Interlude I

Interlude I

Back in My Element

            It was because of Cyirlie that I had left the sea, and it was because of ‘Tia that I came back to it. But I didn’t really understand why until after ‘Tia became captain of The Cruel Whore. I had tried to get used to the seafarers before because I knew that someday I would be mated to a sea dragon, but my intended was so frightening and unbearable that I had to flee. Sure, I actually liked the pirates that congregated in her enclave, and I got along well enough with the other dragons, but the idea of being stuck with someone I was so incompatible with drove me to make a terrible mistake.

I had tried to force myself to be a member of Kajros’ Kingdom, when all along I was part of Elit’s. Even though I didn’t know what I was, something inside me instinctually made it difficult for me to accept life on land. Though I was dutiful member of my clan and performed beyond what most of my cousins and siblings could do at my age, there was always a part of me that was unsatisfied and unhappy the more I tried to immerse myself as an earth dweller.

It wasn’t until I first locked eyes with ‘Tia that my life took that drastic turn. I suspected now that every creature had the ability to sense when someone was of a different alignment, so it was no wonder that I took an instant liking to ‘Tia. She seemed so unusual and new amidst the crowd of land humans- and it wasn’t until she first yelled at me in her seafarer dialect when I knew why.

Her being a seafarer changed everything- all those earth born women I had been seeing before couldn’t hold a candle to the connection I felt with her. Though I didn’t fully understand it, I could sense that we were both – using one of her analogies – fish out of water. And with her being compatible with me, it wasn’t any surprise that I grew to love her so much.

Ironically, being with her resulted in my being reunited with that which I had been avoiding- the sea. When my mate was confronting her past she wasn’t the only one who had realized what she had been missing. While she was coming into her own as a strong and independent pirate, I was feeling more at home at her ship than at the homestead. Though her people considered me a monster, they had no trouble deep down accepting me as one of their own- perhaps thanks to my inner alignment theory.

The more I was with ‘Tia on the sea, the more I wanted to stay and make a life there. Of course I still loved the family that raised me, but through no fault of the elders, I was just too different to live happily with them. It was with that epiphany that I decided to give up on my now impossible dream of becoming an elder.

It was, in part, because of ‘Tia that I let go of my original dream. Mates joined the elder council together, regardless of their race. There was no way I could become one now- not with her unable to leave the sea. But even so, my old goal seemed so dull now, and I felt that it wasn’t even worth it anymore, so I didn’t see it as something to blame her for. If anything, ‘Tia saved me by unwittingly reminding me where my heart was.

I belonged out here with her, though I couldn’t exactly tell her that. I hadn’t meant to keep it a secret for as long as I had- I did want to tell her, but I feared she would take it the wrong way. In giving up my dreams I had lost my original purpose and had to start all over. Stupidly enough, I had told her about my old desires long before my views changed, and how much I had thought they had meant to me. She’d probably think that I sacrificed everything just for her and feel bad about it.

That’s why I couldn’t tell her yet. If I could find a new purpose and new dreams in place of my old ones, then I could tell her without having her worry that she made me give up something that was no longer important.

But it was easier said than done- my orderly upbringing was nothing like the wild life of a seafarer. Being a falucite was all I knew, and there was no room for my kind on the seas. I had thought that I could reconcile that by being a representative for ‘Tia, but obviously I needed to do much more than that.

If the Fodaren clan expected me to speak on my own behalf, then I will have to be more than a mere ‘representative’ of the sea. For my sirsa, and for myself, I will act as a member of the sea from this day onward. Like as ‘Tia did before me, I was just going to have to make up my role as I went and simply make everything work.

I had to make it work- I’d already burned my bridges and could no longer go back to the way I was.

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

Though I wasn’t really needed, I stood at the back of the crowds as I watched my sirsa address the masses. By now, all of the horror stories of her – and of me – were becoming well known, so I didn’t think there was anyone left foolish enough to attempt an assassination. Maybe some non-seafaring outsiders, but they would easily stick out in a crowd of true pirates.

