Cookie and Misty: and the Case of the Shanghai'd Chicken
By: GmaFog | : 1140
So there we were, just walking through Gendarran Fields, minding our own business and enjoying a nice peaceful walk through the countryside. We had started the day at the Vigil Keep and were making our way down to Almuten Estates and then on to the shops around Cornucopian Fields in search of fresh produce and ideas.
My companion, “Humble” Misty, a Norn Chef of great renown, and her companion snow leopard, Foggy Mist, were ambling along as I jogged trying to keep up. My almost five and a half foot frame seemed hardly adequate compared to Misty’s over eight foot stature, and a comparable difference in stride length made sure I got my daily exercise. I’m known as “Cookie” La Boomboom, trained as an engineer but pressed into service as a Cook for a Charr warband after an unfortunate incident a while back. We’ve been travelling together through Tyria with a charter to discover new foods and recipes for the Court of Queen Jennah. We have a second, classified mission as well. I could tell you what it is but then Foggy would have to eat you.
We had just come over the crest of the hill above Newbeach Bluffs when we saw four Pack Dolyaks grazing alongside the road below, wearing empty pack frames and dragging straps and rigging. Something didn’t look right. My hand slipped to the grip of a pistol, and from the corner of my eye I saw Misty smoothly bring her Molten Longbow to the ready.
Foggy Mist inclined his head toward the beach, and listening hard we could hear the sound of someone shouting, whether in pain or anger was hard to tell. We moved cautiously toward the beach until a figure came into view. From the way she was throwing everything in reach, as well as more than a few well-chosen insults, at the back of a quickly receding Longboat, it seemed anger was the more probable motivator. The longboat was pulling strongly, oars dipping as it headed for the harbor entrance at the Brigantine Isles. “Hello?” I called, and quickly ducked as a rock whizzed past my left ear. “Hey! We’re friendly!”
The woman on the beach looked us over and apparently decided we were not a threat, then back at the boat, now clearly out of range of projectiles both physical and verbal. She sat down heavily on the beach and began to sob with her head in her hands. “Those dratted pirates made off with my entire shipment!” she sniffled. “Eight crates of prepared chickens for the Vigil Keep kitchens, and now I have nothing to show for it. I bring along a bottle or two of rum in case I run into a scallywag, but this is the first time they ever cleaned me out entirely! They usually show up in ones or twos, but today there were eight or ten of them.”
“You are lucky they didn’t take you too. I hear the Jackdaws are into kidnapping and ransom.” said Misty gently. “The Cutthroats are even worse.”
The woman stood and brushed off the sand, then turned toward the Dolyaks. “They usually don’t hurt folks much unless there is nothing to pillage, and they got their pillage today,” she grumbled. “I just wish you had come by a bit sooner. We could have given them what for, and I might still have my shipment.”
“Four against eight or ten still isn’t great odds. Someone might have gotten hurt.” I asserted helpfully.
That got me looks from both of the ladies that suggested silence might be the best form of helpful for a while.
“Something must have the pirates dander up. There’s been smoke and fire glow all around the Brigantine Isles for a couple days now. I thought they’d be too busy with their own problems to bother with my little shipment today. This isn’t usual for them.” said our new friend as she began to round up her Dolyaks and stow the loose rigging. “I’m Anna, by the way. From Applenook.”
“Misty, Cookie, and Foggy here, exploring.” explained Misty, scratching the big cat’s ears. “So you think something is up with the local Pirate clans?”
“There’s something going on. Like I said, they aren’t acting normal, or what passes for normal among Pirates. They seemed rattled, desperate, almost scared today. Not at all their normal bragging bully selves.”
Misty pondered a moment, then stated confidently, “We will go see what’s happening and try to get your shipment back, or at least fair payment.”
This was news to me, as I didn’t think walking into a major Pirate base in the middle of the day with the aim of taking things of value away from the Pirates had been on my schedule. I quickly checked to make sure. Nope. Wasn’t on there. “Erm, Misty? Can I have a moment?”
