2. An Unwanted Appearance

Chapter 2

An Unwanted Appearance

            Though Rutan and I were of pure Erudian blood, we weren’t bound to the same blessings like the rest of Eruda. We aged like them, but we didn’t necessarily live to over a hundred years like they do- this was so that the cycle between my father and I would allow us to take care of one another as parent and child. But since I was in a new contract with Elati that allowed me to live as long as my falucite mate, I outlived Rutan and was expected to care for every incarnation of him until I reached the end of my life.

The first incarnation I raised to adulthood lived to be fifty eight years old- though his death was an accident. He wasn’t even old enough to be too feeble to live. Though he had the knowledge of his past lives, he wasn’t able to adapt to the rapid changes of technology and was caught off guard in a battle with a naval fleet. No- that would imply he had made a mistake. The truth of the matter was that the humans gained access to new weaponry and sought to test it out on him. Unfortunately they succeeded.

When I learned of this, I was wrought with grief and personally destroyed the men who dared kill him. It was the first time I lost control of myself and killed indiscriminately. Seeing the man of whom I raised from a tiny baby cut down too soon just made me remember Pappy’s death when I was little- it hurt me to see his lifeless body, and I felt like my soul was being ripped apart.

Satel was barely able to console me during that time- but I eventually calmed down and waited impatiently for Rutan to come back to me. He was a baby again, and he acted differently from his last incarnation, but I was glad to have him back. Once Cyirlie placed him in my arms again, I knew that I was going to have trouble every time he lost his body.

This fear of him dying made me overprotective this time around- I didn’t want to put him in danger, but I knew I didn’t have a choice. Once he reached the age of twenty, he will have to go through with the Blessing of Knowledge and take his place as the true Lord of the Sea. I had to remember that he had been doing this for more than four thousand years, so I had to get used to the fact that he was always going to die and be reborn. I knew this happened, but it was still hard to accept on an emotional level.

For now, I justified my feelings as concern for my minor son. He’s just a child right now, and of course I didn’t want to plan a funeral for an eight year old. Elit if that happened, I’d probably destroy an entire continent in my grief. …Best if Rutan never hear that- he’d probably be proud to know I’d do that for him. And he’d encourage it, the little swot!

Though I now knew every incarnation of Rutan would be different throughout childhood, there were a few traits that always showed up- at least that’s what I’ve been able to determine so far from the three that I knew. All Rutan loved death-defying stunts, had a stubborn streak equal to mine, and was too brave for his own good. So obviously he didn’t think anything would go wrong by scampering off into a flaming city to prove that he could raid as well as any pirate.

“Rutan!” I called out as I carefully jumped over string traps designed to set off bombs when tripped. I was sure he wasn’t aware that they were around, so I was surprised he hadn’t set off any yet. It just made me wonder how long it’d been since he snuck off the ship. He might’ve been in the city long before they started trapping. Damn it, he could be in a burning building, or passed out, or captured by the approaching soldiers…

I shook my head to clear out these thoughts- Rutan was just young and disobedient, not an idiot. He’d be fine, I’m sure- he is a good pirate, he just needs more training in fighting, is all.

It wasn’t until I reached the center of town that I finally caught sight of him. Relief flooded me when I discovered that he was indeed safe and sound, and I paused long enough to hold a hand to my chest to help calm my frantic heart.

Though Rutan was eight, his Erudian blood made him appear more like six. He was still a small boy with shaggy hair that covered his grey eyes at times. He was currently trying to climb up a cracked fountain, probably aiming to take the jewel that was between the breasts of a mermaid statue.

There was fire everywhere, covering most of the brick buildings around us, and I could hear shouting in the distance- the army was already on their way. I shouted my son’s name to get his attention, but I was still too far for him to hear me over the surrounding noise. I growled under my breath, annoyed that he not only disobeyed me, but also that I had to chase after him and delay our escape because of his recklessness.

I was relieved that he was safe of course, but if he stayed on the ship like I told him to we wouldn’t be stuck in this situation- caught in the middle of town, surrounded by what is now practically an inferno, with an army right around the corner. He was going to be in so much trouble come morning. He’ll be doing all the boring chores for a week!

Even when I was furious I never struck Rutan, no matter how much of a brat he could be, but he was at the age where guilt trips worked beautifully. He did want to please me and prove that he was a good pirate, but being told that he let everyone down with his bad actions was enough to get him to feel horrible and apologize. Someday that tactic wasn’t going to work anymore, but I already had the next phase of punishment waiting for him- parental affection. By that time, he’d be too embarrassed to get hugs and kisses of worry from his Ma.

But my relief at seeing him safe was short lived- I soon picked up the sound of clanking armor over the noise of destruction. I felt my heart stop when I detected a foot soldier rushing towards the fountain with his sword drawn. He didn’t even care that he was about to attack a child… or maybe he was blinded from all the smoke? I wasn’t even sure if he knew what he was doing- surely he knew better than to strike just anyone, since he could be encountering a civilian.

