7. Meeting of the Captains

Chapter 7

Meeting of the Captains

            It was fun at first, catching up on the news of the other seas, but after a while I started getting… fidgety. In the back of my mind I couldn’t stop thinking about Satel, and it only got worse as we moved on to the rather repetitive subject of who needed my help the most. When the arguments started, I’d zone out and worry more about my mate, only to snap back into focus and take control once the ‘conversation’ before it got too wild.

Usually I did a better job compartmentalizing my work as a pirate with my concerns as a mate, but I guess it was different this time. It was rare for Satel to be handling something that was beyond his control.

But, I had to pay attention- Satel was actually depending on me to make a decision that would enable him to act out whatever plan he had. Damned if I knew how it was going to work, but I trusted that he at least knew the theory of what he was doing. Or he could’ve told me all of that crap so that I’d feel like I was doing something useful for him. Either way, it did sound like a good idea to at least avoid the vicinity of Bardam’s kingdom for a while.

I took a swig of my ale and hid my grimace at the taste of it. I forgot which genius brought it along, but it was allegedly a ‘legendary brew’ from north Orja. Obviously I was going to have to either recruit or maim the creator- anyone who could make a concoction that tastes like a combination of bile and the smell of ass must be evil. To make matters worse, the drink was piss-warm… disgusting.

I idly wondered if the brew was drugged and that was why it tasted bad. It didn’t matter to me though if that were the case, as I was immune to human drugs. But then, the entire table was drinking from the same keg, so it could be problematic. Still, no one was acting unusually, so I dismissed the thought of a poisoning or assassination attempt- it was just nasty.

Great Tiata! How could this even been called ale?

“Guys, tone it down,” I called out warningly when two of the hot headed captains began raising their voices. “Yellin’ at each other ain’t gonna convince me much o’ anythin’.”

“Well ye did tell them ta fight it out,” Jasco reminded me with a laugh as he downed more of the ass-drink.

“Ah thought ah said ‘work’ it out,” I replied, trying to remember if I had used the wrong wording.

“Wot’s the difference?” Pao inquired before the table erupted into a giant bout of laughter. I even cracked a smile at that- leave it to pirates to use fists as means of negotiation.

“Alright lads, here’s the deal- it’s almost spring time in the south, an’ ah’d rather head ta where it’s warmer. If ye lads in Tiata need me help, then come up wit’ a really good reason fer me ta go there,” I suggested, trying to narrow down my possibilities.

I really didn’t like the cold, mostly due to the lower body temperature I had thanks to Satel’s hormones, but I also didn’t like Tiata’s waters in general. While the goddess didn’t mess with me so long as I didn’t abuse my power, there was still the fact that the Daedeleth lived on a small island to the east of Orja, and their main territory covered the entire northern expanse of the continent- all of it touched Tiata’s waters.

While I never had to encounter falucite other than Satel and his family, I didn’t want to test the Fates, nor did I want to put Satel in the position of having to deal with them because of me. Though, ironically, the Daedeleth were usually very amendable when it came to destroying cities- they seemed to favor the worst of the Word of the Fates and allowed the destruction, thinking it would be as They wanted. But the whole mess with the Fodaren clan was getting hairy enough as it was, and Satel had to be doubly careful when dealing with the Daedeleth, due to certain Fatesbane-related secrets.

“S’fine- we don’t need yer help fer raids anyway,” A large burly man from Kotija responded with a nonchalant tilt of his head. Most men from Kotija were bulky and hairy, mostly to keep them warm in the perpetually cold climates of the continent.

The man sitting next to him was also from the same area, and was only one size smaller than the first. He mimicked the other’s pose and added, “Aye, we can hold our own on raids- our only problem be the big coastal cities wit’ the advanced defenses. They can send weapons out ta other towns ta stop us if we’re not careful. If ye can take ‘em down fer us, we’ll be golden ‘til they recover.”

“Actually Granny, it shouldn’t take too long ta thrash some o’ the cities givin’ us trouble- ye could be on yer way ta the south before it gets too cold in the north,” the final Tiatan representative said, giving me an idea I never considered before.

While technology and weapons on land have improved significantly, it was still expensive to obtain for most places. That’s why pirates could get some easy, but slim, pickings on the poorer villages along the coast. But as for the slightly more prosperous ones that could afford to buy some protection- well, that’s where it got tricky. I didn’t need to even mention the richer cities that probably have smiths and inventors living within their walls- only I could take them down.

Taking down the rich ports and destroying their defenses would only be a temporary solution, as they could rebuild and refortify, but it should be enough for regular pirates to take advantage and stock up on treasures. Actually, that might be a faster way to help them without having to be there to ‘hold their hands’ for every raid. Huh… why didn’t I think of this before?

