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The Second Element I: Camera Obscura
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“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Act One: Combine One Part Mystery...
Elaine stormed into the mansion and slammed the door behind her. A few seconds later, Guybrush walked nose-first into the door. When he recovered his bearings, the mighty pirate opened the door, walked through it properly, and shut it. He found Elaine sitting on the couch, her arms folded across her chest, pointedly ignoring him. Her eyes were doing their best to burn a hole in some unidentified spot in the wall across the room.
“Elaine,” he began, but was cut off by a door slamming somewhere upstairs. Oh great, Guybrush thought, it runs in the family.
Horatio Torquemada Marley appeared at the top of the stairs and quickly surveyed the scene. He had--at Guybrush’s insistence--finally taken to wearing pants, but hadn’t shaved off his beard, and despite his new taste in clothes still looked like a hermit. “All right, Squinky,” he said, coming slowly down the stairs, “what’d you do now?”
“What didn’t he do is more like it.” Elaine sighed and flicked a lock of hair out of her eyes. “First he steers us off course--”
“Then he tears a hole in the sails--”
“I was trying to put out the fire...that I started...in the kitchen.”
“And then he decides to tell me that I look fat!”
“Plunderbunny, you know that wasn’t what I meant, you’re eight months--”
“Don’t remind me, please, I feel like a bloated zombie.”
Governor Marley came the rest of the way down the stairs and stood between the two, staring at Guybrush with a critical eye. “Now you listen here, Squinky. I only get to see my granddaughter once a month--by the way, Elaine, once this pirate great-grandchild of mine is born you’d better start coming ‘round more often--and I don’t want any arguments unless they’re necessary!” He shook his head. “And I don’t want you two breaking my front door, either! Understand?”
Guybrush sighed, dejected. “Yes, Grandpa.”
“Good!” Now he turned around to Elaine, ignoring Guybrush entirely. “Now tell me darling, how’d your numbskull of a husband make you late for your monthly visit again?”
Guybrush scratched the back of his neck and waited for a few minutes, only half-listening to the story Elaine was telling her grandfather--which wasn’t entirely true, but he didn’t feel like interrupting her. The last time he’d tried that she’d thrown a deck chair at his head.
In fact, he was almost getting used to being completely ignored during these monthly visits. They seemed to have established some sort of a routine--as soon as Grandpa Marley was through reprimanding him for whatever he felt like reprimanding him for that month, Guybrush would leave them alone and wander off somewhere. Tonight, he decided, he would visit the Scumm Bar.
“Of course he couldn’t just--oh. Try not to get yourself killed, Guybrush dear.”
He sighed again. “Right, Elaine.”
Since the incident with Ozzie Mandrill almost a year ago, the Scumm Bar had been rebuilt. Ignatius Cheese, the Scumm Bar’s owner, had insisted that they tear down “tha’ sissy Lua Bar,” which resulted in great chaos and a severe grog shortage that lasted for weeks. Which, naturally, made the Scumm Bar a very popular place once it was finished--some nights there weren’t even enough tables for customers to drink themselves under.
On this particular night it was packed. Guybrush opened the door and immediately had to elbow his way past two very fat, very smelly pirates, and then squeak past a trio in the process of drinking themselves silly. He tried to fight his way to the bar, but it was useless. The crowd only grew thicker in that direction. The air was heady with the scent of smoke, grog, and sweat; Guybrush coughed as the strong aroma invaded his nose. He thought he could taste the Scumm Bar’s famous pretzels in the back of his throat, too. Bleh, salty. Needs grog.
Guybrush had to stand on the tips of his toes to see over the heads of some of the pirates, and people kept bumping into him. He’d been rudely elbowed in the back without so much as a “’scuse me” more than once already.
“Look boy,” snarled a tall, gangly one-eyed pirate he had the misfortune of being shoved into, “are ye gonna stand there or are ye gonna sit down? Take a seat, for god’s sake, and get out of our way. We’ve got drinkin’ ta do.”
“Right. I’ll--um--get right on it.” He nodded nervously and started looking even harder for a seat, or a face he recognized. The combination of smoke and the bar’s dim lighting made it nigh impossible.
“Hey, lad, over here!” Guybrush peered over the head of another pirate to find the voice that had to shout to be heard over the general din. Ignatius Cheese was sitting just a few tables away, a half-full bottle of grog resting protected in one hand. He was gesturing for Guybrush to come and join him. The mighty pirate waved one arm about to acknowledge the invitation and started pushing his way through the crowd.
“Oof--excuse me--pardon me--look out--sorry!”
He eventually made it to the table with little damage and slid into a seat. It was only then that he noticed Carla in the seat next to him, her nose looking practically glued to the table. “Err, hello Mr. Cheese...and, err, Carla.”
