The voice echoed in his mind. “Welcome to the trial of cunning.”
The room began to vibrate as the floor shifted into a staircase leading down. Forte lit a torch with magic, and began the descent with Nightmare. On the next level, he saw four ethereal skeletons dressed in pirate garb chained to the wall. A few of the skeletons still had their scimitars in hand. Behind the skeletons was a door.
“These pirates tried to loot this tower six centuries ago. They are still paying for their sins with eternal torture of their souls. You need to get through that next door behind the pirates. Do you walk through them, or around them?” The voice asked.
Forte’s eyes darted around. This was a test of cunning, he thought, so there must be a trick. He walked around the room and examined every corner. As he suspected, there was blood on the wall for people who failed the test and were killed trying to walk around the skeletons, as well as blood on the floor from people who failed the test and were killed trying to walk through the skeletons. Neither answer provided by the voice was the right answer. Forte racked his brain, trying to think of a solution to the trial. There was nothing in the room besides the ghostly pirate skeletons and their shackles. Was he supposed to destroy the skeletons?
No, he thought. The skeletons would probably attack back. He decided on another option. Forte motioned Nightmare back, and then prepared himself.
“Ariz vallan.” He chanted. He poured a small amount of his stamina into the ethereal pirates, enough for them to move, but not enough for them to be a threat.
The pirate skeletons moved slightly, and began to talk. “Save us… save us from this eternal torture. We will do anything.”
Forte smirked. Anything, they said. “Will you serve me forever?”
“Yes… yes… anything to stop the torture.” The pirates moaned. “Anything at all.”
“Serve me until the end of days, pirates. Do that, and I shall free you.”
“We will… we will…” the pirates groaned.
Forte weighed the chances that the pirates would betray him, but deemed it a small risk he should undertake. He had Nightmare with him, and he thought he could take the fight if it happened. He drew his gravitite greatsword and broke the shackles, one by one. The pirates did not attack when they were freed, they merely sat there with the shackles in their hands, in complete disbelief. Forte was content. These ghostly pirates could be his first servants.
“Who do you serve?” Forte asked.
“We… we serve you, our savior! Thank you! You have no idea how hellish it was here, our souls being tortured for eternity. You have our eternal gratitude. We will serve you until the day our bones crumble into dust.” A pirate responded.
“You’re welcome. Now address me as lord.” Forte said.
“Yes... my lord.” The pirates mumbled in unison. “We are forever in your debt.”
The pirates had regained the flesh that they had when they were alive once. They introduced themselves as Cook, a very fat pirate, Thomas Tew, a thin but built pirate, Blackbeard, a lumbering giant, and Jack, a pirate with an eye patch and medium build. The pirates noted that although they could not be killed, their corporeal form was tied to this world by their debt to Forte, and thus they could only sustain their bodies for seven hours a day or until they were destroyed. Their forms would regenerate the next day, regardless of what occurred the day before. After acknowledging this, Forte, Nightmare, and the pirates walked into the next room.
“You have passed the trial of cunning. Now you will face the trial of might. If you defeat the golem, you may proceed.” The deep voice said.
The next room was flanked by pillars, and a giant, inanimate stone golem stood in the middle. With a thud, the golem came to life.
“Arrr…” Cook growled, as the ethereal pirate squad began their attack. Forte and Nightmare both launched at the golem. The pirates attacked with their scimitars and took the brunt of the damage. Luckily, the ethereal pirates were unkillable, although they were not so much as scratching the stone golem. Forte decided that they were excellent meat shields. Forte heaved and smashed his gravitite greatsword into the stone golem, chipping away at the golem bit by bit. Nightmare tackled and breathed molten fire on the dragon, clawing and biting away at the stone.
The golem slammed Cook and Tew onto the ground, destroying their corporeal forms. Forte and Blackbeard chipped away at the golem until its arm and part of its body was gone. That’s when Forte noticed a black gem in the middle of the golem. He swung his sword at the gem, destroying it in one blow and causing the golem to collapse into a heap of rubble. Forte smiled at his progress. He had obtained the help of four extremely loyal and combat efficient servants that could work tirelessly and could never die, although they only lasted for seven hours or until their bodies were destroyed. He walked through the next door.
“You have passed the trial of might. Now you will face the trial of blood. It is not too late to turn back, for if your blood does not run thick, you will not prove worthy.” The voice said.
The next room was empty except for a table with a single blood red amulet inside a basin on top of it. Forte examined the amulet.
“This is the amulet of my master, his majesty Elmund Motley. Only those whose blood runs thick shall prove worthy to wear it.” The deep voice spoke directly into Forte’s mind.
Forte reached for the amulet, but an invisible barrier prevented him from touching it. Forte examined the magic barrier. Nothing could touch the bottom of the basin, not Nightmare, not his sword, nor his pirate’s scimitar.
“This is the amulet of my master, his majesty Elmund Motley. Only those whose blood runs thick shall prove worthy to wear it.” The deep voice repeated, louder.
Forte understood what he had to do. He rolled up his sleeve and took his pirate’s scimitar, then made a shallow horizontal cut aross his arm. Blood spilled out from his arm and splattered into the basin beneath. It seemed as if blood was the only thing able to pass the barrier. Forte continued to let blood out, and the amulet began to float in the pool of blood. Forte ceased the bleeding, and reached his hand into the basin. With a shaky hand, he took out the amulet.
It was a circular cut ruby, inside a golden ring of casing, with the words Property of the House of Motley engraved into the gold.
He flipped the amulet around and examined the back. It had a familiar sigil on it. In fact, too familiar, Forte thought. It was the Mott family sigil of two crossing white swords.
He put the amulet on.
“You have passed the trial of blood, Lord Motley.” The thundering voice announced. “You are the blood heir to the royal house of Motley. The amulet is a family heirloom, the Amulet of Darkness, and will serve you well, as it once served my master Elmund Motley.”