Clang! Clash! Sssssssshhhhhhing!
The battle ragged on board Saltblood's deck. The fox and stoat lunged out at each other without showing a signal of fatigue; their blood was rushing and minds were racing. The male fox held his sword in a defensive style, ready for the stoat's next move. The crew had made a oval around the two, mouths wide in shock and shouting out encouragement to either their crew partner Qadir or their longtime leader Captain Walt the Bloodless.
"Slice orf' his tail Cap'n!"
"Let'em have it Qadir! Use tha' sword fin'!"
"Rememba' what you'r fightin' fa Qadir!"
Qadir looked at the stoat with blood in his eyes; he knew what he was fighting for. For his daughter. With a yell of confidence and determination, the fox brought down his sword with blinding speed. But his Captain knew him all too well; with a laugh, he jabbed his cutlass forward, meeting his target.
The stoat let go of the handle, watching the weapon quiver in Qadir's gut. Letting his own weapon drop and giving Walt a blank expression, Qadir fell to his knees. A single, thin line of blood trickled down his mouth and down his neck; with a small gurgle, Qadir died in his own pool of blood.
Captain Walt placed a footpaw on the lifeless body and stepped over it. "Any'un else?!" he shouted into crew. Spit flew out of his mouth and blood stained his clothes. "Any'un else have anythin' to hide from Cap'n? Have a past you feel needs t'be spoken of 'r do you want to be captain?! Who?!"
Answered with a deadly silence, Walt hollered to the sky. "Who. Am. I?"
The stunned crew answered loud and clear. "The Bloodless Beast!"
"'ow take tha' girlie filth to the oars! Now!" the small whimpers of the vixen were barely heard as she was dragged to the oars. The rest of the crew went back to their duties without another word.
Captain Walt and Saltblood sailed the dark ocean; as smooth as a stream and as merciless as it's captain.
Book One: Saltblood
The Slaves' Cabin was littered with sea salt; ankle-deep in ocean water; and any of type of filth could be seen all across the floor. All the slaves sat collapsed over their oars, breathing in the unhealthy air and mouths dry with fatigue; the youngest slaves were huddled under the oldest ones, looking at their only source of light. The tiny peek hole in the wall of Saltblood let them see the rising sun, and just enough light was let in by it. They slept quietly with a slight whimper from a young one once in a while as it became early morning. Their small moment of peace was short lived when the cabin door swung open with such force, most of the slaves work up with a shout.
"Wake up dearies! Time t'work those oars'n'break yur backs!" the snap of the cat-o-nine tails quickly got everyone barely pushing and pulling the oars. Some of the beasts closed their ears to block out the cries of other beats as they were wakened up by the slaver; Bijou was his name, for one of his eyes glowed like a jewel. "Wake up! Harhar, get up get up get up!!"
All but one slave was awake; her partner shaking her violently, looking for a sign of life in the young squirrel. But he knew it was too late. Bijou snapped his whip and whistled. "Aye Viktor! We've got a dead'un." mummers and gasps erupted from the cabin, and Bijou demanded order with a snap of the whip. "Hush ye mouths'n'push!" A old and fragile rat trotted down the steps into the cabin, holding a knife in one hand and a bag in the other.
"What's t'dagga for Vik?" Bijou questioned, eying the blade with wonder.
"Just watch..." the rat whispered. With blinding speed, Viktor stabbed the squirrel in the arm with the blade. The whole cabin went silent; no one dared a cough or even a exhale. "Alright; she's dead."
"Why did ye stab 'er arm?" the weasel asked. Viktor turned on him with a wave of his cloak. "The last time ya' reported a oar slave dead, he wa' alive and he swam away." the rat unlocked the squirrel's chains and dumped her in the sack without breaking a sweat.
Bijou followed the rat eagerly, waving his whip. "Yur actin' as if he made it! No way he could hav' survived thut there storm!" the cabin door shut, and slaves talked among themselves.
"Oh poor Verdiana, she was so young..."
"Ashamed she had to go this way."
"Somethin' told me she won't survive the night after being sick for weeks!"
"She had been sick for months, you -"
"Everyone hush ye' mouths'n'push these oars, or else Viktor and Bijou will come back down 'ere!" the otter watched as the slaves mumbled and groaned. "Thank ye'." he sat back down, his heavy chains dragging back and forth as pushed and pulled. As he pushed forward his oar, it locked in place with a jolt. All the oars stopped, and Bijou called from the deck.
"His high'n'mighty Cap'n Walt wants to follow the ocean currents for a while. To see where they lead. So enjo' yur short break." everyone collapsed on the oars once more, and some were instantly asleep. The otter felt a tap on his back and turned around. The vixen's still shiny sky blue eyes looked at him as she whispered, "Wake me up once Bijou comes back down 'ere Flint."
"Can do Fiona," Flint said as he leaned on his oar. Soon the Slaves' Cabin was filled with snores as the slaves took their break to their advantage. Only a couple of minutes had passed when Flint tickled Fiona on the ear. "Don't tell meh Bijou is back..." she moaned, looking around with a yawn.
"Nah, he's not back. I just wanted to ask you somethin'." Flint said, turning around to face Fiona, but not enough to startle his oar partner.
