An Act of Simple Piracy
by Dana DeVries

   The Vodacce pirate leered down at the cowering woman. Her white bosom heaved inside her silk blouse while voluminous skirts puddled around her and her long red hair fell around her face like a veil. The pirate's crew swarmed over the small Castillian ship, pushing the male sailors towards the main deck and separating the female crewman and the red-headed woman to one side. The swarthy man reached down and grabbed the red-head's breast roughly.

   "That's quite enough of that. Take them!" Her voice rose from a trembling simper into a bold command as her hand lashed out and struck him between his legs. With a gasp, the pirate toppled over as the woman stood. The sailors immediately stopped cowering and drew their concealed weapons. A half dozen pirates collapsed to the deck in the first rush, while the others drew back in astonishment.

   An angry shout came from the Vodacce galleon drawn up alongside. "Kill them all! Nobody ambushes Pizar's men without paying the price." The speaker was a small Vodacce man dressed in the height of fashion and flanked by two enormous brutes wearing simple sailor's garb. One was a large Eisen man carrying a broadsword while the other was a blonde Vendel with his hair in braids and bearing an axe.

   The red-haired woman stepped forward proudly and shouted back. "We agreed to allow you on board to verify we carried no cargo and to capture a portion of our food stores. We did not give you free reign to pillage me or my female crew."

   "Well, now that we're aboard, my men outnumber you two to one. I'd say you're in no position to object."

   The woman cocked her head to one side and grinned broadly. "I see you haven't met the boys."

   "The boys?" Pizar sneered until someone cleared his throat above the diminutive captain. Gazing up, he saw three men standing in the rigging above his head. One was a rakish looking sailor wearing a patchwork of clothing from across Théah. A Swordsman Guild pin dangled from one of his ears. Beside him was a young Castillian with greying hair and a silk shirt underneath a leather vest. The third man was an older Castillian wearing the colorful doublet of the Knights of the Rose and Cross. The Vodacce raised his arm to shield his eyes against the bright sun and called out, "How did you get up there?"

   The Castillian wearing a vest smirked. "Practice, practice, practice. Care for a lesson?"

   "Not really." The Vodacce dismissed him with a wave. "Men, dispose of these fools." A score of pirates rushed towards the rigging at his command.

   The knight called down brightly. "Don't wear yourselves out climbing up here. We'll come down." Grabbing a nearby line, he leapt off and swung down towards the deck. He crashed into a group of running men and sent them skidding across the decks on their backs. Pizar motioned the Eisen forward to deal with him.

   The rakish sailor drew a dagger and dropped off into space. As he fell, he thrust the dagger into the sail behind him. The ripping canvas slowed his perilous plummet until he reached the deck and turned around. Several men rushed towards him and he leapt to meet them. He threw the dagger in his hand towards the first man and plunged his left hand into the panzerhand hanging at his side. One quick blow from the steel gauntlet knocked a sailor unconscious as he drew a cutlass in time to parry an incoming blow.

   The Castillian in the vest scampered down the rigging more slowly, reaching the deck last. A ring of men had already surrounded the mast and immediately began thrusting and slashing towards him. With a grin, he drew two swords and twirled around in a tight circle, dashing their blades aside. The pirates didn't relent and pressed in tighter. The Castillian's circles swept out and engulfed his attackers in a weaving mass of blades and limbs. Within seconds, half of the men had fallen to his attack.

   The Vodacce captain watched in awe as the knight also drew his sword and began fencing with the Eisen thug while the men he'd knocked down picked themselves off the deck. His style was more defensive than the other two swordsman and he was barely able to hold his opponents at bay as more and more men joined the fight. Still the knight continued grinning. "Would you like me to wait until the rest of you can rejoin us? I'd hate to think that I hadn't given you a fair chance. How about you, Tracy? Any problems?"

   Only a few yards away, the sailor grabbed one of the blades thrust towards him with his panzerhand and snapped the weapon in two while he quickly parried and riposted an attack from the other direction with his cutlass. Replying the knight, he declared, "No. I hope they give Marcos a better workout than they're giving me. He needs the sparring time." He continued dodging and slashing out, changing his pacing and techniques with every motion while his opponents' numbers quickly dwindled. Finally, the short Vodacce captain could take no more and ordered his other bodyguards forward into the fray. The Vendel hefted his enormous axe and calmly strode towards Tracy.

