bit, since I'm sure you all have your hands full with yesterday's player-submitted riddles. There's just three puzzles today, but they're not easy ones! In fact, the last puzzle is one of THOSE...
LeJerque recommends: Legos
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES POST OR DISCUSS PUZZLE ANSWERS TO THE FORUMS! YOU WILL BE DISQUALIFIED IMMEDIATELY!

***

Aiziril's lips pressed tightly together as the rolling fire slid along the back of his throat. He held his breath a moment longer, savoring the furious, spicy rush that shot through his veins, tingling through the sides of his skull with a shudder, like a wave crashing hard upon a rocky shore. The captain of Fortuna's Beholden gave his cup a delicate swirl, grinning down at the few drops left behind, pondering whether or not to spare them. He sighed happily, lowering his goblet and gazing out towards the deck of his ship. "I tell ye, Miss Demeter, there's only one drink finer than rum."

The target of his unasked question gave an amused smirk, giggling quietly as she rose to the obvious bait. "What drink be that, then, cap'n?"

Aiziril lowered his cup, laying his hand proudly on the edge of a sturdy wooden cask. "Rum I didn't pay for." His eyes wandered towards the deck again, surveying his prizes; the spoils of a hard-fought battle had been neatly piled near the hold as his diligent crew took measure of their winnings. Initially, he'd cursed his luck when the larger, faster vessel began chasing him, but his attackers hadn't used their cannons. Perhaps they were out of shot; perhaps they had intended to seize his ship without damaging it too badly. Perhaps Demeter had been right, and they were simply very stupid pirates. Whatever the reason, the would-be thieves were counting on their swords to win the day, and that decision had cost them dearly.

A chuckle twitched behind Aiziril's lips as he glanced to the starboard rail, eyeing the grappling hook that was still firmly lodged there, its dangling rope cut free when his crew had finished collecting their cargo and left the beaten marauders to drift away and lick their wounds. Along with the scrap of enlightening parchment he had recovered from the Ice Shards, this was now twice in a row that a potential disaster had turned in his favor, and Aiziril was starting to believe he might just have gotten on fate's good side. "Mister LeJerque! Have you counted it all, yet?" he called, leaning around the ship's wheel.

The spry young man tilted his small hat back, and put his hands on his hips with a grin. "Aye, cap'n! Five barrels o' rum, forty feet o' fresh lumber, an' nearly four hundred pieces o' eight! A fine take, if ye don't mind me sayin' it. And," he added, lifting up one final trophy, "This smashin' blue hat!"

A fair-skinned hand reached out to snatch the headpiece away, twirling it on a long finger. "I'll be claimin' this one, lad." LeJerque frowned sadly as the roguish woman settled the oblong headpiece onto her golden hair, giving it a jaunty tilt. "Methinks blue be suitin' me quite nicely."

"Ye're no fair, Artemis," pouted the sailor, his thin beard drooping. "Ye promised I could be keepin' the next hat we plundered!"

"That were before I saw this one, lad!" giggled Artemis, folding her arms and posing triumphantly with her new article. "But ye can have the next one I don't want."

"That goes double fer ye, lass," cackled Demeter, swiping the hat away from behind Artemis with a wave of her arm. "Seein' as how this lovely lid will look much better up here." She grinned, sticking out her tongue at the other female, who had spun around with a look of shocked anger.

"Ye wheedlin' wench! That be mine, I defeated the brigand who wore it!"

"Ye means to say yer ugly face distracted 'im long enough fer me to strike 'im down. Yer as useless in a fight as ye are on the sails, ye horrid harpy!"

"Two-faced tart!"

"Blubberin' lubber!"

A shrill bosun's whistle darted through their ears, causing the pair to turn towards their captain. Aiziril slowly lowered the instrument from his lips, frowning annoyedly. "The both of ye, load that hat into the hold with the rest of our take. I'll decide who gets to keep it later, an' not another word about it until then!"

"Aye aye," the women glumly saluted, growling and squabbling at one another in a new argument over whose fault their captain's ire had been. Aiziril sighed, looking out towards the horizon and halfheartedly wishing another gang of thugs would engage his ship. Artemis and Demeter only got along, it seemed, when there was a common foe towards which they could direct their competitive natures. Sighing, the captain drummed his fingers impatiently on the wheel of the Vodka Jellyfish, watching the two women lower the new cargo into the small hold. Behind them, LeJerque had begun gathering up a pile of wood, hurrying to help his crewmates.

"Avast there, Mister LeJerque," shouted Aiziril, leaning around the wheel again. "Yer mates have that soundly under control."

LeJerque turned, his brow wrinkled curiously. "Arrr, cap'n, what'll I do instead?"

Aiziril hooked his thumb over his shoulder towards a small table, where a compass weighed down a meager stack of charts. "Ye can check our course to Tanqueray Isle, lad. We may have gotten turned about in all the maneuverin'."

The sailor nodded quickly, making his way towards the bridge to study the nautical diagrams. "Even with the delay, cap'n Aiziril, we ought to make landfall before the afternoon. D'ye mind if I ask what ye've got in mind fer our arrival?"

Aiziril shrugged dismissively, pausing to pull out his shred of Oneiropoios' chart. "I imagine that'll rather depend on what we find there, me boyo. I don't suppose ye know what sort o' place Tanqueray is?"

"Nay, cap'n," replied LeJerque. "I've sailed through the waters o' Tourmaline a great many times, but I'd never even heard o' Tanqueray Island before ye set our course there."

Aiziril chuckled, glancing back at the chart on the table. "To be honest with ye, lad, I've never been there meself. That chart were on the bridge as a free gift when I bought the Jellyfish. I always assumed from the size that it was unsettled. But, look at this..." LeJerque turned, wandering over to peer at the tiny paper scrap his captain was holding. "Here it is again, on Cleaver's course. An' if all these notes an' lines are to be believed, Mister LeJerque, Tanqueray was important enough to Cap'n Cleaver for him to stop there no less than three times."

"He kept goin' back there, ye mean?" wondered LeJerque. "Do ye suppose he kept goin' back to rob some poor soul repeatedly?"

"Where's the sense in that, ye dunce?" smirked Demeter, leaning against the mast with her arms folded. "If he'd already looted it, what would there be to come back for?"

LeJerque blushed slightly, shuffling his feet sheepishly. "Well... arrr, maybe since he knew he could beat 'em, he left some behind to come back an' loot later. Ye know, in case he got bored."

"Don't be such a fool," scoffed Artemis, tossing her golden hair with a flick of her wrist. "Most likely it's where he stopped off to stash his booty!"

"Aye, or it's where he hides out when things get too dangerous," nodded Demeter.

Aiziril grumbled, glancing up at the pair of blonde pirates. He had been thinking exactly the same thing, but he had wanted to be the one to say so. "Don't ye two have cargo to move?"

"Arrr, that be done already," snickered Demeter. "Did ye expect I'd take longer with it?"

"He expected ye'd still be strugglin' with the lumber, ye shrinkin' violet," shot Artemis, folding her arms defiantly. "We only finished so fast because I did the labor while ye lazed around!"

"I'll show ye violent!"

"Not 'violent,' it's 'violet!'"

"But she's wearin' white," LeJerque pointed out helpfully.

"Ye oafish lout, LeJerque, I'll..."

"Enough!" bellowed Aiziril. "The lot o' ye, get this ship up to full sails or ye'll have no second serving o' rum with yer lunch!"

"How cruel!" cried Demeter, hurrying to take up a hammer and nails. Artemis did likewise, hurrying to make repairs where the brigands had scraped alongside the hull. LeJerque stumbled around his captain, uncoiling a rope and pulling on the thick sails, coercing them to catch the wind and pull his crew onward. Within moments, the deck had returned to a stiff, uncomfortable silence, save for the pounding of hammers. The three sailors worked steadily at their duties, occasionally sneaking a glance to see if the captain was watching.

Aiziril sighed gently, pangs of regret tingling at the back of his neck. He did not relish threatening the hardworking sailors of Fortuna's Beholden, but at times it was the only way to get anything done. He watched the laboring crew, standing wordlessly behind the wheel as the waves rolled by in an endless march of unrest while the Vodka Jellyfish surged towards her destination. He frowned, and shook his head. Sailing was undoubtedly hard work, but there was no reason it should be so unpleasant. "Mister LeJerque!" The sailor held fast to his ropes, turning his head in curious acknowledgement as he was hailed. "Yer sailin', lad, there's somethin' off about it." LeJerque began to look frightened, frantically searching the ropes and sails for obvious flaws. He stared back at Aiziril, looking as if he might start shaking. Aiziril offered a calming smile, and nodded to the scruffy man, as if permitting him to perform an implied task. "It's too quiet, lad. Far too quiet."

LeJerque smiled brightly, his shoulders swelling with pride as the weight disappeared from them. "Aye aye, cap'n!" He grinned, and started humming slightly, the cheerful melody zigzagging about with each tug he made on the sturdy ropes. Slowly, the volume of his song came up, and words sprang from his lips to follow the jaunty tune.

