15. Draining Emotions

Chapter 15

Draining Emotions

There once was a man who lived like a king

An’ he owned all that the land could offer

But, his throne came at a price!

He was a slave to Kajros

 

Ta hell wit’ the land an’ ta hell wit’ the Fates

Ah’d rather die than ta abide by those rules

So give me the great blue sky an’ the sea

A pirate’s life, means freedom…

 

            …That was a very old song- my Pappy’s favorite. We’d used to sing it every night before going to bed. He’d told me the back-story about how it was written by a king who had forsaken his throne to become a pirate. But there were some inconsistencies that I’d never dared to question.

For one, how would serving dragons be considered ‘free’? It was a big misconception for those who wanted to escape the oppressive life of a landlubber, or a coastal seafarer. Then there was the fact that the king would serve Elit instead of Kajros, which wasn’t that huge of a change.

If there was any pirate- anyone who was truly free, it was my father. It was true that he still was a follower of Elit, but he didn’t have to answer to anyone down here among the mortals. He walked with his head high and bowed to no one. Maybe it was because of him that wannabe pirates took to his lifestyle. With the way he acted, he made being a pirate seem so glamorous.

But my father… he really had nothing holding him back- no fears of disobeying the Fates, no concern over king’s men hunting him down. All he wanted was to keep sailing for the rest of his life… That’s why… I couldn’t believe Seikram at all when he said that Pappy would’ve sacrificed me to save himself. Sure- any ordinary pirate would do that, but Pappy wasn’t ordinary. What did he care if there was retribution for disregarding a reading?

It was a long two hours I had spent with Satel in trying to organize my thoughts. I made sure to tell him that I ultimately wanted to stay with him- I didn’t want him to question the chances of my leaving him for a life that had no more meaning. But I also had to explain that I needed some way to give myself closure.

Getting revenge wasn’t enough, as that was for Pappy’s honor. What I needed was a keepsake, or some other way to keep his memory alive. Unfortunately, the only thing I could think of would involve my staying with the crew, at least for a short while. I wasn’t looking forward to it, and I had no clue how long it would take.

I felt strange for feeling this way- up until now, I was completely adamant about leaving behind the sea and The Cruel Whore… but after seeing my father’s head… It gave me the chance to finally grieve and let all my sorrow out. All that was left in me were my fond memories, and I realized that of all things to leave behind, Pappy wasn’t someone I wanted to let go. I needed something of his for comfort.

Satel stayed silent as I rambled and worked out my thoughts. He was struggling to understand my position, but I could tell he wasn’t getting it. Since he barely knew his parents, he didn’t have any common ground with me to know why I didn’t want to let go of my father’s memory. All he was concerned about was my staying with him- it was a little selfish on his part, but something in me found it a little cute. And I knew that above all, he didn’t want me to suffer anymore- he was all for me finding ways to eliminate my pain.

I eventually requested for him to sneak me aboard The Cruel Whore so I could see Pappy again. I wanted to finally confront that part of my past and get all of the tears out of my system. I was tired of crying- I was getting a headache from it all, so I wanted one last chance to let it all out. I believed that in doing so, I could function better and strengthen my resolve to move on.

My mate was against the idea at first, worried that we might be caught or that I might go on a rampage again, but he couldn’t resist my pleads. It was with great reluctance that he teleported us to the forecastle deck and backed away to give me some space as I sat before Pappy’s skull.

I didn’t cry as much as I thought I would, but as more suppressed memories came to me, I became more certain of my decision. I loved my father very much, but there was actually so much I didn’t know about him because I was too young at the time. He had promised to sit me down at thirteen and explain what being Lord of the Sea meant, but now… It was hard for a dead man to speak.

I decided that at the very least I needed to see Cyirlie to find out the truth about my father. She knew something, and I had every right to know what it was.

I raised my head when I heard a ‘chink’ of metal and figured that Satel had summoned his sword. I glanced over my shoulder to find that he was holding up his blade to the neck of an intruder that I hadn’t heard coming. My eyes narrowed when I recognized the newcomer in the moon light- Seikram.

“The hell, falucite-man!?” the pirate grumbled as he delicately lowered the blade with the tip of his index finger. “This be my ship- ah have the right ta see who’s intrudin’!”

“This ain’t yer ship,” I growled as I stood up from my kneeling position. Even after what he’d done, he’d never claimed the role of captain. He did have the traditional tri-cornered hat, but he wore the wrong earring.

Every pirate had an earring on- it was like a badge that showed one’s rank on the ship. The corsair’s earring that I wore was actually the most common one for the average man, but the officers and masters had something different, and usually in another type of metal. The captain generally wore a coin earring in gold, but Seikram chose instead to wear the silver hoop of the quartermaster- he used to be just a first officer and had worn a half-hoop.

…But if he was the quartermaster, then what happened to the old one? He didn’t kill him too, did he?

