20. Damn Messengers!

Chapter 20

Damn Messengers!

I gripped the helm in frustration, wishing I had the right words that would convince Satel from leaving. Only days after the incident, he was already antsy and ready to break his vow of staying by my side. In truth, I should’ve been surprised he held out this long, but I wasn’t so sure exactly what was making him want to head out.

He said he wanted to go back to his investigations so that he could take the initiative against whatever the Tau was planning next. He didn’t want to wait for their next move to come- and honestly, neither did I. I didn’t really mind the fact that he wanted to head off, since I was confident those firesquatters weren’t getting back on my ship, but…

Was letting him go the right thing to do? He was acting more like the man I used to remember these days. But what if he became stressed in his new mission, or what if he ran into Delar? It could undo everything he worked so hard for and start us over. I wasn’t the only one who was feeling impatient with this self-restraint regimen of his.

Worse of all, he was as contrary as a human teenager, though not as badly as before. First he was worried that we were growing apart, then after a day or two of innocent closeness, he wanted to run off to see other sights without me. Though to be fair, his decision might have had nothing to do with that. He probably had no complaints being by my side, but didn’t like sitting idle when he knew there was something more he could do about the situation.

“You did give your word that the enemy won’t be able to get on the ship, right?” Satel asked sternly. He was asking this after I protested a little to his plans and wanted to remind me that I would be okay without him for a short while… but in reality, he was just reminding himself. Though he felt ready to leave, he was still working out some nervous worry of leaving me on my own. And in that respect, I didn’t mind his leaving- I was just worried about where he’d go.

“O’ course, but that ain’t the problem,” I replied as I glanced over at him standing beside me. I furrowed my brows in concern as I told him, “If ye want ta go, then ah can’t stop ye. But if yer doin’ this jus’ ta find Delar an’ beat some sense into him, then ah beg ye ta reconsider. At least wait ’til yer finished wit’ yer routine- seein’ him might undermine e’erythin’.”

Satel gave me a soft smile to reassure me that he would be fine. “Now that I’m aware of my puberty, I shouldn’t regress too badly. In fact, it’s ideal to be exposed to the negative stimuli once in a while to test my control- why do you think we’re still allowed to see each other and mate?” he inquired teasingly before his expression sobered and he cast his eyes toward the bow of the ship. “I’m really not aiming to see Delar. I’m just tracing the Tau to see if they laid traps for us, or if they’re really going after Savage. I could – and should – do that much.”

I would be lying if I said I didn’t need that- save for whatever reports I could get from the mermaids and their pet koukirks, I was incredibly limited in my knowledge of the world without Satel. As The Cruel Whore sailed the oceans, we had no contact with other humans, and no news of world events until we landed somewhere. So because of my inability to leave the ship whenever I wanted, I couldn’t go out and investigate the very thing I wanted to know and be prepared for it.

But Satel could, and I greatly appreciated his help, but I didn’t want to force him into my business unless he was absolutely sure that he wanted to be part of it. He still had a lot of options of what he could do with his life, and I didn’t want to trap him into this just because I had a need for him. Though what he did with his life wasn’t my decision- if he wanted to go, I couldn’t stop him. The fact that he was pursuing all of this without my prompting did suggest that he was interested in what he was doing.

“But how are ye goin’ ta find out wot they’re up ta wit’out lookin’ up their master?” I inquired, bringing up a valid point.

“We have no proof that Delar is the master they were referring to, and it’s as simple as a trip to the Fodaren clan to ascertain that, but…” He stopped for a second before he took a step closer to me and grabbed my free hand in both of his. “I think your hunch that the Tau are working on their own agenda may have merit. Whatever they might do to trap you or Savage will be their own doing, and not the order of their master. Looking him up, whoever he might be, will not help us at all.”

“Then wot will ye do?” I asked, confused as to how he was going to accomplish anything at this rate. The only link we had to the Tau was that they were rumored to have come from the five hells and they had falucite masters- likely only within the Fodaren and Daedeleth clans. When they paid me a visit, I had no clue where they came from or who they returned to. The mermaids could only chase them so far before they had to give up.

“The vessel you described – the one they made their escape on – there are only a few port cities that carry them, and only one place where they are made. If they have access to such technology, then they might likely be there, planning their next move,” he answered with certainty.

Satel had told me that the boat I described was called a ‘speed boat’, and it contained a steam powered engine that required fresh water to propel across the ocean. But the ordinary ones coastal seafarers could access couldn’t get farther than a few miles out to sea, or to the next port town over.

It seemed the Tau had a specially designed model that used falucite fire charms to carry them the extra distance- but they’re still not supposed to use seawater. When they made their escape, they had no choice but to pour seawater into their tank because, had they been delayed a second longer, I’d have gotten them. Even though it worked and they got away, they likely damaged the engine in the process. But the fact that they used fire charms implied that their master granted them special equipment for their missions.

