The Scylla

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Whiplash

As morning came and swept over the black waters and filled it with lush color again, it wrenched the Kraken out of its dark haven, back once more in the light. The ship groaned as much as its crew, snapped back into their silent toiling by the good captain, himself. Heavy bags hung under Tarjen’s eyes; ever since his snapper had left at Carapai’s dock, he wasn’t able to find another to fill the role, to keep the actual workers in line. So, it fell upon him to strike the whip, to get them to row or, like now, to turn the wheel to raise the middle anchors so they could get. Moving. They were only a week outside of Tornul, where Natalie and Terra both smiled upon him by giving him four Terrahn and two Faun laborers, but not a single soul would take up the mantle of snapper. Nobody wanted to willingly eat sin.

Someone cried out, leading to the others exclaiming and falling as the wheel spun out of control, ratcheting away. Chains made such a clangor, hitting against the side of the boat as they fell back into the depths. Tarjen hissed, barked a curse, and lunged, catching it, stopping it before even more of the chain was let loose into the briny deep. His eyes burned red, turning black as he swept across the crew.

“Who! Who fell first?” He said, his voice ragged and hoarse.

One of the Terrahn’s, a portly lass, stood first. She had on a leather top, though it was a wonder why she bothered with even that, spilling out of it from top and bottom. Her middle had a few layers, but she made her naval stand out, pierced with a bright blue gem, gleaming so bright on her dark, tanned skin, while her legs were covered in rugged trousers. They were cut just above the knee, allowing her legs to feel the spray of the sea. Tarjen may have been fury incarnate, but she was the storm at the moment, baring down on the Cephamorian lass, still crumpled on the dock while the others started to stir and help each other.

“She did!” The Terrahn girl shrilled. “The clumsy squid doesn’t know her arse from her head!”

“She was the cause, then? Anyone want to confirm her story- or perhaps deny.”

The last was added as the Aceon with the missing front leg started to crack, bearing his barbs. He struggled to right, though, that front leg still lost to his next molting, but his barbs gave him enough leverage, staining the dock with green ooze. His frills fluttered fast enough to buzz as he stomped towards the Terrahn.

“Stay back, you... you...” The lass mumbled as she backed away, but growled and quickly grabbed a mop beside, brandishing it towards the Aceon. Making Tarjen rub his forehead.

The Aceon’s barbs fully broke through, coating his shell in green ichor, hissing as it rained upon the dock, but he was forced to halt, crumpled under Captain Tarjen’s whip. It cracked like thunder on his back and left a long, ragged line just above his eyes. Tarjen twirled the whip around his head, the crew silent, watching, locked on his fiery eyes, sparking as he snapped the whip again, leaving three more cracks on that carapace. They were all in line, perfectly parallel and spaced out a half-inch from one another, before aiming it at the lass. The leather cord twisted around the mop, and he wrenched it out of her hands, making her stumble a step. He caught it mid-flight, uncurled the whip in a blink and already had it flying again before she could move. It struck her across the belly, just above her navel, bathing that sapphire gem in crimson, almost ruby red, yet it paled compared to the sheer rage in his eyes.

“I will not have insubordination!” He boomed, snapping the whip off to the left. The other crew members cringed at its crack, frozen in place. “I will not allow in-fighting... or insurrection on my ship... It matters not who was at fault. Not now. Get back on the wheel; we’re wasting daylight.”

He let the wheel go, but the others were already on it, still just as silent. Their eyes were wide with fear, but dared not to look any higher than the spokes of that wheel. The Terrahn girl, meanwhile, was locked in place, looking down at her belly, watching as it continued to wash itself in red. She hissed as she touched it, but it was little more than a hair of a cut.

She jumped a little as Tarjen slapped a wet rag on it and shuddered, cowered a little as he lead her over to a stool. Two buckets of water awaited, one filled with sea water, burning as he took the rag, doused it in the salty concotion, and put it on her wound.

“How could you?” She whimpered, wrenching it from him.

Tarjen sighed, and laid his hand on her shoulder. “Because, Loana, what he would have done would have been far worse... Never, ever try to meet an Aceon’s challenge, child of clay.” He rubbed her shoulder, then went over to the Aceon, checking him. Superficial. It’ll be f-

The Aceon spun, frills going just as fast, but stopped, seeing it was Tarjen. The Aceon took a few steps back, orb already materializing, but the good captain simply dismissed it with a wave.

“It’s quite all right. You don’t need to apologize.” That only left the Cephamorian lass; she was still on the ground, “holding” herself. “You have nothing to apologize for...” He walked over to her and knelt, but she didn’t even seem to notice him or where they were. She was simply... staring at the wheel... watching as it turned. As it rose the chains, the anchors, clattering, echoing, bounding away. She didn’t even notice as he wrapped an arm around her, only starting when he patted her right “arm”. “It’s only me, young one... Let’s get you to the galley.”

