The Incredible Yet Accurate Adventures of the Dread Pirate Captain Solaire Ravenheart
Otherwise known as…
The Adventures of Solaire
The Sincerest Form of Peril
I have very few pet peeves. It is one of the simple truths to my life; after all, one does not rise to my level of success, fame, and fortune without a well-ordered and disciplined mind. As much as I try, though, I still have my faults, and I still have those few things that annoy me beyond reason. One of those is when persons refer to Solaire as an ‘adventurer.’
I feel as if the distinction is obvious, but for the sake of completion, I’ll explain the difference here: Solaire is not a self-proclaimed ‘hero of the land’ that puts themselves in suicidal and, frankly, idiotic positions in the hope of success, fame, and fortune. Solaire is also not a brutish thug who solves his problems with violence. Solaire is a thinker, a planner, a leader, and a trickster; these are things antithetical to the plodding savage that is an ‘adventurer.’
True, there are other academic distinctions that others would consider more important to the debate; Solaire is not what most would traditionally consider a ‘good’ person. He lies and manipulates people regularly. He uses them to get what he wants. He is single-minded and driven in his goals, and, with very, very, very few exceptions, never goes out of his way to help anyone other than himself. And no one sane would ever grant Solaire the title ‘hero of the land’, even if he had saved a kingdom; the most probable follow up would be a mob with pitchforks making sure he never returns.
Most people would consider these the boundaries that disqualify Solaire from being an adventurer, not the differences in mental acumen, but I, and anyone who has not been able to escape the hungry maw of a mimic, disagree. Ask your local bard to regale you with tales of brave men and women fighting mimics and compare it to this chapter, and I think you may come to see it my way.
“Careful with that thing!” Derringer hissed. “You want it to get loose?”
The man moving the crate, a young man with near-white blond hair, simply looked up and shook his head, displaying eyes wide with fear.
“That’s what I thought,” Derringer muttered. The black-haired and dark-eyed youth went back to picking his nails with a knife.
“Are you sure ‘bout this, Derry?” another man asked. His skin was a deep brown, his frame was thin and wiry, and his eyes kept snapping back to the large crate. “I mean, you know I’m no stranger to a bit of risk, but this seems a little too dangerous even for our blood.”
Derringer sighed. “Would you relax Jaffer? It’s sealed in a box, for crying out loud. All we have to do is carry it to the warlock’s place and we’ll have gotten paid 500 gold just for hanging around this fancy-shmancy cruise ship.”
Jaffer bit his lip. “But…”
“ATTENTION PASSENGERS,” a loud voice spoke. “WE HAVE ARRIVED TO THE PORT CITY OF SNAZ SNEN. WE WILL BE DOCKED HERE FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS. PASSENGERS WITH ROUND-TRIP TICKETS, PLEASE RETURN BEFORE THAT TIME.”
Derringer smiled. “C’mon boys. We get that box there, we get our money, and we head down to the tavern and celebrate a job well done. How’s that sound?”
Jaffer shrugged to the other man, then headed over to the box and bent over it. With a groan, both men lifted the box and began to walk it through the halls, into the crowd of patrons departing down the ramp, and off of the Emperor ship, into the sunshine and streets beyond.
“You know,” the man with the blond hair said, “for a violent, vicious killing machine, it’s quite a bit lighter than I thought it would be.”
“Don’t second-guess what few blessings we’ve got,” Jaffer shot back.
And with that, both men carried the box away, not noticing the very large chewed hole in the bottom of the crate.
Meanwhile, the entire crew of the Emperor's ship, nine hundred men strong, were busy yelling at Weiss.
“I DON’T VANT TO HEAR IT!” The short noble’s face was almost as crimson as his velvet suit from the effort of shouting over the complaints of numerous cantankerous sailors. “Ve hafe too many repairs to complete before settink off! Zere simply ishn’t time!”
“But we deserve shore leave!” someone unseen in the crowd shouted. “We’ve been at sea for almost six months now!” A wave of muttering and agreements followed.
“You deserfe nothink!” Wiess hissed. “Don’t forget zat mosht of you are here because you couldn’t pay off your debts to me!” He took a moment to collect himself, eyeing the sea of angry glares. “If you want to blame someone, blame yourselfes. If you hadn’t tore up half my schip lookink for zose blashted notes, ve vouldn’t hafe zis problem, vould ve?”
Murderous silence followed.
Weiss paused. “Right zen. Back to vork! Because if you don’t get zis done before ve leaf, it’s double vork days for ze lot of you!”
