Interlude II

Interlude II
Daily Errands

I awakened that morning feeling very good and relaxed- of course, that was a common feeling so long as I was waking up next to my sirsa. I only felt irritated when leaving her side, but I had long dismissed it as a result of changing my life. I didn’t have missions anymore, and ‘Tia was doing a good job in letting me decide what to do on my own. I was torn from being exasperated or grateful to her- some part of me wanted her to give me orders.

But I didn’t want to live that way any more, so I appreciated the fact that she didn’t assume command over me. My bitterness was from withdrawal, as I was just not accustomed making up my own missions for my own interests.

Other than my territories, I had very few hobbies to entertain myself with, and ‘Tia made it very clear that she had her own work to do, so she couldn’t cater to me all day. I’ve given up my pursuits in drawing, and I didn’t seem suited for much else. Except, of course, for destroying cities or negotiating on ‘Tia’s behalf.

But that was all for ‘Tia, and she was my mate, not my own personal project. Other than working for her own protection, it was not enough of a job for me. ‘Tia could take care of herself for the most part, so there really wasn’t much for me to do in that regard.

Though I couldn’t deny it- I liked acting like a pirate once in a while. But it didn’t quite fill that void. I hadn’t found my real purpose yet, and I had no idea where to start looking.

And yet I still find myself heading out every morning to various places. First on my list was always visiting Savage and a few of the captains in the Sea of Naia. That was the only request ‘Tia made, but I followed through with it, even when the issue seemed to have died down. The mysterious creatures never appeared again, though I had to admit that their connection to that warehouse did perk things up for a while.

Perhaps I kept going there in hopes of a new lead…

And it seemed my patience had paid off. I came to Savage’s ship to make sure no one has been belatedly placed on the end of a retaliatory attack, and ended up picking up some interesting news.

“Ah haven’t been personally witnessing anythin’, but ah’ve been hearin’ reports that a lot o’ wenches on the coasts have been kidnapped, then released days later- unharmed, apparently,” Savage told me when I inquired. “Whoe’er it is, they don’t seem interested in lookin’ on ships, thank Elit.”

I could tell he was relieved by that little fact, because his daughter, being on the coast, would be a potential target. Though I couldn’t tell by appearances, I believed she was just a few months shy of being considered an adult among seafarers.

And since we were on the subject of those mysterious creatures, I had to ask, “So ye believe that these kidnappings are related ta the creatures that came aboard yer ship?” It was still odd trying to speak in their dialect, since it wasn’t my natural accent, but I did make a conscious effort when speaking to those I wasn’t too familiar with. It comforted other seafarers and helped them trust me as one of them. Thankfully, since my sirsa and son were used to land speech, I didn’t have to force myself in front of them.

He nodded once. “Seems like it- all rumors mention men disappearin’ in a cloud o’ smoke. But they’ve gotten bolder- we’re gettin’ better descriptions o’ them since some attacks happen durin’ the day. They look like humans clothed from head ta toe in black,” the captain replied, gesturing a little with one hand.

Unfortunately that didn’t mean much to me- there were a lot of creatures that possessed humanoid forms. All it really did was eliminate the lesser demons, because they were like their animal cousins. My fellow falucite could also easily dress in black and do the same trickery- actually, I used to do so, though I didn’t need to create a smoke illusion for my escapes. It didn’t really make any sense to need that kind of distraction because simply disappearing would be enough to let the humans know that one wasn’t ordinary.

“Hmm, ah guess if they ain’t disturbin’ us, then there’s no point in frettin’ ‘bout it. They were released later, right?” I inquired to confirm. I didn’t feel like saving every seafarer out there, so I decided that it was just easier to have the same focus as my mate.

“Aye, no harm seems ta be done in the end, jus’ a few unsettled lasses. But…” he trailed off, debating if he should continue. “Ah don’t know if it means anythin’ ta ye, but mebbe ah should mention it jus’ in case.

“Most of the incidents seem ta be happenin’ wit’in the Sea o’ Elati, an’ there is a specific type they seem ta go after. At first they appear ta jus’ be gathering the typical seafarin’ lass wit’ brown hair an’ grey eyes, but the ones captured are the spit-fire types. If ah didn’t know any better, ah’d say they’re lookin’ fer someone like Granny- though ah have no proof o’ that. It jus’ be a gut feelin’,” Savage admitted while shaking his head.

I was getting that ‘gut feeling’, too. Though I doubted the kidnappers were falucite, they must’ve had some connection with the Fodaren clan. This could be their latest attempt to find Bardam a bride- last time they obviously used the first noble lady they could find that closely fit the description of the Lord of the Sea. I suppose now they don’t care what station the woman was, so long as Bardam takes her for a mate.

It was a common trick to take a similar human and have them impersonate the desired one. I wasn’t sure if they were hoping to fool the prince, or just everyone else. I couldn’t even pick if it would be funny or insulting to hear that Bardam managed to have the Lord of the Sea as his bride- imposter or not. Then again, it would be hilarious in either scenario to see how the Fodaren would explain how the ‘queen’ and my ‘Tia-dear were in two places at once, should she raid in another part of the country.

