The Fifth Path (16/30)

Anatu’s Diary Entry for Simanu 12th

Dear diary, I know I have not spoken with you for a long time. I hope you can forgive me once you hear my story. If I could have spoken with you I would have, not once, not ten times, but every night. I am not sure I will be able to tell you everything this time dear diary. Not because I am not allowed, or because its too dangerous, but because I don’t know if I can go through with describing all of the events that have occurred since we last spoke. I’ll do my best though. I’ll really try.

We got captured by pirates. We did our best. We were careful. We almost got away a bunch of times. We got caught anyways. We were thrown into a terrible, disgusting, vile, foul smelling cell for a while. Then we were dragged out, stripped naked and presented to the two captains of the ship. They are named Randle Halk and Issi Halk, though they prefer being called Big Brother and Princess respectively. They are not really siblings even though they say they are. I mean, they grew up together, so maybe that counts, but they were born from different parents. Princess is the color of charcoal. Her hair is a touch darker, and even her eyes are all but pure black. Her clothes are always brightly colored though, and she always wears a bright red dye on her lips. Though she is very small, she is extremely strong and fast. She keeps her fingernails long and sharp. She is cruel. I like Randle better. He is huge, one of the largest people I have ever seen. His skin is like the ghost children that are killed at birth back home. His hair is like fire. He has a lot of it, all over his body. His clothes are bright too, always a color that compliments his sister’s. He is strong too, but he acts gentle. I know its not real, but its still better than Princess. He wants you to love him. She wants you to fear her. Together they get what they want.

When we first met them, they shot our friend, the not man, captain of our ship. His body was hung on the sail after he died from the wound. Or maybe before, knowing Prin Issi. Then they talked to Nabua for a while. I became very sick once we returned to the cell. The smell and the sea and everything left me with nothing but a need to get everything out, even after all of it was. That night, vomiting nothing and feeling the worst I have ever felt was the last time I saw Nabua for a long time. We were all taken to different places in the morning. I was made to row. I kept throwing up nothing, but I get beat every time I did, and somehow, eventually my body learned to stop. Or I learned how to make it stop. I still felt like I needed to, but I held it back, just jerked a bit, swallowing and rowing. I was so hungry. I tried to eat the food, but I knew that I would not be able to keep it down if I did. Somehow I managed to keep rowing even though I was sure I did not have the strength for it. It was that or the lash, and dang it, diary, the lash hurts. It doesn’t just hurt you though, it makes you dread it, makes you fear it, makes you do anything not to feel it. I was lucky I was strong. Once I stopped throwing up, I stopped getting hit. I rowed, I slept, eventually I learned to eat. I went above deck once or twice, which is when I saw our dead captain hanging there. I did not know the language of the person next to me, and they kept staring at me in the way that men do, so I had no desire to converse anyways.

I did my best to be ready for an opportunity to get out if something presented itself. I eventually realized that my Baal was also in the same rowing room as me, and so I began keeping track of him, wanting to at least be able to warn him of threats even if I had no way to protect him from them. I forced myself to eat the food and tried to make sure I moved my legs and exercised them even when I was so tired I could barely see. I got word from my Baal eventually about a break out attempt. I was ready to play my part. I was glad to hear that my Baal was trying to get us out of this. I was just trying to be ready for an opportunity, not looking to make my own opportunity. Sadly, it didn’t work out. All the other conspirators were killed the night before the breakout was supposed to happen. Maybe not all. I counted the dead bodies, and there was one less then there was supposed to be. Must have been the traitor that sold us out. I was surprised me and my Baal were not among the dead, but maybe the traitor didn’t know about us, or maybe they thought we would be worth enough money not to kill us.

The next day I was assigned to clean something near the captains’ room. I heard screaming from inside. Then it stopped. Randle opened the door, carrying a body. The body was dripping blood from a ton of different places. Looked like cat scratches, maybe from one of those large cats that we had seen in the unpronounceable kingdom. He looked sad that the body was in fact a body, and not a person. He handed the corpse to a nearby pirate. Then there was shouting from inside the room, and a moment later Princ Issi came out. Her fingers were wet with blood. It looked the same color as her lips. She shouted at Randle for a while, then looked around, stopped her gaze on me, then ran her gaze up and down my body. I was used to such looks, but it was the first time I had ever experienced such a thing from a woman. A bit calmer, she pointed to me, then spoke to Randle a bit. She went inside. Randle came over to me, kneeling down to look me in the eye, his face kind. He tried several languages until he hit on Hishtu. The fact that I only know that and the true language has become, over time, one of the most annoying things about this journey. So much of the world speaks something else. There are so many other things spoken. He asks me some questions about where I work, what I do, what my name is etc. After I manage to remember how to talk, I tell him, glad to have someone to talk to for a bit. He seemed so nice, not like everyone else. Then he patted me on the head, ruffled my hair, and went over to talk to the pirate in charge of my cleaning duty. The pirate nodded. Then Randle went back in. My day continued. But when I was finished cleaning, I was brought back, not to my cell with all the other slaves, but to a small, cramped, but clean, and free of smells, room with a single cot.

In the morning I was cleaned up, and given clothes that actually seemed somewhat nice. Then I was brought up to the same floor, near the captains’ room, then brought inside with a bucket and a mop. The floor was stained with blood. I dutifully began to mop it up. I looked around while I was there. The pirate in charge of me had stepped out of the room almost as soon as he could, apparently afraid to stay in his captains’ room. I was alone, in a room filled with interesting things. I spotted Nabua’s journal sitting on a desk, open, with papers filled with notes and squiggles around it. Apparently one of the captains was trying to decode it. Before I could see much more however, P Issi came into the room, and I started staring at the ground, not looking around at all, certainly not. She prowled around me, watching me work for a bit, before sitting down in front of Nabua’s journal and writing things down. A while later I finished up, and I asked her if there was anything else she needed from me. She looked at the door. Then she motioned to a chair in the corner, instructing me to take a rest for the time being. I set the bucket and mop outside the room, then sat down. Since my face was not visible to her unless she turned around, I went back to inspecting the room. There were maps and globes and weapons on walls and golden trinkets and all sorts of different coins. I saw something that looked like the thing Issi had used to shoot our dead captain. Lots of books too, but all in languages I did not know. There were a lot of things in there that I did not even recognize. Eventually Randle came into the room.

Issi got up, and I was instructed too as well. The pair asked me some questions. They introduced each other to me. Randle talked about wanting to be good friends. Issi was more ambiguous. They spoke about there early adventures as members of another pirate crew, the vile betrayal by our former captain which had resulted in the death of that ship’s captain. They talked about working together to battle their way to the top in the resulting power vacuum. They described their policy changes upon assuming control, talked about all the treasure they had accrued, how they were the third most feared ship in these waters, how they had working relationships with entire governments, who would negotiate individually with them to prevent there attacks. Then they talked about how they were siblings and as close as could be, but how sometimes, they liked to bring others into their little family. Told me I had potential. Asked me if I wanted to be a part of the family. Randle shut the door. Issa walked tow

I did not sleep well that night. I was bleeding in several places. It was good I was in the clean new room or I would have been badly infected. I cried. I tried to sleep. I kept thinking about Princess and Randle. Mostly Princess though. Each time I would start to drift off, or think about something better, she would be there in my mind, not letting me think about anything else. I think I managed to get some sleep. I remember being woken up. It didn’t feel like I had slept though. I almost forgot about the previous day during my shower and while I was getting dressed. Then, I was brought upstairs, and I saw the brightly painted red door. I tried to run. The pirate with me caught me quickly and shouted at me. I screamed. He hit me with the whip. I curled up. I couldn’t go back in. But of course I could. And eventually, after a while, I did. I was bruised and bleeding. I went in. The siblings looked at me with shock. They seemed upset at my condition. They ran outside, and the pirate who had hit me did not have a good day. Randle gave me a hug, patting me on the head, telling me it would be alright. A different pirate was brought up, took me back to be cleaned up, to be cleaned off. Then I was taken back. I stopped stock still when I saw the door again, but this pirate was kinder. He spoke softly to me, moved me slowly towards the door, and even though I had no idea what he was saying, the sound was able to get me unclenched, able to walk again. I went inside.

It was like nothing had happened that last night. The pair treated me like a good friend, like the part of their family that they had talked about at first before… Every time they moved a little fast, or looked at me the wrong way, I flinched, but they acted like they did not understand why. They comforted me, and said kind things to me. Princess treated me like a little sister, showing me different things, giving me advice. Randle too was kind, though this was not actually as much of a surprise. And the whole day, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did. By the end I was managing to have fun. They were teaching me stuff, and it was interesting and useful. They were industrious pirates with an incredible knowledge of the sea and of people. Princess told me she would teach me her native tongue when I mentioned I felt bad about not speaking more than two languages. The day ended with no further events. I went back to my room, and I slept soundly.

The next day was the same. I woke up, got clean, then spent the day with the captains. I ate with them, meat and fruit and potatoes. We laughed and joked around and planned a raid on a port town. Then I went back to my room and slept. The day after that started the same too, but randomly, for no reason I could tell, at some point Randle closed the door, and that night I went to sleep bleeding again, again unable to sleep because my body kept shaking every time I thought about Princess Issi, and I couldn’t not think about her. And it continued like that. For days at a time they would treat me like their good friend, their little sister. I would learn and even get a chance to contribute. I taught both of the siblings some grappling moves. But then, sometimes, they would not be like that at all. And I would cry, and I would try and figure out why? What had I done wrong? I tried being nice. I tried to figure out what I could be doing or saying that would make them like that. It didn’t seem to matter. Even when I was as nice as I could be it would happen. And when I tried to yell, to ask them why, to get some response from them about it, they would just comfort me, tell me they cared about me. I started doubting myself. Was this happening? But I had the scars and the blood to prove it. I was not crazy. It felt like it would have been better if I was. It just kept going. I thought about fighting back, and I even tried once or twice, but it was always worse if I did. So I let it happen, and I tried to not make mistakes and I cried when it happened. Then we landed at a port town and the pair said they would be gone for a day or two. I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. Would those two days have been the good days or the bad?

So I waited in my room. I considered escape. We were at a port now. There was a place to run. But I did not know where my Baal was. He could be safe outside, having been taken out to be sold, or he might be still trapped inside the hull of the ship, surrounded by the rot and decay and stench of that place. Would escaping bring me closer to or further from my Baal? That is my excuse for why I did not consider it further, dear diary, though I think the true reason might perhaps have been simple fear. The consequences of trying to escape and failing would be… I remember the first time I was there, when I cleaned up the blood. I don’t know why that had happened, but it had to have been like me. Something pushed them that far, and trying to escape might very well be what it was. So I waited in the cell like a good little sister, biding my time, doing what exercise I could in the tiny space. Prin Issi had permitted me to take a small book of phrases back with me to my room so that I might study her language when I had time. Then there was an explosion. I terrible noise split the air.

Then, I did want out. I banged on the door, but no one answered me. I heard shouting and screaming. I heard the boom of cannons and the clash of blades. Someone screamed close by. I heard the jingle of keys, and my door was opened by a fellow that looked to be from the unpronounceable kingdom. He shouted at me in his language, then shoved a sword into my hand, and ran on his way. Charging down the hall, apparently in search of more pirates to kill. I saw the one he had dispatched lying in a pool of blood just around the corner of the hall. I was conflicted. I still did not know where my Baal was. If he was on the ship, then maybe he would be safe and maybe not. If he was on land, then I had no idea. I didn’t know what was going on. After a short period of hesitation, I charged off down the hall that my rescuer had ran down. I’d check the holds first, see if he was chained up down here. I found my rescuer just as he was impaled by another pirate’s sword. Acting as fast as I could, I ran, slid under his legs, and disemboweled the pirate that had done the impaling. My rescuer, gave me a pained smile, ripped the blade right out of his own chest, and continued on charging down the corridor, yelling, and now carrying two swords. I made sure to stomp on the fallen pirate as I moved after my crazy ally. I was in the mood for a little revenge.

As it turns out, you will eventually die from blood loss if you pull a sword from your chest and then keep on fighting. It took nearly another two minutes, and the man killed another five or so pirates before he fell, but it happened. I pressed on, vowing to be slightly less suicidal in my campaign through the ship. I picked up keys from every fallen pirate I found or felled. Then, when I got to the cells, I checked for my Baal, then tossed in the appropriate keys, which were handily marked with symbols, and waved my sword around to indicate fighting pirates. Then I would run on to the next cell. Soon enough I had a regular old army following after me, everyone clanging swords together, eager to get some pirate blood. We ran into another of the unpronounceable kingdom attackers, and I had to do some very quick and convincing gesturing to convince my freed prisoners that she was on their side. Soon enough we had killed another dozen pirates, and had released every prisoner in the cells. It would seem that my Baal had been taken out to market. I refused to consider the other possibility. Imagine my surprise, dear diary, when, ten minutes later, still moving through the ship with my army, I should encounter my dear sweet Baal along with a strangely dressed Nabua. I hugged my Baal tightly, which set up a round of cheers from my little army, then gave a slightly less tight hug to Nabua, though, after hearing his story, perhaps he deserved the tighter one. In any event, I motioned for my freed compatriots to continue the cleansing and go on ahead, while me and my original compatriots stopped to chat for a bit.

There was a general desire to know what we had all been going through, but we all realized that would take way too long, so, assuming the role I had started to acquire back in the unpronounceable lands, I made a suggestion, then after a half second to see if my Baal wanted to veto, turned it into a command. So we all rushed off towards the room I really least wanted to return to, the room with the bright red door. But we had to go back, it had Nabua’s journal, and it had other stuff of ours, including my Baal’s signed agreements with the nations we had visited and some of the gifts we had been given on our travels. The door was closed, and I got a sick satisfaction from kicking it open. I held my breath for a moment as the door crashed open, then exhaled, both relieved and disappointed when it turned out the siblings were not present. Of course they weren’t they had gone to shore. We found everything I remembered being in there, including you, dear diary, and the autobiography draft of my Baal, but Nabua’s journal was missing. Prin Issi must have taken it I explained, siting her interest in decoding it. Nabua seemed shocked that that might be at all possible. Then we decided on our next move. We needed a bit more info to go on than what Nabua had told us already, so we stopped and he talked, giving us the basics of why there was a whole group of unpronounceable folks attacking this ship. He explained he had made a deal with them, and that we should be able to get most of our possessions back, assuming this ship was captured. He was worried about his journal getting away though, and suggested we go after the captains. I considered for a moment, my body flushed from adrenaline, thinking on the pirates I had killed. But then, I thought about Princess Issi Princess and my mind froze, and I shook my head, mumbling about it being too dangerous. So we helped with the mop up on the ship, and the captains got away. Then we got to meet the captain. But I’ll tell you about him next time dear diary. Hopefully I can be braver next time. Hopefully I can tell you everything next time. I’m sorry.

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