A pirate examines the wounded creature, pondering the implications of what lays before her. A near corpse. Of a creature long thought to be only a myth to scare children.

Strange times.

A near corpse—but not, you think, a corpse yet. And there is that of your mind which, even as you behold the astonishing sight which the world has chosen tonight to place before you, has begun to contemplate the mechanical. The harpoon, if that it be, is certainly too large to be withdrawn by hand; even just what you can see of its shaft above the wound is almost your own height, and you've no way to know how much more is hidden by the flesh of the creature it—torments? Certainly that's the word which springs to mind.

But the Bitch has no shortage of lines, and her capstan is thick and sturdy—as you should well know, its maintenance being part of the scut work that so often occupies one so new to the ship as yourself. And to think that greasing its bearing, half sunk in the bilges, manages not to be the filthiest of your labors...in any case, a one-inch line, you think, and the mechanical advantage of the great sideways winch, would easily suffice to draw the thorn from this great beast's flank. It would be difficult, no doubt—the work of hours, heavy and hard and perhaps even dangerous. But you already know exactly how to do it.

What you do not know is whether you will—whether you should. You've spent your entire young life, after all, hearing stories of the most appalling horrors, cautionary tales given the young by the old to instill the fear and disgust which the cultures of your part of the world—and especially your own, or that of your upbringing—believe necessary to ensure the safety of each new generation. There is, quite literally, nothing in the world you cannot imagine this creature would do to you, did you only behave so foolishly as to give it the chance—because your imagination has long been primed with precisely such horrors, in order to ensure that you do the only sensible—the only decent—thing in this circumstance, and leave the creature before you to die as it will.

But...well. Were you inclined in general to do decent things, you would not now be a pirate, would you? You would not have fled the seaside town which even as a child you never quite felt was your home. You would not have found yourself on a desolate strand some miles south, three days a starveling, the raw stripes of the lash across your back still almost as new and sore as when they were laid—watching a ragged little pinnace put ashore from a ship of low and rakish aspect laying off a ways at the mouth of this evidently untried harbor. Watching—and, finally, after only the most perfunctory of internal debate, approaching. Were you inclined in general to decency, you would not now be here.

After all: there was that, about all those stories with which your elders filled your ears, which they did not expect or intend. They expected horror and disgust. They intended nausea and aversion. And as the canny child you were, you gave them to believe they had succeeded in their purpose, the better to be uninterfered with in your own. Your decision to volunteer as a wood scout was lauded to the heavens, for after all, who but the bravest would seek out such a dangerous task, after only seventeen summers? Would take on such a risk of defilement for the benefit of her townsfellows? And it served you well for almost three years to let them believe so, right up until another scout stumbled backward into a little clearing you favored, and found you at exactly the wrong moment: a moment you could not possibly explain away. Thus, the lash, and the flight, and all the rest of it, right up to the choice that lies before you now.

For you know there is danger here. How well you know!—for even in the work of such a scout as you found so satisfying to be, there are many things in your world which are deadly unkind even to those who would seek them out. A creature such as this could destroy you so quickly, so utterly, that not even your mates here aboard the Bitch would ever know aught save that one night they suddenly never saw you again. But perhaps that is not all a creature such as this might do. Especially not for one who had rescued it from certain death. Perhaps it is not so wholly alien, after all, as some would have you think.