“…Aye, that be true, but ah still hold responsibility fer her an’ her crew,” the vile sea snake replied as he attempted to get Satel to completely move his sword away from him. The über hat man did lower his weapon enough to where it wasn’t near Seikram’s neck, but he refused to put it away altogether. He was determined to bar the man away from me. After seeing it was futile, he added in a tired tone. “‘Tis the least ah can do wit’ yer pappy gone.”

“Don’t act like yer doin’ someone a favor! Ye brought it upon yerself an’ ah’ll ne’er forgive ye fer wot ye done,” I snarled back, not caring that that we were above the crew’s quarters and that we were not supposed to be making this much noise so late.

Even pirates had a code of conduct, and in one of them, a pirate’s rest should never be interrupted. At twenty hundred hours, the lights must be out and no loud noises made so that the men could sleep soundly.

“If ye’d just listen, ah’ll tell ye why ah did wot ah did,” Seikram began impatiently, but Satel had had enough of it. He quickly sensed that everything was going to spiral out of control and wanted to prevent me from trying to attack again so soon.

“This ain’t the time fer that. Jus’ go back ta yer quarters an’ we’ll be gone shortly. The lass still needs more time ta think,” he muttered, slipping flawlessly into our native accent. I guess he couldn’t help but speak that way when surrounded by others, though he could resist when it was just me.

“Elit above- the falucite-man learned ta speak like us! The world must be comin’ ta an end,” the pirate said dryly before he begrudgingly turned on his heel and headed back down to the main deck.

What the hell? Did that mean falucite couldn’t learn the ways of the seafarers? I knew that they were strictly an earth-based race with a few exceptions living amongst fire creatures, but they weren’t elemental like dragons. It wasn’t impossible for one to live with the sea. …Though come to think of it, Satel was the only one I knew of who had adapted to sea life- it seemed everyone else wasn’t interested.

I was both surprised by his hint of discrimination against Satel and the fact that he retreated so quickly. When Satel was truly sorry, he wouldn’t leave me alone until I knew how remorseful he was. The fact that Seikram gave up so fast translated to me that he wasn’t that worried about what I felt. He was likely not sorry at all for anything he’d done.

I stood there for a moment, just blankly staring at the railing behind Satel before I felt his frock coat beginning to slip from my shoulders. While it was summer back where we lived, it was winter in this part of the world. As I suspected, cooler temperatures did feel colder to my body, but not as badly as I’d feared. It was only a mild winter’s evening though, just enough to cause goosebumps all over my skin.

Satel had draped his frock coat over me so that I would stay warm, but wasn’t he also susceptible to the cold? I approached him slowly and noted that he was trying very hard not to show that he was cold- his thin lips were pressed together and his jaw was clenched to prevent chattering.

I instantly felt bad for asking him to bring me out here, but I knew this had to be done. Besides, if he were more willing to leave me be for a few minutes, he could’ve warmed up elsewhere while I contemplated. …Then again, it appeared he was right to be concerned- I hadn’t expected Seikram to be awake and prowling the ship.

“Thank you for taking me out here,” I told him as I wrapped my arms around him. He quickly reacted by worming his arms under his coat as he hugged back. He even lifted me some so that I was also covering his chest.

“It’s no problem. I hope you got the answers you were searching for,” he replied as I held back my smile at his ‘sly’ attempts to get warm.

“Sort of… I know what I need to do, but you’re not going to like it,” I warned him just before he teleported us back to our new room. We figured moving into a different one was easier than fixing what I’d destroyed, and the inn was abandoned anyway so there was no point in worrying about it.

“So you’ll be visiting Cyirlie?” he inquired stiffly as his eyes hardened, worried. I had already mentioned the possibility before and he’d expressed his concerns about it. Satel didn’t want me anywhere near that sea dragon. That’s fine, I didn’t want him anywhere near her either- but it needed to be done.

“I don’t want to see her, but I must know the truth. Surely the goddess knows what happened that day- and this is my only chance to learn more about my father. I didn’t get that chance when he was alive,” I reasoned with him before adding. “You don’t have to come with me. I’ll be with Cegil and he’ll get me out of there if something seems wrong-”

“No- I will be by your side. It’s not that I don’t trust Cegil, but I can’t let you go without me there to support you,” he said as he shook his head.

“That’s not a good idea- if you come with us, then she’ll know you’re still alive,” I reminded him. I wanted to berate him for acting like a child about this, but he had long since pointed out that Cyirlie to him was like Seikram to me- he had a deep grudge with her and he viewed her as his enemy. I couldn’t judge him for wanting to face her after how I acted upon finding that sea snake.

“I didn’t ask for the elders to cover me, and you don’t need to worry about my behavior around her. I know very well that I am incapable of killing her. But if I showed myself before her, then I would be showing her that she is a failure, and that means something to me,” he explained, bringing a small measure of relief to me. So he wanted to strike her figuratively out of spite- he could easily stay out of her range for that, but…

He was also risking the chance of that future he feared- the one where she could hunt us both down for the rest of our lives. Then again, if I was really that valuable, I could bargain with the dragon and the goddess. Maybe I could have Satel spared if I decide to agree to whatever they wanted… but would it be worth it? I could say ‘yes’ to where Satel was concerned, but what if I did have to leave him? No matter how I looked at the situation, it was just one big messy circle.

