22. Finding Happiness

Chapter 22

Finding Happiness

            About two days later, I was sitting with Cegil at my desk, going through a writing lesson. My brother-in-law had brought his own chair and as many supplies as he could carry in one teleport. We had to forgo reading for the time being because I couldn’t read aloud anymore, so there was no way for him to tell if I was doing it correctly.

Instead, he figured if I could clean up my writing, then I should be able to pick up reading eventually. I still had to mind my phonetics, and once I learned how everything was spelled and why, then I didn’t see a problem picking out the words I knew from reading material. Until then, I was having more difficulty with writing than I had thought.

He was having me copy sentences after reading them out to me. That was no trouble, but if I wrote something to speak with him, he’d take it and correct everything that was wrong with it. At first, it kind of hurt my feelings and made me think he wasn’t really paying attention to what I was saying, but then he’d respond to my statement before making a short compliment of anything I might’ve improved on or a reminder of what to watch out for.

Cegil said that it was best for me to learn the hard way and that every correction would lead me one step closer to mastery, so I had to prepare myself for criticism with every letter I wrote.

When I had first told Seikram of my planned morning lessons, he scoffed at me and wondered why I even bothered. In truth, I didn’t need an education when I had a high paying ‘job’ as the ship’s captain, but… it was nice to have at least one or two pirates who knew how to read. Not every treasure map was all pictures- and not every piece of information about a potential raid would be vocal.

Seikram already had a minimal ability in reading, enough for the tasks I had mentioned. …But it was bad enough I had to rely on him for speaking- I’ll be damned if I was going to trust him with reading as well. And just because I didn’t need to read didn’t mean my reasons for learning had vanished- I still have a falucite family to make proud.

When the crew learned of my lessons though, they were more impressed over it, saying things like ‘the capt’n’s smart’ and ‘Good fer her! She don’t deserve ta be dumb like the rest o’ us’. It was actually sweet to hear such words of encouragement from those who were considered to be cutthroat monsters to other humans. Considering how cold and uncaring some humans could be, I considered myself lucky to be around those who really did care about me.

Though, come to think of it, Pappy had every control of who worked on his ship, so maybe he made sure to keep those who didn’t mind children. I can’t see him letting dangerous men near me… though Seikram and his betraying ass was something of a grey area.

Either way, they seemed to look up at me a lot even though I’m much younger than they were, and I wasn’t exactly book smart yet. Heh, being around them really did make me feel intelligent- and now I understood how Pappy must’ve felt around them. However, I couldn’t let it all go to my head when I knew people who could run circles around me in terms of smarts. I might’ve been making progress that was unheard of for a pirate, but I was still lacking compared to the rest of the world.

“Tia,” Cegil suddenly said as I was in the middle of my third copy of my practice sentence. I finished the word I was writing before I looked up at him from across my desk. “Has Satel been acting strangely around you lately?”

I tilted my head to consider his question. Satel hadn’t changed much personality wise, but he was staying around me more often that I thought he would. I just assumed that he was avoiding Didra so he wouldn’t have to do anymore of her missions.

I shook my head before I pulled a spare sheet of parchment toward me and wrote, wat do yu meen?

Almost instantly, Cegil began correcting me by crossing out what I had written and placed the correct spelling above it. I tried not to be irritated by it, but it was hard to keep the emotion from showing on my face. Ugh, out of the four words I only gotten one right?

“Remember the ‘wh’ symbol is for ‘w’ words that are usually intended for questions,” he told me in a professional tone.

‘Who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘why’- he had been trying to drive that into me lately. Hmph! As if I can tell the difference between the w and wh symbols… they looked the same to me.

“The reason I ask is because he does not seem to be as enthusiastic about his work anymore. On a normal day, he would take on at least five missions, but as of late he has only been accepting two. He even suggested bequeathing a few territories to Aared when he comes of age- I never thought I would see the day that he would give up something he valued, hence why I am concerned,” the tall man added, answering my question.

Satel hadn’t mentioned anything to me, though some part of me is relieved to hear it. I thought he had been running himself ragged with the workload he used to take on daily. …But hearing that he was willing to give up some territories didn’t sit well with me. He took great pride in the territories he owned and it didn’t take much for him to oversee them. There was no real reason for him to give that up of all things…

“I fear what I had said to him before might be behind his actions. I had no intention to drive him away from his family, but I was admittedly scared of how he could have reacted had my speculations been true and he discovered them from another source.”

He was talking about what he had told us just two night’s prior, about how Satel could’ve been born on purpose as an exchange gift for Maetira’s Oracle abilities. I understood what Cegil was worried about, but I don’t think that was it. Satel didn’t have anything bad to say about the clan, and he still seemed eager to go see the elders every morning.

