14. Truths and Lies

Chapter 14

Truths and Lies

            When I awoke, I was in a darkened room that only had a very dim gas lamp lighting the place. The room looked like a dump- the floor and walls were the same drab grayish color of wood and they appeared to be haphazardly nailed in, leaving in wide gaps between the planks.

The bed I was in seemed old, but not dusty and I found that I was tucked in with the bluish grey blankets snug under my chin. I felt myself to ensure that I was still fully clothed and discovered that only my boots and weapons were gone from my person. I wasn’t really that worried, since I knew who must’ve left me here.

Satel was the last face I remembered seeing and he was the first I thought about as I sat up in the bed. I glanced around and noted that he was nowhere to be seen- there was not even a trace to indicate that he had been here. It was a bit unusual that he would leave me like this… but I also kind of expected it.

My memory returned to me bit by bit and I recalled the rage I went through when I found The Cruel Whore at the pier. He was so close… had Satel not stopped me, I could’ve finally gone after the man who’d ruined my life.

My eyes began to burn again at the vision of his skull and I desperately needed something to hold. Without my mate nearby, I resorted to hugging a pillow and letting my tears soak it for a while.

I couldn’t fault Satel for what he did- I probably ruined the plan when I made all that noise and he likely teleported us away so he could cover our tracks from any agents of the sea. I was probably far away from Seikram now, and would have no chance to kill him again. …Though who was I kidding?

Had I gone to face him, what would’ve happened? In my three years of being Satel’s mate, I hadn’t wielded my sword as often as I used to. I wasn’t rusty in fighting exactly, as Cegil made sure I had some time to practice, but compared to a pirate I was likely outclassed. Furthermore, I bet Seikram had managed to get himself a gun and was definitely a better shot than I. He would be the type to keep with the times.

Damn, I wished Satel were here… though he would likely make me explain everything to him now. He knew practically all of it anyway- in my grief, I unwittingly told him of the man who I had seen die right before my eyes.

In some respect he should understand why I’d reacted the way I did, but at the same time, I had shoved him away (or tried to) several times in my distress. He was probably a little put out from my behavior and wanted some time to think about it- and no doubt also allowing me the time to cool off.

My mate took real good care of me and could be very patient, but even he had his limits. I knew that just because he loved me didn’t mean that I could treat him poorly and expect his forgiveness. I needed to apologize to him and somehow make amends for what I’d done.

With that realized, I wiped the excess tears from my eyes and pushed back the blankets to get up. My issue with Seikram was shoved to the back of my mind for now- Satel was far more important. …Also, as selfish as it was for me to admit it, I wanted to seek comfort from him. Being with a close-knit family had spoiled me to the point of hating to be alone when I was hurting.

As I searched for my boots, I noticed that Satel had taken the time to unbraid my hair, likely trying to make me as comfortable as possible. Even when he was mad, he still went out of his way… that made me feel even worse for how I’d treated him.

Since I didn’t have a brush, I decided not to bother putting it back up. Instead, I pulled on my boots and strapped on my sword and small knife. I had no clue where we were or how far the platinum blond man had retreated, so I needed the protection for just in case.

I decided to leave my gun for now, not willing to take the time to put the holster on. There was a certain way I had to strap it so that it couldn’t be seen, and that much firepower seemed a little too much for a simple search. I needed to be quiet until I could locate my mate- and my sword would be suitable enough for any silent attacks.

The door was thoughtfully locked as I approached it, meaning that Satel intended to be away for a while and didn’t want anyone to easily find me. I re-locked it behind me as I left to protect the items still in the room. I trusted Satel to have the key, but even if he didn’t he should be able to teleport in with no problems.

The hallway was just as crudely constructed as the room and I had to wonder how this place was still standing. When I reached the main walls I could see a hint of daylight filtering in, proving that the building was pretty drafty. I bet the winters were brutal here.

Judging from the line of doors, I had to guess that I was in an old tavern- it was hard to believe it could still be in business in such a state of disrepair, but as I approached what appeared to be a stairwell I could hear voices and see a warm light coming from below.

Curious, I carefully walked down the steps, making sure to not make too loud a noise on the creaking wood. When I reached the bottom, there was only one voice talking- and I knew that gruff seafaring accent.

I narrowed my eyes and followed the sound to an entryway to a cramped room with benches and long boarded tables. There was a man at every table, but I couldn’t make out the faces or identify any of their features enough to know who they were. But I could clearly see the speaker, his face alit by the glow of the nearby gas lamp and I froze in shock and rekindled anger. It was him!

