Interlude: Rated Arrrr (original story by Jim)

During our first in-game time jump, all of our characters took a week of time to take care of various accumulated business. The following scene illustrates the next stage of Captain Anstis’s elaborate master plans.

***

~ 1 ~

“I’ll be throwing a party aboard me ship off the coast, and ye be invited,” Anstis announced, his lone eye glittering. A group of people laughed with lighthearted chatter across the street, huddled under the marquis of a local music venue. The woman before Anstis glanced at them briefly. She backed up a pace, tensing, and reached into her purse.

Anstis met her eye, and his voice took on an odd intonation, “It’ll be the most interesting party of yer life. Ye find me fascinating, and ye’ll be delighted to attend, ye and yer friends.”

Her eyes widened and stared blankly, “…What…sort of party is it?”

“It be a pirate party,” Anstis replied earnestly.

Her eyes lit up, and the hand retreated from her purse. “Ooooh! I need to call Amy! And Liam! What time did you say?”

“8pm. Meet me at Fort Funston,” Anstis replied with a smile. “Yer name?”

“Oh, I’m Cheryl”

“Cheryl–?”

“–Nguyen.”

Anstis made an elaborate sweeping motion with his arms, bowing slightly. “Be seeing ye tomorrow, Cheryl Nguyen. Don’t be late….”

Cheryl turned and left, dazed but smiling, and began dialing. Anstis appraised her reaction, a grin sliding over his face. Turning to find more ‘guests’, he spotted a flicker at the edge of his vision. A young boy, not more than five or six. Emaciated. Twitching. Eyeing the adults milling around the sidewalk, but from the shadows between a pair of parked vehicles. Anstis approached cautiously.

A man broke off from his group and wandered by the child’s hiding spot, leaning against a van and lighting up a cigarette. The young boy hesitated, shaking, then lunged at the man’s leg and bit down. There was a slight yelp of surprise, then the man relaxed, dropping his cigarette. The boy drank rapturously, and his prey collapsed to the ground.

With a quick glance at the distracted concert-goers, Anstis rushed over and grabbed the child, dragging him away from the street. The boy scrabbled as Anstis locked eyes. “Come with me, quietly.” The pirate sealed the wound on the man’s leg and hurried off around the corner before others took notice of their missing friend.

He lead the boy to a nearby park, stopping in the deep shadows under a cypress. “What do ye think yer doing!?” Anstis demanded, kneeling to the boy’s level.

“I… I… it made me! I don’t want… So thirsty”, the boy stammered, then clutched his head, “Oh no, no no no….”

Anstis appraised the boy, looking him up and down. The child was no more than five or six, about the age of a stowaway he once found aboard the Good Fortune, lost and alone. Pirates were no strangers to runaways and orphans, and if they survived, they became crew much as any other. But they required a firm hand of guidance.

Anstis regarded the child, frowning. “Of course ye had to feed,” he shook his head, “Why do it where ye might be seen, and why did ye wait so long you lost control?” Anstis glared, “Have ye no sense?”

“What’s wrong with me?” the boy sputtered, still holding his head. He licked the last of the blood off his lips.

Anstis sighed, putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder, “How long since ye were turned?”

“Turned?”

“Ye be a vampire, child. How long?”

The boy processed this. He looked ready to object, but then dropped his eyes, nodding his head. “Last year, I think. I was sleeping, but I heard my door open. I thought it was mommy, but this lady bit me on the neck, and I heard dad yelling.” The boy curled into the fetal position and cried, “and I went to sleep,” he shuddered.

Anstis patted the boy on the back, nodding.

“I woke up, and felt icky inside, and hungry. I thought I just had a bad dream, and got up to go see mommy and daddy.” His expression grew sour, “But… I saw them. And there was blood. And daddy’s gun. And the other lady. And they wouldn’t move!” He burst into tears.

Anstis held the boy in his arms for some time, saying nothing.

“I hid in the closet and slept all day,” the boy continued, “And then everyone was gone. I was so hungry and they didn’t come home.” His face contorted, “And then I hurt people. It makes me hurt people and then the voices, they won’t stop!” He clenched his head again.

