The Continuation of the Beginning Part Two
written by Barnacle

Malteeze flew through the corridors with great speed, pausing only momentarily at each intersection so as to get his bearings. Barnacle hurried along, staying close behind their guide, with his sword drawn, ready for any trouble which might present itself. Directly behind him followed the other members of the group-- Protius, the parrot shaman; and Davey and Jones, the Bushwoolie sailors. Fortunately, Kracken, Barnacle's first mate, took up the rear and made sure no one fell behind from the furious pace.

Suddenly, Malteeze rounded a corner and stopped dead in his tracks. Even though he motioned for the others to do the same, no one stopped in time and everyone collided with the person in front of him. If it were not for his cat-like reflexes, Malteeze surely would have been sent toppling to the floor. As it was, he meerly stumbled into a wall.

"Careful," he warned. "This is the gateway. It's heavily guarded."

Barnacle crept forward and peered around the corner. On the other side was a huge chamber with a vaulted ceiling-- easily four stories high-- held aloft by gracefully rounded arches. Every surface of the room was detailed with intricate bas-relief carvings in much the same way the caverns outside the city were covered with crystals.

One end of this wonderous chamber was filled with a packed crowd of creatures. Short and stout in stature, and looking to be made of stone, they were all no taller than a Bushwoolie. In fact, they resembled Bushwoolies in a great number of ways.

"Bouldiers," Malteeze whispered. "Rosweld uses them as slaves."

"ARR," Barnacle muttered in reply.

Surrounding the crowd was a two-man-deep rank of soldiers wielding spears and halberds. Their armor was similar to Malteeze's and their very appearance as well. At the head of the gathering was a table hewn of stone on which was standing another of the felines. This one, however, was a good deal larger than the others and his fur was a darker shade of grey. His armor was polished so finely it shone like a mirror and at his side hung a very large sword.

"ARR, who be that?" Barnacle asked.

"Rosweld," Malteeze replied. It was possible that the slightest bit of anger flashed across his face as he spoke the warlord's name, but Barnacle couldn't tell for sure.

"Wow," Kracken said as he pushed his way forward and took his first view of the place. "So where's the gateway?"

"There." Malteeze pointed to the other side of the chamber where a stone archway nearly thirty feet high stood. The only thing between them and it was the crowd of Bouldiers, the armed guards, and the warlord.

"ARR," Barnacle said, making it a curse. "Is there no other way?"

Malteeze glanced around the chamber. "No, every other way looks just as bad, if not worse."

"Captain Barnacle," Protius suddenly spoke-up, "I might have a suggestion."

"ARR, what is it?"

"The scepter of the Bouldiers," Protius explained. "Whoever holds it is the unquestioned ruler of the Bouldiers. If we had it, Rosweld wouldn't be able to control them. We might even be able to convince them to help us."

"ARR, a fine plan ya be havin'," Barnacle agreed, "but where is this scepter?"

"At the far end of the chamber," Malteeze said, pointing to the end opposite where the crowd was gathered.

"Why doesn't Rosweld have it?" Kracken asked, but quickly added, "Not that I want him to have it..."

"He's toying with them," Protius observed and tried in vain to suppress a shutter. "Rosweld loves to do that. Unfortunately, I speak from experience."

"Yes," Matleeze said. "Why else would he have the guards?"

"I don't like this guy," Kracken said as he nervously shifted the grip on his sword.

"ARR," Barnacle said in thought. "Alright, here's what we'll be doin'. Protius, Davey, and Jones will grab the scepter while the rest o' us be keeping the guards busy."

"Oh great," Kracken said. "We only have to fight, what, twenty-five to thirty of them?"

"I count forty," Protius said helpfully.

Kracken sighed. "Maybe we should rethink this plan..."

But before anyone could reply, Malteeze cried out and threw his staff like a spear right at Kracken! Kracken managed to duck at the last instant but still heard a cry of pain from behind him. Everyone turned and saw that Malteeze's staff had taken out the first of a group of guards which had somehow snuck up on them from down the passage.

"ARR, Kracken, yee were supposed to be watchin' our back!"

"No time for blame," Malteeze said with infinite calm as he lept headlong into the advancing guards and retrieved his staff. "Move! I'll hold off these here."

Barnacle turned back to the chamber and, with a slight bit of horror, saw that the forty or so guards were coming at them with Rosweld in the center. "Protius, get the staff!" Barnacle ordered. "Kracken, you're with me!" With that, Barnacle charged forward, his sword held aloft.

"Aye-aye," Kracken replied meekly and followed his captain. The clashing of steel on steel suddenly rang throughout the chamber as Kracken and Barnacle met the advancing guards. With flashing swords and all of their skill, the two pirates could just barely hold their own, let alone take any ground. Lesser men surely would not have held out, but these did just the opposite.

On the other side of the chamber, Protius ran as fast as he could for the raised dias which held the scepter. Close behind him were Davey and Jones who only managed to keep up because some of the guards had peeled off after them. Bounding up the steps, leaving a trail of feathers in his wake, Protius reached out and, just as his wings wrapped around the gold and jewel-encrusted scepter, one of the guards slammed into his back. To his credit, Davey had managed to stop the guard by rolling into a ball and tripping his feet; but, the sentry still fell right on top of Protius. The scepter went sliding straight across the polished floor to stop right at the feet of another feline soldier. This time, however, Jones lunged forward and dove for it. He managed to get his hands around the shaft a split second before the guard. But, that did little good when the guard lifted scepter and Bushwoolie both off the ground.

