21. Out For the Count

Chapter 21

Out For the Count

The days seemed to pass by in a peaceful blur. I felt that I didn’t have time to visit Jadari, and simply kept sailing. I did send a few minor tidal waves to cause minimal damage to a few towns on the coast for the other pirates, but I haven’t been on a raid for a rather long time- in my opinion.

It was approaching mid-summer, and I was already on the other side of Rynrir. All I had to do was head north, and I’d be heading back into my home waters of Elati. I went through the area rapidly, but slowed down once I reached the destination where I expected Savage to show up. Though I didn’t want to say it out loud, I was itching for a fight with the Tau.

Doc managed to identify some kind of weed that was used in sleeping potions in mainlands- something that was rather common all over the world. I thought they would be using specially grown plants from their islands, but I was glad I was wrong. The accessibility made it easy for Satel to gather the plants for further testing.

Through his amazing research, Doc managed to recreate a working sleep bomb (with the help of my bomb making specialists on board), and deduced that the weed could be burned, exploded, and still work as intended- but with faster results. And because he was able to prove that the weed was behind everything – or at least a lot like what they were using – he was easily able to find its counterpart- a flower known as an a’rrudylyc. It was something akin to an iris and all I knew was that the color mentioned in that word was ‘yellow’.

Now that was a harder to obtain flower- the two places they grew were in Eruda and the northern reaches of Orja, territory of the Daedeleth clan. Of all the places flowers could grow it had to be those two specific places- it was like the Fates knew this would happen and deliberately made it difficult for me. Luckily, Satel’s been to Eruda before, and since he apparently still had the goddess’ favor, he wasn’t punished for going to a human only island.

The next part was an ingenious attempt to turn the flowers into a potpourri satchel and have them hidden inside a scarf that could cover the nose of the wearer. Then, with several unwilling volunteers, I had some ‘tests’ done. My victims wore the scarves and we threw the mock bombs at them. The first few attempts were failures, and they still passed out, but we only recently had made a breakthrough.

The real test would be to find the bastards and have them hit us with their bombs- it was the only way to make sure we had the real deal… But at the same time, it could horribly backfire, and I would be in a similar situation like when I had first met them. Well, I’d still have Satel, but I didn’t want to risk the lives of my men a second time.

However there was a slight problem with my new plan: I had told the Tau that if they ever came back, I would break their bones. My threat was probably relayed, and I haven’t seen a trace of them since. The only one who was likely to be a attacked was Savage, and while I could give him a mask or two, I wouldn’t be able to protect the rest of them. I needed to be there.

Rosie was eager to test it out, just so she could go home. It wasn’t that she didn’t like being here or learning under me, but she was clearly homesick and I couldn’t blame her. Though I had passed through the sea quickly, it was still only two months since she’d joined.

Two months of not seeing Savage, two months of absolute silence from both Delar and the Tau. It was the quiet before the storm- I just knew something was going to break, and we’d have a battle before us.

I stood on the quarterdeck with Hammer at the helm. I was watching Rutan run around, shirtless like the rest of the men, trying to help untangle two large nets that got caught up together in the surf. His birthday had come and gone- he was now a quickly growing nine-year-old. Before I knew it he’ll be ten, and then I’d have to start training him seriously for his future role.

My musings were cut short when I heard a blood curdling scream below me in the corridor- a scream that could only belong to a young woman. Since it was a hot and humid day, Rosie had to retreat to her cabin because she couldn’t take off her shirt like the others to cool off and get cooler. Everyone stopped to peer over to the scene. Unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to see what was happening.

For a chilling moment, I thought that the Tau had somehow snuck on board and was in the process of kidnapping her, but the black haired girl soon ran out onto the main deck. Her skin looked pale, and her face was wide eyed and frightened.

I began walking down the stairs. “Rutan!” I shouted furiously, thinking that the boy pulled a prank on her.

But the shaggy haired boy gave me a genuinely confused look before denied his involvement. “Wasn’t me! Ah didn’t do nothin’…today.”

Well if it wasn’t him, then what did startle the lass?

When I reached Rosie, she was trying to compose herself with shaky breaths. After I asked her what was wrong, she pointed fearfully at the corridor and said, “There’s blood all o’er the floors an’ walls. It looks like someone was massacred!”

My brows furrowed before I took off on a run towards the corridor, Rutan and Rohje following after me. When I got there, I saw a lot of red painting the area, just as she mentioned, but I couldn’t assume that it was blood. At least, not human blood. We did catch a huge fish today, and this could be a mess left behind by Fishguts. Damn him for being so messy…

Rohje gasped before he pointed to the end of the hall. “Capt’n look! The trail leads ta yer cabin.”

I took a second glance and found that he was right. The red smears were indeed all over my door, and nothing appeared to have come from the kitchen. My frown deepened- was this some kind of joke?

