The four pirates sat in uncomfortable silence in the sparse inn as the wereshark tore apart a pig on its spit, gobbling down huge chunks of it with focused determination. It paused to gulp down a mug of grog before digging its meaty hands into its meal and tore another chunk out of its fleshy side. Commodore Ailes, sweat pouring down his jowls, glared at the empty mug, a frown creasing his plump pale lips. Megan Keelhaul’s neutrally eyed Ailes as he tilted his head towards the grog, a silent suggestion for her to soften the wereshark up before the interview. Saws Hannity and Bilious O’ Reilly watched the exchange with amusement. Bilious even shifted his body to allow Keelhaul to reach for the jug. Her hard dark eyes flashed, then she flicked her beautiful blonde hair and ignored them, leaving the mug unfilled.
Saws glared at her and, with a snort of disgust, scooped up the jug and poured out a measure. The wereshark’s fist shot out and grabbed the mug. “Mighty good of you, guv,” it said through chewed pork. Saws gave a weak smile before turning to Bilious and glared his resentment towards him.
Bilious smiled smugly and leaned his lanky frame across the table. “How is it?” He asked, gesturing to the half finished roast.
“Good,” it replied and took another chuck of flesh, its jaws distending disturbingly as it shoved the pig into its gaping maw. It stared at him, however, with hard black tiny eyes, emotionless and unblinking. Bilious squirmed slightly under those eyes but recovered quickly enough.
“Got it special, just for you,” he simpered, “Because we knew you like it. Do you like it?”
“He better damn well like it,” Ailes interrupted testily, wiping the sticky sweat from his brow as the other pirates shot him looks of either surprise or anger.
The wereshark shifted it ponderous weight in its crude chair and turned towards The Commodore. “Aaww,” it smirked, “And we were just starting to be friends.” Ailes glared back, his own beady eyes shining angrily.
“We are friends here,” Bilious countered quickly and looked to his companions for conformation. Saws nodded eagerly but Keelhaul found something else in the room to be of more interest than what was going on and pointedly ignored their antics.
“Yeah, friends,” the wereshark snorted before it gulped back more grog, “I got a lot of friends lately. All asking the same thing. I guess that why you lot are looking to become buddies, huh?”
Bilious leaned back and looked down his nose. “We’re just hoping you could shed some light,” he said airily before gesturing towards the door, “But if you don’t want to talk to us, then…”
“What the fuck are you doing?” Ailes gasped as he bodily grabbed Bilious’ lank arm, “Are you out of your mind?”
As Saws moved to break up the conformation between the men, Keelhaul smiled sympathetically at the wereshark, her whiter than white teeth shining like small pearls. “You’re right, you know Riptooth,” she nonchalantly told him, “We want to hear what you saw.”
The wereshark laughed and leaned back in his creaking chair. “What’s in it for me?”
“Coins,” Ailes said hurriedly, “Let’s say three hundred gold.”
“That’s it?” The were replied with a chuckle. “I got that from the King himself as way of thanks. And I tried to kill him and his.”
Ailes looked around desperately and plucked a bejewelled ring off of his pudgy fingers. He slammed it on the table, letting a small glint from its gems catch the sharks inky black eyes. “Talk,” he demanded as he wiped the spittle that drooled down the quivering folds of his chins.
“Now we have a deal,” the wereshark said greedily as he moved Ailes soft hand and plucked up the sparkling ring, “What do you want to know?”
“Everything,” Bilious replied firmly as all eyes watched the shark in a man’s skin.
Riptooth frowned and crossed his arms over his massive chest, showing the tattoos that sprawled up his arms. They depicted the various monster he had fought across The Shackles; dragons, mermen, sea serpents and the like. But the twisting Eye of Abendeo, to signify his survival of the dreaded permanent storm, held a place of honour up his arm. One for each time he risked all in the Malstorm. A seaweed encrusted crown was marked on his shoulder, to show his loyalty to The Hurricane Crown. A trusted member of the former Hurricane King’s personal crew. “It all started when we saw the fleet,” he began slowly.
“The Chelish one?” Saws asked, looking for clarification before the other shushed him down.
“No, dumb fuck, the other invading fleet. Fucking dolt,” the wereshark snapped and Saws sat dumbfounded at the sudden rudeness. “With that fucking monster war machine in the head. Bonefist saw it and knew that there was nothing to be done but to fight. He called as many of his people in Fort Hazard as he could and made for his ship. Devils popped in and we fought them off while we made for the Underdock,” he said distantly, referring to the private dock of the Hurricane King, one hidden beneath Fort Hazard and only accessible by the magic of The Hurricane Crown, “I got told to hide in the water in case something came up from underneath. That’s probably why I’m still here.” The wereshark’s eyes grew distant as he remembered the next event. “I felt it. Felt it even though I was under the water. The King told me it was because of a damn Chelish spell. Dropped a massive flaming rock right on the gunpowder tower as Bonefist was ordering the powder on board. I guess whoever was spying for them got blown to bits along with everything else. I saw our poor Filthy Lucre roll from where I was and I came up to look.”