“Thanks fer tellin’ me. Ah might jus’ look into it after all,” I replied before leaving his ship.

It didn’t really seem all that important – or any of my business really – if the Fodaren were kidnapping girls for the sake of finding one identical to my sirsa. Though the girls were seafarers, they were also humans in the Fodaren’s territory, and they had the right to do as they pleased with them. In fact, if they did find a woman that Bardam would take, it would reduce the recent strain that had developed between myself and that clan.

…And yet, I still felt as though I should ask around about it- to find out what those creatures are, if nothing else. Not that I wanted to cause any trouble – well, okay, not much – but I couldn’t forget that someone in the Fodaren clan also kept and hid a warehouse full of functioning forbidden technology. Maybe finding out what those agents were might help me understand what the Fodaren were up to and to what purpose.

But more than that, I just wanted to make sure they weren’t doing anything that would harm my family, both falucite and human.

Now that I had the lead I was waiting for, I ended up teleporting to the one place I didn’t think I would ever willingly return to- Cyirlie’s enclave.

I only went with there with ‘Tia for the rare summons, but overall I avoided the place like the plague so I wouldn’t have to face the sea dragon I’d refused. But, the enclave was the only place where the pirates of Elati congregated, so it was my best source of information about the kidnappings that allegedly took place in this part of the world.

Though oddly enough, I didn’t feel as much animosity as usual. Facing Delar seemed to have lessened my hatred for Cyirlie. …Or maybe I have simply forgotten why I hated her, compared to what that prat made me feel. But despite my lessened feelings, I wasn’t eager to see her either. Hopefully she wouldn’t assume I was here for her and would leave me alone- it was not as if she wanted to meet with me either.

The enclave was the same as always- dragons perched on stone ledges in their natural forms, and pirates bustled about to deliver their treasures to their masters. And, since it was winter, it was bitterly cold- the open area of the holy waters easily allowed the winds to breeze through. I was glad I had the foresight to wear my usual clothes- though I liked the seafarer style, only the many layers of proper attire could help keep me warm.

I noted that unlike the last time I was here, the makeshift bar they had built to socialize by was gone. All that was left was splintered wood and wasted alcohol. It seemed Cyirlie – or one of the other dragons – was angered by something and destroyed it.

I actually felt bad for the pirates- there were not many safe places for them to go to drink and talk. Sometimes it seemed that just as soon as one grew used to visiting a pirate-friendly town, some kingdom would claim it, or the navy would invade. The enclave should be a permanent place of refuge for pirates, but it must’ve been hard to relax in a den of dragons.

And with that thought, an idea came to me. If I couldn’t build a settlement, then why not create such a refuge for pirates? The island ‘Tia and I have chosen was close to here, and it was physically harder for the navy to reach it- so long as they continued to fear dragons. This was definitely something I needed to discuss with my mate- she might love the idea as well. What better way to meet with her friends than to have them come to her?

But that was something to think about at a later time- I wanted my business done as soon as possible. If I could leave before Cyirlie noticed, the better.

Luckily two of ‘Tia’s acquaintances were docked, and I sought them out. On the way, I noticed an odd sight- there were suddenly a lot more women around than I remembered. The new lady pirate and her crew must’ve been here, too. Though I was never properly introduced to her, I should probably ask her questions as well- I heard she was what my ‘Tia-dear would call a ‘feminist’, and news of the kidnappings should interest her.

I found Pao and Fiet by a ship with pink sails and realized that they were cajoling a red haired woman that was up on the quarterdeck. Upon closer inspection, I saw that she was wearing the traditional hat and earring of pirate captains, and assumed I had found the famed Gisette I had heard so much about.

She seemed to be a Kagman like Rohje – though at least her red locks were tame – and she had grey eyes similar to ‘Tia’s- so light that they almost seemed blue from a distance. She even had freckles on her face, just like my precious sirsa, though, of course, now that my mate has aged, those freckles were starting to fade. But the most amusing feature was that she had the exact same scowl my ‘Tia- not that my mate scowled as much anymore.

Were it not for the obvious facial differences and nationality, I would think they were somehow related.

“Aw, come down an’ play wit’ us, Gisette,” Fiet taunted, giving every indication that it was meant in a perverse way. Pao rolled his eyes and acted as though he was embarrassed by his friend.

“Yer lucky Granny ain’t ‘round ta hear ye- she’d deck ye into next week if ye said something like that ta her,” Pao muttered, shaking his head. I had to smirk- she would do exactly that.

“Well she ain’t here, an’ even if she was, she’s still a lass that needs ta be put in her place,” Fiet boasted arrogantly. I decided then to make myself known.

“Is that so? Ah wonder if ye be man ‘nough fer the task?” I inquired lightly as I stepped between them. Both jumped back with shock, then fear as they realized who I was.

“Lord Satel! Don’t mind the big idiot- he don’t know wot he’s sayin’ most o’ the time,” the Orjan seafarer said quickly, trying to save his friend.

