Centuries Deep (Peregrine x catalyst)

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
Original poster
SECURITY DEPARTMENT
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Looking for partners
Posting Speed
1-3 posts per day, Multiple posts per week, One post per week, Slow As Molasses
Online Availability
On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
Primarily Prefer Male, No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
Somewhere off the far coast of the Kyzan Peninsula, the noonday sun had just managed to peek its way out from between a scattered layer of clouds. The deep blue water was calm, stirred only by a gentle wind, and the faint sparks from the reflection of the sun glinted against the waves.

In the distance, white sails began to rise on the horizon like little white clouds. A blue and gold ship gradually materialized along the horizon under the sails, traveling smoothly through the small waves. On the ship’s deck, numerous people moved about like small ants, hauling ropes that caused the sails to twist further into the wind. Gradually, the prow of the ship began to turn, revealing a silhouette highlighted against the blue sky.

Perched somewhere in the middle of the wooden bowsprit, which stretched from the prow of the ship out far over the glistening blue water, a dark-haired man with a sand-colored overcoat and tall black boots was balanced among the swaying ropes of the jib sails. Despite the obvious precariousness of his location, he stood with confidence, back straight, knees slightly bent to absorb the motion from the swaying of the ship, one hand loosely curled around the rope that ran away behind him towards the foremast. His eyes scanned the horizon in front of the ship, back and forth across its dark line, even as it seemed like he was only ever an instant away from toppling into the water below.

Far more sturdily planted on the deck of the forecastle, a dark skinned young man with long dreads curled up into a bun on the back of his head stood with a rope coiled in his grip. His eyes remained trained on the man perilously perched out on the slanted wooden pole. Every time the man swayed too far to one side or the other, his observer would twitch, looking as though he was about to throw the rope down into the water.

This was clearly far from the first time that man had adopted this dangerous traveling location, and if the young man with the rope’s attitude was anything to go by, it would also not be the first time he’d fallen from the pole into the water below, should his feet suddenly slip. For his part, the man on the pole seemed completely ignorant of his avid looker-on, instead far more interested in the empty horizon.

Just as the scene seemed to be settling into a calm, endless loop, it was suddenly disrupted by the sound of booted feet racing up wooden steps, before landing heavily on the forecastle deck. “Cap’n,” a distinctively feminine voice called out. “Simun says we gettin’ close, ‘n you should… uhhh, c-come down ‘n help.” Despite the small stutter that interrupted her words at the notion of having to give the man something even resembling an order, the black-skinned woman still managed to relay her message in its entirety.

Standing on the bowsprit, Varen let out a small sigh, his eyes tracing over the horizon one last time. Frankly, he’d been hoping that their target, a ship in the service of the Temple of Life, would have appeared before any of his officers came to find him to get any more information.

It wasn’t as though it was unreasonable of them to want more information from him. After all, Varen had done little more last night than throw down some coordinates and the statement ‘we’re boarding a ship’, before he was gone, racing up the ropes to join Jake in the crow’s nest and leaving his officers behind to redirect their route. No, it was instead that he simply didn’t want to have to go through the effort of filling them in on the details. His officers, as skilled as they were and as useful as they were to have them around, had the annoying habit of wanting to actually know what was going on, even if they got absolutely no say in the matter. It might not be the case on any other ship, but here on the Barracuda, Varen’s word was absolute law. But damned if that didn’t stop them from pestering him half to death with questions, and comments, and opinions after every decision he made.

Behind him came the sound of nervous fidgeting. “Cap’n?”

“Yes, yes,” the man replied lazily, pivoting on the spot and weaving his way back to the deck with the lithe sort of grace more commonly found in felines than men. A second later, and his own boots struck solid wood, creating a resonant thump and a yelp of indignation from someone inside the forecastle. Varen blatantly ignored the noise, instead staring at the two dark skinned people in front of him.

His gaze turned to the man first, one eyebrow raised. “You can drop the rope now, Kill. I’m not going to fall overboard anymore, promise.”

There was a faint grunt of assent from the man, before the rope clattered to the deck. That earned a snort from Varen. “Not there. Put it away, back wherever the fuck you got it from.”

The man hastily bent over to pick up the rope, before turning to stride away.

“And you don’t have to watch me next time!” Varen called after the man’s retreating back, catching nothing but a faintly mumbled “...Orders,” before Killian dropped down to the main deck.

Varen snorted again. “Of course,” he complained, before turning to the square-jawed, masculine Zamaiya, who appeared to have been watching his conversation with Killian with something bordering on fascination. “And where’s Simun?” Varen asked, a tinge of impatience in his voice.

Zamaiya snapped back into focus, one hand reaching up unconsciously to tug nervously at one of her own black dreads, which had been carefully wrapped in thin red twine. “Your quarters, cap’n.”

“The fuck he doing in my room?” Varen asked, but started moving far before Zamaiya could ever get a chance to respond. One step, and he was already running, hurtling towards the railing that fenced in the forecastle deck, before vaulting over the wood and dropping to the main deck, rolling forward to maintain his momentum. A few of his crew turned to watch as the man continued to dash his way across the deck, completely disregarding the stairs and instead choosing to bound up the wall, landing on the quarter deck and then racing further up to the sterncastle deck before ultimately barreling through the door into the captain’s quarters, slamming the door shut behind him.

In the wake of his hurricane-like passage, the various crewmembers gradually returned to their own jobs.



Even though Varen’s quarters had almost the entire back wall made up of windows, staring back at the wake of the ship’s passage, it was still dark compared to the brilliant light that shone down on the deck. All the same, Varen was able to instantly spot the five other silhouettes waiting for him in the room. They’d gathered around a medium sized round table, with a map spread across its surface. Small daggers had been stabbed through the corners of the map, pinning it to the table so that it wouldn’t go sliding away with the ship’s movement.

Despite his affected indignation to Zamaiya earlier, Varen wasn’t surprised his officers had chosen to gather here. Other than the galley in the forecastle, Varen’s quarters were the largest independent room in the whole ship. Even with all the staples of a standard bedroom, such as a bed and dresser, there was still more than enough room in the space for a set of bookshelves, a wide couch under the window, and a round table more than large enough to seat six. There was, undeniably, no better room to hold a meeting.

All of his officers turned to stare at Varen as he slammed his way into the room, before flopping down on one of the chairs around the table, legs sprawled out wide in front of him. He waved his hand in a lazy manner, indicating for things to proceed.

“We’ve arrived at the coordinates you gave, chief,” the tall, blonde haired Simun said, his eyes trained on his captain. “Care to explain what we’re going to be doing here now?”

“I told you,” Varen said, head tilted against the back of his chair and eyes half closed as though disinterested in his Sailing Master’s words. “We’re going to be attacking a ship.”

“What ship?” Came the almost instantaneous reply from Dahlia, Varen’s Master Gunner. She was leaning forward across the table, staring intently at Varen with her dark, double lidded eyes. “And why?”

Internally, Varen shook his head. He would swear that his officers practiced this while he wasn’t looking. Then again, that also assumed that they’d be able to guess his answers, which was a bet he’d never take. Like now, for instance.

“A ship from the Temple of Life. There’s someone on board I want, and we’re going to go get her.”

Yes, there were the dumbfounded sets of expressions that he liked to see. Varen would have burst out laughing at them, if it wasn’t for the fact that he didn’t want them to think he was joking. No, Varen was deadly serious about this particular escapade, and molded his expression into a grim mask to make that abundantly transparent. Anyone who got in his way would be thrown overboard without a second thought, allies and enemies alike.

The first to recover from the bombshell he just dropped was the only other woman in the room. Taliah, his black-clothed Quartermaster, was, as ever, lurking in a shadow in the corner of the room, leaning against the wall with her arms folded across her chest. “You hate the Temple of Life.” It was a statement. Everyone on board knew that Varen and anything to do with the Goddess of Life mixed about as well as water dumped on an oil fire. Her actual question, on the other hand, was implicit. Why are we kidnapping someone from there?

“I do,” Varen agreed, the casual nature of his words belying the flash of rage that passed through his eyes. “I’m taking their Oracle anyways.”

This new piece of information caused the youngest member of the room, a tall, pale-skinned, black haired young man in unexpectedly neat clothes, to blanch. “You’re going to kidnap an Oracle?” he said, eyes wide with traces of poorly suppressed panic. “The Temple will never let you go for that.”

Varen’s cold eyes almost instantly locked on to Hind. “And?” he asked, as all the other eyes in the room turned towards the young man. Hind cowered backwards slightly, choking on his own spit.