“And?” Ailes demanded as he restlessly pacing around the inn.
The wereshark took another sip of grog. “The whole place was on fire. And huge hole was punched in the ceiling. I’ve never seem that kind of damage in my life. Smoke. Fire. Blood. It was pretty eye opening. Then that Chelish bitch and her crew just waltz in out of nowhere.” The pirates all looked at Keelhaul, the only wizard in the room, who nodded.
“Could of been a teleport or a dimension door,’ she conceded, “Druvalia was some sort of Inquisitor. She might of been able to cast it. Or Harrigan, if he could read it off of a scroll and if he knew how. I heard Adelita was also there. Or they could just taken some stairs.”
“I think they just took the stairs,” the wereshark agreed before it continued, “Would of noticed Deloruso. And she would of been useful to them, seeing as what Foundling did when he showed up.”
Ailes growled under his breath at the mention of the new Hurricane King and kicked a discarded bone across the room. The wereshark looked over his shoulder quizzically, then looked questioningly at the rest of the pirates. “Ignore him,” Bilious advised, “He’s under some pressure.”
The wereshark shrugged and continued. “There was, who? That Admiral and her Hellknight. And about a half dozen or more of these creatures that looked like sea anemones. Only purple and glowing. Harrigan was there. I couldn’t see him but he was there,” he smirked and tapped the side of his often broken nose, “This don’t lie, if you get me.”
Saws paled at the mention of Harrigan, the man he publicly supported to replace Bonefist. All of the work he had put towards feeding the man information about Fort Hazard and it’s staff, all of the lies he told to put Harrigan in a great light. All, in the end, to support a surprise Chelish invasion. But Saws could still pull something out of this disaster, if he played his cards right. He hoped.
“The Bitch cast something and they strutted up to a pile of rocks against the wall. Two of them, the Hellknight and Harrigan started moving the rocks, looking for what was left of Bonefist. The blast must of sent him across the cavern. The rest kept watch. I had to keep just under the surface or they would of seen me. Then King Foundling showed up and it all went to shit.”
“Well?” Ailes demanded again, frustrated by the wereshark’s constant stalling. He hated Bonefist and his constant attempt to limit him. Hated the man’s greed and arrogance. It was the best for everyone involved that he died but that the person who took over should of been Harrigan. He, Ailes would of followed, with the proper arrangements in place, of course. But this new King just isn’t the kind to play along. He would cheat Ailes out of his dues. And that is something Ailes just couldn’t let happen. He wasn’t about to be out played by a stripling, no matter how well connected or liked he was. People’s options could be changed, with enough words spoken to the right ears. He could feel Norgorber disapproving breathe on the nape of his neck. To come so far only to have it all collapse like a wind through a weakly tied sail.
“I don’t know,” The wereshark continued, “It was suddenly all flashing colours and lights. Like a circus act or something. Captain Ryrun jumped in out of nowhere and behind him was this message in flashing sparking lights. ‘Will you marry me?’. That’s what it said. All purple and gold and as big as you please. I still don’t know what to make of it. ‘Will you marry me?’. The damnedest thing. Anyways, he cleared the cove with a single jump.”
“Sounds dramatic,” Bilious replied as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully, a gesture he learned to make it look like he cared about what was being said even though he thought this whole affair was pointless. They’d already heard all of this but Ailes needed to hear it straight from the shark’s mouth, as it were. They just needed to keep working to shift the narrative away from Foundling’s version of events. They didn’t need to know the actual truth to do that. But The Commodore insisted so Bilious obeyed.
“It’s about ten yards across that gap,” the wereshark told the group as his hand mimed the movement of the elf, “And he cleared it without stopping. Didn’t even get his ankles wet. Right over my head. By that time almost all of the devils were dead though. Captain Idoki hit them with a spell that lit up the room…”
“Probably a chained lightning, if it was devils,” Keelhaul said casually, watching the nervous Ailes out of the corner of her eye. She could tell the fat stupid bastard was losing it. All those years of playing it fast under the permissive hand of Bonefist had made him soft. As long Bonefist got his bit of gold, he didn’t care what Ailes told people. And they all used that to make themselves a little richer without having to stick their necks out too far. But then Ailes though he had paid Bonefist enough. So he tried to turn the people against the king, with the hope of grooming the next one to be more permissive of Ailes’ needs. But the fool didn’t think to do any actual grooming. Instead he trusted that Norgorber would send a suitable candidate if he set the ground work. Then Harrigan came onto the scene and Ailes though he had his Godsend. Only Harrigan turned out to be a traitor and the new actual king didn’t care much for Ailes and his network. Although that was mostly Bilious’ fault. The man just couldn’t help himself when it came to insulting people he felt were beneath him. He might of be a genius at manipulating the message, but he was a follower, forever looking up to richer men like Ailes.
“Sounds right,” the wereshark conceded again, “It smelt like lightning. Anyways, she and Captain Renza killed all but one of them. I think it was Renza. I guess the last one was just outside the blast. But the others sure weren’t…”
“You think it was Renza?” Saws looked around confused. Why were these idiots not explaining anything?
