Run the World (Quest)

Azula

The Fire Lord
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The Captain was dead. Her demise also brought about the dissolution of her vice grip on these outlaw ships, and the three formidable women who’d murdered her were ready and willing to step into the vacuum left behind.

Of course, the great majority of the pirates had little choice as to whether to follow the terrible triumvirate -- most of them were, by now, enslaved to Hela’s will, mere skeletal shadows of their former self. Though Azula could see the draw in employing a bunch of zombified servants, it struck her as an altogether dull avenue of conquest. She much more enjoyed bending the weak minds of the living to her will through pure terror and manipulation. The amount of power she felt wrenching someone from their former allegiance into her service was… delicious.

Her doubts remained about Hela and Rominia, then. Their tactics didn’t suit her; Hela’s knack for outright domination and Rominia’s brute force. She preferred a more twisted game than either woman did. It didn’t help matters that on top of her concerns about their styles, she just didn’t really like either of them.

“Azula. Azula.”

The fire princess looked up. The plate of food before her sat mostly untouched, sloshed around a bit from where she’d been nudging it around with her fork. Her companions insisted on relentlessly boring her with whatever mundane topic they deemed worthy of discussing, so she found a new hobby to pass the time. Now, however, Rominia glared at her expectantly.

“You with us, princess?” the dog asked, the title more of a dig coming from her gaping canine maw than the respectful acknowledgement it should have been.

“Honestly no,” Azula rolled her eyes and shoved her plate towards the warrior. “Here, table scraps for our mutt.”

She stood from her chair, striding toward the door. The trio of women had holed themselves up here, in the cabin of one of the few ships in the harbor left capable of sailing. Azula had incinerated quite a few during the scuffle with the Captain, and the ones that hadn’t met her flames had been punctured by Hela’s necroswords beyond usefulness. This vessel, the Obsidia, had barely withstood, and now their motley crew of patchwork pirates busied themselves preparing it to cast off. Hela had grown quite bored quite quickly with their surroundings, and insisted on seeking out friendlier shores.

“You won’t find any shores here,” Rominia had warned.

“That’s alright,” Hela had sneered. “I already have a destination in mind.”

Now, the mysterious map the Goddess of Death had procured from the shredded bits of the Captain’s corpse splayed across the circular wooden table the fire princess’s two companions huddled around. In the corner, scrawled in shamefully bad handwriting, a simple note: ‘Tia Dalma’s Shack, seek the witch out to gain fortune’s favor.’

What did that even mean? ‘Gain fortune’s favor’ -- what a bunch of bullshit. Azula thought it was evident from how they’d surgically slaughtered an entire pirate coalition that fortune was already heavily favoring them, and if she were being completely truthful, the idea of adding yet another witch to their coterie utterly repulsed her. Hela herself was already growing tiresome to the teenager, why the hell did they need to seek out some other hag that would no doubt be even more of a pretender than the so-called ‘Goddess of Death’?

Of course, she’d been outvoted. The old woman’s release of Rominia had placed the dog firmly outside Azula’s camp, and although the fire princess viewed the mercenary’s opinion as negligibly important, Hela seemed to give it enough weight to tip the scales.

Azula.”

The old woman’s voice reached her ears as her fingers wrapped around the brass door handle. The sun’s rays peeked through the windows of the cabin, but it was still relatively dark, save for the parts illuminated by candlelight. Her blue flames danced on the wicks, giving the room an eerie, sapphire glow that, thankfully, still flickered low enough that the princess’ deep scowl was hidden from her companions. She stood still for a few moments, awaiting Hela’s inevitable rebuke, altogether seething beneath the surface about how control of this whole situation kept barely slipping from her grasp.

“You can’t leave, dear,” Hela grinned. “Didn’t you say you’d had experience captaining a ship?”

Azula’s interest piqued ever so slightly before Rominia barged into the conversation.

“She’s a child,” the wolf barked. “Surely you aren’t -- ”

Those words barely escaped the enforcer’s lips before a blade wreathed in sapphire flames split cracks into the table. Fire spit up from the crevices of the wood, and Rominia shoved herself back, almost tripping over her chair as she stood up and placed a hand on the hilt of her hammer. Azula’s fingers curled around the Captain’s sword, burning bright in the cabin’s low light. Her hazel eyes glared daggers into the warrior's face. If looks could kill -- well, Rominia certainly would put up a fight, but Azula wouldn’t make it easy.

For her part, Hela remained in her chair, perfectly still, unflinching. It infuriated the firebender, but she let it wash off her.

“A child who captained some of the Fire Nation’s greatest, most powerful warships,” Azula bit back, turning her face to look at Hela. “A schooner like this is nothing to me.” Inside, she cursed herself; why in the world did she care at all about this bitch’s approval? Why was she letting the raven-haired woman keep her spindly little fingers dug in so effortlessly?

Rominia didn’t reply, but simply turned to Hela, her benefactor, for the decision. The goddess gave Azula a once-over. She observed the princess with the same curious glint she always did, ever since she’d released her from the brig of that first, awful ship. Azula didn’t like it one bit -- she hated the prying eyes of adults, always watching her like hawks, expecting her to screw up. She knew they judged her for her youth, but the fools were always mistaken.

“I’ll get us to the hag in the shack,” she crossed her arms, “and then I’ll teach her some proper penmanship.”

Hela smiled further, and nodded. “Well, then, princess,” she clapped her hands, “we’d best get a move on.”

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 1037 (according to Google Docs)
Thread WC: 1037/20000 (according to GDocs)
 

Hela

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The Goddess of Death stared into the horizon as the stars glittered down on the deck of the Obsidia. Somewhere closer to the ship’s stern, the scowling little princess was playing dress up as the captain of the ship. Hela didn’t mind humoring the child. The sneering brat likely judged Hela on the fact that she was a grown woman and not another teenager driven by hormones and mommy issues. It didn’t matter to the Asgardian, who didn’t mind having her lessers judge her on false pretenses. At the end of the day, little Miss ‘Zula was just a spoiled princess who thought herself to be the next great generalissimo of the cosmos. The little girl could play checkers as long as she pleased, because Hela was more than acquainted with the art of chess.

“She’ll learn,” Hela laughed as she stared into the great, yawning darkness of the planet’s endless ocean.

“Are you talking to yourself?” A gruff voice inquired as the dog-woman walked up and stood next to Hela. The Goddess of Death suppressed a scowl, because even though she thought this creature was little more than a housetrained animal, she knew that Rominia was her best leverage to keep their teenage captain in check.

“Yes,” Hela answered brusquely before pointing toward the night sky without bothering to lift her own gaze. “It must be a trifle difficult to navigate on this world, don’t you think?”

Rominia lifted her eyes and immediately noted what the older woman was talking about. “The islands?”

“They obscure the stars. Or do people here navigate through some other means?”

“Stars play a big role,” Dog-Woman answered, and Hela had to remind herself to nod that she was listening along. “The islands don’t move, so it’s just a matter of ensuring you set yourself to a specific heading and stick to it.”

“Fascinating,” Hela lied. “Are you aware of where we’re going or who we’re trying to meet? Did you former employer mention anything about this witch?”

“She wasn’t the type to share information,” Rominia answered as the Obsidia passed underneath the shadow of an island a few thousand meters over their heads. “Could be a … a joke? A trap?”

“Wild goose chase?”

“What’s a goose?”

Hela’s eye twitched as she turned to look at the deck of the ship. Most of the crew up here were alive—the terrified remnants of the floating wharf that they had ‘conscripted’ into their services. The living only made up a small amount of the total portion of the vessel’s staff, but Azula had been insistent on having the warm-blooded pirates up on deck. Hela imagine that the princess fancied the flesh and bones lads would be easier for her to boss around and manipulate in a pinch. After all, the green-eyed monsters were loyal to only one entity around these parts.

Me.

The woman smiled once again as her eyes met those of a sailor. “Keep your eyes down, or I’ll gouge them out,” Hela purred as she walked past on of her reanimated swabbies and tapped him on the head. “Or, better yet, I’ll watch while this one eats you… I think that’d be far more entertaining.”

From up on the quarterdeck, Azula sneered as she adjusted the wheel of the ship and checked the sextant. It seemed as if their teenage skipper was going to open her mouth to say something, but Hela merely blew her a kiss and floated up toward the crow’s nest. The soulless figure standing on tiny platform gave her a nod before going almost inert against the mast.

Settling against the small railing over the outpost, Hela let her hair waft in the breeze as she scanned their surroundings. The stars and the moon above gave them decent enough visibility if they weren’t in the shadows of one of those infernal floating islands. If they were to find this witch’s floating hovel, they were going to get the drop on it. There would be no more surprises.

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 671 (according to MS Word)
Thread WC: 1708/20000 (according to MS Word)
 

Rominia

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Rominia frowned as the Goddes of Death turned to threaten another sad pirate that was coerced into joining their ragtag crew. She tensed her fist around the rails as she cast her gaze to the deep blue sea, the water roughly slapping the side of the ship. This wasn’t the first time her employers loathed and despised Rommie’s primal nature. Mutt, dog, beast, monster; she’s been called all manner of names. She let the tension escape from her chest with a large sigh. It no longer mattered to her. The lycanthrope learned what was and what wasn’t valuable from her various bosses. The only things of importance were what the job was and how much it paid. Judging from how assertive and powerful Hela was, there would be plenty of money to follow. Rominia chuckled, ‘I guess that Azula too,’ she thought to herself.

