WANTED (Flash Fiction)
Genre: Piratical | Action | Comedy
Word Count: 1534
By: Akira B.
“Y’can’t mistake a notorious pirate for just anyone, Barto. They’ve given her the title ‘Pirate Empress’ for a reason.”
“Yeah but Berti, don’t y’think she’d look more… I dunno scary? The moniker’s ‘Wielder of the Reaper’s Eye’ and all. Sounds like she’s supposed t’be scary.”
“It won’t matter what her name is when we kill her. We’ll be set for life. Sides, her crew ain’t around and she’s headed to the tavern, it’s the perfect time to get the drop on her.”
It was the perfect leisure day for those that didn’t have to work. And for those that did, well, at least it was peaceful. The sun was shining, but the clouds provided a protective shield to keep people on their feet. Those that didn’t have to be, or those escaping for a break, were settled into The Bitter Apple, one of the more livelier taverns in the small town.
It was far enough from the coast that it didn’t attract every sailor that docked, but it was still popular enough to be a good time. Today, the musicians were playing a calm tune to go with the atmosphere, creating a peaceful buzz within the crowd.
For one particular pirate tucked off to the side at a table that gave the best sunlight, everything was perfect. Runali Lev, pirate extraordinaire, and (un)affectionately labeled as the Pirate Empress, had her feet propped on a decorative box and teetered back and forth on two of the four chair legs her seat had. While her right eye was covered by a black eye patch, her left eye was closed as she merrily listened to the music. Like a cat in her favorite sunpatch, she was content as ever.
And more importantly, she was a blissfully unaware target.
Two imposingly solid men, towering over most of the crowd, made their slow approach. Despite their size, it was easy cover blending in with the rest of the patrons of the unassuming tavern. Bartholomew, Barto as his twin brother called him, adorned in a gray hooded cape, adjusted the gauntlets on his wrist. It was a modest action, easily mistaken for him adjusting his sleeves as he maneuvered through tables.
Bertrand, Berti as his twin brother called him, was adorned in a myriad of belts that he continued to adjust, mainly to keep his hands close to the hidden knives tucked in between them.
With an order from the Duke and Duchess themselves, the twins were on a time restraint. Like every bounty they were given, a corpse was needed by nightfall as proof that they’d done their job. All they needed to do was grab the corpse.
Well, create a corpse then grab it.
Neither said a word as they stalked closer to the woman. Barto raised his left hand slightly, counting down the time to strike.
All eyes turned towards the two men standing in front of destroyed pieces of wood. Most gave annoyed looks, but none cared enough to dig deeper into the situation. There were a lot of drunks who couldn’t handle their alcohol, that wasn’t new.
“Berti, where’d she go!?”
“Ooh, I love this song!” A few steps away, Runali was on her feet with a bounce in her step as the music shifted into a more upbeat shanty.
The twins stood dumbfounded, only to quickly re-train their sights when they realized she was escaping.
“She’s fast.” Berti grumbled, loosening his grip on his belts.
“We gotta corner her and keep her in one spot.” Barto responded, just as frustrated.
A new plan was made by way of silent eye contact and what could’ve been considered twin telepathy. When they were satisfied, they started off again, only to be stopped by a loud “Oi!”
A boisterous woman with floor length twin braids walked over, she easily held six tankards in one hand and had the other on her hip. She wore a scowl that was as sharp as the daggers Berti had in his posession. “This’ll be ya first and only warnin’ and ya ain’t gettin’ more than that! Break my stuff again n’ not only will ya be payin’ for damages, but my boot’ll be going where the sun don’t shine.” She slammed the drinks down on one of the tables, startling the patrons that were sitting there. “Do I make myself clear?”
Barto paled, quickly putting his hands up in mock surrender. “Sorry ‘bout that ma’am. We’re not here to cause trouble.” To quickly nip the interaction in the bud and to gain favor, Berti shelled out a few silver coins to her. Like an angry bull, she inspected them with a huff, before sticking them in her apron and walking off to grab the next order of drinks.
“We need to hurry on.” Berti quietly hissed as he pressed forward through the shifting crowd.
It became easier said than done as the peaceful buzz locked into Runali’s cheery disposition. The lull was quickly becoming replaced with something more jovial and eager as the pirate unashamedly cleared space to dance. Runali found herself twirling a young woman into a dance until someone else stole her away as more became emboldened to join in. Those that were only confident enough to sing the words, Runali was there beside them, clinking mugs that weren’t hers and belting the words with them.
Barto, at one point, had gotten close enough to just miss the purple sash that was tied around the pirate captain’s waist. Another time, Berti nearly managed to grab the strap of her shirt. Each time either of the twins got close, they were suddenly whisked away into a dance or impromptu celebration- not without hearing bits and pieces of the pirate’s conversations.
“Oh, why thank you! Lotta festivals where I’m from. Dancing’s fun!” Runali bowed with the thanks.
“You’re far too kind sir, but I’m married. Happily at that!” She said to another as she took a passing drink and cheered with another group.
The game of cat and mouse became more and more frustrating for the bounty hunters. “This is getting us nowhere.” His temper was ticking with the time when the two finally escaped the party for a few seconds. His hand continued to twitch near his knife, but he could never get close enough to strike. “We’ve been goin’ in literal circles. Enough. We risk the casualties. The bounty is worth more than everyone in this tavern.”
“She’s toyin’ with us. Spinnin’ us about to keep us off her.” Barto adjusted his gauntlet, embracing his stature to push through the crowd rather than attempting to be polite. “Berti when I give the signal, you-”
A dainty hand left a faint red mark across Barto’s face, stunning him into confusion. “You pig! Keep your hands off me- Are those my bracelets!?”
Barto brought a hand to his cheek, growling out, “Lady, what the hell is your-” Only to catch a glimpse of two shiny gold bracelets on his wrist that certainly weren’t there before. “Wha-? How’d I get these?”
The music stuttered to a stop as the crowd's joviality turned into an uproar of distress.
“Ah! My watch?!”
“Mah wallet’s gone missin’!”
“Thieves, the two of ‘em!”
Suddenly, the predators became prey as the masses cornered and searched them. Two the hunters’ surprise, most of the missing items were on their person, stashed in one of their many pockets.
“Wait! Wait!” Barto tried to still the crowd.
“We didn’t steal any of this! We were framed-!”
“I warned ya once, didn’t I!?” The same woman -the owner- from before rolled up her sleeves with a new and deadly fire in her eyes.
In the midst of the commotion, as hell began to break loose, Runali had drifted to the exit, pockets full from a… successful dance. Though just as she was about to slip away, she caught the eye of a barmaid who looked visibly surprised and even more unsure what to do.
“New hire?” It was more of a statement than a question. Runali gave a chipper, disarming smile as she detoured towards her. Gently, she took the barmaid’s hand and set a small (stolen) bag of gold coins in it. Runali leaned just a bit closer to whisper, “Consider it a hospitality tip. Working in taverns is a hassle. Treat yourself to something nice. Heh, and if you’re feelin’ generous, it’s more than enough to pay for all the trouble those bounty hunters caused.” Runali raised her brow, waiting for a silent agreement between the two.
In all of the barmaid’s surprise, red tinted her cheeks as she peeked inside the bag. Sure enough, Runali was truthful as gold coins glittered. It was quickly slipped into her bosom for safe keeping. In silent solidarity, the barmaid placed a finger to her lips and turned away to go collect stray glasses off tables.
And as if she was never there, Runali was out of the tavern and on the roads of the town whose name she had forgotten the moment she stepped foot on it. “Hm, should probably find my crew. Who knows what kind of trouble they got into.”