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Nocturna league (episode.., p.3
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       Nocturna League (Episode 1: The Witching Book), p.3

           Kell Inkston
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  Chapter 3: The Captain and his Posse are met with Considerable Difficulties

  The Captain yawns as he wakes to the light of morning and the screeching of swamp birds. “Ahh, what a lovely nap that was. Alright, my crew members, rise and-” The Captain stops when he attempts to move his unusually sedentary body. It seems as though there is something holding him down. “What’s this?”

  “C-captain! I can’t move!” Colette calls over the snoring of Dunklestein, also tied up.

  The Captain sighs. “Jim?....”

  A long silence.

  “Yes?” a voice from across the room starts. The Captain looks over and sees a quite-free Jim with dark, fiery eyes.

  “For what reason did you tie us up?”

  “So I could have everyone in town help me kill you, of course!” The possessed Jim replies with a wide grin as he steps over to the window and leans out. “HEY, EVERYBODY!" he shouts triumphantly, "THE BOOK THIEVES ARE STILL ALIVE— AND THEY’RE TIED UP RIGHT IN HERE! GET ‘EM!” At that, Jim quickly collapses onto the floor and regains himself to his good ol’, non-evil personality.

  “Huh?!" Dunklestein cries outs, riling up due to the screaming from below. "What’s goin’ on?”

  Colette snatches a knife from her thigh and starts working through her binds. “Jim did it again. The village is coming to kill us!” she responds over an uproar among the crowds below.

  “What?! Dammit, Jim!” Dunks snaps as he strains against the ropes, quickly fraying them with his hideous strength.

  Jim wallows on the floor in half consciousness until Dunklestein kicks him. “Blu- oh? What?!”

  “Your tattoo dude tied us up, you dumbass!” Dunks yells as his ropes break.

  Everyone hears a rush of footsteps from below as Jim mutters for a response. “I… Uh, you know how it can be! It’s a serious condition. I mean, I’m sorry, but it really isn’t my faul-”

  The door bursts open the moment The Captain takes to his feet.

  “There they are!” The not-so trustworthy butcher says, pointing to the four, “They’re the ones that want to steal Vuuya from us- our paradise!”

  “As much as I hate disagreeing, I fear I must, ladies and gentlemen,” The Captain interjects. “We’re not here to steal anything of yours. We only want an old, useless relic from a witch— one that could not possibly still be alive. However, if you insist on fighting, I will have no choice but to authoritize each and every one of you.” He cracks his knuckles, and while his sailors all experience the Pavlovian nervousness trained into them, the villagers know not who they deal with.

  The butcher is the first to rush the tied up Captain. He makes a quick slash with his cleaver— but The Captain, his arms tied down, uses his leg to deliver an immaculately painful kick to the butcher’s shin.

  “GRAH! SHHHHIT!” The butcher, his pain threshold only that of a common man, exclaims as he falls to the ground in agony.

  “Watch your language. You should be old enough to be a respectable example to the younger generations,” The Captain says as a man and woman both come forward. The Captain makes a deft, fluid swing of the feet, striking the young man in his nethers and the knife-wielding woman in her face. Again the two of them are reduced to cringing piles of human misery as The Captain turns to his crew.

  “Dunklestein. Take Jim and Colette out of here from the window. I’ll meet up with you in the nearest shaded alley.”

  Colette, free from her binds, brandishes her knife. “No, Captain! Let me fight!”

  “There will be time for your fighting,” The Captain says as he kicks someone again in the shin with a skillfully strung combo, “now follow orders.”

  “B-but si-” Colette is interrupted as she is picked up by the hulking Dunklestein and, along with Jim, carried out the large window. “I’m going to kick your ass extra hard in training for this one, sir!” she shouts.

  The Captain sighs as he trips another opponent and heels them in the crotch. “Playing quite the child, my cookie. Answer me once I’m done with this: How do you expect to become a leader if you cannot be led?”

  The Captain hears a loud scoff from Colette, and she answers sharply, “Because leading and being led are polar opposites! I’m only planning to become good at one! You keep holding me back! This isn’t what I signed up f--” her words dissipate as Dunks leaps from the roof with the two of them in arm. Down below she defiantly finishes her answer with muffled words: “This isn’t what I signed up for! You need to let me loose! I’m not a kid!” She struggles out of Dunklestein’s grip and brushes off her clothing as Jim simply tugs himself down politely from the seasort’s grasp. “I hate it when he’s like that,” Colette says, ducking into an alley and tapping her fist against a wall.

