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Nocturna league (episode.., p.11
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       Nocturna League (Episode 2: The Mist Hour), p.11

           Kell Inkston
 
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  Chapter 9: Jim is Almost Let Out of The Brig “or” Colette and Grancis Have a Fine Reunion “or” The Captain and Jobber Collete Enjoy a Grandiose Exchange of Philosophy and Tactics

  Colette and Itrim are hoisted up by some of the crew members onto the deck of The Dark Lady Nocturna, and at once everyone spots The Captain’s hat upon her head.

  “Ey, Kipper,” Dunklestein addresses.

  Colette turns Itrim over into Dunk’s arms. “This man’s wounded. He wants to join the crew,” she says with a no-nonsense expression.

  “Why you got Cap’s cap on? You stole it?”

  Colette winces and recalls that the others don’t know. “The Captain’s dead, Dunklestein. He put me in charge. Now you will respect my authority as the new captain, or this port is where we’ll leave you.”

  Dunklestein looks confused. “Wh-what? The Captain’s dead? But I ju-”

  “Colette!” a purely feminine, entirely gentle voice calls from the cracked kitchen door.

  “Gran!” Colette rushes over and embraces her good friend, the two meeting each other half way. A grumbling Dunklestein takes the wounded man to the infirmary as Colette speaks up with her friend in her arms. “I thought you… I thought I’d lose you! When you got kidnapped I just…” Colette wipes her eyes with her coat-sleeve.

  “I’m okay- The Captain came into where I was held and he rescued me. Then he sent me back on the ship with Boris. He turned around because he said he had to help you take care of something,” Grancis says with a smile.

  Colette squints an eye in suspicion. “Wait, so he said he wanted to help me with something?” She asks as a pair of long, red crustacean whiskers poke out from the kitchen door.

  “Mhmm! Then he went on up a trail into the wo-”

  “I SEE THAT THE COLETTE MEAT IS OF THE RETURNING!” Boris proclaims as he bursts out from the door. In a second’s time, Boris breaks the five meter distance and embraces Colette richly, crushingly, and compassionately.

  “I- guh! Uh. Nice to see you too… Boris,” Colette says, feeling her spine threatened by the massive strength of twenty hardened men.

  “S-senior chef Boris! Please don’t break her! I need her unbroken!” Grancis weakly protests, pushing against Boris’ executional embrace.

  “I AM OF THE SORRY. I AM SIMPLY OF THE EMOTIONAL SEEING YOU BACK NOT OF THE DEAD.” Boris releases Colette, and she takes in a deep breath to make up for oxygen lost.

  “Thanks, Boris. Now get back to work. I’m hungry… and sleepy- and, well, this day’s been pretty rough for me in general.”

  Boris nods his head to the side a bit, receiving an order from Colette, but he loves to make people happy. He promptly salutes with a massive claw. “IF YOU ARE OF THE ASKING, I AM OF THE DOING!” With that he turns around and slams into the kitchen like a living truck.

  Colette shakes her head, and Grancis puts her hands together acquiescently. “So, where is The Captain? Wasn’t he going to come back with you on the ship?”

  The wind rises, and Grancis’ dear friend sighs. “Well, Gran. I actually sh-”

  “Shipped off without me?”

  Colette swings around. The Captain, bandages, glasses officer attire and all- just missing a hat.

  “C-captain!?”

  The mummified commander nods. “Tis’ I.”

  As Grancis salutes with a flare of admiration in her eyes, Colette just stares on in disbelief.

  “C-captain,” she says, taking deep breaths.

  The Captain turns to her after patting Grancis away by the shoulder. “Yes?”

  “Can I… talk to you? Like, just us?”

  “Why, of course,” The Captain says as they step a bit to the side. Grancis returns to the kitchen after a quick wave, and Dunklestein smirks as he enters the infirmary with Itrim. The two enter The Captain’s quarters, a place unseen by Colette until now, and The Captain sits an absolutely bewildered Colette down. He pours a couple of drinks, Dugal’s scotch actually and he takes his own place, kicking one leg over the other nonchalantly. “Now then,” he sneaks a quick sip, “What is it I can help you with?”

