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[TW]  He Came Back

Offline North Jun 16 2020, 5:33 PM
#1
  • Corzya
  • Age: 45
  • Gender: Male
  • Race: Human
  • Rank: Slaver
  • Total Posts: 109
  • Played by: Onii
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1477


The sky bulged down to the sea, the black sudden and jarring against the once-blue horizon. Clouds thick, tangible, and sewn together with delicate lace of lightning. Snarls of a vengeful god shook the fluid landscape, the waters rapid and dark.

A storm was coming.
They were cautious through them all, cutting wide arcs around stronger downpours and monsoons and braving the lesser tropical storms and aftermath of slight tectonic shifts.
But this one...a hurricane, Lionette assured them. Chaos cyclonic in nature, devouring the sun until mid-afternoon looked no earlier than moments before midnight.
This was a storm that could capsize even The Rembrandt were they not careful. This was a storm that could pluck her from the sea like a tiny toy replica once great, now useless. And it was a storm the likes of which few of them among the hundreds had seen, let alone experienced from within its belly.

But there had been one like her before. The catalyst, the inception of their present.

On a smaller vessel, quick but vulnerable, eyes steeled but worn over the days of its duration. Lost men to the arctic depths below, abandoned by a man who weighed the worth of lives and the safety of his beloved ship.

Screams filled the air like a twisted choir that night. Anguish, with hands groping the air towards the image of cold eyes staring down at them from the deck like a congregation of raccoons in the night. Urgency, followed with a heavy slew of large boots marching to and fro, angling the many sails and securing supplies that were being tossed off the edges by each strong tip of the ship. Commands barked barely above the whipping wind that spat salt in their eyes, with some voices silenced by a snap of a sail's rigging that hurtled a heavy cord down upon their throats. Pain, shrill from the very depths of the ship, a small manger fitting for nothing larger than a stabled horse, the bedding flush with a cacophony of fluids that glistened in the light of the dimly-lit lantern at the bedside.

...and then, amongst them all, the tiniest of cries.

They say the sky eased to hear him, the tiniest of performers on the sea that evening, just for a moment. Just enough that the clouds separated like agitated thread unraveling a once-knitted fabric. And there, just above the keen silver-eyed captain: The Famed North Star.


Five minutes. He was given updates in intervals all along their hunt, each one dredging up the dire excite. His back, riddled both in ink and hideous defense scars beneath it, soaked up the last rays of light from the window before a fittingly-frigid chill reminded him of his task. At that, the bulky Human drew the white undershirt up onto his back, over his shoulders, and buttoned it at the front.

It was a hunt that took some time, and some tact. The Rembrandt was left behind, in the hands of the Siren who knew all her quirks. A smaller vessel had been commandeered, and with it the smallest roster. Stealth. You caught prey with stealth.

The cabin was small. Far smaller than the suite The Rembrandt had. And yet, it was still far larger than the room he'd grown in, but did not grow with him.

Miniscule, as for a child, even in his upwards years. Like keeping a prince in a shoebox, taken out when the stories came. When the time to display him to others came. Bravery and resourcefulness, rascally humor met with a man who laughed. Laughed, like he wasn't disgusted. Laughed, like all those stories and like all his bragging bled into the everyday. He boasted about his strength and pushed him to flaunt it, but the greatest strength was refusing the flinch that sprung up when a large hand engulfed his shoulder with an overly-friendly shake.

Even still, her room was even smaller. Barely enough to fit her, barely enough to fit a larger man and, with that, no physical means of her avoiding him.
The muzzled guard dog had always let him in upon request, and when he was there the room's thick walls melted away.
At times they were in sprawling fields. In others, gilded Svalbardian halls where the jesters sang and where she would be performing songs she learned to entertain her aunts. Sometimes they were hunting for something in the dead of night, the ambiance of a blown out lantern and the night sky outside the room's single window making it all the more real. He didn't always know what they were searching for, but the fear--and the excite--was nevertheless palpable. Creatures sometimes, people others. Big, notorious beasts. Some never seen, and others weighted down with a slew of arrows and spears discarded into their backs belonging to fallen warriors.


