10. The One Connected To It All

Chapter 10

The One Connected To It All

I awoke to light caresses along my body and gentle kisses to my forehead. Ordinarily, I was the one who woke up first and did that to Satel, so I guess he decided to copy me when he stirred. Since he was asleep most of the day yesterday, it didn’t surprise me that he didn’t need to sleep in like he usually did. However, I wasn’t as lucky- and my sleep was disturbed by that strange nightmare, followed by that long discussion afterwards.

I opened my eyes to find Satel hovering over me with a look that was mix of fondness and concern. When he noticed that I was awake, he immediately asked, “How are you feeling?”

“That’s what I should be asking you, genius. You were the one poisoned,” I muttered as I tried sitting up slightly. Since he wouldn’t move off me, all I could do was rest myself on my elbows and stare up at him. I was never very cheerful upon first waking, so sarcasm and a quiet tone was all I could muster at the time. I wasn’t really trying to sound agitated with him.

“I’m just fine,” he replied with a shake of his head before his hand returned to my cheek to move back most of my hair. “But you’re the one running a fever- and your skin is darkening in the areas where you used to have that rash.”

At that I shot up, pushing my mate out of the way in the process, before I reached up to my scalp line to feel for any bumps or swelling. But my skin was smooth there- all it was doing was darkening, and Satel soon confirmed that there was no trace of red showing up. So Lioa hadn’t been seeing things…

“This can’t be Seafarer’s Madness- I haven’t been anywhere near the ocean since coming here!” I nearly shouted as I tried to look at my arms for any other trace of the symptoms. Even if it was, it wasn’t moving like it usually did. First came the fever, then the rash began from the crown of the head and the wrist and ankles of the limbs before it spread out to the rest of the body rapidly. The ‘darkening’ began yesterday, long before the fever, and it didn’t seem to be spreading since the first sighting.

“It could’ve been from exposure to Cyirlie. They say that dragon priestesses can be considered the ‘sea’ since they represent the goddess,” the blond speculated as he tried to pull me against him again.

“But shouldn’t I be immune to this? We’ve mated plenty of times, so why is my human disease coming back?” I inquired with an undertone of exasperation to my voice. I was clearly feeling fine despite the fever I had, but I didn’t want to have it at all. Last time I had spent weeks in bed, miserable and in constant pain until Satel cured me of it with his hormones.

“I’m not even sure how you contracted it in the first place. …Let’s ask Didra, maybe she’ll have an idea,” he suggested as he glanced at the door. “I’ll go get her.”

“Don’t worry about it- she’ll come to us. She promised to come by and see how you’re doing this morning,” I told him before he could move. I wasn’t sure if he was going to try to teleport or actually walk out, but I didn’t want him to expend the energy when he probably needed to save it for recovery.

He did appear perfectly healthy again, which was a far cry from the near dead look he sported yesterday afternoon, but I couldn’t tell what was going on inside of him. Only Didra could deem him ready to resume his life.

Besides… I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of her seeing me in my nightclothes. Of course, after a quick glance around, I realized that I wasn’t going to have much of a choice. The magicks in the walking suit I had been wearing yesterday had sent the garments back to our bedchambers, so I was stuck in what I was wearing.

“How long is she going to take? I have much to do today if I want to protect you from anything that might come along.” Satel then made a short frustrated growl as he shifted to sit on his knees. “I don’t think I can stay in bed all day.”

I wanted to chuckle at his ‘bounding energy’ and point out how he was acting like a child that wanted to go outside to play, but I was completely caught on his idea that I needed to be protected. I thought we already established that Cyirlie’s threat was either just a dream or something that was aimed at another creature that I happened to see at night.

“Why do you think I need to be protected now? I mean, sure, we can take precautions, but do you honestly think someone is out to get me?” I questioned him to make him realize what he was saying. Maybe he was the one still in dreamland and woke up with a nightmare where something had happened to me.

The falucite did pause to consider my words before he shook his head and appeared resolved. “I don’t know what I experienced yesterday when I nearly died, but it came to me for a reason. I saw visions that shouldn’t have been possible, but they were clearly warnings to me- so yes, I do think someone is searching for you, and I won’t just let them have you.”

Come to think of it, he never did tell all of what he’d seen. He just vaguely hinted that he seen Cegil’s daughter and that she had a message for him. Was there also a message for me left with him? Or perhaps it was just as he said- he received a warning. But if that was true, then who is warning him? And…

“Who’s searching for me?” I inquired, hoping to get some idea of what I should be looking out for. I didn’t want to think Satel was going crazy- he obviously took time to seriously think his experience through last night before saying this much out loud. But I just couldn’t believe that anyone would want someone as insignificant as me. Sure, I wasn’t an average human in terms of being a pirate and an orphan, and not many were mated to a falucite, but I had no power or status worth coveting.

“Would you believe me if I said it was the goddess Elati?”

“No,” I replied almost instantly. I didn’t mean to make it sound like I didn’t believe him at all, but I knew one goddess wouldn’t care about me. I would sooner believe Cyirlie was after me, but only because she would have a motive if she knew I was Satel’s mate. “…Sorry. I do believe in you, but I don’t believe any god would have interest in me. You know how ‘useful’ humans are- she could just find another seafarer if she needs one so badly.”

“Would the name Ariat change your mind?” he inquired, appearing rather confident of his information and its relevance.

“Not really. Who’s she?” I countered as I tilted my head in confusion. My answer seemed to have thrown him into a loop as his eyes widened and he stared at me incredulously.

