Sera found herself wandering the dock area when she finally arrived to Sapphirus. It had been so long since she had been at the sea that it only felt right to wander along the shore and bask in the warm sunlight. It was the nicest time of year and she was grateful to Marin and her companion’s arrival at her humble forest abode. Instead of searching for the information she sought, Sera was content to walk down the beach and splash her feet in the water.
She gathered shells and watched the sea birds fly around. At one point she came across some baby turtles trying to make it to the sea. The poor babies were being eaten by the birds and other animals. Sera couldn’t just watch them die of course, and shooed the birds away. She did her best to gather the little turtles and waded them out a small ways into the water. After three armfuls, Sera felt rather successful in her endeavor of rescuing the babies. She turned to walk back to the shore from the waist deep water and jolted. Not too far from her was a man. Sera justified that maybe she had been so busy with the little ones that she hadn’t noticed him approaching. She was prepared to melt his face if he came any closer but he didn’t need to know she was a magic user.
He was handsome, strong jaw and well built. Blond hair, oddly he reminded Sera of someone but she couldn’t place them. He noticed her jolt however and raised his hands to show he meant no harm.
“May I assist you?” Sera asked, not moving.
“No.” He shook his head.
“I noticed you helping the turtles. That was a kind thing to do. Most do not look at them twice.”
“Well I couldn’t just let them die.” Sera shrugged.
“I know that’s just the circle of life, but I don’t think it will hurt the sea if it has a few more turtles in it.”
“Surely not.” He grinned.
“From whence do you come, lass?”
“From whence do you?” Sera eyed him.
“I live abroad.” He told her.
“I come from the forest. Although i was born by the sea.” Sera told him after he had responded.
“Let me guess then." She continued. "You’re a pirate?” Now she most certainly didn’t trust him. Her sword was on the shore to keep it dry, but thankfully her magic had never failed her.
“Virgil the Obscure.” He introduced himself with a waist bow. “I mean you no harm lass. Just merely taking a walk along the shore and came upon you.”
Sera was hesitant to trust him now, especially with her name.
“Kacela.” She told him. “It’s what my Pap called me.”
Her last name was a safe bet. “I’m going to just...go.” She added after a moment, watching him carefully as she walked backwards to the shore.
He didnt move, only waited politely with his arms crossed for her to retrieve her weapon. She half expected more pirates to appear from the treeline and nab her, but they didnt show. Sword in hand, she felt much more secure.
“If i do see you again, may it be over a drink.” Sera told him finally, not wanting to seem absolutely rude. He didnt try to take her after all.
Sera made her way from the beach to the city. Her mind stayed on the pirate. Something about him was homey. Still, she had a task. She stopped and shook her head to clear all other thoughts from her mind so that she could work.
Someone would know her father, they had to. Although he had been away many years. She tried all around, from old women to servants, and had yet to find anyone who recognized the name Kacela. After an entire day of failure, she stopped at a seaside tavern.
"What'll it be?" The barkeep asked.
"Just some water, if you would?" She said, reaching for her coin purse.
"Nah, it's just a water." He shook his head and handed her a goblet. "You seem troubled."
"I've been seeking out information on my father and yielded no results thus far." She sighed, sipping her water.
"Aye? What's the name?"
"Kacela." She told him.
The barkeep thought a moment. "What did he do?"
"Aye that does come off familiar. If you be looking for a soldier, Windy Sails Tavern out on the docks is where you want to go. A lot of old soldiers go there."
"Oh, thank you! This is the only information I've been given at all today!" Sera was so giddy.
"Be warned though, Pirates and slavers also frequent there, and a pretty redhead like you would go for mighty a price."
Sera lit a ball of flame in her hand. "I'm not too worried."
He chuckled. "Well good luck to you then."
"Thank you, I need it." She smiled and slipped out.
The Windy Sails Tavern was right where the barkeep had told her, much to Sera's relief. She reached it just before sunset and was actually starting to get a bit tired. When she crossed the threshold she realized just how bad it really was in there. Thugs and pirates galore, all tough and gruff and gluttonous. Creator protect her.
She walked through towards the bar and a drunk man slapped her rear.
"Get me a drink, wench!" He demanded.
She spun on her heel, driving her fist into the man's nose. A satisfying crunch accompanied by a spurt of blood down his face. The loud tavern grew silent in awe. She shook her hand in pain, then held it to her chest with a wince. When he regained himself he stood to slap her but a tall blond man stepped in the way.
"Lad, I'm not sure you want her to humiliate you any further. I'm going to ask you to step away."
