The Tide Changes
With the engines set and their destination locked, the crew of the Scylla retired for the night. The spell the Itchyoman used took its toll, and even their captain, Olivier, was more than ready to pass out. His mind had done enough leaps and hurdles for the day, after all, but it was made even worse as Ponitius simply gave his cot to him. He was the captain... Olivier really wished Ponitius had given him a little bit of resistance, had argued at all. If only for his sake. He was not ready to be captain, and he wanted- no, needed someone, anyone to step up and say they did not want this. Even Bethilius accepted it, for Natalie’s sake! Dervalan and Durnst were just as nonchalant about it; Durnst even offered to make a feast in celebration for Olivier, which he refused.
Olivier laid on the cot in the captain’s quarters, listening to the engines rumble away, to the wind outside hissing and shrieking against the fire and timbers. He was alone, and the room never felt emptier. The hammocks were returned downstairs, leaving him there in... in his quarters. He was the captain now, but what has he done to really earn this? Truly? Even when he tried to do something, tried to make things right, tried to stand up for himself and his friends, Fate, itself, seemed to reject him.
He raised his right hand, Divines know how many times now, and simply looked at it. He looked over the pearl on its top, the glassy eye that no one else seemed to see. It stared back at him now in the dark room, its light filling it with an eerie gleam, yet no one else could see it. No one else could make use of it... and, after what happened with the Itchyoman, Olivier started to wonder if it could even help him... He shook his head, and let his hand fall on his middle again, watching the roof swirl with the green and the soft moonlight outside the porthole, lulling him off to the sleep at last.
While the Scylla’s crew rested, the Kraken’s knew no such relief. Its drums still thundered away, Ella and Roe huffing, rowing in unison. Their brows were long since drenched in sweat, as were the rest of the crews –save for Gale. She hummed as she reclined in her hammock, letting her dark magic beat the drums for her while she ebbed on the precipice of twilight. Even Tarjen had worked up a bit of a sweat, though his eyes shone that his sheen was cold, carefully steering through the fog sea, quick to spin in a moment’s notice as they made their way through that smoldering graveyard of ships. Beams from masts, timbers and hulls had broken apart, leaving behind a field of watery spikes that could tear the hull just scraping. There must have been forty, fifty ships here, and Natalie knows how many crewman, all now swallowed up by ash, cinder, and fog.
Tarjen wiped his brow, his sleeve drenched in it- uttering a curse as he spun the wheel left. The ship groaned, turned to an otherworldly bellow in the mist. It tilted something fierce, giving it just enough berth to avoid a lazing schooner, the back of it sinking, pulling it under.
It sunk completely as it passed, and Tarjen quickly spun the wheel right, clutching it hard. His “arms” covered in deep blue rings, settling to pale blue as the ship lurched upright once again. He sighed, deep, exasperated, but only had that breath of reprieve as another ship floated his way.
All Terra Force.
“What were they doing out here?” He uttered, and pulled out his spyglass. It was tucked into his right breast pocket, collapsed into itself four times over, and made of polished silver. The lenses inside were rather fish-eyed, but the center was at least focused. He looked upon the sails of another boat, drifting closer, wanting to know if it had any colors before he had to turn the wheel again. He had hoped there wasn’t, that this was but a battle between two factions gone awry, but the colors on it and the next few passing ships and the few colors that still drifted on the water all told him the same thing. “Gale was right.”
His scowl couldn’t have been more foul as he clicked the spyglass shut and pocketed it again. He clutched the wheel between both “hands” again, and just in time. Four ships all burst free from the fog and were aimed his way.
“There has to be a groove somewhere,” he grumbled. The wheel creaked, each thump and groan throbbing against his head. “There has to be an opening... Not everyone could have perished.”
The four became clearer as they approached, and he saw that they were all grinding against each other, bow to stern. They were slowing each other just enough to allow him to list left, but made a wall that he could not break, forcing him to keep going that way. Right into another field of spikes, of smoldering timbers.
Tarjen grunted, adjusting the wheel with minute lurches, slowly, daring it go right again. He inhaled, sharp, as he passed the fourth, and final, ship in that wall, and threw caution to the wind, spinning it. He wasn’t sure which side scraped against wood, both so close, but heaved a heavy sigh as he made it through. And into calm waters, at long last.
