It has been a couple of weeks since I had escorted Na to Carnaska and it will be within the hour that I am on the coastline of Elrid. I really didn’t want to make yet another trip to Fortna this time of year, but I had already made a promise to be here for this date and a promise is a promise. You know Anna, for someone who is supposed to be free as a bird you sure are running around that planet a lot for other people lately. Oh well, with port coming up I better get dressed.
Geh’shah is an interesting city spanning ten miles along the shore and another ten along the southern side of the Kalhardi Mountains. With the mountains being insurmountable to most caravans and the airspace north of them off-limits to foreigners, this port is the primary trading center between Kalhard and the rest of the continent. And because of the transit it also has the highest concentrated population of Yuzeima outside of Kalhard; they make up nearly forty percent of the city.
Of course, the sheer number of Yuzeima running around along the shoreline, in articles that could hardly even pass as swimwear, as I make my way toward the upper district never ceases to irk me. That could be me too dammit! I’ve collected so many luxurious bathing suits throughout my travels and any time I get to come to one of the only places on the planet where my exquisite taste could truly be appreciated she makes me wear a modest dress. And all to be a good example at that. As if I’m not going to change immediately once we are back on the ship. Whatever, I’ll keep humoring her. Especially considering she hasn’t heard the news yet.
I tap on the doorframe with the back of my hand, since they never kept the door shut anyway, and yell into the house, “Ahoy, is anyone home!?”
“Annacelia? Annacelia Maris Riknia, my baby, how are you doing!?” Before I could blink, a red-headed woman with a figure like my own and standing six feet and three inches tall wrapped herself around me and began nuzzling my cheek against hers as one does to a puppy.
“I was fine mom,” I struggle to mumble out, “until you started suffocating me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry!” she says as she releases me. “It’s just that you haven’t stopped by in months and I was beginning to worry. You know, sailing the seas isn’t nearly as safe as traversing the skies. There are a lot of monsters and dangerous people out there. And I mean far more dangerous than a pirate armada. Oh, is that a new dress? I love the lace on it.”
“Thanks,” I respond with an attitude, “I hate it.”
That was probably the wrong response. Now she’s rattling on about how it is important to dress in such a way that you treat yourself with respect so others do as well. Seriously, I already do. I have less respect for myself now while wearing something I normally wouldn’t than when I’m commanding a fleet of nearly one hundred ships in whatever pleases me. Besides, look at this hypocrite saying all this while wearing a revealing outfit herself.
Yoko Keisura, my mother, was at one time the best airship pilot on the planet. It’s actually how my parents met since Sutel was in the need of someone with that exact expertise. She won’t talk about her life before they met, but they had some crazy escapades back in the rebellion. Now, she doesn’t even pilot anymore. The board thinks she’s “too wild” to be placed behind the helm of a passenger vessel. Mom seems more than content being a stewardess these days, just so she can stay close to the old life. She even got her twin sister into it as well ever since she moved over here. You should see these two identical women in their skimpy pink uniforms standing next to each other. Of course, I can tell them apart. I can always tell which one is my mom. But I can only imagine how the passengers react when they are on the same flight plan and they see one walk through one door just for the other to come in from the opposite side of the cabin. Thankfully, Aunt Suru isn’t around at the moment because I don’t have the patience for more tears than necessary at the moment. All I have to worry about is the twerp.
“Hey mom, where is DeciaZ?” I ask, trying to diffuse her rant.
“Last I checked he was out back training,” she answers. “Do you want me to call him in already? I figured you’d at least stay for supper before you guys headed out.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not planning on leaving until the morning,” I assure her. “My crew always likes a good night on the town with all the lovely ladies here. Keeps morale high. Don’t worry, I’ll go grab him. There is something I need to tell both of you and I’d rather get it done all at once sooner than later.”
Strolling into someone’s yard, even of my own family, brings out an uneasy feeling these days. I spend so much of my life on the ocean that any enclosure reminds me of the unpleasant memories of growing up on the ranch. It’s more of a garden than anything, barely smaller than their house, with no real walls and only shrubs and trees acting as a partition between them and their neighbors. It’s an uncomfortable feeling of being trapped. Too far attached to your own property to the point that you and generations of your family will live and die right here. I just can’t deal with that level of attachment. I regularly give away my ships down the chain of command just to get away from my old rooms. I’ll admit that I let some tears slip out when I heard of Sutel’s death, but nothing was more satisfying to me than knowing that old house burned down to the ground. It was only built the year I was born, yet it was still around for far too long if you ask me.
