5. What’s Up With Him Now?

Chapter 5

What’s Up With Him Now?

            The next few days seemed to lazily pass me by. As planned, we stayed in Syrde no more than three days and set sail again toward the center area of the Sea of Loerati. The meeting place was actually close by the dragon enclave of Loerati’s priestess, and the place itself was nothing more than a giant semi circle of reef and jagged rocks that speared up from the sea bed.

I picked that place because Loerati was the goddess of peace and tranquility, and she was the only one neutral to the disagreement between Elati and Tiata. I couldn’t think of a more perfect spot that reflected the notion of neutrality. Since I wanted to help all pirates in all seas, I couldn’t afford to show favoritism despite my being born in the Sea of Elati. Not only that, but the dragon priestess was very sweet and understanding when I asked to congregate so close to her area.

In a way that made sense, actually- all priestesses must be some kind of extension of the goddess they served. While Loerati’s priestess was nice to be around, Cyirlie was evil, cold, and mean- the perfect priestess for a goddess that willingly portrays herself as an ‘evil Fatesbane’. In fact, I could compare the dragon to a storm- a beauty from afar, but it would be a risk on one’s life to get close to her.

Jasco and Pao decided to come with me, their ships following after mine a pace in a V formation. I had asked the mermaids to spread their ranks to cover them, though they didn’t have to protect the people within. I just wanted them to have enough space to do their job and know that the people with me were not enemies they could eat.

I deemed Fiet a lost cause, though it wasn’t really required for every pirate to show up. The meeting was something I designed so that pirates from all over the world could connect and learn what’s new in other parts of the world. It was also the time for anyone to request my presence so I would know where I was most needed.

All in all, the meeting was nothing more than a social event for pirates- hence why I hope that new lady captain might still show up. Regardless of her views of men, she could use the connections so that she would know her options should things get tough.

As for Satel and his adjusting lifestyle, he seemed to have settled down since coming back with that package. Apparently Garroe had pulled him aside a few months prior and had him talk to an uncle of theirs. Since the elder brother knew nothing about having to leave the homestead to start a settlement, he figured that the uncle would be a better source of information.

My mate was then told that in the lull of watching over a small community and having no missions to complete, he would be better off picking up a hobby to help fill in the gaps. That was why the über hat man was now sitting at the very back of the quarterdeck with a small blank booklet and drawing utensils. He decided he wanted to try his hand at being an artist. That was what he’d brought home that day in Syrde- tools for his hobby.

At first his attempts were terrible- he once tried to draw me when I was sleeping, but it looked more like some beast trying to eat itself. I wasn’t sure if I should’ve been offended when I saw it. But after getting some books about technique, his ability improved significantly, though the pictures were still mediocre. At least I looked more like a person in them now, but there were still a few flaws present that made his art uninteresting.

To be fair, he’d only started this less than a week ago, so his progress was actually astounding in such a short amount of time. If he was actually serious about it, he might be at a master’s level by the end of the month. I wasn’t sure if that was natural to falucite, or if he was just annoyingly talented. I respect either, but the man seemed to have so many perfections that I’d forget he had his imperfections too.

Rutan was still ecstatic over Satel’s extended presence on the ship and often tried to follow him everywhere he could. It was hard to get the boy to do his chores at first, but he was starting to show signs of mellowing down. Even now, in what would ordinarily be his time to show off some practiced stunt to the crew, he was hovering over the blond as he tried to draw.

“Ye should draw me next, Pappy,” the boy offered with what I could only guess was a large grin. I was steering the ship at the helm as usual and didn’t bother to turn my head at them. Since they were located at the far back of the quarterdeck, I was surprised I could still hear them over the sea wind.

“I would, but I fear you would make a terrible model- you can hardly sit still for more than a minute as it is,” Satel remarked bemusedly, earning an offended scoff from the boy.

To give Rutan some credit, this was the first time I’d ever seen him focused on something for so long. The energetic boy was known to wander a lot, often dropping the tasks he should be doing in favor for whatever caught his eye at the moment. …Though maybe I should worry a little- while I had nothing against art, I didn’t want Rutan to get enamored of it to the point of not wanting to be a pirate anymore. Though it’s his life, it would be strange to have him find a career away from the one he was born for.

“Tell you what,” my mate suddenly offered after a long moment of what was probably Rutan’s ‘take that back ya jerk!’ face, “If you can sit there quietly until I finish drawing your mother, then I’ll make a portrait of you next.”