“What be yer name?” Anstis interrupted.

The boy looked up, sniffing, “Noah. What’s yours?”

“Tom.”

Noah made a grim smile and nodded sullenly.

“Full name is Captain Thomas Anstis, and I be a real pirate ship Captain,” Anstis announced proudly. “How’d ye like to be a member of me crew?”

A glimmer of hope reached the boy’s eyes.

~ 2 ~

Anstis invited a few others to his party, then spent the rest of the evening teaching Noah what it means to be a vampire, the clans, and how to hunt efficiently. The boy was exceptionally good at sneaking and hiding, but hesitated to bite, and looked deeply haunted after each incident.

“What is it?” Anstis asked finally.

Noah clutched his head again, “The voices! I can hear them. They won’t go away! I just want them to go away!”

“What voices?” Anstis asked, knowing the answer.

“His voice, and her voice!” Noah glanced back and forth at the sleeping couple he’d just drank from. “I hurt them and they’re punishing me!”.

“It’s not real, Noah. It will pass. Fight, and it will pass.”

Noah bit his lip, pacing back and forth.

Anstis sighed, rapping his fingers against his leg. He glanced left and right, then promptly morphed into a parrot.

Noah froze in place, mouth agape. He stood there a long moment, staring at the huge blue and gold macaw extending its wings in front of him. A grin exploded over his face, and he reached to pet it.


~ 3 ~

The next evening, Anstis swaggered up to his guests, in full pirate regalia, near the parking lot of Fort Funston. “Welcome! I be Thomas Anstis, Captain of the Twilight’s Fortune.” Before him was a mish-mash of costumes, with a few visibly excited people and a few looking coerced. Cases of alcohol covered a nearby table. Cheryl, in an elaborate pirate wench outfit,  clapped her hands and bullied her friends into a bustling sea shanty, rocking them back and forth.

Anstis studied each of them carefully, then joined in, announcing, “This way!” Singing, he led them to the entrance of the caves.

“I thought this was going to be on a ship, bro!” one of the more disgruntled men asked, “There’s not even a dock here, and the ocean’s that way,” he pointed behind them, frowning.

Anstis paused in front of him. “And what be your name, sailor?”

“Joseph Benson. And you didn’t answer my question.”

Anstis looked him in the eyes, “I said there’d be a ship, and a ship there shall be.” He smiled roguishly, gesturing with a flourish “Follow me,” he said, offering a sly look and pivoting to enter the cave. A few people glanced at each other, but they followed the herd.

People pulled out cell phones to light their steps, and descended into the darkness. Finally, they reached the end. Anstis darted forward, drawing their attention up, away from the blood circle at their feet. “Time for a little smoke and mirrors!”, he shouted. “Turn off your lights and stand together.” They complied, reluctantly, and a single glowing eye emerged in the darkness. Anstis danced around the circle, activating it as quickly as possible, motions practiced from weeks of repetition. “Now, close your eyes and count to three!”

The runes glowed blood red as darkness swirled around them, cascading over their forms. One person shrieked, the world spun–and the group lurched into a cramped and dimly lit room aboard the former USS Thresher. Anstis found the man who’d wailed, and with a wide-armed bow, announced “Everything be fine. Welcome to the Twilight’s Fortune!”

Several people exchanged confused looks, scanning their new surroundings with wide eyes. “How… how’d we get here?”, one of them asked, brow furrowed.

“Magic!” Anstis said by way of explanation, clapping the man on the back. “Come! Drink and be merry!” He circled to find a red-haired musician he’d met the previous day, carrying a violin. “Yvette! Would ye grace us with yer music?” Yvette glanced around, then lifted her instrument to her shoulder, opening with The Coast of High Barbary.

Anstis led them to a larger compartment, and after confirming with his crew they were alone in the waters, ordered the sub to the surface. One by one, he pulled his guests aside for an interview.

~ 4 ~

“Joseph Benson. Ye will answer me in truth, and in full.