“Not a bad idea…” I mumbled as my mind started turning gears. “Ah could take care o’ yer problem an’ sail down ta Anatil long ‘nough ta do the same service fer them. If ah time it right, ah could also continue on ta Naia an’ circle back ta Elati by next spring o’er there- that would take care o’ everyone at some point.”

…And it would enable me to miss winter altogether. I thought that was an excellent idea. The only reason I couldn’t do that before was because helping others on raids was so time consuming. Even when it was just me and my crew, I still had to ensure there was nothing that could go wrong and endanger my men- that process could take days if not weeks, and that’s not even counting the time it took to discover the perfect vulnerable spot.

“Aye, but that don’t help us none in Naia. We’d still have ta wait fer ye ta get ta us,” one of the captains muttered, disgruntled.

“But ah’ll be there eventually- perhaps in as little as four months. Not only that, but ah could make it ta where ye won’t need me again fer a while,” I replied, liking the idea more and more.

The only foreseeable problem was that if I chose to do this all over the world, then I would need to limit my targets to one or two in each area so it wouldn’t alarm everyone and teach them to expect me. I would also need to raid out the ones in Tiata and Naia so that the goddesses wouldn’t view it as me being simply destructive for the fun of it. They could count that as abuse and stifle my powers for it.

But the most appealing part would be the fact that I could raid at my own leisure, rather than plan multiple ones for the benefit of others. And here I thought I was going to avoid Tiata this year… The captains from there were getting dangerously smart if they were going to come up with such good reasons to change my mind.

“Sounds like a plan ta me,” Jasco said, backing me up. “Ah know we’ll be fine ‘til ye get back- ye grounded Bardam, so that’ll help us out fer a while.”

“An’ if Fiet is smart, then he’ll grant us more time by downing his remainin’ ships before he gets back ta his kingdom- he is closer at the moment,” Pao added with a devious smirk.

“Aye… if the man is smart,” I agreed, unable to resist a jab at the man’s intelligence. I was glad to hear that they didn’t need me- it was one less worry, and a source of pride to know that fellow pirates of Elati were so independent of me. …Couldn’t say for sure about Fiet, but at least there was Jasco and Pao to run to when I wasn’t around.

“Well, it seems ta be settled then,” I announced, noting the still disappointed faces on the ones from Naia. The pirates from Anatil seemed satisfied that I would be coming soon enough after a short excursion to Tiata. “If all goes as planned, then ah’ll be able ta travel ‘round the world faster an’ eliminate some problems fer ye. Jus’ be patient- an’ next year ye can debate where ah’ll start out, if ye still want ta fight each other.”

I still didn’t get a better reaction from the Naians. “Oh come now, yer situation ain’t that bad, is it?” I asked, wanting to make sure that they weren’t in dire trouble.

“We can get by wit’ weaker villages, but we’re in severe need o’ better defenses. Our cannons are barely ‘nough ta stave off the navies,” the captain who was protesting the most told me as he glared down at the wood of the table.

I raised an eyebrow at that. Wasn’t it the Naians who were bragging about their newly ‘liberated’ long range cannons last year? What happened to them?

“Ah thought ye hit the mother load of artillery- or was that someone else?” I inquired with suspicion, now worried about the downed looks they were expressing. By their attitudes, it was obvious that they had been kicked and humiliated. I needed to know who to beat up to avenge them.

The man next to him, who wore a similar defeated expression, just shook his head. “We did have some good weapons… but some sneaky creatures ambushed us on the high seas an’ stole anythin’ powerful.”

“Creatures?” I echoed in confusion. There had to be a reason they used that word instead of demons or people- and who other than demons could successfully attack and steal from a pirate ship in the middle of the ocean?

“Can’t say who or wot they are, but they somehow get on our ship wit’out vessels o’ their own, an’ they disappear in a cloud o’ smoke. Ah dunno ‘bout the others, but they don’t bother me ship so long as ah don’t steal weapons.”

“That’s impossible!” Jasco yelled, unable to believe the story. Even I had some trouble grasping it. There were no known creatures that could ‘disappear’ in a cloud of smoke… maybe a falucite with a smoke bomb, but why would they play such silly games- and why just take weapons? Something was… off about this.

“Aye, the same goes fer me as well. Who e’er they are, they jus’ want us defenseless for wotever reason,” a fourth one added. He was a black bearded man in his forties, and he went by the name of Savage, likely derived from what the coastals thought of him as.

