OoC: Yeppity-yep. I figured, but since the profile didn't specify alcohol, I made a guess that it might still affect her.
BiC: "Me oh my... You're a bit unsteady. What did they give you..." Allan was speaking to himself more than Leonna, but still spoke aloud. For a third time he had a reason to carry her around, and thus picked her up in the usual manner, and took her to another part of town, a good distance away. He sat her down on a bench, then looked at where he was. He smiled to himself, then turned to Leonna. "Now, I need you to stay right here for a little while, alright? I'll be back. Don't get off this bench, alright?" Leonna's mind had already started to clear, but she was still a bit woozy.
"Okay!" She seemed to completely ignore Allan suddenly, and started to hum a song quietly, while swaying back and forth in tune with it. Allan stood, and entered the building, which had been just the kind of place he wanted. He walked into the white-walled building that had a cream-colored carpet, and several stands and mannequins, all covered in fine dresses. Even the walls were filled with dresses of high quality. He smiled, and stepped up to the counter.
----- ----- -----
It was a long while before Allan stepped out of the shop, and he now carried with him three white boxes. One was short, but large, another was also short, but much smaller, and the last was about twice as tall as the others, yet smaller still. He turned to Leonna, who had fallen half-asleep on the bench, then sat down next to her. He leaned over her, and whispered in her ear, trying no to startle her into a fully awakened state.
"Leeonnaa... I'm back now." She began to stir, then slowly sat herself up. She had a considerable headache, but the effects of intoxication were mostly gone. She looked at Allan, then down at the white, unmarked boxes. She pondered what they were for a moment before asking.
"What are in those?"
"Things. Nice things. I'll show you what's in them later. In the meantime, what would you like to do? I've done my business for now, and won't be needed until this evening."
"Do?" I rubbed my temples tenderly, trying not to focus too hard on the pain in my head. The last few minutes had been terribly dizzy and bright, and my blood was running hot in my veins. I could feel that the skin on my face was particularly flushed, making me embarrassed that Allan was here to see me like this. A fuzzy memory procured itself from my memory as I prodded at it, but I could only remember the mention of water. That and Allan carrying me again. Being in his arms was such a warm and frightful thing—something I could not forget even in my strange stupor of thought. However, I could not gage how far he had carried me or why he had felt the need to. Had I passed out?
"The coast..." I wondered aloud, the memory of this morning jumping into my mind. It must have been inadvertently trying to answer Allan's question, though my mind was in such a daze that it was a wonder I still remembered my own name. There had been something I wanted to see on the coast, and it had something to do with fish. And ships.
"Would you mind terribly if we went there?" I asked, my voice slurring even as I struggled to correct it. Something in Allan's disapproving expression warned me that he thought I was in no condition to be walking about, so before he could solidify such thoughts into words, I stood up from the bench. I swayed unsteadily for a moment on my feet, but managed to stay upright, with a great deal of help from Allan's arm. As I recollected myself and looked back at Allan, I saw that he was still doubtful, so I tried my most convincing smile, though I felt it was somewhat lopsided. My muscles just did not want to cooperate with me, but I was determined to get my way with them. I needed to see the coast, and I did not want some flimsy movements on my part to land myself back in bed. "Would you take me there if I said please?"
Allan sighed loudly and gave into Leonna, not being able to resist her kind attitude. He nodded in defeat, then smiled when he saw how happy it made her. He put his arm over her shoulder to help steady and guide her through the crowds, though holding all three boxes was quite the act of balance. Finally Allan asked if Leonna would mind carrying the two smaller boxes, as they were light, and easier to carry. She agreed, and he stopped to hand them to her, and once finished transferring them from his arm to hers, he placed the large box under his arm, and put his other over Leonna once more. Again they walked through the streets, Allan guiding Leonna, while she glanced around at everything, asking a small question or two, now and then.
After a considerably long walk, mostly downhill, the two reached a section of the beach that was away from the bustling docks, and was relatively empty, save for a person here and there. Allan let go of Leonna, and took the boxes she held.
"Well, this is a beach. A bit small really, but a beach nonetheless. You can wade into the water if you wish, but... Don't go far, and beware: sea water is very salty. Don't drink it, if you can help it." Leonna nodded, and eagerly walked to the edge of the water, with Allan following slowly behind. She didn't know, but Allan's leg injury seemed to be coming back. Due to her healing, it'd been able to support him fully, allowing him to run like he'd been doing, but now the effects strangely began to wear off, and he was constantly forced to slow his pace. He did his best not to limp, or make any other such obvious signs, but he did tend to walk slower now. When he got beside Leonna, she had taken her boots off, and was rubbing her feet into the warm, soft sand. "So, any questions?"
“Questions?” I laughed freely, amazed that such a sound could come out of me. Before today, I could scarcely recall an occasion when I had behaved so openly. Such behavior Hemanias sternly disproved of, and having no other company, I had simply stayed reserved without thought that it could be so pleasant. “I have only a thousand that I would like to ask you.”
But my questions were almost entirely swallowed up in the lovely scene around me, filled with the sparkle of startlingly bright blue water and perfectly clear sky. The fine white sand beneath my feet was pleasantly warm, and the moist sea breeze felt wonderful against my skin. I noticed, however, as it tugged at the loose ends of my hair that my bun was in a horrible condition. While I had braided it tightly enough to avoid having it come undone completely by itself, my days of excitement had ruffled it terribly. Without another thought, I pulled out the pins and twine holding my hair up, releasing it in long curls that extended down to my shoulders. I had intended to immediately pull the curls back up, but it felt so wonderfully pleasant to let the wind have its way with it that I left it down.
