It was a calm, cool day at sea; unusual for the summertime. The winds were favorable that day, and the waves rolled lazily in the afternoon sun, rocking the ship in a light, smooth motion as it sailed onward towards the horizon. All around was nothing but blue, blue, and more blue...
The crew of Somnium Lunae struggled to keep themselves busy on deck. Several men sat near the galley, patching the sails that had been torn from their last battle, while others grabbed their fishing nets and dropped the anchor. It wasn't much, but at least they found something useful to do. The supply of food was running a little short as of recently, so they tossed the nets in and watched the water carefully, waiting for the shadow of a school of fish or something that could hold them until they hit the next town.
As everyone was either working intently or lazing about sleeping, no one seemed to care that someone was rolling a barrel or two of good rum up from the storage room, looking for a good drink to pass the time.
"Oi, Demyx! Quit lazing around over there and help us crack these beauties open!"
A young man with dirty blonde hair looked up from his place leaning over the ship. At age 22, he was probably the youngest and most unlikely-looking first mate ever to sail on a pirate ship. But what he lacked in years and wisdom, he made up for in spirit, keeping the crew's morale high when times were rough and keeping them in line when the captain was occupied.
He groaned as he sat up, rubbing his eyes to get the sleep out and looking irritably at the older blonde leaning on the barrel behind him.
"Geez, Luxord, you know we're not supposed to get plastered this early in the day!"
He laughed heartily. "Says the man sleep on his ass up on deck. Come on, Zexion hasn't seen a single damn thing anywhere all day! If danger shows up, I can take her on just as well! Now come over here and get me a drink, man! It's not everyday the seas are calm enough to walk on!"
Demyx sighed, grinning as he got up and stretched. "Oh fine...just let me go see if the captain wants some too..."
"Don't take long!"
The blonde first mate strode across the long deck, slow and sure as he breathed in the salty sea air. The rest of the crew was scattered about the deck, sleeping just as he had been. He almost wished there was a cargo ship to take, or even another pirate ship to attack. The calm was all well and good, for a while, but too much of it led to boredom and laziness, and, on a ship on the run constantly in the middle of the ocean, that was never a good thing.
He'd heard a few stories about mutinies spreading like plagues around the pirate towns. Greed and unrest among the crew members could cause a nasty scuffle; even some of the better captains he'd met in the last few years had been left to die at sea while their crews fought amongst themselves and eventually killed each other with battles and starvation. It was a shame, really, but at least there was less competition when taking down merchant ships.
But this epidemic, disturbing as it was, didn't seem to plague this crew, and everyone knew that a lot of it had to do with their captain. He kept things going, so there was never nothing to do for very long...
The blonde reached the cabin and pulled the door open instantly. Most men would have knocked out of respect for the man's privacy, but the captain was his best friend, and unless there was a need for it, he didn't like being overly formal.
"Axel? You're not still pouring over those old maps, are you? Come outside! It's a gorgeous day, and we're cracking open some good rum to pass the time!"
The man looked up from the sheets and maps littering his desk, raising a small red eyebrow as his first mate approached, as hyper as usual.
"Isn't it a little early for you all to be going it at, Dem? I'm not made of munny, you know..."
Demyx slung his arm over the captain's shoulder, smiling.
"We're not gonna drink it all! Just enough for Luxord to get good and crazy! You know he's funny as hell when he's drunk, and all we really need is some good entertainment! There's nothing going on up top..."
Axel smirked. It was true; the old blonde was an interesting drunk. He had the reputation of being a fierce gambler, and somehow, he always seemed to play better when he was hammered. He'd even get up on the tables when he won to dance and sing, or sometimes he'd do that at dinner too, if he was 'in the mood...'
Sure, he looked like a damned fool, but the whole crew loved to watch him make an ass of himself.
"I guess that's fine. Maybe I'll come out later to see it, when he's had enough. Right now, I have to finish this quickly..." He looked back down at his desk and began making marks across the map.
Demyx watched him curiously for a minute. He leaned over and squinted, unable to make sense of the weird markings.