She was certainly eloquent today- she first called out the new ones who didn’t believe she was Lord of the Sea by demonstrating her power, then dissuaded all hopefuls by announcing that she was already mated to me. She basically told them all that they had been warned and any further attempts would result in getting ‘decked’ by her. I already knew from experience that her punches were painful. That woman made me so proud to have her for a mate.

After her casual threats came the announcements of what was to happen today, followed by an inspirational reminder as to what it meant to be a pirate. She made piracy sound like an essential aspect of life, to which she was right- according to the goddess Elati, villains were needed to keep an orderly balance to the Natural Order.

But Maker had she come a long way- I had forgotten until a few nights ago that once my ‘Tia had been a subservient slip of a girl following my brother. …Well, to be fair, she was only obedient to Cegil, while the rest of the world suffered her delinquent wrath. But she still acted like dog serving her master. And even after that, she suffered years of stagnation in the homestead, apparently hoping to please me somehow.

Facing her past tore open old wounds and left her in a state of confusion, but it brought back who she was and somehow she found her purpose in life. The woman on that crate with passionate grey eyes and a dark smirk on her lips was a self-realized individual who knew what she wanted and would not take crap from others when trying to achieve it.

I was actually a little jealous when I’d noticed. I wanted that- I wanted to have the security of my own identity so that no matter what the future might bring, I still had my purpose. But, more than anything else, I wanted her.

I wasn’t sure when or why, but I was now more drawn to her than I ever was before. She hadn’t changed much in appearance, nor did she act any differently than before. It was as if one day, she was suddenly even more beautiful in my eyes, and I found myself unable to keep away from her for long. Every little gesture or command she made set my insides on fire and made me unable to focus on anything but her. My body longed to be close to her, and the need to mate with her grew to the point where I couldn’t stop myself once we’d started.

Being inside her was even more euphoric than I could ever remember, and when we’re apart, all I wanted was to work my way back in again. My behavior was a little startling at first, but ‘Tia didn’t seem to notice anything off, and even seemed to like it. And it wasn’t as if I had no control over myself, as I did back away in the few times she wasn’t in the mood. It was as if we were newly mated again, and I admittedly liked it- but it also served to remind me why I needed to get my life together.

If I wanted to continue to live by my mate’s side and protect her from that which she cannot fight, then I needed to find my way as the one and only seafaring falucite. This was why my next meeting was so important- I had to be able to stand up for myself and protect what’s mine. I didn’t have the backing of my clan anymore, though I did have some support. At least I can’t smear their name, but at the same time, it left me as one entity against many, older and more powerful falucite. It was daunting to think of it.

When ‘Tia was done with her speech, I caught her eye as she walked off with the other captains. I could see the concern she was trying to hide, but she also expressed her acceptance of my choice. I felt warm to know that my mate was so understanding, and that she didn’t judge me for anything. I wanted to follow after her right then and express my gratitude, but I held back- I still had things to do.

I closed my eyes and focused my magicks to take me to the Fodaren homestead. I chose to appear outside, before their main entrance so that I could take the time to compose myself before approaching their elders. My thoughts were a little clearer now that I was away from the noise and the alluring distraction of my mate’s curvy form, but my body was still tense at the thought of leaving her.

…Or perhaps it was more about where I was and what I was about to do. These days it was getting hard differentiating my actual feelings from what my body was feeling. Was there something wrong with me?

I shook my head and dismissed those thoughts as I walked inside. I was within my rights to teleport directly to the entrance of their meeting hall, but I still wanted extra time to think and gather my nerves. Actually, I was a lot less nervous than I thought I’d be- my resolve had grown in the last few days after deciding to fully embrace the idea of taking charge of myself.

I’d ruled over territories and accomplished missions that required me to think on my own- surely I could do this as well. There was nothing I could do to tarnish my clan’s name, nor ‘Tia’s- the only thing I had to worry about was angering the others to the point of them wanting to wage war upon me. I might be planning to exercise a few liberties due to my freedom, but I wasn’t going to be completely disrespectful either. I’d be an ass to them should they deserve it, is all.

