Dahak’s exit wormhole bent my outsides and churned my insides. I knew I was traveling an impossible distance, which was plenty alright by me. After tasting Dahak’s shit for the last day, I was ready to dine with my friends on-board the Current once again. I could see it clear as summer sky. The Deep Sea Current welcomes me with a respectful quake and drops the rope ladder to the crows nest. The crew rushes to me, tongues wagging, their ears hungry for titillating tidbits of my triumphant encounter with Dahak. Nomawyn says something cryptic, Tiny shares a pull from his bottomless bottle, and Tebrilith thanks me for the chance at command. Everyone swoons as I begin pantomiming mowing down the Flesh Golems, then outright shit their pants after eyeing my shiny new plunder. The banquet kicks off with a rousing toast, “To our Captain Reskafar, the best captain a bunch of mangy sea dogs could ever ask for!” Then we drink like we’re on a sea of no cares, eat the larder empty, and smash our moral compasses over each other heads. Yes, somebody might even get pregnant! More than one gets knocked out cold. A grand reunion.
My boots hit the deck. Something was immediately off! The trim deck boards ran port to starboard the opposite way they should and weren’t white. I reared my head, my jaw like steel, and cried out in uncut rage, “Telbrilith!!! What did you do to my ship?”
My outburst stirred the patchwork of sailors with unrecognizable faces that surrounded me. None were my crew. The caravel was in cherry condition, tight bowline knots, scrubbed decks, ornate details, and pristine sails of ghostly white. Almost as nice as the Current. An alien fog bank permeated around the ship like a forever smokescreen, obscuring the world beyond. At the helm, floated a calm she-specter wrapped in a vaporous white silk jacket and capped in an exquisitely pale tricorn. She might of been a beauty once she was alive, but now she was barely a candle flicker. Our gazes crossed. The she-ghost politely nodded. Where did that prick Dahak send me?
“Captain Reskafar? Is that you?”, a familiar voice, pulled me in. Tebrilith scurried down the main shrouds. She looked different. A fresh new eyepatch covered her left eye, a thin spider web of faint scars on the cheek below, and swollen indigo bruises from a busted nose.
“Aye”, I said.
“Captain…about the ship…”, she solemnly began.
Tebrilith shamefully confessed that the Deep Sea Current went down in the middle of the Maelstrom. The sobering fact slowly seeped into my crevices. Her next words barely registered. She dutifully explained that Hellish cannon fire compounded with the Protean warp waves inflicted too much damage. The ship’s keel was snapped in two like a twig cracked over a knee. Most of the crew was safe on-board the caravel. I didn’t catch the name. Some were lost to the Maelstrom. She apologized and apologized and apologized. I got queasy during her rambling string of excuses, then I came to my senses. How dare she sink my ship? I knew I should’ve put a hole in her lying face after our first encounter. Maybe she stole it? Afterall, she was a known ship thief! I saw the jealousy in her eyes on more than one occasion. Blood dripped down from my clenched fists. I burned so hot, I bet those little drops boiled away before sullying the deck. My eyes stared through her like she wasn’t there. She was nothing to me now. I slowly reached for my musket without thinking. I would make her pay dearly for losing my ship…
My steaming eyes caught the focus of a familiar munthrek behind Tebrilith. He didn’t look quite right, but there was no mistake. He had too few lines on his face, eyebrows not nearly bushy enough, and thick bronze hair not the scraggly gray I remembered. He was the right height and build, and had the same gray eyes and snarled lips. I brushed Tebrilith aside without saying a word. I would deal with her later. My breathing regained a normal rhythm, I approached the familiar munthrek. I had to know. He shouldn’t be breathing, not after what I saw.
“Captain Digger is that you?”, I questioned the young sailor.
“Aye! Ain’t no Capt’n, tho Digger is me name. Who might ye be?”, boomed Digger. His voice as forceful I remembered. I followed countless orders by that hard voice.
“It’s me, Hole Maker. You hired me on the Old Dirty Bastard two years ago”, I answered.
“I don’t know ye. I don’t have a ship by that call’in”, said Digger.
“I hitched up at Raptor Island”, I tried to jog his memory.
“You must be mistak’n. I be only at Rapt’r Isle once after a rek’t. Ain’t n’ver seen you bef’r”, rebutted Digger.
What the fuck was wrong with him? What enchantment was he under? I’m sure Captain Digger would remember me. Com’on, how many Shackles’ Captains have an awesome musket toting, black Kobold on-board? The answer was freaking one. Me! If he didn’t recognize me then it mustn’t be him or he’s turned soft upstairs.
