BREACHSPACE: Fiendish Profiles, “The Tale of Cap’n Crabb and the Coral Bay Boy” by E.J. Tett
The town of Coral had once bustled with life. A vibrant coastal settlement on the island of Hopney, it boasted the richest harbour and best fishing for miles around. It attracted artists, seeking to capture the pretty white-fronted buildings and cobalt sea in their paintings, sculptors looking to make their fortunes from the orange clay of the cliffs, jewellers who carved trinkets from the coral that gave the town its name, pearl hunters who dived for oysters, and fishermen who caught eels the size of the great wyrms of old.
Merchants would trade there, visitors came from afar, and even royalty had stepped out onto the dock to dine and seek entertainment and return home with tales of Hopney’s greatest town – its pride and joy. Coral. Where dreams came true.
Nowadays it was a ghost town and Grimdir was, frankly, sick of the sight of the place. The buildings were ruined and burned, the harbour wall fallen into the sea. Even the cliffs crumbled and landslides were common.
Grimdir dragged his net out of the sea and hauled it up the beach, digging his walking stick into the sand to help himself gain a better purchase. He’d leave if he was able. He straightened his aching back, took a moment to catch his breath and then smashed a fish’s head with his stick.
He was sick of fish too, but he was no good at hunting and he had to eat something. With a groan, he raised his stick again. And then stopped and shielded his eyes from the sun. Coming along the beach and getting closer, were two figures. A man and a woman.
Grimdir watched, a frown heavy on his brow. When the couple spotted him, the man lifted his hand in greeting and called, “Hoi! Friend, can you help us?”
He lowered his stick and rested his hands on it, waiting until the people drew nearer. They were young. Pretty.
Stupid. “Help you?” he repeated.
“We can pay,” the woman said. “It’s our boat, we have a leak and no way of fixing it.”
Idiots. Grimdir sniffed. “I don’t need money,” he said. “But I can help you—”
“Oh, thank you!”
“—If you take me with you when you leave.”
The couple exchanged a look. Grimdir attempted a smile, though it hurt his cheeks.
“Of course,” the woman said. Her eyes moved past Grimdir to the wreckage of the town behind him and she grasped her companion suddenly. “This is Coral!”
“It is,” Grimdir said. He turned and limped towards the town, leaving his catch behind. “Come with me. We’ll find some materials for your boat.”
“What happened here?” the man asked.
Grimdir gave him a sideways glance. “You don’t know?” Definitely idiots. Seaweed for brains.
The man shook his head and the woman clung to his arm. She reached out and touched Grimdir and he raised an eyebrow. “Tell us,” she said. “Tell us what happened.”
“All right,” he said. He wondered where to start. “There was a young man who once had a son, who for the purposes of this story we’ll call Boy—”
“What was the young man’s name?”
Grimdir looked at the woman. “Young Man,” he said. “Can I continue?”
* * *
Young Man and Boy’s mother didn’t get along, so one night while the Young Man slept, the mother took the Boy and vanished. This made Young Man very, very pissed off. So, he did what anybody would do and sought a ship’s captain to take him across the sea to Coral, where he knew the mother – having been born there – would’ve fled.
At his town’s harbour, Young Man met with the beautiful Captain Ocypodos and said to her, “I wish only to see my son once more.” And the captain, being a woman with a woman’s heart, said, “I will grant your wish.”
It wasn’t until they’d set sail that Young Man realised Captain Ocypodos was the captain of a pirate ship and that her crew were the roughest, meanest looking bunch to have ever sailed the seas. The crew referred to Ocypodos as Cap’n Crabb and Young Man presumed this was because of her habit of crushing her enemies, much as a crab crushes the shells of those smaller than itself.
The pirates boarded a trade ship on the way to Coral, killed most of its crew and took all its goods. Young Man watched as Cap’n Crabb crushed the skull of the trade ship’s captain and even then, he could only see how beautiful she was.
A week later, they arrived at Coral Bay.
Young Man thought he’d go in alone, snatch his son and make his escape back to the ship. In fact, he even shared his plan with the captain. But as night approached he sensed a different mood fall on the pirates. They were hushed and tense – excited too, and the Young Man could see the murderous glint in their eyes.
As he joined the captain on deck, she changed before his eyes. Her face became masculine and weather-beaten, and she – he – rose up, high above him, a four-limbed torso on a giant crab body. Cap’n Crabb. Two of his limbs were claws – skull-crushing pincers – and the Young Man knew now, how Ocypodos had smashed her enemies so easily.
The Young Man shrank back, eyes wide, as Cap’n Crabb yelled orders to drop anchor and attack Coral.
The pirates surged forwards, leaping from the ship brandishing cutlasses and pistols, and they swept into the town, burning and murdering.
Cap’n Crabb stayed behind for just a moment and looked at the Young Man. “I am a latebri demon,” he said. “And I will grant your wish tonight.”
The Young Man’s guts turned to ice and, taking advantage of the chaos, he fled from the ship. He hid on the beach, cowered behind a pile of lobster pots while the inhabitants of Coral screamed and fought.
He caught glimpses of Cap’n Crabb – saw that monstrous body, hulking and dangerous – crushing people in his claws and throwing them to the sea. He could hear the snap of the pincers and the click of the legs, somehow louder than the crackling of the burning buildings and the shouts of the people.
The smell of fear and vomit and charred flesh made him bolt from his hiding place and run towards the cliffs, hoping to find sanctuary in one of the caves. He almost made it too, when something sharp – a pincer – pierced his thigh and he fell forwards.
Young Man screamed and turned, and his breath caught in his throat when he came face to face with Cap’n Crabb. The Cap’n grinned. In his claw, was Boy.
* * *
Grimdir cleared his throat gruffly and shoved a bucket of tar into the man’s hands. “Take it,” he said.
“What happened to the boy?” the man asked. “Was he…?”
“Dead,” Grimdir said. “Yes. Very dead.”
He pushed past the man, ignored the look of concern on the woman’s face, and limped back down the beach. The demon had fulfilled his wish that night and he never saw his son again.
BREACHSPACE: Fiendish Profiles, “The Tale of Cap’n Crabb and the Coral Bay Boy”, written by E.J. Tett, published by XEI is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.