  Colette takes a full shot of her glass, the scotch is oaky- with an almost saltwater-like aftertaste. She stands up in the dark room, takes the hat from her head and places it back on his. His guise complete, The Captain is about to say “thank you”, but is embraced quickly by Colette. The Captain can feel the salty sensation of tears absorbing into his bandages. “Did it hurt, Captain?”

  The Captain, taken a back but unmoving, answers plainly. “It did.”

  She squeezes him tighter. “I’m… I don’t know what to say… How are you here? I killed you.”

  The Captain pushes her away and looks into her eyes. “I’ll tell you that one day, but I have more important things to s-”

  “I need to know, Captain. How the hell did you live through that? I saw you blow away- gone- out- off to wherever. But I heard you speaking through my head, felt you moving through me… Is that because I inhaled part of you? The sand?”

  The Captain is quiet a moment, but turns his head down, as if to suggest sternness. “My banana bread, there are some things you cannot yet bear to know.”

  “I can handle it, Salt. Tell me,” she says, taking her seat and placing her hands into her lap.

  The room’s only porthole gives the place a scant glow of natural light. They hear the sea-winds blow, the birds call, and The Captain takes another sip. “I will answer with a question.” Colette nods, and the Captain finishes the glass of Dugal’s. “Do you think a real sailor has his entire life invested on the land when he goes to shore?… Well, that would be misleading. Better yet: did you notice how peculiar the winds were when I died?” Colette’s features, as she looks down at the hardwood floor, widen in some sort of realization. “Did you too notice how you heard me in your head, and how your body was stronger, and how everyone was acting against the warlock?” Colette slowly nods. “It would be prudent to say that the sailors of The Nocturna must act as a team to get things done. One day I’ll let you go below deck, and show you how it all works, but for now, you need to be content with the answer that you- and everyone there- breathed me in, because the wind was just very, very peculiar, for some entirely unknown reason. Do you understand?”

  Colette sighs and nods. “Okay, Captain… So, why didn’t you just do it all yourself?”

  The Captain scratches his chin. “Are you learned in theology?”

  She squints an eye. “No.”

  “There are some religions, monotheistic ones, which claim there is a God, just one, a creator, if you will. This God would prefer have its creations learn things by experience, by their own choices and mistakes, than for the deity to fix everything for the creature. In this manner, sentient creatures- humans, I suppose- will become better, and thus bring glory to this creator. You see, the creator would prefer the human do it for herself, as that would mean the creator’s abilities as a creator are validated- making a being that can have the will to do right or wrong, and continuously learn from their mistakes.”

  Colette looks perplexed. “You’d rather have me make those mistakes, rather than you fix stuff for me?”

  “Yes, though I did see your need- but even if I didn’t, you still inhaled me so there wasn’t much you could have done about that. Regardless, it developed you through experience; that’s why I held information from you.”

  She pushes her fingers against her skull. “Alright… I guess that does make sense…” She sighs, and looks out to the port hole, the sun rays lazily dancing through. “Do you… believe in a creator?”

  The Captain pours himself another shot. “I haven’t the slightest clue.”

  “I’d like to think there is,” she says.

  “That’s lovely, but I didn’t ask for your opinion, Miss Ketiere. It was an analogy, not a sermon.”

  “Sir.” The two are quiet for a moment, Colette looking around the cabin subtly, and The Captain taking another sip. Colette speaks up a
gain. “So, why did the guy at the bar think there was only one gauntlet?”

  “He was either misinformed, drunk, or lying.”

  Colette nods. “Fair enough.”

  The Captain gulps down his second glass of Dugal’s and sets it aside. “Now then. I’m going to presume you’ve had enough time to ruminate, so I’d like to ask you a more important question.”

  “Sure.” She leans in.

  “Did you play the clear game that everyone saw, or did you also play below the table?”

  Colette winces- remembering The Captain’s words at the poker game. “I… I played honestly.”