“But what about the clan? Won’t revealing yourself place them in danger as well? Cyirlie might get upset that they were in on the conspiracy,” I pointed out, knowing that their safety was also important to him.

“As I said before, my issues with her are between us and no other- furthermore, it was the goddess who ordered my death, so I don’t think either of them will care about the treachery unless she demands so again. If that is the case, then I can never go home after this.”

“Satel! Are you listening to what you’re saying!?” I asked him in a near shrill tone. He must’ve been losing his mind- he would never abandon the clan! Some part of me decided that he wasn’t speaking seriously though- for all I knew, he could be just trying to dissuade me. “…Are you trying to convince me not to go?”

“No, I’m trying to tell you that you’re not the only who needs to face Elati. If you’re going to go find the truth and end everything, then I’m going with you. And perhaps I can negotiate with her to forgive my transgressions against her. If you’re really that valuable, then she shouldn’t be against the idea of my protecting you for the rest of our lives.”

I calmed down a little after he brought on a good point. Even though it was through me that he got in trouble, he did have his own separate business with Elati. Through his near death experience, he learned that the goddess had sentenced him to death for some transgression, but he wasn’t sure why she was upset, and he didn’t believe that his refusing Cyirlie didn’t have some part in it. The only reason he didn’t feel the need to seek her out before was because he would have to confront Cyirlie first.

“Whatever happens…” he continued as he tightened his arms around me and pulled me closer, “…I’m not going to let the goddess take you away from me. I fought too hard to give you up now, and it’s not as if I’m asking you to worship another god. This just has to work.”

It was then when his real concerns became clear. This wasn’t about Cyirlie at all- he didn’t want me to go off alone and end up making a decision that could separate us permanently. I wanted to ask if he didn’t trust me, but something in me knew that wasn’t the case- he was simply the type who personally wanted to fight for what he had.

“…Alright,” I agreed after thinking it over. “But when we see Cyirlie, stay behind me. If I’m supposed to stay alive, then she can’t get to you through me.”

I earned a hearty chuckle from my mate, “Aww, are you saying you want to protect me, ‘Tia-dear?”

I could find the humor in it, too. Usually it was the other way around- he was the strong one, after all.

“Got a problem with it?” I inquired coolly, pretending to be tough and slightly offended by his tone. He sounded more amused than disturbed by my order, so I wasn’t sure if he took me seriously at all or thought I was being cute.

“Not at all. I feel very lucky to have someone like you watching over me,” he replied with a hint of cheekiness to his voice. I was once again uncertain if he was being sarcastic or expressing actual joy.

My tone softened, pleading, “I know I’m just a human and all, but please stay behind me when we see her. I don’t want to see you almost dying again,” I knew I couldn’t fight her for him, but maybe I could keep him from getting hurt.

“You’re strong for a human, never doubt that,” he said earnestly, surprising me from the sudden change in mood. “I was just trying to make you flustered so you’d act more like yourself. I know all of this must be emotionally draining to you, but I want to see the ‘Tia I fell in love with stand up to Cyirlie and the goddess tomorrow. You can’t protect me when I’m the one comforting you.”

It was humbling that he did believe in me enough to be able to protect him, and that he would allow it. Even though there was no real gender bias in falucite clans, the women were encouraged more to step back in truly dangerous situations only because they were few in number. But I suppose that didn’t really apply to interracial couples…

“I’m not sure if I should deck you or kiss you,” I replied, my voice betraying my relief and happiness. It was a nice change from how I was feeling moments before.

Satel was right though- I wasn’t acting like myself. I was usually more ‘aloof’ than this, and only acted different in order to get out of strange situations. I was doing far too much crying lately- and I was acting rather scared despite my dislike of fearing the unknown.

Sure, I’d have to be inhuman not to react to what I’ve seen, but it was time for me to stand up and move on. I missed my Pappy, but I’ve survived fifteen years without him. As soon as I find out the truth and let his soul find peace, I wanted to go back with Satel and Cegil and live my life. I had to be strong- like I usually was.

“That’s my girl- I knew you were still in there,” the über hat man commented with a smile before he let me go and held out his arms by his sides. He then gave me a mischievous look before he taunted me. “Go ahead, take your best shot- I might just let you get away with it.”

Oh great, now I had to choose. It didn’t take long for me to figure out what I wanted to do- I jumped up and wrapped my arms behind his neck before I pulled myself up to press my lips against his. I could never really deck him… unless he really made me mad. The worst I’d do to him was quick and light jabs to the arm or stomach, but he sometimes countered them with a hug or kiss if he saw it coming.

