21. From a Neutral Perspective

Chapter 21

From a Neutral Perspective

            I gave up trying to sleep after a half hour of waiting. By then I was sure Satel was dead to the world as I began wriggling out of his arms. There was no point staying in bed if I couldn’t sleep. I cleaned up and put on my pettipants and trousers, then reached for Satel’s shirt rather than my own.

I guess I was just being cute right then- I want to see his reaction when he finds me in his shirt, and the naughty side of me wanted to see him go without one for the rest of the night. It really was a crime that his chest was covered most of the day- heh, I really am a pervert if the subject happened to be about a certain handsome blond man.

When I was done getting dressed, I wandered over to my desk and sat behind it. I had a lot to think about, and I needed to decide what to do about some issues.

Now that I had gotten the sex out of my system, I had to really think back and wonder what happened. I really wanted him, and despite the reasons I came up with, none of them seem to fit with why I couldn’t wait for it. Satel just wanted a nap- and he clearly understood what I had wanted, so he could’ve catered to me later.

Sure, I did have a small worry that we weren’t as close because of my silence, but… not a lot of time had passed for me to be genuinely concerned. Satel, after all, had just started back up on his missions and needed to adjust between the time differences. Who’s to say he wasn’t planning on tackling me once he was comfortably settled?

And why did I feel so relieved when he gave in to me? I knew he wouldn’t really resist me- and I was a firm believer that if he was really that tired, then he could’ve stopped me at any time. He wasn’t above freezing me with his magicks- he’d done it a few times before to stop me from going overboard in a bar brawl. Of course I liked the attention he’d given me in the past, and I did crave his touch at times, but what happened went a little too far by my standards.

I never wanted sex that badly- and the fact that I did feel that way kind of scared me. Why did it seem to happen after meeting with the mermaids anyway? I don’t think anything they did was the cause of my behavior, but something happened between that meeting and my getting to my cabin…

In the end, I suppose there were no real complaints about it so long as it wasn’t a habitual thing. Satel liked what I did, and he didn’t mind participating- his only issue was that he didn’t want to teleport off the ship for it- he really was too tired for that much. And now because inability to wait, we ended up breaking the Code.

Though I wasn’t as upset about it as I should be. The knowledge told me that as captain, I had a right to modify the Code as long as the crew agreed to whatever I added or changed. Every ship used the Code as a basis for their individual rule. In fact, the subsection in article six to allow women on as crewmembers was intended for The Cruel Whore so that the Lord of the Sea could keep his daughter on board. It wasn’t part of the original draft, and only two other ships currently have that subsection added for very similar reasons.

If I play upon the idea that sex was forbidden only because we didn’t need extra dead weight, then I could arrange for something like a ‘marriage’ clause so that Satel and I could continue to fool around like mates should. But I would also have to make some strict conditions and allow the others to have the same opportunities. It wouldn’t be fair to ask them to be abstinent on the sea while I have fun, but at the same time, this ship can only carry fifty men. While we didn’t have near that many, if every man had a woman, we would have to let some men go or risk exceeding our limit.

Thankfully, I didn’t see any of them wanting to settle down just to have the chance to be exempt from article six. Plus, I wasn’t going to allow women who won’t or can’t pull their own weight on my ship- everyone here had to either benefit the ship somehow to justify their presence, or simply not be a stress to the resources. Since Satel could come and go as he pleased, he wouldn’t be a ‘drain’ on our supplies and space. He shared a room with me, and he could go elsewhere to get food.

Though if I were to add the clause, I would have to make it known that Satel and I are in that sort of relationship. Thankfully though, I shouldn’t have to worry about their worries anymore about me having a relationship, because they have to accept a captain’s choice in life. I’m sure they’ll always worry about me in the sense that they do care about me and want what’s best for me, though. But now they’ll have to deal with me if there were any problems- and I’m sure they aren’t willing to fight me over it. If they are still foolish to corner my mate… well, I can at least trust him not to (majorly) harm them. He knows I need able-bodied manpower for the ship.

I glanced over to Satel as he turned in the bed, likely trying to find where I went. I smiled a little when he ended up grabbing a pillow instead and rolled on top of it. He really had to have someone underneath him, didn’t he?

Satel and our future aside, I had other things to consider as well. I had to figure out where I was going, and I still had the business of planning a proper funeral for Pappy. I had the skull taken down from the pikes and placed in an open treasure chest. I figured he would appreciate being surrounded by gold for the time being. The proper sendoff would be to lay him to rest in the sea, but it had to be a special place like near his favorite island or where he might’ve hidden some treasure.

Some part of me wondered if the mysterious guide was leading me to his resting place. Maybe Elati wanted me to leave his remains near Eruda, where he was likely born- or perhaps his spirit was somehow guiding me from beyond the realm of the dead. Who knows?

I needed to figure this out soon, because if anyone deserved closure, it was Pappy. His brat was continuing his legacy, so he didn’t need to haunt The Cruel Whore anymore. I suppose regardless of where this trail ended, Eruda was where Pappy was going to rest- even if the guide tells me to turn away to another location. This wasn’t something I should keep putting off for the ‘right moment’- there might never be one.

The next hour or two was spent listening to Satel’s breathing while contemplating, and eventually some map gazing. I knew how to read a map like any self-respecting ‘smart’ pirate, though I was no genius like Pappy was. I suppose I could get to his level if I tried, but since I had been away for fifteen years, I had a lot of catching up to do. Even so, I wasn’t really doing any ‘work’- I was just lazily picking at the map with a cartographer tool, making it look like it was walking across the surface.

