Book 2 - Heart
The former captain of the ship Crimson Widow knelt over the weakened form of her second mate, Kleine, who was quietly sleeping in the captain's quarters of Devil’s Reaper. Looming over her left shoulder was the spectral form of Pirate King Briarbeard. Three weeks ago, Kasa found herself marooned on the island of Eska En' Du after her first mate Winston betrayed her. She was nearly killed by a well-aimed arrow, but instead her half elven second mate jumped in between them.
Kleine coughed as she choked on the water Kasa was giving her.
“You see,” said the eerie voice of the shade. “I told you the crystals have special properties.”
Kasa lashed her tail out behind her to no avail.
“You have been saying that for weeks. I get it! The crystals have special properties. She is still not out of the woods yet and I don't want her back as a zombie or a shade either.”
“Of course, lass. The crystals have nearly healed the wound. You just have to keep her from dying either from hunger or thirst.”
The mention of food made Kasa’s stomach grumble. She had been putting off another trip down to the mountain to restock her supplies. She hated leaving Kleine alone with only the ghastly afterimage of the pirate king for company. Kasa stood, placing the bowl of water on the small stand next to the bed.
Winston, Kasa’s treacherous first mate, had turned the red captain’s own vessel on her and fired Crimson Widow’s cannons at her and Devil's Reaper. Kasa, Kleine and Devils Reaper narrowly escaped by using the teleportation enchantment placed on the ship. Kasa walked over to the writing desk on which she had found the poisoned body of Briarbeard. She had long since returned his body to the sea and taken up residence in his former quarters. She sat and put on her boots that she had recovered from the lagoon. She grumbled a bit, they were good boots for the sea, they did not fare so well on the mountain trail. Kasa stood once more and strapped on the belts for her weapons, Widowmaker, Blood Biter, and Briarbeard’s saber, Dragon’s Breath. Kasa threw on the long, dragon-skin coat and hat that once belonged to Briarbeard.
“I do say, lass. Meh coat looks far better on you,” Briarbeard told her with a wanting smile.
“With these curves, I make everything look better,” she retorted while picking up a pack. “I'm going to pay a visit to the Lothra and resupply. Please make sure she drinks more water while I am gone.”
“I AM THE PIRATE KING, BRIARBEARD!” he shouted, “Not a servant.”
“YOU ARE A THREE HUNDRED YEAR OLD DEAD PIRATE KING,” she yelled back, “with nothing else to do.” Her solid silver eyes glowed faintly.
“Well, when you put it like that, lass,” the shade said with a shrug.
Kasa sighed; she never thought there would be a day that she would be arguing with a spirit.
“How I long for the day I can get off this godsforsaken rock.”
“There is nothing stopping ye. You have a ship,” the pirate king told her, spreading his hands wide.
Kasa looked at him narrowly. The shade was in better shape than when they fought weeks before. The pirate king stood at a towering seven feet and five inches in height, and though translucent, he appeared whole, his greyish skin no longer hanging from his limbs and the hole where his heart had once been was no longer visible. Kasa attributed his new appearance to his body being returned to the sea. She was no priestess, but that was her best guess.
“The Devil’s Reaper is a fine ship she may need a touch-up and a fresh coat of paint, but she will also require a minimum crew of twenty to be manageable at sea.”
The shade let out a hearty laugh.
“That there be where ye are wrong, lass,” he said, walking silently out of the captain’s cabin onto the ship's deck.
The former captain followed behind the shade onto the ship’s deck. The Devil's Reaper was nestled in a cavern under the isle. With the blow of a certain whistle, the ship could be teleported from the cavern to the bay and vice versa. Kasa looked up at the hanging stalactites covered in glowing blue crystals.
“Care to explain, captain?” she asked.
“Can't ye feel it, girl?”
“Just because my mother was a succubus does not mean that I am magically inclined.”
