It is almost winter, and the day is… I have lost track of time, if I am to be honest, but it all started a few weeks ago. On one of what seemed to be a normal voyage …
The fireplace was burning bright, bathing the room with its warmth and light, as the tavernkeeper was scrubbing some stains from the countertop. A faint melody was playing in the background, the screeching sound coming from an old wooden music box. It was a peculiar object, with two round disks made of bone. She carefully took the box in her hands and cleaned the little skeleton pirate that started spinning on top of one of the disks, as she turned a small key at the side of the case.
“Ah, my good old George; I still remember the day when you came in my tavern and gifted me this weird music box” she said to herself, looking at the box, smiling nostalgically. “Ms. Tracy, please accept this gift as a token of my love for you, you said to me.” She giggled as she looked towards the tavern’s door. “Silly sailor, you told me that the bones were those of a Kraken, and the sound that it played was the weeping of the beast.” She shook her head and chuckled.
The tavern’s door suddenly opened wide and a tall man stood in the doorway, soaking wet. He was fairly skinny, and his wrinkles, grey beard and hair told many stories of old. He had a strange tattoo under his left eye, a small tear drop. He was dressed somewhat elegantly, with a light blue long sleeved shirt and a fancy scarf.
“Ms. Tracy, Sherry sent news that a galleon crew is sailing towards our docks, somewhere from North by North-West!” He spoke as he walked inside, combing his wet, slick hair backwards with his hand.
“What type of galleon are we talking about?! Someone on an adventure or … something less friendly?” a raggedly dressed man approached them from near the fireplace, rubbing his hands together as he asked.
“She says she thinks she recognized their flag, being one that she made a while back.” Charles turned towards Duke, who was a bit tipsy, holding a tankard in his hand.
“What wretched soul would be crazy enough to be sailing out there on this weather, Charles?!” Tracy looked at him intrigued, tapping her fingernails on the countertop.
“That fool of a Pheebs…” Charles inhaled deeply as he took a seat at the long and sturdy wooden table right by the fireplace. He sat with his back at it, letting the soothing warmth of the fire caress his back. He pushed the plate that was in front of him towards the other side and grabbed a tankard, looking towards Tracy. “Give an old man some grog to soothe his throat, would you?”.
“Are you actually going to pay for your drink this time, old man?!” she grinned as she walked to him, taking his tankard and filling it up. Some of the grog accidentally dripped on a candle that was slowly burning between them, extinguishing it.
“You know I am good for it, not like Duke over here!” he said, making Duke shrug and chuckle. “I am just waiting for a shipment of luxurious cloth to arrive and I’ll be in the money!”.
“Now, I wonder what brought Captain Pheebs to our Outpost, on this stormy night?” Tracy asked as she looked up to one of the chandeliers. It was an improvised one, made from an old ship’s steering wheel, hung with rope from the tavern’s ceiling. On top of it there were candles burning on the handles of the wheel, giving a dim light in the establishment. She got up on her toes and snuffed the one candle that was facing towards her countertop. “Darn candles, I will never again buy any of them from that mystic woman!” she puffed as she walked towards the back of the room.
Tracy walked past a couple of red and blue barrels, filled with different kinds of alcohol and stopped in front of a wooden door, with metal strips on it. She slowly opened the door and walked inside, where a shabbily dressed woman was laying injured on a bed. She looked to be in her mid-thirties, with strands of her dark purple hair covering her scarred cheek. Her scars carved their way on her shoulders and back, scars that looked red in the room’s dim light, scars that seemed to have come from Forsaken Shores.
“I have to leave for a bit, we have a ship, a galleon sailing towards the docks. But I won’t be long gone.” Tracy said as she walked to her side, gently bandaging the woman’s shoulder. The woman stood quietly and watched Tracy walk back into the tavern.
