24. A Terrifying Truth

Chapter 24

A Terrifying Truth

            I took my time to compose myself before I turned on the bowsprit and headed back to the forecastle deck. I could feel satisfied knowing that I had done my duty for my father. His head was resting beneath the gentle waters of Eruda’s lake, and he was sent off with all the honors of a pirate. Sometimes pirates didn’t get to have a nice funeral- most tend to die at the hands of the enemy, and others die alone after being marooned.

Though I suppose Pappy was a different case altogether- he had many who missed him, including the goddess it seemed. It was odd that a man hated by so many humans was loved by a goddess. One would think if someone loved their goddesses, they would also love and forgive the ones she cherished… but perhaps the fact that he was Elati’s champion was not well known?

As I was approaching the deck, Satel held out his hand to help me down and I accepted it (not that I really needed it). It seemed that no sooner than when my boots landed on the flat wooden surface, everyone’s heads craned up as a familiar voice filled the air.

Well done, Hels Meyuun

If thou wish’t to speak with me, sail to the center of yon lake

I shall be waiting

            That was my voice! …Wait, did I really sound like that? I could recognize it, but I didn’t expect it to sound so… commanding and beautiful. I thought I sounded totally different, but I suppose it was hard for me to really know until I heard it myself.

“An invitation from the goddess,” Cegil commented, as he glanced beyond the bowsprit and towards the center.

“So she’s at the center of this lake? And here I was thinking she was outside of the island,” Satel said as he adjusted his hat. “I can’t believe this is the center of the sea- what was Kajros thinking forming land here?”

As Elit formed and controls the sea, Kajros was in charge of land. The fact that Elati was surrounded by earth didn’t bode well, because it was a sign of a god trying to impede on a goddess of another element. Was this deliberate? Was he trying to trap Elati? If that was true, then I guess his plans were ruined when she claimed the land in the name of her Father.

“Perhaps this was supposed to be a prison. Maybe Elati had performed a most terrible crime that even the other elements cannot forgive,” the lavender haired man speculated, recalling the information about how the sea sisters were at a disagreement with one another.

It was one thing to upset a fellow sister, but what can a goddess possibly do that would anger all of the other gods? Whatever it was, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know or have any part in it. She was beginning to sound like nothing but trouble, and had she not taken my voice, I wouldn’t have anything to do with her. Her connections were with my father, but I was free to walk away.

Which begged the important question- did I really want to go see her? I had good reasons to go- and Satel did as well, but did that involve a risk that could destroy my freedom? And would seeing her also put my mate in danger?

Seikram came to join us in our conversation, but he didn’t seem to have the answer to our questions. In fact, when I tried to think hard about it, even my knowledge didn’t help me. All I could get was this could be something that happened so long ago, that even knowledge didn’t exist yet.

“Ah don’t know nothin’ ‘bout any o’ that, but ah do know that there’s a castle at the center o’ this lake,” the pirate replied once he was asked, “Been there fer centuries, an’ yet no one has been able ta reach it- something stops any vessels before they get too close.”

And that made it sound very suspicious- why else can’t anyone reach it unless it had something to do with a god? Furthermore, I had a castle surrounded by water in my vision. Maybe that was it, though I don’t remember seeing any land in it. Sure, this was a ‘great’ lake, but even from the center, one should be able to see hints of land. …Could that vision been one of the same castle from before Eruda’s formation? Did it even matter at this point?

We couldn’t even leave until the next tide shift anyway. It wouldn’t kill anyone to venture out and take a look. Maybe when I see it with my own eyes, I’ll know if it is the one I’ve seen, and maybe I’ll figure out what I should do next.

‘Set sail fer the center,’ I ordered to Seikram.

“Aye, aye, capt’n, but ah don’t think we can reach it, either,” he responded, not sounding very sure about his words. Had Elati not tell us to come, I would think so too, but…

‘Wot makes ye say that?’ I asked, too curious about his behavior to let his ‘doubt’ go.

“Because no ship ever made it there- if The Cruel Whore had, ye’d think they’d talk ‘bout it, but… who knows? Mebbe ah’m speakin’ out o’ turn, jus’ ignore me,” he said, not wanting to reveal his real reason. There was something he was hiding from me, but he seemed so reluctant, I would likely have to torture him to near death to get it out of him. But I didn’t think he had any malicious intent behind his little secret- he appeared more worried than anything else.

Considering where the lake was located on the island, there was a likely chance that no vessels ever ventured this far past the center. With mountains flanking most of the edges, I would imagine there weren’t many flat places where ships could dock and towns could be formed. I had a feeling, nothing concrete, that told me the castle in the center probably did more than just block people from reaching it- it probably also prevented other ships from reaching this side of the lake. It would explain how I could slip into this land without the Erudian guard knowing about it. If they did know, one would think they would arrange a blockade around here too…

‘Let’s get there and see wot we can or can’t do,’ I suggested, still determined to at least see it.

Obviously I can get there because Elati said that she would see me- and even if there was no tale of The Cruel Whore reaching this mysterious castle, it didn’t mean it’d never happened. Seikram didn’t seem to know of that tunnel’s existence until we’d used it. …But I might find myself unable to go see the goddess if I can’t figure out what I want to do.