And then the most horrifying realization hit me. If I had been alone, my action would merely have been indulgent, but I had quite forgotten myself, and Allan along with me. Goodness, what a goose I had made of myself!
With mortified sheepishness, I gazed back at the pirate, who was actually smiling. He must have known me well enough by now not to be shocked, as I did not resemble nor follow any of the proper etiquette for a woman of his society. Allan was as foreign to me as I was to him, and his good grace eased such tensions between us. It still puzzled me even now how he managed such politeness to one such as I, who had so very little understanding of such things. In Bren, most behaved freely and without fear of being improper, save for when they were in the presence of elders, whom all respected. Allan's mannerisms did, and most certainly against my will, make me feel somewhat special.
Trying very hard to keep such thoughts from continuing, I scanned the powdery sand around me, my eyes resting on a black rock just a few feet away. Stuck upon its damp surface was the strangest flower, or creature I had ever seen. It looked like a red star, with five tentacle-like fingers reaching out from its center. With a cry of surprise, I ran to it, daring to touch the strange thing with the tip of my finger. It was strangely slick and damp, and I stared up at Allan questioningly.
Allan set down the boxes, a safe distance from the water, then pulled out his little book. "Well let us see here. I know for one thing it's a starfish." He flipped through the book until he found a picture of the closest looking starfish.
"Pink Starfish: Pisaster brevispinus
Max Length: 35.56 cm
Pink starfish are fairly large sea stars that are colored from pink to red. They frequently end up on beaches where humans have collected them, and dried them out for use as decorations. They eat mainly oysters, clams, or other prey that is too slow to escape them."
Alan frowned after finishing. "Hm. Doesn't say much about them. I suppose there isn't much that can be said anyway." He put the book away, and picked the boxes up again. Their contents were far too valuable to let them out of his sight for long. He came to Leonna's side. and got her attention. "Leonna, look at that." He pointed out into the distance, where an orca jumped out of the water, followed closely behind by another. She gasped in awe, as the massive fish flew into the air, and then splashed back down into the water. Moments later one of them jumped up again, and gave out a short, high-pitched wail.
"What is it, what is it? It's so big!" Allan laughed at how excited Leonna was, and told her a bit about an orca.
"While these orca may seem large to you, they aren't quite so to me. I've seen fish that are much... much larger. They're called finback whales, and they grow to be about as large as that ship over there." He pointed to one of the ships in the port.
"As big as a ship?" I gazed wide-eyed at the boat Allan pointed to, something that could easily swallow a giant spider. It made me shudder just to think about it, but the whole idea was amazing. A fish as big as a man made vessel! The ocean was far more strange than I had thought...
With a sigh, I turned back to the huge blue, cautiously moving towards where the water hit against the sand. I had seen such waves before on the Great Lake, but these swells were different. The waves were quite a bit larger, coming from an unknown place somewhere in the endless sea. This made them somewhat intimidating, but they really were quite beautiful, their white crests splashing onto the damp sand of the shore. In the books I had read, there had always been rocky coves or sharp reefs by the shore, but from where I stood, the small beach was nothing but powdery sand. As I gazed across it, I could see places where sea foliage had washed up on the shore, as well as driftwood. Among these, there were colorful shells and rocks with curious creatures scuttling across them.
Feeling my curiosity take control, I whisked over to these strange sights, giggling when the cold ocean water brushed over my feet. Everything was so new here, so perfectly strange and beautiful. I bent down to examine these things, pouring questions out of my mouth like a spout of water, and Allan would answer each of them patiently, as easily as if he had known such things all his life. From his detailed explanations, I learned what clams and coral were, and I was amazed to hear that there were plants that could actually live completely submerged in water.
The most amazing thing of all, however, was when I saw a shell suddenly move on its own. I immediately grabbed Allan's arm, pointing at the pink twisted shell that was crawling across the sand. "Allan, Allan, look!"
The pirate quickly turned his head to see what I was pointing at, then simply smiled, as if such a thing were completely normal. "It's a hermit crab, Leonna. They live in the empty shells of other animals."
"Other animals? What kind of animals?" My voice was still shaking with surprise, but as I continued to look at the shell, I saw that there was indeed a creature moving it. It was the strangest thing I had ever seen, with tiny, spider-like legs and eyes that looked like a crab's. The rest of its body was covered in the shell it was dragging along with it, and I found the creature to be somewhat cute. These crustaceans, as Allan had called them, were so bug like, and yet I was not averted from them like I was spiders. They were truly fascinating creatures, colorful animals that lived in and loved the water that surrounded them.
Allan seemed to think for a moment before answering my question, and I could only guess how many creatures he knew of that could create such a variety of the colorful shells that lay on the beach. "Clams, sea snails, sand dollars...any mollusk you can imagine makes shells."
I stared at him in confusion, which had become one of the more dominant of my emotions since I had arrived at the city. "Mollusk?"
The pirate sighed, taking another moment to think over how he would explain such a thing to me. "Mollusk is just a term to describe the soft creatures that live in shells, much like how 'fish' is just a general term for the finned creatures of the water."
"And how do you know all of this?" I asked, feeling somewhat foolish with all of my wide-eyed staring.