  The Captain scoffs with poise. “And as such you were made a pawn for more deceptive, more skilled players. I don’t know if God, be there one or many, makes rules, but I certainly don’t see them being enforced- so how can we know where the line is in what others call cheating? What is right, is to play in the way you know works best- you respond to other peoples' playing styles, Miss Ketiere. Play on their level and you can always be a match for them. When you started listening and believing- be it because of your rebellious fancy, wanting to believe the Kalamests some righteous underdogs, or simply your desire to take pity on others- you were hooked, probably by compassion, and belittled into a playing piece, rather than a player. An upstanding captain must know when she is being taken advantage of and when to spot a lie, Miss Ketiere.”

  Colette nods. “Sir… Do you think the people on the island will be okay?”

  The Captain shrugs. “We removed a piece of conflict in a civil war. I’d say we improved the living situation. I’d say we will be remembered fondly by most- though their happiness is not what we were there for.”

  She nods again, staring at the floor. “Is there a reason for all this? Is there a purpose to being a captain?”

  “I’ll remind you. Being a captain is being a commander of humans- a being of powerful will, commanding those of lesser wills. There are good captains and bad captains, and the decision is up to you as to which one you may become. As a captain, your reason for living is reason enough.”

  She sighs. “So, would you consider yourself a good captain?”

  “I would consider myself the best captain, Miss Ketiere. I do appreciate your humility after being made a pawn of, but you really should walk this off.”

  “But… I mean, sure, but I was just a goddamn idiot.” She rubs her shoulder and looks aside in some form of embarrassment.

  The Captain shrugs lightly. “Yes, and I’m a goddamn idiot sometimes too. An upstanding captain understands that she is better than the situation she is in, and this should be reflected by her demeanor and actions. You need to believe that you are the best captain at all times, or else your men could become conscious of your doubt.”

  Colette, arms now crossed, nods her head about in thought. “Alright, Captain. Thanks for talking with me,” She says, extending her hand as if to shake his.

  “Do not forget your position, Jobber Colette. We are not equals- and though you saved me the trouble of retrieving my hat, you still overstepped your boundaries in wearing my cap and attempting to hand an order to Dunklestein the Daring. For this, you should be punished.”

  There is a slight silence, and Colette scoffs. “Wait, what? It was just your damn ha-”

  “Swab the deck, Miss Ketiere. If I don’t see my reflection in the deck within an hour, you will not receive dinner.”

  She draws back, her expression indignant with rage. “Of all the shit-” Colette stops instantly once The Captain cracks his knuckles. She takes a deep breath, her eyes closed in stress, and she begrudgingly salutes.

  “Good girl, now off with you,” he says as he takes a stand, leads her out the door, and watches her take up a mop and violently start swabbing the already-pristine Nocturna decks. The Captain nods and decides it’s now the right time to let Jim out of the brig. He slips around to the back of the first deck floor and enters a small room with three cell doors inside. He has a quick chat with Jim, who is currently possessed; it’s a fairly rude exchange on the aberration’s part, so it will be omitted, because The Captain scarcely allows course language on deck- simply detestable.

  The Captain calmly steps out of the brig and goes to the one door leading to the lower decks, the one in the helm. Using the key only Boris, Luisoix, Estradia, a certain secret someone, and himself have copies of, he opens the way and closes the door behind him into an eerily-lit hallway- old, long lasting lightbulbs charged by magic, producing an almost sepia light to the hall below deck. He goes down another flight of stairs to the engine room. Even though the Nocturna is moving, setting sail for their originally-intended destination, there are no engine sounds to be heard- just breathing. The hallway’s open door leaks a little light down into the engine room. What is barely visible is horrifying beyond description, but The Captain is used to this sort of thing.

  “Well, it’s not often you come down to visit me anymore,” a very strange creature says, breath blowing through the room like a gust of strange wind.

  “I apologize for that. I suppose it has been a few days- I’ve been busy,” The Captain says, taking a seat on the steps leading down to the engine room.

  “I noticed. Colette’s quite the good shot now,” the thing says.

  The Captain nods. “She’s improving quickly. I feel rather proud of her. Anyway, thanks.”

  “It’s the least I could do. Swimming around being a job is just too easy.”

