23. A Day to Say Good-Bye

Chapter 23

A Day to Say Good-Bye

            I was awakened from my slumber by a sudden urge to get up. My eyes flew open automatically, and had there not been a weight on me, I’d have sat up immediately. Satel had draped himself over me as usual and seemed to still be in a deep sleep. There was a dim light coming into the windows of my cabin, proving that either the sun hadn’t come up yet, or that there were thick clouds outside.

But regardless of the time, there was still something telling me to get up and get dressed. I initially thought I just needed to relieve my bladder and tried to ignore it for now, but the feelings grew until I was wide-awake with urgency. Seconds later, I discovered that I didn’t have that ‘got to go’ feeling- something in me was warning that it was time.

I was approaching the end of my trail.

I frantically pushed against Satel so I could escape from under him. It was hard to move an unresponsive body- and it was even worse trying to get him to let go of me. My mate finally started to stir when I was trying to replace myself with a pillow and looked up at me with bleary eyes.

“What’s the matter…‘Tia-dear?” he mumbled in a tired tone.

I couldn’t think of a gesture to answer his questions, so I unfortunately had to ignore him. Now that he was half-awake, I was able to roll out from under him and slip out of the covers. The chilly winter air hit my naked body and I quickly rubbed my arms and swayed on my feet to generate some warmth. Since we were on the sea, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been on land, but it was still uncomfortable.

The daytime was bearable so long as Harishul was out and I had enough layers and a fire charm on, but at night, I needed the heavy covers and Satel’s body to keep me warm. I went about the room to gather my clothes that were strewn about the floor. Satel had changed his magicks so that any clothing in the cabin wouldn’t return to the homestead, but he never bothered to have them fold and rearrange themselves for us.

I didn’t even have a dresser in my cabin, so we ended up being young slobs by leaving our clothing wherever we had thrown it the night before. I thought Satel would’ve rectified the situation by now, but he was more than happy to see our clothes mingled together in disarray. It was just a reminder of what we’d done… as if waking in the nude wasn’t enough for him. Though, if I really wanted to clean up, I could’ve done it myself- I probably felt the same way about this as my mate.

But as I found my brown trousers under his frock coat, that ‘urging’ (as I’m calling it) somehow put in my mind that my usual attire was going to be inappropriate. I needed something nicer and more formal. I had plenty of dresses to choose from to look nice, but I had to represent myself as a pirate captain.

I pulled out Pappy’s trunk from under the bed and glanced through what he had. He had fine raiments tucked away- things he had stolen from nobles in the past, but I was sure they were much too big for me. But they were all I had in ‘captain finery’ so I had to make do.

Thankfully I already had a pair of black trousers that Satel brought back from the homestead, so I didn’t have to worry about covering my legs. After some digging around, I found Pappy’s old jabot shirt that was in a style similar to the one I owned, but it had lace and frills at the end of the sleeves as well as at the neck. They easily extended past the length of my arms, and the hem reached mid-thigh. There was a lot to tuck in, and I had to fold in the middle portion of the sleeve so that the frills came to my wrists.

To help keep the shirt from sagging on my frame, I picked up a gold brocade vest with a satin back. It had a tie that allowed me to shrink the size at the chest and waist. The neck was a low V-shaped cut that allowed the jabot to hang out, and the armholes were so big that the lowest part rested just at the underside of my breasts.

The final piece to my ‘formal attire’ was a black velvet trimmed tailcoat with six decorative silver buttons at the front and two at the waist seam in the back. With it on, no one should be able to tell that I was wearing oversized clothing, and the excess material in the sleeves of my shirt were neatly tucked in so I wouldn’t have to worry about them slipping past my wrists again.

“Aren’t you adorable?” Satel cooed as he watched me smooth down the fabrics. “Like a falcie playing dress-up with her parent’s clothing.”

I stuck my tongue out at him and earned a playful laugh from. Yes, this was my father’s clothing, but I wasn’t a child and I wasn’t playing dress-up. I wished I had a mirror to see if the outfit looked right on me… Satel might think I looked cute, but that could’ve been his way of saying that I looked ridiculous- either one wasn’t good for my image as captain.

When I was done, I strode over to my desk and unhooked the chair from its restraint. I then gathered up all of my writing supplies and paper so I could write a request to my mate. Every night before going to bed (and even before just leaving my cabin for the day), I had to place everything neatly in their drawers and secure my chair with hooks and ropes so that everything wouldn’t tumble out everywhere. There was always a chance for a storm to pop up or that we might encounter a strong wave or two, so it was better to be safe than have a giant hole in my windows.

Satel turned over in the bed to watch me with his head propped on his hand and arm. He didn’t see the need or reason to rush out of bed like I had done and simply relaxed until he was more awake. The blankets had pooled down to his waist, leaving his chest and arms exposed, to my inner delight.

As I wrote, I made a conscious effort to improve my spelling, though I probably couldn’t do much about it yet. There was only so much I could remember from all of the basic rules. At least I’m getting the hang of ‘you’ since I write it most often. One of these days, I needed to sit down and re-read every letter I had written and all of the corrections Cegil had made.

Seeing as Satel wasn’t going to get up, I walked back to the bed with my paper and pen before I held the note before his face.

Can you tak the dae off? I ned you heer.

            Well, maybe not ‘need’, but I felt that it was important that he stayed today. We could very well be approaching Eruda within the hour, and we were soon going to find out exactly where I’m being lead. And if nothing else, then I wanted him here for at least Pappy’s funeral. I was still determined to lay him to rest in the sea around the island, so it was very likely going to happen today.

