Most of those phrases were gibberish, but by god one of them stood out like a turd in a punch bowl. Your invocation, the one that carried you through last year’s troubles in spite of all the craziness that occurred. Dumb as it may be, strike that, idiotic as it definitely is, it’s still yours. And even if you don’t know what will happen, you prefer to wield something you’re familiar with. It’s your version of going down swinging.
“Fucking Magic!” Your words bellow through the night air and the book becomes instantly hot in your hands. For a split second, nothing else happens, then a pillar of fire nearly as thick as a tree trunk bursts forth from the tip of your pitchfork, roasting through the air and smashing directly into the captain’s chest. He scarcely has enough time to register the blow before he’s flying through the air, pushed back by the sheer force of the attack. He crashed against the doorway that doubtless leads below deck, both he and the wooden structure suddenly engulfed in flames. Perhaps he won’t burn as quickly as the other pirates, but with that much fire you doubt it will be an issue.
“Whoa.” You stare at the still slightly smoking tips of you pitchfork, then glance over to the book. It has wilted in your hand, eroding into little more than crumbled pages which are already turning to dust. Virgil did warn you it was a one-shot deal, after all.
“Fuckin’ right,” Jim agrees, pulling himself up from the ground near the mast. He seems winded, but overall no worse for the wear. If memory holds, people who are drunk stay loose in accidents and take less damage, and Jim is way fucking beyond just drunk. “You got a magic pitchfork?”
“Not especially magical,” Victoria says, appearing at your side. Her hands are slick with dark blood, and you notice for the first time that all of the other pirate corpses have been dealt with. She daintily produces a handkerchief, seemingly from nowhere, and begins carefully cleaning off her hands. Somehow, out of the whole picture, this is the part that scares you the most. “It seems our guardian picked up a boon during the trial of the gates.”
“It came in handy,” you admit, watching the bits of book blow away in the sea winds. As your attention is elsewhere, you scarcely notice the sound of movement. Near the mast, a small trap door opens and a platform rises into view. Atop it is the very archetype of a pirate’s treasure chest. When the platform finishes rising and locks into place, the top of the chest tumbles over, revealing an shining golden hoard of coins.
“That’ll buy some beer,” Jim says, staring at it intently.
“It will probably also curse us silly,” you add. “Seeing as everything here has been some sort of trick or test, I have to imagine that this is one too. I bet if we take the gold, we end up as pirates, or something else cliché like that.”
“Cliché? Now that’s just hurtful.” From the flaming wreckage nearby rises the captain, though his pallor of death has vanished and he’s shrunk a few inches. He now looks like a normal man, save for the pirate outfit and strange gleam in his eye. “I like to think of it as thematically appropriate.”
“Even your defenses against being hackneyed are hackneyed,” Victoria snaps. “You heard my guardian, he didn’t want to take the gold. The trial is done, Teach Garrote, and it makes three.”
The captain, Teach… okay seriously what is with these fucking people’s names? Seriously. Anyway, Teach’s brow furrows and a scowl descends across his face. “There was never any need for this. The town is large; there are plenty to reaped for all.”
“Oh yes, I know there was no need for it,” Victoria agrees. “This is simply a point of pride. You dared enter Willowbrook territory, and now you are exiled from it for the next hundred All Hallows Eves. As she who has entered your domain and survived the three trials, this is my right, and I claim it here and now in the name of the Graveyard Accords.” She smiles, the dangerous one that makes you worry just what sort of thing you’ve befriended. “To put it bluntly, get the fuck out of my town.”
Teach glares at her for a long while, and you wonder if he’s going to reach for that cutlass again. Finally he inclines every-so-slightly in the barest of bows. “So it is written, so shall the Garrote family obey. All who have been taken will be returned, and we will become nothing more than mist and memory by daybreak.”
“Good boy,” Victoria says.
“When you disembark the ship, you will be back outside the gates. If you’ll excuse me, I have packing to do.” Teach turns and starts to walk away, but Victoria calls him back.
“One last thing, Teach Garrote. Don’t forget the boons for my escorts.”
His shoulders slump, clearly he was hoping she’d forget about this part. Slowly, Teach turns around, only this time he’s looking at you and Jim.
“In reward for your bravery and skill, I am obligated under the Graveyard Accords to offer you each a single boon within my power. Choose quickly and wisely.”
“I’ve got the perfect idea!” Jim shouts. “Dude, I’m going to ask for a cup of beer that never runs dry.”
“Jim… we have that home. You drink from it every night.”
“Huh? Ohhh shit yeah, I guess we do.” Jim turns to face Teach, who now looks somewhat confused, in addition to being irritated. “Let me get a funnel cake that never out, then.”
“That’s… all you want?” Teach is staring at him dumbfounded, but you and Victoria expected something like this.
“It’s not a night at the amusement park without funnel cake,” Jim says. In his hands a deep fried and powdered sugar coated dish suddenly appears. Instantly you know that any days without powdered sugar all over the floors of your apartment are a thing of the past.
“Your turn,” Victoria urges.
Teach doesn’t seem the patient type, and you don’t want to push your luck, so many it’s best to ask for something quickly. That gold got you thinking about the cash you don’t have, maybe ask for some that isn’t cursed. Of course, given how crazy things in life are, maybe you should see if you can get another one of those books like Virgil gave you. Then again, you can always Jim this bitch and ask for some crazy shit.
What will it be?