The Scarred Goddess, Chapter 5

Fiction By Bridget // 5/12/2009

Pirates of long ago were a children’s tale, a sailor’s yarn of things that might never have happened. They captured ships, murdered the men, and ravaged the women. I wasn’t all that sure that the pirates Hurh had spoken of were any more real than the others long ago. I asked Mante whether or not he thought any of the pirates, old or new, were real.

“Most assuredly. My grandfather fought in the first wave of pirates. He was captured and killed.” He spoke bitterly. But after that, I no longer doubted the pirates with such certainty.

Hurh wrote me with regularity, short but amusing tales of life at sea. He had yet to fight his first battle, although he hoped it would be soon.

It was three months or so since they had left when a ship came in bearing letters from the pirate-hunters, and also another ship that I didn’t even know of. It had been more than a month since my last letter from Hurh, and I was beginning to wonder if he was okay, so I rushed to the letter carrier with eagerness. He looked through his sack and dug around a bit, finally fishing out a letter marked with my name. He gave me another with Mante’s name on it.

I opened my letter with trembling hands, before I even took Mante his. In neat handwriting that was not Hurh’s, I was told the tale of the pirate-hunter’s first battle. Past the greeting was a paragraph that I had to read twice, and then once again before I understood what had happened.

The battle raged on for some time, before the pirate captain made his appearance. We had all thought he was fighting among us, but now we were certain he was not. He drew out his sword with a yell that would make a veteran cower, and raged through the fighters, killing most in his path, and injuring the rest. Our captain has surrendered, and I know not what has befallen him, other than that he was taken prisoner along with our remaining pirate-hunters. The pirate captain sent me away with a message to the rest of the world. I have been picked up by the Shark and am on my way to Yekha to deliver personally the last of my messages.

My friend Hurh was taken, and he asked me send you this. He says not to worry too much, no matter what, he will be alright; but if I may be frank, I don’t believe he will be. This pirate, Efan, is not known for his mercy. I say this only because I believe you deserve the truth. However, I know that Hurh did not want you to worry, and as such, you must not. Concentrate on your duties, and may you fare well in all matters.

Sincerely, Lej, friend of Hurh.

I read the next to last sentences for the third time with a sinking heart. You know the feeling; when you hear bad news and try to make the best of it, and then learn it is hopeless. I was utterly numb. I slipped Mante’s letter into a fold in my robe, and walked slowly to the place I now called home.

So Hurh had finally fought in his first battle. Was he elated at the start? Was he fearful? And the hardest question of all, was he dead? I couldn’t stand the thought. I couldn’t stand that he might be dead, and that I would be left behind to live life as I had for the last year, pushing on even though I was dying inside.

Perhaps I was a little dramatic about it, for I had lived through death before. But that almost made it worse, for I knew what it felt like now, and I didn’t think I could live it again.

The last sentence of Lej’s letter infuriated me. How did he expect me to concentrate? Was he completely heartless? Did he really care if I “fared well in all matters”? I doubted it.

Despite my feelings, there was nothing I could really do. I considered sailing on the next ship to leave the harbor, but they weren’t sailing for the pirates. None of the ships were. They all feared that they would be next. I cursed them for cowards and vowed to organize another group of pirate-hunters as soon as I got the chance.

I was still angry at Lej, although not as much. I was glad he had seen fit to tell me the truth about the danger Hurh was in. I have always preferred the truth, even when it is terrifying. It was the captain I was truly furious at. How dare he surrender? How could he not know that this would happen? Sometimes I would lie in my bed at night and my chest would tighten and heat up from anger. He had to know they would be captured. There was no other way.

Exhausted, angry, and still somewhat juvenile at sixteen, I concluded that he was in league with the pirate captain, and I would destroy him along with the rest. Someday. Having decided this, I felt as much at peace as I could be, and I drifted off to sleep, and didn’t wake until dawn.

