of Beasts and Man

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Ebb and Flow

It wasn’t only the storm that hammered Lam Berel. The sea had been roused into a fury, denied the sun’s touch too long. Winds shrieked off its grayed waters, slamming the port and its piers with ghastly wails and frothing torrential walls. The ships tied to it groaned and rode on them, but no one was foolish to be on top. No one dared to lower the gangplank nor even move the grates, flashing, almost always alight by the sheer vehemence the sea and sky showed them.

Of all ships that dared to leave port, it wasn’t the stalwart bastions of the Aqua Alliance, those ferrisom-barked juggernauts that seemed more to float, if not cut, through the waters rather than sail, but a simple, Terra Force schooner. It crashed through the waves, riding on some before slamming back down onto the frothing surface, buffeted by both water and wind. The tartan sails rippled with each blast, the deck, the timbers creaking and snapping from the bullets raining down on it, but it finally made its way, finally found its destination.

There was a cove under Lam Berel, under the Itchyoman District. Normally, there would be room for the ship to slip in; however, as the swells rose, the captain of the ship, the Falchion, had to wait for it flow out. If she tried as it went in, it would have crunched them against the stalactites, hundreds, if not thousands of jagged teeth, freshly coated in seaweed this day. So the pink Itchyoman had to wait, arms aching as she dug two fishing harpoons into the rock just outside it. A third aided in keeping them there, from the tide pulling them into that maw, held firm by a rather annoyed Faun. Her yellow-and-orange spotted fur was matted against, showing off her taut and firm physique, pure muscle from her two pointed ears on the top of her head, to her long, lanky tail, to the eight claws on her feet. Her white top was destroyed by the storm, blasting them again and again as they waited for it to be just right.

That time finally came. The Itchyoman, Squall, cried out, and the Faun, Claire, shoved hard, pushing against the retreating current into the cave. Squall growled, her teeth gushing free from her jaws, digging in as she ground them into her gums. Blood rolled down her chin, diluted and dissipated before it even hit her black top, practically melded into her white belly and chest. Her leggings suffered a similar fate, while her boots were eaten through, her clawed toes clinging for dear life to the timbers of the deck, giving it her all.

“It’s no good!” Claire cried out, sinking her harpoon into the stone once more. Squall did the same, just as the tide returned, still growling, groaning as she held the boat there. There they waited until it sucked out again, trying once more, but to no avail, forced to hold against the wall, to endure the storm as it crashed overhead. “Got any better ideas?”

“Kind of, but we’ll need to return to the docks,” Squall said, panting. “Ponitius might be pissed, but in this storm? We’ll have to leave it tied and go through the warehouse. He’ll understand-”

“So we have to brave that all again? We barely made it this time!”

“We could always drop anchor and swim in-”

“Do I look like I swim?” She hissed, laying her ears back. “We have to keep trying. For Olivier’s sake. We can’t let his death be in v-”

“He is not dead!”

He is not dead... He cannot be dead. Not because of me.

Squall shook her head, and once more the tide left the cove. She shoved with all her might, dug in her teeth as hard as those harpoons, blood raining just as hard as the storm around, but, at last, they made it over the hill and behind the wall that was the current.

Claire moved to the starboard side, catching the rock there, but now wasn’t the time to relax. The tide was quickly returning, and those teeth above glistened with an eerie light. Hand over hand, Squall dug both harpoons into the rock. Sparks flew in her drive, the ship groaning from her zeal, echoed off the rocky walls as they closed in.

The tide started to lift them, towards those jagged teeth. They just scraped the middle sails, crunching the crow’s nest into the rock, but it only took the back half of it as they pulled themselves into the cove at last. Right behind another ship, an Aqua Alliance vessel imbued with Zephyrian technology.

The Scylla.

There was once a landing to the port side, but the storm had consumed it. A boon; Squall and Claire clacked against the stone on the left, pulling themselves along it to be on the Scylla’s left, the right occupied by another Terra Force vessel, the Claymore. There were ropes already waiting for the Falchion’s return, hanging off, held up by a bulky Itchyoman. He had six green eyes, watching them, his foot on the railing, while an even bulkier Faun stood by him. Its three horns were pierced, beady eyes filled with more wonder than worry –which was good; leave that to the blue Natorei.

It didn’t even wait for the ship to be pulled up, flying down to meet them.

“Where is he?” The Natorei, Fili, demanded. “Where’s my Yally?”

“You know, you could act least get his name right now,” Claire grumbled, chuckling, though there was no warmth. “Respect the d-”

“Don’t you say it,” Squall blurted, and clung to the railing as the ship rocked. The ropes had been fastened to the roof of the captain’s quarters, the middle mast, and the prow arm, raising with solid, loud clicks. A few other faces, and lights, appeared over the rail of the Scylla, a silver and pink one, as well as a rather haggard Terrahn. His clothes were more disheveled than his beard, denied a cut due to the storm prior, but he always seemed to have a smile on his face, even now as his pearl eyes gleamed with worry.

Two other Faun sauntered up as the ship finished raising, one a rather horned individual while the other was a long-faced fellow who has had his fair share of stories to tell. His mane was stark white, matching his milky right eye. A long scar traced from it down his strong neck; if it stopped there was the true mystery, hidden under a heavy, burgundy jacket.

