Melandra studied the readings that Denstra took of the pink mist and tried to find something, ANYTHING, that would indicate its origin. “…ONES DAMMIT! NOTHING!” shouted Melandra as he threw the clipboard. One of Denstra’s legs caught it.
“Yeah, tossing something across the room is SO helpful,” snarked Denstra.
“There’s no mana in the mist!” snapped Melandra, overlooking Denstra’s comment. “There’s no electric field in the mist! What’s going on here?!”
“Maybe it’s one of Dr. Borg’s weapons,” guessed Denstra.
“If it is, it’s not very effective,” remarked Melandra. “The mist seems to affect vehicles only; trains, skyships, sea ships, horseless carriages, that kind of stuff. On top of that, why us?! This is more in Elmar’s department!”
“I’ve already got Elmar working on it,” replied Denstra. “Maybe his findings can help us.”
“Anything could help,” muttered Melandra. “You know what else could help, getting Hunmur to a dentist! Her moaning about her tooth is nothing but a distraction!”
“Now there, you’ll get no argument,” sighed Denstra as her ears flattened against her head. “I get why she doesn’t like the dentist; I don’t like it either, but it’s not as evil as she makes it out to be!” Just then, Latinora stormed in.
“That money-grubbing, price-gouging, tax-supporting, pure-blooded leech!” she snarled.
“Is…something wrong?” asked Denstra.
“No, but someone is!” growled Latinora. “Our city’s collector has increased donation amounts for our public needs! He’s saddling the poor with tribute! They CAN’T pay up!”
“I always believed that collectors were trained better than that,” mused Melandra.
“Yeah, well, we can’t enter the vaults to figure this out,” muttered Latinora. “The collector’s using this crisis to make a profit, an offense punishable by death. We need to figure out what’s going on so the Queens can pass judgement.”
“Well, Hunmur can’t really make the best decisions when her tooth’s bothering her,” sighed Denstra. Her ears then perked up. “…I have an idea!” she chuckled. “Latinora, I’m going to need your help.” She whispered the idea into Latinora’s ear.
Hunmur was looking over the collection figures with the city’s collector, Yulduk, the Blaze Elf. She snarled when she finished. “How dare you bring me this miserable report when I suffer like a dog with a toothache!” she accused.
“But, your Majesty…” replied Yulduk in a regretful tone.
“Enough!” barked Hunmur. “Collections are 40% less than last time, and that time was 30% less than the previous and so on and so forth! How can you possibly explain that?!”
“Because the crisis is making industry grind to a halt,” answered Yulduk. “No one’s producing money or…”
“Silence!” shouted Hunmur. “Crisis or not, the rich are supposed to take care of the poor’s needs! This is disgraceful! Away!” Yulduk bowed and exited the throne room. As he left, Latinora dragged Denstra into the room. Her hands and legs were bound together.
“I’m gonna get me a lawyer for this!” warned Denstra.
“Latinora, what is the meaning of this?” demanded Hunmur.
“Your Majesty, this woman swindled me!” accused Latinora. “I demand her head! I paid 400 golds for a new scanner and it fell apart on me when I tried to get readings on the pink mist!”
“I have no time for trifles,” dismissed Hunmur. “Throw her in the dungeon! After that, find someone who can cure this Ones-damned toothache!”
“My Lady, weep no more!” called Denstra. “I’ll cure your tooth! I’ve brought my delicate instruments with me!” Her bound hands gestured to the tool belt she wore.
“Surely,” protested Latinora, “Your Majesty won’t permit this charlatan…!”
“I’ll try anything to avoid a trip to the dentist!” declared Hunmur. “Unbind her!” Her gaze then turned to Denstra. “I warn you, if you fail, your soul will be cursed with fading away completely!”
“I never fail,” assured Denstra as she was released from her bonds. She then approached Hunmur. “Now, let’s see what we’ve got here. Open, please.” Hunmur opened the mouth and Denstra saw the offending tooth. “Oh WOW! That is…just…wow!” The tooth was brown and had multiple breaks in it. “Better get started,” declared Denstra as she got the pliers out. Hunmur yelped in fear and tried to close her mouth, but Denstra used her legs to keep it open. Her pliers then got a grip on the tooth and yanked hard! Hunmur cried out in pain!
“YOU DARE BRING HARM TO…” Hunmur stopped her rant as she noticed an absence of something. Just then, Hindra came in.
“My love!” she called. “Are you alright?!”
“My tooth!” cried Hunmur in happiness as she saw it. “The pain is gone! She’s cured me!” She turned to the guards who had restrained Denstra after the operation. “Unhand her, she’s free! Give her full access to the castle, even to the vaults!”
“But, your Majesty…” argued Latinora.
“She’s got sanctuary here! No one may harm her!” insisted Hunmur as she left. The Guards followed her and left Hindra, Denstra, and Latinora alone. Latinora dropped the act and whistled at the sight of the tooth.
“What a tooth!” she muttered.
“Queen-sized!” observed Denstra.
“What’s going on?” asked Hindra.
“A plan to figure out why Yulduk’s burdening the poor with tribute,” explained Latinora. “The Endeavor’s crew figured they needed someone outside of our city to figure things out.”
“I’m sorry, Yulduk’s getting money from the POOR now?!” interjected Hindra. She turned to Denstra. “Since you were granted full access, follow me! I’ll not have tribute from the poor in my city!”
“A fine piece of acting,” Denstra praised Latinora.