Satel had been gone for a rather long time, and it’d been a while since he pranked me. No… this couldn’t possibly be his handiwork- he was rarely this elaborate, since he knew he would have to clean up after himself.

“Stay here,” I ordered to everyone behind me before I pulled out my gun and cautiously approached my door. I was careful to step over as much of the mess as I could, but I had to touch whatever was on the handle to get in.

I took in a deep breath as I securely gripped my gun in one hand, then released the latch to open the door. I rushed in with my gun raised, only to find nothing waiting to pounce or shoot me. The only source of light in the cabin was the backlight from my windows, but it wasn’t dark enough for me to miss the mass of black, blond, and red laying on the floor.

I stared at it dumbly before my mind recognized what I was seeing. My body snapped into action, throwing my gun to the corner of my room and rushing towards the fallen body as I screamed, “SATEL!”

He was laying on his side, back facing the door, with a small puddle of blood forming near his belly. I knelt down behind him, unconcerned about the blood seeping into the fabric of my skirt and leggings as my hands hovered over him. I wasn’t sure if he were alive or dead- or if it was even safe to move him.

I shoved those thoughts to the back of my mind and acted on the instinct to hold him. I gently rolled him over so that he was on his back with his head was in my lap. He groaned as I did so, bringing me some relief to know that he was alive. Half of his face was covered in blood- some of it appeared to be coming from his left eye, as if he were crying red tears.

“Satel, wot happened ta ye?” I inquired, desperate to hear his voice. I ran my fingers through his dirty matted hair and noted that the über hat had fallen off- that meant he didn’t have much magick left. He must’ve used the last of his power to get home.

He was breathing through his mouth slowly as his right eyelid opened slightly and his clear, red-brown eye looked up at me. “‘Tia-dear…” He moaned softly.

Suddenly Rutan’s body was freed from his stunned paralysis and he ran over to us. “Pappy!” he cried out in a panic, on the verge of tears. I already felt a few hot streams trailing down my cheeks.

To calm us down, Satel managed a pained smile, but I wasn’t reassured. I haven’t seen him this pale since… A jolt of fear coursed through me at the thought and I turned my head to whomever was lurking at the doorway.

“Get Doc o’er here NOW!” I yelled, wishing I had magicks that could make the person run faster. I wasn’t even sure if Doc could do anything- Satel needed a falucite doctor, but I couldn’t get one for him. I couldn’t teleport, and there was no way for me to reach anyone who could. Damn it, why didn’t he go to Didra first!?

The least we could do right then was stop the bleeding and patch him up. Maybe he could still heal by himself as long as he didn’t bleed out.

“Who did this ta ye?” I demanded, my grief quickly shifting into anger. Someone out there harmed my mate, and I wanted retribution- even if I couldn’t strike them with my own power, I could still find a way to make their lives miserable.

“…Don’t worry ’bout it me love. Ah ain’t dyin’- ah jus’ need ta rest… Ah’ll deal wit’ him once ah’m better,” Satel replied, his eye glazing over and his smile took on a dreamy quality. I shook my head and felt more tears escape. I leaned over his body and wrapped my other arm around him in a loose hug.

I wasn’t sure if I could trust his words- he could’ve been delirious or just saying anything to keep me from worrying about him. The last time I saw him this pale and weak was when I had nearly lost him to Cyirlie’s venom. And since I had no idea what had happened to him, I also had no idea exactly what kind of injuries he’d sustained. He could be dying from poison for all I knew.

My mate proved that he wasn’t too weak yet as he lifted a hand to cup my cheek. “Ah ain’t lyin’ ta ye… ah will recover. Ah promise ye that we’ll be together forever- ah won’t let anythin’ tear us apart,” he vowed, somehow sensing my doubts.

And somehow a small laugh escaped me as I gazed down at him. “Romancin’ me at a time like this? Either ye hit yer head, or yer not as bad off as ye look,” I said, clinging to that bit of hope he was trying to give me. He was coherent for the most part, if not tired and in pain, so if he said he would live, I should believe him.

I pulled back so that I wasn’t crowding him, allowing him to dart his eye up to gaze at Rutan.

“Don’t cry lad,” he mumbled in a softer tone, likely reaching his limit.

“Ah ain’t cryin!” Rutan blubbered, desperately trying to wipe away his tears.

Satel’s serene smile widened slightly and his eye closed. “Yer right, ah was mistaken. Stay strong an’ watch o’er yer Ma fer me while ah’m restin’. Ah’m countin’ on ye.”

Our boy put on a brave face and slammed his hands down on the bloodied floor so he could lean forward over his pappy’s head. “Ah will!” he promised, his voice still crackling with some emotion. Satel passed out after Rutan’s exclamation, but thanks to his words, I didn’t feel as distraught as I initially did. I had a lot of confidence that he was going to pull through, just as he said he would.

