The Scylla

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III

To submerge a ship is no small feat. Doing so deliberately without compromising a vessel’s hull is even harder, but the Aqua Alliance had it mastered for centuries. Originally meant for their shell gliders and reef rafts, when they made contact with the Terra Forces, they adopted their ship design. The problem, though, is how does one submerge a ship meant to stay afloat, and then bring it up?

“Sinking” it was the easy part. The Aqua Alliance had no trouble making them go underneath the water. Six heavy, black steel anchors, three on each side, waited to be lowered into the water, kept at bay by three great wheels both on deck and on the second floor. These, too, also drew down the masts, sunk them into the body of the ship, where the crow’s nest would cap them off, making a seal. From there, it was simply letting them fall into the water, far and deep into the dark. Each link of the chain was as heavy as two crewmen, the anchors twenty, while they had chains of at least four-hundred that spooled into the briny deep. The stern anchors, though, were three times larger than the others, the secret to sinking it.

The back of the ship would submerge first, slurping down into the waves, slowly, gently allowing the sea to claim it, if only temporary, until the front was under. Only the smallest ripples would remain, this evening the ocean bathed in hues of orange and purple, while the ocean underneath was streaked in long slashes of prismatic beauty. The Kraken groaned, the water pressing on it as it continued to descend into the depths, but not a drop of water made it through the ferrisom bark, nor did it crack or bend to Natalie’s strength. Fish, great schools of lorimon, of duschaal, swam passed the Kraken, undisturbed by its presence. The lorimon fluttered across the deck, darting, nipping, pecking at every board before they grew bored and left, while the duschaal followed, just as slow and lumbering through the dark depths. Their purple scales shimmered from the occasional ray of light, cascaded along their long, spiky fins. They had four, all separate, all along their backs, leading to their large, fanned tail, putting the rutters of the Kraken to shame in both size and splendor which were only matched by their fins along their belly. They had two sets there, making them look like kites simply gliding through the water.

However, they scattered soon enough, lost to the depths as the great tanador finally stirred. They slithered through the water, their bodies as black as the water that claimed them, and were only told apart by their large, green “eyes”. They always faced forward, always shining, hiding their true eyes under, those dots of coal burning with such fire as they loomed. A single, long fin pulsed along their thick body, propelling- no, cutting the water away in such a clean swathe. The only tell they were moving at all, living at all, was their mouth, the two pincers on its side clacking together, rap, tap, tapping far into the ocean, answered by the drums in the belly of the Kraken. Their pincers, each as long as three men and five times as wide, parted from each other as they grew close to the hull. They tried to grasp, to dig into it, into the ferrisom bark, growing more and more agitated as they simply slid off, gnashing at it with such fervancy, with such wanton need. After what seemed an eternity to them, they left, returned to the abyss from whence they came, and leaving the Kraken to finally approach Carapai.

At first, it seemed they were simply approaching darkness, the void, itself, their harbinger. However, as they continued to lower, deeper into the dark, lights blossomed forth, swirling, flooding over them before the ocean, itself, seemed to part. The anchors rose back into the ship, the sails still lowered, following a waterless current down, down to the docks of Carapai, to the other ships. The Leviathan was docked this day, merchants, tourists bustling from it, to the tavern, to stalls, restocking as quick as they were selling, while the tavern was alive with such music and cheer, even shaking the Kraken in its merriment. The Tiamat was also in port, though its ties were undone. Its captain, Jho, was an Aceon of colossal proportion, watching the Kraken lull down the current. She licked her eye stalks clean, the black beans at their end glittering as her legs rubbed together before her mouth, the tiny frills behind buzzing. She pulled gently on those stalks, as gently as she could with those soft gold claws, each as large as a man, and skittered side to side, her six legs thumping softly in her dark, tan boots. Her skipper, a Cephamorian, chortled as he stepped around, almost dancing with her, slinking, sliding his jelly head wherever she didn’t step. He almost lost his hat, a tiny, blue crest for his rounded, puce cranium, but managed to get it without any of his barbs sinking into her and mar her good mood. It was rare that he ever saw her in such a flight of fancy; it could only mean one thing.

“Is Skipper Plu-” He began, but she silenced him with a squeaky thought, making his head jiggle a touch from the wave sent from her claw. His head glowed brighter, and he truly did dance with her, his “arms” stinging softly in her claws. “Your brother has come home! This is magnificent news. How is he? Do you have time to see him before you must leave for Palridian?”