Come to think of it, my mate has been having problems deciding what he truly wanted to do with his life, so maybe his change was more related to that. But no… he’d made a choice awfully fast if that were the case. True, he always had his own suspicions about his involvement with the sea, but he hadn’t started questioning his own dreams until the mess that led to me becoming captain. Not enough time had passed for him to make a reasonable decision.

I gave Cegil my response to reassure him that Satel was probably not distancing himself, but opening up his options for the future. I was then promptly corrected- he must get some enjoyment out of that…

“I…hope you are right. I know I had advised him to not fear change, but I did not think he would be the one to do so. I had only said it in regards to you choosing your path and to reassure him that he could still have a life with you,” he replied, filling in some information I had been wondering about for a while. I never knew the reason behind Cegil’s advice to his brother. So Satel didn’t think I would choose this role- no wonder he lost some self-esteem when he was proven wrong.

“But,” Cegil added, still not completely convinced that he didn’t have some fault, “Is it not odd that it is happening after I had said something? Or could it be that my story of the past merely helped him decide?”

These days I could barely tell what Satel was thinking. The problem with him was that he didn’t see it fit to just volunteer information- I had to ask for it first. He had a good reason for that, as he was over one hundred years old and experienced a lot in life, but I had no idea what to ask him at times. At the very least he doesn’t seem to try to keep secrets from me- he just gets away with not mentioning things because either its unimportant or he thinks I’ll never find out about it to inquire.

Ill talke too him later, I wrote down, trying hard to be mindful of what I was spelling. My efforts seemed to be in vain though, as I watched him scratch out yet more of my words.

“Please mind your apostrophes- and thank you. Of anyone, he would be open and honest to you. You need not divulge his plan to me, if he has any- I wish to know if he is simply worried about Maetira, or if he is overly bitter over what our parents might have done. If he is, then it is not healthy to let him draw his own conclusions in the matter. He needs to communicate with us before making final decisions,” Cegil said, sounding relieved that I would help.

I wasn’t sure if all of this concern was even necessary. Some part of me wondered if Cegil was still viewing his little brother as a small falcie, rather than a falcie fast approaching adulthood. Though at the same time, I got why he would want to talk it over with Satel. My mate can be hasty with his choices, and if he’s making one based on misunderstandings, then he could end up making a huge mistake.

And while I was trying not to let it bother me, Cegil’s idea of what could be changing Satel started to make me think of uncomfortable things. It was sad that he was even thinking about giving away some of his territories- they were his pride, and proof that he could work at an adult level. And if he was giving up his missions along with that, then it implied that he might be giving up on his dreams.

Could falucite get depressed? When I think about it, that news he received would be enough to turn anyone’s world upside down. He dismissed it awfully fast, and it didn’t occur to me until now that he might’ve been trying to shove it to the back of his mind. I’ve done similar acts and it never really worked out very well…

What if this sudden change in Satel’s behavior is the result of the pain he might be feeling?

If only Cegil could hear my thoughts now- he’d probably have a good laugh at how I quickly changed from ‘it can’t be that bad’ to ‘there might be something wrong with him’. I hope I was just overreacting- I didn’t want to think Satel was trying to cover up what he felt. When I repressed my feelings all it did was make me miserable.

But if that were the case, at least I understood what he was going through and could help him cope. I could also take comfort in the fact that we detected it early on before it could cause any permanent change to his behavior. So it’s probably not as bad as my thoughts and Cegil’s concern was trying to making it out to be.

It was at that moment that the subject of our conversation decided to appear. Satel teleported into my cabin near the bed, and he appeared rather …cheerful. He had a small, pleasant grin on his face and was humming lightly as he sauntered over to us with a moagho in his hand. Before I knew it, the moagho was placed in my hand and he was giving me a quick peck on the cheek.

I was about to fear the worst, that his behavior was because his inner pain had made him go off the deep end, but Cegil’s nose scrunched slightly and revealed the real reason he was so happy. He must’ve smelled like blood- he generally became this cheerful after taking part in some kind of chaos.

“Have you gone on an assassination mission?” the lavender-haired man inquired, confirming my thoughts.

“No, I prevented one, though I didn’t realize that I had gotten blood on me,” the blond admitted as he checked his arms. His magicked clothes had already eliminated the stains, but the smell must still be lingering. Still, his statement further explained his good cheer- he did like to play the hero on occasion, though he had more fun as the villain.

I decided that there was no real point in waiting, even though Cegil probably would’ve preferred that I speak with Satel in private. I wanted everything out and solved as soon as possible before we all ended up worrying over nothing. I spent the last month or so running in circles in my own head, I refuse to go through that it again!

I quickly wrote down a short message and handed the paper to Satel.

