7. Unneeded Rescue

Chapter 7

Unneeded Rescue

            The first night was okay. Cegil and I were too paranoid to sleep outdoors so we ended up taking shifts. Actually- he tricked me by volunteering to stand watch first and didn’t bother to wake me later. I took my ‘shift’ during the morning when he took a short nap. I had no right to complain since I had gotten more sleep, but I didn’t like the fact that I was denied pulling my weight for the night.

The next day was a little more difficult. Slowly but surely, lesser monsters began appearing for attacks. We had no real proof if the Daedeleth clan sent them or if they were just stray packs attracted to my smell. We couldn’t forget the unfortunate fact that I was going through my fertile cycle and unintentionally making things worse. But… there was a steady increase of the numbers in each pack, forcing us to believe that these were no random encounters.

That night, we found an abandoned town to stay in. The Wastelands were so dry and unbearable that in the center of it, villages could easily crumble and die if they lost their water reserves. Anything left behind became the possessions of demons and dragons. Cegil knew of some greater monsters that traveled between abandoned towns and stayed there for a while. He was sure this was one of their habitats and that they were staying elsewhere. I just hoped that they weren’t the ones who had been attacking.

We slept better, once we had fortified and covered the doors and windows of a small house we’d found. When morning came, we left as soon as possible. We didn’t want to take any chances in getting trapped within the town should a monster detect our presence.

It was getting close to high noon on the third day and Cegil said we should be approaching another abandoned town soon. He suggested that we scope the area out to make sure there were no demon clans within and consider resting there for a while. But our plans were dashed when we detected a rising cloud of dust from yet another pack of eneavra.

“I see some greaters this time,” I announced as I stepped close to my guardian. There were about five of them and they stood above their lesser counterparts. If they were representatives of Vildine or the Daedeleth, then they most likely wanted to talk. If not- then Cegil would have to make the first move in battle. I could take on the lessers on my own if I had to, but he would have to distract as many greaters as possible. It was beyond my ability to face more than one of them.

The pack never stopped running. They went around us, treating us like we were immovable rocks on the ground.

“What the- hey!” I shouted when my feet suddenly lost contact with the earth. Before I could really register it, I found myself slung over the shoulder of some meaty greater eneavra as he ran past Cegil. I was able to push my top half up in time to see my guardian glancing back at me before he tried to run after them. Unfortunately, these demons were fast land creatures and he was quickly getting smaller on the horizon. What a cheap trick catching us off guard like this!

“Wha?” One of the greater eneavra called out before he ordered the others to stop. I turned my head in time to see several lesser monsters collapsing, forcing everyone else to skid to a halt before they could run over them.

“Who did this?” Another growled in anger. “I thought the falucite was powerless!”

“Oh it was me- and I still have my powers,” a smooth voice announced to the side. I turned my head as far as I could and caught sight of blonde hair. Satel.

I was torn by his appearance. Some tiny part of me actually missed the bastard after I had a day of rest from him, but I was more disturbed at how he seemed to show up at just the right time. It was like he knew when and where to come. Could he be behind this whole thing? Did he want to play hero so badly that he might’ve arranged this little kidnapping? But then I was just jumping to conclusions- maybe that Oracle lady tipped him off or something. If she was a relative of his, then he most likely knew her, too.

The demons fell silent and I could feel the one holding me tense with caution. I could hear Satel take a step forward, the dirt and rocks crunched under his feet.

“My, my, so what do we have here?” he inquired with an edge to his tone. He sounded angry, but I figured that was his dominating voice for when he wanted to threaten someone.

“We…we have no business with you,” an eneavra called out as the one carrying me faced Satel and began backing away some. I tried to turn my head as far as I could so I could keep Satel in my sight.

“But I have business with you. Give me the pretty human and I might let more than half of you live. I could’ve let all of you go if I weren’t so certain that you’re trespassing in my clan’s territory,” my ‘savior’ replied in a dark tone, making the eneavra nervous.

“We’re from this territory!” a female greater insisted, “We are the Takel Pack!”

“Precious,” Satel cooed, not sounding convinced at all. “I wiped them out weeks ago for sneaking off to your master’s territory. Try again.”

“Why is it your concern? We are not doing anything wrong!”

“No? Then explain to me why they have your human in their possession, brother,” the younger falucite wondered as Cegil caught up with us. I was able to catch a glimpse of my guardian as he walked over to his brother’s side.

“It doesn’t matter!” the one holding me suddenly growled as his upper body twisted some to face his brethren. “We have the human and they can’t harm us if they want her alive!”

“Dantia,” Cegil called out after a sigh, “I do not mean to disrupt your fun, but we must be going.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered, acting sarcastic. Cegil knew me too well. I learned at an early age how to get out of most holds- I was practically an escape artist. Of course, it only worked when my captor’s guard was lowered and I wasn’t being jostled around. I could’ve been free ever since they stopped running, but I didn’t want to steal Satel’s thunder before Cegil arrived.

