The New Empire. A well-built ship if there ever was one, and the pride of its captain... who was probably still missing it dearly after it was stolen about two years ago. Right now, it was acting as a pirate ship for Pryconian break-aways; those who'd fled the colonies.

You see, everybody aboard the ship was a pirate in name before a pirate in deed. The Pryconian Empire was so vast, it had countless overseas colonies that it didn't even tend to anymore. So, naturally, many of the inhabitants began to grow bitter about being ruled by a far-away Emperor who hadn't acknowledged their existence in well over thirty years. So they broke away... stop paying taxes, started trading with the other nations. Lost the Empire a pittance, but still enough to get the tax collectors angry. So the soldiers came, tried to force the colonists back into the Empire... those who refused faced a bitter existence under the direct command of the army. So what were people to do-?

Those who didn't want to rejoin the Empire, but also didn't like the idea of living under threat of invasion (veiled as "re-assimilation") took to the seas, out of the command of the Emperor or army. They lived on ships and sailed from place to place, getting what they needed from those willing to trade. The Empire marked them as pirates and put bounties on them... but nobody ever took them. The "pirates" were peaceful. Mostly just normal people, except with a little knowledge on how to maintain a ship. Why turn them over for a few quick coins?

So that's where The New Empire came from... a ship stolen from the Pryconian Imperial Army, gutted and refitted to house almost fifty people. Men and women, and even children. Civilians, former soldiers, and those just out for a little adventure. Heck, over a period of just two years on the seas, the crew had already gained a few additions from the ports they'd landed at. More Pryconian break-aways, a dozen or so Feline crewmen, and even two individuals from the famed floating villages of the south...

The sun was high, marking the time as noon (not that it was easy to tell the time without so much as a sundial to go by), and everyone on board had retreated to their cabins to get out of the heat, except for those posted on watch or another duty that kept them outside. One such person was busy making their way up out of the ocean on a rope ladder to the front deck.

"The hole's patched!" Braye called up to whoever was there to listen, "Also, we have some barnacles on the port side!" he added, hopping over the rail onto the deck. The young Lutras shook briefly to get the bulk of the water off of his fur and patched leathers, before letting out a small belch, "That is to say we had some barnacles on the port side... yummy."

A Pryconian on deck nodded, hurrying off to tell the captain.

Another Lutras poked her head up over the edge behind him, and laughed. "When you eat like that, I'm not sure if you're an otter or a pig," she joked as she climbed over the ship's rail, water quickly running off her slick fur and onto the deck.

"Well, I didn't see you pass any up, Ari..." he grinned, picking at his teeth with the claw of his little finger, "Besides, it's better than that dried meat they've been giving us in the galley..." Braye stuck his tongue out and made a fake retching noise, "I dunno how the Pryconians can stand that stuff, but eh, I've seen some of them that don't like fish."

Ari giggled again. "Well isn't that part of why we came here?" she asked with a grin, gesturing grandiosely. "To see the world, and all the strange things we've never seen before!"

"But there's a pretty big difference between seeing new things..." Braye began, "...and seeing a meal TWICE, once before you eat it and-" he cut off, figuring it best not to ruin the good meal he'd just had. ... That, and if he went into too much detail, he'd likely get a whack 'round the head from Ari, "But hey, that 'chocolate' junk is good. Shame it looks like mud."

Ari nodded with a smile, pulling the goggles she habitually wore off of her eyes and onto her forehead. "We should see if we can get any to bring back home once we're done here," she suggested.

Braye nodded briskly. "Everyone would queue up for the stuff, no doubt about that!" he grinned widely, tongue sticking out from the corner of his mouth, "I'd probably keep it all for myself, though. Wouldn't you?" he chuckled and turned about, walking towards the doors to the lower deck, to their cabin. Unlike most members of the crew, who got their own room (or shared with direct family or their spouses), Ari and Braye had joined so much later than everyone else that they'd gotten stuck sharing. Not that they minded, of course; the room was just for sleeping in and nothing more.

Ari padded off with her friend. "Hmm... well, I'd try to save SOME for my family," she said with a wink, opening the door to the lower decks and letting him pass before going through herself.