Misty joined me a few feet away and took a knee to get down to face-to-face level. I opened my mouth to speak and she stepped into the opening. “Listen,” she said, “if something is going on with the Pirates then we need to know what it is. Our mission demands it. If we can help Anna out in the process then so much the better, but we are going to do this. Now go find us a boat.” She reached out with a finger and tapped my chin to close my mouth. Hard to get the last word with that one. Or the first. I went to find a boat.
Misty returned to help Anna organizing the Dolyaks for the walk back to Applenook.
“Thanks” said Anna, “Oh, and be careful if you open those cases. We pack an Ice Imp with each case of chickens to keep them frozen in transit, and they can be a bit testy when you let them out.”
An hour later the three of us were heading to the Brigantine Isles in a leaky boat, Foggy stretched over the bow looking like a toothy figurehead, Misty rowing with long, deep sweeps of the oars, and me sitting in the stern bailing as quickly as I could with my hat substituting for a bailing bucket. My boots were already swamped. It would be a close race between the rising water in the boat and the approaching shore.
Two thirds of us made it. As the bow rode up on the bank Foggy leapt lightly onto the shore, followed by Misty making a single bound from her seat in the middle of the boat. The stern, on the other hand, compensated for the bow rising by dipping sharply and the transom went full submarine on me. I was up to my neck before I could move, and ended up dog-paddling to shore clutching my poor abused hat which was now no more soggy than the rest of me.
We began moving around the outcropping toward the bay, Foggy slinking silently in the lead, Misty following warily, keeping to the shadows and clefts of rock, and me squelching along noisily in the rear not particularly caring who saw me, as a good fight might help me dry off and improve my mood. The air stank of smoke and something else, acrid and foul, that stung the nose and throat. There was smoke rising from somewhere ahead.
We came to a Pirate tri-barrel cannon turret overlooking the harbor entrance. Foggy sniffed the air and his tail signalled the all clear as the turret remained inert. We started down the narrow beach toward the harbor buildings. As the harbor came further into view it became obvious something had indeed been troubling the Pirates. Almost everything in sight was burned or burning, and there was nobody moving anywhere we could see. There was burning wreckage at the docks. Blackened ground marked where buildings and tents once stood. The thatched roof of one of a very few remaining shacks was throwing oily smoke into the air as fire glowed through the windows.
The only building still standing relatively undamaged was a stone structure with a slate roof that had a sign reading “Copper Doubloon Saloon” over the door. As we looked the thick iron door opened, and a tall skinny pirate was motioning frantically for us to enter. He didn’t appear hostile. In fact, he was looking decidedly more scared than scary.
Misty nearly tripped over Foggy as the big cat froze, eyes scanning skyward over the harbor. The Pirate glanced toward where Foggy was looking and his eyes got wide, and his motions even more frantic. We paused, undecided whether this was a trap or invitation. Foggy decided for us as he suddenly doubled in size as every hair stood on end, his tail went straight up, his back arched, and every tooth became visible as a combined hiss and snarl came from deep within his core. A second later he disappeared in a streak toward the open door, Misty following a few steps behind.
I was still trying to figure out what was going on when a streak of fire cut across the beach just in front of me and a shadow flickered over my head. My pistols were out in a flash, and came up to target a flying nightmare as it passed. There was a click and fizzle as I pulled the triggers, a whisp of white smoke rising from one barrel. Of course. My powder was as wet as I was. I was still standing there being disgusted with myself when a familiar arm extended through the wall of fire, grabbed the front of my tunic, and yanked me off my feet and through the flames. My feet touched ground once or twice over the 30 yards or so to the doorway of the Saloon, where Misty released me while I was in mid air with my feet trailing well behind the rest of me. The landing was quite undignified.
