Nocturna League (Episode 1: The Witching Book), p.5Kell Inkston
Chapter 5: The Captain’s back, and a Riveting Chase Takes Place
There’s a loud blast, and The Captain is knocked out of the illusion. He’s presently looming over Jim, who’s breathing in terror.
“Why, Mr. Masthaven, is everything okay?”
“C-come on, Captain! Don’t kill me! It wasn’t me!”
The Captain nods his head to the side, and then snaps his fingers in realization. “Ahh, so I truly was under an illusion. Pardon me, I didn’t mean any ill will… but you probably did deserve whatever it was I was going to do.”
Jim stares at The Captain as though he’s a lunatic just as the islander that lead them there tears out from the double doors with the witching book, Colette close behind him. “I missed!” she shouts, passing by and in hot pursuit of the islander.
The Captain hums, attempting to regain his thoughts on the situation. “You… missed? What ever could that-” He stops, hearing the crackling fire caused by the rifle’s shot behind him. “Oh, she missed with my rifle… Jim,” The Captain says, picking up the unconscious guard.
“We must abdicate the area.”
“Y-yes sir!” At that, Jim turns and leaves right on The Captain’s trail. The two descend the wicker steps as the entire ziggurat bursts into a hellfire of swampy doom. The local wildlife is disturbed, some of the beasts below the boardwalk thrashing about vigorously in the water. The Captain spots Colette chasing the islander with the book down a secluded boardwalk, leading to elsewhere on the island.
“This way, Mister Masthaven,” The Captain says, pointing forward with authority as he sprints to catch up.
The Captain, an accomplished runner, catches Colette in but a moment’s notice and turns to her mid-stride. “Miss Ketiere.”
“Cap! He’s got the book!”
“And you have my rifle. I must say I’m disappointed in you, Miss Ketiere. You have been training to hit shots for the entire year you’ve been crewing. I expecte-”
“I’ve been on the crew for a month, Captain.”
The two run a moment without a word.
“Oh,” The Captain says, “yes, that’s right. Only a month. Well, you still missed!”
“Yeah, it’s hard to aim when you get punched in the face by a sneak-ass dude running off with the book!”
“Only an additional aiming vector, Miss Ketiere. Here.” The Captain hands her his only spare shot. “Don’t miss this time. You hear me?”
“You want me to… destroy the book? Our target?”
“If it comes to that. I feel this would be too dangerous to bring on board… Anyway, we have more pressing matters to attend to.”
Colette squints in confusion. “Like what?”
The Captain points to the side of the boardwalk, into the water. There’s a wave of shadows following them beneath the decks— jagged, large figures that are just behind them. “I’m guessing they serve Vuuya as well. You’ll need to stay back and protect poor Jim. Remember to save the shot for the book.”
Colette spits in shock. “J-Jim can handle himself!”
“Against a pack of seasorts? I think not.”
“That’s an order, Miss Ketiere. You need to keep them off me and I’ll meet up with you,” The Captain says, leaning deeper into his stride and outrunning Colette.
She takes a deep breath, seeing him dash off after the islander with Vuuya, and she slows down just as a force of slick, scaled hands reach out from the water and latch onto the decks.
“C-Colette! Why…” Jim takes a breath. “Don’t run off like that! You know I… Oh boy.” Jim and Colette are surrounded by three seasorts, as one swims off to follow The Captain. A snake, a gator, and a snapping turtle- all ripped and armed with swords.
“You won’t lay a hand on her. Thisss ssswamp will be your grave,” the snake seasort says, baring his long fangs.
Colette reaches into her coat and takes out a revolver. “Being a snake and over-emphasizing the 'S'? Really? Jim, teach these nerds a lesson. Do the thing!”
Jim scowls in worry. “Oh no, please no!”
“It’s better than dying!” Colette says, shooting the turtle with her own pistol, but her bullet bouncing off his thick scales.
Jim takes a deep breath, and speaks. “I commit myself!” Suddenly Jim lurches over as his tattoo bursts into black flame, quickly covering his entire body. Jim’s screams turn into the maniacal laughter of the other side of Jim. “About damn time!” Jim says, his body completely igniting in black fire and making way for the real Jim. The gator seasort rushes up behind them to impale them both, but all Jim needs to do is turn his head one hundred and eighty degrees and catch the blade in-between his teeth.