Seikram was thirteen years my senior, which made him about thirty-eight now, but he still appeared to be late twenties because of his Erudian blood. He still had his dark brown hair, chopped short by his own blade, and his beard was thick and curly. The coarse strands grew along his jaw line and covered his upper lip while the ones on his chin seemed to extend down a little.

He had a neat black slash over the brow of his left eye that skipped over the socket and ended at his cheekbone. I was never able to tell if that was an actual scar or a tattoo. His skin seemed to have tanned more over the years, though it was hard for me to tell in the light. There was also a good-sized bump growing on the right side of his nose.

He was no eyesore, but I could never forget the memory of him holding the sword over Pappy’s neck and smirking as he carried out the deed. There was no remorse in that instant- he had wanted to kill the captain. So it didn’t really matter how he looked now- I hated him.

I was still hiding behind the doorway, getting over the shock of seeing my enemy so close to me. Unnoticed, I had the element of surprise. All I had to do was draw my sword and charge- I had a clear shot and a sliver of a chance to destroy him in one fell swoop. …But I hesitated.

My hand reached over to the hilt, but it only hovered there, shaking as I continued to watch the man with wide eyes. Was I scared? I couldn’t be nervous over the idea of killing him- of all people in the world, he was the only one I wouldn’t feel guilty about.

Seikram was the one who made me feel this way about death when he took my father away from me. If I could rid the world of him, I felt I would be cured of the past that haunted me and be able to function normally during my battles. With that reminder, my eyes narrowed, my brows furrowed, and my hand firmly gripped the hilt.

…But as I was silently pulling the sword from its’ sheath, Seikram’s grey eyes, neither dark nor light, scanned the crowd. He raised his mug of ale and smirked.

“Let me tell ye the tale o’ the Lord o’ the Sea…”

He was entertaining the men it seemed, and I pushed my sword back in after a slight pause. Fine- let him tell his tale. I wanted to hear what he had to say about my Pappy. Perhaps his distorted view of reality might be enough to further drive my conviction to kill him.

However, as he started his tale, I was surprised to hear him speak fondly of him- all of them were good memories he’d had with Lord Rutan, and a testament to the powers he had seen. I never really witnessed any of my father’s so-called ‘powers’, though I did see him swing his sword at the sea a few times. I didn’t think he was redirecting the waves- back then I thought he was just showing off while balancing on the bowsprit. It was quite the sight, actually.

Though I hadn’t meant to, I felt a smile perk on my lips as I heard the life of my father before I was born. Even when I was mentioned, I felt some warmth and pride at hearing his declaration to keep me- though I should be a little disturbed and upset that everyone else had suggested tossing me away in the beginning.

It wasn’t until the end of the tale when Seikram mentioned some kind of ‘curse’ that came with me- something that affected the life of my father should I continue to live. It was the first time I ever heard such a thing, and I didn’t believe for an instant when he said my father volunteered his life for mine.

Well, I could believe he would have sacrificed his life for me, but what I’d witnessed that day wasn’t willing at all. He fought back as the crew swarmed him and he only stopped moving when someone grabbed my unmoving form from behind and a threat to me was called.

My anger grew while memories flashed in my mind. Seikram said he had ‘heavy heart’ when he executed our captain, but I couldn’t forget that look of satisfaction and pride when he committed the deed. I also couldn’t forget that stoic look in my father’s eyes even as his head fell to the deck.

I felt hot tears pouring down my cheeks as I remembered the scream that left me as I realized my father was dead. Seikram claimed that I ‘jumped’ overboard after it was done, but I had not imagined the pair of strong hands pushing me over the edge and into the waters. I never did see the face of who did that to me, but I could assure everyone that I did not go overboard willingly. Yes, I was scared, distraught, and angry, but I was also completely rooted in place from the shock- the same kind that had gripped me not long ago.

I couldn’t verify if the first half of the tale was true, but I could say without a shadow of a doubt that Seikram was lying to make himself look innocent. My memories were far too vivid for me to confuse the details, and I was certain that I didn’t see things differently just because I was young and loyal to my father. I’d actually trusted Seikram and the crew once- just as my father had!

“Yer lyin’, ye dickless son o’ a landlubber! Tell the truth fer once!” I shouted, the ring of my sword being pulled out of the sheath following ominously. I then stepped into the room, gaining everyone’s attention as I pointed the tip at my most hated enemy before I added, “The capt’n didn’t ‘choose’ ta die- ye murdered him fer yer own gain!”

I really should’ve just kept my mouth shut and attacked- the other men in the room had to be part of the crew and they knew the truth as well. I didn’t need for Seikram to confess to his crimes because everyone already knew he did it. All my posturing did was alert him that I was coming. I charged at the last second, only to have my blade meet his as he narrowly unsheathed it in time.