There was also something else I learned as a child that proved useful in this situation- always examine anyone for valuables and take them if needed. I was stunned enough to see that greater eneavra used tools for fighting, but I supposed that they were taking advantage of the fact that they had the opposable thumbs for it.

Using the brief window of confusion I had from the beast, I reached down for the dagger in the eneavra’s belt and stabbed his back with it. There was so much muscle there that I couldn’t get the blade in very deep, but that was fine with me- I just wanted to distract him, not kill him. He let out a howl of pain before I pulled it out and used the weight of my leg to swing into an upright sitting position on his broad shoulder.

“Sorry, I’ve been known to be a back stabber,” I joked while mustering a superior look. I then quickly jumped down and then swung my heel back to hit him in the back of his knee. I finished my assault by kicking him in the head in hopes of knocking him out, but he didn’t stay down long enough to be taken out of the coming battle. Still, the surprise was enough for me to rush over to Cegil and Satel.

With a smirk, I took a page from Satel’s tricks and wiped the bloody knife on his frock before I took a good look at it. I then carefully placed it at my side in my leather belt. It was a cheap dagger that wouldn’t fetch me much crijok, but I could still use it for just in case.

Satel grinned down at me even though the look in his eyes still showed a little bloodlust in them. He didn’t seem to be that offended that I used him as a wipe, but I could sense that he was a little annoyed. However, his wild features were reserved for the eneavra.

“Well, I suppose I wasn’t needed after all,” he said in a scoff before his eyes trailed over to the monsters. “But since you had to argue with me, I’ve decided that you all shall die.”

“Y-you can’t do that!” an average sized greater stuttered before he bared his fangs. “If you kill us, then Lady Vildine’s mate will know about it. Do you wish to cause a clan war with the Daedeleth?”

“Whatever are you muttering about?” Satel inquired with a shrug. “You just said that you were part of the Takel Pack- and I was ordered to destroy every single member. Either way, you’re not where you’re supposed to be.”

Huh. I kind of knew the guy wasn’t nice by human terms, but I didn’t think he was this cold. I didn’t want to particularly defend the monsters, but I wasn’t in the mind to kill all of them off unless they were trying to do so to me. Them trying to take me as a hostage wasn’t really that bad enough to warrant their deaths. Still, I wasn’t going to demand he leave them alone- I sure he had his orders and he did come to help me even though I didn’t need it.

Speaking of that- I was able to pick up that he was a little bitter about coming for no reason. I told myself to at least thank him when it was over, since he did manage to stall the pack long enough for Cegil to catch up. Even though I could get out of a hold, that didn’t mean I could fight off all the eneavra by myself.

Suddenly I could hear all of them growl as they figured out that they couldn’t get out of the situation without a fight. I could see the average sized demon nudge a thin male with bald patches as he glared at us. The mangy eneavra took the hint and led a howl with the lessers to call in more reinforcements.

Satel made his first move by unleashing some spell that slashed at most of the lessers and silenced them quickly. Cegil and I unsheathed our swords as the rest of them charged towards us. Thankfully most of the lessers came after me and I was able to fight them off. But it wasn’t long before I caught the attention of one of the greaters- the sole female in the pack.

She seemed to prefer using her claws and teeth for fighting and I had to dodge most of her attacks while slaying off any lessers that tried to cut in. I barely had any room to attack her and try to stave her off.

“You’re quite the fancy dancer,” she growled in a sneer as I continued to gracefully duck under her swipes.

“Why thank you,” I replied mockingly as I easily twirled out of the way of her next attack. “But I can’t take all the credit- you’re a pretty slow fighter.”

I probably should’ve kept my mouth shut, but I couldn’t help it. It was hard not to bait someone who deserved it. My words effortlessly angered the dog creature, but it didn’t do much to improve her fighting. She did move faster, but I suppose I was a little more naturally talented in evasion. I thought I could get away with just avoiding her claws until Cegil or Satel got to me, but my luck ran out when something wrapped around me and cinched my arms to my sides.

“Hey!” I shouted just before the eneavra I was facing off scratched me across the cheek. I could feel four lines of pain and knew I had to have been bleeding. Thankfully she backed off when she noticed that I was finally contained. There was rope around me and I was vaguely aware that I was being pulled back towards another body. The action caused me to accidentally drop my sword.

I quickly realized that the average sized eneavra from earlier managed to lasso me. I suppose he’d learned his lesson from my antics earlier, because he quickly wrapped me with the rest of the rope- it completely covered my torso and trapped my arms. This time I wouldn’t be able escape- there wasn’t much I could do with only my legs. I was pondering if I could kick him and get away with it, when he pulled me up flush against his body. Satel noticed the movement, and I was a little surprised to see a look of loathing on his face. He held a fist close to his cheek and looked as if he was going to let loose another one of his magick attacks.

“You must really want to die,” he muttered darkly at my captor. I could feel the demon pull me closer, using me as a shield.

“Go ahead and try it. I doubt your magicks can avoid hurting the girl, too,” the beast said confidently. Satel let out a ‘tch’ as he slowly put down his hand. I wasn’t sure why I was stunned to see him do that. I knew he helped me before, but I didn’t think he would really worry about my safety in the process.

