Crispy Sex Pirates
rating: +1+x

NaNoWriMo Project 2019
Unfinished/unpolished/probably won't be finished


Captain Shirley remembered flying. He remembered soaring, over brush and boulder, under the rising red sun. He remembered the wind whipping in his face like the stormy seas he once prowled, when the world bestowed him a rightful sailing ship.

He did remember flying, but he also remembered falling, and he remembered being forced down, down, down.

His body was crushed under the weight of gravity, his bones splaying like needles and daggers in every tactile direction as he smeared over thirty meters of stone and sand. But this was not the end. As if minutes before, life clawed and dragged itself into his rotten corpse — a sorry sight plucked clean off the bone by sixty years of vultures and vermin. Minutes before that, he was back in the Elysian Fields, sailing across the unseen, unspoken ocean that stretched in every direction to the ends of the afterlife.

Someone shook him from his slumber of life after death, heaved his ebbing consciousness into a skin he no longer considered his, and then sent him away. And for that, they would pay…

Yet his corpse still lay there, strewn about. If he still had functional nerves, each millimeter would have been shorn open and padded with salt and sriracha sauce and then riled about over an open flame. Each minute, open wound, cauterized, and then ripped apart again and again in an endless cycle of torment and malice.

But he was lucky: His body, a showing of yet another terrestrial disaster, felt no anguish. The mind, however, agonized over this show of force.

He screamed, but none could hear. No voice could erupt. No sound could come.

He lay there — if one could describe a pile of fine ash as “lying there” — and accepted that this was how all things would end, as his consciousness evaporated…

But it didn’t. It came back, in a surge, and as if by some Deviant magicks unseen, fragments of bone and tendon flowed forth like water re-entering a shattered vase. A backwards time warp reconstructing a picture of Shirley’s old bones. And soon enough, he was whole again. And finally, he could move.

He became entirely lucid at that moment, and realized his two lieutenants Billie and Nessie had undergone the same crushing weight, of the Earth and the Sky flattening them into dust on a rocky shore. And before he could mourn — though he could not see them suffer — they, too, returned.

And that one that brought them back to this world. That sorry soul who sought the body pit to absolve his sins by pawning them off to a poor soul. Xander. He was here, too, his body reconstructed, though he had not awakened yet.

Close by, someone was screaming, in a bloodcurdling way (if he still had blood). He rolled over and shakily pushed himself up with his brittle bones. Nessie was screaming, and crying, and pounding into the dirt. Her body shook and vibrated, flesh damp and slick, convulsing in a palsy. The tentacles upon her neck twisted in shark angles and oozed blackened viscous liquid.

“Why!” she bellow, pulsing in her skin and flinging scum from the dirt. “Why!”

Shirley saw that she was angry. He was, too. This Xander had ripped him from his afterlife. He would have his revenge on this awful fiend. And once the bloodlust subsided, maybe then he could work toward his former glory, and perhaps, sail in these lands once more. He kept his anger within, and let nostalgia wash over.

Nessie was always a temperamental one. He couldn’t blame her for being angry, for being ripped from her afterlife… But hold on. Shirley did not catch a glimpse of her in those radiant Elysian fields. He looked over at Billie — that old soul had remained with him, even in death. What had Nessie missed?

“Nessie!” Shirley shouted. He ambled toward her and crouched over her screaming form, hands outward, as if his presence could put her at peace. And then he noticed their makeup: Bleach white, skeletal. He turned them over and let them limp and squinted at her form.

She shot up and jumped, pushing him to the ground. Black tears rolled down her face and sprinkled down. “D-d-deviant s-scum! Wh-what did you tell them? I’m s-so sorry, please, m-m-make it stop! S-set me f-f-free!” She squeezed his bony shoulders until they crushed, and seconds later, they reformed. She collapsed.