“Say your prayers, bitches!” Jim says as he smacks the seasorts around with incredible speed and strength. As the turtle is flipped and spun around in a make-shift projectile toward the other two, Colette decides it’s about time she caught up with The Captain. Jim’s not having any problems here.
Colette dashes through the swamp, finally reaching a clearing with a stone building, its metal door swung open. It’s quiet. She knows The Captain, the islander, and Vuuya are all in there. She reloads her one spent shot, and enters the house.
She creeps through silently, checking each of the rooms; each one comes up empty— this seems to be a safe house. With some careful listening, she can hear talking upstairs.
“She’s in too now,” rings the voice of a man, probably the islander that escaped with Vuuya.
“It’s no matter, my pet. I’ll do the same to her.” Vuuya says in a room above.
Suddenly, Colette’s perception of reality shifts. Her emotions grow dire, and she knows, somehow, that she’s inside the lair of the dark overlord— the very same that kidnapped her best friend, Grancis.
She stutters as she pushes her hand against her forehead. “C-come out, you bastard! W-what did you do to Gran?” She mutters.
The Captain… no, The Overlord comes out from another room.
“Oh, Miss Ketier— So you’ve come at last!” The Dark One says, his evil, shining grin covered in the blood of the innocent.
Colette draws her ri… sword, and points it forward. “Fiend! I’ve trained long for this day— now you’ll be m-… no… Captain?” Her stance wavers as she looks around… this dark tower looks so much like that stone house she had entered… how long ago was it now? Her eyes spark with realization- she knows what to do.
“Who is this Captain you speak of?” The Overlord says as he gives Colette a friendly hug, just a like a jolly, also confused Captain would.
Colette squints in perception, and she slowly makes her way up the stairs to the second floor. She busts into the room with none other than her mother and Grancis waiting.
“Oh! Colette!” Grancis says. “Thank you so much for saving me!”
Colette sighs, and holds her 'sword' as if it were a rifle. Suddenly Colette’s mother runs to tackle her, but Colette’s too fast. “I won’t miss this time, Gran.” Colette shoots through Grancis, an enormous, burning hole shot into the girl’s breast.
“Wh-why? Don’t you believe in giving people what they want?” Grancis asks, the mirage burning away to reveal the book as Colette’s mother… no, the islander, grovels in horror close by.
“No,” Colette says. “I believe in giving people what they need.”
With that, the flames from the anti-magic shell disintegrates Vuuya, and the islander falls over, eyes wide with disbelief as his illusion burns away as well. Colette slings The Captain’s rifle around her shoulder, and meets up with him downstairs.
“Oh, Colette. I had the most wonderful dre-” He stops, seeing Colette’s raised brow and bland frown. “Ahh… So you did it, then? You destroyed the objective?”
She nods. “Yup. You were right. If we took that to the Nocturna, Boris would have a field day.”
The two share a quick scoff— Boris the chef is quite easily impressed upon, an
The Captain nods as they turn to leave along the board walk. “Funny, but you know the crew will still think you screwed up.”
“Yeah, but there wasn’t anything I could do.”
The Captain shrugs. “That’s fine, honestly, but the rest of the crew won’t let you live it down for a good while. They’re certain that you, a woman, couldn’t hit something a foot in front of you.”
She sighs. “Yes.”
“That said, I would ask that you reflect on your decision. Once we’ve passed through the town on the way back to the ship, tell me: do you think we improved the lives of these people, or made them worse?” The Captain says, seeing Jim rush forward with his evil, fiery claws bared.
“Now it’s time for the real show! Captain! I’m coming to get y-” Jim is promptly silenced the moment The Captain kicks him straight in the nuts, causing even evil Jim to crumple over in pain. The flames quickly reside, and The Captain picks up a groaning, pain-stricken Jim. All things accounted for, they walk on for a few minutes back to port.
Colette is quiet as they pass through the swamp and reach the town. The Captain sets the two unconscious men down on a bench while the town floods in chaos. Weeping is replacing the sound of celebration as people stumble through the streets, calling to find their children, spouses, parents, friends, pets, and more. A limp man crawls through the street asking himself in muttering tones what he did wrong to no longer be able to walk. A woman cries over a well, feeling her face in disbelief of how ugly she has become. All around them, Vuuya’s illusions have been broken, and the truth is too painful for any of the islanders. Colette witnesses a man throw himself from a roof head-first into the stone road, as two men fight over a scrap of bread.