“What kind of ship?” Dahlia’s voice was the one that redirected everyone’s attention away from the unfortunate young man, turning their focus back to the matter at hand. “And what are their defenses like?”

“Does it matter?” came a soft, almost liquid voice from the back of the room, from a thin man of indeterminate age, who was lazily sprawled across Varen’s sofa. The Battle Master offered a limpid smile to his Captain when Varen’s gaze turned towards him. Varen couldn’t help but smile back approvingly.

Dahlia, on the other hand, was nowhere near so amused. She offered an unamused glare in Samiel’s direction. “It does, if you’d like anyone other than the captain walking away from the battle in one piece. We need to make appropriate preparations.”

Simun didn’t bother to respond, instead maintaining his easy smile. Dahlia seemed to take that as her win, as she turned away from the other man triumphantly to stare expectantly at Varen. He flapped his hand through the air, as though chasing off a fly.

“There’s nothing to worry about. They’re on a merchant’s brig, and this isn’t an officially sanctioned trip. They’ll be easy pickings.”

“If this isn’t an officially sanctioned trip,” came Simun’s deep voice, his head tilted slightly to the side. “How do you know they’ll be here?”

Varen only smiled.



Far above the deck of the ship, a bony man with a bald head was clinging to the edge of the crow’s nest with one hand, using his other to shade his eyes from the glare of the sun. The scope that was often left behind in the nest, roped to the mast to keep it from rolling away, was left unused.

The sound of rustling fabric and a faint grunt interrupted his survey, and he turned around to see the black-haired Varen scrambling into the nest.

“Captain,” the man greeted.

“Jake,” Varen responded in turn, bobbing his head slightly in greeting. “Any signs yet?”

“None, sir,” Jake replied dutifully, before adding, “I would have shouted if there were.”

“Smart ass.” Varen clapped him heavily on the back, which almost caused the man to overbalance in surprise. A second lazy shove from Varen sent him stumbling backwards instead, where he reassuringly grabbed on to the mast to stabilize himself.

Varen had already picked up the scope for himself, using it to scan along the horizon in a couple lazy sweeps. However, his survey was interrupted once more by Jake, who appeared unperturbed at his Captain sending him for a brush with death only moments ago. “Are you sure there’s a ship coming? The water’s deserted, and from what I know, we’re not on a popular sailing route. Might not see anyone for days.”

“I’m sure,” Varen responded, disdaining to elaborate further. Despite that, the Captain of the Barracuda was unable to suppress his impatience, lifting his scope to scan the horizon again. This matter was far too important to him for him to put in anything less than full effort.

Jake didn’t question him further, instead walking over to the other side of the crow’s nest to continue scouting.

The two men stood in silence while the sun slowly crawled its way through the sky. Down below, the call for lunch had long since come, but, since Varen didn’t move from his vantage point, Jake didn’t descend down to the deck either. At some point, a lanky man in white clothes had climbed up to deposit two wooden plates for the men, but Varen had continued to ignore the bowl full of materials of questionable origins, even as Jake scooped it up, swallowing mouthful after mouthful as he continued to scout.

“There!” Varen’s abrupt shout was accompanied by an equally abrupt movement, as the man all but literally threw himself over the side of the crow’s nest. He barely caught a halyard line that ran from the edge of the sail, slowing his descent for a second before the momentum of his fall ripped his grip loose again. If it wasn’t for the fact that he didn’t want to risk damaging the deck, Varen might not even have bothered to slow his fall.

Far above his head now, he heard Jake shout. “Look out below!”

Far below him, the people moving about the deck didn’t even bother to look up, instead quickly scampered over to the railings on port and stern. Only once they were safely out of the way did they tilt their heads to watch the rapid descent of the man that looked as though he was falling from the sky.

Varen managed to catch a couple more ropes on his way down, clipping the edges of the ratlines after passing the lower topsail. When he finally reached the deck, he landed accompanied by a noise reminiscent of wet wood splintering. A few of the observers winced, but most began to return to their former positions.

Varen didn’t give them the chance. Barely taking the time to shake out his legs as his bones began to snap back into position, Varen began to shout. “Hold! All hands on deck! Target on the horizon!”

Reacting to the shout, people began to appear from everywhere, scampering about the ship. Varen’s officers were attracted by his shout, and quickly began to take charge. One command overlapped the next.

“Gunners below deck! Prep the cannons!”

“Spare hands to the ropes!”

Varen also wasn’t slowed down one bit. “Simun! Aim for a port-side assault! We don’t want them trying to flee to shallow waters!”

“Aye, chief!” came a quick response, before Simun began to call his own commands. Several sailors on the lines began to haul at the ropes, causing the ship to gradually turn to the left, drifting closer to the foggy outline of the Kyzan peninsula.

Varen ignored him, instead turning to scan the deck. “Where the hell is Ashana!”

A chestnut-haired figure appeared at his side, almost bubbling over with excitement. “I’ll help!”

Varen shoved the overenthusiastic young woman away from him, towards the rear of the ship. “Help by tracking her down, and organizing everyone who has wind and water prayers prepared. I want this to go down cleanly. If this ship gets away, there’ll be hell to pay!”

“Yes, sir!” Henrika shouted, before scampering away to find her mentor.

“Sam!” Varen continued, finally tracking down his battle master. The thin man leaned over a railing, a wide smile on his face. His tongue flicked out to lick his lower lip. “Organize a raiding party. We’re going to be boarding. High precision battle prayers only. If anyone so much as scratches our target, I’ll see them feeding the fishes before dusk. Other than our target, show no quarter. I care not for their survival.”

Samiel nodded, his head disappearing back behind the railing. Valen’s eyes continued to drift, thoughts racing through his head. “Braith! In case you didn’t hear, we’re boarding. You’re not on the cannons this time. Get our grapplers ready!”

“I heard, captain!” came a voice from below deck, before a copper haired woman jumped up onto the main deck, thick ropes coiled around her body, with heavy metal grappling hooks swaying from one end. She quickly jogged over to the port railing, and began to tie the ends of the grappling ropes to heavy metal anchors.

“Dahlia! Fire at will, but that ship cannot sink until we’re done with it.” A wordless shout came from below deck, the woman giving acknowledgement that she’d heard the command. The brig would be smaller than their own ship, and the cannons on the orlop deck would prove far more accurate than those on the main deck. Varen continued. “Feel free to take out the masts. The brig need not be seaworthy by the time we’re done with her.”

As the crew continued to scramble, the white sails that Varen had spotted from the crow’s nest finally became visible from our main deck. His eyes practically burning with excitement, Varen issued one final command. “And someone change our goddamn colors!”

At the base of the mainmast, a stocky, red-haired sailor began to haul at a thin cable, causing the plain blue flag of the Taessic Island Nations to begin to drop. It would only take a couple minutes before a blood red flag with skull and crossbones was hoisted in its place.

But the flag wasn’t the only colors on the ship that began to change. As soon as Varen finished issuing his orders he turned and climbed up to the quarter deck, pausing at an unremarkable spot only a couple feet in front of the mainmast. His hand sunk onto the wooden deck, before a ripple of darkness began to spread from his fingers. The ship’s blue and gold wood was stained into a midnight black, but the darkness continued to climb up the masts, turning everything onboard into inky darkness. However, when the darkness reached the sails, it began to spread across them in a shade of crimson just as brilliant as the flag itself, like the sails had been soaked in blood.

It wasn’t until the ship had completely changed color that Varen stood again. Behind him, Samiel tossed over a heavy sword, who’s back had been cut into sharp sawteeth. Varen grinned viciously.

“I’m coming for you,” he said, voice echoing. But only Varen knew that he wasn’t talking about the oracle onboard the Temple’s ship.
 

catalyst

yours truly
Invitation Status
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Posting Speed
Multiple posts per day, 1-3 posts per day, 1-3 posts per week, One post per week, Slow As Molasses
Online Availability
weekends
Writing Levels
Intermediate, Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
Male, Female,
Genres
Romance, fantasy (high, modern, medieval, whatevs), modern, darker themes, slice-of-life, fandom, adventure, etc. I'm pretty much open to anything so just throw any plot ideas you may have my way.
"Hey, Marv?" The voice of a young man called out.

"Yeah." Another answered, though this man was hardly vested in the other. Khalid was but a boy in Marv's eyes - inexperienced, and hardly worth the time answering his many, many questions that common sense could easily do so. As such, the raised tone suggesting concern was not noted.

"...What ships cross routes with us again...?"