I could hear everyone express their surprise and move out of the way as I swung my weapon again, using strength that I didn’t know I had. Seikram still easily parried me as he recovered from his shock enough to fight back.

“Ah don’t know who ye are, lass, but yer not bad fer a woman,” he commented as our swords clashed again. Somehow hearing that he didn’t recognize me hurt and made me even angrier. He was allegedly searching the world for me and yet he didn’t know when I was right in front of him?

I let out a battle cry as I roughly dislodged our weapons, sending us both back a few paces. I corrected my stance at the last second and aimed low, using my blade as a spear to gut him in the torso. My way was clear and he wasn’t recovering quickly enough to counter me… but my body froze in place just as the tip was mere centimeters away from the target.

The only thing I could move was my head, and I glanced up to see that Seikram’s sword was positioned in a way that would’ve sliced my neck had I moved any closer. We would’ve killed each other at the same time…

“Wot is it now falucite man?” Seikram asked incredulously, proving that he was stuck in place like I was.

“Cegil! Release her!” Satel demanded behind me. “That man is responsible for hurting her in the first place- she has every right to take revenge.”

At first I felt a slight twinge of guilt that I hadn’t even noticed their presence in the room, but then my mind slowly worked out that it was Cegil who’d used his magicks to stop me.

“I apologize for my interference, but now is not the time to turn swords upon one another,” Cegil announced as he came into our views and eased our weapons out of our hands. He then spared a light glare at me as he released us from his magicks. “You should not have come down here, Tia. Leave now.”

Suddenly, I felt like I had been stabbed- hadn’t Cegil just heard why I was here? How dare he berate me for trying to face my past!

“Cegil!” I protested as I was released.

“I understand what your are feeling, but the situation is too delicate to allow you to continue. Please wait a little longer before confronting him again,” the tall man pleaded.

He should know what I was feeling! Cegil had sworn to avenge his mate once, but had given up right at the end. Had he gotten his revenge, maybe he wouldn’t have been as miserable as he was for all those years. I knew I shouldn’t be thinking like this without giving him the chance to speak for himself, but I just couldn’t abandon my vow to kill Seikram only hours after making it. The man was right there- why should I have to wait!?

“Wait a minute!” Seikram muttered before his rough hands grabbed my jaw line. He then tried to pull me into the light so he could have a better look at me. I glared and angrily slapped him away before he could do so and backed off until I was by Cegil’s side. I may have been upset with the tall man, but I still trusted him far more that I did the pirate.

“Elit be damned- it is ye!” he proclaimed, my actions still enough to prove his suspicions. He then turned to the other men in the room- the same crew that I remembered all those years ago. “It’s Elati- we found her, boys!”

I narrowed my eyes at being called by that name once again. I loved my father, but I never liked being named after the goddess of storms. I didn’t know what was going through his mind, or why he couldn’t think of anything else to call me, but I only wanted to hear him say that name since he was my father. Anyone else should only know me as I am now.

“That ain’t me name no more- ye’ll refer ta me as Tia,” I ground through clenched teeth as they murmured excitedly. They seemed glad to see me, but I doubted it was because they missed me. If anything, they wanted me so that I could fix whatever mess they were in…

Of course, no one really heard me- or they didn’t want to be bothered learning my new name. They were more interested in talking about how I’ve grown and that I needed a new ship name since I wasn’t that ‘tiny’ of a corsair anymore.

“Heh! Should’ve known it was ye- yer still the spittin’ image o’ yer pappy…’cept wit’out the beard,” Seikram commented as he slung his arm around my shoulders. It was like the mutiny never happened- he just expected me to forgive him for what he’d done. Or maybe he was that stupid enough to believe that I would just forget that little detail.

“An’ she has more curves than her pappy, too!” another man yelled. I suspected that was Blood-Knot, the boatswain, as he was always the first to make a perverted comment in regards to women.

It was almost enough to send me into a state of confusion. Here I was, amongst the people I was upset with for their betrayal to my father, and yet they were treating me as if I were still one of them. Why did they side with Seikram in the mutiny and throw me off board if they held no ill will towards me? Or was this simply a case of Seikram using his lies to trick everyone into his beliefs?

I shoved the dirty barnacle away from me and quickly punched him in the jaw to dispel this farce of a ‘happy’ reunion. He took the blow like a true seafarer and only backed a few steps.

“How can ye speak ta me like we’re friends after wot ye had done ta me!? Ye held me hostage an’ killed me Pappy right in front o’ me eyes! Ye expect me ta forgive ye?” I yelled before I turned to the men. “An’ wot are ye all happy ‘bout? Ye tossed me off the ship right after! Ye want ta do it again!?”

