written by Alex Gray
(OOC) This character has taken me a while to nail down, and I would like to thank Alex Gray (aka Grayson the Cleric) for taking my character and background ideas and turning our conversations into such a beautifully written story to help describe my character's background. I hope you like it as much as I did! Please read on to learn about how Kai found herself on the beach near Osterra - Katrina
Well...alright, Captain Kai Reeflynn thought to herself, tension finally releasing from her shoulders.
The crew of the Calypso collectively sighed in relief when passing over the outer edges of the Countess Line, a broad section of ocean widely believed to be haunted, with tales of violent storms at a moment's notice and otherworldly creatures rising from the dark depths wreaking havoc on the ships above. The Calypso passed through the many nautical miles without incident, and Captain Reeflynn let out a soft chuckle, remembering the boisterous men at the last tavern who told her that it couldn't be done. “No man has ever sailed through without incident,” were their exact words. “What chance have you got?”
She laughed then, too.
"Continue at half sail, steady on course!" the Captain called to her helmsman. "We've had an easy run so far, but stay sharp! We're not done with this run yet!" Her command was followed by a simultaneous "aye!" from the crew above deck, with her second mate Irysa echoing the Captain's orders to the crew below. The crew loved and respected her, so orders were rarely missed or questioned.
"Irysa! You have the command! I'll be in my cabin!" Captain Reeflynn called to her first mate.
"Aye, ma'am! I'll call you when we spot land," she replied, walking up the stairs to the quarter deck as the Captain descended.
Captain Reeflynn turned from the stairs and made her way through the doors of her cabin, closing them behind her. She took off her hat, letting her short blonde hair fall over her ears, and tossed it to her writing desk. The Captain grabbed a bottle of Port wine, her preferred drink, and rested in her favorite hammock, portside of the ship and just out of the sunlight peeking in through the windows. Bottle to her lips, she looked to her right at the rusted, but ornate, chest secured to the floor. It was small, no bigger than a pin cask, with dark wood and crude etchings along the metal bands.
Captain Reeflynn and her crew have taken a job from a well-renowned (and well-feared) Sea Witch named Cthaat, a being with unfathomable power over storm and sea. An emissary of hers had approached Kai after an "incident" at the last tavern, which included some of the boisterous men mentioned earlier being thrown out of the windows by her crew. The emissary approached Kai as she exited, covered by a ragged gray robe lined at the bottom by barnacles, face shrouded by an unnatural darkness. In a strained, feminine voice, the emissary told the Captain that she had been requested by the Witch to bury the chest on an island past the Countess Line. "It must not be opened, and the object within must not be touched by living hands," the emissary had warned. "Do this, and you will be granted a boon for your service, in the form of anything you desire. Failure... will result in banishment from these waters..." The emissary placed the chest on the ground at Kai’s feet, and disappeared into the crowded walkway leaving nothing but wet footprints trailing behind.
The Captain initially did not want this mission, but a boon from possibly the most powerful being known in this world was too enticing to turn down. That, and anyone who has ever turned down a request from the Witch had a tendency for disappearing without a trace.
"I'll be getting rid of you soon enough," she said to the chest, now pointing at it with her bottle. What fun has ever come from a chest that a pirate couldn't open? She often thought to herself since taking it aboard. Finishing half her bottle of Port, the Captain laid back in her hammock and fell asleep…
...Or she would have, if the Calypso did not come to a sudden, lurching halt in the middle of the ocean. Bottle flying from her hand, the Captain tried her best to brace herself in the hammock as trinkets, books, and other loose belongings were tossed against the forward walls of her cabin. What in the hell had happened? she thought as she struggled out of the hammock and towards the doorway. She glanced behind her, confirming that in all the chaos of her room, the Witch’s chest remained securely bound to the deck.
“Status report!” She called as she left her cabin. The main decks were littered with crew members struggling to stand, while others were quickly raising the sails to prevent any further damage. Glancing over the railings, she noticed that the Calypso truly was stopped in its tracks, no bobbing from the ocean waves and definitely no forward drifting.
“I’ve no idea, Captain” Irysa responded, nursing a bloody nose. Looking up towards the crow’s nest, she yelled “Oi, Narcy! What the hell did we hit?! Did we run aground?!”
“No, ma’am!” the Lookout replied in her high pitched voice. “No sandbar or reef spotted, I swear it! Nothing was in our path, we can’t have run aground!”