Captains came and went at this table, many not coming back due to accidents or other business, so I didn’t bother to learn many names. Savage was one of the few exceptions because he was one of the rare few who had a daughter. It was hard for me to forget that little fact, and he also made a point to keep contact with me because I understood his daughter’s situation.

“Stolen weapons, huh? They don’t take wot ye already have? An’ they really leave ye alone if ye take other things?” I asked, wanting to confirm my building suspicion.

When I really thought about it, I suppose the falucite could have some involvement in it, though it disturbed me that they’re somehow finding a way onto pirate ships. Falucite teleportation magicks require the caster to have physically been to the area they wanted to go because they needed visual aid to direct them.

I couldn’t be sure, but those knuckleheads might’ve been stealing from the same place over and over again, and the items they were taking could be of importance to the falucite. It bothered me when I had first learned this, but Satel’s kind controlled the advancement of human technology. If there was something they didn’t want humans to have, they would go as far as eliminating the inventors and taking all of their work to keep it from spreading.

If they thought the weapons were of any threat to them or to the balance of power in humans, then they would do anything to get them back.

Savage looked to his fellow captains to be sure that they were all experiencing the same thing before he nodded to me. I crossed my arms and leaned back in my chair. “Sorry ta disappoint ye, but this might be out o’ me hands. If all they want is stolen weapons, then they should have no issues wit’ something given ta ye by yer brothers from Tiata.”

“…Wot!?” the large man shouted when he finally realized I was volunteering their good cannons away.

I gave them a grin and said, “Well, we’re gonna get some shiny new ones, so ye won’t need the ones ye have, right?”

The Tiatans paused at that before conceding to my point. There was no purpose in keeping old, but still powerful equipment if I was going to help them get more- there would be no room on their ship, and it would probably put on too much weight. So long as I went with them and did all of the attacking, then they had nothing to worry about. Plus, this solved the Naians’ problem of having no defense- now they’ll have something to help them until I could aid them later in the year.

“So that’s it? Yer jus’ gonna give us weapons an’ avoid the issue like a coward!?” the first Naian who’d addressed me shouted as he slammed his hands on the table.

I gave him a cool look as I threaded my fingers behind my head. “Who said ah wasn’t goin’ ta help ye? Ah only said it might be out o’ me hands- ah have a feelin’ wot might be goin’ on, but someone else’ll have ta take care o’ it. Ah’ll need ye ta show me husband where ye been gettin’ yer weapons an’ have him deal wit’ it. Sounds like ye might’ve stumbled ‘cross a falucite problem,” I responded casually.

Honestly, calling me a coward like that… I could see why he might get angry though. I did sound as though I didn’t believe them, nor did I seem concerned enough about their problem. But… I probably shouldn’t be volunteering Satel like that without his permission. Sure, he offered to deal with his kind on my behalf, but I shouldn’t assume that he would want to investigate every little problem.

“Falucite? Is that wot it is?” The Naians did seem a little shocked and relieved to know what had been terrorizing them- and there was a little less shame on their part knowing that higher beings could be behind it all. It was difficult enough fighting off greater demons, but to have one’s bounty stolen back by anything less than falucite was embarrassing. Humans just didn’t have the capabilities to contend with them on even ground.

“Aye- if it were any other creature, ye’d think they’d take more an’ try ta kill ye,” I pointed out, while inwardly hoping I was right. It was unusual for Satel’s kind to perform in that manner, but …I really couldn’t imagine who could obviously invade a pirate ship and yet only take back one type of stolen property. Only falucite weren’t greedy.

“Humph! Then why go through wit’ all that trickery? Ah thought falucite would be direct an’ jus’ ask fer wot they want outright- like yer husband,” Savage asked, sounding irritated that he might’ve been concerned over nothing. For all they knew, ghosts could’ve been haunting them… provided they believed in such idiotic superstitions.

Actually that was something I wanted to know as well- though Satel did love his tricks, he – and the clan – were always to the point and very efficient about their business when it was serious. …But I can’t say the same for any young falcie that might be new to missions- even Satel had his moments when he was younger.

Though I wasn’t about to voice my uncertainty or answer his question. It was best to let them think that I was on top of everything and that I knew what was going on.

Instead I let out an unconcerned shrug and muttered, “Prob’ly a misunderstandin’ or somethin’.” I then deftly redirected the conversation. “Tell ye wot- ah won’t make a final decision ‘til later. Let me ask ‘round wit’ me sources before ah decide whether ta start off in Naia or Tiata. Either way, ah like the idea o’ circling ‘round, so ah will visit e’erywhere.”