Whether he be corrupt or just confused, it didn’t matter- all I knew was that the man’s sword was swinging towards Rutan’s back, and would surely cleave him in two.

I screamed as my hand reached for my gun. I didn’t even have to think about it- I drew it out and made the shot in the blink of an eye.

Somewhere in my adrenaline, my mind worked out that the man was likely in bullet resistant armor, so I aimed at the one place I hated to strike the most- his head. I watched in both horror and guilty relief as blood splattered neatly out the other side of the man’s head and he collapsed onto his side. His broadsword slipped out of his hand and landed beside him with a clang.

I held my position, my gun still held out in front of me, as I pressed my lips together and stared into space at where the soldier once stood. It was getting easier to kill, but I still didn’t like it- it ate away at my soul with every life I took. But I…

In some respects it wasn’t an excuse, but I just couldn’t let him get to my son. It was Rutan’s life over some stranger’s, so the choice was obvious- even if I knew I would get my child back from the dead in as little as nine months. I felt that it was worth it in my mind to save him by any means necessary… no matter how much killing bothered me. I hated to see him hurt- and just the thought of holding his cold, lifeless body again filled me with dread.

Ever since facing my past and laying Pappy to rest, I didn’t go into shock over traumatic events anymore. I recovered quickly enough from my deed and checked up on Rutan to make sure he was okay. I was both dismayed and angry to find that he had no idea what had happened just mere feet away from him. The little boy was too busy prying the stone out to realize that he was just seconds away from being struck, nor did he notice the dead body laying on the cobblestone ground.

In a way that was a good thing, as I didn’t want him to see such things at his age, but… This also proved my point as to why he wasn’t ready to join in on raids. His lack of attention would get him killed!

“You idiot,” I hissed under my breath as I lowered my gun. I was uncertain if I was directing that at Rutan or to myself. No matter how smart he believed he was, he was still just a child with an immature mind- I should hold some blame that I failed to teach him better. Hopefully, after today, he’ll understand better why I hold him back from some things.

“Hey Ma!” Rutan called out as I ran over to the fountain. He finally noticed me, but he didn’t even spare a glance at the body bleeding out beneath him. He was too caught up in trying to show me his prize- despite how ticked with him I was at that moment, I couldn’t help but be impressed at the size of it. Still…

“Get down from there! Yer gonna get hurt!” I shouted at him as he waved his bounty in the air and laughed.

“Look wot ah got Ma!” he yelled joyously, ignoring me completely. He was too happy over his accomplishment to care that he was making me worried. And more importantly, furious.

“Rutan! Get down from there right now an’ get back ta the ship!” I snarled at him as I pointed in the direction of the docks. I knew yelling at him wasn’t going to make anything better, but I was on my last nerve.

My annoyance only increased as he gave me a confused look, like he had no idea why I was so upset. …Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he’d already forgotten about our little argument and was out here just because it seemed ‘fun’ to him.

Though there was a chance that in his mind he probably thought he ‘won’ and proved his point the moment he’d stepped out. For all I knew he might’ve gotten smart enough not to say a word about it, knowing that I wasn’t going to take his sass lightly. Even if that weren’t true, I had every intention of pointing out everything he did wrong tonight and ensure that whatever delusions were in his mind were thoroughly stifled. It wouldn’t do to have him go on without understanding the consequences of his foolish actions.

Rutan’s lower lip puffed out before he attempted to fake a sad look. “But Ma… ah got this fer ye- ah wanted ta say sorry fer talkin’ back ta ye,” he muttered, his voice more genuine than his expression. He likely meant it, but the fake crying made him seem like he was trying to fool me. He learned from his pappy to use tactics like that in order to trick others – damn that man – but Rutan had no idea that I was immune to it.

I grit my teeth and attempted to look angry for a moment longer before I sighed and glared at the ground. It was hard to stay mad at my son when he went out of his way to apologize in some twisted fashion- though doing so by deliberately disobeying me wasn’t working in his favor. He was still being punished later… but I might not be as harsh as I was planning. Damn kid knew how to pacify his mother…

My glare was soon directed out to the many roads that led to the center of town. That soldier I killed was only the first one to arrive- now his comrades in arms had finally caught up and were preparing to surround us.

“Rutan! Jump!” I shouted. He finally noticed the danger he was in and did as he was told immediately. I managed to catch him in time as the gunners and archers took aim at us. In the next split second, I gathered the remaining water from the fountain to create a barrier to protect us.

