Shad and Saura: The Secret Belowdecks - Part Three
Art by ssjelitegirl
The newcomer was a Lupe, but definitely not Scarblade. She was female, for starters, and purple in color, with long and startlingly bright pink hair. She nodded to Gran and then the sharp gaze of her narrow eyes fixed on the two brothers.
"I heard zat ve got new blood," she said. Shad and Saura blinked upon getting hit with an accent you could chop wood with. Cora's clear, prim speech and Gran's rustic pirate drawl had been a listening exercise in their own right already.
Gran had visibly relaxed. "Dang, ye scared me there. We was just talking 'bout the Cap'n."
"Hah!" This was a bark more than a laugh, short and chopped again, as the Lupe girl sat down by the table. "Telling ze newbies about ze vunderful life of a pirate? Sailing under ze command of ze famous and powerful Scarblade, viz many exciting places to see and exciting people to meet?"
"We've certainly been meeting a lot of exciting people today," Shad said. The newcomer grinned slightly – which in terms of a Lupe means that all her fangs were visible, which could really mean anything. Saura shot a sideways glance at Shad but the Lupe didn't seem bothered, so he decided not to get freaked out just yet. Being on a pirate ship rather seemed to mean living on the edge all the time, sure enough.
"This is Sandra," Gran chimed in. "Our helmswoman. Any news from the bridge, gel?"
"Ve'll be setting sail in ten," said the helmswoman, "vich is vhy I vonted to ask for a bag of bisquits." She eyed the two brothers again, then felt compelled to explain: "I'll be at ze vheel for some zhree, four hours straight, and skip ze lunch."
The cook, being used to such cases, had already stuffed a small bag from a nearby crate. "Here ye go, make 'em last, we've a long way ahead. Listen, gel, ye don't happen to remember when the Cap'n got all funny?"
Sandra, unlike Terry, didn't seem to be bothered by the discussion of Scarblade's mental health or lack thereof. She had already turned to leave but paused to think about the question. "You mean all zhose angry howls? I first heard zat ze night after ve left that village in ze Norzhern Plains. Ze village of..." Her lips moved silently, "Rotberg, zat it vas. Ze Cap'n spent multiple hours zhere, didn't vant anyvun to go along viz him."
"Ugh, that place," Gran shuddered as a shadow of remembering passed over her face. "It's north of Shenkuu," she explained to the brothers, "a while before Roo Island."
"Haunted Voods," Sandra said, already halfway out of the door. "A part of zem, like a, vot's ze word... enclave."
"Is that where you're from?" Shad asked. It looked like that question had been bothering him.
Sandra seemed impressed. "Almost. I'm from ze vest, near ze mountains." She left up the stairs without a word of goodbye.
"You really make such a distinct difference between Lupes?" Saura asked, turning his focus back to the vegetables. The deck above their head had come to life; muffled shouts and whistles echoed through the wood as footsteps hurried over their heads, but in the galley underneath everything was still quiet and tranquil.
"Sure." The Lupe looked confused. "You can tell the differences between Zafaras as well, right?"
"Yeah, but... not to the extent of knowing where they're from."
"Well, Werelupe blood is a bit of a copout-" Shad admitted, and startled as Saura's knife slipped, shaving wood off the table.
"She's a Werelupe?"
"Quarterblood at best," Shad said hastily, realizing too late that Sandra might've wanted to keep that fact to herself. "Probably only an eighth; it's common in Haunted Woods Lupes, most of them have Werelupe origins, s'the region's history for you."
There was... a feeling. The kind of specific, disconcerting feeling people get when something big all of a sudden happens to the entire world around them and they're not sure at first what changed and where it might lead to. Then they realized that the ship was simply moving. The Revenge was slowly gaining speed, accompanied by the quiet creaking of rigging and the loud, twanging cannonshots of the huge black sails catching wind one after another. As the thick black clouds were drawn away with the ship, Roo Island caught sunlight again. The curious locals were squinting at the leaving ship before turning back to what they were doing.
For the few crewmembers who weren't currently involved in sailing, this felt more than anticlimactic.
"Can you believe those people?" Terry was leaning on the railing of the aft deck, staring at the retreating shore of the island. "Some of them are... oh Fyora, some of them are waving!"