I really should’ve been doing more, but I wasn’t sure what. Seikram and the others could hold the course just fine without me, and the mermaids shouldn’t be a problem now that they promised to protect the ship. And… I probably shouldn’t go out dressed like this- not after being ridiculed for having mermaid ‘lovers’. I didn’t need to be teased over anything else today- best to save it for later.

It was getting close to sunset, but I slowly looked up when I noticed the golden light suddenly start to fade from my vision. Everything was growing to pitch black around me so I turned to the windows to see what was happening. I couldn’t even see them in the darkness, though something told me that it wasn’t something from outside that was blocking the light.

I felt rather slow in the head when I figured it out- Satel had cast an illusion so he could sneak up on me. He didn’t do this to me often, but I should’ve known it was him because he tends to like placing others in a ‘new dimension’. I was sure he only did it so I couldn’t see him getting out of bed.

I was soon completely sure of the culprit when I felt hands on running along my body and his hot breath at my ear.

“Now it’s my turn to take advantage of you,” he whispered sensually before I felt my shirt fall open, then warm hands roaming over my breasts. I wonder when ‘taking advantage’ became our personal term for mating? I get where it came from, but why did that night keep playing into what we do in bed? Was he still subconsciously teasing me over it or was it intended to be our ‘thing’?

I tilted my head back to show that I wanted his attention before my lack of sound could dissuade him- if that was really even a problem. Though I didn’t have that desperate need to mate anymore, I didn’t mind letting him have his way for now. He was nice enough to let me take charge before, so I should let him do whatever he wanted to me in return. I thought I would feel him kissing my neck, but instead I felt hands separating my thighs. I somewhat wish I could see him as he did this, but at the same time, not seeing just seemed to make everything feel stronger.

…But unfortunately the spell was broken by a loud knock at my door, shocking Satel out of his concentration. I was intensely grateful that I’d had the foresight to lock my door because, had the person decided to come in, he would’ve found me in a very compromising position.

My shirt and trousers had already been undone, exposing much of my body, and there was a very naked blond man kneeling on the floor between my legs. Though at the vantage point of the door, no one would see Satel through the desk, but my exposed breasts would be seen clearly enough.

We held still in silence as we wished the person away so we could continue our activities, but whoever it was insisted on trying again and even tried opening the door.

“Capt’n? Ye in there? Ah’ve a report ta make!” Seikram called out after he discovered that the door was locked. He then pounded on the wood a few times, possibly thinking that I might’ve been asleep. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to give up…

I let out a disgusted sigh before I pointed at the door and then began buttoning up the shirt. Satel seemed a little disappointed as he got the hint and teleported over to his trousers where he pulled them on. Once he felt he was decent enough (since he couldn’t put his shirt on with my wearing it), he unlocked the door with his magicks and bellowed for Seikram to come in.

I only had time to close the shirt, so I pulled my chair closer to the desk so the quartermaster couldn’t see that my trousers were open.

Seikram had an irritated look on his face when he opened the door, and I quickly discovered that it was because of who called him in, rather than the wait. His grey eyes immediately centered on Satel as the shirtless man sat down on the edge of the bed with a pleasant smile on his face.

This would be the type of situation that would have me blushing in embarrassment but… somehow I didn’t care. It was obvious who was wearing Satel’s ‘missing’ shirt, and that implied a level of intimacy that I once got quite flustered over in public. Either the falucite acceptance was sinking in, or the pirate in me was too proud of my ‘conquest’.

“Capt’n, don’t tell me he’s livin’ in yer cabin?” the pirate asked incredulously as he crossed the room to reach me. His tone almost sounded as if I was keeping a pet, rather than a mate in here.

‘An’ wot if he is? We’re not breakin’ the Code,’ I retorted with a cool look as I crossed my arms. Of course, this was in reference to him staying with me- that was okay. But I was fully aware that my earlier actions with him was against the Code and I wasn’t going to admit to doing so. I was going to have a loophole for that soon enough, but until then, I needed to be careful not to let the others know about what I had done, and likely will continue to do.

In the beginning, I was nervous at the thought of being caught kissing Satel, but now I stopped caring about the rules in regards to him. Well, I couldn’t say I didn’t care– I just felt I shouldn’t have to leave my ship every time I wanted to be intimate with him- and I had a feeling that he wouldn’t want that either. Things were going to change around here, but I shouldn’t flaunt that before I actually have them set.

Seikram had the look of doubt on his face, but didn’t say a word about it. Had Spearhead or one of the others been in his place, I’d feel a lot guiltier about what I had done. No matter how I justify my feelings in the matter, what I did was still unfair to the others.

‘Wot? Don’t believe me?’ I challenged, ready to bluff and lie my way out of this. Though it was going to be hard with Satel sitting there with that damn smug look on his face.

He was deliberately smirking at the pirate as if to say ‘yeah, we had sex, are you going to do something about it?

“Don’t matter if ah do or not- yer the capt’n an’ can do wot ye want. But don’t let it go ta yer head- we don’t have ta stay wit’ ye if we don’t like it,” he warned as he shook his head.

