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BILGEWATER BURNING TIDES ACT 3

Act Three of Riot’s Bilgewater event is now up on the promo site.

 

Live the Event

Explore the World

Act Three Lore

[ Note ] You can check out all the upcoming pirate-themed content HERE.

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Bilgewater-Act-2-Banner (1)

 

 

CAPTAIN FORTUNE

Captain Fortune is now available for hire at 975 RP.

 

MissFortune_Splash_8 Bf1RHyG

 

MODEL

Miss Fortune Skin 1 Miss Fortune Skin 2

 

Recall Banner

Miss Fortune Recall

 

 

EXPLORE THE WORLD

You can explore waters around the Slaughter docks HERE.

Dead Pool

 

 

chapter-heading-act-3-part-1

ACT THREE PART ONE

BLOOD TRUTH DEATHS DAUGHTER

The fist slams into my face again. I go down hard, hitting the deck of Gangplank’s ship. Pig-iron cuffs dig into my wrists.

I’m hauled back upright and forced to kneel alongside T.F. Not that my legs would hold me if this pox-ridden mob made me stand.

The massive, slab-muscled bastard that hit me swims in and out of focus.

“Come on now, son,” I slur. “You’re doing it all wrong.”

I don’t see the next one coming. There’s just an explosion of pain, and I’m back on the deck. Once again, I’m lifted up and forced to kneel. I spit out blood and teeth. Then I grin.

“My old ma hits harder than you do, boy. And she’s been dead and buried five years now.”

He steps forward to knock me down again, but a word from Gangplank stops him in his tracks.

“Enough,” the captain says.

Swaying slightly, I try to concentrate on Gangplank’s blurred outline. Slowly, my eyes clear. At his waist, I see he’s wearing that damn knife that T.F. stole.

“Twisted Fate, huh? I heard you were good, and I’ve never been one to look down on a good thief,” Gangplank says. He steps in close and glares at T.F. “But a good thief knows better than to steal from me.” He hunkers down and looks me square in the eye.

“And you… If you’d been two shades smarter, you could have put that gun to work for me. But we’re past that now.”

Gangplank stands up and turns his back to us.

“I’m not an unreasonable man,” he continues. “I don’t expect folk to bend the knee. All I ask is a modicum of respect – something you boys pissed all over. And that can’t go unpunished.”

His crew pushes in, like dogs waiting for the order to rip us apart. I ain’t rattled, though. I won’t give them the satisfaction.

“Do me a favor,” I say, nodding toward T.F. “Kill him first.”

Gangplank chuckles at that.

He nods to a crewman, who starts banging away on the ship’s bell. In answer, dozens more across the port city ring out. Drunks, sailors, and shopkeeps start pouring onto the streets, drawn by the ruckus. The bastard wants an audience.

“Bilgewater’s watching, boys” Gangplank says. “Time to give ’em a show. Bring out Death’s Daughter!”

There’s a cheer, and the deck drums with the clamor of stamping feet. An old cannon is wheeled out. It may be rusted and green with age, but it’s still a beauty.

I glance over at T.F. His head’s down, and he ain’t sayin’ nothin’. They took his cards off him… once they found ’em all. They didn’t even leave him his stupid, dandy hat – some little inbred bastard in the crowd’s wearing it.

In all my years of knowing T.F., he’s always had an out. Without one, here and now, he looks defeated.

Good.

“You’re gettin’ what you deserve, you son of a bitch,” I snarl at him.

He stares back at me. There’s fire in him still.

“I ain’t proud of how things went-”

“You left me to rot!” I interrupt.

“Me and the whole crew tried to break you out. And they died for it!” he snaps back at me. “We lost Kolt, Wallach, the Brick – all of ’em – just trying to save your stubborn ass.”

“You made out alright, though,” I reply. “You know why? It’s because you’re a coward. And nothing you’ll ever say can change that.”

My words hit him like a punch in the guts. He doesn’t argue. The last glimmer of fight in him goes, and his shoulders slump. He’s done.

I don’t think even T.F. is this good an actor. My anger fades.

I feel tired suddenly. Tired and old.

“Everything went to hell, and maybe we’re both to blame,” he says. “I wasn’t lying, though. We tried to get you out. Doesn’t matter. You’ll believe what you want anyway.”

It takes a moment for that to sink in. It takes a moment longer to realize that I believe him.

Damn me, he’s right.

