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Kasa Brace, The Crimson Pirate

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Chapter 2

Twenty minutes later, Kasa’s boots stood in the blinding white sands of Eska En’ Du’s beautiful beach. The sweet smell of jungle air rolled across her as if sucked out with the tide. Behind her, the rest of her small crew unloaded the boats and pulled them ashore. Kleine came to her side.

“Winston was unhappy about not being here with you. It was his find--the map, that is.”

Kasa looked down at her half-elf second mate, She was cute, with her sun-bleached blond hair cut short and wrapped in a bandana. On her left cheek was a long scar that stood white in contrast to her tanned skin. The boys and some of the girls would clamor over her, if not be forceful with her, if she were not frightfully powerful with magic. Kleine also had more brains than brawn, which is why Kasa wanted her with her. Winston was good at taking orders and relaying those orders to the others; however, he was not so good on his toes.

“I know, but reading through the journal that came with the chart, Briarbeard set up a number of traps along the way, some of which are magical in nature and well, sweetie, you’re the only mage I have.” She started walking along the beach while the rest of the crew worked. “I could not leave the ship without leadership and I am bringing those I trust the most along with me.”

“I understand your reasoning, Captain. It’s just lately... Winston has been acting strange and it bothers me.”

“Care to elaborate, hun?”

“Well, think about it. More than half of the current crew is people he’s selected, his sudden interest in keeping your bed warm instead of you laying with any of the new crew. Captain, be honest: how many of them have you slept with? One, maybe two?” Kleine stopped walking and shook her head. “As I recall, there was not one member of the old crew you had not had a taste of, myself included.”

Kasa stopped and thought about it, “I admit Winston has been clingy, not that I mind. The man is gifted and has the stamina to match. Still, I trust Winston’s judgment, which is why I allowed him to select the new crew members.”

Kleine shook her head. “I don’t know, Captain. Forget I said anything. Let’s go find this treasure.”

Kasa watched as her second mate walked back toward the fraction of the crew she brought along here. They were the veterans that had been with her since the beginning; the only one missing was Winston. She pulled out the chart and read the instructions.

Walk one hundred paces north into the jungle from where the midday sun kisses the beach of the bay.

Kasa looked up at the sun. It was approaching midday and the light began rolling across the treetops. The shadow of the lone mountain retreated and the sand shone brilliantly. She compared her positioning with the chart-turned-map and stared into the jungle ahead. The jungle was lively with all manner of creatures squawking, chirping, chattering and growling. Kasa took a few more steps and smiled as she located their starting point. She marked the spot in the hot, white sand and returned to her crew.

“All right, mates. Gather your gear, blades at the ready. Presumably, we are about to venture into untamed territory. All manner of wildlife and, hell, even plant life is prepared to kill us. Do not touch or eat anything unless Kleine or Markos says it’s OK.”

The crew nodded in agreement.

“Good. Everyone make sure you have fresh water and move with caution.”

With those words, Captain Kasa Brace and the crew of the Crimson Widow ventured into the unknown. The jungle was very thick and luscious and before long, Kasa wished she had left her coat back with the rowboats. Sweat poured from every pore and made her leather attire extremely uncomfortable.The crew had walked for a few hours, following the clues left behind by the pirate king.

At the first of stone, follow the river east for 200 paces.

At the fork, follow the covered path for 150 paces.

Kasa could tell that the further into the jungle they ventured, the higher up the mountain they went. Some bickering among the crew began to arise, brought about by discomfort with the humidity and the bugs. One crew member did not heed her warning and wiped his ass with a poisonous leaf. She laughed about his discomfort, and others had since been more cautious. Still, an uneasy feeling sent chills down her spine to the very tip of her tail.

She halted and raised a hand, silencing the crew. Kleine stepped up next to her and whispered.

“What is it, Captain?”

“I don’t know. You know that feeling I get sometimes when shit is about to fly?”

