The pirates sailed around the island, and it was well into the night when they anchored in the middle of a small lagoon. The volcano loomed closer, the smoke rising ominously above the peak.
The three women had spent the hours discussing their potential suitors at the Royal Season.
There was something wrong with everyone, and Benedicta and Margarett had lots of thoughts about all the other Singletons, though Wynefrede had a hard time remembering who these people were. Her friends did their best to remind her, with little success.
Nigel, for example, was the one with the thin mustache and the receding hairline. Was there someone of that description? There must have been. Benedicta and Margarett wouldn’t just make people up. He wore glasses that clipped to his nose, Margarett said. Maybe Wynefrede should have worn her glasses more often.
“There must be someone you liked,” said Margarett, nestled between Wynefrede and Benedicta. “It would be a shame to end the season without finding someone for you.”
“I liked the guard,” said Wynefrede.
“Which guard?” asked Margarett.
“You dated several,” Benedicta added over Margarett’s head.
“I wouldn’t call them dates,” said Margarett.
“The guard,” said Wynefrede. “You know, the guard who was guarding me.”
“You had a different one nearly every day,” said Benedicta.
“Some were women,” said Margarett.
“It’s all a blur,” said Wynefrede.
“Maybe this is why you’re having problems meeting people,” said Margarett. “You don’t pay attention to them. You just have sex with them and forget all about them the next day.”
“The next hour,” said Benedicta. “Remember Barret the Beast? He was the one with the eyepatch. You can’t forget something like that. He looked hurt when you didn’t recognize him later that day.”
“Doesn’t ring a bell,” said Wynefrede.
“Will you at least remember us once we’re not on Krim anymore?” asked Margarett.
Wynefrede looked away. “Well,” she said. “Do we have all that much in common? Other than being in the Royal Season, that is?”
“I thought we were friends,” said Margarett. “I definitely want to keep in touch with the two of you.”
“Yes, I feel like we’ve bonded these last few days,” said Benedicta. “Even if we don’t get romantic relationships out of all this, at least we’ve met each other.”
Wynefrede didn’t say anything.
“Maybe that’s why you had so many different guards,” said Margarett. “You hurt their feelings.”
“Maybe I’ll date pirates, instead,” said Wynefrede. “They won’t have feelings.”
Benedicta looked around. “Pirates, really?” She lowered her voice. “They look disgusting.”
“I don’t know,” said Wynefrede. “The one whose cabin I was just in was cute. And I liked her voice. Nice and gravelly. Like a chain-smoking radio announcer. I was going to get her into bed.”
“So you could escape?” asked Margarett.
“No, to have sex,” said Wynefrede. “And so she’d stop reading her poetry to me.”
“But then, after sex, you’d manipulate her into helping us all escape, right?”
“No, probably just have more sex,” Wynefrede.
“But you said you had an escape plan,” said Benedicta.
But then one of the pirates came and stood watch over them as the ship lowered its anchor and sent a boat to shore to drop off a messenger.
Nobody told them what was going on, but Wynefrede guessed that they were waiting for the messenger to go and get whoever the pirates were working for. She’d finally get to find out who was behind her kidnapping.
Then the rowboat was lowered again, but it wasn’t the messenger that it brought back, just a random tired-looking woman with long tangled hair wearing a torn brown robe and sandals, with scratches on her bare arms and legs. She was too weak to resist, and the pirates tied her up next to Benedicta.
“Who are you?” Benedicta asked the newcomer.
“I’m the angel Torralei, created by the god Avourel two days ago.”
Margarett and Wynefrede looked at each other. “Some of the role players on Krim are really committed,” Margarett finally said.
Then the rowboat went back down into the water again, and this time it returned full of crates, accompanied by two men in black leather armor and wearing swords.
One of the pirates was about to open a crate when one of the armed newcomers stopped him. “Too many eyes,” he said and glanced at the women.
“Get the prisoners out of here,” Captain Kraken ordered.
Benedicta, Margarett, Wynefrede, and the one who said she was an angel were herded into the rowboat, along with the two men in black armor and three pirates.
The four women sat at the very back of the boat.
“Who are those guys?” Wynefrede whispered to the angel.
“They are the Powers. The one on the left is Omael. The other one is Ophanim.”
“Who do they work for?”