I let out a surprised grunt. “Yer still drawin’ me?” as Rutan let out a cheer over his victory.

I thought he was drawing something else on the ship- there must’ve been more than twenty drawings of me alone, not counting his awful first attempts. Though out of living figures, I was probably the best model he could find. I didn’t move much when I was at the helm.

But I must’ve turned my head slightly because Satel complained. “Don’t move now, ‘Tia-dear, I’m almost done.”

“Not that ah ain’t flattered Satel-dear,” I began with a mildly frosty tone to show my growing irritation, “but surely there are other subjects ta pursue.”

“True, but none are as lovely as you are,” he countered smoothly with a purr. I felt like sighing, but refrained from doing so.

I had nothing against his newfound hobby, and I was glad that he was having fun with it, but I couldn’t stop the feeling that there were probably other things he should be doing. After all, the issue with Bardam wasn’t quite settled, and he still needed to at least see someone about designing a house for us. Even though Rutan wasn’t ready to take over the ship yet, we still needed a house ready to live in when that day came.

I suppose the latter didn’t really need to be addressed any time soon, but the former involving Bardam did. Satel said that he was waiting on the elders to come to a decision on what to do about it- apparently he didn’t think he could deal with the Fodaren clan on his own. He’d been telling me that he had been receiving summons from them through his elders, but he didn’t think it was wise to go see them without some kind of aid.

I wasn’t sure why he felt this way, and it only made me more curious and worried. The worse part was that it was getting to the point where simple inquiries were getting him irritated, leaving me almost wary of asking again. It disturbed me how… irrational his moods were getting in regards to this whole mess. He’d even stopped spying on the prince, deciding that the human no longer had anything new for him to learn.

But there was one thing for certain- he wasn’t hiding anything from me. He told me what he was worried about and why, even if he hadn’t told me everything about what was going on. I just wished I knew why he was acting so strangely about …well everything!

“Ye done yet?” Rutan’s voice pierced through my pensive thoughts

Satel was silent for a moment, but then replied in a lightly mocking tone, “Oh so close rissr’amelos. Talking counts as moving- unless, of course, you happen to be facing away from me like your mother.”

“Aw! No fair!”

“Rutan, ah wouldn’t get too upset ‘bout that- sitting still fer hours ain’t as fun as it looks,” I said to placate the boy. “Instead, why don’t ye clean yer swords an’ get ready fer yer lessons? Mebbe Pappy might train wit’ ye today.”

The result was instantaneous, and for a moment I thought something heavy had fallen over as Rutan jumped up from his sitting position. “Really!?” the boy shouted excitedly before he immediately ran downstairs to retrieve his short swords from his cabin.

I was smirking at his antics- at least until I could just feel Satel’s displeasure. I wasn’t sure why he was so upset- I didn’t move a muscle to ruin his art. Surely he couldn’t be mad about my volunteering him for simple sword lessons? He used to love training Rutan- he even admitted that he felt like he was teaching his own son as he did so.

I soon heard his book snap shut and the sounds of him getting up and walking towards me. He was soon standing beside me, looking ahead with an annoyed expression. Lately, he’d been frowning so much that he looked like a short and blond version of Cegil. …Well the ‘Cegil’ back when he didn’t express much of his emotions anyway- now the tall man smiled much more and even showed emotions that I didn’t think he was capable of.

I placed my free hand on his arm to get his attention and inquired, “Is there somethin’ on yer mind?”

I could almost swear his eyes flashed as his head sharply turned to glare venomously at me. Though I kept my hand in place, I visibly flinched from that rather distressing look. I hadn’t done that since Pappy’s scoldings when I was a child. Thankfully, Satel quickly recognized me and immediately softened his features when he noticed my reaction.

“I apologize my sirsa, my mind was elsewhere. Did you say something?” he prodded soothingly, further concerning me. Whatever he was thinking about made him mad- the question was what and why.

“Ah was worried ‘bout that nasty look on yer face. Ye need me ta help ye beat up the bastard that’s makin’ ye scowl like that?” I offered nicely, hoping that said ‘bastard’ wasn’t somehow Rutan. The boy could be annoying, particularly when we wanted silence, but there was no way an innocent child could incite a man to feel murderous.

