They were standing in a wooden room, with curved walls, filled with barrels and water which sloshed as the room rolled from side to side. The sudden change from stability to motion made Ellis feel slightly ill, as did the wall of warm air which seemed to hit him as though it were solid.
"Where are-?" he began before he had to swallow and breathe deeply a few times until the nausea passed.
"It's the hold of the Ebon Crest," Siren said definitively, "just like I asked." She glanced up at Broken-Hope - still stood with his arms held out around them all - and said, "thank you. Really. I'm sorry for those things I called you before. You’ve proven yourself to be much better than I’d thought."
The Fallen dropped his arms and then staggered backwards slightly as thought drunk. Ellis watched with concern as his glorious white faded once more to a dull grey and he looked tired and worn out once more.
"You are welcome," he said.
"Do you need the medallion again?" Ellis asked, ready to pull the thing out from under his shirt once more.
"No. I do not wish to diminish its power any further. You need it more than I do."
"I don't think-" Ellis began, but Siren interrupted him with a nudge as she gestured up to the deck above where footsteps and voices could suddenly be heard. She put a finger to her lips, then cocked her head to listen.
"Isn't it about time you ate something you big lump of quartz?" came the whiney, high-pitched voice of a man, "You wont be worth much to the bosses if you starve to death."
"I do not need any of your food," replied a rough, gravelly voice that was instantly familiar.
"Rockspark!" Ellis whispered in surprise, almost saying the word out loud.
Siren nodded excitedly, but remained quiet.
"Yeah," the whiney voice continued, "well, we'll see about that." There was the sound of shuffling footsteps, then, "No, leave the tray there. He'll take it eventually." More footsteps, then the slamming of a door and then the footsteps retreating along the creaking deck into silence.
"Well, it seems like our friend Rockspark has gotten himself into a bit of bother as well." The Former Baron said in what was essentially a stage whisper.
"That probably removes him from suspicion, right?" Siren asked.
"My dear, Rockspark was never under suspicion."
Ellis watched as Siren considered that for a moment and then nodded as if the Former Baron had just confirmed something for her.
"What are we going to do about it, then?" Greta asked, staring up at the ceiling towards where Rockspark's voice had last emanated.
"That's simple, really," Siren replied with renewed confidence. "We break him out. And then we rescue any one else Harker has in his brig and then we take the ship back, one deck at a time if we have to!"
"I'll..." Broken-Hope tried to add.
"You can stay here, if you want." Siren said, softly.
"No. I'm not as exhausted as I look. I just..."
"Follow us then, but don't feel you need to protect us like you did before."
"I'll do what I can," he replied.
"Let's go." Luke said, standing by the steps leading to the hatch, looking impatient.
"Of course," Siren said, "but be careful."
Luke opened the hatch with more care than Ellis would have thought the sullen boy was capable of, peering out into the dimly-lit corridor above through the tiniest of cracks. He tilted his head, tried to look in all available directions, before lifting the hatch fully open and silently climbing up. Once he stood in the corridor above he looked back down and gestured for the others to follow. Siren, Greta, Gulliver and the Former Baron made their way through one at a time, leaving Ellis and Broken-Hope at the rear. Ellis gave the beleaguered-looking Fallen a worried glance, then hurried up after his companions.
They were in a corridor which seemed to run most of the length of the ship, with doors to either side and another hatch. Siren gestured towards it and commented, “That leads down to the engine room. It’s not in use at the moment, or we’d hear nothing but the engines, but if we have to we can sabotage it.”
Ellis nodded, wondering how easy it was for Siren to talk of sabotaging her own ship.
“The brig is back this way,” she pointed to a door at the other end of the corridor, “follow me.”
They moved slowly, trying to avoid the more noisy of the boards beneath their feet, hoping that any noise they made would blend into the symphony of creaks and groans that made up the song of the ship as it rolled gently from side to side. The rocking motion made Ellis feel unsteady on his feet and still the swaying and the heat made him want to be sick, but he did his best to hold it together and soon they were standing just outside the door to the brig.