I couldn’t really describe it, but something in me was telling me when it was going to be the right time. I knew that I had to wait just a little longer, even though Eruda could be in our sights any second now. Really, where we were now could be just a good a place as any to hold the funeral, but my inner ‘urging’ was saying ‘no’.

“Sure, I can hold off missions for today- I just need to see the elders and tell them,” he replied before he laid back and stretched. Sweet man- he didn’t even ask why. It didn’t really matter to him my reasoning- he was willing to do anything for me if I would just ask him.

But he wasn’t getting out of bed fast enough for my liking. That urgent feeling was hitting me again, telling me to go outside and man the helm. I wasn’t too thrilled to head outside before the sun was fully up and warming the day, but something told me that I wouldn’t be able to ignore that little whatever-it-was. The best way to describe the sensation was like a tiny, annoying voice screeching near my ear, but I wasn’t hearing anything.

I put away my writing utensils and secured the desk before I reached for my weapons and weapon holsters. I wrapped my gun holster around my waist under the tailcoat so that my vest and shirt would be more secure, and so the gun would be better hidden under the coat. I then secured my sword to hang almost behind me outside of the coat.

Once I had my small knife tucked into my boot, I grabbed my silver compass and was about to leave. But before I could go out the door, I backtracked to the bed, reached out to my mate to pull him closer, and then gave him a long kiss. I wasn’t sure if I was just mimicking what he’d do to me before he went off on his missions, or if I was just thanking him in my own way for being supportive.

“I’ll get us something to eat as soon as I come back,” he promised after we parted. I nodded once to convey that I understood before I backed away and finally headed out to answer that annoying urge. I grabbed my tri-cornered hat on the way out.

With the way Satel was so relaxed, it certainly didn’t feel like anything was going to happen, but he wasn’t the one who was having a moment of lunacy. I scowled as the cold winds hit me and wished I could just go back to bed.

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

Within the hour, someone spotted land and it was later confirmed through the spyglass that it was Eruda. The winds were rather weak today, so we still had some time before we were close enough to do anything about it. Eruda had no beaches or mooring places- not for The Cruel Whore anyway.

Any pirate ship that claims Erudian origin were welcomed so long as they had extra treasure to spare for the king. But, the knowledge warned me that as an extremely distant blood relative of the royal family, The Cruel Whore and I weren’t welcomed. I think it had something to do with the first captain of the ship- I’m not sure what happened, but apparently there was some bad blood between him and his brother that resulted in his leaving the throne and the kingdom.

Though I failed to see how I was any threat to the king- as far removed as I was, I doubt I had any blue blood left in me. I’d probably be, like what- one-hundredth in line for the throne? That was just as good as being a commoner. Whatever the problem was, it  explained why I had never set foot on my so-called ancestral land.

The island was nothing but cliff sides with tall mountains in the southern parts. The only way to get in was through caves, and there wasn’t a secret one to be found- every one of them was under the control of the Erudian Guard. However, the royal family had nothing against my crew, and if any of them wanted to visit family or see their home, they were allowed to approach the island on the rowboats. I would have to drop anchor and wait for them outside of the invisible boundary they set up for me.

But if I was expected to actually reach Eruda, then what was I going to do? They were going to see the ship long before we’re in range and mobilize a blockade to keep me out. I remembered once in my youth that Pappy and I had sat before a blockade while most of the crew had left for a few hours. I also remembered that there were no hostilities so long as the ship adhered to the boundaries. At least, I think Pappy was holding a friendly conversation with the captains of the blockade ships. They didn’t sound angry or shouting at each other, but I might’ve been too young to pick up sarcasm or insults.

With that in mind, I knew we couldn’t fight our way through. Seikram mentioned that they weren’t going to attack us, but at the same time, we couldn’t harm them. The only thing that was actually enforcing that belief was a surprising dose of morality- not even Erudian pirates could bring themselves to strike their brothers. I wasn’t sure if that was something ingrained to the mind and body by divine powers or a very rigid upbringing.

Though if any of that was true, then how did I muster up the resolve to thrash up Seikram? Maybe it was a general thing, rather than something that applied to personal issues against certain individuals- no massive warring against one another, I guess. I just couldn’t imagine some Erudians not holding some kind of minor grudge against another. They were, after all, humans like the rest of us.

The mermaids soon shouted their good-byes to me and the ship, informing me that they refused to go any closer to the island. I knew they would rush to my aid if there were a dire emergency, but as far as they knew and were concerned, I shouldn’t be in danger this close to a human settlement. Any ‘danger’ at this point would be from fellow humans, and I should be able to handle that on my own. I had Seikram shout back a word of thanks for their help so far and a promise that we’d be back in open waters eventually.

Ever since Satel had laid down the ‘law’ with them and announced our relationship, the girls stopped flirting instantly and just became my bodyguards. They loved to play around with men that were classified as ‘inedible’, but they respected committed relationships and apologized for their earlier behavior. But they did blame me for not telling them sooner before they did so- I accepted that, because it was true. Never mind the fact that I was truly caught off guard and had no voice. Though, after all was said and done, they still believed I was Rutan, despite having Seikram, Satel, and the entire crew tell them I was not. Why in five hells did they not believe me?

