Escape from Caligari's Isle
by Rob Wieland

   He was watching Castille burn.

   He was standing on the balcony of the palace. His face was flickering in the fires that were burning the plaza. He was wearing the suit his father had brought three tailors from Vodacce to make for his eventual coronation. Though he could only see the plaza and only hear the cries of the nearby people, he could feel all of his country was burning.

   He also felt a cold hand on his shoulder. He turned to look behind him and saw Vincenzo Caligari smiling with silvery teeth and clockwork eyes.

   "Isn't it beautiful?" he asked. Allende turned back to the plaza, just in time for an explosion to flare brightly and thankfully consume him.

   The light still seeped in though his heavy eyelids. He opened them and saw a pair of red shapes. Was he still dreaming? Were these the fires that would burn if Caligari broke him? The thick smell of the dungeon flooded his nostrils. He never though we would be thankful to be back in Caligari's dungeon. His eyes began to focus. He had somehow brought something back from his nightmare.

   "It seems you have a social call," spat Jacob.

   "Inquisitors," he said, drawing himself as straight as he could.

   "Captain Allende," said one of them in a strangely familiar voice. "We have come to deliver you from the prison..." He paused all-too-dramatically. "Of your soul," the other said. Allende cracked a grin to the one on the left.

   "Aren't you a little small for an Inquisitor?"

   "The time for insults has passed, senor. Is your soul ready to be free?" The shorter inquisitor drew a wicked blade with a hilt that looked like thr Prophet's cross.

   "Caligari has failed to break me, eh? So you have come to silence me?"

   "In a matter of speaking. You will no longer be of any concern to him. Set him free."

   The shorter Inquisitor stepped forward, pressing the dagger to Allende's throat. Allende stared forward, unflinching.

   Suddenly, he heard a loud click and found his right hand free. The Inquisitor pressed the key into his palm. He looked at him with a puzzled stare and shifted back to the lead Inquisitor. The leader pulled his hood off of his face. Puzzlement flooded into joy.

   "By Theus," he whispered. The other Inquisitor removed his hood.

   "Berek," breathed Allende as he unlocked his other wrist. "Your Castillian is horrible."

   Jeremiah Berek chuckled as he slipped out of the red robes. On his left, Delaina had replaced her glasses and handed Allende a wineskin that he drank greedily from "Why am I not surprised that you came up with a plan like this?" Allende asked, smiling for the first time in what seemed like centuries.

"It was her plan actually," Berek said as he gestured


Delaina tossed the dress in the corner. "While Vodacce is no longer the seat of the Church, most people here are still devoutly Vaticine. Inquisitors can come and go as they please. My original plan was to dress as the Fate Witches Caligari sent for you."

   "Berek wouldn't agree to it?"

   "We couldn't find someone to dress as the third witch. Reggie backed out. Either way, getting in is no problem. Getting out..."

   "...will merely be impossible," chimed Berek from the doorway.

   "Now all we got to do is tell them we're taking you back to Castille, pop you on the boat, and we're free to go."

   "Not likely," said Allende. Berek's face darkened. "Caligari isn't going to let you walk out of here with me so easily. You may have been able to bluff your way in here but not out."

   "We should have gone with the Witches," sighed D.D.

   "Now, now," said Berek as he folded his arms, "I'm sure Allende has his own escape route mapped out of here."

   "As a matter of fact I do," Allende said as he took the keys from D.D. He unlocked Faust's chains and pressed the keys firmly in his palm.

   "Free as many of the prisoners as you can. That should keep the guards busy. Meet me at the entrance to the tunnels that you told me about."

   "I cannot," Faust said grimly. Shouts began to echo down the hallway.

   "They've discovered the guard we knocked out," said Berek

   "I will free the prisoners. I will lead them away from the tunnels, Allende. It is more important that you are free. Remember, get to the artifact room. Right, left, right..."

   "Yes, Jacob. I remember. We must hurry."

   Faust extended his hand.

   "I'll see you again, sir."

   Allende shook his hand.

   "You will always have a home in the Brotherhood."

   The four exited the cell. Allende, Berek, and D.D. dashed to the left. Faust marched right, jangling the keys and bellowing "Who wants to be free?" It was a beautiful sight to Allende. He only wished he could have stayed to watch it.

   They crept along the tunnels for what seemed like hours. Allende had been muttering to himself all along the way.

   "I'm worried about the captain," whispered D.D.

   "Shhh," said Berek.

   "Right-left-right-left-left-left-right-left-right," said Allende as they turned another corner. He had been repeating this to himself since they had found a secret door behind the guards they had knocked unconscious while exiting the dungeon."

   "He reminds me of Willie..."

   "You'll break his concentration."

   They twisted in the dark a few more times.

   The first few guards the wave of prisoners he had released had bean dealt with quickly. They had made it to the ground floor before encountering any real resistance.

   With a mighty growl, Faust hoisted one of the guards above his head and tossed him into a few others. The door to freedom was across this foyer. He would drink well with the men brave enough to have made it with him and raise a glass for those who did not. As he put down two more guards, something in the back of his mind began to nag at him. The worst traps were located right before the treasure was in hand. The closer you were to success, the more likely the ground was going to fall out from beneath you.

