By J. Ferguson a.k.a. Timeless A-Peel
Disclaimer: I don't own Tales of Monkey Island, the Monkey Island series, nor the characters of Guybrush Threepwood, Elaine Marley, LeChuck, the Marquis de Singe, or Morgan LeFlay. They're the property of LucasArts and Telltale Games. This story is for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement intended
Timeline: Set during Tales of Monkey Island, Chapter Four: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood. If you haven't played to the end of that chapter, I recommend you stop reading right now. Here there be spoilers.
Author's Note: Well, here we are again. I wasn't really planning on writing more Monkey Island for awhile (I do have another series of fics for another fandom that I'm bent on finishing one of thes days), and I didn't have any real ideas, either. But then a couple of reviewers started asking for a piece on the infamous Morgan LeFlay, and that got me thinking. And when I start thinking, darned if I can't let these things go until I get them out of my system. This is what I came up with.
I should note that this is well and truly Morgan's story. Telltale actually managed to cram quite a bit of backstory into The Lair of the Leviathan, which meant I got to play my favourite game, "flesh out the canon." Such a new character to the series also meant that my patchy of the knowledge of the series doesn't matter quite so much. I'm playing Monkey Island 2, LeChuck's Revenge, at the moment, and I'm replaying Tales, so the gaps in my knowledge base are shrinking, if not disappearing completely. The flip side of all this is that Guybrush and Elaine have been consigned to the periphery of the story. That's just the way it shook out. I imagine I'll find my way back to them again if I manage to get my hands on the other games, but this time around they've turned over the spotlight.
One more thing. I'd like to thank all the people who have reviewed my Monkey Island stories thus far. For someone who's entirely new to the fandom, coming in and writing for these characters for an audience who knows all the ins and outs of Guybrush's world is a little nerve-wracking, but I'm really gratified by the response I've received. So thank you to everyone who reviewed, those who contacted me, everyone who's been reading, and the anonymous fan who wrote saying he or she's been checking for new stuff for ages. I wrote this a couple of weeks back, and sat on it for awhile. Now it's been edited. Hope it was worth the wait.
They said that before you died, your life flashed before your eyes. It was a cliché. Come to think of it, 'they' were a cliché. Morgan hated clichés, but she had to admit, as she lay on the floor of the lab of the Marquis de Singe, with her own sword stuck through her middle, that maybe 'they' were on to something for a change. Damn it. Morgan hated to be proven wrong. And yet, the images flashed, unbidden, behind her eyelids, and since watching them was preferable to the growing crimson puddle spreading out over the floor, she closed her eyes and let them sweep her away.
Morgan's parents hadn't been terribly attentive. A pair of mariners by birth, blood, and inclination, they'd reluctantly gone into port when they discovered Morgan's mother was expecting her. "Fallen pregnant," was how her mother put it, as though childbearing was some sort of disease, on par with scurvy or the measles. Despite retaining their ship, for her parents, life became ordinary, mundane. Sailing became a way of making a living, not a way of life. Fishing. Shipping. Charters. Smuggling. One or both of Morgan's parents would conduct any and all of these from their small base in the tri-island area. Young Morgan was also taught to sail, and, on occasion, allowed to come along on jaunts, but for the most part her parents jealously guarded the opportunity to resume their old way of life, however briefly. That meant young Morgan was left back at home, under the care of her Uncle Jugbender. Her father's brother, Jugbender was fond of his young niece, and was more than happy to watch over her in her parents' absence. True to his name, Uncle Jugbender was also a little too fond of the grog, but it never bothered Morgan that he used to fall asleep slumped in his chair, as opposed to his bed, and had the odd headache in the morning. Because in-between, he was the best playmate, willing to do all sorts of mad and silly things that all the other grown-ups labelled "immature" and "irresponsible." Playing with Uncle Jugbender almost made up for the resigned, almost disappointed expressions on her parents' faces when they came home. Back to reality. Back to the grind. Back to Morgan. Some days Morgan wished they wouldn't come home at all, so she didn't have to feel guilty about ruining everything.
One day, she got her wish.
Smuggling was dangerous, no matter how often it was practised, and not only because of the law. Other, bigger enterprises moved into the area, and wanted to make it clear that even small players like the LeFlays were not welcome in their territory. The remains of their ship were found floating in the middle of the open sea not two days after they left Morgan for what was meant to be a routine, weeklong round-trip. Trawling produced two bodies. There was no need for an investigation. Everyone knew who was responsible. The authorities were already searching for those behind the smuggling ring. What else was there to do, except have the funeral, and divvy up the assets?
The LeFlays were not wealthy, some months barely making ends meet, and this left their only daughter next-to-destitute. Jugbender, living with the family without paying room and board in exchange for looking after Morgan, had not two ha'pennies to rub together, all spare change going to the bottle. All the same, he decided it was his duty to support his young niece. He took a job at the local pub, pulling pints. They managed two months together, before Jugbender's drinking caught up with him. A barroom brawl and too many unpaid debts left him in jail, and young Morgan dragged away screaming to an orphanage another island and a whole other world away. "Unfit," they called him, but Morgan didn't understand how her new home was an improvement, sharing a room with fifteen other unfortunate girls who cried themselves to sleep just as often as she did. One night, two weeks after she'd been assigned her cot, Morgan got sick of crying, sick of being the victim. No one was going to help her. Her parents never had, and her uncle, despite his best intentions, was incapable. That left Morgan with herself, and her alone, on which to rely. Morgan dried her tears. She was going to be brave and strong and self-reliant, just the way her parents had been. She would never let herself be vulnerable, never dependent on anyone but herself. One day she would find a way to get out of here, and make a life for herself. She set her jaw determinably, her new lifecourse plotted out. She was only eight.