"You liiie..." Braye smirked as they walked through the lower deck. The best part about being on a ship was that nobody seemed to care if you left huge, wet footprints in your wake. Which was good, when you spend half your time in the water around the ship and the rest of it dripping on the decks. Another good point was that most of that dripping was done in their cabin, "Home sweet home~"

"Cabin sweet cabin, at least," Ari quipped, walking into the middle of their shared room. She stretched her back out, then grabbed the bottom edge of her leather top, pulling it up over her head.

"Bwuh..." Braye blinked a few times in rapid succession, keeping his eyes set on Ari. He wasn't a pervert, nor was he being inappropriate in staring. Really, Lutras never wore much in the way of clothing, back home; it made getting through the water much more of a chore. But the Pryconians were very different- they had huge social taboos against nudity that Braye couldn't even begin to fathom. But he and Ari agreed to find something to keep themselves covered while in public, and found themselves some tanned leather outfits that didn't restrict them much in the water.

Unfortunately, staying clothed wasn't something the two Lutras were quick to adjust to... or at least Braye wasn't. But not for himself (he rarely took his own leathers off; he found putting them on then off then on then off to be a boring chore), what he didn't like was seeing Ari covered up... it didn't look natural on her. So whenever she took her leathers off-

"Ahhh, that's better," she breathed comfortably, draping the top over a nearby rack kept for just that purpose. She stretched again, then slipped her shorts down her hips. She stepped out of them, and placed them next to the top. She sat down on the edge of her bed and smiled at Braye. "So much more comfortable without those," she said with a wink. "Really makes you wonder why the Pryconians like them so much."

"Uhh... yeah." Braye coughed, shaking his head briskly, "Something about maintaining your dignity, or keeping yourself modest." he shruged, dropping onto the edge of his bed, "They don't wear 'em because they like it. They wear 'em because they have to." he chuckled and shrugged again, "Seems like a crazy rule, to me. 'We do this, so so do you' kinda deal."

Ari shrugged. "Well, whatever makes 'em happy, I guess," she figured, scooting back to lean against the wall. "I mean, their boat, their rules, right?" She shook her head. "At least these don't make swimming too hard. Can you imagine trying to swim in some of the stuff we saw people wearing at the last port?"

"Ohh, I'd never even try it in some of those clothes!" Braye grinned, trying not to laugh, "Did you see that one woman-? The one with more layers on her than hairs on her head-?" he snickered, making flailing motions with his arms and heightening his voice, "Oh, help me! Help me, please! This water's ruining my hair!"

Ari sat back and laughed at the absurdity, then ran a hand over her head. "I guess it's a good thing we don't have hair like them, huh?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Hm, I dunno..." Braye thought for a moment, rubbing the back of his head, "I've kinda wondered if I could get my fur to grow long enough to tie it back, like some of the Pryconians do. Yanno, they call it a ponytail?" he turned his head to the side, as if to give Ari a better look so she could picture the ponytail on him, "Or would it just look stupid-?"

Ari cocked her head as she considered. "Hmm... It might look good on you," she said with a smile. "But how would you get your fur long enough to do it?"

"I haven't the faintest idea, Ari. Haven't the faintest." Braye laughed and ruffled his head fur, "Until then, I suppose the natural look works best, mm? And from what I've seen, hair takes too much looking after... have you seen some of the women on the ship?"

Ari rolled her eyes and nodded. "How could someone stand just sitting there and playing with their fur for that long, every day?" she asked incredulously, running a hand through her own headfur. She shook her head and laughed. "These people are so strange...."

"It takes me only half as long to dry out!" Braye held out his arm, which still dripped occationally, "Hair, clothes, scheduled bathing... they put aside time for SO many useless things, it's a shock they get anything done at all! ... Though we better keep it quiet, eh? Illogical as the Pryconians are, this IS their ship."

"Yeah, we don't want to get thrown off the boat," she agreed with a laugh, glancing at the door as if she half-expected someone to be on the other side. "Though I don't suppose they'd get too far without their two engineers, huh?"

"They'd be at the bottom of the ocean, and we'd be using the floating debrit on a new house for the village." Braye grinned, "You've seen the quality of the wood on this ship... ohh, imagine what we could make! We could even try to add a second story to it!" that was an idea Braye had picked up after visiting a few Pryconian ports. Typically, the floating villages were single-roomed huts. But after seeing so many other designs...