When I picked myself up off the floor I could see that the door was bolted, with Misty and Foggy standing with their backs to the wall in a defensive stance. The other three in the room, the thin pirate, another rather rotund pirate, and a dark-haired woman dressed as a barmaid, were enthusiastically demonstrating that they had no weapons in hand and intended no harm.
“What’s going on here?” was the obvious question. It took me a moment to realize that I was the one who had asked.
“I’m Hoy, First Mate of the Silver Scabbard,” said the skinny pirate, ”and this here is Vast, our Quartermaster, and Marge there is the proprietor of this establishment. You’re safe in here, this building was originally a brig. It’s solid and won’t burn. We’re kinda happy to see you. We thought we were the last people on this blighted island.”
“What happened to everyone else, and what in the mists is that flying blowtorch thingy?” I asked, my sharp intellect and superior command of language showing clearly.
“That ‘Thingy’ is a Wyvern, from the Maguuma Jungles.” Misty stated flatly, “The real question is how it got here.” She looked pointedly at the First Mate, who squirmed a bit then sighed and sat heavily at one of the tables I had not knocked over with my entry maneuver.
“Well, you see, the Silver Scabbard, we called her ‘The Scab’, wasn’t like most pirate ships. We used to sail with the Penzan Pirates and we’re not really into all that loot and pillage stuff. We prefer to sing and dance and party, but we serve an important role as traders between the various Pirate clans. We travel here and there picking up what folks have extra and trading for what others need.”
“We were out in Maguuma when Captain Yarr, our esteemed leader, came across some folks that had captured this thing. It was out cold when we got there, but from what they described it could really be useful as a weapon, for towing the ship if we were becalmed, or for cooking a big barbeque. The Captain figured we could train it.”
“The folks that captured it said it had quite a taste for rum, and had consumed several barrels from a shipment they were transporting, which accounted for it’s unconscious state at the time. We happened to have a bit of spare rum in the hold, so we made a trade.”
“Now Captain Yarr was a pretty good Pirate captain, but didn’t always make the wisest decisions, particularly after sampling the rum being traded to make sure it was ‘of the best quality’. If he had been entirely sober he may have seen the risk in confining a fire-breathing critter in the hold of a wooden ship adjacent to the powder magazine.”
“We were almost back to the harbor here when the thing woke up. It was a bit agitated at being confined, and the Cap’n figured it was time to start training. He went into the hold and the thing started snapping at him and thrashing, so he smacked it on the nose with the flat of his sword to show it who was boss and commanded ‘down boy’. Apparently Wyvern don’t speak much Pirate, ‘cause it didn’t react well. Poor Cap’n Yarr.”
Both Pirates rose, doffed their hats and placed them over their hearts, cast their eyes skyward, and said in unison and in reverent tones, “May he sail the mists on gentle breezes,” before returning to their seats.
“It didn’t take long for the crew to decide to abandon ship once the fires got going, and once that thing broke out of the hold it was pretty much every man for himself. A couple minutes later the powder blew, and that was it for the Scab. That’s the top of her mast sticking out of the water in the middle of the bay out there.“
“Before we even got to shore the Jackdaws and Cutthroats who saw what that thing did to the poor Scab up-anchored and set out for who knows where. The few of us left on the island gathered here while that critter rampaged around tearing things up and burning everything. It ate every Moa and most of the Crabs on the island and tore apart every hut and tent, apparently looking for rum. We stacked all of the rum from the Saloon here outside hoping it would pass out again. It seemed to work, because it licked up every bit of it and then it got real quiet for a while this morning.”
“We figured if we could just hold out until the thing went away we’d be okay, but we needed provisions. Almost all of the food on the island except what little is in the root cellar of this building was destroyed, so we took the only boat we could find that was seaworthy and went to the mainland. We found a merchant with some provisions, but she wasn’t too happy about sharing with us and we didn’t have time to negotiate.”
“When we got back to the island, though, that thing was on the prowl again. We three grabbed cases of provisions and headed in, but the rest of the crew mutinied on us when we weren’t looking and took the longboat and other provisions and headed North to another Pirate base that has some caves to hide in. That left just the three of us, and no way to get off this island until you came along. Do you have a boat?” he asked hopefully.
