Growing Tides

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Somewhere I belong

With Olivier tucked away, Squall was once again alone. As usual. What smile left when he turned away from her, already snoring before she turned to walk away. A stone, a boulder of guilt settled in her gut as she looked upon his back. It was not only that he trusted her enough to bare it but also the insignia there, the colors of the Aceon that robbed her of... everything. What life she managed to scrape together, what achievements, opportunities she had were taken from her with one quick bloody thrust. The assassination of the original captain of the Leviathan signed her fate in blood, for she would not rest until the one who created the colors on the sleeping Cephamorian’s back was dead, justice delivered at long last.

Thankfully, on that night, justice was not blind.

She had heard a rumor that an old member of the Dread Pirate’s gang had taken command of one of the Aqua Alliance vessels, and so she staked the pier for two months. She did not recognize anyone on the Cetus, dared not step back on the Leviathan. She doubted they would stoop so low to commandeer the Aspidochelone, little more than a dingy, and this evening two ships breached. The Kappa was the first to dock, so she hid in a group of Itchyomen wharf rats, and took her sweet time to check each and every crevice. No crate went unshaken, no corner unlit, but, alas, as night settled in, her body aching and coated with sweat, she had to admit defeat. She lumbered over to the starboard railing, looked down upon the Stay Golden bar.

And saw the Dread Pirate’s insignia.

She blinked, rubbed her eyes, went over to the fresh water bucket by the mast spoke and splashed her face as she took a deep drink, and returned to see the Cephamorian walk into the bar. She didn’t recognize the shell nor blue tendrils, but he had to be bulky to fill out that coat, though it was a bit big near the shoulders. As it would have been on Him.

Maybe it was because He was on her mind that she stayed her blade as he came back out the bar. Perhaps it was because of his new entourage that her curiosity was piqued and caused her hand to hold a moment longer as the moon finally warmed the young lad’s face. He had turned her way again, smiling, just as innocent as He had been... and just as naive.

She huffed a small chuckle, a tiny smirk touching her lips, gone just as quick as she finally turned around.

The ship creaked, and swerved hard to the left, knocking her off her feet. Right onto Olivier. She caught the hammock above him, holding fast. The twine started to snap near the four nails holding each side, but was spared as the ship swung far to the right. Squall slid to the entrance, catching the archway just as the ship started to go left again, pulling herself through. Fire and smoke rose through the mist, growing as the ship lumbered through, revealing smoldering timbers underneath only to disappear again as Ponitius spun the wheel. Screams pierced through the mist and smoke, little more than muffled echoes, but it was the howls that froze the blood in her veins and sent a chill down her spine.

“They made it all the way back here?” Squall exclaimed, making Ponitius jump.

“Do you want to get their attention?” He hissed, and uttered a curse as he spun the wheel. The ship creaked, cutting right, but just as quick went left, avoiding the wooden spikes jutting out of the water. “I’m thankful we’re in an Aqua Alliance vessel. Slow as molasses, but allows for precision. Can steadily go through a battlefield-”

“A slaughterhouse, you mean, or a graveyard,” Bethilius barked as he clomped up the left stairs. The sides of his snout were looking a touch green, growing darker as he burped and held his belly. “Can’t you be a bit gentler?”

“This is me being gentle, you old bay.”

“Then it’s been a while since I had to deal with your... touch.” He bent over the railing, groaning. “Natalie, show mercy and offer a current in these trying times. Astra, lend us but a gust of air to steer us through.”

“While you’re praying, mind asking them for a bottle of rum?”

Bethilius scoffed, inhaled, ready to retort, but had to give in to his stomach’s insistence. He shuddered as he heaved a heavy sigh after, and reached into his jacket, retrieving a kerchief, fumbling it as Ponitius had to swing the ship again. Bethilius shot him a dirty look as he snorted and lunged after it, catching it just before it hit the timbers, straightening-

Squall grunted as she threw herself into the Faun, knocking him flat on his back. In time to avoid the beam that had loomed out of the darkness. It creaked, groaned as it made contact with the captain’s quarters, crumbling away with the gray sails that were attached. The debris crackled and hissed as it hit the water, pushed down and under by the rest of the beam, collapsing after.

