Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 19: Leon Doesn’t Like ‘Complicated’

We’ve hit a snag. All the research team members studying the main specimen have been killed. Subject Zero shows more intelligence than previously calculated. Even though the research team claimed they had avoided detection, the creature somehow knew they were there. It crept up on their ship without them noticing, and used a projectile produced by its own body to destroy them. The projectile consisted of some kind of vaporous gas similar to mist. Strangely, the energy readouts of the attack show psionic frequencies similar to Elementals.

“Where’s Mozar?” Torsha asked Kormal.

The gray-skinned Sage continued his meditation, floating a few inches off the floor in his chambers with his legs crossed and his hands folded as if praying. Kormal’s room was bare save for an old mattress on a metal cot. His eyes were closed and his head was bowed. Torsha had gotten to know the Sage fairly well at this point, so she knew that he really disliked being interrupted during his meditative states. Torsha recalled how her teacher, Hannah Lioness, spoke of him on occasion. The Light Priestess had explained that Kormal, and to some extent, Mozar, were once students of the Prime Minister himself. Torsha was still trying to wrap her head around that one, the thought of Mozar being beholden to anyone, especially a man like Zanderius Alastar. As for Kormal, Hannah respected him for the most part, but was also a little wary of him. Given the way he once attacked Ryan, Torsha could understand why a little wariness was warranted. She still couldn’t recall why that incident occurred. She suspected Kormal had used his telepathy to alter her memories of the incident. Torsha knew of ways she might restore her memories using Light Elemency, but Hannah had specifically requested that she not look into the matter further. Torsha supposed that if Hannah trusted Kormal enough to allow him to alter memories, then it probably was necessary. But the thought of Kormal meddling in her head still nettled her, and made her a little more sympathetic to Mozar’s gruff treatment towards the Sage.

“Why are you asking me?” Kormal replied in slight annoyance without opening his eyes.

“Well, you’re his buddy ... I think. Plus, you’re psychic. I’m pretty sure if there’s something going on with him, you’d know about it.”

A slow smile crossed Kormal’s wizened features, but he kept his eyes closed. “And what makes you think something is going on, young Monk?”

Torsha suppressed the urge to growl as she grew impatient with his dodging. “Because we’ve hardly seen him since James brought up that Werecat lady. I know he’s left the hideout. I can’t smell him near anymore. I just want to know what he’s up to. He’s a part of this team, after all.”

Kormal chuckled. “If you told Mozar that he was part of a team, he would likely laugh at your face ... or bite your face off. It just depends on his mood.”

Now Torsha did growl as she stepped forward and said, “Look, just answer the question! Do you know where he went or-”

“I do not know. I have my suspicions, but nothing concrete,” said Kormal as he suddenly fixed Torsha with those huge, black eyes.

Torsha found his gaze disturbing, but refused to be intimidated as she said, “Well, can’t you just find him with your mind?”

Kormal slowly floated to his feet, his blue robes undulating around him as he stood. Then he shook his head. “There is a limited range to my telepathic abilities, especially with so many minds present. Besides, even if I could find him, Mozar had the same instructor as me. We were students together. He knows how to partition his thoughts and hide himself from my telepathy if he wishes to. Something tells me that wherever he has gone, it is not a place that he wants me to know about.”

Torsha rolled her eyes and huffed. “And you’re just okay with that? You trust him to just leave whenever he wants while we’re on a mission like this?”

Kormal smiled yet again. “I would trust Mozar with my very life if need be. You should as well. He may be sourly, but he is also loyal to a fault. Betrayal is something that is not in him. That is the way of the Packs.”

Torsha flushed slightly at the reminder of her people’s culture, a people she had never had the opportunity to know apart from Mozar. Torsha felt her ears droop in embarrassment, and she pushed a strand from her eyes as her mood became more subdued. “Look, I ... I’m just worried about him, that’s all. He seemed really rattled when news of that Werecat came up. I didn’t think anything could rattle a guy like him.”

The Sage studied Torsha with an unreadable expression, his black eyes seeming as deep and vast as space itself. Before Kormal could answer, the door buzzed. Into the dull brown metal chambers walked the old Elf Nazz.

“Apologies for the interruption, but the captain has just arrived. Master Lurranna wishes for a debriefing to discuss your next assignments.”