He immediately responded by holding me up so that I wouldn’t end up sliding back down to the ground. I wasn’t completely over my grief and anger, but I was feeling much better now that I had time to let out my emotions. I didn’t know what it was about Satel that pulled me out of my bad moods, but I was grateful for him nonetheless. Being with him made me feel like everything was going to work out in the end- and I wanted to believe that it would.

“I’m going to be okay now, so don’t worry,” I reassured him after we pulled away for some air. All I needed was him and Cegil- together we can overcome this.

“Good- I don’t intend to ever leave you, so you don’t have to worry about me either. I’ll be right by your side no matter where you go,” he muttered comfortingly as he set me down and guided me to sit on the edge of the plain full-sized bed.

I found a smile playing on my lips as he knelt down to remove my boots and then slid his way up my body to kiss me again. Satel then gently pressed against me until we both fell back onto the bed and we both wriggled until our bodies were snug under the covers. We probably could have gone further than just kissing, but it was getting late and I was sure to pass out at any moment for that cursed singing I still did.

Instead I made sure to press myself close to my mate so that our combined body heat would dispel the chill we were feeling. I was right- this damned place was drafty. I then closed my eyes and waited for the inevitable. My last thoughts were comprised of what I planned to do in the morning and how I was going to accomplish it.

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

I awoke that morning to see Satel staring down at me with a look of concern. The moment our eyes locked, he reached out and cupped my cheek.

“Are you feeling okay, ‘Tia-dear?”

I winced at the question, wondering what it was now. Did the Seafarer’s Madness suddenly get worse, despite my being near the ocean? I must look dreadful now…

“I feel fine, what’s the damage now?” I asked as I sat up and grimly waited for the list of deformities that were likely on my face. I took the split second before he answered to look at my hands and some of my exposed arms and noted that they seemed okay.

“…You… You didn’t sing last night,” he replied, still sounding stunned. My eyes widened when that processed and then he continued his explanation of how he knew that. “I dozed for as long as I could, but you didn’t stir from bed. When I came to earlier, you were still by my side in the same position we fell asleep in.”

…And just when I was getting used to the fact that I had been sleepwalking most of my life. Now it was gone!? What in five hells is going on with this curse?

“Ugh… at least it wasn’t more scars from that accursed sickness…” I muttered in response to my earlier thoughts as I fell back into the giant pillow we had been sharing.

“Actually, I heard that one only needs to sing once at night for Elit- not that I really know anything about the sea,” the platinum blond man clarified at the last second before he added, “You don’t suppose that short shanty you were singing last night was enough to nullify the sleep-singing?”

Well, I was actually singing for Pappy, but a song is a song, I guess. I couldn’t even fathom how that emotional voice with broken words could’ve been confused for anything musical though.

“You’re asking the wrong person- I’ve been lost ever since you and Cegil told me about my condition,” I answered with some carefully hidden exasperation. This was all new to me, as I knew next to nothing about curses and what demons and dragons did in dedication to their gods.

There was an awkward pause after that. Satel didn’t know what else to say and I had no particular comment that would’ve cleared anything up. We’d already decided that we had to see the goddess if we were going to have any idea of what was going on.

“…Well, let’s test it out again tonight- sing a song and I’ll try to keep you up late,” Satel suggested with a twinkle in his eye. That look told me that he was up to something mischievous, and I wasn’t sure if I should dread or look forward to it.

Of course, that might have just been his way to distract me from thinking about what could happen today. With all the uncertainty, I couldn’t even envision a ‘tonight’, let alone where we will be at that time. I decided that his tone was intended to break the mood and move things along, so I sighed and sat up again.

“Alright, it’s something to do as we figure things out- but let’s tell Cegil and hear his theories, too,” I said, wanting to let the taller man know of the new developments. He was probably just as clueless as we were, but he was older than the both of us (combined), and he might’ve heard something that could support or dismiss our theory.

“That’s fine- we have to go see him anyway and tell him of our plan,” my mate replied before he leaned forward to give me a quick kiss and then roll out of bed.

…I wasn’t aware that my decision suddenly became ‘our’ plan, but I wasn’t in the mood to argue. It was nice having so much support from those I loved. I soon sprang into action by gathering my boots, smoothing out my clothes, and running my hands through my hair to get the tangles out. I had to be presentable to Cegil at least- the pirates I could care less about.

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

As far as we knew, Cyirlie was still at the homestead and we could’ve just teleported there to end things. But, Cegil believed it was better to draw her away so that the elders and the rest of the clan wouldn’t get involved. There was no telling what the temperamental dragon would do, and I didn’t need to give her any ammunition to coerce me into doing what she wanted. Maybe Elati didn’t have the same edge, but she did… which was kind of ironic, seeing as Elati was the powerful goddess and Cyirlie just a servant.

So we agreed that in order to draw her out, it was better to travel with the pirates to her enclave. As her human servants they should have some way to contact her, and when she gets it she’ll no doubt come meet us there. The idea left a bad taste in my mouth, but it would give us close to a five-day wait to could properly plan our escape strategies.