For a moment he looked like he would attack the newcomer so she slipped around her would-be defender and kicked the drunk man between the legs. He fell to the floor with a grunt of pain and the entire tavern erupted in laughter.
Even her attempted rescuer was shocked. She was ruthless. The man's friends dragged him off to avoid further humiliation as Sera turned to her would-be savior.
"Thank you for what you tried to do." She told him. "But I can handle myself."
"Noted." He nodded with a smirk.
She paused taking in his features...Wait!...he was the pirate from earlier!
"Fancy meeting you in an actual tavern." Sera commented.
"Fancy seeing the same lovely lass twice in a day." He grinned.
"I owe you a drink." Sera gave him a grin.
"Perhaps another time lass. Maybe in a more secluded setting?" Virgil winked.
"Dream on, Ocean Eyes."
Sera snorted, pushing his shoulder playfully with her good hand. She hadn't noticed his peculiar eyes before on the beach, but now, seeing them up close she felt she could get lost in them like a sailor at sea. They seemed alive as though the ocean itself was trapped in them, the waves crashing against the shore. She realized they had stared at each other for a long moment and broke eye contact. No one else in the loud tavern seemed to notice their prolonged silence at least.
"Er, right, anyways," Sera shook her head. "Nice to see you again."
She went on and had her drink. Virgil made way for the door not long after she sat at the bar. She found it strange that he seemed to come and go like that, but shrugged it off.
The bar tender asked her the usual questions, where she hailed from, where she was going.
"Nowhere in particular. Just a hut in the woods." She shrugged. "And I don't know where yet to go. Most likely stay here a few days at least."
"I see. Plenty of bad people around. You can take care of yourself, but be careful. I'll get you the room with a lock. We don't get many women in here."
"I see why, anyone from here would know to stay away." Sera chuckled. "I'm just...I'm drawn to the ocean. Something about it feels like home."
"A dreamer." The man behind the counter sighed.
"Something like that." Sera smiled softly. She was much too tired to bother with asking around and decided to call it a night.
Sera spent the next day out by the beach again, exploring the nooks and crannies of the rocky cliffs and scouting for collectibles. It was a beautiful day. The people she needed to ask about her father would be in during the evening anyhow.
At one point she found herself splashing about knee deep in sea water because it felt good on her feet and she was startled by a sudden voice chuckling. Virgil again, standing ankle deep not too far from her.
"You sure seem to be everywhere." She gasped, having nearly fallen due to the scare. "Are you following me now, perchance?"
"Not at all, you just so happen to be in my path." He said.
"Mmhmm." She slow nodded. "In any case, thank you for last night. I was a bit flustered and it didn't come off as polite as I had meant it to."
"Not a problem lass, I knew what you meant." His smile was genuine. "What brings you?"
"Here? Looking for trinkets along the shore." The redhead shrugged.
"This port." He rephrased.
"Answers." Sera said. "Maybe you can help me, actually. You seem like you've been sailing a while."
"You might say that, yes." Virgil crossed his arms across his chest, listening.
"My father used to be a fisherman here, and then a soldier, when I was young. But we fled suddenly in the night. No one seems to know anything about him, but he grew up here."
"Kacela. Mine. Well," Sera shook her head. "I'm afraid I didn't trust you yesterday. My name is Serafino, or Sera. His name was Javvyn."
"I can ask around for you." Virgil offered.
"I would appreciate that. I doubt anyone in that tavern will be helping me a whole lot, although I was told to ask around." She sighed.
"You might be surprised, you stood up to one of the most notorious slavers around last night." He chuckled. "He'll be nursing that broken nose for weeks."
"I'll be nursing a weak sword hand for as long. Should have hit him with a fireball." Her hand ached at the mention of its impact the night before. It wasn't broken, but it was bruised.
"Battle Mage. Father made sure to train me in offense and defense with a sword in hand. Soldiers habits."
"Those are some fancy looking blades you have there. I'll bet they swing like air."
Sera nodded at the twin's on his sides.
"Swift as a rivers current." Virgil patted them fondly. "Served me well so far."
"I would assume, since we're having this conversation." Sera couldn't help but laugh a little. Trusting a pirate was ill advised. But she still found herself doing so. Then again, she had so easily welcomed Marin and the others into her home based on signs from nature. But that...this felt different. Nervous initially due to his role at sea, otherwise Sera felt absolutely calm in his presence. She wasn't yet sure if that was a good or bad thing.
"In any case, you run off and do whatever it is you had planned. I'm going to finish my scavenging." Sera waved her hand.
"I've a suggestion if you've a mind then?" He frowned.
"Oh?" She crossed her arms and leaned on one side.
