Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sigrid's Journal 17: Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace


Fourthmonth 18 (continued)

We arrived in Ao-Manasa early in the evening and went to the Black Angle for food, fun, and fellowship. The place was a little barren, other than shadowy corner man (who I have now decided to call Chuck). I talked to Tillienne about Iu-Malan's (a Diamond Throne noble) wedding to Li-Karen (Steward Gri-Taresh's son), which seemed to pique Blank's interest. He said he had forgotten about the wedding, but since we were back in town, we simply had to attend. I asked him if our needing to attend ahd anything to do with Iu-Malan's name being on the list in Illiam's cave. He looked momentarily confused, but then assured me that that was indeed the reason.

We then went to see Ea-Shamar to procure last minute invitations to the wedding. Not surprisingly, she was still in her office, even though it was after sundown at this point. After speaking to her for a little while and explaining our concern for Iu-Malan's safety, she agreed to assign us as extra last-minute plain-clothes security officers. We were reintroduced to Dar-Shada, who had been assigned to head security for the wedding (hmmmm... curious that...).

Everyone else then returned to the ship, but Captain Blank insisted that I spend the night in the city as a treat to myself, since I'm a... “land-lubber” or something like that. I almost feel like I've been excluded from something, but I put my mind past that and went to spend the rest of the evening and the night with my friend Ulray.


Fourthmonth 19

Have I ever mentioned that I absolutely hate Monala?

Today was the wedding. It didn't go off without a hitch. There was a hitch. Well, there were two hitches actually. There was the whole marriage “hitch” thing, and then there was a metaphorical “hitch” as well.

About midway through the ceremony, I noticed Monala sitting in the front row of the audience. The nerve of her. I tried to quietly slip up to her, but the rest of the party would have none of that and attempted to follow me. I tried to shoo them away, but they were quite insistent on following me. Eventually a plant-covered spryte sternly hushed us. I stopped trying to get to Monala and spent the rest of the proceedings staring at her, waiting for the right moment to confront her. There was some applause, and I glanced at the dais and noticed Li-Karen kissing Iu-Malan. The mariage hitch. The end of the ceremony. I had to act then.

Cue the metaphorical hitch. Before I had a chance to do anything, a flower arrangement caught fire. Then a tree caught fire. Then some people caught fire. I looked to the sky and witnessed one of the most peculiar sights I've ever seen. There were airships and hot air balloons. Filled with Faen. Ninja-Like Faen. Throwing fire. I blinked and looked back at Monala, who at this point had stood up. This had to be her fault, just like everything else bad that seemed to be happening around here. If only I could get to her. I had to get to her. I tried to cut through the crowd, but people were running around screaming and I was having no luck pushing past the mostly-giant audience. But I had to get to her. I had to. I could see her. I just couldn't reach her. But I reached and stretched anyway, and poof! I was there. Not through any physical movement, but through will alone. Thank you, Alastor.

I stared at my quarry. She stared right back and smiled, saying, “Sigrid, you have excellent timing.” She then reached a hand forward and placed it on my face, covering my newly granted rune. Just like that, she was in my head, controlling my moves. There was suddenly a commotion up on the dais. Monala turned to look, as did I. Blank stood over a collapsed Iu-Malan, his fist in the air. Dar-Shada tackled him. Mark then jumped on top of both of them in an attempt to pull Dar-Shada off of Blank. Monala looked back at me. In my head, I heard her voice, but it wasn't just a voice. It was a command I could not disobey. I had to listen to her. 'Stop Blank from kidnapping Iu-Malan.'

“Stop Blank from kidnapping Iu-Malan.” I ran up to the dais and grabbed ahold of Blank (who was still trying, in vain, to slip away from Dar-Shada. Blank protested greatly, ordering me to let go of him. I wished I could have. I had to get to Monala. I had to stop her. I wanted to stop her. I watched helplessly as she calmly strolled up onto the dais and leaned down over Iu-Malan. She glanced over at me and smiled as she and Iu-Malan both disappeared. Dar Shada cursed and asked me if I could keep holding onto Blank. I felt compelled to “Tell him yes,” so he let go of him and started struggling with Mark. Meanwhile, Blank was still screaming at me to let go of him. I happily obliged, as I no longer had to “Stop Blank from kidnapping Iu-Malan.” Blank then ran over to Li-Karen and promptly punched HIM in the face. Li-Karen went down. Such a soft-blooded noble. He should be more like Lord Morek.

