11. A Seafarer in Need

Chapter 11

A Seafarer in Need

            “This is what I feared for some time,” Cegil admitted gravely when Satel finished telling his story about what he had seen during his moments of death.

“So you believe me? I can understand if you’re skeptical-” the younger brother began before he was cut off.

“No need to worry- I believe you. I have witnessed a few humans going through near-death states and they have also told similar stories of visions and fallen loved ones. I have come to learn that this is a common occurrence, though it was never documented.”

I glanced away from the two and reflected what was said so far. What Satel had seen was real in a sense, and Cegil seemed to have suspected that I was the one being sought after this whole time. We had long since moved back to the guest room to talk privately. Satel and I were sitting on the bed, while Cegil claimed the lone chair. I hated to disturb my mate while he was basking in the minor relief that he wasn’t insane, but there were things that I had to know.

“Cegil? How were you so sure that I’m the one they’re after? If you hadn’t heard Satel’s story, I mean?” The experience was only proof of what he was suspecting- I couldn’t forget the tense looks he had sent me earlier during the meeting, and the fact that he had said he knew for ‘some time’.

“As I have told you, I have been speaking with pirates and they seem to know more than what Cyirlie and the others want to reveal. They have given a vague description of a seafaring girl, and I have always suspected you before because of your nightly episodes,” my brother-in-law explained before he added, “However, I never believed that you deliberately caused anything- if anything, it is the fault of those who were careless to have ‘misplaced’ you in the first place.”

Hmm… who was to blame there? I would have to guess that the pirates who threw me off the ship were the ones at fault, if not Elati herself for not keeping a better hold on me when I was drifting at sea. Or could it have been Anatil for not taking care to keep me by her shores? Feh- all of this blaming wasn’t making me feel better.

“Do you at least have an idea why they want me?” I had to ask, hoping that I could get some sound reasoning behind all of the chaos.

“Other than the idea that you possess the Hels Meyuun, no. The pirates do not seem to be certain that you have it either- they are simply following orders to find you and bring you to Cyirlie. Given how you are just as ignorant as everyone else, there is a chance that you do not have what they want,” the tall, lavender haired man replied, revealing something he didn’t tell the elders.

“That’s it? They just want me to see Cyirlie?” I muttered skeptically. There had to be more than that- and if I didn’t have what the goddess wanted, what would the dragon priestess do?

“That’s not happening,” Satel growled after hearing the sea dragon’s name. “I don’t want ‘Tia anywhere near her.”

“Had yesterday not happened, I would not have agreed with you. If I knew more about the purpose of the Hels Meyuun, I might have considered bringing her to Cyirlie if it would mean that she would be free of her obligations afterwards. But now… there is no guarantee that Tia would still be alive after,” Cegil admitted with a light grimace on his face.

Yeah… regardless if I had the Hels Meyuun, Cyirlie would probably be waiting to chomp down on me. But wait, did she ever figure out that I was Satel’s mate? Or was that revealed to her when the goddess realized where I was? Elit, I hope that dream last night wasn’t actually a message from her…

“If I did go, I wonder what would be expected of me? It’s not like I can move mountains or split the sea,” I pointed out with a sarcastic tone in my voice. I still couldn’t get over any importance I could have- the only logical conclusion I could come up with was that I was mistakenly pointed out because I knew someone who was supposedly important. These days, I’ve been taking the Wise Man’s claims of being the Lord of the Sea seriously. If anyone had a Hels Meyuun, it would had to have been him.

“Well, Cyirlie did mention that she wanted to restore the goddess’ voice, though I can’t figure out how she would lose it,” the blond quipped as he shrugged. Cegil’s eyes narrowed as he temporarily stared off into space and thought about his remark.

“…I have been hearing that Elati has not spoken for several years. Given the fact that Tia has been singing on the behalf of someone, perhaps they want her to sing for the goddess…”

Suddenly we all froze as another thought came to us simultaneously. If Elati really had lost her voice, then what if I already was singing on her behalf? Or, more importantly, what if the Hels Meyuun was the gods’ tongue for ‘voice’ itself? …But how was such a thing possible? It’s not like I could steal it- and I couldn’t see a reason why she would give it to me and then later demand it back.

“If you guys are thinking I might have her voice, then stop it. That just doesn’t make sense!” I yelled as I glared at the two. Satel seemed to be the one who was most shocked with the idea and only recovered after my denial. It wasn’t long before he began to sound very angry, and even panicked, as he backed up my claim.

“Of course not! Why would anyone give their voice to someone else!? This has to be some mistake,” he insisted as he looked straight at Cegil, challenging him to say otherwise. Was it me, or was Satel trying to hide something? Was there something he knew that Cegil and I didn’t?

Cegil didn’t act as suspiciously as his brother, but he was also willing to deny the idea as well. “Agreed. There is no point in spreading groundless rumors like that. It is best that we do not mention this to the elders unless we have absolute proof that that is the case.”

I was touched that they were willing to not only keep the information from the elders, but also ignore it altogether. They were in as much denial as I was in- though it wasn’t so much ‘denial’ unless we were willing to agree, unwillingly, that there was some truth in what we were suspecting. We just… simply didn’t want that theory to be correct.