“Dantia!” Cegil shouted when he realized that I was caught yet again. Just at that moment a lesser monster attacked Satel while his guard was lowered. It clamped down at his side with its teeth and tried to tear a chunk out of him. The falucite recovered quickly enough to destroy the beast with a single spell. He seemed to be in slight pain and held a hand to his side, but he had no trouble getting back up to glare at the demon holding me.

“Stop fighting! We have won!” my captor announced behind me before the rest of his pack calmed down and left the falucite alone.

“Please, just let her go,” Cegil requested in a stern tone as he tried to approach me. “I am heading home, so there is no need for this.”

“But there is no guarantee that you will go through with the ceremony. We will hold this human until you do and we promise not to harm her so long as you follow our orders.” I let out a curse as I was suddenly lifted and tossed back on to the bulky eneavra that I had stabbed earlier. Now that I was carefully bound, he felt that it was safe throw me on his shoulder again and started running.

I barely registered the pack leader’s last threat to my companions before all noise was drowned out by the thundering of paws against the dirt. Cegil and Satel watched me be taken away- both appeared displeased with the outcome. I felt some relief to see the look of contempt and a mischievous gleam to Satel’s eyes before he was too far away for me to see. That meant he had some kind of plan, but I had no guarantee that it involved me or if he even cared about rescuing me.

Still, regardless if I got rescued or if I had to make my own escape, I was going to have to wait for my chance to move. I couldn’t do it while being jostled on some greater’s shoulder. My last thoughts before the two falucite disappeared from my vision were that of worry for my guardian. I knew Cegil was going to worry about me, but would he really go through with this ceremony thing or risk his life to come after me? I didn’t want to find out- all the more reason for me to try to escape on my own.

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

They took me to what seemed to be the same abandoned town that Cegil and I were heading for. Since most of what I could see was a beastman’s ass and tail, I didn’t get a good look of the settlement. All I could pick up was that the surrounding are was dry, cracked earth- like one would normally see in the Wastelands. All-in-all, not very helpful.

Considering how far in we were, it shouldn’t have been possible for the ground to have touched any naturally-found springs. But unlike the surrounding terrain, the ground inside the town was soft, like it had seen consistent supplies of the precious liquid. I wondered if the town used to have some way of retaining water and had just simply lost it. It would explain why the ground was so unusual and why it was abandoned. Frankly, I was surprised that any buildings were still standing- this place could end up being a giant sinkhole in the future.

I assumed that I was taken to the residence of what used to be a nobleman’s mansion because the interior was large and we climbed a set of sturdy stairs. I wasn’t sure what material they were made out of, but it obviously wasn’t wood.

The pack had slowly dispersed upon entering the town. By the time we were indoors, only the greaters were still with me. When we reached the second floor, the female, the average sized demon, and one other walked another direction while the one carrying me and the mangy one continued on to one of the halls and turned into yet another inner one. I was taken to one of the rooms with a window and was unceremoniously thrown in.

…So much for ‘not harming’ me.

I winced as my back made contact with the hard wall and I slowly slid down to a sitting position. But since I was bound past the elbows, I couldn’t sit comfortably and had to lie down on my side on the dirty, carpeted floor. I was getting the impression that this place was actually quite old, given how the red carpet had long since faded into a dark pinkish color. The bulky eneavra smirked down at me from the doorway and I was soon certain that he threw me as revenge for the back stabbing thing.

“You’ll be staying in here,” he told me before he turned his back to me and was about to head out. “I hope you like it here- if you’re a good human pet, we might feed you every now and then.”

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll just love this place. By the way, thanks for the lovely gift. I’ve always wanted a dagger,” I said in a sardonic tone, causing him to freeze as he remembered that I had pilfered his weapon.

“Thanks for reminding me. I want that back, you filthy thing,” he grumbled as he faced me again and approached.

“Damn… I should’ve kept my mouth shut,” I muttered as he stood over me and knelt down so he could maneuver the rope.

“Heh, you humans are so stupid that it’s a wonder you’re still alive,” he mused as he carefully pushed the rope around my side so he could free his dinky knife.

In actuality, I couldn’t hope for a better outcome. I was initially baiting him in hopes that he would loosen my ropes to get at the dagger. But, I noticed a small knife that was attached to a leather band above the hock of his hind foot that was within the reach of my hand. Greater eneavra had humanoid hands shaped like long paws, but their feet appeared like their canine lessers’. The only difference was that the bottom paw was much larger for better balance.

I carefully slid the small tool out of the sheath while he was busy trying to free his knife from the rope without cutting it or me. It was so small that I could easily hide it behind my hand if I flattened it down against my thigh. He didn’t notice a thing as he successfully retrieved his knife and stood up. He then turned to the mangy eneavra.

“You stand guard outside. I doubt she’ll escape, but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he told him as he strode out of the room. The mangy demon barked out a confirmation before he scratched himself under the chin and followed the bulky one out. I wondered if he had fleas…and they say humans were gross.

