Private Tales I of the Storm

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer


Low morals on high seas
Character Biography
Any jaunt beyond the Horseman was a gamble with your life on the line.

Then again, being a pirate was a gamble.

But there were different ways to play the game. The many minor merchants in the south? They could hardly afford escorts enough to fend off the corsairs swarming the warm waters of the Cortosi. Like the flesh-eating fish of her native islands, sooner or later the marauders picked their bones dry.

This truth only held until the Gulf of Annuak. Every captain that followed the winds further north and into its gaping wide maw risked death or worse – capture, trial, and an eternity rotting in a sunless dungeon.

“You remember that, right?”

How could she not. Talris had been talking her ear off with the mantra for the last two days at sea.




It felt like she hadn’t slept a wink ever since they’d clapped them in chains and dragged them down into the darkness of the hold. Even if she got out of here, the stink of the spoiled fish would take weeks to scrub off her skin.

“I told you, Capitain, I told—”

Off her fucking bones.

“Si! Tu m’ai dett’, porcadonna!” Gal whipped around on her Second Mate. The First Mate, bless his short tongue, was no longer with them. Talris snapped his mouth shut.

“Sweet mercy.” She closed her eyes and rolled a crick out of her neck with a pop. “Now open up me forearm wi’ dat manacle, won’t ye?”

Her sharp teeth glinted in the half-light. “We got us una tempesta to catch.”
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"Fair winds, Vizier," a broad nosed man with a deep, salty voice and skin a shade lighter than her own reported then knocked off a salute. Lani had to refrain from rolling her eyes but she was, apparently, unable to stop a not so subtle curling of her lips for he quickly dropped his arm and wrung his hands bashfully. A soft sigh escaped her but it was lost on the winds that blew from her back and filled the three sails of her ship.

"I m-mean Captain, n-no I mean-" the Seawitch raised a hand to stop the man's tongue running away from him further.

"You will adjust, Malcolm," the hulking man ducked his head and when Lani showed no further signs of speaking he took the chance to scamper off down the deck as fast as his long legs could carry him. It still felt strange having Outsiders on her ship. Her people were of course used to dealing with all sorts - from the Northern seas all the way to the Eastern Isles man believed to be a rumour - but she wasn't used to them being a part of her crew and handling her ship. Mchawi ships were a formidable force in the waters; quick, agile and with Seawitches standing at every helm yhey had enough power to propel another ship out of the water. In their long history they had never chosen a clear side, never sold their ship making secrets to an ally. As long as they were left alone they left others alone.

Since they had joined the Empire that had all changed.

The peaceful merchant ships had done what Lani had wished for all along; they had begun to rid the seas of the scurge that made trade near impossible.

"Pirates," the word was a growled slur. If to do that she needed to have Outsiders on her ship then Lani would adjust. They would all adjust. So far it had proven worthwhile. The Seawitch put her telescope away and turned a weather eye away from the horizon. She set her sights instead on the way down to the hold where her first real win was stowed; the Pirate Captain Gal.
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Her blood hadn’t been quite the right shade of red in years, but that uncomfortable little detail was, like so many others, mercifully swallowed by the dark. The last thing she needed was more questions tumbling out of Talris’ babbling mouth.

The sting was soothing in its familiarity, though the wound was less a clean cut and more a jagged mess. The difference between her knife and the rusted edge of a manacle was pronounced. It burned. It dripped ink-black through the briny air, the sound of her life leaking out like resin louder even than the rumbling of the sea on the other side of the hull.

Gal closed her eyes and subsumed herself into the noises of the ship with the rhythmic beat of her heart underscoring it all.

This was no ordinary vessel. Her bones were hewn from stronger wood, her lines woven from thread of steel, her sails bright and strong even in the face of the rising gale.

And rising it was – as if beckoned closer by soft, insistent words uttered into the stillness of a crowded prison hold, over and over and over again. Talris was staring at her, visibly pale even in the failing light. Her tongue laved across the sharp point of a tooth before taking up the chant again.

Laue iaʻu.

Laue i kaʻu makana.

Laue mai iaʻu i kou huhu ma ka hoʻi.

The cry of the barrelman went out, reverberating across the decks, through her greedy fingers dipped in the bilgewater at her feet, rushing along her veins like a white-hot release of lightning from the skies.

