23. Captured Captains

Chapter 23

Captured Captains

I was finally back in my home waters, and yet I couldn’t feel at ease. Unless I wanted to rush to Kotija or explore the outer areas of the sea, close to the fire islands, then I was stuck sailing in open oceans. Because of Delar’s threat, I couldn’t go on a raid. Well, to be more precise, I won’t go on a raid. It wasn’t hard for me to direct the ship and attack a town fast enough to be in and out before anyone else could notice. The real reason I was avoiding Rynrir was out of a matter of pride.

Satel proclaimed that I didn’t need to touch land, and that Delar would be wasting his breath waiting for me. If I caved in and raided a port, not only would I prove him a liar, but I would also show a weakness in that I couldn’t live without land. We could live without land, but we did like the occasional visit. We called it ‘ship fever’, because sometimes even we needed to get out of our ‘house’ for a while.

Thankfully, we didn’t grow bored from the lack of action. As soon as we were in Elati’s waters, I was free to be as bad as I wanted. Since we couldn’t raid ports, I went after whatever naval fleets I could find. Oddly enough, it seemed they’ve increased patrol since I was here last- perhaps they thought it was safe while I was away.

I specifically searched out royal fleets in hopes that I might get Bardam’s attention and goad him into a fight. Maybe I could wipe all notions of marriage from his mind and get him to back off. Petty as it was, I had to go through Bardam if I wanted any form of revenge against Delar. While killing the idiot prince would probably do well in undermining the falucite’s plans, I couldn’t bring myself to take it that far.

Yes, this all started because of Bardam, but Delar was the one taking it too far. I had a feeling that there was more to this than just getting a royal married off. Delar might be pushing so hard to test the claims of sea sovereignty… or he just didn’t like Satel.

As for my poor mate, he was in almost a worse position than I was at the moment. There was so much he wanted to do with his new role, but he couldn’t get started on it. He wanted to liberate all seafarers from the rule of falucite and open up a new relationship between seafarers and landlubbers as trade equals, instead of ruler and subjects. But to do so, he would have to lay down the law with the falucite clans and make his position known.

Unfortunately, since he now had a natural seafarer accent, no one would be able to understand him until he re-mastered land speech. I didn’t think it would be that hard, since not more than a month ago his speech patterns were reversed. I wasn’t quite sure what Elati did to him, but there were many aspects of him that he needed to relearn. It was like he was a new man, but deep down, he was still the Satel I knew.

Also, there was another reason he couldn’t yet act. While speaking to the clans would be a good start, he needed the ability to defend himself should extremist members wish to fight him. He now had the power to contend with most elders, but most of his magicks were new to him, and he needed time to master them. Going in with a half-assed strategy and a lack of knowledge of one’s capabilities was as good as going in naked.

With the way things stood right now, we had just enough entertainment to keep ourselves from doing something desperate, but… we had to raid someday. Attacking naval and cargo ships wasn’t enough to remind people that there was a villain on the loose, and I did have a job to do as Lord of the Sea.

Speaking of which, Satel needed to think of a title for himself. There couldn’t be two Lords of the Sea at one time; people were confused enough as it was trying to tell me apart from my pappy. Damned if I knew what he could call himself though.

I sighed again, reminding my mate that I wasn’t happy. There was enough on my plate today and yet today was the day he decided to trim our nails. I hated when we had to get our nails done- it took too long, and there were a million tasks I would rather do. It was Satel’s hygiene habit, and yet he took it upon himself to force it on me, claiming that it was important to have healthy nails.

It was definitely a falucite trait, as I recalled that Didra would often manicure Maetira’s nails and shape them into claws. Pirates didn’t need pretty nails, but I had to admit that it did made activities that involved the hands easier, like writing, for example.

“Ah’m almost done, me sirsa,” he rumbled in reply, his breath warming my ear. Even if trimming and filing my nails prevented breakage and nail problems, it was still a low priority chore that I would gladly run from. And because I was so adamant to avoid it, Satel did whatever was necessary to keep me in place- he wasn’t above using his magicks on me.

As always, he had to freeze me first, then situate me between his legs until we were both comfortable before he would start the process. I suppose this was my punishment for all the times I would force my men to brush their teeth and wash their faces… I just had to grin and bear it like they did.

At least he did it for me, instead of being physically forced to cut and file myself. And I couldn’t complain about him wrapping around me when we were on the bed. I was currently nestled between his legs, my back to his chest and his chin to my shoulder as he rounded the nail on my pinky finger. In this position, I couldn’t exactly complain about the situation. As he worked, he hummed lightly, the vibrations passing from his chest to my back. We all have our comfort hobbies to make us feel better. Mine was cleaning floors and dishes while his was filing nails.

