of Beasts and Man

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World on Fire

Much to Gale’s dismay, it seemed that Olivier’s prediction for her captain was coming to fruition. The day passed with nary a trace of skin, scale, or tentacle of the pair. There wasn’t even any sign the day after, and, if it wasn’t for Olivier being there, the only one that actually stayed, that truly listened to her, she would have gone mad. He did, though, and they spent a good bit of time talking –mostly planning for when they finally had to change ships, but talking too.

By the sixth day, the snow clouds that had gathered over the sea had drifted on the gentle winds and dusted Lam Berel. Each flake glittered, as if they were guns, caught by the sun and given their truest beauty, cascading through the streets, along the port, and shining on the sea. It was a cold morning, but not too unpleasant as Gale sat on the steps to the captain’s quarters. She glowered at the Stevedores, still loading the ship. That was fine; the ship still needed supplies. What wasn’t was the fact that they were still “cleaning” it. Almost a week, and they had done less for the ship than she, Olivier, and Ella did in their “spare” time.

On the seventh day, as the sun set, glistening off the soft frost that hung in the air, off the gems that still lazed from the sky, Tarjen and Roe finally returned to the ship. The look in their eyes, their gait as the world seemed to move for them, make way for their approach, their stride instead of the other way around, they had gone a step beyond tired. They were not the normal, drunk, exhausted pair, no! They had found a stage beyond drunk and exhausted, teetering on the precipice of legend and myth with how fatigued and pissed they were.

Tarjen’s eyes were filled with a murky blue, brightening with each step up the gangplanks, locked on the door over Gale’s head. Him and Roe had an arm slung over each other, if only to keep either one from falling from the world’s generosity and to make sure neither one had a nice, cold, sobering wash. They separated at the top, Roe heading for the steps down while Tarjen was guided by his sight, locked onto that door, and nothing would stand -or, in the case of Gale, sit- in his way.

“H-hey!” She spluttered, scrambling to her feet as her captain lumbered and loomed over her. She tried to hold the line, but he forced her up with each step until she wavered by the railing and wall of the captain’s quarters, ignored as he listed off to the right, to his chambers. Gale wouldn’t give up so easily, however, reaching out for his arm. “Captain! Wait!”

“We’ll talk after I get some rest,” he grumbled, still lurching towards that door, as if completely unfazed by her grip. Whether it was because he was too numb at that point to feel those claws sink in or too tired to truly care, he simply kept trudging, stopping only a moment to open his door. He had developed a devilishly clever way to shut it, but he had hoped the Stevedores would have fixed it by the time he got back. Regardless, he had used the cloth from before and wrapped it around his sword, wedging it into the bottom of his desk. It was sturdy, solid, and would require a moderate deal of strength to open... or the slightest bit of know-how. By the left, iron band of the door, a bit of the cloth stuck out, the end of a knot that, with a careful pull, made the entirety go slack and the door slide open with ease. Now, if only he remembered that tidbit he could have gotten in. Instead, he had no choice but to interact with his would-be leech. He turned to her, the blue slowly fading from his eyes as he was forced to acknowledge her presence. “I suppose I have a bit of time while I try to remiss how I shut my own door. Make it quick, though. Short and simple, as well.”

“Captain... when am I due over on the Cocytus?”

“Honestly? Six days ago. The transfer was already agreed upon; however, I have reason to believe Raina hasn’t stepped foot off the Cocytus since we first met. In fact, more than likely none of them have.”

“What makes you believe that?”

“Itchyoman are naturally paranoid. For good reason, of course, given their past, but I would bet you the entire pot that they are planning something... As you probably already have something planned.”

“S-something, minor. I suppose... It involves another crew member. Ollie... I... I wish for him to accompany me on-board the Cocytus-”

“Done.”

“R...really?”

He nodded... and almost fell as he did. He steadied himself by banging his head on the door- and there was the silk! It finally hit him what he had to do –or was it more poignant to say he hit it? He tugged it and the entirety was smoother than the fabric still being tugged by his tentacle, wrapped around the gray tip. It slipped off as he slipped inside, and almost fell again as he started to undo his boots, leaning on the wall –though he feared it would betray him. Those old boards ain’t what they used to be, and the world was far too gracious for its own good at that moment.

I swear, he thought, unlacing those dark soles, if it’s not Faun sorcery, it’s the world and the Mothers testing me.

Rather, it was Gale testing him. She had stepped into his office, pervading it with her stench. He had gone willingly blind for Roe; she was good company. Gale, on the other hand? He would rather have a rotting carcass in there than smell her. Given his current condition, that request was already fulfilled.