  Dunks chuckles, placing his webbed hand on his hips. “Kinda surprised you haven’t gotten used to it yet. You’ve been crewing with the Nocturna for a month now; you should have noticed that he cares more about his crew members than anything— especially one that's a girl. I’m pretty sure he’s in his fifties; if he had a daughter she’d be about your age you know... I’m not that surprised at all that he’s pillowin’ ya’ around.”

  Jim, catching his breath, nods at Colette. “He babies everyone on the ship. After he’s ‘authoritized’ them,” he says with a smirk.

  Dunks and Colette both cringe at the thought of their first fight with The Captain; the second they went out of line, they were put back in their place to grumble all they wanted, but always follow orders no matter what.

  Colette sighs. “Yeah… yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll get my chance and I’ll take it,” she adds, watching The Captain leap down from the room now filled with moaning and cries of agony. Colette waves him over, and The Captain enters the alley, his arms still comically tied around him, though his boots are covered in blood.

  He nods in recognition to everyone. “They were not particularly impressive, but they did seem to rally quickly. I feel this is not the first time someone has attempted to get the book.”

  Dunklestein shakes his head and shrugs. “What next then, Captain? Surely the other crew members are in trouble too. The villagers might try to board the ship.”

  The Captain nods as Colette cuts through his ropes, freeing him to scratch his bandaged chin. “Yes, and for that, you should be the one to go tell them.”

  “B-but sir!”

  “Do I hear a hint of subversion in your voice, Dunklestein the Daring?” The Captain leans in.

  “N-no sir.” Dunks leans away and turns to go to the ship.

  “Very good, rally up everyone on shore and have them leave port. The three of us will handle the book,” The Captain instructs with a nod, a straightening of the cap and a readjusting of the spectacles.

  Dunklestein rushes off just as a curious villager approaches the inn wondering what all the commotion is about. From the nearby alley the man’s grasped by a pair of bandaged, deft hands.

  “Good day,” The Captain says.

  The villager stutters and jolts, feeling the shifting, sand-like consistency of the Captain’s hands wrapping around his neck. “I-I don’t have any money! Children, run; tell your moth-”

  “I will excuse your presumptuous nature, islander boy. My colleagues and I are searching for Vuuya, and you will lead us the way,” The Captain states, his usual tone of eccentric, almost friendly silliness darkened to a serious, grave voice.

  The islander relaxes as The Captain’s grip loosens, and looks to the empty street for a moment as if watching something the others cannot see. “Oh, you’re those guys from last night? Well, I really was going to take you guys to her, just so you know. This way,” the masked man says, gesturing deeper into the alley.

  Without an answer, the three remaining sailors follow the masked man through the alley and out the other end, leading to a deep gladed wood; only a rickety walkway of driftwood and fallen trees serves as their path above the beast-infested waters now. The swamp is shallow enough to spot myriad sorts of strange, c
oncealed wetland beasts, skimming the pine-tasting murk with silent, predatorial strokes.

  Ten minutes of rushed movement leads the group to a sight that will be remembered in awe by all of them. Rising up from the brown waters is a great ziggurat constructed of wood, twigs, and plenteous foliage. There is a stairway of packed wicker that leads inside the wood-craft complex, and that is what they must ascend.

  Just as they start up the stairs with careful steps, the townsperson takes the moment to pull his mask aside and look behind himself directly into The Captain's eyes— he’s quite handsome. “You’re… You’re not really going to take her away, are you? You just want a book, right?” He asks, his worn feet crossing the wicker bridge with certainty.

  The Captain makes no movement aside from continuing up the steps. “That depends if she will give us what we want,” he says, the group reaching the entrance to the ziggurat. An eerie, colorful glow alights the hall, leading them into the wooden keep.

  The four make their way past a multitude of pitch black rooms, all the way to the end of the hall where a young man, looking about twenty-five, stands guard. In the scant light, the crew makes him out to be muscular, short, and equipped with a sword. He meets them just a meter from the large door at the end of the hall. “You wish to speak to Vuuya?” he asks, chewing over a small splinter of wood to clean his teeth.

  The Captain nods. “That’s what we’re here for.”

  “Fine; one at a time, no weapons,” the guard instructs, eying the older man that led them in.

  The three in the group exchange a few glances, and The Captain hands his rifle over to Colette. “I’ll be the first, then.” The Captain follows the guard, leaving the other three to wait outside.

  The guard leads The Captain through the door into a dark room. It is closed and barred behind him as the guard dismisses himself, leaving The Captain alone in the pitch blackness. Slowly, like a moon rising in the night, a great tome opens with the grace of a flower to illuminate the room.

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