Growing Tides

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Seagulls! (Stop it, now!)

That left only Bethilius on deck. The old Faun walked over to the railing, contemplating what he should do. He had something on the lad, something he knew he didn’t want the others to know, something he should have suspected when he kept his hand pocketed for so long. As strange as it was, as paradoxical as it seemed, up to this point Olivier didn’t have any real shame in showing his abnormalities. He might have been a freak -some may even say an abomination- but he was never one to hide it So, suddenly pocketing his hand, keeping it there even when faced with adversity? Downright queer.

The question, though, was how he could use that information. What did that recent addition mean? Had the lad done something the night before to get stronger? Did he experiment with it? Was that why he sounded like a virginal lass with a skinned knee? What exactly happened?

The more he mulled it over, the angrier he got at himself. He should have went upstairs last night. He should have seen what happened. As it stands, all Bethilius really had was that the freak had something freakier on his freaky hand. The most he could use this information for was to hold it over the lad’s head, but there will come a time when he will screw up and show them, so that was moot.

Bethilius groaned, shaking his head. Regardless of what may come, he decided he would keep quiet about it and decided to join the others down below. Though he had his heart set on some eggs, he would settle for a touch of fruit. He never really had a taste for sweets, but he always did appreciate the tartness of pineapple and orelon, which he knew were both in good supply. Even if they weren’t on this vessel, there was still an abundance on the Claymo-

He stopped, and looked at his shoulder. A lovely line of fresh gull chowder had splattered on it, oozing down his front, back, and arm. His neck cracked, a vein throbbing in it, matching the ire in his eyes as he looked towards the sky. His brow twitched, glaring after the culprit, its black-and-red feathers glistening in the sunlight.

The bird seemed to cackle at him as it continued to fly towards the sea where more and more followed, all heading the same direction, a singular point in the vast ocean. The cries continued to grow, a cacophony of squawks, rising to a chorus that would put the Terrahn gathering at Terra and Her church to shame, circling that part of the sea. It didn’t seem special, just as smooth as the rest of the blue glass, but the first bubble rose, as big as a cannonball. It popped, disturbing it, allowed to settle a moment before three broke through. From there, it became innumerable, a lost cause as the sea became a frothing cauldron, gurgling and gushing and muffling the cry of the gulls around.

The gull that had sullied Bethilius’s jacket finally joined, circling with the mass. The brewing point below was washed in reds, yellows, and greens from their feathers, sending wavering rainbows across the ocean before they all dispersed, crying out as one as they fled from the water spout that erupted in the middle. The ocean roared, torn asunder under the Kraken’s prow, the last chains of the anchors slipping in at last. Its six masts, holding four sails each, shuddered, free of their air pockets.

The stern of the Kraken settled, bobbing once, twice, before the grates onto the desk slid away, allowing the seven up on deck, looking out towards the sea. Roe stayed below, still in her cot, looking a bit green around the gills, while Tarjen was the last to stumble up on deck, panting hard, but managed to regain composure during the climb, hiding what heavy breath he needed to take after in a hum as he pulled out his compass.

“You say the group headed south?” Tarjen uttered as he took his first step up on deck.

Gale swelled out her chest, motioning to the sea.

“Yup! We managed to even break in the right direction.”

“As long as that is the sunrise.” He groaned as clicked the compass shut and stowed it in his jacket’s left breast pocket, turning around to face the stairs to the wheel. If only there was a way to make them rise on their own, he thought... but shook his head. “The crew has earned their rest. They have until noon, then they are to report to their duties.”

Gale saluted him, the snapping of her boots together bringing a touch of red to Tarjen’s eyes. This must have been her first time on a seafaring vessel, at least one that has risen above and allowed its deck to get wet. Even as he noted this, she slipped a little, her soles squeaking on the wet planks while his “feet” held firm, his own boots tucked under his arm.

“Y-yes, sir,” she managed to say, regaining her footing thrice just to slip again and again. She spun... a bit too much, and had to do another rotation before she faced the crew- only to say goodbye and need a third. Tarjen grabbed her shoulders that time, making her feet buckle a little but she found them quick enough. “Thank you, sir... You heard him! Get to enjoying your time off before you are once again under my whip- wait. Am I allowed to use the whip, sir?”

“For this journey? No. After all, they are volunteers.”

“Not all of them.”

