It was a nice summer day on our tropical island settlement. My second retirement began about seven months ago, right after Rutan came of age and went through the Blessing of Knowledge to regain his memories. We went through that jarring sensation of my sweet Rutan turning back into my lovable jerk of a father. On one hand, I was going to miss the boy I had raised, but on the other, I did miss my Pappy.
Like last time, Satel didn’t take to the change too well. Pappy and Satel got along as well one could hope for between in-laws, but my mate missed our ‘son’ terribly. His only consolation was that now we could try for a child together. We could have one that wouldn’t become someone else in twenty years, and would age at the speed he was used to out of his kind.
With Pappy once again commanding The Cruel Whore, I was free to live in the settlement Satel and Cegil built. It was a stable environment, and it was a good time as any to give birth and raise a falcie before I once again needed to raise the next Rutan. As long as Pappy managed to stay alive long enough for his sibling-grandchild (however one wanted to view it) to reach mid-childhood, I would theoretically be able to handle both children on the sea.
At the moment, though, we were just talking about falcie. I haven’t had an opportune heat phase yet, and there was still the uncertainty that I would be able to conceive. I was a healthy woman as far as Didra and any human doctor was concerned, but I wasn’t exactly a normal human either.
“Tia-dear!” a voice called out mockingly. “Ah’m home!”
I snorted in amusement and quickly gathered up the maps I finished drawing. My mate was always glad to see me and it was obvious in his tone. What I heard was mischief and mockery- classic Pappy. Before setting sail to torture the sea guard of Eruda – as it was apparently a tradition for the newly reawakened Lord of the Sea – my father left me a going away ‘present’ in the form of old maps he needed copied and refurbished.
I wasn’t expecting him back so soon, but I was almost done with the task. All it meant was that he had to stay a day longer and wait for me to finish.
I heard some rumblings of a conversation and figured that Satel must be back, too. Sooner or later they would find me. I kept working on my current map until someone kicked down the door to my study. I was surprised Satel hadn’t stopped him from doing that.
Kicking in doors was a bad habit I also had, though I never dared to do it in my own home, nor to Cegil and Lioa’s home. I wasn’t sure if the shared habit was my reason for not scolding Pappy myself, or if it was because the man was still my father, and scolding him was unheard of.
“Get in there,” Pappy muttered, shoving my mate into the room with him. I raised an eyebrow as I wondered what was going on. Satel didn’t appear to be annoyed with the treatment even though my father was being unusually rough with him.
Pappy actually liked Satel, perhaps because of lingering memories from his childhood. The time he spent as a child didn’t disappear, but instead added to his well of experience. So even if he didn’t view my mate as his pappy anymore, they still had shared many bonding moments that even a self-proclaimed asshole couldn’t forget. It was hard to describe their relationship, but Satel was one of the very few that Pappy trusted and could confide in.
“Wot’s… goin’ on?” I asked warily, unsure how to feel when my father pulled out his revolver and pressed the barrel against the back of my mate’s head. Satel wasn’t threatened by the action, and I wasn’t too concerned because I could clearly see that Pappy’s finger was nowhere near the trigger.
Was he attempting a raid on my property? I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he was. The man had no shame or sense of decency anymore. One would think it suicide to go against two water users – one being a falucite no less – but no matter how powerful Satel and I were, Pappy had four thousand years over our heads.
No one answered me, nor did anyone move for a full minute before my father nudged my mate with his gun.
“Go on,” he urged, “Ask her.”
“Ask me wot?” I echoed in mild frustration. If someone didn’t tell me what was going on soon…
Satel seemed more amused than anything as he shrugged and walked towards me, Pappy following closely behind him. I turned my chair to face them as they walked around my desk and stopped before me.
“On one knee,” Pappy commanded gruffly, lightly knocking the end of the gun against the blond man’s head. Satel rolled his mismatched eyes as he sank down on one knee.
“‘Tia-dear,” he began, his tone unidentifiable, “Will ye-”
He was rudely cut off when Pappy knocked him more firmly with the butt of his revolver. “Take out the box, barnacle brains! Jus’ like we practiced,” he snarled, annoyed.
I watched on as my mate sighed, rolled his eyes again, and reached into an inner pocket of his jacket to pull out a small, black velvet covered box. He opened the box by pulling the top half back, showing that it was connected to the bottom with a rolled hinge. Inside the box, resting on a blue silk pillow, was a gorgeous silver ring with a large diamond surrounded by a circle of pearls.
“‘Tia-dear, me love, will ye do me the honor o’ becomin’ me wife?” Satel asked, his tone void of the emotion that should be expressed in this situation. He was only reciting what he’d ‘practiced’, and didn’t seem to know what he was truly asking of me. Nor did he recognize the human term of ‘wife’ even though others had called me one in his presence before.
