6. Unsavory Politics

Chapter 6

Unsavory Politics

            Satel waited one more day before he finally confessed. He clung to me all day like some giant fashion accessory, and when no one was looking, he’d run his hands along my body and kiss whatever exposed skin he could find. He was either being extremely affectionate, or attempting to drive me insane.

I almost wanted to quit early for the day so I could let him do what he wanted, but I felt that I had been slacking off in my job because of my caring for him. …Well, I suppose I hadn’t, considering that we were taking a long trip. If we had been planning for a raid, then I’d have been slacking. The only one who was really suffering was Rutan, as I had to cancel his lessons for the day. It was brain training day, so it would’ve been awkward teaching Rutan his math and map reading skills while sitting in Satel’s lap.

Though the boy cheered at the thought of skipping his ‘boring book smart’ lessons, so it wasn’t that bad- I just didn’t like having to sacrifice his education for any reason.

When I finally was ready to retire to the cabin, Satel changed into what I called his ‘darker self’ and had me play adult games with him. I didn’t have any complaints, as I did have fun playing after work. But once we were completely nude, spent, and cuddling together in bed, he decided it was time.

“I won’t be sure until I visit with the Fodaren clan, but I do know what Bardam was hoping to accomplish that night in Lostil,” he began before he rolled us over so that we were on our sides. He then stared straight into my eyes and added, “But if I tell you, you have to promise not to get mad and rush back there to kill him.”

It didn’t occur to me until then that Satel’s actions were for the purpose of either tiring me down, or to help him control his own emotions as he finally told me.

“Ah make no promises- if the landlubber deserves it, ah’ll kill him. …But ah don’t think ah have it in me ta turn around when we’re so close ta the meetin’ point,” I confessed, willing to make a few compromises. Satel was daft if he thought I wouldn’t get angry at whatever stupid thing Bardam did, but at least I won’t do anything about it. I couldn’t if I wanted to- my body was exhausted from our actions, and sleeping it off would give me time to calm down.

My mate hesitated for a second, debating if what I said was good enough to continue, before he sat up.

“Bardam wants to marry you,” he said, stopping for my reaction.

Somehow my arms found the strength to push my myself up. “WOT?” I roared in a mix of surprise and outrage.

For a moment, I forgot that there was suppose to be a connection between that and the night at Lostil, but I could hardly be blamed. What in five hells was Bardam thinking in desiring me for a bride!? This wasn’t even remotely flattering- never mind the fact that I was happily mated to the best man ever.

“How in five hells are ye not upset ‘bout this, too?” I demanded, equally shocked to see him so calm. He could get pretty possessive if he felt that the men (or occasionally women) was some threat, so he surely would’ve done something to Bardam to discourage the thought.

“I was upset. How do you think that assassin managed to sneak up on me?” he countered dryly, reminding me of the day he came back injured. Well, that made sense- if Satel was struggling within himself to not kill the bastard that dared desire his woman, then it would make it easy for someone to catch him off guard.

Though perhaps it was for the best that it ended that way. Had Satel gone after Bardam out of anger, then the Fodaren clan really would have some words to say. Attacking another clan’s pet was a serious offense.

Seeing that I had calmed down, Satel continued his explanation. “After I thought about it from an earth bound human’s perspective, it does kind of make sense as to why Bardam wants you. Most landlubbers don’t realize that pirates serve sea dragons, and you do appear to be the established leader of all pirates.”

That was another common misconception- being Lord of the Sea didn’t mean that I was really king of pirates. My being looked up to by the other captains was just a consequence of choosing to help them. I didn’t lead them, and they didn’t have to follow me. They just did it anyway out of gratitude, and possibly a healthy dose of fear.

“So ye think it’s a political move on Bardam’s part?” I surmised, earning a nod.

“Yes. He must think that if he married you, then he’d have control over the pirates that you seem to command. And he probably also thinks he can get your stolen treasures in his coffers,” he added.