Are yu feling okeh? Cegil and I are woreed about yu.

             “Huh? I’m fine, why are you two worried about me?” the über hat man asked in pure confusion before Cegil reached over and took the paper from his hand to read.

I hid my grin as the tall man gave me an irritated look before he corrected my spelling once again. I could tell he was upset that I decided to ask Satel in front of him. When he was done, I made a hand gesture and gave him a cool look to prod him into explaining why we were so worried about Satel.

“I have just informed Tia about your suggestion to give up some of your territories and we were just discussing why you would do such a thing. I was under the impression that they were important to you,” Cegil began cautiously, not wanting to accuse Satel of anything.

“Well, I’m not giving them all up- I want to at least keep Osel and Ranosia, but I intend to take on new territories in the future, depending on what Elati might say about it,” my mate explained as his smirk returned to his face. If it weren’t for the fact that he was always smiling in some way, I’d be worried that he was hiding something… but it doesn’t sound like he’s acting radically different to me.

“Explain, please?” Cegil requested. I could tell that he was curious about what his brother had meant by needing Elati’s permission.

“If ‘Tia’s going to be spending most of her days on the sea, then I want to see about getting territories around here. Perhaps with ‘Tia’s permission, I can make this ship one of them. Considering the time difference, I would gather this would make it easier on me so I can go on missions and still be around for my sirsa.”

So he was just thinking about the future. It was surprising that he recognized the difficulty he might have in keeping most of his old territories, though it didn’t sound as if he had really learned his lesson yet. He was after more than just my ship- he could go overboard and ask for Elati’s permission to oversee more towns than he could manage.

“I see, so you still intend to remain with the clan…” Cegil muttered in relief as he crossed his arms and glanced down at the messy pile of papers on my desk.

“Why wouldn’t I stay with the clan?” Satel inquired as he gently scratched the side of his face with a gloved finger. He honestly had no clue how his brother worried about that night…

“I was concerned that the theory about our parents might have broken your spirit and convinced you distance yourself from us, but I see now that I was allowing my own guilt of the past to overcome me,” he said as he looked up at the blond.

Upon hearing that, the smile faded from Satel’s thin lips and he looked away for a brief moment. “Oh… that.”

Even though he acted like he didn’t care, just the mere mention of his parents seemed to set him on edge.

“You don’t need to worry about it- I’ve always understood that I never asked to be born, nor did I get to choose who my family is. Whatever Mother and Father might have done, it has nothing to do with the clan or my love for my family. …I won’t let their sacrifice be in vain, nor will I hold myself responsible for their actions anymore. I’ll…just be grateful to them that I’m alive and leave it at that,” Satel responded as he fidgeted with the brim of his hat.

Was that really how he felt about them? I’m almost envious- not that I ever had issues with loving my pappy. I was the type to hold grudges against those who had wronged me, but it seemed Satel didn’t have the same view as me. I can’t imagine how it must feel to simply forgive people he will never see again.

“That is very mature of you,” Cegil complimented with a nod before adding in a dry tone. “The more you speak of the kind, the more reason you give me to worry in the first place- you seem to be growing up much too fast.”

Now it was Satel’s turn to be irritated. “Now wait just a minute! Is it so hard for you to believe that I’m growing up? Or are you merely worried that you’re growing too old?”

“Nonsense. I am two hundred fifty- and I have been that way for one hundred twenty eight years now.” It took me a moment to figure out that that was a joke on his part, and after another minute, I understood what he was trying to say. If I add the years correctly, then it should be three hundred seventy eight- that sounded about right.

For a human, that was close to late thirties, early forties, so yeah, he kind of was getting on in years. Though now I wonder how old Garroe was, and Cujol too. If Makhis’ra was getting close to nine hundred, then Cujol must be not be that bad in terms of age.

“So is that how it works?” Satel muttered after a short laugh.

Well, at least that concern was settled- I should’ve known there was nothing to worry about. Satel was just being responsible for my sake and he’s not letting the possible past bother him. …Though I can’t help but think there’s something else that was wrong. He may have been fine, but I couldn’t read his mind to tell what exactly he was up to. Something was left unsaid, and I reminded myself to ask him what it was later.

For now, I was satisfied that he didn’t seem to be hurting on the inside. He seemed more resolved than anything else.

“Capt’n!” a muffled shout sounded behind my door before I heard someone try to open it. I could tell already that it was Seikram, and I had to wonder what the problem was now. Surely we couldn’t be at Eruda already?

“Capt’n come quick- ye should see this,” the tattooed pirate called out as he briefly appeared at the doorway. He didn’t stay long and closed the door behind him. What in five hells was that about?

“Sounds important,” Cegil commented as we both stood up.

