The sun was high in the sky and beared down on Dante as he stepped off the rowboat. His boots sank into the warm sand and the ocean waves tasted his heels. He already had beads of sweat collecting from the heat, but they were kept at bay by the gentle breeze that kept since the night before. On the beach in front of him were tents, lean-tos, and other makeshift homes that were cobbled together for nearly a mile in either direction before the beach bent out of sight. Surely there were more that he couldn't see.
It had been a few weeks since he interrogated the searching party from The Azure Maw. They told him a number of things about what he needed to know about joining pirates, practically begging to tell him everything as he forced them to bid with secrets to be the only survivor. Of course, in the end he let neither of them live to sell out his plans. The Village of Cosa Fac had only a few hundred inhabitants, but many more visitors. With only enough dock space for a few ships of any decent calibre, they couldn't offer the space for more than some minor illegal smuggling. It was ran by a pair of merchants that had ties to both the Vilgard Federation to the north and Yin-Drakkos to the west. So they were relatively safe from minor inquiries, which fit the size of their operation. So their beach was the perfect place for rest by the pirates between lucrative ventures. The money that constantly flowed in kept a hefty profit to the merchants and the local population.
Dante wandered through the streets to get a lay of the land. Most businesses weren't open this early, catering to the unusually late-night habits of its clientele. Most buildings stood only two stories tall with beige stucco walls and faded red shingles. The church's bell tower stretched another two stories above that, and he wanted to stop by and see who the temple was dedicated to. He finally stopped at one of the taverns, a hole in the wall off the main thoroughfare. As he walked in he noticed the barkeep as the lone consciousness in the room; a couple of tables offering rest to sorely exhausted partiers. He hung his hat on the hooks beside the door as he entered, and sat down on one of the stools at the bar.
"Prince Cavits brew and some water." Dante said as he placed several gold coins on the counter in a meticulous manner. The bartender bent under the bar grabbing something as Dante picked up and took a bite out of one of the fruits available.
"Good choice, we just got a shipment in just a few days ago." The bartender spoke as he pulled a square rum bottle and two glasses from below, "I haven't seen you around, ya new?"
"Yaea." Dante answered as he took a flavourful drink from the glass, "I was told you know who's who around here." He pushed a stack of coins towards the bartender.
Dante awoke to a gentle nudging and a quiet voice, "Sir, do you plan to sleep through the party?" He tipped his hat back off of his face and turned to face the young man standing next to the pew Dante slept in. He had nodded off in the church a few hours prior as it seemed the safest place to sleep, and since he could feel the full weight of coin in his purse it seemed like an adequate decision.
"Not particularly, thanks for the rest," he responded as he looked the man up and down.
"All are given sanctuary from the storm in this house." The Elven man accepts the glances of suspicion and returns a nod towards Dante's belt, "I don't mean to pry but I noticed your symbol."
Satisfied, Dante palms the keepsake, "Its a gift from a friend. He knows me all too well and figured it would help me, even if I didn't worship myself… Dante Ikarros, nice to meet you."
"Brother Feliks, and to you as well." The man bows slightly as Dante nods.
"Well, I must be going, but I did want to know before I leave. Who is the temple dedicated to?" He asks as he stands to his knees, looking down on the lithe elf. He straightens his rumpled clothes, and picked up the half-drunk bottle sitting beside him.
"It is dedicated to the sea and the storm. For any soul who can find a bit of peace. Though if I were to be explicit, my late predecessor built it as a place for the [Dualist whoever watches over seas/storms, I didn't see much about the dualist pantheon]."
"I see, well I must be going. I hope to see you again Feliks." Dante says as he turns to leave the church. Feliks nods, and turns to walk toward the altar himself.
As Dante exits onto the streets, the sound and lights of an active nightlife sweels his heart, he is reminded of the shore leave he took with his past sailors and their drunken escapades. Though this only instensified his devotion to the plan. The barkeep had told him of another tavern, one that entertained the best crews from the beach, and it was doubtless that he needed to go there.
He stepped up and through the door of The Last Wave tavern. It's the best in town, known for having plenty of booze, women, and music to keep the good times flowing before the money stops flowing. The tables were filled with men carousing with the maidens and their fellows. Some played cards, other threw bones, and yet others still played some odd game where cards were stuck to their foreheads.
