Author: xT-Zealot PM
While mourning the loss of his father one night, Eoleo bumps into a certain little girl who's had a bad dream and could use a father of her own. Oneshot. First Eoleo/Himi FRIENDSHIP. Takes place during Dark Dawn.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Friendship - Eoleo & Himi - Words: 11,612 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 10 - Published: 05-03-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6962954
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Okay so wooooow. Today I just had one of those days where, upon getting a fic idea I really, really like, I just decide to drop everything that I'm doing and focus entirely on tearing up a Word document by typing up the fic before I have any chance to lose interest. This happened at only one other time and that had been my first fic that I decided to write upon returning to the Golden Sun fic thread and that was for my work Golden Sun: Defining Moment where, despite having not yet completed Dark Dawn, I had been inspired to just sit down and type up my version of the events that occurred at Belinsk concerning the Grave Eclipse, Sveta's erratic Spirit Sense, and the dangers that the group had to beat in order to escape.
Now for some background information on this fic. The idea occurred from a mix of an old fic idea and a new idea for a current fic. For those who may or may not have read it (and either is fine with me), in my Matthew/Sveta fic Tangled Spirits, I had mentioned that I had wanted to work more on Himi and that I might decide to create a relationship between her and one of the other main characters of Dark Dawn. Now, my thoughts had been to give a Himi a relationship with Eoleo. NOT a romantic one mind you but a kind of father-daughter relationship where the loudmouth pirate learns to have a liking to the youngest member of the group. This helped spawn the idea of creating this fic.
Hours and 10,000+ words later, this is the result. As I said, I really liked the idea and I had been quick to get it written down and, after a quick proofread, I decided to post it. As everyone likes to complain, Dark Dawn was short and a couple of characters never really got much when it came to development. Himi is certainly the number one character that suffered from this lack of development but I think Eoleo suffered a bit of it as well. And since there's hardly any fics concerning both Eoleo and Himi, I was inspired to just sit down and type up an entire piece dedicated to these two.
Now, before you read, there are a couple things that should be noted:
1. OOC. However, the problem concerning Himi and Eoleo possibly being out of character isn't because I'm going against what I believe are popular beliefs on how the two would act. Again, Dark Dawn was short and Himi hardly got any development so I don't even think there's a popular belief as to how she should act. So the real warning concerning characters being out of character is that my views of how Himi and Eoleo would act will clash with my readers' ideas of how Eoleo and Himi would act.
2. In this, Himi is thirteen. I've looked on the Golden Sun Universe Wikipedia and it does say that Himi is possibly around 15-17 years old but, honestly, I find that hard to believe. I always believed Himi to be the youngest and a number of fics that I've read that feature her seems to have authors that believe this as well. I mean come on, Himi is freakin' tiny in the game and I couldn't see her being much older than Rief. One person had pointed out that in Yamata a little girl mentions she's as old as Himi and with this girl being so young, he assumed that Himi was around thirteen years old. For the purpose of this fic – and I'm sure you'll understand when you read it – Himi is thirteen.
3. Language. At first I wanted to avoid it and I very, very rarely use it in my fics because I never saw a purpose in it but in the end I decided to use it, specifically when it came to Eoleo. The usage is very limited though and I'm actually hoping that, for this, the use of a little foul language may help the story rather than retract from it. We'll see how you feel. That's the reason the fic has got its T rating as well as some other…things that I've put in there.
Well, let's not spoil anything. Let's get to reading!
After lugging around over a couple dozen of these barrels, Susa had to admit that he was starting to get a little tired. Upon lifting the next barrel of Dragonsbane, he felt his arms and especially his back grow weary at the constant exertion. He didn't let his body dissuade him, however, and with a grunt he started carrying the barrel over to the large bowl that acted as the Serpent's water dish.
A new kind of weakness spread along Susa's body as he approached but instead of physical, this weakness was pure psychological. It was fear.
And why wouldn't he be afraid? The Great Serpent of Mt. Mikage was a fearsome sight and lived up to its reputation that had once been thought to only be mythical. With a long, green snake-like body – hence its name – that possessed a pair of two large, leathery wings, the Serpent was armed with long, sharp claws at each of its four legs that could disembowel Susa with one swipe while its large mouth filled with sharp teeth could easily swallow him whole. And that was only describing the visible, natural weapons that Susa could see. During its rampage in Izumo, Susa had witnessed the beast spew a toxic gas from its mouth, cause the earth to tremble and heave seemingly at its command, and other such frightening abilities.
It was the thought of Izumo that helped quell the fear that Susa felt. As the younger brother of Lady Uzume, he had a responsibility to his fellow men and women of their village. Even if it was to, literally, journey into the dragon's lair and slay the beast itself, Susa would do it in order to bring peace to Izumo. More importantly, he was doing this for Kushinada.
Not everyone had thought as he did when he proposed to try and fight the Serpent and make sure that it could never plague their village again. Instead, it was decided that only the sacrifice of one of Izumo's fair maidens to the Serpent would satisfy its great appetite. A lottery took place and, to Susa's horror, the villagers had selected the fairest maiden of all: Kushinada. The same Kushinada that Susa had taken on as his fiancé and was to marry. It had been the happiest moment in Susa's life and he had long-imagined the two sharing their first kiss as husband and wife before settling down and starting a family of their own.
That fantasy has, unfortunately, taken on a twisted turn with the awakening of the Serpent. Instead of planning for her wedding day, Kushinada had locked herself in a small house, refusing to let anyone to see her until the time came for her sacrifice. Not even Susa. As one of Izumo's warriors, Susa could not allow such a decision stand nor to let the Serpent continue to exist.
