4. A Lack of Information

Chapter 4

A Lack of Information

            Between Rutan’s lessons, my barking orders to the crew, and entertaining Satel when he was home, there was actually not a lot for me to do. I usually spent most of my day behind the rudder wheel …well, beside it, actually. That wasn’t to say that I was bored- I had Rohje or Hammer to talk to me during those times, and if not, then I enjoyed the time to myself. I loved the sea and all that was within it.

 

It was really only during raids when things got busy. Otherwise, sailing from one point A to point B were the laziest moments in a pirate’s life. I’m sure, had we been any other ship, that there would be a liiittle more danger in it. After all, they might get attacked from royal navies, or perhaps some sea demons might decide to sneak a snack if they thought they could get away with it.

 

Surprisingly, despite the fact that Satel was no longer required to go on missions, he still found something to do away from the ship- though it wasn’t much. He still had his two territories to maintain, though that didn’t require more than an hour’s worth of his time, and only once a week. It seemed all he had to do was whatever I could find for him, and at the moment it was spying on Bardam.

 

It had been four days since the attack on Lostil, and apparently the task wasn’t as easy as I’d thought it would be, since my mate had been dodgy for the last few days. He shared what little he could tell me, but left out a large chunk of information to keep to himself until he was certain of his findings.

 

Since I could trust him to be honest – at least to family members and close friends – I accepted his explanation and agreed that it was only fair. I didn’t want half-assed rumors or anything that would make the situation complicated anyway. All he could tell me was that the marriage between Bardam and the girl was officially off and that both clans seemed to hold no ill will towards me for that night- at least neither side were asking for my blood, anyway.

 

Save for finding out what Bardam had been trying to accomplish, I was more or less satisfied. I was admittedly more worried about offending the falucite than figuring out what that idiot prince’s intentions were. Though they couldn’t touch me because of Elati, I didn’t want to cause problems for Satel and his clan. Regardless if they all thought he was Cyirlie’s mate, he was still a Xanaturi.

 

…But I was still a little concerned why Satel felt that he had to keep his secrets for now. I could respect him wanting to get the full story first, but he also seemed worried about something, too.

 

“Pappy!”

 

I snapped out of my inner musings at hearing Rutan’s happy shout.  Sure enough my mate was out on the main deck and had likely just arrived. He wasn’t facing me, but I could tell there was something off about him. He looked to be swaying slightly, and his posture wasn’t as upright as usual. I watched on as Rutan ran up to him and looked about ready to tackle him in his usual way to greet him, but something stopped the child. It was as if he also sensed something wrong with Satel, too.

 

“Good morning brat… or is it afternoon?” I could hear him ask in a tired tone. I didn’t like how disoriented he sounded… “Where’s your mother?”

 

While the boy had the sense to hold back, he didn’t appear very concerned over his pappy’s behavior. He just pointed up at me and cheerfully replied, “At the helm where she always is.”

 

I held back my frown as Satel turned to face the stairway and began making his way up to the quarter deck. He didn’t seem very steady on his feet, and I was sure it had nothing to do with him regaining his sea legs. Rutan followed after him like an enamored puppy and was animatedly telling him what he had done today, and not really noticing that Satel was barely paying attention. …Well, that was nothing new.

 

I held out my arm to him in an invitation to come lean against me and he didn’t hesitate. I was about to ask him if he was okay, but he immediately sealed his lips over mine. He’d always greet me with a kiss upon returning home from a big mission, but the way he’d done so this time was a little… different. It was a chaste kiss, but somehow it was deep and full of passion, as if he was really glad to see me.

 

I couldn’t fully respond to the sentiment because of his condition, but I did press closer to him and ignored my son’s fake gagging noises over the display of affection. The boy was young so I forgave him- also, if he didn’t want to watch, then he didn’t have to stay around.

 

When Satel finally pulled away, I was able to see how very tired he was before he rested his head against mine and his arm around my waist.

 

“Are ye feelin’ alright?” I inquired in a soft tone as I felt him place a good amount of weight on me. I could tell he wasn’t trying to get me to support him up, but it seemed his body was having a hard time mustering the energy on its own.

 

“Don’t answer that- it’s a trick question,” Rutan whispered conspiratorially as he pulled at Satel’s pant leg. He’d apparently forgot I was standing right there. “She’ll send ye ta Doc, even if yer fakin’.”