"Ma'am-" Dante intercepts one of the bar maidens while looking around the room, "Where are the high stakes tables?"
"Up there." She says as she nods to the open view of the second floor.
Dante scans the tables as he methodically ascends the stairs, step by step ensuring the mark he wanted was here. Surely enough, the third table sat a chubby dragonborn by the named Kraxus. He was known for his supreme 'might makes right' mentality, but mostly because he thought himself mightiest of all. Dante figured he could grift the captain at cards, and while he doubled his money he'd find a job. Not to mention Kraxus' crew was perfect for his plans. Finally he got up to the table where Kraxus sat, and flanked on either side were his playing partners. To his left with her back against the banister, a dark elf woman with a large-brimmed hat and to his right a middle-aged dwarf with more drink in his beard than in his cup. The elf held a gaze on him since he had entered the tavern, and when he locked eyes he could feel suspicion in her eyes.
He slid into the chair like it was his favorite seat in the house. He placed his bottle on the bar along with a few smaller glasses that he took off the bar maiden from before. He poured everyone a drink as he placed his open purse on the table next to him. He said with a shining smile, "Hello, I'm going to be taking your money tonight."
"HA! Confident, and free booze to boot. The young ones are always so nice aren't they? How long before he runs out of money to us geezers?" The dwarf responded first before downing his drink.
"Faster than you just finished that drink Gardain," Kraxus says to the dwarf before turning to Dante, "Do your parents know where you are right now?" He roars in laughgter ribbing the dwarf and the elf.
On the other hand, the women stayed dead silent and continued the hand at play.
"Oh you'll be surprised, I have a tendency to get what I want. Now let's see some cards." Dante picks up on the trash talk as he gives Kraxus a whiley smile.
It really didn't take that long to rid the dwarf of his money, he was already deep in the booze that he couldn't help but falling for every bluff of his. The drow on the other hand he could barely beat. Hell he was pretty sure she intentionally fell for a couple of them. Though right on cue, Kraxus was beginning to lose his temper. Only a couple hands ago he had given his boys on the first floor the signal that he was going to need a little reimbursement.
"Now now Kraxus, you're not holding out on me, are you?" Dante speaks up as he trades a card from the deck.
"No, I assure you I'm not." Kraxus grimaced which turned to a smile at his approaching men.
Dante sat there with a terrible hand. He knew Kraxus was bluffing and was trying to pull another raise out of him. Not to mention, he also wanted to keep Dante's attention while his boys approached from behind. He noticed the drow slide her leg up where her hidden knife would be easily accessible. He gave her a knowing smile and a nod as he grabbed his bottle and brought it to his lips for another drink.
The first man approaching from behind on the right. Dante kicked his chair out, knocking the man off-balance and braining him with a bottle by the time he regained his footing. He broke through the railing and fell into the bar below. Dante tossed the bottle at the third man's feet and roared as he threw a jab as a feint at the second man. A right hook followed it up, connecting in the ribs with a thunderous crack. It sent him flying into the booths to the side. He threw a knee at the third man who had just tripped over the bottle and started falling. Dante grabbed him by the shirt as he recoiled and spun him around to where he was now hanging over the broken railing.
With a few breaths of air he turns to the table, "Oh dear, it seems I've shown my hand." The words, dripping with sarcasm, struck Kraxus hard. His smile was now gone and fangs bore in its place with an accompanying growl. The elf had also returned to her relaxed posture. The rest of the bar was silent, waiting with bait ed breathe at what followed.
"What do you want?" Kraxus grunted.
"Why I'd like to be part of the crew. I figured I'd make sure there was enough job openings."
Kraxus' anger subsided, but his interest swelled as he leaned back in his chair, "Now that's an application. Those were some of my best men; I'll give you their jobs."
"No thanks, I don't want whatever these little fish did. Make me first mate."
An almost imperceptible peep is heard from the man Dante is holding from the fall to which Dante's devilish smile returns, "Oh you're the first mate."
Kraxus holds his cards at the table watching Dante expectedly, "Deal, but then you and me have to have a go."