“Yes...” she said. pulling her wand from her holster.

“Stay put,” Kasa instructed.

Kasa wasn’t always a ship’s captain; hell, she wasn’t always a pirate. Before she got her sea legs, she crept the back streets and rooftops of Hawk’s Landing, the largest port on the Storm-Swept Sea. In those days during her youth, she learned how to become invisible, to meld with her surroundings with agile grace and complete silence. Her mentor, master both the assassins and thieves guilds in Hawks landing, Melcor, taught her the tricks of the trade and how to use them in any situation.

Quickly, she scaled a nearby tree and took up position on a strong branch near the trunk. She closed her eyes, held her breath and listened. She could hear the sound of her crew attempting and failing at being quiet. She could hear the chirps and calls of birds and the buzz of insects. She heard the hiss of a nearby snake and the low growl of what she assumed was a feline.

Twenty paces south of where she sat, she heard a branch snap. She opened her silver eyes and looked in that direction. Hunched over low on a branch, a crude short bow in hand, stood a mite. She could see it was male as it was topless, wearing only a loincloth and quiver. Its body was covered in mud and fauna and she could see its tiny muscles ripple underneath. The mite, not more than four feet tall, opened its mouth to lick its mud-covered lips and revealed sharpened teeth.

Kasa dared to look away from the watcher and was able to make out several others. “Shit!” she exclaimed in her mind. “I knew something was amiss.”

She quickly used her vantage point to survey the surroundings. The sun was low in the sky and shadows had engulfed much of what she could see. In the distance she could see the shimmer of water. “That had to be the lake on the map,” she thought to herself. The crimson captain silently slinked her way back down to her crew. She appeared next to her second mate who jumped with a start.

“Captain!” Kleine yelped. Kasa quickly clamped her gloved hand down over the half-elf’s mouth.

“Shhhhh,” she whispered. “There are at least fifteen mites in the trees with bows trained on us. There is a lagoon some sixty to seventy feet south of us with cover. On my signal, run like a demon bat out of the shadowed realm.” She waited for each of them to acknowledge they understood, “GO!”

The crew of Crimson Widow took off and their flight was answered with a chorus of arrows. They ducked, dodged and stumbled through hanging vines, sticks and brambles. As the stone-tipped projectiles punched through massive leaves and punctured trees. Kasa could hear their miniature pursuers bounding from branch to branch above, keeping pace with them. Horus took an arrow to the shoulder and fell to one knee.

Not wanting to leave him behind, Kasa slid hard and dashed back toward her fallen crew, ducking and dodging bolts of death along the way. Kasa slid in the damp dirt and fallen leaves next to Horus.

“Shit!” she swore upon seeing the froth in his mouth and the vacancy in his eyes. She swore another curse, drawing Blood Biter and fired a poisoned bolt of her own at the first tree to move before vaulting forward and resuming her sprint. With ease and athletic grace she caught up with her remaining crew. They rushed forward as if their life depended on it, and in this instant it literally did.

“There!” Kasa shouted as she and the crew drew near to the cliff she’d seen covering the lagoon.

“Go, go, go!” she shouted, all the while praying to the gods that is was water below and not a quick rocky death.

She fired several more bolts behind her before she dropped down, sliding toward the cliff’s edge. She smiled as she heard the sound of a body smacking the ground behind her just as she slid off the edge of the cliff and dove feet first into the lagoon. The drop was brief and the water was chilled and a welcome comfort. Several of the others splashed down around her, joining those that went before. Kasa looked up at the ravine, some thirty feet above them. Several small heads appeared looking down at them, their expression menacing. They shouted crude words of a language Kasa did not understand. They seemed enraged but did not appear determined enough to pursue them further.

Kasa directed them to a cave mouth under the shelf. The remaining crew swam toward the cave and drew themselves out of the line of sight. They hid under cover of the shelf and in a manner unbecoming a ruthless band of pirates.

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