Friday, September 21, 2007

The Oasis

We ended up in a simple farmhouse, deep in the middle of winter. Looking outside, there was a man approaching on horseback. We went outside and greeted him. Turned out he was a family member named Zalon, who was also looking for the Donaghue's oasis. He had come to this place in search of a man named Igare. As we were investigating the house, an enormous black man in overalls approached, and shouted out, wanting to know who was in his house. I walked out to meet him. He was angry that Hanu had dug up his yard, and wanted to know who we were. He said his name was Azibo, and denied knowing about the meeting. We left and decided to look for more information. As we chatted, we came upon the realization that we had not inquired about his family, and this was the location that Zalon had been told to go to, so we decided to go back and question the man further.

When we knocked upon the door, however; there was no answer. We decided to split up, with me and Hanu taking to the air, and Zalon searching on horseback. After a couple of minutes, we all converged upon a trail leading into the woods.

Following the trail, we soon came upon Izibo, who seemed to have hastily packed his footlocker, and was headed somewhere on foot. When Zalon shouted out, asking if he was Igare, Azibo started running, soon shifting into some kind of antelope. I knew I had no hope of catching up to him, but I did have an idea. I motioned for Zalon to follow me back to the house, where I climbed into one of the cupboards, motioning for him to follow. I told him I was going after Azibo, and got him to follow. We went through the cupboard back to the menagerie, then back through the chest to Azibo's footlocker. We burst out, along with all of his stuff, and I fell to the ground, rather ungracefully.

Azibo shifted back to his human form, wanting to know what the hell we wanted. Zalon and I were both on the offensive, demanding of him why he was running away. He said he didn't want anything to do with Chaos or Amber anymore. That he gave it up. We tried to convince him there was no where he could run from the Abyss, and he should join us on our journey to the meeting, but he would have none of it. Finally, we gave up, and decided to continue on, although Hanu and Zalon helped Abizo repack his stuff first.

It was a gruelling journey, with me and Hanu travelling on Maya, following Zalon as he stepped through shadow. All of the openness, the emptiness...I could barely stand it, and had to stop myself from running off and hiding at the first opportunity. Finally, after almost two weeks, we arrived at some sort of monastery.

We asked who owned the monastery, and were only told "Her Holiness." Despite several attempts, the monks would not tell us her name, only that she was expecting any travellers wearing from travel and seeking respite. When we wanted to go inside, however; they wouldn't let me take Hanu or Huey! I tried to insist, but it was useless, and I got the impression they would kill them rather than let them in. Finally, I gave up. I wanted a shower, and food, and just to get inside. As the nun was leading me to my room, (they used single sex buildings), I tried to get an audience with "Her Holiness" in order to straighten up this thing with Hanu. I was told that I had to go to the city to meet her, but they would arrange it.

The showers were weird, some sort of sonic thing, no water, but after getting clean, and changing, the nun took my other belongings and led me to a room where I could rest. It was stark and bare, but the bed was comfortable enough, and soon I fell into a deep sleep.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A message for you, sir!

