of Beasts and Man

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Morning Tide

Gale returned to her post above, where she stayed, as still as a statue, eyes locked on the gangplank. Her stomach growled, her mouth, after being drenched for so long, had dried while the rest of her became clammy, drowned in the fog. There was a reason why she watched the plank rather than the pier, lost to that roiling sea.

By the first moon’s descent, four of the crew returned, the underlings she gave no thought nor care about. However, nobody, not her captain nor the nuisances that pestered him, showed their faces. It wasn’t until dawn, as the fog dispersed, seared away by the sun’s caress, that Ella and Plu trudged on-board. A shame somebody had the smart idea to put two planks up; she would have paid good coin to see either that Cephamorian or Aceon take a plunge. Even then, she kept hope until both were on the deck, dashing it entirely. It was still rather entertaining watching them climb, tension and excitement escalating with each hobbling step, but now it lost all interest to her... Well, almost all.

“Where’s the captain?” She said... several times. The first time it was barely a croak, with the second being a bit stronger, almost distinguishable. The third needed a clearing, but, thankfully, by the fourth, she could scream it at the two exhausted, drunken, wavering fools.

Which they promptly ignored, heading for the stairs down into the galley.

Gale growled, launching off the steps... and fell face-first onto the deck. Though she had the get-up and go, her legs had gone off and went already, stinging and feeling incredibly fuzzy and annoyed for being awoken. She looked up, glaring at the Cephamorian, waiting for the Aceon to figure out how his legs go down stairs.

“H-hey!”

“They’re still touring the city,” Ella grumbled, yawning. “As much as I would have loved to continue, I had to make sure Plu made it back safe- yes, you d- watch the steps!”

Plu, however, was not done arguing, still making orbs that wavered as much as his feet. Even how they splashed was a bit skewed, the waves rippling either too high or too low. He prepared the next, lost to a squeak as his legs simply gave. His body thumped on each step, bouncing all the way down into the galley... where, after a minute, he sent an orb that affirmed that he was okay.

Gale wasn’t, though. Her captain was now out in that city, alone with that usurer. How could Ella be so calm about this? Surely she must have noticed how Roe was controlling him. If she did, then she had no doubt that Ella did; did she even care? Wait. Were the two in on it! They were awfully chummy with one another; could they be conspiring?

Ella was waiting for the scuttling to fade, heading across the rowing hall before slumping with an audible sigh under Gale, but Gale couldn’t let her slink away. Not now. She shot to her feet, forcing them to pull their weight, and raced around the grate and to Ella before she started heading down, catching her by the arm, stopping her from descending even one more step.

“G-gale. Wh-” She began.

“What are you two up to?” Gale demanded, squeezing harder, bringing blue blood from under her fingers. “What is Roe going to do with the captain?”

“I... I... I’d rather not think about it-”

“Oh! So you two ARE up to something.”

“N-no- ow... It’s simply that... the two are absolutely... e-enamored with one another- let go!”

Oh, poor, sweet Ella... She let her go, frowning at the Cephamorian. Though her eyes were filled with red, all Gale felt was pity towards the poor lass. She was just as fooled by the cretin, after all. She couldn’t see the red whenever Roe was around, the saccharin gestures nor the exaggerated joy their captain had to act out. She was fooled just as much by her “friend” that she couldn’t see just how much a pawn she was, so she forgave her for her anger.

“Do you always have to be dramatic?” Ella grumbled, holding her arm. “Also, aren’t you on the wrong ship? You and that Raina traded places... Where is she, anyways?”

“Who cares? Captain Tarjen only did it to show good faith, and what better way than to send his best- er, second best, of course... Though that might be up in the air, too, what with the newest addition on boa-” She gasped, whining as she stamped her foot. “Oh that’s no fair! How could the captain do this to me?”

“Finally realized you wouldn’t be on board when we set off?”

“No! Well, yes, but also that I wouldn’t get to know our newest addition.” She sobbed a bit, stamping her foot harder. “It’s not fair... Say, do you think the captain will allow me to recommend another swap? That way I can have someone watching my back.”

“If it’s for me-”

“Of course not! I’m talking about the newest member.”

“You two really hit it off, huh?”

“I... I guess... It’s funny. I thought he was a stowaway, but then we had a chance to talk, he explained how he owed Tarjen and Plu, and... I guess it’s because he’s so... sweet. Though scarred; the little fellow jumps whenever somebody tries to touch him.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t because it’s you?” She yawned again, the red in her eyes gone, lost to the dark circles under her eyes. “In any case, I’m tired. You can gush more about this supposed stranger with your ‘friends’ over on the Cocytus.”

“Don’t you even want to know his... n...” She drifted off, glaring after the Cephamorian as she simply lumbered down the steps and around the corner, shuffling off into the belly of the resting quarters.

Gale huffed... turned to a yawn. She had been up all night. Catching forty winks wouldn’t be a bad idea... but, instead, she turned away, focusing on the dingy at the end of the port, belonging to the ship resting by the cliff the Itchyoman District resided upon. She had forgotten the morning before, forgotten that her captain made such a deal, and her heart burned hot. This was their plan. They were trying to divide and conquer. They were conspiring to kill the captain! Why else would they want her, the most dedicated, the most loyal member of his crew, on another ship –a pirates’ ship, at that.

No... I won’t be alone over there, she thought, growling. Even if it’s only Ollie, I will need someone to watch my back. Ella was friendly with them too; she plotted all of this!

