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The Adventures of Solaire, Part II: Rewards and Consequences

The Incredible yet Accurate Adventures of the Dread Pirate Captain Solaire Ravenheart

Otherwise known as

The Adventures of Solaire


Part II

Rewards and Consequences


Now that Solaire has been reborn from the ashes of his family mansion, I want to take a moment to relate to you his first action he took in his noble quest to save River Ravenheart.


Close to six in the morning, Solaire sailed the Forlorn Rose into the port city of Snaz Snen and, after noticing that the docks were almost completely abandoned, anchored his ship next to a modest merchant ship with a lamp still burning in the windows. This, he figured, was just as good a place as any to begin raising the money he would need to arrange his face-to-face meeting with Weiss. After placing down a large plank of wood to act as a bridge, he boarded said ship just as an individual made their way out of the captain’s quarters.


“Ah!” this newcomer with blonde mutton chops exclaimed, “You must be Capgras DuMonte!”


Solaire tilted his head back and raised an eyebrow. “Yeessss…”


“George Fontaine!” He reached forward and began vigorously shaking his hand. “Pleasure to begin this business venture with you, sir, truly a great honor!”


Solaire allowed his hand to be moved before staring at the freshly-shaken appendage like a chef inspecting a suspicious fish, prompting a very awkward silence.


After a minute or so of this had passed, George cleared his throat. “Yes, well, I’m sure you’re a busy man, so let’s get down to the payment.”


Solaire’s head shot up. “Payment?”


“Yep!” He gestured Solaire forward into the captain’s quarters. There, in the center of the room, was a large sack filled to the brim with coins.


“500 gold, just like we agreed” George chirped. “Quite a bit of money. Whole family’s savings, right there. Not a penny left in the bank. Worries the missus a bit. I tell her not to worry, but you know how wives are. If she wasn’t worried about this, she’s worrying about the children falling ill or my mother getting older. I keep telling her, we’ll make it all back in spades with this venture, guaranteed, but it never helps. Glad I can talk to a businessman like you, eh?”


Solaire ignored him and moved forward to the bag, running his fingers through some of the coins.


“So!” George moved up and clasped him on the back. “What do you say?”


Solaire turned around and unloaded a small hand pistol into the man’s gut.


Once George hit the ground, Solaire moved behind the bag and shoved, throwing his shoulder into the weight of it to drag it along the ground. He struggled with it a bit once he got to the railing, having to lift it up and over to place it onto the gangplank, spilling several coins into the ocean below. Once there, more shoving commenced until the bag was securely laying on the deck of the Forlorn Rose.


Behind him, Solaire heard a gargling “Please…”


It was George. The wretch had found enough strength to crawl onto the deck and up on the gangplank, leaving a long streak of crimson blood behind. He was on the wood now, arm outstretched to Solaire in a desperate plea.


Solaire reached forward…


George’s eyes lit up with hope.


...and pulled the gangplank back, dropping George into the icy ocean below.


I’d like you to remember this incident, as it will set the tone of this adventure going forward.


***


But now I beg your forgiveness, dear reader, for I must take you on a brief journey away from this fascinating man, even though I have just told you all about his family tree, his noble quest, the burning of his past, and the manner of madness you can expect from him afterwards. Yes, we know of Solaire, but we know nothing of the others that will soon populate the story afterwards, and Mr. Weiss will become very important soon. Nowhere near as interesting, but important nonetheless. So let us depart from Mr. Ravenheart, tunelessly humming “Drunken Sailor”, and travel 800 nautical miles North-Eastward, to the monolithic beauty that is the Emperor.


Of the various locations Solaire will visit in the pages ahead, few exist now as anything more than memory and the occasional piece of driftwood, but the Emperor is a rare exception. A lucky thing, too; it’s a true grandeur and a marvel to behold. A large steel ship painted white and trimmed in black, the Emperor floats on the waves despite being the size of a small city. At that mass, sails alone are insufficient, so instead it propels itself via “steam engine”, pumping in sea water to be boiled in large cauldrons heated with burning coals, then takes the steam inside of an intricate system of pipes so that it may move a massive set of propellers underwater. The black soot that is the waste product of this process is expelled through smoke stacks the size of castle towers, making it a sight so huge and strange that one could be forgiven for thinking that some massive sea-born monster, and not a ship, was out in the distance.