Morgan had been a bright child, quick to pick up skills. She taught herself to move soundlessly, so she could sneak out of the dormitory at night, and learned how to best conceal things from the women who ran the orphanage, usually purloined food and other small luxuries: a bar of scented soap, a bit of silk, a notebook. Soon rumours of her skills spread among the other girls, and she was soon acquiring items for her fellow orphans in exchange for getting out of chores and an extra food ration. The women running the orphanage had, ironically, discharged all of their maternal tendencies before assuming their positions. Morgan became the prime target for their displeasure the older she became. She talked back, often with a great deal of irreverence, and a healthy dose of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. Extra chores assigned as punishment were easily avoided by offering to acquire something for the willing. Solitary confinement was a bit daunting at first, until Morgan learned her way around a lock, at which point it all became a matter of timing—knowing when to come back in time for the lecture, and for her to display just the right amount of penitence for the lecturer to think she'd been successful.
By the time she was twelve, she had quite a nice little racket going. And yet, she was unsatisfied. Pulling the wool over the staff at the orphanage was beginning to lose its appeal—it was too easy. Morgan hungered for a challenge, a life beyond the orphanage walls. But she didn't know how to achieve it, where to begin. She knew how to sail, true, and she knew how to steal, but she also needed money, resources, training, and she couldn't acquire any of those by swiping soap. Too much ambition, not enough plan. Morgan was stuck.
Then, one day, after she had lifted a newspaper from the local newsstand, she spotted a small article on page 8, tucked in the corner below an advertisement for Stan's Gently Used Artificial Limbs. A report from far-off Melee Island, which had recently seen the second, and hopefully permanent, demise of the ghost pirate LeChuck at the hands of the governor, Elaine Marley, and a young pirate by the name of Guybrush Threepwood.
Threepwood. The name had intrigued her instantly. Guybrush's contribution to the endeavour was barely addressed in favour of a fawning portrait of the governor, but even the skimpy details were enough to paint a picture for Morgan. Only 19, he had arrived at Melee Island with hopes of becoming a Mighty Pirate, only to fall for Governor Marley and find himself embroiled in a very deadly love triangle with her would-be ghostly paramour. After many trials, Elaine was happy to inform the press that LeChuck would no longer be terrorising her constituents, and, as an afterthought, mentioned that she and Guybrush were hoping to get a root beer together later. Morgan was inspired. Not by the root beer, but the origin tale. Guyrbush had gone from nothing to a pirate in a short space of time, picking up treasure hunting, sword-fighting, and theft easily, and then embarking on his first quest almost immediately. If he could do it, so could Morgan. She already knew how to steal, but she really didn't have the patience for treasure-hunting. But sword-fighting…that sounded interesting. If she knew how to fight, she wouldn't always have to snatch things without incident. She could defend herself. But she needed a mentor, someone to teach her. Morgan read the article again. Guybrush had received his certification from the Swordmaster, but she was on Melee Island, a world away for Morgan. She needed someone local. Morgan tore the article out of the paper and pocketed it for future inspiration, then started to make a list of the thing she would need. She was going to follow Guybrush's lead. She was leaving.
It took some asking around in the less-than-savoury parts of town, but eventually Morgan had the address of one Dante Dragotta, an old soldier renowned for his swordplay and a quick tongue suited to doling out insults. She found him out in the middle of nowhere, in a shack by the sea, watching the waves drift in and out. He was surprised to find the skinny, raven-haired child on what he barely could call a doorstep.
"What are you doing here, child?"
"I want you to teach me."
"Teach you what?"
The green eyes flashed. "To fight."
He had been reluctant. He had seen too much of war and death and misery. He had retreated to the wilderness to escape and forget, not to pass the wretched skills on to a fresh generation. But Morgan's tale was impossible to dismiss, her future too bleak.
"I'm on my own," she explained, with a maturity beyond her years. "I need to be able to defend myself. A girl can only rely on herself out here. You have to admit that."
"And if I can make my way in the world, I can find my Uncle Jugbender. He's the only family I have left."
"And where is he, child?"
Morgan shrugged. "I haven't seen him in four years. Maybe still in debtor's prison. That's my best guess."
"And how will swordplay help your uncle?"
Morgan shrugged again. "I can find a lot of ways to make money, but I need to be able to survive long enough to try them."
Dante sighed. He knew what fate would befall the girl if he turned her away. She would not return to that hateful orphanage, and he didn't blame her. That left the streets, and there were very few ways a woman could make a living there, none of which were pleasant. Besides, he secretly longed for some sort of companionship, and Morgan was young and bright and would not pester him about a war she had not been alive to remember. And the daily chores were not becoming any easier. It would be useful to have a young pair of hands to help.
