[P] it’s not as if you have to drink the sea
#1
The Silver Wind was an admirable vessel if Tattersall had ever seen one. He had never been exposed to another ship, of course, but thought that Salsola's cutter was all the more impressive because two men had built it largely alone.

“Oak vood,” the one-legged man explained as he patted one rough hand on the railing. Tattersall had just learned that the proper term for the rear side of the boat, where they now stood, was called the “stern”, and that this particular railing was a “pushpit”. He liked hearing these new words, and being taught things beyond his areas of knowledge. Sailing was a curious affair, one which required many hands and unique skills that he personally lacked.

Bogdan Kotovo, on the other hand, was a master. The ship's captain, as he was called, he knew every inch of the structure and how to sail her. Tattersall was quite enthralled to be given this private lesson, though he supposed it wasn't really all that private. Sionann had come along too, invited because she just happened to be around the Marketplace for some reason or another. The wolfdog was listening attentively, though she had already proven a level of competency beyond Tate's starting point.

“Best vood for ships,” Bogdan went on. He made use of the ropes on board to help him move around, to the point that he barely seemed handicapped at all. “She is fast too. You will enjoy, I think. We go now, here, you both help.”

Under his watchful eyes and direct commands, Tattersall and Sionann helped Bogdan prepare the ship to launch. He walked them through the process, making it clear that the order of things mattered, and how casting off and setting sail required a whole checklist of items to be completed before one made it out to the open water.

Once they were moving, however, everything became strange and wonderful. The mainland fell away behind them, while the southern coast sped along at their “port” side. A sharp-edged, unfriendly looking structure he assumed to be the Cavalieri fort shank as they headed further out into the Loch. It was a warm day, and there was just enough cloud cover to prevent them from roasting in the sun. Every so often the clouds would party and bright lights would flash off the surface of the water.

Tattersall could smell the salty brine of the lake it in the wind. Sionann pointed a school of fish out to him, but they had passed the dark spot in the water without slowing down, and left it behind.

“How far are we going?” He called to Bogdan.

“Near the end, I show you the far side,” the foreigner replied. The answer made Tattersall uneasy, but his questioning look to Sionann went unanswered, save a pleasant wag of her bushy tail.

You got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.
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#2
It was strange how tired he felt swimming. The waves passed through him, but the force of their movement had to be fought against. If he didn't kick his legs like a living beast would, the water would sweep him toward the shore. The hunger in his gut churned and gnawed, demanding food that he no longer could have. His jaw panged, and his unseen legs burned.

He craved sensation, but not like this. This was difficult and unpleasant to do. He had no fear of drowning, but some primal worry tugged at his mind when he dipped under. The ever-present thought of, "Don't drown," chased him like a mosquito through the Loch. As the shore disappeared behind him, it was louder and more frequent in his head. He shouldn't be doing this, he couldn't be doing this - but he was. And he wanted to.

The thoughts of the night with the mottled-pelt male came back to him. He thought of emerging at low tide, glowing like a second moon. He thought of the fish that swam around him, the seaweed tangling at his feet. He thought of how he watched another world unfold around him, unseen by most, and how there had been silence. Gurgles and bubbles, yes, and the sound of animals darting through waves, but silence. The saltwater had filled him, and he'd been at peace.

Woodsmoke was on the wind as he moved. A chilly breeze moved in the direction of the small cutter as it came closer to the far shore. It carried that damp, acrid scent of his to its passengers, and thickened the halatinous odor of the sea. The group would see nothing, save for some seagulls banking sharply on the horizon. The creature hadn't spotted them yet, still paddling a fair distance away.
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#3
They moved fast, but not weightless. Tattersall was well aware of the strong, sturdy boat underfoot. It had once been trees, he supposed, and all the rigging and the sails sturdy vegetation – but the transformation which had undergone these dead things had brought new life into them. Each time the wind pulled hard, the cutter lurched across the gentle waves of the big lake and made noise of its own.

Crafting was a lot like magic. When energy, heart, and soul were poured into a something it was capable of becoming more.

A strange scent began to grow in the air. Tate furrowed his brow and moved towards the front of the ship. He wished for Morrow's nose, but his own worked well enough and told him that the familiar scent was indeed out here. It seemed impossible.

“Do you smell that?”
He called, turning towards Sionann.

The shaggy wolfdog came to join him. He watched her nose work, and stepped back when the breeze blew her long, green-tipped hair into his face. Her body stiffened and her ears pricked. Tate heard a low growl rumble in her chest – she always growled when facing the unknown.
You got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.
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#4
That was because the phantom - who'd otherwise been preoccupied with fighting the waves - had spotted them. The shimmer of the sun against its sail had finally made a glint bright enough for him to catch. Turning his head and giving a hard couple of kicks, the beast had maneuvered to face it. Golden eyes squinting, he had treaded water as best he could, taking in the sight of it cutting through the waves. A strange exhaustion prickled through his limbs, and with it, the churn of a non-existent gut. His jaw panged, even if drool couldn't drip from it.

