He trembles under their outrage, tears spilling from his deep green eyes, glistening on his warm brown cheeks. You tremble too, but for an entirely different reason. This is unacceptable. Chandra's your brother. You have to step in and stop them before they start hitting him.
She raises her hand and Chandra flinches. Caelia screams hateful vitriol, her exact words- his deadname- wafting through your ears, unheard, unacknowledged, as you step in front of her and take the blow. Aurelius shouts at you. Both of them shout at you. You protect Chandra. Your brother wails behind you. "Get your things." You tell him, furious, and your not-parents are taken aback by the level of hatred blazing in your eyes. They're not your parents. They never were and they never will be.
They try to stop him. You grab Caelia and shove her into her husband. She screeches at you. You snarl at her fury, "We're leaving." Aurelius tries to punch you. You deflect easily, too easy, he's too weak, and return the favor. He staggers back, gasping. It would be so easy to let the rage thrumming in your veins flicker out from your fingertips and rip apart the two evil souls before you. But you can't. Chandra made you promise you wouldn't use it on these two scumbags.
Chandra comes back down the rickety stairs with his travel bag of necessary items. You slam open the coat closet and snatch up your own travel bag. Nonperishable food and canteens of water are already in both. You both prepared these months ago, waiting for the right opportunity, or for the abuse to go too far.
They both just stare stupidly as you guide Chandra with one hand on his shoulder out the door and into the streets. There's nothing they can really do. The guards never care to hunt down runaways unless there's a bribe involved, and Aurelius only pretends to be rich.
You're on the streets, now, your familiar turf. You know how to survive. Chandra will learn. "K-Kalika," He tugs your hand. You smile gently at him. "Where are we going?"
You kneel and he climbs onto your back before you stand back up again, his arms loose around your neck as his knees grip your waist. "We're going to make a fort." You tell him. "And you're going to guard it while I find work, but you'll run away and get me if anybody approaches it." You have a dagger. You know it's foolish to hope you won't need to use it.
"Are you going to steal?" Chandra asks, disapproval evident in his voice.
"Yes, little moon." There's no point lying to him. "We steal to eat. To survive."
"I don't think Kali would like that." He grumbles, invoking your favorite Devi against you.
"Kali can stop me if she doesn't approve." You reply, not without a little guilt. But you and he both need food, and you need to save more money so he can live as a boy the way he wants.
Chandra presses his lips to your neck in a brotherly kiss, then turns it into a raspberry. "Maybe if I pray really hard, Kali will give you a job!" He says cheerfully.
You keep your cynicism to yourself. You like the old stories of the Devas and Devis. But you can't quite bring yourself to believe in them so wholeheartedly as your little brother. It's just a performance, for you. For him, it's his world.
"Did you bring your flags?" Chandra whispers excitedly.
"No, little moon." You say, hiding your longing for the elegant flowing dancing flags. You saved up in secret and bought them, knowing you wouldn't be able to take them with you if you ever had to run away. Even if you had brought them, you'd have to sell them.
"That's okay." Chandra says with a crafty note to his voice. You suppress a sigh and hope he's not planning anything dangerous.
##Three Months Later##
Captain Lilith of the Alaco glares down at her crew. "YOU ABSOLUTE BUFFOONS!! GET THE FUCKING ROPES MOORED TO THE FUCKING DOCK ALREADY OR NOBODY GETS OFF THIS SHIP FOR ANOTHER STARSDAMNED WEEK!!" Her threat is an adequate motivator to catalyze the crew into action. She really needs to hire a few more hands, the last raid got six of her crew killed.
When the ship is moored and cleaned to her satisfaction, she allows shore leave. This port's officials are corrupt to the core, so bribing them to allow the pirates into the city was too easy. A smirk curls her jaws.
"hey, sis." Eve says behind Lilith. The short stout skeleton carries two mugs of foaming ale. "thought you could use a drink."
Lilith takes one. "Thank you." She says tersely and tosses it back in one gulp. It generally takes around five to get her pleasantly buzzed. "Find a tavern, preferably the least filthy one possible, and collect my officers." She orders. Eve salutes and disappears. She's older than the captain by a few years, but works under her as the quartermaster.