The Calypso groaned as if it were straining under some immense pressure, now rocking slightly from side to side. The ocean churned around the boat, creating large waves as the ship began bouncing on the water’s surface. “We haven’t run aground, Irysa,” the Captain said tensely. “We’re not on anything. Something is on us.”
As if on cue, large tentacles sprung from the ocean and wrapped itself around the Calypso, working their ways around every curve and corner. The tentacles were large, as thick as a tree trunk, with a dark purple skin tone. Captain Reeflynn counted three of them towards the bow of the ship, and at least seven of them towards the stern. The tentacles rocked the ship, bending and breaking a few railings as they tried to pull the ship under.
“Battlestations, everyone!” the Captain called, Irysa echoing her orders. “Deck crew, keep those damn things off the masts and sails, get the carpenters to seal any holes in the hull. Gunners, you have free range to fire at anything that passes the sight of the cannons. Dive crew, to me!” The Captain continued barking orders as the crew sprang into action, gunfire ringing on the deck while others ran below to help with repairs. Ten women ran forward to the Captain shoeless and plainly dressed, armed with harpoons in hand and swords on their hips. Captain Reeflynn removed her own jacket and boots, and was handed an ornate spear from one of her divers. They ran in single file behind the Captain as she made her way towards the bow of the Calypso, which seemed to be the area with the least amount of chaos. One by one, the Captain and the dive crew vaulted off of the bowsprit and dove into the ocean.
The transformation happened as soon as each of their heads were submerged. Their eyes began to glow a pale blue, hands became webbed, the gills opened on their neck, and from the hips down their bodies swirled with current and transformed to slender, but muscular fish tails of varying color. With speeds no human could match, the Captain and each diver swam forward to stretch their ocean bodies. Their original bodies.
Captain Kai Reeflynn, along with the entire crew of the Calypso, were Mermaids.
After leaving the ocean kingdom of Amphilore, Kai acquired what many do when reaching their teenage years: wanderlust. So she left, exploring the open ocean with nothing but an old compass, a bag full of simple trinkets, and a mission to find land. It wasn’t too difficult, just a matter of waiting for a ship to appear and following it to port. Many merchant ships passed by the kingdom unaware, thinking that their route was a convenient one that trailed along a mass of large coral reefs, not knowing of the civilization that existed on the other side. After waiting a few hours Kai spotted one, a small group of merchant schooners travelling together. Kai, nervous with excitement, began to follow the ships to her new life.
For years she lived among the people of a small harbor town. Selling the trinkets to a mermaid enthusiast was easy, and with extra coin in hand she bought a set of simple land clothes and a shortsword. Making money was fairly easy for her, as she discovered that she had uncanny luck at table games, gaining as much coin as she did enemies from it. She lived here for almost a full year, staying in an underwater cave off the harbor (which only she could get to), before the wanderlust returned. So Kai, now packed for a life on the road, decided to head further inland.
About a month into this journey Kai joined a travelling circus, where she learned the arts of aerial silks and trapeze, as well as the more practical skills of swordplay and battle magic. This is also where she met Irysa, who doubled as the show’s strong woman and Mermaid spectacle, where she would simply lounge in a tank of salt water while posing and entertaining children. They could be found at night sharing Irysa’s tank, since Mermaids need the occasional dip in a body of water to live. She would often tell Kai of her travels, the people she has met, the food and drinks from all corners of the continent, and the family that she supported with wages from the circus. They became fast friends.
Kai’s luck would not last, however. Years into her circus career the travelling company hit financial hardships. There was a market for curiosities of all kinds, and “owning” a live Mermaid was seen as a high honor amongst sea captains. Greed and financial ruin threatened the rest of the circus family, so one night the ringmaster made silent deals at a seaside tavern. Kai and Irysa were sold and taken in the dead of night, both struggling with the chains as they were carried towards the harbor. Their screams, echoed by their natural “siren’s call” ability still haunt the ringmaster to this day, reminding him of his failures and betrayal.
Aboard the slaver’s ship they met other Mermaids, including the ten women that would later become Kai’s dive crew, and it was here that they staged their escape. The slaver’s were used to handling maybe one or two Mermaids at a time, but greed led them to their “large collection.” Kai broke free from her chains using the magic that she learned from the circus, breaking the chains that bound her to the deck with bolts of electricity. She then knocked out a guard, preventing him from calling for help, and allowing Kai to loot the keys to unlock the rest of her people. Many of them, including Irysa, were masters of combat, so taking the ship was easy. After clearing the ship of all threats, the Mermaids rejoiced and named Kai as their captain. The ship was renamed to the Calypso, and the Captain and its crew vowed to wreak havoc onto any slaver ship they came across, and recruit any Mermaid willing to join their cause. Captain Kai Reeflynn became loved, respected, and feared throughout the seas in the years that followed.