Allan laughed, his deep green eyes sparkling with the sound. "I'm a pirate, Leonna. Most of my life has been lived on the sea."
"Ah, of course." I looked back down at the sand, blushing with embarrassment. What a silly question to ask! I gazed back at the hermit crab making his way across the sand and smiled ruefully at him. "His name surely suits him well, does it not? A forever wandering creature living in a home that is not his own...a hermit..." That was exactly what I was, I realized. Not a ragweed, not a peasant, but a wandering hermit. Such a life was indeed lonely, but it was full of wonderful things; the world around it. "How much of the ocean do you think that fellow has seen?"
"Hmm... Well, from what I do know of hermit crabs, I'd say very little. I've sailed nearly my whole life, and I haven't even seen very much of it. In fact, there are so many large oceans, that it would take more than a single life-time to see them all." Leonna was immensely wide-eyed at such a concept: oceans that went on and on, almost endlessly. The world kept becomeing bigger and bigger to her. Allan suddenly smiled as he observed the sand. "Leonna... How would you like to build a castle?"
"A... What? Build a castle... here?" Allan nodded and took of his frock-coat. He laid it down a bit up the shore, then placed the boxes on it, and folded the coat around them. He rolled up his sleeves, then started to scoop up a bunch of sand, packing it tightly together. After a moment he stepped back, revealing a short, slightly crude tower of sand. "That's... a castle?"
"Not yet. That's only a tower. There are walls and some more towers to be built! It's fun." Leonna helped make a few more towers, while Allan worked in the walls. Once the finished this, the two started to make a shorter, but wider tower in the center, then another small one on top of that. When they finished they sat back and looked it over. Allan smiled, not at the crudely built sand castle, but because he'd been having a good deal of fun. "That is a castle." He said in a satisfied tone. "I want to rest for a moment. Why don't you go play a little." Leonna eagerly agreed, leaving Allan with a good chance to rest for a bit. He sat down by the boxes, then laid back, closing his eyes. It didn't take him long to drift off to a half-sleeping state.
I could not blame Allan for wanting to sit in the sun—its gentle warmth was inviting me, too. Unlike the pirate, however, there was an entirely new world all around me, a world that simply could not wait for me to bask in the sun. I laid my leather bag safely on the dry sand by Allan, then wandered back to where the gentle waves licked the shore. There were lovely shells of all colors and shapes mingled with the rock and sand, but they were particularly beautiful under the blue light of the water. It was so lovely how the sun shimmered down through the shallow water I stood in, casting delicate veins of light over the shells and pebbles on the bottom.
As I went deeper, I began to see that there were also brightly colored fish, but I could not identify any of them. For a moment, I was tempted to ask Allan to show me, but he was laying on the shore, dozing off in the gentle warmth of the sun. Looking at him like that, with his hair loose and windblown like mine...one would never guess that such a man was a murdering pirate. I winced even as I thought the word, but it was indeed true. In our time in the city, I had witnessed Allan kill men, though it had been in self defense. Never would I let myself believe that a person like him killed because of greed or desire. It was a matter of survival, and that I understood perfectly.
And then I realized that I was staring at him again. I found with embarrassment that a form like his was easy on the eyes, and when I let my mind wander, it almost always went to Allan. Doubtless, he had plenty of thrilling stories from a life on the ocean, but that was why I had chosen to stay with him. It was his kindness, his reassurance that all would be well that had convinced me to stay, and I could not say with honesty that I regretted the decision. His company made me happy, free in a way that I had not previously been. It was, I realized, what humans called fun.
Turning my attention back to the water, I waded in deeper, until the shallow swells began to reach the bottom of my skirt. My movements scared the fish, but they continued to swirl around me, flashes of brilliant colors against the white ocean floor. It did not seem wise to get my clothes wet, but I was standing in the ocean, for heaven's sake! Never in my life would I have imagined being able to step into the vast body of water that surrounded me now.
Again, I found myself scanning the ocean floor, and I found a lovely pink shell only a foot or so away. I stepped forward to reach in and grab it, but a horrible pain suddenly stabbed into my foot, and I realized that the black rock nearby was not a rock at all. The flat thing was a fish! As it floundered around, its now blunt tail swaggering behind it, I screamed, out of both surprise and pain. The creature's sharp tail had punctured my bare foot and broken off, making me stumble into the water. As I plunged in, I inadvertently sucked in the salty water Allan had warned me about, and found myself spluttering and thrashing in the water as the throbbing pain in my foot came to an ugly head.
OoC: Give yaz one guess what kind of fish Leonna just stepped on...
Bic: Allan made a point to stay at least half-awake, should something go wrong... However, his mind was clouded by drowsiness, and it took him a moment to register Leonna's cries for help. Finally his mind cleared, and he immediately shot up to his feet, in almost a single action. He located Leonna's struggling body, and started running, despite his leg injury slowly starting to come back. He literally ripped off his waistcoat, popping off all the buttons in a single jerk, then pulled off his shirt and tossed his bandanna aside. He quickly waded through the water to Leonna, and put his arm around her chest. Using all his might, he pulled her ashore, and laid her down several feet from the water. It was hard for him to observe her injury, as she couldn't stop squirming around on the sand. She was clearly in pain, but didn't display any signs of poisoning, only the pain one would feel from having a barbed stinger jammed in their foot.
Allan didn't have any knife small enough for removing a stinger like this, so he ran to Leonna's bag, digging through it with all haste. Almost instantly he found a knife that looked small enough to be used for helping with the removal. He ran back and tried to steady her foot, but she kept moving it.
