A Call From the Sea
We don’t need yer help, they said. We know Anatil will come save us, they said.
I growled as quietly as possible as I focused on placing one foot in front of another. I knew they were going to say something of the kind, but it still pissed me off to hear that tone of superiority. How dare they speak to Cegil like that!
As we came into town, my guardian’s reputation preceded him and everyone was all smiles when they noticed his arrival. Even though he never came back for seven years, he was still fondly remembered for his heroic exploits around the coastal regions. But the smiles began to wane when they noticed the figure walking beside him- me.
I could see most of them were stunned and disappointed to see me alive. I even heard a voice in the distance loudly inquire as to why I wasn’t dead yet. Damn them all to the five hells!
Still, the current mayor regarded Cegil as a town hero and politely declined his offer of help- not because of my presence, but because he had total faith in this unknown woman to appear out of thin air and throw herself to the beasts. It didn’t escape me that, after all this time, they never named a child born in Port Sibest after a goddess. It was clear they were hoping for an outsider so they wouldn’t be as saddened by the loss.
Cegil insisted on staying, saying that he would still defend everyone in the event that this ‘Anatil’ didn’t show up. The giant man made himself sound as if he believed in the reading and convinced them to let him stay as a ‘just in case’ back-up. They weren’t against that- so long as we didn’t interfere with Anatil’s ‘brave sacrifice’. …They really wanted this girl they’ve never met to die. …Maybe I should consider the cruelty they’ve shown me as a good thing.
I had to wonder why they were so sure the girl would bear that name- did the Oracle say so to them? Or was that the name they wanted since they touched the goddess’ waters? Frankly, I didn’t care- Cegil’s clan ensured that no woman will be coming for their sakes, so they were waiting on a false hope. And since the mastermind behind the coming attacks wasn’t aware of this, I also pondered how they would react in turn.
They couldn’t continue to send more monsters, lest they want to lose most of their personal army. Maybe the newest puppet of the Fates will personally come to see what was amiss and where his sacrifice was. Well, whoever it was, I was sure Cegil could take him down and that would be the end of it.
The mayor was ‘kind’ enough to give us a room at the inn for free, though I easily caught his wording and knew that he was only giving Cegil a room. I was being ignored for the most part- and it was probably better that way.
Port Sibest’s inn wasn’t like most two story establishments. While others had a whole second floor for rooms, this one only had a stair and walk way that led up to four rooms that were perched above the ones downstairs. The rest of the building was a lobby and common room for guests.
The rooms were also significantly smaller than most, but with just enough space for the length of beds. The only other furnishing that could fit width wise was a small table, often placed between the beds if there were two of them. This place didn’t allow for individual wash rooms- if one needed to refresh themselves, they had to go downstairs and use the one that everyone was expected to share.
I heard that the inn, the main square, and the homes of the wealthy families had running water and working toilets. Technology still hadn’t reached very far in remote places such as this- though it could’ve been an issue with money. I would imagine that it cost quite a lot to furnish and install enough pipes for every home in the town. Everyone else had to rely on outhouses or ask to use the bathroom at the inn. When it came to wanting a bath, they would have to draw water from the well and carry it to their tubs themselves.
I silently climbed up the rough wood stairs and continued to follow Cegil all the way to the end of the walkway, where our room was. I wasn’t one bit surprised to see that it only possessed one bed. Since I had left under the assumption that I would be mated to a monster, they either thought we shared a bed as mates would… or it was a subtle message telling me to go out and sleep in the alleys again.
As far as I knew, all the rooms were plain- the walls and floors were just wood with no paint or decorations to make them look interesting. But since there was only one bed, there was enough space to add a chair and a wardrobe. Technically, that made this room the ‘best in the house’ because it possessed more than the others.
Cegil had a slight frown to his face and appeared to disapprove of the lodgings. He soon turned and started to head back out. “I shall insist that we have the proper accommodations for the both of us.”
“Don’t bother…” I told him before he could leave. “You can argue and threaten to make them lose business all you want, but they will never show kindness to a pirate.”
“You do not deserve such treatment, nor have you committed the crimes they once accused you of,” he pointed out before he inquired. “Are you certain you are willing to let it go?”
It wasn’t a question of willingness- I just knew that if they still felt that I was some monster, then there was nothing I could do to change their mind. I also doubted Cegil could convince them either. It was better to just suffer their treatment for one day and hopefully leave and never come back. …I didn’t want Cegil to lose his room because of me.