Seikram didn’t argue further and went off to complete my orders, still trying to hide that concerned look that threatened to take over his face. Just what was he worried about anyway?

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

We had to use the wind and sails to reach the center, since I was tired and Satel didn’t want to strain himself. Since we were crossing a lake (great or otherwise), it wasn’t that long a trip, maybe no less than a half-hour or more.

The castle had long been visible from our starting point, but it was just a tall, shadowy line over the surface when I had first noticed it. As we drew closer, more details and colors began to appear from the misty horizon. It was more of a tall tower-type castle with turrets and cone shaped roofs. But the walls weren’t as straight as one would get out of stone- the castle was made entirely of coral.

There were other notable features, like the roofing material made of sea shells and other byproducts of the sea decorating the windows and arches. It almost seemed like a beach fort made by children, only much more elaborate and well-made. It was indeed the one I had seen in my vision, but my memory couldn’t recall those details that vividly.

But some part of me wondered if this structure was only meant for aesthetics rather than for living in. If this is where a goddess hid, then why would she even need a roof over her head? Would she even need hundreds of rooms? Does she even sleep and eat like the rest of us lower tier creatures?

Once we were very close, about twenty feet away, the ship suddenly… stopped. It was like we had run into something, but it didn’t feel as if we had. I noticed instantly that Seikram appeared relieved, giving me indication that he was right about us not being able to break through. But why didn’t he want me to go?

When I reached the forecastle deck again, I discovered that there was what appeared to be a ‘ripple’ in the air and it was emanating from the tip of the bowsprit. Curious, I made my way over there and blindly reached out to see what was causing this odd phenomenon. My hand met resistance and soon I was creating ripples too.

I didn’t know Satel had followed me until he also reached for the translucent wall from behind. He wrapped his free arm around me to keep from knocking me over as he tested the feel of the strange wall.

“It’s…water,” he said before backing away.

So it was a giant wall of water? It must’ve been very thin since it wasn’t visible to the naked eye, but how could a thin membrane be strong enough to stop a ship? Was this an example of the precise control Elati had over the sea? I would imagine that holding it in this form would be hard.

“Water… hmm,” Cegil muttered as he overheard. “Does that mean you can manipulate it?”

“Doesn’t feel like it- it’s resisting me,” the blond answered as he shook his head. “But I can sense that it’s about fifty feet high and only six feet below the surface of the water. We could swim under if we wanted to.”

So it was possible to get there- I just couldn’t take the entire crew with me. But since they had no business with Elati, that wasn’t a problem.

“That is an option- and the weather is not too bad for a swim,” the tall man agreed before he crossed his arms and stared straight at me. “Will we go? Or would you rather turn back now?”

…So he figured it out- I must’ve been expressing my uncertainties. Naturally, I didn’t have an answer yet, but if Cegil and Satel really wanted to go, then I was willing to go with them. I wasn’t sure about my mate’s feelings, but it seemed as though Cegil was intrigued with finding out the truth. He might just cross over to interrogate her by himself.

“Capt’n… ah don’t think ye should go,” Seikram finally confessed after holding his words back for quite some time. “Wot if somethin’ happens ta ye? We jus’ got our capt’n back an’ yer the last o’ yer line. If ye fall, then The Cruel Whore is done.”

So that’s what was bothering him… I wasn’t sure if he was really worried about losing a captain or if he was concerned about me. However, after that admission of his the other day, it could very well be the latter- but I’m guessing both.

“Aye, the goddess has always been a tricky one,” Spearhead agreed as he also joined in the conversation. “Wot if she wants something else from ye? Ye already lost yer voice- ah don’t want ta see ye lose anythin’ else.”

Of all crewmembers (save for the old quartermaster and Pappy), Spearhead was the one who treated me like actual family. He was only earnest to me, and a bastard to others- but no one could call him a ‘girl’ for his attitude towards me because he was a Kagman barbarian and could easily defend his manhood to the others. So when he of all people had to express his wariness of the situation, I couldn’t dismiss him that quickly.

But would I really run the risk of dying if I went to see her? I think both she and Cyirlie made it quite clear that I had to live- at least long enough to have and raise a son to adulthood. Though after that ritual fiasco, I suppose I can see why they’d have their doubts. It appeared I had drowned after the fact and that Satel had saved me, but my mate later admitted in private that I came to on my own. I probably was in no real danger of anything other than freezing.

The same possibility might happen here. The low clouds had finally dispersed and the sun came out, warming the day slightly, but if I got myself wet now, I’d still be chilled to the bone. Though Satel was good at removing water from hair and clothing, so I should be fine.

“It is up to you, Tia. We do not have to go if you are satisfied living without a voice, but I do not think you will be forced into a situation as you were with Cyirlie. I believe Elati will answer our questions and give us an offer we are free to refuse,” Cegil said, possibly getting his confidence from what he’d learned from Loerati’s priestess.