I suppose he had a point- any other ship could do away with its captain and elect a new one, but The Cruel Whore can only be commanded by someone of my bloodline. Well, anyone could technically be the captain of this ship, but they wouldn’t keep the special privileges and freedom that I bring with it. In a way, it was awfully nice of Seikram to remind me that while I could abuse my powers all I want, I can’t torment the crew and expect them to stay with me. They could choose serving dragons over me.

‘Ah may be a greedy pirate like the rest o’ ye, but ah want ta be fair ta the crew,’ I replied honestly, though I didn’t feel like elaborating my desire to amend the Code. If I had to go into detail about that, then I could unwittingly admit to the wrong I had done just before.

But as an afterthought, I tilted my head and considered his warning before I asked, ‘Are ye sayin’ ye’d leave if ye don’t like how things are runnin’ here?’

He still seemed a little upset, judging by his body language, but I wasn’t sure why. Apparently he didn’t care that I was breaking the rules, because if he did then he would’ve had no qualms whatsoever expressing his opinions. So why was he acting this way? If I didn’t know any better, I would say he was being bitter about something. Maybe he was jealous that I had had sex and he didn’t- if he was a man with needs, then he probably wanted a working wench to unwind with…

“No, ah was jus’ speakin’ o’ the others- ah have no right ta leave,” he muttered, giving me an indication that he viewed his staying here as punishment for what he did. I should feel satisfied with that thought, but I didn’t. I still wasn’t ready to forgive him, but I didn’t feel the need to kick a man who was already down. And besides, some part of me was marginally grateful that he was here, if only for the fact that he could read my lips and relay my orders to the others.

Instead I changed the subject and focused on his reason for visiting. ‘Wot’s yer report?’

“We’ve arrived at Ratalu an’ we’d like ta have yer leave ta go to the pubs when we finish dockin’,” he requested after a respectful salute. Hmm… we’d arrived sooner than I’d expected.

‘Aye, granted. Have fun an’ tell the others ta at least leave the bar intact if they start a rampage,’ I mouthed as I forced a smirk to my face to show that I was joking. Contrary to popular belief, not all drunken pirates got out of hand- if they did, then they would never be allowed in a pub again. We already had so few places where we were welcomed, so they knew they had to watch it.

“Thank ye capt’n,” Seikram responded with a nod before he turned and headed for the door. He made sure not to look in Satel’s direction, choosing to ignore the falucite altogether.

But he did pause at the door and finally let a mischievous look come to his face as he added, “It’d be nice if ye joined us capt’n- ye don’t have ta hide from the mermaids here, they wait fer us outside o’ the human settlements. Yer lips are safe fer now.”

Now he was making fun of me. I glared at him before I found a wad of parchment paper to throw at him. He moved out of the way with a short laugh, then tossed a rather superior look towards Satel before he left, slamming the door behind him. I… wasn’t sure what to make of that last exchange, but Satel was no longer smirking.

His brows furrowed and he frowned slightly, warning me that he was getting angry. Just what did Seikram say that set him off? And how did the pirate know it would make him that way? Hell, why did they seem to be competing with each other in the first place?

“What is he talking about?” he inquired guardedly. “What mermaids?”

I just shook my head and waved my hand in a gesture to signal that it was nothing to be worried about. So long as I didn’t tempt them or get close to the water, they wouldn’t have a chance to get near me again. …Though they can climb aboard, they’re slow when out of water, so I can easy shove them off up here.

Since he was apparently asleep for it, he probably didn’t overhear what happened when I encountered the demons. My gesture didn’t satisfy him and he ended up standing and stalking over to me as he gave me a stern look.

“Tell me what happened, ‘Tia-dear,” he demanded in a soft tone, trying not to sound cross with me.

I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what had gotten him so riled up, so I decided to take my lumps and write down the gist of what happened. I had a feeling that he was just going to end up laughing at me, too, but I’d rather have him do that than to give me that evil look he was making now.

But when I was done and he started reading, his mood seemed to worsen rather than improve. I felt myself swallow nervously as he gritted his teeth and suddenly clenched the paper in fury. Before I knew it, he put down the paper in front of me and made me grip my new fountain pen.

“Tell me who she is and what she looks like- the one who kissed you,” he clarified after I glanced up at him in confusion.

Wy? I dont get wy yur so mad. I pushd her of as son as she tryd it, I wrote, wanting to understand what’s going on all of a sudden.

So what if she had tried? There were a few drunken men who made the same efforts and I dealt with them in the same manner- the only difference being that she actually managed to touch my lips. Besides, she thought I was someone else and I was unable to tell her off. I can be mentally scarred from the experience, but I can’t completely blame her for the honest mistake.

“Because, my sirsa,” he began in an even tone as turned my chair to face him and knelt down between my legs again. He then placed his hands on either side of my face and stared deeply into my eyes. “No one touches my mate and goes unpunished.”

What the hell? Many people touched me before and he didn’t care- though I shouldn’t take it so literally. I get that he meant no one should kiss or touch me inappropriately, but even then his sudden possessiveness didn’t make sense. I tend to ‘punish’ the hopeful perverts just fine on my own. I wasn’t exactly gentle when I shoved her off me either, and I kicked a few others back into the sea, though I didn’t seem to hurt them.

I dont get it. Did I do sumthing rong?

             “No,” he replied instantly when he read my words. “I’m not mad at you– you came to me when her pheromones took effect on you, but what she did was out of line. She needs to know you’re taken and if she ever tries it again, I will kill her.”

