Nocturna League (Episode 3: The Sunken Breath), p.14Kell Inkston
The Captain freezes and feels his face. He’s been shot through— causing a stream of black powder to pour out from the wound; much more importantly though, the shot shattered his glasses. He turns around to look to the two girls and finds the smoking gun in the hand of Colette. “It wasn’t really you who shot me, was it, Colette?” he asks, peering over at a smiling Grancis.
Colette smiles. “We just had to be sure.”
The Captain sighs. “Very well— just don’t do it again,” he says, pulling out another pair of glasses along with his spare bandages. He fixes himself up and then steps over to Dr. Estradia. “Good show, Doctor, now please get up.”
“Uh,” Colette mutters, “You know, he’s pretty out cold. That probably wo-”
The Captain slaps Dr. Estradia, and he jolts awake. “N-no! The deep! The Cold! The Great Ones Below! We’re all doomed, I tell you! All life is a game and they tire of i-”
The Captain delivers another authoritative slap to the doctor. “Cooperate, Doctor, or I’ll have it in my mind to interrogate some sense in-.”
The moment Dr. Estradia hears the word 'interrogate' exit The Captain, he brightens up and gains instant sobriety. “S-sorry, Captain! Yes, sir!” Estradia makes a rigid salute in loyal response.
“Excellent,” The Captain nods, “I’m glad you seem obedient now, but that does not excuse your previous behavior.”
Estradia’s black eel eyes widen. “C-c-Captain! I was possessed!”
The Captain leans forward. “And whose fault was it getting possessed?”
Estradia shakes his head in disbelief with an expression of pure dumbfoundedry. “That’s rediculo-”
“Off to the brig with you!” Captain commands.
“You have the keys to the brig as well, Doctor Estradia. I’ll trust you to let yourself in and give yourself a considerable time out.”
Estradia clenches his slimy fists. “Captain, you’re total-”
“Say hello to Mister Jim Masthaven for me, won’t you?” The Captain asks, weighing the entirety of his heavy gaze onto Estradia.
The long eel-man sighs and after a moment, nods. “Yes sir.” Estradia walks off with a defeated trot, and then The Captain turns to the two ladies.
“I appreciate your fishing me up- but that will not lax you from your duties, understand? Breakfast will still be at the scheduled time— and Colette, your marksmanship training begins right after. Understood?”
Grancis salutes and Colette instantly looks indignant. “Yes si-” starts Grancis.
“What? So you’re not even going to explain what the hell happened?” interrupts Colette.
“Watch your language, little bagel.” admonishes The Captain.
“Watch your face, Saltass!" Colette persists, "I almost died a dozen times tonight! I’m owed an explanation!”
Grancis freezes and Boris conveniently returns to the kitchen as Colette and The Captain stare each other down. The Captain sighs and shrugs. “Very well. Only for you, my graceful muffin. Come along, then.” He gestures up the two of them, and takes them to his study. He naturally reaches into his pocket, and fishes around, then checks his other pockets. “Oh my… It seems I’ve misplaced my all-important key.”
Colette cringes. “Eh, about that. The fake Captain asked for his coat back, and the key was in there too. Sorry, Salt, I guess I-” She stops herself, seeing The Captain reach through his bandages, into his black amalgamation of sand, and pull out another key. “Okay, that’s one way to do it,” she says bluntly.
“Very good… Hmm, so I suppose since you had the key on your person for some amount of time, you’ve likely been to the lower decks.”
“Uh,” Colette takes a breath. “Yeah, to hide from someone who was trying to kill me.” She says this looking over to Grancis, who promptly averts her gaze.
The Captain shrugs and then approaches the door to unlock it. “Well I’ve been expecting to take you down there sometime soon anyway— did you see anything of interest?”
Colette smiles. “Nope!”
The Captain scoffs. “I suppose you didn’t lock the door behind you either?”
Colette looks to Grancis. “I did,” Grancis says.
“Ahh, so you were down there as well?” The key turns, and The Captain’s study unfolds before them— a toasty, hospitable gust of air flowing out from inside.
Grancis nods. “Yeah, sorry.”
“Did you see anything of interest?”
Grancis smiles having just received a strikingly vindictive expression from Colette. “No! Nothing at all!”