He agreed, but on his terms. Morgan would not only learn swordsmanship, but honour in battle. She would learn to respect the blade, not to sully it needlessly. She agreed. And so their years as master and pupil began.
Dante worked her hard, but Morgan found she rose to the challenge better than she could have ever hoped. Dante didn't limit his training to simply swinging a blade, either. Footwork, strategy, swordplay and swordsmanship, weapon maintenance, custom—all that and more. Even a bit of insult swordfighting, though Dante tended to dismiss talk as a distraction with no place in battle. Instead, he taught Morgan how to focus all of her mental energy on the battle, and her place in her surroundings. Knowing where you were, and where your opponent was, were just as important as being able to anticipate his next move and block it. Morgan learned to achieve a heightened state of consciousness, where she ignored nothing while still keeping her attention focussed on her adversary. Dante was amazed at how easily she picked up the skills, at her incisive mind's ability to run through all the possible courses of action and select the best one. She was truly gifted in the ways of the duellist, and he took great pride in his young pupil.
Of course, Morgan's lessons did not come for free. She was assigned a number of chores around the shack, and even more in town. Dante disliked leaving his hideaway, and was happy to let Morgan make the trip for supplies in his stead when the loneliness of the beach became too much for a young girl. He also began gifting her with an allowance, so that she could purchase a few things for herself on her days out. Morgan bought cloth and clothes to replace the ones she was rapidly outgrowing, gloves, boots, and, with whatever was left, newssheets about Guybrush and his exploits. She kept scrapbooks and boards at home, in her little corner of the shack that Dante had thoughtfully cordoned off with sheets, and added to them faithfully, carefully cutting out each scrap of news with great reverence. A year after joining Dante, she found the largest spread of Guybrush-related news she had ever seen, all in honour of his marriage to Governor Elaine Marley. Dante hadn't known quite how to deal with a bawling teenage girl realising for the first time that her idol didn't reciprocate her affection, but he did his best to comfort her. Morgan had recovered, eventually, and she still followed Guybrush relentlessly. She found that she could almost block Elaine's inconvenient presence out completely, and the few times she became impossible to ignore, Morgan consoled herself with the fact that the likelihood of her and Guybrush crossing paths was probably next to nil, so it wasn't as if it was ever going to pose a serious problem. In her little corner of the shack, Guybrush was hers and hers alone.
Dante was also the owner of Gomez, a scruffy little terrier he had acquired from a nearby farm, but who had so far managed to resist all his attempts at housebreaking. Morgan took an instant shine to the little dog, and played with him at every opportunity. To Dante's delight, she had a way with the animal, and was soon training him to obey the call of nature outside of the confines of the shack. So grateful was Dante to no longer have to scrub puppy mess off the shack floor that he gifted her with a handsome sum, enough for Morgan to put a considerable downpayment on a little ship in the harbour she had her eye on. Morgan used it to rekindle her love of sailing and polish up old skills that had gone rusty in her years in the orphanage. The ship meant independence, a way to earn a living and free Uncle Jugbender. In a fit of fangirlish glee, she christened it The Brushedwood, for reasons that eluded everyone but Dante, who simply rolled his eyes and muttered something about not understanding the female mind.
At seventeen, after five years together, Dante gifted her with her own blade. Until then, she'd borrowed some of his, but this one was made for her alone. Perfectly balanced, it bore Dante's name, carved in the blade near the hilt. "So that everyone will know," he told her, "that you were my pupil." Morgan squealed with delight and hugged him tight.
One day, on her way back from taking the Brushedwood out for a cruise, Morgan spotted a shadowy figure slinking off down an alley. Soon a clutch of policemen hurried past the alley in hot pursuit of someone they had inadvertently walked right by. Morgan knew she should probably alert them to their mistake, but she had her sword with her, and her hand was itching to grab the hilt. So she waited for them to disappear around the corner, drew her weapon, and crept into the shadows of the alley.
The figure inside had nowhere to go—the alley was a dead end. He whirled around when he heard Morgan approach, then smiled smugly when he saw the teenage girl standing before him, sword raised.
"Out of my way, girl," he snarled, taking a menacing step toward her. Morgan felt her eyes narrow and her nostrils flare.
"I'm not a girl," she growled, standing her ground.
The man laughed. "My apologies, little one. What are you, then?"
Morgan grinned, and it was a grin of madness that sent the man dancing back a few steps. "Your worst nightmare," she hissed, and the words echoed off the walls of the alley as she leapt at him, sword raised, a mad glint in her eye.
The police eventually located them because of the chorus of screams coming from the alley, and the instant the man saw the first officer, he practically flung himself at him. "Arrest me!" he screamed. "I did it! I did it all! I'll confess! I'll do anything! Just get me away from her! She's a demon in a girl's body!"
"I'm not a girl!" Morgan screamed back in frustration, and a few of the policemen shrank back at the rage somehow contained in the slim figure. It was up to the police chief to take a tentative step forward.
"LeFlay," Morgan cut in, feeling her breathing slowly return to normal, and the adrenaline clear itself from her system. "Morgan LeFlay."