The crowd dispersed into bitter mumbling. Everyone except Solaire, standing at the back, watching the others go.
Weiss narrowed his eyes. “Vhat are you shtill doink here?”
Solaire made a show of looking around the empty space before putting his hand to his chest in a gesture of what? me? “Is there somewhere I should be going?”
“If you had any sense in your head, you vould be fixink my schip. You caused ninety percent of zat damage yourself,” Weiss sniffed.
Solaire scratched his chin. “Fair enough. What do you want me to fix?”
Weiss paused. “Er…”
“I could go fix the boilers, the rudder… oh! How about the hull? You want me to go make sure there’s no holes in the hull?”
“I don’t vant you anyvere near zose sinks.”
“Oh, well in that case, guess I’m off the hook.” He turned to leave…
...and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Weiss raise a long, cylindrical slave plate controller into the air.
Solaire grit his teeth. Here we go. He fingered a similar object inside his own coat pocket and, when he saw the noble press down, he activated his own button. There was a flash of pain, a brief clouding of his vision, a flare of ozone, and Solaire fell to the ground, recuperating from the electrical lashing from his slave plate.
Weiss’ glare at Solaire contained pure, unmasked hatred. “You are on fery sin ice. If I vere you, I vouldn’t tesht its integrity by makink such a ruckus.”
“Thank you for your benevolent wisdom, oh great philosopher,” Solaire groaned from the ground.
Weiss stared at Solaire for a moment more, then strode off. “Come Vinthrop. I vant to run ofer infentory one more time.” After a few more moments, he was alone, and Solaire struggled to his feet.
“Blast Weiss for making me shock myself with my own blasted plate…” Solaire grumbled. He took the plate controller from his pocket, inspected it, then placed it gingerly back and sighed. He couldn’t let Weiss know that he took his controller and slipped him a dud instead, and that little demonstration should keep the casino baron’s suspicions to a minimum for a time.
Something scuttled in the distance.
Solaire snapped to attention at the sound.
The room was barren.
With a small shake of his head, Solaire stood and walked away.
“Explain to me what you are doing again,” Tomo requested.
Willaby huffed and rolled his eyes. “I am acquiring the kitchen for the day.”
The samurai nodded. “And the reason you are doing this?”
“Because I’m a baker! I bake things! It’s what bakers do!” Willaby marched into the ship’s galley and shooed away a few cooks with a wave of his hands. They raised an eyebrow at the tweed man, then turned to Tomo.
Tomo nodded, and the men quietly grabbed their supplies and moved away.
Willaby turned and inspected the kitchen: a long wooden hallway with metal shelves along one wall, holding a multitude of pots, pans, ladles, spatulas, whisks, bowls, and every other imaginable cooking utensil, and a row of ovens, stoves, and counters along the other wall. “You call this a kitchen? It’s barely a food larder!”
“I would argue it is both.” Tomo watched as Willaby placed a large bowl on the table, then began unloading measuring cups, spoons, and a bag of flour on the counter. “Are you perhaps attempting to create a more tasteful food rations from our supply?”
Willaby scoffed. “Do I look like a cook to you?”
Tomo pondered the question for a while. “Yes?”
“I am not a cook!” Willaby shouted, pointing a whisk at the armored man, causing Tomo to raise his hands in surrender. “Any uncultured barbarian can cook: put meat in a pan, heat it up, add some spices and taste it every so often to make sure you didn’t shake in paprika when you meant to use thyme. No, I am nothing so crude as a cook.”
“I am a baker,” Willaby continued, pouring a measure of flour into the leftmost bowl before cracking an egg into it. “Baking is a subtle and precise art. Too much flour, and the mixture becomes crumbly and distasteful. Too little flour, and it won’t bake. If you do so much as add in a quarter teaspoon of too much yeast, the whole thing becomes a disgusting mess. Baking is a fine, exact, and noble art.”
Tomo watched as Willaby continued to measure and add ingredients, mixing water and a spoonful of pungent yeast into a smaller bowl he removed from the shelf. “So is this an attempt to rekindle a passion, perhaps in an attempt to become better attuned with your sorcerous powers?”
“Blast my sorcerous powers,” Willaby spat, then blushed. “Pardon my language, but my magic has done nothing but make my life miserable. It’s the reason I’m on this… stupid ship. If I could get rid of them, I would.” He started to pour in the mixture from the smaller bowl, then frowned. He set the bowl aside, added another measure of flour and egg into the leftmost bowl, then poured in the water and yeast.
