Hey all! I see some of you enjoyed my Frostmill oneshot so I figured I’d try my hand at another. This one’s about an unfortunate crew encountering a strange man at Sailor’s Lodge. Enjoy!
The Hope’s Light sailed quietly under cover of darkness, its crew keeping as silent as they could as they headed for Sailor’s Lodge. Though the old tavern lay in ruins following the Atlantean invasion, it was still stocked with plenty of supplies. Supplies that the crew of the Hope’s Light were in dire need of. The dungeons of Fort Talos, while safe from any Atlantean beast up above, was mostly cleared of anything of value, forcing its people to seek other places to scavenge. Sailor’s Lodge, the closest island to the old fort, was the most reasonable option. “How much longer, quartermaster?” A female voice asked, gripping the ship’s wheel tightly.
“We’re almost there, Cap’n.” Answered Derrek, the burly quartermaster of the Hope’s Light. A towering figure, Derrek was an intimidating presence on any ship worth its sails. He was also a skilled user of Iron Leg, capable of sending any foul beast into the ocean with a single kick.
“Good,” Captain Amelia replied, “Any sign of Atlanteans?”
“Nothin’ yet, but the lads say they caught wind of somethin’ on the horizon, though.”
“Tell them to check again. The last thing we need is a brig surprising us from the rear.” Amelia took out a spyglass, peering over at the old lodge as her eye scanned for any Atlanteans. “Hmm, doesn’t look like any beasties are there. Alright, bring us in. You lads know the drill; get in, take anything of worth and get out.”
“Aye, Cap’n. You lot heard the lady, get to work!” Derrek roared as the Hope’s Light pulled into one of the old docks, raising the sails as the crew began to secure the landing zone. Sailor’s Lodge was truly a sorry sight. What was once a place to rest after a long journey and hear stories from sailors all over the Bronze Sea was now a smoldering wreck. Many of the Hope’s Light’s crew could recall a good time they had here, a memory they made, a lover they met. But they could reminisce later, now was the time for action.
Most of the crew fanned out in search parties, the rest staying behind on the ship to keep an eye out for any potential threats. Sure enough, the old lodge still contained crates full of valuable goods. Preserved foodstuffs, bottles of ale and rum, even a few containers of medical supplies. The people back at the fort would surely be celebrating tonight. “Oi! Cap’n! Found somethin’ ya might wanna look at.” One of the crew members called out.
“Yes? What is it?” The crewmate brought over what appeared to be an old book to Amelia, the captain opening it up to see what it had to offer. The book appeared to be the personal journal of some fellow by the name of Ambanes. Nothing too interesting, but Amelia soon became transfixed on a certain page, which read:
We’ve been stuck here for weeks. All the ships have left us to fend for ourselves. Not many monsters have shown up, but those that do kill at least one of us before being put down. I’ve been bitten once already, but I haven’t felt myself changing like some of the others. In fact, I haven’t felt better. I’ll have to look into this further when I have time.
“Huh, so he survived a little bite.” Amelia had heard of people being bitten but not getting infected, but in those cases, the bites hadn’t been strong enough to break the victim’s skin. She assumed he merely got lucky until flipping to another page, her interest piquing again as her eyes fell on a certain paragraph:
So many infections, all cured by my hands! At this rate, we won’t even have to leave. Our supplies will last for a good while, and most Atlanteans don’t even bother coming here. Had I known my staff would let me perform these miracles I’d have signed up on Dark Sea voyages years ago.
Wait a moment… curing the infection? But that was impossible! Any infected person inevitably turns into an Atlantean after a certain amount of time. Some people were more resistant to infection than others, but it always got them in the end. Had this Ambanes bloke really found a way to save people? Amelia was about to make a mental note to try and find this guy, but her mood quickly changed when she flipped to the most recent written page:
SO MANY GIFTS… MUST SPREAD THEM ALL. THE BRONZE SEA WILL KNOW TRUE PEACE AND HAPPINESS. WE SET OUT TOMORROW, TO MAKE OTHERS JOIN THE–
The rest of the page was torn off, any writing after that being nothing but illegible gibberish. “Crazy bastard…” Amelia remarked as she closed the journal. While the other pages were nothing but chicken scratch to her, she figured she might find more out if she could bring it to someone else. It had intrigued her greatly, leaving her wondering what might’ve happened to old Ambanes. “CAPTAIN!” Amelia’s train of thought was interrupted by a lookout on the Hope’s Light calling out to her, “We got a brig approaching!”
A brig? That could spell bad news, especially if it was an Atlantean brig. Those things could decimate a fleet of smaller vessels on their own. “Is it normal or Atlantean?!” Amelia called back, tucking the book into her coat as the lookout peered through his spyglass again, “Uhh… it looks normal, Cap’n! No outward markings, don’t look like there be any crew!” No crew? This could’ve been a drifting ship. They’ve become far more common since the invasion, so it wasn’t too far-fetched.