The Captain scoffs again and directs the two of them to chairs as he pours a trio of drinks and hands them out before he takes his own seat in the dark room. The only thing truly visible is the spare meter from oneself and the scant light coming from the deck lights that reflect off of The Captain’s spectacles.
“A little dark in here, don’t you think?” Grancis asks before she sniffs her drink.
The Captain throws one leg over the other and takes a deep sip from his glass of clear liquid before responding. “Oh? I’m quite a fan of the dark. I can see everything, but nothing sees me. Now, what do you want to know?”
Grancis and Colette somehow feel a chill in the warm room. Colette sighs. “Okay, Captain, just what happened tonight?”
The Captain hums as Grancis takes a sip and then promptly coughs; she recomposes herself and then attempts to drink more. “Wh-what is this?!” Grancis exclaims, “It’s like nothing I’ve tasted before. It’s so… so strong!”
Colette looks over to The Captain with a raised brow; The Captain scoffs. “Tequila.”
“What’s that? One of your weird magic things?” Grancis asks, drinking fully from her glass. Colette can barely hold down her laughter.
“You can think of it as magic of some sort. Would you like some more?” The Captain asks, brandishing the bottle to show Grancis.
She looks honored, but pensive. “But how much is a dose?”
Colette snickers. “Gran, you do know that Tequila’s an-”
“You’ll know it’s working when you stop feeling like garbage. Do you feel like garbage, Miss Vereyrty?” The Captain asks over Colette.
Grancis squints an eye in thought. “Well, not much, but it was really unique, thank you!”
Colette snorts and offers her glass to Grancis. “I don’t feel like garbage at all, Gran— have mine.”
Grancis hums a moment and then shrugs as she takes the shot. “Alright, thanks! So is this like a potion or something?” Grancis asks concernedly.
Colette and The Captain exchange a truly-moved glance; they both thought Grancis was sort of naive, but not like this. “Why yes,” The Captain says, “Some souls even go so far as to call it ‘liquid courage’.”
Grancis kicks back the glass with a powerful gulp and she exhales with a sound of pure satisfaction. “Wow! I think it’s working!” It just so happens that Grancis knows precisely what it is she’s drinking.
Colette and The Captain exchange another glance, both deciding this is the best thing to happen today amidst all the craziness. “Now, you two were wondering what happened tonight. I’ll gladly explain.”
Colette nods and Grancis practically bangs her head through the air, a stupid grin on her lips and her face reddening.
“So be it. The local great seabeasts below knew about our passing through and decided to place mind agents inside of some of our sailors— those less protected and more prone to stress.”
Grancis abruptly shoves her empty glass back at The Captain as she returns Colette’s. “More, phhlease!”
“Oh, certainly!” The Captain pours Grancis another shot. “Now, as I was saying, people had their minds invaded— and as far as I know it was only seven people.”
“S-seven?!” Colette asks.
“Seven,” he responds.
“I had a very busy night, Colette. Only
Colette draws back. “So, you’re saying that if you didn’t shove that needle in my eye-”
“Your brain would be gone in the upcoming weeks. Exciting, yes, I know.”
“More pleaaase!” Grancis requests again, showing The Captain her empty glass.
The Captain sighs and pours her another. “Very well, Miss Vereyrty. I’m terribly sorry you’re feeling so bad.”
“Kiddin’ me?! This is awesome! I love you so much, Colette!” Grancis says, taking another swig and rubbing her brown head of hair against Colette’s shoulder.
“Eh, I love you too, Gran,” Colette says with a smirk. She turns back to The Captain “Now, you were saying.”
The Captain nods. “Of course: I had to deal with the others, but your problem was unique. Because the possessed Estradia, who was more developed in the parasite’s stages than the majority of the others, had Grancis connect dreams, he secured the power of your parasite. Remember, a parasite composes its physical personality and memories based on the mind it was inside— so it would make a version of Grancis so good, that you’d actually pick the fake over the true Grancis, because the parasite understands what you’d attribute to the real Grancis.”
“Yeah! Being real!… It’s great!” Grancis sputters, finishing her fourth glass of liquor and sprawling out across her chair as she wraps her arms around Colette.