Satel caught me off guard as he shook his head, then wrapped his arms around me in a near vice hold. If he hadn’t started nuzzling my hair, I would’ve thought he was grabbing me to pull me away from some phantom attack.

“There is no one bothering me, bastard or otherwise. I was just thinking of something that’s been bothering me for a while,” he confessed as his lips found my ear and began nipping at the lobe.

I waited for him to elaborate where his train of thought had taken him, but he remained quiet, preferring to cuddle with me instead. I had to cave and ask him directly.

“So wot was it ye were thinkin’ ‘bout? Anything ah can do ta help ye through it?” I still didn’t like how his mood seemed to have come from nowhere, and I was hoping he would not only open up, but allow me to aid him. I knew from experience that bottling up certain thoughts and emotions only led to damaging results. And, if he couldn’t confide in his own mate, then who else could he talk to?

“You’re helping right now,” he purred, letting his hands roam up and down my sides. “I’m just feeling stressed despite my new hobby. I’m used to going on missions and traveling to other places in a day, so adapting is making me feel agitated over nothing.”

I instantly felt better at hearing that. It made sense that he would be uncomfortable and in a bad mood over having to give up the things that he was used to. It also made me believe that his reaction to training Rutan before was likely more about his change in life rather than any grievance with the boy. After all, he was treating him so warmly and was teasing him right before I made the suggestion- so it had to be something else.

I wanted to let go of the rudder wheel so that I could return the embrace, but while the ship wouldn’t veer off-course that quickly, I didn’t want to risk breaking formation and somehow bumping into the other ships. Instead, I chose to wrap my free arm tightly around his waist to bring him close and turned my head enough so my lips could reach his ear.

I then moved my hand to his chest and used my index finger to trace a button on his vest. “In that case, why don’t ye see if ye can tire Rutan out wit’ a rigorous lesson? Ah might jus’ reward ye while he naps,” I whispered in a flirting tone before I made that finger trail down his torso in a soft mimicry of me scratching him.

He shuddered and released a whoosh of air against my skin, clearly imagining what kind of ‘reward’ I had in mind.

“Yer jus’ makin’ me go ‘cause ye don’t feel like trainin’ him today,” he accused, somehow slipping into a seafarer’s accent like it was his natural dialect. Or maybe he was weakly trying to turn the tables on me, I wasn’t sure.

I just allowed a dark smirk as I moved my lips to hover under his. “Maybe,” I admitted, “…or maybe ah’m manipulating ye jus’ ‘cause ah can.”

If he were the type to faint, he probably would’ve. It seemed women in power turned him on- not that he cared about any other women in a similar position, rare as we may be. Though while this revelation had long since empowered me with my relationship with him, I knew better than to abuse it or let it go to my head. Satel was still a very powerful and strong creature, and if he truly wanted to stop me, he could.

I knew I couldn’t tell him what to do or how to live his life, nor could I truly force him to do anything. Whatever he did at my word was because he placed trust in me and wanted to obey. Though I suppose the real reason I didn’t take advantage of his willing adoration was because he had first given me freedom and respect, and I returned what I received.

While he knew he could magickally force or threaten me to do anything, he chose to let me decide my own path and accept anything I might do that he disagreed with. Not that we began our relationship that way, but what happened back then was definitely in the past and not worth bringing up anymore.

But at the last second, the blond man recovered from his bliss and managed to return the seduction ten fold.

“Careful lass. Yer not feedin’ scraps ta a dog, but a wolf- beasties like me might take more than yer offerin’, an’ yer powerless ta stop me,” he muttered against my lips with an identical grin, causing my own body to react in delightful shivers. Okay, so we both liked to be dominated when it came to bedroom games- though I’d argue that the idea of a man who could have power over me was more exciting than one that actually did.

Unable to retort to that, I just swallowed and loosened my grip on the rudder wheel. If I clenched any harder, I could inadvertently turn the ship and cause the accidents I was trying to prevent. Satel let out a chuckle, glad to have won this round, before he tucked some of my hair behind my ears and then kissed me chastely.

“Now, I believe I’m expected on the main deck for a sword lesson. I do hope to see you later… in bed,” the blond bastard added cheerfully as he finally let go of me and headed towards the stairs.

I was glad no one else was up here to witness that. Though I had fought valiantly, it was still a loss that could bruise my reputation with the others.