As I walked, I gained stares and whispers from the servants before someone arrived to address me. Since I was in seafarer garb, and because I wasn’t immediately identifiable as a falucite to the lower races, I probably appeared to be some random human that wandered in by accident. The one who approached me was a female who carried the scent of the Fodaren- either by birth or through mating.

Her hair was sky blue and her eyes were violet. Though she could easily tell I was of her kind, I could see her expressing mild distaste over my appearance through the light squinting of her eyes. …Or perhaps she could unconsciously sense that I was not of the same elemental alignment as her. I was already picking up the vibes that I had grown used to being around my family and the humans in my territories. She felt just like them.

“What is your business here, Xanaturi?” she asked, wincing at how territorial she sounded. She apparently didn’t mean to come off as hostile and quickly gave me an apologetic look. Hmph… even my cousins looked at and treated me the same way she did- and they didn’t mean to either.

“Though I am of Xanaturi, I am here as my own entity. I am Satel, and I believe that your elders wanted to see me. I have received the word through my old clan, though I fear some time may have passed since that message,” I replied, keeping to half truths. So far what I’d said wasn’t a lie- she didn’t need to know that I’d deliberately ignored their summons until now.

“Satel…” she murmured, trying to recall if she had heard of me before. Pretty soon her eyes widened as something came to her. “Ah! The representative of the sea dragon, Cyirlie. Please wait before the doors and I will arrange an appointment for you.”

I held back my annoyance in being remembered as ‘Cyirlie’s representative’. I didn’t like the insinuation that she was my master, nor did I ever once approach the clans saying that she was. She vanished before I could correct her, but I decided to let it go- there was no point in getting defensive about it when I wanted them to assume something that wasn’t true. I loathed the idea of being considered under Cyirlie in any way, but I suffered it for ‘Tia’s sake.

I let out a disgusted sigh before I teleported to where she told me to go and waited. I was a little concerned about the excitement the woman expressed upon realizing who I was. That meant that they were eagerly awaiting my reply. Perhaps that will mean that they will see me immediately, rather than make me wait for my turn in retaliation for my making them wait.

I deliberately ignored the bad feeling in the back of my mind that they were not going to be pleased with whatever answer I could provide them.

My hunch ended up being right when not more than a minute later the doors opened to reveal the female I had talked to.

This time she was smiling brightly at me before she moved to the side and gestured for me to come in. “The elders will see you now.”

“Thank you,” I muttered as I walked past her. I wasn’t surprised to see her close the doors behind me, though I was a little stunned to hear her shouting for someone from behind the door as she ran off. Was that in regards to me, or was there something else going on that piqued her interest?

Though it was possible that she was curious to see how badly the elders would react to me and sought to bring an audience. For the first time in my life, I was dressed rather inappropriately. While my attire didn’t expose anything indecent, too much of my chest was showing than usual… and I suppose I will admit that my trousers were not hiding as much as they should.

But these were the indisputable wear for seafarers, even if it was on the fancy side. What was important was that ‘Tia liked it- to hell with the others. The elders were speaking with a seafarer, and they should honor that.

For a brief moment I felt exposed without my gloves on. Usually I’d appear before my elders with them on to hide my tattoos, but that was out of respect for my family. Though I had no bad blood with the Fodaren, I shouldn’t have to abide by their idea of ‘proper’. Tattoos were part of sailor’s life, so I shouldn’t be ashamed of them.

I remember once when ‘Tia complained of how long it took to cross the expanse of the Grand Hall back home to reach the elders. I had thought she was just being silly, but now I wonder if I had been too comfortable with my elders and home to notice. It did feel as though it took hours for me to reach their table- likely because the situation forced me to be a little more aware than usual.

The hall for the Fodaren clan was similar in design to the one my clan possessed, and it was just about the same size. The only difference was that their wall of windows contained stained glass, casting a multitude of colors upon the deep brown wood of the floors and seats. Their semi-circle table was the same too, but there appeared to be much fewer members than in my clan. The ends had many empty seats, waiting to be filled by the coming generations.

