Nocturna League (Episode 2: The Mist Hour), p.10Kell Inkston
Chapter 8: Colette does her Finest to be an Upstanding and Capable Captain of Merit
Colette rushes through the deep woods, the sounds of a screaming chorus growing ever nearer as she advances upon their position. Something’s changed in her, she’s certain of that. She feels stronger, faster, smarter, but also, ascended from her previous state, something that has a natural authority over lesser humans- a captain. With every running step, she feels the push of something more helping her along, as if The Captain himself were inside her. Now reaching the rim of a large clearing with an encampment and ruins within, she begins entertaining the thought that by killing him, she has gained his authority by right. It is time.
Rather than going straight for The Captain’s rifle, she takes up her pistol and approaches. At the encampment, she finds dozens of men and women of all ages grasping at the dirt, curled in pain, and writhing in confusion. Colette doesn’t know why they’re in such pain, but she’s not going to waste the opportunity. She only has five bullets left, and there’s at least twenty of them. She mulls over her options as a distinct, powerful, salty voice rings in her mind:
“…Fight them with your hands, Miss Ketiere…”
She feels lead, she cannot say no to the voice. She puts away her pistol and takes a deep breath. She swings around and makes herself known. Itrim, among the pain-racked Kalamests, spots her. He’s standing at a large stone coffin with four gauntlets and several magical instruments lain out over the lid.
“Wh-what the hell are you doing here!?…” he asks, bent over the coffin in agony.
“It’s that bitch that took the orders from The Captain,” says another, struggling to raise his knife, much less his own body from the ground.
She pulls down the visor of The Captain’s hat not in shame, but as a sailor annoyed by the sun. “I’m The Captain now, kid. The Gauntlets are coming with me.”
The crowd stirs, and Itrim especially looks displeased. “N-n-…” he takes a breath as he struggles with the pain, “not… after all we’ve done! All we’ve accomplished! We’re so close!”
Colette steps forward to Itrim and the coffin.
“You… bastards… coming all the way here just to ruin everything for us. We were so close. We could have gotten the other pair without your help… Somebody, stop her!” Itrim commands. One man musters the strength to take her ankle from the ground, but with equal speed she turns and slams her boot into his face. A couple of people get to their feet, doing their best to ignore the infernal pain in their heads and pick a fight with her. Their movements are too sluggish to stop Colette, however, and she ousts them back to the dirt with alarming speed. She reaches the coffin, and reaches for the Gauntlets.
Just as she touches it, her finger making contact breaks with magic force. Colette cringes in the pain as Itrim draws back in awe. “It can’t be… Is that you, Aganoth?”
A voice emanates from the coffin. “It is I,” the voice from the gauntlets speak: a dark, powerful tone.
Colette attempts to take one of the gauntlets again; this time her index finger is broken.
“I can’t believe it! You’re finally here!” Itrim says to the spirit of the gauntlets.
“How long have I been gone?” the voice asks.
“Hundreds upon hundreds of years. Your son, Ganas, has turned the entire town against us! Now his ancestors, the Ganasteres, are taking over the island! We need your help!”
“And just who are you?” the voice says to Itrim amidst a Colette cringing in pain, and a crowd that, regardless of their splitting headaches, are absolutely fanatical.
“Itrim Kalamest- your loyal son’s heir of many generations.”
The voice laughs. “Excellent- are you willing to be the vessel?”
Itrim grips the coffin. “I am!”
“Then wet my body and the contract will be sealed!” Aganoth's spirit commands. Itrim piles everything off the coffin lid, and pulls it off to reveal the ancient corpse of Aganoth. Just as Colette feels another powerful rush through her body, Itrim takes a dagger and slices into his hand, running blood over the length of the corpse. Everyone and everything except Itrim is blown away from the coffin, and Colette is sent flying twenty meters out. “IT… IS… DONE!” cries Aganoth, this time out from Itrim’s own mouth. Aganoth/Itrim takes to the air with magical power as his body is consumed with mist. “NOW, I SHALL BEGIN WITH YOU, ‘CAPTAIN’,” the warlock says with an immaculate voice, the humidity in the air reverberating every syllable.
Colette draws her pistol, and she feels uncommonly… sand-like. Aganoth flies forward as an aberration of mist and delivers a bone-crushing upper strike, which by some miracle Colette counters perfectly by swinging around and delivering her foot to the mist-beast’s face; she hadn’t even practiced the move- as if The Captain has affected her subconscious, their muscle memories combining to create a seafaring predator. She fires a point-blank shot between every strike and dodge, each one hitting Aganoth with blind, reflexive, perfect accuracy. The crowd members slowly master their pain and lunge for Colette, but as the new captain, she refuses to be caught off guard. She exchanges each strike from the crowd with a perfect, practiced strike that instantly puts the enemy back on the ground with more pain than ever before coursing through them. With each hit she takes from the unbelievably fast Aganoth, her reddening body only seems to increase in strength and endurance- like the insides of her body are recomposing into steel. At the same time, Aganoth becomes slower, weaker, and easier to predict.
“I-IMPOSSIBLE! I WON’T BE DEFEATED BY A MERE SCUPPERING BARNACLE! YOUR BONES SHOULD HAVE BEEN SHATTERED IN THE FIRST STRIKE!”
Colette thinks of a response, but her voice moves for her before she can speak. “Your first mistake was guessing that she’s the only one fighting you,” Colette says just as everyone in the crowd, amidst moaning and struggling, start for Aganoth, rather than Colette.
“WHAT ARE YOU FOOLS DOING?! WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?!” Aganoth cries as he struggles against the crowd.