"No ships cross us, lad. Pay attention the first time we tell ya somethin'."

Through the spyglass, Khalid checked the horizon again. Maybe it wasn't turning towards the direction of The Bourdelia, and he'd be saved from a fifth knock to the head. But that, unfortunately, wasn't the case and he took a breath to prepare himself for the ire of his superior as he looked through the glass. Only, what he swore was a Taessic flag was now representing pirates. And with complete bewilderment, Khalid witnessed the entire ship shift from blue and gold to black and silver... and deep, deep red.

"Beware the Barracuda, for it haunts the seas. And when it shows its true colors, know it is its skeleton that's coming for you."

"B-Barracuda..."

"What now?"

"Barracuda! Sir! You need to look at this."

The navigator, quite alerted, looked at Khalid with narrowed eyes before snatching the spyglass.

"Oh, shit." It was with a quickness with which Marv moved that Khalid had never seen before. "Dion! Dion! Move your ass and turn this ship around!" The entire crew of the merchant's brig moved in the same manner as the captain was alerted of the danger ahead. The Barracuda was legendary. The existence of the wicked frigate was doubted by many, believed to be a mirage or trick of the mind to those not adapted to the sea. But within its many legends lied warnings, proved true to the very few who ever lived through such a tale. As such, no line of defense was spared on The Bourdelia as its crew took up arms and the sails were set for shallow waters. No brig could stand against a frigate with just its limited amount of guns, but God of Storms be with them... maybe they could outmaneuver the blasted thing and see their true objective safe.

-------​

Metal chimed, followed by yells meant to invoke a warrior's spirit. The booms of cannons were deafening and piercing, but not constant. The intent to sink the ship was clear - but not before they got what they wanted. It didn't take long for the pirates to board the brig - so close yet so far from the waters that would save them.

This wasn't a simple pirate raid resulting from luck. Nobody was supposed to know that the brig had set sail, much less know its route. But it didn't serve anyone to dwell on how they'd been discovered. Dutiful to the Oracle of the Goddess of Life, Myran drew her daggers as the chaos ensued above the half-deck. Five of their accompanying guards ran up the stairs while three stayed behind in the first room. The two women, meanwhile, ran just a bit deeper into the lower levels, purposeful in direction and careful not to go too deep to see themselves trapped.

Yet, the unfortunate reality was that they were quite outnumbered. The guards from the Temple of Life could only hold off the pirates for so long, and soon it became clear that they had been killed or otherwise subdued. Four pirates approached the women with shadows cast over their smug expressions. With only an exchanged look between the Oracle and her guardian, the pair split one-to-two.

But these were not run-of-the-mill pirates with little to average skills. The Barracuda could have easily been legend for nefarious cunning versus brute strength, but the skill and ferocity with which they fought surprised even Khelida. She could see her and Myran had the same effect - Myran especially, seeing as how she looked rather... puny. Yet her strike was as deadly as her smile was bright. As for the elder woman, well... when she dodged her would-be handlers only to land a hard blow of her own with but a broomstick, she could quite well see the shift in their approach.

As four fell to three, then two... a fifth slipped into the match. As skilled as Myran was, she came to a disadvantage. Catching a glimpse of new metal manifested a newly rejuvenated force within Khelida, and she swiftly immobilized her last foe before throwing a dagger at the fifth, aimed at his shoulder.

"Don't you dare draw a drop of her blood!" Like a gong amid a bustling city, Khelida's voice was the finale of the struggle. It was a powerful authority she held - just enough to elicit hesitancy from the pirate as he eyed her and then the red-headed woman underneath his blade. A daring command from someone who ought to surrender, no?
 
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Reactions: Peregrine

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
Original poster
SECURITY DEPARTMENT
Invitation Status
Looking for partners
Posting Speed
1-3 posts per day, Multiple posts per week, One post per week, Slow As Molasses
Online Availability
On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
Primarily Prefer Male, No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
Varen laughed the moment he saw the sails of the ship in the distance suddenly twist with the wind, the ropes that bound them firmly in place released abruptly. The ship began to jackknife a second later, twisting the ship towards shore. Her crew was obviously quick and competent, the tacking maneuver pulled off cleanly, in a way that kept the ship from losing too much of its momentum. They clearly intended to run. But Varen had no intention of letting them get away, no matter how proficient they were.

“Ashana!” he shouted again, but this time his shout earned him a response.

“...Yes.” The toffee skinned woman was clearly bitter about Varen’s commanding shout, but she still responded. It wasn’t as though Varen gave her much choice. Either she served him, or he’d toss her overboard and go find another Storm Priest.

Varen ignored her silent gripes. He was far too focused on catching this ship to bother with Ashana’s whining right now. “Speed us up. And get Henrika and the others on slowing down their ship.”

“Yes, sir! I’m on it!” Henrika who had appeared at Ashana’s side, quickly piped up in excitement, before racing over to a black haired, pale skinned woman who was staring up at the sails. Henrika tapped her a couple times on the back, and the two women quickly turned to face each other, hands cradled. Their eyes glowed blue, before a swirling burst of magic exploded away from the Barracuda flying towards the ship in the distance.

As though finally deciding not to be outdone by her apprentice, Ashana also took action. She lifted her hands into the air, her eyes transforming into a glowing, milky, icy blue. Aquamarine runes began to crawl up her forearms, before blooming on her palms like a flower. A second later, and the wind flying around the ship began to pick up, causing the ship to lurch forward as it sped up. The ropes holding the sails in place began to groan in complaint.

Under the influence of Storm magic, the Barracuda shot forward through the waters like an arrow, rapidly gaining on their target, whose sails had already begun guttering under the influence of Henrika’s interference. Around the ship’s base, unnaturally giant waves were crashing against the hull, causing the ship to sway from side to side.

On the port side of the ship, Braith had lined up along the railing with three others, each with a heavy grappling hook firmly held in their hands. Their eyes were unerringly locked on the approaching ship. Braith swirled the grappling hook at her side, clearly ready to throw it at the first opportunity that presented itself.

“Fire in the hole!” Dahlia’s voice marked the beginning of the battle, before, an instant later, the throaty blast of cannonfire echoed across the water. The cannonball flew forward with vicious accuracy, smashing through the rudder of the fleeing ship with unerring accuracy, barely even clipping the side of the hull before it was swallowed up by the dark water.

The Barracuda continued to gain.

As Varen watched the approaching ship, his hand crushing the handle of his blade to the point that his knuckles had long since turned white. Behind him and Samiel, twelve other warriors had lined up, weapons clasped tightly in their grips, little in the way of armor covering their sailor’s gear. Varen only glanced back at them for a second, but found toothy smiles awaiting his eyes. Yes, his boarding crew was ready to go.

“Capture any women you find,” he ordered, voice surprisingly calm over the shouts of the rest of the crew, who were still carefully guiding the storm-driven Barracuda closer to the brig. “If any of you so much as think you can get away with dealing permanent damage to my target, I’ll make sure you know exactly how wrong you are.”

The boarding crew shivered slightly at Varen’s icy words, but he laughed a second later. “Anyone else is fair game!”

That earned a shout of approval from the people behind him.

As the Barracuda finally pulled up alongside her target, Braith let out a shout. In almost perfect tandem, four ropes went flying out, one flying wide to hook around the beam that supported the lowest front sail, the others accurately landing and biting into the railing of the brig.

Varen was moving before Braith’s shout had a chance to stop echoing through the air, his feet moving lightly and swiftly to balance his way across the rope before the crew on the other boat could have a chance to sever the cords. He didn’t bother to look backwards as he boarded, knowing that his fighters would be following along behind him.

However, only a second after Varen started crossing, another blast of cannon fire echoed across the ocean. The ball whizzed only a couple of feet away from Varen, nearly upsetting him from the rope, before it struck heavily against the rear mast. Accompanied by the sound of splitting wood, the mast began to topple over.

“Goddammit, woman!” Varen bellowed, but the unnatural grin that was spreading its way across his face raised into question how upset he actually was about nearly being obliterated by a shot from his own crew.

And then Varen was among the crew, his sawtoothed sword flashing out to smoothly parry the clean, white blade that was standard issue for warriors of the Temple of Life. A second later, and it flew to the side, hacking the man’s arm off at the shoulder. Blood sprayed across the deck as the man screamed, clasping his good hand around his shoulder and screaming. Varen kicked his chest, sending him toppling backwards.