That seemed to satisfy everyone this time- at least until I finally told them where I planned to go. In my mind, I was still leaning towards Tiata, just to get it over with before the cold autumn winds began blowing from Kotija, but I couldn’t completely dismiss the oddity happening over in Naia. …Why were the seas, controlled by the goddesses that didn’t particularly approve of me, in so much turmoil? I’d have loved to pick Anatil over all else…

I was soon able to catch a flash of white down in the crowd and darted my eyes over to see that Satel was back and making his way to us. Relief and happiness filled me at seeing him unharmed, and looking a little happy himself. That must have meant everything went well.

“Speak o’ the Fates, there’s one o’ me sources. Let’s reconvene near the end o’ the celebrations,” I announced as I stood up and lifted my mug like I was making a toast. “Go on an’ enjoy yerselves- drink yerselves stupid an’ sober up in time fer me rulin’.”

With giant grins on their faces, they all followed suit and shouted, “Aye, aye, Granny!”

And with that, the Meeting of the Captains came to an end. They began leaving the table to go see what their respective crews were up to- no good, no doubt. The stone platform we were on was elevated significantly on this end, giving us a nice high perch to conduct business and oversee what was happening. I remained by the table for only a minute longer before I edged toward the step-like stones, and then bounded down to Satel’s level to meet him halfway.

I wanted to run to him, but in a burst of good cheer at seeing him, I ended up jumping at the last step and flung myself into his arms. My mate staggered back a little at my unexpected move, but quickly recovered and wrapped his arms around me. I looped my arms around his neck and held on tightly as he twirled us around once, both of us chuckling in delight. Maker, we were acting like lovers who hadn’t seen each other in years- he couldn’t have been gone for more than an hour!

It didn’t matter to me that there were other people around who were likely mocking us with kissey-faces or shouting demands that we do something lewd to each other. All that was important was that Satel was back with no obvious injuries. The whistles and other annoying calls became louder when the über hat man leaned down to kiss me and simultaneously lower a hand to my rear for a good squeeze.

I was inwardly annoyed and surprised that he would do that in front of a crowd, but then I remembered that he was wearing those enticing leather pants and also had something for me to enjoy. I pulled back long enough to scan the bodies and ensure Rutan wasn’t around to witness it before I pulled my mate back for a rough kiss and reached around to grip his bottom.

The cheering got louder from my actions, and as Satel bent me back some to deepen the kiss. Some part of me didn’t like how our affections was becoming a source of entertainment, but another side of me found it surprisingly easy to accept it. Maybe it was because of the years of practice having to kiss in front of his family members- though they didn’t make a big deal over it.

When we pulled away a second time, I found that I couldn’t get angry with that face- his eyes were twinkling with joy and his smile was genuine. To him I was probably the only person that was currently existing in his little world. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same blessing- it was hard to ignore the others while we weren’t kissing. Why they have to stare at us? Were they unable to get their own lovers that they had to use us to sate their fantasies?

Somehow I doubted that was the case, but I suppose it didn’t matter in the end. The fact was that while I was kissing someone and letting him manhandle me, no one else would get the opportunity without severe bodily harm. Watching me with Satel was all they could do.

Despite my inner complaints about the others, my eyes were focused only on him. There was a lot that needed to be said and asked- either about his excursion to the Fodaren clan or about what was just discussed at the meeting. But I couldn’t find my voice or even fathom where to begin, nor could I figure out what should be mentioned first.

Satel, though, didn’t seem to care- he wasn’t interested in business at the moment. He moved his hands to my arms and started pulling me along, back toward the center of the gathering.

“I think they’re about to play some music, and I do owe you a dance or two,” he commented, enticing me to forget about everything for a while.

“That’s true- an’ we still need to watch Rutan’s tournament later,” I agreed, following after him. There was plenty of time to talk later- why not enjoy the celebrations while they were still going on?

“You know he’s going to cheat by asking the mermaids to catch something for him, right?” he inquired bemusedly, knowing that that wasn’t completely true.

“Only if it looks like he’s losing,” I defended with a smirk. The boy didn’t need to cheat when he was that naturally lucky. …Plus, I’d ordered the mermaids to stay away from here so that they wouldn’t be tempted to snack on anyone.

Satel and I chuckled over it, as we immersed ourselves among our people. For this moment, I just wanted to pretend there was nothing wrong with the world and be grateful that my loved ones were safe and sound. Everything else could just catch up later.

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

I wasn’t the only girl there to dance with, though Satel wasn’t too keen on sharing me with just anyone. Savage’s twelve year old daughter, Rosie, was also available, though only if Savage approved of the scum. The little lass was as beautiful and sweet as the rose she was named after, but also possessed the seafaring toughness needed to be a pirate. But she was still Savage’s priceless treasure, and there was no way in five hells he would let anything harm her- be it trouble or a potential boyfriend.

