"So let me get this straight," Molotov said slowly. "You stabbed the ghost, and then the ghost called you an idiot, and then he left?" The wizard was standing, using one of his legs to scratch behind his ears like a poorly-trained poodle. Rum had found him on the highest level of the temple, aimlessly rummaging through boxes and scrapes of presumably once-holy parchment.
"And the sword is cursed," Rum said impatiently. "You forgot that bit. He said the sword is absolutely, definitely cursed!"
"Well, cursed with what? Maybe it'll make you lactose intolerant, or-"
"I've considered that option!" Rum shouted. He ran a hand down his face and continued pacing around the wide chamber. "Look, I know it's cursed, but I can't seem to want to... take it off."
"Like, the ghost glued it to your-"
"He didn't glue it to anything! I WANT to get rid of it, but something's stopping me. I keep telling myself I'm just going to reach down, pull it out of my belt, and drop it on the floor, but every time I get close I... I just..."
Rum threw up his hands and let out a shout of frustration. "Can you PLEASE just tell me what sort of magic this is?! Use your- I don't know, magic sensing abilities, tell me what it does, tell me how I can get rid of it!"
Molotov hummed, scratching his chin and peering down toward the blue-steel cutlass. "Well, Rummy-Bum, it DOES seem to have some sorta powerful enchantment upon it. But it'll take me a bit of time to figure out what it does exactly. This suckers' so potent with magic I'd need to do at least an' hour-long deep-mantra meditation on the cosmic unreality of being to even BEGIN to unwrap its properties!"
"There must be some other way that's faster!" Rum shouted. He was starting to get anxious sweats- which were much like his regular sweats, only sweatier.
"Did it come with anything?" Molotov asked. "Like, a little instruction pamphlet?" Suddenly, he snapped his fingers. "No! No wait, I got just the thing!"
Molotov scampered off toward a small side-room. Rum tapped his foot, impatient as he heard the sound of boxes thrown, papers crumpled and tossed about. Finally Molotov returned, carrying a massive leather-bound tome. He threw it on the floor in front of Rum, dropping to his knees and thumbing through it, speed-reading the yellow-crinkled pages. Rum craned his neck to have a look at the title.
"The... Diagnostic Auxilium? What in the heck is that?"
"Old book I found when I was looking for a room to piss in! You'd be surprised at the amounta' knowledge they can fit in this bad-boy!" Molotov said happily. Rum let out an exhausted sigh.
Okay," Molotov said after a moment examining the pages. "Do you, the adventuring party in question, feel any burning or itching from direct contact with your suspected cursed magical sword/shield/staff?"
Rum looked down at the sword slung through his belt. "Er... I don't think so. No?"
Molotov paused, frowning thoughtfully at the sword. He flipped to another page. "Do you, the adventurer in question, feel an irrational urge to murder/destroy/plunder/carve spines from your still-living victims?"
Rum pondered taking revenge against Douglas Snert, his childhood bully. He'd always wanted to kick him in the shins, or even a few spots higher. The last he'd heard Douglas was an apprentice at a successful micro-winery, and was really coming into his own.
Of course, Snert gets a fancy job, right out of Bard School. Frickin' Snert.
Still, despite the burbles of animosity, the killing instinct wasn't there. "No, I don't really think murder is my thing," Rum said definitively. "I think it'd make me queasy, to tell you the truth."
"That's good to hear! And you're skin isn't more pastier or greasier than usual..." Molotov gave Rum a once-over, nodding confidently. "You've still got a full head of hair, and probably will for at least five more years!"
"I'm only sixteen!" Rum said, hands defensively going to his scalp. "What do you mean five more years?!"
"The good news is, my early-balding baritone, that you're probably fine! And the book says if we have any issues, we can try turning the magical source powering your sword off and on again. That'll remove any taint!"
"How would we accomplish that!?" Rum said through gritted teeth.
Molotov blinked. "Y'know, I have no clue, Rum ol' ch-"
Rum kicked the book off the ground, hitting Molotov square in the mouth with it. The speedo-clad wizard flopped over, spitting paper.
The chamber was shaken, an immense explosion rocking the room from somewhere above. Shockwaves reverberated through the floor. Dust fell from the ceiling and the echoing rumble, like the sound of thunder, utterly eclipsed Rum's screams of panic.
Molotov rolled across the floor towards his employer. "Hey buddy! I think whatever that noise was, it was probably bad! Do you want to-"
"I want to go back to the ship, yes, yes! Teleport us back!" Rum stammered.
Molotov continued to lay on the floor, doing his best impression of a rolled-up carpet. "Oh uhm. Huh. I don't know how to do that!"
Rum's eyes went wide, his jaw clamping shut. Slowly, very slowly, with arms outstretched, he eased his way to the temple floor, laying down alongside the wizard. He inched himself very close to his dog-like companion, a pleasant smile on his face.
"Hey, uhm, Molotov?" he whispered. "Do you remember when I hired you? And you said you were a powerful wizard?"
"Oh absolutely! I told you about my flight from the Kennel-Keeps of the Dog-Wizards, my mid-day fiesta's with lakeside fauns and dappled phoenixes, my sultry midnight tap-dances with Death..."
