Skull and Shackles

Interlude: A Slow Burn

Posted by Gurtchmann

It was too much… too much to bear without a word.

It would have been tolerable to be lashed for the trumped up charge of Failure to Perform Satisfactorily; it would not have been the first time he’d been whipped at sea. Even knowing that it was only for Plugg’s vanity was tolerable and could be taken in stride. But the disposal of his whiskey and then the brandy, a gift from a true shipmate, all on the word of a self-important lack wit like Plugg was almost too much. Only the thought of the repercussions to his shipmates, and his remaining stash of fine whiskey, the gift of a woman likely to understand him, kept him from drawing and shooting the self important jackanapes that was Plugg on the damn spot.

But, damn him, the letter for Chopper. Ezikial cursed himself for a fool for not hiding the damn thing better. He should have guessed that he’d be searched for “contraband alcohol” and the letter found. Plugg, being what he was, would read it and make mock of it to be sure, and mayhap make trouble for Sandara and Chopper along the way…all to feed his festering ego.

When Plugg called all the crew to bear witness to his mockery, the adrenaline surge very nearly made Ezikial sober enough to lose his grip.

It had been years since had last lost control. The last time was in Cheliax, when a dockworker made too many unwelcome advances towards a female crewmember, and then actually laid hands upon her. Ezikial had vague memories of reloading his pistol several times, turning the fellow’s skull into mush and skinning the remains. That had resulted in a lashing and a discharge from the Seafire, for use of “Excessive Force”.

Reading the letter out loud to the crew and mocking Sandara and Chopper had just lit Ezikial’s fuse.

Thankfully, Chopper was able to choke out some words that kept Ezikial from going off half-cocked “You’re a real son of a bitch, you know that? A true rotter.”
When Plugg replied: "I’ve heard that said, yes. But it takes a son of a bitch to manage a gang of cutthroats like this,” it was too much to bear silently and Ezikial spoke beyond his normal terseness.

“Sadly, you are mistaken, sir. I, at least would have worked with a will and willingly if you had any idea how to lead men.”

This would at least draw attention away from his ‘mates, and it had to be spoken, or else his lost restraint may get them all killed.

“I must have heard you incorrectly, Mr. Hands. Would you kindly repeat what you said?” Plugg asked, although there was no way he couldn’t have heard. Ezikial had, after all, intentionally pitched his voice to be heard clearly across the entire ship.

He continued as if he hadn’t even heard Plugg’s question; "Instead, you drive us with your fear and insecurity as if they were enough to make you worthy of being a captain. You have failed to treat us with any semblance of respect and deserve none from us. If I survive your foolishness, I will continue to work for the good of the ship, but never for you.”

Ezikial’s ears were roaring with rage, but he heard, faintly, Plugg ordering Chopper to build a sweatbox and someone (Reiko?) trying to speak to him.

That should raise Plugg’s ire and grant Ezikial a lashing that, perhaps, he could survive and draw all attention away from Sandara and Chopper. Ezikial dropped his weapons belt and began to remove his shirt in anticipation of the being whipped.

Plugg looked surprised. “Wait. Do you expect me to fight you, Mr. Hands?”

“No, sir, I don’t expect that you are that kind of man or pirate. I am making ready to receive punishment for disrupting your discipline on your ship, sir.” Ezikial left off “you blithering idiot”, but thought it may have come through anyway.

This time the voice came trough loud and clear. “Mister Hands!” It was Reiko.

“Aye, Reiko-san?” he answered in a calm, controlled voice.

“It would be wise to stop this now,” she told him.

His respect for Feruzi went up another notch as he heard her mutter, “One cannot stop halfway down the cliff.”

“It is too late, Reiko-san,” Ezikial said clearly, “We all see what kind of captain," he made the word a sneer, "Plugg is now… even his lackeys. "

Plugg squared his shoulders. “Once the sweatbox is completed, your punishment will begin. In the meanwhile, get back to work. It appears you’ve missed a spot.”

Ezikial responded dryly, “Very well, sir.”

Reiko proffered his weapons belt but he refused it for the moment, and Feruzi offered him a formal bow, which he returned in kind.

Hidden within, he quailed at the thought of time in the sweatbox, where the alcohol in his body would be sweated out and not replaced. That would break the chains of his restraint for certain and if anyone that was not a true shipmate opened the box, they would likely die…or Ezikial would while trying to mindlessly destroy them. His temper and bloodlust must be kept locked down unless he wanted to bathe in blood and gore again. This time, it would be unlikely that the blood would only be his enemies’ as his ‘mates would stand and fight with him.

His only comfort was that he had drawn all attention to himself today, and left any previous issues as a minor footnote to the rest of the crew. At least, he was able to cover and protect his ‘mates this time. And to keep the powder keg of his temper unbroached… for now.



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