Less than Nobody
The azure dome around Carapai shimmered and rippled, disturbing the “sunlight” that streamed from far above. The ripples grew, cascading down the walls around the grand city built of carapace and marble, distorting its denizens’ view of the seafloor and the great corals and life that gathered before the walls. Even the pods of claranel couldn’t be seen, the waves sent from the northwest of the dome hiding their crimson skin, shining and gleaming like rubies in the deep.
At last, the dome gave, and allowed the dark, ferrisom hull of the Kappa through. It didn’t enter nor arrive. No, it seemed more to tear itself into being, to rend and feast on the light as it simply... became. And yet not a single person paid it any mind, a common occurence in the Aqua Alliance capitol. It was filled to the brim with buzzing crowds bustling from shops and taverns, already packed to the brim yet never truly packed to being uncomfortable. Ships were as quick to come as to leave, especially this time of year.
The Cetus’s anchors clanked, the water-less current stirred under it, raising it, carrying it to the dome. Its sails were down, their masts sunk into the hull, as were all the ships that traversed to Carapai, but they blossomed once out in the water, beyond the dome. The Kappa took its place at the docks, settling in between the Capricorn and the Kraken. They both dwarfed it, the difference between a schooner and a galleon if one had to compare, which the same was with the Cetus before it.
As the Kappa made itself comfortable, the docks of both the Kracken and Carapai rumbled with boots. And voices. Itchyomen, stevedores, sneered and jeered at and after the Cephamorian- and Aceon crew that darted their way from the ships, from the Kappa. No one paid them mind; why would they? They had fresh gold in-hand, ready to spend for relief if for a moment. If they so chose, as well.
A luxury that some didn’t have.
A young Cephamorian lass waited, dreading her turn. She wrung her “hands”, watching as the line inched up yet quickly closed in on Captain Tarjen. He still had a few wallets in his grasp, each one gently tugged as he relaxed his gray suckers so the thick, rugged fabric would fall into their recipient’s hand and seen off the boat. Her orange-and-red “arms” hugged her middle, the suckers on her four “legs” sticking fierce to the deck. Her diamond irises in their round sockets were pure blue, and were only paled by the dome above. It had settled once more, returned to its seamless, perfect sphere, allowing the four orbs in the “sky” to gleam once more. She peered at it, quick darts if only to avoid the captain’s stare, and saw one of the “suns” was but a sickle tonight. She wondered if it would come down to reap her. If only she would be so lucky.
She was prodded from behind, and metal clanged as she jumped. The lass also uttered a tiny squeal, quickly stifled. There was already enough yellow in her eyes now without garnering (more) attention. It was a solid line around the edges of her diamonds, bleeding into the blue and creating a green ring.
The Cephamorian lass took a deep breath, and gently eased her front “foot” off the railing... as well as replaced the board that had stuck to it, fitting it back onto the deck. She looked behind, a spark of red flashing from the inside of the diamonds, but faded just as quick, seeing that it was her southpaw Aceon friend. His soft, sandy shell rippled as blue spikes started to ease their way through, clashing so with the crimson lines that weaved their way through the chitin. It was not of anger they rose, however. No ichor surged to those tips, no green venom nor anger to be seen in those stocky eyes.
The Aceon nudged the Cephamorian again, prodding with its tiny left claw, while it pointed with its behemoth of a right. Its left claw was, also, a slightly different shade, matching its two front legs before its frills. It was cleaning them with such fervency, the light in its stocky eyes swaying between her and the Cephamorian before her.
She had not realized how close they had become until he towered over them. His tricorn hat rose with each breath he took, bringing blue swirls to life in his gray skin. His jacket always seemed stirred by an unseen wind, its heavy, patched, leather flaps slapping in the wind and at his long, black boots, shined recently. He had but four black wallets left; one was held out, ready for her.
“S-sorry,” she mumbled. She scuttled forward, shuffling her feet lest she tore up another board, and bowed her head to the captain as she took the wallet from his grasp. She gasped as he let it go, losing grip, but managed to grap it just before it hit the planks. She gulped, taking a deep breath, hoping to at least still her heart. “T-thank you.”
“Nonsense. I should be thanking you,” he said. His voice was... soft, given his physique. “This must be your... twentieth term? Nineteenth?”
“Twenty-eighth.” She was thankful she kept her head bowed. If the captain had seen that tinge of red... she could only keep the vehemence, the venom from touching her words.
“Has it truly been that long?” Captain Tarjen chortled, patting her head. “Surely you have enough saved by now... you should not need to come back for another, if you so wish.”
She lurched back from his hand, but it was his words that were like a slap across her face.
“No! I-I m... I mean, no, sir,” she managed to say, and gulped again. It was much harder than the first time, as if a stone had sneaked in when she wasn’t paying any mind. She slowly raised her head, fighting it, hoping, praying that the red and yellow were gone as she looked into his starry facets. No color touched them nor ever seemed to. The pools of yellow around those stars seemed ever still. They had an... uncanny ability to draw people, to lure her, in... but it didn’t come close to another set, a pair that had gone missing since that night... She tried to swallow the stone again, but had to make due with talking around it. “I... I wish to keep serving, captain... I... I l... love this ship.”
“Even with its inconvenient stops?”
“B... but of course, s-sir. It’s... it’s what makes this truly an adventure.”
Not even she believed her own words, so laced with doubt and fear, but Captain Tarjen simply continued to look into her eyes. Time seemed to slow as he gazed into her diamonds, seconds turned to moments as she peered into his stars, finding it hard not to shake... He finally looked away, holding out a wallet to the Aceon. The Aceon trilled as he pushed by, freeing her from her bonds, and she didn’t waste another second on that ship, rushing down to the dock and into town.