“Hurry,” I moaned impatiently, trying to fight off the calming vibes coming from him. I couldn’t afford to settle down this early- I might not be able to get anything done today. “Ah need ta find some victims fer Rutan an’ Rosie.”

I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to include the lass in Rutan’s fighting lessons. I had started to teach how to escape holds – like how Spearhead once taught me – and I figured that it would be just as beneficial to Rosie as it would be to Rutan. It would be nice for her to return home, confident that no one could sneak up on her and be able to carry her off into the night. Those firesquatter bastards already underestimated women so she should have no trouble catching them off guard.

In order for them to practice, however, someone had to hold them and get thrashed in the process. I thought there would be more volunteers for Rosie since they’d get to hold a pretty young lass, but those knuckleheads knew better. Now I had to turn it into a punishment and force some men to volunteer. Heh, I wished Spearhead was still alive- he could take a punch and kick as many times as needed until I learned the move. Too bad Rohje didn’t inherit that thick skin.

Satel, the rat bastard, teasingly blew into my ear to distract me, causing a pleasant shiver to run down my body. “Ye have all day ta torment yer men, an’ Rutan ain’t gonna forget his lessons so quickly. Jus’ relax an’ enjoy the moment wit’ me,” he said soothingly, moving to the next finger in line.

Ugh, it was hard to talk back to him when he was like this. I couldn’t get angry when he was being so sensual and soothing, and it was hard to keep protesting when he made me feel good with his touches and sweet words.

But it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t at least growl in frustration before doing as I was told. I leaned my head back to rest on his shoulder and counted spots on the wood ceiling above. I felt sleepy by the time he reached the last nail, and since I was struggling to stay awake, my guard was down. This made it easier for Satel to take advantage of me.

Before I could cheer the end of the boring nail care, he moved fully behind me and placed his hands on my shoulders. I wanted to say something, but my mind quickly turned into goo as his fingers began to massage my back muscles. Oh sweet Loerati, I wasn’t going anywhere now.

He was so good at massages. If I could purr, I would have done so. The blond bastard successfully made me forget what I intended to do. I was blissful and a little curious to see where his hands would end up. I was so far gone that I didn’t really notice his magicks undoing the zipper of my bodice and the buttons of my shirt.

I didn’t even register his words when he muttered, “Damn that camisole o’ yers.”

I felt a little cooler seconds later, but didn’t realize my camisole and bodice had been teleported off until my shirt was slowly pulled down my arms.

“Wot are ye doin’?” I asked cautiously. He didn’t answer; instead, he abandoned my shirt wrapped only halfway at my elbows, and pushed me face first toward the bed.

He leaned over me and pressed his lips near my ear again. “Shhh. Don’t struggle.”

Though I had long since been released by his magicks, I found that I couldn’t move anyway- and I didn’t particularly want to. With the way my shirt bunched around my elbows, I couldn’t easily push myself up. My mate was also straddling my legs as he hovered over me. Even so, it was hard to care about anything with his wonderful hands working out the knots in my back.

And just like that, all thoughts of training Rosie or Rutan’s captain lessons fled my mind. All I was concerned about was Satel and what he was doing to me. But as always, I realized he had an ulterior motive as he lowered himself a little more to teasingly drag his tongue up my back and along my spine.

I didn’t really do anything to stop him- I merely enjoyed the extra attention, even as he trailed up to my tattoo and began to suck on the inked skin. He was causing a delightful warming sensation down below, and it didn’t occur to me what was happening until his lower body shifted forward, making his growing hardness meet with my bottom.

Oh crap!

I quickly pushed myself up as much as my shirt and Satel would allow and tried to glance back at him. “This ain’t our day ta fool ’round! Ye need ta stop.”

Under no circumstance could I allow him to break his strict regimen; I didn’t want him to revert to that moody man from a few months ago. He didn’t seem to listen to me; instead he gently pressed his chest against my back to push me back down and then captured my hands, entwining our fingers. In that instant I felt his bare skin against mine and wondered when he removed both of our shirts.

“It jus’ occurred ta me that we have ta be careful ’bout matin’. No one said we have ta stop pleasurin’ one another- jus’ as long as we don’t go all the way,” he told me, his voice quiet and mellow. This was another reason I was easily caught off guard- when he spoke in that accent, I couldn’t think straight. Now that it was permanent, he had no trouble seducing me when he wasn’t even trying.

I shook my head to disagree and to keep him from kissing my neck. “Mebbe so, but do ye have the strength ta stop yerself from continuin’? How do ah know ye ain’t tryin’ ta trick me?” I inquired sharply, forcing myself to focus. No matter how much I wanted him, I had to be the one to remain strong. If I couldn’t resist him, then we were doomed when I reached puberty. …Well, ‘doomed’ in the sense that we’d be surrounded by too many brats.