Ari nodded, ideas for houses blossoming in her brain. "I can hardly wait to get back home, to tell everyone what we've seen," she said brightly. "Some of these could really change life around for our people."

"Like anyone would let us, though, eh?" Braye fell into a discussion with Ari, after that point, on a few of their building ideas and how they might make them work or make use of them. Many of their ideas were impossible (like a basement; it'd flood too easily), and were thrown out right away. By the time they'd approved or scrapped almost all of their designs, a good hour and a half had passed.

"Okay, so I guess that one wouldn't work either," Ari agreed. She glanced idly at a burning candle mounted on the wall. The wax was marked so that as it burned down, the viewer could see how long the candle had been burning. She blinked as she realized how much further down the candle was from when they'd come in. "Oh my gosh! I completely forgot; weren't we supposed to go see someone when we got back in?"

"Meh-?" Braye blinked, looking over at the candle, then back at Ari, "Uhh... oh! Crap! The captain wanted us to report on the... crap!" he quickly hopped up off of the bed, briefly looking as though he was trying to decide a direction to walk in. The reason for his panic? They were supposed to tell the captain about the condition of the hull from the outside (now patched and with a few dozen less barnicles).

"Yikes! C'mon, we'd better hurry!" she said, running out of the room and dragging Braye with her.

"Erk-!" Braye was stopped half way through a thought, and pulled through the lower deck towards the captain's cabin before he could even register what was going on. Thankfully, he came back to reality just in time to see the captain's face go into a state of... uhm... well, he seemed rather angry..?

"Miss Ari!" the old Pryconian snapped, obviously trying to avert his eyes, "Where are your clothes!?" and while he seemed to disapprove of her state... he, and every other male within eyeshot, weren't making any attempts to cover her up...

Ari's eyes widened, and she looked over herself in surprise. "Oh yikes! I'm sorry! I took them off to dry, and then we realized we were suppose to meet you, and I completely forgot!" She reddened a little in embarassment; embarassed about having forgotten, though, not at being seen naked. "I could, um, go get them, if you want...?"

"...n-no... Miss Ari..." the captain sighed, rubbing his eyes with a thumb and forefinger, "No need... just don't do it again, please?" he grumbled, gesturing to the many staring crewmen around them, "Just tell me what the progress on the hull is, and get back to..." he paused, not daring to ask WHY Ari had been naked. He dared not assume it had anything to do with her roommate...

...who was meanwhile grumbling and eyeing the surrounding males with a veiled anger.

Ari eyed the people around the room a little warily, and rather confused too, not being used to such reactions. "Well, we patched any holes that were out there, and took care of a few spots that looked like they might be problems sooner or later. This boat isn't going to start sinking anytime soon," she reported to him, feeling a little awkward under the attention of all the men.

"So you don't have to worry about any maintainance for a good while yet. The whole ship's held together like the halves of a clam shell." Braye confirmed, stepping closer to Ari in an almost protective manner. He didn't quite get the whole notion of lusting over nudity, but he understood enough to know what most of the Pryconians around him were thinking, "Now, can we go back to our cabin-?"

"Yes, yes." the captain nodded, making a shooing motion, "Go before one of the women decides to make a complaint."

"I'm sorry," Ari apologized again, blushing as she hurried out of the room.

"Don't worry, sir, I'll... make sure it doesn't happen again. I promise." Braye chuckled a little sheepishly and rubbed the back of his neck as he quickly made his exit after Ari. All the captain could do it sigh and grumble.

"If we didn't need those two so badly..."

Back in the room, Ari flopped onto the bed with a sigh. "That was so embarassing," she muttered, dropping an arm over her eyes. "We were JUST talking about it, and I still somehow manage to run out without getting dressed for them...."

"Eh, forget them." Braye shrugged as he walked in after her, finally peeling off his own top, "If they really had a problem with you walking around with no clothes on, then why were they all staring like that? If it's meant to be a bad thing to them, they'd have averted their gaze!" he dropped onto his bed with a sigh, rubbing his temples, "I will never understand these ring-tailed weirdos..."

She rolled onto her side, looking at him a little guiltily. "I just hope I didn't get us into trouble..." she murmured.