“So then why are you doing this?” Tomo asked.
Willaby sighed. “Because… I like to bake. It’s an enjoyable activity for me. And considering all I’ve had to put up with lately, I’d say I blas… very much deserve to relax for once.”
Tomo remained quiet as Willaby unpacked more ingredients onto the counter: salt, butter, milk, a set of measuring spoons. He slowly began to hum to himself, cutting a slice off the butter stick and moving to add it to the bowl, then pausing again. He gave an irritated tisk and started to pour more flour in.
Tomo frowned. “How much flour does one baked good need?”
Willaby froze. “You mean…”
“You have poured flour into that bowl three times now.”
“I…” His face grew puzzled as he slowly put the flour bag down. “I knew I already put that in.”
“So why did you add more?”
“Because it’s empty!” Willaby stared at the bowl, wide eyed, and Tomo shuffled over as well, both men’s gaze locked onto the white powder sitting inside. “Or, at least, it was.”
“Perhaps you accidentally magiced it away with your sorcerery powers?” Tomo guessed.
There was a loud, shuddering SHLURP! as a long prehensile tongue suddenly whipped out of the pile of flour, running itself along the sides of the bowl and scooping the contents into a mouth of long, jagged teeth now rising from its bottom.
“AAGH! DEMON BOWL!” Willaby screamed, diving under the counter. Tomo withdrew his katana as the bowl lurched, opening a line of reptile-like eyes along its side. With a loud battle cry, Tomo brought his sword down on the thing like a chef decapitating the carcass of an animal, only to watch the thing grow three sets of human arms, slap them onto the counter, and roll itself out of harm’s way, backing into the corner and issuing a series of chitters and clicks.
Tomo pointed his sword forward in a defensive stance as Willaby scrambled behind him, leaning around the man to watch the thing that was very much not a bowl. “What is it?”
“Unsure, but it appears hostile.” As if to punctuate the warrior’s words, the thing gave a high-pitched shriek and leaped at them. Tomo raised his sword in a block and the thing collided with the blade, sticking to the weapon like a glob of jelly thrown at a wall. With a frown, Tomo reached over and tried to pry the thing off with his free hand. In response, the creature morphed, distending part of itself to reach Tomo’s gauntleted limb, needle-toothed mouth formed at the end.
Tomo gasped and tried to draw his hand back, but quick as lightning, the offshoot shot forward and oozed itself around his palm, teeth attempting to pry beneath the armor to get at the flesh inside. “It’s… stuck!” Tomo grunted, trying to pull his hand away from the creature and failing to do so.
“HYA!” A large black skillet smashed into the creature’s mass, causing the flesh to ripple like a wave. Willaby staggered away from his impromptu attack, skillet attached to the creature’s skin. He looked pleased with himself.
A tendril rolled out from under the weaponized implement, grew an eye, and glared at Willaby.
Willaby paled. “Uh-oh.”
With another shriek, the creature leaped at the frightened baker, unattaching from Tomo’s sword and dropping the skillet as it went. Willaby cowered, throwing his hands up in fear, and a shimmering wall of pale green light materialized in front of him. The thing collided with it in mid-air, a squid-like beak with serrated teeth snapping at its target.
Tomo shouted and swung his sword overhead. The three human arms re-appeared and pushed off the shield, jumping into the shelves and tossing utensils everywhere. Propelled onwards by momentum, Tomo’s blade collided with Willaby’s shield. The barrier exploded into a burst of blinding light and the two men were flung backwards apart, scattering food, pans, and everything else not tied down in the kitchen with the force of the blast wave.
“Ugh, my head,” Willaby groaned, rolling to his feet.
Tomo leapt back up, sword once again poised in front of him. “Quick! Where has it gone?”
Willaby looked around the ground towards the disarray. Around him, close to eighteen large bowls were wobbling, spinning, and otherwise settling onto the floor.
Tomo and Willaby gave a look to each other, then ran out of the room.
“No, I’m not doing it,” Austin grumbled.
“Come on Austin,” Solaire prodded, seated on his bunk in the crew quarters while Skyler and the grumpy grunzen sat on the floor nearby. “It’d take an hour at most, and it’s not like it needs to mean anything.”
“I am not going on a date with Engineer Natalia,” Austin reiterated.
