Fire & Ice
Disclaimers: Everything belongs to LucasArts/Telltale Games, though I'm taking vast liberties with Jugbender and Dante Dragotta.
Notes: After playing through Tales of Monkey Island again, I found myself wondering exactly what Morgan's background is. The details we get, mostly in Lair of the Leviathan, are all very vague. So I started speculating about how these details might slot together, got innundated with plotbunnies and the result is this fanfic. Though I would still really like to see an official Telltale backstory for Morgan, either in the form of a spinoff game, written prose, or a comic by Steve Purcell. (plz Telltale?)
Big thanks to Reaper_Lyn for beta reading and feedback.
Spoilers: Some spoilers for a puzzle in Lair of the Leviathan, otherwise none.
Chapter 1 - The Sands of Melee
...clawing myself from the icy ice-cold grasp of the merciless ocean. Though exhausted by my struggle with the very gods of the sea itself, I refused to surrender myself to its chill embrace, my fingers sinking deeply into the wet sand of this as yet unknown island and proving to be a more effective anchor than the one that had failed my ship and led to its destruction on the rocks. No, I would not give up now, not now when sweet land was beneath my saturated body and working its way under my cracked fingernails. Could this truly be Melee Island, or had fate played yet another cruel trick upon me? Perhaps instead of finding the pirate elders I would discover nothing more than a tribe of ravenous cannibals or vicious three-headed apes. But whatever fate saw fit to throw at me, I knew that I, Guybrush Threepwood, would fight on regardless until I had achieved my dream and become...
"Morgan!" The call momentarily broke the girl's concentration on her book, but for now she ignored it and continued reading.
...the mightiest pirate ever to sail the seven seas. Little did I know that within a day I would have defeated the Swordmaster, discovered the legendary lost treasure of Melee Island, stolen the fabulous Idol of Many Hands and met the woman of my dreams, Governor Elaine Marley. But most awesome and terrible of all would be my confrontation with the dreaded Ghost Pirate LeChuck, a confrontation that would decide the fate of the Caribbean and become a legend to rival that of Monkey Island itself. But first...
"MORGAN!" It was clear that feigned deafness wasn't going to work this time, and with an irritated sigh the girl closed The Time I Blew Up LeChuck with an audible snap and set it down on the bedside table. She'd already read it three times over the four years since it had been published, generally about once a year, but she had never grown tired of it.
"I heard you the first time!" Morgan shouted as she sat up and swung herself off her bed, stretching as she stood. No doubt her uncle wanted her to walk Gomez, or help get the bar ready for the evening rush, or something as equally boring and not at all as dramatic as being washed ashore on an unfamiliar island or facing LeChuck. "...yeah, Morgan LeFlay, mighty barmaid," she muttered to herself, checking her reflection in the mirror behind her bedroom door. "Sounds great."
A skinny fourteen year-old glowered back at her as she combed her fingers through her dark hair to return it to some semblance of order, but it remained stubbornly untidy. Her uncle had assured her it would stay that way until she let it grow out a bit, when he wasn't telling her it made her look like a boy anyway, and Morgan was starting to warm to the idea. After all, Elaine Marley had long hair, didn't she? Giving up for now, she opened the door and headed downstairs to the bar.
As it was only early afternoon, the bar was almost empty. There were three men sitting at one of the tables in the corner, engrossed in a game of poker, but the only other person in the bar besides Morgan's uncle was a tall man standing at the bar. Even on its busiest nights, Morgan was sure that the Staggering Sailor would never be able to compete with the Scumm Bar. Granted, the liquor policies enforced by Lucre Island's ruling council and the presence of the Hall of Justice wouldn't help with that, but in the twelve years she'd lived there Morgan could only remember a handful of bar fights, and none that had involved weapons. No dueling pirates in this establishment, even though it faced the docks.
"There you are, about time too." Standing in his usual place behind the bar, Morgan's uncle was busy polishing glasses, which on Lucre involved the use of nothing but a cloth, spit being prohibited as a cleaning aid. Nicodemus 'Jugbender' LeFlay wasn't a particularly tall man, but made up for it in width. In his youth he'd been stocky, but now that he was nearing middle age he was tending more towards portly than brawny. "There's someone I want you to meet."
"I still don't want to go to finishing school." Morgan replied stubbornly. "I know my mom went to one, but you said..."
"I know, I said you didn't have to be a lady if you didn't want to." Jugbender finished for her. "It's just lucky your mother isn't still with us, or she'd skin me alive for agreein' to that."
"Ladies don't skin people alive." Heading over to the fireplace on the far side of the room, Morgan crouched down beside the large mastiff lying in front of it and scratched his ears. "Do they Gomez?" The dog only whined appreciatively in response, his short tail thumping against the floor.
Shaking his head slightly, Jugbender exchanged a glance with the man standing at the bar. "Aye, well they might make exceptions for people who let their daughters learn swordplay instead of needlework." He chuckled as Morgan's head snapped up attentively at the word 'swordplay'. "And yes, that is why I called you down."
"You found someone that'll teach me?" Morgan only just managed to keep the enthusiasm from her voice, telling herself that there was no point getting excited about it. Two years ago she had finally managed to talk her uncle into letting her learn how to fight, but swordsmanship wasn't one of Lucre's foremost professions and after a few months of lessons from two different tutors, Morgan had learned all they had to teach her. Her last tutor, who only taught swordplay as an addition to his day job as a bank clerk, had even specifically asked for her not to attend any more of his classes after she'd divested him of half his moustache during a practice session. She'd claimed that it had been an accident afterwards, but really she'd been trying to provoke him into being a more challenging opponent. It hadn't worked. "Will this one actually know how to fight?"