“Being real is great, Miss Vereyrty, I’m glad you agree,” The Captain says, “So, because Grancis shared the dream with you, the parasite had access to the memories of not only one person, but two. The natural move? Make use of it! Instead of making a copy of Grancis, something that it knew we would expect and be prepared for, it made a copy of Colette, out from Colette, based on the memories of Grancis… You look as though you’re confused.”
Colette shakes her head. “So let me get this straight; the parasite was so good, because it was based on our conjoined knowledge of each other?”
“That’s correct, so if it were only the two of you, there would be next to no way you could have survived. Grancis would have almost certainly killed you if your relationship hadn’t developed after it spawned. It can only use the memories from someone while they’re in their head, so it had an old copy, per se. Basically it was because you were a terrible person to Grancis that Grancis finally figured it out; oh, and of course, Boris was integral as well. By asking a question that you didn’t know, but knew Boris would, you’d navigate around the parasite’s knowledge and yours, using someone else’s recollection in your favor. Quite smart, Miss Ketiere.”
Colette nods. “Well, Boris is useful too sometimes, I guess.”
“Yeah!… Boris!… He’s great!” Grancis says, now leaning almost entirely on Colette.
“So, the bandage with the note? The fake Captain?”
The Captain nods. “Yes; Estradia, commanded by his parasite, attacked me to buy the other one time. If I was there I’d obviously know who was who. It was very lucky for the parasite that Grancis was unconscious when it emerged— as she also would have seen it come out. So I got in a rather unpleasant altercation with Estradia; I purged him successfully, but its other buddies all decided to spawn out as well. It would blow their cover, but they all thought it would be best to get me out of the way. I purged them all, but the real fun began when they all took my form. Most were humorous caricatures of myself, yelling about some random alcohol or something that wasn’t Dugal’s scotch— but Estradia’s was shockingly accurate; still missed my failsafe Dugal’s plan though.”
Colette squints as Grancis whispers sweet nothings into her ear. “Wait, aren’t you and Estradia like, friends? Don’t you know each other? How would he not know that about you?” Colette asks.
“I only told Boris just in case this exact situation were to happen— this sort of stuff isn’t all that uncommon out here, and it’s good to be prepared for anything.”
Colette shrugs. “Okay, that makes sense.”
The Captain nods. “Back to the narrative: I fought with a bunch of other Captains as I dove in and out recovering folks; they just started piling their old hosts into the water. The ‘ten second’ rule is generally considered pretty on point during night time on the Eversea, but with all these creatures below ready and waiting for us, it was more like the ‘two second’ rule. It was quite strenuous, but I was successful in retrieving everyone from the jaws of their hunters. Of course, before I dove first, I needed some way to tell the others apart from myself in case one would come back up and try to deceive you all rather than kill you. So I took off a bit of my bandage during the fight; a duo of them happened to be there and ambushed me— I lost my key, but I left my note in the last moment. So I made sure to, if not kill, at least undress every other Captain. I applaud your insights in choosing right. Truly, if it were me being a human, I would have shot that Captain in the face right off— because bullets can’t kill me, silly girl. Honestly that should have been the first thing you thought of, Colette.”
“I didn’t have the gun,” she says, petting a now resting Grancis on the head, “Grancis did.”
“Well when she wakes up, make certain she knows to just go ahead and shoot a Captain she expects to be fake; just don’t hit the glasses next time— I don’t have many pairs of those,” he says, readjusting his spectacles.
Colette nods. “Gotcha. Okay, that wraps up pretty much everything, I guess,” she says.
“Glad to hear it, my cupcake.”
Colette’s expression freezes, as if she just thought of something. “Actually, I have one more question.”
The Captain leans in. “Yes?”
“How did you know what happened with us? I didn’t tell you any of that.” There’s a silence as The Captain considers the question. “I mean,” Colette starts again, “I don’t really think you’re an eldritch, of course, we already shot you; but seriously, how did you know? We were with you the whole time you returned to deck.”
The Captain puts his empty glass aside, and indexes his fingers. “I guessed.”
“Bullshit.” She says plainly.
“That’s all you’ll get from me on this day, Miss Ketiere. I’d suggest you accept it as it is and enjoy a good rest. Oh, and pick up Miss Vereyrty on your way out— a Captain’s study is no place for a laxing cook’s apprentice.”
