you help to sing these songs of freedom?
'Cause all I ever have, Redemption Songs.
Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.
Dedicated to Bandit, my favorite raccoon.
Merry Christmas, (chitter chitter chitter)
now give me back my silverware!
Rev walked down the hallway when he heard the sounds of a flute playing from one of the quarters. He stood for a moment, listening, when he recognized the song. He smiled to himself, and knocked on the door. "It's open!" came a yell. Rev opened it to see a gray cat holding a flute in his paws. "Oh hi Rev! What are you up to?"
"Oh, couldn't help but hear the music." Rev said, walking into the doorway. "It's interesting you choose to play Silent Night."
"Why?" Smoke asked, holding the flute straight up and down in front of him. "It's almost Christmas."
Rev smiled. "I didn't think anyone here would notice."
"Well, I figured we boarded the ship a week or so ago, and if my math is right the 25th should be in a day or two." Smoke was counting on his fingers as he spoke.
"Actually, it's tomorrow." Rev said. "That sounded beautiful."
"Thank you!" Smoke said, beaming with pride. "I'm not entirely happy with it, I mean I've done better and..."
"It sounded fine." Rev said, patting Smoke on the head. "Don't be too critical of yourself, especially when it sounds fine." Smoke nodded, knowing he was right. "Tonight I'll be giving a Christmas Eve sermon in the chapel. If you're not doing anything, could you come by and play that?"
Smoke nodded. "I'll talk to Treble too, he can play something on the violin too?"
Rev nodded. "That would be nice of him, if he wanted to."
"Wanted to what?" Treble walked in, and Smoke pounced on him from across the room. Treble hugged his friend, and licked his muzzle while Smoke did the same. Both then slowed down, and stopped, looking at the rabbit in black while blushing slightly.
Rev snickered. "Go ahead, it's not unusual on this ship." The two cats looked at each other and decided to rub muzzles in a subdued way instead
"Rev was talking to me about playing on his Christmas eve sermon tonight." Smoke said. "Want to help?"
"Sure!" Treble said without hesitation. "Should we put together a song list?" Rev nodded, and the three sat down to work out a list.
Yars was filling out the last of his daily logs when his door opened up. "I'm sorry sir!" the first mate said. "But he insisted on…"
"Don't worry Kyle." Yars said to the young man after looking up and smiling at the scent. "He's always invited." The squirrel looked up to the dane, and swallowed hard. Kyle nodded, and quickly scampered out. "He's young, he will learn someday."
Ironbar shook his head snickering. "How young can he be?" Yars shrugged. "Well, I wanted to come up here to invite you to our Howl."
Yars perked his ear. "You're having a Howl?" Ironbar nodded. "Well, I suppose it's as good a time as any. When?"
"Three days." Ironbar said, sitting on the captain's desk. "Weather permitting."
"Should be smooth sailing." Yars said, putting his paw on Ironbar's. "And it's after Christmas, Rev will be pleased."
"It's Christmas time already?" Ironbar asked. Yars nodded. "I thought it wouldn't be for weeks!"
"So did I." Yars said, patting Ironbar's paw. "Rev pointed out to me it was almost the day, and I checked the logs and calendar, and he's right. A few other men also commented on it, and we're making some preparations."
Ironbar's expression changed slightly, deep in thought. "I think I'll get the Howlers together. I think we can get Rev a present he'll like."
In the brig Captain Langley was looking out the window. Still miles from anywhere, and his crew had slowly whittled down. He was left with the strongest men and command crew. He didn't need to count them again, based on what he knew it. Assuming that they only took one a day, his crew would all be dead in less than six weeks.
The door opened up to the brig, and the gray fox named Silver walked in. He looked over the crew in the brig, who regarded him with passive hate. "I come with news." Silver said. The prisoners barely acknowledged his presence. "You may or may not know tomorrow is Christmas." He waited for a lashing response, but got none. "We've made a decision in light of this. We will not be taking anyone tonight nor tomorrow. I know it's not much of a consolation, but we are not total savages."
"Thanks fer nothin'." said Eric, spitting towards the door. "You'll keep on eating us when it's over."
Silver didn't look at the pirate. "I'm sorry. But you have two day reprieve. Merry Christmas." Silver quietly walked out the door, and locked it behind him. Langly looked out the window more. At least he had two more days to work out his escape plan.
Silver nuzzled with Sharpeye as soon as he walked out. "I told them."
"Good." Sharpeye said. "We'll leave the guards to their posts."
Silver nodded. "I'll meet you in the mess hall? I have something I want to do first." Sharpeye nodded, and the two foxes parted ways.
Silver walked into the Howler's quarters quietly, saying hello to some of his friends as he walked past. He came up behind a bull terrier and sat down next to him. The dog put down his wood working tools and looked up to the fox. "Almost done with it kid." he said.