 

“Rutan…” I muttered irritatedly, warning that his ‘helpful advice’ was about to bite him in the ass. He shut up real quick.

 

Doc was the ship’s doctor, and the only man who was not an official pirate. Satel had found him on the verge of losing everything and offered him work on my ship. The man wasn’t thrilled to be practicing on pirates, but he eventually became grateful that he was working, and had food and shelter in exchange. After a while he not only grew on us, but he became fond of us in return. He had some long and proper name before, but I had promptly forgotten it after he’d earned his simple name of Doc.

 

Satel let out a short, but weak laugh. “I’m not afraid of Doc. In a choice of doctors, he’s the preferable one over a certain medic back home. But don’t worry about it- it’s nothing serious. I was just caught by surprise and the wounds are already gone,” he mumbled, loud enough for only Rutan and I to hear.

 

“Ye got into a fight?” I guessed, though his statement didn’t really indicate as such. Being caught by surprise could range from a sneak attack to him being sloppy and getting noticed.

 

“Ooh! Did ye win?” my son asked excitedly as he clenched his fists and waited for every little detail of the alleged fight.

 

But all my mate would answer was, “If I hadn’t, then I wouldn’t be standing here.” It wasn’t the blow by blow that Rutan wanted, but it was enough for me to know that his assailant was trying to kill him.

 

The fact that he was home safe and sound was enough for me, but if his body really just recovered from something serious, then he needed rest. Stubborn man didn’t want to go to bed without at least reporting back to me first.

 

I glanced over to my quartermaster just as he was ascending the stairs. “Rohje, take the helm an’ arrange fer a day shift if needed. Ah’ll be in me cabin.”

 

“Aye, aye, Capt’n,” the young man replied without question or complaint. That’s why he was the quartermaster- he was far more reliable than the rest of the whiners around here.

 

“That’s not necessary, ‘Tia-dear- you don’t have to stop on my account-” he began before I interrupted him.

 

“Wot are ye on ‘bout? Ah’m takin’ a nap an’ yer warmin’ me bed. Got a problem wit’ that?” I said with a grin. I knew he didn’t want to burden me, so I had to make it sound as though he was helping me, rather than the other way around. Though with the way I was grinning, I was sure he saw through my act.

 

Even if he did, his thin lips mimicked my smirk and he allowed me to help him walk away. “Alright, if you insist my sirsa.”

 

He was trying his hardest not to stagger, but I ended up having to wrap my arm firmly around him and steadied him. Rutan continued to follow after us, apparently having nothing better to do- though I should talk. I knew I was being a little harsh in my thinking- the boy had finished his and Fishguts chores already, and he’d barely gotten to see Satel today. Now that his pappy was expected to be home more often, he might take advantage of that and try to spend more time with him.

 

…But ‘Rutan’ and ‘resting’ didn’t belong in a sentence. While the boy meant well, he was only going to be a little pest exuding energy everywhere. I stopped at the entrance to the corridor and waited for the shaggy haired boy to run past us.

 

“Rutan, why don’t ye go ask Fishguts ta help ye make a fruit snack plate fer yer pappy? Get yerself something, too,” I suggested before the lad gave me a wide smile, showing off his missing front tooth. He was then gone in a flash as he opened the first door on the right and began shouting for the chef.

 

“That should give us at least fifteen minutes o’ privacy,” I muttered to the blond before he could protest to the treat.

 

“I don’t think I have the strength for anything that quick,” Satel joked, a tired smirk on his face.

 

“No, but it should be enough time fer ye ta tell me wot happened,” I retorted coolly, “Probably best if we don’t let the lad overhear it- no tellin’ who he might blab ta.”

 

Satel winced a little, and that was the only indication I received that he didn’t want to talk about it. Please Maker, don’t tell me his getting attacked had anything to do with Bardam…

 

I pulled him alongside me as we made our way to the back of the corridor, where my cabin was. After we both hung our respective hats on the peg, I then guided my mate towards the bed where I pushed him down to sit at the edge. After that, I knelt down to first remove my boots, then reached over to his feet to untie and remove his shoes.

 

“You don’t have to do that, ‘Tia-dear. I can still use my magicks,” he said as he shook his head.

