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The Second Element III: And Broken Fragments
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“A plague o’ both your houses!”
-- “Romeo and Juliet,” Act III Scene 1
Act One: Twilight Long Begun
Armena’s father showed up at her door early one morning, at the same time as the redecorators. He staggered inside bleary-eyed and weighed down by piles of luggage. Without saying a word, he shoved a wad of papers into Armena’s hands, found her couch, and collapsed on it with a clatter of falling suitcases. The redecorators looked on with amusement.
Armena cleared her throat. “Okay guys--” they all snapped back to attention or something like it-- “get to work. And don’t forget about that bird...gargoyle...thing.” She shuddered. “It’s giving me the creeps.”
“Right, lady.” One of them grabbed the doorhandle and pulled the door shut. She watched their shadows recede through the fogged glass until she was certain they’d get right to work. Then, with a long sigh, she turned around to deal with her father.
“Look at the papers,” interrupted the pile of luggage on the couch.
With a faintly amused look on her face, Armena unfolded the papers and smoothed them out. She scanned the first two, then flipped through the rest. The amused look disappeared.
“Dad, this...this is a joke, right? I just talked to Mom a few weeks ago, everything was fine--”
“Yeah, I thought so too.” The suitcases shuddered with something that might have been a sigh. When he didn’t say anything for a while, Armena began to worry Guybrush might have suffocated under all that weight. She hurried over and began moving the suitcases onto the floor, asking questions as she worked.
“Well...did you try talking to her? Did she give you any warning? There’s a chance you can fight this, right?”
“Yes, no, and maybe.” Freed from the weight of the suitcases, Guybrush sat up, rubbing his temples. “I just...is it okay if I stay here for a while?”
Armena looked around at all the dusty, musty furniture. Half of it hadn’t been touched in years, much less dusted. “Um, well, there’s only one bedroom...and I still can’t find the key to the guest house...”
“I’ll sleep on the couch,” Guybrush answered quickly. “Since you got all those creepy animals out of here, I guess it’s safe.”
She sighed. The house--newly bought for a lot more than it was worth--was still a complete mess. She didn’t particularly like the notion of adding her father into the equation. But it isn’t like he has anywhere else to go, she admitted grudgingly.
“All right,” she said at last. “I...guess you can stay. You’re here to talk to the lawyers, right? I mean, you’re going to fight this, right?”
Guybrush hesitated for a moment. “Um...yeah, sure!”
Armena eyed him doubtfully. Then she handed the papers back with a heavy sigh. “I could go talk to her too, I suppose. I mean--she never said anything about a divorce. What happened?”
Guybrush either ignored her question or didn’t hear it. “Hey, do you have someplace we could stuff all these suitcases?” When she gave him an odd look, he elaborated. “Mine’s that one there--” he pointed to a tiny suitcase, easily the ugliest of the lot. “The rest...er, Elaine did a little cleaning before she kicked me out. She told me to take all this junk with me.”
Armena hung her head in her hands. Just what I need, more junk. She was about to say something entirely rude and inconsiderate when one of the workmen stuck his head in the door.
“Hey, lady? Did you want a new front walk?”
She raised one eyebrow and peered past him--just enough to see a now slightly battered gargoyle bird, resting on newly broken cobblestone that had once made up the entryway.
“Um, no, not really...”
The man shrugged. “Well, ya got one now.” He closed the door. Armena turned back to her father.
“I’d better go deal with that. You...just stuff the suitcases in that closet over there. And watch out for the stuffed koala. He bites.”
Guybrush paled, and Armena hurried outside to go yell at the workmen.
Armena threw the door to the Rotted Coffin open, stepped inside, and slammed it shut behind her. All conversation stopped as everyone stared at her for a moment, made sure she wasn’t looking to disembowel anybody, and then returned to whatever it was they’d been doing. The quiet hum of conversation quickly resumed.
One man, however, standing over by the bar, didn’t return his attention to his drink. He kept staring at Armena until she noticed him--then he waved. “Mena! Over here!”
She stepped over a comatose drunk and pushed her way past two pirates in the middle of a heated argument to get to him. She didn’t relax until she was standing by the man’s side at the bar.