I actually wasn’t upset- Fiet had a similar problem to me, so I forgave him the moment his words left his mouth. But the difference between him and I was that I only ran my mouth when I perceived danger- he just did it to seem greater than what he actually was.

“Aye, ah was jus’ jokin’ ‘round,” the tall man agreed before Pao’s statement registered. He then made a fist at his friend and growled, “Wot do ye mean ‘idiot’!?”

Though this was turning amusing, my patience was wearing thin. With that fiery redhead reminding me of my sirsa, I wanted to return home as soon as possible.

“All right ye lot, ah have a few questions fer ye regardin’ some troublin’ rumors ah’ve been hearin’ in Naia,” I began, placing a hand at Fiet’s shoulder to keep him from approaching Pao. I then glanced up at Gisette and used my magicks so she could hear my voice, “Come down here, please. Ah’ll need yer input, too.”

If at all possible, her scowl deepened and then she made a rude hand gesture at me before storming off to her helm. I raised an eyebrow at her behavior- I wasn’t even being rude to her. I had heard she allegedly hated men, but I couldn’t imagine what had happened that would make her act in that manner. Even ‘Tia was cordial to those she didn’t like- at least for the first few minutes.

“Don’t take it personally- ye have ta be born a lass ta get her respect, apparently,” Pao muttered as he shrugged.

Fiet seemed to have an idea as he slapped his fist into his palm for a second and then faced me. “Now there’s an idea- can’t ye use yer falucite magicks ta appear like a woman? Mebbe she’ll listen ta ye then,” he suggested excitedly.

“…Ah could,” I replied slowly, “But wit’ me illusion magicks- ah don’t possess shape shiftin’ abilities.”

I wasn’t sure if he was actually insinuating that I did, but the enthusiastic look on his face made me wonder. Regardless, it was a bad idea, considering that appearing as a woman would likely not be enough to sway this Gisette. If there was anything I have learned during my years with ‘Tia, it was that women like her didn’t trust easily, and they were very stubborn. She wasn’t going to come down here no matter what I looked like.

“Ah don’t care wot ye have- all ah want ta know is that if it’s possible,” the unnaturally tall Erudian responded, appearing even more curious. What in five hells was he thinking anyway?

“It’s possible, but ah don’t think it’ll work,” I insisted while shaking my head once. “Ah’ll jus’ make her come down- that should be enough ta get her attention.”

Though I would imagine what I’d said would’ve be next to impossible for a mere human. I was going to have to rely on stunning her with my magicks and hope she might possess a shred of respect for falucite. Or fear- fear could work so long as she didn’t run away screaming.

Suddenly Pao stopped me before I could enact my plan. “Wait a moment,” he said contemplatively, “Now that it’s brought up, ah’m kinda curious.”

I paused for a moment before uttering, “What?”

“Change into a lass- ah wanna see that,” the Orjan requested with a smirk, finding the idea funny. At least his motives were transparent- he wanted a good laugh. Fiet, however, was disturbingly too fascinated with the idea.

He didn’t ease my concerns a bit as he added, “Aye, turn into the prettiest lass ye e’er seen!”

…Surely he’d remember that while I might appear as a woman, I wouldn’t actually be one, right?

Only these two and Jasco would dare make such a request of me. Any other sane human would treat me with utter respect and dread of what I might do to them if they offended me. In a way, their attitude towards me was refreshing- I felt accepted.

“The prettiest ah e’er seen, huh?” I echoed, contemplating the idea. I decided to do just that and began to manipulate their minds – and only their minds, as I didn’t want to cause a scene – into seeing me as someone else.

Their excitement waned some when they recognized who I chose, though Pao still sniggered. Of all women, I couldn’t help but think of my precious ‘Tia-dear. It was enough to satisfy their curiosity- and terrify Fiet, as he quickly stumbled back when I smirked evilly at him. Not only was my sirsa pretty, she was tough enough to make even the strongest of men quiver. Best of all, she was not what Fiet wanted to see.

“Ah said ‘pretty’, not ‘scarier than all five hells’,” he muttered in disappointment before adding under his breath, “Ah was hopin’ fer a real beauty.”

“‘Tia is beautiful,” I growled, offended he would say that.

He cursed my hearing before explaining, “Aye, ta ye. But Granny’s been ‘round me whole life, since ah was a wee lad. It kinda feels like she actually is me granny.”

“Fair ‘nough,” I conceded as I canceled my illusion. He wanted to see someone he could look at lustfully, but something in his mind prevented him from thinking that way about ‘Tia. Good- pirate or not, I didn’t want anyone to demean my mate.

“Ah’ll be back,” I announced as I started walking towards the ramp that led up to Gisette’s ship. Since I’d never been there, I couldn’t teleport directly up to the quarterdeck to collect her- I had to approach her on foot.

Her crew seemed conflicted in stopping me or just stare at me in wonder. Considering how abrasive their captain seemed to be, I doubted any men were brave enough to have tried before, so I must’ve been an unusual sight. I wasn’t sure if these women also shared the same feelings about men, or were dutiful to their captain, but there were a few who did try to bar my path and convince me to get off.