“I know when I face a fight I can’t win- so there’s no point. Besides, we should probably sleep in shifts just in case,” I replied, subtly referring to the idea that Satel could break his word and come tonight.
“I do not believe Satel would come tonight, however, there is no guarantee that lesser demons might attack sooner than expected. I shall take the-”
“Oh no!” I yelled, stopping him immediately. “I’m not falling for that again. I’m taking the first watch.”
I still remembered the last time he volunteered to go first, and he conveniently ‘forgot’ to wake me for my turn. This time, I was going to stay up all night for him. I was anticipating him to argue and insist that he take his turn first, but he only nodded his head and replied, “Very well.”
I was pleasantly surprised at his willingness to trust me and wondered if he was planning something. Maybe he didn’t think I would really be able to stay up that late…
But I noticed that he did seem tired as he walked over to the lone bed and sat down on it. Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure if he had gotten any sleep last night thanks to what had happened with Satel. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to discover that he might’ve stayed up all night to guard me.
I decided then that I wasn’t going to wake him later- not out of revenge, but to allow him the chance to finally get enough sleep. He’s done a lot for me in the past, so it was high time I did something for him. I never was able to stay awake an entire night, but I was willing to give it a try.
I didn’t even think about the consequences of doing so- after all, I was expected to fight some tomorrow and I needed plenty of rest to focus. But Cegil needed sleep too, and he is a better fighter than I am. It’s obvious who would get priority here.
I wandered over to the uncomfortable wooden chair in the corner and waited for my guardian to lie down and go to sleep. I wished him good night and reached over to blow out the lamp when he finally closed his eyes.
It was quiet in the room, with only mine and Cegil’s breathing left to indicate life. I wasn’t sure what I could do to quietly entertain myself for an entire night, so I ended up staring at the window. With the clouds covering the night sky, there was practically no light coming in through it, and I was sure there wasn’t much to see outside if I bothered to get up and look. People were too afraid to wander the streets at night to be bothered with lighting the street lamps.
I flinched when a flash of light lit up everything in the room before a growl of thunder accompanied it. Heh, it seemed Elati’s storm decided to become active now. This was the second storm I’ve seen in a short while- and it was just as unnerving as before. I was far, far away from Cahoa at this point, and I knew this couldn’t possibly be the same storm, but I was still getting those same feelings of worry from it.
There was no rain for most of the night- though the weather was already strange enough. After just sitting straight for the better part of two hours, I drew in my legs and rested my heels on the edge of the seat so that I could lean my head on my knees. Despite the noise and light show outside, I was getting bored fast and my eyes were beginning to droop.
Not once did Cegil ever stir in his sleep- he must’ve been very tired. Or…maybe he was always like that and I never noticed before. I never did last long enough to watch him slumber. He was always on his back, with his large hands resting on his belly. It made me wonder if he ever tried to sleep other ways, like on his side.
What happened next was rather…dream-like- in fact, I probably did fall asleep and not realize it. A hum came to my throat and before I knew it, it was starting to sound like a melody of some kind. I tried to stop, before I could awaken Cegil and disturb his rest, but I was distracted by what sounded like a crash.
After that, everything became fuzzy and I was convinced it had to have been a dream. I thought something broke the window and I vaguely remember walking towards it in a daze. Glass crunched under my boots as I approached the opening and felt a strong breeze hit me.
Then… the room filled with water and I saw the moon in the sky.
The next morning, when I stirred, I found myself in the bed and Cegil was sitting in the chair. I must’ve fallen asleep and he got up to take his shift sometime in the night. I was about to berate myself in being so weak that I couldn’t stay up a few hours, but then I noticed something was …off.
Cegil had placed himself in front of the door, almost as if he was deliberately barricading it. My eyes soon drifted over to the window, where it was indeed smashed and all of the glass was littered on the floor. It seemed not everything from my last memories of the night were a dream. I felt around to make sure that it was still dry in here, and to prove to myself that the room getting filled with water was dream and not reality.
“What…” I began, my voice still a little groggy, “What happened?”
“There was a strong storm last night and the pressure from the winds shattered the window. I suppose you fell asleep shortly before that,” he explained with no trace of sarcasm or disappointment that I couldn’t finish my shift.
“Hmm…” It coincided with my dream last night, but how in five hells could I have slept through a storm like that? Oh, I should talk! I’ve done it several times as a kid in the few times we were foolish enough to sail into a storm during the night.
There didn’t seem to be very much damage- only the glass was an issue. But the drapes appeared to be bone dry and the wind didn’t disturb anything else in the room. I noted that it was still cloudy outside and there was a sticky feeling of moisture in the air. After a while, I heard something in the distance- like angry chanting or something.