I grew a little worried when my guard paused to sniff the air and then stare at me strangely, but then he shook his head and closed the door. I wasn’t sure what that was about, but I was glad that I was now alone. Having a guard outside was going to make it difficult for my escape, but I decided to deal with it when I got to that point. First I had to unbind myself.

I shifted the small knife in my hand so that I was better gripping the hilt. My binds were a little tight, but I was still able to bend my elbow enough so that I could gently wedge the knife under the bottommost cord. I hummed my favorite sea shanty as I sawed through the rope so that my guard couldn’t hear what I was doing. He might’ve not had as sensitive hearing as a falucite, but it was still better than mine and he was still rather close despite the wall and door separating us.

I started wriggling a little when the first rope was cut. I could feel my cocoon starting to get loose, but not enough for me to maneuver. I had to cut one more before I was able to sit up and raise my arms. I then pulled the entire thing off me like a pull over shirt. I took a moment to examine the knife and decided that it was far too handy to let go of. I carefully shoved it between the lining of my boot and my stocking. It was a little risky to move without a sheath, but it would have to do until I could get one.

Now that I was able to get a better look, I realized that this was more of a closet with a window rather than an actual room. It was no more than ten by five feet and was barely enough room to fit even one piece of furnishing. I didn’t see any evidence that this was indeed a storage room, but I couldn’t imagine what else it was used for. Still, what closet has a window…?

I froze when the door opened. I had just pulled down my pant leg when it had happened. I could hear a dark chuckle as the mangy demon came back in with a leer. “I can’t help myself- you’re in heat and I must have you!”

Thankfully, the eneavra didn’t seem all that bright since he didn’t realize that I wasn’t tied down anymore. I wasn’t too upset with his declaration of wanting me- personally I was surprised the other males and the lessers were able to control themselves. Like humans, only a small number of beasts could control their want for instant gratification. I had nothing against him, but I knew I had to get past him to leave. Had he been that oversized one, I would’ve been more inclined to kill him on sight- not that I actually would.

“You can’t touch me- I’m a hostage and I must be returned unharmed,” I reminded the creature, hoping that he was stupid enough to believe me. Of course, I wasn’t sure why I bothered- I was going against a strong natural instinct to mate.

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt ya. I’ll just be putting pups in you- no one will have to know about it until everything is over,” he said as he tried to lunge for me. I rolled out of the way and into a standing position. I had a couple of options open to me- one was to eliminate him to ensure that others wouldn’t be alerted. Under normal circumstances that would probably be preferable, since I needed all the time I could get to successfully slip under their noses, but I was reluctant to go that far. The other option would be to just knock him out, but that was far riskier- he’ll be up eventually and broadcasting my escape.

I still didn’t care for the demon, but at the same time he wasn’t threatening my life, so it left a bad taste in my mouth to consider the former. When it came to survival, I had no choice, but at the moment he was just being a typical dumb male. I decided to go with the latter option, since I didn’t like the bad feelings associated with ending a life. Despite my upbringing, I had a rather strong moral code in that area. Sure, I’ll lie, cheat, and steal like all my other my pirate brethren, but I just couldn’t dismiss the value of a life- not after what happened with… never mind.

I waited for the eneavra to get up and charge for me again. This time I side stepped him and used my elbow to sharply press into a spot at the back of his neck. I was thankful to find that it worked and he started to fall over. I quickly caught him so that he wouldn’t make a loud noise with his collapse. The spot I hit was something that made sea canines pass out for a few hours, but I wasn’t entirely sure if it would apply to their ‘earth cousins’.

I decided not to take any chances and used the rope to tie his muzzle shut. I then hog-tied his limbs so that even if he did wake up sooner than I would want, he wouldn’t be able to alert anyone of my disappearance quickly enough. My luck would be based on how soon someone was going to check up on him. When I was done with my handiwork, I checked the leather duster he wore for anything useful and found a gun on his person.

I didn’t see any gunpowder or bullets anywhere and I wasn’t even sure if the gun was loaded or in working order. Chances were that he took it from someone else- most likely a human. I had no use for them, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take it with me. If anything, I could probably sell it for a pretty price. I would have to do my research and figure out how much guns cost these days, but I was sure it was more than a sword.

I placed the weapon in the back of my belt and felt my hand brush against my empty scabbard. I was reminded then that I was at a disadvantage- I didn’t have my sword and I was in the middle of enemy territory. I was also emitting a strong smell that could attract attention to myself. Damn- it was days like this one that I wished I were a man…

There was no one out in the hall as I quietly stepped out and closed the door. I had no clue of the layout or where the other eneavra were. All I could do was keep going and search for an opening that would let me climb safely down to the ground or find a way to the lower floors without getting caught.

It seemed to be an old fashioned house with sturdy, but dusty hardwood floors and white plaster walls decorated with artistic imprints. I still had no idea what material the stairs were made of, though it seemed to be a pretty white and black patterned, smooth stone. I followed the inner hall to the main one, being careful not to make any noise, and chose to head for the lighter end, thinking that it led to a balcony or something.