Satel arrived, as he promised, with a moagho and a Rynrir Spear to share with me. Even though I hadn’t asked or expected him to, I noticed that he had went home to get dressed and had put on a silk silver-white dress shirt and a nice dark green double breasted vest. He must’ve picked up or guessed that I had a reason for dressing as I had and wanted to follow suit.

Cegil had also joined us, having come for my lessons, but he decided that my new urgings were more important and chose to forego them for today. He decided to stay and see where we would end up and offer his help should it be needed. I was glad for that- I didn’t anticipate any trouble (save for the blockade), but I did need him for the emotional support should the funeral really take place today.

Even now I wasn’t completely sure about it, considering the obstacles in the way. The funeral was coming, but it could take place in a few hours or late in the night. It was actually driving me insane in trying to figure out how I knew this. This didn’t seem to be the work of  the knowledge, as it had an entirely different ‘feel’ to it. Could this be something else that Elati left in my head, like those visions I had seen during the rituals?

I was really serious about it though- I even had Seikram order the others to clean up the best they could. I had a vision in my mind as to how I wanted Pappy to be presented to the ship before I let him go- in it, I saw clean and well-dressed pirates, but I knew that wasn’t likely to happen. Not everyone had a fancy set of clothes, so clean was what I wanted to strive for. …I just wanted my final goodbye to my father as perfect as humanly possible.

I was at the wheel, standing beside it as usual with one hand on a spoke and the other holding the compass. Everyone on the quarterdeck seemed to have taken a triangle formation around me with Cegil standing behind me, Satel to my right, and Seikram to my left, on the other side of the wheel.

“Ah see the blockade ships mobilizin’. They’re settin’ up the boundary now,” Seikram announced as he continued to watch the actions of the Erudians through his spyglass.

Cegil and Satel had already been briefed by the quartermaster of the situation and they had no idea of how to help me get the ship any closer to Eruda. I knew Satel had some way of teleporting over there, but I couldn’t straight out ask him without revealing his secret. Plus, I think I needed the ship to get there, too, and he had no way of moving an entire sea vessel with his magicks.

Eruda was a sanctuary for humans and it was intended for only humans to live there. …But surely they had some livestock to live off of, so there was probably an exception to the rule. It was likely ‘humans only unless a human brings something with them’. I could only guess that was the case, since Seikram hadn’t said a word about the idea of two falucite setting foot on ‘sacred land’- he didn’t even make a face.

I wasn’t sure how Satel had managed to get there before, but apparently it was easy for him. Since he appeared more human than his siblings, I could see how he got away with it, though I had no idea what punishments came to those who were not human. Besides, if it were possible for me, he could’ve mentioned his method in a plan to sneak me into Eruda. I’d like to assume that his silence meant that he personally didn’t think it would work.

“So what is your plan, Tia? Do you wish for Satel and I to move them aside for you?” Cegil offered, thinking that had to be the only harmless option available.

Satel had excellent mastery over controlling the water, while Cegil knew how to use the wind. Together, they could split the blockade and allow us to go through but… getting past them wasn’t the issue. Once we were through, where could we go? Mooring anywhere was just asking for trouble, and they could easily chase after us.

I shook my head and presented the issue, to which Seikram translated for me. My eyes darted over to Satel for a moment, hoping that at any moment he would be willing to reveal an undiscovered cave or anything that would be helpful. I wished I had asked a long time ago about how he snuck into Eruda… Apparently no other demons, falucite, or dragons managed to set foot there, so there must be some clever way to get in.

Or did he happen to succeed just because he was a special case? With his unknown connections to Elati, maybe he wasn’t as sneaky as he thought and got away with it just because of his alliance. But still, how did he get in?

The next hour was spent suggesting ideas, and for some reason, I kept shooting them down. Some of them, mostly coming from Cegil, were rather good, but it didn’t seem like the ‘right’ thing to do. I really hated this- just who or what is messing with me and why can’t they just tell me what to do!? Why did I have to be subject to their whims and follow what they want?

I was about ready to ignore my mind or instincts… or whatever and just go with the next plan that came out of the tall falucite’s mouth, but I soon froze in place when I realized that we were already upon the blockade.

“Capt’n…” my quartermaster muttered in a worried tone. “If ye have yer own plan, then now’s the good time ta use it…”

At least ten ships were anchored in a line, positioned in a way so that I couldn’t squeeze through between them and can’t turn and go around them. If I kept going, then we would end up crashing into one of them, but my mind wouldn’t start working. I only snapped back into action when Seikram tried to tell everyone to prepare to lower the anchor, but I slapped my hand over his mouth before he could finish.

What the hell was my- or ‘its’ – problem? I didn’t want to crash the ship…

“Uh, ‘Tia-dear, you might want to listen to him,” Satel intoned, “It’s no problem if you do crash the ship, as I can easily save you, but it seems like a waste considering how hard you’ve been working.”

Oh don’t patronize me… I grumbled in my mind. I had no intention of letting any harm befall The Cruel Whore and her crew… but my actions were clearly indicating otherwise. I was about to force myself into a decision, when I finally noticed that the needle in the compass was moving- it was telling me to turn. I started to do so, but I soon realized that my move came too late. Even though I wasn’t heading straight for them now, the ship wouldn’t be able to clear the blockade without hitting someone.

But I was being told to just turn, not turn around or go around them… Oh why was I even listening to this stupid thing!?

“Wot are ye doin’?” Seikram yelled in indignation as I suddenly turned the wheel sharply enough to make most of the men lose their balance.

