I shrugged the sail upon my shoulder, hoisting it high in the air. Today was just like any other; I would go out, catch some fish, come home and feed my family. You know; island life. It was simple, and that's how I wanted it. I could just sit around all day not really doing much and still earn enough to live by. That was enough for me. The fishing nets were tied to the corner post of my boat, the motor was purring away nicely and I was all set to go.Atai? Atai darling! Wait!
My mum ran up to me, trailing her long skirt in the sea. The edges had gotten wet as the waves came in, but it didn't bother her. I groaned, knowing at once why she was here. She came every day. And every day it would be the same answer.Yes, mother?
I would look at her with a discouraging face.
You know not to go out alone, darling!I'm fine, mum. I'm old enough to go out; I'm 17 for crying out loud!
I know, but even adults need a fishing partner… what if something happens, then what would I do?
It always ended the same way. We would continue arguing until mum simply gave up, and then I would be on my way. Nothing could stop me. I had no need for "partners" or "safety" I was fine by myself. That day she mentioned something about a "bad feeling". I thought nothing of it, but far out in the distance, something knew she was right. With my back to my mother, I set sail; the last I ever saw of her was her waving to me as I left shore. I waved back, but nothing more.
Time went by and an hour or so later I made it to my intended destination. We were a poor village, as far as Venrans go, so our boat didn't go too fast. That being said, I certainly couldn't see the shore line, but I wasn't more than two miles from my home. I poked my head over the bow, watching my reflection in the waves. Nothing caught my eye… wait. A glint of light. Here was perfect. I tossed my net into the water, dragging it a long with the tide until it tugged at my boat and wouldn't move any further. Here I would wait for the rest of the day. Now on I could just be by myself, nothing to bother me. Sighing, I stared out to sea, going through the morning's events in my mind. Certainly nothing out of the ordinary, aside from my mother's final words anyway. But she was always over protective. That or I was just a fool. Once again, I thought nothing of it, and soon my thoughts slowed to boredom, and I promptly drifted to sleep, along with the tide. I would wake in a few hours. That would be fine.
But things weren't fine. Every second spent sleeping, the swell grew larger. Winds picked up and ruffled my hair, making me turn in my sleep. Tucked up in my little corner, I couldn't feel anything of the world around me. I didn't even notice when it started to rain. And it was really lashing down out there. But the wood sheltered me, and the shadows protected me as the storm grew closer to the centre, dragging me in.
I woke to the sound of thunder. It was a loud clap, louder than the previous ones that failed to wake me. I practically fell out of my boat as I jolted upright, banging my head on the bench inside. Around me was insanity. The waves were taller than me, and with each one I could feel the boat getting dragged steeper and steeper, then fall crashing into the valley, covering me with spray as it crashed back to the water. Lightning was striking all around me, the flashes dazzling me for a few moments, leaving me blinded. Two miles from shore, two miles from shore. Could I make it? I guess I had to; else I was certainly not going to live. I cut the net. Anything right now could be sacrificed to save my life. I should have listened to my mum. Suddenly a wave taller than all the rest loomed overhead. I could feel the boat getting sucked into the massive crest of it, until the peak rolled over, taking me down with it. I couldn't see anything; only feel the cold waters around me seep through my fur and onto my skin. The sensation gradually faded until everything was just black. Complete nothingness. Not even my thoughts.
Arc sighed. The day had been far from entertaining compared to the previous day. After getting the ship back in action from the monsoon the previous day, he was left stuck with his crew mates doing nothing in particular. Same as always. He looked up, staring at Rey as he sharpened his blade. It was hardly dull, but Rey was always the perfectionist. It was why he got so good at his position. Probably good enough to replace Arc some day. Maybe… that was why Tralazi put Rey with him anyway. Arc was second in command for the attack force before Rizote left. Naturally he moved up in rank after that, but Tralazi was none too pleased putting Arc in such a powerful place. And he was raising up Rey to replace him. Not like it mattered, he would always be leader of the group to his friends.Something troublin' ya?
Rey lifted his ears, ruffling the fur on his face. He always knew when Arc was bothered, and Arc knew it too.Nothing really, just dull
, Arc replied, straightening out his arms. All of them were feeling the silence as the day drew on. They were used to uneventful days, but usually it didn't bother them. Arc knew Rey was itching to get up and go somewhere too. We can hardly try to go now…
Arc scratched his chin, staring blankly at the floor. He swished his tail to the side, careful not to hit his companion. The last thing he wanted to do was knock his friend overboard.Ya, I know what you mean…
Rey replied once again, sheathing his sword swiftly. They had been trying to escape since they got there, but nothing so far. By now they knew that the captain would be on high alert after such a panicked day yesterday, so they were stuck.
