Full Version: Penitence
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The cards were on the table and the booze was being passed around among cheerful crew members. The Dealbreaker would be setting off soon within the early hours of the morning, but for now they had the rest of the night to piss away whatever coin they had and fuck whoever they wanted to fuck while they were here on the Mainland. Everett made absolutely certain that his people would mind their own this time, the captain not quite in the business of pushing his luck just yet when they’d gotten more eyes on them. Especially after the attack on Kheim. Maybe it seemed foolish that he would come back so soon to get in touch with his contacts here among Cöryzan ranks, but Everett had already found out that such an idiotic siege was an isolated incident. Foolhardy captains trying to immediately gain the favor of the new King they knew little about was a recipe for disaster that blew up rather spectacularly in their face.

Everett was in the process of getting his ducks in a row, as it were, so when Jonah came bursting into the mess it set the human on edge. His posture stiffened, especially when he saw the look on the redhead’s freckled face. Everett still slowly pulled himself up and back against the chair, Jonah making his way around with long strides that had some of his crew murmuring about what might be going on. His first thought was that some of the Fleet had decided to agree with the dead captains resting at the bottom of Kheim’s river. ‘It’s Sal-’ he started to say when they all felt the crackle of thunder. Everett dragged his lip through his teeth, shoving his chair back and cards tossed haphazardly onto the table. Everyone else started to rise as well, Emil and Kaleva closest to the threshold yet they waited for Everett to push by before they followed. The speculations stopped, as did most of the hushed conversations. Weapons were being readied and the mages stood idle, though once Everett made his way up to the deck there wasn’t anything else that could be heard. “Jonah,” he called down, the former Greenhorn scrambling up the steps through the cluster of bodies to skid to a stop beside him.

The captain put a hand on the boy’s shoulder, pulling him in as briefly squinting eyes watched Officers start to rouse into action. “What about Sal?” he asked, voice low and precise, as the Officers disappeared up the docks and upper levels built along the cliffside deeper into Gibrantt. ‘Saw ‘em fightin’. Don’t know what for. Some human lady,’ Jonah answered, shrugging and shaking his head. ‘Only saw ‘em in the middle of it. Don’t know who started what.’ Everett pushed a breath through his nostrils, body visibly decompressing even if he was already wound up. He patted Jonah and jostled him for a second. “Right, right. Guess I’ll be headin’ that way. The backup can catch up,” he said then, already focused on the other side of the docks as his current intended destination. In a small rush of wind the pirate was gone, reemerging from the pull of magic with his coat billowing behind him in his determined gait. As soon as this apparent brawl had begun it seemed to have ended, Everett noticing first the eximius in between the officers who tugged them along.

In chains by the looks of it. Everett didn’t stop, and the Officers started to grow defensive. ‘Take ‘em and go. They’ve attacked a family member of a citizen here, but she’s content to let ‘em free. Otherwise we’d have ‘em shot ourselves,’ the eximius one said, unlocking the manacles and shoving Sal forward. They collapsed, bloodied and swaying, and Everett fought against the urge to lash out at that one. ‘Rogues ain’t supposed to be welcome here. Be glad this is all they gettin’.’ The captain gave them a tight smile. “So gracious. On with you, then,” he returned with a wave of his hand. They backed up, though Everett knew they wouldn’t go far if they intended to make sure Sal was collected.

He knelt in front of them, lifting their horned head up and delivering a few firm slaps to their bloodied cheek. At this point he couldn’t tell what was theirs and what belonged to whoever they had been attacking. They were losing blood, and that he did know. He also knew if they had attacked someone for seemingly no reason, he needed to be careful here. “Rise ‘n shine, love,” he said softly, “can you stand?” Everett wasn’t sure if they could hear him, but as their eyes rolled and blinked wider there was an awareness coming back to them. The rest could wait until Sal got patched up, even if his thoughts were already running a mile a minute. He didn’t know who he should be pissed at, if anyone at all, but he did know he was relieved that at least Sal wasn’t fucking dead for going after someone related to a Cöryzan. Everett let Sal get an arm around his shoulder, directing him away from the stab beneath their arm, and helped them to their feet.
Pain lights the end of every nerve in their chest, lungs heaving to drink the salty air in greedy gasps. Breath wheezes from between their teeth, jaw clenched and aching. Their mind is drowning, pulled by the riptide of a deep, dark sea. Here, the water roars with snarls and crashes with the snap of teeth and bone, it runs thick and red, chills their skin in a way that burns as the creatures below circle and take hold. This place was their solace, once, a haze amid the peaceful darkness they awoke from frenzied and covered with the gore of wolves. Now, the aftermath Salamander would surface to was uncertain.