"Leonna, please! Stop moving your leg! I can't remove this stinger if you keep flailing your leg around!" She tried her best to comply, and Allan managed to hold it down well enough to start working on the stinger. She hadn't stepped on it too hard, so it wouldn't be too hard to remove. However, this also led Allan to believe that a good deal of the pain was from the shock, rather than the stinger itself. Slowly he started to work the knife around the bards, picking them out as best he could, and pulling the stinger out. It was difficult enough, but Leonna's cries of pain only made things harder for Allan, mentally. He was no surgeon... and for all he knew, me might be making things worse, but this didn't stop him from trying. After moments of this careful "surgery," the stinger was removed, with as many barbs as Allan could locate.
"Allan... It hurts... so much!"
"I know, I know. I just need to get you some hot water, and then will take care of the pain. Do... you think you can... well, hold the boxes. I know, it's an odd thing to ask of you right now, but trust me. Please?" She agreed, so Allan placed the boxes in her arms, then lifted her up, not even realizing he left his clothes behind. He walked with her in his arms until he found a clean-looking bar, which happened to be near the shore. He walked in, placed Leonna at a booth, then ran to get some hot water from the bartender, and briefly explained the situation.
When he came back, he put Leonna's foot on the table, then poured the water on the wound. She tried to pull her foot back, but Allan held it firmly. At first the heat only added to the pain, but soon it made the pain from the stinger slowly fade away. "There... That's the most I can do- Oh... dear..." Allan looked at Leonna's bare feet, and then at himself. "I... seem to have left your boots, and my clothes behind. We'll get them later... Alright?"
"Right." I was speaking through clenched teeth because of the throbbing pain in my foot, but it had finally started to fade. My foot felt much warmer than the rest of my body, and the familiar sensation led me to believe that the barbs in my foot had injected some kind of venom into it. This warmth only served to contribute more to the pain, but now that my whole foot was submerged in hot water, it had started to calm. I had my hands clenched around Allan's arm in a viselike grip, but even that relaxed as my body began to heal itself.
I leaned against Allan, who was standing right beside me, feeling somewhat dizzy and tired after what had happened. It was not like the stupor of thought I had earlier today, but I still felt weak, unsteady. While I had gained plenty of pain tolerance from Hemanaias's training, he had never actually stabbed me before, nor had something quite as big as the fish's tail pierced my foot. I was still breathing heavily from the incident, but it started to slow as I sat there, and I could feel that Allan was starting to relax, too. His boxes were still sitting in my lap, and fearing that I would soak them along with clothes, I slid them onto the seat next to me. With a sheepish smile, I turned to face Allan to thank him again for his help.
And then I realized why his captain was madly in love him.
I swear, ogling at men was something I never did, as it was silly and foolish and everything else wrong with being so...so girly. The girls in my village were always acting like that, sighing and preening as if they were the only thing in the world. Nothing was more important to them than getting a man's attention, and oh, the things they would do to get it! I once saw Mae, a shy brown haired girl around my age, fake an injury to get attention. She was walking by a young man who was splitting wood for a fire one day while I was watching from the forest. The look on her face at the sight of him shirtless...well...I could have sworn she thought she was looking at a hundred pound bar of gold. Her eyes went huge, like two giant brown saucers, and she smiled the most stupid, air headed smile I had ever seen. The young man cutting wood, of course, had no idea that she was even there.
Of course, that would not do at all. Mae needed his attention, and apparently a simple hello was not enough. She dropped to the ground suddenly, tripping over her feet with a loud shriek. That got the young man's attention, and seeing her sprawled on the ground, he ran to her, looking very alarmed. I saw the look on Mae's face as he knelt down and grabbed her arm to help her up, and believe me, there was not the slightest bit of anguish there at all. Of course, this changed into a mask of pain as the young man stared at her, and she started crying about twisting her ankle when he asked her if it had been a snake. Since no one can walk with a twisted ankle, whether it is really twisted or not, the man kindly offered to help her home. Somehow, I do not think Mae was in a lot of pain when she made it back to her house.
So you can imagine how stupid I felt when I stared at Allan. He had thrown off his shirt when he had gone into the water to help me, exposing his muscular chest and arms. His wet black hair was still tied back, but a few strands had escaped to hang damply around his face. Allan's eyes, those deep green eyes, were still gazing worriedly at me, bright and warm like they always were. Certainly not a orderly look, but it only made him appear more...attractive.
Oh no. No, no, no! I am being stupid! I cannot...he does not....no! I quickly tore my gaze away from him, feeling blood rush to my face. Really, I should not have been feeling so embarrassed, but I was. I was very much aware of my appearance, and I imagined the ocean did not look quite as good as me as it did on--
Stop it! Fixing my gaze very solidly on my foot in the bucket of water, I let go of Allan and folded my arms tightly against myself. I realized for the first time that I was cold, and my limbs were shaking numbly. Not the most ideal way to end a trip to the beach, but then again, when did anything go well in this town? It was just one thing after another here, and Allan had to put up with all of it. I had not even been able to collect that beautiful shell I had seen, and after what had happened, there was no way I was going back in that water.