Over the years I, along with my mate, managed to master a special magick that turned water into a solid membrane that could withstand most projectiles like bullets and arrows. It was based on sea dragon magicks, and a trick that the Goddess of Storms used to protect her shrine. We were the only ones in our respective races who could do such a thing- at least until Rutan comes of age to regain his powers again. Then there’d be one more devil on the sea.

I held my son with one arm while the other guided and held the barrier while the soldiers loosed their far ranged weapons. Once they realized that their ammo was just bouncing off, they pulled out their swords, spears, and axes and prepared to surround us. Unfortunately, I still had my limitations- I couldn’t hold a barrier, fight, and protect Rutan at the same time. And if we were surrounded, there was little chance of us escaping while I had only this small amount of water to use.

But Rutan didn’t think we were in any trouble- he’d seen saw what I was capable of and his eyes were alit with mischief and excitement as he wondered what I’d do to the ‘bad men’.

“Come on, Ma! Ye can take ‘em!” he shouted with glee as his tiny hands gripped at the double lapel of my frock coat. I didn’t have the heart to make him realize the danger we were in, so I remained silent as I thought through my options.

The men around us were muttering amongst themselves- from what little I could hear, I could tell they were making sure I was the one and only Lord of the Sea. Given the fact that I was using magicks should be enough, even if there were still confusion about my gender. Eventually one knight approached from the crowd with a great axe drawn and called out to me.

“Give up Pirate King! There’s no way you can escape this!”

Pirate King? That’s new… I wonder if it was a nickname Rutan picked up before his last incarnation died? Obviously they couldn’t tell my appearance very well- to be fair the smoke and the water barrier should be blurring me to their eyes.

There was one trick I could still pull and get out of this with Rutan unharmed, but I’d rather save it for a desperate situation. I could summon a tidal wave from here and wipe out the army in one fell swoop- but at the same time I could kill the townspeople still here. My men should’ve imprisoned them in fire-proof areas, so it would be likely that they’d drown if water rushed through the town.

“My, my, my… This is some mess you’ve gotten yourself into ‘Tia-dear. I thought you said you’d be finished with your little raid by the time I returned?”

“Pappy!” Rutan yelled in surprise and happiness as he turned his head to glance behind us. I was torn from being relieved that Satel managed to come home in time to find us, or to feel embarrassed that I managed to fall into my own trap because of Rutan.

Only Satel was able to break through my barrier, mainly since he is a falucite with stronger powers than I, but at least he’d created his own to replace the portion he’d destroyed. The blond bastard soon chuckled as he stepped closer and pressed against my side with Rutan caught between us.

“Rohje said something about you going off on a stroll and asked me to come find you,” my mate said with his usual smirk, his rust colored eyes flitting over the soldiers dismissively before focusing on me.

I scowled as I felt the hand he wrapped around me land on my bottom and started rubbing and squeezing me possessively. “Ah’m sure that’s not wot he said- an’ watch where ye place yer hands when Rutan’s around!” I growled through gritted teeth. Satel’s grin widened before he stopped rubbing, though he kept his hand there. At least the boy couldn’t see it from where I was holding him.

“Want me to take you two back home?” the über hat man inquired pleasantly, not caring about the soldiers around us. I’d forgotten about them- with Satel around, I had no worries.

“But Pappy- ah wanna steal some more,” my son protested before he twisted his body in my arms enough to shove his little treasure in my mate’s face. “Look wot ah got!”

“Rutan, we ain’t got time fer that- not only yer in trouble, knucklehead, but ah got other things ta deal wit’. It’s time fer ye ta go ta bed anyway,” I replied as I pulled down his small arm to free my mate’s face. The falucite didn’t seem offended with Rutan’s actions and even totally ignored the boy’s prize. That jerk! He could at least acknowledge it- even if Rutan was disobeying me, he still did a lot of work to get it.

Rutan was about to protest, but the blond man had cut him off. “Speaking of ‘other things’, Rohje also said something about seeing that annoying prince’s ship approaching. He sounds worried for some reason,” Satel added in a nonchalant tone as he examined his gloved hand like it was more important.

I felt my eye twitch at both the information and that smug undertone in his voice like it was no big deal. Shit- I was hoping that woman was bluffing, but I was unfortunately right in taking her seriously. I was hoping he’d wait for The Cruel Whore to set sail before actually showing up, as he’d usually do, but I guess Bardam has other plans this time. What a pain…

“Take us back- now,” I ordered tersely as I turned to glare at him. Satel only smirked down at me before he raised his hand to touch Rutan’s back.

Now that he was older and stronger, he was able to teleport more than one person at a time, so long as he had some kind of physical contact with the person. He hadn’t been able do that before, as he’d been going through a period of strengthening and learning his magick abilities when I’d first met him. When we blinked back onto the ship, I quickly put Rutan down because he was getting heavy. In the back of my mind I realized it wouldn’t be much longer before I couldn’t carry him at all anymore.

