25. Well-Timed Rescue

Chapter 25

Well-Timed Rescue

My mind was a complicated mess at times. When it came to captured pirates, I felt that I had no right to be angry. But if I were close enough, I didn’t mind going off to rescue them. We were the enemy of the land dwellers- and I couldn’t deny that my friends committed crimes far worse than raids. After all, Fiet used to violate young women. He should burn in the five hells for that.

And I didn’t have the right to be upset that my friends were being tortured, even though the landlubbers probably had no idea that they would contract Seafarer’s Madness. I had to face facts: they hated us enough to want to hurt us, so it was within their right to do so if we were ever captured.

So by that logic, it should be impossible for me to get angry over this. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Criminals or not, they were still my friends and I wanted to protect them. My ire wasn’t because they were caught. I was upset with Bardam – as I should be – and I was willing to take out the people he ruled over because he encouraged them to treat seafarers like garbage. I already received a taste of their undeserved superiority when I revealed my identity to that scribe and those knights guarding the throne room door.

Before we even got to the room, Bardam already began the negotiations regarding his plan to turn us into slaves. That only served to fuel my indignation. Elati was already responding to me with booms of thunder. She hadn’t yet started her torrential rains, only creating drizzle, perhaps in respect to the four who were still out there. I wasn’t sure if her rainwater would help any, since there was no salt in it, but it would be wonderful if it did.

Unfortunately they were not like me, and I couldn’t give them too much saltwater to be of great use. It was going to take time before they would be ready to move, and the effects of the water wouldn’t last as long as it did for me. It was a waiting game, and I had to time it correctly. Until then, I was free to poke at the prince’s brain to figure out exactly what he wanted from me. It seemed that Satel’s observations were not quite right.

He led me to a sitting room situated in the upper floors. It took some walking to get there, and I suspected that we were in the central portion of the castle. A brief glance out the window told me that not only we were rather high up, but we were also facing another courtyard where people were gathering into a crowd.

I barely looked at the fancy furniture and paintings in the room as I sat down on one of the plush chairs. He chose to sit opposite to me, with a short coffee table between us.

The man was silent as he waited for the servant to serve us tea and leave. He was the first to have a cup in his hand, but instead of drinking, he chose to set it down on the table. Out of curiosity, I took a sip of mine when I received it, and noticed his smirk. That was suspicious; the tea was likely poisoned, but with what? I wasn’t too worried since I was immune to most human drugs, but if I was going to catch him off guard, then I needed to know what to fake, if it really needed to come to that.

“Do you really take me for a fool?” I inquired bluntly, enjoying his flinch. I wasn’t calling him out on the tea, but rather aiming to confirm his deception. The man had a poor Phidus face. Even Fiet would win against him in a game.

“Pardon?” he questioned in a nervous tone.

“I was referring to your lack of negotiation skills. The only words I’ve been hearing from your mouth resemble an unconditional surrender, rather than a fair trade,” I replied, earning a look of relief. However, I was still curious to know if he did believe I was blind to his deception. Did he really think I couldn’t read his face and figure out what he was hiding? Of course I shouldn’t expect much from royals. Not all were born con-artists, though there were a good number with the ambition to practice it.

However, if he thought he could get away with it because he believed I was an ‘idiot’ seafarer, well…. I had a feeling I was going to deck him at some point, so I was going to put extra strength in it just for that thought.

The blond prince managed to bring back his conniving grin. “Did you expect too much? You are not in a very good position to make demands, and you are at a severe disadvantage here.”

“Is that so? Care to elaborate as to how I’m at a disadvantage?” I queried. I was under the impression that he knew that I wasn’t an average woman, given how he was able to identify me as the Lord of the Sea. He surely would have known I had some fighting prowess, considering that I threw two of his knights at the door earlier.

“The stories told of you and your predecessors have reached far in land. I have grown up hearing them, and I was enamored of you when I first saw you in action. You were exactly as portrayed: a demon of the sea and a human god of war. When I first saw you nine years ago, you were practically dancing between the waves of the sea and the fires you caused. I watched you as you slashed through countless armed men without so much as a speck of blood falling on your raiments. You were exquisite,” Bardam said, sounding awestruck and inspired.