The man nodded. He wore a hastily-torn pair of pants and a white button-down shirt, splayed wide open to offer a more compelling view of his chest hair, complimented by a cheap plastic sword tucked into his belt.

Anstis continued, “Tell me what ye care about in life. What be are yer skills?”

“I, uhh, I just wanna have a good time, bro. Meet some chicks. You know?”, he gave Anstis a knowing look, which wasn’t reciprocated. “This is your boat?”, Joseph asked, gesturing around him, smirking. “I bet you get all kinds of pussy, brah!”

The pirate stared back, flatly. “What do ye do, and what be ye good at?”

“I’m in sales. Tech company. I like to watch movies, play sports. I kick ass at Soccer; I play forward.”

Anstis fondled the pen on his desk. “And what of yer family?”

“What about? Dad wasn’t around. Left when I was 10. My mom raised us. Me and my brother. She’s back in Pennsylvania though, outside Philly.” Joseph paused, “Why do you want to know all this, man?”

Anstis looked him in the eye, “Yer father left ye to join a man named Jonathan Flowers. He abandoned ye because of that man, and the name brings ye undying hate. Ye would do ANYTHING to see to his destruction. And yer life will be forever incomplete until ye see that man burn,” he said, lingering on the last word.

Joseph gripped the arms of his chair, knuckles white. “Where can I find that fucker?”

“Right this way.” Anstis rose, gesturing, and led Joseph into another compartment, abruptly biting his neck and draining him dry.

Joseph’s body collapsed unceremoniously to the floor. Anstis’s eye grew unfocused, studying the corpse intently. A faint spectre sat up from its dead flesh, brow furrowed, and stared at its hands, turning them over. It looked around, tilting its ghostly head, and eventually rose, wandering off.

Anstis thrust the corpse to the side, and snapped off one of its fingers and a toe. He covered the body with a tarp, and stowed the digits in two bags, each labeled with a full name, and locked them away in a storage compartment. He fed the new vitae into his crew.

And so it continued.


~ 5 ~

An hour later, the party had thinned some, and Anstis led them up on deck. One of the Hawaiian islands lay to port, barely visible against the moonlight sparkling on the water. Anstis gestured to it grandly. “Ahoy, landlubbers! The Farallon islands, off the coast of San Francisco.” The group let out a collective “oooh!” and fanned out across the deck. Laughter and smiles punctuated the darkness, and Yvette’s music filled the night air. Anstis gazed across the sea and took in a long breath, the scent of the ocean flooding his nostrils.

One of the girls came up to Anstis, tapping him lightly on the arm. “Um, Captain, have you seen Julie around anywhere?”

“I set her up in a bunk downstairs.” Anstis said without turning around, “I’ve taken the liberty of setting up quarters for each of ye below.”

Another man wandered over, pulling out a phone, “Hey, it’s Sunday night and I’ve got work in the morning. How late are we staying out?”

Anstis turned to look at the man. Tall, broad of shoulder, with long blond hair and an athletic build. There was a quiet confidence about him, like he had nothing to prove. Anstis met his gaze. “Oh, we be finished here shortly–”

“–Liam,” the man replied, narrowing his eyes, appraising Anstis in turn.

“Liam, would ye join me below? I be having a few questions.”

“As do I, ‘Captain’”.


~ 7 ~

Liam stared at the cabin as they entered. “How exactly, did you come to be in possession of a US Navy submarine, ‘Captain’?”

“All in good time, Liam. First, ye will answer me in truth, and in full.

Liam hesitated, blinked. “…Sure.” He leaned against the wall, crossing his arms. He wore a long wool frock coat riddled with accessories, and a large tricorne hat sat atop his blond hair. He was calm, but suspicion still lurked under his gaze.

“What be yer full name, and what do ye do?”

The man unfolded his arms, placing his hands at his hips. “I’m Liam Heikkinen. I’m an electrical engineer now, but I was an Ensign in the Navy. Served aboard the USS Howard.”

