The Scylla

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Captain Tarjen hummed, the wheel clutched in his “hands”, turned ever so slightly, kept in the right direction as the sea rolled under it. It rose and fell on its currents, chasing after the wind that gave it life, rippling through the sails above, washed in the midday sun. Indeed, it would have been perfect... if it wasn’t for his snapper. He watched that Itchyoman pace, heard him mumbling something in his kind’s wretched tongue, and couldn’t help but notice how he pawed at a dagger. He didn’t remember that fishman having the dagger before, but he didn’t really care either.

Let him try, he thought, the sword on his side feeling a touch heavier, expecting as a ring of black started to grow around his irises. Please, Natalie, Astra, if not Terra. Let him try.

But he did not. The Itchyoman, Bubbles, simply kept pacing across the ship, up, down the stairs but never towards his quarters. He made sure to keep a wide berth as the good captain headed down to the larder, enjoying a meal with his first-mate. The crew had begun to stir, but only had minimum chores to do before retiring to their hammocks again, and the good captain wasn’t far behind once he climbed to the deck again. The sun was low on the water, anyways, the sea settling for the night. He locked the wheel, made sure it was still aimed true by the compass, and closed his door, all forgotten and unknown now beyond those walls.

Which meant it was time for Bubbles to move.

Olivier had stirred several times before, lulled back to sleep by the ship’s gentle sail and a song on the wind, but now even the sea, Natalie Herself, seemed to believe he had slept too long. The porthole beside was only opened a touch, but it was enough for a bit of sea foam to slip in. He jumped, spluttering a little as the cold froth washed over him. His heart raced, hammering in his chest, slowly easing as he blinked, mind catching up to him. His eyes were ringed in pink and yellow, reduced to only pink as nothing stirred in the dark ship. Nothing groaned aside the hull, itself, slurping with the waves that continued to carry them. Another round of foam splashed on him, but this time he welcomed it, looking out of the porthole at the night sky, almost blue again under the pale moonlight. He broke his gaze, looking at the crates to the left, and remembered how he had eased himself off them back into his hidey hole before falling asleep... for the unknown time.

But he had forgotten something. He had left the spice and rice up on top of the crates. His heart started to race again, seeing that burlap as clear as day in the dark storeroom, so completely out of place. What if somebody had come by? What if they had noticed? What if they were waiting, right now, for him to reach up and take it? He was more hungry than tired now, but it mattered not to the fear and dread bubbling forth, spiking with each creak, with each rock of the ship.

He simply stared at it, wondering, weighing if he really should go for it- and what about his “friend”? Olivier had almost completely forgot about them. They must be starving now, too... He did owe them.

He grimaced, tensing every part of him while he curled his hand into a fist. He lowered it to the timbers, and gave it three, strong knocks. Each one made him flinch, and each one bounded through the ship, as if they were thunder, itself, returning, crashing into him. As they faded, he could only hear his heart, hammering into his yellowed vision, hearing every small creak and slap... but none seemed to grow close. None seemed to answer him.

I tried, he thought, and he felt accomplished for it. He reached up for the sack of spice and rice and met it half way, hugging it to himself as he sat once more. He sighed, taking out not one but two handfuls. To be back in his sanctuary and have tried to help another? He earned it. So he enjoyed his feast, listening to the wind, the sea outside. He watched the moons bob in both heavens, the stars twinkle on the sea and sky, both seeming to ripple, lulling him away again.

“Why do we sleep at night?” Olivier remembered him asking Lady Naomei, now a distant echo in his mind, distorted by his chewing. “It’s cooler at night. People could get more done then.”

“It’s harder to see at night, young one,” she had answered, and he could see her sitting beside her on the bed in their tiny little cot. It was a little smaller than the room he was in now, but it at least had more color, long, red tapestries hung from the red clay walls, so long in fact that they became like carpet for the hay floor. She tried to keep him tucked in, her olive-colored hands and their dagger-like nails fighting to keep his arms underneath the gray fleece, but there was no malice in her grip nor in her topaz eyes, gleaming down at him. “It would be far too dangerous for you to be out, let alone farmers and the like.”

“It doesn’t seem that different to me.”

“That’s because you have Cephamorian eyes, dear. Those of Terra don’t have as adept of eyes.”

“So? That means I can play and study at night and sleep during the day.”

She sighed, creasing the blanket tighter.