I blinked as I recalled that familiar scenario. Nine years ago was when the last Rutan died. Could he have been talking about the time I went into a blood rage? That would’ve been the only time I would have cut down so many people like a demon. Otherwise I keep casualties to a minimum. I resisted the urge to shudder in revulsion. Did he really become obsessed over me because of that moment? What a disturbing reason.

But, more importantly, what did that have to do with my question? “If you know what I’m capable of, then why do you believe I’m at a disadvantage?” I asked before I took another sip of the tea. I wondered what they added to the steaming liquid. I couldn’t taste anything off about it…

Bardam had the look of a pervert who cornered a vulnerable woman. He stood from his seat and looked down on me. “Because I know your weakness. The sea may fluctuate in power, but in the long run you and all seafarers are weaker than those born on land. Earth trumps water. That’s why you do not often come on land, and why your brethren became ill.”

“To be fair,” I cut in, annoyed, “You landlubbers get seasickness, so I wouldn’t talk.”

But, unfortunately, he did have a point. Anyone with connections to the sea couldn’t survive long on land. But just because we couldn’t stay away from the water for too long didn’t mean that earth was stronger; it only meant we weren’t compatible.

He continued without missing a beat. “The way I see it, you seafarers are like birds: free and whimsical, but also weak and conquerable. It would be no trouble for me to capture all pirates and have them serve me.”

“Only if I’d let you- and I won’t,” I warned, watching him as he slowly walked around the table to approach me.

“There’s nothing you can do to stop me, my dear. My master has defeated yours, and I believe he is now confronting him again to finish him off.” He knew about that? That wasn’t good. It implied that Delar was waiting for my mate, and that the falucite might’ve been more involved in this scheme than I had realized.

I glared up at the prince as he invaded my personal space. He leaned over me and placed his hands on either arm of the chair, trapping me in place. The sinister grin was still on his face as he said, “The majority of seafarers are not very bright. Look how easy it was for me to catch you and your men in my net. The only threat I see in leading those fools is you, but that will be rectified soon enough. I will trap you in my cage, little bird.”

I scoffed in his face and raised my eyes to meet his challenging gaze. I had to give him credit, he was brilliant. He knew how to get my attention and where to wait for me. I wasn’t sure how much of this plan was actually his own, as Delar may have shared his knowledge, but he wasn’t half-assing anything. From the bait to the tainted tea, he ensured that I wouldn’t be able to escape easily.

It was unnerving to watch him simply stand there, his face inches from my own. His servants and two knights were in the room with us. Even if this were a private setting, he still had an image to maintain. He looked like an enamored man ready to embarrass himself for a woman. It wasn’t very noble or princely.

But he still acted like he was in full control as his green eyes darted to the side to regard one of his servants. “Begin transporting the prisoners to the north courtyard and inform the gentries and peasants. We will execute them once I am down there to witness,” he ordered. One of his servants bowed and left the room.

“What?” I growled angrily, “So what happened to trading them for my compliancy?”

I had no idea what was going through his mind. Why would he dispose his bartering tools before an agreement was made? Furthermore, whether he was going to treat seafarers as slaves or not, I was under the impression he’d at least keep those four alive so that they would serve him.

“It does not matter. I have what I want right before me, so they are of no use to me. Other seafarers are expendable, but you are not. I will be setting an example of them so other seafarers – pirates and coastal residents alike – will know not to cross me. And once you are my wife, they will have no choice but to follow. I will make them second class citizens, made to serve me and my people. No other role is better suited for the likes of them,” Bardam replied. He sounded crazed.

It was starting to sound like a typical case of greed, and there were undertones of mania that made me uneasy. He was fixated on me for some reason, and if he hadn’t given that story about his first meeting me, I would’ve assumed that he was simply after my position. It was starting to feel like that his goal was more about me, and the seafarers were only an afterthought.

“Heh, you sure do like to assume things. What makes you think I’d willingly marry you? And even if you had a chance, you’re too late. I already have a man, and he’s far better than you in every way,” I told him as I gave him a confident look. I was hoping that being ‘used goods’ would deter him a little. Royal prissy pants like him would prefer untouched women to lay claim on.