When we headed outside, I found my crew staring up at the sky with a look of wonder on their faces. I soon glanced up and promptly winced when my eyes found the sun. There was a circular shadow slowly pushing into the light, threatening to cover it. The knowledge that was implanted in my brain kicked in that instant to tell me what it was and what it meant for me.

But Cegil was the first to identify it, speaking in only a whisper. “A solar eclipse.”

Once every few years Elit would cover the eyes of Harishul, and those who were servants of the sea would have stronger powers for a half-year. Conversely during a lunar eclipse, where Kajros covers Elit’s eyes, the sea servants would be weaker for the same amount.

But there was something else the knowledge was warning me about- something that only meatheads like my crew would ignore. I poked Seikram’s shoulder to get his attention and mouthed, ‘Don’t let them stare at the sun, it’ll ruin their eyes!’

“Hey! The capt’n says don’t stare at it! Just take quick glances if yer so curious,” my quartermaster said, proving that he wasn’t staring directly at Harishul like the others were.

The others soon did as they were told and rubbed at their eyes as they recovered from the exposure. I hope they hadn’t been staring long… one would think it was common sense not to do that.

The process was slow, but eventually it became darker, like a cloudy day. Once the moon was completely covering the sun, everyone began staring at me as if they knew what was going to happen. Though I suppose this had happened before with Pappy, I didn’t remember seeing it myself.

Those tied to Elit in some way glowed in the shadow of the eclipse, and since I was connected to the goddess as a temporary Lord of the Sea, I should be reacting. It wasn’t long before I could see a soft blue light surround me and soon realized that it was the glow. It escaped my skin, almost as if it was coming from my very soul, and it felt cool like a fine mist.

So my powers were stronger for a half-year, but… did I have any? Cegil had learned from Loerati’s priestess that by all rights I should have the powers my pappy once had, but I hadn’t noticed anything. Though I hadn’t really tried either- I didn’t know what to do or how to wield magicks. It also wasn’t something Cegil or Satel could teach me because it was a little hard for them to describe.

Apparently I was such a special case that even my knowledge didn’t know the answer to that. Or rather, nothing was coming up to my mind to say otherwise. What a useless ‘gift’ from the goddess! The ‘knowledge’ should just be called a random collection of fun facts…

When I turned to see Cegil and Satel’s reactions, I was stunned to find that Satel was also glowing. He appeared just as shocked as I as he lifted his arm to examine it. Instantly my mind went to the story of him being born just for Maetira’s sight. If Elati had some claim on him, then this shouldn’t have been surprising… but didn’t he end up refusing the goddess? Or did she not let go of him even after she sentenced him to death?

“I guess I’m still counted among their number because I chose to protect ‘Tia,” he stated to Cegil, reminding me of Elati’s last words to him. That’s right- according to him and Cegil she did say that he could keep his powers as long as he defended me. …But that still implies that she had control over his powers from the beginning.

We fell into a moment of stunned silence as the glow grew brighter, and the rest of the sea began to cast its own light. I wasn’t sure if the water itself was reacting or if it was because sea creatures were being affected. I suppose anyone who lived in the sea would be a ‘servant’…

And with that thought, I glanced over to Seikram and the crew. They were glowing too, but faintly- as Erudians, they did have a similar connection, but no real powers. I guess the exposure of the solar eclipse probably boosted their health or something.

Eventually Elit began to move and more of Harishul’s fire bathed the world once again. Once I felt the rays on my skin the blue light was gone, but I felt a lingering tingle of energy in my limbs. I guess that was it- the display was pretty, but I didn’t feel all-powerful.

Considering the size of the world, it was impossible for everyone to see a full eclipse, so not everyone received the boost. I would roughly guess that everyone in the Sea of Elati was able to see it and that it was possible full eclipses happened more often than what others were indicating- it was just that it happened in other places in the world.

This wasn’t a global shift in power or anything- fire elementals and creatures associated with Harishul always had more power during the day while Elit’s creatures had the night. As for Kajros and his servants, they didn’t have fluctuations in power- they remained steady and strong.

Only water had the ability to grow weaker or stronger from Elit’s influence, while fire was considered the strongest and most uncontrollable element of the three. And earth, just stayed the way it is- no weaknesses or strengths.

Half of that I learned from Cegil, while the rest was filled in by the knowledge. I found that if I thought about it too much, more knowledge would come to me and practically drown me with useless information. It seemed ‘thinking’ was going to be my enemy if I wasn’t careful about it… Well, at least it proves I really am a true pirate- thinking was for four-eyed ninnies anyway.

“Try it out capt’n,” Seikram suddenly requested when it was over. “Yer pappy use ta split the sea ta test it out the last time.”

Hmm… I wonder when the ‘last time’ was? And… how exactly was I going to test ‘it’ out? I assumed he meant my powers over the sea, but I still wasn’t sure I had any at all.