This time I earned confused looks all around. They didn’t know what I was talking about and obviously wanted to act like I was going insane.

“Lass, ah was the one holdin’ ye an’ ah didn’t throw ye over. Ye tore out o’ me arms an’ the next thing ah saw was yer feet o’er the rail. We all rushed o’er to the side o’ the ship ta jump in an’ save ye, but we couldn’t find a trace o’ ye in the waters.” The man who said that was known as Spearhead. He was nicknamed that because he was a thin man with what looked like a large head on his shoulders. The size of his head was actually attributed to his Kagma red, curly hair. Not everyone on the ship was Erudian, as The Cruel Whore sailed to many ports.

Spearhead told me this with his grey eyes staring straight back into mine, proving that as far as he knew, he was telling the truth. But I knew a different truth- someone pushed me. If Spearhead didn’t do it, then who did? The crew’s dumb look of confusion clearly told me that they weren’t really culprits.

“Mebbe ye fell,” Blood-Knot suggested with a shrug, “A storm did suddenly pick up at the time an’ the sea wasn’t exactly gentle.”

“As if!” I snarled, not quite ready to believe that it was just an accident.

I distinctly remember hands on me, but I couldn’t imagine any of them doing it. For as long as I knew them, they were a lovable bunch who couldn’t really solve problems without Pappy, Seikram, or the quartermaster telling them what to do.

No- they needed someone to lead them, and when I really thought about it, I didn’t know where Seikram had gone right after the beheading. Could he have been the one to both assassinate my father and go after my life? It seemed like just a split second- first I was staring at my father’s head and the next I was falling into the water. Could he have possibly moved so fast?

I couldn’t stay suspicious of the crew when I knew they were incapable of foul play against their own. They were innocent and undeserving of my anger- the only one who truly was at fault was the mastermind himself. He was the one I should focus on!

“Elati, believe it or not, e’erything we did was ta protect ye- it’s wot ye pappy wanted,” that vile sea snake said behind me. I whirled around to glare venomously at him. No- I wasn’t going to fall for his lies!

“If it’s wot he wanted, then why did he look so surprised an’ betrayed? Jus’ wot were ye ‘protectin’ me from? Ye made up some curse, but ye didn’t explain wot it is. Jus’ admit it- ye made up that story ta make me pappy sound like a legend an’ ye the hero!” I shouted, my voice getting hoarse from the tone. It was silent for a while as Seikram gathered his thoughts for his reply.

“Aye… ah’ll admit that ah did exaggerate the endin’ o’ me tale a little,” he began slowly before he gestured with his hands in an attempt to get my eyes off his. “But ah did it ta protect ye from the truth. If ye knew wot yer pappy was really like, ye’d be crushed.”

“Oh? Wot was he like? A bloodthirsty pirate? Scourge o’ the five seas- didn’t care ‘bout no one but himself?” I countered in a shrill and incredulous tone. “Ah knew he was no hero- he was a pirate jus’ like the rest o’ us! If that’s suddenly bad ta ye, then wot are ye doin’ here!?”

If Seikram thought he was going to get me to turn against Pappy just because he was a ‘bad man’, then he was out of luck. I knew who my father was- no one could warp or take away the memories I had sealed tightly in my mind. I’d witnessed him kill a few men before and steal treasure- he even kidnapped some women and children to use as hostages before.

Yes, he was a fair man when it came to other seafarers, but he was still a criminal to ordinary people… And yet, he was still my father- he lovingly raised me and taught me everything he could. I was never abused or neglected under his care.

But somehow my words gave the snake an idea and he proceeded to not only further sully my father’s reputation, but anger me even more than ever. “Aye that’s right! He’s a pirate an’ in the end a pirate only looks out fer himself. He was going ta sacrifice ye in the end ta save himself the trouble-”

“LIAR!” I screamed as I punched him again. How dare he insinuate such a thing!

What was I doing just letting him attempt to talk his way out of his mistakes? Maybe Cegil took away my sword, but there were other ways to kill a man… My eyes eventually drifted to the nearby table where a dirtied steak knife lied next to an empty plate. That would do…

I must’ve hesitated again because Seikram also glanced over to what I was focusing on and quickly figured out my intent. Our eyes met for a second before we both scrambled for the utensil. But once my hand reached the wood, the blade was already gone.

Cegil had also caught on to what was going on and either snatched the knife with blinding speed, or used his magicks to teleport it elsewhere.

“Enough Tia,” the lavender haired man told me in a stern tone. There was a frown present on his features as he stood by my side and placed a hand on my shoulder. “I understand your feelings very well, but unfortunately I must ask that you leave this man alone. He may be the only one who can answer the questions we have about the goddess.”