Until we actually had a baby, all I could imagine were copies of Rutan. Multiply Rutan by ten, and it would be a nightmare. One was adorable, frustrating, and challenging enough, but ten of them at once would be insanity. The idea alone actually scared me.

Satel sounded amused at my line of questioning as he replied, “Ah’m still in control o’ meself. Ah jus’ want ta push meself a little an’ see how well ah can resist. If we do end up goin’ too far, then ye can punish me. Ah’ll sacrifice our free days next week if need be.”

That wasn’t quite enough for me, as I felt that I had put in my share of responsibility. But at the same time, I had to let Satel push himself so he could do his part in the future. In order to do so, I had to take the risk, but was this the right time to let it happen? I trusted Satel, but I needed to strengthen my own resolve if I was going to meet his.

Ugh! This was driving me crazy! I was torn between two responses of how to handle what was happening, but I didn’t know which to choose. And since I was unable to give an answer, Satel was left to decide for me. With a victorious smirk he moved back enough to flip me over, then surged toward me, grinding his groin against mine before I could try to close my legs.

We were both still clothed from the waist down, but the contact still sent delightful tingles throughout my body. My newly shaped nails dug into his arms as he repeated the action, rubbing against me in a rhythm similar to the act. Satel smiled as he summoned water out of thin air – I had no clue how he could do such a thing – and tied my ankles behind his back.

I arched my back when he brushed against me again, almost shoving my breasts to his face, letting the sweet sensations take over for a moment.

“Yer makin’ it really hard fer me ta stop ye.” I moaned, torn between meeting his groin or trying to somehow take control of the water and tip the scales in my favor.

He leaned down to rub noses with me. “Ah know, an’ ah’m sorry,” he admitted sincerely. “It ain’t yer fault- ah’m pushin’ ye really hard ’cause ah’m sure ah’ll resist me instincts this time.”

“Well if that’s the case, then ah should push back harder an’ get ye ta back down,” I threatened, not sure if I really had the resolve to do so. This felt far too good to stop.

“Mmm, please do push back,” he drawled seductively, grinding against me even harder than before.

I was conflicted once again. What should I do? Should I let him ‘test himself’, or should I remain firm? It would be so easy to do what I wanted, but to be an adult meant to be responsible. …But this wasn’t a one-sided problem- he had to be responsible, too.

“Ye won’t be disappointed in me if ah don’t stop ye this time, will ye?” I inquired. I was a little more worried that this was somehow a test of my resolve and that failing would end up letting him down later. Hell- if I allowed myself to be weak too often, there would be consequences to pay.

“O’ course not,” he said between heavy breaths, “Ah get why yer confused, an’ why ye want ta stop, but we ain’t perfect. Ah’m sure we’re gonna have a few mistakes an’ lapses o’ judgment down the line, but we’ll deal wit’ it together. And we’ll take responsibility fer wote’er happens after.”

…So he was well aware that we were both about to be a little naughty with our promises. As long as it wasn’t all my fault, I could live with it. But at the same time, I had to keep my guard up around him… after this moment was over, that is.

Unable to hold back any longer, I slid my hands to behind his neck and pulled him down for a passionate kiss. He eagerly participated and rewarded me with a few sensual touches down my sides. Maker, we were hopeless…

But now that I decided to throw caution to the wind, the aforementioned deity decided to lend a helping hand to my previous dilemma in the form of a visitor. We paused mid kiss and mid grind as we heard pounding on the cabin door.

“Capt’n, we have an emergency!” Rohje called out, voice muffled by the wood.

“Wot is it!?” Satel answered in my place, extremely annoyed with the interruption. I glanced down in time to see him buttoning a shirt over my chest and realized he was covering me with his shirt. Sweet man.

“Ah’m sorry Lord Satel, ah don’t mean any disrespect, but ah must speak wit’ the capt’n,” my quartermaster insisted, proving his urgency.

I broke Satel’s water rope magicks – the act more challenging now that he was more powerful – and rolled out from under him so I could open the door. Rohje looked serious, and slightly concerned as he saluted. “We think we’re closin’ in on Capt’n Gisette’s ship, if the tacky colored sails are anythin’ ta go by.”

That sounded more like a joke than a report. Satel had given a description of Gisette’s ship, but he neglected to get her name, so we didn’t have much to go by to identify her. Apparently her sails were more than enough.

“Alright, so wot be the problem? Did ye message them?” I asked patiently, trusting that the red haired teen wasn’t pulling a ‘Satel’ on me.