What the hell was she referring to? Had she gone senile? But she had died, hadn’t she? What happened? What happened to her form? Shirley thought back. It was a lifetime away, now. They had faced the Sharkics in overwhelming odds as hundreds squeezed over his crew in a final stand, crushing them beneath the weight of bodies and then crushing wave.
“Aye, Nessie! The Sharkics are gone! Aye, we fell… But we? We are still here. We won! The bountie of life, of freedom without shackles!” Shirley felt two lives of captaincy rise up in him to froth over onto Nessie.

She stared at him with bloodshot red eyes, wrinkled pale skin stretched taut, and a jaw squeezing shut in immense strain. She stopped whimpering. “No! You don’t fucking geddit! The fucking Sharkic fuckers won! All because of fucking HIM!” She peeled off and shot an arm to the side at Xander’s unconscious form, then crawled over at him like a tarantula, venomous hate in her head.

She craned over him and tore him apart, chunk by chunk.

“Stop!” Shirley got up and nodded at Billie. Billie took a large step and grabbed Nessie by the shoulder, but she slammed backward and sunk her sharp nails into his arm.

Nessie hissed, her eyes now glowing in red. “I WILL HAVE REVENGE. YOU WILL LET ME.” Her voice boomed and she spoke in the voice of the Deep, tongue rolling and teeth gnashing, venom coating her lip. Billie backed off and let her have at it.

After a few minutes of flesh being torn off and reforming without flaw, Nessie swayed and collapsed, crying again. She wailed and whimpered in inner anguish and rolled into the fetal position.

Shirley stood beside Billie. “Aye,” Shirley began, but stopped again, lost in his gaze. He looked down at Nessie, fell to her own torment. He looked over at the bastard, Xander, lying unconscious, unscathed despite the damage done. He looked across the copper sand and stone, on the beach they had landed. White wavy crests rolled up and subsided. On the horizon, the red sun lurched upward through orange skies. This was not the sunset he remembered, and this certainly wasn’t where he had been resurrected either. He turned around, and saw the shadows of buildings. Civilization. “Aye. Billie, do ye see what I see? I command ye to go in and reap the spoils of civilization. Aye, methinks we’ll make things right. Find me alcohol, and a rucksack to keep it in. For Nessie. And scout, and return in one hour.”

Billie stared at Shirley and shrugged, and the massive, necrotized man trotted off the beach and up a winding, hill coated in decayed vegetation.

Shirley would make things right. First, for Nessie, with just the right elixir to put her right. And then, for himself. And that meant payback, against the one that ripped the afterlife from him.

And in war — how little he remembered it — a captain knew no remorse.



His entire depth-damned body hurt. His side hurt — what was left of it, after those Abyssal Sharkic bastards picked it apart. His backside hurt — after who-knows-what flung him who-knows-where and he landed directly on you-know-what. And his head hurt, and he couldn’t tell which side was up. Not that it mattered, because he couldn’t see anything either.

However, he could hear voices. A man and a woman bickered about nothing of importance in the next room.

Xander felt something scratchy all over his face. Spiders? Oh, shit shit shit. He stretched his arms, only to find they were tied behind his back.

He rolled over in agitation and crashed his head against something rock-hard. “Fuck!”

Bare feet slapped against the floor and shook the whole room. The booming stopped right in front of Xander. Whomever it was, they were so large that Xander could feel their breathing in competition to the wind outside. Xander waited a moment in anticipation…

The world screamed into his face with a full sensual (not that kind) barrage. He could see! And it wasn’t spiders; instead, a hastily-tied burlap sack that now sat discarded beside him. And if his hands were tied, that could only mean–

“He’s awake! Dammit Shirley, you’se supposed to be good at tyin' knots!” A woman ran into the room and nearly tripped on Xander, who lay sprawled near the doorway. “Bill!” She smacked someone behind him. In her other hand, she squeezed her grip around a glass bottle of copper fluid bearing a triple-X in block letters. She knocked it around with no regard, showering its contents all over him. Xander noticed another person standing in his periphery and twisted his neck, only to spot a man-mountain towering above.

The woman kicked him in his bloody gut.

