Why yes, it appears as though I’m back to administer another fiction chapter in my WIP cauldron. This offering is the first chapter from the Nocturna League series’ very first full-length novel!
Yes, so while I’m certain you’re jumping for joy this very moment (if you’re not you can reserve your energy for after you’ve finished reading the chapter) you must also understand that this is the rough draft work in progress version, so don’t expect anything too incredible, all of it’s subject to change!
Now then, let get started!
Chapter 1: The Point of No Return
This longer story of The Nocturna and her crew begins familiarly enough. Colette and Dunks are sparring in the ship’s small, gray gymnasium.
Colette, soaring with momentum, slides across a wall and pushes off to aim another hit. Dunklestein is just standing, one arm at his hip and the other with a pint of lager.
“How about this?” Colette flies forward with trained, acrobatic poise, her fist raised high to grand-slam her opponent.
Dunklestein only needs to raise his leg to intercept her and impact her speed against his knee. “How about what?” he asks as Colette buckles over in pain. With a desperate rebound, she tosses onto her back and shoots a foot in-between his legs. Again Dunklestein only needs to move his knee to the side to block the hit and follow up by weighing his foot down on her leg, locking her in place. Colette kicks with her other leg again and again, but it seems like nothing can move him. Dunks crosses his arms with a smile as he watches Colette flex up, wrap her arms around his leg and attempt to move it that way.
“You’re…” Colette hisses. “You’re too fat, Dunks! Dammit!” She falls back to the plush floor, exhausted after ten straight minutes of this maddening exertion.
Dunklestein shrugs as he takes a gulp of his beer. “I’m not sure how much this is helping.”
“What?” She says between pants.
“I mean, this: our sparring. It helped you alright for a little while. You’ve gotten way better at fighting and you’re as fast as strong as most any man on board, but you’re just about at your limit, I reckon.” He takes his foot off her.
With a burst of energy, she shoots back up to her feet. “No! Not even close to it! Come on, another round!”
Dunk shakes his head. “I can’t be standin’ around hours each way kicking your pa’toosh, kiddo. I actually do have a job on the ship, and you seem to have gotten to a point where you can’t get any better.”
Colette tightens up in exasperation. “Don’t do this to me, Dunks. I’m trusting you… The Captain’s trusting you to do you job training me!”
“Yeah, but some of the boys on board have been getting a little rowdy when I’ve been gone.”
“The Captain can take care of them.”
He takes another sip. “He’s way busier than either us, Colette. All that nonsensical stuff he does from day to day is actually saving our lives without us knowing it.”
“Yeah, so what do you mean to say?”
Dunklestein finishes his pint, places it aside and addresses her. “He can’t be bothered with petty trouble like whatever-” he raises his hands to make quotations, “degenerate activity the other jobbers are getting themselves into. It’s all fun and games until someone loses their soul or gets split in half, except the boys do think that’s fun, so I gotta keep the peace.”
Colette points her finger as if she has the perfect response, but she lowers it back in line. “So you’re saying we’re done.”
Dunks shrugs again. “I’m saying I’ve taught you all you can learn from me. Maybe you should talk to The Captain about learning under someone else. Maybe Estradia.”
“Gross.” She scowls.
“I don’t need to learn how to cook.”
“As a sparring partner.”
Colette cringes. “Thanks, but I think I’ll skip that.”
Dunklestein nods with a superior grin. “Then that’s that. If you really want to keep sparring, maybe learn a few pointers from some of the other folks on the ship. If you’re looking for a sounder kicking that I can give you, I hear the dude in Enforcement’s a right good fi-…” Dunks inhales sharply.
Colette’s indignant expression melts into a sort of blank curiosity. “Wait… Enforcement?”
Dunklestein flinches, realizing he said something he shouldn’t have. “Uh, nevermind.”
“You mean that room labeled ‘Enforcement’ on the third deck?”
Her features sharpen with intrigue. “The one that’s always locked, just like the lower decks?”
Dunklestein takes a deep breath. “You didn’t hear it from me, got it?”
Colette raises a blond brow and comes to a slow nod. “What guy in Enforcement?”
