16. From Proper Lady to Wild Pirate

Chapter 16

From Proper Lady to Wild Pirate

            “Heave-ho!”

That was the main mantra on everyone’s lips as we prepared The Cruel Whore to set off into the sea. From the moment I strode out, I was lifting ropes, tying down cannons, and adjusting some of the sails. At first, some of the younger members of the crew were trying to get in my way, thinking that I was some delicate lass that needed help, but they were promptly dissuaded as I swung at their heads and growled for them to get out of my way.

“She may look like a high-class dame, but she still has a man’s punch,” Spearhead warned them with a proud smile. “Better watch yer backs!”

The elder members trusted me instantly with the bigger tasks- something they wouldn’t do before when I was just a child. They let me help them lift the anchor and raise the sails. Before, I was just in charge of picking up rope and putting it away- and I often had to swab the deck.

But once the ship was out to sea and all of the maintenance and cleaning was done, all that was left to do was goof off until dinner. If there were any planned raids, then the extra time would be spent preparing weapons, but other than that, a typical day for a pirate at sea involved catching food and trying not to start a stupid wager that could lead into a fight.

As soon as everything was over and all my chores were complete, I was surrounded once again by friendly faces and curious questions. Many wanted to know where I had been for the past fifteen years, while others wondered if I had been practicing my raiding skills.

“At least the landlubber life didn’t make ye go soft,” Blood-Knot complimented as he held up my arm for inspection. “Nobody’s been able ta make Seikram back up wit’ jus’ a swing.”

“Speakin’ o’ that- Elati, would ye do the honors o’ knocking out me tooth? Ah think ah got a rotten one right here,” Scurvy Turek requested as he pointed as his lower jaw. He was once a rather ripped muscled man in my youth, but now it was all softening up to fat in his old age. Even his cheeks were beginning to retain some chubbiness, but not quite enough to consider him as fat.

Most pirates were called by their ship nicknames with the only exception being me and Seikram. Pappy was always just the capt’n and the quartermaster was always ‘quartermaster’… in fact I never knew the man’s name. Even though the bald man in front of me was called ‘scurvy’, he didn’t really have that problem- he just didn’t take care of his teeth like he should and had replaced most of them with wooden replicas.

With a shrug, I obliged him by giving the hardest punch I could muster. I felt a good sting on my bones as his head flew to the side from the force of it. When he recovered, he scrunched up his face before he spat out some blood and an old yellowish tooth with a rotten black core. He then ran his tongue over his teeth to confirm if that was the one he wanted to be rid of.

“Aye, that’s the one. Thanks Elati- only ye and yer pappy have that magic touch,” he replied gratefully, acting as if my blow hadn’t really fazed him. Honestly, it wasn’t that hard- I just aimed where he pointed, and the fact that the tooth was already loose from the rotting did the rest. But, I suppose the others were lousy at it since they would rather beat him over the head, thinking that would solve his problem…

“Uh, no problem… but me name’s Tia- ah don’t go by Elati anymore,” I told him, trying to be clear with everyone that I didn’t want to be called by my old name.

“S’matter with Elati? ‘Tis a good name,” Spearhead inquired, confused as to why I would think a goddess’ name wasn’t good enough.

“Call me a lassie, but ah don’t want ta hear me ol’ name anymore- that was something only fer me pappy. Too many sad memories, ye know?” I replied, knowing that I was leaving myself open for ridicule. Only ‘girls’ let memories and sentimental meanings bother them, but I had long since found out that I am a girl and thus had nothing to be ashamed of. Let them make fun of me- I can still beat the living daylights out of them if I want to.

…But they didn’t laugh- they all nodded in agreement and admitted that they missed the captain, too. Hearing that made me confused- if they’d had no problems with Pappy, then why did they help Seikram with the mutiny? That conniving snake must’ve tricked them all into it and they didn’t understand what was going on at the time. Sadly, it wasn’t that hard to convince them of anything- they were not the brightest men on the sea.

“Well… we should think o’ a new nickname fer ye anyway. Ye ain’t that ‘tiny’ anymore, an’ ye’ll probably beat us up if we called ye the ‘curvy corsair’,” Blood-Knot eventually said, followed by a guffaw. He was trying to lift the mood so we wouldn’t end up having a sissy moment of recalling the past.

“Ooh! Let’s call her the uh…” Scurvy Turek trailed off as he forgot what he wanted to suggest. He then scratched his thin brown beard. “Ah dunno… maybe something like ‘Tooth Puncher’?”

“Don’t think ‘bout it too hard, Scurvy- ah think ah see smoke comin’ out o yer ears,” I commented before the others laughed with me.

“Eh, no matter- ah’m sure ye’ll earn a name in no time,” Spearhead reassured me as Scurvy Turek patted down his ears to stop the smoke that wasn’t really there. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I had no intention of staying long enough to earn a new nickname.

“Alright… but it better not be sissy or dumb,” I muttered warningly. There was no harm in letting them think about it- it gave them something to do in their free time.

