The Merchant's Mayhem: Part Seven
The Silver Kazeriu was departing the next day at the break of dawn. Marcilli had returned to the ship that night so her crew would not convert themselves into a search and rescue team, but stayed awake until she was to return to the mansion to fetch Elrique. If there was one thing Elrique lacked, it was punctuality. He groomed his faction members to be incredibly prompt, but he could not carry out his own value.
"Who is this?" questioned Arwman as Marcilli and Elrique boarded the ship.
"This is Winston. He will be accompanying us to Shenkuu for business," Marcilli answered. She felt odd lying to Arwman, but for the sake of keeping Elrique's identity a secret, she decided to call him by his alias. Arwman only knew of Felicia and that she was staying with Marcilli's cousin in the Lost Desert. The Eyrie had not a clue that the ghastly-looking yet secretly pampered Krawk was Felicia's appointed guardian.
"Do I get my own stateroom complete with maid service?"
"You get this," Marcilli threw the door open to reveal a broom closet.
Elrique winced at the overpowering stench of mildew. "You're not serious. Tell me you're not serious."
"A tad different from your luxurious room at the Governor's, I take it."
"Very different," he huffed.
"You must excuse this guest, Arwman," Marcilli purred at the Eyrie that was amused by the spectacle. "He's a wealthy individual that is accustomed only to greatness. He was recently spending his days renting out a suite at the Governor's mansion."
"It was fit for a king... or anyone with ridiculous wealth."
Arwman nodded. "I hope he manages to make accommodations on the Kazeriu. It's a beautiful ship, after all."
"Simply charming." Elrique raised an eyebrow, leaning towards Marcilli and muttering, "Do you pay him extra to make such comments?"
Marcilli rolled her eyes. Her cousin barely qualified as a guest. "Leave. Now."
Though the journey from Krawk Island to Shenkuu was a day, it felt like it went by in seconds for Marcilli. From filling out stacks of paperwork to dodging Elrique's inquiries about installing a pool and cinema room on the ship, Marcilli was fairly wrapped up in business. Upon docking, she noticed Gus was standing in his usual spot.
"Do you see either of them?" asked Marcilli.
Elrique shook his head. "No Cybin, no Ulf. They don't have any important shipments coming in, so they have no reason to be here."
"Well, they do now." Marcilli searched for her chief officer who was coming from the direction of the stern. "Arwman! Watch the ship for us. The minute you see us come back, raise the anchor and have Bo steer us out of here."
"I'll get my sword. One moment, Winston," Marcilli said as she turned on her heels and walked away.
That left Arwman and Elrique behind.
"Listen, I don't know who you are –"
"Sir Winston." Elrique flashed a prominent smile and stuck out a hand. "Nice to make your acquaintance."
Arwman ignored the gesture. "You protect Marcilli, do you understand me? Don't let anything happen to her."
Elrique squinted at the Eyrie. No one of his bloodline was weak, especially not Marcilli. "She's capable of handling herself, isn't she?"
"Very much so, but in case anything goes wrong..."
"Like what?" Elrique scoffed. "I have this under control."
"Just do as I say!" Arwman hissed as Marcilli returned with her sword by her side.
"Ready to go," Marcilli announced. Her senses were heightening with anticipation. "Elrique, you know where he lives?"
"Ulf isn't too far from the dock. He lives in a huge home in the middle of the forest."
"Once you get the talismans, how will my parents be freed?"
"The curse reversal is actually quite simple... so simple that it isn't obvious. The talismans need to come in contact with seawater."
Marcilli chuckled. "And we have a lot of that."
Elrique led the way past the dock and into the Shenkuu forest. Gus had nodded in acknowledgment at Marcilli and Elrique but had no fleeting comments to make. The lash out courtesy of Cybin probably stayed etched in his mind. Normally he would have inquired why none of Marcilli's crew members were unloading items onto the dock, but he remained quiet.
Like when Marcilli tried to navigate through the forest, the bright moon provided a source of light. Elrique brought her past the area where she was cornered by Ulf and Cybin and into the thicket. And as if by magic, the two finally stumbled upon the pathway that led to a mansion in the distance.
"We're here." Elrique motioned for Marcilli to follow him up the pathway. "This place looks like something straight out of the Haunted Woods."
"I'll say." Marcilli nodded, and soon enough they were at the front entrance.
"Wait out here," Elrique ordered.
Marcilli was quite taken aback. "You don't need me?"
"No. I'm going to fix this myself," Elrique insisted and motioned for his cousin to hide behind the clusters bushes lined next to the entrance. Once she was concealed, Elrique knocked on the door. A minute later, a familiar Darigan Tonu opened the door and laughed heartily.
"Winston!" Ulf roared with delight. He slapped the Krawk on the back with such force that he nearly fell over. "Isn't this a pleasant surprise! How are you?"