I thought gold was only found in brigand ships
Meant for pirates not so green as me
Ah, poverty beset me
That's the way it went
Far before the split, my share was spent

Then he stole that ring
Now I'm chasing Cleaver!
Not a thing
Is going to stop me!
I've got rum... mmmmm!
I'm chasing Cleaver, artful deceiver of the sea

I thought gold was more a perk of governing
Seems they picked up tax with all we bought
All our years of sailing
All around the world
Now may help the guv'ner's little girl!

Because he stole that ring
Now I'm chasing Cleaver!
Not a thing
Is going to stop me!
I've got rum... mmmmm!
I'm chasing Cleaver, Tourmaline thiever he doth be!

Ah, poverty beset me
That's the way it went
Didn't know what treasure even meant

Then he stole that ring
Now I'm chasing Cleaver!
Not a thing
Is going to stop me!
I've got rum... mmmmm!
I'm chasing Cleaver, jewelry reaver all men flee

Yes, he stole that ring
Now I'm chasing Cleaver!
Not a thing
Is going to stop me!
Oh, I'm chasing Cleaver, yes, I'm chasing Cleaver...


Demeter, who had sat down on the deck to listen, grinned slightly as she watched the sailor's song trail off. "A fine an' lovely tune, Mister LeJerque... don't ye have an ending for it?"

LeJerque shrugged gently, shaking his head. "Sorry, lass. It'd have been better, but I've only been thinkin' on it fer ten minutes."

-----

"Tanqueray Island, half a league off the bow!" cried Demeter, pointing her hammer towards the speck of land rising into view. The sails fluttered as LeJerque dashed to the front of the vessel, cheering excitedly. Artemis moved to his side, eagerly shading her eyes from the sun and peering towards the approaching island.

"Excellent work, Beholden," smiled Aiziril, turning the wheel gently to the left, guiding the ship beneath his feet directly towards land. "Miss Artemis, what can ye see? Is it inhabited?"

"There be a large house out there, cap'n," Artemis called back, squinting slightly. "It's awfully big... could be a palace. Arrr, there's a second house as well!"

Aiziril pursed his lips, blinking twice. "Is that all? Can you see nothing else?"

"Nay, just the two houses," answered the blonde lookout.

Aiziril grimaced, cursing softly. "Stand ready, ladies and gentleman. I fear we may have just stumbled upon Cleaver's hideout itself."

"C-cleaver's hideout?" stammered LeJerque, turning back worriedly towards the bridge. "Ye don't think it's a governor's mansion?"

"Don't think so, lad," sighed Aiziril. "A palatial spread like that, an' no other settlements? Sounds to me like it's someone awfully rich with reason not to want company around."

"Cap'n, are we really just goin' to sail right in?" asked Demeter, her voice wavering slightly. "Perhaps we ought to wait until nightfall, at the very least."

"Not much sense in it, Miss Demeter," sighed Aiziril. "If we've seen them, chances are that they've seen us as well. Prepare yerself fer anything." The three sailors swallowed painfully, exchanging glances of dread. Aiziril steeled himself, tightening his grip around the wheel as the Vodka Jellyfish pressed irrevocably towards the growing sight of Tanqueray Island. Fate had seen fit to grant him success for the last several days, and he was quite desperately hoping he wasn't going to find the price of his luck too high to pay.

Aiziril immediately began to regret his arrival as the shore came into sight... mooring the Vodka Jellyfish was going to be a difficult task. No longshoremen were coming to secure their lines; indeed, the entire dock seemed abandoned and poorly maintained. Cracked, rotting planks barely held the miserable pier together, large gaps and broken pilings suggesting where other ships had found themselves coming far too close for comfort in an effort to dock safely. Never before had Fortuna's Beholden seen a port without so much as a rowboat floating about, and it was not a particularly welcoming or comforting scene.

"Do ye suppose this is what happens when nobody pays the docking fee?" wondered Artemis, scratching her head.

"Well, I'm certainly not payin' to tie up on this old wreck," frowned Demeter, sniffing with disapproval.

"Don't ye say 'wreck,' lass," complained LeJerque, shuddering. "Ye'll curse our luck."

"She cursed it the moment she stepped..."

"Belay that talk, Miss Artemis," Aiziril snapped, "And step lively! If nobody's goin' to receive us, we'll simply have to receive ourselves. Pay attention, mates, for this won't happen easily."

The Jellyfish turned sharply, groaning in protest as the rudder pushed her against the lapping waves and guided her alongside the dark, rickety pier. LeJerque propped himself halfway over the corner of the bow, his legs bent and tensed, with a strong coil of rope grasped tightly in his hand. "Now, lad!" shouted Aiziril, and the sailor crossed his heart and leapt from the ship, hurtling through the air, limbs flailing about like fish out of water, struggling valiantly for life. Immediately, Demeter and Artemis rushed to the portside railing, leaning over to watch expectantly as their crewmate landed on the dock in a tumble, staggering dangerously close to the water's edge as he managed to get to his feet.

"Hurry, lad!" yelled Artemis, gripping the rail with worry as the young sailor dashed for a thin mooring, securing one end of the rope as quickly as his fumbling fingers were able. Aiziril kept his lips pressed tightly together as he watched the dock slide past the ship, holding the wheel steady as he watched and waited, hoping desperately that his faith in his crew was not misplaced. With a breathless gasp, LeJerque spun around, heaving the heavy rope towards the ship and into Demeter's ready hands.

"Hold fast, me hearties!" called Demeter, wrapping the rope once around the rail and bracing her feet against the deck. Aiziril and Artemis lurched forward as the rope went taut, jerking the entire vessel as it came to a very abrupt stop.

Aiziril pushed his hat out of his eyes and sighed with relief; the Vodka Jellyfish had managed to secure an anchor line without incident. "Well done, ladies. A fine show to ye also, Mister LeJerque." Artemis and Demeter both sighed as well, shaking out their blonde locks and dusting themselves off, waving back to their captain to signal that they were all right. LeJerque, however, gave no such signal.

"Oi, LeJerque! Where are ye, lad?" called Demeter, turning towards the dock with growing alarm. There, just to one side of the piling, a few aging boards had given way, leaving a small hole in the pier, looking very much like a loaf of bread with a semicircular bite missing. The rope ran along the other side, leaving no room for a person to stand.

"He's gone!" cried Artemis, staring at the empty pier. "The rope knocked 'im over when it pulled out! The poor clumsy fool, he'll get pulled under the ship!"

"Man overboard," wailed Demeter, filling Aiziril with a sudden, horrible numbness in his chest.

"For pity's sake, help me!" shrieked LeJerque, sending his captain and crew stampeding towards the rail. The anchor line dipped just out of view as the sailor's weight pulled it downward, a pair of hands clinging desperately to the rough fibers. The other sailors blinked, struggling to hold back laughter as they spied the distraught man suspended halfway between the ship and the pier, legs kicking frantically like banners flapping in the wind. "Pull me up, somebody! I think me boots are fallin' off!"

"Man semi-overboard," giggled Demeter, shaking her head. Aiziril rolled his eyes, again letting relief breathe out of his tensed body as the crew safely retrieved the hanging sailor. All things considered, he would gladly allow Davy Jones to claim a boot or two instead of one of Fortuna's Beholden.

"It's not funny," murmured LeJerque as he was pulled back onto the deck amongst the laughter of his crewmates.

"Dry up, ye simpering ninny," teased Artemis, clapping LeJerque soundly on the back. "We saved ye an' yer precious boots."

"It were terrible," sniffled LeJerque, "I were all scared-like, an' the rope burned me hands, an' I think I saw a fish."

On the other hand, thought Aiziril, at least a pair of good boots might bring his crew a few pieces of eight.

The walk towards the large houses was not long, and much to Aiziril's relief, the mood seemed to have brightened a bit. Artemis and Demeter were too busy laughing and teasing LeJerque to fight with eachother, and the entire ordeal seemed to have made them forget their earlier dread about infiltrating Cleaver's hideout. Aiziril himself, however, was quite curious as he approached the estate. Now that he had a closer view of the houses, it was quite obvious that one of them was almost three times the size of the other. Perhaps more interesting, though, was the fact that the smaller house, which stood in front, looked to be run-down and practically abandoned, much as the docks had looked. Aiziril furrowed his brow, considering the possibilities. There were no lights burning, but it was still the middle of the day. Nobody appeared to be coming or going, but they hadn't seen any other ships at the pier. Perhaps that truly was for the best, pondered the captain, for perhaps it meant they had managed to arrive while Cleaver was away.

"Oi," piped up LeJerque, "There's a sign above the door." He pointed helpfully towards the house, eager to distract the others from their jibes and mocking. The crew turned to spot a weathered placard with large, easily-read letters chiseled into the center.

"The Bore's Head," Artemis recited aloud. "What manner o' place be that?"

"Perhaps they've been expecting ye," snickered Demeter, nudging the other woman.

Artemis growled, looking over her shoulder. "Perhaps I should mount yer head up there, and..."

"An inn," breathed Aiziril, shaking his head doubtfully. "What's an inn doing all alone out here, in these distant waters?"

