Why, yes! It is here!
Thank you all so much for waiting. Walking the Scar part 25 is now available for reading on storyshift, either by using the app or by reading through your browser here. Again I apologize for the wait each of these chapters seem to take along with them, but there’s simply nothing I can do when the chapter’s done and resting in the publisher’s hands other than to wait like everyone else. :'[ Hopefully the new installments will come along more smoothly? N-no promises, though.
On more metered news, Nocturna League Ep 5 is now swimming along at 35,000 words, roughly marking the halfway point for the book. Admittedly this has been a difficult project considering the more bite-sized nature of previous episodes in the series. A wider, more detailed adventure like this isn’t something I’ve done in a while, and regaining a feel for balancing imagery and dialogue and narration and all that has been a challenge. Regardless, I will finish the project, it will be lovely, and I expect you will enjoy it if you liked the previous Nocturna Leagues. Anyway, here’s the next chapter – enjoy.
Chapter Four: Grancis Receives a Wonderful Gift
Dinner time. After strangling half a dozen Vftrangals with her bare arms for Boris, Grancis is ordered to serve the giant stew in all of its writing, greenish glory.
“BE OF THE QUICK, APPRENTICE MEAT. VFTRANGAL MEAT IS OF THE BURSTING INTO THE FLAME IF OF THE LEAVING TOO LONG IN A BATCH OF THIS SIZING.”
Grancis is already frantically angling stew into rows of bowls using a ladle as big as her arm. “Yes, sir!” She finishes ten bowls and serves them out on the serving window connected to the mess hall. She takes a deep breath. “FIRST COME FIRST SERVED. NO SECONDS. NO STEALING.” she screams out the customary “it’s time to eat” warning over the long lines of hungry sailors. In pairs of four the sailors approach, filling the window with hands grasping for their fill.
“AND BE OF THE REMEMBERING HOW THE ANGRY TENTACLE FLESH IS OF THE LIKING OF HIS STEW!” Boris adds just as Queeg… or whatever his name is, crawls up and folds his myriad tentacles through the window.
“I’m waiting,” “Queeg” says, tapping the tip of his foremost tentacle into the metal plating of the window.
The action now committed to muscle memory, Grancis snaps up a vial of cyanide and adds a generous portion to Queeg’s bowl. “Next time please be near the railing after you’re done if you feel the need to… eject. It caked the floors and was really slippery,” Grancis says in a tone of caution to the burly octopus man.
“I throw up where I want, bitch. I’m a real man,” he snaps back, winning a few impressed guffaws from among the line for how tough and disrespectful he is.
Grancis smiles and stares him in the face. “Boris.”
“WHAT IS OF THE MATTER, APPRENTICE FLESH?” Boris booms back. Queeg curls instantly.
“The sailors are thinking about an octopus dish tomorrow night. Any ideas?” She says in the same sort of cheery tone expected for her best friends.
Boris directs a stalk-like eye and spots Queeg. “I AM HAVING OF A FEW OF THE IDEAS. OCTOPUS IS OF THE LIMITED OUT IN THESE WATERINGS, WE’LL HAVE TO BE OF THE MAKING DUE WITH WHAT WE ARE OF THE HAVING.”
Queeg sighs. “Alright, fine.” He storms, or more aptly, furiously slithers out of the mess hall to eat his stew, leaving a nodding Grancis turning back to deliver more bowls. She finishes with trained speed, and in only a minute more’s time, the food is served to everyone present, and the one bowl is quietly placed next to the door labeled “ENFORCEMENT” as she has every night on duty. As Grancis returns she finds The Captain pouring the remainder of his stew into a small gap between his bandages- it doesn’t matter much where he pours it in. Grancis knows by this point that The Captain’s not so picky when it comes to obeying common human laws, like eating through one’s mouth.
“Miss Vereyrty. I’d like to fill you in on the upcoming operation,” he says, placing the bowl aside while keeping the focus pointed directly on her.
Grancis fails to comprehend his sentence for a moment. “Wh…what?”
“Please take your own stew early to the officer’s table and I’ll explain all you need to know.” He turns out the door and moves to the mess hall, leaving Grancis and Boris.
“Am I… being deployed with the next away party?” She asks, half to Boris and half to herself.
Boris shrugs. “I AM OF THE SURE THE CAPTAIN IS OF THE PLANNING FOR SOMETHING. I’LL BE OF THE TAKEN ALONG AS WELL. HE MUST BE OF THE LONELY AND BE WANTING OF THE COMPANY OF THE GOOD!”
“Y-yeah. Maybe so, Boris,” She bows to request leave, but Boris is already trotting out the door to go to the mess hall. Grancis takes up the last bowl of stew and follows close behind Boris and then down the rows of tables to the officer’s table, usually only where The Captain and those nerds Estradia and Luisoix sit at to eat, though all three of them are not considered regular appearances at the mess hall by the others.