“What’s that noise?” I inquired out loud after realizing that it was coming from outside.
“I am not certain,” Cegil responded with a shake of his head. “A crowd began to gather shortly before dawn- I fear it may have something to do with us, hence why I am sitting before the door.”
Us? No- they must’ve come for me. I wonder what crime they were trying to pin on me already? I suppose the fact that I have a credible witness will do nothing for me, since pirates are ‘never innocent’, regardless of facts. I let out a sigh as I pulled myself out of bed.
“I suppose we need to grace them with our presence and find out what’s wrong,” I muttered sardonically, hiding the fact that I dreaded the thought. I wasn’t in the mood to be accused of things, but at the same time, there was no way around it. If we were to help the bastards, then we had to go out sometime.
“Are you ready to face them?” Cegil asked as he prepared to stand.
“Not really, but if we could stop by the washroom on the way, that would be great,” I suggested, hoping to clean up and put on a change of clothes. I didn’t want to look good for the villagers’ sakes, but I didn’t want to feel grimy and smelly either.
There was no one downstairs- even the innkeeper was absent. Cegil and I could hear the angry voices past the walls, but they didn’t seem to want to come in and bother us. Cegil took a quick turn to tend to his needs before I had my turn. I took my time to clean up and brush my hair before I emerged and secured my bag.
We didn’t intend to stay another night here, so I was going to have to fight with it on. I knew I couldn’t trust the innkeeper to keep my items safe, since someone would assume it was all stolen and take them or burn them because they thought it was evil.
As we opened the door, we found that the mayor and the innkeeper was trying their hardest to keep everyone out of the inn. The two were doing it out of respect for Cegil and they were ready to turn me over to the masses once we were out. I thought they were preparing for their sacrificial bimbo, but the raving lunatics wanted to accuse me of some last minute crime and chase me out.
“Ah bet Evora would eat our savior if she had the chance!” some voice declared in the back. Ah, right- when the bait doesn’t arrive, the villain gets blamed. I noted that it was an elderly voice that called out. It was actually the old people who hated me, and they convinced their children and grandchildren to follow suit.
“What is going on?” Cegil inquired of the mayor in the most polite tone he could muster.
The mayor was a middle aged man of whom I distinctly remember from the past. He once led a group of twenty-something year olds to pelt me with buckets of salt water and fish guts as ‘divine retribution’ for every bit of pirate raid related news that reached the port town. Back then, he was in his late twenties or so. I suppose such ‘leadership’ helped him to get where he was as the elected head of the town.
“Ah apologize, Sir Cegil, ah mean no offense, but ye shouldn’t have brought Evora back ‘ere. Many o’ us believe she summoned that wind funnel last night out o’ spite,” the fat son of a bitch replied with scorn.
Apparently, the winds that shattered the window to our room last night were from a wind funnel that scraped the edge of town. Only two homes were in the path and destroyed, and no one was even injured. Considering how flimsy middle and lower class homes were against Elati’s storms, the fact that no one died was a miracle in itself. Leave it to those ingrates to completely miss that…
“Wot?” I deadpanned as I glared out into the crowds and placed my hands on my hips. “Since when did ah have the powers o’ a goddess?”
Only the gods and goddesses had power over the forces of nature, though many ignorant humans liked to assume many things when it came to species that were more powerful than they were. Just like how any race, be it demon, dragon, or falucite are ‘monsters’, anyone deemed ‘evil’ would have some kind of unholy involvement over tragic events, just so they would have a scapegoat to vent their frustrations on.
“Monsters like ye always have an excuse- ye never want ta take responsibility fer yer actions,” a matronly lady said with a sneer.
“Aye,” I agreed amiably before taking on a dark look, “Ah take no responsibility fer things ah haven’t done! This world must be comin’ ta an end if lowly creatures like meself can rival a goddess. If ah really done anythin’, ye’d think ah’d destroy the entire town- not jus’ two houses!”
“So ye admit it!” some young man yelled in anger, thinking he’d caught me in the act for something.
“Admit wot?” I inquired incredulously. I don’t know why I bothered with common sense logic when all they wanted was for me to be chastised for something.
“Enough!” Cegil called out, sounding both angry and annoyed. “My daughter is innocent of the crimes you accuse her of. She has been in my sight all night and was asleep during the storm. Or do you think me a liar?”