"I doubt it. The captain's a nice guy... and this is a first offense, right?" he smiled over at her, hoping to lighten the mood after what had just transpired, "And hey, if they kicked us off, we could just swim back home and wait for the next ship!"

Ari laughed lightly, glad for his attempt at humor. "Yeah, I guess you're right," she said. "I just hope this doesn't make things awkward between us and the crew. I mean, it was an honest mistake, right?"

"An honest mistake; yup!" Braye smiled, laying back on his bed and relaxing, "So don't you worry. You'll get a few funny looks from the men for a day or two, then you'll be old news!" he yawned and rested his head on his hands, eyes up at the ceiling. Even if the days were still the same as they were on day one, peoples schedules left them on odd sleeping patterns. ... That, and when one has nothing to do, they nap.

"Here's hoping," she said, yawning along with him and rolling over onto her back again. There wasn't too much to do on a ship in your off hours, and she didn't really feel like going back out of the room just yet. She yawned again, closing her eyes for a quick nap.

"Yeah..." Braye yawned again, shutting his eyes, "Here's hopin'..." and without another word, he was out like a light.

The next day, Ari emerged onto the deck with a cautious look, this time fully dressed. She looked back to Braye, who was following her, then stepped out into the sun and spray of the main deck.

Braye smiled back at her, knowing she was likely still on edge after her little... "social faux pas" yesterday. But he didn't say anything; the usual lines like "it's fine" and "nobody will remember" are usually concidered comforting, but really, they just made someone feel worse. So he was quick to pick up a totally unrelated topic:

"Hey, isn't that Dyris over there-?" he asked brightly, pointing down deck at a Pryconian leaning on the rail, looking down at the water.

Ari looked over to where Braye pointed, but was interrupted as another one of the Pyrconians walked up to her. "Hey there, cutie," he said with a smile Ari wasn't sure she liked. "I saw you yesterday."

"Oh, um... sorry," Ari said, flushing slightly. Apparently, people did remember.

"It's no problem, honey," the big man purred. "I was just wondering if I could get a... private showing?"

"Sure, I'll meet you back in my cabin later." Braye quickly stepped in between them, "I mean, how's one Lutras any different from another, riiight?" he grinned, leaning in close to the Pryconian's face. He STILL didn't totally get the whole obsession with the naked body, but he understood enough to be ticked right then and there.

"I wasn't talking to you, boy," the pirate growled, poking him hard in the chest. "I was talking to your sweet little friend here."

"H-hey," Ari stammered, putting her hand on Braye's shoulder. "We don't want any trouble...." "Right, no trouble. So if you don't mind-" Braye was cut off as the offending pirate was pulled back by the ear by a... very angry-looking woman.

"And why, dear, are you bothering these two?" she growled down his ear (which was probably already hurting from being held between two claws). Braye couldn't help but snicker. Unlike the old chiché of pirates being wandering womanizers, the fact remained that the pirates of THIS ship were mostly normal men... which meant a good few were married.

Ari blinked in surprise at the sudden reprieve as her harasser was suddenly yanked away. She stared at the woman who'd taken the pirate by the ear.

"Aaaaow!! All right, all right! I'll leave 'em alone!" he growled. "Just get off me, you harpy!"

"Harpy!?" the woman snapped at him, pulling him away by the ear, "You're going to regret that-!"

"Uhh..." Braye blinked, watching the Pryconians go, "Uhm... well... that was a well-timed intenvention, eh?" he chuckled sheepishly.

"Um... yeah..." Ari replied hesitantly. "...Maybe we ought to just go back into our room." She looked around warily, half-expecting more trouble to start.

"I don't feel like sitting around any more, today, though..." Braye stopped her with a smile, pushing Ari towards the railing of the ship, "So let's have a little fun, eh? OUR kind of fun!" he grinned wide and, with a quick motion of his arm, pelted Ari in the back with a large ball of water from off the soaked deck!

"Wah!" she exclaimed as she was suddenly splashed. She turned around with a devious grin, and a ball of seawater rose up behind her. With a wave of her arm, it flew past her, soaking Braye in a huge splash.

"Wahey! There we go!" Braye grinned, lining himself up, "Time for some FUN!" and with that, he ran right at her and TACKLED her over the edge and down into the water below them!

