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The Second Element II: Through A Glass Darkly
By 1


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Act Two: Several Things Rotten On Mêlée Island

Armena, leaning against the side rail and peering down at the sea below, sighed. They’d been at sea for three days now--she, Bill, and the two elderly pirates Bill had rounded up, a pair by the names of Santiago and Castaneda. They spent most of their time playing chess and griping about their arthritis, though, much to Armena’s frustration. She’d tried talking to them gently, she’d tried shouting at them, and she’d tried every distraction she could think of--but no matter what she did it just wasn’t good enough.

“Aha! You call that a move? That is not a move! That is a clumsy blunder!”

“My hand is still on it!”

“No, it is not!”

“Yes, it--”

Armena whirled around. “Would you two shut up?” she snapped. They both stared at her for a minute, then went back to arguing. She sighed and gave up. “You’re both hopeless,” she muttered under her breath.

Bill left the wheel for a moment--he was the only one among them with even a smidgen of navigation experience--and leaned against the rail beside her. “Mena, are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

He shook his head. “No, Mena, you’re not. You’ve been snapping at everyone even more than usual, you stole an entire ship for god’s sake, and now we’re just cruising around the Caribbean for no good reason!”

“I didn’t steal the Iago, I borrowed it.” She folded her arms across her chest and refused to make eye contact with him. “Besides, I left the captain a note of credit from the Voodoo Lady’s shop. They won’t care.”

Bill snorted. “I think maybe this Marley-Threepwood thing is getting to you a little more than you’d like to admit. Just because someone says ‘you look like a Threepwood’ doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth...”

Armena looked at him, briefly, then shook her head. “The worst part is, I think she is telling the truth. The Voodoo Lady has no reason to lie. It’s just--I hate him. Look at what he did to everyone, to the whole Caribbean. I don’t want to be related to him. Who would?”

Bill shrugged, looking down at the sea below. “So you don’t have to be.”

Now she did make eye contact with him. Her eyes had a strange, haunted look to them that he didn’t like at all. “How?” she asked, her voice taking on a desperate tone.

“Find him. Find him and ask him. If anybody knows who his daughter is, it’d be Guybrush Threepwood.” Armena opened her mouth to shoot back a sarcastic reply but stopped, mulling over the idea. Finally, she nodded. Bill grinned. “Great. They say his ship’s been seen around Mêlée a lot lately; I’ll set a course.”

“Maybe we can pick up some new crewmembers while we’re there,” she muttered under her breath, jerking a finger back at Santiago and Castaneda.

“Only if you want ghosts on your ship. There hasn’t been anybody alive living on Mêlée for seventeen years.”

“Anything’s better than those two.”

Bill grinned. “If you say so, Mena.” He scurried back to the wheel as fast as he could, consulting a map of the Tri-Island Area only briefly before setting a course straight for Mêlée Island.



***


“I don’t understand ye, Elaine,” LeChuck said, looking her square in the eye. “Ye could be queen of the whole Caribbean--”

“The whole Caribbean minus three islands,” she answered back with a smirk. He growled at her.

“--the whole Caribbean, and ye say no. Blast be yer excuses, woman, they’re not makin’ any sense!” He cracked his knuckles, which made a sickening crunch of stone against stone. Elaine flinched, but hid it well. “If the man I sent out can’t be gettin’ divorce papers once and for all, then I’ll be havin’ a weddin’--with or without yer consent.” He added the last with a particularly spiteful grin.

“And without finally getting rid of Guybrush?” Elaine shot back, not even missing a beat. “He’ll put a stop to that, I’d imagine.”

“Aye, yer imaginin’. He can’t stop what he don’t know about.” LeChuck turned for the door and forced it open. “The priest’ll be here in a few days. Ye’d best be ready; I’m not takin’ no fer an answer again.”

Even as the door slammed shut, Elaine spat back, “Go to hell and stay there!”



***


Inspector Canard started to run his fingers through his hair but stopped, realizing just how thin his hair was getting. “We’ve searched the entire island. We can’t find her, that...Bill character, or those two chess players. And I’ve got an irate captain demanding to know just where his ship is. Isn’t there anything you can tell me?”

The Voodoo Lady smiled, tapping her fingers on the arm of her chair. “I’ve told you, Inspector. She’ll be back in due time. As will your captain’s ship, presumably.”

“Aren’t you worried LeChuck will find her?”

“Quite frankly, Inspector, I worry more that she will find LeChuck.” She sighed. “However, if my word alone does not satisfy...tell the captain that I’ll pay back half the worth of the stolen ship. Full price if she doesn’t return.” He nodded and turned to go, but she held up a warning finger and continued, “But when she does return, I’d like my money back. Commodore LeChuck doesn’t pay his suppliers nearly as much as he should.”

Inspector Canard nodded again. “If that’ll be all...?”

“It should, Inspector.”

“Good. I’ll send the captain along for his money right away then.” He replaced his hat back on his head and left, shaking his head as he went. “Right spooky, that one,” he muttered.



***


They made it to Mêlée in two days’ time, once Bill got his bearings straight. The weather was calm and clear, and it stirred something in Armena’s veins that had her acting nicer than normal to her crew, so long as they didn’t mention the change. I hate to admit it, she thought, peering out of the crow’s nest late one night, but I could get used to this...if only LeChuck’s ships weren’t around. They’d dodged several of them by the skin of their teeth; the area around Mêlée appeared to be swarming with them. Armena didn’t even have to guess why.

She sighed as a faint fog blew in. “Just what we need...fog.” Then, leaning over the lip of the crow’s nest, she yelled, “Bill!”

Down on deck, a lamp flickered and then flared to life. “Uh--wha?”

She sighed again, this time rolling her eyes. “You weren’t asleep, were you?”

“Uh...” He paused and cleared his throat. “Uh...well...maybe.”

“Just--just never mind. D’you have the spyglass down there?”

Papers and maps got shuffled about and the lamp almost tipped over, but Bill caught it. “Yeah--yeah, it’s here.”

“Okay, I’ll be down in a minute to get it. Just stay there--and don’t fall asleep again, please.”

He laughed, although nervously. “Yeah...sure.”

She scrambled out of the crow’s nest and down the mast, hitting the deck with a loud and ungraceful thud. She brushed herself off and strode over to the wheel with an attempt at grace, though Bill’s snickering put an end to that. “Oh, and I suppose you’d like to be stuck up there the whole night,” Armena snapped darkly.

“Well,” Bill answered, scratching his chin (he was trying to grow a beard, but all he’d managed was a faint, scraggly stubble), “if I were up there, then you’d be steering the ship.”

“And then we’d all drown.”

“Or sail around in circles until the scurvy set in.” He handed her the spyglass. It gleamed copper in the lamplight. “Here you go--not that it’ll do much good. This fog’s getting thicker.”

“Worth a shot, anyway,” she said. “How far are we from Mêlée, do you think?”

“Um--” Bill peered at one of the maps--“I don’t know...about a day, maybe? At the most?”

Armena sighed and hung her head in her hands. “Oh, this is great, a navigator who can’t navigate. What’s next, a compass that doesn’t point north?” She shook her head and, giving Bill one last reproachful glare, headed back to the crow's nest. She’d just scrambled in and gotten back to her feet--again, less than gracefully--when something caught her eye.