But, of course, it wasn’t enough: he didn’t care. “It does not matter. I am certain he will come to rescue you, and I will kill him on sight. There is no one who will not recognize our union, and I am prepared to have you kept in my room in chains until you are more cooperative,” he vowed as he leaned closer. I sneered as I felt his breath on my face. “Now that I have you, nothing will ever tear us apart.”

Bardam surged forward to capture my lips. I felt his tongue dart out to lick me, but I wasted no time in pushing him away.

I pushed his jaw firmly up with the palm of my hand, then lifted my leg to fit a foot between us before I shoved him away with it. He fell backwards, tripped over the table, and landed on the floor with his upper back and head hitting the seat of the chair opposite to mine. Immediately two knights rushed to restrain me, pressing my arms up and against the back of my cushy chair. My teacup fell from my grip and landed on the floor with a crash, the remaining tea splattering in all directions.

I was stunned and pissed. I honestly didn’t think he would be attracted to me. He had no real reason to, other than he thought I was pretty and a heartless killer. I didn’t expect that someone as high up as a prince would make such poor judgment in choosing a wife. I would think only desperate men who just wanted someone to get them off every night would pull off something so stupid.

However, I had to admit that my priorities were not in order. Instead of being furious that some man other than my mate kissed me, I was more upset to find that I owed Rohje and the others a lot of cedit. Elit damn it, Bardam wasn’t gay! I could argue that he only seemed to like me because I was an attractive manly woman, but I couldn’t prove that. The only reason I thought he was interested in men was because I heard that he refused the attentions of women. Never did I think that he refused them because he was obsessed over me…

I glared as Bardam slowly recovered. Two servants helped him up and checked him over for injuries. I began to wish that I had a free arm to wipe my mouth.

I had nothing to feel guilty over because I wasn’t attracted to him. I did push him off as soon as I came to my senses, but if I wanted to put Bardam in his place, I needed to do it quickly before Satel found out about it. Knowing him, he’d go after the prince with a bloody vengeance.

“I am surprised you still have any strength left,” Bardam commented, sounding winded from the ordeal. He briefly looked to the servants. “Give her more tea- quickly.”

I pretended to struggle against their grip, but not so much to actually break from their hold. One of the servants poured a new cup of tea and approached me. I was confident that having more would have no effect since I didn’t feel anything from the previous sips. But I did try to appear alarmed to keep their suspicions from arising. Bardam probably had some skill in reading others, even if he was terrible at hiding his own emotions.

The second servant came to stand at my other side and forced my jaw open so the other could pour the mildly bitter liquid in. I almost choked at the amount, but I was unable to cough because the second one immediately covered my mouth so I couldn’t spit anything out. They were good at this; I had to wonder if poisoning guests was a common theme with Bardam.

I managed to control my throat to end the stifled coughing before I slowly let the tea go down. The man that held my mouth tilted my head back to ensure that it all went down before he and the others finally let go. They slowly backed away, waiting to see if they were still needed to restrain me. It was clear that they thought whatever I drank would work immediately.

I still had no clue what they were waiting for, so I managed to feign a weak voice as I asked, “What did you do to me?”

“Worry not my bride, it is only a mild paralytic. You will be aware of your surroundings, but your limbs will be numb. You will be nothing more than a living doll until morning. That will be more than enough time to consummate our marriage before you fight me again,” Bardam replied with a look of victory.

Hmph, that was disgusting. He was going to force me by taking away my free will like that? Obviously he didn’t love me. At least Satel bothered to get to know me first before he became pushy about a permanent union. And did Bardam honestly think chains would be enough to keep me as his prisoner? I knew how to pick locks and strangle a man.

Thank the Maker I wasn’t feeling the effect of the poison, though I do admit that my arms felt a little heavier. I wasn’t sure if that was an aftereffect of being held down, or if I was having a small reaction to the serum. Sometimes I felt a little sleepy if I had enough sleeping medicine to knock out a large man for several days.

But if they had administered a massive amount, then it could have killed an average human. Too much paralytic could stop the heart and lungs, after all. Again, thank the Maker that I was different. Bardam could have killed me by now.

I let my arms fall uselessly to my sides and rested my head against the back of my chair, acting as though I lost all my strength. I had to pretend to be paralyzed and give Bardam the illusion of control. My friends were being sent to another place – I suspect the courtyard that could be seen from the window – and I needed the prince to leave so I could launch a surprise attack.