As he flailed the scepter about in an effort to get Jones to let go, Protius came fluttering in from above to land in the feline's face while Davey tackled his legs. All four of them went down in a pile.

Meanwhile, Barnacle and Kracken were still holding their own against the guards. But, Malteeze, who was fighting in the side passage, could not be seen. "Stop!" a raspy voice commanded above the din of battle. Every last solder obediently ceased their assault and kept the two pirates at weapons-length as Rosweld strode forward.

Towering about everyone in the room in his brilliantly gleaming armor, and with his hand resting on the hilt of his sword, the warlord made a truly imposing figure. "You two fight very well," Roswell said as an evil smile crossed his lips, "against my men, anyway." His thick fingers drummed against the scabbard of his sword. "Why don't you see how you do against me?"

In a single fluid motion, Roswell's sword was out of its scabbard and arcing through the air at Kracken. Kracken quickly brought his own sword up and with both hands on the grip deflected the powerful blow. Seeking to take advantage of this opening, Barnacle lept forwrad, his cutlass slicing a path through the air. But Rosweld easily sidestepped the attack and smashed Barnacle's blade away. The force of the impact was so great that it actually sent Barnacle stumbling backwards. Fortunately, before the warlord could continue his attack, Kracken charged forward, ramming his shoulder into the small of Roswell's back. The thick armor he wore, though, probably did more damage to Kracken than to the warlord, who merely stumbled to the side and parried two more attacks.

As this fight continued, all the guards formed a ring around the combatants but none moved to help their lord. They knew that to interfere in Rosweld's games was to risk a fate worse than death. The crowd of Bouldiers, meanwhile, split into two groups. One formed around the guards to watch the pirates fight the tyrant ruler, while the others gathered around Protius and the Bushwoolies who were still wrestling with the guards over the scepter.

All of a sudden, Protius rose up out of the pile holding the artifact aloft. "I've got it!" he cried. But a split second later, the other guard rammed him from behind. Again the scepter slipped out of his grasp, but this time it went sailing high into the air. It seemed to fall to the ground as if in slow motion, spinning end over end until the jeweled bulb came down against the rock floor... in an ear-splitting crash, the scepter shattered into thousands of tiny pieces which went sliding all over the floor in a starburst pattern. Everyone-- including Roswell, Barnacle, and Kracken-- stopped what they were doing and were silent.

"Whoopsie..." Protius muttered in a barely audilbe peep which still managed to carry throught the entire chamber.

One of the Bouldiers stepped forward and fell to his knees where the scepter had broken. "Whoever hold scepter is ruler," he said, "but, now there no scepter, so who rule?"

Protius managed to free himself from the pile in which he was entangled and walked up to the Bouldier. "Now, this is just a suggestion," Protius said, "but perhaps you could rule yourselves."

"Rule ourselves?" the Bouldier said, turning to his fellow Bouldiers dumbfoundedly. "What do we do if we rule?"

"Whatever you want," Protius replied.

Slowly, turning back to Protius, a smile spread across the Bouldier's face. "If we rule... then I say... we get rid of him!" The Bouldier shot out a finger pointing right at Rosweld and all of the Bouldiers let out a cry as they moved as one and swarmed over the guards to get at Rosweld. Though the guards were trained soldiers and the Bouldiers no more than craftsmen and artists, sheer number won out as the peasants pushed back the warriers.

"NO!!" Roswell bellowed.

"I'm thinking, yes," Kracken said smugly as he squared off with the warlord.

"Aye," Barnacle agreed as he held his sword at the ready next to Kracken.

Rosweld's eyes flashed from one to the other and then back again. Taking a step back, he bellowed at the top of his lungs, "Fall back!" Then, pointing menacingly at Barnacle and bearing his fangs, he said, "This isn't over, pirate."

"ARR, I hope not," Barnacle replied.

With that, Rosweld and all his troups turned and ran through the gateway into the damp caves beyond, never again to return to Bouldier City. As the last of the felines fled through the gateway, a great cheer rose from the Bouldiers and they closed in on the pirates to thank them for their help.

"Wait a second," Kracken cried. "Where's Malteeze?"

"I am here," Malteeze replied as he emerged from the side passage looking quite winded.

"Where were you?" Kracken asked, happy to see their friend but a little upset at the same time. "We could have used your help out here!"

Taking a moment to catch his breath, Malteeze leaned on his staff and nodded at the passageway through which he had emerged. "There you will find fifty or so reinforcements who did not make it to your fight."

"Fifty?" Kracken said, shocked.

"Or so," Malteeze clairified. "All now, unconscious."

"ARR," Barnacle said as he sheathed his sword. "Good work."

"No, not really," Malteeze said shaking his head. "Once again, I've broken from my path. Can I go nowhere without fighting?"

Davey and Jones, with Protius held between them, stumbled over to the other three. Flapping down on the floor to catch his breath, Protius said, "Malteeze, when you can travel the whole world over and then see no fighting, perhaps everyone will have achieved enlightenment. Until then, we do what we must to find enlightenment for ourselves and those whom we meet."

Sighing deeply, Malteeze replied with a weary, "Yes, master."

"No look so sad," the Bouldier said as he again stepped forward. "Now time for party! We have freedom again! We have heroes to celebrate!" he said, putting his arms around Barnacle's and Kracken's legs.

"I think I could use a break," Kracken said.

"ARR," Barnacle agreed. "ARR."

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