of Beasts and Man

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Spin me Right Round

Tarjen strolled out onto the deck, groaning as he stretched. His eyes were blue, almost sparkling as he took in the smell of ozone and salt water. It has felt like ages since he slept that well; he didn’t really understand why, but he always slept best during a storm. A nice little reward after the hell Natalie put him and his crew through; he would have been surprised if any were up yet, having fought through that ordeal and made it to port, but that was only the beginning. They had to endure the storm, dodge lightning as they worked with metal both on the ship and on dock so as to tie them down and not be swept back out. Roe and Ruu accomplished the task while the others kept on the oars, while he made sure the boarding plank wasn’t taken by the winds.

He let his “arms” fall... and saw somebody was awake.

“Morning,” he said, chuckling as he leaned on the bar, looking down at Roe. She was setting the boarding planks down onto the pier at that moment, but given how dry the deck was, how it glistened in the afternoon sun, and how the sails were patched and opened again, he doubted she just started. “Sleep well?”

“Well enough,” she said, groaning as she eased the second board down. He could see she was trying to keep it even with the first, keep it from crossing while maintaining a half-inch in between, wavering until, at last, it touched down onto the old, wooden pier. She stood, hissing as her back popped, audible against the chatter and buzz of the city beyond. “What about you?”

“Like a sinner after confession.”

“Huh? That’s a new one.”

“So was sleeping that well.” They both chuckled, and Tarjen clomped down the steps. He was wearing his boots today, ready to tackle the town, and he could see that she was, too. She found a jasmine-colored brocade somewhere on-board, as well as a pair of black leggings, tucked into her rugged boots. Her cheeks had the most color, though, warmed by the sun, her work... and another feeling. He held out his “hand” to her, taken as the pair walked down the planks, strolling towards town. “Once we meet with Plu, we’ll begin our tour of the town.”

“Again, I am very much honored,” she said, tittering as she poked at his jacket. “Is that all you have to wear?”

“Yes. It’s all I really need when out on the water. Sometimes I grab a new pair of pants or two to hold me over until the next time I make port. Why burden myself with more luggage than necessary? Besides, I’m comfortable in this.”

“Well, as long you are comfortable... Where are we meeting Plu, anyways?”

“Don’t know. It depends entirely on that old crusty crab –which speak of the Dark One, Himself.”

Tarjen stopped, waiting at the beginning of the pier, as both of them watched the red-shelled Aceon descend the steps. They were passed the landing, its four tables currently filled with sailors, laughing and guffawing and venting after being cooped up for so long. It was a chore for the Aceon to press through... as well as his brown-robed friend, keeping close as the two continued their descent. Tarjen felt a bit of yellow creep into his eyes, seeing that tall, lanky, hooded figure, but blue still held, “smiling” at Plu as he turned sideways at the bottom, scuttling over as fast as he could. The robed follower kept up, still simply walking, but kept his head down, all but his lips, those gray lines, hidden in shadow.

Tarjen braced himself as Plu skidded to a halt, but only the tip of his claw grazed the captain’s chest. He turned, facing him, frills buzzing away as he spun an orb, but the message was already clear to his old friend. Tarjen patted the old Aceon’s shell, chortling.

“It’s nice to see you again, old friend,” he said. “I take it you received my message?” The lights in those stalks swiveled in a circle, as if rolling, and hit Tarjen with his orb. “Ah. My apologies. This is Roe. She asked to join us this evening. Who is your friend, and what happened to our snapper?”

“I am Ollie,” the hooded figure said, looking up a bit, allowing a bit of light onto his face. From his features, Tarjen could see that he was Terrahn, but the eyes were the shape of a Cephamorian’s. They even seemed to fill with color, brimming with yellow, turned green by Tarjen’s own flood of emotion. “You must be the friend Plu talked about.”

“It seems I am becoming famous.” He chortled, holding out his “hand”. “I am Tarjen, captain of the vessel behind me, the Kraken. So... I take it there’s a reason you followed this old entree to meet me?” Plu was already ahead of him, the orb splashing against him as the last word slipped out. He put down his “hand”, furrowing his brow as he looked over the one known as Ollie. “You wish to work for me? You’re a touch on the scrawny side, lad-”

“Don’t you worry, sir!” Ollie blurted, blue coursing from the center of his eyes... but Tarjen’s gaze fell to his left hand, grasping his sword. There was something... familiar about that blade, but he couldn’t quite put his “finger” on i- “I will do whatever it takes to earn my keep... I owe Plu that much. He saved my life, he did. So, please... I want to be a part of your crew.”

