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part one

A Hidden Cave in The Peaks, Shaman
One Week Ago.

“Cap’n!” Jefferson half-shouted in his surprise, “You’re back!”.

He jumped down off the upturned crate he had been sitting on and tried his best to look sober. Wincing, the pirate stepped on the neck of one of the glass bottles by his feet and sent it spinning across the cave floor. Kaliban stopped the bottle with the toe of his boot without even breaking stride. He studied it for a moment and then raised his head, fixing Jefferson with a hard stare. Jefferson suppressed a shudder, his skin crawling under the golden-eyed gaze.

“I trust you’ve made progress with more than just emptying the wine store?” Kaliban asked, kicking the bottle away. It rolled across the cave and smashed against the wall behind him. Jefferson winced, but Kaliban didn’t. He was waiting for an answer.

“Yes, sir! It was where you’d said it would be.”

Jefferson shepherded his captain through the cave into the chamber beyond. The caves nestled into the exposed peaks of what had once been the Vista Mountains were neither as dry nor as extensive as the Apeliotes Caves. They were, however, conveniently hidden and difficult to reach. They had never had any problems with overly curious strangers.

The wardrobe has been pushed up against the back wall of the second chamber. Its carved summit brushed against the rocky ceiling. It had taken a determined crew member and a chisel to make it possible for it to stand upright. Jefferson watched as Kaliban approached the doors and rested a tanned hand against the wood. He was relieved when his captain began to smile in apparent contentment.

“Murray didn’t give you any trouble, I trust?”

Jefferson shrugged.

“A little, sir, but we returned the favour.”

Kaliban’s smile became a grin. He opened the wardrobe door and peered inside. It didn't appear to be anything extraordinary. The interior wood was dull and unpolished, a series of slats running down the back wall. Jefferson watched curiously as Kaliban pulled something from his pocket and placed it inside the cupboard. He closed the door again and set his hand back against the wood. The wardrobe glowed blue.

"Sir?" Jefferson said, as the light faded. Kaliban smirked, pulled the door open again and gestured inside. Jefferson crept forwards and peered into the wardrobe. It was empty.

"Where did it go?" Jefferson asked, looking up at his captain with a frown.

"You rounded up a couple of volunteers like I asked?" Kaliban demanded, stepping back and folding his arms across his chest. Jefferson straightened up and nodded.

"Yes, sir?" He watched Kaliban nod his satisfaction.

"I guess we'll find out then, won't we?"

Taking the hint, Jefferson scurried across the cave and out into the antechamber. He stuck his head out through the entrance and was hit full-force in the face by an icy wind. Shivering, he hissed into the fog. The two figures appeared, holding tightly to the mountainside. They looked relieved when they finally made it into the safety of the cave. Both had been pirates before the flood had hit; they had escaped when their captain had been claimed by a royal raid and had been down on their luck ever since. They looked it.

"You'll remember to call him ‘sir’, if you know what's good for you," Jefferson told them sternly, pointing the way through the cave to the second chamber where Kaliban waited. The two men shrugged and wandered past him with their hands in their pockets. Biting his lip, Jefferson hurried after them.

In his absence, Kaliban had unpacked his bag. He had set two piles of clothes on top of the make-shift table pushed up against the side wall, and draped a chainmail shirt over each end. Two well-polished helmets had been placed down by the table's legs.

Jefferson followed Kaliban's eyes as he looked the two pirates up and down. His top-lip curled in distaste.

"You'll both need to shave." he told them without making eye contact and gestured at a bowl on the floor on the other side of the room. A folded straight razor sat on the floor beside it.

The pirates didn't move.

Kaliban gave Jefferson a nod and he hurried over to the bowl, picked it and the razor up, and set them down on the table between the piles of clothes.

"I assume you know where your faces are well enough not to require a mirror?" asked Kaliban. The taller of the two pirates advanced on him with a scowl.

"I ain't dollin' masel' up for no one." He growled, setting a hand to the dagger on his hip.

Kaliban moved like lightning. In one fluid movement he took up and unfurled the straight razor, advanced on the astonished pirate, and set the blade to the astonished man's exposed throat. Kaliban walked him back into the wall and ran the blade lightly over his skin before pressing it into the small delve below the joint of his jaw.

"Either you remove the hair from your face," Kaliban purred, "or I'll remove your face from your head." Jefferson gulped. The pirate's eye twitched before he nodded very carefully, his eyes fixed on Kaliban's.

"Wonderful." Kaliban smiled, releasing his hold and crossing the room back to the passage to the other chamber. "Keep an eye on them, Jefferson, and get them dressed."

Jefferson watched his captain leave and turned back to the glowering pirates.

“I warned you,” he said, in his toughest voice, fixing each of them with a hard stare. “Get on with it.” He was relieved when they didn’t argue. As they attended to their faces, he collected the piles of clothes and chainmail from the table, placed them down by their feet, and then did his best to occupy himself whilst they changed.

Kaliban returned just as Jefferson was handing them their helmets. He wasn’t alone.

Behind him strode the Duchess, cloaked in gray to blend into the shadows, and a large misshapen creature, all lumps and limbs. The Duchess paused, turned to her companion and gesticulated towards the floor. The one strange shape became two as a burly woman tossed her package forwards into the light of the torches. Her duty discharged, she turned and left by the way she had come.