“Mena,” he said, his blue eyes smiling warmly, “I was wondering when you’d show up. Let me buy you a drink.”
She groaned and slid onto a bar stool. “Ugh, please. I could use it.”
He frowned. “What’s wrong? I heard you’d bought the old Mandrill mansion...trouble in paradise?”
“Oh, no, the house is fine...a complete mess, but it’s nice to have a house that doesn’t come with loaded cannons.”
He pressed a mug of near-grog into her hand, thanking the bartender only as an afterthought. “So...what’s the problem?”
She didn’t answer him for a minute--instead taking a long drink from her mug and then making a face. “Don’t they have anything stronger?”
“No way. I’ve heard how you handle grog. Er, don’t handle, that is.” He coughed and raked a hand through his short brown hair. “But really--what’s wrong?”
Armena sighed and watched him for a moment before she answered. “My mother threw my father out of the house and filed for divorce. He’s been living on my couch for the past ten days. He was supposed to talk to the family lawyers, but I haven’t even seen him leave the house yet.”
He frowned and moved to squeeze her hand sympathetically, then stopped. “Sorry, Mena...I didn’t know. I’m sorry. But I think you’re right--I didn’t even know your father was here on Lucre. Maybe I just didn’t notice him, but he’s a pretty hard guy to miss.”
“Yeah.” Armena sighed and took another long pull from her drink.
“Anyway--” he slid into the seat next to her and leaned in close, as if afraid of being overheard. “I’ve got some good news.”
“I just got word from a friend of mine...Bill’s been spotted on Scabb Island. They say he’s put in for repairs on the Persephone; he’ll be there a week, at least.”
Armena shot him a thinly-veiled glare. “He’s your cousin, Will. If you want to go after him, that’s your business. I’m not interested.”
Will’s eyebrows shot up. “But Mena, I thought...I mean, Persephone’s your ship...”
“It’s Bill’s now,” she corrected sharply. “I gave it to him.”
“After the most spectacular argument in the history of piracy...” Will ducked as she swung a hand out to slap him.
“There’s no truth to that rumor, and you know it,” she snapped. “I wanted to quit and come back to Lucre. Bill--”
“--didn’t want you to leave,” Will finished. He watched her closely for any sign that she might try to slap him again--or worse.
“He was fine with it, Will. I gave him the ship and I left, the end.” She drained the last of the near-grog from her mug and slammed it down on the bar. A few patrons glanced warily her way.
“That’s not what he told me,” Will pressed, shaking his head. “He wrote me a letter right afterwards--Mena, he wants to see you, you know that. Now would be perfect; my ship could be ready to leave by tomorrow morning. I’d take you.”
Armena stood up. “If he wants to see me, then he can come here. I’ve got no reason to be chasing after him. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got other problems to deal with.” She left without giving him a chance to say goodbye, slamming the door like she had when she’d come in.
Once outside, Armena took a deep breath of fresh air. It was just past twilight, and most of Lucre Town was shutting down for the night--except for the Rotted Coffin and the Hall of Justice. The streets were, for the most part, deserted. Armena stepped aside to let a couple of pirates into the bar and then took another look around. A light was on in the Law Offices of W.T.D., which was fairly unusual--the lawyers rarely, if ever, worked overtime.
I hope that means Dad finally got around to talking to them, she thought, and immediately realized how ridiculous the idea was. If he hasn’t gotten there yet, he probably never will.
Sighing, Armena walked to their door and tried the handle--unlocked. She pushed open the door and stepped inside.
The first thing she noticed was that everything was in boxes--the bookshelves were bare, and the expensive oriental rug was rolled up in a corner. Even the lawyers’ towering portrait had been taken down.
“May I help you?”
Armena turned, surprised to see one of the lawyers--the tall one--standing behind her, sorting through a small handful of files. He appeared to be the only person there.
“Um, yes, I’m--”
“If you’re looking to open a new case, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere,” he interrupted. The files in his hand were dumped without ceremony into a box. “The Law Offices of W.T.D. are closed. Permanently.”
Armena’s eyes widened. “But--”
“We’ve decided it’s time to retire. Nobody’s sued anyone in weeks! Life has gotten, shall we say, boring.”