Several hours later, I was sitting on the steps of my wagon, drinking a glass of wine, when Hanu flew up."Hanu! I had an idea."
He landed in front of me. "Young Mistress, I have a message for both you and Young Master. I... apologize, Abigail. It is to be delivered to both you and Young Master."
Maya muttered behind him, "Masha!" and I laughed. "Then I suppose we better find him."
Hanu blanched at Maya's words. I sat, studying him for a moment. Why did he say... "Wait...Who's it from?"
"A relative. Nero Eaton of the family Eaton."
I knew it! "A relative? exactly did it get delivered?"
"By Master Eaton himself to me."
I studied him for a little while longer, "Well, let's go find Magras."
Hanu nodded, and we started to look for Magras. It wasn't too hard to find him, and he greeted me fondly. "Hello sister."
"Brother. Many thanks for the gifts. I think his name will be...Huey."
"Huey? And what characteristic does this name carry?"
The most important one of all. "I like the way it sounds. Abby and Huey."
"Clever. Where did Hanu run off to?"
I saw him approaching. "Ah. Here he is."
"I checked the first half with no lu- Oh. Greetings, Young Master."
"Hanu. We don't often receive messengers here, you've made me curious."
"It wasn't here the messenger greeted me. More specifically, he allowed me to come to him."
This would make Magras even more curious. "Especially messages from relatives."
"Nero Eaton of the family Eaton requested for me to find those of the High Borne Blood to meet at a sanctuary of the Family Donaghues. When Master Eaton was informed of my pledge for your safety, he informed me it was a refuge and that those of the blood must mass and fight side by side."
"Oh, lovely." I thought that might be his reaction. "I wonder what trap he's laying down for us?"
"I trust his message. For if he were to try and deceive us I would not be able to accept his task."
I stood, watching the two of them and considering their words. Magras spoke up, "Sounds like a fool's errand to me. Do tell me how it goes. I have business to attend to if you'll excuse me."
Hanu was speechless, opening his mouth briefly, but then closing it again before saying another word. I wanted to go, but wasn't going to publicly announce my intentions to my brother. "Brother...will you keep my chest for me, for the moment?"
Hanu finally found his voice. "Understood, Young Master."
"Of course Abby."
"I want to think on this...meeting." I smiled and kissed him affectionately on the forehead. "Let me know when we get to Neptune." I then turned to Hanu, "Come on, Hanu...if you're finished with your task."
Magras had parting words of wisdom, "Everything is political with our family Hanu. Be safe."
"Thank you, Young Master." He nodded to me. "I have... mostly, but not quite completely finished my task, Young Mistress."
"Well, come with me and tell me what you still have to do." I started off towards the wagon, and after bowing to Magras, Hanu followed me. Once we were inside, I started getting my things together.
"I...," Hanu smiled, "I risk repeating myself, Abigail. My task is to take High Borne to the refuge of the Family Donaghue."
I had a solution for that. "So, if you take one, then you're in the clear, or do you have to find more?"
"Technically, I was told to find those of the blood and take them to The Donaghues' sanctuary. However, and this is an odd request. If I were to be contracted to guard one of the blood, who I had taken to the Sanctuary, I believe that would suffice."
I hadn't considered that side of it before. "So, how does that whole thing work?"
"Grotesquely. Honestly, I had been thinking of one since my speaking to Master Eaton. I don't suspect I will receive a warm welcome in the Sanctuary."
"Well, if one wanted to contract you to guard one of the blood, who was going to go to the Sanctuary, how would one do so.? Well, if they want me to come, then they can just deal."
"You would issue a task, the length it would last (be it instances or time length) and request the price. Granted, there is more, but that's for dealing with those of my ilk that don't just want to get this over with."
"So, can the task be open ended? Like, guard me until I die?"
"Though it is bad form for me to administer the task, I have thought of one. Guard you until you are in a completely safe haven, for no less than 10 years of service, in exchange for the ability to appear in your presense, to speak, and to speak freely. Trust me, the last two are kind of big."
Those were interesting terms to be specified, but the time seemed a little short, considering how long he said he had searched for me. "10 years?"
"With an option for renewal."
I nodded. "Agreed."
"Arbitrary number I just came up with. Agreed." more thing. "Wait...what happens if I die?"
"Then I will enter a period of mourning and guard your resting spot for the remainder of my term. And, personally, feel bad and guilty."
"You will also dispose of my remains in a way that I would agree with." I'm not really sure what that would be, but I know he'd make it good.
"The latter is more of a personal issue, Abigail."
I smiled. "Ok. Do I have to sign something?"
"No, verbal is okay. The blood is a contract."
"Then we're agreed. Let's get going."
Maya flittered up and turned into a giant winged serpent. "Maya, Abigail, Let's Ride!"
I hate to ruin his fun. "Actually...I wanted to use a different method."
"or Not!"
"If you don't mind. If we use the chest, I can always come back."
"So, we use that...then ride!"
"Good, I'm not sure Maya knew the way."
"Neither do I. But getting there is half the adventure." I did a last minute check, and opened the chest.
"Can your... uh.. chest take you to a person?"
"It kinda takes me wherever it wants to. Thus the ride part."
"Oh. All right."
I don't want to get separated. "Do you think we could *all* fit?" I commanded the manticore to shrink as small as it could.
"If you give me a moment... and some privacy." I turned my back on him, and when he was ready, he was a lot smaller. "We should eat when we get there." He turned into a cat. I opened the box, and everyone got in. "Mistress.... of... beasts..." he purred.

And we were off.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Demon Rum

I drank, and after running out of my own, meager supply, I went to look for Magras. He led me off to a tent where he kept "the good stuff," and let me take a case. We talked for a little bit, but I was not in much of a mood for talking. (He did let slip, however, that we had an older brother I had never met - who had been banished. Something to look into later. At the time, I really didn't give a shit.) While walking back to my wagon, I passed a group of carnies...and decided to satisfy another urge as well. I was easily able to recruit one of them to help me carry the wine, and when we got back to the wagon, I invited him to share a drink with me. One drink became a bottle, and the alcohol soon overcame any inhibitions he may have had about me being Magras' sister.

