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Magical weapons were scattered across the Foggy Ocean, taking a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

 

In the Kingdom of Zamoraxus, the Magi-Prince Golden Bolpotts held order over his quantum-temples and red-steel legionnaires with twelve green jade rings, conduits of raw electric magic that could jolt enemy armies into deep-fried oblivion with just the snap of a finger.

 

In the sprawling (and unfortunately named) City-State of Ulmph, Skin-Dagger Jericho, the hot young warlord of the moment, held control with the help of his own Sword of the Sea, the Choppy-Wave. Rumors were the teal-steel falchion gave Jericho the ability to summon water from the ground, parching the earth and drowning his enemies above it in a single move.

 

In the Yellow-Haven Empire, Crown Judge Haxion is said to officiate the High Court wearing a xanthic-coloured helm, wings attached to its sides to resemble a pegasus. Glancing through the ruby-covered eye-slits, Haxion is said to be able to see emotions flowing off any prisoner brought before him- their fear, anger, and guilt.

 

Magic sprawled and stumbled around the Foggy Ocean like a drunken party guest who'd long overstayed his welcome, spilling his beer over everyone and everything. Even tiny villages, lost within foggy valleys or hidden on the peaks of mountains, were guaranteed to have at least one erratic wizard and a long-buried ruin nearby, smouldering with abandoned magical treasures. Magical items were routinely gifted, crafted, dug up, reburied, resold, bartered, bargained for, and bestowed upon mortals from the Gods far above.

 

They weren't only crafted for adventurers either- artifacts existed enabling one to fly, to breathe underwater, to transform into any creature, magical or benign. Rings to always know the way home, amulets to whiten your teeth, earrings so you'd never forget the face of your departed relatives.

 

The metallic smell of magic was as common as a sea breeze across the Foggy Ocean- and most legendary of all were The Swords of the Sea, fifty in total. Dotted about the churning bubbling waters, unbreakable super weapons, god-killers.

 

One of them, was Foam-Cutter. And it was stuck in the sheathe on Rum's hip.

 

"This never happens," Rum said nervously. "I mean, honestly, I've never had this problem before."

 

The orc, katana gleaming in the lantern-lit tent, approached steadily, a snarl on his face. Rum tried again, two hands on the handle of the weapon. But no matter how much he tried, the sword was like a particularly stubborn pickle jar. Stuck fast.

 

"You wouldn't happen to be the honourable-type?" Rum tried. "Not into killing people if it isn't a fair duel? No?"

 

The orc lunged forward, katana swinging for Rum's neck. Flopping to the floor, Rum did his best impression of a pig, squealing and galloping on all fours toward the open tent-flap. He burst out of the tent into the sunlight, bright and hot, blinding his face-

 

Wait... bright? Hot? Blinding?

 

---

 

Chalk stood at the edge of the pickets, scanning the treeline like a particularly overbearing parent watching their children's first day at school. Every detail was taken into account, every lurking shadow. Despite the fact that he was surrounded by heavily-armoured pirates, his stomach was doing front-flips. A nervous titter ran through the crowd as every so often screams were heard from the thick jungle around them.

 

Whatever the creature was, at first it had been subtle. But now, for whatever reason, its tactics had changed. A steady stream of bone-crunching, high-pitched screams had ripped through the jungle, growing louder and louder as they approached the coastline and the pirate ship. Every so often an explosion was heard as if in retort- but they were growing few and far between.

 

Chalk paced nervously, considering his options. Annay had told him to investigate the noise- presumably, some of the prisoner's friends, about to launch a very noisy, very violent rescue. But how could that be? They didn't look very dangerous. In fact, one of them, the one with the big nose, looked like someone Chalk would have bullied back in high school. Regularly. And given his penchant for scented candles, old books, and tendency to sob whenever he saw a baby seagull, Chalk wasn't at the top of the high school food chain.

 

Another gut-wrenching scream tore through both the jungle, and the fragile morale of the pirates. I don't think I'm at the top of the food chain here either. I wonder if the Captain would be alright if I tabled this whole, "Figure out the source of the screaming" for another day? There's that little ship we captured. I could uhm, investigate that for awhile, see how it fairs in open waters? Plenty of capable, scary pirates on this beach. And they're all armed with crossbows, stabby daggers, mean looks. Yes, I'm just a third wheel here. I'd best be-

 

It was at this moment that the jungle exploded outward, trees flying through the air to attack Chalk and the rest of the pirates.

 

The trees won.