 

I continued to remove his shoes despite that. “Don’t worry ‘bout it- ye look like ye conquered all five hells, so ye could probably use a little pamperin’,” I told him before I gazed up at him and smirked. “‘Sides, ye always do this ta me- why not let me return the favor once ‘n a while?”

 

Ever since becoming a mother, I’d gained a nurturing side that was a stark contrast to my tough captain persona. Only he and Rutan got to see it, though I did show a little of it to Rohje too. His relation to Seikram and Spearhead, as well as his young age, helped me view him as someone close.

 

“Now where have ye been hurt?” I asked as I stood up and began unbuttoning his vest. I didn’t want to force him to tell me what happened immediately, deciding that easing into it was better.

“I said I’ve healed already. There’s nothing to look for,” he reminded me, appearing a little confused that I wanted to find them.

I put on a pouting face. “But ah’m sure it still hurts a little, right? Don’t ye want me ta kiss them an’ make them better?” I persisted as I started undoing his shirt. He must be out of it if he couldn’t tell I was flirting with him. Usually he’d loved to come home with minor injuries just so I’d flatter him and treat him like my personal hero. But I suppose it was different with the major pains- he rarely got hurt this badly.

“Oh…” he intoned as it clicked in his mind. He then managed a smirk. “My right shoulder and left arm.”

Just as he’d told me, there was nothing left in the areas he mentioned- not even lingering scars. I didn’t point out that he neglected to say what kind of wounds they were or how deep or severe they had been. Instead, I just kissed his shoulder and then trailed my lips on his arm. There was still a small grin on his face as I pulled back and began unzipping my bodice. I wasn’t trying to seduce him, but make myself more comfortable.

The bodice was nothing more than support for my breasts and a fashion statement, so I didn’t need it on in the privacy of my cabin. Plus, it was too stiff for relaxing in. Once I had it off, I moved to the head of the bed so I could arrange the pillows for me to recline on. When I was satisfied, I sat down beside my mate and arranged my leg around him so he would be resting between them. Finally, I pulled him against me and fell back unto the pillows, his head landing on my chest.

Satel quickly pulled his feet up so he would be reclining against me, while I kept one leg hanging off the edge. He then turned slightly to his side so he could better snuggle against my torso.

He filled his lungs of my sent before he allowed a gentle purr to escape. “I’m so lucky to have you as my mate.”

I didn’t say anything as I let my fingers trace idle patterns on his skin. I wasn’t sure if this was a good time to counter that I was lucky to have him. Though Cegil may have saved my life a long time ago, it was Satel who taught me to take charge of my own life. Had he not been there, I’d have never stood up to Elati and claimed my own role in her plan.

I instead let us fall into a comfortable silence allowing him to enjoy my attentions. I knew we didn’t have much time left before the peace was shattered by an over eager child, but I wanted to give Satel the chance to gather his thoughts and feel safe. I suppose I should allow him a nap- he could fall asleep any second if he wanted to, but he knew it wouldn’t be possible… at least not until I thought of something else to distract Rutan with. That boy really loved his pappy…

“…It was an assassin,” Satel finally confessed as he lifted a hand to return the caresses on my thigh. “I don’t think he was after me- he caught me off guard and gave some asinine monologue about how it was nothing personal and that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He must’ve thought I was a human and that one blow would kill me- didn’t expect me to fight back.”

How the mighty have fallen… Satel was once a skilled assassin himself, though his success was due to the fact that he targeted humans who were powerless against him. I almost couldn’t believe one managed to land a hit, let alone surprise him. I say ‘almost’ because I knew it wasn’t that hard to surprise him if he happened to be very distracted.

“So wot were ye doin’ at the time?” I asked, hoping to keep the skeptical tone out of my voice. It wasn’t so much that I believed he was doing something shady, but that his problems might be related to what he had been doing for the past few days. If this was about Bardam again, then this was probably all he was going to tell me.

I was proven right when he hesitated on his next answer. “I was spying on Bardam. …In truth, I don’t want to face the Fodaren clan until I’m absolutely sure about my suspicions. If it’s what I’m thinking, I might be in trouble should our elders not be able to help me.”

I was pleasantly surprised that he volunteered a little more detail this time, but it made me all the more curious. I wonder what Satel was so concerned about that he needed the elders to intervene- and what could Bardam possibly reveal that would have any direct impact on the affairs of the falucite?