“Let me guess. A patch of clouds shaped like a woman, wreathed in fire, holding a flaming sword or a whip of lightning?” Keelhaul supplied confidently as the wereshark nodded earnestly. “That’s Renza alright,” she continued, “Shape shifted into an elemental.”
“I guess,” the wereshark replied, “She spat a gout of fire over The Bitch and her friends. Not that it stopped them. Then Harrigan grabbed the Crown and tried to make a run for it. I just saw The Crown float up and then vanish. The last devil died a second later. I guess it was in Harrigan’s way because it just fell over spewing blood everywhere. Ryrun dodged around and killed the Hellknight with a couple of slashes. The woman might as well stayed home for all the use she was. But The Bitch didn’t take too kindly to her friend getting chopped up like that. Put a crossbow bolt right into Ryrun’s throat. I guess she wasn’t the marrying type.”
“Wait, Ryrun is the traitor?” Saw asked in confusion. This was getting more and more complicated and there wasn’t enough grog in the world to help cope with his confusion.
“I doubt it,” Bilious reasoned, “He’s known to brag about wanting to marry the Queen of Kyonin. Maybe he was trying to marry his way up. First marry a noble, then try to court his way up. It’s a pretty common way for a commoner to gain power. Although trying to court an enemy commander in the midst of a battle seems stupid, to say the least.”
“Stupid,” Ailes snorted as he sweated and paced, “That sums up this whole thing.”
“Please go on,” Keelhaul gently urged.
The wereshark looked at his audience and sighed. “Idoki melted The Bitch. With a spray of fire. Just killed her outright. She shrieked until the fire got down her lungs and then made that pathetic rattling gurgle you hear sometimes. Ryrun was pissed. Let me tell you. And then Harrigan got it.”
Everyone looked at the wereshark. “Oh,” Bilious said carefully, noting that something was missing from the story.
“Renza got in front of him,” the wereshark explained. “I heard him demand that she get out of his way. ’I’m the Hurricane King and you will obey!‘. I heard him and I wanted to get out of his way. But she just said “no” and stabbed him a lot. He was invisible and all but she wasn’t having any of it. There was blood everywhere. Then Ozzi got behind him and touched him with a spell and Harrigan was done,” he finished quickly, hoping to move on from this part of the tale.
“What was Sandy doing all of this?” Bilious asked.
“Yelling at Harrigan. Casting spells. When I saw Harrigan go down, I decided to leave.”
“There is something you aren’t telling us,” Keelhaul noted softly, “You said you tried to kill them. When was that?”
“It’s a little embarrassing,” the wereshark said as he shifted on his chair, “Ozzi couldn’t get across the water like the others so he must of had some magic on himself because he swam across. Jumped into the water with me in full armour. And my last order from Bonefist was attack anyone who was in the water. So I thought…”
“You’d snatch someone during the confusion,” Bilious finished.
“That was my orders,” he said defensibly, “I waited until the guy got about half way across and I came up on him and tossed him into the air. Then I hit him down hard.”
“Disorientating,” Bilious said approvingly, “A good way to knock the air out of someone.”
“But he could breathe underwater,” Keelhaul supplied.
“I didn’t even phase him. He went up, then down and then just kept swimming. He pulled himself up and didn’t even look at me. He was all focused on Harrigan. Then King Foundling got me from behind with this wand and I decided to give it up.”
“A wand? What spell?” Keelhaul insisted, gently touching Riptooth’s massive arm.
“I don’t know,” the wereshark retorted as he jerked his arm away from the slender woman, “It knocked the wind out of me. Felt like a giant squeezed my ribs. The King just looked at me and I just kind of wanted to be anywhere but looking at him. Then Ozzi killed Harrigan and it was all over.”
“Sounds like a Bone Breaking spell,” Keelhaul whispered approvingly, “King Foundling is full of surprises. I heard he sold the Rod of Wonder. I guess he must of replaced it with something more reliable. The boy must of used a harming spell. We know he likes those kind of spells…”
“I don’t know,” the wereshark continued, “What I do know is that this weird shifty colours covered both of them for a moment when he smacked Harrigan. One minute Harrigan wasn’t there, then he was on his way face down. It was creepy. The two of them were covered in that weird light. Then just Ozzi. I know cleric types and I ain’t never seen that kind of thing.” He looked at Keelhaul for an answer but the woman only creased her brow in worry.
“Shifting colours?” She muttered, “Maybe he tapped into something protean? From The Black Queen’s own Realm? But that seem pretty unlikely from someone so young. Unless he made some sort deal with something? That’s possible. If he really hated Harrigan then that would make sense, I guess.”
“So Ryrun’s a traitor and Ozzi’s made a deal with a demon? Is that what we’re spinning?” Saws said desperately, trying to find something he could hang his sail on.
“Well, that’s the thing…” Riptooth said hesitantly, shifting his weight under the chair.
“ The Kelpie’s Wrath.” Bilious said heavily and the wereshark nodded his head to confirm it.
“I saw it,” Riptooth said with a whispered fearful reverence.