“I’m not surprised that you would be willing to withhold information, but are you sure we shouldn’t tell them about ‘Tia’s connection? Makhis’ra said he wouldn’t hand over anything valuable until he is certain that it wouldn’t harm anyone. I’m sure he wouldn’t dare put ‘Tia in any danger,” Satel suggested, still trusting the word of his ancestors.

Cegil simply shook his head before he crossed his arms. “I trust Makhis’ra to do what is right. I simply do not believe that I would be willing to accept that if ‘right’ happens to end in a sacrifice- and if you wish to protect your mate from anything, you would agree with me.”

His declaration carried some biting words- it wasn’t until then when it really occurred to me that I was the cause of the massacres that were happening along the coast. While there was no guarantee that turning myself in would stop it, the offer could manifest and put the Xanaturi clan in a difficult situation.

Like Satel, I didn’t think they had it in them to send one of their own to a potential death again. Even though I was only part of the family through my mate, it was enough. However, if refusing to cooperate would result in the entire clan being placed in danger, would Makhis’ra be so willing to protect me? Unlike with the Daedeleth clan, it might not be as easy to fool gods.

What Cegil was asking Satel to do was stop trusting in the elders he had worked his entire life to please and to focus solely on me.

“Wait,” I called out before my mate could answer. I glanced over to see that his brother’s words shocked him and put him in a difficult position. If he answered right then, then he would have to make a choice between me or the clan- I couldn’t do that to him. “Don’t make that choice yet. We just need more information, right? Let’s try to get it, and then I’ll make the decision if I want to go or not.”

I really hated being the one to make the ultimate choice, but this involved my life, and no one else could decide that for me. Satel looked like he wanted to argue, but wisely held back, knowing that his next words could potentially piss me off. When it came to both men, I was fairly agreeable with them and followed almost anything they asked of me. But if I happened to be firmly decided on something, I didn’t like being told ‘no’ by anyone.

“I… don’t want you to have to make that choice,” the blond man eventually said, being very careful with his words. At least he successfully prevented outright refusal and instead let me know by his tone that he was just worried about me.

“Don’t worry. I won’t let myself be guilted into anything- if turning myself in will get me killed, then I won’t go,” I reassured him, being honest in my answer. I absolutely refuse to be a sacrifice- unless it was for Cegil and Satel, which I doubt would ever come to it. Of course, some part of me will feel badly for the people slain in the search, but as long as I don’t see it, I won’t feel too bad.

“Very well. Until we find out exactly why you are needed and what the consequences could be, you should lay low. I will continue my investigations along the various costal regions. Satel, if you should still wish to bring Tia with you on your missions, then stay far away from the sea. Do not tempt our potential enemies,” the giant man warned with a stern look towards the younger falucite.

“Hmph.” My mate scoffed as his nose wrinkled slightly in contempt. “You can’t expect us to sit back and wait. I will protect her from the pirates and anything that comes out of the sea.”

I almost scoffed at him- I didn’t need protection from pirates.

Cegil feigned a tired appearance as he tilted his head and then regarded his brother with a serious expression. “You have a choice- keep Tia away from the sea and protect her, or investigate alone. You cannot do both as it would be extremely foolish to risk her being captured because of your arrogance.”

He was on fire today with his piercing words- they had Satel flinching when he realized how his initial plans would’ve placed me in possible danger. Of course, I didn’t see it that way, nor did I care. I may have a slight hobby in getting in trouble, but only around humans. I didn’t make it a habit to toy around with demons or gods, so Satel should be perfectly capable of watching over me if he still wanted to go.

But his vows to keep me happy and safe kicked in and he was readily obedient to Cegil’s wishes. The lavender-haired man had his younger brother well trained, heh…

“Fine,” Satel growled and then sighed in defeat. “I’ll go about my usual missions and keep her close by me. …But you will still be available for her lessons, right?”

It was sweet of him to remember that, though it was the least important topic to bring up right now. His plans to take me on missions and change my schedule were the first thing brought up when we came into the guest room. Though I’d guess it was more so he could ease into the conversation before he decided to inform Cegil of everything else.

“Of course, though I am surprised how you are the one who is so adamant about it- I would think Tia would be the one insisting,” Cegil replied with a twinkle of amusement in his rust-colored eyes.

“I was the one who told him that I didn’t want to give up on them- he just suggested the time change,” I insisted quickly to protect my honor. That earned me some chuckles from them. They both knew how important those lessons were for me, though Satel was hopefully still in the dark about their content.

Though I suppose there was another reason besides wanting to learn how to read- I spend so little time with the man I once viewed as my father figure, so they were also a way to spend time and bond with him.

With a plan decided and nothing else to do for the day, save for Satel and I fearing Didra’s return, Cegil excused himself and got up to leave.

“Wait,” Satel said to stop him before he could reach the door. “Before you go, Dantia had a message for you. She wanted you to know that she loves you and that she and Oria want you to be happy and to move on. She mentioned that since they’re not here to comfort you, you should find someone who could.”