The first sensation that registers around the dull edges of their thoughts is the air punching from their lungs. Words pass like birds overhead, too distant to make out details. It is not until their head is lifted, a rough palm smacking into their cheek to bring them ‘round.

Eyelids snap open fast enough to show the secondary lids beneath, lip curling back into an instinctual snarl that builds in their chest before their eyes even roll down from their skull. The look in them is wild when the shimmering gold comes into focus, growl dying just as soon as it reaches its peak.

”Maybe.” Their voice is rough and hoarse in reply, throat raw from the lightning they channelled. Coughing, expression twisting into discomfort, clawed hands brace themselves against the ground and attempt to push themselves up. A groan slips free, pain flaring to violent life. Partly crumpling on their right side, strength is funneled into the left to at least sit up on their knees. A warm, thick trail of blood is soaking through the edge of their sleeve, dripping steadily onto the stone street.

”Ss, shit.” A hissed curse as their left palm comes away soaked in bright red. ”I got stabbed in the armpit.” Speaking of such, even the tiniest movement of the limb connected to the injury sent white-hot agony shooting into their system, vision darkening for half a second each time. Lacerations from the ice cut clean as a scalpel, slicing through the tough, outer layer of their flesh. The clothes they wore could barely hang upon their frame, too ripped and sliced along the seams.

Everett offers a hand to them, aiding in getting them adjusted against his shoulder. Being that the captain is shorter by a few inches, Salamander doesn’t mind having to slump more of their weight.

”Got lost, captain.” It isn’t said nearly as shameful as it should have been, ”Need a drink before I can piece it back together.” Their tail drags uselessly on the ground, bringing a wince with every bump and crack that found one of many open wounds. ”Thanks for being my white knight, sweetheart.” Lips find the side of Everett’s head in a languid kiss, the humor stilled by the grate of their voice.
He wanted to be angry.

He is angry.

It simmered quietly beneath the surface, directed at the Cöryzan officers and their words. It shifted to Sal and the state they were currently in, not just because of who had done such a thing but also because he had been confident they were beyond such impulses. Everett curbed that line of thinking the moment it cropped up; that wasn't very fair. It was in the heat of the moment and during the attempt to assess the damage caused. In all the years working together, even months at sea and frequenting places full of combative idiots the exi had only had enough episodes to be counted on one hand. He couldn’t think about the ‘what ifs’ and where the mess even started right now. Everett’s jaw clenched as Sal growled, their lip curling to bare sharp teeth while their eyelids rolled open. There was no recognition at first, and if the captain was concerned for potential lashing out he didn’t show it. It wasn’t as if they’d not been down this same path before, although this time there was a heavy air of severity that had never been there before.

Everett was soft at first, his touch featherlight and concern the biggest contender for center stage next to his ire. Briefly his gaze flicked away from the exi’s scaled face, the gold swimming in black until they focused finally and they leaned into his hand. There were other pirates gathering, even some of the product, and all of them were staring at a distance. Everett glared, but didn’t waste the energy when he was more intent on getting Sal back to the ship. Finally they lifted to their feet, Everett as patient as he could be in this scenario, and he said nothing even when Sal hissed in pain. Instead his level of care showed in the actions of switching sides, leaving the other as undisturbed as it could be. ‘I got stabbed in the armpit.

His nostrils flared and he let out a breath, a huff of his own, and kept eyes on where they were walking now. “Wasn’t the only thing, was it?” he asked knowingly, and for once the blasé tones were not quite appreciated. Not this time. Normally it would have made him laugh, perhaps even jest depending on the situation. Everett glanced up at them, their weight sagging against him as they took to the docks. Luckily they were straightaways with not too many stairs to struggle up and down. He could have brought them both over, but that might have been a bad idea with the injured party in tow. ‘Got lost, captain. Need a drink before I can piece it back together.