Despite his masterful performance, sex wasn't really what I was looking for, and I tired of him after about an hour. Kicking him out, I turned back to sharing my melancholy with the wine, and finished off another couple of bottles. Damn! Now I was hungry. I threw back on some of my clothes, at least enough to be decent, and went out in search of food. What I found, instead, was Hanu.

He approached me, arms out as if to catch me if I staggered. "I see things have changed much since we first met, Young Mistress. Unless your condition is due to a pretty intense round of Hide & Seek."
I laughed as I almost fell into his arms, "I guess you could say I played Hide and Seek."
Doing his best to hide a smile, he replied, "I... yes, this wasn't the avenue I planned this conversation to be going."
"Well, I assume you don't want to play Hide and Seek. Or do you?" I winked.
He smiled, gently letting go of me. "No thank you."
"Well, what did you want, a drink? There's still *some* left."
"That's quite all right. I'm guessing your moments of grief have passed, though perhaps through artificial means."
I winked, "He seemed quite natural to me."
"I was referring to the drink." Good old Hanu.
"What? Hard to believe I'm not a little girl anymore?"
"I admit, a little. Though it is to be expected, after all."
"Well, you and Magras were kind enough to bring back everything I didn't like about being a little girl, thank you very much." My shadow destroyed, once again fleeing from a monstrous nothingness.
"I... I am sorry if I caused you pain, Abigail. If... if I can do anything to rectify it I will."
"Well, if you wouldn't mind bringing back my shadow, I'd appreciate it."
"If I could I would. I could also ask the same of you. But I do apologize. If my presence is bringing back memories best left forgotten, I will take my leave."
Damn it. I didn't mean to piss him off. He was one of the only things I *did* love from those days. "Wait! Don't go."
"I wasn't. I apologize, that came out more spiteful than I meant."
Good, I guess I overreacted. Demon rum! Or wine..."It's just, you and Magras show up, right after each other, and then...Nothing."
"Ah... I understand. There was some advice I had for you. And, judging your condition I believe you are adult enough to understand it now. I refrained from stating it when you were young for fear it might make you too much of a... cynic."
"Like everyone else I'm related to?"
He smiled, "I just hoped I could shield you from that, but... well...Anyway. There are two types of people in this world, Abigail...Those who are destroyed, and those who survive while watching all around them get destroyed. Neither is a better solution. The best we can all do is accept the life we have."
"I don't want to fight in some stupid war over some fucking place I've never even been to. And I thought I got away. But it's just following me."
"War is never won or lost by those who wanted to start it in the first place, Young Mistress. You also don't have to fight in the war. But that would mean growing accustomed to losing those you are close to. After all, you are High Born. You will probably live through my death. I'm sorry if I'm being a bit grave, I know you are still in mourning. Perhaps the grief of you and Young Master has affected me more so than I thought."
I sighed as Hanu's cat sidled over and sat on his shoulder. "I don't want to lose those close to me, and I don't want to fight!"
He rubbed the cat's head affectionately. "I wish I could present you another solution, Young Mistress."
"And I don't know how long I can stay drunk and amuse myself playing here."
He smirked. "There seems to be plenty of alcohol and men of ill repute in this... caravan."
"Yeah, but not all of them are up to my...standards." I smiled a little.
"Um... I... apologize. There is still part of me that remembers protecting you from... many things you now embrace with your lifestyle." Ah, yes. If I had been much older before we parted, I think Hanu would have invested in the proverbial shotgun. "I'm not condemning those decisions, you are a woman now."
I laughed, "Well, it's not like I'm gonna catch something.
Hanu whispered to the cat, "Tamaktanass," and it bounded off. He then turned back to me, smiling, "And if you did, you wouldn't have to worry about the Nothing. On the plus side, Abigail. It appears Maya has warmed up to you. She would like to speak with you at some point, though her grasp of High Tongue is a bit off."
That snake...thing has always been a bitch to me. But, I didn't want to piss her off too much, for Hanu's sake. "Um, perhaps when I'm on better behavior? I'd hate to piss her off again."
He smiled, a distant look in his eyes, "She's surprisingly more tolerant than you'd think."
"Not that I care much what she thinks, but I don't want to make life any harder for you."
"She also requested that I not attend. The word she used doesn't translate well, but it's akin to girl talk."
What the fuck? "I see..."
"And thank you for your consideration."
"What am I going to do, Hanu?"
