The Scylla

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II

A moment. One single choice. That’s all it takes to change a life, to make a life, or to take it. As the Kraken lumbers its way across the sea, Carapai still a ways to be, let us sit for a spell, and hear the tale of young Olivier. The sea, itself, was his compass, the waves churning like time spinning the needle. South. East. North. West. South... North... West... East... Page Olivia was a pilgrim, a messenger for the Earth Mothers. She was given her duty, bound by honor, to spread Their holy word to the Zephyrians in their golden cities in the sky, but she had made a choice, had a moment of rebellion. She did not listen to her holy mothers, nor to her waymother, Lady Naomei. She had decided, then and there, she would go against their words, only once, ever only once, and went to Carapai, instead.

Escaro was a shopkeep, a Cephamorian who had grown weary of the same four walls, grown tired of the streets and the people he saw. He found himself looking up, through the bubble of Carapai, and to a blue sky he has never truly seen, that he wanted to see. He was ready to close shop, to leave it all behind, when a pilgrim of the Earth Mothers came to his store, seeking information. He could have ignored her, told her the place was closing, but, instead, made a choice. He became her guide, in both culture and romance. When she left, he no longer wanted to leave though yearned for her to stay, but they were both but pawns to Fate. They had played their parts; a child of clay yet also one of the sea, a melding of Terra and Natalie, was born.

And so the child, Olivier, lived ten years as a Terrahn. Ten years he resided with his mother, both cowed, scrutinized, and controlled by Lady Naomei. Whenever a rope snapped or a plank creaked or even cracked, his hands would clench. His fingers would curl, suckers puckering, pulling at each other as his back ached, feeling the snap of the twine lash across it or the thin timber on his rear, and, in his mind, he could still hear her, as if the words were bled into the scars.

Freak.

Abomination.

Monster.

Though the twine may have only snapped once, the plank quiet before his body fully tensed, it felt as if they were always in three. And that was called kindness. The other children, those truly of Terra, the Terrahn, the Faun, even the occasional Natorei, they treated him as he was, as the words that were impregnated under his skin. Even his mother abandoned him, abandoned the abomination she allowed to come into this world, upon the eve of this... freak’s eleventh birthday. She had gone to the Hallowed, to condemn the Earth Mother’s for allowing this monster into her life, and that was kindness.

Cruelty was when Lady Naomei didn’t hit him, didn’t call him what he was. She lectured him, said he was still a true child of the Earth Mothers, that he had a purpose for Them, but where were They when his own mother abandoned him? Where were They when she stood by and watched Lady Naomei beat him, allowed the children to demonize and ostracize? It was the cruelty of being told he was useful that drove him into the sea, forced him under its purity, where beasts like him deserved to be. A monster like him would never be accepted; Their role was to make him a martyr, an abomination to focus their ire against, and he wouldn’t be Their toy a moment longer.

He left at night, blinded by his own ambition, his only sight set on the back of a traveler’s wagon, hoping that They wouldn’t make it stop a moment, wouldn’t put a rock in his path and clatter, forcing his exodus, if not his life to an end. He followed that wagon for three days, with only a handful of crumbs, until they came to a town, a port. He managed to hide away in the Leviathan, a ship he shall never forget, a vessal that put his current “home” to shame, and sat in its cargo for three more days. It was a good thing he was shown such kindness, taught to be quiet, to be still; he reached Carapai, and sought out Prince Escaro. He never did find him; he did find the merchant Escaro, though.

The man who drove his mother to madness. The Cephamorian that gave him the ultimate cruetly, his conception that lead to his agony; Olivier still remembered the day he entered those pair of giant clamshells. It was the only time he remembered smiling, slamming through the red reef door. Its silver bell rung, clacking against the chime beside it and it did the same, causing a flock of metal lorimon to spin and send shimmering lights across the store. Olivier paid no heed to the coral shelves lined with cheap baubles and trinkets, nor did he stop to eye the hard sweets or baked goods on the bar; his eyes were on the Cephamorian behind the counter. His skin, his shoulders, blue on a good day, were not on this day, burning bright red with long, elongated hooks lashing down to his arms, while his eyes burned red, boring into the Cephamorian tending to a Faun.

