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The Bloodsail Buccaneers charged.
To say it was a battle would be an exaggeration; the word that came to Li Li's mind was "rout." The four magi were untouchable. With flicks of their wrists, they sent flying bolts of arcane energy so pure that all the fur along Li Li's arms stood straight up on end.
The Buccaneers were unable to so much as lay a finger on any of the powerful magi. The pirates slammed into the deck and the masts, and were thrown over the railing to skid across the ice. The ones with any sense at all ran, slipping and sliding back to their own ships to cower belowdecks and wait out the storm. Around the Neptulon's Bride the sky resembled a spectacular fireworks display, colorful bursts of light exploding and showering upon anyone who dared attack Ansirem or his comrades.
Li Li leaned against a crate on the deck, content to sit back and watch the show. Now this was some magic!
Captain Koslov clearly had his wits about him, for he did not stick around very long once the magi had demonstrated their formidable command of the arcane. He vaulted over the gunwale, running across the ice, outraged at his loss.
When the last of the Buccaneers had scrambled back to their boats, the magi collectively lifted their hands, and the ice that trapped all four of the ships melted away. Li Li could see the Bloodsail Buccaneer crews scurrying around on the decks, hoisting the sails to put as much distance between them and the Bride as possible. As they went, a curious silence settled over the Neptulon's Bride, the surviving crew shaking their heads and regaining their bearings.
Catelyn Runeweaver faced her father and the coterie that had come with him: another human woman, a cheerful-looking female gnome, and a tall high elf man.
"I... ah..." Catelyn began. She sighed and started again. "Thanks. Um. For saving our lives."
"You don't have to thank me," Ansirem said. "I realize you don't much like to hear from me, but this time sounded bad, and I couldn't just stand aside and do nothing."
"How did you know?" Catelyn asked. "You don't live here."
At this, Ansirem grinned slyly. "Last I recalled, gold was the universal tongue of Booty Bay. I've got a few 'friends' who don't mind keeping me updated when something happens. I'd heard a trap was being set, but by the time I knew for certain, I was afraid I was too late."
Catelyn's eyebrows arched high on her forehead. "Oh, I see."
"I thought your name sounded familiar," Chen interrupted, approaching Catelyn and the magi. "I knew I'd heard of a Runeweaver somewhere." He eyed Ansirem up and down. "You're an archmage of the Kirin Tor, aren't you?"
Ansirem nodded. "Indeed I am." He tilted his head toward Chen. "I've read about your kind, but I must say I've never actually met a pandaren before. Are you a member of my daughter's crew?"
Chen grinned broadly, showing off his teeth. "No. But my niece and I were victims of her piracy."
Catelyn swallowed, the expression on her face an odd combination of caught-in-the-cookie-jar guilt and outright fury. Ansirem shot her a sharp glance.
"Oh, by Neptulon himself!" she cried, throwing up her hands. "This isn't happening. I'm a pirate, Dad! I steal things sometimes! It comes with the job! And don't you dare look at me like that, as if everything you've ever done as an archmage has been perfectly ethical."
Ansirem opened his mouth to protest, then promptly shut it again. The human woman of the group that had accompanied him stifled a laugh.
"Well, she's got you there, Ansirem," she said.
Ansirem sighed exaggeratedly. "I'll never hear the end of this, will I, Modera?"
"Not a chance!"
"Then, if I may," Ansirem replied, "I'm going to speculate that, in this particular instance, your thievery was related to this debt you owe the Steamwheedle Cartel for refusing to throw a fight."
"Hey, how did you—" Catelyn began, then stopped. "I'm not even going to ask. Yes. It is."
"I thought so." Ansirem reached into one of the wide sleeves of his robe and withdrew a large, shining jewel nearly the size of his fist. "This is an enchanted gem. I trust it should be worth enough to settle your debt?"
Catelyn's eyes rounded with greed. She extended her hand, palm open. "Absolutely. Enchanted gems are very sought after. What does it do?"
"It should aid the wearer in the casting of spells."
Catelyn narrowed her eyes. "'Should'?"
"The mage who made it was a student at the time, and admittedly, not the top of his class. He intended to use it to help him cheat his exams. He failed them anyway."
All three of Ansirem's companions burst out laughing. Catelyn looked suspicious.
"Did you confiscate this from one of your students?"
"Hardly," Modera said before Ansirem could speak. "Though I've no doubt his students have tried to use plenty like it."
Ansirem rolled his eyes.