…But, that would also mean I would have to board the ship with the men I had forsaken. I would have to bottle in my anger towards Seikram once again and brave the fact that I would be seeing my father’s skull on those pikes everyday. It was a good thing I had my outburst last night, both in fury form and in grief, but there was still only so much I could take before my emotions got the better of me again.

However, I found a way to use the situation to my advantage. I had another plan formed, and only told my falucite companions to just go with it later.

The fog of yesterday had finally dispersed and the clouds overhead were thinning out. Some streaks of sunlight managed to sneak through and warm some of the chilly air. It was still too cold for me to feel comfortable, but at least Cegil had thought to procure two heavy coats for Satel and I. The lavender haired man was already appropriately dressed with his original frock coat and another heavy coat of dark grey draped over the first.

He also created fire charms to warm us, and that made me wonder why Satel hadn’t done that when we were both freezing on the ship last night. As it turned out, my mate had very little control over fire and a rather sub par, though not weak, ability with earth. This was rather unusual for a falucite, but that was why he strictly used air and water in his magicks- he was better suited for it.

When I really thought about it, I had to wonder if Cegil and the others didn’t use water much because they were just the opposite. Maybe it was like how some humans were right-handed and others were left? I should’ve asked when I had the chance, as the brief conversation we were having over it was cut short when The Cruel Whore came into view.

The pirates already had her prepped for departure even though they had no idea that I was planning to come aboard. I had to wonder if they assumed that I would on my own, or if they needed to do some old fashioned kidnapping. Of course, they didn’t have a chance in hell with the latter idea- the fact that they were all gathered at her railings and calling for my attention was a pretty big clue that they thought I was coming along willingly… and that I was supposedly blind enough to not know where they were.

I walked between my former guardian and my mate and I stopped just before the long wooden steps that led up to the main deck. Up at the top was Seikram, looking rather confident that I was coming on board despite the grievances I had with him. He must take me for some idiot…

“We all knew ye’d be comin’ soon- not like ye can run from this,” the vile snake bellowed from the top of the steps.

Like hell ah can’t, I thought to myself as I glared. All I had to do was ask either falucite to take me as far away from here as possible. However, the real issue was not what I could or couldn’t do- it was the fact that I wouldn’t leave this time.

“Come down here ye barnacle-fer-brains, ah have a proposition fer ye!” I shouted back up to him, earning a look of surprise from him and Satel. Since I hadn’t explained my smaller plan earlier, he had no clue what I was going to say next.

Used to, Seikram didn’t follow any orders I yelled to him, likely because I was just a small brat and he was the first officer of the crew. This was the first time he actually listened to me.

“An’ wot proposition might that be, lass?” he inquired as he reached the bottommost step and stared down at me.

“Ah’m joinin’ the crew fer as many days as it takes ta reach the enclave- after that, ah’m taking me pappy’s skull wit’ me so ah can give him a proper seafarer sendoff,” I told him confidently. I enjoyed the glare of indignation that came across his features.

I already knew I won because I would have to be a member of the crew in order to ride on the ship. Code six of the pirate Code of Conduct clearly states that women were not allowed on board- the only exception was if said woman could man the vessel as one of the crew. Besides, working to take back my father’s head would be enough motivation for me to try and behave myself during the trip.

“Tch! Who ever said ye were not already part o’ the crew? Yer still wearing yer corsair’s earrin, so yer still a member. Give me one good reason why ah should give up that which belongs ta The Cruel Whore- an’ why ah should ah let ye leave again?”

He had me there- I didn’t expect him to still honor me as a member just because I didn’t take off the earring. But what made him think I would stay? Surely he knew he couldn’t stop me- I had two powerful falucite on my side. Still, while my victory wasn’t as airtight as before, I still had a good Phidus hand to play.

“Ye want a reason why ye should do as ah say? Well how ‘bout the fact that ah don’t need ya ta reach the enclave? Ah could jus’ use falucite magicks ta blink me there in no time,” I started, knowing that I likely didn’t have to bluff at that.

While Satel never said anything, I had a feeling he knew where the enclave was and could teleport there if he wanted to. Considering his history with Cyirlie, and the fact that he claimed to have been around seafarers a lot before knowing me, I would have to assume it was because he’d started off trying to get to know her in her home before he decided that he didn’t like her.

For added measure, I decided to put in a good threat as well- one can’t make a deal with a pirate without threatening him, after all. “An’ since ah won’t need ye, ah don’t have ta tell Cyirlie that ah saw ye- or ah could make a small mention ‘bout how ye were messin’ ‘round in some bar when ye should’ve been searchin’.”

“Shiver me timbers!” Seikram shouted angrily, clearly upset with my insinuations. “If ah didn’t know any better, ah’d say this ship was named after ye!”

“Funny, ah was gonna say the same ‘bout ye,” I muttered in a sly tone, pleased that I had a way to make his life a little more miserable.