That exterior, though, hides a gilded interior, full of gold and silk and all the finer things in life. At the time of Solaire’s visit, the Emperor was designed to be a floating casino resort, containing four levels of slot machines and card tables for all amounts of wealth, a large buffet-style dining hall constantly filled with the richest of foods, 2,000 rooms for guest habitation, and a huge ballroom with a massive band of 64 string instrument players, 30 brass members, 27 woodwind players, fifteen percussion members, and eight dolophone players (which I suspect to be a form of embezzlement from the conductor. I have no knowledge of such an instrument, and as a bard, I am inclined to trust my own authority on the subject.) But despite this size, no small details were spared. Each room had gold-leafed crowning, carved frescos, painted friezes, a tasteful arrangement of exotic plants, and more details besides, in relation to the function of the room.


This floating palace was the vision of one Mr. Weiss, pronounced in the old Eswein accent as “Mr. Vice”. He lived up to the name, too. Weiss had been the son of the senior Weiss Edgars, who controlled the large and profitable theive’s guild on the major import/export city of Snaz Snen. Junior Weiss was uninterested in most of the activities of the guild, preferring to spend his time womanizing, drinking, and ingesting all manner of illicit substances. The only piece of his father’s business that held his attention was the gambling rings the guild ran on the side. They were fascinating affairs. Weiss watched dice roll after dice roll, calculating odds and adding together wins and losses. They were driven by math, Weiss realized, so that no matter how lucky a hot streak was, the house would still come out on top. No temperamental thieves needed, and no muddling authority to worry about. Just simple numbers and disgusting amounts of cash.


That was all the encouragement he needed. Weiss applied his mind into the creation of more ingenious gambling machines, and if his patents are any indication, Weiss was quite intelligent. He created the first slot mechanisms, and combined the invention with a clever application of psychology to construct the first slot machines, perfect temptresses that lured in the unsuspecting with low buy-ins and utilized small winning payouts with the promise of large jackpots until the player became hopelessly addicted to pulling the small lever. He made the roulette wheel, the perfect arbiter of randomness, designed dice games with higher payouts but lower chances to win, added decks into decks to frustrate card-counting, and dozens more additions aside. Soon, the casinos were raking in more money in one night than a master thief could make in a year.


Which is when Weiss had a new vision: a ship. A massive ship, more like a luxury island, in which members of all economic brackets could climb aboard and sail away for a week, or a month, or longer, enjoying a vacation free of all the stresses awaiting them on shore. A perfect retreat. But it would require entertainment, which is why it would also be filled to the brim with gambling pastimes. A perfect captive audience. Even those not interested would eventually cave to boredom. And Weiss would slip in his numbing, addictive number games into every member aboard. When they were dropped off, they’d owe far more money than they ever paid for their ticket, and Weiss would be there every day, captaining this ferry of sin and its damned passengers.


I apologize again, but I wanted to give you an appreciation of the perfect application of sinister design that Weiss had set up before Solaire starts to systematically smash it. It makes the next several parts far more entertaining to read.


***


Weiss was currently seated in the top lounge, enjoying the company. He was an equal-opportunity corrupter, so the ship was divided up into four main levels, each catering to a different economic class bracket. The top level was only for the highest spenders, aristocrats and politicians, those who could casually withdraw hundreds of gold coins from their pockets. As such, it was his favorite company to keep.


At the moment, he was talking to the Dinan ambassador to Archone, with one arm around a gorgeous woman and another on a bottle of artisan beer (an oxymoron if I ever heard one). He was small, only five foot two (well, five feet even, but we’ll be polite and ignore the platform bottoms of his shoes), but he made up for it in pure personality. Weiss was an animated man, using his arms as much as his hands when he talked and waggling his eyebrows so frequently one might worry they were about to fly off. He was dressed, as always, very dapperly; in a velvet red suit accented in gold thread, a top hat of similar style and color perched atop a head of white hair. His cane was seated by his side.


Weiss laughed. “And so, zat’s vhen I said to him…”


A loud buzzing interrupted him, coming from the brass pipe attached to the wall on his left. It was the ship’s internal communication system, a series of pipes he designed that contained and amplified sound waves so that any important communication could be delivered at anytime, anywhere on the ship.


He glared at it annoyed.


It stopped buzzing for a second, then began buzzing again.


Weiss sighed. “Excuse me for a second, but I musht attend to zis.”


He walked over to the vibrating pipe, dragged it down to mouth level, and asked “Vhat is it?”


“Um, we’ve got someone who asking to purchase a ticket for the current voyage” the voice on the other line said.


