Skulls and Shackles

Peenche. Ponchuu. Poncho.

“Peenche. Ponchuu. Poncho. Pinoche. Pinnncheee. Pin. Chey. PINCHEYA!” Fishguts chanted butchered versions of his name over and over. He’d been at it since his second bottle. He was currently well into his third. Or fourth. Pinche was too busy cutting, slicing, and chopping to give much attention to the cooks daily attempt to drown in booze.
His hands worked the knives in a blur, a skill developed in his youth for a much darker purpose. But it was a skill set aside years ago when he pledged service to the great and honourable Lord Maximo, and was now dulled by lack of use, age, and the Mwangi incident. A few days in the Galley had brought some of the old skill back, but by the Ancestors he still felt slow.
“Wha sort o’ name ish that anyways?” Fishguts asked a space a couple feet to Pinche’s left. “Bah. I thinksh I’ll jusht call you Squints.” He narrowed his eyes in imitation of the Tian eye, nearly fell off his stool, and scrambled to keep his bottle in hand, juggling it for a second before pulling it to his chest like a mother saving a child. His attention firmly back on his drink, Pinche hoped the new nickname was as transient as Fishguts’ span of attention. It was an insulting and unoriginal nickname, and one he imagined many Tians in the west likely burdened with. No need to add another.
Of course Pinche wasn’t his true name. He was certain that no one within a thousand miles, with the exception of his master, knew it. Beyond that, it was written in the secret scrolls of his clan, but never spoken once he donned the mask and joined their inner circle. A true name is a weakness for a good spy and assassin.
The knife made the last few cuts, twirled in his fingers, and flew across the galley into a chopping block he had set up to practice his aim. Fishguts turned to look at it with one round bloodshot eye, then turned back to Pinche and raised his bottle in a toast. “Nish thr…” He started to say, noticed the sectioned and diced ingredients on the table, and bellowed in surprise. “Argghh… no no no!”
Looking down in confusion, Pinche was sure he hadn’t missed anything, but the cook staggered to the table and pointed at some greasy purple goo. “You hash to GUTs them firsht! Put that in the shoup and everyone’d be heads n’ tails over the rails! Then they’d likely keel-haul ush both!” Fishguts slumped back on his stool and wiped sweat from his face.
Pinche didn’t know what to say. On one hand he almost got himself killed. On the other, he might have found the cook’s best weapon. “Uh, sorry.” He said, looking down in a subservient manner. But his mind explored the potential.
As he cleaned the ruined meal, retrieved his knife, and gathered new fish, he asked casually, being careful with his speech. “Are ahsome type of uh fishguts worse than a others?”

“Fishguts” Kroop


SpeedyCorbin SpeedyCorbin

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