“Storm to port!”
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A single bare foot landed on the wooden step that would have taken her down to the hold below when they cry went up from deck. Noelani paused as she debated whether to continue on her trajected path or see to the commotion that was happening on deck. The sudden whip of wind lashing across the deck was a drastic change to the fair weather warning she had had not moments ago. Though she could only smell salt and spray on the wind, Lani couldn't help but wonder if there were not the iron tang of magic beneath all of that.

Dismissing her idle, pointless thoughts she turned on her heel and went back onto deck where the change in weather hit her like a solid wall. The wind picked things up that were not tied down and flung them about like a child having a tantrum. Several of the crew were wrestling with the sails to bring them in and the rest were lashing loose creates and barrels down to the deck as best as they could.

Lani's braids lashed across her face and she had to squint against the sheer force of it. A plump raindrop landed on her nose.

"Batten down the Hatches - Kestra, get those supplies below deck now!" the woman nodded mid stagger then proceeded to shout at another group of men to haul arse. Lani strode past all of the frantic movement right to the bow of the ship and hopped up onto the Kelpie figurehead. She looked a wild creature of the sea herself in her bare feet and oddly made uniform of skirt and top that would be considered indecent in most of 4th century Arethil. Her eyes scanned the seas and with a breath she reached out a hand and began to try and use her own magic to sooth the turbulent waves.
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The boots above them were marching to a different drum now. She could hear someone barking orders, with others echoing them to the crew, who then did all of the actual work. Their leisurely pace and quiet conversation were no more. It wasn’t panic, neither – no inexperienced crew would’ve taken Ngalu Iwi Lua at the helm of her own ship – but there wasn’t a Captain under the stars who liked being caught by a storm with his pants down.

Or skirt, as it were. Gal twisted her mouth into a lopsided smile.

Then it soured on her lips.

Her eyes narrowed to slits. The blood dripping from her forearm slowed down to a crawl, beads of ink collecting at the edge of her wound, but refusing to fall.

“Pur cazz,” she breathed out, shaking her head in disbelief.

A sea mage on the ship? Ovvjament’.

“Talris,” Gal cocked her head sideways, “anyone ever tries to tell ye Lady Luck ain’t a whore… you knock out his lyin’ teeth.”

Those boots on deck were getting louder now. Closer. The nazrani rolled her shoulders, meeting the eyes of her sailors twinkling out from the dark. Plenty of them this bitch of a pirate hunter had already cut down during the boarding action. The rest…

“First weak target you see,” she addressed all of them now in the Cortosi pidgin, “you choke them out with chains and take their weapons. If we bring this boat down, I’ll bet my right eye none of those sandmen can swim for merde.”

Now it was smiles glinting back at her.

Even as her men began rattling the rusted bars holding them pinned on the ground, Gal had life yet to spill. Her sharp teeth finished the crude job the manacle had started. Iron bloomed on her tongue. She plunged her hand into the brine, blood blooming like a cloud of ink as she squeezed it into a vicious fist.

Her answer was a white-hot bolt cutting straight into the choppy waves to starboard, a deafening crack swift on its heels.

Gal would bleed out at sea before she swung off a yardarm.
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"E hoʻomalu i kēlā moku!" Despite the growing storm and noise of rain, salt waves and the bolts of lightning crashing down upon them as though the Mother herself were enraged with them, Lani's voice was as clear as day. Those from her native land scurried to obey but half the crew gave her blank stares. With a curse she repeated in Common.

"Get this ship under control! Sails down now, Mistress Kaela - get that wheel under control you'll have us spinning on our side if you're not careful!"
Sullen nods of understanding passed about the crew and with grim determination they set about their tasks.

Lani was too focused on the sea and safe delivery of her ship to be looking at the sky. Another bolt lit up the darkening lights and illuminated the path before them. With a quiet curse the Seawitches eyes finally caught what she had only been able to sense until then.

A whirlpool off the starboard side.
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The ship groaned and heeled.

Gal swore and keeled, gnashing her teeth against the prickling pain spreading out and upwards from her open forearm. Her nostrils flared at the livid scent of salt and iron woven together as the anger of the sea rose up to receive her gift.

Fuck if it didn’t hurt, though. Bitch of a witch buckling against her blood.

Her blood.

A snap echoed from the other side of the hold, pulling her out of her spiralling thoughts. They wrenched the iron bar out of its loops on her end as well. Gal found her feet even as the deck beneath their feet grew steeper and steeper, bracing against the hull as her vision danced with black spots.


“Cost of doin’ da biznis.”

She closed her eyes to focus on the structure of the vessel around her. It was soaked through with the water from beneath and above, a thrumming guide for her slithering presence. As ever, a nazrani was an agent beholden to the black.