So that was the message- it was sweet, endearing, and I was a little giddy to hear about their blessings. With that kind of permission, Cegil could surely date Lioa without remorse, right?

All I could see was the long strands of his lavender hair bound in a loose ponytail since he was facing away from us, but with the way he was frozen in place, I could tell he was stunned. After a rather long moment of silence, he finally turned to face us with a lightly pained expression- no, perhaps it was more of an emotional one. With that kind of love and support from beyond the grave, he probably couldn’t pick between feeling sad, happy, or angry.

“Oria deserved better than me. How could I even consider finding happiness for myself when I could not give it to her?” he muttered, his voice clearly grieving. I was tempted to get up and hug him, but Satel placed his hand on my arm in a subtle order to not move. I didn’t understand- shouldn’t Cegil be somewhat happy with this news?

“I can’t claim to know everything that happened back then since I was so small, but if Oria wasn’t happy, then she wouldn’t have fought hard for you. Didn’t she rush off to her former clan with the sole purpose of protecting you? She must’ve wanted to make you happy in return for the good times she had spent in your company. Don’t make her death be in vain by forcing yourself to be miserable,” the blond man told him almost passionately.

If I didn’t know Satel any better, I would say that that was his most mature and insightful speech he had ever given. But I knew him well enough to know that he probably pulled most of that from what Garroe or his other relatives might’ve told him. Of course, it didn’t make his feelings any less genuine- he clearly wanted to help his brother stop grieving.

The giant man took all of that in and reflected on it. Apparently, the thought never crossed his mind before, because his lips soon quirked up in a sad smile. “You are right. Oria was never the kind of person to bear grudges, nor would she stand up for those she did not love. I will be happy for her sake- however, I do not have it in me to search for another mate. I can be satisfied with those I already have around me.”

I was a little disappointed to hear that- he was choosing to be happy with what he already had. So what was going to happen between him and Lioa if he really didn’t want another mate? Would he still be friendly with her and do nice things for her? Or had I misread everything and mistook simple friendship for love?

“…But what about Lioa?” I found myself asking in a tiny voice after my former guardian had left. I still didn’t even know her feelings for him or if there were any. Would she notice or care that their relationship might not progress?

“What about her?” Satel inquired, his sharp hearing easily able to pick up my voice. By the sound of confusion in his tone, he apparently didn’t notice anything that could’ve been going on between his brother and chef. …Or maybe I was the only one who made myself believe there was anything going on.

“Nothing I guess,” I mumbled in a dejected tone. “I just thought those two have been so close that Cegil might’ve considered her as someone special.”

“Well, he has no obligations to mate with another falucite, so he could be with her if he wanted,” my mate pointed out with indifference in what Cegil could want in a mate.

“But he said he didn’t want a mate,” I argued as I turned my head to stare at him.

Satel then let out a smirk as he shrugged. “You misheard- he said he didn’t want to search for a mate, meaning that he might already have his sights set on someone here. If you think it’s Lioa, then it’s probably her. …But if that’s true, then I need to find a new chef.”

“You think he might really court her soon?” I asked in a hopeful tone. I didn’t think to view Cegil’s parting words in that sense, but it seemed strange that he would suddenly move forward after expressing his sorrow over losing his first mate. It was kind of confusing to me…

“He’s a far more patient man than I- it’s unlikely that he’ll do anything immediately. He’s likely only considering her, but he still needs a little more time to fully let go of Oria. He was just saying all that so we wouldn’t worry about him,” he explained before his placed his arm around my shoulders and pulled me against him.

That sounded about right- compared to Satel, Cegil is a very patient person. My mate acted on impulse, suddenly deciding to date me without my knowledge, then choosing to mate with me no more than after a month of knowing him. At least Cegil would be so kind as to let things progress at a more natural pace.

…I may seem as if I complained about how I came to be with Satel, but I was happy with the results in the end. If Lioa possessed the similar pheromones that Oria had, then they’ll be together no matter how much time it takes. Falucite only wanted long-time companions- they didn’t need anyone to make them feel good, like what most humans wanted. Not that feeling good was wrong, but it wouldn’t kill anyone to think of someone other than themselves once in a while. I firmly believed that Cegil and Lioa could be happy together.

I let out a content sigh before I leaned fully against Satel. I still had much to worry about, and some part of me was a little scared of the events that could happen. But as long as I had the support of my family and Satel’s protection, I felt that I would be okay.

Later that day, Didra declared us both healthy enough to go on missions as long as we went together. The darkened patches of skin on my hairline never did go away, but they didn’t get worse either. We were able to return to our chambers after dinner and go to bed early in preparation for the next day.

But unfortunately, I had another nightmare that night, similar to the one before, and I woke up in Satel’s arms as he tried to carry me back to bed. I still wasn’t free of my curse- either the true demon was still alive…or Elati was somehow involved. It upset us both, but there was nothing we could do about it. We decided to live with it for now, resolving to stick with our plans.

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

With falucite magicks, the only limit was how many places one was acquainted with. In Satel’s earlier years, when his powers first manifested, he traveled to as many places as he could so he would be able to go anywhere he wanted later. This proved useful to his missions, as he was generally required to go almost anywhere on the continent of Orja, save for the areas owned by the Daedeleth clan.

