of Beasts and Man

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Forecast: Hot, Muggy, Temperamental

It took Olivier quite a bit to fully succumb and allow himself to rest. Any small creak, the most minute of grumbling or rumbling and he shot awake, scanning the room. He would settle down, remind himself that he was very much alone, and start to drift off again when another squeak or drone would make him rise again. He did manage to get to sleep, however, and stay that way. The rest of the day swept away as he slept, but not all were as fortunate.

As the sun hung low in the sky, bathing the ocean and town red again, Gale was starting to feel like she wasn’t wanted with the others. Not one of them waited on her to get through the crowds, the town filled to bursting as night settled in, nor asked what she wanted to do. Even when she stated what she had a desire for or asked, they seemed too lost among themselves to give her a single iota of attention. Even her captain- especially her captain.

She chewed on her lip, glaring at the Itchyoman on his right, guiding him from one district, from one tavern or inn to the next. Her cheeks were red, matching the hue on Tarjen’s, his eyes filled to the brim with blue and what Gale assumed was, annoyance at his lackey ordering him around like she was. The curse of being a kindhearted person. How could she be so selfish, so cruel as to manipulate him and the others to go wherever she wanted.

No. Gale had enough. He would not have a cohort order around her superior. Not as someone as sweet and kind as Captain Tarjen. She finally caught up to them at the Milked Silly, an inn located in the Faun District. It was a long climb, and considering how packed it was it must have been close to mating season. Gale had never seen so many of the beast race in one place, all in bright clothing. It didn’t look warm, though, almost paper-thin on some, which only showed their dedication in this weather.

Frost frothed from her lips, shoving her way through, keeping the others in sight, and managed to slip through a pair of long-necked Faun before they could completely entwine and block the “door”. She threw herself through those beads, attached to the tree the inn resided. The interior was incredibly polished, the bright wood shimmering with the soft orbs that speckled its sides, casting such shades of color on all as it glistened through silks and ribbons strung above. The others were waiting behind a line, four back to a simple, wooden stump, a ring that was allowed to grow above the others and chiseled into a podium. Behind it was a rather large Faun with more horn than brains on his shoulders, looking rather puzzled by the odd metal objects hung on hooks behind them.

Gale was thankful for the Faun’s slowness. She managed to catch up to them and pull aside Captain Tarjen without too much a fuss. Not a moment too soon either it seemed; the red gave way to pink as he saw it was her, strained so long by having to fake the blue, but now he could be himself.

“What is it, Gale?” Captain Tarjen grumbled. Poor thing; he had to fake his happiness, too, his voice much more angry and vehement than a moment before.

“Captain,” she began, her mouth feeling very dry. She cleared it multiple times, coughed, shook her head, but it was only when she saw Roe try to lace herself onto his arm again that she found the capacity to speak. “I think it’s about time we returned to the ship. It has already been a long day; you must be tired.”

“I’m really not. I haven’t felt this, well, alive in decades.”

“There he goes again, embellishing ’is age,” Roe said, giggling, and punched his shoulder. The force did her more harm than the captain, making her sway and teeter several steps to the left, still giggling like a madwoman. “‘Elp! My land legs are givin’ out on me!”

“I got ye, lassie,” Captain Tarjen said, chasing after, giggling just as much as the pair teetered ever further towards the wall. “Who made this blasted building sideways?”

“This be witchcraft, it be! Damned Faun sorcery!”

“Aye! It’s strong, but I’m still coming to save y-”

Gale stopped him, making him stand upright, though it took several attempts before he could... and even then listed to the left. He glared at her, his anger needing displaced, and growled.

“What you be saying, Gale? We return to the ship? You can if you so desire. The night still be young- and I have a lass to save from this cursed Faun mag-”

“Hold on.” Gale let Tarjen go and went to “rescue” Roe. Just in time, too; she had made it to one of the clumps of ribbons, and, though she would have loved to see how far she could tumble down them, she doubted her captain would leave if one of his crew fell and injured themselves on those spiraling steps. However, the very person she saved didn’t seem very thankful, groaning, trying to push her away.

