Book 6 - Brace
Devil’s Reaper was a nimble ship, especially for her size; Crimson Widow, though she was smaller, making her faster and more agile, did not have a better pirate behind the wheel. Kasa banked Devil’s Reaper hard to the portside, angling the starboard cannons towards the red ship flying below, fleeing with as much speed as her sails could muster. Kasa willed the cannons to fire and Devil’s Reaper eagerly obliged. Bolts of arcane energy hammered into the fleeing vessel with vicious accuracy. It pained the red captain to cause harm to her first love, but she would rather see Crimson Widow at the bottom of the Storm-Swept Sea than remain in the hands of Winston, her treacherous former first mate.
The wounded ship banked hard into a thick cloud formation. Kasa, like a wolf prowling after injured prey, followed suit. That was a mistake. One she would never commit again. The clouds broke revealing the face of a mountain and Kasa was forced to pull her ship up almost completely vertical to avoid impact with the rocky mountainside. Her crew held on tightly to their restrains as the ship ascended. Kasa flinched as her ship’s hull brushed up against the jagged stone and trees of the mountain, a sharp reminder that her bond with the ship was more than just a psychic connection. Kasa leveled the ship out once they passed the mountain’s summit.
“Shit!” she exclaimed.
“Captain, we have a breach in the food storage hull,” Kleine reported.
Kasa did not hear her first mate though; she was too focused and too determined on her vengeance. This was the first time in nearly two years she had seen Crimson Widow. Winston, or Deadeye, as he called himself now, feared her vengeance and worked through proxies. Obligations to the lords of Hawk’s Landing had delayed her hunt but at the same time aided it greatly.
The lords had commissioned Kasa and her crew to continue doing what they had already been doing: hunting pirates. During their time as mercenaries they had also been tasked with escorting important dignitaries, transporting classified packages, and chaperoning traveling lords through hazardous territories.
In return for their services, Kasa and her crew were paid well, far more than actual military men. Kasa was also paid in information leading her investigations north. The lord's missions had put her on the border of the mostly undead country of Filderes more often than not. And Filderes was where Crimson Widow dropped anchor.
“Lo’ Threa! Ballistas from above!” Broen shouted.
“There is another ship coming from the stern,” Elie said.
“Hold on!” Kasa shouted.
Kasa willed Devil’s Reaper to bank hard and low, back down the side of the mountain. These maneuvers steered the vessel clear of the cannon fire from the blue, frigate-style ship flying Winston’s deadeye colors. The green ship from above fired down upon them. Kasa dived, managing to evade one of the chained bolts, however the other struck true. The three-foot-long bolt of steel plowed through the main deck with a stiflingly loud impact. Kasa stumbled briefly, clutching her side as a flash of red hot pain spiked through her. Des immediately moved to the wheel and took over until Kasa straightened, shaking off the sudden pain, and resumed control. Kritis unlatched himself from his safety lines and charged toward the large grappling hook. He quickly drew Elenoren’s black celestial onyx blade from her black and silver scabbard. With a single precise slash, they separated the hook from the chain.
Winston had laid a trap, which meant they were getting close. Kasa didn’t like the odds of two ships against one. She could tuck tail and run, have Kleine mark the coordinates on the map and circle back to the safety of the Storm-Swept Sea, but they hurt Devil’s Reaper, and in doing so they hurt her, and Kasa couldn’t let that slide. She quickly willed a safety rope to wrap itself around Kritis’ waist and sent Devil’s Reaper into a steeper dive.
The unknown green ship gave chase. Kasa smiled, amused by her suddenly being on the opposite end of pursuit.
“Kleine, a little extra cloud cover if you would, please,” Kasa said.
“Aye, Captain!” Kleine said.
The half-elf first mate moved to the stern of the ship, her safety harness traveling along the leads, keeping her secure, and chanted her spell. A snowy white glyph appeared before her; she pressed the tip of her wand to the glyph and released a wave of obscuring mist. The large cloud of mist filled the space between the diving ships. Kasa pulled Devil’s Reaper up sharply, jerking everyone on board roughly. The crimson pirate performed an ascending half circle, and in the apex of the turn, willed the portside cannons to fire a volley into Kleine’s mist.
The bolts of arcane energy flashed within the clouds like a swelling thunderstorm. Kasa completed the maneuver and dove, once more following in the path of the cannon fire. Kleine unclipped from her safety harness and grabbed a nearby rope. She turned and nodded to Kasa. Kasa willed the riggings to pull Kleine up to the shrouds. Through her bond, she could sense her first mate climb up into the crow's nest to stand beside her husband, Broen.
Kasa watched as Kleine used her magic to clear the clouds and mist she had created, revealing the green vessel, listing to starboard. Kasa could see their volley had clipped the unknown ship's starboard lift sail. It was going down slowly. A devilish grin crept across her tattooed face. She knew the blue ship was bound to appear shortly. Devil’s Reaper was a mighty vessel, but taking on two smaller ships was dangerous.
Kasa increased Devil's Reaper’s speed, bringing the vessel along the wounded ship's portside. The ship’s lettering named her the Nymeria, a name Kasa knew from a list of wanted pirate vessels issued by the Hawk’s navy. She could see the ship’s crew frantically pulling lines and trying to make hasty repairs. Kasa made eye contact with the ship's captain. She knew her as Nialy, one more name from her mutiny list. The captain's eyes went wide at seeing Kasa and shouted orders to her crew.
