Chapter 12: Message in a Bottle
“Ever been so drunk that you wake up in the captain’s chambers of a 17th century merchant ship with a knife in your chest?” Ryssa asked.
“What the hell?” The bartender (who we now know is named Khvarikx) sat up and winced. He looked across the room and saw Ryssa lying on the floor, covered in blackish purple goo.
“What the...?” He stood up and something caught the corner of his eye. Someone wearing an ornate jacket was hanging lifelessly from the rafters above a hastily-written note saying “lol were so ded guyz” in blue crayon.
“What...?” The ship was rocked by a horrendous explosion and someone burst in through the main door.
“CAPTAIN! THE MEN NEED YOU!” The sailor gasped as he saw his captain hanging from the rafters and the two filthy strangers lying on the floor, drenched in blood. “Captain? Wait...who are you two?”
Khvarikx looked down at the bottle of rum still in his hands. “I am Admiral Nelson.” He took a breath and downed it like someone lost in the desert would consume a jug of water at a shady oasis. He tossed it onto the bed and walked over to the corpse of the old captain. “That lady on the floor is my associate, Captain Morgan.” He took the man’s coat and threw it around his shoulders, then paused to adjust his eyepatch.
“An admiral?” The sailor’s eyes widened in a hopeful, awed expression of surprise.
“Yes. What’s all that racket out there?”
“Kill them and be done with it!”
“We have no weapons! Some other pirates stole our only flintlock pistol a few months ago and our dull rusty sword two weeks ago!”
“You had one flintlock pistol?”
“Admiral Nelson” retrieved the empty bottle from the bed and stormed outside onto the deck. A majestic vessel was parallel to his ship on his right, sporting crisp white sails and a slick black flag. Only about ten yards away, the enemy ship was taking its time ripping holes in the defenseless merchant ship. Standing outside his chambers on the pirate ship was a older bearded man wearing a black coat and a skull bandana.
“I’m sending you a message in a bottle, you stereotypical, pirate, cockgoblin,” muttered Khvarikx. He wound up and whipped the bottle like a rocket. The bottle flew straight and true with lightning speed, a heat-seeking missile of blunt force.
Zack Blackhawk was so happy he had chosen to become a pirate. Here he was standing next to his hero, his icon, his father, Captain Jack Blackhawk, as they tore through a petty merchant ship known as the Sitting Duck without resistance. He watched with fixated excitement as lumber flew from the boat’s hull like fireworks.
“Look! Their captain tried to kill himself!” He laughed, pointing at the man walking out of the Sitting Duck’s private chambers with a large knife embedded in his chest and an empty bottle in his hand.
“Ha! That’s what I call a job well done, my boy!” replied Captain Blackhawk.
Zack turned to his father and smiled. “Pa, this is the best day ev--” Something exploded nearby, knocking him off his feet and spraying him with slime and glass shrapnel. He frantically tried to wipe the debris from his face, but only succeeded in lodging several chunks of glass further into his skin and one large piece into his eye. He cried out as his good eye analyzed the scene before him. Something had completely ripped off the top half of Captain Blackhawk and turned it into a Jackson Pollock painting. Shaken, Zack turned back to the Sitting Duck and saw the ship’s captain no longer holding the bottle.
Khvarikx growled and forcefully yanked the knife out of his chest and let it slip through his fingers into the ocean. He raised his arm and extended his middle finger at the pirates. He had more important things to deal with than emo kids with scurvy and crappy firearms. He turned and walked back into the private chamber.
“As I was saying earlier, what the hell? You’re the time witch-goddess-person-thing?”
Ryssa shrugged. “I was going to tell you eventually, but I was too lazy to explain the whole story to you and the vampire was already doing a really good job.”
“Sir?” The unamed sailor asked uncomfortably.
“What’s your name?” Ryssa inquired.
“I’m the first mate, J--”
“IT DOESN’T MATTER! GET OUT!” yelled the angry faux admiral.