Maybe that’s why she turned the other eye when it came to their terms of payment. It was hard not to laugh at how Azula ‘sneakily’ lifted the captain’s coin purse from her mangled corpse and offered some of it as a down payment for Rominia’s services. She could evenly clearly remember the smug look of the Fire Princess as she took the handful of coin, clearly speckled with blood. She could have this small victory. Though Rominia will get revenge for Azula’s intentions with the collar.

“Land ho,” one of the gruff pirates shouted from the top of the deck. Rommie snapped her head back. What had that man said? Land? That’s impossible. The lycanthrope turned her head to look out and see a giant forest out in the distance. The ship made a crunching sound as it came to a grinding halt. The mercenary was thrown overboard from the sudden stop, her ass trailing off the railing and into the water below. But instead of the harsh slap of the ocean, she felt something prick her side. She flopped around, attempting to swim before realizing that she was on solid ground. Rominia gathered herself to realize she was on an overgrown coral reef, its beautiful colors spread across the ground.

Hela floated down, her boots lightly splashing the water. Her voice grated on the lycanthropes ears, her condescending tone was especially irritating. “I do remember you saying that there was no land on the surface,” she mocked as she glanced at her nails. Rommie parted her drenched hair out of her face and got onto her feet. Her soaked, leather armor was uncomfortable; droplets trailed down her scar-covered back.

She spat out a bit of seawater, the salt assaulting her mouth. “There isn’t,” she spoke stoically. She kicked at the coral that had precariously supported her weight, “It seems that life here is abundant,” she commented as she roughly wrung her hair.

“This ship better be sparkling by the time I get back or you all will be banished,” the twosome heard Azula screech from the top of the ship before she did a flip over the railing and landed gracefully into the water. She landed with her arms outstretched to keep her balance, drawing the attention of her unsavory compatriots. “What are you looking at?” she hissed at them, narrowing her eyes.

Rominia exchanged a glance with Hela before she spoke, crossing her arms over her damp chest. “I hadn’t realized you were a ballerina too, *princess*,” she mocked, a sly grin crept onto her face. Hela couldn’t help but chuckle, bringing her hand over lips.

Azula clenched her fists in frustration, “Well at least I’m not some whining bitch, like you,” she hissed back. Her nails dug into her palms as figurative flames danced in her eyes. Rominia’s smile evaporated. “What?” Azula demanded, gesticulating with her hands. “Did I hurt your *precious* feelings?” she laughed at her own joke.

“You’re paying me,” Rominia shrugged. “Keep the coin coming and you can call me whatever you like,” she commented with a frown. Without wishing to antagonize her buyer even further, she continued to trek along the coral reef, hopping from flat surface to flat surface. She glanced behind her to see Azula and Hela having no difficulty trespassing the difficult terrain, of course.

Eventually, past the clear waters and colorful reefs, was a quick change of scenery. Roots from mangrove trees had crept out from their terrain and were beginning to consume the waterscape and the light seemed unable to penetrate the depths of the swamp.

“Go on, mutt,” Azula commanded with devilish glee, physically shooing Rominia deeper into the murky terrain. Rominia hopped onto the pseudo-island, the water was incredibly dirty. Paying no mind, she stomped in. After a few minutes into the swamp, the water eventually swallowed Romina up to her elbows and Azula even more so. The darkness of the forest was concerning, but not nearly as concerning as the chorus of hisses from the several crocodiles that surrounded them.

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 820 (according to MS Word)
Thread WC: 2528/20000 (according to MS Word)
 

Azula

The Fire Lord
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The snapping of a crocodile jaw knocked Azula off her balance.

Submerged to her shoulders in the seawater -- which somehow felt murky and swampy and salty all at the same time -- her reaction time was already slowed, but the inevitable advance of an angry croc send her plunging into the nasty depths faster than she could’ve planned. Rominia jerked around, jaw slightly agape as she watched the fire princess disappear below the surface. From behind the pair, Hela’s face scrunched into a scowl.

Not a moment passed before no less than five necroswords appeared in the air above the goddess of death and flew full speed into the water. Beneath the ripples they left behind, the pair of older women heard the familiar sound of blade meeting flesh, and Rominia’s glare shot from where Azula had once been up to Hela.

“The kid?!” the enforcer shouted, throwing up her hands, as if to remind Hela that Azula was, in fact, their ally.

“If she’s capable, she’s fine,” Hela shrugged.

As if on cue, a bright blue glow appeared near the spot where the necroswords broke the surface, and an alive -- though impossibly drenched -- Azula burst forth, brow furrowed, and blasted onto a nearby low-hanging, thick branch. “Watch it, old woman,” the princess growled.

“You’re welcome,” Hela scoffed, muttering to herself about how ungrateful the teenager was.

“Make some room,” the firebender spat, and the pair didn’t waste any time as they watched their youthful ally lift her two fingers. Electric blue sparks began to dance around the tips, and once Rominia and Hela had clambered up onto a pocket of exposed coral and roots, she took aim at the water below them and fired. Lightning bolts zapped forth, hurtling toward the surface at breakneck speed, and when they collided with the water, the entirety of the ocean for several meters lit up a bright, sapphire color. Lit up by Azula’s shocking attack, the trio could see the writhing, spasming silhouettes of no less than a dozen crocodiles go limp.

That’s when she felt the claws at her back. They scraped off her armor, but Azula could still feel the brunt of the crocodile’s weight as it smashed into her, knocking her off the branch she’d perched on. She glanced over her shoulder, wondering how in the world the reptile had managed to get up this high, when she saw huge, moss-covered wings flap out of its back as it wrapped its talons around her upper arms and shoved her down towards the ocean below.

She crashed into the waves with a resounding grunt, water splashing toward Hela and Rommie and blocking their vision. They were blinded for just long enough, as the dracodile launched off the branch toward the woman who’d just murdered its kinfolk. The creature’s roar pierced the relative peace of the swampy clearing, and submerged almost completely beneath the water, Azula could feel the reverberations of its fury all around her.

That was alright -- she had fury, too.

She reached up and met the lunging dracodile with a hand to its maw. In seconds, the creature could’ve closed its fangs on her and ripped off the appendage, but the young woman’s control of the fire within bested its natural hunting instinct, and before the thing could react, sapphire blue flames filled its throat, and its roar was met by one of equal volume. Azula screamed an incoherent battle cry as she blasted the monster back toward the tree it had lunged from, and watched as its hulking form completely destroyed the mangrove’s trunk and sent the whole thing crumbling down. It buried the dracodile in bark and branches, and she faced her palms toward the ground and blasted out of the water, hovering in the air and preparing another lighting strike to kill the thing a second time.

No respect,” an unfamiliar voice called from within the darkness of the mangrove and coral forest behind her.

The trio’s eyes all turned toward the shadows in time to see a small boat, unpaddled, creeping into the light. Sitting inside of it was a woman with shimmering dark skin, dreaded hair adorned with tiny shells sitting in lopsided piles on her head, with eyes that blazed with mysterious purpose.

“Hmph,” Azula muttered, spinning around in mid-air. Another elderly woman.

“You killed dat creature,” the woman gestured toward the pile of mangrove tree and mangled dracodile. “You killed his family, too. Dis how you plan to conquer, girls?”

“You clearly don’t know either of these two,” Rominia quipped.

Tia Dalma’s gaze snapped to Rominia, but the werewoman was pushed aside by Hela’s light yet firm grip. The goddess of death gave the sorceress before them a once-over before speaking the question that had come to Azula’s mind, too.

“...what makes you think we plan to conquer, woman?”

The witch on the boat grinned. “Tia Dalma sees all, Hela Odinsdottir.”

For the first time since Azula had met the old woman, Hela’s face shifted into something that resembled fear. She didn’t know if the goddess had it in her to actually be afraid of anything, but Tia Dalma’s uncanny knowledge seemed to have struck a chord, if nothing else. If the princess had any time to process, she might’ve laughed, but her thoughts were interrupted when the sorceress’ piercing eyes turned to her.

She felt Tia Dalma’s gaze, and suddenly, her entire body went limp. She fell, and the only sound she could hear were screams. Furious screams, of shattered pride and monumental defeat. It wasn’t until she crashed into the water that she realized the screams were her own.

Quest: In The Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 939, according to Google Docs
Total WC: 3467/20000, according to GDocs
 

Hela

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Little Miss Princess collapsed and suddenly began to wail, and before she really knew what she was doing, Hela had a ring of necroswords floating around Tia Dalma’s neck. The grimy sea witch sneered, her mouthful of yellowed, garish teeth a sign of genuine dedication to zero personal hygiene.

“Release the girl,” Hela spoke as the smile melted away from their beckoner’s visage.

“You think you are any betta than she?” Tia replied as she tilted her head.

