Chapter 19: Pirates
After Suzanne passed the Test of Courage, they talked to the seers in the shrine again. While Suzanne was taking the test the seers had received a vision of the red orb.
"I saw a battle on the seas far to the northwest," one of the sages had explained. "A ship was attacked by pirates. The red orb was on one of the two ships. I cannot tell you exactly what happened to it."
The group believed that the pirates likely made off with the orb. Alice took out a map and tried to pinpoint the most likely area where the battle could have occurred.
"The Archfiend's territory is the closest to Lancel from the northwest," began Alice. "It's possible the Archfiend has pirates in its employ, just like those cannibals in the area. But then they'd still need someone to attack. Further northwest is the Batay Sea, which is shared by the Empire, Portoga, and Isis. Of course, there is the vast ocean to consider as well."
"We should check around the major ports in that area then," suggested Suzanne. "See what we can find out about recent pirate activity. With any luck, we'll come across survivors from the pirate attack."
"It's possible they may even have the orb," said Ron. "The seers couldn't tell us who won the fight."
The four started with Portoga Castle Town, as Portoga had a rich tradition at sea and thus the highest probability to have pirate troubles. As it turned out, they struck gold with their first try. The Batay Sea had recently been set upon by a vicious group of pirates. These pirates attacked vessels belonging to rich merchant ships and almost always managed to get away with a large supply of goods and prisoners. Somehow, the owners of the ships or the companies the ships served were always on board during the attacks and were usually among the prisoners taken. Nobody knew how the pirates knew to attack when they did, though accusations of inside jobs abounded. However, since ships from both Portoga and the Romalian Empire were attacked, this would require some sort of international coalition, the chances of which were small.
The four found that the Portogan authorities were not forthcoming with what they knew of the pirates so they teleported to the Empire to see what information they could find there. Emperor Vilisik was more than happy to tell them all he knew of the group.
"They have become quite popular among some of the common people," the emperor said. "You see, they are not a bloodthirsty lot. So far, we have no confirmed deaths though we obviously do not know the fates of their prisoners. But all these prisoners were wealthy business owners not loved by the people. In fact, a lot of the Romalian ships that have been attacked belonged to companies that are currently under investigation for corrupt practices."
"You sound fond of them yourself," pointed out Suzanne.
"I will be perfectly honest, I am in no great hurry to bring them in," admitted Vilisik. "Keep this under your hats, but I believe their victims so far are scum. They always let the innocent deckhands and workers escape and it sounds like they go out of their way to spill as little blood as possible. The only vessels to be attacked but not taken by them are those that took advantage of this."
"Forgive me, your Majesty, but is it not wrong for a ruler to play favorites with criminals?" asked Thomas. This earned him a shushing and a ribbing from both Ron and Alice. The emperor merely laughed at his statement.
"No need to be so rude to Sir Thomas, he is quite right," said Vilisik. "If these people fall into my hands they will be tried and punished as anyone else would. But I have other reasons for not sending more of my forces to capture them, the least of not which is the Archfiend who I am sure continues to gain power to the south. I have some ships working with Isis to help prepare them as well. They ferry supplies and arms over but I fear their greatest use will be in helping the people escape after the Archfiend makes his move."
"I see. Forgive me for my outburst," apologized Thomas.
"We saw a bit of southern Tarasia in our travels," began Suzanne solemnly. "It was as you said. The only other humans we saw there were cannibals who were working with the Archfiend."
"That is why it is important you gather as much support to the cause as you can," answered the emperor. "Back to our original topic, why do you want to know about the pirates?"
"We believe they have an item important to our task. Either that or they recently attacked a vessel that has the item," explained Suzanne.
"Well finding the pirates will be difficult. I wish I could help you there but I have no idea where the pirates are," said Vilisik.
"There's the downside to not having focused on them," pointed out Ron.
"I do have one more thing to add," began Vilisik again. "Many of the attacked companies are investigating their own employees to check for inside jobs. Some see this as rubbish as the pirates are international. Personally, I think there may be some merit to these thoughts. Some attacks have come when the owners were secretive about their whereabouts. Without some information, the pirates are just way too lucky for me to believe it truly is luck."