When I came to a stop, I could almost feel their shock in seeing me so radically different than before. …And for some reason, it seemed that their eyes were trained a little lower on me than necessary. Come now- my trousers weren’t that exposing, were they? Or perhaps they were offended by the sliver of chest showing?

Their head elder, Kosu’mat, cleared his throat to remind the others that this was serious business. He was a man only two hundred years younger than Makhis’ra, and seemed to be of the rare few to possess pure white hair. He looked very intimidating with that stern, wrinkled face and coal black eyes, but I knew that he was known to be a fair and just man.

“Satel, we are glad that you have decided to answer our summons,” he began, lightly hinting that he was displeased with the wait.

I simply smirked and made a polite bow towards them. “Yes, I do apologize for the delay in answering. As I am now of age to leave my clan, messages sent to me will be… difficult to relay until I am fully settled,” I replied, raising my head to meet their eyes. That much was true as well- I couldn’t continue to have my contacts send messages to my clan now that I was no longer with them. I had to arrange for a new place for inquiries to be sent, but damned if I knew where.

Though it wasn’t the real reason, it was a logical problem that could be assumed to be the reason so long as I didn’t say any more. My answer was enough to appease them, and they did appear sympathetic to my minor plight. This was as close to technically lying as I could get away with without feeling guilty, though I preferred to not answer at all.

“I see. That is reasonable,” he agreed, slowing his speech as if he was thinking while speaking. “I had hoped to keep close ties with you until the matter is resolved, but we will have to be satisfied with a response and arrange for everything at a later time.”

“Oh?” I prodded, sounding interested and curious when in fact I was filled with dread. It was starting to seem like my suspicions were correct, but I wasn’t sure which one yet- and there was still a chance that it was all a coincidence, that it was something else entirely.

“Our matter regards one of our royal subjects and your charge, the Lord of the Sea. We have a prince who is the last of his bloodline and must be married, but we have reports that your servant is interfering with that. We have-”

I interrupted him quickly, earning an annoyed glare as I did so. “I do apologize for that, but there is nothing to worry about if that is true. My little sea menace is sailing to other parts of the world for a while and is not expected to be back for most of the year. If that is all there is to the issue, then it is resolved,” I said, trying hard not to rush my words. I never had the audacity to cut off elders before, but an inner panic pushed me.

I was also aiming to take the wind out of his sails – a phrase ‘Tia would use – so that hopefully their original question might die off and never be addressed. If they were intending to cast blame on her, then it was best to say that she had already been removed and no longer able to commit the alleged crime. What more could they ask for? …And if there was an answer to that, then it better not be her.

My plan worked- Kosu’mat sputtered for a moment, not expecting that at all. But it wasn’t long before the others cast suspicious glares at me, probably wondering how I already knew what they were going to ask.

I just shrugged and maintained a pleasant smile for them. “I didn’t mean to be presumptuous- it was just that I picked up rumors before coming here, and I was concerned that your summons had something to do with the actions of my servant. In lieu of asking for proof, I decided to take your grievances at face value and acted so that there will be no more issues between us. I assure you- the Lord of the Sea will not set foot within your territory for as long as your prince is unmated.”

It was hard hiding my smug look as everyone reacted to that with wide eyes or glares. I wanted to play off as a scared, new adult who wasn’t sure what to do, but while I was one of those, I didn’t actually feel like one, so I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t sure why, but the more I maintained the ideal of a seafarer, the bolder I became.

“W-wait a moment- you need not do that. We hold no grudge toward her, nor were we intending to admonish you for her actions. Quite the opposite in fact- we wish to make an offer that should resolve everything, and perhaps offer a grand opportunity for your servant,” Kosu’mat countered, worried that I had the wrong idea.

He was trying to make it sound like a reward- surely he knew better. The only way it would be a ‘reward’ to us was if the human prince was taken off the throne and all human armies stood down when my sirsa wanted to raid.

It was highly unlikely we were on the same page.