A ship drifted lazily in the fog, as if watching them, before it turned and disappeared. One thing was unusual about it--it was entirely see-through. It didn’t appear to have seen them, and if it had given no sign.

“Bill!” she shouted, though her voice nearly came out at a frightened whisper the first time she tried. “Bill, to your right!”

A pause, then he shouted back, “You mean starboard?”

Armena sighed. “Yes! Just turn the ship in that direction, right now. I think we’ve finally run into Threepwood.”

“All right,” Bill answered, “but you keep a sharp eye out. I can’t see anything in this soup.”

Nodding to herself, Armena settled in. We’re going to find Threepwood tonight, she thought, I know it. “And then we can clear up this whole thing once and for all,” she added aloud. “And then I can go home--maybe.” She sighed--the prospect of going home and back to work for the Voodoo Lady seemed less and less appetizing the more time she spent at sea. Whoever her parents were, Armena figured, they must have been die-hard pirates or sailors of some sort.

As the ship turned lazily about--Armena thought about yelling at Bill over it, but decided not to push her luck--she caught sight of the ghost ship again. It wasn’t quite what she was expecting. It looked like one of LeChuck’s ships, and for a moment she nearly called out for Bill to stop and turn the ship back around. But on second glance, she saw that the normally ragged sails were patched--she couldn’t tell the color, but it didn’t look as if the patches were of the same black material that made up the sails.

“We’ll gain on her,” Bill called up, trying to reassure her. “I don’t think she’s moving very fast.”

Armena squinted at the ship--it hardly appeared to be moving at all. “No, it’s not.”

They pressed on in silence for a while, before Bill yelled up, “Um, Mena?”

She sighed. “What?”

“Have you thought about how we’re going to get on that ship, exactly? Or even stop it?”

“Fire cannons at it, maybe?”

“But it’s a ghost ship...”

Armena sighed. All right, so he had a point. But she wasn’t about to admit it. “I’ll think of something,” she snapped back. “You just steer the ship.”

Santiago and Castaneda straggled up on deck a few minutes later, their chess game upset by the ship’s sudden change in direction. Bill quickly put them to work prepping the cannons, just in case. Armena could hear their grumbling from the crow’s nest.

As they gained on the ghost ship, though, the ship seemed to catch on that they were there. And though they were sailing one of the trade ships with ordinary white sails, it still began to move away as if LeChuck himself were after them. “Hurry up!” Armena shouted down. “If they pick up enough speed--”

“I know, I know.”

The fog began to thicken. Armena, sighing, pulled out the spyglass and trained it on the ghost ship, but the fog was so thick that she could barely make out their sails anymore.

It cleared up for a brief instant, and Armena quickly searched the other ship’s deck with the spyglass, trying to get the lay of the place. The ghost ship’s crew was no bigger than hers was, with three ghosts skittering around on deck and one at the helm. Armena couldn’t believe that it was this motley crew that had been fending off LeChuck for seventeen years. She watched the ghost at the helm for a while, struggling to focus the spyglass. He was tall, with long hair that occasionally flew into his face in a mysterious breeze. He didn’t look very happy, either--a grim expression of determination and despair marred what would have otherwise been a pretty face. Armena couldn’t watch him for very long, though--his open, friendly face reminded her too much of her own for comfort, grim expression or no.

She lowered the spyglass and sighed. “I’m not related to him,” she whispered under her breath. But the more she said it, the less she believed it.

“Mena?” Bill's voice shook her from her thoughts. “The water’s starting to get a little shallow...”

“Keep going,” she answered. “We can catch them--besides, you said we weren’t anywhere near land.”

“I said I thought--”

“Just shut up and steer the ship!”

Bill fell quiet and Armena, sulking, leaned against the mast and stared out at the fog. It was starting to thicken into the consistency of pea soup; soon Threepwood’s ship would be lost in it for good. She squinted one last time, trying to predict where the ship was headed. After a moment she blinked, biting back a yelp of surprise.

“Bill!”

He sighed. “What now, Mena?”

“They’re turning--away from a tree line.”

Bill swung the wheel around so hard the ship nearly flipped over on itself, but it was no good. They only managed to get it partly turned away before it slammed into the coastline--thankfully a coast, and not a cliff-face--and sent Armena flying forward out of the crow’s nest. She barely had time to register that she was flying through the air straight for a grove of trees before she was flying back again, landing in the mainsail and sliding down onto the deck with an ungraceful thud.

“Okay,” she squeaked out, “that hurt.”

Bill rushed over to her and began helping her to her feet. “You’re lucky that rubber tree was there,” he said, shaking his head. “Are you okay? That still must’ve hurt...”

Armena staggered to her feet, leaning against the mast for support. “I’m fine,” she answered, brushing a tangled mess of hair out of her eyes. Then, “Rubber tree?”

Bill shrugged helplessly.

Santiago and Castaneda had been peering over the side of the ship, but ran over to them after a minute. “This has to be Mêlée Island!” Santiago exclaimed, nervously adjusting his bandana over and over again. “They say it is perpetually shrouded in fog because of all the ghosts; this must be it!”

“We’ll just be below deck, playing chess,” Castaneda added, and then the two of them quickly fled. Armena sighed.

“They’re probably right...Threepwood probably knew he was that close to the island the whole time. He was just leading us on, trying to wreck us.” Grumbling curses under her breath, she walked over to the side and peered out into the murky forest beyond. “How bad do you think the damage is?”

“I’ll have to look, but I’d bet anything it’s bad. I’m not sure the two of us can handle it alone...and since there’s nobody else on the island, and Santiago and Castaneda aren’t exactly going to be of any help...”

“You’re the one that got them,” she answered pointedly.

“They were the only ones sober enough to see straight!”

Armena shook her head, standing on her tiptoes to look over the trees. “I think there might be somebody else here--look.” She pointed to a spot just beyond a patch of low trees, where a giant, lit neon sign flashed “Stan’s!” over and over. It cut through the fog like a knife.

Bill scratched his head at it. “There’s not supposed to be anybody here...”

“Well I don’t think they just accidentally left the lights on for seventeen years,” she shot back sarcastically. She watched it flash a few more times before adding, “I’m going to go have a look. Maybe somebody there’ll be able to give us a hand.”

“I’ll come with you; there’s bound to be some pretty unfriendly ghosts around, and--”

Armena held up a hand, interrupting him. “You stay here and start repairs. The Voodoo Lady taught me more than a little bit about spirits, remember? I can handle things.”

He didn’t look convinced. “Well, there’s some root beer in the hold, why don’t you take a bottle with you just in--”

“I’ll be fine.” She sighed. “If I’m not back in two hours, then you can start worrying.” Then, giving him one last stern look to drive her point home, Armena swung over the side of the ship and dropped down to the ground. She winced as she hit the ground--still a little shaken from the incident with the rubber tree. And she winced, too, at the aura that permeated the entire island. She’d never felt so much overwhelming despair, and she wished suddenly that the Voodoo Lady hadn’t insisted she learn how to pick up on these things.

Plucking up her courage, Armena stepped into the forest. The Iago was quickly swallowed up by fog and wayward tree branches, and she almost considered going back--almost. She forced herself on ahead anyway, figuring that she’d rather deal with angry ghosts instead of Bill’s teasing that she’d chickened out.