Silver nodded, looking into the dog's black eyes, and eye fur. "You know, Dice, I can't tell you how interesting I find you."
"Whyzat?" Dice asked in his usual way.
"For someone as large as you, you create art that is so small." Silver said, using his hand to stroke Dice behind his large, pointed ears. "I'm just a bit surprised."
Dice let out a breath in a staccato laughter. "Yeh, well, it's what 'cha learn. What do you think of 'em?"
Silver looked at the wooden blocks, and smiled. "I think he'll love them." Silver put the designs down. "How can I pay you back?"
"How 'bouts half an hour with that wonderful tail of yours?" Dice asked with a grin. Silver winked, and Dice let out a laugh. "Naw, ya know I'm with Red. Hey, you'll figger somtin' out sometime. Not like I'm not goin' nowhere. But 'cha can give me one thing." Silver barely had time to react when Dice grabbed him and gave him a big hug. Silver returned it, gasping for breath in the huge arms of the dog.
A few loud yipps pierced the air, and the room got quieter. Everyone looked to the door, and Ironbar was standing there. "Men? We're on for our Howl." And a loud howl went up through the room. Ironbar smiled to himself. and waited for it to go down. "But we have one thing I'd like to do tonight."
Rev grabbed his book and headed to the chapel. He never liked being late, especially when it's a sermon he promised. He got into the room, and saw about six people there, sitting down. He greeted every one of them before walking to the front of the room where Smoke and Treble were waiting for him.
"I'd like to wait for sunset." Rev said. "It's not much, but it's when I always start." The cats nodded. Out of the stained glass window the crew members in the chapel watched the sun set quietly. "Isn't in beautiful?" Rev asked idly. "I never tire of watching that." The chapel doors opened silently, and Yars walked in, standing at the back. Rev turned to see him, and looked a little surprised. "I didn't expect to see you here."
"I couldn't help but hear you as I was walking past, Rev." Yars said. "You know, on top of the deck the view is even better."
"I don't doubt that." Rev said. "But I really have a…"
"I don't think you understand Rev." Yars said insistently. "I think you'll like the view topside, on the main deck." His stare was the practiced stare of a ship's captain. The others in the rows looked at Rev nervously.
Smoke leaned into Rev. "I think we should go up to the deck."
Rev nodded. "Perhaps… Perhaps the Lord's words would be best suited to be heard outside tonight." he said, clearing his throat afterwards. The crew members in the pews agreed, and quietly they all got up to walk to the top deck. As Rev walked past Yars, he leaned over and quietly demanded "What is this all about?"
"You'll see." Yars said, his face not giving anything away. "You'll like the view."
The small group walked to the deck, Rev being the second to last one up. When he came out of the ship, he stopped in his tracks. On the deck he saw about thirty of the Howlers lighting candles and lanterns. A few had their instruments out, a few were preparing the deck with benches and tables. "What's this?"
"Ya can't have a Christmas sermon without music!" Rev looked to his left to see a brown dog with his paw extended. "And we can't all fit in the chapel. We tried that a few years ago. So we put our heads together and figured if you can't bring the music to the preacher…" Mutt let it linger off.
"…you bring the preacher to the music?" Rev finished the sentence taking the dog's paw, shaking it. "That makes sense." He looked to the two cats, who were wearing grins like they both stole a canary. "You knew about this?"
"It was his idea." they both said, pointing at Yars.
Rev turned to Yars, who simply shrugged. "I told you you'd like the view, didn't I?"
Rev shook his head in disbelief. "Remind me to never underestimate you again."
"I'll do that." Yars said. "Meanwhile, I think I'll go take a seat before the Howlers claim them all." Yars walked away, leaving the rabbit to look at the small crowd.
The Howlers finished setting up, and took seats facing the western sun. Rev stood on the deck, and watched as the waves rocked into the Maria. He turned around, the sun barely a spot on the horizon. "I was saying below that I never get tired of looking at that sight. There's nothing like a sunset over the ocean anywhere in the world."
"Hmph." Mutt turned around to see one of the rats standing, his arms crossed over his chest. "He can keep it."
"You don't have to stay for this, Chris." Mutt said.
"It's almost Christmas." the rat said. "If you remember I did this last year." Mutt nodded. "I'd just rather be home with my family, not on this damned boat."
"I ya'd like, I'll be your family." Mutt said with sincerity. Chris snorted, and shook his head. "Well, offer stands. As it did last year."
Rev watched the sun set over the horizon, and looked to the crew. The candles and lanterns were placed so the lighting was even. He looked over the small flock before him, and smiled. "This is a bit more than I expected." he said, looking around. "And I didn't expect to see some of you here tonight. This ship is full of surprises." He looked at a few of the jackrats, standing at the back. "Won't you join us?"