“Wait a moment… There be someone at the wheel!” The lookout cried again, some of the other crewmates coming to take a look. The brig, fairly plain as far as ships of its type go, slowly approached until it moored itself at the other side of the lodge. Its only crewmate seemed to be a man clad in heavy, ragged robes that walked to the edge, stopping once he saw the sailors. In his hand was a long staff seemingly made from a dark, crystalline substance, one that seemed to flicker in the moonlight.
“What’s going on here?” Amelia waded through the crowd of sailors that had gathered to watch the brig’s approach, watching the stranger disembark and step onto the ruined docks. “What’s your business here?” Ameila asked, the stranger stepping up to approach her. Much of his face was obscured by his hood, though Amelia could make out scarring near his mouth. “Seems like you’ve been through a rough patch. Was your ship attacked?”
“…Attacked?” The man responded, his voice raspy and dry like he hadn’t drunk anything for days. “No, just here to… retrieve something. What brings you to this place?”
“We’re here on a supply run. How’d you even make it here? Atlanteans tend to prioritize ships like yours.” Amelia asked, wondering how this man was even here without his ship being half-destroyed. “You must be an awfully good sailor to make it here on a brig without a crew.”
“Ah, but I do have a crew. They’ve been… sleeping below decks, but I’m sure they’d like to meet yours…” The stranger walked back onto his boat as Amelia cautiously watched him, a few of her crew members instinctively hovering their hands over their weapons. Pulling open the metal grate leading to the brig’s storage deck, the man tapped his staff along the edge. “I don’t like this, captain…” Derrek whispered to Amelia, “What if he’s trying to rob us?”
“Keep an eye on him. He tries anything funny, you kick him into the sea.” Amelia replied, watching as the man kept tapping his staff along the metal grate. “My friends, wake up! We have company…” Stirring noises could be heard coming from the brig, footsteps drawing closer to the exit as a hand reached out to pull itself up. However, this hand, clawed and covered in scales, clearly didn’t belong to a human. “Wait a moment…” Amelia’s eyes widened as more and more hands started pulling themselves out of the brig.
One was a chitinous lobster claw, clutching a barbed spear. Another was a cephalopod tentacle, writhing in the air as it pulled its owner from the depths. Amelia’s crew froze as they realized what they were dealing with, though the stranger seemed more than pleased. In fact, he seemed downright ecstatic, raising both hands into the air like a firebrand preacher giving a sermon. “Arise, brothers! Let us bring these poor, unfortunate souls into our fold!” He exclaimed as the last abomination pulled itself from the brig, dozens of eyes glaring down at the horrified crew of the Hope’s Light.
“ATLANTEANS!” Derrek cried out, the monsters rushing from the ship and onto the docks, aiming to grab as many humans as they could. Most of the men were dragged to the floor within the first minute of the chaos, only a few managing to flee back to where the Hope’s Light stood docked. “Hold your ground, drive them back!” Amelia roared, locking blades with an Atlantean as Derrek launched a Lost Sailor into a crate with a kick. The remainder of the crew had done their best to hold the monsters back, but were soon overrun and dragged back to where the rest of the crew were being held.
The crew had been corralled into the burned-out tavern, Atlanteans pinning them in on all sides. However, not one crewmate seemed to have been killed or infected by the beasts, though there were plenty of minor injuries. “W-What the hell’s going on? Why aren’t they killing us?!” Amelia frantically yelled, the horde parting for their mysterious master as he entered the tavern.
“It’s because they’re under my control. If I wanted, I could have them tear you apart limb from limb… but I won’t.” The stranger remarked, lifting up his hood to reveal that he too was an Atlantean. His face was largely unchanged, save for the appearance of gills and scale patches. A large, finned crest rose from his head like a mohawk, veins running with cursed blood. “We merely want to… spread our gift.”
“Your g-gift…?” Amelia was dumbfounded. This man just showed up out of nowhere, pulled at least two dozen Altanteans from his ship and now he wants to give them a gift? He was either a total liar or he was being genuine, and Amelia had a feeling it was the latter. However, she had a feeling that the “gift” he was offering would spell disaster for her and her crew.
“L-Look, we get that you’re trying to be nice and all… but we need to leave. There’s people back home that need those supplies. So just l-let us leave and we won’t come back…” Amelia offered, trying desperately to weasel her way out of whatever this lunatic and his monstrous menagerie had planned.