Tracy walked outside into the pouring rain, with both Duke and Charles following her closely. The raindrops were gracefully falling down on her clothes and skin, dripping from her peculiar necklace. Charles mumbled to himself as he grumpily walked towards the dock as the rain was soaking his expensive silky scarf. Only Duke seemed to be enjoying nature’s tantrum, tipsily humming Becalmed, a fairly odd choice for the weather that was upon them.
“For how long are you going to allow that woman to stay in your tavern, Tracy?” Charles asked, shaking his head as he looked over at her.
“For as long as she needs. You’ve seen her, you’ve seen in what state she was when she washed on our shores. We need to give her time.”
“Time?! She’s been there for almost half a year! We know nothing about her, she hasn’t spoken, not even once!” Charles raised his voice.
“Everyone has a past that haunts them, some more than others.” She grabbed his shoulder and squeezed. “And you, you do not get to tell me how and what I can do in my own tavern.”
“Okay, that’s fair enough!” he squirmed in her grip, eventually breaking free.
“These fools are going to crash into the dock!” a woman screamed as she ran towards the three of them.
“Ha! They’re coming full billow!” Duke laughed as the galleon was catching up speed fast.
“Why, just why can’t they raise those damn sails up in time?! This always happens!”
“They don’t really care, because we are the ones who repair every single thing they crash into, Sherry…” Tracy sighed as the galleon was getting closer and closer.
“Anchor! Drop the anchor!” someone screamed from aboard the ship.
“I can’t raise the sails and drop the anchor at the same time, you wally!” another one said as the galleon crashed into the dock.
The ship drifted a good measure from the outpost, the crew running around the deck trying to get their galleon back on course. “We need repairs!” people shouted while others rushed above from the second deck, throwing buckets filled with water overboard. “Bail! I need help bailing!” was the last thing heard from the ship for a couple of moments.
Tracy and Sherry stood on the pier and gazed at some of the crew who were gathered at the back of the captain’s quarters, each holding a few riches. They were loading the rowboat, that was tightly and securely docked with rope at the back of the galleon, with chests and skulls, one shinier than the other. “This one I’ll be handing in myself” a strong, womanly voice pierced the night as she jumped in the water with a strange looking chest.
“Oh, she’s not setting foot on here!” Sherry said and stepped towards the ladder at the side of the dock.
“Ahoy there, lasses!” the woman said as she floated in the water, looking at Sherry and Tracy.
“Ahoy?! AHOY?! This is the third time you ruin my dock, Pheebs!”
“Hey, it’s Captain Pheebs and this time it really wasn’t my fault! I couldn’t see!” she shouted and quickly grabbed the ladder, pulling herself up as a shark rushed to take a chunk out of her pegleg.
“No, that is not my problem! This time, you’ll pay for the damage you and your crew have done!” Sherry menacingly walked towards Pheebs.
“Okay, okay! We will cover the costs of repairs. Let my crew row in and sell what we plundered from those skellies over at Keel Haul Fort.” Pheebs scoffed and rolled her eyes, heading past Sherry and Tracy, towards the marketplace of the outpost.
As she walked down the dock’s stairs and onto the wet sand, she rushed towards a green hut. “Hurry up, ye landlubbers!” she shouted at her crew, which were unloading the remaining treasure onto the shore. A small flag of a slightly darker green was hanging down a wooden pillar; a golden key was painted on it, the same key that could be seen on the sides of the hut. Inside, there was an elderly man, with white short hair and silky looking beard. He was dressed in a long and tight turquoise coat, with buttons made of gold. He had a chain of keys on his belt and a small golden key on a necklace around his neck.
As she approached him, the bags and piles of gold glistened in the pouring rain. But that wasn’t what made him stand out. He had a small golden ornament under his right eye and his right hand’s middle and ring finger were covered in a thick layer of gold. Upon laying his eyes on her, he smiled widely, revealing his rotten teeth.
“Now, what brings you to my humble tent, on this lovely night?” he asked her and grinned as he stared at the chest that she was carrying.