“Aye, but ye don’t really need ta go- yer doin’ fine wit’out a voice, an’ ah swear ah will relay wotever ye say ta the others,” Seikram added, almost pleading.

But it was Satel who surprised me when he added something in favor of the pirate’s position. “There also might be some truths waiting that you might be better off not knowing.”

Did that translate to him not wanting to go and finding out about his truths? I was about to make my decision based on Satel’s answer, until Cegil asked him the very same question I was thinking.

“Does that mean you do not wish to go?”

“No- if ‘Tia wants to go, then I will follow her. I don’t think there’s anything else Elati could tell me that would be anymore shocking than what you already speculate,” he replied, causing me to feel annoyed. So which is it? Did he want to go or not?

But I soon realized that I was trying to use him to decide my own path. This wasn’t all about Satel- it was also about my life and what’s best for it. I had to decide what I wanted.

It was true that I could very well live without my voice, but how long will this near perfect alternative to communication last? Thanks to Satel, I can live up to a thousand years, and Seikram won’t live forever for me. It might not be easy for me to find another loyal man who can read my lips.

Also, I shouldn’t need to rely on others to lead a ship. Seikram was nothing more than a crutch to me, and some part of me was starting to worry that he was getting used to it. What if he was misreading my disability as a way to keep me close to him?

As for Satel, no words were needed between us- I found that we were perfectly capable of existing as a loving couple without my verbal responses, but… I did miss talking to him. There were so many things left unsaid just because I didn’t know how to spell half of what I wanted to say on paper. I’ve also missed so many opportunities to tease him about random things because it’s not as funny when written down.

The same went for Cegil as well- it was just hard to learn without my being able to speak to him in a way that he would understand. He didn’t always get what I was trying to write. And there was also Lioa, of whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a month. How could I ask her about how to deal with problems like a woman if I couldn’t ask her?

If I absolutely had to, I could live without a voice- it didn’t define who I was, and it didn’t make me any less of a human. But, having it was useful and made things easier. If Pappy were here, he’d tell me to get it, because I’m a pirate, and pirates are selfish bastards.

For the past few days, I had been thinking about ‘settling’ for life without a voice because some part of me had serious doubts that I would get it back. But now that I was so close to the entity that could return it, it would be foolish of me to turn back now. Perhaps there would be conditions behind it, but I wouldn’t find out until I saw Elati. Even if there were conditions, I still didn’t have to agree to them- it would just make my previous ‘settling’ all the more justified.

‘I’m going,’ I mouthed with a nod, earning a disappointed look from Seikram.

“Ye won’t reconsider? Wot if ye ne’er come back? Wot will happen ta us?” the bearded man inquired, hoping one of his questions would make me change my mind.

I could get why it would be bad for me to suddenly leave and never come back. Satel and I were the only ones who could get the ship out of Eruda. Not only that, but I was the last living heir to command The Cruel Whore, if I died, then it was over. I highly doubted Elati would want that to happen after nearly four thousand years of an unbroken cycle.

‘If Elati wants the legacy ta end here, then she picked a great place,’ I remarked snidely, knowing that he wasn’t going to pick up on my sarcasm through lip alone. I then amended my reply by adding a little bit of reassurance. ‘Ah will be back- an’ if by some act o’ the Maker that ah’m not back in a week, then take the men an’ abandon ship ta Eruda. Ye’ll have ta find a new ship, if ye want to stay as a crew.’

A week was a bit extreme, but I didn’t want to take the chance and find out the hard way that I might have to stay in that castle a day or two. Who’s to say getting my voice back would be as quick as my losing it?

At any rate, they had the supplies and the ability to wait for me as long as it takes, so I wasn’t leaving them in a dire time. Nor was there any time restrictions forcing me to hurry up… well, save for the next low tide.

“Alright…alright,” Seikram conceded in a down tone. “But please don’t really take a week ta get back.”

I nodded with a smirk, hoping that I don’t really have to spend a whole day inside that castle. Despite the conversation being one-sided with Seikram doing the actual talking, Satel picked up the topic before he placed his hand on my shoulder and glanced out to the saddened pirates.

“Well, if you’re planning on going, then there’s no need to worry,” the blond said before addressing the others, “My brother and I will go with her- you can’t ask for better bodyguards to watch over her.”

While that maybe true under normal circumstances, my mate had temporarily forgotten that we were about to face a goddess that he had no chance in hell in defeating. And, he and Cegil have a poor record with the pirates in their ‘failure’ to protect me from Cyirlie. But, thankfully, they seemed to have forgotten it as well and cheered up a little.

“Very well, if we are decided, then it is best to go now,” Cegil suggested as he headed over to the port side of the ship. He seemed more eager than Satel and I to speak with Elati, so much so that he didn’t mind getting wet or even where to jump in. It was actually safer to dive from the main deck, where it wasn’t as high from the ocean surface as the forecastle deck.

But, I wasn’t about to tell him that. I just nodded, passed Seikram my hat, and followed after him when he jumped into the waters below. I felt if I had stalled a moment longer, then I would lose my bravado and question my choice.