“Not so much.” I wrung out my hat, adding to the puddle gathering at my feet. “So what do we do now?”
Misty looked around the room, and everyone looked back at her. She took a deep breath. “Okay, so we need to get rid of this thing. How can we kill it?”
Vast, the Quartermaster, spoke up. “Don’t try to shoot it, it will just make it angry. You won’t like it when it’s angry. It can dodge most anything you can shoot at it, and most things just bounce off its hide even if you can hit it.”
“I think the cannon turret still works,” said Hoy. “It should have enough firepower to put a dent in it. We have a problem though. There’s powder, but no cannonballs left.”
Marge spoke up. “Maybe we can bait it, then hit it while it’s sitting still at close range.”
Misty thought for a few seconds then shrugged. “We need to inventory what we have to work with. Vast and Marge, check out the root cellar. Hoy and Cookie, check out that turret but be careful, that thing is still out there. Foggy and I will recon the rest of the area and see if we can find anything useful.
Vast started to open one of the three cases sitting on the bar.
“Wait! Don’t open that in here!” Misty shouted “The Merchant said they packed an Ice Imp in each case, and we don’t need one of those flying around in here throwing ice shards everywhere.”
Vast looked at Misty and shrugged, then bowed to Marge as they headed toward the root cellar.
Thirty minutes later we were all back in the Saloon. The Tri-barrel Turret did appear fully functional with the exception of ammunition. Misty said she had found little other than twisted metal and charred wood. The cellar had yielded a few crates of citrus fruit, some herbs and spices, and a case of clear liquid that Marge called “Tickle-Ya”. Apparently it had the effect on some folk of leaving them rolling on the floor clutching their sides, as if they were being violently tickled, after consuming a couple of glasses. Marge explained that it was distilled from cactus juice in her homeland. Apparently the Pirates didn’t care much for it, preferring the classic rum.
“Here’s the plan,” said Misty, once they had compared notes. “Fire and Ice don’t mix. We will take the cases outside, and try to bait that thing into coming close. Then we open the cases and let the Ice Imps loose, three against one. Hopefully they can weaken or slow it to the point we can bring it down.”
There were a few dubious looks around the table but nobody offered an alternative plan. We decided to set up down on the beach, with a cliff to our back for protection and water in front in case we needed to make a hasty escape or self-extinguish.
Misty took one case, while we paired off on the other two. Foggy took point, checking the wind and sky for any sign of the Wyvern. The coast was clear for the moment. We dashed out and down the beach, setting the cases against the cliff wall and starting a pry bar on each lid. Misty nocked an arrow on her Molten Longbow while I chambered a net round in my Shotgun. We were as ready as we would ever be. It didn’t feel very ready.
Misty looked at Foggy and uttered the command, “Challenge”. Foggy took an aggressive stance facing the bay and roared with a ferocity that caused the hardened pirates to take a step back as it echoed off the far cliffs. Within seconds, another, higher pitched roar responded, and a black winged speck appeared, moving fast across the bay.
“Hold,” Misty commanded. “Wait until he’s close.”
The black speck grew into a winged nightmare with disturbing speed. Misty’s bow began to twang, but the beast twisted easily to avoid her arrows. It did serve to slow the rate of approach, however. Foggy was still growling and hissing, keeping the creature’s attention focused. It was still out of range of my shotgun.
“Ready!” shouted Misty.
I could see the glow in it’s eyes as it closed the range. It’s maw began to open…
“NOW!” A slight pause, then, “Down!” Misty dove to the ground.
