Fatesbane: A Moment Lost

A Moment Lost

I breathed in the salty sea air as I walked into the port town on foot. Once, long ago, this was part of my elder brother’s territory, but now… Ever since Cegil had been exiled from the clan, he had lost everything- including his mate and daughter. I hear he now spends his days wandering the lands that used to be his, helping lowly humans that cross his path. I suppose it was better than doing nothing, but personally, I felt time could be better spent on things other than humans.

Still, I found myself trudging into the town known as Port Sibest in hopes that I might find him. He was bound to wander here sooner or later and I wanted the chance to talk to him. More than thirty years ago, our elders realized they had made a grave error and wanted to overturn their decision to cast aside my brother. They invited him to rejoin the clan and give him back his powers… but no matter how many messages we had sent out, he wouldn’t respond to a single one.

Cegil didn’t want to come home for some reason- perhaps out of bitterness of his wrongful punishment. Or maybe he blamed us all for failing to protect Dantia. Almost fifty years ago, I stupidly suggested for her to go out and find her father because we both missed him dearly. I had meant that as a project for us both to do when we were old enough to leave the homestead, but she was determined to leave the moment the words had left my mouth. I didn’t know she had left the homestead until it was too late. Falucite hunters took advantage of the fact that her powers hadn’t developed yet and killed her, mistakenly believing that her death would save thousands of human lives.

The elders took responsibility for not watching over her closely, but I felt that I was to blame. Had I not mentioned anything, Dantia might still be alive today. In fact, if I hadn’t been born, Cegil would still be at the homestead with his mate and our parents wouldn’t have been sacrificed. It was all my fault- hence why I felt that I should confront Cegil and set things right. If I could convince him to come home, then maybe he could start over and be happy again.

There was a chance he was extremely bitter towards me in particular, even despite the fact that he was the one who stood up for me when I was a baby, but I wanted to try. I missed him and wanted him to come home.

The port town was nothing spectacular- all they had were simple packed dirt roads and well maintained wooden dwellings. They were doing well for seafaring paupers and it most likely had something to do with the three massive piers they possessed. Fishing ships from all over came to dock at this town and offer them the first chance to see their catch.

The town was mostly situated on a moderate sized cliff that overlooked the beach. The main road they had eventually split before the entrance to the docks and guided the traveler down one of the two slopes that lead to the beach. I found myself heading straight for one of the large wooden piers, curious to see the sight of Anatil’s waters from above.

For no particular reason, I strolled down the one on the right and slowly stepped on each sturdy plank of wood until I was hovering almost fifteen feet over the soft white sands of the beach. Each pier was rather long and extended to more than thirty feet out to sea. On each side, spaced out evenly to where no ships would be blocked in, were lower platforms for the vessels to dock and sets of wooden stairs that connected the platforms to the pier.

At the moment, there was no one in sight, so I could’ve simply teleported to the end without raising suspicion, but I chose to take the long way and walk. I stopped just before reaching the shoreline below when something caught my eye. Down on the beach was a small figure dressed in tattered clothing.

Upon first glance, I couldn’t tell if it were a boy or a girl, but since human women were the only ones who possessed hair that long, I had to assume the figure was female. Her ratty off-white shirt was very loose and she had on a pair of torn brown tweed shorts that came to her mid thigh and showed off her tanned skin. I decided that it must’ve been a human child, since it was indecent for mature women to expose so much leg.

She wore a blue bandanna on top of her head, though she didn’t seem to use it to keep back her locks of light brown hair. Her strands stubbornly hid her facial features from my view, though I was able to see pink, almost pouty, lips under a small nose. Her face was fairly round, betraying her youth. I noted that she had no shoes on her feet and that she was dragging a tree branch behind her to obscure evidence of footsteps in the sand. Was she trying to throw off pursers?

I had meant that last thought to be in jest, but given her sullen demeanor, I had to wonder. Perhaps she really was trying to prevent someone from following her. I continued to watch as she gradually walked under the pier I was standing on and made her way to a supporting post under the center dock to my left. She then tossed away the branch and squatted down so that she could sit against the giant pole. Once she was comfortable, she drew her knees against her chest and buried her head against her arms. It seemed that she was taking a nap.

Was this girl an orphan? Or was she simply a runaway who was trying to worry her parents? I decided to mentally mark her as a person of interest- if she were truly a ragamuffin child with nowhere to go or nothing left to live for, then she would be a good candidate to work at the homestead as a servant. We falucite had compassion towards the destitute and offered them a better life where they would have meaning. Sure, they would become servants, but it was better than living homeless with little chance for survival.