The water wasn’t as cold as I feared, but it was enough to jolt my senses and really wake me up. Since I was a seafarer, I naturally knew how to swim and had no trouble reaching the surface. I took a moment to regain my bearings before Satel also crested close by me.

It was almost funny how his über hat was still perched on his now drenched head in that tilt. I already knew he was using magicks to keep it there, but I would’ve thought he’d leave it behind so as not to get salt in it. This was no fresh water lake, as there was a connection to the sea outside the island, and, of course, I could taste the salt on my lips. Ugh, my clothes were going to get stiff, while Satel’s and Cegil’s will get magickally cleaned. I should’ve changed before going…

“Come,” Cegil called out to us, urging us to continue going.

Satel and I soon began moving our arms to propel ourselves onward until we reached the barrier. We then glanced at each other before taking a deep breath and diving down. The waters were unsurprisingly murky, and if I opened my eyes, they would sting a little. I had to blindly feel along the barrier until I felt the bottom edge and use it to flip myself under to the other side. I then immediately swam upwards as my lungs began craving for air.

I came back up with a gasp and soon discovered that air inside the water wall was very warm and humid- like a spring day before a storm. I was a little glad for this because I wasn’t looking forward to getting out of the cold water to even colder air.

“Hmm… since this is the domain of the goddess of storms, it is not inconceivable to believe that she altered the air. A storm does need humidity and heat,” Cegil pointed out as we floated there for a moment to glance around. Her little palace must be where she first forms her storms before she sends them off to other places in the world.

Elati’s main job was to provide the world with rain and thunder. Her rain quenched the thirst of the earth gods while the lightning she produced started fires for the fire gods. Her powers were meant to destroy and to help with global growth, though it seemed she has also dabbled in directly messing in the lives of a few select creatures.

We moved on, swimming the twenty feet left to reach the tiny shore. There, just past the sand, was a lone open archway. It was the only noticeable entrance into the castle. I was a little secretly glad to see that we were all equally drenched and had our hair and clothing plastered to our bodies. Since falucite magicks were not immune to water, they looked as silly as I did.

…Though now that I knew Satel was a special case, I wonder why he didn’t put magicks in his own clothes? He could waterproof his own clothing since the clan seamstress obviously could not. I noticed that his über hat and the ascot I’d given him dried almost instantly after he had gotten out of the water. I knew he magicked the ascot himself, and he likely did the same for his hat, too.

Since it was so humid, there was no point in drying ourselves off. We just wrung as much water out of our clothes as we could and headed over to the archway. Despite the grand appearance outside, the inside wasn’t as impressive. There was only one hallway that led to a large, almost empty room. This castle was nothing more than a hollow shell with light coming in through the windows.

…But, there was something there, at the back of the giant area. It was a humongous chair made of fish bone and sea shell- it was a throne. No one was sitting on it, though I couldn’t imagine who would be big or tall enough to reach the seat of it. The size of it alone made Cegil seem like a dwarf.

“No one’s home?” Satel remarked with a tone that was mix of surprise and indignation. We had thought Elati was waiting for us here, only to find an empty castle… the nerve!

No sooner than after I had that sarcastic thought, there was a roaring sound of waves crashing outside and the room began to flood suddenly. We nervously glanced down at the ankle deep water before it began to gather and trail up to the fishbone throne.

We watched on, transfixed, as it split into two streams and seemed to pile up into a form that resembled feet, then legs. From the bottom up, a watery, translucent figure began to form and soon there was a giant woman sitting on the throne with all the regal appearance of a true god.

Unlike with her nature’s form, her true form was stunningly beautiful. She was made of water, and she was clear on the inside, but she glowed a gentle blue so average creatures could see her. Her face was very distinguished- she had high cheekbones, slanted eyes, and gaunt cheeks. Her nose and lips were petit and she had a shadow of eyebrows over her eyes in a delicate arch.

Her hair was made of water like the rest of her body, but it was separated in strands like regular hair. It was tied in a high ponytail and the ends fluttered all about her as if she was underwater.

Somehow, I was compelled to kneel before her, because deep down I knew she was one of my gods. This was truly Elati, Lady of Storms. I hadn’t realized I had taken a few steps towards her before I fell to my knees, but I did notice that Cegil and Satel were now standing behind me. They didn’t see a need to kneel, but they did manage a short bow of respect.

She looked down at us like royalty, with her nose high in the air and her eyes half-lidded.

“Hels Meyuun, and falucite, welcome to my domain,” she greeted in my voice, her tone sounding far more cultured than I recalled when I used it.

For a moment, nothing was said- it was as if the air had been taken out of all of our lungs… Though I couldn’t speak anyway- I just had that feeling that I couldn’t breathe for the moment.

“Thou hast many questions, I sense,” she continued as her clear, watery eyes trailed from Cegil, down to me, then up to Satel. “I will answer all, which of thou wishes to ask first?”

Again there was silence- I glanced up at the two men, knowing that I had no way of asking my questions or making any requests myself. One of them had to do it.