Hela grinned. “By all means … zap my brain and make me relieve being smashed by a fire monster. I would relish that agony, because I’m sure you already know there’s little else I have to be angry about.”

“We all have’um ghosts, Hela,” Tia Dalma whispered as she reached up and traced a finger along one of the floating necroswords. “Even Asgardians.”

“Oh, spare me,” Hela groaned as she waved her own hand and dismissed the black blades back into oblivion. “I make ghosts,” she remarked as she turned and looked at Rominia, who was standing in tense silence. “Show her the note, if you would.”

The werewolf reached into her coat and retrieved the scrawled letter they had ‘liberated’ from her former employee. As she advanced, she ‘gently’ pushed aside the writhing girl with one of her boots. “We come to know what ‘fortune’s favor’ is, Tia Dalma … my old boss seems to have been planning to seek you out.”

On the ground, Azula had fallen silent, and a quick look told Hela that the girl seemed to have regained her senses. Even so, it was clear that something in her early onset nightmares had shaken her esprit de corps, for the literal firebrand seemed almost passive on the unkempt wooden floorboards.

“You should get up,” Hela chided her. “Before you get dirt all over your formal clothes.”

Azula’s brow furrowed as her once formless expression tightened back up into her usual scowl. “Don’t lecture me, you hag,” she growled as she crawled first to her knees and then up to her feet. When the young princess made eye contact with Tia Dalma, Hela noted a clear unease flush back over Azula’s perpetually taciturn visage.

This sea witch is something else. Hela frowned as she watched Tia Dalma, back to smiling and swaying slightly on her feet, finally took the outstretched note from Rominia. I was right to assume this isn’t one to trifle with … at least yet. It was that realization, more than anything else, that would infuriate Hela for the duration of the journey to come.

“Ahhhh, yes, dey captain,” Tia Dalma spoke in a whispery, almost singsong tone that did little to mollify Hela’s growing ire. “She was gonna find me my pendant.” The witch placed a hand to the bare skin below her throat. “Lost it, you see. Taken from Tia Dalma by Jolly Roger.”

“Taken from you?” Hela inquired as she glanced down to see an expression not unlike her own reflected in Azula’s smug-yet-restrained features. “Taken from the mighty Tia Dalma?”

Once again, the sea witch grinned her unclean smile as she took a step closer and tilted her head. “You should know, Hela Odinsdottir,” Tia Dalma reached out a hand and ran one of her fingertips along Hela’s cheek. “That even the strongest women sometimes find’em dey match.”

Hela smacked away the witch’s hand and scowled, but that only seemed to make the other woman grin wider.

“We’ll take up the contract,” Rominia interjected, and at that, Hela felt a twinge of gratitude. Beneath the almost drunken mannerisms and flittering behavior, there was something about Tia Dalma that just seemed to ooze corruption. Hela had bore witness of countless monsters during nearly endless wars against Asgard’s foes but little of that compared to the unease with which she observed this ‘mystic’.

“You?” Tia whispered as she turned her dark eyes upon Rominia. “You’um just a puppy …” Tia Dalma suddenly lurched forward as she chomped the air a few inches from the werewolf’s face. When Rominia reflexively recoiled and nearly tripped over a stool, the sea witch started to giggle like a drunken schoolgirl.

“We’ll get your trinket,” Azula spoke as she stepped up between her two travel partners and looked up at the dirty, unkempt mystic. “Unless you’d rather drag this whole thing out longer than it needs to be.”

Tia Dalma grinned once more as she swayed backwards toward the rear of her shack. He partially wrapped hands traced along the shelves of various odds and oddities until she found whatever it was she had been looking to locate. “Here,” she spoke as she tossed something at Rominia’s face. The werewolf snatched the object and held it up so the other two women could see.

“It’s a compass,” Hela muttered as Rominia opened up the wooden device to reveal what one would expect to find in a compass—the cardinal directions and a gently fidgeting needle.

“Special compass,” Tia Dalma whispered. “Show ya in the right direction to my locket,” she added as she placed a hand once again where the necklace would have rested against her dark skin. The mystic tilted her head—this time hard enough that the shells adorning many of her dreadlocks chinked audibly together. “You be followin’ dat compass, eh? Unless you be lookin’ to end up in the locker.”

“The locker?” Azula muttered.

“You took the bait,” Hela groaned as a grin spread across Tia Dalma’s twisted visage.

Davy Jonesssss,” Tia Dalma cooed, her voice seeming to fill the space all around their heads. “Him who have’um no heart. Him who run afoul of that which vexes alllll men.”

“What’s that?” Azula asked.

Hela and Tia Dalma answered nearly in concordance. “A woman.” When she heard the words from the sneering older woman, the mystic smiled and clapped her grimy, foul hands together.

“It’s always the women who get blamed, after all,” Hela quipped as Rominia scowled before adding her voice.

“I thought it was the sea that he fell in love with?”

“Same story,” Tia Dalma spoke in that singsong tone that Hela had grown to regard with the utmost malice. The Asgardian wanted free from this … creature’s foul aura at once.

“All well and good, but we should get going before the crew gets antsy,” the Goddess of Death interjected as she rested a hand on Rominia’s shoulder. Their gazes met. “We shouldn’t… linger here any longer, savvy?”

For her part, Rominia seemed to understand. “Savvy.” The werewolf replied.

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 1097 (according to MS Word)
Thread WC: 4564/20000 (according to MS Word)
 

Rominia

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Rominia was happy to leave this disgusting swamp. The stench was unbearable and this ‘Tia Dalma’ sent shivers up her spine. Her seemingly all-knowing knowledge made her uncomfortable, and she was not eager to find out exactly what Tia Dalma knew. So when Hela recommended that they left, Rommie was eager to obey. She slid the wooden compass into a pocket in her leather vest and gave the sea witch a scowl before turning to head towards the ship. The trio began to make their way through the muck before they heard the witch taunt them on the way out.

“You best be back soon,” her voice trailed off as they drudged through the thick water. “It be best to not keep me waiting.”

Their trek back to the ship was largely uneventful, with no dracodiles or dralligators abominations to attack them this time. Rominia was more surprised that the ship was still there. She had a sneaking suspicion that once the three domineering women were gone, the remaining crew members would mutiny. Interrupting her thought, a dingy ladder was thrown down, plopping down inches above the water. That was weird, Rominia thought. Had the crew seen them on the horizon, for they hadn’t announced themselves yet? With an eyebrow raised, Rommie began the ascent with Hela and Azula close behind. When the werewolf reached the deck, she quickly learned the answer to her question.

The undead members of the crew were largely keeping the ship together, with a rotting corpse saluting their eternal overlord as she hopped onto the ship. The remaining living members of the crew were corralled and tied up in a corner of the ship; cut, beat up, and quivering in fear. The signs of a struggle were obvious, they had tried to rebel and escape from their captors. It seemed, however, that they underestimated the strength of the Death Witch’s minions.

As Azula reached the top, her eyebrow furrowed in rage. “What is this?” she screeched as she strode forward, shoving the idling pirate corpse.

“It seems that they tried to revolt, my dear princess,” Hela spoke nonchalantly, almost disappointed rather than angry. “This is why I prefer my minions to be undead. They never talk back,” she gloated.

Azula scrunched up her nose. “Betrayal?” she seethed. “I’ll show you how we deal with traitors,” she screamed, “Now which one of you led this futile rebellion!” Her hands were clenched into fists when no one immediately responded. It Romina wanted to soothe Azula, not for any care for the woman, but she didn’t want her to set *another* ship on fire. And she wasn’t eager to see Tia Dalma again, especially without her ‘amulet’. So she decided to walk up and stand to the next woman, domineering alongside her. She retrieved her warhammer and placed it roughly onto the wooden deck. Did this help? Rommie was never good with emotions.

When no response came out, Azula began to wave her arms, lightning crackling around her fingertips. Rommie panicked, her eyes widened in dread before Hela walked up and simply grabbed the young girl’s fingers and directed it towards the sky.

“We don’t want another ship ablaze, do we Azula?” she rhetorically asked with a patronizing tone. “I’m fairly sure our *loyal mercenary* could handle this one,” turning her head towards the lycanthrope.

Rominia gave a quick nod, and let her warhammer drag to the floor. The poor fool who was closest to her had no time to speak before she raised her weapojn with one hand and slammed it into his foot, making a resounding crunch as it cracked his bones. He yelped in pain and writhed, looking at his mangled foot. The mercenary didn’t speak but raised her hammer above her head once again. With fear in his eye, the pirate screeched, “It was Francis’ idea! He started it!”

Rommie slammed the warhammer down in between his legs before giving him a smile. “Now wasn’t that easy? You even got to keep the other foot,” she mocked, giving it a light tap with her weapon.

“You little snitch,” one of the pirates hissed. “Have you no honor?” he screamed. This must be this Francis fellow.

“Supposed to be honor among thieves, huh, Francis?” Rominia chuckled as she grabbed him by his hair. She dragged him toward the end of the ship and roughly tossed him against the rail. “You need an example, right?” Rominia bluntly spoke to Azula, nodding her head toward the roughed up pirate. Azula responded with a smirk before performing a little dance and shooting fire towards the quivering man. He briefly caught on fire, his screams filling the air before he flipped overboard and into the water.

