Prelude to Eternity
When Savage and the others recovered, I finally got the story. The masks did work, and they were able to stave off the first attack they received. They even kept them near them at all times- just as I had told them. But, once his watch detected my ship on the horizon, the second attack came upon them suddenly.
Savage was able to recall how his scarf slipped off him somehow before the smoke rose and he lost consciousness. It was likely the Tau pulled it off him and his other men before bombing the area, using their invisibility to their advantage. If I were to guess, I would have to say the damned Tau managed to hide somewhere on the ship, using their little trick, and waited until I was near to act. Savage did mention in their first encounter that he told them where Rosie was, so that would be their reason for waiting for me.
“Well, at least they worked the first time,” I muttered, referring to the scarves. “Perhaps if ah outfit yer entire crew wit’ them, it’ll be more difficult fer the bastards ta sabotage.”
After all, they still worked in small groups, and they couldn’t pull the scarves off over fifty men fast enough to smoke them.
“Aye, but it still worries me that they could get on me ship wit’out me knowing, an’ hide in plain view. Wot if ah had Rosie wit’ me, an’ they jus’ kidnap her durin’ the night?” Savage replied from his position on the floor.
It was a little rude of me, but after I managed to get Satel back to bed, I refused to leave his side. So, once my fellow captain awakened, I held a meeting in my cabin. I sat on the bed next to my slumbering mate, and Savage had no choice but to take a seat on the floor. He didn’t seem to mind though- in respect of my keeping his daughter safe, he made the effort to understand what I was going through with Satel.
“…Ah’m sure we can figure out their trick behind the invisibility eventually. If ah can still see them, then that means it’s just another plant they’re usin’. E’ery drug has a counter.”
Satel once told me about how his kind used to eat some kind of flower that was rumored to have given them their power over illusions. It was considered extinct now, but there might be some – or a similar plant – growing on their fire islands. Considering the limited amount of land, I would imagine the plant being in short supply. If my theory was right, then this invisibility trick wasn’t something they could abuse for just any mission.
It would be nice if that were true- that would mean we wouldn’t have worry about snakes hiding on our ships too often.
“Aye,” he agreed, hiding his disappointment. “Ah suppose ye’ll be takin’ Rosie back fer a little longer then? How long do ye think it’ll take ye ta find the counter drug?”
I immediately felt bad for mentioning it, since Savage had hoped to have his daughter back by now. “Depends on how fast this big lump recovers, an’ how much he knows ’bout the situation,” I told him, gesturing to Satel behind me. But even then, there was no guarantee I would get answers from my mate. He might not know anything either.
“But ’til then, ah can prob’ly teach Rosie self defense an’ see ’bout sendin’ her home in a few months,” I suggested before another idea came to mind, “Or ah can contact an all-female ship ah’ve heard ’bout in Elati an’ see if they can take her in fer while. It might do her some good ta work as a corsair among women. An’ they can prob’ly do jus’ as good a job as ah in trainin’ her.”
I really shouldn’t volunteer the services of a woman I have never met, but this would solve a lot of problems. Even though Savage trusted me, I was still nervous about having a growing young lass on my ship with women-deprived men. And, of course, I had a feeling Gisette wouldn’t be against taking a girl under her wing if it meant another hand to work her ship. Plus, Gisette had to serve a dragon just like any other pirate, so she would be the better captain role model than I.
“Ta be honest, ah’d rather her stay wit’ ye fer protection sake, but if ye think this ship would be a better experience fer her, then ah have no objections. ‘Sides, bein’ away from me will be fer her own good- e’ery child needs time ta grow away from their parents sometimes,” he said, mostly to convince himself.
He was a far braver man than I. Even with Rutan’s sudden bout of maturity, I still cringed at the thought of leaving him to his own devices. Maybe I have been preventing his growth by being so restrictive…
“Ah can’t promise this ship will take her in, but ah’ll keep her if it doesn’t work. If nothin’ else, ah can guarantee that she’ll return a stronger woman,” I reassured him as I held out my hand for a shake- signaling for the end of the meeting.
“Ah’ve no doubts ’bout that!” Savage replied, getting up to grab my hand.
With one problem almost solved, I now wanted to focus on Satel. But to do that, I needed to politely excuse Savage from my cabin. I gave a small smile before I suggested, “Why don’t ye go spend some time wit’ her now, an’ think ’bout yer next course o’ action?”
“Ah think ah will,” he responded before he turned on his heel and headed out the door. It would be good for both of them to talk it out; Rosie deserved to know what was to come so she could prepare herself for the prolonged separation.