When I rose, I finally noticed the chaos happening around me. Satel had teleported us on the main deck, and I was able to see that we were taking fire from a ship that should’ve been too far to reach us. I knew who was attacking without having to get a spyglass to see their flag- only Bardam had the artillery to reach this far. Thankfully my mate saw fit to raise a barrier before he came after me, so there was no damage to worry about.

“Elit above, he’s pissed!” I mused, as I watched how rapidly they were firing at us. They were even hitting parts of the town without any care of who might still be in it.

Apparently Rohje decided that he had the authority to raise anchor and sail out some once Satel showed up- he likely assumed that the falucite would just teleport me back no matter how far they’d gotten. I wasn’t mad at my quartermaster, since he actually made a good call in doing so. With Satel’s barrier protecting them, he managed to get the ship in a position where we could out sail them to open waters if need be. I knew I was right in trusting the brat’s smarts.

I turned to said quartermaster, who was currently trying to see the ship through a spyglass to determine what they were up to. “Didn’t ye relay my message?”

“Aye- tellin’ him ‘bout the hostage was wot caused them ta attack. Are ye sure she is who she says?” the red head asked as he glanced at me with doubt.

“Ah have no clue wot’s goin’ on here, honestly,” I replied with a shrug.

Nothing here makes any sense- the fiancé thing must be true, else he wouldn’t be able to sail these waters freely. But if he really cared about her any, then I shouldn’t have been able to get to her so easily. Any normal soon-to-be husband would be trying to protect her from pirates and other such things, even if it were a marriage of convenience. Furthermore, why attack if we were giving confirmation that she was in our grasp? For all he knew, he could actually hit us and risk killing her.

…Surely he didn’t want that? I can see him using her just to get to me, but then how did he know I was going to attack this particular town- and why let me get this far into the raid before showing his face? Did he even know I would go after this woman in particular? There were too many unknowns in this and I only knew Bardam’s basic actions through past experience- I couldn’t even begin to figure out what he’s thinking, let alone see any rhyme or reason to it all.

“Well, I see that you have the situation under control. Perhaps I shall wait for you to come to bed?” Satel quipped coolly as he grabbed my hand and rubbed it against his cheek. I could feel the stubble scratch my skin and felt a rush of warmth to my belly, though it was the worst time possible to react to his affectionate gestures.

Over the years, Satel’s facial hair became more prominent, requiring him to shave once every two months or so to look presentable before his beardless family members. He knew I liked it when he had stubble and only held off shaving for me, but only for as long as it wasn’t noticeable from far off. His platinum blond hairs were initially hard to see until his skin tanned out- now he was easily rugged and mature looking every time he allowed it to grow out. He looked so handsome that it drove me insane sometimes.

I struggled to tap into my inner anger and resist what he was trying to stir up- I had to focus on the safety of my crew before allowing myself to fool around. I harshly pulled my hand from his grip and gave him a cold stare, earning a wild smirk on this thin lips. Every furious expression I made seemed to excite him, but at least he learned to hold himself back when he knew I was busy.

“Aye, ah can handle this- at least take Rutan ta his cabin an’ make sure he goes ta bed, please?” I requested, somehow falling into the same lax behavior Satel was spreading.

I never viewed Prince Bardam as a real threat, though I should take this unusual behavior of his seriously. It’s just that it was hard to focus when my mate was like this- if he wasn’t concerned, then it was pointless for me to panic over what could be nothing.

“Fine, come along rissr’amelos,” Satel called out to Rutan, using one of his many nicknames for my son. Since I’ve been with the long haired man for so long, I picked up a few words of his other languages enough to know what he was saying sometimes. Usually he’d refer to Rutan as his ‘little falcie’ (which always made me smile and my heart flutter), but lately he’s been rather derogatory, calling him ‘little brat’ instead. I hope it’s because Rutan was being a brat lately, and not because he was upset with him or something…

“Aww, but Pappy…!” the boy protested as he followed his father figure over to the cabins under the quarterdeck. I felt like I could breathe again once Satel’s back was to me. There was something about him lately… he could set my insides on fire with just one look from his feral eyes. I wasn’t sure what had changed about him, but I was both intrigued and annoyed by it.

My inner relief was short lived when I was rudely reminded of my hostage. Someone decided to have mercy on her and unbound her hands so she could explore the deck at will. She was in Satel’s path and quickly moved out of his way, almost as if she sensed his importance over her own nobility. He didn’t even glance her way as he focused on guiding Rutan to where he needed to be, but I did catch the rosy tint beginning to form on her cheeks as he passed her.

Oh, hell no! I frowned before I surged forward and grabbed her by the arm. I was not in the mood for some highborn bitch to form a little crush on my mate. She let out a pained squeak as I roughly pulled her over to the side railing of the ship where I hoped someone from the enemy vessel could see us.