Dante stares at Kraxus and lets go of the man. His fall is broken by his crewmate from before. Kraxus put his cards down and says, "I fold. Consider the pot your signing bonus."
Dante thanks him with a nod as he collects his winnings from the table and says, "I intended to." He picks up his bottle from the floor as he walks out of the tavern, but he tosses a smaller coin pouch toward the bartender before leaving.
As he walks through the door, Kraxus shouts after him, "I'll see you in the morning. If I don't see you on my ship, I'll skin you alive!"
Dante let out a long sigh as he sat at the edge of the cliff. Behind him, the light crackle of a campfire keeps him warm in the night breeze. The stars were still shining, and there was plenty of time before the sun would come up. He had dropped his weapon belt off to the side of the fire and was polishing off the bottle before he would nod off to sleep like the so many other pirates on the island. His attention catches onto the slight sound of tensiverope strains a few dozen feet behind him in the darkness.
"Why'd you do it?" A feminine voice calls to him on the wind.
It surprises Dante, but as he turns around he can't see anything past the flames, and even if he could the moonlight was too dim to reveal anything new. Anyways, he was too drunk to be able to pinpoint the source. He holds out the bottle beside him as he responds, "Why don't you take a seat and we'll talk about it?" The glass in his hand shatters as an arrow flies past, eventually falling into the ocean. And the string strains yet again.
"Fuck… it was worth a shot at least." He falls onto his back and stares up to the sky, "They're pirates, a show of force is all they respect. Why would I not pick a fight with them?" His thoughts constantly tripping over each other since the first one that addressed him, "To think I'd get caught before I even started my first day."
"That won't trick anyone. Most others might be brutes and goons, bot not all of them. I spotted your training from a mile away. Kids don't come in with such straight posture, especially ones that have sailed for as long as you claim." The voice edges closer, and the string pulled back further.
"So… What? If you didn't like me you could've just shot me and watch me fall down into the crags below. The purse would've given you quite the payday at that. Not a word all night, and yet now you hunt me down and speak to me? Are you afraid someone might hear that beautiful voice and lose all fear of you?" Dante shifts back up, pulling his knee to his chest as he turns to see the source step into the light of his fire. The string snaps just as Dante snaps his head back, but he makes no other movement."
She drew another arrow, "It'd be best to give me a bit of respect. I'm not such a petty thief as to steal the pittance in your wallet. I want to know why you do it. So I ask again," she pauses as she steps closer correcting her posture into a proper firing stance, "Why are you, a soldier, trying to infiltrate a group of people you have such utter disgust for?"
Dante had sobered up quite well at this point. He had been found out, but she had played strong bluffs before. Even intentionally falling for ones she saw coming. She was smart, hedging bets and playing some sort of game that you weren't even aware you were a part of until she made it clear. No simple lie like, "I got sick of working for someone else," or "I want to get rich and be powerful" would work. It would take something far more thought out and built up than what he was capable of right now. He figured his best gambit was to admit to the truth; he could convince her to at least stay out of his way. So with a slight wheeze he stood up and turned to face her directly.
"Then watch the fire and see its flames burn away the lies." His holy symbol twinkling in the moonlight as he walks forward, stopping mere inches from the fire where it keeps licking at his legs in the wind. His opponent freezes, her breathing turns shallow and her muscles freeze. "My name is still Dante, Dante Ikarros. I do not identify with my family and have forsaken it anyways. Just over a month ago my friend and mentor was killed by Azazeal Stormspear. I will infiltrate you pirates, find and build a crew that will wage war against The Colmillo, The Azure Maw, and the man himself. I will not stop until I have taken his second eye as I have taken the first." After a few moments, the arrow is loosed and embeds itself into Dante's chest.
However Dante knew the arrow wasn't shot intentionally, he grabbed the shaft and pulled it out. It had barely embedded itself into his chest, and his other scar hurt far more. Her last miss was due to a quiet stance and a guarded draw. Dante knew her next one would pin him before he had a chance to dodge, and if he allowed it to hit him somewhere where he had enough padding it would add to the sincerity.
She finally lowers the bow and steps closer, "You've got a nice aura. I haven't been shaken like that for a long time. I think we can make a nice partnership. Why don't you let me help with this plan of yours…."