Torsha briefly glanced at Kormal, then back to the Elf. “Let me guess. Captain James will be in the bar?”
The Elf gave a knowing grin, “You’ve gotten to know our Captain well, I see.”

It was a short trip to the bar inside the hideout. Torsha didn’t find it altogether surprising that the pirates had a bar in their hideout. What she did find surprising was just how much she was starting to like James’ crew. They were a rowdy bunch, but they were also a lot of fun, much like their Captain. In a way, James and his sister reminded Torsha of Ryan. That thought made her miss him. He was her first friend outside of the Monastery. She also missed Tork as well. She hoped he was getting along well without her. He was so timid sometimes that others tended to walk all over him. She hoped he didn’t let the Elementals bully him.

Torsha had quickly adjusted to the smells and noises of bars. This particular bar was much like the Tipsy Gnome. In fact, the lighting, the atmosphere, and the overall décor was pretty much the same. The only real difference was the place was smaller. It also felt more cramped. Torsha reasoned that was because the bar was underground within James’ basecamp on Platform 913.

Despite her upbringing, and Mozar’s warning, she was more than a little tempted to sample a few of the beverages. All the sights and sounds and smells of Nirvana just made her feel so alive. Having spent most of her life in the quiet confines of the Monastery, she had never known anything like it. She supposed it was just her Werewolf instincts bubbling to the surface at all the new experiences, but still, Torsha felt invigorated by their recent adventures. It was also really exciting to be going on a mission with pirates. Ryan would probably be so jealous. She’d be sure to lord it over him when he got back from his boring trading mission.

Glasses broke while pirates sang and danced as James casually leaned against the table while telling everyone of the progress he’d been making getting in with Brocktree’s crew. For once, James didn’t wear his shades, revealing his strange blue and green eyes. Rachel and Leon, both of whom wore their usual disguises, listened to James with varying degrees of interest. Torsha sat to Rachel’s left and mostly just observed. She thought that Leon should appear more annoyed, but mostly he just smelled concerned. It didn’t seem like he was paying much attention to James, as if his mind were elsewhere. As for Rachel, she seemed to be paying too much attention. The way she gawked at James, but pretended not to be interested when he caught her glancing at her ... Even if Torsha couldn’t smell the pheromones Rachel was giving off, the girl’s interest couldn’t have been more obvious, and it was all the more adorable to watch. Still, the young Elemental did a fair job hiding her interest. Most wouldn’t have noticed, but a Werewolf tended to be more observant than most. Or at least Torsha was more observant when it came to things that interested her, and having been a long-time lover of romance novels, nothing interested her more than ships.

Curiously, Kormal was not joining the group, but worked privately on his datapad on a table in the back. She didn’t know what it was about, but Leon and Kormal shared a look, and off the Sage went. Torsha knew in that moment that they had shared a telepathic message of some kind. She wondered if Leon tasked Kormal with a private mission. It just went all over her the way Kormal, Mozar, and even Leon kept things from the rest of the group. She missed the frank honesty of working with Ryan. Torsha stole glances at Kormal whenever she had the chance, trying to use her enhanced vision to see what he was working on. It looked like he was connecting to Nirvana’s social media network, but for what reason, she could hardly imagine.

“So that brings us nicely along,” Torsha heard James say as her thoughts turned back to the briefing. “Things keep going as is, and I’ll be in Brocktree’s inner circle within the week. In the meantime, I’d like you lot to set yourselves up as an independent crew. Try and distinguish yourselves a little by doing some security work for some of Brocktree’s affiliations here in the Inner City. When I’m in his inner sanctum, if you pull an impressive enough job, I might be able to get you hired as extra muscle. That should be good, eh! We’ll all be nice and close to the Pirate King when the attack goes down. We’ll be able to cut off Nirvana’s leadership and take the Inner City real quick and quiet like. Maybe them Elementals outside won’t have to whip out those city destroying powers of theirs. Would be nice to be the new Pirate King and still have a pirate city to rule afterwards.”

Rachel glanced at Leon, then at Torsha. When Leon didn’t chip in, she said, “What exactly do you mean by ‘impressive enough job’? You really expect us to do ... pirate stuff? Looting, pillaging, that kind of thing? Why can’t we just come in as members of your crew?”

