Despite the incredible mass of the treasure chests, Bronwyn, Gy, and the rest of their crew easily hauled it out of the swamp. In fact, on the way, they stumbled upon the crew member who had sunken into the mud pit but somehow managed to escape alive. So elated at seeing their massive haul, he forgot how they abandoned him and helped them back towards the village.
Night was falling as they left the swamp, and they heard shouts of terror from Orlane. As it came into view, they saw villagers rushing about between burning buildings, doing their best to salvage their ransacked homes. Some of the villagers saw the group and cried, “Look! There’s more of them!”
Stunned by a flashback to the destruction of Manhan, Gy barely composed himself enough to stay the villagers who had rushed toward the group, picks and makeshift clubs in hand. Although one farmhand remained unconvinced of the party’s harmlessness, Bronwyn kept him in check while Gy consorted with the remaining villagers.Apparently, a band of pirates had just ransacked the village, kidnapping all of the able-bodied youth and setting most of the buildings on fire. Word had come to Orlane of similar raids on nearby villages, but they still had not been prepared for the swift brutality of Captain Mauser and his crew. Steeled at the mention of the villain who had destroyed his home, Gy persuaded one of the villagers to join Cotton’s crew as they set out to intercept Mauser.
By early morning, Cotton’s ship had Mauser’s surprisingly massive ship in its sights. Cotton’s deft maneuvering brought his vessel alongside Mauser’s, at which point his entire crew was shocked by a loud blast coming from Mauser’s ship. Despite the momentary disturbance, Gy, Bronwyn, and the heroic members of Cotton’s crew were able to board Mauser’s ship. Gy and Grinder found Mauser and prepared to make him pay for his crimes.
As swords clattered across the deck of the embattled ship, it became clear that something was wrong below. Hearing screams and smelling smoke, Bronwyn rushed below to see a fire raging across from the cages in which dozens of prisoners were being kept. Kicking some ass, she plowed through the few of Mauser’s crew trying to fend her off and busted open the prison cells. However, most of the prisoners seemed utterly mindless and uninterested in saving their own lives. Bronwyn realized getting these poor teenagers off the ship was more than she could handle alone, so she called up to Gy for help.
Above deck, Mauser had already cut down Grinder and was making a mockery of Gy’s swordsmanship. Gy, hearing Bronwyn’s cries, put his mission for vengeance on hold to marshal the escapees from the holding cells onto Cotton’s ship. Unfortunately, by the time they had rescued everyone, the fire had become too overwhelming to endure any search of the ship, so Gy and Bronwyn were forced to return to Cotton’s boat.
Over the next two weeks, Cotton’s ship returned the kidnapped youth to villages all along the coast of Lake Acheron, including Orlane. In all cases, the crew was given a heroes’ welcome, but Gy and Bronwyn could not help but feel uneasy. Was it too much to hope that Mauser had gone down with his ship? Were these kidnappings related to the eerily similar amassing of youth at the monastery from which Bronwyn had escaped?