Return to Sea
will have the freedom to think
and choose as you wish.
What do I choose?
You choose in the moment.
"Down Deep into the Pain"
"So you really think he did it?" Red asked.
"I'd guess so." Duke said. Duke never bothered putting his clothing back on, and sat naked next to Red and Dice. "When else would you hear a howl like that?"
"You're probably right." Red said. "Shouldn't we be returning that howl?"
"I suppose we should!" Dice said. The small group of dogs let out a powerful howl hat carried across the island, a howl of welcoming. And after a few moments, they heard a howl back, returning the welcome. The Howlers collectively cheered, and let wail a few more howls, which were carried across the island by it's members.
Vermin sat and listened. He pulled the rat's muzzle off his cock and listened. He never quite understood what all that yelling was about, but it was always done after someone was brought in. "Bunch of whiny bastards." Vermin said. "At least you know what your mouth is good for, don't you?" The rat nodded, not saying a word. "That's good. Now make me cum, and drink every drop." The rat nodded, and opened his mouth.
The pirates, on the other hand, looked to the sky with a concern. The howl rattled more than a few of them. "Steady men." Langley said. "They leave in three days. If we can't take the Maria, we will still get home." He tried to steady his voice, but wavered.
The night was a blur for the Howlers. They held an impromptu feast for their newest member, all proposing names for him. Long after sunset, the new year was declared. Most of the crew joined in on the feast, which ended almost at sunrise with a pile of sleeping bodies. Chris himself falling asleep between Yars and Mutt, drunk on the pleasures and scents of his new form. A few of the pirates had also joined them, but remained in their human form.
The next two days were spent preparing for departure. "Maria has changed a little." Yars told his crew. "For most of us we won't notice the difference. But all the wood we have been placed on board her has helped. We will have a small…" he looked to Robert "SMALL" the tabby nodded. "botanical area. The Howlers quarters has more windows." Several dogs murmured their approval. "And the jackrats will have more light, if they want it." Vermin shot Yars a dirty look, but never said another word.
"What about the pirates?" Abacus asked.
"Ahh, yes." Yars said. "True to our word, we will provide them money and a boat. I need a few volunteers to help cut down a few more trees for Maria to create a boat. The excess will go into storage." There was a murmur of disapproval. "I can not force anyone to do this, I can only ask. One of the pirates has offered a service to us. If we have messages we want relayed to loved ones, he will do so. I can not guarantee his word, but he offered it to us."
The crowd stood, looking around. Mutt sighed loudly, and looked to Chris. Chris nodded. "We're on it Captain." Mutt said. He and Chris went to the ship for some tools. In a few minutes, they were joined by many of the Howlers, and some of the stronger horses on board. By nightfall, they had cut and hauled a dozen trees and laid them on the deck of the Maria. Maria absorbed them into her deck overnight.
That night, Chris stood over a fire tending to a fish he had caught from his beach line. "That smells good!" Chris looked to the black and white cat next to him. "Could use some lemon."
"If you know where I can get one, I'll use it." Chris said with a laugh.
"I haven't seen you around." Treble said. "Are you new?"
"Yes and no." Chris said. "Just new to the fur, not to the company I keep."
The cat closed an eye, and realized what he was saying. "You're the rat guy, aren't you?"
Chris nodded. "Not anymore. Now I'm a Howler. I'm Chris."
"Chris?" Treble asked. "You don't have a pack name yet?"
"Not yet. Mutt said one would find me." Chris said.
Treble nodded. "Say, umm, if I brought you something, could you cook it too? I've never been good at that."
"Sure." Chris said. Treble brought over some meat that was caught earlier in the day. Then someone else asked Chris if he could help with another fish. By the night's end, Chris found himself tending to a cookout that it seemed most of the crew had invited themselves to. The smells of cooked meat, spices from the Maria, and the distinct alcohol of Maria's rum mixed over the open fire on the beach. Chris reveled in it, enjoying the impromptu feast as much as he did in preparing the meats. Smoke and Treble played with Mutt as the others danced, ate, and reveled.
The next morning Chris awoke with Mutt's arm draped over him. The fire was long out, but the smell was not. Chris let out a happy sigh, and settled on his beach sleeping spot to watch the sun rise. When it did, he closed his eyes again and went back to sleep.