“Aye, an’ they responded negatively. Told us ta back off, else they’ll fire,” he responded dryly. Ah, so that was the issue. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise, considering how ‘sociable’ she was when Satel met her. …Or perhaps she only displayed fear since my mate did threaten her in that particular meeting.

“Ah’ll be out in a minute. Don’t do anythin’ ta set them off,” I warned him before I closed the door. I could go out now, but I didn’t want to face a bunch of feminists wearing my mate’s shirt. I wanted to at least attempt to earn their respect instead of scaring them into submission- though I hear that might not work if Gisette truly had no respect for anyone.

“Sorry Satel, ah guess ye’ll have ta try again ta lower me guard- ah won’t make it easy fer ye though,” I told him with a grin as I unbuttoned his shirt and looked for my clothing.

“It ain’t fair,” he muttered, falling back on the bed, spread eagle with a tent in his pants.

“We could always try again a day before our free day,” I offered, feeling bad for him. Now that the spell was broken, I couldn’t help him relieve his tension- he was going to have to will that away on his own. I was answered with a pitiful groan.

When I found my clothes folded neatly on my desk, I grabbed them and walked over to the bed to sit on the edge. Satel watched me with his mismatched eyes as I took off his shirt and redressed myself. By the time I was done, I couldn’t help but stare back at him. As if he weren’t already handsome enough, that new eye of his made him… well, beautiful.

If I had been told months earlier that one of his eyes was would turn grey, I would have shuddered to think about its ugly appearance. But seeing it now, I found his gaze was mesmerizing. And before I could stop myself, I leaned down toward him as if in a trance. Satel probably had no clue what new powers he had over me, but he was quick to take advantage of it.

He immediately leaned up to meet my lips and placed a hand at the back of my neck so I couldn’t get away. Crap- not again! I instantly pulled back before the lip lock could get heated and gave him an apologetic look.

“Sorry, ah didn’t mean ta make it worse,” I said guiltily, pointing to his crotch. He stayed silent as I rapidly backed away and headed for the door. I glanced back at him and added with a smile, “Ah hope ye’ll come out when yer cooled off- ah’m sure Gisette would love ta see ye again.”

After the story Satel had told me about his first meeting with her, I would imagine she’d either be scared or angry to see him. I probably shouldn’t try to intimidate the woman, but I couldn’t resist mild torture like that.

Satel grunted. “Ah wouldn’t mind not seein’ her- though ah do want ta see the look on her face when she meets ye,” he replied before giving a toothy grin.

“Huh?” I had no idea what he meant by that. Was Gisette expecting a man and he didn’t clear up the confusion?

“Nothin’- ah’ll be out as soon as ah can,” he announced, shooing me away with one hand. I had to wonder what the bastard had up his sleeve…

Well, there was nothing I could do about it. All I could do was hope that whatever misconceptions Gisette had about me wouldn’t ruin any negotiations. I wasn’t in the mood to prove I was a real woman or fight her to earn her respect. Either way, Satel was going to have to hurry if he wanted to see her expression- not unless he wanted to appear before her with his obvious excitement.

Elit, I hoped not. I couldn’t think of a worse way to piss her off.

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

Even though Gisette’s ship was anti-men, she wasn’t as hostile or disagreeable when I took over the messages. Honesty about my intentions was enough to convince them to come closer for a conversation. I made sure Rosie was out on deck to show that we weren’t all males, and I gave a stern speech to the men to make sure they didn’t let out so much as a whistle towards the lasses.

As we waited, I couldn’t help but comment on the sails. “What pirate in their right mind would bear pink sails?” I inquired in disdain.

I had heard that they were pink, but I guess I didn’t really believe it until now. They weren’t a ghastly shade or anything, but it was too obvious that they were supposed to be a ‘girly’ ship.

“Ye always said that pink was an evil color, capt’n,” Rohje reminded me with a grin. I paused and thought it over. I have said that before…

“True,” I admitted, my expression softening. If pirates were supposed to be evil, then why not use an evil color? That logic made sense to me, but I doubted other seafarers would get it- they were all seduced into believing that pink was the color of youth, innocence, and femininity. In truth, only evil bitches wore it, so technically I should be wearing pink.

They were still being difficult by keeping a certain distance. It was enough for us to shout to each other, but too far to allow for boarding the other ship. They granted me – and only me – permission to board, but didn’t offer any ideas as to how I could. I was pretty sure they were playing a prank on us, wanting to degrade me in front of my crew.

Fair enough- I would do the same to others, but not to my fellow pirates. All this told me was that Gisette didn’t view the rest of us as her allies. I intended to change that, and perhaps smack some sense into her.