“But it’d be the perfect distraction,” Skyler protested. “You take her around the ship and keep her busy, Solaire and I sneak into her workshop and make a bunch of fake slave plate controllers, we slip back out and bang! We have what we need and no one’s the wiser.”
Austin folded his arms and refused to comment.
“Fine,” Solaire growled, scribbling something out on the piece of scrap paper he held, “Idea four: explosives.”
“SOLAIRE!” All three men paused as Willaby, tweed suit drenched in sweat and barely able to breathe, stumbled into the hallway. “Monster! Bowl! Eats… flour!”
Solaire stared at Willaby as he leaned against the wall and panted. “What in the worlds are you talking about?”
“A bowl,” he explained as Tomo came striding around the corner. “With teeth. It attacked us in the kitchen. It almost killed us!”
“A bowl,” Solaire repeated. “You want me to believe you got your asses kicked… by a bowl?”
With a pale and serious face, Willaby nodded.
Solaire turned to Tomo.
“It had very large teeth,” the samurai offered.
“Fascinating,” Solaire mumbled, turning back to his paper. “I encourage you two to have your quirky little mental breakdowns on your own. I have important things to be doing.”
“How big were the teeth?” Austin asked.
Tomo measured out a space of about an inch with his fingers, then doubled it. “It was somewhat hard to tell, given how fast it moved.”
Skyler furrowed his brow. “How does a bowl move?”
“It grew arms,” Willaby said.
“Would everybody shut up?” Solaire snapped. “I’m trying to concentrate! Blast it, is it squares or square roots to calculate the explosive area of dynamite?”
“What, like swords?” Austin asked.
Willaby shook his head. “No. Like human arms. Like yours. And it just… slapped the counter and rolled away.”
“But then how did it get any leverage?” Skyler asked.
“ FINE!” Solaire stood up and threw his paper and charcoal across the room. “Since whatever the hell is going on is SO much more important than figuring out how to get off this blazing ship, let’s all go look at the magic bowl, shall we?”
“Be careful,” Willaby whispered, tugging at Solaire’s coat as he passed. “It’s evil.”
“Get your hands off of me,” Solaire hissed. “If it wasn’t you and Captain Literal, I’d assume that this was some bizzare half-cocked prank instead of the show of observational incompetence it probably actually is. The only reason I’m humoring this is to see how the blazes you two freaked yourself out this bad.”
“There is no rank of captain in the codes of bushido,” Tomo reminded him.
Solaire rolled his eyes and continued to stalk down the hallway, tailed by Skyler, Austin, Tomo, and Willaby. After a few moments of angry stomping, he stopped in front of the swinging door that led to the ship’s kitchen. “This is where it is?”
Solaire pushed open the door and moved inside. Skyler and Austin followed, stopping at the entrance, while Tomo and Willaby waited outside, Tomo with his hand on the hilt of his sword and Willaby crouched behind him.
“Well you certainly made a mess,” Solaire noted, kicking a loose measuring cup. He eyed the mess of utensils strewn about the ground. “How’d you do this, anyway?”
“Demon bowl,” Willaby reiterated.
Solaire glanced around until his eyes fell on a large bowl turned upside down. “Fore!” he shouted, wacking it with his cane like a gentleman striking a croquet ball, making the object emit a loud PAAAANNG!
Tomo and Willaby jumped back. The bowl rotated a few times, then stopped.
“Hmmm.” Solaire set his cane nearby and approached another bowl, this one laying on its side. He looked it over for a bit before winding his foot back and kicking it with all of his might, causing the object to skitter through the discarded tools before bouncing off a shelf leg and spinning like a top, slowly rotating round and around until it fell over.
It remained motionless.
“Well then,” Solaire said, grabbing his cane again, “so much for the old demon bowl tale. Did it occur to you that…”
“Solaire,” Skyler interrupted, pointing. His face was pale.
Solaire followed the gesture. There, leaning against a table, was his cane.
He looked down at what he had grabbed. A row of long, crocodile-like teeth were appearing along its edge.
Solaire spun, trying to throw the impostor into the kitchen. Once he let go, not only did the thing refuse to be thrown, sticking instead to Solaire’s outstretched palm, but the thing also exploded into action. Four long sections of the cane’s length split apart and unfurled, showcasing a fleshy pink interior lined with teeth, while several long whip-like tentacles flailed about, attempting to curl up and reach Solaire’s arm.
Solaire grimaced and tried to point the thing away from himself. “Gods and demons, somebody help me!”