"Not bad, not bad. Are you enjoying your latest acquisition?"
Ulf clutched the red ruby talismans hanging around his neck. "Every waking moment! You've really outdone yourself, placing this horrific curse on these pirates."
"What can I say? I like to be creative."
"Creative doesn't even begin to describe it! But come in, come in."
Elrique followed Ulf inside the dim household. Ulf was one to favor solemn colors and décor over vibrant patterns. Walking through the lavish lobby, they entered the snug parlor and sat in the two velvet chairs by the fireplace. The mantle above the fireplace was covered with expensive knickknacks and acquisitions from Ulf's voyages. But the cluttered treasures did not interest Elrique in the slightest; it was a large vase that caught his eye. He recognized the black inked symbols spaced around it as Qasalan, where he happily resided. The words were intended for decoration, but from what he could translate, it actually was the beginning of an old desert tale.
"So what brings you back here?" Ulf inquired.
"I was just in the neighborhood. Thought I'd stop by to see good old Ulf," Elrique replied, playing off something that could not be farther from the truth.
"Very kind of you to think of me, Winston." Ulf smiled and quickly took note of the item capturing Elrique's curiosity. "Taking notice to the new vase, I'm guessing?"
"Yes. Where did you get it?"
"A collector from Qasala came through a week ago. Said that the stuff he was selling was good luck. I didn't believe it, but I thought the design was interesting. Sporadic and somewhat confusing, but interesting nonetheless."
Designs. The righteous merchant, pompous and arrogant, thought the traditional Qasalan letters were poor attempts at scribbles. "Those aren't designs. They're words," Elrique mused. "Qasalan words at that."
Ulf was intrigued. He deemed the Krawk to be a good friend of his, but even his background was relatively unknown. "Winston, my good man, can you translate Qasalan?"
"It's a secret talent of mine." Elrique rose from his seat and wandered over to the mantle. It silently amused him that Ulf hadn't a clue that he lived in Qasala. Had Elrique not lived there for so long, he would have never bothered to learn the old language, which was surprisingly beautiful and rolled off the tongue nicely. "May I?"
The Krawk took the vase down and inspected the wording. "Interesting."
The Tonu leaned forward in his chair, wanting to understand Elrique's fascination. "What does it say?"
"It's a short story that parents would tell to their children. Very popular before bedtime."
Ulf seemed to watch on with little interest, but that did not stop Elrique from continuing. He found the beginning sentence near the neck and rotated the vase so he could read.
"'Once upon a time, there was a powerful Ixi who called the desert home. He lived a grand life with his one true love. One night, the Ixi and his love got into a fight, and his love disappeared into the night. He wandered the desert, trying to find his love. But the desert was vast, and he became lost. The Ixi wandered day and night until he had no more strength to continue. With that, his desperate cries went unheard and were drowned by the winds of the sands-"
In one swift and sudden motion, Elrique raised the vase and slammed it over Ulf's head. The Tonu had no time to brace himself as the ceramic crashed against his skull, and he slumped back in his chair as he was knocked unconscious. Elrique lifted the talismans over Ulf's limp head and stuffed them into his pocket.
"-and he fell into a deep slumber, soul still drenched with agony."
A few stolen items later, Elrique emerged from the front door where he had entered. Marcilli poked her head from behind the bushes, but Elrique did not wait for her. He waved at her to come out from her hiding spot and next to him as the two paced themselves down the winding entrance to Ulf's mansion.
"You made it!" Marcilli sighed with relief. "How did it go?"
Elrique pulled the chains out of his pocket and held them in front of Marcilli. "I never disappoint."
"Oh, Elrique..." Marcilli's eyes widened before she happily tackle-hugged him. "I can't thank you enough! Really, from the bottom of my heart, I owe you."
"You don't owe me anything." He smiled sheepishly. "I started this whole mess."
"That you did, but you're wholeheartedly forgiven. How did you get them from Ulf?"
"I used a vase to knock him out." He shrugged, silently wishing it had been something more epic, like a fist fight.
"Crafty!" Marcilli nudged him. "You're the best cousin a merchant could have."
"Oh, I'm quite aware," Elrique boasted.
"So did you leave Ulf knocked out?"
"Yeah. There's no way I could have moved that massive guy by myself. It's all fine, though. He's fast asleep by the fire-"
A disoriented voice boomed from the mansion entrance. Elrique and Marcilli stared at each other in terror. They looked back to the sight of Ulf stumbling out of the door, pausing to locate the Krawk. Once Ulf located Elrique but Marcilli in addition, he snarled and raced after them.
"WINSTON, YOU GET BACK HERE! I'LL KILL THE BOTH OF YOU, I SWEAR!"
Elrique grabbed a dumbstruck Marcilli by her arm and yanked her into the dense forest. "Marcilli! Run!"
To be continued...