“Attenti un moment’.”

Her fingers dug into the sodden planks, veins pressing stark against bronze skin like a spider’s web around her wound—

the next bolt struck true with a deafening crack, turning night to day as it split the mainmast flag to base in a blinding white streak.


Gal spat out the thick taste of copper and grinned.

“Kill them all.”
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A column of water suddenly rose from the wayside of the ship and shot like a whip towards the falling mast. People had screamed and dived out of the way as the lightening had hit the main mast but there was not enough time for everyone to clear the way. Members of her crew who had been hurling on the ropes of the sail or up in the rigging itself to bind the canvas tight, saw their life flash before their eyes in the lightening searing white light.

The tendrils of compressed water hit the mast before it could smash across the deck. With a groan it swirled around the wood like a kraken slimey tentacle and then flung the mast clear of the ship.

Sweat and sea water poured down Lanis face with the effort and she stumbled as she released her hold on the water below. Brushing the moisture from her eyes she was relieved to find all of her crew still on deck if battered and bruised.

And it was a good thing too it seemed, as the pirates poured out of the belly of the ship like termites.

"To arms!"
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For her part, Gal ascended the stairs at a slower pace. While her crew bore the brunt of the first clash, the nazrani slunk like a shadow into the open, pressed low as she tried to locate the other mage. She’d just about laid eyes on the sole figure at the prow of the ship when she saw one of the sailors notice her skulking along the gunwale.


The pirate sidestepped at the last moment, and his cutlass took a chunk out of the railing instead of her flesh. In the split-second that he had to wrestle with the wood to wrench it out, Gal pounced upon him, smacking him across the jaw with the chain still hanging off her wrists.

The man stumbled back, blood pouring from his mouth as he spat out a few cracked teeth. She pursued him before he could find his footing – swept out his legs and shoved him over the gunwale. Gal recovered the sword just in time to parry another assailant, near-to slipping on the rain-slick planks as the blow reverberated through her body.

They exchanged a few strikes, moving back and forth at the lip of the deck, each of them looking for an opening to send the other flying. Gal bared her teeth, heart drumming hard and fast behind her eyelids as she strained to keep the bastard off her. Between the days of merde food, the heavy manacles, and the bloodletting, she was hardly in top form for a duel.

She knew it. The fucker knew it.

With his next strike he capitalized on her fatigue, twisting the cutlass right out of her tired grip. He brought his blade ‘round to gut her like a fish when the vessel heeled viciously to port, sending every man, woman, and crate on the deck flying.

Gal threw out her good hand, fingers just about closing around the foremast rigging as she watched her would-be executioner disappear in a gout of angry white spray.

Her mouth and heart and bowels all at once went “Oh fuck.”

The maelstrom was raging right below them.
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Noelani fought her way against elements and man to get to the wheel of her ship. It rocked violently like a babe in a crib and the groaning noise of wood cut her to the core as badly as a child's injured wailing would cut a mother. The short, slight waif of a woman who was their usual helmsman was deceptively strong despite her frame but even she was struggling to fight against the pull of the sea. Water lashed her face and streamed from her lash as she caught sight of Lani and shook her head ruefully.

"I can nay 'old her captain," the accent of her homeland was a surprising comfort even in a time like this. Similar tribal tattoos to Lani's spread across her face and down her neck, transforming half of her features into the roaring maw of a kraken.

"The Mother gives, the Mother takes," Lani seized a hold of the spindles and added her own strength to wresting back control. For a brief moment the ship levelled and her heart leapt, until another bolt of lightning hit the deck of the ship.

Everything went a dazzling blinding white. She felt the wood beneath her feet splinter, heard the screams of foe and friend as the boat tore itself asunder and went freefalling, whirling, into the choppy waves below. The last thing she remembered was the icy cold water closing in over her head.
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The good thing about storms was that once you gave them a nudge in the right direction, they didn’t need any more help to keep going.

The bad thing about storms was that once you gave them a nudge in the right direction, they were just as likely to do whatever the fuck they pleased.

She felt more than saw the bolt cut into the deck again, gracing a few sailors with a swift death. Lucky bastards.

Between the splintering ship and the whirlpool below, she had no choice at all. In her last act of defiance, Gal dragged her bloody fingers along her throat, grinned at the sea witch, and… let go.

The massed walls of water thundered in her ears as she raced the foundering vessel to the bottom. The wailing of timber was louder still than the whipping wind and growing closer by the moment.