“Pardon me- out of the way, please.” I could tell by the polite mannerism that Doc was on his way. He entered the cabin along with a few enlisted volunteers and immediately ordered them to set out a thin bed roll for Satel to lay on until he was clean enough to lay in the bed.

When he was done with the preparations, he gently guided Satel off my lap and onto the bedroll. Once his volunteers had my mate secured, Doc faced me again, this time bowing in submission.

“I know not if I can treat someone of his kind, but I will do my best,” he vowed. Most of his features were hidden behind his fari-blond hair but I could tell he was nervous as he added, “I mean no disrespect captain, but since you and Rutan are emotionally involved with the patient, it would be best if the two of you step out during the procedure.”

So there was the problem- he was afraid I was going to lash out at him for telling me to leave. In truth, I didn’t want to leave Satel’s side, but I did have Rutan to consider. He might not be ready to see his father in such a vulnerable position- and I might get in Doc’s way and impede on the procedure.

I glanced long and hard at the people gathered to help Doc. They were my men- ones I handpicked myself and trusted greatly. Sure Satel may have pranked or yelled at them in the past, but he’d never earned their ire, so I shouldn’t have to worry about them doing anything that might harm him further. …Plus, they knew what I’d do to them if they betrayed me.

I grabbed Rutan’s bloodied hand with my equally sullied one. “Come on, lad. The sooner we’re out o’ the way, the sooner Pappy can get better,” I murmured to him quietly as I pulled him to his feet.

He looked like he wanted to argue, but he ended up changing his mind and gripped my hand tightly- well, as tightly as he could since my hand was slippery from blood. “Aye, let’s go,” he agreed sullenly.

It took a moment to realize that he was taking Satel’s words seriously and wanted to ‘watch over me’ as he promised. The poor boy didn’t know how to do so without taking it literally- and it’s not as if he could protect me or anything yet. He still had quite a way to go before he finally received his powers.

When we exited my cabin, the people who were crowding the area scattered quickly, fearing that I would take my anger out on them. But I wasn’t angry- I couldn’t muster the emotion anymore after seeing Satel smile the way he did, and tell me it was going to be okay. If anything, I felt numb because I didn’t know what to feel. I hated seeing him like that, but I couldn’t feel depressed because he told me not to- I couldn’t feel the need for revenge because he wouldn’t tell me who was the culprit, and that he’d take care of it himself.

Instead I cast my eyes to the bloodstains all over the hall. Why did Satel choose to appear here and not directly in the cabin? Did he leave that trail on purpose so that I’d find him sooner? Was he trying not to make a scene? Well, that ship had sailed- there was no way for him to slip in unnoticed and quietly get my attention. Maybe he wasn’t thinking too hard when he teleported- or maybe he didn’t want to get too much blood in our room.

“Someone get me a mop an’ a bucket- it’s me mate’s blood on these walls, an’ ah should be the one ta clean it up,” I ordered to the nearest person- Rosie.

The lass was unusually timid and only nodded once before darting into the nearby kitchen to get what I needed. This whole ordeal must’ve unsettled her.

Rutan had been glaring down at the floor before his determined eyes looked up at me. “Ah’m cleanin’ up too!” he stated.

A dry laugh escaped me. “This is the first time ah e’er heard ye willingly volunteer fer a chore,” I commented, my voice still sounding down and broken.

“He’s me pappy, an’ ah should help too,” he replied stubbornly. I smiled slightly at the face of his determination.

We were both lost and frustrated over this. Satel was very important to both of us, so naturally Rutan would feel the same way I did- though his situation might be worse. Unlike me, there wasn’t much he could do at his age other than small things, like try to cheer me up- whereas I could do something, but was unable to at the moment.

“Very well, ye get the floors an’ ah’ll get the walls,” I told him, as Rosie came back with what we needed.

I suppose in the end I should just be grateful that Satel came back to us at all. He could’ve died, and I wouldn’t have known about it until someone came here to look for him. Any other feelings that I could or should be feeling could wait until my mind and heart settled.

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

As Rutan and I were finishing up, the bright summer sunshine was slowly drowned by ominous black thunderheads. It had been a while since Elati had visited us, despite the fact that the current hot and humid weather was what she usually preferred. The more unstable the atmosphere, the better- fitting for a goddess who loved chaos. But…

“Now she chooses ta grace us wit’ her presence…” I growled under my breath. Why did I get the feeling this was an intended visit? If this was about Satel, then why would she be concerned? He had refused her offer to become her servant, and he had no intention of ever accepting. Surely she didn’t think he would change his mind while he was vulnerable?

I left Rutan to put away the cleaning tools as I walked out on the main deck, keeping my eyes trained on the sky. Since we were in Naia’s domain, Elati couldn’t appear to me in her Nature’s Form, but she could still speak to me in my mind if she so pleased. If there was a reason for her visit, then she would surely say something.