Despite his decision to face the Serpent on his own, however, Susa knew that his task was going to be nearly impossible. One lone man against the legendary Great Serpent? Again Susa was reminded of the destruction that the monster had caused within Izumo and the terrifying powers it had unleashed. Susa did not possess such powers and knew that he was going to need something more than his skill with a blade if he wanted to slay it.
Fortunately, he knew of its weaknesses. The legend of the Great Serpent had spoken of the Cloud Brand, a legendary blade that had long-since been obtained by the villagers of Izumo. The Serpent had once been a protector of the sword but lost it and it's believed that only the Cloud Brand could kill it. When he had heard stories of how the liquid known as Dragonsbane could possibly weaken the Serpent, Susa had his plan and was quick to act on it. Stealing the legendary sword and what barrels of Dragonsbane he could, Susa had made haste to Mt. Mikage where the dragon dwelled.
He had been serving the monster Dragonsbane ever since in hopes of weakening it. But as he brought yet another barrel to the creature, Susa started to feel uneasy and that dreaded feeling of fear threatened to overwhelm him as he drew nearer and nearer to its powerful jaws. He's already gone through nearly half of the shipment that he had brought with him and yet the Serpent had shown no signs of losing strength. Though it lay upon the ground, waiting for its next helping of Dragonsbane, the Serpent was still as awake and alert as when Susa first walked in on it.
But it has to work! Susa declared. The legend of the beast is true so the means to defeat it should be true as well! Just a few more barrels, I'm sure of it!
The Serpent watched as Susa drew closer, its yellow orbs tracking the small human and the prize it carried.
Susa gulped audibly but yet again mustered up his courage in the face of this monster. He was a warrior of Izumo, the brother of Lady Uzume and Kushinada's future husband! He could not falter in this important endeavor!
Unfortunately, he did. In fact, he tripped! With him constantly serving the beast Dragonsbane, Susa had gotten careless a couple of times when pouring the liquid into the creature's dish. Some of it had spilt onto the floor of the cave and when Susa was about to reach the dish and pour, his feet had slipped on a small puddle.
There was no chance to regain his footing. With a cry of surprise, Susa fell onto his back, the barrel of Dragonsbane dropping from his hands and landing on the ground. A section of the barrel broke open, causing Dragonsbane to leak out from the container. While Susa tried to pick himself up, the Serpent's eyes locked onto the leaking liquid. Its jaws opening wide, it leaned its head down towards the barrel.
Meanwhile, Susa had managed to get to his knees. Trying to bring himself fully to his feet, the young warrior found himself nearly slipping on the Dragonsbane once again. Looking for support, he reached out an arm and felt his hand find the wooden surface of the barrel…just as the Serpent's jaws closed around it.
Susa let out a scream as the barrel, along with his arm, disappeared into the mouth of the Serpent. Pain, unbelievable pain nearly overrode his consciousness as well as the sight that greeted him when he brought his arm to his face to look at the damage. Right at the elbow, the Serpent's teeth had completely sliced through the flesh and bone, removing half of Susa's arm and leaving behind a stump that pumped out a stream of blood.
Still screaming, Susa tried to back away but the Dragonsbane on the floor – now mixing with his own blood – once again foiled him. He slipped and fell onto his back.
This was not how it was supposed to be! The Serpent was supposed to be weakened! It was supposed to have long-since been weakened, utterly complacent by the time Susa would draw the Cloud Brand and slay it, saving both Kushinada and all of Izumo!
But the Serpent wasn't dead. In fact, spurred on by Susa's screams, the creature, after swallowing the remains of the barrel and the Dragonsbane, focused its attention on the bleeding human. It had been content with his presence when he had been serving it the delicious liquid, but a hungry predator couldn't say no to wounded prey.
When Susa looked up, he was just in time to see the jaws that he feared so much opening wide. The previously white teeth were now red and bloody, stained with Susa's blood. It had gotten a taste and, as the mouth drew closer and Susa could see directly into its gullet, he knew that it desired more.
His screams were cut off when the teeth clamped down and tore into him for a second and final time.
Damn it dad, why did you have to die?
Eoleo had lost count as to the number of times he had asked that question. He would ask it every time he disembarked at the latest dock without Briggs at his side, every time he had discovered the latest djinni without seeing the pride in his father's eyes, and especially every time he sat down and had a drink without hearing his father's laugh.
Such as now. Despite the gentle swaying of the ship that usually rocked him to sleep as if he was still a baby in his crib and the sound of waves splashing against the sides that would replace his mother's soothing, musical voice, sleep eluded the famous pirate this night. It wasn't the first time that it occurred and every time it did Eoleo would get up from his bed, head to the mess, and grab the largest tankard of the most expensive rum in his hold to drink. Tipping his head back, Eoleo did just that, filling his cheeks with the alcoholic beverage before, with an audible gulp, he downed a whole mouthful.
Such consumption would bring down any lesser man but Eoleo had been drinking like this ever since he was sixteen-years-old. It was in this very room, in this very seat even, that Eoleo had his first taste of alcohol in fact.
"You've learned to fire a cannon at a fellow man, surely you qualify for some of this!" his father had exclaimed as he rolled out a barrel, the sloshing noises inside making it clear that there was some vast amount of liquid contained within. "Have a taste of this, boy! Tolbi's finest! Stuff has to be older then Babi himself!"
A teen at the time, Eoleo had no idea who this Babi was. Some really, really old guy that ruled some kind of town – Tolbi he assumed – but he didn't bother himself with the details. At that age he had already seen his father and his crew drink such beverages that had been denied to him and the prospect that he was going to actually be allowed to have his first drink with his father had filled him with excitement. The tankard having been placed before him, Eoleo had watched anxiously as it was filled. When it filled to the top with some of it even spilling onto the table, Eoleo didn't hesitate to lift it up and take a sip.