He woke up to a paw rubbing him behind his floppy ears. "Wake up Kindle!" Chris opened his eyes and saw Ironbar kneeling in front of him. "Don't want to sleep all day!"
"Kindle?" Chris asked, still feeling groggy.
"Well after last night, we figured you for a world class open fire cook!" Ironbar said. "Or at least the best Howler one."
Chris shook his head a little, getting the sand out of his fur. "So I'm Kindle now?"
"If you want to be." Ironbar said. "But we all like it, and we think it works for you."
Chris stretched a little, and sat up. "And I guess you can't call me Mutt too, right?" Ironbar patted Chris on the head. "Kindle is as good as any then. Just don't ask me to do that all the time. Or give me some warning?"
Ironbar patted Kindle on the head. "Agreed." He looked over the mixed breed, and nodded to himself. Definite coloring and some body of a great dane, some of the body of a dachshund, and the white was a mystery. There were still bets what Mutt was, but Kindle would be easier to figure out.
Scott came back that afternoon. "Have you considered my offer?" he asked Yars.
"Yes." Yars said. "And the answer is thank you, but no thank you."
Scott sat back on the ground. "I'm sorry?"
"It's not that we do not trust you." Yars said. "But what could we say to loved ones that would not hurt more than they hurt now?" Scott looked confused. "I have not seen my beloved for many, many years. I hurt for her for a long time, but I had to live my life, and move on. I imagine that she has done the same. And I imagine that she still thinks of me as fondly as I think of her. If I ask you to tell her I still feel for her, I know it would do more damage than good." Yars closed his gold eyes, and sighed. "I imagine she has a family, a husband, a few children she loves more than life itself. It would be unfair to rip that from her by telling her I'm alive, but can never be with her."
Scott sat back and thought a moment, then finally spoke. "I understand Captain. The rest of your men feel that way?"
"Probably not." Yars said. "But if I were to let them give you a message to relay to their homes, you would do more damage than good to their families as well. Our lives are on the Maria now, like it or not. Your life is at your home, with your family. You can do us more service by going home and living your life, and not hurting anyone in our old lives."
Scott sat for a moment, then stood up slowly. "Then I guess this will be goodbye then, Captain."
"That, it will be." Yars said. "You are a good man. Go home. Live your life."
Scott nodded. "I will Captain."
Yars shook Scott's hand. "Tell your captain that our promise will be kept. A boat will be sailing tomorrow morning next to the Maria. On board will be the remainder of your personal weapons, as well as enough coins to repay for the ship lost. Once we leave, the boat will be cut free and will drift to shore. On board you will find a map and tools to find your way to a port of your choosing. My navigators tell me it will be a few day sail, but you will have enough provisions to make it. I wish you luck." Scott nodded, and left the Maria crew to finish up.
The day to leave arrived. Yars stood next to the Maria and watched each member walk back on board. He made sure each of the still-human pirates boarding the Maria knew it was a one way trip, but each said they understood, and boarded anyway. Yars sighed more than a few times as he watched his crew board the Maria again, willingly. He wished to himself that a few had stayed, instead of being trapped.
Yars's thinking was stopped when he saw the Jackrats follwing their leader back onto the ship. The tiger straightened his coat, and prepared for whatever they were going to try. Vermin sneered at Yars. "I'm surprised to see you come back aboard." Yars said. "It is optional."
"What?" Vermin asked. "And give you the pleasure of my leaving? Oh no. I'm going to make every day as miserable for you as it is for me."
Yars sighed to himself. "In that case, welcome aboard. You know where your chosen quarters are."
"Bite me." Vermin said.
"It hasn't been half an hour yet." Yars said mockingly. "I just might." Yars made a scissors "cutting" motion with his fingers, and mentally buckled down the mask of Captain.
Vermin bolted upright, and stared down Yars. The tiger's tail flipped once, but his gaze remained the same. "Just feel lucky that I'm not in the mood." Vermin sneered. He led his jackrats down below, to drop off their supplies.
Mike wandered up to the gangplank quietly, and stood next to the tiger. "Begging the Captains pardon?"
Yars looked down to the creature next to him. "Mike, I assume?"
"Yes Captain." Mike said. "Permission to come aboard?" Mike's tone was meek, respectful to the Captain he tried to kill earlier in the week.
"Granted." Yars said. "I can assume you know the rules of the Maria?"
"Yes Captain." Mike said. "Belfry briefed me."
