Currents and Collateral

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Cecile landed on the slanted deck of the Proteus, still clutching Ingrid so they fell sliding toward the wall. Yan caught them before they crashed, hauling them up into a crushing hug.

"You had us a bit worried there, Captain," said her first mate. He carefully set them on their feet, his arm around Ingrid's waist to keep her steady. He looked over her head, frowning. "Where's Charles?"

The deck shifted beneath them before she could answer. Cecile grabbed the wheel, holding tight as the Proteus began to spin in an ominous creak of metal. She had but a moment to think 'That bloody witch', before ship and crew were heaved by magical means from the cave.

The Proteus came to a halt with a gentle whoosh. Cecile's felt melded to the ship's wheel, her guts still trying to spin circles. Yan groaned as he slid down the wall cradling an unconscious Ingrid.

"Brand," she called, worried for her blind engineer. The salty gentlemen made his way into the room a moment later, looking mad as hell.

"Captain," he said, using the wall to guide his steps until he was close enough to reach for her. His callous hand wrapped around her arm, helping her steady herself. "Mind telling me why my engine is a steaming pile of strained metal?"

Cecile closed her eyes, counting to ten. Next time she saw that witch she would shove her pistol down the harlot's throat. "How soon can you have us operational?"

Brand sightless eyes narrowed. "Not for a day or two."

Cecile tugged at her chin. Why had that idiot offered himself to her? More worrisome was why had she accepted? Who knew what the witch wanted with their scientist but she doubted it was anything good. While the witch desired the return of her possession, she wasn't suffering for its loss. A few extra days with Charles in her clutches could be exactly what she wanted from the bargain.

"Can you shoot for a day?" Cecile said, bracing her arms on the ship's navigational panel. The inlaid compass spun frantically, without direction or purpose. None of the instruments were in working order.

"I could, lass, but that is the least of our worries."

"What do you mean?"

"Can't you feel, it Captain? The air smells foul, like stale rot," said Brand, lifting his crooked nose. His nostrils twitched. "Things best left forgotten," he murmured.

Cecile glanced out the window, swallowing hard at the sight that greeted her. Lost in the Mediterranean, her boot. "Get the engines running as soon as possible. I will send Yan in to help you." Her eyes met her first mate's puzzlement, until he looked out the window himself, releasing a string of hearty curses to make his ancestors blush. He heft the unconscious Ingrid onto his shoulder.

"I'll settle her in her quarters, Captain," he said.

"Put her in mine," said Cecile, staring out the bridge window. The sun drenched green waters swirled around the ship in a boiling current, dragging them along at an unnatural speed. It was a current the Greek sailors found long ago and avoided at all costs. The Ketea, home of the world's most infamous monsters, creatures so ancient and vicious their legend continued to lurk in the hearts of every sailor. Yan was raised on the stories of the Ketea. He called her Keto, an affectionate nickname,though Cecile never thought she would come face to face with the goddess's children.

Yan strode past her, Ingrid dangling from his arms. Her hands relaxed, releasing the witch's pouch from her grasp. It fell soundless to the floor, observed only by Cecile. She waited until the others left before she bent to retrieve it, the pouch near weightless as she tipped it open into her hand.

A thin reed of a bone dropped against her skin, so sharp it scraped a line of red across her palm. Semi -translucent and hollow, she didn't recognize it at first, not until she heard Yan's sharp intake of breath behind her as he returned.

"It's a tooth, isn't it?" A needle-like tooth as long as her hand, and a tip that drew blood without pressure. What sort of monster did it belong to?

"Yes," said Yan, his voice hoarse. "Where did you get it?"

"The sea hag. It will lead us to what she seeks."

"That will only lead us to death."

Cecile pursed her lips. She hated, hated, surprises, especially ones dumped in her lap by conniving witches. "What waits for us at the end of this particular tether?"

"One of the great old monsters of the deep. Scylla, the viperous one."

Death indeed. The Ketea housed many monsters, but Scylla and her ravenous sister Charybdis, were the worst of them. Cecile understood why the witch sent them here. The narrow channel of the Ketea that housed the two monstrous sisters wasn't just a death trap, it was a catch all, a drain where the ocean's treasures were caught up and snagged on kelp choked teeth. There were many dangerous shores a prized object could wash up on in these waters, but most were eventually sucked into the channel. No sailing vessel could pass through it without being set upon by a dozen hungry vicious mouths. Of course, none ever sailed through the channel beneath the surface before. The Proteus might have a slim chance of success.

She carefully curled her fingers around the tooth, placing it back into the velvet pouch. "The witch has Charles." She kept her tone neutral, waiting in the pregnant silence that followed for her first mate's reaction. The scientist hadn't been with them long enough to get a true read on Yan. If he had, he might have found the courage to profess those bottled up feelings he carried with him into the witch's den.

Yan cleared his throat. "My father might have passed on a trick or two for dealing with the viperous one." He frowned, tapping his fingers against the ship's wheel. "It will do us little good without the ship's engine's up to snuff. We'll need them to fight Charybdis's pull."

Cecile glanced at her instruments, a mess of spinning needles and blurred number wheels as the Ketea current refused to adhere to the laws of science. "Any idea how long till we reach their channel?"

Her first mate squinted into the boiling water outside their hull, his knuckles tightening on the ship's wheel. "Could be hours, could be days." He sighed, shaking his head. "I'd best go help Brand with the engine then." He turned to go, his expression unreadable.

"Yan," she said, noting the tense set of his shoulders. "We will get him back."

Her first mate leaned a moment against the door frame, his voice quiet and sure when he spoke. "Yes, we will."


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