Satel was my dance partner the whole time, though I did reserve one dance to Rutan and one to Rohje, of whom I considered a second son even though I didn’t always treat him as such. Dancing was sort of a shared hobby between my mate and I- other than tormenting humans, of course.

We discovered it not long after we had first mated, on a date that I didn’t plan to have. At the time, I was regressing in my vows to give Satel a chance and was worried about the possibility that I might not fall in love with him. But when he pulled me to the dance floor, I realized how well I fit with him and before I knew it, I was having fun.

I just loved moving to the beat and the close contact with him. The type of music didn’t even matter- I loved the fast, upbeat ones, just as much as slow, romantic ones. We could dance the entire night away, if the band was willing to play that long. Sometimes Satel would take me out to festivals just so we could have the excuse to dance to our heart’s content.

It had to end, though, when Rutan’s event finally came up. Since we were making too much noise, competitors and those wanting to watch had to go on one of the ships and sail out to a quieter place. Once my son’s hook was in the water, he entered what was known to the fishing world as ‘the zone’- the perfect meditative stance, where nothing else but his line existed.

At this point, I believed it was just luck that determined if anyone would get a fish of any size, but I was confident that Rutan had the skill and strength to pull up anything he might catch- so long as it wasn’t another monster like that one he’d caught two years ago. The time limit was two hours, so Satel and I had plenty of time to curl up somewhere together and finally have a talk.

We chose an area next to some barrels that was close enough to watch Rutan, but hidden enough so that no one would notice us easily. We were both sitting on the floor, his back against a barrel and me in his lap, cuddling. Satel used his magicks to mask our voices, but we kept our tones down for the sake of the tranquility.

“So? How did it go wit’ the Fodaren clan?” I questioned him excitedly, eager to hear his story. “Did ye kick their asses, or jus’ chew ‘em out?”

Satel chuckled at that before he nervously fingered the brim of his über hat. “Well, I don’t think I was anywhere near as heroic as you’re imagining, but I did stand up to them,” he replied, keeping a small grin on his lips.

“Yeah? Wot did ye say ta them? An’ wot did they want? Was it wot ye were suspectin’?” I asked, shooting off the questions as they came to me. Heh, I was acting like Rutan with the way I was so interested in it- but I soon calmed down upon seeing my mate’s expression sober some.

“Yeah… not only did they try to convince me to allow you to mate with Bardam, they admitted that he was at fault, rather than blame you for anything. I was hoping for you to leave the area so I could insinuate that I’ve removed you as punishment, but that backfired slightly. I had to fall back on grandfather’s advice and the elders reluctantly agreed with me,” he responded, earning a curious glance from me. I could tell by the heated expression behind his eyes that he was holding back something.

“Is that all? Sounds like there’s more,” I prodded, hoping he would tell me. He was clearly upset over something because seconds later his body tensed up and he held back a growl.

“That fool owner of Bardam’s wouldn’t let it go- he demanded answers from me and even threatened to take away ‘privileges’ he believed the clan granted us! Never before had I wanted to…to deck someone so badly,” he finished after struggling for the adequate word to express his distaste. I thought it was adorable that he was adopting seafarer terminology, and that helped lessen my concerns over his sudden anger.

There was that fire in his eyes that was similar to what he’d show when thinking of Cyirlie. Looks like my man found himself another mortal enemy.

“Then wot?” I urged, wondering if he did end up decking the snot. He seemed pretty pleased with himself when he got back, and I always believed that a good punch to a person or object relieved some tension, so it could’ve been possible.

“Well…” my mate then looked sheepish. “I turned around and threatened them back by saying their privileges mean nothing, and that they can’t stop us if we acted as we wanted. Then I proceeded to blame that glasses-wearing moron for provoking me- so as to remind them that I was defending myself and not starting a war.”

I let out an impressed whistle to that. Satel never had the balls to speak so boldly to older falucite before- he was always so respectful, no matter how much he might not care for someone. Well, not counting his own family, of course. For some reason he was fairly disrespectful to Maetira and Didra, though they brought it on themselves with their sadistic ways.

Though I had to admit that his being a ‘bad boy’ to his superiors was kind of a turn on. Not that I ever viewed my mate as someone weak, but this did make him seem like someone who couldn’t be pushed around.

I just had to know what happened next! “Wot did they say to that?” I inquired, completely transfixed on him.