Colette stares down The Captain, and sighs. “Yeah, goodnight, Salt,” she says as she takes up Grancis and holds her over the shoulder.
“Nighty night, my apple strudel.”
Colette steps out from The Captain’s quarters and takes Grancis down all the way back to the quarters. Boris is up, singing about eating, and is making a ruckus as he cooks up breakfast hours earlier than he should. After some exertion, Colette reaches the quarters and opens the door; everyone’s here, the machine sounds below are still whirring calmingly— but she notices a couple of the sailors are dripping wet. Colette smirks and sets Grancis into her bunk. She tucks her in and then lays back in her own. It takes half an hour for the adrenaline to fully die out, and she completely crashes. She returned to her regular cycle of dreams, most of them revolving around killing the overlord. Neither Colette, nor Grancis will be up until mid afternoon.
Elsewhere, the Captain returns to the lower decks and opens the door to the engine room.
“Good evening,” The Captain says down into the writhing darkness.
Kotherrhre draws a gust of breath into it. “Ahh, The prestigious Captain. How may I be of assistance?”
“Do you have anything to report?”
“Captain, why do you even come down here? You already know everything that happened,” Kotherrhre says with a blunt tone.
“Is it wrong to want to make up a reason to visit a friend?” The Captain asks.
“ ‘Friend’, now th
“Maybe if the other friend cared about the one enough.”
“Sure. So I’m guessing you just want to hear it from my mouth?”
“Well, yes, but it’s also nice just seeing you every now and again.”
Kotherrhre sighs. “Alright. Well Colette found the shipping records, but you know that.”
“Indeed; what do you think about that?”
Kotherrhre scoffs, sounding like a splitting corpse. “Ahh, you want my opinion on things— how lucky I am. She didn’t figure it out, but she’s definitely curious; I bet she assumes it’s all the people that have worked on the Nocturna, or something.”
The Captain nods. “I suppose most people would guess that if they were unaware as to the Nocturna’s true purpose.”
“Mhmm... and Captain— I don’t think she’s the one.”
“Yeah, she’s nuts enough, you did that part perfectly; but she’s scared of eldritch—she wouldn’t dive.”
“Well, such is the same with most humans,” The Captain answers.
“Sure, but she took one look at part of me and she almost bolted off. That Grancis girl on the other hand…”
The Captain strokes his chin. “What about her?”
“She’s got the head for it. She looks down off the rim of the boat for hours and turns back with a smile. She voluntarily looks for the sort of stuff the others have nightmares of. She’s not crazy, but she’s loose, Captain— very loose. I actually think she might be missing a few screws. Did something happen to her? Perhaps before she got on the ship? She acts like she’s normal, but I know better.”
The Captain nods. “She’s had a few interesting circumstances surround her that Colette was a prime cause in. I think their friendship has had a considerable development upon her capacity for stress.”
“Ahh, well anyway— if I were you, I’d drop Colette; she just wants to figure out how to kill someone. But Grancis… she could become something real scary.”
“To be frank, I’ve been keeping that in mind. They’re both showing considerable progress— but I’ll admit, she was… shockingly willing to put a needle in the eye of her friend.”
Kotherrhre laughs with an eldritch, godless sound. “I noticed. You didn’t even tell her the easy way to do it- you sly fox.”
“I wanted to see if she’d be willing to do something that would cause considerable pain to her friend. I’m confident that between the two of them, one will rise up as the right one.”
“Agreed. I don’t say this often, Captain, but you’re one shrewd bastard.”
“Language.” The Captain points his finger in reprimand.
Kotherrhre scoffs. “Sure. Anyway, you’re doing a good job. I’m impressed a little more every day.”
“You did a great job tonight yourself,” The Captain says, reaching into his pocket and placing a flask of some spirit down upon the stairs. “Please enjoy, you’ve earned it.”
“Hey, thanks!” Kotherrhre squeals in sunken glee, reaching out a tentacle and swiping the flask in the blink of an eye.
“Well, I’ll see you around, Engine,” The Captain says, turning about to leave.
“Sure thing, Captain,” Kotherrhre says, also putting a sarcastic emphasis on the title. They both share a laugh, and the door closes behind The Captain.
-To Be Continued-
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Nocturna League (Episode 3: The Sunken Breath) by Kell Inkston / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on20 votes