My mind eventually caught up to me. Oh five hells, he was proposing to me. My eyes darted up to my pappy, who was grinning sadistically. He was trying to invoke what was coming to be known as a ‘shotgun wedding’. I’ve been hearing stories of them in the recent decade, where families force a man to marry their daughter. This was usually done if said man had impregnated the girl and they wanted to prevent the unborn from becoming a bastard.
“Wot?” I muttered dumbly.
“Ah said-” This time I cut him off by pressing my fingers against his lips.
“Not ye,” I said before glancing up at my father, “Ye. Wot be the meanin’ o’ this?”
Clearly Satel had no idea what he was doing, other than humoring the man. As far as I was aware, my mate had no idea what weddings were or what they meant to humans. The closest ritual that falucite observed were ‘ceremonies’, and Satel hated them and what they stood for. I had no doubt that if he knew what Pappy was trying to make him do, he’d protest. After all, the ceremonies he knew were inspired from human weddings. Ceremonies (which included weddings) were used to legally bind two people together, whether they were willing or not.
“Ah’ve spent an entire lifetime watchin’ the two o’ ye act like a lovin’ couple, an’ since yer still together in this life, ah recognize yer both serious ‘bout it. Now that yer talkin’ ‘bout brats, it’s high time ta put a ring on yer finger,” my father replied with a wild grin.
I was surprised with Pappy’s answer. I thought he hated weddings almost as much as Satel did, but for different reasons. The woman he loved thousands of years ago betrayed him and broke his heart. He never believed in love again, and so told me to seek companionship, not love. ‘Companions’ didn’t have to get married.
“Yer the last person ah would expect ta hear that from! Wot’s gotten inta ye? It ain’t like it matters if ah have a ring. Satel ain’t goin’ nowhere, an’ no one’s gonna question the paternity o’ the kids,” I yelled. Personally I didn’t care, but I wanted to give Satel a fighting chance to get out of it. Satel refused to go through the ceremony with me because he believed it was a poor way to show his love for me. We were married by the old falucite way and that was enough.
“There be more ta it than that,” Pappy muttered with a shrug. “Can ye believe that ah might want ta see me little lass get official with a man ah deem worthy? Let an ol’ man experience the joy an’ pain o’ givin’ away his precious daughter fer once in me life.”
With that admission I knew then that I had never been married in my other lives. I had a feeling Pappy had something to do with that, with the way no man ever met his expectations. I wondered if I at least had lovers, or if he’d scared them all away. For all I knew, I may have been involved with mermaids.
“Satel, do ye even know wot he’s tryin’ ta make us do?” I asked. If he understood and didn’t mind, then I had no further protests.
He shrugged. “Not really, but ah assume it was somethin’ nice fer ye since there was a pretty ring involved.”
“He wants us ta get married.”
That was a term he understood. This time his mismatched eyes narrowed as he muttered skeptically, “But we’re already married.”
“Aye, but he wants an official human weddin’- a ceremony,” I stressed to get the message across.
“No,” he growled, snapping the ring box shut as he stood. He turned to face my father, still unfazed with the gun pointed at him. “Ah refuse ta marry yer daughter through that method. Marriage should be through an act o’ love, not some pompous ritual where dusty ol’ words are repeated an’ any couple regardless o’ feelin’s can be joined. Ah will not demean the bond between me mate an’ ah wit’ those shallow vows.”
These words stemmed from one bad experience he’d gone though pretending to play the sacrificial lamb. This was when the Daedeleth clan forced his clan to bind two unwilling people together. Thankfully, the Xanaturi elders had been disillusioned from the Word of the Fates and didn’t make the ceremony official for Satel. He didn’t even ‘marry’ the woman he was supposed to be with either, so I was legally (as far as his clan was concerned) his one and only mate. Even then, the ‘ceremony’ wasn’t the falucite way. It was something made up to respect the cultures of humans and demons.
As far as Satel cared, weddings and ceremonies were a form of torture designed to ruin people’s lives. That was what the Daedeleth turned it into, and he didn’t want to use it to define our relationship.
At first Pappy was stunned by the change in my mate’s demeanor, then indignant at being told ‘no’. He glared up at Satel, the falucite being taller than my naturally short Erudian father, and repositioned the gun to poke him in the nose.
“Wot d’ya mean ‘no’!?” he snarled. “Ah don’t know wot crawled up yer ass ‘bout weddins, but this ain’t like those other ones ye heard ‘bout. This is a rare honor where ye’ll receive me blessins. Yer the first an’ only man who ah would allow ta touch me precious treasure. Why, ye should be damn grateful ta have me gun in yer face!”