I was half-right- it led to the main foyer and I was able to see that this place was once a grand mansion. It was a two-story building with long pillars holding up the walkway above the lower floor. I bit back a curse and hid behind one of the pillars when I discovered a whole gathering of greater and lesser eneavra in the center of the lower floor. They all appeared to be staring at the main stairway where a greater (most likely the pack leader for the whole group) was making announcements.

It was obvious that I wasn’t going to get through here. I glanced around to see if there was somewhere else I could hide. I wasn’t sure if standing there was a great idea since I could be in range for them to smell me. But just as I peered past the column I was behind, I thought I saw movement from the other side. I stood still, making sure I wasn’t in sight to those below, and carefully watched for whatever I had seen.

I found myself holding my breath as I waited. Several minutes passed, and just as I was about to give up and dismiss it as my mind playing tricks on me, I saw it- I saw him. Satel was sneaking from pillar to pillar when the eneavra below weren’t paying close attention. Hope filled me and as much as I tried not to think it, I was very happy to see him. I wasn’t sure if he came for me or to assassinate the pack leader, but I knew he would help me if I asked for it. …Or rather, I was certain he would do it if I offered him something in return.

But he didn’t know I was there and I wasn’t sure how to get his attention without alerting the others. It was frustrating- he was right there, but he wasn’t looking in my direction. I couldn’t wave or make much movement where I was.

Satel,” I whispered under my breath, hoping that he would pick it up and not the others. And thank the Maker- he did. He stopped short in his tracks backed up to the closest column before he glanced around to find out where I was. I quickly waved out a hand and thanked any entity listening (except for the Fates- they can rot) that he saw me and that the eneavra below were unaware of what was happening.

Stay put,” he told me using his magicks to throw his voice. I nodded in confirmation and then watched as he suddenly disappeared. I turned in time to see him reappear before me.

Sure, I was calm and collected when I freed myself and made my escape, but deep down I was a nervous wreck. I honestly didn’t know what I would do if I happened to have been caught. I couldn’t fight without my usual weapon and I couldn’t go against many greater demons. Truth be told, I would’ve been much happier to see Cegil, but I conceded that Satel was just as good. For today, he could be my hero. Just today. I would most likely conveniently forget his ‘daring and heroic rescue’ and go back to treating him like the shady bastard he is in the morning.

He reached out and placed his hands on my arms before he concentrated and teleported us out of the foyer. I quickly realized that we were still indoors and that something was wrong. He wasn’t as lively as before and he seemed to be having difficulty using his powers. It was then that I remembered that he suffered an injury before and wondered if that was what was holding him back.

“You okay?” he asked gruffly, sounding very tired.

“Yeah, where are we?” I wondered as I glanced around. It was a circular room with a large column in the center. The ‘walls’ were mostly decorative arches with glass that allowed me to see the town beyond. Were we still in that abandoned town- or in another one?

“Sorry, I couldn’t get us far. I need to rest a little before I take you to Cegil. Getting here took a lot out of me,” he admitted, not really explaining where we were. He then he pulled me closer and explained how the watchtower we were in was blocked off, making it to where no human or eneavra could get to where we were.

From where I stood, I could see that it was a very small town and it seemed to be inside a hollowed-out mesa. I doubted that this was natural- someone must’ve carved it with either tools or magicks. The tower we were in was directly behind the mansion. As I continued to stare out, I noticed that the center of the town was mostly bare, save for a plain well that sat directly in the middle of it. At first glance, the town appeared to have once been a modest community for paupers, but the mansion would have been fairly high class, if anyone had ever bothered to clean it.

I wasn’t sure what the tower was for, but it crested above the mesa and allowed me to see that there were a few old homes and buildings established on top of the stone. There was only one area that seemed to be the exit, a tiny hatch on the floor, but it was boarded up and probably had something blocking it on the other side. It was obviously intentional- for some reason the inhabitants didn’t want anyone to come up here after the town was abandoned.

I jumped at the feel of his tongue on my cheek. I quickly placed my hands on his chest and pushed him back. He gave me a confused look as if he couldn’t understand why I had done that.

“What are you doing?” I inquired, trying not to sound angry. I wanted to yell, but there was something about the look on his face that told me he wasn’t trying to annoy me.

“Healing you. I’m sure that cut hurts,” he replied before he pulled me back against him and continued to lick my wound. Oh right… I had forgotten about those claw marks. Falucite had natural healing powers in their saliva, but all it did was speed up the healing process for most wounds- it wasn’t a miracle worker. I was a tad annoyed at myself for not remembering this, because Cegil once did this for me when some idiot managed to leave a deep cut on my forearm.

But it still felt awkward to me that he was going out of his way to heal me when he was apparently worse off than I was. Why did he come for me if he was too injured to do so? Did he do it for Cegil? Or was he just upset that a bunch of monsters managed to pull one over on him? I let him continue to lick at my wounds and felt a cool tingle begin to form in the deep tissues of my skin.

