of Beasts and Man

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Rose Tea

To the Kraken, the line between light and dark was clear to see. It was still a bit away from Lam Berel, coasting on the soft breeze blowing across the Barator Sea. Its six great masts, its sixteen sails were open wide, while its crew finally relaxed. There were only six of them now, since the events of the Mako and its pompous captain, but it wasn’t him that Tarjen worried about.

He looked down from the wheel, “hand” wrapped around the railing, suckers popping, as if rapping on it, as he scanned the four there. There were two Cephamorian, a long, lanky fellow whose arms had grown quite thick over the last few days, and his squat, lumpy, pudgy friend. Both were lost to their conversation, lamenting at the loss of “the only cute girl aboard.” His eyes shifted over to Ruu as they talked, the only Aceon on his ship, watched him as they continued to discuss her physique and what they wanted to do with her... and how his garish green barbs pushed more and more out of his soft, red shell. His stalks were almost just as red, his frills buzzing loud enough to be heard as he pulled at them with his small claw, the left one. He might have commented about it before, but it was quite rare to see a south-claw, his right the large instead of the left, with a nasty little chip in its crook, splintering more as it clacked away.

But what of the fifth, the one not present at the time?

Tarjen had some thoughts about what she may be up to, but he couldn’t truly blame her for not being up there. She was the only lass aboard, and must have felt incredibly uncomfortable hanging out with men all the time. So, as much as he missed her company, he set the bar on the wheel, aimed towards Lam Berel and that darkness, as if cut and placed perfectly over the town and plains beyond while the rest was bathed in crimson from the sunset, and retired to his quarters.

The door rattled, softly... though floated open a second later. His star eyes pulsed a bit with red, his gray skin illuminating with the blue rings under, remembering a certain other crew member that had given it no quarter and left it in this sorry state. One that vowed to return, no less... He pulled it shut again, and this time made sure to pull the twine around its inner handle taut, the other end tucked under his boots as he took them off. They were heavy on their own, each easily a stone in their own right, made of thick, black leather. They were going to need resoled, as his jacket would need a few more patches. He slung his great mantle off onto the coat rack, where he had deposited his boots at its feet, then lumbered over to his cot, laying down and watching the silver light of his chime flutter on the r-

There was a knock at his door. As usual.

“Come,” he grumbled... before remembering. He groaned, sitting up, and lumbered to the coat rack again. He picked up his boots, the string going lax, and the door simply lazed open on its own, allowing the Itchyoman in. She was covered, head-to-toe, in bright blue scales, only blemished by her tanned top and burlap leggings. She, also, had no fins, an oddity of her race, instead lined with hard spines along her arms, legs, and back. Seeing her made the room a bit brighter, barren save for the cot, the desk in the back and its three chairs, and a chest on the right side, currently kept shut by his sword on top of it. “Roe. I see you decided to join the living.”

She giggled, smiling at him, and for once in a long time no pain followed it. He could see that she no longer needed her bandages, though the pale scars would always be there, nine, jagged lines from her right shoulder down to her left leg. The top of her leggings were still a bit stained by blood, the fabric rubbing against the raw flesh, but she didn’t seem to pay it any mind as she strolled in and sat at his desk.

Tarjen shut the door and followed, doing the same, sitting across from her. He reached under his desk for his tea kettle and his Zephyrian hot plate, an oddity to say the least. It was little more than a golden disk, barely wider than a cigar box, but once it is hit by a striker, it is immediately hot. The metal of the kettle groaned as it was put on the heat, hissing as he poured in a glass bottle of water before silenced as he replaced the lid, taking out his tea box next.

“What strikes your fancy today?” He said.

“Whatever you decide. You know I like them all,” she said, making him chuckle.

“But of course, of course... I see the extra bit of sleep did wonders.”

“It did, and I’m sorry for not doing so sooner.”

“It’s quite alright. You were excited; we all were.”

After all, it’s not everyday you get news on the Scylla... Even if its courier was... questionable, to say the least. There has been a sort of... brevity on board since that messenger left, only kept in check by the lamentations over the other, the sweet, quiet Cephamorian that did her work. Tarjen even felt that longing, but he knew it was coming. One way or another, she was going to leave his command; he simply wished it was under happier circumstances.

The kettle started to whistle, pulling him out of his thoughts. He shook his head, and reached under for two clay mugs, their outsides painted blue. He placed a silk packet of tea in each then poured the water in, gently, carefully so as to let the bags bob a touch as they rose, then set the kettle back down on the plate. He blew on the golden disc, and it clicked, cooling instantly. Truly, such an oddity of technological marvel.

Tarjen reached for the sugar bowl next, with its small, wooden spoon, and placed it in between them, looking at her soft, beaming face once more.

“So what are your plans once we make port?” He said.

“In truth, I don’t really have any. This will be my first time on-land; it’ll all be a rush... What can you tell me about Lam Berel, captain?”

He chortled, shaking his head. “It’s one of the larger Terra Force cities, but still so small compared to the likes of Carapai. It gets packed, sure, but mostly because of their want for small roads and passages in between areas.”

“I heard that from my da once. Think they were called ‘alleys’? What is their purpose?”

“Supposedly, it makes getting around the city easier and cuts down on congestion. After many a decade, I can honestly say that it doesn’t. At all. Instead, it forces architects to work around the idea and makes it more laborious. Plus, they are often havens for shady businesses.”