Weiss eyebrows knit together in annoyance.“You called me about a shtowaway?”


“No sir. He’s outside the ship.”


“...vhat?”


“He’s currently sailing alongside us, calling out to the crew that he wants to purchase a ticket.”


“But ve are 500 miles away from land.”


“Yes sir.”


Weiss rubbed his eyes. “Has he identified himself?”


“Hold on.” A brief moment passed. “He says his name is ‘Solaire Ravenheart.’”


“Ravenheart…” Weiss muttered. His memory was photographic, so it only took him a second to recall the name and the man. Yes, youngest of the line. He’d been here once or twice, top deck, too, but each time he looked mostly bored and uninterested. In all honesty, he got more use out of the free bar than any gambling table. He’d never shown up again, and Weiss had written the man off as a lost cause.


“Sir?”


“Does he know vhat ticket he vants to purchase?”


“Month long ticket, top deck.”


“Does he have ze 500 gold?”


“He claims he does.”


Weiss thought for a moment. This was highly irregular. No doubt there were some fishier motives at play. But at the same time, holding a Ravenheart in one’s pocket was far from a bad thing…


“Let him aboard. After you collect payment.” Weiss began to walk away, then paused. “And tie up his schip to tow behind us. Claim confenience, record as collateral.”


“Yes sir.”


Weiss shook his head and walked back over to his two companions. “Apologies for ze interruption. Vhere vere ve?”


“You were in the middle of telling us about meeting the Baron of Oskus, babe” the pretty blonde said.


“Ah yes! So, zere I was, worsht hangofer I hafe efer had, sittink on my own tophat of all zings! And the Baron was zere, layink on ze craps table, so I turned to him and said…”


The brass pipe vibrated again.


Weiss’ smile went tight. “I turned to him and said…”


The pipe gave another vibration, only louder.


“One moment.” He stomped over to the pipe. “VHAT?!”


“Um, sorry sir,” the voice stammered, “but it doesn’t look like he has all of it.”


“All of vhat?”


“The gold. It’s close. 487, I think. He says a few pieces fell overboard.”


“Jusht let him on!”


“Alright. Also, there’s blood…”


“Lishten to me.” Weiss drew the pipe down lower so that he could lean over it, as if trying to intimidate the brass instrument, “I. Don’t. Care. Gife him ze ticket, tow his schip, and deal wis any problems yourself. If I hear one more call about zis man, I will demote you from whatefer position you hafe now to boiler fuel, UNDERSHTOOD?”


“Y-yes sir!”


Weiss rolled his eyes and turned back to his two companions. “Perhaps we schould retire to a prifate room, no?”


***


Solaire walked about the ship, taking in every detail he could. He’d been here twice with his father during a few fruitless attempts to connect with his son, and Solaire had found it boring each time. Too civilized. Solaire hadn’t been able to understand how these paper cards and ivory dice were supposed to get the blood flowing. In a tavern, sure, where you were cheating and he was cheating and everyone was just waiting to catch someone cheating so that they could start a brawl. But not here, where even the sharp corners were blunted down so that no one could hurt themselves and besmirch the memory of their vacation.


But then again, now he was here for a reason. Weiss had consigned the large payment for River, which means that he knew something. Or had something written down. And seeing as he couldn’t just walk up and ask him, he had to spend some time figuring out how to get that information. And yes, finding that ship with the gold was a good omen. He needed to rob someone to get aboard and in a position to talk to Weiss, as most of his wealth was now buried in the ground. Finding a mark that easy had to be a sign that fate was smiling at him right now. But that was no excuse to get sloppy.


Every detail mattered, he thought. He kept his eyes and ears wide, watching the customers, the servants, the large, eight-foot tall, thin and golden clockwork automatons with long blades for arms watching the crowd (those weren’t there last time, were they?), smelling the food, observing the crew, listening to the “SCHINK, clack, clack, clack, *tink*, DING! Clatterclatterclatterclatterclatter” of a nearby slot machine.


Solaire stopped. Had he heard that right?


He walked over to another slot machine, being played by another woman, listening closely to the mechanism inside.


She dropped a coin inside and pulled the large lever, spinning the little symbols inside. “SCHINK”. She pulled the lever again, stopping the spinning symbols. “Clack, clack, clack.” No symbols matched.


Solaire waited as she pulled out another coin.


Lever. “SCHINK!” Lever again. “Clack, clack, clack *tink*” The symbols matched this time, prompting a “DING!” and the “clatterclatterclatterclatter” of falling coins. She yelped for joy and scooped up her winnings, rushing off to another section of the ship.