He leaned into me. "I don't know, Abigial. I will support you in your wishes. You are one of the last things I have left to fight for. If fighting is the path taken. I guess I should tell you this now."
Old faithful, he was. Probably the only stability left in a drifting sea of..."Oh, Hanu! Why did it have to come and take everything away?"
He held me as he had when I was a child. "I don't know, Abigail. I don't know."
I sat for a while, letting my anguish flow with my tears. "I guess I'm not a grown up as I think, am I?"
"None of us are, Young Mistress. Misery is a part of life. Consume it ravenously so it won't consume you. This... this might cheer you up. Or it might not. I'm not sure. You do know the service arrangement I had with your parents, right?"
Why was he bringing this up? "Not really, at least not the details."
"I could spend a few decades describing the exact details. That's how us Hanumasha work. Well. Some time ago, roughly, by my accounts, 74 years before you and I re-encountered each other, the contract ended."
"But that was before I was born. Maybe...I never caught on to that time thing."
"Not quite. I spent a long time in shadow searching for you two. It was roughly 200 years after we were separated."
And I thought he was just serving my parents. " could go home anytime?"
"Again, my personal time. You are more familiar with the inner workings of different realms than I am. No. Two reasons. Contract or no, I swore I'd find you two. Second. My home is gone, too. Granted, I've achieved the first."
I guess I wasn't the only one. "Your home is gone? I'm sorry."
"It happened a long, long time ago. The realms of chaos aren't unaffected by this war. Although, I'm not entirely sure I was as sad to see it go as I was from... our home."
"Then I suppose the question to be answered is...What do *we* do now?"
Hanu smiled. "Since we found Young Master, there has not been a second I haven't asked that question."
"I don't know that I want to stay here." The caravan wasn't exactly my cup of tea, although better than some places.
"Neither do I. Young Master and I have divurging tastes. Though, that brings us back to your previous question."
"Well, I can't travel out of here."
"Maya can guide us. Though, I am a bit hesitant to just outright leave Young Master."
He can take care of himself. If Hanu was concerned about being rude, "We can tell him we're leaving..."
"I'm not sure we should make such a rash decision at this time. Especially if... if drink might impose our emotions."
"I don't think he'd be too sad to see us go."
"No, I don't either. But, well, we might be needing to pull the allies, however tempermental or not, to our sides. And there is the whole question of where we'd go, too."
Maybe we could outrun it. "Far away."
He smiled some. "That might not be the safest idea."
"Why not? Afraid of a cannonball?"
"I," he smiled again, looking around, "might get in trouble for saying this. Our method of transport might not be the best at navigating away from danger."
"What do you mean?"
"Well...There are other creatures more...Adept at manipulating the other realms. Though I do not doubt Maya's abilities, she's... she's no High Born."
I laughed. "Like me? I'm not getting us anywhere."
"Your family had, and probably still might have, many enemies."
"Like Brand?"
"Perhaps. Though the last few times I heard of him he was dead, but only later coming back and taking over."
"Well, the Nothing isn't gone."
"Well, in a sense it is. Sorry, demon humor."
I laughed. "Very funny. I...I want to leave."
"I understand."
"Can Maya carry my chest?" I wasn't sure I wanted to leave it behind. "Should I ask her if she'll take me?"
"Yes, though, she won't be able to leave my side without my permission. And I believe we might need some time to think this through."
"I don't want to think...thinking is trouble."
"After all, Young Mistress. The cause of your problems, the Nothing, could be everywhere. Or NoWhere. Or Following us now. You're right. We might find a spot outside of the gaze of The Nothing. We might last years, decades. But do you think it will stop on it's own?"
"But why do we have to fight it? Let someone else do it. We can keep running."
"Who will fight it... Magras?"
The idea of Magras fighting anyone...I laughed. "I suppose you have a point."
"I did not mean for that to come out as offensive as it seemed."
He tried to cover up a smirk, but I called him out. "Yes you did! Admit it!"
"Your perception is full of drink, Young Mistress."
"Maybe I should drink more."
"You are a grown woman now. I have no say in the matter."
More than he thought he did..."No, you can't give me orders...but I will always take your advice."
"Well, I am still interpreting it's affects on you, so it's still a bit too early to tell. Right now though, I think perhaps a rest might be in order."
"Then, tomorrow...I will talk to Maya, then the three of us will talk about where we are going. In the meanwhile...I think there's some toys here to play with." I winked. I could use a companion for now.
"If we're going somewhere, of course." Hanu stammered as he understood my meaning. "Good... uh... good adventures, then."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Juggler