…Okay, so I was a little possessive of my mate, considering Satel never had wandering eyes or any mischievous intentions to make me jealous, but I just couldn’t stop the feeling once it finally took hold of my body. I didn’t know if it had anything to do with being mates for life or what, but I had no intentions of letting anyone try to take him away from me.

“Right, time ta end this foolishness,” I muttered before I glance over to Rohje, then to my boatswain, a handsome thirty-something year old Erudian man nicknamed Hammer. They both nodded at me before readying their spyglass and message lantern respectively. I pulled the girl against me and held her still with an arm around her waist. She let out a startled grunt, then tensed with discomfort over being pressed against another female in such an intimate looking manner.

Bardam’s ship was firing like crazy- I couldn’t tell if they had gone berserk, or if they couldn’t see that they were just hitting a water barrier. Perhaps they thought they could break it with enough fire power, and I was tempted to let them try and waste their ammo, but I was too tired to muster the patience. Though it was Satel’s barrier, he had deliberately created it to be weak enough for me to manipulate it.

I raised my hand to direct my magicks before the ‘bubble’ turned into a solid wall. I then directed it to rush the other ship and imagined the water entering every crack- enough to drown their cannons and other incendiaries. A smirk graced my lips when the wall crashed into them like a violent wave and I waited a minute to see if I truly disabled their weaponry.

When satisfied, I turned to Hammer and he raised the message lantern. The object was simply a tiny tin ‘house’ with a torch inside and a sliding door made for quickly covering the light in a special code that could be seen from far off at night.

“Send this message- ‘Watch wot yer doin’. Ah have the lass here an’ she’s unharmed so far. If ye don’t back off, we won’t send her back in one piece’,” I said before I heard the staccatos of the door sliding and clanking as Hammer sent off the missive.

“Do ye have the barnacle in yer sight?” I inquired to Rohje with a slight incline of my head.

“Aye. He’s watchin’ us wit’ his own spyglass.”

Good- then that meant he could see me and my captive. I raised my arm from her waist and simply draped it over her shoulders casually. The girl sneered and turned her head away from me, but didn’t say a word about the invasion of her personal space. I still had my doubts that Bardam was interested in her, but I couldn’t stop my curiosity in finding out if it would bother him to see me fondling his bride-to-be. I was comfortable with myself to know that women didn’t sexually or emotionally attract me, so I didn’t mind messing with others just to make them squirm.

I watched the rapid blinking from the other ship and had the message translated in my mind before Hammer decided to verbally relay it for the other men to hear. “‘Tis a sacrifice we regret havin’ ta make, but yer capture takes top priority. Surrender now or else we’ll sink yer ship.”

I huffed in amusement as the crew laughed heartily behind me. What was he going to sink my ship with? I flooded all his long range cannons- and even if I had missed one, he was far enough away for me to form a new barrier before anything could reach us. I really do need to give Rohje a bonus for thinking ahead- had we still been at the docks, this would’ve been more difficult.

Suddenly I remembered the girl and glanced down at her to see how she was reacting to the news. Her lips were pressed together and her brows were furrowed in displeasure, but otherwise she didn’t betray any sadness over hearing how important her life was to them.

“Heh, looks like you were played for a fool- he didn’t want a bride, he wanted a tool,” I murmured near her ear, aiming to shatter her reality and have her turn against that idiot. I had nothing against arranged marriages if both sides truly consented to it, but I did have everything against a man who would use someone for their own gain without a single care towards the them. Hell, even I had some margin of care for my hostages, and I just used them for simple ransom money.

She turned her head sharply away from me again while hiding her glare. “I held no delusions that he loved me- we never met face to face before. I simply agreed for the sake of peace between our kingdoms, but now I see his true intentions are for himself and not for the people,” she replied a little haughtily, if not scathingly.

I remembered her mentioning that Bardam proposed to her in a letter- and it was out of the blue. I still didn’t understand the exact connection between her and my capture, but I did understand where she was coming from. In a way I respected her for understanding her position in this mess, and for figuring out on her own about how much of a rotten fish Bardam was for such a ‘just and noble’ prince.

“However,” she continued with an upturned nose, “I do understand what he is trying to accomplish, and I do not mind aiding him in getting rid of the likes of you. The less pirates terrorizing the world, the better.”

“Oh don’t act so high and mighty,” I told her with a grin before I reached down and squeezed one of her breasts. She let out a startled cry so loud that I could bet that Bardam heard her.

“Y-You… FILTHY CUR!” she screamed in indignation as she glared at me with a red face.

“Ye don’t need ta shout babe, ah’m standin’ right next ta ye,” I commented in a smug tone as a renewed roar of laughter sounded behind us.