Chris stepped forward. "We'll go as far as not causing a fight or anything." he said. "But we're more comfortable back here if it's all the same."
Rev nodded. "I just wanted everyone to know that everyone is welcome here." Chris nodded in understanding, but stayed in the back, leaning against the rail of the ship with the other rats. Rev took in the moment, and looked around. Dogs, cats, rats, raccoons, horses, a tiger… quite a 'flock' to have. "When I moved into the quarters below I found that the have been many religions represented at one time or another in the past. In light of that, I will promise you all that I won't push my own beliefs onto you all if I can help it. However, this is the time of year that some celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but I also want to celebrate something else. All of us."
"Since I came on board this ship, I've found many people who have many things in common." Rev said. "Beyond the obvious things like being on this ship." a small chuckle came up from the crew. "All of us on this ship have undergone changes. In talking to you all over the last week I've discovered many things about you all. The fights, the resolutions, the ongoing clashes, the brotherhood, the love for each other, the occasional hatred for each other and even the respect for each other that years of working together has given you a special bond that, as a newcomer, I can only begin to appreciate. I think that, sometimes, we tend to forget that, because we're always with each other."
Rev held his book in his paws. "So this is the time of year that we come together, not just as shipmates but as family. Even though we are always together, we rarely come together as brothers or friends. Even in the most heated of debates or fights, we still live as a family. Even in the moments of joy and happiness, the moments of rage and hatred, the moments between them, and especially in these moments, we are still a family. When a family comes together, there's nothing that can stop them because deep down in their hearts, they love each other. And they would do anything for each other." A few of the dogs leaned into the one next to them, and a few gently scratched each other.
"It doesn't matter what religion you believe in, if any. It doesn't matter what you believe will happen to you on this ship. It doesn't even matter if you can't stand anyone else on board. You're still in the family. You're still a brother, no matter what you think you've become. That common thing, that one thing, can hold us all together in the worst of times, and makes the best of times even better."
Rev stopped a moment. "This is why this time of year is so important. Every year, we all drop all our bickering, all our squabbles, and all our fighting regardless of what you believe. And why? Because we spend a day remembering that we are family under the eyes of the Lord." Rev paused, looking around. "And the Lord appreciates it too, believe me. He gets a day off from hearing about the things you all complain about." And the snickers came up, as Rev wanted. "One of the common threads in all religions that I know about is the same message. Treat the one next to you as you want to be treated yourself. It's a message we should remember all year long, not just today."
Rev opened the pages of his book, and looked down into it. "Before I knew that the Captain had organized this, I had a very different sermon in mind. I have always been of the belief that when Christ gave his sermon on the mountain the people came willingly to listen. However, I would still like to read this to you all, because it's my favorite passage to read this time of year."
Rev took in a deep breath, and read with meaning :
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Rev paused, and looked up with his finger still in the book page. "I choose this every year over all others because it's a reminder to all of us that the miracles of the Lord are all around us. Even in things that may seem frightening, or unknown, the Lord will have his way to show us the glory and beauty in that which we fear. It is why I watch the sun set over the horizon before I begin every year, to remind myself that the glory of the Lord is not only in the miracles in this book, but in the every day miracles." Rev closed the book gently. "And it's in the love I see for fellow man on board this ship."
With that, Rev placed the book under his arm. "I would like to offer you all a few moments of silent prayer at this time." Rev bowed his head, and so did many others in the audience. After a minute, Rev walked over to Smoke, and whispered in his ear. Smoke nodded, who gently nodded to Treble. The two of them stood up, and began to play. Treble stopped, and sang the words.
"Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright" The Howlers joined in, singing together in harmony.
"Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace."
Rev looked to Yars and smiled. The tiger pointed to Ironbar. Rev looked to the dane, who shrugged once and joined in with the chorus.
Down below the water line, Vermin was sitting in his bed. Many of his jackrats were above with the others, but he didn't want anything to do with this 'ceremony'. Then he heard them singing, and felt like he was going to wretch. The singing was fine, he just couldn't understand why anyone would be happy trapped on this damned boat. And the fact that Yars organized this did not help. He then thought that at the very least, he could find someone he could gain some pleasure from. He got up and walked out with a purpose.
In the brig, the pirates could hear the singing of Silent Night. A few of them sang it quietly to themselves, still others were appalled at what they thought was a bastardization of religion. They were eating the pirates and yet, they could sing this song? The brig door flew open, and Vermin walked in. "Which one of you fuckers is Eric?" None of the pirates moved. "You want out? I'll let you out if you'll help me beat the hell out of someone."
Eric looked over to Captain Langley, who nodded slightly. "You're not here for a dinner?"
"Fuck no." Vermin sneered. "Come with me and I'll give you freedom, and power like you've never imagined."
