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Avast! Masquerade < Book 1 >
W-where have you taken me?
Not far now, pet…...
You say he is alive…is he well?
Dear, dear, all in good time…
Please, won’t you tell me your name?
…..You know me…
No, I…..Wait, you can’t-!

Faiethsow Sea Precincts. Dawn.
"...I quest not for the Dread Pirate Mick, kin...."
Hand and hat glided off a snowy brow.
Pale lips lightly mouthed the words. Unveiled, Shadow swiveled about theatrically. Forest-misted hazel eyes trained ardently upon Haeil, framed by gold-streaked dun hair that alighted on a woman's slender shoulders.
"....For the Dread Pirate Mick, fiancée."
A rare band of bewilderment was scrawled across Haeil’s features. Clearly, the captain had not supposed her midnight ambush to reveal anything of the feminine realm. Deliberately, a pursed mouth parted, musty air rushing within as appropriate words were sought. In turn, Shadow remained statuary, a firm hand lighted suspiciously on what appeared to be a knife’s pommel, concealed where hat and scarf once rested.
The locked door rattled savagely. Twin oaths came from the cabin’s occupants, a captain’s gruff bark, the other a mystery’s husky murmur. Their last dredges of composure lost, Haeil scuttled over with brass key in hand, whilst her oppressive company hastily drew matted cloak over fair face and hair. Dawn's early light dusted a macabre painting, a nightmarish river of blood seeping from a stooped form, staining the captain's boots scarlet.
Master Cooper heavily raised a single finger to Haeil's lips. Gathering his breath, which was lapsing and rough, he beckoned the two come closer.
"I'm afeared there be no time Ma'am. The Windthief....she be under attack!"
Haeil seized his angular shoulders, her face and muscles strained.
"Yer blood....."
Alice chuckled darkly.
"The enemy's, Miss."
His torso wrenched upright, not a scar was born through the holes in his tattered apparel. A houndish yet silent growl came from the room's forgotten inhabitant. Shadow, now fully draped in her demonic attire, paced past the commanders. Haeil nodded frostily, and almost seamlessly brought to arms a sturdy crossbow strapped to her thigh.
"If ye can fight, then follow me"
She clasped the back of Alice's neck companionably and strode into the morn.
The dawn sky was consumed with hellfire. First light glowed burgundy on tumultuous waves, streaking the Windthief's hull with dark gore. Inhuman screams rent the roar of raging waters, accented by flash of flame. Through fire-and-brimstone reared an ebony mast, yellowed sails and a black hull accompanying it's towering spire. Haeil belted orders to her men, commanding the able-bodied to the fore and the maimed below deck.
Scorpaz, freed from her prison, stood amongst the fiercest. Clasped in her armored palms was a strong supply of throwing knives. As a throng of their adversary attempted to board the ship, she nimbly slew two men before their feet met the deck. Baring her teeth, she proceeded to fend off the remaining pair. Violently, the sea opened into a vast trough, both crafts pitching perilously. Scorpaz's opponents tumbled over the railing, clawing frantically at the soaked wood. Their screams, horrid and gurgling, rang endlessly until the trench of water swallowed their plummeting dive.
Alice himself assumed authority over the cannons and firearms. In the grisly midst of those nursing wounds and the dying, he posed imperiously in the gallery. A handful of those willing followed his direction, manning the ship's cast iron guns. Above his operation, Shadow peered through the chaos, avidly scanning the opposite vessel. Her other weapons of war ignored, she wielded a simple saber, a wire-thin scratch tracing its blade. Naught more than a minute tarried before she spied her target.
The single mast, unusual for a ship of such proportions, consisted of three lengthy yet substantial beams connected in the midsections by two round platforms. Approximately ten feet above the highest platform, an ominous figure clung to the slendering pole. Dark ruby velvet swathed hide clad shoulders, also of a rich russet colouring. Shadow's hazel eyes traveled through the billowing crimson furrows, meeting the strangest of curiosities. Stark white obscured the phantom's profile, a mask, fabricated eyes and lips painted lilac. Placidly, the humanoid being turned soulless eyes to engage Shadow's own equally passive gaze.
Her brows knitting gradually, she broke off to stride cross-deck, greeting Haeil on the starboard most side. The captain halted her commands, peering interrogatively at the dark interruption. Narrowed eyes followed a hand pointing laconically at the pinpoint form balanced amongst the smoke.
"The captain."
Haeil dipped her head in terse acknowledgement, exhaling softly.
"Of course..."
Her fingers fumbled at the leather warrior's sash tied at her waist, retrieving two small, dart-like bolts, each intricately hooked at the tips. Crossbow and ammunition in her arms, Haeil loped away from the thick of the fray. Dipping to one knee, she went to ready her weapon.
The grained floor beneath her patella reverberated, a deep vibrato possessing the ship's core. The thundering clap of cannon fire rapidly followed in pursuit, causing the captain to hurtle headlong into the railing. A single bolt jolted loose, rattling wickedly onto the scrubbed oak, before spiraling into abyss. Cursing vehemently, Haeil clasped the remaining bolt rigidly, cramming it into the secure track of the crossbow.
Agonized howling drew her attention. Her features tightened in horror as she surveyed her crew, contorting and writhing on the deck. Wails and accusations of sorcery and dark magic rendered those still free of injury mad with fear. Those distorted seemed to erupt with fire, flames licking their skin black. Scorpaz vaulted across the hysteria, coming to rest betwixt two human pyres. Her hands brazenly sought the heart of the blaze. Blistering, her long fingers found a svelte shaft driven deep between the shipmate's fourth and fifth rib. Prying tears of pain trickled down her taught cheeks as she tore at the projection. Broiled flesh ripping, the second half of a maple wood arrow jerked free.
Her fingers, palms, and wrists severely scalded, she hailed her captain. The arrow was flung, and Haeil, her hand carefully bound in the warrior's sash, lunged to seize it midair. Cobalt eyes squinting beneath auburn brows, she examined the armament. Nock to shaft was all but obliterated, embers still glowing in fletching's ruins. The make was utterly indistinguishable, yet at the head dripped a foul smelling, dark liquid. The captain sniffed, then tasted it, immediately expectorating.
"A fuel, of some kind....though its like I've never crossed."
Three more of her men were struck with the arrow, their screeches hellish and their torment eternal. The arrows' tips consumed, they dug viciously into the souls' chests, the flames devouring and incinerating their victims from the wound out. Teeth grating, Haeil blinked rapidly and again equipped her arms. Her eyes trained upon the crux of the plaguing archery, the florid rebel captain. The guiding cross, fixed upon the nose of the bow, routed her sight whilst she urgently calculated windage and the weapon's casting distance. Cocking the surviving bolt, her eyes met lilac plastered contrast.
All anarchy, every perishing life, the whole of the barbaric din, dissipated. The captain could only observe her counterpart's every shifting gesture. A lone lantern hung from the adversary's robes, into which was dipped an arrow, an arrow that dripped with dark fluid. Mirroring her movements, the figure, still swaying in the inferno that was the midmorn sky, cocked the flaming projectile. One, two, three heartbeats they each peered down the tillers of the others crossbow.
The whistle of a single shot whispered, half a breath later another one following suit.

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