Skyler stepped forward, unsheathing a hook sword. One of the cane lengths grew an eyeball and focused in on the blade, then shot a tentacle at it, wrapping its length around it several times. Skyler tried to take a step back and yank his weapon free, only to stumble as the creature heaved back.
“Fat lot of good you are.” Solaire glanced back to see one of the stoves. Stretching, he managed to kick one of the burner dials on before grabbing his arm and shoving it down towards the stove. There was an ear-splitting, unearthly scream as the creature made contact with the red-hot metal. It dislodged from both Solaire and Skyler, shriveled into a tiny, fleshy mass, and bounded behind one of the kitchen shelves, disappearing into the shadows.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Solaire ran out of the galley, pushing past the swinging door and barrelling into the mass of Tomo and Willaby. Less than a second behind, Skyler followed, colliding into the tangle and pushing the whole lot over as Austin rushed into the hallway and began to pile crates in front of the door, not stopping until the door’s frame was completely concealed.
For a moment, nobody spoke. Everyone was too busy gasping for breath.
Solaire glared at Willaby, who was currently located under his shoe. “A demon bowl, huh?”
“It may be a bit more than a bowl,” Willaby admitted.
“I think…” Skyler paused. “I think I might know what it is.”
Everyone turned and stared at the mercenary lying on the floor.
“It’s something I’ve heard adventurers talk about once in a while.” He sat up. “They call it a mimic. It lives in caves and forgotten dungeons, and shapeshifts into things like doors and treasure chests. Then, when someone reaches out and touches it, it strikes, attacking and eating the poor person.”
Willaby got to his feet, then gave the crates a sideways look. “How do we kill it?”
“I don’t know,” Skyler said. “I’d always assumed it was a campfire tale for adventurers. A boogeyman they’d try and scare each other with. I never thought it was real.”
“Well,” Solaire said, brushing himself off, “if a group of suicidal idiots that go about battling dragons and rushing into dungeons because they think it’s fun can kill it, then so can we.”
“How?” Willaby asked.
“The same way they solve all their problems: beating it until it stops moving.” He turned to Skylar. “How many things can this ‘mimic’ shapeshift into?”
“From what I’ve heard?” He shrugged. “Anything.”
“Ah.” He looked to the boxes. “So that gigantic mess in there…”
“...it could be anyone of those objects.” Skyler finished.
“Fine then,” Solaire sighed. “Plan B: we’ll just have to use our brains.”
Slowly, cautiously, the curved edge of a hook sword creeped along the floor of the kitchen. With the barest of tings, it brushed against the side of a metal measuring cup.
The blade froze.
It poked the cup, then darted back in anticipation.
The cup wobbled for a moment or two, then settled.
With deliberate movements, the sword hooked the edge of the cup inside of the blade’s bend and began to drag it across the ground. With a long scrrrraaaaaappe, it bumped its way across the wooden floor, out of the door, and into the hallway beyond, where upon the five men waiting there jumped into battle positions and pointed guns, swords, arcane foci, and gigantic fists at the tiny metal instrument at their feet.
Again, it didn’t move.
Solaire inched forward, kicked it, and leapt back.
It toppled to its side and rolled for a bit before stopping.
“Cleared,” Solaire called.
There were audible sighs as Tomo, Austin, Willaby and Skyler relaxed their battle poses and dropped their arms to the side. Solaire gave the cup a sideways kick and propelled it into a small pile of bowls, forks, knives, and other various utensils.
“Right,” Solaire said, “how many does that make that?”
“Seventeen,” Tomo reported.
“And how many are left?” Solaire asked.
“Too damn many,” Skyler grumbled, crawling onto his stomach and fishing his hook sword through the kitchen door again.
“The number is likely in the hundreds,” Tomo agreed as he cracked the door open an inch. Solaire leaned around the samurai and pointed his pistol into the open space, ready to blast away at any movement.
“Isn’t there a faster way to do this?” Austin complained.
“If you have a better idea, I’m all ears,” Solaire replied, aiming at a carrot he found particularly suspicious.
“What if we set fire to the kitchen?” Austin offered. “I don’t care what that thing is, no way it likes fire.”
“You do realize that we’re currently in an enclosed space, and that plan is just as likely to kill us as it would the mimic, right?” Skyler asked, stretching himself.
Solaire paused. “Well, if we put it out fast enough…”
“You will not be setting any fires on the Emperor, regardless of your confidence to control them,” a new, droll voice replied.