With my observation done for the time being, I gave up my inspection of the three piers and Anatil’s waters to head back into town. I intended to stay for a few days- I was sure I would see the girl again sooner or later.

********************

Humans were quite simple-minded creatures. If something frightened them, they would blindly attack shadows if they thought they could get away with it. My race catered and protected their kind like pets, but they were unaware of that. Instead, they were led to believe that we were monsters who could callously destroy millions for no reason. It was true- we could if we wanted to, but we weren’t wasteful creatures like they were.

They didn’t need much to perpetuate their irrational fear- they made up their little horror stories as it suited them and firmly imprinted the role of ‘monstrous villain’ upon us. Somehow, over the years, Cegil managed to gain the trust of some humans to the point where they would begrudgingly agree that not all falucite were evil. But the bottom line was ‘humans are good and we have to die’.

However, I was a special case- most of my brethren were fairly easy to distinguish from normal humans, but I possessed a hair color that existed among their kind. My blond locks were much lighter than what was considered normal, but it was a recognized color that threw off many. So long as I kept my powers a secret and showered the peasants with money, I was a welcome visitor.

The residents of Port Sibest were no different- though the few nobility that lived nearby wanted nothing to do with me. The townspeople quickly picked up the fact that I had more than enough crijok to throw around and threw a celebration for me at their tavern in hopes I would give them more. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy a good party, heh.

I was well aware I was still young- my powers manifested only twenty-three years prior and I was not yet deemed experienced enough to own territories. I was free to enjoy the pleasantries of human frivolities, but I had to keep my wits about me and control myself. It wouldn’t do if I became drunk and defenseless to a hopeful hunter.

Once everyone in the establishment was properly intoxicated, I took my leave and sought lodgings for the night. It was already nightfall as I wandered the darkened streets. There were not many torches lit, and the few that were only offered dim lighting, enough to see where I was going. It was the perfect setting for a robbery- and I wasn’t one bit surprised that I was a target with the way I had been flaunting the crijok.

My ears picked up the sound of bare feet pounding against the dirt road as my assailant rushed towards me. I leaned to the side at the last second and felt a rush of wind as a plank of wood narrowly missed me. I immediately knocked the weapon out of my attacker’s hands with my magicks and grabbed hold of their neck. I then heard a distinct feminine grunt when I slammed the miscreant against a nearby wall.

The dark smirk left my face when I realized that it was the little girl I had seen on the beach. I quickly cast my magicks to hold her back so that I could lighten my grip to prevent strangulation. At first, her tiny hands gripped my wrist, but when she realized that I wasn’t hurting her, she let them fall limply to her sides.

I was finally able to get a good look at her face, though the lights were still too dim for me to make out the color of her eyes. Since she was obviously a seafarer, it was likely her eyes were grey, as that was a common trait among her kind. Underneath that tangled hair and grime was a surprisingly beautiful face- she had no physical deformities or blemishes marring her features. I was still in the process of getting used to the common stench of humans, but she seemed to posses more of a briny smell than anything else. It was actually a little more tolerable than the stink of sweat.

She expressed almost nothing as I held her against the wall- even her eyes seemed dead. She wasn’t one bit scared of me or the situation. Of course, there was a chance that she had given up on life and didn’t care what happened to her. I was still shocked that a girl so young would even dare to think of attacking people on the streets and steal from them.

“Wot do ye want, lass? Crijok? Ah could’ve given ye some if ye jus’ asked,” I told her, using the native accent that seafarers were known for.

Suddenly, a spark came to her eyes and she glanced at me curiously. She probably was expecting a ‘landlubber’ and not someone who knew her customs. But my words didn’t seem to please her- she soon narrowed her eyes and turned her head as her cheeks darkened slightly in a rather cute blush.

“Ah don’t take handouts,” she muttered in a low tone. If my hearing wasn’t so sensitive, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make out her words.

So she would rather beat someone senseless and rob them rather than take something freely given to her? Heh, strange girl- but then I couldn’t help but admire her strength. Instead of wallowing in despair and waiting for death, she chose to get up and do something to help her survive. It was true that being a petty thief wasn’t the best way to go about it, but it was something being done.

“Is that so? Ah guess ye’ll have ta try again on another victim,” I replied as I released my hold and let her free. To my further astonishment, she didn’t run- her eyes had more life in them than before. She seemed more curious about me than frightened- and somehow it made me all the more interested in her.