He coughed, obviously unimpressed with her sputtering. “If you’re truly desperate to file a lawsuit or some such thing, madam, there is another law office over...oh, by Port Royal, I do believe. They’ve taken all our open cases.”
“Oh.” Armena frowned. “So...they’d’ve taken my parents’ divorce case, then?”
He reached into a second open box and pulled out a particularly thick file. “That would be the Marley-Threepwood case, correct?” When she nodded, he smiled. “Yes, Ms. Marley paid us quite the handsome sum to make that case our first priority. It would have been closed by now if Mr. Threepwood hadn’t simply taken the papers and run without signing them.”
Armena sighed. “Right. That’s because he doesn’t want the divorce. Which is what I came here to ask you, actually--is there any way we could fight this?”
The lawyer hesitated for a moment, then, rifling through the file, merely shrugged. “It’s possible. But I wouldn’t worry--the office your parents’ case is being sent to has a history of botching its cases. The entire affair should fall through in a few months.”
Well, that’s something...not that it gets Dad off my couch any time soon, but... She paused and eyed the lawyer suspiciously. “Wait...you don’t care that you’re sending such a high profile case off to such a bad firm?”
He shrugged his shoulders, a movement which jostled his powdered wig. “Why should I? Besides, it works out in your favor in the end--why should you complain? Now go on, I want to finish this all before midnight. Go!”
He shooed her all the way out the door and into the street, closing the door as soon as she was outside. The lock clicked into place just a few seconds later. Glancing back at the door with a slow sigh, Armena started down the path for home.
The moment she walked through the front door, Armena’s eyes went to the couch. Yes, her father was still there--a tangled lump of blankets with only his blond hair sticking out.
“Don’t you ever move?” Armena grumbled, not really expecting a response. Then, rolling up her sleeves, she marched over to the couch--and shoved Guybrush right onto the floor.
“Ow!” From the tangle of blankets, Guybrush’s head emerged--and he didn’t look very happy. He tugged the rest of the blankets away, wadded them into a ball, and tossed them onto the couch. Then he stood up and glared at Armena, rubbing a purpling bruise on his arm. “What was that for?”
“I’m sick of you just lying there all day,” she answered immediately, folding her arms across her chest. “You’ve been here almost a week, and you haven’t done anything useful! Now do something!”
“This late at night? What are you, nuts?” He eyed the bruise on his arm with concern. “And by the way, I think pushing me off the couch was completely unnecessary.”
“If you actually did something, then yes, it would’ve been unnecessary.” She smirked, picked up the wad of blankets, and began folding them, thinking the conversation was over.
“So if I helped you redecorate this creepy mansion, would that count as ‘something?’ Because that’s all I see you doing lately.”
Armena tossed the blankets back onto the couch with a sigh. “Dad, not this again...”
“Why’d you give up the Persephone, Mena? The last time I saw you you were happy to be captain of a ship--taking after me, obviously,” he added with a grin. Armena rolled her eyes.
“I told you two nights ago--I was tired of it. ...And I guess Bill and I had a few disagreements after we finished cleaning up the Caribbean. So I quit. It’s been almost a year of nonstop work, Dad--I think we deserve a break.”
“So this is what, a little side project?”
She shrugged. “For now. As soon as I get things straightened out here, I’ll go back to work. Honest.”
He watched her doubtfully for a moment, then sighed. “Right. If you say so...” Before she could retort, he continued. “So, um, does this mean you’re throwing me out?”
She walked around the couch and sat down. “Well...no. Just answer me this: Mom couldn’t have divorced you just out of the blue. Didn’t you notice that something was wrong?”
Guybrush sat down next to her. “Well...um...no. But then, we haven’t talked in about three weeks, so--”
“Okay, that counts as a clue, right there.” She leaned back against the couch with a sigh.
Guybrush frowned. “Yeah, I guess so. I just figured it was better than her threatening to throw me out, which is what she was doing before that.”
“Any reason why?”
He just shrugged. “We had a few arguments. About you, and a few...other things. I don’t know. I guess that’s what did it.”
Armena cleared her throat uncomfortably. “Arguments...about me?”