“Threepwood,” she muttered, stepping over a fallen tree, “when I get my hands on you so help me I’ll--” She stopped short as a ghost flitted just out of her field of vision. Armena froze, waiting, but it didn’t return. “They really ought to rename this island,” she said, shaking her head and continuing on. “‘Mêlée’ just isn’t spooky enough.”

It was well known that, ever since the last living refugees had been evacuated (ironically enough by Guybrush Threepwood), the island had become a refuge for undead of the ghostly variety. It had started when LeChuck sent several ghosts out as commanders of his undead army--they’d chosen the island as their headquarters, and not even LeChuck himself could convince them to leave it. Ghosts had flocked there ever since, though no one knew if they were loyal to LeChuck or not. No one was ever brave enough to visit the island and find out.

Armena sighed, drawing her arms up around her shoulders. The cold, caused by all the ghosts flitting about, was almost unbearable, and her thin blue tunic wasn’t much in the way of protection. “Wish I’d brought my coat,” she cursed aloud, just to break the silence. “I should’ve known it would be this cold...”

Another ghost flickered by her, closer than the first. She picked up the pace. Finally, the neon sign--which still flashed “Stan’s” every few seconds like some sort of twisted lighthouse--came into clear view. The fog seemed to lighten considerably, too, as did the oppressive cold. Armena more than welcomed that.

The building was a small, squat little thing that looked as if it had been assembled from leftovers of other buildings. But it sat proudly next to its neon sign all the same. A sign thrown up over the door proclaimed it to be “Stan’s Root Beer Futures,” and a sign in the window flashed “Open!” exactly out of rhythm with the other sign. Armena had to go inside before all the neon gave her a headache.

The inside, however, proved to be no better. The place was decorated with loud, garish colors that still stung her eyes--even though the wallpaper was peeling from the walls and the tacky red carpet was doing its best to roll up. A desk sat at the far end of the room, guarding a closed door, a file cabinet that looked suspiciously unused, and a couple of cobweb-covered crates.

“Um, hello?” She cleared her throat. “Is anyone here? I’m looking for--”

As if by magic, the door flew open and out popped a giant floppy hat. It skittered over to the desk, pulled up a squeaky chair, and sat down. “Hi there! Name’s Stan. Can I interest you in an exciting investment in root beer futures?”

It was then that Armena realized there was actually someone under the hat--the same somebody who’d obviously decorated the place and put up the signs. His blue plaid checkered shirt was enough to make her eyes tear up. “Um, well, no, I was actually just looking for--”

He sighed and looked a little disappointed. He let his strong chin droop into his open palm. “Oh sure, an actual living person shows up and doesn’t want to invest in something so vital to regaining control of the Caribbean as root beer futures. I mean come on, whose side are you on?”

Armena rolled her eyes. “Look, um...Stan. I’m sure these root beer futures are very important--”

“Root beer kills ghosts, you know.”

“Yes, I know, it’s one--”

“And Mêlée Island’s been having ghost problems for years!” Suddenly, his hands began waving around like he was frantically trying to keep an insect away from his head. Armena took a step backwards, almost afraid that something was wrong with the man. “How can you afford not to invest? The root beer shortage just cleared up; I happen to know for a fact that some buddies of mine over on Scabb Island are at work smuggling some into the area as we speak. So come on! Prices are low! Buy now, sell later when they get arrested and the price goes higher! You’ll make a killing--minus my fee, of course.”

“Of course.”

“So whaddya say?” More frantic arm waving. “How much can I put you down for?”

Armena rolled her eyes. Salesman. Should’ve known... “Listen,” she began, trying to phrase things gently. “My ship’s just been wrecked and we need to make repairs, but we need help. Do you know of anybody who might be able to help us?”

“Hmm.” He tapped his foot against the floor and his finger against his chin. “Nope, nope, sorry. There’s another guy who lives on the island, but you really don’t want to talk to him. But hey, did you know that if you invest now, by the time you’re able to get off this island you’ll be filthy rich!”

Armena raised her hand to interrupt him. “Sorry--what other guy?”

“Oh...” Stan waved his hands around some more, though with less enthusiasm. Clearly he was disappointed that she wasn’t interested in his sales pitch. “Oh, just some pirate. He used to be my only customer, but I caught him stealing root beer from the stash I keep here, so I kicked him out. You really don’t want to be hanging around him. Really.”

Her eyebrows arched. “Pirate? Do you think he could fix my ship?”

“Yes, but trust me sweetheart, you don’t want to go anywhere near him.”

Armena took a few steps forward, deliberately making eye contact with Stan--though since his gaze kept flitting around the room like he was suffering from a serious caffeine overdose, that was no easy task. “I need to get my ship fixed and get off this island. Could you tell me where he is?”

Stan, though, stayed quiet. She sighed.

“All right...” she rifled through her pockets until she found a few pieces-of-eight. She set them down on the table and looked at Stan again. “If I buy one of your root beer futures, will you tell me where he is?”

Stan’s eyes went wide. He appeared to think about the bargain for all of ten seconds before he grabbed the pieces-of-eight and said, “Well...all right. Hold on...” He disappeared into the back of the room with a new, more energetic spring in his step and returned a few seconds later with a file folder. “Here. Fill out this paperwork.” He tossed it and a pen at Armena and she barely caught it before it hit her square in the nose.

He bustled around the office while she pretended to fill out the information. Then she snapped the folder shut and handed it back to Stan. He took it, dropped it in the file cabinet (which was, as Armena suspected, empty) and then handed her a slip of paper and a dusty bottle of root beer.

“There you go, compliments of Stan’s Root Beer Futures--besides, on this island, you’ll need it. Don’t forget to tell your friends about the amazing benefits of investing in root beer futures!”

“Um, right. Will do.” Armena folded up the investor’s note and put it in her pocket, though she held onto the root beer. “Now, do you know where I can find that pirate you mentioned?”

“Oh--oh right, right. He’s over by the Governor’s Mansion; just follow the path from here. There’s some sort of abandoned cave he chased all the ghosts out of or something like that. Be careful going over there, too, the place is swarming with ghosts.”

“Right. Thanks.” She nodded to him, awkwardly, and started heading for the door.

“Hey, don’t thank me, thank you for investing in Stan’s Root--” And at that exact moment, mercifully, the door slammed shut behind her. The flashing neon started to drive her crazy almost immediately, but she still managed to locate the path and start down it.

A few ghosts wandered near her on the way there, some with obvious malicious intent, but a quick shake of the root beer bottle had them scurrying away as fast as they could manage. Well, she thought, stepping over a fallen tree, at least this root beer’ll come in handy somehow.

Soon, she found that the path forked off in two directions. She peered down both, but it was dark and the fog was so thick she could hardly see her hand in front of her face--it looked thinner, however, down the right-hand fork. She hoped that was for the same reason there was so little fog around Stan’s, that ghosts were afraid to go anywhere near the cave Stan had told her about. She took a deep breath and, clutching the root beer bottle a little tighter, headed off down the path.

Her steps led her to a small grove of trees and the gaping mouth of what seemed to be an empty cave. You think he’d at least leave a light on, she thought, shaking her head. She went into the cave with some trepidation, picking her steps carefully and trying to make as little noise as possible.