I turned back to Satel and threaded my hand with his. I had carried him back on my own, but it hadn’t been easy. Poor Rutan had been very distraught when his pappy suddenly sat up and disappeared on him. It happened so fast that there was no time for the boy to even call out to his father and get any information. All Rutan remembered was hearing him mutter my name before he blinked out of existence.
Now that I was alone and it was quiet, I reflected back on what happened just hours ago. Never mind those Tau bastards, and the fact that Satel stole my chance to intimidate them- I was a little more stunned by Satel himself. Initially, my surprise came from the fact that he managed to get up at all, but thinking back on it, I realized I should be suspicious of other factors.
I didn’t notice until now, but he’d spoken in a seafarer accent. It wasn’t beyond his abilities to do it, but like how I had to make a conscious effort to stop my accent, he had to make the effort to speak like me. When one was raised to speak a certain way, it stuck in the brain and made it a hard habit to break, so with Satel’s condition, he shouldn’t have the presence of mind to mimic the accent.
It was possible that he mimicked it earlier in the encounter with the Tau to sound intimidating, but this reasoning didn’t explain the accent when I found him on the floor ready to pass out. In that condition, it should’ve been impossible to even think about it.
And then there was the magick he used when he teleported them away. He had the ability to send objects away without the need for physical contact, but not people. He could have learned this recently, but the shimmer in the air was new for any falucite. It was like he summoned the water from the air itself- and even if he did, why did he need to?
Some part of me hoped he would come to around the same time Savage did, but he was just as unresponsive as he was before. Damn jerk.
I wasn’t sure how long this could go on for. I could protect him for as long as needed, but that wasn’t the issue. I still had no clue if he was starving, or if there was something he needed in order to wake up.
I had every reason to delay the trip, but I felt I had no choice but to head straight to my home waters. I needed to see Cegil and get his help, and the only place I could reach him at this point was the island. It was still very far away from where I was, but if I could use a bit of my magicks every day, maybe we could get there before Satel started to show signs of starvation.
“Enter,” I called when I heard a knock at the door. I half expected either Rohje or Rosie to give their input on the Tau and the next course of action, but it turned out to be Rutan.
He looked tired, which was to be expected since it was nighttime. We already sang our dedications before I sent him off to bed, but it seemed he had trouble getting to sleep.
“Can ah sleep wit’ ye an’ Pappy tonight?” he requested, his tired expression accentuated by the lamp light.
“Ain’t ye a little old ta be sleepin’ wit’ yer parents?” I countered, wondering what his reasons were. Ever since he was old enough to sleep by himself, he never crawled back into our bed. The ankle biter never even had any nightmares.
“Pappy might wake up again any moment, right? So ah want ta be there when he does,” he answered simply.
I debated over it for a minute before I replied, “Alright, but ye go back ta yer own bed when he’s up.”
“Aye!” he agreed as he ran over to the other side of the bed to rest by Satel. Truthfully, I was a little envious that he got to see Satel wake up before, though I could do without the stress of him disappearing right after it. As long as Rutan didn’t make a habit of it, I saw no harm in allowing him to stay for the night. It wasn’t as if Satel and I were going to do anything intimate anyway.
For the next few hours, I sat there in the dim light of a single gas lamp, watching over both my boys. It didn’t take Rutan long to fall asleep, his back facing us. I suppose that even a growing nine year old could still feel uneasy about sleeping alone when the source of his worry could get up and disappear again. There was probably nothing he and I could do if it were to happen again, but at least we’d both be there to see him wake up.
Eventually, my eyes began to droop, and I decided to call it a night. I shut off the lamp, and eased into bed, pressing gently against Satel’s side. Just the feel of him next to me was enough to comfort me into sleeping through the rest of the night.
When I awoke the next morning, I discovered that the situation was different compared to that of last night. The night before I had been pressed against my mate’s side, with my hand over his chest and elbow over his belly. But now I was on my back, and he snuggled up to my side with his nose pressed against the crook of my neck.
Was he in a coma or merely sleeping? I knew a body could unconsciously curl around a heat source overnight, but I didn’t think it would be true for those in a coma. I suppose I was about to find out, but first…
I lifted my head to peer over him and saw that Rutan was still asleep in the same position as last night. Though the pose was innocent enough, I didn’t want him to catch us like this. At least not until I could be sure that Satel was really conscious- I didn’t want Rutan’s hopes to get up that his pappy already better when he probably wasn’t yet.