It was then when I finally learned why I had gone sexually berserk earlier. He explaned that when hunting for food or looking for a mate, mermaids excreted a particular pheromone that attracted the prey and acted like a high-powered aphrodisiac. I must’ve fallen victim to it and that was why I had to have Satel. Come to think of it, I had heard that black market merchants would capture mermaids to make their perfumes…

Huh… was that how Satel felt when he first detected my pheromones? I know it’s not quite the same, but I think I kind of understand what he went through that first time he tried to mate with me. I couldn’t fight those urges and it was all I wanted to think about, even though I wanted to focus on other things.

I dont think she wantd me for a mait, I put down on the paper, trying to calm him down. She was one of many mermaids that seemed to want a piece of me, so I think it was safe to say that they were just looking for fun and not commitment. …Hmm, I wonder how Seikram’s holding up? Wouldn’t he be affected too, even though he wasn’t their target? Maybe that’s why he was so… annoyed earlier.

But Satel shook his head and appeared concerned. “Don’t you know? Merfolk mate through oral contraception- if her tongue got into your mouth, then that would basically be mating for her. If you were old enough, you could get pregnant that way.”

My eyes widened as I suddenly understood just how close I’d come to being violated, and my stomach abruptly lurched. That’s how they mate!? Apparently they were so backwards that not only they could get their own men pregnant, but also women of other species. They were probably so sure that I was a man that they weren’t worried about that…

Even so… I felt her tongue on my lips- it didn’t get in me, but… but…

I slapped my hand over my eyes for a second and then decided to rest my forehead on my desk. I then began to gently pound my head on the surface to beat out my humiliation and the returning headache. Now I understood why Satel was so pissed- no one had ever gotten that close to mating with me before. Ugh… I’ll never be able to look at those sea-bitches again…

“Forget the warning- I’ll destroy her now!” he growled, angry to see me like this. I quickly sat up and shook my head to dissuade him.

Maybe I was overreacting just a little- it was a misunderstanding, and the mermaids had been …with my ancestors before. My real problem was that I had unknowingly gotten close to having sex with some other person. I frankly didn’t care who did what with what person, but I was taught by the crew at an early age that I should always make myself clear and dissuade any attention I didn’t want.

That’s how I ended up with Satel- I didn’t know what I wanted with him and he ended up coming after me because we were compatible. I had long since come to terms with the fact that I was in love with him though, so I didn’t have trouble ridding myself of other suitors. That should have also been true with the mermaids, but it wasn’t an easy thing to do without a voice. My pushing them off should’ve been enough, but they’d ignored it and persisted harder.

Why hadn’t it worked? Was it because they were female? What the crew had taught me growing up was what men thought about when looking for a woman to sleep with. At the time I thought it was some good advice, but now I’m not so sure… Was this my fault? Did I end up giving that mermaid reason to think that I wanted her?

Jus tel them of for me. Elatee sent them so I dont want yu to get in truble.

 Though now that I mentioned the goddess, I couldn’t help but think back on the future heir and how my birth could’ve been divine intervention. Could that mermaid have been sent just to make me conceive? No, that wouldn’t make sense. I wouldn’t have a human child if that happened- he would be half merfolk.

I should just give them one more warning to make myself clear. Whatever Pappy and my ancestors did with them was between them, but I didn’t want their attention. If they can’t understand that then… I refuse to take blame on it further. To prove that I was no longer intimidated by their desires, I added a nice threat to go with it.

Tel them that they shuld jus stik to gard work and if they evr com neer me agan I wil cut ther tungs of!

 Yeah, that should work- cutting off tongues should be like cutting off dicks to them, right? In the end, I didn’t really have anything against them (save for their headache inducing lunatic comments), and if they do back off, then I won’t be so annoyed with them.

Satel soon smirked at what I wrote and seemed relieved that I was already back to normal. I was just overwhelmed before, but I should be okay if I treat them like I did to any unwanted suitors.

“Are you sure you want to defend them? Elati seems to be fine with me to protecting you, so who needs them? It will just make your life easier if I get rid of them,” he said, still upset with them enough to try to persuade me.

I understand why he was angry and why he wanted to stand up for me, but all he needed to do was calm down and just lay down the rules. It wasn’t right to attack them just because they didn’t know any better- it was only right to hurt them if they did know and didn’t care.

And besides, we still didn’t really know what set off Elati before- one of Satel’s potential crimes was attacking her sister’s mermaid servant. He could just put himself back on her bad side if he did try to eliminate them.

Ther not jus heer for me but for the kru. Pleeze let it slid for now. If they do it agan then I wont stop yu. I pleaded with him while trying to be fair. I believed his suggestion was unnecessary for the time being, but I didn’t want to completely dismiss him and his feelings about it. I knew he was just acting for my protection.

My mate took a few calming breaths before he settled himself on the floor and rested his chin on my thigh. He closed his eyes for a moment to think about my plea and his options before he came to a decision.

“Alright, I’ll forgive her just this once. But if she or any other creature comes after you knowing who you belong to, I will not hold back or wait for your permission,” he warned before adding in a slightly more cheerful tone, “But I will have to wait and compose myself before I ‘talk’ to them- and I can’t reach them now anyway unless I take a boat.”

Well, there’s that, and he was still somewhat underdressed. Though I suppose I wouldn’t be surprised that would like to face him as he is, just to irritate the mermaids with the fact that he was indeed intimate with me.

But I still gave him a deadpan look before I wrote down my own warning for that possessive statement he gave. When I was done, I held the sheet before his eyes so he could read it.

