While at port, Scylla had flirted with a pirate. Normally the only thing Scylla would do with a pirate was fight them— maybe toss a playful barb over the sound of gunfire or wink between stab wounds, but never actually flirt in earnest. In their defense, of course, they didn’t know she was a pirate at the time. No, Scylla had been under the distinct impression that the pirate had been a fellow merchant marine on shore for the same stretch of time. And she was definitely cute. So why not flirt a little? Making new friends was one of Scylla’s favorite things to do while at port.
Her name was Aello and she was… enchanting. Scylla found most people enchanting, to be fair, but this time was distinctly different in that the feeling lasted for more than twelve minutes and she felt the same way. Aello laughed at their bad jokes and held their hand while listening to their dumb stories about adventures on the Amphitrite. Aello’s own stories were tame in comparison to the trouble Scylla and their fell into. (“Captain Charybdis says we’re cursed by the gods,” Scylla said the first night they met Aello, “either that or blessed. No other explanation for why we keep getting into so much trouble.” Aello had laughed, squeezed their hand, and said; “maybe pirates think you’re cute.”)
And, yeah, maybe Aello’s stories were a little too tame— a little too vague. Maybe it was weird that she didn’t seem to have a single big adventure story to share. But she was pretty, and she had a wealth of personal stories about her crew, and not being obsessed with her job like Scylla was wasn’t a reason to be suspicious.
Besides, never let it be said that Scylla was an insightful person. Perceptive to a degree, yes, but not insightful. You couldn’t blame them for not picking up on a few things until they were forced in front of them.
Scylla trusted Charybdis with their life, is the thing. Trusted her with all the things they missed— and she trusted them the exact same way. The two of them had been through so much together that trust came as natural as breathing. So when she said she didn’t trust Aello, that she was going to be looking into her captain (Celaeno) and ship (unknown, the fact that it’s never come up something Charybdis found particularly suspicious) they believed there must be a good reason for that. Even if they couldn’t see it for themselves.
Things went downhill quickly, after Charybdis decided to look into things. There were only two other merchant marine ships at port and neither of them were captained by a Celaeno— neither of them had anyone named Celaeno or Aello listed as crew at all. People pretending to be merchant marines wasn’t an overly common occurrence, there wasn’t a terrible amount of prestige that came with it or anything. But it did make trade easier, sometimes, if you wanted to unload something without too many questions. Miscommunications and extra cargo happened after all. So the two of them went to Aello with a simple question: what the fuck?
She told them the truth with surprising ease and wide eyes. Aello was the first mate of a ship named the Ocypete, low level pirates who were still working on making any kind of a name for themselves. Her captain, indeed named Celaeno, was her sister and of a vicious disposition. Aello had most been along for the ride, let her sister and crew do whatever they wanted as long as she got to have a little fun too, but now… she certainly claimed being with Scylla had made her start seeing what was wrong with her lifestyle. She wanted to change her ways, start doing something good for once. Charybdis wasn’t convinced while Scylla thought the whole thing was outrageously romantic.
It took some convincing, but eventually Charybdis agreed to let Aello aboard the Amphitrite. Said she could be unofficial crew for a trial period and, if she didn’t stab anyone in the back, come on officially. Scylla was overjoyed. Aello was too, but also nervous about leaving her sister and the Ocypete behind— unsure how to go about it. In the end she waited until the Amphitrite was leaving port to sneak away, leaving behind only a letter to explain herself to Celaeno. The merchant marine ship was gone well before Celaeno knew what was going on and, Aello hoped, leaving her no chance of tracking the group down.
It was smooth sailing for the first few days, at least literally speaking. It was a little tense for Aello, it was obvious that the crew only trusted her because Scylla did. That was enough for her at the moment, ready and willing to work for the real deal. Of course things had to take a turn for the worse. Sybaris spotted the Ocypete along the horizon and they had caught up to the Amphitrite before anyone knew it. Celaeno aimed to collect her sister and when Aello refused… it was a bloodbath.
Scylla had always been confident in the abilities of their crew, never once thought they needed to worry about anyone’s wellbeing during battles. Victories were well fought and certain. But the crew of the Ocypete was merciless and precise in a way that didn’t fit their low level status and suddenly Scylla was the only one on their side left standing. Kneeling, really, with Aello’s body in their hands after she’d been shot by her own sister without hesitation. Charybdis and Sybaris, the Amphitrite’s best fighter, laid close by, and Scylla could see their own death close at hand.
Scylla had never thought much of higher powers, preferred to focus on what was in front of them. (Magic wasn’t common in the elemental plane of water and neither were the gods that gave people control over it.) But as they stared down the barrel of Celaeno’s gun they found themselves calling out to any being that would listen to grant them justice in the end, to kill Celaeno and her crew just as she killed theirs. And something happened.
It had been a painfully sunny day, bloodshed and loss present in full light. But in an instant darkness overcame the ship, the sun blotted out by a mass rising out of the ocean and covering the sky. Whispers overtook Scylla’s mind, louder and louder and building on top of each other until it sounded like screams and was all they could hear. They could feel something watching them, eyes pressing into the back of their neck, something dangerous and foreign and Scylla desperately wanted to turn around and face it before it could get them. But the… thing in front of them took all of their attention.
It wasn’t clouds blocking the sun but a hulking creature with tentacles covering its face that hurt to look at. Scylla couldn’t look away. (Cthulhu, the whispers yelled in unison, he has heard your call and comes with a trade.)
What came next was an understanding, sudden and intimate. The creature, Cthulhu, could give them their revenge and more. Power and knowledge that was practically unheard of in the elemental plane of water. All that was asked of them in return were a few favors and a loyalty to Cthulhu. In the same moment that Scylla understood this it was also understood that Scylla didn’t care what they had to give in return or what extras were thrown in to sweeten the deal, whatever got them their revenge was worth what it took. Loyalty or favors or whatever else in the world.
The tides turned, literally speaking, and rocked the ship violently. Rain began pouring down in sheets that made it almost impossible to see what happened next. If asked how to describe it later, Scylla would say that the water rose up with a mind of its own and crashed onto the ship so completely that they were almost swept off, strangled screams somehow traveling through the liquid from what they assumed was Celaeno’s mouth to their ears. Or maybe it was Scylla that screamed, they weren’t sure, because they were thoroughly distracted by Aello’s body being ripped from their arms by the tide.
When the water was gone, so was everyone else. Only Scylla remained on the ship, still staring up at the creature that had presumably swept them all away. There was a sense of finality in the air, like something had come to a close, and Scylla felt the urge to thank the creature– Cthulhu, Cthulhu, praise be Cthulhu– when another current of water rose up and swept across the ship, this time taking them with it.
Scylla tumbled through the water, slave to it’s rhythm, and sucked it in like air. They couldn’t see any light betraying the surface and the rushing water deafened them but they felt calm, sure that there would be an end. Everything was fine.
Eventually the water spit them out on a beach where the moon hung high in the sky. No one was around, but Scylla could tell something they were no longer in the Elemental Plane of Water based on the buildings in the distance, a strange scent in the air, and… a certainty in their chest. They picked themselves up off the sand and started towards civilization, a plan forming in their mind that wasn’t their own but still fit. It was time to start their new life.