Anstis straightened at the mention of the navy, meeting Liam’s eyes, and set his pen down. The pirate regarded him as if for the first time, and folded his hands at his chin, grinning. “As for your question, I came to be in possession of the Twilight recently. The previous owner found himself…” the pirate made a show of searching for the right word, “…with a screw loose. Unforgiving waters, these.”

Liam crossed his arms again, lifting an eyebrow.

“Tell me, Liam, what be of value to ye?”

Liam continued eyeing Anstis, but continued. “Lots. I value my country. I value respect. Loyalty. Honor. I want my life to have meaning. Maybe have a family someday.”

“Good.” Anstis nodded. “What would ye do if someone hurt ye? Or yer family?”

“Hurt me? Fine. I’ll get over it. But hurt someone I care about, and I’ll end you.” He spoke it not as a threat, but as a simple irrefutable fact, a law of nature.

A genuine smile spread over Anstis’s face. “And how does yer current job fare with ye?”

Liam paused, considering. “It’s alright. I work in grid balancing. It’s important work, and there’s a lot of exciting challenges, but… I dunno. I feel like maybe there’s more out there.”

“What if I offered ye a job?”

“Honestly? You kinda creep me out. And this,” he gestured around, “There’s something very much not right about this. Something you’re not telling me.”

Anstis leaned forward. “There’s a great deal I not be telling ye. But if ye sign on, I’ll show you things ye’ve never dreamed of. And the pay be nothing to scoff at as well. If yer worthy.”

Liam considered this, frowning. “What sort of work do you do around here?”

Anstis gazed briefly at the cabinet that held his necromancy book, and thought a moment. “I uncover secrets. Lost relics. Find treasures unknown and unknowable.” He paused, sudden memories of Flowers turning his expression acidic. “I enact justice on those who have done me wrong, and protect me own.”

Liam paused, studying Anstis a long time before answering. “What sort of work would I be doing?”

“This great ship be needin’ a Commander. Someone I can trust. Someone who values loyalty and duty. There be a great deal else as well. And if ye sign, I’ll tell you the full tale of how I came to Captain this vessel.”

Liam considered this. “I’m making ninety-k at my current job.”

Anstis nodded. “One-twenty.”

“Make it one-fifty, with ten upfront, and I’ll accept your mystery deal,” Liam stated, flatly, crossing his arms.

“Done.” Anstis slapped his hands on the arms of his chair and rose to trade grips. Liam returned the gesture, and leaned back, glancing upward. Anstis raised his hand to his mouth and bit down, drawing blood before meeting Liam’s eyes. “Ye will drink this and think nothing of it, and quit yer job first thing in the morning. I’ll show ye the phone. We be starting tomorrow evening.”


~ 8 ~

An hour later, only Cheryl and Yvette remained above. They passed a bottle of wine between them as Anstis climbed onto the deck, trying to hide the alcohol of his increasingly inebriated victims. Cheryl waved, “Captain! Have a drink with us!”

Anstis sat beside them and took the bottle, pretending to take a swig. “Ye be the last ones up,” he said, grinning.

“Thanks for inviting us. It’s beautiful out here. You can’t see the stars like this in the city. Yvette was just telling me about the constellations, and Jupiter!” Cheryl pointed at a bright point of light.

“A couple hours and we should be able to see Saturn. Maybe Mars too,” Yvette added.

Cheryl yawned, “I don’t know if I’m up for that. It’s getting late.” She paused, and sat up, “So, Captain, will we make it to shore by morning? Or shall we swim?”

“We be leaving shortly,” Anstis said, relaxing. “So, what trades do ye fair maids ply?”

Cheryl ran her hand over the smooth dark metal of the sub, “I’m in project management. I help run a software company downtown. A little code, but mostly I just make sure things get done.”

“I’m in HR at Tesla,” Yvette added. “And I do the occasional music gig at night.”

Anstis nodded, pretending to understand what all that meant. He feigned an introspective look. “What be important to ye in life?”

“Music. Love. Kindness. Animals,” Yvette said, kicking her feet off the side of the deck. “I want to make the world a happier place. There’s too much sadness and misery and hate in the world. If my music can help someone, then I’ve done good.” She finished, proudly.