She was definitely not like other humans- though I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. I heard that having a healthy amount of fear was good for survival, but at the same time, humans were completely ignorant to obvious truths because of fear. The girl clearly knew she was doing something wrong and that I could get her into some serious trouble, but she was also level headed enough to realize that I was going to let her go free and that there was no point in running.

“So wot be yer name?” I asked when I grew bored with the silence. I could’ve just walked away, but I wouldn’t put it past her to follow me and wait for me to lower my guard so she could try to attack me again.

She only continued to give me that scrutinizing glare before she answered with a wary tone. “Ah don’t have one.”

“Nonsense, ye must have some name- else ye be an unknown ta the Fates,” I reminded her, earning myself a dirtier scowl from her. It seemed that she didn’t like the Fates either. Ever since the elders turned away from them, my faith had been waning as well. All that I had left to my religious belief was the Maker and He guided no one.

The girl scoffed and a corner of her lip curled into a near beastly snarl. “Ah don’t want ta remember me name- an’ even if ah did, ah wouldn’t tell it ta ye.”

Of all things, I didn’t expect that kind of answer. If she didn’t want to remember something as defining as a name, then her past must’ve been a terrible one. I drew in a breath before I realized that I was being rather rude- I hadn’t introduced myself yet. Of course, I didn’t have to be polite to a human, but I figured that she didn’t want to tell me anything because I was nothing more than a stranger to her. Perhaps if I revealed more of myself to her, then she could open up a little more.

But before I could open my mouth, she let out a darling little growl before she jumped up and swiped her hand over my head. When her feet touched the ground again, she finally ran away. I numbly raised my hand to find that the gambler’s hat that I’d always worn was gone, and my mind eventually caught up to tell me that she had stolen it.

I found myself laughing into the night air even though I should have been greatly offended with the gall of that child. I was quite fond of that hat- no matter. I was certain I would see her again, and even if she did try to sell it, I had cast magicks that would send it back to me if it were taken a certain distance away from me. I would have it back soon enough- and perhaps I would get another chance to speak with her again.

********************

Over the next few days, I had asked around the town about the young girl that frequented the beach. I had discovered from them that she was once a pirate- though they insisted that she still was one. Apparently, she had a corsair’s ear hugger on her right ear (though it was covered by her hair) and at least three tattoos on her person. At first I had a difficult time believing that, since pirates rarely ever allowed women on their ships outside of illicit reasons.

But… after thinking back on my last encounter with her, it began to seem more plausible. She would’ve had to learn attacking and stealing from pirates- and that pride she exhibited when she refused my offer of crijok was most certainly a trait of the notorious sea rats. Pirates wanted riches, but never at the cost of their dignity or freedom- though considering that most were servants of sea dragons, I would hardly think of them as ‘free’.

However, pirates were criminals and many were terrified of them as much as they were for any monster. They accuse her of crafting dark magicks every night and hold her responsible for all of the misfortune that might befall their town. As far as I knew, humans had no power, so I was sure that they were merely rumors they made up to alienate her from the rest of the townspeople. Really, it’s no wonder she resorted to the life of crime at night.

Though I had to wonder how she ended up in a place like this. What happened to the ship she was on? Was the crew she was with captured by the king’s men? Did she fall overboard and no one thought she survived? The only answer I could get from the bitter townsfolk was that she washed up on their shore around five years ago and has been a plague to them ever since.

I wanted to ask why they had never thrown her in jail if she was really such a nuisance to them, but I had a feeling I already knew that answer. They knew deep down that she was innocent of everything save for thievery- all they wanted was a scapegoat to blame all of their troubles on. I knew how that felt- the younger members of the clan liked to cast blame on me when it was convenient. Just because I was born, I was responsible for the untimely death of my parents.

They called her ‘Evora’, after the ghastly sea demons that roamed the beaches at night. They thought it was fitting since the small carnivorous creatures left her alone- actually the townspeople honestly believed that she summoned them every night with those so-called ‘dark magicks’ of hers.

I wonder if humans were aware that there was no such thing as ‘dark’ magicks? Magicks were magicks- there was no element of good or evil to them, and only falucite, dragons, and the gods had the ability to wield them. Hence why I was so sure that the girl had nothing to do with the maladies that Port Sibest claimed to have.