“Thank Naia! A storm is sure ta cool things down ’round here,” Rosie cheered as she appeared by my side. She seemed to have recovered since Satel’s return- though she couldn’t recover from the heat until Elati passed through. Poor thing could only shed down to an undershirt, whereas I could still wear a light jacket and remain comfortable. This was one of the few times I appreciated my lower body temperature.

“Careful- don’t let Elati hear ye thankin’ her sister fer her presence. It might jus’ offend her,” I warned with a weak grin. Never mind the sister squabble going on between them; a goddess can be a very prideful creature, and to give credit to someone else was like asking to be struck by the storm goddess’ lightning.

I should’ve also warned her that when a storm came during a hot day like this one, it was almost guaranteed to be a violent one. Luckily Elati had given me the power to spare the ship from her handiwork, and even Naia couldn’t take it away as long as my patron goddess was hovering over me.

I headed over to the forecastle deck to stand at the bow. It was the best place for me to guide the ship and quell any errant waves, and, at the moment, no one else was nearby to hear me communicate with the goddess, should she speak to me.

But as the clouds continued to roll over us, and the only noise I could hear was the wind and waves, my mind began to wander back to Satel. Cleaning things always settled my mind and helped me think better, and now that I had this moment, I realized there was something …off. And with Elati drawing near, my suspicions were growing.

I didn’t think about it since he was injured, but my mate had acted strangely. There was something in his last words that didn’t seem right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it- the things he’d said seemed natural enough. …No, it was the way he said them was what bothered me. Just what was going on?

Finally lightning struck a rock structure in the distance, followed by a loud boom. Seconds after, the rain began to pour. She was upon us, and yet she wasn’t speaking to me- odd.

In the old locked away knowledge in the back of my mind, I learned that Elati liked watching the Lord of the Sea dance during her storms. That was what Pappy used to do on the bowsprit when he was felt daring, and when he didn’t, he’d move gracefully on the forecastle deck. She often asked me to do it in his place, and I didn’t really mind, but I wasn’t in the mood today. Not when my mind was so preoccupied.

Dance with me my servant, for this is an auspicious day.

She finally spoke, but it was only a request- and it was one that only served to annoy me. This was an ‘auspicious day’? How so when Satel was beaten up by some unknown asshole!? There was nothing good about this day.

But, I knew Elati could hear my thoughts so I stopped myself from thinking anything bad in regards to her- I didn’t want to suffer her wrath.

Art thou not happy? Thou shall never be parted again. So dance and make merry.

This time it was a command, and there was a little more force behind it. Goddesses didn’t comprehend feelings too well, so she didn’t understand why I was upset about Satel, or why knowing he would live wasn’t enough to cheer me up. It was far more complex than what she was willing to understand. If I protested more now, she would likely get offended that I wasn’t didn’t appreciate whatever gift she was bestowing upon me.

…Wait, what did she mean by that ‘never be parted again’ bit? To whom was she referring to? Pappy? I already knew we wouldn’t be separated as long as we played our… oh. Maybe that was it- she must’ve been talking about the ancient agreement between her and Pappy. I suppose dancing was a form of celebration of the bonds between me, my father, and the goddess.

In that case, I had to do it despite my not-so-cheery mood. Wouldn’t want to act like an ungrateful brat and have her punish me. Though my thoughts were focused on Satel, I moved along with the strong waves and guided the ship through the worst of the storm.

And not once did it ever occur to me that Elati was talking about Satel. Something had happened that day, and I wasn’t going to like the story.

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

Doc managed to patch Satel up, though he had no idea what happened to his eye or why the blond man was in a coma. The human doctor didn’t even need to stitch his wounds, as Satel’s skin closed up rather quickly on its own without help. But, he did have a few broken ribs, a fractured arm, and – disturbingly enough – puncture wounds on his chest and back that looked suspiciously like a large bite mark.

Those took a little longer to heal, and when they did about two days later, he was still unconscious. As for his left eye, there wasn’t anything Doc could do. He cleaned the blood, but he couldn’t pry the lid open to examine his eye. It was as if his lid was glued shut. For the time being, I had an eye patch resting over it in hopes that it would make the eye water and loosen up whatever was keeping it closed.

Heh, with it on, he really looked like a pirate… I just wished I could appreciate that humor right now.

I wasn’t sure how long he could last without food, and I was afraid he might end up starving himself soon. I was desperately hoping that Cegil might pop in any day, wondering where his brother had disappeared to. If anything, he would know what to do- or at least he could get Satel to Didra.

Damn it all! I hated feeling helpless!

