Success at Any Cost

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Writers Rift


This so far has been my favorite chapter to write, I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

Chapter 9 (v.1) - Waking Up

Submitted: September 20, 2017

Reads: 53

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Submitted: September 20, 2017

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Brooke woke up to water dripping down on her face, under her was a crumpled sheet resting against stone. She was sweaty and cold wearing nothing more than ill fitting breeches with a massive shirt that was once white and now was a mess of stains and dirt. Her little room was illuminated by light coming in from a corridor that opened up to the Fesipt harbor. Behind her was a dark corridor that echoed with the sounds of rushing water.

 

As she stood up to stretch her back she hit her head on the stone ceiling. It was marked with childish carvings she brushed her hand against one stick figure with scraggly hair twice the size of it’s head. It felt like forever since she had seen those drawings. Unfortunately for her the ceiling was so low that she had to bend her back uncomfortably if she wanted to stand up. Slowly her eyes adjusted to the light, they brightened at the sight of two other bed rolls each with bundles significantly smaller than Brooke curled up under blankets.


She dove down to shake them awake, it felt like it had been ages from when she saw them last but she knew it had only been a single night. She’d never felt so happy, she shook bundle closest to her “Ruby wake up, it's morning we have time to play before the boats come in!” she stretched to push on the other bundle “Pace if you wake up now we’ll get the first pick of the cargo when they come in, think of all the fishing boats.” She took a breath in and pulled the blanket up “We could even get new clot-” she paused when she realized no one was under the blanket just an empty bed roll.

 

She pulled Ruby’s blanket off too and found nothing. “Ruby, Pace, I don’t know how you played this trick but it’s not funny come here right now” She looked around and got angry “I swear if you don’t show yourself right now I’ll” Tears welled up in her eyes “Please come back, I don’t mean it I will always love you.” She was speaking through sobs now “I love you both so much. You two are my world, I would never try to hurt you I am your” She screamed out in pain as a sudden agony ripped into her chest, she couldn’t breathe gripping her chest she fell down to her knees looking out at the harbor. She could barely see through the tears in her eyes as a figured blocked out the light.

 

It was massive, it’s shoulders touched both wall of the tunnel. It’s back was hunched but it still scraped along the ceiling. Brooke couldn’t make out many details about it, save for its size and its eternally staring eye. It looked like it was made of diamond or simply glass. The creature marched towards her but she couldn’t move. Her face was locked in a silent scream as the pain in her chest grew deeper choking more and more air away.  

 

Every voice in her mind was screaming for her to run but she couldn’t find it in herself to get up and charge for the blackness behind her. As the creature it blocked off even more light from the entrance to the tunnel. Her eyes darted from side to side hope to maybe find piper ready to tackle her and break her from her paralysis. But there was no one to help her she was alone. The creature got not more than three paces from her face. In the dark she could only somewhat make out the creatures form. It’s head was made from human skin twisted over a wolf’s skull while its body was a mass of brown fur running all the way up the end of it’s neck. Its hand were sharp human hands shaped like huge claws, while it’s legs were thin and bent backwards like a deer.

 

Her vision was getting black from lack of oxygen as the creature stretched out a hand towards her chest. A bloody hole opened on the right side at the epicenter of her pain. The stretched face licked it’s lips and opened its jaws to reveal far too many teeth in it’s mouth. As the claw inched closer and closer the hole grew wider and wider. Her tunnel vision had grown so intense she could only make out the image of its glassy false eye.

 

She accepted her fate closing her eyes, she said goodbye to everyone she's ever truly cared about “Ruby, Pace, P-”

 

“Brooke!”

 

“Piper?” Her eyes shot open and she felt arms wrap around from behind. Without any warning she was pulled away from the creature into the blackness of the corridor. The sound of crashing waves overtook her senses.

 

Brooke awoke sweaty and cold blankets were stuck to her legs like a second layer of skin. She was wearing nothing more than a bandage around her chest and small white shorts. She tried to move but when she looked down a pale set of arms were wrapped around her arms and chest. She felt a head pressed onto her shoulder. “Piper? Is that you?”

 

“It’s me Brooke. You’re safe! You just started screaming and shaking I didn’t know what to do” There was a catch in Piper’s voice as she held her close. Slowly Brooke’s breathing relaxed and Piper released her grip.

 

Brooke took one second and spun around and brought Piper into an even tighter hug “You saved me, I don’t know how but…” As Piper’s warmth touched her sweat soaked skin she lost the energy to speak and fell limp in their embrace.

 

Piper rubbed her hand against Brooke’s back, as she pressed into her shoulder and smiled. “We have to stop meeting like this, people will think you just hurt yourself to talk to me.” Piper said through laughs.