Ari squeaked as she was pushed over the edge, and at the sudden change as they splashed into the water. As the bubbles cleared from her vision, she looked at Braye's grinning face, and laughed with him, squirming out of his grip and pushing him deeper into the water.

Braye let go of her and started swimming down deeper. On deck they were like every other member of the crew, but in the water? A whole three-dimentional world that they were in total control of... or would be, were it not for the need to come up for air every thirty minutes or so.

As a small school of fish passed down below them, Braye turned himself and dashed past the underside of the ship.

Ari grinned and swam after her friend, practically flying through the water. This is what life was really about for an otter. Not sitting on a wooden ship waiting for someone to do something, but splashing around in the water with your best friend!

The ocean was their world, really. Before they joined the ship, Braye and Ari were from one of the floating villages around the islands, named by the Pryconians as, the Lutras Islands. Their village, like all the others, was nameless, but they could tell it from any other without any given effort. But all the village was... was a few little floating huts they slept in and traded upon. Everything else was done in and on the water. They were born there, it's where unions were made, and it's where they would one day die.

To the Lutras, the world was in reverse. The ocean was their home, and the land was infathomable.

Ari zipped forward, plowing into Braye's back and sending both of them tumbling in a ball of fur and bubbles.

Braye had the breath knocked out of him by the tackle (or at least five minutes of breath), and rolled with Ari for several feet before pushing off of her and further down. With a grin, he swung his arm up and blasted her with a slip current of water!

A laugh puffed out of her as she was sent spinning past Braye again by the stream of water he'd hit her with, and she struggled to figure out which way was up again. As she stopped spinning, she grinned at Braye and returned fire, spinning him in a small vortex current.

Braye was spun- and pretty dang quickly -but didn't put up any type of fight. This was how they'd played together since they were young and, while there were those that would find it intolerable, to the two of them is was the most fun they ever got!

Ari spent some more breath on a hearty laugh, then let him go as she spotted something. She swam up to the bottom of the boat, and pulled off a barnacle they'd missed the other day. She tossed the snack over at her lazily spinning friend.

Braye finally stopped spiralling, upside-down and dizzy, just in time for the delicious shellfish (in their opinion, anyway) to splat him in the face, then float off down to the ocean floor. All he could do was look confused over the slimy feeling on his face.

Ari laughed again, swimming over to Braye. She flipped him right-side-up again and wiped the slime off this face.

Braye shook himself off and gestured upwards, before rising to the surface and letting loose a long breath.

Ari popped up beside him, gasping and taking a deep breath. "Thinks," she said. "I needed that."

"Ohh, I know you did." Braye smiled, drifting backwards in a circle around Ari. He was glad to have gotten her mind off of the... fashion malfunction, and given her something to enjoy. It'd been too long since they'd just gone swimming for the sake of it.

Ari smiled and swam forward, suddenly grabbing Braye in a hug. "Thanks," she repeated.

"You're welcome." he smiled and hugged her back, "Do anything for a friend, and they'll do anything for you. Am I right?" he chuckled.

Ari laughed again. "Yup, that's the deal!" she replied, ruffling his headfur.

"So, you wanna keep going?" Braye asked with a smirk, "Ooor, do we try and make sure the ship doesn't leave without us?" he continued, turning Ari to face the ever-shrinking rear of the New Empire as it continued to sail onwards without them.

Ari blinked at the retreating ship. "How 'bout a race?" she suggested, before diving into the water to swim faster.

"H-hey!" Braye blinked, diving down under after Ari, and swimming at full-speed towards the ship! He tried to keep pace with her, but unfortunately, Ari was on-par with him and already had the lead. Second place was as good as his... unless... he tried to put some water currents behind him to get close, and once he thought he had the range for it, tried to but a current AGAINST his opponent!

Not expecting the move, Ari was quickly buffeted backward. She gave Braye a friendly glare and swam after him as quickly as she could.

Braye stuck his tongue out at Ari, grinning happily as he sped towards the ship. He was just feet from the wood... inches... it was at his fingertips, and-!

Using the same trick Braye had, Ari sent a downward current into his path, sending him tumbling under the ship as she triumphantly slapped the side us the hull.