I couldn’t hear if the lasses on the other side were giggling, but I likely ruined their fun by crossing over with magicks. Since they were close enough, I could get away with making a short water bridge. That was a good thing, because I doubt I would’ve appeared dignified walking on water like a drunk. Stunned, they could only point silently in the direction of the quarterdeck when I asked for the location of their captain.

Wasting no time, I headed for the only woman who wore a tri-cornered hat. When she turned to face me, I was a little shocked myself. I was told she was a red-haired woman with light grey eyes. I suppose I could see how everyone had gotten confused though. Instead of red locks, her hair had more of an orange-brown sheen, and her eyes were actually sky blue, not grey. Was she even a seafarer?

“Ah was told the ‘capt’n o’ the ship’ wanted ta see me,” she said suspiciously, narrowing her eyes. Well, she had a seafarer’s accent, but that didn’t mean much. At the same time, not all seafarers had grey eyes or brown hair.

“Aye, an’ ah’m here ta see ye,” I confirmed, wondering why she was questioning me. Usually it was men who had a hard time believing a woman could be captain.

My answer didn’t seem to please her. “Is this some joke?” she asked angrily. “Ah heard the Lord o’ the Sea was the capt’n o’ The Cruel Whore.”

“Aye, that’d be me,” I answered haughtily, placing a hand on my hip.

“Don’t play wit’ me! The Lord o’ the Sea is an old woman in her nineties!” the lass snarled.

Oh, so that was the problem- she expected a granny to come see her. Hmph, I didn’t think my age would cause this kind of confusion, though I guess it would make sense to assume that- and it didn’t help that the pirates who knew me called me ‘Granny’.

“Well, ah am ninety-two, but ah ain’t old. Don’t know where ye got the idea that ah was,” I told her, summoning a ribbon of water from my canteen. “If ye still doubt, then here be me proof.”

I guided the stream of water around me and directed it to circle her body before I summoned it back into the canteen. There was no real way to prove that I was the age I claimed, so the only other way to convince her was to show her my magicks- something only the Lord of the Sea could do.

My little trick seemed to get her attention and she quickly bowed to me in a panic. “Ah apologize m’lord! The rumors ’bout ye do ye no justice,” she muttered between multiple respectful bows.

Huh, I didn’t peg the ‘mighty’ Gisette as someone swayed by power. I thought she’d still resist me to save face.

“It’s alright, as long as ye believe me now. ‘Sides, we need ta get down ta business-” I stopped when I felt a hand on my lower back and turned my head to find that Satel had joined us. Too bad he didn’t appear a few minutes sooner- he missed the reaction he was waiting for.

The captain took a step back and scowled at the über hat wearing blond. “Wot are ye doin’ here?”

Satel took a good look at the woman, his expression showing confusion as he said, “Ah apologize, but do ah know ye? Where’s Capt’n Gisette?”

I felt shock jolt through me at his words. This woman wasn’t Gisette? Why was she wearing the hat? With a better look at her, I noticed the silver half hoop that was nearly hidden by the curls of her wavy hair. She was the first officer- that meant Gisette was unable to lead for whatever reason.

The woman curled back, this time her eyes flashing some pain and regret. “…She ain’t here. She was captured ’bout a month ago by a man named Bardam. The bloody barnacle ambushed us after a raid an’ spared our lives in exchange fer the capt’n. As o’ right now ah hear she’s still alive wit’ three other capt’ns, rottin’ in a dungeon,” she told us bitterly, “That’s why ah ain’t takin’ the role o’ capt’n yet- not ’til all hope is lost an’ Gisette breathes no more.”

The story took me by surprise. After all the bumbling that idiot did before, he managed to actually capture ships. Though usually when he’d attempt it, I was close by to stop him and send him back home in disgrace. But after connecting the dots, I had a feeling that Gisette’s capture was related to the kidnappings I heard about. Only this time a culprit was named, unlike before.

I bet Bardam wanted to capture as many pirate captains as possible to lure me to him and barter their lives in exchange for my compliancy. Perhaps this was even a plan drafted by his master to draw me onto land and into his clutches.

“So ye believe that there’s a chance fer yer capt’n ta come back alive,” Satel pointed out, interpreting her hidden implication. “Did Bardam say anythin’ when he took her?”

That’s right- there was no reason to keep a captured pirate alive, let alone take only the captain and not an entire ship, unless there was a specific condition for all of this. The prince must have told them the price for her release. Why else would her first officer hold out on the hope that Gisette might return?

“He said only the Lord o’ the Sea can help her now, an’ that if we e’er set foot wit’in his kingdom, we’ll all join her in the dungeons an’ face execution,” she replied, casting her sky blue eyes at me expectantly.