“That’s the spirit, lass!” Blood-Knot cheered as he clapped me on the shoulder. He didn’t hold back and I found myself launched forward slightly before I caught myself on my feet. “Goes ta show ye that yer still a pirate no matter how many years ye’ve been away.”

“Aye,” Spearhead agreed before he glanced out to the cleared main deck. “Ye know wot we should do now? We should hold a tournament in honor of Elati’s return- show ‘er what we can do and wotnot.”

I held back a sigh that they were still going to call me Elati no matter what I say- either I had to earn a new nickname fast, or beat them senseless every time until they got it right.

“Aye!” everyone that overheard Spearhead’s statement bellowed. The pirate tournament was much like the traditional games played by human barbarian clans in Kagma. But while the Kagmans tested their strength and skill with weapons, the pirates tested the limits of their strength and stupidity.

Of the competitions held for a usual tournament, there’s the ‘Who’s got the thickest skull?’ match where the boys ram into each other head first until they either got a spitting headache or saw stars. Then there was the ‘How many moaghos can ye eat in one minute?’- which is pretty self-explanatory. It was the only competition I would participate in, though I could never get past one- I only joined in because I didn’t want miss the chance to have some of the gathered fruit in fear that they would eat it all.

Promptly after the moagho match came the drinking contest and finally, after that, the Best Shanty competition where the drunken fools could either win for the best singing voice or coming up with a new shanty. …It was like hearing a thousand mermaids dying.

I wouldn’t be the first to proclaim that they’re all a bunch of idiots… but they were still a lovable bunch and I could never really hate them. They were as savage as any pirate in existence, but they were friendly to little kids and fellow corsairs.

“Elati! Get yer ass up here before ye lose the rest o’ yer intelligence ‘round them!” Seikram ordered from the quarterdeck.

The genuine smile that was on my face promptly drew into a frown. It was bad enough that the crew couldn’t be bothered to call me by my name, but having him say it made it all the more worse.

While I didn’t want to particularly follow that order, I decided to climb the steps anyway so that I would be out of the way. The crew was already gathering the supplies for the tournament and it was better to watch them from above. It was tradition to let the smarter members judge the events- though one was only deemed ‘smart’ if they agreed that the tournament was dumb.

Seikram was at the helm and Cegil stood beside him, apparently talking to him like they were good friends. Some part of me couldn’t believe Cegil would do such a thing, but I chose to believe that he was simply getting more information. Or maybe he was simply curious about The Cruel Whore- I didn’t care so long as they weren’t getting chummy. It could complicate everything if Cegil gained some fondness for the man I intended to kill.

I immediately marched over to Satel, who was leaning against the port side rail just a few feet away from the stairs. He was standing in a way so that he could tilt his head forward and hide his features with his hair and über hat. I was briefly reminded of the times when we had first met- I considered that look and stance to be ‘dark and mysterious’ for him. That was the kind of thing that sort of attracted me to him in the first place…

I was a little surprised to see Seikram glaring over at us even though we weren’t doing anything other than standing there. I wondered if he expected me to walk up to him and salute in respect. I never agreed to such a thing…

“Wot do ye want?” I snapped when I grew tired of him staring.

“Nothin’…” he growled as he glared down at the main deck where the first rounds of the thick skull event began. I had no idea what his problem was.

I should’ve been watching, too, since it was in my honor, but the best place to watch was near Seikram and I didn’t want to leave Satel’s side. Well, actually, I didn’t want to stand near that snake. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay still and ended up pacing near the blond until he grabbed my wrist and guided me to lean on the rail next to him. He then made sure I wouldn’t go anywhere by threading his fingers through mine.

Ordinarily, such a move while among people I was familiar with would make me flustered, but I was actually comfortable for once. I couldn’t put a finger on it, but I was acting …differently somehow. My body was humming with energy and I felt more awake than I had in days. I thought with the circumstances, I would be moping about or trying to restrain my anger, but instead I was feeling strangely …happy.

I guess despite the fact that I wanted to sever ties, I still missed the life on the seas. Feeling the sea air on my face and getting used to my sea legs was enough to reawaken the child in me. My health could’ve had a factor in it too- the Seafarer’s Madness had no control over me while I was surrounded by so much saltwater. Those scars on my hairline were probably fading away by now.

I heard several grunts as the men down below made contact with each other. Cegil let out a slight wince before he turned to Seikram. “Is that safe for them?”

“Aye, they’re fine,” Seikram reassured with a tone of indifference. “They’re a bunch o’ meat-heads- they love rough housin’ an’ actin’ tough. …Actually, ah don’t think they’re smart enough ta feel the pain.”

“Pappy had loved them, though- they made him feel intelligent by comparison,” I quipped in, almost smiling at the memory of when he had first told me that. Pappy was at the helm, steering by its side rather than behind it, and I was beside him, glancing down at another tournament the crew competed in.

“Aye, they’re not that bright, but they’re loyal­– an’ ah get ta look like a genius when pitted ‘gainst them.”

             …Though I now question the ‘loyalty’- had they been smart enough not to listen to Seikram, Pappy would still be here.