"What'cha been doing in here all this time?"
The redhead didn't look up; he just kept scribbling. "I'm charting the course we'll be taking for the next month or so. There a major shipping route between Celais and Daone...it would take us about two or three weeks to get close enough. But a lot of large cargo ships pass through their on their way to the other colonies, and that's what we're going after."
His first mate blinked. "But isn't the security over there pretty tight? How are we going to take a ship of that size and get away without being caught?"
Axel smirked again, patting him on the shoulder. "You just leave that little detail to me. We just need to be patient and pull this off exactly right, and we'll have enough money and supplies to last us a while!"
Demyx laughed. He didn't think patience was Axel's style, really, but he was always chalk full of good ideas. He was considered a little young to be a captain at the age of 25, but he'd inherited the ship from the previous captain, Saix, and the wise old sea dog hadn't picked him for nothing. He was a little eccentric sometimes, but he was cunning, strong, and loyal; a man that all of the crew had come to know and respect.
Suddenly, the door to the cabin burst open, and in ran Zexion, looking shocked and almost out of breath. Axel jumped to his feet and he and Demyx ran to the grey-haired man's side instantly, each putting a hand on his shoulder to steady him.
"What's wrong, Zexion?"
He took in a few more breaths before looking up, meeting Axel's gaze.
"Captain, you need to come up on deck! The fishermen-!"
"Zexion, you're supposed to be on lookout!" The captain pinched the bridge of his nose and massaged the area furiously. "If we get spotted now, we'll never make it to my route on time. And what do I care about some fish?"
The man shook his head. "No, really, Captain! Everyone's down there gawking at it, and I mean everyone! It's the strangest thing I've ever seen!"
Axel sighed. His chief lookout was usually a calm, reserved man who kept to himself and his books religiously. There had to be something interesting going on if he was this riled up.
"Alright, show me where it is."
The man turned and raced back out the door, leading the captain and his first mate towards the large crowd forming on the lower part of the deck.
The entire crew was crowded around on the deck, whispering and staring intently at the net that hung slightly above their heads. As Axel came closer, he could hear low murmurs from some of them.
"Whatever it is, it's huge!"
Finally reaching the back of the group, he cleared his throat, and the crew turned to look at him, standing at full attention.
"Alright, you lazy swine! What're you gawking at now?"
No one answered his question, still not quite sure if what they were seeing was real, but they moved aside to allow him through, with Demyx right at his heels. Before him was the net with a large pile of fish hanging a little up off the deck, choking out their dying breaths in the harsh sunlight. But it wasn't the fish that caught his attention.
Big, fierce, and amazingly blue eyes glared out at him from the net, and he could see something thrashing around in side, struggling in the ropes that held it up. It was a little hard to tell exactly what it was from where he stood, but the sudden flash of a large, shimmering tail fin peaked his curiosity.
And the appendages clawing at the net looked suspiciously like fingers...
"Someone get over here and cut the net down!"
The man closest to Axel nodded and hurriedly began loosening the knots that held the net suspended above them. After a minute or so, he finally got them free, and the entire thing crashed down and on to the deck, spilling flopping fish and seaweed everywhere. Axel and the other men gaped when the thing they'd been staring at was now completely visible.
It looked human, at least from the waist up. He looked to be a pale boy, with golden blonde hair that spiked up in various directions on his head. His torso was short and a little thin, but the finely toned muscles on his chest and arms were unmistakable. His lower half consisted of a long, scaly fishtail that matched the color of his eyes perfectly.
As he quietly heaved and gasped, struggling to prop his upper body up on shaking arms, those eyes were locked on Axel, glaring as if he were looking at the devil himself.
"Good God..." One of the men whispered. "So the tales are true."
Axel took a minute to school his expression, the surprise disappearing in favor of smug curiosity. Demyx stood beside him, looking at the fish-boy curiously.
"Never seen a fish like that before...Do ya think we can eat it?"
The boy hissed quietly, slapping his tail harder against the deck. It was as if he understood their speech, and was daring Demyx to try it.