“You!” Whap. “Damn!” Whap. “No!” Whap. “Good!” Whap. “Shark!" Whap. "Bait!” Whap whap whap. Xander reeled with each strike, and then mustered the energy to chomp right down. He bit at a toe and flexed his jaw as she squirmed. He tasted blood and dirt and vomited in pain then disgust, in that order.

Xander spotted a decrepit, ancient man peering ghost-white eyes around the corner. He looked normal, until he saw the man’s jaw: Smooth and bony. The man was a depth-damned skeleton.

The toe, with gangrene and a poking-out toe, came off with ease. The woman cursed and screamed.

“Hodon, hodon!” Xander squealed and thrashed about, toe in mouth. “Donkook!” He spat. "I yield! Don't fucking kick!"

The woman hopped on one foot as she stretched her leg, bent at the knee, to inspect the damage done. Despite all this, she kept the glass raised high so as to not waste the contents. “You bastard! I'll bury your damn ass without the hearse!”

“When you throw a sack over someone’s head, you’re meant to gag them!” Xander spat and spat, blood and saliva showering all in sight. “I apologize for the toe, but it coulda been leagues worse. Now tell me what in fuck’s name’s going on!”

The grizzled man at the doorway ducked through the threshold and strode bow-legged toward him. He walked past the woman and stretched his neck like an ostrich, assuming a crouch as he looked Xander right in the eyes. “Do you feel it?”

Xander stared right back with wide eyes. “What–?”

“Bouncing inside out and upside down and all about! Seas crash and chafe and churned and you popped out! Ahh, laddie, you got it swirlin’ about them eyes!”

Xander’s head still swam from being brought kicking and screaming back to life, so he wasn’t just yet experiencing the full world around him. But maybe that's what the man meant? Maybe he wasn't rambling nonsense — maybe he knew? He shot a look of exasperation at the woman. “Can you translate?”

“Our old boy Shirley loves his fucking metaphors. Speak damned English, Shirley! I could scream that in his face and he’d keep rattlin’ that jaw until the sea cows came home. But it wouldn’t work anyhow; he’s piss drunk!” She shook her head fast and tight like a junkie. “Now you listen to me. You got a name, buddy? Tell it.”

“Xander! It’s Xander.” There had to be a reason why they had him bound up. “Untie me, would you? What am I gonna do, anyway? It’s three of you and one of me!”

“Shut the fuck up for a good second! We’re tryna figure out what’s going on here!” She swigged her drink.

Xander gritted his teeth. “Bullshit, you're just here to beat me."

She shot a quizzical and narrow glance from the corner of her eye, and then nodded at the man-mountain.

As if understanding the simple gesture, the man-mountain crouched down and cast his shadow across Xander’s body. He made sure the rope was still tight around Xander’s wrists and went over to his legs to remove the rope tied with a single yank. Pain shot across his skin, but Xander couldn’t be happier. He tried to get up–

Pain forced him again onto his backside.

The woman choked in laughter. “Well you ain’t so harmless after all. I’m Nessie.” She pointed at the man-mountain. “And that there’s Billie. He don’t talk much.”

Xander stayed on the ground but mustered up the energy to sit cross-legged, his arms still tied behind his back and his long trench coat flowing behind. “If I’m so harmless — as you say — then what’s the big deal? Why tie me up?”

Nessie furrowed her brow. “Oh, you don’t know? Tell ‘em, Shirley. Tell ‘em, Billie. Tell ‘em what he did!” She didn’t let him respond; she kept on yapping. “You don’t just run in there and make a deal with the Leviathan like that. We were in peace. Peace! And you came in and ripped it all away!”

Shirley ran his mouth, slurring through yellowed teeth. “Aye, Nessie’s right! We was going to throw ye to the screaming seas, but alas, we have no ship! The Leviathan don’t keep no Earthly possessions when you pass on. Nay! Instead, we settled on the next best thing.”

