My heart dropped. Pirates. Why must it always be bloody pirates? I swear the purpose of my life is to become a permanent black marketer in masquerade. I throw my hands in the air. The old woman laughed at my displeasure.
"Truly, Bellona? It has been moved into the possession of the northern ports pirates? Or are you simply having another bout of madness?" I cried.
The old seer watched me with her soft eyes. The wrinkles that lined her features spoke of better days before her coven abandoned her here. This ramshackle hut of a home. Located on the side of a cliff. Only a madwoman would live here. How unfortunate that Bellona is the only seer willing to help me on my search.
"Perhaps I am." She smiled whimsically. "The one thing you must learn to uphold will be that which you learn among those of less honor."
I stood staring at the jabbering old woman.
Bellona smiled blankly at the wall ahead of her. She began chanting, "You saw me where I never was and where I could not be. And yet within the very place, my face you often see."
"That is all good and well, but－" I attempted to interject, she merely continued over me.
"I am as a child, a lamb and simpleton at once. All are born in me, yet few possess me at their moment of death." She babbled.
Throwing my hands up again, I storm out of her crumbling shack. "How like a senile gypsy." I mutter to myself.
For nearly a year I had been chasing the damned compass across the country. It apparently was well liked by black market traders. Not that anyone on a pirates ship would know how to truly use it.
Huffing in exasperation at the journey ahead, I settle for taking my frustration out on my clothing; shoving it into my bag with a vengeance.
The blast of an incoming train ushered me to the station. I have waited far too long to get my hands back on the Compass of Portae, and I will not have this journey be a waste of my time once again.
A journey from Bellona's hut to the northern reaches took nearly two days, much of which I slept. Stretching my legs was both painful and relieving as I headed into town.
The sun was starting to set as I checked into a small inn that doubled as a bar. Tossing my bag into the small, dingy room, I head back down to get the hot stew that had been making me salivate a block away.
Thumping down on a bar stool, I dig my chunk of bread into the stew. Ignoring the stares trying to shame me for eating in an unladylike fashion, I quickly finish and order a second.
As my second helping arrives, so does a man in a tattered brown cloak. Hood pulled low, he mutters to a bartender whose eyes narrow. Waving the man toward the back, the bartender quickly turns back to washing cups, keeping his eyes down.
Glancing around, I notice how all the others seated kept their eyes down as well. Sopping up the last traces of stew, I pondered on the way the cloaked man was holding himself. Slumped, obviously trying to be inconspicuous, yet failing miserably. His build even under a cloak did not seem to be made for fighting. Perhaps a fisherman. The way the people avoided looking at him. Criminal. But not one they would oppose.
In one of the booths against the wall were two constables. Even they kept their heads down. I scowled at their backs. The bloody cowards. It was no surprise that the northern port was over run by pirates with so-called protectors of the peace of that like.
"Ah." I said, realization hitting. Slipping farther down the bar bench until I am in front of the young bartender, I gave him a sweet smile.
I asked, "Who was that cloaked figure?" The young man nearly dropped the glass he was whipping dry.
Lowering his voice in a harsh whisper, he leaned toward me. "Miss, if you know what be good for you, don't be askin' questions the likes of that. Not about him. Get yourself killed in a place like this." His eyes were wide.
"Is there a door to the back room from outside?" I inquired. But the bartender ducked his head back toward the cups, refusing to speak again.
I watched him for a long moment. Seems I will get nothing from this bloke. So I turned my attention to three men seated a few feet from the entrance of the stalk room.
Jerking an unused chair out from the table I plunked down. The three men gave me odd looks. One started to ask me something, but quieted as the cloaked man walked past. Two sacks thrown over his shoulders. Frowning, I watched him head back out into the streets.
I glanced around at the people whose table I hijacked.
"Are there no back doors to bars in this town?" I asked. They looked confused. One answered nonetheless.
"No back door prevents thievery 'round these parts." the man said.
"Hm." I mused. Standing to follow the pirate, the man who had spoke grabbed my arm. I looked down at him.
"Miss, I don't know why you'd want to follow a bad fellow the likes of that. I'll not be the first to advise against it." He said.
I tilted my head innocently. "What is his type, sir?" I asked. The mans eyes shift nervously from my face to his fingers twisting themselves into knots. One of the others lifted his chin.