Just then, one of the Faen airships crashed onto the dais, about twenty feet from our scuffle. I looked around and noticed Soern throwing magic at the airships. I yelled at him to watch where he shot them down, but he just shrugged at me and went back to blasting. There was another mage nearby (the spryte who had hushed us earlier) blasting the airships too. He was yelling such nonsensical things as “Lighting that tree on fire is the last thing you'll ever do,” and “Hurt that plant and I'll hurt you.” A greenbond. Brilliant. A “tree-hugging mage.” I like their kind even more than the standard “bloody annoying book-smart mages” or the “Hahaha... explosion of ice or wind or iron mages.” He was making himself useful though by throwing healing bursts at the crowd. One of the healing bursts revived Li-Karen, so Blank punched him in the face. Again.

Monala then ordered me to “Attack Dar-Shada.” I was highly opposed to this course of action, but had to obey anyway, so I walked over to him. I told him I was really sorry, and then I was going to punch him in the face, but the drastic height difference made that impossible, so I punched him in the gut instead. He glanced down at me with a confused look on his face. Monala seemed annoyed with me. “Try the sword, it'll work better,” she said. I drew the Aur-Xica and hit him with the side of the blade. He took a step away from me and asked me, “What are you doing, Halstead?” I told him I didn't know and I was really sorry. Monala then told me to “Stop being an idiot and actually try to kill him with the sword. Don't stop until he's down.” So, I began violently attacking him. Just then, an arrow came whizzing past me and planted itself in Dar-Shada's shoulder, followed by a second one. I turned to find Rellik standing a good fifty feet away with another arrow already cocked. I turned back to continue my assault on Dar-Shada, but I realized I was standing at the edge of an acid pit. An acid pit containing Dar-Shada. Soern. Mages. Grah! Dar-Shada was “down.” I no longer had to try to kill him. I reached into the acid pit and helped pull him out, burning both my arms. He lay on the ground, looking up at me, “You... you... what is your PROBLEM??” Then he passed out.

Monala's annoying voice returned to my mind. “Rellik and Soern are gone. Chase them. Focus on Soern.” I looked around and noticed they were indeed gone, so off I ran, not knowing if I was even going in the correct direction. I ran for a few minutes. My legs just kept moving, even though I tried to will them to stop with everything I had in me. Eventually Monala chimed in again. “Return to the courtyard.” I started wandering back, but then she added, “And be quick about it, you lazy lummox.” So, I ran.

I got back to the courtyard and found Ea-Shamar and a small contingency of guards in a semi-circle around the dais. She was talking to someone on stage. I got a little closer and noticed Blank in the corner of the stage, kneeling next to Li-Karen with his iceblade out, demanding ransom.

“By Malleus' Beard, Blank, what are you doing?” I asked him.

“So, you didn't know he was going to do this?” Ea-Shamar questioned.

Blank laughed.“Why would I share my brilliant idea with her? She would just ruin it with her bloody sense of 'honour' and 'righteousness'.”

“Or, you know, SANITY?”

“You're just jealous you didn't think of it yourself, Sigrid. Don't be envious. Not everyone can have such... intuitively deep plans as Commodore Blank.”

“Intuitive plans? If your plan is so deep, how did you intend to get yourself out of this one?”

“Commodore Blank had an amazing escape plan!”

“You didn't even have an escape plan, did you?”

“Of course I did. It involved the others helping. And you not finding out about it.”

“Well, I know, and they're nowhere in sight. Methinks this plan failed.”

Blank scowled .“If it weren't for those, those... maggot turncoats, we would have already made our daring escape out to sea.”

Ea-Shamar and I then started fruitlessly arguing with Blank. She offered him his freedom in exchange for Li-Karen, but that didn't fly. He wanted money. Eventually, she had an idea.

“Your friends. The ones that ran off. The magister and archer that almost killed my Sergeant. I want them,” Ea-Shamar said, “Perhaps we can reach an agreement?”