I didn’t know what to do- I couldn’t heal him, I couldn’t get help, and – damn it – I couldn’t get revenge on the one who did this to him. Not as long as I didn’t know who did it. Sure, I had an inkling that it was Delar, but Satel had other enemies. There was a rare chance that he ran into one of them and was caught off guard. Hell, it could’ve been Cyirlie for all I knew- it would explain the bite mark!

All I could do was stay by his side and wait for him to wake up. I delegated the tasks in the morning, left Rohje to do the rest of the work, and then spent the rest of my day in the cabin, watching over him. At first, Rutan did the same, wanting to keep his promise to watch over me, but it didn’t take him long to grow fidgety.

Though he cared about his pappy and was very worried, he was still a child full of energy. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to have fun while Satel was out, but he could at least do something like walk around or attempt a chore. I sent him away, telling him he could be in charge of the ship as long as he listened to Rohje. Ordinarily that would make him happy, but…

I let out a quiet sigh as I continued to run my fingers through Satel’s clean hair. His face was calm and his breathing was normal. Other than the eye patch, he didn’t appear worse for the wear at all. What a mess this was- the captain and the first officer shouldn’t be indisposed because of one injured man. But, it was Satel– I didn’t think would ever end up in this situation again.

He was laying at the center of our large bed, covered up to his neck in blankets despite the heat outside. He didn’t have a fever or anything, but he wasn’t likely going to feel all that hot with his body temperature. I was sitting to his right, the side closest to the door, with one leg bent under me and the other hanging off the edge.

I lifted my head when I heard a knock. “Enter,” I commanded, not once looking away from Satel. Because of that, I had no clue who opened the door and walked in.

“Capt’n.” Oh, it was Rohje. “We finally have the Catorrcie in sight. Wot should we do? Ah think Rosie wants ta visit her pappy at least.”

I was silent for a moment as I thought it over. Because Satel was down, I had no contact with Savage. Who knew what situation he was in since our last meeting? The Tau could’ve struck in that short a time.

“Are we close ‘nough ta send message?” I asked, wanting to get an idea of how much time we had left before I really had to make a decision.

“Aye, but they ain’t respondin’. Ah doubt it’s ’cause they can’t see us,” my quartermaster replied, revealing an undertone that implied his was suspicious of the ship.

I frowned a little- that wasn’t a good sign. Unless there was bad blood between us – and there wasn’t – there was no reason why they couldn’t communicate back. …Not unless the crew was taken out and the ship was in the control of those who had no clue what they were doing.

“Where’s Rutan?” I inquired, holding off on my order.

“Out in the corridor, pacin’ ’round,” he answered quickly, as if expecting the question. I wasn’t surprised- the sweet lad couldn’t focus on being a fun loving child when he was worried about someone dear.

“Send him in on yer way out. Ah’ll meet wit’ ye in a minute on the fo’c’sle deck,” I ordered, my gaze still trained on Satel’s good eye. I don’t think I’ve looked at anything else the entire day.

Rohje must’ve nodded, because I didn’t hear a confirmation, and called for the boy. Rutan didn’t waste time and nearly barreled the teen over as he was heading out. Only when the door closed, and my son was standing beside the bed, was when I finally turned my head.

“Rutan, as ye know ah’d rather stay by yer pappy’s side, but duty calls. Ah know it’s unfair ta ye when ye want ta be part o’ the action, but yer pappy could wake up any moment, an ah don’t want him ta be alone. Stay here in me place ’til ah get back,” I requested, not ordered.

For once I wasn’t asking just to hide him away from possible danger- I did want Satel to wake up to a familiar face, and if I couldn’t be that person, then the next best one was Rutan. I half expected the boy to protest a little, or suggest that he could go deal with Savage in my place- of which he certainly wasn’t ready for. But instead, he glared down at the floor and fingered the white scarf around his neck, just like how Satel would nervously rub the brim of his über hat.

“Ah’ll do it, but hurry back,” he mumbled quietly, surprising me greatly.

I really shouldn’t push this, since I didn’t have time to tease, torment, or argue with him, but I had to know why he was being so obedient. “Really? Yer not goin’ ta ask ta answer me duty yerself?”

He shook his head. “Even if ye did let me go, ah wouldn’t know wot ta do or say. Yer jus’ goin’ ta talk ta Rosie’s pappy, not fight a battle,” he replied sullenly. So that’s what it was- he was only interested in taking charge if it involved fighting. I was also impressed that he had the insight to know he wasn’t ready for social situations involving other captains- and that he already knew I wouldn’t let him go.

Damn boy… why was he growing up and maturing so fast? It was hard to believe that no more than six months ago he was obnoxious and trying to cover up his embarrassments- like when he ran into my door while carrying food. He claimed he was trying to see if he could open it without his hands, when in fact he had tripped.

I wonder when he began to change? I noticed his maturity long before his birthday. Could that one time when I’d taken him with me on a raid been the turning point? Who knew? I stared at him for a while before I gestured him to come closer. I wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him in for a hug.