Satel’s arms were also tightly around me, proving to me that he was conscious after all. I fit my hand between us so I could push at his shoulder and get him on his back, but he just frowned and tightened his hold. I mirrored his expression and applied more pressure, hoping to wake him in the process, but his eye stubbornly remained shut as he grunted.
It was a little annoying, endearing, and promising. He must’ve recovered overnight and was just sleeping as he normally would- at least that’s what I desperately hoped. But as much as I liked his arms around me, I needed him to either wake up or sleep it off on his back. I managed to straighten and gave him one last strong push, this time succeeding.
I could feel his desperate grip, his fingers digging into my clothing as he tried to keep his hold. He still had one hand under me, but it wasn’t in a good enough position to yank me over to him. I was surprised he didn’t pout at his loss.
Our struggle managed to stir Rutan, and Satel settled down when the boy yawned and sat up.
“Mornin’ Ma,” he mumbled tiredly, rubbing his eyes.
“Mornin’,” I replied, keeping a critical eye on the blond. Okay, he had to be awake- he stopped fighting rather quickly upon noticing Rutan. It wouldn’t surprise me any that he didn’t notice the boy until now, though he had just as good a chance to snuggle up with Rutan by accident.
“He ain’t awake yet?” the shaggy haired boy inquired in dismay.
“Ah think he’s close- why don’t ye try ta wake him? Don’t hold back,” I suggested with a grin, preparing for the coming onslaught.
Rutan smiled mischievously as he rolled over onto his hands and knees and began to jump like those annoying tiny dogs that nobles tended to own. As he did that, he demanded for Satel to wake up over and over again, making sure he was loud and hard to ignore- just how Satel had taught him, heh.
And despite Rutan’s best and annoying efforts, the blond bastard still wouldn’t stir. He must’ve been playing a prank on us. That thought made me a little angry- I had been worrying over him for days and yet he had the audacity to play around?
But knowing he would obviously be okay did comfort me. There was no need for me to stay by his bedside and wait for him to wake up. I decided to let Rutan have the first shift of ‘Pappy watching’ duty and went about the cabin to freshen up. I needed to go see Savage and hear what he decided to do anyway.
“Ah’m goin’ out ta see Savage,” I announced as I headed for the door. I smirked and added, “Keep tryin’ ta wake yer pappy ’til he cracks.”
“Aye Ma!” Rutan responded cheerfully, happy to be able to use his obnoxious skills for the greater good. Satel totally deserved it.
“And when ah get back, ah want ye ta brush yer teeth,” I told him, opening the door. It wasn’t easy keeping teeth clean on the high seas, but I wanted to do what I could to keep Rutan in good health.
“Aww…” the boy mumbled, upset to be reminded. Like most kids, there were many things he’d rather do than clean himself.
“No lip,” I warned him sternly as I headed out.
I wasn’t sure what was going to happen today, but I had hope. Satel’s behavior indicated that he would be talking soon, and I would finally get the answers that I was waiting for.
Not only that, but all the support I had been praying for was finally coming. Everything was going to get better- even if I was about to receive news that I wasn’t expecting.
I allowed familiar ships like the Catorrcie to tether and sail alongside me during times for meetings. Such a move would be difficult for ordinary sailors, but the helmsmen of both ships were experienced and careful about coordinating. It also helped to have messengers ready to relay any change in course.
It was dangerous to pull off for a long period of time, and it was especially dangerous at night, so the visits had to be short- at least less than two hours, depending on the time of day. Frankly, it would’ve been easier to just anchor for a while, but I had a schedule to keep and couldn’t stay idle for too long.
Savage’s ship had to disconnect for the night, and now I was waiting for both crews to reestablish the tethers so the captain and daughter could come aboard again. Rosie wanted to spend the night in her childhood home so she could properly say her farewells to the others.
Poor Savage was doing everything in his power not to show his sadness over letting his treasure go, despite the fact that their separation wasn’t permanent. I didn’t want to make any promises, but I couldn’t stop myself from telling him that I could send Rosie home once we found the counter drug. It shouldn’t be a problem with Satel’s ability- as soon as he was done playing around…
The final meeting didn’t last long- the tethers were barely in place for three minutes before Savage publicly hugged his daughter, then jumped back to his vessel. It was a bittersweet farewell; Rosie stood beside me and sadly waved to her father and his crew.
“Stand tall lass, an’ no tears,” I told her as the Catorrcie turned and sailed away from us. “From now on, yer a strong pirate- ye can’t go back home anythin’ less.”
“Aye…Capt’n,” she answered hollowly, trying to hold back her tears.