“So if ye were sneaking ‘round Bardam, then was that assassin…” I trailed off to let him at least answer to that. If I can’t get him to tell me about the main objective, then I at least wanted to know about this new player.

“I don’t know- he’s staying at the lady’s manor in Lostil for the time being, so the target could’ve easily been her or him- or even one of the servants for all I know. Unfortunately, I had to kill the assassin before I could inquire.”

Such was the outcome of those who killed for a living- they couldn’t afford to have witnesses live and rat them out later. Satel had to destroy him, else the man would’ve continued to hunt him down until my mate left town.

“Ah can’t see a reason why anyone would want that lass dead- he must’ve been after Bardam. Pity ye got in the way,” I commented with a scoff.

At this, Satel fell silent for a long time. I couldn’t see his face properly to get an idea of what he was thinking, but he eventually gave me a cryptic response, “Bardam might benefit from her death, even though he should be satisfied that she called off the nuptials. There was a reason he agreed to a marriage, and it’s becoming far too obvious that he wanted something bad to happen to that girl before the ceremony. I’m almost afraid of what the Fodaren clan knows about this, because if it’s what I think, then they might be trying to force my hand.”

Like that made a lot of sense- I failed to see how a marriage between two humans affected Satel any, nor what benefits a man could get by ridding himself of the bride before gaining the legal rights to at least her dowry and inheritance. There was still something he wasn’t telling me, and some part of me was almost dreading to know. If he couldn’t tell me, then it might have something to do with me- and he either didn’t want me to feel bad, or was afraid of what I might do in response.

“Ah’m glad yer tellin’ me more now, but ah still don’t get it. Are ye still keepin’ something from me?” I inquired bluntly, knowing he would at least answer that. My mate didn’t lie to me, nor did he want to. He’d rather not say anything if he didn’t want me to find out, but he did at least offer explanations as to why.

“Just my own speculations- until they are confirmed, you are better off not knowing,” Satel answered, sounding mildly amused.

“Why?” I prodded.

He moved his head so I could see his full features. “…Because if I’m right, you’ll get very pissed- we both will. I just don’t want you to turn around to strangle Bardam and miss your meeting,” he replied with a smile.

For the love of Elit, what is that idiot prince up to now? If Satel believed that I would get that upset to react that way, then he had every right to not set me off.

“Fair ‘nough,” I muttered gruffly as I let my hand travel up to massage his scalp. He purred louder in response and tried to lean into my touch. I smirked at his actions- sometimes he reminded me of a cat.

“But,” he continued after rubbing his cheek lovingly against my chest, “If we’re lucky, maybe I had inadvertently ruined their plans by killing the assassin and saving the target.”

That would be nice- I’d have one less thing to stress over, and Satel could stay around the ship more. I’ve been meaning to ask if he would help me with Rutan’s training- I had plans of adding his sword style into the boy’s lessons, and there were probably a few tricks the blond could use to help Rutan with his awareness problem.

Speaking of the brat, I was alerted of his arrival when it sounded like something crashed into the door. I let out a sigh while Satel tensed, then closed his eyes and growled lowly.

“How many times do ah have ta tell ye ta use the handle!” I shouted before the door opened to reveal the bright and smiling face of my son.

He came in with a plate of haphazardly sliced moaghos and fruits of Kotija. I would have to assume he did all of the cutting with Fishgut’s supervision. That would’ve been sweet, had he not used his methods of entering the room.

“Ah thought ah could force the door ta open wit’out me hands,” he chirped happily as he made his way to the bed. I hope he didn’t drop the food in the process of being a destructive force to my door…

“Wot are ye? A savage? Close the door behind ye!” I yelled to him before he could reach the bed. The brown haired boy made an embarrassed wince as he placed the plate down at the end of the bed and raced back to the opening to do as I ordered.

Satel turned again so that his back was fully pressed against me and watched the little one as he tried to climb on the bed while picking up the plate.

I let out another sigh. “Come on, lad! Don’t be a landlubber- take off yer boots before gettin’ on this bed!”

“Oh yeah,” he muttered as he pulled his knees up on the bed and began kicking his feet back one at a time in hopes the footwear would fly off. I rolled my eyes at his actions as I wondered where I went wrong with him.