Since the girl claimed that she had no name, I decided to give her a new one- something more fitting for a pretty creature like herself. Because I was becoming rather fond of her, I privately bestowed the name ‘Sirsa’ to her. It was the ancient name of the ixia, my favorite flower. …Though I’d just named her after food, I had no intention of eating her, of course. She was too big to devour- and I would only gain weight if I tried to consume all of that sweet meat.

During the day, I would catch glimpses of my hat sneaking around shaded areas of the main square. I knew it had to have been Sirsa and that she was wearing my hat over her bandanna-covered head like some victory spoil. When I finally saw her entire form, I found that my hat nearly covered her eyes and I had to bite back a grin. I never thought in my life that I would ever think a human was ‘adorable’. There must’ve been something wrong with me.

At night I would leave her be. I figured she was out committing crimes and I didn’t want to interfere or somehow lose another of my possessions. I had hoped that my silence for the night she tried to mug me would entice her to approach me for conversation, but it seemed that she wanted to avoid me. What a pity- I couldn’t stay here forever, so I had to find a way to make contact with her before I had to leave. Though I didn’t know her for long, I did feel some sympathy towards her and I wanted to at least offer her the chance to change her life.

It wasn’t until three days after our first meeting when I did get that chance. The townspeople were holding a festival for the goddess of the sea wind. Sirsa found herself a perch on top of carefully stacked crates and stayed out of trouble as she watched everyone set up the decorations and food. For a long time, I stared at her from across the square, watching every expression and kick of her legs as she most likely examined her prey for any pockets to pick.

Many would disagree with me, but I believed she was doing the Maker’s Work. The world needed villains like us so that the masses had someone to hate. As long as their rage was directed somewhere, there was no need to fight amongst themselves. Of course, I intended to only act out my part when the elders finally decide to give me work- I was sure Sirsa was only stealing for survival.

When the festivities began, my eyes wandered over to the people and I quickly grew bored. Ever since I had stopped giving out crijok, they began to ignore me and I faded into the background. Though it wasn’t as if I had run out, as I had a limitless supply- courtesy of the royal treasury of one of my clan’s pets, a human king. It just didn’t feel right to give money to people who didn’t deserve it- not when my Sirsa was living under the docks.

Since I wasn’t the center of attention, I figured that I could entertain myself by messing with them. Sirsa would probably appreciate some misfortune to happen to them for once. …Dear Maker, was I going to cause trouble for her now? How did this young human win my favor so quickly? Oh well, this should be fun anyway.

All I did was use my magicks to manipulate the wind and crack a few table legs with air pressure. The result wasn’t anything special- some man only bumped into a food table and made the entire display fall to the ground. My eyes quickly darted over to Sirsa to find her snickering from it, but my personal delight ended quickly when some burly man stormed over to her and violently forced her down by her ankles.

“The hell ye doin’ Evora? On a festival day?” he roared incredulously before others noticed the mayhem and began to crowd around them. Soon, Sirsa was hidden beyond the sea of bodies and I bit my lip when I heard her grunting in pain. Were they really beating her for such an insignificant accident?

I knew they blamed her for things as small as bad luck, but punishing her was going too far. When I was certain that all eyes were on her, I teleported to the other side of the crowd, where there were less people to push through.

“Stop!” I called out loudly when I found three men kicking her in the ribs. My hat had fallen off her, but she quickly reached out and grabbed it when they froze in place to glare at me.

“Wot do ye want, newcomer? We’re beatin’ the demons out o’ this evil bilge rat,” one of the men told me when I drew closer. I glanced down at Sirsa, her light grey eyes were locked on mine. There was no fear or helplessness in her gaze, nor was she pleading for me to save her- she just possessed a determination to live deep in those orbs. The little pirate suffered their abuse for five years and yet they couldn’t bring her down. Some part of me was in awe of her steel will.

I had to think quickly- I could see by the happy looks on their faces that they wanted her beating to be part of the festivities. It was pointless for me to ask that they spare her so… “Ah have a better idea- if beatin’ her doesn’t work, then let me have a moment wit’ her. Ye can go back to yer festivities in the mean time.”

It was my aim to separate her from the others and get her to safety, but it seemed most of them mistook my words for something perverted.

“Heh, sick bastard,” the burly man muttered before he grabbed Sirsa by her shirt and flung her at me. “Ah wouldn’t touch that dirty barnacle even if someone paid me in cedit. But if ye can put her in her place, then Elit bless ye.”

I suppressed my glare as everyone slowly went back to their celebration. They honestly thought I would molest a child? How disgusting and despicable.