I didn’t have the patience anymore to smooth talk my way through, especially since I didn’t think I could get away with it. ‘Tia-dear couldn’t be swayed by words- so it was best to assume that they couldn’t either. So, in order to get through, I had no choice but to simply freeze them in place and step around them.

Gisette seemed none the wiser of what I did to some of her crew, but she sure was well aware of my presence. Her glare increased dangerously as I walked up the ramp before she stormed over to deal with me personally.

“How dare ye come onto me ship wit’out me permission! No scallywag men allowed!” she yelled, her hand reaching for something at her waist. I realized that she was reaching for her gun and quickly grabbed her wrist before she could do so. I had to wonder if she relied on weapons to bolster her authority to those who would otherwise look down on her. Or maybe she was just one of those types to kill first and ask questions later.

Her grey eyes darted down to my hand before lifting up to mine. She then smirked. “All ye men are the same- ye think ye can take me down ‘cause ah’m a lass. Yer ‘bout ta get yer ass kicked-”

“Ah don’t care ‘bout that, an’ don’t have time ta entertain ye wit’ a fight. When ah say come down fer a talk ye better come down,” I growled in annoyance, interrupting her tough girl speech. I had no doubt in my mind that she could probably fight as well as my mate, it just didn’t matter at the moment. Woman or not wasn’t the issue- she was still just a pathetic human and was no match against me.

And I’d be damned if I let anyone other than ‘Tia best me. It was humbling enough to admit that she’d blindsided me with a few tricks and hits over the years.

I teleported us back down to where Pao and Fiet were standing before she could have a chance to tear her wrist from my grasp. She didn’t really notice yet, as she was too busy trying to kill me with a good mimicry of Cyirlie’s death glare.

“Ye want ta talk? Then ye better get permission ta come on ta me ship an’…” She slowly realized just where we were. “…talk ta me,” she finished, sounding bewildered.

“Gisette, me lovely!” Fiet shouted with his arms held out. “Give us a kiss.”

The fiery red head responded by wrenching herself from my grasp and punching him sharply in the arm, causing the tall man to stumble away and grab at his upper arm in pain.

“Oh dear, that looked like it hurt, Fiet,” I commented mockingly, privately thinking that he deserved that one. Even I didn’t pick fights with dangerous creatures- unless they’ve started it first.

“Not as much as Granny’s punches, but still pretty bad,” Pao answered in the Erudian’s place. That must mean Gisette had attacked him once, too. Hmm. While weaker than my sirsa, that was still fairly strong for an average human.

“Capt’n Gisette,” the Orjan continued, being more respectful to appease her. He then gestured to me. “Before ye leave, ah should properly introduce ye ta Lord Satel. If ye take the legends ta heart, then ye know that he’s the famed falucite that stands at the side o’ the Lord o’ the Sea.”

It was amusing to know how quickly one became part of a legend to humans. I have only been actively working with the sea for less than sixty years- that was miniscule compared to the history of ‘Tia and her father. Still, I do hope that I really am being referred to as the one merely ‘by’ my sirsa’s side- while most pirates knew the nature of our relationship, the rest of the seafaring world must be kept in the dark, as my brethren had access to them and their tales.

“A…falucite?” Her voice quavered, sounding as startled as I was anticipating. Thankfully, she was just as brave as my ‘Tia-dear, and stood her ground despite the news. Good, I didn’t want to go chasing her down if she ran. She instead crossed her arms and stood defensively as she feigned an irritated look. She raised her head up and inquired, “An’ wot do the mighty falucite want wit’ us lowly humans?”

Well, there went my good mood. I was torn from starting to like her to being impatient with her again. Her attitude reminded me too much of my mate- I wanted to go back and see her. Now.

I narrowed my eyes at her. “Ah’ve come ta hear yer take, if any, on the rumors ah’ve been hearin’- the ones ‘bout seafarin’ lasses bein’ kidnapped by wot has been described as ‘men cloaked in black that disappear in clouds o’ smoke’,” I responded, looking to each face to see a reaction. Gisette’s didn’t change any while Pao and Fiet’s appeared confused.

“Ne’er heard o’ such rumors, though ah’ve only been ‘round the west side o’ Kotija lately,” Fiet responded, rubbing the back of his neck. He wasn’t likely to be of any help then, as he would’ve received rumors from Kotija, not Rynrir.

“Is this related ta the mysterious creatures that attacked our brothers in Naia?” Pao asked, seemingly in thought. “‘Cause ah’ve been hearin’ stories ‘bout the kidnappins, but those that claim ta witness it say that the culprits use smoke bombs ta escape wit’. Thanks ta that, most believe that the kidnappins are the work o’ pirates.”

I stopped and thought about his words, while fingering the brim of my hat. It didn’t really change much, as ‘Tia and I had always suspected that smoke bombs were being used, but how could one disappear so quickly without teleporting? And how could they escape eye witnesses with hostages in tow? That should make them stick out like a sore thumb to those outside of the smoke veil.