Yars raised an eyebrow. "Oh? I don't suppose he could tell us what you are, can he?"
"He's an otter." Both turned to see Robert walking up with Abacus, paw in paw. "I don't know the species, but he's an otter."
"What's an otter?" Mike asked.
"Marine animal, spends most of it's time in water. Did you know how to swim before you came aboard?" Robert asked. Mike nodded. "Explains a little. But, that's what you are."
"Ok." Mike said. "Does that explain why my quarters consists of a large pool and some furniture?" Robert, Abacus and Yars looked at him with a strange look. "Hey, don't look at me. Belfry showed it to me. We already broke it in and everything."
"Broke it…" Robert stammered out. Abacus squeezed his paw, and Robert suddenly felt his ears flash with heat. "oh." he said quietly, realizing what he meant.
Mike smiled as he nodded. "With your permission, I'd like to earn my keep aboard the Maria, Captain?"
Yars nodded. "Talk to Ironbar or to Duke, they can help you settle in." Yars looked over Mike one more time. "Not to critisize, but clothing may help when we're at sea. At least a protective layer."
Mike nodded. "Belfry said that too, but I feel very comfortable naked with my fur coat. He said Maria could make me something, I'll ask her once I get aboard." Mike bowed his head respectfully. "Thank you Captain, I look forward to my time aboard her." Mike trotted up the gangplank and hugged Bullseye when he got there.
"He settled in nicely." Robert said.
Abacus nodded. "You know Maria does that to everyone who stays." he said. "She brings out the latent qualities, and helps out." Robert opened his muzzle, and Abacus cut off the question. "No, I don't know why Vermin is still a jackass. I guess she enhanced what was already there." Robert nodded slowly. "At least we can sleep in our own bed tonight."
Robert leaned over and kissed Abacus on the muzzle gently, as they walked on board. Yars surveyed the island one more time, and saw a rabbit walking towards him. "The Pirates are ready." Rev said. "We should put the small sail in the water and load her up."
"Thank you Rev." Yars said. "You've been a help to everyone so far. It's good you're coming back."
"I don't have a choice." Rev said with a grin. "My flock is on the arc. It wouldn't do me much good to stay." Rev patted Yars on the shoulder. "My place is here."
Yars nodded. "We need to get sailing. I have one more favor to ask of you, Rev." Rev nodded.
The rabbit stood over the small sailboat, speaking a blessing over it. As he finished, he nodded to the crew, and the Jackrats lowered it to the water. The small boat floated on it's own. On board were four chests filled to the brim with gold coins, and a fifth chest with the pirate's weapons. The Howler guards on the sides kept the pirates at bay as Mutt untied the rope from the tree he secured it to. Kindle did the same on the aft end, and both dogs jumped from the cliff into the Maria.
"WEIGH ANCHOR!" Yars yelled out. The largest dogs, rats, and all the horses on crew attached their posts to the anchor wheel and began to turn it. Treble sat on the wheel, playing his violin while Smoke filled in the top with his flute. After many minutes of turning, the anchor raised from the water line, and Maria was free.
Maria's hull glowed softly as she drifted to port side slowly, turning around on her own power. The pirates marveled at how the ship spun in a circle in the shallows, and turned to leave. As she drifted over the reefs, one of the pirates finally waded out to the sailboat. "HOLY CHRISTMAS!" he screamed out. He towed the boat back in excited. "You're not going to believe how many coins there are!" he screamed out.
The other pirates pulled in the craft eagerly, and they pulled out the money chests and their weapons. They all laughed, and celebrated at their windfall of money. Captain Langley looked at it too, and put a hand on his sword. Soon the celebrating stopped, and the pirates looked upon each other uneasily. An eerie silence fell over the beach, only the waves could be heard as the pirates eyed each other as the Maria sailed oit of sight.
Red looked over the horizon, through his telescope. Dice was standing with him, in the lull of activity until they were clear of the reefs. "Do you have regrets?" he asked. "You could have stayed on the island, gotten off with the pirates. Who knows? We could have retuned to normal."
The setter shook his head. "I have regrets." he said. "That one pirate could have brought a message to my family, but it's probably for the better good." Red put his telescope down. "I thought about staying there. I know if I stayed you would have too. I couldn't ask that of you." Red shrugged. "Besides, I remember the man I was, I was a self centered bastard who chased women, gambled and boozed too much. I'd probably be in debtors prison at best, or dead at worst."
