To all my Canadian readers, happy Regionally-Varied February Holiday!
To all my American readers, happy Presidents Day!
And, uh, happy Monday to everyone else, I guess.
So, here’s a reminder to catch up on my most recent chapter:
Copyright 2021-2022 J.B. Norman
Dunstana surges through the doors.
“Come on, Kat!” she insists, so excited that her words are almost blending together into one. “Hurry up! Go! Go! Go!”
Still shaking her head, Kat follows Captain Kid through the doors.
The room behind the doors is a large circle with a domed ceiling. A beam of light shines down through a circular opening in the middle of the dome, illuminating what could be called, without any exaggeration whatsoever, a mountain of gold.
It dominates both the room and Kat’s attention. There may be other things in the room, but they aren’t nearly as impressive as a mountain of gold.
“Oh,” Kat says simply.
With that much money, she could buy herself a solid gold house with a solid gold garden and a solid gold wardrobe filled with solid gold pants.
Dunstana is too busy picking her jaw off the floor to say anything. Once she recovers, she’s going after the gold like a Turboshark after a seal.
Kat pries herself away from the gold long enough to make a circuit of the room and see what else there is to see — the gold isn’t going anywhere, after all.
As it turns out, there isn’t all that much else to see.
There are pillars at regular intervals around the perimeter of the room, each pillar holds a blazing torch. It’s odd that there would be lit torches in a room that no one has entered for a hundred years.
There’s almost certainly something magical afoot.
Kat starts to feel nervous at the thought. In her experience, inexplicably magical rooms tend to be a Bad Thing.
The most interesting thing in the room, mountain of gold notwithstanding, lies at the far end of the room across from the doors.
It’s a statue of a handsome man with a moustache and pointed beard and a Dragon perched on his shoulder. Kat recognises it as the same man in the painting in the study, meaning that it’s Captain Jonathan Fryte himself.
He is dressed in a captain’s jacket not unlike Dunstana’s and wearing a wide-brimmed hat with a feather in it. He has one foot on top of a treasure chest. He has one hand on the hilt of his sword and the other extended in front of him. There’s a Dragon-looking lizard perched on his shoulder.
In front of the statue lies a large stone box, probably the real Captain Fryte’s coffin.
Upon closer inspection, there is an inscription carved onto the stone slab covering it:
Here are found the bones of Jonathan Fryte,
Captain and Gentleman,
Master of the Wind and Tide,
And of the Arts Arcane,
Who made the endless ocean his domain
And plundered the world’s riches
He feels the sun no more
But keeps his vigil still.
Beneath the inscription, Captain Fryte’s emblem, a scary-looking eye, is carved into the slab. Beside the eye, an expensive-looking sword rests on top of the slab. It has a jewelled hilt and rippling lines like flowing water running across the surface of its blade.
It’s a nice sword.
It’s a valuable sword. Kat reaches out a hand to claim it.
“You’ll not be touching that,” a sudden voice, which is clearly not Dunstana’s, tells Kat from somewhere behind her.
Kat jumps and lets out a surprised, genuinely frightened “Gah!”
Slowly and expecting the worse, Kat turns around to face the speaker, her hands reaching for her daggers.
The speaker is a handsome, dapper man with a moustache, jacket, and feather in his hat. His appearance has a strange, glowing, smoking, see-through quality to it, like he is something between a mirage and a real person.
He looks enough like the statue that Kat feels certain of his identity.
“Captain Fryte, I presume?” she asks.
The glowing man, probably a ghost, sweeps his hat from his head and bows.
“The very same,” he says, rather amicably. “I welcome you, stranger, to my humble halls. It’s been many long years since the last time I’ve had visitors.” He smiles. “I can imagine why you’ve come. You are not the first to come seeking my gold, nor will you be the last, I expect.”
“Actually,” Kat admits. “We got here by accident.”
Dunstana appears at Kat’s side. “Hi,” she says pleasantly, surprisingly unbothered by the sudden appearance of a ghost. “Are you Captain Fryte? I’m a Captain, too!”
Captain Fryte throws back his ghostly head and laughs. “This is becoming a strange day,” he says. He tips his hat to Dunstana. “Welcome, Little Captain.” The Captain turns back to Kat. “But if not my gold, what is it that brought you here?” he asks.
Dunstana answers, “I found this cave while I was exploring the beach, so I wanted to go look inside.”