“Just a couple,” Guybrush answered quickly. “Nothing--you know, nothing big, just, um...” His voice petered out about then, for which Armena was grateful. She cleared her throat again and stood up.
“Right. Look, it’s getting late. I need sleep. I’ll see you in the morning...and I’m sorry about the whole, you know, shoving you off the couch thing.”
“Don’t worry about it. Just don’t do it again, or you’ll be in big trouble, young lady.”
Armena blushed and hurried up the stairs. In the safety of her own room, however, she leaned back against the door and began to wonder. Dad should care that Mom wasn’t talking to him. The Guybrush Threepwood I know would’ve been to see the lawyers a hundred times by now; he’d be fighting this. Not like it’d do any good, since the lawyers are retiring... Why is it that nobody seems to care about the things they loved most anymore? Her thoughts flickered briefly to the last few days she’d spent on the Persephone, but she quickly shoved all those memories aside and went to bed.
Armena didn’t make it downstairs until late the next morning. She peered down over the staircase railing and watched the morning sunlight filter through all the dust motes. It took her a minute to realize what was different about the scene: her father was missing. The blankets were folded neatly at the end of the couch, with the pillow he’d been using balanced on top. She looked around and, not seeing him anywhere, bit her lower lip pensively. Don’t tell me he left...
Her feet had just touched the last stair when the front door opened and shut. “It’s about time you woke up.”
Armena smiled--her father was up and neatly dressed for the first time in days. “Did you hit your head when I pushed you off the couch or something?”
He scratched his head. “No...your redecorators woke me up, actually. By the way, they said to tell you that they quit.”
“What?” She blinked at him for a moment, dumbfounded. “Okay, what did you--”
“It wasn’t me!” Guybrush interrupted, raising his hands in mock surrender. “They said they were quitting the business entirely. Something about that weird fountain outside being the last straw.”
Armena pushed past him out into the courtyard. The workmen’s tools were lying on the ground where they’d left them. Sunlight reflected off them with brilliant intensity. The front walk was only partly fixed, and stones to repair it and some of the rest of the house were still waiting in the shade of the gnarled palm trees. Just beyond the house, the strange, shark-like fountain lay on its side in the grass, tipped over to reveal the pipes underneath it. Supposedly, the water to it had been shut off--when Armena had picked up the house keys from him, Inspector Canard had mentioned that the fountain hadn’t worked for years. But now a geyser of water sprouted up from the rusted pipes, spraying up almost five feet into the air before falling back to the cobblestones with a splatter.
Silently, Armena made a slow walking survey of the scene. Guybrush wandered over to the toppled fountain and peered inside. “You know,” he said--his voice echoed weirdly--“I think there’s something living in here.”
He quickly pulled his head out of the fountain. Looking up, he saw Armena standing on the other side of the courtyard. Sunlight glinted off her long blonde hair--and the hammer she was holding.
She looked up at him. Then, waving the hammer in one hand, she said, “What kind of workman leaves his tools behind?”
“Look, I think you’re thinking about this too much, that’s all.”
Armena kicked the kitchen door shut--it never closed right--and sighed. “I just want to check and make sure there’s nothing going on, that nothing’s wrong. It couldn’t hurt.”
Guybrush leaned against the back of the couch, folding his arms across his chest. “Yeah, it could.”
“Not that again. That’s why you don’t want me to go see the Voodoo Lady, isn’t it.”
“I never said you couldn’t see her, I just said I don’t trust her.” He sighed, frowning. “I know she took care of you, Mena--I owe her that at least--but she lied to me. About a couple of things. Important things. If she’d just told me--”
Armena cut him off with a wave of her hand. “I’ve heard that story before.”
“Oh. Yeah. Oops.”
“Anyway...” She opened up a box and dug around in it until she pulled out an old pocketwatch. After cleaning off the dust and making sure it still worked, she turned back to her father. “Anyway, even if you’re not going to see her, I am.”
Guybrush only shrugged. “I’m not stopping you.”
She smiled brightly. “Good. I’ll be back in a little while--try not to break anything.”
“You take after your mother way too much.”