Finally they reach the ship, guarded by Dunklestein and a few of the other larger sailors. Dunklestein and the others look at the three, expecting a response; The Captain shakes his head as he hands the unconscious Jim to one of the sailors and sends the boy to the brig for safe-keeping.
Dunklestein looks to Colette, still with the rifle, then to the swamp, smoke rising out of it from the fire, and then back to the Captain. “Well, this ain’t the first time. Come on, Cap. I’ll get Boris to make ya’ some tea.”
“Thank you, Dunklestein the Daring,” The Captain says, patting Dunks on his back fin, and ascending with the others.
Collective sighs and mumblings fill the deck as the M.S. Nocturna leaves port and sails off north. The rifle still slung around her, Colette, after a quick greeting and hug from Grancis, goes to the stern of the ship and stares at Vuuya’s island— smoke still trailing off into the distance as the houses and trees shroud into the collective mist of the sea. The Captain, a steaming cup of tea in his hand, steps over.
“Well, Miss Ketiere? Are their lives better now that we’ve done away with their delusions?” He asks, pouring a sip through his bandages with one hand, and reaching for the rifle around Colette with the other.
Colette stares at the ocean a bit and after a few seconds, sighs. She hands over the rifle. “Yes, they are.”
“And why is that, Miss Ketiere? Is real suffering better than simulated joy? Though their situations were witched up, their feelings were not.”
“They had caged themselves- we provided the key to their release. It’s not our fault tha-”
“I’m not asking if we did the right thing. I’m asking if we made their lives better.”
Colette stares as the last of the island is pulled into the mists, and sighs. “No, no we didn’t. I saw a man kill himself after we did away with it all.”
The Captain ruffles Colette’s short, fairy-like hair. “There you have it. Sometimes, as a leader, you need to push people into what’s best for them, rather than allow them to live comfortable delusions. A sailor that is happy but useless is less than a sailor that is miserable but working; do you understand?”
Colette nods, her eyes focused on the waves.
“Yes, some of the islanders will never forgive you for ending their dream, but the rest will one day thank you for waking them. They would have all lived meaningless existences in bliss, and it is better to be useful than to be happy.”
She furrows her slim, blonde brow. “Yeah?”
The Captain nods. “Most assuredly.”
She smirks. “Then why did you give into the illusion?”
The Captain clears his throat for a moment, as if caught off guard, and sighs. “You see, my little biscuit, I wanted to believe. Everyone who goes to sea does so for a reason. I have been sailing for a long time, and sometimes... the things I’m looking for bear to be too much. While the delusion was sweet for a time, I doubted it the moment I saw their faces again. There was no way I believed it, but sometimes I just want to feel… feel like my dreams really can come true. I’m happy you took the shot, because I fear I could not have. It was foolish of me to even entertain the thought that the book could have given me what I wanted, and for that I apologize for being an imperfect role-model. I know too well what it is like to want a certain person near me— and to destroy that dream, I fear, is not something I could have done. You’re turning quickly into a captain of relentless efficiency, my dear muffin- your youth is allowing you to develop without hesitations.”
Colette’s smile turns crass. “Thanks; and Captain.”
“Stop calling me pastries.”
The Captain takes a long sip of his tea. “I’ll call you what I damn well please, ship hand. Good day.” The Captain turns away to his quarters before Colette can rebuttal with The Captain’s own 'a clean mouth' quote.
Colette scoffs under her breath and watches him leave. She then looks back to the water, wondering how many years the Captain’s been looking for those certain persons. With a deep breath and a calm smile, she whispers: “I hope you find them, Captain.”
-To be Continued-
(Chapter 1 and 2 for next book in the series below!)
Thanks so much for reading the first book in the new series of mine. I tried to put something different together and I think I got my wish in spades. I’m really looking forward to coming up with all sorts of crazy nautical fun, so stick around and I’ll be giving you more month by month. That said, if you enjoyed the work and would like to help me out, please leave an honest review if you have the time, even if it’s just a quick star rating, it’d mean a ton. Thanks in advance if you choose to do so! Alternatively, if you’d like to become one of my reviewers, I can send you some of my books for free so long as you’d agree to write an honest review on them. It’d also be pretty nice. Just contact me at [email protected]
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Nocturna League (Episode 1: The Witching Book) by Kell Inkston / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on20 votes