Thinking Bardam was after my power and riches was much better than believing he wanted me for some stupid notion of attraction. I still wanted to believe the man was gay, if only so that I wouldn’t lose my money in the bet.

“Okay, well if that’s his reasonin’, then he’s out o’ luck. …But wot does that have ta do wit’ Lostil?” I inquired, knowing that there had to be more. I mean, sure- Bardam wanting to marry me was enough to piss me off, but now that it was explained, I didn’t see what Satel was so concerned about.

Maybe he didn’t think he would’ve gotten this far before I went off on a tangent. Had he said this to me days ago, when all the post raid tension and, later, concern about his wounds had been fresh, I probably would’ve reacted as he was fearing.

“I had to do a little more digging in order to understand what all he was trying to do. Apparently he’s invoking some kind of law where if a person ruins an important matrimonial partnership by eliminating the bride in some way, then that person is responsible for finding a suitable replacement. In fact, he’d been likely trying to trap you for a long time.

“Remember all those raids where he’d show up after the fact? He could’ve been claiming that you disposed of any woman he might’ve been courting just to build up a good case against you. But this time has more bearing since it was an officially recognized arrangement,” Satel said, his face showing some weariness either from our previous romp, or from the headache he was probably developing over this mess.

I could see the pattern now that it was laid out- Bardam always wanted my ‘capture’, but not death, and he seemed to wait for me to leave Lostil before attacking, when he’d usually not chase after me until a day or so after the crime. He was trying to accuse me of preventing him from marrying just so I would have to agree to take the place of the potential bride. But, again, he was out of luck.

What did I care if I was breaking some land law? I was bound to seafarer law, so there was nothing he could to do force me to submit. Though pirates and coastals never saw eye to eye, we all had something against non-consensual marriages between landlubbers and our kind.

“But ta whom is he tryin’ ta prove? Ah get that he can’t jus’ ask me, but why invoke some useless laws?” I asked as lowered myself back unto the pillows. My arms were getting tired- thanks to a certain blond bastard.

Satel seemed to know exactly why I glared at him in that instant and pretended not to notice. “Being a prince, I would imagine that he would have to win over his people, should he choose to take an evil pirate for a bride. What better way than by a legal technicality? That way, they have to accept it no matter how much they hate you.

“But in this case, I think it’s more for his masters. From what I hear, Bardam’s getting on in age and has so far refused to marry any women the Fodaren clan picked for him. He’s the last of his line, and he can’t become king without a wife, so they’re getting desperate where he’s concerned. I’m sure his playing around was just to prove a point that his bride has to be you- it’s all too convenient to blame you for the other failed attempts,” he muttered dryly while shaking his head.

“…An’ that’s why yer so concerned ‘bout goin’ ta see them,” I said when it finally clicked. “They want ta ask yer permission fer me ta marry him.”

Since we couldn’t tell the truth, Satel pretty much made the others think that I was his pet without actually saying anything. This allowed for him to speak to other clans’ elders on my behalf, and appear to be working as Cyirlie’s mate. So by all rights, the Fodaren clan would have to ask the master to relinquish his pet in order for Bardam’s mad plan to work.

“That’s what I’m thinking, but I can’t be absolutely sure. There could still be a chance that they want to complain about your so-called ‘interference’ and demand that you choose a new bride for him,” he replied, not sounding very convinced that it was the case, “But they never complained before, leaving me to believe that they knew all along what Bardam was trying to pull. I think the only reason they are caving is because he starting to go to extremes to get what he wants- provided that assassin was indeed for the woman.”

Hmph… if this were Orja, and the Xanaturi clan were in charge, they would’ve declared Bardam defective and tossed him out in favor for some new blood. Satel’s clan had no use for humans who were difficult and were willing to play dirty just to get what they wanted. But unfortunately, different clans had different ways to manage their kingdoms. The Fodaren seemed to believe that it was important to keep ancient bloodlines on the throne, no matter how mentally unstable their pets became.

“But… even if they do ask, they must expect some kind o’ refusal,” I muttered as it came to me. “There be plenty o’ nobles in the world, but only two o’ me. Elati won’t let me leave the sea no more than the Fodaren givin’ up their polished turd- it’s a… wot do ye call it?”