Armena stared at the half-filled boxes scattered around with widening shock. “Don’t tell me--”
“Armena. I was beginning to wonder if you’d forgotten about me.” The Voodoo Lady appeared from a back room, carrying a box overflowing with unused voodoo dolls. “I had heard of your return to the island. Whether you would take the time to visit, however...” She smiled mysteriously and set the box down on the floor.
“Retiring,” the Voodoo Lady finished, “yes. It seems to be the thing to do this season, doesn’t it? Pardon.” She disappeared through a curtain of voodoo beads and returned a moment later with another box of voodoo dolls.
Armena fell silent, her thoughts spinning around in circles. “There’s something wrong,” she said at last. The Voodoo Lady settled down in her chair, nodding.
“Indeed. I knew it would bring you here.”
“You know?” Armena asked. “What is it? What’s going on?”
The Voodoo Lady motioned for her to take a seat. She did, perching precariously on a couple of boxes which she hoped weren’t filled with anything explosive. “I am glad to see your skills haven’t atrophied any. Indeed, there is something wrong.”
After a pause, Armena tried prompting her. “Well...what is it?”
“A curse,” the Voodoo Lady answered. “Powerful, highly contagious, but not particularly effective. It simply drives those affected to leave behind that which they once loved most. Perhaps forever.”
Armena frowned thoughtfully. Well, she supposed, that explains a lot. “That would include my parents too, right?” She paused, then added, “They’re...getting a divorce.”
The Voodoo Lady nodded. “So far as I have been able to determine, it has only affected those people your father knew...though it is spreading. It started about five months ago, shortly after you and your father defeated LeChuck.”
Armena leaned back in surprise, almost causing the boxes to tip over. Once she had steadied herself, she asked, “Do you think the curse and LeChuck’s defeat might be connected?”
The Voodoo Lady frowned, pressing the tips of her fingers together. Her brow furrowed for a moment in concentration--then she shook her head. “I’m afraid I...do not know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Armena snapped. Then, seeing the stern look on the Voodoo Lady’s face, she quickly apologized. “Sorry...the curse, I know.”
“Indeed,” the Voodoo Lady said grimly. Then, “I may, however, be able to point you in the right direction. You still have the Marley talisman, correct?”
“How’d you--” Armena began, then swiftly dismissed the question. “Yeah, I’ve still got it.”
Doubt flickered in the Voodoo Lady’s eyes, but she continued anyway. “The talisman will tell you who started this curse, as well as a way of defeating it.”
“But I thought it could only deal with spirits. Though, I suppose it did break that curse Mom and Dad and half the Caribbean was stuck under...”
“Exactly.” The Voodoo Lady smiled. “The answer lies with the talisman.”
“That was needlessly cryptic,” Armena grumbled, standing up.
“It’s the best I can do under the circumstances. Now, unless you’re planning to help me pack my supply of dead chickens, you should probably go home. Your father’s waiting.”
Armena nodded, swallowing quickly. “Right. Um, good luck with the...you know, retirement thing.”
“Try to get the curse broken before I sell everything. I don’t know as if I could buy it all back.”
She took another look around at all the boxes and sighed. “Right.”
Armena wound her way through the paths back to the mansion. The sky had turned cloudy and overcast, threatening rain, so she walked quickly. When she made it back to the mansion, she found all the workmen’s tools had been collected and tossed in a pile by the fence. The fountain, such as it was, was still running. Smiling faintly, Armena went inside.
“So, where are we going?”
The question was out of Guybrush’s mouth before she could even get the door closed. He was standing by the couch, suitcase in hand.
“Scabb Island,” Armena answered, sighing. Guybrush frowned.
“I thought Scabb was a cess pit.”
“And that nobody in their sane mind would go there if they didn’t have to.”
“So...why are we going there?”
“Because we have to.”
Guybrush scratched his head. “Remind me to ask the Voodoo Lady what she’s been putting in those potions of hers. Why do we have to go to Scabb?”
Armena returned the pocketwatch to its box and began looking for something to pack before she answered. “We’ve got to find Bill. And he’s with Persephone, which according to Bill’s cousin had to put in at Scabb for repairs.”
“Couldn’t we just send him a letter or something...?”