The captain grunted to that. The eyes were still boring into their backs, and with a sideways glance it was not difficult to see the incoming ships. Everett pressed on, a little quicker now, but said nothing but ground his jaw. ‘Thanks for being my white knight, sweetheart,’ Sal said then, a lazy kiss pressed to the side of his head. Everett pulled away slightly, upper lip curling a bit while the bottom dragged through his teeth. Calm.

Wasn’t me, love. Those officers are the ones to thank. Maybe even the person you attacked,” he said, voice clipped and short, “considerin’ they spared you and all.” Everett studied their face with a sharp look until it came time to descend the final stretch towards where the Dealbreaker sat. Yelling at Sal would do nothing at this point, or really any points. Everett had never gotten so angry as to feel the need to yell anyhow, unless it was to be heard by more than just one. Things were so precarious already with their Cöryzan relations, something that the pirate captain was attempting to fix, and this would surely only set them back. All of that would become a nonissue if Sal continued to bleed out, but he would be damned twice over if he was going to let that happen. So onto the ship they went.

They weren’t crowded nor were they ignored; Kaleva and one of her healers were the first to rush up and pull some of the strain from the human. Everett rolled his tensed shoulders when Sal was assisted through the crew that hovered in waiting. Zenon’s crossed arms unfolded, and Everett let out a heavy sigh as he paused in front of him. He lacked the usual exuberance, the lightness of his voice, and the mischievous glint in his eye. “Let’s get movin’,” he said simply, back of his hand sweeping out to slap gently at the large exi’s arm on his way around him. Zenon nodded, though didn’t return the contact as he started to put forth the motions. Jericho would help, and that would be that. The captain followed the others down into the second level where a portion of it had been converted into a better medical area, closed off from the rest of the space. He could hear them getting situated inside, Everett leisurely kicking at the secured barrels and crates along the outer edges of the hull.

Each one was marked and properly sealed for their time at sea, but that didn’t stop the man from finding his way into one. Pushing the lid aside he sifted through the straw to pluck out a bottle of whiskey, brushing it off with furrowed brows as if he were deep in thought. By the time he entered Sal had their tattered rags of clothes tossed aside and Kaleva was busy at work assessing the damage. Everett’s eyes wandered to check for himself amidst the smears of blood and already red scales, and frowned. Sal looked lethargic, braced on the edge of the bed, but still holding themselves together. He stepped closer, giving the human mage her space as she worked diligently, and pulled the stop from the bottle to smell it. It sloshed a bit, Everett stopping at Sal’s other side to take a swig.

With a critical eye he held the bottle out, waiting for the exi to start to reach for it with a trembling, clawed hand before revoking the offer to hold the bottle closer to him with a tight grip. A finger uncurled to point towards the quartermaster. “After you tell me what happened,” he said, voice difficult to read.
The world becomes such a strange place in the wake of Madness. Like all of reality muted to periphery, secondary to that which drove them to Hunt. In this state, all that lay before them is prey, and their claws ache to tear the flesh from its bones. Blood rushes through their skull, chest pounding hard enough to make their head light. Salamander is only partially present, leaning heavily onto the shoulder of their captain as he helps drag the inebriated eximius back to their ship. Light jumps at the edge of their vision, threatening to expand into that black-hole darkness of unconsciousness. The Hunt is not one to yield with quiet submission. It thrashes against their skull as a budding headache, floods their open wounds with blood and pain. As things come back into focus, the agony of their broken body becomes acute.

Awareness is slow to rise, yet they latch onto the tone of voice and the heat they feel rolling beneath Everett's skin. Oh, he was mad. A man of upstanding character such as himself hand picked his crew with scrutiny, ensuring that they were ultimately those of steady moral compass that would not intentionally do things to hurt others. While not wholly wanted, it was not unreasonable for him to be upset to have one of his own tossed at his feet in chains and half mad. At his reply, Salamander's ear twitches and their lip inches back to show the edges of their fangs. What reason did that bitch have in vouching for them? Did she pity them? No, that wasn't possible. If she hadn't a shred of sympathy for a screaming, desperate child, then she certainly had none for a fully grown monster.

"Bitch..." Salamander hisses under their breath, no doubt loud enough for Everett to hear.