"Demyx, Demyx...That's no way to treat a guest."
Axel strode forward until he was right in front of the boy, kneeling down to be at eye level with him. He smirked and patted the boy's head softly. It felt soft, just like any human's hair. "Hello there, lad. I am Axel Sinclair, Captain of Somnium Lunae."
The boy said nothing, still glaring him down and panting slightly, probably from not being in the water. Or so Axel guessed. The boy took a swipe at the hand patting his head, but the redhead was quicker, pulling it back and laughing as the blonde's eyes narrowed further.
"Nice try. Heh... Quite a lively one, aren't you?" Leaning closer, he asked, "What's your name?"
The blonde said nothing, keeping defiantly silent. Then, without warning, he lunged forward and spat hard in Axel's face.
The redhead jerked back suddenly, scowling.
"Why you little brat!" One of the burlier crew members with long, braided black hair grabbed the boy roughly under his arms, lifting him up to his chest. The blonde began hissing again, thrashing in the man's arms, and his tail struck out hard and erratically, leaving bruises in its wake.
"Xaldin, be careful!" Another crewman shouted, coming up beside him to help. He grabbed the hard, scaly fish tail and held it still, forcing the boy to hang slightly horizontally. "Got you!"
Axel stood up and wiped the spit from his eye, growling a little. If he didn't know the rarity and worth of a find like this, he'd have been tempted to gut the little brat.
But he stayed his hand and slowly calmed down. There was no reason to get violent...
His cocky smirk soon returned, and he casually strode over to the thrashing boy, who seemed to be exhausting himself. Axel was sure he wouldn't be fighting back much longer.
The fight never diminished in his eyes though, and they locked back on Axel angrily as the man got up close.
The redhead reached out and grabbed the boy's chin roughly. He ignored the accompanying hiss and forced the boy to look him in the eyes.
"That wasn't very polite, now was it? Guests on my ship had best behave if they don't want to end up on the menu...got that?"
There was no reply but that fierce glare, but something told Axel that the boy could indeed understand him.
He decided then to have a bit of fun with him.
"Good. Now, maybe we can get a long a little better, eh? It's not everyday I have such an interesting guest.
I didn't know that the merpeople of legend really existed...but I suppose you're not so legendary after all, if you get yourself caught in a slow-moving fishing net in the middle of the ocean."
The crew sniggered as the struggling blonde blushed furiously. He seemed livid, but he didn't speak out against his treatment or the captain's words. Did that mean that he couldn't speak, or that he was simply refusing to?
"What's wrong, kid?" he asked, chuckling and patting the blond's cheek. The boy flinched and tried to pull back, but Axel didn't let him get far. "Shark got your tongue?"
Demyx stepped forward, still laughing. "What are you gonna do with it, Axel?"
"I say you sell it at port." Luxord chimed in, placing a hand on his hip. "Who wouldn't pay a fortune for something this rare?"
The boy shook his head vigorously as he continued to thrash. But for a split second, his face held a look of absolute terror; both knowing and unknowing about what was to happen to him.
In that sliver of a moment, all Axel could see was a frightened child. A boy adrift in a strange world, left to the whim of the vicious, forceful tide.
Axel's smirk never wavered, but his eyes softened a little. In some place deep in is heart, he felt a bit of pity stirring for this thing he'd caught. Whether it was some enchantment, or the child really was at his complete mercy, he decided to relent for now.
The captain bent down and cupped the boy's chin more gently this time, ignoring the flinch. Axel tilted it slightly to the side and looked over him appraisingly, making a show for the crew as if he were examining a purebred dog. The redhead hummed softly as he did so, as if lost in thought, but the only thing he was lost in were those lovely eyes...
But he needn't tell a soul about that.
"I think I'll keep him as my pet for now. I can always sell him later." He pinched the blonde's cheek affectionately. "No sense in losing something so rare and pretty this soon."
The boy squirmed at that, but his arms were held firmly, completely useless to him.
Axel turned back to the crew and began walking across the deck. He snapped his fingers casually.
"Bring him to my cabin and get him nice and settled."