I understood what Cegil was saying and that he wasn’t really trying to turn against me, but my anger and frustration were stronger at that moment. I couldn’t stop my bitter and betrayed feelings from slapping his giant hand away, but I did manage to turn on my heel and storm away instead of turning on him, out of respect.

“Good luck gettin’ the truth out o’ that bilge rat,” I muttered to him instead of giving him the apology he deserved for my admittedly selfish behavior.

I found that Satel wasn’t that far from me- he just stood there with an unreadable expression. His head was bowed some, allowing his platinum blond strands and the rim of his über hat to cover most of his eyes. I wasn’t sure what to feel about him either. Did he side with Cegil, or me?

Then again, what did it matter? There shouldn’t have to be a ‘side’ to choose anyway- all I needed was to cool down and find out how long Cegil needed that snake’s services. I knew deep down I wouldn’t remain angry at him for long.

I was about to shove past my mate, but he reached out and grabbed me by the wrist. The next thing I knew, we were in the room I had awakened in. In hindsight, that was the best he could do for me since I didn’t have the key to the locked room.

I could feel my eyes burning again as my breath became heavy. The whole ordeal still left me in an emotional state and I wanted to do something about it. Ordinarily I would cry, but I was too furious to do so. I was tossing small objects at the walls before I realized it and I soon moved to kicking and smashing the furniture into the ground. As I did so, I let out growls and grunts like some wild beast as I vented.

Satel remained by the door, out of my way, and watched me through the entire process.

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

It must’ve taken an hour to demolish the room before my anger finally faded. When it came to that moment when I had lost my father, the only emotions I had were sadness and fury. Now that I had depleted one, I was beginning to feel the other.

I’d turned over the dresser, table, and even the bed- the amount of noise I’d made had probably been heard by the men down below. The only areas free of the carnage were the center of the room and the space by the door where Satel stood. I sat on my knees as I numbly surveyed my work. Little by little, my breath hitched and tears escaped my eyes.

I wasn’t even sure why I was crying at that point. All I knew was that everything hurt- my head, my chest, and even my limbs. I didn’t know what to do with myself- so long as Seikram was alive and breathing, I couldn’t rest. But I had to respect what Cegil was doing and remember why he was here.

It had been so easy back then to forget about him, when I didn’t know where he was or if I would ever see Elati’s waters again. In fact, I never really had the time to properly grieve over my father or reflect the misdeeds of that colorful sea snake. When my eyes opened after that day, I was on the shores of Port Sibest- and it was only hours later when I became the monster that they loved to loathe.

I couldn’t afford to show weakness to them- if I had, I wouldn’t have survived to see this day. It wasn’t easy, as I did think about my last day with the crew a lot at first, but I eventually shoved all my pain and duress to the back of my mind so that I could keep moving in an environment that wanted to hurt me.

Bottling things up and trying to forget them was my coping strategy- and it wasn’t until I met Lioa when I discovered how harmful that was when I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Seeing Seikram and The Cruel Whore just proved that I couldn’t escape my feelings- and that I was ready to unleash fifteen years worth of pain. And now that I could express myself, I couldn’t stop my emotions from coming- I was out of control.

I had my hands clenched over my thighs and my head was bowed so that the tears fell on my fists. I kept my breathing as quiet as possible, only allowing a few hitches to escape me.

I was able to hear the sounds of Satel’s steps as he approached me. Without saying a word, he knelt down behind me and then brushed his hands along my sides. Taking the silent cue, I turned and buried my face against his chest and accepted his offer of comfort.

“I hate seeing you in pain,” he muttered as he rested his cheek against the top of my head.

“I’m sorry…” I blubbered against his frock coat. My response had nothing to do with his comment- it was something I’ve wanted to say to him much sooner. But when thinking about it, it seems that all I’ve been doing lately was cry and worry him. I hated how I was reacting to everything now- I felt absolutely useless and that I was just holding everyone back.

“Why must you always apologize when I comfort you? This is my duty as your mate, you know- and you’re always here for me when I need you,” he reminded me with a hint of amusement in his tone. It sounded like he wasn’t upset with me at all, despite my actions in the last few hours.

“I mean that I’m sorry for how I treated you earlier,” I explained, my voice still shaky from emotion. “I ignored you and pushed you away-”

“I get why you did it,” he interrupted me as one of his hands rubbed slow circles along my back. “I’ve been waiting for this day- though I wasn’t expecting to find out about it this way. I always thought you’d sit me down and calmly tell me what happened. I couldn’t help you or soothe your pain until I knew why you were hurting.”

So this was why he was so damn adamant about learning my past. He wasn’t being nosy at all- he just wanted to understand me better for times like this. Hearing this made me hug him tighter.