His father barked out a laugh at the expression that crossed Eoleo's face. "A bit of a kick there, huh? Don't worry if you can't handle the whole thing son; you have to acquire the taste for it first before you-"
And then Briggs had stared in amazement as Eoleo took the tankard and stubbornly downed the entire thing. The desire to prove himself to his father had caused the pirate prince to throw all caution to the wind. Eoleo had learned the workings of a cannon, the pirate lingo, how to even steer the ship for crying out loud, so surely a little drink was nothing. Though if he had to be honest, Eoleo had thought that maybe he had been a little overzealous when he passed out soon afterwards, his teen body not at all accustomed to the taste of alcohol nonetheless the consumption that Eoleo had just put it through.
Still, it was worth it to see the grin on his father's face when Eoleo finally came to. Well, at least he thought it was worth it after the monster headache had passed.
That same brand of Tolbi's finest was what Eoleo had selected and currently drank for this night of mourning. He had been hitting it a lot lately and the pirate had been slightly distressed to see that the barrel was nearly empty when he filled his tankard. He was going to have to check to see if another barrel could be found somewhere else on the ship…or maybe in Champa's stores. Hell, if they weren't he'll just head to Tolbi itself and "acquire" a couple dozen barrels or so. That was if the town still existed of course; after the Golden Sun Event and the constant shifts and changes that had gone all throughout Weyard during the past thirty years, old towns and cities were dropping like flies while new ones were founded and prospered.
The same can be said for Weyard's heroes.
Eoleo frowned at that dark thought. Really, he wasn't usually so moody and depressing as he was now.
But what do you expect? Your father, the greatest hero of Champa, had died to some shadow-spawned monsters. All because you had to goof up and get caught by those damned beastmen you fu-
Eoleo immediately took in another mouthful of his drink, trying to drown out both the thought and the feelings of shame and guilt that came with it.
Yeah, he had been caught. He had been out pillaging, got separated from the rest of his crew, and rounded up when Morgal forces managed to track him down and surround him. Due to his powers as an Adept, he had been forced to hang around in a cage like an animal while he awaited his death sentence – that of being boiled in oil – to be carried out. His father and fellow pirates had attacked Belinsk to try and rescue him but were forced to turn back. And just when Eoleo had thought his career, as well as his life, was in fact about to be boiled away, he had been granted saviors in the form of six kids with half of them that were none other than the children of the Warriors of Vale.
There I was dad, face-to-face with the sons and daughter of Isaac, Mia, Garet, Ivan, and Jenna. I remember all the stories you told me about the Warriors of Vale. I can still remember their faces even if I had been only a baby at the time. Kraden was even with them as impossible as it sounded; old man has to be over a hundred years old now.
The meeting wasn't on the best of circumstances though. Some big, freaky tower had been unearthed which started up this whole Grave Eclipse and spawning even freakier monsters. There Eoleo was, the son of the famous pirate king fighting alongside the children of the famous Warriors of Vale. That was the kind of thing you sat at home and told stories about over a couple rounds. It would've been the perfect story too had it ended how it was supposed to: just as Eoleo and the warriors were about to be overrun, who'd have guessed it when Briggs himself, fresh from his skirmish with the beastmen, came sailing in to the rescue and got them all to safety.
If only that had been how it ended. But there was no way that Eoleo could take a pen and cross out what really happened. Instead of avoiding a close brush with death in order to rescue his son and his companions, death had finally caught up to old Briggs. Jumped by a trio of shadow monsters, Briggs had died on the deck of his beloved ship before his son could save him.
Now Briggs was floating along the seas that he had loved to sail so much in a coffin while his good for nothing son claimed his ship.
Growling, Eoleo couldn't help but smack his tankard against his forehead, spilling a bit of the alcohol onto his face. That only got him more pissed off and after wiping angrily at his face, Eoleo used the same hand to curl into a fist and slam it into the table. His fingers immediately throbbed with pain because of that action but it calmed him down a little and he felt a small sense of satisfaction at the cracks that appeared along the wooden surface where his fist landed.
"Just…" Eoleo spoke through gritted teeth. "Just…damn it dad…"
With a sigh, the pirate leaned back in his chair, nursing both his tankard and throbbing hand. This wasn't helping. Usually the alcohol would help quiet his accusative thoughts but it didn't seem to be helping today. Deciding that perhaps the smell of the sea would help calm him, Eoleo stood up from his seat and made his way up to the deck.
On his way he passed through closed doors that he couldn't help but pause at, his brown eyes gazing at them before he continued on his way.
Matthew, he thought at one door. Tyrell. That Ayuthayan brat.
Eoleo wasn't running with a full crew but the substitutes certainly weren't a downgrade. Once he had taken over his father's ship, Eoleo had decided to swear loyalty to the son of Isaac and requested that he join their quest. Matthew had agreed but, of course, he had little choice in the matter as he had been standing on the only mode of transport available to him that now belonged to the pirate.
But currently Eoleo's relationship with these kids was moderately friendly. Sure there were a couple that he was a bit tense with such as Amiti and that loudmouth Tyrell, but he was fine with Karis and Sveta despite the latter being a beastgirl – the princess of Belinsk no less – and, even if he was older and perhaps more experienced, Eoleo had more than once been willing to place overall command to Matthew when they weren't sailing.
Kid has a good head on his shoulders, Eoleo had credited the teen. He got those leadership skills from his father no doubt. Kind of quiet though, again, probably from his father. But that spirit…definitely his mother.
Belinsk had only been the beginning. They've journeyed to Harun, Warrior's Hill, Yamata City, and they've only just left Tonfon. There was no pillaging involved of course but they've been healing wounded refugees, bringing home royalty, meeting new friends and gathering powerful artifacts, the works. It was like Eoleo was part of one of the adventures of the Warriors of Vale once again. But then again, considering he was traveling with their children, this was hardly unexpected.