I felt a twinge of pride at hearing my guardian publicly announce to the town that he adopted me as he came to my defense. If they held him in such a high regard, then my role in his life should matter to them. There were some shocked faces, but all it did was silence them- they still didn’t like me, but that’s okay. Having them shut up and swallow their words was music to my ears.
“This is no time ta point fingers…” the mayor said when he realized that he had to choose between Cegil’s approval or the townspeople’s. He instead changed the subject. “The monsters should be upon us soon- we need ta wait fer Anatil to appear.”
Heh, smart man- when in doubt, don’t take sides and avoid the issue. What a true public figure. The townspeople weren’t too happy with the idea of letting me go unpunished, but they knew better than to cross Cegil- and they did have better things to do at the moment.
Everyone begrudgingly headed for the piers to basically pray and stare at the end of the long wooden structures until something happened. Cegil and I had no choice but to follow them. I admittedly felt like an idiot standing with them as they awaited their doom or salvation. Honestly- one would think the best course of action would be to find a sturdy place to take cover and gather enough weapons to defend. Why did they have to rely on someone else to save them? Pathetic!
Of course, I fully realized that I sometimes needed help in getting out of situations, but at least I tried to save myself- or rather, I never made my savior have to do all of the work.
Someone let out a loud gasp as the first sea creature began pulling itself out of the surf. It was a kwiad, and it used its many legs to drag its long, upright body into town. Like most sea demons, they were slow on land, but dangerous if one were to get within range of one. Kwiads had mouths on the bottom, and they were filled with teeth sharp enough to easily rip human flesh.
The next monster sighted was an evora, which were faster, but not as threatening. Following it, many more grotesque and scaly heads began to crest over the waves. Cegil and I began to reach for our swords as the townspeople began whispering frantically and asking where Anatil was.
“Calm down, e’eryone she’ll be here!” the mayor insisted before he asked us to stand down and not interfere. Just how long did they want to wait?
There was quite a number of creatures showing up- perhaps more than what Cegil and I could handle. If the hordes drew too close, then there was even less of a chance of us being able to save everyone.
“So where’s yer precious Anatil?” I asked mockingly, savoring the fact that they were going to be wrong. “Surely she’d come by now- ah would think she’s at least have the courtesy to sacrifice herself before the beasts come.”
“Dantia,” Cegil muttered sternly. I knew it was petty, but I couldn’t resist. They totally deserved this- and it wasn’t as if they were truly doomed. They just didn’t have to know about it.
I smirked as I glanced back at the jerks, but soon my good cheer waned. I was expecting angry, indignant faces, but all I could see was frightened, doubtful, and worried ones. Their faith in the Fates were being questioned, and while the Fates shouldn’t be taken seriously, I knew how devastating it was when a belief turned out to be a lie.
The people of Port Sibest didn’t deserve any form of sympathy from me… and yet, I felt a little bad. There were children born after I had left that had nothing to do with the discrimination and bullying. And- there were also people who probably moved here and didn’t know who I was. Not everyone was guilty of being a jerk- yet. Though if given time, they’ll most likely take up the insults and blame me for everything.
But, for right now, heckling them wasn’t going to make me feel better.
“This is madness,” Cegil grumbled, unable to stall a moment longer. “Everyone seems to be in the center of town, so Dantia and I shall position ourselves at the two paths to prevent them from getting close. Surely that will not interfere with your Anatil’s plan?”
“Ah… ah don’t know,” the mayor admitted, his grey eyes darting around nervously. He had no clue what to expect anymore than the others and since nothing was going the way he’d envisioned, his resolve to maintain a calm air about him was waning.
“That is good enough for me, Dantia, you take the left side,” the lavender haired man ordered before he turned and was about to head off.
“W-wait!” I called out, before he could get far, “Wot ‘bout Satel? Shouldn’t we stay together?”
“There is no need to worry at the moment- the ceremony should be starting right about now. But should this battle last longer than I anticipate, I will come to you,” he reassured me before there was a cry for help.
One of the townspeople had panicked and left the square to run to his home. He was quickly targeted by a lesser demon and Cegil immediately rushed off to save him. This left me alone with the rest of the sorry excuse for living creatures. I glared at them for a long while- I didn’t have to protect them. In fact, who could blame me if I ‘accidentally’ let a few monsters slip past me?
“Anatil ain’t comin’, ye know,” I replied in a tired voice before I let out a disgusted sigh. No one answered me, but I could easily see that they were downtrodden and afraid. I still believed half of them deserved it, but seeing their seafaring features made an old memory come to me.