The shape of the familiar ship was no less fitting now on the dark horizon than it ever was. Sharp, impressive but w e a k. How innocuous she sat on the cusp of the coming storm, lost no doubt, evident by the bobbing heads on deck as supplies were carted into the hull. He watched them, counted them, wondered if any faces would tick a box in his head the moment they stepped on that deck. Similar ones, passed down genes, or precisely the same? Either case would be no surprise.

Generations continued on that ship. It held them without an offer to leave. Even for the supposed heirs, bound to a s e r v i t u d e of some expansion of business. Death came to any who thought otherwise, but for the favored ones, m e r e abuse and violation would do. And while one had swiftly fallen in line, the favored one, the o t h e r had committed the greatest crime of having been just as stubborn as the man who'd made him.
And so he would try to chase those places and people and things he visited in that tiny room each time, and he would be crushed.
And so he would try again, and he would be crushed.
And again, and again, and again.
The age was inconsequential. A tiny body shielding itself became a larger one, and then a larger one still, the hard breaths eventually drowned out by the shrill crying of a fearful child tucked away for safety.
A new generation beneath a steel grip.


The tight grip was met with a reflexive jerk of his thoughts from the then and back into the now. Perhaps he'd moved too sharply for the man's comfort, or perhaps it was the look on his face that he doesn't remember making or upholding that did it. The spindly man was recoiling, but was quickly seized by the elbow in a way that was neither aggressive nor catering. Marty's dark eyes stared back at him, a hair wider and more alert than that of the usual crystalline glaze. He was in the now more than he ever appeared able to be. More precisely, than he ever wanted to be. With a moment more of silence North let him go, and Marty in return stayed and shared the view off the starboard side.

It was a rescue. The last one they'd ever need to make.


The task was simple, but the things that preceded its completion were anything but. Interest seemed to be so idle for so many years--deceptive, but North Cristiano could hide truths the size of a basilisk behind a bright face and a shanty or two. By day, by season, the usual; work, rest, work, rest. And then in the winters, extensive cashing in on his networks, the friends he's made all along the way, some in high places and others in low but very useful ones. Leads.
And now, finally a fresh one.

It could have been a slaughter. It would still be, but it could have been far greater. Even on a ship as minuscule by comparison to The Rembrandt, she could carry far more than she was. Instead, save for cursory detail necessary for the vessel to function, the only ones he'd taken with him were the ones who needed to be there. The ones who recognized the ship themselves, sparking thoughts and memories that were their own stories to tell. 3 weeks The Rembrandt would be without them.
A blink of an eye by comparison to how long the hunter has been hunted by his own prey.

They boarded from behind. The savage rock of both ships involved in the aggressive collision made their presence known. Without a word they leaped over the narrow synapse between ships, heavy boots striking the wood with a unanimous roar. A cacophony of weaponry was drawn, guns and blades and tomahawks, throwing daggers and a poleax or two. The cries from either side were drowned out by the growl of thunder and the whipping of winds, the threat of the sea tossing lesser-skilled feet out from under sea-slicked bodies. They spread like wildfire, blockaded in some places while swiftly overcoming others. Arrows speared into unfair encounters from a quickly-claimed vantage point, the heads missed by a shaking hand--but it was enough for the ones on the deck to finish the job. Fire scorched without discrimination, burning holes down the hull as the aggressor fought with every ounce that he had. Savage exactly as they made him, exactly the animal that his owner had bought him to be. An attack dog, muzzled, fed and sicced like one. Memories reverted the progress he'd made with lavish treatment, equal treatment, spaces large enough that he could stand higher than all fours, and with responsibilities beyond that of an animal who knew only commands. It was replaced now with rage, a snapping of chains once around his neck, snarls and a head snapping back once or twice with severed face flesh caught in his strong jaws. Burning eyes caught a glimpse of familiar silver and there was a brief pause as the captain stood in the doorway to a deeper corridor. I ain't gonna leave ya no more, eh? I ain't gonna let them do ya like that again. I'm right here. promise! You tell me to stay and I stay, got it?
A strong nod of the first mate dispatched the captain further into the ship with blessing and with that, he left them to fight.

