Drawlloween 2019 || 1st October: Run the Ghouls

‣‣‣ 1201 words ( read)

Mjara and Shioyo get a little bit more than they bargained for when trying to board a merchant ship.

Another straightforward merchant ship boarding job. That was the idea, anyway. Mjara would draw a lot of attention to herself. Shioyo would slip into the hold and grab any easy-to-nab valuables while Mjara was scaring the crew and drawing their guards’ attention away from Shioyo. And then Mjara would pretend to have been driven off, and the two of them would make their getaway.

There were plenty of ways this often went awry. Shioyo getting caught, because the crew had gotten wise and protected their valuables instead of sending all their guards abovedecks. Some fool trying to be a hero, putting Mjara in more trouble than she’s prepared for. These were contingencies Shioyo and Mjara had long practiced at.

Today’s raid, however, was not going according to plan in a way that didn’t go according to plan.

The ship’s upper decks were suspiciously quiet. Barely anyone moving around. This wasn’t the unusual part. Sometimes most of the crew was distracted belowdecks. And it wasn’t as if there wasn’t a helmsman and a lookout about, not that either wanted to gather any attention.

Typical protocol was for Shioyo to go belowdecks and keep her wits about her. Call Mjara for backup if she needed it. Meantime, Mjara would try to draw the crew onto the deck.

And yet…

No matter how Mjara shouted and stomped and threatened, waved her axe around, splintered the deck… silence. The crew ignored her.

Shioyo’s quivering voice came across the linkpearl then. “Mjara, get your ass down here. Now!”

Mjara took a moment to catch her breath. Shioyo’s panic would be contagious if she wasn’t careful. It was unusual for Shioyo to lose her calm like this. Her patience – certainly. But never her calm.

“Oi, alright, Shioyo,” Mjara said, her voice quick and clipped. She didn’t waste any time making her way to the nearest stairs belowdeck. “Sirens look out for each other. Whatever’s wrong, I’m going to get you out of there. Just hold there.”

“Fuck!” Shioyo shouted back. “Can’t talk. Need both hands. Hurry the fuck up, Mjara!”

Mjara hurried.

A few crewmembers lingered by the door to the crew quarters. Mjara slipped past them with practiced ease. She’d expected, though, that at least one of them would surely turn toward her. She might be good at keeping her steps quiet, but she was still large enough to draw attention. Morbid curiosity made her wonder what was going on in the crew quarters that was so interesting.

Shioyo needed her, though. She slipped down one more level, into the cargo hold.

More of the crew surrounded Shioyo, whose head had disappeared in the crowd. Only her white tail, mark of her Raen heritage, was visible flashing between the legs of the group.

“Alright, you’ve got to the count of three and then I start splitting skulls,” Mjara shouted. She grabbed one of the crewmembers by the hair, dragging him back away from the cluster.

The crew seemed unfazed by this threat, with even the one Mjara had grabbed struggling in her grasp to try to reach his comrades again.

She glared down at him--

“What in the hells?!”

His face. His face was rotted, his eyes yellowed and unfocused. His teeth were coated in blood – fresh, by the looks of it.

She tossed him to the floor, knocking several of his mates aside with a swipe of her axe. She used the flat, careful not to endanger Shioyo’s life in the process. With Shioyo freed, she shouldered her axe and thrust out a hand for the cowering Shioyo to grab. “D… Damned?!”

“The damned ashkin devoured the living crewmembers,” Shioyo whimpered, her voice shaking. She took Mjara’s hand, letting herself be carried forward and away from the ghoulish mob. “I saw one of their meals, or what was left of it… Mjara, I-I don’t think it was that long ago… They surrounded me… Fuck!”

“Let’s get going,” Mjara called, already leading Shioyo toward the stairs. “Now!”

The ashkin on the deck above were still very interested in the crew’s quarters. Convenient. Mjara and Shioyo shoved past with little attention from the ashkin.

“What in the hells happened here?” Shioyo was still asking. “I-They bit me, will I-?”

What in the hells happened here… The crew’s quarters…

“Get to the boat,” Mjara said. She set her stance, swiping her axe through the crowd of ashkin like a knife through butter. “I’ll be there before you know it.”

Shioyo didn’t question. “Don’t make me wait, jackass.”

“That’s the Shioyo I know,” Mjara said half-affectionately. She raised her voice, shouting toward the locked room. “Oi! If you’re still alive in there, I’m getting you out of here!”

She kicked one of the ashkin back to the floor, splitting the damned creature’s skull with her axe, as she’d promised. It didn’t get up again.

Rustling and the grinding of wood moving against wood came from the other side of the door. Someone was still alive here.

“I’ve cleared a path,” Mjara shouted. As foul claws sank into her shoulder, she whirled around, splitting the offender clean in half with her axe. “I’ll hold them off, but there’s too many for me to send them all back to rest! Hurry your ass up, this is a limited-time deal!”

The door swung open. A short Miqo’te woman, wearing torn finery, pale from fear. She stared at Mjara. “Who in the hells…?”

“Oh, for- Never mind that!” Mjara called back. “Move! Were you too burdened with coin to have room for sense?”

With Mjara keeping the ashkin at bay, the pair managed to get to the upper decks. “Where do we go?” the Miqo’te whimpered. “I can’t swim, and drowning is only questionably better a death than being eaten alive… Twelve save me!”

“The Twelve ain’t gonna save you,” Mjara said, rolling her eyes. She scooped up the Miqo’te, leaping over the rail.

“I said I don’t want to drown!! NO, PLEASE!!!” the Miqo’te shrieked as she was lifted. She screamed all the way down, bracing for a splash.

A splash which would never come, as Mjara’s boots landed harshly in the rowboat and Shioyo began rowing.

“Well, that was a bust. Let’s never say another word about that,” Shioyo muttered under her breath. She was still shaking. “The ashkin might not’ve got us, but Rhoswen’s gonna fucking eat us alive when she finds out we came off empty handed again.”

The Miqo’te merchant was still reeling from her dramatic change in fortunes. “W-Wait… You… You two, you saved me…? How did you know to come to my aid?”

“I don’t think we said anything about saving you, eh?” Mjara said, grinning. “Who says you’re getting aided? Oi, Shioyo… What do you think this one’s gonna be worth?”

“P-Pirates… You’re wearing Siren colors, aren’t you…” The Miqo’te merchant stammered fruitlessly for a few moments, processing this. “M-Me? A slave? Y-You don’t want me for a slave. I’m useless when it comes to physical labor, but I promise you, if you release me, I can reward you handsomely.”

Mjara only grinned wider. “Mmmm, that so. Let’s save the negotiations for the Captain, eh? Rhoswen’ll make you a good deal for your freedom. Gahahahah!”