There were several cries of panic as everyone spun around and trained their weapons onto the interloper, Skyler almost toppling Solaire and Tomo over as he rolled under their legs.
The drooping form of Winthrop raised an eyebrow.
“Oh.” Austin relaxed. “Hello Winthrop.”
“May I inquire as to what you all are doing?” Winthrop asked.
Willaby pointed to the kitchen. “Demon mimic.”
“Just a mimic,” Skyler corrected, getting to his feet.
The height of Winthrop’s eyebrow raised another degree. “A mimic?”
Willaby nodded. “They’re these creatures that can shapeshi-”
“I know what a mimic is,” Winthrop interrupted. “I also happen to know that they’re not real.”
Solaire rolled his eyes. “Oh. Well, if you would be kind enough to go in there and tell that thing that it isn’t real and to please stop being such a pain in our ass, please let us know when it vanishes into a puff of logic and reason so we can get on with our day.”
Winthrop took a step closer to Solaire, staring him in the eye.
Solaire held the gaze and folded his arms.
“What’s your angle here, Solaire?” Winthrop asked. “First, I hear there’s been a commotion in the kitchen, then I arrive to find the lot of you here spinning tales about mimics. What’s your little scheme this time?”
“You want to know?” Solaire looked to the left, then to the right, then leaned in.
Winthrop leaned in as well.
“I found a mimic on this ship and I’m trying to get rid of it before it eats us all,” he whispered.
“By the scratchings of Scrilb’s ledger… move!” Winthrop commanded, trying to push pass the mass of men and into the door.
Austin moved himself between the man and the doorway. “I don’t think you want to do that, sir.”
“No no,” Solaire said, “if he really is so much more intelligent than us simple, superstitious sailors, let him go ahead and charge in.”
“Shut it,” Winthrop hissed. “Your mind games may have worked with Wiess, but I see through you.” With that, he twisted under Austin’s arm and, before anyone could stop him, stumbled through the door and into the kitchen.
The five men crowded around the doorframe as Winthrop moved about, kicking odd fallen vegetables and spoons. “Gods and demons, what did you do here?” he asked, surveying the layer of debris on the floor.
“Mimic,” Willaby repeated.
Everyone held their breath as he continued to pace around the room, prodding various objects and stepping over things.
“Well,” he concluded, “I don’t see any random treasure chests, and I certainly haven’t been attacked by any vicious, hungry abominations of nature.”
“You must not have found it,” Solaire noted. “How ‘bout you give a good kick to that shelf over there, just to make sure.”
“I’m reporting this to Weiss,” Winthrop replied, ignoring the suggestion and walking out of the galley and past the men. “Have that kitchen tidied and cleaned in an hour, or it’ll be your heads. And I’ll be inspecting it personally to make sure there’s no funny business.”
The men turned and watched him go, then looked at each other.
“Well?” Solaire said, motioning to the floor.
Skyler groaned and got back on his stomach, readying his sword to fish out more objects.
Allow me to briefly interrupt the narration of this story to say that I have had the opportunity to personally observe a mimic with my own eyes; it was within the private menagerie of Salvadore Ramirez in his wizard’s tower, and I had the pleasure of being a guest there while the tower was still standing (before the unfortunate accident with the rabbit and the polymorph scroll, of course). Now, when most adventurers speak of the mimic, they think of it as a dumb animal that merely sits there and waits for some witless fool to interact with a treasure chest or old wooden door that definetly shouldn’t be there. But the creature I observed was far from that; it was active. Very active. When it believed it wasn’t being observed, it moved about, testing the cage it was imprisoned in. It sought out new objects and forms to take, and abandoned guises that weren’t interacted with.
(As a side note, this was the main reason that Rameriz had captured the mimic in the first place; he wished to see if the animal’s innate cunning could provide an opportunity to train it, like a dog. Rabbits or no, I’m afraid Rameriz’s laboratory was never long for this world.)
The point I’m making here is that, far from a sedentary flytrap most see mimics as, they are clever creatures, more like spiders, conniving and always improving their traps to lure in more tasty flies. So when I tell you the following chain of events, believe that these things were not only possible, but probable:
Let us shift the scene for a moment. Imagine that we are observing Winthrop address Solaire and his crew from his spot in the kitchen, but that this time, we are watching from behind Winthrop, his back to us as he speaks to the men outside. His backside is near one of the large kitchen shelves, and a small corner of brown sticks out of the pocket of his smart black coat.
A notebook. The notebook, in fact; the one Winthrop always keeps around his person.