The man-mountain, or ‘Billie’, if that was his real name, rubbed his stomach and smiled. Nessie stepped over Xander and smacked Billie’s hands. “You hungry Billie? Don’t worry, I'll getcha some snacks, just drink this.” She passed Billie her booze. He downed it with a single gulp and burped, threw it over his shoulder with a clunk and a crash, and went back to smiling. Nessie pulled another bottle from the folds of her robes.

Xander gulped. “I– Is he serious? Are you saying you're c–"


To this, Shirley, Nessie, and Billie burst into guffaws of laughter, slapping knees and punching one another’s shoulders.

Xander wasn’t convinced with the non-answer, but exhaled in relief. “So, where are we then? If the Leviathan doesn’t keep your terrestrial possessions, how did we get here?” Xander eyed smooth varnished floors, propped-up fabrics and coatings of paint, and tiles checkered across the walls in pain-staking rows. Next to the door were wood-and-steel chairs. Behind him, a dark brown leather couch. “This place looks lived in, and you’re downing high-quality liquor.”

“We jacked the place. And what’re you guilty of, sharkbait?” Nessie walked over and poked him in the chest. He stepped back. “One of your deals with them Sharkic bastards didn’t stay afloat and they left you for dead, huh? That figures.”

Xander shot air through his nostrils like a bull. “That thing in the pit called you soldiers, didn’t it? Captain Shirley and his two trusted lieutenants?”

Shirley stretched his neck, somewhere in-between a nod and a shake.

Xander continued. “Which means you know how to fight. Listen: I know we both have a common enemy in the Sharkic’s guts, so there shouldn’t be any reason why we have to hate one another too. What d'you say to a truce?”

Nessie shrugged. She unscrewed her booze and took a sloshy gulp, half of which spilled onto the floor.

“When I say truce, I mean it. Untie me and let’s shake on it.” Xander bobbed up and down in impatience. “Come on!”

Billie ripped the rope from Xander’s wrists in a single deft action. He rubbed each one gingerly, but didn’t try to get up again just yet. He reached his hand out. Nessie jumped back, as if she was afraid. Shirley ambled forward and squeezed it. They had his honour.

Xander did a quick shake, but Shirley didn't let go. Xander shoved them deep into his pockets. “By the way? You fucking reek! What, fifty years rotting in that pit, were you?” Xander slipped his clothespin out and onto his nose. Much better. “And, and where are we right now? My mind’s still a blur, and I’m unsure if that’s because I’m quite literally undead or what."

After someone pulled the Daevas out from their storybook and into the modern age, Xander's necromantic talents had been called into service. The entire damn Mongol Empire needed cleaning up, and the Sharkics contracted him and hundreds of others like him to do their dirty work.

That body pit was the result of their efforts.

While necromancy was his career of choice, who he worked for wasn’t — he got what he could.

Nessie shook her head. “Back from the dead and you already want revenge? Slow down, get some ale in that belly!" She eyed his bloodied side. "Boy, it must be empty, huh! In the name of the depths… We probably got a cask of wine down ‘ere too, who knows!”

Shirley put a skeletal hand on her shoulder. “Aye, we shan't leave 'im hanging. Where was we, Nessie — near the ocean, wasn’t we?”

“Huh, something like that.” She shrugged

“Aye, where do you reckon? I heard somethin' about the Quetzalcoatl Republic.”

Xander did the math and dropped his jaw. That was near the Union of American States. “You’ve gotta be fucking me. That’s halfway ‘round the depth-damned globe! And if you have no boat, we're not going anywhere!” The Marianas Treaty, as signed in 1968, declared that the Abyssal Sharkic government had a free right-to-roam in all areas one-hundred kilometres from the continental shelf. No mortal was getting across treacherous oceans without some protection.

Shirley pondered for a moment, then nodded sagely. “Perhaps yes, perhaps no, me boy. But there be wills and there be Ways!”



Centre High Pugilord Will-Helm Frederick coughed into a fist and sat at his dark oak desk. He fiddled with his tie and hovered a quavering finger above his telephone, then jabbed the page button. “Hi, Karen, may I have a word please?”