The divers turned from their forward dash to face the Calypso’s attacker. The Captain spotted a large mouth attached to the stern of the ship, almost as large as the stern itself. Its eyes were dark and unmoving, with a row of many sharp teeth lining the seal between the creature’s maw and the ship. Its body ran deep into the ocean, triangular with its many tentacles reaching upwards and gripping the ship. The Captain recognized it as a charybdis, and thankfully it was a younger one. Full grown beasts of its kind are known to be larger than entire islands, often remaining buried within the sea bed while pulling their prey down with viscous rows of teeth, having the ability to create whirlpools. But this younger one, it seems, was too small and hungry to pass up the Calypso, and decided to attack more directly.
In a clear voice, passing effortlessly through the water, the Captain beckoned her divers. “You three, with me!” she ordered, pointing at the three closest. “The rest of you, focus on the tentacles! Get it off the Calypso!”
Seven Mermaids ascended towards the surface, dodging gracefully through the creature’s attacks as the crew sliced at the tentacles, while the Captain and her three chosen dove to attack the charybdis’ eyes. Its body had smaller tentacles protecting it, so they had to spread out and draw its focus somehow. The Calypso strained under the creature’s increasing pressure, creaks and snaps echoing through the ocean. Cannon fire was heard from the deck, and the Captain watched as the upper half of one of the larger tentacles fell into the water, lifelessly sinking past the nub it left behind with trails of dark blood as it sank into the abyss. A quick cheer was heard from those on deck, and the fighting continued.
The charybdis now enraged increased its assault. Its row of teeth began to saw at the Calypso, grinding back and forth and cutting deeper into the hull. A few of its remaining large tentacles released the ship and began stabbing at the hull, penetrating the stern in multiple places. The Captain knew that if they couldn’t remove the beast from the hull, the Calypso would be lost.
One made it through the Captain's cabin, and she watched in shock as the dark, rusted chest that the Witch had charged her with fell into the ocean. Damnit! She thought, as she darted towards the chest with a burst of speed. The charybdis noticed as well, and multiple tentacles reached for both the chest and the Captain. She dodged the larger ones with ease while severing the smaller tentacles reaching for her, but the chest was in the firm grasp of the beast. With great strength, and before the Captain could reach it, the charybdis squeezed until the chest collapsed under pressure.
An unnatural shockwave burst from where the chest once was, disorienting the Captain and the dive crew. The charybdis groaned in pain and fled, letting go of the Calypso and the shattered remains of the chest as it descended into the darker depths of the ocean. Floating where the chest once was was a diadem, ornate polished silver with an unnatural red sheen bright enough to look like it was glowing. Confused as to what had happened, and sure that this was the item housed in the chest, the Captain undid the sash around her waist and gently scooped up the diadem, wrapping it in a bundle and being careful not to touch it with her hands. She signaled to her crew to return to the ship, as she assessed the damage. Thankfully the hull held strong from the beast’s assault, and what holes the tentacles had created were above sea level.
As the Captain surfaced, she noticed that the sky had become dark with storm clouds. Odd, she thought, that I didn’t notice them earlier…
A typhoon of a voice crashed against the Calypso, waves rising and crashing as if a hurricane came and went in an instant. Startled, the Captain scanned the area for its source, finally turning her head upwards. Gigantic white eyes made from the breaks of clouds were hovering above, and the silhouette of a woman could be seen peeking over the horizon, darker against the clouds it formed from. The Captain knew who it was; Cthaat, the Sea Witch, a lesser god in this era, was here. And she was angry.
“YOU HAVE FAILED IN YOUR TASK,” the voice said, storm winds returning with every word. The Captain was stunned by fear, unable to defend herself. She did all she could to defend the item, even retrieving it from the charybdis.
“I have your item here, it's safe!” she shouted, mustering all the confidence that she had left. She held the diadem up for Cthaat to see, still safely wrapped in her sash. But Cthaat was unmoved.
“YOU HAVE LOST YOUR BOON, AND YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED OF THE CONSEQUENCES,” the voice boomed again. “YOU ARE TO BE BANISHED FROM THESE WATERS!”