The pirate fidgeted in place a little, probably wanting to pace as he thought about it. He couldn’t get down from the steps though, since Cegil, Satel, and I didn’t back away to give him room. He was likely trying to think of a way to counter my deal and have something go in his favor…

“…Alright, if ye work fer the duration of the trip, then ye may have yer pappy’s skull back an’ do wot ye please wit’ it,” he said before I could guess as to what he was trying to pull. I noticed instantly that he didn’t say anything about my leaving the ship- he was hoping to keep that out of the loop and bring it up after all is said and done.

“Then we have a deal,” I responded in a cool tone, choosing not to call him out on it. Let him think that he could keep me here- so long as I never give my word or loyalty to the ship, then I had no obligation to remain. Not only that, I still had my advantage with Satel and Cegil. There was nothing Seikram could do about it.

Seikram’s grey eyes narrowed in suspicion from how easily I agreed. I guess he was waiting for me to nitpick on that little detail, but my dismissal of it took the wind out of his sails.

“A-as fer leavin’ the crew, that’ll be discussed at a later time,” he added, wanting to be clear of what he wanted in regards to that. I assumed that he had something cunning planned that would trick me into staying- but, again, I had tricks of my own.

“That’s fine.”

He wasn’t sure what to make of my blasé attitude, nor was he sure if I was being naïve or manipulative. All he could do was hold back a sigh before he spat into his right hand and held it out to me. “Then ah swear on me pirate blood that ah’ll make good on the deal.”

I returned the gesture by spitting in my hand and shook his. Cegil winced slightly, mildly disturbed by the rustic seafarer tradition. Satel didn’t seem to mind, though I wondered if he would let me touch him with that hand later. I wasn’t sure exactly how tolerant he was with the filthy side of humanity- though with my early upbringing, I didn’t think this was disgusting at all.

When we were done shaking, I wiped my hand against my trousers, not because of the wet spittle, but because I still hated Seikram and didn’t appreciate having to touch him. But I was willing to do what it takes to acquire my father’s skull and try to maintain peace for the trip, so I didn’t say a word after the fact.

Seikram huffed some before he turned on his heel and made his way back up the steps. He paused halfway before he glanced at me from over his shoulder. “We have no use fer fancy shirts or skirts. Get dressed in somethin’ more appropriate an’ report ta the main deck. Ye and yer pappy’s chest is still in the capt’n’s quarters.”

I held back my glare and resisted the urge to give a witty comeback. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of following his orders, but that was the downside of my having to work on the ship. If he was truly only the quartermaster, then that meant there was no captain onboard- for whatever reason.

Unlike with the royal navies, the quartermaster wasn’t as powerful in rank as the captain – he was simply the one who maintained order between fights and raids. However, until a captain was decided, Seikram was the closest thing to the ship’s leader. Of course, I had been wondering the whereabouts of the old quartermaster- he could’ve become captain even though it was the first officer’s right, but…

Even so, I should’ve seen him already- a captain rarely hides away. It was more likely that the old quartermaster was no longer among the crew, and it worried me as to how that came to be. Either he was against the mutiny and was killed for it, or he left on his own. I couldn’t imagine the former since he was such a strong and bulky man- I believed he could even take on the entire crew and win, but why would he leave the ship? Even id he had been offended by what the crew had done, and the subsequent loss of both captain and myself …I couldn’t imagine him giving up being a pirate.

“Sorry about that,” I quickly said to Cegil and Satel, momentarily slipping out of my accent for the tall man’s benefit. “I needed some kind of distraction if I were to stay onboard with that ass, and I couldn’t think of anything other than working for his skull.”

“I understand- you need not explain yourself,” Cegil replied kindly while Satel remained quiet. I wasn’t sure if his silence was a good thing…

We climbed up to the deck and I was promptly surrounded. It was the first time for me to see that there were actually fewer men, and some had been replaced with new blood. There were quite a few young men in their late teens staring at me curiously while the pirates I knew from childhood were smiling and welcoming me back.

“Oi!” Seikram called out angrily from the stairs leading to the quarterdeck. “Let the lass get dressed- she has work ta do, as do all o’ ye!”

That had everyone scattering out of the way and back to where they should be. I didn’t bother passing a glance to the rat and continued on my way to the corridor that led to the officer’s cabins.

“Hold it! Ah don’t recall givin’ ye permission ta board.”

I stopped in my tracks as I heard Seikram’s voice. Just who was he talking to? I narrowed my eyes and turned to find him approaching Cegil and Satel. I soon grew very angry that the vile sea snake would dare insinuate that they weren’t allowed to come.

“I apologize- I was under the impression that you wanted some aid in the trip,” the giant man said calmly as he regarded the scarred human with a regal tilt of his head. That was probably the closest gesture to offense anyone was ever going to get out of him, at least in public.