“What’s wrong?” my mated called out in worry when I suddenly dropped the compass. I soon hunched over slightly as my now free hand flew to my head. It was like my head had split open as something entered my mind. It was a lot like the rituals I had gone through.

A new succession of images flashed through my mind, and I suddenly knew what to do and where I was going. I had no idea why this couldn’t have come sooner… damn it. But I didn’t have time to lament. I saw dozen of men who looked like Pappy as they guided the water to help maneuver the ship.

Had I not already confirmed my ability to use magicks, I might’ve panicked. I still wasn’t completely sure of what I was doing, but I imagined the sea flowing in the same way as in the visions. Sure enough, it felt like something hit the rear of the ship twisted us so that we were parallel to the borderline. Then more water hit, propelling us off to the right and past the final ship of the blockade.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief that the crisis had been averted. I tried to think about it until my knowledge supplied the information about why those ‘instructions’ waited to come. Apparently, I needed to reach the boundaries of Eruda to get them, and that blockade was sitting almost right on top of it.

We were still sailing along, going faster than any ship with the help of the waves. I only edged us a little closer inside the borders, but I hadn’t made any effort to turn the ship and head towards the land.

“So are we not goin’ ta Eruda?” Seikram asked, noting our direction.

‘We are, but not here,’ I replied. There was one more place to go that wasn’t under watch- and it was a place that only The Cruel Whore could access with the help of the Lord of the Sea. In the craggy south, on the southwest part of the island was a tunnel that led into the land itself and ended at a great lake. The tunnel was only open during low tide, but no ship or person could clear it before the end of tide- not without some propulsion from sea magicks.

However, that means that we’d end up staying inside Eruda for a while waiting for the next low tide.

I quickly explained to Seikram what happened at the blockade before I gave him the order to have the sails folded back. The wind was catching in them and it was slowing us down too much. The peak of low tide was just beginning and we couldn’t afford to waste more time.

“Does that mean Tia knows where she is going now?” Cegil inquired as he held a giant hand before his face. With the speed we were traveling, there was a lot of wind hitting us and I could only imagine that it was worse for someone of Cegil’s height.

“Aye- it seems wotever’s been left in her head finally awakened once we were close enough. …Though it would’ve been nice if it came sooner,” Seikram growled under his breath, still upset with the near scare of a crash.

I agree- I could’ve done without that stress, too. I wanted to cast blame to the urging in my mind, but I knew it was my fault for listening to it. Though, if I hadn’t listened I wouldn’t have gotten the lead on where to go. It was hard for me to pick between complaining about it or shutting up and being grateful.

“I’m impressed ‘Tia-dear- I didn’t think you would catch on so quickly, considering that you’re not born to use magicks,” Satel commented as he placed his hand comfortably on my upper back. “But don’t strain yourself- if you begin to feel drained, tell me and I’ll take over for you.”

It was probably for the best that I didn’t let him take over, if only for the fact that he didn’t know where to go and I was unable to tell him in time for it. But his words did warn me not to go overboard, all because I was using them by reflex didn’t mean I understood what I was doing and how. I didn’t even know one could get strained by using them- for all I knew the eclipse yesterday probably made the trip easier for me.

We were going so fast that there was no way for anyone to be able to chase us. And since we were heading towards the mountain regions, no one should be able to see where we were going. I guess showing our faces was a good thing because I drew most of them (on this side of the island) out and made it to where they couldn’t maneuver and trail me.

Obviously this tunnel was supposed to be kept a secret- even if my ship was the only one that could pass it, I didn’t need a blockade around the entrance. Furthermore, I didn’t need to cause more trouble for my future descendants should they need to use this same path.

In a trip that should’ve taken another hour or two, I managed to clear it in twenty minutes thanks to my powers. Now this was the way to travel- I wonder if any human inventors could think of a machine that would mimic a similar result? If only all pirate ships had the means to move across the sea quickly and without having to be subject to the winds.

It felt as though the longer I maintained my ‘push’ against the sea, the more energetic I became. I felt a tingle in my arms and behind my eyes, though I wasn’t sure if that was actually related to ‘energy’- it could’ve been the signs of fatigue. Either way, something came over me and made me resort to silly stunts as I reached my point.

Without warning, I rotated the wheel sharply so that the bow would swing around and face the land. I then summoned a large wave to the side to stabilize the ship and keep us from capsizing. Everyone tumbled over, but thankfully no one fell overboard from my stunt. Some even grumbled at me for not alerting anyone that it was coming.

This ‘knowing’ I could do this came more from the visions than from the knowledge within me- though it could also be more proof that I was going insane like my father before me. Everything I had done so far were certainly things Pappy would’ve pulled off. He did like giving others heart attacks- and he did like wild stunts, too.

But was that all something I’d inherited from him? Or was I being controlled in some way and not realizing it? I had to wonder because… I wasn’t into things like this. Sure I liked the rush of a good brawl, but this was a little much for me. Who knows? Maybe some of Pappy’s spirit was somehow getting into me for a final thrill.

The ship was now facing a set of crags that were no more than four feet from the water’s surface. Seen clearly behind them was the entrance to the tunnel. They effectively blocked the way for anyone outside of the little circle, but it wasn’t impossible to get in. Ideally, I was supposed to get to that area during high tide and wait until the waters lowered the ship, past the rocks, so that we could enter the cavern.

But now… I’ll just have to rely on another trick or two in order to jump the ship over the sharp, jagged peaks and land on the water without hitting the top part of the arch. It was risky and everything my father used to love trying- though his stunts usually involved him making death-defying jumps over obstacles with his own body.