I knew Jasco and the others were safe for now since Bardam had to be there to witness the execution. That meant I had between the time the prince left this room and when he reached the courtyard to act. I could only hope that they regained enough strength to be able to run, otherwise their escape might prove difficult.

But I placed myself in a precarious situation. If Bardam wanted to kiss me again, I was going to have to allow it to keep up the ruse, but if he tried anything else, I probably wouldn’t be able to hold back.

I wouldn’t put it past Bardam to have an order to execute my friends immediately if something should happen to him. There were too many people in the room to suppress when I had so little water at my disposal. Any one of them could escape and send word.

Thankfully he seemed satisfied that I was finally subdued and headed for the door. He stopped long enough to check his clothes and compose himself before he turned back to me.

“Our wedding will begin as soon as your men are dead. The handmaidens will be here shortly to put you in your dress,” he said smugly. I stared at him blankly, playing my ‘living doll’ role well. He strode through the door with his servants in tow, while the two knights remained standing next to me. They were probably there to make sure no one would harm or rescue me before it was time for the ceremony.

Now that Bardam was gone, I relaxed slightly, but held my position a little longer. There was still some time before he should to reach the ground floor, and I doubted they could move the four that quickly. It was best to wait a little bit longer so I could catch the knights off guard. This would ensure there would be enough distance so Bardam wouldn’t be alerted too soon.

The last few minutes really pissed me off, but I made sure to keep it hidden. All I could think about now was how I would enjoy crushing Bardam’s plans and have him fear the Lord of the Sea. Elati continued to thunder outside, giving off low rumbles and heavier rain, almost as if she was telling me ‘as soon as you’re ready, we can strike’.

My eyes darted around the room to determine where everything was and what I could use. From the moment I stood, I knew I would have to fight my watch and knock them out. I would probably have to subdue the handmaidens too, should they enter the room before I left. After I located my cane my eyes darted over to the knights to find their weak points. When I was satisfied, I jumped up and stretched like I had just awakened from a nap; an act to further throw them into a state of confusion.

They both reacted to my movements. “Wh-what? How are you still moving?” one of them shouted.

“You boys are silly if you think a little drug has any effect on me,” I said, reaching for my hidden gun. Since it was under the ‘tail coat’ of the bodice, and I wasn’t pulling it out immediately, it appeared more like I was just scratching my ass like any typical pirate. While the image amused me, I was glad for the further distraction since they didn’t appear sure of what to do.

I kept my hand where it was, hoping that I didn’t have to use my gun since the noise might attract too much trouble. I caught the eye of one of the guards, and with a smirk, lifted the teacup on the table and drank its remaining content. When it was empty, I threw the delicate porcelain at the head of the right hand knight.

He should be grateful I drained the cup. It would not have been pleasant to have a paralytic drug splash all over one’s face. Luckily for him, he was wearing a helm, so his face was protected from the shards. But he was disoriented as he backed away, so I used his momentary clumsy footing to my advantage. I kicked at the center of his chest to make him fall.

By that time the other one recovered from his shock and tried to grab for me. I was ready for him and easily danced out of his way. I grabbed his outstretched arm and yanked him forward so that he would land on top of his partner. With the heavy armor on, they didn’t have much of a chance getting up very fast. It was sad how well I dealt with them with only one hand.

“You want a real drug? Try this little gift from those Tau bastards,” I told them mischievously as I knelt down to their level. I had the weed they used to make their sleeping bombs sealed within a glass cylinder. I removed the cork and held it to their noses, starting with the one flailing on top. It may have been old and a little withered, but the pollen was still potent enough to lull them to sleep.

I was tempted to leave the weed behind as a way to mock Bardam, his master, and their alliance to the firesquatters, but this was the only one I had. I could need it again since it was a handy way to knock people out without the need to bash them upside the head.

I resealed and stashed the weed away into my cleavage. Satel really loved to dig in there; he was lucky he was my mate, or else I would have punched him. Almost my entire arsenal – save for my gun and water armor – was his idea. He was good at keeping me prepared for the just-in-case scenarios.