I tousled her hair, like how I would do with Rutan and told her, “Get ta yer chores fer today, an’ tomorrow we’ll start trainin’ in the mornin’- or mebbe this afternoon dependin’ on conditions.”
The ‘conditions’ being, of course, whether or not Satel was awake and needed some kind of medical attention. I knew I was going to have a hard time concentrating on anything else until then. But regardless of how I felt, I owed it to Rosie – and Savage – to teach her how to defend herself. If nothing was resolved by tomorrow morning, then I was just going to have to force it to the back of my mind for her sake.
Rosie did nothing to stop me from messing her hair. She idly ran her hand through her black locks when I was done and nodded in confirmation. I turned to leave as she headed to where she was needed. Since she’d been with us for more than a month, she knew what she had to do without being reminded- she was, for the most part, one of us now.
I knew that she wasn’t in the best of moods at the moment – neither was I – but she’d bounce back soon enough. It wasn’t like she was miserable with us- she just missed her father and crew.
I headed back to my cabin to relieve Rutan of his duty and make sure he cleaned up for the day. But just as I reached the corridor, a tiny force slammed into my stomach region, causing me to bend forward. The blow didn’t hurt, but it did stun me enough to stay put until I regained my bearings. Several seconds later, I registered Rutan’s face, his expression a cross between elation and panic.
“Ma, Pappy’s awake! He wants ta see ye!” he said excitedly before he slipped around me and pushed my butt to move me forward. So the bastard finally came to? I wonder if it was because he finally got tired of Rutan’s antics or if he had genuinely woken.
I thought I was going to play it cool and not rush to his side in retaliation for this morning, but I couldn’t stop my body from running to the door as fast as I could. I stopped myself short of slamming the door open and managed to step in slowly. I half expected to see him sitting up in bed with a smile on his face, but he was still laying on his back.
His eye was half lidded as he softly turned his head to face me. The hand closest to me twitched in his effort to reach out. “‘Tia-dear,” he muttered, his voice barely above a whisper.
Without thinking about it, I rushed to his side and took his hand. I wasn’t sure where he’d mustered up the strength to hold me to him this morning, but he was clearly not well right now. If I had to guess, he was feeble from the lack of food- we had to do something immediately.
“Satel ye must be starvin’. Wot do ye want ta eat?” I asked as I leaned closer to him.
For a moment, he didn’t say anything; instead he tried to move his head and weakly pull at my hand. I wasn’t sure what he was trying to accomplish, but he gave up and replied, “Moaghos.”
I blanched. We didn’t have any moaghos because they grew in the Sea of Elati. He had been our supplier since he teleported there often, but with him out of commission, we ran out days ago. To make matters worse, fruit was a popular food type, so we were completely out of them. Unless we turned around to get some of Jadari’s specialty fruit, or if we risked going to Rynrir, then we had nothing to give him.
Though, I suppose in his condition, having fish and other seafood wouldn’t exactly be bad for him. Seafood held very little nutrients for him, but at least his belly would be filled. Come to think of it we probably had some dried vegetables. Fishguts could turn that into a soup stock, so he wouldn’t be completely starved. We might have just enough to get his strength back.
“Ah can’t get ye moaghos, but mebbe we have somethin’ that’ll help,” I responded, backing away. When my hand fell away from his, he showed a little sadness for a brief second before he look up at me with his one eye.
“No. Stay wit’ me,” he requested like a stubborn child. It was kind of endearing, but I wasn’t about to sacrifice his health over a less important need for physical comfort. I wasn’t going to be gone for very long anyway.
“Ah’ll be back- jus’ try an’ stay awake fer me,” I requested, turning quickly.
In hindsight I could’ve asked Rutan to go instead- he was standing in the room, too. It felt strange for me to leave his side like that, but I felt desperate to see to his needs. It wasn’t often that I could take care of him.
I practically ran out of the room and headed straight for the kitchen where I knew the cook was. All I could think about was getting food for Satel.
“Tia? Whatever is the matter?” a voice called out to me before I could touch the kitchen door. I froze for a second, then turned my head to the source. I felt relief when I saw Cegil standing near the end of the corridor. He must’ve came to see what became of Satel and why he’d been absent for the past few days.
I ran over to him and grabbed the front of his frock coat as if I was afraid that he’d run away. “Cegil, please go get some moaghos!” I pleaded urgently, “We’re out an’ Satel’s starvin’!”