She’d only gone a few steps inside, however, when she was splattered with what seemed like water--but was actually, she figured out seconds later when it stung her eyes and smelled suspciously familiar, root beer. Armena started blinking and trying to get the stuff out of her eyes, at the same time shouting out, “Do you mind?”

Someone grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her further into the cave. “You’re not a ghost,” a man’s voice muttered. His voice was deep, faintly French--of all things--and sounded as if he hadn’t spoken to anyone in a very long time. “Who the hell are you?”

Armena shook the last of the root beer from her eyes and tried to focus on the shadowy figure holding onto her. “Armena,” she said at last, angrily. “And if you’re going to soak ordinary people to the skin with root beer, the least you could do is let them see your face.”

He sighed. “All right, come on...Armina or whatever your name is.”

“Armena!”

“Yeah, whatever.”

He pulled her deeper into the cave and around a bend in the cave wall, and suddenly the cavern was flooded with light. He had a few torches lit and burning in a tiny little circular room, far enough from the cave entrance that no light showed from the outside. “Clever,” she said, taking a look around. There wasn’t much in the room beyond a few crates (all of which looked as if they’d been stolen or found washed up on the beach) and a pile of coats that looked as if it served for a bed.

“Yeah,” he answered back, “thanks.” In the light, she could better make out his features--he was about her height, with curly black hair and dark brown eyes. Both his chin and his nose jutted out of his face at sharp angles, giving him a dark look that the perpetual smirk on his face did nothing to diminish.

Armena cleared her throat and started to speak, but was cut off as root beer dripped off her hair and to the cave floor. She muttered curses under her breath as she paused, wringing out her hair. The young man watched her with a hint of amusement.

“Was that really necessary?” Armena asked. She shook some root beer off her hands and sighed. “I’m going to smell for days, and it’ll dry and my hair will stick together and...”

“The ocean’s over that way if you want to jump in.”

She looked up, setting her own bottle of root beer down on the floor. Arms folded automatically across her chest, taking a defensive position. “Oh, very funny.”

He shrugged. “I’m serious.”

“Right. Well--”

“Listen,” he began, cutting her off, “I don’t really want any visitors, okay? I don’t know how you wound up on this stupid island, but you’re going to have to find your own little cave. Either that or die and join the ghosts, whichever.”

“I’m looking for someone who can fix my ship, that’s all.” She started running her fingers through her hair, trying to keep the strands from sticking together in one big clump. “The other guy--Stan--said you could do it.”

“Stan exaggerates a lot.”

Armena snorted. “Given what he said about you, I’m starting to think no. He told me you’d be like this.”

“Yeah? Well good for him.” He sat down on one of the crates. “Now go on, get out of here. I can’t fix your ship.”

“If I don’t fix my ship, I can’t leave, which means I’ll be bugging you a lot more often.”

He grunted. “Then I might just have to hit you with something a little stronger than root beer next time you decide to come snooping around.” Then, shaking his head, he looked at her again. “What’re you doing here, anyway? You one of LeChuck’s lackeys?”

She sighed, leaning against the wall. “Hardly. I was trying to catch Guybrush Threepwood, but he--”

“You’re looking for Guybrush Threepwood?” He sat forward, the look of interest on his face unmistakable. “What for?”

“Well, um--” Armena floundered for a moment, trying to think of something to say, some excuse to give. “He--um--revenge. He killed my parents.” Well, it was almost the truth. Almost. Not really.

He nodded slowly. “Yeah...yeah, he killed my father, too. I guess we’ve got something in common.” He held his hand out to her. “Mad Johnathan the Incapable.”

It took her a minute to realize that that was his name. When she finally caught on, she was quick to shake his hand. “Armena--but you knew that already.”

“Right.” John pulled his hand away, grimacing as the root beer on her hand did its best to tag along for the ride. “All right Armena, here’s what I think. I think I like anybody who’s out after Guybrush Threepwood--” he paused to spit on the ground--“a lot more than I like some random nosey girl. So I’ll fix your ship for you, but only on two conditions. One, that you take me with you when you leave--I assume you’ve got room for one more passenger--and two, you put a stop to the little ghost war that’s going on here.”

“The what?” Armena blinked, confused.

“Ghost war--there’s two kinds of ghosts hanging around Mêlée, see. One side are LeChuck’s little minions, who’ve been trying to make this place a stronghold like all the other islands around. The other side’s pirates who used to live here, or died when LeChuck attacked...they’re just trying to take the island for their own. You can see a little conflict here, right? Well, it’s driving me crazy, and the worst part of it is, LeChuck’s ghosts’re winning. And we need another of his strongholds like a kick to the head.”

“And you want me to stop it?” Armena squeaked out. He nodded.

“Look, I may like you because you’re actually going to try and get rid of Threepwood instead of just talking about doing it, but that doesn’t mean I trust you. You at least tip things against LeChuck’s ghosts, and maybe I’ll trust you.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think--”

“You want a fixed ship or don’t you?” John stood up and stretched. “Where’s your ship wrecked? You go take care of politics here--I’ll give you a hint, the would-be governor of the island’s living in the old mansion down the other path--and I’ll go take care of your ship. Deal?” He held out his hand to her again, though when she hesitated, he sighed and pulled a coat out of the pile in the corner. It had once been black but had now faded to gray and half the buttons were missing. “Here, take this, too. That cold and the root beer’ll freeze you if you’re not careful. I swear, I don’t have lice or anything.”

Armena hesitated for another minute before she reached out and grabbed the coat--and he grabbed her hand. “I’m glad we agree,” he said, and turned to leave.

“Wait!”

He turned back to her, both thick eyebrows arched. Armena imagined she must look quite the unimpressive sight, standing there still drenched in root beer and holding a ratty old coat. “My ship...it’s wrecked straight east of Stan’s. When you get there, tell Bill--he’s my navigator, I guess--tell him I sent you. And make sure you get my name right.”

He nodded. “Sure thing, Armina.” He’d disappeared before she could figure out if he was making fun of her or not.

“You fight like a cow,” she grumbled at his retreating figure. Then, pulling on the coat and shaking the dust from it, she picked up her root beer bottle and headed out of the cave. By the time she reached the entrance, John was long gone, hopefully to help repair her ship and not sabotage it. She picked her way back along the path and to the fork. This time, she took the other path.

Unlike the way to John’s cave, this path led upwards into thicker fog. A chill returned to the air, stronger than before, accompanied by the occasional gust of wind. Armena pulled her coat tight around her and silently--though begrudgingly--thanked John for giving it to her.

Her path led her to a much wider, though overgrown trail that looked as if it had seen a lot of traffic in earlier times. Armena assumed it was one of the old paths from a time when Mêlée Island had been inhabited by the living, and took that to mean that she was headed in the right direction.

Soon the undergrowth thinned out, and Armena found herself standing next to a sheer cliff face, with the ocean nearly twenty feet below. The fog thinned just enough for her to pick out the edge--and stay well enough away from it. To her relief, the path widened and opened up, winding past a ruined archway into a spacious front lawn--covered with what looked like overgrown lawn sculptures--and finally to an old mansion. It looked as if it had been standing there for many years and had seen better days. Most of the windows had been broken in and part of it looked to have been destroyed by fire. Only one light was on, in one of the uppermost windows. She couldn’t see any activity inside the mansion, but there was someone--or something, more like--moving around by the front door. Whatever it was, it was very small, and seated on a pedestal. Armena tiptoed closer, still clutching the bottle of root beer underneath her coat.