Solaire approached the slot machine. So, he had heard that right. There was a tink. A familiar tink, at that.


Back when he was younger, his parents deluged him with tutor after tutor, under the claim that they needed to educate him, when in reality they were really just trying to keep him busy so that they didn’t have to deal with him. Part of that process was trying to find something the young lad was interested enough in to keep him sitting still for more than five minutes. For a while, they found that he was interested in mechanical systems, particularly locksmithing, but they soon realized Solaire was far more interested in figuring out how to bypass such locks than making more.


It was a bit too late, as they found that out after a nearby temple had him arrested for breaking into their mausoleum, and by that point, the damage had been done. Solaire had never forgotten about what he learned and locks would forever be his easy to persuade friends.


Now, Solaire knew that there were two types of locks. One was the tumble lock, the classic configuration that required a specially-cut key to move the small pins that kept the lock from moving. They required a skilled hand and a small piece of metal to manipulate open. But the other kind, combination locks, were made with spinning disks that, when properly aligned, would catch on a small bar and remove it, allowing the door to swing open. All you needed to open those was a well-tuned ear to hear the sound of the disk catching.


A sound that was a very particular tink.


Solaire moved around to the face of the machine, looking it over. A familiar, childish emotion, that of troublemaking curiosity, washed over him.


If that was the case, then the way these slot machines worked was to spin the symbols so fast that they landed on a random configuration. If all three disks lined up to the same notch (and, by extension, the three symbols outside), the machine would be able to open up a door inside and dispense coins. If not, the machine’s attempt to open the door would be thwarted and remain closed. No coins. So if you could make sure all the disks spun together, and introduce some friction into the machine so that, when it got to the matching notches, it didn’t have enough momentum to overcome the divots…


Solaire walked over to the large buffet table, scanning the tables until he arrived at the end, where the desserts and drinks were kept. Past the cakes, the cream, the iced cream, the puddings… aha! Sugar. Plain and simple sugar. Solaire took two of the cups nearby and filled them both up with sugar. Then he moved over to the tea station and placed just a tiny bit of boiling water in one. Stirring it with a spoon, he managed to mix it into a thick and sticky sludge. Then he came back to the slot machine.


No one had touched it, which meant that the symbols were still in their winning position. Taking the spoon out, he carefully poured the concrete-like mixture into the spaces in between each symbol cylinder. After ensuring there were no bubbles of air between the cylinders, Solaire blew on the mixture with his mouth, watching it dry quickly in the hot air of the enclosed gaming area. Then he took the cup of dry sugar and poured it into the open display window. With the cylinders together and the grains placed into the spinning mass, Solaire put a coin in and pulled the handle.


There was a grinding sound as the gears attempted to chew through the foreign material. The symbols shook and vibrated, then began to rotate slowly, chugging along with the determination only a machine can muster. It took nearly three minutes for the slots to rotate around once, and once they did so, there was a *tink* as the three matching symbols returned to their former spot on the display and stopped, followed by a loud DING! and the clatter of coins.


Soliare put one of the coins in and, while waiting for the slots to finish a second tortured journey, took off his top hat and scooped the coins inside. Once he was finished, there was another DING! Followed by more coins. Solaire repeated. He won again. Repeat. Win. Repeat. Win.


By this time, a small crowd had gathered around the suspiciously lucky man. While they watched and murmured to themselves, one of the clockwork automatons raised his head and walked over to the machine. With a set of whirring, clicking steps, he pushed his way through the crowd to get to the man now placing the coins in his pockets.


“PASSENGER” it croaked, “YOU HAVE BEEN WITNESSED TAMPERING WITH CASINO EQUIPMENT AND WINNING A STATISTICALLY UNLIKELY NUMBER OF TIMES. PLEASE FORFEIT THOSE WINNINGS AND COME WITH ME.”


Solaire turned about calmly to face the giant metal contraption. “Ah, well you see, I have a perfectly reasonable explanation for this.”


The deck went quiet in expectation. Even the automaton clicked a little softer.


Solaire reached into his hat and threw a handful of coins at the thing.


There was immediate chaos. The passengers began clambering over each other, trying to grab the valuable coins out of the air. The automaton tried to make his way through into the center, shouting “GUESTS, PLEASE STOP. THOSE WINNINGS DO NOT BELONG TO YOU.” The few people who weren’t watching the scene unfold were watching now, witnessing the long, spindly robot try to delicately shove people aside with its large bladed arms.


