Great [Monster] Journey 34

RSanon Jun 1st, 2014 1,576 Never
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  1. Morning came with a knock.
  3. “Hey, lazy-ass! We don’t have all day!”
  5. Galen sat up in bed, blinking his dreariness away as best he could. The door yawned as it opened, letting an impatient Seira in the room. Galen struggled to get out of the bed, but the covers had gotten tangled in with his legs. Grumbling, he fought with the bed, a blush growing on his cheeks. Seira didn’t need to see this.
  7. Now that she was, however, she had no qualms giving him trouble about it.
  9. “Looks like if Medusuub puts up any more fight than a few bedsheets, we’re in trouble.”
  11. “I just got up, okay?”
  13. Finally freeing himself of the bed, Galen hopped to his feet, trying to quell the intense heat rising to his face. Taking a deep breath, he leaned over and started his morning routine.
  15. “Really? Now?” Seira said, crossing her arms.
  17. “Now’s the best time for it.” Galen grumbled. Especially after the day that was yesterday.
  19. “Whatever. Poseidon wants to send her little errand boy and troupe off, so come down to the throne room when you’re done.”
  21. Galen paused, looking up to Seira. “You don’t sound like you’re happy with that.”
  23. “Oh, gee, am I that easy to read?” She shook her head. “I’m going to be the damn monster lord, Galen. I don’t like feeling like I’m dancing to another monster’s tune before I even sit on the throne.”
  25. He shared in her grimace. Manipulation in ignorance was one thing, but manipulation you were fully aware of and unable to avoid? He’d rather yank out his teeth.
  27. Seira left Galen to his routine, throwing a shout back at him from the hall to hurry up. He stopped his routine for a moment, sitting down and letting his hands fall into his lap.
  29. Everything about this plan was so rushed. Sure, he knew they’d make it to the monster lord’s castle eventually, but that always seemed so far away, and he’d assumed they’d have more help. How were three monsters and a human supposed to storm a castle on their own? And then there was Toneruth. He laid a hand on its hilt, rubbing the end against his palm. He still didn’t have the slightest idea how to use it, much less cut another Scar in the world. Sybyll had told him she’d teach him, but how much could he possibly learn in a day or two? Because according to Poseidon, that’s about all the time they had. He wasn’t even that good with a sword in the first place!
  31. His hand slid down the hilt, gripping and pulling the sword free. A broken edge stared at him, pathetic and fearsome at the same time. For he knew what happened with the red lightning came.
  33. “And I’m supposed to save the world with you.”
  35. Frowning, he slid it back in its sheath and finished his routine. It wasn’t the sword he doubted.
  38. **
  41. Poseidon wasn’t in the throne room as he expected. Rather, one of her soldiers was waiting to escort them.
  43. “Apparently our all-important task isn’t so important as to send us off personally,” said Seira, putting her paws on her hips.
  45. The soldier didn’t respond to Seira’s quip, instead gesturing for them to follow as he headed toward the door. Galen took one step to follow and was immediately ambushed by Mino. She latched onto his aching shoulder, smothering it in slime as she grinned.
  47. “This place is so neat! The slime community has been here for almost a thousand years!”
  49. “That is neat,” said Galen.
  51. “Some of them even came here from across the Great Blue Divide, where I’m from!”
  53. His walking pace slowed a moment. “You’re from across the Divide?”
  55. “I didn’t tell you?” She frowned, thinking back. “Well, yes, I am. I lived in a village called Bhregof for a little while before crossing the Divide to come here.”
  57. “I guess you’ll have to tell me about it someday.” While his words were for Mino, his attention was fixed on the soldier guiding them. The longer they followed, the more Galen wanted to know where they were going.
  59. Once out of the palace, however, the soldier didn’t lead them back to the path they’d taken in. Their walk instead took them down a side path, winding through the rocky caverns of Poseidon’s domain, and ending at a surprisingly-full set of piers.
  61. “Huh,” he said. He’d completely missed this place on the walk in. Several ships sat in dock, most fishing ships, but on the far end something much larger loomed over the area. It boasted three major sails, all tied up at the moment, a bow that went well over Galen’s head, and at least a dozen monsters and humans were attending to it in some fashion, whether loading, cleaning, or adjusting something. Galen didn’t know what to call it, other than ‘a really big ship’.