“Halt! Hold it right there!” The voice, male, deep and gruff, stopped her right in her tracks. It took her a minute to realize it was coming from the thing on the pedestal. Or, to be more precise, the skull on the pedestal. It grinned--as best a skull could--when she stopped, clearly pleased with itself. “Well, now, that’s better.”

Armena inched forward to get a better look at the skull. “Hey,” it snapped, “I said stay there!” She arched one eyebrow at it and didn’t stop until she was just out of jumping--or biting--distance. It sighed. “Oh, fine. Be that way.”

Armena looked at the skull again, then around at the mansion. “You’re the would-be governor, I’m guessing?”

“Yes! Quake in fear, mortal--well, actually, no.” It sighed. “I’m just the doorman. And the bouncer. And sometimes my boss calls me a piranha poodle, but I’d really rather you didn’t do that.” Then it paused, seemed to straighten, and looked straight at her. “I, foolish mortal, am Murray! The mighty demonic skull! Bwahahahaha--”

“You don’t look all that mighty.”

Murray stopped and glared at her. “I’m mighty if I say I’m mighty. Now shut up.”

“Maybe if you weren’t up on that silly pedestal...”

“Well I’m not all that impressive stuck on the ground, am I? Ghosts kept trying to kick me.” He looked away from her, sulking. “Now really, shut up, you’ve depressed me.”

Armena giggled. “I actually wanted to see your boss,” she added, resuming her normal composure. “He’s the...um, governor, right?”

“Right. What do you want with him, anyway? One of LeChuck’s guys was here just a week ago.”

“I just wanted to...you know...talk to him.” She chewed on her lower lip, thinking fast. “I’ve--I’ve heard something about a little argument you’ve got going on here. Some ghosts that don’t like LeChuck, that sort of thing.”

“Yeah, they’re the guys that like to use me as a soccer ball. What about ‘em?”

“Well, I happen to know a few things about voodoo; I was trained all my life to deal with spirits. I was thinking maybe I could help.”

“And you just decided to show up out of the goodness of your heart, eh?”

“Well--no, LeChuck sent me.”

“Riiiight. And fleets of Scandinavian barbarians only cost a dime a dozen.”

She blinked. “What?”

“Just--just never mind.” If a disembodied skull could have shrugged its nonexistent shoulders, Murray would have. “The eeeevil Murray doesn’t just let anybody in. You have to--oh, great.” He was peering around her at something on the path beyond. Armena turned around and squinted--she could just make out a small contingent of ghosts drifting up the path. Unlike the other ghosts she’d seen, though, these ones actually retained some idea of human form and walked, rather than floated. They also seemed to be doing their best not to jostle each other.

“Those would be the members of the other side, I’m guessing?” Armena asked, pointing.

“Some of ‘em, yeah. You might want to get out of the way.” She ducked into an overgrown bush next to the front door just as Murray cleared his throat and bellowed out, “Halt! Hold it right there!”

The ghosts stopped, but only appeared to be humoring Murray rather than actually complying with his demands. Murray preened anyway. “We’ve come to talk to your boss!” the lead ghost yelled out. He was an older man--age and past tragedies had hunched over his shoulders and made him appear shorter and weaker than Armena guessed he really was. Bright blue eyes--Armena was surprised to see that they’d retained their color even after death--shone out from underneath long, dusty hair and a thick beard.

“I’ve told you, nobody gets past Murray, the mighty demonic skull! Bwahahaha!”

Armena and the ghost both rolled their eyes at the same time. “Murray,” the ghost said, “give it up. You’re not scaring anybody.” Murray looked disappointed.

“Um, you said you knew how to deal with ghosts...” he muttered out of the corner of his mouth, pulling Armena’s attention away from the ghosts for a moment. She guessed where he was heading.

She rolled up her coat sleeves and sat down on the ground, closing her eyes. She concentrated on a simple hex--it was supposed to scare ghosts away for a twenty-four hour period. Don’t want to accidentally destroy the wrong side, after all, she thought. A short time later, after sketching some intricate designs into the dirt at her feet and muttering a few words under her breath, her eyes popped open again. The hex had had no effect; the ghosts were still standing there, calmly, as if nothing had happened.

Grumbling under her breath, Armena checked the pattern she’d drawn, looking for an error. Not finding any, she tried the hex again for a second time--and it was no more effective than the first attempt. Frustrated, she tried a simple spell, to determine how one of the ghosts in the group had died. She was more than a little surprised at what she found.

“Um, Murray?” He tilted towards her, as if listening. “Um--they’re not dead.”

“What do you mean they’re not dead? I’m a disembodied talking skull here; I think I know dead when I see it.”

“They’re not dead,” she said again. “It’s a disguise.” She looked at the group again and let out a long, shaky breath. There wasn’t supposed to be a single living soul on Mêlée. She’d been surprised enough to find even two, but if there was an entire faction, just pretending to be ghosts... And if they’re fighting against LeChuck...she trailed off, suddenly lost deep in thought.

She almost stood up then to let them know she was there, but something held her back. “Murray,” Armena asked slowly, “does Guybrush Threepwood ever come ashore here?”

“Guybrush--” Murray sputtered. “He’d better not, if he knows what’s good for him. For none can withstand the wrath of Murray! Bwahahaha--”

“Murray, who in tarnation are you talking to?”

Both Murray and Armena looked back at the group in front of them--their leader was giving Murray a curious look. Armena sighed and pulled herself to her feet. “He was talking to me,” she said, holding her hands up in surrender. Several swords were simultaneously unsheathed and pointed in her direction, though they wouldn’t do much good from a distance. The would-be ghosts were reacting more out of shock than anything else, though.

“All right,” their leader said, “you get yourself over here, nice and slow. And bring evil skull boy with you--just in case he gets any ideas of running for his boss.”

Murray snorted and muttered threats of biting her if she so much as tried, but Armena picked him up anyway, gingerly holding him at arm’s length. When she was within a few feet of the group, she pulled Murray back and held out her other hand. “I’m Armena,” she said calmly. “Who are you?”

“I know him,” Murray grumbled. “He’s--”

“Horatio Torquemada Marley,” the man interrupted, taking her hand after a moment of hesitation and shaking it. Armena wasn’t surprised when a dusty white powder--it looked to be flour--remained stuck to her hand after they pulled apart, though the man’s name had come as more of a shock to her. “The real governor of Mêlée Island.”

“And Plunder and Booty,” another man added in.

Marley smiled at him. “Right. Now, we’d better be going, unless you want ‘Governor’ Mandrill finding out we’re camped out on his front lawn.”

“What about--” Armena snickered--“evil skull boy here?”

“I resent that,” Murray grumbled, making a lunge for her fingers. She tossed him into the air just in time, and when she caught him he seemed to have gotten his temper under control.

“Give ‘im to me...we’ve been meaning to take care of Murray for a long time.” She handed him over, ignoring Murray’s protests. With a cursory glance around, Marley set Murray down on the ground, took a step backwards--and kicked him.