“We’ll need the key,” Greta said, looking down at the heavy lock on the door before them.
“Or we could try this,” Siren said, pulling a lockpick out of her jacket and proceeding to work it into the keyhole of the lock.
“I… I didn’t know you could do that,” Ellis said, scratching his head.
“It would seem our Siren is a box of secrets still,” added the Former Baron, “albeit one where most of the secrets turn out to be useful tools, so more like a magical mystery toolbox, if you like.”
“Very flattering, Franck, thank you.”
“Always a pleasure.”
The lock made a few heavy clicking noises as Siren twisted the lockpick around inside it. “Almost there,” she muttered and then there was a solid, satisfying clunk. She removed the lockpick and then pushed the door with a gentle movement of her hand. It swung open with the swaying of the ship, revealing a surprisingly small room divided about a third of the way across by a series of thick metal bars, on the other side of which stood a series of dishevelled figures in drab pirate clothing and, sitting in the corner, tamping a sort of bone pipe and studiously ignoring a tray on the floor beside him, was Rockspark.
The other figures in the cell, remnants of Siren’s crew who had stayed with the Ebon Crest, or so Ellis surmised, gasped as they saw the group standing in the doorway and Rockspark looked up, the orbs of red flame that served as his eyes flickering with interest.
"I wondered when you'd turn up," he said in his usual gravel-rough voice, "if I'm honest, I'd have to say I was betting a little sooner than this." He seemed to take note of each of them in turn, pausing to take particular notice of Broken-Hope, though he said nothing more.
"We were otherwise delayed, Rockspark, old fossil," the Former Baron replied, waving his hands as if leaving behind the horror of recent events was as easy as dismissing a servant, "but what about you, how did you end up in this unfortunate predicament."
"As you have no doubt worked out by now, we were betrayed."
"Marveille," said Siren. It wasn't a question. Indeed, as Ellis had himself just realised, there really was no other option.
"Yes. Once the Mosskind started pestering the galleons and the Dusk Raider had begun to make its way out of the harbour to follow them, with me scratching my scales like an idiot trying to work out why the Ebon Crest wasn't following suit, Marveille pulled out a bladed pistol he had been concealing on his person somewhere, waved it in my face and then signalled for a boat from the Crest to come pick us up. I tried to make a run for it into the harbour, but that slippery little rat had apparently thought of that already. I didn't get more than a dozen feet before they fired a net over me and dragged me in like last night's catch." His fiery eyes flickered angrily as he recounted his tale. “So, then they trussed me up and threw me in here with the last few mutineers from your old crew, Siren. I’m not sure if any of the Mosskind got away. Did they make it to you? Are they with the rest of the crew?”
Siren took a deep breath, then shook her head sadly.
“The rest of the crew, the Mosskind, everyone…. they’re dead.”
Rockspark stared back at her in silence, his eyes dimming a little. After a moment he asked, “How?”
“It was a Lich,” the Former Baron replied, “somehow Harker had managed to secure the aid of a Lich.”
“Ah,” Rockspark replied sadly, “that makes a sorry kind of sense. I overhead them speaking in the corridor yesterday and there was talk of Cold Solace Keep, but it isn’t Harker that’s running this operation, not at all. From what I’ve been able to gather sitting in here, overhearing snippets, and from the expression I saw on his face as they hauled me on deck, I’d say he was a pawn in someone else’s game.”
“It’s ‘ard to imagine ‘Arker allowin’ someone else to take charge,” said Gulliver.
“I’m not entire sure that ‘allow’ is the correct word,” replied Rockspark.
“Yes, we already know that whoever Harker, and indeed Marveille, are working with they are incredibly powerful and influential,” agreed Von Spektr.
“You think you know who it is, don’t you?” Ellis asked. The Former Baron winked, but said nothing.
“Well then,” Siren said, looking the determined captain once more as she scanned the ranks of her admittedly meagre crew, “let’s get you all out of here and take back my ship and then we can have all the answers we want out of Harker.”