"Ah, yes. Miss LeFlay. Of course. We've been trying to apprehend this man for years. You've done us all a great service."
"Aw, it was nothing," Morgan said, casually sheathing her sword. "He might not be able to sit down for awhile, though."
The police chief swallowed visibly as he pondered the implications of that remark. "Yes, well, all the same, it was a very, uh, publicly-minded deed. There was a reward out for his capture. Fifty pieces of eight." He removed a small sack from his belt and handed it to Morgan. "On behalf of the town." He smiled wanly, then turned to his officers. "Right, men, to the jail." The policemen didn't need to be told twice, and the whole convoy vacated themselves from Morgan's presence with unseemly haste, leaving Morgan staring, dumbfounded, at her new reward. She opened the bag and let the gold pieces slip through her fingers, felt laughter welling up in her chest. Wait until Dante saw this!
Morgan shrank back from the rage in her mentor's eyes. "I…I caught a criminal. I was rewarded for it. Why is that so bad?"
Dante was seething. "It is not the catching I object to, it is the fact that you chose to deal with the man yourself, for your own gain, when you knew the police were looking for him, and had the opportunity to point them in the right direction." He rubbed his temples angrily. "That is mercenary behaviour, Morgan. It is not an honourable way to behave."
"I didn't know I was going to get paid for it!" Morgan protested. "I did it—"
"You did it for another type of payment. Prestige. There is no real difference." He sighed and suddenly looked very old and very tired. "Morgan, I saw my share of mercenary soldiers in war. They were not people to be admired or emulated. They lived for their sword and their money."
"Just like you, then," Morgan snapped, and Dante glowered at her.
"I fought for my home and all I held dear," he growled. "Not for a pay packet and bragging rights. There is no honour in that."
"Yeah, well, maybe honour's overrated. Honour doesn't pay the bills, and honour's not going to get Uncle Jugbender out of the slammer! I have skill, Dante. Why shouldn't I be able to profit from it?"
"Because that life brings only pain and betrayal. There is no honour, loyalty, or fidelity to be found in it. Everything is reduced to the baseness of money. I would not wish that life on anyone."
"Maybe you're just jealous," Morgan countered. "Maybe you're trying to hold me back because I can cut it and you can't!"
Dante's eyes flashed. "Do not try my patience, Morgan LeFlay. I assure you, you will be sorry."
"I already am sorry! Sorry that I'm stuck in this stupid shack in the middle of nowhere."
"Then perhaps we have reached the end of our time together," he said simply, rising from his seat. "Five years is a very long time. Clearly I have no more to teach you."
Morgan blinked. "Wait, I didn't mean—"
"I would like you to leave, Morgan. I will give you one hour to pack your things. When I return, I expect you to be gone." With that, heturned and started toward the door.
Morgan felt hurt turn into anger. "Fine!" she screamed at his back. "Fine! I'll leave, and I'll make something of myself, without all your stupid rules. I'll be known from one end of the Caribbean to the other. You'll see! I'll show you! I'll show everyone!"
Dante never stopped, though she wished he would, to yell at her, to talk, to persuade her to stay. But he didn't, so she went to her little corner, tore the makeshift curtains aside, and gathered her things.
She fled into town, trying to convince herself that she wasn't crying. It was pouring down buckets by the time she found her way, blindly, to the Skull & Crossbones pub. She was underage, but she didn't particularly care if she got a drink, just so long as it was warm and dry. She pushed open the door and scuttled inside.
She could feel all eyes on her as she slunk through the door, making a beeline for the fire, but she tried to make out that she didn't care, and hoped the patrons would mistake the water droplets on her cheeks for rain drops, not tears. She settled into a chair by the fire and set about trying to dry off. Eventually she forgot about the unsavoury characters around her, and found herself completely absorbed by the warmth given off by the fire, and the dancing flames. She was all alone again, with no one to rely on but herself. If she were honest with herself, she knew that the idea didn't quite have the appeal it once did, but her wounded pride forbade her from returning to Dante. Besides, she thought, I don't need him anymore. I know my way with a sword, I have a ship. All I need is a way to turn a profit with them, and I can start earning money to get Uncle Jugbender out of prison. The question was, doing what? Morgan thought. Mom and dad did some smuggling, but I don't know if I can stand sneaking around all the time. I need action. Ditto running a charter service. Ferrying a bunch of losers who can't sail themselves between islands doesn't exactly get the heart pumping.
She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice the man sitting at the bar, half-shrouded in shadow. He was drinking grog, and eyeing her appraisingly. She sat there, quietly, but with fire in the green eyes, and a determined set of the mouth. Yes, definitely interesting. He rose from his seat to walk toward her. She didn't even realise he was standing there until he put a hand on her shoulder, and when she looked up, she nearly died of shock.
Guybrush! But in an instant she knew that he wasn't. In the dim light of the pub, the resemblance was almost uncanny, but she quickly saw through the illusion. Long blonde hair, bright blue eyes, angular features, slim build. But the features weren't quite right. The jaw just a touch too sharp, the eyes too narrow, the set of the mouth too smug and self-assured. But all the same, an attractive face, especially to Morgan, who was taking comfort in anything familiar, even if it was a bit of a shock to see someone so closely resembling her hero here of all places.