“If ye keep actin’ all mature, yer gonna leave me no choice but ta treat ye as an adult sooner,” I warned him teasingly. I earned a small smile from him- the first he made since Satel came home.

“Does that mean ah can lead the next raid?” he inquired hopefully.

“Elit no,” I replied immediately before I added, “But ah’ll be givin’ ye more responsibilities, an’ ah’ll let ye help me out more when ah’m planning those raids.”

“Alright- ah won’t forget ye said that!” he replied cheerfully before sticking his tongue out at me.

I managed a light laugh before I reached for the scarf around his neck and pulled it up to cover his nose. “Keep that on jus’ in case we’re attacked. Ye ne’er know when the firesquatters might show. If they do, yer in charge o’ guardin’ Pappy,” I told him before I finally moved to stand. I had been sitting there for so long that my legs felt weak…

“Aye Ma!” he shouted while saluting. He climbed on the bed to sit where I had been previously, though he didn’t mimic what I had been doing to Satel’s hair.

I gathered and put on my weapons before heading out, hoping that I wouldn’t need them at all. When I reached the door I opened it and paused long enough to glance back at them. I prayed that we weren’t heading to a battlefield, not with Satel like this…

With a sigh, I reluctantly left and met with Rohje. On my way, I called out for Rosie to follow. As I headed up the stairs to the forecastle deck, I could see Savage’s ship- it was far enough to where we weren’t considered too close, but close enough for me to see without a spyglass.

There were a lot of suspicious factors regarding the ship that I didn’t like. For one, the anchor looked as though it was just dropped with no preparation- the sails were still down, and it was drifting wherever it could from the tether. If it was secured properly, it would just bob on the swells. This had to be the work of a non-seafaring amateur.

Also, more disturbingly, there was no one trying to get our attention. It looked like the masts and decks were void of life- hopefully not because everyone had been slain. We were at a good distance to where we were unable to see if there were any bodies laying around. To me this reeked of Tau interference- I was hoping the few masks that Satel had passed along would’ve been some help, but…

Though I’ve only sent four, I thought it would be enough. Yes, everyone else would’ve been knocked out, but the Tau seemed to travel in small packs. Four would’ve been enough for them to fight off. Either Doc’s research was wrong, or Savage didn’t wear the scarves at all times as instructed to. I suppose I couldn’t blame him for the latter- it was summer, and it was too hot to have such an accessory. It was hard on my men, too.

“Somethin’ ain’t right,” Rosie said before she cupped her hands around her mouth and called out to the ship, “PAPPY!”

I placed a hand at her shoulder. “Don’t bother. They had ‘nough time ta notice us- fer the moment, let’s assume the Tau is at work here. Rohje, have the men put on their masks and then sail a distance ’round the Catorrcie. Don’t get any closer ’til a messenger is seen. Rosie an’ ah will pay Savage a visit ourselves,” I ordered, casting glances at Rosie first, then my quartermaster.

“Are ye sure, capt’n? Bringin’ her might be too dangerous,” he warned.

“Ah be sure. Since they seem ta be after women, we’d be the perfect bait ta lure ’em out wit’out an’ attack,” I reassured him before turning to face the girl, “But no matter wot ye see, ye must stay by me side. Ah can’t protect ye wit’ me magicks if yer runnin’ off ta e’ery little thing.”

“Okay,” she agreed, falling short of a reassuring promise. I had a feeling she had the best intentions to honor me, but I’d probably lose control of her once she set sight on her pappy. With her being so young and worried about her father, I would not expect her to remember my instructions.

…But I’ll be running to Savage too, so there was probably nothing to worry about as long as she obeyed me until that point.

“Right, ye have command, as usual, Rohje,” I started to say before I walked over to Rosie and effortlessly swept her off her feet so that I was holding her bridal-style. She let out a squeal as she lost her footing, before staring up at me in surprise with a blush on her cheeks. “Try not ta scream or move ’round too much- it’s hard ta walk on moving water an’ ah need ta concentrate,” I told her before I jumped up on the bowsprit and ran towards the end.

Her breath caught in her throat, suppressing a scream when I jumped from the tip and headed straight for the water. Despite what I told her, she seemed to anticipate crashing into the water, but I used my magicks to land on the surface. It was a very tricky spell, since I had to watch out for waves and swells, and I didn’t have enough control to remain above the surface for very long. I had to keep moving, or else my feet would start to sink.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that it was hard to walk on moving water. Even merely standing, I looked like a drunken pirate swaying to and fro. Usually if we had to cross a body of water Pappy and I would just split the sea and walk on the seabed, as it was just easier that way. But unfortunately, it wouldn’t work in this case because I’d also have to bring down the ship and risk damaging it.