“Is that so? Tia always referred to him as the Wise Man, so I was under the impression he was already intelligent,” Cegil said with a glance towards me. He was making sure he wasn’t overstepping his bounds by asking the questions while at the same time trying to figure where my personal stories fit in with the past.

I wasn’t worried about him learning more about my sea life now that we were over the tragedy. Getting over my father’s death was the hard part- everything left, other than Seikram’s mutiny, were good memories.

“Oh he was wise- he knew proverbs an’ his history like the back o’ his hand, but he wasn’t book-smart or nothin’. He couldn’t read anythin’ other than a map- not that any o’ us can read…though he was good at countin’ wit’out his fingers,” Seikram replied, confirming everything I knew about my father. “O’ course, the man was also wot ye would call a ‘wise ass’, too. He could piss off the most patient o’ men.”

“Obviously a trait that ye inherited,” Satel muttered to me with a grin.

I wanted to deny that only because I didn’t think I had the capacity to piss off truly patient men. If I had, then Cegil would’ve surely abandoned me without thought to my well being back when we had first met. However, hearing that Pappy couldn’t read did make me wonder if he had dyslexia too…

“Aye, the lass is still a spittin’ image o’ her pappy- an’ she knows how ta run the ship as well as he did,” Seikram continued as he finally glanced back at me, making sure not to look down at our entwined fingers. “If ye chose ta become capt’n here an’ now, no one would contest ye.”

And now I knew where he was leading- this was why he wanted me back. The snake wanted me to take on my father’s role and hold the title of captain. …But why… I thought he had wanted to be captain. But he ended up not taking the position, and is now asking me to do it? How could making me the captain benefit him more than taking it himself?

“Why can’t ye be capt’n? Isn’t that wot ye wanted when ye offed me pappy?” I asked scathingly. “Or wot ‘bout the ol’ quartermaster? Wot happen ta him?”

I couldn’t fathom why this even happened in the first place. Why did he do what he did? If not captain, then what was there for him to gain? Surely he didn’t know there would be such horrid repercussions, or else he would never have done it.

“Ah’ve been tryin’ ta tell ye, lass, but ye don’t want ta listen- ah wasn’t aimin’ fer the capt’n rank at all. Ah was tryin’ ta save ye from yer fate… an’ wot ah did was also part o’ a deal ah had wit’ yer pappy. Ah wasn’t tryin’ fer a mutiny, but ah did have ta kill him in order ta get wot ah wanted,” he replied with a little frustration in his tone.

It seemed that he still wanted to insist on that lie that he was trying to ‘save me’. I couldn’t believe it no mater how many plausible stories he came up with- how was the life of a mere ten-year-old girl greater than that of a captain? Especially one who didn’t have to follow dragons or the Fates…

“An’ wot ‘deal’ might that be?” I inquired, thinking that whatever was hidden in that answer was more likely the truth. After all, pirates were selfish, and he had done it for his own gain.

“Ah’ll tell ye that if ye become capt’n,” he replied as he gave me an expectant look. What kind of incentive was that? Yeah, I did want to know the real reason why my father was ruthlessly murdered, but not enough to play into his hand. Somehow, I felt that becoming captain would be like some reward to him, and I didn’t want to give him any sort of satisfaction.

“Go burn in the five hells,” I growled venomously.

“Suit yerself,” Seikram said with a shrug, seeming not to be disappointed with my response. But he soon decided to answer the other question I had asked and ended up distracting me a little, “As fer the ol’ quartermaster- he left the ship years ago. He was the only one at the time who believed that ye were still alive. He thought ye had washed up on shore in Rynrir an’ asked ta be let off in one o’ her ports. Never saw him again- ah like ta think he found himself a lass an’ settled down, but ye know how cruel Kajros can be ta seafarers.”

That I believed- the quartermaster was a truly a loyal man who really did care about me. He was huge burly man with dark skin and curly hair as black as night. His most stunning feature was his silver-grey eyes that seemed to shine even in the dark. The man never really ‘talked’ as he was incapable of anything quieter than a loud bark.

I used to be scared of him at first, until one day when I accidentally ran into his massive legs. He glared at me for a full second before he picked me up by the back of my shirt and placed me on his massive shoulders. After that, I was often found riding on one of his shoulders as he screamed orders to the others. He was definitely as gruff a pirate as one could find on the seas, but he did have a soft spot for children. I kind of considered him my uncle, or older brother.

If only I had washed up on Rynrir’s shores- maybe then I would’ve found him. …But at the same time, I would’ve missed meeting Cegil and Satel.

“Might you answer me this?” Cegil began, hoping to have one of his questions solved. “Why is it important for Tia to be captain? As she pointed out, you could have easily taken the role.”

“It don’t work that way, falucite man,” Seikram replied with a shake of his head. “The Cruel Whore can only be capt’ned by those who possess that Hels Meyuun nonsense. Wotever it is, Elati’s got it, an’ if she were ta step up an’ take her pappy’s place, then we’d be free o’ that dragon-bitch.”

Ah- so there’s the rub. He wanted me to bring back the perks they had when my father was captain. Figures it wouldn’t be out of real remorse for what he’d done… But what exactly would I have to do in order to protect the ship? What did Pappy do? I had a feeling Seikram had no idea.