In the lull before the ‘chaos’, The Cruel Whore just drifted slightly to the side on the water, not really getting far from where I needed her. One by one, everyone slowly looked at me as they wondered if I was really going to do what they were thinking. If Pappy was here, he’d laughing hysterically right now…

“‘Tia, you’re not planning to…?” Satel trailed off, sounding more curious than worried. Cegil was having a different reaction to it all- he had his hand over his chest as if he was trying to catch his breath. I guess my actions so far had even given him a scare, though he could just as easily save himself. Perhaps his fright was in regards to me, rather than for himself.

“BRACE YERSELVES!” Seikram shouted to the others after I mouthed the initial order.

Either I was crazed or had a great deal of faith right then, but I managed a smirk on my lips before a giant wave propelled the ship onward towards the rocks. We were going at a moderate speed- not too fast or else I might overshoot and hit the entrance. Everyone grabbed anything that was secure and hung on for dear life, while the falucite simply braced themselves with their magicks.

In my visions, the different ‘Pappies’ were at the bowsprit as they directed the sea and ship, so I was actually at the wrong place to do it. It was far too late for me to run up to the forecastle deck, so I simply acted when it ‘felt’ right to me. I gathered up my power and suddenly forced the waters to separate, before making the two halves crash back in, causing an upward force that thrust The Cruel Whore up into the air and over the crags.

We landed with a giant splash, safely on the other side- but the gravity wasn’t too kind on us. In mid arc, some of us floated and landed roughly back on the decks when it had happened. When it was over, quite a few rushed to the side of the ship to empty their stomachs. The only ones still standing was Satel and Cegil- even I had lost my balance, but at least I wasn’t plastered to the floor like Seikram was…

Right when my body was being lifted in the air, Satel caught me and shielded me with his magicks. He was still holding me up with his arms supporting my upper back and under my knees. While his actions probably saved my ass from getting hurt, the initial jump flew my head back and my neck was starting to ache. This was why I don’t like stunts- I can’t control what happens during the act.

“Reckless…” he sang as he set me down. I glared at him and flicked his nose in lieu of a punch. Some part of me was afraid that if I had hit him, he’d hug me out of reflex. While that didn’t sound like a bad idea, we didn’t have time for it.

The ‘cove’ past the crags wasn’t as small as I thought it would be. This was probably what saved us from crashing into the mountain or tunnel entrance. I glanced over at the entrance and noted that it was big enough to allow the ship through- the ceiling appeared high enough to clear the main mast, and it was wide enough for her berth. The knowledge filled in that it was a straight shot to the center- no twists or turns to worry about. Also, my ancestors had already stopped the growth of any stalagmites and such that could’ve blocked the way.

I clenched my fists to concentrate and summon the magicks again. I was hit by a wave of dizziness almost immediately. We did start to move, but it was at a regular winds’ pace- I was too exhausted to do anything else.

I didn’t think this is what it would feel like to run out, and I wasn’t sure if the duration at which I had used it was even that impressive. Satel could probably outlast me any day- but maybe that was because he’d used his longer. He did have nearly a hundred years over me, after all.

“Aww… too tired?” Satel guessed as he lightly patted me on the head through my hat. I was about to think he was taunting me for some reason, but I soon discovered that he was only trying to make a point about a certain incident that happened a few days prior. “That’s why I couldn’t teleport us away before.”

He was talking about that time I had suddenly attacked him while under the influence of a mermaid’s pheromone. He’d wanted a nap then, but he wasn’t too tired to mate. He just claimed he couldn’t teleport me anywhere- at least nowhere far, since he had the power to get us under the covers. I guess that even when one is tired, they’re not necessarily powerless- their magicks just become weak until they rest.

…But that wasn’t good for me- this is the point where I really needed my powers to work. I had completely forgotten Satel’s offer to help, and thankfully, he was kind enough to remind me and he decided to take over.

“So you’re just trying to get through this cave? Does it have an end?” the platinum blond inquired, wanting more information before he blasted us forward. He still didn’t know where we were going, and he didn’t exactly know that we were facing a tunnel and not a dead-end cave.

I lightly prodded Seikram, who was still lying on his back on the deck, with my foot and explained the situation to him.

“She says this is a tunnel that leads ta a great lake. It’s only open durin’ low tide, so we have ta clear it before tide turns.”

“There is a lake on the island?” Cegil asked, sounding surprised. Sure, any small island could have a pond and a few tiny rivers, but it was unheard of for an island to have a lake.

This was because anything that was big enough to support one was usually a fire island that belonged to Harishul- and even then said land would have lava pools or volcanoes instead of a body of water. Of course falucite wouldn’t know what was on Eruda since only humans could access the land… though I suppose dragons might know just by flying over it. I, myself, didn’t know there was a lake (let alone a ‘great’ one) until it was crammed into my head.

“Aye, we call it Libils’un Ariat, after some princess from the distant past,” the pirate explained as he finally sat up and rubbed at his head.

Ariat… where did I hear that name before?

“Huh… It means Ariat’s Rebirth,” Satel translated for me before he looked me in the eye. “It must’ve been the name of the daughter that Eternal King tried to save- and it’s your very first name.”

Oh right, Satel was told that Ariat was my ‘first’ name, though I don’t remember ever being called that. Or… was Dantia trying to imply at the time that I was actually the same person?