Already sitting at the table is of course The Captain, then Luisoix, Jim Masthaven, and Colette.
Grancis instantly tightens up. “Colette.” She takes her seat at the opposite side of the table from Colette.
Colette sighs. “Gran.”
Jim raises a hand in greeting. “H-hey, Gran,” he says with an awkward smile.
Boris smashes down into the table as Grancis returns the greeting and sits into the now-tilted bench thanks to Boris’ horrifying weight.
The Captain nods. “Good, now that everyone is here. Allow me to read out this letter I received earlier today.”
“WHO IS IT OF THE FROMMING?” Boris screams through the mess hall.
“The Mayor of Wreckwind Port, of course. Did I not tell you?”
“OH! I THOUGHT YOU MEANT SOME LETTER OF THE OTHER.”
“Well no, it’s the same letter. May I-
“THIS IS OF THE OKAY. PLEASE BE OF THE READING.”
The Captain smiles. “I’d love to.” He clears his nonexistent throat and begins with a mockingly snooty voice:
“Dear Honorable Captain The Captain,
It’s so nice to finally write you after all these months. I wanted just so badly to speak with you before you left without even so much as a word. I must say I did not appreciate the regards you gave Chief Vangair upon running off with that little box of mine and all that cargo. Did I do something to offend you?”
The Captain pulls away and shares a quick scoff with Luisoix, the only two with the full understanding of what she had done that night that put them on the run.
“If I did, I’m sorry, very sorry. I feel this has all just been one big misunderstanding and I want so very terribly badly to show you just how sorry I am. Please allow me to apologize to you with a full pardon for absolutely everything and an invitation to the Eversea’s fanciest and most desirable gala of the year: The Irefall Manor Ball. It is there you’ll receive your pardon and enjoy the finest night of your eccentric life.
Of course, you’ll have to bring along that sensational chef Boris of yours- I simply must have him cook something up for us as I’d like him to exchange some recipes with my own master chef, and bring your lovely boy too; Jim, yes? And I know your cute little engineer would just love to show me all his new, wonderful contraptions, that precious thing- but please just bring the blueprints, not him. He’s rather silly and we can both agree his presence is less than enjoyable. I also hear tell that you’ve recently opened up your workplace to those of the fairer sex and brought some young ladies on board! You know I just have to meet them, and you know just how often poor overworked Vangair goes without a dancing partner. It will be on the third of Grggam, but I want you to be there by the second so we can talk and spend lots of time together. Please come!
With all the passion of the waves,
Pertalaine Irefall, Mayor of Wreckwind Port”
At the end of the letter is an offensively-bold kiss mark and a small writ of invitation. The Captain stuffs away the letter and writ with a nod. “And there you have it.”
Jim and Boris exchange quick looks- the two are surprisingly fond of each other considering their infamous reputations upon an already infamous vessel. “So, we’re going to a party?” Jim asks, head tilted forward in suspicion.
“You all are the persons she described in the letter, so you will be attending the party with me. Worry not about attire; I’ll provide for you and ensure you’re properly briefed.”
“Briefed?” Grancis asks.
The Captain nods. “Yes. While we’re going for a good time and a pardon, we’re also going to show Pertalaine just how much better The Nocturna operates than her silly criminal underworld. You and Chef Boris will be outcooking her finest. Luisoix will make a mockery of her chief engineer’s designs, and Jim… Jim will be the Jimmest Jim that ever Jimmed. Jim stuff, of course- we all know.”
“Thanks a lot, Captain.” Jim scowls.
“I’m sure you’ll be of great use, Jim, so long as you keep down your… other self.”
Knowing, dreading glances are exchanged among the others.
“Yeah, don’t you have a brig to cry in somewhere?” Colette says with a smirk.
Jim groans. “Don’t you have a… Dunks to get… beat up by?”
“Nice one, Jim,” Luisoix says with acidic sarcasm.
“A perfect rebuttal,” The Captain says in echo.
“THAT WAS OF THE HORRIBLE, JIM,” Boris says. We all know that Boris is not much of one for sarcasm, but he still tries hard, the poor fellow.
Grancis just turns her gaze as Jim smashes his fist into the table. “Shut up! You all know I can’t control it!”
“You can control yourself back to the brig,” Colette says, winning a chuckle from Luisoix.
Jim’s tattoo flashes and Colette tenses for movement. “You… B-bastards always-”
The Captain cracks a single knuckle, pacifying Jim instantly. “Mister Masthaven, Miss Ketiere, please be more exemplary. Verbal jousting is certainly within the domain of a fine captain, however you two are pushing into the realm of vicious, and good captains are rarely vicious.”