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

For the record, I didn’t allow Rutan to own real weapons at his age. The swords he owned were dulled blades that could barely cut paper, and they were almost short enough to be considered daggers. However, they were enough for practice, and, if needed, he could still hurt someone enough to cause a distraction and get away.

I already taught him the …undisciplined styles of a pirate, since that was all that was needed for close range combat against civilians. The only time a pirate was expected to fight skilled swordsmen was if we were ambushed by king’s men, or boarded by the navy. But with our ability to balance on unsteady surfaces and adapt to our surroundings, we still had the advantage, no matter how well trained our enemies were.

But Rutan still deserved some extra educational material since he was expected to be a cut above the rest. Having Satel’s sword style mixed with the pirate style actually improved his own defenses. But this was based on how well he’d utilized it in his previous life- I wasn’t sure how he’d use it this time around.

Given the choice of weapons, sometimes I didn’t think Satel was taking the lessons seriously. Sometimes he’d freeze water for an ice sword to block against Rutan’s, other times it’s a loaf of hardened bread he’d picked up from his favorite territory. Though as ridiculous as he appeared, he did teach the boy the motions, stances, and tactics… and I admit to being impressed that bread could be that hard to withstand a firm strike without crumbling.

I watched on from my usual post as my mate first gave instruction to Rutan, and then finally had the boy go all out to see if he could break his guard. It was basically a ploy to get the brown haired boy to use up all his youthful energy and burn himself out. All Satel had to do was stand still and block the attacks with either his faux weapon or his magicks.

“It does give me such great joy to see him eagerly guiding the youth,” an elderly voice said from behind me, making me jump.

“Elit yakoté!” I shouted in surprise before my hand came up to press against my rapidly beating heart. When I turned, I found a lavender haired man who appeared to be in his late sixties by human age. Cujol gave me a stern gaze for my rather offensive curse. Unfortunately, it seemed he was fluent in the language I had used, though I didn’t know much about it outside of a few words and phrases.

“Sorry,” I finally replied, remembering to curb my accent for his benefit. “You startled me.”

“No, it is my error. I should have made my presence known to you when I had arrived,” the aged man countered in a kindly tone, insinuating that he had been here longer than I was thinking. Only falucite could catch me my surprise with their teleport magicks- good thing it was only Satel’s family who popped in unannounced. Were it strangers from other clans, I’d be more concerned.

“I see… well, welcome aboard Grandfather,” I greeted politely as my eyes darted down to the main deck to see if Satel noticed our visitor. The blond man didn’t seem to have heard my yell and was still busy dealing with Rutan. Perhaps Cujol was masking his presence and any other sounds to prevent his grandson from noticing him immediately… but why?

“I thank you for the warm salutations,” he replied with a nod. I noticed then that he was dressed in heavy layers- his attire was made of thick materials and he wore at least two coats. But I suppose that would be natural considering that it was winter where the homestead was. The nice part about living on a ship was that I could move to the warmer side of the hemisphere and try to avoid winter, if I wanted.

“So what do we owe this visit? Are you here for Satel’s sake? I seem to recall that he is awaiting an answer,” I began, not wanting this to turn into a long awkward silence.

“Yes, I unfortunately have an answer to Satel’s concerns, though he will not be pleased,” the old man warned with a regretful look to his cobalt eyes. But his expression soon became concerned before I could grimace at the news. “But I do have another reason for coming by- how are things in regard to your and Satel’s settlement? While you are not required to report to us, Satel has been incredibly secretive about his plans, and I worry for you both.”

While Cujol did seem to act like a busybody, I knew that he did actually care about us. Though Cegil was still at odds with him, I learned what the man really was like through Satel. He really was a grandfather first, and an elder second- the only problem was that the elders decided spoke louder than his own personal desires. But despite Cegil’s feelings and our rather awkward first meeting the old man kind of grew on me, and I kind of learned to like him as a grandfather.

But I was a little concerned about how he didn’t know about what we’ve done so far. Did Satel not want him to know? I didn’t see the harm in letting him know about the small details- after all, we didn’t have to have anything ready by the über hat man’s birthday, unlike the others before him. We’re given a lot of leniency because we had already mostly moved out of homestead and were living on my ship.

“We have some land at least- enough to build a home on. Our only problem is figuring out what kind of people we want living there since the location isn’t very…hospitable for just any kind of human,” I told him, being as vague as possible.