The three cases popped open and three blue streaks shot out with shrill shrieks of outrage. Marge and the pirates leapt aside and down on their faces as the Imps emerged. While I was pondering the significance of the word “Down” in Misty’s command it occurred to me that I, along with Misty and Foggy, were between the Imps and the Wyvern. Probably not a good place to be. A second later and I wasn’t, as the shaft of Misty’s longbow caught me behind the ankles and swept my feet from under me. I landed flat on my back, knocking the wind out of me, and the shotgun discharged straight upward.
From this vantage point I was able to see an outstanding bit of choreography. The three Imps shot forward in unison, caught sight of the Wyvern, advanced another few feet, then abruptly shifted to full speed astern until they smacked hard into the cliff face. They then switched to vertical ascent mode, accelerating rapidly up the cliff face, half rolled as they reached the top, and shot off to the North. Fortunately the Wyvern decided to pursue them rather than us, and pulled up to skim the top of the cliff. Particularly fortunate for me, as my net had reversed its departure trajectory and dropped over my flailing body.
As I struggled to free myself from the net, I happened to look at the open case of frozen chickens and something in my somewhat addled brain made a random connection. I stumbled to the case and hefted one of the chickens, not seeing chicken at all. “Cannon,” I croaked, while grabbing a second frozen fowl and stumbling toward the turret a few yards away, still trying to get my feet free from the net. Misty and Hoy seemed to catch my drift and grabbed a couple fowl each. Marge and Vast looked confused, but shrugged and each grabbed a case, dragging them down the beach.
Misty used her height advantage to try and stuff the first of her chickens down the maw of the cannon.
“It won’t fit!”
I drew my trusty chef’s knife, a former Charr cub’s dagger, 12” of razor sharp steel, and with four quick slashes removed the wings and legs from one of the chicken carcasses I was holding, then flipped it up to Misty. Her arm disappeared up to the shoulder as she rammed it home. Two more limbless chickens followed in short order.
Just as Misty called out, “Loaded!”, the Wyvern reappeared over the top of the cliff and executed a quick diving turn to line up for an attack.
Hoy called out, “Firing!” as the cannon barked, sending a supersonic fowl to do battle with a rampaging reptile of the air. The Wyvern twisted in the air, avoiding the projectile, but I noticed the flare of nostrils as it caught the scent of burning chicken. In a flash the Wyvern had reversed direction and was in hot pursuit of a hot meal, belching flame as it tracked its prey. It didn’t take long for the Wyvern to cut across the trajectory of the shot and intercept its target, munching twice before swallowing and turning back to its original target. Us.
I had another idea. It happens sometimes. “Hoy, pull 20 degrees left and fire!” The cannon traversed and belched, sending another chicken downrange. The Wyvern immediately changed course to intercept.
I looked back at Vast and Marge and shouted, “Find me something to stuff in a chicken to bring that thing down. If we run out of chickens or he runs out of appetite our respective geese are the next things to be cooked. Hurry!”
The two took off at a dead run back toward the Saloon.
I continued hacking, Misty continued packing, and Hoy continued tracking all over the sky, aiming anywhere but toward the Wyvern, maximizing the distance it had to travel, and the time we gained, for each tidbit it consumed.
We were well into the second case of chickens by the time the other two returned. Vast reached me first, with a gloved handful of pods. “Ghost Peppers! That should give it a kick!”
I held a de-limbed carcass out and he stuffed the entire handful of peppers into the cavity. Into the cannon it went, and was soon on it’s way for a meeting with destiny.
Unfortunately, Destiny seems to like spicy food. The Wyvern gulped, looped, and spouted a flame twice the length of any we had seen before. It accelerated vertically, and now there was flame behind as well as in front of the beast. Great. It rolled out and dove at us once again.
“Fire and Ice!” It was Marge that spoke this time. “I know how to hurt it! Chicken!” I threw her a carcass, and she bent over the empty chicken case, stuffing handfuls of ice crystals into the body. As it filled she lifted a bottle of clear liquid and poured it inside, then plugged the opening with a Lime. She tossed the loaded bird to Misty, who rammed it home. The Wyvern went into a full stoop dive, wings back, wind screaming over its form. The cannon barked again, this time directly on target. The Wyvern didn’t even dodge, it simply snagged the projectile from the air and bit down.