Once, a ship filled with members from some king’s army was chasing the ship I was on. Elati struck them with lightning and spared us from being caught. But all it took was one seafarer crying for help from the enemy’s vessel before the Wise Man gave a similar disgusted sigh to mine and ordered the crew to go back and save them. We tied them up and left them at a random port later on, but we still saved them.
He explained himself later by saying that in times of duress, seafarers always help one another regardless of their alliances. I never really understood why that was until something Cegil once taught me came to mind- it’s important to do what’s right, even if I didn’t like the outcome. It was safe to say that I downright hated these people… but saving them was the right thing to do, wasn’t it?
“Ah hate ye lot. Yer all cowardly suckerpusses who’ll hurt defenseless people jus’ ‘cause they lived a lifestyle ye didn’t like. This attack could be divine retribution fer how disgustin’ ya’ll are, but…” I let out another sigh before I gently pounded my fist against my chest in a traditional seafaring war salute. “Yer also seafarers, and even though we’re not part o’ the same family, we’re family all the same. Stay up here if ye know what’s good fer ye- ah’ll protect ye from the beasties …‘cause unlike ye, ah don’t fersake me blood.”
…They just stared at me like I was some lunatic. I wasn’t sure why I bothered. Oh well, at least they were staying quiet and not tormenting me. I didn’t waste any more time and headed to where Cegil told me to go.
As soon as I got there, there were some sea monsters beginning to gather. I drew my sword and took them down with ease since I knew their weaknesses. I didn’t even like killing lesser monsters and animals, but it didn’t weigh as heavily on me as it did with creatures of higher intelligence. If I hadn’t killed them, then they would’ve gone on to kill others- and me.
At first, defending the road was no problem, but as more began to appear, it started to become difficult. If the waves of monsters didn’t lessen anytime soon, I might not be able to stop them all. It wasn’t long before a mass began to rush at me- I was able to defend myself and take down most of them, but three ran around me and was about to head for the middle of town.
But then, a miracle happened- two fisherman jumped down from the short part of the cliff that the center of town rested on and beat back the monsters with wooden clubs. Soon, more men came rushing to us from the road, armed with swords. For a moment, I thought they were going to fight me as well as the beasts, but they instead gathered by my sides and faced the ocean.
“Yer right, Evora,” one of the fishermen said as he prepared for the next set of monsters. “We’re seafarers and we gotta do wot we can ta defend our home.”
“An’ we can use all the help we can get,” added the other. There was a slight smirk on his face that expressed some gratitude. “Thanks fer remindin’ us.”
I was shocked that they actually listened to me, let alone thanked me for anything. My berating them finally got them to take action and try to defend themselves. Then again, perhaps I offended their honor and they were seeking to make me eat my words. Not once did any of them apologize for the past or try to make amends- so it was likely they didn’t want a pirate to have the last say and save the town. They also didn’t exactly thank me for defending them so far- I only received gratitude for calling them to arms.
In the end, it didn’t matter- for this moment alone, I was one of them and they could temporarily ignore what I was. I knew they would go back to treating me like a monster when it was over, but at least they were making themselves useful here and now. It was…actually a nice feeling to have their support, even though I still hated them.
With the able men on my side, we were able to drive back the lesser demons to the beach and prevent them from getting into down town. Slowly, but surely, less were appearing from the sea and it seemed we were truly winning. Somewhere along the trek, one of the townspeople took charge and issued orders, which was fine with me- I didn’t care much for the leadership role.
I was given a few orders and was being utilized instead of shoved to the side, but otherwise, I fought by my own plan. When it seemed my area was safe, the chosen leader suggested moving to the other side of town and checking on Cegil and whoever went over to help him. He left behind a group to stand guard on the road in case any more monsters might show up later.
As for me, I was pretty much forgotten, and for once, I wasn’t sure if that was intentional or they figured I wouldn’t listen beyond that point. I decided that it was about time to look for Cegil and stay by him. I didn’t know how much time had passed, and I knew Cegil had promised to come to me before it was too late, but I didn’t have much else to do and I didn’t want to take risks. But first…
The pirate in me couldn’t resist- I made sure no one was looking before I ran over to the underside of the middle pier. I had some ‘buried treasure’ to recover while I was here and I figured now was as good a time as any to recover it. Whatever items I had stolen in past, I’d end up selling in Esbee and stored away the money in a large knothole in one of the supports.
I had to wade through the surf to reach it, but it was low tide- and I was a little taller than I used to be. The salty drink only came to my mid thigh, when back then it came to my hip. I let out a smirk as I reached the correct post and felt around the part facing out to sea for the familiar bump. I had stuffed a rock into the hole to protect my loot from being washed away and it was still there, sturdy as ever.