The pirate king who had once tangled with their parents, Eoleo thought with pride, now has his son journeying with their kids. Who would've thought?
You could've been here with us dad.
That was probably the hardest blow that Eoleo had to feel. This would've been a great way to end the story of the great pirate king. After leading Champa to an age of prosperity, Briggs would go on a journey with the children of the Warriors of Vale, imparting his knowledge and experience to the next generation as he helps them save the world. Then, once all was said and done, the pirate king finally passed on from this world with no regrets.
The image of his father lying upon the deck of his ship, bleeding and dying while he sat there helpless, was the last image that Eoleo would have of Briggs.
The bitterness welled up within him, threatening to cause him to use another piece of furniture or part of the ship as a punching bag, but by then Eoleo felt the cool air brush along his bare face and he knew that he was about to reach the deck. Already he could smell the pure, familiar scent of the sea and Eoleo felt himself calm. His ears caught the sound of the sails that were blown along a gentle breeze, the creaking of wood as the ship rocked along the waves, and the waters that splashed against the sides of the ship. These were sounds that were familiar to him and, as a pirate, the sounds that he had come to love just as much as his father did.
Since they were outside the influence of the Grave Eclipse, Eoleo was able to clearly see the stars that twinkled within the night sky and offered the only means of illumination along with the round, full moon. There were constellations that Eoleo recognized and just as he was about to judge where he currently was, he noticed something that was certainly not part of the usual sightings of a pirate ship.
At first he thought it was Rief. The figure was certainly short enough to be Mia's son but the hair that blew around the individual was longer and colored black. It was hard to judge whether it was a boy of a girl – a blanket was pulled around them – but Eoleo saw the hints of a violet nightgown that peaked out at the bottom. Despite the alcohol that was starting to dampen his mental processes, Eoleo brought up a list of his "crew", wondering why it was difficult for him to recognize who this was. After a few, slow seconds, his brows raised briefly in recognition as to who this could possibly be.
"I don't think little girls such as you should be out at this time of night," Eoleo spoke as he walked across the deck.
If she was surprised to see him, she didn't react in such a way. That was something that Eoleo had become both impressed and, admittedly, a bit disturbed with concerning the most recent addition to their crew with her possession of such…insight. Instead of jumping in surprise, the girl turned her head enough so that one of her eyes could look to him. The light from the moon and the stars were just enough so that Eoleo could see the red coloring of Himi's eye before she faced forward again, pulling the blanket tighter around herself as she shuddered.
Raising a brow at her silence, Eoleo paused for only a second before continuing forward and stopping about five feet at her back. Even at this distance Eoleo found himself looking down at the tiny girl as he patiently awaited some response from her. She didn't make any and instead just shuddered again when another cold breeze brushed along the deck, pulling the blanket even tighter around her.
Feeling a touch of concern, Eoleo dared to take a couple steps closer. "Are you cold? You should head down below and head back to bed. It's a lot warmer down there you know."
Again she didn't voice any reply and when he was about to step to her side he saw her turn her head slightly away from him. Eoleo looked at her quizzically but then his brows suddenly knitted in concern when, over the sounds of the ocean, he could barely detect the sound of a sniffle. When Himi shifted again, as if to draw the blanket closer if that was possible, Eoleo instead saw a hand drift to her face, wiping away at something before it dropped back down.
"Are you crying?"
The voice, while small, was steady and confident and Eoleo was almost ready to believe that Himi was telling the truth; that what he heard and saw was something else. But then he heard that sniffle again and when Himi tipped her head down to wipe at her eyes with the folds of the blanket, Eoleo knew that his suspicions were true. Having been standing two feet to her left, his head turned to her and her head turned away from him, Eoleo now shifted his body fully to examine her. Detecting the motion, Himi turned her back to him.
"Hey come on," Eoleo spoke, rolling his eyes. "Don't feel bad. What's wrong?"
"Nothing!" the voice was louder but the increase in volume caused it to break even when Himi had spoken just that one word.
"Well obviously that's a load of sh-crap," Eoleo spoke, stopping himself from saying a word that a child wasn't meant to hear and replacing it with one more acceptable. Or at least he thought it was acceptable anyway. Setting his drink on the rail, Eoleo knelt down so that he was at her height and placed both of his hands on her shoulders. He felt her stiffen at the contact and he immediately spoke, "It's alright; it's just me."
He tugged at her shoulders, trying to get her to turn around. Himi offered resistance but after a moment the girl was forced to turn around at his urgings.
He found himself staring at a thirteen-year-old girl.
Well that much was obvious but this was the first time he saw Himi as such. Ever since Himi had joined their party during their stop at Yamata, she had always seemed…older. It was the eyes, Eoleo decided. Ever since the artifact known as the Third Eye had been absorbed into her body and she spoke about the prophecy that started their journey for the Umbra Gear – or maybe she had always been like that, Eoleo didn't know – Himi had what could best be described as that thousand-yard stare that Eoleo had seen a few times with fellow pirates that had difficulties handling the business.
It was that stare that tended to unnerve Eoleo at times. When Himi looked at you, you never got the feeling that she was really looking at you but rather through you or even into you. The Third Eye that the pirate could barely see beneath her black bangs certainly didn't help; the mark having been placed on her forehead when she had awoken. There was nothing innocent about it and it was hard to even see Himi as what she really was: a little girl that was barely into her teenage years.
But those eyes were now red. Not red like the natural color of her eyes but, this close, Eoleo could see that the eyes were red and puffy from crying. Her cheeks were wet with tears and when she sniffled, the pirate could see another pair of droplets leak from her eyes and slide down her cheeks.
