An hour later, Kasa stood before her standing mirror, admiring her bare form as she often did. She stretched lazily, satisfied with the now-unconscious enchanter’s performance. She pulled on her black leather pants, purple-colored blouse, and slid her red toes into her fine leather boots. She threw on her black leather vest and her sword belt, which held her beloved weapons, Widowmaker, Blood Biter, and the newly-acquired Dragon’s Breath.
Kasa eyed herself once more in the standing mirror, blowing herself a kiss before grabbing a bit of bread and cheese from the small table in her cabin and sauntering out into twilight of the day. Shadows vast and dark loomed over the port city and bay as the sun set to the west beyond the city’s large stone walls. Kasa adjusted her long coat and hat as she watched Kleine scale the shrouds of the main mast, Des in tow. She smiled and tipped her hat to her first mate before stepping down the gangplank to the dock.
The crimson pirate ventured into the dark streets of Hawk’s Landing, her childhood home. She reflected on distant memories of a past long forgotten. She thought briefly of her father, a sailor, or so she had been told. He had left her in the care of his mother, Granny Marlene, as he took to the sea to make his fortune. Kasa was not old enough to remember the day Granny Marlene was told he was lost at sea. Granny had blamed Kasa for his death, however, and treated her worse than a rented mule. The vile woman often referred to her as “devil spawn” or “demon piss,” rarely using her actual name.
As Kasa maneuvered down the too-familiar streets, she let her thoughts briefly wash over the mother she never knew, the source for all her pain, anguish, and her desire for pleasure. Succubi were rare creatures that typically wandered the lands of Daskan’s Fall, remnants from thousands of years in the past when demons and devils roamed free of the shadowed realm. Creatures of lust, the succubi leeched life through sexual acts, often killing their partner in the process. On the rare occasion they would spawn a child and if the father survived the incident, the child would be left with him.
Kasa shook off her abandonment issues before shifting her attention to the back alleyways, alleyways that were more frequently used by those of the thieves and assassins guilds of Hawk’s Landing than your average citizen.
Kasa remained alert for the remainder of her trip, as she knew the trademarks of the guilds and a quick death could be one misstep away. Silently, she made her way to the back of Mathini’s Bakery, which she knew functioned as the front for Kalderan Forgehand’s operations. Kasa was still amused over the fact that the bakery was located across the street from the Dock’s Watch house, the station for the local watchmen.
The pirate captain checked her surroundings before descending the cobblestone stairs to reach a solid steel door. She gingerly rapped on the door and waited for the eye slot to slide open. She did not wait long before the slot opened to reveal a pair of dark eyes.
“Who’s callin’?” she heard a gruff voice ask.
“No one,” she answered, hoping the phrase was still the password to gain audience with Hawk’s Landing’s most successful fence.
The owner of the eyes grunted and the slot slid close. A moment later, Kasa heard the sound of several locks clicking open, and the door swung inward. Within the door stood a mountain of a man and beside him stood an even larger orc, neither of whom she recognized. They both looked at her with menacing yet bland expressions. Kasa entered the hallway and followed the human guard to a small lobby; the larger orc shut and locked the door behind them.
“Your weapons,” the human instructed with an outstretched hand.
Kasa held back the urge to laugh. She knew in her mind that she would be safe within the confines of Kalderan Forgehand’s establishment. She, however, had learned a very valuable lesson about trust over the past five months. “I am afraid that will not be possible.”
The human guard’s hand went to rest next to the sword on his hip. Kasa could hear the orc behind her getting into a better position. She had no desire to fight them and thought her chances of getting what she wanted out of the cunning and resourceful dwarf would be difficult if she killed his guards. Before the tension grew any greater, Kasa decided to take a gamble, “Why don’t you inform your boss of who seeks his audience. Tell him Captain Kasa Brace has sought out his business.”
The human’s brown eyes narrowed, considering what the devilish pirate had said, “Very well, wait here. Jorak, if she tries anything, kill her.”
The brawny orc laughed in a low, menacing rumble, and the human walked through a door at the opposite end of the lobby. Kasa turned around and examined the seven foot tall being made of hardened orc muscle. His face, like all those of his kind, was broad and flat with a wide brow, small ,sunken eyes, a tiny nose, and wide mouth featuring protruding lower tusks. He wore heavy brigandine armor with steel ringlets in rows down the front.