"Right, right, right. And you mentioned you could do all sorts of spells. You said you were great with fireballs and ice-bolts. You said you could use teleportational magic, right? You SHOWED me, what was it, a 3rd level teleportation circle you called it?"
"You mean the thingie where I open a back-door in my throat so I don't choke? Not that I ever do, hey-oh!" Molotov raised a hand, and did not recieve a high-five.
"Yes," Rum whispered impatiently. "Well, you see, one of your main selling points, aside from the fact that you repeatedly and loudly stating how much money I'd be saving on work clothes by hiring a half-naked mercenary... was the fact that you KNEW teleportation spells. Very rare in the Foggy Ocean, very potent and useful magic. Very useful, when it comes to... oh, for example, getting me out of dangerous places when they get TOO dangerous?"
"Right, yes! Well you see Rum, I did this thing called a..." Molotov raised up his hands and mimed quotations. "'Half-lie.' It's where you tell part of the truth, but not all of it, because you want people to like you and to be your friend."
Rum could feel his blood turn to ice. Suddenly, he did have an urge to carve spines from a still-living victim. One victim in particular.
"So you don't know how to teleport?" Rum asked through a gritted smile.
"Well I learned how to do it, I can open a portal just fine! But y'know, I never really got around to figuring out how to make the portals... stay in one place." Molotov frowned. "And THEN, you got the whole issue with the fact that islands are always bopping around! So when I open a portal it usually opens directly into-"
"- the Foggy Ocean?"
Rum rolled over onto his back, staring at the temple ceiling. It was the perfect time to contemplate his very bad life choices. He was stuck in a possibly collapsing temple, several hundred metres below an uncharted island. He had a cursed sword stuck through his belt, and a half-naked wizard next to him. He was without fortune, without friends, and most importantly, without fame.
All things considered, it was time for a little scream.
As if in answer to his cry, a massive crack tore through the domed ceiling above, a spray of dirt falling to coat the pair. The roof began to sag inward. Rum clamped a hand to his mouth, stifling a second scream.
"Awh, Rum!" Molotov said. "Jees, look, you made it worse!"
"Why didn't I turn around when I had the chance?" Rum moaned.
"Aw, it really sucks Rum, but look on the bright side!" Molotov said, poking him in the ribs. "You found that cool sword! I must have walked right past that chamber. All I found was a stupid staircase leading out of the temple!"
The pair lay on the floor in silence for a moment, the roof of the temple continuing to shake and drizzle them with dust and debris.
After. I can carve out his spine after...
Annay, being a mermaid, faced a lot of prejudice and barriers in her line of work as a bloodthirsty pirate. The biggest problem however, was the fact that ships were often above the water. At least, all the best ships were. Annay, having no legs and requiring water to breathe on a consistent basis, didn't really agree with this notion. Why did a ship have to lose it's value, just because it was filled with holes and half-submerged beneath the burbling bubbly waters of the Foggy Ocean?
Unfortunately, her crew disagreed. So, in an effort to compromise with them, she'd only flooded half of the ship.
The S.S Prickly Lady was a twenty-cannon beast of a pirate vessel. It was impressive, built with polished redwood and gleaming iron that hung low in the sea- mostly because the lower decks were filled to the waist with water. Through a complex series of pipes and levers, Annay's Helms-Wizard always kept the decks from completely flooding and drowning the crew. Most Helms-Wizards had tough jobs, and Annay's had it tougher than most, especially considering the cost of replacing rusted iron and rotten wood. Even with all the gold they stole, it was a wonder the pirates ever broke even.
There were other problems as well. Despite the fact that Annay had built a solid reputation as a fearless thief, willing to break into any vault, crypt, or bank the wide seas had to offer, despite the fact that they'd recently slaughtered the dreaded Barracuda Jones and his motley crew of pirates in a port-destroying slobberknocker of a brawl, DESPITE the fact that they were inches from claiming one of the world-famous Swords of the Sea... there were problems.
"What do you MEAN people are calling us The Soggy-Bottom Pirates??" Annay growled, her teeth grinding together loud enough to be heard throughout the cabin. Her loyal lieutenants exchanged looks, unsure of what to say. The water in the cabin, waist-high, sloshed and slopped, filling in the awkward silence that followed.
Vervalvulvividious Chalk spoke first. The red-skinned tiefling dressed well in a smart blue naval jacket, despite looking like he hadn't eaten food in several days. "Well, uhm, Captain Annay. It's just that most of the crew is between five and six-feet tall," Chalk said. He adjusted his wire-frame glasses, a nervous habit. "With the water being so high within the cabins there's never really an opportune moment to dry our pants. So-"
"How can we expect anyone to take us seriously if this is the nickname we get stuck with?" Annay snapped.
Chalk stuttered, looking for support from the others in the room. "Maybe we could workshop it?"
"I don't WANT to workshop it. I WANT to have a name that strikes fear into the hearts of my enemies!" Annay rounded on the rest of her lieutenants. "Luna? What about that other... issue... I asked you to deal with?"