"Thank you, your Majesty," replied Suzanne. "You've been a great help."
After their meeting with the Emperor, the four focused their efforts on investigating the attacked companies and their employees, being as discrete as they could. They had an advantage over the official authorities in that the four were not the official authorities and thus people were much less secretive around them.
Alice began the investigation by compiling lists and information on all their potential leads. She was put in charge of organizing all the information they came up with and analyzing it to the best of her abilities. Suzanne and Ron frequented social hangouts favored by the employees and got to know them. They asked questions as discretely as they could.
However, the largest break started with Thomas. Not much for socializing, Thomas decided to volunteer at the local healing houses and to help Alice out in his spare time. After just over a week of investigation, another ship was attacked in the Batay Sea. Shortly afterwards, a man with conspicuous wounds appeared in the healing house. The workers and volunteers at the healing house were not to ask too many questions as to the nature of their patients' wounds as doing so could discourage them from seeking treatment, and so Thomas was unable to interview the man at the time. However, the man was apparently a regular at the healing house and so the other clerics knew a few things about him. Thomas found out what he could and told the other three.
"His name is John Morrison. He's a blade for hire and so the other clerics don't think much of it when he comes in wounded. He works for a company called the Bear's Arms," explained Thomas.
"Great name," chuckled Ron. "I assume they have the proper paperwork for a company that bears arms?"
"Too bad you don't have the paperwork to tell bad puns," groaned Alice. "They are registered, yes. The emperor likes to keep a good amount of information on mercenary companies in his land."
"What's their connection to the pirates?" asked Suzanne. "Were they attacked?"
"No," answered Alice. "They have no connection to the pirates as far as I know. They don't even operate on the seas or own any ships."
"But a sellsword could easily be involved somehow. He could have been hired by the pirates or the victims," suggested Ron.
"We'll check him out tomorrow," declared Suzanne.
Suzanne and Ron went to talk with the man and his superiors. They found he had an alibi for his whereabouts during the incident. He had been working on a job on the far northern end of the empire. However, the four were not content with this explanation. Ron and Alice decided to stay at the capital to continue talking with Morrison and his associates while Suzanne and Thomas teleported as far north as they could and went to work confirming his alibi.
Suzanne and Thomas found Morrison had been hired to help clear out some monsters in the area. Morrison had been hired several times in the area as he had proven an efficient and reliable swordsman. The two compiled a list of dates for when he had been hired. They also made sure to get as many details as they could on Morrison's jobs. The two returned to the capital to see how Ron and Alice had fared.
"Well, these dates coincide with some of the attacks but not all of them. Some of these dates are not on the day of one of the attacks and we've found Bear's Arms makes liberal use of wings of wyvern for fast travel. Those jobs could not have been to cover up his involvement in pirate attacks," explained Alice.
"That's what Thomas and I thought but we also had another theory," replied Suzanne. "He could be involved in the attacks, but the pirates have been very good at covering their tracks. If Morrison was only hired out when there was a pirate attack, it'd look too suspicious. It's a long shot but we think that not only is Morrison involved but the people hiring him out as well."
"Morrison was always hired out to deal with monster threats," Thomas spoke up. "We were hoping you could use your knowledge of beasts to bring some insight to how likely it was that the monsters would move as they did during those times."
"That's a great idea!" exclaimed Alice. "I'll have to take a look at what you've found right away."
"What did you guys find out?" asked Suzanne.
"Well I didn't have much more luck talking with Morrison," replied Ron. As he continued, a grin came across his face. "Alice, on the other hand, didn't seem to have much trouble getting him to talk."
"Oh really?" asked Suzanne, as a smile came onto her face as well.
"What is that supposed to mean?" asked Alice defensively, though she was betrayed by a blush.
"Oh I think you know what we mean," Ron continued. "Tell us, Alice, or should I say Beth, what is your secret? What interrogative techniques have you learned to get this guy to talk?"