Tarjen managed to get the right boot off in silence, but he knew it was borrowed time. He could hear her, as if hissing like a kettle, boiling up to the point until the room, itself, could hear she was ready to blow her top. He braced against the wall as the time came, feeling her voice ripple over him, striking hotter than even the hottest, scalding waters ever would.

“Why, captain?” She began, the beginning of the frothing mess that boiled over. “Why are you so quick to discard another crew member? Why are you so quick to be rid of me? If you know they are plotting, why are you sending me off? You could use me! You need my help; I can watch your back. Why are you letting me bring Ollie along? Don’t you care for his safety? Do you know something I don’t? Did you plan something?”

And on and on and on; Tarjen regretted not remembering the silk sooner. He managed to get both boots off, at least, tucking them under the coat rack before he placed his coat on it, lumbering over to his cot, the sweetest sight he could see. The porthole above it bathed it in color, as if knowing it was paradise for his weary head... If only the nuisance could see it.

He groaned, simply sitting on the cot instead, and looked up at Gale. The blue was almost gone, stolen so much from his eyes and replaced by quivering red. Her lip was quivering, her arms crossed, but her gaze was glazed with tears, with want and curiosity –always a terrible combination.

“What did I tell you about keeping it sweet, simple, and quick?” He said.

“I know, captain. I know, but these have been questions building up for a while now, which could have been answered if you returned sooner... How could you be out this long from your ship, from your crew? How could you neglect them and leave them without guidance?”

“We’re on shore leave, girl. I’m not their keeper, nor your’s. You could have gone and done whatever it is that you desire, whatever you want to do for fun –as I did with Ella, Plu, and Roe... Th... those two made it back, right? Mostly in one piece?”

“They’re fine, though Plu has been pretty much asleep since he had. Ella... not so much.”

He chortled, shaking his head, each bounding movement wanting to pull his head down onto the pillow.

“Sounds about right... Don’t worry. This is nothing new for him... At least, nowadays. That old crustacean is getting up there; will most likely need to molt after he wakes up too, so I’m going to have fun poking fun at his flabby pink b-”

“But what about Ollie, captain?” She interrupted, robbing what joy he had made. “He vowed his life to you and Plu, and yet you are fine with him accompanying me? Just like that?”

“You want somebody over there with you to watch your back, yes? What better person than the one you’ve most likely been schmoozing up to.”

She gasped, reeling back a step as red touched her cheeks.

“C-captain. Are you insinuating... I-I would ne-”

“The fact you know him by name says everything. You don’t even know the other three, but know our newest recruit?”

She growled, stamping her foot.

“Alright! Fine! I have been getting close to him... It’s all your fault. If you just accepted my love-”

“Eh? You were infatuated with the likes of me?”

“Y... you can’t be serious.”

“I am. I couldn’t really tell. To be quite frank, Gale, you come off as overbearing in your personality in general, so it’s hard to read what are signs and what aren’t.”

She scoffed, stamping her foot again, glaring at him.

“You know what? Fine! I’m done chasing you. If you’re too blind to see when someone truly cares for you, when somebody really wants you, then I’m tired of trying.”

“Sounds great. That way you can focus attentions on the one you truly care about. I wish you two the best of luck.”

“Whatever.”

She spun on her heel and stormed out the door, pulling it behind her. It slammed into the frame... only to laze back open- slammed thrice over before Gale descended the steps, stomping on each one. Tarjen gestured to the door, showing his sympathies, as if he was apologizing, but finally let his head touch the pillows. His eyes snapped shut as it did, and what strength he had left faded, setting him in like a stone.

However, those his body was ready to go, his mind was not. It still buzzed with that conversation, its implications... and its targets. He hadn’t be exactly forward with Gale; he had his own reasons to send Olivier to the Cocytus. After all, what better way to string a fish than to use bait, and putting him on a ship filled with people that had good reason to hate him... He didn’t believe the wanted posters saying he was the Dread Pirate, but, if the Powderfish were to be believed, he should lead him right to the Scylla.

So let Gale have him tag along. Put him in as much danger as possible... Maybe, just maybe, three fish could be caught with one hook. Eliminating pirates, removing Gale... and, finally, having his vengeance upon that cursed ship and the one that pilots it... Sleep quickly addled his mind, and, by the end of the second week, Raina and Gale had been swapped, with Olivier in tow of course. The ship had been cleaned, the crew returned, and all was ready to finally begin their hunt anew.

The sun shined on the horizon, burning bright red, burning on the Kraken, the Cocytus, and the fleet that followed behind, all heading towards that world on fire.

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