“...but what do I do about the pirates?”
His patience empty, Khvarikx glared daggers at the sailor.
“Figure it out or I’ll kill you with my bear hands!”
The sailor hurried out, fearing for his life.
Ryssa cocked her head. “Didn’t you mean bare hands?”
“That’s what I said. Bear hands.”
Ryssa frowned. “No, not bear hands, bare hands!”
Khvarikx crossed his arms. “What do you mean by bear hands?”
Ryssa stood up and started using confused hand gestures to illustrate her question. “Bear hands or bare hands?”
He shook his head loudly. “Bear hands, obviously!”
“Yes. Bear hands!” He held up a pair of gloves which looked like bear claws.
“That’s weird, but whatever I guess,”
“Nevermind that, what is going on?”
“I have no idea!”
Khvarikx shook his head at the comment. “Yes you do. Why is your blood purple?”
She pointed at his stained shirt. “Yours is purple too!”
“No, this is your blood. It got splattered on me, idiot!”
Ryssa looked down with a trollish smirk. “I’m actually trying to use you and the vampire to kill my sisters.”
Khvarikx wanted to rant about his frustration with being a pawn, but he was interupted by another explosion shaking the ship to its core. He stormed out again and turned his gaze to the pirates still diligently harassing the merchant vessel.
“My name is Zack Blackhawk and I will avenge my father!” the boy shouted at the captain as he struggled to put on the shredded and mulched jacket of his late father.
“Go home, or I’ll kill you too!” responded the captain.
“I’m not scared of you, Captain of the Sitting Duck!”
“I’m an admiral, you slimy trench monkey!”
Zack stopped. He had never fought an admiral before. He had heard they were demi-gods of the sea, able to sink ships with their minds and summon kraken to do their bidding. There was no way he could beat one like this. He would have to train a lot more if he wanted to take on his father’s killer. “Someday,” he swore to himself as he spun the wheel and turned his ship away.
“Wow, sir!” the first mate praised Khvarikx’s unlikely victory in managing to scare away the pirates. Khvarikx was not pleased with the first mate, however, and seized him by the throat.
“Tell me your name!” he demanded.
“Sir, my name is J--”
“I still don’t care!”
He growled and hurled the man into the mast, impaling him on a massive nail which bore right through his neck and held him above his fellow sailors, misting them in a fine spray of red mixed with the moisture of the crashing ocean waves. Khvarikx looked down on the posse of frightened seamen. “You are now pirates! I am your new leader, Admiral Nelson. Directly under my command is Captain Morgan. The first order of business is turning this into a weapon of war to lead my fleet of battleships!”
“That’s the second order! Third, has anyone seen any vampires around here?”
“Nevermind then. Let us return to port and arm ourselves to the teeth!”
“Yay?” a brave sailor tentatively cheered.
“Yes. ‘Yay’ is right.” He flashed a quick angry look at Ryssa, then spun dramatically and returned to his chambers.
“So nobody is going to ask why we’re taking orders from two random people covered in blood and purple slime?” One sailor asked his friend.
“No, but I think he would look amazing if he had a cape!” responded the other.
“So, Ryssa--if that’s your real name--” Khvarikx paused convey his displeasure. “you’re using me and my other self to kill your sisters? How does that make any sense? Why didn’t you try this when we were both dragons! I thought you could time travel!”
“Well, I could! Then you pushed me into my secret basement time vortex and it did something weird with my powers! They stopped working so I got stuck in some remote jungle, thousands of years ago. I got married to a caveman named Graug and three weeks later I had to watch him get eaten alive by a pack of velociraptors! Adorable, creepy, little lizard-turkeys! This is the first time I’ve done any nonsequential movement through the 4th dimenison since then. I’m guessing something happened when the vampire stabbed me in the neck and then stabbed you. Our blood cells probably react catastrophically to each other.” She paused and chuckled softly. “...and yes, it is my real name. Willow is my 6th alias. It’s actually a miscommunication. People started calling be that because I lived in a willow tree for a while when I created my lizard army. By the way, thanks for taking care of those two in your bar.”