“Try pointing out to sea and imagine the waters splitting,” Satel suggested helpfully, probably describing a technique he once used to help him learn. “Pretend you’re ordering the water to move in your mind and see if it works.”

Or I can try it, look like a fool, and then everyone has a good laugh at my expense. Oh well, it was better to try and find out than to never know and always wonder.

I took a deep breath before I walked over to the side railing of the ship and glanced out to the open waters. I visualized what I wanted done in my head and mentally made the order, just as Satel said, but instead of pointing, I made a hand gesture as if I was sending an army out to attack. …I barely noticed the mermaids were scrambling to get out of the way as they sensed what was coming.

No sooner than after I had made the gesture, there was a loud roar of water and the ship suddenly lurched to the side. I was thrown back by the force of the magicks that had escaped me and landed roughly against Satel. His arm automatically wrapped around me, but I soon found that his other hand was held out like mine. For a while, all I could do was watch, dumbfounded, as a straight, narrow line all the way down to the seabed extended out towards the horizon before the sea slowly filled it back in.

“Satel, your prank was unnecessary,” Cegil muttered in disapproval.

I soon figured out that my mate was trying to play a trick on me by using his magicks behind my back to try to convince me that I was the one casting it. But as I glanced up at him, I found that he was wearing the same bewildered expression as I was.

“…That wasn’t me- or rather that wasn’t all me,” he declared as he stared down at me. “‘Tia you… you did that too.”

I numbly glanced back out to the horizon, the evidence of the parted ocean was long gone. So we were both responsible for that ‘blast’ of power- I suppose that made sense considering we were both amplified by that eclipse, but…

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I was able to use an ability that was impossible for humans to possess. The Maker made us powerless for a reason- the more that a human had over others, the more corrupted they become, and I didn’t want to go crazy with power. …But maybe it won’t happen as long as I have falucite near me.

Cegil and Satel will always have more magick strength over me and perhaps they can keep me in check. Though there might be a chance that it won’t happen- after all, Pappy didn’t seem like some tyrannical jerk in my memories. Perhaps the idea that the goddess could take away his powers was enough to keep him fair- or maybe he was simply immune to the sway of power.

“That’s a… a combined force ta be reckoned wit’. Yer pappy was nowhere near that powerful on his own,” Seikram told us with a tone that was a little defeated. I had no idea why he sounded so sad over the idea. Was he upset that we trumped my father’s power together?

I noticed that he was glancing down at where Satel was supporting me up with his arm. I decided that he was fretting over the fact that I was being open with my relationship. I eventually steadied myself so I could move away from my mate. I wasn’t embarrassed or anything, but I should stand on my own feet when around my crew. Besides, I didn’t intend to land in his arms- that was an accident.

“Well, at least that answers some questions,” Cegil said after another pause, “But now that we know, what will you do about it?”

“Protect the ship and her crew as they were intended fer,” Seikram replied for me after I had mouthed it out to him. Actually, I think the powers were intended to help protect the Lord of the Sea should there ever be a battle present to threaten his life, but I just assumed Pappy had been using them for the ship.

“Aye, well said capt’n!” Blood Knot shouted happily before he led everyone in a cheer. “Wit’ her power we’ll be the scourge o’ the seas once ‘gain!”

Oh please, were we really scourges with magicks? I think the raiding of costal regions was more than enough to convince others that we weren’t to be trusted lightly. Though I suppose having this advantage was what helped The Cruel Whore become famous among pirates in the first place. No one could contest or take over as leader without having to defeat her captain and crew, and I was practically undefeatable against all humans now.

Thank Elit no demons cared about being pirates…

It felt strange for me to have magicks at my command… but it is what it is. I had to accept it as part of the job and hope that I would someday get used to it and be able to use it for the good of the crew. Though despite my concerns, some part of me was actually glad to have them. I felt like I could really stand as Satel’s equal and understand him a little better.

“What’s with that smile?” the platinum blond man inquired when he looked down at me. “It suits you, of course, but I didn’t think you would be so happy over this.”

I couldn’t pin point my happiness because there was actually a lot of things happening that was making me happy. It wasn’t just my new abilities, but the fact that I could really help Cegil and Satel out now- and I could really protect those dear to me. I didn’t really think that bothered me before, but some part of me was always frustrated that I couldn’t pull my weight when it came to fights with other creatures.

My limits were gone… though I couldn’t let that go to my head. I probably couldn’t take on falucite or dragons, but at least I could add greater demons in my mental list of asses I can kick.

But, of course, I couldn’t remain in that happy state. With every new resolution to an old problem came a new issue that I had to address. Seikram had one more to unload on me, and some part of me wished that he kept it to himself.