Colette smiles a wry smirk that looks exactly like the Captain. “They’re on mine. The moment they breathed me in I had them in my grasp, and as much as they fight me, they cannot truly defy what is inside of them.”
Aganoth screams out in fury. “THEN THEY ARE ALL USELESS, JUST LIKE YOUR DEFIANCE. LET US SEE HOW WELL YOUR VESSEL OPERATES WITHOUT A SPINE!” Aganoth exclaims as he charges a dark, cursing spell.
“She is my ship-hand. I will ensure nothing happens to her unless absolutely necessary,” 'Colette' says, putting away her revolver and drawing The Captain’s gun- that long, strange rifle that glows a sanctified gold. Colette feels an unseen magic force attempt to break her neck, but something on the inside resists, provideing a counter-force. 'Colette' pulls the trigger, pointed at Aganoth; the one, single bullet contained in the rifle- costing as much as a month’s paycheck while crewing for the Nocturna- bursts from the gun in a blinding flash of light. Aganoth shifts his magic to those restraining him, blowing his servants every which-way so he can dodge the shot- but this time, Colette hits who she means to. She’s certain that somehow The Captain is alive and within her, just as he’s alive within the others, but he didn’t help her aim, he knew she could do that part by herself. Everyone is temporarily deafened by the absolute authority of destruction the rifle expels, and then it clears up.
Aganoth, his new reign of terror cut short, is presented and horrified with a hole the size of his head in his chest. The hole stretches and fluctuates as some magic presence encroaches across his body- slowly burning out his form. “H-how?!”
'Colette' smiles. “It’s been many years since your first death, so I’m not surprised you don’t know of me. I’m The Captain- the greatest commander of humans in history.”
Aganoth is silent and wide-gazed as his spiritual presence disintegrates completely, leaving a bleeding, unconscious Itrim with only a common bullet hole through his stomach. All at once, all of the people sneeze, including Colette- small black particles of sa
Itrim slowly opens his eyes. “Y-you ruined… you ruined it all,” he says, grasping at his center to stop the bleeding.
Colette looks away, as if she has more important things to see than him, and gives her response. “You almost ruined it for everyone, I had to. Aganoth was beyond his time, and he was supposed to stay dead. Now that he’s been dispersed for good, you can live the life you’ve always wanted to do.”
Itrim scowls. “And what would that look like, Captain Colette?”
“Well, what do you want to do?” She asks, looking to the sky.
He looks aside to the ground. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just die- that sounds okay about now.”
“Yeah? Then let me rephrase the question. What do you really want the world to be like?”
Itrim scoffs. That answer is easy. “Better. I wish the world was a better place. I just wasted the past twenty-four years of my life, and I’m twenty-four now. I have no idea what the hell to do.”
“You know. A wise man once told me that the world is a great painting, and if you never travel, and never read, you only get to see a single stroke of the brush,” Colette says, readjusting The Captain’s hat.
Itrim is quiet as the wind blows. A moment passes, and Colette offers him the bandages she took from The Captain. As the bandages are spooled around him, a smile starts to cross his face. “I can really do anything, now. I guess.”
She nods. “That’s right. You can go to places that have been in books- where there are great, spiraling towers, and terrible beasts. It’s a mysterious life, the sailor’s, but I find myself appreciating the value of it more and more.”
Itrim stares blankly out into the woods, and then he looks up to the sky. “You know,” he starts, “maybe that’s just what I need. Something new,” he says as Colette finishes bandaging him up.
“Well, you know- I’ve been looking for members for my crew,” she says, delivering a superior, but compassionate glare. Itrim is silent, sitting up and looking at her.
Finally, he nods, and smiles. “Okay. I’ll do it. I’ll join your crew. I thought my whole life’s purpose was to bring back the power of the old age, but it seems as though that’s not what I’m for- maybe if you hadn’t come, I would have succeeded. Looking back on it, I guess it’s for the best. The Ganasteres and all the islanders are afraid of the warlock. Maybe life would be best for the most people if I were to just disappear.”
Colette nods. “It would. You’re not helping anyone here. While you can just live for yourself, you might as well make yourself useful. I know it feels strange, but you’ll get used to having your individuality stepped on out in the real world.”
Itrim chuckles, slowly taking a stand using Colette’s shoulder for support. “Yeah, alright. Let’s go to your ship.”
As they walk through the forest, Colette spots a wound on Itrim’s forearm- she remembers the first fight with the assailant of mist- the one she shot in its forearm. “So,” she says, “You were the one who started all of this? The one who did the kidnappings, paid off the Ganastere guard?”
Itrim nods with a perplexed look on his features. “Yeah. It was me. I just wanted my dad to be proud of me- but he’s been dead for years now. I could’ve moved on. Really, we couldn’t have gotten the other pair of gauntlets if you hadn’t come around- the guard I paid couldn’t sneak around and extract the password from the head of the Ganasteres like that. I guess it’s best that you were here for this. Provided me with… closure, I guess.”
Colette smiles. “Well, a new chapter of your life will begin once we get on the Nocturna,” she says, stepping out of the woods and into the town; people are still partying.
Itrim smiles back. “Alright… I’d like that. Thank you.”
“Sure thing… Oh, and Itrim?”
They connect gazes- her expression is dead serious. “That girl you kidnapped on my ship; her name’s Grancis, and she’s my best friend. If you touch her again I’ll do more than shoot you in the stomach.”
Itrim is a little short on breath for the rest of the trip to the docks. They use Itrim’s fishing sailboat, and the strange wind blows them all the way to the Nocturna, kilometers off shore. Itrim said that he never had seen such helpful winds.
Nocturna League (Episode 2: The Mist Hour) by Kell Inkston / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes