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Merchant, Marine [Semi-Open]

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Waves crashing against the shore. Gulls crying out from above. Sand crunching beneath feet.


Thomys looked up from his bottle… from the stone upon which he sat… to look towards Costa Del Sol. His brother stood some two dozen fulms distant, hands in his pockets, waiting.


“Late as -- hicc -- late as ever, Ossy! But at least you came, aye, kept your promise, say no -- hicc -- more, say no more!”


He beckoned to Osric with a wave, and as his brother sighed with relief, Thomys could not help but feel that old enmity rise up his throat like bile.


Always you. Always about you. To my everlasting regret.


He turned back to his bottle and took a swig from it as Osric sat down on the sand next to him. He couldn’t remember how many bottles in he was, today. Did it matter? He supposed not. What was done? Was done.


“Thank you,” said Osric without preamble.


Thomys snorted. “For what? For not -- hicc -- shreddin’ your letter? For writin’ back? For actually listenin’ to what you had to say?”


“...I was in the wrong, Thom. I’ve made my peace with that. How many more apologies will it take?”


The youngest Melkire -- nah, see, I ain’t youngest anymore, now am I? -- barked a laugh.


“Take your swivin’ apologies, Ossy. Don’t -- hicc -- don’t want ‘em. Same as I ain’t wantin’ a lecture.”


Osric nodded, but eyed the bottle anyroad.


“So where’d you…?”


“Master Gegeruju likes his coin and hates your threats.”


His brother chuckled and it reminded him of--


the click of a latch the clock of a lock the chuckle of the little man at the door as he shook his head and turned to set down his belongings safe and sound back in his own home


--of days better left forgotten.


“You want t’know somethin’?” The question caught his brother’s attention, so Thomys went on. “I had me one o’ them epi-what’s-its the other sun… about three bottles in….”


The other midlander smirked as he looked to the ocean. “Epiphanies?”


“That! Gods-be-damned eureka moment, was what it was!”


two feet slamming into him as the Hyuran lad lands atop him the struggle the yelling the questions dagger too slow he’s too fast scrambling throw miss draw another dagger the book he’s got his


“So there I am, aye? Thinkin’, alright, mayhap Ossy’s right ‘n’ I should turn from the drink. But… the ache, y’know? No family around… no friends… I needed somethin’. You were -- hicc - you were gone for weeks, left me waitin’... some trig cove I am, to think you were comin’ back….”


a shining emerald wall sprang up between them i roar i slash my steel useless against that familiar sight sparks flying the hoarse screams of rage as the little man sees my face clearly in the light eyes widening recognition “You,” he says, “you’re--!”


“...so I thought, why the hells not? And I went back t’drinkin’. Ain’t hard, pinchin’ a flask here ‘n’ there. Sold what I didn’t like, got me enough coin for ol’ Ul’dahn Ugly up there with his pretty women….”


dropped haunches hands on the edge of the rug i pull and the carpet flies out from under the little man and the codex leaps out of that little hand lost slipped say sorry and as he falls the light of adloquium fades get after him before he can


“...so I’m three bottles in, aye? And I get to thinkin’... you know, I been doin’ swell since I took up these side-jobs for my brother. Gettin’ a hold o’ rosters ‘n’ all… hicc ... might be I’ve a talent for somethin’ other than drinking and thieving, aye?”


got him by the lapels red overcoat small man lift him off the floor and slam him against the wall and the little man cries out in pain boo hoo you swivin’ bag o’ shite here’s the dagger up against your everlasting THROAT and


Osric shook his head but he nodded all the same, a wry grin on his face. “Go on.”


“So I was all, well shite, I could be a real good hand at an honest-to-gods career, ‘cept I’ve got t’quit the drink somehow….”


he sees the hungry look in the lad’s eyes and that’s good aye good for him let the bastard see me shaking from two week’s abstinence press the dagger in closer there we go my cullies look at it draw blood, “Wait,” he asks, “wait--” and i scream my defiance tears down my face i don’t care “We were talkin’ again,” he croaks, “finally talkin’ again”


“...so I thought to m’self, hells, who does manage t’climb their way out of an addiction like mine? And I thought, that’s obvious Thom, the folk who’ve hit rock bottom! So I resolved....”


”and you TOOK HIM FROM ME! YOU!” weeping now openly weeping and the little man looks desperate but there’s a glint of oh twelve is that pity i don’t want your pity screw you sideways “He was comin’ back for me,” i’m sobbing now fuck me i need a drink and Sasatomo is pleadin’ with me but i say… i say... “Never again” as


“...t’drink my way to rock bottom. As often and as fast and as -- hicc -- as hard as I can.”


His brother’s eyebrows shot up at that. “You’re going t’drink your way out o’ drinking?”


“Why not? I’ll grow sick of it soon enough, won’t I? Just like I’ve grown sick o’--”


as i twist the point into his skin and punch up through the soft spot beneath his chin his jaw up and into his brains his body sags against the wall and i’m still crying and still screaming something is it never again no i think it’s “no black spots no black spots no black spots” and i slump to the floor with his corpse and i can’t help it rise fall rise fall goes my steel as i plunge my dagger into him again and again and again and




Osric was frowning. “Are you alright, Thom?”


“...aye.” He smiled over at his brother. “Lookin’ forward to gettin’ off this rock again. Tried it once. Wasn’t fun then… but that was before....”


“...before what?”


and i need a drink and i’m done i’m spent and silence and i’m on my knees and the lights flicker footsteps i hear footsteps i look up and there he is my benefactor in this venture this stupid rutting venture oh gods i need a drink he looks at me he looks at the corpse i ask him if it’ll all work out and he says he says


“...before I knew that I had m’self a sister-in-law and two nieces!” He pushed himself up onto his feet, wobbling somewhat, and Osric followed suit. “So. Off t’Thanalan with us, aye? I get t’meet ‘em soon, aye?”


His brother smiled, threw an arm around him, and nodded. “Aye. Forget all the rest. Family first.”


Thomys frowned for a moment. “But… Haelstyrmm….”


Osric sighed. “Was jus’ doin’ his job. Took me some time t’see it, but I ain’t goin’ after him for that. Nah. I’m done with vengeance.”


he tells me all will be well all the holes will be difficult to explain but he’ll work something out no one will ever know he has his ways and his people have theirs and i’m relieved because it’s over i can move on i can go get a drink and as he offers me a hand up i take it and i throw him a smile it hurts but i smile and my accomplice this man this Tengri Geneq with his strange scales and horns and tail he bares his teeth as he smiles back at me.


Thomys nodded. He gave the horizon over the Deep one last glance before he put one foot in front of the other and walked. He walked, together with his brother, back towards Costa and the ferry that awaited them… the ferry that would take them onward to the rest of their lives.

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Before W'chaza Yheli became a maverick of a lieutenant she is deemed presently, she worked as a bartender and chef, located in the city of Wineport.


It was here where she first learned of logistics and warehousing, of arts and crafts, as well as the proper way to use both a knife and sword to cut, dice, slice, fillet, and stab.


Feeding customers. Treating wounds. Speaking properly. Refining paletes. Maneuvering workers, both herself and others, in an efficient manner. Telling the difference between a Port and a Banyuls, despite both have the same, relative sweetness, by tasting it.


There were no secrets behind her success; through hard work, perseverance, and the ire of more than a few officers, she rose through the ranks of the Maelstrom and secured her commission as one of the younger officers within the Fleet. Never were she truly punished for her misgivings due to the fruits of her labor... until today.


The former lieutenant sat in her chair, mulled over her collection of works, and recalled a rough record of the recent trial in the past, few days. Oddly enough, the results she worked for... panned out well. She sought peace between Gloam and Limsa--despite originally designing weapons to take on Gloam--and it was achieved. A product of a manipulated officer's gambit which, normally, would be tossed out at her revelation of working with one Leanne Delphium, and yet... it passed.


The result of the trial forced Yheli's resignation, as she promised Ojene Suinuet that, due to her misgivings and unfair treatment of others, she would voluntarily give up power to prevent more mishaps in the future as an officer.


"Were it so easy..." Yheli remarked to herself, as she mused through textbook after textbook of words written both in the Eorzean and Doman tongue. "...But alas, I can do little about the past. Time to look towards the present and the future."


She consulted with Leanne about a possible settlement in the Far Eastern continent, away from the current political affairs surrounding the Eorzean city-states. She reviewed the property taxes, the information on local markets, foods, drinks, culture, types of buildings, what could and could not be done with regards to property, the likelihood of good neighbors at their new, humble home. The Seeker poured through multiple texts as well, acquired from deals of good-will and business, regarding the practices of the Samurai originating from Othard and Doma, and honed her own swordsmanship as preparation for what's to come and for protection.


Yet... despite the promise of a future, a few parts of her past clung to her. Osric Melkire, chief amongst them.


Yheli had many words for the man, but ultimately wrote him off as a 'tolerable man who's not much better than I am, afterall. Perhaps if we met under different circumstances... we could be better friends.' The woman wore a small smile at the thought about the man. Typically, one breaks bread with those whose lives they, at the very least, respected. In the case of Yheli and Osric, the bread was a deck of cards and the preparation a game of 'Hide the High Heart' whilst both were stranded out at sea on a dingy before the Agency picked them both up.


"Heh. Honor. I disrepected it by casting you into the fire." A small muttering of her words and a pause on her face as the Seeker's brow furrowed, thinking for a moment.


"Perhaps it is I who should receive the punch, Melkire... afterall, it is I who has worked against you in an unfair manner and you... do deserve to enact the punishment I dared to inflict upon you. 'Tis what an honorable person would desire, I believe..." A heavy sigh came from Yheli's lips as her eyes glossed over the papers in front of her, line at a time, and she raised a hand to adjust her glasses.


A new thought soon crossed over Yheli's mind.


Wait... do the ends justify the means afterall? Or do the means justify the ends? Philosophy wasn't the woman's strongest suit, but it gave pause and forced the woman into a slow recline as she leaned further into the couch she rested upon.


"...I would think the ends justify the means, aye... but perhaps the other argument isn't inherently flawed either. As if a combination of both are best, like how there are two sides to a piece of gil..."


More pause. A stare towards the wooden ceiling and large bookshelves around her. A blink of her eyes.


"And who decides what means are 'good' and 'bad'? Is it myself? Another? A group or nation?" She lowered her hands--the left with a piece of loose-leafed paper and the right a textbook parted midway--to her lap, thinking over the question once more.


A minute passed. A hour. Several hours.


The question in Yheli's mind kept her in a constant trance, as if she were a computer processing a high-caliber, large file to display a result.


"...What if there never is a single right person or entity for all time, but rather something that changes as time goes by?" She stopped, inhaled, then exhaled, before her head turned over to her left and she sighed.


"Who knows? It's not a question I'm able to find the answer to now... what matters is confidence in my own decisions and doing what I need to do."


Yheli raised herself up from the couch and collected her materials strew on the couch and floor in an orderly fashion, putting them back inside of her desk and the bookshelf one at a time to ensure no mistakes in placements. She glanced over to her right at the clothes chest, wrapping herself in a scholarly robe, putting on clogs, and grabbing her sword next to her bedside and securing it on her waist. She grabbed a decently sized bag and placed bundles of clothes alongside chef knifes, measuring tools, thief's tools, writing materials, books, and hygienical items neatly placed into the container. A deft hand shut the container closed and Yheli wrapped it up and secured it to her back. A hand slowly raised from her side and up to her ear, as the woman softly and sweetly spoke into it.


"...Leanne? Let's go on an adventure. Together."

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[sorry for the rather petulant tone, that wasn't my original intention but it is what emerged!]


Closed eyelids felt the warmth of Vylbrand's rising sun.  Tired senses tried to mingle the sensation with the potent scent of a final pinch of fine pipe weed, and the vibrant sound of an active quay below.


She exhaled a cloud of smoke with a sigh.  Why?  


Did it really deserve an all-night vigil?


She signed again, slumping her head against the rich mahogany of the chair she'd dragged out to the balcony.  On the adjacent little desk lay sheets of paper abandoned.  Ink dried crisp to long-idle pen.  She'd been determined to record her thoughts - and a tribute to the Battle of Gloam.  


But somewhere, she'd lost herself to idleness and contemplation.  Why had she done it?  Why had she cared?  She'd little interest in Limsan politics or law: how had she found herself there?  Attending hearings, defending sailors, and, by the twelve, going to sea aboard a privateer bound for battle?


Only there was no real question.  She'd always known why; she just didn't want to admit it.  The reasons were: Leanne.  Osric.  S'imba. And numerous others. 


A barmaid's friends.  People she admired--some of them heroes in their own right.  It had been so simple, really.  All she wanted was to earn their respect.  In her heart-of-hearts didn't she always understand that's what had mattered to her?  It had just been an opportunity to show them that she too could be relied upon: to do the things that were right.  To do the things that were hard.  To do the things that were brave.


She wanted to show them she wasn't just the smiling girl they'd met at the Quick Sand. She'd been terrified back then - of everything. She was comfortable now: with herself, with her city, with her path. But for what end?


The thought filled her with loathing.  And with frustration. She refused to open her eyes to face the sun.  


Even where she had been successful she'd always failed at her larger purpose.  No one seemed to understand why she was there.  It was dawning upon her that she'd never be more than the pretty smile with a tall pint of ale.


Their causes were deeper.  Their stories more gripping. Their attachments seared in moments of high pressure.  Heroes, it seems, were just a world apart.


She rolled onto her back, slumped with the full indignity of exhaustion.  


Unable to shout.  Unable to cry.  She just sighed again, with a deep shudder of disappointment.  


Perhaps it was better this way, she tried to convince herself.  Was this really the sort of trouble she needed?  S'imba, the only one who really seemed to trust her, was still in more trouble than she was capable of getting him out of.  Just what sort of further worries could lay ahead with this bunch?


[align=center]Where prow through wave breaks,

Beneath salt spray scour,

When stout hull rattles and shakes,

There you'll find the hero of the hour[/align]



She had been there.  Aboard the Sultana's Revenge when the hour came due.


She was a woman who spurned the Ala Mhigan cause.  Comfortable to make due with what life she could find in the rest of Eorzea.  But ties of blood are slow to die.


Her heart had raced as the Revenge turned into the Imperial squadron, with the able Yheli at the helm.  She could still see S'imba standing proud.  Hands upon his hips and expectation upon that daring grin.  When the nimble Privateer broke through the last bank of fog they caught the Cruiser entirely unaware.  Imperial sailors turned at them in horror.  She leaped the gap between the ships, stout forest spear gripped in hand.  Ladders followed.  Osric cried his battle cry.  The privateers of the Revenge swarmed like winged death.


With spear in hand she dove upon those poor sailors with an unexpected intensity -they were the momentarily defenseless edge of the Empire's military might, and she showed no restraint.  They were caught one-by-one with the swift, silent, deadly work of a Shroud-trained Lancer- and the fury of an Ala Mhigan Fox.


It was over as quickly as it had begun.  The entire action was a blur of memory.  She had looked up to Osric and his blood-covered blade raised in exultant celebration.  Had she, in that moment, not been the very picture of Ala Mhigan Resistance? She couldn't recognize her own self. How could Osric?


She thought of her father.  The man who had raised her.  Protected her.  The man who had surrendered everything to save his family from the conquest.  She thought of every pride he had abandoned, every deprivation he had faced. She remembered the proud warrior-lord.  She thought of the weary old man who remained.  


She pulled her fist to her chest.


"If he knew..." she wondered in the ancestral tongue of their motherland.  "Would he at last be proud?"

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Vesper Bay, within the Sultana’s Revenge


“You’re fired.” The voice of a girl thundered within a room. Despite the natural softness of it, the authority and resolve behind the words was more than felt, like an echo that installed itself in the back of one’s mind.


“What…?” said a hyur, eyes bulging out in surprise. “But for what?!”


Leanne was sat behind a desk within the captain’s quarters, flanked by a tall, tanned highlander of brown eyes and long, messy, unkempt hair, whose beard seemed to stop growing after a while, destined to stand as a stubble until the end of days. The seeker demeanor did not show passion nor love, and the man by the right did not say a single word as he eyed the hyur sat by the other side of the desk, as if he were there just as a glorified bodyguard.


“You heard me. Pack your things, sir. You’re permanently discharged. No strings attached.” Leanne continued with an impassive voice.


Frowning indignantly, the hyur persisted, raising himself from the chair and resting his hands on the desk. “I heard the chit-chatter midst the crew, about what you’re doing right now. Why. And I can tell, it was not me who-”


“Then who it was?” she interrupted him immediately, raising her brow. The hyur paused, and gritted his teeth. Looking at the highlander, he roared in anger. “Ribald, are you really letting her do this?!”


“Answer th’ lass, James.”


It had been a little more than a couple hours since the seeker of golden eyes began what she claimed as the “pruning of the Revenge”. What began as a pursuit of those that sold her about the mutiny by then turned into a social experiment for Leanne, as she digested the reaction of the crew for analysis. She had seen it all by then. Relief, discase, terror, begging, threats, and many others. One of the more fascinating ones to her; anger.


“You promised me! We would keep the job! We could keep working in this blasted ship! It is why me and all others chose -you-, and not Melkire!”


Leanne didn’t react to the words. She had heard them, several times. At first she was taken aback when the argument was first given. But by then, she were just used to it. Numb.


“...What is your choice?” Leanne kept going in a calm, collected persona. “Follow Melkire out of the ship, or tell who sold your captain?”


His lips quivered. James sat back on the chair in defeat, body sagging as if his bones liquefied within his body. “..It was…”


His next words didn’t matter for Leanne. She already knew. It was too easy for her to discover them. What she wanted was to know if he would sell his comrades.


Slaeglac rebelled against Limsa, and even if temporarily, allied himself with the Empire. Many others followed him, herself included. For the sake of freedom. For the sake of happiness. Others could say...for the sake of self-interest.


Ulf, through the efforts of her, Gallien and Virara, turned against the Empire, and declared his loyalty to Gloam. Her words may have reached to his selfless side, but even so, he betrayed people who trusted him.


Osric sold out Gloam and betrayed others for the sake of his family. Ojene sold out and betrayed Zanzan to acquire the verdict she wanted.


And right now, that exact moment, Leanne was forcing people to sell out and betray people they might consider friends so they could keep their jobs. Said people who sold her out too. If she expected an epiphany or catharsis to come out of this, none came. It was all too distressing, too confusing. Several loyalties were broken, so others may be upheld. And in the end, no correct answer was achieved. For there was none.


“Such is the nature of men.” the voice in her head said. “Miserable creatures of contradiction and lies, ever seeking meaning and justification in what they do.”


“Capt’?” Ribald set a hand on Leanne, shaking her lightly.


“A-Ah.” the seeker blinked before regaining her surroundings. Raising her gaze to Ribald, she offered a weak smile. “...Was him the last one?”




“...How many of the crew is left?”


Pursing his lips, the man scratched his rebellious mane. “Not that many. Between th' ones ye fired 'n th' ones that left on their own, we have enough to run th' ship, but just barely.”


“I see. I guess, that’s good enough. We can replenish those numbers as time goes by.” grunting, she lifted herself. “First Mate Ribald. Tell the remaining crew to prepare for voyage. We’re returning to Gloam.”


“Aye aye capt’.” he turned away from the girl before striding towards the door...




...Only to stop. He looks over his shoulder to his young captain, tilting his head in inquisition. “Yes, Leanne?”


“...Did I do the right thing?”


“May ye be more specific?”


Leanne pursed her lips. “The mutiny. The “pruning”. The…” she paused. “You know. Everything.”


Ribald turned his eyes away from the seeker, only to look back at her. That sight was strangely comforting for her then. No warm smile denoting affection. No frown hinting at hatred. Just a critical and thoughtful expression, entirely devoid of bias. “I do not think that be a question I can answer, cap'n. Me right may be different from yer right.”


Leanne pursed her lips before exhaling in resignation. “...Aye. I guess so.”


Ribald pauses momentarily to gauge her reaction, before continuing. “Do not take as a sign that I disagree wit' ye, Leanne. Just that I reckon thar be no true right in th’ world. If thar was, ye would not be crackin' yer noggin’ right now.”


Leanne nodded once more before straightening herself. “...I guess you are right. Thanks, Ribald. You’re dismissed.”


“Aye, capt’.”


Leanne looked down to the desk. “There’s no true right in the world, huh…”

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S'imba laid on a dock in Aleport, he wasn't too well known there yet, though considering recent events it certainly wouldn't be long. He kept a bandana tied around his face just in case anyone were up with current events. Most people wouldn't give him a second glance. With his attire he just looked like one of those secret enforcers of the code. 


He gave a growl and sat up despite the thrill of making a public spectacle in Limsa when he interrupted Morris's flogging and pretty much spat in the face of the entirety of the Yellow Jackets. It definitely wouldn't take long to spread throughout the city, he'd made a straight up mockery of them. He couldn't help but feel sorry for the officer in charge. Certainly that man or woman was going to get an ass chewing for letting the so called pirate Captain S'imba Tia make a stunt like that then slip away. At the very least it seemed like his charges weren't as bad as they originally were. 


He kicked a crate into the water with a growl, watching the water turn blackish around it as the Doman tea started to steep in the ocean water. He was certain he was going to be a hero in Limsa after the battle at Gloam. With the other adventurers that had helped repel the Garlean fleet and stopped the Borielas. His tiny ship had been amazing then, despite literally being the smallest ship in that battle his crew had managed to place so much fear into the hearts of that Garlean cruiser that they were able to be boarded and overrun with little resistance. The captain terrified so badly at the sight of the Eorzean ghost ship that his entire crew lost cohesion. He hadn't lost a single crew member. That had to have been something to brag about. 


Fast forward to that meeting on his ship with the captain Haelstrymm had brought. He hadn't been there initially but the meeting seemed to have been some sort of distraction so the security officers could sneak down and drag him up to be arrested. From what he gathered Haelstrymm had intended to pin every single crime that occurred during the events of Gloam on him. Hells he was surprised that they didn't try to blame Slaeglac's original defection on him. 


He growled again, he'd managed to escape with An's help but it required her to become a murderer. He definitely pissed that captain off. They both were fugitives. He didn't actually know if his crimes were that bad compared to An. Though that actually made him feel worse.


He had no idea what to do. Should he turn himself in? He really didn't want to deal with a public flogging. They'd tie him to a post, humiliate him in whatever way they could, then beat him. Make him feel like an animal again. He could live a life on the run. Maybe with time gods crimes would simply be forgotten. 


There was a third possibility, he could go to -them-. Though that would require him to overcome some serious shame issues. Then there was the fact if they were actually willing to help him. He knew he had -skills- they were interested in but he didn't know if that stupid be enough. They'd probably see him as a deserter or something. 


He slammed his fist against the dock causing him to yelp out in pain. Haelstrymm may have not made an incompetent decision but the fact he was using S'imba as a scapegoat made him want to ruin that man's career. To take everything he had to crash it into the ground. Though he really didn't have the means to do it. He sighed, I'd there was one thing he learned it was big vindictive plans to get back at someone didn't end well. After all that's why he was in this situation. Made the idiots think there was a primal summoning. 


He sighed standing to his feet rubbing his eyes. He rubbed his neck. He'd be safe in Ul'dah for a while. Maybe this would blow over soon enough...or he'd come up with a plan to stick it to Haelstrymm. He walked down the dock pulling down any old wanted posters from the time that he was set up from killing Hellfist.

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Late Night, Quarters of Captain Holskstymm Faezsyngson, The Gallant


"Recognition of meritorious service in enforcing the laws of Limsa." Holskstymm already knew what was on the letter, and hardly needed to have it read aloud to him. But Captain Mulliner was only recently lettered, and vocalizing was necessary for him to finish its contents. Holskstymm hardly minded, as it gave him enough time to refill his tumbler of grog. The harder stuff was always available in-port, but the Captain preferred his watered-down when he was in harbor. His habits meant he was often tapped to adjudicate a court martial, and keeping a clear head - clearer than the average captain at any rate - demanded he develop a taste for the tasteless.


"-hereby removing you from command of the Gallant - " Mulliner continued, his brow furrowing in confusion. Another reason Holskstymm didn't mind the time spent: Jambert took in what he was reading. Really took it in and took the time to process it all with the obsessive intensity of someone new to his letters. Put him on a court chair and he would take a bell to figure out the documents, but come up with the right of it in a tenth the time. It was a damn pity so often "the right of it" had nothing to do with standing legal precedent.


"-appointing you to the rank of Second Storm Commander, Holsk this is incredible!" Jambert dropped the letter with an air of obvious excitement. Drink in hand, Holskstymm gestured for him to keep going. Nodding, he put the letter to his eyes again. "With the intent of assisting in the refinement and oversight of Maelstrom legal codes. The Admiral hopes that with your expertise-"


Holskstymm held up his hand. "You can stop there," he said, plucking the parchment from Jambert's fingers and placing it between them at his desk, the words dimmed as they drew further away from candlelight. "The rest is all just praise, praise, highlighting the seriousness of the recommendation, praise, and a well-wishing conclusion. Standard Admiralty copy."


"You're downplaying it. Come now, we've talked about this: Never late for a martial summons, always prepared - and the research on the Morris case, that was a perfect compromise. Commodore didn't like it, but swive Haelstyrmm. And the hearing - "


"You weren't there for the hearing," snapped Holskstymm. "Right conclusion, but that was the only thing right about it. Guolwyda shows up -" Jambert winced, and Holskstymm pressed on before the younger captain could object. "She shows up late, and it'd've been better had she never shown at all. Damned fine sailor but she should never be in a martial, just picks the most convenient result. Spahro Llorn appears to harangue the accused before the guards can chase her out, and you know all of that is going to be on record in the Lantern any bell now."


Holskstymm drank, and drank deep. The grog being what it was, this gave him little more than motivation to keep griping. "And on top of that, on top of that, the court is packed with adventurers-come-captains pretending as hard as they can that they have the right of it, that they're sure the Commodore did them ill, never mind the proof, and anything they did was just an amusing peccadillo!"


Jambert unhooked a small flask from his hip, proffering it over Holskstymm's desk. He waved this away, and Jambert took a swig from it instead. "About that, is Captain Wanngeimdottir recovering well?"


"From a lance in the side? About as well as you'd expect. Had to forego her testimony while the chirurgeons looked in on her, but there's a written statement in the briefs." Holskstymm squinted, his spectacles crinkling into his brow. "You haven't been to see her yet?"


Jambert shook his head. "No, I was in Vesper overseeing Problemsolver's arrangement with the Commodore. Can't believe the bastard got it signed by the Admiral after the way he turned on the fleet, but her word is her word I suppose. And there's nothing good about anyone using the Spot - "


"Rather not change the subject just yet, Captain. You could be seeing her now." Jambert seemed to shrink in his seat. "But you're here patting my back instead." The Midlander always looked small to Holskstymm, but now he seemed to shrivel to half the chair's height. "Just ask her when she's well, would you? Different squadrons, same rank, there's no conflict."


"Isn't she making Commodore? Taking the 9th Squadron?" Jambert's voice had both a note of curiosity and the hopeful air of someone who had found a possible excuse. Holskstymm clucked his tongue.


"Temporary. Too close to Haelstyrmm's views, you see. It'll be someone from one of the main squadrons, I'm sure. There's nothing in the codes to stop it. And you can trust me to know." Holskstymm took time to refill his tumbler until, in his opinion, Jambert had squirmed in silence long enough. "Speaking of, what did you think of the decision? Did you read the records?"


They were both well-versed in the acts of drowning men, and neither commented on the similarity as Jambert leapt on the shift in topic. "Very fair," he said, his voice rising in relief. "Very fair. The Commodore was a bastard, we both know that, but you were right about the lack of proof. And it was a good way to keep the separatists and the sympathizers happy, moving him out of the squadron like that."


"Mm." Holskstymm drummed his fingers on his desk, wrinkling his mouth. "It's been nagging at me, though. Couldn't put my finger on it for a while, but - " He raised his eyebrows. "If the Sisters had gotten this mess on their hands - no Maelstrom, not like this. Say more like before the Admiral took control. They get this mess on their hands. What do they do?"


Jambert thought about this, but not for long. "Kill the Commodore, most likely. Take it on faith they've got the right man and that he stole from Limsans by withdrawing support, an' go from there."


"Did he, though? Are the people on Gloam Limsan? They've made it quite plain, I think - they're far from Limsan or don't want to be. Could argue they stole from Limsan when they ran off with Limsan ships and signed on with Garlemald, regardless of how it turned out. So are the Sisters going to slay the Commodore or cheer him on when he leaves Gloam to die? Assuming they didn't sneak onto the island and slay the leaders of the whole thing themselves."


"If he left Gloam to die," Jambert corrected.


"Yes, if," said Holskstymm with a roll of his eyes. "No proof, and the logs show he advised Problemsolver to send word. We care about that. You think they'd do the same? Or just take him and put the knives to him until he told them what they wanted? It's the Sisters, after all, it's the sort of thing they would have done, in ages past."


"Depended on the guildmaster, I suppose," said Jambert with a shrug, and that only prompted Holskstymm to smack his tumbler upon his desk.


"Yes. Exactly. That's exactly right. It depended on the guildmaster. Jacke might have his heart in the right place, for what's that worth, but there could be some right bastards leading the Sisters in ages past, and they'd have a bloodier take on this. An' we're supposed to be better than that. Keep it fair, set up a system so everybody knows what the crimes are, what the punishments are. No more fuzziness like the Code, which was never more than a fancy way to say 'No slaves, an' whatever else displeases the head of the Sisters.'" 


He picked up the letter between them, waving it in Jambert's face. "They tell me this, that this is what they want, and I know, Jambert, I know in my gut, that when recommendation one is 'Stop every damned captain from sitting on a trial just because they happen to be around at the time,' there'll be kicking and moaning from the squadrons and command.


"Oh, some'll be happy - Guolwyda will be glad to never see the inside of a court again, and the sentiment's mutual, but most? The whole damned thing's a substitute, a system people have found comfortable. 'Let the captains interpret the laws as best they may for the Maelstrom.' Just like the Code, but with an official veneer and a Maelstrom flag. It can't stand. Not if we really want to move past a mass of pirates. Not if we want this to last beyond the day Merlwyb falls dead in her quarters."


Both of them paused as they considered the image of the Admiral on her deathbed. Without speaking, both of them gave the possibility of death triumphing about even odds.


"My point," said Holskstymm, "Is that even after all that, what if that was the wrong call? The Code might have Haelstyrmm dead for something he didn't do, but he is a bastard, and we all know it. This recommendation, it hangs on that being the right call, on proving this is a better way. All it takes, now, is for the Commodore to trip up, and I'll have traditionalists saying 'I told you so' and pushing us back to the old days where we thought the contents of our bowels were good judges of right and wrong. And I still have to sell them on this.


"Why bother with of all this?" Holskstymm asked with a deflated air. "Laws with no principles behind them but a captain's gut. Ban privateering, but become furious when pirates quit - not even sailing anymore, they just quit - but not on our terms. There's this stumbling block we can't get past, and it's not freedom, not quite. Disunity, perhaps." He folded over his desk and contented himself with inspecting the bottom of his drink.


Jambert could only offer an encouraging smile. That was what he did, in the end. He'd heard Holskstymm rail about difficult judgments in the past, and always there was the damn smile. "I'm sure you'll figure out the right of it. You can sell them on it."


"You, mayhaps. I can't. Room in the post they gave me for an advocate if you want it, when you're at shore. I'd be inclined to offer it - " Jambert raised his eyes, and his smile widened. "But you have to talk to Torrael."


The smile collapsed with the speed and force of a pugil with a popped bladder. "You're a monster," Jambert groused.


"I don't know, I think it's a fair call."

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Bridge of the Firmitas


"Third hallway, one-hundred-and-fifty fulms. Turn a right dial underneath a set of three short, glowing blue lines. Wait five seconds. Press the panel underneath the dial. It will slide open."


". . . Confirmed."


This was a dumb idea. No, Ulf corrected himself, it wasn't a dumb idea, it was an adventurer's idea. There was a crucial but subtle difference. A dumb idea could simply fail or be outright disastrous. An adventurer's idea was simultaneously so ridiculous that it had no logical chance of being the first or even the best possible solution, but so audacious that it had the air of mad impossibility to it, possessing an intangible "What if?" that could motivate the people performing it to heights of ability which would ensure its success.


A few weeks ago, he would have thought standing up to a Borealis-class airship with little anti-air and less direct air support was a dumb idea. If they had better forewarning, he would have counselled evacuation, and offered his ships to do it. He had taken limited steps in that regard by assigning veteranus Ironfist to man the assault craft. And yet here they were, now stationed outside the harbor of Gloam with the island unharmed and its people triumphant.


Likewise, the thought of dragging Architectus Van Gravis from his confinement in quarters and keeping him trussed up on the bridge to relay instructions to the Immersabilis crew in Dagon 1500 yalms below the ocean's surface had seemed a dumb idea. He was held at swordpoint, of course, but that wouldn't stop him from telling the crew to turn a dial left when they should have turned it right, only for the facility's aspect-conversion engine to turn Gloam into a ceruleum volcano all for the sake of spite. It seemed doomed to fail, but no one understood the workings of the facility better than he.


Their options had appeared limited - either find enough engineers of sufficient skill to decipher the workings of the place while dealing with a still-damaged whale-ship and hope nothing in the facility went awry in the moons or more it would take to do so, risking attacks by the deepkin on the island all the while, or take the risk of detonating the place from afar with the Immersabilis' magitek cannon, consequences be damned. Ulf had thought, and thought, and then sat down with the Architectus and had a good, long chat. The contents of that conversation led to the current state, in which he meekly relayed instructions to the team below through an overcharged communicator.


"Central hallway. Do not approach the glowing tubes, there are chimeras in there. Straight line through to the central control unit. Regulate ceruleum flow to ten percent."


"Ten percent?" Ulf's voice had a warning note. "Not zero?"


"If you want your precious island to have enough fuel to trade, it still needs that residual trickle," Virgil snapped. He had agreed to their arrangement, but he still seemed to rankle at no longer being in command. Ulf couldn't blame him for that. "It can produce that even in a dormant state. Or do you want the pumps to corrode without a constant flow?"


". . . Ten percent, then."


Virgil tried to make an exaggerated, sarcastic gesture of thanks with his hands bound, but found the point of the gunblade deterred him. Sighing, he returned to the communicator. "Ten percent," he repeated. "Confirm?"


". . . Confirmed."


"Good. Final step. Remove three cores from central command. Look for panels underneath the consoles. Should be a glowing yellow. Do not remove glowing blue unless you want the deepkin to rampage. Ten-count between each core's removal."


"Acknowledged. Removing first core." 


A dreadful silence fell over the bridge. The command staff were present, but with the Firmitas stationary in the water and no gunships on flight paths, there was little to do but listen. Every man and woman at their station had their fingers near a specific button, or a particular lever, all to be used to prepare to evacuate if things went awry.


"Removing second core." 


Ulf held his breath and tightened his grip on his gunblade. A single wrong move and all of the victories of the past moon were for naught, their defection without meaning. They would face the choice of returning to Garlemald to face the noose or to Vylbrand to suffer the attentions of the Eorzeans, and their accolades for the triumph at Gloam would only take them so far.


"Removing third core."


Ticking chronometers were a thing of the past in Garlemald, obsolete curiosities, but with the exception of the Architectus every man and woman on the Firmitas was Ala Mhigan born. Even without such a device nearby, the bridge crew could hear the sound of it in their heads as ten seconds passed.


". . . Third core removed. Dagon powering down. Repeat, Dagon sleeps."


They were a well-trained and disciplined crew, but Ulf forgave them the sighs of relief and the relaxing of posture at their stations, and overlooked the occasional cheer. He took hold of the communicator as his attentions on the Architectus relaxed. "Confirmed, team. Return to the Immersabilis and prepare to surface. Excellent work."


Virgil relaxed in kind, confident that his death was at least a little less imminent. "Will that be all, Pilus?" he said with the kind of withering sarcasm best reserved for mocking a schoolteacher's position.


"Commander will do, please," Ulf replied in as mild a tone of voice as he could manage. He gestured to two of the bridge guards. "Please escort the Architectus back to his chambers."


"Turning against the Empire," Virgil grumbled as he was hauled out of his chair and to his feet. "Selling out to pirates and eikon-lovers. Giving over our weapons!" He shot one last glare at Ulf with his third eye as he was led off of the bridge. "Thunderfell would be ashamed of you. If she were alive."


The crew of the bridge, which had fallen back into their more relaxed chatter of directing gunships to launch and guiding the whale-ship back to its docking point, fell silent. All expected the crack of a gunshot, or a fist against Virgil's face - and from Ulf, all knew that was as good as a gunshot. Yet he only sighed.


"You're right," he admitted. "She would. I suppose I just know why that shouldn't matter anymore." He turned on his heel to face the bridge. "To his quarters, please."

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Night over Thanalan - Airship Flight Path #21 - Southbound from Old Sharlayan -

Theme -


The moon shone brightly in the night sky over Thanalan, light cloud cover with a slight breeze. It was nearly perfect weather for airship travel, which manifested in a line of lights descending and ascending from Ul’dah and nearby Vesper Bay. Amid this ebb and flow of lights - a single light rimmed in blue, rocketed through the outskirts of the airship lanes, before diverting to a new trajectory towards a nearly empty airship dock, usually reserved for official Ul’dahian business, although often rented out to private entities. 


A new Viltgance-class airship, equipped with corrupted crystal engines and wind-aether treated sails, slide through the air as it approached the airship docks. Engraved on the sails of the vessel was a unique seal, old when Ul’dah itself was young, and a symbol of a prominent family that flipped between the Royalists and its opposition for decades. Near the docks, a group of figures can be seen, a few black-armored Brass Blades around a smartly dressed lalafellin male, his arms crossed and face stern. The Viltgance steered smoothly into the docks, a testament to the skill of the privately-employed pilot and the brilliance of the airship’s engineers and designers. 



She’s done so much in such a short amount of time, so many mistakes and follies. How could she have redeemed herself? A few suns of punishment - walking up and down stairs?



With a clang, the Viltgance lowered its docking clamps and a ramp descended from the airship’s hull. A manservant was the first to descend the airship, and he bowed politely to the lalafell male. Curtly, he moved aside as a another smaller figure descended the airship ramp. The moonlight shone on the figure and revealed pastel pink clothing - a rugged-looking yet deceptively expensive cashmere hood and poncho covering the figure, with bright pink hair akin to that of the Sultana herself. 


The cashmere hood and poncho were sewed in a complex horizontally-oriented geometry of characters, shapes and other designs. The appearance of the clothing seemed to overemphasize the intellectual capability of its sewer, rather than any actual aesthetic intent. The pastel pink appears to be post-hoc attempt at establishing some form of modesty on the poncho’s design. Nevertheless, the designs contrasted smoothly with the soft features of the wearer’s face, as a desert flower in bloom. 



A fool. That was what she was. Not a scion of Ul’dah. Not behaving as per her breeding. She fumbled and rolled as many a penniless fool. She behaved more like the now-legendary Captain Simb’a Fuckintia, scourge of the Admiralty, Official Maelstrom Nuisance, the Nightmare of the Goblet Housing Authority (GHA), Avatar of Uninsurable Liabilities, among other interesting monikers. Speaking of the Fuckintia, she heard over the linkshell that the acting First Mate of the Revenge fired those she had recommended. Nevertheless, many of the sailors had expressed the fact they had a ‘wonderful’ time aboard the Revenge, and it was worth the experience to tell their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. 



The figure, now identified as a female Dunesfolk lalafell, with slightly similar features as the male Dunefolk lalafell, approached the latter and curtsied respectfully. “I have returned, Lord Cawajewa.” The older male Dunefolk lifted a eye, “Very formal I see, the Sharlayans have taught you well. Nevertheless, you may call me… father, Hihisa Hisa.” Hihisa looked up at her father, Hihijewa Cawajewa.  “Yes, Lord Father. I have returned.” 



“I’m the daughter of Hihijewa Cawajewa of the EADI you know?”… How many times did she use that statement to obtain her own desires? How badly did it end up because of her runaway emotions? She dug her own Masaja Pit and almost brought her family down with her…



Hihijewa regard his daughter with a somewhat analytical tone, a far cry from the unconditional loving personality he had exhibited before this fiasco of the Battle of the Gilded Ship. Hisa remained in her posture of respect as her father scrutinized her. She was slightly lighter than she was when she left Ul’dah. The fare of Old Sharlayan was renown for its utilitarianism; what flavorful dishes that exist where foreign cuisine made for academic pursuits. Her face remained relatively unblemished, her emerald eyes glistened in the night, reflected by both the light of the moon and the artificial lights of the city. 


Her coral pink hair, a trait of the nobility with links to the Ul line, lined her delicate (almost doll-like) features. Her delicate lips slightly chaffed after exposure to the harsh temperatures of the north, but maintained through a variety of alchemical lip balms purchased by her mother before her journey to the Old World. Her hands were enveloped in soft cashmere gloves, ideal protection against the fridge climates of the north and the exposed compartments of Eorzean airships. 

As Hihijewa scanned his daughter, Hisa also found herself involuntarily self-examining her manner of dress. Far more elegant than the red shirt man, whom she learned had the name of Osik Milkire, from what her sources could send her from Eorzea. A queer last name, but interesting; hyur naming conventions had always followed that of a profession, mayhap his ancestors were dairy farmers? She sent a letter to this Osik Milkire, mayhap he could forgive her for leaving him without contact? 



It was only through their family’s legacy and the threat of returning a prominent family to the Royalist Faction that the Monetarists ‘pardoned’ Hihijewa. Hihisa was still punished, and with her survival, the case was dismissed, with most parties eager to get the event behind them. However, Hihijewa calculated that it would be best for Hisa to leave the country for a time, outside of the grasp of Ul’dah and other nations of the current Eorzean Alliance. Thus… she was sent to Old Sharlayan.



She recalled the prominent family she stayed with, old relations of her father. Her father was a renowned merchant, as well as her grandfather and grandmother on her mother’s side. Her mother and her family oft sent merchant fleets up north into the Big Empty towards the Old World and Ilsabard; whereas her father’s family focused in Thanalan, when it had bothered to deal with mercantile matters during generations that focused on the arcane and law. 


This discrepancy in family tradecraft philosophy, contributed to the approval by the patriarchs of her family of her father and mother’s marriage, outside of emotional notions of ‘love.’ The marriage of their families granted her father’s side access to practical connections in the Old World and Ilsabard, while her mother’s side obtained a foot in the door in Ul’dahian politics; a stronger connection with the Ossuary and a personalized tomb compartment in the Chamber, also contributed to the marriage approval. 


In Old Sharlayan, aetherology and aetherochemistry, the knowledge of life energies and their manipulation. Hisa had learned aether-manipulation as part of her Ossuary training, as well as her own studies into her family’s legacy. However, the Sharlayan schools of magick highlighted the ‘process’ of energy manipulation - Hisa found herself enlightened in a native school termed astromancy - or rather pestered by the daughter of her host into being a study partner. 

The experience highlight an interesting school of study, especially one she would write to her friend Edda on over the course of the stay. If there was a positive aspect that she took from her outcome, it would be her growing relationship with Miss Edda Eglantine, a peer residing in Vylbrand. That such a series of events would lead her to such a new relationship, mayhap the guiding hand of the Traders was responsible for their meeting. 



After a few moments of observation, Hihijewa walked over to Hisa… he looked into her emerald eyes as she lower her eyes in deference towards her esteemed father. He reached his hand out… patted Hisa on her head. She slightly shook with the pat and looked at her father with eyes somewhere between teary and confused. With a lunge, she hugged her father and cried… “I’m sorry! I’m sorry for everything! I’m sorry…”, Hisa repeated over and over again, while Hihijewa remained standing, rubbing his hand against his crying daughter’s head amidst a fatherly embrace; the guards had turned about as if respectful of this touching family event, although a few sniffles could be heard.



The gentle lapping of the waves contrasted with the ravages of the storm. Memories of thunder and levin rip across her memories. Her time on the Iron Bitch with Captain Silverran was a ‘grand’ time. She had rarely seen someone so ‘outgoing’ in a position of command, although it may be expected for Limsans. She recalled the Captain stating that she was not a Limsan native, but from Gridania and Ul’dah, if it made sense. She had a captivating face for a miqo’te with above-average flesh bags compared to most non-lalafells, that often attracted the eyes of the crew. Mayhap she should seek the Captain out in the future, if she or her family should need a experienced captain.


Speaking of ‘needs’, Hisa also remembers Miss Jana Ridah, another adventurer she encountered on her seaborne journey of penance. The mission with Captain Silverann and her crew was part of her family’s agreement with the Admiralty in exchange for a degree of leniency in her role in the Battle of the Gilded Ship. Miss Ridah reminded Hisa exactly of the stories of the bloodthirsty, undiplomatic adventurers that constantly invade the Ossuary libraries. Haven’t they heard of rental charges?


The last adventurer… conjurer that she can recall was Miss Liadan. She was amazed by the display of raw power conjured from the elementals of the ocean. Hisa had read about Elementals of the Shroud, but she did not expect elementals outside of the Shroud to be capable of such power. Mayhap she could journey to seek Miss Liadan out when the opportunity presents itself…  



A few bells later, Hisa stood once more ontop her family home. Looking down on the city, it was clear very little had changed since her departure. It to be expected, a few moons would barely be enough to shape a pearl, much less the Pearl of the Desert. Looking heavenward, Hisa recalled the night sky, nearly tainted by the lights of the city, the constellations that appear faded are drawn within her minds-eye. She remembered her aching and bandaged legs… a fate ordained by her own actions. Fate… she should have expected this outcome; the power she possessed led to many consequences… she will have to live with those outcomes. However, it means not mean it was inevitable… many Spoken have desired means of auguring their own destiny for eras. And more took up their own arms and sought to rule their own fate… As she smiled, Hisa looked down upon the city of lights, and drew a card from her sleeves. “Let us see what Fate has in store.”

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Haelstyrmm hearing aftermath



The door wobbled as it rebound back open in defiance of the rough treatment it had just received as Khunbish failed to properly slam the door shut behind him. It was after hours, no one was around tonight in the Lascivious Seeker. It was just him, and a dark empty bar. He whirls about to properly slam the door shut, locking it after and ignoring the shouts of annoyance from a neighbor that had woken up to the noise.


Off came the maelstrom coat that had become bloodied from the night's work, and so did his under shirt, tossed in a pile on the dark floor, well, by the sounds of it, the shirt made it to the floor, the coat landed on a planter box. He yanks a fire shard out of his pocket, holding it in a gloved hand as it gave off just enough light for him to find wood to toss into the fire place, throwing the shard after to start the fire. To his angered dismay, it didn't catch and he spent the next couple minutes starting a fire the old fashioned way.


Once lit, Khun slumps down on the couch, boots rested on the low wooden table as he watches. He had heard the verdict, well as much as he could remember, the result was perfect, Haelstyrmm was given more than a slap on the wrist, he was taken out of a position to make a similar screw up again.


Khun yanks his gloves off and tosses them on the table before he runs his hands through his hair, the night ran long, because some idiot thought his horns were stronger than metal gears and wanted to see if he could break a pair of them. Boredom, and young Xaela needing to prove their strength was a bad combination, and with no way for them to actively show off and test themselves, they were getting into dumb things.


Back to his feet he paces to the bar, hopping over it with ease to swipe a bottle of brandywine and return to the couch. What was frustrating him the most was just how absolutely inept and worthless he felt in that courtroom. He had no place ever being in there, being involved in that hearing. Cork out with teeth, spat into fire place, gulp gulp, bottle set down for the moment.


He felt useless in the fleet battle too, short of the ship being boarded there was nothing he could do but basically sit on his thumbs and wait for the inevitable injuries to come below deck, but at least then he knew there was something he could do. That damned courtroom though. The one time he comes up with something, has an idea, some thrice damned miqo'te comes barging in, and his whole attempt, the whole idea he had managed to bring up was swept away.


At least he finally understood the saying till sea swallows all, because it sure as hell swallowed every idea or thought he had in there. Hands come to rest over his face and mouth as he screams in frustration into them. He was exhausted, tired, but he knew he wasn't going to sleep, he kept going over, trying to see if there was some other idea, some other way he could have been at least of some use instead of a seat filler.


In the end, he comes to nothing, sitting there staring up at the ceiling, listening to just the crackling fire. Not a thing he could do to help, no good to help Qara with her sister, no good to help Zanzan in the court room. This was a feeling he hated, at least when he was bound and gagged sitting in his own filth in the Adarkim camp between battles he knew there was nothing he could do but wait, this... this was like having the illusion of freedom, of being able to do something, of being helpful, but still being just as bound and gagged.


Once more back to his feet, he grabs the water pail and douses the fire, a quick note letting Lysaria know she was in charge for a few days and he was out the door with his clothes in one hand, and a bottle in the other. A couple hours later, and a trip across the aether, he was slipping out of his Free company house in the Lavender Beds, a couple jars of bait, a fishing pole, a folding chair and a large knapsack. Left behind in a drawer were the majority of his link pearls, and a notice stuffed in the moogle box that he would indeed be taking that leave of absence that was highly suggested to him after the trial.


By the time the sun peaked over the horizon, he was well and far into twelveswood, off the trail and set up on the shore of some lake he didn't know the name of, butt in the folding chair, fishing line cast and hat over his face as he quietly snores away.


Nearby, a horse grazes on the shore grasses, she's seen this all before, doesn't bother her any. She does wonder if there were any of those small things around with heads like onions, she missed kicking them, they made such a lovely shout of frustration, but who would know her enjoyment, after all, she's just a horse on grazing while her lizard slave lounged in the chair.


Asleep, Khun was still going over the whole thing again, still trying to find something, some way he could have been useful.

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[align=center]Final Verdict Part 1[/align]


[align=center]Kahkol Tribe refugee camp, Mor Dhona[/align]



“I’m starting to see why Xaela tribes fought each other all the time. Words don’t work on some people. They think and uh… Assume, but ignore or miss the truth. Then they do things because of those false things they believe, and end up being on the wrong side.” Qara spoke as she wrestled with the best way to phrase her thoughts.


Eorzean common was not her first language, and Xaelic was a very different tongue. She was becoming fluent, but complex ideas were still hard for her to articulate. A silence fell upon her and Tsenkher, her grandmother, as eerie Mor Dhona wind blew outside the makeshift yurt they sat in.


Tsenkher continued to idly mix paint in a ceramic bowl as she sat cross-legged on layers of fur and rug matting. “Welcome to politics, Qaratai.”


Qara let out a sigh to that. “I wanted to help, but most of the time, I didn’t know what to say. Chakha did some bad things. Things that could hurt entire tribes if we were back home. I had to focus on that. After saving Gloam, nothing else mattered… But we were caught in these politics. We tried to trust someone we shouldn’t have… Zanzan is… He is bad at knowing who to trust.”


“Not surprising for a boy who paints green over everything.” Tsenkher drawled.


“Yes, but, he also helped with these politics more than anyone else. He fixed as much as he could. He fixed part of what others broke.” Qara responded and tilted her head back. She sat adjacent to her grandmother, and kept her gaze wandering about the inside of the candlelit yurt. She was reflecting and trying to organize jumbled thoughts. What should have been a simple issue after saving Gloam turned into a mess of politics and backstabbing.


“Who is this one you trusted? I assume it was the one you sought to find a solution for Chakha?” Tsenkher asked.


“An Elezen from the Maelstrom named Ojene.“ Qara answered as her voice lowered. She had quickly developed disdain for the woman.


“To be fair, Chakha attacked a member of the Maelstrom? This Jenny Hellfish you spoke of?”




“And she did it serving a different tribe?”


“Uh, someone from Ul’dah.”


“That is like an act of war. Can’t expect the enemy she made to forgive that so easily.”


“It wasn’t to make war. Jenny Hellfish was a privateer… Uh, like a mercenary. That’s what I am now too, I guess. Ojene thought I was an officer of Maelstrom, but not true. I had to sign what they call ‘Letter of Marque’. They have this law called Galadion Accord that means privateers have to work for Maelstrom. But I’m not really Maelstrom.”


“Sooo, you joined forces with the tribe that your sister wronged?”


“No I… Ugh.. You don’t... Yes…” Qara’s voice betrayed resignation with that last word.


Tsenkher bobbed her head slowly as she continued to mix more paint. She let out an exhale through her nose as she pondered, or perhaps she was letting Qara’s answer sink in.


“I don’t know who this Ojene is, but she’s not the problem. Don’t talk to her again. Don’t let Zanzan talk to her again. You foolishly tried to trust her, and she fairly refused to help. She had a chance to make you as an ally. She refused. Move on.” She paused and finally turned her gaze to Qara; letting the mixing pestle rest in the paint.


“Chakha should have run away, but she gave herself to them. Can’t change that either. Move on.“ Tsenkher spoke curtly as she verbally weeded-out the distracting parts of Qara’s political mess to get to the main issue.


“They have a right to be angry. Chakha should be punished… But she is my granddaughter, and your sister. For us, accepting her execution is never a fair option.” She sighed as she bit her lower lip and her eyes wandered – a habit that both Qara and her grandmother shared when thinking deeply.


“It makes sense that they want her dead. But you have something to offer for a lesser punishment. Time for you to test if their wisdom can out-weigh their anger… You told me of the battle of Gloam; something I never imagined a Hotgo being part of. We are a people of the grass sea, not the saltwater sea… Yet you Captained a ship that dealt the final blow against that metal monster of the skies… A monster that even the big fleet of Maelstrom didn’t want to face.” She reaches to place her hand on Qara’s shoulder.


“It was like a legend. Those people were going to be destroyed like the Hotgo, but you and your crew saved them from their ‘Dotharl’. I am so proud of you.” She paused as Qara’s gaze averted to hide the sudden surge of tears that began to well in her eyes.


“I do not say this only because I am your emee. I think anyone who does not see what your ship accomplished is blind… Offer that. If the Maelstrom kills your sister, right or wrong, fair or not, there is no way you will stay. They will lose you, your ship and its crew. They will lose a ship that was capable of fighting that sky monster, and stopping it. Tell them you will do the same for them that you did for Gloam if they let your sister live… That is all you can do now.”


Qara raised her head despite the tears. Why was she crying? She wondered. But the pride had a sting as it returned. She had lost so much of it after Gloam due to all the law-loving bureaucrats that crawled out of the woodwork to judge what they had not been part of.


However, Chakha -was- a criminal. Qara accepted that, but it had been mistaken for ignorance. What Chakha deserved didn’t matter to Qara. Chakha was one of the last Hotgo.


“If they let my sister live, I will send her on the right path. I swear to the spirits. She will spend the rest of her life helping me save people.”


Redemption mattered, and laws seemed to have no clauses, words or definitions for that.

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Beaches of Gloam


The sound of her feet sinking into the soft sand coupled with the breaking waves of the sea were a peaceful and serene metronome, thought Leanne in a moment of errant thought, as she walked along the shoreline, eyes vacantly staring towards the horizon. Where in many other places that would be an uplifting, beautiful vista to her, symbolizing the possibilities of the future ahead, the grey and blue clouds forever tormenting the little island made sure it was gloomy, mostly devoid of color, and marred with uncertainties.


“Right or wrong.” Leanne asked herself as several arguments in her head threw shots all over, pending to one side, or the other, all of them valid in a way or another. Ribald’s words echoed in her mind. “Do not take as a sign that I disagree wit' ye, Leanne. Just that I reckon thar be no true right in th’ world. If thar was, ye would not be crackin' yer noggin’ right now.”


She had no doubt she did the right thing in saving the people from Gloam, for life is a precious gift, and it must be safeguarded. Yet, something still tormented the young seeker. From Virara words, what first were apparent encouragement, came something more profound. “Kill Hael. Save Gloam. Save Grey Cat. Choose what you must do. If it’s Hat Lady, you should be able to achieve it.”


“Save Gloam.” she muttered. She did save Gloam. The island itself. But why she did so, she asked herself. Was it really the “right” thing to do, or it were simply but a selfish desire of her own.


For the happiness of the island’s inhabitants.


For the sake of Slaeglac’s dream.


For the sake of their freedom.


For the sake of freedom itself.


For the sake of my ideals.


Why did Gallien help her so much? The man that were her pillar and anchor in the many stressful moments that tormented her days in the island. Many suns planning each move, each reaction for the sake of what they deemed at the time as the “right” thing to do. What was his motivation? Were his reasons different of her own? Was his right different from hers? If so, how? Perhaps his right was better than hers. Perhaps to him, the entire effort was simply out of pure solidarity. While hers was for the purpose of validating her own ideals.


For the sake of myself.


Maybe her reasons weren’t so noble after all. And at the realization of such, Leanne frowned. If only, because she felt she lied to herself.


“Did you?” A familiar voice echoed within. As the voice took the shape of a dragon in her mind’s eye, Leanne could only purse her lips. “I think I did.” her ears lowered in shame.


“Hah. What are you trying to do, besides an attempt at being pretentiously self-aware?”  the dragon mocked Leanne, pushing the girl into a pause from her stride along the beach. “Excuse me?” the girl growled. Slowly, the dragon shape morphed into a mirror version of the seeker, with the same golden eyes and frown. “You heard me, Leanne. What are you trying to do? What are you trying to convince yourself of? What is the purpose of this meaningless crisis of yours?”


Leanne snarled. “You wouldn’t understand.”


The mirror image shook its head. “No, I wouldn’t. To me, all that you’re doing is creating reasons to doubt and loathe oneself.” shaking its head, the mirror image approached Leanne, setting its hand on the girl’s shoulder. “I’ve seen what you did. I know your reasons. Yes. Gloam became a glorified symbol of what you believe. Yes, that made you more fierce and more determined to save it. But that’s not why you did what you did.”


Leanne’s frown withered as an uncertain expression took over her features. “Then why…?” she asked. With the question, the mirror image began to glow, until it became a silhouette of blinding light, from which the dragon eye that fueled her life pulsated in tandem with her heartbeat.“Skysinger. Your heart bleeds for others, ever did and always will. You didn’t only fight because of an ideal. You fought to keep a smile.”


The light that composed the silhouette began to fragment into several motes that were scattered by the wind, presenting a vision to the girl of golden eyes. And with that vision, all of Leanne’s doubts, just like the motes of light, were scattered away. The vision of Guerrique and Ursuline walking together along the shoreline, hands held, each of them now owners of bright, -genuine- smiles.


Quick to press herself behind a conveniently placed tree, Leanne hid herself, just so she could quietly watch them pass by with a large, warm smile of her own. “Ah. So that’s why...”


For the sake of their smiles.


Once they were out of sight, Leanne brought herself out of hiding, smiling stupidly at her success. As she became devoid of awareness, a group of kids of kids ran towards her, ambushing the young bard. All of them tugging at her clothes, laughing and smiling.


“Ms. Leanne, Ms. Leanne! Why did you run away! You promised us a story!” One of the children said. The rest of them naturally echoed. “A story, a story!”


Giggling, Leanne brought herself down to a knee, fondly petting each of the child in front of her. “I did, didn’t I? Sorry I didn’t deliver it yet. Ms. Leanne was busy being dumb.” the group of kids naturally paused at the answer, looking at her questioningly. “Being dumb…?” the question all of them shared was eventually aired.


“Aye, being dumb. Don’t worry, she wised up. A bit, at least.” she chuckles, shaking her head. Lifting herself, Leanne offered her hands to be held, which were quickly taken by the two youngest. “Come on, everybody. Let’s go find Mr. Slaeglac. I think tis’ a story he would like to hear too.”


For the sake of their smiles.

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The salt in the air tickled Liadan's nose as she stepped out of the Topmast Apartments, her satchel slung over one shoulder. She tipped her head back to stare up at the bright sun in the clear blue sky and smiled to herself. She'd miss this...for all she'd once thought she'd never miss anywhere but the Shroud. Yes, she'd miss this place. Adjusting her satchel on her shoulder, she headed down the cobblestone path towards the docks and the ferry across the bay to Limsa.

And we find what we're made of
Through the open door.
Is it fear you're afraid of?
What are you waiting for?

Limsa Lominsa that afternoon held the chaos and bustle she'd learned to love about the city, and she took her time making her way through the market towards the ferry to Thanalan, for it would likely be some time ere she saw it again. A bolt of brilliant blue cloth, a pouch of dried Chamomile, and a small tin of Paprika later, she finally found her way past Maelvaan's Gate to the ferry docks. Her expression was thoughtful as she watched the white city fade from sight aboard the ferry ship.

Helplessness as Dominic Morris was carted away to his sentence.
The comfort of Ursuline and Guerrique's arms around her.
Raw fear at the sight of the Gunship approaching the Iron Bitch.
Overwhelming power the moment the storm became hers to command.
Shame at having misjudged a man who deserved her respect.

We're only here for a season
I'm looking for the rhyme and reason
Why you're born, why you're leaving,
What you fear and what you believe in

Three days into her journey north through Thanalan, she still had no answers. She had studiously avoided thinking in-depth about the situation with the singer, and probably for the best - that was a wound that would not fade easily, if ever. And still Haelsytrmm's words continued to nag at her.

The Alchemists of Thanalan were very...particular about where and how they offered their aid, and the Executioners were not well-favored, nor were most pirates.

Aye, that was what bothered her the most. That he had been turned away by those with the power to save his wife. That he never thought to look further for help, or perhaps the Fane would have turned him away, as well. It all seemed so wrong to her.

"If it's the hope of all mankind, Courageous, why do we insist on hiding it under a rock, doling it out to only those we deem worthy?"

Alas, the pale chocobo had no answers for her, merely trilling a high-pitched kweh, as though commiserating with her. She sighed, reaching down to pat the neck of the bird, "I know. People are stupid."

And she was headed right back into the thick of it...the prejudices, the petty hatreds and disdain for those who didn't look like them, didn't talk like them, didn't know any better. All the while, the Empire loomed ever closer over the boughs of the Shroud.

Why you're living and breathing
Why you're fighting it and getting it even
Let's go headed down the open road unknown

And yet, the closer she drew to the Shroud, the more excited she became. The desert had ever been her bane, a thing she couldn't help but detest. So the first sight of the scrub and small trees in Wellwick Wood that marked the beginning of the transition between Thanalan and the Shroud proper caused her to break out in a wide smile.

Most people described feeling nothing passing through the Hedge, but Liadan was not among them. She could feel the moment she stepped back inside the forest that had been her home for as long as she could remember. She slid off the back of her chocobo, walking over to the nearest tree and leaning her forehead against it with a sigh. Her eyes blurred with tears as she stood there for several minutes, simply breathing in as the cool breeze ruffled her hair.

How we have waited...

The whispers in her mind began almost immediately, with a clarity and coherance she hadn't heard in months. She pushed away from the tree with a smile and started walking further down the path, her chocobo following in her wake. As she moved deeper into the Shroud, a small glowing orb floated out of the treeline to hover over her shoulder.

She didn't regret it, not any of it. She hadn't completely succeeded, but no one ever did. She'd persevered where it mattered, though, and brokered a middle ground. It wasn't what she had wanted, but it was better than the alternative. She'd have to cling to the memory of Ursuline finally unburdened by what had occurred so long ago in Toto-Rak, and the promise of Morris's freedom. She'd carry the memory of Haelstyrmm's failure to save what mattered most to him, as well, and remember her own failure in judging him by what others said, and the visage he presented, instead of looking at his heart.

So I'm back to the basics
I figure it's time I face this
Time to take my own advice
Love alone is worth the fight

The drums of war were already echoing throughout the forest, and she'd have to hope she'd learned enough from all she'd seen, all the mistakes she'd made, to make the right decisions this time.

I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And what I can do, that I ought to do.
And what I ought to do, by the grace of the Twelve,
I shall do.





Edited by LiadansWhisper

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She climbed up the mooring line like an over-sized rat. Virara was never one to do things the easy way. Perhaps she wasn't as far from their kin as one might be led to expect. The four-legged crawl suited her well. She'd left Leanne to her own devices with the Revenge. Understanding what Hat Lady wanted from its crew was beyond her capability, or care. When she was called upon to act, she did it. There was no reason for Virara to follow her onto that ship, nor raise any questions about what happened there, or what Leanne meant to do. There was a different obligation to settle. Somehow the time passed slipped through her mind like a faulty sieve. Virara found herself upon the Tumult's deck, a faint air of disorientation entering her impassive features, as if reconsidering her choice to come aboard, or to speak to that man. Her expression was far nearer to seasick than all the time spent upon the ships, the rocking of the boat particularly insufferable during the time they were underway to meet the Garleans cannon to cannon. 


Slaeglac wasn't hard to find. There was a strangely respectful air on board the Tumult. People were approaching him like he was some kind of god. The battle of Gloam and its results, the pending treaty with Limsa - all of it was well-known to all on the island, and Slaeglac was, of late, being credited with the creation of it all, for none of it would have happened had he not taken the first step and gathered the crews together on the island.


If he was enjoying this, he didn't seem to show it. Indeed, he seemed bothered by it all, resting at the aft deck and watching the opening to Gloam's natural harbor, a point wedged between two rocky outcroppings on the island's western edges.


"Slay Man." 

Virara spoke suddenly, though as is typical of her, it's easily drowned out by the slightest ambient noise. 

"I am here." 

An uncomfortable glance towards the harbor. She focused her eye on the water where the land and sea connected, searching for whatever invisible landmark Slaeglac occupied himself with.

"The island. Is it well?"



He turned his head to the left, then had to cast it far, far down to see Virara. 

"Oh. Aye, it's fine," he replied with a nod. "Word came from the Garleans. They've shut down the Dagon facility. Still pumpin' out enough fuel to keep us goin' and them powered, but otherwise all's well. We're right secure." 

He wrinkled his nose. "Didn't think I'd live t'see it."


An eye like a glass bead looked back at him.

"Did you want to?"


"Don't know if I wanted to. Just thought it'd happen." 

He lifted his captain's hat to scratch his head. The man was old, but for once he actually seemed to look and act his age. 

"I was ready for it, tha's for sure. Whether by hangin' or battle."


She sat limply against the ship's gunwale, watching the man with an irregular focus. It wasn't unlike an inept student attempting to decipher a foreign language; the intensity with which she tried to absorb everything in front of her dwarfed her inability to comprehend.

"... Why did you offer yourself to the Maelstrom?"

Her words came slowly, as if questioning itself was alien. Why was she so curious?

"Was it to take responsibility? For the division?"


"Aye. Well, if it'd keep the Maelstrom happy then that'd be one thing." 

He picked up his Sahagin-tooth necklace in one hand, running his thumb across a fang. 

"That'd be responsibility, surely. More'n that, place can't be free if they're always looking over their shoulder t'see what ol' Captain Slaeglac would think've it." 

He chuckled. 

"Not even goin' to the treaty signin', you know. That'll be Goldyna's doing, an' rightly so. Be a good cap for her term as speaker."


She looked strangely exhausted. There had been relatively little fighting for her to do since going to that strange island, with its wrongly shaped trees and blue clouds, and yet the invisible vitality driving her forward seemed diminished. Her arms dangled limply at her sides. 

"She is a normal woman. Not a captain. Not a fighter. Not like you. Can she do it? Protect this island."


"Everybody starts out that way, don't they?" 

He thumbed to himself. 

"Weren't as if I were brought up bein' a captain an' a turncoat. Was just a poor kid signed up to sail an' make some extra coin, an' from there it just grew. Same for a lot've these people. She's done fine here, so far. Pretty clear the people didn't pick 'er out've pity."



She tilted her head, a inky pigtail drifting incongruously alongside her blank face.

"And if the city turns upon your island again? What will you do? Will they rely upon you again?"

Her unblinking eye shut once.

"I can't understand. I want to understand. It's strange. Is it wrong for them to watch you? Learn from you?"


"Not wrong," he said, frowning and shifting from side to side, seeming to try and work his way through the pathways his thoughts were taking to shape them into something more concrete. "But I ain't always right. I was wrong about the Wound. Got people killed f'r that. An' I don't need people learnin' the wrong things from me on account've it. I wanted t'give 'em freedom, the real thing or as close as I c'd get it. Not Slaeglac's Island and associates."


"As for the city . . . they might. They might turn again. An' I'll step up again, if I'm here when it happens."


"So it's because you made mistakes. That's why you don't want them to learn from you?"

Virara brushed the side of her head with a small, round hand. Its grip was uneven, shaped oddly, like it was grasping something invisible in the air before tangling itself in her messy bangs.

"You want them to not rely upon you. But you don't want to leave them alone. These things are enemies..."

She peered up at him.

"How do you decide? You can't stand between them and Limsa without them behind you. Can you support them from the side?"


"I don't want them to treat me like some manner've god. That's how y'get more Admirals, y'know. Thinkin' 'One man did all this.' An' I didn't. It's not true. You an' yours saved us, but we all made choices. We voted not t'use Dagon, t'even come out here. But all those little smart decisions, they're just gonna - " 

He made a puffing motion. 

"Gone. All in'face of my own choices."


"Your flattering is unbecoming. I was of little use, with my meager skills."

Virara shook her head, hair flitting about.

"If it happened, it happened. It won't go away. I don't think it will. What you've given them. I don't understand how it would disappear."

The words struggled their way out of her closed throat with a raised volume much unlike her, but hardly enough to qualify as another's indoor voice.

"I don't know gods or admirals. But I know what it is to follow. Is following wrong?"


"Wrong enough when you follow 'em inta the wrong place. Ought to be damn sure of it here, clearly. Followin' is what makes folks like the Commodore get where they are - he's a bastard, they say, but at least he follows."


"So yeah, I don't want 'em following me. Not like that. I pointed a way. They can go that way or they can sod off an' do different fifty years down th'line."


"But I don't want 'em to follow just on account've it's me. I want 'em to follow on account've they think it's right for themselves."


Virara's lips tightened into a deeper, firmer frown. A spark of life coursed within her, small but fervent.

"I hate what if's. How can you make a decision to surrender them solely to make choices based off that?"

Her hands tightened around the hem of her beggarly coat, faded and stiff from the endless sun and salt of Vylbrand cool air. 

"Are you not forsaking them?"


"Depends on who you ask, an' what that means. There's a fair few people who say I'd have forskaken them if I hung. Would y'say that?"


Virara lowered her chin in contemplation, mouth drawn taut with the effort.

"Master told me. In the old country, some nobles slit their bellies to assume responsibility for failure. Not being permitted to do that... It is unthinkable. But at the same time... I've never seen such a thing. Because I'm a stranger to her country, if not her ways."


A fugitive sigh made its escape.

"I believe a person can choose when they die. Until their body chooses for them. I'm unqualified to speak of how they'd feel. But I don't think they'd accept it. They would feel forsaken."


"Well, there you have it then. I'm not planning on forsaking them. If the Maelstrom still wanted m'head for the safety of the island, then yes, I'd do it. Small price. I said as much before an' I do so now.   If it's not needed, then I'm going to settle in to the island an' enjoy the success, an' if pirates or Garleans come calling, then the Tumult'll sale out to meet 'em, an' I'll be at the helm." 

He patted his chest, at least aware of that much.

"But I'm not in charge, is my point. I follow them, now on."


Virara paused, almost freezing in place as she attempted to decypher what he has said. Not for simple lack of comprehension, but rather as if the concept itself was impossible to truly grasp for her. She continued to observe it inside from every possible angle. No matter what pattern it took, Virara was unable to perceive the entirety of its form. Something fundamental was missing from her that keeps her from seeing anything but meaningless shapes.

"... You'll follow them? So you do not aim to die, then."

Her hand fell slack to her side, loosely gripped, fingers encased in worn leather.

"I see."


"If I'm followin' 'em, and they seem to be damned keen to keep me alive, seems the least I could do, wouldn't y'agree?"


Virara for the first time that day averted her gaze, following lines in the ship's wooden deck.

"I misunderstood you yet again. Forgive me."

Without warning, she rose to her knees and bowed her head against the wooden deck in a display laden with sullen obsequience.

"I came here to be your second. I see that is not necessary."


"Could've been." 

He seemed familiar with the concept. Perhaps his travels had taken him to Doman waters in years past. 

"If they'd asked it, it could've been. But there's ways t'take responsibility an' then there's ways, you see? I'll keep 'em safe. IF the Admiral wants me head for it, that's one way. If they want me at the ready to push back the Garleans, that's another." He gave her a curious look. "Why y'need a death like that, d'you think?"



Her head jerked upward, a bit too hastily to be truly polite. It was all a gesture trained to the point of reflex, sincere but clumsy, the meaning behind it never truly settling in.

"But that man. Woman. Whoever they were. They denied you your chance to settle the matter with Limsa Lominsa. Did that not shame you?"


"Should it?" 

He smoothed out the bald patches along his pate, mostly the product of scars rather than age. It left his hair a little on the wild side past his temples. 

"I've me shames, no mistake. Shamed I trusted the Garleans an' didn't know I was damning the Wound in trustin' 'em. Shamed that I had -six- ships planned to come here, an' naught but three arrived, in the end. I thought I knew me people better. Shamed I could do naught but stand and pray while that Garlean beast sailed towards the island as the other ships fired 'pon it."


He lifted his eyes to the harbor. 

"I'd be more shamed if I didn't work twice as hard to overcome 'em."


Virara could but digest his words. Another shame. Another form. Another method of assuming responsibility. The enormity of what he'd taken upon himself became visible in its entirety. The patterns merged together. It'd been, to her at least, a matter of thrusting people into a situation they were unequipped to handle without himself, something to apologize for; once settled, it was finished. Just another form of settling obligations, like so many Virara accounted for. Slaeglac could disappear like he'd wanted. There was far more to fret over than she'd ever recognized before. Did Virara have the capacity to feel that weight? Did such weight mean anything to -her-?


"That's what draws you back to them. You can't leave them alone, but neither can you let them follow you."

Virara nodded once.

"Twice I've misunderstood you. To judge you as incapable, before when you spoke of the Garleans to us. I regret my carelessness."


"I apologize."


He listened to her words with an increasingly incredulous look, and then, at last, he laughed. It was a powerful bellow, and for some reason the crew of the ship seemed heartened by it when it happened.  An echo of the freest man on the sea.

"Well, I'm sorry I called y'daft. It's a Doman way of thinking, innit? Should've known better, meself. No harm done either way." He leaned to face Virara. "An' thank y' for wantin' to second, ifn' I did decide, that were the way."


She shook her head furiously, raising a hand to deny him in quiet modesty.

"Would that it were. I am foolish, my Master says. What is daft and what is not, I can hardly tell. It might be... that this land has something useful to teach me yet."

Virara leveled a calm, serious gaze at him. But it lacked the same everpresent bestial suspicion. The look she gave everyone, like they were either out to steal her food or beat her red was gone. It was only for a moment.

"The offer stands. It's your choice to accept or not."


She lowered her head in deep respect.

"My promises don't fade."


"Well, if it e'er comes to that. If my own hands have brought these people t'ruin, if they're cursin' and damnin' my name an' both they and Limsa alike want me head, I will send for ye. Is that fair?"


Virara bowed at the waist in that overly formal manner of hers.

"I understand."

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((This RP was done between Qara and I, with Qara NPCing a Captain presiding over Chakha's case.))



Zanzan would arrive in a rustic old office. It looked like the kind of place that would be a Captain’s cabin on a ship except it’s in the city of Limsa. Sitting at a desk made for a Seawolf was a Lalafell Plainsfolk woman in Maelstrom uniform. Storm Captain Jujudi Judi wasn’t the typical ship Captain. She was a treaty and code officer; an interpreter of laws for a city-state full of guidelines. She stood in her chair when Zanzan entered. It helped her see over the huge desk.


After Zanzan had entered the office, he gave a quick glance around before letting out a deep sigh. He carried nothing else with him except for a satchel that hung from his shoulder as he treaded deeper into the office and stopping just in front of the desk. He met his eyes with the Captain before he offered a Maelstrom salute; straight hand to temple with a rigid posture.


"Captain." He spoke in a formal tone before once more, letting out a deep sigh. "As stated in my letter, I... have come to speak on my own behalf as well as Chakha Hotgo's about our prior and current situation. You've... no doubt heard all about it, yes?" His tone quieted at his last words.


Jujudi Judi smiles for a moment. It is hard to tell if it is sincere, or a mere polite gesture. “At ease Quartermaster Zanzan Yanzan. Aye, I know why you are here. You may sit.” She too lets herself sit.


“You know who I am, but for the record I am Storm Captain Jujudi Judi, a treaty, signal and code officer of Maelstrom Command. I am one of three judges presiding over the case of Chakha Hotgo, but I can tell you now that I know how my fellows will decide. I have still not made up my mind on this case.”


Zanzan allowed himself to ease somewhat with his posture relaxing as he took a seat in front of the Captain's desk. "Pray tell, what has been reported to you about the case? Only so that I would not need to repeat what has already been said." He began to move his satchel into his lap.


Jujudi let out a sigh. “I have been playing catch-up with this whole mess. I have the leve plate for the leve in which Jenny Hellfist was killed, I have witness reports, reports on Gloam, limited records of your Captain Qara Hotgo, a letter from Qara Hotgo, a report from one Aigharn Kha about the airship that was battled at Gloam, a report from the tactics department made by Ojene Suinuet about a bunch of people I can only assume she wants dead or discharged; that includes Qara Hotgo and yourself…. I think that is everything. A whole mess of papers that are trying to give me the whole context of what the Hells is happening.”


Zanzan inhaled a deep breath as the Captain lines out everything she had heard and read, only to exhale again once she had finished. Zanzan grows a pensive expression.


"Miss Suinuet has... an ill repute as of late. I had initially gone to her, hoping to gain Chakha a fair sentence, or at the very least, aid. Such was not the case." Zanzan paused for a moment. "'Tis true that I had harbored Chakha away from the authorities, though out of fear that she would be sentenced to be hung, especially to satisfy the unrest of our fellow Limsans as of late."


Zanzan took another pause as he broke his gaze from the Captain for just a brief moment. "As stated in the leve, it had given adventurers and mercenaries full permission to take Jenny's life if deemed necessary for its completion. While Chakha indeed took her life, 'twas not of her own desire, but that of her prior employers, the Syndicate."


Jujudi looked to the papers then back to Zanzan. “I cannot charge you with harboring someone you helped to turn in! Miss Suinuet says you and Captain Qara admitted to such, and while some may applaud your willingness to take guilt, harboring a criminal means hiding them from the authorities until such time that the authorities apprehend the criminal. We didn’t because she turned herself in.”


“Now, if there was evidence that you protected her from authorities, and in that time she committed more crimes, we would have a problem. But the killing of Jenny Hellfist was before she reunited with you and her sister, correct?”


“As for the leve authorizing the killing of Hellfist, we have the semantics of what ‘necessary’ means. Blowing her away with a cannon before negotiations can even complete is not necessary by most standards. Her actions resulted in us losing the entire crew and a Galleon to piracy.”


Zanzan winced at the mention of simply, overkill. "Correct, Qara and I have watched her closely since then. To my knowledge, she is not guilty of any other crimes. We've been committed to offering her a new life away from that." He then sighed, an act that has been much too common for the past several moons. He slipped out a letter before sliding it across the table to the Captain.


"This was Chakha's order from the Syndicate. To resolve the situation involving Jenny Hellfist by any means necessary. Observing how her blockade damaged their profits, they wished for the matter to be resolved quickly. Knowing their practices... I believe they wished to exploit the leve."


"I understand this by no means pardons or forgives Chakha for what she has done... But 'tis was not her willful intent or desire to kill Jenny. She has since then abandoned her previous employers and I only wish for her to be granted a new opportunity of an honest life." Jujudi speaks.


"I understand you must abide by the words of the Admiralty's laws, but many of the Maelstrom and Limsans alike have committed piracy and acts that would be considered crimes today. Many of us can be find guilty, but 'tis what we do now that should judge us. Pray, allow her to make a new life for herself. Do not let her rot on a barge."


Jujudi let out a sigh as she read the letter. “This would be easier if she gave us the bloody names of her employers.” She paused. “You have a loyalty to her like she is your own crew, yet she is not on any records. She’s some refugee. Not really a citizen of Limsa Lominsa. Part of me wonders if exile is the answer… If we don’t hang her, which I think is the wrong sentence - we don’t hang those who make mistakes on leves, and we don’t jail her for life, what do we do? What would you do has she committed such a crime on your ship? Limsa’s criminal background is true, but to control such people, we need strong enforcement of what laws we have. We need to scare pirates into check.”


Zanzan hung his head as he thought and thought. "She is a refugee... But one that was alone and did what she needed to survive... Until we found her, until her sister found her.


Zanzan peered back up to the Captain. "Then we must teach her. Let her do her part now to make up for her mistakes. She is new and needs a guiding hand. To speak true, I do not know what I would do if she were to commit another crime... But Qara and I are making sure that such an act would not happen again."


Jujudi nodded then interlocked her fingers on her desk. “Aye, now, tell me, why did she turn herself in then? To make sure she stays under control, we have to know how she thinks.”


"To make things right... Those were her words." Zanzan said simply.


"But she doesn't feel guilty. We talked to her, and I am afraid of someone who can not feel guilt. That's likely what had Ojene so worried. So, Quartermaster Zanzan Yanzan, to make things right for whom?"


Zanzan ponders for a moment. "Mayhaps... Make things right for those who suffered from her loss. Surely she had friends... family... And she was of Limsan blood. There were many that felt for her loss."


The Captain sighs. "Are you trying to protect someone, or are you lying to me? Mayhaps you miss the obvious? The girl turned herself in because of her sister. Am I wrong?" There was a brief pause. "After livin' my whole life in Vylbrand, I know what makes people pirates, and it's rarely because they want to be at first. I don't think this girl -wanted- to be an assassin, but she has the mind of one. So what made her go from not givin' a damn to suddenly turning herself in when she could have fled? Only thing I see new is you and her sister. I really don't think she just suddenly felt guilt for everything."


Zanzan gave out a deep sigh as he slouched over, burying his face into his hands. "Mayhaps 'tis me... or mayhaps 'tis only because of her sister... If she can change for her sister, mayhaps she can change for others. I cannot say for certain because only time will tell if 'tis a wise decision... Even if the we must bare its consequences, I wish to give her a chance yet."


Jujudi taped her fingers on her desk as she pondered. “The way I see it, she owes Limsa Lominsa a debt. We can argue about morals all sun, but it won’t change the real problem here. She can’t be convicted of murder since the leve said she could. But her actions did cost us a lot. I can’t promise what the other two Captains will push for, but I’ll try to steer a course that ends with her repaying that debt instead of being killed, exiled or wasted away.” She paused. “There will likely be pain. Too many Limsans want to -see- the punishment. But mayhaps the biggest irony of all could be us using her to serve Limsa instead of Ul’dah. Turn the Syndicate asset into our own. I will consider that.”


Zanzan gave out yet another sigh and hopefully the last for the night. It was both a relief to at least gain some sort of aid from one Captain yet he was still somewhat pained by the thought of a public punishment, one he knew his fellow Limsans would call for.


"If she must serve Limsa and her people, then so be it." He spoke in a sincere tone. "It would still lighten my heart if she can live a 'free' life, so to speak. Thank you, Captain."


"Freedom comes in many forms, Quartermaster. Hers may be better or worse than what she had before. But she won't rot in a gaol if I can help it." She sat back in her oversized chair. "It would be a waste of resources. And mayhaps... Someone who may surprise us. We will see."


Zanzan sat there for a long and quiet moment with his gaze faced downwards. He then finally slid off from his chair before offering another Maelstrom salute. "I await for the new of her sentence then, Captain. Thank you again, for speaking with me."


Jujudi stood in her chair and returned the salute. "Till sea swallows all, Zanzan Yanzan. Farewell."

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[align=center]The Final Verdict[/align]

[align=center]Part 2[/align]


A Lalafell woman sat in her rustic office with a huge stack of papers on her desk. The commotion of life in Limsa Lominsa - people talking, children playing and seagulls calling created an ambient sound that was muffled through the walls and closed windows.


Captain Jujudi Judi pinched the bridge of her nose. She was a bell away from needing to deliver a final verdict on Chakha Hotgo; the girl who killed Jenny Hellfist.


It was an odd case. Not only did this barely adult Xaela blow Jenny away with a cannon, she had good evidence that the Leve authorized her to take such action! What a mess. It meant the leve-writer needed to share the punishment, but his case was being handled by another judge.


Jujudi regarded the leve plate once again. The over-worked Leve-writer, named Varad Yayrad, made a clear breach of leve code! The plate read as follows:


“The privately-owned war galleon Night Plunder has dropped anchor in full view of Costa Del Sol's oceanfront scenery and refuses to move until their demands are met, threatening to harm tourism from the Ul'dahn elite and drive down beachfront property rates. Because war galleons are hard to replace, the Admiralty is looking for problem solvers who can negotiate their movement and/or kill the offenders as necessary.”


“Kill the offenders… As necessary? What a mess.” Jujudi let out a sigh.


Chakha Hotgo stated that she saw killing Hellfist as necessary, and the fact that evidence supported that she was a Syndicate-hired assassin suggested her employer saw the killing as necessary as well! Ul’dahn elite were being threatened after all.


Jujudi looked back to the papers and tapped her fingers on the wood of her desk. Her other hand supported her head by propping it up on her elbow. After reading reviewing all the evidence, Jujudi was ready to deliberate with the other Captains to come to a verdict.




It was a closed trial. The last thing Maelstrom Command wanted was to reawaken the riots of the recent past with the cause of Jenny Hellfist. In the makeshift courtroom, only the people necessary were present. Jujudi cleared her throat to speak on behalf of all three Storm Captains.


“After deliberations, we the Captains who have been given the authority by Maelstrom command to preside over this case, have come to a verdict.”


“Evidence is only strong enough to charge Chakha Hotgo of one crime: the murder of Jenny Hellfist. Anything more on her is speculation and hearsay.”


“She willingly turned herself in for arrest without being found or forcibly apprehended. She has confessed to her actions, and explained her motives.”


“However, her true crime is not what it seems. With authorization in the leve to kill Jenny Hellfist, and the fact that Jenny Hellfist was breaking the law at the time of her death, the killing of the privateer captain was not without precedent. We can only convict her of crimes of misconduct, and punish her for the horrible results that came of such.”


“Chakha Hotgo is found guilty of wrongful conduct during an official leve, misinterpretation of the spirit of an official leve, reckless endangerment of innocent lives and undue assault on Limsan privateers and adventurers.”


“Her actions resulted in the death of Jenny Hellfist, and the eventual failure of the purpose of that leve. Aye, the Night Plunder was removed from Costa del Sol, but her crew broke from the Maelstrom, and the ship was eventually lost. The purpose of the leve was to preserve that Galleon which our navies desperately needed.”


“By authority of the Maelstrom, we sentence Chakha Hotgo to be flogged. She will receive fifty lashes.”


“Chakha Hotgo is sentenced to service in the Dutiful Sisters of the Edelweiss until death or until the convent leader deems her unfit for work. She is to be taught Limsa Lominsan laws word for word, and she will be required to memorize them all.”


“To ensure she stays within the boundaries of law when she is not with the Dutiful Sisters, from this moment on, Chakha Hotgo will be considered the responsibility of Privateer Captain Qara Hotgo. Meaning, any crimes or misconduct committed by Chakha Hotgo will directly result in consequences for not only herself, but for Privateer Captain Qara Hotgo and the Stormbreaker crew as well.”


“Chakha Hotgo will be required to pay half of her earnings every moon to the surviving relatives of Jenny Hellfist. This will continue for as long as she works for the Dutiful Sisters. If we can not find surviving relatives of Jenny Hellfist, by the Twelve we will find -someone- to give that gil to; even if it’s the Maelstrom.”


“The stipulations of this sentence are complete, and further details on the various rules and exceptions have been sent to Maelstrom command.”


“Till sea swallows all.”


Jujudi pounded the gavel on the table then signed her name on the parchment with the exact wording of the convictions and sentence.




Nearly twenty and four bells later, Qara Hotgo stood on the beach in the Mists with a wrinkled flyer in her hands. She held it securely to prevent the winds from blowing it away, or tearing it asunder. But her gaze rested on the sunset, ocean horizon.


She took in a deep breath then looked down at the flyer. It was a flyer from the Hellfist Foundation. On the day of Morris’s trial, Qara was handed one by a random person.


She knew little of their fate, and had not heard anything from them since. But whatever happened to them did not happen soon enough to stop Qara from getting a piece of their last efforts. Now that she knew the name of the person her sister killed, she could not help but think the others might have been silenced as well.


Would it not be ironic if she were to take up their cause? She wondered.


The freedom of Limsa’s privateers reminded her of the Xaela tribes of Othard. It is why she became one. But she quickly came to know the treachery buried in the heart of many in the city-state.


The ugliness she had seen made her want to flee, but that was not why she became what she is. Her training had been for the purpose of fighting the injustice that those with power forced upon the common folk. Running away would not do that.


Her gaze returned to the horizon. The sunlight reflected off the blue limbal rings in her eyes, and caused them glow.


"I will face it."

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'Ace', is a Limsan Information Broker and Underworld figure, who aided Aya during the Merchant, Marine plot.  He's a childhood friend of Aya's during her brief time in Limsa Lominsa as a refugee. (here and here)  This post is he and Aya discussing the events of the plot, and their conclusion.


"Ah, good, you made it."


Aya smiled to her old friend, 'Ace' as he's now known.  She'd approached him from the right, his good side.  The recognizable smile put her at ease.


For him, the hooded woman was still a welcome sight.  Though, ostensibly, she obscured herself behind a cloak, she had a manner of revealing nearly everything else in her effort to avoid recognition.  The short skirt, the thigh-high, sharply heeled boots that emphasized shapely legs.  The open bodice that invited and tempted, rather than deflected attention.  For those who knew her it was impossible to not recognize her - and maybe that was the point.


"Of course," she answered with a breathy softness.  The Ishgardian accent upon her tongue still struck him with strangeness.  When they had been friends in childhood it was an altogether different accent that graced her voice.  It still took some getting used to.

"I couldn't disappoint an old friend could I?"


He let out an amused breath of his own, a smile curling upon the good half of his face despite his best efforts to restrain his emotion.  "I didn't imagine you would."


She stepped up to the railing, stopping beside him before turning her eyes toward the inky blackness of the sea.  Gentle swells lapped against the pillars of stone all around them.  


She very casually dipped her fingers into her open bodice.  Nowhere could provide surer keeping for a valuable gift: out she drew a small, thin rectangle tin several ilms across, offering it to him.


He furrowed his brow, one good eye focused on the unexpected, though familiar item as she held it his way. "Go on." She added, a smirk drawing across her carmined lips.


With a moment's hesitation he reached for the proffered gift, turning it for examination. It took a moment, but the smile of recognition that he offered was exactly what she'd hoped to see.


"Well, this is a fine 'thank you', isn't it." He grinned, clicking the tin open with his fingers.  With deft fingers he drew out the paper-wrapped cylinder and quickly flicked it below his nostrils, breathing in deeply the fragrance of the smokeweed.


"The finest available, if I understand correctly."  She grinned out to sea.


"The Emperor himself has no finer smoke."  Purred the Miqo'te with satisfaction.  With the cigarette squeezed between two fingers he offered the smoke back to Aya, "I'll share, you know."  


She demurred with the raise of her hand, "I have my own vices, mon ami.  This one's for you."


He laughed, sliding the tin into a coat pocket before fishing out his auto-lighter.  "Where'd you get these?" He asked, with his lips pressed together.


"Escrow and Sons.  I'd saved them for just such an occasion."  Her grin, still directed out to the sea, grew ever brighter.  


"Mighty fine, mighty fine." He replied with some admiration, before lighting the smoke and drawing in.  "One hell of a 'thank you'," he repeated himself with immense gratification.  


She chuckled lightly, keeping her enigmatic gaze upon the sea.  She had a way of projecting contemplation - an expression that belied the shallow and careless persona she normally adopted.  


He took in another breath, letting it out with a sigh of fulfillment.


"What do you think?" She finally asked in a soft tone.


"Think?" He eschewed, glancing her way before lowering himself down, elbows resting on the railing against which they stood.  "Think about what?"


"All of this."  She answered softly, he knew exactly what she meant, but her lack of specificity still irked him.  "All that's happened these past few weeks.  Everything since Leeds."


He nodded, idly flicking the ashes off the end of the precious cigarette -- off into the brine lapping below their feet.  "Ah."


There was a pause while he enjoyed the smoke for a few moments more.  No sound intruded upon them except the lulling sea and the muted preparations of a Maelstrom vessel docked in the near distance.


"Not much."  He finally answered, lips wrapped around the smoke. "Not much at all, I think.  The entire affair could have been scripted."


"Scripted?" She finally turned her eyes toward him.  His good eye met hers as he offered an almost imperceptible nod. "Aye.  You know pirates: short-sighted, only after their next share of loot, and hatin' to let anyone else tell them what to do more than anything else.  The Maelstrom's only pirates in better uniforms."  He pulled the smoke away from his lips, turning his eyes out toward the readying ship.


"Those mutineers are no different than the rest, really.  Don't like being told what to do, and filled with nostalgia."


"Nostalgia?" She asked with a hint of confusion - though she'd recognized the sentiment in her very first contact with the Gloam-bound privateers, she'd never heard it upon another's lips.


"Aye.  They remember how they thought it was when they were young.  Or have been told."  He waved his free hand out toward the ocean, "Before all of this.  When the sea seemed free, at least to them who didn't know better."


He grimaced, a bit, "O' course it was ne'er like that. They just don't know any better.  Thought they could ha'e it all again.  That they could find somewhere they'd never have to listen to anyone else again."


She nodded, "I think you're right.  They're not happy with how things are. They'd rather face their problems their own way.  On one hand, they want to escape those who feel they can tell them what to do, on the other hand they're running from responsibilities to anyone other than themselves.  They're just looking for a place to call their own, to live life as they wish.  But that's never as easy as it sounds."


He offered her a side-long glance, "O' course, you know, 'venturers are the same as pirates, right?  They tend to chase a different booty, that's all.  They also don't see the day after tomorrow, and can't stand it when someone tell's 'em what they've got to do."


She listened. She knew better than to think that she could disagree with that sentiment.


"So, you put all these sorts together.  Pirates seekin' booty or freedom.  Adventure's all the same. And an avaricious Empire with its own to gain.  And what do you get?" He gestured with his hand, "Lots o' mates tellin' each other how they got to do it.  And none of 'em listenin'.  The strongest and cleverest win, at least temporarily.  And 'ere we are again. Its the Limsan way, ever been so."  He nodded with some satisfaction. "Like one of those show-plays I hear you did, aye?"  


He turned his good eye upon her as she listened, "So you don't think it could have gone any other way?"


"Oh, it could have gone many ways.  But it'd only have been a difference o' degrees.  Nothin's really changed.  All a bunch of noise and ruckus makin' for no end.  Maybe it'd have been worse to have a Garlean island out there, but it'd be a problem for the Maelstrom more than us."

"About the Maelstrom, what about all the trouble they had? The riots, the court martials and all?  You don't think any of that's going to matter?" She asked, eyes fixed on the preparing ship.


"Well.  The Maelstrom: they were just a bunch of pirates.  They're still just a bunch of pirates.  All that's different is they're smarter than they used to be: they decide things by figurin' out who'd win the fight, rather than actually killin' each other.  Saves a lot of wasted effort and ships and makes the Admiral look like a genius."


He waved his hand, "And, yeah, tension with the Foreign Levy, right?  But here's the thing: they never really did trust the Foreign Levy.  Always a thorn in their side, just a necessary thorn.  I don't think that's changin'.  They're willin' to shame one of their own to keep the Levy happy, but that's about as far as they'll go."


"What Captain Hellfist and the other Privateers?"


"I don't know, really.  She's just another dead pirate.  I mean, what do you want?  You tell someone pirate's get into trouble, and the Syndicate's wicked, and they're already gonna know exactly what you mean.  How's this been any different?" He let out a dark laugh, "Hell, if the Captain had known what was going to happen she'd probably have done the same damn thing.  Pirates are proud like that.  And as long as the Maelstrom can keep them in line, nothin' changes.  So far, so good.  Probably all the better for Limsa, in the end.  We've got more than enough problems as is."


"How did you know about the Syndicate?" She asked with surprise.


He laughed, "You don't give me much credit, do you?  Not like its hard to figure out.  Just think about the circumstance, its obvious whose interest it was in.  S'imba had nothin' to gain, really.  And as we seen, he's no ally of the Maelstrom.  If anythin' I wager he was on Hellfist's side.  I'd have liked to seen the looks on his eyes when they accused 'im of killin' her!"


She focused on him with narrowed eyes.  He'd peeled the onion with surprising deftness.  She thought about delving further, but instead shifted the question again, "And what about Gloam?" she asked.


"What about it?" He repeated.  "Its a pirate haven.  There been dozens of them before.  The Maelstrom put an end to most, turned 'em into bases for their own operations when they brought the pirates to heel. This one's just a place out of time.  And it'll end jes' the same."


"Yeah?  How's that?"  She asked, unsure of exactly what he meant.


"They'll draw attention.  Bringing in even more pirates who don't like bein' told what to do.  But, in the end, there's only one way to settle things: the strongest get their way.  They'll fight, with each other, with others. Power will shift one way then another.  Finally, they'll piss someone off too much, be it Maelstrom or Garlemald, and they'll be snuffed out 'afore anyone even knows what's happenin'."


"You think they're doomed?" She asked; he felt a pang of sympathy in her blue-eyed gaze.  


"What can I say?  They don't have many options do they?  Survive raidin' eastern independents?  Even then the Empire will get tired of it eventually.  Can't raid Eorzean vessels, can't raid Garlean without invitin' another expedition.  The Empire, o'course, learns its lessons well.  This time there won't be any question o' the result."


She nodded, letting out a breath, perhaps he was right.  "Even if they don't, I wonder what we've really gained in Gloam..."


"Good question.  Places like that aren't really as nice as they sound at first.  They're only as nice as the strongest gun-arm lets them be.  That's the way with pirates, always been.  All those idealistic paeans you 'eard were just that.  They can't survive in reality.  They talk about 'freedom' as if they could find any such thing out there.  Squeezed between the Maelstrom and the Empire, with no one but the biggest guns to decide what's right.  That's no freedom, not really."

"I know you're right about that... " She'd never really liked pirates. She could respect many of their desires, their valor, and bravery. But at the end of the day, they were people who survived through pure violence.  Violence against each other, and violence to prey upon those weaker than them.  Its why she'd chosen not to live among them.


"The damned thing is that they've already forgotten the lessons Limsa Lominsa learned the hard way." He added with the flick of the cigarette, "The Maelstrom didn't come out of nowhere.  Its an adaption to changing times.  The old ways are dead for a reason, and there ain't no revivin' 'em.  A bunch of besotted pirates can't fight against reality, can't fight and win, at least."


She sighed, hanging her head momentarily.  "I know... I'd always wondered what their end game was.  I was sure they'd never give up their Garlean protection, where can they go now?  It is hopeless isn't  it..."


He nodded.  Its obvious she'd cared about the cause - or, perhaps, not so much the cause, as those who had fought for it.  "That's just the damned thing isn't it.  To 'ave any real sense of freedom, they'd have had to give it all up.  Lose-lose.  Better to die trying, which I guess is what ol' Slaeglac did in the end.  Just went better than he'd expected."  He bit his good lip for a moment while looking for a way to change her depressed tone, "Still, it was somethin' at least to beat a Garlean squadron.  They'll be lickin' their wounds for a while."


"Of course..." She nodded very slightly, lowering her gaze.  "The trouble is that it means the Empire won't underestimate the Maelstrom next time."


"O' course," he nodded in agreement.  "That's truth, and I'm sure you know what it means." She nodded in agreement before he continued, "We've given away the element of surprise in exchange for respite, for a near-worthless little island.  Not perhaps the best play for the Maelstrom"


"Its not worthless to those there, at least..." she countered, thinking of the Osric, Leanne, and others who'd rallied to the cause of those on the island.  "And in the end, they did stand up to the Empire."


"Truth again.  And in full honesty, it ain't exactly worthless, except when lookin' at it from the Admiral's perspective.  Someone out there's makin' a pretty penny off it, no doubt.  Its gonna be a growin' concern for some time.  And whoever's makin' the pennies is a clever one, I'd wager. He's not puttin' many back into it."


He nodded to himself, "There's your real winner, if you were lookin' for one."


She just watched the sea.  "No doubt..."  she stated in a distant, soft voice, while her mind wandered to Edda and her father.  


"O' course there are other winners. In Limsa, no one's goin' to remember a riot a week later.  But, reputations 'ave a way of stickin'. And more than a few 'ave been made and lost 'ere.  Slaeglac's name is near legend, can't say how long that will last, but that's a man who won't have to pay for his own rum for a while.  Seems there are a few other Officers who've earned themselves promotion too.  That Holkstymm, for example.  Word is he's gonna found some new Maelstrom judicial branch, or somethin'.  I don't know if I care for that, pirates is still pirates in the end."


"And, a few others have lost theirs, I doubt its necessary for me ta mention the names, but they're out there on the streets."


She knew just who he meant. Her thoughts wandered to Anstarra, Yheli, and others. For some it wasn't so much that they'd lose their standing with the Maelstrom, as the Maelstrom had lost its standing with them. Zanzan, Khunbish - and no doubt more who would never look upon their membership in the Levy quite the same way, if they did not resign it completely.


"Those are the sorts of things that stick with us - effect the future in ways no one can know yet.  That'll wind up mattering more than Gloam, I'm sure."


She looked at him, curious, if unconvinced.  


"And, o' course..." he turned to her, a direct gaze she couldn't help but return, "There are a couple of sailors alive who wouldn't have been otherwise.  That's somethin', aye?"


A smile played over her lips, she could see the old friend she remembered - in there somewhere beneath that cynical crust of an exterior.


"It is..." she readily agreed, thankful to think of something more positive.


"Savin' those that didn't have to die.  That's something to take home with you and put in your pipe for a good smoke."  He turned back to the sea, nodding.  "Maybe it'll mean even more someday.  Depends what the lads do now, I wager."


"We can hope."


"Aye... if hope's worth having'."  He seemed unconvinced, and paused for a moment as he enjoyed the quickly dwindling cigarette.  


"That reminds me, there's also a certain Miqo'te privateer that made fool of himself several times over.  He and that mate of his, 'Troublemaker', 'Problemsolver', whatever it is."  He flicked his eyes toward her with a hint of accusation, as if he knew of her friendship with S'imba and Osric, and her time on the Sultana's Revenge.


She turned her eyes back toward him.  "That's somethin' likely to stick for a while too.  More bad, than good, for him I'd wager."


"Speakin' o' the 'Revenge'," he started, "I heard a strange rumor.  The crew's sayin' they had some sort of blonde goddess aboard out at Gloam."  He offered a brief glance her way, as he knocked the ash off his nearly finished smoke.  "You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"


She turned to him, lips slightly parted as she avoided a straight answer.  He flicked the bud of his cigarette into the briny deep.


"That's what I thought." He stated with a laugh while pushing back from the railing.  Turning to walk away he waved an empty hand back to her, "I'd stay far away from Gloam if I were you.  There aren't enough real goddesses to go around, as is."


She sighed.  That was that then...

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Limsa Lominsa - Foremast - Parade Square - [Very Slightly NSFW]


The sun rose high over the Foremast as a unit of Yellowjackets and Maelstrom guards gathered. Security was heavy, despite the lack of a crowd; the recent Simb’a incident necessitated the large guard as Limsan officials sought to prevent another lost of face. Nevertheless, the lack of a crowd drew some awkward concerns from a few of the guards, “Where is everyone?”, “Did yea he’r? Ever since the Hellfist folks started disappearing, they be saying there is a curse,” “Yea jest? Me thought those only rumors,” “They say this one worked for them dirty Ul’dahians, mayhap they making sure….”, “Sush, yea don’t call down the Trader’s curse by poking yea nose around…, they say them Death's Embrace are involved...”


The rumor mill continued churning around as the guards sought to alley their concerns by reaffirming their superstitions. After a bell, drums rolled and the guards automatically scurried into position and snapped to attention with drill-honed precision. Drums rolled and a group of people emerged from the shadow of the Foremast towards a prepared stage. In the middle of the group, bound in tight ropes and in light clothes barely preserving her modesty, was a female Xaela, the prisoner Chakha Hotgo. Her tail sways perhaps unconsciously with the drumroll and she looks up at the open clear sky, her face locked and devoid of emotion.


How long ago had it been since that fateful day in Hawker’s Alley, where she spotted aaja… where the world she thought she had lost… came tumbling back. At first it was disorienting, then maddening… especially once she learned of the man… the Zanzan. She was well acquainted with the scheming nature of his kind; while she saw her former mistress as a friend, she knew very well how true that stereotypes of her mistress’s kind, the lalafell, can be. Such silly assumptions however, cast shadows within her mind that clawed at her psyche… once more, it felt as if someone was trying to take away what family she had left.


She remembered the sun… the night… cries of fear and terror… the laughter of the massacrers… the roar of the cannon… the yells in the night… screams of outrage … what was she remembering? What was she recalling? The drumbeats synchronized with her heartbeat… with the beats of her minds eye set adrift into the depths of her memories. Before long she was on the platform… and the officer read out the charges and sentence… what was said is said and what is to be done shall now be done. The whip was raised, and the punisher’s face blanked out against the sun (and covered by a hood). With a lash… it came down and the sentence began.


One Lash - it barely registered, despite the officer’s strength and sense of duty in carrying out the punishment. Within, the shock was absorbed as she recalled the true nature of her flesh… and mayhap soul. For a soldier of the Empire, magitek was the incarnation of Garlemeld’s superiority over the rest of the world… and to use it… to become one with it… was considered a means of becoming a part of the Imperial war machine. For the shadows of Garlemeld, many did not utilize said enhancements… fearful of what could be lost in the process. However, for those devoid of purpose nor care, said enhancements were means of granting both physical and cultural power among the legions of the Empire.


Ten Lashes - Was it her decision? Yes. She cannot deny it. They filled her emptiness with power - with purpose - she was no longer Chakha of the Hotgo - a innocent naive girl of the steppes. She was a weapon… a tool to be used by those who would impose order on the world - a tool did not need family nor did they need to feel… no remorse, no regret. The orderless world of the steppes took from her… the Dotharl as she knew… did not felt remorse nor regret… in a “free” world… they celebrated their slaughter. Those who would go against order needs be cut out before they infect others… if only the Dotharl were destroyed before… she wondered. If only they were all destroyed…


Fifteen Lashes - Her body shook, but she felt numb - how many people did she eliminate? Was the Dotharl band the first… when she lead the Empire to their camp? Or her fellow trainee? Or was it the insurgent boy? The corrupt centurion? Eliminate. Eliminate. Eliminate. Erase. Erase. Erase. The whip cracked against her skin - openly breaking and bleeding, but her castle remained strong. Erase, Eliminate, Remove, Cut, Delete. Delete. Delete. So many lives… so many diseased portions… so many possibilities… so many hopes and dreams… erased… deleted… eliminated.


Twenty Lashes - How many lives did she delete - eliminate - erase? As easily as a entry into a Allagan data frame or Garlean processor - she removed many confounding variables, without a hint of regret or hesitation. Her orders came down and she carried them out. A shinobi is a tool, a blade used by their masters, the only objective that matters is that the mission is carried out to its fullest. A running family of a rebellious lord. A noisy local official. Annoying pirates off Ilsabard. An army moving through a narrow and collapsible pass. So many faces, all blank and full of regret. Hers or theirs?


Twenty-five Lashes - Her master was defeated. It seemed impossible, but it became fact once the apparent missive was sent out. Many had betrayed their homelands, their people, their families, yet a single letter had abandoned them to the hordes. Chakha herself was on assignment in Vylbrand, disposing of a bothersome pirate captain, before learning from her contact of her master’s death and the disbandment of the Shadows. Never since the massacre had she experienced such a shock… but it remained for only a moment. She was alone again… far from those she knew… cut off from her duty and purpose. A blade cast off into the sea.


Thirty Lashes - There she would have remained, if not for the experiences she obtained while wandering the land of savagery. Chakha knew who would have need of her services, and who would give her a purpose once more. A aspiring, yet unfortunately overambitious merchant. A renegade paw. A crazed heir. A gang of rogue Blades. Her new masters were pleased with her work and sharpened her blade with praise and generous portions of gil. She was passed along like a borrowed sword - she was a borrowed sword - owned by those who knew of her. A short time, yet a long time, eventually leading her to her last mistress.


Thirty-five Lashes - Emerald eyes scanned her face, blonde hair with black highlights frame her head, although Chakha could smell the faint scent of hair dye. She had been passed along from master to mistress to master… and now she found herself in the employ of a girl only a summer or two below her own age. “Hi! I mean… *cough* greetings, Miss.” Her first mission with the mistress, passed over from her old master to the young mistress… was amusing. Infiltration. A trinket shrouded in darkness. She wasn’t sure that her new mistress knew the nature of her work. But the times… was entertaining, at the very least.


Forty Lashes - For the first time in a long time, she eliminated relatively little. Here and there, an unfortunate soul. At first, it was a misunderstanding… but as she knew more about her mistress… she became hesitant… briefly… her means of elimination changed. The greatest of her past work was her capacity for delayed action… the army in the pass, the rogue Blades… the renegade gourmet. She refined these skills as she worked about fulfilling the innocent requests of the girl. For a time… she recall… “Because we’re friends, right?” A dramatic yet honest smile, it was a interesting time. The tool felt itself being used in interesting ways, yet it felt something. It did not quite feel… this way in a long time.


Forty-five Lashes - It began when she moved to Limsa - Hellfist. What a pompous yet stereotypically Limsan moniker. One name caused so much trouble, she had eliminated, deleted, cut, removed so many others. Yet this one name caused so much trouble, it was another mark - another name to slash off on a lifetime of marks. Mayhap it would have been easier if she did not find her ajaa and learned of the Zanzan which grasped the former’s heart. Twice did she come close to slaying the Zanzan, yet it only looked at her… ‘his’ attempted murderer with strange eyes. Hate she knew. Fear as well. But the Zanzan did not show such emotions. Thus, she concluded that the Zanzan is a deceptive and unknowable being. Even if ajaa ordered her to tolerate him, she still could not bring herself to accept the Zanzan. The Zanzan was not a mark, none desire his death, yet she felt - she FELT.


Fifty Lashes - She felt for the first time in years. Days of light and joy, shrouded by a night of fear and terror, the pain between her legs and heart shearing away the brilliance of the past into dark agony through which becoming a object was a means of release. I’m sorry. She said… now or in the past? The object felt… the object desired and despised… the object regret and saw a long line of puppets… their blank faces filling up with features as they turned to stare at the sinner. In a world where life was cheap, the auditor reigned; yet now the soul counter turned her… it’s gaze on her. A snap. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. She was alone again… on the dark steppes… fires in distance behind her… and a new sun rising… figures approaching from the sunrise. The imperial patrol of her past…? her ajaa…? Or a new shadow cast by her own mind?


