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The ship cautiously glided towards the suspicious blot on the horizon. Closer and closer, until describing it as a blot was... well, inaccurate. What it really was, was a ship. A small freighter, its hull low in the churning ocean waters. Rum stood on the bow of his own ship, craning, looking for any sign of life. The freighter didn't look as if it had been attacked- there was no damage on the deck, no bodies to be seen...

 

"Molotov? Can you stop nervously tapping your feet?"

 

"Sorry Rum! I think that's your feet tapping."

 

Rum blinked and looked down. "Oh."

 

"I can still try to stop it!" Molotov said, launching himself at Rum's feet. The poet danced out of the way, kicking the red-haired wizard in the head for good measure.

 

"I just don't like it!" Rum said with a huff. "Where'd everyone go? Why's it empty?"

 

"All the lifeboat's are gone," Molotov said, jumping back to his feet. "They probably just wanted to downsize! You know what I mean- in THIS economy!"

 

"Molotov you keep saying that but we live at sea, on a boat. We don't really have any direct interaction WITH the economy out here."

 

"Exactly!"

 

Rum sighed. The other boat was empty, it probably had a hole in it. A few more minutes and it would capsize... or worse- it probably was filled with pirates waiting to perform a sneak attack. Heck, the last pirate he'd encountered had been in the middle of performing a con, and had ended up threatening to behead him. Tricks were not unknown to pirates.

 

But despite his common sense, and knowledge of piracy tropes and tactics, Rum wanted to check the ship out. I NEED to check it out- there could be people hurt over there. Dangit! Why do I keep thinking heroic stuff? It had to be the sword. He'd always wanted fame and fortune and a guy in every crowd to shout, "Oh my Gods is that really him? Wow I wish I was more like THAT guy! WOW do I ever feel emasculated!" Simple fame stuff like that. Rum sighed. What fond memories. Yes, good old fashioned narcissicm, that was his comfort zone.

 

But now he was getting all these weird delusions, like the need to help others. They just popped into his head, a fully formed desire, regardless of risk. And if he didn't follow through he'd spend all night thinking about how he should have, would have, could have. Yes, the sword was definitely corrupting him. He longed for the comforting days of being a coward.

 

Ohhh, he really didn't want to go over there. But cowards didn't write good books- they didn't know what it was like to explore underground cities, or shout at a dragon, or board an abandoned ghost boat in the middle of the ocean. Would his Father balk at such a task? Never!

 

Hand on the hilt of his sword, Rum tried to clear his throat. "Alright Molotov, it's our... sea-bound duty to check on this vessel and its crew. So let's swing over and do just that!"

 

Molotov frowned. "We have to? I didn't know there was rules at sea."

 

"It's more like general guidelines," Rum said, untying a nearby rope from the main sail. "Now come on! Grab a rope and we'll swing across!"

 

"Aye aye, Rum ol chum! I'm right behind you!"

 

---

 

Rum was faced with an insurmountable problem almost immediately- he had no idea how to properly tie a knot. Do I just... sort of loop it around my groin? Somehow feels a little invasive. And snug...

 

"Molotov? How do-"

 

There was a sudden shout and Molotov was leaping from the edge of the boat, pantaloons flowing in the wild air as he swung across to the other ship. The sudden movement caught Rum by surprise, and he found himself carried along in the momentum. Letting out his own shout, Rum clutched the rope and swung out into the air.

 

Almost immediately the rope yanked taunt, scrunching up his grapes in an attempt to make wine. Rum let out a high-pitched scream, hands dropping to grab at his lower half. Unfortunately, it is a very bad idea to let go of a rope mid-swing. This applies across all continents, all realms and dimensions within the vast Foggy Ocean. For one immortal, painful moment, Rum found himself swinging across the gap, his privates knotted up in the rope, his flailing form a brilliant, striking silhouette of a man in intense pain.

 

Then, the rope snapped, and Rum found himself slamming face first into the deck of the ship. He awoke a few seconds later, the snaggletoothed face of Molotov staring down at him.

 

"Gee Rum, was that intentional?"

 

"Let's say it was and move on." Rum squeaked.

 

"Even the bit with the-"

 

Rum wobbled to his feet and pushed past the wizard towards the lower hold of the ship. "Let's just get this investigation over with..."

 

---

 

The inside of the ship was dark and gloomy, forbidding and filled with stale air. It felt as if something, some horrific monster, was due to jump out at any moment. But the ship was silent, like a tomb. Or a very dedicated mime.

 

Rum kept his hand firmly on the hilt of his sword, despite not knowing how to use it, or if he could even pull it free. For such a powerful, worldshaking weapon, he'd figured it would be a little easier to control.

 

Ducking into the lower hold of the ship, Rum blinked and adjusted his eyes. Wooden crates, unassuming and without markings, were crammed into the tiny space, and a foot of bubbling ocean water filled the bottom of the hold. There had been a leak somewhere- could that be why the crew had abandoned ship?

 

Sloshing through the water, Rum approached a crate. His stomach gurgled in anticipation. It could be any number of things within- perhaps even food? Would it be morally wrong to help oneself to a little snack while investigating?

 

As he approached the crate, his growling stomach was drowned out by the steady dribble of water. Rum frowned. The crate was... leaking. Water was pouring out of it, steaming and splashing into the hold. Why are they transporting water in crates? No, not just water. Ocean water...

 

Rum liked to think he was open-minded. But in reality, new experiences were often scary and frightening and terrible to him, and most often ended with him running away in fear of his life. He was beginning to think being ignorant and close-minded would lead to a longer, happier life. Case in point- a strange abandoned ship, mysterious leaking containers of ocean water.

 

Wait... how did one leaking crate end up filling the bottom of the ship with ocean water? It's not that big. Unless it's- oh no.

 

A thought had occurred. Not a particularly nice one. Before his eyes, the crate began to stretch, its wooden boards straining to withhold its contents. Rum took a hasty step backwards, a hypothesis forming in his mind.

 

Then, the crate exploded.

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