Though the Cephamorian Escaro did not notice him, the Faun had. He had watched Olivier enter, the wallet in his bear hand still gripped tight, kept out of the merchant’s clutches. He saw the anger in Olivier’s eyes, the fire in every moment, and knew it was best to step out of the way. He left, while Escaro pleaded after, holding up one of the chimes, missing its flock still ringing away, and only when the reef door crunched under the Faun’s paws, only when he tossed the chime on the ground behind the counter did he notice Olivier. And he wasn’t scared by the melding of Terra and Natorei. He wasn’t frightened nor disgusted by his form. Instead, he was far more sick, far more heinous: He saw profit.

He waited to hear out Olivier, hear his tale, but, at the end, he asked Olivier one question: what did he want? Well, what did he want, truly? Revenge? For what? What had this Cephamorian, this merchant, done to him aside give him the gift of life? Maybe it was meaning, reason, a place to belong that he sought, but what place was there truly to belong to when your compass was the ocean, the waves its needle?

So, too, did the waves turn time. He served eight years under his father’s apprenticeship, his father’s true commodity, but never received his answer. He didn’t know what his father was to him, but he knew what he meant to his “father”. No; he had no family. With a heavy heart, he left the clam shell, the burden on his chest lifting with every step, hearing the chains shatter and fall away, and the music box finally break as he climbed aboard the Kraken.

And now, now that time has passed, either in a great leap or the longest crawl, Olivier found himself returning to one of his homes, yet not a home at all. He felt more than heard the great masts shudder and groan, and gasped as the boxes, his wall from sight of the door, his little sanctuary from the world, start to close in. His suckers clasped at the hull, to the boxes, pushing it away in vain as one of the great masts slithered down from above, spiraling, widening. Fast. Feet thundered into the room, grunts heard, followed by heavy metal, creating such a clangor, an echo six times over through the ship, again as six more answered another level lower, but Olivier hoped, prayed that those feet were gone as he flopped out of the boxes. They crunched against the hull, sealing the window as the first trickle of sea foam frothed through, bubbling on the hull outside as they submerged.

He gripped his chest, shivering, and held his breath as he let his head, its shell thunk against the crates. His chest convulsed with the silent sobs, the sobs he had held for so long, yet no tears ran down his cheeks, the one boon he was truly denied from being part child of clay.

However, he was not alone.

The realization was cold, seeping into his blood like rime as it slowly peeled his eyes open and drew his gaze towards the door. There, in its doorway, was another Cephamorian, a full-blooded Cephamorian. Four of her orange and crimson “legs” were bound in chain, slowly clinking, pulling her back to the galley, but her eyes, those diamond irises, sparked and flashed with such color. With such freakish thoughts, no less, he thought, and grimaced at himself for such a thought.

“H-hello,” the softest voice called through the darkened room. Even with all the torches and lanterns lit normally it was as dark as night, and now, with all extinguished, getting ready to enter Carapai, it was as if the Abyss already claimed them, dragging their souls below once more. They could have screamed that, bellowed it, but it would still be little than a whisper, but from the softness, the curiosity behind it, Olivier believed it to be female. “Who are you?”

“I’m... nobody,” Olivier mumbled. “You?”

“Less than nobody, it seems.”

“Oi! Why are you muttering to shadows?” A thick, guttural voice belched, and four pink dots appeared behind the Cephamorian. Bright white claws dug into the orange, guiding it down the hall, out of sight and, for the moment, out of Olivier’s mind. “Get back to your post. You squiddy bitties aren’t getting a moment’s rest until we are in Carapai’s docks, and even then you should be grateful! If I didn’t stand up for you with the captain, he would have preferred you all died at the oars, so better show me some respect.”

He snapped his teeth after the Cephamorian... but turned his attention to that storeroom. Though Olivier doubted the Itchyoman could see him, every single one he had met in the store had horrid sight, he could feel himself being pulled by his snorts, towards his snapping jowls as they tasted the air. He kept his hands as flat as he could, lest the suckers on them made the smallest of huffs or squelches, until the Itchyoman gave one last gnash, and growled, storming off.

“Bloody squid. Not even a moment, and she made this place smell like day-old chud,” he grumbled, fading away, but Olivier continued to hold his breath --without realizing he was holding it. Slowly, ever so languid, he let it slip out until he was completely exhaled, breathing shallow until the boat roared, creaking, bending a little under the force of the ocean as it fully slurped under the waves. His heart settled, returned to the beating of the drums, lulling him into an uneasy rest. Back to the waves, and their needle, and their three words. Freak. Abomination. Monster...

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