She stopped a moment, looking back up at the Kraken... and seemed to sink onto her legs. Her frills had gone still. He simply watched on as she turned around and scuttled off to her quarters once more. The warm blush that had once filled that gelatinous head had faded, still watching the Kraken as it finally touched down in the free port far, far to the left.

Captain Tarjen stepped out onto the deck, his eyes red, watching as the Itchyoman snapped his whip, echoing, flashing like lightning along the docks, otherwise still, as his voice, his booms were its thunder. Chains rattled, feet scuttled, padded, and squelched as line after line of Cephamorians, Aceons, and the occasional Itchyomen marched from the galley, filing onto the deck before Captain Tarjen. They looked up at him, some shivering, others too weary to do so, waiting as he drew his sword. He raised it high, and brought it down with one, long, slow arc onto the railing by the steps and off to the left of the steering wheel.

Where it clicked.

The shackles, that held them for so long, clicked open. Captain Tarjen watched, waited for them to move their feet away from the iron braces, and sheathed his sword, letting the button it had fell upon rise, and all the shackles snapped shut again.

“You have all done splendidly!” He boomed, and walked down the steps, allowing each one to thunder. The Itchyoman waited at the bottom, arms filled with small, now-damp purses, each with ten, golden coins. Captain Tarjen held one up, jingled it, and lobbed it towards the first member, caught on his dark, yellow-striped claw. “Your payment. There’s plenty more if you wish to return. For now, though, stretch your legs. We leave tomorrow morning, so get in as much rest as you can.”

“You heard the captain! Dismissed!” The Itchyoman belched out, but none moved until Captain Tarjen nodded. One by one they claimed their bounty. One by one, they deepened the Itchyoman’s glower until the last almost collapsed from the sheer amount of daggers being plunged into her back from those eyes. He spat a slur that no tongue should ever try to recant nor any quill or pen should dictate, and turned his dour visage towards Captain Tarjen as he chortled. “Why do they show no respect? Do they not realize I am simply doing my job, ensuring they do theirs?”

“A snapper’s position is not a loved one, nor is it envied.”

“I only took it because you said you were in need of a new skipper. That Plu w-”

He shuddered, and turned around simply to shrink under the shadow of the Aceon that had climbed its way through the grating. Its left claw was far larger than the right and was lined with purple barbs, scraping against the red shell as it clacked it together, slowly, threateningly. It waved its right claw at the Itchyoman, creating another sphere, and let it loose, turned to a wave as it rippled through the air, distorting before hitting him. The Itchyoman gasped, and shook his head, his chortle more than a touch sheepish.

“I meant no disrespect, sir,” the itchyoman said, “but it was the truth. I was told that this would be your last voyage. With us finally in port, I simply assumed-” Another wave slammed into him, actually knocking him off his feet this time, the fury seen all too well as purple spikes cracked and jutted free from Plu’s spiky carapace, tainting the golden fringes with spooling pools of green. The Itchyoman gulped, and bowed his head, clasping his hands as he fell to his knees. “I am truly sorry. I will not assume again. Please forgive me!”

“That’s enough, old friend,” Captain Tarjen said, patting the Aceon’s claw. He chortled, and waved towards the dock. “Come! Let us go get a drink. Maybe we can see your-” A small wave hit Captain Tarjen, and he sighed, watching after the Tiamat, rising on the current. “She really did take after you.”

He chortled again, gaining a “bored” look from Plu, and he scuttled off the ship, forcing Captain Tarjen to take two steps for every one of his, leaving the Itchyoman there to wallow. Oh, but he did not frown, nor did he skulk or lament. No; he was too busy smiling, the plot in his mind etched into his teeth, just as bared as his ambition. It won’t be long before he is skipper, if not captain, and then good old Tarjen shall be licking his bootstraps, for he had a secret. He knew where the stowaway was, and, by fate, it was a Cephamorian. It was a shame what would happen to the rest of the Cephamorians on board, but they would be the dark price to Cao’thugar. Who knows? Maybe with this, he would finally be rid of the curse that had been placed upon him and the rest of his kin, a curse he did not warrant but were cost of the sins of his father before, but that was only wishful-

“Hmm?” He uttered, blinking as he looked down at the grate. Closed. “Odd. I don’t remember that oversized crabpot shutting it.”

He watched it for a bit longer, but shook his head, snickering as he stomped his way down the pier, following after his soon-to-be toadies to the Upturned Nautillus.

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