13. Age Is Just a Number

Chapter 13

Age Is Just a Number

            I’ve come to two horrible conclusions just hours within the raid on Grand Zuan. One was that I was not as good a mother as I could’ve been, and the other was that the lack of awareness ran in the family. Or rather, I should say that Rutan wasn’t as inattentive as I had first thought. I discovered that in my distractions with Satel, I had missed out on a number of key issues with that boy- just as how he would ignore his surroundings for whatever shiny object interested him.

Since my mate was taking care of things, I had much more to focus on, and the first thing I was able to realize was that Rutan always asked if he could go patrolling with me. Before, I assumed that he would be too much of a hassle, and thus assigned someone else to watch him. It didn’t occur to me that the action disappointed my son, and so he did what any healthy child would do- act out to get my attention.

It explained why he would go out on his own or disobey me at every turn when we reached ports. He wasn’t just seeking to just be a helpful member of the crew- he wanted me to see that I was starting to hold him back. My little boy wasn’t as… little anymore. Maybe Satel had a valid reason to hint about my parenting…

In fact, when I really thought about it, I came to the chilling realization that while Satel didn’t bond as much as he used with Rutan, he still gave a little more attention than I did. The only time I could recall spending quality time with the boy was during his brain lessons- and the last time when we had ‘family time’ together was since the fishing tournament at the meeting. I wanted to count that dinner we’d had weeks ago, but that argument kind of ruined it.

So, when Rutan asked me that day if he could come, I told him he could. The look of joy on his face when I said yes… I swore then and there that he could come with me from then on. He would be safe enough, especially since Satel promised to take care of him too

“Alright lad, it’s high time fer some field teachin’,” I began as we walked down a secured hall in what appeared to be the richest mansion in town. Most of my crew was in the lower levels, looting whatever they wanted, while Satel and the rest secured the rest of the city. I could still hear distant explosions and other signs of destruction from far off and knew my mate was still busy.

“Right!” Rutan replied, looking up at me eagerly. I had his full attention for once- had I known he would be like this, I would’ve taken him with me on patrol a lot sooner. I had to remember that when it was a subject he was actually interested in, he was a good student.

The mansion we were in was a three story building, with art lining each hall evenly, and every room was decorated with the kingdom flag somewhere. It seemed the higher up we went, the more opulent the art was- perhaps a sign that we were getting closer to the living quarters of the ruling family. Most of the family had been captured and placed out of the way already, but I anticipated them and a few remaining guards hiding somewhere in the rooms. There might even be a few household staff remaining, but I knew they were mostly harmless.

“Now say ye see a shiny-”

“Where!?” the boy asked excitedly, glancing around with wide eyes.

I tried very hard not to laugh at his seemingly one track mind- not that I had any right, given my recent revelations about myself. “Ah was bein’ hypothetical, lad,” I said, earning a disappointed ‘aww’ from him.

I continued on with my quick lesson. “Now pay attention- all treasures are guarded some way, an’ yer not always goin’ ta be protected yerself. So ye can’t rush off ta the first sparkly thing ye see an’ not expect someone waitin’ ta defend it. Ye also can’t expect that there will always be someone there ta save yer ass when it happens. That’s why ye need ta pay attention ta yer surroundin’s an’ make sure it’s safe ta steal.”

“But yer always takin’ care o’ the guards before a raid. Who would be left ta guard the shinies?” the brown haired boy inquired sounding genuinely confused.

I blanched upon finding that he had grown far too used to my power and thought it was commonplace to feel safe on a raid. That was my fault for not explaining the dangers so clearly. Overall a raid was an attack on another city- no matter what ‘weapons’ our side had, it was still an act that carried consequences, and the targets were within their full rights to fight back.

But I was sure Rutan understood that much- the problem was that he was taking my magicks for granted. So instead, I told him, “Ah ain’t always gonna be ‘round, lad. One day you’ll inherit powers like mine an’ be the one responsible fer defendin’ the others.”