"Nothing!" yelled Alice indignantly. "I just act nice and pleasant towards him! I don't act all big and macho and try to scare the guy! I have the brains to know that won't work!"
Ron might have taken offense to Alice's comments if he was not so busy laughing. Even Thomas managed a laugh at the turn the conversation had taken.
"Okay, okay, okay," cut in Suzanne, trying to settle the group back down. "Let's get back on topic for a moment. What have you found out Alice?"
"Thanks Susie," said Alice, shooting Ron another glare. "Well I haven't found out much yet but I may be on to something. He's very secretive when it comes to his own work, he's told me very little about it. But he can go on and on about his friends and coworkers. He always stops himself and changes the topic before saying too much but the last time we talked he hinted that his chief is into a little more than mercenary work. If he really is involved than I don't think he's the only one."
"That would fit pretty well," said Suzanne thoughtfully. "If Morrison is involved and there's this big cover up, it'd be pretty hard for him to do all this by himself without his superiors finding out. And most mercenary groups would be quick to throw out or even turn in one of their own involved in piracy. If the law, or their customers, found out they were harboring a pirate that would destroy the company. But if the company is in with the pirates…"
"Alright Alice, looks like you have a lot of work to do," began Ron, grinning again. "You have to look at all the info that Susie and Tom brought back and then after that you have to get all dolled up and flirt with Morrison until he spills the beans."
As Alice raised her hand to slap Ron, Suzanne stopped her, "Wait Alice! That's not a bad idea. By the sounds of it, Morrison wants to impress you. Keep pressing him on his work. Also, let him know that you really like gems and jewelry and all manner of sparkly things."
"That's right," agreed Thomas. "If the pirates really do have the red orb and if Morrison knows this, you might be able to get him to show it to you."
"Hey hey hey!" replied Alice. "So you want me to analyze all your information and get all pretty and get Morrison to spill what he knows? What are you three going to do?"
"That's a good point," conceded Suzanne. "Okay here's what we'll do. You give me your measurements and what kind of clothes and supplies you want and I'll get them. Thomas will help you go over the information we gathered."
"And what about this idiot?" asked Alice, indicating Ron.
"Ron, if Morrison didn't want to talk to you did any of his coworkers or superiors warm up to you?" asked Suzanne.
"I did get along great with a couple of his coworkers. I don't know if they're involved with the pirates though," answered Ron.
"Well find out what you can," said Suzanne. "And remember not to be too anxious with the questions. We don't want them tipping Morrison off."
The next few days saw a lot of progress. After looking at Suzanne and Thomas' information, Alice concluded that, while not impossible, it was highly unlikely that the beasts moved and acted the way Suzanne and Thomas were told they did. Meanwhile, Alice made quite a bit of progress with Morrison.
"He wants to take me for a ride on a ship!" she exclaimed nervously after returning from a date with Morrison.
"What?" asked Suzanne.
"Well I did what you told me and let him know I was really impressed with jewelry," explained Alice. "Well then he got all excited and told me he could show me a really impressive gem. But it's across the ocean and so I need to go with him on a ship!"
"That's excellent!" exclaimed Suzanne. "If our guesses are correct, he'll lead you straight to the red orb!"
"You don't expect me to go on a ship alone with him do you!" asked Alice, freaked out.
"Alice's right," said Ron. "Not just Morrison but the whole group of pirates may be on that ship. It's too dangerous to send her alone."
"That won't be necessary," said Suzanne. "We're going with her."
"That'd be great but I don't think he'd like that," replied Alice. "He kept going on and on about how it'd be nice for us to spend time together on a ship. He never said anything about guests."
"You know the old saying, 'What he doesn't know can't hurt him,'" said Suzanne, a grin on her face. "Here's what we do. Alice, you meet with Morrison again and tell him you'll go with him but you need to have your own cabin. If you're the only woman on the ship it shouldn't take much to convince him but otherwise just make it seem like you're used to luxury or something. That'd go great with the love of jewelry bit you've been feeding him."