Carla mumbled something incoherent under her breath. Mr. Cheese grinned. “Aye, and it’s good to be seein’ ye around, Guybrush. Carla and I were just talkin’ about ye, weren’t we Carla?”
Guybrush arched one eyebrow at the former Sword Master of Mêlée Island. “Is this what happens when you talk about me? Boy,” he said slowly, giving Carla an experimental poke. She swung one dark hand out in an attempt to swat him away, but missed.
The other pirate laughed until tears gathered in his good eye. “Aye. We were just reminiscin’ on the old times.”
“Like our exciting adventures to Lucre and Jambalaya Island?”
“Aye. Seems Carla here isn’t too keen on reminiscin’, though.”
“Gee...” Guybrush poked Carla again. She responded with a disgruntled snort. “How could you tell?”
His former navigator chuckled again. “So what brings ye here to the Scumm Bar, eh? Thought ye’d be spendin’ all yer time with the wife. I heard about yer news, by the way.” He grinned even wider, revealing a couple of solid gold teeth, and winked. “’ratulations.”
“Mmf.” The grunt may as well have come from Carla. Guybrush rubbed his temples and sighed. “If we’re going to talk about Elaine, I’d better have a drink first.”
Mr. Cheese passed him the bottle without a second thought. Guybrush uncorked it and, silently hoping that none of the Scumm Bar’s resident germs were lingering on the bottle, took a swig. His blue eyes promptly went wide, his ponytail stood up straight, and his face turned a bright shade of red before he managed to force the grog down his throat. Then he coughed up a couple of green bubbles that floated up into the air before popping with a scent of grog that only added to the Scumm Bar’s overall aroma. Guybrush recorked the bottle and passed it back over to Mr. Cheese, beating himself on the chest and clearing his throat.
“That bad, eh?”
“Good god, yes!” he half-coughed in a high-pitched, raspy voice. “How can you drink that, much less get drunk on it?”
“It’s an acquired taste,” Mr. Cheese offered with a shrug. “Though I was askin’ about the situation with the wife.”
“Oh, right--Elaine.” Guybrush looked at the bottle as if contemplating whether or not he wanted another drink, but decided against it. “I’ve got troubles there, Mister Cheese.”
“If ye’re here on a night like this, I can say ye do.” He held up the bottle. “Want another one?”
“No--no thanks. I think the first one’s doing a fine job of eating through my stomach on its own.”
“Suit yerself, then.” Carla was starting to grope about blindly for the bottle, so he pulled the cork out and handed it to her. “So what’s troublin’ ye?”
“In a word? Everything.” He rubbed his temples and coaxed his hair back down into its normal position. “I can’t do anything right, Elaine thinks she’s fat and you know how Elaine is, and I don’t think Grandpa Marley likes me, either. He and Elaine both seem to think it’s all my fault.”
Mr. Cheese started to nod sympathetically, but stopped, confused. “What’s all yer fault, lad?”
“Ah, ye’re exaggeratin’.”
“I am not! It’s true! We hit a storm two months ago, off the coast of Plunder, and Elaine swore for days that it was my fault. Had half the crew convinced that I was some sort of voodoo priest; one of them kept begging me not to blow him off the deck every time he did something wrong.”
He chortled. “It’s about time ye started inspirin’ somethin’ like fear inta yer crew. As for Elaine, well--it’ll clear up right quick, don’t ye worry. Ye’ve only got a month to go ‘fore ye’re a father, right? After that, she’ll appreciate ye a lot more. ‘Course, right before that she’ll likely be screamin’ for yer head, but...”
“Oogh. Please tell me you’re stopping right there, Mr.--hic--Cheese.” Carla had hoisted her head off the table with a little help from the bottle, the contents of which were now eating their way through the floor. She swayed uncertainly, then caught herself again and settled into a half-slouch, her head cradled in the palm of one hand. Her dark brown eyes were bloodshot, and her clothes, Guybrush noticed, were ragged and frayed at the edges. They looked, in fact, identical to the ones he’d seen her wearing on their last voyage together.
“So,” she slurred, shifting her gaze towards him, “Fripweed.”
“Carla,” he answered calmly.
“Err--how’s that cushy government job working out for you?”
Mr. Cheese flinched. “Ooh, lad, don’t ask her about--”
“I’ll tell you how it’s--hic--going, Brushguy...Threepbrush...whatever your name is.” She pointed an accusatory finger at him and Mr. Cheese sighed.
“Aw great, here she goes again. Bartender! More grog!”
Carla continued undaunted. “You--hic--had your wife sign them contracts for me an’ Otis. Only problem was, she was dead when she signed ‘em! Government wouldn’t--hic--honor ‘em. Said that only licensed goverble...governmental officials could legally sign them contracts, and raising a licensed govberbble--aw, you know what I mean--from the dead doesn’t--hic--count. Since then, I’ve been--hic--hic--”
“Drinking yourself into oblivion?” Guybrush offered meekly.