Lilith scans her crew. Ayame and Sakura, the leaders of the small ring of prostitutes onboard, get the ship ready for the influx of clients. One of the sex workers, a hermaphroditic lizard-anthro called Ryuk, winks and mock-salutes to Lilith. She raises an eyeridge at their smirk and then sighs as she salutes back. She knows as well as they do that after she's done drinking, they'll be waiting for her.
When Eve has found a passable tavern, Lilith strides beside her sister through the filthy rabble-filled streets. Her officers chatter around her, seeming at ease to anybody else, but she knows each one of them is vigilant and ready to attack or defend. Arial and Heather both have their jackets open, ready to draw at a moment's notice. Agni, the ship's fire elemental cook, and Silk, the spider-anthro second mate, hold hands, but Lilith can see the readiness for battle in their eyes. Her first mate Bolts, a flashy android, slinks behind the group, the rearguard.
A large crowd blocks the street. Heather starts to clear a way through, shoving people aside with her bulk and cheerful intimidation. In the mass of people, a small boy bumps against Lilith. "S-sorry," He says quickly and tries to disappear back into the safety of the crowd.
Lilith picks him up by the back of his ragged striped coat and scowls at him. He whimpers. The kid is barely nine years old. "If You're Going To Steal," She growls, "You'd Better Learn To Not Get Caught."
He hands her compass-watch back, along with her wallet. "Sorry, miss," He says guiltily, scratching his shock of wild burgundy hair. "My sis and I jus' wanna eat."
Lilith scowls. "Really. So Does Every Other Filthy Street-Rat. Why Shouldn't I Turn You In??" She won't, but he doesn't need to know that.
His eyes go wide with terror. Lilith hides a smirk. "M-miss, please, I- I won't-" He kicks suddenly and writhes in her grasp, but she expected that and keeps a firm grip on him. "Let me go!" He cries, glaring fiercely at her. "I won't get caught next time!!"
His determination and anger sparks something in Lilith's soul. "See That You Don't." She growls and sets him down. Instead of fleeing, he nods to her before sneaking back into the masses.
The crowd suddenly breaks into cheering and whooping. Lilith huffs and looks into the center to see what the fuss is about. Her soul stutters into her throat. A woman sings and dances wildly in the eye of the storm. Flames flicker in her hands as she flashes a dagger about in increasingly risky moves. Fiery orange and gold cloth clings to her body, revealing just enough of her thicc sinuous curves to be enticing without seeming like free EXP. Her deep green eyes meet Lilith's sockets as her lovely alto voice lilts. Lilith huffs and looks away, breaking out of the trance. The song and dance ends and the woman bows, thanking the crowd for their donations.
And then Lilith startles as someone bumps into her again. She turns to grab them, but they're gone. However, she catches the glimpse of burgundy hair sneaking through the crowd. She shoves the filthy rabble aside to go after the boy, letting him make it to an alley before she snatches his arm. "I Warned You." She growls.
He grins at her. "Sorry, miss." He says cheerfully.
Pain blooms in Lilith's back. She spins, drawing her talwar and dropping the boy. The dancer glares at her, fire flickering on her dagger. "You unlucky bitch." The dancer sneers.
"I'd Say You're The Unlucky Ones." Lilith replies with a cold smirk. Her first mistake was assuming the boy's sister was younger than him. The second was not being aware of her surroundings. But she's done making mistakes. When the boy tries to shank her with a knife, she smacks him away with the flat of her talwar.
The dancer attacks, but Lilith easily pins her with cyan attacks. The dancer struggles and activates the attacks, crying out but casting fire at Lilith despite the pain. "Leave him alone!!" The dancer snarls.
Lilith blocks the fire with a bone shield, then the flat of her talwar smacks the boy's butt as he tries to creep up on her. He yelps, but tackles her legs anyway. Lilith has been underestimating their determination. She tries to pin the dancer again, but the boy yanks her off balance and the dancer forces her to attempt to duck from a blast of fire, and then she's on the ground somehow, pinned by the boy's weight. The dancer sneers as she steps on Lilith's shoulder. "You've got shit judgement."
"Kalika!" The boy chastises. The dancer- Kalika- kneels and presses her dagger to Lilith's sternum.
"Don't touch my brother." She growls and raises the dagger to strike.