Just what was he expecting? I’ve never heard of that name in my life, so I certainly didn’t know anyone who bore it. In fact, I was rarely around women until I came to the homestead, so unless this ‘Ariat’ was a man with pretty lady’s name, then I could confidently say I didn’t know the person.

“…That’s not your real name?” Poor Satel sounded so lost and confused, like I had taken the wind out of his sails, but I couldn’t just lie to him. I had no clue where he had heard it, especially after I left a strong hint that I bore a goddess’ name. There was no goddess named Ariat.

“Not even close. What idiot tried to give you that idea?” I muttered in a scoff, wondering just who was messing with my mate’s head. I didn’t like telling him off like this, but I was really getting worried about what he dreamt up. He was starting to sound a bit insane.

“Dantia… She said it was your very first name,” he replied, trying to hide his embarrassment that he was wrong. I immediately felt bad that I called Cegil’s daughter an idiot when I didn’t even know her.

“I- …Sorry… I didn’t mean to say it like that,” I said as I briefly stared down at the covers. “Maybe I had another name that I didn’t know about. I mean, the one I had before was what the Wise Man called me- there could’ve been someone else that called me Ariat I guess.”

I just didn’t want to say that Dantia or Satel were liars. And, even though I never knew the woman who gave birth to me, I couldn’t discredit the thought that she might’ve had a name for me. Besides, Satel really believed he saw his niece, and since he was dead for a short while, it wasn’t too outrageous to think that he might’ve talked to the dead.

“…No, I understand why you’re skeptical- even I had a hard time trying to wrap my mind around it. I still have no answer as to why Dantia knew so much or why she even claimed to know your name, but I can’t argue that I could dream up half of what I saw and heard by myself. Maybe I am being paranoid, but I don’t want to take that chance,” he explained, proving that he was still keeping his resolve to continue with his plans.

“Alright…” I relented. “As long as you don’t go overboard, I’ll follow whatever orders you have to keep me safe.”

I still didn’t think I had anything to worry about, but so long as he is aware that nothing might happen, then I wouldn’t have to be concerned over him being reckless. He wasn’t the type to go on a rampage and destroy ‘probable’ enemies. …He was the type to get angry and destroy towns.

“You don’t really believe me, do you?” Satel asked dejectedly after a sigh. I winced a little, since my tone did still imply some doubt when I replied to him.

I had to let out a sigh myself before I thought through my answer to him. “I believe you, but I don’t understand your story enough to accept it yet. You haven’t told me the details of your dream, and I probably need some time to wrap my mind around it, too.”

My mate’s head was down and his hair was covering most of his face, but I was able to see a tiny grin on his lips through the long strands. “The elders wouldn’t believe me- they would ask for conclusive evidence that what I say is true before they would give me their trust. Just hearing you give me even the slightest benefit of the doubt means a lot to me.”

“I’ve been around you enough to know that while you like to aggravate some people, you also work for the best interests of those you care about. Sure, I’ll question your information, but I’ll still follow you,” I replied, showing that I supported him no matter what.

“Thanks ‘Tia-dear,” he told me gratefully before he pulled my form against him and hugged me tightly. It didn’t occur to me until then that Satel was concerned that I would dismiss his dream or whatever as nonsense, but I really had no grounds to do so.

It wasn’t quite because I was blindly in love with him (I would heavily argue the ‘blindly’ part, though), but because of the dreams I had been having. Now that I knew that I was actually staring at the moon and doing strange things while I slept, I couldn’t just believe there was nothing to dreams. If anything, Satel had every right to take action on what he believed was a genuine warning. Come to think of it, it was most likely because of my sleepwalking that he gave his near-death experience any consideration.

Before I really knew it, my head was tilted back so he could claim my mouth in an endearing and passionate kiss. I wasn’t sure if his gesture was also out of gratitude or if he was just feeling in the mood. It wasn’t uncommon for him to want to kiss me in the morning, after all.

I had no trouble responding back and didn’t really feel like stopping him when a hand burrowed under the covers and began trailing down my thigh. When he started to pull the light yellow material of my nightgown up, I was about to make a sound to encourage him to keep going- but then I heard the door open.

“Enough of that you two. I heavily advise against mating at this time.” I instinctually pushed my mate back and pulled the blankets up to cover my body even though I was perfectly decent.

“Didra, you have the worst timing!” Satel growled, irritated with the interruption. I fearfully glanced over to the door to find that the evil shrew lady was indeed the one who entered the guest room. The platinum blond seemed to have forgotten who he was snapping at because he was soon sinking back into the bed when said medic glared at him from across the room.

Before I could blink, she teleported to his side of the bed and gave the most venomous stare I had ever seen on her face.

“Excuse me?” Didra muttered coldly before she casually pulled her small leather case from her medical bag and examined a shiny scalpel. The sight of that menacing tool was enough to have us both try to hide ourselves under the blankets, but Satel managed to resist the urge and feigned some bravery. …I suppose after facing Cyirlie, Didra shouldn’t be as half as scary as she was before… or at least he could pretend that.

“I said ‘Thank you for saving my life yesterday’. I’m certain that without your medical expertise, I wouldn’t have had a fighting chance in surviving,” Satel ‘bravely’ declared as his cinnamon colored eyes drifted to stare meekly at the small dresser in the room.

“That’s better,” Didra replied, almost cooing as she put away the tool. Elit above! She might not be as scary as Cyirlie, but she truly is evil. …Still, she did prove yesterday that she was a very capable doctor and that she did care about us.