“Ah have a question meself,” Satel began, still keeping up with his convincing seafarer accent. He used to speak like and old man due to his exposure to my kind over fifty years ago, but he’d since adapted after hearing me argue with him in the past three years. “How well do ye know of Pappy’s origins?”

…Did he just refer to my father as his? I suppose technically that was true since he was my mate, but Pappy would’ve been more of a father-in-law to him. I felt my cheeks grow warm when I realized that I didn’t really mind that thought- it was like he was accepting me and the family I’d once had. Plus Seikram wasn’t pleased to hear him say that, assuming that Satel was simply making fun of him somehow.

“Lord Rutan ain’t yer pappy, but ah do know that he’s pure Erudian. Why do ye want ta know?” Seikram answered, curious as to why the falucite wanted to know that information in particular.

“Ah can’t help but think o’ that tale ye told yesterday- those powers he had are a few tricks ah can pull too. Ah was just wonderin’ if he had some falucite blood in him,” Satel said as he lifted his hand and pointed towards the stern. Just as he did so, the waters behind us split for a full second, but not all the way down to the sea floor.

Seikram and I watched in amazement as this happened. I soon started pondering the idea… but if Pappy really were part falucite, then wouldn’t I have the same abilities? Sure, I shouldn’t have the same strength in power, but there should be something in me that I could do. But as far as I knew, the sea would much rather slap me upside the head than obey my commands.

Cegil was not as amazed, but he was rather concerned for some reason. His brows furrowed before he looked over to his brother. “Satel, how long were you able to accomplish feats such as this?”

“Ever since I’ve known Cyirlie- a little more than fifty years,” he replied in his normal accent, not thinking that his powers were as unusual as Cegil was implying. “I’d heard stories of the Lord of the Sea before and that kind of inspired me. However, I don’t think the one I’ve heard of is the same man- he was perhaps a grandfather of Tia’s.”

“Why so surprised Cegil? Is Satel the only one who can do that?” I inquired with interest. I knew he and the other members of the clan couldn’t control water so precisely, but I didn’t think Satel was that unique. Surely he couldn’t be the only one to do this when my father, a human (as far as we knew), could the same.

“It is highly unusual for a falucite to be able to manipulate so much water. Most of us utilize the wind in order to have some margin of control, but what he had just done was directly to the element.”

The interesting thing about air was that it wasn’t considered its own element- rather it was more of a secondary element that could be used in conjunction with the main elements of water, fire, and earth. In a way, some scholars referred to wind as the Maker’s element, as it was not only a substance that kept almost everyone alive, but it was also a universal resource that could be used by anyone- even elemental based creatures like dragons and the gods. In fact there was a goddess of wind in all three elements- Anatil, Jadari, and Alraia.

“Hmph- don’t matter. All he’d done was copy wot he’d heard- the real Lord o’ the Sea was always Erudian an’ had the blessin’s o’ Elati. Fer all we know, that’s probably wot Hels Meyuun means,” Seikram muttered indignantly, acting as if he was offended at the thought of someone else sharing similar powers to Pappy.

Hmm… if everyone was so insistent that Elati continued to be my name, then couldn’t I give Satel a blessing? Wouldn’t that make him Lord of the Sea as long as he was mated to an alleged Erudian? Of course, I didn’t say that out loud because for one, it was utterly ludicrous. I wasn’t a goddess like the original Elati and had no power to bestow on anyone. My other reason why I wouldn’t bring it up was because I wouldn’t wish this crap on anyone-especially Satel.

Nothing more was said on the matter as a cheer arose from the main deck where a victor was apparently named. Seikram had to give the official announcement for said winner with a roll of his eyes while Cegil fell into a silent and contemplative mood. Clearly it had something to do with Satel’s power and my mate had no idea until now that what he did was unusual. All this time, he just thought he simply had a better affinity with water, rather than being one of the few (or the only one) who could use it.

Actually, he was being rather nonchalant about it. He shrugged off his brother’s concerns and acted as if he’d already forgotten about it. But I just couldn’t let it go that quickly- if news like this didn’t bother him, then maybe he did know something about it. If so, then why hadn’t he said anything before now?

“Satel?”

“Are you wondering why I haven’t mentioned my powers before now?” he guessed as he turned to look at me.

I paused for a brief second, stunned that he already knew what I was going to ask. “…Stop readin’ me mind!”

“Heh,” the blond bastard chuckled as he crossed his arms. “I apologize ‘Tia-dear- I wasn’t trying to keep secrets from you. I don’t know what’s going on any more than you do, but I’ve had a long time to think about this. There must be a reason why I can use water, and why the Fates tried to pair me with Elati’s priestess. Maybe somehow it’s related to you and we just don’t know it yet.”

“Why is it ye have so many secrets that ah’m just now findin’ out ‘bout?” I inquired in a deadpan tone. First it was his body hair, and now he’s bringing up powers that might have a connection with Elati or my father.