Late participants came rushing out from the segues of the corridors deeper in the ship's structure, some even scrambling flat into the bulky chest of the man who'd been headed down the straightaway. Weapons were drawn haphazardly, some clattering down at their feet, their eyes wide and mouths full of swear...until they found themselves focusing on a familiar face. If not entirely familiar, then those eyes. Recognizable as fruit from a familiar tree even if they didn't know the exact name of the man staring them down the narrow hall like a bull who had them trapped. And each time, they had but a moment to decide whether they would step back into their holes or be shot in the skull by a Cristiano's gun.

He wasn't here for them, but their deaths would be means to an end if they were too flippant.
Down to the depths of the ship was where he was headed. The ugly bowls that he was more than familiar with.
The narrow door. The damp stairs. The musty scent. The sound of chains dancing against wood with each rock of the ship. All cursory sights and sounds entertained by a typical day. Out of sight. Out of mind. What appeared to be a hull of supplies was...exactly that.
And that was precisely what she was. No different than the fancy barrels of rum, the shiny new guns tucked away and the overflowing treasure chests. But the royal blood in her veins was enough to take pride in breeding her, not enough to earn her respect.

When he reached the bottom, he froze. Certainty drained from him, autonomous movement halted by a swirl of frustration and disorientation. There were many doors, the hull's full size misshapen by the walls put in to cordon off space for rooms. Many tiny rooms. Ones he didn't remember being there. Hard breaths preceded the scramble forward, a stomping gait as the sand of time thinned for him. Uncertainty cost them safety and resolve. Time.
So he started on one end and continued to the other. Doors he can remember being so sturdy were nothing for him now, kicked open with a hard stomp that he imagined were against flesh and bone instead of bug-eaten wood. The splintered shards of wood caved into the tiny spaces, laying haphazardly in the empty beds with dented, thinned out cushion. Again and again down the aisle until he reach one where a sharp cry greeted his reckless conquest. The shrill noise froze him like a spell, and he found himself staring back at a woman who was reflexively covering herself away from the familiar silver glow of his eyes. A breath, two, three, and then a husky "Get up" pulled her slightly out of her coiled up state of fear. "Call for a Koia when you make it on deck. We're leaving." The instruction, his command was no amount of consoling. It was low, weighted and callous in nature. No attempts were made to soothe her, but despite that the offering of freedom was more than enough to fling her bare feet off the side of her crumpled bed and send her rushing past him, turning for a brief moment to get a last look at him before shooting up the grimy stairs.

North pulled from the doorway, exhausted, feet heavy. A final survey of the seemingly-cleared hull turned up the tiniest alcove in the far corner, covered up almost entirely by the sturdy faces of rum barrels. Slowly but surely his steam was pumped back into his chest, the adrenaline that had gotten him this far, had gotten him off this ship to begin with, coming back to him with full force. He eased his way between the walls of resources and shoved them with a leveraged push, shattering the wooden containers and spilling the heady alcohol across the hull floor. Waste.
The door felt hot to the touch when he pressed his palm against the face.
Taking in a breath, he raised his tired heel up one last time and shattered this one just as easily as the others.

Pain exploded through his back before he could take a single step over the threshold. White hot, slipping through him as though he were butter. Shrapnel burst into his back and pieces exited through the front with the gurgling of blood that was swiftly pressed against with a calloused palm. He twisted on his heels with a series of hard stomps, a sleepy state of rage boiling up to his throat at stimuli so far beyond his conscious awareness. A scent he didn't know he smelled, sounds of a clearly throat he didn't know he heard.

Their eyes met.
He was pitiful, but he was proud. An aggressor for decades now decrepit, sustained by Magic but in the most shameful manner. An illusion of control shattered over his thinner shoulders, dropped from a pair of arms that could not support its weight. He was half his size, tall but flimsy by comparison. Not much had changed for him, but for North they had. So much so that he could see it too, and the color drained from his face when he recognized the enemy's captain to be a man he knew all too well.

Let me be clear. This was not a fight to the death. This was not a war. This was not even an uphill battle. This was a massacre. This was a hunt.