I tilted my head as I awaited for his explanation, but instead he called out a name- the very same that that female had mentioned as she was leaving.

“Delar, come before us,” the elder ordered in a strong voice.

I had to wonder if this was deliberate, calling upon someone with that particular name. I knew Delar was the masculine form of Delaria, which happened to be my mother’s name. I knew full well that my mother was once a Fodaren, but that didn’t matter to me- I held little to no care for her, nor was I interested in her maiden clan. If they were trying to get under my skin, then they were going about it the wrong way.

In but a split second, a man about my age appeared. He had powder blue hair that was up in a high pony tail and violet eyes similar to that woman I had encountered. He also sported a pair of glasses surrounded in what appeared to be a thin silver frame. I wasn’t sure if he actually needed them, or if they were a fashion accessory.

“You summoned for me, elder?” the man inquired with a respectful bow before glancing at me curiously. If he had any issues with my appearance, or could sense something different about me, then he hid it very well, unlike the others.

“This is one who owns the Lord of the Sea. State your business and your reasons why,” Kosu’mat ordered with a stately nod.

I liked the sound of that- ‘owning’ the Lord of the Sea. They’d never know how intimate my claim was on her, nor would they ever discover that she owned me, too. I disguised my smirk as a polite grin as the blue haired man turned to me with a similar expression.

“Is that so? I am pleased to meet you- I am the owner of Prince Malimar du Bardam,” he said, raising his hand to shake mine.

“The pleasure is mine,” I responded as I returned the shake and rushed the introductions along. “Your name is Delar, correct? Mine is Satel.”

He turned his head and pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose with the tip of his index finger before he adopted a business-like tone of voice. “Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, I would like to explain the situation. My servant is a very important figure to his kingdom, and in order to continue his rule, and to bear a new generation, he must be paired with a suitable woman of noble rank or higher.

“Through no fault of your own, your servant inadvertently disrupted our latest attempt to pair him. I do not believe this was done on purpose, in fact, I fear the fault may lie with my charge,” Delar began in a droll and stuffy tone, bringing both some relief and further trepidation.

I wasn’t expecting them to admit fault, or even hint that they were losing control over one of their pets. He must’ve been aiming to play upon my sympathy so I would be more inclined to help.

“I see,” I muttered as I crossed my arms. I had to struggle to keep my nerves calm as I asked, “So then what does this have to do with me?”

“Do not be coy, sir. I hear you have been lurking near my servant for a few days in the aftermath- you know very well what he is after,” Delar lightly accused in a rather superior tone.

My brows furrowed as my cool exterior cracked. So this was what I was thinking- he wanted me to grant him partial ownership of my mate!

“Then he wants something he cannot have,” I replied curtly, successfully reigning in my anger. The more I believed my mate was in danger, the less scared I was of retribution from the Fodaren elders. No one was taking my sirsa away from me!

Delar smirked, not one bit offended by my remark. “I understand your misgivings, but I assure you that there might be a benefit in allowing them to mate. I believe that you own two pirates that can be named Lord of the Sea, so it would be of no loss to you to have one marry and breed. I am even willing to allow that the second born son or daughter be returned to the sea to replace your original. I am not sure how you usually go about the pairing of your creatures, but mixing cultures can result in hybrid vigor and strengthen your bloodlines.”

What a long winded way to insinuate that my ‘Tia was nothing more than breeding stock that can be traded for the best price. I had to remind myself that he didn’t know any better, and that he honestly didn’t know his words were offensive to me. As far as he knew, I was only upset that someone wanted a ‘valuable creature’ in my possession. …So why did that damn smirk of his make it seem like he was trying to make me snap!?

“Be that as it may, my answer will still have to be ‘no’,” I replied evenly, a little surprised to hear that my voice had gotten slightly deeper.

“Was my suggestion not satisfactory?” he inquired, sounding genuinely confused. “I had thought the issue would be about heirs- or is there something else I am not aware of?”