“A shame,” Azula mumbled to herself as she leaned overboard watching Francis try to stay afloat even though he was still bound. “I wanted to see him suffer,” she pouted. “Well”, she shrugged, “where are we off too, merc?”

Rominia reached into her vest pocket and retrieved the compass, opening it. The needle flickered around before settling on the big letter W. “It seems we are headed west.”
Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 856 (according to MS Word)
Thread WC: 5420/20000 (according to MS Word)
 

Azula

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Mutiny.

As the ship’s bosun started them on their journey west, the self-appointed captain of the ship sequestered herself in her quarters, poring over maps and almanacs of this strange planet. Everything had been going so quickly, happening so fast, that she hadn’t yet fully had the time to process the idea that she was living in a whole new world -- a land ripe for conquest, for her to truly grasp the power she’d always deserved but been consistently denied in her homeland.

Of course, all of this busywork mainly served as a distraction from the fact that thus far, her efforts to strike out on her own as an independent conqueror had fallen utterly flat. Her father may have underestimated her, her mother may have cast her aside as damaged goods, but at least back home, the name Azula carried a certain weight to it. Back home, the crew of her battleships -- twice the size or more of this rickety old vessel -- wouldn’t have dared even think to betray her, let alone make moves in that direction. The fire princess was too smart to think it all ended with the leader, too; Francis may be dead, an ashen corpse floating in Opealon’s gargantuan seas, but he must’ve had seeds of doubt to latch onto.

She gritted her teeth, pressing her pen down too hard and breaking the tip. She’d slaughtered the Captain, they’d commandeered this ship, but what was power if no one took you seriously? Even her supposed allies were guilty of it -- she could see how Hela and Rominia looked at her, like she was some foolish child.

And after the way that witch bested me, she recalled, frustrating bubbling up even further. Tia Dalma’s display of power had been… embarrassing for her, at best. Hela and Rominia had seen her become the sea witch’s ragdoll, further reinforcement of the opinion of her they no doubt held. She was sure the pair saw her as weak, someone to be coddled, a puppet to use.

No, Azula decreed to herself, they are mine to command.

A knocking at the door shook her from her thoughts. “Enter,” she hissed, and the door opened to reveal the dog herself.

“You weren’t above decks, so I figured you’d be down here,” Rominia stepped inside, shutting the door behind her, and slid into the seat opposite Azula. The fire princess avoided her gaze, continuing to pretend to look over an almanac that spoke in great detail about something called ‘Kirden Wharf.’ From her cursory skim, it looked like a disgusting place. “Light reading?”

Azula scowled. “Can dogs read?”

She shot a glare towards Rominia, but the lycan seemed to steel herself against any of the young woman’s taunts. Letting out an angsty sigh, Azula recalibrated.

“If I mean to bend this world to my will, I must know everything I can about it,” she said. At this, Rominia’s lips curled into a smirk.

“I think you might have some competition for ‘bending this world to your will,’ princess,” the older woman said, glancing towards the above decks and, ostensibly, the Goddess of Death that seemed to be the most comfortable with the role of puppet master.

“The hag will rue the day she underestimates me,” Azula snarked.

Rominia’s eyes narrowed. “You aren’t new at this, are you?”

For the first time since the werewolf had crossed her threshold, Azula let her eyes actually rise to meet the other woman’s. Her glance conveyed as much as it could, and Rominia continued.

“You butchered the Captain in battle,” she observed. “Don’t think I didn’t notice.”

“I am merely new here,” Azula leaned back in her chair, releasing herself from the distraction of the documents splayed in front of her at last. “And I am used to being misjudged. My father, mother, brother… they were all fools. So is Hela. So are you.”

Rominia’s expression soured slightly, but she nonetheless lifted a bottle up onto the table. “You ever had rum before, princess?”

Azula quirked an eyebrow.

“I didn’t think so,” the lycanthrope chuckled, standing up to fetch two glasses from the nearby cabinet.

Azula watched the woman with great interest. She had, admittedly, been less than kind to the warrior, but didn’t that come with the territory? Nobody ever followed her, listened to her, without also fearing her, so shouldn’t she consistently work to exert her superiority over this blockheaded enforcer?

It seemed like the natural course of action, but frustratingly, her taunts and intimidations rarely seemed to work on the woman. Rominia wasn’t like the others on this crew -- she’d naturally risen above them in rank, simply from the way that she carried herself, the importance she placed upon her own station amidst Hela and Azula. Even as just their hired bitch, she simply assumed more power than any of the other paid crew. Come to think of it, Azula wasn’t exactly sure how the dog had conned her way into traversing the swamp to Tia Dalma’s island shack in the first place. Ostensibly, she was around to be Hela and she’s bodyguard -- at least, that’s what she thought.

But did a simple bodyguard get the privilege of meeting a power like the sea witch?

No -- there was something else about Rominia that allowed her into the circle, made this a triumvirate instead of a simple duo. Azula couldn’t quite place her finger on what it was, but she was… impressed?

A glass of rum clinked down on the table before her. “Careful now,” Rominia warned, “it burns.”

A burn? I can handle a burn, Azula scoffed, rolling her eyes and lifting the glass to her lips and taking a sip. The rum didn’t even reach the little dangly thing in the back of her throat before she’d regurgitated it straight into Rominia’s face.

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 971 (according to Google Docs)
Total WC: 6391/20000
 

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In her mind, Hela found herself ruminating on what could have been. An endless landscape of realms under her dominions flittered through her thoughts as she scowled at Opealon’s never-ending horizon. Glancing upward, the Goddess of Death looked up at the stars and wondered how much of this night sky was shared with the former Asgard.

Perhaps none?

The concept that this was all some convoluted afterlife or limbo had lingered with Hela since she had woken up, adrift at sea and deprived of the full breadth of her glory. Yet, an afterlife was supposed to be rife with… penance? Metaphors? Torments?

While Opealon had plenty of real and imagined torments, the world was too plain to be a component of some in-the-flesh Valhalla or Hel. Logic dictated that she had merely been so soundly crushed and trounced that the Ragnarok-infused fire giant had weakened reality enough for her to tumble through a splinter in space-time.

Even if she wasn’t being tortured by the souls of the damned, Hela nevertheless suffered seemingly endless indignity on this world. Her eyes glanced down to see that the dog-woman had left the deck. The door that led to the captain’s quarters was slightly ajar, and the lantern light implied that the room was occupied. Was this the part where Miss Princess attempted to win over the mercenary with tales of how her parents had left her with emotional scars, and that she was merely ‘misunderstood’ by those around here?

Teenagers. Hela sneered as she glimpsed up to the skies once again. This time, she paused to take note of another large island passing high over their heads. From what the pirates had told her before their untimely murders, Opealon had a whole second society that lived up there in the clouds. Something about ‘advanced technologies’ and ‘ships that sail through the air.’ To the Goddess of Death, it sounded like the people who lived up in the sky had all the firepower, even if the oceans down below were infested with individuals like Tia Dalma.

I’m sure we’ll be acquainted with high society soon enough. The Asgardian sneered as her eyes fell to the horizon once more. How large was this world? She’d been on Midgard just a few, fleeting moments, but she had caught sight of it as she departed on the Bifrost. Its oceans were large but paled in comparison to many of the other realms… where did ‘Opealon’ fall into that spectrum? Not knowing frustrated the woman, because she loathed the feeling of being unprepared, especially given the fact that she was but a shadow of her former self.

Elevated voices down below pulled Hela out of her thoughts and back once more to the crude reality of barnacle-encrusted wood and undead sailors. Craning her neck, the Asgardian queen watched as Azula came bursting through the door to the captain’s quarters. There was something in the child’s lumbering gait that didn’t seem normal, and Hela found herself tensing as she slung herself over the railing. Had their mangy mercenary been slipped a better contract? Before the Goddess of Death took the plunge, she heard what was clearly a hiccup, and the young girl’s lumbering turned into a haphazard spinning that Hela knew all too well from an abundance of post-victory feasts.

Ahh, she can’t hold her ale.

“Where are you going?” The voice was that of Rominia, who stepped into the doorway and scrunched up her face as Azula walked away from her.

“It’s a lovely night!”

Hela cringed at how … exuberant the normally sour, scowling Azula sounded.

Hopping down from the crow’s nest, the Goddess of Death plopped down a few feet from the twirling teenager. Her eyes instantly met with those of the lycanthrope, who genuinely seemed to be suppressing a smile.

“She said she could handle it,” Rominia chuckled as she leaned back and casually took an extended drink from a dirty, translucent bottle. “Guess we know not to let her into the rum.”

Azula, her eyes a bit glazed over, twirled passed Hela and let out an audible ‘oof’ as she slammed into the railing with the entirety of her drunken momentum. There was a brief moment when the Asgardian wanted to watch the little princess go toppling over the rail and into the dark, but said instant quickly ended when she snatched out a hand and grabbed the young woman by her collar and yanked her away from the edge.