So, I couldn't get the chest open, and soon I felt myself turned on the side, and being moved. Shit. Someone was taking *my* chest, with me in it! The mystery was soon solved when I was unceremoniously dumped out of the chest in front of the juggler from Magras' menagerie. I stood up and dusted myself off while some monkeys scurried off with the chest. We were in the large, open courtyard of some jungle ruin. I demanded to know why he had brought me here, and he informed me that he was going to trade me to my brother in exchange for Hanu's head. (Before we left Tortuga, the man had offered to buy Hanu's head. The offer was refused.) He offered me some food, but I wasn't hungry. I tried walking around, trying to find a way out, but any way I walked, the path just turned in on itself, and I ended up back at the courtyard. There were no good places to hide, either, or even a small niche or two in the wide courtyard.

I was becoming increasingly frustrated at being stuck in this plane, and lopped off the head of one of the monkeys, hoping to at least anger the juggler. He just laughed, and the monkey continued to scamper around, playing with its own head. The juggler seemed frustrated himself at Magras and Hanu's lack of alacrity, and offered to let me watch while they decided what they were going to do. I declined, and commented that I disliked the decor, so the juggler dressed the monkeys in pirate outfits, and they started firing cannonballs at me. After several minutes of this game, Hanu and Magras finally started approaching. They were both flying on the serpent over the labyrinth leading towards us, and as they flew, the monkeys started throwing exploding juggling balls at them. The serpent dodged them with ease, and after a small wait, Hanu and Magras arrived.

Hanu and the juggler agreed upon a riddle contest. If Hanu could not solve the juggler's riddle, he owed his head. If he solved it, I got to go free. Yay. I do so love being bargained for like a prize cow. The riddle was fairly easy - even I knew the answer, or part of it. He was to name the wise monkeys, and he named all four. After conceding the contest, the juggler started laughing hysterically, and turned in a small child. The real juggler, who is apparently the Monkey King, arrived, and told Magras that she said he would understand her game. The child then offered to put everything back to normal, somewhat dismayed at our lack of appreciation for her game. When asked about herself, she said her name was Magrasi, and she was quite excited that I was to be traveling with them. Alls well that ends well, I suppose. Now that I seemed to have two seconds to myself, I went back to my wagon, to mourn my losses.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shadows of Winter

When I had calmed somewhat, and went to get out...the lid wouldn't budge. Shit. I had forgotten, in my haste to get away, and closed it, and it had probably transported me somewhere else. I felt around a bit, and was able to push and create an opening. Seems I was in a drawer of some kind, but it wouldn't open all the way. I reached my hand out to feel around, and after a little exploring, determined I was in a dresser or armoire, but it was leaning against a chair...maybe knocked over.

Luckily, I had just the thing. I reached in into my pocket, and pulled out my Aunt's quill pen. Touching it to the chair, I froze the wooden legs, and the now brittle wood broke with a small nudge...sending the dresser crashing down, my arm halfway out of the drawer. Fuck! That hurt. Some more pushing and maneuvering later, and I managed to tip the bookcase over, and get the drawer all the way open. Stepping out, I found myself in a small room, the furniture in disarray, as if someone had left in haste. It was cold here, and the windows were covered with frost. Quickly finding the staircase, I headed downstairs, and in the kitchen I found a body, its clothes frozen fast to the skin. Before I could clear enough of the window there to look outside, I heard a voice from upstairs, calling my name. "Abigail?" At first I wasn't sure who it could possibly be, but when he repeated himself, I realized it was Hanu. He must had figured out the chest, after all these years. I walked upstairs, and sure enough, he was coming out of the same room that I had when I first arrived. He mentioned something about being hungry, but when I told him the only food I had seen so far was the body downstairs, he declined. I wanted to explore, so we went outside.

We were in a modern world, but one that had been struck by a deep winter. Everything around us had frozen solid, and a bitter winter whistled through the concrete jungle. Hanu, much more used to warmer climbs, changed himself into a polar bear, and I wrapped my arms closer, careful not to touch my jacket. The snow falling burst into steam as it hit the jacket, creating a cloud around me. As we walked, who should we see but my brother Magras, coming towards us on a huge manticore. It seems he had gotten worried, and decided to follow me. Bah. I'm not 12 anymore.