She didn’t give either one of us a chance to talk when she suddenly reached out to feel Satel on his forehead. “Hmm… your temperature is normal, but I detect the scent of a fever.”

I knew falucite had a very keen sense of smell, but even to this day I couldn’t fathom what a fever would smell like. I suppose that was why Satel knew I had a fever moments before… though he was wrapped around me and could feel it.

“No, it’s ‘Tia-dear. She seems to be coming down with something,” Satel explained as he spared a quick glance in my direction.

He was probably apologizing to me in that brief moment of eye contact because in the next split second, the shrew woman was on my side of the bed to gleefully examine me. There was nothing she loved more than tending to new illnesses… well, ‘nothing’ save for her mate and falcie. Speaking of Aared, I wondered where he was? Logically he must be with his father, but doesn’t he also have work to do?

The pink haired woman examined me by feeling for my body heat and then pressing her ear against my chest to determine the strength and speed of my heart beat. When she was done with that, she closely looked at the skin at my hairline, then at my wrists to determine if I had what everyone else was thinking.

As she examined me, my mate couldn’t keep quiet as he expressed his worries about my condition and listed all sorts of probable causes- and they all annoyed the medic because she needed silence in order to perform a short examination.

“Hmm… It does seem to be a strain of Seafarer’s Madness, but a very weak one. I would speculate that it would clear up on its own without any aid- so long as you avoid contact with stronger forces like Cyirlie. Satel may be right in guessing that it had something to do with her,” Didra said, giving out her diagnosis. She then gave out a dark smirk before she reached for her bag. “I would wait a day to see if your symptoms become worse. If it does, then I will need a blood sample to further explore the situation- unless you are willing to volunteer some blood now.”

“No, no, I’m good,” I replied instantly as I gripped the covers and pulled them to my chest. I knew she was reaching for a needle in that bag of hers and I let out a sigh of relief when she relented and focused her attentions on Satel.

“Very well, just stay in bed for the rest of the day and you should be fine,” she muttered coolly before her bright green eyes locked on to his, “Now for you…”

“You don’t need my blood,” Satel stated as he narrowed his eyes and tried to appear stubborn and unbendable.

“I said nothing of the sort,” Didra responded sweetly, letting her amusement to his reaction show. She didn’t even have to say it- she let her body language and the dark look in her eyes insinuate that she was going to mention it. She clearly enjoyed tormenting us with medical threats- sometimes we couldn’t tell if she was being serious or if she just wanted to make us squirm.

She didn’t do much for his examination, only checked his eyes and tested his sensitivity to touch with a few, probably deliberately painful, pinches.

“It does seem that you are fully recovered, but I would not take any chances. I am ordering one more day of bed rest before you can use your powers and resume your missions. Also, I recommend no mating for today to ensure the toxins have completely left your body,” the doctor ordered, before she made a quick amendment, “Kissing should be fine as long as you can control yourselves, but I recommend Tia drink some si’ansirsa to strengthen her immunity to any weakened poison that might be in your mouth.”

“Si’ansirsa? Why?” I asked, curious as to when wine became medicine or some kind of immunity boost. Also, exactly how weak was the poison in his system? I was told that even weakest of forms could harm humans- or was that something that applied to my non-modified brethren?

“Because I believe that it may hold some of the same properties as meyoo’asirsa. As I thought on it, Satel’s body did not merely recover ‘quickly’; the damage may have also been slowed due to his constant consumption of the red ixia. Regardless of the color, it is still a flower of the same family- it simply possessed less of a potency,” Didra speculated, finally coming to a logical conclusion that satisfied her. Of course, even despite the fact that he might not have had as much damage as she thought, if vital organs were attacked, that’s still more than enough to kill a person.

I didn’t know too much about the language from where those words originated, but I knew si’an was ‘red’ and ‘sirsa’ was an ixia, a type of flower. So if meyoo’a was ‘blue’ (I believed), then the antidote was made from blue ixias. …Were ixias even safe for human consumption? I would have to guess that they were, otherwise the wine wouldn’t be served in human bars. Or perhaps only red ixias in particular were safe for my kind….

“No mating? You simply love to torment me…” Satel muttered in disappointment before he shrank back from another glare from his sister-in-law.

“Would you rather risk the life of your mate?” she questioned in a sharp tone, earning a drawn out ‘no’ from the male.

I knew that Satel wouldn’t dare do anything to harm me, but his whining about no mating was somewhat cute. It wasn’t as if we needed to mate everyday, as we sometimes had significant breaks between them depending on what the next day held. Of course, with the fact that we’d both be stuck in bed today, I’m sure he’d want some kind of distraction since he won’t be able to work.

“I will return in the evening to check your conditions. If either one of you feels as if there is a significant change in your bodies, send your servant to find me. I will be in the library today,” the medic announced as she gathered her supplies and headed for the door.

Right… that’s why we couldn’t go back to the privacy of our chambers- Lioa was going to have to serve us in bed and she needed a way to reach us. Once we were alone again, Satel didn’t hesitate to gather me in his arms and moved me to comfortably rest against him.

“Looks like I have all day to plan my next strategy,” he muttered after a sigh. He was sort of whining again, but I couldn’t fault him. He was feeling well, but he was being told to rest. Satel wasn’t the type to enjoy a day of rest unless he had a full distraction, and since I wasn’t to be touched any further than a kiss, he had even less to focus on.

My head was resting against his shoulder, but I still glanced up at him despite him being so close. “Are you going to tell me anything about this strategy? I might be able to help.”