“And what about me, hmm? Or Page Olivia?”

His smile faded hearing her name, both in memory and on the Kraken.

“Where is mom?”

“I don’t know, dear. I don’t know... Get some rest. We have a lot to do tomorrow.”

He winced as she kissed him on the head, remembering how... gritty those lips were, and was once more fully in the present, simply looking out the window at the moons. As bright as any sun, he thought, and scoffed. But he did not argue nor fight any as his eyes started to shut again, the lids creeping ever closer, but not before he finished his second handful. The first had gone down so quick, almost savage, brutish with how he consumed it. Now, he would slow. He would practice what he had learned so long ago. He would savor each and ever g-

Olivier stopped chewing.

He squeezed the spice and rice, cursed in his mind at every sucker that sucked too hard against them. His heart raced again, hammering against his ears, just dulling the plodding steps. They approached the room.

They entered the room.

He held his breath, hating his heart. It seemed to thunder, seemed to boom through the room as he heard the Itchyoman snort and snuffle and gnash their jowls. Each step squelched, seeming to step on Olivier’s heart, prowling ever closer.

His chest ached as he held his breath. His vision started to fade. His body jerked, begging for release, though he made sure his head stayed still, lest the shell on it be his demise. Each beat seemed to slow, as did the world around him as it closed in... but, with a soft sigh, he let it go as the footsteps fa-

“Thanks for staying!” The Itchyoman boomed, cackling and slathering Olivier in blood and spit as he pulled him up on the crate. Olivier exclaimed, and tried to claw and wrench at the hand that bit into his shoulder, shoulders as the Itchyoman caught the other. He turned Olivier around, let him go for a moment, and gripped him by the neck with his left hand.

The Itchyoman slammed him against the crate. Blood seeped from Olivier’s chest, rising from his claws, while the Itchyoman raised his right hand. Purple light pulsed from those pink eyes, rushing to his raised arm, swirling as a mass of darkness in the palm. It didn’t take long for it to concentrate into a thin, curved dagger, though. Green runes burned on the blade, scorching away the purple, leaving behind only the dark, silver crook.

Moonlight caught the dagger’s edge, and seemed to make it whine. The wood, crates around smoked; silver fire roared to life and circled, closed around them. Thrice. Purple, green runes blossomed in between each band, flowing towards Olivier as the Itchyoman brought the blade down to his neck.

“You thought I didn’t know you were here, did you, you little rat?” The Itchyoman said, still giggling, dribbling blood. His teeth were free, long, jagged black edges that seemed to coil and curl around each other, glistening with the flames abound. “No. I knew all too well, but I was simply waiting for the opportune moment to come see you and put you to work. After all, that is the duty of a snapper, isn’t it?”

He growled, and an evil glint flashed across his eyes as he raised the dagger again. He flipped it around, pointing the blade down at Olivier, and raised his other hand, holding it firm in both. His pink eyes turned black as jet, glinting with the flames rising around, and he started to chant. It was low, slow, but grew faster, louder as darkness consumed the blade, dripping onto Olivier’s chest.

Olivier tried to writhe, to squirm away, but was met with fire and pain at every movement. So he was forced to simply watch, eyes unerring, staring at the blade. Darkness overtook the green runes, and, in their place, crimson replaced it. The silver fires around deepened to a steely gray, and he could see purple lightning flashing in them. Eyes seemed to grow with each flash, closing on him, looking down at him. They didn’t blink. They didn’t look anywhere else. They all simply focused on him, with a glint that made him shudder, for he knew that glint all too well, the feeling behind it that not even two handfuls could fully quench.

The Itchyoman hissed on the last syllable of that brutish speak, and cried out as he brought the blade down. It whistled in its descent, the shrieks it truly cut swallowed by those eyes, wide, mirroring Olivier’s tired, scared face. He wanted to scream, but, in the time he would have, the blade would have already sank into his chest, stealing them, so he stayed silent. He shut his eyes, not wanting to see his death... and wondered why it was taking forever. He could hear the metal, feel it against his skin, but why was it turned to the side? What w-

“Terrahn!” The Itchyoman bellowed, and Olivier’s eyes shot open, seeing the black dagger above his chest. It was still bearing down, shuddering, sparking against a gray dirk that actually laid against his chest. The Itchyoman rose his blade at last, picked up the dirk, and tossed it at the door, following it in chase as a dark figure stood there, only able to be told apart by their hair, the white locks shimmering with the blue torchlight behind. It splayed out as they lunged at the Itchyoman, forced back as they threw three more dirks. They thumped into the side of the crate Olivier laid on.