“A poor political match?” Satel guessed, earning a nod from me.

Ignoring the fact that I already had a mate and an heir, Elati would be pissed if I had to live on land again. She would probably make the Seafarer’s Madness within me activate and make my life miserable. But the whole reason Bardam had to be bred was so an heir could take the throne- he couldn’t come to me or have his heirs be claimed by the sea. It was impossible for us to be together no matter how many laws were made. We would actually have to be in love for either of us to want it to work- and fat chance of that ever happening.

“I’m afraid they wouldn’t be asking if they weren’t ready to make hefty sacrifices for you. They might just offer some land to become another property of Elit, like Eruda. They won’t understand the real reason I would have to refuse, and I would like to avoid lying if possible- knowing me, I’d probably confuse myself in trying to think up excuses,” the blond man said, followed by a half hearted chuckle at his light joke.

It was important that the other clans didn’t know that I was actually Satel’s mate- if they did, then they might tell the Daedeleth clan. Many years ago, Satel had gone through a farce ceremony to satisfy them, and to protect Cegil from their wrath. If they knew it was all a lie, and that he wasn’t mated to Cyirlie, who knows what they might do to ‘correct’ everything.

They were so caught up in their own beliefs of what the Fates predict that they couldn’t stand someone else’s interpretation. They would eliminate anyone who didn’t do as they ordered- well, anyone they had authority to touch. At least they respected what other clan elders chose to do with their disobedient members, so long as said elders claimed to agree with their own views.

“Ah guess ye have no choice but ta say no an’ give no reason. Or at least tell them that ah’m too important ta let go an’ leave it at that. Mebbe even claim Cyirlie is too adamant ‘bout keepin’ me single- they can’t prove otherwise since she ain’t likely to speak wit’ them, let alone be coerced to,” I pointed out, hoping that my suggestion would help any.

Now that I understood what was going on, I could see why Satel was so on edge the past few days. He wasn’t just worried about offending the clan- he was protecting me and our secret. The fact that he was bound to the sea didn’t mean much in the eyes of the Daedeleth- all they cared about was that the Word of the Fates, according to their interpretation, was being followed.

It was a good thing that only Satel’s family had access to my ship- if any other falucite had the ability to meet me in person, then it would give off a strong hint that things were not as they seemed. I possessed the clan smell, though it didn’t exactly expose who my mate was, but it was enough to arouse suspicion. Luckily massive amounts of smoke dulled the falucite nose, so I didn’t have to worry too much about running into one of them during raids- not that any would want to wander around in one.

“Ye know wot?” I said suddenly as something came to me, “Forget wot ah jus’ told ye. If ye wanted advice, ye would’ve asked fer it already- an’ ye were offended when Cujol was offerin’ some. Ye should do wot ye want, an’ not wot others want- yer only problem is that ye don’t know wot ye want yet.”

The reason I said that was because that lost and confused look on his face brought back a memory from a long time ago. I was once at a crossroads where I had to choose what I wanted out of life- at the time I thought I had to choose between my mate and his family or rekindling my love for the sea. It took me a while to figure out my path, but I stayed true to myself and fought for a way to keep both. I had to, because if I chose one, then I would lose the other, and would’ve been unhappy for the rest of my life.

“You’re right, ‘Tia-dear- you’re absolutely right,” he muttered in awe as the look of utter realization took over his features. It almost appeared that he lost the strength in his arms when he fell back beside me. His eyes were still wide an unfocused as he stared at the ceiling.

“All my life, I had been trained on what to do and how to act, but my family never once knew that I was truly different. I can’t apply what I’ve learned from them to my life now- but at the same time, I don’t know how else to function. But being here with you feels so right that I can’t go back to the life I once had with the clan.  I honestly think meeting you changed my life for the better, and I want to stay here and make it work… but I have no idea what role I can play,” he confessed, showing me the vulnerable side of him I didn’t see often.