"Cleaver's hideout is an inn?" blinked Demeter.

"Do ye suppose he sells rooms to other pirates?" wondered Artemis.

"Oi, we be pirates, right cap'n?" smiled LeJerque excitedly.

"Aye, thank ye, lad," smirked Aiziril. "Here I had forgotten what I'd been doin' fer the last several years. Come on, let's have a look."

The sailors stopped where they were, again exchanging worried looks. "Cap'n... are ye really sure it's wise to go in there?" cautioned Demeter.

"Aye, what if it really is Cleaver's hideout?" Artemis added, trembling.

Aiziril turned around impatiently, his own trepidation projecting through an irritated smirk. "Lass, unless ye think ye're goin' to figure it out by standin' out here and wonderin' about it..."

"Aye aye, cap'n," Artemis gulped, falling in line and following her commander towards the house.

A loud, shuddering creak droned out of the front door as the crew pulled it open, revealing an odd sight. By the look of it, Aiziril's suspicions had been right; the Bore's Head was indeed an inn. Long tables and a sturdy bar stood ready to receive tired, thirsty sailors into the numerous wooden chairs which had been neatly arranged in tidy rows. Several barrels of fine rum were stacked against the back wall, appearing to be unopened and presumably still full. Marvelous candlesticks of gold and silver sat atop the tables, holding tall, unlit candles, waiting to give the room a warm, hearty glow. Built into the corner of the hall was a short desk, where a large, leatherbound guest registry rested next to an opulent quill. The Bore's Head had every appearance of a proper, welcoming inn, but for one thing--people. Not a single soul sat at the tables or the bar or the desk. The sailors stood in the doorway hesitantly, more than a little wary of what they might not know about this place.

Aiziril breathed deeply, the smell of dry dust raising the hair on the back of his neck. This certainly didn't seem like Cleaver's hideout anymore, but it remained to be seen whether it was something worse. He pushed past his fidgeting crew, looking about for signs of life. "Ahoy!" he called out to the empty room, his eyes darting warily to the dark corners. "Ahoy there!" The captain's greeting hung in the air, echoing flatly past the chairs and tables. He began to sigh, concluding that the place truly was abandoned. He turned around, preparing to instruct Fortuna's Beholden to fan out and begin searching, but he paused, his eyes opening wide. A sudden sound of footsteps was thumping quickly from the back door, the pace frantic and uneven... and, more importantly, growing swiftly louder. Aiziril reached for his sword, holding it ready as he watched the door quite intently. Behind him, the three pirates did likewise, hurriedly wielding their blades with fierce anticipation as the sprinting footsteps drew closer, and closer. With a crack and a bang nearly as loud as cannonfire, the back door burst open and slammed against the wall as a short woman in a faded green dress leapt through it, dashing as quickly as her legs could carry her. Her madly swinging arms revealed that she was unarmed, but the visitors kept their weapons ready, unsure of exactly what this frenzied figure intended to do. She stumbled to a halt, finally, nearly falling on her face as she held her midsection with one arm, panting wearily from her run. She stood before the bewildered sailors, gasping for breath and looking down at the floor.

Aiziril slowly put his blade away, giving his crew a stern look. The sailors nodded in reply, stepping back slightly but keeping their swords out, ready to step back in to defend their captain if need be. Aiziril turned back towards the exhausted woman, raising an eyebrow and speaking calmly. "Miss, are ye..."

"Oh, bless ye, bless ye, lads!" cried the woman, throwing her arms around the shocked captain. She seemed to be on the verge of tears, fighting back sobs as she hugged Aiziril, who stood there with his mouth open, as if still in mid-sentence. LeJerque gave a confused look to Demeter, as if to ask whether they ought to defend the captain. Demeter could only shrug a perplexed reply. Slowly, the mysterious woman stood back up, a grateful smile beaming from her soft face as she gazed at the captain. "Bless ye, sir... ye've come at last."

"Well... that is," stammered Aiziril, giving an unsure tip of his hat. "Think nothing of it, lass... I didn't realize we were expected."

"Oh, but I've been waiting for ye for years!" declared their hostess, quickly backing away from Aiziril and turning to run across the room. The crew watched, thoroughly puzzled by her erratic behavior. She dashed behind the bar, and gave the liquor barrels a good thump. "What can I offer ye fine sailors, then? Are ye in need of a good meal an' a restful bed? Surely ye're thirsty for a proper drink!"

LeJerque blinked, smiling and stepping forward, a thirsty reply on his lips. Artemis caught him by the shirt, pulling him back as Aiziril replied with a wary squint. "I don't understand. What sort o' place exactly is this?"

"Why, the Bore's Head Inn!" sang the woman proudly, waving an arm towards the grand hall. "That is what ye came to find, isn't it? Oh, please say ye'll take a room! I'll offer ye two rooms fer only one charge... nay, make it four rooms! One for each o' ye!" She clasped her hands together as if in prayer, huddling them against her chest. "Oh, ye will stay, won't ye?"

"She's been drinkin' seawater," mumbled Artemis, leaning towards her confused captain. "She's gone 'round the twist an' she means to take us with her."

"Oh, of course ye'll stay, won't ye?" smiled the woman hopefully. She brightened suddenly, and leapt over the bar, vaulting it with one hand and speeding towards the small desk on the other side of the room. "Ye'll have the finest rooms in all these waters, me hearties, with the softest o' linens an' hot baths..." She snatched up the quill and prepared to write in the registry, looking eagerly and expectantly at the crew, who had yet to venture beyond the doorway. "What rooms will ye like? They're all available, an' every one is clean an' ready for ye!"

Aiziril just stood and stared, blinking repeatedly. Demeter nudged him from behind, whispering sharply. "Cap'n, do as she asks. She's scarin' the life out o' me."

"Aye," chuckled Aiziril, forcing an awkward smile. "Ye may call me Aiziril, captain of Fortuna's Beholden."

"Oh, so wonderful of ye to choose my humble inn," squealed the woman, hurrying to scribble the name into the large book. Aiziril noted that she appeared to be using the very first page. "Ah! And my name, of course," she cried, stepping out from behind the desk and offering a curtsy, draping her worn dress over the clean wooden floor. "I'm Tristesse. If ye need anything at all fer the duration of yer stay, ye've only to say so! Now," she giggled, stepping back to the book, "As for the rest o' ye...?"

Aiziril took a large step to his left, revealing the huddled sailors who had been hiding behind him. "These are my diligent crew--Artemis, Demeter, and LeJerque."

Tristesse smiled sweetly towards the worried sailors, who grinned awkwardly, waving back. She hunched over the book, and scribbled in it twice. Hesitating a moment, she wrinkled her nose, and looked back up. "How do ye spell that last one?"

Aiziril rolled his eyes, shaking his head. "We can only guess that his mother named him to spite him, Miss Tristesse, or the rest of the world. Mister LeJerque, go and sign the registry." LeJerque gave his captain an annoyed frown, and trudged over towards the desk. Aiziril, meanwhile, walked forward, gazing around the inn with renewed curiosity. "So, Miss Tristesse... ye own this establishment?"

"Aye, since the day it was built!" beamed Tristesse, striding towards the bar. "I do hope ye find it to yer liking. Now, how about those drinks, cap'n?"

"Well, I've yet to shy away from a proper sip of rum," shrugged the captain, nodding once. "Aye, I think four cups would do us up right, don't ye think, lasses?"

Demeter and Artemis perked up, starting to look more at ease. "Aye, I'll drink to that," they chimed in unison. The blonde pair strolled to the bar, settling into adjoining seats, watching with grateful, eager smiles as their hostess began to pour four cups of the clearest rum they'd seen in some time.

"This really is a lovely inn," mused Aiziril, weaving his way between the tables slowly. He put on a warm, friendly expression, doing his best to stay on the landlady's good side, watching her smile back with a look of deep appreciation. The comment was true, he didn't have to lie about the inn itself, but he remained inwardly cautious... somehow, in some way, this place was linked to Captain Cleaver. Discovering that connection would likely take subtlety and guile.

"Cleaver!" cried LeJerque, dropping the guest registry in alarm. All eyes darted towards the shouting sailor as Tristesse dropped a small cup to the floor, splattering rum across the smooth lumber as she yelped, eyes flashing towards the door in abject fear.

Aiziril sighed heavily, covering his eyes with one hand. He stood in silence a few moments, wondering how difficult it would be for the man to fulfill his duties with his tongue cut out. "Mister LeJerque, I'll thank ye not to go about crying wolf."

"No, cap'n, look!" insisted the sailor, scooping the large book up again and hurrying towards Aiziril. "He's in the register, ye see? Look, he signed it three times over!"

The book fell heavily into Aiziril's unready hands as he blinked in surprise. Artemis and Demeter leapt out of their seats, each looking over a shoulder as Aiziril slowly tilted the cover open. Sure enough, taking up five lines apiece, three overly ornate signatures filled nearly the entire page with the repeated words 'Captain Cleaver the Ever-So-Fearsome and Thoroughly Legendary of All Pirates Ever To Sail These or Indeed Any Waters.'