"Meanwhile," Suzanne continued. "we'll go to Lancel and get a bunch of those invisibility herbs. Of course, they only last so long and we can't possibly stay invisible the whole voyage, so we'll have to take as many as we can and hide in Alice's cabin in the meantime."
"Alright! Finally some action!" exclaimed Ron. "Great plan Susie!"
"Don't get so excited," cautioned Thomas. "A large part of this plan involves us twiddling our thumbs on a ship for a few days."
"Are you sure about this Susie?" asked Alice. "I don't like having to spend so much time alone with someone who may be a pirate or having to string him along like this."
"Alice, I won't make you do this if you're really uncomfortable with it. But if you go through with this we'll be right there behind you. I'm not saying there isn't risk involved, but it's a risk we'll be sharing with you. And it's not like we'll be cheating the guy out of his stuff. We're not just going to steal the orb if he or his comrades have it. So what do you say?" asked Suzanne.
Alice gave a sigh and nodded her head, "Fine. I'm in."
Alice set up another meeting with Morrison and agreed to join him on his ship ride. The other three made the necessary preparations to make the voyage with. They made sure to take as many supplies as they could since they did not know how long the voyage would take.
"If our supplies run out then we can teleport out," Suzanne had said. "Of course, doing so will pretty much blow the whole deal and we'll have to look for another lead. So everyone's going to need to cut down on food for the trip."
The first part of the plan went off without a hitch. Alice convinced Morrison to give her her own room and the other three successfully snuck in. Alice would spend most of the day with Morrison while the other three stayed in her room. Alice made sure to be as loud as possible when unlocking her room to alert the others of her return so they could use the herbs quickly and remain undetected.
However the second part would be touch-and-go. The ship landed successfully in southern Sisten, the continent south of Malandoras. Alice and Morrison went with the crew inland while the other three followed at a distance. In order to conserve invisibility herbs the other three stayed visible and followed the other group at a great distance. Since they were following a much larger group, it was easy to keep sight of them while staying far away from them. The lack of trees on the way also improved visibility. Of course, this was a two-way street. The other three had to slap mud all over their armor and any other visible shiny objects and even then, staying out of sight was not easy. Fortunately, the other group did not seem hyper-vigilant.
"They must think that if they were followed, they would have seen them on the seas," theorized Ron. "It'd be impossible to tail someone unseen on the seas. And if they saw nobody following them then, how would anyone be following them now?"
"There's still monsters," said Thomas.
"But as a large group, monsters will think twice about disturbing them. And since they were able to make the voyage here, they're obviously capable. Even more so if these are the pirates. They may think they can let their guard down a little bit," concluded Suzanne.
"Speaking of monsters, it's a good thing we remembered to bring some holy water, and you have that spell of yours Susie," said Ron. "We're far enough back that monsters would try to attack us away from the other group and a fight would give away our location in a second."
The travel over land did not take long. A few tense hours of following the other group and the three were rewarded with the sight of a large building, into which the large group entered. The three stayed outside and waited.
"I don't like this," said Ron. "It'd be easy to take her by surprise and take her out before she could escape in there. And as far as they know, nobody would ever find out."
"I'm pretty sure nobody knows that more than Alice," answered Suzanne. "She'll be on the lookout. And everything we know about the pirates and Morrison says that they only harm those they believe are corrupt. We stick to the plan and wait for her to contact us."
The four had set up a system for Alice to make contact with them in the event that Morrison took her into a building. Suzanne had decided it was wise to let Morrison know a little bit of Alice's magic abilities. That way, Alice could use magic if she needed to, but they did not let Morrison know just how skilled she was or that she could use healing magic. Alice would leave the building in the middle of the night on the pretense that a little stroll would help her sleep. She would then lean on the building and conjure up a small light, a supposed habit of hers. The group decided this was not as suspicious enough to raise alarm with the pirates, like shooting a magic flare into the sky would. The pirates would see little harm in her using a small light, only as large as that of a torch or lantern that they would likely store in their building anyway. It would be easy to see Alice outlined in the light while the other three could stay in the dark.
