The engines had managed to play up Charluth’s lies by acting like he told them directly. When Charluth tried to defend himself, first by saying that he didn’t say a word to them, only to the workers, the workers said that they heard the insults from Crysna. When pressed for details, he lied about the date. “I swear, I heard it from Crysna only two days before I told them!” he urged Tophan as he spoke with him and the engines. “She was at the transfer yards!”
“Was not!” replied Dulna. “She was at the Quarry! The manager there can confirm it!”
“I already checked with the quarry on my inspection tour,” assured Tophan. “The workers were singing Crysna’s praises on the day my grandson said she was absent. So, Charluth, tell me, why would they compliment a supposedly absent engine? Answer: she WASN’T! So, is there another lie you wish to spin or will you finally fess up?”
“Y…You don’t believe me?! Your own grandson?!”
“Considering that your father has warned me about your habit of lying, no, I don’t.”
“JUST A MINUTE!” shouted Charluth. “My dad would never dare say that! He believes I never lie!”
“If that were true,” snarled a voice as a man stepped out from behind Gornula, “then you’re dangerously deluded!”
“D-Dad?!” yelped Charluth. “W-What’s that supposed to mean?!”
“I always triple-checked your stories,” explained Charluth’s father. “I must say, I’m appalled! You lied worse than I did when I was your age!” Charluth dropped the façade.
“Who gives a rip about truth?!” he snapped. “I lied to keep our family afloat! I lied to keep those beneath us in their place! We are surrounded by people who would stab us at any given moment because of the incomprehensible decision of abandoning our benefactor when her stronghold was taken over by Dr. Borg! A benefactor that made us rich beyond belief when we were loyal! Mid-realm rules, Under-realm nobility, Over-realm compassion?! Meaningless! Do you understand?! If we kept to our arrangements before Dr. Borg took over Plunder Island Stronghold, we wouldn’t have suffered through the Final War! Now, with people riding on a severe victory high, we must forge alliances to make sure that they only benefit us! We need to make friends to replace Reb, now that she’s lost her nerve!”
“She was a better leader when she was a Protectorate Pirate!” urged Tophan.
“She was financially weak when she became one! Building power is all that matters in life! …You’re a fool, Grandfather!” He then turned to his dad. “And you’re a fool for following him! …Now I understand why Mom, Mother, Mama, and Dad left you!”
“Whatever you feel about me,” hissed Charluth’s father, “is now irrelevant. Our alliance with Reb made us her vassals and our becoming a family of controllers for a small railway has saved us in numerous ways! …But you insist on the weakness of a nomadic existence. Your pining for a dull existence has proved that you haven’t learned what it means to be civilized yet, so you will remain in my house until you learn sense. You are, effectively, grounded!”
“You can’t be serious!”
“I’m deadly so. Go on and say that you hate me. I’ve heard it before.” He then grabbed his son’s arm and dragged him off the railway. Tophan sighed once they disappeared from view.
“…I must apologize for dragging you into my family’s drama,” he said to his engines. “I must also praise you all for looking out for one another, especially for Crysna.”
“Well, it just wouldn’t do to leave the new engine in the lurch now, would it?” asked Dulna. “It’s simply not the-”
“Not the Great Varshenta Way,” interrupted her coworkers and Tophan.
“…I don’t say it that much, do I?” asked Dulna.
Reb heard the news of what had happened and mulled over the events for a week before she approached Elgrad again. “Rebarisal Rojam,” he boomed, “my colleagues and I have granted you clemency during the Final War and you rejected it when it was over. Tell me, why should you be given it again?”
“Because I now see the folly in a nomadic existence,” replied Reb. Elgrad arched an eyebrow.
“Could you be more specific?”
“I lived as an old pillaging Orc, raiding places for trinkets and other items for me to sell. I never fully internalized what settling down means until an old associate, Tophan, showed me what having a place to call your own can bring. I never made the association that Plunder Island Stronghold was a home for me and my crew. As a Protectorate Pirate, I can make sure that those that are lost can have a home. …They can and will be stronger with a place to call their own.”
“Then will you swear once more to protect the people of the Realms from your old business associates that have yet to see the light?”
“Then let me warn you that this is your last chance. There will be no more chances if you waste this one. Your Protectorate Pirate status is restored.” Elgrad handed her a commission letter.
“Thank you, My Lord.” Reb stood up and took the letter, then she, Melgem, and Rikuna left the throne room.
Arsha and Denstra saw them off at the port. “So,” said Arsha, “what happens now?”
“Probably the usual Protectorate Pirate Business,” replied Rikuna.
“Though, we’re going to stay on the straight and narrow,” assured Melgem.
“And we must SIMPLY thank you,” said Reb. She handed Arsha a small box in gift wrapping. Arsha tentatively took it and looked it over with Denstra.
“Doesn’t look half bad,” remarked Denstra. “In fact, the wrapping’s pretty immaculate.”
“That’s how I wrap presents for my DEAREST friends,” chuckled Reb. Arsha pulled on the bow and the lid flew off as a pop-up snake jumped out. Arsha yelped and dropped the box. She then regained her composure and looked at Reb.
“And what’s that?” she asked, a little annoyed.
“I rigged it up myself,” replied Reb. Arsha picked the box up and looked at the snake’s face.
“Looks almost real,” she said, “but I’ve never seen one with baby-blue eyes.” The snake then squirted water in Arsha’s face. Reb and Melgem laughed as Rikuna hurried them onto their ship.
“That’s for that DREADFUL stunt you pulled on me once I left you!” called Reb. “Now we’re even!” Once everything was ready, Reb’s ship took off and headed for the Mid-to-Under Realmgate.
“…I hate her,” grunted Arsha as her face dripped.
“You, me, and the rest of the Realms,” agreed Denstra as she handed Arsha a cloth.