It is the day after the Battle of Tankum Island. The date is 10th February 2478. Our heroes have resolved to search the islands to the south for Vango. A captured pirate named Stick will join them aboard Loose Lips and guide them to the place where Kantank forced Vango to walk off a plank into the sea on 7th February. Kantank assumed that Vango would die in the cold water, but Stick believes that Vango could have survived by drifting south on the sea current and wading ashore on one of the many small islands.
To help in the search, Hocus is determined to use the vacuum thruster apparatus left behind in the Kobold Village by The Professionals. He has been studying the Vacuum Thruster spell. He now makes a bench out of brown conjured wood, attaches it with conjured rope to the thruster apparatus, and gets it working in the afternoon. He attaches ropes to four rings on the corners of the apparatus, and pulls on these to direct the bench one way or another. He rises off the ground with the wide, flat, metal box of the thruster apparatus above him. The orcs are delighted, and a few of them join him as he hovers about, learning how to use the pump lever to increase the lift, and the release valve to reduce it.
Meanwhile, the orcs pitch tents, light fires, and prepare food for their seventy pirate prisoners. During the afternoon, ten more pirates come limping into the village, saying that they would rather be at the mercy of the orcs than die of cold. And indeed the weather is uncommonly cold for the Diablo Islands. Last night it was barely above freezing just before dawn. Before they feed the pirates, the orcs force each pirate to strip naked and wash in the cold water of the village stream. The orcs take these clothes and search through them for money and hidden weapons. They keep the finer shirts for themselves, and burn the rest. The pirates do not complain about being deprived of all their wordly possessions. But they are enraged an hour later when the orcs shave their heads.
Wicklow and Martha ask Sacha to help in their search for Vango by riding out from Tankum Island on the hippogriff that he inherited from Clodine. Sacha says he is unwilling to fly out far over the sea, and that he does not have the energy for such work.
The next morning is cool and sunny. It is the eleventh of February, 2478. Loose Lips sets sail. On board are Heraklese as captain, Bonita as first mate, Hocus, Scythe, Wicklow, Jack, Martha, Sallina, Garibaldi, Jessica, Stanley, and Stick the wounded pirate. His arm is in a sling from a severe cut that Wiclow stitched up the day before.
A steady North-Westerly wind takes them south. Hocus prepares the vacuum thruster and he and Martha ride in it, following the boat. They fly up and down, and back and forth. Although he often has trouble controling the lateral movements of the bench, Hocus is never in danger of striking the water. His experience with controling the altitude of balloons serves him well when anticipating how the pump and the release valve will affect the motion of the bench.
At around noon, Hocus and Martha are flying at about a hundred meters above the water, when they see a sail on the horizon, roughly twenty kilometers to the east. They are confident that the pirates cannot see them on their bench, because they are so small. After some mental calculations, they are certain that it is impossible for the pirates to see Loose Lips, because of the curvature of the planet. So Loose Lips continues to the south, with the bench following, and hides among the very same islands that they intend to search for Vango.
When they come among these islands, they are very glad they have the vacuum thruster, because many of them are surrounded by rocky beaches that would make landing a long-boat tiresome and dangerous. With the vacuum thruster criss-crossing over the tree-toops, they search a tiny, forested island entirely surrounded by black cliffs in only ten minutes. They move on to other smaller islands, and some larger ones. But they see no sign of human habitation nor of Vango.
Towards the end of the afternoon, Hocus and Martha fly up over some sharp mountains on a much larger island, perhaps five kilometers across, and look down into a harbor with their binoculars and telescope. There they see a three-masted pirate boat anchored, with pirates moving around on the shore. They descend to take a closer look. The pirates are starting a fire. Some others are standing around taking part in some sort of ritual, or so it seems to Martha.
"No," Hocus says, "I think it's someone making a conjured shelter."
As they come closer, they see a man holding a wand just like the one that Hocus uses when he makes a conjured structure. The wizard looks up, and two other men gaze at the vacuum thruster through their binoculars.
"Stick said that there were two pirate boats in these waters who had wizards on board," Martha says, "This must be one of them."
Hocus works the pump above their heads. "Time to leave, I think, before they fire something at us."
A gust of wind strikes the bench, and it turns in mid-air. Hocus pulls on the ropes and stops the rotation. The bench begins to rise. Martha turns in her seat and looks back at the pirates through her binoculars. "I don't think they will come after us. But it's possible that they might."
Hocus is intent upon the ropse. The mountains are looming up in front of them, and he is concerned about the up-draft. Some of the rocky spikes look nasty. A sudden hiss comes from the thruster apparatus. He looks up. What was that? The bench jolts downwards, and begins to descend. He pumps air out of the apparatus. The vacuum seal appears to hold, and the bench rises again.
"Everything okay?" Martha says.
Hocus holds the ropes and stops another spin of the bench. "I think so."
Martha takes out a space bridge in a perforated metal case. "I think I'll call Loose Lips and suggest that they sail south at full speed, looking for a secluded harbor or something to hide in for the night."
"Yeah," Hocus says, "That's a good idea. You do that." An updraft catchs the bench and sends it flying up over a pinnacle of rock. The bench turns again, and he grimaces as he pulls the ropes.
Two hours later, and Hocus lands the bench upon Loose Lips's stern. They have just flown over an island to the West, which provides a secluded harbor. The island has mountains on the north and south side of the harbor, but to the west is a valley with what appears to be the ruins of a stone house. After consulting the GMI directors, Heraklese decides to anchor Loose Lips in the harbor for the night.
Before the sun goes down, Hocus, Wicklow, Martha, Jack, and Scythe row ashore in a longboat to investigate the ruins. They walk up a path beside a stream. They can see fifty meters or so through the leafless winter trees. According to Jack, the path has not been in active use for at least several years. After a few hundred meters, they come to a clearing among the trees, about a hundred meters across, which is itself over grown with bushes, ferns, and the brown, tangled strands of dead grass and creepers. On one side of the clearing is an octagonal structure one or perhaps two stories high, and thirty meters wide. The stream opens out into a pool lined with wooden stakes to hold up the bank.
After looking at the ground, inspecting the stream, and looking at the house, Jack says, "The pool is artificial, and has not been maintained for several years. As you can see, this was once a garden."
"The sun is going down," Hocus says, "and I don't see anything dangerous hiding in the pool or the garden. So let's check the house and then get back to the boat."