This was a man, worn down by his years of bringing abuse, his bones tired with the many deeds, calloused and gaunt, now facing the Bull in the ring with no barrier in sight. Tethers gone, no gate and no handler to revert the animal’s attention from the rider. No advantage. None of body, none of mind.

Like they’re cut from the same cloth, they move at the same time. The short squeal of boots against the floor incites the Bull to give chase on instinct alone, even before he’s consciously heard the noise.

Memory comes and goes. Past and present meld together to form a singular rhetoric. How many times were it his feet on these floors racing down the corridors? Hair whipping in the stale air, arms scissoring desperately as though he was drowning, and trying desperately to swim to shore. His body remembers f e a r, urgency twisting into the mix of what in p r e s e n t day was nothing but rage. A skewered train of thought, like both men--young and older--are running together side by side like ghost images. One a snapping dog, limber but tired of the boot on his throat. And the other a raging bull, tearing down the walls with his heavy steps.
He remembers bits and pieces. The thinning window for escape, tucking a crying child over his shoulder because he couldn't leave him. Dead weight, but new life.
But, he left her.
He left her.


The captain arrived at the end of the corridor first and hurriedly launched himself up the narrow stairs. The Bull was just behind him, his mind so gone that he overshot the stairs and found himself skidding to adjust, the slick blood under his boot leaving him floundering to grasp the railing. Eyes turned up to the glance of heavy boots as they ascended with a speed he'd never seen the man move before. f e a r.
North guffawed at that.
A brittle noise, pointed and bitter and m a d. He cackled, the stain of excruciating pain only highlighting the white hot anger. At the bottom of the stairs he gripped the flimsy railing with both hands, the entire side of his pants sopped with blood, his forehead beaded with sweat borne of both fear and fury. Borne of two men living in the same place, same time, same body. Each step from there was as passionate as a bludgeon to the skull. One. Two. Three. Repeat. Slow and meaningful, and the thunder of the storm outside seemed to clap alongside his tempo. His head was light, a mixture of an overly tired system and one stripped of all manner of apprehension. High on destruction.

"I CAME BAAACK!" He said it like a consolation, like a surprise, but it was in such a way that it could only be heard as a sadistic threat. He won't remember saying anything, but he's taunting him with arms spread wide to display the monster the man's made. Bull was raking his hoof against the earth, a last minute respite, the calm before the inevitable storm. They'd ascended to where the captain slept, the marbled floors and roomier hallway lined with windows. As the captain skittered away from the slow moving Bull, long shadows slit the stream of light from the windows, draconic in nature. North didn't bother looking, but his predecessor did--startled no doubt, double-taking at the beast snatching men off the deck like tiny snacks.

Monsters. Unspeakable ones. Ones a little boy used to chase in his head were now real, and they were at his command. The pipe dreams he'd crushed, the ones he'd hated more than the woman who planted them in his head--d i s t r a c t e d him with.
Now, it appeared, the Cristiano man had pursued both ideas.

At the very end of the hall, safety. Large doors beckoned him and he charged the rest of the way, slipping into the open mouth and shutting them tightly with a large sound accompanying a lock. The Bull s t r o l l e d after him, fire caught in his throat like a forge, feeding every inch of him the nourishment necessary to push and push and push. He felt everything twitching underneath his skin like even HE could shed it and take some greater, meaner form. In some ways he could, and he would.

He doesn't remember speaking. But he feels his lips moving, and he feels the lurch of his throat and the accompanying sing of his emotions at whatever was transpiring. He was playing at the door like a clever suitor dangling some little trinket behind his back. Taunting with a serpent's hiss, acid dripping from his mouth as the Bull drooled hate on the floor and under the doors.

In the blink of an eye he was flinging himself against the sealed junction between the double doors. Again. Again. Again. Each time the Bull took a breath that swelled his chest up an entire size, forcing himself against the solid wood time and time again without any consideration for the way his shoulder had begun to pop. Each time a yell, a long bellow that became more and more intense when he hit the door and it didn't open--a threat. The tiny sound of screws sung in his ears as they bounced away from the hinges, squeaking steel cheering him on, you're almost there, prince! they said each time to the man they'd seen grow in these walls, be kicked in this walls, beaten and stomped and savaged by the C O W A R D hiding behind them.

