The following is a transcription of posts made by ten different contestants on an offsite forum. Every week they will write chapters from their own characters' points of views and push the plot forward until its inevitable conclusion. One by one, they will eliminated until only the winner remains. Your vote counts! Please join us by clicking "homepage" on our user page and vote and discuss.
Prologue: Ghost Stories
The night was dark and a storm was brewing over the island of Terramort, all light from the stars and moon being completely obscured by the great billowing storm clouds as they bombarded the island below with freezing rain. Waves, pushed by the powerful winds of the ongoing gale, crashed into the grey, stone cliffs of the island and showered them with spray, the very few ships anchored in the harbor being rocked to and fro by their constant rhythm.
Leadbone the pirate pulled the hood of his cloak further over his ears, trying his hardest to shield himself from the storm as he made his way cautiously through what was left of Terramort's harbor. What was once the proud pirate capital of the seas was now in ruin, the many shops, taverns, and places of refuge for wavescum all broken and lying in scattered mounds of stone, glass, and rotten timber. Even the castle, once a symbol of power to all corsairs, was now reduced to rubble, a few of the spires the only parts left standing.
But, there was one place left, Leadbone knew, and, using only the constant flicker of lightning across the night sky to light his path, he made his way through the ruins of the harbor and towards a lone tavern that stood amongst it all. Warm light shone from the windows of the building and the rat could hear the muffled sound of somebeast playing a ditty on a fiddle within, inviting him to pull open the door with a loud creak and eagerly slide inside.
There was a time where The Iron Curtain would have been completely filled with patrons from every corner of the seas, drinking grog and eating their fill, sharing stories of foreign lands and plunder, and resting from their harsh lives on the sea. But times were different now, and the six beasts within merely glanced up from their drinks at the rat's arrival, muttering whispers to each other about the identity of the newcomer. Leadbone shook rainwater from his whiskers, shooting them a look as he entered and hushing them all immediately. He took a seat at the bar.
The stoat behind it glanced over his shoulder from where he was polishing a set of glasses, raising a brow in interest. "Well, well, if it ain't ol' Leadbone," he said, dropping his work almost immediately and turning to face the rat. "'Ere for yer annual pint o' grog I assume?"
The corsair nodded. "Aye, the usual way I like it."
"Aye aye, yer majesty," the barkeep said as he grabbed one of the largest glasses he could find. " Ya know it ain't often we get royalty 'ere, let alone the second in c'mmand for Pirate King Captain Blade 'imself."
Leadbone scowled at that. "Ya should know not t' say 'is name like that. 'Tis bad luck."
The stoat gave a mock chuckle, filling the glass and setting it in front of the rat. He glanced around him at the sad state of the tavern. "Aye, yer right, but I don't see 'ow we could get any unluckier at this point. What with him dead an' all."
As if on cue, the door to The Iron Curtain was heaved open and lightning crackled outside, illuminating a hulking beast standing in its frame. The beast stood there for a moment, pulling his cloak tighter around himself and holding his head down, before entering. The whole tavern shook with each of his heavy footsteps, the different bottles of grog and alcohol rattling against each other with a steady tink, tink, tink. The fiddler ceased playing his instrument, staring fearfully at the beast and daring not to move.
Leadbone didn't have to turn around to know who the newcomer was and he began to sink further into his stool, staring fearfully at the ripples in his drink grow larger as the beast approached him. The brute grunted as he removed his hood and took a seat next to the rat, adjusting his cloak and revealing the large broadsword sheathed at his belt.
The pirate rat gulped and turned his head, meeting the lone eye of Badgerlord of Salamandastron, Atlas Stormstripe.
To say the badger was intimidating would have been an understatement, and Leadbone nearly fell out of his stool at the sight of him. It had been Atlas Stormstripe, along with his hares and the otters of the Rogue Crew, who had launched a crusade across the seas to end all piracy, and who had succeeded when they slew the Pirate King Captain Blade. But the badgerlord hadn't done so without injury, and the rat remembered watching after a long fought battle as the captain, in his last ditch effort for survival, grab the nearest weapon he could find, a spiked mace, from a dead beast's paws and swing with all the effort he could muster at the blood crazed badger's skull.