“No, no. I didn’t want to be saved by you,” she said, scoffing as she crossed her arms. “The captain was supposed to do i- captain! I’m comi-”

It was too late. The room went silent as Captain Tarjen fell, his head squelching on the floor. They all looked at the laughing Cephamorian, sprawled out, rubbing his head. Gale rushed over, trying to put an arm underneath, but he simply batted her away.

“I’m fine. I’m fine,” he said, and stood... only to fall again, laughing even harder. “Damned Faun! How do you keep making that wind?”

“Captain, you are making a scene.” Gale said, finally managing to get an arm under him. He groaned as she made him stand, but was pushed aside by Roe, slinking under his arm.

“Look. If you are tired, then why don’t you return to the ship?” Roe said, patting Captain Tarjen’s chest. “The good captain and I are not done. Are we?”

“Nah! Nowhere near it. Now where did Plu sneak off to? Where you at, you crusty old crab baske-”

He was hit in the back with a wave, and he and Roe both spun around... thrice over to see he and Ella were behind them –at least, one of the four times they stopped. Roe hung off his arm, trying to keep tucked as she flew in that spin, and managed to find her feet on the third, grounding both of them.

“Ah! There you are,” Captain Tarjen said. “So what did he have to say?”

“I said for you four to get out!” The Faun at the counter bellowed. “I’m not dealing with this kind of gathering again.”

“Again? What happened last time?”

“My first sign was a Zephyrian stepping into my lovely hall. Exotic, unusual, but his money was good... Then higher ups of the Terrahn circles started to show. Again, money good, no issue at all. Then a gathering of Faun. Not a problem, but they wanted the exact same room as the others. Then, to top it off, the Zephyrian left as that blasted Garolot burst free out of the middle of the city, caused a riot, and then a group of three Faun and a... well, a freak came into my establishment... again, asking for the same exact freakin’ room.”

“That doesn’t exactly answer my question-”

“Chaos! That’s what happened. I spent all morning fixing this place because of that gathering. Did any of them come back to apologize? Did any of them offer to help? No! No... and your group looks just as suspicious.”

Gale growled, teeth squelching free. She took a step towards the Faun.

“You better watch your tongue, cur!” She said, gesturing to Captain Tarjen. “Do you have any idea who this is?”

“Settle down, Gale,” her captain grumbled. “No reason to create a scene. If we aren’t wanted, then we’ll simply go-”

“Back to the ship?”

“To another establishment... You really do want to return, don’t you? Well, it wouldn’t be a bad idea, in truth. Somebody needs to be there to oversee traders and stevedores as they resupply-”

She spun about, smiling at her captain. At last, she could do something for him!

“I’ll be there waiting for them with bells and whistles on, my captain,” she said, and bolted towards the “door”. Her feet dug into any poor Faun that dared to get in her way, knocking them on their backs as she continued her charge, duty-bound. She was a woman on a mission, a quest for her captain, and nothing shall stand in her way... and maybe, just maybe, her captain will see Roe as the manipulator that she was.

Gale practically flew down the steps to the port, with one or two Terrahn used as platforms, sleds down the steps. People decried her, called her a nuisance, but it mattered not. They were all but gnats of the back of her mind, forgotten back there as she dashed across the pier to the gangplanks. She leaped over them onto the deck, and there she sat on the steps leading to the wheel, watching the pier, almost unblinking. She shall not fail her captain, and prove that she is the best choice for him.

Where was Roe, after all? Why didn’t she offer to do this important task for their captain? Instead, she was too busy being a hussy and hanging off the captain to even realize how much she was getting on his nerves. How trite; Captain Tarjen’s patience could only be pressed so much, and with his ever-decreasing inhibitions... Gale shuddered, imagining how her captain, how that sweet, gentle man, stomach and head heavy with alcohol, finally had enough of that tart. She squirmed, panting, seeing how he would slap her off and denounce her in front of all those Faun, treat her as the harlot that she was. Her cheeks were red-hot, body tingling, playing out the scene as that Itchyoman tried to scrunch into the tiniest ball under her captain’s outburst, tearing into her with such vile, villainous, corrupting words that he would never utter lest he was truly pushed that far.

