Belly of the ShipMature

More survivors lined the hull, each pressed against the wall in horror as Frederick idled past them. Turning a corner, he found the familiar medical symbol and entered the area. The place was full of villagers, some suffering from horrible wounds, others covered in burns of various degrees.

Everyone froze, including the two medics as they watched Frederick direct the dark skinned stranger to a bare corner and lay him against the wall. He ignored the piercing stares of curiosity and horror as he unclasped one of Kelstrin’s fibulae and inspected the bleeding wound.

“{You’re lucky, the stitches held.}” Frederick whispered softly, Kelstrin returning with a tired grin.

“{You doubt my abilities?}” he muttered playfully, wincing as Frederick applied some antiseptic to clean up the blood.

“You can’t bring that Mystic in here.” Said one of the medics, trying to tower over Frederick.

He stood up and faced the doctor, the Elban in turn gasping and backing away.

“You’re one of them!”

“Correction, I am one of you.” Frederick replied flatly, arms folded, “Once I am done with him, I will assist you.”

Whispers ran through the group as Frederick returned to cleansing Kelstrin’s wound, rewrapping it in a clean bandage. People shifted away from the pair, cradling broken arms and covering wounds, as if the mere presence of Kelstrin would give them infection.

The night continued in tense silence, the humming of rotors echoing through the ship. Frederick had helped the two medics with a number of patients, focused on the task rather than the expressions on their faces. Once or twice, a villager would draw away, saying they’d rather be treated by one of the ship’s medics. Frederick only responded with a stoic expression before he took up a space beside Kelstrin.

Soon, he fell asleep, shoulder pressed against Kelstrin’s bare one as both rested. The medics occasionally looked in the corner before looking at each other and then to some of the survivors. No one dared to move, each wide eyed and looking at the next as if they would have the answer to this.

One of the medics cautiously approached, a drawn, empty syringe in one hand. Each step was nerve wracking, no one risking to even breathe as the medic knelt down on the other side of Kelstrin. He lifted his arm, poised to strike like a snake as he aimed the needle for Kelstrin’s softly pulsing jugular.

In an instant, a hand gripped the medic’s wrist so hard he was forced to drop the syringe. Frederick had one eye open, his fingers digging into the medic’s skin before he threw his arm away.

“Be ashamed to call yourself a doctor.” He whispered, poison in his voice.

The medic scrambled back, the survivors unresponsive as Frederick readjusted himself against the wall. Kelstrin muttered, shifting from the wall and spreading out across Frederick’s lap, and, to everyone’s shock, Frederick rested his hands against the Mystic’s head and mid back before going back to sleep.

The ferryboat chugged on into the quieting night, the twin moons bathing the surface in pale light as Queensbury was nothing more but a shadow in their minds. Children occasionally cried, a sneeze here and there. The captain remained vigilant behind the wheel, his first mate pacing nervously behind him.

“This isn’t right.” Said his first mate.

“I agree, Joseph, but I can’t just toss them over the ship. We need to turn them over to the authorities in Ferezendra.”

“We could all be butchered by then! How can you just let a traitor sit in the hull with all those innocent people?!” Joseph hissed, trying to keep his tone in check but failing.

“Have you ever seen what happens when cattle panic in a paddock? I guarantee you more lives will be lost if we take an aggressive approach towards the situation. Besides, if the Mystic wanted to escape, why hasn’t it taken the form of a bird and left?”

“Maybe it’s just biding its time.” Joseph plopped into the navigator’s seat, looking at the maps without interest, “Maybe it’s trying to trick us.”

“The fact that we remain in control tells us it doesn’t plan on making a move anytime soon.”

“Are you really sure you want to gamble with innocent lives on that?”

The captain sighed, pursing his bottom lip. He bowed his head down for a moment, turning the thought over as his teeth softly grinded against each other.

“Escort them to the larder to use as a makeshift holding cell. If there is a fuss, you have my permission to deal with it calmly and quietly.”

Joseph nodded once and darted from his chair, heading for below deck as the captain looked down at the Lore Stone that rested on the sill of the window. The runes still glowed a brilliant white, as if trying to escape from the black mass it contained. He checked his compass, rubbing his chest as a slight pain began to grow.


“Get up.” Came a gruff voice, a harsh tap on Frederick’s shoulder making him jerk awake and reach for his sidearm.

“What is going on?” Frederick groggily replied, Kelstrin still dead asleep in his lap.

“Captain’s orders, get up.” Joseph replied laconically, spotting the firearm, “and you are to relinquish your weapons to me.”

People began to form protective huddles away from the scene, staring fearfully at Frederick and Kelstrin. Frederick’s brows lowered, but he drew his hand away from his belt, gently shaking Kelstrin awake.

