Nocturna League (Episode 3: The Sunken Breath), страница 1
Nocturna League: The Sunken Breath
Copyright 2015 by Kell Inkston
“No one really knows what’s down there, in the water, that is. Pretty spooky, ya’ know? Like, a skeleton could be under you and you wouldn’t even know.” - Spirakandrin Naval Officer Mastaina Hallon
Chapter 1: A Peculiar Happenstance and Talking Things
This chapter upon the M.S. Nocturna begins calmly enough. It is a quiet evening, the sun bending over the misted horizon. Grancis and Boris are quietly maki-
“BE OF THE SMASHING, COOK MEAT! BE OF THE DESTROYING!” Boris yells as a twelve-legged mammal-like insect scrambles about the floor wildly, screeching arcane curses as it rushes for a hiding place.
“Got it!” the apprentice says. Grancis, now a trained killer when it comes to using cooking utensils, tosses a spice jar to stun the two-mouthed horror just long enough for her to bring her pan to the floor with absolute, cast-iron judgment. The creature squirms under the pan, speaking of an incomprehensible, unbearable death for Grancis as she slams the pan down once more, finishing the creature and lining the underside of the pan with greyish gore. With not even a squeamish gasp, she raises up the corpse, places it in the pan, and brings it to Boris. “Here you are, sir,” she says with a smile, as if she hadn’t just obliterated a small, horrific animal.
“YOU ARE WELL OF THE DOING, COOK FOOD! THE MANY-LEGGED BEAST FOOD MAY BE OF THE QUICK RUNNING, BUT YOU HAVE BECOME OF THE QUICKER WITH THE PANNING AND THE SMASHING. I AM OF THE PROUD,” an emotional Boris says, embracing Grancis and forcing all the air from her lungs.
“Th-thanks, sir,” she says with the same smile. She’s quite used to this by now.
Boris turns about and after smashing the creature to a more-complete pulp, scrapes it into the pot and stirs with a massive claw. “DON’T BE TELLING THE CAPTAIN THAT THIS WAS OF THE HAPPENING. HE IS OF THE STERN WHEN HIS FTHHOGANOTHS AREN’T OF THE MOST FRESH- HE IS OF THE ENJOYING WHEN HE POPS THEM HIMSELF,” the massive red Boris says, waving his claw about in warning.
Grancis smiles awkwardly at the thought of The Captain manifesting teeth from his body of sand and crushing something as small and cute as a Fthhoganoth. “O-oh, I see. Okay.” She takes up a fishing rod, a harpoon, a bucket containing some unknown squirming bait, and then takes her leave for the outside deck to get another little beasty. The twilight of the day looms over the sky and the deep blues and grays are preluding the great starless black that waits just around the corner. Not many people are around, as usual; the outer deck becomes an unpopular place once the sun has left. She hooks a squiggling, cursing monstrosity— looking more like an internal organ with teeth than anything— and she casts her line out over the deck. A few seconds pass, and she sees the water below the Nocturna change shade; something gigantic is below them. She smiles sheepishly down at the water as a thousand eyes stare up at her.
Colette, toweling off after a workout, passes by and spots Grancis. “Well hey,” she says, rubbing her face into the towel as she dries her short, fairy-like blond hair.
Grancis’ smile instantly becomes more genuine. “Oh, Colette! Hello,” she says, looking back to the shadowy monstrosity below in the water.
Colette takes one look over the deck and winces. “W-wow.”
Grancis nods. “Mhmm. I’ve seen a few of these while fishing for Boris. They start talking after a while. Once I heard one speak a full sentence,” she says with a pure interest.
Colette ranges back, tightening her grip on the railing. “I see. So uh… Why are you out here?”
“Like I said. I’m fishing for some ingredie-”
“Help,” a voice comes from below, the beast’s many eyes staring at the two young ladies. “Pull up.”
“Ho-holy shit!” Colette leans back, doing her best to stay as far away from the thing over the deck as possible, while still holding onto the railing should a tentacle come reaching out. The creature’s voice was not human-sounding. It was blunt, with improper emphasis on certain syllables- as if an animal was just mimicking what it heard from its master.
“Please,” it says again, slowly reaching out an ink-black tentacle towards the two. “Pull up.”
Colette holds her breath in horror as Grancis laxly takes up the harpoon and impales the dark tentacle, just a meter from her feet. The beast squeals in pain and retreats back to the depths, oil-like blood reflecting off the dreary deck lights. Grancis tosses the harpoon aside and recasts her line. Colette just stares in shock as her best friend hooks a catch and pulls up a strange, furry insect… fish thing.
“So, how was your training today?” Grancis asks, tossing the little horror aside.