Cheryl gazed up at the sky. “Eh, friends, family. Helping people. I like to feel like I’m needed, you know? I like to keep things in order. Can’t seem to meet a decent guy, but still, I love the city.”

Yvette jumped in, offering to introduce her to some guy friends. The two trailed off, giggling together. Anstis sighed. Yvette didn’t interest him. Too kind-spirited to become a shade, and not the type to get her hands dirty as a ghoul. Cheryl though, he could use someone in the city.

“Cheryl”, Anstis asked, “What would ye say if I offered ye a job, back in the city?”

Her laughter trailed off and she looked up. “Doing what?”

“Managing me gold.” He winked. “Among other duties. I be needing someone I can rely upon. Someone competent. Skills with others. Ye be having a natural charm.”

Cheryl blushed, “I… I dunno. I’m happy with my current job.”

“How about ye start part time, in the evenings, and see where it leads?”

She tilted her head, pressing her lips together, thinking a moment. “You know what, sure.”

“Then we start tomorrow.”


~ 9 ~

“Ye may never speak a word of tonight.” Anstis repeated to Cheryl, after she finished choking down the vitae. He carried Yvette’s woozy, half-asleep form in his arms and lead them down to the circle in the bowels of the sub, and took them back to the city. Cheryl promised to get Yvette home safe, and Anstis returned to the sub after relaying some instructions.

After checking in with Noah near the front of the ship, Anstis laid out the corpses from earlier that night, murmuring with concentration. Three of them bolted upright, shuffling toward him. “You will clean this vessel every night, aft to stern, for as long as it exists.” He announced, handing them brooms and mops. He repeated the spell, raising another zombie. This one he instructed to sit at a desk and transcribe any documents handed to it, placing his prized Necromantic tome in its hands. Over the rest of the night, he raised the others, assigning them simple tasks aboard the ship, to help cover for the missing crew lost in the battle with Accio.

~ 10 ~

The next night, Cheryl arrived in Fort Funston, heaving a large pirate chest out of the trunk of her car. Anstis sauntered over.

“You’re still dressed like a pirate?” She looked at him, lip upturned.

“Aye,” Anstis tipped his hat, “Did ye think this an act?”

“I…uhh,” a giant smile spread over her lips, “I like it.” Her eyes sparkled.

Anstis gestured quizzically at the treasure chest. “It be all there?”

“All of it,” she replied. She glanced up, looking bemused. “Can I ask what this is for?”

“Tomorrow night. I be showing you.” Anstis smiled gravely, and approached. “Drink.” He held up his wrist. Cheryl complied, shuddering as the blood touched her lips. Anstis gave her a moment then pushed her away.

Cheryl blinked, licking her lips. “What…what is happening?”

Anstis held her shoulder. “Shhh. Tomorrow. Everything will become clear.” He stepped back, leaning against the car. “Before then, I need a tailor. These be my measurements.” He held a paper out in his hand.

Cheryl took it, tilting her head.

“I want the finest attire ye can get yer hands on. Of such splendor that King George himself be found lacking.” He paused, looking upward, then shrugged slightly. “Though not so much I cannot move with haste.” He paused, and added, “Enough to span a fortnight, never alike.”

“How soon do you need it?” Cheryl asked, smirking a bit.

“Soon as possible. Day after tomorrow if ye can, but don’t spare the best,” he said with a firm nod.

“How much do you want to spend?”

“Whatever it takes. What use is wealth if a man never spends it?” He stared a moment, then continued, “Arrange a quote, and tomorrow we’ll talk.”

“Same time?” Cheryl asked.

“Aye.”

~ 11 ~

Anstis placed the treasure chest at Noah’s feet with a thud. The boy regarded it, puzzled. Anstis cocked his head, and Noah opened the box, then froze with a gasp, before throwing it the rest of the way open. The boy reached in, pulling out a wooden pirate ship model. And a wooden sword. And a bicorne hat. He shrieked with joy, and for the first time, looked like a normal child. Noah looked up, and handed Anstis a second ship from the box, this one a brigantine. Anstis regarded it mournfully, running his finger down the side, and closed his eyes.