   He suppressed a yawn as his hand touched the doorknob. He suddenly realized the hall was silent. He turned, slowly, to see all the men, prisoner and guard, had hit the floor. A lightly coloured yellow gas poured out of the mouths of the angels in the architecture. He felt himself sink to his knees. He had read about this gas in an Explorer's journal. At least it wasn't the deadly red version from the isle of Santobello.

   Or was the red gas the sleep gas and the yellow gas the poison? Faust hadn't reached a decision by the time he faded from consciousness.

   "These tunnels are amazing," whispered D.D. "I've never seen anything like them."

   "Secret passages are in vogue, especially in Montaigne," replied Berek. "Its so the nobility can be served by the peasantry without actually seeing them."

   "I know that. But these are very well laid out. You could probably reach anywhere in the house."

   "Like the artifact storeroom," said Allende as they reached a wide stone archway. There was a series of rocks imbedded in a wall underneath it. "Faust took careful notes whenever Caligari would take him away. He made me memorize the path to the storeroom. He doesn't allow anyone in there. We should be able to sneak through it and shimmy out the window to the docks."

   "And you trust Mr. Faust?"

   "He made it onto Caligari's Isle without Inquistor's robes or the famous bravado of the leader of the Sea Dogs."

   "Handsome leader of the Sea Dogs," smirked Berek. "Don't leave the most important part."

   "Can we save this male bravado for when we're back on the boat, sirs? I think I've found the mechanism," said Delaina. She pushed one of the stones and the whole wall rotated with a loud rumble.

   The quartet calmly looked about the room they had just entered.

   Dozens of Caligari's guards looked back at them. The dinner set upon the tables smelled delicious.

   Berek turned to Allende with a raised eyebrow.

   Allende's face reddened.

   "Left-RIGHT-right-left-right," he said calmly. "Not left-left-right-left-right. Sorry. Been in a dungeon, you know."

   "Understandable. This time."

   The guards surged forward.

   "Looks like its time for a bit of a constitutional," said Berek as he drew his pistols.

   Faust was surrounded by enough Syrneth artifacts to make the entire Explorer's Society catalogue look like the fashionable baubles in vogue in Charouse. Even in the few weeks since he had last been here, the collection had grown in immeasurable ways.

   If he hadn't been strapped to a table in the middle of the room, he would have been overjoyed.

   If he were unstrapped and alone, he would have been ecstatic.

   "I'm glad you're awake, sir," said a shrivelled voice from nearby. Faust turned his head. Vincenzo Caligari hobbled toward him, eyes wide with glee. He held a strange fist-sized device in his hand. "I've done some checking up on you, Jacob. You are a very prominent member of the Explorer's Society. A clever plan. Some of your Explorer associates dress as Inquisitiors to come and visit you. You free the prisoners in the cells and escape with a few trinkets I pried from the cold hands of your fellows?"

   He chuckled to himself and made his way to a small table. He placed a device on his head. It held a glowstone in the middle and two lenses dropped down over his eyes that magnified them. He held the fist-sized artifact in front of it.

   "This was recovered from a secret dig in the sewers of Charouse. There are a series of instructions inscribed on the wall of a site near San Augustin."

   He limped closer. The artifact contained a large black jewel on once side. It was mounted in a strange amber-like metal that was curved slightly. On the inside of the curve was a small porthole. Caligari's fingers twitched and a large stilletto-like blade popped out of it.

   "If my research is correct, this device will fill your mind with the unfathomable knowledge of the Ancient Races."

   Caligari quickly immobilized Faust's neck and set him looking up.

   "It works much like a bellows and a fire...only the information drawn out of your brain is human and the replacement is...something more."

   Caligari traced the blade along the scars on Faust's face.

   "I've thought about undergoing the process myself but most of the men that I've subjected to it have gone mad or died. I intend to do neither."

   "And what is your intention?" asked Faust through clenched teeth.

   "I will bestow this gift upon you. You will congress with the spirits encased within and tell me how I can finally live forever. In exchange, I will kill you before you devour your own tongue."

   "You expect me to bow to your demands?

   He held it over Faust's head. His other hand produced a hammer. The hammer hovered over the device. "Either way, this will be one scar you'll never be able to tell the story of."

The chamber echoed with a loud crack.

   Faust heard the hammer clang harmlessly to the ground in the distance.

   Caligari spun to the balcony of his vault. Three figures stood overlooking his work. He immediately recognized one.

   "Allende," he muttered.

   Smoke drifted around the Castillian's handsome face.

   "Good shot," whispered D.D..

   "Constitutional did wonders for me," he whispered back.

   "How did you get in here? And out of your cell?"

   "It seems you don't have the answers for once, Caligari," said Allende as the quartet made their way down the winding iron staircase to the main floor.

   "The Brotherhood takes care of its own," said Berek as he waved Caligari away from the table. The rest set about freeing Jacob from his bonds.

   "The Brotherhood is doomed. My Fate Witches saw to it. The stands are pulling tight as we speak."