 

Brooke started to laugh too but it gave way to a coughing fit. She pulled back swallowed her fit back down. “How did I survive… this” She pointed to her chest wound”

 

Piper put her hand up to Brooke’s face “Why don’t you go back to sleep I’ll explain when you’re better.”

 

She held Piper’s hand in hers and very softly whispered “I won’t be better until you tell me why I’m alive.” She smiled and looked straight into her eyes. “Please.” She pleaded.

 

“Alright, this won’t sound right so bear with me.”

 

“Trust me I’m pretty open minded” She brushed a loose strand of hair from piper’s face and smiled again.

 

“Ever since I could remember I’ve been strange. If I wanted to I could force myself through things, or I could let things pass through me like I was air. But it hurts, it hurts so bad. I feel like I’ve been shoved through thousands of tiny little holes only to come back together on the other side. So when I saw that you were dying I figured the best plan was to go inside and open up your lungs.”

 

Brooke was left silent for about a solid minute she would would open her mouth but then she would choke back whatever she was about to say until finally settling on “But that hurt, didn’t it?”

 

Her eyes sank for a second “Yes, yes it did. But I didn’t want to let you die. What’s a minute or twenty of pain to etern-”

 

Brooke pulled in very quickly for a kiss and silenced Piper. Brooke pulled back while Piper was left blinking. “I’m sorry.” She said sheepishly, before shifting to a smile “That is how you thank your heroes isn’t it?”

 

Piper took her hand pressed it into hers. “Brooke I should tell-” Before she could finish the door to the rest of the ship opened to reveal the Captain and doctor Marcy. Brooke’s hand fell limply out of Piper’s.

 

The captain smiled and marched into the room “I had suspected you had finally woken up when the young Ms Smythe failed to return to us. So ms Gains how are you feeling?”

 

“Better than most given the circumstances.” She glanced at Piper and offered a little smirk.

 

Doctor Marcy was smiling from ear to ear “I’m very impressed not only have you survived having your lung collapse but you survived being unconscious for nearly a full week without an apparent loss of brain function. Of course I’ll have to run you through some tests before we can say inconclusively whether or not you're ready to return to service.”

 

Maccavern held a hand up in front of Marcy “The girl’s only just come to Marcy the tests can wait. Instead I believe thanks are in order.” The captain produced two pouches, she handed one to Brooke and the other to Piper. Since there isn’t really a medal for suppressing a mutiny, consider this your unofficial medal of exceptional service. Starling has no use of these now anyway.”

 

Brooke opened the bag inside were at least five hundred gold coins stamped with sailing ship, her entire career earned her no more than a hundred naval coins. Brooke could barely breath, she was half worried the shock had caused her lung to collapse again. Yet again it was piper who broke her from this spell. As a cook's mate she only made a fraction of Brooke’s salary, rather than reacting with the same stoic shock that held Brooke silent she leapt to her feet and proceeded to stamp her feet on the floor in time to music that only she was hearing. The entire time she was shouting out in Deer speak the language, of the north.

 

Without breaking stride she announced. “I joined the navy dodge life as a miner’s wife. I never thought I get fucking rich! Brooke Gains you’re my fucking lucky charm!”

 

Seeing piper so happy made brooke come back to reality and laugh with her. She started to get up weakly but her legs could only do so much since they had been out of use for so long. Seeing she was far from steady Piper and the captain got underneath her arms to kept her standing. “Don’t stop dancing on my account I was on my way to joining you.”

 

“I understand that, but we just got you back, don’t need to go breaking yourself again.” Piper said while patting her on her back. Brooke shook her head and slid herself off of the captain’s back and then the same for Piper. She had never felt so heavy in her life as each step felt like she was trying to force straight twigs to bend instead of her own legs. The ship’s rolling and pitching actually helped her feel more comfortable with her steps.

 

After about ten arduous steps forward she reached out a hand and placed it on doctor Marcy’s shoulder. “I think I would like to take those test now.”

****

The Marcy’s tests were all simple enough, just things to make sure that Brooke hadn’t suffered any brain damage from lack of oxygen. After everything proved that she was in proper physical condition she got dressed. Her normal working uniform was a white vest and white breeches over a black wool shirt and black socks as her rank insignias. Piper had kept the Ork’s necklace safe for her and was more than happy to return it. The captain had to slip away to attend to business but she left instructions for Brooke to speak to her as soon as she was decent.

 

With the doctor out Piper her looked her up and down “You know after we kissed two times, I’m getting the sneaking suspicion that you fancy me miss Gains.”