Being a servant of the sea, I couldn’t live far away from the ocean, so naturally we had to pick a coastal location. I wasn’t sure which one of us came up with it, but one day we recalled that little island where I once had that duel with Seikram. We then visited that place and found that it was large enough to support a small town, but its location close to sea dragons was enough to make us worry.

Unless we build a town for pirates, it would be too dangerous to have just any human or demon live there. We couldn’t expect Cyirlie or the other dragons to distinguish our residents from other prey like they do for pirates. They had a hard enough time telling us apart to begin with.

But unless we find another deserted island, that would have to do. We couldn’t use The Cruel Whore as an excuse for a settlement since the ship wasn’t completely mine. Once Rutan turns twenty and reclaims his title as Lord of the Sea, I go into a sort of retirement phase and let him take over the ship. Before I had Elati’s blessing to stay with Satel in the homestead, but this time she expects me to remain where she can watch me.

The important fact was that we had a place to build a home- we just needed to figure out what else we wanted to do with the land.

I knew the old man was just concerned about us having a place to live in the future, so I didn’t think what I had revealed so far would anger Satel any. Whatever secrets the blond was keeping from the elders, I was sure Cujol had no interest in passing on my information to them. I didn’t think there was anything incriminating with what little I revealed, and if there was, then Satel should’ve said something. Even he knew there would be a chance of Cujol or Garroe visiting me to ask about it.

Cujol did appear relieved to hear that much and let out a quiet sigh. “That is good. As long as you have a place to live, then I am satisfied. These days we are not hard up for tradition, so if you do not actually build a settlement, the elders will not fault you.”

“Why? Because you don’t think we’re capable?”

I blinked at the sudden hostile tone as Satel appeared up on the quarterdeck next to me. I wondered when he noticed his grandfather and when he decided to come up. But I was more concerned as to why he was upset- I didn’t hear anything in Cujol’s tone or words that indicated that he thought we were incapable of anything. I was hearing genuine worry, and relief once he found out that we were taking care of ourselves just fine.

“Satel,” Cujol muttered admonishingly as his eyes narrowed from the blond’s tone.

But my mate shook his head and wrapped his arm around me with a scowl. “What business do you have to question my mate about our personal life? Are we not supposed to be on our own now that I’m too old and useless to you?” he snapped, earning shocked looks from me and the elder. What in five hells had gotten into him!?

“Satel!” Cujol barked this time, clearly offended. “Where in Kajros’ name did you obtain such a ludicrous idea? Though you may be leaving to start your own community, you are not being cast aside. You and Tia will always be welcome within the homestead.”

“And he’s not saying he doesn’t believe in us- he just wants to know how we’re doing. He cares about us,” I pointed out, while keeping my voice neutral. I didn’t want to sound as though I was against my mate, but I did have to defend the old guy. I wasn’t sure where the blond was getting the idea that his grandfather was suddenly the enemy- his thoughts were irrational and bizarre, considering that he was once on Cujol’s side in most things.

“Of course he cares, but he also thinks we’re just falcie who can’t take care of ourselves. That’s why he’s so worried,” Satel growled, sneering at the lavender haired man. …At least his nasty looks weren’t directed at me.

Even if that were true, since when did that bother him so greatly? Yes, he had his moments of bitching when someone did accuse him of being too young, but he knew the elders trusted him with tasks that were generally for adults. Usually he’d just seethe quietly if he felt he was being underestimated and strove to prove the naysayers wrong through his actions.

But instead of being taken aback from Satel’s words, Cujol crossed his arms and tilted his head back in an arrogant way. “Oh? You wish to be treated as an adult, and yet you begged me and the elders to aid you in regards to the Fodaren summons. What is it you want of us? We are treating you as an adult, but you are the one who somehow cannot handle his own affairs.”

Satel snorted so hard that I almost thought he hissed at his grandfather. “And what is that supposed to mean?” he asked tersely.

Cujol lightened his features enough to appear less condescending, but he remained in his closed off pose as he replied, “Though you wish to argue the point, we do want to help you if it is in our power. But I fear this issue you have with the Fodaren clan is beyond our authority and ability to oversee.

“Officially you are no longer a representative of the clan, though you are still considered of our blood. Whatever inquiries they have regarding the sea or servants of Elit will have to be answered by you alone- or Cyirlie, if you wish to involve her,” he added before turning his cobalt eyes away from us. “At best, the most we can do is act as an intermediary- at worse, we can grant you and Tia temporary asylum should something go wrong.”