Tarjen didn’t even need to to know who she glowered at with that comment. Instead, he was still focused somewhere a touch more important: the stairs. He grimaced as he looked down at them, coated in dust and mud. He had... requested the Itchyomen to do a lax cleaning, but they didn’t listen to any of the other requests he made. Those damned fish knew exactly how to twist the knife, and, on top of that, he still had to actually climb them... Again, he wished they could be automated, but, as far as he knew, the Zephyrians have not made this astounding miracle yet. They could make ships that could fly and keep their continents from falling into the sea, but stairs seemed beyond their lim-

“Sir?” Gale’s voice broke through his mental score at last. After twenty steps up, where there were a perfect set of bootprints in his footsteps, covered in mud, muck, and- “Captain Tarjen.”

He looked down at his right arm, where she had grabbed him. She had smirched his jacket with her filth... She let go, seeing the ire burning in his eyes, bearing upon her six steps down.

“Yes, skipper?” He said, a threat hidden under the question.

Gale’s cheeks glowed a touch, her breath a touch fast in her chest as she looked him in the eyes.

“Is there anything you would like me to do at this moment?” She said, panting. She climbed a step, then another as she took a deep breath. “The rest of the crew may be on break, but I can assuredly do something... anything.”

“You don’t want a break, yourself?”

“Oh, no sir! I am more than ready to work, to do whatever is needed for you- the ship. The ship and you, that is.”

“Then go get the muck bucket and mop and start with these stairs.”

“W-what about your feet? They’re already marred.”

“I’ll wash them. I have a basin in my desk for this situation.” Not the first time the lousy fish shirked on their duties. He growled, and waved her off. “Now be on with you.”

“Yes, sir.”

She giggled as she jumped down the steps, scampering down into the galley once more, a small joy for the good captain. He lumbered up the last few steps and into his quarters, laying his jacket on his desk as he reached it. He grimaced at the sleeve, looking at it from all sides as he rounded the desk and reached into the right drawer of it. He retrieved a small, black candle, a bit of rubbing fat, and a striker from inside, placing the candle just under the fish mobile. The clack of the candle’s silver base must have stirred the sparrow, now chirping up a storm as Tarjen readied the striker. The copper handle may have greened, but the tip was still as bright as the day it was made. At least, until it got close to the flints on either side of the “claw”.

He squeezed the trigger once, twice, and sighed as the top flint at least moved towards the bottom one. On the fourth it made it all the way, and it only needed a light bang on the desk to snap together, creating a spark. He carefully placed it on the very tip of the wick of the candle and pulled the trigger, lighting it. However, the fat would simply have to wait as the sparrow banged hard on the bars of its cage, stilling as Tarjen chuckled.

“Alright alright... Besides, you must be off before we get too far out to sea.” He opened the cage, setting the striker down in the drawer as he did, and closed it with his hip as he stood. The sparrow was on his left “hand”; he stroked it gently as he made his way to the door once more, and it was more than happy to make it the rest of the way, zipping out and to the left, fading against the horizon. Tarjen followed, anyways, and tried to watch after, simply shaking his head as he stared out at the sparkling sea.

That is, for as long as he could.

He closed his eyes, shaking his head as he heard a bucket crash down on the step then tumble down the rest of them. Each beat of Gale’s boots on it brought more red to his eyes, flourishing with black around the edges as he felt her hands on his “chest” and the scar there.

“What happened, captain?” She exclaimed, growling. “Were you injured while raising the ship? No. Wait. This is a scar...” Her growls bubbled ever louder, her teeth sliding free from her gums. “Was this done by the Dread Pirate? Is that why you hunt him?”

He scoffed as he wheeled from her, suckers on both his “hands” pulling hard at each other as he stilled his shakes. He headed for his quarters, each thick smack of his “feet” a warning... A warning that will most likely go unheeded, but a warning regardless.

“Sounds like you’ve made quite a mess.” He stated. “At least the water is on the lower stairs... for the most part. Better get to cleaning, skipper.”

“But-”

He slammed the door in his wake, silencing whatever she was about to make her last words, and stormed over to the desk, grabbing hold of the rubbing lard. He held it over the flame, imagining it far... far larger larger, while his “hand” was around a certain Itchyoman’s neck, squeezing it. Not too tight, mind. After all, he wouldn’t be able to hear her scream if he did, but it’s not like she would have the power to fight, anyways. He would make sure of that.

