The ship rolled under his feet in such a familiar motion that Gangrel nearly forgot himself, leaning over the boat's edge and letting the wind tease his hair. There was nothing in the world quite like being at sea. Even as he relaxed, he waited for the order to get back to work, the harsh words that had always accompanied any moment of peace.
It never came of course: Chrom was a different master than Zanth of the Dread Pirates. He may harbor unpleasant feelings toward Gangrel, but he wasn't fool enough to harm an ally. At their dear prince's prompting, most of the Ylisseans simply ignored him. With Maribelle, this was both blessing and curse.
"Hmph! Look at him! Slacking off—AGAIN! I believe that's the third time today! I can't see why Chrom doesn't simply throw him overboard and be done with him!"
"Chillax, Maribelle," her husband, Henry, said cheerfully, trying to diffuse her sour mood. "He's not hurting anyone."
"That is not the point I was trying to establish!" the blonde noblewoman started, beginning to wave her pink parasol about as she worked herself into a fury, but Brady intervened.
"Ma, just give it a rest. You don' like him, so go somewhere ya can't see him."
Betrayed by both husband and son was too much for her: tossing her immaculate ringlets over her shoulder, she shot one more contemptuous look at the former king and stalked across the deck, descending to the barracks with her nose thrust into the air. Henry chuckled at the sight and Brady rolled his eyes, following her. Gangrel leaned away from the edge, staring up at the crow's nest, taking note that Kellam was on watch (Probably not the best idea, he thought. No one would hear the alarm). Just above the nest, the blue flag—emblazoned with the Brand—of Ylisse waved.
He really couldn't care less what sail he served under, but working for Ylisse was quite different from any other situation he'd ever encountered: everyone took equal turns at work—even if they were hopeless at it (*cough* Sully, Kjelle, cooking)—and no one held more importance than anyone else; they all served under Chrom, no matter the race, disposition, or history of any member. It was an unfamilar sort of unity, but an effective unity all the same.
The Mad King had been through a lot in the past two years, yet despite all that had happened to him, he still looked the same as when he sat upon Plegia's throne: his red hair and beard were kept in tight control, his armor and clothes were in good condition, and he had even managed to keep hold of the golden crown that sat on his brow and his Levin Sword pendant that was hidden under his shirt.
Gangrel filled his lungs with clean sea air and turned back to the deck. He wasn't nearly as alone as he'd been lead to think: Henry still rested against the mast, Kjelle trained with a long staff in place of her usual lance, Miriel and Laurent took measurements of something or other, and even as he looked, the Shepherds' young tactician walked out onto the deck.
His crimson eyes met her dark ones for the briefest of moments before he dropped his gaze. Her name was Nisha, and he was afraid of her. It wasn't her tactical skill that frightened him, it was what she had found more recently: a note—written in a moment of weakness and emotional desperation—that detailed Gangrel's every regret, what he truly felt under his shield of silence. He knew she had found it, and it worried him that she may tell the Shepherds, tell her beloved commander.
So far, the only move she had made towards him had been to discuss his tasks, and the way she did it was no different than the instructions she gave any of the other people on board. Whatever game she was playing, it was certainly a clever one.
"Gangrel?" she called. He grunted in acknowledgment, and she continued. "You've been assigned to the midnight watch tonight. I thought you would want to know in advance."
"Fine," he mumbled, not looking her in the eye. Nisha nodded, smiling softly before turning her back on him, going back belowdecks. Gangrel leaned back over the ship's edge, ignoring Henry as he approached; the Dark Mage had been trying to catch his eye for a while, and he had successfully avoided any confrontation. So far: it would seem that time had come to an end.
"Man, Mari's all wound up, huh?" he chirped, giving no heed to the scowl directed his way. "That last bit was harsh even for her."
"Not for me," Gangrel muttered. "Little miss Mari Contrary hates my guts. And I hate her back."
"Oooh! Does this mean a death match? Will there be blood?"
Gangrel rolled his eyes. Why was Henry so blasted likeable?! Ah well, war makes strange bedfellows, he decided. He looked out to the horizon again as he answered.
"There would be blood...if Nisha hadn't put that ban on killing allies."
"Oh yeah," Henry remembered, sounding heartbroken. "The 'no wizard fights, duels to the death, or assassinations on teammates' rule. Sometimes she's no fun."
"She's you're wife," the red-haired man remarked, changing the topic back to Maribelle. "Wouldn't you be taking her side?"
"Oh yeah," the dark mage realized. "Guess it's good that the rule is there then, huh? I wouldn't wanna take the opposite side against you. I'd lose one of the fun people!"
Gangrel scoffed and turned his back on the white-haired man, not letting him see the smile that would not be contained. He'd never met Henry in person as king, just heard of his impressive reputation. Another man sharing Gangrel's love of bloodshed was a rare. Finding such a man among the Ylisseans? Impossible. Or so he'd believed.
"When you talk to your wife next," Gangrel added slyly, changing his smile into a smirk, "tell her she can go die. In a hole."
"What kind of hole?" Henry asked. The smirk grew larger.
"A filthy one, with rats and grime. And she doesn't get to keep that stupid parasol of hers."
Henry laughed and Gangrel snickered to himself. Some things never changed, and he liked it. Just a touch of constant in the chaos, as always.