The time has come- hop on the ship for untold horrors and danger! You can get the brand new Nocturna League right here for $0.99 until tomorrow.
Also to celebrate the release, Nocturna League 2 will be $0.99 for... probably forever! I figured I needed a cheaper step up from the free Nocturna League 1 to the paid-for 2, so maybe this will work out well.
New to the series? Get them in order below!
Now without further ado - enjoy the first two chapters!
Chapter 1: A Peculiar Happenstance and Talking Things
This chapter upon the M.S. Nocturna begins calmly enough. It is a quiet evening, the sun bending over the misted horizon. Grancis and Boris are quietly maki-
“BE OF THE SMASHING, COOK MEAT! BE OF THE DESTROYING!” Boris yells as a twelve-legged mammal-like insect scrambles about the floor wildly, screeching arcane curses as it rushes for a hiding place.
“Got it!” Grancis, now a trained killer when it comes to using cooking utensils, tosses a spice jar to stun the two-mouthed horror just long enough for her to bring her pan to the floor with absolute, cast-iron judgment. The creature squirms under the pan, speaking of an incomprehensible, unbearable death for Grancis as she slams the pan down once more, finishing the creature and lining the underside of the pan with greyish gore. With not even a squeamish gasp, she raises up the corpse, places it in the pan, and brings it to Boris. “Here you are, sir,” she says with a smile, as if she hadn’t just obliterated a small, horrific animal.
“YOU ARE WELL OF THE DOING, COOK FOOD! THE MANY-LEGGED BEAST FOOD MAY BE OF THE QUICK RUNNING, BUT YOU HAVE BECOME OF THE QUICKER WITH THE PANNING AND THE SMASHING. I AM OF THE PROUD,” an emotional Boris says, embracing Grancis and forcing all the air from her lungs.
“Th-thanks, sir,” she says with the same smile. She’s quite used to this by now.
Boris turns about and after smashing the creatures to a more-complete pulp, scrapes it into the pot and stirs with a massive claw. “DON’T BE TELLING THE CAPTAIN THAT THIS WAS OF THE HAPPENING. HE IS OF THE STERN WHEN HIS FTHHOGANOTHS AREN’T OF THE MOST FRESH- HE IS OF THE ENJOYING WHEN HE POPS THEM HIMSELF,” the massive red Boris says, waving his claw about in warning.
Grancis smiles awkwardly at the thought of The Captain manifesting teeth from his body of sand and crushing something as small and cute as a Fthhoganoth. “O-oh, I see. Okay.” She takes up a fishing rod, a harpoon, and a bucket containing some unknown squirming bait, and she exits to the outside deck to get another. The twilight of the day looms over the sky, and the deep blues and grays are preluding the great starless black that waits just around the corner. Not many people are around, as usual- the outer deck becomes an unpopular place once the sun has left. She hooks a squiggling, cursing monstrosity, looking more like an internal organ with teeth than anything, and she casts her line out over the deck. A few seconds pass, and she sees the water below the Nocturna change shade- something gigantic is below them. She smiles sheepishly down at the water as a thousand stare up at her.
Colette, toweling off after a workout, passes by and spots Grancis. “Well hey,” she says, rubbing her face into the towel as she dries her short, fairy-like blond hair.
Grancis’ smile instantly becomes more genuine. “Oh, Colette! Hello,” she says, looking back to the shadowy monstrosity below in the water.
Colette takes one look over the deck and winces. “W-wow.”
Grancis nods. “Mhmm. I’ve seen a few of these while fishing for Boris. They start talking after a while. Once I heard one speak a full sentence,” she says with a pure interest.
Colette ranges back, tightening her grip on the railing. “I see. So uh… Why are you out here?”
“Like I said. I’m fishing for some ingredie-”
“Help,” a voice comes from below, the beast’s many eyes staring at the two young ladies. “Pull up.”
“Ho-holy shit!” Colette leans back, doing her best to stay as far away from the thing over the deck as possible, while still holding onto the railing should a tentacle come reaching out. The creature’s voice was not human-sounding. It was blunt, with improper emphasis on certain syllables- as if an animal was just mimicking what it heard from its master.
“Please,” it says again, slowly reaching out an ink-black tentacle towards the two. “Pull up.”