It had been five days since Satel survived Cyirlie’s poison and I had grown used to being his ‘assistant’ on his missions. Most of them took place in the Wastelands and there were a few where I ended up fighting by his side. But for the most part I just needed to hold on to important objects or just simply stay out of his way.

It took me about two days more before I finally found myself relaxing a little. It didn’t seem as if anyone was coming to take me away from my family, and I let myself believe it was because I was too far from the sea for any dragons or gods to do anything.

Of course, I didn’t let my guard down- I just stopped looking over my shoulder every hour. I didn’t like fearing the unknown, so when I had gotten used to the whole idea of being the person of interest in the massive search, I resumed my life and shoved everything to the back of my mind. I couldn’t let it bother me all the time- I had other things to do.

This morning, Satel and I found ourselves in the grasslands, in an area located south of the Wastelands and north of the southern coast. The town was called Trins, and it was one of the many large settlements that circled around the city of Theancra, the capital of the particular kingdom we were in. The closer the town was to the capital, the more populated it was. Trins wasn’t quite as large or futuristic as Osel, as they didn’t have access to the inspired inventors of the era, but it was by no means a rustic country town.

They had their usual cobble stone streets and possessed far more carts and horses than the steam engine powered horseless carriages. The homes were the typical thatched roof kinds with walls of stone or wood, and some seemed to still have outhouses nearby. The entire layout of the town involved one large circular area with streets that radiated out to the outskirts.

There were plenty of merchants that owned buildings within the center of town that included seamstresses, physicians, leatherworkers, and the like, but most were behind in technology to keep up with the speed of other, more advanced cities. Most stores involved selling imports from said advanced cities.

But what seemed to be the attraction of Trins was the gathering of buffoons, actors, and other people that just wanted attention for themselves or what they had to offer. Each and every one of them had a silk top hat on the ground, waiting for any spare crijok to fall in.

I walked beside my mate with my hand tucked in the crook of his arm as he guided me to where he wanted to go. I was dressed in full emerald green skirt, a silver-white blouse with a lace jabot that appeared like an ascot, and a matching green jacket. I had kept Cujol’s old complaint of ‘representing the clan’ in mind when picking out my attire, though I still kept on a pair of trousers underneath. I was only armed with my multi shot revolver, hidden in my jacket, and my small knife in my boot. I figured that with some of his missions, I didn’t need to place myself in the role of a damsel in distress and carried enough to protect myself.

Satel had actually lost most of his usual attire because of the possibility of toxins seeping into them when he sweated it out. They were burned to prevent anyone else from unwittingly touching them. He had other vests, shirts, and trousers, but only that one frock coat and ascot. Thankfully, his über hat managed to survive, since it had luckily fallen off when he’d entered Didra’s lab.

I hated to say it, since I loved the man slightly more than the accessory, but it just wouldn’t be Satel without that awesome über hat.

Even though he had shirts in various shades of grey and a few black ones, he surprisingly chose a white shirt today. Over it was a double-breasted vest in dark grey and a pair of black trousers. Without his frock coat, he seemed thinner, but no less intimidating since he had his dark smirk gracing his features.

“Ah, I smell treason in the air, ‘Tia-dear,” he declared with an exaggerated look of happiness, even though he probably was feeling that emotion.

“What exactly does treason smell like?” I inquired skeptically as I hid my grin.

“Blood mixed with anger, drunken one-night stands, and shame,” he listed, acting as if he had pre-planned the phantom smell he had obviously made up.

“Gross,” I managed to mutter before I chuckled with him. Being out with him on missions made me forget about my problems for a while, since I didn’t need to sit still and listen to reports of what’s been happening along the coasts.

The first mission of the day was to quell a budding resistance that wanted to destroy some member of the nobility. Satel just needed to locate the leader and dispose of him to nip it in the bud. While I was supposed to come along as his official assistant, he wasn’t going to take me with him for the murder since he knew I didn’t like watching such things. I was to sit this part out and wait for him to return.

Still, I couldn’t help but notice that he was practically glowing from happiness- most likely because we had a little time to ourselves before he needed to go. He loved to take walks through the towns with me by his side. I liked to think that it was just because he enjoyed my presence, but I had a suspicion that he also liked flaunting the fact that he had a mate to any other males that happen to glance our way.

This was one of the few times that I didn’t mind hanging onto his arm or holding hands, since we were surrounded by strangers we were likely never to see again. I still couldn’t bear to kiss him out in the open, but I did feel more relaxed around people I could easily beat up. That was probably it- I could prove I was still tough to humans regardless of how girly I let myself be around Satel. With Cegil and the others, I wouldn’t dare raise a fist to them- though that wasn’t out of fear, but respect.

Trins wasn’t overcrowded like Osel, but it still had a fair amount of people out seemingly enjoying the warm, almost spring-like sun. …Then again, I had a lower body temperature now, so for all I knew, it could’ve been scorching. Satel stopped on the outer edge of the circular town center and faced me with a more brilliant smile.