On the top deck, Laen scanned the ocean. He too was feeling the sheer boredom creeping over the ship. He longed for excitement; something interesting to happen. He dropped his wings and put his jaw on the spoke of his wheel, allowing his arms to slump over the remaining handles. The boat wasn't moving too fast, he didn't even have to steer much. Suddenly he lifted his head, his eye catching something strange in the water. Port side, something ebbed above the water, limply hung over a plank of wood. Tilting his head, Laen screeched, indicating to his friends to come up deck. Then he could get orders as to what to do. His friends had higher power.What's wrong, Laen?
Arc called as he and Rey stepped up to the wheel, peering over the ocean. Thing… look live…
Laen spoke, his voice high-pitched and scratchy. Arc had taught him to talk from an early age, but he hadn't picked up language terribly easy.Where?
Arc put his hand to his head to remove the glare from the Chadosian sun, yet still couldn't see. Aye, can't see a thing, Laen, you sure something is there? You have better eyes than me, ya know…
, the dragon screeched again, nudging Arc with his snout. A universal sign in the group. It meant he wanted to fly.Up we go then… Rey, you look after the wheel whilst we're gone.
Arc said, hoisting himself onto Laen's shoulders. He knew Laen well, and he had been riding since before they got taken to this place. Laen spread his wings, leaping off the deck and into the water. It had been ages since they had been flying, and it felt great. Especially on such a dull day. Arc smiled to himself as he felt the cool breeze push his hair from his face, headband whipping him from behind with the turbulence. "Whew!" he cried.
Hey kid, hey!
I moaned at the voices in my head, tossing my head to the side to try and fend them off. There were two of them, and they just wouldn't stop talking. They sounded weird too… one of them I couldn't even understand. I just wished they would go away, couldn't they see I was tired? You alright? Wake up!
I mumbled to myself and wrinkled my face, trying to open my eyes. I felt salt on my fur, and it itched terribly. At least the water was warmer now, though… I opened my eyes together, watching the darkness fade to light. "Huh?" I was in an entirely different place; nothing around me could be recognised. Where was I… in the sea somewhere? I heard a yell from close by and suddenly something lifted me out of the water. I couldn't move my legs yet, but I was waking up fast enough. By the time I could see properly, I was aboard some ship. It wasn't mine. Two grey creatures and a dragon stood in front of me, the insect looking one closest. He was looking me over, occasionally lifting one of my arms or a leg. I couldn't stand yet. Gettof me…
I moaned, trying to flick away the strangers with my tail. One of them looked similar to me, well, my species anyway. But he wasn't moving… did I know him?Hey, hey, it's alright!
The one closest took a step back, offering his hand to me. I took it and stood up, looking him over. He had insect features, insect eyes, insect wings, insect feet and a reptilian tail. Other than that he looked like a mostly human species. Name's Arcaizz, but you can call me Arc, you ok?
Yeah, I guess so,
I coughed, clearing the sea water from my throat. It was coarse, but I would survive. At least I was breathing. Where am I?
The last place you want to be, sadly.
Arc stood back, showing me the view of the ship I was on. It was huge. Two massive cream sails stood out among the wooden deck, stretching out to the heavens. I followed my eyes along them, shuddering at the thought of the height. Little did I know I had to go up there someday. These are my pals, hopefully yours too.
Arc swung his arm round to show them, "Rey is the one with the jacket, and my dragon here is called Laen.
Pleased to meet you, we all chimed in unison, aside from the dragon who just screeched hi.
I told them, shaking each one's hand in turn. Hey, they could end up working for me yeah? I had to be polite. I wish I didn't think that way back then. I wish I never did.Order on deck!
A female voice cried as a beautiful fox-like creature stepped onto the high rail, swinging her blue tail round for balance. She held a whip in her right hand, poised and ready to attack.Good luck
, Arc whispered in my ear as he moved to the front of the deck, looking up at the girl. He looked disappointed, almost sad. I wondered if something was wrong. Then I found out.So, what have we got here?
I felt something shove my shoulder then yank me round to face them. I stood awestruck. The guy now in front of me was absolutely horrifying. He was the same species as me, yet stood significantly taller, at least five inches. His hair was bright pink, yet had an evil look about it. And then his eyes… His eyes were fierce, staring right into mine. Instinctively I dropped my ears, realising he was more than a match for me. I was hardly the strongest man. Thought you could go without talking to the captain, huh? Well I'm Tralazi; I'm head of this ship. And now you work for me.
What makes you so sure?!
I raised my voice and tensed my muscles, trying to make myself look bigger. A natural instinct, yet still part of my ego. It didn't do much but anger him, and I knew that as he whipped me on the ankle. His movements were fast, too. There was no beating him, but I just wouldn't give up. Ow!
You stand a little too tall, say a little too much, you're gonna bite that know-it-all tongue.