Even with the last incarnation, I kind of skirted around the details of his future responsibilities. I didn’t want to scare him at a young age about the nature of his job. Knowing that he was supposed to be the most hated man to most of humanity, and choosing to defend the lives of a group of criminals was pretty heavy stuff- too much for a child to handle. The Blessing of Knowledge filled in the gaps I left anyway- and it was easier for the mind of a twenty year old to process than that of an eight year old.

But it seemed the idea of having deep responsibilities wasn’t the culprit behind the concerned look that swept across his features. He quickly looked up to me, appearing panicked. “If yer not always goin’ ta be here, then where are ye goin’?” he inquired sadly.

He didn’t seem to be scared about being left alone to fend for himself- it was more like he was concerned about me. I suppose the ‘not always going to be there’ bit did sound like the typical ‘someday I might die’ speech some parents gave to growing adolescents. But in my case, that wasn’t going to happen- I was easily going to outlive the boy and end up raising his next incarnation.

“When ye turn twenty an’ take o’er the ship, yer pappy an’ ah will retire on a nice island close ta the enclave in Elati,” I replied, seeking to ease his fears of a probable death. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough.

He grabbed my hand and asked, almost desperately, “Will ah get ta see ye an’ Pappy again?”

I felt a warm smile creep on my lips as I figured out that he was more worried about my presence in his life, rather than my being around to protect him. “O’ course ye will. Yer welcome ta come visit us any time ye want. By the time yer old ‘nough, ye won’t need me much anyway, so best ta get out o’ yer way an’ let ye come see me when ye feel like it.”

“Really?” he inquired doubtfully, glancing down at the floor for a second before looking back up at me with a determined expression. “But ah don’t want ye an’ Pappy ta go away. Ah don’t think ye’ll be in the way, so ye should stay.”

The boy could be sweet when he’s honest with himself. “Rutan me lad, ye feel that way now, but when ye get older, ye’ll feel like ah can’t leave fast ‘nough. Ah’m not sayin’ ye won’t want me ‘round, but ah got ta let ye do yer job wit’out me interferin’. Plus, ah need a break from the ship once ‘n a while anyway,” I replied, trying to let out a laugh to show him that I wouldn’t be hurt to leave or anything.

Actually, I say I might need a break, but when the time came, but I’d probably end up like Satel and squander around to fill in the free time I’d get. It was boring enough when I had to go back to the homestead the last time- what in five hells would I do on an island? It appeared that I’ll be relying on my mate for entertainment- hopefully he’ll figure out what else he wants to do with his life before being called back to serve as an elder in his clan. I might end up helping him with his new job.

“Quiet,” I whispered suddenly as I held my hand out to stop him. “Ye hear that?”

It was silent, save for the faint thudding of footsteps inside the room we were about to walk past. I waited to see if Rutan noticed anything, but he ended up shaking his head, not knowing what he should be listening for.

“There be someone in this room,” I told him, being careful not to let the prey know that we were aware of his or her presence. I gestured for the boy to stand back and watch me handle it. “Remember, ne’er let yer guard down, an’ always be prepared fer attacks,” I reminded him before heading toward the door.

I pulled out my gun and made sure it was ready before I kicked in the door and stormed inside. I heard a shriek as I held my gun out and searched for the target. At first the occupant was doing a very good job keeping out of my sight, until I sensed something rushing towards me. In a split second, I registered a vase heading for my head and quickly used the butt of my gun handle to shatter it. My water armor protected me from any shrapnel.

Left in its wake was a pair of delicate hands in the air, belonging to a pretty noblewoman in a blue dress. Her brown eyes expressed shock as she gazed at me fearfully, frozen in place. I quickly assessed that there was no one else in the room and promptly seized one of her arms to prevent escape.

I called for Rutan to come in, worried that there might’ve been someone still outside, waiting for the chance to attack. While most of the guard had been taken care of, I couldn’t imagine that the woman had been left to fend for herself- after all, Pappy once said that every treasure had at least one guardian, and she was certainly a treasure, judging by her appearance. Once the shaggy haired boy was in, I released my water armor from my body and sent it to seal the door shut.