My gun was drawn when I heard the door open and two young women came in with a puffy white dress carried between them. I was extremely lucky that they didn’t notice until they were fully in the room with the door closed behind them. There was no telling who was outside, and they may become suspicious if they saw the women panic before even stepping into the room.

“Don’t scream,” I warned them as their eyes widened in fear. The one closest to the door looked ready to ignore my order, but no noise escaped her as she dropped her end of the dress she was carrying.

I liked to think that I was fair to both men and women when it came to confrontational situations, but I still had to be a little kinder to land dwelling women. Even coastal seafarers had tough women who could probably handle themselves well in a fight, but the ‘ladies’ further in land tended to be pretty pathetic. I wasn’t sure if that was because of societal upbringing or if landlubbers were really that weak. In all honesty, I haven’t ran across a land dwelling man who could take a punch from me.

But if I underestimated them like how everyone underestimated me, then I’d be setting myself up for failure. I didn’t put my gun away or lower my guard, but I wouldn’t hurt them like I did the knights unless they displayed some kind of battle prowess.

“As long as you do as I say, you’ll get out of this unharmed,” I told them, keeping the barrel of my gun pointed in their general direction. I made sure to have it aimed above them and at the door so there wouldn’t be any accidents. I smirked before I said, “Now drop the dress and stomp on it.”

“But we-”

“Do it or I’ll shoot!” I interrupted, earning a startled squeal before they did as I commanded. It was more about control than my personal feelings in this case, though I was slightly amused to see them ruin what was probably a very expensive dress. Though the women were not like me, they could be crafty enough to turn against me the minute they saw an opening. However, they were clearly traumatized, so that seemed unlikely.

I asked them to do something harmless and they were on the verge of tears. Pathetic. Well, I did have a gun pointed at them, so I suppose that was a reasonable reaction. I was starting to feel a little bad, but not by much. I had to remember that they came in to dress me, knowing full well that I was supposed to be drugged and powerless. They may have had their orders, but all that meant was that they were loyal to Bardam, and by extension, my enemy. I shouldn’t pity my enemies.

“Now move away from the door and tend to those knights over there,” I commanded as I lowered my gun slightly. I couldn’t afford to waste anymore time, so I had to find a way to either tie up the women or trap them in here. I waited for them to head over to the two lumps of metal and limbs before I made my way to the closest bookshelf to the door. This looked heavy enough…

I pushed the shelf over to where I needed it, then, with strength no normal woman could possess, I pushed it over on its side, blocking the entrance. It fell with a loud bang and books scattered everywhere. I was confident it would be enough to make it difficult for anyone outside to get in- and too heavy for the women to get out. The two handmaidens balked at my actions before they cowered closer to the useless knights.

“Now stay there and don’t even think about moving,” I warned them as I made my way to the windows – grabbing my cane on the way – on the opposite side of the room.

With a closer look, I realized the courtyard wasn’t as close as I thought. There was still some area to cover between here and the open space, but I had a good view of the proceedings through the rain. The civilians weren’t gathered in the main part, but in a place off to the side of one of the four smaller buildings.

I could see a line of soldiers parallel to the wall with someone next to them holding an umbrella over their heads. The soldiers appeared to be loading their rifles. They were going to execute my friends by line of fire. Not a smart choice in the rain, but I suppose as long as those umbrellas could protect the ignition point, they could get away with it. It didn’t really matter; it was a weakness on their part that was only going to make it easier for me to stop them.

But first I needed to get down there. I didn’t see any doors or ways to open the windows, so I had to smash a panel with a small chair. There wasn’t much of a walkway outside, only about a foot of stone- just enough for me to stand on. A quick glance up and down told me that I must’ve been at least three or four floors above ground. If I wasn’t careful I could seriously hurt myself if I fell.

With Elati raining down on me, I didn’t have to worry. I could control the water she gave, even if there were no traces of salt in it. I immediately gathered as much rain as I could to refortify my armor, and collected a reserve for extra weaponry. When I was done, I reached for my skirt and tugged it down, revealing the much shorter one underneath. From this point on, I was going to need the ability to move freely. The train of the bodice still covered the back and sides of my legs, but at least they didn’t get in the way.