“Look what we found washed on a beach over in the Shores of Plenty!” she raised the chest up into his face.
“Shiver me timbers! What is that?!” he rushed forward with his hands, caressing the metal fittings on the chest.
“No, no! Hands off, you slimy old man! Let me see the coin first!” she took a step back and stared at him.
“Argh, fine! Here! Now, give me that chest!” he hissed at her, throwing a small pouch of gold at her feet.
“Hm, I think you can do better…” she pushed the pouch back to him, with her foot.
“Captain Pheebs, you’re a scoundrel!” he snapped at her, but took another pouch from behind of him. “My chest, mine!” he handed the gold to her, staring at the chest.
“I’ll be taking …these.” She grabbed the pouch from his hand and dragged the other one with her foot.
She took the bags of gold and held them tightly in her hands as she turned around and looked at her crew who were selling the remaining loot. “Come, we are getting the finest grog tonight!” she shouted and gestured for them to follow her. Charles covered his head and shoulders with a small green blanket and looked at Tracy, shrugging. Both of them hurried after Pheebs and her crew, while Sherry walked back to her little workshop on the dock, where she started tinkering at the cap of a wooden barrel.
“Yes, grog!” Duke shouted and squeezed Pheebs’ quartermaster at his chest.
“Easy there, bilge ratty. Hands off, Gartunkle is mine!” Pheebs eyed Duke, her fingers slowly gripping the hilt of her cutlass.
“Oh no, I didn’t mean to, Captain!” Duke gulped and took a step back, waiting for Tracy and Charles.
“What an adventure, Captain” one of the crew members shouted, pouring himself some grog from the barrel and raised his tankard up.
“Aye, Raw Souce, me laddy!” Pheebs laughed and sat down at the table.
“Oi, do that again and I will cut your fingers off!” Tracy rushed in and shouted at Raw, seeing him help himself from the grog barrel.
Charles gazed over to the green tent as he walked towards the tavern. He stopped and laughed, seeing the man curse and kick the chest that Pheebs had sold him.
“Cursed thing! Open up!” he shouted at the chest as he tried several keys on the lock.
“What seems to be the problem, Humphrey?” he asked and laughed, walking over to him.
“Scammed! I have been fooled by that pirate!” he shouted and hissed at Charles.
“Seems like your key doesn’t fit in, old man” Charles mocked him.
“Nonsense! There’s no chest that I don’t have a key for! I am Humphrey of the Gold Hoarders! There’s no chest that we can’t open!” he picked the chest up and stomped towards the tavern, cursing and mumbling.
“How did you manage to get so much treasure?!” Duke asked as he drank tankard after tankard of grog.
“Well, everything went better than any of us expected! By the end of the second day on the sea we reached an island north of here, through where people are known to…” Raw stopped in the middle of his sentence and looked at the boatswain.
“People use it as a smuggling bay, a place where things come and go, depending on the price that you’re willing to pay.” The boatswain said as he looked at Raw.
“Hey, don’t go around telling everyone how and where we do business, Anon!” Pheebs shouted at the boatswain. “Here, you’re better off drinking! Now, drink and shut up!” she said, smashing a tankard on the table, in front of him.
“You, you scurvy pirate!” Humphrey rushed inside the tavern, shouting at Pheebs. “Give me back my money!” he threw the chest at her.
“Oi, it was a fair trade!” she screamed, hiding behind Ortomith, one of the fluffiest pirates that ever sailed the seas.
“No fighting in here! Take it outside!” Tracy tried getting between them, but the chest bounced off of Ortomith’s belly and onto her foot. “Oi!”.
“She tricked me! She gave me a fake chest!” he hissed at Pheebs, pointing his golden fingers at her.
“Hey, that is not true! Not my fault that you Gold Hoarders can’t do anything right!” Pheebs threw her tankard at Humphrey.