James shook his head. “You’re not seeing the big picture, darling. If I introduce you lot as me crew, that means you’re tied to me. You come in as independent agents, we can tackle this from multiple fronts. Maybe you whisper in Brocktree’s ear that I might be playing him, or maybe I do the same to gain his trust. He don’t know we’re working together, then he won’t get all of us if he starts to smell something afoul. It’s better if you try to work your own angle with Brocktree while I do the same.”

Leon finally seemed to be listening as he cupped his chin in that deep, philosophical manner of his. Then he nodded, and said, “I can see the logic in that. Still, I hope you don’t intend for us to go pirating.”

James waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about that part, mate. You won’t have to get yer hands dirty. Brocktree’s got plenty of pirate enemies too, many of ‘em right here in the Inner City. You help his boys in one of their upcoming raids on a rival crew, that should set you up nice and cozy in his secret base. Now you can’t tell me the thought of raiding other pirates turns yer stomach?”

Leon glanced at Rachel, and she shrugged as she said, “As long as we’re not hurting civilian merchants, I guess that could work ... if it gets us in close with Brocktree like you say.”

“It will, luv. It will. I’ll make sure of it on my end,” James said with a dazzling smile.

Torsha heard Rachel’s heart skip a beat, and she knew that the young Elemental was already in love with this man’s smile. Torsha kept herself from smiling. Her enhanced senses as a Werewolf did reveal interesting things sometimes, at least with people like Rachel who wore their feelings on their sleeves. As for Leon, he was difficult to get a bead on. Still, Torsha couldn’t shake the feeling that he was only half-listening. She thought he’d be more interested, especially with the intricate plot that James was laying out for them.

“I suppose you already have a job in mind?” Leon pressed.

“Too right, mate. Old Nazz here has the details on his datapad,” James answered, pointing with a thumb behind him at the Elf who stood patiently at his Captain’s shoulder.

Leon stood, watching the Elf with an odd expression. “I’ll go over the mission stats with Nazz.”

James began to sit up as well, but Leon raised a hand. “I’d also like to do so in private before I agree to risk my team in this venture.”

James glanced up confusedly towards Nazz. The old Elf gave his Captain a shaky nod as if to say that it was okay. James turned back to Leon, and said, “Alright. Suits me just fine, Mr. Lurranna.”

Leon said nothing else as he and Nazz walked out of the bar together.

James watched them as they left. “Bit of an oddball, your boyfriend is, luv. I can’t get a read on the guy.”

Rachel flushed beside Torsha. Leaning back and clearing her throat, she said, “Leon’s ... ahem ... not my boyfriend.”

James slowly turned back to Rachel and grinned wickedly. “Well, that’s just dandy by me, darling.” The pirate took a long swig of his drink without taking his eyes off Rachel. Then, wiping his chin with his sleeve, he leaned forward and said, “So when are you and I gonna have a go then, eh?”

Rachel jerked in her seat, and Torsha used all her willpower to restrain her laughter. She wondered if this line of dialogue would come up. If she was interested in this ship before, she was on pins and needles now to see where it would go from here. Rachel scoffed, glancing at Torsha who simply sipped from her beverage (which was milk as per Mozar’s recommendation) to hide her smirk. Rachel then turned her gaze back to James. It was intriguing watching their interaction considering that both had the strange sunglasses indoors fetish. The two were a lot alike in many ways, but Torsha doubted that anyone but her would be able to pick that up.

Regaining some composure, Rachel shook her head slightly and said, “I-I’m sorry. I don’t speak pirate-ese. ‘Have a go’?”

James chuckled. “Oh, come on, darling. You’re a big girl. Have a toss? Have a tussle? Roll in the hay? None of that rings a bell?”

Torsha heard Rachel’s heartbeat getting faster, but she kept her demeanor stoic for the most part. Impressive considering how unaccustomed she was with men flirting with her. Most guys at the Ministry were intimidated by her status as the Fire Ministry’s granddaughter, and the only other guy she ever had feelings for was Leon, who was also soundly claimed by Éclair. So Torsha knew that Rachel was a lot more flustered than she was letting on.

“I get the general idea of what you’re talking about, but I still don’t-”

James raised a finger to silence Rachel as he took another swig from his mug. Rachel scoffed again, this time in disbelief that James would come onto her and then ignore her. Torsha had to remember to keep pretending to sip her milk. Things were getting good.