“Yeeeeeee-aaaaaah!” Something screaming dives out of a nearby tree and pegs me square in the shoulder. I try to respond, but it immediately slides into the bushes before I can snag it. It can’t weigh more than fifty pounds and this dirt impression on my dress appears to have tread marks like a shoe.
“DeciaZ, you little turd!” I irritably snarl. “I’m already in a bad enough mood wearing this Bob awful dress, so don’t add to it and come inside now.”
Ouch! He flies out of a bush and punches me in my rear before zipping up a tree-like some sort of rodent. DeciaZ is my youngest brother and a bit of a trouble maker. Mom left Sutel when she was pregnant with him and as far as I know, the twins don’t know he exists or vice versa. I probably should have told them years ago. I should probably still tell them now. I honestly couldn’t care less about Sutel’s reasons for the secret if I tried, but mom’s wishes on the other hand I respect. Still, growing up without knowing his father isn’t an ideal situation for a young boy, especially a little prankster that scares away all of mom’s dates. Closest thing to a male role model he has is our cousin Anon, but I’m not even going to say that’s been a positive one. The guy gets in bar fights all the time and has even convinced the kid that a military career is a sound future. Why anyone would want to sign away their freedom to people that only have their own best interests in mind is well beyond me.
Thunk! Jumping out of a tree, DeciaZ uses my head as a springboard and flips back into the brush yet again. Okay, now I’m livid. As my other siblings would inform you, I have no patience for little monkeys. Focus girl, where is he coming from? A rustle at my four. Yeah, I got something for you little brother. I twirl around more swiftly than he expects and stare the brat dead-on as he leaps toward me.
“Tabashneh!” I shout at him while pointing. A hair-thin bolt so dark it appears bright shoots from my finger to his body and DeciaZ immediately loses all forward momentum plummeting to the ground.
“Agh, why can’t I move?” he cries out.
“Oh little brother, it’s because you now weigh twice that of what you did prior,” I cheekily respond.
“Wah- what!?” he asks, bursting out into tears.
“I understand that your undeveloped brain may have trouble comprehending this, but try to keep up,” I continue. “I cast a gravity spell on you; specifically one of the second rank. What that means is that I modified the attraction between you and the planet we are standing on two-fold, so instead of roughly twelve meters per second per second it is now around twenty-four. You might be limber and acrobatic, but your body isn’t developed enough to even attempt supporting twice that of what it normally handles.”
“I- I don’t know what you’re saying! Please just make it stop!” He screams while clearly in deep pain.
“Do you regret attacking your mighty and powerful sister, Anna?” I question already knowing the answer.
“Yes! I’m sorry!” DeciaZ wails almost incoherently.
“Fine. I’ll let you off the hook this time.” I say while snapping my fingers to release the spell. I begin to the door, but he is still lying there crying. I took it off, so get up already.
“Anna,” he yelps, “I don’t think I can move. Everything still hurts and my right arm is all wobbly.”
Dammit. I think I broke some of his bones. Why did I let my anger get the better of me, he’s only seven? It’s like a switch flips and I start enjoying the suffering of others. Even if they are family. And he needs to be ready for the academy soon. He can’t afford to wait for those bones to heal up. Mom is going to kill me… or worse. Death could actually be preferable. Come on, come on, think… Oh yeah, I still have time for that!
“Achoran!” And as I let out that word, a soft white glow surrounds DeciaZ. His crying stops right away and is replaced with the sounds of popping and cracking but in reverse. His bruises fade away, the seams on his clothes tighten back up, and his hair fluffs back to its normal shape.
“Wow, what did you do!?” He questions in complete awe.
“I used a reversion spell,” I reply while catching my breath. “I returned you to the state you were before I crushed you. Don’t get used to it. I can only revert back a few minutes or so and it takes a lot out of me. I’m pretty much tapped dry after that.”
“Thank you, Anna,” he meekly states with his head held low. “I’m sorry again for making you mad.”
I don’t want there to be more trouble than there already is so all I say is, “It’s okay, just don’t tell mom about this. Or else you may not have a big sister to make mad for much longer.”
He smiles and nods before running back inside. And that was the least stressful part of coming here. I can already tell. We still have to get through dinner and the bad news. Why is this my job? Why did I have to be born first?