   Muffled shouts echoed in the hall. The guards were giving chase through the tunnel.

   "We have Fate on our side too," said Berek as he seized the old man's arm, "I'm sure your guards will be willing to make a fair trade. Allende for Caligari."

   Caligari scowled. "Where are my witches?"

   "Lucrezia send her regards," Berek said smiling.

   "Tell her the same," Caligari said, grinning back. Berek vaguely remembered saying once that the only thing more deadly than a smiling Vodacce was a smiling siren.

   "It was the Hook, wasn't it?"

   Berek's grip tightened. Every night, Willie strolled the deck, cursing and whispering to himself. Allende had entrusted his dream to him and one of his best men was now saddled with the Scarlet Hook.

   "What about the Hook?" he growled. Caligari's eyes turned to Berek.

   "I gave it to her as...payment for services rendered. But it has abilities even I was unaware of. Beyond its already deadly ones..." "Tell me what you know, Caligari."

   Berek pinned Caligari against the wall.

   "Berek," shouted Allende, "NO!"

   Caligari ripped the magnifier off his head and smashed it onto the hard marble. A bright flash tore through the chamber. When Allende was able to see again, he saw Berek curled on the ground clutching his face.


   Berek cursed.

   "I'll be alright. Cagey little bastard."

   "What's this about a hook?"

   Allende helped Berek to his feet.

   "All in due time."

   Suddenly, guards poured through the passageway. Berek whirled. He parried a vicious blow with his pistol and drew his cutlass. Allende deftly dodged around the table causing each missed blow to sever one of the chains that bound Faust to the table. Allende and Berek found themselves pressed back to back.

   "Mr. Berek, sir, I do not believe you are doing your part."

   "Fair enough. I figured you'd need a workout after your long imprisonment.

   They spun at the same time. Allende parried Berek's opponent while Berek's slash felled a brute.

   "Sir, these men are hardly making me sweat."

   Allende spun past one opponent and seized the back of his hair, pulling him to the ground. He knocked one brutes sword away from his grap and parried the third's blow. The disarmed man swung wildly. Allende ducked and his fist caught his partner in crime. He only had a moment to yelp in shock before Allende's fist struck him down.

   Berek had knocked his opponent down. He turned to Allende. "I can't believe you're trying to make me look bad during my rescue attempt."

   Allende clapped his hand on Berek's shoulder.

   "I'm not making you look that bad, am I?"

   The henchman had returned to his feet and crept up behind Berek. Before Allende could shout a warning, Berek stamped his foot on the man's ankle, shot his elbow backward, and brought the pommel down hard on his now bowed head.

   "I said you're trying," he said with his practiced smirk.

   They both turned suddenly as they heard Delaina scream.

   The cutlass had imbedded itself deep in to the table. She scrambled backwards as he pulled it out. She skirted around the other side and ducked past another whistling blow. She darted past her attacker but he jutted out a leg and knocked her to the ground. She flopped onto her back. He raised the cutlass, grinning with a toothless mouth.

   He paused for a moment and flopped to the ground beside her. There was a strange device sticking out of his back. She looked up and saw the scarred man offering her a hand up.

   "Jacob Faust," he said with a grin.

   "Delaina Darling," she said, quietly. Berek and Allende helped her to her feet.

   "Allende," said Berek casting a quick glance around the hall, "there will be more coming. Your cunning plan?"

   "Mr. Faust," said Allende, "can you take us to the passageway you found? The one that leads under the island."

   "If what I've found is what I think it is," said Faust as he walked to the lead, "we will be in Avalon before Mr. Berek can crack wise again."

   Delaina's eyes were wide as she made her way into the antechamber below the island. Her ears pulsed with the strange humming of the walls and her mind reeled at the alien beauty of the jagged archways she passed underneath.

   "What is all of this?" she asked in barely a whisper.

   They all walked with their eyes drinking in the strange folds of the walls and the strange hue of the underground lighting... All except Faust. He had seen it before.

   "Here it is," he said. He swept his arm to a vessel none of them could have ever imagined before this day. It seemed to made entirely of glass and clouds. Berek could hardly believe went he stepped aboard that he didn't fall through into the glowing pool it was moored in. Faust made his way to the mast of the vessel. Or at least, what would have been the mast had there been any sails attached. The column was surrounded by six black rings.

   "I need you all to help me," he said. "You much match the inscription on the ring with the one on the post."

   Berek and the rest each pulled, grunted and groaned. After a few minutes, each ring was locked. The post flashed silver briefly.

   "I wonder if he found the rest of the switches," Jacob muttered under his breath.

   "Now what do we do," asked Delaina, "wiggle our ears and wish we were on La Bucca?"

   The strange vessel stirred. "We're moving," chimed Allende.

   "Wiggle your ears again, D.D.," said Berek as he glanced around quickly. "Opposite way this time."

   "I believe the controls are here," said Jacob as he made is way to a set of glyphs set into the prow of the ship.

   "Well then, Mr. Faust, take us..." Berek paused. "Captain?" He looked at Allende. They shared grins that shined like La Boca.

   "Just get us out of here for now," said the Pirate King.

   The vessel glided towards freedom.