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Chapter One: The Escape
“Hark, plank-tail! Git back ter work, unless ye want to taste the steel o’ my blade across yer back!” Snarled Ripscar, the cruel rat slave driver. He stood glaring at a young otter slave, who had paused in his toil to help an older mouse to his feet. But it looked as though the otter hadn’t heard. Clenching his paw into a fist, Ripscar unsheathed his blade, a wicked curved sword, and rushed headlong at the otter.
The young slave whirled around, growling and ducking. Ripscar stumbled past, tumbling in a heap near the center of the deck of the Wavelash, one of the largest, most feared slave ships to sail the southern seas. Kurva, the otter slave, stood glaring at the rat, his whiskers trembling in his rage. The mouse he had helped had scurried off, not wanting to be punished along with the brave young creature.
“Hellgates!” Ripscar cursed, pushing himself upright as other crew beasts arrived to the scene.
“Wot on earth ‘appened, Rip?” Asked one weasel as his fellow corsairs seized Kurva.
Ripscar marched up to Kurva, addressing the weasel as he did. “This sea hound decided t’get wise with me.” He growled, glaring into Kurva’s cold, dark eyes. He was about to rap out another order when the ships captain appeared, walking slowly, eyes narrowed.
The captain of the Wavelash was not a creature to be reckoned with. The fox had been a pirate for many seasons, and the captain of the Wavelash longer than any member of his crew could remember. A seasoned battler, and a seasoned slave-trader, he was Captain Ragar Hookfang, so named for his wickedly curved canine teeth.
“What seems to be the problem here, crew?” He asked, golden eyes scanning the faces of his crew before settling on the otter. “Kurva? Have you been causing trouble again?” Ragar, unlike most of his crew, was not stupid. Being that he was a fox, a species known for being sly and cunning, a silver tongue came to him naturally.
Kurva bared his teeth, snarling, “I have nothing to say to the likes of you, sea-scum!”
Ragar clicked his tongue, shaking his head. “You are a strong creature, Kurva. Why must you cause so much trouble? Do we not feed and clothe you? And give you a place to stay during the night?”
Kurva gritted his teeth, resisting the urge to lunge at the captain. “Aye, you feed and clothe me. Molded bread crumbs and rags that would put even the poorest beasts to shame!”
Once again, Ragar shook his head. “Ripscar, Crabclaw, and Filger, take Kurva to the holding cell, will you? Keep him there until I decide whether to give him fifty lashes or one hundred.”
The three crew beasts acted quickly, hauling the writhing otter below deck to the holding cell. All the while, Kurva struggled, howling, “I’ll get you one day, sea scum! You’ll regret the day yer mama gave birth to ye!”
Kurva was bound in the holding cell for nearly three days and nights. Ragar had ordered that he be starved, and beaten if he complained. Kurva had been starved, yes. But he had not been beaten. Day and night, Kurva planned his escape. He had been captured as an otter pup nearly seventeen seasons earlier, and had been forced to be slave to that cursed fox since. Kurva refused to die a captive.
Gritting his teeth, the otter looked toward the bars of the cell. The sound of pawsteps told him that somebeast was coming. He was right. The weasel, Filger, was carrying an old wooden tray, on which was a tin cup of water and a small cut of bread.
“Hey, sea hound. Enjoyin’ yer stay in this ‘ere cell?” He cackled while balancing the tray on one paw as he opened the cell. He cracked the bars and, sauntered in. Smirking, Filger set down the tray. “Enjoy it, Kurva. Cap’n Hookfang was feelin’ generous t’day.”
Kurva said nothing. He only glared at the weasel until he turned and left, muttering something about how the Cap’n should have thrown him overboard seasons ago. When he had gone, Kurva began eating him meager meal and drinking what little bilge water he had been given. He would need all the strength he could muster if he planned to escape.
It was the next morning when Kurva decided to put his plan in to action. If he died trying, so be it. His freedom was worth fighting a whole crew of sea scum. His chance came when Filger came striding to the cell, holding a tray of food. When the weasel opened the cell door and stepped in, Kurva swiftly rose to his knees, thrusting himself forward. He landed a head butt the Filger’s stomach, winding him. Kurva stumbled and turned, thwacking the weasel in the head with his rudder-like tail.
With a groan, Filger slipped away from consciousness. Kurva angled himself over to Filger, carefully using the weasels’ blade to cut through the rope that bound his paws. After taking a few seconds to rub the feeling back into his paws, he stood up, blade in paw.
Already, members of the crew were heading toward the cell to see why Filger was taking so long. Kurva rushed them without a second thought. He slashed wildly as he made his way across the deck, already bleeding from a wound on his side. He ran, hardly escaping a spear thrown by one of the crew beasts. The thought of freedom swirled in his brain, and without a second thought, he jumped over the rail of the Wavelash, into the dark, rolling sea.