Chapter 11 – Worse Than Death…

A huge dull thud shook the floor causing dozens of items to clink and clatter. Dust sifted down from the ceiling above as another thud boomed followed by an ominous silence. The four goblin pirates began to look nervously around, “Orders, sir?” they asked. Captain Skarlett listened to the noises looking up at the ceiling and drew out another parchment. He quietly mumbled reading the scroll as his men half-heartedly raised their weapons shaking ever so slightly. Another thud stomped above as several metal shields fell over with a clatter, “Ready…”, the leader of the squad said, “um – Captain Skarlett, sir….what …what was that?”

Skarlett finished reading, ignoring the pirate’s question, and a veil of light opened up with a whoosh. A sparkling curtain of light shimmered creating a portal back to his ship. “They’re here…”, Skarlett said, “let’s get this over with.”  The other goblins raised their rifles noticeably distracted with the irregular thumping that threatened to bring down the ceiling.

“I’ll bet you’ve been searching the Wild Coast for that statue for a while…it’s an honest mistake. Being in the cleaning business you learn a thing or two about fabrics.”, I said as I began to crumple a handful of the fabric tightly in my hand.

A longer, heavier rumble quaked followed by an eerie silence. Echoes of clanking and groaning metal chirped sporadically in the unsettling calm.

“HOLD,” Skarlett said in a surprised rage only to be drowned out by the boom of a goblin rifle. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, pain throbbing in my chest. I looked over at the smoldering bits of cloth floating down beside me; the result of a quick immolate spell on the sheet. “Wait!”, Raspootin said putting up his hands. That’s when things got real blurry … I was struggling to wake up. I remember trying to talk then feeling like I was drowning in a sea of black oil, coughing, fighting to breathe and then blackness.

“Grim…GRIM?”, Ras said softly. There was an echo.

My head as suddenly clear and there was a buzzing sensation in my chest, “Are we…dead?”‘ I asked. Ras’s expression grew a bit more sad and serious, “Worse.”, he replied in a disturbingly reassuring tone. “Broke? Am I broke Ras?”, I said pleading. Ras choked back, “You owe a favor.” I sat up. Feeling my chest, there was no bullet hole, no blood, just bloody robes which were absolutely ruined. “Ras, why am I not dead?”

Ras looked at the ground and then at me and didn’t say a word. Silence. It was quiet and cool and we were alone in a dimly lit cove. At that point I looked around and then at Ras. Then he whispered, “He gave you your life back and mine…he said you owe him. He’d be back… He’d find you…it’s just one favor.”

“Ras, why would he do that?”

“He offered you a deal for a price. He said he’d spare your life but only if you gave him a piece of collateral, a spot of your blood with an IOU…a goblin contract. I was a witness. I-I tried to talk you out of it but-“, Ras muttered.

“I…was…SHOT! I…was bleeding – to death, Ras. A contract?! With blood? I must’ve been delirious. How long have we been here?”, i asked leaning back and looking down, “but…we’ve got an advantage.”

“A few hours, I think it’s a cave south of where we…we do?”, Ras said.

I held up a scrap of uncharred cloth I had clutched, “I’ve know where this is from but I need an expert to make sure. I got an uncle who used to live out this way in Thousand Needles. He’s pretty resourceful…he probably survived the flooding…probably.”

We laid low until we could travel in the moonless, cold dark of the desert. Ras was able to make a pair of crude night vision goggles from driftwood, shells, and some basilisk lenses we ‘borrowed’. We worked our way through the center of the desert avoiding the scavengers. Crossing the mountain paths, we improvised a raft from some washed up wreckage and paddled to the floating speedbarge of Fizzle and Pozzick.

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