Gasping and coughing, Ichabod Brooks drags himself onto the beach and flops onto his back. The sun beats down on his skin and hair, which steadily dry in the tropical heat. He can still see the pieces of the storm that knocked him off his employer’s ship with a wave that might have sunk the vessel. Ichabod doubts the paranoid noble is dead, the adventurer having seen the man scurry into a room designed to survive a wreck. Lifting an arm, he checks to make sure he is still wearing a ring of bluish green coral, his ragged breathing making him worry that the enchanted jewelry no longer works. He can see a spark within the polished material, so guesses that it has merely been overworked by the violent current. Pushing his hands into the sand, he finds the tip of his longbow and holds it up to find that all it needs is a new string. Feeling the aches fade from his muscles, he carefully moves every body part to make sure nothing is broken. A sharp pain is in his leg when he bends it, the source turning out to be a shell that is sticking into his calf. Slipping off his boots, he empties them of water and a baby remora that he gently removes from his heel. It is not until Ichabod is sure that he is unhurt and most of the seaweed is out of his black hair that he stands up to take stock of his situation.
The large island is dotted with trees that bloom into large flowers at the top, making the marooned man fear that he has been shrunk to the size of an ant. It is only when a colorful fly buzzes into his face that Ichabod assures himself that he has not been cursed. Waving the insect away, he is abruptly blinded when the clouds dissipate and the emerging sunlight bounces off a nearby mirror. Rubbing at his eyes, the adventurer keeps his head down and backs toward the golden-edged glass in the hopes of getting behind it. Once he looks up, another mirror forces him to face the ocean with blurry vision. Ichabod patiently waits for part of the sun to be covered before turning around, the reflective surfaces no longer a threat to his eyesight. Embarrassed that he failed to notice them first, he stares at the twenty more that are within sight. Clambering onto a large rock, he gets a better look at the coast and sees an endless variety of mirrors. Even a distant mountain glints in the returning light as if covered by hundreds of glass shards, the beautiful sight nearly mesmerizing the man.
Jumping down, Ichabod immediately rolls to the side and avoids an ivory rapier that sinks into the sand. The toxic blade leaves a black splotch in the beach as its owner frees it and charges the unarmed adventurer. With no string for his bow, the cunning veteran pulls two arrows out of his rawhide and granite quiver. He flings the crimson projectile at the chaos elf, who leaps away from the fiery explosion. The black-armored assassin lands on his feet and sprints toward Ichabod, who rushes to meet the poisonous weapon with the white arrow. Both men are sent flying into the surf by a blast of howling wind that explodes from the adventurer’s elemental weapon. Scrambling to their feet, the pair remaining standing in waist-deep water and wait for the other to make the next move.
“Are we really going to fight here, Jet?’ Ichabod asks the black-haired chaos elf. He slowly pulls out a bowstring to fix his longbow, his eyes never straying from his enemy’s blade. “I don’t think we have to finish what we started on the ship. In fact, I’d say both of our contracts are null and void. You were supposed to kill the noble and I was supposed to protect him from you. Not much point in continuing here.”
“Actually, I managed to tag her with the Cobra Blade before the two of us were swept overboard. Wait. Did you say him?” the assassin replies, taking a scroll out of his pocket. He curses as he reads his contract, which he is tempted to tear in half. “They either gave me the wrong name or the wrong gender. Serves me right for accepting job simply to get another chance to fight you. Took a while to recover from those broken legs you gave me. Bet you thought I couldn’t drag myself out of that ravine.”
“Wishful thinking on my part,” the adventurer says with a half-hearted smirk. A knot in his stomach causes him to examine his own contract, which brings a scowl to his face. “Looks like you’re not the only one who got tricked. My employer seems to have misspelled his name twice in our contract. Not sure how I missed that. Seems both of us have a reason to get off this island and renegotiate.”
Jet trudges back to the beach and yanks a crab off his boot, the animal flailing as it is hurled back into the ocean. “You’re right, but I’m not working with you. We’ve always been enemies and you’re the one person I can’t seem to kill. The two of us are fated to battle for eternity until old age or someone else takes us. So, it doesn’t seem right for us to be partners. Goes against our natures and the plans of the gods.”
“For the last time, we don’t share a destiny, you blue-skinned maniac!” Ichabod shouts, shielding his eyes from the bright mirrors. Hearing the assassin’s swinging blade, he calmly dodges the flurry of attacks until the chaos elf gives up. “This balance belt means I never slip, trip, or fall even if I bend in an unnatural way, so you can stop wasting your energy. Although, my back isn’t exactly thrilled with me now. That swim to shore really took a lot out of me. You don’t look very good either with those cuts on your face.”
“I’m pretty sure the saltwater cleaned them,” the killer declares as he uses his sword to adjust one of the nearby mirrors. Once the light is no longer bouncing off the glass, he gets close enough to examine his injuries. “I will admit that some of these look pretty deep, but it’s nothing a healing potion won’t fix. Got one right . . . it was on my belt. This is exactly why I hate taking jobs that involve boats. Far too easy to lose things. At least I still have a salve in one of my armor pockets.”
“I know you don’t trust me, but take this,” Ichabod insists, tossing a vial of crimson liquid to the chaos elf. He is about to assure the man that the potion is safe, but the killer downs the drink without a second thought. “Good to see you haven’t lost your insane level of courage. This is why I hate fighting you, Jet. Anyway, I have a suggestion. We don’t know what’s out there or how we can get home, so it might be smart for us to work together here. I mean, what if the only way off is a single boat?”
“Then we will fight to the death.”
“I thought we established that neither of us can kill each other.”
“Then one escapes and the other finds another way home.”
“In that case, the boat wouldn’t be the only escape.”
“Stop confusing me with whatever this is.”
“People call it logic.”
“Well, my people would call it being an ass.”
Ichabod draws an emerald arrow out of his quiver and aims it at Jet, the chaos elf lowering his weapon. The assassin slides the Cobra Blade into a cloth sheathe, which turns a dark green from the seeping poison. Knowing that the honorable adventurer will not shoot him in the back, the chaos elf turns around and chooses the nearest path to follow. Walking beneath a canopy of thick vines, Jet disappears into the thick shadows and does not reappear until he is far in the distance. Ichabod sighs puts the conjured arrow in a hook on his belt, the projectile unable to go back into the elemental quiver. Wanting to check the shore before heading inland, he holds up his hand to feel the breeze and goes in the direction that it is blowing.