"Bloody pirates. They come into town every few months for some good eats. Threatenin' the bar owners into free supplies every so often. Not even our law keepers bother to defy the barbarians." The man explained with a venom.
Once a month. This is a chance I cannot wait to come around again.
"Really, lass. Don't be followin' him. You will be spirited away." he warned.
I smiled darkly. "This ain't the first time I'd be dealin' with this like." I said, trying the strange accent. I would be needing it soon.
During daylight the docks would normally be buzzing, but at night everyone retired to their homes.
The cloaked pirate reached the edge of the docking area, still glancing over his shoulder every few minutes. He was perceptive, I will give him that. Or it might have just been paranoia.
Slipping through the shadows toward him I withdrew a needle out of my dress folds. Pulling the cap off and replacing the empty vial with a full one, I get within two arms lengths. He spun around, lashing out with the food bags as if they were the swords that hung at his belt instead.
I grunted as the sack slammed my stomach. Not a great place to be hit after such a large meal.
"Who be there?" He snarled. "You've been followin' since the Iron Lion! What'd you want with me?"
Trying to keep my dinner down, I grumble to him. "That was a very rude way to introduce yourself."
He stepped toward me, face still shadowed beneath the dark hood. "I'd care less about introductions and more 'bout who you think yo'er followin', wench."
I tried to take a slow step forward, but he began to drop the sacks. Reaching for his sword.
I lunge forward, grabbing hood and hair in one hand. Swiftly stabbing the needle into his neck with the other. He drew his sword, the hilt slamming me once again in the gut.
"Lord!" I exclaimed, holding my middle. "What is with you hitting peoples center? That is really rather uncivilized."
I doubt he really heard me. By the time I straightened my crumpled blouse, he was sprawled on the ground, twitching fingers around his neck. Glancing around to check for passersby, I crouched down next to the fading man. There was no way I would pity this man or feel any guilt for releasing him from this life.
"So you are a pirate, no?" I place a hand on his forehead. His thoughts shift to his crew upon my words.
"Absorbet Memoria." I said.
His body seized up against my power that ripped through his mind, stealing all memories relevant to his life as a pirate. His name was Everett Nightshade. Cook for the northern pirates. Better known simply as The Cook. Vile man like the rest graced with the life of a murderer.
He didn't move again.
I felt light headed, but brushed it off. I wasn't done.
Standing as the world spun, I raised my arms out over the dead pirate. "Mutatio...mutatio...mutatio..." I repeat, feeling the magic flow through my limbs. The shift is gradual. The feeling is like a fine silk slipping over my entire body as the spell does its work. Soon I stand no longer as myself to onlookers, but as Everette Nightshade. It may be a mere illusion, but it would suffice as long as touch is avoided.
Capping the needle and tucking it back away, I muse at the best way to be rid of the dead man. The quickest solution would be to drag him into the water, but near the docks he would be too easily found.
Shifting through The Cooks memories I find he has a small row boat docked farther down. I sigh. Exhausted as I am, I must now drag dead weight down the long walk, into a boat, dump him, and walk into a den of pirates who are likely to rip me apart if they discover an impostor in their midst.
Cursing myself for ever loosing the damned compass in the first place, I glance around to be sure there is no one. Looking at the food bags with detest, I mutter one more spell as to not be troubled with a second trip. Gripping The Cook under his arms, I began the long trudge down the walk.
I must admit I was more than glad I had no audience. I have done many humiliating things on my searches, but wrestling a corpse into a row boat has to be among the top on my list.
Once I was far enough out, I dumped the body, hoping the tide would carry him far before he were to wash up. The main ship was hidden in a large cove about a mile south of the town they raid.
I made my way into the belly of the cove a shout went up. Two ropes with hooks dropped toward the water. For drawing the small boat up, came the whisper of The Cooks memories.
Slipping the hooks through the iron rings at each end, I gave a tug to one. Beginning to rise through the air causes my stomach to lurch. Both in surprise and nerves. What have I gotten myself into this time?
At the top I am greeted by a ragtag group of dirty men. Shredded clothes from battle and grubby from far too few baths. Some stained with crimson spots. More than less had teeth missing and matted hair. I cringed under my disguise.
"Hey ho, Nightshade! What be for dinner tonight?" A large man with a wildly tangled beard bellowed. Howard Denholm, Captain of the northern pirates.