“Heh… I…” he trailed off and sounded a little embarrassed as he admitted, “…I didn’t stick around to hear a response. I left before they could have a chance in stopping me- if they were going to try to, that is.”

I let out a short laugh and leaned my head against the crook of his neck. “Ah suppose that’s fer the best,” I commented, easily holding back what I’d normally say to those who talked big, then ran away.

If it were anyone other than Satel, then I’d call them a coward for running- but I had long since learned that with my mate, they were called ‘tactical retreats’. Satel really did have a problem with running his mouth when threatened, and he knew better than to fight battles he knew he couldn’t win. It was completely different from the braggarts who bluffed obnoxiously, then prove how pathetic they were by not backing up their words.

“So wot ‘bout that plan ye had? Ye still need me ta avoid Rynrir?” Now that I knew the story, I could see how leaving Elati would put us in the advantage should that ‘moron’ Satel mentioned still wish to pursue the matter. But at the same time, I might not have to go to the extremes to avoid them, thus leaving Naia a safe option should I need to go there soon.

Even at this point, I wasn’t entirely sure where they had been getting their weapons- I was kind of afraid to ask. It would only be my luck if it was southern Rynrir instead of Jadari. Satel might still have to deal with the Fodaren… provided that he will agree to help out.

“I’ve already told them that you won’t be around- and that I could make it to where you’d never come back until Bardam found a new bride, but I didn’t reaffirm anything after they revealed their intentions. I would rather you stay away from Elati for a while anyway, just in case that Delar prat decides not to agree with his elders,” he replied, surprising me a little with the insult.

Wasn’t prat an old slang word for ass? Goodness, he must hate that guy, he never adds derogatory remarks about people. He never even gave such a nickname to Cyirlie- and she once tried to kill him!

“But,” he continued as he glanced down at me, appearing a little perplexed, “are you saying you haven’t decided where you are going?”

“‘Fraid not,” I responded, shaking my head. “Ah ended up wit’ a stalemate choice between Tiata an’ Naia, an’ ah sorta need yer help in decidin’ which ta pick.”

He appeared pleasantly surprised, since it wasn’t often I needed help with a decision. “Oh? And how may I serve my lovely queen?” he asked in a pleasant tone.

I gave him a brief summary of the meeting, and relayed what Savage and the other Naians had been experiencing as of late. I also told him of my suspicions that it could be the work of falucite and that the pirates might’ve been getting a hold of toys they shouldn’t be playing with.

Satel listened carefully, closing his eyes every now and then to think on it, before he had a few questions of his own.

“It’s does sound as though my brethren were taking back that which belonged to them, but I can’t imagine someone having the patience in finding which ship stole what and where to wait for them again to sneak aboard. Remember, they would have to have been on the ship before in order to teleport there,” he reminded me, as if I somehow forgotten that fact. He then continued with, “Also, they would have to be fairly powerful- not many falcie would have the ability to remove many heavy objects alone. If it were a member of my race, then they would have to be an adult.”

I wasn’t quite sure if he was agreeing with me that the culprit was what I suspected, or if he didn’t think it was possible given the rather bizarre actions. It wasn’t impossible for falucite to do this, but the idea that they managed to get on a pirate ship while it was in the middle of the sea was a little farfetched.

“But what would you have me do? Go to the clans and outright ask them if they have infiltrated pirate ships for the sake of reclaiming property?”

I winced at Satel’s question, knowing that that was probably the fastest and surest way to find out if they were involved in some way. But if this was all happening in the Fodaren territory…

“Ah don’t have the heart ta tell ye ta do that- not so soon after wot ye had ta deal wit’. Ah jus’ want them ta feel as though the problem is solved or goin’ ta be solved.” I then pulled away from my mate enough to look him in the eye and requested, “Could ye jus’ pop in e’ery now an’ then on Savage’s ship an’ mebbe have them show ye the area where they were attacked an’ where they stole?”

“I could, but what purpose would that serve? Would they be at ease knowing that it was indeed the doing of my kind?” the blond questioned me in an unreadable tone. Damn it, I hated when he did that- I couldn’t tell if he was admonishing me, or being supportive. Though he didn’t mean to, he had a way of making me feel stupid sometimes.

“Aye, they would feel better knowin’ that someone won’t go after their equipment, so long as they don’t steal from the culprits again. Ah think it’s the unknown that they’re worried ‘bout, rather than the defenses,” I answered, feeling confident of that. Savage and the others did seem to relax when I mentioned the falucite- I gave a name to their fears.

“Fair enough, but… what if it isn’t a falucite? What would you have me do then?”

