Kara tossed another stone into the waves as a gust of salty wind teased her long blond hair.
She had walked too far away from home once again and most likely she had missed dinner again. Kara didn’t care. She was tired if the same old meals - fish and sour bread, or clam chowder and crackers, or some other ocean creature that had had the misfortune of being caught in her father’s nets.
Kara would often go for long walks along the uneven beaches that bound the eastern side of her village. She would often climb up on the rocks that jutted like rocky teeth out over the grey ocean waters and watch the many colorful boats coming and going on a daily basis from the bustling port.
Kara could even recognize the various factions, kingdoms, and trade groups by the patterns and shapes of the sails. Many times she would be able to spot them long before they came to port and she would run to tell her father or one of his partners who could better prepare for the imminent negotiations.
Kara tried to help as best she could, but being the only girl in a family of five boys she always seemed to be in the way or underfoot or left out of the fishing trips. Not that she really wanted to go, since most of the time she ended up on a smelly boat with smelly men and even smellier fish.
As Kara paced slowly back to her village, her bare feet left transient impressions in the fine wet sand. She thought about the firm scolding her mother would give her for being so late, and the ribbing her exuberant brothers would also deliver. She sighed and wished once again for some handsome prince from a far off land to travel to her port village and sweep her off her feet. At least then she would be wanted, and she would never again eat fish - as long as she lived. It was an idle dream, because really she wanted an adventure, not for some man to come take her from one drudgery to the next, but someone who was filled with the spirit of adventure, and the means to travel far away from this boring nothing place.
Lost in her thoughts, a strange smell touched her nose in the gusty ocean winds. It smelled hot and dark. Like smoke!
Kara quickened her pace as she neared the final bend that obscured the port village from the rest of the beach. The smell of smoke intensified and Kara gasped as she turned past the rocky outcropping to see her village about a mile away. It was a fairly large village, almost a full town now that so many ships stopped here along their trade routes. Usually ships would come heavy laden with supplies, travellers from distant lands, or exotic animals that always thrilled Kara.
Today, however, her heart became a cold hard lump in her chest as she gazed across the beach to see smoke rising above her village, like some dark foreboding feather in a strange cap.
“Oh no! The village!” She cried, and began to run toward the source of the smoke. Her heart pounding, her sharp eyes spotted three unfamiliar ships in the harbor. They were large ships with wide black sails to catch the wind quickly. There was a white shape centered on each sail, and Kara stopped short when it resolved into clarity. A menacing skull and crossbones whipped in the air. Pirates!
Standing on the beach, gasping for air from the efforts of her running, Kara’s thoughts fought within her.
Should she go to the village, perhaps there was some way she could help fight the pirates? No, she was just a 13 year old girl! What could she do? Perhaps she could find Dugan, the local wizard who lived in the foothills west of the village. Maybe he could help. Kara hoped against hope that her family was ok. She tried not to think about what kinds of terrors her family must be facing.
Tears streamed down her face as she turned away from the beach and ran towards the treeline that would take her to Dugan’s small hut in the forest. She ignored the twigs and rocks that pulled at her dress and cut into her feet as she plunged headlong into the underbrush.
She burst into a clearing, her head down and her feet pounding on the uneven, rocky ground. She glanced up to see a figure in the distance. Dugan!
She called out once. A sharp desperate cry that caught in her throat when she realized the figure standing some distance from her was not the kindly wizard Dugan, but instead was a stranger dressed in ragged clothing. His dark hair was covered by a kerchief and his ears were pierced with large gold rings. It was his eyes that stopped her short and caught the scream from escaping her throat.
His eyes were wild and red. They were full of malice and hatred. And they were staring right at her. Stumbling and turning she let out an involuntary cry.
She only made it two steps before another pirate emerged from a bush and struck the back of her head with his jeweled fist. Light burst all around Kate’s vision. Light and pain. Then the world went dark.
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