“Avourel,” said the angel.
“Who’s Avourel?” asked Benedicta.
“The god of all creation.”
“Do you know who he is in real life?” asked Wynefrede. “When he isn’t playing at being a god?”
“What do you mean, playing?” the angel asked.
Wynefrede sighed. Benedicta tried to edge away from the angel, though she couldn’t move far in the boat, turned her head away, towards Margaret and Wynefrede, and lowered her voice further. “So, what’s your escape plan?” she asked.
“I have a court hearing coming up in a few days,” she said. “If I don’t show up, the court will issue a warrant and extradite me.”
“They’ll pull you right out of Krim?” asked Margarett.
“What kind of court hearing is important enough for them to do that?” asked Benedicta. “They wouldn’t do that for a civil case. They’d just fine you, right?”
“It’s a terrorism case,” said Wynefrede and leaned even closer. “The Civinos investigation.”
“That was, what, six years ago? Are they still looking into that?”
“They never stopped,” said Wynefrede.
“What do you have to do with it?” asked Margarett.
“Nothing, not directly,” said Wynefrede. “But a while after the explosion, I was asked if I knew anything about the terrorists. You know, the Humanists. Or if I knew of any suspicious groups working certain construction projects.”
“I was working for a construction company in the asteroid belt as an assistant vice president of customer acquisition. This was before I came to work for my current company. I was basically an analyst, reviewing potential contracts. But I didn’t remember anything suspicious.”
“You don’t remember much,” said Benedicta.
“Well, off Krim, I have a virtual assistant,” said Wynefrede. “I keep excellent records. Anyway, I checked my records, and there wasn’t anything, and that’s what I told them.”
“So?” asked Margarett.
“Well, when I was kidnapped, the kidnappers talked about someone named Vladimir. And the name rang a bell.”
“Really? It rang a bell?” asked Benedicta.
“It did,” said Wynefrede. “I swear. Well, not at first. But I could have sworn I’d heard it before. And, I don’t know, maybe the adrenalin kicked something loose or something. When I was back in the real world, I checked my calendar. I’d had a meeting years ago before Civinos happened. It was completely confidential. No recordings. The project description was super vague, and they wanted to meet in person, under a privacy shield, to discuss the details. One of the people I met was called Vladimir by one of the other guys, though he introduced himself to me under a different name.”
“That sounds creepy,” said Margarett. “You think they might have been the terrorists?”
“I don’t know,” said Wynefrede. “But the rest of the project was shady as well. The energy requirements didn’t match up, all sorts of warning bells. When I reported to my boss, I recommended against it. I’d totally forgotten about it.”
“Maybe it’s the terrorists who are after you,” said Benedicta.
“But when I was kidnapped, the first time at least, I didn’t remember anything about them,” said Wynefrede. “And why would they care about some junior staffer who they only had a single meeting with years ago? If anything, they’d want to go after the guy who was my boss at the time. Finnbogi Sturluson.”
“Did you tell all this to the prosecutors?” asked Benedicta.
“Just some of it,” said Wynefrede. “Like I said, I’ll be giving official testimony in a few days.”
“So if you’re still here, you’ll be automatically freed,” said Benedicta. “But what about us?”
“That’s why I didn’t want you guys to come after me,” said Wynefrede. “But once I’m out, I’ll tell people where you are, so they can come get you.”
“How are you going to do that?” asked Margarett. “Do you know where we are?”
Wynefrede glanced up at the approaching shoreline. “On an island with a volcano on it,” she said. “Owned by a god. There can’t be that many of them on Krim.”
Benedicta turned back to the angel. “What’s the name of this island?” she asked.
“This is the land of Lamacoln,” said the angel. “Created by the lord god Avourel.”
“Hmph.” Benedicta turned back to Wynefrede. “Did you get that? Lamacoln. Avourel. Can you remember that?”
“Lamacoln, Lamacoln, Lamacoln,” said Wynefrede. “I got it. Lamacoln. Lamacoln, Lamacoln.”
“Think of a llama,” suggested Benedicta. “And the llama is eating an ice cream cone. Get it? Llama? Cone? Lamacoln?”
“You don’t have to treat me like a child,” said Wynefrede. “I won’t forget. Lamacoln.”
“We’re doomed,” said Margarett.