“O...okay,” she said, and allowed him to pick her up and carry her down.

Allowing him to see the cuts on her “legs”.

They were pilfered with them, marring those crimson tips with blue blood, dried on and scabbed over so many times. Four of the cuts had broken free, as if they had been stretched, as if she had exerted too much... Tarjen sighed as he placed her on her hammock, caressing her head.

“You should be more careful,” he said, fighting back his yawns... and wondering. “I know you want to push yourself, but there is no need. You have nothing to prove.”

“I... I know, sir,” she said, and a bit of pink flashing across her eyes as she did. She turned away, wincing as the rope dug into her cuts... but... there was only so much a Cephamorian could resist. Tarjen sat on the hammock with her, patting her “shoulder”.

“Something on your mind?” He said.

“N... no, sir... Nothing... You don’t need to worry, sir. I... I’ll be back up in no time... Go back to the others, sir. I’ll be fine.”

There was no point... he simply shrugged, and headed for the storeroom. Though he would head up to the others, she needed something for her wounds. There were extra buckets and rags there, and, most importantly, no one to deal with.

Plu was fast asleep in his hammock, not even stirring as Tarjen passed him in the rowing hall. He had taken the last shift, a grueling ninety-six hours, which gave Tarjen a bit of sleep, but it was going to be a long one. Especially with that storm rolling in. It had been on the air for a couple weeks now; their return to Carapai was going to be in...ter...est...

Tarjen stood in the doorway to the storeroom, looking down at his snapper, who he thought was supposed to be estranged. Instead, he was laying in a pool of his own blood. Dried... Captain Tarjen drew his blade, hissing in the (somewhat) empty hull, and tapped it against the Itchyoman’s side. Once, twice, five times; he did it harder with each swing before he felt it was necessary to turn it over and start using the handle. As much as he would love to run the fool through... as much as he really... really... really wanted to... The air echoed with the thwacks, the thuds against scaly hide, rising to almost booming heights, almost squelching, caving in the fool-

Until a harsh croak emanated from the body.

“Oh,” Tarjen said, dejected, and sheathed his sword. “You’re not dead... Status report then, snapper. Where have you been the last few w-”

He was cut off as the Itchyoman managed to turn over, showing the origin of the blood. Though it had scabbed over, his two other pink eyes gleamed still with such pain from the greening flesh that used to be the left side of his face, rotting away.

“By Natalie... what happened-” He began.

“Stowaway,” he managed to gasp out, and inhaled a sharp breath. “Terrahn. Stowaway.”

“Where are they now? How long have you been like this? How have you survived this long!”

He shook his head, sniffling, gulping as he seemed to fight the urge to scream.

“No... no idea... help me... Save. M... me.”

Tarjen groaned as he gathered the Itchyoman into his arms, but wasted no time dallying as he carried him to the hammocks. He screamed at Plu to wake as he passed; the Aceon practically jumped to attention and followed after within hearing it, looking over Bubbles with Tarjen as he set him in the cot by the Cephamorian lass.

The lass looked at him, green and black swirling in her eyes seeing how his flesh had putrefied. Not only was it the smell, but what had made itself at home in the rotting flesh, what now was plopping out, disturbed after such a long nap.

“We need to make a stop.” Tarjen stated. “Plu, where and what is the closest town?”

The Aceon paused a moment, then, slowly, made a sphere, tossing it at Tarjen. The Cephamorian lass happened to get a splash of it, hearing that they were heading to Lam Berel, and the two rushed upstairs, leaving her with Bubbles. She could hear them giving the crew orders, heard their boots rush across the deck, but they were quickly drowned out by Bubbles. He continued to sob and gasp and pant, clawing at his eyes while trying to stop himself, ripping at his arm, keeping it from freeing more of those white worms. Probably his only saving grace at that time. He turned and snared himself again and again in the hammock.

Stopped as he looked at her.

“You,” he said, almost growling it. “It’s all your fault!”

“M-me?” She said, shaking a little.

He sat up a little, seeing her better... and sighed, shaking his head.

“No. Not you... Not you.” He settled back on the hammock, still panting, but a new fear had sprung in the Cephamorian Lass’s chest. Did he mean Nobody?

She... she didn’t want to lay there anymore. She hurried back up to the docks, aided, at the very last second, to finish raising the anchors, then was the first to be on the masts, loosing the sails, doing whatever she could so she could rush back downstairs and check the storeroom.

Finding it empty.

“Where... where did...” she said, and slumped against the hull... Filled with dread. But why... She really didn’t have an answer, but, thinking on him, she swore she could hear thunder in the distance, making her heart ache.

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