The result was nothing if not impressive. The Wyvern’s eyes squinted shut, its head tucked down and in, and it’s wings came up to completely cover it’s head. A shriek of agony was heard as the beast ceased to fly and became a ballistic projectile. It impacted the cliff a good fifteen feet above our heads, and fell to the ground writhing in agony. A flurry of pistol shots, knives, swords, claws, and fangs assaulted the disabled creature.
A few moments later it was over. We were standing, looking at the carcass, and wondering what to do next, when Vast reached over to give a huge hug to Marge. “Margarita, you are a genius! Who would have considered using bad booze as a weapon?”
Marge struck an indignant pose, hands on hips. “It is not bad booze. It’s perfectly good booze if you use it the right way. You just have to be careful, is all. Now what are we going to do for dinner? All the rest of the chicken is frozen, and I don’t think I want to eat that thing” She pointed at the crumpled beast.
Misty smiled as she looked at the pile of leftover chicken limbs. “I think I can whip something up from these Shanghai’d chicken chunks.”
An hour later we were gathered in the Saloon, munching on chicken legs and wings in a dark, sticky, sweet and spicy sauce, the smell of ginger and garlic hanging in the air. A fruit salad offset the richness of the chicken, and strange looking drinks of crushed ice with salt-crusted rims sat in front of us.
I sniffed at the drink while munching a chicken wing. “Hey, isn’t this the same concoction that brought down the Wyvern?”
“Pretty close,” said Marge. “I just dressed it up a little like we did back home.”
I took a sip. It was pretty good. Salty sweet, with a touch of bitter, the ice giving it a very different texture. “That’s really pretty good stuff. It doesn’t seem to hurt humans.”
Marge grinned, “Just as long as you don’t...”
I belted back half the glass.
My eyes squinted shut, my head tried to hide between my shoulderblades, my hands came up to hold my exploding head together and a screech of agony escaped my mouth as a solid spike of ice ran up through the roof of my mouth, through my brain, and into the top of my skull. I rolled up in a fetal ball.
Faintly, from far away, I heard, “...drink it too fast.”
Once I could force my watering eyes open I saw Misty looking amused and Foggy looking confused, trying to discern the source of my agony. I didn’t see much in the way of sympathy for my sorry state.
“And that’s why.“ I rolled toward the voice and saw Marge, hands on hips, shaking her head, and grinning like a Skritt in a tinsel shop. “It’s called a brain freeze. You will recover, eventually.”
I had serious doubts.
The following morning dawned clear and crisp except for the thunderstorm in my head. Misty and Marge were puttering in the kitchen and good smells were wafting through the room. Hoy and Vast were straightening up, sweeping and clearing the broken furniture from the day before. Foggy was supervising with a critical eye and occasional low growl. I supposed I would have to get up off the table where I had spent the night.
Over breakfast, some kind of crispy fried chicken with gravy, we decided that Misty, Foggy, and I would stay a few days to help make the island livable. Hoy and I set out to find some way to build a floatable boat, Vast went scavenging through the wreckage for anything useful, and Misty and Marge had their heads together discussing something or other, twittering like a couple of teenage girls. Foggy seemed preoccupied with reducing the rodent population of the island, which had emerged once the Wyvern was out of the picture.
Hoy found a small Ketch that had been beached. It’s superstructure was mostly burned away, and the masts were missing, but the hull seemed intact. We cleared away the debris and started cleaning up what was left. We fashioned makeshift oar locks, and Hoy lashed a yardarm from another ship in place as a temporary mast. It floated, which at least meant we had a way off the island, even if it wasn’t pretty.
Vast turned out to be a pretty good scavenger, and by the time Hoy and I wandered back to the Saloon he had a growing pile of usable lumber and building materials. He had found a pretty good collection of tools scattered around, and had the framework of a modest building well underway.