“So in other words, ye need me. Why were ye playin’ ’round a moment ago when ah wanted ta board the ship?” I asked, both frustrated and curious. If the stakes were so high on their end, then they didn’t have time to waste. Getting on my bad side would only mean that they’d never see their captain again.

The woman let out a bitter, but tired laugh before she replied, “We ne’er met ye before, an’ it sounded too good ta hear that ye were seekin’ us out when we happen ta need ye. Fer all we knew, ye could’ve been a farce an’ we were bein’ set up fer a trap.”

“Good point,” I muttered. Damn- I was here for Rosie’s sake, but I couldn’t just ask the first officer if they’d take her in, nor could I get them to agree to try and arrange visits with Savage without the captain. Should I delve into this and rescue a spoiled brat like Gisette, or should I just let it go and wait it out until this woman became the official captain?

The only reason I wasn’t jumping into action was because Bardam was involved. I had a feeling they had no intention of harming her- she was just bait, and it wasn’t worth it to me to save a woman I didn’t even know.

My mate, however, was a little more interested in the tale and wanted to know more. “Ye mentioned that there were three others wit’ her. Do ye know who?”

I didn’t expect him to ask that. I thought he’d be more interested in how Delar was involved. I guess he was serious about protecting seafarers. Who knew? This could be the trigger he needed to begin his campaign against the Fodaren’s hold on the coast.

“Aye,” the lady confirmed with a nod of her head, “Bardam has captured the terrible trio themselves.”

Just like that, she had my attention. Jasco, Pao, and Fiet were also captured? It was one thing if Bardam was collecting any pirate he could get his hands on, but my good friends in Elati were a different matter. They were no pushovers, and they had hefty prices over their heads from their crimes. I could see Bardam going easy on a lady, but he wouldn’t let criminals like them go home alive.

“It was a little obvious a trap was being set when rumors o’ a big treasure in Guiel began ta surface. Capt’n Fiet couldn’t resist lookin’ into it an’ was the first man captured.”

“Not surprisin’,” Satel and I intoned flatly together. Fiet was many things: an idiot with little respect for women (other than me); a coward who couldn’t prove his bravado; and a man who fought like a demon when cornered. So there was no question he’d be the first to stupidly fall into a trap, but it was a shock that he was be unable to fight his way out. He was just too strong to fall like that.

The woman took our interruption in stride and continued, “After his capture became public, Capt’n Pao swore revenge an’ tried ta go after Bardam, only ta meet the same fate. Capt’n Jasco followed shortly after, making vows ta save his comrades.

“We actually tried ta stay away from it, but the man had us surrounded before we could slip past in the chaos. Ah don’t get it,” she muttered, shaking her head, “It’s very clear he’s after ye, but he’s got no reason ta take our capt’n captive. It ain’t like we’ve sworn loyalty ta ye.”

“The trio hasn’t sworn loyalty either- no, he’s grabbin’ all who he thinks are me henchmen. Anyone wit’ a presence on the sea an’ a high bounty reward would do,” I replied, feeling disgusted. I did care about those three, despite their faults. They were like my grown children, and they’ve been my Phidus buddies for as long as I could remember. Bardam must’ve somehow discovered how important they were to me- or our bond was just that obvious.

“Don’t worry me sirsa, ah’ll get them back fer ye. It’ll be no trouble,” Satel offered, seeing the angry and worried look on my face.

“No.” I shook my head. My voice held quiet fury as I said, “This be me fight, an’ ah should go see the barnacle meself. It’s high time ta put him in his place.”

I should’ve done this a long time ago, maybe even after that raid when I had last seen him. I allowed that man to dream and look what happened. Because of him a desperate falucite was bullying my mate and the prince captured good men. Of course, never mind the fact that said men were criminals to begin with- I wouldn’t be upset at all if they were caught honorably and tried for their crimes, but capturing them to use as bait was unforgivable.

It was clear that the prince was trying to threaten me by saying he could harm those I cared about. What message would I be sending if I let Satel go on a simple rescue mission? No, Bardam needed to know once and for all that he couldn’t have me or my power. He was the cause of all this trouble.

“Ah have no doubt in me mind that ye can handle the likes o’ Bardam, but don’t forget that Delar might be waitin’ fer ye ta show so he can capture ye,” Satel warned as he pulled at my opposite shoulder so that I would face him.

I smirked up at him. “If that’s true, then ye deal wit’ him. Delar’s yer problem, not mine. Me role is ta fight humanity an’ ta protect pirates, yers is ta bother other falucite an’ take seafarers away from them. We have our own battles ta fight- but it jus’ so happens that our individual fights might help one another out.”

He wasn’t appeased. “There’s more ta it than that,” he insisted, his grip tightening. I shook my head to discourage him from speaking in front of Gisette’s first officer.

