Back to the Waterfront

The sisters had had the chance to sleep in their own rooms, in their own beds. He wondered if that luxury had affected them, and they'd want to keep doing that. He wasn't expecting the reaction he got.

Diablita told him they wanted to go back to the island. They hadn't slept in separate rooms before, and it had just made them homesick.

"What about with the sailors?" asked Angeline "You went off into a cabin with yours."

"I don't recall doing any actual sleeping," Diablita replied, "and I'm pretty sure you didn't either."

That had been when they lost their virginities. Their mothers had picked the lucky men who were to assist. They weren't necessarily the highest bidders, but the sisters were sure there was some trading involved. There were at least a couple of crates behind the beach hut afterwards that hadn't been there before.

After that, it had always been in the hut. Their parents had always been worried that they might go off on a ship and had forbidden them to board another.

They'd stowed away in the hold of a ship when they left the island, so they hadn't slept apart then either. They knew they could have revealed themselves to the crew, or simply asked for passage in the first place, but they also knew what they'd have to do in return. "One sailor's fun, but a whole crew is just too much!"

He wanted to know how going back to the island was going to help them sleep in separate rooms. Angeline told him that they had unfinished business on the island, and that they couldn't move on to their new life. "We need to go back and find our parents' bodies, and give them a proper burial," she declared. "and if they're already buried under the rubble, put up a gravestone, or something."

That meant finding a ship that was going in that direction. Very few came up the Niben these days; the river was almost blocked by silting up at Leyawiin. Any cargoes were unloaded at Senchal, and made the rest of the trip by road. The best bet would be Anvil. It would probably cost them plenty too, if the sisters didn't like the idea of working their passage.

Down in Anvil, there were only two ships in port. One of them was locked, and smelt of sheep dung anyway. The other had a worried-looking Altmer woman pacing on the deck.

Varulae was the owner of the Serpent's Wake, but she didn't have a crew. Or rather, she had one, but they were dead. No, make that undead. Their spectres were haunting the ship, and she couldn't go and get her crystal ball from the hold. "If you can get it back for me, I'd be glad to have my ship take you to the island. Of course, I'll need to hire a fresh crew before that can happen, but there are always sailors looking for work here."

Frost resistance was a useful thing when fighting ghosts, and they already had a few potions for that. But the reporter knew that ghosts were unaffected by normal weapons, so he took a look at what the sisters were using. Angeline had silver arrows, so she'd do all right, but he needed to find something else for Diablita. Her steel and dwarven weapons would be useless. A trip to Varel Morveyn's shop produced a silver warhammer, and they were in business.

He wasn't sending them in and staying safe on the dock, either. He'd learned how to make use of invisibility when he'd gone to Fort Black Boot with Freija, and he was coming in to look for the crystal ball. Varulae had described the chest it was in, so he didn't have to reveal himself until he found it. At that point, he'd just have to hope the spectral sailors were too busy to notice him.

The first one was in the captain's cabin, opposite the door to the deck. It spotted them as soon as they entered, and drifted over to attack them. It wasn't the usual wraith, it had a cutlass in his hand, and it swung it at Diablita. The reporter had to duck quickly, as he was invisible in between them!

Angeline stepped in with a damage health spell as Diablita blocked. The spectral form recoiled and flung a Silence spell at Angeline to stop her doing that again. But that gave Diablita a chance to use her pitchfork and send a fireball his way.

Down on the floor, the reporter caught the wash from the fireball, and wished he'd brought some fire resistance potions with him. He couldn't heal himself until the ghost died, either, or his invisibility would be lost.

Fortunately for him, Angeline's silver arrow ended the first battle, and the wraith dropped its cutlass. Right on top of him. He cursed, and stood up to cast a few healing spells on himself. He saw the sisters laughing at him. "What are you laughing at?" he asked. Then the blob of ectoplasm he'd just stood up through started to drip down his face, and he understood.

It took a few minutes to get it all out of his hair, and into a vial. It would be another useful ingredient for Diablita. The cutlass was probably worth keeping, too.

The captain's body was lying on his bed, with wounds that looked like they'd been made by claws and teeth. Either there had been a wild animal in here, or some summoned creature that acted the same way. They found a key on his body that fit a chest in the cabin, and another that opened the doors. The chest contained the captain's valuables. They left them there for now; none of it would help them fight the other ghosts.

The trapdoor to the next deck was just outside the cabin. The reporter recast his invisibility, and after Angeline had opened the hatch, he went first to scout. There were two ghosts down there, and they'd be coming down between them. Each one armed with a cutlass as before, so they could expect the same spells too. After reporting that to the sisters, he went and ducked into a cabin to stay out of the way. Since they couldn't see him, he was more worried about friendly fire than anything the ghosts did.

One of the dead sailors was in the cabin. The same marks were on the body, and the wraith had his cutlass.

The sisters stood back-to-back and used their ranged attacks until the ghosts closed in. By the time they reached them, they had been weakened enough that Angeline's spell, and Diablita's new warhammer were enough to finish them. They'd both got nicked by the cutlasses however, and he was pleased to see them casting healing spells on themselves. He didn't have a "heal other" spell. He should get one.

This wasn't the deck that Varulae had described, so there must be another below it. He looked around for another hatch, and found it around the corner near the bow end of the ship.

It was likely that the chest with the crystal ball in it was right below, and he could just go down and grab it. The ghosts would see him open the chest, but he'd be back up the ladder before they could do anything to stop him. Diablita reminded him that they needed to clear out the ghosts so that they could use the ship. The ball was just part of the deal.

This time it made sense for the sisters to go first. They knew there were two more ghosts, because Varulae had told them that she had a crew of five. But was whatever killed them down there as well? The reporter didn't think so. Wild animals don't use ship's ladders, and anyone who summoned creatures to do his dirty work would not stay with the ghosts afterwards. Diablita went first with her pitchfork at the ready. That seemed to hurt the spectres more than Angeline's arrows did, and if they were close together, she could get both at once.

They got lucky. The first fireball knocked a barrel over and it rolled into the gangway down the middle of the deck. It appeared that the wraiths couldn't move it out of the way, so it became a ranged battle with the sisters holding the trump cards. The silence spells the spectral sailors started with were futile, and they didn't have the magicka to throw frost spells very frequently. Diablita's pitchfork was almost fully charged, and she did most of the damage.

They took the crystal ball from the chest, where it had survived the battle safely. Or rather two battles, as there must have been an earlier one that killed the sailors, and they noticed a lot of disruption from that. There were broken crates and barrels all through the hold, as well as a few scorch-marks on the planking.

Varulae was overjoyed to get her crystal ball back intact. She explained that it let her communicate with the crew when they were off on a voyage. She had another just like it and they had each been enchanted to show what was around the other one. So she could see her crew, and they could see her, even if they were miles apart. They couldn't hear anything, but they could write messages on a slate and hold them up for the other to read. Casting a simple light spell near one end would make the other end glow, so they'd know there was a message coming.

She gave them an enchanted cutlass as a reward, and promised that her ship would take them to the island. She hadn't seen the state of the inside yet. When they showed her, she added "In a week's time, that is. At least the hull's intact, so it's just a matter of cleaning up."