It did take some effort to pry it out, but I was pleased to find the bag still in tact and not missing any money. I had saved up to thirty crijok before Cegil had adopted me. It wasn’t too much money, but it was enough to help out until we could go on bounty hunts again.
“Argh!” I snarled as an errant wave somehow grew enough to literally slap me in the back of my head. I turned to glare, even though I knew nature was the culprit and there was nothing I could do about it. I simply stuck my tongue out at Anatil’s waters and waded back to the shore.
Flesh and blood of Eruda, where hast thou been?
I paused mid-wade. Did someone just speak to me? I glanced around, only to find that I was alone. The closest person to me was still a few feet away on the beach and there was no way they could speak to me in that calm, almost emotionless tone from that distance. …Plus, it sounded like a woman.
It has been quite some time since thou touched my waters. It was thought that thou hast perished.
Was I hearing things? The voice was very clear, and yet I didn’t see anyone close to me. I raised my hand to check my head for injury just in case- whatever I was experiencing was too bizarre. Who in five hells did I know that spoke like that anyway?
No matter- I will send someone to acquire thee. Do not stray far again.
What? For extra measure, I looked up at the docks above me to check if there was someone up there. Still nothing… None of that was directed at me, was it? The voice asked questions and acted as though someone answered, so maybe I was overhearing a conversation between a greater being and someone else. Oh no, it wasn’t the attacker communicating with the sacrifice was it? I guess their ‘Anatil’ showed up after all…
I ran back to the shore as quickly as I could against the water with the intent of seeking out Cegil and warning him of my suspicions. Maybe it wasn’t too late to stop the bimbo. I paid little mind to my now wet clothes as I rushed back into town through the right side where my guardian should’ve been patrolling. It seemed almost all of the monsters were gone from that side as well- the few that were still alive seemed to have lost their desire to fight. They pretty much ignored me as I crossed their paths.
I let out a curse when I realized that I couldn’t see Cegil anywhere. He must’ve already headed over to where I was. If that’s true, then it must be about time for Satel to start showing up. Oddly enough, I wasn’t that worried about him- I was still distracted by the origin of that strange voice and I knew that Cegil could still hear me if I shouted really loud. This port town wasn’t that big compared to Cahoa.
I was about to run back to the beach and see if I could find my guardian there, but I slowed my steps as a bad feeling came over me. I soon realized that there was screaming in the distance- and there were frantic commands to others to seek higher ground. I hesitated for too long in trying to figure out the meaning in the warnings, because when I finally looked up, I discovered the source of the panic.
A giant wave was headed for Port Sibest and it was already upon us. At first I was just too stunned to move, but somehow I managed to swing around at the last second and attempt to run up the incline towards the middle of town. The next thing I knew, something cold hit me mid-back and I was swept away by the violent waters.
I barely had time to think in the split second that I was being consumed by the wave. All I could do was react instantly when I felt something solid hit my body. I wrapped my arms around the rough structure and held on tight as the salty sea settled into the town.
I coughed a few times to get the water out of my lungs, then thanked Elit that I managed to find a place where I could keep my head above the surface. When I regained my wits about me, I noticed that I was clinging to a pole that supported the wooden awning in front of the inn.
I was stunned, panicked, and even a little worried that I might not make it. The Fates gave no indication whatsoever that this would happen and I had no idea how to handle this other than hold on for dear life. I struggled to calm myself and think through my next step- I wasn’t dead yet, so I still had a chance to get out of this. The water had pushed me up close to the roof and if I could just find the strength, then maybe I could climb up there.
But just as I had that thought, I felt the currents shift. The flood was returning to the sea and it created a kind of suction that was strong enough to pull my body and make be cling desperately to the post. My lower half was lost to the currents while my arms were losing strength. I dug my fingernails into the wood in hopes that it would help me outlast the ebb. I pressed my face against the wood in a vain attempt to keep the water out of my face and away from my lungs.
“Dantia! …Dantia!” a voice called out in the distance. With water roaring past my ears, I wasn’t sure if I was really hearing something or imagining it- but at least it was more believable than the voice from before.
“Cegil!” I yelled out without thinking. I wasn’t even sure if that was him, but then, he was the only one who called me that. With my limited sight, I couldn’t see much, but I did hear the voice come closer. He didn’t sound like he was in any distress (other than worry for me), so I guessed that he was in a safe place. Considering how close he was getting, I wondered if he somehow made it to the rooftops.