Tralazi circled around me, whip cracking in my hand. I tried to follow his direction, but it wouldn't work, somehow he would always make it behind me.Don't worry, I fight dirty
, I snarled, baring my teeth at him when he came to my face.That's what I'm counting on, skipper.
He sneered at me, winding the rope around my neck, no fun otherwise. Now be a good little kitten and act nice, and maybe I will let you have a good job here, how's that?
I yanked at the rope around my neck, trying to pull it off. Tralazi had me tight. No wonder Arc wished me good luck before. He knew this was going to happen. Why didn't he tell me?!Sibare, come here and show the newbie his cell, dear.
At once sir.
The woman stepped down, her pastel fur dazzling me. How could something so beautiful be so dangerous? I asked myself, staring at her pink hair. Tralazi grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and lifted me up to eye level. I spat in his face and he dropped me, but Sibare whipped me hard on the shoulders.Take this trouble maker to his cell. I will have him cleaning in the morning. He's weak but too big for himself. Maybe this will cut him down to size.
I struggled against Sibare as she hauled me through a door and below deck, the steps winding down endlessly into darkness.Coast to coast, I'll take you down in flames!
I yelled up to the captain. But he simply ignored me and shut the door, plunging me into darkness as Sibare flung me into my cell and locked the door. I dropped my ears further and frowned. Would this be where I ended up for the rest of my life…? Trapped in some lonely cell…? I closed my eyes, trying to think of my mother waiting for me on the island. She was right. If only I had listened. Slowly I cried myself to sleep, until nothing could be heard in the deep chamber.
I shuffled in the darkness, lifting my head to see what the noise was. I was still half dozing, just woken up from a terrible nights rest, and my head was killing me.Who's that…?
I whispered, staring towards a soft orange glow outside my cell. The voice was familiar, but sounded sad. Getting up, I staggered over to the entrance to my cage, eyes focussing on the glow and what it illuminated. Arc, that you..?
Yeah, it's me,
he replied, lifting the candle to his face and lifted his right hand to see his keys better. Come on, I got you some breakfast, can't go on an empty stomach,
he said as he opened the cell, swinging the door wide open. Take a seat
. He flopped down onto the floor.
I sat down next to him, crossing my legs and resting my tail over the top of them. Arc had brought me a tray piled high with food. I took it and placed it on top of my tail and tucked in. It had been two days since I had eaten anything.Thought you might be hungry.
Arc smiled at me and leant back against the wall, folding his arms behind his head. Wanna know why you're here yet then?
Yeah… I guess so,
I said in between mouthfuls of food. I watched him as he made himself comfortable, ready to tell me a presumably long explanation. I continued eating as he began.You should first off know that every one of us that you have met so far, besides Sibare and Tralazi, are all captives. We got taken from our own homes to come work on this ship for the captain, and that is how he gets around. Rey and myself are part of the attack force, perhaps the best place to be on this ship, as nothing really happens and we don't get treated half as badly by the captain. He's probably too scared we will fight back, heh. Laen is the navigator for the ship; he just does the mapping and steering really, also another good job. Unfortunately, you got a bad one, and Tralazi chose it on purpose. It's just a way for him to get at us without really doing much, so don't let it get to you for now. Anyway, as I said, since we are all captives, we banded together. There are probably a few others on this ship that we don't know about, but I will find them some day. As a group, we try and break free of this ship, and go back to freedom again. But there is a problem. A long time ago, there was another member to our group. His name was Rizote, and he was perhaps the most valuable member. He was our leader, and one day he led us to fight, and escape. But something went wrong… The last second, one of our team mates got captured. At this stage, Riz was too far to sea to do anything, and I was nearly off the ship. Both of us knew we couldn't leave them, but Riz didn't have a choice but to. He had to flee… and now we are left with me as leader… So far, all of our attempts have been unsuccessful, and meanwhile Tralazi has stalked Riz with all his might. You know, if we were to flee, we could never return home…
Yeah… I know…
I hung my head; the image of my mother waving to me from shore as I arrogantly ignored her flashed through my mind. I felt my jaw grow tighter and my teeth mesh together. I miss her…
We all do…
Arc put his arm around my shoulder and looked to the ceiling. But it just can't happen; Tralazi would find us instantly if we returned… we'd have to find somewhere new…
I still want to get out though…
I looked at Arc, a determined look on my face. I want to join your group.
he smiled back at me. But there will be tough times ahead, like the one you are going to have to face right now. It's induction time, and Tralazi has a lot in store for you. You up to it?
Whatever it takes.
Lets get you kitted out then!
Today, crew, is a good day!