Within a couple more days we had a workable bunkhouse and enough of the docks had been cleared to allow a ship to dock, should one happen by. Hoy’s little boat had occupied much of his time, and he had found a Captain’s hat somewhere that he now proudly sported. We couldn’t find any intact sailcloth, so we had taken the leathery wings of the Wyvern and lashed them to the makeshift mast as sails. Surprisingly, that actually worked and gave the little craft a decidedly unique, and somewhat sinister, appearance.
The next day Misty, Foggy, and I took our leave. Hoy ferried us south to the beaches above the Hamlet of Applenook, as Misty wanted to check in with Anna. It was too bad that our adventures had failed to recover her goods or anything of value.
We found Anna in the market, selling melons and a few vegetables. She smiled and waved as she saw us approach. Misty waved, then drew two heavy bags from beneath her tunic and tossed them to her. Anna’s eyes widened as she opened the first bag and looked inside. Misty looked at me with a little smirk and whispered, “I did find a few things when I went out before we took on that Wyvern, among them a couple of bags of Doubloons where a Pirate shack once stood. I didn’t think it would be good to tempt our hosts while we were still in Pirate country.”
“Oh,” was all I could come up with.
“Go find us some provisions.” She tossed me a couple of sooty Doubloons. “I need to speak to Anna for a moment. Privately.”
“Ok.” Such a master of witty banter I am. I began wandering the market, keeping one eye on the conversation going on in the back of Anna’s stall. A fair bit of arm waving was going on, with some of it directed back toward the site of our recent adventures. Some serious discussion, and a look of some concern on Anna’s part reflected by a bit of excitement on Misty’s. I gathered a few provisions and was stowing them in my pack when Misty whistled. She pointed down the road to the South. Foggy came alongside her as she set pace. I once again had to run to catch up. Back on the road, then. New adventures and new recipes await. As I caught up, Misty handed me a warm hand-sized packet of crispy pastry that smelled of apples and cinnamon. It wasn’t such a bad day after all.
It was a few months later when we happened back through Applenook Hamlet, and Anna insisted that we accompany her making a delivery to the Brigantine Isles. There was a new dock North of town now, and docked there was a sleek black ship with Wyvern-wing sails, a Wyvern-head figurehead, and “Wyvern’s Demise” lettered in gold leaf on the bow. It was barely recognizable as the wrecked Ketch we had salvaged not that long ago. A very proud looking, although a bit more stout, Hoy was standing at the wheel, shouting orders at a couple of crewmen as they stowed cargo and directed passengers aboard. He spotted us coming up the dock and waved enthusiastically, motioning us to join him. As soon as we were aboard he shouted at the crew to cast off, as he had a schedule to keep.
“I make four trips a day now, just to keep up with provisions and tourists,” Hoy announced as soon as we were in earshot. “No pirating required, except for dressing up and acting the part from time to time.”
The little ship had caught the wind and was now cutting a broad wake as she skipped across the bay. “She’s not very big, but she is quick and maneuverable. I added this little thing I think you will like, Cookie” and he stepped down hard on a bellows set in the deck beside the wheel. A gout of flame erupted from the figurehead, jetting several yards ahead of the craft. There was a chorus of “Oohs” and “Ahhs” from the other passengers.
“Wait until you see what Vast and Marge have been up to.” He beamed. “Once that beast was out of the way the rest of the Scab’s crew came back and we put them to work. Now we have a real enterprise going here. The Jackdaws came back and tried to take over, but Marge served them a free round of our secret weapon in large frosty mugs. It turns out a Pirate just can’t resist draining a frosty mug in one go. We disarmed them and sent them packing when they could stand up again. No trouble since.”
As we entered the harbor we could see the docks lined with craft large and small. There was a bustle of activity, and there were several buildings under construction. A prominent shop on the waterfront sported a large sign announcing “A Hoy & A Vast, Provisions and Souvenirs”.