"He left out humble," smirked Demeter.

Aiziril turned around, offering the book to Tristesse, who stood sheepishly behind the bar, wringing her hands. "Seems you've had some interesting clientele."

"Not by choice!" wailed Tristesse, leaning heavily onto the bar with her trembling arms. "I hadn't opened this inn for more than a week when that miserable ruffian barged in here with his bawdy crew of horrid pirates... he drank me dry, plundered the rooms, and made off with all the little candies I was going to leave on the pillows!" The innkeeper broke down, burying her face in her hands as anguished sobs started heaving through her narrow shoulders. "And then he came back a second time... s-said he was goin' to make this his favorite little retreat! I had to cook meals for the whole lot of those terrible pirates, an' they stole all o' my cleanest towels!" The sailors looked on with pity, none of them daring to approach the distraught woman in green as she continued to cry loudly. "And... and he came back again! I'd just gotten the place cleaned up, and that cruel man barged in here two weeks later, jumped up and down on every single bed, locked the rooms from the inside, and jumped out the window! I had to spend hours climbin' up the walls, and he'd stolen my ladder, too!"

Artemis pursed her lips, gently patting Tristesse's shoulder reassuringly, unsure of what to say. "Ye brave, brave soul," she murmured, "Ye've got the mettle of a warrior, to keep on fightin' fer this grand inn."

"Aye aye," agreed Demeter, nodding enthusiastically. "An' look at how marvelous ye've got the place lookin' now!"

"What else is there for me to do?" sobbed Tristesse, looking up with teary red eyes. "No jobbers will work for me! No customers will stay the night! Not a single ship ever comes to these godforsaken shores, thinkin' Cleaver's comin' back again some day!" She turned towards Demeter, seizing the startled sailor's arms in desperation. "Oh, but ye're staying, aren't ye? Please, ye've got to stay just one night in the Bore's Head!" She whirled towards Artemis, squeezing her hand just a little too tightly. "Ye'll see! It really is such a wonderful, fantastic inn... the very best in Tourmaline... nay, in all the Locum Ocean! Ye'll stay, won't ye?" She stared pleadingly towards Aiziril, finally, her face tired and despondent. "Please, sir... I've worked so hard, an' Cleaver's never allowed me a single customer... won't ye stay just the one night?"

"That's a fair worry, though," gulped LeJerque, rubbing his arm nervously. "What if Cleaver really does come back?"

"But he won't come back tonight," insisted Tristesse, her tone sounding as if she were begging for her claim to be accurate. "I'm positive of it. The last time he left, he was headed fer his hideout in Midnight."

Aiziril's jaw fell open. The dumbfounded captain reeled with surprise, questions flying through his mind but sputtering out of his mouth as unintelligible stutters. He finally mustered the presence of mind to spit out, "Where in Midnight?!"

Tristesse gasped, covering her mouth. "I can't tell ye, Mr. Aiziril! He'll kill me for sure!" She pulled at her own hair in anguish, whimpering, "I can't believe I told ye so much already! Oh, ye mustn't breathe a word of it, please!"

Aiziril stood still, contemplating the innkeeper's plight with a level gaze. The room fell silent save for Tristesse's softening sobs as his crew watched him curiously, waiting for his new plan. Slowly, the captain drew himself up tall and proud, and walked towards the bar, gently taking the teary-eyed woman by her trembling hand. "Miss Tristesse, if you will tell me where Cleaver has gone to, I promise you will never so much as think of his foul misdeeds ever again."

Tristesse blinked away a few more tears, staring back at the dark-haired man in black, his strong words rushing through her mind. "But... how will ye manage that?"

"The men and women of Fortuna's Beholden will help you scour this place of Cleaver's influence," smiled Aiziril, "And when we put back out to sea, we will spread the word to every corner of these waters about the majesty of the Bore's Head Inn. Before long, lass, ye'll have more guests than Cleaver himself could hope to turn away!"

"Y-you'd really do that?" stammered Tristesse, the life returning to her eyes.

"Arrr, it'd be an honor and a pleasure both," grinned the Captain, touching the brim of his hat and giving it a rakish tilt.

Tristesse gasped sharply, not knowing whether to laugh, cry, or faint. "Oh, saints bless ye all, Fortuna's Beholden! Oh, ye all wait right there, I'll bring ye everything ye'll need to find that scalawag!"

Artemis smirked slightly, watching the innkeeper dash off. "Beggin' yer pardon, Cap'n Aiziril, but scourin' an' word-spreadin' don't sound too pleasureful or honor-like to me."

Aiziril glanced towards the dubious tone behind him, speaking firmly. "It is said there comes a point, Miss Artemis, when fate decides that a pirate must make up for his own misdeeds by undoing the sins of others."

Artemis scoffed, shaking her head. "Nobody says that! Ye made that up just now."

"And it sounded good, lass, so we're stickin' to it," grinned Aiziril, folding his arms. "Now, finish your rum and let's get to business."

"Don't worry, lass," smiled Demeter, clutching two empty cups. "I've already helped ye out so's ye can get right to work."

"Oi!"

-----

Artemis sulked, kicking a pebble as she trudged along behind her crewmates. It hardly seemed fair at all; she'd worked so hard to swab the decks of the Vodka Jellyfish, and here she was, being led by some land-dwelling innkeeper to clean something else. She made a sour face, groaning at the thought of sweeping through clouds of stale, choking dust. "If there's any dusting to be done," she muttered, "It be yer turn, Demeter."

"Belay that," sniffed Demeter haughtily. "I'll have none o' yer vile dust! It be yer turn now an' forever, says I."

"Arrr, ye're the one who'll be cleanin' today, an' ye're the one what needs to wash--"

"Please, don't fight," begged Tristesse, stopping to put up her hands in a defensive gesture. "I clean this guest house every day! There's no tidyin' left to be done here."

"There's not?" blinked Aiziril, seeming surprised. "Didn't ye say ye wanted us to scour Cleaver's presence from your inn?"

"Aye, I did," nodded Tristesse. "I need a strong an' sturdy bunch like ye to help me move some furniture."

"That be us, fair an' true," grinned LeJerque, doing his best to look strong, "But I don't see what that'll scour."

"It's quite simple, lad," smiled the innkeeper, a cheerful glow in her cheeks. "Ye see, upon Cleaver's first visit, he an' his men invaded the guest house an' took up all the rooms. Cleaver himself slept in one o' these beds." She looked back to the guest house, signing contentedly. "I intends to bring that bed out an' burn it."

"Ah, that should solve the problem," agreed Aiziril with extreme hesitation.

"Well, it's yer bed, to do with as ye please," shrugged Demeter. "Show us the one, we'll drag it right on out."

"I don't know which one it is," Tristesse shrugged back. "All I know is that he stayed on the ground floor... I was truly hoping I wouldn't have to burn all nine of those beds."

"Ye've got only nine beds on the first floor?" smirked Artemis, sounding unimpressed.

"Oh, but these are such luxurious rooms," beamed Tristesse, waving her hands towards the massive house. "Every guest gets a room all to themselves, so I only put one bed per room, and they each have their own table, and chair, and all the comforts o' home!"

"Ye've got nine rooms just on the first floor?!" sputtered Artemis, staring up at the house, sounding impressed. "How many rooms have ye got in that mansion?"

"Twenty-seven!" cheered Tristesse, gleefully bragging about her accomodations. "Nine rooms to a floor, and three floors. Every room as big as the next. They're all in perfect, symmetrical squares, like so." She knelt by the side of the rough stone path, and traced a finger in the dirt, drawing a large square, and within it, a grid of smaller squares in a three by three plot.

"Oh, I see," smiled LeJerque, kneeling down by the makeshift floor plan. "Do ye want to be X's, or O's?" He yelped as Demeter swatted the back of his head.

"You offer a strikin' bit o' luxury indeed," breathed Aiziril. "If we were to stay at your inn, we'd each have a room to ourselves?"

"Oh, well, ye wouldn't be so lonely as ye'd think," smiled Tristesse. She began to trace small lines in the temporary blueprint, bisecting the lines between several of the squares. "Ye see, the rooms connect to eachother like this... there's a door goin' between every single room that shares a wall with another one! Why, the room in the middle there even has four doors on it, like so."

"Ah--but not to the diagonal rooms?"

"Nay, I couldn't figure a way to connect them without the walls crashin' down. But I made other improvements to make up fer it!"

Demeter looked back up at the house in wonder. "What could there be left to improve on? It sounds as though ye thought of everythin'."

"Well, the second and third floors have the same layout," smiled Tristesse, standing up to wave an arm towards the roof. "So ye see, all the rooms on the first floor, their ceilings are the floors o' the rooms above them..."

Aiziril paused, a stunned look in his wide eyes. "Ye don't mean to say ye've connected those rooms as well...?"

"Aye!" Tristesse declared triumphantly. "There be a ladder an' a hatch so's ye can mingle with yer upstairs neighbor! And o' course if ye're on the second floor, ye can go both up an' down to the rooms above and below ye!"