The swim could wait. He'd drained himself trying to fight the force of the waves. Something about their kinetic energy traversed the boundaries of life and death. He was in no mood to wonder about the cause or how it might be possible. He couldn't push aside the thought of needing energy, and a ship might mean Luperci on board. The thought of their warmth, their scent, their emotions being ripe for the taking?

He started for the boat, almost frantic. The chill wind picked up, and the smell of the sea intensified. He half-let the waves carry him to the boat, half-directed himself to the side of the cutter. The closer he came, the colder the air became, the beast trying to absorb what heat he could. How long had they been there? Damn him for not being more responsive! They might turn away at any second!



OoC: 14th/15th September, 2021 Word of the Day: "responsive".
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#5
The lake was not endless, and in the distance, the rocky bridge that had formed in the way of the earthquakes and the pull of the tides themselves slowly came into view. Tattersall saw this first – then he saw something strange.

It was more like he did not see what was there was the better choice of description. There was an odd shimmer, like the way heat sometimes appeared on the long, black road that cut through their land or the streets of Amherst. Once he had fixated on the there-not-there thing, it could not be unseen.

“There's something on the water!” He cried, but Sionann did not see it. Bogdan, at the helm, leaned over to try and make sense of what the boy was shouting.

A wind blew across the loch from the west. The boat turned to avoid the worst of this and began to drift south, driven by the sudden strange chill in the air.

Tattersall was a witch's son. He instinctively believed that this was not a natural breeze.

“I still smell that smoke,” the adolescent insisted, and reluctantly moved back towards where the old man was perched. He stopped only briefly, when the peculiar scent once again loomed on the wind. Where was it coming from? And where had that strange shimmering light gone?
You got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.
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#6
And then, almost as soon as it had come, the scent vanished. No...not vanished. It had been dampened, as if smoke was caught in a sudden rainstorm. The air regained a slight bit of its warmth, and the wind lessened. Everything was eerily quiet on the Loch - seabirds had wheeled away and out of sight in the distance. Underneath the waves, a slowly-forming mass of golden white drifted towards the boat.

The scratching came next. Something pawed at the bottom of the vessel, moving slow at first. The temperature began to dip again. The scratching became more insistent, then near-frantic. Sounds of claws against wood crept up the side of the boat, traveling until it echoed under the main deck. Here now the chill came back in full force, and a vortex of a breeze swirled down to meet it.

Something began to emerge from the deck. It was a soft, golden-white shimmer at first, and then its brightness and opaqueness grew. A pointed mass reached up from the planks, developing into a crude, canine blob of a head. Resembling fog touched by firelight, it split in two as if to mimic opening jaws, golden light shining out. Tendrils of wispy smoke lengthened into dripping tendrils and solidified into fangs. A great mane of fluffy, spiked clouds appeared on top of the jaws as the thing swiveled around. They merged, melted and lengthened with the jaws, as if invisible paws sculpted it. The air grew colder and colder.
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#7
The smell changed, and then came the sound – insistent and demanding, but beneath them, impossibly close for where they they were on the water. While the Loch was very large, it was no longer connected to the sea. What great beasts and fish ruled there could not hope to survive in the lake.

And yet...

He saw it appear. A smoky change in the air began to gather en mass, and then manifest into form. Tattersall felt his skin prickle and his hackles rise. His tail was bristle-bottle brush and his eyes wide and staring. By then, he recognized the shape – not as an individual, but as a familiar structure of teeth, eyes, maw. This thing that emerged from the depths was not fully able to make itself appear, but Tate realized that what they were seeing was something like them, but from that great beyond.

It scared him. He was young, and had always been aware of death, but seeing a spectre truly reveal itself was enough to spook him. This was the realm of witches, like his mother. 

“Look!” He shouted, but the others had seen it by then. Sionann was staring, open-mouthed. Bogdan was cursing up a storm in his native tongue, a rolling sound that continued even as he began to turn the boat away, and aim its bow back towards the distant shore.

“What is that!? Do you see that?” Tate yapped, practically frantic.

“Don't talk t'it!” Sionnan barked at him. “Don't touch it neither!”

He didn't want to – not when it felt so cold, and smelled like damp, old smoke.
You got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.
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#8
All trace of other life had disappeared from the Loch. Seabirds no longer screamed on the horizon; fish had dove and swam deep underwater. The golden light the entity emitted was now framed by pale, faint-yellow fangs. The glow from them and its mouth bled up to form eyes, which swirled and solidified into ovals of molten gold.  Flaming light rose from them, tendril-thin and snaking. Two half-solid paws slammed down on the boat's deck, claws forming and digging into the vessel. A ghastly breath escaped the creature's jaws.