“That’s kind of a sideline business for us. It seems folks just can’t get enough of either Pirate or Wyvern lore.” Cap’n Hoy chuckled.
Up the street, which hadn’t even been a street last time we were here, was a brightly lit place where the old Copper Doubloon Saloon used to be, and it sounded like there was quite a party going on. As we walked up we could see that covered patios now extended on all sides from the original building, and there was a crowd not only inside but waiting in the street. The building was freshly painted, and a large sign announced that this was now Margarita’s Silver Scabbard Cantina, the Silver Scabbard part being the nameboard salvaged from the old Scab’s wreck.
Misty laughed. “I told her that a few good recipes and a fresh look would help the place, but I didn’t expect this much of a change so fast!”
Vast was manning the door, or blocking it, depending on your point of view, and energetically waved us in. There was a band in the corner, playing something that I couldn’t place, but it had a catchy beat. Even Foggy was bouncing a bit with the music. There were a full company of Vigil troops around one of the big tables. Marge appeared and headed their way, carrying a half dozen frosted tankards, and caught sight of us, motioning with her head to meet her in the kitchen area. She almost beat us there as we pushed through the crowd. She promptly hugged and kissed the cheek of each of us, even the big snow leopard that I swear I could see blush in response. Anna was beaming and greeted Marge, or Margarita as she was now known.
“We have a fresh shipment of chicken, and lots of produce,” Anna said. “You folks are keeping Applenook busy all by yourselves, and without the Pirates harassing us things have never been better. I also brought you a half dozen apple pies, just to see if there is any demand.”
“You can bet there is demand, but if Hoy and Vast know they are here I doubt there will be any left for the paying customers!” laughed Margarita.
“How are the Imps working out? I saw the frosted mugs.”
Margarita turned to us and grinned, “We have a whole family of Ice Imps living in the old root cellar, keeping us stocked up on ice crystals, frosted mugs, and anything else that needs a good chilling. We feed the Imps the kitchen scraps and everybody is very, very happy with the arrangement. We let the Imps out at night and they streak around lighting up the sky and often point folks in our direction.
“Ale in a frosty mug is popular with the military and sailing folk. Our secret weapon is very popular with the civilian crowd, although we serve it in a smaller glass and with a warning. They have taken to calling it a ‘Margarita’. The town is booming, we get visitors from all over, and even the Vigil makes regular visits now. We started with your Shanghai’d Chicken, then added a Tickle-ya Lime Chicken Breast when we ran out of just wings and legs. Now we have over a dozen items on the menu, and I have all of you to thank for it.”
A great meal, a bit of entertainment, and a good night’s sleep followed. In the morning as we made our way back to the ‘Wyvern’s Demise’ to resume our travels I stopped in to the ‘A Hoy & A Vast’ shop and picked up a new hat. It would have been a jaunty take on a pirate hat with a big feather, if pirates wore jaunty hats with big feathers. It suited me. Even Foggy sniffed at it with appreciation.
And with that, we were off to our next adventure.
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About the Author
Esther has accomplished many things in her life. Learning is one continuing objective that is important to her.. Through the years, no matter what was in front of her, Esther took steps to learn something new. She is and has been a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher's assistant, medical records Clerk, church nursery worker, archaeologist, osteologist, biological curator, GIS student and now a gamer.
After fighting a bout with breast cancer, she had to change her field of expertise. So, furthering the menagerie, Esther became a Web Production Assistant. She produces and edits press releases for franchise companies and moves them out onto the net, as soon as she receives them. Esther loves the things she can learn while releasing these PRs onto the web. There are a lot of ambitious people out there and someday, she might meet a few of them. Until that time, she will move on with her life and work.
In her free time, this grandma plays with the Gaiscioch gaming community; works on the Gaiscioch Magazine and volunteers at church. She also stain glass paints, quilts, gardens, watches and take pictures of nature around her area. There is beauty out there in this crazy world, and Esther is ready for the challenge of finding it.