“Elit almighty Capt’n- ain’t ye married?” Hammer asked as he calmed down from his laughter. Funny words coming from a man who repeatedly told me that I shouldn’t have to settle with one man. Because of his short and thick brown locks, well trimmed beard, and his youthful Erudian looks, he was a total flirt around women and didn’t believe in monogamous relationships. I accepted that, but adamantly refused his advances- though he did eventually back off when Satel threatened him.

Actually, maybe Hammer was secretly jealous that I was giving the girl attention after so many years of refusing him.

“Tch! Ah ain’t goin’ ta have sex wit’ her,” I retorted flatly. What I was doing to her did nothing for me- all I was getting out of this was a good laugh and the satisfaction of giving a good lesson in humility for the spoiled princess. The only thing that got me hot and bothered was a certain platinum blond when he’s shirtless and has his long hair loose and over his shoulders. …Well okay, seeing him naked was a turn on, too… and when he whispers naughty things in my ear in other languages… the list goes on, really.

“Another message Hammer: ‘That’s a pity- ah guess we’ll jus’ toss her then. Wot a waste fer such a sweet young virgin.’,” I recited before I turned my head towards the girl again. I kept my eyes focused on the ship as my boatswain relayed the message before I licked her slowly from her jaw to her ear.

She let out another piercing cry, this time of disgust, while I teasingly nibbled on her ear lobe. My men laughed again from both my antics and her reaction. The real humor in it was that they were affected by this, too. I wasn’t stupid- they were turned on by the image of a woman pretending to come on to another female, and I could clearly hear how strained some of them were as they tried to laugh.

The girl was now frantically pushing against me in a vain attempt to get away, but she wasn’t strong enough to succeed. As she struggled, I raised her other hand to my face in a mimicry of what Satel did to me earlier and rubbed my face against the back of her hand.

“Ooh, soft,” I said teasingly with a mocking grin. I could feel her trying to yank her hand free- she probably wanted to slap me by now. I decided to give her a break and glanced over to Rohje. He was the only one not paying attention to the show, preferring to focus on the enemy. Despite him being the second youngest (Rutan being first) on the ship, he was probably the most mature of the lot.

“Wot’s Bardam doin’?” I inquired to him after realizing we have yet to receive a return message.

My quartermaster smirked. “He’s lookin’ a little shocked an’ intrigued o’er there. Ah can’t tell from this distance, but ah think he’s grippin’ that spyglass o’ his rather tightly. Think he might be watchin’ wot yer doin’ ta the lass?” he queried in amusement.

“Or he’s checkin’ out Hammer,” I muttered with some sarcasm. I was a little stunned to hear that my act had actually gotten his attention, but I had to keep up with my denials- I had an ongoing bet with some of my men about Bardam’s sexuality, and I didn’t want to lose.

“……Ugh!” the boatswain uttered in disgust when my words caught up to him. Just as how I’m strictly a one man woman, he’s strictly a ladies only man. I grinned at his late reaction before Bardam finally sent his reply.

‘Your tricks will not work on me. You have no chance of escape so you may as well surrender now. You have five minutes to decide before we destroy your ship.’

There was another roar of laughter once Hammer decoded the message. I suppose in five minutes they’ll have one of their cannons dried off and ready to fire.

“He wants an answer? Fine,” I said coolly as I shrugged lightly. “Fire the cannon- jus’ one shot.”

“FIRE THE CANNON!” someone echoed after me, ensuring that whoever was down in the cannon deck below this one got the order. The ‘deck’ was actually inside the ship’s hull and located about a little less than six feet under the main deck. It was designed for naturally short Erudians, so it wasn’t a comfortable place to stand for those from other countries.

In no less than a minute, there was a loud boom beneath me and an iron ball shot out. We had an average artillery cannon, so it wasn’t going to reach Bardam without help.

“Watch this, lass- this is why I’m Lord of the Sea,” I told the lady as I raised the hand that was still hovering over her breast.

I summoned a jet of pressurized water after the ball to propel it towards the enemy and give it extra strength that a normal shot wouldn’t make. It was similar to aiming my gun, so it was no trouble for me to choose where it will hit. I was satisfied to see the large hole form on the side of his ship, high enough to not sink it, but damaging enough to prevent them from sailing. Almost immediately after, I heard distant alarm bells and frantic shouting.

Bardam was like my ‘toy’, just as how the heroes on land were toys to Satel- my mate taught me to never reveal the true extent of my power so that I could mess with them for as long as possible. I could have just used water to make that hole, but I wanted the prince to think that it was my cannon that did the trick. Best to have him believe that I somehow acquired a better weapon than he, else I might permanently scare him away with the truth. It was good to have a harmless enemy every now and then- for entertainment, of course.