  63. “Wow!” said Mino. “That’s a really big ship!”
  65. He fought to suppress his grin, but couldn’t help himself. She wasn’t wrong.
  67. He spied a few mermaids swimming beneath the docked ships. Some of them looked to be taking a leisurely swim while others were at work. Several other aquatic monsters lent their hands, tentacles, fins--whatever they had to offer--to help as well. Galen scratched his head. It would make sense Poseidon would have some sort of naval presence in both trade and force, and that most of her workers would be monsters, yet understanding it and witnessing it were two different things altogether. Instead of seeing men rush up and down the piers like back on Nox, mermaids would shuttle items through shallow water around the ships. Scylla would use their tentacles to grab things from the mermaids, lift it up to their arms, then shuffle away with the load. Crabgirls used their monstrous appendages to work the larger, heavier items with ease. Slimes flowed over the ships like water, picking up clutter as they moved. Amongst all this activity, waiting near one of the smaller ships, was a rather distinctive monster, towering over all the rest, her fiery red hair falling over her shoulders and those unmistakable tentacles squirming beneath her.
  69. The soldier gave a short bow to the group, presenting them to Poseidon before leaving. The moment her eyes locked onto Galen, he felt his heart seize up. Just like yesterday. Her gaze had none of the playfulness, the confidence he remembered, but rather bore down on him with a heartless curiosity. He knew why.
  71. “Thank you for joining me here,” she said.
  73. Mino shied away at the greeting, but nodded along with Galen and Sybyll. Seira wasn’t so complacent.
  75. “So why are we out here?” she said, tapping her foot.
  77. Galen winced at her tone, but Poseidon took it in stride.
  79. “You need to reach Medusuub within three days if you are to resolve this before the army is fully gathered. While such a journey would be possible across land within a two days, the current situation presents a problem. The army is gathering on the very land you would be traveling.”
  81. Galen frowned, crossing his arms. Before he put much thought to the problem, however, his eyes narrowed on Poseidon. “Then the reason we’re here at the docks…”
  83. A slight, sly smile grew on her face. “Indeed.” She gestured to the nearby boat. “I am offering you this.”
  85. Galen inspected the the boat. It was smaller than the average fishing boat, but certainly larger than the tiny little Treasure which had taken him from Nox to the mainland so long ago. He sighed at the memory of it. Its life was short, but it carried him well.
  87. The boat Poseidon was offering had just enough room for three monsters and a human, but size wasn’t the problem Galen had with it.
  89. “Is that one sail going to be enough?” He thought back to the map Seira had drawn. “Uuluth would be a full day out from here sailing, and that’s if the wind was with us all the way. Plus, I’m not so sure I trust this little thing to the open sea.”
  91. Poseidon chuckled. “I admit this ‘little thing’ does not look like much, but I assure you it will hold up in open waters. As for your speed, well,” she said, grinning, “I’m tasking a monster with pulling the boat along. Someone strong and trustworthy. Someone you know.”
  93. Someone he knew? Galen raised an eyebrow. Who did he know that worked for Poseidon?
  95. He jumped in place when several tentacles gripped him from behind. Two wound themselves around his arms, traveling all the way up to his shoulders, two coiled around his chest and waist, and one latched onto his head, slowly turning it to the side to meet the face of their owner.
  97. “Hello there, my little adventurer~”
  99. Her breath with thick with the sea, mouth curled into a wicked smile while her eye dripped with seduction. It was a pale visage Galen recognized at once.
  101. “H-hey, Kraken.”
  103. The tentacles gripping him tightened. “When I sent you on your way, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see you again. I knew the trip here would be long, but nevertheless, you came all the way here just for me. You have no idea how happy I was to hear Poseidon tell me about your arrival. I instantly volunteered to do whatever I could to help.” She nuzzled her cheek against his. “It’s so wonderful to hold you in my tentacles again~”
  105. A deep growl, one born of fire and fury, shook Galen to his bones. Gulping, he turned to Seira.
  107. Her face twisted in rage, and her eye burned a blood red. Had he not been so smothered in terror, he might have called the sight beautiful.