Colette holds her breath in horror as Grancis laxly takes up the harpoon and impales the dark tentacle, just a meter from her feet. The beast squeals in pain and retreats back to the depths, oil-like blood reflecting off the dreary deck lights. Grancis tosses the harpoon aside and recasts her line. Colette just stares in shock as her best friend hooks a catch and pulls up a strange, furry insect… fish thing.
“So, how was your training today?” Grancis asks, tossing the little horror aside.
Colette takes one last look at the water and nods. “It was good. Been having a little trouble sleeping though- some weird dreams.”
Grancis raises a brow and lays a motherly gaze on her friend. “Eh? Well you really shouldn’t drink so much coffee.”
Colette averts her gaze with a scoff. “Thanks, Gran, but I need it to get through the day,” she says as she creeps away from the railing.
Grancis shrugs. “Okie dokie. Just drink lots of water, alright?”
She nods, spins her towel up into a more-manageable shape, and sets off toward the mess hall/bar. “Sure thing. See ya.”
“Bye,” Grancis says, leaning onto the railing and watching squirming, toothed eels travel through the water in a pack, just a centimeter below the surface. A long, tolerant smile crosses her face. As unnerving as all these underwater beasts might be, she does appreciate the visits, even if they just care about her because they want to eat her. Grancis takes a quick take over her shoulder and spots Colette entering the mess hall. Grancis sighs, and decides to get back to her line. Only seconds later, a man pushes his way out of want of the living quarter doors- Grancis has seen him before, but never like this. His face is now dark, sunken, and his eyes are wide with horror. He takes lumbering, trembling steps as he goes onto the main deck, as if walking up to a noose. The sailor stops at the railing, right where Colette was standing just a minute ago.
“The bells,” he says. His voice strikes Grancis as the voice a man would have after realizing how terrible this world truly is.
“What’s the matter there, sailor?” She asks with her go-to disarming smile; she’s found people tend to enjoy seeing you if you act like you enjoy seeing them.
His eyes are still focused down into the depths, now a pure, consuming inky blackness- even a meter below the deck lights cannot pierce through the water- anything could be waiting down there. “The sunken bells, they call for me…” His gaze is not lifted from the water- he watches with complete intent, the one point of his complete focus.
“O-oh… What bells?” She asks.
“The bells… the deep cathedral. I must be taken… I will be taken. The drowned lungs sing out for me.”
Grancis has a bad habit of smiling more whenever she’s disturbed- she’s grinning ear to ear now. “Taken? I don’t think that’s-”
“The time has come. I commit my soul to you, god of the Drowned.” The sailor starts tilting over the railing, eyes still focused on the consuming dark below.
Grancis tosses her rod aside and grabs onto the man’s legs. “Captain!” she calls out. The man, years over her and a lifter no less, shakes her off and shoves her onto the deck with ease. “I will be taken.” He says, grasping the railing again. Just as he lifts to send himself over, he feels the deft, shifting grasp of bandaged hands wrapping around his body.
“Good evening, Mister Turranine, Miss Vereyrty. What might be the matter? Certainly there’s no form of degeneracy taking place, is there?” The Captain says like a creeping shroud of authority. Neither of the humans even heard him approach- it’s somehow both terrifying and comforting, knowing your commander can hear you from just about anywhere on the ship and can be upon you in the next moment.
“Captain, this guy tried to jump ship!” Grancis starts brushing herself off, looking up with determination.
“Oh? Is this true, Mister Turranine?” The Captain unhands Jess Turranine, and the man swings around to meet The Captain face to face.
“No, sir. Just a little drunk is all. She was under the impression I was going to commit suicide or some rubbish like that,” Jess says, appearing as normal as he can.
The Captain looks over to Grancis, and she shakes her head. “N-no! Captain! He was about to jump in! I swear!”
“You’re sure about this?”
Grancis nods. “Absolutely, he said some-”
“Rubbish I say! Only a drunken sailor’s… Oh my, here it comes again.” Jess interrupts Grancis as he leans over the railing and empties his dinner into the drink; Grancis is surprised- maybe he really is drunk.
The Captain nods upon seeing Jess’ “outburst”. “Very well.” He turns to Grancis. “I applaud your initiative, Miss Vereyrty, but it seems as though he truly is just inebriated.”
