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The “Shepherd’s Pride” was a weatherly vessel, trim and well lined, and her crew, though small, thought the world of their garrulous commander, Captain Rynn. He was young, as captains go, or at least appeared so, and dressed more like a fancy pirate than a sober captain should. But he was generous to his crew, and they had all been more than pleased with the money they’d garnered during their voyages and engagements under his command.
Captain Rynn was a dangerous man to consider a fop. He might have looked to be in his early 20s, but he was was faster with a sword, rapier, bow or pistol, than anyone on land or sea might imagine. He was a smart, generous and cunning man, and he had made a fortune braving some of the worst the ocean had to throw at a ship.
Right now, the ‘Pride’ was becalmed in the latitudes just north of the equator. A mile or more away was an old but quiet volcanic island, that had gathered plants and birds and amphibious type creatures on its shores. One section in particular had white pure sands that made a beautiful beach. The island was fertile, and a small jungle had sprouted not more than a hundred feet from the shoreline, all around the island.
The Captain was doing something most sailors didn’t actually seem to do a lot of, strangely enough. And it disturbed Bates, his coxswain, to no end even after 10 years of service. The coxs’n had rowed his captain to about mid-way between the shore and the ship.
“This about good for ye, Cap’n?” Bates asked, as he shipped his oars, and glanced up at his commander. Bates was a strong man, with a face that showed he was a boxer as much as a sailor, with calloused, strong hands and thews to match. He was dressed in slops and a loose uniform shirt that he’d sewn blue silk into the hems at the shoulders and on the loose sleeves. He was so sun-browned that it was unlikely his skin would ever burn. His green eyes narrowed as his captain did what he always did at this point.
The Captain stood up, smiled and inclined his head to his coxs’n, and said “Yes, this will do fine, Bates. Good man. “ And then the tall, black-maned officer stripped off all of his clothes, revealing a lean and athletic physique. His behind was the only part of his modestly covered by the lengths of his raven dark hair. Blue eyes sparkled like the sky, and his lean build made him seem like something out of a tale of the Fae.
The commander gave a wink and dove into the water without leaving hardly a ripple.
“Gods and Bloody Fishes, “ Bates muttered, crossing himself. He never could understand the man’s need to bath EVERY single day. Even if he called it exercise. He wasn’t a bloody fish!
The captain swam downwards for a ways, the water being so clear that he could see literally for a hundreds of yards, as he kicked his legs and stroked elegantly with his arms. He saw that the ocean floor sloped gently upwards towards the island, and there were all sorts of sea life, even a ruined ship that had been sunk not far away. Unfortunately, it was a bit too deep for him, and so he started to look around for anything else of interest. He looked up and could see Bates peering over the edge of the skiff, and knew he’d better swim up before the bloody fool would leap in to try to ‘save’ his boss. The experienced cox’n could barely dog paddle, let alone swim.
Just as he glanced down, as he started to kick towards the surface, he saw.. Something.. A blur! It looked like a young man – long brown hair flowed out in waves behind, and he moved with the speed of a shark. The captain was running out of air, though, and had already lost sight of.. Whatever he’d thought he’d seen
He swam hard to the surface and gasped out, taking in lungfuls of fresh air. Water droplets clung to his face and streamed off of his hair, which seemed to create a dark cloud around him in the water, like trying to shield his ‘modesty’. He paused, and decided NOT to tell Bates about what he thought he’d seen.
Instead he waved and shouted, “I’m going to swim towards the shore, Bates. Meet me there!” he shouted. Bates gave his skipper a salute, and started to haul the boat towards the shore. Shepherd started swimming in that direction, glancing around to see if he could catch another glimpse at.. Whatever that had been.
About halfway to the shore, he gave up looking actively for the figure.There was no sign of whatever it was. So he resumed a leisurely swim towards the shore.
As he approached, he felt something tugging at his leg, and looked down and hissed out an “Ohhhh hellz bells!” A giant tentacled creature, like a giant squid, arrowed towards him and its tentacles slithered around his leg, and gripped him there. He could feel the tightening of the tentacles, followed by a tremendous yank that pulled him under. He had barely time to take a last breath.