Eric stood up, and walked at the door. "No bullshit."
Vermin smiled. "No bullshit. Come with me." Eric walked to the doorway, and through it for the first time. "First I must prepare you for this. Follow me." And they walked out the front door, and down below.
The Howlers sang, the cats played, the jackrats even had a small service to honor their recently fallen brothers, and the evening was over. Rev was helping the Howlers pack away the benches in the hold. "I didn't know you could sing!" He said to Mutt.
"Ya never asked!" Mutt said with a grin. "A lot of us are Welsh. When you get a shift of mostly us, we'll sing for hours on end." Mutt grinned widely. "We could probably move the ship with the power of our voices if he sails were hung right!"
Rev grinned. "If we come across Jericho, I'll know who to call on!" Mutt let his tongue roll out of his mouth in a goofy grin as he picked up a bench.
"I told you you'd like the view." Rev turned to see Yars standing there. "Aren't you glad I insisted?"
"Not as intimate as I was prepared for," Rev said "but I won't complain. Thank you for that."
"My pleasure." Yars said. "Consider it a partial payback for helping me."
"Helping US." Ironbar said, hugging the tiger from behind. Yars purred softly as Ironbar held him in an affectionate grip. "If you need a choir Rev…"
"The brown dog told me." Rev said with a laugh. "I'll keep it in mind."
The next morning, Rev gave another sermon in the chapel. It was the small, intimate one he had prepared for. Smoke and Treble came back to play for the small audience.
Sharpeye woke up to an empty bed. He looked around, and saw Silver at the small table at the foot of the bed. "Silver?" he asked.
Silver snapped up, looking embarrassed. "I didn't think you were up yet." He said. "But, since you are, I suppose I can give you this. Silver crawled up the bed, and nuzzled with Sharpeye gently. He then handed him two blocks. "Merry Christmas Sharpeye."
The older fox looked at the blocks. There were two wooden blocks, and scrimshawed into them were images of foxes intertwined with trees, like it was a chase or a dance. The slight indents on the side were carved into them, and the weight easily told what they were. "Bookends?"
Silver nodded. "You have a few on the shelves there. I thought you'd, well, like them."
Sharpeye felt his eyes water. "Thank you! But, I don't have anything to give you."
Silver put his finger on Sharpeye's muzzle. "You already did. You gave me a new name, a new life, and someone I care about." Sharpeye kissed Silver tenderly, as the two let their paws roam over each other.
"YAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!" Eric screamed as he felt the claws dig into his sides.
"Yesssss…" Vermin hissed. He moved one claw to Eric's shaft and stroked him while his own pushed into Eric's hole. "Let that anger feed you. I can feel that hate in you for the fox grow. Once I finish, you'll be one of my jackrats, and you can help me take my vengence." Vermin used his claws to scratch Eric's shaft. Eric hissed in pain, but felt it shoot through his body in a pleasurable wave.
Vermin picked up his pace. He had been tormenting Eric all night in the stocks, bringing himself and the new rat close to climax, but enjoying the transformation. Eric's tail had already formed, as did his new snout. And with each stroke Eric's body began to get covered in a dark brown fur. Eric panted harder, his teeth becoming points.
"Who's your Master?" Vermin demanded, close to climax.
"YOU ARE!" Eric shouted. Vermin grabbed Eric's shaft, and rubbed Eric's sheath while pumping into him hard. Eric could feel his body tingle, then explode in orgasm. Vermin exploded too, pumping the new jackrat with his seed. Eric hissed and thrashed in orgasm, feeling his ears form and lock, and finally his claws on the end of each finger and toe.
Vermin pulled out, his shaft dripping. Eric's ass closed up behind it, holding the seed of his new Master within him. Vermin walked around in front of his latest jackrat, and looked at him. Eric's eyes had a fire in them. "Very good, my boy. Now the final touches." Vermin took out some hoop earrings. "Every one you can take will give you a higher ranking in the jackrats. You make a noise, I stop. Got it?" Eric nodded, focused on Vermin. "Good. We begin." Vermin rammed a sharp point into the ear of the jackrat. Eric took in a sharp breath, but didn't say anything. This repeated on each ear until Eric had been pierced seven times. On the seventh, he let out a grunt. Vermin stopped. "Not too bad." he said.
Eric nodded, still bleeding from the violations. "What's everyone else at?"
"Five, usually." Vermin said, picking up one more ring. "But in your case, there's one more I will give you." He tied a leather strap around the jackrat's snout, muzzling him, and held the sharp end of a large ring next to Eric's nose. "This will signify you a warrior. And this will hurt like a son of a bitch. Let the pain feed your hate, because we fight tomorrow." Vermin said with a smile, then pushed.
Eric closed his eyes and screamed into his strapped mouth.
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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.