“An’ ah can’t tell ye,” I retorted in a tone that was a little too callous for my liking. I winced a little before I softened my voice into something more supportive sounding. “All ah do know is that ah went through this before, right before ah first became capt’n o’ this ship. An’ if it weren’t fer ye bein’ there, supportin’ me an’ teachin’ me ta find me own purpose, ah prob’ly woulda ne’er made me own path. Ye changed me life fer the better, too.”

It was almost ironic how well we complemented each other. He empowered me to stand on my own feet while I inspired him with what he called my ‘steel will’. We understood each other so well, that we knew exactly how to help one another- and it helped that we had many similarities we could relate to.

Satel managed a wistful smile as he recalled the memory I mentioned. “I remember that- you were always crying then, and you were in such pain that I almost thought there was nothing I could do to comfort you. It tore me apart that I had no idea what to say or what I could do. I understand now just what you were going through. I wish I knew sooner- I must’ve seemed like such an ass to you,” he sighed, almost fondly.

I mirrored his look, though I was a little annoyed that he thought I was ‘always crying’. I hadn’t cried all the time- just when subjects of my father came up. Still… I always worried that I was being a burden to him back then- I didn’t like how pathetic I had become over a mere memory. But I was stronger now, and I was my own person. I knew Satel would figure out his own life soon enough- as I had.

“Yer still an ass,” I murmured jokingly. The blond man definitely wasn’t expecting such a rude comment in the midst of our ‘moment’- as he sharply turned his head and stared at me incredulously.

I gave him a dark smirk and pretended that I couldn’t lift my arms before I told him, “It’s yer fault ah can’t move, an there ye are lying o’er there where ah can’t reach ye. Get o’er here so ah can comfort ye proper-like.”

It was slow, but he soon got the humor and began laughing. All the tension and confusion left him that moment before he rolled back over to wrap his arms around me. I made an exaggerated groan as I ‘mustered up the strength’ to guide his head to the crook of my neck and then rest my hands on his mid back in a loose hug.

His breath was warm against my skin as he muttered, “You know me so well and you make me so happy. All the more reason I need to overcome this for you- for us,” he corrected at the last second as he made himself comfortable on top of my body.

I was tempted to further taunt him about how I was acting more like the man of the relationship, but I decided to quit while I was ahead. I knew I could’ve slipped up with that ass comment and made things worse. Besides, Satel wasn’t acting girly or anything- he was just going through a rough time like I had.

He’d pull though- I believed in him.

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

The day of the meeting was finally upon us. We had arrived a few days early – along with some other early arrivals from the other seas – and managed to set up the kegs, tables, benches, and other amenities for a proper gathering. Though the meeting was for the captains, it was also a time for the crews to let loose and compete in mindless games to prove which ship had the best men.

Even the quartermasters had a special ‘who can make the drunkest man obey?’ competition, of which Rohje only placed in, but never won. The poor lad was too level headed to get really angry and violent enough to garner attention. Instead, he relied on his quick thinking and intelligence to round up drunken pirates and trick them into doing his bidding. It got the job done, but it was the least respectable way to go about it- to the others anyway, as I didn’t really mind his methods. Quartermasters needed to be tough and loud, and Rohje… well, he still had some growing to do.

The meeting place was a giant semi circle of jagged rocks and reef, almost like half of a typical dragon enclave, but there was a stone platform within that was large enough to fit several crews of men for food, drink, and tomfoolery. But since it was out in the open with no shelter we still had to sleep within our respective ships until it was time to begin.

I was out on the main deck, overseeing the last minute preparations, somewhat dressed up for the occasion. It was no fancier or opulent than my usual clothing, but it was a little more conforming to traditional female attire. Though I liked being considered one of the guys, I also liked being a woman- at least as far as fashion and jewelry went.

I had on what was known as a ‘cutlass dress’ that was designed to be worn as a short dress, a long blouse, or an overdress. Mine was a teal color that was ruched at the waist and had bell sleeves that were cinched above my elbow. The skirt portion had two hem points on the sides with a front dip to the knees and a back dip to the ankles.