She was tiny. For some reason it was only now that he noticed how his large hands engulfed her small shoulders. He remembered her resistance and in a moment of clarity he realized that she turned around not because she gave in but because she was small and fragile and absolutely tiny. Even now she was turning her head to the side, trying to hide her face from him, just like any little girl that would be embarrassed and ashamed when an adult caught them crying.
Eoleo's mind went blank, something twisting in his chest. He had felt this before when his father had been dying in his arms. Like Himi, Eoleo had built up an illusion around his father and his accomplishments. A strong, brave man that was able to go head-to-head with the worst of dangers and beat it to the ground before walking away with a laugh. When Briggs had been dying at Belinsk, Eoleo had been hit with a similar truth: that his father was an old and frail man, the coming of death tearing away at the image and allowing Eoleo to see what the years and the stress of pirating had done to him.
But it wasn't death that plagued Himi. She was just scared and sad and completely embarrassed. She was acting just like any child would.
"Hey." To his surprise, Eoleo found his voice – usually rough and loud and powerful – having become soft. The change was so alien to him and the softness made him wonder if he had spoken at all. Yet he continued in that same voice with, "What's wrong?"
Himi didn't respond and instead kept her eyes averted. Bringing up the folds of the blanket, she rubbed at her face, trying to wipe away her tears and dry her cheeks. Eoleo watched the display uncertainly, not sure what to do or say. He had a feeling that he was supposed to do something but for the life of him he wasn't sure what.
Fortunately, he was spared when Himi decided to speak. Letting the blanket drop from her face – now dry but her eyes still red-rimmed and puffy -, she looked up at Eoleo and finally replied with two small words.
Eoleo's initial reaction was to laugh. Standing in front of him was a girl who had faced dangers that no man or woman had ever seen before. In every fight that had occurred since she joined, Himi would always stare it down with her red eyes narrowed, her staff raised, and an incantation on her lips. She was a Venus Adept that could perform abilities that were unique and extraordinary even when compared to that of Matthew's such as summoning dragons and other monsters to fight at her side. In the darkest and foulest of caves and dungeons, she would calmly scan the area before directing the party's attention to a door or a platform that all of them could've sworn wasn't there a moment ago.
He wasn't laughing. This wasn't that Himi but a normal, thirteen-year-old Himi that had gotten scared because of a bad dream. Bad dreams were the only scary things that a girl her age should worry about. That and spiders but Eoleo had seen Himi calmly stare down those eight-legged freaks that were ten times the size of any normal spider before vanquishing them.
Instead, still in that weird, soft voice, Eoleo simply asked, "Want to talk about it?"
Himi shook her head. "No." Another sniffle and she resumed looking away. "It…it was just a bad dream."
"It must've been a bad one."
Good guess dumbass, his mental voice commented.
Another cold breeze blew across the deck and Himi shuddered within his grip. Seeing this, Eoleo motioned his head to the stairs that would lead them back down. "Want to head back inside? Get some water and maybe something to eat?"
Himi hesitated and after another tearful sniffle she met his eyes and slowly nodded her head. "I guess…"
Taking his hands from her shoulders, Eoleo stood up to lead her back down. What had to be some form of possession took control of his right hand and, as he dropped it from Himi's shoulder, it slid down and took hold of her left hand.
She clung to it in a tight, desperate touch. It was the kind of touch that belonged to that of a frightened kid. Again Eoleo felt that something twist around inside his chest.
Leading her down below deck, Eoleo had completely forgotten the tankard that he left sitting on the rail.
Funny thing about this was that Eoleo was always bad with kids. Other then not being the babysitter type, kids were, quite frankly, afraid of him. And not just the kids that happened to be at some town or ship that was the target of plundering but even the kids at Champa were intimidated by him and the legends that had been built up around him. That usually meant they left him alone and Eoleo was quite happy to leave them alone.
And yet here he was, cooking up some fish stew for a little girl that wasn't afraid of him at all. Looking away from his handiwork, Eoleo saw little Himi seated at one of the tables. Her head bowed, shoulders slumped, she still had the blanket wrapped tightly around her. She constantly looked in his direction and sometimes he caught her looking but other times he was sure he missed it. When he did catch her, she looked away. But she did that as an adult; not the quick, embarrassed turn of a kid but a slow, I-was-looking-at-your-direction-but-not-really-at-you turn like an adult.
Eoleo guessed that she was in fact hungry and was checking to see if the food was getting close to being done.
"It's almost ready!" he called back.
Eoleo focused on his creation. He's cooked before of course; it wasn't just alcoholic concoctions that he could create. Considering his life as a pirate and life in Champa, fish was a popular dish and there were a dozen different ways to cook it. The one he selected was one his mother usually made for her husband and son after a long trip out to sea. The spices were listed in his mind and as he looked at the cabinet and located the one he was looking for, he grabbed it, added a pinch of it into the stew, and placed it back to its spot before promptly crossing it off the list.
Mom liked her stuff spicy; always had a bunch of different kind of peppers in the kitchen. Dad liked it too and would always ask me what I think she'll cook when-
How am I supposed to tell mom that dad is dead? And what about Obaba?
The shame and sorrow that he had felt earlier threatened to resurface at that thought. His mental list of ingredients was momentarily blurred, and the stirrer in his hand stopped as he froze in place. He had been wanting to go back to Champa to see how his people were fairing during the Grave Eclipse and to tell the news of Briggs's death to the rest of the family. He had even requested this of Matthew last night which was why Eoleo had been so restless and sought for a drink and, when that didn't work, he went up top where he found Himi and-
Shouldn't add the cayenne pepper; don't know if little Himi would like it that spicy.
He was able to focus again when he remembered that Himi was waiting for her midnight dinner. As troubling as these thoughts about his dad were, the simple thought that he was keeping Himi waiting helped him look past them. At least for now.
Should get her water while I wait for this to finish.