“Well, I have things to do and people to murder in cold blood, will you be fine on your own for a short while?” he told me, acting as if he was off to run simple errands. I knew the whole ‘murdering’ thing was a light jest to make himself sound like an evil bastard- he didn’t exactly take joy in what he did, but he had to keep up appearances while out in public. He was simply testing to see what the people around us might do if they happen to overhear him. If he was lucky and had the time for it, his hero toys might show up for a quick taunting.

“Before you go, can I have a little spending money? I’d like to shop around while you’re gone,” I requested, earning a visibly shocked look from him. Usually I hate shopping, but there was something I wanted to look for while I had the chance. To ensure Satel that I was still me, I amended myself with, “If I find something worth getting, I’d steal it, but I’m afraid my thievery skills have gotten rusty. I don’t want to risk it and get thrown in jail for the rest of my visit.”

It was horribly sad, but true- I hadn’t stolen a single thing in years. Of course, I had no need to since I was well provided for under Satel’s care, but the Wise Man would be sorely disappointed in me if he knew…

“How much do you need?” he inquired, ready to procure any funds that I wanted. He always made sure to stop by the treasury of one of the family owned kings to cover his costs- though technically he wasn’t supposed to do that. The pirate in me was so proud of him.

“I’m not sure- I just want to look around, so there’s no telling what I might find,” I replied, telling half the truth. I actually had something specific I wanted to purchase, but I had no clue how much it would cost. Also, I didn’t want to tell him what it was… yet.

“Hmm… you rarely ever buy anything for yourself, so…” Before I knew it, he placed two bags of crijok and a chip of gold cedit in my hand- waaay more than I needed. “If you find anything, get the most expensive one- you deserve it.”

I bit my lip as he kissed me on the forehead and sauntered off into the light crowds with a short wave and a promise to come back for me. I quickly hid the money in an inner pocket within my jacket before any pickpockets could notice me. It was only after he was gone that I allowed myself to smile a little over the fact that he hadn’t caught on.

I wasn’t going out to buy something for myself- I was getting something for him.

There were two accessories that were always present on my mate: The über hat and his dark red ascot. I didn’t know the significance or importance of either one, but I could tell he was a little saddened to have lost the ascot. While it would probably mean even more if I somehow made one, or at least earned the money myself (through hard work or stealing), I wanted to go out and buy him a new one to replace it.

Actually, I still had the thirty crijok from my secret stash that I managed to reclaim in Port Sibest, but if I happened to find something really nice, I wasn’t sure if it would be enough. I was only asking for a little extra to cover any surplus costs.

I decided not to waste any time and headed for any store that looked like it would carry accessories for men. In my search, I had to pass by farmers’ markets and cheap street vendors and ignored their calls to come look at their wares.

I eventually came across a building that had a large glass window with wooden mannequins dressed in formal men’s wear or women’s. The establishment itself was cut in the same traditional stone as the rest of downtown, but it was the only one to have a feature that resembled the growing ‘clothing stores’ found in areas like Osel.

I thought I would have to seek out a regular seamstress and hope she could get it done within an hour, but this was just as good- of course there could be a drawback if the machines used to make their clothing put in weak stitches…

The door was made of worn, grooved wood and had a small semi-circle window on top. When I opened it, there was a jingle above me to warn the owners that a customer entered. I barely glanced through racks of clothes hanging about, choosing to head directly to the counter and address the lady behind it. No sooner than a second after I had entered, I heard the tiny bell go off again, but I didn’t think anything of it.

“Good morning, milady, how may I help you?” a perky brunette woman asked once I was close enough.

Huh, that was new- I had my hair up in a bun today, instead of a braid, because people treated me more seriously when I sported the look, but this was the first time I had ever been confused for a noble. Then again, it could’ve been a gimmick designed to flatter the customers and entice them to buy more.

“I need an ascot- preferably one in dark red and no patterns,” I answered her, getting straight down to business.

The woman soon gave me a sly look as she narrowed her blue eyes slightly and smirked. “Oh? Is this for a gentleman friend?”

I resisted the urged to give her a sarcastic remark of it being for me and simply nodded. What a stupid question! And why did she pick the words ‘gentleman friend’? Was it hard for me to be married at this age? Or was she simply trying to get me to blush and gossip with her? Sure, I would do it if I was speaking with Lioa, but there was no way in five hells I would confide in a stranger.

Suddenly the woman glanced past my shoulder and began blushing before she put on a giddy smile. I also looked back to see what she was staring at and found some young man about my age leaning against a sturdy display and giving the woman a flirtatious look. I rolled my eyes and glared at the lady to get her to pay attention to me. She can flirt with the idiot on her own time- I was the customer at the moment!

“Oh, right…” she muttered apologetically before she wandered off to the back of the store to find variations of what I wanted.

Once she was gone, the eyes that had been focused on her turned to me. I could practically feel them burning holes in the back of my head. Oh great- I was hoping he knew the woman and was here for her. I turned briefly to give him an icy glare as a message that I wasn’t interested and to back off. In doing so, I took a better look at him so I could know who to either avoid or beat up later, depending on his density.