As he flew through the air, Murray yelled, “You’ll regret this, mortal! No one escapes the wrath of Murray, the mighty--” His speech was cut off short by a thump that sounded remarkably like a skull smashing into a tree.

Marley chuckled. “If anybody asks, you did that,” he said, pointing at Armena. “Now come on.”

He kept a quick pace, and Armena had to hurry to keep up with him. As they walked she tried to talk to him. “Um...so...you’re not ghosts,” she said to begin with, watching Marley as he strode easily through the forest.

“Neither are you.”

“True, but I’m not covered in flour and pretending to be a ghost.”

Marley snickered. “You try and walk around on this island your way, and I’ll try it mine. Besides, it worked, didn’t it? Until you showed up--how’d you figure it out, anyway?” He squinted at her. “My eyesight ain’t what it used to be...how’s yours?”

“I didn’t see it--I’ve been trained to deal with spirits. I figured you weren’t ghosts when I couldn’t get any hexes to work on you.”

“Oh. I didn’t think many folks’d be able to figure that kind of stuff out. There’s not so many voodoo practitioners running around the Caribbean lately. Who trained you?” He looked at her suspiciously, as if waiting for her to slip up and say she was working for LeChuck.

“The Voodoo Lady,” Armena answered honestly, bringing the entire group to a screeching halt. “...What?” she asked, looking around. “What’d I say?”

“The Voodoo Lady...” Marley began, slowly, “as in The Voodoo Lady?”

“Is there more than one?”

“I didn’t know she took apprentices,” one pirate in the back mumbled.

Armena shrugged and fell back on the story she’d been told all her life. “I guess she had to, in my case--my parents were killed when LeChuck took over the Caribbean. She knew them, I guess, so she took me in. I got lucky, really.”

Marley looked at her, shook his head, and started walking again. “Yeah, and you’re probably the only one,” he muttered, kicking a stone out of the way.

Armena looked at one of the other pirates as they started moving again. “What’s with him?”

“The name Marley ringing any bells for you, kid?” The pirate shook his head at her, distinctly unimpressed. “You’re looking at the Marley.”

Armena looked at Marley’s retreating back, her eyes going wide. “You mean...” she pointed at him. “He’s not related to Elaine--”

“The very same. She was his granddaughter. I guess he was trying to sneak around LeChuck’s forces at Booty Island when she...you know...”

“Died?” Armena offered meekly.

“Yeah. Don’t ask me how he wound up here, but, well, you know. Don’t mention LeChuck around him too much. And if you know what’s good for you, you’d better not be working for him.”

She snorted, picking up the pace. “Don’t worry. I’m not.” Her thoughts, though, were reeling. She stared at Marley’s back with a new sense of respect. He could be my great-grandfather, she thought, but quickly dismissed the notion. Because since she wasn’t related to Threepwood...

Marley led them all to the far side of the island, near to where Armena had originally gone ashore. The fog lessened here, though ghosts flitted about and watched them from behind trees as they passed. Armena guessed that most of them, like the group escorting her, were only pretending. “How many of you are there?”

Marley looked back at her. “Not enough,” he said, leading the way into an encampment. Lopsided tents were packed in close together in a small clearing, with would-be ghosts--and the occasional real one--moving here and there. A few stared as the group passed. Marley walked to one of the tents and motioned Armena inside.

“You all go make sure Murray won’t be rolling back to Mandrill anytime soon,” he commanded, motioning them away. The group nodded as one and left. “As for you...” He shooed her into the tent. “Sit down.”

Armena scooted past him into the tent. It was small to start with, but Marley hadn’t put much furniture in it--she sat down in one of two rickety chairs. “Governor--” she began, but Marley cut her off.

“Murray said something about Guybrush Threepwood. What do you know about him? You’re not here chasing him, are you? Because if you are...”

“No, no, I’m just--I’m just looking for him.” She sighed. “I just want to ask him a question. Then, I promise, I’ll leave him alone. I know he’s your grandson-in-law and everything, but--”

“Who told you that?” Marley snapped. Then, calming down a bit, he added, “All right, if we keep interrupting each other we’ll be here all night. Now all I want to know from you is how you wound up hiding in the bushes outside the Governor’s Mansion. I promise, I won’t interrupt you this time.”

Armena smiled and launched into the story. She tried, at first, to trim out the idea that she and Marley might be related, but in the end it was unavoidable--there was no other decent excuse that wouldn’t get her killed that she could give. He looked several times as if he wanted to interrupt her, but managed to stay true to his word. When she finally finished--with an explanation of how her ship had been run aground on Mêlée--Marley looked at her and sighed.

“I’d tell you if you’re my great-granddaughter or not, but I don’t know.” He shook his head. “I never got a chance to see her before...you know. I heard all the rumors--they’re all ridiculous, by the way. There’s no way Squinky could kill a fly, much less my granddaughter! Well, if it were an undead fly he might, but that’s beside the point.”

“But wasn’t he a bloodthirsty pirate? One intent on controlling the entire Caribbean?”

Marley laughed until tears gathered in his eyes. “Darling, that scrawny little kid could barely steer a ship! He had a few delusions of grandeur, sure, but not megalomania. And there’s no way he ever went to Monkey Island with any intention other than trying to stop LeChuck and save my granddaughter. ‘Control’ LeChuck...heh, that’s a good one. He couldn’t even win an argument with his own wife! Not that anybody could win an argument with Elaine, but, well...”

Armena started nervously twirling a lock of hair around one finger. “So...what happened, then? How’d they all--die?”

“Don’t know. If you ever find Guybrush, you can ask ‘im. All I know is, one minute I’m trying to outrun LeChuck’s armada, the next I’m washing up here on Mêlée with a bunch of other pirates, and they’re all waving their arms and jumping up and down about how Elaine’s a ghost and LeChuck’s got her back on Monkey Island!”

“So you’ve been stuck here...?”

“Seventeen years.”

“Oh.” Armena sat back, frowning. “What about the real ghosts, then?”

Marley’s face fell into a pinched frown. “They got here first, if you ask them. Ozzie Mandrill led an invasion by LeChuck’s forces and drove all us living people out. He named himself governor and pranced all around the island like the sissy megalomaniac he is, until we showed up and decided to take Mêlée back.

“We tricked ‘em into figuring we were all ghosts like them, just not so evil. It took ‘em a while to figure out that we weren’t really rooting for ‘em...but there’s still more of them than there is of us. And what’s worse, Mandrill’s probably got his hands on a certain Marley family heirloom I’d rather he didn’t have. They were searching the mansion that night for a reason, after all...” he trailed off, lost deep in thought.

“Um...” Armena cleared her throat. Marley looked up, startled back to the present. “I don’t see how an heirloom could be so import--”

“It’s a voodoo talisman that can raise the dead or put ‘em to rest, and probably do a few other things, too,” Marley snapped back. “The first Marley who came to the Caribbean found it--it’s been hidden in the mansion pretty much ever since it’s been built. And there’s a lot more dead folks on Mêlée than the ghosts, if you get my drift.”

“Oh. Oh.” She paused, biting her lower lip. “Haven’t you ever tried taking it back?”

Marley shook his head. “We’ve tried. We even tried getting Stan’s help, not that that did any good. But Mandrill’s quick, and it’s gotten to where we can’t even get into the mansion anymore. We were going to try to trick him into coming out into the open when you showed up.”