Kasa licked her lips and stepped closer to the orc, realizing she liked what she saw and wondered if she had enough time to enjoy it. “Jorak, how powerful are these mighty arms of yours?” she asked, giving them a squeeze.
“Jorak is very mighty,” the now confused orc proclaimed.
“And how mighty is this arm?” she asked, her silver eyes shining as she placed her hand in between his legs. She could feel the blood rush to his member almost instantly and watched as the orc's beady black eyes grew wide with sudden surprise.
Kasa was pleasantly surprised herself with what she had discovered there. Orcs were risky partners, not for their ferocity in the act but for their overall size. They could be nearly as large as titans or as small as some humans. Jorak, Kasa discovered, was somewhere in between. Unsure how to respond to her directness, the orc guard took a step back, retreating from her wanting grasp.
“Awww, I just wanted a little taste,” Kasa pouted as she pressed herself back against him. Jorak attempted to retreat again but found himself pressed against the wall.
Before the orc could react, Kasa slipped her nimble fingers past the orc’s weapon belt and down his trousers. She grasped onto him firmly and pressed her body against his. The ravenous pirate stroked his member furiously as she whispered her naughty machinations into his ear. It only took a few moments to bring the powerful orc to his knees, shockwaves coursing through his muscular frame from the ejaculation as if a bolt of lightning struck him.
Kasa’s chest heaved with excitement as she removed her sticky hand from his trousers. Just then, the human guard returned to the room. “The boss will see--” he started to say, but he paused when he saw the other guard on his knees breathing heavily before the red pirate. He moved to the orc’s side, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“What did you do him?” he asked accusingly, looking up at Kasa, a fire burning in his eyes and his hand grasped tightly to his sword hilt.
“Made his day, I dare say,” she said with a lustful smile. She pulled out a handkerchief and wiped her hand clean.
“She-devil… good… Jorak...need… new … pants!” the orc said through labored breaths, still recovering from the orgasm.
The stoic-faced human guardsman cracked a small smile and helped his partner to his feet. “You will have to wait until this one has finished her business with the boss. Captain Brace, you will be allowed to keep your weapons, but you must maintain a fifteen-foot distance and we will be standing by your sides.”
“Sandwiched between two powerful males is one of the many ways I like to spend my time. Maybe after the meeting we can find somewhere to fully enjoy it?” she proposed, biting her lip.
The human guard visibly gulped and looked at his still-weakened partner. “Through the door there. Take a seat in the first chair,” he said hastily, not daring to make eye contact.
Kasa pouted, some of the glow leaving her eyes at his resistance and walked through the door. The next room was filled with the wares of a successful fence in the business of black market trade. Everywhere she looked, Kasa saw paintings, jewels, enchanted figurines, armor, weaponry, bottles of thousand-year liqueurs, and vials of potions of all varieties. There were crates of various sizes everywhere the eye could see, and Kasa could hear the growls and whimpers of various exotic beasts from within the depths of the warehouse.
In the center of it all there was a circular area, the only part clear of the merchant’s wares. The floor was carpeted with rugs of dark greens and browns featuring bronze- and copper-colored knotwork. Such intricate embroidery was only known to the dwarves of Grinda, the dwarven nation to the southeast which was nestled deep into the Cradle Mountains, the vast mountain range that encircled all of Daskan's Fall.
Atop the rugs sat a desk made of gray stone which had carvings similar to the designs of the rugs etched upon every surface. Behind the desk sat an elderly dwarf, his mustache and beard mostly gray but dotted black from ink. Kalderan did not look up at Kasa as she entered, as his attention was focused on his stout fingers as they slid the counters on an abacus. Kasa stepped silently forward and leisurely took a seat an unoccupied chair, which was near the edge of the circle of rugs. The human guard and Jorak, the orc, took up positions to each side of her. Kasa waited while the greying dwarf tallied up totals from what she assumed were recent acquisitions.
After a few minutes, Kalderan put down his quill and lifted his cool green eyes to gaze upon the pirate captain. “You look surprisingly well for someone that is supposed to be dead,” he said casually.