He was dressed up nice enough, but the material of his clothes were low-end, meaning that he was probably a middle class citizen hoping to strike rich with a noble lady. His skin was tanned, almost as dark as mine, and his hair was completely black, but in an unnatural way- there was no shine to his strands, leaving me to believe that he probably used hair dyes. His cheekbones were high and he possessed about four evenly spaced freckles on each one, giving him the appearance of an innocent boy with a man’s body.

Since my freckles were lightly dusted over my cheekbones, I disliked him instantly instead of being sympathetic. Why did the Maker bless him with a perfect arrangement of skin marks while mine seemed all over the place? I would rather believe that he must’ve used something to draw them on… But why would he use something so childish to attract others?

His eyes were a dark brown- so dark that they almost seemed black. I had a feeling that he was hoping to come off as dark and mysterious. Women seemed to love that- and I was apparently no exception since Satel was just the same when I first met him. However, his ‘dark’ involved his ability to slay others and his ‘mysterious’ at the time was that damned ceremony I knew nothing about.

For some reason the moron wasn’t picking up the message, hoping to convince me to change my mind by making a more charming grin appear on his lips. I scowled at him, and pretty soon my frown grew deeper as his smirk grew wider. What was his problem? Maybe he was here for the woman, but was too much of a flirt to stay faithful to his girlfriend… disgusting.

I faced the counter again to wait for the woman’s return. It was better to ignore him altogether and leave as soon as I found what I wanted.

“I’m sorry milady, but we don’t have anything in solid colors. But I do have three tonal patterns for you to choose from if you would like to see,” she announced as she returned carrying three shiny black boxes made of the newly industrialized cardboard material.

I hid my disappointed expression as she placed down the thin boxes without my approval and opened them. I wasn’t exactly against patterns, but I wasn’t sure what Satel would like or if it would look good on him. He was a handsome man, but there was no guarantee he could pull of just any look. Lioa taught me that.

As she pulled back the tissue paper, I found that she didn’t look for the most extravagant patterns- one was a regular striped silk cloth, while the second was a pinstripe. The last one was the most interesting one of all, as it featured a very tiny checkered pattern. When worn properly, the almost dot-like squares would appear as a diamond shape instead of a field of squares. I believe they were known as a Harlequin pattern.

It was safe to go with the plain stripped one, but my eyes kept returning to the Harlequin one. It was a tonal dark red like the other two, and yet the color seemed to stand out from the pattern. It was a total gamble, but I decided to choose it over the other two.

I could’ve held out and waited to go to other towns to see their selections, but I wanted to surprise Satel, and I didn’t want the seamstress in the homestead to beat me to it. She was currently working on a new frock coat for him, so I only had a short time to get something before she was done.

I successfully didn’t blanch or complain when the lady told me the price of the ascot and pulled out the necessary funds. She insisted that it was the highest quality silk and would last a very long time. It was probably a coincidence, as she couldn’t possibly know that I was a traveler from far off places, but she cleverly waited until the money was in her hand before she mentioned that it was a special import from Osel. That meant I could’ve waited to go there and purchase the same product at half the price. Damn it…

I thought I was better at shopping and haggling when I needed anything, but I suppose the moron lurking in the back of the store threw off my concentration. Satel better love this ascot.

Once the loose crijok was safely secured in my jacket and I had the thin box tucked under my left arm, I strode to the door, signaling to the jackass back there that I wasn’t some weak woman. He didn’t seem to catch on and quickly ran in front of me so he could hold open the door. I sneered for a second, then I headed out without any acknowledgement towards him.

I suppose my attitude was uncalled for since he could have just been polite in his actions. …But I soon took back that thought when I noticed him following after me. What in five hells was it about me that attracted so much trouble? I didn’t even do anything! …This time.

I didn’t know what his problem was, but I knew I had more than enough protection to deal with him on my own. Unfortunately, there were too many witnesses around for me to take care of him without involving the authorities. I was going to have to settle with using my fists, but first, I needed to get to the most populated area so that I could use the crowds to my advantage. Regardless if he was pickpocket or a pervert, there wasn’t much he could do if I had everyone’s attention.

I returned to the very center of town and found a small fountain to stand beside. There were plenty of people sitting nearby on the benches and a few leaning against the short wall that surrounded the water. I waited for the man to make his next move- if I had to punch him, then I wanted enough witnesses to see that I was provoked and had to defend myself. At least then, any lawmen that might interfere won’t have the grounds to arrest me, though I might be apprehended for questioning.

I guess it really didn’t matter if I went to jail really, since Satel would probably find me fairly quickly and just magick me out. But there was still that promise I made to Cegil…

I watched as the man casually walked over to the fountain wall and sat down close enough next to me that made me uncomfortable. I didn’t back away and chose to stand my ground- if I ran now, he would think I was weak.

“There have been a lot o’ attacks on the coast lately,” the man suddenly said with a side glance towards me.