Upon seeing that Rutan didn’t miss my action, I had to explain, “While ye won’t be able ta do it like ah did, it’s always a good idea ta block a door enough so that no one can surprise ye when hidin’ in a room. In yer case, use a chair or table ‘gainst the door until ye inherit me abilities.”

A look of understanding came across his features as he turned to poke at the water barrier. My captive had to have a moment to understand my accent before she winced and appeared embarrassed. What I’ve said could’ve helped her, too. Deciding to use her as a good lesson tool, I held up her hand and called for my son’s attention again.

“As ye know, this be a lady,” I announced, voice dripping with sarcasm, gesturing towards her with my other hand. Rutan picked up on the tone and responded in kind by appearing sarcastically intrigued and muttered, “Oooh…”

“An’ wot do we do wit’ ladies?” I inquired, wanting to know how much he remembered from the speeches I’d used to give him when he was younger. It wasn’t so much that I thought he’d forgotten, but that my turning this into a lesson was confusing and bewildering the captive. It made things easier by taking away any will to fight.

“Treat ‘em wit’ respect ‘til they piss us off,” he answered, then added as another thought came to him, “an’ tie ‘em up so that they don’t get in the way or get help.”

“An’?” I prodded, wondering if he remembered the entire lesson. I was actually impressed that he remembered that much- the last time I’d told him all of this was when he was five.

He thought about it for only a second before he smiled and replied, “An’ watch out fer them so that no one else harms them.”

“Good lad, jus’ fer that, ah’ll let ye do the honors o’ tyin’ her ta the chair,” I told him proudly, swinging the lass over to him. She was so stunned, that she allowed herself to be taken by the hand by the child and led to a cozy looking chair near the bed.

I was surprised myself to see him exhibit such manners- he bowed before leading her, and even tied her wrists without having to restrain her, leaving her to settle her hands in her lap. There was no way Rohje and the others taught him that- Satel must’ve been spending more time with the boy than I was aware of. Or Doc- he’s a polite type of guy, too.

I almost wanted to warn him that while the lady was being cooperative now, there was no guarantee she would actually stay put. Though I advocated the fair treatment of weaker women, this was one case where it would’ve been more prudent to restrain her like any other civilian. But, I decided to let it slide this once- Rutan was not only being well behaved, he was also being a very good student, and it wasn’t as if the woman could get out with my magicks on the door.

“Alright lad, loot wot ye want, but remember ta keep yer guard up,” I warned him.

“Aye Ma!” the bandanna wearing child shouted happily while saluting to me. I rolled my eyes and smirked as he then bee lined for the jewelry box on top of a dresser. I had to wonder how long he knew that was there, and how long he had been restraining himself- probably ever since we came into the room, I bet.

I decided to also take advantage of the free time Satel bestowed upon me and do a little looting myself. It wasn’t as if I really needed or wanted anything, but sometimes there were a few perfumes or dresses that caught my eye. The lady immediately scoffed and complained when I discovered her closet and began going through her personal effects.

“That’s mine, you dirty sea dog!” she sneered as I pulled out a deep blue ball gown to admire.

“Maybe,” I agreed noncommittally as I held it up to my body and swung the billowy skirts around. “You’re lucky that I already have thousands of these, and I don’t need more money.” I then turned to Rutan, “Wot do ye think, lad? Does this look nice on yer Ma?”

I didn’t really need another dress, and it wasn’t as if I had that much room to store one, but… Satel and I had a date planned in a few months to celebrate his coming birthday. This was as good time as any to go ‘shopping’ for something nice to put on for the occasion- and I needed to steal or buy him a nice present.

When Rutan turned away from a diamond encrusted necklace to glance at me, his face scrunched up in distaste, “Ye look like a girl.”

“Ah’m very hurt ye think so,” I muttered dryly as I tossed the dress back into the closet, not caring to put it up properly. Rutan was well aware that I wasn’t like the other men, and that sometimes I wore full dresses, so when he couldn’t make up a nice compliment for the dress I was holding, then it wasn’t good enough to wear. The boy knew that I wasn’t supposed to be a ‘girl’- at least not one of those silly ones who placed more importance on frivolous things.