I should have mentioned long ago that Mante was also a sea trader, the type that stays in port and trades with ships coming in. A month back, Mante had traded on credit with a trusted trader friend of his. Mante gave his goods to his friend, Ulah, in agreement that as soon as the next ship of his came in, Mante would get his goods in return.

We still hadn’t heard from him, but his ship was expected in port any day now, and no one was too worried. I threw myself into my work. In a way, Lej was right. I couldn’t do anything – yet – but I eagerly awaited the day when I could go off to sea. I would go even if I found out Hurh was dead. The sea was where I really belonged; even I knew that much.

About a week later, I was working in the house with the children. Jimte was just starting to be schooled, and I was put to the task of teaching him. Later, in three years, he would go to the school in the city, but for now, I taught him all I could. He asked me the hardest questions sometimes. Ever since Hurh had left, he wanted to know why people went to war. I couldn’t understand it either, despite living with a man like my father for more than fifteen years.

Domtu was so absorbed in his locksmithing that he began to neglect his schoolwork. Mante spoke to him, but I was there, and I couldn’t see anything indicating that Domtu was listening. His eyes were glazed over, dull, as if he was living somewhere else, but not lit up like Hurh’s were when he spoke of war.

Lalata was completely recovered by now, and already acting like a miniature mother. It was obvious that she could not wait until she had children and a husband of her own, even though she was only eight. I myself couldn’t quite understand this. Even at sixteen, when many girls were getting married, I wasn’t thinking about it too much. Oh, I thought about Hurh nearly every hour, perhaps more often, but I certainly wasn’t to the point where I wanted to marry him. But, I thought to myself, there’s no accounting for taste. She would fuss over little Jimte and even littler Thia all the time. Liuna finally gave her the job of getting both of them ready, and giving Thia her baths.

Thia was as bouncy and cheerful as always. She had fat, freckled cheeks, and her hair had darkened a little; it was more of a sandy color now. Her jade green eyes sparkled. She had long ago accepted me into the family and no longer clung to her mother’s skirts when I was around. She was only four, and still had no responsibilities, except maybe being the darling of the family.

Finde worried me. He still left early in the morning and didn’t return until evening. At home he was cheerful and acted as if nothing was amiss, but once Lalata made the mistake of asking him where he went every day, and he struck a blow across her cheek. Her eyes widened; I don’t think anybody had ever hit her before, and tears began to spill down her cheeks. Suddenly she burst into sobs, and ran out of the room. Mante came home early that evening and spoke severely to Finde, but his face was sullen, and his eyes shimmered the way they do when someone is just barely holding his tears and anger in.

After he was done, he went into the kitchen to speak to Liuna. I didn’t listen in this time, but it didn’t matter, because a few minutes later I was called in. Mante said one of his workers had approached him and said he was sorry about Mante’s current financial situation. This was the first Mante had heard about there even being a situation, and he wondered aloud why the mail carrier had nothing for him. He then looked at me sideways, in that way grownups do when they know that you are guilty. I had forgotten about the letter with Mante’s name on it! I had intended to give it to him, but I had forgotten when I read my own letter. I confessed I had forgotten, expecting a beating, but Mante just told me to get it.

I found it in my room where it had slipped out of my robe. The family gathered in the kitchen, even Finde, while Mante slit the letter open with his fingernail.

Comments

Oh dear. Frantic for

Oh dear. Frantic for Hurh!
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"I for one am getting bored, and boredom is something up with which I will not put!" ~Phineas and Ferb

Anna | Sat, 05/16/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

It didn't say for sure that

It didn't say for sure that he was dead, but that doesn't mean he's not!

"California", he said, "is a beautiful wild kid on heroin, high as a kite and thinking she's on top of the world, not knowing that she's dying, not believing it even when you show her the marks." - Motorcycle Boy, from S.E. Hinton's 'Rumble Fish"

Bridget | Sat, 05/16/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

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