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

Once the initial excitement over the eclipse and my powers was done, we resumed our lives as usual. It wasn’t often a human got to see a full eclipse, lunar or solar, so it was pretty big for us. Demons were more likely to see more of them because of their long lives, which mean I might get to see more thanks to my extended lifetime. Still, how lucky we were to have seen one now- I would almost think it was planned were it not for the fact that Elati had no control over her father’s movements.

It was surprisingly easy to shove my new powers to the back of my mind, since I didn’t feel any different than before. So long as I didn’t need to use them, there was no reason for me to fret over it. …Though wouldn’t I need to practice eventually?

I had no clue how much I could use or what exactly I could do. Theoretically, I could do everything Pappy could, and according to the knowledge, I would only be able to use them on the Sea of Elati and Anatil- I might be able to use them on Loerati’s waters depending on her alliance to this feud they apparently had amongst each other.

Regardless, magicks didn’t matter at the current moment. I didn’t need them and there was nothing bothering us to make me need them.

Cegil had long since left, deciding that I had done enough with my lessons for one day. Satel stayed around for a few hours longer, watching me man the helm, until he decided to go back to the homestead to attend dinner and check in on his territories. He wanted to take me with him since I hadn’t seen the clan or Lioa in an awful long time, but I promised myself that I would stay here at least another week.

Seikram has healed nicely and didn’t need the sling anymore, but his arm wasn’t completely better yet. I couldn’t have him watch the ship just yet until he was less…fragile. I suppose I didn’t really need to avoid having dinner with the clan since that was only about an hour I’d be spending away from the ship, but anything could happen within that time, and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving them alone without someone who knows what they’re doing.

Hell, I could barely say I knew what I was doing, but I was the one who had to be responsible.

I snapped my compass shut when I was satisfied that nothing was going to happen. We were about a day away from Eruda, and it was reaching sunset. The crew should be gathering in the dining hall for dinner soon- and Satel should be back any minute now. There was nothing much left to do for the day, so I might as well have the first of the night shift take over and join the men for dinner.

I didn’t even make it to the hatch when someone called out to me. I glanced up to find Seikram approaching me while holding up his hand in a gesture to get my attention.

“May ah have a word wit’ ye, capt’n?” he requested, sounding unusually formal. Come to think of it, he’d been acting strange ever since I demonstrated my magick… No, I suppose it’s been going on longer than that, really.

He seemed serious, and I figured it was best to hear him out and hope it’ll get him out of his little ‘mood’. I didn’t need a man with mental baggage slowing him down- he’d end up being useless to me as the quartermaster.

‘Wot do ye want?’ I asked him. He gestured for me to follow him up to the forecastle deck, so I did so and we were soon standing by the bowsprit.

The tattooed man glanced around as if looking for someone before he asked in a bitter tone, “When’s that monster comin’ back?”

I gave him a glare as I rested my hand on my hip to show that I wasn’t pleased with his question. ‘Soon.’

“…Sorry, ah jus’ don’t like him,” he admitted, thinking I was mad at him for his tone.

‘That ain’t why ah’m mad,’ I mouthed as I shook my head, ‘Ah’m tired o’ hearin’ the word ‘monster’. Ah’d been called that fer a long time, an’ it doesn’t feel good.’

Though I used the term very lightly in my thoughts, I couldn’t help but react when someone else used it in a harmful way. But, as for what Seikram felt about Satel, I couldn’t fault him for that. He seemed to hate Satel from the moment he came on board- and it’s not as if my mate was trying to be nice to him.

“Oh, then ah’m sorry ‘bout that. Ah’ll call ‘em somethin’ else,” he amended before revealing the reason why he called me up here. He turned to face the bowsprit and held his hands behind him. “‘Member when ah said ah’d tell ye the real reason ah killed yer pappy? Now that yer capt’n, ah should keep me promise.”

I shook my head again until his eyes were on me again. ‘Ye don’t have ta tell. Ah think ah got the gist o’ it back when we fought.’

There was no point in dredging it all up again. I made my peace with my father’s murderer and all I could do now was move forward. There was nothing Seikram could say at this point that would change my opinion of him. He made his bed and he’s atoning for it.

“What ah said then was only half o’ it. Ah need ta tell ye the rest and e’rythin’ that led up ta the mutiny. Ah probably won’t change yer mind ‘bout bein’ wit’ that… bilge rat, but ye have the right ta know.”

I perked an eyebrow as I wondered what in five hells Satel had to do with the past. Seikram then began his story, his eyes focusing everywhere but on me.