“Ah liked that dress ye wore ta the meetin’ better anyway,” he commented honestly, turning back to his shinies. In other words, in the mind of a child, I looked ridiculous in poofy ball gowns, but nice in ordinary dresses. I really shouldn’t be taking fashion advice from a child, let alone a little boy, but they arguably had more sense than adults when it came to the popular trends.

…Though I personally liked the appearances of some ball gowns- the real problem was that no one person looked good in any they might try on. It had to be the ‘perfect’ dress, and I have yet to find one with the style that actually flattered me. The ones in style now seemed to have too much frills or embellishments- not mature enough for me.

Upon finding more clothing on the fancy side, I moved on to her vanity where several jars and bottles were arranged neatly on the surface. Almost all of them were made of cut crystal or jewel encrusted precious metals. I sniffed every perfume bottle and opened every jar to see what was inside them. I stopped when I found one filled with an off-white substance that smelled faintly of roses.

“What’s this stuff?” I asked her, curiously sticking a finger into the almost fluffy cream.

“It’s a skin cream that makes even the roughest skin soft,” the lady replied, sounding proud to have it. I had a feeling that it had something to do with skin care, but with so many products out there, I couldn’t be sure for which area it was intended for. There were some creams out there for the face only, while others were only made for sores.

It sounded as though this was supposed to be for the entire body, so I tested a sample on the back of my hand. Once the cream was absorbed into my skin, it felt as though I was made of silk. I grinned as I closed the jar and put it in my looting satchel. I knew a certain falucite who would appreciate exploring a soft as silk body…

“Hey!” the woman cried indignantly as she realized that I was taking it. What did she expect anyway? Rutan was stealing her jewelry, so logic dictates that I was also going to take something of hers, too. …By the way, why wasn’t she yelling at Rutan? I would’ve thought pretty stones would be worth more than creams. I swear that kid got away with anything because he was so small and cute looking.

“Hmm… What else do you have?” I mused to myself as I began to move on to her dresser drawers. All that was left on the vanity was make-up I had no use for and brushes and combs that wouldn’t work with the hair type I possessed. I could take them anyway to sell somewhere, but the woman wasn’t exactly pissing me off, so I decided to give her a break.

In her drawers were lacy undergarments fit for princesses- and by that, I mean conservative because royal women were not objectified like most other wenches. Also, it seemed the more layers one wore, the richer they were perceived, and the more popular they became. Unfortunately, I had little to no choice in the matter- it was either dress like a princess (of which I could easily pull off, thank you very much) or wear just enough to cover and have the maneuverability.

…But before I could give up interest, my hand picked up a pink scrap of cloth that was very… unseemly for a lady of her ranking.

“What are these rags?” I inquired softly to myself as I lifted the lacy number for a better inspection. They were actually smaller than panties, designed to be held up by thin ribbon- …and, sweet Loerati, most of the crotch was missing.

I glanced back at the supposed ‘virgin’ noble person with wide eyes and found that her face took on an interesting shade of red and her jaw was hanging open, the chin practically hovering just inches above her chest. I couldn’t remember who reported it, but one of the spies said that everyone was bragging about how the daughters of the house were all sweet, untouched beauties.

It didn’t really matter to me if she was, but I was curious as to who was lying. Were the people spreading the rumor just to get the girl married off, or was the young lady being the bad girl by sneaking off in a secret life? Though for all I knew, the underwear was a silly gift for someone about to be sent off to an arranged marriage… Damn, I didn’t want to think about things like that- last thing I needed was a repeat of Lostil.

But, considering the look on her face, and her shout of indignation followed by demands to put them back, I would have to assume that she was the one who acquired them. If it were an embarrassing gift, she wouldn’t want it put back.

“Wot is that, Ma?” Rutan asked when he noticed the scandalous thing in my hands.

I soon realized that this wasn’t something for a child to see and abruptly panicked. “Avert yer eyes, lad!” I barked as I balled the panties up and tried to hide as much as possible. Luckily, the boy noticed something else sparkly across the room and decided to investigate it instead of trying to figure out what I was hiding.