My former guardian appeared bewildered and responded slowly, “Very well. I can do that, but might I ask why Satel cannot get them himself? I have not seen him in days, and I am getting worried.”
“No time ta explain,” I urged, shaking my head, “Ye’ll find out e’erythin’ soon ‘nough when ye come back. Ah’ll be waitin’ in me cabin.”
Despite his shock and confusion, he agreed to my request. I felt much better knowing that Satel would get some fresh food instead of dried vegetables that most likely lost some of their nutrients. …I could be overreacting just a little- yes Satel hadn’t eaten in days, but I shouldn’t be running around in a frenzy. He wouldn’t be able to eat his fill anyway- it might make him sick if he ate too much.
And I should remember to thank Cegil when he returned, not just for getting the moaghos, but for putting up with my rude behavior. He was simply coming to inquire about Satel out of concern, only to be forced to do my bidding. I headed back to my cabin, only to curse when I realized that I forgot something- Satel didn’t need just food, he needed fluids, too.
“Rutan, could ye please go get some fresh water – no, wait – go ta Fishguts an’ ask him ta brew some tea,” I ordered, remembering we still had some tea leaves left. I knew it would be a better choice instead of plain water since tea leaves had nutritious benefits to his health. Ugh, I needed to find a trading post island soon. Maybe I could survive out in the water, but it was nice having the extra commodities.
“Okay,” the boy replied, eager to be of use. He ran out as quickly as I did, though his excuse was that he was young and energetic, rather than worried beyond all reason.
Satel’s eye had been trained on me the entire time since I came back into the cabin, and he continued to watch me unblinkingly as I made my way back to him. I sat down on the edge of the bed and reached for his hand.
“Cegil jus’ came fer a visit- he’s likely wonderin’ why ye haven’t shown up ta the island lately. Ah asked him ta get some moaghos, so he’ll be back soon,” I told him as I reached up with my free hand to brush aside his platinum locks away from his face. “Is there anythin’ else ye need?”
“Aye- ye,” he replied, catching me off guard. Before I knew it, his hand gripped my wrist before it could retreat and I was hauled over to his lips where he proceeded to kiss me.
When the world caught up to me again, I discovered that I was tied down to him with water. His arms were like steel bands around my back with a firm hand holding the back of my head in place so that I couldn’t pull back. I was practically plastered on top of him as he invaded my mouth possessively. What in five hells was going on!?
Some part of me didn’t want to break the kiss, but after everything that had happened, I really wanted answers. And I wanted to know why he was acting this way. He certainly wasn’t the ill man I had seen just moments ago- where did all this strength come from?
I grunted a little to let him know I didn’t completely accept this and tried to push myself up, but he wouldn’t let go. After a while, I just relaxed and waited for him to finish- and it wasn’t as if I was opposed to kissing him, so I did enjoy it a little despite the confusion. It was nice to be in his arms again.
When he finally decided to break off the kiss, he still kept his hold- in fact, he kept my head close so he could affectionately rub noses with me. With that action, I allowed a smile. I wasn’t sure what put him in this mood, but maybe what he went through made him extra grateful that he was by my side again. That would, however, imply that he was in a near death situation, and the thought didn’t sit well with me.
“Havin’ yer energy near me helped keep me alive this whole time, but ah will need ta eat again if ah’m gonna recover. ‘Til ah do, bein’ away from ye will make me weak,” Satel finally said, planting short kisses between sentences.
“Wot does that mean?” I inquired, completely confused.
“Ah can’t really explain it simply, but yer powers as Lord o’ the Sea can keep me healthy in place o’ food as long as yer close ‘nough fer me ta manipulate them. It’s kind o’ like me borrowin’ yer life force, but it actually has more ta do with manipulating yer water magicks wit’ mine,” he replied. He had to elaborate before I fully understood.
Because I had magicks in my body, Satel could ‘connect’ with me through magicks and take what he wanted from me. In this case, he had been absorbing nutrients I consumed during the day to keep himself alive, but not so much that it would compromise my health.
This was why he was so desperate to have me near him, and why he seemed so fragile when he had awakened. Until he had solid foods, his slow absorption of my body had to be consistent. Just my being away for a half hour would be enough to make him feel worse. As long as I was near, he’d have enough strength to function. Now I felt like an ass for running out earlier.
I would have liked some warning that he needed me to keep him alive, but with Satel passed out that would’ve been hard for him. It was a good thing I tried to stay by his side as much as possible. But how was he able to do this unconsciously, and how did he know he could do that? Since it involved water magicks, it couldn’t have been a normal falucite trick.