Contrary to popular belief, pirates did in fact keep stores of fresh water amongst their barrels of rum. As hard to believe as it was, Eoleo did know that there were a lot of things that made the use of water better then alcohol.
Though maybe a little something extra wouldn't hurt, he suddenly thought.
There was still that barrel of the Tolbi brand that he had pulled out earlier; the same brand that he had shared with his father when he was allowed to have his first drink. After a moment of thought and a shrug of his shoulders, Eoleo dipped a couple centimeters into the cup of water that he had brought out for Himi. Stuff was about to run out anyway, might as well make use of it to help her get back to sleep.
Eoleo thought about pulling himself a tankard as, amidst his cooking, he finally remembered the one he had left on the deck. But, surprising even himself, he decided to pour himself a cup of water instead. Once he had the two waters, he retrieved two bowls and poured the stew into each before throwing a couple spoons in each.
Got the silverware from a merchant ship that departed from Kalay, Eoleo thought to himself, the memory coming unbidden. It was heading to Ayuthay. With a humored grin he added, Can't blame Amiti and his people for hating me; this is some pretty damn good silverware that they missed out on.
With the dinner ready, Eoleo went to Himi's table before placing her stew and water in front of her. He was genuinely happy when he saw a smile appear on her face and, leaning her head forward, she took a sniff before looking up at Eoleo, the smile widening a bit.
"It smells delicious," she complimented.
Eoleo smiled uncertainly. The smile was because, he soon realized, he was happy to see Himi smile. The uncertainty was that Himi was speaking with the confidence and politeness of an adult again. After she bowed her head in thanks, she took the spoon and dipped it in the stew. By the time Eoleo sat down and gripped his own spoon, Himi had already taken a spoonful in her mouth and swallowed it.
"It tastes a bit…" she started, looking thoughtful, "…spicy."
Eoleo was immediately worried. "Not bad I hope? You were cold and I thought adding a couple spices would help. I cut back on most of the peppers that I would usually put in it but I didn't know your preference so-"
Himi giggled and for once Eoleo found himself embarrassed. He was a big talker, he knew that, but for once it sounded as if he was actually sounding flustered because he was worried about a little girl's opinion of his cooking.
"Its fine," Himi replied, nodding her head before taking another spoonful of stew in her mouth. "Good. I've eaten a lot of fish at Yamata." When she took a sip of her water, she gave it a funny look. "Is this water?"
Eoleo took his time swallowing his own bit of stew to give him a couple precious seconds before answering. Finally, he nodded his head. "Yes. Is there something wrong?"
"It tastes like something's…nevermind."
Whether she actually trusted that it was just water or she didn't want to actually offend him Eoleo didn't know. Either way she continued eating and drinking without question and Eoleo decided to do the same. They didn't speak a word to one another until the stew in Eoleo's bowl was nearly gone. Glancing at the other side, he saw that Himi was only done with about half of it.
She's small, he reminded himself. She eats slower. She's just a child.
He had to remind himself of that because of her mannerisms having reverted back to her usual, adult way. Maybe it was because he was quickly starting to see her as the too-adult Himi again that he finally asked the question.
"Want to talk about your dream?"
He immediately regretted it when he saw Himi pause in her eating at the question.
"You don't have to if you don't want to," Eoleo immediately spoke, trying to correct what he saw as a mistake. "It's just that you were quite upset and I thought…"
Himi stared at him. Despite himself, the pirate felt a shiver go down his spine at the stare. It was her "normal" stare: the thousand-yard I-can-see-into-your-soul stare. For some reason Eoleo couldn't remember being as disturbed by it as he was now.
"You know I have the gift of prophecy," Himi spoke, her voice sounding a tad off. "I can see things but not just in the present and the future. Sometimes I can see into the past."
Eoleo was interested at that. "The past?" He wasn't sure how the past had anything to do with it.
In front of him, Himi nodded slowly, still with that far-off look on her face. "I can see the past…including what could've been."
What could've been? Eoleo rolled that sentence around in his mind, wondering about the implications of that and Himi's earlier distress. Soon, however, his head jerked up in realization. "So you can see good things that have happened…but can see the bad things that could've happened instead."
Again Himi nodded and the fear that Eoleo had witnessed earlier passed across her face. Becoming a child once again, Himi drew her arms and legs against herself, her grip on her blanket tightening. Her half-finished stew lay in front of her, completely forgotten.
It wasn't fair.
The thought was strange, especially to Eoleo. He was a pirate and lived a life that had, at times, been cruel. He had seen bad things happen to good people and even good things happen to bad people because of chance, a fluke, or a person's own decisions. But for some reason Himi's plight and the small, scared child that was in front of him distressed him like nothing else.
She was just a little girl that had been both blessed and cursed with the gift of prophecy. With the Golden Sun event and the return of Alchemy, she was as much a victim as she was a privileged recipient of the world's reawakened powers. She had no choice in the matter; she had been selected at birth to carry this burden at the choice of some divine deity.
Himi's form shook and Eoleo was afraid that she was crying again. He couldn't stop himself from looking around the room, trying to find help that wasn't there. Everyone else was still asleep, dreaming peaceful dreams while Himi was tormented by hers.
You'd think Tyrell would be awake, Eoleo thought. Any scent of food in the air and he's drawn to it like a shark.
But there was only him. Unsure as to what he was doing, only going by the memories of how his mother and other mothers comforted their kids, Eoleo moved around the table until he was at Himi's side. Slowly, uncertainly, his arms came up and around her. Again he was startled as to how small she was as she melted into his chest, sliding along the seat so that she could press her face against him. He felt her shake in his arms just as she had done before and the pirate noticed a wet spot that started to form at his tunic.
"It's…it's okay," Eoleo spoke, still with that ever-present uncertainty. "It's alright. I'm here."