Dokoi na wa?” Kelstrin asked blearily, his world still spinning.

Iishaná solkor.” Frederick whispered, helping Kelstrin stand up.

Joseph extended his hand towards Frederick, not blinking as Frederick matched his stern expression. He unbuckled his holster and begrudgingly handed it to Joseph.

“Move.” Joseph commanded, following behind the two as Frederick aided Kelstrin.

“{I have a bad feeling about this.}” he muttered to Kelstrin.

“{You don’t have to be a genius to notice that.}” Kelstrin replied, humor in his voice despite his fatigued expression.

“{They’re going to turn us over to the authorities once we reach shore.}”

“{And we’re not escaping why?}”

“{In your present condition, I think you’d turn yourself into a blob sooner than a bird or a fish.}”

Kelstrin chuckled quietly, following Frederick’s guiding hand as they turned a corner.

“{So what is the plan?}”

“{I don’t know…}”

Silence passed between them for a moment.


“{What for?}”

“{For protecting me.}”

Frederick remained quiet as they walked down the hallway, his mind lost in thought as they passed through the kitchen and arrived at the bolted larder.

“Open it.” Joseph snapped, holding them at gunpoint now that it was safely away from fearful eyes.

Frederick sighed and turned the latch bolt counterclockwise, an audible snap making Kelstrin jump and come to his senses. Upon seeing the door swing open, his primal sense of panic took over.

Nie! Nie! Kah’eteh!” he screeched, trying to run away.

Joseph swung with his firearm to strike Kelstrin, but Frederick got between the two, getting clocked on the back of his head. He fell to the ground, sprawled on the ship’s floor and dazed as Kelstrin now lunged for the first mate. He pistol whipped the Mystic, catching the corner of his lip as he yelped and spiraled onto the floor.

His hand was shaking, but upon seeing the two down, he stuffed the firearm back into the holster and shoved both Frederick and Kelstrin into the larder. Kelstrin came to before Frederick, throwing himself against the iron door in a last attempt to stop Joseph, but it was too late. The latch bolt snapped, the sound echoing in Frederick’s senses as he came to as well.

Nie! Nie! Jokená! Jokená!” Kelstrin clawed against the iron, trying to break the stitches in his shoulder to release blood.

Kah’eteh, Kelstrin!” Frederick barked, cradling the back of his head, “{You’re going to give me an even worse headache.}”

“{How can they just lock us in here!? What have we done!?}”

“{It’s a precaution, although a dumb mistake on their part.}” Frederick stood up, looking around in the cramped space, {At least we won’t starve to death.}”

Frederick’s black humor wasn’t helping, noticing Kelstrin was in a terrible state. He abandoned the door and was now backed up against the wall, his body visibly shaking as tears trickled from his wide eyes. His arms were latched to themselves, rubbing his biceps so hard he could have started a fire.

“{Kelstrin, calm down.}”

“{I need air, I need to see the sky, I need to- I need to-}” Kelstrin’s face grew pale, his breathing faint.

Frederick caught him just as his hyperventilation caused him to faint, lying him out carefully so he wouldn’t knock anything over once he recovered. A few tense seconds and his eyes refocused, his breathing rapid and laborious.

“{Kelstrin, look at me.}” Frederick commanded gently, “{Look at me!}”

The Mystic complied, staring into Frederick’s eyes as he continued to cry.

“{It’s going to be okay, Kelstrin, I just need you to take deep breaths, okay? Think of something pleasant.}”

Kelstrin tried, but for a moment when it seemed he was calm, he now started to cry silently.

“{How can I? All I can remember is the fire, and the screaming, and the Korukogo devouring all they could see.}” He looked back up at Frederick, “{I thought they had killed you all those years ago. Why did you run away from us?}”

Frederick exhaled, unable to look into Kelstrin’s sorrowful eyes.

“{How can I explain it? I’m not a part of your world.}”

Kelstrin slipped his hand over his chest and pressed his palm up against Frederick’s, trying to quell his tears.

“{You will always be a part of my world.}”

“{What if I don’t want that?}” Frederick drew his hand away, refusing to make eye contact.

“{You took part in the Hápushen, how could you not have desired it?}” Fear and woe fought for dominance in Kelstrin’s face as the words trembled from his mouth.

“{What if…what if I was forced to?}” His brows furrowed as the words left his mouth, as if he knew them to be untrue.

“{No one forced you to do anything!}” Kelstrin shouted, springing up from the floor and regretting it as he crumpled back into a colorful heap.

Frederick realized the conversation was getting dangerous and instead remained silent, unable to find a way to staunch the Mystic’s tears as they both sat in the cool, dark larder.

The End

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