“Those were your lizards?”
“Of course.” Ryssa nodded calmly. “Well, here’s what’s up. My sisters were flying around through star systems trying to create armies of slaves so that they could compete in an intergalactic war game. They found humans on this planet with some basic tools and they saw the potential for advanced warfare. Aevynha made the dragons to train humans in warfare and to serve as mounts in the upcoming conflict. They needed a material to build the dragons so they decided to screw me over to get it.”
Her expression changed from playful and mischievous to sour and bitter. “I created the moon as a dwarf planet that was entirely just one big Koi garden because I love rocks and gardens and fish. The moon’s enchanted rocks were perfect for their needs, so Xijan nuked the planet, turning everything to dust. Aevynha used that dust to make dragons for several hundred years, but they all lacked the capacity for ruthless brutality because of the peaceful auras I used when I built the garden. She was angry about that, so she found an asteroid from another galaxy with similar properties to the moon and used it to create you. When you arrived on earth, you brought with you the pure essence of evil itself. Everyone went ballistic and started killing each other after that. Xijan Ol got tired of waiting for things to work out, so she used you to wipe out humanity to force Aevynha to give up and move on to a new world. That’s when I decided I needed to kill my sisters so they’ll stop screwing with my world for the sake of their stupid game!”
“I don’t really care at this point. I just want to kill the other me so I can feel like I’m the biggest badass in the world again. He doesn’t know I’m here; I can kill him in his sleep!”
“I can’t believe it! You were supposed to be the hero of my story!”
“I thought you changed from your old ways and now you were trying to be a good person--I mean dragon! You saw the value of human life during your trance dream!”
“That doesn’t even make sense! I only wanted to have a bunch of slaves again. I had just come up with this great idea to have them dress up in crazy armor and fight to the death with impractical weapons before Xijan Ol possessed me.”
“Oh no...I’m a terrible narrator. I did this all wrong!”
“What? The vampire was the one telling my story!”
“Yes, but I’m writing the book, and anyone who reads it will know you as the hero I believe you can be!”
“I suppose you’ll leave this part out?”
“No! That would be dishonest!”
Khvarikx narrowed his eyes in disgusted confusion. “You’re insane.”
“How about this, if I help you kill the vampire, will you help me kill my sisters?”
Khvarikx crossed his arms and stared out the window of his cabin. Nothing but endless rolling waves across a metaphorical sea of emotions and a literal sea of fish, water, and whatever unholy creatures lurk in the darkest parts of the watery biome. He knew he needed help turning his vessel into a harbinger of nautical death and destruction. He also knew he needed a cape. It would make him look so cool. Especially if it was purple.
“Maybe this will help you decide,” Ryssa whispered seductively, gently placing a hand on his shoulder.
Khvarikx turned to face her, his curiosity piqued. She was holding a small blue crayon drawing of a futuristic-looking pirate ship with giant metal spikes, wickedly gigantic cannons, and sailors in robotic exo-suits waving laser-swords. The detail was phenomenal, not even considering the fact that it was a monochromatic crayon drawing on a small strip of paper.
“Laser pirates!” She rasped with a manic giggle.
“Are you serious? That’s--wait! Is that the backside of the real captain’s suicide note?”
“Yes! It is! It is also a blueprint!” She responded, embracing her twisted humor and chewing on the blue crayon.
“This is even cooler than my idea! Fine. You have a deal, but we need to stick to our fake names so the vampire doesn’t find out we’re coming for him.” Admiral Nelson laughed. “Okay, let’s build your pirate ship and start pillaging.
Captain Morgan grinned. “Just one?”
“For now. I doubt we even have enough money to renovate one ship.”
“We don’t, but we’re pirates now. We can just take everyone else’s money!”
“You’re right. Let’s rob a catholic church. Those bastards are filthy rich and they have even less weaponry than we do.”