I do things my way. Always have. Whenever I pushed it too far, he had my back. He was always the one with the out.

But I didn’t listen to him that day, and I haven’t since.

And now, I’ve killed us both.

Suddenly, T.F. and I are yanked to our feet and dragged toward the cannon. Gangplank pats its muzzle, like it’s a prized hound.

“The Death’s Daughter’s done well by me,” he says. “I’ve been wanting to give her a proper send off.”

A heavy chain is dragged forward, and sailors begin looping it around the cannon. I see now how this is gonna pan out.

T.F. and I are shoved back to back, and the same chain is run around our legs and through our manacles. A padlock snaps shut, binding us to the chain.

A boarding gate in the ship’s bulwark slides open, and the cannon’s rolled into place in the gap. The wharfs and docks of Bilgewater are now packed with gawkers, here to see the show.

Gangplank rests the heel of his boot on the cannon.

“Well, I can’t get us out of this one,” T.F. says, over his shoulder. “I always knew you’d get me killed one day.”

A laugh escapes my lips at that. It’s been a long time since I laughed.

We’re dragged toward the edge of the ship, like cattle to the slaughter.

I guess this is where my story ends. I had a good run for a while there. But nobody’s luck lasts forever.

It’s only then that I know what I should do.

Carefully, straining against my manacles, I reach into my back pocket. It’s still there; the playing card T.F. dropped back in the warehouse. I’d aimed to shove it down his bastard throat.

They checked T.F. good for cards – but not me.

I nudge him. Chained back to back, it’s easy to hand the card off to T.F. without being seen. I can feel him hesitate as I pass it to him.

“You two will make a meager tithe, but you’ll serve,” says Gangplank. “Give the Bearded Lady my regards.”

With a wave to the crowd, Gangplank kicks the cannon over the side. It hits the dark water with a splash, and sinks fast. The chain on the deck spools out after it.

Now, at the end, I believe T.F. I know he tried everything to get me out, like he did all those times when we ran together. This time, for once, I’ve got the out. I can at least give him that.

“Get outta here.”

He starts going through the motions, spinning the card around his fingers. As the power starts to build, I feel an uncomfortable pressure in the back of my skull. I always hated being close to him when he did his trick.

And then, he’s gone.

The chains binding T.F. drop to the deck with a crash, and there’re shouts from the crowd. My chains are still locked tight. I ain’t getting out of this, but it’s worth it just to see the look on Gangplank’s face.

The cannon’s chain yanks me off my feet. I hit the deck hard, and grunt in pain. In an instant, I’m dragged over the edge of the boat.

The cold water hits me, stealing my breath.

Then I’m under, sinking fast, dragged down into the dark.

 

 

chapter-heading-act-3-part-2

ACT THREE PART TWO

THE PLUNGE A FIGHT WITH DARKNESS PEACE

The card Malcolm puts in my hand could easily get me to the wharf. I’m so close to shore, and from there, the huge crowd’s just perfect for me to vanish into. I could be off this rat’s ass of an island inside an hour. This time, no one would ever find me.

Then all I can see in my mind is his pissed-off face disappearing into the depths.

Son of a bitch.

I can’t leave him. Not after last time. There’s no running away from this. I know where to go.

The pressure builds, and then I shift.

In an instant, I’m right behind Gangplank, ready to make my move.

One of his crew spots me – he looks baffled, like he’s trying to figure out how I got there. While he thinks about it, I punch him square in the face. He collapses into a crowd of bewildered deckhands. They all turn on me with cutlasses drawn. Gangplank leads the attack, slashing straight at my throat.

But I’m faster. In one deft move, I slide underneath the arcing steel and lift Gangplank’s prized silver dagger from his belt. Behind me, I hear cursing that could split the mast in two.

I leap to the deck, stowing the dagger in my britches as the end of the chain tears toward the edge of the ship. I stretch and grab the last steel link just before it disappears overboard.

The snap of the chain hauls me over the side, and now I realize what I’ve done.

The water is coming at me fast. In that frozen moment, every single part of me wants to let go of the chain. Being a river man who can’t swim has plagued me my whole life. Now it’ll be the death of me.

I take one final gulp of air. Then a musket shot rips into my shoulder. I yell out in pain, and lose my last breath just before I’m dragged under.

Frigid water punches me in the face as I sink into the suffocating blue.

This is my nightmare.

Panic wells inside. I try to quell it. It’s almost too much. More shots pierce the water above me. I’m still sinking.