Keep up with that toon and Ill kic yur ass.

Satel finally let out a chuckle over that before leaving small kisses on my knee. “You know what I mean, ‘Tia-dear- you’re my mate and I will defend your honor and virtue to the death of the one challenging it.”

Arrogant man- that’s why I love him so. I still had to argue something in his comment though and wrote it down with a smile on my face.

Wat vurtu?

This time he laughed, probably realizing that ‘virtue’ didn’t fit well when describing a pirate.

“Granted- I’ll have to lie about your virtue, but I will defend it nonetheless,” he replied with a fond grin. I grinned back at him before I captured his face, leaned down, and kissed him deeply.

Though in the end, maybe I should thank those fish-demons. Because of them, I took another step in my relationship with Satel, and I got to see a side of him that was kind of sexy, if a little scary. I’ll defend myself, but wow… I kind of liked that possessive side of his…

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

Satel and I eventually got dressed properly and headed to the pub, though we didn’t stay for long. It was important for me to show my face around the port towns and among other pirate crews because I had to build up my notoriety as the leader of my crew. Later on, after I’d made a name for myself and created enemies amongst my fellow pirates, I would need to maintain my alliances and taunt my rivals at the taverns.

Once word got out that The Cruel Whore has its’ rightful captain though, many pirate hopefuls and those looking to trade up would soon be inquiring about joining, and I would have to make the final decision of accepting or denying. Most other ships had to make themselves look attractive in order to entice new crewmembers, but The Cruel Whore was the one ship everyone wanted to aim for- no one can beat the fact that we were independent of dragons.

As things stood, word was only just getting out and all anyone would know is that Lord Rutan’s daughter had taken over. If I just hid away in my cabin all the time, then everyone might confuse me for a weak little girl and not take me seriously. However, there wasn’t much I could do at the moment- all I could do was have a drink with my mate, then tell Seikram that I was heading back.

There was one other ship in Ratalu, but it seemed to be an ordinary merchant ship. It was too bad though, because my only other way to gain notoriety in this setting was to deck any pirate who’d challenge me. I couldn’t talk or brag of my crew’s feats, so I needed some kind of edge to get us noticed.

…But I suppose I would have to leave it at that- we were just getting started, and my crew hadn’t done anything worth bragging about yet.

As we headed back to the ship, I enjoyed the scenery around the town There wasn’t much.-. Ratalu was a very small port town that was basically carved into a cliffside, and most of the ‘town’ was actually connections of fortified wooden platforms and docks. The rest, where they stored all their supplies, was hidden in burrowed tunnels and caves. This made it to where it could exist solely as a storage place and hangout, rather than a real town with residents.

We were actually on an island about fifty miles north of Rynrir- the location designed to be too out of the way for average ships, particularly ones manned by soldiers from earth kingdoms. It was intended to be a place for black market merchants and pirates to rest, relax, and trade goods and information. To keep this place safe, we simply never spoke its name on land, so that coastal seafarers and the navy remained ignorant and refrain from seeking it out.

Ideally, one would have to be an obvious crooked bastard to even catch wind of its name.

I was sure this wasn’t what Beerbreath had in mind for a food restock, as Ratalu didn’t have fresh meats and vegetables, but given the situation on the coastal regions, this would have to do. The merchants supplied this town with cured meats and preserved vegetables, and we had more than enough things to trade for them. On the other side of the island was a giant grove of moagho trees where passing seafarers could get their citrus fix.

Besides, until the coastal dwellers recovered from the massive search, no one wanted to see a pirate ship anytime soon. Heh… come to think of it, no one ever wants to see a pirate ship sail into port. We’d have to raid them to get what we want anyway, and it was just too soon to bother them. We need to let them settle back into their lives first.

Ratalu was rather quiet this evening, and the winds have calmed down so that the waves only made soft ambient sounds. If I had been in a walking suit, this would’ve been like a romantic stroll- the weather wasn’t too cold and Elit was shining brightly down on us. Man… it feels as though it’s been forever since I last had a girly thought like that.

This part, being with Satel like this, was something I liked during my stay in the homestead. I knew I didn’t hate living there, nor did I despise our dates on his territories. Hopefully that didn’t have to change- though it might be harder for us to have another nightly stroll through Osel again.

Now that I think about it, I need to select a few dresses from the homestead to keep in my cabin. All because I’ll be dressed like a man most of the time didn’t mean I should abandon my feminine side altogether.

“We should hurry back to the ship,” Satel suggested after a while of taking in the sights. “I would like to retire early and see if I can report in before it reaches noon back home.”

I glanced up at him with a knowing look and a raised eyebrow. I wanted to tell him ‘good luck with that’ because it was already morning at the homestead by now. If he wanted to be ‘early’, then he’d only get an hour of sleep.

He soon let out a sigh at my expression and hung his head for a second. “Yes, I know- it’ll never happen, certainly not tonight anyway. Perhaps not anytime soon now that I must plan my vengeance upon you.”

What did I do? For a moment, I thought he was actually mad at me, but his wicked and mischievous look was too sensual for fury.

“Don’t look so surprised my sirsa- did you think you were going to get away with what you’ve done? You’d best prepare yourself, because I might just have my way with you until you’re too tired to leave the bed,” he threatened with smirk that was both evil and sexy.