“Yeah. That.” Just then, the bartender managed to fight his way through the crowd to their table and dropped a bottle on it, then hurried away again. “Hey! More grog!” She grabbed the bottle and started trying to pry the cork out with her teeth. Guybrush watched her and winced.
“I usually jus’ let her drink ‘till she passes out,” Mr. Cheese said. “It’s usually better that way. One time I didn’t, and she started standin’ on the table and singin’ some sorta nasty song about you--‘course, she got the words all mixed up, but it was still a mess.”
“Ouch,” Guybrush said, wincing. Carla, meanwhile, gave up trying to get the cork out and settled for smashing the bottleneck open on the edge of the table. “I’m surprised she hasn’t dissolved into a puddle of grog-like goo yet.”
“Give ‘er another month, she’ll do it yet.”
“How long has she been like this?”
Mr. Cheese shrugged. “’Bout as long as ye’ve been off sailin’, I’d say. That was when she started drinkin’, at any rate--she’s just gotten worse this past month.”
“Oh. I wish there was something I could do...”
“I think ye’d best stay outta her life, lad, if it’s all the same. It’s in a right mess already.” Guybrush bit his lower lip and nodded, sighing.
They all sat for a while, not saying anything. The noise from the conversations and arguments around them did more than fill the silence. Guybrush couldn’t help eavesdropping on a conversation between a young pirate and one of the tavern wenches--he was trying to ask her out on a date, but the tavern was so noisy she couldn’t understand a word he was saying. She seemed to think he was trying to tell her something about something he’d eaten. Guybrush couldn’t resist a smile; they reminded him--with a faint pang of nostalgia--of he and Elaine all those years ago.
Over by the entrance, a group of pirates were arguing loudly over their shares of some treasure. It looked like it might degenerate into an all-out fight in very short order; even the apparent captain was hollering insults.
A clap of thunder overhead stilled the conversations for a brief moment as everyone peered up at the ceiling. They were silent, waiting--a few seconds later, rain began to patter against the roof. A few pirates groaned, but they all went back to drinking and talking shortly afterward.
“Oh, that’s just great,” Mr. Cheese grumbled, taking a swig of grog. “Now they’ll all be wantin’ to stay in here ‘till the storm clears up. We’ll be out of grog before the night’s over.”
“Especially if Carla keeps drinking.”
“Sorry. So, Carla--” another rumble of thunder--“what’s Otis been doing?”
“Otis?” She rubbed her bleary eyes and shrugged. “Dunno. After he found out we didn’t have jobs--”
“--I think he got the next--hic--ship outta here. Dunno where he went. Prob’ly smarter’n I was, clearing out.” At this her face seemed to close up and she glared at him, sullen and angry. “Now go ‘way. I’ve got--hic--drinking to do.”
Guybrush scratched the table absently as the rain became more and more persistent. It was running down the windows of the bar in sheets. “I hope I don’t have to walk back to the mansion in this,” he muttered.
A small fight broke out near the door and gradually started spreading outward to encompass more and more pirates. Packed as the place was, hardly anyone could escape having at least one punch thrown at them. Guybrush ducked as a mug went flying towards his head.
“Hey!” Mr. Cheese stood up and started hobbling his way through the crowd, shoving men out of the way. “What’re ye all, daft? Startin’ a fight when we ain’t got room ta breathe?” The rest of his words were lost in the swirl.
Guybrush looked over at Carla, who didn’t seem to be in any sort of mood for conversation. “Well, I guess I’ll go then--if I can make it to the door.”
“Yeah,” she muttered, “you--hic--do that. Take a short walk off a long pier...or something like that. How’s it go?”
“Long walk off a short pier.”
“Okay,” Guybrush said, standing up. Of course, he had no intention of doing what Carla had suggested, but he felt it best to humor her all the same. “Bye, Carla. Drink one for me.”
She arched her eyebrows and swayed uneasily. “They’re all for--hic--you, Fripweed.”
“Gee, thanks.” He scooted away from the table and started for the door, elbowing his way through the crowd again. As he went, he peered over the heads of some of the shorter pirates, trying to get a glimpse of the path ahead. The fight looked like it had been stopped, but you never could be sure, someone could still be throwing punches somewhere, and he’d never know it until--
His thoughts were cut short by a blinding flash of light and a simultaneous explosion overhead. The ground shook beneath him, his vision had dissolved into swirling spots of color, and every last hair on his body seemed to be standing on end. The flash was over in a split second, but the aftershocks kept rolling through.
When he recovered his wits, Guybrush found that he was lying on the floor. He also found that he could barely hear anything. Pirates ran past him, got to their feet around him, stampeded through the door--all without making more than a whisper of noise. Strange, Guybrush mused, staring at the ceiling, it’s like being underwater. His vision started going hazy, like someone had draped a veil over it. Oh. This can’t be good, can it?