With a triumphant explosion the doors ripped away from each other in a bitter divorce, splinters flicking up from the edges as the Bull forced his way into the widening gap with wild eyes the first thing his predecessor could see of him. Wide and beautiful, disastrous and not all there. Hunched over like he was ready to pounce, posture wide more like an animal than a man.

Things were said. An attempt to control him. An attempt to posture and kick the dog back into its cage, to raise the whip and hope the Bull was still conditioned to fear its spite. A mistake. A fucking mistake. Are you going to put me down too? Eh? Just like Saint? ..Look around you. Who's left?

You
Fucking
MURDERER

North doesn't remember much after that. Time was slow, time was inconsistent, and time was selective. He felt the weight of everything in his bones, his arms, his hands, his knees, his feet. His back sang like a choir of pain, heated lashes curling marks of whips into his skin. The spiked toe of a shoe cutting into his flesh, his hands drawn up over his body, the time whittled away by escaping in his head to revisit those ideas of grandeur grown healthy in his head by a doting mother. Fighting brought out the gun. Fighting brought out r e a l anger, and fighting brought pain to those who did nothing. To the red lion. To the slow one.
And, eventually, to the crying child in the cradle watching his young father fall.

So, he took it. He took and he took and he t o o k and now...
N o w, he was giving it a l l back.

Things that were hard were becoming tender, soft and sloughing. Tenderized muscle, pulpy beneath the skin like a rotting, decaying self. Knuckles cracked, broke, whateverthefuck--how could he know? All he knew was they still did the job, they still delivered hits that stripped the target of solidification and with each punch the Bull's target was that much closer to a liquid state. Fluids DID greet him eventually; blood and mucous and soiling. Words were gurgled, choked out by the bellows of a mad animal that soon rose up from its knees and dragged the morsel around like a piece of paper. Effortlessly. A mannequin to be posed as he wished, fingers like gelatin--a worthy punishment for trying to p r o t e c t himself. Fighting back made it WORSE. Defending made it WORSE. Begging made it WORSE.

A clap of thunder stilled him. And in the matter of a moment, he was there again. Staring down at a pile of meat. Horse breaths, pulled flesh, decrepit like the mummy in a tomb. North loomed over I T, his shoulders squared and his head low. A triumphant bull. And now...now that it was all done...silence. He became painfully aware of every noise, every sound of a gun, every sound of the Drake's roar above the hurricane. Aware of the lives there, their sacrifice, their loyalty.

So...he left.
Back down the way he'd come, back down into the hull, back towards the too-small room where he'd finally found her.

He went back to her. Like stepping back in time, but from a new perspective. No longer a smaller child who fit or a grown young man who still managed. The walls brushed his shoulders on both sides with very little space to turn around. For a moment all he could do is stand there, stand there and fully understand acknowledge the varied perspectives of then and now. And then soon, without conscious thought, he was moving again. Shuffling his feet until he reached the bed...and lowered onto his knees. Her head was in his lap as he elevated her, her labored breaths swallowing up his short cries. He brushed her hair out of her face. She kissed his hand. He touched her pale, hot forehead.

x.X.x


The whipping winds whistled down the corridor as he stumbled out of the bowels with her in his arms, clutched tightly like a crown for a king. His walk may have been sluggish by now, his feet dragging, his movements choppy and drained..but there was liberation in the way he muscles swung, his finely-tuned parts gracelessly beautiful. Relieved. He felt nothing but the way the storm cooled the sweat all across the parts of him that were not weighted down with blood. The sound of steel, boots, and a drake's hiss. Home. He heard home.