It was clear that everyone on board the ship already knew what fate awaited them, because they fought recklessly, all of them looking as though they’d trade their own lives if it meant taking one of the pirates down with them. Unfortunately for them, Varen’s crew was far more familiar with such brutal brawls. Even though Varen hadn’t brought his entire crew to board, the fourteen of them could easily fight two to one with normal guards. Considering that many of the people onboard were sailors and not warriors, they didn’t stand a chance against Varen’s boarding party.

Through the sounds of shouts and screams, another blast of cannonfire sounded. This time, the ball tore through the front of the ship, snapping apart the bow. The chunk of iron was aimed high enough that it didn’t hit the hull, but still caused a shower of splinters to rain through the air. The brig certainly wouldn’t be sailing anywhere else.

The fight was rapidly drawing to a close as Varen continued to roll through the battlefield like a tidal wave. For the most part, he was disinterested in the battle, his eyes scanning the female sailors that had been subdued and captured by his own crew. A faint glow of frustration shone in his eyes.

And then the battle was over. Six pirates had surrounded a group of five women, while the others kept a sharp eye on the few among the brig’s crew that had chosen to surrender rather than fight. Varen stormed over, his eyes quickly scanning the women. All of them unconsciously dropped their heads, unwilling to meet his gaze.

“Not them,” Varen stated, his voice faintly hoarse. “Jerrick. Lilli. Taivo. Drace. Search this place. I don’t care if you have to tear this place apart plank by plank. Get the gunners and riggers over here as well if you need to. Find her!”

At Varen’s shout, the people scattered. Other than a few that were left behind to guard the surrendered prisoners, the majority of the raiders crossed back over to their own ship, rounding up their weaker combatants who would start looting the brig for all she was worth. At worst, there had to be several weeks worth of food and supplies in the cargo hold. At best, well, there were plenty of people out there who would pay top dollar for

The four that Varen had named earlier, however, began to search the ship without delay. Led by a strong, blonde woman who held onto a massive morningstar, they quickly dropped their way into the belly of the ship.

Varen was scanning the deck, checking for anything out of place. The longboat was still securely roped to the deck, which means unless the Oracle was crazy enough to jump overboard this far out from shore, she was still on the ship. It was only a matter of time until he found her. He paused for a second, leaning against the railing as he squeezed the banister so hard the wood began to creak.

“Should I search?”

Varen turned around, staring at the expressionless brown haired woman who had silently approached him.

Varen’s head shook side to side. “This isn’t a smuggler’s ship. There’s no place for her to hide. Just watch the supplies. Make sure no one’s running off with anything that…”

There was the sudden sound of metal against metal, muffled by several layers of wood. It was followed a second later by a heavy smashing sound. Varen grinned, his fingers curling around the hilt of his sword once more. “Sounds like they found something. Sam!”

The thin man was moving even before Varen had shouted, his lean form dropping into the ship’s hold. Varen followed behind him, his pace somewhat slow, as though to purposefully contradict the excitement he felt bubbling up within him.

The sounds of fighting echoed unnaturally in the belly of the ship, as though there were multiple fights taking place at once. However, even as he moved deeper into the ship, the shouts and clashes began to lessen in number. The fight was drawing to a conclusion, and Varen was more than confident in the result.

However, less than a second later, his steps were interrupted by a commanding shout, followed by a high-pitched scream of pain. If it wasn’t for the fact that Varen knew Samiel’s voice, he would have assumed it was a woman getting stabbed.

Stepping around a stack of crates, Varen’s every step caused a commanding echo to resound through the space. He stared at the scene in front of him, his eyes hard.

Four of his warriors were lying unconscious on the ground, unconscious or dead. From this distance, Varen couldn’t tell, nor did he care. Instead, he was staring at the scene’s remaining three participants. A woman with warm brown skin was staring aggressively at Samiel, who had his sword stably held to the neck of a brilliantly red haired woman, despite the dagger that was embedded in his shoulder, blood steadily dripping down his arm.

Samiel didn’t look at him, his eyes instead pinned on the other woman. However, he still nodded slightly, greeting Varen. “Captain.”

Varen, too, only had eyes for her. Even without her commanding presence or any sign of Temple gear, Varen knew exactly who he was looking for. He’d found the Oracle.

“Don’t I dare, hm?” he asked, a dangerous glint in his eyes. “Don’t. I. Dare. And yet, there’s a dagger in the shoulder of my sailor.”

Samiel’s face twitched in shame.

“Fine,” Varen abruptly said, his arms spreading slightly to the side in a mocking imitation of surrender. “Come along obediently, little Oracle, and I won’t dare.”
 

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Footsteps resounded through the wooden room. Khelida's eyes were the only ones to fall upon the man as he approached from behind supply crates. She didn't need to hear the other call him captain. The way he held himself, how he spoke, and the intensity in his eyes... a few well-spent moments observing and she had his status figured out, for he "did not dare." Yet there was this pull in her stomach, a nagging feeling that there was more to this man.

Khelida's upper lip curled into a subtle sneer, gaze unyielding and stance like graceful iron even still as the captain threatened her. Myran watched on the sideline - surprisingly the obedient one at this point - as she was still in the pirate's grasp, knowing full well that moving even a centimeter would risk the blade digging into her a neck. Not that a paper cut was much of a big deal...

Letting the broom fall to the floor, Khelida paced a few slow steps to the side. Assessing the damage she and Myran had done, and imagining the damage the pirates had done to the ship's crew, her expression was far from readable.

"Tell me, son of the sea," she began, voice cool and eyes once more meeting the captain's, "what it is you want exactly." It wasn't uncommon for people to seek her counsel or as a tool for treasure hunting. Which would be his reasoning, she wondered - or would it be something else entirely? Wiping out an entire temple's ship held, at the very least, complete disregard for the Goddess of Life, yet Khelida did not see... anything. All she felt was the pull in her stomach.

She intended to find out why.
 

Peregrine

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The oracle's intense eyes seemed to have no effect on Varen. Instead, a faint chuckle rumbled out from deep in his chest. "You're the Oracle," he replied instead, his voice still tinged with a trace of ironic humor. "Isn't it your job to figure that out?"

His hand stretched out to the side, fingers snapping in Samiel and Myran's direction. Appearing rather reluctant, Samiel removed his sword away from Myran's neck. His face unconsciously crumpled into a grimace as the movement caused another stream of blood to come from the dagger embedded in his shoulder, turning his already darkened shirt an even more bloody shade of red.

Varen snorted. "Go get yourself treated," he instructed, his voice filled with ridicule. Quietly, Samiel disappeared from sight.

"Come along, little Oracle," Varen finally continued, flagrantly turning his back on both women, before starting to walk out of the hold. "I'm sure you'll get your answer soon enough."

As for the four bodies still lying crumpled on the floor, Varen ignored them. Someone would drag them out with the rest of the goods in the hold, if they didn't wake up and walk out on their own in that time.



Up on deck, pirates were scampering in every direction, every action carefully under the watchful eye of Taliah. At some point, a grey haired man with dark skin had joined Taliah on the doomed brig, a long-haired cat swaying on his shoulders with every step he took. He turned towards Varen the moment he emerged, before grabbing a passing pirate on the shoulder. "Go start emptying the hold," he instructed, before stepping over to Varen.

"Any good stuff down there?" he asked, before Varen impatiently waved him off.

"Don't care," the dark haired captain replied shortly. "I got what I came here for." He glanced over his shoulder, his eyes skimming over the redhead as though she didn't even exist, before his gaze settled on Khelida.

"After you," he said, gesturing out across the planks that had been laid between the two ships during his absence.
 

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"You're the Oracle. Isn't it your job to figure that out?"

Hm. Testy.

But there was no need to play into it. Myran was released and quickly went to the Oracle, though not without first scowling at her near-death handler. Back at the Oracle's side, she gave a quick look-over before turning to face the two men and watching one leave the room, defeated. It was almost amusing, if they weren't still in a precarious situation.

Khelida said nothing, though, which was interesting. It gave enough for Myran to stay quiet, too, as she followed along up the stairs to the main deck. There, the women saw the wreckage the Barracuda's crew bestowed. No mercy for those who fought against them resulted in very few remaining alive. That included Khalid, but Myran didn't blame him. The poor kid never signed up for any of this. And the fact that most of the survivors were women only further verified that the Oracle was the true treasure sought in this raid. But would they be left to sink with the ship? Take them captive, kill them later?