And Solaire ran, hat of coins cradled in his arms.


An alarm bell began to sound. “ALL PASSENGERS AND NON SECURITY CREW” the robots began to call at once “PLEASE RETURN TO YOUR QUARTERS. WE WILL DEAL WITH THIS SHORTLY AND APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR INCONVENIENCE.” As they repeated the announcement over and over, they moved towards Solaire, moving in a not quite a run but not quite a walk towards the fleeing noble.


Solaire gritted his teeth and fumbled inside his coat for the pistols stored there. For a brief moment, his fingers brushed against the Ivory River, but he decided against it; the ammunition for that gun was rare and who knows when he would be able to acquire more. Instead, he grabbed the regular flintlock revolver and aimed it at the lead robot.


“Apologize for this, you metal bastard” he growled and pulled the trigger.


The bullet hit the side of its chest and bounced off with a resounding “PING!”


“WE APOLOGIZE THAT YOUR ESCAPE IS FUTILE.”


Solaire grimaced and shot again.


This time it PINGed off the top of its shiny head.


“PLEASE COME WITH US SO THAT YOU MAY BE DETAINED AND/OR EXECUTED, DEPENDING ON THE NATURE OF YOUR CRIME. WE APOLOGIZE FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE THIS MAY CAUSE.”


Solaire took a deep breath, raised the gun one more time, and closed an eye as he lined the barrel with his open eye.


This time, the bullet landed in the center of the lead robot’s head, causing a smash of glass as it entered the lense set there.


“WE APOLOGIZE, BUT THIS UNIT IS BLIND.” The automaton tried to take another step and placed its long leg right onto a small cart filled with dirty dishes. The cart shot forward, causing the robot to fall backwards onto the robot immediately behind it. It, in turn, toppled over too, knocking into another nearby unit, and pretty soon the first formation of nine were spinning around and falling over, like tops losing speed.


People were screaming now, panickedly running this way and that. Another formation of robots appeared over the mass of their fallen brethren. Solaire muttered a soft curse and weaved through the crowd. After pushing his way past a group of dashing tourists, he managed to get to a section of exposed deck free from people and break into a full-on sprint.


“Halt thief!”


A mass suddenly hit Solaire in the back, causing him to fall forwards and spill the golden coins all over the deck. The mass stayed there and pointed a blade that Solaire could feel on the back of his neck. “This is Emperor security, and you are under arrest for the theft of- holy shit!”


Solaire managed to squirm his way around to face his attacker. It was a man, a muscled one, at that, with short black hair and fair skin, dressed in red and brown leathers. He was pointing a hooked sword at Solaire’s neck, a matching one gripped in the other hand, but his eyes were looking at the mass of spilled coins splayed out across the floor.


He was sitting directly on his chest, which meant that Solaire couldn’t get his arms up off the ground. Time to improvise.


“Hey, you!” he called out to the man on top of him.


He looked down to Solaire.


“You help me get out of here, and I’ll split that 50/50 with you.” Solaire said.


“It’s my job to catch you,” the man replied, but Solaire could detect the waver in his voice.


“Your job worth that much?” he asked.


The man licked his lips, then stood up and offered Solaire a hand. Solaire grabbed it and they stood just in time to watch one formation of robots approach from behind, and one in front.


“You get the ones in the back, I get the ones in the front?” the man asked.


“Sounds good” Solaire replied, readying his pistol.


A chorus of gunshots rang out on the deck as both men unloaded their guns onto the opposing force. Solaire aimed at his group and fired. The first PINGed, the second PANGed, but the third found a weak hinge at the knee, toppling one over and watching it become speared by the footsteps of its companions. Solaire lined up a fourth shot that entered the chest of another one right where the heart would be, causing the machine’s movements to become slow and jerky until it stopped marching all together. He aimed once more at the still approaching forms and…


*click*


The gun was empty.


He turned around to see how his new found friend was doing. The man was swinging from banister to banister, using the hook on his sword to hurl himself through the air while the other hand aimed a large pepperbox-looking pistol at the automatons, chipping them away with hit-and-run tactics.


In one smooth motion, Solaire grabbed the hat, scooped a majority of the spilled coins back into it, and ran into a nearby staircase before either the oncoming robots or his ally could stop him.


Down the stairs he went, down to the second deck, the sanctioned area of the well-to-do working class of the ship. As silently as he could, he cracked open the door of the staircase and peered out.