Actually, why didn’t he bring this up last night when giving me a reason why he had to come with me? I did appreciate hearing that he wanted to be there for me, but this reason seemed far more important. We could be discovering a reason for his existence and that was pretty big. Of course, this trip could also reveal my reason for being alive, too.

“The difference between you and I, my sirsa, is that I ask questions when I want to know something about you. I don’t really hide anything from you- you just never ask,” he answered with a sly smirk. Ooh, that jackass! Was that all it was!?

Then again, he did tell me everything he knew about his genetic disorder once I noticed something. He admitted that he was hoping the conversation wouldn’t come about, but he didn’t try to deny anything once it did. I knew the man wasn’t keeping secrets from me… though it would be nice if he volunteered information if it seemed important to the situation.

“Fine…” I muttered after realizing that I had no reason to be angry with him. “Is there anythin’ else ah should know?”

“Well, you should ask me specific questions unless you want me to keep you up for the next few days in telling you my entire falciehood, but…” he trailed off before a mischievous and strangely determined look came across his features. “There is one secret that you should know: I’m madly in love with you-”

“Like ah don’t know that,” I retorted with a scoff as I rested my hand on my hips.

“…and if it would mean keeping you by my side, I would gladly kill every man on this ship and sink her to the bottom of the ocean…” he continued, deadly serious.

I felt my heart hammer in my chest after that declaration. Satel was saying that he would personally eliminate all ties I had with the sea so that I wouldn’t have anything to go back to. That was pretty deep, even though I had nothing against The Cruel Whore and her crew. I didn’t care about Seikram, but I still wanted to deal with him personally.

“…but I also love you enough that I’m prepared to let you go if you ever decide that you want to leave me. I’ll be bitter and jealous, of course, but I care about your happiness more than my own,” he finished as he raised his eyes to stare deeply into mine.

At first I was speechless- I wasn’t expecting to hear something so…so… I couldn’t describe it. His confession really touched me and it proved that he really did love me unconditionally.

“Oh Satel…ah…” I began, about to say that I never wanted to leave him and that I loved him too… but it was just then when I remembered that we weren’t alone on the quarterdeck.

Slowly I turned and found, to my mortification, that everyone was staring at us- including the winner of the thickest skull competition, who seemed to be too dazed to really understand what was being said. I felt my face heat up as I fully faced the three other men and took on a defensive stance.

“W-wot are ye all lookin’ at!? This be a private conversation! Mind yer own business!” I shouted in embarrassment.

Cegil was the first to turn away while casting his very amused rust colored eyes towards the sky. Seikram had let go of the helm to watch us, but soon he clenched his fists at his sides before he roughly grabbed the wheel and ignored us. Whiplash, the winner of the competition, gave a dumb smile before he gave a thumbs up and dizzily walked back to the stairs.

For the love of Elit! Why did such endearing moments with Satel have to be in public!? I thought I was getting over that since I didn’t care about being seen holding hands, but this was too much. I whirled back around upon hearing my mate stifle his chuckling at my reaction.

“Don’t laugh! Ye could’ve sprung this on me somewhere more private,” I growled, still feeling both flattered by his confession and embarrassed over the audience.

“Ye did ask an’ ah answered,” he replied cheekily, switching back to the seafarer accent. I punched him hard on the arm, earning a full laugh from him, before I glanced back to make sure no one was watching us again. When I was sure it was clear, I roughly pulled him down by his ascot and briefly planted my lips against his to show him that I returned his feelings.

There was still a smile on his face when I pulled away, but it was softer and happier. I assumed that meant he got the message and so began walking back towards the main deck. Without another word, he followed after me, willing to go wherever I was going.

…And from that moment on, everyone believed Satel was my suitor, still vying for my hand. I felt that it was best to leave it at that, not for my reputation, but out of concern for them. If they knew I was technically married, they could try to gang up on Satel and test him to see if he was worthy enough for me. Satel could totally kill them all…

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

After everyone had a chance to recover and regain their bearings, the next competition, the one involving moaghos, was about to begin. I was about to enter myself, knowing that I wasn’t going to win, but Satel stopped me and announced to the others, “Ah will compete on Tia’s behalf!”

I stared up at him and wondered what crawled up his ass to offer such a thing. The only reason I competed was so that I could keep the ten moaghos every contestant received. No one ever really ate more than ten, so it was a good number to give around.

Ordinarily, a man would have to bite through the peel and eat the whole moagho in order to properly race, but it was too hard for me- I had to peel it before eating. Satel, however, had a better chance in winning than anyone else because he had stronger teeth. When that clicked in my mind, I immediately jumped up and supported his statement.

“That’s right- this man’ll win fer sure! Ah’m willin’ ta bet on that!” I shouted, feeling very confident in my belief. Satel could easily eat up all ten of them in the allotted time, meaning that I won’t get any left over, but the prospect of winning sounded appealing.

“Wot will ye bet?” Blood-Knot asked, interested in challenging me. I had to think back on the treasures I had in my old vanity- they were worth at least three cedit altogether, so…

“Ah’ll bet a cedit on it!” That got their attention, even though the average pirate could easily earn a cedit after a good raid. We weren’t the type to bet small with crijok- it was only serious if cedit was involved.