They cross the garden. The front door of the house has been torn off its hinges. The door is made of wood, and lies upon the ground, covered by creepers and leaves. Beside the door almost entirely concealed among the dead vegetation, is an adult human skeleton. Wicklow kneals to inspect it.
Meanwhile, Hocus is scratching a lump of gray stone that must have broken away from the house. "This is not ordinary stone. It's spirit stone. This house was made by a wizard." He lookes up at the house. Its windows are gaping holes, overhung with vines that cascade from the roof. "The windows would have been conjured wood, but it has long since decayed." A tree has fallen upon the roof as well, and its branches and clumps of vines partially conceal the higher parts of the structure.
Scythe is looking at the skeleton. "How did he die?"
Martha looks at the bones also, and at the garden and the house. It's the end of a beautiful day. The red light of the sunset is shining off a few clouds in the west. "Maybe he came out, sat down, and said to himself, what a beautiful day, and he was old, and just died right there."
Wicklow stands up. "His skull was crushed. Most of the bones are here. No large animal has been here to take them away, or eat the corps."
Jack pulls a scimitar from the earth next to the skeleton, and holds it up in the light of the setting sun. It is rusty and notched. "I think he was a pirate."
"Okay," Martha says, "Maybe he did not die a peaceful death."
"I don't think so," Jack says, and looks at the dark entrance to the house.
"So," Scythe says, smiling at each of them, "Whose going in first?"
After a moments's silence, Jack drops the rusty scimitar on the ground and draws his sword. "I'll do it." He walks up the steps. Wicklow follows him. Hocus takes out a large luminous stone and holds it up high. Its light shines into the room beyond. Martha stands outside, watching the forest and waiting for her chance to enter. She hears Jack from inside. "Another skeleton here on the floor. I'm stepping over it." And then Wicklow. "This guy had his rib cage smashed in. Or maybe someone came along later and stepped on him."
"It's a mess in here," Jack says, "Hold on, let me look at the floor." A minute passes. Martha is still waiting outside. "No sign of tracks. The floor is overgrown, or would be in summer. Nobody has been in here and moved anything for at least a year."
The rest of the company enter the house. Martha steps over the skeleton in the hallway. The room beyond is about ten meters across. Broken and rotting furniture lies scattered about the floor. Book shelves are toppled over, lying at odd angles, with their books buried among leaves and moss. There is a hole in the roof, with the branch of a tree protruding down. Beneath an over-turned side-table is an elephant carved out of dark wood. A soapstone chessboard lies broken against the wall. Among the shifting shadows cast by Hocus's luminous stone, she sees the heads of a few chess pieces.
In the far wall are three dark openings. Each has two protrusions upon its right side, which Martha assumes are a form of hinge. The doors are nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they were made of conjured matter also, and have now decayed. Between two of the openings sits a large sandstone gargoyle. Its grotesque face faces straight ahead with its eyes closed. Upon its head is a thick mat of moss and upon its shoulders are rotting leaves. It has no wings upon its back.
Jack takes two slow steps into the room, and pushes the pages of a large book aside. "I count three more skeletons in here. There's this one, one over there." He points to the floor next to the couch. "And one up against the wall over there." He points to the wall on their right.
Wicklow stands beside Jack and leans over to look at the pages of the large book. He stands to one side so the light from the luminous stone will shine upon the page. He holds his sword in one hand and touches the page with the other. He pulls a few pages back, and the letters of the page he reveals are still legible, and written in Latin. "Nintur attempted to raise the Namrazi to action, but the other families for once united against the Namrazi and forbade any action against the Illuminati. Nintur was furious." He stands up and steps back from the book, thinking he should stay alert. Jack takes a step to one side also, thinking he sees a glint of metal among the debris on the floor. Even as they do so, a sand-colored, boy-sized shape flies through the space where they had been standing only a heartbeat earlier. Jack and Wicklow turn and strike at it with their swords out of instinct, but they are too slow, and their blades cut through nothing but thin air.
The shape lands against the far wall, crouches, and leaps again. In the moment for which it crouches, Martha sees that it is the gargoyle. It has shaken off its rotting leaves and moss, and is now revealed as a stocky demonoic figure. It leaps straight at Scythe's torso. He steps aside, just in time, and swings at the demon projectile. His sword strikes its body with a loud ring of metal upon stone. Martha swings as well, but she misses.
The demon lands on the far side of the room, turns, and jumps. Hocus concentrates for a moment, and casts Enveloping Sponge. The demon flies through the air at Martha. She steps out of the way, and tries to interpose her sword, but the demon flies under it. Scythe swings downwards at it, but also misses. The demon lands on the ground near Hocus.
Even as the demon begins to leap for the fourth time, it freezes in mid-air and rolls forward. A book and the shaft of a hat-stand rise up from the floor behind it. The demon drifts backwards and rocks, suspended.
"I enveloped it with sponge," Hocus says.
"Well done," Wicklow says, and lets out a lungful of air.
The demon struggles in its invisible cacoon of conjured sponge. Hocus steps towards it and lowers his luminous stone to shed more light upon it. "Its body is made of sand from the beach," he says, "held together by conjured matter, I think." With each second that the demon struggles, its arms and legs gain more freedom of movement. "The sponge won't hold him for long. Maybe a few minutes. I suggest we get out of here. We are supposed to be finding Vango, not wearing ourselves out fighting demons."
Martha lowers her sword and peers at the demon. "Good point." The demon's legs are kicking. If it were to stand up straight, it would probably come up to her elbow. Its limbs are stocky, and almost human in outline, except for the clawed feet. The claws are covered with dirt. Its arms are stocky also, and tipped with four clawed fingers and a thumb. The demon is belly-down, but it turns its head from side to side in rapid movements like those of a squirrel or a bird. Its eyes are open now, and look like black holes. Its mouth juts from its face, but does not open. Nor does she see any sign of a crack in the face that might indicate any possibility of the mouth openening. There is no sign of any teeth. "What a fascinating creature."
"Technically, it's not a creature. It's a demon," Hocus says.
Wicklow rests his sword upon upon his shoulder for a moment, and then thinks better of it. The adamantine blade Bragash gave him is so sharp he is uncomfortable having it near his neck. He puts the point down and touches it gently upon the ground. "Demons have command words, don't they? You say the words and then give them orders. Do you have a spell that will tell you what its command words are?"
"I don't know of any such spell," Hocus says.
Jack loosens a shoulder strap. He felt constrained when he swung at the demon. "Who's commanding it now?"
Wicklow shakes his head. "I don't know."
"Let's chop it's head off," Hocus says.