"Makes sense for zem to be glad to see us go," Sandra said levelly. The aft deck was the backmost deck of the ship, divided from the rest of the place by the officers' cabins and the bridge on top of them, so people rarely showed up there without a reason. The deck hosted only the ship's wheel and the complicated system of hydraulics that went with it, so most of the time the helmswoman was the only person there. She was standing still behind the wheel facing aft, watching the deadwater and somehow managing to grin at Terry at the same time.
"But they're supposed to be too afraid to even make a sound!" the Ixi moaned. "I mean, they live in this faraway corner of the world, okay, maybe they'd never heard of us, but even so we're a friggen' huge black ship with a built-in smoke machine and ominous skull patterning all over the exterior. Where will the reputation of piracy end up that way?"
"Zey probably zhought zat ve vere entertainment," Sandra guessed, then her head snapped sideways. "Viz respect, sir, not a step closer, you'll break ze hydraulics."
The deckboards had already bent under the weight of the green Elephante who had appeared on the deck. Even in terms of Elephantes, he was gigantic, and it was a miracle of structural engineering that his two peglegs could carry him, creaking in protest together with the boards as he lumbered to a halt. His dirty shirt was too small to cover all of his enormous mass, and as most of that mass was covered with tattoos depicting palm trees, pyramids, islands, castles and other assorted exotic places, his approaching figure gave the disconcerting impression that the world was falling down on you.
"Terry," he rumbled, a voice that added to the already geographical sight the feeling of an incoming avalanche. "Get your toolbox and go to hold three."
"Sir," Terry said obediently, giving something that looked like a salute on holiday. "What task?"
"Cora's there," the avalanche came again. "Hurry."
Orders given on a ship aren't given with extra padding; when an officer orders to hurry, it's for a reason. Terry trotted off in the uneven clatter of boot-and-pegleg. The Elephante lumbered away as well. For a moment, Sandra looked like she wanted to ask him something, but then thought better of it and focused on the deadwater again.
The definite upside about having superiors is, you don't have to worry about anything that's not your business.
A short while later, the galley door flew open and Terry staggered in. Shad and Saura spun around in shock as the carpenter's toolbox landed heavily next to the doorway and the Ixi himself sunk onto a crate, blindly reaching around him with a shaking hand.
"Grog," he muttered, staring blankly ahead. "Grog..."
"The heck happened to ye, boy?" Gran asked with a furrowed brow, ambling closer with a big tankard. "Seen a ghost?"
The Ixi, as pale as brown Ixis get, shook his head slowly and grabbed the tankard. Half of its contents ended up dripping down his face but he looked a little better as a result.
"Not a word," he said hoarsely. "I... uh, thanks. I'll be..." The sentence probably ended with "off" but was closer to a whimper as Terry stumbled to his feet and headed towards the door again.
"Lunch is almost done," Saura said, watching him go with concern.
The Ixi waved his hand dismissively without turning.
When the door closed, the galley remained dead silent.
"So," Shad said, his eyes drawn to the toolbox that was still where Terry had dropped it and looked quite creepy all of a sudden. "I take it that he doesn't do that often."
"He never skips a meal, fer one," Gran said with a scowl. "An' he's not easily spooked, none of us is, we've sailed on stormy seas and under the seas, on a ship that brings black clouds and appears as fast as disappears... we're what people are afraid of."
Saura had squatted down by the toolbox and peered inside hesitantly. There was another moment of anticipating silence.
"Any mysterious glowing objects?" Shad asked, ears flattening. "Any tools with deep fangmarks in them, or nails made of silver?"
"Nope," the Zafara said, nonetheless shrinking away from the box faster than it was strictly necessary. "A hammer, chisel, a pair of tongs, a handsaw and a couple iron nails. Nothing particularly occult about those."
"Okay, lads, ye'll discuss this later," Gran said sharply. "Right now it's lunchtime, so ye'll get to play rock-paper-scissors over who gets to help me distribute the grub to fifty hungry pirates and who gets to take a couple nice neat bowls to the officers' quarters."
She watched as the choice between getting mobbed by hungry pirates and going to face Scarblade in his cabin sank in, and grinned widely.
To be continued...