“All because they appear human doesn’t mean they are,” I mused, more to myself than Pao before I reluctantly glanced up at my last informant, “Wot ‘bout ye? Do ye know anythin’ ‘bout this?”

Gisette’s eyes narrowed before she tilted her head back further. “If ye want ta know, then ask nicely. No, beg fer it. Ah have no reason ta tell ye anythin’ otherwise,” she replied snootily.

And that was where her similarities with ‘Tia ended- and so did any lingering protection she had from me. My mate gave back what she received, while this child presumed too much and thought too highly of herself. I had been nice to this woman from the start, so the least she could do was feign some cordial behavior- at least until I gave her reason to loathe me. She was taking my civility for granted, believing that I wouldn’t dare do anything to harm her.

Oh, how I’ll enjoy proving her wrong.

“Don’t push yer luck,” I warned with a growl, giving one last chance.

“Then ye don’t need wote’er ah can offer,” the woman said with a smirk- she thought she was winning.

“This is serious- if ye can’t get o’er yerself fer yer fellow brothers, then do it fer the lasses that have been kidnapped,” I ground out, my teeth clenched to keep my frustration in check. I hadn’t loathed a woman like this in a very long time- at least not since Cyirlie.

“An’ wot good would information do ye? Ah could save them all jus’ fine wit’out yer help. Have fun askin’ questions,” she retorted mockingly as she turned on her heel to leave.

That was when I snapped.

It wasn’t so much her disrespect that got me – though that was certainly grating on my nerves too – but rather that she was abandoning her family. It upset me when my own cousins distanced themselves away from me, and while this was a situation of her denying us, the alienation still felt far too familiar.

Before I could stop myself, a whip of water grabbed her by the neck and hoisted her into the air. She grabbed at it in a panic, in fear of choking, so I summoned a wave out of the sea and used it to throw her body against the hull of her ship and pin her there to the side. I may have knocked the wind out of her, and probably choked her just a little, but she was mostly unharmed. My move, though I was extremely pissed off, was merely to remind her that I wasn’t someone to be taken lightly.

Gisette had been stunned into silence, and she tried hard not to show her fear. Those who were nearby to witness it could only watch, frozen in place and too scared to bring attention to themselves, lest I might include them in my wrath.

“Ye do not walk out on yer family, an’ ye don’t walk out on yer fellow seafarers. When ye chose ta become a pirate, ye chose ta cast off the preconceptions that landlubbers and coastals tried ta control ye wit’. Out here, there be no man or woman- we be pirates,” I told her, wanting her to realize she was the same as everyone else.

“Lord Satel-” Pao began, hoping to appease my anger, but I didn’t want to hear it.

“Silence,” I snarled, as that now familiar feeling of empowerment swept over me. Just like when I had faced the Fodaren clan, I was feeling as if I was in charge and knew what I was doing. And in that moment, after I had given a speech similar to what my mate would’ve said, I realized that my role was the same as ‘Tia’s. I was meant to protect and guide seafarers and pirates, just as she did.

“Family? Me fellow seafarers?” Gisette scoffed finding her voice and forcing her bravado. “Funny hearin’ that comin’ from someone like ye. Since when are falucite part o’ the family?”

“It don’t matter wot ah am- ah was born a seafarer, an’ the sea is where ah belong. An’ that be true fer e’ery human, demon, an’ dragon as well,” I replied as I slowly stepped in front of her on the crude dock. I gave her a mocking smile. “Now, if ye’ll jus’ cooperate, ye can be off an’ pillaging cities before ye know it. An’ if ye really don’t know anythin’, jus’ say so an’ ah’ll be satisfied.”

It was very still and silent as I had a stare down with Gisette. Her eyes were still defiant and angry, but as the seconds rolled by, her face relaxed and her fire cooled down some. She knew she wasn’t going to win against me, and there was no one who could save her from her predicament- I’d made sure to pin her in an area where none could easily rescue her.

Her eyes lowered and she sighed in defeat. “Ah know somethin’ ‘bout them,” she slowly admitted, her voice lower than before. I gently let her down so that her feet could touch the dock, but I kept water ropes around her wrists like chains so she couldn’t try to run off again.

She then told her tale of how before she became a pirate- she was the daughter of an explorer who sailed the furthest corners of the sea. She was one of the very few humans who got to lay eyes upon the famed fire islands – the very areas that were thought to be the five hells – and lived to tell about it.

I knew of the fire islands, though I had never been there before. It was said that rogue falucite were sent there to live their days in exile, powers stripped from them as my brother once was, though I hadn’t heard of any sent there recently. I had a few fire dragon friends, though, who described their homeland as a ‘warm’ (in their opinion) place that was habitable, but harsh to humans. Because of those stories, I didn’t think humans would bother living there, but, according to Gisette’s tale, I was wrong.

“Ah didn’t see them meself, but there were a few populated islands that were close ‘nough ta tell stories. They call themselves the Tau, an’ they’re humans that appear ta specialize in magicks, but it’s all trickery,” she said, shaking her head and glaring some more, “If anythin’ they specialize in apothecary- their abilities involve using herbs ta trick the human mind into seein’ somethin’ else, or makin’ them pass out.”

