I find it ironic how success or failure can often hinge upon one specific individual. In this case, Angelo. When I burst into the castle the others were still reveling. I shouted and cajoled, but it wasn’t until I emptied Old One Eye’s pitcher of beer on the stone floor of the kitchen would anyone listen.
They were all drunk. Every last one of them. Raucous staggered out in the yard to throw up, and Emad followed behind her. I needed these people clear headed, so I did what I always do. I improvised.
Alcohol is a poison, so I treated it as such. Despite how tired I was, I thought a little help could boost my abilities. I’d gotten more power by joining hands with other cleric’s in the past, what happened if I created a chain with three gods?
Thunder Jack and She Who Rules the Waves were already holding hands. If I had two of my own, it may have proven easier. As it was, asking Old One Eye to hold Thunder Jack’s hand was a non-starter, and asking him to hold the sea god’s hand may start a fight with Thunder Jack.
Finally, I had a stroke of brilliance.
“Group hug!” I shouted.
Angelo lurched to his feet and staggered over to us, going down to one knee so he could hug the littler people. Raucous and Emad stumbled back into the room and threw themselves against the backs of those who were already in the hugging formation.
I got one hand on Thunder Jack, and pressed the stump of my other arm against Old One Eye. It would have to do.
The thread I wove came from those in the room, and while I can’t really smell the divine, I caught a whiff of sour ale in the weaving.
I cast a group cleanse spell, ridding each of them of poison. One moment people were laughing and crying, telling each other how amazing they were, or how they’d be best friends forever.
The next moment, people were backing up, straightening their clothing (apparently there was a bit of groping going on as well). Raucous winked at me as she pulled her hands up into the air, a sign of feigned innocence.
The sobriety did not suit them all well. Old One Eye, in particular, was quite cross when he saw his pitcher upside down on the hearth. Apparently, the pitcher would always refill as long as it never ran dry.
I may be why we can’t have nice things.
Once I was able to shout them down this time, I explained about the ships, and the pending conflict. I mentioned the man-of-war to Angelo and he looked at me like I’d lost my mind.
“My ship was holed, stuck on the reef, with plague running through the crew. Are you sure it’s not another ship?”
I shrugged. “Let’s quibble over details later. Can the lot of you come to the beach with me?
Though they grumbled, they agreed. Well, most of them.
Barnaby and Gracie stayed behind at Audrey’s request. Phineas had decided to leave this island once and for all, now that Audrey had returned to him, but he wanted to pack a few things to take with them when they joined us.
When I said a few things, I literally meant everything. But that comes later.
Most of us moved at a quick pace back to the beach. When we broke out of the jungle, Angelo swore, while Raucous and Emad shouted with joy. Those two ran across the beach to where Dorn waited with Scrabble. Their jumping and whoops of joy started the little guy, and he scampered away from the lunatics. Emad swept Dorn up in his arms and planted a big kiss on the old woman, who threw her arms around him and wrestled him to the ground where she became the aggressor in the lip lock. Raucous laughed at them all the while. Their ship had returned, and some of their friends had come through alive, what better way to rejoice.
Bob grinned from ear-to-ear when he saw the ships, though he was excited, he pulled Old One Eye to the side and put their heads together in deep conversation.
She Who Rules the Waves walked out onto the sand and waved her hand at the sea. As we watched, a reef rose between the galleon and the ships of my allies. All three smaller ships had been rowing away from the larger ship, any chance of parlay having obviously failed. The Battle Toad had a torn sail on her main mast, and most of her rigging was burning. The crew was working to put the fires out, but on a ship, that was always a tricky proposition.
Again, She Who Rules the Waves made a motion and a great spout of water rose up and doused the burning ship. Not a single crew member was washed overboard. She had a lot of control.
“That’s not my ship,” Angelo called, walking toward me. He had been further down the beach, eyeing the larger ship. When he got within conversation distance, he turned and looked back toward the lagoon, shading his eyes. “I’ve seen a similar ship before, several years ago. I believe it belongs to a group calling themselves the Hand of the One True God.
I must’ve growled, because he turned to me. “You know them?”
I nodded. “We don’t get along.”
He chuckled. “They tried to assert themselves into our lands, but our people rebuffed their declarations and their threats.”
“Wise move,” I said, motioning for him to follow me. We approached the sea god, but waved Bob and Old One Eye over to join us.
“What’s the chance any of you can just sink that ship?” I asked the crowd. “Anyone?”
Thunder Jack was the first to reply. “When you use the word can, the answer is likely yes.”
He grinned at me, and I heard a distinct but in that answer.
“What you should be asking, is either, should we sink her, or what’s the cost to sink her.”
I growled again and Old One Eye burst out laughing.
“This is my domain,” She Who Rules the Waves informed us. “I believe there are enough ship wrecks and lost souls around the waters of this island. Why don’t we attempt to parlay?”
“Gee,” I groused. “Why didn’t I think of that.”
We walked down to the shoreline.
“This should go well,” I offered and Bob rolled his eyes.
The others looked quite pleased with themselves.
Then the great ship sent a burning ball of pitch toward the beach, with remarkable accuracy, to where we stood. That’s when the smiles faded.