A Fox, a Turtle, a Toucan, and a Lady
Lady Naomei’s day could have gone better. It not only could have gone better, but it should have gone better. She shouldn’t have had to spend the entire time up in the crow’s nest of enemy territory, baking under the hot sun. Not on an empty stomach, at least. She had a fine stew well and made, probably still sitting in the belly of the Kraken, being enjoyed with nobody the wiser that she had made it, while she was forced to wait up there and watch those shiny figures below ripple in the heat. At times, she wondered if they moved as much as they did. Rather, if it was the heat getting to her, but the toucan that sat beside her would tell her she was being silly then demand yet another coin. That blasted bird was going to make her go broke yet, but at least she was certain she was sound in mind. Besides, she had a deal with the turtle beside her that, once the time came, she was going to bash them against the toucan and get her money back. NO ONE... NO ONE extorts a lady of the Earth Mothers. Including the turtle; asking for HALF of the gold she’s given the toucan for compensation? Big talk for a meal already in a bowl; just need to break the underbelly.
She had to fight back her saliva every time she looked at the turtle –and the toucan, but that one would take far too much prep work. Like the fox behind; she tried not to listen to that one. They were saying that they needed to snap out of it and focus, but that was simply redundant. She was already focused, and what good would snapping do? Lady Naomei tried to look for the good in everyone and everything, but some are more... blessed than others. The fox was one such individual, so, instead of allowing herself to dwell on the negative, she focused even harder.
Ah, but it wasn’t only hunger that she had to deal with. The sun stole across the sea, warming her and it the same and leaving both drained. Lady Naomei doubted the sea needed a drink, but those water barrels looked oh, so tantalizing with every hour that passed... As the sun started to set, she contemplated walking across the ropes to the other mast, much closer to those barrels, and dive right into one. As she watched them snake and slither through the air, however, she realized they weren’t ropes but sky snakes, which was rather odd. Astrawyrm weren’t known to leave the mountain tops of Jesa, yet here they were in a small coil, hissing and slithering perfectly between the two masts.
She asked the toucan about this phenomena, but they demanded coin in exchange. She inquired the turtle, but they didn’t know... The fox was simply unhelpful, stating that they weren’t there at all and she needed to once again snap out of it... They were a nice shade of silver. There was a positive for it. Their coat was almost white, with enough of a gray hue to make it seem metalic, shimmering in the dusk. It was so brilliant, in fact, that the red rays didn’t even touch it, seeming to pass around it than to allow it to mar its magnificent coat.
But it wasn’t the time to dwell on the impossible. The sun was long gone, and with it so were the Astrawyrm. The Toucan passed out, still demanding coins in its sleep- while the Turtle was gone. They simply left... when and how- and the Fox was gone, t- And the Toucan!
She was losing her mind, it seemed... rather, it was already gone and it was returning. It must have cooled down enough in the crow’s nest for it to be comfortable, and it reminded her that she needed food. And water... as in now. Right. Now!
Lady Naomei snorted, grimacing as her stomach chastised her for it. It practically swung her around, towards the captain’s quarter and the stove pipe that ran along the back of it, puffing away, filling the air with the scent of what was cooking and cooked earlier that day. It had plagued her since an hour after she got on the boat, tantalizing her with the scent of fresh bread, simmering meat, and savory vegetables. A soft, yet pungent hint of fruit also lazed along with it, making her teeth ache for their sweet flesh, for any flesh at this point.
She would have gone sooner... She looked down, grimacing. Like clockwork, that one Arbiter stomped onto deck, and it was always that same one. All the other Arbiters kept their helmets on, but not that Cephamorian, no! It was as if he wanted her to see that it was him all the time, that it was him that was stopping her from obtaining any alms to soothe her pains.
In fact, that was the same Arbiter that took down that Itchyoman lass and Terrahn lad from the Cocytus, which only added yet another pain. If it wasn’t enough that she was starving, exhausted, fatigued, borderline dehydrated, and starting to go mad-
Starting? The Fox piped up, but wasn’t there as she jerked her head back... making her neck crack. Loud. Stars fluttered across her vision, more brilliant than the ones that shined above, and the whole world started to spin with them as they swirled. Thankfully, it all cleared once she shook her head, but yes, starting. Meanwhile, her curiosity has been piqued and remained piqued at its peak ever since she arrived. It would not leave her alone, not even for a moment. She would have chalked it up to the heat and her belly playing tricks on her. She wanted to so dearly, since the Fox was saying it wasn’t, but she chose to believe in it that one time. She wasn’t entirely sure it wasn’t her mind playing tricks, even if it was only a touch, but...
She shook her head again, sighing.