Well, that did match the description, and it explained how there were able to get into places that they shouldn’t- not to mention how they were ‘disappearing’. If they were indeed the same ones bothering the Naians, then with the right herbs, they could’ve boarded the ships and sat in plain sight without them knowing.

These herbs sounded the same as in falucite lore- that my ancestors had eaten those certain plants in excess, granting us the ability of illusions. It actually led to those herbs becoming extinct on the main continents- I could only conclude that they were delicious.

“Ah see,” I muttered contemplatively before asking, “But if it’s the Tau, then wot are they doin’ in Rynrir an’ in the Sea o’ Naia?”

She shook her head once. “Can’t say fer sure, but ah’d imagine that there be two different tribes at work- likely from the Isle o’ Rael an’ the Isle o’ Ralishaera.”

Rael was in Elati, and Ralishaera was in Naia- that made sense, though it didn’t exactly answer my question. The islands they were from were still rather far away. What purpose did these… ‘fire’ people have with seafarers or land dwellers?

“But,” the woman continued, this time appearing confused herself, “Are ye sure ye don’t know nothin’ ‘bout them? ‘Cause they don’t keep it a secret that ye falucite control us humans o’er there- ah’ve been close ta three o’ the five hells, an’ it’s said that the Tau are guided by falucite, so ah thought that was somethin’ common fer ye.”

“This be news ta me,” I retorted before correcting myself some, “At least, the clan ah hail from has no contact with fire island humans. Falucite are land dwellers, so they only deal wit’ land humans.”

“Makes sense- if yer really a seafarer, then that’s why ye control the Lord o’ the Sea, that crusty ol’ bat,” Gisette agreed, muttering the last part contemptuously.

“Ol’ bat?” I echoed in amusement, wondering where she had gotten the idea that ‘Tia was old. I suppose the others calling her ‘Granny’ must’ve given her the wrong impression of my sirsa. But I decided not to correct her on that- I’d much rather witness her surprise to seeing my mate in person, should the opportunity ever arise.

Instead, I chose to deny her accusations of being the one in control. Really, I only had control over her if she wanted me to have it. “In most cases, she’s the one wit’ control o’er me, but ah’d like ta think we’re equal partners out on the sea. Ah have no authority o’er the Lord o’ the Sea.”

“Really?” she inquired in disbelief, her eyes wide. I was admittedly shocked to see that reaction- was that the reason she avoided seeing ‘Tia for so long? Did the idea of my sirsa being led by a higher being disgust her so?

“Despite wot ye believe, falucite clans only work wit’ earth kingdoms- hence why yer information ‘bout the Tau an’ me kind is both shockin’ an’ a bit disturbin’ ta me,” I said, before tipping my hat to her courteously, “Well, ah thank ye fer the information- wot ye’ve said not only helped some, but also gave me yet another new lead.”

I released her from my magicks and turned away from her in dismissal. I then walked a few steps towards Pao and Fiet. The woman let out a small huff before her feet also began to lead her away.

“Oh, an’ Fiet?” I called out pleasantly, noting that the lady captain also paused at the sound of my voice. She remained in place, seemingly curious to overhear what I was about to say to the man. I made sure a serene smile remained on my face as I walked past him and then stopped, gazing at him from over my shoulder. “I forgive ye for wot ye said earlier- if only ‘cause fer e’ery man who thinks he can put ‘Tia in her place, she puts them in theirs.”

This is why I didn’t address him sooner- Fiet knew damn well that ‘Tia was no one to mess with, so there was no point in getting angry for empty words that were made to make him sound tough. However, with my sirsa unable to remind him of this fact, I felt it was my duty to do so in her place- and to leave a subtle warning that I might also do something, should he continue to disrespect my mate so.

The tall pirate laughed nervously, unsure if I was just teasing him or seriously threatening him. Pao, the dear man, decided to read between the lines and further spell it out for him. “He means he’s gonna tell Granny on ye.”

“Wot? No! Anythin’ but that!” Fiet protested, sounding worried. “Lord Satel!”

“Oh don’t worry Fiet! Ah won’t mention a thing- as long as ye remain in me good graces,” I replied jovially. I then teleported out of the enclave before he could respond.

I loved doing that to humans.

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

After being exposed to Gisette, I wanted nothing more than to return home and draw my precious sirsa into my arms and never let go. …But alas, I couldn’t ignore the information I had just received. I needed full confirmation that my brethren were indeed making contact with these Tau people- who exactly was doing it, and for what reason.

It was with great reluctance that I forced myself to appear in my clan’s homestead with the intent to speak with my elders. I didn’t believe they were making contact in the fire islands, but then I didn’t know everything about them. If nothing else, then they might know something of the other clans- they may even have more information about the Tau.

Though it was around mid-morning at the enclave, it was late afternoon at the homestead, since it was on the opposite side of the world. And since ‘Tia-dear was up in the northern hemisphere, that meant it was getting close to dusk for her- perhaps in as little as an hour. So long as I didn’t arrive at a bad time, I should be able to get whatever information I could, then call it a day. I so desperately wanted to go home and be with my mate.