  109. “Tentacles OFF, slimy!” spat Seira, stepping forward.
  111. “Are you jealous?” The Kraken grinned and pulled Galen in closer. “I can see why. But there’s no mark on him, so he must not be taken.”
  113. “I’ll leave more than a mark on YOU if you don’t let go!” She raised a paw, showing off her claws.
  115. Galen could’ve sworn he heard a snicker, but it wasn’t from the Kraken.
  117. “My, my, no need to get violent.” He tentacles receded--slowly, of course--and the Kraken took her place beside Poseidon. “As she says, I’ll be pulling you along to Uuluth, if that is where you wish to go.”
  119. “Won’t that be tiring?” asked Sybyll.
  121. “I imagine so. But I have the stamina to cope, and I’m much more comfortable on water than land. It won’t be a problem.”
  123. “If everyone is clear, then you best be off,” said Poseidon. “There’s no time to waste. Even with the Kraken pulling, it will take most of the day to reach Uuluth.” She gestured to the boat. “Please.”
  125. Sybyll was the first to board, giving the boat her own inspection. She nodded to herself and took a seat near the stern. Mino followed shortly afterward, hopping on the boat like a kid would a bed. After her fun, she shot a grin back to Galen and sat next to Sybyll. Galen stepped forward to board, but one of Poseidon’s tentacles pulled him close to allow her to lean down and whisper into his ear.
  127. “You walk a thorny path, Galen, and it might be alone. Others may not be as willing to sacrifice as you.”
  129. Instead of cowering at the sudden action from Poseidon, however, Galen met her eyes with a sharp gaze. He knew she’d have something more to say to him, but he wasn’t going to take back what he did, no matter how it might bother him.
  131. “I guess I’ll just have to trust, then.”
  133. Poseidon nodded, showing neither pleasure or displeasure with his response, and allowed him to board. Seira was close behind, shooting Poseidon and the Kraken a look before sitting down next to Galen. She made sure to scoot up right next to him, rubbing her arm against his as she did. He couldn’t help but smile.
  135. “Good luck,” said Poseidon, pushing their boat away from the pier. “The hopes of many lie with you, even if they do not realize it.”
  137. “I won’t fail!” said Galen.
  139. The Kraken rose from the water in front of the boat, holding a rope attach to the bow. “Brace yourselves; I’m not starting off slow.”
  141. Galen gripped the seat. He felt Seira’s muscles tense against his arm as she did the same. Mino wrapped several hair-tentacles around her seat, leaving her hands free to clap in amusement. With a jerk, the boat lurched into open waters, and their journey to Uuluth began.
  144. **
  147. Sea spray and gentle waves followed the party’s little boat as she made her way to Uuluth. The board sail flapped in the wind, the edges cutting along the air with a sound that reminded Galen of his mother airing out sheets after taking them off the clothesline. His feet stuck to the floor, his arms gripping his seat hard enough to make them ache. They were fortunate enough to have the wind in their favor, and with the additional speed from the Kraken, the boat was actually difficult for him to keep steady in. Waves that he could’ve shrugged off now rocked the boat and the sea was not so gentle to let up. He kept his eyes on the bow, using it to help his balance. After long enough, he started focusing on the warps and curves in the wood, the stress and the coloring, how the sea and sky dipped and flowed in the background.
  149. Uuluth. One step short of the end of his journey. Afterwards, they would go to the monster lord’s castle and end it, stopping whatever war she planned before it started and tearing into the earth with the same force which created the Scar of the World. Oddly enough, however, that’s not so much what worried him. Poseidon had said the ships from Nox and the surround islands had docked in Uuluth. It made sense, of course, given the king’s castle overlooked the city, but the why didn’t matter.
  151. If all the soldiers from Nox were in Uuluth, then so was his father.
  153. “Does it bug you?”
  155. Galen lifted his gaze from the bow, blinking a few times before turning to Seira. “Bug me?”
  157. “This whole trip. Don’t you feel manipulated at all? Ever since you left Nox, you’ve been running around for someone else. You had to find Poseidon for the Kraken. You wanted Toneruth to show your father. Now here we are out on Poseidon’s little errand.”