Which their flames were gone.

Olivier could move, escape them, leave them to fight as he found another hole to slink in. In fact, that’s what he started to do, crawling off to the next crate down, then the next, making his way towards the sides of the room, weaving around to the entrance as the two fought. Sparks lit from their blades, shining off the Itchyoman’s pale pink eyes and the Terrahn’s dark blues, seeming to be deeper than the ocean but with just as much ferocity, with as much temperance as they met them blow for blow, neither giving an inch.

The Terrahn fixed their gaze upon Olivier a moment, and he froze. Guilt washed over him like the coldest bath before their attention was pulled back to the Itchyoman.

They saved me. Again, he thought, and exclaimed, rolling off the crate as the Itchyoman slammed into it. He scampered, scurried away from wherever they did their dance, wherever the sparks followed, pushing him back towards his corner again. He curled into a ball, hugged his legs, whimpered as he watched the pair fight, feeling absolutely... Pathetic. I am pathetic.

He almost cried out as the Itchyoman got a cut on the Terrahn’s shoulder. Leather tore apart against the edge, revealing deep, bronze skin under the midnight garb, but they returned it in kind, blue blood and black scale splashing and clattering against the timbers. The Itchyoman cackled, swiping at the Terrahn again, and this time Olivier did exclaim as he got a cut across their middle.

“You are way out of your element, Terrahn welp,” the Itchyoman said, and lumbered a step to the right before pouncing to the left, getting another cut along their side. “You have no sea-legs.”

He lobbed the dagger up, reaching for it, but lashed at them with his claws instead. The hull rippled with his growls as he managed to grab them, and the room filled with the sickening crunch of his jowls. With one, quick, jerking motion, he lunged at their neck.

Tumbling to the ground.

He growled, and looked down to his waist, where Olivier still clung, and tried to grab his shell.

Howling as the Terrahn dug their knife into his left, lower eye. Eyes.

The Itchyoman writhed away from them, clutching at his face, and growled louder as he pulled the blades free. Blood ran down the side of his face, the skin between torn away.

Only to topple as the Terrahn punched them in the chin. It was a solid sound, a popping sound, and his body fell as stiff as a board, landing before Olivier. His breath still hit his leg, deep, lumbering, not even changing as Olivier accidentally kicked him as he pulled his leg back.

Olivier looked up at the Terrahn, and the moon had shifted enough to see them. To see her. Her long, white hair lazed gently behind, moving with each pant as she smiled down upon him. Her heart-shaped face was so young, no wrinkle nor blemish to be seen save for a single mole by her left lip, hidden in her dimples. She was covered in dark leather, fitted perfectly for her curvy form, and pretty much every single inch was covered in daggers after. A circle of them seemed to make her corset, keeping her bosom in place, most of the leather used to keep them incredibly padded, smoothed out lest to allow a blade to slide in between, while a good bit was, also, used to patch between her hips and thighs, just as voluptuous.

She offered her hand, and Olivier took it, standing on shaking legs.

“T-thank you,” he mumbled, and bit his tongue, wanting to cry out as she let him go, instead leaning on a crate. “For both times.”

“Yes yes. Now hurry up. Your dad is missing you,” she said, her voice high pitched and cutting. It was odd. Though she still smiled, none of that warmth bled into her words. Instead, she sounded cold, bitter, if not loathsome. Olivier didn’t expect gratitude, not when she did most of the work, but at least acknowledgement would have been nice. Instead, she seemed to simply keep smiling at him, waiting for a response.

“My dad? Y... you’re not going to take me back to him, are you?” He said, and shook his head. “No! I can’t go back. I don’t want to be his freak-show again.”

“Don’t care. I’ll drag you back if I need to. You are worth a lot of money.”

Once more, she smiled during all of that. Her face was so sweet, warm, almost bubbly, yet none of that transferred to her words. It was such a tonal shock; Olivier found himself sliding down the crate once more, holding his legs, heaving dry sobs.

This was his savior? This was his hope, this... contradiction? He had known many children of clay. He knew they didn’t always make sense, that words do not always equate their actions, but this?