Sharks and devilfish circle. They taste the blood. They follow me deeper into the abyss.

Everything is terror. No pain now. Heart pounds in my ears. Chest burning. Gotta keep the water out. Darkness coils around me. Too far down. No way back. I know that now.

But maybe I can save Malcolm.

Below me, there’s a thud, and the chain goes slack. The cannon’s hit the seabed.

I pull myself down the chain into the shadows. There’s a shape below. I think it’s Graves. Frantic, I drag myself toward him.

Then he’s right in front of me, though I can barely see the outline of his face. I think he’s shaking his head at me, angry that I came back.

I’m growing faint. My arm is numb and my skull is being crushed.

Letting go of the chain, I pull the dagger from my waist. My hand trembles.

I fumble in the darkness. By some miracle, I find the lock on Graves’s cuffs. I work the blade to coax it open, like I have a thousand locks before. But my hands won’t stop shaking.

Even Graves must be terrified. His lungs have to be giving out by now. The lock isn’t budging.

What would Malcolm do?

I twist the dagger. No finesse – nothing but force.

Something gives. I think I cut my hand. The dagger is falling. Into the abyss. There it goes… Is it glowing?

Above me, bright red. Red and orange… Everywhere. It’s beautiful… So this is what it’s like to die.

I laugh.

Water rushes in.

It’s peaceful.

 

chapter-heading-act-3-part-3

ACT THREE PART THREE

FIRE AND RUIN A CONCLUSION TURN FOR THE WORSE

Miss Fortune stared across the harbor from the deck of her ship, the Syren. Flames reflected in her eyes as she absorbed the full level of destruction she had wrought.

All that remained of Gangplank’s ship was burning wreckage. The crew had been killed in the detonation, drowned in the chaos, or claimed by the swarming razorfish.

It had been glorious. An immense ball of rolling fire had lit up the night like a new sun.

Half the city had witnessed it; Gangplank himself had seen to that, as she knew he would. He had to parade Twisted Fate and Graves in front of Bilgewater. He had to remind everyone why no one should cross him. To Gangplank, people were just tools used to maintain control – so she’d used that to kill him.

Shouts and tolling bells echoed across the port city. Word would be spreading like wildfire.

Gangplank is dead.

The corners of her lips curled into a smile.

Tonight was merely the endgame: Hiring T.F., tipping off Graves – all just to distract Gangplank. It had taken years to exact her revenge.

Miss Fortune’s smile faded.

From the moment he had stormed into her family’s workshop, his face hidden behind a red bandana, she had been preparing herself for this moment.

Sarah lost both her parents that day. She was just a child, but he shot her down as she stood watching her parents bleed out on the floor.

Gangplank taught her a harsh lesson: that no matter how safe you feel, your world – everything you’ve built, everything you care for – can be taken away in an instant.

Gangplank’s one mistake was not making sure she was dead. Her anger and her hate had sustained her through that first cold, painful night, and every night since.

For fifteen years, she had scraped together everything she needed; waiting until she wasn’t even a memory to him, for him to drop his guard and get comfortable in the life he’d built. Only then would he truly be able to lose everything. Only then would he know what it felt like to lose his home, to lose his world.

She should have been feeling exultant, but she just felt empty.

Joining her at the gunwale, Rafen jolted Sarah from her reverie.

“He’s gone,” he said. “It’s over.”

“No,” replied Miss Fortune. “Not yet.”

She turned from the harbor, casting her gaze across Bilgewater. Sarah had hoped that killing him would kill her hate. But all she had done was unleash it. For the first time since that day, she felt truly powerful.

“This is just the beginning,” she said. “I want everyone loyal to him to be brought to answer. I want the heads of his lieutenants mounted on my wall. Burn every bawdy house, tavern, and warehouse that bears his mark. And I want his corpse.”

Rafen was shaken. He’d heard words like that before, but never from her.

 

 

chapter-heading-act-3-part-4

ACT THREE PART FOUR

RED SKY CHUMMING THE WATERS RECONCILIATION

I’ve thought a lot about the ways I’d wanna go out. Chained up like a dog at the bottom of the ocean? That one never crossed my mind. Lucky for me, T.F. manages to pop the lock on my shackles just before he drops the dagger.

I scramble out of the chains, thirsty for breath. I turn toward T.F. Poor bastard’s not moving. I twist my hand around his collar and start kickin’ toward the surface.

