Before Kat realises what is happening, Captain Fryte has somehow instantly moved from the top of his mountain of treasure to several feet in front of her.
“There is yet one more battle to be fought,” he announces. He raises his sword in salute, before pointing it towards Kat. “Prepare yourself, my lady.”
“Oh dear,” she mutters to herself, without time to so much as catch her breath.
Fatigued by the tussle with the skeleton brigade and the Dragon, Kat’s brain barely has time to tell her body to move before the Captain’s sword comes sailing towards her face. She manages to leap back to avoid it.
She keeps backing up, putting as much space between herself and the ghost-pirate as she can. Once there’s enough space between them, Kat raises her bow. In a flash, Kat has an arrow drawn, aimed and ready. It flies from the string towards Captain Fryte.
The ghost moves in a blur, so fast that Kat is barely sure he has moved at all. His phantasmal hand shoots out in front of him and something like a flash of lightning leaps from it with a thunderous sound. The light and noise make Kat flinch, but as far as she can tell, it hasn’t actually hurt her.
When she looks up at Captain Fryte, she sees no trace of her arrow. Smiling smugly, he points downwards. She glances down at his feet, where the arrow is lying, split in two midway down the shaft.
“Wow,” she mutters, not sure there’s anything else she can say.
She has to admit — that was really cool.
She looks up from her intercepted arrow to see the Captain smiling almost apologetically at her.
“That is unfortunate,” he says. It sounds like he’s making fun of her.
He lowers his hand and raises his sword in the other.
Before Kat can respond, she feels something small and hard collide with her forehead. She glances down at her feet to see a cork spinning on the ground.
She looks up, and on the other side of the translucent Captain Fryte she can see Dunstana aiming her cork gun.
“Again? Really?” she exclaims.
“I’m helping!” Captain Kid insists.
“Not helping!” Kat corrects.
The ghost is getting closer to her. She reaches for her daggers in anticipation. As she turns back towards Captain Fryte, he snaps his fingers again. Kat bites back a curse as the chamber goes dark.
She stumbles around in the complete darkness, occasionally and loudly giving voice to her frustration with Captain Fryte. As suddenly as the light had gone, it comes back.
The first thing Kat notices is that she’s upside down and at a rather worrying height above what had once been the floor but now appears to be the ceiling.
“Gah!” she exclaims.
She tries to shield her eyes from the burning, blinding light, but finds that she can’t move her arms.
Somehow, Captain Fryte has tied her up and hung her from the ceiling. “How did — ” she begins to wonder, before the recollection comes.
She lets out a low, frustrated growl of contempt at the realisation.
She hears the Captain’s voice calling up to her, “Down here, my friend.”
She follows the voice towards where Captain Fryte is standing beside Dunstana and gazing intently up at Kat.
“Hi, Kat!” Dunstana says as she waves from down below. “Are you okay?”
“The final test is at hand,” Captain Fryte announces.
“What test? What are you talking about?” Kat asks furiously, not particularly pleased with finding herself so imperilled.
“Untie me!” she demands.
A heartbeat later, she realises that he might be tempted to take her literally.
“But let me down first!” she hastily adds.
“I’m afraid that is no longer in your hands, my lady,” Captain Fryte informs her.
“What are you talking about?” Kat repeats.
By this point, she’s too tired for any more games. Especially games that involve her being tied up and dangled from the ceiling.
“The final test is not yours to take,” he reveals. “It belongs to your sister.”
“What kind of a test?” Dunstana asks.
“Well, Little Captain,” Captain Fryte says in that smug, cryptic tone that Kat has come to despise. “There will be certain choices at hand.”
Before Dunstana can reply to this, he snaps his fingers again and Kat briefly fears she’s about to be dropped to her doom.
Thankfully, this doesn’t happen.
Instead, a section of ceiling beside Kat opens up and a treasure chest the approximate size of a house drops down, hanging, much like Kat, from a length of rope.
Captain Fryte points up towards Kat. “If you would turn your attention to the ceiling, you will see your sister, as well as a chest containing my vast, vast treasure.”
He snaps his fingers again. The floor below — or possibly above, it’s getting kind of hard to tell — begins to recede, opening up into a huge, deep pit.
Far, far below at the very bottom of the pit, Kat can see a faint, fiery light.
“Oh dear,” says Kat.
“And if you will turn your attention to the floor,” Captain Fryte continues explaining to Dunstana, “you will see a fiery chasm.”
“What’s a chasm?” Dunstana asks.
“It is a large hole in the ground, essentially. This particular one is so deep that it leads to the very heats and fires of the earth’s heart,” the Captain answers.
“Are you going to drop Kat down there?” Dunstana asks nervously. “Because I don’t think I’d like that.”
“Therein lies the test, Little Captain,” Captain Fryte answers. “You have two options before you.”
“Less talk!” Kat yells down — or maybe up — from the ceiling. “More letting me down!”
“We are getting to that, my lady,” Captain Fryte answers before turning back to Dunstana. “As I was saying, you now have a choice to make. On the one hand, you may claim my vast, vast treasure as your own, which, in all its vastness, will no doubt make you the wealthiest Little Captain in the whole of Realmgard, allow you to live out the rest of your days like a queen, and ensure that your name will be spoken of forever as the one who found the lost gold of Captain Jonathan Fryte. On the other hand, is your big sister, who, I’m sure, loves you very much. You may only leave here with one.”
“WHAT?” Kat exclaims, her suspicions regarding the situation proven correct in the most decisively horrifying way possible.
“So, if I save Kat,” Dunstana muses. “I don’t get the gold. But if I get the gold, then you’re going to drop Kat down that hole.”
She thoughtfully crosses her arms over her chest and lets out a pensive “Hmmm.”
Kat is less than thrilled that her sister apparently needs to think about this.
The choice is obvious!
“Dunstana!” Kat calls down from her precarious position. “All the gold in Realmgard isn’t going to buy you a new big sister. And Mom and Dad are going to be really mad at you!”
Actually, the Admiral would probably be thrilled that Dunstana got her hands on Captain Fryte’s gold.
To him, dropping Kat to her doom would be just a regrettable but necessary part of the adventure.
Realising this, Kat amends her statement as appropriate, “And Mom is going to be really mad at you!”
Dunstana doesn’t seem to move.
“We can always go on more adventures, Dunstana,” Kat insists desperately. “We’ll find so much treasure. But we can’t do that if you drop me down a chasm! So, please get me down!”
Dunstana looks up at Kat.
The sisters’ eyes meet for a moment before Dunstana’s eyes begin to wander towards the treasure chest, where they linger for a distressingly long time.
When Dunstana looks back at Kat, she has a sad look on her face and a regretful look in her eyes.
“And there’s not enough gold in the world to change the fact that you’re my little sister, and I love you!” Kat continues.
Kat watches Dunstana turn away and feels her heart sink.
She’s too disoriented to tell which way it’s sinking, but it’s definitely sinking somewhere.