But as I headed to the Grand Hall to make an appointment, I soon discovered that the frustrations I had faced today were nothing compared to what was waiting for me at the doors. My body tensed up instantly at the sight of long blue hair, and my feelings of dread and anger only intensified when the figure turned to face me.

What in five hells was Delar doing here?

The prat gave a smug grin as he pushed his glasses further up on his nose. “Ah, Satel. I was wondering when our paths might cross again. I assume you are searching for me?”

“Not particularly- why would I need you?” I replied, trying to keep my emotions in check. A thought then occurred to me and I couldn’t resist adding, “Or are you so delusional to think that I might suddenly change my mind in regards to my pet?”

I really shouldn’t be baiting him just yet, since he was acting pleasant at the moment. But I just couldn’t help it- and his damned smirk grew wider despite the snub.

“I’m quite shocked you haven’t heard the rumors I had spread about you to the other clans. I had a hunch that if I made everyone believe that you, the slime of the sea, was trying to start a war with us, then you would confront me eventually,” he told me as he drew closer. He then continued in a deeper tone as he tilted his chin down some and stared at me menacingly, “I will not be denied a proper explanation this time. All I ask is to hear a good reason why the union cannot be made.”

“And like the last meeting we had, I cannot give you the reason. How I handle the matters of the sea is none of your business- just as it is not my business to dictate how you raise your royal pets,” I snarled back, my hands clenching at my sides. I was infuriated to know the lengths this prat had to go in order to get my attention- he could’ve damaged my reputation and placed ‘Tia and Rutan in danger!

But thankfully, I didn’t believe he did enough to truly harm me- after all the trust I had built with the other clans, I doubted they would take his words at face value. They would at least allow me the chance to explain myself before trusting him. Delar didn’t seem to know that, so I could use that to my advantage.

“You do not seem to grasp the situation,” the blue haired twit said with an air of superiority that was quickly making me lose my control. “This is but the beginning of your torture. I could say far worse about you, and if I keep going the other clans might not allow your pet to raid. I do not believe what you have said before about these ‘ancient agreements’- she touches our lands, so we have control of that.”

I continued to glare at him, choosing not to answer- he was wrong again, of course. It didn’t matter if we had control over the land, nor if we could claim coastal seafarers as humans to raise. We – falucite – cannot touch the humans that live on sea, and we can’t interfere with battles between humans. That was why ‘Tia was beyond their law- and beyond Delar’s reach.

Seeing as I wasn’t going to answer, the prat smiled pleasantly and shrugged. “All of this could be over if you would just speak with me seriously on the matter,” he continued on in a near sing song voice.

I just had another gut feeling then that this couldn’t possibly be only about ‘Tia- there was something unsaid that was going on, and I had the suspicion that it was about the warehouse. I bet he probably suspected that I was the one behind the destruction, but he couldn’t outright ask me without revealing that he was well aware of the forbidden technology. But if I were to slip and admit that I was the culprit first, then he would have grounds to attack me without having to confirm his sins.

It would be nice if he could make the unwitting error though- I had a few counter questions I was curious about, like was he the only one behind it? Or were his elders fully aware and in support of it?

I couldn’t remain silent forever and calmed myself enough to shake my head in disappointment. “You are far too nosey for your own good. Leave me be, for if I reveal the reasons for my actions, then I will have to kill you after,” I warned with a growl.

Which was true- I couldn’t have some untrustworthy miscreant running around with the knowledge that I was mated to a different woman, or that the woman was none other than the Lord of the Sea.

Delar almost seemed delighted to hear that as his grin turned sinister and his eyes showed malice. “I do not think you possess the power or strength to defeat me, falcie,” he taunted, before sliding his body into a traditional pose for fighting.

It was obvious he was challenging me to a fight of magicks and I instinctually reacted. I didn’t believe he was as powerful as he thought himself, and was more than ready to splatter his remains all over the nearest wall. I very much wanted to kill him just then- and I should’ve been shocked to feel that way, but I wasn’t. Even though it was rare for fellow falucite to challenge each other – unless one was rogue, of course – most couldn’t bear to strike a killing blow, even if it was in their right.

But the fight was not meant to be, as a mass of lavender came between us, and my magicks became unresponsive. Garroe stood between us, glaring at Delar, then at me with a rather stormy expression.

“Stay out of this, Garroe!” I yelled before I could stop myself.

“I apologize for the interference,” my eldest brother said before he turned his gaze back to the prat. “…and for eavesdropping,” he added, earning a wince from the blue hared man. “But I cannot allow the two of you to fight in these hallowed halls- you must take your grievances elsewhere.”

While he had a point, there was simply no way for the two of us to calm ourselves and arrange for a duel at another place. The fight was as spontaneous as my current emotions- and thanks to Garroe, it was over before it began. And that made me feel even angrier.