“Ah can’t guarantee anythin’, but ah’ll bring back Gisette’s body, dead or alive, ta Cyirlie’s enclave. Sail there if ye want ta see her again,” I told the lass before dismissing myself. I turned my heel and broke free from Satel’s grip, and began walking away. As I walked away, I added, “When this is o’er, ah still have a request regardin’ a young lass in me’ care, but ah’ll need yer capt’n ’round ta discuss the details.”

“‘Tia-dear, wait,” the long haired man called out, following after me.

I paused to look him into those mismatched eyes I was growing fond of and managed a calm smile. “Follow me an’ will discuss this more. Ah jus’ didn’t want ta do it in front o’ an audience.”

Relief swept over his face when he realized he still had a chance to warn or dissuade me. “O’ course,” he replied, reaching over to grab my hand.

He immediately teleported us away. When we were back to our cabin, he yanked at my arm so that I would be propelled into his arms.

“We can’t let him know ’bout our secret. If he gets close ‘nough ta ye, then he’ll know somethin’s up,” Satel muttered, his lips near side of my neck.

Even though he was no longer considered part of the Xanaturi clan, his family scent would always remain with him, and on me, as long as I was his mate. Merely entering a city would alert a falucite that someone of another clan was there, but they wouldn’t know who the smell was emanating from unless they stood right in front of the perpetrator. If Delar was in Barcilica, my presence there would alert him immediately. He might seek me out, thinking I’m Satel.

“But he can’t get close ta me while ah’m surrounded. As long as ah’m not alone, he’ll think yer hidin’ somewhere in the shadows,” I argued, hoping that would be enough to appease him. “‘Sides, ah doubt he’d appear before a crowd o’ humans, an’ we can be sure Bardam will be in the company o’ his guard and servants. Even he would know better than ta face me alone.”

All I needed to do was go right up to the slimy bastard and intimidate him- make him regret seeking me out and fear my name. Perhaps that action might in itself draw out Delar, but I was confident Satel would follow after me. The bastard wouldn’t even have a chance to confront me because he’d be too busy going after my mate.

“It ain’t worth the trouble, ‘Tia-dear. Just let me pop in an’ rescue them. Ah can get in an’ out before anyone notices,” he requested, pulling back to look me in the eye. He grinned. “Jus’ imagine the look on Bardam’s face when he finds the prisoners he fought so hard ta capture gone in the blink o’ an eye.”

“An’ if Delar notices ye an’ shows up? Wot will ye do then?” I questioned, trying to keep the frustration out of my tone. I just realized that Satel was being unfair, but I wanted to hear him out before calling him out on it.

“Ah’ll fight him, o’ course. But as fer yer men, ah’ll have ta send them ta ye because…” Satel trailed off when he noticed my dark expression.

“That ain’t fair. Why do ye get ta fight an’ ah have ta run an’ hide? Wot are ye protectin’ me from?” I demanded hotly, as my suspicions were proven. All this time Satel had been shielding me from the coming battle.

In the beginning, I had no problems doing as my mate asked since it was two falucite working out a political deal. But now it went far beyond that. The moment Delar attacked Satel was when it stopped being ‘political’ and became a problem for the both of us. The attacks from the Tau and having to avoid raids were also building up my frustration. This mess was affecting my, and my crew’s, way of life, and I didn’t have to stand for it.

The blond man had a guilty look on his face as he glanced away. “Ah’m sorry ‘Tia-dear. Ah didn’t mean fer it ta go this badly. Ah was hopin’ ta have Delar dealt wit’ long before it came ta this, but… Me powers came in too late, an’ ah’m still strugglin’ ta catch up.”

My ire abated some at his words. Ever since he joined Elati, the goddess implanted something in his mind that taught him his capabilities as a Lord of the Sea. Though he was more powerful, he still needed time to practice and master his abilities. That meant that he should be the one to avoid battles, not me. There was an implied lack of confidence on his part, in that he might not be able to protect me should he have to face him. It made sense, after all, because Delar had beaten him so badly before.

“Ah hate ta tell ye this, but ‘sink or swim’,” I told him plainly. “At least it’s jus’ Delar, an’ since he don’t know ’bout yer new abilities, he’s as good as defeated. Ah’ll take care o’ the humans- that’s wot ah was made ta do. Ah can’t keep runnin’ from me job as a villain- not when my enemies are insignificant an’ gettin’ swelled heads o’er their accomplishments.”

In short, I was getting tired of avoiding the main issue and waiting for my turn. I had to do something to renew the people’s fear of pirates, and I couldn’t let my foe prevail against me. And, I also couldn’t give Elati any reason to remove me from my position, or else I might lose Satel and Rutan. If it meant destroying an entire city and thousands of innocent people to keep everything I had now, then so be it.