As we go up, suddenly everything lights up bright red.

A shockwave knocks me ass over ears. Chunks of iron sink past us. A cannon plunges by. Then a charred hunk of rudder. Bodies, too. A face covered in tattoos stares in shock at me. The severed head then slowly disappears into the darkness beneath us.

I swim faster, my lungs set to bust.

An age later, I’m at the surface, coughing up salt water and gasping for air. But it’s damn near unbreathable. Smoke chokes me and claws at my eyes. I’ve seen things burn in my time, but never like this. Looks like someone set the whole world on fire.

“Damn me…” I hear myself mutter.

Gangplank’s ship is gone. Bits of smoking debris are scattered all across the bay. Fiery islands of wood collapse all around, hissin’ as they go under. A flaming sail falls right in front of us, nearly dragging T.F. and me back down for good. Burning men desperately jump from smoldering pieces of wreckage into the water, quietin’ their own screams. It smells like the end of everything – sulfur and ash and death; cooked hair and melting skin.

I check on T.F. I’m strugglin’ to keep him above water. Son of a bitch is a lot heavier than he looks, and it ain’t helping that half my ribs are broke. I find a piece of scorched hull floating nearby. It looks solid enough. I pull us both on top. It ain’t exactly seaworthy, but it’ll do.

For the first time, I get a good look at T.F. He ain’t breathin’. I wail on his chest with my fists. Just when I’m worried I’m going to cave his ribs in, he coughs out a lungful of seawater. I slump and shake my head again as he slowly comes to his senses.

“You stupid son of a bitch! What did you come back for?”

It takes him a minute to answer.

“Thought I’d try it your way,” he mutters, slurring his words. “See what being a stubborn ass felt like.” He hacks up more water. “Feels awful.”

Razorfish and even meaner sea critters are startin’ to gather around us. I ain’t about to be anything’s chow. I pull my feet away from the edge.

A mangled crewman bobs to the surface, grabbin’ for our raft. I plant my boot in his face and shove him off. A fat tentacle wraps around his neck and drags him back under. Now the fish have something else to keep ’em busy.

Before they run out of fresh meat, I break off a plank from our raft and use it to paddle us away from the feedin’ frenzy.

I pull at the water for what seems like hours. My arms are heavy and hurtin’, but I know better than to stop. Once I’ve put some distance between us and the massacre, I collapse onto my back.

I’m spent like an empty shotgun shell as I look out over the bay. It’s stained red with the blood of Gangplank and his crew. Not a survivor in sight.

How am I still breathing? Maybe I’m the luckiest man on Runeterra. Or maybe T.F.’s carrying enough good fortune for the both of us.

I see a body floating by, holding something familiar lookin’. It’s Gangplank’s little inbred bastard, still clutching T.F.’s hat. I take it off him and toss it to T.F. He ain’t even a little surprised, like he always knew he’d get it back.

“Now we just need to find your gun,” he says.

“What, you itchin’ to go back down there?” I say, pointing to the deep.

T.F. turns a funny shade of green.

“We ain’t got the time. Whoever did this, they left Bilgewater without a boss,” I tell him. “It’s gonna get ugly here, fast.”

“You’re telling me you can live without your gun?” he asks.

“Maybe not,” I say. “But I know a really good gunsmith in Piltover.”

“Piltover…” he says, lost in thought.

“Lot of money flowing through there right now,” I say.

T.F. figures hard for a moment.

“Hmm. Not sure about having you as a partner again – you’re even dumber than you used to be,” he finally answers.

“That’s alright. I’m not sure about havin’ a partner called Twisted Fate. Who the hell came up with that?”

“Well, it’s a damn sight better than my real name,” T.F. laughs.

“Fair enough,” I admit.

I grin. It feels just like the old days. Then I go stone faced and look him dead in the eye.

“Just one thing: You ever have mind to leave me holding the bag again, I’ll blow your goddamn head off. No questions.”

Fate’s laugh dies down, and for a moment, he glares back at me. Then, after a while, he just smiles.

“You got a deal.”

 

 


If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at @NoL_Chefo or e-mail me at [email protected]

 

Bilgewater Act 2 Banner

Act Two of Riot’s Bilgewater event is now up on the promo site.

 

Live the Event

Explore the World

Act Two Lore

[ Note ] You can check out all the upcoming pirate-themed content HERE.