Her teeth gushed free, claws drawing blood from her palms, fists clenched so tight. She was right all along not to trust Ella, that she was a criminal mastermind! What good was it to know that when she had everyone fleeced... Everyone except Ollie.

The steps on the port side thumped, and the Dark One, Himself, stepped up on deck. Ollie yawned, wiping his eyes, but stopped, seeing Gale looking at him.

“Oh. M-morning,” he said. “Did you sleep well?”

“I didn’t.” She stated, fighting back her yawn, catalyzed by his yawn- and the second. She dug her teeth into her gums, spilling more blood down her chin, and her voice was stiff, barking out. “You did, right?”

“I... I suppose?” She didn’t mean for it to come out as an assertion, the fresh yellow in his eyes making a stone sink in her gut once more. She looked towards the pier again, yawning at last, and walked over to the railing, leaning on it. She pretended to be focused on the sea, ignoring his steps as he approached, settling beside. “How much longer do you think we’ll be in port?”

“No idea. Turns out I won’t even be on this ship.” She pointed to the Cocytus, sneering. “I was assigned to that ratty thing as a show of a united front.”

“T...t-t-that s-s-s-ship.”

Gale blinked, caught a bit off-guard by that response, by that amount of stammering and spluttering. She looked over at him, and saw a kaleidoscope of color swirling in those star eyes, yellow, green, a bit of blue, but mostly red. Red and black.

“Did they hurt you?” She said, now truly demanding to know.

“N... no. It’s... it’s complicated- does this mean someone from their crew is going to be over here!”

“Yes. Raina. Such a lousy wretch. More mouth than brains.”

“And she’s going to be here?”

“In my place... Trust me. I don’t like it at all. Something is amiss, and I fear for the captain’s safety... That being said, I also fear for my own safety. I’m going to be alone over there, around people that are most likely plotting to kill me... I know this is a lot to ask. We’ve only met the other day, but... I unno. I feel I can trust you... Would you accompany me to that ship-”

“Yes.”

Again, she blinked, struck speechless. She didn’t expect it to be that quick... or that easy.

“R-really?” She managed to say. He nodded, fervently, knocking off his hood but quickly put it back up as he continued to stare out at sea, at the Cocytus. The sea shimmered around it, but the ship, itself, seemed to hold an inky darkness under it, sprawling out and defiling the water it touched. However, her eyes were still locked on him, on his gaze and those ever-shifting colors... She shook her head, sighing. “Why, though? Seems a bit strange that you declare your alliance to Tarjen just to leave his service just as fast.”

“I’m not, though. I’ll still be repaying the debt. Just... in a different way.”

“True enough... You know, for being such a scaredy-cat you can think on the fly.”

“I sort of had to learn how.”

“With that past of yours which you are keeping annoyingly close to the vest. I know, I know. We just met and all, but you can’t drop hints and not expect people to not want to know.”

“Well, what about you? Do you have a past?”

“Not really... Most of my life I spent it watching ships sail in and out of Carapai.” Mostly Captain Tarjen’s... and my dad’s- wait! That’s it! “Do you have any family, Ollie? I mean, given what you are, it must be an interesting set-up-”

“It’s not.” He stated, mostly red now in his eyes. The yellow was gone, blue nonexistent, and the green faded as black took to the edges, as well as held strong in the center. “For most of my life, I didn’t have a father... then, for the other half, I wished that I didn’t.”

“It couldn’t have been all bad, could i-”

“Every single day I was practically beat into submission while my mother did nothing... On my thirteenth birthday, she simply left, and a week after I did the same. There was nothing left for me in Terra, so I went to Carapai, where I met my ‘father’.” He shot her a dirty look. “Which do you think is worse: being treated as a dog, or being treated as a freak show... I’m sorry. It’s... There’s a lot on my mind at the moment. I didn’t mean to snap.”

“It’s okay,” she said, the stone in her stomach upsetting it something fierce. He was sweet, gentle, kind, but there was no denying the darkness inside him. There was a... a monster waiting to be unleashed... and her heart fluttered at the thought. She nudged his shoulder, chuckling, fighting her shudder as she made contact with him. “But hey! We’ll get to know each other better on the other ship. Sounds like you could use an ear.”

“Y...yes... Thank you. And once again I’m sorry... When do we have to change ships.”

“Most likely whenever that wretch Raina shows up.”

“What about the captain?”

“I’ll explain to him that, as Skipper-in-waiting, I needed one of our crew to come along.”

“Won’t they have to swap another, as well?”

“Probably, but who cares about that? We’ll settle in and plan from there. I happen to be acquainted with the Cocytus so it shouldn’t be a problem to find a place from prying eyes.” She couldn’t fight her yawn any longer, and her whole body ached from it, finally feeling the weight, the fatigue from the night before. She slumped her shoulders, hands falling with a hard thump on the rail, and gave Ollie a tired smile. “Any case, you can now keep watch for the stevedores and traders. I’m going to take a well-deserved nap.”

He nodded, and she shuddered as she brushed by him again, heading down the steps. In truth, she didn’t expect to be above this long. After she had received word from Ella, she was about to head down herself, but then Ollie happened upon her... Truly, the Dark Ones were looking out for her by sending him there, and now, knowing that, she went to sleep with such swiftness, with the knowledge that she had such a competent ally... and somebody of potential interest on her side.

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