"Three by three by three," nodded Aiziril, stroking the dark, dry hairs of his beard. "Ain't that somethin' else."

"But then, how can we figure where Cleaver was bunked?" asked Demeter, trying to get back on the subject at hand.

"Oh, well, that's the other thing I need ye lovely sailors for, ye can surely figure it out!" Tristesse turned around, looking eagerly and gratefully towards Aiziril. "Ye're sea-goin' folk, after all! Ye'll be able to figure out Cleaver's formations."

The puzzled pirates glanced at one another, looking for signs of recognition in their peers. "Formations?" repeated LeJerque.

"Aye, his battle formations!" nodded Tristesse, sounding quite sure of herself. "Ye know, the patterns in which he put his men fer fightin', an' such."

"Sounds more like somethin' the royal guard would do," whispered Artemis. "They're always marchin' about in formation, and puttin' on airs."

"Oh, ye mean... like when they all stand in a straight line, or in rows," added LeJerque. "But I've never seen a sailin' crew do that."

"Well," continued the innkeeper, oblivious to the quiet conversation, "When he an' his crew showed up, Cleaver just wouldn't stop goin' on about his brilliant formations. He said they owed all their victories an' booty an' good singin' voices to the perfect, unbeatable formations they'd been usin'! So much so, in fact, that they never broke from the formations the entire time they were here!"

"Never broke 'em? How do ye mean?" inquired Artemis.

"I mean, no matter where they went or what they did, they stayed in those patterns," smirked Tristesse, chuckling as if she could barely believe her own story. "They ate that way, drank that way, brawled an' sang that way... an' mercy me, if it weren't a tricky business to visit the head. It was stupefyin'--he was such a zealot about his precious formations! I even memorized them, just in case I ever found meself at sea one day. Here, ye brave lads an' lasses ought to have 'em!" She knelt back down, and began tracing in the dirt agin as she spoke. "In all, there were just as many sailors as there were rooms, so they took 'em all up. There was Cleaver an' his first mate, they always went around as a pair... an' the other formations were kept by their own ranks. There were three senior officers, four regular officers, five pirates, six cabin boys, and seven jobbers who'd come along fer the ride." She stood up again, dusting her hands off. Aiziril peered down at the neat and orderly drawings with interest:

CC

S
SS

OO
OO

PP
P
PP

BBB
BB
B

J
JJJ
JJJ


"Each o' these letters is a sailor?" the captain checked.

"Aye, an' they went around in those patterns," nodded Tristesse. "Sometimes they'd rotate around, or be flipped one way or the other, but they always held those patterns!"

"That's how they took their rooms, too?" marvelled Aiziril, looking from the dirt to the towering guest house above it.

"I'm pretty sure, aye," the innkeeper nodded again. "So, fer example, Cleaver stayed in a room connected to his first mate's. And one o' the senior officers had a room that was connected to the other two senior's rooms!"

"And ye said Cleaver stayed on the ground floor?" Demeter reminded her.

"Aye... oh! But his first mate didn't!" cried Tristesse, a look of excitement brightening her face as she remembered an important detail.

"Oi, but that'd break the formation," LeJerque pointed out.

"Nay, it's as I told ye," Tristesse replied simply, "They flipped an' spun an' turned those patterns all around, an' didn't consider it to be breakin' it. They didn't have to stand left to right like ye see there; they just had to be lined up! An' with only two o' them, that just meant they had to be in connectin' rooms! Aye, I'm sure the first mate stayed above Cleaver. I remember, 'cause he threatened to stab him through the ceiling if he snored!"

"Sounds like a reasonable threat," smiled Aiziril. "You may go and bring the fire, I think we can determine which bed is the tainted one."

Artemis watched the innkeeper hurry off to the main hall, pursing her lips until the woman in green had disappeared. "Cap'n Aiziril, I don't think this'll end well," she murmured in a low, worried tone. "Even with all o' these patterns, I'm thinkin' there's more than one room Cleaver could've stayed in."

"Ye may well be right," nodded Aiziril grimly. "But let's not tell Miss Tristesse that. If we can make a convincing case fer where all o' the pirates stayed that night, based on what she's told us, I think that ought to satisfy her. Let's just figure out one working solution before she gets back."

-----

Aiziril had to admit, the massive bed made a comforting fire, wasteful though it might have been. Much to his pleasure, Tristesse had rewarded Fortuna's Beholden with warmth both inside and out, treating them all to generous helpings of rum as they sat around the burning fragments of wood which had once been a beautiful bed frame. It might not have been the rowdiest bout of pillaging the pirate captain had ever engaged in, but given the circumstances, destroying this one piece of furniture had been rather fun. "A toast, mates, to ending the curse of Cleaver."

"Aye aye!" cheered Demeter, emptying her cup with a quick tilt. "Now then, Miss Tristesse, ye can tell us where Cleaver's gone to, an' we'll praise yer inn all the way there!"

"Oh, no..." murmured Tristesse apologetically, bowing her head slightly. "I'm afraid there's just one last thing I'm needin' yer help with before I can rest easy."

"But we scoured his presence!" cried LeJerque in shock, sputtering and waving an arm towards the fire. "Look how scoured it is!"

"I'm mighty grateful to ye, too, lad," smiled Tristesse, pressing her hands together. "But this'll be much easier, I promise ye... it's just the one last thing that's always bothered me about my time with the bread pirate Cleaver."

"Ye mean dread pirate."

"Nay, I mean bread pirate! That scalawag pilfered every loaf out o' the pantry."

"Arrr."

"Ye're wantin' us to bake ye more bread?" worried Demeter. "Artemis can't cook so much as a cup o' water stew."

"Oi! I ought to have loaded the cannons with the last meal ye tried to make!" snapped Artemis, slamming her empty cup against the table.

"I'd not feed yer cookin' to the rats, ye tasteless tart!"

"I thought yer cookin' was the rats, ye blusterin' barnacle!"

"Neither of ye will do the cooking, then," shot Aiziril, silencing the argument. "Mister LeJerque..."

"No, no! There's no cooking to be done," protested Tristesse, much to the evident relief of LeJerque. "What happened is, when Cleaver and his lot came back the second time, they started out all civil an' friendly-like. They ordered a whole mess o' food, an' said the cost didn't matter..." She sighed, shaking her head sadly. "I should have realized they just meant they weren't goin' to pay for it. I was so naive, I drew up the bill an' everything. I'd even divided it so's they could all chip in together..." The innkeeper sniffled, rubbing her eye gently.

"It's all right, lass," comforted Aiziril, "It was a good an' noble thing ye did. How can we make it right for ye?"

"Well," breathed Tristesse, composing herself, "It weren't just enough fer Cleaver to skip out on the bill. He had to go an' doodle all over it!" She produced a tattered, frayed scrap of paper, most of which had been covered in messy, splattered blots of black ink.

       X7X
_______
XX ) XXXXX
X77
___
X7X
X7X
___
XX
XX


"Each o' those spots used to be a number before Cleaver crossed 'em out," she continued mournfully. "He missed a few, but it's entirely useless now." She waved dismissively at the paper, sitting down heavily in a well-crafted wooden chair. "To this day, I can never remember just how much that blaggard owes me fer the meals, an' it bothers me somethin' fierce."

"Cap'n, it looks like when ye divides the booty," offered Artemis. "Ye see? It's like ye're dividin' the five-numbered number o' coins by the two-numbered number, an' each share is the number with the seven in the middle! An' there's all the extra work down there on the bottom."

"This is how ye divides booty?" stammered LeJerque incredulously. "I don't want to be an officer, after all."

"It really isn't so hard as all this, fer the most part," smirked Aiziril, studying the paper. "And this shouldn't be so tricky; at least we don't have to try and figure out a crew cut. If we can figure out what all o' these missing numbers are, that ought to do the job."

-----

Tristesse smiled beatifically at the paper in her hands, holding it at arm's length and taking a good, long look before finally clutching it tightly, pressing it against her chest with a long, peaceful sigh. "It's less than I remembered," she chuckled. "All these years, losin' so much sleep over a paltry sum... it's just pieces o' eight, really, isn't it?"

Artemis grinned eagerly, sidling up to Aiziril with a low whisper. "If that's paltry, can ye well imagine how much the reward from Julius the Orange will be?"

"Aye, we'll be able to stay here fer real, in non-burnin' beds and everything!" added Demeter, rubbing her palms together.

Aiziril made no outward reaction to his crew, maintaining a calm expression as he nodded to the innkeeper, tilting his hat humbly. "I bid ye nothin' but restful nights from here on out, Miss Tristesse. But the crew an' I have a pirate to catch, an' an inn to promote! So, if ye'll kindly let us know where Cleaver went off to, we'll trouble ye no further."

"Come with me, then, lad, an' I'll show ye the way," replied Tristesse, plucking a stray thread from her aging dress as she stood up to walk. Fortuna's Beholden fell into line behind her once again, filing out of the Bore's Head and plodding down the loosely-cobbled path towards what remained of the docks. They stopped just shy of their own vessel, standing in the Jellyfish's shadow as Tristesse stood on the water's edge, gazing out to sea. "It was that way that the scoundrels went," she declared, pointing her arm roughly to the South.