Colette takes one last look at the water and nods. “It was… good. Been having a little trouble sleeping though— some weird dreams.”
Grancis raises a brow and lays a motherly gaze on her friend. “Eh? Well you really shouldn’t drink so much coffee.”
Colette averts her gaze with a scoff. “Thanks, Gran, but I need it to get through the day,” she says as she creeps away from the railing.
Grancis shrugs. “Okie dokie. Just drink lots of water, alright?”
Colette nods, spins her towel up into a more manageable shape and sets off toward the mess hall and bar area. “Sure thing. See ya.”
“Bye,” Grancis says, leaning onto the railing and watching the squirming, toothed eels travel through the water in a swarm, just a centimeter below the surface. A long, tolerant smile crosses her face. As unnerving as all these underwater beasts might be, she does appreciate the visits, even if they just care about her because they want to eat her. Grancis takes a quick glance over her shoulder, watching Colette enter the mess hall, before giving a sigh and returning to her line. Only seconds later, a man pushes his way out of the living quarter doors; Grancis has seen him before, but never like this. His face is now dark, sunken, and his eyes are wide with horror. He takes lumbering, trembling steps as he goes onto the main deck, as if walking up to a noose. The sailor stops at the railing, right where Colette was standing just a minute ago.
“The bells,” he says. His voice strikes Grancis as the voice a man would take after realizing how terrible this world truly is.
“What’s the matter there, sailor?” She asks with her go-to disarming smile; she’s found people tend to enjoy seeing you if you act like you enjoy seeing them.
His eyes are still focused down into the depths— now a pure, consuming inky blackness; even a meter below the deck lights cannot pierce through the water— anything could be waiting down there. “The sunken bells, they call for me…” His gaze is not lifted from the water; he watches with complete intent, the one point of his focus.
“O-oh… What bells?” She asks.
“The bells… the deep cathedral. I must be taken… I will be taken. The drowned lungs sing out for me.”
Grancis has a bad habit of smiling more whenever she’s disturbed; she’s grinning ear to ear now. “Taken? I don’t think that’s-”
“The time has come. I commit my soul to you, god of the Drowned.” The sailor starts tilting over the railing, eyes still focused on the consuming dark below.
Grancis tosses her rod aside and grabs onto the man’s legs. “Captain!” she calls out. The man, years over her and a lifter no less, shakes her off and shoves her onto the deck with ease. “I will be taken.” he says, grasping the railing again. Just as he lifts to send himself over, he feels the deft, shifting grasp of bandaged hands wrapping around his body.
“Good evening, Mister Turranine, Miss Vereyrty. What might be the matter? Certainly there’s no form of degeneracy taking place, is there?” The Ca
“Captain, this guy tried to jump ship!” Grancis starts brushing herself off, looking up with determination.
“Oh? Is this true, Mister Turranine?” The Captain unhands Jess Turranine, and the man swings around to meet The Captain face to face.
“No, sir. Just a little drunk is all. She was under the impression I was going to commit suicide or some rubbish like that,” Jess says, appearing as normal as he can.
The Captain looks over to Grancis, and she shakes her head. “N-no! Captain! He was about to jump in! I swear!”
“You’re sure about this?”
Grancis nods. “Absolutely, he said some-”
“Rubbish I say! Only a drunken sailor’s… Oh my, here it comes again.” Jess interrupts Grancis as he leans over the railing and empties his stomach into the sea; Grancis is surprised— maybe he really is drunk.
The Captain nods upon seeing Jess’ 'outburst'. “Very well.” He turns to Grancis. “I applaud your initiative, Miss Vereyrty, but it seems as though he truly is just inebriated.”
Grancis nods, gaze pointed straight at her feet. “Yes, sir.”
Jess scoffs and turns to leave to the mess hall, gently pushing Grancis aside with his shoulder. “You best learn to stay outta others' businesses, lass,” he says.
Grancis nods again and after a moment, takes up her rod.
The Captain inspects her demeanor and then gives her a pat on the shoulder. “You did the right thing, Miss Vereyrty. Be sure to let me or Doctor Estradia know if you see him act amiss again.” The Captain points his finger aside casually as he steps from the railing and to the mess hall. Grancis smiles, says “thanks” and realizes that she needs to sneak this catch to Boris in time.
Dinner is enjoyed by all but two that night. Grancis notes that, unlike the others with cooked dishes, The Captain prefers his meal small, fuzzy, and live. He bites into it with his teeth of black sand; it pops and, just as in a popped balloon, her apatite flushes out like the air. The second, Boris, tries for the first time in years to take up the piano and play Arpeden No. 8— the Captain’s favorite piece; the piano broke, quite regrettably.