Skull and Shackles

Excerpt from "Hero's Guide: The Complete Writings of Errol Karn- Vol. IV" --- continued

Ingloriousness

At last, the time had come for Lady Smithy of Tidewater Rock to be wed to the Great Errol Karn. The ceremony was simple and tasteful. As a wedding gift, Lady Smithy gave me a worthy dowry, and in return I gave her the honor of forever being tied to history as the first wife of Captain Karn. But it was not my fate to stay as a guardian of the Rock. Neigh, my destiny was far greater. I was soon ready to venture out in search of infamy and inglory.

That witch that I so easily took down had a map tattooed on her back. Since that incident, Erlik managed to make a nice leather version of it for us to use, and we set sail for the marked location. It led us to Mancatcher Cove, a crescent shaped island with tall cliffs and a thick canopy of vines. We sailed up to the mouth and considered our next actions.

We could see a skull carved into the cliff face opposite of us that had a tooth made of gold. In a rare moment of distraction, I made the mistake of following the advice of one of my crewmates as we decided the best approach was to try to climb across the vines to the other side. Once we were halfway across, Jerrick and Erlik made a preemptive strike against the quiet waters below, summoning a squid and dropping bombs to try to lure out any nasties. The only things that surfaced were a few saughin. But one was riding a shark! I didn’t even know that was possible!

Just then, we were attacked by the vines themselves. It was a harrowing fight. Jerrick was almost swallowed whole, but fortunately, he’d managed to grease up the vine monster beforehand, allowing him to slip out. And then promptly plummet to the ocean beneath us. The crew of the DDD had seen our struggles, though, and had already sailed in to help and were there to rescue him while the rest of us continued to battle.

I grabbed one of the vines and sliced it, allowing me to swing down for a graceful swoop attack, but as I did, one of the vines tried to reach out and catch me. It was at this moment that I felt something. I blinked and suddenly felt as though I was watching myself from someone else’s eyes. I saw myself deftly dodge the attacking vine and quickly counter it, cutting the vine free from the canopy and watching it fall, dead, into the waters beneath us. Another blink and I felt in control once again, back in my own eyes. It was an incredible feeling to see myself from that perspective. How amazing must it be for my crew to be able to witness amazing feats like this every day!

We’d soon killed the remaining vines, with Quinn making the final, fatal blow. Then we finally made our way to the cliff with the skull carved into it. Examining the gold tooth revealed it was nothing but fool’s gold. Who does that!? You go to all the work of carving a spooky skull into the cliff of a dangerous cove and then skimp on a detail like that? Disgraceful! Anyway, the eye sockets turned out to be caves, so we figured there was still something valuable to be found. One eye was covered in vines while the other was filled with flowers. The map had some poetic clues written at the bottom that led us to choose the left cave with the vines.

Inside was an old tree that resembled and ancient, bearded king. After a little digging, we found some planks and pulled them up. Underneath was a corridor leading into water. We followed it and came to a room with some saughin and a shark. Having recently learned that sharks can be tamed and ridden like a steed, I decided to claim this creature as my own. However, my crew felt threatened, I guess, and killed it before I had the chance. I need to remember to have a stern talk with them later on about obeying my wishes. Seeing the shark killed, the saughin started to run away. Inam yelled after them to offer a deal. If they would lead us to the treasure, we would spare their lives. One, named A’kash’ak, agreed. I also asked him to teach me how to ride a shark. I’m not sure Inam’s translating skills are all that great, though, because he didn’t really seem to provide a sensible answer.

A’kash’ak led us to the king’s chamber but refused to go any further and scurried off. The chamber had a large wall of seaweed crossing the entire room. As we approached, a saughin with four arms jumped out and attacked Quinn. Everyone rushed in to help defend him while I swam into the seaweed wall. It proved to be just a thin barrier. Behind it were three more saughin. One appeared to be a shaman of sorts, attempting the heal the four-armed monster on the other side. I single-handedly killed all three without taking so much as a scratch or breaking a sweat and then went back through the seaweed. I’ll admit, I’m embarrassed to write this, but I found that the rest of my crew had barely survived the fight against their single, solitary opponent.

Having slain the creatures, we explored the room. There was an appealing throne that invited me to sit in it. I must say, it just felt… right somehow. As if it were the kind of throne I would have after rightfully taking my place as ruler of the world. There was also a hollow space hidden underneath it containing two chests. One looked pretty standard, at least as far as secret chests hidden in throne rooms under carnivorous islands are concerned. The other looked distinctly, well, creepier. We opened the normal one first. It was larger on the inside than it should have been, and was filled with all sorts of treasure and goodies. You couldn’t wipe the grin off my face even if you were to release a cloud of deadly poison into the room by breaking the lead seal on a boobytrapped chest. Ahem.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure Quinn got his vision back at some point.

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