Bilgewater-Burning-Tides-Banner (1)

 

 

Live the Event

Pirate skins, wards, bundles and merchandise are now on sale.

Event Skins Banner Bilgewater Skins

 

 

CORSAIR QUINN

Corsair Quinn can fly to your aid for a price of 750 RP.

 

Quinn Splash Mirror Quinn Load Screen Mirrored

 

MODEL

Corsair Quinn Updated 1 Corsair Quinn Updated 2

 

BLINDING ASSAULT Q

Corsair Quinn Q 

 

TAG TEAM R

Valor Model

 

 

CUTPURSE TWISTED FATE

You can gamble on Cutpurse TF for 750 RP.

 

Graves_Splash_6 Cutpurse TF Load Screen

 

MODEL

Cutpurse TF 1 Cutpurse TF 2

Cutpurse TF Update 2 Cutpurse TF Update 1

 

PICK A CARD W

Cutpurse TF 3

 

CUTTHROAT GRAVES

Graves won’t cut your throat if you cough up 750 RP.

 

Graves_Splash_6 Cutthroat Graves Load Screen

 

MODEL

Cutthroat Graves Updated 1 Cutthroat Graves Updated 2

 

 

ROGUE ADMIRAL GAREN

Rogue Admiral Garen will let you join the ranks for 750 RP.

 

Quinn Splash Mirror Rogue Garen Load Screen

 

MODEL

Rogue Garen Model 1 Rogue Garen Model 2

 

COURAGE W

Rogue Garen W 2

 

 

SEA HUNTER AATROX

You can have this uglier Witcher siren for 750 RP.

 

Aatrox_Splash_32 (3) Sea Hunter Aatrox Load Screen

 

MODEL

Aatrox Model 1 Aatrox Model 2

 

 

BILGEWATER VETERANS BUNDLE

bundle-bilgewater-veterans-bundle

50% off

Bilgewater-inspired artists and designers created alternate fantasy skins even before the city became the latest setting for a League event. Add these classic skins to your collection in this flexible cost bundle for 2996 RP (4118 RP if you need the champs) until 2:00 PDT on August 10, including Bilgewater Katarina, Bilgewater Swain, Bilgerat Rumble (Legacy), Fiddle Me Timbers, Buccaneer Tristana, and Pirate Ryze (Legacy).


GANGPLANKS SALTSCOURGED BUNDLE

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25% off

Seize control of Runeterra’s seas with Gangplank’s Saltscourged Bundle! This flexible cost bundle lays keel at 3535 RP (4127 RP if you need GP), lasts until 2:00 PDT on August 10, and includes Sailor Gangplank (Legacy), Special Forces Gangplank, Minuteman Gangplank, Toy Soldier Gangplank (Legacy), Sultan Gangplank, and Spooky Gangplank.


MISS FORTUNES BOUNTY HUNTER BUNDLE

bundle-bounty-hunter-bundle

25% off

Strut into action with the Bounty Hunter Bundle! This flexible cost bundle clocks in at 4547 RP (5139 RP if you need MF), lasts until 2:00 PDT on August 10, and includes Arcade Miss Fortune, Mafia Miss Fortune, Candy Cane Miss Fortune (Legacy), Road Warrior Miss Fortune (Legacy), Secret Agent Miss Fortune, Cowgirl Miss Fortune, and Waterloo Miss Fortune.

 

 

SLAUGHTER FLEET WARD SKIN

Available for 640 RP.

Slaughter Fleet Ward Skin Model

wardskin_43

 

MOTHER SERPENT WARD SKINS

Available for 640 RP.

Mother Serpent Ward 1

wardskin_42

 

BILGEWATER CREST ICON

Available for 250 RP.

bilgewater-faction-icon

 

MERCHANDISE

You can pick up these 5 statue for 20 dollars each, discounted from 25, from Riot’s merch store.

Graves Statue Miss Fortune Statue

Nami Statue Gangplank Statue

Nautilus Statue

 

You can snag the Bilgewater mousepad for 18 dollars; the Graves unisex T-shirt will cost you 25.

Bilgewater Mousepad Graves Unisex Tshirt

 

 

EXPLORE THE WORLD

In the second act, you can take a tour of Bilgewater’s Slaughter Docks.

Slaughter Docks

 

chapter-heading-act-2-part-1

ACT TWO PART ONEMelee on the Docks Banner

I’m coughin’ up black. The smoke from the warehouse fire is tearin’ my lungs to shreds, but I don’t have time to catch my breath. T.F.’s getting away, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna spend another dog’s age chasin’ him all over Runeterra. It ends tonight.