There were still tiny gashes left behind when he pulled away, but they were fading faster than they would through natural healing. It was the same with falucite- any injury they sustained would heal quickly, but they didn’t need to lick themselves. Thank goodness, because that would’ve been really awkward to watch. It was then that I realized that Satel wasn’t wearing his frock coat and I was able to see what he wore underneath.

Apparently not everything he put on was black- his double breast vest was a dark grey and the dress shirt underneath was a lighter grey. He didn’t wear any white for some reason, and the only color was the dark red ascot around his neck. I could see that his clothing was torn on his side where he had been bitten by that mangy lesser eneavra.

“Sit down,” I suddenly ordered, “Let me see how bad they got you.”

“Why?” he wondered as he did as I commanded. “I’ll heal on my own. There’s nothing you can do.”

“I know… I just want to see,” I explained as I knelt down in front of him. I wasn’t really sure why I wanted to- I suppose it was out of guilt. After all, if he hadn’t come in the first place, he wouldn’t have been injured. He already found out that he wasn’t needed when the eneavra first captured me, so the least I could do was act like I cared.

I wasn’t really thinking when I unbuttoned both rows on his vest and un-tucked his shirt underneath. He didn’t stop me from looking so I assumed he was okay with it. I only focused on the wound since I didn’t want to seem like I had wanted to see his chest exposed- though I’ll admit that I was a little curious.

It didn’t look pretty, but I was sure it was better than it looked about an hour ago when he got it. The top layer of flesh was missing and it appeared as if he only had muscle tissue left. There was no blood flowing out and the wound itself appeared clean. I guessed that the eneavra had managed to tear a chunk out of him before being thrown off, and that he was re-growing what had been lost.

“So how is it?” he inquired idly after I stared at it for a while.

I let go of his shirt and sat back before I punched him in the arm. “You’ll be fine.”

He let out a weak chuckle as I moved to sit beside him against the column. “Your bedside manner is just how I imagined it to be. Did the pirates hit you like that every time you got hurt?”

“Just on the arm- they were trying to toughen me up. Pirates don’t cry, you know,” I told him casually as I drew up my knees to my chest. It didn’t occur to me until he had asked that question that it wasn’t common practice to punch someone after inspecting a wound. In fact, I had often wondered why Cegil never did it when he took care of me…

“Heh, pirates have no manners. There’s no excuse for hitting a lady.”

“Oh sorry, I thought you were a guy,” I replied jokingly. I knew what he meant, but I didn’t want to admit to being a lady. Or rather, I didn’t want to conform to the traditional views of one. I didn’t mind being a girl (well, most days), but girls were typically not pirates. At all.

“You’re funny,” he said dryly before he laughed a little. I couldn’t help but smile back, pleased that he liked my jest. Most others took offense to anything that could be considered an insult. It was like people were so sensitive that they couldn’t laugh at themselves. Though I shouldn’t speak- I probably decked a few men for insults they thought were jokes.

“Sorry about this, ‘Tia, but I need to rest a little,” he explained after a sigh.

“Alright, I don’t mind. Take your time, I’ll wait,” I told him. Sure, it would be faster if I attempted to leave on my own, but then where would I go? I didn’t know where Cegil was and even with an ice charm on me, I wouldn’t be able to survive out there without water- Cegil had my extra canteens. My hand absentmindedly flew to my neck to find that I wasn’t actually wearing said charm. Wait- did I even put it on this morning? I must’ve since I didn’t feel hot most of the day, but then where could it have gone?

I was pulled out of my thoughts when Satel suddenly pressed my legs down by the knees so he could rest his head in my lap. I was about to shout at him, but held back at the last second. He was lying innocently on his back and wasn’t trying to be indecent about it. Plus, he really was hurt and tired- and there was nothing else for him to rest his head on.

Still, what made him think I would offer? He liked to assume a lot of things… With a quiet sigh, I took his über hat off so he would be more comfortable and put it on my head. I was instantly cheered up to feel it on my head once again. I really did love that hat…

I could tell he was asleep when his breathing slowed- he actually looked peaceful for once. I was so used to seeing his arrogant façade that I didn’t think he was capable of appearing that vulnerable. Actually, some part of me was surprised that he even got hurt in the first place. Perhaps it was an unfair stereotype on my part, but I thought falucite were too strong and skilled to be bested in a fight with any creature below their status. But then, I had to remember that Satel was still young and prone to making mistakes- Cegil would never let his guard down like he did.

Suddenly I had an urge to touch his face and run my fingers through his hair. I wasn’t sure why- I suppose I was just curious to see how his skin and hair would feel. I didn’t really remember how it felt a few nights ago when he last kissed me- or rather, I wasn’t paying attention at the time. I shook my head and fought against those strange desires. Instead, I pulled out my new gun and examined it until he was done resting.

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

When Satel woke up an hour later, he was back to his usual self. The tired look was replaced with his arrogant features and a sunny smile. He didn’t hesitate to point out what a good ‘pillow’ I was and I quickly responded by sliding my legs out from under his head so that it would hit the floor.

