John and the Search for the Treasure of Billy the One Eyed doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Oh well, here we begin the search for the lost wealth of the equally lost raider... assuming John's magic can secure safe passage for the Red Witch.
John blinked his eyes open and stared at the underside of the deck boards above him. He lay still a moment, surprised at his near instant transition from sleep to wakefulness. He'd had a late night too, and now there was enough light below decks to tell him the sun was up.
He shifted in his hammock and swung his feet out before sitting up. Everything seemed like it should, but he couldn't help but feel there was something... What had he been doing last night after he talked to Zynga on the deck?
Mistress! He'd spoken to her again.. or had that been a dream? No, it was real. The more he thought the more he remembered. Every word she'd spoken, in fact. And she'd ended it by letting him taste her finger. Smoky and spicy and utterly amazing. Just the memory of it had his blood rushing all over again.
John gasped. He'd remembered that too! She'd made him... well... he imagined his robe must be quite a mess! He glanced around and then tugged it up so he could see what he had to—
"Nothing?" he asked.
John pulled his robe up further and shifted to see better in what little light filtered down from above. Still, there was no sign of a mess. No dried skin or crusted flakes. His hair wasn't clumped together and his robe was stained.
He shook his head and rose. He hadn't dreamed it. He'd communed with Mistress and she'd been pleased with him. She'd blessed him with a release that was unlike any he'd had with any normal woman... Perhaps this was another example of how she was different from mortal women?
John jerked his head up and dropped his robe.
"What are you doing there?" Little Red asked as she walked toward him from the stairs. "Need a little something to get you up this morning?"
John blushed and shook his head. "Ah, no, just... strange dreams."
"Mmm," she hummed as she moved to stand in front of him. She took his hands in hers and pulled him to his feet. "My dreams are of you and there's nothing strange about them."
"Well, now that you mention it..."
"No time," Little Red said and gave him a quick peck on the lips before she realized what she'd done. She glanced about to make sure none of the sailors that were off duty were watching. "Captain says you're to join her on the fo'c'sle."
"Are we there?"
"Aye, and they're as pretty and wild as you can imagine."
John chuckled. "I don't know, I've seen some pretty and wild things before."
Little's Red's eyes gleamed while her cheeks flushed. "Stop you, or we'll be late and Red will have both our hides!"
John chuckled and let her lead him up to the main deck and then onto the Fo'c'sle. Steff was there with Red. Off the starboard bow was a large island with a bay nearly as wide as the one Widows' Edge rested in. There were no cliffs on the island though, just some hills that rose into the distance beyond the long grasses of each peninsula.
Off the port and straight ahead were more islands. They were smaller then the first and less diverse, with little more than a few hills covered in grass and a few palm trees. The bow ward island was barely above the water and seemed a mix of sand and grasses.
"Pretty," John said after taking in the sights. "No place to build a camp or hide a ship though."
"Horseshoe Island here has hosted a few camps," Red said while pointing at the island on the starboard side. "Nobody lasts long though, not enough cover when storms come through and they've got no fresh water."
John's eyebrows went up as he turned to look at her.
"What?" she snapped.
"Told you she's been reading into One Eyed Billy for years and years," Little Red teased.
"Shut your mouth," Red snapped at her.
"There's more islands then?" John asked.
"Yes, many more. Another nine," Red said. "There might be a cove between the two islands off our port side though, I've always wondered."
John peered across the water. "There's two islands there? I thought it was just one with an inlet."
"There's a channel between them," she confirmed. "Narrow and probably full of rocks."
"Nine more islands?" John asked.
"He raided and then protected the villages and cities along the coast?"
"Aye, what's your thoughts?"
"There's no fog," John said.
"Water had a mist to it earlier, but you slept through it."
He winced. "Right, well, it's gone now so that's hardly enough to drive away a determined treasure hunter."
She sniffed and scanned the horizon again. She nodded at the hazy outline of islands further away. "Sale on then?" she asked. "There's a few more near ahead, smaller bumps of land above high tide and then some islands large enough to get lost on."
"That's it then," he said. "But let's keep an eye out in any case. No telling what we might miss."
Red eyed him. "This your way of not working the rigging or sails?"