For a brief moment, there was a flash of indignation on Azula’s face, but then that look flooded away as the rum reasserted control. Humming, the princess floated away from the pair, but even as she did, Hela made certain that the undead pirates kept a close watch on the spattering of human souls who remained aboard their ship.

“Is that yours?” Hela asked, pointing to the bottle in Rominia’s hand.

“I found it below deck.”

“Good,” Hela muttered as she swiped the bottle from the mercenary and took her own swig from its foul contents. “I’ve had water more alcoholic than this,” the Goddess of Death remarked. “In Asgard, you’d be flayed alive for serving swill like this at the mead halls.”

“What’s Asgard?” The lycanthrope asked as she took the bottle, drank another swig, and passed it back to Hela.

Hela frowned before taking a drink. She felt a momentary flash of warmth from the booze, but then it was gone—sometimes Asgardian blood could be a curse. “My kingdom,” the woman finally replied with a rare smile. “Asgard was my everything.”

And now it is nothing more than ashes spread across a dark and loveless infinity.

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 946 (according to MS Word)
Thread WC: 5510/20000 (according to MS Word)
 

Rominia

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Hela’s answer gave no clarification for Rominia. ‘My everything’ doesn’t exactly clarify what Asgard was. The only thing the lycanthrope understood was that if Asgard produces such powerful and terrifying women such as this, she wanted to visit. She took back the bottle of rum. Only with a sip or two left, she offered the remainder of it to the goddess, who firmly shook her head in refusal.

“If they make their spirits half as strong as their people, I am eager to travel there,” Rommie grinned as she downed the rest of the drink, the warm liquor tickling her throat. She brought down the bottle to her waist, leaning against the railing. However, Hela was acting out of the ordinary. Or well...differently than the short time that the mercenary had known her.

“Asgard is no more,” the goddess muttered under her breath, with a mixture of anger and depression lurking in her eyes.

Rominia wasn’t a therapist, nor was she paid to be a therapist. A stoic ‘my apologies’ were the only things that escaped her lips. She cast her gaze out to the see before Azula began another tirade.

“How dare you look at me like that? I am a princess of the -hic- fire nation!” the teenager drunkenly screeched. Rommie turned her head to see Azula screaming at one of Hela’s undead minions. “That’s it! You’re banished!” she sneered at the corpse, making the lycanthrope stifle a chuckle.

Hela was decidedly less amused and gave Rominia a tired expression. Rommie pushed her self off the railing. “I know. I know. This is my bad,” she groaned as if she were a child getting caught by a parent. “I’ll take care of her as long as you don’t hex me, witch,” she snarked as she walked toward the princess who was in the middle of a staring contest with the zombie, and the worst part was that she was losing.

“If that’s how you treat your princess, I challenge you to an Agni Kai!” she decreed, sloppily getting into her fighting stance.

“Alright honey,” Rominia came in, placing her rough hand on Azula’s shoulder. The princess jumped, shocked by the werewolf’s large presence. “We don’t need to do an Agnai Key, or whatever,” she said calmly.

“Agni kai,” Azula mumbled, relaxing and crossing her arms over her chest.

Rommie smiled before raising the empty bottle of rum and slamming it across the undead’s face, leaving shards of glass in their face. “See?” Rommie asked, albeit patronizingly. “He won’t be messing with you anymore. Now let’s go,” she tightened her grip on Azula’s shoulder and pushed her away from the stumbling undead. As they turned away, the lycanthrope felt a chill run up her spine. A thick mist engulfed the ship, smothering everyone on board.

Hela shouted up to the crew in the bird’s nest, “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know! This fog came out of nowhere!” He shouted back, his voice muffled.

“Fuck,” Hela cursed beneath her breath. “It doesn’t matter. Rominia, where does the compass tell you to go?” she demanded to know. Rommie nodded, though Hela likely couldn’t see her. She leaned the drunken princess against the cabin wall and opened the compass that Tia Dalma gave her. The compass needle spun around and around, and instead of eventually settling on a direction, it never stopped.

“It’s not telling me!” the werewolf shouted back.

“What?!”

Hela’s question was drowned out by a large boom, followed by a whistling sound. Something whizzed past overhead, just barely missing Rominia’s head. She ran towards that direction, hoping to see anything in this damnable fog. As she reached the rail, she could barely make out a semi-circle shape appearing to float by their ship’s side. She squinted-

*BOOM*

Another explosion came along with a bright flash of light. The cannonball whizzed past her and cracked into the ship’s mast. No longer able to support the sails, it teetered over before collapsing into the ship. Rominia looked over to see Azula, who had magically sobered up under pressure. With a sigh of relief, she turned back towards the ship that had begun sailing away, flying underneath a black flag with a skull and crossbones. It fired a few more canons into the side of the ship, shaking the entire vessel before slunk away into the mist.

“After them,” Hela commanded, pointing her finger towards their attackers.

“We don’t have a sail,” Azula strode up to the Goddess of Death, rum still lingering on her breathe and in her veins, but she seemed largely sober. “We’re sitting ducks,” she scowled.

A crewman ran up from below deck, panting and out of breath. “We’re taking water, captains!”

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 785 (according to MS Word)
Thread WC: 6295/20000 (according to MS Word)
 

Azula

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Between the fog and the alcohol-induced haze, Azula’s captaining skills were not exactly top notch as the unknown enemy bore down on their ship. She didn’t know if it was the rum flowing through her veins or just her general demeanor not mixing well with this set of challenges, but she was angry. So when the word ‘captains’ with an ‘s’ left one of the few remaining living crewmen’s lips, Azula bristled.

“Then tell the water to get lost,” she hiccuped, pointing a sharp nail at him. He stood for a moment scratching his head in disbelief, looking with an all-too-judgmental expression at the princess. Azula wasn’t pleased with that look, wrapping her fingers around his face and igniting before either of her two more powerful cohorts could think to stop her — or, in this fog, before they could even register what was going to happen. The unfortunate messenger crumpled, his life slipping away as his skin was reduced to ash, and landed with a clunk on the floor of the deck, finally giving Hela and Rominia some idea of where their younger partner stood.

“Azula,” Rominia called, bursting through the fog, “what the hell are you doing?”

“Tch,” Azula scoffed, “learning that it seems we’ve got to do everything ourselves, Rommie!”

The fire princess swayed a bit as she threw herself through the door to the cabins, swerving to the stairs to the lower decks with less than her normal grace. The sound of cannon fire may have made her mostly come to her senses, but her body was still catching up to her brain, acting altogether inundated with drink. True to form, that just infuriated her more.

The pounding of Rominia’s boots following her reached her ears. She’d nearly turned off her own hearing to stop the incessant ringing so the lycan’s footfalls went largely ignored as she continued to barrel down the steps, finally reaching the place where the water had started to pool on the ground. By now it had reached ankle height, and Hela’s skeletal goons were having… a less than successful time scooping it up in buckets and dumping it out. A cursory glance around the lower deck showed that it poured in from the singular puncture wound almost as fast as they could shovel it.

Goddamn, good-for-nothing zombies.

“Hela,” Azula called as the goddess of death appeared at the top of the staircase, close on Rominia’s heels. “Perhaps you could encourage your legion of undead to do something more useful?”

Hela’s jaw dropped a bit and she went to answer -- and perhaps scold the teenager for her insolence -- when Rominia held up a hand to stop her. The werewolf pointed down to the fire princess, who had begun to lower herself slowly to a kneel.

Azula’s knees dipped into the water until one of them finally hit the deck, and she spread her fingers out and splayed her hands on the water’s surface. She closed her eyes, and gradually, bubbles began to pop up around her fingers as the standing liquid started to… boil. Several seconds passed as the sea water gradually transformed into water vapor, disappearing almost completely from the lower decks’ floor save for that which still surged in through the cannon hole. Azula’s eyes snapped open and her gaze darted toward the squad of bewildered skeletons who’d been dumping buckets.

“Plug it,” the firebender spat.

The undead looked to their leader, and Hela shrugged, gesturing toward the hole. “You heard the captain.”

The skeletons scurried off to their new job as Azula zapped the little that had poured in during the last few seconds into vapor, then stood and turned around. Hela leaned against one wall of the staircase, and Rominia hid a slight smirk.

“Impressive,” the goddess of death oozed.

Azula didn’t know why that admission from the old woman made her chest feel so… warm, but she latched onto the feeling nonetheless. Against her better judgment, one side of her lips started to curl into a small smile. She fought back against it, and luckily, Hela saved her from an extended Agni Kai with her own face.

“Now,” the hag sighed, “shall we go kill them?”

Azula smirked. “Yes, I think we should.”

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 706 (according to Google Docs)
Quest WC: 7001/20000 (according to GDocs)
 

Hela

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With the situation remedied for the time being, the trio raced back up to the deck of their commandeered ship. Rominia had barely reached the top of the landing when their vessel was waylaid with another salvo of cannonballs. The impact sent the still booze impaired Azula toppling off the side of the stairs and down onto the ship’s gun deck.

Craning her neck to find the girl, Hela’s focus was torn as she heard a groaning Rominia from up on the deck. The Asgardian hustled up into the open, her right hand clenched tightly into a fist as she summoned a black tower shield to intercept the small arms fire that had continued to pepper their deck crew.