It was no coincidence that the Barracuda had descended upon the Bourdelia, that they had crossed in these waters. And while Khelida couldn't deny that this captain looked rather... unpredictable, he did not scare her. He was intelligent, not just because he'd managed to find her, but because she saw it. While he could easily just have dumb luck, she had a feeling those sharpened eyes of his were a reflection of a keen mind. He had already provided enough evidence to support that.

Not to mention that feeling that only grew stronger as she passed him to board his ship.

He did not scare her. But that wasn't to say she was underestimating him.

As she set foot on the blackened pirate ship, her hands brushed against its rails as if coaxing it to unfetter its memories. What depths had this legend traveled, how far had it gone to get what it wanted, why -

Within a fleeting second, Khelida was elsewhere. Beside the captain, the pair was looking at a... document of sorts, fire the only source of their light. The writing was in a language she didn't recognize. Ancient? Then suddenly, a shift to the night sky with only twinkling stars in sight, and a feeling that she couldn't quite put a name to, only that it was unsettling.

And back to the ship. Another second, and she turned to look at the captain. Yes, who was this captain... and what was he searching for?

Behind him passed a sailor with black hair and a bad eye, though not bad with the senses as it appeared she had found some of Khelida's divinity tools. Named Nai'a, she was a petty officer charged with preserving the ropes and whatever else was ordered of her. Sneaky, though, and always looking out for the best deal. Khelida's quarter had cards, bones, and other items that otherwise looked like simple trinkets - yet they were nothing ordinary.

Brown eyes coolly met a storm of green and grey. "It would help no one if your crew soiled or bargained away the very tools that could give you your answer. That woman, there," she nodded towards Nai'a, "is holding three ancient scrolls that I am not quite willing to lose." In her gaze was an expectation that the captain would fix it, whether it meant an order to bring Khelida's belongings to her or Khelida herself boarding the temple's ship once more.
 

Peregrine

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As the Oracle crossed the plank over to the Barracuda, Varen fell into step behind her, gladly striding back into his domain. It would take an hour at a minimum before his crew could finish scavenging anything of value from the brig, and got it all safely stowed away in the Barracuda’s hold. In the meantime, Varen had great expectations for the little Oracle he’d brought aboard.

No one on Varen’s crew had a way of guessing how exactly their mysterious captain had managed to track down one small ship in the middle of the ocean. Varen had a strange collection of abilities, his inability to stay dead or injured not the least of them, but prophesying and clairvoyance were not among them. Yet simple coordinates had guided them to the Oracle’s brig with unerring accuracy.

None of them would ever imagine that a spirit hawk of the God of the Hunt had appeared in Varen’s quarters last night, a scroll bound to its legs. A scroll that contained a pair of coordinates, and a promise.

Varen watched the Oracle’s hands lingering over the rails of the Barracuda. What was she seeing? When would it begin?

However, Varen noticed the instant her eyes wandered away from him, and his gaze lazily rolled backwards, catching sight of the short, dark skinned figure of one of his crew members. At the Oracle’s words, his hand immediately stretched out, blocking Nai’a from walking any further forward.

However, rather than speaking to the woman, his gaze once more turned to the brig.

“Taliah.”

Although his words didn’t seem like they’d be large enough to cross the distance between the two ships, especially not with the interference of the sound of water and the other pirates’ shouts and sounds of labor, Taliah’s brown haired head immediately turned in their direction. A second later, and she’d leaped her way across the space between the two ships, landing at Varen’s side.

“Make sure everything on that ship that belongs to the Oracle is safely delivered to her quarters,” Varen immediately instructed. “If anything of hers ends up elsewhere on the ship, I will be holding you personally responsible.”

Varen knew why Taliah was looking at him like that. It wasn't hard to guess. He was the undisputed overlord of the oceans, yet here he was, acquiescing to some woman's request like he’d become her loyal servant. Worse yet was the fact that she hadn’t even phrased her words as a request. Instead, they’d been nothing shy of a demand. Varen was quite certain that no one on his crew would ever have imagined that a person who spoke to him like that would remain safe, let alone get what they wanted.

But Varen didn’t give a flying fuck what his crew, or anyone else around him, thought about this situation. Everything relating to the Oracle was far too important, and there was nothing he wouldn't do if it meant finally reaching his goal. If that meant playing along with a little temple minx for a while, so be it.

Of course, if she ended up crossing his bottom line, then Varen would see her put in her place.

In the end, Taliah didn't end up commenting on the oddity of Varen’s behavior. Instead, her chosen response was far more practical.

“Quarters?”

It was a fair question. The Barracuda was large for a frigate, but it was nowhere near large enough for everyone on board to have a private room. Instead, the men’s quarters were in the back half of the main deck, the women’s the front half of the orlop deck, but when it came to private rooms, they were limited in number. There was one each in the kitchen and infirmary, Varen’s quarters on the sterncastle deck, and then six officer’s rooms on the quarter deck. Five of those belonged to the people Varen had met with earlier that day in his room to prepare for the ship’s attack, and the sixth belonged to the elderly Errik, the black man who had asked Varren about his discoveries only a bit ago, and who was even now doing his job as Boatswain and surveying the looting of the brig.

Given enough time, it would be possible for them to modify the Barracuda to create another private room, back near the infirmary, or in the storage area behind the women’s quarters, but that certainly wasn’t an option right now.

However, Varen barely even had to consider it for a second before his answer became clear.

“Hind!”

This time, his words weren’t quiet, and Varen’s voice echoed through both ships. Varen’s voice was followed by a muffled shout from somewhere deep in the brig, before a black-haired head eventually appeared from within the other ship. His long legs quickly carried him across the gap between the two ships, though he lacked Taliah’s grace.

“Captain?” he asked, saluting neatly.

“Move your stuff down to the holding room in the men’s quarters. You’re back to sleeping with the sailors.” Varen’s voice contained a trace of amusement, but more in the manner of schadenfreude than anything that might let Hind think he was joking.

Hind’s eyes went wide with shock, before a mixture of anxiety and anger flashed through his eyes. “Captain!” he protested, seemingly by instinct. “You can’t-”

Varen’s eyes instantly narrowed into dangerous slits. “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do,” Varen said, his voice low and dangerous. “Anything that isn’t out of your room by the time we set sail is going into the ocean, and if you’re still in there you can go along with it!”

Hind’s mouth opened and closed for a second like a floundering fish, before he finally forced himself to salute. “Yes, sir,” he replied, shooting the Oracle a furious glance before storming off.

As for Taliah, if she was at all bothered by her protege’s sudden eviction from his room, it didn’t show at all on her face. Instead, she glanced at Varen.

“He’s still learning,” she said softly, clearly more concerned about Varen’s threat to throw the man overboard. Then she turned to leave, her eyes already glued back on the figures that were crawling out of the brig’s hold laden with supplies like studious worker ants.

Varen turned back to Khelida, one brow raised slightly as though to ask if she was satisfied.
 
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Well. She could argue that giving her an entire private room was unnecessary. After all, the past two minutes exhibited the authority the Captain held; simply commanding his crew likely would have guaranteed the safety of her belongings, but why not go the extra mile? If anything, it would give peace of mind to the two strangers boarding his ship. Even if this Hind now held a grudge against her...

Though it was strange how the Captain managed to keep a crew. Threats to expel them could be empty, but if they weren't? Fear kept them in line. Khelida supposed it came with the lifestyle, but she also didn't doubt that there was respect mixed in. It reminded her of days spent looking out at the ocean, her mother's voice carrying tales of pirates and the sea. Even legends of the very ship she was standing on now. Lethal was one word to describe the crew, and Taliah moved with a preciseness that could easily fit into that category. In fact, from those crossing the Oracle's line of sight, it seemed that most, if not everyone, could fend for themselves. What sort of talents had the Captain gathered?

When the pair met eyes again, Khelida didn't get in a word before Myran heaved an audible, exaggerated sigh from the sidelines. Watching the Captain watch her friend was... giving her the heebie jeebies, and she made it a point to stick to Khelida's side. "Well, that was nice and all, but what now? Are we to be condemned to four walls?" It would take a bit longer to transfer what supplies and other items they wanted, which also begged the question of what would happen to the captured. Would they be released to venture the sea in the longboat, or would they be killed to satiate the mystery that was the Baraccuda?
 
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Peregrine

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It took slightly over an hour for Varen’s crew to turn over the Bourdeliafrom stem to stern, making sure that they’ve gathered absolutely everything of value from the ship and stored it in their own hold. This included basic supplies of all sorts, including food and water supplies and an assortment of ship’s repair materials, but also included a few good finds, including a stash of weapons and armor that belonged to the knights of the Temple of Life that had died onboard.