When I was certain Rutan was distracted enough to ignore me, I stalked over to the girl and held the underwear out before her nose. “Where did you get this?” I asked, completely interested. I could only imagine how Satel would react to seeing me in one of those- not to mention the fun we could have with them.

“What is it to you?” she retorted haughtily, thinking that I was judging her.

“Well I’d like to get a pair for myself, but not yours– for obvious reasons,” I replied coolly wondering if she would pick up on the loose woman quip. Hearing that tone of voice from other girls made me want to get catty with them.

And, of course, she caught it. “Hmph! As if the filthy pirates you entertain on your ship care what a real woman wears under her skirts.”

“What do I care about other men? I have a husband who would appreciate seeing me in something like this- though I suppose I am a little under experienced as to what they want, since I haven’t been with twenty different men… every night,” I added quickly with a smirk as I backed away and stretched the undergarment between my hands so that it would shoot back to the drawer where I had gotten it.

“How dare you!” she screeched, bouncing up to sit at the edge of her chair.

“Hee-hee. Ma, ye made a new enemy,” Rutan chuckled as he stuffed more treasures into his rucksack.

“E’ery new enemy brings a new wealth o’ experience,” I replied, quoting one of Pappy’s old sayings. Actually, he meant that with every new enemy he doing his job right, and that he’d get richer for it- either through goddess approval, or simply helping himself to said enemy’s treasure. He’d just fancied it up to sound like one of his wise sayings.

But thanks to my little exchange with her, I probably lost the chance to learn where exactly she obtained the panties. Oh well, I’m sure just describing them to Satel would be enough to send him on an obsessive quest- he could probably get them as early as tonight.

I was soon alerted that we had a visitor when the lady perked up and leaned to the side with a smile. “Lady Maetira! Thank Kajros you’re here!”

I winced upon hearing that name and suddenly remembered that Maetira had ties to this city. About thirty years ago, Satel’s sister finally met someone from the Clystmore clan and mated to him. She never did regain her Oracle abilities, and it didn’t seem as though Elati was going to offer anymore- even if Satel changed his mind.
But Maetira didn’t need her special powers anymore- though she was still blind, she could sense enough to walk without aid, and she adapted her powers to suit her. Now that she was freed of her usefulness to her maiden clan, she had the freedom to be happy with a man that could appreciate her sociopathic ways.

Satel mentioned in passing that Maetira was granted new territories with her new clan, but I believe Grand Zuan actually belonged to her mate… so that raised the question as to why she was here, and not her mate. Somehow I doubt they sent her because Satel was her little brother- then again, she was the only one with the ability to teleport to the side of anyone she knew. If her new elders wanted answers straight from the source, then only she could get it. Thank Elit her mate wasn’t interested in meeting me…

“Auntie Maetira!” Rutan shouted happily as he ran over to hug her.

“Ah, my second favorite nephew- have you been tormenting the masses lately?” the evil blonde inquired as she sought for a head to pat.

“Ah thought ah was yer first favorite?” the shaggy haired boy muttered in confusion.

“You are,” she affirmed, further confusing him. She was referring to what number incarnation he was, and how she considered his first the ‘first favorite’- she liked messing with his head that way, knowing that he wasn’t going to understand it until his late teens.

Though, scary enough, she did consider Rutan one of her favorite nephews, if only because Aared inherited his father’s sweet disposition instead of his mother’s sadistic tendencies. Though I fear Rutan was about to get a run for his money in Cegil’s eldest son, Suel- I hear he’s been inheriting his father’s old rebellious side. Maetira liked the troublemakers- the worse they were, the more entertainment she’d get hearing of their exploits against all creatures.

“Wait, nephew?” the lady muttered, features paling in despair, “You’re related!?”

In a move that would’ve made the mermaids proud, I ignored her epically. It didn’t really matter if the lady knew my affiliation with her master’s mate- I doubt she would show me any respect whether she thought I was a falucite or related through marital bonds. In the end, it was enough for her to know that Maetira wasn’t here to save her or drive me away.