A black eye patch covered where the mace had taken out the badgerlord's right eye and jagged scars from its spikes traced down from underneath it all the way to his striped snout, like thunderbolts from a storm cloud. But, what truly frightened Leadbone was the way his left eye was. At first, he hadn't believed the rumors of what other corsairs had witnessed, but seeing it in front of him, the rat now knew they had been telling the truth.
Atlas' remaining eye was halfway clouded over with the pink mist of the Bloodwrath, swirling within like its own separate entity. Like a game of tug-of-war, the pink clouds constantly struggled to take over the badger's mind and body but were instantly pulled back and suppressed, trying and failing over and over again in an endless cycle. When Captain Blade had swung the mace at his skull, he hadn't just taken away one of his eyes, but also a fraction of the beast's sanity. Atlas, once the wise, respectable leader of Salamandastron, had become a fire mountain that could explode at any time, a beast on the literal brink of madness.
The badger gave a solitary look to the other patron's of the bar. "Anybeast who is not named Leadbone, it would be wise to leave." Everybeast stayed still, too deathly afraid under his gaze to move. For a fraction of a second, Leadbone saw the pink mist overcome him, and the badger clenched his teeth in a snarl. "NOW!"
With a clatter of chairs and bottles, the vermin in the bar made a break for the door, pushing against one another to be the first one out. The barkeeper stopped at the frame, giving a sympathetic glance in the rat's direction. "Sorry, Lead," he said before pushing it open and fleeing.
Leadbone waited as the badgerlord composed himself, shutting his eye and breathing in a deep breath. When he opened his eye, the white had returned. "It's been a while, Leadbone," he said. "Nine seasons?"
"Ten, m'lord," the rat answered.
The badger nodded in agreement. "Ten then," he said. Atlas turned back to Leadbone. "It's taken me a long time to track you down. But here you are. Do you know why I'm here?"
He shook his head hastily.
"First, answer me a few simple questions. Be honest," the badgerlord said, turning his head to look at the pirate. "When you sailed under Captain Blade as his first mate, looting and plundering, how many innocent villages and ports was it that you pillaged?"
Leadbone gulped. "I don't remember all of 'em," he said unwisely, watching as the Bloodwrath seeped further into the badger's eye and his mouth curved into a frown. He quickly changed his answer. "At least thirty, I think."
The pink cloud shrunk once more. "At least thirty," Atlas repeated. "At least thirty different villages you plundered around the coasts of Southsward, Mossflower, and the far north. And what did Blade do with all of that plunder?"
"'E said once that 'e hid it all on an island across the sea. One nobeast knew about but 'im."
Atlas raised a brow. "An island? So, it's true then," the badger answered him.
"Wot's true?" the rat asked.
Atlas reached into his cloak and retrieved something from within. He held it out for the rat to see. It was a cluster of gold coins, all glistening in the warm torchlight. "About two seasons ago, a group of sailors- pirates rather- sailed into a port close to Salamandastron. They said they had found an island and upon it was the largest treasure they had ever seen. Gold, rubies, diamonds. Mounds of it as far as their eyes could see. The Lost Treasure of Captain Blade, they called it."
Leadbone's eyes went wide at the sound of it. He had heard the rumors of course, everybeast had, but he had never known they had spread all the way into Mossflower. The Pirate King's treasure was like a dream, gold, rubies, sapphires, all just ripe for the picking to whoever found it first, and it was said that it could make a beast richer than they could even imagine.
The rat nodded. "Aye, everybeast has heard the rumors. There are corsairs out there sailin' for the island right now, tryin' t' strike while the iron's hot an' get it afore anybeast else can. In fact, I was just out there meself..." It was the wrong thing to say, the pirate realized as the badgerlord lunged forward and grabbed him by the collar of his tunic, yanking him closer until their noses almost touched.
"And is it there!?" the beast shouted.
"Aye, it's there, it's there. I promise on me life!" Leadbone shrieked, struggling to pry himself away from the insane badger's grip. Atlas let go, watching as the rat fell on his rear and scrambled backwards away from him. The pirate panted, trying to regain his composure.