Mr. Cheese’s face appeared over him through the haze and Guybrush found himself being tugged to his feet. He was shouting something, but Guybrush couldn’t make it out--he’d never been good at reading lips, and he still couldn’t hear much of anything. “Sorry,” he shouted, though to his ears it was nothing more than a whisper, “you’re going to have to speak up!”
Mr. Cheese gave him an odd look and tugged him along towards the door. There was quite a bottleneck there; everyone was trying to get out through the one door, except for a few who’d been clever enough to break out through the windows. Guybrush’s vision got hazier, and he coughed at the same time, tasting something acrid and burning at the back of his throat. Oh. Smoke, he realized belatedly.
His hearing started to return as they inched their way towards the door--first as nothing more than a sharp, painful ringing, but eventually he was able to distinguish voices and sounds through it.
“Fire in the back--”
“--place’ll burn to the ground--”
And then Mr. Cheese was speaking to him, giving him a good shake. “Ye’re in shock, just dazed, c’mon, ye’re gonna be fine, we’re gonna get ye out of here, lad.”
“The windows!” Guybrush answered in return. Mr. Cheese gave him another odd look.
“Lad, what’re ye on about?”
“No, no--out through the windows!” He waved at one of the broken side windows, through which several pirates were now tumbling.
“Oh. Those windows! Well why didn’t ye say so, lad?” He gave Guybrush a sharp tug and started for the window. “C’mon!”
They climbed out through the window and sprinted away from the Scumm Bar as fast as they could. A safe distance away, they stopped and turned around to survey the damage. Mister Cheese let out a curse. The Scumm Bar’s roof was in flames, and the fire was quickly swooping down on the walls. Tendrils of white-hot flame snaked down the bar’s sides. In the dim starlight, the Scumm Bar cast an illumination on the scene better than any torch.
“The rain’s stopped,” Guybrush remarked, looking up at the clear sky, puzzled.
“Damn bad time for it to do that.” Mr. Cheese looked around at the pirates fleeing the scene. “I hope everyone got out.”
Guybrush looked back down to earth. “What about Carla?”
“Damn, I don’t know, she--” But at that very moment, Carla burst out the Scumm Bar’s door, screaming bloody murder.
“Run for your lives! Holy mother of god, it’s a sign, a sign! I’ll never drink grog again!” She ran out of sight, still screaming.
“Well, that’s one way to sober a person up.” Guybrush attempted a half-smile, but stopped at seeing the expression on Mr. Cheese’s face. “Is there anything we can do?”
“Yeah. We can try to get that damned fire out. C’mon.” He turned to the fleeing crowd, plus those who had begun to gather to watch the bar burn. “I want volunteers for a water line! Yesterday! Guybrush lad, go find us a coupla buckets. Should be some in the Voodoo Lady’s shop; if not there, then the harbor. Hurry up! And you all--single file, startin’ from the docks! Good god, do I have to tell you everythin’?”
Guybrush sprinted off towards the International House of Mojo, but didn’t have to go much farther than a few feet. Two large, gleaming silver buckets were thrust into his face so quickly he almost walked into them. “Err, thanks,” he said, taking them--and finding himself looking at Elaine’s hard set, determined face. “Elaine?”
“Brilliant deduction, Guybrush.” She stared at him. Her lips were pressed into a very thin line. “So there’s a fire at the Scumm Bar?”
He nodded. “I think someone said it was lightning. Err, I mean, a lightning bolt hit the Scumm Bar.”
“I figured as much, what with the freak storm.” She paused, suddenly realizing that she had almost gone back to being on pleasant speaking terms with the man she was supposed to be furious with. “So--anyway--what are you standing around for? Take those buckets to the volunteers!”
Guybrush started to go but stopped. “Elaine,” he said, gesturing to her larger-than-normal stomach, hidden beneath her blue maternity dress, “are you sure you should--”
Her eyes narrowed into thin slits. “Guybrush Ulysses Threepwood, if I can climb up to a crow’s nest at seven months, then I can coordinate a water line at eight. Now will you stop--oh, never mind!” She bit her tongue and pushed him out of the way, muttering under her breath. Guybrush followed meekly after her.
Upon reaching the line of volunteers, Guybrush handed the buckets to those standing by the docks and weaseled his way into a spot next to Mr. Cheese. The buckets started working their way down towards him. He saw Grandpa Marley arrive with more, and Elaine began walking up and down, shouting orders. She pointedly avoided looking in his direction; it was as if he wasn’t standing there at all.
“Still mad at ye, is she?” Mr. Cheese asked.
“Yeah--oof--” he passed a full bucket over to his former navigator--“she thinks I’m being overprotective.”
