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FW 1 Denizen of the Deep

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The merchant ship sailed towards the straits. The captain peered around nervously; he had no business along this stretch of coastline, no dealings with the people who sailed these parts.

He was desperate to return to Albion, but his passenger had other ideas.

"Steady, Captain," the councilor said. "You can sail those cliffs, can't you?"

"The cliffs are not the trouble," the captain replied. He gritted his teeth at the other echidna's tone. "Pirates infest this region." He shuddered. And not all of them are found on the water.

The councilor gave a quick nod. "We can leave, just as soon as I've unloaded the cargo." He put his hand out. "The spyglass, captain?"

The captain handed it over without a word. He didn't need it. He could see the other ship just fine, waiting in the shadow of the cliffs.

The councilor smiled. "I see no reason to move closer," he said, after they'd reached those shadows. He gestured at his soldiers.

The captain breathed a sigh of relief, even in sight of that ship.

And then he heard the struggle.

The captain turned to see two soldiers forcing a younger echidna out of the brig and onto the deck. Their prisoner looked beaten, half-starved, and three-quarters dead. But for all that, he looked oddly familiar.

The captain frowned, and watched the struggle out of the corner of his eye. The prisoner looked to be about half the councilor's age; his shorter muzzle marked him as a Nocturnus, and those tattoos as a mage—

The details clicked together, and the captain recalled the reports he'd seen months ago. He drew his rapier and yelled out a battle cry before launching himself at the soldiers. He distracted them long enough to make them drop the ambassador, but the younger man was far too weak to take advantage.

And before the captain could drive away the soldiers, a blow to the side of his head sent him tumbling to the deck.

"You are in my employ," the councilor said. "Captain." He smiled. "You are not in command, here. This is my crew."

"This is my ship—" the captain growled.

"The port is mine," the councilor replied. "Or near enough. And your ship brought the ambassador out here. How will you make your trade when the Council finds out? Skulk around like some pirate?" He sneered. "Or perhaps you'd like to join my guests?"

The captain shot another look at the ambassador, and firmly clamped his mouth shut.

"I didn't think so." The councilor gestured to his soldiers again, and they picked up the young ambassador and threw him over the side of the ship.

The councilor went back down into the brig, while the soldiers kept a close eye on the cringing captain. Not one of them watched for the shapes swimming below.

#

A massive black iguana cut down one of the soldiers before the rest of the crew knew they were under attack. The other soldiers turned to fend off the pirates climbing over the sides of the ship.

The crew held back, letting the soldiers fight the battle they were trained for.

The captain simply tried to avoid notice and ran after the councilor.

The black iguana followed close behind.

"Get up!" the councilor growled at a form huddled at his feet. He kicked at the form.

"Councilor!" the captain yelled. "We're under—"

The councilor whirled and fired his pistol. The captain dropped, his words lost in a gurgle. "Teach you to interfere," the councilor muttered, and turned back to the huddled form.

"Now, I've heard of shooting the messenger," the iguana said. "But that's the first I've ever seen anyone do it."

The councilor turned and raised his pistol again, only to find it knocked out of his hand by the iguana's enormous tail.

The iguana chuckled.

The councilor drew his rapier and charged, and found himself slammed into the wall by that tail. He clawed at the tail, fighting for his air.

"Ho, Bilge!" the iguana called out. "Fahd! You about done up there?"

The rat stuck his head in. "Yeah," Bilge replied. "We're done cleaning up out here. Fahd's checking out the rest of the cargo. Why, you find anything?"

"Have a look," the iguana said, gesturing towards the huddled form. He kept his tail firmly pressed against the councilor while Bilge scurried down to investigate.

A sand cat climbed down after him. "No goods on this ship," Fahd said to the iguana.

"Odd," the iguana replied. "They sold off their cargo, then?"

Fahd shook his head. "No gold, either. No cargo worth taking a merchant ship." He shrugged one shoulder. "Not unless they rid themselves some other way."

"Captain?" Bilge called out. "You might want to take a look."

Fahd nodded and took over watching the councilor, leaving the big iguana free to join Bilge.

The iguana bent down to peer at the huddled form...who whimpered and cringed away from him. "Please," she sobbed. "Please don't hurt me, I didn't do anything wrong."

"Hold still," the iguana ordered, and the female echidna froze. He grabbed her by the chin and looked over her. Like the young male they'd pulled from the sea, she was a mess of bruises and dried blood—impossible, now, to tell her original color. And gods only knew what other damage she'd suffered.

Her scent, though sharpened by her fear, was young, perhaps half the age of that echidna gasping and wheezing under Fahd's watch. And she smelled like the old one—

The iguana's eyes went wide, and a growl rumbled in his throat.

She pulled free from his grasp and shivered against the wall.

The iguana chuckled. "No goods, huh? Little jewel here will fetch a handsome price at the right market."

Bilge and Fahd gave a start. The iguana flicked his gaze toward the councilor and back to them. They both nodded curtly and watched their prisoner.

The councilor was smiling. The expression was slight; they might not have seen it if they hadn't been watching for it.

"Or that mage we fished out of the sea?" the iguana continued. "Anybody would pay a fortune for the likes of him."

The councilor frowned.

The iguana caressed the female's chin, and she trembled and whimpered. "Just got to clean them up some..." His eyes traveled down to her bulging stomach. "And rid her of that baby."

"You can't be rid of demon-spawn so easily, pirate," the councilor rasped. "They turn on their masters." He climbed, shaking, to his feet. "Best send them back to Hell while you still can," he spat.

"I'll keep that in mind," the iguana replied. He pulled the girl over his shoulder—she was too weak to fight him, and too mindful of her stomach to try—and climbed to the deck.

Bilge and Fahd climbed out after him, and he handed the girl to them. He turned to face the councilor. "By the way, do you know how to sail this ship? Alone?"

"Er...no."

"I'll leave you with a day's store of food. I suggest you use that time to learn."

The councilor's eyes widened. "It took us three days to get here!"

"Learn quickly."

The councilor rushed toward the ladder. "You can't do this to me! I am a high councilor of Albion; you'll have a price on your head for this!"

The iguana chuckled. "I already have a price on my head, fool. Haven't you ever heard of Denizen of the Deep?" He waited until the councilor was almost up the ladder before slamming the door.

#

The Albion navy found the ship drifting a week later and pulled it into harbor. The councilor was half-mad from starvation, and though he eventually recovered, the Council never could learn exactly what had happened to him.

All anybody knew was that he, alone of all of his crew, survived an attack by the notorious demon pirate Denizen.
A pirate ship attacks a merchant ship.
But who are the good guys, and who the villains?
:?

A weird little bit, if I say so myself.
Not so much that this chapter is weird. Rather, the reason the story exists is weird...ish.

See, I had a dream a couple of days ago, in which I was reading one of the comic books, and for the space of maybe five panels, the main character of this story (we haven't seen him yet) makes his appearance.
I'm working on this now instead of Bad Blood because I want to get that dream sorted out.

I got that main character's name out of it...and near as I remember, not a whole lot else. I even had to make up what I think he looks like. :roll:
Yet I still managed to build a story out of it. Specifically what led up to the events in the dream, which leads me to the other weird thing....

The timing.
That dream took place in what, in the comic, would be modern times.
Said main character met Knuckles and Julie-Su.
But the bulk of this story takes place thousands of years before.
We'll get to why...eventually.

Anyway:
Denizen, Fahd, Bilge, the captain, and the councilor copyright to me.
Anonymous characters to the Powers That Be.
All others to Archie or Sega. Which, this chapter around, I think is actually only limited to the species (echidna) and the city of Albion. :shrug:

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