“Rutan, hold still,” Satel mumbled tiredly as the boy grew frustrated with his attempts. My mate then teleported the boots off his feet and made them appear by the door, near where I had thrown our footwear.

“Thanks Pappy,” he said cheerfully as he eagerly began walking towards us on his knees. He then sat down near the center of the bed and held out the plate for us, waiting excitedly for us to take a slice. It was hard resisting that cute face he was making, so I ended up reaching for a moagho slice.

But Satel shook his head politely. “I thank you for the efforts, lad, but I’m not that hungry.”

“Ye need ta regain yer strength. Better eat somethin’ before Rutan an’ ah do,” I remarked wryly before I held my slice up to his lips teasingly. Satel gave me another grin before he obediently took a bite. Rutan and I mirrored his smile before I ate the remaining portion of the slice.

Another idea came to me as I reached for the Kotija fruit. It had been peeled before it was cut, so it was nothing more than a crisp white semi circle resembling a grin. I held back my chuckle as I brought both hands up to Satel’s lips.

“Ye need ta jus’ relax an’ fun wit’ us,” I told him as I fitted the sturdy slice inside, just outside of his teeth. My mate raised an eyebrow at my actions before he glanced up at me. The fruit stretched his lips into a strange oval shape that almost resembled a toothy grin. He looked ridiculous, but at the same time endearing.

Rutan broke out in a laugh over his pappy’s funny face. “Ye look like yer grinnin’ funny!”

“He does,” I said as I reached for another Kotija fruit and held it before my lips. “Let’s all grin funny.” I then fitted the fruit into my mouth like I had done for Satel.

My son quickly followed suit, though he decided to use a moagho slice instead. Pretty soon, we were all just sitting there looking utterly loony with fruits in our mouths. We glanced at each other before we all began laughing at each other’s expressions.

It’s been a while since we had a family bonding moment. We used to have them often- particularly when Rutan’s first incarnation was a child. I wonder what changed and why? I kind of knew Satel was a little hesitant to get close to Rutan again after what happened when the last incarnation turned twenty, but he seemed to grow close again during this Rutan’s toddler years.

The problem with Rutan was that once he went through the Blessing of Knowledge, he regained his memories and became Pappy again. It was a jarring sensation the first time, one minute having a loving son that I raised, and the next having Pappy before me, but he still held his childhood memories and was not too much different- it was just that the parental power shifted from me to him. But for Satel, it was like he lost his ‘son’ and gained a father-in-law, of whom accepted him, but was tough.

That change and loss of a relationship might’ve helped Satel cope with the death because while he did appear sad, he was nowhere near as distraught as I was. For him his ‘Rutan’ died at twenty, so it wasn’t as much of a blow. And, in a way I could see why he would be afraid to bond with the new Rutan, but with the boy being so enamored of him, it was hard for him to stay away.

Hence why I didn’t understand why we seemed to be growing apart lately- though it seemed to have only started recently, about three or more months ago. Maybe there was nothing wrong, but that I needed to step up and encourage it more often. For all I knew, it could’ve been my fault for getting too busy as of late.

But for now, this was great. I wanted every incarnation of Rutan to have a happy childhood with both a mother and a father in his life.

Though little did I know that Satel’s discomfort with Rutan actually had nothing to do with the boy. It wasn’t so much that he was upset with Rutan, or even wanted to push him away. It was just that he was yearning for a falcie of his own, and Rutan’s presence reminded him that it just wasn’t possible yet..

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

About two days later, we arrived at Syrde, and there were two other pirate ships docked. We had arrived in the late afternoon, giving us some time to restock our supplies before nightfall. I wasn’t in any real rush, nor was I trying to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice- I just wanted all the chores out of the way so that my men could have their fun at the bar.

I noted that Fiet’s ship wasn’t docked and idly wondered if I should count him as a no-show. There was really no way for him to be able to both visit Cyirlie’s enclave and then make it to the meeting on time- he’d have to pick one or the other. The fact that he obviously chose to go see his dragon meant that his payment couldn’t wait- he must’ve been that far behind. Gold and silver was more of a treat to dragons, so they didn’t demand it too often, but at the same time, they weren’t patient enough to wait months for a fix. I suppose I could grant him a pardon, given the circumstances…

The two captains who were here were Jasco and Pao, the latter of which was once my quartermaster before Rohje. Pao was about thirty now, and had dark brown hair to his shoulders and dark grey eyes. He was a native of Orja, and had dreams of being his own captain long before joining my ship. He desired it even knowing very well that he would have to serve a dragon if he left my ship.