Braye vanished under the ship in a cloud of bubbles, obviously "shouting" over his loss by the hands of a tactic he should have foreseen from the start... but it didn't matter. Once he'd located the rope ladder on his side of the ship, Braye began to climb his way up and onto deck, expecting to see Ari's grinning face the moment he got there.

Ari chuckled at him, standing next to the rope in a pool of seawater. "Good race," she said, beaming brightly.

"Yeah, good race, right." Braye eyed her with a mock angry look, shaking himself off, "Maybe next time we won't cheat our tails off just to call ourselves the winner, hm?" he smirked and stuck out his tongue.

Ari chuckled. "Oh come on, you know you had a good time," she said with a wink, hopping up to sit on the deck rail.

"Maybe I did, maybe I didn't?" Braye kept the mock angry thing going as long as he could. He wasn't given much of a chance, though.

"Hey! You two!" one of the Feline crew members ran up to them. He seemed to be the only other person out on deck right then, "Where did you vanish to without telling anyone? The captain just gave the order; we're done skimming the Menes coast, and heading out west into the open sea." he gestured for Ari to get down off of the rail, "The lookout spotted heavy fog on the horizon, and if anybody goes overboard, we'd never find them. He wants everyone except essential officers inside."

Ari hopped off the rail. "All right, we'll head back to our room," she said. "Sorry we missed the order, we were, um, checking out things underwater. You know, making sure our fixes were holding."

"Whatever you say." the Feline- a Cheetah -grumbled, "I'm not even meant to be out here, I was ordered to get you two inside!" he snipped, ushering Ari and Braye into the ship, "Now I can go sleep... oh, and food's on early in the galley, since we're pulling people off deck. I'd go grab some now, if I were you." he finished, vanishing down the hallway.

"Food sound good-?" Braye looked at Ari, ears perked.

Ari nodded. "Yeah, I could certainly go for a meal," she said, hurrying to the door that led to the below-decks areas. "After you!" the otter girl said, swinging the door open for her friend.

"Oh, so polite of you." Braye chuckled and hopped through the door, navigating his way through the maze of halls. The New Empire was originally an exploration ship; it was built to have cabins for the crewmen, a large galley to feed them, and the rest were cargo holds, map rooms and the like... with all the different rooms, it was hard to find a specific one unless you knew the layout intimately.

Ari dutifully followed Braye through the ship. She'd never quite gotten the layout of the ship down, except for the path to their room. Her sense of direction in the water was excellent, but less so on land.

They soon arrived at the mess hall, which was, despite the fact that nobody had much else to do, mostly quiet. Early opening meant people could get food earlier... but it was so out of the routine, nobody was hungry.

"Well, maybe we'll get the GOOD slop this time around!" Braye jokes, walking up to the Pryconian woman manning the kitchen. Before her were two piles of bowls, and a huge steaming pot of... something that everyone just assumed was soup, "Afternoon, Rheia." Braye forced a smile.

"Ah, there you are again, getting water all over my nice clean floor." the woman replied... though whether or not she was serious was a question nobody dared answer. The mess hall wasn't the cleanest place on the ship by far.

"Hello again, Rheia," Ari said, smiling pleasantly. "Could we have two bowls please?"

"Whatever you want, sweetie." she smiled, dishing out two bowls of 'the soup' for Ari and Braye. It looked like brown water with meat floating in it... at least to Braye, at any rate.

"Mm... lovely." Braye lied, taking his bowl, "Thanks, Rheia." he finished, turning and walking away to a table.

"Thank you!" Ari chirped, sitting down at a table next to Braye. She took a sip of the soup. "Ahh, that's better," she said. "Barnacles are a good snack, but they don't last very long, do they?"

"Ech... I still prefer fish to this stuff." Braye shrugged, taking a forced gulp of the soup, "Buargh... why do Pryconians eat those "pig" things, anyway? They look, smell and taste like sh- HI, Rheia!" he cut off as said Pryconian woman walked past to grab a few unattended empty bowls.

Ari gave Braye a light whap on the wrist, smiling at the cook. The cook threw him a Look, but went on her way. Ari rolled her eyes and said, "I guess different cultures have different things they like."