Kaliban drew his dagger and pointed it at the first pirate.

“You,” he barked, flicking the tip of the blade in the direction of the wardrobe, “get in.” The pirate hesitated and Jefferson winced.

“You want me t’get inna closet?” The pirate asked. Jefferson threw him a pointed look. “...Sir.”

“Preferably before I get old, yes.” Kaliban replied.

The newest arrival watched the men with mild interest as she leaned against the wall of the cave, one foot keeping her parcel still as it shifted. The pirate approached the cupboard, opened one of the doors gingerly and stepped inside. He had to crouch in order to fit. Kaliban smiled at him.

“Close the door.”

The pirate obeyed,and for a moment nothing happened. And then the wardrobe shook, emitting the same dark-blue light as before. When it was still, Jefferson and the remaining pirate exchanged nervous glances.

“Did it work?” Jefferson wondered. Kaliban shrugged and approached the doors, leaning forwards to peer inside. When he turned back he was holding something in his hand. Jefferson took a step closer and wished he hadn’t. The pirate’s severed ring finger lay on his captain’s palm.

“I’d say, mostly,” Kaliban smiled, “you next.” He pointed at the second pirate with a widening smile.

“What about his finger?!” the pirate spluttered incredulously, pointing at the thing in Kaliban’s outstretched hand. Jefferson scurried across the room and picked up some bandages from the table. Approaching the pirate he pressed them into his arms. He paused at the sound a light thud. He turned around slowly. Kaliban had dropped the finger onto the floor. His captain drew a handkerchief from his pocket and began to clean the blood away. He nodded towards the bandages.

“I trust you can manage some basic first aid?” Kaliban sniffed, folding the handkerchief back into a neat square and placing it back inside his jacket. “When you get there, send something back through so we know you’ve arrived in the correct place, alright?”

The pirate looked as if he were about to argue but as his eyes darted from Kaliban’s dagger to the finger on the floor and back again, he seemed to think better of it.

“You’re a lunatic,” he told Kaliban before taking a steadying breath and climbing into the wardrobe.

Kaliban turned his back on the glowing cupboard and set his golden eyes on the Duchess. He approached the sack on the floor and nudged it with the flat of his boot.

“You brought what I asked for?”

“I did,” she replied.

“I assume you can rouse him,” Kaliban countered, squatting down on the floor and peeling back the rough sacking to reveal a sleeping face. A handsome bruise was forming over the man’s left eye. “He’s not a lot of use to me unconscious.”

The Duchess unfolded her arms with a wry look. “Yes.” she retorted briskly. “Are you ready now? He may put up a fight.”

“I’m sure we’ll manage,” Kaliban answered, “won’t we, Jefferson?” Jefferson froze under his captain’s gaze, feeling like a rabbit caught in headlights. Finally he managed to nod.

“Yes, cap’n.”

Kaliban beamed.

“You see, Duchess. Now revive him.”

The woman looked between Kaliban and Jefferson and returned her gaze to the face on the floor of the cave. Without any further ado, she reached out and pressed her hand against the man’s forehead.

A second later his eyes burst open and his arms flew up to protect himself from whatever nightmare he’d awoken to. Kaliban’s smile grew. He reached out and took hold of the man’s cheeks, his thumb pressing into the left, his index finger the right.

“Hello there, sleeping beauty,” he purred, “you’re going to do me the tiniest of favours, and then you and I are going to make history.”

The man struggled briefly before Kaliban pushed him firmly back to the floor. He mumbled something, but his voice was unintelligible.

“Wonderful,” Kaliban said, releasing the man’s face, and sitting back on his haunches. “We understand each other, don’t we? Why don’t you tell me your name?”

“V-v-vasily?” the man stuttered, tentatively. He stayed on the ground, uncertain whether he would be allowed to get up at all. With a glance at the woman and Jefferson, he struggled to sit . “Who are you?”

Kaliban ignored the question.

“Well, Vasily,” he said, reaching into his inside pocket. He produced a folded piece of parchment and handed it to the young man with a hungry smile. “All I need you to do is locate this object for me. Simple as that. Think you can manage it?”

Vasily frowned and looked at the parchment, then back at the man. “That’s all?” he asked, a hint of relief touching his voice. It vanished with his next words. “Are you pirates? You’re trying to steal whatever it is.” The fear gave way to timid accusation. “I find things people have lost, not what they want to steal. And I do it from home.” It was big talk from such a fragile-looking man. “You didn’t have to drug me.”

Kaliban glanced at Duchess, shaking his head. She rolled her eyes in return.

“Her methods are a little rough, I grant you. But Vasily, this…” he tapped the drawing with his index finger. “This has the power to save Shaman! And I intend to do just that. But before I can do that, I need you to help me.”

The temptations of heroism apparently won out, and Vasily opened the parchment. His forehead wrinkled.

“How is this going to save Shaman?”

Written by Merlin and Edel

    • part two -
    • part three -
    • part four -
    • part five -
    • part six -
    • part seven -
    • part eight -
    • part nine -

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