The cart bumped to a halt. The air had filled with the smell of seaweed, and the party was pushed out of the cart at knife-point and into a group of dinghies. They sailed for no more than a few minutes before they were pushed onto the sandy beaches of the Brigantine Isles. Known for its population of Jackdaw and Cutthroat Pirates, the Bringantine Isles were a haphazard mess of wrecked ships turned into makeshift accommodation for the crews. The Jackdaws, under Officer Jayne, Specialised in the kidnapping and ransom of wealthy krytan humans. The Cutthroats preferred pillaging, and regularly attacked either the local human towns or the quaggans who resided on the nearby lakebed.
The two crews had formed a circle, using netting and spears to make a makeshift fighting ring. The pit had been dug out, and each member had their blindfold removed before being pushed in. Korr and Ulfridda picked themselves up quickly. Alepe and Koda’s Breath ran over to Serene Wrath’s golem, which seemed undamaged in the sand. After a few moments Alepe had the golem working again, and Serene Wrath and Koda’s Breath embraced.
Korr’s head and shoulders stuck out above the pit, but he shielded his face as the pirates spat at him and threw rotten vegetables. On the other side, another group was pushed into the ring.
The first was an aged charr. He was missing one leg and in its place was a nasty looking spike. The tips of each finger had been removed as well, and replaced with green-tinged blades seemingly screwed into the bone. The next was a young human female, who somersaulted into the pit, before squatting on the ground next to the charr, and grinned. The next was a pair of norn twins, dressed in a rudimentary bear shaman costume. Ulfridda scowled at the sight of them, and they made a rude gesture in reply. The last was a sylvari male, who leapt lightly into the pit and looked at them with an air of boredom.
“The reignin’ champions, Mariner’s Dusk, enter the ring!” An asura commentator bellowed into a horn. “Their challengers will now present ’emselves. Odds are fifty-three tah one!”
“Oi! Give’m yer team name!” Mistress Lin cracked a whip at Alepe, catching him below the elbow. He hissed in pain, and Ulfridda stepped forward.
“We are not here of our free will! Release us, and we will go on our way!”
The crowd erupted into laughter. Rotten tomatoes flew down upon them, and the opposing team howled and beat their knees. Koda’s Breath took a step forward.
“Pirates! There are greater threats to Tyria. We seek to strike at the heart of the Elder Dragon Jormag, and bring peace to the Shiverpeaks! You squat here and run fighting tournaments while the world crumbles around us!”
“Exac’ly!” Mistress Lin called above the noise. “Wer getting’ our fun in while we can!” She regarded her fellows. “They’ve got spirit innem! Who’ll back our wager! Fifty gold pieces!” The pirates exchanged money, as bets were counted.
“If we fight, and win, will it earn us our freedom?” Alepe asked.
“If ye live, ye’ll have earned me enough money tah make me ye gigglin’ bride!” Lin roared, and the pirates’ laughed echoed across the bay.
“Yer needin’ a team name!” The commentator called down to them. Koda’s Breath and Ulfridda turned and they formed a small circle. Mariner’s Dusk did the same on the other side of the ring, and erupted into a chant.
“What did Skode call us?” Koda’s Breath asked.
“Mother said we were gifts. Gifts written in the stars.” Korr answered.
“Didn’t you call us flames based on your vision in the Priory?” Alepe asked Koda’s Breath.
“We must fight our way out of here.” Ulfridda said. “They don’t look like they’ll have mercy on us.”
Koda’s Breath turned and faced the pirates. “We present ourselves as Prophecy’s Hand! We challenge Mariner’s Dusk to a duel to the death!”
The pirates jeered their approval, and the commentator shifted in his seat. “When the clock strikes midnight, the fight begins! Fighters, be ready!”
There was a moment of silence, and a bell tolled far in the distance. It struck eleven times, and the charr roared, leaping at Ulfridda. She sidestepped, and he hit the wall. The norns flexed their muscles, and began to shapeshift. Koda’s Breath and Serene Wrath faced them. Two white bears and two brown stood face-to-face. Alepe faced the human girl, who twisted and somersaulted through the air, before landing behind him and delivering a powerful kick. Korr moved toward the Sylvari, who seemed not to notice.