Along with it, I wore a brown corset belt with a bead design, black leggings, and knee length boots with shiny gold studs dotting the cuff. The dress had a low cut neckline that allowed me to wear and show off some gold and silver necklaces I had pilfered myself, that Satel had given me, or both. Save for the leggings and dress, everything was stolen from the richest snots in Rynrir and Kotija.

“Fishguts!” I called out when I noticed the scarred chef on deck. He stopped in his tracks immediately and saluted.

“Aye, Capt’n?”

“Ah think it’s time ta pull out that keg o’ Jadari Rusac. It must be aged ‘nough by now. Only let officers an’ contest winners have a drink- ah want ye ta guard that keg wit’ yer life… or ‘til ye get too drunk ta care,” I muttered the last part idly since I didn’t really care if he happened to shirk his orders later on. The only reason I wanted it to seem exclusive was because there wasn’t enough fancy liquor for everyone attending. No need for fights to break out over one type of beverage.

…Though I supposed it’d probably get worse as the day wore on and everyone got drunker. But the big bellied chef didn’t seem to mind the thought of guarding – and taking a few sips of – the Rusac liquor. ‘Rusac’ was the ancient word for ‘lotus’, and the type grown in Jadari was edible to humans and fermented into a lightly sweet malt that was smooth. Jadari Rusac was the second most prized alcoholic flower beverage, next to Si’ansirsa.

The stuff was probably too much for rowdy pirates with crude tastes, but this was the time for us to show off our riches and maintain the idea that we were the best ship to sail the seas. Though one day I’ll have to concede that my bragging was overkill, since nothing could ever beat a pirate ship that wasn’t ruled by a dragon.

“Oh ‘Tia-dear,” a singsong voice called out behind me, making my smug smirk vanish.

“Wot is it, Satel?” I inquired curiously as I turned on my heel to face him.

My eyes widened and my breath caught in my throat at the sight of him. Satel also saw fit to try on something new, and somehow it made him look very dangerous and alluring. He had on a long sleeved black shirt with a placket that extended down to his mid torso and was laced in a crisscross fashion with a string of black leather. At the cuffs and around the placket were double ruffles to give the shirt some flair without needing a vest.

The bottom of the shirt was tucked in to a very fitting pair of black leather pants that were tight enough to leave little to my imagination, yet not too much to cut off the blood flow. He was also wearing knee length corsair boots with one inch heels. To top off the look, his ever present über hat sat in that stylish tilt on his thick platinum blond hair, and the dark red ascot I once gave him was tied to his left arm to give a slight splash of color to the outfit and bring out his rust colored eyes.

He left his hair style alone, preferring to only braid it halfway and leave the rest of the strands to flutter in the breeze. His rapier-sword completed the look, hanging from his side from a leather belt.

In short, he looked like a very clean and suave seafaring pirate- the sexiest one I’ve ever encountered. I was highly tempted to drag him back into our cabin and further enjoy the view up close.

My gawking only lasted for a second before he lifted his arms outward and asked, “So what do you think?” He then turned around to show me that the back view was just as mouth-watering.

I was speechless as my eyes darted down to his posterior to see how well that leather fitted on him. It was practically a second skin, and my hands twitched with the desire to cup the taut flesh. I was only mildly disappointed when he turned back around, his long hair twirling with him until he stopped moving. I belatedly wiped at my mouth to make sure I hadn’t been drooling.

“Well?” he prodded, worried when I wouldn’t speak. His brows then furrowed a little and he tilted his head as he became self-conscience, “I wanted to try a seafarer look to better fit in but… no good?”

No good? By Elati’s thunder, that look was practically made for him! Not many seafarers could even wear that kind of hat and pull it off. But once I noticed Satel looking disappointed from my lack of an answer, I quickly scrambled for a flattering compliment that didn’t involve the words ‘take me’.