That was when I picked up his hidden motives. This wasn’t about pride or honor, this was about a man who wanted to experience the joys of being a father. Marriage was usually the final task in a father’s life, where he gave his daughter away to someone he could rely on to take care of her in his stead. It was a twinge of sweetness he would never admit to or show openly.
This explained his forceful and sadistic route so no one would confuse his actions as sentimental. Only someone who’s known him for a long time would pick up on that. I wondered if Satel realized that too.
“Ah’m grateful ta have yer blessins an’ all, but ah don’t want ta marry me mate in a ritual that don’t require consent o’ both parties.”
I snorted at his words. My memory didn’t hold as well as his did, so my early decades were a little hazy. However, I could recall that I wasn’t completely willing to mate with him in the beginning, so I couldn’t say our coming together was ‘consensual’. Well, the sex was consensual, but not the meaning behind it.
Showing the balls that Pappy respected him for, Satel knocked the gun out of my father’s hand and glared down at him. “Now if ye want me ta marry her again the falucite way, ah’d be more than happy ta throw ye out so ah can take her ta our bedroom an’ renew our bond.”
“…Hey. Ah ain’t above deckin’ ye both an’ throwin’ ye out meself,” I muttered in a deadpan voice. I didn’t like how my opinion suddenly disappeared in the conversation, and I wasn’t too pleased when my comment went ignored.
Pappy grinned darkly as he summoned water from the humid air to side swipe Satel and knock him off balance. With knowledge and grace that only an ancient warrior would know, he brought the blond to his knees and wrapped an arm around his neck. Then he drew a second gun from his holster.
“Heh, stop thinkin’ ‘bout only yerself. Don’t ye think her family deserves ta celebrate yer bein’ together? It’s nice that yer official wit’ yer family, now give us the same courtesy. It’s only fair,” he said to the struggling falucite.
He had a point. While it wasn’t important to prove that I was married with some silly rings and vows, it would mean a lot to those who cared about me. They had a right to participate and witness the special occasion, even if there was no doubt that I was already seriously involved with Satel. And, of course, it no doubt meant everything to Pappy, who only wanted me to be happy and safe. I should be grateful that he liked my choice in a partner.
Apparently Satel had come to a similar conclusion as he raised his head to look at me. “‘Tia, how do ye feel ‘bout it? Do ye want a weddin’?”
How nice of him to remember me. He must’ve realized that he never once asked me about my preferences on weddings.
“Ah don’t particularly care. Ah know how ye feel ‘bout me, an’ ye know how ah feel ‘bout ye, so a weddin’ don’t mean anythin’ ta us,” I began, crossing my arms, “Howe’er, it’s important ta Pappy, so it probably wouldn’t kill us ta humor the ol’ fart. It ain’t like gettin’ married again would invalidate anythin’.”
“Aye that’s the spirit!” Pappy chortled as he released Satel. My mate tossed the ring box to me, and I slipped the ring on as he stood up. I couldn’t deny that it was a nice piece of jewelry. Considering Pappy had just returned from Eruda, it made me wonder if he had ‘liberated’ it from there. Or maybe it was from one of his private treasure vaults. It did have an antique feel to it.
Pappy used his water whip to snatch up his other gun and placed it back in his holster. He clapped Satel on the shoulder. “Well, let’s get this o’er wit’. Head down ta the beach near the tavern an’ ah’ll bring Tia down wit’ me. One o’ the lads will be holding a rifle ta ensure ye won’t run away before we get there.”
Satel scoffed. “ Why would ah run? Ah would ne’er abandon me mate even if it’s for an asinine ritual,” he replied, walking over to me to give a quick kiss. “See ye down there me sirsa.”
“Wait. We’re doin’ this now?” I asked. “This ain’t goin’ ta take long is it?”
“This ain’t gonna be one o’ those stuffy landlubber weddins. It’s gonna be a pirate weddin’. Ah’ll ask that one,” he pointed at Satel, “if he wants ta be pussy-whipped fer the rest o’ his life, an’ ah’ll ask ye if ye want ta put up wit’ his bitchin’ fer the rest o’ yer life. If ye agree ta it, ye jam the weddin’ bands on yer fingers, punch each other in the arm – or kiss – an’ we’re done. It’ll take fifteen minutes at most.”
“Pussy-whipped?” Satel echoed with a raised eyebrow. Then a grin came to his face. “Ah like the sound o’ that.”
Sometimes I wondered if Satel was a repressed masochist. He sure did sound like one.