"You mean," Martha says, "kill it? Why?"
"Chopping its head off won't kill it," Wicklow says. "It's life is in its head. Chopping its head off just means that it will have to build itself another body."
"How do you know that?"
"It's a demon, isn't it?" Wicklow says. "I read lots of books about monsters when I was a kid. Good books from the library. And the Adventurer's Gazette."
Martha kneels next to the demon. Its head jerks towards her, and then away. "But 'demon' is just another word for 'monster', isn't it? People call orcs 'demons'."
"No, Wicklow is right," Hocus says, "Orcs are not demons. This is a demon. We can talk about it more later, but right now, we have around one minute until he gets out of there, and I don't want to be anywhere near him if he gets out. Chopping his head off won't kill him. If we are going to do it, let's do it now. If we aren't going to do it, then lets get out of here."
"I say chop its head off," Wicklow says, and raises his sword.
"Me too," Scythe says.
"Okay," Jack says. He steps up beside the demon and holds his sword above his head. "Where shall I hit it?"
Wicklow looks at the demon's neck. "The middle of the neck. You don't want to hit the skull. It's made of adamantine."
Jack and swings his sword down at the demon's neck with all his formidable strength. The sword cuts right through the invisible sponge without a sound and strikes the demon's neck with a sudden explosion of white and blue sparks. The metallic ring of the impact is muffled beneath the sponge. He pulls his sword free. The demon is struggling. Its head is still attached to its body. But there is a mighty gash in the back of its neck. Clean sand is visible in the walls of the gash.
Wicklow swings his sword at the neck. Sparks fly. Jack chops again. The demon stops moving. Its black eyes remain open. Jack and Wicklow at the neck until the head comes away completely. Jack sheathes his sword and extracts the head from the sponge. He holds it up with both hands.
"Well done," Hocus says. They examine the head. Its sandy features start to bulge. They crack. A few sprinkles of sand fall to the floor. As Jack turns the head in his hands, the sandy skin of the head starts to fall away beneath his fingers. Beneath the skin is a sparkling gray surface. Hocus scratches it. "Some kind of spirit matter."
Wicklow picks up the book he had been reading on the floor. He closes it and it stays in one piece. He holds it to his chest.
"Lets search the place," Scythe says.
Hocus looks out the window. "It's getting dark. We don't know what else is hiding around here. And there could be traps left by the wizard who made this place."
"I'll check for traps as we go," Scythe says, "Come on, just fifteen minutes to poke around.
Jack puts the demon's head under his arm. Hocus holds up his luminous stone. And so they explore the rest of the spirit house. In the kitchen there is a stove with two hot stones that are still warm, but not hot. The floor is over-run with vines. There are fragments of broken china on the floor, but the shelves are empty. Whatever plates, glasses, pots, and pans the inhabitants of the house may have used are gone, along with the food they stored in their larder. Its shelves are bare also.
"Look at this," Jack says, and holds up the head. "It's growing around my fingers." They look at the head and see that a layer of dark green matter is growing slowly around the head. Hocus again scratches it with his fingers.
"Conjured wood, I think."
"Is it dangerous?"
"I don't think so."
"Would you like to hold it?"
"Okay." Hocus takes the demon's head. "You hold the light." He passes the luminous stone to Jack.
In the dining room, they find two decaying bodies under the heavy oak dining table. Two chairs are smashed on the floor. If there were any others, they are gone. There are deep gouges in the dining room table surface. Some look like sword marks, others are made by claws. Scythe gets down under the table and searches the two pirates. One of their scimitars is still whole. The other is broken. One has a crushed chest. The other's head has been shattered. Scythe's brow furrows as he reaches beneath them looking for their purses.
When he stands up, Martha says, "Well?"
Scythe holds up a small leather bag, and a pouch with a waist strap. He puts them on the table, slices them open with the blade of his longsword, and turns them upside down. Shiny yellow coins pour out onto the damp, moldy wood of the table. The sound of the coins sliding over one another is soft and deep. Sythe's companions watch him as he counts the coins rapidly, his fingers gathering them into bunches of twelve. Wicklow smiles at Scythe's enthusiasm. When they were boys, they played games, killing imaginary monsters, and escaping with piles of imaginary treasure. Now here is Scythe, counting real gold in a real haunted house.
"One hundred and seventy," Scythe says, "All ten-gram pieces." He scoops them into his back-pack, tightens the top, and looks up. Jack is about to take a step into the next room. "Hold on!" Scythe says, "Wait for me to check the doorway."
The steps to the second floor of the house are made of the same sparkling gray stone as the walls and arched ceilings. Scythe ascends first, Martha last. She picks up a broken piece of stone. It is lighter than she expects. She brushes the dirt off one face, shines her flashlight upon it, and holds it close to her eyes. The surface feels smooth and hard beneath her fingers, and it sparkles in the bright light. But she cannot see the surface in sharp relief. She holds it closer, and then farther away. But it always seems blurred, except for the sparkling fragments.
She opens her backpack and puts the stone inside.
When she reaches the top of the stairs, she follows her companions into a room littered with books, scrolls, shelves, paint brushes, ink bottles, and broken glass. Jack looks up at her when she walks in. "The wizard's study."
Hocus finds thirteen bridge rings in a draw of a broken wood desk. He pickes up half a dozen cards with wizard runes painted upon them. The runes are familiar to him. They are drawn in an ornate fasion popular among wizards taught by apprenticeship instead of in schools. He puts the runes in his pack, along with the bridge rings.
On the ground near the wall, and hidden behind a shattered spirit-stone bookshelf, is a leather-bound notebook half-filled with hand-writing and numbers. Martha picks it up, "This looks like a diary." She leafs through a few more pages. "Or personal accounts. It's mostly numbers, with comments."
Wicklow stands next to her. "Is that Weilandic??"
"Yes. It's all in Weilandic. No Latin."
Scythe holds up a damp book he picked out from the dead, brown ferns lying beneath a hole in the ceiling. He has it open at the first page, and points with one finger at handwriting above the title. "Bazarius Olodin," he says, "I found it written in the same hand over the title of four out of six of the books I have picked up so far."
"Bazarius is a man's name," Martha says.
Hocus leans over the book. The name is written in Latin letters. The z has a horizontal line through the middle, added after the writer finished the word Bazarius. The l has a distinct loop in its vertical arm, as does the d. "The handwriting is Weilandic." He reaches out for the book. "May I?"
Scythe hands him the book, and Hosus leafs through it. By this time, Wicklow has come to see. "What type of book is it?" he says.