Still speaking, a long tendril slides out of the darkness and smoothly lifts the notebook out. It drags the book out into the inky blackness, then pauses.
Winthrop seems not to have noticed the book’s absence. Instead, he paces around a bit more before once again putting his back to the kitchen shelf.
In one fluid motion, a writhing mass pours itself into the pocket and shifts. A moment later, a corner of brown reappears to fill the space once emptied; a mimic of Withrop’s notebook.
Speculation on my part? Of course. But also the most logical explanation to the events which follow.
Jack Dunning was in a foul mood. It was bad enough that Weiss had taken away his shore leave, the one piece of bright light on this otherwise miserable pile of pipes and hulls, but he had also drawn ‘boiler repair’ as his work duty today; ten hours crawling about in the oppressively humid and cramped crawl spaces replacing pipes and adjusting gages.
And if that wasn’t enough, he also had to deal with this blasted idiot.
“Turn it a quarter sunwise,” Jack shouted, curled between two sets of pipes and observing the gage on a third.
“Err…” the voice replied.
Jack rolled his eyes and, with far more uncomfort than he’d like to admit, heaved himself up and around the pipe to look his crewmate Charlie Charcich in the eyes. “This way!” he exclaimed, motioning a circular rotation with his middle finger.
“Got it,” Charlie stammered, blushing. He took a large pipe wrench and wrapped the head around a protruding nut, twisting. Jack waited long enough to ensure the man turned the right direction before folding himself back down between the pipes and craning his neck to observe the small pressure gage. He frowned, banged on it with his fist, waited, then swore.
“What is it?” Charlie called.
“No change on the gage. Blasted thing’s broke. We’ll have to replace it.” He grumbled and fished a small screwdriver out of his pocket. “Of course the damn thing’s broken. Only piece that’s blazing impossible to fix, and it has to break.”
Jack paused. “Charlie, did you turn the steam off?”
“Off?” the man replied.
“Yes off! Blazes man, you want me to burn my own face off?”
“Umm… which way is off?”
“Counter sunwise!” he shouted, returning to the small screws on the faceplate of the gage.
There was an uncomfortable silence.
“Opposite of the way you just turned it!” He shook his head and continued to remove the glass covering, then unscrewed the tiny screw in the center keeping the gage attached to the pipe. He braced himself on the final turn, then gave a sigh of relief as no boiling hot steam rushed out of the opening he had just made.
“Hex wrench,” Jack barked, then, sensing an approaching question, added “the little metal thing shaped like an ‘L’.”
There was a clinking of small pieces. “Which one?”
Jack frowned. “What the blazes do you mean, which one? We only brought the one size.”
“Uh, there’s two here that look exactly alike.”
Jack sighed. There were exactly thirty-six pieces in the toolkit he had brought to repair these pipes, and none of them looked similar to the small piece of angled metal that was the hex wrench.
“Just hand me things until you get it right,” he said, holding his hand out and waiting.
There was a strange wet, slurping sound, then nothing.
Jack continued to wait.
No tools came.
“Oh for the love of Yindy,” he grumbled, pulling himself up and over to see what was taking Charlie so long.
In the space where his coworker had just been, there was a pile of metal instruments, a couple of pipes… and no Charlie.
“Charlie?” Jack barked, feeling his annoyance rise. When no answer came, he tried again, this time in a slightly more cautious tone. “Charlie?”
Unnerved, he began to lean back in order to untangle himself and stand up, only to bang his head against a pipe right behind him. “Yindy, Scrilb, and Sea Foam Mother!” he cried, grabbing the sides of his head and trying to will away the sensations of pain enveloping his skull. He could have sworn that pipe wasn’t there a second ago.
He tried to lean away from the offending piece of metal, only to find his head refusing to follow the motions of his body, as if it was glued into place.
“What…” He reached behind his head to feel the pipe, only to realize that his hand, too, was now immobilized after touching the surface.
There was an undulating shifting, as if the thing was flexing muscles. Dark, angular objects appeared at the peripheries of his vision and slowly moved inwards, sharp white things he was horrified to realize were teeth as, inch by inch, the approaching jaws blotted out the light and plunged his world into darkness.
And Jack Dunning, the man who had once proudly boasted he could outswear any other sailor, could only whimper as his own end approached.
“Maybe he hid them in the boilers,” Tetters whispered as he peeked behind a corner to make sure there was no one waiting for them.