“Ah was young an’ stupid back then- probably still that way now, but ah like ta think me experiences taught me somethin’. Ah know o’ our age differences, but even when ye were a wee lass, ah admired ye. That spitfire attitude o’ yers always drawn me ta ye, an’ ah figured ye would always be ‘round as a pirate. Maybe ah was just settlin’ on ye ‘cause ye were the only lass in me life, but…ah thought we could’ve ended up together an’ remain pirates fer the rest o’ our lives.” He stopped to give me a side-glance and see how I would react to that.

I felt my face heat up and my heart pound a little. Was he implying that he was once in love with me? No, that couldn’t be! I was only ten years old- surely he wasn’t into children

He must’ve known where my thoughts were leading because he shook his head and sought to amend his statement.

“Ah wasn’t attracted ta ye like ah am now. Yer father once said that it was better ta marry fer companionship an’ not fer love. That’s why ah wanted ta wait fer ye till ye were o’ a more proper age. It also helped that ye were pretty an’ only bound ta grow into a beauty when older,” he added, sounding more certain of his recollection of his old feelings.

What he said didn’t help me feel any better. He just admitted that he felt something for me even now, and that didn’t sit well with me. Ever since I was young, I viewed everyone on the ship as my older brother- now that I was older and sexually mature I still couldn’t feel any romantic or sexual attraction to any of them. It disturbed me that Seikram viewed me differently. Even ignoring his crime, I felt it would be wrong to be with him in that way. Who’d want to marry their own brother?

I crossed my arms and glared at the floor. Now I understood the friction between him and Satel- my mate must’ve known about Seikram’s feelings. I was either too dense to pick up on it, or Satel was very perceptive about things like this. I couldn’t condemn a man about his feelings, but it was going to be awkward being around him now that I knew.

When Seikram was satisfied that it sunk in, he continued his tale. I was already feeling uncomfortable and wanted to walk away, but I had to let him say his mind. The man had been waiting for me for fifteen years and he at least deserved an answer from me.

“When ah realized that ah wanted ye fer a wife someday, ah talked ta yer pappy ‘bout it so that ah could get his blessin’s when ye were old enough ta date. An’ ye know wot he said ta me?” He then laughed a little before his grey eyes locked on mine. “He told me ‘o’er me dead body’. Said that he wouldn’t let ye go ta anyone unless they defeated him in battle.”

…Yeah, that was Pappy all right. He used to say that I was his most precious treasure and that he would deal with any suitors I might have. …I honestly never thought Seikram would be one of them. I wonder if Pappy ever saw that coming?

“Ah decided then that ah was goin’ ta prove meself ta him. Ah thought ah had wot it takes ta protect ye an’ that he was jus’ testin’ me. Ah had full intentions o’ preparing fer the day ta win yer hand… but then ah learned o’ yer readin’. I suppose he knew all along wot ta do ‘bout it, but he ne’er reassured me o’ anythin’ when ah confronted him ‘bout it. Ah honestly thought he was goin’ ta kill ye so that ah’d ne’er have a chance wit’ ye.”

So that’s where his idea that he was saving my life came from. Pappy did like to make people sweat sometimes, so it would make sense that he knew what he was doing and not tell Seikram. Who knew that would lead to his downfall?

“That’s what drove me ta cause the mutiny- ah had e’erythin’ set up so that I could take him down on even terms. Ah spiked his drinkin’ water wit’ rum so he wouldn’t be sober an’ made sure that ye were away from him-”

It was then when I punched him in the face. I was upset enough to discover that Pappy was killed because of some man who thought he loved me (in some strange ‘companionship’ way I guess), but he also cheated at it? It made sense as to how someone so strong and powerful was brought down by his crew, but… damn it! How dishonorable can one get!?

Seikram cradled his jaw and let out a weak, defeated laugh. “Aye, ah saw that comin’. Ah deserved that.”

I continued to glare at him as I forced myself to calm down. I thought I was over my desire to hurt him since our duel, but it seemed I had some lingering resentment left over. It just wasn’t easy to forgive or love a man who had taken everything away from me, but I can’t keep punishing him like this. Seeing him take my blows and accept my abuse made me realize that he’d done a good enough job of punishing himself. He tried to hide it behind a sense of humor, but the regret he felt for everything was clearly there.

“Ye know how as a brat, ye can think ye’ll live forever? That’s kind o’ wot ah felt back then. Ah was happy at first that ah took down yer ol’ man, because ah thought ah accomplished me dreams an’ that ye’d learn ta love me eventually. But… e’erythin’ fell apart, an’ ah quickly realized me error in killin’ the one man ah trusted more than anyone.

“Ah was alone- me best friend was gone forever, ye were lost, an’ the quartermaster eventually left because he didn’t see the point in stayin’ wit’out ye and yer pappy ‘round. All ah had left was The Cruel Whore an’ her crew.