The blond managed a tiny grin before he shifted to rearrange the pillows behind us so he could lean back some. He then made sure to have me recline against him comfortably as he made himself all cozy.

“For now, I want you to rest and get over your fever. I still need to plan through some more things before I bring it up to you,” he eventually answered before adding, “Even though I want to keep you as far away from this as possible, I would rather have you come with me as I figure out what’s going on. If I’m right and a goddess is after you, then you have the right to know why.”

“Thanks Satel, I appreciate that,” I murmured contently against him. Since this involved me, I couldn’t sit idly by and just wait for Satel to come back and tell me what was happening. I needed to be out there to learn the truth myself, and having his support made me feel a lot better.

I wasn’t really that tired, but I could feel the fever starting to get worse. I closed my eyes and let Satel have his moment to himself- at least until Lioa came with our breakfast.

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

I woke up later after Lioa had dropped off our food, ate, then fell asleep again when my head became fuzzy and my joints started to ache from the fever. I was still a little disturbed that I was feeling sick at all- I hadn’t felt even slightly terrible since mating with Satel. His hormones even prevented me from getting allergies. Though in hindsight, I had to recognize that all because I was immune to human diseases didn’t mean I was immune to falucite or falucite-strength ones…

When I awaked a second time, I was feeling much better. Satel checked me over to determine for himself that my fever was indeed gone… though he did more than was necessary by running his lips along my cheeks and neck. Of course I didn’t complain about that at all.

It was after that when he finally decided to tell me what he had seen in his near-death experience. From the strange vision of the deal between Storm Goddess and the first king of Eruda, to the information that Dantia had given him around the end, I tried to keep an open mind. He soon started leaving out details after learning of Elati’s objectives, only explaining that he had some concerns that almost made him choose death. I didn’t force him to tell me, since it could’ve been something so personal that he didn’t want me to know about it. I knew very well we all had secrets and pasts we didn’t want revealed- and if or when he felt comfortable with telling me about it, he would.

“Just to be certain, you do know nothing of this Hels Meyuun, right?” he inquired to make sure.

“Yesterday was the first time I’d heard of it,” I confirmed. Why was it that everyone who was searching for it didn’t know what it was? One would think that if the goddesses wanted it, they would at least describe what it is…

“I don’t know what anyone is planning or if they would really come for you at all, but I don’t want to be separated from you for most of the day anymore. From now on, you’re coming with me on my missions,” Satel declared with a serious look on his face.

I blanched a little as I drew up my knees and hugged them. “I don’t know… you know I don’t like watching you kill people- and what about my lessons?”

I didn’t mean to outright refuse him, but I wasn’t sure if I could handle too much change. I was willing to work it out with him, but he was going to have to make some sacrifices, too. Actually, this was my best chance to convince him to take on less missions!

“No need to worry about that. You don’t have to be present for any assassinations- I just want you nearby in the same town as me. And since we would be mostly spending the day together, you could have your lessons with Cegil during my reading hour and visit Lioa after dinner- if they both approve of that change, of course,” he explained, proving that he wasn’t trying to take anything away from me.

So it wasn’t a case of him wanting to hide me away from the homestead- he just wanted to be closer to me so he could protect me should anything come along. Satel actually had been trying to get me to come with him on his missions before, but I had never thought about rearranging my daily schedule this way. In fact, it didn’t occur to me that traveling with him during the day would be enough for him to allow me time to spend with others when coming home.

“Would there be time for me to spend with Cegil and Lioa?” I inquired, hoping that he understood what I did during the day. My lessons usually took two to three hours while the time I spent with Lioa lasted at least two or more hours. Satel was usually home around an hour before dinner and I would spend the rest of the day and all night with him. I knew he had a pocket watch, but sometimes I wondered if he really had a sense of time while out there.

“Certainly- I’ll take on less missions so you can have more time if you need it. Besides, I would like to have some extra time to glance through the library and see if I can find anything about Erudian history or sea lore,” the blond replied, willing to agree with nearly anything I might suggest.

“Speaking of that, is book research all you’re going to do to find out about the goddess?” I asked, curious as to what all we could do. He did promise earlier that he was going to take me along to any investigations about it.

“I will also be fitting in any missions that will involve the coastal areas. I’ll try to avoid Port Sibest, but we really do need to question them about the Hels Meyuun and the connection it might have with…” His eyes widened in surprise as he paused. He then glanced at me for a second before muttering, “…Damn.”

“What is it?” I inquired to figure out what that was for. It seemed as if I had stumbled across something I wasn’t supposed to know about…

“I shouldn’t say more until I talk to Cegil- this is part of his main mission and I need permission from him to tell you more about it. After what happened last night, I would guess it is safe, but I can’t say for certain if it’s really related.”

This wasn’t the first time I had heard that Cegil’s missions involved the coast, but I didn’t know how my sleepwalking was connected to it… unless Satel was trying to say he was worried of the consequences like he was with my finding out about the sleep singing. Or…

“Are you saying you think Cegil might’ve known about the Hels Meyuun or how I could be connected to it?” I guessed, wondering if that was what he was trying to get at.

Satel’s eyes widened again before he quickly shook his head. “Sorry I wasn’t clear- that wasn’t what I meant at all. Cegil has been talking to… an unsavory bunch that we’re not sure you’d like. …But after that dream I had, I have to wonder what relationship you have with that mysterious object and them.”

“Okay… so if Cegil gives permission, will you tell me what that meant?” I asked, feeling annoyed that he was keeping details from me. I knew Satel didn’t want to keep secrets from me in this case, but I felt like this was time when being cautious wasn’t necessary. Hearing all these ‘hints’ was driving me crazy.