But Elati gave a thoughtful look before she rested her elbow on the arm of her throne and leaned her chin against her delicate-looking fingers. She then cast her gaze solely on Cegil, deciding to start with him first “Thou art Cegil, art thou not? I have heard whispers about thee- about how thou turned against the Fates.”

Goodness, it seems the lavender haired man was really becoming famous for his hatred of the Fates- now even a goddess knew of him.

But Cegil remained cool, despite being before one of the ultimate followers of the Fates. Even a god followed Them, though they didn’t worship and cater to their every word like the rest of the world. However, my former guardian seemed to have a suspicion that Elati was not as she seemed in terms of a ‘loyal’ goddess.

“Will you criticize me then? I have heard my own ‘whispers’ that you have done the same,” he countered, sounding rather sure of that accusation. While I didn’t want to outright accuse her of such, it sure seemed that she was disobeying her superiors with the acts she had pulled in the past.

“It is true that I have declared myself a Fatesbane, but it is not the Fates I am against. My battle is against those who have the arrogance to claim they can speak for the Fates,” she replied, almost in a calm and collected manner.

“The Oracles?” Satel guessed, sounding stunned as his mind came up with that response to her clue. They were the only ones who could hear the Fates and dictate what they wanted- they also could choose what to say and turn the Word of the Fates into something ambiguous.

But were they really ‘arrogant’ about it? Sure, it was annoying that Oracles didn’t always tell the whole truth, but I don’t think they ever lied about what they’ve heard. Also, the ability to hear was something that came naturally to them- how was that arrogance if it wasn’t their fault for having it?

“No, I fight against those who don the titles of good and just- those whose vainglory corrupted them to the point of attacking innocents for their own selfish gain. Cegil, thou dost know of whom I speak- thou once fought a few in righteous anger.”

“…The Daedeleth,” he growled as he figured it out.

That’s right- apparently many of the falucite clans believed the Daedeleth to be the ultimate good because they were so strict in following the Fates. This was why the elders of our clan were so reluctant to trust Cegil’s judgment in the past and why even now they’re keeping their heresy a secret.

The Xanaturi clan knew that if they were caught going directly against the Fates, the Daedeleth would gladly destroy them, and the younger generations would be exiled to the fire islands. And to make matters worse, any claiming to have ties to the clan would be turned away at other clans.

“Thou hast believed that thy battle was with the Fates, but They have done nothing against thou. This clan of which harmed thee changed the Word to suit their own beliefs and sought to punish thee when thou disagreed with them,” the goddess continued, with an almost smug look on her face. She was acting as if this was amusing, though there was something in her tone that implied that she was trying to teach him a lesson.

I felt a little angry to hear her condescend him- if she knew so much of his past, then why taunt him about it? Even if Cegil’s anger was misplaced, he still suffered and lost too many loved ones. Cegil didn’t seem to believe her though- he knew the goddess couldn’t possibly know his story when he was an earth creature and sought to correct her assumptions.

“It is true that my failure to finish my reading was what started this ire, but it was the Fates who asked me to do something I did not want. I was told to destroy a kingdom in my territory, of which I would have had to destroy almost three thousand lives. I refuse to play this sadistic game at the expense of innocents,” he replied with an undertone of fury as he shook his head.

Suddenly Elati smirked, unable to hide her amusement with my brother-in-law’s plight.

“Thou art a fool, then.”

“What!?” Cegil barked in both surprise and outrage- even Satel and I became upset with her gall. I never knew what made Cegil turn away from the Fates, but from what I heard, he had every right to refuse. Why should he be forced to slaughter humans that were under his care?

“I say thou art a fool because thou believed that was the Word of the Fates. No reading ever tells a creature exactly what to do- if one’s future was truly set, then the lives of many others would be affected by that one, and all other readings would not be true. When thou refused to destroy the kingdom the Daedeleth asked thee to destroy, another fell instead and the Fates were satisfied. If thou dost not believe me, then look to the Oracles. Not one has ever dared to speculate the Word in their own belief and relay it to another,” she added with a look that dared us to challenge her response.

…When she put it that way, it did make a little sense- I hadn’t met an Oracle that gave a specific reading that told anyone who they should meet, where they should go, or even what they should do about a situation. Even my false reading under the name ‘Evora’ didn’t really say who I’d be mated to or what kind of monster- nor did that bitch even explain that it was a reading for an actual monster. She probably knew all along, and just wanted me to suffer like how the rest of the town wanted me to suffer.

Though I kind of wished she didn’t have that superior attitude to go with her argument- and she didn’t have to insult Cegil to make her point. …Oh who was I kidding? I insulted people for dumber reasons- I just didn’t think Cegil deserved it.

I had to remember that Elati was a goddess who existed for thousands and thousands of years, so she was likely speaking through experience and observations. She knew what she was talking about and was going to have her little fun proving us all wrong about what we believed. Pappy once said that the gods were cruel- I was beginning to see that now.

But I hated seeing that look of shame that crossed Cegil’s features before he glared down at the floor. “So in the end, I brought this all upon myself?”