Black, darkness almost took his entire vision as he heard the door open behind, and he spun, catching a glimpse of scaly Itchyoman hide... but held his tongue, seeing it was Roe there. He bolted from his desk, rushing over, offering his arm as the lass lumbered in. Her legs were slowly starting to purple in thick splotches, her legs a bit glossy, as if she had fallen in water.

“Easy, lass,” he said, his voice soft, soothing, and eased her over to the chairs. He held her, kept her balanced until she was properly seated, then walked around the desk and took his seat. “Are you sure you want to be up? You took the Cat’s claws; I wouldn’t expect you to be able to move let alone work.”

“I’m alright,” she said, wheezing it out. She still held her middle, the bandage there bright red. “I joined to help, not to lay around the entire time.” She leaned a touch forward, panting, whimpering a little, but bit them back as best she could... stilling as she finally saw the scars on his “chest”. Her eyes widened, tracing them with her stare, the question, questions known before she took a (pained) breath.

“Yes, this is my ‘souvenir’ from my encounter with the Dread Pirate,” he grumbled, pulling the lard from the flame. It had started to leak on it, hissing then steaming on his coat as he rubbed hard at the sleeve. “Even without this ‘gift’, I have plenty of reason to track down the Scylla. Personal reason... It’s why I latched onto what Gale said as I did. A chance, even if phantasmal, is still a chance I have to take... I apologize again for having to use the Cat on you... In truth, at that moment, I wanted to use it on my Skipper more than anything. It was apparent you were joking around, but she reported it in sincerity. I couldn’t ignore it.”

“It’s okay, sir. I don’t blame you... In fact, that’s why I wanted to join on this venture. Ever since I could remember, I wanted to sail.”

“With me, personally, or in general?”

“In general, sir... No offense meant, but I didn’t even know of you until but a few hours ago.”

“And I haven’t exactly left the best first impression, have I?”

She chortled, smiling a little, but winced as she held her middle a touch.

“I wanted to see the world, see things others only dreamed of or written about... I want to find legends, experience life, have tales of my own to tell my dear ole da when I return.”

“Your father? Might I know his name? Given your scales, would it be Ryse?”

She lifted her head a bit more, her eyes beaming a touch.

“You know my da?”

“It was a while back, during the first hunt for the Scylla. He had his personal reason, as well.”

Her stare turned dark, her lips twisting into a jagged scowl.

“He could never forgive that bastard Baro and his skipper for what they did to ma... when he heard you were leading the hunt for the Scylla again, he wanted to come along-”

“Most likely to give me a stern ‘talking’ for what I did to you. Does he still live in that tiny shell cot along the pier?”

“Aye. He was offerred a home in the city, but said he could only sleep if he heard the chains.”

Tarjen chuckled, nodding, a bit of blue swirling in his eyes.

“That sounds like him... Truly, one of the few Itchyoman I had the pleasure to work with.”

“And I vow to be another, sir.”

“I bet you will... you have his tenacity, after all.”

And your mother’s looks, he thought. The door creaked open, and Ella entered. She stopped, seeing Roe at the desk, frozen before the opening.

“Yes, lass?” Tarjen said. “What’s the matter?”

“It’s... it’s Gale, sir,” she said, and cleared her lip. Her voice was shakier than normal... but there wasn’t any fright in her eyes. Instead, it was teeming with blue. “She... she climbed the crow’s nest to chase after a gull that had, as she put it, ‘befouled the captain’s steps after they had been sanctified of such impurities.’”

“And?”

“W... well... when she got to the top, and the bird had gotten too far away, she snapped back to her senses and-”

“Please! Someone! Help me!” Gale screamed, wailing. “I’m afraid of heights!”

Tarjen cleared his throat, but shook his head as he returned to rubbing the lard into the sleeve, trying so hard to hide his bounding blue.

“She’s quick. I’ll give her that,” he said, humming softly.

“What do you want us to do, sir?”

“You’re on break until noon, remember? She’s not going anywhere.”

“Y... yes, sir.”

She tried to hide her giggle while saying it, but it was only egged on by Tarjen’s as it only rose more hearing her continue to beg and scream into the morning. Roe also joined in on the infectous giggles, though hers came with wheezing coughs and fresh red on the bandages. The smile on her face, though, showed that it was very much worth it.

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