“Get goin’!” Pappy told my mate as he headed out. He waited for the sound of the front door to close and walked up to me to take my arm. “We’ll follow in a minute, but ah need ta tell ye somethin’ first.”
“Ah don’t need ta get in a fancy dress first?”
“Nah, that’ll take longer. Listen,” he said as his expression became serious, “take good care o’ that ring. It was yer mother’s- the woman I was once married ta.”
“Really?” I muttered, glancing at the ring. “But ah thought ye hated that woman?”
In the beginning, before he became the goddess’ champion and Lord of the Sea, Pappy was the king of a budding island nation. He married a princess he loved with all his heart, and she bore him a sickly daughter who was destined to die young. But that woman never loved him back. She betrayed him the moment she had the chance and left us behind to be invaded by our enemies. She broke his heart and taught him to never trust love again.
“Aye, ah do, but no matter how many years pass, an’ how much her actions sting, there will always be a part o’ me that remembers the love ah once felt fer her. It ain’t bad ta love someone, an’ sometimes it happens when ye don’t want it, but jus’ don’t let it cloud yer thinkin’. Ye been wit’ Satel fer so long that it’s clear he ain’t leavin’ ye, an’ that ye make each other happy. That’s why ah’m satisfied that yer not gonna fall into the same trap ah did.”
That was why Pappy spent countless lifetimes giving men a hard time if they showed interest in me. He was making sure that I wouldn’t end up with someone who would treat me wrong or use me to betray him. After hearing that, his old saying of marrying for companionship made more sense. Well, it always made sense on many levels, but I better understood his position on it.
For him, time told him all he needed to know. If two people could stay together for such a long time, then they must be in love. The stable, grow-old-together kind of love, rather than the passionate infatuation kind.
This revelation was almost enough to bring tears to my eye. Almost. There was no denying the fact that he had a kick in manhandling Satel. The wedding could very well be another excuse for him to torment his own men. I could end up in another shotgun wedding with Satel in the next life we had together, only so Pappy would get to enjoy tormenting us again.
“Anyway, repeat any o’ this ta anyone other than yer mate, an’ ah’ll punish ye worse than wot ah did ta Rohje this mornin’,” Pappy threatened, not wanting his soft, fatherly side exposed. I wanted to ask what Rohje did and what happened to him, but I hesitated. Something told me I would find out soon enough.
When Pappy was satisfied that Satel had enough time to reach the beach, he had me hold his arm and led me out.
I was surprised to see that there was a little effort made when we arrived at the shore. The Cruel Whore was docked nearby at the tavern, providing a fitting backdrop for the scene. There was some kind of white lattice arch half buried in the pale yellow sand, perhaps some prop stolen from someone else’s wedding. Satel stood under the arch with one of my former crewmembers, who was indeed armed with a rifle. He didn’t point it at my mate; he only stood there like a sentry.
It had been a while since I’ve last seen my former crew. With Pappy back in the game, they were his men now. I could see a couple a new members in the crowd whom I have never met, but the rest were familiar faces. Ever since the war against the firesquatters started, bandannas and goggles were standard uniform around the ship, and so everyone was still wearing them.
The bandannas were used to protect our mouth and nose from a powdery substance that could put us to sleep. The goggles had many purposes, one of them being protection from another trick the Tau bastards could pull off. They had some kind of herb that if the vapor hit the eyes, it would make those wearing all black invisible to the eye.
Other uses for them involved protection from the wind, should Pappy make the ship sail at fast speeds, and, as of late, protection from smog and other air borne pollutions. Industry and mass production had been on the increase on lands lately, causing ash and other byproducts to enter the air. I hear that the earth gods were not pleased with the growing pollution problem. Our own wind and sea goddess, Anatil, wasn’t fond of it either.
Satel and I didn’t need the goggles or bandannas, as we were immune to most drugs and poisons. However, it wasn’t good for us to breathe in the dirty air on land. Someday someone was going to have to do something to clean up the humans’ mess. If the earth gods were ever to create their own plant-based champion to terrorize land humans and their industrial sites, now would be a good time.
As Pappy and I walked down the line of pirates, each one saluted as we passed. I stopped when I noticed my old quartermaster, Rohje, at the end of the line. The boy had long since grown into a man, and now had a bushy red beard to go with his frizzy Kagman hair. With the beard, he bore a heavier resemblance to Seikram than to Spearhead. Today he was wearing a tie on skirt and had two rather large mounds on his chest, under his shirt. He glowered at me when I studied his face. I could see his lips were ruby red with lipstick, and his eyes had a poorly applied shadow and eyeliner.