“Dead?” she mused, “Now that, my old friend, was merely speculation.”
“Is that a fact?” he said, leaning back in his seat. “Well, what brings the Crimson Pirate to my doorstep?”
“You have a few things I need and I have something you want.”
The elderly dwarf leaned forward in his seat, resting his elbows on his desk with his right fist covered by his left palm. “And what could a ghost possibly have that I could want?”
“I know that several months ago, you purchased an enchanted chest seemingly made of solid gold.”
“Mayhaps I had. What is it to you?”
“I know that the chest once belonged to Pirate King Briarbeard. I know that he enchanted the chest against forceful intrusion, and I know what the chest holds,” she said smiling, her tail tapping against the side of the chair.
“You know quite a bit. Still, you have yet to explain why I should care.”
The glow in Kasa’s eyes shined brightly as she pulled the key from between her crimson breasts, “I have the key.”
Color left the dwarf’s cheeks as his eyes fell upon the golden key, and he began to unconsciously rub his hands together. Kasa noticed that both guards shifted a few steps back into striking positions, she assumed. She had expected this would happen, greed being a powerful emotion. She let the key fall back between her breasts and smiled. “Careful, my friend,” she said coolly. “I have no desire to acquire the chest from you. Quite the opposite, in fact.”
“Why would that be; are the contents so worthless?” Kalderan asked.
“The Hand of Tsubas,” she said bluntly.
“You lie, that does not exist,” he retorted with a snort.
“Why else would the chest be made of gold and be enchanted against forced entry?”
The dwarf sat back in his chair, considering her words while stroking his beard. “Say I believe you. What is it that you need?”
“Well, I have since acquired a new ship, but she is in need of a crew and some good flying sails, both of which cost gold. I’m also in need of information.”
Kalderan picked up one of the ledgers on his desk and thumbed through the pages. “How much is this going to cost me?”
“Well, seeing how I am in the position to make you the wealthiest person that ever lived, how much can you part with?”
Kalderan looked at her wide-eyed, the ledger dropping from his hands. Kasa smiled her customary smile and let the prospect of producing his own wealth with the touch of his hand sink in. Kasa knew she had him by the figurative balls, though as she thought about it, she would not have minded holding his actual balls either. The weathered dwarf licked his lips and picked up the ledger again.
“I can muster about 10,000 gold and the sails,” he said, trying to keep the excitement from his gruff voice.
“Ha! Do you take me for a little whelp, soft as a baby’s bottom, trading in my first wares? I see items in this very room worth three times as much. I offer you the key to the world and your counteroffer is table scraps?”
“I do not know that what you say is true. We may have a lucrative history, Kasa Brace, but you have been a thief for a very long time. You may call yourself a pirate captain now, but that just means you are a thief with sea legs.”
Kasa’s smile did not wane as she replied, “Bring forth the chest and let us see if what I speak is the truth, though we both know that your spies have already seen the ship I now call my own and your historians have already told you its history: Devil’s Reaper, the flagship of Pirate King Briarbeard, the last known vessel to carry the Hand of Toras.”
“Any fool can paint a name on the back of a ship,” Kalderan argued.
“This argument is pointless. Send your lovely guards here to fetch the chest. I will open it and we will both see with our own eyes whether or not I speak the truth,” Kasa insisted, leaning back in her seat as she tossed one leg over an arm of the chair, tail swaying back and forth.”
Kalderan hesitated. Kasa could see his uncertainty written plainly on his face, as though he was trying to figure out her angle. She sighed deeply. “Kalderan, how good are your boys?” she said as she pointed to the two guards.
“Good enough to handle most riffraff.”
“Are they good enough to best a student of Mundous the Black?” she asked, not moving.
Kalderan’s eyes narrowed. “No, I think not.”
The human guard spoke up. “Who in the shadowed realm is Mundous the Black?”
“One of the deadliest assassins known to all of Daskan’s Fall. At one point in his career, he ran both the thieves and assassins guilds here in the city.”
“And he was my mentor, and my adopted father,” Kasa added.
“Your point being?” the human guard asked, his arms crossed.
Kalderan sighed deeply, putting down the ledger. “Her point is that if she were here to take the treasure, the two of you would be dead already. Thomas, take Jorak and retrieve the golden chest from the vault.”