The girl was shaking now as I idly waved my fingers in a slow motion to stir the waters around Bardam’s ship and rock it enough to make them lose their balance. I didn’t care if she knew what I was capable of- I didn’t plan on making her my enemy. Hell, I’m pretty sure I’ll never see her again after this night. But there was a lesson in this for her as well: be careful of who you threaten. Now she knew why I wasn’t afraid of Bardam or those ‘higher forces’.

“Say yer farwells- time ta let the lassie go,” I announced as I whirled around with her in tow.

They groaned in disappointment that I was letting her go so soon, though it wasn’t as if I’d let them do anything to her. Kidnapping her was a colossal waste of time- Bardam didn’t care about her, and I still had no idea what was going through his head. I walked her over to davits where a rowboat was already waiting for her.

“If you really care about peace, you’d be better off calling off your wedding and finding some other prince to work with. But it’s your life, so if you want to suffer for no reason, be my guest,” I told her dismissively as I wrapped my arms around her and grabbed her arms in a certain way.

She opened her mouth to speak, but I cut her off by twirling her around like a spinning top and shoved her into the boat. Anatil favored my men by gusting her winds at just the right time so her skirts flew up as she landed. They all catcalled, delighted to see her ‘innocent white’ bloomers underneath. With an embarrassed shriek, she shoved the layers of white back down her legs and glared back at us with a blush.

I grinned as manically as possible as I kicked the davits (to Hammer’s dismay, as he had just fixed them), and sent her flying down to the water. I was being too rough on such a delicate maiden, but something in me felt that she could take it. There was something about her gaze that made me think she had some hidden strength inside- I had no clue why I thought that, though. There was just something… familiar about her, like I knew her somehow.

So I humiliated her and roughed her up a little- no big deal. She was one of the few captives in the company of pirates who escaped with her virginity and most of her dignity intact. I’d say all in all that she was better off with me than with Fiet.

I used my magicks to guide the boat over to the nearest dock and waited for her to climb out. Trusting that she would be fine on her own – and not really caring if she wasn’t – I summoned the boat back and used the water to lift it back onto the ship.

“Lower the sails!” I ordered immediately as I turned away. “Rohje take the helm.”

“Aye, aye, Capt’n!” my crew hollered back before going off to do my bidding. In order to ensure a safe retreat, I decided to use my magicks to get us back into open waters- though with the damage Bardam sustained, I highly doubt he could chase after us.

The sails had to be lowered for this, since they would only slow us down and force me to use more power than needed. I stood at the very back of the quarterdeck as I guided the waves to push us. I didn’t once look back at the girl or at Bardam’s ship as we left. I only stopped when I heard the call of the mermaids, proving that we had reached open waters, and then made the command to open the sails again.

As everything settled down, I stretched a few times and thought back on the raid. Despite the unexpected appearance of Bardam, everything still ultimately went as planned. Fiet and his crew gathered enough treasure to satisfy their dragon and should have enough left over for their own pleasure. We got to have our fun destroying a town, and no one got- …well some people died, but I suppose that was inevitable. At the very least, all of my men were back safe and sound- and Rutan didn’t get a scratch on him.

…Speaking of Fiet, he never did come back. I guess he didn’t think we would get into a fight with Bardam- or maybe all that was just talk on his part. It wouldn’t surprise me any that he got scared and didn’t want to come back. With the way they were firing at The Cruel Whore, I doubt Fiet would’ve been able to do anything anyway.

I was about to call it a night and let Rohje take over to decide the night watch, but I ended up stopping as another thought came to mind. “Hey Rohje?”

“Wot is it Capt’n?” the young teen asked as he glanced at me from the helm.

“Did ye know that lass? Ah thought ah saw a look o’ surprise on yer face when ye saw her.” I was only curious, since as far as I knew Rohje’d never been to Rynrir before joining the ship. He’d been born and raised in Kagma for most of his life.

At first the red head seemed confused by my question, but his confusion cleared up quickly as he caught on. “Oh… that. Ah ne’er met her- ah jus’ thought she looked like yer twin when ye tossed her o’er ta me. She looks a lot like ye at first glance, but the differences are obvious after a good look.”

“Hmm…” I hummed under my breath before I turned away and gave him the orders to take charge for the night.

I didn’t think she looked like me at all… though now that he mentioned it, I did sense a kind of similarity between us. That explained that feeling I had about her, but… why her? Why did Bardam pick her of all people? If he wanted a tool so he could catch me outside of his kingdom, then he could’ve chosen any eligible noble girl.

I had a dreadful feeling that somehow this wasn’t coincidence- but was this a case of him learning where I was going to strike? Or was there more to this than meets the eye?

I was just going to tire myself out in trying to think it over- whatever his plans were, I’m sure they failed just now. He didn’t capture me, and I damaged his vessel to the point where he’s out of commission for a while. There was no other way to look at it- victory was mine.