"There's a cave half a mile up that way known for its treasures. Do not venture there. The creatures are dangerous. Few return."
"Sounds like a good time." Sera chuckled. "But thank you for the advice, Captain."
"How do you know I'm a captain?" Virgil asked, surprised.
"I didn't." Sera laughed. "But thank you for answering my question."
That was witty, he had to give it to her. "I'll be taking my leave then lass."
"We'll run into one another later, I'm sure." Sera nodded, giving him a wave before watching him walk away. He had a fine rear, but that made her blush a little.
Sera shook those thoughts from her head and looked off ahead. She could go farther before reaching the cave she was sure.
Curiosity is a human flaw that sometimes causes one thing to spiral into another. In this case, an attractive pirate, some well placed advice, and that human curiosity caused so many things to happen it made Sera's head spin in later years to think about it.
She couldn't do it. Sera took one look at the cave's entrance and she knew she had to venture into its depths and see this treasure for herself.
The cave itself sat under a rocky cliff right on the beach with a trail of water leading down to the sea. She reasoned that the only way to get into the cave was a low tide, and she only had a little while until the tide came back in. Still, that curiosity for the adventure took over and she unsheathed her sword and made a ball of fire in her left hand for light before adventuring inside.
It started low and hard to move in but opened into a cavern with a wide berth. She noted the boats tied off just inside. Pirates. Because of course. But where there were pirates, there was booty! Still, if that was the reason Virgil had warned her away it seemed shady. Perhaps this was a trap after all, and his handsome face had tricked her. Unsurprising. He was rather handsome.
A cry of pain jerked her from her thoughts and she hid behind a thick stalagmite quickly, extinguishing her hand.
"Aye ye best be movin' lady." A grumpy voice threatened. Another cry of pain, and what sounded like a slap?
Sera frowned. She chanced a peek around her cover to see what her odds were. Three tied up ladies and one large, beefy man dragging them along to the boats. Eh, she could take him. Had she a bow. Sera had to do something though. Those women needed assistance.
Gathering her courage the ginger alighted a fireball in her hand and threw it full force at the giant of a man. It took him completely off guard and he shouted something she didn't hear. He was busy putting out his clothes and didn't see her advance, although his guard was on high alert. Sera went straight for the heart but the brute swung his arm frantically and knocked her back. Undeterred, the battlemage went to strike again but met his blade with her own. Her fire hand met his blade and made it hot--brittle. She backed off and came at him again, successfully breaking his sword with her own and slashing him across the face and down his shoulder. That was enough distraction to kick out his legs from under him and land the finishing blow.
The three women sobbed behind one of the boats, shaking and terrified. Sera looked to them after shaking her blade clean. "It's all right now, I'm going to let you free."
"There's more." One sobbed as Sera cut her free.
"I'm not sure. Several." Another said.
"Then we should hurry, let's get this boat out with the tide so we can get you back to the city." Sera suggested as she freed the last one.
None of them looked particularly strong, but between the four of them they should have been able to move the boat. Although that was the plan before Sera took an arrow to the shoulder.
The arrow hardly went through her armor, but it stung horribly.
"Run, go!" Sera ordered the girls. They wasted no time running towards the mouth of the cave. Sera waved her hand and raised a wall of fire behind them to cover from anymore incoming arrows as she ducked behind a stalagmite for cover. Pulling the arrow hurt more than getting hit with it but she had to focus. The wall of flame illuminated the cavern well enough for her to see, but that meant her assailant could see just as well.
"Surrender and I'll let you live." The archer called. Behind her, perfect. She lit a ball of fire in her hand and let it extinguish. Maybe feigning complacency?
"All right, I'm coming out." Sera called back, stepping out from behind her cover with her arms raised.
Bad decision. An arrow grazed her side. She swore and ducked behind cover again, wincing at the pain in her side. Some of her blood had spattered the cavern floor and mixed with the sea water, but she hadn't noticed. What she did notice was that the water level was rising, and she needed a way out immediately, or she was going to drown. Her wall of fire steamed away and made the cavern dark again.
"Ugh." She was afraid that her injury would attract sea creatures. She already couldn't swim, so that would be even worse. In all fairness, Virgil had warned her away from the cave, so this was her own fault. Clearly he was not there, so he may not have been aware that slavers had taken over the cave. Although she did speak too soon.
"It appears you need some assistance lass."
Sera looked towards the cavern entrance to see a familiar face in the faint light. "I have the situation controlled." She lied with an eye roll.
"Certainly seems that way." Virgil nodded, taking off somewhere in the knee deep water at high speed. Sera was loosing too much blood to question it, and leaned on the stalagmite a moment before lurching around to help. But the archer was down already.