Feeling sick for many reasons, I let The Cook take control.
"It'd be stew and rice tonigh'! A feast whiles we be here!" I cheered. What a strange feeling, taking back seat in your own body. Voice tones are easy to mask into another, but I would certainly need to use caution.
A wild echo was followed by the gathered men.
My fingers ached from all the chopping and stirring of the sludge the fools considered stew. The stuff from the Iron Lion was much more suited to my taste. I have come to the conclusion that I would die if my life depended on my skills in the culinary arts. I groan. It does really.
The pirates had broken out the rum bottles half way through the meal. I had been forced to take a swig, and must I say it was more fowl than the sludge stew.
Washing every last tin bowl grated my nerves more than anything yet today. It is fulfilling in an odd way once done though. All the work is done, so I set to wandering the underbelly of the ship. It is a tad finer than I had seen other pirates in possession of before. Odd, but I am not here to solve the mystery of nicely polished wood floors.
I find the canon ports. An abundance of swords, daggers, bombs, and many other types of weapons line the walls and shelves. Such a range is extraordinaire. Weapons from all regains of the country, and from others.
I go to move closer to examine a rather beautiful pistol, but someone chose that time to fly through the canon port and use me to break their landing.
Shocked, I look up at the face above mine. A young man with black hair shook his head above me. I nearly scoffed. He was not the one that hit the deck so hard. He did not appear to be much older than I.
Finally finding his vision clearing, he gazed down at me. Those eyes froze me to the spot. Amber iris' watched me. Saw through me.
Corin Law. Don't look much, but one of the most skilled on this here ship. Been here two months. The Cook commented.
A new recruit. Oh, why did someone like this have to be part of this crew? I am exposed already. The amber eyes are possessed by few. I have heard legends of those with the such eyes being famed hunters. They can see through magic. Many have tried to create contacts in an attempt to simulate them. Though that science generally failed. Of all places, I encounter one here.
Corin pushed himself up and offered me a hand. Seeing no point in denying it since I am exposed, I take it. Wary of what he might do, I took a few steps away. Yet he merely watched me, then picked up the pistol I had been about to reach for.
He turned it over a few times to examine it for himself.
"Beauty, ain't it?" He said. "No one has claimed it yet. May as well be yours. Mind tricks will only get you so far here." He offered the pistol to me. I hesitantly took it, unsure of his motives.
Corin arched an eyebrow at me. "I won't expose you to the others, Enchantress." He said. "I have my reasons for being here as well. I will not interfere with yours. Although, if you want a partner in crime I'm always willing. I help you help me."
I had to steady myself against the wall. This man was stranger than any I had met before. Perhaps he was telling me this to gain trust. I would not be so stubborn to refuse a mutually beneficial deal. Or perhaps this was simply blackmail.
The thump of heavy boots on the stairs leading toward us ceased our exchange. I gave him a quick nod, and said. "Where should we agree upon the terms?"
He gave a charming smile. I found myself glowering back at him in response. I had always hated the charming types. They have a way of getting everything they want.
"Midnight." Corin said. He tilted his head toward the canon port he had appeared through. "In the cliff side there is a crag. In the back of it there is a tunnel. Follow it until you reach lights." With that he swiftly turned toward the sound of foot steps and greeted his fellow pirate.
I took off the other way.
The hammock room was a few dozen paces down. As I am about to open the door, flew toward my face of its own accord. Heywood Firion, the Quartermaster, bellows a grainy laugh at my expression. "Best be gettin' some shut eye, eh? Up brigh' an early for The Cook!" His chipped and stained teeth grinned darkly in the lamp light.
Failing to keep annoyance from twisting my illusions face, I muttered, "That I do." Trying to dodge past the Quartermaster proved to not be possible without colliding with his shoulder. Big structure and enough belly to suffocate a person in was an understatement. A metallic clang behind me makes me jump. Instead of investigating, I scurry to the darkest corner I can find and ball up.
I pray that I wake before midnight. Corin could prove very useful to my search.
A few hours later I find myself back at the canon port. I slipped through and found myself clinging finger and toe to stay locked against the ship. Turning around to face the waves is a tortuously slow process. With the hard part over, I commenced with the hardest.
A small row boat bumped against the ship on the rolling surface directly below me. Swallowing hard, I stepped off my perch and dropped like a stone. The scream I tried to choke back came out as a sharp puff of air when I slammed into the boat. My shoulders hit the bench bruisingly hard while my legs crumpled like paper.
