Nocturna League (Episode 1: The Witching Book), p.6Kell Inkston
Chapter 1: The Mist Rises
The sun has set, and while many of Lady Nocturna’s crew are resting soundly, midshipman Dunklestein, jobber Colette, and the captain… The Captain, finish a game of wits and luck.
With a scaled, greyish-blue hand, Dunklestein lays his cards. “Pair of fives, pair of twos. I’ll see you barnacles beat that,” he says with a wide, sharp grin.
Colette gently scans over to Dunk’s hand, and then over to the Captain. She clears her throat and lays down her own. “Three of a kind,” she says with a smirk, displaying her trio of kings.
“No!” Dunk leans over and spitefully looks at her cards. “I can’t believe it! Not again!”
“Don’t you wish you were good at poker?” Colette asks as she reaches for the chips.
The Captain, lurched over and unmoving, scoffs. “Not quite yet, my little crepe. I have the winning hand this night,” The Captain says as he lays down his cards. “Look upon defeat, shipmen! A joker, a one, a two, a three, and the instruction card. The priceless flush!”
The other two groan in defeat and shell over the entirety of the pile, eighty percent of the game’s chips, over to The Captain. As Dunklestein speaks up, a spited Colette begins looking under the table.
“You’re way too good at this game, Cap,” Dunks says with a growl, “You always win with that flush- I’ve been playing cards since I was just a little kip, but I’ve never seen anyone but you win with that hand.”
“Well, my dear Dunklestein, that is simply because I am the best in the world at cards, and stopped losing once I-”
Still peeking under the table, Colette lets loose a gleed laugh. She peeks up with a long, sly smirk. “Once you started cheating!” She says with a victorious tone of powerful accusation.
The Captain readjusts his large, round glasses and leans back a bit. “Why, dearest Colette, whatever could you mean?”
She squints a hazel eye at The Captain. “Finally, I figured it out. You made up that hand and have been inserting those two into your hand at the end of the game!”
The bandages around The Captain’s mouth arch up a bit; he’s smiling. “Oh? Could you have some sort of proof?”
With a snap of the leg she scrapes two cards from below The Captain’s chair, and strikes up two cards, a seven and a five. “These yours?” she asks, winning a shocked, stricken expression from Dunks.
“C-captain! I trusted you!” Dunks the half-shark says, covering his eyes in the painful realization that The Captain’s a cheat.
The Captain leans back a bit more. “Yes- they are, and I switched them out when it was most convenient to me.”
“How does it feel, then,” Colette asks, “knowing that you didn’t deserve to win?!”
The Captain’s smile widens a tad. “Rather, my muffin, would you mind telling me since when was poker a game in which cheating was not part of the rules, and instead of accusing me of doing wrong, why are you not instead asking why you both did not cheat as well?”
Colette’s expression is dumbfounded. “Because it’s wrong!”
“What it is, is a higher level of playing. If you were more resourceful you would realize that poker, much like life, is many games in one. The one that all can see and understand, and the one that is played under the table.”
Colette squints and points her nose up. “Except by playing the game you’ve agreed not to cheat!”
The Captain turns his head down. “Really? What made you think that? Sounds like a dangerous rule to me if you’re hoping to win. You must be willing to put aside anything for your goal.”
“So you’re saying that a good Captain’s a cheater?”
The Captain flips a chip about his fingers lazily. “If that’s what it takes. Certainly, morals are useful for a safe society, but people of command must bear the burden of being able to make the decisions others cannot.”
“Captain?” Colette says.
“Yes?” Captain says.
“That is a total load of b-”
The room turns and tilts violently, throwing the three from the chair, and leaving Colette and Dunks in an unfortunate pile with the chairs and cards. Hanging on one of the room’s turbulence handles is The Captain, holding the heavy table from crashing into the two as well. The ship’s alarm sounds and sailors roused from their sleep dash out to check the damages. The mist is the thickest The Captain’s seen in years, and there’s a distinctly arcane feeling in the air.
The Captain sighs as the ship rights itself. “How very unpleasant. I wonder what that could have been,” he says as he steps out onto deck. Colette and Dunks join him shortly after.
“Sir!” An anglerfish seasort says, firing off a jaunty salute to The Captain.
“Engineer Luisoix. Damage report.”
“There’s fighting in the helm! We were redirected into a rock!” He says, his bobbing head light shining brightly.
The Captain turns around to the helm. “Dunklestein, Colette- let’s go.”
The three step up a flight of stairs to the helm room and the Captain reaches for the knob. At the touch, a shockingly-fast, grey figure bursts through the reinforced glass, and rushes down the stairs. The Captain is hot on the figure with Dunks right behind them. Colette takes a moment to feel for the new revolver at her side. The figure leaps into the blankets of rolling mist, and leaps out from the opposite direction, catching The Captain off guard and delivering a devastating kick to his back. The Captain turns to grasp the figure, but in the same instant the figure leaps off him, and again to the opposite side. At a speed Dunks can barely see, let alone react to, The Captain and the mist-walking figure exchange vicious, lightning strikes between one another, but The Captain’s hits are too slow, and the figure’s are too weak. They trade consistently as other sailors join the brawl, but each one that comes forward receives a quick, mist-driven boot to the face from the figure.