A few bells later - Chakha huddled in her cell, her treated wounds still aching and her horns and tail end throbbing; conjury had closed the wounds, yet the stings of the mind still hurt. She muttered “I’m sorry…” over and over, until a presence pressed upon her. She opened her eyes, and a figure sat there on the floor. It eyed her through reptilian yet familiar eyes, “Regret is for the weak.” It stated in a robotic monotone, a voice she recalled using in the past, “You have become weak, vulnerable.” It stated. “I will regret… for ajaa’s sake,” Chakha replied. The figure just sat there and tilted her head, “Ajaa does not understand. She doesn’t know all that you’ve done. She is blinded. But she will see one day. She will abandon you one day. You are a tool. To cut, to eliminate, to delete, to destroy. That is your purpose.” Chakha closed her eyes, “No. No. No.”



Prison Hulk - Off the Coast of Limsa Lominsa - 


“Ey, who she talking too? She’s the only one in the cell.”, “Shush, they of get delusional after a flogging. Just ignore it.” "How she only get off with fift'ty lashes for murde'r?" "Ant' non left of the Hellfist crew to call for he'r ead. So the Admiralty just wiping their hands of it. Yea know how it works, you don't got a crew to yell at the Command Post, yea just chowder for the fish. 


The guard muttered, ""Plus, this here lady got the service of Lieutenant Zanzan. They say he could convince the Admiral herself to dress up like a lass, or get the Syndicate to convict themselves in a forthnight with his siren voice. A real enthralling thing that little man is." "Mayhap he be a siren, glamoured in the guise of a man?", the other guard whispered, his eyes shifting back and forth. "Mayhap, gotta keep a eye on that little one."

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[Following the week of April 9, to April 16]


When the call came, Anstarra was unprepared.


One might be inclined to believe there was a pattern to such things, or perhaps a sort of balance; a cynical or philosophical (or religious?) mind would perhaps state that it was a right and just balancing of scales. That she should be called upon when otherwise needed. Alternately, such a mind might conclude that she was being blessed; for was this not a reprieve from responsibilities she had been growing ever more desperate to avoid, and had just now been buckling down to face?


Whatever the reason, or underlying order of cosmic balance (if such a thing even existed), Anstarra was unprepared... and yet responded eagerly, hastily, when she got the call. The first call, the one she'd been expecting for half a moon, almost to the day.


The call to go back to sea.


There was a certain romance to it, to be sure, underscoring the dread. Romance, and a sort of... appropriateness, which was a terribly unromantic word. Perhaps destiny (though she didn't like to lean on that word too heavily what with certain other obligations she'd been hiding from). Still, it WAS appropriate that that which she'd been cast from, that which she'd lost by committing her crime, be regained through... another crime.


Even if she didn't quite know what said crime WAS. Even after the sennight's journey shipside was past.

"We have every intention to make use of your skillset. Your past accomplishments are nothing to scoff at. For the most part, you can expect to be sent to sea from time to time, mostly with men who have been in your shoes before. The jobs will be simple. You will be raiding very specific Garlean trade routes, and sinking ships there. As you will be taught by the Captain, there will be no boarding, and no contact with outside sources. It is work you should have an ease of familiarity with, I am told."


It had sounded too good to be true, too easy, compared to the weight of the crime she'd committed. She told herself that made sense; of course they would recruit those willing to do the work. Killing, sinking Garlean ships... or even Eorzeans trading to Garleans... that was not so unpalatable. They were traitors, weren't they? There was a humorous, slightly bitter irony to the notion that she'd be doing pirates' work after all, but at the end of the day, if it meant she could walk on Vylbrand with minimal fear of being arrested, it was a small price to pay.


Too small a price. The more she'd thought about it, of course, the more she'd worried, and so she'd devoted herself to not thinking about it. Drowning herself in dissolute pleasures, in adventurous combat, in the attentions of willing lovers, in work at the Host Club, in that little escapade in Ul'dah in which she helped to bring down Lord Kokoripu (and hadn't that been satisfying? She'd been reprimanded, by Alec, for taking such a risk, after.. but he'd still had to praise her for bringing those valuable documents, pillaged from the monetarist's mansion, to him).


Never mind that niggling question, as to why they weren't to board those ships. Pirates who only sunk, and didn't pillage... it smacked more of assassination, or financial sabotage, than simple piracy. She'd been told to ask no questions, beyond the necessary, which did not at all keep her from THINKING them. At the end of the day though, it didn't matter. It was what she had to do. To be able to return to Limsa.


And she HAD returned. Even before being sent on this mission.


She still remembered setting foot on the landing platform. One sennight nearly to the day after making the deal, the time frame Alec had promised... which had seemed inconceivable to her. Setting foot on solid ground. Keeping a smile on her face, trying not to look like the wanted criminal she knew she SHOULD be, as she went through customs. Half-certain that it had all been some sort of scam, a vicious prank, a trap...


...and then, somehow, miraculously, getting through. Welcome to Limsa Lominsa. Bustling merchants, hawkers, sailors. That moment, when she noticed a Yellowjacket staring at her, she remembered freezing in sudden panic... and then virtually sobbing with relief when he made a lewd gesture.


It had been true, all of it. Everything Alec had promised. She didn't go flaunting herself around Maelstrom Command... and she'd avoided flirting with Baderon like she used to (the man was a little too savvy to rumors and stories, after all), but otherwise Limsa had welcomed her back with open arms.


Leading her, of course, to wonder just what in the Seven Hells she'd gotten into. Until, one sennight later, the time came... to go to work.



The Merciless Maid sailed out of Moraby on a cool, misty morn. A sizeable ship, comparable to the Iron Bitch in complement, though there the resemblance ended. Armed to the teeth and crewed by every manner of ruffian, they set out.


A full sennight she would spend on board, and far from the worst she'd ever spent, aside from the frustrating and incomprehensible ban (ban!) on sexual relations. Past troubles, she was told. Captain Herlmhas' own personal orders. The Captain himself was a touch peculiar, demanding order and cleanliness somewhat beyond what she was used to, yet was not overall unlikeable. The crew... no particular surprises there. A fair spread, mostly male, mostly Limsan, all of whom had done something to put themselves on the wrong side of the law (though most did not willingly speak of their crimes, at least at first).


Out then, to the high seas. To the Bounty, where they sought their prey... and soon found it. A single, unmarked vessel by way of Thavnair. She tried to flee. The Maid did not let her.


Anstarra helped load cannons. Her comparatively small size and disproportionate physical strength allowed for quick work, and she took pride in the fact that her station was ready before any other, each time a salvo was to be launched. The heavy smoke of firepowder, the blinding rush of action... the shocking, deafening roar of the cannons. Over and over, until the enemy ship... until the target was utterly destroyed, and sunk.


And that was it.


Always, in the past, she'd been up top, ready to board... had been among the first to engage in bloody melee. She felt no qualms about battle, but to kill like this, far away, out of reach felt... unfair. Like she'd cheated the enemy of the chance to fight back, to take her own blood. Or, perhaps, like SHE had been cheated of the chance to have her own blood spilled. The rush and thrill. The savagery.


Her shipmates did not share the sentiment. Indeed, it seemed that other times their targets on occasion had been far more difficult, well-armed or even escorted; this attack was a milk run, by their reckoning, and they were glad of it. In the after-time, some of them would paint vivid images of past times when it had not been so easy: fellows of theirs getting shattered by cannon fire, unable to see or even realize their deaths before they happened.


These discussions did much to dispel Anstarra's qualms over 'fairness'. The old rules were true out here. Predatory truths. Kill or be killed, no quarter, no chances.


In a way, it was... chillingly nostalgic.



The return took place without incident. Deprived of one of her physical activities of choice, she indulged in the other: melee combat training. Far more on the return trip... she did not turn, in her heart, from the simple truth that the mass-murder of a shipful of complete strangers had been something of a bonding exercise.


It was a dark thought. But, more and more, she was coming to the fullest understanding of the fact that it was a dark world, not just back home, but everywhere. And the only brightness that mattered was that which you held in your hands, be it wealth or love or friendship. That which was tangible and close, not some murky painting lying in the past, nor some promising gleam in the future. The here, the now, that which you had or would soon have.


And so she helped train them. These killers and thieves. These traitors and con-men. These villains.


These fellows.


These kindred spirits.


And when she disembarked at Moraby, on a cool morning not unlike the one she left upon... when she looked up, and saw Limsa Lominsa's flag drifting lazily in the breeze, she smiled, and tossed a salute. And then spat on the docks.



And then Anstarra made her way off, tail dancing as she thought only of how she was going to throw Nihka over her shoulder, and carry her to a room.


Possibly for a sennight.

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Vesper Bay, within the Sultana’s Revenge


A gentle melody was woven together within the captain's quarters, its sole instrument being the voice of a humming seeker examining oneself in front of a mirror. The old desk which she used was completely bereft of objects, most of them packed together within the large backpack sitting by the door. She would miss that desk, she said to herself on an errant thought. Commanding an entire ship was never her thing, but she would miss being able to boss people around. A long sigh interrupts the flow of Leanne’s voice and mind as she turns around to regard Ribald, who were the entire time by the other side of the room, quietly resting by the wall with his impassive demeanor. Sensing his captain’s eyes falling on his person, the man straightened himself into a more erect posture, which prompted a faint smile out of the girl.


“...How do I look?” Leanne asked, showing herself off to the man. Ribald, by then used to the girl’s sunny disposition proceeded to shrug, maintaining his cool, even tone of voice. “Ye look ready t’ be hanged.” he shook his head afterwards, continuing his prose. “Honest opinion, capt’? Ye be makin' a big deal out 'o 'tis. Fer ye charges, what ye be gettin' at best be 15 lashes.” Leanne’s smile grew sheepish at his words, the little embarrassment she felt allowing a hand to crawl under the beret she wore, if only to scratch the fiery mane of hair underneath. “Aye. You are right.” she shook her head afterwards as her arm fell back to her side. “Everything is ready?”


The man proceeded to sight before taking calm, if not lazy steps towards the table, dropping a tall, still corked bottle of rum, label seemingly scratched away not only by hand, but by age. Sitting on a chair, Ribald reclined and crossed his arms with a soundly grunt. “Aye. Th' men have their orders. They...” he closes his eyes before grunting again. “They be not quite sure whether or not followin' ye or th' previous cap'n be worth it, but they be doin' as ordered. 'Tis be what ye wanted, right? Loyalty.”


Leanne pursing her lips momentarily, slowly nodded. “...You are right.” turning away from the man, she walks in a briskly pace towards the door, lowering herself if only to take her backpack, and slinging it over her back. As her hand rested on the knob, a pause ensued. “I was going to ask for you to keep an eye on the idiot for me, but...you are not staying, are you.”


The man’s expression, usually devoid of any particular expression, couldn’t help but allow a brow to float up his forehead. If the small change in features denoted amazement, curiosity, or something else, Leanne could not tell. “Ye be right. After S’imba returns, I’m goin’ to Gloam, see if I can join one 'o th' crews over thar.”


Leanne exhaled. “Thought as much. A question. Ribald…? Why did you help and follow me so faithfully?” the old, seasoned highlander remained calm as ever, idly opening a flask before having a deep draw of whichever contents were within. After a short breath, the man shrugged, smoothing out his ever unkempt locks. “You promoted me, didn’t you capt’? Were I supposed to do any different?” The seeker, in a mindless manner, nodded to his words. “Well, aye, but...”


The man continued. “I like ye, Leanne. I reckon ye did a good job as capt’, inexperienced as ye be. But be aware, whoever won that “competition”, ye or Melkire, didn’t matter to me, or others in th’ crew. We be not men actin' fer th' sake 'o a cause, or seekin' to do heroics. We be just folk tryin' to scrape by our days, dealin' wit' cards life gives us.” he sighed before waving Leanne off with a hand. “That is why yer floggin’ is a waste of time. Yer satisfying only yerself ‘n yer-” Leanne interjected. “My sense of right. Yes, I’m aware.” Ribald nodded. “Right. No one gives a rat’s arse to it except yerself. But if ye are that keen to uphold whatever ye want to, I won’t stop ye.” he grunted. “All I will do is t' fort ye built fer him as promised, but only 'til th' other cat comes to take it. Ye do what you must, capt’.”


The seeker nodded once more before drawing a sigh and looking over her shoulder, irradiating her warm smile. “...Thanks for your service, First Mate. It was a pleasure having you onboard.” Ribald, in answer, raised his flask. “Glad to be 'o service, capt’. May th’ weather be fair t’ ye.” Leanne tipped her beret to the man before finally opening the door. Off she goes.

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She was used to these sort of looks.


They didn’t come so often anymore, not as long as she avoided the Shroud. Limsa, after all, had never been racist to her in the way the Wildwoods were. Here, Ojene was an irregularity- a spectacle. But by now a familiar one. And in the days of adventurers, she was no longer the La Noscean rarity she once was.


But still, she stood out.


As part of the flow, Ojene walked, just another body milling her way through sweeping Limsan bridges. The younger, the faster, the unencumbered passed her, circling by as her cane tapped against wood and stone. So it was, that a Sea Wolf stepped around her. A red bandana splashed over the woman’s deep brown hair, clashing with the ragged jerkin that hung from her shoulders. She shot a glance at Ojene as she passed… and her eyes narrowed.


Ojene knew that look. Her hand tensed on the head of her cane. But the Sea Wolf didn’t pause, didn’t stop. With a nose-wrinkling sneer, she whipped away and strode a little faster until she vanished into the crowds.




I wonder if she was from Gloam.


It was a reasonable thought, Ojene presumed. The rap of her cane quickened as she changed her direction for a path a little more populated. Rumors flew like birds sometimes, and it seemed like far more people than she’d care to say had caught wind of that ludicrously tall middle-aged Duskwight who’d turned a Maelstrom hearing on its head. Or at least, who’d tried her best to do so.


The response wasn’t all great. That was to be expected, when you stepped up to defend an unpopular Commodore from the accusations of adventurers who’d never had to make the sorts of calls he did. But adventurers were capricious creatures. Their hatred would burn and flare, then vanish, puffing out on the wind when the next big thing drifted their way. If they’d ever questioned themselves, Ojene would never know. But their actions too often did not seem like the sort taken by people who put great thought into the greater ramifications to come. If they had, they’d likely have done some things differently. Or perhaps they’d never have sought the Commodore’s blood, for they’d have understood the instability their actions could bring.


Commodore Haelstrymm. As she made for the Coral Tower, her eyes lit upon the back of a massive Roegadyn with a bald patch in the back, and for a tremulous flash she wondered if it was him. But when he turned his head, his features were all different- a scarred cheek. A broken nose. And Ojene couldn’t deny the tingle of relief that spread through her bones.

The former Commodore would want to talk to her, she suspected. And she would be duty-bound to engage in conversation. To stand before him. To hear what he had to say. Maybe he’d thank her. Commend her. Maybe he wouldn’t. She’d probably find out, in the days to follow. It wasn’t a bad thing. Nay, it was a mark, perhaps, of how far she’d come. But something about the thought sent an unease roiling beneath her skin, one with an origin she couldn’t quite place.


Duty. She’d done her duty. That was the important part. And without a moment’s hesitation, she’d do it again.


As Ojene stepped into the Maelstrom offices in the Coral Tower, the bookkeeper sitting at the front desk looked up with a smile. The uniformed soldiers standing nearby did too. She was becoming known, it seemed. And here, amongst the Grand Company she’d sworn to defend, the rumors were apparently good.


“Miss Suinuet, back again.”


“Yes.” She stopped before him, both hands laid atop the head of her cane. “Is Second Commander Holskstymm in?”


“Nay, nay.” The bookkeeper pushed back his narrow spectacles with one finger. “He left on business this morn.”


“Ah.” Ojene reached into the sturdy pouch at her side. “That’s fine. Just see this delivered to him when he returns.”


Out she pulled a sealed letter, the hardened wax seal freshly cooled. The parchment crinkled as the man took it. “I will. Does that mean we’ll be seeing you round here more often?”


Ojene paused. And she flashed the bookkeeper a wry smile. Rumors.


“Yes,” she said. “I quite expect it does.”


It was a peculiar sensation that washed over her as she stepped back out into the Limsan sun. An end of an era, but the beginning of something new. Miss Suinuet she would be no longer. At least not here. Legalman Suinuet, Storm Sergeant to the Maelstrom, now that was a title to say.




She was going to have to practice her salute.

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