There was still that salty taste in my mouth, too. It made my mouth feel dry, but I was not about to trouble Allan any more. Rather than bother him again, I leaned back in the chair and smiled, trying to look like I was not cold and embarrassed and in pain. "Is this what it feels like to be stabbed?" Not a very good question, but I truly did not want Allan to keep worrying about me. Somehow, I doubted he would be willing to take me back to the beach again.
This woman certainly seemed to think something of Allan, and he could tell. He laughed a little inside, then sat across from Leonna at the booth. "Well, I can't say how it feels to be stabbed by a stinger from a stingray, and your injury isn't actually too bad: the stinger didn't go in very far, probably because of your light step, so I feel the shock of stinger suddenly jabbing into your foot is what caused a good deal of the initial pain. Tell me, do you feel nauseous, fatigued, or maybe a bit chilled, or have a fever?"
"My limbs feel somewhat numb, and yes, I feel chills."
"Alright, some of the stingrays poison must have gotten into your system. It's not too bad, so you should feel better in an hour or two." Allan paused, realizing he hadn't actually answered Leonna's question. "Oh, and I'd say being stabbed in the ways I have are much worse. One stab has caused me an injury I've had to live with for so long, and then... that stab..." He turned away, trying not to think about his nearly fatal injury. "I'm going to get our things. No one else is here besides the bartender, so you'll be fine." He could tell she didn't want him to go, but it'd only be a short time before he got back. He walked to the bartender and told him to keep and eye on Leonna, and to make sure no one bothered her. The man agreed, and Allan left, heading straight for the shore.
----- ----- -----
Allan was relieved to see that Leonna's boots, his shirt, waistcoat, and his bandanna were still on the beach. He collected them all, then realized his frock-coat was gone. He frowned, but wasn't too upset, as he had several more. He looked into the water, not thinking about anything... Just looking. A bright pink shell caught his eye, and it was located around where Leonna had been stung. Was she going for this? He placed the clothes down on the dry sand, then waded in, sliding his feet along the ground, rather than stepping around, until he could reach into the water, and retrieve the shell. A carrier shell? Wow. The main shell has several smaller shell cemented onto it, all of them colored in some shade of pink. I see why she would want to get a shell like this, Allan stepped back onto shore, then placed the shell on the sand. He put on his shirt and waistcoat, though neither could be buttoned up anymore, and then placed his bandanna on his head. He picked up Leonna's boots and the shell, then began his journey back to the bar.
----- ----- -----
Allan came through the front door, and walked over to Leonna's booth. She was happy to see him, but noticed his hand behind his back, after he placed her boots on the table.
"What do you have?" Allan smiled kindly at her, and slowly pulled his arm around, revealing the pink shell.
"Oh...oh my...how lovely!" I gingerly took the shell Allan offered me, surprised at how pale my hands were in contrast to Allan's tan ones. While shock had made my skin whiter than normal, I was reminded again how inhuman I was. Unlike Allan, my skin would never tan, for it could never be burned. No amount of heat I had known ever damaged my skin in the least, and the only trace of heat on my skin showed when I blushed.
I smiled weakly at the shell in my hands, observing how the inside of it was much smoother than the outside. How had Allan known? How had he been able to find the shell I had unwittingly sacrificed my foot for? It truly was a very surprising and wonderful gift. Though it was somewhat small, it was so lovely, a wonderful piece of the ocean I wanted to keep with me. I was also glad that he had gone to the trouble of getting my boots as well, but the idea of sloshing along in them down the streets was not a very fun one.
"Is...is it true that you can hear the ocean in one of these?" I asked somewhat nervously, feeling that it was a silly question. It only made me more tense to meet Allan's gaze as I spoke, but it was the polite thing to do...right?
Allan chuckled. He knew that it wasn't the ocean that one heard when a shell like that was put to their ear, but it very much sounded like it.
"No matter where you are, if you put a shell like that to your ear, you can hear the waves of the ocean. Keep it with you, and you'll never be far from the ocean." He took her hand which held the shell, and moved it up to her ear. She seemed surprised that she really could hear what sounded like ocean waves, and appeared to be enjoying it. "Hmm. It's going to be evening within the next couple hours, I feel. You rest for a while more here, then we'll get you back to my place." He leaned closer to her, and whispered into her ear. "Then I assume you can heal yourself, yes? If not, then just stay there until I come back." He stood up straight once more, and glanced at a bar-stool. "Like I said, you rest. I'm going to get something to drink. Probably water." He stepped away and sat down at a bar-stool a bit of a distance away. He ordered a drink, which was water as he'd said, and drank it all down at once. He started dozing off, wanting to finish his half-nap from earlier, and eventually his head fell into his arm on the counter.
----- ----- -----
"Allan?" Allan began to open his eyes. From where his head was, everything was on its side, so forced himself up and looked over at Leonna, who was now standing next to him.
"Leonna. Thank you for waking me." He glanced out the window. "But perhaps you should have woken me sooner. It's nearly time for me to get to work. Let's get back to the inn, then I've got to go, alright?" Allan walked to the table and picked up the boxes. Leonna had already put her soggy boots back on, so it seemed as though they were ready to leave. Allan paid the bartender, then he and Leonna walked out the door. "We'll have to hurry now. I can be late, but only by so much." Allan finished, and set off into the loosely crowded streets, making sure Leonna could keep up.
----- ----- -----
Upon arrival at Allan's room, he closed the door, took of his waistcoat and shirt, then put on a new shirt, and grabbed another red frock-coat. He changed bandannas, and boots, then grabbed his large hat. Finally he put on his second bracer, and turned to Leonna. "Off to work I go. I'll be back later." He took the boxes and put them on top of the high dresser. "We'll open these when I return." He bowed respectfully, said goodbye, and left quickly.