"Ouch." I groaned, untangling myself rather ungracefully. Above, Corin had arrived in time to witness my humiliation. He was failing to mask his amusement at my tumble as he dropped in like it was second nature.
I shot him a dirty look. Show off.
I was about to give him a snarky comment, but he shushed me and started rowing. The only light was the moon playing hide-and-seek behind the silver clouds. The cove itself was almost a full circle were it not for the opening to the sea. Sharp winds cut through the fabric of our clothes easily, prickling our skin.
Once on shore we had to lift the boat up and take it higher to hide in the bushes. So that the night watch would not see and become suspicious.
The crag, like he said, opened in the back to an extremely narrow and darker than black tunnel. I eyed it as he ducked in. Just inside the entrance and he completely vanished. A hand shot out and yanked me into the dark.
Feeling my way along every sharp, slimy rock seemed to take eons. After a good hour of walking a dim light began to show around a corner. I gasped in relief. Bursting out onto the ledge to stretch felt amazing after the cramped area.
"Thought we would never get out." I said, turning to look at Corin. He smiled at me in amusement.
"It only took ten minutes." He said. I gape.
"How on earth was that ten minutes?" I cried. "It felt like years!"
Turning toward the edge of the shelf, he jerked his chin toward it. "Come."
Curious, I wandered forward. The ledge ended in a jagged decent into a pit. Small fire pits had been set up around the bottom. Around each huddled groups of feminine figures.
Slaves from all over the country, sneered The Cooks voice. It felt slimy as it slithered through my mind. This was such an invasive spell. We sell them to the highest bidder, but not before－I clamped down on the voice, abruptly silencing it. I did not want to know details.
Corin gazed down at the women. Pointing to one of the groups nearest our position, he said, "The little red head there is my little sister, Isemay." The frizzy red hair seemed to be gold against the firelight. Her facial features were hard to make out in the shadows and at our distance.
"Where are you two from?" I asked somberly.
"A small village a few miles south." Corin answered. "I was a constable who was investigating a string of missing women there. It was strictly professional. Until my sister went missing in the same manner as the others. The people I worked for decided we needed someone on the inside to investigate and free them if possible. I jumped at the chance when presented." He lowered himself onto the edge, slumping forward as he continued. "Though my way of entry into the pirates ranks..."
I was silent. Whatever Corin had been forced to do for the sake of his cover was not something I had a right to know. Lowering myself onto the ledge, I inquired, "What have you found? Any ideas who the buyer might be at least?"
He nodded. All the muscles in his face drawn taunt. "Lord Wymar." He said.
My own body tensed at the answer. A dirty Lord in business with the same pirates that raid ships entering his city. Most likely the stolen goods from the attacked ships was the way Lord Wymar payed for whatever women he wanted from them. I felt woozy.
"Do you have any sort of escape plan?" I asked. He shook his head, looking at a loss.
"I need others help. None of the constables here will. They fear the pirates and their Lord too much to move against them." He scoffed. The corners of my lips twitched into a smile. Good to know we are of like minds on that.
"As for me," I said. "I am looking for something. A small compass on a thick gold chain. It should have an inscription along the outer rim that says Compass of Portae."
If it were not attached, Corin might have had his head fly off at the speed he snapped to face me. "What would you want with that?" He asked, suspicion lacing his voice.
For some reason I felt a twinge of guilt. Angerly brushing it aside, I retort, "I believe you said you did not care what my reasons for being here are."
He narrowed his amber eyes at me. "That thing is dangerous in the hands of a Being. I need to know for the safety of others." Corin stated darkly. "If you won't tell me, I won't help you."
I nonchalantly examined my nails. I said, "Then you most likely will not save Isemay in time." A calculating expression wandered over him for a few heart beats.
Corin sighed deeply. "Alright. I won't question until the deal is fulfilled."
"Good." I said. "I just need you to take me to where they stash their stolen goods."
Watching me closely, he stood and extended a hand once again. When I was on my feet again, he did not release my hand, but gave it a sharp shake and a nod. Our deal was sealed.