I wanted to ask, but I could hear someone approaching the door so I quickly rolled off my mate. I didn’t realize until after the action that the water that had tied me down was gone, but I didn’t lose all my restraints; Satel made sure his hand was firmly around my wrist. I gave him a reassuring smile before the person entered without knocking. Now that I knew what was happening, I wasn’t going to leave Satel’s side until he had something to eat.
The intruder turned out to be Cegil, and since I was expecting him, he didn’t need to make his presence known. That, and I was sure he entered in retaliation for my treatment earlier. In one hand he carried a basket filled a variety of fruits, including moaghos. Initially I thought he bought it somewhere, but the basket had Lioa’s distinctive weave, and not many places actually sold moaghos. The giant man was simply considerate enough to go out and collect different fruits for me.
When he saw Satel lying in bed, concern immediately took over his features and he briskly walked over to us.
“What has happened to you, brother?” he inquired, placing the basket down on the bed so he could lean over and peer down at Satel’s features.
“He came home all beaten an’ bloody, an’ has been in a coma ’til recently,” I answered for him, knowing that Satel would stall and talk around his answer to downplay the severity of it.
“Don’t say it like that, ‘Tia,” he muttered in an embarrassed whine as he reached for the basket. I grabbed a moagho and placed it in his hand when he found that he couldn’t reach.
I didn’t mean to embarrass him, but I was growing angrier by the second as I remembered that someone had done this to him. I wanted to know who, and I wanted retribution.
A dark look crossed Cegil’s face. “Who did this to you?” he asked evenly.
“Ah ain’t tellin’. If ah did, ye an’ ‘Tia would go after him. Ah’ll deal wit’ him meself when the time is right,” the blond replied before taking a bite out of the moagho, peel and all. I had to wonder what he meant by the ‘right time’. Did he mean after his recovery, or after some training to become stronger? I hoped for the latter, but I didn’t want him facing anyone again.
Satel’s reply displayed how heavy his seafarer accent was. It seemed Cegil’s presence wasn’t enough for him to attempt the ‘proper language’ of earth dwellers. But the lavender haired man didn’t seem to notice or bother to call him out on it- good thing he could understand most of it now.
“I do not mean to doubt you, but can you handle him? There is nothing more that you can learn, save for parenting skills, and it seems as though your opponent has taken your eye. You will have to learn how to fight with only half of your sight,” Cegil warned him, earning a look of disbelief.
“Wot are ye talkin’ ’bout? Me eye is jus’ fine,” he proclaimed as he reached up to touch his eyelid. But when his fingers met the rough material of the eye patch, he let out a soft, “…Oh.”
“Wot? Ye didn’t notice ’til now?” I asked, mildly amused despite the situation. There was nothing funny about the fact that he may never see out of that eye again, even if he seemed to be adapting just fine.
I was a little stunned, then offended with his annoyed tone when he inquired, “Why did ye put this on me?”
“‘Cause yer eye wouldn’t open at all when Doc looked ye o’er!” I responded with a little heat as he pulled off the eye patch.
My anger turned back into surprise when he immediately blinked both eyes, and darted them around to ensure that he could see fine with both of them. There wasn’t even a scar, let alone evidence that there had been anything wrong. But, something wasn’t right, and my jaw dropped a little at the sight of it.
My mate appeared pleased as he announced, “Ah can see perfectly.” Then he noticed the near identical expressions on Cegil and my faces. “Wot?”
That wasn’t Satel’s eye. Satel had two eyes that were red-brown in color, like Cegil and Maetira’s. But his left eye was now grey- a deep mid-tone grey like what one would find on most seafarers.
“Wot?” he asked again. “Did ah end up gettin’ a scar on me skin?”
I wasn’t sure if I could answer him, and judging by the silence, neither could Cegil. I quickly slid off the bed and down to the floor so that I could pull out the trunk and dig for a handheld mirror. When I found the item, I handed it over to Satel.
He seemed shocked at first, but that faded rather quickly. He pulled his lower eyelid down as he peered into the mirror, and a look of understanding came after the inspection of his eye. He sighed. “Ah see, so that’s how it be.”
“So ye know wot’s goin’ on? Ye have some explainin’ ta do,” I told him sharply. I really shouldn’t be mad at him, but I had a distinct feeling he’d done something stupid and I wasn’t going to like it.
By the wince he made, he knew I wasn’t going to like it either. He glanced over at the door before he asked, “When’s Rutan comin’ back?”
“Not fer a while- it’ll take Fishguts a while ta brew the tea an’ have it ready,” I replied, wondering if he was trying to stall.