After the ordeal of losing my father, I was confused about myself and of the nature of humanity. Somewhere inside myself, I thought there had to be something wrong with me if so many people initially hated me for seemingly no reason- and Seikram showed me how people I trusted could easily turn against me. I was utterly alone until Cegil came into my life and picked up where Pappy left off.

Maybe my relationship with Cegil started on a misconception that falucite were trustworthier than humans, but I was wholly grateful for what he, and later what Satel and Lioa, had done, and do, for me. Their love and concern was enough to help me recover some of my former self.

That was why I didn’t want to let Satel or my falucite family go- they were there when my father couldn’t save me. They loved me when others wanted me to suffer.

“Tell me, ‘Tia-dear, do you think destroying that man will make you feel better? Will his death heal you?” my mate inquired after a long moment of silence.

“It won’t just heal me- it’ll give closure and allow my father to rest in peace,” I replied after taking a few more seconds to compose myself. Seikram dishonored Pappy by keeping his head, so I need to avenge him or else he’ll never find peace. That was an old tale he told me and I believed him.

I also had to kill Seikram in order to cut all ties to my past. I couldn’t completely move on until I faced the man who’d traumatized me- and I wanted nothing to do with the sea anymore. There was no point in going back if Pappy wasn’t going to be there…

“If you truly believe that, then I will not stop you once Cegil is through with him. I will only interfere if it seems as though you might be in danger- best if I save you so you can fight him another day,” he added, trying to keep a lighthearted tone behind the support. But then he became more serious as he leaned closer and murmured in my ear “…But if you don’t feel as if you can do it, just say the word and I will deal with him on your behalf.”

“What? You don’t think I can handle him?” I asked as I pulled back to look at him. I knew he was just trying to be supportive, but it shocked me to hear him offer such a thing. He trusted me to deal with humans just fine- and he knew how important it was for the victim to conduct the revenge on their own.

“If it were an ordinary fight, I bet you could wipe the floor with him, but… I saw you before you came into the room and before you left- you hesitated to go after him.”

He was right- I did hesitate, and I didn’t know why. Of all people, I shouldn’t be adverse to Seikram’s death- I hated him enough to wish it upon him. …So then why couldn’t I strike?

“You are not a killer my sirsa. You have no training or mental preparation for such a thing. Yes, you may have taken a life before, but it was out of self-defense, correct?” he continued when I didn’t confirm anything.

He was actually wrong- there was another he didn’t know about. The other was an accident due to my negligence in securing a cannon. It came loose and crushed an enemy as he was boarding the ship, but it disturbed me nonetheless.

“But I have killed before,” I reminded him, thinking that it was enough. But somehow it wasn’t- and Satel seemed to know why. “Why is it different this time?”

“Because you’re likely waiting for him to attack first so that you can defend yourself- you realize that it won’t work if he has no desire to make the first move. No, you need to take initiative- something you won’t have unless you let me train you,” he said, surprising me.

“Train?” I echoed, wondering what kind of ‘training’ I needed.

“You can’t kill unless you’re desensitized to it. You have to get used to ending many lives before you can be able to attack him. It’s something that I had to go through in order to become an assassin- and frankly I would rather not put you through it,” he admitted as he glanced away from me for a moment. “You have to shut away that part of yourself that cares about life and use cold reason to justify your actions.”

“…I’d have to be more like you…” I muttered as I realized that he was right. One didn’t become an assassin from birth- they had to start from their first kill and be conditioned to not let it bother them. But Satel must’ve had something else taught to him too, because he wasn’t some heartless murderer.

“It won’t be that easy. In order to desensitize you, I would have to take you on more of my missions and let you take care of my targets. You might have to eliminate many in order to be ready for Seikram- are you certain you want to try?” he asked, giving me fair warning.

I really had to think it through- was getting revenge worth the lives I would have to take? Satel’s targets were generally people who didn’t care about others- I could probably find it in myself to get over it if I reminded myself that it had to be done. If I couldn’t have the resolve to do this, then I would end up letting my father down.

“…I have to- for Pappy and for myself. I can’t move on and live my life without cutting ties to my past. I want to go forward with you,” I told him resolutely after I was done thinking.

Satel stared at me with another unreadable expression that seemed to be a mix of smoldering and being troubled. I could tell his thoughts were churning in his head, but soon he lowered himself against me and hugged me tightly.

“I’m happy to hear that you want to stay with me, but I fear I may regret my offer. I don’t want to risk making you lose yourself in trying to kill more. Not everyone is mentally healthy for such a role,” he said with some hesitation.

“I’m not insane,” I reassured him. “…and if I didn’t like taking a life the first time, then I don’t think I ever will. Once Seikram is gone, I hope to never have to kill again.”