Grancis nods, gaze straight to her feet. “Yes, sir.”
Jess scoffs and turns to leave to the mess hall, gently pushing Grancis aside with his shoulder. “You best learn to stay outta other’s businesses, lass,” he says.
Grancis nods again and, after a moment, takes up her rod.
The Captain inspects her demeanor a moment and then gives her a pat on the shoulder. “You did the right thing, Miss Vereyrty. Be sure to let me or Doctor Estradia know if you see him act amiss again.” The Captain points his finger aside casually as he steps from the railing and to the mess hall. Grancis smiles, says “thanks”, and realizes that she needs to sneak this catch to Boris in time.
Dinner is enjoyed by all but two that night. Grancis, paying close attention, notes that, unlike the others with cooked dishes, The Captain bites into the small, fuzzy live thing with his teeth of black sand- it popped and, like a balloon, her apatite flushed out like the air. Also Boris tries for the first time in years to take up the piano and play Arpeden No. 8, the Captain’s favorite piece- the piano broke.
Chapter 2: A Cold Realization, and General Spookery
After supper it’s business as usual. Crew members are delegated to their cabins after the night bell is wrung. Colette and Grancis are in the common cabin, filled with all manner of men, fish men, and fish. Grancis lays herself into her cozy hammock, in a pair with Colette who is at the front so that she can accept all challengers who would strike in the night. Grancis cuddles in with her stuffed octopus, Colette close behind, and after a moment of staring up at the ceiling, roll call begins. Their names are called by Dunklestein, and they give their answers. He goes down the list of names.
“So, how was the fishing?” Colette asks.
Grancis hums. “Short, I just had enough time to get Cap’s for the night. Some guy was drunk.”
“Jack Backhem?” Dunklestein calls.
“Here,” Jack, a man with a sea lamprey for an arm, responds.
“Drunk?” Colette says. “Did he do anything?”
“Tried to kill himself… I think,” Grancis answers.
“Nert Bertaloux?” The next on the list is called.
“Kill himself? Was he depressed?” Colette asks.
Grancis shrugs. “I don’t know. He kept going on about some b-”
“Jess Turranine?” Dunklestein calls. The cabin is silent. “Jess Turranine? You here?” Dunklestein calls out again. Another pause. “Anybody seen him?”
“I saw him at dinner.”
“Yeah, me too,” a couple of voices respond in the dark.
Dunklestein sighs. “Hey, Captain.”
The wind blows, and everyone can hear someone speak from the other end of the cabin door. “What is it, Dunklestein the Daring?” The suave, thoughtful, voice of The Captain chimes in.
“Did you see Jess recently?”
“I didn’t. I assume he’s not in the cabin?” The Captain asks.
Dunklestein takes one last look over to Jess’ bunk. “No.”
“Most concerning. I’ll take a look around. I’ll ensure he’s promptly punished once I find him. He should know what happens to sailors outside the living quarters after curfew.”
There’s a conjoined sighing and cringing, everyone in the cabin remembering the one and only time they had broken a rule on the Nocturna. Everyone save Grancis- she’s a good girl, really.
“W-well good luck, Cap,” Dunklestein says with a hint of forced professionalism.
“Thank you. Good night, everyone,” The Captain says, turning from the door.
“Sweet dreams, Captain.”
“Hope you find ‘em, Cappy!”
“Stay cozy, Cappin’.” A group of at least a dozen voices respond with more tenderness than a hardened sea dog like Dunklestein finds appropriate. He sighs and takes up his own bunk.
Grancis turns to Colette. “Jess, that’s the guy that tried to jump in.”
Colette furrows her brow. “You don’t think that… Naw, he’s probably just sleeping at the bar. Goodnight.”
“Night, Colette, hope you have good dreams.”
“Thanks, hopefully the night bell will be the last I hear tonight,” Colette says, snuggling into her blanket complete with knife kit in case of an ambush.
Both Grancis’ gaze and smile widens at the utterance. “W-wait, what? Bells?”
“Nothing, just something from the dreams. Ni-”
“W- a-are you being called?” Grancis mutters.
Colette looks over her shoulder. “Am I what?”