The spirit laughed again. “The chest ye crew took from meh hold was not the only treasure. Sure, you've seen the other plunder stashed below and the special trinkets in meh cabin. Lass, I was the pirate king for a long time, and though I captured many ships, Devil's Reaper was always meh flagship.” The dead pirate walked next to the center mast and stroked it idly. “The ship, lass, the ship be a treasure herself.”
Briarbeard vanished in a puff of blue smoke and reappeared on the upper deck next to the wheel. “She be older than ye think, lass and her name is not one I gave her. Devil's Reaper was meh greatest treasure, ye see. Would ye like to hear why I was so effective in taking over the Storm-Swept Seas, lass?”
“Well, seeing how you getting to the point is not coming forthright, be my guest,” she told him as she sat down on a railing.
“Worry not lass, it be a short tale. As ye know, in order to take another ship ye must, man the sails, man the cannons, and steer the ship.”
“Well, lass, ye lose at least a third of yer crew to these tasks. Devil's Reaper only needs one.” The specter vanished again and reappeared inches away from Kasa's face.
“Wait... What?” Kasa asked, baffled.
“Can ye not feel it? Certainly ye have noticed the bindings shift and the ropes sway as you walk by.”
“I've heard them, I've even seen them, but I've also taken up residence on a haunted vessel. None of what you speak proclaims that you are not just pulling my tail.”
“Really? Are you so sure, Captain Brace?” Briarbeard asked, stepping a few feet away from her. “Right now, at this moment, I want you to think about one thing. Think about the sails, nothing else, just the sails.”
Kasa crossed her arms and frowned. “The sails?”
“You trusted me with the crystals, did you not?”
Kasa sighed, surrendering to the dead pirate's request. “Very well.”
Kasa moved to the center of the deck, set her pack down and stared at the sails above. She took a deep breath and emptied her mind of nothing but the sails. She had some practice at this form of meditation. When learning to pick pockets, her master would tell her to focus on nothing but the item she wished to retrieve. In her mind she could hear her master's voice speaking the pirate king's instructions.
She could feel something then, a sensation similar to moving a limb that had gone numb. She focused on that sensation, and beads of sweat rolled from underneath her hat. There was the sound of creaking ropes and then, one by one, the sails fell loose in the still cabin air. Kasa, breathing heavily, stared in disbelief. Briarbeard laughed in amusement.
“You see, lass. I am no longer captain of this ship. The Devil's Reaper has chosen you.” He laughed some more.
“That,” she said between breaths, “is amazing.”
“Indeed, lass, indeed. The bonding has already begun, but it will still take some time without the assistance of a wizard.”
“All the more reason to get Kleine healthy,” Kasa stated, picking up the pack she had dropped. “I'll return soon with a head full of questions.”
The shade nodded as Kasa turned and walked down the gangplank. In addition to returning Briarbeard's body to the sea, she had done the same for his once zombified crew. She idly remembered cutting her way through the walking corpses to reach the ship. Kasa followed the path through the underground cavern that hid the massive vessel, to the wide circular chamber beyond a the pair of large doors that had once sealed the ship and it’s doomed crew from the outside world.
In the weeks following her escape from death by cannon fire, Kasa had spent her time nursing Kleine back to health and conversing with the shade of Briarbeard. He had explained how he stumbled across this island, and after discovering the islands uncanny ability to not remain in the same place for extended periods of time, he made it his home base. He spoke of how he had a scholar set up the entrances to be puzzles just in case some hapless adventurer stumbled upon his island and his treasure trove.
Kasa walked over to a sconce on the wall and shoved her hand into the lion-headed maw. She wrapped her hand around the hidden lever within and pulled. Locking mechanisms and gears could be heard rotating and unlocking and accompanied by the sound of a rope ladder uncoiling. Kasa climbed the forty-foot ladder and exited the hidden chamber. It was morning and the sun had not yet crested over the volcano. She took a moment to look out over the clear blue sea and bright skies.
She turned and closed the hatch behind her and began the hike down to the Lothra's village.