…Well, it’s likely not her intent to drive me away, but she might still pull it off depending on what mood she was in.

“If you’re here to make sure I’m not killing anyone, then don’t worry about it- as far as I know, everyone in the city is still alive,” I immediately told the blind woman, getting straight down to business. Though to be fair, I had no idea what Satel had been telling the other clans or what I supposedly promised not to do for them.

“Though you are a destructive force, I trust that you will not harm anyone important- you are too soft on humanity and lack the killer instinct,” Maetira muttered, making it sound like it was meant to be an insult. While I didn’t take any offense, I still stuck my tongue out at her, taking advantage of the fact that she couldn’t see me do it. Rutan covered his laugh behind his hands as he watched me. Yep, I’m an awesome role model…

She then inclined her head and continued. “I actually came to you because I overheard there was an attack happening here, and wanted to ascertain that you were behind it. That twit didn’t inform anyone that you were scheduled to come.”

When I deciphered who the ‘twit’ was supposed to be, I was a little shocked to hear that. Satel hadn’t visited her clan before attacking? Usually he would do so to give them fair warning, but it’s not as if he had to. It was something he did, thinking it was a nice courtesy to his kind.

…And why did it matter to Maetira as to who was attacking? Even other pirates did damage, though perhaps not at the level I could do it.

But in the interest of protecting his reputation to his sister, I instead told her, “He only did that to feel as though he was doing something to contribute, but today he’s trying his hand at invading on my behalf. Sorry in advance for all the damage we’ll leave behind, but they’ll be able to repair it all in a few years time.”

Not that I believed she was upset about damages…

“That does not concern me,” she responded, proving my inner point. “However, I am curious as to why he chose not to at least come see me. Whatever reason would a sentimental fool like him have for not visiting family?”

I opened my mouth, then closed it when I realized that I didn’t know how to respond to that one. She was making it sound as though Satel had hurt her feelings for not showing up- it couldn’t be that.

When I found my voice, I elected to go the sarcasm route. “Goodness, you think he’s avoiding you? I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to go see you.”

Maetira smirked at that. “It was his pretense for visiting before- so the question still stands. What did my idiot brother do, that he’s afraid to see me or my elders?”

Suddenly that old issue with the Fodaren clan came to mind, then, of course, the fact that he found a warehouse storing forbidden technology. While I doubt the latter news got out, I could imagine that someone in the Fodaren clan complained about my mate and it spread out like a typical rumor. Maetira must’ve thought that that was the reason Satel was avoiding her.

“He didn’t do anything to feel guilty over, if that’s what you’re asking,” I replied wryly, wondering what she might’ve heard.

“Oh? Was he not disrespectful to the Fodaren clan by appearing before them in vulgar clothing and threatening the lives of their elders over nothing?” she asked sharply, sounding more amused than offended before adding, “I understand how rumors can exaggerate, but if he did nothing shameful, then why will he not speak to me?”

It took me a second to figure out what she meant by ‘vulgar clothing’ and I quickly went on the defensive. “Hey- seafaring attire is not vulgar. I’ll have you know that Satel looks great in them,” I said snootily as I crossed my arms and ignored the captive’s scoff about seafaring clothes. Who asked her anyway? Anything that makes Satel’s ass look great is worth its weight in crijok and cedit.

“As for what he said to the Fodaren clan- I wasn’t there, but the story as I know it is that a younger member threatened him and he defended himself. He holds no ire towards the elders of the clan- only that youth,” I finished. Satel was still saying nasty things about that ‘Delar prat’ every now and then when he thought I wasn’t listening. I’m not sure of the entire conversation, but it must’ve gotten nasty to keep my mate’s ire up.

Maetira paused, then cast her sightless eyes to where she thought I was standing. “Is that so?” she commented, inclining her head. “From what I have been hearing, it sounds as though the stupid one was waging war on the Fodaren and was planning to make all falucite-kind his enemy. In fact, the gossiper claimed that he was doing so in the name of Elati.”