Sirsa was not happy to be in my arms and was starting to struggle now that everyone was leaving. I immediately grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her with me to the nearest alley where no one would see us. I made sure she was trapped between me and the dead end wall before I let go of her and inspected her person. She didn’t seem to be bruising anywhere noticeable, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t hurt.

I was concerned that her injuries were under the shirt where she could be hiding either bruised or broken ribs. She didn’t act like she was in pain, though she could’ve been hiding it so that she wouldn’t appear weak before me.

I took one step closer to her and witnessed her body tense. She was young, but she apparently understood the implications of what the others were saying before I ran off with her. I hoped that that meant she wasn’t sexually abused before- then again, that man gave me the impression that no one wanted to touch her.

“By the way, the name’s Satel,” I told her, hoping to break the ice. I had no intention of doing anything other than healing her wounds, but I doubt she was going to believe me. I had to talk my way into letting me tend to her- it was the least I could do since I did get her into this mess.

“Ah don’t care,” she growled with a dark glare.

“Ah’m not gonna hurt ye,” I continued as I took another careful step closer.

“Right- and next yer gonna tell me ye don’t know that ah’m a pirate. People are all the same. They claim we’re family, but turn against ye anyway.”

How sad. By the sound of things, it seemed some people did treat her nicely, then betray her later upon finding out about her past. The irony didn’t escape me- humans discriminated against monsters out of fright and yet they didn’t realize that they were their own monster. Sometimes they could be crueler than most greater demons and falucite combined.

“So wot if ye are? Ah don’t care. Ah jus’ want ta treat yer wounds and earn me hat back,” I replied, hoping that asking for compensation would calm her down some. It was better to have a motive and make it known, even if it was for something unimportant.

I apparently got her attention with that as she gripped my hat tighter within her hands. “All that fer a hat? Wot’s this thing worth?”

“It has sentimental value- nothin’ more,” I reassured her before she could get some idea of running off to sell it. I honestly didn’t care if she did, as it would’ve been no trouble for me to reclaim it, but I didn’t want her to have an excuse to refuse treatment.

My words appeared to have hit a nerve as she paused and repeated ‘sentimental value’ begrudgingly under her breath. I wondered if she had a possession tucked away somewhere that meant a lot to her? I assumed that meant that I had her cooperation and I began to peel off my gloves. After I placed them in an inner pocket within my frock coat, I gently reached out to cup her cheek to check for injuries to her face.

My fingers accidentally brushed against cold metal near her ear and I dimly realized that it was her corsair’s earring. Sirsa recoiled from my touch and backed away a few steps. She then somehow blindsided me with a surprisingly strong punch to my jaw that sent me back a few steps. I was then slightly winded when something was forced against my chest and I numbly raised my hands in time to catch my hat just before she ran past me in an effort to escape.

Enough was enough. I recovered quickly and turned in time to cast a spell before she could reach the end of the alley. I was in no mood to deal with her stubbornness- she was going to be healed whether she liked it or not.

I could hear the breath catch in her throat as she desperately tried to make her paralyzed limbs move. “…Wot is this?! Wot did ye do ta me!?”

“Think carefully, lass- what creature knows magicks like this and can still appear as an ordinary human?” I inquired of her in a casual tone as I strode over to her.

“…So yer a falucite,” she muttered, sounding awfully calm for a human who was facing her worst nightmare. “Ah suppose that makes sense- ye came here fer me didn’t ye?”

“Hmm?” I intoned curiously before I shoved that strange bit of information to the back of my mind. I had more pressing matters to deal with at the moment. “Ah have no idea wot yer talkin’ ‘bout. Ah be here ta heal yer wounds- and don’t worry ‘bout the others. Ah made it ta where they won’t be able ta see or hear us.”

I had cast an illusion at the mouth of the alley so that any passerby wouldn’t interfere. Of course, even if she screamed in pain, I doubt anyone would come running for her. Sirsa kept silent while her cheeks gradually became redder as I knelt down before her. I looked over her exposed flesh first until my eyes fell upon a marking on her ankle.

After further inspection, I discovered that it wasn’t a bruise, but a tattoo. But it wasn’t just any inked image- it was the crest of Elati, the goddess of storms. There was no reason for her to bear such a mark unless she had come from those waters. However, the Sea of Anatil, where we were, was very far away from the Sea of Elati. They say she washed up on shore, but there was no way she could’ve drifted there from her home waters and still live. Without a wind-guided vessel, the journey would’ve taken more than a month to make.