 

“Well miss Smythe I think that is an utterly preposterous idea.” As Brooke said that she stepped in close Piper’s face and rested her hands on her Piper’s hips. “Because if I as you said ‘fancied you’ then I’d probably kiss you three times… at least” at 5’9 Piper wasn’t short by the standards of her day Brooke being half a foot taller than her meant that Brooke had to bend her head down while Piper had to hop up onto the tips of her toes.

 

Finally able to kiss not out of fear for death or feelings of relief, but just to kiss for the joy of being close to each other after all they had survived in such a short time. The two of them savored every second of it. Brooke’s heart pounded and every second grew longer and longer when they finally pulled away from each other they had even more time to look into each other’s eyes simply smiling. Brooke made a silent vow that she would never forget a single detail of that moment, Piper’s eyes sparkling back at her, her cheeks slowly rising up as her smile grew larger and larger, or her freckled nose wrinkling with that perfect smile. She wished she could stay in that moment forever. Her forever was ruined by violent knocking on cockpit door.

 

The two of them separated quickly while Piper yelled “Yes?” Without any further prompting the ork Balil opened the door and marched himself through the door.

 

“I want to thank you both for finishing the traitor Starling, but I would like to make one more request of you two.”

 

In keeping with their precedent Brooke was left silent while Piper had grown quite loud “How did you figure out how to speak Fesiptn?”

 

“I was a merchant before the invasion, I had spent most of my time away from the islands so I learned many languages. Third sword Kaylt ordered us not speak any other languages for fear of revealing information to you. But that is why I am here.”

 

Brooke shook her head “Why go to us though, neither of us are proper officers.”

 

“Yes but you two killed the monster Starling where others had not, even as you call them officers.” He indicated to Brooke. “You killed a first sword in single combat, and you held a third sword over the edge of death with very little injury to yourself. There’s no one better to ask for protection then you two.”

 

“Protection from who?” said Piper as she cocked her head to the side confused

 

“From my own people. I never supported them or their plans of invasion if I return the sole survivor they would think me traitor. Please I have no where else I shall serve you in what ever capacity you would ask me. I’m well versed in economic affairs and my time as a smuggler has made me quite skilled in acquisition of difficult items.”

 

Brooke grabbed piper and started whispering to her “We can’t be really take him can we? He’s proposing slavery we would be tried as flesh sellers.”

 

“But he has nowhere else, and it's not slavery its…” She peeked over her shoulder, before turning back to Brooke “More like having a butler. Rich girls all have butlers and what are we if not rich girls.” She shot a glance to their pouches of service token and raised her eyebrows at Brooke.

 

 “Fine but if anyone asks he was you idea.” The two of them spun around to face the ork again “We have decided to take you on as our companion. But you are required to stay by Piper’s side unless she explicitly tells you otherwise.” Brooke smirked and looked down at Piper, if she wanted a butler so badly she would have to deal with him hovering around her at all times.

 

Balil stepped forward and knelt down removing two golden bracelets. “An ork is only what he can carry on their person by giving you this I am giving you pieces of myself, to show my devotion to you two as my protectors and mistresses. Even should I die, my heart will live on through these small trinkets.”

 

Brooke swallowed hard, the small sea glass necklace suddenly felt much heavier around her neck. Something about the way he spoke made it feel like she was holding a real physical piece of the ork Kaylt with her now. The bracelet felt much lighter by comparison she could see herself forgetting about it ever being there. She couldn’t help but feel a presence behind her at all times now.

 

“Balil I appreciate your service but I have a meeting to attend. I shall leave you and Piper to get more acquainted.”

 

As she went to leave Piper took hold of her hand “I still need to talk to you before we reach port tomorrow night.”

 

“Is something wrong? Can you tell me now?”

 

“No it’s not pressing, speak to the captain and then we can sit down after don’t worry.”

 

Brooke didn’t want to leave Piper’s hand but she knew she had to. With great effort she stepped away and walked past Balil nodding to him. Before leave she blew Piper a quick kiss and smiled as she slipped out of the cockpit.

 

The walk through the ship was a strange one for Brooke. She figured that many of the women had assumed she had died or was dying to see her walking must have been quite a sight. She saw mutineers and loyalists working side by side again. An untrained eye would assume everything was back to normal, but Brooke could see the subtle tension underneath. No mutineer had a knife anywhere on her person, and there were no mutineers standing alone together, always a loyalist in every conversation, rest area, or work group. Brooke was grateful this voyage was coming to a premature close, these conditions were sustainable and would inevitably lead to another mutiny is short order.

 

Everyone was hard at work despite the tension holes had to be patched and cannon’s refitted after the battle. The top deck was a hive of activity, with sailors running to and fro. Unlike on the lower decks no one stopped to stare they were all far too busy to gawk. Brooke wove between sailors to reach the helm where the captain was standing in all of her glory.