Varen certainly had no intention of equipping his own crew with the items, his distaste for anything that had to do with the Temple of Life being just as significant as the fact that they weren’t as effective in the hands of anyone other than a temple-blessed knight, but they would still sell well on the black market the next time the Barracuda made port. As for all the other supplies, they would be one less thing that Errik would have to see the ship restocked with later.

As for Hind emptying the first mate’s quarters, he had complied, albeit reluctantly. After they’d finished gathering most of the obvious items, several sailors had even gone to help him with the effort, laughing as they tossed his stuff into a storage closet in the men’s quarters. It was no secret on the ship that Halma, Dahlia’s fiery young gunner apprentice, was just as likely to spend the night in Hind’s room as she was in her hammock in the women’s quarters, and the crew took great pleasure implicitly and explicitly reminding Hind of his loss. That was, of course, until the frustrated young man suddenly drew a dagger from his waist, and threatened to get all of them involved in his next training session with Taliah. Every one of them immediately shut up, and assiduously helped him to finish moving his belongings.

In the end, the room was left with nothing but a single person bed with under storage, and a small, emptied desk with a wooden chair. Although there was no place for Myran to sleep at the moment, it wouldn’t take much to trade the desk for a spare hammock that could be strung from the ceiling. It would leave the room more than a little cramped, as the space wasn’t really designed to be living quarters for two, but it would at least guarantee that Myran wouldn’t have to spend the night in the women’s quarters.

Varen hadn’t bothered to watch any of the efforts of his crew, either the gathering of supplies or Hind clearing his quarters. It wasn’t that he considered it beneath his dignity to keep track of it all, but simply that he didn’t consider it his job. That was, after all, why he had capable officers working under him. If he couldn’t even leave them alone to settle such a simple matter, what was the point of having them around?

Instead, he lounged up on one of the lowest crossbeams, one leg dangling casually off the side of the beam. His foot occasionally tapped against the furled sail, his entire attitude seeming lazy and casual. He liked this seat because he could see everything that was happening on the ship’s deck from here. Should anything unexpected happen, he was in the perfect position to respond to it instantly. And, even if nothing happened, it still gave him the ability to observe his domain.

When the last of the goods were secured, people began to move across the ship. From behind him, Varen heard someone shout, and saw Simun standing at the ship’s wheel, gesturing him over. Varen quickly crawled his way down the mast, before heading up to his Sailing Maser.

Simun offered him a casual grin. “We’re ready to go, chief. Where to?”

“Away from here,” Varen replied flatly. “Take us out to deeper water. Anywhere will do.”

Simun nodded once, before turning to face the deck.

“Hands on deck!” his loud voice called, and several of the people instantly began to scramble around. Far too familiar with the routine of getting the ship moving, several people were already climbing up the ratlines, preparing to let the sails loose.

Under Simun’s sharp commands, the Barracuda hauled up her anchor and began to move, leaving the slowly sinking Bourdelia behind to be swallowed up by the water.
 

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As the pirates scoured the Bourdelia of its remaining loot, the one named Hind reluctantly transferred his own belongings to the men's quarters. Myran and Khelida weren't sure if they should immediately follow along, but a woman with hair as black as a moonless night soon greeted them with a genuine smile and nodded for them to follow her lead. In typical Chosovi fashion, she had to be the first friend to the newcomers.

"I know it's not really your choice, but welcome aboard," she said as the two women shared a look. "I'm Chosovi. The one getting kicked out is Varen's first mate, Hind." Besides the rarity of private quarters on a ship, it suddenly made sense why Hind was being so sour. It must have been somewhat degrading, since it was a downgrade.

At least they learned the Captain's name, though. Through all of this, he never introduced himself, but Chosovi seemed nice enough even if there was an agenda. Movers passed them to and fro, some carrying Myran and Khelida's belongings to replace Hind's as soon as possible. Yet, they weren't exactly heavy carriers; when all was said and done, the emptied room was hardly filled again. The older woman stood in the doorway with a somewhat apologetic smile. "I'll work on getting ya a hammock, sweetie," she said to Myran. "You're always welcome in the women's quarters though, both of you."

"Thanks," Myran replied. "We're gonna make sure everything's in order here, if that's alright." Less of a request and more just being polite, Myran shot her trademarked cheerful smile, which Chosovi returned with one of understanding and a nod.

"Of course, go ahead and get settled. We'll be movin' soon." With that, the Oracle and her guardian were left alone and took the moment to breathe.

"Is it just me, or was she the only one not givin' us daggers?" Myran said as she slumped in the chair. "When we're supposed to be the ones giving 'em?"

"What did you expect?" Khelida remarked as she began sifting through their things. "Pirates aren't known for their good manners. Don't you remember the ones from that tavern in Havyn?"

"Oh! We crossed 'em when looking for some work, yeah?"

"You crossed them."

"Oh, yeah," the red-haired one snickered as she remembered the card game she cheated in with the small band of pirates. "Well, they deserved it. I still remember the look on that poor kid's face when he lost all his earnings in just a few minutes." The oracle only smiled and shook her head. Taking it as a chance to change the subject, Myran looked up at the ceiling. "So, why are we here? What did you see that made you so easily board?"

It was then that Khelida paused and looked over at her friend. "I... don't have the whole picture yet. But a ship of legend comes after us when nobody else knew our coordinates, and I had a vision? It must be important."

Right then, the ship began moving forward and Myran sighed. "Well, there's no going back now. But Khelida, whatever it is, I don't have a good feeling about it, nor this Varen guy."

Khelida said nothing, but she shared the other's caution.

-------​
Good on her word, Chosovi returned with a hammock in hand and her twin brother, Honovi, to help her move the exchanged desk. It was clear she was much more comfortable doing all the talking, but Honovi wasn't unpleasant. The same could be said about Khelida and Myran, with the latter doing most of the talking.

They were left alone for some time again, and by the time they were called for supper, they had put away what belongings they could and prepared the room to their liking. Khelida briefly wondered if they would be dining with just the captain or be joined by the rest of his crew.
 

Peregrine

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The call for dinner came well before sundown, although 'call' was perhaps an inappropriate term for the inarticulate shout that came from the Barracuda's forecastle, mixed with something that sounded like the inharmonious cousin of a metal triangle, or perhaps simply two swords bashing together. However, the strange shout did have the advantage of somehow managing to pierce through all obstructions, passing not only across the large ship's length, but also down through multiple decks deep into the ship's hold, and up to the far points of the rigging.

The crew's response across the Barracuda was basically instantaneous. Clattering, thumps, loud voices, laughter, and the occasional shout quickly filled the space, as Varen's crew emerged from various corners, many of them spilling out from under the deck and squinting against the bright light of the late evening sun.

Despite their apparent unruliness and roughhousing, the crew lined up in good order along the railing, circling around the main deck. A massive barrel had been rolled from who knows were and set in front of the door that led under the forecastle deck, and an absolutely massive pot had been placed upon it. A bulky man with curly, dark hair and dark tanned skin stood behind the pot, a giant ladle in his hand and a stack of bowls to his side. One by one, the crew would pick up and pass forward a bowl, only to receive a heaping scoop of a questionably brownish green soup from the large pot. Despite its unappetizing appearance, the soup smelled richly of legumes and fish, with a deep, meaty undertone.

After receiving the soup, a younger man with a heavily scarred face standing next to the cook would hand over a slice of hard bread, most commonly placing it directly into the bowl to soak in the soup, and a slice of soft jerky.

One deck up from the gathering crew, an older woman with almost purpleish auburn hair was leaning against the main mast, her eyes trained on the door that connected the hallway for the private rooms to the outside. It was only when the door opened to reveal Khelida and Myran that a soft smile graced her lips.

"Foods on, dearie," she said, without any particular preamble. "It's not a complicated process, but I'll walk y'all through it today if ya'd like the company."
 

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For a time, the Oracle and her guardian were engulfed by the quietness of Meleih, a small village tucked in rural Kyzan. A temple of Life served as the village's beacon as there was little else but rolling green hills, vineyards, and lavender fields. It was rather idyllic, especially when the fog rolled in on cool, early mornings. The perfect simple life - for some. Myran was the first to break after two weeks of stay, growing bored and thus impish. She welcomed and often encouraged anything out of the ordinary to come her way. So when it was time to move again, she highly enjoyed the coastal town of Nevan - but even that was short lived due to the planned voyage.