  159. “Oh.” He turned back to the bow. The ripples in the wood on the right side deserved more attention. “I guess I haven’t really thought about it.”
  161. “Haven’t thought about it!? Doesn’t--“ She cut herself off, looking between Galen and the spot he was staring at. “But something is bugging you.”
  163. “Mm.” The darker lines kinda made a face, didn’t they?
  165. “Hey.” She jabbed him in the side with her elbow. And not gently.
  167. “Ah!” He winced, rubbing the spot. “What?”
  169. “What’s bugging you?”
  171. “Uh?”
  173. “Don’t give me that stupid face. It suits you too well.” She narrowed her eyes. “What’s bugging you?”
  175. Galen found himself blushing. Was it because he was talking about this in front of everyone? Or something else? “It’s… it’s Uuluth. If the ship from Nox went there, then my father will be there too.”
  177. Seira gave a slow nod. “Ahh. It’s been a little while since you saw him, hasn’t it?”
  179. “Yeah.” His eyes fell to the boat deck. “And he wasn’t exactly happy with me leaving.”
  181. “You left without his permission?” Seira raised an eyebrow. “Huh. I hadn’t pegged you for someone who’d do that. I thought you were a good little boy.”
  183. “I was!” he said with unexpected vigor. He shied away when he saw Seira’s shocked face. “That was one of the first times I disobeyed him in a long time. I just… I had to do this, you know? I’d been wanting to for so long, and he said I could have anything I wanted for my coming-of-age day, so I thought I could leave.” He shook his head. “I guess I should’ve listened to him.”
  185. “Wow. This is really weird, seeing you like this.” She tapped his head with a fist. “It’s like you’re actually using that brain of yours.”
  187. “Hey!” He knocked Seira’s paw away. “C’mon!”
  189. “It takes everyone time to understand things, especially when you’re still growing up. Maybe it took you this long to understand why your father didn’t want you to go, but that doesn’t mean everything between then and now has suddenly become a waste.”
  191. “I know that! I just wish I had done things differently. Better. If I had just known then what I do now…”
  193. “Then everything would’ve gone just right, wouldn’t it have?” She grinned, flicking Galen’s head. “That’s called hindsight, and it always comes around and gets you. Of course if you knew the future you could’ve handled things better. Of course an older you would know what to do. But that kind of talk is pointless and will run you around in circles. You’ll never get anywhere like that.”
  195. He sighed. “I wonder if my father is thinking that way about how he could’ve stopped me from leaving.”
  197. “I think if you want the answer to that, you’ll have to ask him yourself.”
  199. “I guess I will.”
  201. He kept another thought to himself, one asking if his father would approve of how he changed during his journey or scold him for it.
  203. Hours and hours of sea passed by in relative silence after that. No one had much to say, or rather, no one had much to say in front of everyone else. Galen might’ve taken it for another example of the distance between everyone, but today there was much to think about. Seira probably was figuring out what to do when she first took the title of monster lord; Galen was never great with politics, so he couldn’t guess as to the specifics of her thoughts in the slightest. Sybyll had the responsibility of teaching him how to use Toneruth like Solvet did, but maybe she was having second thoughts, or wondering how best to teach Galen. Mino had just been along for the ride, but now they were entering into territory he bet not even she knew. Was involving herself with a person and monsters set on changing the world what she wanted? Galen had gotten the feeling she wanted a more modest journey.
  205. He’d expected the Kraken to be more vocal, but she spent all her time underwater, pulling the boat, never letting up on speed. Occasionally, a tentacle would reach up over the side of the boat and attempt to wrap around Galen’s wrist, but Seira’s ears and eyes were on constant alert, and the moment a tentacle showed itself, she’d slap it away. He almost asked her why she did it, but he had his suspicions, and Seira would likely make up an excuse.
  207. It was odd, wasn’t it? Sure, Seira wasn’t acting quite as harsh toward him as she had when the journey had started, but she strayed devoutly from any show of fondness. Was this something all manticores did, or was this just Seira? They were companions, sure, but the way Seira acted made him feel something like a possession, too. Any time any monster showed affection for Galen, she got riled up, like they were touching her property. He could hardly forget those nights she pounced on him and drained him--the fire in her eyes, the heat between their bodies, and how she controlled him with such lust and satisfaction. Galen rubbed his temples. He didn’t know enough about manticores or even monsters in general to figure her out.
