Copyright 2021-2022 J.B. Norman
Suddenly, Dunstana turns to Captain Fryte. “I want Kat back!” she declares decisively.
A wave of relief washes over Kat. She exhales heavily.
“Are you sure, Little Captain?” the ghost asks. “You’d give up all that gold, my vast fortune, for the sake of your sister? And my fortune is vast indeed.”
“Yes!” Dunstana insists. “Now give me back my sister!”
Captain Fryte inclines his head. “As you wish.” He snaps his fingers.
Kat finds herself with her feet back on the ground.
The blood that had rushed to her head when she was upside-down now begins flowing back to the rest of her.
She is disorientated to find herself so suddenly returned to right-side-up-ness, with solid ground under her feet.
The world spins, her legs forget how to work, and she finds herself falling to the floor. When she hits the floor, the world is still spinning so much that it feels like she’s still falling.
“Kat!” Dunstana exclaims, running to her sister’s side. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” Kat replies once the spinning has subsided enough for her to pull herself up onto one knee. She looks at Dunstana and smiles. “Thanks, Captain Kid.”
She pulls the little pirate in for a quick hug. There’s a loud snap and Kat and Dunstana look up to see the rope holding Captain Fryte’s treasure chest break, sending the treasure plummeting into the fiery chasm.
“Awww,” Dunstana says in disappointment.
“Well done,” Captain Fryte says as he approaches the sisters.
“What was that?” Kat asks furiously, surging to her feet to confront the ghost.
If her fists wouldn’t just pass right through him, she’d punch him right in the phantasmal moustache.
“Why would you want to drop me down a chasm? Why would you make a Dragon try to eat us? And why was your password password?”
Compared to everything else, the password debacle is fairly minor, but she’s too angry to mind at this point.
“That is actually the stupidest thing I have ever seen in my entire life!”
“It was a test,” he answers simply.
“But why?” Kat asks, infuriated by his non-answer.
Captain Fryte sighs.
“As your sister could no doubt tell you, we pirates live by a certain code, and we esteem particular elements of a person’s character,” he explains.
For a moment, he sounds more like Professor Fryte than Captain Fryte.
“A true pirate is fearless and capable in battle, he — or she, as the case may be — is hungry for adventure. And yet, the truest pirate also looks out for his own and holds his crew dearer than anything else in the wide world or the endless seas. To ensure that you are worthy of my treasure, it was necessary that you demonstrate that you hold both virtues in your heart.”
“As it happens, you do. Quite profoundly, in fact,” he adds with a contrite bow. “I apologise for any offence I may have caused.” He looks suddenly embarrassed. “And the password is ‘password’ because we had some trouble casting the spells for the doors. Eventually, we decided it was more trouble than it was worth.”
“Oh,” says Kat.
That’s a better answer than she’d been expecting. She wants to punch him a little less, now.
“What happens now?”
“I will keep my word. You are free to go.”
He snaps his fingers again. One of the chamber’s walls slowly lurches upwards, revealing a doorway leading to a set of stairs.
“Those stairs lead to the back door, follow them and you’ll be back on the beach.”
Kat feels Dunstana tugging on her shirt. “This means we don’t get any gold, right?” she asks.
Kat puts a hand on top of Captain Kid’s head. “We started the day without a pile of gold, we can end the day without a pile of gold.”
Kat notices Captain Fryte smiling. Based on her previous experiences, she immediately expects something awful is about to happen.
Reflexively, she reaches for her bow.
“About the gold,” he says, grinning.
“What about it?” she asks cautiously.
“It has been more than a hundred years since I took up my vigil in this place,” he explains, almost wistfully. “In that time, more than a few adventurous souls have come calling for my gold. They all faced the same test as you did. Most of them proved themselves capable enough, but lacked the same spirit that you displayed so clearly.”
His smile grows.
“Out of all of them, you are the first I find myself liking.”
Kat tilts her head quizzically.
The Captain directs his gaze to Dunstana and continues, “I offered you all of my gold, Little Captain, and you refused it. You love your sister more than you love mere wealth.”
A sad shadow passes over his ghostly face and he casts his eyes downwards.
“I was faced with the same choice once, long years ago. I had a sister of my own. My foolish desire for wealth drove us apart. I had a chance to fix that, but I did not take it. And, well, to make a long, sad story short, it ended badly for all involved. And that is why it brings me such joy to see one so young succeed where I failed.”
As quickly as it had come, the sadness passes and Captain Fryte is smiling again.
“They say that virtue is its own reward. But it never hurts to see such virtue more properly rewarded.”
He snaps his fingers.
From out of nowhere, a large, empty treasure chest appears at the feet of the Sisters Darkstone. Captain Fryte snaps his fingers again and the chest is suddenly filled with golden coins. Its lid shuts of its own accord.
“But your gold is gone!” Dunstana yells in surprise. “We watched you drop it!”