He clearly took pleasure in her confusion, seated himself in the armchair across from hers while she recovered her wits. She was determined to not let him know he had shaken her, although she didn't think that was possible. At the very least, she could keep herself from gibbering like an idiot.
"I didn't invite you to sit down," she snapped, but he simply smiled.
"I took it as read that you would," he replied, voice laced with irreverent humour. There was an accent in there, somewhere, but she couldn't sort out what it was. British? Spanish? French? Maybe a bit of all three, with something else thrown in for good measure? Regardless, it betrayed a life spent at the four corners of the globe. "Because I have a proposition for you."
Morgan snorted derisively. "You came to the wrong girl, blondie. I'm not for sale."
He laughed, shook his head. "I'm not after that," he chortled, "though I might be if you were willing. But we're getting off-topic—I have a business proposition for you. You're LeFlay, aren't you?"
Morgan felt her ears perk up, but she crossed her arms sceptically. No need to let him know she was quite as eager as he no doubt thought. "Yeah? What sort of business? And do you have a name to go with the hair?"
He laughed again, leaned forward so he could see her better. "Sorry, sorry. Very rude for a gentleman to approach a lady and not give his name." He stood up, and Morgan felt her hand automatically go to her weapon. But the man simply took her hand and swept an elaborate bow.
"Gustavo, my lady. Pirate hunter, at your service," he intoned, then looked up and winked.
"Pirate hunter?" Morgan repeated, intrigued in spite of herself. "Isn't that—?"
"Dangerous? Profitable? Exciting?" Gustavo smirked and released her hand, settled back down in his chair. "Yes. And more. But I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm in the market for a partner, though. My last ship was sunk in a storm, and I saw a rather nice little vessel in the harbour…"
"Mine," Morgan asserted, eyes narrowing. So, he wanted her ship, not her. "And she's not for sale."
Gustavo laughed. "I don't want to buy her," he contradicted. "I want to form a partnership with her owner. Before I inquired after the ownership of the vessel, I was lucky enough to catch your little, ah, 'performance' earlier."
Morgan's eyes widened. "You saw my fight?"
"And how. Miss LeFlay, you have a wonderful way with a blade. With you by my side, I don't think there's a pirate in the Caribbean we couldn't track down between us."
"Yeah?" Morgan arched an eyebrow. "And how would we split the profits?"
"Fifty-fifty, of course."
"Fifty-fifty?" It was Morgan's turn to laugh. "When I'm providing the ship? You'll have to do better than that, Gustavo."
"Gus, please," the man corrected. "And of course I'm taking the ship into consideration, but you have to remember I already have an established client base, a reputation, and the skills to not only find us more clients, but to track down the targets. For someone without experience, Miss LeFlay, I'd say fifty-fifty is more than generous."
Morgan scowled. "Boy, you really know how to sweet-talk a girl, don't you?"
He spread his arms wide and shrugged. "I'm giving you the facts, love, not asking you to like them. But I promise you the pay is worth it. My last job alone paid 1000 pieces of eight."
Morgan straightened visibly. "1000?" she repeated in awe. Even with half of that, she could earn enough to free Uncle Jugbender in no time.
"That was an exceptional case," Gus admitted, "but I never take anything below 500."
"And you promise me half?"
"That's the deal."
"How do I know I can trust you?"
Gus laughed again. "That's the beautiful thing, Miss LeFlay. You don't, no more than I know I can trust you. But I'm willing to risk it. No risk, not reward." He held out his hand. "Do we have an accord?"
Morgan looked at the hand. It could be wonderful. Excitement, adventure, and really wild things. And money. Lots of money. And she could always dump this bozo if he tried to cross her. Besides, as a pirate hunter, she might run into Guybrush somewhere along the line…
She shook Gus's hand. "Deal."
She had to admire his restraint. At seventeen, she had filled out nicely, replacing lines and angles with a nice selection of curves. She knew men in the town had started looking at her differently than they had when she arrived in town at twelve, but she never had any time for any of them, too wrapped up in her training, and Dante was protective of her. Still, working in such close proximity with Gus made it hard to not consider the possibilities, and Morgan couldn't help but admire his skills, in tracking, fighting, seamanship, stealth. She suspected the feeling was mutual, but Gus seemed genuinely interested in teaching her the ways of the pirate hunter, helping her to expand her repertoire beyond what Dante's code of honour would allow. And yet, after a year of working so closely in tandem, the attraction became too great to ignore, and romance was the next lesson on the agenda. Soon after their first encounter, Morgan went to port and got the tattoo she still bore, the one on her upper arm. 'Gus.' Permanent. Ever-lasting. Morgan and Gus. Pirate hunters. Together they sailed the Caribbean, fighting, drinking, loving, and collecting some very handsome fees. Throughout their travels, Morgan always made sure to buy a newspaper, even if she didn't know the language, hoping for a mention, and, if she was lucky, a picture of Guybrush. Her scrapbooks grew. Gus teased her about having a schoolgirl crush, but Morgan didn't care. Her star seemed to rise with Guybrush's, his adventures becoming more and more notable with each passing year. He was still with Elaine, but Morgan was still able to ignore that part of the picture. After all, it wasn't as if she actually believed she was going to end up with Guybrush. Maybe when she was a child, but that was years ago. Besides, she had Gus now. All the same, somewhere, deep down, the torch for the self-proclaimed Mighty Pirate remained lit, and Morgan still eagerly lapped up every detail, every bit of trivia, every notable skill or act, all the while sailing on with Gus. In the meantime, she carefully put money away for Uncle Jugbender's bail, and still managed to have enough to have some fun with her partner in work and love. For the next two years, life was good.