A few days passed as I gathered supplies for a special meal. I fried thick slabs of beef covered in gravy. But I added a few dabs of valerian and passion flower, masked by the thick sauce and rum for drink. I would have to make sure to warn Corin before hand. It also helped that he was a rather to himself type around these men. Not that I do not blame him, I am avoiding it as well.
Most of the pirates in the days past had childishly insulted me at my distaste for rum. The Cook kept grumbling in my head about how much he loved the foul drink. Apparently he was one of the heaviest drinkers. I had played with illusions to make my act a touch more believable, but more than my dislike for it, I needed a clear head.
Someone had been watching. Every time my back was turned I could feel a presence analyzing my every move. It was becoming unnerving. But even more dangerous.
Every night Corin and I went to the caves to scheme plans. Finally one would be carried out.
But as I was half way through preparing the meal, a shout went up from the nest.
Captain Denholm was already at the edge of the ship with a telescope to his dark eye. A savage gleam captured him. He turned to yell at the men on deck.
"Get ye arms ready! We be capturin' that one tonigh'!" The rest of his orders brought us out of the cove and racing over the rough waters toward the other ship. The flag on the other ship boasted its bright red and gold colors around the Lord of this areas symbol, a griffin. Lord Wymar's cargo ship just sat there like an offering.
The weight of the beautiful pistol and bullets in my holster suddenly felt more than heavy. Looking around at these people controlling the boat, every one of them looks like a predator. This would be a test to the invisible gaze that was following me.
I am used to killing. But only the dirty ones I hold no empathy for. Innocent sailors who were being sold out by their own people? That makes me want to after Lord Wymar. My thoughts surprise me as I have been single minded for the last year. I can not even remember the last time I honestly helped someone. The anger burns through me.
It is his fault, I thought. I have to hurt these people because of him.
Slimy film slid over my mind, hazing it until I was watching through a veil.
I'll be takin' over from 'ere, girly, The Cook breathed. Breath. My breath. Panicked, I jerk back on what control I have over his memories. Nothing. Fight it, fight it, fight it! Nothing I did could draw him back. The Cook was in full control of my body. The Cook slipped into my limbs like a soul to a doll.
The pirates were all snarling out battle cries, swinging across the drop into water on ropes while the others dropped the plank between the ships.
A pirate next to me flopped to the deck, a hole ripped through his shoulder. From the nest of the other ship a man in uniform took aim again, this time at me. But The Cook cackled and took a charging leap at the plank, across in two bounds.
My body jerked this way and that on its own. The Cook drew the sward from my belt in one hand, slashing away at fearful sailors and shooting at the soldiers who were protecting the cargo.
Suspicions confirmed. Quite few soldiers were present since the many raids that had happened over the years. None of them had pistols, just the rifle in the nest. Swords and daggers were too easy for these barbarians to overcome.
If it were possible to close my eyes to what I was doing, I would have. The Cook, I scoffed to him. The Butcher is a better suited name.
The way he tore through the men was gut wrenching to see as the one carrying out the action.
Captain Denholm was hardly one to sit back and command. Welding two blades he cut through the sailors like a devil. The Cook cackled through my head. That be why they call 'im Reaper. My body seized as The Cook lunged into action again.
Fear shown in the sailors eyes, down to their cores. After a few minutes, the majority of the crew lay motionless. I grimaced as The Cook slipped on the decks surface.
The few sailors that remained shook with naked terror as Captain Denholm walked their line and back, grinning like a mad man. The Cook released his grip. It took all I had not to pitch forward onto the grimy deck.
"You be the smart ones, ye hear? Or you might just be cowards. Either way, you'll be headin' back to give Lord Wymar a message for me." The Captain boomed. The pirates laughed. "We want to thank him for his generosity tonigh'. Boys! Load 'er up!"
The second in command, Shadow, shoves me from behind. Ten or more of us head below deck. Blood drains from my face as each man begins to lug the giant crates up the stairs alone.
There is no way I am strong enough to do that! I mentally cried. Not without a spell at least.
I bend as if to pick up a crate. Glancing from side to side, I bowed my head and whispered, "Surgere...surgere..." It began to rise.
Beside me, Corin ducked down to take a crate. Those unnerving amber eyes analyzing my magic.
Moving all the Lords cargo took but a quarter hour. Double that to reach the cove again.
Worn to the bone from my puppet fighting, the last thing I wanted to do was cook and then be out all night. Corin sat with me as I drugged the pirates meal. I handed him a vial with green liquid in it.