Though while my brother had good intentions in stopping our battle, I didn’t feel as though he was simply doing it to prevent any damage to our home- it felt more like he was trying to protect me. My assumptions were not discouraged when he completely faced Delar and said, “Based on what I have unintentionally heard, I have reason to believe you are not here seeking a mate. I would ask you to leave until you are serious about your intentions.”

So he was going to other clans under false pretenses? How low could one get? I do hope his actions will render him undesirable by other females in the future.

“Who are you to send me away, sir? While I might have ulterior motives, I am seeking a mate,” Delar replied indignantly, drawing himself high as to appear intimidating.

Then, in a rare show of authority, Garroe matched his stance and asserted himself. “I am a branch member of this clan and I will not be disrespected in my own home. Furthermore, ignoring your reasons, I have mind to report you to your elders. I will respect that you have grievances with my brother, but how dare you pull others into your squabble? This should be a confrontation made between the two of you alone- do not involve those who have nothing to do with it,” he replied in a raised tone while still maintaining calm.

Though there were many descendants, only three falucite may call themselves branch members in a clan. They were the selected heirs of the first three sons that were said to have started each clan. The elders were the highest authority, with branch following close behind. But while elders handled law and politics outside of the clan, branch members led the family and protected all who lived in the homestead.

And while Delar might not care for my brother’s interference, even he had to respect a branch member. He sneered some before mustering a polite bow and apologized in a hiss. “Very well, I shall depart now. I do hope you will come to forgive me for my behavior.” Then he glared at me from over Garroe’s shoulder. “This is not over between us, Satel.”

Garroe released our magicks, and the prat teleported away right after. I let out a scoff and glared at the floor. I couldn’t even enjoy the scolding that idiot received- he made me so furious!

“Satel,” my brother called as he turned to face me, but I wouldn’t let him get in another word.

“I do not need your help,” I snapped, far too irritated to express any gratitude. I really shouldn’t take my feelings out on Garroe, but I no longer had an outlet, and I was nearly insane with anger.

At this he grinned, even his cobalt eyes showed mirth. “I was not aware I was helping you. I was merely preventing the two of you from destroying our home. Though you should express some thanks- do not forget that the earth does not heed you very well. You would have been at a cruel disadvantage should a fight have occurred.”

He was right, I dimly realized. Being a seafarer strengthened my ability with water – the element which my kin had only weak control over – but made me unable to control earth and fire properly. I wasn’t sure if that was a fair trade-off, but I still had other magicks that were not ruled by the elements. I had my canteen of water, as limited as that was, and at least wind was universal- I could have defeated him with that alone. Just thinking of stealing the breath from that bastard…

“I thank you, Garroe. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be going,” I muttered with my head ducked down so he couldn’t see the anger in my eyes.

I left as quickly as I could, so that my brother or my other relatives wouldn’t be targets of my rage. I had hoped to have some questions answered, but now it was impossible for me to focus on anything other than that prat who got away. I felt like screaming- nay, I felt like destroying something.

With that thought, I teleported straight way to the island ‘Tia had mentioned this morning. I had been there a few times before to investigate other matters, so it was no trouble for me to access it.

I didn’t care that the workers were surprised of my abrupt arrival, all I needed to ascertain was that my mate wasn’t here before I unleashed a wave of wind to break nearby wooden structures. I waited for the humans to scream out a warning and flee the vicinity before I sought for more objects to damage.

I wasn’t that far gone to accidentally harm any living creatures, but I still needed some kind of outlet after my encounter with Delar. Since I knew ‘Tia was coming to destroy this place anyway, I felt it was safe enough to vent here without consequences. It was better than taking it out on one of my few remaining territories, anyway.

By the time I was done venting, it was nightfall, and through the moonlight and remaining fires I took a good look at what I’d done. My magicks seemed to have caused most of the fires, and I had unwittingly summoned a few waves to help with the attack. Most buildings were leveled, their contents – mix of weapons and ammunition – were scattered upon the ground.

I recalled a few explosions that had happened during my rage, and seeing the artillery explained it. I suppose it was a good thing I had summoned water, else a bigger explosion could have occurred. I noted ‘Tia didn’t appear, but I assumed that she decided not to come upon seeing the chaos I was causing. I didn’t mean for her to see me like this, but I knew she’d understand once I explained myself to her.

I felt emotionally drained as I willed myself back to The Cruel Whore. I soon discovered that it was very late, as I entered our dark cabin and spied my mate already in bed. I could tell she was awake by how she was breathing, but she didn’t turn to face me or ask any questions. It warmed me to realize that she was willing to wait for me to tell her what was wrong.

I quickly dressed for bed, for once feeling too tired to even try to seduce her, and then climbed in behind her. I then pulled her against me so I could relax and settle in for the night. She then did a very cute thing by grabbing my hand and kissed the back of it- only after that did she allow her body to rest.

Oh ‘Tia-dear, were you too worried about me to sleep? I wondered to myself before making a promise to make it up to her in the morning.

But for now, I just didn’t want to think, or remember that damned smug grin of his. I just wanted to sleep, content to know that my entire world was resting safely in my arms.

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