The hallway was completely empty. Every door was closed and not a soul was in sight.


Solaire crouched down, minimizing his frame and doing his best to silence the sounds of his movements. He slinked down the halway, trying each door knob until the third one proved to be unlocked as he steathfully slipped inside.


Inside contained the trappings of a well-furnished tavern room. Two beds with clean sheets were placed in the center of the room, as well as a writing desk and a comfortable chair. And, because this is the Emperor and the Emperor was the epitome of luxury, nearby in a little alcove was a flushing toilet, and two basins with a pipe that dispensed flowing water with the turn of a handle, one basin sized for hands and the other sized for whole bodies. A large and slightly overweight gentleman was using the hand-sized one, humming something to himself. He was dressed in a tweed suit jacket and pants in a lovely shade of dark green, with a bowler hat on top as well. His face was soft and baby-like, despite the ginger whiskers growing out of his face, and around his neck was a carved wooden necklace in the shape of a shell.


He turned, saw Solaire, and gasped.


Solaire pointed his pistol at him. “Don’t. Make. A. Sound.”


The man raised his hands up over his head, spied the still-running tap, and shut it off before returning his hands to the position of surrender.


There was a knocking at the door.


Solaire moved over to the bed furthest away from the door, keeping his hat of coins gripped tight the whole time. Once he was there, he whispered “Answer it, and make sure to tell them that there’s no one in here but you.”


The man nodded and moved towards the door, arms still raised.


“Put your hands down!” Solaire hissed.


He did so and opened it wide as Solaire ducked behind the mattress.


“Hello? Yes? Whatever is the matter?” the man stammered.


A crew member in a dark blue sailor’s coat did a polite bow. “Sorry to disturb you, sir, but a fugitive has been spotted on the ship. We’re doing a check of the rooms to make sure he isn’t hiding in any of them.”


The man began to sweat. “Well he isn’t here. No one here. Except me, of course! Just me. Myself. Alone. No need to check.”


Solaire put his palm over his face in his hiding spot.


The crewman arched an eyebrow. “Sir, is everything alright?”


“Yes, fine, why wouldn’t it be fine?”


“Could I just quickly check?” the crewman asked, attempting to step inside.


The man blocked his entry. “Now now now now there’s no need for that.”


The two began an awkward struggle over entryway. “Sir, let me through!” the crewman declared through gritted teeth.


“Please, sir, if you would just understand” the man babbled, “I-I-I am a man of privacy. I value, I-I…”


“This is for your own safety sir!”


“I-I… I… I-AHCHOO!”


The man in the tweed suit let forth an enormous sneeze. As he did, a massive cloud of sparkling green, pink, and yellow smoke filled the room and the hallway beyond, filling the area in a hazy mass of glittering smoke, obscuring vision.


Solaire blinked. He hadn’t expected that.


He shook his head; no time to think. Gripping the hat tight, he ran past the two men, both of whom had backed away from the door in the confusing incident. As he did, he bumped past the crewman, who called out “HEY! He’s over here!”


“Where the blazes is over here?!” an unseen voice responded.


Solaire bolted towards a staircase further down the hall, slamming the door open and leaping up the stairs two at a time until he reached the top deck. Barreling into it, he burst through. He was at the tail end of the ship, mere feet away from the Forlorn Rose and freedom.


A door suddenly opened in front of him and a short man in red stepped out, smiling and saying something to someone inside. “I’m schure zat I will be back in jusht a second…”


There was no time to react. Solaire collided with the small man at top speed. Both figures spun through the air as the gold coins went everywhere, flying into the sky before raining back down with the sound of high-pitched clattering.


Weiss rubbed his head. “Vhat on…” He turned to Solaire. “Ze Ravenheart?!”


Solaire reached for his pistol, but all he felt were coins. He scrambled around, trying to find the familiar shape of the handle without taking his eyes off of Weiss.


There was a tap on his shoulder.


Solaire turned around just in time to see a fist the size of his face rushing straight towards him.


The blow knocked him backwards. His vision was blurred, his ears were filled with ringing, and he could feel blood trickling down his nose. Unable to think, much less move, he collapsed onto the deck floor, helpless to do anything but watch the fuzzy play unfold in front of him.


“Ah,” the foggy short red figure said in a muffled voice, “zank you Aushtin.”


A humongous white shape with… shark teeth? No that couldn’t be right… grinned. “No problem, boss.” He stared down to Solaire. “Nighty nighty now.”


With no strength to do anything else, Solaire complied.

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