I made a few blundering attempts that only served to make Satel’s attire seem even less appealing before I let out a frustrated sigh and decided to be honest. “Ah’m sorry Satel, but ah don’t think ah have the capacity ta express how really good ye look in that.”

I didn’t want to use something as simple as ‘really good’, but it was far better than mumbling ‘sexy’ like a moron. My mate soon smiled in relief when he caught the meaning of my response before he allowed himself to look smug.

“Are you saying that I blew your mind?” he supplied as he took a step closer to me. I held back a delighted shiver seeing him put on an arrogant face as my words went straight to his ego. He then purred as he cradled my cheek in his hand. “Good. Now you know how I feel every time I look at you-oof!”

I couldn’t help myself at that point. I closed the distance between us in a rough hug before my hands reached back to grope his butt. I held back my moan as I reveled in the feel of his tight cheeks clad in leather. It should be criminal for a man’s ass to look and feel so good in leather… and that’s saying a lot, coming from a pirate.

“Ah don’t care wot else ye wear, but please keep the pants,” I pleaded as I tried to pull him flush against me. Now I get why he’d get so excited when I wear revealing scraps of clothing- but I still didn’t get why this was better than him completely naked. It must be the anticipation in wanting to see what’s underneath that was amplifying the feeling.

Satel chuckled at my actions and request before he let his hands rest close to my bottom at my lower back. “Only if you keep being my queen,” he growled gently before he let his lips find my ear for a quick nip.

“Always,” I replied instantly as I moved my head up to kiss him on the cheek. Though it was very difficult, I was trying to be mindful of the others around us and not let our affection get too out of hand. Not only were we standing in the middle of the main deck where my crew could clearly see us, Rutan was running around somewhere, and I didn’t want to scar him for life. It just wasn’t right to be aroused in front of a child.

Unfortunately, I accidentally wriggled against my mate when I attempted to give him a more innocent hug. The reaction was instantaneous as his pupils contracted into vertical slits and the color began darkening to a more brownish color. I didn’t mean to do that, but I couldn’t stop myself from enjoying the sight.

The über hat man gripped me tightly before he burrowed his nose against the crook of my neck and whispered huskily, “I donis suc’a r’ammynimc onid fionisy’ac muni’a suniym’s. R’as me’a soj’a auoo os auool d’acj omoyni.”

Though I didn’t quite understand all of it, I felt my heart quicken and a rush of heat trail downwards. The first thing he said was definitely a demand regarding my clothing under the dress, while the second part was a request of where he wanted me. I was almost weak-kneed at the tone of his voice alone, but hearing him talk near gibberish was an overload to my mind- I was very close to dropping everything and rushing off to the cabin with him.

But suddenly he jerked back as if he had been burned and shook his head to clear it. I had no idea why he’d reacted that way, since I was willingly responding to him. He then threw me into a state of confusion as he gave me an apologetic look and a gentle smile. “Sorry my sirsa- I don’t know what came over me.”

It was my turn to be shocked as I wondered what he was sorry for. He never regretting saying anything in regards to mating before… or did I mistranslate what he was telling me?

I rubbed the side of my face and brushed back some of my hair as I tried to compose myself and make sense of what had happened. “Ah’m still new at this, but did ye jus’ threaten me? Or was that an invitation fer something fun ta do later?”

I couldn’t imagine him threatening my life for any reason, even if I happened to have made him angry. But… at the same time, that dark and husky voice could be mistaken for something violent.

There was a resigned, but amused look in his eyes as he let out a short laugh and clarified. “I was flirting, but I just remembered that this isn’t an appropriate time for that. …We have…uh… things to do today.”

I raised an eyebrow as I wondered, “Since when did that ever stop you?”

But then I unwittingly lowered my gaze back to his new pants and began to realize that while they were form fitting, they were probably also too tight should he get ‘bigger’ down there. He must’ve reacted to me to the point of feeling very uncomfortable. When he noticed where my eyes were, he gave a sheepish grin before we both chuckled at the minor drawback of those provocative trousers.