Kasa pulled Reaper back and away as the portside cannons of the damaged ship fired. The cannon fire bolted underneath Devil’s Reaper harmlessly. Kasa willed her ship back into the space she had previously vacated. She smiled at Nialy, her silver eyes gleaming both literally and figuratively with bemusement. She willed the starboard cannons to fire and unleashed death from all twelve. The bolts of energy tore through Nymeria like it was made of paper. Timber, rigging, and sailors went flying and falling through the open sky.
Kasa pulled up and back again, turning her ship to reverse its course. “Fire the port cannons!” she shouted as she did, as the mid-pursuit turn was taking too much of her attention for her to will the cannons to fire at the same time. Her crew had grown accustomed to their captain’s magical bond with her ship, but they did not let it lessen their abilities to perform when needed. Kasa could feel the cannon crew move into action; they repositioned the cannons and fired. The bolts of energy tore new holes in the wounded ship's stern, and other bolts ripped holes through its sails and the main deck.
The crimson pirate completed the turn and headed back the way they came, expecting to see the blue ship. To her surprise, the vessel was nowhere to be seen. She flew her ship higher into the clouds and through to the clear blue skies above them. Kleine appeared by Kasa's side, having just climbed down from her position in the crow’s nest.
“Sky is clear, Captain.”
“I noticed,” Kasa said.
“Looks like he pulled a cut-and-run,” Kleine said.
“I noticed that too.”
“Orders?” Kleine asked.
“Mark the location we last spotted Crimson Widow. Des, take the wheel. Sail us back down to that ship. Tell the crew to prepare to board. Hopefully, Nialy is breathing and in a chatty mood.”
“As you wish, Captain.”
Kasa released control of the ship to Des and walked to where the large harpoon still jutted from Devil’s Reaper’s deck.
“Um... Kasa,” Kritis said. “You think you might release me?”
Kasa looked over to Kritis who was still bound by the ropes she had secured him with during the dive.
“Come, love, you know the devil slut’s been wanting to try a little bondage with you for ages,” Elenoren, the enchanted sword, said.
“Sorry, Kritis,” Kasa said, willing the ropes loose. “You would have not had the time to secure yourselves before the dive, and I did not want that cold-hearted blade whore scratching my deck.”
“You did that plenty well yourself falling for a trap like that,” Elenoren shot back.
“Ladies, please,” Kritis said, sheathing Elenoren in her scabbard. “Can this wait until after the upcoming battle? Assuming that is why we are descending.”
Kasa nodded. “Winston pulled a cut-and-run. He sacrificed one ship in order to save the others.”
“That seems rather cowardly”
“The man has been hiding from me ever since we took to the skies and seas. He knows I’m hunting him and I believe we are close.”
“You would be correct,” Elie said, appearing at Kasa’s side, her enchanted sword Siren Song in hand. “This kind of maneuver would have taken careful planning and practice, which would suggest that our chase was a guided tour. Are you certain that they drop anchor in Filderas?”
“All the information from captured vessels and the spies of the lords seem to believe so.”
“I find it strange for them to have practiced this over Forgotten Fade lands and no one reported the sightings.”
“Well, let's go ask them,” Kasa said, pointing at the green ship smoking in the distance.
The ship had managed to limp back to the sea instead of crash landing in the thick woods of the Faded Forest. The pirates moved about, frantically putting out fires, patching holes, and replacing sails. Kasa could see the ship would not be able to fly again without major repairs, none of which could be done on the open water.
“Des, bring us in on the portside; more than half of her cannons are down!” Kasa shouted. Kleine repeated the order. Then, Kasa turned to Kritis, “You should pull Blade Whore back out.”
Kasa withdrew Widowmaker and willed the starboard ballistas to aim at the vessel. Des skillfully slid Devil’s Reaper into the blue waters. A small surge of pride filled Kasa’s chest; the boy had come a long way from the day she saved him from a life on the street. Devil’s Reaper loomed over the smaller ship much like the shadow of death. Still, the battle-tested crew of pirates of the wounded ship prepared themselves and arrows littered the sky above Devil’s Reaper. Kasa, Kritis, and Elie swatted the projectiles from the air without much effort. Kasa willed the gang planks down and let the true battle begin.
It was fast and dirty. The Nymeria’s crew, though skilled, had lost the battle in a matter of minutes. The three swordsmen were viciously effective, and in a typhoon of steel and celestial onyx they killed or disabled more than half the crew themselves. Nialy surrendered without even putting up a fight.
Kasa had the captured crew ushered to Devil’s Reaper’s brig and the Nymeria strapped with a towing line.
“That wasn’t much of a fight,” Elenoren complained.
“Well, not all of Winston’s lackeys are suicidal,” Kasa said.
“What’s the plan, Captain?” Kleine asked.
“Instruct Des to head back towards the fleet. We’ll turn this lot over to them and then make plans,” Kasa said.
“What about Nialy?” Kleine asked, as the the Nymeria’s captain was being brought on board.
“I plan to interrogate her... privately,” Kasa said, biting her lower lip.
“We all know what that means,” Elenoren said.
“Elen, please,” Kritis said.
“It’s OK, she is not incorrect. Though I know what she and Briarbeard have been getting up to when they think we are asleep. I didn’t know shades could fuck, but those two are at each other like rabbits.”
“I…” Elenoren started to say. “You win, Devil Slut.”
“I know, Blade Whore,” Kasa said, turning to her cabin. “Elie, please escort Captain Nialy to my cabin.”
“Aye, Captain,” the elf said in a flat monotone.