“I believe you are mistaken, captain. It was not a request…” He replied, snapping his fingers as an Atlantean came forth and grabbed one of the crewmates, dragging him to the stranger’s feet. “N-No! Don’t kill me, PLEASE!” He pleaded, shielding himself with his arms as the man merely smiled, lowering the tip of his staff down towards his head. “Don’t worry, this will only hurt a little…”
The man’s staff then started to glow, the tip shining bright like a star as magical energy pooled within. As it became too bright for most to bear, the stranger gently touched the crewmate on the forehead with it, the light fading as it seemed to seep from the staff into his head. Once the staff was dark again, the crewmate opened his eyes as he was seemingly unaffected by whatever the stranger just did. “Wha… W-What was tha-”
The crewmate’s question was cut short by a sudden rush of pain that wracked his entire body, the poor soul spasming around on the floor violently. “MAKE IT STOP!! PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!” He wailed out, begging to be free from the torment. Amelia and the rest of the crew watched in horror, but the stranger merely grinned, already knowing what was going to happen next. “That’s it… Let your new self take hold…”
The crewmate’s screaming slowly grew more and more bestial, his once familiar voice now sounding like that of a rabid animal. His fingernails turned into claws, his teeth sharpening into something more predatory. His eyes widened to the point where they were twice the size of a regular human’s eyes. When it was over, he ceased his pained writhing and rose from the floor, joining his new master’s crew.
“W-What the… What the hell was that?!” Derrek roared, watching as the former crewmate, now a Lost Sailor, melded with the rest of the beasts surrounding them. “That… was my gift to him.” The stranger replied, “The gift of survival in this new world of ours. I made him strong, stronger than any of you. Now he has nothing to fear. And soon… neither will the rest of you.”
“No… no you c-can’t do this to us!” Derrek tried to fight back, lunging at the nearest Atlantean, but he was quickly dogpiled by at least three of them. “Let me go you DAMNED ABOMINATIONS!” Derrek struggled as hard as he could to break free, the monsters holding him down as two more dragged another crewmate to the stranger’s feet. “Such strength! Such a shame it’s wasted on one so… human.” The stranger sneered as his staff began to glow again.
“No… NO! STOP!” Derrek’s pleas fell on deaf ears as the stranger began the gruesome process again, the poor crewmate enduring the same pain as the last. Once his transformation was complete, the stranger moved onto another, and another, completing the process several more times as Amelia and Derrek watched on in utmost horror. Their crew, their companions, their friends, all twisted and corrupted by this cloaked madman. Their minds were shattered by this point, having gone into so much shock that they wouldn’t be mistaken for being in a coma.
“And now… bring me the large one.” Derrek was broken from his trance as the Atlanteans dragged him forth, struggling in their grip the whole time. “LET GO OF ME YOU BASTARDS!! I’LL GUT EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU!!!” The stranger admired Derrek’s resistance, but human strength could never measure up to the sheer power of a mutated Atlantean. But soon that strength would be put to good use. In a flash of light, Derrek’s transformation had begun, though his form had changed differently compared to the others.
Indeed, Derrek found his head slowly morphing into something akin to a predatory fish, gills appearing on his neck as his legs began to harden. It looked like a layer of metal was forming over them, encasing his entire lower half in natural armor. He rose like all the rest, the stranger clearly pleased with this outcome. “How wonderous! I didn’t think this one would adjust so well to the process. Isn’t he just marvelous, captain?”
Amelia could only stare, her mouth agape as the creature that used to be Derrek joined the rest of her crew. They were all staring down at her now, their hollow eyes all transfixed on their former captain. Were it not for the stranger’s control, they’d have torn her to shreds by now. Death was a mercy compared to the nightmarish existence of an Atlantean. “Nothing to say? I suppose I can’t blame you…” The stranger stepped forwards, his staff beginning to glow once more.
“I can only imagine what life must have been like for you. Hiding away in the dark, scrounging for scraps like rats… but you won’t have to worry about that anymore. Your new life begins today…” For the final time, the stranger began the process of mutation, Amelia consumed by pain as she thrashed around on the floor. As she did, the stranger noticed something fall out of her coat, picking it up to inspect it. Once he saw what it was, his eyes quickly lit up in recognition.
“Ah, my old journal! I was beginning to think I’d never find this thing again. Thank you so much, my dear captain.” Having finally retrieved his journal, the stranger, Ambanes, celebrated as Amelia’s transformation was complete. A swordfish’s bill stood smack in the middle of her mutated face, her right arm now greatly enlarged as she stood up from the floor. The transformed crewmates seemed to gravitate towards her, instinctively following their leader even in this sorry state.
“Once a captain, always a captain eh? I suppose that makes things easier for me, I don’t think I have enough room on my ship for your crew. So I suppose I’ll have to let you do your own thing. Farewell, captain. Enjoy your new life…” With a final command, Ambanes compelled the transformed Amelia and the rest of her crew to pile onto the Hope’s Light, watching as the caravel sailed away to parts unknown. Maybe it would be sunk, maybe it would land at another island. Regardless of its fate, its crew had nothing to fear from the Bronze Sea anymore.
“Ah… always such a nice feeling to spread one’s gifts.” Ambanes watched the ship drift off until it was no longer in view, commanding his own crew to pile back into the hold of his own vessel. Once the last Atlantean had crawled below decks, Ambanes dropped the sails and left Sailor’s Lodge behind, seeking more unfortunate souls to bring into the fold. After all, there were still plenty of people in the Bronze Sea who cowered in fear from the Atlanteans up above, and Ambanes wanted nothing more than to give them the gifts to survive…