“Shit,” Satel muttered under his breath, glaring at the floor.

It took me a moment to figure out what was being discussed. Apparently Cujol was giving the answer that Satel had been waiting for, and it wasn’t something he wanted to hear. As I struggled to understand that information with what little I knew about the situation, I began to wonder how much this would set Satel back. Did that mean he wasn’t going to tell me his suspicions about Bardam, or why he was so concerned about the Fodaren clan?

And what was this crap about temporary asylum? What in five hells did Satel get himself into that might invoke that kind of trouble?

“I can offer some advice, based on what little you told me of your situation,” the elder man offered when it became obvious that Satel wasn’t going to say anything. “All they are asking for is permission- simply answer them and leave. You are not obligated to explain yourself, nor is it their business to pry. We falucite are bound to the earth and have no rights in interfering with matters of the sea. Use that to your advantage.”

That was some cold comfort- Satel was basically a ‘seafarer’ falucite due to his birth in Elit’s domain, so technically that made him part of another set of rules. He could be as rude as he wanted to without risking the reputation and peace of his clan. But that also meant he was alone should the Fodaren clan take offense and want revenge.

…No, even though he is the only falucite, he’s not alone- he has me and the mermaids. He also has Cyirlie on his side, though she still does hate us both- she doesn’t have a choice in the matter.

“And if they try to use force to get me to comply?” Satel inquired, his voice still tense from anger, and perhaps a small undertone of worry.

Cujol grinned at us, his eyes taking on a mischievous glint. “Then just do as I do in such situations- merely direct them to someone of higher authority and let them handle it. I believe that would be Cyirlie, no?”

“Heh, you cheeky politician,” I said lowly with a smile of my own. I couldn’t believe even falucite resorted to such dirty tricks- I guess that’s where humans learned it from. Whatever the problem is, if Satel did as advised then the representatives of the Fodaren clan would have to travel to the enclave and meet with the ever irate dragon herself. No one is suicidal enough to do that!

Unfortunately, Satel wasn’t as amused. He didn’t appear any less irritated as he shook his head, let go of me, and then took a step closer to his grandfather.

“I don’t think it’ll work as smoothly as you seem to think,” he challenged as he stared straight into the elder’s eyes. …Speaking of the temperamental sea dragon, Satel seemed to be acting a lot like her at that moment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him like this- at least not to this extreme. It was almost as if his usual emotions were being amplified.

“I think you will be fine. You are no longer a falcie, and the other clans will have to recognize you as a member of the sea, and not as a typical falucite. Use your unusual circumstances to your advantage and bluff- after all, they know no more about the rules of seafarers and sea gods than I do,” Cujol reminded him before his features turned contemplative and sad. “I fear this is truly all I can do for you.”

It didn’t occur to me until then that Satel really was on his own in terms of how to conduct himself. Ever since he was born, he had been raised on the culture and etiquette of earth ruled falucite, never knowing that he was actually part of the sea. He had no prior training or guidance of what to do or what would be considered ‘right’ as a seafarer- it was something he had to make up as he went.

And it wasn’t as if I could help him any. With my being a human, and someone who was also dumped into something with no prior training, we were both kind of in a league of our own. But at least I could give him some advice, too- just act decisively and deal with the consequences if they come. There was no right or wrong when it came to taking charge of one’s life.

“And yet you claim to care about me,” Satel muttered with a scoff as he began storming away. “This feels more like you’re casting me out into the wilderness.”

“I cannot do anything right, it seems,” Cujol retorted dryly, earning a glare and a surprisingly rude hand gesture from the über hat man.

“Uh-Satel!” I called out as my mate, only to be ignored as he continued down to the main deck and headed for the cabins. I winced at the sound of a door slamming before I guiltily looked at Cujol. “I…uh… sorry about that. I don’t know what’s gotten into him.”

This was totally unlike Satel- he was acting worse than a teenage brat. Was he that worried about his problem? I’ve never seen him like this…

But the long haired man shook his head calmly and managed a smile. “No, do not worry about it. This is about the time for him to act this way, so I will take no offense. You have my sympathies for the next year or so.” And with that, he disappeared, leaving me more confused than ever.