I tossed the material to the wind, knowing that the magicks that Satel infused in the skirt would eventually return them to me. After that, I loosened my hair and planned my options. Pao and the others were being led into position, but I had a feeling Bardam wasn’t quite there yet. It was time for me to hide in the crowd while I was still undetected by the castle staff.

I glanced at the women from over my shoulder as a final warning before I jumped from the ledge. It was raining hard enough for me to gather water like I could with waves, so I manipulated a slide to meet me half way and glide down to the ground level.

No sooner than when I landed, a root shot out from a nearby bush and wrapped around my arm. It was probably the earth goddess sensing Elati within me.

“Worry not, Rynrir. We are not here to conquer thee. We only seek to punish the insolent and to take home my charges,” I said, but it wasn’t really me speaking. It was hard to explain what went on when I became Elati’s Wrath. I was still predominately me, and I made my own conscious decisions, but I was also Elati, with most of her power and knowledge. But said knowledge only lasted for as long as she was ‘mixed’ with me. I’ll forget it all once she’s gone.

Those words seemed to pacify the goddess and the root released my arm to return to the dirt from whence it came. The gods seemed to have differing views when it came to their interactions with others. The earth gods didn’t seem to care about creatures as their concern was more for the land and nature, while Elati and the other sea gods seemed more willing to play with creatures in small doses. I suspect it might have something do to with the elemental make-up. Creatures were mostly made of water, so sea gods have a connection with them.

I also suspect that Rynrir and the others only cared about the land, so they would probably have no qualms against the destruction of humanity if it would save their precious nature. Hence why she wasn’t bothered that I was about to punish land-born humans. As for the fire gods, I knew nothing about their preferences, or if they even spoke to others. They were as much a mystery as the five hells that resided in the far reaches of the world.

No one noticed my movements from the window to the ground, and I quickly rushed to immerse myself in the crowd. Since I wasn’t immediately identifiable as a seafarer, men paid their respects and allowed me to pass. It made it easy for me to push my way to the front to get a better view of the proceedings.

The pirates stood in the same order as earlier when they were tied to the posts, but this time they didn’t have the blindfolds. Sores were still on their faces, but it seemed that the seawater did its job in helping them regain their strength, given how well they were standing on their own. They didn’t look afraid; they merely stared back at the crowd with either contempt in their eyes, or an arrogant grin plastered on their face. They refused to beg for their lives, depriving the landlubbers of their cruel entertainment.

I thought Gisette would have scowled, but she held her head up with pride. I was proud of them all; they stood like men with no regrets. But my focus was drawn to the idle chatter of the people around me. It was one thing to hear people gossip and say how terrifying they were for being pirates, but I was hearing more derogatory statements than were not necessary, particularly about Gisette. Apparently they thought she was a whore just because she was a pirate.

I didn’t know much about her myself, but neither did they. Even if she was a loose woman, it didn’t make her any less of a pirate captain. They were out of line dismissing her as someone’s whore rather than a pirate in her own right. But what was more disturbing was that they weren’t limiting their slander to just pirates; even seafarers were targets of their disgust and they were innocent. Hell, they were even insulting me despite my being their beloved prince’s choice. I already had names like the ‘unholy queen’ or ‘filthy seductress’. Many believed that I had charmed Bardam into marrying me. Some believed he was trying to perform the work of miracles in turning me into a good person. Hah!

I edged as close to the firing squad as possible, while making sure I wasn’t visible to the pirates. It wouldn’t do to have them spot me too soon and blow my cover. Gisette didn’t know who to look for, and Pao and Jasco could keep their mouths shut, but Fiet wouldn’t be smart enough to hold in his surprise and relief. Also, if they could see me, then surely Bardam could, too, whenever he arrived.

I didn’t have to wait long: I saw the prince heading in our direction with a cortege. The outmost servants of the formation held up what looked to be a square canopy. It sheltered Bardam and a few other important looking individuals from the rain. Supported by four poles, it was wide enough to fit more than ten people. With the prince in the center, there was no way he was getting wet. And while he was comfortable, the rest of us were soaked to the bone.

The chatter faded slowly as the prince headed for the podium and began a speech about criminals. It was some kind of ‘heroic’ nonsense designed to make the crowd hate the prisoners more and to adore the undeserved. Making sure not to draw anyone’s attention, I carefully made my way to the edge of the crowd next to the firing squad.