The three waited as patiently as they could for night to fall and Alice to make contact with them. Thomas was on watch when he spotted a light moving around the building. He squinted to try and see the figure outlined in the light and confirmed it was Alice. He kept an eye on her as she rounded the building. Unfortunately, keeping an eye on Alice distracted Thomas from his surroundings. Next thing he knew, he received a tap on the shoulder.
Thomas whipped around and as he did so, a torch was lit in front of him. The sudden introduction of light so close to him blinded him at first but after his eyes adjusted he saw a group of strangers holding blades to the necks of the sleeping Suzanne and Ron.
"Put your hands in the air and prepare to have your magic sealed," commanded one of several men that had gotten the drop on the three. Realizing he had little choice, Thomas did as he was told. The ambushers made sure to seal not only Thomas' magic but the other two's as well, not knowing that Ron could not use magic. They wasted no time in binding the hands of the three. They also used magic to keep the other two asleep as they did so. It was very easy to keep people asleep who were already snoozing.
"I'm assuming that the young miss taking a walk outside our building is also with you, am I right?" asked the same man to Thomas. Thomas had to guess this man was the leader. Thomas refused to give an answer.
One of the other men laughed, "I told John that girl was out of his league!"
"Quiet!" commanded the leader. "They may still have others about. And by the looks of it, we won't get this one to talk. Let's head back and handle things there."
The ambushers gagged the three and gathered up all their weapons and tools. They then allowed Suzanne and Ron to awake so they could walk under their own power. Ron wanted to put up a fight at first, but a couple knocks on the head and looks from Suzanne and Thomas calmed him down. Their wordless communication told Ron to save his strength for another time.
They saw Alice come around the building again. From out of nowhere, a group of figures materialized and quickly subdued Alice. The sight of his friend being attacked caused Ron to struggle again, this time causing the attackers to knock him out and carry him along. Suzanne and Thomas saw Alice surrender and allow herself to be similarly bound and sealed and led inside.
The four were led into the building and brought together to a courtyard with a small pond. They were brought before a figure, standing near the pond. In the darkness it was impossible to see any details of the figure. After a moment, the three conscious members of the group could see the figure turn around.
"Impressive that you found us here," said the voice of the figure. "I had thought we had done well to cover our tracks. I suppose it is my fault for employing so many men. If ever there was one weakness that men had, it was beautiful women."
Some of the other men lit torches on the walls of the courtyard and the three could see the figure with clarity now. She was a woman in her late thirties and definitely strong, a conclusion supported by the large axe strapped to her back. She made a motion and the gags were removed from the mouths of the four.
"I want you to know that my men and I find no joy in unnecessary bloodshed or in bringing pain to others," continued the woman. "Tell me, who are you and why have you gone to such lengths to seek us out?"
"My name is Suzanne. These are my comrades Thomas, Alice, and Ron, whom your men have knocked out," introduced Suzanne.
"Stop right there," cut in the woman. "Those names are familiar to me. Stories have been told of you in both the empire and her ally, Isis. I heard you put down a rebellion in the empire, one which brought more harm than good to the people involved. I also heard that you are taking action against the Archfiend, rumored to make his domain in southern Tarasia. Are all these things true?"
"They are," confirmed Suzanne.
"I must say I'm flattered that my band and I have gained the attention of such an esteemed group," said the woman, who did seem honestly proud. "But what kind of attention, I wonder? Has the emperor seen fit to send you to bring me in?"
"No. We sought you out by our own accord," replied Suzanne.
"Why?" asked the pirate. "If you are who you say you are, you have grander concerns than a group of pirates."
Suzanne hesitated before answering. She knew it would be a bad idea to give the pirate all the information she wanted. If she told the pirate she wanted the red orb, she would likely do all she could to keep it out of the group's hands. Keeping this bit of info from the pirates was the only chance they had at ever getting the red orb.
"Is it because you want our help when the time comes to move against the Archfiend?" suggested the pirate, when Suzanne did not immediately answer her question.