“What idiot made that up?” I inquired flatly. True, I had no clue what Satel did away from my sight, but I didn’t believe for a second that he was going villain against his people- not for Elati, anyway. I was starting to get worried that maybe the Fodaren clan – or perhaps a small insurgent group in there – was spreading rumors to blacken my mate’s good name in retaliation for what he’d done to their secret.

“A man by the name of Delar. He initially came to meet with the unmated women of the clan in hopes of finding his life partner, but he seemed more interested in talking about the stupid one. He was quite…passionate about it,” the blonde answered, unsure of how to describe the situation.

At the mention of the familiar name, I felt weary and ended up slapping a hand to my face. Oh five hells, I knew what was going on here…

“Delar was the one who started the fight with Satel- don’t tell me he’s bitter about that? How immature can one get!?” I yelled in exasperation. Though I shouldn’t really dismiss it as petty revenge for losing a verbal argument- for all I knew, Delar could’ve also been behind the warehouse and was upset over that, too.

Maetira laughed at that- it wasn’t one of her bitter laughs, or even the ones she gave when someone got hurt. This was the loud laugh that caused tears to pool in the corners of her eyes- the kind so unlike the quiet ones she used to have. I’ve come to learn that this was her ‘what an idiot’ laugh, and it was usually reserved for Satel and I. Though I wasn’t sure if this particular one was directed at Satel or Delar.

“That makes sense,” she eventually said after calming down. “My brother is not very smart, but even he is not that stupid to declare war on clans.”

I decided to automatically assume that she didn’t believe Satel had just reason to do so, rather than think that he had no power to do so. Maybe I was a little arrogant, but I believed I had an army in the sea strong enough to take on a clan – though not all of them – and all Satel would have to do is ask and join forces with me. But we still had no justification to do such a thing- sure the Daedeleth, and recently the Fodaren, bothered us, but people like them had to exist to balance out this imaginary line of good versus evil, me being the evil one.

“Ma, the water is goin’ away,” Rutan called out from beside the door. He had long since given up on the conversation, deeming it boring ‘adult talk’ and wandered off to see what else he could steal. It was nice that he actually paid attention to my warnings and made himself aware of his surroundings.

I glanced over to find that my magicks were indeed being sucked away and leaving out under the door. No doubt that that was Satel’s doing- he was probably summoning it so he could trace it back to me.

“Don’t worry ‘bout it, it’s jus’ yer Pappy lookin’ fer us,” I responded before the knob turned. He found us already…

“We’re departing now ‘Tia-dear. I’ll take Rutan off your hands and come back for you when the ship is safe-” the über hat man stopped upon seeing the blonde in the room. His eyes narrowed as a sneer appeared on his lips. “Oh, it’s you…”

“Well if it isn’t my baby brother,” Maetira greeted with a sinister grin before continuing in a flat tone. “We were just talking about you.”

“About?” he countered tersely, acting as though she was the worse person to come across. Ordinarily that would be the sentiment with her, but we didn’t actually hate her- I would say that our relationship was just… unusual, full of insults that were actually compliments to her. I couldn’t say for sure, but it was like Satel was treating the family he once loved and trusted as his enemies. He told me that he wasn’t upset with anyone from his clan, but after that incident with Cujol, and now Maetira, I’m not so sure…

“About how idiotic you are- what else is new?” his sister replied, making him relax a little. Was he worried she was going to mention something he didn’t want to hear? …I hope he wasn’t honestly trying to avoid her for any reason- I actually thought he forgot to visit her. Planning a raid did take up a lot of brain power, after all.

“Coming from you, I would have to assume that was a compliment,” he muttered, fingering the rim of his hat. “Why are you here? I thought this was your mate’s territory?”

“She was just curious,” I blurted out before she could respond. “She’s used to you visiting before I attack, so she was worried that something was troubling you.”

It wasn’t often one interrupted the ‘great’ Maetira and didn’t get hurt in the aftermath- well, with the exception of the elders of course. She could’ve taken offense for my assumption that she was worried about Satel, but I was more concerned about her mentioning Delar and his petty revenge. With Satel still strung up about that meeting he had with the man, I didn’t want to see how he would react to it.