“Pchoo! Pchoo!”, Noah held his ship aloft, bombarding Anstis with cannon fire.

Anstis shook his head and returned fire.

The boy maneuvered around the small cabin, lobbing imaginary cannon balls at Anstis.

“Ye’ll never take me alive, ye scaverous dog!” Anstis bellowed, shaking his fist.


~ 12 ~

Three naval battles later, Anstis put his ship back in the box, and pulled out the rest of its contents: a pile of books. He tapped his hand on them. Noah frowned.

“If ye wish to be a member of me crew, you’ll need to work as a member of me crew,” Anstis said gravely. “There be important duties to uphold. Ye need to know this ship, aft to stern,” he said, gesturing.

Noah looked at Anstis, then at the stack of books, and gulped.

“Ye need to know to read a map. Navigate by the stars. Tell bounty from threat.” Anstis gripped the boy’s shoulder. “Ye’ll help in the kitchens. Ye’ll carry messages. This be an important job.”

Noah nodded sharply.

“Do ye wish to be a member of me crew, Noah Stephens?” He paused. “Do not make this choice lightly.”

Noah stood, spine straight as an arrow, and nodded firmly at Captain Anstis.


~ 13 ~

Later, there was a knock at the door. Anstis set down his book on Necromancy, sweeping his feet off the bunk, and Noah looked up from his book about the history of boats. Anstis opened the door, revealing Liam, still in his wool overcoat, though he had forgone the tricorne hat..

Liam nodded to Anstis. “Captain. I’ve gone over the electrical system throughout the boat. No major concerns, but I’d like to stock up on some spares. I’ve been trying to learn some of the systems from the crew, but…look, what did you do to them?”

Anstis sighed. Some of his favorite memories were the laughs and joy he shared with his crew, long ago, aboard the Good Fortune. They were more than shipmates. They were family. You loved your crew, and fought harder with them at your side. This was different. The Twilight’s Fortune was a grand ship, but its crew weren’t men. Not any more.

“What was done to them happened long ago. Before me. It be naught to dwell upon,” he shook his head, looking downward, “but I be needing them. They be the only ones with the years to run this ship.”

Liam frowned, but nodded. “I’ll learn what I can. From sheer observation if I need to.” Liam shifted. “Mind if I ask you a personal question?”

Anstis lifted his eyes. “Ask.”

“I don’t get it. You seem…out of touch? I ask you about basic shit, stuff everybody knows about: internet, movies, whatever. And I get a blank stare. But you can tell me every little detail about some naval battle 300 years ago. Stuff I can’t even find in a textbook.” He shook his head, “Where are you from?”

Anstis paused a moment, reflecting. “I was born in England. Moved to Rhode Island at a young age. Providence.”

Liam narrowed his eyes. “When?”

“Year of our Lord 1691.”

Liam snorted. “Bullshit.”

Anstis eyed him. “Tomorrow I’ll be telling ye the full tale, but it be getting late.” He turned and left. Liam stood a moment, and shook his head.

~ 14 ~

The following night, Anstis consecrated another set of stones, and set to leaving a copy of all his most prized effects, storing them deep in the cavern, in a hidden passage. He completed his bonds with Liam and Cheryl, and told them the story of his embrace, his life on the high seas, and his betrayal. About Jonathan Flowers, and about Boatswain Tuke.

Then he introduced them to Noah.

Later that night, something he read caught Anstis’s eye, and he sat down with Noah.

“I be teaching ye something,” he paused. “Something special. Something known only to a scarce few.”

The boy nodded.

“And ye can’t tell anyone,” Anstis added. “Ever.”

The boy nodded again.

Anstis leaned forward conspiratorially. “How would ye like to hear a little tale about ghosts?”

Noah looked around, then sat forward, intently. A moment later, he cocked his head to the side, staring into space. He looked quizzically then nodded, turning back to Anstis with a huge grin. “Mr. Tails says yes!”

 

END

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