When Allan arrived at his location, he joined up with a small group of five of his other pirates. Small round barrels had been lined up against the back wall of a building, and there was a line of string coming from them, to the rock where Allan and his pirates hid. Allan nodded, and one of the pirates lit the string on fire. It quickly burned away, and seconds after it reached the barrels, there was a large explosion. "FORWARD!" They stormed through the hole the explosion made in the building, and shot any men that moved. Three more pirates crashed in through the front door of building, blocking any-one's escape. "Cease fire!" Allan strode into view of everyone from behind the counter. "This is a robbery, citizens. Cooperate, and you'll be set free when this is over... Resist and you'll all die." A few of the women were crying uncontrollably, and one of the pirates yelled at one of them. Allan faced the man. "Stop that. Let the woman cry. It does not hinder us, so there is no reason to stop it. Now get the things, and let's go." Suddenly five finely uniformed men with muskets stood outside and called in.
"Pirates! Surrender yourselves! You're outnumbered." Allan smirked, and spoke to his men.
"Finish your job. They're bluffing." A shot blasted through a window, and nearly struck Allan. He flung up his arm, and fired a pistol. He could hear a man screaming in pain outside the building. "Bulls-eye. Belay my last order. Finish them off, men." The pirates lined the two windows, and peered out the door, then started firing. Allan started taking little bricks of silver, and placing them outside in a cart, while his men fought off the soldiers. He had gotten several out by the time his men were free to help him, which made things go much quicker.
A short time later, the cart had been filled with the silver, and two men lugged it off to their ship, while four more guarded it along the way. The rest of the men took another route to the ship, and Allan went back to the inn. When he arrived at his room, he heard something inside, but couldn't make out what it was. He opened the door, and saw Leonna sitting on the bed sobbing lightly. "Le...onna?"
“Allan…why?” I did not even dare to look up at him, or explain why it was that I was upset with him. After what I had witnessed, I wanted to forget what I saw, to believe that all I had seen was nothing more than a nightmare.
Allan had killed innocent men.
I had known that Allan needed to conduct his business alone, but I had followed him from a distance, curious of what “business” it was that he did. He had walked through the streets and finally stopped at a line of barrels standing against a brick building’s walls. Under his direction, he and some men caused the walls and barrels to explode, and then they had rushed in, causing horrible screams and gun shots. Through the smoke and rubble, I saw a man dressed in a red uniform fall, killed by a single bullet from Allan’s gun.
Why? Why did it have to be Allan? Why had I ever let myself believe that a pirate could be a decent man? Sure, he would not kill some fascinating fae woman, and yet he would willingly kill a man trying to protect his people. It was wrong, so very, very, wrong! I ran back to the inn before I could witness any more, wishing above all else that the event had been created by my imagination.
“Allan, I do not understand.” I whimpered, still hiding my face in my hands. Something told me that I should be afraid for my own life, but I was too stricken by what Allan had done. Was the man standing before me now really the same person that had stolen those silver bars? “That man…why did you kill him? Why did you take their things?”
Allan flung the door shut, slamming it lightly. His expression changed from concern to sternness as he stared right at Leonna, now almost frowning.
"I see. So you followed me." His tone made it clear that he was upset. "Leonna... That is my job. I am a pirate, thus I take what I, or my captain, wants through whatever means necessary. It is the way of life I have chosen, and I regret nothing. That man threatened my crew-members. I can't let any man do that, and I... I hate anyone affiliated with any government that would threaten the lives of my men. This is a war, Leonna, you have to understand that, and diplomacy isn't going to solve anything here. Both sides are going to lose battles." He stepped to the side, re-opening the door. "If you wish to no longer associate yourself with me, then fine, leave now. However, if you are going to stay, then you're going to have to accept the reality of what I am." He stood, tall and ominous, showing that he was very serious. "I am a murderer."
I had known what he was from our first meeting, so why, why did those words sting so badly now? Was it because he had been the kind and polite man I had known just moments before? Because the warmth of his smile and his gentle touch had beguiled me into thinking he was something more than a thief? When all was said and done, what was he really?
But I already knew. When Allan had spared my life the first day we met, he had shown that he was something more than a cold-blooded killer. The world of men was exactly how he had described it: a war. Few were those that lived without seeing death and pain because of the cruel actions of others. Humans—every creature—had the power to hurt others for their own gain. Such is the way of nature. Plants and animals will kill to survive, making victims out of others to keep themselves in this world. It is cruel and yet necessary, for how else could there be order? If creatures were not driven to live, how could they survive?
Perhaps it had shocked me because Allan's murder had been so deliberate. He had made no mistake when he killed that official, and he had probably known that his robbery would force him to kill. He had said he was protecting the lives of his crew, however vulgar they may be, but doing so required him to commit murder and thievery. In essence, Allan had traded the lives of officials and the goods of innocent people to keep his men alive. It was a truly sad thing, but in the depths of my heart, I understood.
Because I had made a terrible trade as well. On that night, months ago, I had sacrificed some of the villager's lives to save the others. It had not been a deliberate thing, but that was what happened. People who were unfortunate enough to be close to my flame were killed, but if I had not made that flame, everyone would have been murdered by the monsters. I had traded lives to keep them, just as Allan had killed those men to help his crew. Even though I had done it to protect the people I cared for, it had the same result of Allan's raid. Despite good intentions, people were dead, and I had not been able to face it. Now, I realized, one did not have to be a creature like me to bring destruction just by living.