I wished I knew what the hell Cujol’s parting words even meant, but I was far more concerned about Satel to really reflect on them. The idea of him being so upset distressed me more than I liked to admit. I quickly called for Rohje to take the helm and then assigned someone else to help tutor Rutan in Satel’s place, as the blond had just left right in the middle of the lesson.

I tried to act as relaxed as possible so that my men didn’t have any reason to be concerned, but once I was in the corridor I ran to my cabin as fast as possible to see if my mate was still here. Some part of me worried that he might’ve left to go demolish one of his territories, but I was relieved to find that wasn’t the case. He was sitting at the end of our bed, looking as furious as ever.

When I entered and closed the door behind me, I began to wonder if what I was doing was such a good idea. My mate was acting in an erratic manner, and there was probably nothing I could say or do to make him feel better. Perhaps it would’ve been smarter to just leave and give him some time alone to cool off… but if I did that, then I would just worry the entire time, wondering what was wrong with him.

“Satel, he’s gone,” I told him, letting him know that he had no reason to fume in here anymore. He just huffed as he turned his head away from me, making the brim of his über hat hide most of his features.

Against my better judgment, I edged closer to him, determined to at least make physical contact with him. I was hoping a hug or some kind of show of affection would help him relax a little. Though with the way he was acting, he might just bite my head off instead.

I held out my hand with the intent to place it on his shoulder, but his hand shot out to grab it before I could get too close. He held me in a very firm, but not painful, grip before he pulled me towards him. In one fluid motion, he was standing and had me all but crushed against his body. His nose was buried in my hair, and I could feel him take in deep breaths as if he was trying to calm himself with my scent.

Some part of me was relieved to know that he wasn’t pushing me away in his time of need. Usually he would be open with me, but given his strange behavior, I wasn’t sure what to expect anymore. With my arms trapped under his, all I could do was wrap them around his lower back and press my lower body closer to him in a show of acceptance. I could almost swear I heard a growl of approval from him, but I was soon distracted by his thin lips trailing a heated blaze from my neck to my jaw.

There was no smooth seduction or light teasing- his mouth was rough and demanding, and his actions were borderline desperate as he reached my lips. He practically forced his way in, too impatient to coax me to open up, and dominated my mouth. Before I knew it, I was at his mercy and clinging to his body when I was almost folded over his arm.

My eyes darted back to the door as I struggled to remember if I had locked it, but then I dismissed the thought. Who cared if someone barged in now- we were just kissing. Though if I hadn’t been so worried about Satel’s behavior, I’d probably be in the mood to go further than that. Usually this aggression of his would be a turn on, but my body wasn’t responding for once, but it wasn’t rejecting him either.

He soon picked up on that and pulled back slightly with a frown. I made my own expression, one that hopefully conveyed that I was worried about him and not afraid to face him.

The über hat man then shook his head and held back a growl. “I suppose you want me to explain the situation to you?” he inquired, sounding annoyed and still angry.

“Only if ye want,” I replied coolly, knowing that I had to tread carefully. “Ah trust ye ta tell me when yer ready, an’ ah ain’t gonna force ye. But if ye think we’re goin’ ta mate right now, yer out o’ yer mind.”

At first he relaxed at hearing that I wasn’t going to make him say anything, but then all the tension came back when I told him ‘no sex’.

“Why? I want you!” he barked with a snarl. I quirked an eyebrow as I wondered where this primitive attitude came from. As if yelling was going to put me in the mood…

“An’ ah want ye as well, but there’s somethin’ a certain man said- not me Pappy this time,” I amended, feeling it was important to say that since this wasn’t one of Pappy’s usual wise advices. “But this dumbass basically said that make-up sex can be the best sex e’er, but ne’er try ta have it when still angry- not unless yer into masochism an’ sadism.”

Of course, we weren’t technically having a fight, but I felt that this applied here too. Satel was still mad, and his kiss alone was pretty unrestrained. He could inadvertently hurt me in the act, and in doing so, he wouldn’t be able to finish, leaving us both unsatisfied. …Well there’s that, and I wouldn’t hesitate to hurt him back- I love my mate, of course, but I wouldn’t even let him get away with harming me.

“If we’re goin’ ta do anythin’, then ye need ta calm down first,” I added, seeing his features turn contemplative.

“And how do you propose that I calm down, if you can’t do it?” he questioned me in voice that was much more controlled than before. It took me a minute to realize that his manhandling me was his attempt to calm down.