"That way exactly?" asked Aiziril, blinking with uncertainty. "I thought ye said ye knew where his hideout was. Can't ye tell us an island? Or, at the very least, an archipelago?"

"Well, that's the way he started goin'," murmured Tristesse, turning around with an apologetic look. "But he may have turned a different direction once he got further out to sea."

"What do ye mean, he may have?!" growled Demeter, cornering the startled innkeeper from behind. "Have ye been just stringin' us along all this time? We held up our end o' the bargain!"

"Please, listen to me!" begged Tristesse, cringing away from the fiery woman. "I tried to watch him as he sailed away, I really did! I so hoped one day to tell a brave crew like ye where to find that horrid madman, but..."

"But?" encouraged Aiziril, signalling Demeter to calm down.

"But he were attacked less than a league from shore," continued the innkeeper, again pointing out to sea. "There, just beyond the churning whitecaps, where ye'd expect to raise the mainsail... a second ship appeared from nowhere, and made directly for Cleaver!"

"He was engaged?" breathed LeJerque, looking fascinated. "Some poor fools attacked Cleaver an' his full crew?"

"They weren't just any poor fools," smirked Tristesse, folding her arms. "They were a ship o' fierce pirates, notorious in these waters, an' wantin' to show Cleaver who held the pillagin' rights hereabout an' their unparallelled collection o' parrots! Aye, lads, they were the fearsome Plunder Birds!"

"Arrr, I've heard o' them," gasped Artemis. "If ever there were a crew crazy enough to take on Cleaver, it'd be them!"

"Aye to that," agreed Tristesse. "I were really hopin' they'd win, too, an' take that vile villain down a peg or two. But the battle went on fer nearly an hour, the ships circlin' eachother like vultures, pepperin' the sea with shot. Neither one could force the other into a mistake!"

"But then, who won?" marvelled LeJerque, his eyes full of childlike excitement.

"Nobody did, lad," answered Tristesse, the gravity of her statement shushing the listening sailors. "A third ship showed up."

"Incredible!" scoffed Demeter, shaking her head. "Who'd be insane enough to tangle with both Cleaver an' the Plunder Birds?"

"Ye won't believe it, lass, but it were none other than the Even Keelhaulers," Tristesse said dramatically.

"The fiercest pirate hunters in the Locum Ocean!" spoke Artemis in hushed tones. "They've sunk more buccaneers than every storm and reef in the world."

"Aye, an' they were tryin' fer two more, it seemed," nodded Tristesse.

"But then... who won?" begged LeJerque, fidgeting wildly on the spot.

"Nobody had a chance before that fourth ship joined the fray," Tristesse smirked.

"Ye're makin' it up!"

"Tell that to the Grimm's Rock Navy, who'd apparently tracked Cleaver clear out to Tanqueray!"

"Astoundin'!" cried Aiziril, smacking his palm to his forehead. "I'd heard they were the most tenacious navymen in the sea, but to follow Cleaver across Tourmaline into a four-ship battle? I'd never have believed it!"

"It weren't a four-ship battle fer long," shrugged Tristesse, still gazing out to the scene of her tale. "Somebody's cannon nearly sank that passin' crew o' shipwrights, an' they joined the fray straightaway. Tryin' to enforce ye olde 'Ye Break It, Ye Buy It' code, I suppose."

"Why on earth wouldn't they have steered clear?" sputtered Demeter, flabbergasted.

"Couldn't say," the innkeeper replied, her gentle shoulders shrugging again. "Changin' course just didn't come easy to the Anchor Sores, I imagine."

"This be unreal," grinned LeJerque, completely engrossed in the tale of battle. "But who won? Ye can't possibly tell me a sixth ship got mixed into it!"

"Well..." began Tristesse.

"Arrr! This were no battle, this were a proper blockade!" cried the scruffy sailor.

"Well, that salvage ship should have waited before tryin' to snatch up any wreckage; they just made the rest o' those crews angry! I tell ye, those scavengin' Cutlass Wonders just don't know when to keep their distance."

"I think we can forgive ye for losin' track o' Cleaver," chuckled Aiziril sadly. "I've never even heard o' such a battle." He shuddered, trying to imagine himself on the bridge of one of those ships, quite sure he'd have been utterly lost.

"I tried to follow what was goin' on as best I could," sighed Tristesse, waving an arm towards the water. "But after the third hour, I had to nip up to the house an' fetch somethin' to eat.

"Poor Cleaver! I'm sure he had no lunch break," giggled Demeter.

"Perhaps he had lead to eat," grinned Artemis, prompting Tristesse to laugh brightly.

"Oi, I hope so!" she giggled, her voice again cheerful and melodic.

"So who won? Were they still fightin' when ye came back?" prodded LeJerque, eager to hear more.

"By the time I came back outside, the ships had already grappled eachother," answered the innkeeper, sounding disappointed with herself. "They were fightin' man to man, an' I couldn't make it out as well."

"Which ships had grappled eachother, then?" asked Aiziril.

"All o' them."

Aiziril paused, pursing his lips. "I'm sorry. Say that again?"

"All o' them! Every ship had grappled another one!" Tristesse shook her head as if clearing it. "I've never seen anything like it."

"Lass, I've heard some tall tales in my day, an' I'm willin' to believe more'n a few things where Cleaver's involved," smirked Aiziril, "But that just can't be right. There's no blasted way fer six ships all to be grapplin' eachother! They'd have to be stacked on top o' themselves!"

"Oh, every ship didn't grapple every single other ship, lad," Tristesse explained, holding out her hands soothingly. "It were more like, one would grapple the second, an' then the second grappled a third... ye see?"

"Show me," nodded the captain, crouching a moment to pluck a few loose stones from the cobbled path. "Pretend these are the sailin' vessels." Tristesse eyed the stones, jumbling them about in her hands as she thought.

"Right," she nodded back, at last. "They all sailed together in a big cluster, like this... two rows o' three. In the end, ye had the ships floatin' like that, all held to eachother with ropes an' hooks. Look; ye'd have had one to the Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, an' Southeast--those'd make the corners--an' ships to the North an' South in the middle, squeezed in between the other ships an' right up against one another." She held the outermost rocks meaningfully, shaking them softly as she continued. "Now, that meant, o' course, that the ships couldn't grapple the other ships what had another ship in the way. So, fer example, the Northwest ship would be grapplin' the Northern ship, an' the Southwest ship. An' none o' yer fancy diagonal grapplin', either."

"So every ship in a corner was grappled with two other ships?" repeated Artemis. "The Southwest to the South an' Northwest, the Southeast to the South an' Northeast..."

"Aye, an' the Northeast to the North an' Southeast," nodded Tristese. "Ye've got it. The ships in the middle, o' course, they were grapplin' back with the ships what had snagged 'em from the corners. But they'd also grappled eachother."

"Ye mean to say, like, the Southern ship were hooked up to the Southwest, Southeast, an' North vessels all at once?" scoffed Demeter.

"Aye, from what I saw," confirmed Tristesse. "An' the Northern one had the South grappled back, in addition to the Northeast an' Northwest."

"But who won?!" LeJerque wailed, nearly falling to his knees as he pled with the storyteller.

"I'd tell ye, Mister LeJerque, if I knew who'd been sailin' where when the battle finally ended." Tristesse sighed, covering her eyes. "I remembers plainly where the ships made off for when they finally broke apart, but by then I'd completely lost track o' what crew was on what ship and where the devil they'd been in the grapple."

"Tell us what ye do remember, then," insisted Aiziril, folding his arms sternly. "It's soundin' like we'll need every clue we can to track Cleaver, after all."

Tristesse took a deep breath, closing her eyes and running through her memories over and over. "Ye don't well forget a battle like that one," she muttered, resting her chin on her fist. "Like, I'm dead positive the Cutlass Wonders weren't the Northwest vessel..."

"What about Cleaver?" replied Artemis. "He's the one we're after."

"Cleaver," muttered the innkeeper, shaking her head in disgust. "He surely wasn't sailin' on the Pointy Perch, which wasn't the Northeast ship."

"Don't tell us where he wasn't," sniffed Demeter. "Tell us where he was!"

"Keep yer corset on," smirked Tristesse, wrinkling her nose. "It'll come to me... oh! I do remember Cleaver's was one o' three ships bein' grappled by the Plunder Birds! The other two were the Smashing Smelt, an' the Struck Trout."

"Two fierce pirate crews grapplin' together," breathed LeJerque. "What a thing to behold!"

"I couldn't tell ye," muttered Tristesse. "All I could behold were the Even Keelhaulers, sailin' on some ship that wasn't the Festering Flounder."

"But there was a Festering Flounder out there?" checked Aiziril warily.

"Aye, an' a Turning Pike, too," nodded the landlady thoughtfully, "But I'll be scuppered if I can remember where they were at. Same goes fer the Itchy Triggerfish--though I'm right positive the Itchy Triggerfish weren't to the Southwest or Southeast!"