I stared at the floor for a long time, despite the fact that there was an angry pirate glaring at me. I could feel his gaze, hear him breathe from across the room. Again, it was his polite manner that had allowed me to stay, even after he realized what I had done. This made me nervous, but I was too carried away in thought to pay proper attention to it. Being no social butterfly, such was normal with me. How Allan put up with it, I do not know.
"Allan..." I finally looked up, facing his stern gaze for the first time. He truly could be intimidating when he wished it, and the gleaming pistols on his belt only served to remind me what kind of damage he could do. If I did in fact run off, would he suspect that I had gone to tell the officials that he was the leader of a bunch of pirates? Only a fool would not guess such a thing, and I mildly wondered if he would try to kill me if that was the case. He had said that he killed to protect his crew, that he hated government officials, so where did that put me? Would he kill a stranger? Was that what I was to him?
I wished I could say the same about him, but such was only a comforting lie. Allan was no stranger to me, he was a friend, a good, kind person that had helped me when no one else would. I knew I could do nothing to betray him, even if that meant allowing him to harm others. To be caught meant death for a pirate, and for good reason...or was it? Should the pirate himself be blamed, or the world that had forced him into the mold? Who was I, a fellow murderer, to decide that? Let the world punish Allan, for it already had. It had already stolen his family, his leg, and very nearly his life. If such was truly so wrong, then let those who know everything that is good and right make such decisions. My choices always end up getting someone killed.
"Allan, I cannot judge you, nor can I tell you how much it hurts to see the blood of anyone spilt. There is so much pain in this world...surely, you can understand that. You must realize that by killing those men who threatened your crew, there are people in this world who will grieve. There will be people who have lost a husband, a friend, and a father. Life is so very, very precious, and I believe, as I always have, that taking it is wrong. There is an emptiness when a soul leaves, something that cannot be replaced by even the greatest of riches. I know you cannot feel it, this energy that emanates from all that lives, but it is a precious and wonderful thing that fills the world, whether it comes from a prince or a thief.
I cannot reject you, and I still believe that you are a good person, Allan, but the choice you made, and the choices you will continue to make...those will always bring me pain. Life is a struggle, I know this, but nothing, nothing can justify the taking of a life, no matter what cause it is for. If you are willing to kill, then you must also be willing to accept the consequences for it. You must realize that you have taken something that can never come back, and someday, all of the pain that comes from such actions will find you, as it has found me. It may not be from a government, or the punishment of another man, but it will find you. Death leaves a trail of emptiness that nothing can fill, and someday, you will be forced to face it. I tell you this because I am worried for you, Allan, as well as those men who died. I would urge you to find another way, a better way to live, but it is your decision, not mine. Such an endeavor is difficult, but it is what I have striven to do. To live without harming others...perhaps you think it is a foolish, worthless thing, but...I believe it holds worth."
I turned my gaze from Allan again, feeling uncomfortably warm. Strong emotion, even sadness tended to cause me to act irrationally, and I could not believe that I had spouted such things out in front of a pirate. A pirate who killed without conscience. It was impossible to tell if he had been affected by my words at all, but I had not really spoken them because I thought I could convince Allan. I had spoken because Allan needed to know. He needed to know that what he was doing was wrong, even if I would not reject him. Honesty, Hemanias had said, was one of the most valuable traits in a friend. Even if I was no friend to Allan, I had to at least try, and even if things ended up as they had when I gave him the willow bark, it would be worthwhile. I could not lie and pretend to care at the same time.
Allan sighed loudly, and let his shoulders drop. He walked to the bed, and sat down next to Leonna.
"What you don't understand... is that I can't turn back. Once a pirate, always a pirate. If I left my life of piracy, I would be leaving so many friends and allies, as well as my honor behind me... And even if I renounced myself, governments would never stop hunting me, and I'd only be running alone, still forced to defend myself. I can't stop being a pirate until the day I die." He turned his gaze to Leonna before continuing. "I'll be gone tomorrow anyway, and you'll never have to see me again. You can feel free to forget all about me, and continue as if we'd never met. But do heed my word, and stay away from any pirates you meet in the future." Allan leaned back, holding himself in the air, and put his hands behind his head before winking. "You won't find another Allan BloodBird in this world, haha!" Suddenly his face went blank. "Oh. Right. I never did tell you my "pirate" name. You see, pirates like me have to take on a special name. I'm BloodBird. The names have to sound intimidating, otherwise other pirates won't fear you. Honestly, who's going to be afraid of 'Henry KittenFur' around here?" He smiled a little, and then laid his back flat on the bed, waiting for a reply.
"Bloodbird?" I smiled slightly at the idea that grown men would go around using pretend names. It seemed like something children would do, but I had already decided that humans were infinately strange. Allan and his ways were not going to change, but that did not mean I could learn nothing from him. At least he seemed more relaxed now, but I still wondered whether or not he thought I might betray him. Was a person like me really no threat to him at all?
I turned to face him, somewhat nervous by his close proximity. If he was still upset with me, he was hiding it well. "One's name holds fear because of the person behind it. My name means 'lion', but it would seem that I do not inflict quite as much fear as you do. Why would one want such a thing?"