“Of course,” he confirmed, “But I don’t really want to say much because I have no proof of it. There are all these incidences and unusual events that always seem to point back to you. I still want to believe that all of them are just coincidental or are simply related to you because you are a seafarer.”

I couldn’t blame him for feeling that way. I didn’t want to be the sole cause of what’s going on. It was maddening enough to discover just last night that I had been singing on behalf of some demon that owed a debt to Elit. I may have complained about humanity for a long time, but it was comfortable just being a spectator and supporter.

I didn’t want to be pulled out into the spotlight and be looked up to- hell, Satel’s attentions had made me nervous at first. I’d had to get used to being his object of affection and it took some time before I found a guilty pleasure in enjoying the importance he’d placed on me. Of course, I only felt that way because he was just one person- it was the idea of being significant to many, like a noble or a hero, that made me nervous.

I just… felt that it was wrong for humans to have any sort of power. Maybe it was because I was seeing my kind from a falucite’s perspective, but humans with high status tend to go corrupt. The only reason why I wasn’t affected was because I didn’t rule over others, and I was fairly powerless in terms of rank in the family. I was only important to Satel and Cegil.

“…Do you think I’ll be okay going to the coast at all? What if that’s what Elati is hoping for and she’s waiting to send another wave after me?” I inquired as the thought came to me.

Satel had no clue if anyone was really going to come to the homestead for me or if the goddess just knew that I would unwittingly come to her shores. I wasn’t as stunned as I should’ve been to discover through Satel’s experience that I was the actual cause of the massive disaster to hit Port Sibest, but only because it had happened about three years ago. It didn’t really hit me yet that some higher being risked the lives of others just to get me… though sadly I didn’t care much for the people of that port town, so if there were casualties, it didn’t weigh that heavily in my mind.

Still, if that was what a goddess was capable of, then I didn’t want to instigate another one and bring down people more innocent than those bastards.

“I think it should be okay as long as you don’t touch the water. I have a feeling that they’re not as all knowing as we think- Elati didn’t even know of your whereabouts until Cyirlie saw you.”

Come to think of it, that strange voice I heard on that day could’ve been a goddess. I didn’t hear it until I waded out into the water and I didn’t hear it again after I’d left it. When thinking of it that way, it kind of made sense- the sea gods only have power over the ocean, so when one leaves it, they have no contact with that person. …Not unless the dreams I had was a form of contact.

Suddenly our conversation came to an end when there was a knock at the door. We both answered at the same time to allow whoever it was in. It was kind of strange since we never had to say ‘come in’ to anyone before, but it was kind of cute that we answered together.

I was surprised when Lioa appeared and quietly entered like she wasn’t supposed to be here. It was getting close to lunchtime, but she didn’t have any food with her. Instead, there was a tightly folded bundle of cloth in a mint green color in her arms.

She immediately walked over to my side of the bed and reached out to feel my forehead. “How are you feeling, dear?”

“Much better- I think the fever broke,” I replied cheerfully so I could dispel any worry in the matronly woman. Lioa had been so worried about me when she came by earlier- the fact that she found out that it was a stain of Seafarer’s Madness didn’t help either.

“But your skin is still dark in those areas,” she commented softly as she pushed back some strands of my light brown hair.

“It’ll fade eventually,” I reassured her, even though I didn’t know if that was true. I considered myself lucky that it wasn’t turning red and spreading. I was also grateful that the pain and itching associated with the skin problem didn’t seem to be manifesting either.

“Well, I hope so. It is indeed a sad thing when a pretty girl becomes scarred over an illness,” Lioa replied before she placed the bundle of soft-feeling material on my lap. “I brought you a change of clothes just in case you didn’t want to spend the day in that nightgown.”

“Nice try, Lioa, but ‘Tia-dear was also ordered bed rest for the entire day,” Satel intoned with a teasing smirk. “But if you’re planning to sneak us out, then where’s my outing attire?”

“Very amusing, Lord Satel, but you shouldn’t need a change of clothes. You men are perfectly comfortable wearing sleepwear in the presence of your family- but us girls like to be presentable at all times,” Lioa said while feigning an offended expression.

“That just applies to humans- even the men in my family must dress appropriately, since we never know who might grace us with a visit,” the blond retorted jovially, not in the least bothered with his servant’s playful comments. They seemed to like arguing about whose race was better in terms of gender, which was surprising because human men couldn’t hold a candle to falucite men.

It wasn’t so much the fact that the falucite revered the women in their clans, since there were so few of them, but most were very sophisticated and didn’t strive for greed and power. However, Lioa still firmly championed humanity and told me that I would someday understand why. She said that I would learn to appreciate human imperfection or something like that. I personally believed that she was defending human men just because she’d loved one once.

Of course, Lioa wasn’t really saying who was better- in fact she often argued that men were the same regardless of race. …Hmm, I wonder why she had almost nothing to say about women?

“Even so, everyone is aware why you would be underdressed. There is not a soul in this place that doesn’t know what you overcame. However, no one knows that Tia has also fallen ill,” the chef pointed out before she glanced at me and added. “Cegil returned early and told me that there will be a clan meeting soon. He wanted me to ensure that you were well enough to attend and to help you get dressed if you’re up to it.”