I curled my hand and tried to grip one of his in the process. “Ah wish ye luck in that, but be careful. There’s no tellin’ if they already told their master wot they needed ta report. Ye might end up meetin’ him by accident.”

Satel smiled slyly at me. “Well, if I do, then I’ll just ask him why he’s bothering my currently innocent-at-this-moment pirate for no reason,” he replied coolly, giving me a look that indicated that he wasn’t just going to ‘ask questions’. I let out a sigh and returned the smile, though tiredly.

“If it’s Delar, an’ ye get into a fight, deck him hard fer me,” I requested, while privately hoping that it wouldn’t happen. Yes, I wanted the man punched for the trouble he’d caused before, but I didn’t want my mate to get into a fight. Though after all this time, I couldn’t even muster half the anger Satel felt for Delar. Maybe it was because I had never met the man…

The blond man let out a laugh before he stepped closer and enveloped me in a hug. “That’s why I love you, my sirsa,” he told me after giving me a quick kiss. It took me a second to realize that he was relieved with my response- I didn’t really want to accept what might happen, but I knew there was little I could do if the encounter was meant to be.

But he was happy that I wasn’t going to give him grief over it. I had no doubt he knew my feelings over the matter, but even he can’t avoid someone if they also wanted to find him. If something was going to happen, then it was best to get it over with, and hope he came out alright- it was better than the alternative of him wondering the ‘what ifs’ and regretting not kicking the other guy’s ass sooner.

“I won’t be gone for too long- two hours at best,” he told me in a low tone, even though there was no need to for it, “I’ll just visit a town or two and ask some questions in a pub. If anything happens, hold down the fort and wait for me. Maybe I can catch them better.”

Somehow I doubted he would last two hours away from me, but I didn’t mind if he gave it a try. I didn’t want him getting needlessly paranoid about my safety, after all.

“Alright,” I replied before leaning up to kiss him again, “But be sure ta stop by the island an’ check up on Cegil.”

He nodded once. “I’ll come home first and pick up Rutan- he might like to visit the island and play with Suel and Rannon.”

Cegil had been letting his sons come with him to help with the progress, though I would imagine that they were more trouble than they were of help. I heard his house was coming along nicely, and within a few weeks, enough will be done that he and his family could start to move in. Though they would have to rough it for a while before I could send some trade goods their way. I was sure Cegil and the boys could handle it, but I was a little concerned about Lioa.

But then something occurred to me and I had to voice it. “Wait- yer not plannin’ on a short trip an’ leaving him there, are ye?” I asked. He said he wouldn’t be away for more than two hours, and Rutan can’t play for long on a short visit- that would be too cruel for a child.

My mate’s expression was dark and mischievous. “Only for a little while- it’s our free day, and Cegil wouldn’t mind watching our little one while we have an hour or two of extra fun.”

I smirked back at him. “Fair ‘nough. Ah’ll have Rohje keep tabs on Rosie an’ the others in me place when ye get back.”

My fear about Rosie was unfounded, but my fear about how my men would act was not. Though they knew better than to corner the little lass and coerce her (she had skill in kicking shins, by the way), those that were interested in a relationship, physical or otherwise, were not against flirting. While flirting was nothing dangerous, I didn’t want the girl to get confused and suckered into something she was probably not ready for.

“Good- that means my queen will have her hour of worship,” he responded slyly, giving me a hint of what he wanted to do later. I rolled my eyes, but my grin exposed my true feelings.

“Off wit’ ye then, so ye can hurry back fer me orders,” I told him as I gently pushed him back with my hand on his chest.

He didn’t leave immediately, choosing to grin and stare at me like a love struck fool before he finally blinked away. My face probably mirrored his, but I quickly tempered it into something sterner when he was gone. My crew needed a captain, not a silly girl in love.

“Wh- Let go o’ me!” a feminine voice called out from the stairwell. I glanced over to see Rosie being pushed up on the quarterdeck by my quartermaster before he surged forward to grab her by the upper arm in a firm hold.

“Found an eavesdropper, capt’n,” Rohje announced in a business-like tone, “Should ah send her ta the brig?”

“Nah, let her go- ah wasn’t talkin’ ’bout anythin’ sensitive. ‘Sides,” I gave him a cool look, “ye were listenin’ in, too.”

I wasn’t sure if Satel noticed, but I heard the teen’s footsteps as she approached- and the girl wasn’t exactly quiet when she quickly backed down out of sight upon realizing that I was having a private moment with Satel. Rohje arrived after her, however, so he could’ve sent her away, rather than wait for me to finish and turn her in.