I wanted to shout ‘no’- that couldn’t be true at all. Cegil was trying to be compassionate and was targeted because he didn’t follow senseless orders. He was the victim in the end for trying to do what he believed was right. So what if he blamed the wrong people? He was still condemned for no reason!

“Do not be hard on thyself- it is not thy fault alone, as the Daedeleth were the first to make the mistake of dictating the Word in their own image. Unlike them, thou hast the ability to see thy mistakes and learn from them, just as how thou realize that thy hatred was misplaced. Had thou not been born with the Blessings of Kajros, thou would have made a fine ally at my side,” Elati said as she raised her head and attempted a warmer smile.

Huh, first she was mean, and now she was acting nice. Did she do that because she respected Cegil’s humility? Did a goddess have the capacity to respect anyone other than one of their own?

“What do you mean ‘ally’?” Cegil inquired in a suspicious and confused tone. Now that he mentioned it, it was rather odd that she had to add that at the end of her explanation. It was almost as if she planted it on purpose to direct the conversation. …Maybe it wasn’t so impossible to believe that she already knew what we wanted to ask without us having to say anything. If that’s the case, then it would make things easier for me when it’s my turn.

Suddenly I caught her eye and the corner of her mouth raised slightly, as if to confirm my thoughts. She then raised her eyes back up to Cegil to reply to him.

“My answer to this question will also answer thy question as to what my goal is and why two of my sisters are against me,” she stated, warning us that she was about to enter a long explanation that might not answer his first question immediately. I don’t recall Cegil ever asking such a question yet, though I knew it was something he had been wondering about for quite some time- this further proved that she had some way of reading our minds.

“Very well,” he said prodding her with a nod. He didn’t seem that shocked that she figured out his intentions, though he probably knew she could do this. Cegil always knew much more than Satel and I combined- even after I gained the knowledge, it seemed.

“Thou were told of whom I fight against, but I have not told thee as to how I came unto this fight. It was humanity that had begun abusing power- many had started with good intentions, while others try their hand at being ‘heroes’ merely for the glory and fame. I found that when these entities become pressured and have no one to direct their energy or anger, they inadvertently turn on those they had sought to serve and protect.

“A king cannot punish a criminal when there are no criminals breaking his laws, so instead he seeks to punish others for smaller offenses. This is one of many examples. Humans desire peace, and yet in real peacetime they are unable to cope. They need someone to blame for their own misfortunes, and when no enemy exists, they have no choice but to turn on their neighbor or demand retribution on their benevolent leaders- strengthening the cycle of pressure.”

And suddenly some parts of my past made sense- back when I was in Port Sibest, I was deemed a bad person just because I was a pirate. I was also probably feared because of my sleep walking, too, but they still treated me badly to the point of being extreme. I was the one who somehow destroyed someone’s vase, I was the one who said some fat noblewomen looked ugly (though I did think it), and I was always pointed out for any crime that didn’t involve mugging.

Yeah, I wasn’t completely innocent, but I was still tormented over many things I hadn’t done. It didn’t occur to me that I was just the scapegoat to make them feel better about themselves. They probably didn’t really have anything against me deep down- they just needed someone to take the blame so they wouldn’t be guilty. But even though I understand their reasoning now, they were still mean to me and I still hate them.

“At one point in history, there was worldwide peace with humanity. It almost brought about an extinction of humans, for if they were not fighting themselves, they fought against greater and lesser demons. But within that imperfect order, I saw a glimmer of hope, where enemies join together to fight a common goal.

“That was when I discovered an important component in the Natural Order- peace and order cannot exist without war and chaos to balance it. Tiata and Naia disagreed heavily of my findings, believing that order will correct itself, but I could not stand by and allow creatures of the Maker to fade away. I created storms to disrupt towns and bring them together- I became a Fatesbane in order to preserve life through the counterbalance of chaos.

“Naturally the other gods did not like my ideals- only Anatil silently agreed with me. To stop my ‘madness’ Kajros formed an island with the intent to imprison me. That island is now known as the Kingdom of Eruda, and he did not expect me to seize it as property for my lord father,” she added with a dark smirk for her little treachery.

While I could get her theories, I was beginning to have a hard time in telling if Elati herself was an actual crazed villain, or someone who was just fitting herself into the role for the sake of her goals. Even though I have never met another god to tell the difference, she seems very different from the others. I can see why Kajros would try to imprison her out of fear and to stifle her radical ideas.

“So that was your reason for bargaining with that king- you were seeking to free yourself of your prison,” Satel muttered as he recalled his vision. I don’t know what possessed my ancestor to go start a new kingdom here, but it seemed to be the perfect opportunity for Elati to gain control of the land and be able to make her escape.

As long as she was surrounded by land she couldn’t touch, she couldn’t leave her lake or interfere with other’s lives. But… she must’ve been the one to have created that tunnel, so why was she still here? Was she tricking the others into thinking she was still a prisoner? But then, this castle was apparently her home, so maybe she didn’t want to leave- she just wanted the ability to if needed.

“That was only half of my reason,” she replied. “Claiming land in the name of my father was enough for him to forgive me, but I could no longer act as I used to without gaining more ire. I sought to create a warrior to complete my goals on my behalf- I made that human my ally so that he might direct human anger upon himself and bring a peaceful co-existence on his fellow man.”