Though it was sad that my life earnings when I was a child amounted to only that much. That was far more than what I could save when I was on my own in Port Sibest. Maybe they weren’t completely free in regards to serving dragons, but it was very profitable to be a pirate.

“Hmm… well then in that case, ah’d have ta win,” the über hat man commented after at least five others met my price. The rest backed down, some knowing that he was a falucite and had a real chance in giving whoever was the current champion a run for his money.

“Heh, next time don’t volunteer yerself if that’s gonna be a problem,” I replied back with a smirk. Satel considered my words as his eyes betrayed his mischievous intentions.

“Actually ah volunteered ta participate on yer behalf- ah said nothing o’ an attempt ta win. Wot will ye give me fer that?” Satel inquired, appearing rather pleased instead of worried. He knew he was going to win, but he wanted to get something out of it from me.

“Uh… split the pot twenty-eighty?” I offered, my mind still thinking like a pirate.

“No, ah don’t want money… and yer surprisingly greedy,” he commented with a laugh, knowing that the eighty was to go to me. It wasn’t so much that I was ‘greedy’, I was simply taught well in giving others as little as possible.

“Okay, ye can have wotever ye want, jus’ go,” I told him impatiently when Seikram began announcing the start of the event. I should have negotiated further so I would at least know what I was getting into, but I already made the bet and couldn’t back down. I didn’t have the cedit available to pay if he did lose on purpose…

I found myself cheering the loudest when my mate discarded all sense of proper etiquette in order to bite into half a moagho and shove the rest in his mouth in less than three seconds. He chewed through them like they were soft bread.

In hindsight, I realized that the crew must’ve picked the moaghos just before leaving Dael in anticipation of holding a tournament. We usually didn’t carry so much of the fruit otherwise. But if that were true, then they had to have gotten up really early to pick them all- they really did believe I was coming back to them…

It was in this moment that Satel decided to be pure evil- he held his last moagho in his hand and casually tossed it as he watched the others struggle into their third or fourth one. He didn’t plan on eating that last one unless someone happened to get close to his count of nine. There was moagho juices still dripping down his chin as he smirked and taunted his opponents.

I really should’ve been ashamed for using such overkill as a falucite- the crew never had a chance in beating him. But I found myself not caring- I was more entranced with his behavior. Satel could make a really great pirate despite the fact that he wasn’t a born seafarer.

“YES!” I yelled when time was called and Satel was still way ahead. “Pay up landlubbers!”

“Who’re ye callin’ a landlubber!?” Spearhead called good-naturedly, knowing that I was only teasing them.

“Ye, if ye don’t pay up!” I shot back with a wide grin, Satel’s victory and my promise to him almost completely forgotten in my mind. It wasn’t even about the money- I was trying to start a playful brawl because I was in the mood for rough housing. Back then, the crew went easy on me since I was little, but now they should take me seriously.

I honestly didn’t know what came over me- I started off this morning depressed and with a headache but now I was a full-fledged seafaring pirate once again.

“Aw, ye cheated an’ ye know it!” Blood-Knot protested, also not really upset with the outcome. We didn’t bet high so there was no huge loss to the others- in fact the ones who chipped in were those also competing and thought they had a chance in beating Satel.

“Say that ta me face, scallywag!” I said playfully as I punched his arm. I didn’t really hold back, but he didn’t seem to mind.

“Oh, is that how it’s gonna be?” He then chortled before he raised his fist to return the gesture. I ducked by both reflex and in knowing there was someone else in the way to take the hit for me. Pappy taught me well in how to start large brawls- always get your aggressor to attack the wrong person and it starts a chain reaction.

I didn’t see who was hit- I assumed it was Spearhead. But I knew I got what I was aiming for when a cheerful battle cry rang out and everyone started grabbing one another in some silly hold.

“Yaaar!” I cried out as I launched myself unto the back of the nearest man and wrapped my arms around his neck in a very light chokehold. I think I was grabbing Scurvy Turek, but I couldn’t tell from the back. He began spinning around to dislodge me, but I held on while laughing heartily. I totally missed this!

To them, this friendly rough housing was the epitome of toughness, but to my female mind, it was nothing but silliness and I loved it. I was like a boy again- and I didn’t mind the slight gender confusion for the moment. I could go back to being the girl that I am anytime.

In my delight, I had lost all sense of time and who I was bashing on when something suddenly grabbed me by the belt and hoisted me several feet above the ground. I soon turned my head to find that I was now level with Cegil’s head as he easily held me up over the mess. He then effortlessly turned and practically waded out of the chaos with me in tow until he was near the corridor of the officer’s cabins where Seikram stood.

“ENOUGH YE LOT!” Seikram yelled once he saw that Cegil had me.

The lavender haired man then lowered his arm, but didn’t release me, so I was hovering at half of his height like some stray kitten. The crew quickly settled down upon hearing the voice of their commanding officer and it was then when I realized that Satel was among them. He had apparently joined in the fight- or he was trying to get to me in order to protect me.