I headed back down to the main deck and approached the quarter cabins. As I entered the small hallway, I stopped at the second door on the left and cracked it open a little to take a peek. This was Rutan’s cabin, and I wanted to make sure he did go to bed despite the action happening outside. I was satisfied to see a darkened lump in his bed that was rhythmically rising and falling with each calmed breath. I allowed a smile before I closed the door and headed to the furthest door at the back of the hall.

I guess Rutan had tuckered himself out- or maybe Satel put him to sleep with his magicks. I hope he managed to sing his nightly dedication to Elit before going to bed. Usually we’d do it together, since it was a required thing for all active servants of the sea god, but since this night was a mess… Oh well, if he didn’t, then Elati will make him by taking over his body for a few minutes. The Goddess of Storms will never let us unwittingly disobey her lord father.

I stood outside my cabin door long enough to sing a quick shanty so that I could fulfill my requirement. Elati would do the same to me if I forgot to sing, but then I’d interrupt Satel’s rest. When I was done, I opened the door and went in to my brightly lit cabin. …Funny, I didn’t remember lighting the lamps before leaving- and I thought Satel would leave them be in favor of going to bed immediately.

There was definitely something amiss as I entered, but I tried to go about my business and ignored the feeling. I knew Satel was doing something, even if I couldn’t see him. He must’ve been using his illusions on me for an ambush. I didn’t mind, since I… kind of liked it when he was sneaky and forceful.

I managed to hang my captain’s hat and bandanna on the wooden pegs beside the door before I felt a warm and solid band near my stomach. The next thing I knew, I was being pulled back to the door as another band planted itself on my other side, and I soon felt a large mass in front of me that was trapping me in place. Soon the lights went out, and I wasn’t sure if the illusion died, or if my mate changed his magicks to make me think it was dark.

It didn’t matter- what was important was that he was pressing against me in a wonderful way, and I could feel his lips hovering over mine. The next thing I felt was him pinning my hands over my head. I responded instantly by arching my back so that my lower belly would come into contact with him. I craved closeness with him- even after all these years, I couldn’t get enough of the intimacy, and it seemed to be taking a whole new level of passion now.

“Naughty sirsa,” he growled softly against me before he trailed his mouth over to my ear. I obediently gave him access with a tilt of my head before his tongue darted out to lick the shell, then shivered with delight as he gently blew at the cooling saliva.

“I saw what you did to that girl,” he whispered feverishly into my ear. “I love it when you exert your power like that.”

For some reason, Satel really liked it when I ordered others around- either he’d come after me like he was doing now, or he’d entice me to command him like he was my servant. It was a sudden change in our relationship that I’d grown to like.

Ever since I had gotten over my shyness about sex, we had been exploring the physical aspects of our relationship at a comfortable pace. It was always loving and considerate, with only an occasional strip tease or costume play to change things.

But as of late, something seemed to …snap within Satel. I couldn’t pinpoint when exactly it happened, but he suddenly became more aggressive in his advances. Our encounters were getting darker- sometimes light bondage was involved, or he would demand that I play a role for him. Nothing was violent and he’d go back to being his sweet and caring self after the act, but… the scary part was how I was responding to it all.

This whole change was unnerving when it first manifested, and yet I’d never felt more excited with his possessive and near primal behavior. It was kind of a guilty pleasure to like it so much, considering that I had a similar darkness in me that I tried to avoid. For some reason, I was just as aggressive as he was if I ever had too much to drink, or if I were exposed to aphrodisiacs like those damned mermaid pheromones.

It seemed tonight I was going to be at his mercy, and I grinned as I waited for him to continue. His hands slowly trailed down from my arms and eventually cupped either side of my head as his lips returned to hover over mine. The smirk vanished when I felt feather light touches of our mouths brushing and I found myself longing for his kiss.

He whispered more against my lips, teasing me with every slight brush. “You’re so strong and beautiful…” Then his voice deepened in that husky way that made my legs feel like jelly. “And you’re so completely mine.”

I almost cheered when he finally sealed his mouth roughly over mine, his tongue immediately darting out to rub against mine. My hands fell to wrap around his neck to help support myself up while feeling the near explosive build up of heat and tension. It was maddening how effortlessly he could reduce me into a needy woman. There may have been something wrong with me and I didn’t know it.

I didn’t understand why my body reacted so strongly to his touches now, nor why our mating was so intense. But I did know that I had no chance in fighting it- at least not now when my duties to the ship were over for the day. I let him pull me into his darkness, wanting to enjoy a little pleasure after a long day of work. There was nothing wrong with that, right?

Though I really should’ve been focusing on Bardam’s unusual appearance. Little did I know that that night was the beginning of a long chain events that would affect both Satel and I. Had I taken Cegil’s advice in studying up on landlubber laws, I probably could’ve prevented it altogether.

To the Next Chapter

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