“Boss, she is just one she-devil...” Thomas protested.
“One she-devil that had her way with Jorak in a manner of minutes, yes Jorak I know, and could kill you where you stand with just a flick of her tail.” At this, Kasa waved her tail in the human’s direction, her belt knife coiled in its grip. “Just go get the chest.”
Thomas reluctantly stalked off down one of the rows of wares with the burly Jorak in tow. Kalderan stood from behind his desk and walked over to a small table with a two of glasses and a wine bottle on top. The dwarf poured the two glasses full of an amber-colored liquid and took up the seat next to Kasa. He handed her a glass and took a deep breath.
“Sorry, girl,” he said.
“That is how you stay above water in this game. I don’t blame you, though that low ball offer was offensive,” she said with a warm smile.
“Well, I’d be a fool if I took you at your word. Besides, up until you mentioned your adopted father, I was not sure you were you. Your former first mate came to me with that chest about four months ago, claiming you died on some island south of Karasan’s Spire.”
“More like the bastard marooned me there, after trying to kill me, that is,” she said conversationally, taking a drink.
“How’d you survive?”
“Luck,” she answered bluntly.
“Ha! As I recall your adopted father had pretty strong feeling about luck.”
“‘The only luck is the luck you make for yourself,’” she quoted absentmindedly.
“By that logic, he was the luckiest bastard alive!” Kalderan said, taking another drink.
They both laughed as Thomas and Jorak returned with the chest made of gold. It glimmered in the lamplight and appeared to be as heavy as Kasa had remembered. The two guardsmen placed the chest on the rugs in front of where she and Kalderan sat with a labored grunt.. Kasa inhaled deeply at the sight of the chest. She had seen her fair share of booty over the years, but this one was her greatest conquest and her biggest regret. Thomas and Jorak took positions next to the chest and waited for further instructions.
“You may want to dismiss them, Kalderan. This thing tends to warp minds.”
“They are paid well for their loyal--”
“So were my sailors!” Kasa interjected.
“Boss, I will not leave you alone with this pirate and this treasure, whatever the Hand of Tsubas is,” Thomas protested.
Kalderan raised a hand to silence the human. “Captain Brace, I understand your concern, but I pay them well for my protection and the protection of my property.”
Kasa sighed; she had a bad feeling in her gut. After all the time she spent conversing with the shade of the chest’s previous owner, she knew well the power of greed. Reluctantly, she stood and sauntered over to the golden chest. She kneeled before it, admiring every golden detail, so precise that it could not have been crafted by conventional means. She once more withdrew the golden key stashed within her voluptuous bosom.
She eased the key into its hole on the chest with care, unsure of how the chest’s protective spells would react. There was a soft chime followed by a small array of flashing multicolored glyphs, as the key not only released the physical lock but the magical enchantments as well. Kasa stood back until she heard the final clunk of what she imagined was an elaborate locking mechanism.
She stepped forward again and gingerly opened the golden lid. Inside, suspended inches away from the chest’s golden sides, was a leather glove. Kasa cautiously slid her fingers into the dark space and removed the glove from the chest. The glove was made of a fine and weathered brown leather, etched on the back of the hand was a complicated series of intertwining circles that shimmered faintly in the light of the oil lamps.
“Well, lass, it is, in fact, a glove,” Kalderan said.
“It tingles,” she said with a smile. “Let us witness its power.” Kasa reached for her glass on the table with a single finger extended. A small golden glyph appeared, and the magic poured through, turning the glass and its contents to gold. Kasa heart raced, and she could tell by the look in the others’ eyes, she was not alone with this feeling. She then truly understood why things went horribly wrong for Briarbeard and his crew.
“That is amazing,” Kalderan stated.
“Pretty,” Jorak commented in a dumbfounded, childish kind of way.
Kasa noted Thomas’ silence and caught a look she did not like, a look she had seen once before. The red pirate turned back to the chest and placed the glove back inside. She closed the lid and locked the chest before turning back around to face Kalderan. “So, there you have it. I hold in my hand the key to your future. Do you wish to make me a better offer?”
The old dwarf let out a hearty laugh. “I believe we can come to an agreeable arrangement.”