"It's a text book, written in Weilandic, and published in Gripp," Hocus says. "It describes the rules governing summoning on Clarus." He hands it back to Scythe.
"I think I'll keep it," Scythe says, and puts it in his pack.
The compainions continue to search the room. Hocus gets down on his knees and picks up one book after another. They are on diverse subjects, many of them related to magic, but many others describing animals and the natural world. One book contains the line, "To Bazarius, from Clementine". After five minutes, he stands up and looks around. Where are the wizards' spell books? Where are his notes? Did he no longer take an interest in his field? He may have been old, and tired of study. But surely he would keep spell books for another apprentice, or have prized books he could take out every now and then to examine. There are thousands of useless spells with which wizards can entertain themselves in the privacy of their homes. But there are no spell books.
"We have to go," Wicklow says.
And so, each with their backpack filled with miscellanious treasures, the companions make their way out of the spirit stone house. It is chilly outside, and the twilight is deepening.
When they get back to the boat, they find that Stick stole a bottle of wine, drank it, and has passed out in his hammock. Never mind. That's one less person to squeeze into the captain's cabin for dinner. As it is, there are eleven of them around the table, and those against the aft wall can't get out without disturbing at least four others. Garibaldi and Sallina have cooked a simple stew, and they serve it with red wine. The stew is simple, but like everything these two cook, it is good enough to make those eating it forget about all else for a few minutes, and end by complimenting the couple for their good work.
Over the last of the wine, the company turns to talking business. Under what terms will Jack continue working with GMI? Wicklow says he thinks they should cut Jack in as a partner. Heraklese says that no such offer should be made before the GMI board has met in private. Heraklese says at one point that when they get a chance, they will sail to a port and discharge Jessica and Stanley, as they wished. But Jessica and Stanley don't seem so keen to be discharged, and explain their recent disatisfaction as a result of anxiety. Hocus says that if Jack is going to get cut into GMI, then Martha should be cut in too.
"Let's talk about that privately," Heraklese says. "We can't make company offers, or tempt people with company offers, unless the company agrees."
Martha puts her hands in her lap and shakes her head. "I don't need to be cut in. I can't be cut in. I'm under contract with Adventuring Wizard."
"If that's the case," Scythe says, "What will you be saying in your reports about us, and the orcs, and our biggest client: Dreadmanifold. It seems to me that we might have a conflict of interest, and we need rules to decide what you can report, and when you can report it."
"I have no intention of compromising GMI's interests," Martha says, "In fact, it's my hope that I will promote them."
"Maybe you say that now," Heraklese says, "But what if things go sour between you and Hocus, and you end up being bitter about it? What then?"
Martha frowns at Heraklese. "I'm not the type to get bitter."
Heraklese folds his arms. "Perhaps not. But I've heard that before."
Martha raises her eyebrows, and is about to speak, but Hocus says, "Um... Now, we've already talked about what Martha is going to report. We decided to trust her. So let's trust her."
Heraklese looks down at his empty bowl. Nobody speaks for a while. In the silence, they hear Stick snoring in the crew's quarters down the hall. A wave rocks the boat and everyone at the table leans to starboard a little without thinking about it.
"Let's show them the demon's head," Wicklow says.
"Yeah," Jack says, "That's something you should see."
At Hocus's request, Sallina picks up his pack that sits on the floor in the corner of the room, and passes it to him. He takes out the demon's head. It has swollen to twice its original size, and now looks like a green ball. It's elastic to the touch, like rubber.
For the next half-hour, Hocus answers questions about demons, and the company discusses what they should do with it. They agree that they should try to find out if there are any command words that can contol it, and if so, how they can learn the command words and help the demon grow a new body. The four sailors retire for the evening. Hocus takes out GMI's Three Aces summoning bridge and asks for help. For ten guineas an hour, they hire an Olympian elf to answer their questions. They speak to him through the bridge, listening to his slow, controlled Latin answers and occasional enlightening digressions. The first step is to determine the demon's identity, by stripping away its conjured rubber protection and examining its skull. Hocus unfolds his copper bridge holder and places the summoning bridge in a slot at the base. The summoning bridge is a black disk. It shrinks, pops out of its bridge ring, and begins to expand into the curving groove of the bridge holder.
Wicklow leans down to look closely at the bridge. "Why doesn't it float away?"
"I think," Hocus says, "That it's held down by conjured rubber in its sheath, which sticks to the copper."
The bridge remains black, but as it reaches its final diamter of sixty centimeters, they see that the blackness beyond is a velvet curtain. This curtain parts suddenly, and a gray sparkling rod passes through the bridge and protrudes into the ship's cabin. For a moment, they see a brown hand with smooth skin and yellow-painted nails, holding the other end of the rod.
The rod withdraws and a voice comes through the bridge. "That was spirit matter. The bridge is tuned and ready. You can pass the demon's head through. The bridge will destroy all the conjured matter around the skull and within."
Jack says, "Does this harm the demon?" loud enough for the elf to hear.
"No," the elf says, "In fact, passage through a spirit bridge cleans out conjured dirt inside the skull that can, in the long run, damage its brain. It's a good thing to pass a demon through a spirit bridge every few years, or more often if it is very active. You will get more out of your demon if you take care of it. We at Three Aces provide a Demon Maintenance service for a fixed annual fee. If we can get you your command words, then I hope you will allow me to describe the service to you."
"We certainly will," Hocus says. "Shall I pass the head through?"
Hocus passes the head through the bridge. The green stuff around it hisses and vanishes. He holds the sparkling gray skull in both hands, on the other side of the bridge. He looks back at his companions with a smile on his face. "I'm sitting here, but my hands are on Olympia."
"Withdraw it now," the elf says.
Hocus withdraws the head. "Now," the elf says, "Look at the back of the skull, on the opposite side from the eye circles, you should see signs of engraved letters."
Hocus turns the head and they all bend over his shoulder to look. "Yes! I do."
"Scrape at them with the knife I told you to get ready. You have to crack off the spirit stone coating the metal."
Hocus scratches, and flakes of spirit stone come off, revealing letters of an alphabet he has never seen before. "Okay, but I can't read it."
"Oh," the voice says, "Of course you can't. Let me see. It is against our policies for me to touch the object that you claim is a demon's head, nor expose myself to it. But if you pass the head through, I'll read the serial number off the back and copy it down."
Hocus looks at his companions. Heraklese raises one eyebrow and whispers, "They could just keep it. He already said that demons aren't supposed to be wandering around on Clarus."