“Well maybe ye are, lad. Yer first kid, isn’t it?”
Guybrush passed along another bucket. “Yeah, and probably our last, too. I don’t know if I could take another nine months of this.”
Mr. Cheese snickered. “Ah, we’ll see about that, lad.” He glanced over at the bar and sighed. The flames were now overtaking a better part of the roof. “This ain’t doing any good. It’s too slow.” He turned and shouted for Grandpa Marley. “Hey! Governor! The bar’ll burn down by the time we’re through here--I say we call a free-for-all.”
Marley wandered over, made a quick assessment of the situation, and nodded. “You--you--and you--” he pointed at three pirates--“go get more buckets. Everyone else, grab a pail and throw it on the bar!”
They followed Marley’s directions and began beating back some of the flames that had made it to the walls. One pirate threw his shirt into the harbor and used it as a wet rag to, literally, beat out the fire. Several others followed his example. As Guybrush ran back to the docks to fill his pail again, Grandpa Marley caught him by the arm.
“I want to talk to you, Squinky, after this is over.” He gave Guybrush a significant but unreadable look and then let him go again. “Don’t forget.”
“Right.” Guybrush sighed. What could he possibly want? Elaine’s probably told him some story again... He handed his bucket over to another pirate and moved away from the chaos, wiping his forehead. His hand came away sweaty and soot-stained. “Oh, great. Now I’m a mess, too.”
“Greetings, Guybrush Threepwood.” He looked up, surprised to find the Voodoo Lady approaching him. She was a very short Jamaican woman who made up for her lack in height with excessively tall hats. The one she was wearing now was dark brown and blended in with her skin.
“Err, hi.” Guybrush swallowed. Her very presence never failed to intimidate him--or maybe it was the aroma of various voodoo potions and ingredients that followed her wherever she went. “What are you doing here?”
She smiled dreamily. “I sensed that you would have need of me.” She motioned to the Scumm Bar, and as he turned back towards it, he arched both eyebrows in surprise. Large rain barrels, seemingly summoned out of nowhere, hovered just above the flames--and dumped gallons of water onto them. They never seemed to run out. Smoke from the extinguished fires started to drift up in large quantities all around them; Guybrush had to cover his mouth with one sleeve.
“Wow,” he said, the words muffled through the fabric. “That’s some voodoo spell.”
The Voodoo Lady continued to smile. “Indeed. I foresaw a need for it yesterday and had it prepared in advance.”
“Oh. So...” Guybrush fished around for something to say. “You’re still on Mêlée Island?”
“I am wherever I am needed, Guybrush.”
“Ah.” He cleared his throat. The fires were nearly extinguished now and the volunteers were standing back and letting the Voodoo Lady’s spells finish the job. When he looked back at her, he was surprised to find her staring at him with a hardened expression he’d never seen before. “What?”
“I take it,” she began slowly, in a half-whisper, “that you were in the Scumm Bar at the time of the incident?”
He shrugged. “Yeah, but what’s that got to do with--”
“I suspected as much. Come with me, Guybrush.” She turned and walked away. Beaded bracelets on her wrists clacked together as she went. Guybrush cast one last glance back to the Scumm Bar--Elaine, Mr. Cheese and Governor Marley seemed to have things well in hand, so he followed after the Voodoo Lady. He wasn’t at all surprised when she led him through the open doors to the International House of Mojo and into its dark interior.
It hadn’t changed much since the last time he’d been inside it. There were a few more voodoo trinkets thrown around, and in one corner there was a particularly large pile of rubber chickens with pulleys in their middles, but other than that it remained the same. The floor was hardwood, but the light from the voodoo torches gave it an unhealthy green glow. Actually, they gave everything in the store an unhealthy green glow.
The Voodoo Lady settled herself into her chair and smoothed out her long green dress. Guybrush stepped over a couple of voodoo dolls, repressing a shudder at the sight of the limp little things, and stood in front of the Voodoo Lady’s chair. “So what’s this got to do with--”
“Patience!” she snapped, waving a hand. “You can’t learn everything at once.”
“No, but I can try,” Guybrush answered innocently.
Her lips twitched into a quick smile, though she closed her eyes and appeared to be concentrating hard. Guybrush kept watching her. After a few minutes of this, her eyes snapped open again, every trace of mirth erased from her face. “The short tempest Mêlée Island has just endured was no normal storm.”
“I’ll say. It came up out of nowhere and then disappeared.”
“Will you please stop interrupting me?”
She continued. “Likewise, the lightning strike which hit the Scumm Bar was much more than a mere accident. I am not surprised to learn that you were in the bar when it occurred. I would take heed, Guybrush Threepwood. There are things in this world more powerful than you could ever imagine--and it seems that one of them has not taken a liking towards you. Be wary.”