Until that day, almost a year ago.
At port, Gus suggested that they stay at the local inn, rather than onboard their ship as they usually did. "Much more romantic, love," was his justification. Morgan rolled her eyes, but agreed. The next morning, she awoke only to find his side of the bed, and, even worse, the port, empty. Morgan gaped at the empty space where her ship should have been. It was gone. Gus was gone. And with him, all of her money, every piece of eight she'd carefully put away for Uncle Jugbender's release. Gone. All of it. Morgan had been swindled out of her ship, her money, and, most importantly, her heart. She couldn't cry. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't process. All she could do was stand there, and stare, and wonder where everything had gone so wrong, how she could have been so blind.
It was then that she spotted the newspaper, in a puddle at her feet. And Guybrush's name, in running ink. Morgan looked at it, long and hard. No way would Guybrush let something like this defeat him. No way was she going to let a bastard like Gus defeat her. Morgan had it right the first time. Don't rely on anyone. Not her parents, not Uncle Jugbender, not Dante, and definitely not Gus. Loyalty and fidelity were overrated, didn't exist. It was a dog-eat-dog world out there, and she was going to be doing the eating. She still had her sword, and a few pieces of eight to her name. And her reputation. Gus had left her with one killer of a reputation.
It was time to use them.
She took on clients quickly, using whatever means she could find to reach them. Her purse expanded. Her reputation grew. She put out fliers. She put the word out in bars. Morgan LeFlay, pirate hunter extraordinaire, was open for business. And wherever she stopped for rest or refreshment, she made sure to inquire as to the whereabouts of one Gustavo. Funnily enough, there were quite a few other people looking for him, too, many of which offered rather large sums for her to bring him in. Morgan always refused the money. If she found him, she said, he would be 'on the house.' Money was not her motivation this time around.
She'd caught up with Gus, only a few weeks before she met Guybrush, in a pub on her way to do a job on Prince Hipolito de Toro. He hadn't been expecting her, to put it mildly, and his attempts to explain himself to Morgan fell on deaf ears. She challenged him to a fight to the death, and quickly proved that her skill with a blade was superior in every respect. The expression in his eyes when her sword pierced his stomach was something she would never forget as long as she lived, which just now was about five minutes. A mixture of shock, pain, regret, disbelief, and a dozen other emotions too numerous to list. As the blood bubbled out of the corner of his mouth, he gasped that he loved her. Morgan kept her face stony. All the same, when it was all over, and he was lying there, lifeless, she couldn't help but notice the striking resemblance to Guybrush. A counterfeit Guybrush. That's what he'd been. She didn't know if she could believe anything he said, if any of their life together had been real. But the tears she cried later that evening, on her way to complete her contract on Prince Hipolito de Toro were real.
So were the ones for Uncle Jugbender.
She still didn't have enough to bail him out, even though Prince de Toro had inadvertently supplied her with a ship after his untimely demise, but she thought she ought to check on him all the same, since she was in the area. When she finally saw him, she couldn't believe how much he'd aged. Long years of drinking and hard labour had taken their toll on his body, and now he was frail and barely clinging to life. Morgan dropped to her knees beside his wasted form and reached out to stroke his cheek.
"Uncle Jugbender?" she said quietly. "It's me. It's Morgan."
"Morgan?" Jugbender's eyes fluttered open, and he looked up at her in awe. "My little Morgan?"
Morgan nodded, blinking back tears. "One and the same."
"Thank you." She swallowed hard. "I'm all grown up now, Uncle. I'm a pirate hunter, Uncle. I'm trying to earn enough to get you out. I haven't forgotten…"
"I knew you wouldn't," Jugbender said happily. "I knew you'd…Morgan. Little Morgan."
But he didn't seem to hear her. His lips mouthed her name, silently, one last time, and then he slipped away, to a place she could never rescue him from. Morgan bowed her head and wept.
The funeral costs took almost every penny she had, but it was worth it. If she couldn't provide him with a decent life, at least she could do right by him in death. Besides, she had recently received a message from a potential new client on Flotsam Island, a strange little man who called himself the Marquis de Singe. And he had a very unusual request.
"Ze left 'and of Guybrush Threepwood."
"A hand?" Morgan pulled a face and raised an eyebrow. "Usually I do wholesale."
"Eet ees ze hand I need. Eet ees infected with ze pox of LeChuck."
"Eww," Morgan opined, although she wasn't terribly surprised at the request. De Singe's lab was incredibly creepy and home to all sorts of smells she didn't really want to identify. And, quite frankly, she didn't care much for the man, either, with his stupid powdered wig and face paint. But the prospect of going head-to-head with Guybrush Threepwood was too much to resist. After all these years, she was finally going to meet her hero. All of her scrapbooks had been lost with Gus, but she had managed to scrounge up a photo from a wanted poster, and she kept it with her at all times. It gave her something to hang onto. Heaven knew she had nothing else. The challenge of seeing if she could hold her own against him was too much to resist. Besides, she'd already slain one Guybrush. Stealing an appendage was nothing in comparison. She smiled. "All right, Marquis, you've got a deal."