As the two fire off scathing, powerful punches and kicks, the blond jobber takes aim. She draws a deep breath, rests one hand over her wrist, and pulls back the hammer. Watching The Captain struggle against the mist-walker, she can hear his voice: “Remember, little bun, when you draw the gun, it is not taking out a weapon, so much as it is a statement to your crew that the one you point it at shall be hit. It is an authoritative declaration of your position as captain, and a reassurance of the crew’s security. It is a simple rule: if you miss, you are not really the captain of the situation at hand, and thus not the true captain of your crew. Do not leave it up to fate.” His words ringing in her head, she pulls the trigger, and marks the Captain in his shoulder, missing her mark by only a half second. A strange, black-powder like substance leaks from The Captain’s wound, small, bead-like orbs of fantastical soot.
The Captain, giving no reservation to the pain, continues fighting, and Colette gets over her failure. The Captain isn’t reacting to her screw up, so neither will she. She takes aim, the crew watching, and even the elusive chef creaking open the kitchen door to take a look. With another click, she fires again and hits the misty assailant in the forearm. The figure smashed into the floor, realizes that its been shot, and then swipes the nearest person that looks like they would be easy to pick up. Amidst the chaos, young jobber and best friend of Colette, Grancis Vereyrty, is the one grabbed. Her frying pan falls to the side as the figure takes her up and leaps off the ship into the dark and the mist.
“Colette!” she screams in the shrouding fog, her voice fading quickly to silence.
“Gran! You dumbass!” Colette screams off the port bow, staring blindly into the mist. With a deep breath, she places the gun back in her holster, exhales, and goes up to The Captain, standing straight as he usually does. “We gotta get her back!”
Dunks gets to his feet, rubbing his head. “Damn, that dude was fast!”
The Captain nods. “Indeed, though we cannot very well pursue with the Nocturna, her hull having been breached, we’ll have to send a small party across as the others work on repairs.”
“Only because we have maintained her so well. You don’t really believe that tall tale that the ship’s alive, do you?” The Captain raises a brow under his bandages as a couple of crew mates sweep up the black powder and return it to him.
Another sigh. “You honestly believe I’d think otherwise? Come on, do you really think just three folks could take that thing? We need the cannons!”
“We certainly do not need the cannons, dear bagel with cream. If you have any doubts, you can join me on the away trip. You missed one shot, but you hit with the other, marked improvement considering the speed of your target.”
Colette looks to the mists of the port bow as they fade into a clear, starry night. She shrugs. “Thanks, but I didn’t slow it down much.”
The Captain draws back. “I gave you a compliment. I suggest you receive it properly, miss Ketiere.”
Colette Ketiere takes a deep breath, and nods in submission. “Wow, thanks Captain. I’ve gotten better but shot you.”
“You shouldn’t let that discourage you. Now enough of your warbling and let’s get our third and be on our way. Jim-”
Jim, his malefic tattoo sticking out and shifting on his arm, struts happily over. “Alright! Reporting for dut-”
“Sir! You cannot be serious!” Colette quickly cuts Jim off.
The Captain hums. “About bringing him along? Of course I am.”
“But last time he almost killed us, twice!”
The Captain is silent a moment. “Did he really come with us on that expedition for that witching book?”
Another pause from The Captain as he presses the rest of the black something back into his shoulder. “Ahh yes, I suppose he did. I truly was not expecting him to tie us up like that. Mr. Masthaven.”
Jim Masthaven winces. “C-come on, sir! That wasn’t me! It was the other me!”
“Which can emerge at any time. I think you actually would be better off waiting on the ship.”
“Unconscious in the brig.” With a snap of The Captain’s fingers a group of sailors run up and beat the ever-sailing crap out of Jim. The Captain watches the out-cold Jim get carried off with a smirk as Colette looks on in shock.
“C-Captain what the hell!”
“I would remind you not to use such foul language, after all that deck hand’s had it coming.”
“Captain, Jim’s your son!”
There’s another silence. “No that’s ridiculous… I think,” The Captain says, taking a flask out from his coat pocket and downing a gulp. Colette just stares at him dumbfoundedly as he goes on: “Now then, the other person… I think Boris would be the most sensible choice.”
Colette spreads her hands out in confusion and emotion as if expecting a lightning strike to take her. “What?! The cook? Boris the cook? The creepy dude that Gran has to suffer with and test all his weird dishes?!”
The Captain, hands behind his back in uniform professionalism, nods. “Absolutely. He’s the one for this operation,” he says. The Captain turns to the creaked open kitchen door. “Mr. Boris, your apprentice chef has been captured. You will accompany us on the expedition to retrieve her.”
As Boris, a giant lobster seasort with an apron and a chef’s hat, bursts from his lair, Colette waves her hands in spite and confusion. “Why?! Please don’t take him with us! He’s… he’s-”
“I AM OF THE SAVING!” Boris exclaims, both human-sized claws clapping with righteous indignation.
The Captain nods. “Boris, while territorial and eccentric, is a valued member of our crew. Besides, he has her scent memorized, he’ll be perfect at tracking her down.”
“He thought she was food the first time they met. He was asking you if you had a cut chart of her.”
The Captain shrugs. “A simple mistake. Besides, that’s usually what I mean when I tell him to ‘take care’ of someone.”
Colette, again with a dumbfounded look on her face, is quickly hugged by Boris, who also hugs The Captain. “I AM OF THE READY! MUCH SAVING OF THE ASSISTANT, YES?”
The Captain nods. “That’s right, Boris. Enough praddle-tallying. Let’s be on our way.”
The Captain, chef Boris, previously known as “Tyrant-Butcher of the Waves” Boris, and a huffy Miss Ketiere step into the four-man shore-boat. Boris is the size of three people, so The Captain and Colette have to hang on the rim of the boat as they start up the motor and head off for the only body of land in view, in the same direction that the figure spirited away Grancis.
Nocturna League (Episode 1: The Witching Book) by Kell Inkston / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on20 votes