Koda’s Breath threw up a wall of reflection, and the bullet spun harmlessly into the dirt. Serene Wrath concentrated and two clones popped into existence. Korr took a half step back and raised his fists.
“Oho!” The pirate said. “So yer fighters eh?”
“As are we” Ulfridda’s voice called from behind them.
The pirates were caught between them. The leader turned, and faced Ulfridda.
“Dun’ matter how good ye ar’, yer ours now.” She smirked, and holstered her pistol. She drew two long, wicked knives from her belt, and pointed one of them at Ulfridda.
“But I dun’ feel like fightin’ today. So I’m gonna give you an offer. Yer the leader?” She motioned over her shoulder, holding the blades loosely in her gloved hands. “How much ye wantin’ fer these four?”
“I don’t care for your feelings, pirate.” In a flash, Ulfridda dropped her cane and drew her sceptre and dagger. Alepe uncorked a bottle, downed it, and took aim with his pistols. Ulfridda threw a firebolt at the pirates, who vanished into thin air.
“Blast!” Ulfridda swore, running over to the beach. “They’ve stealthed. Come close!” She beckoned, and they all crowded around her. She concentrated, and a ring of fire hissed into existence on the sand. They waited for what seemed like minutes, before the fire died down.
“They’ve gone.” Koda’s Breath said. “That was a close one.” No sooner than he spoke, one by one the pirates blinked into sight, rushing past and slicing their daggers across any exposed flesh. Koda’s Breath felt his body turn to stone, and watched with eyes frozen open as each of them became paralyzed.
“Basilisks venom. Mighty potent.” The pirate leader whispered in Ulfridda’s ear. Her crewmate yelled, as Serene Wrath swiped at his throat, cutting him across with a sharp claw. The venom had no effect on Serene Wrath, who fought back. He created clone after clone, each of which was destroyed with a well-aimed bullet, until he had herded the pirates into a small group. The pirates were well-trained, and their aims were true. Serene Wrath paused, calculating his next attack.
“Where are ye?” The leader sneered, spinning slowly on her heel, looking for the source of the clones. She spotted the golem and aimed at it. Serene Wrath popped into existence.
“I surrender” He put his hands in the air, and knelt.
“How do ye do that trick? Yer not a golem.” The leader walked over to his golem and disconnected the power core. The golem shut down, falling to the floor in a heap.
“That was a tough’un boss” One of the crewmates said. “But jimmy’ll have a good scar later I reckon.” The leader smiled, and slapped Ulfridda across the face.
“Name’s Sunfei Lin, But ye can call me Mistress Lin. Yer gonna fight ‘n earn me money” She stood back and admired her handiwork.
“C’mon boys, let’s take’m to the fightin pits!”
The pirates loaded each of them onto the cart, stuffing Alepe into Korr’s lap. They set fire to the tents, and chased Ounce away. The pirates laughed and joked, using the ash from the fire pits to draw faces on Koda’s Breath. They headed north as far as Koda’s Breath could tell, until the sun dipped below the horizon and he lost his bearings.
“Is the tracking beacon still functional?” Arrt pulled at his ear, thumbing the large section that had been cut off all those years ago.
“Yes commander.” The asura in front of the nearest monitor said. “But without power, the beacon will stop functioning in a few days.”
“How close is the dispatch team?” Arrt asked the operative to his left.
“Three days. They’re travelling under the radar. They can be there in hours if…”
“Councillor Yahk specifically ordered that this mission be top-secret. I cannot order an airship to pick them up. You are dismissed, operative Beta-twenty-nine”
The young woman looked crestfallen, and walked over to her seat.
“I need real-time analysis of where those pirates are taking them. We have lost our eyes and ears, but get a cartographer in here and identify where they are going.” Arrt was not going to lose this opportunity.
“Find them, and then we recover the technology.” He left the room, walking through the inquest complex to his office. He sat down at his desk, and rubbed his head.
“Why do I do this?” He asked the empty room.
“Because it pays well.”
Arrt jumped. Sitting in one of the large armchairs was a human. He was thin, and wore a strange outfit, a black overcoat with a deep purple vest with a matching cravat. His hair was oiled back immaculately, and he had a gold pocket watch in his hands.
“Who are you? And how did you get in here! This complex has the best security on all Tyria!”
“It has mechanical devices intended to detect intruders, yes. All fairly easily fooled. My name is not important, but the man I serve would like to make you an offer. We have reason to believe you know of the current whereabouts of a group travelling from Lion’s Arch to Divinity’s Reach.” The man paused, and shifted legs, crossing them. “I am going to assume their asura gate transfer details were deleted from the system by you, no?”
“Of course they were.” Arrt snapped. “Get to the point!”
“See, my employer was very disappointed that they did not arrive where we intended them to go. Now, normally, we would simply remove those obstacles in our path—namely you, in this instance—but we sensed an opportunity. You are in need of a way to subtly abduct this group. We are in need of their location. If we were to help each other, and share the gift they carry, well, you can understand that we would both be in benefit.”
Arrt thought for a moment. This human was clearly powerful, and his employers knew of the shard. He paused, and spoke.
“I agree, on one condition. I expect half my payment now, and the other half when we catch them.”
The human smiled. “You made the right choice, commander. This letter should detail the contract. Sign at the bottom.”
The letter was large, and printed on expensive paper. It was embossed in gold, and the script was fine and well-written. He scanned the contract, and saw the other party had already signed. He produced a pen from his pocket, and signed his name.
The human man smiled. “On behalf of his excellency, High Inquisitor Turmaland, I express our gratitude. Welcome to the White Mantle.”