Not like I can do much about it at the moment, she thought, and focused on that pipe again, longing for whatever was making the smells it was fuming out to the world... and spotted something that she was sure now wasn’t the heat nor her head. One of the long arms of the mast she was sitting on was tied to an iron hoop on the top of the captain’s quarters. It was a thick rope, thicker than her thigh, with a mesh of other ropes and knots tied down and allowed to laze on the sides of the ship to let the crew climb up them, but she didn’t care for them. She was focused solely on that thicc rope, and how she couldn’t wait to ride it.
She pulled her hungry eyes away from it, just for a second, and looked to see if that not-so-giving Arbiter was still there. They were, but were starting towards the steps again. She eased herself over the lip of the crow’s nest, lowering herself to that arm, steadily, watching them, but they didn’t seem to notice at all, still heading towards the steps.
That was enough for her. She darted down the arm, towards that rope, opening her robes along the way. She flung them off as quick as she could, wanting nothing in between her and it as she hurled herself at it. If the Arbiter looked up at that moment, he would have saw her in all her glory, so debased for a lady of the Earth Mothers, but all virtue was gone at that moment, just her, that rope, and her robes wrapped around her arms.
They hissed as she slid down the rope, keeping her legs raised. It wasn’t that far a slide, but she had to keep tucked in, go rather slow lest her robes or, worse, the rope gave. She was known to push things to their limits, and more often than not she was left wanting. Thankfully, though, the rope was no quitter, and she landed on the top of the captain’s quarters with barely a huff as her derriere met it. She unwrapped her left arm, and rolled to the right, donning her robes again as she stood.
Right. Step one now done, she thought, looking over the edge. She was on the port side, and there were two portholes along the way, first for the captain’s quarters and, hopefully, the second for the kitchen. She waited a second, but only a second, listening to see if the captain inside stirred from her landing, but no sound came.
She crouched again, gripping that metal hoop, and eased herself over the side. She dangled as far as she could, feeling with her feet, tapping gently on the wood and trying to find the metal band that bound the ferrisom together. That’s the issue with Aqua Alliance vessels: they were made with better standards in mind. Trying to find a warped board? Impossible. A misaligned nail? Not bloody likely. If this were a Terra Forces vessel... well, she wouldn’t have a need to rappel down the side of it, but semantics.
She finally found the metal band, however, and felt along it for one of the thick metal stakes struck through it –easier done than said. There were always two stakes every four yards, which were off to her left... right in front of the porthole. She groaned, grimacing as her stomach growled at her, urging her on. They were so close and it wouldn’t be denied. Again. However, its roar rumbled into the night, loud enough that it made her jump, so she simply hanged there, waiting, listening- only for it to erupt again.
Will you stop it? I’m getting you there! She thought, but had no choice but to touch down on the stakes. Each one’s head was large enough to hold her feet comfortably, with a lip, the top of each, squared off, easy to grab on and continue down. She crouched on them, but used this chance to look inside the captain’s quarters... Once more, she had to remind herself that she would rather look for the positives than to dwell on the negatives... She was trying, but it was rather difficult given how... extravagantly ordained that room was. It looked more at home in a brothel, a fantastical display of the otherwise mundane. It was no place for a captain, a real captain, to truly lay his head. At least, not for more than an hour or three.
However, there must have been something positive she could say about the room... She couldn’t even think of anything to say about the captain in that bed –an actual bed. It was a full, king-sized, Terrahn-made bed, fitted with bright blue silks that didn’t only cover the the mattress itself but also the four posters, all of it emblazoned in the Aqua Alliance’s double-A’s. Even the captain, himself, was adorned in it, topped with a flimsly little nightcap, embellished in the double-A’s, rising and falling with each breath.
Well... at least he was dutiful, she thought, rolling her eyes, but that soft squelch seemed to be the tipping point. The captain snorted, making her and her stomach freeze, still crouching before the window.
“Don’t you know who I am?” He said, his voice barely above a whisper, yet he might as well have been screaming at her. He snorted again, rolling over, and hugged an over-sized cotton lorimon. “I’m Captain Lehroo, baby. Want to come see my mako... and my ship?”
He snored once more after his request that fit her thoughts on the room so well, and Lady Naomei found the strength to hang from the stakes. This time, she simply felt for the porthole, crouching then hanging from it. She pushed it open, slowly, cringing as it squeaked, but it was only once, sailing smoothly after. She pulled herself through, damned be the Arbiters. She was so close to that smell, and she was going to see if it was truly worth the r-
It was totally worth the risk. Totally.