“What?” Jim snaps. “I didn’t do anyth-”
“I’m not interested in excuses, Mister Masthaven. You will display coolness or it’s back to the brig with you.”
Jim sighs and pushes his hand into his face. “Y…yes sir.”
“Very good. Now then: an aspiring person of command must be ready for any feasible event that might be thrown his way. It is for this that I will assure that you three are updated on the proper courtly manners and dances.”
“Dance lessons, for the three of us?” Grancis asks.
“Among other things, yes. I would be ill caught if one of my crew mates caught the eye of another captain or noble and desired a dance, only to be unable to perform properly. The lesson will have to be intensive as we don’t have long until we reach Wreckwind. I estimate about a day to a week.”
Colette squints an eye. “To a week?”
The Captain waves his head about and shrugs. “The Eversea tries hard to get sailors lost, so it quite depends. If both Jim and I are in good mental condition we can certainly chart the proper course. If not… we’ll get there when we get there.”
“But won’t we miss the ball?” Colette asks.
He nods. “Yes, but taking it slow and steady would be preferable to running off course and into a deep god, or traveling off the end of some far off world, or even worse,” The Captain’s tone darkens. “finding one of the elder islands.”
Even Luisoix looks confused, but for the first time, Grancis notices Boris pulse his body- like a small, almost imperceptible flinch of horror.
“Hell’s an elder island?” Jim asks.
The Captain scoffs. “One day, my boy, one day,” he says with professorly finger wriggle. The Captain straightens up and rises from his seat. “Now then, meeting adjourned. Mister Masthaven, Miss Ketiere, Miss Vereyrty, I expect to see you all in the gym tomorrow after breakfast; understand?”
“Yeah,” Colette says.
“Alright,” goes the Jim.
And of course there’s a demure “Mhmm,” from Grancis.
The Captain nods. “Very good. You’re dismissed.” He looks over to Luisoix. “And Head Engineer Luisoix. I would like to have a word with you in private.”
Luisoix raises a horrific angler-fish brow. “Sure thing, Cap.”
The group splits up and Grancis feels the need to turn in early. Her duties for the day are finished, after all, and she’s been weighing her feelings with Colette for hours. She doesn’t even look at Colette when she gets up, bows and takes her leave.
Really, Grancis knew this would be brought up eventually. For all the numerous times Grancis stuck out for Colette, when in their younger years it was Colette who stuck out for Grancis. She remembers well the taste and sensation of mud, the abrupt fling of gravity when one is pushed over, and even the rare, second-long sting of a thrown rock that leaves a lasting injury that must have only been because of a fall, she’d claim. Alone at ten years old, Grancis had no enjoyment of going outside. Being the daughter of the cultured doctor forced her out like a sore thumb. As many of the villagers did not appreciate the newly-moved doctor, their children did not appreciate his child either. Colette, however, was different.
Grancis escapes the thoughts and returns to her anger as she enters the sleeping quarters, steps to the end of the room and ascends to her bunk. She climbs over Colette’s with a heave, and stops. Her lobster plushy, lonesome just a day ago, is now companion to a small octopus, smirking blankly as it wraps around an equally-soft anchor. She’s set aback only a moment, and then she lays herself to sleep.
An hour later, Colette comes to her bunk, enters solemnly, and turns her back to Grancis. Grancis peeks over Colette a moment. Something’s missing with her. It takes her a few seconds.
“So… where’s your coat?” Grancis asks, almost whispering.
Colette doesn’t move an inch. “Lost it.”
Grancis takes a breath too. “I see… And you found this thing?” Grancis gently presses the octopus into Colette’s back.
“Yeah… you know, just lyin’ around.”
They listen to the muffled sound of the waves as they rock the two gently. “Thank you,” Grancis says.
Colette pauses before responding. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s true.”
Colette sighs. “But it was still mean. You would’ve been fine without me, but not me without you… I needed you. I still need you.”
Grancis hums with the gentleness of a butterfly landing on a leaf. “I need you too. I just don’t want you to change. I’m scared.”
“Don’t change. I don’t want you to lose who you are.”
Colette bites her lip. “I won’t lose myself. Whatever I’ll be, I’ll still be fighting for you. Is that enough?”
Grancis is quiet a moment. “I… I don’t know. Just please be careful, okay?” Colette nudges her elbow to poke Grancis, but Grancis catches her hand with her own. “Promise me?” Grancis adds.
Colette sighs, stares through the darkness of the bunk room to the mild light from the porthole window, and nods. “I promise.”
Grancis hugs Colette’s arm to her chest. “Thank you… Good night.”
“Good night,” Colette says.
The two terminate contact and wrap into their bunks. Colette wonders just what she could do to defeat the overlord without becoming a monstrosity, and Grancis wonders just how deep Colette will go once she inevitably breaks her promise.