That being said, she still wasn't sure about this whole being-captured-by-pirates thing. One had to accept the unpredictability of life and the danger within that if their purpose was to protect someone else, especially if that person was an Oracle. Khelida was, of course, wary of their predicament, but Myran tended to be the worrier of the pair. Meleih had been a nice break from constantly traveling, but again, only for so long.

And now... now they were on board of the Baraccuda. A very real boat with very real people. And the chaos was... kind of intriguing? Varen, the far from daft captain, showed some respect by ensuring the safety of their belongings and what privacy he could give. But how would the others act? Myran braced herself for feeling like a hostage, but as they departed their quarters, she felt more like a newcomer than anything. Nobody paid much attention to them until they stepped outside and were greeted by an older woman. They accepted her offer, and as they walked below deck, both women could feel eyes on them.

Maybe not everybody looked their way, but they were the reason for the previous raid. Well, Khelida was. The kindness shown by the twins and now Giana, as she called herself, was somewhat comforting, but it'd be unreasonable to expect that from everyone. Myran wasn't completely bothered by eyes, though. When they stood in line, a man who didn't appear much older than herself didn't know how to check himself, so Myran did it for him. Crossing her arms, she stared at him until he realized what he was doing and, embarrassed, quickly looked away.

"So," Myran began as she looked back to Giana, "is it okay to ask what your story is, or should we wait till we're sitting down and eating?"
 

Peregrine

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Giana smiled graciously at Khelida and Myran’s acceptance, before leading them down the steep set of stairs that connected to the main deck. Perhaps because a few people had already cycled through, the line was currently short enough that the three women could basically step into place immediately from the bottom of the stairs, without having to pass by just about anyone.

As they lined up, Giana rested one hand on the deck railing, smoothly running her fingers back and forth as though the motion was some sort of comforting tic. However, that didn’t stop her from paying attention to the two women who she was supposed to be guiding.

“Oh, my story ain’t that different from most on board,” Giana replied, her voice casual. However, an adept listener would still be able to pick up the slight evasiveness in her as well, if simply from the lack of concrete details. “I got myself in a spot of trouble there was no way I could’a gotten out’a on my own, and was fortunate enough to have someone in the crew help me pull my ass out’a the fire. I don’t know if you gals would’a gotten along with my Ricion, he was a man who knew how to enjoy the wild side’a life, but he was always a gentleman to unfortunate women. ‘Course, his ‘saving’ got the entire duchy hot on our trail, and he ended up forcing the ship to leave port three days early.” Giana laughed lightly, as though recalling a fond memory, before she shook her head. “He was stuck on the midnight shift for the next month after that stunt. But, well, this place has been the closest thing I got to ‘home’ ever since.

“‘Course, not everyone on board has quite that kind’a story. Our Storm Priest is much closer to you gals’ tale. I’m sure she’d be more than happy to regale you with tales of her woeful captivity, if ya give her the chance.”

The food line moved quickly and efficiently. Whether it was due to the intimidating presence of the cook, his arms larger than many of the crew’s thighs, and covered in patterned scars that were still indistinct due to the distance, or a simple fear that they would lose the opportunity to eat altogether if they didn’t behave themselves, even the unruliest of the pirates settled down when they got close to the front of the line, and took their soup obediently. At first, many of them were too busy messing around with each other to notice Giana’s arrival with the ship’s two new ‘guests’, but their arrival didn’t go unnoticed indefinitely.

The first to spot their presence was a familiar blonde haired woman, who was even now sporting a massive black eye that had already crawled its way across her cheekbone and temple from the blow she’d taken that had rendered her unconscious. She froze instantly at the sight of Khelida, nearly spilling her soup from the jerky motion. As a drop of hot liquid spilled over her hand she hissed slightly, before glaring at the two and turning away.

Lilliette’s behavior earned another laugh from Giana. “There are plenty’a people aboard who have a bone to pick with the Temple of Life, but you don’t need’a mind them. You’re Varen’s guests, and none of them dare cross the captain. Worst they’ll do is a bit of childish bullying, and I’m sure you gals are capable of handling that.”
 

catalyst

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"Oh," Myran nodded along as Giana told her story. Caught in something unfortunate, her... husband, or lover, helped her out and landed her a spot in Varen's crew. As vague as her story was, it probably wasn't much different than others' stories on board - as she had said. Though, at the mention of the Storm Priest and her capture, Myran tsked sympathetically. She could only imagine how the priest felt and already found her eyes searching through the crowd to see if she could be picked out. Khelida, on the other hand, found it kind of amusing that Giana was offering another woman's tale as some sort of consolation. She couldn't really blame the pirate, though. Perhaps she just figured it helped to not feel alone, or perhaps the captivity wasn't so "woeful."

As the line moved forward rather quickly, Khelida eventually caught eyes with a familiar face - and a bruising one at that. The hiss caught Myran's attention and looked just in time to catch the evil eye. While Khelida seemed unperturbed, the redhead gave a chuckle of her own. "Oh, we're capable alright. At least with her, though, it might have less to do with religious affiliations and, uh... more to do with that black eye." She shrugged and crossed her arms only to find the same man standing still.

His brown eyes flickered between the two strangers and Lilliette before finally settling on the Oracle. "You did that?" he asked in disbelief. When Khelida nodded, Trey's face morphed into a look that matched his tone.

"And she sort'a.... daggered the scary-lookin' guy," Myran chimed in, "y'know, the one that's always by the Captain? So if you answer to him, he might be in a bad mood for a while." Khelida couldn't help but crack a smile; her friend somehow made helpful tips into playful caveats of real warnings. Now looking like a mixture of surprised, impressed, and a little bit fearful, Trey glanced to Giana before carrying on.

Eventually, they made their way to the front. The man serving the food was large, and while the food didn't look quite appetizing, the smell rather was. What caught Khelida's attention the most, however, were the symbols of her Goddess on his skin. Not just that, but they were branded - something she did not often see. He appeared to recognize the tattoos on her hands as well before meeting her eyes, but Khelida didn't feel it was one of... companionship. As her small trio walked away food in hand, she looked to the older woman. "You say some here have issues with the Temple of Life. Does the cook fall into that category?"
 

Peregrine

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“You stabbed Samiel?” Trey repeated, the look of wide-eyed disbelief on his face only growing greater. Considering for a moment, as though trying to figure out the veracity of Myran’s claim, he surveyed the line of people, only to realize there was no sign of the thin man anywhere on the deck. Decent chance he was still down in the infirmary.

Apparently deciding that there was a good deal of truth to her claim, he sidled backwards slightly, as though hoping to avoid the fallout should some sort of chaotic retribution fall from the sky. Doubtless news that the ship’s battle master had gotten injured by the temple girl would spread over the ship before nightfall, although no one would dare speak about it loud enough that Samiel would catch them.

Giana rolled her eyes at Trey’s backwards step, before offering the same, warm smile to the two women who were accompanying her. “I wonder if he’s gonna insist on a rematch later,” Giana mused, before shaking her head idly. “Either way, looks like you gals will have no problems fittin’ in here.”

The line moved forward a bit more, and the person immediately in front of them stepped aside, soup bowl in hand. Giana immediately moved forward, picking up a wooden bowl from the side of the table, and smoothly placing it under the large soup ladle. The chef immediately dumped the ladle, causing the bowl to fill to a couple centimetres below the brim with a thick, lumpy soup a somewhat off shade between green and brown. Occasional bits of white and richer green peeked out from amid the fluid.

Giana stepped aside, gesturing her two companions towards the waiting bowl. Hers weren’t the only eyes that were trained on the two women at that moment. The people in line behind her were watching, as was the heavily scarred young man who was already holding a couple pieces of bread and jerky. However, the most intense gaze undoubtedly came from the chef holding the ladle. He stared at Khelida with such intensity that it seemed as though it was somehow impossible for him to blink. However, when Khelida and Myran’s bowls were positioned in front of him, he still tipped the ladle, neatly filling the bowl with soup that… looked slightly more gloopy than whatever had ended up in Giana’s bowl, but was otherwise untouched.

To the side, Giana let out a mild hum, before extending her bowl towards the younger man with his hair tied in a long, square braid. A piece of bread and the jerky landed in her bowl.

“The bread normally goes in the soup,” Giana said calmly. “To help it soften, while the jerky normally stays out. I prefer it both in the bowl. You two can ask for whatever ya prefer.”

Moving away from the line, Giana climbed up the stairs to the forecastle, joining several others who were standing or sitting around the area. Most of the group looked like they hadn’t even made it into their twenties.