Decker rolled his eyes, partly from the man’s claim, and partly from the ridiculous display of attempted stealth from his companion. “You think Solaire hid his super-important notes about the Emperor’s security in a cauldron filled with fire and water?”
“Why not?” Tetters asked, slipping around the corner and continuing to slink along the wall. “He probably got that sorcerer friend of his to enchant them to be impervious, then dumped them inside. No one would think to look there. It’s perfect.”
“You give that man way too much credit,” Decker replied, striding around the corner in plain defiance of his compatriot’s motions.
“I dunno,” Keith, the third man of the group, said, following behind Decker. “It’s not a bad idea, if you could pull it off.”
Decker raised an eyebrow. “Really? You too?”
Keith shrugged. “Well, the notes have to be here somewhere, right? I mean, if they didn’t, Weiss would have just offed Solaire, wouldn’t he?”
“Not necessarily,” Decker said, but his voice wavered for a moment.
Tetters continued his slide around the wall, then stopped. The hallway ended in a large bulkhead door, closed and barring their way.
“Mmmm.” Tetters eyed the door. “A closed door. The perfect opportunity for a trap. Or an ambush. An ambush trap!”
Keith shook his head and grabbed the large wheel, spinning it open. He stepped through and held the door, giving a bow. “After you, oh master rogue.”
“Just because you weren’t jumped this time doesn’t mean you won’t be next time,” Tetters grumbled, slipping through and clinging to the wall once more.
Decker sighed and stepped through. “Seriously Keith, are you telling me you’re really willing to listen to theories from this man?”
Keith didn’t answer.
“Keith?” Decker turned to look back at his friend, only to find an empty hallway staring back at him.
“I knew it!” Tetters cried. “A trap! Probably set for us by Solaire after he heard we were going after his notes!”
“Would you knock it off?” Decker grumbled. “It’s probably just Keith playing a prank on you for being such a gullible fool.”
“Oh yeah,” Tetters said, shooting him a glare. “Then where’d the door go?”
Decker opened his mouth to speak, then turned and looked back. The bulkhead door they had just walked past mere seconds ago was gone, frame and all.
A stab of panic hit the man like a gunshot to the gut.
“Alright Solaire!” Tetters shouted into the emptiness. “How’d you do it? Was it an illusion by Willaby? A contraption you and Skyler rigged up? You may find my friends easy to trap, but you can’t fool me so easily!” He raised his fists to the open air in a boxing stance.
“You idiot,” Decker mumbled. “Keith, cute trick with the door, but seriously, knock it off! Get back here before you give Tetters a heart attack.”
Silence answered both men.
Decker’s heartbeat picked up a couple paces. Leaning down, he withdrew the dagger hidden in his sock; though most crew members were forbidden to keep weapons, like most of Weiss’ rules, the crew saw this less as a rule to follow and more as a challenge to overcome. He gripped it hard, feeling the reassuring solidity of its hilt.
“There’s a door here to a side-room of some kind,” Tetters whispered. “I say we duck inside. That way, we can at least make sure no one’s sneaking up behind us.
Decker just nodded. He didn’t have the resolve to rebuke the comment.
“On three... two… now!” Tetters shouted, rolling towards the door and shoving his weight against it to fling it open. Decker followed, then reeled back in horror as the door exploded into movement, hinges and edges turning outward and forming into large fangs, the door knob into a long prehensile tongue that wrapped around Tetter’s arm, the space where the door should be collapsing inward to form the slobbering, gapping opening of a mouth. Before Tetters had a chance to scream, the newly-formed monstrosity yanked him into its mouth and slammed its jaws shut, devouring the poor man whole.
Three green, reptilian eyes formed on the left edge of the mass and focused on Decker.
Decker paled, dropped his dagger, and ran for his life.
Back in the kitchen, a frustrated hook sword CLANGed onto the edge of a large metal pot, yanked the object back through the doors, and flung it across the floor, where it was punted into a pile of objects, BANGed them into an explosion of items going every which way, then finally slowed to a stop after a minute of furious spinning.
“Cleared,” Solaire muttered without enthusiasm. “Tomo?”
“Forty-nine,” the samurai replied.
Skyler glanced into the kitchen, then groaned. “Solaire, we’ve barely made a dent on the objects inside. This is going to take forever.”
“Fire,” Austin said, seated on the floor and leaning against the wall. “Just saying.”
Tomo frowned. “I believe that my exhaustion from this process is beginning to affect my judgement, because that suggestion does not sound as ridiculous as it once did.”