“Hmmm...” Blank looked lost in thought, “20,000 for the race-traitor, and lets say... 30,000 for the biter?”

“Wait... what the... Blank... what the he...” Monala cut me off in my head.

“Let them speak, Sigrid,” she ordered.

Ea-Shamar raised an eyebrow at me and my sudden silence and then looked back at Blank.

“7,500 for the faen and 5,000 for the mojh.”

They haggled back and forth for a bit while I was force to watch in silence. Eventually they agreed upon a bounty and Blank and Mark were allowed to walk free. Blank then asked me to accompany him, but as we were leaving, Ea-Shamar stopped us.

“Blank. Mark. Sigrid. I have decided to assign one of my men to watch you as you handle this... agreement. Paerk, go with them.” The spryte greenbond flew over to us.

“Great. Another biter,” Captain Blank mumbled, and off we went.

A few blocks from the courtyard, we ran into Soern. He asked us what had taken us so long. I tried to warn him about Blank's plan, but Monala again interfered. “Say nothing to him about the plan and help Blank capture him.” I then grappled him, much to the annoyance of Monala. “I meant HELP... HELP, not start the capture... oh well.” Soern protested and I offered him a very generic apology as Blank informed him that we were taking him off to jail. For money. Soern stopped strugging with me at the prospect of money, and he, for some crazy reason, decided to go along with the plan provided we promised to break him out later. I still thought this was a terrible idea, but there really wasn't anything I could do about it, as Monala kept making me go along with it.

After turning Soern in at the castle, we went to the docks looking for Rellik. On the way to the docks, we stopped at the Black Angle to “celebrate our brilliant plan.” While there, we met up with a couple of teenagers who practically begged to join “The Great Commodore Blank.” Blank thought this was a splendid idea and they joined up with us.

When we got to the docks, Rellik was on the Fearful Lightning. As we were boarding, Monala would not shut up. She repeatedly told me, “Don't tell Rellik about the plan,” “Help Blank capture Rellik,” and, just to aggravate me I suppose, “Gannen's doing just fine. He's being most useful.” I finally hit myself in the head, telling her to, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” This caused a confused stare from Commodore Blank, who shook his head and muttered, “Freaky, freaky Sigrid.”

Blank gathered the crew for a “meeting”. Once everyone was present, he ordered them to arms against Rellik, who, almost instantaneously, had his bow up. I didn't want to get involved, but that damn compulsion spell didn't care. I felt myself move and grab Rellik, even though I fought as hard as I could not to. He slipped away from me and pointed an arrow at my head. Everyone froze, including myself. There are certain things even a compulsion spell cannot make you do, and charging someone with a bow cocked at you is not one of them.

Blank then told Rellik that he had to come with us to Ea-Shamar. Rellik, naturally, refused. It appeared that we were at a stalemate, but Rellik finally agreed to go along with us at the prospect of money (and with the promise that we would not tell the guards his real name).

We delivered Rellik to the castle on an assumed name, collected both bounties and took a walk to the Black Angle. All the way there, Blank praised me for my loyalty in helping him. He even informed me that he might have told me about his brilliant plan if he had known I would be so cooperative. I spent the entire walk cursing him out in my head. Loyalty goes both ways. If a superior wants loyalty, he must be loyal to those beneath him as well. Blank betrayed Soern and Rellik's loyalty, even though their own greed betrayed themselves as well.

When we arrived at the Black Angle, Blank proceeded to spend the entire bounty purchasing items from Cer-Athane. I tried to warn him that this might be a bad idea, but he told me, “It's crewmen etiquette, you wouldn't understand.” I then decided that if he wanted to dig his own grave, I would let him. After he finished spending all of his disloyal blood money, we turned our attention to how we were going to break them out of prison. Blank had this elaborate plan involving a cake (and the honour and altruism of the prison guards not to eat said cake and to give it to Rellik and Soern). I don't believe that the Ao-Manasa prison guards have much honour. I've been in their prison a few times, and while they're not overly cruel, they're certainly not very nice either.

