He had to act fast. His alarmed reaction would alert whoever was hiding nearby that he had noticed them. If it was the murderer – which seemed like the only option – he would no doubt move to strike soon. His first instinct was to turn away from the mana stone and draw both his pistols in one fell motion. In his current shape, the pistols were probably the only weapons he could reliably use to defend himself.
He could’ve called the guards, but he’d sent them away, as usual. Llorrin didn’t want them to disturb him or worse, see him struggle against the demon as he fought to remain in control of his mind. The rumours that were circulating about his deteriorating mental health were bad enough already without anyone seeing what actually happened down in the hold.
For a moment Llorrin wondered whether he should leave the hold, or try to find and apprehend the murderer now that he had the chance. He looked around, wishing there weren’t so many crates and barrels someone could hide behind. The mana stone cast its eerie light over the crates, but Llorrin was able to see pretty well even in the relative darkness of the hold. Of course, the murderer didn’t know that. What he also probably didn’t know was that he had a demon within him that was sharpening his senses. Llorrin made his decision. No matter how weak he felt, he couldn’t pass up this opportunity to rid himself of this threat to the crew and his authority.
There, he thought as his ears picked up the faintest rustling coming from behind the stacked crates on the far left of the hold. He approached it carefully, aiming one pistol out in front of him while keeping the other in reserve. He didn’t want to pass the crates too closely out of fear of being jumped, so he slowly stalked right to get a clear shot at whoever was hiding behind them. When he had a clear line of sight, he still saw no one. Was he simply going delirious?
No, he's definitely in here, he thought. There were still a couple of barrels on the right side which the murderer could be hiding behind. To their right was a stack of crates that was placed directly against the wall, so there really was no other way for him to go.
“Come out,” Llorrin said, aiming a pistol at the barrel. “I know you’re there.”
Llorrin was contemplating kicking the barrel to drive the murderer when he suddenly rose, though with his back to him.
“Hands on your head, and turn around slowly,” Llorrin ordered.
The man turned slowly, the faint blue light of the mana stone shining on his face.
“Of course,” Llorrin scowled. “You. I take it your time with the murlocs made you crazy enough to go on a killing spree?”
“It’s not what you think,” Jake said.
“That’s what everyone who gets caught somewhere they shouldn’t be says,” Llorrin said. “Where’s your partner? Did you kill him too?”
“I was paired with Ishrien,” Jake said. “I don’t know what she gets up to, but she sneaks off herself at night. She thinks I don’t notice, but I only pretend not to…”
Llorrin frowned. There was no way Jake could get away from Ishrien unnoticed, so that meant Ishrien must have been roaming the ship herself.
“That’s critical information, and you kept it hidden… which gives you the perfect opportunity to go sneaking around at night. I left you in charge of protecting the mana stone, so you could move around here without suspicion… You must have thought it a pretty good idea to stab me in the back while I was busy powering it, didn’t you?!” Llorrin said.
“Llorrin- I mean captain, I don’t even have a weapon on me. Look,” Jake said. Llorrin gave him a quick scan and didn’t see any weapons, but he didn’t dare move in close to check properly. Jake could easily have a weapon hidden somewhere.
“I have a hard time believing you’d run around unarmed if there’s a murderer on board. Even if you don’t have it on you you could have hidden it here somewhere in the hold, or you could’ve tried killing me with my own weapons if you wanted to… Besides, it still doesn’t explain why you’re here,” Llorrin said.
Jake said nothing more to defend himself, so Llorrin motioned for him to start walking.
“I’m taking you to the brig. If you try anything, I will shoot you,” he said. And then I need to find out what Ishrien’s doing, he thought. If he woke up the entire ship to announce he’d found the killer she’d no doubt get alarmed and return to her bunk, probably faster than he could intercept her. Jake didn’t speak another word on the way to the brig. He didn’t even say anything as Llorrin locked him in his cell. Llorrin went up to his cabin to get Jeredan and inform him of what had just happened. If Jeredan was surprised, he didn’t show it, but the knowledge that it was one of their own who had betrayed the fleet lighted a fire in his eyes. He quickly agreed to interrogate Jake and was so focused on his task he didn’t even ask Llorrin where he was going as he left the brig. He had to find Ishrien to see what she was doing, and fast.
Ishrien basked in the moonlight. The inside of the ship was so dark and confining she wondered how the Kul Tiras marines could stand to live on a ship for extended periods of time. The days she could cope with, but at night she could barely sleep. Only the touch of the moonlight on her skin gave her solace, revitalized her. Luckily sneaking past the humans was easy. Her so-called ‘partner’, Jake, remained fast asleep whenever she snuck out at night, and when she melded with the shadows none could see her. The forecastle’s main door was always guarded, but she could easily sneak out through the portholes or slip past when the guard went outside to take a leak.