The scene was so vivid, her breathing so heavy, it was a wonder she noticed that bit of movement by the steps. It was a speck, a blur of brown, but she saw two spots of bright yellow in her haze, snapping her back to reality. The heat that her body built up in such a short span dispersed just as quick, replaced with lightning, sparks shooting down to her feet, bolting her to them. She stormed across the deck and thundered down into the galley, ears perked, hearing soft scuffling, soft pattering and squelching, heading for the kitchen.

She growled, teeth freeing from their gums, and grabbed an oar from underneath the stairs. It made an eerie thwack against her palm, her feet scratching and clawing their way across the rowing hall as her heart boomed in her ears. A stowaway? On her beloved’s ship? Gale would have thought it was another crew member, but which one wore a brown hood? Which one had such shockingly yellow eyes?

The scuffling ahead turned to soft sips and clattering, spurring her to move faster. They dare partake in her captain’s larder? Such brazenness, especially hearing her fast approaching. This rat had some gall, but she will make sure it... was...

Gale entered the dining hall... and was stricken, smitten by what sat at the table. They- he. Most definitely a boy- a guy- a man. Such a troubled man, and not only for what he was. She had never seen a Cepha-Terrahn hybrid, especially not one with such a complexion. He was in brown robes, his hood down for the moment, revealing the helix shell on the back of his head, sprouting such beautiful tendrils –but that wasn’t the only beautiful thing about him. No... as she stared at him, at those swirls of blue and orange on the shell, his orange tendrils, touched with gray, her eyes were pulled to those star eyes, to their gray burst around them, and the pulsing, yellow core in them, staring back.

“H... hi,” he said, his voice soft, gentle, but she could feel the power under wash over, almost making her swoon... making her feel guilty. She was meant to be the captain’s, yet, here she was, fawning over another being she had only met... but...

She shook her head, forcing herself to scowl at him, and took a step towards him, raising the oar –and feeling even worse as the yellow in his eyes grew.

“What do you think you’re doing here?” She said, trying so hard to keep her voice hard, keep it from trembling or squeaking. She had to clear it, and attempted to growl- cutting off that coo that bubbled forth. Focus! She swiped that oar out, pointing its wide, flat end at the... trembling... scared... adorable, gentle man- FOCUS! “You dare intrude upon Captain Tarjen’s ship?”

“I-I’m not- I mean, I-” How he tripped over his words, such innocence... She had to fight not to shudder... and was surprised with how wet her mouth had gotten. It was drowning in saliva, filled to the brim again and again no matter how much she swallowed. Her cheeks, also, burned a touch, but her stomach started to pain her, twisting and knotting as he continued to stammer and splutter. As he did, his robes loosed a bit, showing off the swirls of blue, gray, and yellow on his toned chest, but she dared not look too long, instead returning her longing, hungry eyes to his. He cleared his throat, and put down the spoon he was eating with, holding his right arm against. “What I’m trying to say is I’m the newest member of the crew... I joined this morning. Plu lead me to Tarjen... He saved my life. I owe both of them a great deal for this opportunity.”

“I... is that so?” Gale uttered, hardening her voice once more. She huffed, fighting another shiver as she planted the oar against the ground, leaning on it. She still stared at him, unblinking, unerring, fighting not to squirm as he did. “Well, I guess I’ll have to take your word on it. For now... What’s your name?”

“O-Ollie.”

“I’m Gale, Skipper-in-waiting. If you had the chance to talk with the other crew members, my reputation precedes me.”

“I... haven’t talked to them, no.”

She chuckled, raising the oar again, but rested it on her shoulders, strolling over. The yellow faded from his eyes, returning them to their umbral pits, but she could already tell what they would be like filled with blue, or even pink. Especially pink... she almost fell as she made her way over, but worked it into brandishing the oar, pointing it at him. Yellow touched his eyes again as it dug under his chin, lifting it up, keeping his attention on her. And only her.