But the red haired man let out a grin, proving that he wasn’t serious about it. He released Rosie and said simply, “Ah didn’t want ta interrupt.”

“If that’s true, then why did ye listen in too!?” Rosie demanded with a blush. I wasn’t sure if her blush was due to her embarrassment over being caught, or because the teen had touched her. It was evident that she had a little crush on my quartermaster, but Rohje didn’t seem to share those feelings. If he did, then it wasn’t very obvious- though, as I recalled, he had eyes for fellow Kagman lasses.

“Who said ah was?” Rohje inquired, confused, “Ah learned how ta tune out the mushy stuff an’ only focus on orders or battle plans.” He then strolled over to me and saluted, “Reportin’ fer helmsman duty, capt’n.”

I nodded to him and backed away from the wheel so he could take over for a while. I had to wonder if his words were true- if they were, it explained a lot. Considering that most of Satel and I’s romantic encounters were on the quarterdeck behind the helm, Rohje had been forced to listen in on a lot of them. Poor guy.

I regarded Rosie with a glance and found that she was gazing longingly at Rohje’s back. Apparently she’d forgotten whatever reason she had for coming up here in the first place, as I didn’t believe she was intentionally trying to eavesdrop on me. Instead I decided to engage in idle conversation with my quartermaster.

“Where’s Rutan? Is he sleepin’ in again?” I asked when I noticed the lack of energetic joy on the main deck.

“Aye, ah stopped by his cabin on me way out an’ he was still out. Ain’t like him ta miss the sun rise,” Rohje reported, sounding a little concerned.

“Ah hope he ain’t comin’ down wit’ somethin’,” I commented, also worried. He seemed healthy enough during the day, and I didn’t hear any noises to indicate that he was staying up late. This unusual behavior started not long after Rosie joined the crew, so maybe she had something to do with it. Though I had no idea how or if she was directly at fault.

Maybe my boy was having a hard time adapting to her presence. I couldn’t imagine him being worried that Rosie would steal all my attention away from him, though he had been following her around to undermine her somehow. Ugh, I hope he didn’t have a crush on her- I suppose it was okay since she wasn’t so bad, but it was going to get complicated the older he got.

Pappy swore off romance due to a bad relationship with the woman who was mother to my original body. I doubted any feelings he’d have in his childhood would hold in adulthood- not if her betrayal still stung him so. She was the reason as to why he was strongly against the idea of marrying for love- at one point he had been so blinded by it that he didn’t see her real intentions.

All the woman ever did for him in return for his love was inform his enemies of his kingdom’s weaknesses and left him with a sickly child who was doomed to die before the age of fifteen. The bitch didn’t even care about me. …Well, that was thousands of years ago anyway- the only reminder left of her was the figurehead at the bow. The Cruel Whore was named after her.

My musings were cut short when Rosie approached me, her face appearing curious.

“Capt’n? If ye didn’t mind me eavesdropping, then would ye be willin’ ta answer a question ah have ’bout yer conversation wit’ Lord Satel?” she asked, being both brazen and respectful. Never thought I’d use those two words together.

But I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about what exactly she could be curious about- most of what Satel and I discussed were our plans to mate later. I found early on that she wasn’t clueless about what happened between men and women, but surely she didn’t want me to teach her the facts of life.

“Ah ain’t so sure if ah want ta answer anythin’- ah’d have ta kill yer pappy fer tryin’ ta kill me fer corruptin’ yer innocence. ‘Sides, wot Satel an’ ah do in the cabin is our business only,” I told her while nervously rubbing the back of my head.

Rohje snickered at my discomfort as Rosie stared blankly at me. At first she had no clue what I was talking about, meaning that had I misread her intentions. But soon my words began to sink in and a rosy blush formed on her cheeks once again.

Her hands clenched and she leaned forward before she yelled, “Ah ain’t talkin’ ’bout that!”

I was nowhere near embarrassed as she was, even though I should’ve been a little ashamed for assuming. Actually, I found her reaction pretty funny- and so did Rohje.

I decided to spare her the teasing, since she didn’t seem to be in the mood for it. “Then wot did ye want ta ask?”

“Why not let Lord Satel meet wit’ the master an’ take care o’ him? If we got rid o’ the master, then the firesquatters won’t be able ta function.”

I suppose from an outsider’s point of view that would make sense, but knowing what I did, it was a terrible idea. Even if it were possible, it still didn’t account for the evidence that suggested that the Tau were working on their own agendas too.

“Ah’m ‘fraid it’s more complicated than that, lass. This ‘master’ we’re talkin’ ’bout is a falucite like Satel. Though ah’m sure he can take ’em down, there’s a lot o’ political stuff we have ta consider,” I said, shaking my head.

“Tch…politics,” she muttered in distaste. I couldn’t blame her there- to pirates, the word ‘politics’ was about as good as a curse word to us. We took to sea to get away from that crap.