He squinted at it. "What is this?"
"It will help us stay awake." I answer tiredly. Making a face, he downed half in a gulp before handing it back. Taking a swallow, I my lips twisted. It really was awful even if the effects were desirable.
Even before the food was presented the pirates broke out the rum to celebrate their raid. I was more than happy to take a few swigs myself at that point.
The herbs went into effect quite fast. I assume it was from many factors aside from my intentions that put them out.
Corin and I made our way to the usual canon port and dropped into the boat.
It took longer than I expected to reach the cave where the pirates stashes of junk were kept. My nose wrinkled in disgust at the smell. "Did someone leave a sack of meat to rot? What a horrible stench." I stated. Corin seems just as disgusted as I. Bending to examine something, he flicked at a bottle along a rocky shelf.
"I think it would be this." He said.
Holding up the bottle to show a mangle of browning...flesh? I cover my mouth and nose with a sleeve.
"Pirates are notorious for being unclean, but this must be simply a twisted hobby." I said, pressing as far away as possible.
"These would have been perfectly harvested organs to be sold." Corin explained. "But I have been doing bits of sabotage wherever I can. Didn't realize it would give off such an obvious smell."
Looking around, the cave was vast compared to the others one would typically find along a sea cliff. The many different objects scattered all over showed little to no organization. I prayed I could find it in the time we had.
"So. Lets get started."I sighed. Corin seemed to despise the idea of shifting through the junkyard as much as I did, but we started anyway.
Many of the items were coated with salt and a fishy smell. I was not sure how they intended to sell much of this stuff when it smelled like it had been stored with fish for a year.
I could feel my blood starting to boil as the minutes ticked past. We had scanned nearly every inch of the cavern in the last few hours. The piles of junk could not have hidden the compass from me this long. I would have been able to sense the energy if I had gotten close enough.
Groaning loudly, I slump back against a rock. "It is gone." I said, staring blankly at the ceiling. "The brutes must have sold it before I got here."
Corin gazed at me silently. A nearly palpable tension seemed to dissipate from the area. I already knew he had not wanted me to find the compass to begin with, yet I still felt somewhat betrayed by his mistrust.
I said, "I am going to take a breather. Being in a cave for too long drives me mad."
Making my way out onto the beach, I kick a pile of sand. Childish, yet made me feel oddly better. I stroll for a few minutes. A light breeze caressed my cheeks, as if trying to console me. I had not had anyone to comfort me in a long time now. Only my brother and I had been there for one another.
Lost in thought, I almost missed it. A row boat sat in the rolling waves. It was most certainly not ours.
A shush of sand underfoot alerted me to another. Listening closely to their approach, I ready myself to attack. I lash out, trying to kick the person. They snatched my ankle, giving it a good shove back toward me and I end up on my back. The figure swung his leg over my waist, locking me in place. Hands snake over my throat. Squirming does nothing. Prying at his fingers only proves the phrase "an iron grip" is quite real. The edges of my vision begin to darken. But not before I see my attackers face.
Shadow. Second in command.
By the time I slip back into the world of the awake, my arms and legs are bound by prickly rope. I am back in the loot cave. A shiver wracks through me.
A soft rubbing sounded from a few feet away. I find Corin, tied in the same manner as I.
"Any idea what time it might be?" I asked. He just shook his head, working away at the bindings against a jagged rock.
"Your illusion has been dropped." He stated rather blandly. I almost smiled. It felt amazing to be free of the tight silk dress feel. But that was short lived. Trying to move my arms independent of one another was impossible.
In no time at all, Captain Denholm and Shadow entered the cave.
"Well, well." the Captain began. "We've been expectin' to find ye to be a traitor, Law. Now we's know what ye want. But the witch came as a surprise." He stopped in front of me and crouched down. I stared back at him. Thinks he is so intimidating.
The Captain tilted his head, giving a gap toothed grin. "Ye were looking for this, weren't ye?" He dangled a thick gold chain from his large hand. A small compass hung from the end.
My heart leaps at the sight. My hands twitched in their binding, such a need to reach out and grab it at last. The Captain snatched it back into a pocket.
"Ye see, we don't call the man 'Shadow' for notin'." He said. "The Quartermaster found this key." He held up the key that belonged to the Iron Lion inn. "Must have lost it in ye'er hurry past 'im. Sent Shadow to check it. He found the key's room was under a the name of a woman. An icy woman, an' a witch."