  The Captain scoffs with a smirk. “Yes- but it’s something only you can do. I’m quite grateful. She shot me so much, and the wind was already blowing hard. I would have guessed it’d take at least a week before I could recompose myself, if at all.”

  “It was close, but that’s what I’m here for.”

  The Captain laughs- a rare sound. “Yes, yes it is. So, anything of interest?”

  “Only your conversation with Colette in your quarters. You let her embrace you- quite uncaptainly.”

  The Captain adjusts his visor and bends his head aside as if in embarrassment. “Well, she’s getting attached. I expect the lack of a capable father figure, or perhaps a blooming desire for professional acceptance.”

  “Regardless. You can’t let her too close. That would ruin everything. Perhaps you should spend your time with that new recruit: Itrim I believe was his name.”

  “Kotherrhre,” The Captain addresses.

  “…Yes, sir?”

  “I call the shots. I’ll befriend who I like.”

  The air in the room gusts in a sigh. “Yes sir, sorry, sir.”

  The Captain straightens his spectacles. “I’m glad my lack of visitation hasn’t worn down on your understanding of authority,” The Captain says, getting up and brushing off his coat. Kotherrhre is silent as The Captain starts up the stairs back into the lit hallway. “Oh, and nice touch pulling me out of the woods like that. It was enjoyable seeing her surprise at my waiting on the boat for her.”

  “Yeah, Captain… Oh, and by the way.”

  At the doorway, The Captain peers down into the pitch blackness. “Yes?”

  “There’s a presence that’s taken the trail of the ship. It will be on us in about three days if we keep sailing.”

  “Of what sort?”

  Kotherrhre laughs darkly. “Captain, please. You know what it is and what it’s coming for. This many land-faring mortals on the ship? We’re bait without a hook.”

  The Captain nods and turns back to leave. “We’ll be ready. Our cargo and our crew are too precious to lose.”

  Another laugh from Kotherrhre. “Sometimes I wonder just who the ‘crew’ is, and who’s the ‘cargo’.”

  “Have a nice day,” The Captain says, stepping out.

  “You too, Captain,” Kotherrhre says, watching The Captain leave and close the door, shrouding it back to the complete darkness it’s used to.

  The Captain does a couple of other things below decks and soon after ascends back to the waking world. He decides to while away th
e time exchanging jokes with Boris in the kitchen- but The Captain’s sense of humor is too dark and horrifying for Grancis to appreciate- she especially didn’t like it when he relayed a particularly graphic tale about cannibals devouring each other in a fight to get at one another’s hearts, as if it were a comical story. Sure enough, Boris laughed, and Grancis asked for permission to go outside.

  Leaving the deep-voiced guffaws of the kitchen as Boris started a story about his old days devouring humans as a beast of the depths, Grancis steps out onto the misty deck, and spots Colette swabbing. Naturally, she approaches her good friend.

  “Hi,” she says simply, rebinding a bit of her hair to ensure it doesn’t blow about in the wind.

  A miserable-looking Colette only needs to hear her voice before she turns around, still swabbing, but with a smile on her face. “Heya, Gran- Kitchen too hot?”

  “Oh, yes, something like that. So, how was the trip to the island?” Grancis grasps the railing as Colette smirks.

  “Pretty crazy, Gran,” she says, mopping vigorously as if to polish the deck to a mirror-like quality. “I was… Well, it was pretty hard for me- lots of crazy stuff happened.”

  “Oh?”

  “Yeah. I was played like a dumbass.”

  “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You were very brave, fighting that entire group of bad guys by yourself.”

  Colette looks over to Grancis. “Wait… What?”

  “The Captain told me, before he left to go help you, that you were fighting off all the Kalamests by yourself- and defeating some terrible magician; he said he was impressed beyond worsd, but he knew you needed help, which was why he went on to give you a hand.”

  Colette stares at Grancis with bewilderment and confusion, the memory of her shooting The Captain to blowing dust flashing in her mind, but she decides not to ask the specifics- the mysteriousness is beyond both of them. “Well… it was my pleasure, Gran. I’m happy to help.”

  Grancis hugs Colette. “I’m happy you’re okay,” Grancis says, brushing her head against Colette’s shoulder.