"How could ye see the Southeast ship at all, if they were out that way?" wondered LeJerque, looking to where the battle had taken place. "Wouldn't they have been out o' yer sight?"

"Aye, an' that's precisely why I was lookin' so carefully," replied Tristesse, folding her arms simply. "I really wanted to try an' spot who was out there in case they got away. But I couldn't quite figure who the Southeast ship was... though I'm sure it wasn't the Anchor Sores. They spent much o' the battle tryin' to shoot back at the Smashing Smelt fer draggin' them into the fight to begin with, but the Anchor Sores hadn't grappled the Smashing Smelt at all, so they were out o' luck."

"Sounds like it was hard luck all around," scoffed Aiziril. "I think I know the feeling."

"Well, ye certainly haven't had so rough a time as the Grimm's Rock Navy were!" retorted Tristesse, putting her hands on her hips. "Seems navymen are pretty unpopular among the rest o' the scum what sails these waters--no offense--as they'd been grappled on three sides, takin' shots from every which way!"

"Who'd grappled the Navy, then?"

"Arrr... it were the Cutlass wonders, an' the crews on the Itchy Triggerfish, an' the Festering Flounder."

Aiziril stroked his beard once, and levelled a stern gaze at the innkeeper, standing up straight. "No more surprises, Miss Tristesse. If we can figure out what crew was on what ship, an' which position they were in during the grapple, then ye'll be able to tell us which direction Cleaver went in?"

Tristesse reflected on the proposition for several tense moments, making entirely sure of what she was going to say before she said it. "Aye, that should do the trick."

"We've got to figure out every one of 'em?" complained Demeter with an anguished groan. "Can't we just stop once we figure out where Cleaver was?"

Aiziril shot his sailor a glare, silencing her quickly. "I'm through leavin' this chase up to luck, lass. This time, I'm not budgin' until I'm as sure as sure can be."

-----

LeJerque was the last to climb aboard the Vodka Jellyfish, cheerfully giving a farewell wave to his hostess as he finished untying the mooring lines. The ship shuddered, making the docks rattle as it rocked against the rotting wood before starting to float out to sea. Aiziril gripped the wheel firmly, his hands refusing to budge an inch to the left or right as he guided his vessel inexorably towards the vast waters of the Locum Ocean. "Miss Artemis, have ye marked the compass with our intended direction?"

"Aye aye, Cap'n Aiziril," called Artemis, standing on the bow, the compass held in her hand as tightly as a drowning sailor might clutch a lifeline. "I'll shout if we turns a single degree the wrong way!"

"Excellent," grinned the captain, narrowing his eyes with determination. "Take yer stations an' stand fast, Beholden. We're goin' to find Cleaver if I have to pilot this vessel right through an island."

"Huzzah!" cheered LeJerque, eagerly raising the sails with swift hand-over-hand motions.

"Er... but ye won't really do that, aye, cap'n?" worried Artemis.

"Go ahead an' do it!" cackled Demeter from the stern. "With Artemis ridin' up front, we'll use her stony head to break through anything!"

"Ye slatternly swab!"

"Gluttonous git!"

Tristesse stood on the shores, waving a handkerchief to the sturdy vessel as it slowly disappeared from Tanqueray Island. She smiled dreamily, her mind racing to all of the wonderful business those pirates had pledged to bring her... but her thoughts came racing back to the present in a moment of horrible, dreadful shock. Her eyes flew open widely, and she dropped the handkerchief, holding her hands to her cheeks as the realization wracked her body in guilt and fear. "Wait!" she wailed to the disappearing ship, waving her arms frantically. "Ye've got to come back! Please! I never gave out yer complimentary candies!"

It was too late, sadly, for the sailors of Fortuna's Beholden.

***

SCORING CRITERIA

Please remember to email your answers to lejerque@san.rr.com with the following subject line:
Team Name - Chapter Four Answers

You may submit them all at once or one at a time. Answers must be emailed by 12pm Friday to be scored! DO NOT POST OR DISCUSS PUZZLE ANSWERS IN THE FORUM THREAD!

1. Help Fortuna's Beholden figure out where all of Cleaver's crew stayed in the guest house! (6pt)
Not sure how to submit a 3D answer in a text-based medium? Use this handy answering guide! Simply replace the X's with the sort of sailor who stayed there! Just remember to make sure the formations line up and that your three floors all have the same orientation.
FIRST FLOOR
(north)
XXX
XXX (east)
XXX

SECOND FLOOR
(north)
XXX
XXX (east)
XXX

THIRD FLOOR
(north)
XXX
XXX (east)
XXX

2. Rewrite Tristesse's long division! (4pt)
The numbers don't have to line up perfectly in their columns when you submit the answer; that's more as help for you to solve it. You MUST, however, include all of the missing digits, both from the actual "answer," and from the long division "showing
----------------------------------------
I have stolen all the fiber from your mind!

Tune ye in to Shanty Raid-io!
http://shantypp.servemp3.com:6328
[Aug 26, 2004 3:48:18 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    LeJerque [Link]  Go to top 
thoren



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Re: The Race for the Ruined Ring: Chapter 4 Reply to this Post
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I haven't even looked at the puzzle yet, but this line made me happy.

LeJerque recommends: Legos
----------------------------------------
Trilse
[size=7]Mostly Retired SO of Extremely Happy Pirates
[size=7]Mostly Retired ex-Lord of Water Sleeps
[size=9]Callahans : Mmmmm... Spicy!
[Aug 26, 2004 4:00:16 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Thematt

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Of course... that has to be sung to a Monkees song :)
----------------------------------------
-Tropican
[Aug 26, 2004 4:00:56 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
LeJerque



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PRIDE POINTS for Thematt!
----------------------------------------
I have stolen all the fiber from your mind!

Tune ye in to Shanty Raid-io!
http://shantypp.servemp3.com:6328
[Aug 26, 2004 4:03:07 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    LeJerque [Link]  Go to top 
kargach

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Re: The Race for the Ruined Ring: Chapter 4 Reply to this Post
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Er, we seem to be missing a bit from the end? The post ends in the middle of the text for puzzle 2...
----------------------------------------
Kargach of the Midnight Ocean
Captain of the Champions of Valhalla, and occasionally good at forum contests
[Aug 26, 2004 4:08:13 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Crystal

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Yep, that's what I came in here to ask about!
----------------------------------------
Crystalclaws of British Sea Power, Midnight Ocean
Avatar by KingPriam!
[Aug 26, 2004 4:15:29 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
LeJerque



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Uh oh.

That's weird, that it did that. At least the story is intact!

Here, posted for you folks--because we CERTAINLY don't want to lose the MONKEY FUN--is everything after the story itself, including scoring criteria and MONKEY FUN!

***

SCORING CRITERIA

Please remember to email your answers to lejerque@san.rr.com with the following subject line:
Team Name - Chapter Four Answers

You may submit them all at once or one at a time. Answers must be emailed by 12pm Friday to be scored! DO NOT POST OR DISCUSS PUZZLE ANSWERS IN THE FORUM THREAD!

1. Help Fortuna's Beholden figure out where all of Cleaver's crew stayed in the guest house! (6pt)
Not sure how to submit a 3D answer in a text-based medium? Use this handy answering guide! Simply replace the X's with the sort of sailor who stayed there! Just remember to make sure the formations line up and that your three floors all have the same orientation.
FIRST FLOOR
(north)
XXX
XXX (east)
XXX

SECOND FLOOR
(north)
XXX
XXX (east)
XXX

THIRD FLOOR
(north)
XXX
XXX (east)
XXX

2. Rewrite Tristesse's long division! (4pt)
The numbers don't have to line up perfectly in their columns when you submit the answer; that's more as help for you to solve it. You MUST, however, include all of the missing digits, both from the actual "answer," and from the long division "showing-your-work" parts to receive points. Replace every single X with the appropriate digits!

3. Recreate the blockade of Tanqueray Island! (12pt)
A complete answer to this puzzle will include all six positions, which six boats occupied each of those six positions, and which six crews occupied each of those six boats! Every detail must be complete and accurate to receive points!

Sadly, no partial credit is available for today's puzzles, as they're all of a nature where one flaw will likely throw off the rest of your answer...

MONKEY FUN!!

Please remember to email your MONKEY FUN submissions to lejerque@san.rr.com with the following subject line:
Team Name - Day Four MONKEY FUN

DO NOT POST YOUR SUBMISSIONS TO THE THREAD!

Eep eep! Poor LeJerque, only having ten minutes to work on his chantey! I wonder what he could have come up with if he'd had more time... say, maybe 24 hours.

Today's assignment is: CHANTEY CONTEST! Get your musical know-how rolling and whip up a chantey for the ocean to enjoy! Email your completed chantey to lejerque@san.rr.com and we'll all vote on who carries the best tune! The top pick will win 5 MONKEY FUN points, with 3 and 1 points available to the runners-up!

Chanteys may be of the "song parody" variety or they may be an entirely original creation--it's up to you. Your judges are your contest rivals, so write the sort you think they'll like best! There is only one required criteria for your chantey: It must be (at least vaguely) about the Race for the Ruined Ring! It doesn't have to be a thorough recounting of the tale, it just has to make at least some reference to our story thus far. Beyond that, it's your creativity and impeccable rhythm that shall win the day!