My eyes widened at that before I looked away from him, toward the ground. I turned in his lap so that my back was against his chest, then drew up my knees and rested my chin on them. After a moment I lowly admitted, “Ah didn’t think that far. Ah can’t imagine anyone else, other than demons.”

Satel chuckled at that, the asshole- I could feel the vibrations of it on my back. He leaned more against me and wormed his arms around my belly, resting his chin on the top of my head. I could get irritated that he found my uncertainty funny, but then I had just laughed at his ‘tactical retreat’ moments prior. Come to think of it, it was rather interesting that we didn’t get into a fight- usually we’d start arguing over something stupid, especially with Satel’s recent mood swings. But lately it was like I was the only one he wouldn’t get mad at- instead I seem to find myself more and more subject to his increased amorous behavior.

I was pulled back to reality when he leaned closer and smirked. “That’s not like you- usually you’d have at least three different scenarios planned out before proposing anything,” he muttered jovially against my ear before his lips found a lobe to nibble. I willingly tilted my head to give him more access, both enjoying the attention and feeling reassured that his seductive trousers would prevent him from going too far.

“Ah know, but ah was distracted because o’ me thoughts strayin’ to a certain bastard- ah couldn’t completely focus ‘til ah knew he was safe,” I said with a smirk, wondering how he’d react. My eyes snapped open when he lifted me with his magicks enough to fit his hand between us and unzip his pants. Uh-oh. Well, so much for that…

“That’s very sweet of you to worry about me, my sirsa,” he purred as he gently lowered me so that my bottom was pressed firmly against his crotch. I didn’t know why I was rapidly losing control of the situation, as I found myself arching back against him instead of discouraging him. But when the fingers of one hand began teasing the underside of my breasts, my body decided to overrule my mind.

Illusions be damned- Rutan wasn’t that far away, and I didn’t feel comfortable engaging this behavior in front of him, even if he couldn’t see or hear us. The important thing was that I could see him, and I felt sick with the idea of doing anything more than a kiss.

Yet I still felt a curl of excitement start from my belly and then radiate out to my limbs- Elit how could I be doing this… I noticed that my eyes refused to look in my son’s direction. Perhaps it was a conflict of my mind and body- my mind knowing that this was wrong to me, but my body not caring and wanting to be pleasured. Though it was surprisingly hard, I had to fight it.

I shook my head and tried to shrug his kisses away from my neck. “Ain’t this a little too public a place?” I managed to get out, my voice surprisingly tight.

Funny I should say that, considering that just weeks ago I wasn’t nearly as mortified to him rub against me with certain other audiences. I guess there was a massive difference between grown, experienced men, and my sweet, innocent baby boy. And even if he technically wasn’t being exposed to it, I didn’t want to associate any form of mature intimacy with him around. I already had to accept that one day he’d grow up to play with mermaids, but at least then he’d be older.

“You’re so cute,” he replied, sounding like he was holding in his laughter. For once I was hoping that he was actually trying to prank me- this was getting a little too intense. “But don’t worry about a thing.” His kisses moved down to my collarbone. “…I will take care of everything.”

I gripped my leggings as I felt my face heat up and my heart start racing. Just what was he doing to me!? He was attacking all the places that turned my body to mush- the things he’d only dare attempt in bed! I was pretty sure he wasn’t aiming for a nice cuddle or a restrained make-out session- he was intending to get very intimate with me. The question was if he was going to risk it out here in the open, or if he was just driving me insane so that I would beg him to take us to somewhere more private.

…Wait a minute. My mind scrambled to recall the last thing he feverishly told me. What did his ‘taking care of things’ actually mean here?

“W-wot are ye talkin’ ‘bout? Take care o’ wot?” I grated out while struggling to regain control of my own body. I felt his smirk against my skin.

“Why, I’ll take care of everything regarding Savage and his companions,” he responded teasingly before placed another kiss there. “And if there is evidence to support that other falucite are not behind it, I’ll track down the true culprits and eliminate them for you.” He then kissed his way back up to my jaw. “Who knows? Maybe it’s not just pirates who are the victims.”

He actually he had a valid point- there was no proof that pirates were the only ones being targeted. For all we knew, some random sea demons were stealing weapons from everyone they could- to decorate their homes or protect their clans.

Finally he turned my head so I could see his grin and mischievous red-brown eyes before he faked a confused look and asked, “What did you think I was talking about, dearest?”

I was both frustrated and embarrassed that he not only managed to make me forget what we were originally talking about, but that I now had no idea what was going to happen next. Was he just toying with me to get a rise out of me? Or did he still want to finish what he’d started?

…How in five hells did we end up like this anyway? Sure, I was in his lap and we were cuddling, but we were just having a serious conversation. Did I do something to provoke him?