Standing, the Captain motioned toward Shadow, who promptly held up an jeweled dagger with a wickedly curved blade. "The Cook loved the sight of blood on gemstones. 'Tis quite striking. The man never left it off his person. An' since he came back from the last food stock, he's never had it. I'd be guessing he's dead?"
"Yes." I stated.
"Ah, thats what I though," He shook his head almost sadly.
The hit came fast and hard, knocking me back against the rock wall. Black spots blotched out my vision for a long moment. When my ears stopped ringing, I could hear the Captain giving a similar speech to Corin. My cheekbone throbbed with every heart beat. Throbbing, yet numb enough to not feel if he had broken skin or not.
The Captain sneered at Corin and I. "I'll be making a spectacle of ye two for my men. So's they know what happens to anyone who tries stealin' from me!" He ran his eyes over me. "Ye're a fine woman, mayhap the bastards would enjoy ye." Even Shadow smirked at that.
I would like to think of myself as steeled against such comments, yet it still sent shivers crawling across my skin like a dozen spiders.
We were shoved into the boat they had brought to shore. Corin had stoned his entire body. No doubt thinking of a way to escape. The remainder of night had passed. In the brilliant colors of the rising sun, the silhouettes of other row boats heading to and from the ship were easy to spot.
"What are they doing?" Corin demanded.
"We decided to go ahead with our sale." the Captain said. "The little redhead is yer kin, no?"
Horror ripped away what self control and fear had been holding him still. He lunged at the Captain. I honestly do not know what he thought he could do with his hands bound.
They dragged Corin onto the ship, writhing all the way. All attention was on him for the time being. This may not be the plan we had decided upon, but there was no way to execute it now. Time to act an instinct or we would both die.
I took a deep breath, gathering the needed energy, and began to chant.
"Fasino, fasino, fasino..."
The effect is instant. All the pirates on the ship become blank eyed. Puppets ready to have their strings pulled. I turn to the closest man with a blade and conduct him to cut both Corin and I from our bonds. Once free, I reach into the Captains coat and take the compass. The weight of the chain around my neck once again felt so good. I tuck it inside my blouse, ignoring the panicked chatter of the women.
My body pulses, my head spun. Time was almost up. Too many to enchant at once for very long.
"Corin." I said as loudly as I could manage. He was already busy ushering ten or so women down the latter we had come up. He looked up. "Start slashing them. I will be loosing hold in less than a minute."
Snatching a fallen sword, he set to work. Not quickly enough. The magic slipped and the mens eyes cleared. I ground my teeth as my limbs failed me.
"Quite the spell, witch.' Shadow growled, finally showing emotion as his face contorted. He advanced on me, black cape blowing, pistol cocked.
Fear squeezed my stomach, coiled my muscles. I pushed against the deck as hard as my state allowed, ramming myself into his chest and snatching the pistol. I spun to face him as the world tilted. Crack! The gunpowder exploded as the bullet slipped out, finding a place to rest in the second in commands neck.
Trying my best to ignore the spilling blood, I pull his belt off and slip it over my hips. I load the pistol back to full. The sight behind me is not what I expected.
In the time I had enchanted the pirates, Corin was not the only one who had snatched a weapon. The women who realized they would not escape in time decided to fight for themselves. Needless to say, many already lay hollow eyed underfoot for their bravery. My heart clinched. I said a quick word of parting. "Requiescant in pace."
Despite my slug state, I managed to shoot down quite a few other pirates that advance on me. I turn my aim on Captain Denholm across the deck. There were far too many women between myself and the monster. I could not risk hitting one of them instead.
Vision blurring, I come far too close to fainting on a battle field. In my moment of disorientation, a brutish man took the chance to slice at my pistol arm. I scream as pain blossoms across my bicep. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him raise his sword again.
This time he screamed. I looked back, a cloudy figure stood with a bloodied sword. Blonde hair billowed around her in a halo. She dropped down beside me. Slicing off a strip of her dress, she knotted it tightly around my arm in a makeshift tourniquet. I dropped the pistol, now just useless weight to me.
"Come on, up, up." She coaxed, dragging me to my feet. Leaning heavily against the woman, I spot Corin and his sister on the upper deck.