See you tomorrow!
----------------------------------------
I have stolen all the fiber from your mind!

Tune ye in to Shanty Raid-io!
http://shantypp.servemp3.com:6328
[Aug 26, 2004 4:23:11 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    LeJerque [Link]  Go to top 
Thusnelda

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Given your loquacious tendencies (not that there's anything wrong with that; indeed, some crews use it as a recruitment tool), perhaps you'd be better off posting separate portions in posts one after another. You probably hit the word limit.

The forums ain't made for jeenyisses like us, eh?
----------------------------------------
Madam, proud Looterata
Why are old people playing on this game i dont know its probly something to do with control but its kind of werd. Get a life or a girl friend or mabe even a wife but if your an adult that plays this game your a loser
[Aug 26, 2004 4:23:49 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Thematt

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Thusnelda:
It's probably up for debate given his "accent", but I'm pretty sure he says "frags"

...anyway off topic. My apologies.
----------------------------------------
-Tropican
[Aug 26, 2004 4:32:40 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
kaykordeath

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What kind of cold heartless fiend steals a poor ladies candies and ladder!

loving it loving it mate!
----------------------------------------
tht guy hird me 2 b a om
[Aug 26, 2004 5:44:17 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Frostburnx

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SHHH! I havent read that far! O.o
----------------------------------------
Liliene on Cerulean
[Aug 26, 2004 5:45:39 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.facebook.com/taradavis [Link]  Go to top 
Kimbiti



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I wonder what Cleaver thinks of this.

I bet his answer would be "Yaaarrr!" (or possibly "Yum!").

Fancuilla, The Jolly Seamonkeys
----------------------------------------
Fancuilla
Poet of E Pluribus Unum, The Jolly Company
[Aug 26, 2004 7:20:32 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Frostburnx

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Jest so you know LeJ[size=24]E[size=12]rque

this chapter made me have to go to the kitchen and get a shot of Capt. Morgan private stock Rum, thank you very much!
----------------------------------------
Liliene on Cerulean
[Aug 26, 2004 8:04:35 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.facebook.com/taradavis [Link]  Go to top 
Frostburnx

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"The puzzled pirates" Indeed!! :D



HAHHAHA, omg I think yer wrote about me in yer chapter!


"It were terrible," sniffled LeJerque, "I were all scared-like, an' the rope burned me hands, an' I think I saw a fish."



Thats hillarious

oh and why do i get the feeling you added this part in -.-

"She hunched over the book, and scribbled in it twice. Hesitating a moment, she wrinkled her nose, and looked back up. "How do ye spell that last one?"





Wow, kinda makes Cleaver sound like a rapist and a wife beater, harrrr. Not sure what ta think of it.
----------------------------------------
Liliene on Cerulean
[Aug 26, 2004 8:33:43 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.facebook.com/taradavis [Link]  Go to top 
Frostburnx

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Re: The Race for the Ruined Ring: Chapter 4 Reply to this Post
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LeJerque wrote: 
holding her hands to her cheeks as the realization wracked her body in guilt and fear. "Wait!" she wailed to the disappearing ship, waving her arms frantically. "Ye've got to come back! Please! I never gave out yer complimentary candies!"

It was too late, sadly





Oh god, the horror....the HORROR!


*shivers all over* candies....
----------------------------------------
Liliene on Cerulean
[Aug 26, 2004 9:49:16 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.facebook.com/taradavis [Link]  Go to top 
Frostburnx

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I can now see why Lejerque suggested Lego's But seeing as I don't keep legos around, Im pretending gummybears are legos...which isnt easy let me tell you, I just ate the Officers...
----------------------------------------
Liliene on Cerulean
----------------------------------------
[Edit 3 times, last edit by Frostburnx at Aug 26, 2004 10:56:03 AM]
[Aug 26, 2004 10:56:03 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.facebook.com/taradavis [Link]  Go to top 
AquaDrake

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Kimbiti wrote: 
I wonder what Cleaver thinks of this.

I bet his answer would be "Yaaarrr!" (or possibly "Yum!").

Fancuilla, The Jolly Seamonkeys


He'd say "Goodness Me!".

Now, my turn:
 
Aye, cap'n! Five barrels o' rum, forty feet o' fresh lumber, an' nearly four hundred pieces o' eight! A fine take, if ye don't mind me sayin' it.

400 poe, for 4 pirates? That's 100 poe a head, that's horrible pay from brigands. And brigands dumb enough to just charge you, without even trying to fire a shot? Who would -- oh, right, that's how all brigands behave

Do we have a thread somewhere for discussing the puns and arrows of outrageous fortune found in these stories? I didn't see one.

AquaDrake

p.s. I apologize if this is considered in-appropriate. I am not discussing the puzzles or answers. I'm not saying "It's 259" or anything like that. (That's Plucky, not me).
----------------------------------------
Maybe "historical" dragons were pterosaurs?
http://www.livescience.com/animals/090107-pterosaur-flight.html

"No plain fanfold paper could hold that fractal Puff --
He grew so fast no plotting pack could shrink him far enough.&quot
[Aug 26, 2004 3:08:18 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Frostburnx

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but it WAS 259!! jk, lol, I have no idea if anyhting was 259 anyway, and as far as I know this IS the thread for jokin about the chapter, unless lejerque says otherwise, teehee
----------------------------------------
Liliene on Cerulean
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Matthias

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I thought LeJerque would have more style than to set a tune to that particular song.

Matt
----------------------------------------
I took my own advice.
----------------------------------------
[Edit 1 times, last edit by Matthias at Aug 26, 2004 6:00:59 PM]
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kaykordeath

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AquaDrake wrote: 

400 poe, for 4 pirates? That's 100 poe a head, that's horrible pay from brigands. And brigands dumb enough to just charge you, without even trying to fire a shot? Who would -- oh, right, that's how all brigands behave


And a hat! They plundered a hat!!!! When do we gt to pillage for wardrobe?
----------------------------------------
tht guy hird me 2 b a om
[Aug 26, 2004 9:25:04 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
ScurvyBee



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Matthias wrote: 
I thought LeJerque would have more style than to set a tune to that particular song.

Matt


After all that fantastic writing, you're quibbling over a choice of tune? Tsk.
----------------------------------------
Iole, Retired Flirt of the Cult of the Red Mantis
Friendly Looterati
[Aug 27, 2004 12:16:41 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
kargach

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kaykordeath wrote: 
And a hat! They plundered a hat!!!! When do we gt to pillage for wardrobe?


I'm told that back in Azure, that was the only way one could get clothing at all.
----------------------------------------
Kargach of the Midnight Ocean
Captain of the Champions of Valhalla, and occasionally good at forum contests
[Aug 27, 2004 12:31:34 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
maidenvoyage



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I'm so sad that this is our last day of puzzles. I'm having a blast. I could do this every day.

LeJerque, I <3 you!
----------------------------------------
Maidenvoyage

Llama: I'd tell you to kiss Jacktheblack on the cheek for me - but I wish that upon no one, really
[Aug 27, 2004 1:10:02 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    nnaassenav [Link]  Go to top 
calliecat



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aye- this is tremendously fun

especially the monkey fun parts!!!! XD


<trash talk>
too bad team sea slug's going to win it all
</trash talk>
----------------------------------------
=^.^=

Calliecat of Red Dawn
[Aug 27, 2004 1:19:33 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.calliecat.com    thatcalliecat    littlebakaneko [Link]  Go to top 
Muria



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Part of me wants this to last longer, part of me (the part that spent 9 hours on the last cryptogram) thinks we're all going to be a lot happier without me demanding silence so I can think.

Still, it's been fun. Bring on the next one!

Parlia
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LonesomeCrow



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Here's a Chantey I wrote that didn't make the cut for our team.

Any other 'extra' Ruined Ring Chantey's?

(This seems like an appropriate place to post it)


The Puzzler
(Sung to the tune of "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers)

On a cold stormy evenin', on a sloop bound for midnight,
In a quest for adventure, and it's almost been a week.
So we took turns a navvin', through the daylight and the darkness,
The Cap'n had a notion, so he began to speak.

He said "Mates I've got a thought...and ye ain't gonna like it,
"This puzzlin' makes me head hurt, and it's damaging me eyes.
So I'm turnin' us about, before I really loose it.
Of course I'm only joking, there's no need for replies."

So we sailed on for a fortnight, before reaching where we charted,
I would make a bigger bet, that we have him before light.
And the night got deathly quiet, as we finished what we started,
And if you want to know what happens next, you got to wait one more night.

Ye got to know when to hold 'em, know when to scold 'em,
Know when to use the /plank, and know where's there's rum.
You never count yer monkey, 'til he's sittin' on yer shoulder,
There'll be time enough fer scoring, with some Monkey fun.
----------------------------------------
Tarrna: [Insignificant] Senior Officer - Sinking Feelings

Sergio Aragones wrote: 


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