She knew there were guards up in the forecastle looking out in every direction, but to them, she might as well have not been there at all. The night was her cloak, the moonlight a balm for both her body and her mind. It strengthened her belief that the goddess Elune had not abandoned her, despite the violent and divergent path she walked. Surely Elune understood that it was a sacrifice she made so others could live in peace... even if it was going to take time to achieve it.
Spiritual healing wasn’t the only reason she was out here tonight however… but that other purpose would have to wait, because she heard a presence behind her. Ishrien peeked over her shoulder to see Llorrin walking over the deck seemingly aimlessly. His eyes moved left and right like he was looking for something, but didn’t want to make it too obvious. Ishrien stifled a laugh. It would look rather strange to whoever was keeping an eye on the deck from the forecastle to see their captain looking for something on a deck that was empty but for a few cannons.
The captain was the only human on the ship she felt she could truly trust, unlike that grumpy captain or the rough fellow in the black armour. What could he be looking for though? Her? It was possible. If Elduin had told him about her people’s ability to meld with the shadows at night, Llorrin could very well be aware that the deck might not be as empty as it seemed. Unwilling to prolong his predicament any further, Ishrien called out softly, so only he would hear.
“Psst. Over here.”
Llorrin hid his surprise well, but she could tell he’d heard her. He quickly came over to where Ishrien was, at the far end of the deck. Ishrien moved away ever so slightly so he wouldn’t bump into her as he reached her. He leaned his hands down on the railing, still trying to act natural. Ishrien poked him in the face to let him know she was standing next to him and not just hearing ghosts, and even then he barely moved a muscle. He looked like he’d aged ten years since she’d met him in Theramore. Ishrien wished Elune’s blessing could revitalize him as it did her.
“What are you doing here? Do you know what this will look like if anyone notices you’re missing?!” he hissed, keeping his eyes straight ahead so the lookout wouldn’t see he was talking.
Ishrien looked out across the ocean. “I’m waiting…” she said.
“He will come, you know. It’s just a matter of time,” Ishrien smiled.
She heard him sigh. “Ishrien, you need to be prepared to face the reality that Elduin might be-”
“When you spoke to Elduin, did he seem unsure of himself? Like there were a lot of things he doubted?” Ishrien interrupted him, aware her voice must have sounded sharp to the young captain. He hesitated before answering her.
“Well, no. He seemed angry, and regretful… but he never showed any doubt about what he had to do,” he said.
“And do you know why that is? Or why you have so many doubts?”
Now Llorrin looked in her direction, even though he couldn’t see her.
“We, his followers, never doubted Elduin, and our faith made him strong. He would never give up on us, and I would never give up on him. You shouldn't either.”
Ishrien didn't want to hear another word. She turned away and left him where he was. The captain was a good person, at least he seemed so to her, but she didn’t need him to tell her what to believe.
Even though Ishrien’s words had touched a sore spot, Llorrin slept easier that night, knowing that the murderer was behind bars. The next morning the rest of the crew reacted with a mix of shock and relief when they heard the news. They were shocked that Jake of all people could have done such terrible things, but relieved that they’d finally be safe again.
Jake hadn’t admitted anything yet, but no one really doubted his guilt. He denied all of the charges, but offered nothing in his defense when asked about his motivations to come to the hold so late at night. In other words, it was clear to all that he was lying. Willow wanted to have the traitor keelhauled, but Llorrin decided to leave it up to Captain Adane to decide. At the very least they had to find out his motivations before they executed him, and waiting until they reached Adane would buy Jeredan some time. Jeredan managed to learn nothing from him though.
“He must’ve cracked while he was being held by the murlocs,” Jeredan said as he washed his bloodstained hands in a bucket of sea water. “Any sane man would have offered something in his defence by now.”
Llorrin nodded. It was as he suspected. Despite all he had done, he took pity on Jake when he saw him lying in his cell though, all beaten and bruised from the interrogation. He even looked worse than when they’d found him in the cave. He ordered Jeredan to cease the interrogation.
From that day onward, Llorrin noticed something strange. Whereas at first he’d had the impression that sometimes the mana stone had more energy in it compared to when he’d last charged it – which made no sense because it only drained energy – it now definitely had less of it every time, and it took more effort to keep it charged. It was almost as if… No, that didn’t make any sense.
Jake couldn’t have been charging the stone, could he…? Llorrin thought. It would explain his presence in the hold, but he’s not a mage. Then again, neither am I. So he couldn’t have done it unless he had hidden potential, just like me… But if he had that potential, why would he have only found out about it now? Wait… Of course! That could be why the murlocs didn’t kill him! Maybe they were forcing him to charge his energy into the stone, so the myrmidon could consume it. But if that were so, why wouldn’t he tell anyone, even now when his life depends on it?! Llorrin thought.
His only option was to go to Jake and ask. If his theory turned out to be right, it would prove Jake’s innocence… but it would also mean that they still had a killer on the loose.