Crashing into the sea was salvation.

It punched the breath out of her lungs and sapped the strength out of her limbs. Her ribs screamed at the pressure as she drifted further into the blue, her black eyes scouring the surface for what was coming sure as death. Above her the ship slammed into the depths in stages – first the masts, then the luffing sails, and finally the bulk of its heavy body. Though muted, the sound was no less terrifying.

Gal propelled herself onwards and outwards, running on sheer spite and desperation.

Once the lines on her neck opened up, she wasn’t long for this world.
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Makemake wau ʻo wau ʻo Indigo loa, mamao loa ...
Ma luna o nā nalu a ma lalo, ma laila wau e noho ai ...

The old song the Mchawi mothers used to sing to their children was a sad tale of a woman parted from her homelands. Yet at the same time it was a happy song, for her inability to get home meant she started a new one which the Mchawi now called home. It was said that those who sung the song whilst out at sea would hear it echoed back to them by the voices of their ancestors; the mystical beings they were descended from. Of course Noelani had tried it - every Mchawi sailor had - but she had never heard a thing but the crash of waves call back to her.

Today, however, as she sunk deeper into the waves and the darkness of her mind and the ocean, she thought she could hear a woman singing it to her. Gentle hands touched her arms, cupped her cheeks and felt her forehead. Lani wanted to open her eyes and see what could sing so beautifully and she fought hard to regain enough consciousness to do it.

A bursting pain in her chest caused her to abruptly wake, dispelling the dream as she turned and threw up the salt water into the spray that lapped around her body. Bleary eyed she looked up at the island she had found herself on. The skies were still a turbulent grey but the storm seemed to have passed. Bits of debris had washed up with her along with a few bodies too. Wearily Lani pushed herself to her feet and begun an unsteady stagger along the shore.
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The nazrani dreamt of no ancestors come to deliver her from anguish. The burdens she bore were hers and hers alone, and too vivid besides to lay her to rest in the great below. Its depths gave birth to spirits older than reckoning; older than time itself.

Gal loved the sea, but she feared it more.

There was no better incentive to beat the icy waters first to the surface, and then to the shore. The salt had burnt away the remainder of the blood on her throat, leaving behind three thin scars to mark yet another sacrifice.

When she woke next – she had no memory of passing out in the black sand – her tongue was a weight of lead and her skull the banging drum of the summer rites. What remained of her tattered clothes was salt-encrusted to her skin in many uncomfortable places.

The ocean hadn’t been so merciful as to tear open the manacles – they remained tight and secure around her wrists, a cruel reminder of her failures.

And as awareness flooded back in, so did the raw, pulsing pain of all her scrapes and wounds. Gal managed to sit up despite her protesting body and kicked a nearby piece of flotsam to vent her impotent rage.

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Every body she stopped, checked, and added to her list of deceased crew was a stab in the gut. Storms like this were the reason why Seawitches often sat aboard ships, aside from protection against pirates. That storm, however, had been nothing like Lani had ever encountered on the seas before. Its like reminded her of the training grounds back home when another mage had been manipulating the water against her. Suddenly, Noelani drew up short.

There had been another mage onboard.

Images of the pirate captain on deck flashed across her mind now; the blood on her wrists around her tight manacles and the way she had been purposefully making her way towards Lani. At the time she had thought of it as one Captain seeking out another but now... what if it had been a mage seeking out the other?

The sudden shout in her own language pulled her out of her daydream and elation filled her heart. Someone else had survived, someone from her home. As selfish as that was it was all the more comforting it was one of her own and not an Empire member. Pushing aside the guilt that came on the heels of that realisation Lani pushed herself on.

It took longer than normal due to her exhaustion but she finally turned the corner from around which the voice had come. It had been feminine. Who had survived? Niketchi? Yralai?

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Certain that everyone else had perished in the storm straight out of Kiva’s cunt, Gal was too busy wallowing in her beached misery to notice Lani’s approach. Or maybe she did, and mistook her tired stumbling for the sea depositing yet more shipwreck and bodies on the shore.

Whatever the reason, the first time she laid eyes upon the seawitch, the bitch was already upon her.


The nazrani scrambled back through the sand, found purchase on the remains of a gunwale, and pulled herself to her feet.

Her fangs flashed in the evening sun as she bared her teeth at the other woman, black eyes tracking her every move. Behind her back, Gal palmed the broken wood for anything that would serve as a weapon.

Because there was no way on land or sea that this would end well.