“What happened?” Hela barked as she twisted her neck to try and find the downed dog.

“What the fuck do you think happened?” Rominia growled from behind an overturned barrel near the foredeck. As the Asgardian slid in down next to the woman, she quickly noted that one clenched hand was squeezed down against a bloodstained patch of clothing. “This fog isn’t natural … they’re right on top of us, but I couldn’t see anything.”

“Are you … good?” Hela asked as the tower shield groaned behind the impact of a few more musket balls. “You’re not going to get wolfy, are you?”

Rominia, his voice labored through tightly clenched teeth, glared up at Hela. “For your sake, you should hope I do not.”

Hela sneered, but before she could provide an appropriately scathing response to the bloody dog-woman, a cannonball slammed into her makeshift defensive bulwark. The all-black tower shield shattered as the projectile crashed into the woman’s side and sent her exploding through the railing of the vessel. One second, the Goddess of Death was formulating something witty and condescending, and the next, she was several feet underwater.

Still staring at the smoldering remains of the railings torn apart by Hela’s exeunt from the vessel, Rominia blinked a few times before dragging herself further behind her makeshift cover. “Fuck,” she added as the wound through her side continued to pulse blood. Her nails dug through the fabric as she tried to stymie the flow. As she focused on her breathing and not losing control of her mind, she felt the ship lurch as something exploded below deck.

“Wait, that wasn’t an explosion,” the lycanthrope muttered as she caught puffs of darker smog among the fog. Were they returning fire?

Below deck, Azula growled incoherently as she grabbed hold of the human swabby and slapped him in the face. “I said load the cannon again or die!” She shouted into his face as she proceeded to shove the grown man toward the nearest cannon. For a brief moment, it seemed like he was weighing his options, but when the two undead pirates standing near to Azula started toward him, the man decided his short lease on life was worth extending a little further.

“Aye, aye!” He shouted as he waved to the collection of living crewmen on the gundeck. “Look alive lads, we need to load up and return fire with all arms!”

“Quickly!” Azula barked as she gestured at the fog beyond the gun ports. “Before we’re all dead.”

The pirates—dead and undead—all rasped out ‘yo hos’ as they scampered to load up the crude and poorly maintained cannons housed on the vessel. As they worked, a clearly unnerved Azula kept her eyes glued to the fog that had shrouded their ship. She knew that the enemy was out there, and that they had clearly had enough time to reload. What she didn’t know is why they had refrained from sending another volley. Surely they knew that this ship was without a means to escape? The young woman glanced up at the ceiling and the shattered central mast that lay above it. What game were their foes playing at?

Bursting up from the water, Hela spewed saltwater from her mouth as she scanned her surroundings. From what she could tell, the blast had knocked her a solid ten feet from the boat, but the fog had grown so dense she could barely see within six inches of her face. “Damn it,” she muttered as she hovered above the water’s shockingly calm surface.

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 715 (according to MS Word)
Quest WC: 7715/20000 (according to MS Word)
 

Rominia

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Rominia grit her teeth as she painfully ripped out the wooden shank that had buried it into her side. She let out a terse grunt as the glorified splinter left her body. Apparently, it wasn’t only the cannonballs that the lycanthrope had to worry about, but also the shrapnel that the ship flung out when it was wounded. She wobbled to her feet, leaning against the destroyed railing.

She desperately looked for something, but the fog had gotten so thick that she couldn’t see her own hand in front of her face. She heard another volley of explosions downstairs, Azula still likely leading the retaliation effort. Following the sounds, and only occasionally running face-first into obstacles. Rommie eventually made her way below deck, lead to the crew by the sobering up fire princess.

“Fire!” she shouted, to which the crew shouted with a ‘heave, ho!’ and another explosion. “Give them no quarter!” she continued to bark orders, which even Hela’s zombies began to obey.

“You’re a natural,” Rominia chuckled, the brief lighting from the cannon fire illuminated the fire bender’s silhouette.

“Of course it is,” Azula confidently remarked, flipping her hair. “I am my father’s daughter after all,” she scoffed before barking, “Fire!” again.

“Belay that order!” Rominia countered before coughing up bloody phlegm.

“How dare you?” Azula hissed, flabbergasted.

“They haven’t fired back in some time. They’re either gone...or plotting something,” the werewolf retorted.

“Ugh. If you’re not going to help, get out of my way,” Azula hissed, placing her hand on Rominia’s side and pushing her away. She paused though when she felt her warm blood soak onto her hands. “You’re already hurt?” she asked, almost offended that Rominia got hurt this easily.

“Better me than you,” Rominia scoffed, wincing slightly at Azula’s pressure.

“I can take care of myself. Thank you.”

“Well, isn’t that what you pay me the big bucks for? To take your hits for you?” Rominia chuckled, a rough cough interrupting it.

Azula took a step back, a little flustered. It was odd. She was used to manipulating people and controlling them through fear. So she was flustered when Rominia, and even Hela, stood with her. They had no fear of the Fire Princess, nor her firebending, and yet they fought alongside her all the same.

Before either of them could continue, they could hear the sound of heavy feet, thumping on the deck above them. ‘I think I figured out what their plan is,” Rominia snarkily muttered.

Not laughing, Azula scowled. “Let’s go,” she hissed before bolting up the stairs. Rominia followed after, stumbling up a few of the steps.

“Lookey here, boys,” a shadowy figure spoke confidently through the mist. “We got some fresh meat- bags,” he snickered along with a few unseen figures.

The fire bender did not appreciate being laughed at, so she took a step forward and thrust her fists, launching a fireball at her foe. The fire made it through the thick mist before anticlimactically colliding with the silhouette. It singed the pirate’s clothing, which he calmly patted away, with a bony hand. The skeleton staggered forward, drawing his cutlass and pointed it towards the duo.

“It’s gonna take a lot more than a tiny flame to hurt me darlin’,” the undead pirate chuckled. “Get ‘em, boys,” the undead first-mate commanded. The skeleton crew charged forward, blades drawn. Rominia dashed in front of Azula, taking out her warhammer and entering a defensive stance. A few of the enemies swords flew out from the shadows and collided with the handle. The lycanthrope threw their weapons off from hers and pressed forward, slamming her warhammer into one of their skulls. With a comedic pop, their head came off, but instead of collapsing the skeleton instead continued to fight. From behind her, Azula launched another fireball at an approaching pirate, but the fire didn’t seem to affect him much. He brushed the flames off and slashed the werewolf in the back.

“Can’t you do anything else?” screeched Rommie, quickly turning to face this new threat. “Where is that damnable witch when you need her!”

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 683 (according to MS Word)
Quest WC: 8398/20000 (according to MS Word)
 

Azula

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“Can’t you do anything else?”

Azula blustered. The real answer was, well, no -- nothing else had ever been required of her. She’d excelled so greatly at firebending that she’d never really needed anything else, and on the rare occasion she did, she always had underlings around to do the brunt of the work for her. During her pursuit of the Avatar, she’d relied on Mai and Ty Lee to fill in the gaps where her own experience left something to be desired. Those girls had been invaluable in that fight, even if she had neglected to show her appreciation more often than not.

For a split second, the world stood still as she felt a twinge of… was that regret? It couldn’t be, surely. Nevertheless, she felt something like guilt swirl in the pit of her stomach, and wished quietly that she could meet one of those two girls again.

She wished that she could see her… what was the word people used?

…were they friends?

She scoffed. The two of them probably would disagree with that estimation. Azula wasn’t inclined to attach such sentiment to the relationship, either; however much she may have neglected their feelings, at the end of the day, those two had betrayed her, and that stung deeper than any wound ever could. In the firebender’s book, there was never an excuse for betrayal. Under no circumstances.

Which was why she wouldn’t betray Rominia to these ghouls now. ‘Better me than you’ -- wasn’t that what the woman had said? Azula didn’t care if she was motivated by money or genuine sentiment, it had been far too long since she’d had anyone show any sort of concern for her well-being. Actually -- had she ever experienced that?

“Stand down, dog,” the princess commanded, stepping in front of the lycanthrope and holding out an arm. Rominia’s arm bent around her back, trying to reach the fresh slash wound. A quick glance showed Azula that blood bubbled up from it, and her scowl went even deeper. Once again, the mutt had gotten injured on her behalf -- that was something she just couldn’t have anymore. “No doubt you’re searching for the captain of this vessel,” she postured, “and that would be me. Might I have the same courtesy of speaking with your commander?”

The contingency of skeletal sailors closing in on her giggled, sharpening their cutlasses on their own bones. Amidst the smattering of commentary, the fire princess heard their mocks and taunts -- a girl being captain of this vessel seemed to be a source of much entertainment for them. Blue flames sparked around Azula’s fingertips and she prepared to fight again if they refused her demands, but as the cacophony of croaky voices grew to a fever pitch and one soldier at the head of the pack lifted his sword to slash once again, a bloodied hand grasped tightly on the fire princess’ wrist.

Rominia coughed below her. “Parley,” she spat up a bit of blood, “she’s asking for parley.”