I was satisfied to see him hide a wince of pain before he stood up and reached for me. As soon as I was on my feet, we were instantly teleported to somewhere else. I glanced around to see that we were on an incline that led to a fairly large town. I glanced questioningly at the falucite before he wrapped an arm around my shoulders to pull me closer. He then grabbed his über hat from me with his free hand and placed it back on his head.

“Naughty thing- stealing my hat,” he mused as he gave me a rather smug look. I rolled my eyes and glanced back down at the town.

It was much larger than the nameless one we were just at and it was positioned out in the open- no walls or anything surrounding it. All of the buildings were made of the same beige stone and the roads were all packed dirt. I could see that the focal point of the village was the crossroads centered in the middle of it, meaning that they receive heavy traffic from merchants and the like.

“Where are we?” It didn’t occur to me until just then that I had no clue how far we were from that town or where I had been initially kidnapped. Even if he told me, I doubt I could tell the distance made.

“Creskaela,” he supplied succinctly, acting as if I should’ve known it. “Cegil should be here already.”

“Did you tell him to wait here?” I asked as he started walked, pulling me with him. I was curious as to what had happened after I was captured and what deal had been made. I could understand why my guardian couldn’t rescue me himself, but I wasn’t sure how Satel managed to convince him to go somewhere and wait.

“Maetira did- she’s the one who sent me to rescue you… even though you didn’t need it,” he muttered. I couldn’t believe he was still upset over that. I tried to explain to him that I did need his help, but apparently he wanted to do everything- including rescuing me from where the eneavra had been holding me. I didn’t bother to waste my breath on telling him about that desperate eneavra that wanted to mate with me. I doubt he would’ve understood the concept of defending one’s virtue. I really had to save myself from that situation.

Excuse me for not being a damsel in distress,” I hissed with a sneer, getting tired of his attitude. I mentioned several times that I was grateful! What more did he want? But then I belatedly remembered the name he mentioned and decided to change the subject. “Who’s Maetira?”

“My elder sister. This is her territory- her only territory.”

Which meant that the town and the lands surrounding it were all she had. I inquired if that was because women in Satel’s family didn’t get much compared to the men, but he assured me that this Maetira was a special case. It turned out she was that Oracle lady I met in Anoav a few days ago. Cegil had long since explained to me how she was considered an Oracle even though she didn’t have the full powers of a real one, but he neglected to tell me what relation she was to him.

“If it were up to the elders, she would he confined to the homestead at all times. They don’t exactly want others to know about her ability to hear the Fates- but at the same time they can’t deny her right to oversee a territory. As much as they like to think she’s helpless, she’s proven that she could go anywhere she wants unless she has reason to respect the elders’ wishes,” he explained on the way.

I was about to ask why his clan didn’t want others to know about her abilities, but I caught sight of Cegil and couldn’t help but run ahead to see him. I was relieved to see that he didn’t appear injured and he seemed just as happy to see me as well.

“Dantia, are you okay?” he inquired with a twinge of concern in his voice.

“Yeah, I managed to escape before Satel found me,” I told him before I noticed the other person. It was that Oracle lady- Maetira. She was staring straight at me, though most of her features were hidden under that hood of hers.

She suddenly raised her arm (while the other supported her giant crystal ball) just as Satel approached and held a rolled up parchment to his face. “Deliver my report to the elders, immature one.”

She sounded so haughty and arrogant just then that it made Satel sound like a humble peasant. The younger falucite glared at her. “Why should I? I’m behind on my work because of you. I only came because you told me that ‘Tia would be in ‘grave danger’, but she was more than capable of taking care of herself.”

I blushed a little. He came because he thought I would be in trouble? Why did he care? At least I now understood that he wasn’t mad at me for not needing him- he was upset at Maetira for convincing him to shirk his duties under false pretenses.

“I said that she ‘might’ be in grave danger- I wouldn’t have known about her abilities. Furthermore, even if she was able to take care of herself, no human could travel the Wastelands on their own. She would’ve needed you at some point,” she said without facing him once. She continued to hold out her arm, expecting him to take the report before she added, “I have mentioned your aid in my report. The elders will forgive you for being behind.”

“Fine…” Satel growled after a long-suffering sigh, “but I will return later tonight.”

“I do not particularly care,” she responded instantly, sounding as if she were annoyed. I never had any siblings, but I have seen brothers and sisters fight before. What I was hearing didn’t sound any different- though my experience was from watching human siblings.

Cegil took this all in stride, apparently used to it. He was clearly above all the sibling bickering. It was kind of funny that Maetira insisted that Satel was immature when she liked to act childish herself. But I didn’t know how old she was- all I did know was that she was older than Satel. The über hat man soon snatched the paper out of her hand before he faced me. His expression soon softened into something less annoyed, but he still seemed upset over his sister’s words.

“Forget them, then. I’ll just come back for you,” he replied dismissively to both Cegil and Maetira before he grabbed my hand and kissed the back of it. My heart did that weird fluttery thing again before I remembered that there were others present. I quickly pulled my hand back with a blush before I glanced over to Cegil to see his reaction. He didn’t seem to notice or care as he was too busy watching Maetira. As for her, she was still staring in the same direction from before as if she were afraid to look around at others. Or maybe she was too above others to actually look them in the eye.