“Dantia! Hold on! I will try to reach you!” That time, he sounded as if he was almost on top of me. I quickly turned my head and found his Cegil’s giant frame on the roof of the inn and he was staring straight at me. I don’t think I had ever seen him look so scared before- I must’ve been in a worse situation than I had thought.
“Ah got a good grip! Ah’m not goin’ anywhere!” I shouted back to reassure him. But damn… it felt like the sea had arrived and settled faster than it was draining. It was almost as if it was slowing on purpose, like it was deliberately trying to drag everything back with it.
Of course, no sooner than after the words had left my mouth, there was a creak and the wood began to lean slightly. The awning wasn’t as well-built as I had thought and it was finally giving in to the force of the water. I could see Cegil’s eyes narrow at the sound before he gritted his teeth. I did a good job at not screaming my head off and remained as calm as I could.
Either the awing was going to collapse and I was going to be swept away by the sea for the second time in my life, or the waters will finally recede and I can slide down to the ground. All I could do was wait for either outcome. But Cegil had another idea- after frantically searching for something to hold on to, he took off his frock coat and tied the arm to a sturdy protrusion that was coming out of the roof. He intended to use it as leverage so that he could reach me.
The magicks in his coat were strong enough to support his weight as he leaned out and tried to grasp me. Thanks to his length, he managed to get pretty close to me, but I still had to reach out and take his hand- that meant I had to weaken my grip on the pole.
I trusted in the sheer force of will to keep one arm around the post and cautiously held out my hand to touch his. I was so close- so damn close! But…there was a crash and I felt myself being propelled away from my guardian before something hit me in my midsection and forced me underwater.
I somehow managed to surface again to see that Cegil had fallen in, but he was still supported by his frock coat. He was still reaching out to me as I quickly drifted further away from him. His mouth was opened and I was sure he was shouting my name. I couldn’t hear him because my ears were waterlogged.
I flailed frantically against the debris and cried out his name, but it was no use. Something hard struck me and I was forced under again. My last thoughts involved Cegil and my predicament- would I ever see him again? Was I going to survive? Or was I going to wake up on some strange shore again?
And what about Satel? …For some reason, I actually wanted to see him again. Perhaps to tell him good-bye? I don’t know… It didn’t take long for me to lose consciousness either due to a lack of air or being struck in the head. I was at the mercy of Elit.
“Lord Rutan!? …Lord Rutan!”
I let out a groan- I ached everywhere and I was too groggy to get up. Slowly, the memories of what happened to me returned and I soon realized that if I was feeling pain, then I was still alive.
“Lord Rutan.” I felt a cool hand on my cheek before the name registered in my head.
“Ru…tan?” I repeated weakly as my eyes fluttered open. It’s been so long since I’d heard that name. But… was the person talking to me?
Hovering above me was this beautiful woman with sea blue eyes and lovely auburn hair that had a red sheen in the dimming light. She expressed great joy at seeing me awaken and then moved back to give me some breathing space.
As my awareness returned, I found that various sea monsters surrounded me and that the ‘woman’ who was helping me was actually a mermaid. Her wavy hair covered her exposed (and annoyingly ample) bosom and ended at her lower belly where the scales of her blue tail began. Her translucent fin gracefully stirred behind her as she occasionally used it to spray herself with seawater.
I wasn’t sure what was going on or why the lesser demons weren’t attacking me. I found it stranger yet that a greater demon was talking to me and speaking the name of an old …acquaintance.
“M’lord, we had thought ye were dead,” she rambled happily with a beautiful smile so wide that I could almost swear it would split her face in half. “E’eryone will be happy ta see ye again!”
…She was talking to me, wasn’t she? Surely she knew I wasn’t a man- otherwise she would’ve eaten me already. Mermaids preferred to eat human men while the male versions hunted women.
“Yer…mistaken. …Ah ain’t Rutan…he’s been… dead fer years,” I replied in a raspy tone. I hurt so bad, that I could barely control my voice or my breathing.
I finally glanced around a little to gain my bearings. I wasn’t sure where I was, nor was there any sign of a town or land. I was on what appeared to be a pile of wooden debris caught in a sandbar. I noted that there was a lot of it- maybe one of the piers collapsed and came with me during the water recession.
The mermaid soon shook her head and appeared a little puzzled. “No- ye must be Lord Rutan. Ah know the smell o’ his blood very well.”