“Ah got it,” I replied as I backed away a little more, “No tacklin’ ye outside o’ the cabin when yer wearin’ them, an’ always unzip before we do anythin’.”

“Heh, good idea,” he agreed, appearing very cute with that flustered look.

It was at that moment Rutan decided to grace us with an appearance. Perfect timing, since we needed a distraction to further calm our bodies. The boy was as energetic as ever as he jumped over barrels and ducked under the legs of those standing around and conversing. It seemed he was running an imaginary obstacle course, and we were the finish line.

“Pappy! Ma! Are ye gonna watch me compete in the fishin’ tournament?” he asked us eagerly, his storm grey eyes shining with excitement as he yanked at whatever loose clothing we had on.

Despite his short attention span and love for stunts, this incarnation of Rutan enjoyed the patient hobby of fishing. Just give him a rod and some bait, and he could sit there for hours waiting for a bite. I was highly tempted to use that to my advantage when I wanted him quiet and out of my hair, but I knew if I made him do it too often, then he would grow bored of it eventually.

Actually, Rutan had earned his first tattoo catching a fish more than half his size. He was six at the time, and while I baited his hook for him and helped lift the monster fish up to the deck, it was still his catch. It was a miracle in itself that it didn’t pull him overboard. Ordinarily I would’ve wanted him to receive his first tattoo at ten, but he made quite the accomplishment for someone his age. He wore the tattoo, which was a fish made to resemble the rare Moon Chaser, proudly on his left arm.

Satel proved that his new slacks were indeed flexible by kneeling down in front of Rutan and ruffled his light brown hair under his bandanna. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world, lad. I have to go somewhere soon, but I’ll be sure ta get back quickly and watch you,” he said, earning a pleased grin from the boy.

I blinked at that information and became curious. Satel didn’t mention anything to me about going anywhere.

He caught my eye and noticed my reaction. “I won’t be leaving yet- I still want to see you give your annual opening speech.”

Every year I was the one who had to greet the low lives and announce what was happening in my own special way. Satel claimed he liked watching me give speeches, but I was sure it was because he wanted to make sure that there were no assassins in the crowd. It wouldn’t be the first time a man might stowaway for the chance to shoot me, nor would it be anything new if there was a hopeful pirate wanting to take my place.

Though the latter half would be sorely disappointed to find that not only was I wearing my water armor, but that even if by the rare miracle that they succeeded to kill me and lived through Satel’s wrath, then they couldn’t claim the title or my powers. They would go straight to Rutan once he came of age.

“Okay, ah don’t mind that, but where are ye goin’?” I asked, purely out curiosity. He rarely ever made plans to miss out even a second of the meeting. Not sure why, considering that all he did was stand beside or behind me witnessing everything like a bodyguard. I didn’t even need one of those anyway.

“Well…” he trailed off before glancing down at Rutan. He seemed to debate on whether to tell with the boy around, or find some way to get rid of him.

But my son put on a false stern look and crossed his arms cutely. “Ye heard the lady- answer the question.”

My brow perked up yet again as I wondered where he picked that one up. Sounded like something Doc would say, considering that he was the only one on the ship that actually cared about special respect towards women. Everyone else just saw another pirate, regardless of gender.

“I decided that I should do more work around here, so I’m going to do some business real quick and get back before I miss the day,” he began before his eyes turned to me and used a more serious tone, “I’m going to talk with the Fodaren clan.”

Damn… I was so close to forgetting about them. After he confessed what he suspected was happening and how he didn’t know what to do, we stopped talking about it. I wanted to give him his space to think about it, and I admittedly began focusing more on my next big event. I was beginning to suspect that he was going to stay away from them and maybe send a message to inform them that we wanted nothing to do with them. At least that’s what I would’ve done- though my ‘message’ might not have been appropriate for orderly falucite ears.

“Ah wish ah could go wit’ ye fer support,” I admitted, knowing it was futile to try and stop him. Sure, I was worried something might go wrong and they would hold him accountable for it, but I had to let him go. He needed this- if he could get through this and succeed, then he’ll have the confidence needed to find his own way in life.