The light blinded him when finally he stepped out into the storm, the rushing wind deafening his sense of direction and self. Like a drunkard he slipped off to his side, unable to hold his weight and hers any longer. It looked accidental but it was intentional; he collapsed with her tight in his arms, his back hitting the portside railing as he slid down with a skid of his large black boots. With trembling hands and a lowered head, he took the rain as it came, the spitting sea licking his wounds while the sky washed them clean. The red lion slipped in beside them though he didn't feel him there, a hand coming up to brace along his shoulder for support.
He'd lost a lot of blood. He spent a lot of energy. He didn't know if they were all alive.
He didn't know whether he was surrounded by enemies or if he was being cheered on by old friends.
He was tired, he was tired.

With a haphazard raise of his head to the sky, and with glistening silver eyes, North Cristiano submitted to the will of the storm.

"Please...PLEASE, Agnes!! I want to take her with me..you don't have to help! you can even stay! I just..do this."

Whomever took responsibility for the calm of the seas and the rage of the skies, it seemed they had a penchant for full circles. As on this ship, the same where it had all once begun, the choked sounds of the North Star's cries had stilled the winds just as they had when he was many times smaller, fresh and new.
Andrew was waiting front and center for them. Gun drawn, heavy in his left hand but ready. It was swiftly holstered when the faces were recognized, each one counted, and with a sigh the Svalbardian noble let himself smile. North was aided by Agnes and a well-placed raise of a Drake's pointed finger to bridge the gap between ships so that the exhausted captain could make his way across securely. The rest of them were none worse for wear, some injuries requiring extended care, but their faces were bright nonetheless. None were so riddled with age as their captain, like the storm itself had picked him up when they weren't looking.

He went to him first. Wordlessly, he stepped into the man's space and rested his sweaty, bloody forehead against his cleaner, coiffed features. In return he was embraced, the noble cradling him without concern of the sweat and blood and tears. The same as he'd been carried, held, cared for by a single father. When their embrace ended, North pushed her into h i s hands. "Let her go home," he's told by a raspy, old breath, "she's done with us fucking pirates, Andy." Andrew beheld his grandmother with bright, glassy eyes. The ornate urn glistened back at him, its contents sealed just as it had been placed and tucked away. Hidden. A body turned to ash, preserved so that she could not be discarded after illness brought on by poor conditions took her. Someday, he told her. Someday, Momma...I'll get you back home. For now, j-just..wait here. I have to get Andy out, but...I'll come back!

He Came Back.

x.X.x


The smaller vessel returned to the calm waters where the queen had been idling for nearly a month now. The chase was through. They were rushed by curious faces on the spacious deck of The Rembrandt, and even Javel had come out from his lonely space to mingle with the rest. "Is that the last one, Boss? we ain't goin back or nothin." He heard Marty in his ear more than the others who were taking stock of the injuries and looking between them for the tale. North could feel the choppiness in his breath before he'd even heard the cracking words and turned to him in response, raising a palm up and contouring it to the man's long cheek. "wouldn't ya know it, eh..?" there was something in the airy response that highlighted both victory and exhaustion. "No more, Marty. Gang's all home. Don't be scared now. ..Ain't gonna let nobody take ya away from me." Marty didn't speak, but he briefly rested a shivering hand against the back of North's as if to test its validity, the truth of his words and, at that, he was slipping back into his usual crowds clutching his old and faithful bow.

Andrew parted ways by the ship that he'd come on. It was "worn," he said, but he "quite liked the memories that came with that." With him, the urn.
North lingered for a moment in the midst of festivities before retiring back up to his cabin. Agnes traded off with Shirii at the wheel, allowing her to take stock of the Slaver and refuse to leave him alone. With a face full of tears she demanded to know why he hadn't taken her of all people, and was met with only a "You didn't need to see me like that, Soosh. ...Now I can twist the story anyway I want to impress you, hah!" and the fact that he was trying to make her laugh only made her bawl uncontrollably.

North lastly ran into Eirik, greeting him with an underwhelming "We're back, boy.. I'm alrightttt..." laced with an almost-overburdened groan like he was preparing for the most grief from him. He'd been bandaged up on their way back but it was clear from the blossom of dark red at his side that he'd been shot or stabbed or worse. "Run a bath c'mon then!! We'll talk when I ain't numb-cold from the waist down. You ain't killed my chicken while I was gone, eh?"