And with a bright showy flash, the Voodoo Lady disappeared. Guybrush was left blinking the spots out of his eyes for a while. Then he walked back outside--still trying to understand her cryptic warning.
The walk back to the Governor’s Mansion took Guybrush longer than it normally would. He took his sweet time, wandering the path slowly and staring at the scenery--that is, the ocean to his left, almost twenty-five feet below. He didn’t want to go back to the mansion and talk to Grandpa Marley, but he didn’t want to avoid it, either. When he’d left the House of Mojo, the last of the flames were gone--Mr. Cheese was busy picking through the charred husk that remained--and Elaine and Grandpa Marley were both gone. He could only assume that they were waiting for him back at the mansion.
Finally it could be delayed no longer; he stood at the front door with one hand on the handle. Guybrush took a deep breath and decided, with a small measure of confidence, that no matter what, he was going to give Grandpa Marley a piece of his mind. He pushed open the door and walked in.
Grandpa Marley was sitting at his desk, hastily scribbling away at some paper or another when Guybrush entered. The mighty pirate took a quick survey of the bare foyer--no Elaine. Then he looked back at Grandpa Marley, who still hadn’t acknowledged his presence. He cleared his throat.
Marley looked up and set his quill aside. “Wondered when you’d get here. Running off like that, no respect, none...” He got up, cracked a couple of knuckles and pointed at the striped chaise lounge. “Sit down.”
Guybrush sat. The little bubble of confidence he’d felt earlier started to deflate.
“Now Squinky, I want to have a few...words with you about my granddaughter. It seems to me--”
Seizing onto an opportunity with absolutely no forethought whatsoever, Guybrush interrupted him. “No Grandpa, I want you to listen to me.” This small outburst seemed to shock the older man into silence, so Guybrush continued. “I’ve had enough of you constantly picking on me every time Elaine and I come for a visit. I only agreed to these visits at all because I know Elaine wants to spend time with you, and I love her, so I want her to be happy. But do you have to turn it into some sort of Insult Family Reunion? Grandpa, I know you don’t like me, and I know you probably don’t like that I married Elaine, either--but that’s what happened. I married Elaine. And unless you want to sic your lawyers--” he repressed a shudder--“on me, that’s the way it’s going to stay.”
Guybrush stopped, his tirade finally exhausted, and looked up at Grandpa Marley. To his surprise, the man was chuckling. “That wasn’t meant to be funny, Grandpa. I was serious.”
He kept chuckling. “I know, I know, but--Squinky, I wasn’t going to chew you out. I was going to apologize. Seems to me my granddaughter’s been a bit unfair to you lately, and I know I haven’t helped things. When I pictured Elaine’s pirate husband, I didn’t quite imagine a scrawny kid like you--but you’ll do, I suppose. She doesn’t seem to want it any other way.” He looked at Guybrush’s wide-eyed expression and chuckled again. “Now, do you want me to send for those lawyers, or are you going to go upstairs and talk to my granddaughter? You might not owe me an apology, but you sure owe her one.”
He swallowed and fidgeted in his seat. “Do I have to?”
“It’s either that or the lawyers,” Marley shot back quickly. “And quit whining, or I’ll rethink my opinion of you.”
“Okay, okay...” Guybrush got up with a definite march-to-the-gallows look about him. “I’ll try. But I don’t think she’ll want to listen.”
“Oh, she will.”
“I hope so.” He paused at the bottom of the stairs, one hand resting on the banister. “And...Grandpa? Thanks.”
Marley grinned and suddenly became very interested in his paperwork. “Don’t mention it, Squinky.”
Elaine looked up when he came in. She was already in bed, reading the copy of The Joy of Pillaging Guybrush had bought for her on Booty Island. Her face remained expressionless, but her dark blue eyes studied him intently. There was still a smudge of soot on her forehead, disappearing up into her hair.
Guybrush shut the door and swallowed the lump in his throat. “I’m welcome to sleep here instead of the couch, right?”
She turned a page of the book, not looking away from him. “I suppose. If you clean up, first.”
“Yeah...good idea,” he said, looking down at his soot-stained hands. He walked over to the washbasin on the other side of the room and began meticulously scrubbing the grit from his face and hands, all the while avoiding touching the washbasin itself. It was porcelain, after all.
He heard Elaine snicker behind him. “What’s so funny?”
“Oh, nothing.” She snickered once more and went back to reading. Guybrush finished washing, changed, and slid into bed next to her. There was an uncomfortable pause.
“Um, Elaine,” he began, just as she set her book down and interrupted him.
“Guybrush, I’ve changed my mind.”
“You mean I have to sleep on the couch after all?” He did his best to look pitiful, which wasn’t all that difficult.
She sighed. “No, I meant about the baby’s name. I think we should name him after my grandfather.”
“But...but...I thought you said it was going to be a girl!”