The Faun sneered at Squall, at Claire as they eased themselves over the railing onto the ship.

“So where’s the good captain, hmm?” He said. “Did you find any clues on your ‘beloved’?”

“Where’s my Ollie?” Fili continued to demand, her blue light turning white. “You promised, Squall. You promised he would be okay!”

“Shit hit the fan,” Claire uttered, shivering. “Dark magic, old acquaintance of his, lots of death and misery.” She gasped, and pulled... a shoe out from under her right arm. “Well... sorry, Olivier.”

“You still had that?” Squall said, but shook her head. “It was all so sudden. We learned that Baro had gone into town, but, when we climbed the stairs to the plaza, people were strung up on chains. The kind of chains used by the Disciples of Terra.”

“Oh. Lovely. Church business,” The long-faced Faun, Bethilius, said, snorting. “That could only go well.”

“What happened to Olivier?” The silver Natorei, Strix, demanded to know... while the pink light was hitting its head into the Scylla’s fourth mast, grumbling and crying. “Where did he go?”

“H... he... he decided to be a distraction... He killed the one who caused all that chaos.”

“He did?” Bethilius blurted, guffawing. “I’ll be damned. I didn’t think the freak had it in him.”

“Are you telling the truth?” The Terrahn, Ponitius, interrupted. “I know the lad has a trigger, but to think he’d be able to kill-”

“She was begging him to kill her. He didn’t want to... but then-”

“She threatened to harm his friends, I take it?” Bethilius said, rolling his eyes. “He is so simple... Take it the local authorities didn’t like this one bit. Probably thought he caused all of it because they were too lazy to go see until after the fact.”

“That is exactly what happened.”

“Where is he now?” Strix said... but Squall could only shake her head.

“Last I saw, he headed towards the Hag’s Loveshack-”

“Which means he went into the sewers,” Claire deduced.

“Will he be okay,” Fili asked. “I mean... he can get out of there, can’t he?”

“Beats me. That place is a bloody labyrinth.”

“He’ll make it!” Another Faun, a mousier lass, stepped up out of the galley. Her red face seemed to beam, a sun in its own way, while another Faun was dragged up with her, looking like they wanted nothing to do with being there. Their floppy ears were down, tiny nose snuffling away, shooting the energetic Faun that dared drag them up dirty looks. “There’s no way he’d fail. He has us.”

“That being said, we better start heading out to sea.” The gloomy Faun stated. “We’re already pressing our luck as-is. That Zephyrian can wake up any minute.”

“Where’s he going to go in this?” Claire said, tittering as she rubbed her head... and sneezed. “Sorry... but truly. Where is he going to go, Gaz? We can afford to wait for him a bit longer.”

“We wouldn’t have had to wait at all if we simply left,” Bethilius muttered.

“It was the captain’s choice,” Ponitius said, but there was the tone with how he said it that made everyone fall silent, the bitterness, the tension created by it so thick.

And all of it was aimed at Squall. Even her own... The energetic Faun, Anni, squeaked, giggling as she hopped in place.

“Let’s not get so down,” she said. “Hey! We should be proud of him. If he didn’t go into town, there would have been more death, right? Ollie is a hero!”

“Is he, though? Is he really?” Bethilius said, snorting again. “Ever think that it was because he was there that there was so much carnage? Rather, the fact that Squall was snooping around?”

“What are you getting at, you old bay?” Ponitius said.

“What I’m saying is that this was obviously Baro trying to create a diversion-”

“That,” Squall interjected. “What we saw... there was no way Baro could have done that.”

“You seem awfully confident for somebody who lead to their rise,” Strix said.

“What are you talking about?”

“I was waiting for Olivier to be off the ship before confronting you about this. I didn’t want his heart hurt more than it already will be... I want you off this vessel. I don’t ever want to see you near this crew or Olivier ever again.”

“What! You lousy Na-”

“You may stay until the storm breaks, but then I want you gone... Olivier is a good boy, with a good heart, and I shall not see him harmed by whatever scheme you have concocted.”

“Are you mad? I-I’m n-Olivier is my friend-”

“As was Baro. And Nejrat. Look what happened to them. You killed the captain of the Leviathan and framed them for it, leading them down their path!”

“You have it wrong. I didn’t-”

“I don’t care. What I know is you are a threat to our captain, to Olivier, and I am doing my duty, as his adviser, to keep him safe... Here’s a question, Squall: who do you think he will trust more? You, or me?”

“You’re being a bit harsh there, Strixy,” Ponitius said, patting the top of that light, but winced as the light flashed and his palm smoked. “Still sore from our little talk?”

“This has nothing to do with that,” she said, then sighed. “However, this all comes down to Olivier, doesn’t it? To our captain telling you to get off his ship... I swear, though. If you so happen to breathe wrong around him, I will smite you where you stand... do you understand?”

“Perfectly.” Squall said, curt, and pushed through and to the stairs. She stormed down them, down into the galley of the ship. The stairs came out before the rowing hall, but she hooked behind them, entering the rest quarters. She slung herself into one of hundreds of cots that lined it, and looked at the wall. None of them would see the tears streaming down her face.

Come on, you doofus, she thought, letting loose a long, slow sigh. Get back here already so I can apologize... Just come back.

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