Luna, six-feet of pure muscle with sharp white-canines, gave a snarl in response. "I'm not yet sure who has been causing the... warm spots in the water on the 3rd deck corridor... but I will find the perpetrator, and bring them to justice."
"See that you do. I want to draw and quarter them myself."
Luna Fenrisetta slammed a meaty fist into her chest, feral yellow eyes flashing. The motion caused the twin scimitars on the barbarian's back to jostle in their holsters. An absolute killing machine with rippling wolf-tattoos covered her arms, Luna never stopped smelling like wet fur- but no one was ever around long enough to mention that twice.
Annay nodded, grim-faced, before turning back to the tiefling. "Vervo... I mean, Verb-"
There was an awkward pause. One of the lieutenants coughed.
"Just... Chalk is fine," said the tiefling, resigned to the fact that he was going to say those exact words over and over, for the rest of his life.
"Right, whatever," Annay said. "What can you tell us about Foam-Cutter?"
Chalk turned, grabbing a half-wet scroll out of a bobbing barrel next to him. He took a moment to shake it out before reading it, addressing the room.
"Foam-Cutter, one of the legendary fifty Swords of the Sea, is one of the oldest blades spoken of. The master blacksmith is unknown, but the sword itself has left in its wake broken kingdoms, rivers of blood, violence beyond human understanding. The uh, the basics when it comes to a Sword of the Sea," Chalk paused to adjust his glasses. "Its last known historical sighting was in the 5th Dawning Age of the Fruitbat, when Captain Daniel Whiddershins journeyed to a island on the edges of the fledgeling Yellow Haven City-State. Widdershins, a fearsome pirate, had recently been diagnosed with Exploding-Rock-Blood-Flu..."
"Sorry, don't mean to interrupt," said a thin man, dressed head-to-toe in black leather. Hidden blades gleamed from every possible seam and pocket on his person. "Exploding Rock Blood Flu? Is that especially fatal?"
Chalk shrugged. "I mean... I think it makes rocks explode out of your blood."
There was a murmur of discussion through the room on the general likelihood of this being a fatal disease.
"Anyway," Chalk continued. "It was there, on a sandy half-moon beach, that Daniel is said to enter the subterranean city of the Gold-Boned Cyclopites, a people known for their pacifism and advanced magical arts. They seemed to specialize in 'Barrier Magic'- keeping things in, keeping things out... it seems like Old Widdershins must have been through with his adventures. He left the sword in their custody, awaiting someone..."
Chalk squinted at the parchment and gave it an exasperated flick with his hand. "The rest is soaked straight through. But, we know from corroborating legends that the Cyclopites locked the blade within their most sacred temple, hidden within a chamber, only accessible with a blue seastone key."
Annay held up the key she'd stolen from the shark-folk, to a chorus of ooo's and aaa's. "Alright, so- I don't need to tell you how valuable something like a Sword of the Sea is," she began with a confident smirk. "Or how utterly POWERFUL either. Right now, our forward team is blowing a big ol' hole into the side of a mountain, so we can cruise on in, open the chamber holding it, and snatch it easy-peasy. Any questions?"
The leather-clad man raised his hand. Annay flicked her tail at him. "Yeah, Poke?" Annay said.
"Uh- it's pronounced, Po-kay, Captain," Poke responded. "Pascal Po-kay."
"That's never going to happen, stop trying to make it happen."
"Right. Well, I was just wonderin', what if we encounters any of these ah- goldy-boned one-eyed gawkers? Can we- and I don't know if this is just the general vibe of the room I'm picking up on here- but can we stab'em a whole bunch?"
"Sure, go absolutely nuts, Pascal," Annay said. She turned back to Chalk. "Vulvi-... I mean, uh, Chalk. Make sure we've established a rear-guard too. I snuck into that shark-folk treasure horde and broke a few hearts along the way. They'll probably be coming up on our tail any time now. The ones who don't want to kill me probably want to marry me, and I honestly can't tell what would be worse."
"Haha, tail, yes, quite!" Chalk said with a smile.
The room went dead quiet.
"Did something I say... amuse you?" she growled, her voice like ice. "Something about my tail?"
Chalk's eyes flicked to the rest of the lieutenants. They were one and all, even Luna, utterly fascinated by the mold growing on the ceiling.
Annay, with a lazy kick of her tail, swam through the waist-deep water toward the tiefling, rearing up out of the water right in his face. She calmly brushed her blonde hair out of her eyes, aware the tiefling was shaking uncontrollably, his face turning a pale pink.
"Did you think I was doing a bit? A pun, about my tail? Do you think it's funny that your Captain has a tail? Do you go the aquarium to stare at the fish? Do you point and laugh at the fish, huh, do you? DO YOU?!" Her last words were a scream, enough of a shock to cause the terrified man to fall back into the water, floundering in the half-flooded cabin.
There was a chorus of laughter from the other lieutenants. Annay rounded on them, and the laughter cut abruptly.
"Okay, now I'm pissed off. So you lot are going to go ready the men, and sharpen the blades," Annay said, her voice curt, sharp, and not to be trifled with. "You're going to go get me that sword, and you're going to kill ANYONE that looks fishy."
No one dared to laugh this time.