Oh, so that’s what he was talking about- for a moment, I thought I had done something wrong. I’m beginning to think though that he had been waiting for me to take charge, just so he would have the excuse to have a turn at it himself. Actually, that didn’t sound like a bad idea- better to have turns than to fight for dominance all the time.

I returned the grin and stared up at him with half-lidded eyes, challenging him to do his worst. At least with my voice gone, I didn’t have to worry about singing or having a sleepwalking episode. He could keep me up all night if he wanted to.

My actions only served to egg him on and he quickly pulled my front against his chest. His hand found its way to my jaw as he tilted my head up and kissed me. He then teleported us directly into my cabin… where we soon discovered that someone was waiting for us.

Cegil cleared his throat to alert us of his presence and we sprang apart as he gave us an amused smirk. The tall man was sitting behind my desk, leaning back on my chair with his arms crossed. It was actually something of an insult for anyone other than the captain to sit there, but I forgave him. There was no other place for him to sit and wait for us.

“Cegil!” Satel muttered incredulously as I resisted the urge to hide my face. This wasn’t the first time he’d caught us kissing, but it was embarrassing for me all the same. The only reason Satel was upset was because he was thwarted from being able to carry out his ‘threat’ to me.

Though it was rude to do so, I eventually pointed in my former guardian’s direction and shrugged my shoulders to gesture a question. I had to hope that he would understand that I was asking why he was here. It was too early for him to be here for a lesson.

“I am beginning my search for Didra’s items early, and I had to obtain a scale from a sea dragon priestess,” the lavender haired man explained as he bowed his head briefly.

Upon hearing ‘dragon priestess’ we instantly thought of Cyirlie and wondered how Cegil could still look so calm and collected after such an endeavor. I highly doubted the cold woman would be so willing to hand over anything after what happened. In fact, I imagined a great battle must’ve occurred between the two before he was able to pluck a scale from her side. …Actually the image I had in my mind made Cegil appear really cool.

“Brother, are you suicidal?” Satel asked dryly, probably envisioning something similar in his head.

“Not at all- Loerati’s priestess been most kind and hospitable. She was also very informative- hence why I am here. What I have learned from her is rather surprising,” he replied, using a subtle edge to his tone, which meant he really hit a breakthrough.

Sadly, I had completely forgotten about the other priestesses. Cyirlie wasn’t the only one, as every goddess had a priestess… though I was never clear as to why the dragon had to be female. Perhaps they were just the opposite of falucite and had far more women than men?

I honestly didn’t think just anyone could approach another goddess’ servant and just chat it up with them. I thought someone had to have a connection or something to even get close. Though Cegil sure did have his fun just letting us assume he was talking about Cyirlie.

“Oh? What did you find out?” my mate prodded, sounding curious.

“Were you aware that the sea goddesses are currently observing a dissent amongst themselves? Loerati is actually a neutral party, but Elati and Tiata are at odds with one another over some issue. What that issue is, I am not allowed to know, so she could not inform me.”

That was pretty interesting, to say the least. I didn’t know gods were bothered by petty squabbles like other creatures- well, I knew the elements tended to oppose one another, but I didn’t think sisters of the same kind would too. But as Cegil explained the ‘mini-war’, some pieces began to fall together. Apparently Anatil is on Elati’s side, while, conversely, Naia is on Tiata’s side.

The reason why that made sense was because when Pappy died, I ended up on land that Anatil touched. For whatever reason, Elati must’ve passed me off to her because she trusted her ‘ally’. But that still didn’t explain why I had to be sent away…

“Hmph… I wonder what would have the goddesses fighting? It must not be that big, or else you’d think there would be some divine war going on,” Satel commented before he gave a light shrug, “But what does that have to do with us? You seem to be here for more than just mere gossip.”

“She had much to say. It appears that the dissent between the others is merely a thread in the greater design. At the very least, we can assume Elati’s erratic behavior is the probable cause of this disagreement. She is, after all, the only one to have overstepped her bounds as a nature-controlling god- her acquisition of Eruda is proof of that,” Cegil pointed out with a serious look.

Now that he mentioned it, he was right in that Elati was strange compared to the other goddesses (of all the elements). She seemed to be the only one who actually talked to other creatures besides her own priestess- and this whole concept of Lord of the Sea seems to be her creation. Just what is the goddess of storms about anyway? Is she trying to defy the Natural Order?

“Not to mention, she seems to like making deals with us lower creatures. I never did understand what was the purpose for her to create a Lord of the Sea if she had gotten what she wanted in Eruda,” Satel said, voicing some of my thoughts. “I would think receiving land originally intended for Kajros or Harishul would be enough of a prize, more so than a kingdom of healthy humans. In fact, she didn’t even have to offer this ‘immortality’ when the man she made a deal with only wanted his daughter to come back to life.”

Ever since the whole ‘Eternal King’ and Satel’s worries of immortality came up, he’s been describing his vision in greater detail. This mess began from a father’s love for his dying daughter and somehow Elati figured out how to use that to her advantage. It was unusual for a goddess to even pick up a parent’s desperation for the life of a child.

But every time that story was mentioned, I couldn’t help but think back on that vision I had where I was in the arms of a grieving man. Could that have been a memory from that very event? Could that dying girl have been me? …No, I figure I must be the representation of her. It seemed this cycle was arranged so that the Lord of the Sea has a daughter- like how that king had one.

And, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that this ‘test’ of Elati’s was to represent that girl’s death and rebirth. My original reading demanded that I was to either be burned alive or be spared by taking part in the Liberation. Huh, maybe this whole thing was just history repeating itself over and over again.