I gingerly ran a finger over the marking and commented. “Yer awfully far from home.”

“Ah have no home,” she countered guardedly. I was quickly getting the impression that I was entering a sore subject, but I continued with my banter anyway.

“A ship is a home,” I pointed out to her, trying to convey that I had nothing against her origins. I’ve spent time around pirates before, and while they weren’t exactly celebrated heroes, not all of them were heartless curs. Pirates just want to be free from common society- and most of their pillaging was done by the order of the sea dragon that ruled them. They were nothing close to ‘monsters’.

“…May they burn in the five hells,” she growled darkly. I knew then that I found the source of her pain and anger. Whatever happened to her, it was the crew she was with that had cast the first blow.

I placed my hat on her head before I pulled the thick material of her shirt out from where it was tied down with a cloth the same blue color as her bandanna. I then lifted it enough to see her small, trim belly and the barest hint of her ribcage. I made sure not to expose her chest, even though I didn’t think she had any budding breasts worth looking at yet. She seemed to eat well enough for a poor orphan, but she was still considerably thin for what was deemed healthy.

I was able to see some red patches on her smooth, tan skin, and I knew that they were going to swell and darken soon.

“Does this hurt?” I asked her as I gently pressed against one of the spots. I heard her stifle her breath, but she refused to confirm or deny anything. Her stubbornness and pride was going to be troublesome- if she refused to speak to me, then I was going to have a difficult time finding any other injuries without having to completely disrobe her.

I was going to have to take drastic measures…

“Brace yerself, lass- this’ll sting at first,” I warned her before I moved my face closer to her torso. While she was trapped in my magicks, she couldn’t look down to see what I was doing, but I knew she could feel it.

I opened my mouth and teased her flesh with my teeth. I had to be careful not to break the bones underneath as I applied enough pressure to draw her blood. Once I tasted iron on my tongue, I immediately tried to push as much saliva into her bloodstream before the holes closed up from the healing properties behind the fluid. I hoped that if I gave her enough of my saliva, it could travel in her blood and eventually reach the affected areas on her body. It would take a little longer than it would if I treated the areas directly, but this way would ensure that she would be completely healed without me having to fully examine her.

I continued to bite her over and over again until I was satisfied that she had enough in her body to help her. I knew the bites were hurting her, as she held back cries every time, but the pain didn’t last long because the healing happened almost simultaneously. When I was done, I licked the area for extra measure until the punctures were fading pink marks on her skin.

“There,” I announced as I let the hem of her shirt fall and cover her body. I then stood up and took the hat from her so I could place it where it belonged. …I hid a grimace as I privately hoped that she didn’t possess head lice. Even though the insects couldn’t survive on me, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of my hat being their vessel. “Ah’ve earned back me hat and ye can go now.”

I then released her from my binding spell and moved out of her way so that she could make her escape. Again, she didn’t run, even though she was well aware that I was what she would consider a monster. I raised an eyebrow at her behavior. Now that she knew, I was half expecting her to run out and warn everyone about me. …Then again, who would believe her?

“Is that it?” she inquired, sounding a little confused as she self-consciously crossed her arms over her midsection.

“Aye. Yer free ta go- ah bear ye no ill will, an’ ah have no reason ta keep ye further.”

“Stop talkin’ that way! Yer not a seafarer,” Sirsa muttered as she refused to look me in the eye.

“Oh? Just because I’m a falucite, I’m not allowed to speak like you?” I replied good-naturedly, finally dropping the accent for her. Of course, it was a hard thing to stop after spending days talking like a seafarer, but I was willing to oblige her.

“…It feels like yer mockin’ me,” she answered honestly. I regretted giving her that impression, but I didn’t feel like reassuring her that it wasn’t my intention. I picked up the dialect from pirates like her- ah, maybe that was it. She was probably bitter because I brought up her past and my accent was bringing back some memories.

“I see…” I drawled slowly before I changed the subject for her benefit. “Well, you should be feeling better within the hour, but if you still feel pain later in the day, seek me out and I will help you.”

There was much more I wanted to talk and ask about, but I didn’t want to overload her. Either she had to come to me, or I had to gradually talk to her a little at a time. I was about to leave until Sirsa’s voice called out to me.