John chuckled. "Would that it were so simple."
She sniffed again and nodded to Steff. "Let Sasha know. We sail between the Isles. Northeasterly, with the wind to aid us."
"Aye, Captain," Steff said and turned to hurry across the deck. She yelled out to the crew as she passed telling them be ready at their posts.
"I've never been this close before," Little Red whispered as the sails were raised and wind filled them. "It's exciting!"
"Everyone sails around them, mostly," Red explained when John gave them a confused look. "Some will risk a close pass or even landing at the outer islands. Few risk the inner islands though. Some never come back and there's rumors a plenty of sunken ships or those run aground."
John frowned. "If there's sunken ships, how are we supposed to know which is Billy's?"
"That's where you earn your share," she said.
"I thought I earned my share working the ship?"
"Aye, but then you fucked my sister and my second mate on my time, not theirs," Red said. "That put you in the hole again."
"Put him in a few holes," Little Red quipped.
Red shook her head and turned on her little sister. "Another peep out of you and I'll have you working the bilge."
John stifled his chuckle and took care to keep his eyes on the sea. They fell silent as the ship picked up speed and began to push between the islands. John looked around at first until he realized that as fast as the Red Witch was, the sea was vast and it would take time. With that in mind he continued to scan but let his mind wander.
The first place it went was Beytrixxa. His Mistress was pleased and offered him a reward if he could see the treasure hunt through. He kept his smile off his face and hoped that she took his request in mind when she rewarded him. A mind-numbing orgasm was amazing, especially from a being such as her, but to be given more power... that was something else entirely!
But to keep her happy he had to listen to his familiar. She had the inside scoop with Mistress, even though she was bound to him. John didn't quite understand it, but he hadn't performed a ritual to summon and bind the imp either. Instead she'd just shown up and told him she was his. The magical connection between them was unusual, but proof that she wasn't lying. One never could be sure when dealing with an imp.
Speaking of Zynga... John turned and saw the imp, wearing the guise of a halfling woman struggling to breath with her huge breasts squeezed inside a brown blouse under a boiled leather corset. She winked at him as she walked up to him and then turned around and leaned her back against the railing.
"You're awfully happy," John said to her. "Did you trip someone heading down the stairs or something?"
Zynga's eyes lost focus while she smiled. "So simple... can't believe I haven't thought of that yet."
"Don't," John warned. "Please."
She pouted and then shrugged. "Fine, if you insist."
"I do... why are you upbeat?"
She glanced at his waist and wiggled her eyebrows. "Mistress is pleased with us," she said.
John sucked in a breath and glanced at the crimson haired sisters. They were ignoring them and watching the islands and water. He turned back to Zynga and asked, "What do you mean?"
"Don't you remember talking to her last night?"
John nodded. "Yes, we communed... but you weren't there."
"She let me know."
John opened his mouth to respond when an echo of Mistress's voice played in his memory. "A present for Zynga," she'd said as he erupted.
Zynga licked her lips. "Can you hear me now?"
"Huh?" John asked.
Zynga chuckled. "We have a good connection now. No telling what we can do."
"A good connection?" John asked, still puzzled by her explanation.
"It means our bond is strong now. Remember, Master, that I'm here now, but I've been around for centuries. Your realm is not the only one I've been to."
John tilted his head and nodded. "That makes sense. Fair enough... and yes, I can sense you easily now."
"Amazing what a mouthful will do, isn't it?"
"More than a mouthful really, Mistress must have given you the works to give me that much to clean up."
She patted his hand on the railing. "Stop being so shy, Master. It's Mistresses chosen method of sharing power and its sinful, wicked and so damned tasty!"
John nodded. "I know, I know. It's just... well, almost a century of cultural norms I'm fighting against her. Bear with me."
"I will," she agreed.
They fell silent and enjoyed the morning sun and gentle breeze from the west as they sailed into the islands. John and the sailing sisters watched while Zynga tugged her blouse as open as she could to sun herself.
"You could help, you know," John pointed out.
"I could," she agreed. "It doesn't look like much fun though."
"You never know, we might find a young couple making love on a beach."