The bastard sees me coming. He shoves a couple of dock hands out of the way and runs off across the wharf. He’s trying to work his escape card, but I’m keeping the heat on him, so he can’t focus.

More Hooks swarm around, like flies on an outhouse. Before they can block his path, T.F. tosses a couple of his exploding cards and takes the thugs out. A few Hooks are an easy fight for him. But I ain’t. I’m comin’ to get my due, and T.F. knows it. He scurries down the wharf as fast as he can.

His scuffle with the dock boys gives me just enough time to catch up. He sees me and darts behind a huge hunk of whale spine. A blast from my gun shatters his cover, filling the air with shards of bone.

He answers by trying to take my head off, but I shoot his card in midair. It explodes like a bomb, knocking us both on our asses. He scrambles to his feet first and takes off. I fire Destiny as fast as she’ll shoot.

Some Hooks close in on us with chains and cutlasses. I turn quick and blow their insides out their backs. Before I can hear the wet slap of their guts on the dock, I’m spinning on my heels. I take aim at T.F., but I’m clipped by a shot from a pistol. More Hooks, and these are better armed.

I duck behind a piece of an old trawler’s hull to return fire. My gun just clicks. Gotta reload. I slam some fresh shells into the cylinder, spit my anger onto the floor, and wade back into the chaos.

All around me, shots and bolts burst through wooden crates. One of ’em tears a chunk of my ear off. I just grit my teeth and plow forward, squeezing the trigger. Destiny is chewin’ up everything. One Jagged Hook loses a jaw. Another is blasted into the bay. A third gets torn into a red sheet of muscle and sinew.

I snap around to find T.F. escaping deeper into the slaughter docks. I run past a fishmonger hanging up scavenger eels. One of the beasts is just skinned, its innards still spillin’ onto the dock. The monger turns on me, swinging a meat hook.

BOOM.

I take off his leg.

BOOM.

I follow up with a shot to his head.

I shove away a stinking razorfish carcass and keep moving. The blood is ankle deep, some of it from the fish and some from the Hooks we’ve gunned down. It’s enough to give a dandy like T.F. fits. Even with me on his tail, he slows his stride to keep from messin’ up his skirts.

Before I can close in, T.F. kicks on into a gallop. I can feel myself losing wind.

“Turn and face me!” I holler.

What kind of man don’t own up to his problems?

A noise to my right draws my attention to a balcony holding two more Hooks. I fire, and the whole thing crashes to the docks.

The gun smoke and debris are so thick, I can’t see a damn thing. I run toward the sound of his lady boots thudding across the wooden slats. He’s makin’ for Butcher’s Bridge at the end of the slaughter docks – the only way off the island. Damned if I’m letting him get away again.

As I reach the bridge, T.F. skids to a halt, halfway across. At first, I think he’s given up. Then I see why he stopped: On the far side, blocking his way, there’s a mass of sword-wielding bastards. But I ain’t backing down.

T.F. turns back only to find me. He’s trapped. He looks over the side of the bridge, down at the water. He’s thinking about jumping – but I know he won’t.

He’s all out of options. He starts walking toward me.

“Look, Malcolm. Neither of us needs to die here. As soon as we get out of this-”

“You’ll run again. That’s all you’ve ever done.”

He don’t answer. Suddenly, he ain’t so worried about me. I turn back to see what he’s fixed on.

Behind me, I see every lowlife that can carry a blade or pistol storming onto the docks. Gangplank must’ve called in all his boys from across the city. To keep going’s a death sentence.

But livin’ ain’t the most important thing to me today.

 

chapter-heading-act-2-part-2

ACT TWO PART TWOClosing in Banner

They’re in no rush, the Hooks. Not anymore. They know they have us trapped. Behind them, it looks like every rat-stabbing cutthroat in Bilgewater has shown up to the party. No way back.

On the far end of the bridge, blocking my escape into the maze of Bilgewater’s slums, is what appears to be the whole Red Caps dock gang. They rule the east side of the waterfront. Gangplank owns them, just like he owns the Hooks and nearly the whole damned town.

Behind me, there’s Graves, stomping ever closer. The stubborn son of a bitch doesn’t care about the mess we’re in. It’s amazing, really. Here we are, yet again, like all those years ago. Deep in the muck, and he just won’t listen.