Bethilius shoved her off, looking rather indignant until he saw the beam in the water and the cinders it had left on the captain’s quarters. He cleared his throat, his cheeks more pale than green, and finally wiped his mouth.

“Could have simply warned me,” he grumbled, and clamored to his feet. He offered his hand to Squall all the same, but she simply stood on her own, walking over to Ponitius.

“How much further before we hit land,” she asked.

“That would depend on just how many Betty brought with him,” Ponitius said, nodding to the Faun. “So how many did you think you would need to take me, hmm?”

“Naturally, I wanted them all to see you die,” he said. “Though we are probably growing close. There were only five allowed to make landfall. The Claymore, the Dirk, the Athame, the Sai, and the Saber.”

“And how does that mean we’re getting close?” Squall said.

“Because the other four were still crewed; the Claymore was left empty.” Bethilius rolled his wrist to the clear path before them. “And I refused to have any ship by mine when we docked. The way is clear here.”

“Did you park right beside the Falchion?” Ponitius blurted.

Bethilius chortled, rubbing his chin.

“I had it all nice and tied up to it, ready to take it home. Where it rightfully belongs.”

Ponitius scoffed, and clicked the metal bar down on the steering wheel before he stormed down the stairs to the mast spoke. He clicked the top wheel on it and chains rattled free from all four corners of the ship, sinking as it spun. It didn’t take long for it to come to a halt, and the wheel shuddered to a sudden stop.

“We’re in the shallows.” He stated. Durnst and Dervalan came upstairs, taking great care to not let the grate make too much noise. “Good. Durnst-”

“I had a feeling we were close,” he said, and sighed as he walked over to the port railing. He looked down at the water, grimacing at it, and back at Ponitius. “We could have probably got closer.”

“I have no idea if those things can swim. Be thankful I got this close.”

“Do I need to go too, boss?” Dervalan said.

“I don’t see why,” Durnst answered for the Faun, glaring at him. “I can handle the ship myself-”

“Betty had the Claymore tied to the Falchion,” Ponitius interjected, nodding to Dervalan. “Yes. Your help would be greatly-”

“If you don’t mind, I think he was talking to me. His rightful captain,” Bethilius blurted, and waved his hand at Dervalen. “But yes. Pony Boy is very much correct. Go tend to my Claymore. And my Falchion.”

“Yes, boss... captain,” Dervalan said, nodding to Bethilius then Ponitius in turn, and followed after Durnst into the water. Though Durnst was a hiss entering the shoals, barely a shadow under it, Dervalan made a noise that would make most cannons envious, and his ripples even carried their bark.

Ponitius patted Bethilius’s arm, chortling.

“Guess that leaves us with turning the ship around, eh?”

Bethilius scoffed, shoving him away.

“Why not ask the other member of your crew, or are you that scared to be left alone with her. Quite natural, in truth. She’s the-”

“I need someone on the wheel of the ship once we do get turned around, and I trust her behind it far more than you.” Ponitius flourished his hand, rolling it over his head down to his middle before extending it to Squall, giving her a wry smirk. “You don’t mind me asking of such, do you? After all, out of the two of you, only one has tried to actually kill me... as of now... and he’s done it twice.”

Squall took his hand, giggling lightly, and even gave Bethilius a wry smirk.

“It would be my pleasure. Captain.”

Bethilius snorted and stormed down the steps, clomping as loud as he could with each stride. He even made the grate ring into the mist, though it was still barely more than a whisper. Ponitius followed after, while Squall took her place by the wheel, casting glances between the captain’s quarters and the grate down to the galley, wavering with the tears in her eyes.

Maybe it was because He was on her mind that she stayed her blade as he came back out the bar. Perhaps it was because of his new entourage that her curiosity was piqued and caused her hand to hold a moment longer. Most likely it was neither, both, or more as the Earth Mothers and Fate had finally led her not only to her target but to true friends and a place to call her own.

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