It hadn't been terribly hard to track Guybrush, particularly since he'd only been on Flotsam a few days earlier, and the irate residents were more than happy to point her in the right direction, and were even happier to suggest places where she could put her sword when she found him. Morgan laughed. This wasn't the first time she'd met people who had recently crossed paths with Guybrush. Most of them described him as a raving kleptomaniac, whose pockets didn't so much bulge as take on a life of their own, and whose coat had taken on a rather pervasive odour that you wouldn't want to be stuck in the galley with. Morgan had dismissed them all as too stupid to understand the genius of the man. All the same, she hoped that rumour about him stuffing a dog down his pants was just the product of a deranged mind.
She'd jumped him easily, which was a bit disappointing. In fact, throughout her encounters with Guybrush, disappointment was a recurring theme. He hadn't been anywhere near the man she'd expected. Sure, he looked right, and he did manage to get her off his ship pretty cleverly the first time they'd duelled, using a barrel and the plank, and somehow he managed to know absolutely everything about her to convince de Cava they were married, which was impressive in itself. But he lost badly at pirate face-making competitions, and he preferred to talk to people rather than threaten them with grievous bodily harm. Sometimes it seemed like he was all talk and no action, and Morgan, looking for a manly, swaggering, swashbuckling type who would skewer someone as soon as look at them, tossed her picture aside in disgust. Morgan had never actually encountered anyone who spoke of Guybrush in tones of fear and awe, but she always figured he'd just never left anyone alive to talk about it. But all this sneaking around, asking questions, rigging up solutions to problems, gentling manipulating people, all seemed…soft. Morgan hadn't found a problem in all her years as a pirate hunter that couldn't be solved with the quick application of a blade, and from the stories she'd always assumed Guybrush would be the same, of a like mind. She didn't know who the Guybrush Threepwood she'd fallen for all those years ago was, but he sure as hell wasn't this guy.
To make matters worse, he was always pining after Elaine. If there was one thing a pirate didn't suit, it was the lovesick look. It made Morgan sick, too, in more ways than she cared to admit. Every once in awhile, his eyes would go distant, and she knew he was thinking of her. Morgan didn't know much about Elaine Marley. She'd explicitly chosen not to. But from what she had picked up, the picture never seemed to fit with the facts. Red-haired and green-eyed, Morgan supposed she was attractive, in a fresh-faced, scrubbed sort of way. She was three years older than Guybrush, something Morgan definitely couldn't bring herself to reconcile with Guybrush's eternally buoyant and youthful, almost childlike, personality. And her previous career had been in politics of all things. Where was the excitement in that? Pirates eschewed politics for the most part, except when it came to mutiny, but in that case it was always settled in a way that involved a lot less talk, and a lot more guts. She watched Guybrush wander around the inside of the manatee, occasionally pausing to converse with one of Coronado de Cava's long lost crewman, or utilise something from his seemingly bottomless pockets. Not one knife between the ribs the whole time. Diplomacy seemed to be the order of the day. Maybe Guybrush and Elaine were better suited than she thought.
But as time wore on, and she watched his plans come to fruition, it became harder and harder to dismiss Guybrush's ways as those of the coward's, and slowly, a new image began to resolve before her eyes, of another man, one who had honed his problem-solving skills to a fine art, who had found ways of overcoming obstacles that didn't involve mass slaughter. Guybrush could handle a blade, there was no question of that, but he'd made it a last-resort. Words and wit were the main weapons in his arsenal, but they didn't make for an exciting piece of journalism, and thus hadn't ever found their way into any article she'd ever read about him. He'd even tried his powers of manipulation on her, and, she realised, not entirely unsuccessfully. By the time he'd located La Esponja Grande, she'd fallen in love with a completely different man, not the one from the newspapers, but the real thing, a person with all the flaws and attributes that made him who he was, what he was. And the wonderful thing was, he seemed to accept her. He liked her, worked with her, consulted her, valued her advice. It was so wonderful to be trusted after what had happened with Gus. She found herself gently implying her feelings, hoping Guybrush would pick up on the signals she was sending, and sometimes, sometimes she could swear she was getting through. But there was always one complication, one encumbrance that never failed to foil her plans.
It was there, on the deck of the Screaming Narwhal, that Morgan realised there was no hope of Guybrush ever considering her as more than a close friend and fellow mariner. And her battered heart pushed her to do the only thing she knew how to do—look out for herself. But the pangs of guilt started the instant she struck him on the back of the head, and watched him collapse, unconscious, onto the deck.
They didn't ease up when he awoke, either. Morgan thought that the journey from the Narwhal to Flotsam Island was the longest she had ever experienced in her life. Despite it being evening, she could see Guybrush's bright blue eyes all-too-well, and the anger and bitter disappointment in them. She wanted to explain, wanted to tell him that all she had left now was her job, the one thing in which she could still take pride. It wasn't about the money now. It was her reputation, the last thing she had, just as Dante had predicted, and all she could cling to. She couldn't have him. What other choice was there but to hand him over to de Singe, just as she promised?