I narrowed my eyes again as I realized something was very wrong. That accent- it couldn’t be…

I slowly glanced over towards him to find he was giving me a smug and knowing look. Soon he brought his hand up and seemingly poked his eye with his index finger. Before such an action could gross me out, I discovered that things were not as they seemed. There was a very thin piece of what appeared to be clear egg protein cut in a perfect circular shape and he was moving it out of the way for a second. I was soon able to see that the dark brown color was somehow imprinted on the plastic.

His true eye color was dark grey- and if his hair was dyed, then it must’ve been naturally brown. He was a seafarer in disguise- and he probably trailed after me because he knew I was one too.

“Yer awfully far from the waters,” I commented, now increasingly uneasy around him. With my hair up the way it was, my ears were completely exposed, meaning that he could easily see the corsair ear hugger I still wore if he happened to look. I wasn’t quite sure what kind of seafarer he was yet, though I doubt I should give him any of my trust regardless. At the moment, he was standing on the opposite side of my pierced ear, but there was no guarantee that he didn’t see it while he was following me.

“Aye, ah am,” he replied as he allowed his smiling features to wane a little. “It’s good ta hear that ye ain’t as domesticated as ah thought, Wit’ the way ye were talkin’ in that store, ah was gettin’ disgusted.”

“Ye should talk- wot in five hells is that in yer eyes? And did ye dye yer hair or is that a wig?” I inquired scathingly, not taking the ‘domesticated’ remark too well. But I could see why he was disguising with the way the landlubbers liked to belittle us.

Having the seafaring features alone didn’t necessarily mean much, as most inland humans would begrudgingly agree that some smart people had ancestors from the coast. But if one also possessed the seafaring accent along with the looks, they were automatically an imbecile. I wasn’t sure if changing the hair and eyes would do much though- it was the accent that landlubbers didn’t like. It seemed only we understood what we were saying most of the time…

“Gotta do wot we must,” he replied, not really answering my question. That was a pity since I was actually interested in the device he was using to color his eyes. “Pirates destroyed me village an’ killed some o’ me family. We’re all scattered away from the coast, tryin’ ta find help and some way to get rid o’ the pirates.”

Ah, so he was a victim of a raid… I suppose I understand what he was doing, then- he probably knew that he wasn’t the only one attacked and was hoping to rally the displaced seafarers into somehow fighting back so they could reclaim their homes. Or maybe there was already a group and he was recruiting.

“Aye- ah heard o’ that, but it got nothin’ ta do wit’ me,” I replied in a subtle hint that I was going to refuse what he might offer. There was no way I was going to put my life on the line, no matter how bad I felt for the innocent people caught in the middle of the mad search. Seafarers hadn’t really given me much of a reason to come rushing to their aid, considering that most turned me away for being a so-called monster…

“Don’t play stupid, lass- ah saw the earrin’. Yer one o’ them,” he growled, proving my suspicions that he had seen it. If I had known in advance that I was going to run into a seafarer this far from the sea, then I would’ve worn my braid and covered as much of my ears as I could. …Or I could simply take off the earring, but I still couldn’t bring myself to do so.

“If ye know that much, then why are ye speakin’ ta me? Wot do ye want from me?” I inquired in a tired tone. I knew what was coming next, and I was prepared for it, but I still couldn’t figure out why he approached me in a civil manner if he already knew what I was. He had to have some angle behind his actions, and I deserved to at least know what it is.

The man was fast as he suddenly stood and surged forward. He soon gripped my arm above my elbow very tightly in what was a tough hold to escape… if I was an average woman.

“Ah don’t know how yer connected ta the pirates, but ye should know where they are and wot they’re doin’. Yer gonna tell us everythin’ and help destroy the damn bilge rats,” he replied, his features turning dark and his smile victorious. He was actually the first seafarer to recognize that I wasn’t necessarily a pirate. But he couldn’t dismiss the presence of the corsair earring to ignore me.

“Like hell ah am! Ah haven’t been on a ship fer fifteen years- I don’t know nothin’,” I told him in a sassy and confident tone to prove he wasn’t scaring me. I had to grab the package with my free hand before it could fall from its place under my captured arm when he suddenly pulled me forward. I could’ve easily pulled myself loose at any time and beat him off, but something made me want to hold still and hear him out.

“If that’s true, then good! Ye should have no loyalty ta them,” he retorted, clearly determined to hold me captive and use me in some way against the pirates. Some part of me wondered if he knew I was the one they were searching for… but he was asking for information. I didn’t hear a plot to use me as a tool for their demise. He wasn’t likely an agent from a goddess or a dragon- he was just a bitter man who has lost a lot.

Either way, he was asking me to turn against the pirates. While I was still upset with a certain crew, I wasn’t against everyone. Turning against pirates would be like turning against the Wise Man in some odd symbolic way- I just couldn’t do that.

“Ah shouldn’t have any loyalty to ye either!” I replied back. “Think o’ why ah might be here! Maybe it’s ‘cause ah’ve been cast out by all seafarers fer no reason!”

I didn’t have to tell him that- it just came out and I had no reason to think that it would affect his decision. …But somehow, my words made him loosen his grip and his eyes widen for a second. He could’ve dismissed it as a lie from a ‘dirty bilge rat pirate’, but for some reason, he gave it some consideration.

