"Uhhhggghh…" Hannah "Tahlia" Solo thumped her third empty mug of ale down onto the table. "I hate my life," she moaned.

{You wouldn't have this problem if you learned to drink in moderation,} said her companion, except that since he was a seven-foot-tall abominable snowman, it came out as, "Blar!"

"Thish is no time for moderation!" Hannah replied, as she wobbled to her feet. "My reputation is ruined! My good name implunged! My honour all messed up badly-like! This shall not stand!"

{Neither can you, apparently,} he replied, as she toppled to the floor.

"Shaddap." She crawled back to her bar-stool. "'Nuther round, bartender!"

It had all gone south so fast, she thought. Just a week ago, she had been known far and wide as Tahlia, Pirate Queen of the Blood Sea, the most feared and respected smuggler and privateer this side of Azeroth, having won the moniker from the previous queen in a deadly game of Tic-Tac-Toe (with cannons). She commanded a fleet of ships, owned her own island, and had a promising line of designer shirts in the works.

And then her idiot identical twin sister, Bikke, decided to dance naked in the sacramental fountain during the coronation of Prince Phillip whilst singing a questionable ballad about the queen's giant behind.

Queen Gluteus had been in the front row. She was displeased.

One writ of execution later, and she'd fled the country, disguising herself as a pickle barrel. Her island was seized, her crew quit, and the shirt company wouldn't even return her letters. Only her stalwart companion, Chewbacca, had stayed with her, and that was because he owed her a life-debt.(1)

Hannah tossed back another mug. "Like I said, Chewie –"

{I keep telling you, my name is Karnon…}

"– Your name is CHEWIE and you will like it!" she hissed. She cleared her throat. "Like I said, you and me, we need to get back into the big leagues. We're the roughest, toughest, most badass pair of mercenaries this world's ever seen, yet because of my thrice-damned sister I can't even get a job as a cabin girl."

{Couldn't you prove that it wasn't you?}

"How? You know I was alone on Ilsa de Diablo Fuego Grandé Por Favore stealin' Captain Sparrow's golden pantaloons for the queen at the time. I got no alibi, and no friends that didn't either see her or get paid off by the queen herself."

{Well, you could always show them your Mark of the Tiger.}

"My what?"

{You know, your tattoo? The one your sister doesn't have?"

All the alcoholic flush drained from Hannah's cheeks in an instant. "No one must know about the tattoo," she said, in a hoarse whisper.

{Why not? Is it because you got it done on the inside of your left b–"

Karnon suddenly found himself nose-to-nose with the pirate queen, her eyes burning like tiny suns. "NO. ONE. MUST. KNOW," she hissed.

{Okay, okay!} he growled, arms raised in placation.

"No one! Not ever!"

{Just a suggestion.} As she returned to her drink, he added, sotto voce, {I think it's cute.}

Hannah took a swig, and belched. "No, Chews, that's not the way. We'll do it like old times, like all the good 'venturers(2) do it: we'll sit here in a bar 'n drink till either nature or glory calls us to action."

{Did you just hear someone yell, 'Random Encounter'?}

Suddenly, the bar's front door was smashed to flinders. Through the ravaged portal clanked a massive man in crimson armour so huge he could barely fit through the doorframe.

"I AM HUGO THE GLORIOUS!" he bellowed. "For too long has the nefarious Doctor Claw blighted these lands! I seek warriors brave and true to join my band in our quest to cleanse the land of his taint! WHO IS WITH ME!?"

The bar went silent. Several irritated barflies plucked splinters out of their beer and hair.

Hugo sighed. "We have an excellent dental plan."

Pandemonium broke out as swarthy men and women flocked around him, some offering their swords, others demanding he pay off their tab.

"That's it!" cried Hannah. "That's our ticket to glory, Chewie!"

Karnon looked incredulous. {You want to work with him?}

"Gods no!" she replied, rolling her eyes. "Man has an ego the size of a dreadnought. Besides, he still hasn't forgiven me for that incident in Santo Marino."

They both paused to have a good laugh at the memory.

"No," she continued, wiping a tear from her eye, "no, Chewie, I mean we go get that guy ourselves! We'll rustle up a crew, knock over a few monster strongholds, and get rich and famous!"

{And save the world?} Karnon suggested.

"Yeah, sure. Okay, I'll take downtown, you search the slums. Meet you back here in an hour!"


[Footnotes]

1. About $50.27, plus tax.

2. Read: unemployed murderers.