I gave a tired sigh. “Aye. As long as we’re dealin’ wit’ falucite, it’s somethin’ that can’t be helped. If we don’t at least respect them, then we might end up havin’ ta fight an entire clan. That’s ’bout as bad as goin’ into a war wit’ dragons- mebbe ah can fight ’em, but others can’t, an’ it would be a waste o’ life ta try it.”

“But can’t Lord Satel fight them?” she persisted, unable to comprehend how pointless the conflict would be.

“Can a single dragon fight all o’ his kinsman in the world?” I countered, using a powerful beast she should be more acquainted with. “Power an’ ability don’t matter in the face o’ sheer number. We’d have ta be gods in order ta defy those odds.”

Well, I suppose that even sheer power could decimate number, but only if all of the opponents were much weaker.

Rosie seemed a little disheartened to know that even the mighty Lord of the Sea and falucite companion had to be careful. She must’ve thought we were invincible. All because I was ‘blessed’ by a goddess didn’t make me a god, and while Satel was powerful in his own right, it was unfair to pit him against his own kind.

“Cheer up lass. All ’cause we can’t off the master doesn’t mean the firesquatters will win. Satel an’ I can take care o’ them at least- if only we knew where ta strike first,” I mumbled at the end.

She didn’t appear any happier, but I had a feeling that once she properly thought through it, she would see the logic behind everything. The important thing was that Satel and I were enough to protect pirates from other humans and demons. We shouldn’t even have to worry about falucite, since they only raise land dwellers anyway.

I decided to change the subject. “Well, time ta get chores done. Ah better go wake up Rutan. If he ain’t feeling well, then ah’ll prob’ly have ta drag him kickin’ an’ screamin’ ta Doc,” I announced as I headed for the stairs.

Oddly enough, the boy enjoyed annoying Doc on his free time; and yet if he had to visit the man for medical attention, he’d do everything in his ability to run and hide. I guess that one time he had needed stitches was enough to scare him away from doctor visits. Hmph! If he thought the thread and needle was scary, then he should be examined by Didra- now that was a traumatizing experience!

I breathed in the crisp mid-morning air and prepared myself for another day at sea. If we were lucky, it would be uneventful, save for Rutan’s likely impending doctor visit and my planned fun time with my mate.

Yeah, like I could get off that easy. Several days had gone by since the incident, and I was due for another ‘message’ from my new adversaries.

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

Satel’s leads came up mostly dry, though he did find where the men who invaded my ship likely got their boat. There was a noble family on the coast who had access to special speedboats for their vacation home- likely gifts from their falucite masters. In return for the kindness, they apparently had to honor requests made from the other agents of their masters.

My mate was able to get confirmation that they did loan a speedboat to black clothed men, and they were quite upset that they returned it in terrible condition. It seemed one of my waves did some extra damage to it that I didn’t mean to make, but the ruined engine was their fault.

Unfortunately, that family was the end of the line for the lead- they had no idea where the men went, nor did they know anything about them, save for the fact that they were told not to refuse their requests. I did not like their ability to disappear like that. Decades ago, humans were so easy to trace when a falucite was after them. …But I suppose that was only true for landlubbers- if falucite could trace me on the sea, then I’d be in trouble.

Keeping his promise, Satel returned in less than two hours, but he did exceed the half hour that I was partially expecting. Even before he hit puberty, he wasn’t very patient when there was something he really wanted to do, so I figured he’d rush through his investigations. I was a little glad I was wrong- it was a sign that he was almost in full control of himself again.

Since he was early, he didn’t go to Cegil’s immediately- we discussed Rutan’s unusual behavior and I was able to get him to confirm for me that the boy wasn’t sick. Falucite could smell fevers and other indications of illness in a body, and Rutan was lacking that scent.

The mystery was soon solved when Hammer, overhearing our conversation, informed me that Rutan actually had been getting up in the middle of the night. Ever since Rosie came on board, Rutan had been taking article six to heart and set up traps to deter people from reaching her room at night. Hammer was caught in one of them, which explained the pained yell I’d heard one night. Though when I confronted the boy about it, he admitted that the traps were actually for Rosie, in hopes that she would be caught disobeying the rules.

…That figured. Well, at least his drive to cause trouble ended up making sure my men were behaving themselves. Though who knew? Maybe Rutan was actually being nice to the lass and was trying to protect her- all while sounding like he wanted nothing to do with her. Either way, his goal was to ensure the subsections of article six were being kept, and he succeeded.

Still… I couldn’t believe he was that quiet that I couldn’t hear him set up those traps. And what happened to said traps come morning that I didn’t notice them? Had someone tripped them every night?

“Oh, that was me,” Hammer admitted when I voiced my questions, “After the first night, ah’ve been bein’ careful an’ disengaging them.”