Grancis clears her throat. “Eh, nothing, sorry.”
Colette stares at Grancis a moment, and then shakes her head. “Get some sleep, Gran.”
“Don’t call me ma’am, Gran. You’re older than me.”
“Yes m-…Colette. Goodnight,” Grancis says, a sense of impending tragedy overcoming her. Colette turns into her pillow, and in but a minute, she’s out and snoring loudly. Grancis, however, cannot bring herself to sleep. There’s that rare chill in her spine, when she knows somethings wrong, and that it endangers those she cares about. She needs to tell someone about Colette’s dream- the bells, just like Jess. Perhaps Colette’s on the same path. She needs to know. In the chorus of snoring, she mulls over her options. She could wake up Dunks and ask him, but he probably wouldn’t even know. She’d also wake up everyone. Would it be worth embarrassing her and Colette? There must be a better way.
Slowly, grievously, she turns and looks to the door, the porthole showing just a glint of the cold deck lights outside. She could talk to The Captain- but would he allow the exception? Surely if it were a life or death situation? … She thinks on it and sighs. No, she couldn’t risk it. Perhaps Doctor Estradia- she’s never met him before, but she hears he’s awake all night in the infirmary. As the resident psychologist, he would know if there’s some connection, surely. She’s made her decision- even the chance that Colette’s in danger is enough reason to take action. Grancis slips into the wall-side of the bunk, compressing herself to squeeze through the slight notch of space. She then creeps below along the floor and across the room.
The bunk of Dunklestein, the world-class light sleeper himself, is right next to the door to the outside. Quite witty of The Captain to put him there as an alarm system in case the sailors try to ditch their bunks to sneak into the bar, or perhaps take a chance to steal one of the fabled lower decks keys. Grancis is not trained in espionage arts, so the best she can manage is to creep up to the door, and very, very slowly turn the handle.
Dunklestein snorts in his sleep. “Y-yeah girl… shake that fin,” he mutters as he rolls over on his pillow. Grancis smiles and her brow raises awkwardly as she creeps out the door. It’s cold tonight, and the deck lights have been lowered as the cruising speed has gone down. Grancis makes a cautious shoulder check to ensure no one is around and then she starts for the infirmary. Her footsteps are perfectly silenced, arching into each movement as she gradually makes her way around to the front deck and up the steps. Grancis sees a light in the infirmary- probably the only light that’s still on tonight. She sneaks up to the door, and in a moment of supreme coldness, realizes it’s locked. She’ll have to knock… quietly. She checks her surroundings once again - still no Captain in sight. She forces a smile, lying to herself that he’s probably happy with that single go around to find stragglers and is now snoring in his quarters… or whatever he does when he sleeps. With mechanical poise, she raises her knuckle to the infirmary door and knocks. A few seconds pass, and her face is bumped by the opening door.
An electric eel seasort with a small pair of spectacles and a lab coat peeks his head out from the door. “Who is…” He sees her rubbing her face at his knees. His eyes glint. “Oh! One of the human girls!” He opens it wider. “Please come in, my dear primate, what can I help you with today.
Grancis takes to her feet and smiles disarmingly as she enters. “I’m terribly sorry. I’m Grancis Vereyrty and I need your help.” The clinic is warm, well-lit, overwhelmingly themed in white, but something strikes Grancis as the sort of place she wouldn’t like to spend much time in.
The eel adjusts his glasses. “My name is Sampsaing Estradia, resident surgeon, psychologist, and scientist. Now you said you needed my help?” He gestures to a couple of chairs, one with metal restraints.
Grancis gently sits into the chair, folding her limbs to miss the restraints. “Thank you. Colette’s been having some strange dreams.”
Sampsaing raises a brow as he takes up a decanter filled with coffee and pours two cups. “Strange dreams, you say?” He starts over for her with the two cups of coffee to sit down.
She nods, eying the violent surgical tools and unnerving syringes lined up across the wall for easy access. “That’s right. Something about… bells?”
Sampsaing, halfway to Grancis, drops one of the mugs and fumbles with the other.
Grancis, hands on her lap, squeezes in anticipation.
“Bells? Oh my. And she’s a human, too,” Sampsaing says, gaze jutting out of the single port window, as if to ensure that no one is watching. He hands Grancis the mug, now only half-full due to the turbulence, and he turns around to clean up the mess. “What else has she said?”