"Mm... I tried some fruit at the last port, too." Braye continued, "Very sweet stuff; I'd love to get some. And that chocolate stuff! And the spices they put on their fish..." he seemed to drool at that point, "Were it not for the meat, I'd want to live in a Pryconian town once we're done on this ship!"

Ari shook her head with a laugh. "Now there's a thought," she said. "Maybe we can figure out a good way to grow some of those fruits on our villages!" Her mouth watered at the thought, and she slurped up some more soup.

"Yeah... some townsmen grew plants in pots, and fruits come from plants, so..." he sunk into quiet mutterings as he began to put together more and more plans for when they returned back to their village... in short? Indoor orchards.

Ari took another slurp of soup, happy to have set more thinkings into motion. Once they got back, their village would never be the same...

In the time it took him to plan and scheme, Braye had finished off his soup with no more complaints (thank goodness). Once the last drop vanished past his lips, it was settled.

"...and we'll use a grated floor and open roof, and let the rain do the watering!"

"Sounds like you've got that all planned out then," Ari said with a smile, having finished off her own soup. She looked over their empty bowls. "So, should we go back to our room to relax, or look for something else to do indoors?"

"Whatever you want to do, I'm game." Braye told her, licking the last few drops of soup from his fingers... suddenly realising how bad it had tasted, "Eurgh! Just get me back to my room so I can sleep off this unholy abomination against food.

Ari laughed weakly, hoping that Rheia wasn't close enough to hear. "Okay, back to the room it is," she said, ushering him out of his chair and through the door.

Braye hopped up out of his chair and started walking, knowing that if he stayed any longer he'd be ricking a soup ladel somewhere very uncomfortable.

"Not my fault the food's so bad..." and he exited the room with a bowl barely missing the back of his head!

"Braye!" she scolded lightly, pushing him out the door. "Are you trying to get us kicked off the ship?"

"Heck no! I just don't like lying!" Braye snickered, walking towards their cabin with a smug grin on his face, "And if enough people complain, maybe they'll change the cook? Or the food? Or both!"

She slapped him lightly on the shoulder, but couldn't help smiling too. "Just try not to make her mad at you. She COULD choose all the worst bits when you show up," she warned.

"...true..." Braye gulped, ears drooping, "Oh... well, isn't that just great?" he slapped his forehead and grumbled all the way up until they got to their room, "Idiot, idiot, idiot..." he sighed and opened the door, walking in and dropping face-first onto the bed.

"I'm sure it'll be okay," Ari said, sympathetically patting his shoulder. "After all, nobody will remember, right?"

"...nice, using my own word's." Braye couldn't help but laugh a little, "Okay, this is a forgiving ship. It'll be fine." he smiled and rolled over, getting comfortable on his bed, "I mean, we're going out into the open ocean now, right-? We need to have a sane ship. And at least the captain isn't running us like slaves..."

Ari nodded with a smile. "Right!" she chirped. "They DO need us to keep the ship floating. And I guess we get a little leeway for being the 'crazy foreigners'."

"Righto!" he grinned, hunkering down to sleep, "So let's just sleep. I wanna do our crazy foreigner thing and swim, and we can't do that until this fog passes."

Ari smiled, hopping over to her own bunk. "Might as well," she said. "At least we have the gentle rocking of the ship to lull us to sleep."

"Yeah... kinda reminds you of home, eh?" Braye hummed happily, yawning and dropping off to sleep before he could wait for a reply.

"Yeah..." Ari murmured with a yawn. She stretched out on her bed, then slipped off to sleep as well.

Ari suddenly snapped awake. It wasn't her usual drifting, but straight from asleep to awake. "...Something's wrong," she whispered to herself, then stood up. She perked her ears, but the wooden walls were too thick to hear much more than the thump of footsteps.

She walked over to Braye's bed and shook him. "Braye, wake up."

"Mreh..." he rolled over and looked wearily up at Ari, yawning wide, "Mm, what? Did we clear the fog already, or is Rheia here to feed me my own lung?" he grumbled. Braye was a usually bright and happy person, but he was NOT a morning person.

She shook her head, sitting him up. "Something's wrong," she said again. "I don't know what's going on, but we need to be out there, if someone needs help."