James then set down his drink with a satisfied sigh. “The way I figure, you, being a charming young Elemental Sheila, and me, being a slightly more charming rogue and a tad more seasoned ... why, the two of us together can get up to all kinds of fun, darling.”

Rachel’s embarrassment melted into indignation as her face went a little red and her lips drew tight. Not so cool-tempered now. In a lot of ways, her reactions reminded Torsha of Éclair.

“Who says I’m inexperienced? And even if I was, who says I’d want to have that experience with you?”

James shrugged, but that cocky grin never left his face. “You’re loss then, luv. I’m a lot of fun if you give me half a chance, but I can understand if you’re a tad bit intimidated. Even Elementals get flustered sometimes, eh?”

Rachel’s mouth went slack, whether with disbelief or sheer anger, Torsha didn’t know which. She was probably wondering why he gave up so easily, and maybe even a little disappointed.

He gave a good-natured chuckle before turning his attention to Torsha. “What about you then, luv? Fancy a go? And don’t say no just because you’re a Monk. I bet the Caretaker won’t mind too much as long as we go to the confessional afterwards. Better to ask forgiveness than permission is what I always say.”

Torsha choked on her drink a little, milk squirting up her nose. She hadn’t anticipated this turn of events. She found herself also getting embarrassed, and realized that maybe she wasn’t that much more mature than Rachel when it came to these kinds of things. After coughing a little and beating her chest, Torsha finally focused on James. She also noticed Rachel scrutinizing her intensely from the corner of her eye.

Torsha gave a nervous chuckle. “I was wondering if you’d make a pass at me. And here I almost thought that wolf-girls just weren’t your cup of tea.” Torsha hoped to ease the tension and appear slightly less susceptible to James’ charms than Rachel.

James gave a hearty laugh. “Darling, it don’t make no never mind to me what race the girl is if she’s pretty enough ... or if she’s fun enough. You’re decently ‘blessed’ when it comes to both aspects.”

Again, Torsha felt a flush of embarrassment at James’ easy praise, and she found her tail wagging slightly. She had to remind herself to be the cool one here, that she just wanted to observe this ship, not get involved in it. She also thought of what Tork might say, and had to stifle a pang of regret seeing as how that wasn’t her first thought.

“It would be an interesting experience,” said Torsha coolly while maintaining a pleasant smile. “And maybe I’d consent to a ‘date’ if I thought I had a chance of saving that roguish soul of yours for the Light Realm. But I am also very taken, and with a fire-breathing Dragon no less.”

James’ smile deepened as he stood up from the table. “Worth a shot though, eh? Can’t blame a bloke for trying. I like you gals. Both of you got good heads on your shoulders. Very responsible.” He finished with a slightly mocking nod and a playful wink.

The way James spoke to Torsha got her thinking a little. He knew she was with Tork. He didn’t seem the type of man that would try to weasel another man’s girl away from him. Then it hit her. When he came on to Torsha, he wasn’t quite as interested. She spent all her time observing Rachel that she almost didn’t notice that James was also a little nervous as well when he asked her out. He hid his feelings better than Rachel, but a Werewolf could always smell attraction. He liked Rachel. It wasn’t just casual fun when he asked her out. He actually really kind of liked her. That surprised Torsha a little. What was even more surprising was his consideration. He asked Torsha the same question knowing she’d likely turn him down. The reason he did so was because he didn’t want her to feel left out. He asked her too so she wouldn’t feel overlooked. This revealed a more sensitive side to James that Torsha hadn’t expected.

James then sauntered off, and Rachel, who had stayed quiet during his exchange with Torsha, pushed her chair back and stood to her feet. “So that’s it? You strike out twice, and you’re gone? Kind of pathetic if you ask me. Guess that so-called ‘charm’ of yours must be wearing thin, huh?”

James shot Rachel another one of his adorable grins, and even Torsha had to admit that she could swoon for the guy under certain circumstances. Then he put his hands to his chest, and said ironically, “What can I say, darling? I’m so heartbroken that I need a little pick-me-up. Too bad the only remedy I got for that is a perpetual harem of beautiful barmaids.”