“Speaking of that,” the lavender haired man began, thinking in the same area as me, “I have been wondering if this ‘cycle’ that Cyirlie has spoken of is one of reincarnation? Perhaps Tia is Ariat, the one and the same.”

Reincarnation? Technically that could happen, but not in the context that Cegil was suggesting. All fallen souls eventually get reborn into the species they were first brought in, but only after several generations have passed. This was why there was a set number of how many creatures could exist at one time- if there were too many living, then no one could be born again.

However, it was unheard of for a human soul (or any soul) to be immediately reborn after the death of the previous incarnation and be involved in the lives of those they had lived with. It was just plain unnatural- though everything about the Lord of the Sea was unnatural. Elati really seemed to be playing Maker here.

Death was supposed to be a resting period for the soul before entering a new life, and all former bonds, like family and lovers, were supposed to be broken. If I were truly a reincarnation of, say my grandmother, then I should know her past life and the people she had allied herself with. But I don’t- the only ‘memory’ I seem to have is that one of my dying in someone’s arms. Everything else seems to belong to Pappy.

…Elit above, what was I doing? We didn’t have time to speculate right now- or rather, we didn’t have time to sit here and speculate. This was the peak of low tide and the water was only going to rise from here on out. I pulled at Satel’s sleeve to get his attention and pointed towards the tunnel.

‘We need to go really fast,’ I mouthed, followed by Seikram’s translation. ‘Quick- before high tide rolls in!’

“Oh, right,” the über hat man muttered, having completely forgotten the urgency. Though to his credit, he had no idea when the tides turn…let alone spotting the difference from a tide going in or out. “Cegil, could you put up a wind barrier please? We’re about to go fast enough to knock a few men down without one.”

I wasn’t sure if he was bragging or trying to impress me… If it were the latter, then it’s working. Both he and his brother looked very cool as they gathered their powers and prepared to release them. We couldn’t see what was happening, but I felt the ship suddenly lurch forward and we were quickly cast into darkness as we shot into the tunnel at speeds faster than what I had accomplished.

The wind barrier that Cegil was casting managed to block all winds around us, making it to where we could stand comfortably on the deck without being knocked over. It was probably a minute or two in the darkness when I realized that this was truly a smooth, straight line, since nothing seemed to be knocking against the ship or slowing it down.

I also couldn’t believe that Satel trusted me so much to not even question my judgment. He didn’t need confirmation that the tunnel was straight- and here I was thinking that everyone was wondering about my sanity. Was this true love at work? Or was my mate becoming as loony as me?

Still, I really shouldn’t take Satel for granted as I have done. My ancestors made this run without help, and here I was using my mate and former guardian. I could very well be on a fool’s quest that would end up being a waste of time to them. What’s more, my mate was further sacrificing his precious time on my whims, and what exactly was he getting out of this?

At the very least, there better be some good answers for him at the end of this quest, if not, then I had to find some way to repay him. Maybe I’ll suck it up and go on a few missions with him once in a while. Or maybe I’ll try to treat him like a king, since he was so keen on me being his queen or something romantically senseless.

It was almost as if he was reading my thoughts, because I soon felt an arm around me in the darkness. I knew it was him, because I had been standing next to him, and I recognized the shape of his body against mine. His lips found my ear and he was soon whispering into it while maintaining his magicks.

“Shouldn’t I get something out of this little favor?” he asked in a cloying tone even though he knew I couldn’t answer or guess at what he wanted. “I think I’ve been a very good boy for you- how about a kiss?”

A kiss? He deserved more than just a measly little kiss! …But since I had no idea what else to do for him, I decided to humor him anyway. I groped for his face in the dark and sought out his lips. But one of these days, I really had to get serious about our relationship. We shouldn’t be sacrificing for one another- we needed to be a benefit to each other. Even I could see that.

As a ‘bonus’ to him, though it wasn’t much of one, I took advantage of the darkness and held onto him in a comfortable hug for the duration of the trip.

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

We had spent a long time in the darkness, so much so that some men had to grope around for a lantern to light. The stone that surrounded us practically absorbed the light, making it to where the gas lamps could only give us a dim glow. It was enough to dispel the feeling of blindness, but not enough to see what we were zipping past in the tunnel.

I was still holding on to Satel, as if to keep encouraging him to keep going. I had no clue what his capacity was, but we were almost pushing an hour by now. All I knew was that I couldn’t even last more than thirty minutes. I recalled that just the other day, he had fought several greater demons and their lessers for an entire day, so he must’ve been able to last quite a long time.

I suppose the eclipse could be helping him as well… though if I was all-powerful because of that too, then why did I tire so quickly? Was it because I was simply inexperienced? Or maybe this was the extent of human power- all because I could probably rival a dragon didn’t mean I had the ability to outlast one.

The end of the tunnel was hard to miss once we were close to it- it appeared like a tiny white circle in the blackness, and it quickly grew in size the closer we got. And not a moment too soon- I was beginning to hear the main mast scrapping against the ceiling every now and then. The waters in the cave were slowly beginning to rise, and pretty soon the ship wouldn’t fit inside it anymore.

When we finally passed through the exit, Satel abruptly stopped his magicks and let us drift out and slow down on our own. It was like a moment of awe and silence as we glanced around at the nearly endless expanse of water. There were high mountains behind us, where the lake waters lapped up against, and very far off to the sides were hints of land.