“And thus came the Lord of the Sea,” Cegil finished after she trailed off.

That explained why my ancestor left Eruda to become a pirate. He sought to fulfill Elati’s wish by becoming one of the most hated scum known to man, and gathered fellow thieves to help him with it. But Satel said that he became her ‘consort’, not her ‘ally’- did the two words have different meanings so long ago? Or was it all fancy wording to appeal to my ancestor?

“Back then, he did bring peace in the form of chaos, but his powers could only reach so far in land. Thankfully, around that same time, falucite began to shape human culture and history, using control to prevent wars. They performed the rest of which my champion could not. However… it seems that thy race is not immune to the same corruption as humans- it simply takes longer for it to take root.

“The Daedeleth have begun to repeat human history and have tormented thou when they could not find true heretics. I cannot expect my human champion to face such an adversary- which is why I require a falucite champion. Cegil, thou art performing wonderfully and hast even rallied thy clan to thy cause, but alas, thou art beyond my reach,” she finished, finally answering Cegil’s question.

“And that’s where I come in, right?” Satel guessed as he crossed his arms.

“Correct. Thy parents have come to me in hopes that I might correct thy sister’s sight, but she was also born with the Blessings of Kajros. All I could do was bestow her the gift of Oracle awareness to help her learn to adapt, and in exchange I asked that they bear a fourth child and birth him in the sea so that he may be granted the Blessings of Elit. Thou art the only of thy kind with such blessings, and thus, the only one I can ask to aid me in my mission,” Elati answered before a glare came to her features, “But thou refused to join and turned against me.”

So Cegil’s theory happened to be spot on, and now we know why Elati asked for Satel’s birth. The whole ‘blessings’ from Kajros and Elit was something that defined what ‘kingdom’ a newborn creature served. Anyone born on land would, of course, be servants of the earth god and possess abilities of earth if they were elemental. Conversely, all seafarers and those born in the water were part of Elit’s domain. So that meant that Satel was, by all rights, a seafarer like me, and Elati had the ability to mess with him, as she could to me.

“How did I refuse you? What did I do against you? I didn’t even know that I had any connections to the sea until recently,” my mate bellowed incredulously, rightly upset over the matter. What did she expect when his birth had been treated as an ‘accident’ for his whole life?

“It is true- he knew nothing of his purpose until we came to your waters. This has been treated as a secret that died with our parents, so how would you expect him to answer you, let alone know an offer had been made?” his brother added, defending him.

“It is no fault of mine whom they chose to tell of our agreement- I have done my part in informing the Daedeleth so that they would not attack the falcie. Joining with my priestess is the highest honor one can receive from a goddess, and his accepting her was supposed to be a show of his willingness to become my ally. He at least knew of his choice to mate with her and decided not to do so,” she retorted indignantly.

There were two things she mentioned that struck them- the first was the fact that the Daedeleth knew all along that Satel was intentional and part of a goddess’ intervention, and yet they still attacked. The other was the fact that Elati honestly believed Satel would’ve taken the ‘honor’ of mating her priestess without knowing what it meant.

Cegil seemed to focus on the first point as he growled under his breath and muttered, “I should have known… the reason for the sacrifice was just a ruse- they must have been after me the entire time…”

But Satel was stuck on the jilted bride he refused. “I don’t mean to be rude, but do you even know your own priestess? Cyirlie’s no honor- she’s a torture device! Mating with her would have been worse than the death sentence I received!”

Elati’s eyes widened and she appeared genuinely surprised to hear Satel’s opinion of Cyirlie. Did that mean Cyirlie acted differently before her? Or did she just ignore the constant scowl on the dragon’s face and assumed there was nothing wrong with her?

“Forgive me, but I do not understand the emotions of lower level creatures. I was under the impression that the honor of being bonded with a dragon priestess would be far more desirable than to be bonded for …sentimental reasons,” she replied, revealing her true goddess traits.

The only ‘love’ a goddess could understand was probably whatever they feel for their father- anything else makes no sense to them. It’s probably how she understood why Pappy would care for me and have me spared from that awful alternative to my reading, but if it’s about any other form of love, she didn’t get it. Instead, she assumed that status was what everyone desired- and for most people that were true, but it wasn’t true for Satel.

Though I think she missed the true reason Satel refused- it had nothing to do with ‘sentimental reasons’ or the fact that he didn’t love her. He couldn’t survive with a dragon who threatened his life every hour of the day.

“Hmph… well too bad. You should’ve offered ‘Tia-dear when you had the chance. I’d have gladly join your ranks for her alone,” the über hat man pointed out with a smirk. I personally didn’t think it was wise to taunt her like that- even though it was too late for her to make that offer, she might find some way to separate us out of spite.

The goddess did glare at both his attitude and what he had said. “Thou should not have met the Hels Meyuun. Thou hast disrupted the cycle and impeded my sister when she was trying to collect her. To further insult us, you stole her away into the Land of Kajros so that we may not find her again. That is the reason I had sentenced thee to death.”