The chest usually takes me near an item, so I pushed them both onward, looking for something that might be a likely place to find one. A couple minutes later, we came upon what was once a museum. The front window had been broken out, and a bonfire raged below the window, inside the building. I jumped down, and scared the shit out of the wretches gathered around the fire. Hanu and Magras soon followed.

There were many questions about who we were and where we had come from, but we simply said we were visitors from far away. They begged us for food, and I passed over what little I had in my bag, just some hard tack. I was looking around the museum, trying to see if there were any items, when Magras turned to one of the men, and banished some kind of spirit from him. Hanu pulled us both aside, and suggested that the lives of these wretches be extinguished by us, while he used his powers to place them in ecstasy, as opposed to letting them starve to death. Magras said he would take any who could answer his riddle back to the menagerie, but no others. It was a classic one, and a youth among the crowd was able to answer. I helped the boy up to us, and we turned our back as Hanu did what we had discussed. It pained me, but I don't see a better solution. At least those creatures didn't suffer.

As we were getting ready to head back to the caravan, Magras gifted me with the manticore he had ridden. Sweet, as always, once you get through the crunchy candy shell. I challenged them to a race to get back, and ran to the building we had arrived in, knowing the bookshelf was still there. Hanu followed close behind. After commanding the manticore to shrink, we climbed back into the armoire. (I shall have to give it a name.) When I to re-open it, however, it was stuck fast.

Friday, September 7, 2007

It returns...

Hanu and I went to Magras' performance again the next night. I still wasn't sure if I wanted to leave, so the three of us talked while the menagerie started to break down. Then, it began. The world started to disappear. Just like before. The Nothing. The Destroyer of Worlds.

Magras hurried us into the caravan, when I realized that Harrison was still back at the ship. I wouldn't be able to save everyone, but I could at least try and save him. I ran back to the docks, and was picked up on the way by Hanu, riding his serpent. When we got there, only half the ship was still in existence, and it was being boarded by primals, who had set it ablaze. Everyone on the ship was dead. Hanu tried to hold off the primals, and I ran back to the serpent, which then picked him up. As we were flying away, several primal hounds arrived as well. They sniffed the air, as if tracking something, and took off after us.

I held tight to Hanu as we fled, watching the world I had called home for so long destroyed. As we followed the caravan, each shadow more and more different than before, still it followed. I had to get away...away from the destruction, away from the crushing emptiness of it all. I jumped off the serpent and ran into the wagon where my chest was, crawling inside.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


While my ship was in Tortuga resupplying, I saw a poster for "Magras' Marvelous Menagerie." I had never heard the name Magras in this shadow before, so I was intrigued. Maybe it was my errant big brother...and if not, at least it promised to be entertaining. I took some of my crew, along with Harrison, my current "cabin boy." The normal show was entertaining, and during the performance, a dwarf approached with a pair of tickets for a "special performance." I decided to attend with Harrison. If I was unsure beforehand whether or not it was Magras, he confirmed it when he intimated I was a prostitute to the whole audience, and then took Harrison as a volunteer for his performance. It was entrancing, and after sending Harrison on his way, shaken but no worse for wear, I hopped up on stage to say hello. Magras was his usual self, although he did invite me to join him when the menagerie left after their next performance. I told him I would think about it.

We set sail the next morning, while I contemplated whether I would continue on to another shadow with Magras. I had been stuck here, but the menagerie offered me the opportunity to move the chest, and move on. But family, even such family as Magras, implied a responsibility I'm still not sure I want to take on.

A couple hours out of port, we spied another ship, heavy with plunder, and decided to take her on. As usual, I joined in the battle, eager to escape the decision I had to make. I made it over to the enemy ship, where I encountered quite a surprise. I heard a voice saying *my* name, not merely the one I had assumed in this shadow. I turned to see if perhaps I had been mistaken, and recognized my dear Hanu captaining the ship. I rushed through the battle to hug him, being mindful of that damned jacket, and called off my men. He did so as well, although his companion did not appreciate our reunion. They had a heated conversation, and she threatened me at one point. I decided to spring a little surprise on my dear brother, and invited Hanu back to Tortuga to watch his show. I also had my crew bring my chest to the caravan, in case I decided to leave with him. Turned out, it was a bit of foresight.