“Yes, and two weeks ago I was convinced we were having an it. What’s your point?”
Guybrush closed one eye and scratched his head. “Well...I suppose you’re right. I just hope we can figure this out before you go into labor. Otherwise, the poor kid’ll have more names than they’ll know what to do with.”
Elaine sighed again and picked up her book. “I don’t think that will be his only problem, Guybrush.”
He let an uncomfortable silence settle down before he tried talking to her again. “Look, Elaine...I’m sorry. I’ve been kind of overprotective lately, I know--” she snorted--“but I just wanted to keep my plunderbunny safe.” He looked at her hopefully. “Oh--and you’ve got a smudge of soot on you still.”
This she reacted to. “I do? Where?”
“Right--no, here, I’ll get it...” He wet his index finger and leaned over, quickly wiping the smudge away. “There.”
She looked up at him, her eyes so calm and innocent, and his pulse quickened. His hand hung suspended by her left ear, all but forgotten. “Thanks,” Elaine said quietly, shattering the moment. “And apology accepted.” She kissed his cheek.
“I love you, Elaine.”
She grinned. “Love you too, plunderbunny.” Setting her book aside, she blew out the candle. “Now I want to go to sleep--before Horatio starts kicking my spleen again.”
As she rolled over away from him, Guybrush laid back and stared up at the dark ceiling. “What kind of name is Horatio?” he mused aloud.
“Don’t start, Guybrush.”
Her dress was white. It was also very plain and simple, unlike anything she’d ever owned. The next thing Elaine noticed was that her stomach was flat--something she had not seen for five months, when her pregnancy first began to show. She was also barefoot. The gravel and dirt prickled and stung the bottoms of her feet as she turned in a circle, taking in her surroundings.
She was in a cemetery. Tombstones loomed up out of the thick fog, seeming to leer at her, all bent at odd angles. Ivy covered some of them. She took a few, hesitant steps forward--and almost ran into a large tombstone. “Oh!” she exclaimed, then quickly slapped a hand over her mouth. Her words echoed back to her through the fog and she felt guilty for disturbing the silence of the graveyard.
The tombstone, she noticed then, was very beautiful. It was carved of dark marble, along with the stone angel sat atop it. Her wings were stretched out as if she were about to take flight, but her hands were clasped tightly in her lap and she gazed down, sorrowfully, at Elaine. She peered back up at it. It was very lifelike...in the dim half-light, her long dark dress almost seemed to shimmer and move. Elaine bent down to examine the tombstone’s front, looking for a name, but age had rubbed away any traces of it. There was only a large smudge remaining. She sighed and was pushing herself back to her feet when she felt a touch of something wet against her hand.
At first she thought it was raining. But when she looked at her hand--which had been resting on the tombstone--she saw two red droplets resting there. Blood.
She sucked in a deep breath and shook them off, wiping her hand on a strand of ivy. She had just turned to go when she heard the unmistakable plip, plip of liquid striking stone. Very slowly she turned back around and, ignoring the blood now on the dark marble, looked up at the angel again.
Two wet streaks lined her face, traveling from the corner of each eye, down her smooth marble cheeks, to her chin. As she watched, two more bloody tears left the angel’s eyes and slid down her face to land on the tombstone.
Horrified, Elaine turned and ran from the foggy graveyard.
Her feet carried her through the fog down a long gravel path she couldn’t see, twisting and winding its way through the shadows. Somehow she always knew which way to turn to stay on the path, and it led her eventually to an old church.
The church would have been beautiful in years past, but now it was little more than a ruin. All the stained glass windows were shattered from the inside out--glass littered the dead grass--and one of the tall spires had broken off from the church’s roof and fallen down to the ground. The limestone walls had weathered, exposed to countless years’ wind and rain. They had crumbled, and in several places the roof had fallen in. The only things which remained perfectly intact were the church’s twin doors. They were oak, stained a dark brown and finished so that they positively gleamed, even in the dim light. Twin rusted rings served as door handles.
Without meaning to, her steps carried her to these doors, and she found herself standing there with a hand hovering over one of the door handles. Steeling herself, Elaine tugged on the door handle--the door opened wide enough to allow her to slip through without even a creak--and she stepped inside the church.
Despite its ruined exterior, the church’s interior was remarkably intact. Tall stone pillars created a wide hallway, leading up to an altar shaded in darkness. Beside each pillar was a brazier filled with hot coals and a faint, flickering flame, barely enough to dispel the shadows. The rough stone floor was swept clean of dust and dirt but there were also, she noticed, no pews. The ceiling was high above her head, lost in the dark shadows.
Hesitantly, she took a step forward. The door swung shut behind her with an echoing clang and the braziers around the altar flared to life, and Elaine gasped.