It wasn’t all a lie. She loved that ship. More than home, for what was home but true servitude. She clenched her wallet tight, lavishing, languishing at the shops. She wanted to try some of the brightly colored sweets so much or to peruse some of the clothing gathered from all corners of Mortuim. A brute of a Faun was in, offering the latest in Terrahn, Faun, and even Zephrian fashion... However, she knew it was for not. She knew all too well that every coin, every last bit, every single speck of dust in the wallet and on the bag was to be accounted when she reached home. That didn’t mean she had to rush, though; she was expected today, yesterday in fact, but the day was long.
Besides, she thought, lazing her way to the next vender. It was a Terrahn this time, a child of clay with his wares spread out on several brightly colored carpets laid before a clam-shell shop, selling urns and vases, work that seemed almost taboo for it meant creating beauty out of the very essence their people were made of. There’s always a chance I’ll see him again.
She gripped the wallet tight enough to crinkle the coins, making the vender look her way. He had a peerless set of blues, framed by golden locks tucked neatly under a green cap, matching his tunic. He had white leggings on, tucked into a pair of brown boots.
The vendor made a sound, gesturing to his pottery, but she had to avert her gaze, already starting towards the rest of the street. A touch of pink still swirled in her eyes, as if clinging to the memory she tried to stumble from, away from that half-blood. She could still see his face, his soft, yellow skin giving way to the blue swirls, a perfect blend of Terrahn and Cephamorian. She didn’t know why she felt like she did. It was but a glance, but how she wanted, more than anything, to wrap her tendrils around his shoulders, to paw at his blue tentacles underneath his spiral shell atop his Terrahn head and tell him everything would be okay... and how she wished for him to do the same. She wanted him to whisk in from the crowd and take her to wherever he ended up, to her own, mirthful life of adventure.
To wherever that Terrahn had taken him in the dead of night.
Her “hand” trembled, rattling the coins more as she finally made her way from the markets completely and down a side street. Though it was less frequented, it was still packed. Sailors, merchants, tourists all waiting to enter the bars, but there was one bar that had alleys lined for miles: the Upturned Nautilus.
A purple-and-white Cephamorian looked her way, just a touch taller than she. Their tentacles were thick, each as wide as a tree’s trunk, but incredibly stubby at their tips. Even then, they were more than enough to take her if they had the notion. Their spiral eyes, though, sparked with yellow as they saw hers, the pink paled by the red that whorled as she thought of that Terrahn, that woman who stole her light from the depths of the Kraken.
If I ever find her, I’ll...
Like her thought, the red in her eyes faded as she took a left at the next intersection, replaced by yellow as she followed it to the end. She stopped before the house there, an abalone shell carved out for Terrahn redwood, and knocked on the pearl door thrice. Her heart seemed to falter with each rap, yellow wanting to take her eyes completely but held at bay as she waited and dreaded again.
The door clicked. It slowly creaked open, as if crawling into the house, as if it didn’t even want to be there. Slowly, regretably, it revealed what laid beyond, to what little truly did. There was only a small, rotting table in its center, only some stairs to the left, collapsing, almost freed of their burden, but they were hidden behind a thin yellow-and-green Cephamorian. Its diamond eyes were warped, the left lower than the right. Its head sagged back, slapping against its “arms” with every small movement.
Two “arms” refused to raise anymore, dragging by its “feet”, but it still had two that worked and one had lashed out. Its suckers sunk into her “arms”, their prods bringing out her blue blood, dribbling onto the musty, stained floor, leaving a trail as he dragged her to the table. He slammed her “hands” down on it, again and again until she loosed the wallet onto it, spilling its contents with a sickening gleeful ring. Only then did he let her go, shoving her aside as he muttered to himself and counted the coins, the red in his eyes dulling to a soft green.
“It’s all here,” he croaked.
“It’s always all there,” she said, a touch of annoyance in her voice that was quickly snuffed out. She had yelped, reeling back a step as blood oozed down her “cheek”.
“Watch your tongue.” He looked down on the table, and eased the coins back in the wallet, looking at it a moment before shaking his head. His eyes were filled with red as he snapped to her, shrinking under his gaze. “You’re going to ask for double next time.”
“What? Father. I ca-”
He smacked her again, panting hard, making his head droop even further.
“You can, and will... You love your daddy, don’t you? You want to see him happy, hmm?” She nodded, but froze as he reached out to her, drawing more blood as he caressed her “cheek”. “Then you will ask for more, my precious pearl.”
“Are you talking about me, or the Blue Pearl?”
Red filled his gaze instantly, and the prods lanced into her “cheek”. But only a moment. He raised his hand, drawing an arc of blue blood through the air before he brought them down upon her, slicing into her face again. She fell to the ground, crying, but her blood was her tears, a boon out of reach for Cephamorian.
“I’ve had enough of your lip.” He said... and pink touched his eyes as he patted the top of her head. His head raised a touch, his limbs gaining a bit of life. One tentacle, especially, gained a good bit of lividty; its sickly green hue peeled away to soft pink, trailing across her face. “Go upstairs. I’ll be joining shortly to... welcome you home.”
He slapped her with that pink tentacle, knocking her over with a wet smack, and scoffed as he walked across her, twisting his barbed “heels” as he did. He slammed the door in his wake, while she simply laid there, thinking of the Cephamorian Terrahn.
He said he was nobody. She thought, still sobbing, hugging herself on cold, coral floor. I would give anything... anything to be nobody. She sniffed, wiping her eyes, but no tears would come... nor would they ever come. I wonder if he will, my Nobody.
Thinking of him brought her some strength, and she managed to lift herself up... but... it was thinking of that Terrahn, that vile woman, that wretched thief that gave her what she would do next. After all, what did she have to lose? She was already less than Nobody.