Hocus shakes his head, "I don't think he will."
"I would write all about it," Martha says, "and they would lose all their wizard customers."
"I agree," Wicklow says, "Taking the demon would not make any sense."
Hocus sees that the other GMI board members are in agreement, and hands the head through the bridge a second time. The two brown hands appear again, take the head, and disappear. They hear some scraping, some rustling of paper and some scratching. "Got it!" The hands give the demon's head back to Hocus and then hold out a piece of thin paper. "Here's the demon's identity. The alphabet is Illuminati. I'll try to see if we have this name in our records. If not, I can search other records. It will take me a few hours."
"Okay," Hocus says. "Can we call back in the morning? It's late here."
"Certainly. I will be off duty. But I'll leave notes for my colleague."
And so our heroes go to sleep. Hocus is restless. He wakes up frequently, leans over the edge of his hammock, and shines his small flashlight at the pack beneath his bed. The demon's head is in there. It has covered itself with another layer of conjured matter, but not nearly as thick this time. He can see the outline of it through the leather.
The next morning, the 12th of February, 2478, is gray, cold, and wet. Rain falls gently upon the boat and runs off its deck into the harbor. Sallina is making breakfast when Bonita and Heraklese get up and allow Hocus to come into the cabin again and set up the summoning bridge to talk to Three Aces. It is eight in the morning.
If the elf of the night before was slow and controled in his speech, the female elf they speak to this morning is glacial. Between each sentence she inserts a pause of at least fifteen seconds. Hocus is hopping on his seat in restless impatience as she reveals to those listening that her colleague did indeed find their demon's name in the Three Aces records.
"And I will teach the wizard among you to speak the command word for your demon."
"Why the wizard?" Jack says.
"The command words are in the language of the Illuminati," she says.
Jack is about to ask why that explains anything, but Wicklow holds up his hand and smiles. Jack waits. Almost a minute goes by. "That language is hard for the human mouth to pronounce."
From the kitchen they hear Sallina's voice. "Damn it! I dropped the eggs!"
"We find that wizards can speak the commands, but others cannot."
Hocus is smiling with his eyes half closed and pointing at himself repeatedly. "That's me," he whispers. "I have the skills."
"It will take an hour," the woman says.
"Well then," Martha says, "I'm going to have my breakfast."
While Hocus sits in the captain's cabin, learning the command word, the rest of the company eat breakfast sitting on benches in the crew's quarters. Heraklese pulls Stick up into a sitting position. "Wake up you drunk old bastard."
Stick coughs and opens his eyes. He yawns and looks at Heraklese. He reaches out with his good hand and ruffles Heraklese's hair. "Hello boy."
"How old are you, anyway, you salty old codfish," Heraklese says.
"Sixty-two, and been a pirate since before I could grow a beard."
"That can't be," Heraklese says, "Fifty years as a pirate? Don't you all end up getting killed or thrown in jail?"
Stick takes the bread and bacon out of Heraklese's hands and stuffs them into his mouth. As he's chewing, he says, "I never said I ain't been in jail, boy."
"You must have a few stories to tell," Martha says, and leans on the rope at the head of his hammock.
Stick looks at her while he chews Heraklese's food. He swallows. "You must have a few favors you could do me."
Martha smiles at him. "I don't think you'd like Hocus when he's angry."
"Don't worry, my lovely," Stick says, and lies back in his hammock. "He ain't the jealous sort."
Martha wonders about that for a moment, and tlooks around. Sallina is standing against one wall, smiling at her. Garibaldi is too. Martha looks at Stick. He has closed his eyes. He may be a pirate, but he bathes himself every day. He may have stolen a bottle of wine last night, but he does not have the nose of a drunkard. His wounded arm rests across his chest. He never complains about it, not even when they cleaned out the cut. His other arm rests beside his head. It is lean and muscular. How did he survive for fifty years as a pirate? What is it about these long-term sailors? It's as if they all keep a secret.
When Hocus emerges from the captain's cabin, he is smiling. "I learned it."
"Let's hear it," Wicklow says.
Hocus says something that sounds like the voice of a giant insect. This is approximately what he said, "Pekaba-dak dak-ptik-tik snap-snap ftonk."
"Cool," Stanley says.
"The intonation is important," Heraklese says. "It has to be just right."
"How do you know it's just right?" Jessica says.
"Because I'm a wizard," Hocus says, "And we wizards no stuff like that."
Jessica shakes her head. "Say it again for us."
"Oh no," Hocus says, and wags a finger. "Only once. It's supposed to be a secret."
Sallina holds up a pan with some scrambled eggs and bacon in it. "It's cold, but have some."
Hocus takes the pan and accepts a fork. He begins to eat. After a mouthful he says, "It has a name. It's three thousand years old, and it has often been called Stephanix."
His companions repeat the name.
"It's a Scurrier Fighting Demon. That's a class of small demons that fight. It will take up to a week to re-build the space bridges that it uses for its eyes, and at the same time its ears." He puts more eggs in his mouth.
"How are we going to help it build a body?" Jack says.
"When its eyes open, I say the command word to it. If I say the word correctly, the demon will obey me. After that, we put it in some sand and let it build its body, which takes a few days."
Stick sits up in his hammock. "The sun is up. I don't know what you people are talking about, but I sure knows it ain't any talk of finding my captain. What are we out here fore anyway?"
Since the Battle of Tankum Island, Hocus has had no chance to prepare fresh spells. On the one hand, they are in a hurry to find Vango, who they fear may be starving on a small island. On the other hand, they dare not go out into the open water without Hocus's full repetoire of pirate-fighting effects.
"Vango will have to wait another day," Heraklese says to Stick. "And if you steal from our cellar again, I will flog you personally."
Stick laughs, "I've been flogged so many times, boy, by far sterner men that you. I doubt you'd even be able to break through the scars on my back."
Heraklese walks away, shaking his head and smiling.
Stick shouts after him, "I doubt you'd even be able to wake me up out of my hang-over, you pretty young thing."
That same day, they speak to Dalian Krass and ask him, "Who is Bazarius Olodin?" Dalian has never heard of the man. "He is, or was, a wizard."
Martha examines the book of accounts they brought from the spirit stone house. It begins in 2449, almost thirty years ago. It lists expenses paid for food, wine, and clothes. It gives what appear to be bank balances in millions of dollars. Every year, starting in about 2453, there is a major expense associated with what appears to be a person's name. Half the names are Satian, and Jessica is certain they are female names. The others are Weilandic or from the nations on the West coast of the Satian Sea.