“I hope that as well,” he replied, still not certain of my decision. Did he really not have much trust in me? No, I figure that he just wanted to protect my so-called ‘innocence’. It implied that after all was said and done, he has some regrets about the assassinations he had done in the past.

I was starting to feel a little better about the situation now that I had some kind of plan. It was better than before when I had no idea how to deal with my feelings or if I could even exact my revenge. I just clung tighter to my mate as if he were the only one who could keep me from going back into that emotional state- though, until I got over my momentary anger with Cegil, he probably was.

Suddenly there was a firm knock on the door and Satel lifted his head just enough to be heard. “Come in.”

He must’ve known that Cegil was coming, as he wouldn’t let just any stranger come in and see me like this. The door handle jiggled, but didn’t turn, reminding us that it was still locked.

“I meant teleport in,” the über hat man amended, proving that he knew he had to have been addressing a falucite.

I immediately pressed my face against Satel’s chest once I caught a glimpse of long lavender hair. I may have understood what Cegil was doing, and that it was for my benefit, but I was still a little bitter about what had happened downstairs. I wasn’t ready to apologize to him yet- I still had an hour or more of brooding for him.

The giant man paused to take in the damage I had caused before he approached us. We must’ve been quite the sight sitting in the middle of carnage like that. Had a stranger entered, they would’ve mistaken us for victims that got lucky. I bet no one could imagine that I’d pulled off such a thing.

“So? What did you find out?” Satel inquired calmly, being careful not to move me around.

“I unfortunately was unable to learn of the goddess’ intentions with Tia, but I do have more of a background to get an idea. Her father likely had the Hels Meyuun when he was alive and great misfortune befell the crew when he passed. This implies that not only had he held some importance, but that his death was never supposed to have happened. This crew was the first to unwittingly disobey a reading from the Fates,” he began. I found myself not so surprised to hear that.

I was probably biased, but even I knew my father shouldn’t have died- Seikram had no right in what he did. But what kind of misfortunes did the crew face after he was gone? Either way, I’m glad they regretted what they did- they should feel sorry for it, though I had a sick feeling that they only missed Pappy for whatever benefits he gave to the crew. Selfish bastards…

“Does this reading have something to do with ‘Tia-dear? I recall Seikram mentioning a ‘curse’,” Satel pointed out, wanting answers to that. I had long since dismissed that as something the sea snake made up to convince me to turn against my father.

“The term ‘curse’ was more of an embellishment- he was referring to Tia’s reading and cited credible sources for it. If I were to go to an Oracle, they should confirm that Elati the human was to be burned in the hellfires of Rael at the age of fifteen. It was supposed to be the Lord of the Sea’s show of loyalty to the Fates.”

Cegil’s reply resonated through my body and I thought my heart was going to stop. That was my true reading? I was to die at fifteen!? …But Pappy would never think about sacrificing me- he didn’t think much of the Fates, or rather, he didn’t care to know what they wanted. Regardless if that reading were really true, where did Seikram get the idea that Pappy wanted to kill me? And why did he care?

I still didn’t understand how any of this was to ‘protect’ me. Sure, I was part of the crew at the time, but my life certainly wasn’t important compared to Pappy’s. My father could take care of them- I was nothing more than a cute brat that they wanted to train like a pet.

“However, while I do not know the man personally, I have my doubts as to if he would have actually gone through with it. It seems he had had the backing of a goddess, so he would be spared if he disobeyed the Fates. I cannot see why a reading would faze him in the slightest,” Cegil continued, sounding rather sure of himself, as if he had some knowledge or experience behind it… Considering his past, he probably did.

“Damn straight… I can’t recall a man who could stand as tall as Pappy. He answered to no one- not demons, not dragons, and certainly not the Fates. He was truly a free man and he had no fears,” I commented as I sat back, away from Satel. As I said it, I only thought about the many memories I had of him standing proud on the bowsprit or on the quarterdeck. I earned small grins from the men before I noticed that that was the first spunky remark I had made in a long time. I must’ve reassured them that I was getting better despite the situation.

“As a father, I can understand what happened very clearly- if he had any fear, then it was for your safety. This is why I do not believe he would have sacrificed you, and it does support your claim as to how he perished. Additionally, it explains why Elati reacted to his death despite Seikram mentioning that ‘only one could live’. Clearly there was no choice in the matter- at least not one that he was at liberty to make,” the tall man added to explain his reasoning.

It was hard to stay angry at him after hearing him say that. He had just insinuated that he believed my story over Seikram’s, thus proving he didn’t think me a liar or that I wasn’t simply remembering things differently. Not only that- he also didn’t believe the crap Seikram was trying to give about my father’s ‘complicity’ in his death.