"You said that before, back home... turned out the neighbours were having a good time in the water under your hut, remember?" Braye got up off of his bed and stretched, his back popping, "But okay, let's see what's up." he yawned, opening the door of their cabin. The hall outside was empty, as could be predicted.

Ari looked down the hallway. "Come on, let's see what's going on," she said, heading toward the door to the upper deck; that was where people were more likely to be.

"Look, why can't we just go back to sl-" Braye stopped as Ari started running down the hall towards the front deck, "Fine, fine! Just... gah!" he ran after her, trying to rub the sleep out of his eyes as he went. There went his good night's sleep...

Ari looked around the hall. "Where is everyone..." she murmured to herself, then took off down a side-hallway.

Braye caught up with her, panting. "Where are we going?" he asked.

"The one place I know there'll be people," she said as they reached another junction. "I think it was this way... Come on!" She took a quick right, practically running down the hallway. Something about this situation was hitting every nerve she had in the wrong way.

She pulled to a stop in front of a familiar door and swung it open, then froze at what she saw. Braye skidded up behind her, and looked over her shoulder in astonishment.

The mess hall was in shambles. The room was completely devoid of life. Chairs were tipped over, tables were overturned, and the room was littered with spilled bowls and cutlery. Even Rheia's station was empty, her tureen laying sideways and the stew pooling on the floor. "What... what's going on?" Ari gasped.

"...did we make port somewhere? Or did another ship board us?" Braye gulped, looking around. There was absolutely no sign of a single living soul... no movement, no so- "Wait." Braye's earas twitched, and he looked out the way they'd come in, at one of the doors in the hall, "...that's the captain's study... I can hear someone."

Ari looked at Braye, then padded over to the door. She listened at it, then slowly opened the door.

The inside of the room was the same as everywhere else. The lighting had run out (or been knocked out) and what the two Lutras could see was an absolute mess. The captain's desk was knocked over, the bookshelves (while bolted to the walls) had been knocked clean of books and documents, and the window was smashed open, letting an icy chill in from the windy conditions outside.

"I guess I was wrong... come on, let's g-" Braye fell silent as he heard it again. A faint thud against the floor, then something moved behind the upturned desk, "...Captain?" Braye muttered, edging over with Ari in tow.

A silhouette rose up from the behind the desk. "C-captain?" Ari asked, taking a step back when the shadow kept rising past six feet. She and Braye took another subconscious step back into the hallway as the shadow moved closer. "Braye..." she breathed.

As whatever it was approached them, it came into the light from the hallway, and Ari gasped. It... it looked like something from her darkest nightmares! The thing in front of them was huge.... It's tightly-muscled body was covered in hard scales, and a huge muscular tail writhed where its legs should have been. Its head... it looked like a sea serpent, but....

"Braye... w...what is it?" she squeaked, clinging to his arm.

"I... I dunno..." Braye gulped, stumbling back a step as the beast rose up on its tail, it's head almost touching the seven and a half foot ceiling. It's flat, arrow-shaped head turned to face the two of them... it's huge form blocked the light from the window and it seemed to turn black and difficult to focus on as light struggled to show around its silouette. In that moment, after it has been so clear, Braye could make out no details except for its size, "W-what's it doing here!?"

Ari just stared at the monstrous thing in front of them. She'd never been so terrified in her life. The scaled thing moved... slithered closer to them, coming back into view. It opened its mouth and growled at them, and Ari spotted something in its teeth. It looked like... a patch of grey fur, some meat still hanging to it, and she let out a strangled squeak.

Braye couldn't force another word out of his mouth. It took all his energy just to snap back to attention, grab Ari's wrist, and pull the both of them out of the room! He tried as best he could to run as fast as possible without tripping over himself or something else, towards the doors to the front deck. Once they were able to leap into the water, they'd be safe from absolutely anything short of another Lutras! And he kept that thought in his mind as the door's drew closer... he didn't know if the huge beast from the captain's study was following them, but that wouldn't have mattered. He just kept running, arm out, ready to swing those doors open-!

Ari stumbled along behind Braye, trying to keep up, but still feeling half-frozen with sheer terror. Did that thing... eat the captain? She shook her head, trying to keep her balance. She looked up as she heard a door slam open, and her eyes widened for a split second, seeing another of the serpentine monstrosities, before everything went black.