By EM Malachi
Worthiness Precedes Reward
The tavern smelled of fish guts and dry rot. The barkeep refilled the tumbler of the irate pirate lord, his sole patron. Hook was drunk and swearing when the man and woman entered. Both were finely dressed and had the shared features of siblings; the woman stood a few inches taller than her kin. Seeing them, Hook dropped a handful of doubloons on the counter and motioned for the bartender to scram.
Hook grabbed a bottle and filled two mugs, but the siblings declined. Hook shrugged and drank from one of the mugs. When Hook didn’t say anything, the man asked, “Why have you requested this meeting?”
“I need gold, lots of it. The Royal Navy is building ships faster than I can sink them.”
The man sat in a chair against the back wall. “So Britannia has the will to win the war you started?”
His sister sat on a stool on the other side of the pirate. “We have already given so much. What of the other allies we introduced you to?”
Hook replied, “I haven’t seen the gargoyle since the last job I sent him on, and our mutual friend Rankin is dead.”
The man’s face darkened, and he closed his eyes for a moment. “How did it happen?”
Hook shrugged. “His dark rituals versus an angry contingent of the Royal Guard, I think. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”
The woman looked over to her brother. “I’m sorry. I know he was a dear friend. Do you need a moment outside?”
The man gave a sad smile. “I’ll be fine. At least Rankin died as he lived. If we could all be that lucky.”
Hook slammed down his mug in annoyance. “Can we get back to my problem? My fleets have suffered heavy losses. Some of my captains are in full revolt. Others just left in the night. Without resources, more will leave my side. Even the bloody orcs are grumbling.”
The man shook his head. “This is disappointing. You even admit you are not worthy of the trust we placed in you.”
Hook looked startled. “I thought we were here to discuss how you could help our mutual cause?”
The woman laughed. “Our causes were never the same. This was a test. We expected so much more, for you to earn your place in our leadership.”
The man pulled out a small crossbow and aimed it at Hook. “You must have known the price of failure, but you got greedy and expanded your war too far. Now your recklessness will be your end. We will do this without you.”
Hook slowly raised his hands, one still holding a liquor bottle. “We can discuss this.”
“There is nothing to discuss.”
“I guess there isn’t.” The pirate brought the bottle down hard on a lantern on the counter. There was a flash as the liquor ignited.
Dazzled by the sudden flames, the woman hurled her blades at Hook’s head, missing his eye, but slashing across his ear. Hook jumped over the bar as a bolt smashed into bottles behind it.
The woman drew more knives and walked behind the burning bar. “He’s gone.”
The man reloaded his crossbow and looked as well. There was an open hatch leading down to darkness. “Shall we follow?”
Motioning at the growing blaze, she shook her head. “No, these old crimp tunnels are a maze that run to every wharf and pier. I have no desire to be trapped underground for days. We will get someone else to kill him. Trust your sister.”