"Well…" Dice said slowly. "You still booze, so two out of three isn't too bad."
Red snickered and rubbed Dice on the head. "I've heard rumors I still play the dice on occasion."
The bull terrier grinned to his mate. "Does this mean you roll a four tonight?"
"Only if you land on your belly and those spots on your back haven't changed!" Red said with a grin. "Or I'll settle for getting a two." Dice closed his eyes, the double black patches completely visible, and he kissed Red. "A two! How nice!" The two hugged gently as they watched the sunset.
Scott crawled out from his hiding place after the sun had risen high into the sky. He clenched his knife as he made his way to the beach front where the Pirates had been sleeping for the last week. The sand had turned a deep red where the water had not washed away the carnage. Every step he took was either soaked in blood or held the resting place of one of his former shipmates. Scott made his way to the sailboat, and looked inside. Empty, except for charts, provisions, and the occasional loose coin.
He turned around, and saw Captain Langley impaled on a tree. His hands tied behind him, his own sword speared through his lifeless chest Clenched in his hands were a few gold coins. The beach was littered with them. Scott could already hear the birds, and some of the native wildlife stirring. He didn't bother calling out for survivors, he saw the carnage from a distance. Without looking, he threw a chest half-filled with coins into the sailboat, and looked at the beach one last time. No signs of human life left, and whatever was on the island had gotten the smell of blood. He raised a sail, and raised the anchor. He said a quick prayer for those he left behind, and quietly thanked the tabby cat for his advice before turning for the wind.
Silver walked into a room he had never seen before, and heard splashing noises. He saw Mike there, swimming in a large pool. "When did we get this?" Silver asked.
"No idea!" the otter said, swimming to the pool's edge by the door. "And I don't know how it could be fresh water either." Silver blinked, and knelt to sniff the water. Sure enough, not a drop of salt in it. "After being turned into this, I'm just happy to have a place to live where I'm not strange looking."
"I'm Silver." The fox said. "I'm the apprentice navigator."
"Mike!" the otter said. "But I'm thinking of going with the ship tradition and re-naming myself Diver."
"Seems to be what I'm best suited for." the otter said. "And if you believe Belfry, which I do, things might change a lot around here. He said I may be able to get out into the ocean for a swim once in a while."
"What?" Silver asked, alarmed. "Since when can we do that?"
"I wouldn't know." Mike said. "But, hey, I'll take whatever I get. Say? Want to come in for a dip? Water's warm!"
"Later, perhaps?" Silver said. "Mind if I bring someone along?"
"No problem!" Mike said, playfully splashing. "I've got a really big pool for just a small guy like me. It'll get lonely in here sometimes! Don't be a stranger!" Mike grinned, and arched his back, diving under the water to swim around. The fox tried to get a grasp on how deep the wate really was, but decided it was more of a headache to figure out. He left Diver to his own pool so he could make it to his post.
Silver walked into the command cabin to find that most of he 'higher ups' were having a meeting already. Yars was speaking. "Silver! Please, come in. This concerns you as apprentice navigator." Silver stood next to Sharpeye, nuzzling him gently. "Maria told me that a few of the rules will be relaxed, because we have proven to her that we will come back. Some crew members will be able to leave the ship at any given time, but the invisible wall around the decks will still be in place. What we call the half hour rule will still be in effect as well."
"So we're back to normal?" Ironbar asked.
"As normal as things are here." Yars said. "Maria will also try to make more concessions for us, if we desire them. Like in the Jackrat and Howler general quarters. She told me that she is thankful for us choosing to remain on board, and she will try to give us all shore leave more often."
Sharpeye leaned to Silver. "That's where we come in."
"Yes." Yars said. "You will both need to be as accurate as possible, and look into the archives that Maria has to find suitable places we can dock the ship safely. But first, I want you both to plot a course east. I think we can find a place to go from there." the foxes both nodded. "In the meanwhile, We will return to our usual rotation of crew. Any questions?" Nobody spoke up. "Dismissed, carry on."
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Being a work of fiction, none of the characters herin
are based on a real person (Save the narrator and one other person...)
And similarity to any person alive, dead, undead or unalive is coincidental,
totally. However, if you see yourself or someone you know in a character
be honored. You've been immortalised.