Blank and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Black Angle. Monala seemed to have quieted down some now that chaos had finished ensuing. She was still in the back of my mind though. I could feel her there, the gob-friended scum. Monala's presence was distracting, so I didn't contribute much to the plan to break Rellik and Soern out of prison. Though Blank didn't have much to say on that matter either. He had already made his decision to make a cake and was now chatting up some woman at the bar, with surprisingly high success. What do people see in pirates anyway?

Monala's spell didn't wear off. It just kind of went “poof”. It happened quite suddenly. One moment, I could feel Monala in the back of my mind. The next moment, I had this amazing feeling of freedom. I was incredibly happy that the damn mage was out of my head. Extremely happy. I was at the “wanting to kiss someone” level of happiness. A quick survey of the room found no one acceptable to act this wish on though. My thoughts wandered to Gannen momentarily, which sufficiently saddened me out of my giddy mood.

I stood up and walked over to the bar. I reminded Blank that we really ought to work on getting our friends out of jail. He told me he had sent a few of his followers to make a cake just a few minutes ago. I decided that it wasn't worth it to argue with Blank about his cake idea, so I just let it go and walked out of the bar. I returned to the boat in a defeated mood. I laid down to sleep, trying to convince myself that this wasn't my problem anymore. Blank had dug this grave, and Soern and Rellik had willingly jumped in. I had nothing to do with this.

No, I really didn't have much to do with this. This was not my fault. But that didn't give me an excuse to do nothing. Soern and Rellik were my crewmates, and in some ways, my friends. I couldn't fail them like I've been failing Gannen.

It was that thought that gave me a bit of déjà vu, and a plan. Perhaps a repeat of Gannen's prison break was in order. I had some of Blank's followers quickly disguise me. I made sure they painted over the rune on my face, which seems to attract a lot of attention. I was getting a little too recognizable around this town for my liking. The kids also put my hair in some ratty-looking up-do, telling me that people would notice my hair and forget the face beneath it. I then headed to the Wicker Goat, the tavern that Blank had met Tar-Namor at. I wasn't looking for Tar-Namor though. Ea-Shamar had discovered his corruption and I doubted he would be able to help me. Instead I looked for Oa-Tesanil, another member of the Guard who may have a way into the prison. Or out of it, as the case may be.

Oa-Tesanil was sitting at a table alone. I joined her and we had a little chat. She said that it was possible that a careless guard may have filed the prisoner's paperwork wrong and had put them in for an overnight hold instead of a hold-until-trial. It was a possibility. She also informed me that she could go “check on that” for me, but that she was just too tired. I then “accidentally dropped” a bag of 100 Royals on the table. She, being a responsible guard, confiscated the carelessly discarded money before someone could steal it. After than, she decided she wasn't so tired after all and went back to the castle to “check” my crewmen's paperwork, informing me that overnight holds are released at noon.

I went back to the docks, pulled a bucket of water from the harbor and scrubbed the annoyingly itchy face paint off. I also fixed my hair, letting it down and untied, the way it's meant to be. I then decided to go pay a visit to the Black Angle to find Blank (who was not at the docks). I headed inside and saw Blank sitting at the bar. In front of him sat a big, hideous cake (that looked suspiciously familiar to the cake from the noble wedding this morning that had not gotten a chance to be eaten due to... well, you know). I told Blank we wouldn't be needing the cake because Rellik and Soern were going to be released from jail at noon tomorrow. He looked at me and then pointed at the cake, insisting that his plan would have worked and I was just being a sore loser for not thinking of it first. An argument ensued where I insulted his intelligence, he insulted my creativity, I insulted his honour, he insulted my lineage, you know how these things go. We were both getting really riled up. He decided to leave, but first tried to sell the cake to Cer-Athane, who looked at him like he was crazy and refused. I muttered a few choice words about idiotic pirate witches as he turned to leave.

He spun back around, grabbed the cake (which froze in his hands) and threw it at me. If you've never gotten frozen cake thrown at you, my suggestion is: don't. It's hard and sticky and unpleasant. I resisted the urge to attack him and let him storm out. I left too, heading to a bathhouse to get the melting frosting off of me. After that I went to go spend the night with Ulray again. I didn't want to be anywhere near Blank until the morning when I calmed down (and maybe he calmed down too). Ulray, as always, was happy enough to have me.


1 comment:

Rae said...

Very late, I know. The rest are coming. I swear.