 

“Gains good to see you up and dressed properly. I trust you are feeling in pique condition.”

 

“Only just ma’am, some aches here and there but I’m ready to get back to service ma’am.”

 

“Well that just what I want to speak to you about. I’ve been given a position as the new Guardian of Fleet and I’ll be canceling my contract once we make port in the capital.” Brooke practically lost her footing then and there. Maccavern was everyone’s idea of the ideal navy woman, if someone wanted to get her out of the ocean for politics they would have to offer her the world and then some. Guardian of the Fleet was something just shy of that, she would have a seat on the Grand Board which meant she had absolute control of the entire navy, and more importantly  she was in the running to be named Lord Protector which was the head of state for the entire country.

 

“Ma’am that's incredible!” Brooke couldn’t understand what this had to do with her. She thought maybe she was getting promoted without an officer’s exam or better yet the captain wanted to actually hand the ship over to her, although that last one would be rather unrealistic.

 

“Thank you Gains there are times where I can hardly believe it myself. But there’s more, I want you to resign your contract as well and come on as my assistant. You would be entitled to full pay from the state’s purse and you would be joining me on every single meeting or of the Grand Board.”

 

Brooke’s knees felt weak, she had so many questions chiefly WHY but she kept that choked down instead she focused on keeping herself standing.

 

The captain continued unheeded “You of course would have duties to me but I assure you the skills you demonstrated in the course of the past days will be vital to our success. But when you’re not working for me you are allowed unfettered access to my apartments for the entire duration of your employment. So now that you’ve heard the pitch miss Gains, will you accept my offer.”

 

Brooke was beside herself, her plan had been so focused till now, she joined the navy in search of a family and now it had found her, the sister’s she sailed with, the aunts who were her commander, the mother in the form of the captain, and now the lover in the form of Piper. Could she really surrender all of that to live the high life of politics? So much of her wanted to say no, she had a home here, it was dingy and harsh but it was still her home. But she had grown up in a sewer, the nicest bed she had ever slept in was cott in the academy. Suddenly visions of herself on a four post bed wrapped in silk sheets filled her mind. She pictured herself soaking wet from a hot bath that she had taken moments ago, a glass of blackberry wine sitting out on an end table for her pleasure. Her fell when her fantasy placed Piper next to that wine, wrapped in a thin robe smiling that perfect smile down at. She snapped back to reality quickly, she couldn’t turn away from her family, from Piper, just for simple carnal pleasures.

 

Having made up her mind she opened her mouth to reject the captain’s offer but before she could speak the captain said “Before you ask yes you will be able to visit miss Smythe in the Great Tower while she stays with Cairn for the studies of her abilities.”

 

Brooke was certain she heard glass shatter somewhere, in just a few simple word the captain had made up her mind for her “Captain” She paused for a second “Guardian Maccavern I accept your offer.” she held out her hand Maccavern shook it happily.

 

****

Brooke was convinced she was feeling every single emotion at once. Happiness at her new perfect job, anger at piper for not telling her that she was leaving the navy, sadness at the thought of departing from the Courser for good this time, fear as she had heard the dangers of the capital politics, but chief among them was just the sheer ecstasy of a new adventure before her.

 

She shakily knocked on the door to the galley in search of Piper. Since the mutiny the cook was required to be under loyalist guard so the cramped room was now untraversable as the cook, her guard, Piper, Balil, and now Brooke were expected to traverse a labyrinth of salted turkey, pickled fruits and great quantities of rum. Brooke waved Piper out of the room but it took a good five minutes for her shuffle her way out. The entire time Brooke’s heart was racing she just wanted to confront Piper as quickly as possible to ensure that any confusion could be put away without incident.

 

“So you were going to tell me that Cairn was taking you off the ship once we made port?”

 

“How did you find out? Brooke, I was going to tell you honestly.”

 “The captain let it slip while she was discussing me becoming her adjunct.”

 

“Wait she wanted you to become her what.”
 

“She told me she wanted me to become her assistant while she took a seat on the Grand Board.”

 

Piper’s eyes were wide with excitement, and a smile was fighting to show itself on her face. “This solves everything! I was going to say all this romantic shit about writing to each other every night and looking out over the harbor in hopes of seeing your sails on the horizon. To the demons with that shit, I’ll see you every damned day now!”

 

Brooke was overwhelmed with relief she had imagined a hundred awful ways this could have played out for her. Instead she had found the best possible outcome for everything in her near future. All she could muster was to take Piper’s hands and say “Piper Smythe I wouldn’t ask for this any other way.”

 


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