Slowly, I stroll back through the garden to the threshold standing between me and my duty. Gulp. I’m trembling a little. I haven’t trembled at all in years and I’m in naval battles on a weekly basis. I’m caught off guard by a drop of cold sweat rolling down my back and accidentally bite my bottom lip in reaction. Dammit, I’m not good at this personal stuff. Why do people think I live out on the open seas? I didn’t even like Sutel, but I know she still has some feelings for him. They may have split, but you don’t have kids with someone three separate times if there wasn’t something there. I don’t even like dealing with my own emotions, let alone those of other people.
I step through the door and immediately she could tell something was wrong. It might be a funny look on my face. It could be that I’m sweating more than I realize. Whatever it is, my mother knows. It’s her job to know when something is up.
“What’s the matter, Anna? You look ill,” she says to me with a serious tone.
“Dad’s…” I mumble out, “dead.”
“What… did you just say,” she questions since I was not speaking clearly enough.
“Dad’s dead! He’s de-” I can’t finish my words. Suddenly, I feel my back slam into the nearest wall with a tight grip crushing my throat. It’s my mom. She’s still on the other side of the room, but her hand is stretched out toward and her eyes look empty. It must be her magic around my neck.
“How did he die!? Who Killed him!?” She bellows
“I… I don’t know. I wasn’t there.” I respond while beginning to have trouble concentrating.
“Why weren’t you there!” She yells back without wasting a second.
“I was at sea for months!” She knows my life. She isn’t blaming me for this, is she? Sutel is the strongest person I’ve ever met and I’ve been all around the world several times in my time as a pirate. There is no circumstance where I’d be any help against whatever could kill him. I’d have wound dead, too.
“What of Rascal!? Nanoson!? What happened to them!?” Her voice keeps getting louder, almost impossibly. The neighbors would be throwing a fit if they weren’t already scared to death of her.
“They… they’re fine. Ras-cal is fixing the ranch.” It’d be easier to reply if I could breathe, but she is not a person that can be reasoned with when she gets like this.
“Fixing the ranch!?” She lets out in shock.
“It burnt down when dad died. Maybe in the fight… or after.” I don’t even know the details to tell her. I just have whatever Na told me.
“Where is your brother, Anna!? Why didn’t you bring him here!?” She’s grown so loud that DeciaZ has started crying and she hasn’t even noticed.
“He doesn’t even know you’re alive,” I squeeze out. “The plan was to go to Jagan.”
“You took him to that bastard’s house!?” Oh, now she’s really angry.
“Not exactly.” Why did I just say that? I should have lied. That flinging motion hits my body once again as I slam into the ceiling.
“I’ll ask again; where is your brother, Anna!?” If my vision wasn’t blurring, I’d swear her eyes were on fire.
“He’s in,” I start already anticipating the coming pain, “the rainforests of Carnashka.”
Slam. I’m sure I’m on the floor now. Gravity is starting to feel the right way in my head. The breathes are becoming shorter and longer in between.
“You left your little brother in a jungle!?” She whales frantically. “It’s bad enough you just allowed Makell to run off when he was five, but you lose Nanoson now, too!? Do you even give a single shit about anyone but yourself, Anncelia!?!?!?”
I’m pretty sure I’m going to die here. This may very well be the last straw. My mother loves me, I know she does. Still, she’s always had an uncontrollable temper and I’m certain part of her blames me for many of our family’s troubles. When I was born, Sutel became obsessed with me, spending all his time teaching me everything he could and forgetting to give her attention anymore. Then when she left, I was the de facto woman of the house. So when Makell ran away, it was my fault. When news came in that Sheereport was set aflame and she was certain from the report that Makell did it, by extension also my fault. When Nanoson had his episode that got our family’s business barred from trade with the Herminian Empire, that too was my irresponsibility as I split beforehand and didn’t prevent it. And now that Sutel is dead, it must also be my fault. Everything is my fault.
Vision is fleeting, as is my consciousness, but faintly I hear a second voice pick up. It goes, “Stop! Stop it, Mommy!! Stop!!!” It was little DeciaZ, tugging on her sleeves to stop his mother from picking on his big sister. Eventually, his voice breaks through and her glazed over look faded from her face as she let go of my throat.
“Oh, I’m sorry darling,” she softly says changing her demeanor immediately as she turns around to console him. “Did Mommy scare you?”