“Well...” Armena shrugged. “I could take you off the island, if you’d like...I’ve got a ship. Of course, it’s probably still a little wrecked right now, but--”

He shook his head again, more forcefully this time. “I’m not leaving until Mandrill’s out of my chair.” He sighed and looked over at her. “Say...you’d probably know how to work that talisman, wouldn’t you?”

Armena nodded. “Probably. And even if I couldn’t, the Voodoo Lady could.”

Marley grinned. “Armena, I’ve just got an idea--we’re going to get rid of Ozzie Mandrill--and bring my granddaughter and grandson-in-law back to life.”

She was halfway to her feet but stopped, hesitating. “Um, I only wanted to ask Threepwood a question, not fix whatever problems he got himself into.”

Marley shot her a dark look. “He’s the only one who can get rid of LeChuck--temporarily, at least. Unless you’d like to give it a try.”

“I’d rather not.”

“Good. Now come on--we’ve git work to do.” He paused, as if waiting for her to respond with another comment. When she didn’t he smiled and motioned for her to follow him. “You know,” he added when she still seemed reluctant, “you remind me a lot of Elaine when she was little--she never listened to me, either.”

Armena blushed and meekly followed Marley out of the tent.



***


They gathered again in front of the Governor’s Mansion, Armena, Marley and a handful of Marley’s men, now stripped of their ghost costumes. They all looked like ordinary--if beleaguered--pirates, now. They caught Murray trying to roll back to the mansion, grumbling something about “revenge” and “eternal torment” all the while, but Marley punted him back into the forest before he got too far.

“Foolish mortaaaaal--!” Murray yelled as he flew through the air--again. Marley just grinned.

“He’s a slow learner, that one.”

“Lucky for us,” another pirate added, grinning.

“Right.” Marley snapped back to the situation at hand. “We’ll all keep Mandrill’s ghosts busy--you go with that root beer of yours and take care of Mandrill.”

Armena made a small squeaking noise at the back of her throat. “Me? But, um, wouldn’t I be better for fending off the ghosts? You could go take care of Mandrill...”

“He’s an undead Australian land developer, not the boogey-man,” Marley answered, shaking his head at her. “You can handle him.”

She nodded, trying to seem more confident than she actually felt. “Right. I’ll handle the evil megalomaniac. Check.” She paused then, looking around at the assembled group. A plan was starting to come to mind... “Actually, why don’t you all go and start distracting? I’ll be right back--I’ve got to go find evil skull boy.” And with a nod to Marley, Armena disappeared into the forest.

It didn’t take long to find Murray--she just followed the sound of his apparently trademark “Bwahahaha” until she found him, rolling along through the forest back towards the mansion. With a wry grin, Armena stepped into his path--and dropped one foot firmly on his skull.

“Um.” Murray seemed a bit baffled by this predicament, but he resumed his usual persona quickly enough. “Foolish mortal! Who dares block the way of Murray, the eeeevil demonic skull?”

Armena bent down and picked him up, still grinning. “Hey Murray, how’d you like to help me get rid of your boss?”

“Oh. It’s you.” He rolled his eyes. “Get rid of my boss? Are you kidding? He’s the one who’s paying me! How am I supposed to finance my eeeevil schemes to take over the world if I’m not paid?”

“And you think a disembodied talking skull is really going to take over the world one day?”

“Yes. Bwahahahaha.”

She sighed. “Well, can’t argue with that logic. Come on.” And, tucking him under one arm, she hurried back towards the mansion. Murray immediately protested the entire undertaking.

“I command that you put me down this instant! This is horribly undignified. And--and why do you smell like root beer?”

“Don’t ask. Please.”



***


By the time they reached it, the mansion was in total chaos. Pirates--and ghosts in pursuit of pirates--were running all over. Armena could catch glimpses of them, occasionally, as they ran past the mansion’s windows. She couldn’t help but grin. “All right Murray--where’s your boss hiding out?”

Murray snarled something about “eternal torment” in her general direction and then went silent. Armena sighed and held him out at arm’s length, turning him so that he faced her.

“Listen, Murray--if you help me, I promise, I’ll put in a good word for you with Governor Marley. Don’t help me...and I’ll make sure you’re made the official Mêlée Island soccer ball.”

He seemed to ponder on her words for a minute, then answered, “Oh...fine. First floor, past the stairs, second door to your right, there’s a library. He likes to lurk in there.”

Armena smiled sweetly. “I knew you’d help, Murray.” Then, tucking him back under her arm again and holding the bottle of root beer in her other hand, she walked into the mansion.

The scene inside was no better than what it appeared to be outside--in fact, if anything, it was worse. Displaced rugs, paintings and random trinkets dotted the floor, obviously tossed there by pirates intent on causing as much chaos as possible. It also became plainly obvious that no living person had been inside the mansion for years--a thick layer of dust had settled down over everything, but had now been stirred up. Armena started sneezing the minute she walked inside. She managed to fight her way past a couple of rampaging pirates--and a larger handful of ghosts--to the door Murray had described, though. It was shut, but not locked.

Armena set Murray down on the floor and then opened the door just wide enough for him to roll through. “Distract him,” she whispered, keeping her eye on a ghost who was drifting her way. She didn’t have to worry, though--a pirate appeared a second later and distracted the ghost by throwing a vase through his head. The ghost took off immediately in pursuit of the pirate.

Murray shot her a dirty look. “The eeevil Murray doesn’t take orders from you. Buwahahaha...”

“Soccer ball...” she added in a soft, sing-song voice. Murray swallowed.

“All right, all right!” Glaring at her one last time, he rolled into the room. Armena could have sworn she heard him grumble something along the lines of, “As soon as I take care of Threepwood, she’s next on my list of people to bite,” but dismissed it.

She pulled out the bottle of root beer and slipped into the room the moment Murray cleared his throat and announced, in a louder-than-normal voice, “There’s pirates in the foyer.”

A ghost floating on the far side of the room answered in a thick Australian accent, “I know. You’re fired.” He was facing the room’s only window and didn’t see Armena sneak in. She was struck immediately by how frail and haggard the ghost appeared, even in death. He leaned against an old walking cane and the reflection in the window caught perfectly the snarl on his wizened old face.

“Well, I actually didn’t let them in,” Murray finally replied. If he’d had a chest to puff up with imagined pride, he would have, and Armena had to work hard to keep from snickering at the thought.

“You’re fired anyway,” the ghost shot back. Murray grumbled something unrepeatable, and Armena took this as her opportunity.

“Ahem,” she said, clearing her throat. Ozzie Mandrill whirled around, his snarl deepening.

“Who’re you? And what’re you doing in my mansion?”

Armena smiled and shook up the root beer bottle. “Well actually, I’m selling these fine leather jackets...”



***


Half an hour later, Marley was rooting through the library, pulling books off of shelves and paintings off of walls, grumbling to himself. Murray perched on the top shelf of one of the bookcases--Armena still had no idea how he’d gotten up there--next to an old copy of Hamlet. She had tried to point out the irony of it to him earlier, but had been rebuked by a lecture on the current cost of fleets of Scandinavian barbarians.

Finally, Marley sighed and threw one last book down on the floor. “That’s it; it’s not here. I don’t know where Ozzie might’ve hid it.”