“That was ye!?” Rutan shouted angrily, obviously betrayed.

“Think ’bout it, lad- those traps hurt, an’ if the lass ain’t trippin’ then, then someone will. Wot if it’s yer ma? Prepared ta face her wrath?” Hammer questioned defensively. He brought on a good point- if I tripped those damn things first thing in the morning, I wouldn’t be a very happy captain…

Rutan winced, then looked up at me guiltily. “Oh…”

“Well, it seems e’eryone’s heart was in the right place,” I replied, ready to end this. “Rutan, if she hadn’t snuck out yet, then she’s prob’ly not goin’ ta. But thanks fer tryin’ ta keep order ’round here. That was thoughtful o’ ye.”

My son beamed at the praise, then promised he wouldn’t make any more traps. I then turned to Hammer, who was probably waiting for a show of gratitude for his disarming the traps. I would’ve given him that, were it not for the fact that something about the story made me suspicious.

I gave him a hard look as I asked, “Wot in five hells were ye doin’ tryin’ ta visit Rosie at night?”

His eyes widened before he waved his hands in front of him. “No! Ah wasn’t doin’ that! Ah always sneak a midnight snack from the kitchen ’round that time.”

“Ah don’t believe ye,” I muttered in a tone that told him he was about to be in serious trouble.

“It’s true! Rosie’s a pretty lass, but even ah have limits. Ah like me women wit’ experience an’ curves- an’ she’s still got a few years yet before those show up,” the boatswain said, holding up his hands near his chest to signify breasts.

I stared him in the eye for a minute, waiting to see if he’d flinch away. When he didn’t, I had no choice but to believe he was telling the truth. He may be a ladies man, but a pedophile he was not- Rosie might just be young enough to escape his interests. And- Rutan said he had been setting the traps at the mouth of the corridor, not in front of Rosie’s room, so anyone who wanted to get to any of the quarter cabins would trip it.

“Right. Thank ye fer taking down Rutan’s little project,” I replied, backing down from my accusations. If we were a polite bunch, I’d probably apologize too, but I had the right to be suspicious when it came to Hammer. He usually wasted no time in getting a short term girlfriend when we docked for a day or two. It was only natural to worry that he might take advantage of a new female crewmember.

“Yer welcome capt’n- an’ might ah add that yer more me type than the little lass,” the idiot added with a lecherous grin, forgetting that my mate was standing next to me. Hammer flinched when Satel gave a warning growl and soon the Erudian tried to play his words off as a joke.

“Get back ta yer post before ah deck ye,” I ordered dryly, not offended by what he said. At this point I knew there were no real feelings, nor did he have genuine interest in me- he just liked to joke and tease to see if he could get a rise out of me. Unfortunately for him, it was far easier to bother Satel than it was to bother me.

“Aye, aye, capt’n!” Hammer saluted and jogged off as fast as he could. Satel watched him go with a glare until I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek so he would forget about it.

“I won’t tell you how to run your ship, ‘Tia-dear, but some of your men could use a little lesson in respect,” he said with a sneer in Hammer’s direction.

“Ah got respect when ah need it- ‘sides, Hammer’s a lost cause. Ah must’ve decked him…what? Thirty times? He knows his place- he jus’ can’t shut up sometimes,” I told my mate with a grin. Satel knew how Hammer was and how he’d never be able to sway me. I believed the blond was just speaking for the sake of defending my honor, since he didn’t get the chance to punch the man himself. “Wot’s important is that ah ain’t interested- yer the only man ah love,” I finished, this time giving him a quick kiss on the lips.

This time I managed to get a loving smile out of him and he decided to forgive Hammer’s offense. I really should thank Cegil the next time I see him- that distraction tactic worked every time.

And, almost as if he was reading my mind, my mate said, “I suppose I’ve delayed long enough. Best go see Cegil and spare poor Rutan from our love before it really does make him sick.”

I glanced over to the boy and noticed that he was still pretending to gag over our actions. For now, I’d rather this soon-to-be nine year old think love, kissing, and girls were disgusting and not worth his time. Once he grew up, it was going to get very complicated- especially if Rosie had to stay around for that long.

“Alright,” I said before nodding to Rutan, “Off ye go- Pappy’s takin’ ya ta see Uncle Cegil an’ yer cousins.”

Rutan let out a whoop of joy before he ran over to Satel’s side and gripped the sleeve of his shirt excitedly. Though he didn’t get to see them often, he did love playing with his cousins- they practiced in the same brand of mischief as he did. “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” he rambled impatiently.

The blond man let out a laugh before placing his hand on the boy’s bandanna-covered head. Before he disappeared, he gave me a heated look and muttered, “Be back before you know it.”