Himi cried silently against him, her hands having released her blanket so that she could put her small, thin arms around him and cling to him with that desperate, child grip that he had felt before and what tore at his heart.
This is insane. Why is she here?
At the time it was because they had needed her. She had been the first to speak about the prophecy and about the Umbra Gear that has led them on this search for the pieces that would be key to stop the Grave Eclipse. Her parents had protested but, foolishly, they had decided to let their little girl go on what had to be a dangerous quest. She was just a child. This was no place for a child.
Yeah? It was that mental voice again. That dark, hateful voice. And just what the fuck were you doing when you were a kid?
Doing a lot of things that a child shouldn't be doing. He had been drinking, taking lives and taking loot, experimenting with the anatomy of the opposite gender, and a whole list of other things that a normal child wouldn't do. His innocence had been taken from him a long time ago.
This is different! Eoleo snapped. She never had a chance to be innocent! She had looked upon these harsh realities long before she had been ready!
It was true and Eoleo had never felt as much pity for a single person as he did for little Himi. The dark voice had no reply and didn't make itself known again. By then Eoleo had noticed that Himi's form had settled and she muffled something against his chest.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" Eoleo asked, looking down at her curled up in his arms.
Pulling her face away from his chest, Himi looked up at him. She had made a complete reversion to the sad, scared little girl that he had seen on the deck; the tear-streaked cheeks were back, her eyes red and sad, and the fear was plain on her face. The sniffles were back too and when she spoke again, her next words were like a dagger that stabbed deep into Eoleo's heart. It went as deep as the one that had pierced him upon his father's death.
"I miss my daddy."
Unconsciously Eoleo tightened his grip around her and one hand went to the top of her head, brushing the dark hair – usually tied in two pigtails – that flowed down her backwith wayward strands sticking to her wet face. Himi continued to stare up at him, as if waiting for him to say something, but her eyes were closing, the lids getting heavy as either the emotional exhaustion or the alcohol was taking its toll on her.
"I know," Eoleo finally replied. "I miss mine too."
But Himi's eyes had fully closed by the time he spoke those words and her breathing had become slow and even, signaling sleep. If Eoleo had thought that Himi had looked so small and fragile when she had been upset, seeing her face when it was lost in sleep offered a whole new image to him. If he didn't know any better, he would have thought that sleep was the only place that Himi could find any peace.
Unfortunately, he did know better now.
Nonetheless, he tried not to wake her when he decided to bring her back to her bunk. As slow as he could, as carefully as he could, the pirate lifted Himi from her seat, cradling her against him. Her arms were still around him, still clinging to him even with the loss of consciousness, and Eoleo suddenly felt them shift so that they curled around his neck. He had frozen in place then, wondering if Himi had not yet drifted to sleep as he thought, but when he looked to her face and saw that her eyes were still closed and her breathing continued to remain even, his suspicions had been put at rest.
As had been displayed when he first walked through his ship, he knew the bunking arrangements that the party had decided on. As such, the boys such as Matthew and Rief's had been assigned to one end of the ship while the girls were assigned to another side so that no "accidents" should occur. Himi's was located right between Karis and Sveta's rooms and Eoleo was careful so that he didn't wake not only Himi but the other two girls.
The princess can pick up anything with those ears, Eoleo warned himself. He of course meant Sveta. Keeping one hand to hold Himi against him, he used his other hand to open the door to her room and step inside.
None of the bunks were anything special and offered the bare necessities. They all had a bed and a dresser at the very least. If the occupant wanted anything else they would have to bring it in themselves. Himi brought very little when she decided to leave her home and join them in their quest. There was a mat that had been laid out in the center of the room next to the bed where Himi conducted her meditations. Her staff was leaning against her bed and Eoleo assumed that the dresser only held a couple changes of clothes.
There was hardly anything personal and Eoleo wondered if Himi even did bring any items of such nature until he looked at the bed itself. There were four of them, all scattered along the mattress but Eoleo recognized that the stuffed dolls that were lying upon the bed were djinn. Each was a different djinni – a Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Mars – but the point of the matter was that they were simple children's toys that were the only personal possessions that Himi had that were just for simple fun and comfort.
It heartened Eoleo to see them and upon wandering over to the bed, he gently lowered Himi right into the midst of them. Placing her on the bed, her head resting against the pillow, Eoleo was careful to not wake her up and was satisfied when, upon standing up, she had not even stirred. The blanket that she carried was still partly encircled around her and Eoleo took the time to better tuck it in around her so that she stayed warm.
That was when Himi moved, mumbling something as she did so. Eoleo didn't move a muscle, fearing that he woke her, but instead of opening her eyes Himi reached out with her hands, seeming to search for something. The stuffed Mars djinni was what they encountered and they immediately encircled around the toy before drawing it back so that the sleeping Himi could hold it close to her chest.
"Huh," Eoleo spoke, a humored grin crossing his face. Seeing that she was now settled in, Eoleo finally left her side, exiting the same way that he came in. Just as he was about to close the door though, the pirate glanced back one final time to see the image of little Himi sleeping soundly, the blanket tucked protectively around her diminutive form, the stuffed djinni held tight to her chest.
With a low chuckle, Eoleo allowed, "Sleep well, kid" before closing the door and leaving her to her peaceful slumber.
He was fifteen again and he stood on the same docks that his father's ship always used whenever it entered or left Champa. With his birthday in only three weeks, Briggs had promised that he would be back in time to celebrate his son's birthday and, as a present, would allow Eoleo to set out with him on his next voyage. So Eoleo stood and waited, an excited smile on his face, his hands clasped behind his back as he stared out at the horizon, waiting for that dot that would signal an approaching ship.
As the young, soon-to-be pirate waited, he took note of the setting sun as it dipped down towards the horizon. It was dropping unusually fast but he took no mind of it. All that mattered was the return of his father and he would spend all night waiting for him if that was what it took.