He was wary, though. He wasn’t sure if this was a false hope; he started to list to the right, but the fog gave him forewarning. It had shifted enough to show four large Terrahn vessels crashed together, creating an unholy monolith to the Dark Ones that now claimed them. Tarjen straightened the wheel instead, set the bar, but he did not relax. He stayed by it, ready to pull it free in a moment’s notice, peering into that sea of fog.
“It shouldn’t be much longer,” he said, hoped, and wiped his brow again before taking out a canteen. Bone dry. He scoffed, and looked out on the fog bank. He wondered if he had enough time to go down to the water barrels, if, in his moment of leaving, of ignoring his duties, that will be the time another schooner or galleon or frigate would appear through that haze. It would be then, when he couldn’t do anything because of his own weakness, that would seal their fates... He pocketed the canteen, and wrung the sleeve of his jacket out, instead. Hope it was worth it.
“How much longer?” Storm grumbled, panting between each word. His nails dug into the oar, almost one with them, his toes rooted in the timbers. His tail was wrapped around the arm behind, pulling it in time with the drums, still pounding away. “It feels like it’s been hours.”
“Days!” Faloo shrilled. He wasn’t even sitting, his “legs” working two others in front and behind while he bobbed above a third, rocking it with his squat body. “We need rest! Please!”
“It hasn’t been that long,” Ella mumbled, her words not even winded. She grunted, panted sure, but it was nothing. At least, nothing yet. Not compared to the beatings she got during storms, how the tide, itself, fought to tear the oar from her hands. Or even during privateer assaults... She still watched the porthole for the oar from time to time, wondering if it would be her turn to take a cannon, as it happened to Veerum, Zerr, and Toh before her.
“You heard her, men. If you can’t take it like a girl, then you should put on the skirt!” Gale boomed, rising when she thundered on the drums, keeping the pulse alive in her voice. “We don’t stop until the captain says, so best unwind those knickers and keep going.”
“Easy for you to say,” Roe grumbled, almost growled, hiding her winces. Her bandages were soaked through, her cuts reopened, but she pressed on, glaring at the Itchyoman as she “drummed”.
“I volunteered for this?” Dernish exclaimed, and, though the longest Cephamorian on-board, he could only work two oars.
“You guys know you don’t need to do multiple oars, right?” Ella said at last. “You only have to be spaced out enough.”
“Why didn’t you say that sooner?” Faloo shrieked, but heaved a heavy sigh as he collapsed onto the one underneath him.
“I don’t have a problem with two,” Storm said.
“Shut your mouth!”
“What he said! This is no time to be macho,” Dernish chided in, though still wound around two.
“I don’t see you backing down,” Storm said.
“That’s because it’s more comfortable for me to do it this way.”
“Then why are you complaining?”
“Because this has gone on for too long!”
“It’s only been a couple hours,” Ella said. “Have none of you sailed before? It’s been shorter than the rise to the surface.”
“At least that had pay-off!” Faloo squawked. “How do we know this will?”
The drums went silent.
Gale bolted to her feet, pointing her right stick at Faloo. Both of them floated in the air, their handles wrapped in soft blue energy, leading back to her left hand.
“Are you doubting our captain?” She said.
“Why have the drums stopped?” Tarjen called down into the hull.
“Their complaining about being tired, captain!”
“We should be almost there. The ships have thickened.”
“Ships?” Faloo blurted, and that was the signal for the others to stand and head up the steps to the deck. Each one gasped as they did, seeing the graveyard of Terra Force ships around them.
“What sort of place is this?” Storm breathed.
“What did we really sign up for?” Dernish said, and shot a look back at Gale. “You said nothing of this when we volunteered!”
“I did warn you before we left dock,” Tarjen said, glowering down at him. Dernish and Faloo both hung their heads, lumbering back downstairs. His glare shifted to Storm, frozen under those starry eyes, simply gazing back. “At least twenty more strokes. Can you do that?”
The Itchyoman nodded, and hurried downstairs, leaving Gale, Ruu, Roe, and Ella on-deck. Ruu had been in the back rows and was the last to leave his station, only now climbing up onto the deck as the others ran by. Tarjen’s gaze softened as it swept passed those three, hardening again on Gale before he looked upon the prow and the fog before it.
Breaking at last. The mist seemed to melt away, as if it was never there, revealing blue-sand shores.
“You should be proud of yourself, Gale,” he said, and locked the iron bar into place. He strode down the stairs, towards the center wheel, and waited by it as the other three got into position around it. “You brought us here.”