“Good- he don’t need to hear any o’ this right now,” Satel muttered before he retold the events that led to his injury.
He told us how Cyirlie commanded him to intercept an unwanted visitor, and when he confronted the bastard, a fight broke out. At first he was very stubborn about giving us a name, but, after a few glares and threats, he revealed the perpetrator after making us swear not to go after him. Somehow, I wasn’t too surprised to hear Delar’s name come out.
As he continued his tale about how he was losing badly to Delar, I made him repeat himself a few times when he said the words ‘then Cyirlie saved me’. There was no way that happened- she would sooner eat him than even attempt to think about lifting a claw to help him.
“She ain’t as benevolent as she sounded- there was an ulterior motive as always,” Satel said bitterly with a defeated grin. “She claimed she owed me, so the most she did was take me ta a fittin’ place ta die.”
I rolled my eyes at that- yeah, that did sound more like something she’d do.
My mate then hesitated as, “…’An’ then she started ta tell me ’bout how me powers were limited, an’ how ah wouldn’t be able ta accomplish anythin’ the way ah was. She was jus’ tryin’ ta convince me ta make a deal wit’ Elati an’ become her servant.”
“I suppose, judging by your new appearance and dialect, that you did just that- you asked to see Elati,” Cegil stated flatly, cutting to the chase. My eyes widened as I stared at Satel and waited for confirmation.
“Ah didn’t have much o’ a choice- Cyirlie was leavin’ me ta die, an’ all ah could do was sit there an’ wait fer it, or go see the goddess,” he replied, letting out a sigh.
So that explained the change in him. He wasn’t fully a seafarer until he made the pact with Elati, and so she changed him when he agreed. Not only did she ‘brand’ him with the seafarer eye, she must have also done something to his brain for our dialect to come naturally to him. He probably had to relearn how to speak like Cegil.
“But ye didn’t have ta make a deal wit’ her!” I shouted, alarmed and upset with what I was hearing, “Ah get that ye were in a dangerous place, but ye could’ve gone there, listened ta her, then still say no. Ah bet she woulda let ye stay there ta heal regardless o’ yer answer.”
Satel let out a rueful grin. “Ah could’ve, but there was somethin’ Cyirlie said that got ta me. Ah didn’t accept the contract fer power, or ta save me own skin from death- ah did it fer ye, ‘Tia-dear, so that we could be together in future lifetimes.”
His answer rendered me speechless. I didn’t even think that was a possibility at all. Sure, he’d live again for as long as he agreed to her terms, but that didn’t necessarily mean we’d meet each other again, nor did it mean I would remember him. The fact that I didn’t have access to the memories of my other lives implied that I didn’t get the same deal as my father. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want to be with him again in a future life, but would it really work out the way he thought it would? He could’ve just doomed himself in a profitless servitude and ruined the rest of his current life.
Cegil was silent for a long while, but he eventually responded with more acceptance than I was willing to give at the moment. “I have no say over your life, so I cannot chide or praise you for what you have done. All I can do is pray that you have thought through your decision carefully- for your sake and Tia’s.”
Satel took another bite of his moagho, chewed for a minute, then gave his reply. “Ah’ve had sixty years ta think ’bout it, and mebbe almost seven months realizin’ how precious me life is ta ‘Tia if ah should die too soon. It ain’t a decision ah made lightly, but it was one ah don’t regret,” he answered with finality.
“Then,” Cegil gave a respectful nod, “I am satisfied with your answer. You have explained to me what is going on, so now I will leave and entertain young Rutan. I am sure you still have much to discuss with Tia.”
The kind man was giving us time alone and away from our son because he knew full well that an argument was likely to blow up. Maybe Cegil could be satisfied with his explanation, but I wasn’t. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to dictate Satel’s life, but I feared he might have thrown away his life for nothing.
“Yer not satisfied?” my mate inquired coolly, taking another bite from his moagho.
“Ah jus’ want ye ta be happy,” I replied honestly, “Wot did Elati offer ye that would make ye want ta live an eternity?”
“Ye, of course. She tied our souls together, so that we’ll meet again someday, an’, if we choose ta be mates, we rule o’er the sea together, jus’ as we are now. But since we’re of two different species, the cycle between ye and yer pappy will continue ’til ah’m old ‘nough ta meet ye. When we meet, we’ll remember this life an’ e’erythin’ we’ve done- ah don’t know if ye agree wit’ me, but it was worth it ta me,” he told me, smiling serenely.