  Stunned for only a moment, Colette drops the mop and returns the embrace. “Yeah, I’m glad you’re okay too.”

  “APPRENTICE MEAT! WHERE ARE YOU OF THE BEING? WE HAVE MUCH OF THE COOKING TO DO!” A giant crustacean cries out from the kitchen as a pleased Captain turns out and goes to his quarters to read a book.

  Grancis draws a powerful breath. “I’LL BE RIGHT THERE, MASTER BORIS!” With that, Grancis says goodbye and rushes off to prepare lunch.

  Colette is back to mopping, but as she continues, she watches The Captain go up to his quarters. For a moment, he turns around and looks at her. For a few fleeting seconds, they do nothing, and then they both smile and nod. The Captain turns to his quarters, and Colette to the deck. She realizes that as much as an incomprehensible asshole The Captain can be, he has her back. She spends the rest of the morning swabbing the deck, whistling an old tune from the town she came from.

  -To Be Continued-

  (Chapter 1 from Nocturna League: The Sunken Breath included after the break!)

  If you’d like, sign up for updates on new releases and get some more free stories.

  Also, I’d love a review as well. It literally would make my day. Thank you!

  Good day,

  I certainly hope you enjoyed this story- it means quite a lot that you’ve read my work; whispering in your ear is entertaining, hopefully for both of us.

  I was a little concerned about this episode in the story- it seemed a bit strong, a bit edgy, a bit… more than what I usually write. I was particularly concerned about The Captain threatening (rusingly, that is,) to assault poor Grancis in some way. There was a time in which this sort of thing wasn’t talked about much, but on the Internet it’s talked about quite a lot, so just know I’m well aware of that, but I still thought it was true to The Captain’s character, and it was what he would have done. Things that are sexual in nature, especially when it refers to a sexual assault, even the reference or implication of such has turned people away- seeing it as just too taboo. I personally feel that art should be free to tackle any subject in any way based on the discretion of the artist, but I understand some people can get quite offended when there are realistic and traumatic things depicted in fictional stories, so on that I would offer an apology and ask for your understanding. If you found none of it offensive, and simply saw it as fictional characters dealing with other fictional characters, feel free to disregard it. That said, I’m bringing this up just so you know what you’re getting into, and you can expect more of this kind of thing from me in the future- my stories aim to be as real as they can be- in their context, of course. I just thought I should bring this up in at least one of my author notes so you know I do think about this sort of thing. I feel it’s good to be open with you, Reader, in my fictitious dealings- upfrontness is generally a good, honest policy. I quite appreciate your understanding, and keep this little note in mind, because chances are it’ll be the last time you hear it from me.

  Outside of that fairly vauge “P.C.” mishmash. I’m eager to hear what your thoughts on the story:

  Surprised with The Captain? His shocking comeback? His dubious and questionable methods of command? His irresistible charisma? H-how does he look shirtless?!

  Concerned about Colette? Will her sanity hold out long enough for her to become a good captain? Can she protect Grancis? Does she swing… that way?!

  Oh, and what’s the deal with Boris, anyway? I mean, he’s probably a perfectly-nice… thing, were you to get to know him!

  If you have any questions, comments, or thoughts in general about the story, feel more than free to shoot an email over to [email protected] - I respond to every piece of fan mail I get, so I dare you, I just dare you to send me a message of some sort- it doesn’t have to be particularly long or important- you can just say “hi”, and I’ll say “hi”, and then we’ll both do something that rhymes with “hi”.

  … Fly?… Sigh?… Die?

  Just kidding. Email me, and let’s become fast friends.

  Oh! Also I should shamelessly plug my other work. If you want more Nocturna League, or are interested in entering some of my other lands, mosey on over to kellinkston.com, in which you can learn more about me, get my other books for free or not-free, and basically just enjoy staring at a really pretty and clean-looking web page that is probably 100% spider-free.

  Thank you so much once again for taking the time to enrich your life with a fine story, one that I hope you’ll remember and look forward to the next installment of! Now without further ado, enjoy the sample for Nocturna League: The Sunken Breath!

  All the very best,

  Captain Kell Inkston

 
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