Then, not even a minute later, the mermaids began to sing. It was like the problem was waiting for Satel to leave again. I let out a curse before I stormed over to the side of the ship and waited for my reporting mermaid.

“Lord Rutan! It’s them again!” one of them shouted from the sea. “Shall we let ’em through? Or try ta capture ’em?”

“Neither. Jus’ try ta slow ’em down. Ah’m puttin’ up a barrier ’til Satel gets back,” I told her before turning to my crew. “ALL HANDS! TAKE COVER IN THE HOLD! DON’T COME OUT ‘TIL AH TELL YE! DROP ANCHOR ON YER WAY!”

At this point, I didn’t think the mermaids could do more than observe them, since they had to stay underwater to avoid that powder of theirs. They probably could tear the boat apart and get them in the water, but I still didn’t want them dead- yet. We needed them alive for vital information, and I needed Satel to subdue them so they wouldn’t do anything extreme, like that other man did.

I waited until the watch climbed down from the masts before raising a water barrier around the ship. This should be enough to keep the Tau out, and enough for Satel to still teleport in when he was ready to return. I wasn’t sure how long it would take him to discuss anything with Cegil, but I knew he wouldn’t take long. I should have more than enough power to hold out.

The only one who didn’t follow my order was Rosie, as she chose to run to my side rather than follow everyone to the lower decks. She was indignant at the thought of having to hide and leave me to face the enemy alone, but she was going to have to accept that there was nothing she could do about it. I was the only one who was immune to the sleep gas, and I wanted everyone to stay awake this time.

“This ain’t right,” she argued with a shake of her head.

“But it’s how it’s gonna be ’til we learn more ’bout the bastards. Satel will be back soon, an’ he can do wot ah can’t right now. So wait below deck fer now- ye’ll be able ta escape the gas down there if it comes,” I told her, urging her to go.

I may have been powerful, but there was a certain finesse that Satel had that I didn’t. My magicks were too destructive and forceful- the only things I could do carefully were craft my own water armor and create barriers. My water ribbons alone were too harmful to average humans- if Satel wasn’t a falucite, then the times I’d playfully used them on him would’ve bruised him badly at best.

Satel would be able to safely capture them without the threat of killing them. That’s why I had to wait- I didn’t want them to get away a second time, nor did I want another man to commit suicide.

Rosie was at a loss. I must’ve been falling fast from whatever pedestal she was raised to put me on. “…But,” she protested softly, unsure if she should listen to me or defy me.

“Ye may be an apprentice, but ah’m still yer capt’n! Do as ah say, an’ ye’ll learn soon why we can’t fight them like we can jus’ any enemy,” I snapped, grabbing the reins of authority back. “Go!”

My thundering voice startled her, but her feet soon moved and guided her to where she was supposed to be. I breathed a sigh of relief when all souls were safely down below and made sure the water fortifications were stronger around them. I made the barrier top side translucent enough for me to see out there. The more I could see out, the weaker it was, but it should be more than enough to let smoke bombs and darts bounce off.

I could see them approaching – this time only two of them – on another speedboat. The mermaids were using their weaker powers over the waves to slow their progression, but they were still able to travel at average rowing speed. I managed to lock eyes with one of them before he raised some of his mask and placed a long straw to his lips.

In the next split second something hit the barrier right in front of me, and I soon realized he tried to shoot me with a dart. Obviously he couldn’t see the barrier yet, but he was aware of it now.

“My goodness, ‘Tia-dear. I’m not gone for more than five minutes and you’re already in trouble,” Satel called out lightly as he approached me from behind. I was relieved that he was back already and thanked the Maker that he didn’t take long at all.

“Ah wouldn’t call this trouble jus’ yet- they’re uninvited guests that didn’t bother ta announce their visit beforehand,” I replied before I scoffed, “And they say we’re the savages.”

“Indeed,” he agreed in a mocking – and maybe a tad bitter – tone as he stood beside me, “They’re quite rude for ruining our day. I was looking forward to our time together.”

“As was ah- ah was in the mood an’ everythin’,” I said in lament, shrugging a little.

I noticed his eyes widen a little before a defeated grin played upon his lips. “Now I’m really irritated with this interruption.”

I hid my grin at his reaction. It wasn’t like he had any trouble turning me on, so even if the moment was lost, we could easily start over. All this meant was that Rutan would get to spend a little more time with his cousins- not counting the time spent dealing with the enemy, of course.

“Jus’ don’t kill ’em,” I reminded him in warning. “We need the information.”

He gave a sinister grin. “At least we might get to torture them if they refuse to speak.”

Elit above! Where was this darkness coming from? Though to be fair, he’d been like this before, back when he was simply the assassin of the clan. It’s been so long since he’d acted this way that I nearly forgot. That tone always sent heated waves down to my lower regions. Gah, I needed to focus!