Come to think of it, Cegil hadn’t visited this morning- or if he did, it was while I was asleep. He said he would see Satel later in the afternoon, so I couldn’t imagine him coming earlier while he had something to do. So then how did he know that I was also sick? When he last saw me, he dismissed the first signs of darkening skin as a trick of the light. I would have to guess that he had time to see Lioa this morning and found out from her…

“…Why did he tell you all of this? He could’ve come here on his own,” Satel asked curiously, still somewhat unaware that Cegil often communicated with his chef. Of course, he had a valid question- Lioa already told me that servants didn’t need to be informed of clan matters. If the tall man had time to chat with someone before making a huge announcement, why did he go to Lioa and not us?

I wasn’t wondering this out of jealousy (though Satel might be feeling it). I just wanted to know if the two were really that close. I also wondered if Satel would mind the idea of his brother possibly starting a relationship with one of his servants. Heh, had this been a story of two humans then that would’ve been scandalous.

“He said that the two of you would try to press information out of him and make him late to see the elders,” she replied matter-of-factly, making us blanch at the glaring truth. Okay, so Cegil did have a very good reason not to visit us first…

“Furthermore,” she added, “I informed him of Tia’s illness earlier and he wanted to give you time to prepare for it. He knows you’ll both show up despite the bed rest order. He also said that Lord Satel should know most of the subject matter about to be discussed and that he should warn Tia that it might be something she doesn’t want to hear-”

“I still want to go,” I insisted, knowing that it was about to lead to a question of if I was ready to listen to what Cegil had to say. I was well aware of the fact that he had been investigating the coast and speaking with ‘unsavory characters’, though I have no clue what that meant. He was likely going to talk about seafarers- and I needed to know why.

I now understood the real reason for Lioa’s visit- it wasn’t just to warn us, but to also give me the chance to dress myself in something more appropriate before we were called out. Of course it would be perfectly acceptable for Satel to wear those pajamas out there. His attire didn’t expose his shoulders and some of his chest like mine did.

Lioa obtained a simple, but elegant dress in mint green with white lace ending the mid-length sleeves. There was also a strip of lace that lined the ‘bodice’ lines of the torso and it circled the back of the neck and ended at the hem where the top met the skirt. To complete it, a third strip of lace lined the top of the chest piece and connected to the lace on either side. It certainly wasn’t anything extravagant, and I appreciated that. All I needed was something that would cover me and make me presentable.

Lioa helped me get dressed and brushed my hair, all the while I ignored Satel’s appreciative glances as he unashamedly watched me undress and later move around in my underwear. Once the matronly woman had finished braiding my hair, the announcement came.

My kinsmen, come to the Grand Hall for a matter of the utmost urgency.

It was the first time I had ever ‘felt’ one of their summons. Even though I understood the words, it wasn’t like someone was speaking in my ear. It was more like someone implanted a memory into my brain and it formed into words that only I could register. I couldn’t even tell who had made the command, as the words didn’t have a ‘voice’.

“We better go,” Satel soon said, apparently hearing the same thing I did. Lioa seemed to be the only one who didn’t and was stunned at what appeared to be a sudden decision.

“Um… maybe we shouldn’t teleport there- Didra is going to be upset enough to see us out of bed,” I said when he began gesturing for me to come closer to him. At this, he let out a sigh and conceded to my point.

“Right… At least it’s not a long walk from here,” he agreed as he ran a hand through his annoyingly tame white-blond hair.

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

Unfortunately, Lioa was unable to provide the proper footwear (as my boots had also returned to my chambers through Satel’s magicks), so all she could give me was a pair of soft white slippers. Thinking back on it, the clothes I had left behind in Lioa’s kitchen yesterday must’ve also returned to my chambers before now as well.

Satel also had a matching pair, and it looked like it belonged with the pajama set, while mine… well I suppose it didn’t matter. I had something covering my feet and I wasn’t dressed indecently for public.

I thanked Lioa for the help before Satel and I headed for the meeting place. Thankfully, we both seemed to have recovered enough to where the walk and the trip down one flight of stairs didn’t tire us out. We only paused once to glance at the new… wall decoration.

Cyirlie had left in a rush and decided to break down the wall to do so. Someone had long since rearranged the stone to cover the hole left behind, but not enough to make it appear like the rest of the hall- not yet anyway. There was still a massive dent where decorative molding used to be and it was still in the same color as the mountain stone. All traces of paint and other materials were gone.

My mate led me to a side door where the members of the clan were supposed to congregate and I oddly felt strange in taking it. Anyone else would’ve just blinked in and took their seat- I couldn’t believe that I had grown so used to Satel’s magicks to think that way…

As we expected, Didra caught sight of us and mustered a very cold glare at seeing us disobeying her orders. But she decided not to call us out on it… perhaps choosing to torture us later. I just hope she wouldn’t enforce us to take another ‘day off’ in retaliation. There was only so much of a break I could handle- and Satel already went zany over the lack of things to do today. I didn’t want to witness how he would react to a second day of rest.

We were already in the two-story ‘box’ area, on the lower floor, to the side of the Grand Hall and all we had to do was find our seats. It was arranged by branch and generation, so we needed to push past everyone to reach it. Surprisingly, all of Satel’s cousins, aunts, and uncles noticed us immediately and moved out of the way while casting looks of respect towards my mate. It seemed surviving the toxins of a deadly dragon redeemed him in the eyes of even the younger members.

I glanced over to the long-haired man beside me and watched as he noticed it too. He was confused at first from their staring, then pleasantly surprised. I bet he didn’t think he was ever going to receive recognition from the others. If it weren’t for the fact that the elders wanted to start the meeting soon, I was sure that everyone would’ve stopped Satel and talked to him.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little happy that he was finally getting the respect that he deserved. I just wished that it didn’t have to involve him facing off with evil dragons and nearly getting himself killed.