She doesn’t even bother to heal my wounds. That selfish bitch. Whatever, I’ll hold my tongue. After this last errand, I’m officially off the hook with her and have no reason to come back until I mentally get over what happened here today. For now, I’m skipping any more family time and going back to my ship for the night to eat and then sleep in my own bed. This family doesn’t deserve me anyway.
Overall, it’s a nice evening. The crisp coastal breeze pressing smoothly up against my cheeks is a much need relief from the nightmarish sauna my mother calls acceptable attire. That’s fine though. I may have had to wear this dress for our get together, but I had an eerie feeling I wouldn’t be able to bear the whole night. Just a few buttons and… damn that one’s always hard to reach. There, I’m free. This season’s swimwear, straight from Muron. I’m on one of the best beaches in the whole world, might as well enjoy my walk back to the boat. I’ll fold up and leave this outfit on a bench though. I may hate it, but the shop I stole it from had it priced at eight hundred Krela. That’s a couple weeks pay for some of these people. It’ll be my charity for the week.
It’s too bad I didn’t leave any sooner. It’s about an hour to midnight and the few other people strolling about are up on the streets, lit dimly by lamps, as the scuttle homely from their favorite bars. Meanwhile, down here on the beach there is only myself strutting barefoot through the sand. I was sorely hoping to meet a stud I could kidnap for the night. Even just running into someone going the same way to shoot the shit with would have been nice. Not a soul in sight.
Wait. Did I just hear my name?
Yes, that’s definitely my name. As if a rodent were saying it.
“Anna, wait up!” I turn and see him stumbling through the sand while dragging a chest I had gifted him for his birthday last year. I wasn’t around enough to make out it was my brother by his voice, but seeing the moonlight reflecting off his shining silver hair and ruby eyes is all anyone needs. I don’t even know where he gets that from. Mom’s got deep reddish colored hair with eyes that burn like the sun and the rest of us take after Sutel with crystal blue peepers and a head of hay. Maybe it has something to do with Sutel’s other side, but that would only explain the hair. Those eyes have always confused me.
DeciaZ approaches me while wearing a bizarre sailing outfit not too different from what our cousin Anon wears the infantry is being shipped from place to place on deployment. At least it is black and gold with green accents and not that tacky pattern Fair Trade Union forces our kin to fashion. DeciaZ probably doesn’t even know those are our family’s colors either. He’s just seen me wear them enough that he thinks they’re what cool people wear. I think he kind of looks like a dork to be honest, but he’s a kid so I can let it slide.
“Squirt, what are you doing?” I ask him rather displeased.
“I um… I’m ready to go,” he says shifting his feet nervously. “See, I got all my stuff packed for school right here in that trunk you gave me. Mommy said I had to take the skull off of it if I wanted to bring it to school though. I hope that doesn’t make you mad.”
“I’m not mad,” I reply. Not at you anyway. But Mom knows these institutions and probably just doesn’t want you to get in trouble. There more pressing concerns. “We’re leaving tomorrow. Why aren’t you at home sleeping?”
“I’m scared Mommy will hurt me,” he said with the most earnest look he’s ever given me.
“That’s ridiculous, kiddo,” I try to assure him.
“But she hurt you really bad,” he snaps back.
“So, I’ve hurt you pretty bad,” I respond callously.
“Yeah, but you fixed me after,” he quivered.
He’s right though. I definitely got temper from my mother and it’s a part of me that I resent. It’s not even so much the damage it causes either that I mind, when the person deserves it. But how can I know if they deserve it if I’m not cool and collected? My kid brother though has never deserved anything so bad that I’ve administered to him and every time I’ve fixed him after. It’s usually just a scrape, a bruise, or a mild burn, but today was the worst I’ve ever done, yet I was sorry and made everything alright. Not once has my mother ever apologized for anything she’s ever done to me and she stopped damage control after I turned ten. I don’t know what it is that happened to her that made her this way, but I can’t let myself become like her. I can’t be trapped like that.
“Okay, boy,” I say to him softly. “My guest-chamber wasn’t going to be prepared for you until the morning, but my bed is big enough for the two of us. You better stay on your side though.”
I may be hitting the sack, but we might as well make the most of our time and head out tonight. Kelly doesn’t really sleep at night anyway and he is more than capable of navigating us out to course. I hope this kid can get to sleep with the wave rocking. Na didn’t seem to have any problem. Speaking of, I do feel a little guilty about what I did to him before now that Mom brought it up. I wonder how he’s doing.
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