I grit my teeth for a second and tried to lower my agitation. At the very least I could be satisfied that I not only wiped the smug look off his face, but that I also unsettled him with my continued refusal. When I was calm enough, I glanced away from him and mustered my own superior stance.

“I do not have to explain myself. You asked a question and I answered- my obligations end there,” I responded frostily. Though at the time I was at odds with my grandfather, I did listen to his advice and privately agreed that it was sound- only I didn’t think that that alone would be enough. I needed the temerity to be able to say all of it without fear of vengeance. Though practicing by irritating Didra through the years certainly helped on a smaller scale, it was entirely different when facing someone else’s family.

“Forgive me for being so bold, but I demand an explanation. If there were another way to continue the bloodline of my servant, I would have sought it long before coming to you. At the very least you owe me some information so that I may be able to convince you otherwise, or be satisfied that this path is truly futile,” Delar said, his anger cracking through his cool exterior.

My own anger easily rose to match his. “And I am sorry that I cannot aid you, but your problems are not my concern. I am not part of your clan, nor do I have any reason to help maintain the kingdoms you control. I doubt you would welcome my input, as I was raised to handle royalty differently than you have. My clan would never cater to the whims of an insolent human and merely replace him with another,” I retorted, wanting to lash out at him. I really shouldn’t have added the last part, but I wanted to instigate something.

“Excuse me?” he intoned furiously as he took a step closer to me. I straightened my back to my full height to meet his challenging gaze.

“Enough Delar,” Kosu’mat ordered, stopping us before blows could be exchanged. I couldn’t imagine our disagreement going so far since we were being polite – despite the subtle insults. But for some reason I did feel as though I wanted to smack those gaudy metal frames from his face, so maybe we could have resorted to physical warfare. Goodness… was ‘Tia’s violent tendencies rubbing off on me?

“But elder!” Delar protested, facing his ancestor like a whining brat.

“Though it is vexing to admit, Satel is right. He may be falucite, but he is not of our clan- furthermore, he is counted among the seafarers, and must protect their interests over ours. If he cannot speak the reason as to why he cannot cooperate with us, then we must honor it,” the aged man announced, likely biting back opinions of his own as he said it.

My fury abated some as a sense of victory swept over me. Maybe I didn’t have complete control over the situation, but my rights as a seafarer were enough for me to win- at least this round, anyway. By the fuming look on Delar’s face, I knew he wasn’t going to let this go so easily.

“But,” Kosu’mat continued as his eyes glanced down at me imploringly, “are you certain there is no way to change your mind?”

“I am afraid not,” I replied, shaking my head.

“And there is no room for negotiations?”

“None,” I affirmed sternly. I could understand that this was a dire situation to them, and that they wanted to exhaust all avenues before giving up, but their persistence was bugging me a little.

“Very well. We shall, regrettably, leave it at that. But be aware, young one, that we may still approach you should we be unable to find other solutions. If it does indeed come to that, then I do hope that you will be more amenable,” the elder said, giving me a nod as silent permission to leave.

“I thank you for respecting my privacy, though I assure you that any further attempts will result in the same answer,” I informed them before I managed another respectful bow and then turned on my heel to leave.

I got no more than five steps before I felt a hand at my shoulder, and someone pulling me roughly back.

“Do not act as though you are above us,” Delar sneered as he hissed a warning in my ear. “You should be grateful that we allow your pet to raid on our lands at all. If you continue to defy us, you might find your protections revoked and risk putting her in danger.”

“Delar!” Kosu’mat barked admonishingly, easily overhearing the whispered words.

Though the elder didn’t seem to be in agreement with his descendant’s retort, I was still incited to act out on my indignation. The seafarer within me was awakened once again to defend my honor and protect those dear to me, though before I had confused this sensation as prideful arrogance.

I flicked Delar’s hand away from me like it was a flying insect and then glared at him scornfully behind my upturned nose. “You have it backwards,” I declared, mustering a superior tone, “You are the one who should be grateful to me.