“Indeed- throughout history, Elati has been known to grant wishes, and they all came with a price. She also seems to demand loyalty and grant those who agree to it with extraordinary power that could rival that of dragons. But why? Even Loerati is not certain,” Cegil added, sounding perplexed over the unanswered questions he found.

“…You don’t suppose she’s trying to build some kind of army, do you? Maybe she’s anticipating a war with her sisters after all,” the über hat man suggested after thinking about it.

Elit above, I hope that’s not true… I don’t want to imagine what would happen if goddesses went to war with each other- and I refuse to fight in such a battle. I didn’t really declare any loyalty to Elati, so I shouldn’t have to. I was just here because I was needed as a baby maker, as disturbing as that was to admit…

“Most likely not, considering that the others are not moving towards such extremes. She does seem to be planning something, though… and when I learn more of her ambitions, I cannot help but wonder about you,” Cegil admitted slowly as his cinnamon colored eyes gazed up to his brother.

Satel was instantly taken aback by his words- he even visibly jerked from shock. “Me!?”

But soon he relaxed and fidgeted with the brim of his über hat. “…Then again, I suppose that would be nothing new, would it?”

I assumed he was speaking of the idea that he had some connection with Elati. But if what Cegil had said were true, then he would have the powers to rival Cyirlie, and he clearly didn’t. And even then, Satel never declared his loyalty to Elati or bargained with her before, so how would he have been involved in that way?

“The current events make me suspect this, but it is only pure speculation on my part. I may be entirely wrong- and some part of me hopes that I am,” Cegil began, appearing reluctant and forlorn.

“It is a long tale, but I believe it began with a secret our parents may have kept from us. I was about two hundred forty-three- Oria and I was entering our third decade as mates, and Garroe had not yet met Didra. Back then our first priority was to find a cure for Maetira’s blindness, because we feared that she would not be able to reach adulthood without sight. She needed to see to use most of her powers, and we were concerned that no male would want her for a mate.

“Garroe, Oria, and I searched all of the continents and the fire isles for a cure. We sought the brilliant minds of the time and discovered Didra- she was famed for her knowledge in biology and her ability to cure most diseases, but even Maetira was beyond her. Our efforts seemed to be in vain- until Maetira turned one hundred twenty-two. That was the time when Mother and Father would travel on their own, and not inform the elders of their activities. Even Garroe and I were left in the dark.

“But, one day, they returned home and told us that we need not search for a cure anymore. It was that same day when Maetira gained her Oracle abilities and began to commune with the Fates. When I think back on it, they were acting rather …bizarre, because they were gone for a long while and had not seen her since. They seem to have known this would happen-”

“Wait,” Satel interrupted as he held up his hand, “What does this have to do with me? So far all I’m hearing is Maetira’s past.”

“I am getting to that,” Cegil confirmed with a nod. “It is important to mention this because exactly twenty-eight months after that day, you were born. At the time, I had thought that seeking for Maetira’s cure had stressed our parents to the point where they might not have paid attention to Mother’s cycles, but now I wonder if your birth was ever an accident.”

Twenty-eight months was the average gestation period for falucite, so that meant Satel was conceived right around that time Cegil was mentioning. That could still be a coincidence- Cegil could be right about his parents not paying attention, but… one would think to be careful when couples had a three falcie limit. But why would they deliberately have another baby, and at that time?

“Just… just what are you insinuating?” Satel inquired in a pained voice as he began to appear nervous and a little scared.

“It is beginning to add up for me- you appeared not long after Maetira received her abilities, and you happen to have control over water, which is something uncommon among us. Furthermore, you were arranged to mate with a sea dragon priestess, and when you refused her, Maetira was suddenly unable to hear the Fates. It is rather coincidental not to speculate it, but…” Cegil paused, not sure if he should continue. But he then shook his head and decided to finish with an expression similar to Satel’s, “…what if Mother and Father asked Elati for help? What if you happen to be the price for Maetira’s gift?”

There was a stunned silence in the room before Cegil held up the scale he retrieved from the priestess. It was the size of my palm and a similar pearly color as Cyirlie, but with a bluish sheen. “Didra is starting up her old research again to try and give Maetira sight. To this day our sister is still unable to hear the Fates.”

I suppose that explains why the two are asking for all these odd ingredients, but if Didra couldn’t find a cure before, then what made her think she could do it now? And, if Cegil and Satel’s parents really did go to Elati, then why did Maetira become an Oracle rather than gain her sight?

But more importantly, what would Elati want with Satel? Was she seeking to have a falucite among her ranks?

“So what?” Satel growled as he allowed himself to get angry over the information. My mate then bowed his head so that his hair covered his eyes and then he clenched his fists. “Are you insinuating that only I can bring back Maetira’s abilities and that I should bargain with Elati? Is that all I’m good for!?”

“That is not what I am saying at all- I am merely trying to connect the threads and unravel the mystery of your birth. There may be nothing you can do for Maetira at all, but at the very least, both you and she are still alive and in good health. I can be satisfied with that,” the giant man replied, trying to prove that he wasn’t trying to pin anything on his brother. But while he was always a supportive figure in Satel’s life, his words were not enough to calm the blond down.

“Sure, you can be satisfied, but what of Mother and Father? Is it not important for Maetira to have her abilities so she can cope without her sight? That’s why they sacrificed themselves, isn’t it? Not for my life, but for Maetira’s?” he bellowed incredulously, earning a very small wince from his older brother.