Zynga straightened and adjusted her top. "Ooh! That would be exciting."
John chuckled and nodded. "Any extra tricks you might have to help us find this hidden camp?"
She shook her head. "No. There's a large...well...fog, ahead of us."
"Looks clear to me?"
"It's a magical fog. It obscures what lies ahead, magically speaking."
"Seems counter-intuitive," John said. "We now they're hiding something now, even if we don't know what it is."
"It worked well when you didn't know there was anything being hidden," Zynga pointed out.
John smirked. "True..."
She glanced at him. "You've got something, don't you? I can tell... I love it when the magic is strong between us."
"Where's this magic obfuscation at?"
"Obfuscation? That's a fancy word."
"I was a fancy man at one time."
She grinned and then her eyes flared red while she stared ahead. She nodded and pointed toward the starboard bow, far ahead at some islands so distant only the nearest was becoming clearly visible. On the port there were a grouping of three small islands and beyond them a larger one came to a point nearest them and stretched off in the distance.
"Captain," she corrected him. Several locks of hair had slipped beneath the rag she hid it beneath and they were blowing in the breeze like flames leaping off her head. She took his breath away and, saints be damned, she looked like she'd make a great pirate out of legend with one hand on her hip just above her saber.
John held up his hands, fingers raised, to concede her point. He needed to be careful, he was starting to develop a thing for dominant women! "Captain," he addressed her, "Sail that way, the right— er, starboard— side of that big island."
She stared at the island and then grunted at her sister, "Fetch me a spyglass."
Little Red strode across the deck and ducked down the stairs and into the armory. She returned a moment later and handed the steel and leather tube to her sister. Red looked through it with her right eye and gave it a few twists until she was satisfied. She lowered it and handed it to John.
John fumbled a bit as he figured out how to adjust it to see clearly through the device. He smiled when it brought the island up close. Something about this seemed familiar to him... a spell he'd used in the past, maybe? Whatever the case, he stared through it and saw a sandy shoreline along the point of the island closest to him. As it stretched away the ground rose in hills that were covered in grass and trees. Along the southeastern side of the island the hills went all the way to the water, creating what looked like tiny cliffs and miniature peninsulas that jutted out into the water.
John lowered the spyglass and blinked a few times to refocus his eyes. The island was tiny again. The cliffs might be larger than he thought. He handed it back to Red.
"Why there?" she asked him.
John pointed to the right. "Because there's a lot of magic over there on those islands."
She stared where he pointed. "Shouldn't we go there then?"
"Sure... if you want to lose your ship."
She turned on him. "Explain."
"Maybe he always sailed through those islands so anyone that came after him would do the same. Then his trap would take care of them," John suggested. "Or maybe he did it like that to distract or keep people away from his camp. Then he could ambush them... or maybe some trap or illusion in place."
Red's eyes narrowed. "Wizards," she muttered and turned away.
"It's nice to have on our side for a change," Little Red said.
Red sniffed and then gave a brief nod. "Perhaps. Prove your worth, John, and we'll see."
John frowned and then shrugged. "Pretty sure I'm doing that, but don't worry, I'll keep it up."
Little Red opened her mouth but Red jammed a finger out at her. "Don't tell me how good he is at keeping it up."
Little Red choked on her words and giggled.
"Keep an eye out," Red said before turning and striding across the deck. She disappeared down the stairs and then made her way to the quarterdeck to give Sasha and Steff the new sailing orders.
Sales tightened and timbers creaked. The sales fluttered and slapped as they were taken in and the rudder adjusted. All of that for a few degrees of course change. John thought about how easily something like changing their heading was easily taken for granted. In truth, it took a team of people for even the simplest seeming things.
Magic was like that, he mused. Components and gestures and words to make spell forms and both open and channel arcane energy into the world. With time he'd learned hot do it better. Minimize gestures and find shorter, better words or phrases. Reducing the amount of eldritch energy needed for a spell was an art. He was sure he'd done that before... he'd need to keep that in mind and do it again.
John tilted his head. If a wizard could use magic more efficiently, why couldn't he do the same with Mistress's gift?
John grabbed the rail and braced his legs. Right before he sank into himself he glanced over at Zynga. He opened his mouth but she beat him by speaking first.