"Did you find it?" the badger asked, suddenly so calm that it was frightening to the rat.
He shook his head. "I didn't find it, but I know it's there."
Atlas looked at him in disbelief. "And how do you know for certain?"
"Because..." Leadbone paused, staring fearfully into the badger's eyes. "Why else would his ship be guardin' it?"
The badger raised his brow. "What do you mean?"
Leadbone looked both ways as if he expected somebeast to eavesdrop on what he was about to say, before finally opening his mouth. "I had heard other beasts talk about it an' say it was there, that it appeared on the darkest o' nights, but I didn't think I believed 'em. So, when I got there, I decided I wanted t' see if everybeast had been tellin' the truth or not. Better safe than dead, after all," the rat started, pausing for a moment. "Well... they were.
"The moment night fell, I watched as a ship with black sails came sailin' outta the mist an' did one, two... three rounds around the island. And then, it just disappeared. I went around the island t' look fer it, but it was just... gone. Beasts call it the Ghost Ship, say it sails without a crew an' protects the island. Others have told me it can sink a ship without even touchin' it, an' if ya do try t' touch it or ram it with your ship or anything o' the like, you'll go straight through it, as if it wasn't even there. They were prob'ly just fibbin', but who knows? I do know one thing though. That was The Phantom, Blade's ship, no doubt about it. I was on it long enough. I'd recognize it anywhere."
Atlas crossed his arms and stepped forward, towering over the rat. "I don't believe in ghost stories, Leadbone," he said. "I sank The Phantom. I sent it to the bottom of the ocean. How could it be back?"
Leadbone gave him a confused look. "No, it got away... Some corsairs-"
"Are you callING ME A LIAR!?" The beast's eyes were red as he placed his footpaw on the rat's chest and began to press down, squeezing the breath from out of his lungs.
Leadbone choked as he struggled to get out from under the beast's footpaw. "No... ugggh... I didn't mean... awk..."
The badger stepped off of him and allowed Leadbone to catch his breath. When the rat had regained his composure, Atlas glared at him. "Where is it? The island."
Leadbone clutched at his chest, quickly answering the question in between his gasps for breath. "Not far... a few leagues... south o' here. Maybe... about a week's journey in yer vessels."
Atlas clutched his chin, thinking it over. "It'd give us time to make preparations in Salamandastron, find a crew perhaps... yes, that'll work."
"An' what about me?" Leadbone asked, still huffing and clutching his stomach.
The badger glanced with little interest towards the rat. "What about you?"
The rat glanced towards the door of The Iron Curtain, gulping before finally saying, "I told ya what ya wanted. Can- Can I go...?"
Atlas followed the beast's eyes to the door. "Forty villages you said? Forty different villages and kingdoms you and Blade plundered?"
Leadbone was silent, daring not to disagree with him. "Aye," he said.
The badgerlord turned back to him. "Very well, you may go."
Leadbone smiled in disbelief and almost laughed, being careful as he made his way around the badger, almost expecting him to make a move to try and finish him off, but when the beast merely stood in place, still muttering to himself about his plans, the rat wasted no time in making a break for the door, pushing it open and immediately impaling himself on the end of a hare's javelin.
Leadbone gave one last gurgle before the beast lightly pushed him off with his footpaw, wiping the weapon of the blood. Atlas strode out of the tavern, giving a single glance to the seven corpses of the bar patrons lying on the ground, before turning to one of his hares holding a torch. "Burn it down. Let all wavescum know that this was the last safe haven... and that it is gone."
The soldier did as he was told, opening the door and tossing his torch inside.
The rain had stopped, and Atlas Stormstripe watched as The Iron Curtain burned brightly in the night, the billowing smoke rising high into the air and telling any pirate, corsair, or scum of the seas, that it was no longer safe. The Lost Treasure of Captain Blade was their last hope, their final chance for survival. But he would find it first.
Piracy was dead and he would keep it that way.
"Chart a course for Salamandastron," Atlas ordered. "We have preparations to make."