As if on cue, James was suddenly flocked by at least a dozen young, uniformed girls of all races. The group consisted of a good smattering of humans, Elves, Satyrs, Centaurs, and Dwarves. Every single one of them looked to be in their early or mid-twenties and they were all drop-dead gorgeous. The most prominent thing these girls had in common was they were all absolutely smitten with Captain James. Torsha could smell how happy and excited they were to see him. Their affection for him was genuine. If they were puppies, their tails would be wagging, and they’d be barking excitedly.

How does the man keep that many girls happy at the same time? thought Torsha to herself. Gotta admit, it has me a little curious.

“We missed you, Jimmy,” said a blonde human girl.

“I was wondering when you’d get tired of those two,” said a dark-haired Elf. “Don’t you know how lonely you made us feel?”

“Don’t worry,” said a stout Dwarven girl with a sultry smile and husky voice. “When I get through with him, he won’t have eyes for anyone else.”

James busied himself smooching the girls right and left as they tugged at him, eager to get a turn in. “Easy there, ladies. Easy,” he said between kisses. “There’s plenty of James to go around. Just keep me in one piece while we get there.”

James slowly made his way out of the bar, a woman in each arm. He somehow was able to make out with each of them without bumping into any of the guests. Rachel crossed her arms and scowled after James.

“You know something? I don’t ... I ... I really don’t care for that guy,” Rachel said belatedly.

“Could’ve fooled me,” Torsha mumbled.

Rachel shot Torsha a glare. “What was that?”

“Nothing,” Torsha quickly said, looking away and sipping at her drink innocently.

Leon felt torn. So many things were happening at once. Nazz had some kind of connection to Ryan. Whether this proved to be a benign connection or something more treacherous, Leon did not know as the old Elf still stubbornly refused to share anything further even while Leon threatened him while they discussed the mission details. Furthermore, Tork reported that the Elementals on the outside were threatening to force their way into the Inner City and arrest Leon and his team. He knew Saria would be cross, but he didn’t think she’d go that far. Something just seemed off about that reaction. Saria should’ve realized the tactical advantage Leon’s plan would offer in the coming invasion of Nirvana. He expected her to be angry, yes, but she would’ve eventually conceded for the good of the mission. From the reports he got back from Grafael and Tork, they were barely keeping the other Elementals from going through with the attack too early in order to pull out Squad 99. With Saria more steamed than anticipated, he doubted he’d get the funds James requested, even if Rachel was the one who asked.

But most disturbing of all was one superseding revelation. Lucille was alive! Lucille was here! Lucille was working for Brocktree! Or at least, she said she was. She didn’t seem overly attached to the Pirate King, so maybe she could be persuaded to leave him. It was obvious she still had feelings for Leon. That was good, right? But then there was the fact that she outright admitted to having thoughts of killing Leon’s friends. That bit was definitely not good. And to top it all off, the complications of Lucille’s presence back in Leon’s life left an unprecedented potential for drama.

What will happen when she finds out about Éclair? he considered with no small amount of panic. As far as Lucille is concerned, I am still her betrothed. In her mind, I belong to her. How will she react when she realizes that I fell in love with Éclair ... with a Hamashe no less, the ancient enemies of the Lurranna?

Leon actually didn’t have to wonder what Lucille would do. She would deal with Éclair in the Lurranna fashion. If it came to that, would he have the strength to defend his current sweetheart from his childhood sweetheart? Blast, things had turned complicated! Leon hated complicated!

“Leon, you okay?” Rachel asked. “You look a little zoned out there.”

Leon shook his head. If he was so rattled that even Rachel could read him so easily, then he really was losing his edge. “Nothing. Just thinking about the mission.”

Before Rachel could question him further, he turned to Kormal who stood by his side. “Any word from Mozar?”

The Sage shook his head. “No word. I have known Mozar to get like this on occasion. There are times when he simply wishes not to be around others.”

“I get the impression that you don’t think he’s abandoned or betrayed us. If that’s the case, then what exactly do you think he’s up to?”

“I believe he is doing what he thinks is best for the mission. My suspicion is that he is somewhere close by watching out for us.”

Leon noticed Torsha’s long ears twitch slightly, but her furry face revealed nothing else. He reasoned that there was nothing for it. Mozar was a freelance bounty hunter. There was nothing Leon could do about his lone-wolf antics, so he figured he might as well move on.