I wish I could tell him what really happened back then, but there’s no point. He wouldn’t believe me, not for a second. Once something’s lodged in that thick skull of his, it takes a while to shake it loose. And we don’t have a while.

I back up to the side of the bridge. Over the rail, I see the winches and pulleys suspended beneath me – then the ocean far below. My head spins, and my stomach drops into my boots. As I stagger back to the middle of the bridge, I get a full view of how bad a spot I’m in.

Looming in the distance is Gangplank’s black-sailed ship. From it, a damned armada of boats is closing in below, rowing hard. Looks like all of his men are heading our way.

I can’t get through the Hooks, I can’t get through the Caps, and I can’t get through Graves’s pig-headedness.

Only one way to go.

I step up onto the railing of the bridge. We’re even higher than I realized. The wind whips at my coat, making it snap like the sails of a ship. I should never have come back to Bilgewater.

“Get the hell down from there,” says Graves. Is there a hint of desperation in his voice? It’d break him if I died before he got the confession he wants so much.

I take a deep breath. It really is a long way down.

“Tobias,” Malcolm says. “Step back.”

I pause. I haven’t heard that name in a long time.

Then I jump from the bridge.

 

chapter-heading-act-2-part-3

 

ACT TWO PART THREE THE PERFORMANCE AN OBSERVER INTO THE NIGHT

The Brazen Hydra was one of the few taverns in Bilgewater that didn’t have sawdust on the floor. Drinks were rarely spilled, let alone teeth, but on this night, its patrons could be heard all the way to Diver’s Bluff.

Men of some repute, and even greater means, were turning the air blue with wondrous songs of the very worst acts.

And there, in the middle of them all, was the conductor of the night’s revelry.

She twirled, toasting the health of the harbor master and all his watchmen. Her lustrous red hair whipped around, captivating the eyes of every man in the room, not that they had been looking at anything other than her.

No glass had been allowed to run empty all night – the crimson-haired siren made sure of that. But it wasn’t the dulled senses of every man in the room that drew them closer. It was the promise of her next glorious smile.

With merriment still shaking the tavern, the front door opened, and in stepped a plainly dressed man. Inconspicuous to a degree that only comes from years of practice, he walked to the bar and ordered a drink.

Among the clumsily assembled gallery, the young woman grabbed a fresh glass of amber ale.

“My fine fellows, I’m afraid I must take my leave,” she said with a flourish.

The men of the harbor guard responded with loud bellows of protest.

“Now, now. We’ve had our fun,” she said, chiding them amiably. “But I have a busy night ahead, and you are all so very late to your posts.”

She hopped onto a table without missing a beat, before looking down upon them all with triumphant glee.

“May the Mother Serpent grant us mercy for our sins!”

She smiled her most captivating smile, raised the large tankard to her lips, and then downed her ale in one tremendous gulp.

“Especially the big ones,” she said, as she slammed her glass on the table.

She wiped the beer from her mouth to a rapturous roar of approval and blew a kiss to all.

Like servants before their queen, the room parted.

The door was held open for her by the gracious harbor master. He hoped to garner one last glance of approval, but she was lost to the streets before he could look up from his unsteadily courteous bow.

Outside, the moon had dipped behind Freeman’s Aerie, and the night’s shadow seemed to reach out to meet the woman. Each step that she took from the tavern became more purposeful and surefooted. Her carefree veil dissolved, and her true self was revealed.

Her smile, her look of wonder and joy, were gone. She stared grimly, not seeing the streets and alleys around her, but looking far beyond to the many possibilities of the dark night ahead.

Behind her, the plainly dressed man from the tavern was gaining. His footsteps were silent, yet unnervingly swift.

In a measured heartbeat, he put his stride in perfect unison with hers, just off her shoulder, out of her periphery.

“Is everything in place, Rafen?” she asked.

After all these years, he was still taken aback at how he could never surprise her.

“Yes, Captain,” he said.

“You weren’t spotted?”

“No,” he bristled, reining in his displeasure at the question. “The bay was free from the harbor master’s eyes, and the ship was as good as empty.”

“And the boy?”

“He played his part.”

“Good. We meet at the Syren.”

At her word, Rafen broke away and disappeared into the gloom.

She continued onward as the night wrapped itself around her. Everything was in motion. All that remained was for her players to begin the show.