It looked like any other kitchen on an Aqua Alliance vessel, but, at that moment, it might as well have been lit by fine crystal chandeliers. The room, the two tables in the middle, seemed to glow. Cherubs sung around it, harmonizing with the choir of Astra’s children, bringing a tear to Lady Naomei’s eye as she looked upon that smorgasbord. It was everything she wanted, everything she dreamed it would be and then more. There was chicken, beef, seafood, pork, vegetables from all across Palridian, and fruit. So much fruit.
She didn’t know where to begin. She didn’t want to know. She simply wanted to give in to her instincts and become the beast that she was. And she did. All she could do was sit back and watch the carnage unfold. Not even the clay urns of water were safe, splashing around, cleaning the fresher stains on her robes before a new round was added.
The taste, though; she could still taste. She didn’t give entirely to basic needs. If it... needed work, she would stop herself and go to something else. However, that wasn’t an issue, but it was because of the taste she was finding it hard to stop. The soft, yet spiky, seasoning that Cephamorian used was always so tantalizing to her, so different from every other race and how they cooked. Others tried to mimic it, but always failed to balance the overall... sensual flow of the savory herbs used and the might of the spice just packed enough into every single bite. It’s what she missed most from her time in Carapai, for no matter where she went after no food matched up to that harmonious blend.
She cried with each bite, with every platter cleared, yet there never seemed to be an end in sight... Until there was one. She finished the final apple, its soft, blue skin so sweet, licking her fingers clean of its juices as she reached for another. Only to find the table had been completely cleared. Her heart skipped a beat before sinking into her (packed) belly, starting to feel a bit sick. How could she have been so careless! She only wanted to sneak one or two platters worth; there was no way they wouldn’t notice eighty-seven platters of food simply... gone.
“This... isn’t good.” She stated, gasping, hating herself more for both utterances-
And jumped as she heard somebody clear their throat.
She looked to the entry and there, leaning against the archway, was the Arbiter from before. They both simply stared at each other, unerring... What was that color in his eyes? It wasn’t yellow; he wasn’t afraid –why would he? This was their ship... but it also wasn’t red. He wasn’t angry... In fact, it was almost... blue? Why?
He cleared his throat again, making her jump once more, shaking her free, and she grabbed one of the knives off the table as he pushed himself off the archway.
“I swear, you will not even gurgle if you take another step,” she said, flipping that knife around, readying to throw.
That stopped the Arbiter- and it was definitely blue in his eyes... D... did she know this Cephamorian? His shook his head, holding up his “hand”... and rolled it her way.
“I didn’t see anything,” he said, and wheeled about. He stomped down the hall, his metal boots making more metal shake along it. The brig, most likely, which how cruel a fate to keep people locked right beside the kitchen. For now, though, Lady Naomei was focused on herself, heaving a sigh of relief... before turning red, seeing the massacre around her, as well as on her. She wondered how long they must have been standing there; she must have been quite the sight... No matter. Small miracles from the Earth Mothers shall not be overlo-
The metal started to ring again, and this time two pairs of boots were clomping down the hall. They were talking, barely distinguishable. For the moment, at least. Blood thumped in her ears, trying hard to keep her pace even yet brisk as she spun and made for the porthole. She eased herself out it with haste... and heaved a silent sigh as she hung from it again. Just as they entered the room.
They went silent, however, seeing the room.
“What in Natalie’s-” One blurted after a breath.
“What happened in here!” The other exclaimed.
“Did Shirac do this? He always had bad table manners, but this is ridiculous!”
“And didn’t even clean up after himself, the lazy cuttlefish!”
“This is so like him. We spent most of the day dealing with that dumbass captain while he simply kept patrols and checks on the prisoner. Didn’t even ask us if we wanted a turn.”
“I would have killed for a single ‘tour’. Anything to get away from that moron.”
“Why did the Council think it a good idea to promote him to captain. On one of their newer ships, no less!”
“They’re out of touch, and the guy just screams ‘tentacle shiner’.”
“And not a single woman on the Council, either, to make up for it...” Lady Naomei heard them sigh, turned to a grumble as something... squishy sloshed across the boards. “I’m not cleaning this up... At least we have the executions to look forward to.”
Executions? Naomei thought, pulling herself up a bit closer to the porthole. They don’t mean the two rescued off the Cocytus, do they? Wait. Of course. They mean the two pirates, n-
“All four heads will roll wonderfully come dawn,” the other Cephamorian said, chuckling and taking away what hope Naomei had. They were innocent; why... especially that one... She understood what she needed to do. There was nothing in her way now, not hunger nor thirst and definitely not exhaustion; nothing addled her mind nor swayed it one way or another. Come the morning, she was going to save the Itchyoman woman, but, more importantly, that Terrahn lad. She will have answers, one way or another... For now, she simply had to hang out until they left, then she could climb back up to the captain’s quarters. Where she would stay. She would not go back to the crow’s nest nor that blasted Toucan.