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Jul 06, 2022 10:21 PM
A Sable and her Ship find their Crew
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After the sobbing subsides, the Skipper scoots the girl further into the Figurehead's lap, pulling away gently. The Figurehead tightens her embrace around her, and murmurs in her ear, "Captain's going to clean up the leftovers, and then we'll all go sit up on deck together. How's that sound?"

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And for a few minutes there is bustling and clinking and washing, but as promised the hug does not stop. And when the Skipper comes and kisses the Figurehead on the cheek, strong wooden arms scoop the girl into a princess carry, and she stands up.

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Eep!

It's a good eep, though. 

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Good eeps get warm smiles from both captain and ship, and they head up and out.

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The hatch opens silently ahead of them, and closes behind them after they step through.

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Her eyes go wide at this but she doesn't comment. 

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Out they step, up onto the main deck, and the Unterzee unfolds around them. The false stars shine overhead, and the water zips past to either side. Off in the distance, to the starboard side, a gold claw briefly splashes free of the the waves.

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She gasps. "What was that?"

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"Auroral megalops, young form of a giant zee-crab," the Skipper says with a smile. "Even comparatively small like this, they're still big enough to eat a pony."

After a moment, they approach a cozy bench near the bow, and sit down, setting the girl across both laps, and wrapping their arms and the Skipper's wings around her.

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She continues to gaze fascinatedly out at zee. 

After a little while: "What are those?" she asks, pointing up. 

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She looks up, then says, "False stars. They're not enormous balls of dangerous law-light, like true stars, but they twinkle prettily on the roof and give us what passes for a sky in the Neath."

They both keep petting her gently while they hold her.

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"This isn't very well known, but stars, including the sun, are living things, and they shine a light that defines what they will allow in their world. Anything beyond that — such as living ships, near-humans, or people who come back from the dead — is lethally unwelcome under their light."

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Blinkblinkblink. 

"--The Sun kills people?"

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"It does. For an example, death doesn't stick very well in the Neath. There are people who've died, and then gotten back up. But if any of them step foot into sunlight, they're dead once more."

She shakes her head for a moment. "I don't know what sunlight would do to me, and I don't plan to find out."

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"I hope Abigail and Louis stay on the surface forever." 

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"We do too," she says with a nod. "Are they the ones who hurt you?"

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Something about the Skipper's expression stiffens, for a moment, and every drop of color drains out of her hair. Streaks of violant blossom amongst the bare, gant tresses, and a few curls of apocyan burn with intent and memory.

"They will not touch you again."

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SNUGGLE.

 

 

 

"...What's your hair doing?"

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And just like that, the colors wash back in, and she snuggles the Stowaway tightly with a smile. "It shifts with my moods. It started one day after I'd been experimenting with some esoteric studies of biology, you could say, and I decided to have a drink to wind down. I lost track of time, and how many drinks I'd had, and that's my last memory of that night. Next thing I knew it was the morning after, I was hungover hard enough to kill a surface girl, and my hair was a riot of neathbow colors."

She shakes her head with a laugh. "Swore off alcohol after that."

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"Enough to kill? I, uh--am a surface girl--I think--"

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The Skipper hums thoughtfully, then shakes her head. "It's more about where you are and where you're going than where you've been. It's not that being from the surface makes you more vulnerable, but that — despite all the myriad dangers — there are things that you can only survive in the Neath."

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"...I think I'm glad I didn't grow up down here." 

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