Then Eve pops up behind Kalika and encases her in blue magic, tossing her against the wall. "lil, what the hell??" She snaps. The boy cries out and rushes to Kalika. Lilith stands up stiffly and then grabs the boy by the back of the neck as he struggles and kicks.
"Let go, bastard, I'll kill you, you hurt her!!" He cries, rage twisting his little face. Lilith chuckles darkly.
"uh, lil?" Eve says. "c'mon, kill'em already."
"Kill Them?" Lilith raises an eyeridge. Kalika moans from the ground, her dagger stuck into her own gut from when she was thrown. The boy seems ready to cry with anger and he doesn't stop trying to fight. "Boy. If I Heal Your Sister, Will You Cease Your Foolish Struggling??"
He immediately goes limp. "Please?" Tears well in his eyes and he scrunches his face in a vain effort to dam them.
Lilith sets him down. Eve growls, "lil, get yer pelvis back to the group."
"Eve, inform the officers that we will have two new crew joining us." Lilith says grimly.
Eve stares at her. "ya can't be serious, lil, this is idiotic, they tried to kill you!"
"And they almost succeeded." Lilith replies, scowling. Eve shrinks under the menacing look. "Go."
"yes, boss." Eve salutes and disappears.
"My sister!" The boy yanks Lilith's hand. "You promised you'd heal her!"
"I Did." She allows and kneels by Kalika. "This Will Hurt." She yanks the dagger out of the wound and presses a hand covered in green fire to the bloody hole. She can sense how deep the injury goes. Luckily, the dagger only went in a few inches. Kalika keens and tenses under the burning agony of healing, but to her credit, she doesn't scream or struggle like most humans would. When the wound is nothing more than an angry red scar, Lilith ends the flow of magic and rises. "Now. You both have two choices."
Kalika struggles to her feet, stepping protectively in front of her little brother with a scowl. The boy tugs her hand. "Kalika, let's just go!"
Lilith erects bone walls in both escape routes. "You won't be going anywhere. I went easy on you because I underestimated you. I won't do that again. You will either join my crew or you will die." Kalika laughs, a sharp harsh sound. Lilith spears the boy with a cyan attack and has him stuck to the wall. More cyan bones stab up and force Kalika to her knees as Lilith's talwar slashes out, halting a hairsbreadth from Kalika's throat.
The dancer faces Lilith with fury in her eyes. "Let my brother go." She orders.
Lilith cackles. "Nyeh heh heh, so you would rather I kill him first?"
"Kalika!" The boy shrieks as sharp white attacks hover in the air over his chest. "We'll join, we'll join, just don't kill us!!"
Lilith smirks. "It seems your brother is smarter than you. What do you say, Kalika?"
Kalika's eyes blaze with unbroken pride and defiance. "We'll join." She spits. Lilith releases both and Kalika rushes to catch her brother. "Chandra, are you hurt??"
"No, are you?" The young boy asks in concern for his much older sister. Nostalgia pangs for Lilith's own older sibling. She crushes it.
"Get Your Things." Lilith orders.
Kalika glares at the captain. "Yes, sir." She kneels and Chandra gets on her back, then she starts for the street. Lilith follows her.
Chandra twists to stare at Lilith. "Are you a pirate?" He asks with wide excited eyes. The question along with his eagerness takes Lilith by surprise.
"Probably military, with our rotten luck." Kalika growls.
"Luck has smiled on you this time." Lilith replies with a dark smirk. "I'm not military. I'm a pirate captain."
"And you go after a couple street rats??" Kalika sneers. "Bully."
"Chandra stole from me. I was only going to teach him a lesson." Lilith replies, realizing too late that she's being defensive.
"What's your ship like??" Chandra grills Lilith happily, despite nearly dying not five minutes ago. Lilith scowls but answers every question the young boy can think of. Until he asks, "What were you gonna do to me?"
"Something Unpleasant." Lilith snarls in a vain attempt to frighten him.
"No kidding." Kalika grumbles. "Chandra, stop talking to her, she's not your friend."
"Hey, anyone can be kind if they try!! I don't think Captain is bad, she's just- y'know, super edgy."
The words smack Lilith over the head with guilt. She shoves it down. And then they reach another alley and enter it, going back to a little cardboard fort with a few blankets. Kalika collects the blankets without setting Chandra down, and then adjusts her knapsack over her shoulder and turns back to Lilith.