"This one here," Martha says, "Was for Maria, one million dollars."
She continues through the little book. "The last one is six hundred thousand dollars for someone called Tutken. That was 2463. There are no more of the women entries after that. But in 2467, he writes, 'That leaves five million for Tutken'."
The companions are lounging on benches in the captain's cabin. Bonita says, "And when do the entries end?"
"Some time in 2468. Around August."
The rain falls outside. But they have the windows closed, and there is a wood stove in the corner, with a chimney that passes up through the deck. They keep it burning all day, cover themselves with blankets, drink tea, read books, study maps, and talk. Hocus, meanwhile, has hidden himself down in the hold with his rune cards, preparing spells. Jessica and Stanley made him a small office down there among the cargo boxes, and he seems perfectly happy for the solitude.
"What happens to Staphanix if he falls off the boat?" Wicklow says.
"He sinks," Scythe says. "Just like a stone."
They return to their books and maps. Heraklese lies sleeping in his hammock with Bonita next to him.
"I wonder how many demons there are wandering around on the bottom of the ocean," Wicklow says, "They wouldn't know which way to go. They would just wander around and around for ever, lost to the world."
Bonita looks up from her book and stares at the ceiling. "Spooky."
The next day, the 13th February, is rainy again, with low clouds and a 10-kph Southerly wind. Loose Lips weighs anchor and sails out of the secluded harbor of Bezarius's Island (for so they call it). After a lengthy debate in the morning, they turn west and then north. Hocus prepares his Flying Bench. Jack wins the die-roll to accompany him, and sits proudly on the bench next to Hocus. Moments later, they are hovering in the air above the deck, and drifting away through the rain.
Clouds loom over Hocus and Jack, their swhirling bases only a few hundred meters above the water. The rain is light, but chilly and persistent. Hocus guides the bench and Jack examines a map, spies with binoculars, and directs the wizard. This is only the second time that Jack as flown. The first time was with Stardiamond on her wyvern, flying among the mountains above the kobold village. The wyvern's motions were irresistable and alien to him, the turns and wing-beats so forceful, the rush of the icey winter air so loud in his ears, and so chilling to his bones, that he felt terrified, frozen, and nausious all at once when he slid off the creature's back fifteen minutes after getting on. Riding on the bench, however, is an entirely different experience. It is quiet and comfortable, with an unobstructed view in every direction but directly below, which is obscured by the bench itself. And so Jack is grinning, despite the rain dripping off his forehead and down his neck.
They fly over island after island, weaving back and forth, calling out Vango's name, and looking down between the trees or into the caves along the shore line. They have decided to pay prolonged attention only to islands that look large enough to provide fresh water. If he has not found fresh water by now, they are certain Vango will be dead. It has been a week since he was forced into the sea.
It is nearing lunch-time when they approach an island two kilometers long, dominated by a single mountain two hundred meters high. It rises in a jumble of cliffs and forest. At the top is a bare, grassy peak and a structure made of cumbling stone. Its square tower almost touches the clouds that hover dark and wet above it.
Jack inspects the temple through his binoculars. "Let's go up there. If he landed on that island, he may have climbed to the top, to light a fire."
Hocus pumps the vacuum thruster, and the bench begins to rise towards the clouds. "Any sign of a fire?"
"I can't see the ground yet. There's none lit right now, that's for sure."
Hocus smiles. His backside seems to have made an impression upon the conjured wood of the bench, and water is pooling there, soaking his pants all the way through. "I'm not surprised there's no fire."
"I think it's some kind of temple," Jack says. He has the binoculars to his eyes. "It doesn't look like the sort of place you'd want for a palace. And it's old. I would guess its over a thousand years old. The blocks of stone are huge. Some of them must be a meter across. How did they get them up here? Hold on!"
Hocus looks at Jack, and then over the top of the island to the sea beyond. There is a three-masted ship sailing south-west towards the north side of the island.
"Pirates!" Jack says, examining the boat. "The boat is crawling with them!"
Jack talks to Wicklow on Loose Lips through a space bridge. Loose Lips turns south and tacks against the wind in an effort to get around the south side of Temple Island before the pirates themelves round the point on the west side. The crew jumps to the sails. Bonita takes the helm and the solid little ship heaves to the wind.
Hocus lands the bench on the summit of the hill next to the temple. They both crouch down and watch the pirate boat. "This will take ten or fifteen minutes to pan out," Hocus says, "You might was well look for signs of Vango up here while we wait."
Jack walks across the grass towards the temple. At the base of the temple steps he finds rabbit bones scattered around the remains of a fire. The ashes are cold and wet. Leaning against the wall are three short javelins. He picks one up. The tip has been cut with a small knife and hardened in fire. He examines the ground around the fire and finds the footprints of a large bare-footed man.
At the top of the temple steps is a dark, square opening leading into the tower. For a moment he considers ascending the steps alone, but thinks better of it, and returns to Hocus.
Fifteen minutes later, Loose Lips rounds the south side of the island, only two minutes before the pirate ship rounds the point on the west side. "Well, that's a relief," Hocus says, "These clouds make for surprises. So, let's look in the temple."
The two adventurers draw their swords and walk to the temple. They ascend the steps. Just inside the entrance, they find Vango lying upon a bed of leaves and dried braken. His large, lean body is disfigured by black lumps just under his skin. There are several on his neck and armpits. He is covered with small red bites, each consisting of two punctures a few millimeters apart. But he is still alive. His eyes are closed and his breathing is shallow and slow.
Jack walks further into the temple. Up above, hanging from the ceiling, are hundreds of bats. There are four doorways leading off the hall, to dark chambers. He returns to Hocus, who kneels next to the sick man and tries to rouse him, but to no avail. Vango moves his head at one point, but does not open his eyes.
Jack takes out his bridge and confers with Wicklow on Loose Lips. The boat is now pulling up towards the east side of the island. Jack can see the pirate ship sailing south-west across the sea in front of him. "Okay, Hocus will bring Vango down to you. I'll wait here."
Hocus takes Vango's feet, and Jack his shoulders. Despite his dire condition, Vango is still a heavy load. He coughs as they pick him up, and coughs again, a deep throaty cough. They carry him down the temple steps, across the wet grass, to the bench. His coughs are energetic enough to reassure them that there is still strength enough in him to make it to the boat. They tie him to the bench with rope, let him recline against the end, and Hocus takes off into the rain.