Grancis dips her finger into the coffee, partly to check the temperature, and also on the change she might feel a dissolving pellet of something devious. “No, that’s all she said… I think.”
Sampsaing takes the moment to pull down his glasses to his rubbery, slimy nose, and look her in the eyes. “You think?”
Grancis averts her eyes, and takes a sip of the coffee with a nod.
Sampsaing finishes cleaning in just a few seconds and gets another cup. He sits in the chair opposite to Grancis and takes a deep breath. “Okay… Can I call you Grancis?”
She nods again. The coffee’s really good.
“It could just be that she had a dream with bells in them. There’s all sorts of shit people dream about, but this close to Jess missing roll call… it’s probably not. What it would be if my concerns are validated, would be something called The Cathedral Dream.”
Grancis squints an eye. “Okay.”
“Basically…” He sighs. “Okay, how long have you lived on the Eversea?”
She looks aside and purses her lips. “About a month and a week or so.”
“And you’re Boris’ kid, right? Apprentice chef?”
Grancis squints an eye at the thought of what a child of Boris might look like. “Eh, yeah, that’s me.”
“So I’m sure you’ve fished a little.” He takes a long sip.
Sampsaing raises a slimy brow. “What have you seen in the water?”
“Well, lots of creepy stuff.”
“Eldritch is the word we like to use. The deeper down you go, the more horrible they become. Their favorite food?” He takes a sip. “Human souls.”
“Oh… Yeah I kinda guessed they’d want something like that.” She takes a sip. The coffee suddenly tastes mediocre at best.
“The Cathedral Dream is when a certain eldritch sea monster attempts to influence someone through their dreams, luring them to take the plunge into the water to ‘join the cult’ per se. I have no idea what happens to the people who actually hop in the water. On a clear bright day a human has about one minute to get out of the drink before something pulls ‘em down- at night, when the creatures come close to the surface, it’s more like ten seconds, if even that. Eversea travel is not very helpful for humans that enjoy living.”
She sighs. “That sounds like an understatement.”
“Indeed. I’m glad you brought this up. The condition has no directly physical side effects until it’s too late and they’re scrambling to hop in the ocean, so it was lucky you brought this up when you did. I promise I won’t tell The Captain you were here.”
She nods her head. “Thank you. So how do we fix it?”
Sampsaing hisses lightly- a sign of discomfort. “Well, I’ll be honest. The only way we can do it is if we get another human to split dreams with them. Have you heard of it?”
Grancis draws back slightly. “Shared dreaming?”
“Precisely. I can cause the two of you to operate subconsciously at the same wavelength, tuning you into her dream. It’s quite a complicated process, but all you’ll need to do is sleep next to her… that’s what presents our first problem.”
“We need her to be next to you. Makes configuring the two of you much easier. You need to go get her, preferably unconscious.”
Grancis squints. “Well, I’m not very strong. Couldn’t y-”
“How much more suspicious would you think it, a grown man like me drugging a young lady and dragging her into my private office?”
Grancis pauses a moment and then nods. “Right… So how do I do it?”
Sampsaing points at her as if to say “good point” and he gets up with his coffee. He steps over to a locked cabinet filled with vials and bottles of who-knows-what and dabs a cloth with a clear liquid. “You’ll have to take her by force, there’s no way she’d willingly go out into the outer decks after curfew.” He steps over, holding the cloth carefully in his hand. “Don’t breathe this,” he says as he hands it to her, “even a whiff’ll take you off your feet for a few seconds. Hold this to her face, and she’ll be out in the moment.”
She looks pensive. “And I couldn’t just tell her to come with me?”
“She has to be unaware that you’re there for it to work. Her subconscious needs to perceive that it’s a natural dreaming environment,” He says, stepping over to the door.
Grancis stares at the dabbed cloth with purpose. “Okay. I’ll get her.” She takes a stand and turns for the door.
Sampsaing nods and opens the door for her. “Good luck.” Grancis starts for the door, but Sampsaing imposes himself in the frame just a moment. “Of course, I trust you’ll do your best not to get caught. As it stands you’re the only one on the ship that hasn’t been punished by The Captain for breaking a rule. I’ll tell you now it’s something you never want. There’s a reason people only push it a single time, and you’ll be out for the rest of the day. We only have one shot at this, alright?” He says with a pointed, serious gaze.