His secretary, Karen, responded immediately. “Yes, Mister High Pugilord, sir?”

“Hi, yes, I want you to cancel all my meetings for the day.”

“Oh, shoot, even the one with the commanders at the Containment Initiative? They’ve been literally dying to speak with you, Will. Positively bloodthirsty, Will! Come on, Will, you’ve been cancelling meetings with them for the past six months. Can this really continue?”

“You know what, Karen? It’s fine. Forget I paged you.” He hung up. He would have to fire her.

Each of the last twelve Karens that held position as his secretary before her had continued with this charade of capitulating to the whims of those clearly in direct opposition to the Centre’s goals. What did those dogfish-loving sucks do all day, anyway? How could you willingly sit on a treasure-trove of un-punched Selachian menace without losing your depth-damned mind? He would make no deals with those unpatriotic Deviant-hustlers, and that was that.

He punched the phone. Shrapnel flung in every which direction and littered his desk and the floor space around it. He would regret that, some day. Sighing, he placed an arm flat on his desk and pushed aside the debris, answering machine and all, into the trash on the left.

Reaching into the drawer to his right, Will picked up a red corrugated cardboard box containing the exact same phone model and got to setting it up. He lifted out the manual and tossed that aside too; he could set these things up blindfolded with both feet above his head.

He got back on the phone with Karen. “Karen, I’m sorry. Patch me through with the Propaganda Department. Tell them I want to call a press conference."

“Of course, sir. I have Thor’s Day open for you–”

“No no, that won’t do. I'll hold it after lunch this afternoon. In fact, I'll march right downstairs and talk out the specifics with them myself. No aides. There's no way they'll refuse. Thank you, Karen. After this, you can have the rest of the day off.” He hung up and unplugged the phone. No more nonsense with bureaucracy. Today, he would speak directly with his people and tell them exactly what they wanted to hear.



“Another Deviant Crusade? Are you off your fucking rocker, Fredericks?” Angered puffs of air pushed out from angered gills.

“I am certifiably sane. Check the psychiatrist’s report in subsection B12 and you’ll find that I’m clean as a depth-damned fiddle,” Will-Helm defended. “And I would prefer if I was not made the laughing stock of the Propaganda Department, thanks. Heavens knows it would take a massive toll on morale throughout the Centre if they found out what you bottom feeders did behind closed doors.”

Will-Helm could not, understandably, hold a press conference at that exact moment in time, much to his chagrin. It wasn’t that the Bodacious Assembly had vetoed his idea; in fact, in the past few months, they had nary considered any recent Selachian threats dangerous enough to assemble for. In all of his power, they just didn’t consider his idea worth enough to play with, which left him in a bureaucratic quandary.
He could not instantly will the world against the Sharkic threat no matter how persuasive his oratorical skills could have been. It was like storming the Omaha Bar & Grill without backup from the boys.

Will-Helm decided to discuss the specifics of his crusade in a private Centre officer’s club. If he couldn’t have his war, well, maybe he could convince the other Powers That Be™ that they should do it for him. So he sat with undersea Liaison Propagandist Kazuo Natsumi, alongside veteran Pugilist and Forward Operating Arena-19 Leader Tilda “Rising Tide” Seamoose, sipping Fireball whisky as they discussed a plan of action.

Kazuo continued. "Do you even realize how much fucking sway these Selachimorphic bastards have? Back in the 1960s, we had to help negotiate the Marianas Treaty down to 90% of the world’s oceans. The numbskulls with the Global Organization of Countries signed it. They came into the talks all high and mighty, each delegate wearing a pretty poker face like they just walked into a soiree. And then after thirteen months of straight back-and-forth, they caved and jotted down their signatures like the treaty was penned on a napkin. But you know the Sharkics: Blood pacts for everything from manifestos to docking tickets. I’m tellin' you, these bureaucratic types like to sit down and ramble for as long as it takes to suck each other's dicks dry, and then they get to work. We should have cut them and ran, but now it's too late."