“Wait! Yer not gonna take me wit’ ye? Ah thought…” she trailed off and I witnessed her cheeks darkening yet again. I wasn’t sure what she was getting at and waited patiently for her to explain herself. “Last year… ah received a readin’ from a bitch Oracle an’ she said that ah was ta be ‘mated ta a monster’. Ain’t that why ye’re here?”

So that’s why she didn’t run away before- she thought I was here to take her for a mate. The Fates were seldom right about anything, but I was certain that I wasn’t the one prophesized in her reading. The Fates had already decided who I should mate- and it wasn’t a human. They wanted me to take a sea dragon and for added measure, they wanted to punish me with the coldest and meanest one in existence.

Thankfully, since my elders decided to abandon the Word of the Fates, I was free from my reading and could choose any woman I wanted. But…

“I apologize, but I must not be the one- I’m against taking a child for a mate,” I told her, trying not to cause offense. But after I did feel like I was being a tad bit condescending, since ‘falcie’ shared a similar definition to child. I was still a falcie and seventy-eight years away from being considered an adult, but, unlike humans, we falucite become sexually mature long before we are actually able to produce young. I’ve been that way since I’d turned one hundred. As far as I was aware, humans had what was considered ‘young adults’ between childhood and adulthood, where they were sexually active and ready to bear children, but were not deemed mature enough to make decisions like an adult. I didn’t understand much of the human culture, but I was certain she wasn’t even that old yet.

Sirsa took offense anyway, despite my attempts to curb my tone. “Ah’m fifteen ye barnacle!”

After I made some mental calculations as to what that was in falucite years, I was taken aback. If she were telling the truth, then she should’ve been old enough… so why did she appear to be a prepubescent child? My eyes drifted down to the tattoo on her ankle. The Kingdom of Eruda was in the Sea of Elati- if Sirsa was Erudian, then she would age slower than an average human. If I took that into consideration, then she was still much too young to be a mate.

But no… she couldn’t be Erudian- they couldn’t leave Elati’s waters without permission of the sea goddesses, or else they would meet a cruel demise. I highly doubted that she was an exception.

I tilted my head and considered it for a moment. A bout of curiosity came over me and I ended up beckoning her over. “Come here.”

“Why?” she questioned me with a wary look.

“I want to try something- close your eyes,” I added when she relented and approached me. I knelt before her again when she decided to comply and I hovered over her face.

Since I was free from my reading, I could even choose a human for a mate if I wanted to. I had been dating greater demon women in hopes of finding someone, but so far I hadn’t found anyone that interesting. I never thought I would consider a human at all, but Sirsa somehow earned the privilege.

I gently pressed my lips against hers and noted how soft she felt. She tasted salty, like the sea, and she smelled heavily of brine. She wasn’t disgusting to me like the others of her race. But, no matter how much I traced my tongue over her flesh, she wouldn’t open up. She didn’t know what to do or how to kiss back- I dared to trace a hand down the side of her body and regretted it instantly. She barely had any curves and I felt like I was taking advantage of a child. It kind of sickened me a little.

No- she was still too young for this. I pulled back and breathed in her scent one more time. She wasn’t even emitting any pheromones- further proof that she wasn’t sexually mature. I wouldn’t be able to tell if she was a potential mate until I could smell her properly.

“I fear that I’m not the monster you’re waiting for,” I informed her after a sigh. She seemed disappointed as well, but didn’t say anything. My actions made her confused and nervous as that blush spread to cover most of her face. “But you know, you don’t have to listen to the Fates. All they do is make orders, but never enforce them. Maybe someday, in a year or more, we could be mates.”

I couldn’t deny that I liked her- but it was a far cry from knowing that I might love her for the rest of my life. I had no instinctual urge to mate with her, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t happen when she is older. I was… willing to give her a chance in the coming years. She would be the only human I would consider, and she was so far the most interesting female I had come across.

But how could I keep her near me so I would know? I had thought to kidnap her to be a servant, but her personality was far too defiant to take orders. And it would be too awkward to keep her as a pet- especially if I should someday decide to have her for a mate. Maybe if I pleaded with my elders, they would allow me to keep her as an assistant and help me with my future missions. At least then we could get to know each other more, and if it doesn’t work out, we could still be comfortable friends.

“If you had somewhere to go, would you have left this town already?” I asked her once I had a plan decided. I wanted to know how willing she was to leave behind Port Sibest. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to stay in such a terrible environment, but the fact remained that she had done so. I couldn’t think of any reason why other than the idea that she didn’t know where she could go.

“O’ course!” she replied instantly. So it would probably be no trouble to take her with me if I offered.