Armena shook her head. She pulled out a bunch of maps and began rifling through them. “The Voodoo Lady says we’ve been cursed--”
“--and we need that talisman of mine in order to break it. Or something like that. Anyway, Bill has the talisman, so we’ve got to go get it.”
Guybrush raised one eyebrow, then the other. “And Bill has the talisman because...”
“He just does, that’s all,” she snapped, shoving the maps back into their box.
“Look, we’ll talk about it later, okay? Right now we’ve got to find a ship and a crew and get underway.”
Guybrush had just opened his mouth to reply when there was a sound like something heavy hitting the ground in the distance, a strange whump sound. The rickety banister on the stairway shook from the impact.
“What was that?” Armena asked, looking around. Another whump, closer this time.
“Cannons,” Guybrush answered, setting his suitcase down. “Somebody’s attacking the harbor.”
“Or the town,” Armena said, just as another cannonball landed. This time the ground shook. “Let’s go.”
The trip to Lucre Town took a while, even when they were both running. The narrow paths were filled with pirates running back and forth, carrying weapons and shouting commands to others along the way, which they might or might not follow. Defenses had become somewhat lax since LeChuck’s defeat.
By the time Guybrush and Armena made it through the gates, the attack was apparently over. Smoke rose from several locations throughout the town, and it looked as if the Palace of Prostheses had taken a direct hit. A couple of ships drifted in Lucre Harbor, but they didn’t look at all offensive. Guybrush looked around, then at Armena.
“Mena! Are you all right?”
Armena turned around just as Will, sweaty and soot-stained, ran up. “I’m--we’re fine. What happened?”
Will paused to wave a quick hello to Guybrush before answering. “Don’t know. This ship--no markings, no colors--just sailed right into the harbor and started lobbing cannonballs everywhere. They left just as soon as some of the other captains started returning fire. It’s strange, because they seemed pretty serious about it. The attack, I mean.”
“Did you get a look at the crew?” Armena asked, frowning.
“All human and alive, so far as I could see.”
“Probably just lunatics and pranksters,” Guybrush offered. He kicked a piece of smoldering wood away, then winced as a stray spark nearly caught his boot on fire. “Elaine and I used to run into them all the time. Pirates so happy to be free they’ll attack anybody, people who haven’t figured out that the old rumors aren’t true...like that.”
Will shook his head. “I don’t think so...they did a lot of damage for a bunch of pranksters.”
“But they left as soon as you started fighting back.”
Armena, who had been staring off into the harbor, took that moment to interrupt. “Will, your ship wasn’t damaged, was it?”
“No, thanks for asking. But--”
“I want to borrow it.” She turned to him and grinned. His eyes widened.
“So you’re going to talk to him?” He smiled, and looked for a moment as if he might hug her. Guybrush only looked on, confused. “Mena, that’s great! I knew you’d come to your senses, he’ll be--”
Armena held up her hand to stop him. “It’s not about that, Will. I just need a ship and a crew, and I need them both fast. And since you’re the only captain around here who trusts me near his ship since the Iago was sunk, you’re it.”
Will shrugged. “I don’t know, Mena. If you were going to Scabb, it’d be a different story, but...”
“We are going to Scabb,” Guybrush said, feeling as if he were missing some important part of the conversation--and not liking it one bit. Will’s eyes brightened again.
“The ship’s yours, Mena. Just bring it back in one piece, and promise me you’ll talk to Bill.”
Armena sighed. “Right.”
“I’d better go make sure everything’s ready to go. Meet me at the docks in half an hour.” With another quick grin, Will dashed off towards the docks. The second he was gone, Guybrush turned to Armena.
“What was that about?”
“It’s nothing, really.”
Guybrush frowned suspiciously. “Does this have something to do with why Bill has the talisman...?”
“Nope,” Armena answered, “completely unrelated. Now come on, we’d better hurry. I’ve still got to get some things together.” She struck out on the path back towards the mansion, but Guybrush hung back, still watching her suspiciously.
“If you don’t hurry up, I’m leaving without you,” Armena called back after she realized he wasn’t behind her. Guybrush folded his arms across his chest.
“Hey! I’m the one who’s supposed to say that!”