Dawn rose over the Barator Sea. Her surface, its deep, blue form blushed under the sun’s caresss, slowly, sensually, working its way across her, leaving cascades of oranges, yellows, and, of course, reds. It brought her dark form such life, as if reviving her anew, glistening and glowing under its touch. It was in no rush, lavishing every inch of her, drawing ever closer to her end, to the coasts of Palridian far to the west. The water at its beaches churned white foam, as if creating a mountain range of icy peaks before a vast wasteland.
Alas, though the sun teased, and enjoyed every moment of it, it wouldn’t be long before the sea would cool back to its blue, but it would still glitter and glow from its kiss, making her want, need it more, which it would get once more come dusk, streaking it in orange, red, and yellow as it did before, but also with purple and a flash of green, on the horizon, the climax to their reunion once more. She would return to her darkness, sated, a dark mirror of the moons and stars above. They swirled through the heaven and ocean both, four stony silver sentinels, and the ships that sailed on her smooth surface at night travelled the heavens as well.
One such vessel, one such star-craft this night, was the Kraken. It was one of the larger vessels of the Aqua Alliance, spanning ninety-two deckhands long, twenty-six wide, and forty high. Its body was almost as dark as the sea, and would remain that way even in the brightest of days. Thus was the strength of ferrisom bark and how it had been lacquered and sealed for two before it was ever allowed to touch water. Its six masts glistened like glass, sinfully smooth to the touch, not a splinter nor nick to ever to be seen and only tarnished by the metal rungs pierced through them, sullied for those that festered and corrupted it, that needed to climb to the nests. Each were wide enough to house four people, but foolish be the man who allows all four up in the nest. A bit of drink, revelry, shenanigans gone awry and those that are left of the party will have to tend to those come the morning, now little more than a reminder on the timbers below. If they were lucky, they’d be somewhat intact, tumbled down the four sails that each mast held, but, on nights like these when no wind stirred, there would be no such luck for the fool that went tumbling. No wind, only the smallest of breezes, came all day, and even in night they did not rise. And so the belly the of the Kraken did growl and rumble. It groaned and thundered, its thirty-two oars slapping into the water in unison to the beating drums, as if it was the great ship’s heart, beating the sea into submission as it tore it and the heavens asunder.
Tentacles, claws, scaled hands alike pulled and pushed on the long arms, twenty per on each of them, lost to the beating heart, their own heart. How they wished for the breeze that night, tired, aching from the day, but none dared speak up in fear of the snapper watching over them. They would not say a single word, not utter a single complaint until they were docked... or if the captain came to see. At the Terrahn docks, he was known as Tarjen, the Cephamorian’s true name lost, forgotten by his will. No one shall utter it ever again, not by the children of clay, not by the Earth Mother’s chosen nor any of the Terra Forces nor anybody else. Especially the Itchyomen.
And so he was left wondering why he hired one as his snapper.
The sight of seeing that whip in that Itchyoman’s hands made his blue blood boil and burn, raising cobalt circles on his gray skin, their inner ring bright red. The tendrils that rolled down his back, covering his bulbous head, would writhe and slap each other whenever he saw him raise it. If it wasn’t for his skipper, Plu, he would have already let his sword fly and sully itself on the stormy gray scale and hide of that spurned child of clay twisted and shaped after the Dark Ones. That didn’t stop him from pawing at it, though, whenever that fishman was in his presence, especially in his quarters. He had traced it so much that there was one perfect spiral down the hilt, clear of the green that had claimed the rest of the copper handle of his saber. Its S-shaped crossguard had been turned green by the sea’s salty spray, as well, but the blade itself, the black steel was pure, and, indeed, sharp.
He tapped that long, curved blade tapped against his leg, ringing softly as he sat at his desk, in his quarters, partially listening to what would be considered language belching out of that Itchyoman’s maw. The words were less uttered and more retched out, as if snagged on those rows of jagged, black teeth, but it was those eyes that had Tarjen’s attention. Those beady, little, pink eyes. There were four of them, two rows with the upper set further apart, as if trying to flee from his forehead’s small spike, while the rest of his head was covered in thick scales, almost looking like ruffled hair. But, again, it was those pink eyes he focused on... or, rather, the space between them. A perfect place for him to drive his sword, but not yet. Not yet.
It seemed the Itchyomen did not understand the bored look Captain Tarjen gave him as he spoke, or didn’t care as he did any other time. The fishman never seemed to notice that his eyes were a solid, static yellow around their star irises, pulsing with red, so he decided to look at the rest of his quarters. The captain’s quarters were rather plain, with only the smallest window on the starboard side. The moon and stars gleamed off the thick glass, still shut. For the moment. The Itchyoman did pick up on that initially; he cocked his head, surprised to see it closed when he entered, its handle wedged as tight as possible, not even creaking as the ship rocked while the baubles and trinkets on the desk between them jingled merrily along with it. One was a chime, hanging off a silver rod. It was raised almot to the ceiling, and was smelted to look like a school of lorimon fish, swirling down, down to where he kept his papers and ink vial on the right side of the desk. The top one seemed to flutter, to lead the school ever to the heights of the room. Its sleek, slender body was covered in red and blue jewels, contrasting its large, almost winglike fins. On the left side sat a sculpture of two Faun at play, a young, bovine boy prancing and playing with a doe-faced girl, both under a green heart, lazing back and forth, as if a pendulum, ticking away the time for the clock that sat in the center of the desk. Aside those, though, there was only the hammock off to the left, the chest underneath it, and the coat rack by the door. Which meant he didn’t have much to keep his attention, so the fishman better hurry up!