“Ah have no quarrel wit’ ye- but ah’m not sure o’ that blond one o’er there,” Seikram growled as he briefly pointed at Satel. I had to wonder what my mate did to offend that bilge rat- if anything, I was the one he should be wary of. I’ve done nothing but attack him both verbally and physically while Satel was the one technically protecting him.

“Oh? Wot be the matter?” Satel drawled, acting as if he was surprised. Apparently he knew the reason for Seikram’s behavior and I’d completely missed it. Though considering that I was too busy hating him, that wasn’t surprising. “Afraid ta let a wee falcie like me on yer ship? Or are ye simply speaking out o’ jealousy?”

Jealousy!? I was so surprised to hear it that the word almost escaped my lips. What in five hells was that sea snake jealous over? Not that he had much going for him, of course, but I didn’t see what Satel had that he could possibly want.

“Ah’m not jealous o’ ye!” he yelled, rather defensively, “Ah jus’ don’t want too many o’ yer kind on me ship. Ye falucite are land creatures an’ having too many o’ ye on this ship would look bad ta us.”

What a stupid reason- who cared about reputation? This was a pirate ship, and any other pirate would kill to have an advantage.

“Either way, ah’m here wit’ the lass. Where’re she goes, ah go,” Satel continued as he none-too-gently pushed past the pirate and walked over to stand beside me. I confirmed his statement silently by crossing my arms and giving Seikram a stern glare. I did want Pappy’s skull, but I could get it by other means. If Satel wasn’t allowed on this ship, then I wasn’t staying.

The pathetic man glared daggers at us and let out a low growl as he tried to control his anger. Without Pappy or the original quartermaster, he was probably getting used to people following him without question. My defiance must’ve been frustrating- though I suppose the fact that I had the upper hand was also playing into this. I wasn’t sure why the sea snake wanted me to stay on the ship so badly, but he was trying very hard to keep me here.

“Fine! Do wot ye want- jus’ stay out o’ e’reyone’s way!” he growled before he stormed up to the quarterdeck.

With that decided and over with, I resumed my trek to the captian’s cabin with Satel trailing after me. But we were stopped again when the leading pirate had yet another grievance to get out.

“The hell-! Where do ye think yer goin’? Let the lass dress in privacy- she doesn’t need ye ta watch her,” he yelled incredulously from rail. Why was he making such a big deal out of it? It was true that he probably wasn’t aware that Satel was my mate or what a ‘mate’ even meant in Satel’s culture, but he didn’t need to worry over someone who wasn’t loyal to him. The sixth rule of conduct was established to keep the men from fooling around with women, but since there was no amendment for women to do the same (to men or women), I was technically exempt from that.

However, I had no intention of mating anytime soon- and I wasn’t going to admit that I was that intimate with Satel out loud unless it was absolutely necessary.

“Ah said ah go where she goes,” Satel reminded him in a taunting tone. He sure seemed to be enjoying himself here… I knew annoying humans was his hobby, but I thought he would back off with Seikram, since he was supposed to be my foe. But then, maybe Satel was adopting the ‘your enemy is my enemy’ kind of thinking.

“Why do ye care? It’s me life an’ ah can have someone accompany me where’re I want! Back off!” I shouted up to him before I grabbed Satel’s arm and tugged him with me.

I almost felt like a stubborn brat dragging off a pacified monster, convinced that the creature was not one bit dangerous. Had Pappy been present and had I been acting this way to him, he’d smack me on the bottom and put me in the hold until I was ready to negotiate. …He had probably been the only madman in existence that would negotiate with terrorists.

Just before we entered the corridor, Satel glanced up at Seikram with a rather smug grin and said, “By the way, yer not foolin’ anyone- ah know that look anywhere.”

I had to wonder what ‘look’ he was talking about- but I was more interested in figuring out what had Satel being so …enthusiastically obnoxious today. Even after I had yanked him fully under the quarterdeck, he still wore that smirk like he had won. I must’ve missed something…

There were five doors in the midsize walkway and there was a giant post in the center where the gears for the helm were contained. The two doors on the right side led to the first officer’s cabin and the kitchen, while the two on the left was where the quartermaster’s cabin and what one would call a spare ‘guest room’.

The door at the very end belonged to the captain, and I once lived there with Pappy. As young as I was, he didn’t want me to sleep in the crew cabins at the front of the ship. He thought it was a better idea to drag in a child’s bed and have me share the room with him until I was of age to have a room of my own. That guest room was probably meant to be mine had I stuck around through puberty.

The captain’s cabin took up the remaining fourth of the quarterdeck area and was the largest room on the top portion of the ship (not counting the kitchen as the majority of it was actually in the lower levels). It didn’t seem as if anyone had been living in it for a long time, but I could see evidence that someone came in to clean once in a while.