Dunks’ smile returns as quickly as it had left, and he bumps her on the shoulder with his fist. “Right. Now I’m going to hang with the boys. It’s usually around this time that they’re up to no good anyway.” He puts one foot out the door. “Bit of advice: even if you know about the guy that doesn’t mean he could help you. If you ask me you’re as far as a human girl can get.” He disappears out the door, leaving a contested Colette.
She tugs up the sleeve of her work clothes. Compacted, thick, trained musculature- the signs of a body put through incredible stress. She approaches the mirror and hums. Gone is the feminine softness she had only a small bearing of growing up, and to stay are the fruits of her training. Her fitness has gotten to a point that she’s rounding out like a bear. If someone didn’t inspect her closely enough, they might think her an effeminate male, or if they noticed her as a female, just overweight, when quite the opposite is true. She looks over the weight racks, those now-familiar tools of strain, wondering if she’s really at the peek of what her body will allow. Benching a grown man’s weight in kilos is more than a little impressive for a girl her age, but she must admit that her grown has slowed. A few weeks after the mist gauntlets incident she reached her peak, a level that most would consider Olympian. Yet its been months since then, and she’s seen minimal improvements in comparison to that first month.
Colette can’t bear to think of the possibility that this might be as far as she can get. If she’s going to kill the overlord and save her town, her friend, and herself, she’s going to need something more. She thinks back to all the relics and magic and monstrosities she’s seen on The Eversea, and then she nods. She knows she’s going to have to go beyond a point of no return to get the power she needs… but how?
Colette leaves the gym and notices someone gross flopped onto the deck and died. She gets her mop and starts cleaning when an explosion comes from the kitchen.Running from smoking is a coughing Grancis, her hair tied into a messy, smoked bun.
“BE OF THE TAKING OF THE BREAK, APPRENTICE MEAT, AND AS FOR YOU, DEMON OF THE COOKING, YOU SHALL BE OF THE LEARNING TO BE OF THE RESPECTING!” Screams Boris from inside the kitchen just as flames spew out capable of cooking any fleshly creature.
“Burn in the fires of vengeance, crustacean tormentor scum! I’ll show you what real cooking is!” Another voice sounds from the kitchen as the flames rage out.
Grancis wipes her face of soot as she steps over to Colette.
“Having fun?” Colette asks as she wipes away a dozen-so eyes into the water.
Grancis giggles. “Yeah.” She stretches with the railing. “The flame… demon… thing that Boris trapped in the stove to cook with finally got out and-”
“LOBSTER IS NOT OF THE COOKING, DEMON OF THE COOKING, YOU ARE OF THE COOKING!” Boris yells out from within the flamethrower in the kitchen
“For the last time, you bastard. I’m a fire elemental!” the other voice responds just as the fire blazes out like a geyser of death.
Grancis nods as the sounds of crashing and smashing ring out from the kitchen. “It’s been an eventful morning. How’ve you been?” She asks with a smile.
Colette nods as another explosion burst from the kitchen and Boris starts screaming in aquatic anger. “I don’t know. Dunks feels like I’ve gotten about as good as… a girl can be, I guess.”
“Oh! That’s quite a compliment.”
She shakes her head. “No. Like, I’m not strong enough to kill the overlord, not yet; and if Dunks is right and I’m as far as I can go… like this, then I’ll have to find some other way.” Colette looks out to the shifting Eversea, continuously confounding and terrible to her.
Grancis’ smile dies the moment she hears Colette say “like this”. She knows where this is headed. “So… What do you intend to do about it?”
“Well, Dunks told me abo- uh, well, about a way I might be able to get better by training under someone else.”
Grancis hums. “Do I know this person?”
“No, probably not.”
“Are they… on the ship?”
“Yes.” Colette looks aside, hoping with every part of her that Grancis doesn’t pry further.
Grancis gains the sort of face an interrogator would have when testing for the weaknesses of a new captive- a very Captain-like look. “Oh?”
Colette sighs. “Y-yeah.”