The two men were already close enough to climb up, but they just stood there in the boat and looked up at us. They must’ve figured out that there was a barrier in their way. Additionally, they must have also noticed that the dart failed to reach me, and that even if they could get up here, they would have to fight me.

“Ah think they got somethin’ ta say ta us,” I noted. They were quick to run away at the sign of danger before, and I couldn’t see why they wouldn’t do so now when they were clearly at a disadvantage- not unless they were messengers.

“Damn. That means we’ll have to let them go,” Satel muttered in a disappointed voice. As a villain I didn’t have to observe the world wide agreement of messenger immunity, but it appeared that we would probably find out even less if we kept them.

Usually messengers were hand picked to know as little as possible just in case someone was dishonorable enough to hold them prisoner. So it was best to hear their message and hope it was an offer to learn more, or – better yet – meet with someone of higher authority. Plus… Satel and I had been messengers a few times in our life, so we were a little sympathetic towards them. I was once in a situation where the receiver was going to hold me for ransom- it didn’t work, but it was a breech that shouldn’t have been done.

“We can’t take too many chances. Grab ’em fer me will ye?” I requested, knowing that if I grabbed them with my water magicks I might accidentally break bones.

“Certainly my sirsa. But I’m not so inclined to be careful right now. I hope they can handle a few bruises,” he replied, waving his hand out to guide the water in my barrier down to the men.

I watched as the ribbons surged down and wound around their torsos. They must’ve wrapped tightly, because I could hear them gasp and groan before they vainly tried to free themselves. Satel then made a ‘come here’ gesture before they were lifted up to hover before the main deck, almost to our eye level.

Satel didn’t let them touch my ship, nor did I let the barrier still between us fade. I wasn’t taking any chances- in fact, I used my magicks to smash the machine at the stern of their boat. …Well, okay, I did that out of spite.

I shifted my weight to one leg and rested my hand at the swell of my hip before I inquired impatiently, “Wot do ye bastards want?”

The barrier wasn’t soundproof, so communication was still possible- we just couldn’t hit each other was all.

“We have a message from our master to yours,” the one on the left announced, sounding a little winded and in pain. His hazel eyes darted over to my mate. “Are you the one known as Satel?”

Satel shook his head as he gazed at them with cool narrow eyes. “I suppose there’s little point in drawing this out by making you guess- I am he. Speak your message and be done with it,” he commanded with authority, though I could detect an undertone that hinted at his desire to rush. He probably wanted to drag me to the cabin as soon as they were gone.

“Our master, Delar, formally requests your presence in the palace of Barcilica where he would like to make one final attempt to negotiate with you.”

Oh shit… of all names to pop up, it had to be his. Well, at least it proved who was leading them, so that was one part of the mystery that was over.

“I refuse,” my mate answered immediately in a clipped voice. I was very proud of him just then- he wasn’t going to play Delar’s game, even though he really wanted that confrontation. Though, he might’ve said no out of pride, as he wasn’t inclined to come to his sworn enemy’s beck and call.

I felt that this was piss poor timing- as if we needed a ‘request’ from Delar! He might say ‘negotiations’, but I could just see them exchanging perhaps one or two words before a fight broke out. Then again maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing- after all, the meeting was set in Bardam’s palace. They could end up destroying it- … no, I didn’t want Satel to fight one of his own kind.

The one on the right seemed to anticipate that and was already speaking what he was entrusted to say. “He believed you would say something of the kind and wanted you to know that refusal is not an option. He says that every seafarer that touches the land of Rynrir is under the control of his clan, and he adds that should the Lord of the Sea ever touch his land, then he will be waiting to claim her as his possession.”

…And that was why it was so important for Delar to know when I entered the Sea of Naia. He was probably going to have his lackeys trail me from a distance so he’d know where to meet up with me. That meant he had some mildly annoying leverage that harmed me in some way so that Satel would be forced to come see him.

“And this is my response, feel free to quote me exactly,” Satel said mockingly before a look of fury crossed his features, “Bullshit! Falucite only have authority over seafarers that choose to live on land. Any visiting seafarer has no obligation or loyalty to the humans or masters of the land, so thus they cannot be claimed. And even if he believed otherwise, the Lord of the Sea needs no land, so he should prepare for a very long wait.”

I gave the Tau a knowing smirk as I crossed my arms and tilted my head slightly to bolster the claim that we weren’t worried at all. Satel spoke the truth, though technically even coastal seafarers didn’t owe anything to land dwellers and their kings. As far as I know, they didn’t pay taxes- unless fish and sea products were used instead of money. Come to think of it…

I kept my expression neutral as a new thought entered my mind. Land kings didn’t care about seafarers at all, so they didn’t enforce their laws upon them. Even to this day, seafarers and land dwellers were two different entities sharing a continent. So really they weren’t even falucite property- though I didn’t mind those (like Cegil) who protected them out of kindness. Suddenly I didn’t like the thought of the Fodaren clan having sovereignty over the seafarers- not if they were going to exploit them like they did the land dwellers.

