The hike down the mountainside took Kasa nearly two hours at a brisk pace. She had learned the hard way that there were other things on the island that were just as likely to eat you as look at you. Briarbeard had told Kasa that the Lothra, a group of tribal mites, were natives to the island. He had found them here, and instead of killing them off, he made use of their skill and knowledge. He bartered with them, trading precious gems, furs, and foods foreign to the island, as another means of protection for his treasures. That, of course, had been three hundred years ago. The shade had learned their language, which Kasa had asked him to teach her. To his surprise she was a fast study and near fluent in the few weeks since the mutiny.
Kasa discovered that the tribe had not advanced much over the last three centuries. On her first visit, the red pirate was attacked repeatedly, she had defeated several of them in combat, each time requesting an audience with the chief. It wasn’t until she bested Broen, the chief’s eldest son, before the chief agreed to speak with her. Alone with the chief, Kasa let nature take its course and had her way with him. She was certain the old mite had not been ridden like that in quite some time. Afterward, she had her way with both of his sons as well. The chief's wife did not approve and attempted first to have her banished and then killed when the chief refused.
Kasa convinced the chief to let her have some time alone with his beloved and had her way with her as well. Soon after, the chief and family declared her a member of the tribe and named her Lo' Threa, which Briarbeard later translated to lust demon. Kasa laughed and found it somewhat appropriate.
Kasa exited the lush jungle to see two villagers standing guards outside the tall bamboo walls. There were always two guards, these were fierce hunters tasked with keep the jungle out of the Lothra’s home.
“Good to see you, Lo' Threa,” they said in their native tongue.
“As it is to see you,” she replied in kind.
The village contained many small huts made of clay and bamboo. Kasa guessed that there were somewhere near one hundred fifty to two hundred villagers of varying ages. She made her way to where the hunters and gatherers stored their goods and traded for supplies. She was greeted warmly and, as usual, advances were made. Normally, she would have taken one of them up on the offer, but the idea of getting Kleine well and completing the bond with the ship was a far greater need.
She ventured to the hut of the village herbalist.
“Lo' Threa, I expected to see you today,” the elderly mite stated as Kasa ducked into the hut.
The Lothra were quite small in stature and on average stood a little taller than three-and-a-half feet tall. Most of the huts averaged a height of five to six feet, floor to ceiling, meaning at six feet tall the crimson pirate was forced to duck and kneel whenever she entered one of the tribes homes. Kasa found a seat on the floor as had become the routine.
“Yes, it is time for a new batch of poultices.”
“I really wish you would bring the wounded friend to me, Lo' Threa. My magic would be far more effective than the application of these herbs.”
“I am aware, Choa. I do not wish to move her. The wound is mostly healed; I just need to maintain the dressing to ensure the wound does not fester and become infected,” Kasa told her, idly twirling a throwing knife between her fingers.
“So you have said.” The tiny mite worked the cork onto a clay bottle.
“Thank you, Choa,” Kasa said, taking the bottle from her.
Just then, there was a rap at the door.
“Enter,” Choa called.
A young male mite Kasa recognized as Mata, the younger of the chief's two sons, entered. Mata was a healthy young mite in his late teens, if not early twenties; Kasa was not sure, as it was difficult to tell a mite’s precise age between sixteen and fifty. Mata gave a short bow of respect to the herbalist Choa and addressed Kasa.
“Lo' Threa, the chief wishes to speak with you,” he said, rose color kissing his cheeks.
“Is that right, sweetie?” a sly smile crossed her lips. “Well, I best not keep the chief waiting. Thank you again, Choa,” she said, leaving a small ruby on the herbalist’s table.
Kasa followed Mata out of the hut and across the village square to the largest hut among them. Inside, she was lead to the center chamber where the chief held all-important ceremonies. Kasa entered the room and Mata closed it behind her. On the other side of the room sat Chief Mino' Toah and his wife, Finata. Kasa smiled as she removed her belts.
“I knew it would only be a matter of time when you two would want to share,” she smiled.
The chief gulped a breath of air and Finata looked away, blushing.
“Actually Lo' Threa, that is not why we called you here,” the chief said, waving his hands.
Kasa made a pouting face as she sat down on the comfortable furs on the floor across from them. “You got me all excited, too.”
Finata crossed her legs and squirmed a bit. Kasa admired her bare toes and licked her lips at the thought of them. The chief idly fanned himself.
“We are sorry, but it was brought to our attention that you have an ill friend,” Finata said
“Yes, my second mate was grievously injured during the altercation that stranded us here. She is healing well but has yet to wake and has not fully recovered. It is part of the reason I am here today.”
“Lo' Threa, you have given us Lothra many wondrous items and experiences in your time as part of our tribe,” the chief said. “We wish to return some of this kindness.”
“Well, that is what I was hoping for,” Kasa said coyly, unbuttoning her shirt.
“No, no, there is a rare herb on this island known to cure any sickness and heal all wounds, save death itself,” the chief blurted out.
Kasa stopped unbuttoning. “Go on.”
The chief looked over to Finata the priestess and nodded. The priestess rose and paced as she spoke. Kasa watched her steps like a cat in a windowsill.
“Once a year around this time the firehearts bloom. They are a fiery red and orange flower that grows on the lip of Fiern Mas, the great volcano at the center of this island. The journey to get them is not an easy one, as you must travel through some of the most dangerous parts of the island to reach Fiern Mas's base. There is also the Tein Tu.”
“What is a Tein Tu?” Kasa asked, breaking from her slight trance.
“We are not the only tribe on this island, Lo’ Threa. The Tein Tu are our enemies to the east. They are a people the size of your kind with the face of a toad. Many of the hunters call them toad-men.”
Kasa settled down on the soft furs, resting her head in her palm.“I take it the Tein Tu also go after the firehearts.”
“Yes, and they are better prepared for battle. They posses weapons scavenged from sea vessels that have crashed off our shores.”
“I see.” Kasa’s tail mindlessly swayed back and forth behind her. “If this flower is as powerful as you say it is, I have no choice but to pursue it. So, how do I get there?”
“Actually,” Chieftain Mino' Toah clapped his hands. “Broen, my eldest son, has requested to escort you. He has studied the way and it was his right to make the journey this year.“
Broen entered the room from another door. He was a good-looking mite and tall for his race, standing well over four feet. Kasa licked her lips remembering his tastes. He was a hunter and the definition of his muscle underneath his tanned skin showed it. The look in his hazel-colored eyes was serious, and his braided brown hair was drawn back into a warrior’s tail.
He walked before his parents and bowed, then he turned and bowed before Kasa.
“Lo' Threa, it is a pleasure to see you.” A flicker of desire could be seen in his eyes.
Kasa smiled and replied, “And you, Broen Toah. When do we leave?”
“Tonight, we must perform the rite of fire to be granted permission by the spirits of our ancestors to pursue the firehearts. Then at first light, we make the journey. You are free to pack whatever provisions you need, but I insist that you pack light. It is a long journey and we will be returning with the herbs if we are successful,” Broen explained.
“I understand. Then you wish for me to stay here tonight?”
“Yes, there will be a ceremony followed by a banquet.”
“Very well. I will have to return to my companion and ensure that she is well enough to leave her. I will return before nightfall.” Kasa stood with her shoulders hunched and bowed to the chief and his wife. “By the way, I am familiar with your marital customs and I have no intentions of accepting any drink from anyone tonight.” She winked at them all before exiting the hut.