I was standing on the highest deck. A stand had been assembled beside me, and Tralazi was on top of it, prancing around and talking to the crew. I looked at my clothes. Arc had found me some ordinary clothing; a plain cream vest and some grey shorts. He told me that since I was cleaning, I wasn't allowed a jacket like him and Rey were wearing. They wore colourful jackets… jackets with gold rims. I made a point that Tralazi really treasured them. I knew that he wouldn't act the same to me. I was also wearing a red headband. Everyone had to wear one, even Laen, and he was a dragon. He didn't wear clothes. Today, we have a new member! Lets all give a nice warm welcome to our new cleaner, Atai!
I gulped. Tralazi's voice was menacing, and his grin reflected it.
Sibare grabbed my neck with her hand, yanking me off to the side. She smirked as she dragged me up the steps to the top of the stand. Have fun, handsome,
she winked and threw me across the stage, making sure I hit the floor.Oof
I groaned as my chin hit the floor, scraping along it until I came to a halt. Welcome, Atai.
Tralazi took stand in front of me, a large loop of rope around one arm. I looked up, terrified of what was to come.
Another moment of yanking. This time Tralazi had pulled me by the hair up to a stand and was tying me around a pole in the middle of the stage. One arm; my right arm, was left uncovered, but only from the elbow down. I couldn't move. Below, Arc was watching me, Rey and Laen to his sides. Arc was the only one looking up. The others had their heads hung. Possibly in respect? I tried not to make eye contact, but I couldn't help it. Arc shot me a glance of worry as he saw the tears running down my face.Time to make sure you are one of the gang,
Tralazi snarled. This time I wasn't standing up to him. I simply couldn't. Yesterday he had shot through my confidence, and overnight it drained out of my body. I couldn't fight back anymore. Had he done this to everyone? Maybe Arc wasn't treated as badly. He seemed pretty confident. Or maybe he was just brave. Tralazi took my loose arm out and grabbed a stick. I watched as he dipped the stick into a dye; a red one. It didn't make me feel any better.
Tralazi grabbed my wrist and moved swiftly. I felt the ink move through my skin and into my hair follicles. Slowly, the ink travelled up my fur, creating a stripe of red on my arm. I cried in pain. It will be over soon…
I heard Arc whisper. But nobody else heard.
It was over soon. Tralazi had only three colours to use, red, black and dark grey, and it only took him a few tries to get the complete design on my arm. Done.
He grinned at me and showed me my arm. There was a skull on it. And a snake wrapped around it. I cringed, knowing this mark would be with me forever. Enjoy it. You are mine now.
Tralazi smirked once more, cutting the ropes which tied me to my post. I fell to my knees, head hung low. Tears fell to the floor beneath me as I sobbed; people on the deck below dissipating as the show was over. Tralazi walked off behind me. By the way, your job starts now. And the floor looks mighty dirty.
He spat as he walked off, leaving the deck entirely for his own cabin. Arc ran up beside me, putting his arm around my back.
I clenched my fist, letting the bandage around it tighten against my hand. I had been going for a few hours or so now, and my hand was already raw. There was a bandage hidden in a closet in my room which I found whilst cleaning it, so I wrapped it around my wrist and palm. It did a pretty good job at protecting my hand from the scrubbing, so I figured I would keep it on.
I sighed slightly, unaware of my present company in the room. Flicking my tail left and right as I scrubbed, I moved up to the -blocked- Outside it was beautiful. The sea was sparkling in the sunlight, and we were sailing past a small island. The trees were ripe with coconuts, and I could see the soft white sand had no impurities, even from here. I swiped at the window with the cloth, watching the water rain down on my beautiful island. It wasn't truly mine, but it was where I wanted to be. Anywhere away from this ship. I closed my eyes and cringed softly, trying to fight back tears.I'm sorry…
A voice whispered from behind me. I turned around, shocked that I could miss somebody sitting in the room so close to me. Arc looked up at me. Even though his eyes lacked pupils, I could sense the sadness and guilt in them.Why are you sorry…? It was my fault…
I looked away from him, dropping the cloth back into the bucket, spraying water and bubbles everywhere.I just am… I shouldn't have gone after you when I saw you in the ocean there…
I would have been dead if you left me, Arc.
I know but…
I sighed once more and walked over to Arc, sitting down beside him on the bench. It doesn't matter anyway, what's past is past…
I relaxed my shoulders and folded my ears flat against my head. Arc joined me in the shoulder slumping and rested his head on the wall behind him.I'll get you out of here… I promise.
He whispered; eyes closed. I watched him silently.I know… thank you…
I replied, turning my head back to the -blocked-I should have gotten you out whilst I could…
he continued, Now it's too late… if you escaped now, he would look for your again. Usually he doesn't but now you're marked…
You tried your best, and that's all I can ask. Besides, I wouldn't have made such a good friend if you didn't bring me here.
I tried to smile, but it didn't come out right. I think I will just stay here… stay here until we can all get out together. I know I'll never die alone because of all of you...
I really did want to get out. Very badly. And I still do. But right now I want to watch the tide roll in with my best friends.