It seemed the subject of his parents was still a very sore spot for Satel. I could see why though- he must’ve had a lot of questions about the people who brought him into this world and left before he could know them. I could also see why he was getting so upset. Even though Cegil wasn’t trying to imply it at all, it did seem as though his parents did love Maetira more and it was getting hard to see it any other way.

If Satel was really born in exchange for what Maetira received, then how could one love a child that was intended to be given away?

“You will not raise your voice toward me, for I am not your enemy,” Cegil warned in a stern tone. “I did not come here to cast blame or to make you feel as though you are unloved in this family. I cannot speak for Mother and Father for what they were thinking in their final hours, but I do know that they had sacrificed themselves for all of us, not just for you and Maetira. When the Daedeleth believe they have found heretics, they seek to destroy the root cause. Father ultimately became the scapegoat to save all of us, and Mother followed to save me when I objected. They did not want to leave us, nor did they mean to place their burdens upon us.”

And once again, it pointed back to how everything in that point of time was not Satel’s fault, but this new revelation did give reason to why it all happened. Maybe Satel was born deliberately to appease a goddess, but there was also no question that the parents had done everything to protect their children. If they truly died to save all of them, then it was reasonable to believe that they did love their fourth child as much as they did their others.

Satel relaxed his stance a little at realizing that Cegil’s feelings were genuine, though he didn’t raise his head. He mentioned to me before that he knew there was something off about him and had those suspicions that he was somehow related to the sea, but he didn’t think it was something that was decided before his birth. I bet it was hard to love people he didn’t even know, and that it was harder to believe that their actions were out of love for him.

I, for one, couldn’t imagine parents forsaking their child, and I wanted to believe that Satel knew that too, deep down. But I can’t blame him for being confused and uncertain about them. When Cegil was satisfied that the information sunk in, he decided to finish his explanation.

“However, as I stated before, this is all a theory of mine. There are many inconsistencies that would suggest that the idea could truly be a string of coincidental acts. For one, why would Elati want a falcie? Why not demand loyalty from our parents or ask for Maetira when she became of age? And, if a goddess truly asked for your birth, then why was the Daedeleth not notified? They would not have reason to demand a life for a life if they knew of the exchange.”

The Daedeleth worship the Fates more than anything because They were actually above the gods in terms of power. But Cyirlie did mention that Elati could petition for the Fates to make some ‘favor readings’ on her behalf. Though even if the Fates never told the Daedeleth’s Oracle what was happening, they wouldn’t dare cross a goddess if she had Cyirlie tell them straight.

So when everything happened, why didn’t Elati defend them? That could be proof that maybe Satel wasn’t bound to Elati. But… if he wasn’t, then why did he have powers that Elati could take away? This was a little confusing, and it seemed the fact of what happened could go either way. The only way to find out was to ask the goddess herself.

“So if I am a possession of the goddess, what do I do about it? Declare loyalty to her? Tell her where to stick it?” my mate asked, using a saying he picked up from the crew. Even though they weren’t definitive answers, I would think he would be a little relieved to have them, but they instead seemed to upset him more.

“I cannot tell you how to live your life- I fear it is something you must decide for yourself. I only told you of my speculations so that you would be prepared should you learn the truth from the source. I did not want you to learn of this from her and fall under the delusion that we never loved you. You were always part of the clan and you will always be my little brother,” Cegil said with a kind look and a slight nod.

I soon moved to stand beside Satel and smiled up at him to show that he had my support as well. He turned his head enough for me to see his rust colored eyes before he let out a sigh and raised his head to stare at his brother.

“…Thanks. I guess it’s better to hear this from you than from Elati or Cyirlie,” he muttered, expressing some gratitude behind his defeated tone. He didn’t want to dismiss Cegil, but at the same time, he didn’t hear news that exactly pleased him. “But… did you really get all of that information from Loerati’s priestess?”

“The information about you was something I had pieced together when I learned of Elati and her unusual bouts of ‘charity’,” the lavender haired man clarified as he returned to the original subject. “But there is one more thing that she mentioned that might answer where Tia could be going. She said that all goddesses live in the center of their domain, and Eruda just happens to be close by.”

So then I must be being led to Elati after all… If Eruda was really that close, then maybe that’s why she sought to claim it in the name of the sea. …But then if I was going to her, then what was that castle in my vision? I didn’t see land around it… or maybe I still wasn’t going to Eruda, but a little ways past it. I guess I’ll find out when I get there.

There was more Cegil had to tell us, but he promised to reveal it to us later. He could sense that Satel needed some time to process what he’d learned, and Didra was still waiting for the scale. Once the tall man had left, Satel contemplated for a while before he seemed to have shoved it to the back of his mind and focused on me instead.

What I wouldn’t have given to hear his thoughts right then. Perhaps if I knew, then maybe I could help comfort him better. This was one of the few times I truly wished I had my voice back.

Thankfully, Satel was just fine, even though he had his worries. He simply couldn’t dwell in his thoughts about his parents and chose to just chose to dismiss them. But there was more to the story of Elati that no one could’ve imagined- there was something… special about her and her way of thinking, and it’s what ironically pulled us together in the first place. I just had to learn that I couldn’t idly stand by anymore. If I wanted to continue my life on the sea, I would need to embrace my true heritage, and all that comes with it.

To the Next Chapter

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