A pirate gazes at nothing for a time. Thinking of all the creatures she...encountered, as a scout. Her eyes catch a shifting in the dark water, a strange, wobbly limb brushes the Bitch's side more gently than this creature should be able. Before she knows that she's made a decision, she's calling her mates to the capstan.

The movement below is barely perceptible; it is so gentle a touch that the Bitch doesn't flinch, there isn't even a thump, but only a slight rise in the soft susurrus of the sea against the hull. An earnest of good intent, perhaps? Or perhaps not—no way to know, save that your own experience of the things your elders loathed gives you to understand that they are not all so monstrous as that. In any case, it decides you.

You could do this work yourself, perhaps. But you need not, perhaps. Either way, it is time to act. In a moment, you're down from the quarterdeck and at the capstan a little way aft from the forecastle, and with a soft whistle calling your watchmates to join you—no need to wake anyone with the ship's bell, especially not the captain; the three of you together should easily suffice the task, and more would only get in the way.

Your watchmates—an ill-matched pair, you think, and not for the first time. On the one hand, Quen, whose station is the bow and whose maned-wolf heritage shows in her lanky height, overtopping even the captain, though not so broad with muscle. Overtly friendly, you have on occasion found yourself doubting the verity of the smile you have never seen leave her muzzle—not even to climb up to her eyes—doubting, and wondering quite what she wears it to mask.

And on the other hand, just now descending the rigging from her station in the foretop, Lu, a diminutive and shapely beauty in cream and russet fox fur. Slightly small even for one of her kind, her generous proportions and artless grace have often given you to feel yourself large and clumsy and ungainly by comparison, and her reserved nature and occasional needle-tipped wit likewise do nothing to quell your doubts in the qualities of your own personality and intellect; dholes such as yourself are rare, and rarely considered paragons of either brains or beauty.

Quietly you explain the situation: close aboard the starboard quarter there is a—thing, which is dying, and you would save its life. And you explain further how you mean to accomplish it: a one-inch, two-hundred-foot line made fast to the capstan, its free end around your waist and down via a bosun's chair from the quarterdeck rail; bend the line into the harpoon's eye, then back up and to the capstan, there to rig three bars and walk the line around until it draws the harpoon free of the beast's flesh. And then?—

—and then it will perhaps no longer die, and this seems to you enough. This, and that your plan offers you the opportunity of a much closer encounter with the deep thing than you could ever have hoped possible—and why you should hope this is, perhaps, not clear even to you, despite your long acquaintance with things more similar than otherwise. But you find you want that very badly, and to the end of achieving it, you prepare to answer your watchmates' inevitable objections.

Or not so inevitable as all that: Lu only looks faintly amused, her slit-pupilled eyes regarding you narrowly as if seeing more acutely into you than you yourself do, and after a long moment Quen shrugs and says, "Very well, then, if you like. But quietly." To which you only nod—you would not wake the captain, either. But you might, if not so otherwise absorbed, wonder perhaps why the tall and always smiling woman should offer not even a token of demur.

In any case, it's but the work of a minute to fasten bitter end to capstan, and the others follow as you haul the balance of the line back up to the quarterdeck—no small task, silently carrying close to a hundred pounds of manila, but for all that you've wished to be perhaps more delicate than you are, you were well built and powerful of limb even before you signed aboard the Bitch, and your labors since have only improved your strength and stamina.

You are uncommon among this privateer crew in your lack of prior naval experience, and that experience shows in the fluidity with which your watchmates perform this somewhat novel evolution—smoothly as though a hundred times before. Not a word is required between them as they rig a bosun's chair from half-inch line and a pair of belaying pins, and wind the running line around a third pin in the rail so as to more easily control the rate at which Quen will pay it out as Lu feeds it. Odd perhaps they seem disinterested in the rare sight of the creature which—your quick glance reassures—remains close alongside; on the other hand, they are professionals with a task in hand, and will in any case have ample time to satisfy their curiosity once you're over the side.

Once the preparations are done, Quen holds the bosun's chair up for your inspection—it will, after all, be your hide that's riding on it. And then the tall wolf woman's ever-present smile quirks sideways, and in her quiet tenor says, "You should strip down first, you know. Those are good skins, and it'd be a shame to ruin them with a soak in salt, or whatever else is floating on it." Your hide riding on it, indeed!—and nothing else, if you give Quen her way. And certainly you do not imagine that concern for your garments lies behind this remarkable suggestion. A quick sidewise glance tells you that Lu has no hand in this, or will have; she only looks a little more amused, and one exquisitely shaped brow arches over one hazel eye as she watches to see how you'll respond.

—and how will you, for all of that? It's a hard task to preserve modesty aboard ship, you've found, but you have heretofore succeeded, save when you chose otherwise. Be you ever so immodest, you would be so only by choice; on the other hand, you need Quen's help for this, as Lu is too slight to manage your weight on the line. Quen might not forbear to help you if you refuse her. But, then again, she might.