His über hat was slightly more askew on his head than usual, and his braid seemed to have been pulled out of place in the scuffle. But he had his ever-present smile on his face, so he must’ve joined in for the fun of it.

“Wot is wrong wit’ ye, lass? That was articles three an’ eight ye broke in less than an hour!” the sea snake bellowed as he glared at me. I scoffed at him and crossed my arms- which was rather hard to do given the fact that I was still suspended above the ground.

“Oh please! Article three is in regards ta gamblin’ wit’ dice or cards, not friendly wagers, an’ ah didn’t strike anyone out o’ a grudge- we’re jus’ messin’ ‘round like usual.”

While pirates had no formal book education, we did at least have to know how to count (whether it be by fingers or divvying out treasures one share at a time), and know about the ancient Pirate Code of Conduct. It was allegedly drafted by whoever was Lord of the Sea around two thousand years ago.

Before the Code, pirates were just an unmanageable group of savages. In fact it was said we were the first to have any real order before most kingdoms. Pappy drove the Code into my head at an early age… then he taught me the ‘unofficial’ exceptions that I could use to screw with the minds of others.

“Yer every bit the pirate yer pappy once was! Yer ancestors were the ones who drafted the Code an’ yet ye play upon all the loopholes ta break it!”

“Ye say it like it’s a bad thing…” I muttered, enjoying the fact that I was causing turmoil for Seikram. For some reason, he was always a stickler for the rules… and yet he was the one who led a mutiny.

“Arr… Is this how women act?” Seikram asked incredulously before he faced the crew. “Where did we go wrong wit’ her? Elit forbid that ah ever have any daughters- they’re nothin’ but trouble.”

What in five hells was that supposed to mean? Was he implying that women started fist fights all of a sudden? Or maybe he was referring to my defiance- some girls were pretty stubborn about ignoring authority if they thought they were in the right. However, I didn’t think I was right or wrong about anything- I simply didn’t like Seikram enough to respect him.

“Feh, wot woman in her right mind would bear ye any? Ah wouldn’t touch ye even after several pints o’ ale,” I retorted flippantly, speaking solely to hurt him. Though truthfully, he was the best-looking pirate of the crew- rough around the edges, but still ruggedly handsome enough to send some weak women into a swoon. He’s got nothing on Satel though…

The men laughed at my insult, thinking that I was just joking around, but I was being serious. I personally wouldn’t touch him, though it was only because of my history with him. I could never ever forgive him enough to find even an iota of attractiveness in him. Seikram just regarded me with a cool look as if he wanted to challenge my words. I hope not- the mere idea of him wanting to court me (or just get me into bed) made me feel nauseous.

“Jus’ behave yerself,” he eventually replied tiredly before he addressed the crew again. “Get back ta yer tournament! An’ no more rough housin’ outside the scheduled hour.”

…What!? There’s a schedule for that- and it’s just an hour!? The Code of Conduct was one thing, but since when did pirates have to be treated like children?

“It’s the dragon’s rules,” the snake explained curtly after seeing my incredulous expression. Hmph, I guess Cyirlie would be the type to inhibit behavior that was beyond her comprehension. They were lucky to have an hour from someone like her…

Seikram went back up to the quarterdeck while the others went back to what they were doing before. Cegil was still holding me up like a stray as Satel approached us.

“Well that was fun,” the blond commented as he held out his arms towards me. “You can give her to me now- I’ll try to make sure she stays out of trouble.”

Oh come on! Now he was acting like I was a troublemaker… that was saying a lot considering he’s the prankster of the clan.

“I fear that I need to have a few words with Tia alone- and I will likely have to say something of the kind to you at a later time as well,” the tall man announced, earning a sigh from my mate.

“What? You’re going to scold us for having a little fun? Nobody died, so there’s nothing to be concerned over. There’s little point in separating us- might as well get it over with in one fell swoop,” Satel replied, ending his short rant on a dry note. He was acting as if he was used to this… then again, he did complain of being treated like a falcie before we were together. Was he acting young again, too? …Maybe there was something in the air affecting us.

“I have topics of a private nature to discuss with her- if you wish to know what, then you must wait until she chooses to tell you,” Cegil insisted before fixing a stern look at his brother. “But in the mean time, I believe you should return to Creskaela and inform Maetira that you and Tia are still alive. Everyone must be worried sick if you had truly left without informing anyone.”

Actually, he had a point- Satel and I did suddenly leave, and Garroe is probably there now frantic about where we were.

“Oh alright, but I won’t take long,” he warned before he vanished.

Cegil abruptly turned and headed down the corridor so that we were mostly alone. He then gently lowered me so that my feet touched the ground before he helped me straighten up.

“So wot did ye want ta talk ‘bout?” I inquired, feeling better now that I was standing properly.

“I do hate to complicate matters for you, but I fear there is an issue you need to be made aware of,” he began, appearing very concerned. I just tilted my head as a gesture for him to continue.

“When trying to become someone you are not, you tend to become unhappy with life- I am beginning to understand that now.”

And his words totally confused me- what did that have to do with me? Did he think my strange behavior was attributed to trying to act like a pirate?