  209. Maybe he should ask her about it later, catch her when she was off-guard. He glanced over at her, careful not to let her notice. Or maybe he’d just keep these thoughts to himself.
  211. Just as the sun began to dip below the horizon, the boat slowed and the Kraken popped up from the water for the first time since they set out.
  213. “Uuluth is just ahead, but I don’t think we’ll be docking so easily.”
  215. “What do you mean?” said Galen.
  217. “Take a look.” She pointed forwards.
  219. He stood up, squinting at the horizon. After a few seconds, he could make out two black spots, behind them something more, something unnatural. Probably the Uuluth docks.
  221. “What are those spots?”
  223. “A welcoming party, it seems. Two decent-sized ships.” She smiled at Galen. “I can take care of them if you want me to, darling~”
  225. A growl from Seira reminded the Kraken she was still there, but from the Kraken’s expression, Galen wasn’t sure she cared. “No, no. Don’t do anything to them. Just take us in like normal. They’re probably just guards, and we don’t really have anything to hide from them.”
  227. “We might not need anything to hide. Remember, Galen, there are a bunch of monsters gathering not too far out and the king is well-aware of it. Do you really think they’ll take in four monsters and a human so easily?”
  229. Galen frowned. “I hope so.”
  231. It wasn’t long before the ships grew on the horizon, closer and closer until they were behemoths, towering over the little transport Galen and his group were on. Both of the approaching ships had at least three sails, and Galen could make out the activity of over a couple dozen men on each. Uuluth wasn’t taking any chances.
  233. As one of the ships came astride Galen’s, a man peered over the side down at them. From his uniform, Galen suspected he was some kind of officer. Maybe the captain.
  235. “Ahoy, there! What brings…” His voice trailed off as he leaned over. “By the goddess--Galen?!”
  237. Galen took another look at the man, looking past the uniform this time. His father? No, someone else from Nox. A friend of his father. The first familiar face he’d seen in a long time.
  239. “Hey, Dremmond!” he said, grinning. “How are you?”
  241. “Never mind me, what the heck are you doing here? And with those monsters? Don’t tell me they kidnapped you! I’ll have them thrown off right away!” He turned back, gesturing something to the other men on board, but Galen called him off.
  243. “No, it’s alright! We’re friends!”
  245. A rhythmic tapping started on the deck of the boat Galen was in. Not sloppy, like a slime foot, or hard, like a scaled foot, but muted. The sound a paw would make.
  247. “Friends?” He took another look at the monsters. “Are you sure?”
  249. “Yeah!”
  251. “If you say so.” He didn’t sound convinced. “Why are you here?”
  253. “I’m looking for a blacksmith. We heard he’s in Uuluth.”
  255. “A blacksmith? Yeah, there are a several of those in Uuluth. But Galen, this isn’t a good time to be here. The monsters--well, people are restless. And they aren’t going to like seeing monsters around. You should head back home.”
  257. Galen shook his head. “I can’t. I have to get through to Uuluth. I’m only staying a day, anyways.”
  259. “You’re serious about getting in, huh?” Dremmond looked away, rubbing his chin in thought. Galen felt his anxiety rising with each second Dremmond took thinking. With Seira’s wings and help from the Kraken, they probably could escape this situation if need be, but getting around Uuluth would be a pain if they were on the run.
  261. “Aghh. I guess if it’s just for a day, then you can come in. But Hoem is going to want to see you before anything, and if he wants you shipped off back home, well, I think that would probably be for the best.” He waved to the other men on board his ship. “Alright, bring ‘em around. We’ll escort the kid into dock.”
  263. “Ah. Yeah.” Galen knew he’d be running into his dad somehow, but he hadn’t considered being forced to return home. “And I’m not a kid any more!” yelled Galen.
  265. Dremmond just chuckled and walked away.
  267. The moment Galen sat back down, Seira nudged him and whispered, “You know you can’t let this Hoem guy send you back, right?”
  269. His eyes narrowed. “’That Hoem guy’ is my dad. And yeah, I know. But I gotta face him first. If he wants to send me back, then I’ll figure something out.”