It had been clear and sunny on the other side of the mountain range, but here there were low flying clouds that gave the sky a gentle grey tint. There was no fog, or anything obscuring the vision of the horizon, and the air was as cool here was it was out.

They weren’t kidding when they said this was a ‘great’ lake- it was almost its’ own tiny sea. It was very…quiet here, but it was more the peaceful kind rather than the eerie one. The waters made gentle lapping sounds against the hull and there was only a small hint of bird calls in the distance. For a moment, I felt like I was back near Xanaturi Lake, resting near its banks.

This was it, I thought in my mind before I really realized this was it. I turned to Seikram and immediately issued my order.

“DROP ANCHOR!”

As the men began to scramble to do so, I let go of Satel as an afterthought. It wasn’t so much that I embarrassed about holding him as I did- it was more that I didn’t want to be accused of being afraid of the dark, of which I wasn’t. My hugging him in the tunnel could easily be misconstrued as such, and that carried more ridicule than trying to be ‘disgustingly cute’ with a …hmm, what would Satel be called as a mate to a female pirate? Women would be called ‘domestic wenches’ or an ‘owned woman’, but he was none of that…

Regardless, I had to be a ‘fearless’ captain for everyone. Thankfully, being in love was just an excuse to tease- I’d still have the respect needed to lead them into battle or raids.

‘Seikram,’ I began as I reached out and touched his shoulder. ‘Have Blood-Knot an’ Spearhead get Pappy’s chest an’ bring it ta the fo’c’sle deck. …When they get there, ye can have the honor o’ bringing Pappy ta me.’

Had the bilge rat not admitted to his faults and deeply apologized for them, I might not have even allowed him to stand on the deck during the proceedings. But now I felt he not only had the right to see Pappy’s funeral, but he also deserved the chance to say a last farewell.

“Ye sure capt’n?” he inquired as he gave me a truly surprised look. “Do ah even have the right?”

I nodded once and added, ‘If ye want ta apologize proper-like ta him, then this is the best way.’

I never thought I’d see a gruff pirate be genuinely touched by a gesture, but he couldn’t contain his relieved smile as he ran his hand through his hair and tried to thank me. “Ah’ll do me best capt’n.”

He then ran off to do my bidding, almost like a child who was trying to impress his parent. I…honestly didn’t know he was that guilt-ridden- he wouldn’t be so eager to attend and make it perfect if he hadn’t cared about Pappy. Or was he acting out to impress me? I didn’t think that was it, because I believed he knew better than to fight for a lost cause.

Unfortunately he ran off too soon, because at that moment, Cegil chose to ask what was going on. Without the snake, I couldn’t communicate- at least not on deck. I scowled as I patted my person to find my fountain pen, but I soon remembered that I secured it back into my desk. Even if I had found it, it wouldn’t have done good anyway- I still needed paper and a sturdy writing surface.

But the tall falucite was prepared for this- with a smirk, he reached into a pocket inside his frock coat and pulled out a pen and a piece of paper that was folded into a square. As I reached for them, I realized that he had been carrying around the same paper I’d been using to communicate with him during our lessons. Not all of it was filled with my attempts at writing yet, and I still had a whole other side to deface.

Using my left hand as a surface, I quickly scrawled a short enough message that should explain everything, A fewneral fore papi.

For once my teacher didn’t correct me, perhaps because he didn’t feel comfortable writing without a solid surface. Or maybe I had miraculously spelled everything right… yeah right…

“A funeral?” Satel repeated as he read the note with his brother. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

I was a little stunned that he would offer. Satel – and Cegil – didn’t know Pappy, and couldn’t really sympathize on the same level as the crew and I. I shook my head to show that there was nothing they could ‘do’ in the sense of helping out, but I did want them to stay around for emotional support, if I needed it. I didn’t really intend for them to witness the events if they didn’t want to- I thought they might wait for me in my cabin until it was over.

Though I shouldn’t have assumed anything as I have- I had no idea until then how falucite handled and honored death.

“I understand that I have never met your real father, but I would like to attend nonetheless. I reared his child when he could not, so I must be there to reassure him that I will continue to do so in his stead,” Cegil said as he lifted his large hand and rested it on top of my head. It was an old supportive gesture he used to do when I was smaller. “In our clan, when one falls, the entire family must stand strong together. This is to reassure the dead that everyone left behind will be fine and that they can rest.”

…It wasn’t that different from what humans believed, though many would rather choose to grieve alone. The strong can move on and carry on to the future, while the weak wither away in misery and join the one who left them. As for me, I suppose I was stuck in between both choices- I was too strong to die, but I was too weak to accept what happened. Well, at least that wasn’t true of me anymore- with Pappy’s legacy, I can help him live in my memories, and that was enough to let me move on.

Satel soon stepped closer to me and held my left hand with both of his. “Don’t forget ‘Tia-dear, he’s my father too because we’re mates. I should see off the man who was responsible for bringing you into this world.”

How could I refuse after hearing that? I couldn’t even describe what I was feeling- it was a mix of pride, happiness, and a lot of other emotions that made me feel warm inside. I managed a real smile at them before I grabbed a wrist from both of them and then pulled them with me to the forecastle deck.

The crew was already taking their positions upon hearing what was about to take place. They all lined up, side by side, near either side of ship starting from the bowsprit and ending to the first quarter of the main deck, depending on the number of men in that line. I had Cegil and Satel stand on the left and right side of the bowsprit, respectively, as I stood before it and waited for Pappy’s chest to arrive.