Jack is left standing on the hill alone. The clouds are so low over head that occasional whisps of fog drift over the grass. He looks at the temple. What lies waiting in the dark chambers? If there's nothing dangerous in there, why not go and have a look? But surely there could be nothing of value in there. If there were, then there would have to be something guarding the valuables. He turns to watch the flying bench descend towards Loose Lips, which he can see resting in a cove down below, with one anchor in the water. After a few minutes, he feels uncomfortable with this back to the temple, and watches it for a while. The fog obscures the top of the tower. The grass around the base of the temple is bright green, despite the season. What keeps the trees from growing up around the temple? Is the place cursed? He puts his hand on the hilt of his sword.
Meanwhile, on Loose Lips Heraklese and Wicklow have converted Hocus's study in the hold into an infirmary for Vango, thinking it best to keep him isolated from the rest of the crew while he recovers from whatever sickness he has contracted. But when Hocus arrives with Vango, Stick screams, "The plague! The plague! Get him off the ship! Are you bonkers?"
Garibaldi and Sallina agree, from looking at Vango across the deck, that he does indeed have the bubonic plague. Wicklow puts a cloth wrapper over his face and helps Hocus unload Vango. They set up an awning made of sail cloth just beneath the fore deck, and make a bed for Vango out of planks, blocks of wood, and a few wool blankets. Hocus gives Wicklow his Three Aces summoning bridge and gets back on the bench to fetch Jack.
The rain has been increasing steadily. As Hocus lifts off the deck, it is pouring, and he hears the distant rumble of thunder. He climbs up above the ships masts, cruises over the water and begins to ascend the tree-clad slopes of Temple Hill. Gusts of wind drive rain into his face and thrust the bench sideways across the face of the hill. The rain drops are stinging his eyes, and he is having trouble seeing. "I must get some goggles like the ones D and Stardiamond have," he says to himself. He raises the bench, but the farther he is from the trees, the more violent the gusts of wind, so he descends again, slipping by ten meters above the tree-tops.
On top of the hill, Jack is standing in the pouring rain. A blue flash of lightning strikes the island to the west, and a few seconds later comes a crack of thunder, and a long low rumble. The temple tower is clear of the clouds, and looms black, wet, old, and immovable in the gray light. He looks down towards the water on the east side, but the rain is so thick he can't see the boat.
As he crests the hill, Hocus sees Jack standing with his hand on the hilt of his sword, staring up at the tower. "Ahoy!" he calls.
Jack turns and waves. A gust of wind propels the bench across the grass towards the temple. Jack runs after it. As the bench descends, he takes hold, pushes it down, and sits on it. The bench sinks immediately to the earth.
Hocus pumps air out of the vacuum thruster apparatus, and before long, the bench begins to rise. "The wind was pushing me around on the way up. Maybe it won't be so bad with two of us on the bench."
The ride down is easier for Hocus, but more frightening, because the hill is falling away from them in front. When the bench pitches forwards, they look straight down upon the trees and the sea. But Jack is glad to be off the hill, and away from the temple. He keeps his eye on the boat below, and directs Hocus.
Martha watches the flying bench descend the hill. Several times, the bench turns a full circle in the wind, and it is constantly rocking back and forth. The rain is loud and thick on the deck, and hisses on the water all around the boat. Wicklow crouches under the awning with Vango. A charcoal fire burns in a clay stove near the bed. The pirate captain opened his eyes briefly at one point, but Wicklow cannot rouse him enough to make him take a drink of water. He sets up a bottle of boiled salt-water on a stand next to Vango's bed, and connects this to the man's arm with a rubber tube and a hollow steel needle. He fastenes the tube to Vango's arm with a bandage.
Hocus and Jack land on the deck. Martha wants to go and hug Hocus, but Wicklow forbids it. "Hocus and Jack may have contracted the plague also. Three Aces confirmed that Vango's symptoms match those of the bubonic plague. He cought it from the vampire bats." He ushers Jack and Hocus under the awning. "You two may have caught it from Vango when he was coughing on you. They say the bubonic plague is almost always fatal when transmitted between humans."
Heraklese dismantles the flying bench and takes it below with Bonita, leaving Wicklow with Hocus and Jack.
"We have to get some antibiotics for all of you. Vango might survive without them, but if you have caught it from him, you will probably die of it."
"And they won't give you the antibiotics?" Hocus says.
"No, I'm not a lisenced cleric. But I asked them to tell me where the nearest lisenced cleric is, so we can get some medicine for the three of you. They'll let me know in a few hours."
"And in the meantime," Hocus says, "I suppose we have to sit here in the cold, under this awning."
"You could always improve it with some conjured wood."
"I suppose so, but I think we'll manage okay. I'll save the spell."
Heraklese orders the ship to sail. They weigh anchor and set off to the north. The storm passes. Evening finds them rounding one of the northernmost islands in the collection that Stick tells them the pirates refer to as the Plague Islands. When asked why he did not tell them this before, he says he thought they knew. There is some discussion between Heraklese, Bonita, and Stick as to whether keeping the plague secret amounts to breaking his word to them, and whether he should be thrown into the sea for it, but Stick laughs. "Aye, and you expect me to believe that you are the type to throw me overboard? Do ya take me for a child like yoursleves? I know a cruel face when I see them, and yours ain't cruel. Your faces are soft with kindly thoughts, and troubled by your code of honor, and confused by your ideas of romance and love. Let me tell you: you would be better for throwing me in the see. I am a pirate, and Vango is a pirate too. Pushing us off the boat would toughen you up, maybe keep you alive another day or two." He turns away from them, gets up in his hammock, and makes a show of going to sleep.
"You cranky old fart," Heraklese says, "No, I wouldn't throw you overboard, out of respect for the fish who live in the sea."
Stick opens one eye. "You frighten me, lad. With one line, you can put a man down so low he snaps shut like a clam."
Loose Lips drops anchor at six o'clock. The sky is clearing and the wind is turning to Westerly. Wicklow hears from Three Aces Summoning Agency that Friar Bobward Ceder is the nearest cleric they can find willing and able to administer antibiotics to Vango, Hocus, and Jack. The Friar is leader of a monastary sixty kilometers to the north-west, ten kilometers inland (see map).