“We have known each other for about ten years now, and since then I have raised you to be a proper lady. In the course of one day, all of my teachings have been thrown to the wind and you have been acting much worse than you had when we had first met. Now I truly know where your behavior came from,” he added, this time with a tone of condescendence. Ah, so here was the scolding- he was upset that I had been ignoring his teachings. Also, now that I thought about it, he never did like it when I went off to start fights.

“I’m sorry Cegil,” I apologized immediately without my accent, “I didn’t mean-”

“You do not need to apologize- I am merely pointing out the futility of trying to change you. While you may love my brother and I, you are not suited for life in the homestead. I have never once seen you this lively or happy in the past three years.”

That sent a jolt of shock through me- that couldn’t possibly be true! I wasn’t unhappy where I was… I just wasn’t too comfortable living amongst rich and powerful creatures, nor was I that thrilled with missions every day. It wasn’t exactly boring work to do, but I rarely cared about the people I was helping. If there was only one complaint I had, it was about how everyday was almost the same- I lived by a schedule to see my loved ones and serve my mate’s clan.

“I’ll admit that I have missed my old life, but there’s no meaning in staying here without the people I love. I still choose to be with you and Satel over this ship,” I insisted, almost stubbornly. I didn’t want to be swayed into another decision, not after reassuring Satel dozens of times that I was going home with him.

“But what about the crew? Do you not love them as family as well? They seem to love you,” he pointed out as he faced the opening of the corridor like he as going to leave.

“I hate Seikram,” I replied instantly, choosing not to think about the others. So long as that sea snake was alive, I couldn’t possibly stay here anyway.

“But if you do exact your revenge, then he would not be here- what will happen to the crew? They clearly need a leader to keep them from …performing ill-conceived acts,” he mentioned, trailing off when he felt that he couldn’t say anything nice about the stupidity of the crew.

…I honestly hadn’t thought of that. If I killed Seikram, there would be no one responsible left to take care of the men or the ship. Unless I could somehow find the old quartermaster, I would have to be the one to lead them. So that meant I to choice between exacting my revenge or letting things go so that I could stay with my falucite family.

“Tia, it is your choice alone to decide what to do, but I beg of you to really think it through. Do not let anyone else, including Satel, influence your choice,” Cegil said before he ended the conversation on a deep note. “You will always have me as your family and Satel will always be your mate regardless of where you choose to live. We only care about your happiness, and there is no meaning in keeping you with us if you are so miserable with clan life.”

“But I’m not…” I whispered as he began to leave. “I’m not miserable with you guys! I’m not!”

“To whom are you trying to convince?” the tall man inquired, stopping long enough to glance at me from over his shoulder. “There is no question how you feel about us, but you do not seem to know what you want in life. Can you truly cut ties with the sea? Or are you trying to kill a part of yourself, thinking that is what Satel wants? You should know that he has been spending three long years trying to bring back that fire in your eyes. Right now, you are that woman he fell in love with in Osel.”

Cegil finally left then so that I could think about what he’d said. This was a horrible conundrum that I didn’t even know existed until he brought it up. I had been acting differently ever since I began living in the homestead, but I thought I was simply growing up and becoming mature.

It didn’t once occur to me that Satel had been trying to get me to act like my old pirate self since we had mated. Suddenly all those dates to his territories began to make sense- he had been getting me out of the homestead in hopes that I would act wild again. But I made all those promises to Cegil that I wouldn’t, and I tried so hard to be a proper lady, thinking that it was the only way to please the clan and remain by Satel’s side.

Was it simply my settings that made me act in certain ways? Or was it the company I kept that influenced me? Did I really have to be on the sea to be the woman he loves, or could I somehow become a ‘land’ pirate for his sake when away from home?

Elit, I had no answers to that. I didn’t know how much my decision would affect who I was or how deeply I would feel about it. On one side, I had the possibility of becoming captain of The Cruel Whore, where I knew what I was doing, and could someday restore my father’s honor by eliminating Seikram. Life on the sea was all I knew and I fell back into it so naturally, it was like I had never left in the first place.

But on the other side, I had Cegil, Satel, Lioa, and the rest of the clan, of whom offered love and support. I did have trouble adapting to their lifestyle, but it wasn’t impossible for me. I didn’t feel as deeply for any of the crew as I did for them, and I needed someone to comfort me in times when I was troubled. If I were captain, I would have to be alone and stand tall for the crew’s sake.

Just days ago I had no doubts in my mind of abandoning those I thought had abandoned me, but now… I found that they didn’t cast me aside, and that I didn’t hate them at all (not counting him, of course). In the end it was a question of who I loved more- my father and his memory, or Satel and the rest of his clan. I couldn’t choose between the two at all.

I couldn’t go back to the way I was, not if this side of me made Satel happy. Was there any way to compromise so I could have both?

Not even Elati had that answer- it was something I had to forge on my own, and I had to risk losing everything in my attempt to keep everything. Cegil was right- there was a price for revenge, and I didn’t have the capacity to pay it. It was the hardest choice I’d ever had to make.

To the Optional Chapter (requires password) or To the Next Chapter

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