“This be the most embarrasin’ thing that has e’er happened ta me,” he grumbled as I stifled my chuckle. Now I knew what the punishment was. He probably didn’t do anything wrong. It was more likely he’d lost a bet and this was the consequence.
I turned to Pappy with a grin. “Ye should’ve invited Gisette,” I said.
“We don’t need a maid o’ honor fer a pirate weddin’. ‘Sides, Rohje is pretty ‘nough,” he replied with an evil smirk toward the quartermaster.
“No, ah mean ye should’ve invited her so she could see this,” I clarified, gesturing to the poor man. Ever since I made Fiet dress as a woman one time, she expressed an unusual interest in seeing more men cross dress. I wasn’t sure if that was a fetish for her, or if she merely loved seeing others being humiliated.
“Heh.” My father grinned as we moved on.
We reached the arch, and Pappy handed me off to Satel with one of his usual threat of “Ye e’er hurt her or make her cry, ah’ll rip out wot makes ye a man an’ jam it up yer ass.”
“Ah would sooner take me life than ta make her suffer in any way,” the blond man quipped coolly as he received me. He waited for Pappy to take his place before us to begin the proceedings. He requested, “Might ah have a few words ta say ta me mate before we begin?”
“Request denied. Ah don’t want ta stand here all day listenin’ ta yer romantic drivel. Tell her later,” Pappy growled, rolling his eyes. Satel did appear a little incensed to be denied his chance to speak, but he kept his lips sealed and allowed my father to continue.
As promised he did keep it short. He told everyone what the purpose of the gathering was, as if they didn’t already know. He then immediately asked us similar questions along the lines of being willing to put up with each other for the rest of our lives. To which we both answered with a clipped ‘I do’. The only part that went wrong was when we were supposed to be presented our gold wedding rings.
Someone had ‘lost’ them during the trip over here. I suspected someone had stolen them, or Pappy unconsciously squirreled them away into his many hidden treasure spots. Either way, we had to substitute the ring part with two pieces of fruit called nannoreo (nan-or-ee-oh). They were a spiky fruit found only in Kagma with spiky green leaves adorning the top. They resembled heads though there were no ‘faces’ on them. The inside contained a yellow meat that was both sweet and tangy like a moagho, and when prepared and cored properly, the slices looked like rings.
The nannoreo rings were far too big for our fingers, and we ended up eating them after the ceremony was done, but it was a good enough placeholder. Pappy promised to bring back real rings on his next visit. We weren’t in any hurry to have them, so I wasn’t going to wait anxiously. I had to admit that it would be nice to see a ring on Satel’s finger. Maybe the random noblewomen I might kidnap would stop looking at him lustfully if he wore one.
It wasn’t much of a surprise to see a party break out the moment it was over. The pirates had been hiding kegs of ale behind them and immediately started to fill mugs as Satel and I kissed. We stayed around for the sake of mingling. Eventually instruments were pulled out so some of them could play music. Satel quickly pulled me into a dance the moment it started to sound like an actual song (rather than experimental noise).
It was hard to dance in the soft sand. We couldn’t do anything to fast or jaunty, but we swayed side to side in time with the beat and enjoyed the happy moment while it lasted.
“So wot did ye want ta tell me before?” I asked my mate after a full song had passed.
“Hmm?” he intoned, confused.
“Ye wanted ta say something before the weddin’ started an’ Pappy told ye no.” Since he appeared angry that he didn’t get his say, I thought he would want to tell me as soon as it was over.
My mate shook his head and glanced down at me fondly. “It’s nothin’ much. Ah thought it was a good time ta tell ye that ye make me happy an’ that e’ery day is worth livin’ ‘cause yer in me life,” he replied casually, as if it was obvious.
“Oh…” I blushed at his words and couldn’t think of anything to respond with. I was glad Pappy stopped him earlier. It would’ve been awkward to think up a speech from the heart so quickly. My conscience started to tell me that I should at least return the feelings and I lamely added, “Ye make me happy too.”
Satel pulled me closer so that our foreheads were touching. “Ah’m glad. Ah love ye, ‘Tia-dear.”
We both had the same goofy smile on our face as I replied, “Ah love ye, too.”
“Get a room!” someone shouted at us from a distance- it was probably Pappy.
Despite that, and the fact that I could now sense everyones’ eyes on us, the moment wasn’t ruined. Satel gave a naughty grin and muttered, “Excellent idea.”
And with that, we blinked out of sight and reappeared in our bedroom, where Satel proceeded to shake the sand off both of us and guided me to our bed. We then went about reaffirming our bond the falucite way and was soon naked under the sheets in no time.
It seemed Pappy was going to have to wait on those maps a little longer…