Grancis exhales at the thought of it- the screams, the people dragged into the interrogation room and emerging hours later, silent, horrified, and entirely loyal. She remembers Colette had nightmares days after her punishment. As it’s also breaking a rule to tell someone what the punishment is, she still doesn’t know; she very much doesn’t want to find out. “Absolutely. He won’t know.” She steps out, creeps down the stairs, around the side and into the quarters. Colette’s in her bunk, snoring loudly as expected. Grancis closes the door behind her, ducks and crawls forward under the rows of bunks. She gets to Colette, prepares the cloth and pushes it into his face. Colette’s blue eyes jolt open in the dark, and a second later she’s out. Now comes the hard part. Grancis stows the cloth in her pocket and takes a deep breath. She pulls up Colette, laxes her to the floor and starts dragging her across the quarters. Her breathing precise and her moves spry, she hovers Colette across the room, unheard by all, but then she feels it.
Just as she gets Colette to the door, Grancis can feel she’s being watched, but she doesn’t know who, or from where. It’s as if an unseen, incorporeal force took a breath, as if she’s being viewed by something beyond the waking realm. She would almost prefer it was The Captain. A chill down her spine, she promptly gets Colette up to the infirmary and opens the door. Dr. Estrada’s waiting with his cup of coffee- he’s still as he sees her enter. “Well! Looks like you’re sneakier than I thought. That, or the Captain must’ve cracked into his bottle of Dugal’s early. Now put her on this table,” he says as he helps the dreaming Colette up onto an operating table. Sampsaing pulls up the infirmary’s rest bed next to the operating table. “Now you.”
Grancis promptly takes to the bed and lies down.
Sampsaing nods with approval and turns to get a few more things. “Alright, we need to cause a distinctly abusive outcome in the dream, so that her subconscious will be less likely to bring them up again.” He spreads a line of salt across and around them “The subconscious attempts to prevent nightmares, and if we make the Cathedral Dream one for Colette, her subconscious will be much more resistant to it in the future- we can only do this once, so you need to make it as painful as possible.”
“I need to make it… painful?” Grancis squints up at the ceiling, the bright lights giving the room a distinctly medical, dentist-like quality.
“That’s right. You need to kill Colette as slowly as you possibly can. If you do it too fast her subconscious will pull her right out from the trauma. Make it last- make it emotional- make it personal. Have her trembling and afraid to even rise up when she wakes up. If Colette has the dream any time again, her subconscious will almost certainly spark, and wake her up. This doubles for you two, if she attempts to, she can traumatize you out of her own dream. Also, remember that she’s having this dream because something’s inciting it into her. It might also be in the dream.”
Grancis takes a deep breath and looks to Colette’s calmly sleeping face. “G-… got it.”
Sampsaing injects Colette with an unpleasant looking orange liquid, then steps over to Grancis. “In subconscious realm, you can do as you please if you concentrate on what you need to do the damage. What’s most important is feeling as if you’re experiencing what you want to be or have before it actually manifests. Alrighty?”
“Good, you have roughly five hours until sunrise. This would give you about fifty in the dream world, but dreams don’t usually last that long- so be quick. You need to engage Colette before the primary events of the dream take place.”
Grancis furrows her brow, and nods upon the bed. “Okay, let’s do it.”
“Rodger. Good luck, kid,” Sampsaing says as he injects the same liquid into along with another to knock her out. Just as she feels the lurid liquid come from the syringes to her arm, she feels a rush of determination emerge from her head. Everything, her vision, nerves, the sounds she can hear, shrouds and swirls into the void of her own mind for only a moment, and then she can feel the otherworldly tug of her entering a dream in complete lucidity.
Above, Sampsaing stops hiding the grin across his face as he picks up a pen and note pad and begins monitoring the two. “Academy of Medicine, here I come,” he says to himself with a smirk. Just as he gets comfortable, he hears a knock on his door. His gills slime themselves the moment he looks up and spots through the porthole, the face of The Captain, staring in.
Much love and thanks for your support,