“Me too, but… there is something you can do for me to help. When the others start petitioning for your aid, try to not to accept any offers to go back to Elati- Anatil or Tiata would be preferable, and if you have to go to Naia, promise me you’ll avoid Rynrir from that side. If you can do that, then I won’t have to lie to them- not that I’ll tell them why you won’t be around,” he requested, a mischievous look shining in his rust-colored eyes.

I found myself glad to see that look- it meant he had a plan, and that he was certain of victory. The important thing was that he didn’t want to lie, nor did he want to tell the truth of what I was to him. As long as I did what he asked, then he could maintain honesty and probably escape without them being any wiser as to what was actually going on.

I could assume that he wanted me to avoid the Fodaren territory altogether, and remain out of the area they would think to find me. I wasn’t sure what good it would do, but I couldn’t ask him right then- Rutan was still staring up at us looking confused, and I kind of agreed that he had no place in this conversation. He didn’t need to worry about this kind of crap for a long time.

“Alright, that’s not too unreasonable- though Fiet might be disappointed. Ah guess Jasco and Pao will have ta step up an’ help him,” I replied, maintaining a grin and a cool demeanor. The less serious we made this sound, the less nosey and worried Rutan would be. The boy may be a brat sometimes, but there was no question that he wanted to help out… whether we wanted it or not.

Satel did seem relieved that I wasn’t asking, though I wasn’t sure if it was because of my wanting to exclude Rutan, or if he didn’t want to tell me yet. He did open his mouth to say something, but we were interrupted as Rohje ran up to us.

“Capt’n, it’s time. They’re waitin’ fer ye ta make an ass o’ yerself,” the red haired boy announced, smirking.

“Aye, ah’m comin’,” I answered absentmindedly until what he said clicked, “…Hey!”

Rohje and the others laughed before the young quartermaster saluted to me and ran off. He sure was in a good mood- not that he shouldn’t be. The Annual Meeting was probably a pirates’ second favorite event of the year, after Elit’s Solstice, which occurs on the longest night of the year- actually there were two of them if one traveled to the other hemisphere in time.

Rutan immediately ran off, wanting to see all who gathered. If we’re lucky, there might be some kids out there around his age for him to play with. While it didn’t happen too often, some wenches catch up to the man that left a baby in her and sought to dump the burden on them. If they were boys, they were likely to keep them and train them to be future pirates. It was rare to see a mother that would dare leave a girl in the company of rowdy men, even if the father happened to be the captain.

…I’m still anticipating the day when one of Hammer’s many girlfriends might leave behind a babe or two. Good thing that lass in Syrde wised up before she was burdened with a child.

I was cut off from my musings when Satel’s hand gently cupped my cheek to turn my head towards him. He then drew close for a small kiss and backed away.

“Though you don’t need it, good luck out there,” he told me softly with a fond look on his face.

I mirrored his face and nodded. “Same ta ye, but ye’ll need it. Don’t waste too much time wit’ them- if ye take too long, then the boys will get too drunk ta play anythin’ worth dancin’ to.”

“I take it you’re formally asking me to dance with you later?” he inquired with a grin. He then surged forward for one more kiss. “I look forward to it.”

I heard someone call for me, signaling I had no more time left to dawdle. I was in no hurry to leave Satel’s side, even though he promised to stay long enough for my welcoming speech. I felt as though I wanted to remember how he looked just then- and it probably wasn’t because of his delectable leather trousers.

For some reason, I was scared of how his meeting with the Fodaren would turn out. I knew this wouldn’t be the last time I’d see him, but I couldn’t stop the doubts from forming. What if this seafaring life wasn’t cut out for him and this proved that he was out of his element? I didn’t want him to become unhappy, like I did when I lived at the homestead.

But no matter what I felt, I had to let him try and hope for the best. I knew exactly what he was going through, and the only thing I could do at this point was support him completely, no matter what he decided.

I took a deep breath before I finally turned away and left the ship, Satel following after me.

To the Next Chapter

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