Tilda Seamoose scowled at Kazuo, and then poured herself another shot of Fireball and downed it.

“Oh, how bloody ironic that you would talk trash about the ‘bureaucratic types’, huh! Kazuo, please. I get it, you get it, we all get it, dammit. This is why I want to take them down to their haunches, once and for good. We have the resources to do this, I assure you. We’ve been running joint operations with the Liberated Cetacean Union for five years now. They’ve been pulling their veterans out of pleasuretirement to give us access to counter-Deviant fighting magicks. Plus, the biggest Poseidon subsidiary just opened back up. And you know how loyal those guys have been for the last couple decades.”

“Yeah, genius, but we’re still missing a full third of our operational force, all because you’re too proud to make a damn phone call. Containment Initiative? Hello?!” Kazuo shook his head, gills flaring. “Who knows how many Selachians they’re sitting on? Ripe for the punching, boy. Oh, if I still punched…”

“Cowards, the lot of them! I refuse to extend my open fist to someone as deep in the waterbed with the Sharkics as them. Who knows — maybe their whole operation is a breeding pool. Maybe it’s an insurgency — nay, a coup on our very existence!”

“Oh really? You think they just want to usurp us, huh? That’s it? Then what are they going to do? Do you realize the power vacuum that’s going to open up? And you think a bunch of Selachian-breeding reef-blowers are going to be able to contend with that? As if. They’d have their entire organization pummelled into smithereens within the week. At this point it’s so predictable, it’s sad.”

Will-Helm hesitated for the briefest moment, and then shrugged it off. If he was hiding something, he refused to say it. “Oh, I had Karen send a parlay to the Johnsonists this morning. Here’s hoping they’ll pull a couple of their yachts out of the mirage city for our cause. I’m betting on it, personally. What do you say to a luxury cruise trip, huh?” He elbowed Kazua in the ribs.

Kazua dropped his glass all over his serpent-scaled dress shirt. The fishman jumped up and sent a line of curses toward Will-Helm, his kin, and his entire lineage, and then back at Will-Helm again, and then rushed his way into the restroom, huffing and puffing in red-hot rage.

Tilda sighed and flashed a coded gesture with her left hand. Spellcasting. The space between her and Will-Helm tensed up with cyan electricity, and the officer’s club went silent, but only to the two of them. The trio had tucked their day’s discussion in the back of the bar in a Commissioner's booth, but safe is better than sorry. “Hey.” She put a hand on Will-Helm’s shoulder.


“You know you aren’t alone on this one, Fredericks.”

“Well, yes, we have some help, but it isn’t what I expected. All the necessary parties are too content with what they have, and don’t wish for more. Sure, we aren’t all being subjugated under the Sharkic Empire, but it wasn’t meant to be this way.” He turned away from Tilda and glanced out at the rest of the Officer’s Club. “You know?”

Tilda sighed and let go of Will-Helm’s shoulder. There was the sound of a short-circuit; Kazuo returned.

“You’re lucky that won’t stain, you motherfucker.” Kazuo slapped down his handkerchief and went back to sit between the Tilda and the High Pugilord. For perhaps the first time in hundreds of years, the title “High Pugilord” held little more than a tenuous link to Centre morale. The simple honorific now held nothing near the capacity to send the Centre into crusade that it used to have.

Will-Helm slammed down his empty glass. “Hit me.” He flashed Tilda a wink.

Tilda poured his glass high with whisky, then refilled her own. “You want some more, Kaz?”

Kazua waved the white handkerchief in defeat. “I surrender. No more for me. It would be quite unfortunate to have another accident.”

Will-Helm rubbed his temple. “Oh in Poseidon’s name, shut up, Kazua, will you? You have a suit for every damn lie you’ve told.”

The Arena Leader wanted to get back to discussion. They were still under the spell she cast. “We may no longer have a connection to the Library, and the Dreadlords may have mostly fled to the side of the Abyssal Sharkicists, but I’m sure I can fulfill a few old favours of mine.” She fiddled with a medallion around her neck. “Maybe get some more muscle. After all, we’ll need it in the upcoming Crusade.”