The walk up the ramp to the Dealbreaker is precarious at best, creaking beneath their collective weight as several crew members meet them at the rail. Transferred to another set of hands, the eximius doesn't fight as Kaleva brings them below deck into the barracks. The familiar sway and slosh of the ocean water, while normally soothing, makes their stomach roll. Lack of blood, the fade of adrenaline, and shallow breaths from a shattered chest did little to settle their gut. Their tail sweeps across the floor to smack against the wall as they sit, the motion jarring their broken ribs and sending fiery pain throbbing through their torso.

By the time the captain showed his rugged face, Salamander was in nothing but their skivvies. From head to toe they are covered in nicks, cuts, and deep, clean slices that continually leak. Under their arm is the worst, open, jagged from its messy exit, and sensitive as Kaleva dips her head to assess how to best sanitize and shut it.

"You're the best." They breathe as the bottle in Everett's hand is brandished like it was made of gold. They reach for it as the sharp scent of alcohol prepares them for the burn that follows its application. Before they can grasp the sweet liquor that would, hopefully, help ease the pain, the captain draws it easily from their reach. Mouth twisting into a scowl, they shut their eyes as Kaleva presses a wad of soaked gauze right to the hole in their side. "Nevermind, you're the worst." They say with hitched breath, features wincing.

"I don't..." No, he wouldn't accept that. Ugh, they already had a headache, but nothing else would do and they wanted that drink, "She was there. I saw a woman that I thought I knew on the grounds of a private home, and when I went to look I... I did know her, but it wasn't--" They grind their teeth when the gauze is balled up and inserted inside the wound, "She was there, when they made me this. Must have been a magister, or some shit. An overseer for the projects. The second I saw her I lost it. Fuckin' bitch is good with magic, though." One eye cracks open and they hold out their hand.

"I couldn't stop myself when I got a look at her face, and you know I'm good with control. Can I please have that now?" They halfway manage to pout. Talking about it made their skin itch where needles had been, made their nerves recall the excruciating growth of horns, the burn of lightning on their tongue, the hardening of their skin.
They were familiar in ways that went deeper than just mere friendship and anything related to their being within the same crew, hierarchy aside. It went beyond just what they knew of one another’s flesh beneath the clothes they wore, yet all the same was not entirely as intensive as it could have been. Neither of them were the type to dwell on it or wish and hope for more, especially because of their circumstances and where they’d ended up in life. Everett cared, sure, for everyone that he employed and entrusted his ship and life to. Some might argue the two go hand in hand for a pirate, and they would be correct. The human had seen death before, been through its cold nothingness, and he knew he wasn’t the same for it. Perhaps it made him more susceptible to corruption, hence the paranoia that had the Mages consistently keeping up with the runes that decorated The Dealbreaker with more than just pretty lights. Perhaps it had robbed from him something he’d had before, though he couldn’t tell you what exactly that is.

It didn’t change the remnants of it, the near muscle memory of it. He knew he should have and did at one point, right? Why try to fix what was not broken? Everett felt those things, or something adjacent, as he looked upon the sorry state Salamander was in sitting at the edge of the bed looking ready to collapse on the floor. That didn’t change the fact of his disappointment and disdain, however short-lived it might be depending on what the Exi told him on his approach. That hesitation to drop that feeling lingered in the hardness of his blue eyes and the way his bearded features set in tense lines, the wrinkle of his brow with the scrutiny of his quartermaster. Everett enjoyed the liquor for himself first, idly and passively like it was a tool for thinking, as he wondered to himself just who the “bitch” was supposed to be in this moment of time. Kaleva worked quickly and efficiently, Everett mindful of the space she needed to continue to do so, but he knew he needed to know now just what happened. Something told him it couldn’t wait in the way Sal hoped it could.

You're the best,’ they’d said as Everett utilized the booze as a bargaining chip, but that quickly twisted into something else as they scowled. ‘Nevermind, you're the worst.’ He might have joked along with returned jabs any other time, but if it wasn’t clear before when Sal was coming to then it certainly should have been now that the captain was not in such a joking mood. Rather unfitting for one such as he. Everett took another drink as Kaleva caused them to wince, teeth bared in a grimace as she disinfected and started to stop the bleeding. It didn’t please him to see Sal in pain, even being temporarily angry with them. ‘She was there. I saw a woman that I thought I knew on the grounds of a private home, and when I went to look I... I did know her, but it wasn't-- She was there, when they made me this.’ Everett frowned at that, seemingly in thought, but he didn’t say anything just yet as Sal paused. ‘Must have been a magister, or some shit. An overseer for the projects.’ That could have been anybody at this point, and Everett didn’t exactly have the most connections in Svalbard.