He struggled and fought valiantly, but the enormous creature seemed too strong and large for one man without a weapon to defeat. It started to squeeze, and things started to get dark, as the beast drew him in closer towards its razor sharp beak.
But then there was a flash, like a man leaping into the fray, but that was impossible! Its underwater, Shepherd’s brain told himself. But there he was, a naked man swimming as fast as a man could run on land, and he had a crystalline spear and dagger, which he used viciously on the giant squid.
Shepherd was elated but his lungs were burning and the need for air was almost too great for him. He blacked out, and knew no more, as the sea tried to fill him up.
He woke sputtering, coughing out a gout of salt water, raising his hands to his face. Someone was over top of him. And his lips tasted funny. Had .. this someone been kissing him? His vision cleared and he was astonished – it looked like the boy that had fought the squid! Unless he’d dreamed all that?
He lay there for a few moments, and his closed his eyes, sighing out, and then reopening them. The figure had moved back an arm’s length and he could see him clearly now. He beheld a young beautiful man, with long brown hair, bound with an exotic blue flower. He was wearing white duck trousers and a strange but beautiful robe that seemed to flow around him like water. It was open in the front, revealing a trim and fit body. The captain swallowed and took in a slow, deep breath.
“Feeling better, are you? “ The brown haired boy said.
“I am indeed- I believe I owe you my life,“ the captain said, earnestly, as he lay there, simply gazing at the boy in amazement. Then he took note of their surroundings. They were on the white sands of the beach, and it was early morning. And he was still naked. Shepherd tried to sit up, but the young man beside him pressed on his chest and held him down.
“Well, you do, but I’ll not bother to collect on that life just yet.” he said, with a sarcastic grin. “But I think you had better rest until your men can come and pick you up, sailor boy. You had quite a nasty time of it down there.“
There was a small fire burning in a circle of rocks, a tripod of wood built over it, and what looked wooden spits with squid-meat roasting over the flames. The scent of cooked food made the naked captain’s stomach growl, as he looked down to see squid sucker marks all over his legs and stomach. “Man, I was lucky you were there, “ he said softly.
The boy shrugged and smiled, “You’re welcome to share in the victory meal. I figured it was the least I could do for you providing a day’s entertainment for me. “ The young man grinned as he grabbed one of the sticks off the fire and bit into the steaming aquatic bounty.
“I’m.. what.. I mean.. “ The captain said, in gentle confusion, until he finally crystallized his thoughts, and took a breath. “What I saw.. What you did -That was amazing! How in the world can you have moved like that down there? “ he glanced into the young man’s eyes, and let his eyes wander down the open robe, as he examined the boy’s skin. It seemed smooth and hairless, and had that luster that dolphins had. He gulped and tried not to stare, as he looked back up into the boy’s sparkling eyes. He then looked around the beach, and over the water. He couldn’t see his ship from this vantage, nor could he see his cox’n.
“Don’t worry, sailor boy, I’ll fetch your man later, once you’ve had a chance to dry out. “
Shepherd frowned and said, “I think I know who you are, now, “ he said softly, but then glanced into the boy’s eyes. “You’re a Merman, aren’t you? What’s your name? I want to thank you properly. I’m Captain Rynn Shepherd- of the Shepherd’s Pride. ”
The boy smirked and shook his head, “Yes, I know who you are, Captain. I’ve seen you near here before. Well, my name is Ra Phalie. And I’m what your people call a mermaid, in your tongue. But it’s not what our name translates into, directly. Besides, I could call you pink skin monkey boy and you’d not like that much either, right? “
Shepherd frowned but then burst out laughing, and nodded his head, “I guess I wouldn’t at that. Well, pleased that you could save my pink skin, Ra Phalie.” But he paused, wrinkling his nose in concentration, narrowing his eyes, “So, tell me – Do you transform? I mean, do you have a tail?“
The boy turned over onto his stomach, his white duck trousers tight against a firm behind. He grinned and shook his head, “Don’t see one, do you? Just so you know, Mermaids don’t always have tails, but I’m sure I’ll have a different kind of tale – the one where I caught a human by the tentacles.” The two laughed, and ate their meal as the sun rose over the ocean.
This might turn out to be a good day.
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