He wasn’t putting on a brave face, and there was no doubt in his tone- and, well, he wouldn’t lie to me about something like this. I wanted to leave it at that and feel happy that I would be with him again in another life, but there was still something else that concerned me.
“Am ah really worth the trouble ye got yerself into? Ye know yer gonna have ta serve Elati from now on- ye’ll be an enemy ta yer people, an’ ye’ll have ta turn against yer family. Are ye really willin’ ta do that?” I inquired, reminding him of the price he’d have to pay.
“Ah’m already turnin’ ‘gainst me people- Delar’s makin’ the choice easy. But as fer me family, ah don’t have ta be on bad terms wit’ them yet. Ah could try ta maintain a secret relationship wit’ them, at least ’til the younger generations take o’er. It’ll be okay- yer all that’s important ta me, an’ ah mean that,” he replied earnestly.
“But wot ’bout yer dreams?” I asked, not quite done yet. “Ye wanted ta become an elder in yer clan. Ye can’t do that anymore now that ye’ve become another Lord o’ the Sea. Ye won’t be able ta stay on land fer long, an’ ye know ye’d have ta live there in order ta serve.”
Satel’s silence after I spoke worried me. I didn’t want to bring him down- I wanted to be happy right along with him, but I couldn’t bear to have him realize later that he’d given up too much. Maybe it wasn’t too late to go back to Elati and have her release him from his contract. He didn’t have to be her servant now, did he? If he truly wanted to live lifetimes with me, then I certainly didn’t mind, but he could still live this life freely and join later in life, before it was his time to pass on.
But I realized I misread his silence when he gave me a nervous smile, pulling me closer so that I sat between his legs with my shoulder against his chest.
“There’s somethin’ ah’ve been wantin’ ta tell ye fer a long time,” he admitted near my ear in a low tone. “Ah wasn’t tryin’ ta keep it a secret, but ah didn’t want ye ta think it was yer fault, ’cause it ain’t- ah thought it would be best ta find me new purpose out here first so ye wouldn’t worry ’bout me.
“When ah told you those dreams ’bout becomin’ an elder, ah was young an’ didn’t know any better. Mates join the elders together, an’ since ye couldn’t be separated from the sea, ye couldn’t become one. My dream became meaningless when ah discovered that ye couldn’t come wit’ me.”
…I didn’t know that. Some part of me knew that the elder council wasn’t entirely comprised of falucite, but it didn’t occur to me that it was required for one to join with their mate. I could see why he withheld the information from me- had he said it before becoming Lord of the Sea, I’d have felt terrible. Even though he said it wasn’t my fault, it was because of me that he had to give up that dream.
“Satel…ah-” He cut me off before I could finish by placing a finger at my lips.
“Don’t apologize. Ah was the one who chose ye, even after learnin’ that ye were bound ta the sea, ‘an ah ne’er once regretted it,” he told me, pressing a kiss to my forehead. “Ah’m happier here on the sea than ah e’er was back home, so ah don’t mind losin’ that old dream.”
And with those words, I felt warm and happy. He didn’t regret being with me, and he was willing to serve the goddess for eternity just to stay with me. If he was truly happy with the idea, then who was I to stop him? I turned in his arms so I could hug him tightly. Though I tried to hide it before, some part of me wanted him to become Lord of the Sea for the very same reason- I wanted to be with him for eternity, too.
But every time I had those thoughts, I’d feel extremely guilty and shove them to the back of my mind. Until that confession, I thought becoming Lord of the Sea would rob him of the life he had before- a life that I thought he cherished.
“Ah’m glad,” I admitted, my voice muffled against his chest. “Ye have no idea how worried ah was ta lose ye ta death.”
I always acted so brave before, and, save for that one time I told him how precious he was to me, I never said anything when he went off to do his own thing. But deep down, I feared for his safety every minute he was away from me. I had gotten so used to him going off on missions and facing opponents that it got easier to accept, but my anxiety returned when he’d return home with serious injuries.
Satel placed a hand at the back of my head and raised his other arm to wrap around my mid back to hug me back comfortingly. His lips found my ear as he muttered, “Ye ne’er have ta worry again- ah’m yers forever.”
I wasn’t sure what this meant for the future, or how well Satel would adapt to his new role, but for now, I was just content to be in his arms. He had new powers to help protect himself, and we now had multitudes of futures to look forward to.
But there was still one more problem we both had to deal with before we could relax. Delar isn’t going to give up once he finds out Satel is alive, and I would soon discover that Bardam was done waiting on his master to deliver his bride.