“Who says ah can’t help ye? Ah’m jus’ sayin’ that ye were goin’ ‘bout it the wrong way. We can lay down an’ cuddle in silence ‘til ye feel better, or…” I trailed off purposely, waiting for him to take the bait.

I held back my smirk when I saw that I clearly had his attention. “What?” he asked almost eagerly.

I pushed out of his grasp and got into a fighting position. “The best way ta deal wit’ anger is fight it out. Let’s wrestle.”

Satel’s eyes widened as he sidestepped away from the bed, making sure his back was never turned to me. I was glad to see my suggestion had not only pulled him out of his previous mood, but almost made him forget his troubles for a moment.

“You know I’m against touching you in a violent manner, ‘Tia-dear,” he told me sternly as he held his hands near his chest, palms facing outward. I suppose that meant he didn’t realize his earlier grabbing could almost be considered ‘violent’.

It was adorable how he forgot that there was a huge difference between wresting and a brawl. Wrestling only required tackles and placing the opponent in a strong hold until they called for mercy, while brawling involved punching and kicking. No one was going to get hurt… well, his pride might smart a little when I win.

“Ah guess that means it’s goin’ ta be a very one-sided fight then- one ah’m gonna win,” I declared in a smug tone before I charged forward with the intent to tackle him.

My mate evaded me and did everything in his power to keep distance between us as I tried everything to tackle him without running into the furniture. It was hilarious how the tables had turned- more than a week ago, he’d been chasing me around the cabin and now it was the other way around.

Everything ended when I decided to make a dangerous move by climbing on my desk and took a flying leap at him. Satel forgot all about avoiding me and caught me when I jumped. I made sure to wrap my legs around him and let my arms loop behind his neck, forcing him to hang on to me as we both recovered from the jump.

“Got ya,” I chimed near his ear before I nipped at the lobe.

It took him a while to process what had just happened, and eventually he worked out that I had successfully calmed him down in my own strange way. I felt him take in a deep breath before he allowed a small grin to appear on his lips.

“Yes you have,” he agreed in amusement. The fact that he was smiling and acting more like his self put me at ease, too. Only Satel would drop everything to come protect me from harm- not that I made a habit of placing myself in real danger …pirate raids excluded.

“An’ as winner, ah order ye ta take us ta the bed so we can relax an’ cuddle,” I continued, failing to keep in my smirk.

I could hear the exasperation in his tone as he replied, “I would love to, but why couldn’t we have done that in the first place?”

“‘Cause this was more fun,” I responded cheekily, earning an eye roll and a widened grin from him.

Since I refused to let go of him (despite his surrender) he slowly walked us to the bed. He then used his magicks to send our hats to their pegs and teleport our footwear off as we both crawled unto the bed and curled up against one another. Now that he was less irritated, I pushed myself up to a sitting position so that I could rub at his temples and gradually work my way lower.

Though he hardly deserved this considering his bad behavior- if Rutan acted as he had done, the boy would’ve been punished and forced to do the chores of the highest bidder. But I still found myself performing my duties as a mate despite that. If I really thought about it, Satel was being a giant dick just because he was so stressed. Not that that was any excuse, but perhaps if I had done this for him sooner, then he would’ve handled poor Cujol with a little more respect.

And, of course, he made an effort to show how grateful he was with whatever I did for him, so it wasn’t as if pampering him was unbearable. His rust colored eyes were already showing me how much this meant to him.

“…You’re too good to me, my sirsa,” he muttered contently as he let one hand reach out and trace gentle patterns on my hip. But soon his features became a little sullen as he looked away for a second. “I need to tell you something- it’s what I’ve been promising to tell you about.”

I shook my head to stop him. “Don’t worry ‘bout it right now. Jus’ enjoy this an’ tell me later when yer ready.”

“Thank you.” He really was relieved to hear me say that. I suppose me giving him this space was a nice change from everyone else demanding answers from him, though I was the one who was likely most affected by whatever information he was withholding.

“Crisis averted,” I thought to myself as my mate closed his eyes and purred.

I was satisfied enough that he was almost ready to tell me- I can wait a little longer. I just hoped that his extreme pissed off demeanor never resurfaced again.

Though I was once again fooled into believing that there were other causes for his mood swings. Or perhaps I just didn’t want to believe that it was Satel’s fault at all. Cujol had given me the largest warning that I was in for a very long, very exhausting run dealing with my mate.

To the Next Chapter

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