“Well, I’m in no state to turn away help. You are more than welcome, but it will be a couple weeks before we leave. I need to recruit others, resupply the ship-”

“That is quite all right. I’ll spend most of my time aboard, cleaning it and making it ready to sail.”

“I’m afraid you’re a bit too late for that,” Roe said. She had been silent, watching the hooded figure and her captain, but Tarjen could see she had relaxed, now smirking at Ollie. “Took care of it this morning.”

“I-I’ll find other things to do. I’ll reknot the hammocks, clean the crow’s nests. I know how the machinations work for the anchors and sails; I’ll check and make sure those are fine. I’ll clean the lanterns, scrub the oven- please, just let me stay on-board until we leave!”

Tarjen... blinked. The blue disappeared a moment, and saw just how much yellow had accrued in those eyes. They were practically neon, bright enough to warn sailors at night. Every part of him shook as well, his hand making the blade rattle in his grasp. He looked to Roe, just as shocked by this outburst, then looked back at the lad... reminded of someone else.

“It’s okay, lad,” he said, softly. “You can stay on-board if you wish. We are not saying you have to leave; simply stating it’ll be a few weeks before we leave port... You can simply relax, if you wish. There is no reason to stress yourself out before anything has been declared... Go on ahead and get yourself aboard. The others should be waking.”

“Thank you.”

With that, the hooded figure, rushed passed, his feet hitting the boards so hard they pulled them up, as if he had suckers on them.

“What a strange kid,” Roe remarked, and held out her hand to Plu. “It’s nice to meet you, though, Skipper Plu.”

Plu trilled, taking and shaking her hand with his small claw, but his gaze was fixed on Tarjen, the question he had clear in his eyes. No orb needed to be made, Tarjen understanding what was in those black, stalky eyes without needing to be “spoken”.

“Another headache,” Tarjen grumbled.

“What was that, sir?” Roe said.

He shook his head, smiling at her. The town ahead was abuzz, a constant drone that seemed to be rising.

“Nothing. Just thinking aloud... So where’s Tys, Plu? Did she already get sick of y-”

“Captain!!!” Gale shrieked, and Tarjen stumbled forward as she latched onto his back. Plu stepped aside just in time, letting Tarjen fall into the soft sand instead of his hard shell. It gushed around him, rising like a fountain from the force, and got into places most uncomfortable... Gale giggled as she rolled off and stood, pulling him to his feet. “We made it! I missed you so much.”

“Gale.” He stated, bored, but his eyes were strikingly red, settling as he turned around and saw Ella... and two other Itchyoman approaching. They must have been sisters, if not twins, only told apart by their teeth... and the dark mark on the left one’s face. His arms writhed, shaking off the sand, while he fought the urge to gag and spit out, not until these new guests were gone. He nodded to Ella, blue touching the center of his eyes. “I see fortune smiled upon you.”

“It smiled upon all of us,” one of the Itchyoman answered in her place, holding out her hand. “Captain Sheira, of the Powderfish. Your reputation precedes you, Captain Tarjen. This is my sister, Raina.”

Tarjen shook it, the blue taking more of his vision.

“You have me at a disadvantage. I have never heard of you or the Powderfish.”

“I can assure you, that will change fast.” She pointed to the mark on her face. It looked like a Terrahn hand print... but, the tiny, circular marks on the palms... There was no denying it. Those were Cephamorian suckers. “I came to port to warn people. The Dread Pirate has returned.”

“You saw him? You saw Baro?”

“No. The ship has a new leader, a Cephamorian-Terrahn that goes by Olivier.” She growled, tears welling in her eyes as she touched that mark on his face. “He has a power the likes of which I’ve never seen... He brought me and my crew to their knees with such ease... That arm. That accursed arm.”

“Where did you encounter them? Which way did they head?”

“They were heading north, here, but we were slowed by... guests.”

“So I see. Thank you for saving Ella.”