“You say Elati reacted to his death? How so?” Satel inquired, sounding rather concerned and surprised over such a thing. Come to think of it, Cegil did make a mention of that, but I barely noticed it since I was more concerned with details about my father.

“The crew reported that the moment Rutan was slain, the skies suddenly turned dark and a storm developed very quickly,” Cegil explained before he went into more detail about what happened later. Apparently, Elati revoked all sorts of protections on The Cruel Whore because they were exclusive to my father.

Just a day later, the mermaids that usually followed the ship left them, some even tried attacking the men on board before departing. After that, the members of The Cruel Whore were adopted by a dragon master and had to do their bidding- something that never had to happen so long as my father was captain. To make things even worse, Cyirlie was the one who had claimed them.

“Really? I thought dragon priestesses had no need for human servants,” Satel muttered, scoffing at that bit of news.

“I would imagine it to be divine punishment for what the crew had done. Cyirlie is Elati’s servant, after all,” his brother pointed out in a near dry tone. ‘Divine punishment’ indeed! I hope they suffered every day under that cold-hearted dragon’s guidance.

“So that is all we can get from them? I suppose that was a waste then…” my mate remarked with disappointment.

“Not quite- their information just proves how valuable Tia is to the goddess. Whatever her father had, she possesses it now- and, considering she is the only one being sought for, she must be the only one left with a Hels Meyuun. No harm should befall her unless they wish to lose their prize forever.”

…Did Cegil really have to refer to me as a prize? That was too disturbing- it made me feel like some endangered creature of a lost ancient, race…

“So then what now? It doesn’t really explain what she wants with me,” I pointed out, wishing we could get some straight answers now.

“The only theory I have now is that Elati wants you to take your father’s place as Lord of the Sea, whatever that may entail. At this time, the only way to discover the truth is to see Cyirlie and hear what is expected of you. With the threat of you being harmed eliminated from the possibilities, I recommend this course of action,” my former guardian suggested before adding, “Though the choice is yours alone, Tia. I will support whatever you decide.”

My father’s …place? What exactly did the Lord of the Sea do? What was his purpose other than to be a wise smart-ass to his crew? Though I had bigger concerns than that- whatever he was must’ve been important to him. If I took on that role, it would be like keeping a part of him alive …maybe. …I honestly wouldn’t know unless I tried it. But… if I did, then it would contradict what I had just told Satel. I wanted to live my life with him, away from the sea- I can’t have both.

“What if I went to see her and refused what Elati has to offer? Would anything happen then?” I asked, wanting to make sure I would be safe. There was no point in running if all they wanted was to see me. If Elati just wanted me alive, then I was- I didn’t have to serve her, did I?

“There is really nothing they can do to you, other than convince you to accept. It is not in a god’s nature to use others to coerce you- they barely understand mortal nature to be able to discern an emotional link one possesses to others,” Cegil said, citing his limited knowledge of the gods.

Since they didn’t toil and socialize like the mortals, they didn’t know the difference in concepts like love and hate. Elati probably had no clue the difference in love I had for my father and for Cegil versus the love I feel for Satel. She wouldn’t know how to toy with my emotions unless she knew my weaknesses- something that would have to be told to her outright.

…But Cyirlie was a different matter- she may be a dragon, but her race had an understanding of some relationships. She could probably pick up enough to figure out a way to bother me.

“I need to think about it- at least let me sleep on it. I’ll try to have an answer in the morning,” I requested, knowing that I will need to talk things over with Satel first. He wasn’t going to like the idea of me seeing Cyirlie- and I needed to figure out what I wanted and convey it to him. I didn’t want anything to do with The Cruel Whore, Seikram, or the sea…but I held no ill will towards my father. I didn’t want to cut ties with his memory if I could help it. I had to negotiate something that would allow me to hold some kind of keepsake of my father and still remain by Satel’s side.

“Fair enough. Now that the pirates know you are here, they will not leave without you. …Though with Satel and I by your side, they will find it difficult to persuade you by force,” the tall man commented with a small grin. He then glanced around at the wreckage and hesitated before excusing himself. “I hope you have a …restful slumber. If you do not have a decision made by morning, then I can negotiate for more time if necessary.”

“Thank you,” I replied before he left. Once he was gone, I turned back to Satel and rested my forehead against his chest.

There was a lot I was going to have to think about and I didn’t know where to start. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I really could come up with a resolution by the morning. It was going to be a long night- and I knew I couldn’t stay up for most of it thanks to whatever Elati, or some demon, did to me.

…But before I worry about anything else, I suppose the first thing I needed to do was flip the bed back over…

To the Next Chapter

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