At this position it didn’t matter if my friends saw me: I was in the perfect location to keep an eye on Bardam. Their eyes, however, were focused on the weapons that were aimed to take their lives. I decided to wait until the last possible second to save them. That way the ammo would be spent and they would not have the time to reload and fire as I make my way to my friends.

Jasco tilted his head toward the large Erudian and grinned. “Don’t cry Fiet. Ah’m sure Granny’s on her way ta rescue us.”

For a moment I thought I was spotted, but it seemed they were having their own conversation while Bardam droned on.

Fiet scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Ah ain’t cryin’ ol’ fart. Ah know Granny’ll save us.”

It warmed me to hear of their strong confidence in me, but it also placed a heavier burden on me. Maybe I was here in time to save them this time, but what of other times? There might come a day when I couldn’t be there for them, and their faith in me would be misplaced.

“Aye, there’s no doubt Granny’s comin’. Wot we have ta worry ’bout is wot she’ll do ta us after learnin’ how we got caught,” Pao added jokingly, “Me an’ Jasco will be fine, but she’s gonna chew ye up an’ shit ye out, Fiet.”

“Shut up!” the tall man snarled as the other two cackled.

The only one who didn’t join in the humor was, of course, Gisette. She scowled at them before muttering, “Ah wouldn’t put me faith in some ol’ hag. Wot can she possibly do at this point? Time ta face facts ye idiots. This is the end.”

So she really did think I was an old woman… Why had no one corrected her yet? Or, like Satel, they wanted to witness our first encounter to see her reaction?

“Even if that’s true, lass, we all had a good run. Ah have no regrets,” Jasco replied, his smile never leaving his grey bearded face.

“Nor ah,” Pao joined. “Thanks ta Granny, ah got ta command me own ship. Me dream’s fulfilled.”

“An’ ah got Granny ta take down two heavily guarded cities fer me so ah wouldn’t have ta do the work. If ah can die wit’out her knowin’ ah conned her, then ah definitely don’t have regrets!” Fiet chortled, the other two men joining him.

I stared at him, stoned faced, as I promised myself I would never forget those words. I would make him pay severely.

“Yer all knuckleheaded barnacle brains!” Gisette growled before her features softened, “But ah suppose I could die without regrets, even if it’s wit’ ye lot. Fer idiot men ye ain’t that bad.”

“Aw, the lass likes us now,” Pao said, snickering at her glare.

“Nothin’ like dyin’ together ta bring us closer as a family,” Jasco commented in a sarcastic tone.

That was actually promising. I thought Gisette was a lost cause, and yet she managed to learn her lesson without my prodding. But I suppose stubborn women like us needed to be tied down in order to get to know someone. I recall that it took me weeks of being bedridden and cared for by Satel before I could come to terms with my feelings for him.

“Men! Ready!”

I snapped back into focus when I realized Bardam was done and preparing his men to fire.

“Aim!”

I quickly summoned a line of water between the line and the others. I raised it before the order to fire was given.

“Fire!”

Several successions of loud bangs resounded, but the bullets only bounced off my thick wall of water. Before anyone realized what happened, I smacked the gunner closest to me on the back of his head with the blunt end of my cane. After that, I pushed him harshly into the man next to him, starting a chain reaction that knocked down the entire firing squad.

The crowds began to fidget in the confusion and shouted for explanations as I ran over to my barrier and expanded it so that my friends and I were completely separated from everyone else. Since I needed the walls thick enough to stop bullets, there was no way to see outside- and in return, Bardam and his lackeys couldn’t see us.

“Ye alright?” I asked the four. They looked stunned, also probably recovering from their near brush with death. I suppose I didn’t have to wait as long as I did to act, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to hear their ‘last words’ in hopes that I might pick up something embarrassing to use later on. Instead all I got was a reason to pummel Fiet.

“Granny!” all but Gisette shouted, glad to see me. The lady pirate appeared a little wary despite the fact that I had just saved her ass. She remained where she was as the others ran towards me, holding out their bound hands so that I could free them.

“Wot took ye so long?” Pao inquired as I used pressurized water to cut through the rope.