Like drug trafficking, for instance, he thought, reminded of why he was looking over the crew to begin with. He doubted it was Ruu or even Roe, but the others... He shook his head again, and took a sip from his cup.

“Not ready yet.” He stated, putting it back down. “Let’s see... What else could I tell you... There are plenty of taverns. You are spoiled for choice in that regard.”

“Any difference between them?”

“Not necessarily... though I do recommend avoiding the Hag’s Loveshack. Its keeper, Belehue, doesn’t take too kindly to other women that frequent her establishment.”

“And what about you?”

He huffed, a bit of blue... and pink crossing his eyes.

“I went there. For a time... I am a man, after all. But as of late I find myself gravitating more to the simpler establishments, the inns. I don’t partake in the drink as much anymore, so a place to lay my head and possibly indulge in a bath is more than enough to satisfy me.”

Roe tittered, tasting her tea as well, shaking her head.

“Just a bit longer... and it’s sort of funny, isn’t it? We spend most of our time on water, in water, but we want to bathe in even more water... So you don’t drink?”

“Not as much anymore. I usually don’t have a reason to drink. I love to sail, and get drunk off the wind on my face and seeing the horizon in the distance... Even after all this time, it leaves me... euphoric, if not nostalgic... I’ll most likely be sailing ’til the end of my days.”

“Hopefully that won’t be for a long time, eh?”

They shared a chuckle, both “grinning” so wide. Tarjen’s eyes were flooded with blue, steeping her in its wash, leaving her almost white, pure, an angel in his gaze. He tasted his tea again, and was finally content with it. He pulled the bag out and placed it on his spoon, pushed to the right side of the desk. After a minute, Roe did the same, and both shared a long, silent drink.

Roe broke first, sighing as she set her cup down, still beaming at him.

“What are your plans, captain,” she asked.

“Me? I have to meet some old friends first.”

“Plu, right? Your skipper?”

“For one last journey... He used to love sailing, as well. However, after a time... he sort of... lost it.”

“Lost, sir?”

He pointed to his “chest”, at the garish white scars on it, tearing, tracing across all twelve of his arms.

“He, also, has a story to tell about the Dread Pirate,” he said, and took a hard drink from his cup. “Since then, he simply wants to bid farewell to the sea and settle down. Preferably along Palridian’s west coast. He loves mountainous areas, the snow; personally, I prefer water when it’s wet. Far simpler, and doesn’t give the odd notion that it’s almost endearing because it can be described as fluffy.”

“I’ve never heard of snow. What’s it like?”

“A right pain in the beak is what it is. It and ice are truly a menace to all things living.”

“Ice?”

“It’s another form of water –rather, it’s solidified water. Slick as can be; Whether booted or not, I always find a way to stumble and splay out on it. Then it takes me forever to stand again.” She giggled at the thought, which brought a bit of pink to his eyes, which he hid by waving her off. “Yes, yes. Do keep laughing, but one day you shall encounter it yourself and experience it. Then whose going to be laughing, hmm?”

“Both of us, of course... So what’s so bad about snow?”

“Slows you down... Think about snow as if it’s mud. It sticks to you, holds you, bogs down your movements, and is in general a pain. The difference, though, is that people love to collect a bit of it, compound it into a ball, and lob it at one another, and that’s only the beginning of what people can do with it... I’ve seen some create fantastic statues out of the limited resource, works of art that only last the season then are gone, never to be seen again... Seen the same done with ice, but I don’t find them as endearing... In fact, it’s about that time of year, isn’t it?” He looked towards the porthole, to his right, and sighed. “Winter is coming... I wonder what they are going to be crafting this year?”

“Maybe, after all of this is taken care of, we can take a journey and see.”

He chortled, taking another drink from his cup. “I, and Plu, would most certainly enjoy that... Before that, though, we still have Lam Berel then the continued hunt for the Scylla.”

This creased her brow. “But what about Ella? Weren’t we waiting for her?”

“We don’t necessarily have a choice on that, do we? Not with the company she keeps.” That broke the veil of blue, reminded of that Itchyoman. Even Roe’s grin faded, both remembering that Itchyoman and her heavy, yellow crest, how it spanned from in between her beady, white eyes all the way to the base of her sweeping tail. He could still see the dark red spines on her crest and the tail, matching the whorls on her chest, clashing with the seafoam green of her skin, bathed in red as it flooded his vision. He shook his head, dispelling that thing, and once more saw blue, seeing Roe’s smiling face. “I suppose we have plenty of time, then.”

“Then would you be so kind as to act as my guide around town?”

“It would be my pleasure, though I doubt you would want to spend all your time with an old man such as myself.”

“You aren’t that old, captain.”

“Old enough to have seen your father grow up and to have you on my ship, as well.” Thunder crashed outside, rumbling through his office. He looked to the porthole again, and saw the soft reds and dusky purples quickly being overtaken by that wall of gray. Lightning lit it up, sending another crash of thunder onto the ship. He finished off his tea, and placed the mug under his desk, standing. “Looks like I have work to do.”

Roe finished, as well, and bolted to her feet.

“What do you need me to do?”

“The sails need taken down. We’re rowing the rest of the way.”

She nodded, and wheeled about, dashing to the door... while Tarjen simply watched after a moment. He saw her open the door, head out into that desolate wasteland. Rain hammered the front of it, and seemed to pull it into the storm, the line seen as clear as day on the Ferrisom bark.

Tarjen hoped, prayed it would be as simple as meeting his old friend at port... However... a part of him was screaming that it wouldn’t be. It was never simple.

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