We gave the two men ample time to whisper amongst themselves to decide what to do next. Apparently Delar thought that first threat would be enough to work, but he didn’t anticipate the strength and self-sufficiency of a seafarer. Though at the same time, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of never having to set foot on Rynrir again- it was too large a landmass to ignore. It held treasure for me to plunder.

“We will deliver your message,” the left one eventually responded, reluctantly, “But know this- Lord Delar will hold to his promise, and he will act accordingly. Be prepared for the consequences of refusing his generous offer.”

“What ‘consequences’?” Satel asked in a scoff.

There was a distinct pause before the right one answered, “We will not tell you.”

“‘Cause ye don’t know,” I retorted, earning a surprised look from them both, “Please- ah heard o’ this before. The only reason ye can’t tell us is ’cause there are no ‘consequences’ an’ yer jus’ bluffin’ out yer ass.”

They seemed to take offense to that because the one on the left expressed some anger as he responded heatedly, “That’s very rude of you, young lady. You have no idea of what you speak, and you should remain silent while the men are talking.”

“Is that so?” I inquired sharply as a sinister smile came to my face. Carefully I stalked closer to the edge of my ship, making sure not to cross the barrier. It wouldn’t do for me to be lured out of the safety of my magicks by a few moronic words, after all.

“Yer on the high seas, the domain o’ seafarers. Here the words o’ the capt’n hold more than yers. Ye were granted permission ta speak only ’cause ah granted it ta ye- now ah revoke yer rights,” I growled evenly, keeping the dark grin on my lips.

And that only made them indignant. “You cannot-!”

I made a backhanded motion toward the barrier, which in turn caused a wave to backhand them across their faces. “Quiet!” I yelled, earning immediate obedience. “Now off ta yer lowly earth master, firesquatters- an’ if ye e’er return ta me ship – as messengers or otherwise – ye’ll be leavin’ wit’ broken bones.”

I tilted my head towards Satel, but kept my eyes on the men before me. “Will ye do me the kindness o’ settin’ them back on their little dingy?”

Instead of setting them down, he dropped them violently. I was about to wonder if their words toward me had also upset him, but a quick – and purely accidental – glance at his trousers showed that he was quite excited. It had been awhile since he had last seen me go all bad ass on non-seafarers- he liked that show of power within me.

But I couldn’t forget what I was doing- I still had one more task to finish before I could say it was safe for us to carry on with our day. I smirked down at the recovering men and told them, “Ye better hope yer ratty tub holds together, else ye’ll be swimmin’ the rest o’ the way.”

Since I destroyed their engine, I couldn’t very well trust them to leave us quickly enough- for all I knew, they could try to come back when it seemed that my guard was lowered. I summoned a swell to push them away from the ship before I used a pressurized jet to fling them across the sea. I willed it to guide them to a distant beach- maybe even crash them against the shore. Hopefully it will hurt them a little…

When I could no longer see them on the horizon, I finally allowed the barrier to collapse, then turned to my mate. I was about to tell him how proud I was of him for refusing when he and I both knew he wanted to meet with the man and deck him hard enough for his ancestors to feel it. But I didn’t get that chance as he pulled down his über hat from his head and closed the distance between us.

His lips were sealing mine before I could let a sound out. One hand was at my shoulder while the other almost crushed his hat against my lower back- his hardness was flush against my lower belly. Either he thought Delar so insignificant that he didn’t want to spare him a thought, or I had aroused him so much that he forgot about what just happened for the moment.

When we pulled away, he kept his face near me, his rust colored eyes locked on mine before he started issuing his own orders. “I will tell the others to come back up and start maintaining the ship. You go to our cabin, put on that red, see-through sleeping gown that I like, and wait for me in bed.”

He then turned from me and strode over to the hatch, fully expecting me to do as I was told.

“Whoa…” I breathed out, my stunned body somehow telling my feet to move.

I really should think about what happened, but how could I after something like that? If Satel wasn’t concerned, then I shouldn’t be either- that’s how it was before. Besides, the message was for him, so it was his choice to dismiss or fret over it. For now, I decided to shut up and let him be the big man in charge- it was our free day after all, and I was really in the mood now.

Of course, this wasn’t the end of it- Satel only refused the obvious call to fight over pride. That, and he wanted to pick his own battleground, closer to his source of power. The fight was practically ordained by the Fates, and it was completely unfair. It forced Satel to make a choice that I wanted him to avoid.

To the Next Chapter

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