Captain Fryte chuckles. “I am a man of many wiles, Little Captain. In life, I was no stranger to the arcane arts and since then, I’ve had plenty of time to refine my skills. I can make that which is appear not to be, and that which is not, seem to be, if I so wish.”
Dunstana stares blankly at him.
“Magic, little one,” he explains. “It was all magic. But I assure you, Little Captain, this chest and its contents are quite real.”
“Wait,” Kat interjects. “Are you saying none of that was real?”
Captain Fryte shrugs. “Not exactly. This really was my hideout, and those were real traps. The skeletons you fought, though, were merely magical constructs. I couldn’t do such a thing to my real crew.”
“What about the chasm?” Kat asks.
She can’t decide if it being an illusion makes it better or worse.
“I assure you, my lady, you were never in any real danger,” Captain Fryte answers. “Had your sister chosen poorly, I would have simply used my magic to send you both back outside and hold shut the entrance.”
“Well,” Kat mutters. “That’s good. I think?
“Again, I do apologise for any offence I’ve caused, and I do hope you enjoy this gift. I’d offer you more,” the Captain says. “But if my gold were all gone, I’d get no more visitors come searching for it. Besides, you can boast of being the first to ever claim any portion of Fryte’s gold.”
Kat nods. “I understand.”
She isn’t really bothered; she’s still got one more treasure chest than she had when she woke up this morning.
Captain Fryte snaps his fingers again and the chest disappears.
“Gah!” Dunstana yells, as Kat yells, “What did you do? Where’s the gold?”
“You have no reason to fear, Little Captain,” he assures. “When you return to the beach, the treasure will be waiting for you.”
“Promise?” Dunstana asks.
Captain Fryte nods. He removes his hat from his head, holds it over his heart and solemnly intones, “In the name of the Powers that govern the world, I promise on my honour as the Captain of the good ship Catherine. I promise on the stars above and the seas below. I promise on Greybeard’s boots and Blackboots’ beard. I promise on the Lex Antiqua Piratica.”
Dunstana looks up at Kat.
“His ship is called Catherine!” she exclaims, distracted from the solemnity of his oath by the familiar name. “That’s your name, Kat!”
She turns back to the ghost. “Is it with a C or a K? ‘Cause this Kat is with a K.”
“This Catherine was with a C.” Captain Fryte says, a smile once again creeping across his face. “But either way, it is a good name, my lady. You carry it well.”
“Thank you?” Kat says, not really sure what Captain Fryte is trying to say.
“Would you mind holding out your hand for a moment, my lady?” the Captain asks.
“Sure,” Kat says, holding out her hand. Captain Fryte snaps his finger once again.
Kat finds herself looking down at the necklace that has suddenly appeared in her hands. It is a painstakingly-carved ivory rose on a golden chain.
“What is it?” she asks, probably sounding more ungrateful than she means to.
“Catherine is not only my ship. She was my sister,” the Captain explains. “When we went our separate ways, she gave me her necklace to bring me good luck. I, ah, never had the chance to return it to her.”
“So why give it to me?” Kat asks.
“You remind me of her, and not only in name. I see much of sister’s spirit in you, my lady.”
The Captain smiles sadly.
“I cannot give it back to her after so long, so I give it to the second Katherine I have come to hold in high esteem. She would like you, I think, and would want a woman so like herself to have it. May it bring you fair winds and calm seas, my lady.”
“Thank you,” Kat says, closing her hand around the necklace. A sudden thought occurs to her, and she looks back at the ghostly pirate. “On the way here, we found your journal. Do you want us to do anything with it?”
Captain Fryte nods. “Read it,” he bids. “And then tell the world what you have read. Tell everyone. My words have been waiting for a hundred years to find a voice to speak them.”
Kat nods, tightening her grip around the necklace. “I will.”
“I’ll help!” Dunstana declares.
Captain Fryte sweeps his ghostly hat from his ghostly head and bows low.
“The time has come for leave-takings, I think,” he announces. “Time is a precious thing and I have taken enough of yours.” He raises his sword in one final salute. “It is been an honour. Live well, my friends.”
“You, too,” Kat replies, before she realises that, as a ghost, Captain Fryte won’t really be doing much of any kind of living. “Except, you know…”
She isn’t sure how to finish that sentence.
“Wait!” Dunstana exclaims, rushing forward before the Captain can disappear. “Don’t go yet!”
“Oh?” Captain Fryte stops mid-stride and quizzically beholds the tiny pirate. “Do you have something else to say, Little Captain?”
Dunstana nods. “I just want to say that I hope your skies will always be clear, your waters calm, and that good winds will always carry you home,” she says, giving the traditional pirate farewell.
Captain Fryte smiles warmly and tips his feathered hat to Dunstana. “You too, Little Captain.” He laughs heartily and bows one last time to the two sisters. He snaps his fingers.
And then he’s gone.
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