Fiona rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and said, "Should you be asleep to? If I had shut-eye a little longer, I would met Verdiana at the Dark Forest."
"Well then, it's a good thing I awakened ya. Would have been a major lost for all of us." Flint paused for a quick moment and thought to himself. Fiona didn't say a word, only watched him close his eyes. She lifted her head slightly and looked around at the others. They were the only two awake. Minutes passed and Fiona began to think her friend was sleep. She snapped her fingers and shoved him. "Flint? Hello..?"
"Uh, wha?" the otter gave a huge yawn and shook his head. "Oh, I'm sorry. Got lost in me thoughts."
"More like lost in ya sleep. What did you want to ask me?"
Another long pause. Flint sighed and finally said, "Do you remember what the stars look like?" Fiona looked at him; her face a mixture of happiness, confusion, and sadness. "The stars...they were beautiful. Just like...tiny tiny tiny candles millions of miles away."
"How did you ever see them? I thought your father kept you a secret when your mother died." Flint said, kind of flummoxed. "He used to bring me up at night when Cap'n and the rest of the crew was sleepin'..." Fiona trailed off, remembering the times she had with her father.
"Do you remember what the moon looked like?" Flint interrupted.
Fiona sighed and sat up strait. The sun's rays filled her eyes, but the light was all she wanted from the dark cabin. "The moon; she was something else. She was beautiful, at the same deadly'n'had a cruel sense of humor. On Saltblood, th' full moon means it's time for a cabin check. Walt would go and do an inspection of everyone's cabin. I guess my father forgot it was full moon, and before he put meh to bed, Walt came through the do-"
"Alright kiddies! Walt wants everyone up'n'going! Harharhar!" Bijou cracked the cat-o-nine tails as Flint spun around to his oar. He woke up the small mouse beside him just as oars were unlocked; they both began to push and pull in fatigue. Verdiana's oar partner was being whipped horribly, forced to do the work of two. The cabins were filled with moans and shouts; the usual sound on-board Saltblood.
Viktor slung the bag over the ship's side as Bijou chattered in his ear; he watched it disappear under the water's surface, and then turned his attention to the weasel. "Will ye' shut yur trp'n'leave meh alone?!" the old beast tucked his blade into his belt and strolled away, the weasel close behind.
"I'ma just sayin' that mouse could 'ave never survived! That's all." he said, shrugging.
"Well, ya said it about ninety-six times!" he snarled viciously, watching the tiny weasel slump in surrender. "Now go'n'find some'un else to pester!" with a finally growl, Viktor stormed away in search of some food. Before Bijou could even get a chance to follow him, he felt chills run up his spine. "Why do you keep botherin' Viktor Bijou?" the weasel spun around to meet his captain's beady brown eyes. "Ye knows he hates yur guts."
Mouth suddenly dry with fear, he blinked repeatedly and stuttered on his words. He saw the look in Walt's eyes before, and to have to drawn to him, it meant death. "I was only..I-I was just asking him a couple of q-q-questions." he got out. Walt leaned into him and gave him a death glance, worse than the one before. "Ya have questions t'ask, you tell'em to me. Ya hear?" nodding in complete fright, Bijou scrambled away.
Going to Viktor, who was looking over the side of the ship, he asked him. "Was that a'other slave Vik?"
Saluting to his captain, the rat gave his answer quickly. "Aye Cap'n."
"Er..uh..it'a was..hmm...it'a was a squirrelmaid.." Viktor thought hard, his old brain trying to work it's gears. He banged a paw against his head, all the while Walt was rolling his eyes. "Her name was Verdiana you torpid brain. Ye' should have know that since she was our only squirrelmaid."
Viktor dropped his salute and whispered, "Ya know every slaves' name, Cap'n?"
Walt crossed his arms and began to pace the deck; his high boots stomped against the wooden floor as he spoke with his scratchy voice. "After 'ow many times we've beaten these here slaves, I'va learned all of their names. From the youngest otter to the oldest squirrel..."
"You even remember Qadir's daughter's name? 'cause it hasn't been spoken of in seasons...." Viktor's ears were flat against his head when the stoat's cutlass was inches from his nose. The rusty blade shined in the sunlight, and reflected light onto the floor. "And it will never be spoke of, will it...?"
"N-No Cap'n..." the rat quickly added, "I don't even remember it? What was it again....Gera...Husila?"
"You don't need to remember it rat!" Walt shouted, bringing the blade even closer. This time it barely pricked his black nose, and a small speck of blood hung onto it.
"Only I rememba her name...n'don't speak of Qadir either! That fox was a true mate; regretted I had to kill'm. Told no'un to keep secrets from me; if he told be about innocent Fio-." the stoat quickly stopped himself. Everyone on board glanced his way, and the ship was in complete silence. "If Qadir had told me about thut vixen, she wouldn't be down 'ere now. She'll maybe here'n'the best swordbeast 'ere...just like 'er father." everyone went back to their business, and Viktor followed in suit.
Walt processed back to his cabin, and took one glance at the Slaves' Cabin. Putting a finger to his furry chin, he thought over his own words. Just like 'er farther...