“It was my pleasure... I’m a bit jealous, in fact. She quickly became one of the hardest working members of our crew. Speaking of.” She turned to Ella, and pulled out a hefty leather wallet from her black jacket, handing it to her. “Here. For services rendered.”

“Ah. Thank you for reminding me.” Tarjen reached into his jacket, as well... However, Ella returned the wallet to Sheira, as well as held out her hand to Tarjen. “Lass?”

“Please. This is too much,” she said. “I don’t want paid... In truth, I want to continue sailing with you, Captain.” Red and pink blossomed in her eyes, looking into Tarjen’s. “I have a feeling. A strong intuition, at that... If I stay with you, with the Kraken, I will find what I am looking for... So, please, let me stay.”

“But of cour-” Tarjen began, cut off by Gale.

“Absolutely not!” She shrieked. She growled, teeth bared, claws ripping free as she advanced on Ella. “You said you had no interest to return to his crew. You said you were done, and now? Do you have any idea how much trouble you are bringing upon my captain?”

“I know it’s a lot to ask-” Ella began, keeping her voice cool, calm, as darkness began to take her vision.

“It is! I will not let my captain be put in danger for a simple ‘feeling’.”

Tarjen, meanwhile, understood that it was more than a feeling. A Cephamorian-Terrahn with an almost unholy power, the monsters back on that island, chanting “freak”... And now they had a name. Tarjen looked to Plu, who had gone quiet, but all went silent as a crier stepped down off the steps.

“Hear ye, hear ye!” They began, and held up a poster. Tarjen could have sworn he saw a face similar to the caricature, but the shell and tendrils on top, as well as the eyes, were different. “Be watchful for this lad. He be called Olivier, and is responsible of crimes most foul. Not even a day ago, he slaughtered no less than a hundred people with tainted magic from the Holy Mothers. He manipulated one of their most prestigious to commit the act then killed her in cold blood. If you spot this man, report immediately to the constables. Do not attempt to capture on your own. Do not approach him, for he is incredibly dangerous.”

“Poppycock!” An older Terrahn lass cried out, storming over from the Hag’s Loveshack. She slapped at the crier, grunting. “My Ollie is a darling! He would never-”

“Ow! Stop! Pl- ouch- ease. I’m -ah!- only doing m-my job!”

“We’re on the right track, it appears,” Sheira said. “The monster was here-” She was cut off as somebody called her name behind. They all turned to see a white Itchyoman running down the pier, panting hard as she continued to call out Sheira’s name. They slid to a halt, doubled-over, panting hard. “Gerkin? What’s the matter?”

“The... the Scylla,” he said, pointing back out to sea. “Headed that way. Came out of a cove under... Itchyoman District.”

“Seems like he’s a resourceful one,” Tarjen said, remembering last night... He shook his head. “We know where they’re heading at least. I remember hunting it down the first time; if it’s treading water, it’s as slow as any other Aqua Alliance vessel. We have time... We’ll meet in the Milked Silly inn later tonight to discuss plans. However, I suggest, now, that we form an alliance.”

“I agree. I mean, the chance to work with Captain Tarjen, of all people-”

“Gale.”

“Y-yes, sir?”

“You are to accompany Captain Sheira when we leave port.”

“What? No!” … Both Gale and the good captain shrieked.

“Count it as our seal,” Tarjen muttered, ears ringing from their outburst. “You can have one of our crew, while we have... Raina.”

“Deal,” Raina answered. Instantly. Meanwhile, Sheira growled.

“I don’t see how this is a fair trade,” she said. “I am losing my skipper-”

“And I am giving up mine, as well.”

That made her stop. She looked at Gale, blinking, then at Tarjen, going back and forth, all the while her jowls clacked.

“Y... you made her... s-ski-” She uttered, still too shocked to comprehend.

“It’s more she ‘earned’ it... Regardless, I am going to enjoy my shore leave now.” Goodness knows I’ll need it now more than ever.

He wheeled about, red flaring in his gaze as his beak ground the sand in it. Roe, Plu... and Gale followed after, all silent as they made their way up the stairs. The crowd seemed to part, giving him a glance before simply stepping out of the way, as if his eyes were truly fire... It really is never simple, is it?

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