Ironically, Satel felt the same way when hesitating to tell me what Prince Bardam was up to months ago. If he was going to have a temper like mine, then it was safe to assume that he would have a similar reaction and desire to maim the offender.

I hid a wince when my mate crossed his arms and didn’t appear convinced. “Uh-huh.”

“I wouldn’t use such a strong word as ‘worried’,” Maetira announced, surprising me by backing up my words. I was about to think she sensed that I didn’t want the rumors mentioned to him, but apparently she had another subject to torture us with. “I wanted to see you so that I could tell you to visit me more often, as I will be unable to teleport in the coming months.”

“Oh? Why’s that?” I unwittingly inquired, not realizing that I was setting off a trap.

She smirked softly. “I am with falcie- now four months along. At six months, I should refrain from using my powers, lest I put the unborn at risk,” she replied, striking an invisible blow.

For the love of the sea gods, she’s spawning!? I was actually terrified of seeing a child from her- with a mate that likes sadism, who knows how it would turn out. But my silly imaginations aside, Satel seemed to just shut down at the news as his eyes widened and he froze in place. I couldn’t even begin to guess what he was thinking about.

“Pappy?” Rutan queried while pulling at the sleeve of his black seafarer shirt. He was probably about to ask what it meant to be with falcie, as it was not a common term for humans- hell, the boy wasn’t exposed to enough women to understand anything about babies and pregnancy.

But he didn’t get the chance to say anything else as the blond snapped out of his trance and put on a grim expression. “We’re leaving now, Rutan. I’ll be back for you within a half hour, ‘Tia-dear. Meet me at the place I specified.”

I wasn’t quite sure what had him in a hurry to leave, and I still didn’t understand what he was up to when he’d informed me that he had plans with me after the raid. All I did know was that he wasn’t trying to leave me behind, and that he was clearly up to something mischievous.

Satel then presented his back to us while Rutan stood beside him. Before disappearing, he added in a dark tone to Maetira, “I’m happy for you- may your falcie grow healthy and happy.”

Yeah, he didn’t sound happy at all- I wonder what upset him this time. I seem to recall that he and Maetira often used future children as ammunition to insult one another when they were younger, so it might have something to do with that. It was likely another falucite custom that I didn’t understand. Or maybe they had been in a bitter race as to who would first have children- of which Satel was insane to run it, considering the age difference between himself and his sister.

But once the irate man was gone, Maetira seemed enlightened as a real smile appeared on her face. “Oh, now I understand what his problem is.”

“Mind sharing the news? He’s been acting strange for quite some time, and he can’t tell me what’s wrong,” I asked flatly, fearing that Satel wasn’t even aware of his actions at all.

But the evil woman’s smile turned into a dark smirk as replied, “Figure it out yourself.”

This time I made a rude hand gesture she couldn’t see, but it didn’t do any good, as she decided to leave right then and teleported out.

It annoyed me that there was clearly something wrong with Satel and his family could identify what it is. It was even more frustrating that no one wanted to tell me what it is so I could help fix it. But, at least I had more evidence to believe that there was something unusual happening to my mate, and that it was not likely my fault- and it was probably something he couldn’t help. I assume that last part because his family seemed to forgive his transgressions based on that diagnosis they came to.

But whatever happened, I knew Satel was upset, and his mood will likely ruin whatever he had planned for later. Or worse- he might take his frustrations out on the crew so that he could come back to me in a better temper. And damn it, there was nothing I could do about it stuck here.

With nothing better to do, I decided to head out and loot the nearest armory or winery before heading to the meeting point.

“Uh- wait!” the lady called, still sitting on the chair. “Aren’t you going to release me?”

I managed a smirk of my own. “You’re not tied to the chair, and you have two perfectly healthy legs. Go find someone willing to help you yourself,” I told her, ignoring the fact that that was just what Maetira did to me.

The brunette then went on a tangent about my rudeness and lack of compassion as I walked out of her room and headed out of the mansion.

But I was soon going to find out how upset Maetira’s announcement had made him. All of his siblings were having falcie except him…

To the Next Chapter

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