“And that other project that I asked you about, do you think we’ll be able to pull it off?”

Kormal shrugged. “Uncertain. There are still many variables to consider. I know that my powers will not be sufficient to accomplish the task alone. Much will depend on you and whether you can master the mental exercises I prescribed to you. I, too, must master abilities that my people find unfamiliar. At this point, I have my doubts, so we should likely not depend on the project for the success of our mission.”

Rachel’s brow furrowed suspiciously. “What project? Are the two of you having some kind of secret powwow thing without us?”

Leon could’ve had this conversation with Kormal telepathically, but he wanted to give Rachel something to think about other than his agitation. Leon gave Rachel a reassuring smile, or at least the closest thing to it. He never was good at smiling, at least not without Éclair around.

“It probably won’t come to anything. Just a precautionary backup plan Kormal and I have been working on. I doubt we’ll need it, though. We are just going up against pirates after all.”

“Well, pirates, and some angry Werecats, apparently,” said Torsha with a shrug. Leon got the impression that the Werewolf was trying not to sound worried. Was it the Werecats she was worried about, or Mozar?

Rachel groaned, her old pessimistic persona bubbling to the surface. “And while we’re on the subject of people who’ll try and kill us, we shouldn’t forget about that Mystic agent James warned us of.”

Leon tried not to wince. He still hadn’t told anyone of Lucille. He knew he probably should, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do so. It felt almost like a betrayal to his childhood friend to tell others about her somehow. At any rate, he would deal with Lucille if she threatened his team. Although, how he would deal with her, he still did not know.

“What about Saria?” Leon asked Rachel, hoping to steer the conversation away from Lucille. “Have you been able to make any headway with her?”

Rachel sighed and rubbed her forehead. “You know how stubborn my grandmother is. The way Tork described it, she was mad enough to spit fire when she found out what we did. I sent her a message explaining your plan, but she hasn’t responded to me yet. I don’t think she’ll jeopardize the invasion on Nirvana to try and get us out, but I wonder if any of our careers will survive this.”

Leon nodded. “Her feelings are understandable. We’ll just have to cross that bridge when the time comes. We’re committed now. There’s no going back.”

Rachel clicked her tongue as she put on the sunglasses for her disguise. “You can say that again.”

A metal door whooshed! open, and in walked Nazz into the ship’s compartment. The rhythmic clink! of Nazz’s boots on the metallic surface only went to remind Leon of the fact that they were yet again on a spacecraft. Leon once heard that his ancestors had mastered a form of space travel similar to the Dragons; that they could use Elemency to travel virtually anywhere in the universe without the need for technology. Leon wondered if he could become that powerful with Elemency one day. Relinquishing control of anything, even something as trivial as his next destination, never suited him. He’d prefer to chart his own course in the universe without relying on anything or anyone. Even technology could become a crutch under certain circumstances.

Nazz reached into his pocket and pulled out a datapad. He flipped a switch, and a shimmering holographic image of Captain James floated about the viewscreen. “Alright then ladies and gents, listen well. You’re gonna be joining some of Brocktree’s crew as freelance mercenaries on a raid against Tremel, a Minoboar with aspirations of ousting Brocktree one day.”

Rachel sniffed. “Maybe we should be hiring this guy instead of taking him down. After all, you’re planning to do the same thing to Brocktree.”

Then appeared that easy smile that came all too frequently to James’ face, especially when he was talking to Rachel. “Yeah, but I’m smarter in the way I’m going about it than he is. Plus, I don’t like the way Tremel does business. A few of me girls have told me how he doped ‘em up when they were just kids and sold ‘em as escorts in his whorehouses before I found ‘em. Some of me best barmaids are still recovering from drug addiction because of that piece of shite.”

Rachel glanced away uncomfortably from James, but Leon thought he could detect the ghost of an approving smile on her lips. She was somehow happy to find out more of James’ nobler qualities. Leon could’ve rolled his eyes.

“The man leading Brocktree’s mates is a human named Strass,” James continued. “He won’t know you’re working with me since this ship is one I pinched off some smugglers only just recently. Just remember to make a good impression on him during the raid. Do something flashy, and he’ll hire you on for a permanent place on the Pirate King’s payroll for sure. Brocktree’s always looking for talent, especially these days with so many of his crew deserting out of fear of the Elementals.”

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