“Ugh, stop distractin’ me,” I grumbled as I placed my hands over his to stop his daring massage.

“But I want to play,” he crooned seductively, “We’ve talked about business enough for today.”

“Ah don’t have the luxury ta play all day,” I retorted, hoping he wouldn’t take offense to that. With him not working as much as he used to, that could be viewed as a jab against him. But even though I had said that, I still felt as though I wanted to keep going- and my bodily urges were just going to encourage him. Satel obviously didn’t want to quit unless I meant it.

I was the one who was going to have to nip it in the bud somehow, but I didn’t feel as though I had the strength to resist him this time. There was nothing stressing me out or demanding my attention right then. Instead, I held up my arm and decided to try something. With my other hand I brought my nails up and dug into the skin of my wrist deeply. I then bit my lip from the sting as I pulled down, leaving a trail of red welts in their wake.

My mate immediately flinched back, letting go of me and nearly plastering himself against the barrels behind him. Pain not only instantly put me out of the mood, it also repelled Satel for a split second. I remembered him having a similar reaction when he tried to kiss me while I was suffering from a severe case of Seafarer’s Madness. This curious reflex had something to do with the falucite body and how they responded to the feelings of their mates, be it pain or pleasure.

Satel recovered as quickly as he’d reacted, a frown present on his face as all thoughts of mating vanished from his mind. He was now focused on my injured arm as he gingerly grabbed my wrist and held it up for his inspection. Without a word, he lowered his face to the red lines and began licking my skin until all traces of the wound was gone.

I hid my relieved smile as I let him heal me. It seemed that I had found a last resort method to get him off me if there were ever an emergency that required my immediate attention. But I knew I shouldn’t use it too often, for various reasons.

“You know I don’t like it when you get hurt, ‘Tia-dear,” he mumbled disapprovingly after a few last licks. He’d say that every time- though he didn’t actually feel my pain, he still hated that I was feeling it. This wasn’t part of the reflex- he just cared about me and wanted me to feel better.

“Sorry ‘bout that- I jus’ wanted ta snap ye out o’ it before it led down ta something we don’t have time fer. Don’t forget that we’re here fer Rutan- he wants us ta be there when he wins, ye know,” I told him as I squirmed to get out of his lap. I managed to get up and stretch a little before I glanced around to ensure no one was coming. I wasn’t sure if my stunt had disrupted Satel’s magicks, but I didn’t want to take the chance of someone seeing him in his exposed state.

His softening member was peeking through the opening in his pants, easily noticeable amongst the black leather. I’d rather that stay a sight for my eyes only.

That pout on his face was rather cute as he carefully rearranged himself and zipped up. He then acted like a child denied his treat by glaring at the floor and muttering, “It’s just a fish- he knows I can’t eat them often.”

I found myself grinning despite myself. Satel was just being sore that I’d denied him.

“It ain’t ‘bout the fish- he jus’ wants ye ta be proud o’ him,” I replied before I noticed the boy jerk and began reeling in. “Looks like he caught- …no, false alarm.”

The fish managed to get free and left behind an empty hook. I watched as a frown came to Rutan’s tiny face, but he didn’t pitch a fit. Instead he baited his hook and cast out again, showing that he at least took one lesson to heart- never give up.

Though that lesson always bit me in the ass when it came to raids- he’d ‘try and try again’ to get a bigger role and disobey me. Stubborn lad…

My soft smile was still on my face even after I was pulled out of my musings when Satel stood up and grabbed my hand. We just stood there, our fingers threaded, as we watched Rutan continue to focus on one of the few skills he was really good at.

“He doesn’t need to prove anything to me. I’m proud of him- especially when he annoys others on purpose. He’s mastered that to a fine art,” the blond bastard commented with a devious smirk, causing my grin to fall. Jackass.

“Yer a bad influence,” I grumbled, earning a laugh from him.

“All to make you proud,” he quipped as he drew closer to affectionately rub noses with me. My smile came back, although begrudgingly, and I returned the gesture. I was about comment back on that, when Rutan jerked his line again, this time the rod bent from some weight.

“Ma! Pappy! Ah got one!” the boy cried out excitedly as he skillfully pulled in the line against the fish’s struggling.

Satel and I just smiled at each other before we both headed over to the shaggy haired boy to assist if needed.

Though while I was able to handle that heated situation with Satel well enough, I was going to soon find that his need for mating was only going to get worse. And I was going to discover that whatever had gotten into him was getting into me as well. My earlier fears of there being something wrong with us were coming true.

To the Next Chapter

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