“I alone extend goodwill toward you and the other clans so that you can protect whatever you do not wish to have destroyed. It doesn’t matter if you ‘revoke’ any protections- the raids will go on, and the Lords of the Sea won’t have to spare any humans of interest. There is nothing you or your clan can do to stop us.”

“Is that a threat!?” someone shouted angrily from the elders’ table.

Though I didn’t show it on the outside, I felt a rise of panic well in me as I realized that I went too far. I couldn’t stop myself once I got worked up like this, and no matter how frightened I actually was, my mouth wouldn’t stop moving. This was bad– the elders had the ability to stifle my powers and prevent me from leaving. Though they probably had no hold on my water magicks – as they were granted to me by Elati – I had no chance in defeating a whole clan on my own.

I, myself, wasn’t Lord of the Sea, so I was nowhere near as powerful as ‘Tia- I only overpowered her through better control over magicks, but that wouldn’t be enough in a real fight. If ‘Tia had my ability in addition to her raw power, then she could easily destroy the entire homestead. In short, I was a peon picking on those who could beat me into submission.

But just as my mouth was prone to threatening others like a pirate, it could also smooth talk its way out of a situation. I kept my face impassive as I faced the elders again and said, “No, it is a fact- one that has existed long before any of us were ever born. Though I do not do much, I am a new component in this ancient agreement, and I bring consideration that only a fellow falucite would understand.”

I paused to let that sink in. Though obscure, it was the truth- the Lord of the Sea was never created to bother my kind, nor did he ever have to acknowledge or respect them. I was surprised that his past lives never directly bothered any of the clans before, but I knew first hand that the damage ‘Tia could do would be irritating to any who owned the town she’d raided. My mediation should be considered a blessing to them.

I turned again, this time no one tried to stop me. I waited until I was halfway through the hall before I delivered a killing blow. “I do hope this does not strain our alliance- I bear no ill will towards you, so long as you keep your own threats to yourself, Delar,” I pointed out intently, reminding everyone just who was responsible for my earlier retort.

It would be petty of them to blame me for standing up to what could be considered a threat on their end. …Though I was certainly not making any friends by showing no fear towards them. I wanted to keep walking, but my cowardice caught up to me and I ended up teleporting out long before reaching the door. It was incredibly rude to do so, but I no longer had the mind to show respect at the moment.

My thoughts and heart were racing, so I ended up appearing in the cabin I shared with ‘Tia and numbly sat down at the edge of the bed. I needed a moment to compose myself after all of that.

That could have gone better- had that jackanapes Delar not have opened his mouth, I wouldn’t have lost control of my temper. Just imagining that smug, cocky face made my blood boil and urged my fists to punch him there. Never before had I ever reacted so negatively to someone I’d just met- there must’ve been something about him that I couldn’t stand.

“Tch!” I scoffed as I tried to banish the image from my mind. Maker, I hated him- and I didn’t even know him! At least with Cyirlie she’d earned my ire after a year or two of her constant death threats.

But at least I accomplished my goals- I gave them my answer without revealing the nature of my attachment to ‘Tia, and I arranged for her to be out of their reach for a long while. With some luck, Bardam would find a bride and ‘Tia will be all but forgotten by the time she needed to return to the Sea of Elati. I then smirked when I realized how I conducted myself. I stood up to superiors who could destroy me and belittled them without being punished. I likely made a few enemies just then.

For a brief moment, I felt like I was Lord of the Sea, and I found the sensation a little heady. But I knew that I wasn’t- not unless I went crawling to Elati and offered her my soul. There was no reason or benefit for me to do so, so this feeling would have to come and go as long as I could bluff my way through.

Suddenly I heard a loud cheer from the distance and remembered that the pirate equivalent of a festival was going on. I was feeling much better now that I’d rested, so I decided to go out there and join them. After all, I promised Rutan that I’d be there for his tournament- and I did owe my sirsa a dance or two.

After thinking of my mate, I quickly left the cabin, my thoughts centering only on her- the events from moments prior promptly forgotten. All I wanted then was to be by her side- and to get her alone and naked in the privacy of our bed.

Maker I loved that woman.

To the Next Chapter

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