This was my chance to pull away and leave the area, as I had lost the desire to beat him up, but a ribbon of water from the fountain had wrapped around his neck before the thought crossed my mind. He made a choked sound as his hands flew to his throat to rid himself of the sudden restraint.

Before I knew it, he flew back into the fountain water and began splashing wildly to get free.

“Are you okay, ‘Tia-dear? I thought you would’ve decked him already,” Satel commented in a mildly worried tone as he appeared by my side. Apparently, he surmised that if I wasn’t going to defend myself against an ordinary human, then I must’ve been stunned in some way. He sought to save me and gave himself reason to attack. I soon realized that he decided the man was a threat and was holding him under the water with his magicks to drown him.

My eyes widened and my body acted on impulse, I turned to my mate and gently grabbed at his arms. “Don’t kill him! He’s a seafarer!”

It shouldn’t matter who he was- I think it was just the Wise Man’s teachings coming out. I had to do what’s right, even if I didn’t like it- and, regardless of what kind of seafarer we were, we were all family. I knew the man didn’t deserve to die if he didn’t have the intent to kill me.

I surprised the über hat man, but he still managed to release the seafarer before it was too late. The man sat up quickly, coughing out water and trying to suck in as much air into his lungs as he could. Black dye was running down the sides of his face and floated in the water, and one of his plastic eye color pieces had fallen out, exposing his true grey color.

“Do you know this man?” Satel inquired, completely confused with my request. I confused him further by shaking my head. I had never stopped him before, though the people he had killed before were really trying to destroy me. I believe there was more to the fact that he was a seafarer that I decided to show mercy- he actually listened to me and didn’t pretend I was some monster, and I gave back what I received.

But there was also the fact that no matter how much the people of Port Sibest hated me, they never let me die. Their reason behind it didn’t matter- if heartless bastards like them couldn’t bear to murder a fellow seafarer of another alliance, then I had no right to let the man before me die. If I had, then I really would’ve been the monster they claimed I was.

“He’s no threat,” I eventually answered when the seafaring man managed to pull himself out of the fountain. “All he wants is to save his village.”

“Oh, so he wasn’t hurting you?” the platinum blond confirmed, sounding a touch disappointed that he wasn’t rescuing me. He soon smiled over at the man and tipped his hat to him. “I apologize- I merely misunderstood the situation and acted rashly.”

“Jealousy doesn’t suit you,” I intoned with a smirk as I bent down to pick up the box I had dropped a moment ago.

Satel kept his arrogant grin plastered on his face and evenly argued, “I was not jealous, my sirsa.”

Sure, he said that, but the cold look he was giving that seafarer kind of indicated otherwise. Of course, I wasn’t sure why he was so wary of the man, unless he was worried that he was an agent of the sea, like I had speculated earlier. Still, it was funnier to accuse Satel of being jealous even if he actually wasn’t.

The man didn’t seem to realize something amiss with Satel despite almost being drowned by his magicks. For all he knew, the über hat man could’ve attacked him from behind and held him underwater with his own hands. However… my idea to have witnesses present backfired and there was a crowd gathering to see what was going on. No one had seen the water ribbon, but they did see the man fall in the fountain. Hopefully there was enough confusion as to how the man stayed in the water to prevent mass panic…

He had apparently heard my pleading for his life while he was flailing around because he thanked me for saving him. The seafarer then pulled out a metal flask from his drenched tweed coat and unscrewed the top, but he didn’t take a drink.

“If ye have the capacity ta save me ‘cause ah’m a seafarer, then ye shouldn’t turn yer back on Elit’s people. Stop the pirates, save the innocents on the coast- ah don’t care. Jus’ do somethin’. We’re all family and ye know it.”

“Hey!” I shouted in indignation when he suddenly threw the contents of the flask in my face. I felt a stinging sensation in my eyes and had to close them in order to let my tears get rid of the stuff.

“Come back here!” Satel yelled as the man pushed past the crowds and ran away. He probably would’ve run after him if he weren’t so concerned about my well-being.

Suddenly, the liquid seeped into the corners of my mouth and I was stunned to taste salt.

“Damn it,” my mate growled under his breath before he turned to me. “Are you okay, ‘Tia? Do I need to take you to Didra?”

“No, it’s fine,” I replied as I finally opened my eyes. “It was just seawater.”

“Seawater?” he echoed in surprise. Through his exposure with pirates, he knew what it meant to have seawater sprinkled on someone. The man wasn’t trying to gain a distraction so he could escape, nor was he being disrespectful to me- it was quite the opposite in fact.

It was tradition to carry a flask of ocean water when a seafarer had to travel inland for a long period of time. To splash another with it on Kajros’ Land was a way of saying ‘the sea misses ye, please come home.’ It also carried another, important message: ‘Don’t forget who ye are.’

The man didn’t know who I was- all he did know was that I was a pirate. He came inland to find help and he asked me to do it, knowing my former alliance. For the first time ever, a seafarer reached out to me for help. But why should I let his words impact me so? I was already resolved to stay out of it until I knew more about what was happening.

Hmm… I wonder what the Wise Man would have done?

To the Next Chapter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s