There was a moment of awkward silence at her words, which was abruptly broken as the tall man at the bar started laughing. Morgan turned to see her uncle staring at her, looking mortified. The tall man still had his back to her, but continued to laugh, slapping the bar as if he'd heard the best joke of his life.
"Well Jugbender, she has spirit, I'll say that for her." The man's voice had a strong Italian accent, and as he spoke he turned to look at Morgan appraisingly with sharp blue eyes. "Her manners could do with some work, but she certainly has spirit."
Morgan bristled at the crack about her manners, but a glance at her uncle's face told her it would be a bad idea for her to retort in kind. She was also finding the stranger's scrutiny unsettling, especially the way he looked her up and down as she got back to her feet, as if he was sizing her up for a fight. He raised his eyebrows slightly as Morgan locked gazes with him rebelliously, but didn't look away. If anything, there seemed to be faint approval in his eyes as she glared at him.
"Morgan," Jugbender's voice was sharper than usual as he spoke, and Morgan immediately turned her attention back to him, feeling slightly uncomfortable as she saw that he still seemed embarrassed as he gestured towards the stranger. "This is an old friend of mine from my adventurin' days, Dante Dragotta." As soon as she heard the name, Morgan felt her face burn as she blushed furiously, her uncle nodding with a wry smile at her reaction. "Aye, I thought you'd remember that name."
Still blushing, Morgan's gaze was now fixed firmly on her feet as she shifted uncomfortably on the spot. She certainly remembered the name Dante Dragotta from her uncle's stories of his travelling days. According to Jugbender, the man could hold off an entire pirate crew single-handed and parry a gunshot. The last time she'd heard his name mentioned had been in relation to her previous swordplay tutor, whom, also according to Jugbender, Dragotta could have beaten blindfolded with one arm tied behind his back and his legs shackled. She'd taken that to be exaggeration at the time, but now that she was confronted with the genuine article she wasn't so sure.
"Your uncle tells me that you wish to learn swordplay. And I see you wish to learn from someone who knows how to fight." Dragotta said smoothly, with no hint that he'd been offended by Morgan's earlier words. "If you are willing to learn, then I am willing to teach. And I can assure you I know how to fight," he added with a chuckle. "I'm sure your uncle can attest to that."
Jugbender snorted at those words, trying to hide a grin. "Ha! When you were on the Daring Dragoon we might as well have had a special flag to announce your presence, soon as any pirates got close enough to see your face they'd turn tail before they even struck their colours."
"Well, that might be a slight exaggeration," Dragotta replied modestly. "But they certainly didn't like crossing swords with me. Can't imagine why."
"Maybe because your idea of a good response to one of their insults was to stick a blade in them?" Jugbender offered. "Though you did say that was because your English wasn't so good back then and you didn't always understand what they were saying."
"Well, they should have taken some time to enunciate more clearly." Dragotta shrugged, reaching back to pick up his tankard. "They all sound the same after a while anyway."
"Uhm..." Both men looked back at Morgan as she raised her hand as if she was still in school. "About the lessons? Can I go Uncle Jugbender?"
Putting down the glass he was polishing, Jugbender twisted the cloth in his hands with a touch of anxiety. "Of course you can... there's just a bit of a catch..."
Morgan waited for her uncle to continue, but he didn't seem inclined to finish the sentence. "Do I have to go to finishing school as well?" she asked with resignation.
"No, no, nothin' like that." Jugbender replied. "But Dante's school is on Phatt Island... it's not that far, but you would have to stay there." He looked at Morgan wistfully as he spoke, obviously not entirely happy with the prospect. "But you're a big girl now, and it's about time you saw some other islands instead of stayin' with your old uncle."
"Leave Lucre?" There had certainly been times in Morgan's life when she would have been happy to leave the relatively sedate atmosphere of Lucre Island for one of the more exciting places in the Tri-Island area, if not for a different part of the Caribbean altogether. But now that the prospect was right there in front of her, making the decision wasn't so easy. She glanced at Dragotta, who was examining his nails with studied indifference, clearly not wanting to get involved. Then with a start she noticed that he was wearing a sword; while it wasn't illegal to wear arms on Lucre, it was certainly unusual. For a few moments she imagined herself striding around Melee Island with a sword at her side, able to defeat anyone who challenged her, then remembered her uncle.
Jugbender was still watching her with the same look of wistful fondness, and Morgan felt a pang of guilt at the thought of leaving him. But before she could say anything, her uncle spoke first. "I know you want to go Morgan. You always said you wanted to see other islands. But wherever you go, you'll always have a home here, you know that."
Instead of replying, Morgan darted across the room and around the bar to hug her uncle tightly. "Thank you, Uncle Jugbender. I promise I'll come back and visit." For an instant her breath was cut off as Jugbender lifted her off the floor in a bear hug, then set her back down.
"I know you will lass. But..." Glancing at the clock over the fireplace, Jugbender had to repress a sigh. "...well, Dante's heading back on the ferry this afternoon. You don't have to go now if you don't want to, but if you do..."
"I'll go pack." Bouncing up onto her tiptoes, Morgan kissed his cheek, then vaulted over the bar and ran back upstairs. She might not have been washing up on a strange beach, but an adventure was an adventure regardless, even if it didn't involve ghost pirates.