“I don’t want to go back. I’d rather die.” He stated... and felt his chest hollow even more as he realized that he truly meant it.

“Don’t say that. Your father misses you. He closed his shop and has been working at the tavern to raise enough funds to create a bounty. Don’t let it be for nothing.”

If he wasn’t confused before, he now was absolutely flabbergasted. There was no change in her face for that, again, but the tone was so soft compared to the coldness before, barely within a span of minutes.

He looked up at her, shaking a little as she offered her hand again.

“Who are you?”

“I am...”

Olivier winced as she uttered her name --at least, that’s what he hoped she did. Why else would she suddenly make that noise, like the ocean slamming against the shore thousands of times over, raising to a shrieking warble against the senses? He shook his head, still throbbing from that sound, and saw she still hadn’t changed her visage, that the sound did not wrack her mind at all. Surely there was no way to get used to that sound, was there?

“I’m sorry, but that can’t be your name, can it? What is your name?”

She went silent.

The ship creaked. Timbers groaned. Water whispered against the hull as he simply stared at her, waiting for an answer. Her hand was still outstretched, bobbing slowly with her breathing, slow, methodical, but the rest of her might as well have been a statue, unblinking, stuck in its slightly bowed position. The Itchyoman snorted, but she didn’t even stir at that, nor how Olivier backed up an inch, panting.

“Well?” Olivier hissed. “What’s your name?”

She remained silent. Instead, a pressure pushed against Olivier’s mind, like a pillow against the head as one slowly drifted to sleep. It continued to grow, rising with a slow warbling, like a rapping, tapping against his skull.

‘C... m... Ca... you h...’ Slowly the words formed, rising in pitch, in agitation, but, at last, they hit him like a solid blow from a wave. ′Can you hear me?′

“Y-yes.” He said.

’Well, this is unexpected,′ she thought, and finally wrenched Olivier’s hand up, forcing him to stand once more. ‘Interesting, though.’

“I guess? It’s not the first time I met a Terrahn that can use telepathy, but my point still stands. I don’t want to go home.”

‘I don’t have much a choice. It’s my quest.’

“Quest? That’s it! Take me with you. At least, for a while. I don’t want to stay on this ship anymore, but I don’t want to go back to my father... Please?”

‘I mean, if I can... I have another quest to go find treasure, so why not join me for that?’

“T-treasure? Where?”

‘At Golden Golem Grotto. It’s- hold on.’ She jerked back, placing her hands on her hips as she hummed softly. She stared off into space, but it wasn’t like before. There was intent in those eyes, focus, as if she was seeing something that he simply could not. She jerked back into her forward leaning position again soon enough, though, and the pressure came with it. ′Yeah! If we leave now, it’s due west. What do you say? Do you think you can?′

“I... I think so. Yeah!”

‘Awesome. Follow me.’

She turned around, and her boots slapped lightly on the timbers. She stopped every three steps to look back, waiting for Olivier to follow on shaking legs, growing stronger with each step away from that storeroom. His heart seemed to skip in his ears, bounding away as he found himself smiling like a fool giving chase after the Terrahn, growing uncertain as they climbed the stairs to the deck, though she didn’t show any signs of faltering, boots still clomping away as she made for the port side railing.

Once more she simply stood there, leaned back a moment, before she straightened and tossed off a sparkling, silver gem. It fell over the side, and expanded with a soft whisper into a golden vehicle. Blue runes pulsed on its six engines on the back, rippling the water as it bobbed beside the ship, looking absolutely tiny compared to the Kraken. A pair of handlebars jutted from the bird-like front, all plated in gold except for those bars, gleaming silver in the moonlight before a black seat. The Terrahn leaped over the rails onto it, squeezing the bars, making the runes burn brighter on the back as it roared with flame.

She looked up at Olivier. ‘You coming?’

“Where did you get a Zephyrian glider?” He wondered aloud, jumping down behind her all the same, and gripped her waist as it roared into the night, disturbing the heavens underneath, raising waves in its wake. He shook his head, shivering as his suckers stuck to her shoulders. “I never did get your name.”

’Just... call me Gwen.′ She egged the throttle more, and the engine almost raced as fast as Olivier’s heart. He looked back, watching as, at long last, the Kraken faded against the horizon, becoming a black stain against the sun as it ushered in the dawn.

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