Doesn’t he get it, he thought, once more staring into the Itchyomen’s forehead, the space between spaces. How starved is he for interaction that he must talk my ear off? Enough.
Captain Tarjen “cleared” his "throat”, the back of his head shuddering from it as its sides rippled with the sounds, and finally quieted the Itchyoman. His pink, beady eyes were fully focused on him now, watching him as he sat forward, creasing his “arms” together. He “laid" his head on their crook, his star eyes more red than yellow now, but cooling.
“Status report.” Captain Tarjen stated. His voice was small for a Cephamorian his size, and even smaller for someone in such a large coat and hat. The mantle of that coat had been patched more times than it had owners, the smooth leather tended to with such care. Every patch was more another layer, its stripes, the honor that had been bestowed upon it. Its edges hung all the way to the floor, to the top of his brown-stained-black boots when he stood, and flared out, making him seem to swoop down on the deck, to prey on those under his wings. His hat ebbed and flowed with the tendrils they tried to hide, seeming to bob on its own ocean, a ship in its own right. It had a long, periwinkle stripe down its middle, with a pair of curved swords crossed in the middle below a pair of interlocked A’s, the symbol for the Aqua Alliance.
“Larder’s running low,” the Itchyoman said. His voice was like nails on the skull, scraping, gnashing as much as his teeth did together, seeming to always froth and wrought with blood. “The crew are weary. They might not have the energy to make it to Carapai.”
“Your arm grown tired of striking, snapper?”
The Itchyoman chortled, and a light flashed across those eyes, seeming to glint off his teeth as they slurped free from their gums, exposing their true, white color.
“If you want blood more than flesh on those oars.” He pulled his teeth back in, cracking them into place, and growled, a deep, bubbling thing that dared Captain Tarjen to draw his sword. He didn’t, but, with each tick, each passing of the pendulum, with each tinkle of the fish, that time was coming. “There is, also, talk of a stowaway on board. Murmurs here and there. They say it’s a freak, a child of clay and Cephamorian.”
“And which part are you considering queer?” Once more, he “cleared” his “throat”, and waved a “hand”, dismissing the Itchyoman. “The crew have but a few more hours and they shall have their rest.”
“Should I keep my arm still, then?”
“Only if they keep theirs moving, and only if they stop longer than three beats.”
The Itchyoman bowed his head as he stood, and made his way for the door, slammed shut. Captain Tarjen bolted to his feet at the same time, storming over to the window, and flung it open at last. He breathed in that heavy ocean air, relished the salty spray. His gray skin seemed to soften with it, turning from its shade of slate to almost marble, while the cobalt rings lost their luster, lost their angry red circle. They pulsed, brightened with each beat of his heart in his head, swelling once more before he let out another, long sigh.
Heard through the window underneath.
Olivier hugged his legs tight, finally fully awake. His heart raced in his shell that made his head as he waited for that long breath to fade away. His fingers stung as they popped off his pale, yellow legs, each of the thirty suckers on his hand leaving perfectly round dots just under his knees, just free of his hemp shorts, the only bit of cloth that covered any part of him. His thin chest was free for all to see, the yellow skin giving in to the whorls of blue, a clash between his Terrahn and Cephamorian blood. As was his head; only the shell and tendrils of his hair gave way he was his father’s son, yet even those blue tendrils suffered from the curse of Terrahn flesh, flayed and sprayed and softened around his star eyes, looking so foreign in a Terrahn face.
Maybe that’s why he ran away from home. Perhaps that was why he left Carapai, deserted his father and his shop, tired of being the attraction, but what hope did he have on Palridian? What difference would it make to be with his mother’s people, just as much an outcast there? Per chance it was this, then, that kept him rooted in that tiny corner in the storeroom, that forced him to stay seated for... so long he forgot, it seemed. So long that he had eaten through two bags of rice and spice, and that was little more than a palm-full a day. He once worried he would be caught down here, but now... would it have been so bad? A few lashes, beg, plea for his life; he would even accept keelhauling over sitting there another moment.
Now, he had a different hope, the hope his legs remembered their strength, remembered how to lift and hold him high. He wasn’t that large for a Cephamorian; “Took after his mother,” his father would joke and tease him about, yet he still stood taller than most children of clay, and even taller than most of the tallest of Faun, even counting their horns. How he sucked his lip, fighting, biting back any wince or pant or groan that dared to rise as he pulled himself up on the box beside... but, alas, he had to settle back down, hugging his middle as he fell to the side, another day to wait. Another day to wallow in despair and the path that he had chose... no. The path that was chosen for him.
Fate is a fickle thing, though. Soon, Olivier would see.