A cloud moved over the sun. That had not been the beast's doing, but it added to the frightening atmosphere. Huffing and growling, the creature hauled itself up as its back end coalesced. It slipped and  almost fell, its hips not quite solid as they appeared from below. Rasping, a fever-bright tongue lolling out with a wisp of smoke, the creature rose to stand. It looked around with those eerie eyes it had, two pinpricks of light appearing in the center of each. Licking its lips, its expression hungry and wanting, it panted wildly.

It did not move. It only stared. The wind had died down a little, but everything was still chillier than it should've been. Filling the silence with only its gasping and halatinous reek, it soon settled its eyes on a youth. He was reddish and black-marked, reminding the spirit of a fox more than a canine. The panting slowed, and the creature sniffed in the air in the boy's direction. It took a slow step forward, then another, and then picked up pace. It opened its mouth wide, almost impossibly so - there was nothing there but teeth, tongue, and a void like a second sun.

And then it inhaled, trying to absorb as much of the boy's fear and disbelief as he could. The pup reeked of it the most, and it was tempting and delicious as meat baited before a trap. The spirit felt no fear, his sights only on Tattersall and the energy that coursed hot beneath his skin.




OoC: Wordtober Challenge Word of the Day: "disappeared".
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#9
I would be interested in a follow up thread with Foreman if you'd be up for that!
Tattersall is going to rally some fellow youths to come back out and investigate with him. >:]

In the dim light, the shape of the ghost – for that was what Tattersall thought to call it – manifested further into a solid form. The sight of it was terrible.

He had known of death for nearly his entire life. When his sister had been killed, the sudden absence of her presence was a terrible rift. He and his sisters had been young, however, and in the way of natural order they were better able to move on. She was a faded memory, but one whose presence lingered like a shadow.

Perhaps, worse, like this fog-and-smoke thing before him.

The ship rocked and caught the wind. This force pulled them away, back towards the eastern shore, but the ghost remained as if the wooden planks beneath their paws now carried it too. Tate grabbed for the side and felt a spray of cold water come up to dampen his fur. If this was a living, breathing entity, fighting it would be the answer. How was he supposed to ward off something he wasn't supposed to touch or acknowledge? Looking away would not protect him from those glowing eyes and open mouth.

Sionann barked, loud and angry, but she didn't move towards the ghost either. Bogdan was too busy directing them back towards the far-away landing from where they had set sail to help.

There wasn't a spear or a weapon he could really use. It seemed very silly to him that they had come unarmed.

Around him, the temperature began to drop. He snarled, and tried to look anywhere but in the eyes of the spectral beast that approached him.
You got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.
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#10
He drank. All that emotion, that fear, flowed into his open gullet like a tidal wave. It washed through his being, warmed his innards, and filled his hated emptiness. It was intoxicating as beer, as sweet as summer wine; he pulled as much of it into himself as he could. It was so rich and fulfilling that he almost felt sick, like a pup that gorged itself on too much fresh meat.

He didn't care if it made the others feel weak. He didn't care if it made them feel cold, ill, half-dazed. He didn't care if it didn't do a thing. He wanted more and more and more, so deprived of that wonderful, mortal feeling of fullness. His body glowed with power and his foggy form took shape, sharpening and solidifying. Eventually, the form of a huge, somewhat-lanky wolfdog stood there, his fur the texture of a stormy sky.

When he was done, he panted. He rasped, huffed in delight. He let out a small whine and closed his eyes, swaying on his now-defined feet. He made a little shudder, then looked at the terrified group. All of them were bristling and defensive, hackles raised and teeth bared. Their snarling almost was as loud as the crashing waves. The spirit had the impression they'd throw him overboard if they could.

Well, that wouldn't do. It was only polite to thank the providers of such a wonderful meal, and he hoped to see them again. Not only were they afraid, but their energy was proud, strong, potent. These Luperci were healthy and well-kept, which made them all the better to take power from. The spirit cleared his throat, glancing from one mortal to the next.

"I brin' a message from de other world," he said, his deep voice grave. If he made the right impression, gave these folk the right story, maybe they'd come back. Maybe they'd let him openly feed from them. "'Tis why I was so desperate ter git on board ter see ye. I was told ye would know what it means, for so 'tis a vision. A vision from those long lost ter de deep, lyin' in silence at de bottom o' the Loch."

There, that should hook them. At least, he hoped they were superstitious enough to believe the old-kill tripe he was coming up with.



OoC: Wordtober Challenge Word of the Day: "snarling".

I'd like a follow-up thread, once we're done here. Please let me know if I need to edit anything in this post!
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