“Contestants will be given their weapons…now!” The commentator bellowed, and Lin threw down Ulfridda’s Scepter and dagger, Korr’s bow, Icebreaker and Alepe’s pistols into the ring. The human girl was given two axes, the charr a pair of maces, and the norns each a sword and shield. The sylvari was given a staff and he picked it up deftly.
The melee had begun. Ulfridda bathed the area with fire, which the norns quickly smited. The human girl threw her axes at Alepe who dodged and fired a glob of sticky substance, rooting her in one place in the sand. Koda’s Breath swung his hammer at the nearest shifted norn, who blocked, knocking him back. Serene Wrath created three copies which bit and scratched the other norn, who shrugged it off, whipping blades of light from his sword and slicing the clones to ribbons. Korr raised his bow and swung at the sylvari. His eyes flashed green, and Korr was filled with a sense of dread. He held fast and the sylvari’s eyes widened. He created a claw with his fingers and seemed to pull upwards. A skeletal creature rose from the ground below, its rotting flesh barely attached, and it threw itself at Korr. The Charr knocked Ulfridda down, and raised his leg to bring it down on her chest. She turned into lightning and flashed away, bouncing off the pit walls and throwing shards of ice at him. The human girl extricated herself from the glue and threw a set of bolas at Alepe, wrapping his legs and causing him to fall to the ground.
Far across the world, Sonorous Peals was meditating. She felt the vibrations of the world, sensing the movements of all things. She tuned into the fabric of reality, and she heard voices and sounds from miles away.
‘We present ourselves as Prophecy’s Hand!’
Her ears twitched when she heard that voice. The voice of her twin brother, Dawn Rising. She concentrated, and honed in on their location. Standing, she shed her robes, and donned her smooth oiled leather armour. From her waist she drew two bells. She brought one to her ear and tolled it gently, letting the sound wash through her body. She raised the other above her head, and ripped it down hard. The sound tore through the air, slicing the fabric of reality and creating a portal. She braced herself, called upon Tranquility, and spoke before she walked through the portal.
“Forgive me, brother”
A thundercrack tore across the beach. Sonorous Peals spun, ripping the air asunder, and injuring and killing pirates where she went. The team could not see what was going on, and Mariner’s Dusk sensed something was wrong and clambered out of the pit. They looked at each other in shock, and many moments passed where all they could hear was the screams of dying pirates. After a while, the air grew quiet, and Koda’s Breath heard a voice he recognised.
They clambered out of the pit and were faced with carnage. Dead pirates lay slain across the beach. There was so much blood it was difficult to tell whose limbs were whose. Sonorous Peals stood before them, breathing heavily. Koda’s Breath took a step forward, but Serene Wrath held him back.
“Sister! You survived!”
“I am sorry Brother. I must do this.”
“Do what?” Koda’s Breath asked.
“He…he has them, brother. If I don’t… He’ll kill them.”
“Jormag has power over you while you allow it, kodan.” Ulfridda spoke. “Join us and we can save them.”
“The dragon is everything. You have not the power to defeat him.” Sonorous Peals bowed her head.
“What do you want with Koda’s Breath?” Korr asked.
Sonorous Peals looked up. “A new name, brother? It suits you.”
“What do you want, commander?” Serene Wrath asked. “I order you to stand down.”
“You sound different my Claw. Your body is gone. Is this why He wants you dead?” A long tear rolled down her cheek. “I am sorry. I made a deal.”
“Sonna…” Koda’s Breath stretched his paw out. “Please…” Sonorous Peals wiped her eyes, and in one swift movement, twisted her wrists. Blades of sound flashed out.
“KORR!” Ulfridda roared. Korr clapped his hands, and the sound warped in mid-air, dissipating.
“Not my friends!” He roared, and charged. Sonorous Peals barely had her bells up when his shoulder connected with her body, sending her flying through the portal. The portal closed, snapping shut with a high crack. The team stood for a few moments, silent.
“Is she coming back?” Ulfridda asked.
“Not for a long time.” Serene Wrath answered. “Sonorous Peals was one of the few Bell-ringers who could master that skill. It will take her a long time to build the resonance to make another portal. We are safe for a while.”
“Let’s get out of here.” Alepe suggested. “There are still some boats that weren’t ruined.”
“Which way?” Serene Wrath asked.
“West” Ulfridda answered. “The map says there is an inn nearby.”
“Can we look for Ounce?” Korr asked.
“We can go back to the beach we came from.” Ulfridda answered. “If she waited for us there, maybe we will find her.”