"You wasted no time, how did you...?" Sera blinked.
"Now is not the time for questions, the cavern will be full soon." He glanced at her side wound. "And that needs seeing to."
"Ah, yes, uh, I have a fun fact for you. I can't swim." Sera admitted.
"This poses a problem." Virgil nodded slowly, noting that the water was up to her waist already. "Start wading then, I'll have to pull you through the last bit."
"I appreciate it." Sera grinned cheekily. "I'll owe you two."
"Less talking, more wading lass." He started off before her.
As she started walking she asked, "Why did you even tell me about this place?"
"I did not believe you would go inside, that is why I warned you away."
"Alright, but, if you warn someone away usually that sparks curiosity. Curiosity sparks recklessness."
"Am I to blame for your blunders?"
"Partially--" Sera slipped on a wet rock now that she was chest deep and couldn't see a thing. She caught herself on his outstretched arm as he turned to catch her. "Sorry."
"It is not your fault." She could hear the grin in his voice. At least they were near the end, the cave ceiling was right above her now.
"All right, take a deep breath and hang onto me."
Sera slipped her arms around his torso tightly with a wince. "Promise not to drown me?"
"Wouldn't dream of it." Virgil nodded, although she couldn't see it.
Sera took the deepest breath she'd probably ever taken before and held on for dear life.
As someone who couldn't swim it felt like forever before she was free to breathe again. Virgil dragged her to a shallow bit and she let go when she could touch and walked to the shore just at where the waves hit the sand and sat down. She was wet anyways, what did it matter.
"Thank you." She breathed.
He sat beside her with an actually serious look. "That was stupid and impulsive and you could have been killed."
"It worked out. I freed some slaves, got rescued by a handsome pirate. It's been a great day." Sera winced again at the pain in her side and the throbbing in her shoulder. "Now I've a weak sword arm, a weak fire arm, and my movement is hindered. What a day."
"You take it well at least." He said, still somehow sounding mildly annoyed.
"Better than you I see." Sera watched him. "I daresay you were worried about me."
"And if I was?"
"Curious, seeing as how we've hardly spoken. But sweet. I had a feeling you were a good sort."
Virgil shook his head and rested it in his hand a moment, unable to deal with her optimism audibly.
After a moment looking out at sea, Sera looked over her injury. She could cauterize it herself and it would be fine. The sea water had cleaned it after all. She would just have to remove her armor first. "I'm going to need some help again actually, would you mind unfastening my armor for me?"
"This is not the private setting I was referring to lass." Virgil chuckled but moved to assist, finally not seeming so steamed.
"If you really want me to die partway, sure we could have some fun," Sera shrugged but swore quietly after. "Thank you," she rolled on her hip and faced away so she could remove her tunic so as not to catch it aflame. "This is going to hurt." Sera inhaled deeply and screamed silently as she cauterized her wound. Moving would still be interesting for a while but at least she wouldn't bleed anymore. She pulled her tunic back on when she felt up to it and rolled back the other way so she could talk to him.
Virgil hadn't moved, just waited patiently.
"So what was the treasure? Not the girls I hope."
"No, the treasure is something I myself already retrieved ages ago."
"How did you manage that?" Sera looked at him with a raised brow. "And why did you word it in such a way earlier?"
"I truly did not believe you would go into the cave after I told you not to. There were some sirens there that I had a lovely conversation with." Virgil explained.
Sera laughed. "I could believe you charming a siren of her treasure. Seems within your wide range of talents. Like taking out an archer before I could even get around my cover."
"That was pure luck." He shrugged. "He was distracted a moment and I struck."
Sera stared at the pirate a long moment. He seemed the sort to fake falling for a siren's song just to see if his lover would rescue him. To see if they loved the adventure as much as he did. It was fascinating and terrifying all at once.
"You are not even human." Sera finally sighed, playfully pushing his shoulder. "Thank you, again. I would have drowned for sure."
"I'll have to call in that favor sometime then. After you heal though." He grinned.
"Fair enough." The ginger nodded, now that the water had come in up to her waist again. The waves kept knocking her back so it was time to stand. "You heading back too?"
"Yes, I'll make sure you get back safe at least."
"I appreciate a gentleman." Sera snorted softly. "Wonder where the girls got off too."
"I'm sure they're halfway back to port now." Virgil shrugged as he started walking.
"Good, I hope they're okay." Sera nodded, following after.
Three cold blue sets of eyes watched them from afar out in the surf, but from the shore they didn't see them. The siren's waited until they were gone and made way back into the cave to devour the rest of their meal.