  271. “Good.”
  273. The Uuluth dock put even Poseidon’s to shame. Dozens and dozens of ships laid docked, some busy, some empty. Galen could make out the fishing ships--some even he recognized--but the larger ones, like what Dremmond brought them in with, drew awe more than anything else. Before seeing that large ship docked at Poseidon’s domain, he didn’t even know ships could get that big. He didn’t think anyone would need anything so large, anyways. With a possible war around the corner, however, he imagined they would find some use.
  275. Dremmond’s ship brought them in amongst several other smaller boats. The Kraken never showed her face, which was probably a smart move. Galen wanted to tell her to wait for them, but she probably figured out enough of what was happening already. Hopefully she’d be waiting to pull them to Medusuub’s castle as soon as Toneruth was repaired.
  277. Galen scratched his neck and a fresh wave of shivers went down his spine. Toneruth. He’d been so focused on what Poseidon had told them, meeting his father, and stopping the war that he hadn’t actually thought about fixing it. He’d just assumed they’d find the blacksmith without trouble… but what if they didn’t? Or what if they found him, but he couldn’t repair it? Would Sybyll still be able to teach him how to cut a Scar? Could they find some way to stop Medusuub without it?
  279. The boat bumping into the dock shook Galen out of his thoughts. Dremmond had already left his ship and was waiting for Galen and company on the pier. Taking a deep breath, he stood up, stretching his arms and legs before stepping back onto solid ground. His first few steps were uneasy, but he adapted soon enough. He’d been on long boat rides before, but it had been a while, and rarely did they last a whole day. He waited for everyone to hop off the boat behind him before he approached Dremmond. Mino was far too engrossed in the scenery to give off any sort of restlessness, but Seira and Sybyll both were on their guard.
  281. “Hoem is this way,” said Dremmond, and started off.
  283. Galen wasted no time following, keeping his eyes forward in hopes he could spot his father before his father saw him. He couldn’t say why, but he felt that seeing his father first would make Galen feel more at ease. The chorus of footsteps behind him reminded him that his father hadn’t seen any of these monsters before, and would probably want an explanation. Telling his father the whole story would lead to some complications: if Galen told his father he was with a monster aiming to be the next monster lord and they were heading off to kill the current one, Galen would assuredly be sent home. Who knows what they would do to Seira afterwards.
  285. “Um, Dremmond, my dad never really told me what his, uh, station was.”
  287. Dremmond’s walk slowed for a couple of steps. A long sigh came out before his answer. “He’s a captain. The village chief was a general, though in his current age, he’s more of an adviser now.” He paused, considering his next words. “Galen, I’m sorry you had to find out like this. I… well, I should probably leave the talking to your father. He’s just up ahead.”
  289. That’s right. Dremmond was in on the secret just as much as his father. When Galen looked at him, however, he didn’t feel ill. In fact, the last few words from him put something more akin to pity in Galen’s stomach. Mixed with all the nervousness and tension, he almost wanted to puke.
  291. They walked though the docks, passing massive, unmarked buildings, each as long as the largest ships Galen saw, and at least two stories high. Had he not seen similar buildings in Fullsburg, he might’ve gaped at them. Dremmond turned a corner after the last of the buildings, passing more men in uniforms, each giving the monsters behind Galen an array of looks. He couldn’t worry about that now, or rather, he didn’t have the capacity too. Sweat had begun to leak onto his face and neck, but he couldn’t let his father see anything less than determination. If he met his father asking to stay instead of demanding, his father would have no trouble making up his mind and order him straight back home.
  293. Wooden steps shook angrily under his feet as he strode up. Dremmond pushed through a door and led Galen and his group into a room just large enough for the six of them and a lone desk with a single lantern atop it.
  295. Dremmond gestured to a door opposite the one they’d entered in through. “Galen, Hoem is in the next room. You might want your… friends to stay out here.”
  297. He looked back to them. They each nodded, with Seira adding, “We’re find here. Just go talk to your dad.”
  299. Galen nodded, then turned to Dremmond.
  301. “Alright,” said Dremmond, his hand closing around the doorknob. His eyes went up and to the right, searching for the right words. “Good luck.”
  303. The door swung open, and Galen stepped inside.
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