 

---

 

An explosive blast of fire ripped through the edge of the pirate camp. The molten flames sent sand, supplies, and pirates, catapulting through the air. The air, now more like a cloud of thick steam, hit Rum full in the face as he exited the tent, sending him flying back, slamming into the ground just in time to miss the katana aiming to impale him to the dirt. Annay's tent was no match for the sudden blast of heat- pegs ripped clear from the muddy ground, and the fabric of the tent was sent flying sky-high along with the rest of the ruined camp.

 

As Rum clambered to his feet he was met with a scene of complete anarchy. Bodies lay scattered, pirates fired crossbows and hurled makeshift explosives into the treeline. Something massive was twisting, moving through the smoke and flame, just at the edge of the jungle. He could barely make it out- a tail? As it moved, horrendous screams joined the chaotic shouts and the thrum of crossbows.

 

Behind Rum the katana came swinging again. There was no time to think, no time to fight- there was only room in his head for one single brain cell. And at the end of the day, despite his desire for poetry, culture, and beauty, everything was thrown into the trash. Everything but one brain cell, and one word.

 

FLEE.

 

Rum took off running through the camp, weaving between pirates, both crispy and un-crispy. The sand itself around him seemed on fire, the air like a sauna. From the edge of the jungle another blast of flames fried pirates, sending corpses flying through the air, dancing over Rum's head like a twisted high-flying ballet. Risking a glance over his shoulder, Rum saw the orc still pursuing him single-mindedly, despite the surrounding destruction.

 

Leaping makeshift barricades (on fire), bodies (on fire), and collapsed tents (surprisingly not on fire, as they were made of a non-flammable material), Rum sprinted through it all, looking for any chance to escape. At the far edge of the beach, away from the fire and smoke, the jungle jutted out right to the edge of the water, a massive blown crater in the side of the island filling with the choppy, steaming water from the Foggy Ocean. If he could make to the water, dive in, swim along the shoreline to the other side...

 

I can make it! I can!

 

Yet even as he kicked sand up behind him, the goal line approaching, salvation in sight, something was missing. He'd left Molotov behind.

 

Who cares about that smooth-brained idiot?? He got me into this mess!

 

But even as these thoughts flashed through his mind, Rum knew it wasn't the truth. He'd wanted to explore the city, and he was the one who'd snatched the sword. Riches and glory had danced through his mind, his fame broadcasted across the seas. He couldn't even blame Annay falling out of the sky on Molotov, as much as he'd like to. That had just been bad luck, the wrong ship in the wrong place at the wrong time. There must be something I could blame him for!

 

Molotov was helpless, stuck in the middle of the blazing pirate camp. If he wasn't roasted like a shrimp on a barby, he'd be executed shortly after. Without any clear signal from his brain, Rum's feet spun in the sand, pivoting him around and back toward the chaos of the camp. That idiot! I can blame him for this- making me go back for him!

 

It was a bad decision instantly. Just as he turned, Rum's eyes decided to bulge out of his head, in a futile attempt to flee his body. Coming right towards him, katana held high above ready for a vicious downward stroke, was the orc. Coated in smoke and ash, teeth gritted with fierce determination and looking every inch the warrior that Rum dreamed of becoming, the pirate surged forward, eager to slice him in two.

 

Without thinking, which was par for the course it seemed nowadays for him, Rum abruptly stopped and sprung backwards, the blade whistling down to slice into the sand inches from his groin. Scrambling in the sand on his back now, Rum desperately kicked sand up into the face of his foe. The orc barely made a sound- with a tug it simply pulled the sword free, stepping forth to renew the assault. The blade came down-

 

CLANG.

 

Rum brought up the cutlass, still in its sheathe. The move barely held back the katana, which hovered inches from splitting his face in two. With a grunt, the orc forced the cutlass down, easily overpowering Rum's spaghetti-like arm muscles. The katana came closer, closer, close enough that Rum could see his reflection in the blade. Does my nose REALLY look like that?

 

Then, as is often in a battle, things happened suddenly. A great black mass swung into Rum's field of vision, a clawed hand raking massive wounds into the side of the katana-wielding orc. The pirate was sent flying across the beach, skipping like a stone into the waters of the Foggy Ocean and out of sight. A weighty shadow eclipsed the sun. Rum looked up-

 

- into the towering, scaled form of a dragon. Mottled green and black scales, vicious claws drenched in blood and sand. A set of yellowed eyes, unnatural, hungry, wild, looked down upon him.

 

Rum was vaguely aware that for the past day or two, he'd been running from bad situation to bad situation. Now, he'd reached the punctuation of that sentence. This dragon was the exclamation mark at the end of the phrase "the bad situation!"

 

This was the end. His end. Doom, in form of yellowed, pointed teeth. The dragon looked down at Rum sprawled on the beach, his cutlass trembling in his hands.

 

"Hello, Master," the dragon growled.

 

Oh... great.

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NeedlesCaligula

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