Kazuo yawned, impatient. The gills on his neck flapped in the open air. “Ever gracious, Rising Tide. I’ll drum up some more morale with the pugilists. High Pugilord, sir, I’m sure you can grill up some connections through the Karen Legion.” Sadly, he wasn’t joking by the name. A long and noble Karen line had served His High Pugilordship since the Centre was still the Center. “I trust the Propaganda Department will be able to move forward with the next stage of your intentions once we have the support we can get. Mind you, I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

“Always bringing the useless platitudes, eh? What else do you got up your sleeve, fish-food?” Will-Helm chuckled to himself. Tilda exhaled through her nostrils.

“Man, fuck you guys.” Kazuo pocketed his handkerchief. “You won’t see me on your frontline, that’s for damn sure. Get the support you need and then we’ll talk, Will-Helm. We can pick this up next time.” The Propagandist scooted out of the Officer’s Club, leaving Tilda and Will-Helm to clean up.

“Do you think if he was any more temperamental, we might recategorize him as a Selachimorph?” Tilda’s face was straight, and it was difficult to tell if she was joking, but Will-Helm knew all the better.

“I do hope not. I’ve seen his knuckles after a fight: The Merman doesn’t play around. I wouldn’t want to be on the back-hand of his assault, no matter the Pugilists by my side.” Will-Helm heaved a massive sigh, which he had seemingly been holding the entire talk.

The man was getting old. All he wanted was one last Deviant Crusade, to make things right for pugilists, the Centre, and the entire depth-damned human race.

Hell, they needed it more than he did.



Having accepted Xander with less-than-open arms, Shirley and his two most trusted (and only remaining) lieutenants took him in. The house they plundered sat on a long stretch of likewise vanity homes across a rocky shoreline. Precarious architecture made up most of it: Stretching fifteen, twenty meters over the jagged edge. That night, they got smashed and slept. Discussing the particulars of their life after death would come the following morning.

The first order of business was figuring out what they actually were.

“So, what do you remember after you died?” Xander asked to the table where Shirley, Nessie, and Billie say. Xander had seen much better days. He swayed as he sat. He still had a lot of healing to do, and was very much in pain.

Shirley went first. “There was a vast desert where abandoned souls came to live. All entered the lands and all grew tired and hungry and sick, but did not fall. The ends of the desert are very difficult to come to, but if one does, one has a chance at freedom. At communing with a deity who knows your soul and what you like and brings you pleasure. I stayed in the wastes because, see, if I do not fight for it myself then it is not mine.”

“And why do you speak like a stereotypical pirate?”

“Aye, I lived sixty years before my death and sixty years after. Once ingrained in your way, you do not change!”

Xander laughed, and then hacked blood. His side was still ebbed with blood even after changing the shirt out, and his wound oozed pus.

Nessie jumped. “Holy fuck!” She gritted her teeth and gripped the side of the table. Guilt washed over her.

Xander’s hands shook as he gingerly touched his mouth to wipe off the blood. “It’s okay, I’m okay, it’s fine. It’s just the Sharkics. They… Beat me up pretty bad. It’s a miracle I even lasted as long as I did. Like a guardian angel.”

Nessie cast a worrying look at Shirley and crossed her arms over her chest as she bit her lip. Her tentacled hair reeled in and curled up like waterlogged worms. “Xander, listen, I know I fucked up, but I — I was royally pissed, you gotta understand! I thought you did this to me.”

Xander furrowed his brow and shot a look to Shirley. “What’s she talking about?”

Shirley’s jaw clattered. He was clearly nervous. Should he tell the necromancer, and face potential consequences? Or should it be a secret among his crew — one last secret? They could tell the truth after this. They could start anew, all they had to do was just be honest. Honesty for each of them. Because that’s what bolstered a team, wasn’t it? “Aye, when we came to, we was a bit shaken. Nessie, aye, she was a bit rough around the edges and had some… Misgivings.”