The Captain lowered her head. This is it, she thought to herself. She knew that failing in this task was serious. For a Mermaid, banishment from the ocean meant death. She could sustain her life for a while from lakes, rivers, and other smaller bodies of water, but since she was ocean-born, she needed the special properties of the ocean. Without it, she would only be able to sustain herself for a few more months.
Her hand gripped tighter on the diadem, and with a heavy heart and rising confidence (or madness), she addressed the Sea Witch.
“I have failed, Great Cthaat! I accept my punishment!” The Captain’s eyes kept steady on the eyes in the clouds. She couldn’t tell if the tears forming in the corners of her eyes were because of the wind, the sun-like brightness of the Witch’s eyes, or her own sadness coming to light. But she continued. “I ask but for one thing in return!”
“YOU DARE ASK SOMETHING OF ME? AFTER YOU HAVE FAILED MY TASK?!” The air grew heavy with humidity, thunder rolling in the distance after every syllable spoken.
The Captain nodded. “Yes! I ask that you spare my crew! I am the one that you tasked! I am the one that failed!”
Cthaat, surprising even to the Captain, froze as if in contemplation. The Captain didn’t know if the subtle hum in her ears were from the Sea Witch thinking, or her own ears recovering from Cthaat’s verbal assault. The Captain looked towards the Calypso. Her crew was staring at her, some with anger in their eyes, some with sadness, but all with tears. Irysa looked upset, but poised. She knew that she would be losing her captain, her friend, but there would be no tears shed until she found privacy. Irysa has to remain strong in front of her new crew. Kai wouldn’t want it any other way.
The winds began to increase, making the waves rise and crash against the hull. The Captain looked back to the eyes in the clouds, eager to hear her next words.
“NO HARM WILL COME TO YOUR CREW,” the voice boomed. A shadow of a hand rose from the figure in the clouds, high above her head. “BUT YOUR PUNISHMENT REMAINS. NOW FLEE.”
“I love you all!” The Captain yelled at the Calypso, tears now heavy enough to fall from her eyes. “Live a full life, and prevent those who would do us harm! Follow Irysa! Continue our work!”
Every member of the crew cried out to Kai, too jumbled for her to make out, but she recognized the sentiment. They will live, that's all that matters, Kai thought. With her final command, the former Captain turned and fled, swimming as fast as she could from the Calypso. Diving under the rough crests of the storm waves, Kai felt that she had never swam faster in her entire life. The ocean did its best to toss her around, but she was too strong for interference. She had to make sure that the Calypso was safe, so her resolve kept her moving.
The diadem began to glow through its wraps, white like the eyes in the clouds. Kai kept her grip, and continued to put more distance between herself and the Calypso. As the glowing became more and more intense the diadem began to tremble, and it took Kai both hands to keep it steady, until her strength finally gave out in her arms. The trembling created pulses in the water, similar to what scared the charybdis away, but more frequent. Eventually the bright light consumed Kai’s hands, then arms, then sight....
The first thing Kai noticed when she woke up was the sound of the ocean. With her eyes closed, she felt the salt water around her feet and legs, air heavy with salt. She felt sand and ocean flora tangled in her hair, with more being brushed against her feet from the subtle waves of the tide. She listened to the gulls chattering in the distance, and the warmth she felt grew more intense as the sun began its climb in the sky.
Kai finally opened her eyes, more relaxed than confused. She was lying on a beach, though on no shoreline she recognized. Her joints and muscles were sore and stiff as she sat up, possibly due to her sprint from the Calypso, or the intense vibrations from holding the diadem, but wholly unharmed. She noticed that the ocean in front of her was littered with shipwrecks, debris covering the entire beach except for a few spots like the one she ended up in. Kai smiled softly, noticing that none of the wrecks before her resembled the Calypso, so she could safely assume that her old crew were safe.
An old bottle drifted close by, bobbing in the waves a few feet in front of Kai. Leaving her sword and diadem in the sand, she moved sluggishly towards the bottle to pick it up, now standing knee deep in this unknown ocean. The dark green bottle was still perfectly sealed, keeping its contents untouched from the elements. She turned the bottle in her hands and noticed a small, worn label affixed to the side. Osterran Port Wine, she read. She pulled the cork and took a deep drink, the wine perfectly chilled from its time in the water.
With the ocean at her front and a bottle in her hand, the stress of her mind and the tension of her muscles began to relax. She had saved her crew, and still had an ocean to sustain her.
Well…alright, Kai Reeflynn thought to herself, and she took another swig from the bottle.