“You might just get that chance soon,” I told her, making sure not to reveal more than that. I didn’t want to bring her hopes up too high, just in case my plan didn’t work.

Sirsa didn’t question my last statement, though I believed I saw a shadow of a smile grace her lips. I wouldn’t have been surprised if that was her first sign of happiness in several years.

For the rest of the day she followed me around town, keeping a certain distance from me when I was among other people. When night came around, I walked her to her usual spot under the piers. I almost wanted to get a room at the inn for her, just so she could sleep on a bed for once, but the implications of sharing a room with a young girl didn’t sit well with me. Instead, I felt it was better to sit with her on the beach until she fell asleep.

While she never said a word to me, it was easy to tell that she was lonely and that she appreciated the company. I smirked a little and tried not to react when she shyly moved closer to me so that she could rest her head on my shoulder. It was an innocent move, and I was a little satisfied to see that she trusted me a little. How odd that her opinion of me changed so dramatically after finding out that I wasn’t human…

My eyes soon fluttered closed and I accidentally drifted off before I could realize it. I was awakened a few hours later to someone calling my name. At first my vision was blurry, but I could make out that the person standing before me had long lavender hair.

“Cegil?” I muttered, thinking my brother had finally arrived. But as my vision cleared, I realized that this falucite was too short to be him (as Cegil boasted a height of eight feet)- and his eyes were light blue instead of rust colored. “…Garroe.”

My eldest brother was here instead, looking at me as if he were amused.

“Maetira mentioned that I might find you here. What have you been up to these past few days, little brother?”

At first, I refused to speak. If he knew I was here to wait for Cegil, he could berate me for undergoing a quest that had little chance in success. I glanced over to Sirsa, who was still slumbering against my shoulder. I smirked wryly as an idea came to me. “Making friends.”

He arched an eyebrow. “With a human?”

I scowled at him. I wasn’t quite ready to defend humanity and claim that they weren’t as bad as I thought, but I didn’t like the insinuation that he thought she was a lowly creature. “Shut up.”

“Heh.” Garroe then pointed upwards to the pier above us before he teleported there. He wanted to talk to me, away from Sirsa so that we wouldn’t wake her.

I made sure that she was firmly supported against the post before I followed after my brother. When I was before him, his good cheer had faded and he appeared a little more serious.

“It is time for you to come home- the elders wish to speak with you,” he told me, not wasting any time.

“Now?” I confirmed in shock. It wasn’t often that they would summon me- it must’ve been important. …But I still hadn’t seen Cegil- and what would Sirsa think if I suddenly vanish without so much as a goodbye? “Can’t I stay a little longer? I have some tasks I need to finish.”

“I am sorry, but this is urgent. You will have to see your human friend later,” he said with a shake of his head. “The elders have decided that you are ready to oversee your first territory. If you do not come home now, you may prove that you are not ready and will have to wait another fifty years for your next chance.”

Damn… I did want my own territory. I suppose I couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity- plus, this would be a good time to inquire about taking on an assistant. I would have to hurry back once the meeting was over though- I had no clue how much longer it would be before Cegil came to this town, and I was worried what would happen to Sirsa while I was away.

I wanted to ask for the chance to wake her up and tell her that I was leaving for a short while, but I noticed that she wasn’t under the docks anymore. I found her at the shore, gazing up at the moon with her hands held out. I had to strain my hearing, but I could barely hear her singing against those crashing waves. Why was she doing that? Hmm…

“Come, we must depart now,” my brother insisted before he blinked away. I let out a sigh and reluctantly followed after him. I wasn’t sure when or why Sirsa got up to do whatever it was she was doing, but I felt that I shouldn’t disturb her. A silent farewell would have to do.

********************

I had fully intended to come back as soon as I could to liberate Sirsa from Port Sibest, but unfortunately, my timing couldn’t have been worse. Cegil had finally arrived when morning came. Sirsa hadn’t told me that the entire town knew of her reading, so when a known falucite came before them, they didn’t hesitate to throw her into his care. When he had left later that day, he took her with him.

I didn’t get to see her again until seven years later, when Cegil happened to cross one of my territories. She had become his adoptive charge and bore the name ‘Dantia’, after his fallen daughter. When our eyes met, I knew it was her instantly- she was much more mature, and her body had grown out into a stunning woman, but her steel will was just the same.

I swore then that I wasn’t going to let her leave my life a second time- I was still looking for a mate, and I was more than certain that she could be the one.

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