A groan elicited, almost in unison, from the undead crew. Azula tilted her head to the side and let out a lengthy, annoyed sigh. She could barely tell Hela’s skeletons apart from the ones that had boarded her ship. When the witch returned, she needed to remember to let her know to do something to differentiate them. Where were stylish uniforms like the Dai Li’s when you needed them?

She blinked a bit, and through the fog, she indeed saw the lithe form of the goddess of death hovering above a railing behind the crew of invaders. Hela’s expression had twisted in frustration, it seemed; the enemy’s numbers were not anything to shake a stick at. The two women locked eyes, and Azula shook her head subtly; she knew the old hag probably wasn’t planning on rushing in to save them anyway, but nevertheless, the fire princess needed to emphasize this wasn’t the time. Their enforcer was tough, but against these sheer numbers, she wouldn’t be able to defend them from damage for long.

“So she wants to see the captain,” the same cutlass-wielding skeleton from before -- the one that had absorbed her first fire ball -- grimaced. “Well then, boys,” he chuckled, “shall we take ‘em to see the captain?”

“No,” Azula bit back, “you will take me to see the captain. I am the commander of this vessel. You need nothing more with my dog.”

Rominia went to protest, but Azula lifted a finger.

“Silence, dog,” she said, glancing down at the woman. Their eyes met, and she tried her best to relay to the lycanthrope that she had a plan -- of sorts. Rominia’s face scrunched, but Azula couldn’t tell whether it was from understanding or anger. Nevertheless, she pressed on.

“So ye wanna talk… captain to captain?” the skeletal first mate said.

“Yes,” Azula nodded, scowl deepening further.

“I s’pose that can be arranged,” he shrugged, snapping his fingers. Two undead sailors started toward the fire princess, so she quickly turned and knelt down next to the injured form of Rominia.

She placed her hands on the lycanthrope, one on the slash on her back and the other on her side wound, and lightly lit flames at her fingertips. “This won’t help much, Rommie,” Azula hiccuped, the stench of rum floating into the werewolf’s face, “but you can’t bleed to death, dog. I order you not to.”

Rominia’s eyes flicked up and past Azula’s shoulder as the fire princess lightly cauterized her wounds. Could she see Hela behind the rest of the undead intruders? Azula didn’t have much time to consider before skeletal fingers wrapped around her arms and yanked her away, through the obscuring fog and onto the enemy’s vessel.

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 953 (according to Google Docs)
Quest WC: 9351/20000 (according to GDocs)
 

Hela

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Flight had a rather … limited appeal if you were unable to navigate while in the air.

Hela wasn’t certain how long she drifted through the haze, but eventually, she was able to follow the flash of cannons and the thunder of battle back in the direction of the warring ships. Unfortunately, the iron artillery fell silent before she managed to blindly feel her way into anything solid.

“This grows tiresome,” she muttered as she drifted forward. “This is belittling.” She added as he closed her eyes and rubbed at the bridge of her nose. She continued to drift blindly—this time literally, as she continued to massage at the tension in her face—until she thumped right into the side of a ship.

“Finally,” she murmured as she opened her eyes and stared at the wooden surface before her. This was their ship, right? Brown wood. Scratches. Barnacles. This had to be the piece of garbage that they had absconded with from the pirate flotilla, right?

“All of these pieces of trash look the same,” she muttered as she drifted upward toward what should be the deck. Drifting up over the aged wood, Hela silently dropped down onto the wooden surface and glanced around her surroundings. A few feet away, one of her undead pirate cronies was staring at her strangely—she wasn’t quite sure she appreciated the expression on his face.

For that matter, the deck was strangely silent for one that had just been a scene of people frantically hunkering down amid a hail of cannon- and small-arms fire. Shouldn’t there be… musket balls? Scorch marks?

That fucking lackey was walking her way. He even looked upset. The fucking gall of this asshole!

“What are you doing on this ship?” The pirate rasped, and it was then that Hela’s eyes went wide. In a puff of black smog, a necrosword appeared in her hand, and she stepped forward and plunged it through the skeleton’s spinal column. The undead pirate’s head went spinning off its head, and with a flick of her wrist, Hela called his hat into her unoccupied hand as she proceeded to casually dump the still flailing corpse off the side of the boat.

Spinning around just as she heard the sound of approaching voices, Hela squinted just as she saw a delegation of undead pirates stepping out from the mist. Stuffing her hands into the billowy fabric of her cloak, Hela stepped back into the shadows of the foredeck and pulled the pirate hat down over her face.

“Touch me with those hands, and you’ll – hic – pull back burnt stumps,” an all-too familiar voice rasped as the small-statured form of Azula came into view. The teenage fire bender was being escorted onto the vessel by a retinue of snickering skeletal pirates. For a brief moment, Hela and the younger woman made eye contact, but the Goddess of Death quickly averted her eyes as the delegation passed up the nearby flight of stairs and made for the captain’s quarters.

What did she do now? Hela twisted up her mouth as she glanced in the direction that the angry little princess had come from. Where was the dog woman? Dead? Crippled? Weren’t they paying her good money to die for them?

“Can’t buy good help these days,” Hela whispered to herself as she telekinetically summoned a nearby mop and casually sashayed her way up the stairs and onto the foredeck. With her eyes glued to the piece of garbage ‘cleaning tool’ in her hands, her eyes focused on picking up the conversation unfolding inside the cabin. Fortunately for the Asgardian, the cabin’s quarters had two perfectly open windows that made it impossible to not eavesdrop on the conversation.

“These are my waters, Girl,” a voice rasped as Hela stole a view through the window. She had no doubt that the speaker was the boat’s captain. “Do you even know who I am?”

“A dead man?” Azula asked with a perfect blend of snark and youthful innocence.

A hoarse, rattling laugh followed as Hela continued to analyze the skeletal captain who stood in the cabin. He easily towered over his peers, which made him almost have to crane over to sneer down at the smug little princess. He wore a purple-hued great coat, but it was the necklace that hung from his neck that intrigued the Asgardian queen. “You don’t know, do ye?” The pirate snickered.

“I feel like you’re going to tell me either way,” came Azula’s response as the pirate captain threw his hands up into the air and puffed out his undead chest. “I am Jolly Roger, captain of the Harkaway and terror of these waters! I am your worst nightmare!” At that, he actually started to guffaw, followed shortly thereafter by the four pirates who had escorted Azula into the cabin.

When the bombast died down, Hela kept her eyes glued to the necklace. If this was Jolly Roger, that had to be Tia Dalma’s trinket, correct? Had their quarry been so foolish as to come to them?

You’re the ones with a crippled ship.

Hela scowled as she glanced back at the conversation.

“You will all surrender to us, Little Miss Captain,” Jolly Roger declared. “Unconditional surrender. Ye wenches will all give yourself to us.”

The older woman, unpleased by those conditions and the lecherous tone of the undead pirate as he looked down at Azula, scowled as she manifested a necrosword into one of her hands.

“I have better conditions,” the princess offered, prompting snickers from the crewmen.

“And what be yer conditions?” Jolly Roger inquired.

“Easy. You all surrender, and we’ll let you rot in the brig instead of grinding you all into a nice, ivory paste.”

The crewman all chuckled, but Hela noted that their captain was not pleased.

“Parlay is over,” Jolly Roger barked as he drew a cutlass from his belt that immediately began to burn with ethereal black flames. “To the locker with ye!”

He swung the weapon at the young girl’s neck but was immediately confused with an unmanned sword intercepted him. “What sorcery?”

Hela, having already thrown open the door to the captain’s quarters, swung the business end of the mop at Jolly Roger’s head. The impact was enough to knock the pirate off balance and send his now moistened hat to the carpeted floor of his cabin.

Looking over at Hela, Azula’s expression hardened, but as she opened her mouth, the other woman grabbed her by the wrist. “You can thank me later!” She tugged the princess out of the cabin and out onto the foredeck. “That way!” Hela added as she turned and swung the door of the captain’s quarter into the face of an oncoming crewman.

“I’m not an idiot, I know directions,” Azula snapped before throwing a fistful of flames into Jolly Roger’s cabin and leaping down onto the main deck of the ship.

The two women ‘strategically withdrew’ back over to their ship, with Azula setting fire to the gangplanks that had been used to board their ship. A confused Rominia was able to immediately piece together how the situation had unfolding on the other vessel.

“We’re doomed, aren’t we?” The lycanthrope asked just as Harkaway opened fire on their already crippled vessel. With its full complement of cannon all unloading at once, from such a short distance, the flagship of Jolly Roger sliced clean through the ladies’ commandeered ship.

As the deafening boom of the Harkaway’s cannons died down, Hela looked around to see that the supernatural fog seemed to be easing away. “Are they leaving?” The Asgardian asked as she glanced around to confirm that the princess and the not-frog were still in one piece.

“Do blame them?” Rominia remarked casually.

Azula’s response, ironically enough, was more akin to a bark than coherent human speech. “Sarcasm?”

“We’re dead in the water, Princess,” Rominia quipped as she pointed at the hatch that would normally take them below deck. “In fact, we’re going to literally be dead in the water in the next few minutes.”

Hela and Azula both glanced to see that their ship had already started to list, and the below decks were already fatally infiltrated with sea water.