Xander gulped. What was he talking about? “I really have no clue what you mean. Did she do something? I suppose I haven’t told you my side of the story…”

Shirley shook his head. “Nay, that won’t be necessary, laddie. Aye, it’s a curious thing, you know, what’s happenin’ to our wounds. They be healing so easily, especially after we landed. But you, Xander, me boy? That body o’ yours ain’t taking Nessie’s beatin’ too well.”

Nessie slapped the table. Billie jolted up; he had still been asleep. “I cut you up, okay! I fucking admit it! But you don’t understand, I had to do it! I thought you were the bastard that threw me in that pit and let me suffer all those years.” Nessie’s eyes welled up.

Xander felt the tension in the air. He wanted to console her, but he didn’t even know her, and hadn’t even explained himself to her yet. “What? No! I used to work with the Abyssal Sharkics, okay. Well, not the main ones; it was some shitty side-cult trying to get their paws on the merchandise. They called themselves the Sons of Miscontent. Real nasty bunch. None of the gang — and believe me, that’s all those lowlife were — had proper access to the ancient saalistaa magicks, so all of their chimeric forms were cobbled together and unrefined. Abominable, really. Not dissimilar to the Selachian mutations people get when they’re near the No-Go Zone, now that I think about it.”

“Aye, and how did ye get tied up with this lot?”

Xander shrugged. “It wasn’t quite my choice at the start. I was indentured, and they had me for as long as they could.” Xander sighed. “Look, do you mind? I can explain all of this, if you let me.”

Shirley nodded. Nessie sat there, bemused, and gave a lazy shrug. Billie held no expression to his placid face. The more he thought about it, the more he considered that the man resembled Frankensquid’s Monster.

Taking their body language as a yes, the necromancer continued. “Do you realize the lengths an aristocrat might go to preserve their nobility, even in death? Swaths of peasants under their rule get tied up in unbreakable geas bindings. Not just for themselves, but their families, too. Entire familial peasantries will spend generations serving under a single aristocrat guarding an estate, ensuring the wealth supplies remain steady, and throwing themselves as offerings to whatever Tartarean entities happen to be considering deals that week. The bindings apply after death, too. Not only do the peasants craft the coffins, perform all the funerial services, and deal with the redistribution of tithe chains and inheritances throughout the family. They’re also forced to work with whomever is next in line… And defend the burial site.

“See, that’s where I come in. The Necromancer’s Guild ran some fucked up necromantic Robin Hood-type job. It was my job to pull these aristocratic bastards from their graves and reanimate them from the grave to the highest bidder, who would repurpose them into something special. I’d rather not get into what that entails. In any case, I had to make care not to trip over the geasa binded to the rich fuck’s corpse, of course — those are nasty fuckers, and you wouldn’t want to accidentally be caught up in a life sentence. It was also impossible for a single necromancer to deal with the cavalry of peasantries guarding the crypt alone, so we went in teams. One necromancers, a couple of Deviant technicians, and a couple more magick warriors. It all depends on the intensity of the geas binding, of course… This was all fine until I was caught in a geas binding none of us could have prepared for.”

The room went silent. Nessie tilted her head. “Wait, so what happened? Why’d you pause like that?”

“I, uh, thought it would be more dramatic that way. Apologies, I’m not used to, y’know, talking about myself like that!” Xander scoffed and then winced.

“Well, continue, dammit! I wanna hear what happened, and we don’t have all day.” Nessie tapped her foot.

Xander took a deep breath. “These are all human aristocrats, mind you. It went smooth until we came across a Surface Sharkicist practitioner with links to deep Deviant networks, with magic none of my team had ever seen before…”

“Well, by the looks of you right now, you ain’t a shark.”

They stood on the sandy atoll.

“Aye, listen matey. Any good cap’n needs a ship. If ye won’t help me look for one, then maybe you ought ter find a new path in life.”

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