I wasn’t sure where she got that idea- I also had no clue where she smelled any blood until she reached out and touched my leg. I let out a cry as sharp pain shot through me. I felt sick to my stomach when I found what appeared to be a long, twisted metal shaft sticking out from the calf of my leg. I wasn’t sure where it had come from or where it was attached, but I could see that it was a clean pass through the flesh.
I was a total mess- not only was my leg injured, the wreckage did a number on me by bruising and scratching my skin in various places. My back was also killing me, but I couldn’t see what was wrong back there. I focused back on the loony mermaid and wondered how she figured that my blood belonged to the self-proclaimed Lord of the Sea. Hell- I wasn’t even aware that the smart-assed Wise Man had even been associated with mermaids.
“Ah’m not Rutan!” I insisted through gritted teeth. “The man’s dead! Ah saw it with me own eyes!”
I didn’t know my biology very well, but even if she were trying to claim that I was of some relation to the Wise Man, I wouldn’t possess his unique blood scent. It takes two to make a baby and the blood mixed to create a new smell. The very idea that I had the exact same blood as him was both ridiculous and impossible.
I wasn’t sure what was worse right then- my injuries or hearing the Wise Man’s name again. Just remembering the day I had lost him was putting me through some emotional stress and forcing me into an even worse state. Of all my memories of the past, that was the last thing I wanted to recall.
The mermaid titled her head in confusion before turning to a nearby lesser kwiad. “Hmm… Maybe he lost his memory?”
I mustered a scowl at her as I resisted the urge to retort that men did not possess breasts like mine. I was also lacking the proper equipment down below, but there was no way in five hells I was going to show her that.
“Ah fear ye make no sense, m’lord. How can ye be dead if yer right here before me?”
I made no sense? She was the one who was insane!
“Go away…” I hissed as I ignored another throb of pain. At the moment, I wasn’t in the mood for her lunacy- I just wanted help and she was too clueless to offer any. …Well, to be fair, she didn’t have to help me since she was a demon with no reason to be kind to humans. Where was Cegil? How far was I from Port Sibest?
“Oh ah can’t do that, m’lord- ah was ordered to bring ye home. Come now, let’s pry him out o’ that,” the mermaid ordered to her lesser companions.
Home? What home? Surely this had nothing to do with the prophecy? No… if that was the case, then she wouldn’t be insisting that I was the Wise Man. I tensed as the monsters drew near, but there was nothing I could do- if I moved too much, I could end up damaging my leg even more.
Suddenly, the mermaid let out a venomous hiss as she focused on something to the side. Before I knew it, all of the lesser demons were being slashed up in front of me by some kind of invisible force.
“Why ye low down-!” the woman growled with a sneer as the newcomer appeared in my line of vision. My heart started pounding and my stomach felt like it had dropped as I saw familiar locks of platinum blonde sway in the sea breeze.
“Ah would appreciate it if ye kept yer briny hands off me mate,” the über hat man said jovially in his mock accent before his tone darkened, “Leave now, or else ye’ll be next.”
The mermaid appeared like she had a few choice words for him, but somehow she sensed that he was too powerful for her to handle. She eventually dragged herself back to deeper waters and swam away after leaving a vow, “Ah will see that she’s made aware ‘o this!”
…And just who was ‘she’? That mermaid must’ve suffered some kind of head injury or something. But most of all, I simply couldn’t believe she knew the Wise Man. His name used to be rather famous in some parts, so she must’ve heard it from somewhere…
But none of that mattered at the moment because Satel was now looking at me with a predatory gleam. I could hear water swish as he approached me.
“S-stay back!” I yelled at him as I plastered my back firmly against the wreckage behind me. My actions earned me another shot of pain through the leg and I resisted the urge to wince. I was even more vulnerable than the last time I had seen him- I couldn’t even run now.
“Don’t move,” he warned me before he knelt down and inspected my leg. He leaned in close so that he could thoroughly examine where the protrusion was coming from and how to get me out of it. Even though the falucite was a threat to me at the moment, I was partially glad that he was here. I would rather he got me out of this mess than that mermaid and her cohorts.
“This shouldn’t have happened,” he growled, displeased with my condition. I had nothing to say as he used his magicks to cut free the metal shaft so that I could move my leg again. But he didn’t remove it from my flesh just yet- he had other plans in mind.
“No more games and no more waiting, ‘Tia. You’re coming with me,” he insisted after gently kissing the knee of my injured limb. Satel didn’t even give me the chance to protest- he just grabbed my hand and whisked me away in the blink of an eye.
The next thing I knew, I was sitting at the edge of a soft bed in a lavish room I had never seen before…