I managed a smirk, even as Elati urged me to ignore them and attack the landlubbers. I couldn’t do so yet, not until I knew whether or not they were able to leave with me. I needed to plan my attack well depending on how much I needed to pay attention to them.

“Ah was havin’ me fun watchin’ ye three suffer,” I responded teasingly before I told them the truth. “Actually, ah’ve been here fer a while, but I needed ta wait fer the seawater ah gave ye ta take effect. Ah don’t feel like carryin’ dead weight, ye know.”

“Aye, ah forgot we have the sickness. Ah don’t remember when ye treated us, but ah feel fine now,” Jasco replied while rubbing at his wrists. “Jus’ get me a weapon an’ ah’ll gladly fight by yer side.”

I shook my head and walked around the three to get to Gisette. “Don’t worry ’bout fightin’ today. This is officially Lord o’ the Sea business, an’ ah’ll be issuin’ Bardam’s punishment soon. When ah’m done, ah’ll take ye back home.” I stopped before Gisette and held out my hand as a gesture for her to show me her bound wrists. “Ah’ll get ye back ta yer ship too, lass. Yer crew is worried ’bout ye.”

She flinched away from me looking flustered and confused. “Yer the one who- jus’ who are? Ye can’t be Lord o’ the Sea! Why are they callin’ ye ‘Granny’!?” she shouted with wide eyes. I didn’t think her meeting me would blow her mind like that. It was kind of funny. No wonder everyone wanted to see it. Too bad Satel wasn’t around.

I glanced back at the others, noting the eat-shitting grins plastered on their mugs. They expected this reaction from her. I suppose that meant she was the type to get upset easily.

“That’s wot ye get fer not makin’ me acquaintance sooner,” I told her tauntingly. “If ye e’er tried ta make contact, ye would’ve known that while ah’m in me nineties, ah ain’t old, an’ ye would know why ah’m this way. Only real pirates make it into me inner circle, an’ it ain’t hard ta get there.”

“Tch!” Gisette sharply turned her head away from me as I sliced through her binds. I guess she took it as an insult. Even if she started to view those three as ‘family’, there was still some work to be done before she’d consider herself as a part of the pirate community. If she couldn’t find it in herself to confide in me after this, then there might be a problem with her.

It wouldn’t surprise me any if she was damaged in some way, which would explain was why she had a hard time trusting others. It was chilling how similar we were, if my guesses were correct. But at the same time we had our differences. She at least had a crew she trusted and cared about whereas I had no one before Cegil came into my life.

“No worries, there still be plenty o’ time ta catch up. Now that ye deign ta sail wit’ those knuckleheads, ah consider ye one o’ us. Family always looks after one another- ne’er forget that,” I added, hoping my words would change her attitude.

When I was younger, all I wanted was a second chance to be accepted. At first I couldn’t get that from humans until I met Lioa. But once I did, my life changed for the better. If I could show Gisette that acceptance, maybe she’ll think about opening up.

She turned back to study me, eyes searching my face for lies. When she couldn’t find deceit, her expression softened, but she couldn’t confirm or deny my sentiments. If she was anything like me, then she probably needed time to think over the silent offer I made. Unlike a certain falucite I could name, I didn’t mind giving her that time.

However, this wasn’t the place to think. Now that I confirmed everyone was healthy enough to follow me, it was time to move out.

I walked up to the barrier and gestured to them. “Stay behind me an’ be ready ta move when ah say so.”

I could see bright blasts of orange through the shimmering water, which indicated that they were firing at us. Since the rain got heavier, and the thunder more frequent, it was hard to distinguish the noise of gunfire inside the dome I created. With Elati’s fury in me I had no qualms about potentially killing others, so I exercised no restraint when I expanded the barrier and turned it into a violent wave.

The waters swallowed the last of the charging bullets before it swept through the entire area, knocking over soldiers and citizens alike. I made sure it was tall enough to wipe out all artillery and soak the gunpowder, rendering half of Bardam’s arsenal useless. When my onslaught was over, I cast my eyes up to the platform where the prince stood, giving him the cruelest smile I could muster.

This was the day Bardam would know to regret his desire for me. It was also the day he and Delar would learn of the true strength of the sea.

To the Next Chapter

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