Glancing back at Khelida’s question, Giana smiled again. “He does. No one aboard knows how Galijah got those scars, 'cept maybe the Captain. Quite frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t throw the soup at y'alls face. I think e’eryone was expecting that.” She sounded mildly disappointed.
 

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Bitterness towards the Temple of Life was not unfamiliar territory for Khelida. As no being was perfect, unfortunately neither were the temples and its clergy. Differentiating between the truly faithful and the hypocrites, the do-gooders and the selfish, was what any institution or establishment had to deal with, but there was something more sinister happening behind Life's temples and everybody knew it.

While there was an official denouncement of so-called "devil hunts," it was no secret that many churches carried out horrifying acts of capturing Chaos followers and torturing or killing them - or both. Many denied such allegations despite evidence that yielded their denial, at the very least, questionable. Yet, others were proud of their mission and appallingly displayed their captives for all to see. Most popular included bodies lining popular roads, spiked or lynched, to serve as warnings. Some were more... creative, and others even held public executions.

Khelida herself didn't have complete and utter devotion to the Temple. She had seen firsthand such warnings in the province of Ngoti, a highly religious and agricultural area whose residents weren't particularly welcoming to outsiders. There, many village folk nearly littered the ground with captives, bodies thrown without any care or decency. And while she was no stranger to death and violence, just the sight of them left the Oracle sick to her stomach. She would have done something if she could, but time restraints had her and Myran leave without any action. Sometimes she thought back to this and guilt told her it was just an excuse. But if the years on this earth had taught her anything, it was that she could not control everything.

Looking back to Galijah, Khelida briefly wondered if he had witnessed such foulness - or worse, been a victim of it. But it was not her business, and she certainly wouldn't approach him first if he wanted nothing to do with them.

"Well, I'm glad he didn't," Myran voiced as she dunked the bread in the soup. "After the day we've had, food's been the only thing I've looked forward to."

"Though we do appreciate what kindness you and others have shown," Khelida said as she, too, dunk her bread.

"Whether or not you're just doin' what yer told," Myran added with a big smile before taking a bite. The smile didn't disappear completely at the taste, for it was much more flavorful than what she expected. And not in a terrible way!

After a few minutes of testing the food and tastebuds approving, Khelida swallowed a bit and eventually her eyes found their way back to Giana. "So, you told us a little of your backstory, but I don't believe you told us what you actually do here on the ship."
 

Peregrine

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Giana shrugged somewhat playfully at Myran’s satirical comment, her face still a mask of a smile. Unlike the two women, she’d all but ignored her food for the moment, letting both it and the bread sit to the side. The faint rocking of the boat caused the thick soup to slide back and forth within the bowl, but the ocean was calm enough that it never once spilled over the rim.

“Happy to. I figured ya’ll might prefer havin’ a lady to show you the ropes,” she said. “If I’dnt done it, Chosovi probably woulda. But I’m still more person-able than her, so I took the job in the end.”

It was only several minutes later that Giana finally picked up her bowl, using her spoon to stir it around. Surprisingly, both the hard bread and stringy jerky had softened into something highly reminiscent of the mush that was already in the bowl, which allowed Giana to start gulping the whole thing down with ease, not having to fight her way through the hard crust or rubbery dried meat like the rest of the crew.

One of the younger people on the deck glanced over at her, before laughing out loud. “You’ve got pea on your nose, Gi,” the blonde haired young man said cheerfully.

“Shouldn’t you still be down with Igor?” Giana quipped back almost instantly, wiping the back of her palm across her nose. “If you don’t bring him his lunch, I’m sure he’ll take a layer off your ass.”

“Already did,” the boy replied casually, sounding not at all worried about the proposed ass-whooping. “Besides, Samiel’s keeping him company.”

“Just shut up and eat your food.” It sounded almost as though she’d given up on trying to win one over the young man.

He good naturedly went back to consuming his bowl of food one small bite at a time, ignoring Giana, and paying all but no attention to the two temple women sitting with her.

Taking another gulp from her bowl, Giana nodded towards Khelida’s question. After double checking there was no residual food on her face, she gestured up towards the sails. “I’mma rigger. Means I’m one’a the people responsible for climbing up the masts to furl and unfurl the sails as the wind changes. Used to be one’a the best, but the years are startin’ to catch up’ta me now. I’m just not quite as nimble as I used’ta be. So I haul ropes at times like the rest, sometimes help with simple homestyle chores. And, o’course, I lead the ship’s band as well.”

She paused, looking excited for a moment. “Either of you two ladies play an instrument?”
 
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catalyst

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"The ship's band?" Myran repeated with a smidgen of excitement. "That's so great! I tried learning the flute once... didn't stick to it, but I can sing decent!" The excitement seemed to bubble from within her now.

"Especially after a few drinks," Khelida remarked teasingly. The redhead couldn't deny it and laughed in response as she nudged the other. Looking back to Giana with a few leftover giggles, she continued, "Why, you got a vacancy lookin' to be filled?"

After enough time spent on the ship, Khelida knew Myran would end up with at least a few friends - maybe even including those who wanted nothing to do with the Temple of Life. That's how good she was with people; rarely did they leave a place without her making new friends, or at least not without leaving a lasting impression on someone.

As the women conversed, a young man with a familiar bounce in his step approached them with bowl in hand. He sat beside Giana casually and was all smiles as he looked from her to the others. "Hi there, the name's Souta. We all know 'bout the two new on-boarders, but not your names." With how intensely he was looking at them, and particularly Myran, it was clear he was trying to be charming.

After sharing a knowing look and smile, Myran answered, "I'm Myran and this is Khelida. We were just talking to Giana about the ship's band."

"Oh, yeah? You'll love 'em - they can really lively things up 'round here," he said with a genuine grin as he looked to Gi.
 

Peregrine

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Primarily Prefer Male, No Preferences
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High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
"Always lookin' for new members," Giana replied promptly, casting a critical gaze over Myran. "We're only three strong at the 'mo, but a quartet's always better than a trio. Once y'all have settled in, I can round them up for an audition." From her tone, it was clear that Giana took a great deal of pride in the little band she'd put together, and wasn't simply going to take Myran's singing ability at her word.

Seeming satisfied with her statement, Giana turned her attention back to the bowl of food in her hands, taking another large gulp from it. As though conscious of not repeating her previous mistake, her face came away clean after, except for a small miscolored band on her upper lip which she quickly licked away. However, just as she was about to start speaking again, Souta's arrival caused her to pause. She offered the young man a somewhat knowing smile, but didn't otherwise comment on his presence. New people came and went on the ship, not often, but enough to call it regularly. There were always people interested in the new folk, and those who wanted nothing to do with them.

Giana wasn't the only one who noticed Souta's arrival. At the sound of the young man's voice, Cadan looked up from where he was eating his food. Offering a slight smile at the back of the black-haired man's head, he scooted over to the group, casually sliding in between Souta and Giana. He held out a hand, proffering a large piece of jerky to the other boy.

"Extra jerky," he commented, before grinning and dunking his bread in the soup once more.

With the blonde haired boy's inclusion in their group, they now made up the largest group on the forecastle deck. Several of the other people in the area had also taken note of them, but the only one who moved from their position was a young woman with slightly wild-looking chestnut hair. She waved farewell to the white-clothed young man she was sitting next to, before circling around the group to sit on the other side of Giana. Her eyes were focused on the new duo just as much as Souta, but her eyes were focused far more heavily on Khelida.

"Are you really from the Temple of Life?" she asked, sounding unexpectedly eager, and appearing not the least bit worried that she'd cut into the middle of an ongoing conversation.
 

catalyst

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Completely unfazed by Giana's gaze, Myran only continued to smile widely. Genuinely excited about the prospect of joining a band, she wasn't worried about the possibility of their time on the ship being short. Moving so often for so many years taught her one thing: she should enjoy whatever bit of fun and happiness a place offered. Plus, the ship's crew had to know what it felt like as well; they had to be used to people coming and going.To be completely honest, she felt a bit relieved that she found something so soon to occupy her time - if she made the cut.

Meanwhile, Souta took the offered jerky from Cadan with an appreciative smile and was happy to make room for him. "Did ya meet our new guests, Cadan?" But before the blonde could answer, a new figure came to the table. Khelida noted the magnetism of their presence with just a hint of surprise. She truly hadn't thought people would be interested to meet them, at least not so soon.

Meeting the woman's gaze, the Oracle gave a single nod. "Yes," she said before giving a speculative look-over. She seemed to be curious in a positive way, rather than prying to stir the pot. "Why do you ask?"