 

chapter-heading-act-2-part-4

 

 

ACT TWO PART FOURTHE DIVE THE FINEST PAIR OF BOOTS ORANGES

I hear Graves roar as I dive off the bridge. All I can see is the rope beneath me. No need to think about the fall or the bottomless black depths.

Everything is a blur of rushing wind.

I nearly scream with joy when I catch the rope, but then it burns into my palm like a branding iron. My fall stops with a snap as I slide to the bottom of the looping tether.

I hang there a moment, cursing.

I’ve heard that dropping into water from this height normally won’t kill a man, but I’d rather take my chances on the stone loading dock that’s at least fifty feet straight down. I’ll die, but it’s a damned sight better than drowning.

Between me and the stone platform, a pair of heavy-duty cables run from here to the mainland, one forward, one back. Crude, noisy mechanisms power them. They’re used to transport rendered down parts of sea beasts to the markets in Bilgewater proper.

The cables strum as a heavy rusted bucket, as big as a house, grinds its way toward me.

I let a smile creep on my face for a second. That is, until I see what’s in the cart. I’m about to drop feet first into a seething vat of rotting fish spleen.

It took me months to earn the coin for my boots. Supple as gossamer and sturdy as tempered steel, they were crafted from the hide of an abyssal sea drake. There are fewer than four pairs in the whole world.

Damn it.

I time my jump just right and land in the middle of the chum bucket. The cold slop seeps through every hand-stitch of my prized boots. At least my hat’s clean.

Suddenly, I hear that damned gun bark again.

The mooring line explodes.

The cart groans as it slides free from the cables. The wind’s knocked out of me as the bucket slams into the stone platform. I feel the foundations of the dock shake before everything flips on its side.

The world falls over my head, along with a ton of fish guts.

Struggling to stand, I look for another way out. Gangplank’s launches are closing in. They’re nearly here.

Dazed, I drag myself toward a small boat moored on the loading dock. I’m not halfway there when a shotgun blast rips its hull wide open, scuttling it.

As the boat sinks, I drop to my knees, exhausted. I try to catch some breath over my own stench. Malcolm stands over me. Somehow, he made his way down, too. Of course he did.

“Not so charmin’ now, are ya?” Graves grins, looking me up and down.

“Are you ever gonna learn?” I say, rising to my feet. “Every time I try to help you, I-”

He fires into the ground in front of me. I’m pretty sure I get a chunk of something in my shin. “If you’d just list-”

“Oh, I’m all done listenin’,” he interrupts, grinding out the words. “The biggest score of our lives, and before I knew it, you were gone.”

“Before you knew it? I told you-”

Another blast, another shower of stone, but I’m past caring.

“I tried to get us out. The rest of us saw the job was going south,” I say. “But you wouldn’t back down. You never do.” The card’s in my hand before I realize it.

“I told you then, all you had to do was back me up. We would’ve gotten out clean – and rich. But you ran,” he says, stepping forward. The man I used to know seems lost under years of hatred.

I don’t try to say anything else. I can see it in his eyes, now. Something’s broken inside of him.

Over his shoulder, a glint catches my eye – it’s a flintlock. The first of Gangplank’s crewmen are on us.

Without thinking, I flick the card. It slices toward Graves.

His gun thunders.

My card takes out Gangplank’s man. His pistol was leveled at Malcolm’s back.

Behind me, another member of his crew slumps to the ground, a knife in his hand. If Graves hadn’t shot him, he could’ve had me, cold.

We both look at each other. Old habits.

Gangplank’s men are all around now, crowding in close, howling and jeering. There’s too many to fight.

That doesn’t stop Graves. He brings his gun up, but he’s out of shells.

I don’t draw any cards. There’s no point.

Malcolm roars and goes at them. That’s his way. He shatters one bastard’s nose with the butt of his gun, before the mob beats him to the ground.

Hands grab me, pinning my arms. Malcolm’s hauled to his feet, blood dripping from his face.

Ominously, the hoots and hollers from the mob around us fall silent.

The wall of thugs parts to reveal a red-coated figure striding toward us.

Gangplank.

Up close, he’s much bigger than you’d imagine. And older. The lines of his face are deep and chiseled.

He’s holding an orange in one hand, slicing off its skin with a short-bladed carving knife. He’s doing it slow, making each cut count.

“So tell me, boys,” he says. His voice is a deep, rumbling growl. “Do you like scrimshaw?”

 


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