I made a deal with him that if he could round up the money to buy his own ship, I’d help him out with raids and introducing him around so he could get his own crew. He didn’t have anything against me- it was just that his dreams were stronger than the blessings he already had.

Pao seemed to be doing well, despite the fact that he’d given up the most coveted spot in the pirate world. Any man would kill to be the quartermaster of The Cruel Whore, and many were dismayed when I chose that wet-behind-the-ears boy over the older – and probably more qualified – men. Seikram and Spearhead should be proud of how well Rohje was holding up in his role.

As for Jasco, he was a getting on in years Rynririan, who had been terrorizing the ports around the Sea of Elati for a good thirty years. I forget his actual age, but he looked pretty good for an old man. Still well toned and his hair was thick, though grey. He had a first officer who was some nephew of his, and he was soon to turn twenty-six. It was a good age for a man to take over the ship, and I was sure Jasco was planning to retire soon.

With these two, me, and Fiet, we were the known pirate menaces of the Sea of Elati- we only represented a small fraction of the pirates in the world. But thanks to me, we were more infamous.

Around this time, we’d usually meet up and play a game of Phidus at the pub, Mermaid’s Desire. We sat at what was dubbed the ‘captain’s table’ near the back with ale and cigars as we talked about the happenings in our area, as well as any world news we might’ve picked up. Since Fiet was absent, we needed a fourth player, so Jasco’s first officer, of whom I hadn’t bothered to learn his name until he was someone important, sat in.

Since he was next in line to become captain, this was as good as any time for him to get acquainted with the other captains. After all, he who worked alone was as good as a dead man- wise words that I came up with. The raven haired lad acted as if he never met me before and was staring at me like I was a piece of meat. There was a rumor flying around that I was ‘friendly’ with fellow captains- it wasn’t even close to true, but I did have my fun proving the hopefuls wrong. Should he truly end up as Jasco’s successor, he was going to learn the hard way that I wasn’t someone to play with.

“So where’s Fiet? Ah thought he’d show up fer sure by now,” Jasco commented, his gruff voice louder than necessary. Because of years of yelling at his men, he had no ability to whisper- not that I minded, unless we needed to trade secrets.

I smirked as I pulled the cigar out of my mouth to talk. “The dumbass waited ‘til the last minute ta ask fer me help. He’s likely on his way ta see the dragons,” I replied before returning the thick roll to my mouth. It wasn’t lit, as I didn’t smoke, but for some reason I liked chewing on the end. I wasn’t sure if it had something to do with Pappy’s genetics, or if it was a side effect from being Satel’s mate. His kind did like to eat all sorts of plants.

“Ugh, again?” Pao scoffed as he tossed in his bet. “If it weren’t fer the fact that he always does things last minute, ah’d suspect that he’s actually off flirtin’ wit’ the new girl.”

“Wot new girl?” I instantly asked, dropping my cigar in surprise. For a moment, it sounded like Fiet was wooing some girl at a port, but the way Pao had worded it, I knew that wasn’t the case.

All three men looked up from their cards and gave me a bewildered look. …Did I miss something?

“Ye ne’er met her yet?” Pao inquired, sounding a little incredulous.

“Met who?” I countered, wondering when they’ll end the suspense. How in five hells did they know something before me, anyway?

Jasco recovered from the shock first and thought it over before he nodded his head. “Actually, that makes sense- Granny rarely e’er visits the enclave, an’ that’s where ah usually see her.”

The elder pirate then turned to me and finally informed me of the development. “Get this- some lass decided she wants ta play pirate, so she got herself a ship an’ an all female crew. She’s been doin’ well, considerin’ she’s had no trouble givin’ her offerin’s ta her dragon master so far.”

I’ll be damned… there was finally another lady captain around. Over the years, women gained more equality on land and more were given respectable jobs that didn’t involve anything demeaning. Most still wanted to strive to be the perfect wife and maintain a household and family, but it was getting more acceptable for others to choose careers- usually alongside the household dream.