“Why would I want to see you again?” I inquired to save face, but he was already gone. Almost instantly, Maetira moved and started walking to the town. “Come, we shall discuss more in the privacy of the inn. I will order a room for you.”

“I did not agree to staying,” Cegil muttered warningly. It seemed they had been talking for quite some time before Satel brought me here. I wasn’t sure how long Cegil had been here, but he already seemed tense from being in her presence.

“Oh? Do you believe you can outrun the servants of the fanatics with that human in tow?” she questioned as she paused in her steps. Maetira was so cool and unconcerned with everything.

It must be nice to be so overconfident, I thought with sarcasm.

“We will manage. They are not above attacking villages and I do not wish to place you in danger,” he responded honestly, earning a scoff from her.

“This is the safest place to be- I know every human who resides here and can read their near futures before disaster happens. I can send for help before they arrive because my safety is our elders’ top priority.” She said it all with sarcasm and I had a hard time believing her. I wasn’t sure if she was telling the truth at all or if she were merely upset that anyone would dare to treat her like a fragile doll. I know I would be displeased to hear someone doubt my ability to take care of myself.

“All the more reason for us to leave,” Cegil continued with a small frown appearing on his lips. “I refuse to see yet another member of the family. I do not mean to offend you, but it is bad enough that I ran across you of all people.”

All of a sudden, she threw her head back and let out a loud laugh that sounded both genuine and bitter. She turned on her heel to face us and I was finally able to see her face because the hood was pushed back. Her lips were similar to Satel’s but the rest of her features were much different. Her eyes were a little rounder and her nose was smaller. I wasn’t sure how long her hair was, but she didn’t tie it back- preferring to let the strands cover most of her eyes and her ears.

“Of all my brothers, I love you the most. You never hold back,” she admitted rather fondly.

“I should be the one you hate the most. You have your duty to the Fates,” he reminded her almost bitterly before I blinked. He sure was depressing when it came to family. But I guess I could understand- he hated the Fates and she was (sort of) a child of the Fates.

Maetira surprised me as a glare came to her features and she started to sound like a moody young adult. “Do not tell me what I should do. You know nothing of what I believe or what my feelings are. You are too stubborn to listen to me or the elders- a trait you share with he who makes hasty decisions.”

I wasn’t sure whom she was referring to, but I could see Cegil clench his fists from the corner of my eyes. Whoever she was talking about wasn’t someone he liked apparently.

“Do not compare me to Cujol,” he growled darkly.

“Why not? Is he not the father of our father? It is only natural that we all inherit-”

“Silence!”

Maetira smirked then, pleased that she made the ever stoic falucite snap. Her arm soon shifted to better accommodate the crystal ball before she decided to change the subject. “At any rate, if you leave now, you would only risk the human getting captured again. He who whines louder than a human child will not come at my command a second time. He’s on to me now. Better to wait until tonight when he returns to ask for his assistance.”

Cute. That had to be a Satel reference since she was trying to emphasize youth and immaturity. Cegil paused as he considered what she had said. I hated to be the reason for him to hesitate, but we did need someone to back us up until we reached that dragon town. But at the same time, he clearly didn’t want to be near Maetira for much longer. I wanted to give him words of encouragement that I could handle myself like always, but I feared that it would just convince him to take his sister’s offer. It had to be his choice without my influence.

“Fine…” he eventually agreed in a quiet tone. “But do not expect me to believe whatever you say to me. I’m staying for Dantia’s sake- not for you.”

“So untrusting,” she muttered before she clicked her tongue and slowly shook her head. “I merely offer you protection until you decide your next move. However, I will give my opinion whether you like it or not- it’s only fair considering that I had to listen to you up until now.”

She certainly had a way with being nasty about things. I wondered if she was on the falucite version of a monthly bleeding. But then, Cegil wasn’t being that nice either- how else was she supposed to react? Maetira walked off after telling us to seek her out at the inn. I stepped closer to my guardian and gently clenched the sleeve of his frock coat like a child.

“Are you going to be okay?” I asked once I felt how tense he was.

“…I will be fine. It may hurt me to speak to her so coldly, but it is for her own good. She had always been rebellious as a falcie and I do not wish to have her side with me and leave the clan. She should not be involved with my grievances at all,” he said, more to himself than to me.

It was then that I really understood the conversation and his attitude- Cegil may act as if he hated his family, but he cared about them more than he wanted to admit. He had no real problem with Maetira- he just didn’t want her to turn against the Fates since it would be dangerous for her to do so. With her being an Oracle, she would feel the brunt of the Fates’ wrath more than Cegil and I would.

But Cegil… it must’ve been hard for him to know that his beloved sister was a child of the Fates. To go against them meant that he would have to go against her someday. I continued to hold onto the sleeve of his coat as I followed him into town. I wasn’t sure what I could do or say to him to ease his inner turmoil- all I could do was stay by his side and give him support.

I could only hope that it would be enough.

To the next chapter

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