"Best I've seen is a turtle digging a hole to bury her eggs."
"Well, turtles need loving too," he offered. "Keep an eye out, I need to do check something."
"I tasted your excitement... are you going to check if somebody's a virgin?"
John smiled. "No, this is self-discovery."
"Told you, you can't play with yourself. It won't work."
"Just... watch that island and the magic off our starboard."
She shrugged. "Fine, have fun... oh wait, you can't! Not like that, anyhow."
John ignored her and slipped into his trance so he could study his magic and experiment with a few ideas he had. Feeling the flow of the power within him was exhilarating. One moment he was rushing with it like he'd been carried down a raging stream. The next he was flying, weightless and able to do anything. He spun and twirled and danced with the magic, learning how it moved and flowed and what it meant to be this kind of power.
John gently pushed and pulled at it, working it with new ideas and new ways. He blinked his eyes open and took in a deep breath of fresh sea air. A smile stretched his lips until he felt the need to stretch the rest of his body.
"Oh, good, you're awake!" Little Red said.
"I wasn't asleep," John said.
"Master was assensing the islands and oceans," Zynga said beside them.
"Assensing?" Red asked. "Did you just make that word up? Is it magic-talk for taking a nap standing up?"
Zynga chuckled and drew a glare from John. "No," the familiar said, "but I like the way you think."
Red sighed through her nose. "So then, what have assensed, John?"
"Not much more than we already knew, but I was examining the magic and trying to learn its purpose and how best to exploit it."
"I think so," he said. "As for purpose, sadly it's just a tool. It's use is determined by the person wielding it. Much like a spear, it can be used to block and save a life, or thrust and take one."
Red nodded. "Okay, I can understand that. So then, any change to our heading?"
John looked off the bow and fought to keep from doing a double take. He'd been immersed in his research for hours. The sun was past the highest point in the sky and the sandy beach of the island was off their port stern. The hills and ridges were fast approaching.
John twisted to see the sails had been turned and loosened to slow the ship's speed. He turned back and nodded. This felt right and everything was coming together. His magic was ready too. Not full, but he had enough, especially now that he had some better understanding of how to get more out of it. His magic— Beytrixxa's magic, in truth— was almost a living thing in itself. It responded to some things better than others. Intent was huge, he now understood. Tailoring his use with emotion and intent would serve him well.
"I'm liking the new you," Zynga told him.
John glanced down at her, his eyes narrowing.
"The confidence I'm feeling from you. It's got my nipples hard and making box slippery."
His eyes widened.
"Oh get over yourself, that's a good thing. You're feeling like when you've taken control of your latest conquest and turning her into your thoroughly fucked mindless servant."
John shook his head and forced his eyes, and his thoughts, away from the dirty little imp. He watched the island slip past, his eyes searching each tiny inlet and bay. The hills rose higher and then dropped away, opening up to a bay that looked wide enough for a ship at first. John was about to point at it when Red laughed.
"That's the mouth of a stream. Not enough room for proper docks here and it's too shallow for a ship. We'd need to anchor nearly this far out. Not fit for a hiding spot, I don't think," Red said, dashing his hopes.
John frowned and started to turn away. He brought his head back, unable to give up on it. He frowned and stared up the stream. It was wide enough for a ship like the Red Witch, but so shallow that rocks poked above the surface and even let a few tiny sandbar islands show in the middle of it.
A wave formed by the passage of the Red Witch swept into the bay. It wasn't much of a wave, only cresting half a dozen inches above the trench, but John saw it go into the stream and splash against the rocks. The water flowed upstream and then settled.
"Stop!" John hissed.
Red spun and waved a hand before calling out, "Drop the sails and drag the anchor! Full stop!"
"There," John said, pointing at the inlet. "See it?"
"See what, the mouth of a shallow river?" the captain asked.
"That's no river," John said.
"Is it a moon?" Zynga asked.
John, Red, and Little Red turned on the halfling. "What?"
She shook her head. "Nothing."
The aft anchor splashed into the water and the chain rattled as it plummeted to the bottom. The entire ship jerked as it hit and began to drag and slow the ship further.