At the far end was a long set of windows with strong fortified glass designed to withstand most storms. My earliest memories only saw endless blue sea outside those windows, but at the moment, the buildings of Dael were in the way. Sitting before the windows was a sturdy desk that was bolted down to prevent it from swaying with the waves. Pappy used to read maps there…

It was rather clear that the room was ‘split’ for two people. On the left was Pappy’s side with his full sized bed and many chests filled with treasure or prized weapons. In the corner of my side, close to the door, was a tiny children’s size mattress on a gold bed frame. If I laid down on it now, my feet would easily overhang the edge- in fact, I bet the bend of my knees would hang.

Next to it was a small wooden vanity, also intended for a child. Pappy wanted me to retain some girly-ness and got it for me on my sixth birthday. All the drawers were tied shut so that they wouldn’t fall open on the stormy days. Inside them were smaller treasures- like rings that were now too small for my fingers.

The mirror that was attached to it was now broken- there was a circular mass of cracks near the center with one clean line extending across the expanse. I would have to guess that one of the smaller pieces of furniture that wasn’t bolted down must’ve hit it at one point.

“Are you feeling okay, ‘Tia-dear? You’re awfully silent,” the über hat man remarked as he leaned against the door to prevent intruders. There was a good lock on the door, but he decided that he was much better protection in this situation.

I was nostalgic as I remembered those bittersweet memories of my past. Those days pirating beside my Pappy would never come back, and I felt like crying again. But I had already used up all of my tears in the past few days, so all I did was stare blankly into the room, feeling more tired than ever. Was this how Cegil felt when he came back to the clan three years prior?

“…It’s not easy …facing the past,” I muttered in reply as my feet slowly took me to my old bed. I numbly sat down and noted how short I used to be as a child.

“I suppose not,” he commented, only guessing at what I was feeling now. Satel didn’t have the same experiences as I did, so he had no way of understanding me this time. “…But you don’t have to face it alone. Just say the word and I’ll get you out of here.”

“No, I’m already here and my secret is out. As long as I can get through this, maybe I can live a normal life with you- without having to fear phantoms and other bad memories,” I told him as I shook my head gently. I knew he wanted to do whatever he could for me, and in some way that gave me comfort. As long as he and Cegil were here, I believe I could get through this.

Satel let out a short chuckle. “Well, you wouldn’t be you if you suddenly backed down. Give it your all- I’ll catch you if you happen to stumble.”

“Thanks.” Despite my mood, I managed to crack a smile. I wonder what I would do without him…

I took in a deep breath as I reached under the small bed and pulled out a flat trunk of lacquered wood. It seemed to have taken a beating over the years, but the clothing inside was still whole. I could smell the potpourri balls that were tossed in to hide the stench of the few articles that managed to escape a good washing.

Now that I was a bigger girl, there was no way I could fit into my old pirate clothes… I glanced over to my father’s bed before I made my way over there and pulled out his trunk. It was bigger than mine, but smelled the same when I opened it. His clothes were still too big for me, but since the days were cold, it was better to have something that covered me rather than a tight shirt that exposed my belly.

I left my trousers on and only took off my jacket, coat, shirt, and skirt. I then selected a plain beige shirt made of some canvas-like material and a long trench coat with its sleeves torn off. I made sure to adjust the buckles in the back of the coat so that it fit my form a little better.

My tattoos were exposed, as were the majority of my arms. But since I was going out there to work, I figured that I would end up sweating out there in the cold anyway. If nothing else, I could always hope that the fire charm that Cegil gave me would keep me warm.

When I was finished dressing, I went back to my old trunk to fish out a bandanna to tie my hair back with. Though in my childhood, I never really wore it properly and still had hair in my face most of the time. I soon found what I once dubbed as my ‘lucky’ bandanna, which was a dark blue silk piece with white embroidery lining the edges. It was the first treasure I had ever stolen…

Pappy always loved telling the tale of how I acquired it. It was during a raid on some noble’s seaside mansion, and he was fighting off guards with one hand while holding me in his other arm. The man was so legendary and great that he could get away with that. When he confronted the lord of the place, I reached out with my chubby little hands and grabbed the cloth, and I never let go of it. I was only two years old, and Pappy was so very proud of me then.

That smile was still on my face though it was now wistful. I placed the small fire charm inside the fold of the bandanna before I tied it on the top of my head. The charm rested just above my forehead and made me seem like I had a nasty bump. I felt a gentle warmth travel down my body and hoped that it would be enough to keep me comfortable out there.

After I was done cleaning up, I headed over to where Satel was standing and then leaned against him in a tired fashion. There was a headache slowly forming, likely due to the crying I had done and no water to replenish what I’d lost. But I had to persevere- I was in this mess of my own volition and I had to finish what I started.

“I’m ready,” I muttered after I finally pushed away from him. “Let me out.”

He slowly moved, but not before giving me a quick kiss to the forehead, as if he knew I was hurting there. I stared out to the now sunny light, prepared to face the life I had once lived.

But this wasn’t the worst of it- by the end of the trip, I was going to find trials far more difficult than just regaining my profession as a pirate. I was going to risk losing Satel again, because a part of me still refused to leave the sea…

To the Next Chapter

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