“Fuck do ye want?”
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A barrage of emotions hit her like a tidal wave. Anger rose chief among them; this was the woman who had caused the storm, she was sure of it. She was the reason there were ten bodies on this beach she would have to wrap and say the rites for before sending to the water bed below. Above all of that she was a pirate and had probably conjured it in order to escape and get back to pillaging up and down the coast. It was only her wariness and caution, traits which had been drilled in her during training from a young age, that meant she didn't launch herself across the sands and throttle her with her bare hands.

"Why would the Mother spare a cunt like you?" she kissed her teeth loudly then spat into the sand in utter disgust, muttering a small string of curse words beneath her breath.

"Perhaps," the anger dissolved slowly, replaced instead with a sick and twisted form of amusement. "She is so desperate to see you dance the gallows jig she spared you the warmth of her embrace at sea."
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They measured each other briefly, and then— insult. Typical.

“Spare me?” Gal snorted. “A’ spared meself. Yer shite god couldna even save yer own fuckin’ ship! Fuuuuck. Pull ye head out yer self-righteous ars an’ look around ye, girl.” She shook her head and bared her teeth in a jeering smile. “Yer Mother’s a bigger cunt n’me if dat’s her idea of sparin’.”

Behind her back, the nazrani steadily worked a splintered piece of wood away from the gunwale. It wasn’t her dagger, but it’d have to do. The storm and her daring escape had exacted their toll, the new scars on her forearm and throat a permanent testament to the price of freedom.
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The sea beside them both grew more choppy as the Seawitch's anger began to climb. She might have been exhausted from her brush with death but she would sooner drive herself further into tiredness if it meant ridding the world of this woman. Her lip pulled back from her teeth into a half snarl, half sneer.

"It is typical of a pirate to spare themselves and not their crew," her eyes briefly drifted to the bodies that lined the stretch of beach beyond Gal; Lani had not been the only one to suffer the loss of men it seemed. Death was the great equaliser after all. Pirate or Empire soldier it did not matter, the Mother had taken them all regardless.

"You'll be saving ye'self too by conjuring yourself a ship will you?" a raised brow and a look of smugness crossed her face.
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“Oh aye, ‘cause yer crew’s lookin’ mighty alive, innit?” Gal laughed and licked her fangs, eager to show off whose were bigger. “How’s da view from da topmast, me lady? Da jujment make you feel good, ne? Make you feel better?”

She spat into the sand. Spirits, but her fingers and teeth just itched to tear into that smug flesh. Fuck, even if it ended them both right then and there— what a way to go.

“Conjurin’? Ha. A’ don’ need no ship, ye daft cunt. This here island’s enuff fer those of us who ain’t done sold out to the fuckin’ Empire.” Truth was, she feared going back. Because if her dagger wasn’t hanging off the witch’s belt, it was buried in the seabed along with the rest of the wreckage.

She’d not touched it since they’d been clapped into imperial chains and dragged to the bilge. No blood, no hold; no seal, no deal.

Somewhere in those depths, a hundred sacrificed souls were slowly leaking out.

“Now if yer grashus majesty don’ mind, A’ll be off to da jungle fer grub.”
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Noelani didn't even offer a blink in recognition of the woman's intended insult; the Mchawi Princess stood by her decision to bring her people into the fold of the Empire. They were strong for it, their trade was booming, and the people were afforded greater protection than just what the seawitches could offer. Instead of looking in and keeping the blinkers on they had advanced themselves.

So instead of snapping off a response, she folded her arms over her chest loosely and merely offered the other woman a look that managed to be equal parts disgusted and bored.

"By all means,"
her eyes flickered to the thick foliage further inland and then beyond the woman to the rest of the beach. "Some of us take the position of Captain seriously," her voice lost the bitterness and sarcastic twinge. Sorrow and duty clouded them now. "They deserve to be buried properly," and without another world the seawitch went around the other captain to continue on her methodical check of every body she passed.
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The pirate fucked off just as readily, quietly relieved now they were both outside stabbing distance. With the way her muscles ached and all her old scars were pricking anew with a vengeance, Gal wouldn’t have bet on herself in that fight with as much confidence as she’d’ve liked.

Just as well they were parting ways. With luck, the sea witch would get mauled by local wildlife sometime in the next hour, and then she would recover in some fucking peace and quiet, wait for the dagger to spend its vengeance elsewhere, sell another chunk of her soul for a ride off this fucked island and spend the next three months patronising every tavern, gambling den, and whorehouse on the Cortosi coast.