"My name, what it means, doesn't cause much fear. Also, another thing to understand is that I'm the only person I've met who knows what my name means, other than my parents. Most men aren't educated to the level where they're taught the meanings of names, so they often times don't even know what their own name means. So you see, going by my own name isn't going to make men fear me." He paused, and took in a deep breath. "I have to have a name that will cause fear in men, because something as simple as that can prevent a battle. See, if a man is so intimidated by my name, he would likely choose to not do battle with me and surrender, or run, thus avoiding bloodshed. Intimidation is key for a pirate." Allan stood up to make sure the door was closed all the way. He explained that he was tired, and would be going to bed, recommending the same for Leonna. He removed his coat, hat, and pistols once again, and put them in their places.
He sat where he had the last night, and looked at Leonna. "I'm afraid I won't be able to spend too much time with you tomorrow, as I'll have to help my crew pack up, and then shove off. However, I should have until about mid-day, so start thinking of some questions." He winked.
"Questions...right." All of this pirate talk had muddled up my mind so much that I had forgotten about whatever else I might ask Allan. I felt it would be odd to stare at him as he started to fall alseep, so I took off my own boots (which were still a bit wet) and groaned when I saw the amount of sand that fell to the floor. Though my clothes were dry, the salt of the ocean had clung to them, as Allan had warned, and I felt the sudden urge to wash it off.
"Allan, I am afraid I must leave for the night. Perhaps we will meet again in the morning?" I shoved my boots back on as I spoke, feeling somewhat guilty for dumping all of the sand on his floor. He seemed to have no qualms about my decision, so I gathered my cloak and staff and walked out of the room. To my relief, the hallway outside was empty, and the crew sitting in the lobby was too engaged in serious gambling to notice me leave.
The streets outside were fairly empty, save for a few passing carragies and disheiveled men and women stumbling out from a party. I imagined the fishermen and hard laborers had already gone to bed, needing all the rest they could get for the next day. I did not mind the occasional hooves against the cobbled streets, and I found that the candles suspended by metal poles gave off quite a pleasant light. It tended to block out the light from the stars above, but I did not mind. The strong light could not block out the large and round moon up above, which was shining peacfully in the night sky.
It did not take long to reach the end of the town, where the cobblestone ended and a wide dirt road began. The many ruts in it meant that this trail was well traveled upon, but the lush grass growing around it was untouched. In the night air, the flowers mingled in the grass had opened, covering the road with their heady scents. Many of these smells were new to me, and I made a mental note to follow up on them once I made it back to Allan. For now, I was just going to enjoy the warm night on the coast.
Eventually, the road made it to the end of the meadow and started into the trees, where it began to narrow. The waving shadows of the trees in the moonlight did not scare me, for such a thing was quite familiar. I had been wandering woods for the majority of my life, and the sounds of stirring creatures were not frightening. I could hear small animals brushing through the forest, and the lively calls of the wild birds had been replaced by the deep hooting of an owl.
How long I wandered up the mountain path I do not know, but it did not seem long before I could hear the sound of running water. Without a second thought, I walked off of the trail and into the thick foliage lining the road. My feet hardly made a sound as I brushed through the numerous plants, but I did not bother to identify them, for the light of the moon struggled to filter through the broad leaves of the trees. I merely made my way by listening to the sound of water, smiling more and more as it came closer. My path soon became rockier, and after a moment more, I broke through the trees to find myself facing a stream running through the forest. Its water was as black as the night sky, though bright moonlight sent streams of silver running through it.
Finally having reached my desire, I took off my boots and socks, rinsing both of them in the cold water. Once I finished, I laid them flat against the shore of the stream and removed my bag, taking from it the soap I had made days ago. I found a particularly deep part of the stream to wash, using my power to heat up the water around me. It took longer to wash than I first guessed, for I was covered with the itchy ocean salt, and it was a relief once it was all gone. Once I was done, I used my power again to heat myself and my clothes to dry, sending up delicate tendrils of steam into the air.
Now that I was comfortable, I sat on a large rock beside the stream, listening to the quiet sounds of the forest. There was the chirping of insects and the occasional splash of a fish, but very small but distinct was the sound of the ocean hitting against the far coast. Remembering the shell Allan had given me, I took the small pink object from my bag and put it to my ear as he had shown me. Sure enough, I could hear the water of the forest, sounding soft and smooth against the bubbling brook I was sitting by.
"No matter where you are, if you put a shell like that to your ear, you can hear the waves of the ocean. Keep it with you, and you'll never be far from the ocean."
Allan, the murderous pirate. How were humans so capapble of bringing such pain and joy? Allan was a mix of both, sometimes being stern and hard and at others being playful and smiling. There was still so little I knew about him!
While mulling over these thoughts, I took the wooden brush from my bag and combed through my hair, smiling at its soft luster in the moonlight. Instead of tying it up against my head, I put it in a long braid, alloing my hair to fall down to my shoulder blades. I tied the end of it with twine, wondering for the first time if my clothes were really something one would call tacky. It was impossible not to notice how differently these townspeople dressed from me, the women often wearing long cotton dresses and colorful bonnets. At least the men dressed in a somewhat more familiar way, though Allan's coat was one of the fancy things I had only imagined existed.
After a long time of thinking, I gathered my cloak and staff and settled underneath the wide branches of a tree next to the river. There was a soft patch of grass underneath it that I layed upon, resting my head on my leather bag. After only a few minutes more, I was fast asleep.