“Yer right… yer right,” he repeated sullenly as he released me, taking a step back.

I reached out to touch the side of his face to keep him in place, caressing his skin. I took a step closer to him, eliminating the distance between us. “Ah get it,” I murmured soothingly, tucking strands of his platinum hair behind his ear, “Yer scared an’ have doubts. Once ye fight an’ win ‘gainst Delar, the flood gates might open an’ ye earn the wrath o’ his clan. And after that the rest o’ yer race may follow. That’s wot it means ta be an enemy o’ yer people.

“Ah understand how that feels, an ye have e’ery right ta feel it. Once ye play yer role, the public will hate ye, an’ ye’ll put e’eryone ye hold dear in danger. Ye’ll even be forced ta harm innocents- or worse, kill them. But someone has ta do it ta appease the goddess an’ bring ’bout her version o’ peace. That’s the price ah knowingly paid ta live wit’ ye, an’ ah can’t back down now, so… don’t ye back down after talkin’ all that shit ’bout having no regrets,” I said, ending with a smirk.

I couldn’t blame him for being nervous of the future. He had most of his life planned out, but now he had to start over from the beginning with no idea of what to expect. But he better pull through or else my fears that he wasted his life in joining Elati would come true. He was gambling a lot because of his passions, and I had to let him to it, if only because he stood by me when I gambled with my life back then.

And damn it, the future scared me, too, but I wasn’t one to sit back and hope for the best. I had to do something—anything I could to shape my future in the way I wanted it—by whatever means necessary. Satel and I were damned for eternity now, and as much as the thought made me feel a little guilty, I was happy for it.

After a little thinking, my mate’s lips quirked before he reached up and grasped my hand. “Are ye givin’ me lessons on how ta be Lord o’ the Sea?” he inquired, appearing amused as he stepped toward me. He was close enough that our bodies were pressed against each other with no space between us.

“Why not? Ah’ve been playin’ the role long before ye joined, but—” I stopped as I slid my free hand over his shoulder and pressed myself against him, “—even if we are ‘three-o’-a-kind’, we ne’er alone. Ah’ll fight me battles knowing ye have me back, an’ ye fight yers wit’ me support in the shadows. An’ ye know Rutan will do wote’er mischief ye need once he’s old ‘nough.”

Elati made us all unique, but I liked to believe that she didn’t make us to stand alone. That’s why all the creatures of the sea protected us, and in turn, why I felt compelled to protect them and all pirates.

I was caught off guard when Satel reached up to cup both sides of my face and tilt my head up towards him. He hovered over me with a fond look in his eyes as he leaned closer.

“How is it wit’ jus’ a few words an’ a determined gaze that ye can make me fall in love wit’ ye all o’er again?” he whispered against my lips. “Ye make me want ta destroy anyone who’d dare try ta take the smile off yer face.”

Before I could speak, his mouth met mine in a fierce kiss that slowly gentled into a sweet one. One hand remained at the side of my head to keep me in place and the other slid down my back, wrapping around my waist like a steel band.

And with that, his confidence returned and he was emboldened to walk the path he’d chosen once again. I tightened my grip on him so I could respond with as much enthusiasm. The love I felt for him was almost enough to crush the anger for Bardam. Satel was more important.

I looked up at my mate, waiting for him to release me and do what I must- not that he could stop me, but I would like his acceptance.

His lips hovered over mine, our breaths mingling as he finally said, “Go do wot ye must, an’ ah’ll make sure the falucite don’t interfere wit’ ye. But first let me gather all affected ships an’ take them ta the enclave- then ah’ll take ye ta Barcilica. Use the extra time ta really think ’bout wot ye gonna do, else ye might end up losing the lives o’ those idiots ah’m fond o’.”

Now that his powers were stronger, he could teleport an entire ship if he wanted, though he would need to take breaks in between, or else he might strain himself. The task would take the better part of the day, but as long as he was on my side – and offered a way for me to get there faster – then I accepted his terms.

“Let’s teach them landlubbers a lesson- together,” I replied with a sinister grin, eager to move out.

Satel’s expression mirrored mine as he backed away enough to bow and kiss the back of my hand. “Aye, let’s show them wot it means ta cross the Lords o’ the Sea.”

It was finally time to demonstrate why land dwellers shouldn’t mess with those from the sea. The act of imprisoning seafarers on land was cruel, no matter the crime of the person, and so I must become the embodiment of Elati’s Wrath once again. Bardam was going to pay for what he had done- and I hoped Delar was going to get what’s coming to him as well.

To the Next Chapter

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