20. The First Time (part 3)

          “Captain!” an agog voice thundered. Hands shook his shoulders and danced before eyes. “Captain, snap out of it! You’re spooking the men!” Levi jolted back into reality, blinking away his cloudy vision. A familiar face materialized in front of him.

          “Sorry, Firious,” his voice came out choked and raspy.

          “Aye, you should be sorry! What in the blazes happened? One minute you were just screaming and shouting, and the next there’s a bloody bear terrorizing the ship. And I’ve got this old bloke here telling me that I can’t kill the folly-fallen beast because the gleeking thing is you up there terrorizing the dizzy-eyed dewberry of a lass! Are you going to explain this to me or not?”

          “Uhhh...” Levi grimaced. “Well, I don’t... I mean, I’m not sure ─”

          “What do you mean you’re not sure? You're the one who turned into that accursed monster! If you don't know, then who ─"

          “I believe what the captain is trying to say," interjected Antenor, "is that he was a victim of this event, and is as unsure as you are about all that has occurred. He has no idea as to what has just happened, Firious. However, this old bloke does, and I'd be more than happy to share my knowledge with you both, but I suggest we go someplace a little more quiet." He gestured toward the few stragglers who had yet to return to their bunks for an extra few winks or at least get an early start on their morning duties; one man, with a plunger in his hand and his trousers looking as if they were about to fall off, rubbernecked them as he walked towards the latrine, curious and worried about his captain.

          Levi nodded. "My quarters, then. Let's go."

          The three commenced to move forward, trudging along, tired after a long night of no sleep and weary of knowing that there was still more to be done before the sweet, refreshing taste of rest could touch their lips. A heavy hand landed on the captain's shoulder.

          "If I might inquire you, Captain," the gentle old man began, polite as always, "what caused you to freeze up like that, right after the princess left?"

          Levi looked back over his shoulder to the place he had last seen the pretty maiden. "It was the first time, Antenor."

          "The first time? For what?"

          The captain met his elder's eyes, displaying a light of pure joy. "It was the first time she'd called me by my first name alone."

The End

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