As they kept arguing and fighting over who was right about the chest, the door at the back of the tavern slowly opened. The injured woman who Tracy looked after walked towards the countertop, holding one of her bandages tightly at a wound on her ribs.
“Tracy? Hey, Tracy!” Charles, who also walked in the tavern as the parties kept arguing, pointed towards the woman.
“Oh, you’re up! Wait…how are you up?! What are you doing?!” Tracy gasped as she saw the woman standing there.
“That… chest…” she sighed and shivered as she stared at the chest.
“Everyone knows that you scammed me! Even that woman can tell it’s a fake chest!” Humphrey shouted and pointed at the woman.
“Nonsense! Don’t blame me because the Gold Hoarders can’t open it!” Pheebs took her blunderbuss, “Big Bertha”, and pointed it at Humphrey.
“Now, now… no need to use violence.” Duke walked between the two, leaning against a wooden pole, being too drunk to stand on his own two feet.
“You…speak!” Tracy shouted at the woman, looking at her baffled.
“She is right…” the woman said as she stepped from behind the counter, slowly walking towards the chest. “No one can open it… Not you, Gold Horder, or you, Order of Souls” she looked at the door, where a mysterious woman stood and watched what was happening.
“She is right…” the mysterious woman spoke as she stepped inside. “There is something about that chest… something inside of it, something of great magic.” She gazed upon the chest.
“Magic?! I am not getting my hands near that!” Humphrey took a step back and gulped.
“What is inside of it, what do you feel, Madame Olive?” Charles asked, turning towards the mysterious lady.
“I … I do not know. But I have a feeling that you do… Why don’t you tell us who you really are!” she turned her gaze towards the injured woman.
“I … I am … Truewalker.” The woman said as her gaze met Olive’s.
“Captain… Kat… Truewalker. How is that even possible?” Olive shivered at the sound of her name.
“Wait… Truewalker? As in… Queen of Eoland’s Fleet?! That Truewalker?!” Duke asked as he stared at Kat. “My people!” he raised his finger in the air and burped. “My people heard of you! Well, stories about you…Well, can’t really rememember…”.
“How can this be?” Humphrey asked, turning towards Olive.
“How, indeed! Those pirates perished hundred of years ago…” she questioned Kat, looking suspiciously at her.
“Two hundred years, to be more exact…” she said and kneeled in front of the chest, taking a peculiar relic from the back of her belt.
“Wait, what are you doing to my chest?!” Pheebs asked as she stepped forth from behind Ortomith’s back.
“Your chest?!” Humphrey poked her arm.
“This chest… it shouldn’t be here… it belonged to my old Captain, to Ere…but I made sure to make it so it would never be found.” She sighed and looked at the chest. “The seas are calling, he said… how foolish was I to believe him. How did I not see that he changed…that it corrupted…” she shivered and fit the relic in the chest’s lock, opening it.
Oh, how I wish I would have never set sail to Sanctuary Outpost with that chest. That chest… how things would have been if we haven’t found that cursed chest!
“What are those?!” several of them asked as they gathered around Kat, looking down at the chest.
“That…is glowing!” Charles said as he saw a piece of cloth, glowing a bright red.
“That…that is the Reaper’s Mark. Evil imbued into it… I wouldn’t touch that if I were you. Only sorrow and death come from it.” She stared into the red skull that was shining on the cloth.
“What is all of this? Why … why do I feel such strong magic coming from inside?!” Olive shivered and took a step back.
“This… this will give you the answers that you seek.” Kat picked up a dusty journal and handed it to Olive.
“It's been years since I found it
and I am no longer myself without
it; it's calling to me, in the dead
of night, in each moment that I'm
away from it. I can no longer see a
world in which it's not mine...
I am long past my time, but it made
me powerful, it made me what I
am... but little did I know; it
bound me to a realm beyond what we
can see and touch. It has changed
me, Kat said…”