The Captain pensively pulls the corner of his ghostly moustache.
“Interesting,” he says to himself. “Not the desire for gold, but for adventure. Interesting indeed.” After another moment spent in thought, Captain Fryte smiles mischievously. “If it’s a proper adventure you want, I shall happily oblige you.”
He holds out a ghostly hand and the sword lying on the stone coffin comes flying towards him. He snatches the sword from the air and dramatically flourishes it before raising it in salute to his guests.
With a smile, he snaps his fingers.
“Oh dear,” Kat says.
She searches the room for Captain Fryte, who is now standing at the summit of his mountain of gold. He waves down from his perch.
“I just remembered something about Captain Fryte, Kat,” Dunstana says.
“Yeah?” Kat asks, not looking forward to the answer.
“He wasn’t just a pirate. He was a wizard, too,” Captain Kid reveals.
“Oh,” says Kat. “Oh dear. You couldn’t remember that a little sooner?” That certainly explains the torches.
Captain Fryte laughs down from his lofty, golden vantage point. “It warms my heart to know that the tales of me have not yet been forgotten. Why not write another tale here and now?”
He snaps his fingers and a group of skeletons shambles from seemingly out of nowhere to surround the two sisters.
Inside the rapidly-narrowing ring of skeletons, Kat and Dunstana stand back to back and ready for action. Kat takes it upon herself to make the first move, getting her bow up and quickly loosing an arrow at one of the skeletons.
She catches it straight in the forehead. Kat is well aware that skeletons don’t have brains, so she isn’t sure if an arrow to the face will really do anything.
At the very least, it gives her enough time to charge the skeleton and shoulder-tackle it to the ground.
As she leaps over the fallen skeleton, Kat spins towards its nearest companion and blasts it in the face with her elbow, knocking its head from its boney shoulders.
The skeleton crumples onto the floor on top of its friend.
Turns out skeletons still need their heads. Kat decides that this is good news.
Now that Kat has made herself some breathing room, she watchfully anticipates the next attack from the skeletons. As one of the skeletons approaches, Kat readies another arrow.
Before the skeleton can close the distance, she lets her arrow go, aiming at the skeleton’s arm.
The arrow strikes with enough force to detach the skeleton’s arm from its body. Still clutching its sword, the arm goes clattering to the ground. Unexpectedly, the skeleton reaches down with its remaining arm, picks up its own missing limb and begins swinging it at Kat.
As she dodges the assault, Kat can’t help but be a little impressed by the skeleton’s ingenuity.
It’s pretty smart for something without a brain.
Unfortunately, Kat is too busy reflecting on that fact to pay attention to her footwork. Frantically back-pedalling, she trips over the fallen skeletons and lands on her back.
“Oof!” she exclaims wordlessly as the air is knocked out of her.
As the skeleton shambles closer, she begins desperately reaching for something to use as a weapon.
Her hand finds something cold, large and heavy. As she picks it up, she sees from the corner of her eyes that it’s the skull of one of the fallen skeletons.
She’s in too much danger to be bothered by that fact, though and hurls the skull at the skeleton looming over her.
The thrown skull collides with the advancing skeleton’s own skull, knocking it from the skeleton’s shoulders. Without a head, the defeated skeleton falls on top of Kat.
If she weren’t fighting for her life, she’d be disgusted that there was a skeleton collapsed on top of her.
But she doesn’t have time to think about that now. She quickly throws the fallen bones aside and springs to her feet, punching the last remaining skeleton in the teeth on her way up and sending it down.
With all her foes vanquished, Kat starts to look for Dunstana.
Captain Kid is handling herself well enough, though doing a lot more dodging than attacking. As the skeletons slash and stab at her, Dunstan ducks under their swords and dashes through their legs to keep herself safe.
As far as Kat can tell, the strategy is working. As one of the skeletons raises its sword to strike at her, Dunstana scurries through the legs of the other.
When the first skeleton’s sword comes down, it doesn’t find Dunstana.
Instead, it finds the other skeleton’s head, sending it tumbling to the ground and bouncing across the floor.
Dunstana quickly responds by diving at the remaining skeleton’s legs and knocking it to the ground.
She clambers towards its head, which she boots towards the wall.
Kat nods in impressed approval. “Good work, Captain Kid!” she calls.
Dunstana responds with a proud thumbs-up.
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