“Listen bastard! Don’t fuck with me after the day I just had. You best remember this”, I shouted. I pulled up the sleeve of my fancy new red jacket to show off my Shackles tattoo stylized the same as the one on his bicep.
“Wh’re in the five seas did you get my mark, liz’rd?!”, replied a visibly shocked Digger.
“From you!”, I shouted.
“Li’r! Ain’t n’ver seen ye bef’re”, grumbled Digger. I closed in angrily, close to fisticuffs. He snarled likewise and leaned in.
Suddenly, Goethe tapped me on the shoulder. A touch of relief washed over me, at least Dahak sent some of us to the same garbage fate.
“Captain, I think there is something you should know”, he calmly said, “I don’t know if you realize this but we are abroad the Inscrutable Destiny. This man is and isn’t the man you know."
“Bullshit! That’s a fairy fucking tale. This ain’t no fancy caravel, captained by a ghost, that takes marooned sailors home in exchange for working the ropes…”, I trailed off, I looked left and right, up and down. My brain meat sizzled.
“You see it now”
The moment dumbstruck me. The Inscrutable Destiny, the last hope of every stranded sailor, existed! Begads, there’s more sea shanties written about the ship of Destiny than about fucking! I lost it, big time. My hearty laughter perpetrated everyone’s’ ears like a bad joke. Nothing should’ve shocked me anymore, not after the things I saw, but everything still did. I gave up. From that day on I vowed to believe in every mythical fart and legendary fuck I came across.
“We should speak with Captain Cohol”, said Master Goethe. I composed myself enough to speak to a ghost. Goethe and I went up to helm to greet he mysterious Captain of the Inscrutable Destiny.
“I be Captain Reskafar. I owe you many thanks, mi’lady, for the safety of me crew”, I kindly said.
“You are to kind. Do you require safe passage? Serve me for a time, and I will take you home”, said Cohol, her wispy mouth hardly moving. Her voice a raspy elegance like a harp.
“Please tell me, Captain Cohol. Does this ship sail the sea of Time? Is this why my Captain’s acquaintance does not recognize him?”, questioned Goethe.
“Time or place has no meaning to the stranded”, Cohol coldly responded.
“What of the others of my crew?”, I asked.
“Only the stranded are here”, she replied. Goethe and I gave each other a look, we figured that meant they found their own way. Goethe tried to pry more information from Cohol, but she was politely tightfisted. On the other hand, I was thankful. We found an oasis in the chaos. A patch of green in the desert. The only lifeboat in the Maelstrom. No wonder Captain Cohol was revered as a God to some. She had impeccable timing!
“We humbly accept your terms Captian Cohol. It will be an honor to work your ropes. At this time, we do not know where we belong. Please give us time to figure out where we need to go”, I respectfully said.
“All I have is Time”, she nodded.
Later, I met another familiar person on deck, Nomawyn, was dancing and singing like she was at a Summer Sun festival. In fact, many of the crew were there, safe and sound. Only my ship, Vaghol, Pipp, Lorenz, Mr. Finn, Thuxfeldt, Brittlehope, and Myrrh were gone. Poor bastards. I wondered if they were dead or alive.
“To – make a quilt – you need – colors and string…To – make a skirt – you need – fabric and – scissors…To – make your Fate – you need – a stitch of luck. I knew you’d come Captain, I saw your cable branch and grow. It’s strong as a whale with a ways to go. Do not snort, the missing lines are not short, only corked. To – fix a twine – you need – patience with Time…”, Nomawyn whimsically sang out.
At least, I nailed Nomawyn’s cryptic greeting. The rest of it wasn’t the reunion I hoped for. No big banquet, grand toasts, or drunken debauchery. My crew was splintered in two places that no map can connect. Heck, I wasn’t even on my own ship! Yet, it wasn’t the worst, not really even a disappointment, if you thought about it the right way. No fatalities, that’s good. We luckily hitched a safe ride with a mythical Captain, who’s free of Time’s shackles, in the most dangerous sea there was. We no longer had to take Dahak’s boot to the face, Apsu’s power still flowed through our veins, and most exciting of all, the Gray Dragons’ hoard still begged to be plundered. I looked to the great blue yonder of the Cerulean Void up ahead. It was so blue the fog couldn’t keep it out. Certainly not the the last reunion I expected to go sideways.