Alexander and Robinson waited patiently on the deck as their ship gently glided through the foamy waves of the sea. Being a crew member of the Sitting Duck was always a risky business, but now it had gotten truly horrific. You could play possum with pirates and they usually went away after they stole all your stuff. However, the first mate, George, who was everyone’s favorite person on the ship, was now semi-attached to the main mast in a most bloodthirsty and mortifying manner. Two strangers had suddenly showed up and anointed themselves as the new management. They were now either conversing or banging in the old captain’s room.
The doors crashed open and Admiral Nelson trotted out onto the deck, dragging the lifeless body of the old captain. He lit a large cigar with a crappy plastic lighter and then unceremoniously kicked the corpse over the railing.
“We’re going to go to the nearest church or monastery and raid it for money and gold. We’re going to use this money and gold to build a naval vessel worthy of legend!”
“But sir,” Alexander spoke up. “We work for the church. The old captain reported directly to the pope!”
“BURN THE VATICAN!” shrieked Captain Morgan.
“Really?” The admiral shook his head.
“Sorry. I was one of the two founding members of a successful underground extreme technical black pagan sludge metal band with hints of metalcore, djent, and jazzercise.”
The admiral shot her a questioning glance. His expression softened to a slight smile and he nodded. Less than 30 minutes ago, he was just a regular bartender serving drinks to a storytelling vampire who was secretly a world-conquering demon-dragon and a mysterious scientist assassin who was actually secretly a time goddess. Now, he was leading an army of thoroughly confused, completely worthless seamen sailing a ship that could easily be called the sharkbait of the seven seas. It was literally a sitting duck.
“Listen to me gentlemen!” His booming voice shook the ship and stirred the hearts of everyone on deck. “When you woke up this morning, you were all losers! Weak and pathetic failures wasting the precious oxygen I could be breathing all by myself!”
He skipped up onto the railing and balanced, his blonde hair dancing in the wind like a pile of gold sent through an extremely well-engineered lawnmower into a tornado. His sapphire-azul eye blazed with a furious passion that pierced into the collective soul of his crew. The pale, key lime pie-colored, collared shirt and the complementary blackish green silk vest were now shredded and splattered with blood and purple slime, revealing his totally chiseled abs and pectoral muscles. The decorative captain’s coat hung over his figure like an elegant black cape with shiny golden buttons.
“I really need a cool cape,” he muttered to himself. He took a deep breath and continued his motivational speech. “...and now, my dainty little fairies, you still suck at life...” He glared at them judgmentally. “...but tomorrow, you will be champions! You will be glorious captains of the sea!”
“I can be a captain tomorrow?” An excited sailor piped up.
“Hell no!” Khvarikx shot a double-take at the sailor. “Definitely no.”
“Screw you! You suck at speeches”
“I didn’t ask--” the admiral stammered.
“I like turtles!” announced someone in the crowd.
“I like mutiny!” piped another.
“I have four cats, but they’re probably dead by now!” said a third.
“I’m deathly afraid of seagulls!” Ryssa admitted nervously, watching the sky.
“Shredgek chikuh burrerito!” the former first mate screamed, regaining consciousness in a panic and struggling to remove himself from the mast before passing out again.
Khvarikx clenched his jaws and took a deep breath. “I need something to drink.” He turned and gazed longingly into Ryssa’s eyes. She nodded and trotted back to the cabin.
Khvarikx returned his bloodthirsty stare to the deck below and steeled himself to the screaming fanatic ravings of a crew descending into chaos. Ryssa rushed back out and slapped a heavy bottle into the dragon pirate admiral’s hand. He smiled and popped the cork, licking his lips with anticipation. They tasted like saltwater. He kicked his feet forward and floated down to the lower deck, parting the sea of faces. He tilted the bottle back and downed a few gulps before tipping it and pouring the contents out without hesitation. The last few drops splashed on the wooden planks, tainting the sea breeze with a hint of scotch. So delicious!