"That's it??" Lilith asks.
Kalika responds with a terse nod and starts back to the street. Lilith leads them to the Alaco. Chandra keeps asking questions. Instead of it being annoying, though, Lilith finds herself becoming fond of the child's incorrigible curiosity and bravery. Kalika, on the other hand, seems to have shut down, never talking, her face set in a cold scowl.
Lilith almost feels guilty for pressing both into her crew, but she justifies it by telling herself that they'll be valuable additions when they've adjusted. Both are determined and brave, both are strong and resourceful. She's been meaning to pick up a good cabin boy anyway, and Kalika can pick whatever station she wants.
"Woah, is that the Alaco??" Chandra bounces on Kalika's back excitedly. Kalika doesn't react to the shaking, continuing to walk stoically to her doom.
Lilith smirks. "Nyeh heh heh, that is my ship, yes."
"She's beautiful!!" The boy cries.
Lilith puffs up at the praise and leads the two up the gangplank. Kalika sneers at the sight of the silks and gentle lighting that advertises the prostitute's section of the ship. Lilith is pleased to see that there are plenty of clients already, even this early in the night. Ryuk leans seductively on the railing of the ship and whistles to her. "Heya, Cap'n, you're back early! Ooo~ and with some fresh meat, too!"
"Get back to work." Lilith snaps back fondly. They're the caller tonight, enticing hapless humans to the brothel.
Ryuk sends her a rude gesture- they're probably the only person who can do that without getting their fingers broken- and then they scan Kalika with an appreciative hum. "Neh, angel," They purr and Kalika's face transforms from cold to furious and disgusted in an instant. "You're a fine one, ain't ya. Ever wanna be ate out, ya come to me. Name's Ryuk." They wink and offer their arm.
"I don't do business with sluts." Kalika spits.
"Oof, how insulting!" Ryuk cries melodramatically. "Ya know, I ain't ever heard that afore- oh wait, nah, I heard that about a hunerd times." They grin.
"Hey, what do you do?" Chandra pipes up with blissful ignorance. "Why does my sister hate you?"
Ryuk opens their mouth, then sees something in Kalika's eyes, or perhaps it's the fire flickering in the dancer's fists, that makes them reconsider. "Uhhhh, I ain't the bad guy, I'm jes' makin' my living same as the rest'a ya."
Kalika growls. Lilith decides she's not amused anymore and so she smacks Kalika's butt. The dancer yelps in outrage and Ryuk laughs, "Oof, ye'll learn right quick on this ship!"
"You may torment your new crewmates later." Lilith tells them and grips Kalika's shoulder to forcefully guide her. "Kalika, you will not work as a prostitute unless you want to."
"I'll learn ya!!" Ryuk volunteers cheerfully, then ducks as Lilith aims a cuff at their head, but she captures them by the back of their neck and delivers three powerful smacks to their rear. "Ow, Cap'n, why ya gotta be so strong!!" Ryuk complains, rubbing their butt and ruefully grinning.
"You like it, don't lie." Lilith says what they both know.
"Bite me." Ryuk smirks.
"Later." Lilith purrs back.
"Ew, why would you wanna be bitten, she has sharp teeth." Chandra says in the type of disgusted voice that only a nine-year old could make sound adorable, while Kalika fumes.
"What're our jobs??" Kalika demands, obviously trying yet failing to restrain her frustration and rage.
"Chandra is our cabin boy." Lilith says. "I haven't decided where I'll put you."
"Yay, I have a job!!" Chandra cheers. Ryuk tries to ruffle the young boy's hair but Kalika backs away with another growl, then flinches from Lilith as though expecting a blow.
"Actually." Lilith muses, becoming sick of the dancer's holier-than-thou attitude. "I've decided. You'll help Ryuk."
Kalika's eyes and hands blaze and she cries, "You said-"
"I said you won't be forced into sex work. I stand by that. But you will assist Ryuk with advertising." Lilith says sternly. "You're not better than us, street rat." Kalika mutters something angry under her breath. "Ryuk, go show these two where they'll be sleeping."
Ryuk grins and salutes. Lilith leaves the two new hands in their capable care, knowing she can rely on them, and she heads back to the tavern to join her officers in drinking.