I suppose it’s not so surprising that in this day and age an all female pirate ship would appear… but one would think they’d have made contact with me already. I knew a lot of people were still confused with the transition of me (re) becoming Lord of the Sea after the last Rutan, but surely this new captain would’ve heard about the real me by now. Or did they view me as competition for the best female pirate?

There was no contest- I didn’t care who was the best, prettiest, or more feminine. No matter how many wenches may appear, no one could take away the title of matriarch from me- I was the oldest pirate in existence… alongside Rutan, but technically we were the same person with different souls and genders.

“Ah believe her name is Gisette, though she an’ her crew is pretty cold towards all o’ us. Ah told her ‘bout ye an’ that she should make yer acquaintance, but she spat in me face an’ politely told me ta go ta hell,” Pao said with a grin.

“A woman after me own heart,” I mused as I glanced at my cards. This ‘Gisette’ sounded like a real spitfire- as female pirate should be. Though she needed to learn to play nice with the other captains, else we’re going to have problems. No matter if we’re male or female, pirates need to stick together and help each other out. We don’t have time for inner wars amongst each other.

“Did ye at least invite her ta the meetin’?” I inquired while placing in another small bet. “She should at least have the common decency ta introduce herself an’ the crew ta the rest o’ us.”

“Ah tried ta, but she mistook it fer us wantin’ ta help her or somethin’- says she has no use fer us men,” Jasco supplied mockingly, more amused than offended by the lass.

“Hmph, one o’ those type, eh? Ah’ve no use fer women like that- don’t matter wot we are, we’re family. She has me blessin’s ta sail an’ raid ‘round here, but ah’d like that change that attitude o’ hers if our paths cross,” I muttered crossly.

I could respect a person who wanted to do things their own way and without help. I could also respect a woman who, for whatever reason, hated men- but damn it, if they let their pride get in the way and push others away for no good reason, then they’re a liability for all of us. …I would know, since I was a lot like her- just replace hatred of men with hatred of humanity. Though to be fair, I was never in a situation that placed others in danger, but if I had allowed more humans to help me, I probably could’ve avoided some close calls upon myself.

“An’ here ah was thinkin’ ye’d be supportive o’ her bein’ a strong lass n’ all,” Pao commented after a short chuckle before he decided to fold. One down, two to go.

I carefully tapped the corner of my cards to the table, being careful not to let the others see them. That was my signal to Rohje, who should be watching from the counter, to come and sneak a peek at the others’ cards. I couldn’t do it to Pao, since he already knew my cheat, but at least we were in the understanding not to do it to each other if we were both playing. The Orjan seafarer smirked when he recognized the signal, but said nothing to warn the others.

“Ah support her fer provin’ she can be a pirate an’ maintain a ship, but if we’re gettin’ through these changin’ times, then we need ta work together. If she’s jus’ gonna gloat if we ask fer help or slap our hands away if we aid her, then she should jus’ return ta land an’ let real seafarers be pirates,” I said in reply, earning nods from the other captains. Jasco’s first officer just tilted his head in confusion from my words, making me wonder if he was lacking the mental capacity to become one of us.

“Here, here!” Jasco toasted as he raised his mug for a toast. Even if we were pirates- we were still seafarers and we helped the other sub-cultures if they needed it. The only problem was that we couldn’t engage in civil banter. There was nothing wrong with that though- my father compared us to being like big brother bullies to our younger siblings.

But ignoring Gisette’s rather landlubber-like behavior, I was far more impressed how well the other men were taking this new captain. Sure it was heartwarming to see a woman step up and take on a role that was famously known to be done by men, but it was even more so to see Jasco and Pao accept her with no animosity. It may be because they were used to me and knew full well that I was as tough as any pirate out there- or they were never raised to believe that all women were weak and couldn’t hold their own on a ship.

“Ah don’t understand- if yer all fer equality in pirates, then why does article six exist? Ye’d think ye’d get rid o’ that in favor fer men an’ women ta work together,” the first officer pointed out, speaking for the first time.

I had to admit that I was pleasantly surprised with that question. I thought the lad was going to think of something sexist to say and defend some esoteric belief, but he brought on a valid question. A captain was expected to practice what they believe in, and my allowing article six to exist in the Code seemed to go against what I had just admitted to accepting.