I soon found myself seated between my mate and Maetira. The Oracle sat quietly for once with her giant crystal ball in her lap. She had her hands placed over it as if she was divining something- maybe she was predicting what Cegil was going to say. Or perhaps she already knew and was trying to aid him with whatever otherworldly research she could pull up.

It wasn’t long before everyone else followed suit and waited for Makhis’ra to announce why we were here. Cegil was already standing out in the middle of the room, his eyes already trained on Satel and I. He did appear a little concerned, but also… uncertain.

I felt like I was the only one who was tense in the entire room- well, besides Satel and Cegil, who were clearly not ‘relaxed’. Everyone else simply gave the vibe that they were curious and unaware of what was happening. Something told me that they probably believed that the meeting had something to do with Satel and the attack he had suffered yesterday.

“Cegil, I believe everyone is present. You may begin,” Makhis’ra told the giant man without so much as an introduction speech or a reason why we were all gathered.

“My fellow kinsmen, for the past few months, there have been reports of attacks along the coastal regions of every continent. Pirates ransacking a town once in a while is nothing unheard of, but different groups seem to be working together- and they have been attacking in greater frequency than in the past,” Cegil began, using his magicks to carry his voice to our ears.

Upon the word ‘pirates’ everything suddenly fell into place- they must’ve been the ‘unsavory characters’ Satel was talking about. I could see why they would lightly sidestep me on this issue if they thought I held a deep grudge against them. Some part of me did, though through Lioa’s teachings, I learned to forgive all those who were not involved in the ‘event that shall not be mentioned’.

But… there was a chance that they didn’t believe I hated pirates at all- Cegil knew I would defend my kind if some landlubber spoke ill of them, and I did display the pride of once being one. Since they were attacking coastal lands where some of the clan owned territories, Cegil might’ve been worried I would take the side of the pirates and hate him for rallying his family against them.

If that were the issue, then I would have to choose between my families. Though, that wasn’t a problem- why should I side with the ‘family’ who had cast me aside?

“The pirates themselves are approachable and are willing to talk to us, and it was through several different groups that I was able to piece together what their goal is. They are under the orders of the sea dragons to find the very object that Cyirlie mentioned yesterday.” The clan was so close-knit, that Cegil already knew of the details of yesterday. In fact, every clan member even knew what angle was from Satel’s wound!

“The Hels Meyuun, I presume?” Makhis’ra speculated, quickly connecting the threads of each tiny clue.

“That is correct,” the lavender haired man confirmed with a nod. “The pirates and the dragons actually know more than they are telling us- though they cannot accurately describe what the Hels Meyuun actually is, the pirates mention that it is a ‘living legend’. It is not quite a person, but something that a person possesses. The pirates seem to be searching the coast for this particular ‘concept’ within a seafarer- and as of today, they are doing so more violently.”

The chairs that were provided for the clan in our big ‘spectator’ area had arm rests and they were merged together with the chair next to it. Even though such gestures made me nervous in front of the clan, Satel held my hand as I had mine laying on the rest. I could feel his large hand suddenly tighten around mine when his brother mentioned the so-called concept that the Hels Meyuun was.

The elders and everyone else had a moment of silence as they tried to understand the information Cegil had told them while I turned to glance at my mate. His brows were furrowed and he appeared very concerned as he mouthed ‘something you have’ to me. It took me a moment to realize that it was a question he was asking me.

When I thought back on it, he did mention that Dantia said that I might’ve known something or ‘had’ something related to this mess. But I didn’t have anything other than the appearance of a seafarer. I had tattoos, brown, hair, grey eyes- everything a typical pirate would possess. I didn’t know of anything that would set me apart from them other than the fact that I was female.

I slightly shook my head to dispel his thoughts while hoping no one else noticed our exchange. I just couldn’t be the one everyone was searching for- it made no sense to me. If I was so important, then why was I thrown off the ship? And if the goddesses didn’t want me to leave the coast, then why did they let me go the first time?

I also couldn’t drop the idea that if they wanted me so badly, and if they really did know where I was, then they would’ve done something already. I’m still in the same place I had been for three years- what’s their excuse?

Of course, it didn’t occur to me then that I might’ve been protected because I was on the Land of Kajros. Elati and the other sea goddesses had no power while I was this far inland.

“This must be what Cyirlie had meant when she had said the blood of thousands will be on our hands. In her panic to restore order, she gave permission for the pirates to use extreme measures in obtaining their goals,” one of the elders said, being the first to speak the conclusion that everyone else was reaching.

“Do they even know what feature or whatnot to look for? I could not imagine that they would be so reckless as to destroy lives unless they knew exactly what they are doing,” Cujol pointed out as he tried to find a reason for the slaughter.

Cegil shifted his weight as he cast a very uneasy, but brief glance towards me. The gesture, while not threatening, sent a chill through my spine because his silent actions said a lot- he knew. My former guardian believed that I had some relation to it or that I must’ve been the one they’re searching for.

“I believe they do know, but the dragons are deliberately putting them in danger just to lure us into helping. I am certain that Cyirlie knows that we would defend our territories to protect our humans, and the kingdoms we control would eventually send a navy to counter them. They could be disposed of in a day, but at the cost of our own resources and at the risk of invoking the wrath of the sea gods. I am not confident of the latter, as I still have no firm evidence that this is the will of Elit,” Cegil answered, choosing not to say what I was dreading to hear. He didn’t outright bring attention to myself, but I wasn’t sure if it was because he wanted more evidence, or if he was trying to protect me.