   The Castillian in a vest finally planted his feet solidly again and gazed around. The ring of men surrounding him all lay on the deck and clutched their wounds. Not one of them was dead, but they were definitely out of the fight. He was the first to notice the approaching Vendel and stepped towards him with a grin and called out in passable Vodacce. "Pardon me. All my partners are exhausted, could I have the next dance?" The axe man shrugged, stepped towards him and raised his weapon for an overhead blow.

   The Castillian dropped the sword from his right hand and drew a dagger while his left batted the oncoming axe to the side. "I see you are not familiar with the rituals of the dance. Generally we introduce ourselves first. I am Don Marcos Rivera del Rios."

   The axeman merely grunted and swung the axe again. Del Rios grinned and stepped into the blow. Raising both the sword and dagger above his head and crossing them, he caught the onrushing weapon above his head. The force of the blow knocked the dagger from his hand and axe sliced open a small cut on his arm. Del Rios scowled, turned to the side and lunged forward with his sword so that the blade pierced the Vendel's hand. Muttering obscenities under his breath, the axeman dropped his weapon and clutched his wound.

   Turning away from his opponent, he saw that Tracy had finished off his own opponents and moved up amongst the men still fighting the knight. The Eisen with the broadsword was swinging wildly at the rakish sailor, but each time, he would simply dodge aside and the blade would strike one of the other Vodacce sailors. The knight paused for a moment until the Eisen's broadsword had lodged in the arm of a sailor, then he stepped forward and thrust his sword deeply into the Eisen's upper thigh. At the same moment, Tracy threw an uppercut with the panzerhand into Eisen's chin. Without another word, the enormous man fell to the deck. The few remaining pirates glanced around, dropped their weapons and raised their hands in surrender.

   Suddenly Del Rios felt a thick grip of iron encircle his chest. The fetid onion breath told him that it was the Vendel axeman's arms slowly crushing the life from him. Del Rios twisted his grip on his sword and stabbed down into the man's foot. A moment later, the iron grip slackened and Del Rios was able to break free. This time, he smashed his sword pommel into the man's forehead. The northerner grinned and grabbed him around the waist again, pinning his left hand to his side. But Del Rios's swordhand was still free and he struck his foe with the pommel three more times across the forehead until the axeman finally collapsed onto the deck.

   The sound of someone clapping spun all three of them around. The red-headed woman had thrown aside her voluminous skirts to reveal curve-hugging leather pants. She sat on the galleon's railing. "Took you long enough. We finished off the boarding party ages ago."

   Tracy shrugged. "You had the full crew. It was just the three of us over here."

   "Excuses? I'd expected better out of the three renowned swordsmen." Then she raised a pistol in one hand and pointed it towards the Vodacce captain who was beginning to inch towards the door to his cabin behind him. "We were talking about surrender. …I believe it would be better if I took yours rather than the other way around."

   "You have me at a disadvantage, you trollop. I yield."

   "How kind of you, you pompous ignorant son of a whore." She cocked the pistol, pointed it towards his head and grinned evilly. "But I actually wasn't interested in your surrender."

   Before she could pull the trigger, a sword lifted the barrel of the gun. Del Rios shook his head. "No, Red."

   She scowled at him and demanded, "What do you mean no? We surrendered and offered him half our food stores for safe passage. He agreed and boarded while planning to kill the men and rape us. The only prudent thing to do is to simply kill him now. Make sure he doesn't go back on his word again."

   "Doesn't matter. Think about it. Would he have dared attack this ship if Phillip Gosse had been sailing it?"

   "No, but I'm not Phillip Gosse. H-he was a legend, I'm just a pirate!" Red protested.

   "True. But he had to start somewhere. Before he was a legend, he was just another pirate. A pirate who didn't always do the prudent things. Is it prudent to leave a woman her jewelry? Is it prudent to throw a party for the men you just robbed? Or to never kill a foe? No, it is not. But it is the way to become a legend. Red, I sailed with Gosse for over a year and I lived with him on Utopia for my entire life. I know the way he acted, the way he thought. And I know he thought a lot of you. You reminded him of himself when he was young."

   Red hesitated a moment and quietly asked, "I did?"

   "Yes. Don't become just another killer, another thug like him." Del Rios gestured over his shoulder towards the short Vodacce captain staring towards them. "You can become something better. Maybe even a legend."

   "I...I'll think about it. For now, strip them all of their weapons."

   One of her mates called out, "Should we lock them in irons, ma'am?"

   She pondered it a moment and then shook her head with a strange smile. "Just the ones who assaulted the women and have Geoffrey prepare a big dinner. We'll throw them a party." Her face broke into a broad grin. "Right after we're done robbing the ship of every valuable onboard."