At the altar stood a tall masked figure, cloaked all in black. A grinning death’s mask rested where his face should have been. In his right hand he held a bloody dagger. But lying before the figure, tied to the sacrificial slab, was... “Guybrush,” she whispered, staring at the altar with wide, frightened eyes.
Guybrush lay tied to the stone slab by thick rusting chains; only his arms hung free, dangling motionlessly over the sides. Elaine’s breath caught in her throat. She hurried forward, feet slapping against the cold stone. The mysterious figure stepped away as she approached as if giving her a respectful distance.
As she drew closer to the altar, the details of the scene came into focus, sharp and painfully clear. At the crook of each elbow there was a narrow slit in the skin, hardly visible save for the blood leaking from it. Blood trickled down each pale arm, twisting and marking out its path, to fall into twin golden bowls.
Elaine swallowed hard and willed herself to look down at Guybrush’s face. To her surprise, it was serene--serene, but unnaturally pale. His eyes were closed. “Oh, Guybrush,” she murmured, stroking his hair. She dared not touch his skin--she knew already that it would be as cold as ice. Blood continued to trickle into the gold-plated bowls, adding to the already substantial collection.
She took a deep breath and willed herself to look up at the cloaked figure. He regarded her without emotion--save for the twisted leer on his mask. “You did this,” she said with more calm than she thought she possessed. He didn’t answer, but a cold breeze that blew past her, upsetting the fires in their braziers and stirring her long hair, said more than enough.
Yes, it said, I did.
He reached out towards her and she shrunk away, never quite losing touch with her husband’s hair. “Don’t,” she warned. “You don’t need my blood.” She bit her own tongue in surprise. What am I saying?
The breeze blew past her again. Yes, it said, I do.
“You can’t have it!” She leapt back, out of his reach. “I won’t let you!”
The figure seemed to watch her for a long moment, head tilted to one side. Then he shrugged his narrow shoulders and picked up the golden bowl closest to him. Now Guybrush’s blood trickled onto the bare stone with a familiar plip, plip that sent chills down her spine.
The figure pulled back one cloak sleeve to reveal a pale, masculine hand which he dipped, without hesitation, into the dark blood. Staining the tips of his fingers, he walked over to the wall and began to write. His letters were strong and clear and gleamed wetly in the flickering light. She watched in silence as he wrote letter after letter, word after word.
When he was done, he set the bowl back in its proper place and stood aside. Elaine stared at the writing, her face a mixture of fear and incomprehension. “I don’t understand,” she said, “what do you mean?”
The figure shrugged and pointed to the wall with one bloodstained finger. She looked at the writing again and read it aloud.
“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned...”
Elaine sat up with a jolt. Her heart was racing and it took a long time to swallow the lump embedded in her throat. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she allowed herself a small sigh of relief. It was a nightmare, she told herself, taking in the familiar surroundings of the mansion’s guest room. Only a nightmare.
She slid out of bed and pushed herself, unsteadily, to her feet. Wrapping one arm protectively around her stomach, Elaine walked to the wash basin and peered in. Her own reflection came back to her, clear except for a few grimy spots--soot still drifted in the water from when Guybrush had washed his face. Still, she didn’t hesitate in splashing the water over her face. As she dried off with a towel left nearby, she mentally chanted “only a nightmare” over and over again, like a mantra.
But why, then, did the words the mystery man had written on the wall burn so clearly on the back of her eyelids, as if he’d written them there, as well? “‘Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.’” She sighed. It didn’t have any more meaning for her now than it had in the nightmare.
“It’s nerves,” she decided at last, going back to bed. Within her she felt her baby kick impatiently, as if he had been rudely awoken, too. “Sorry,” she whispered to him.
She looked over at Guybrush and felt reassurance flood through her. He slept on, oblivious, his long blond hair tangled and his mouth hanging slightly open. One arm was outstretched towards her, the other dangled off the edge of the bed.
But when she looked more closely at his outstretched arm, the faint smile that had been gathering on her lips disappeared. She bent down to examine the crook of his elbow and took in a shaky breath. “It can’t be...” Elaine reached out a finger and wiped away the dark spot she’d seen. Pushing it around between thumb and forefinger for a moment, she finally touched it to her lips--and coughed immediately. There was no mistaking the strong, copper taste. “Blood? But--oh, Guybrush...” She leaned over and blindly touched his other arm and was somehow unsurprised to find a similar blot there, too.
She wiped her hand on the bottom of her nightskirts and took a deep breath. Horatio kicked her again, harder this time. “It was only a nightmare...but--” She cut the thought off in mid sentence. This, she decided, was not something she wanted to think about, not in the middle of the night. She laid back down and cuddled up to Guybrush, careful not to wake him. He snorted in his sleep and pulled his arm around her.
“It was only a nightmare,” she whispered one last time. But she wasn’t at all convinced of that fact.