“It’s almost funny- ah killed others in raids an’ when defendin’ the ship- didn’t care ‘bout any o’ them. Wasn’t till ah lost Rutan when ah learned the value o’ a life- an’ it wasn’t til ah saw yer pain when I realized that ah had truly lost e’erything.”

He took a deep breath and straightened his posture so he could finish with a sincere apology. “Ah get it now, an’ ah’m sorry. Ah know apologizin’ won’t bring yer pappy back, an’ ah’ll probably ne’er win yer heart now, but know that ah ne’er wanted ta harm ye as ah have. If ah could go back in time, ah’d have done e’erythin’ different.”

Damn it… how was I supposed to respond to that? I still felt anger and sadness, but some part of me felt sorry for him. I actually understood what he was saying- he didn’t understand his actions would lead to tragedy and he was basically not thinking. I’d done a lot of that too, though I never killed someone’s loved one. I’ve hurt others- I’ve cheated and stolen, I’ve said terrible things to people I didn’t even know, I did things that made Cegil unhappy.

It was because I was – still am – young and stupid. But this didn’t excuse our actions- Seikram acknowledging this was what helped him learn and move on. In a startling sense of clarity, I realized that I could see myself in him. We were both stubborn, spoiled, privileged Erudians who took everything for granted.

I couldn’t do this anymore… I just couldn’t. I wished this were something left unsaid so I wouldn’t feel as conflicted and hurt, but I see why he had to bring this up. There was no way I could ever return his feelings, but I felt it was wrong of me to hurt him after he suffered fifteen years in regret and loneliness.

In fact, was the aftermath of Pappy’s death any different for him than it was for me? Sure, he had the crew, but he was a leader and had no one to confide in. That was almost the same as being alienated in a town that feared me for who I was.

All I could do was slowly shake my head before I took in a deep breath and finally mouthed my answer. ‘Ah forgive ye fer wot ye done, but find someone else- ah can’t be the only lass out there who’s spirited.’

I don’t think he knew if he genuinely loved me like how Satel did, but it was obvious that he wanted companionship. That’s what he was aiming for when he… did what he did. It was time for the both of us to move on- I was willing to forgive him now, and I wanted him to stop torturing himself. He paid for his transgressions and no amount of loathing will correct the past.

…I’m sure Pappy would’ve said the same.

Seikram bowed his head and ran his fingers through his short brown hair. He was disappointed over my answer, but he was apparently expecting my rejection. There was still some relief showing in his eyes that I was letting the past go.

“Thanks, but… ah’d rather die a pirate than ta leave ship an’ dote on some wench,” he replied with a sad grin.

‘Then don’t leave- if ye find a lass who can pull her own weight ‘round here, then ah’ll let her join. If ye really learned yer lesson, then ye can still have yer dream- it’s jus’ that ah won’t be the one by yer side.’

“Ah… Thanks, capt’n- yer too good ta a suckerpuss like me,” the bearded man said in a grateful tone. We both smiled at each other as we shared the first companionable silence we ever had together. But I wouldn’t be Capt’n Tia if I suddenly went soft. I made sure to punch him again, this time in his good arm.

“Wot in five hells was that fer!?” he snarled as he rubbed the sore spot. He was really caught off guard since we were reconciling our differences just seconds ago.

I gave him the most demonic grin I could muster. ‘That was fer bein’ a sissy. Yer a man ain’t ye? Act like one!’

He stared at me with a shocked look on his face before a slow chuckle came to him. It wasn’t long before it was a full-blown laugh that had him slapping his knee and getting red in the face. For a moment, I thought the rejection might’ve made him go crazy, but then I figured that I awoke a happy memory in him.

“Elit above, yer every bit yer pappy’s brat!”

I was glad to have made him laugh- as disconcerting at the situation was, I wanted this to end in a good way. I was going to have to tread lightly around him now that I knew how he felt, but I made myself clear- I was his captain and nothing more. …But at least we can let Pappy rest in peace and start over.

I turned and began to walk away, but he stopped me one more time with a serious tone. “Ah hope that bastard makes ye happy. May Elati have mercy on his ass if he doesn’t.”

I paused to give him a grin and reassured him that Satel truly did. Something told me that despite the understanding we came to, the two will probably still pick on each other in a stupid contest of supremacy. My mate is sure to have fun with that.

As I headed down to the main deck, I found Satel waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. He likely overheard everything, but he didn’t seem worried that I might’ve changed my mind about Seikram. But to prevent the thought from entering his mind, I jumped down the rest of the way, launching myself into his arms before I gave him a kiss that he quickly responded to.

I was strangely happy after all was said and done. After a while I discovered that was because all my hatred was gone, and I finally healed from my old wounds. I was whole again.

To the Next Chapter

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