However, she was merciful. She let him go, settling it beside the table as she sat across. She could see even more of his face this close, the soft, gray freckles on his cheeks, sprawling out as if also stars in that cosmos.

“So,” she blurted, making him jump, “I take it the captain already told you what we are after?”

“No... but it doesn’t matter. I vowed to help him, to repay for saving my life, and that’s what I shall do.”

“That’s rather foolish, don’t you think? For all you know, you could be sailing with the Dread Pirate Himself- b-but don’t worry. Captain Tarjen isn’t.” The knot in her stomach became so tight seeing that screen of yellow simply appear in those eyes... Someone else with a past, haunted by that monster. She sighed, fighting another shiver, hidden as she leaned back in her chair, shrugging. “In truth, we are going after the Dread Pirate.”

“R-really?”

She huffed, and sat forward again, creasing her hands together on the table.

“Really. That bastard, after all this time, has finally reared his ugly head. Itchyoman may have a score to settle, but Captain Tarjen is a bit more personal... He actually survived meeting him.”

“H... he has- had? He actually met the Dread Pirate?”

She nodded, again feeling guilty now that her captain was brought up again... but, maybe, this wasn’t a bad idea... She smirked, her heart fluttering, looking into his eyes again, no longer feeling an ounce of guilt. So what if she felt things for another man? Maybe, just maybe, this would wisen Captain Tarjen up and make him realize how much he desired her, how much he wanted to be with her... or, if he doesn’t, Ollie seemed sweet enough.

“Are you okay?” He said, eating his soup again. “H... hello?”

She shook her head, chuckling.

“Sorry. Spaced out there... but yes. During the initial hunt, Captain Tarjen lead the charge against the Dread Pirate.”

“Why?”

She opened her mouth... but found she didn’t have an answer to go with it. Why did Captain Tarjen go after the Dread Pirate in the first place? What did he hope to gain? Vengeance? Glory?

“I,” she uttered, drawing it out as she picked through her mind, a task both short and barren. “I don’t know, in truth, but he did! He must have had a good reason- and, even if he didn’t, the captain is a good man! He wouldn’t have been able to sit back as that monster slaughtered people by the thousands- millions! Could you say you would have? Actually, how old are you? You seem awfully young.”

“Oh, uh, I-I’m... I think I’m twenty now... Time sort of lost meaning after a while.”

“So you’re only a couple years older than me... Must say, I’m a bit shocked.”

“H-huh? Why?”

“You look so young. I thought you were only fifteen, but I guess that’s the boon of being Terrahn and Cephamorian, huh? Both take forever to show their age.”

He scoffed, and that knot in her belly turned to stone, seeing that blush of red in his eyes.

“It’s the only good thing. Trust me.”

Gale quickly tried to think of something to say, thoughts whizzing through her head faster than the eye could blink –so just a bit faster than normal... At last, she cleared her throat, smiling at him.

“I wouldn’t say that. I mean, look at your skin. Absolutely gorgeous. May I-”

“No!” He exclaimed, shooting back from the table as she tried to reach for his arm. His right arm. He slammed against the wall, eyes filled with yellow once more, panting as he held that arm against him. The stone in Gale’s gut continued to sink deeper, tears welling as she saw him try to shrink into the corner... as if he didn’t even want to exist... What sort of past did this sweetheart have? What scarred him so? He composed himself once more, righting, and was frowning as he put on his hood again, heading for the door. “I’m sorry... I am still a bit tired. I’m going back to bed... I-it was nice meeting you.”

“Y... you, too... sorry.”

She uttered the last after he left the room, leaving her alone in that kitchen... A Cepha-Terrahn with a grudge against the Dread Pirate, as well as against the world... and yet he still seemed so innocent, sweet, and hopeful... Perfect. Even if Captain Tarjen didn’t see the light, she didn’t have a single qualm with trying to open him up... Consider it her... her duty, her obligation... Now that she was alone, she quivered like a leaf, face almost molten, practically steaming against the table as she laid it on it, panting.

Two perfect men, on the same ship; her sister would be so jealous.

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