But the guilt ate away at her, no matter how many volcano shots she consumed, no matter how she tried to justify it in her head. Guybrush had trusted her, when he had every reason not to. She cut off his hand. She told him she was going to hand him over to the Marquis. He knew she was a mercenary. And yet, all the same, he'd had faith in her. Faith in the bond they formed. Faith that she'd be a faithful friend, someone who'd help him, not hinder him. Faith that, in the end, she'd do the right thing. Morgan couldn't understand it. All the people she'd tried to be faithful to—her parents, Gus—had let her down, and everyone who was faithful to her—Uncle Jugbender, Dante—she had failed. Fidelity had only ever caused her pain, through disappointment in herself and others, it seemed best to rely on no one but herself, to only deal in solid, reliable things, like money. Why would Guybrush throw caution to the winds and expect her to be any more faithful to him than she had been to anyone else in her relatively short life?
A minute later, when Elaine Marley, driven near-psychotic from the effects of the pox, burst into the bar and tried to skewer her like a cocktail weenie, she had another question. As they duelled, Guybrush appeared, attempted to be the voice of reason, and Morgan couldn't fathom why he was so willing to go through so much aggravation on behalf of this madwoman. Morgan remembered her newspaper clippings, recalled all the times Guybrush had gone to great lengths to help her, to save her, even if Elaine seemed perfectly capable of saving herself when it came right down to it. And now, on the receiving end of the ex-governor's sword, Morgan got the impression Elaine could be a bit…overwhelming in her personal relationships. Was she really worth all the aggravation? Surely it would be easier just to dump her and flee to the safety of the high seas? Morgan knew that this wasn't the first time the course of the Marley/Threepwood relationship hadn't run smooth, and yet Guybrush kept coming back, as though he were a glutton for punishment. It seemed so illogical. Morgan knew she would have been off like a shot in the same situation.
And then, when Elaine had been dragged off, cursing and struggling, by the court summons, with Guybrush in tow, Morgan had an epiphany. She wasn't sure quite what triggered it. Maybe all those volcano shots all hit home at once, came together in her stomach, and decided to have a party. Maybe it was the adrenaline of the fight. Or maybe it was Guybrush's anxious blue eyes, watching them parry back and forth. But somewhere along the line, Morgan had made an unconscious decision to pull her punches, metaphorically speaking. Elaine was fighting to kill. The bloodlust in her eyes was unmistakable. And yet, Morgan found herself fighting defensively, blocking blows, but never seeking an opening to wound, even though she'd spotted more than a few. Elaine was good with a blade, but the pox had clouded her judgement. Morgan knew, without a touch of hubris, that she could have given Elaine Marley-Threepwood a few scars to remember her by. And why not? She'd resented Elaine as far back as she could remember. She married her childhood hero. It was her job, her role, to be resented. And here was Morgan's chance to exact her revenge. And yet, she couldn't, wouldn't. Not because of Elaine, no. Because of those eyes. Those clear, impossibly blue, eyes, looking up at her from the shadows of Club 41. So unlike Gus'. So pure. So strangely innocent. So worried, for both of them. Morgan knew if she wounded Elaine, she may as well drive her sword straight through Guybrush's heart as the finishing touch. It would be the cruellest cut—betrayal, and the pain of a loved one, all rolled into one. And Morgan had already done enough to make Guybrush Threepwood's life miserable for one day.
And that was the nub.
Morgan stood in the bar, shoulders heaving, and thought it through. Maybe, fidelity wasn't meant to be separate from pain. Maybe they went hand-in-hand. Maybe Morgan had been approaching things all wrong, expecting relationships to be a source of only joy, never pain. Maybe being faithful to someone, friend or lover, meant that you accepted the pain, not because it wasn't present, but because it was overpowered by the love you felt for the other. And maybe Elaine, to Guybrush, was worth all the extra effort. And maybe that meant that Morgan was, too. Guybrush had already tried to talk to her after he'd gotten out of prison, so clearly he couldn't have hated her too much. Perhaps he had faith in her because he thought she, too, had more to offer, maybe not in the same way as Elaine, but in a way that he felt was important. And if she was important, in some way, to someone who thought she was worth the effort, Morgan felt that that faith deserved some reinforcing. So she set out to find Guybrush's severed hand, to prove that she appreciated, no, was worthy, of his faith, all of it, all he had placed in her, misplaced or not.
She didn't regret it, either, not even now, lying on the floor with her own blade stuck through her. She would do it again in a heartbeat, because, for her, Guybrush was worth the pain. He always had been. Maybe there was something to be said for being faithful to first loves. Even if it hurt you. Even if you had already hurt them.
Her vision was blurring, from tears or because her brain was shutting down, she couldn't be sure, but she still picked out the head of blond hair, the bright eyes, as they leaned over her. He was here, now, speaking softly, and she knew he had forgiven her, that she still held a place in his heart and mind, even if it wasn't quite the same one he held in hers. But it made it all a little bit better. Just a little bit, even as she slipped away.
Faith did that.