Next to her brother, Isemay shot off a surprisingly well aimed round. She was a pretty girl and seemed quite intelligent. The horror or the battlefield reflected in the young girls eyes.
Stepping away from his sister for a moment to shove a man off, Corin opened the area around her. One shot seemed to echo louder than any others at that second. A well aimed bullet found Isemay.
Behind the smoking pistol was the sinister grin of Captain Denholm. He roared his victory. Too soon. Corin was on him like a madman, his amber eyes swirling in pure hatred for the man. Hacking with a sword would not do much to harm the monster of a man that lead this group of barbarians.
Corin spun out of the way again and again when he could not block the attacks. I could only watch as what energy I had left tried to escape me. But the anger Corin felt now was shared between us. At the pirates, at ourselves for not being stronger. For the unfortunate events that lead us to our present.
I turn to the woman supporting me. "What is your name?" She looked at me as if I were utterly mad for asking at that moment. Perhaps I was. She answered nonetheless.
"Jaketta. Could you manage to get me closer to the Captain?" I asked. She seemed hesitant to go anywhere near him, yet she pushed her way through the crowd of blades and fire, lugging me with her.
Corin had managed to slash at Captain Denholm a few times, getting good slices in him. But he was knocked back. He tripped over a fallen girl. The Captain grinned in his craze, bringing his swords up in an arch.
Captain Denholm froze mid strike. Corin did not hesitate.
I did not see him take his vengeance. I had already slipped into comatose.
To my surprise, the first thing I see upon waking is Corin hovering above me. I am back in my room at the Iron Lion. Trying to sit up is exhausting and painful. The tear in my side is still new, and sends a jolt through me at every move.
Once I am up, I gazed at Corin. He is still in his sliced clothing, his own wounds bound in the same soft white bandage as mine. A few bruises mare his sharp jaw, blood spiking his dark hair. I noticed the red rims of his eyes more than anything. Isemay was gone. He had a right to cry for his fallen.
"Did you kill him?" I asked. Corin watched me blankly, giving but a sharp nod. "Good. I only regret that I did not see it for myself. How are the women who escaped?"
He tried to smile at me, but only seemed more depressed at the attempt. "They are all alright. The ones who escaped."
For a long while we sat in the sorrowful silence of the room. He had succeeded in his mission to free the women. Yet who would be joyful when it had come at the price of kin? The quiet slowly started to eat at me. Too much time to think can be poisonous. I threw out the first thing to come to mind.
"I do not think I ever told you," I said. "but my name is Hazel." I tried to smile. He glanced up and gave another try at cheerfulness. We both failed rather horribly. The quiet continues again.
Perhaps I should just tell him why I needed the compass. After all, it could benefit him as well now. I take a deep breath. I would need all my courage to speak of him after so long.
"My brother." I said quietly. "I lost my brother too." I remain staring at my interlaced fingers. "That is the reason I wanted to find the Compass of Portae once again. It had been a family heirloom long ago." I choke out a laugh.
Corin is watching me, I can feel it. I refuse to look at him.
"I tried to use the aid of a necromancer to bring him back. It failed so badly. A body without a soul is just...it is nothing." I said. I finally look at Corin. The same grief I had worn when I found my brother mirrored what I had felt at that moment. Desperation that would push me to go to any extent to have my only family back.
"What if I told you, I could bring Isemay back?" I asked.
A few weeks later, Corin and I stood at the edge of the former pirates cove. People from the town had cleaned up the carnage of the area, yet the presence of death itself was still strongest here over anywhere else.
Lifting the heavy gold chain from around my neck, I hold the compass out in front of us.
I said softly, "Mortem." then threw the compass into the air. A surge of magic unlike any I have felt before explodes in the space below us.
Turning to Corin one last time, I asked, "Are you honestly ready? Another dimension will be unpredictable. Especially the death one." He looked at me with his steady amber eyes.
I nodded and grasped his hand.
Together, we stepped into the air and quickly fall into darkness.
Phew! Wow, this took a while. Thanks for reading ^~^ give me some good feed back if you can, it is always welcome with me! I hope you liked it. Here is a list of "spells" Hazel used in the story, all in Latin. Got the translations from google trans, so not 100% sure if these are completely accurate.
Compass of Portae (Compass of the Gate)
Absorbeta Memoria (Absorb the Memory)
Requiescant in pace (Rest in peace)