I was clinging desperately to denial. I didn’t want to have this stupid Hels Meyuun or have anything to do with the goddesses. …I was scared that the clan would realize that handing me over to them would save their territories and protect them from the gods, but Cegil wouldn’t do that to me, right? He was against sacrifices… though he did lose everything in his attempt to protect everyone.

“Is this an intentional act to call us to arms? For what purpose would Cyirlie use these methods unless she wishes for us to give her an excuse to declare war?” I wasn’t sure which elder asked that, but it was a good question. I was disturbed to know that pirates were being used like that- why would Cyirlie, or any dragon, play with the lives of their faithful human servants?

“I do not believe it is directed at us in particular, as every coast on every continent is affected. However, I do have reason to believe that she and the other dragon priestesses are testing our loyalty. Should we not cooperate, we could be accused of turning against the Fates. Did Cyirlie not declare that finding the Hels Meyuun was the will of the Fates? Maetira?” Cegil prodded to get the Oracle to confirm.

“That is what the Great Evil has said, but the Fates never once uttered those words. They have been unusually silent since yesterday- not one order has been issued from Them,” the blind girl replied next to me. Her features were calm under the robe, but I could see her fingers twitching, resisting the urge to clench. The silence bothered her more than she was letting on.

I thought the day when the Fates finally shut up would be a glorious event, but I was wrong. It was beyond unnerving and it ironically left us with no sure direction to take. Even though we went against their readings, we did depend on them to some degree. Our purpose was simply to disobey them- I don’t think I had ever heard a single declaration of obtaining freedom from them.

But this was proving to be dangerous- if the Fates weren’t calling the shots, then that must mean Cyirlie or another dragon was, but there was no way to disprove them. That meant that we couldn’t ignore them so easily- and there was no guarantee that they would be friendly with us even if we agreed to help. The slaughtering could still continue.

“This is a difficult issue. We cannot appear as if we are against the Fates, but we cannot easily aid them when they send agents to invade our territories. Nor can we turn a blind eye to Cyirlie’s crime against our clan,” Makhis’ra began before his wrinkled face turned to glance over at his gathered descendants. “I truly loathe to place this upon your shoulders while you are in the middle of recovering, but we must have a decision made soon. Satel, Cyirlie attempted to claim your life. How forgiving are you of her actions?”

I instantly remembered the talk Didra tried to give me yesterday, about how I would’ve had to make that choice if Satel hadn’t survived. I wasn’t expecting this at all- Satel was going to be the one to decide the next course of action for the entire clan. I thought for sure he was going to declare war on Cyirlie, not only for his vengeance, but to also protect me. In turning against her, I wouldn’t have to be given up, and we wouldn’t have to worry about her coming for me.

But, he had other ideas- it seemed he already knew his answer before he was asked. My mate raised his head and let his rust colored eyes stare out into the room unfocused.

“My grievances with Cyirlie have existed from the moment I was born- if there is to be a war, then it should just be between me and her. I have no heart to send my kinsmen to battle over a personal issue,” he answered, shocking everyone around him, including Makhis’ra. It was unusually mature of him, and some part of me had to wonder if the poison did anything to his brain.

But another part of me kind of knew why he’d said it- he didn’t want to choose my safety over theirs, and he didn’t want to put me in a position of where I could lose him again. War was war, and he would be sent out to fight alongside his brothers and cousins. The fact that he managed to think all of this through was astounding- I certainly couldn’t think that thoroughly in such a short amount of time.

The blond wasn’t finished though, and he turned his head slightly to acknowledge Cegil before continuing. “I know I have no right to ask of this, but I do not think we should comply with them either. I, for one, would like to know about what they want before we should even think about cooperation. We need not be friendly with Cyirlie’s enclave anymore, but can we still communicate with the others?”

“I agree,” Cegil quipped before any of the elders could reply. “There may be good reason to help them in their quest, and if not, then I, too, would like to know more so we can properly aid those affected.”

I could see what they were both trying to accomplish. Cegil was probably waiting to speak with me to confirm his suspicions, while Satel was trying to stall and keep me from becoming involved with the clan matters. Thankfully, Cegil’s last words did comfort me, even though I shouldn’t have to feel worried in the first place. Of course he wasn’t going to cast me aside and turn me over to the goddesses- both he and Satel were going to find out what’s really going on and keep me away from it.

“Very well, we shall negotiate with the other enclaves and offer only minimal assistance until we are given more information. However, this next matter shall only be said within these walls and shall only be heard by Xanaturi ears- should we find the Hels Meyuun, we will keep it within our custody until we have good reason to turn it over to the one seeking it. Do not let any outsider know of this,” the clan head warned, his decision made.

I really shouldn’t have been surprised that he would order that. After all, his main reason for defying the Fates was the same as Cegil’s- to prevent more lives from being wasted. Regardless if I had the Hels Meyuun or if some other fool had it, Makhis’ra wasn’t going to let it fall into the wrong hands.

I found myself praying once again that I wasn’t the one being searched for. I didn’t have anything to give, nor was I some special human with supreme magick powers. But I couldn’t deny that strange things have been happening around me. Why did I sing at night- and, if I was truly an Erudian, why was I still alive this far from Elati’s waters?

But in the end, none of it mattered. The raids on the coast and the massive search party were merely distractions, and an exertion of Cyirlie’s influence over the other dragons. Elati didn’t need to send anyone for me- I would come to her of my own volition. I could never be set free otherwise.

To the Next Chapter

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