First things first.

She came to a dead stop in the underbrush. Hidden far above in the canopy, the birds twittered on; all around her, the great jungle sighed and rumbled with life. Gal drew the humid air deep into her lungs and crouched in line with the exhale, fingers digging into the soil.

A shiver ran down her spine. This place was too much like home.

Ditching her splinter-shiv for a nearby pointy stick, the nazrani set off along the deep tracks in the moist earth.

Here, piggy piggy.

The dark sea was threatening to swallow the sun for the day by the time Gal reached the beach again. She left long tracks in the sand where she dragged the corpse of the boar, gritting when her forearm split open again from the effort.

Much as she hated the idea of spending the night in sight of the Empire cunt, even she wasn’t stubborn enough to stay in the jungle after dark on her own. And besides, all the firewood was here.

It was the pragmatic choice.

It still tasted like shit in her mouth.
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Lani was true to her word about her intentions for the day. She left the pirates of course, they were not her duty and she did not care enough to tire herself out performing the same rights upon them as she did her own. For her people though she spent the time to forage across the shore and pick through the debris, sorting bits that were salvageable from those that weren't. From the sails she cut strips large enough to wrap the seventeen corpses. From the wood she made a large enough raft to place them all on, stacked on top of one another. From the island itself she picked shells and decorated their bodies with words from home.

It was gruelling work but she bore her burden quietly.

When she was done she summoned the sea and quietly sent the raft out in to the Mothers Embrace. For a time she sat in the sand and just watched them go, the men and women who had travelled over leagues with her. Their names were etched into her mind and she swore if she got herself off this cursed island she would write personally to their homes and explain.

It had been the Mothers Wish.

Finally the Seawitch pulled herself out of the sands and waded out into the sea herself, armed with a broken spear she had found along the shore, and set about sourcing her own food. The small lagoon that the island had created for itself was plentiful and she had no problem in catching fish which she was roasting over a fire by the time the Pirate bitch returned. Lani didn't even look up from what she was turning slowly over the spit. If they could just ignore one another perhaps they could both survive.
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A fine line – and one easily crossed at that – was all that separated cold ignorance from burning contempt. Gal toed it with the feline grace of her people as she disturbed the wind-combed sand of the beach a stone’s throw away from the witch.

Gal stomped and kicked at the larger pieces of flotsam to break them down into a more sensible pile of kindling. In a few loud, grueling minutes, the pirate assembled her own little fireplace in a hole she’d dug into the sand.

Now if she just...

Her black eyes settled on the campfire the bitch got going in her absence.

Before she’d fully finished her thought, Gal was already marching across the stretch of sand separating them. With neither greeting nor ado, she pilfered one of the peripheral twigs, cut a sideways smirk at the mchawi, and strode back to her own shelter with her stolen fire.
  • Cthulhoo rage
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Noelani would have been content to just ignore the other woman entirely. It irked her that she seemed to have chosen to come back to the same section of beach she had chosen for her camp for the night, but again, she chose the higher, dignified, road and decided to ignore it. It irked her even more that the bitch came close to where her camp was - there was plenty of beach after all, why did it have to be a few meters away? They could have probably spent the next few days blissfully passing by one another unawares.

But when she sauntered over and tired to steal a piece of her fire, well. The work furious seemed far too tame a word to describe her ire.

A tendril of water from the sea arched out of the darkness and dowsed the flame in the pirate captain's hand without so much as a turn of Lani's head in her direction. Instead she focused on quietly eating the flesh off her fish bones.
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The pirate stopped dead in her tracks. The water wasn’t cold by any measure of the word – she’d sailed in the far north, beyond the Spine, where Fjirstaf washed along Epressan shores, locking ships down forever with its shorefast ice. This tepid western puddle?

It was nothing.

Her nostrils flared as she cast away the smoldering branch, its flame reduced to a fine plume of gray smoke that rose now to greet the first stars. Gal followed its sinuous trail and set her black eyes to the sky, counting the constellations, grasping onto their sure arrangement on the firmament without another anchor to call her own.

When everything else in her life was battered by the winds and shattered against tall rocks of misfortune, she could always find comfort in the knowledge that no current could sway the stars from their path.

She turned on the spot then, fixing the other woman with a glare she would not meet.

“Why do you bend your knee for the imperial dogs?” Gal spat out in the tongue they both shared. Sharp and soft accents aside, it was a sight better than broken common or the langfranc of the Cortosi.
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