The question provided a possible story for Suzanne. She could claim that was the group's aim all along. Really, it was not such a bad idea anyway. The pirates seemed to have good intentions, though Suzanne did not agree with their methods. Their aid would be appreciated and if they agreed to help Suzanne they might even willingly hand over the red orb.
But Suzanne met the eyes of the pirate, who by her speech was likely the leader of the pirates stationed here if not the entire organization. She had the feeling that lying to this person was not a good idea. Besides that, telling such a lie did not sit well with Suzanne. They had to stretch the truth to get here, especially in setting up Alice's alternate personality with Morrison. But that had been only to find the pirates. To tell this lie in the hopes of gaining the red orb would be a lot like stealing. Suzanne looked at Thomas and could see in his eyes that he had much the same idea.
"No. We had not even considered asking your help for our cause," said Suzanne.
The pirate chuckled, "I suppose the idea of joining with pirates is not an appealing one, especially for a group hoping to win over the leaders of nations, the makers of the law. So then, why are you here?"
Suzanne sighed. There was no story she could think of besides the truth. She knew she had no other choice, "We heard you recently acquired a large red gem, what we would call the red orb. We wanted to see if you had it and if so find some way to acquire it."
"I see. How did you plan on acquiring it?" asked the pirate.
"We didn't think that far ahead. We had to find you guys first and see if you had it in the first place. We would worry about getting it later," answered Suzanne.
"I suppose you would have taken it, as we took it ourselves," mused the pirate.
"We would have tried to talk with you long before that," said Suzanne.
"And if you refused, we would have only taken it with the intention of returning it to its rightful owner," chimed in Thomas. "Then we would have negotiated with them over the orb. We do not simply steal from others."
"Tom!" hissed Alice. "Remember who you're talking to!"
But the pirate laughed at Thomas' words. "Believe me, sir, we do not steal for our own gain. What do you know of our victims?"
"Your victims are wealthy business owners who, at least the emperor believes, are guilty or corrupt dealings such as exploitation of workers and customers," answered Suzanne. "Not only that, you go out of your way to spare the innocent, to the point it interferes with your attacks and has allowed you to be beaten back. Some believe you are virtuous folk, striking out against the corrupt rich. Even Emperor Vilisik had good things to say about you."
"He did, huh?" asked the pirate with interest. "I must say that puts my soul at ease. Believe it or not, I do not find it easy to do what I do. But I believe it is the right thing after all."
"Excuse me, captain," spoke up one of the other pirates, whom Thomas realized was the man in charge of their capture. "How do we know she's telling the truth? Maybe she's feeding you a story you want to hear. Just like the other lady did to John."
"A valid point," conceded the captain. "How do I know you're telling the truth now?"
"I'm sorry for what I put John through!" cried Alice. "I didn't want to do it! For what it's worth I really do think he's a nice guy!"
"It's alright Alice," said Suzanne. "I'm not going to say that we never lie. We had to lie and deceive to infiltrate that rebellion you mentioned before as well. But, like you, we always have a greater goal in mind. We don't like it and we wish we didn't have to do it but that's the way things have happened so far. But I continue to maintain that we only did this to find you. We would not try to cheat you out of the orb. Though, as Thomas said, we may have tried to gain it back to give to its rightful owner and deal with them."
"Ah yes, you keep stressing that point. Tell you what, why don't we bring the orb and its rightful owner here and settle this point once and for all?" declared the captain.
The three were quite surprised with this development. As some of the captain's men went to fetch the desired person and object, Ron started to come to. A quick look around the room and feeling his bounds reminded him of the current situation. He shot death glares at all the pirates. The other three made sure he would not get himself knocked out again and would let him get caught up once the other pirates returned.
The pirates returned with a heavy man who looked to be in her forties or fifties. The man was similarly bound as the other four but judging by the look on his face, not a man accustomed to danger. The pirates also brought with them a large gem that was identical to the other orbs the four had collected, save the color.
"Cenlin, I believe this orb is yours?" asked the captain.
The man seemed unsure as to how he should answer but after a quick prod from one of the pirates spoke up, "I-it's mine, yes."