“Article six has nothin’ ta do with sex discrimination- it jus’ sets limits as ta who can stay on the ship an’ prevent little ‘accidents’ that come in the form o’ little ankle biters. It’s the capt’n’s duty ta decide who works on his ship, an’ if there be a lass who can contribute as a member, ah’d allow them ta join, but ah’d make sure ta prevent unplanned members from bein’ born,” I replied, throwing in some crijok to keep the game going.

Hell, had Gisette or her crew members ever met me in the past, they’d probably have gotten in- well not all of them as I had to set limits in the men and women ratio. It was best to limit the women to at least two or three- that way, enforcing safeguards like contraceptives would be more manageable. I’m sure Gisette already changed her article six to where no men were allowed on her ship, though I wonder if she had a subsection to allow a few men under reasonable conditions.

“Remember,” I continued while carefully watching for Rohje’s signals, “Yer ship can only hold so many bodies, an’ ah bet a pregnant lass would be a pain ta care fer an’ protect.”

I wouldn’t know about that last point since I have yet to give birth. Sure, Rutan was my son, but he was created from my flesh, blood, and Elati’s powers. But pregnant women can become vulnerable during the last months, so I’d imagine the trouble of supporting them on a ship that might see a lot of attacks. Actually, it was probably best to kick them off the ship and leave them at a safe and stable port.

Everyone nodded at my explanation, seeming to agree with what I was saying. It was easy to misconstrue the Code, since nothing was explicitly explained in it, but I think Pappy intended that when he’d first made it. He was only trying to bring order to pirates, not stifle them, so leaving the loopholes allowed for flexibility in unusual situations.

I was a little glad to have taught an important lesson to a future captain, but I was suddenly more focused on the game when Rohje made hand gestures informing me that Jasco’s hand was weak. Neither he nor his first officer had a sure win, so maybe I can bluff my way through with these terrible cards…

“Listen ta Granny, lad- she’s been ‘round longer than any o’ us, so she knows the way o’ the pirate,” Jasco said with pride as his successor showed signs of believing him. Maybe there was hope for that one yet- he’ll learn soon enough that he can’t have me in bed, but it seemed he was still willing to seek advice from me.

“Well if this isn’t a precious sight- are you robbing them blind, my sirsa?” a suave voice sounded from behind me, causing me to quickly hide my cards. I glanced back to find that Satel had shown up and was carrying a plain wrapped packet.

My mate refused my offer of coming along earlier because he claimed to have something he wanted to pick up. I guessed that was it and he was now ready to join in and torment the others. I put my curiosity on hold, since I was sure to discover what was in that package soon enough- it was either yet another gift to me, or an outfit for me to wear and seduce him with.

“So yer back- want ta join in?” I asked politely as I gestured to the game with a tilt of my head.

The über hat man shook his head and pulled out the seat next to me. “Thank you, but I’ll pass,” he declined softly as he placed his item in his lap and rested an arm around me.

I shrugged and lifted my cards again to study them, not really noticing my mate shifting closer to also get a good look.

My eyes widened as he let out a smirk and said, “On second thought, maybe I will play.”

In just those few words, he exposed my bad hand and ruined my chances in bluffing for the pot. Even Rohje reacted by slapping a hand to his forehead as the others roared in laughter over the ‘accidental’ slip up.

“Elit damn ye, Satel!” I shouted as I threw down my cards to fold. I wasn’t that angry since I hadn’t bet high yet. I usually saved it for after the river turn so I could be sure if I had anything to gamble with.

“That’s our Granny- no one but a falucite can bring her down!” Pao exclaimed between his chortles.

I glowered a little as I stared up at Satel’s smug features. I suppose the same could be said of any married man, though I had my moments of undermining his little plots, too. Actually, he could’ve been getting me back for one of them- it wasn’t uncommon for us to have something of a prank war go on once in a while.

I’d get him back for this, if only I had an idea of what to do. I guess I was going to have to wait for an opportune moment.

But as for the new female captain, I recognized a long time ago that the world was rapidly changing, and we had to change with it. Having women officially join the pirating world as equals was only the beginning- we also needed to adapt to the dawning steam era, else we become lost in the pages of history. It was up to me and, surprisingly, Satel to keep pirates going strong.

To the Next Chapter

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