So if Elati knew that much, then why didn’t Cyirlie when she first came for Satel’s life? She didn’t know it was me at first, but she should’ve known Satel had me hidden away somewhere. …Though I guess there was only so much a dragon can pick up from a goddess without a voice. She probably just knew to do her duty and execute my mate without knowing the reason behind it- she didn’t need a reason, other than the fact that she seems to hate him.

But… how did my meeting Satel and becoming his mate disrupt the cycle? I’m still alive and can have children someday… or was she upset that I wouldn’t be able to have a full human child? Actually, if she wanted a human and a falucite ‘Lord of the Sea’, then why not let us procreate her a halfling? Then he would be able to handle both human and falucite affairs. Though I’m probably missing something that would make my idea useless- one would think Elati would’ve already thought of this.

“But now that he has survived his punishment, are you fine with the fact that they are mates? Tia is no more willing to be parted from him that he is to her,” Cegil replied, making sure that Cyirlie’s hopeful premonition of Satel being sentenced again would not come to pass.

“I have no choice but to accept the outcome and adapt accordingly. However, if thou remove the Hels Meyuun from the sea once again, I will show thee my wrath,” Elati warned with an icy look to her eyes.

The smirk from Satel’s face immediately vanished and he decided to lose his attitude. He knew better than to take her threat lightly, considering how lucky he had been to survive her first death sentence. But the fact that we could stay together was more than enough to satisfy me, though it also meant that I couldn’t live somewhere other than the sea. I’m sure I could visit the land, at least- just not for a long period of time.

“Now that I know what’s happening, I will comply to that. But what will happen now? I’m not against fighting for the same cause as my brother, but what reason might I have to join you now? After all these misunderstandings, I’m not sure if I want to be bound to the sea,” the blond added, sounding as if he was trying to strike a bargain with her. I wasn’t sure if he was after something in return for his service, or if he was just making sure she was really going to let things go.

“As I have said, I will have to adapt. Perhaps I might still strike a deal with thee, or I might find a new champion to take thy place. So long as thou dost not impede me, thou shall remain in my good graces.”

In other words, he was free to guard me, serve his family, and be a jackass to all humans. But did that also mean he wasn’t bound to the sea after all? It did sound as though his powers were still with him as a gift, under the condition of watching over me, but… What exactly made the difference of an ally under an oath of loyalty, and someone who happened to be working for the same goal and had no grudge with her?

Technically, he was performing as a villain to others, just not towards the Daedeleth, and it wasn’t like he was going to stop his habits. She was getting what she wanted out of Satel and Cegil, so then why wasn’t she happy with that? Neither one would likely disagree with her and seek to undermine her ideas, so ‘loyalty’ shouldn’t even be an issue.

“Why must one come to an agreement with you? I fear I do not understand your conditions or why one must have the Blessings of Elit to be your ally,” Cegil inquired, thinking the same thing I was.

“Because I cannot alter one who does not serve Elit- I require a warrior who can live forever. The reason I offer what they want most is so that they may continue to fight for my cause into the eons,” she explained, confusing us all the more.

“What does that mean exactly? Are you trying to say you need descendants of the original to stay loyal to you through family bonds or something? Because I fail to see how the Lord of the Sea ‘lives forever’ outside of that concept,” Satel asked so that she could explain more.

“No- I do mean immortality,” she clarified before her large hand gestured to me. “Behold the Hels Meyuun in female form. This is the very same flesh and blood I have made a pact with- the only difference being that this form holds the soul of the dying child I promised to bring back.”

“Wait, what?” my mate whispered harshly in surprise as I stared at the goddess wide eyed. Just what did that mean? I was the same… body as the Eternal King? How did that work!?

“The agreement I struck with Rutan more than four thousand years ago allows me to keep a part of his flesh and blood so that I may recreate him in both male and female forms as needed for the cycle of parent and child. For every repetition he decides to spare his daughter in the Liberation, I may retain his and his daughter’s soul for one more lifetime, placing them in newly reformed bodies after the expiration of the previous.

“Every new body starts from the beginning as an infant, in which I rely on the one remaining to raise to adulthood- hence the term ‘father and daughter, mother and son.’”

So she…created my body from a chunk of flesh and blood every time my previous life ended? And I was born outside of a womb- just to grow up and care for my father when he comes back as a child!? That meant I would get to see Pappy again, but… this was too bizarre!

Just what in the five hells am I!? A man? A woman? A woman in a man’s body? Did I even count as human?

My mind just swarmed with frightening questions and I wasn’t sure how to cope. The knowledge seemed to know some of the answers, but couldn’t catch up with me. Just seeing Elati’s face made me feel confused as I didn’t know if I should be happy or angry with her interference.

Even if Pappy asked for it, where was my voice in the matter? What if I didn’t want to live forever? Though since I didn’t have any memories of my past lives, I didn’t feel immortal at all.

I just couldn’t take it anymore- I didn’t want to hear another word. I ran out of that room as fast as I could, before Satel or Cegil could stop me.

To the Next Chapter

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