“Any more magic tricks?” Rominia muttered as she clapped Azula on the shoulder. “I hope you know how to swim.”

Swatting away Rominia’s hand, Azula glared out into the foggy ocean as the vessel beneath her feet slowly continued its final death roll.

“It’s okay,” Hela added as she stepped up and clapped the girl’s other shoulder. “All the best captains lose a ship or two. You’ll bounce back.”

“I hate you both,” Azula barked as she stalked toward the stern of the ship.

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 1458 (according to MS Word)
Quest WC: 10809/20000 (according to MS Word)
 

Rominia

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The ship groaned and creaked underneath the exponentially growing weight of the water, tearing the wood apart from its seams. The ship began to tilt slightly, crates and various cargo began to slowly slide downwards. Rominia, doing her best to keep her balance, walked over to the railing, peering over the edge. The deep blue waters crashed upon the ship, eager to claim another shipwreck and the lives inside. If at first, they wouldn’t drown, they would surely be eaten by one of Opealon’s famous monsters or freeze from the frigid depths. The crew, the living one at least, had already taken this fact into account frantically searching this boat for a way off. One that didn’t involve dying.

Hela strode up, casually peering along with Rommie. “I am not particularly eager to smell wet fur,” she groaned, letting out a frustrated sigh. Her hands were crossed over her chest, her sharp nails rhythmically tapping against her skin.

“Your undead minions don’t exactly smell like roses,” the lycanthrope snarked back. “Though I suppose we won’t be smelling much when we’re dead,” she scoffed.

Hela wasn’t appreciative of the gallows humor. She scrunched up her face, “Oh, I do not plan on dying.” Rominia turned her head and narrowed her eyes at her ‘boss’.

“Then we might need to find something that will keep the rest of us afloat,” the werewolf stated matter-of-factly. Hela’s deadpan expression remained unchanged. ‘Wow’, Rominia thought to herself, ‘this bitch doesn’t give a fuck.’

However, as if it were providence itself, Azula rushed over towards the duo, an eager fire in her eye. She cupped her hand to the side of her mouth as she whispered, “Hurry, I found a lifeboat.” The evil glint in her eye gave the lycanthrope more information than what Azula actually said. From what Rominia could tell, the fire nation princess had no intention of sharing yet another vessel with their incompetent crew.

“I suppose that would be more convenient,” Hela dismissed, casually following the excited Azula, the lycanthrope trailing behind. The tight grip on her heart loosened as the idea of her impending death seemed less and less probable.

As the reached the bow of the ship, the lycanthrope saw their salvation. A small, dingy dinghy. The lowering contraption was covered in rust and the lifeboat itself seemed to have a coating of moss on its edges. However, between dying and riding on that ship, it was an easy choice.

“Hey, what’s that over there?”

Rominia turned her head to see one of the crew members, that had managed to gather his wits, pointing at the trio about to board the lifeboat. The rest of the mob jerked their heads and noticed the raft that would presumably save all of their lives. Rommie turned to look back at the lifeboat. She reckoned it would hold no more than four or five before sinking, if even that.

Rominia drew her warhammer and let it rest on the ground as the horde of stampeding sailors rushed towards safety. As they neared, she hefted it over her shoulder and slammed it inches away from a crewmate’s face. The mob practically hissed at her warning attack.

“What do you think you’re doing, you foul-stenched bitch,” one of the bodiless voices called out. Rominia was visibly taken aback for a brief moment. The fear of death really brings out the balls of some men.

Stifling a chuckle at their newfound bravado, Rominia hefted her weapon up over her shoulder again. “We’ll be taking this lifeboat,” Rominia confidently stated. She turned her head to see Hela step in after Azula. “And I don’t believe any of you will be joining us.”

“Argh, but that captain’s supposed to go down with his ship.”

“Yeah!”

The Goddess of Death chuckled, “Now you consider us your captains? Have a good time in…” she turned her head to Azula and mumbled, “what was it called again? Oh yes, Davy Jones locker.”

The men panicked and screamed, pushing over one another to try and get on the raft. Rominia put her warhammer as the last barrier between them and the other women. The boat’s slope grew steeper and the wood cracked, riling the men into an even more savage frenzy. As she was about to be trampled, the lycanthrope put all of her weight into shoving the men off before slamming her weapon into the lowering mechanism. The rope snapped, sending the vessel quickly down into the ocean with a heavy plop.

The crew let out a collective, painful cry as they splurged forth, throwing themselves overboard to try to have a chance to get into the raft. Rominia was caught in this wave. After a few men pushed past her to jump off into the cold ocean in a vain attempt, she was thrown off balance and was sent into the briney deep.

The saltwater rushed up into her nose and mouth, filling it with that distinctive taste. The shock made her want to gasp for air as she flailed around in the water. The salt stung as she opened her eyes to try and make for the surface. The werewolf made large strokes, making steady progress towards the precious air.

Before she could reach the top, a hand yanked down and easily pulled her out of the water and gently placed her on a wooden bench. Rominia gasped for air and rubbed the water out of her eyes, getting a better look at her saviors. A sly grin came to her face as she recognized her favorite pair, the fire princess and the death queen.

“Good,” Hela spoke casually, flicking the saltwater off of her hand. “We paid for well more than a week’s worth of your services. We cannot have you go dying on us now, can we?”

Azula, paying no mind, let out a fiery punch, sending a fireball towards the ship and starting a flame. The remaining crew who had not abandoned ship screamed in agony as they were faced with the prospects of burning alive or drowning.

Rominia smiled, “What is with you and setting boats ablaze?”

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 1022 (according to MS Word)
Quest WC: 11831/20000 (according to MS Word)
 

Azula

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She glared into the fog. The flaming wreckage of their ship danced with the haze, shimmering against the deep blue of the ocean waves crashing against it. Sapphire embers twisted amidst the wooden skeleton of the Obsidia, reflecting faintly off of Azula’s gold eyes as her brow furrowed deeper and deeper by the second. She scowled; what a weak fucking ship.

“Where I come from, our ships are made of sterner stuff,” she spat, turning and sitting cross-legged at one point of the ship. She looked up at her compatriots in time to watch Hela raise an eyebrow and Rominia pretend to be completely focused on rowing.

“Where I come from, there’s a magical rainbow bridge that can transport you between dimensions,” Hela shrugged with a chuckle. Azula and Rominia looked at her quizzically, but the Goddess of Death trudged on. “Oh!” she grinned, lifting a finger. “And spaceships! We had spaceships.”

“So this is quite a downgrade,” Rominia muttered.

“Putting it lightly,” the old woman scoffed.

Azula’s eyes had followed Hela’s pointing finger, and now she stared up into the sky, squinting her eyes. She knew that somewhere high above them, floating islands drifted through the stratosphere — but was that all? This planet was still so full of mystery… was it farfetched to believe it might not be the only one of its kind?

Her father’s view of the world had always seemed so limited. What boon did conquering the nations of her home -- the simpletons of the Water Tribe, the hippies of the Air Temples, the paranoid conspirators of the Earth Kingdom -- have? She’d always felt like she was meant for grander designs. She scoffed as she realized Zuko might’ve called it delusions of grandeur… but her father had crowned her Fire Lord. He’d made her the leader of the Fire Nation.

Didn’t that mean she was meant for something truly great?

Her lips curled into a smirk as she returned her gaze to her fellow boat-dwellers. If Hela’s realm contained these ‘ships of space,’ then what was to say their new realm didn’t? She couldn’t be sure, but… undoubtedly, at the very least, someone on this godforsaken planet had invented a way to get up to those damn islands. She didn’t know why, but she felt like Tia Dalma’s locket was their ticket out of this endless ocean and to much vaster, less oceanic lands they could conquer — or at least it’d point them in the right direction.

“What’s going on up there, princess?” the lycanthrope asked, observing the calculating expression that now adorned the firebender’s countenance. The two older women shared a concerned glance — they’d most often thought of the fire princess as an impulsive brat, so the idea that she was concocting anything worried the two of them greatly. Azula knew, though, that back in her home realm, she’d always impressed. Her father had named her Fire Lord. She’d orchestrated the sacking of Ba Sing Se almost singlehandedly. Hela and Rominia would come around.

She rose up onto her knees, moving closer to her two unwitting comrades. “Ladies,” she smirked, “I’m the greatest firebender that has ever lived. You’re the Goddess of Death. You’re a fucking werewolf.”

The other two ladies blinked, and Azula pressed on,

“Who the hell does this Jolly Roger think that he is?” she continued. “Once again, we find ourselves stuck in a rut in this godforsaken ocean. We’re meant for better things, ladies. Aren’t we?”

Rominia glanced to Hela. The Goddess of Death bristled. “I am growing tired of insolent pirates testing me,” the raven-haired witch mused.

The lycanthrope’s gaze turned toward Azula. “What are you thinking, princess?”

Azula’s lips curled into a sadistic grin. “I think I need to torch one more ship.”

Quest: In the Heart of the Sea
Azula, Hela, Rominia
Post WC: 627 (according to Google Docs)
Quest WC: 12458/20000 (according to GDocs)
 
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