By EM Malachi Those guarding the shore of the Isle of Deeds saw the pirate sloop before they noticed the rowboat it was pursuing. It was clear the small craft had a head start, but one man rowing could not match the wind for speed. The knight in command made the call to protect the fleeing boat, ordering the Hold’s cannons to track the pirate ship. When a few shots came close, the pirate ship veered to avoid the fortified island, but its crew fired a parting shot at the rowboat. Striking the side, the cannonball obliterated the boat, sending its occupant flying. The knight commander was surprised when he saw the survivor crawling out of the surf. The man struggled to stand after the swim. It was a young pirate with a longsword strapped to his back. He was clutching a stone object tightly to his chest. Seeing the line of knights, he held out what he was carrying before collapsing.
*****The Lord of the Den had demanded ships, and the Guild had heeded Hook’s command. Every galleon, brigantine, and sloop was deployed with the purpose of cutting off Britannian sea routes. Shipbuilding efforts in Yew and Minoc were set ablaze. The pirate fleet brazenly sank merchant ships docked in Moonglow. A night’s skirmishes with the Royal Navy in Brittany Bay left the entire city without sleep. Because of the chaos, the fleet preparing to retake Valor Island was instead ordered to join the blockade of Buccaneer’s Den.
*****The old gargoyle ran a talon over the Rune of Valor. “I see a powerful corruption here and the rot is spreading, moving through the connection toward the shrine itself. There is something else too. A darkness on the edge of my vision. Whatever power this Rankin tapped into, I do not believe even his death will end the spell.” Mariah was distraught. “That is why I need answers from the Codex. May I borrow the necessary artifact from the gargoyles? I need to save the rune.” Naxatillor gave a sad sigh. “My friend, you already know what you must do. Healers from both our peoples know that a limb cannot always be saved, but it is the greater whole that matters. To save the shrine, you must sacrifice the work of your friend.” “Do you have any idea how hard that is? This was Julia’s final masterwork. She gave her life for me, and her spirit came to me for help. I owe her this.” The gargoyle painfully extended his wings. They still bore scars that Naxatilor had received when the seer had peered too far into the Ethereal Void. He looked so very old. “I have outlived all of my hatchkins. I would trade the mantle of age and all I am to see their faces again. What I do now, I do for the world they died to build, a world they never got to see. A world where my people live and work with humans and elves and Meer and others for the greater good. So their sacrifice was not in vain.” “For what she lived for, you must be the woman Julia died to save.”