“Well, I DID join my High School’s drama club,” replied Latinora. “Might as well use that experience. Good luck!” Denstra followed Hindra into the castle’s lower levels and they made their way to the vaults to see someone dressed in black key in a code and enter the vaults’ door.
“Who’s the black banana?” muttered Hindra.
“Can we find out from here?” asked Denstra.
“The communicator above the key pad,” answered Hindra. They arrived at the door and Hindra keyed in a code to just listen in.
“So, as you can see,” explained a voice, ignorant of being overheard, “I DID collect the money, I simply ‘forgot’ to turn this part in.”
“That’s Yulduk!” whispered Hindra.
“And over here,” continued Yulduk’s voice. A clatter of priceless objects could be heard. “Various antiques for you to sell on the Black Market.”
“Yulduk, you DO realize,” mused another voice, “that the Queens WILL kill you unless you’re aboard our ship.”
“Rojam!” whispered Denstra.
“I know,” replied Yulduk. “That’s why I’m giving you all this as a down-payment. I simply need your crews to protect me as I take the throne and set up a line of tribute for the Scarlet Stream Pirates.”
“What a racket!” cheered a third voice.
“Melgem!” gulped both Hindra and Denstra.
“Yulduk, old friend, you’re a chiseler after my own heart!” praised Melgem.
“I’ve heard enough!” hissed Hindra. “You got your wand?”
“Right here,” replied Denstra as she gestured to her holstered wand.
“Here,” directed Hindra as she passed Denstra a sword.
“Ooh, swanky!” praised Denstra as she observed how intricate the sword was. Hindra keyed in a command and the door opened as they approached Reb, Melgem, and Yulduk.
“What did I tell you, sweetheart?” Melgem asked Reb. “I said that my old friends would give us a good profit.”
“I apologize for doubting you, my WONDERFUL husband,” bid Reb. “Yulduk, if you play your cards right, you will command the most EXCELLENT ship of my fleet!”
“If the pure-blooded black banana lives that long!” hissed Denstra. Yulduk turned to Melgem.
“That’s a fine crack to make!” he snarled.
“I didn’t say a word!” argued Melgem. “That was a woman’s voice!”
“Well, don’t shift your UNWARRANTED gaze at me!” retorted Reb as both Elves looked at her.
“You can gaze at me!” called Denstra. The pirates and their ally turned to her and Denstra.
“Welmeva, DARLING,” advised Reb, “do stay out of this.” She returned her attention to the Elves with her. “I do apologize MOST…” All three then did a double take! “DENSTRA?!” yelped Reb.
“And Hindra!” squeaked Yulduk.
“You’ll be hanged for this!” threatened Hindra as she drew her sword.
“Try it!” challenged Reb as she turned her slime-mound into a skin-tight suit and donned her tricorn. She drew her cutlass and flintlock and fired! Denstra deflected the shot with her own sword as Hindra pressed a button. The alarm then rang throughout the castle.
“I assure you, Hunmur,” Arsha was telling Hunmur, “I WILL find an explanation for…” The alarm interrupted her. “What in the…?”
“It’s coming from the vaults,” reported Hunmur as she checked the alarm’s source. She activated the security cameras and discovered Denstra and Hindra’s fight with Reb, Yulduk, and Melgem. “Pirates?!” she yelped.
“Pirates that I know personally!” snarled Arsha as she transferred her hairpiece to her waist. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to assist my First Officer and then get an explanation about her swindling Latinora!” She snapped her fingers and formed armor. As she dashed to the vaults, Latinora came in.
“What’s going on?!” she called.
“I was trying to tell Arsha about her First Officer swindling you,” explained Hunmur, “and then pirates appeared at the vaults. She’s gone off to assist those fighting off the pirates.”
“Er, about Denstra ‘swindling’ me,” gulped Latinora. Hunmur then glared at the female Blaze Elf.
“You didn’t try to trick your Queen, did you, Young One?” she hissed in a warning tone.
“Erm, well, you see,” stammered Latinora before she told her the whole story.
Arsha found the vaults and the fighters busy with their clash. She whistled sharply and attracted their attention. Reb snarled. “And WHAT, pray tell,” called Reb, “are YOU doing here?!”
“Investigating a pink mist, that’s what!” replied Arsha. “You had a little trouble with it when we first met! Are you the reason the city’s machines are going haywire?!”
“And if I am, what’s the big deal?” argued Reb. “At least WE’VE learned what it is. So will Galthar IF they pay up!”
“Do you know many businesses you’ve shut down with this stunt?!” snarled Denstra.
“Don’t YOU go high and mighty with me, Welmeva!” snapped Reb. “You helped in a few of THESE kinds of jobs!”
“I take it Reb’s the thug you served?” Arsha guessed.
“Yes,” replied Denstra. “And thug is being too generous with this pure-blooded wench!”
“That’s IT, you mutinous bilge-rat!” roared Reb. “GET OVER HERE!” A slimy tendril grabbed Denstra and yanked towards Reb. Reb’s cutlass then punctured Denstra’s skin. With her remaining strength, Denstra shoved Reb aside. Melgem and Yulduk steadied her. “I’m fine, boys,” assured Reb. “My former Chief Engineer, on the other hand, ISN’T.” She pulled out a communicator. “Black Money, this is the Admiral. Three to return to the ship.” The three then vanished in light as Hindra and Arsha tended to Denstra while she covered her wound.
“I’ll be fine,” she gasped. “She didn’t hit any organs.”
“You still need medical attention,” declared Hindra. She managed to get through to a doctor.