"Oh goodness are you sure?" asked the captain. "Do you know who I am?"
"Your voice sounds familiar," answered Cenlin. "But I cannot place you in my memory."
"Do you remember Victor Danson?" asked the captain.
"Oh my goodness! You're—!" realized Cenlin.
"His widow, yes. Now are you sure this orb is yours?" asked the captain.
Cenlin suddenly went to his knees and began to weep. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Please don't kill me! I didn't want your husband to die!"
"I'm sure you didn't," responded the captain. "Why don't you tell everyone here what you did?"
Cenlin looked pleadingly at the captain, who responded with a glare. Up to this point, the captain had been very pleasant but this was the first time she showed a sign of anger.
"I-I-I-I had him robbed!" yelled Cenlin. "I wanted that gem of his! But he wouldn't sell it! So I hired some guys to rob him! And when he resisted—"
"I'm sorry Cenlin," the captain cut him off. "Did you just say that gem isn't yours?"
"No it's not mine!" cried Cenlin. "It's his! Or yours now!"
"Thank you Cenlin. Men, you may take him back to his room now. Put the gem back where it belongs as well," said the captain.
The pirates took the weeping Cenlin and the red orb out of the courtyard. After they had left, the captain continued talking with the four.
"So you see, Suzanne, if it is the rightful owner of that gem you are seeking to deal with, you have been dealing with her the whole time," said the captain. "I suppose I haven't introduced myself yet. I am Celia Danson, the late Victor's wife."
"I want you to know that vengeance is not all that motivates me or my men," continued Celia, "though it certainly is a factor. Wealthy men such as Mr. Cenlin take advantage of the little people all the time. They use their wealth and power to manipulate, to oppress, even to rob and murder those who are not so fortunate. I and my merry band here wish to pay them back for such service. As has been stressed several times now, we do not do this for money, and we do not harm innocents."
"I'll be honest with you, we do not agree with your methods," replied Suzanne. "But you're right, such people need to be shown the error of their ways."
"We could argue on and on about this until we grow old and I doubt either one of us would change our minds," said Celia. "But we both have more important ways to spend our time."
"I have a business deal for you," continued Celia. "I will give you that red gem we showed you before. In return, you will go about your business as though you never found us. You will not turn us in, you will not tell any other soul you know of our headquarters, and you will not even let on that you have met some of our members. Do we have an agreement?"
"That is a very generous offer," replied Suzanne. "It would be foolish for me to turn down such an offer."
"Very well. We shall make this official. Loosen their bonds," ordered Celia.
"Captain, are you sure of this?" asked the attack leader. "This is some risk we're taking, and letting them have such a priceless item to boot."
"It is risky," conceded Celia. "But I believe it is right. Our methods may differ but we are on the same team. They are trying to save humanity from monsters. We wish to save humanity from itself. We have little use for the gem while they have gone to great lengths to find it. I believe this will work out best for everyone."
The four were let loose from their bounds. Celia had each of them swear a separate vow to never divulge what they knew of the pirates. Ron and Thomas were reluctant to do so; Ron because he was still sore from how they had been treated by the pirates and Thomas because he still did not like the idea of dealing with pirates. But eventually they gave in and the deal was sealed.
Celia had some pirates lead the four to the area where the red orb was kept. The room was covered by a boulder that took two pirates to move. Once it was out of the way, the pirates gave the red orb to the group.
"Well that's four!" said Alice cheerfully. "Only two more to go!"
"Too bad we have no idea whatsoever where the other two are," said Thomas.
"We could go back to Lancel and ask the seers there for help," suggested Ron.
"Before we leave I want to have a chat with the pirates," said Suzanne. "They've likely seen a wide array of objects and heard many stories in their travels. They may know a thing or two."
"And I could definitely use a rest," said Alice wearily.
"We put a lot on your plate to get here, Alice," said Suzanne.
"Yeah, we owe you one Alice," thanked Ron.
"Think nothing of it guys," replied Alice cheerily. "But next time, it won't be my turn to go undercover."