Seikram soon came up and announced that Blood-Knot and Spearhead were coming before he took his place across from me, at the railing overseeing the main deck. The chest had been resting in the guest room, as that was where we put it every night, but we hadn’t taken it out today- and thank goodness for that. Who knows what might’ve happened had the treasure chest and Pappy’s skull been damaged out here during the mad sailing?

The two men assigned began to walk out unto the main deck, carrying the chest between them by the handles. The lid was opened as they slowly marched up to the forecastle deck where I was waiting, the pirates saluted one by one as they passed. Once they had finished climbing the stairs, they walked over to Seikram, who then moved out of the way so that the chest could be placed where he had been standing. Blood-Knot and Spearhead then stood beside the chest like guards as they also saluted.

From my vantage point, I could see Pappy’s skull sitting proudly on top of gleaming piles of gold cedit and polished crijok. Even though a skull always seemed to be grinning, I couldn’t help but imagine that the treasure was why he was doing so. He did used to love his ‘shinies’.

Seikram soon picked up the skull before he held it high above his head for all to see. As the one chosen to bring the mortal remains to the captain, he had to say the seafarer’s prayer to the fallen. It was called a ‘prayer’ but it was just a short saying we all believed in.

“Fifteen years ago, a great man among us had his life cut short too soon. His blood be on me hands, an’ ah will live me days on this ship ta repent me mistake. Finally he can rest now that the future o’ his legacy is secure. Wot comes from the sea must return ta the sea- ‘tis the fate o’ all seafarers.”

It was indeed the fate of all- even the coastal ones. Despite the fact that many (rather logical) people would argue that we came from our human parents, no one could prove if our seafaring ancestors hadn’t actually come from the sea. And even if they hadn’t, our hearts were truly born from her waves.

Seikram then slowly lowered the skull and gingerly rested his forehead against Pappy’s as he turned and crossed the deck towards me. He muttered endless apologies under his breath and promises to do better before he placed the wind washed bone in my waiting hands.

The bowsprit was the width of a narrow plank and the top part was flattened so that anyone could walk on it. I slowly made my way to the rounded tip, while maneuvering around the jibs and stay sail that were tied to it.

I had a few final thoughts as I approached the end of the bowsprit- I thought about Pappy’s life. No matter how I remembered him fondly, nothing changed the fact that he was a pirate. Like the others, he had stolen riches from others, he likely killed countless people, and he probably had a history of promiscuity when he was younger.

He was a villain- scourge of the five seas and hated by many. I’m sure countless humans were glad to hear that he was dead, but… even so, he was good to his men… and he was a good father. He didn’t give a damn about anyone outside of his ship, but if anyone asked for help, he would aid them. He was wise beyond his years, but he was also mean spirited and cold to those he didn’t like- and he had quite a lot of enemies he didn’t like.

I will admit, although begrudgingly, that he wasn’t a good role model (nor was the rest of the crew, for that matter…), but he loved me, and he would’ve done anything to keep me safe. That was enough- the whole world can hate him, but he’s still my father, and I will always love him.

I raised the skull like Seikram did, almost as if I was offering it to the sky. I took one last look at the graven image and tried to envision Pappy’s face. My lips moved to say ‘good-bye’ before I let the skull slip and fall into the waters below me. I watched as it landed on the surface with a surprisingly large splash. It was almost as if a whole body had fallen in, but I decided that had to have been my imagination.

The two lines of pirates soon walked over to the treasure chest to pick up some cedit and crijok before they returned to the railing beside Cegil and Satel to throw it in after Pappy. This was the pirate tradition, as we all claim to want to be surrounded with treasure in our resting place.

Once the ripples from the skull had settled, I glanced up to the smoky sky and felt a warm tear trail down my cheek. I wasn’t crying, but it was hard not to feel anything. By letting go of that skull, I knew I had to accept that I would never see him again.

To the Next Chapter

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2 thoughts on “23. A Day to Say Good-Bye

  1. Kimberley Smith says:

    Hello! I have been waiting until I finished reading this to leave a review, but since having read Falucite Bride, twice, and Falling the Hard Way, which was expertly done by the way, it was like a really good filler story. I loved it, a big build up. Bravo!

    And now I’ve read up until here, I can’t contain my love for this story, the characters, any longer. I am besotted, this really is the most imaginative story that I’ve read online in a very, very long time. It’s so unique, you’ve such an imagination! I’ve been trying for four years to write a story involving dragon creatures, warlocks, pirates, gods, witches, faery type creatures – but you’ve really done a good job with this, it’s amazing. It’s just as exciting as reading the hobbit etcetera. I can’t pick any faults really. Its beautifully written.

    Satel and Tia are just so wonderful, you’ve really kept Satel and Tia still so heartbreakingly romantic, I love them loads, and have really enjoyed the change in their relationship. It’s wonderful. Like watching a film as I read. And I really, really want a Cegil daddy! Cegil is wonderful as is the rest of the clan, I even love Cyrilie – the mermaids are amazing! Everything.

    Thanks so much for the read, I’m continuing promptly to read everything else!

    All the best,
    Kim
    Fictionpress: kimonoyoko

    • Aww, thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story and characters- hearing this always motivates me to keep going and do my best to write out great stories. And don’t give up on your stories. Sometimes it just takes a few starts on various plots before you find the zone. You might write one with all those elements, someday once the right inspiration hits you.

      Thank you again for the kind words, and I hope you’ll enjoy the chapters still to come!

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