Our journey to the Crystal Sea took about two months and it was no smooth travel let me tell you. We encountered many strange things and creatures and we had our own share of smaller adventures. But all in all they have little to do with our overall quest and describing them would only unnecessarily prolong out story. But regardless, we finally managed to reach the shores of this fabled Crystal Sea and it was a sight to behold. The name surely didn’t ring hollow, let me tell you that. Before me stood a vast system of connected caverns and coves that went as far as my eyes could see. And all of it was filled with perfectly still deep blue water. But the most amazing thing were the crystals. Millions and millions of them covering the ceiling of the cavern and protruding from the depths in enormous stalagmites. So on the other side of this thing lived the hermit, that’s nice and all, but one very specific problem came to my mind once I saw this. “It’s great that you managed to get us here Maestro, I ain’t denying that, but I have one tiny little itsy bitsy question. How exactly are we supposed to get over this thing?” His tiny form was floating few feet above the water level and while dramatically looking over the horizon he said: “Oh tis just the smallest problem, we just have to wait for them.” This was an entirely new information and neither I nor Squeakly liked that we were kept in the dark. “You didn’t mention any ‘them’ before this, who are they and how can they help us?” Maestro, obviously oblivious to our distrust quickly replied “Oh just a merry band of sailors that travel this sea, they will take us to the hermit for just the slightest fee.” I still didn’t like it, but it was not like we had any other choice. So we waited, and waited. Fortunately it seemed that luck was on our side as it took only a few hours before an outline of a ship formed on the horizon. It was a weird ship, and unlike any I have ever seen, but that seemed to be the norm here, so much so that I would be much more surprised if I were to see a completely ordinary thing here. Anyway, the ship was made out of wood (the only ordinary thing about it), but it didn’t have any sails nor oars. Only after it got a little bit closer did I find out how it was moving; on the tip of the ship stood a strong steel pole to which two pairs of metal chains were affixed. The other ends of the chains were tied to something underwater that pulled the ship forward. From what I could see, the other end of the ship had a similar pole there, perhaps so that it could change directions of its movement. The ship was covered and perhaps partly made out of various barnacles and shells and I wasn’t even surprised when a humanoid crustacean crab-like creature with a giant carapace jumped from the deck, wearing only a captain’s hat and a belt on which hanged a sheathed cutlass and at least six strange orange glowing orbs. They were either very jovial or very angry, but it was hard to tell as I was not privy to the intricacies of crustacean mood expressions. However judging from their quite rough but feminine voice that had some very obvious hints of laughter, I suspected the former. “Ah, Maestro, you have lost quite some weight since I last saw you. I see you bring us some new… companions.” I didn’t like the pause, and the word companions even less. The captain was examining us from top to bottom with their crabby eyes almost like we were stock. “They don’t look like much, but they will do. I will give you another jar of that growing soil for them, no more no less.” I knew I shouldn’t have trusted a beholder, he was selling us to some slaver, I wanted to punch that little flying ball of rhymes, but he said something before I was able to, and it made me change my mind. “Yes, I know these two don’t look like much, but in fact they are heroes on an epic quest and we must treat them as such. I know how you always love to take my companions for a ride, but this time I would like to be on their side. So please, if a favour I may ask; take us to the hermit, for there lies our task.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. From what it looked like, Maestro had on numerous times traded with slavers without realizing they were slavers and he unwittingly sold some of his former friends and companions to them. And now the same was happening to us, except that he wanted to join us. I don’t know who Maestro confused more with this statement, me, Squeakly, or the captain. Normally I would be afraid of a ship of slavers, but we had a beholder on our side, and no matter how tiny he was, he was a force to be reckoned with. Now only to enlighten him on the situation so that he would help us wipe the floor with these slavers. “Ehm…Maestro, I hate to tell you, but you have been tricked. I know it sound unbelievable, but these people are not ordinary sailors…” Dramatic pause “They are pirates.” Squeakly was so used to these shenanigans of mine by now, that he let out an audible gasp to heighten the shocking atmosphere. The captain’s face stayed as calm as before and they turned towards me.” Hate to break it to you darling, but he knows. He is our biggest supplier after all, so why don’t you just…” Then all hells broke loose. Maestro started angrily shooting all of his eye rays and beams into random directions and he yelled: “Silence you traitorous snake, for all these years your kindness was a ruse, a fake. I will burn you, you evildoer, so that villains in this world shall be fewer.”As this was happening, I noticed that Squeakly was nowhere to be seen, perhaps the display of anger scared him and he ran away or something, but I had no time to do anything about it now. The captain reached peak confusion. They didn’t really grasp what was going on, and I don’t blame them, however they soon retained their cool and only said. “Well, if that’s how you want to do it.” And they reached for the strange orbs on their belt. Before I knew it, two of them were flying towards me and Maestro. Maestro was first to get hit, and as soon as he was, I could see that his body was sucked into this weird orb thing. Seeing this, I tried to dodge the incoming orb, but I was too slow. It merely scraped my leg, but that was probably enough. I felt like something was pulling me with incredible strength towards the orb. And then…all I could see was just utter blackness.