Gale kept quiet, but Ella could see that her body burned a bit red, coated in sweat at last. She broke her newly found silence with a moan before turning it to grunts, holding the anchors back with her and Roe. The spokes of the wheel groaned, wishing to ratchet and free the chains with impunity, but were forced to listen to their masters. They eased them out, let them slowly descend into the waters until they were about a stone’s throw from the shoals, where they rattled thrice then sunk into the sand. Though they could see the shore, the rest of the isle was still shrouded in mystery, in a dark aura that made Ella’s skin crawl.
“Four shall take the dingy to the isle,” Tarjen said, breaking the silence that had fallen over. “The others shall remain... Gale?”
“Y-yes, captain?” She blurted.
“You are to stay behind.”
She spluttered, the warmth in her scales gone for a sickly paleness in a blink of an eye.
“W-w-why!” She managed to say.
“Because I am going, and I need someone to watch over it lest there be a mutiny... I can trust you not to lead one, can’t I?”
“I’m going,” Ella stated. Ruu trilled in agreement, while Gale glowered at her.
“Then that leaves one spot open,” Tarjen said... but shook his head. “No. With Ruu, the dingy is going to be rather cramped as is. We three shall go... I leave the ship in your care if and/or when I come back, G-”
“I wish to go, too,” Roe blurted, which gave him pause. Ella noticed his gaze soften... and a bit of yellow cross it before he shook his head.
“I’m sorry, Roe. There’s not enough room-”
“I’ll squeeze in beside Ella, if she doesn’t mind. I don’t take up much room. See- ah!”
She doubled over, wincing, growling, but there was no growl that could erase that whimper she gave before. Another shock of yellow flew across Tarjen’s eyes; he grabbed her by the shoulders, holding her tight.
“Easy now,” he said, in a tone Ella never heard the captain use before. It was almost... soothing? “Come. Let us get you below... You shouldn’t have pushed yourself so hard.”
“I’m fine, captain. R...really.” She eased herself out of his “arm”, almost stumbling a step. She reached out for the railing, catching herself, and uttered a long, thready sigh, looking back at him. “I’ll go bandage up, but the dingy better still be here by the time I come back up. You got it?”
Tarjen simply looked at her, and watched after as she went below deck. Ruu trilled, breaking Ella away from them, and she saw he had prepared the dingy off the starboard side. He was in it, waving for her... and Tarjen to hurry along as it lowered, the rope holding it hissing, held back by what seemed to be air, itself. It was distorted around the thick twine, leading back to Ruu’s tiny claw.
“Right,” Tarjen uttered as he stepped one foot up onto the railing then down into the dingy, wheeling to face Gale. “Remember what I said. Take care of my ship.”
“I’m... honored, captain,” she said, and Ella felt something pecking against the back of her as she hurried to the dingy, as well. She looked back at Gale as she followed Tarjen, seeing that she was sneering at her. Ella... simply gave her a sad smile, knowing all too well that the Itchyoman would distort her pity for something sinister, that it wasn’t a smile but a smirk, a sneer, a face of triumph that would make her stomach broil with contempt, hidden well behind a smiling mask.
The two women watched each other a moment, an understanding of animosity passing between the two, and she sank over the side.
Gale waited for them to descend, to be completely out of view and their oars little more than soft slaps against the water before she stormed downstairs. The ire she held for the sake of her captain, the rage she had for that... putrid excuse of a cephamorian could finally be unleashed. She didn’t waste a single moment, either. She stormed down the stairs, the blue energy that once held the mallets now thick and laced, ending in a thin taper, ready to snap.
“Alright, maggots! The captain put me in charge of you until he gets back,” she bellowed... but they simply grumbled and waved her off, heading for the hammocks. “H-hey! Weren’t you listening?”
“Don’t care,” Storm mumbled, yawning as he sunk into his bed, his tail thumping into the other.
“Sleep now. Row again soon enough,” Dervish grumbled, and expanded across his while Faloo took up on no problem, making it hang low.
“Then what am I supposed to do?” Gale muttered, but her yawn showed her exactly what she would. So she retired to her hammock, doing her best to be a role model for the rest of the crew... yet her heart still ached, worrying about her captain, while also burning at the thought of Ella. You will pay, wench. Oh, yes you will.
She did, however, get a bit of catharsis. At least one of the captain’s pets wasn’t getting what they wanted... Gale let the energy fall away, and tucked her arms behind her head, heaving a soft, contented sigh.