“Are you sure you’re looking in the right spot?”

Marley gave her a look. “It’s my mansion--of course I know where it should be! It’s supposed to be in this room--somewhere. I hid it here myself before I left for Australia!”

Armena sighed. “Which was...how many years ago?”

“Thirty-eight,” Murray supplied helpfully from up above. “Now if you both don’t mind, I’ve got a lot of eeevil scheming to do, so--”

“Oh shut up!” Marley shouted at the same time Armena threw in a “You fight like a cow!”

Marley grinned at her. “I think you just might be related to my grandson-in-law after all.” He ignored Armena’s habitual wince at the idea and continued, “Now if we could just find that doo-dad...”

Armena scratched her head. “We could tell the other pirates to search the rest of the mansion.”

“They’re ransacking the place already. I think they’d’ve found it by now.”

“Okay, well what if LeChuck’s already got it?”

“Then we’re in trouble,” he said. On the off-chance he might find it, Marley tried tugging a few more books off the shelves. They were added to the growing pile on the floor. Armena leaned against a nearly-empty bookshelf to watch him, yawning.

The bookshelf she was leaning against also happened to be the same one Murray was perched on--and, looking down at her head, he didn’t waste an opportunity at revenge. With a quiet little cackle to himself, he rolled over behind the copy of Hamlet, made sure it was perfectly in position...and gave it a sharp push.

“Ow! What the--Murray!”

“Bwahahahaha!”

Still rubbing her head, Armena whirled around and glared up at the skull. He seemed to be quite pleased with himself. “It’s soccer ball time for you,” she growled, reaching up to yank him off the shelf--and as she turned, a glint of crystal caught her eye. She stopped and looked down at the book.

The book was actually hollow--the middle of all the pages had been cut out, leaving a small, unnatural nest for someone to hide things in. And resting in the center was a lopsided, murky little crystal. It had been half-plated with silver and was affixed to a small chain. Marley and Armena both looked at it with expressions of disbelief.

“Oh yeah...now I remember! I hid it in there because I figured nobody’d open the book.” Armena arched her eyebrows at him. He only shrugged. “Well, how many pirates do you know who read Shakespeare?”



***


They returned to the foyer to find the other pirates just leaving it. One of them had a painting tucked under his arm. “Hey!” Marley yelled, distracting the pirate. He turned, guiltily, and looked back and forth between Marley and the painting. “Put it back...”

The pirate swallowed and quickly hurried off to replace the painting where he’d found it. Armena watched him leave out of the corner of her eye--she was spinning the crystal around in circles, watching as it caught the murky morning light and held it. Marley cleared his throat and she jumped, folding the crystal back into her palm.

“They’ve all gone to take care of the rest of the ghosts on the island,” Marley said, now that he had her full attention. “You shouldn’t have any problem making it back to your ship.”

Armena nodded slowly. “Right...but will you be all right here?”

“Assuming evil skull boy doesn’t drop any books on anybody’s head, yeah, fine. It’s about time I had an island to govern again.” He grinned and clapped her on the shoulder hard enough to send her reeling. “Now go on--if your ship’s ready. We’ll be fine, and you’ve got a resurrection to perform. Two of ‘em.”

She swallowed. “That’s assuming I can get anywhere near Threepwood’s ship. Look what happened the last time I tried that.”

“Yeah, well, if you had LeChuck chasing after you all the time you’d be like that too. You’ll figure it out.”

Armena snorted. “Maybe I’ll just get a big sign that says ‘Idiot Convention Here.’ That would do it.” The look Marley gave her showed just how unimpressed he was with the idea, though several pirates passing by laughed.

“That might work,” Marley countered, “but I think it’d be a little too true.” That drew even more laughter from one pirate who was sneaking down the stairs and out the door--the painting still in hand, though a little better concealed this time. “I said put it back!” Marley snapped.

“Aw, but--”

“Put it back,” he grumbled, “or my would-be great-granddaughter here’ll tell you you fight like a cow.”

“Ooh, I’m shakin’, I'm shakin’,” the pirate grumbled back, though he turned around to put the painting back in its proper place--again.

Armena sighed, ignoring the exchange. “Well, I guess I’ll be leaving then...are you sure you don’t need this thing?” She held the talisman up again, but Marley only shook his head and pushed it away.

“We’ll be fine. You need it more than we do, anyway.”

“All right then. Um...bye. Good luck.” She stuffed the talisman into her pocket and turned to go but stopped, suddenly remembering something. “Um--Governor Marley?”

He arched both his eyebrows at her. “What?”

“What...what color were Elaine’s eyes?”

“What kind of question is that?” he asked, suddenly on the defensive.

Armena shrugged. “Just a question.”

He sighed, and his expression seemed to turn nostalgic and sad. “Dark blue,” he said finally. “Kind of like yours. A lot like yours, actually...”

She nodded and turned away quickly. “Right--right, thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Hey, if you really are my great-granddaughter, drop me a note or something, would you?”

She laughed nervously. “Yeah...yeah, sure. Good luck.” And without another word and without waiting for reply, she left the mansion.



***


As she walked back across the island, the fog seemed to lift, and a warm Caribbean breeze started to blow in. Stan’s neon sign now burned more brightly than ever. As the fog and gloom lifted, though, it was easier to see the damage done to the island over the years--much of the forest Armena walked through was still charred black by fire. If there’d ever been a town here, it would take a long time to rebuild it again.

The forest cleared away and she found the Iago drifting just off-shore, with Bill making a few last minute repairs. She waded into the water, headed for the ship. Bill caught sight of her and waved, grinning. “I was beginning to think you’d never come back!” He jumped down from where he’d been working on the mast to help her on board. “What took you so long? And--” he paused, sniffing-- “and why do you smell like root beer?”

Armena shook her head. “I’ll tell you sometime, when I’ve got a few hours to spare.” She scrambled up on deck and looked around. “You work fast.”

“Yeah, well, your incapable friend helped a little...but I still don’t like him.”

Armena looked around--John was nowhere in sight, and she thought for a minute that maybe he’d decided to stay on Mêlée after all. “Where is he?”

Bill rolled his eyes. “Below deck, getting into a fight with Santiago and Castaneda. He figured out how to break up one of their chess games, by the way.”

“How’s that?” she asked, arching both eyebrows.

“Take away the pieces.” He snorted, but his amusement quickly faded. “Where’d you ever find him? He’s not staying, is he?”

“He’s staying. We made an agreement--he fixed the ship, he goes with the ship.”

Bill sighed. “Your negotiating skills need work, Mena.”

She shook her head at him again. “It was either him or the salesman with a ten gallon hat on a one quart head. Now are we ready to go?”

“I suppose--I’ll get our friend ‘Incapable’ to finish the repairs.”

“His name’s John, you know.”

“Actually, his name’s ‘Mad Johnathan the Incapable.’ As if that’s some sort of real name.” He folded his arms across his chest and avoided making direct eye contact with her. “By the way, he thinks your name’s Armina.”

“Still?” Armena rubbed her temples and let out a long breath. “I’ll deal with him...it’s only until we find Threepwood, anyway. Then we can drop him off at the nearest port.”

“Which should be soon,” Bill added hopefully, casting a dark glance at the stairs leading down below deck.

“Right,” she said, “soon.”


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