The morning of the fourteenth of February dawns clear and calm. There is a gentle south-easterly wind. Loose Lips sets a north-westerly course with all sails unfurled. Hocus goes aloft in the flying bench with Jack, but they see no pirate ships all day, and drop anchor near some rocks that night. With the sea so shallow, and such rocky islands so common, there is no question of them sailing at night, no matter what the urgency. Vango is still alive. Indeed, he appears to be doing beetter, and several times during the day he opens his eyes and appears to focus briefly upon his surroundings.
The next day (the fifteenth) the wind is a fresh north-easterly at ten kilometers per hour, with scattered clouds above. They see no pirates, and sail all the way to the coast by mid-day. They come upon an island near the mailand and hide Loose Lips behind it, out of view of pirates who might sail up and down the coast.
Hocus and Jack board the flying bench, intent upon finding the monastary and getting antibiotics for themselves. Jack is feeling weak, and fears that he is infected. Hocus says he feels fine. Vango's black boils are subsiding slowly, and he sleeps soundly all day. They think he will survive even without the anti-biotics.
Hocus sets off inland, ascends into the hills, and searches all afternoon for the monastary, but does not find it. Instead of returning to the ship, he lands in a forest glade and makes a conjured shelter for the night. Jack gathers wood and makes a fire in the center of the shelter. Its smoke ascends through a hole in the ceiling. Hocus fetches water from a nearby stream. They put a blanket over the shelter's single doorway. They have beef jerky, camp-fire bread, dried Belgorian apricots, and tea for supper.
Jack has a fever and his body aches. "I feel like I have the flu."
"Don't worry," Hocus says, "We'll find it tomorrow."
Jack lies down under a blanket to sleep. The conjured wood of the floor is uneven beneath his back, but it is smooth. He is used to sleeping on the ground, and finds the conjured wood comfortable. He closes his eyes and wonders if Three Aces might be making a mistake. What if there is no monastary? If he was dying, would the gods still forbid Three Aces from giving him antibiotics? Do they ever make exceptions to the summoning rules? What would it take for him to become a cleric himself?
While Jack sleeps, Hocus prepares another Vacuum Thruster spell. An hour after midnight, he goes to sleep himself.
The next morning, the sixteenth of February, Jack is so weak that he has trouble preparing breakfast while Hocus sets up the flying bench. Half an hour after dawn, they lift off and fly to the north. The sky is clear, and they can see the Kratanak mountains outlined against the rising sun.
On Loose Lips, Vango speaks for the first time. "Thank you," he says to Wicklow, and "Hello Stick."
After four hours of flying, Hocus and Jack find the monastary upon a hill. There are men in brown robes working in fields about the monstary's stone walls. They see the flying bench approaching, and gather around to watch it land. Friar Bobward Ceder pushes through the young monks, all of whom are male, and orders them to stay clear of the visitors.
"Welcome, welcome!" he says, with a big smile on his face, and his hands clasped to gether.
They soon find out why he is so glad to see them: he will charge them a hundred and fifty guineas for three courses of antibiotics. Room and board, he says, is included in the price for the patients if they want it. Global Mediation Incorporated agrees to pay. Hocus leaves Jack and flies down to Loose Lips, which he finds without difficulty anchored beside the island. He picks up Vango and flies back to the monastary, arriving before sunset. They help Vango walk to a private room, and there he takes his first pills with water. Hocus and Jack take the same pills. Each of them has their own stone-walled room with a bed, a desk, and a chair. The monks bring them supper and water. Hocus eats well, prepares some spells, and sleeps soundly beneath clean sheets.
Hocus, Jack, and Vango spend the next day in their rooms at the monastary. "It's for the best," Friar Bobward says, "You don't want to infect your friends." And so they rest, read, and look out the window at the monks going about their busniess.
The next morning, Vango is walking about and smiling. Jack is fully-recovered. Friar Bobward invites them to breakfast with the rest of the monks, and they accept. They answer questions about their travels in Latin, which is the language the Monks are supposed to speak to one another. It turns out that the monks are from all over the world. There are a dozen whose skin is jet black, who have come from the other side of the Satian Sea, and from the other side of the world.
After breakfast, Hocus ferries Jack and then Vango down to Loose Lips. Friar Bobward says he hopes they will keep him in mind in the future, even if they just want a safe place to rest.
With all hands on board and healthy, Loose Lips sets sail into a steady south-easterly breeze at around mid-day. They reach Tankum Island by evening, where the orcs give them a joyful welcome. That night, Hocus takes out the demon's head. Its eyes are open. Hocus speaks the command word. The demon head gives no response, but nor does Hocus expect any. They will have to wait and see.
"How much would that thing be worth if we sold it?" Heraklese says.
"About a million dollars," Hocus says, "if we can believe Three Aces."
Heraklese stares at the demon's head. "Can we count it as an asset?"
Vango leaves the boat as soon as it arrives at Tankum Island. He greets Bragash warmly and quickly agrees to take charge of the captured pirates. Since our heroes left the island in search of Vango, five of the pirates have died from a combination of their wounds and the cold. Sixty-five remain alive.
Vango takes up residence with the pirates in their tents, despite his fragile condition after suffering the plague. He eats with them, tends to them, and disciplines them. On the second day he takes ten of the pirates, borrows axes from the orcs, and clears a space in the forest south of the stream. The space is thirty meters across. Over the next week he constructs a long, low shelter out of the fallen wood. The shelter is large enough for the pirates to sleep in at night, but small enough that it is not a place they would like to stay indefinitely. The pirates move into the shelter the day after Wicklow and Jack leave with Rick Manchester on the Surprize, which is the 29th February.
For food, Vango leads the pirates in hunts to bring back wild goats. The goats are wiley, and his first two hunts come back with nothing, but the third hunt brings three goats, one of which he gives to the orcs.
With the pirates removed from the orc village, and keeping warm at night, Vango begins to discuss with Bragash how they might re-capture the Kamazi, his own ship, or take another pirate ship. Bragash refuses to allow Vango to capture any ship that comes to trade with the orcs, unless it be the Kamazi itself. But no pirates have been to the island since the battle.
Despite the goats brought in by Vango's hunts, the pirates remain dependent for their survival upon the charity of the orcs, who supply them with flour and limes. The orcs give them no alcholic drinks either, and there is no fruit to distill. Many of the pirates, as they recover, are beside themselves for lack of alcohol. On 4th March, Vango gives one pirate thirty lashes on the beach for attempting to break into Bragash's hall and steal some beer.
Unlike most of the pirates, however, Vango is cheerful. When Heraklese asks him about Kantank, the pirate leader who condemned him to walk the plank, Vango shows no animosity towards the man, but instead laughs, "I told him so!".