At first Rosie’s eyes were screwed shut, but once she realized that we weren’t swimming, she opened them and wrapped her arms around my neck in fright.

“Calm down, ah won’t drop ye,” I promised as I ran the distance- the action hard to do when my support was moving.

It took longer than it should have, and I was a little out of breath, but we managed to reach the built-in wooden ladder on the side of the ship and climbed up. I didn’t want to make her go first, but I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. There was nowhere for me to put her down. When we reached the main deck of the Catorrcie, I wasn’t too surprised to find everyone unconscious. It seemed that my hunch was correct, though I wouldn’t have minded being wrong in this case.

Savage’s ship was about the same size as mine with two masts, though he had room for a cannon deck between his main and quarter decks. And since there was no need for an entire deck inside the hull, he had more room to store his men, allowing him to carry more men than me. The wood of his vessel aged, unlike mine, but even though one could detect the passage of time on them, his crew did take good care of it. The main deck’s floor was smoothed and polished enough to see a blurry reflection.

Though my ship didn’t age, perhaps I should take some notes from Savage. He did a little extra to keep his ship looking nice- even if what he did was more of a vanity than a necessity. Heh, his men even did a better job gathering up loose rope and storing them away. I suppose as a woman, I should be a little ashamed that I was nowhere near as interested in being orderly.

I observed three men who had the white scarves in their hands, looking as though they had struggled to put them on as they were struck with the bombs. …Idiots. I told them to keep them around their necks at all times! But at least it didn’t mean that our plan didn’t work. It only proved that it was vital to always be prepared in case of sneak attacks.

I hope that didn’t mean Savage was caught off guard, too. He might’ve been hiding somewhere, waiting for everyone to wake up. …But if he were still awake, then that didn’t explain the shoddy way they were anchored. Even captains knew how to man their own vessels- one wasn’t a seafarer if they didn’t. …Satel excluded for obvious reasons.

Rosie took in the scene and tried to hide her sadness over seeing her family like this. She made sure to stay by my side, as I had asked, and even went the distance to pull me along where she wanted to go so that we wouldn’t be separated. Instead of heading to the captain’s cabin, she chose to lead me up to the quarterdeck, likely believing her father would be located there.

And she was right- Savage was laying before the helm with his feet near the wheel, sleeping like the rest of them. But he wasn’t alone, as a black clad person was sitting cross legged near his head. At that moment, I lost all control as Rosie screamed for her father and ran towards him, heedless of the enemy.

“No don’t!” I yelled at her as I reached for her, but she slipped away. I called her an idiot in my mind and prepared for a hostage situation, but oddly enough, the man didn’t move. He allowed the girl to kneel beside her father and check on him. I couldn’t believe how trusting that girl was- she should know better than to get that close to the enemy, regardless of her father.

I stood there awkwardly, glaring at the man until I heard footsteps behind me. I whirled around half-way, so that my back wasn’t facing the man or the coming intruder. It was another one; however, unlike the first, he expressed slight shock when I had turned. He froze in place for a second before he shook his head and continued to walk towards me.

I frowned at the bizarre situation. Any normal person wouldn’t draw closer to an enemy, even if I happened to be a ‘delicate’ – in their moronic opinion – woman. He reached out a hand to grab me, almost as if he believed he could get away with such an act. I stood still long enough for him to enter my striking range before I grabbed his arm, earning yet another stunned expression from his exposed eyes.

“Ye think ah’m stupid enough ta let ye grab me?” I asked incredulously, yanking him forward so I could pull him into a hold. Rosie looked up at me, appearing very confused about my outburst. But I didn’t have time to reflect on that as it appeared that the first man was getting ready to seize her.

“Get down, lass!” I roared as I pulled my opponent’s arm over my head and lifted him up by the middle. Rosie didn’t seem to understand what was going on, but still managed to drape herself flat over Savage’s body in time for me to toss my assailant on top of the first man. Thankfully, I managed to miss both father and daughter with that move.

I rushed over to her side, drawing my gun as I did so. I made sure to stand between Savage and the Tau as I aimed at a non-vital area on the one closest to me.

“Wot’s goin’ on!?” Rosie demanded, looking around wildly. I looked at her in disbelief as I wondered how she could possibly miss the two men before me. It was as if she couldn’t see them.

And then, to refute my belief, one of them recovered and shouted, “How can you see us!?”

“Who said that?” the short haired girl inquired fearfully as she tried to find the source of the voice. I could only stare, unable to believe. These bastards had the ability to make themselves invisible to humans? Why was I unaffected?

This must’ve been the work of some other drug. Great- now we had another problem to surmount. I wondered how many tricks they had to exploit. I waited for them to fully detangle themselves from one another and sit on their knees. With my gun, I gestured for them to hold their hands up so that they couldn’t surprise me with another bomb.