“Okay, Colette, but I don’t want you to give up something important just so you can get a little more strength… It’d be better to be the overlord’s wife and still human, I think.”
Suddenly, a spark lights in Colette’s eye and she looks to her friend. “Are you kidding me? I’d sooner die than be that bastard’s plaything. Why wouldn’t I sacrifice a part of myself, or even all of myself to kill him? Don’t you think it’d be worth it to spend one person to save hundreds more?”
Grancis bites her lip. “N-no, Colette. The people of the village were fine.”
Colette’s glare becomes considerably more vindictive. “Yeah, until I fucked it all up?”
Grancis takes a deep breath. “I would be lying if I said you weren’t the cause of a lot of the town’s problems.”
The ocean waves sing as the fire from the kitchen dies down in the silence on both fighting and speaking.
Colette puts her mop aside and leans over the railing. “Then… If I really am that much of a bother to everyone… why would you care that I decided to risk my life for them?”
Grancis weighs her words a moment. “People are in charge for a reason, Colette. The overlord… may have… hurt us in the past, but as bad as he might be, at least he lets of live our lives.”
Colette stare on blankly. “You’ve lost hope, haven’t you?”
Grancis focuses her gaze on Colette, who only stares out to sea. “Colette, we’re best friends. I know I’d want you to talk me out of a bad decision. I’d rather live with you as a slave in that guy’s castle than see you turn into something like the guys on this ship.”
“…What do you mean?”
“Like, part animal, part human. A monstrosity. It’s unnatural.”
“So is slavery.”
Grancis looks down in thought. “You don’t care that much about what you become, so long as its still you, do you?”
Colette thinks on it, and nods. “If you did it to save the people you love… wouldn’t you?”
Grancis sighs, scans over the water, but can’t quite find the words. “Be careful… Okay?”
Colette stares out at the misted horizon, scoffs, and finally turns to her friend. “Of course I will. Someone like me better stay on her toe if all she does is screw others over.”
“C-Colette! I didn’t mean it like tha-”
“Then how did you mean it? Was it a problem I was born… or that my mom got sick… or that I decided that I was tired of seeing you get bullied and that you needed a friend?” Grancis inhales with a skewed sob. Colette ‘s gaze is mercilessly direct, with absolutely no room for empathy. “Well?” Colette adds.
Grancis takes labored, poisoned breaths. “I-”
“APPRENTICE MEAT! I AM OF THE TAMING OF THE DEMON OF THE COOKING!” Boris yells out loudly enough for the whole ship to hear it.
“I told you I’m a flame elemental! You will rue this day!” Yells the now-muffled voice of the re-imprisoned elemental.
Grancis, the makings of tears on the brim of her eyes, straightens up. “I… I have to go and clean up.”
Colette stares Grancis down for a few bitter seconds. “Yeah, fine.”
Grancis turns back to the kitchen and Colette back to the ocean. Colette leans into herself spitefully as she mutters to herself. As she wonders just how much of what Grancis said was true, the side of a ship appears in the mist a kilometer out. She fails to register just what this appearance means for a second, and then her anger flashes into horror. She runs for the deck alarm and hits it for the very first time.
A blaring, alien sound spouts from The Nocturna’s speakers, and crew-members of all sorts peek their heads from port-holes to behold the ship approaching rapidly. Colette looks forward at the new vessel. Made of wood, unlike the metal Nocturna, and with a sinister red glow. Colette pulls in a long breath of eldritch sea air, equal parts salt and blood, and reaches for her revolver.
“That will be quite unnecessary, Miss Ketiere,” a measured, refined voice says from behind. Colette checks and spots none other than The Captain, a bottle of Dugal’s scotch in one hand and two glasses in the other. “Shooting one’s guests is usually considered bad form, though I’m sure a lady of your abilities could make it the new hot thing if she really desired to.”
Colette looks back with The Captain as the ship pulls up to the side and a floating aberration hails the two.
“Ahoy me hearties! I trust yee have the libations prepared?”
The Captain raises the bottle and clinks the glasses together. “As always, Captain Livingstone.”
Enchanting? Devastating? General thoughts? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chew on this for a while for when I get back to work.