There were some, but he tended to avoid the Magisters and those higher up on the rungs. Still, he knew of them. He’d done his research, thus knowing what to avoid and how to do it when navigating his own business there, and Svalbardians being good at Magic was no surprise. It would have been a stretch to assume he knew just who she spoke of without knowing more. That meant prying, and he could tell Sal was already squirming for more reasons than Kaleva adamantly patching them up effectively. ‘I couldn't stop myself when I got a look at her face, and you know I'm good with control. Can I please have that now?’ Everett was dragged from his thoughts momentarily, gaze drifting to Sal’s face once more as an arm limply stretched out expectantly for the bottle the human twirled in his hand.

Everett looked to Kaleva first, catching her eye as his head tilted with a few steps taken closer to the bed, and waited for the barely noticeable nod that gave him the green light to perch further up on it. This put him closer to the wall it was nestled against, a leg swinging up followed by the other to cross over at an angle so as to not interfere with the two sitting more to the middle. “What did she look like?” he asked simply, a little more exasperation in the tone that could have been reserved for any number of things outside of what Sal specifically had done. Or not done. Everett couldn’t deny their ability to curb their impulses where other Exi failed, and he didn’t harp on that fact because he knew better than to lecture the quartermaster on Madness. Even humans snapped into rage could become blind because of it, striking at any and everything that only added to it. It was unusual in these cases because of the sheer amount of power the Eximius had, and the potential for far more destruction in a shorter time. Of course, that didn’t negate the fact that Cöryza and Svalbard were in bed together, so attacking them was not the best decision. Everett could understand, but he already highly doubted that they would share the same sentiment.

This is a problem, Sal. Do you understand?” It was asked with more seriousness than he’d shown in a long while, though Everett had been told of what happened as requested. So he extended the bottle out for Sal to take, eyes never leaving them, and as they slammed it back his fingers laced together on his lap. “I can break it down for ya if you don’t.
Salamander was no stranger to pain. Being an unfortunate victim of the projects had warped its meaning, yet it all felt the same. The way their body had adapted to gain a natural armor meant that they were especially vulnerable in other places, softer spots where their skin was almost human-like. Thick and stiff, it reacts poorly to the needle that sews the wound shut, resisting the pull at the expense of sensitive nerve endings. A few times their arm twitches, elbow jumping while they curb the urge to jab it right into Kaleva's mouth for just a second of reprieve. Still, as annoying and distracting as the pain is, it gives them something to focus on rather than the stern, disappointed look on Everett's face.

While they share the professional relationship of employer and employee, being on a ship changes things. Months on end mixed with boredom and some electric attraction had moved them to a physical intimacy, though neither were capable of romance, it seemed. Besides all of that, Salamander considered Everett their friend as well as their captain, knowing that he was of the sort that they could entrust their life to and know that he would do his absolute best to make sure that they were taken care of. They don't enjoy his anger when it is directed at them, yet that stubborn streak in their blood fights against the guilty lead that tries to corral them into compliance. Had it been some poor, innocent sod they'd lost their marbles on, they would have accepted punishment with no contest. This woman, however, deserved every cut and bruise and broken bone they'd given her.

The bed creaks when Everett leverages his weight on it, finally handing over the bottle that Salamander downs before they can finish saying thank you. Kaleva pauses for a moment to let the eximius polish off the whiskey, coughing with a wince at the burn chases away the sweet aftertaste.

"I don't--" They cough again, eyes watering, "Pale, a gray and a blue eye, dark hair, rockin' tits, hips so wide I'm surprised she fits through doors." Their lips smack, golden eyes sliding over to the captain as a frown replaces the little smirk forming on their mouth. "Yeah, I know it's a problem, alright? Wouldn't have done it if I had the choice. Didn't know I was going to get hit with the traumatic past encounter." Words broken by another hiss as Kaleva tugs hard to close the last bit of the open-wound, they let loose a low sound with an exhale.

"I'm sorry that this might affect you, but she let me go so maybe it won't." She likely had something worse planned, but Salamander was not privy to how Magisters enacted revenge against slights.