“I know not how you’ve managed to see past our illusions, but you must give us the girl,” the other said when it was clear I wasn’t going to answer the question. Funny that he was giving orders despite the situation- I was the one holding them hostage. Hopefully these two valued their lives, unlike that first man I had tried to capture.

“Why should ah? Wot would ye want wit’ the lass anyway?” I countered.

“The sea and the seafaring life is no place for women. We will take the girl to our home island, where she will be protected and cared for, as women should be,” he answered before adding in a lower tone. “If you were not marked to become queen of the Kingdom of Damra, we would take you with us as well, Hels Meyuun or not.”

I scoffed at both the idea of becoming Bardam’s bride – as that was his kingdom mentioned – and at their idea of how women should be treated. Maybe it was okay where they were from, but seafaring women have no use for being treated as a pet. “Please. Wot makes ye think ah’d let ye take me or the lass, let alone become a queen o’ a land kingdom?”

“You have no choice- your master is gone, and there is no one to defend you any longer. Our master is willing to take you under his wing, whether you like it or not,” the first man replied heatedly, as if he were upset that he had to explain anything to me.

When they said that my ‘master’ was gone, I suppose that meant that they believed Satel to be dead. Did that mean Delar was the one who injured my mate, or did he know what happened and assumed the results?

“That might be a problem, if that was true,” I replied eventually, smirking a little as I cocked my gun to ensure a fresh bullet was ready to fire. “But ah don’t need a master ta protect me- ne’er did, ne’er will. An’ as long as ah’m near the sea, ah can drown yer master in a heartbeat.”

I was vague on purpose, leaving it to their interpretation if Satel was still alive, or if I was solely speaking of my independence. There was no need to keep his status a secret, as I felt confident that I could protect my mate while he was vulnerable. And I was right- as long as I was near the sea, even a falucite would have a lot of trouble trying to fight waves that they had very little control over.

The two bastards started chuckling, probably thinking I was delusional. I suppose they didn’t take me seriously because I was a woman. It was likely these weren’t the same two who left that message long ago- they seemed to get it after I slapped them around a little… or did they think it was all Satel’s doing?

“Laugh all ye want, idiots- yer still not gettin’ wot ye want. Ne’er mind broken bones- ye try ta kidnap a pirate again, ah’ll destroy yer home an’ take all yer women. Ye’ll find that my wrath is greater than that o’ yer goddess,” I threatened calmly, preparing to shoot their feet before tossing them back to land like what I had done to the last pair.

Though that wasn’t the best threat I had ever come up with, it was woefully ignored because they were already being tortured. I hadn’t noticed the water bands around the two until they were lifted into the air. In the blink of an eye, they whisked past me, pulled by the water. I whirled around and found the culprit.

Satel was here. He appeared as though he’d just woken up, because he was still shirtless and his long hair was unbound and flying in the breeze. He didn’t take the time to take off his eye patch – which worried me that he might have a permanent problem with that eye – but he still looked drop dead gorgeous regardless.

I was stunned to see him, but at the same time I was glad and relieved to see that he was finally awake and seemingly healthy. I didn’t even bother to concern myself as to how he got here, or how he managed to get here without Rutan insisting to come. All I could do was watch as he made that evil expression as he threatened the Tau himself.

His grin was sinister, his expression filled with confidence as he made them hover before him at his eye level. “As ye can see, ah’m alive an’ well. Tell yer master that ah’ll be comin’ fer him ta settle the score someday. Now leave us in peace, else ah’ll have the good lady capt’n there destroy yer limbs permanently.”

Then, the air shimmered around the two before they disappeared. It was something I haven’t seen before, and I wondered how Satel managed to accomplish it. Sure, it looked like he teleported them, but there was something different about how it looked.

I quickly ran over to him, far more pleased to see him up and about than indignant that he stepped in and took care of the problem on my behalf. In any other circumstance, I’d be more upset because I was perfectly capable of handling those two without his interference.

“Satel!” I called happily as I stood before him, “Yer awake.”

His face slowly shifted from evil to tired before he shook his head slowly. “Not fer long. Ah woke up prematurely so ah could send me message,” he said mysteriously before he requested, “Catch me, ‘Tia-dear.”

“Wot?” I inquired in confusion. Before I knew it, his eye rolled back before he collapsed toward me. I caught him with some difficulty, my arms around his torso. With space remaining between us, I had to gently lower him to his knees because they were bent and his weight was too heavy for me at that angle.

With him passed out again, I lost my chance to figure out what was happening, and only added more questions about him. But the fact that he could get up gave me hope that he’d do it again when the time was right. I likely had nothing to worry about where he was concerned. However, sleeping men were everywhere, and I was going nowhere fast. With the enemy gone for now, I had no choice but to lay Satel down on the floor next to Savage and summon my ship over.

It was now a waiting game to see who would first wake up and give me answers.

To the Next Chapter

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