When the sun dropped and then vanished entirely, the moon rose to take its place, the stars twinkling into existence as night took over. But just like the sun, the moon did not stay as long as it was supposed to. Seeming to move in fast forward, the moon and the stars vanished just as the sun rose back up from the horizon, taking back its place high in the sky.
Eoleo had waited for the entire night and there was no sign of Briggs's ship.
He wasn't troubled. His father had made a promise and he was always good on his promises. If he said he was going to return, he was going to return even if he was perhaps a couple days late.
A couple days went past in an instant. Up in the sky, the moon and the sun continued their dance, drifting down to be replaced by the other before they rose back up to take their rightful place over Champa. Days went by, then a week, two weeks. By Eoleo's count, nearly three weeks went by but he continued to wait patiently.
A fog had started to roll when night once again took over. Annoyed with this distraction, Eoleo did his best to peer through the obstacle, not wanting to miss any sign of Briggs's approaching ship. Up above, instead of dropping down as it had done many times over, the moon remained still.
That was when Eoleo saw it. It was difficult to see but the pirate prince could clearly see that something was floating towards the docks. Thinking that it could only be Briggs, Eoleo smiled wide and waved his hands in the air, trying to get the attention of any crewmen that would be on the deck of the ship at this time. The fog was thick so anyone would be having quite the challenge of seeing through it to make a landing. Eoleo hoped that he could help guide them in.
There were no calls to him so Eoleo voiced one of his own, hoping that sound would do better than sight. There was no kind of response whatsoever but the ship continued to get closer so they had to be coming in. Tired of trying to get their attention, he finally decided to just wait.
Closer and closer the ship came and Eoleo found himself bouncing on his feet, unable to hold in his pent-up excitement. At this distance he should start to be able to make out the mast, stretching high into the air almost as if it sought to reach the moon, and perhaps whoever was assigned to the crow's nest would finally make out the waiting pirate prince.
He didn't see those, however. In fact, as it drew closer, Eoleo was starting to doubt that what he was seeing was really a ship. That was when he started to finally feel uncertain, his smile faltering.
When it came, he was able to see clearly that it wasn't a ship that floated towards the docks. It was..it was…
Eoleo gasped, his eyes widening in terror at the coffin that finally floated out from the cover of the fog.
No! No, no, no, no!
Eoleo found himself knee deep in the water, not sure how he got there but only knowing that he was doing his best to reach the coffin. Absolute terror gripped at his heart, making it hard to breathe, but Eoleo did not let it deter him as he reached the coffin, his hands scrambling along the wooden surface, trying to pry it open. Splinters stabbed into his palms and fingers, blood leaking through the wounds and staining the both flesh and wood.
Eoleo found purchase and with all his strength he tore open the lid of the coffin and peered inside.
Briggs looked exactly as he did at the docks in Belinsk. Old and frail, his skin was wrinkled and liver-spotted, his gray hair and beard unkempt. And at his chest were two puncture wounds that had been made by the shadow creature that attacked him. Though his flesh was pale as death, blood continued to pump from the wounds and Eoleo could barely make out the sickly green appearance of poison that mixed with the red life fluids.
His eyes, having originally been closed, opened and Eoleo stepped back in horror. The eyes lacked pupils, leaving pure white orbs that stared sightlessly up at the sky. Or at least that's where Eoleo thought they stared. But then Briggs's head tilted towards him, the brows lowering while the flesh at the edges tightened, those sightless eyes somehow managing to stare directly at the pirate prince.
And to Eoleo's disbelief the lips moved and he was listening to the last words that his father would ever speak.
"…Take care of Champa."
Eoleo woke with a gasp, sitting straight up in bed, his eyes wide and a fine sheen of sweat having drenched his face. Quickly his head spun around in circles, desperately looking for clues that would tell him where he was.
To his relief he saw that he wasn't at those terrible docks where only a corpse waited for him. He was in the captain's quarters of the ship. He felt the soft mattress of the bed beneath him, the blankets that were currently stuck to his body. He saw the usual dresser that held his clothes but, unlike the other bunks, he had added plenty to his quarters since he had taken them over. There was a weapons rack of course, filled with instruments of combat such as axes and maces, and next to it was a desk that had the finest bottle of Bilibin brandy and a shot glass perched on top of it.
His room was a mess and there were a couple articles of clothing strewn about the floor. But it was familiar and it wasn't those docks. It was only then that he finally relaxed, his heart that hammered against his chest slowing along with his breathing. His hands came up to his face, wiping away at the sweat, and then Eoleo allowed himself to collapse back into the soft mattress, his head dropping onto the pillow.
"Bad dream," Eoleo breathed, his eyes staring straight up at the ceiling. "Just a bad dream."
How long had he been out? A glance towards the nearby viewport showed him that it was still dark out so he couldn't have been out for that long. A couple hours at most surely.
Despite the horrors that had just visited him in his dreams, the pirate found himself letting out a short laugh of pure relief and outright humor. It was just a bad night all around. First it was Himi that had the bad dream and now it was him. Instead of any mystical culprits to put blame to, however, Eoleo tried to calm himself with more reasonable, mortal explanations.
"I just had too much to drink," he told himself. "Or maybe too little. Maybe it was something I ate."
Of course, it had been his cooking that he had eaten. A hand came back to his face and Eoleo rubbed at his eyes as he struggled to keep his breathing calm and his thoughts from drifting back to that dream. It wasn't real. Those three words kept running through his mind as he tried to erase all traces of the dream from his memories.
Try as he might, however, he couldn't deny that certain aspects of the dream had been real. The condition of his father when he had died, including the wounds at his chest that had ended his life, and the last words that he had imparted to his son.
Take care of Champa.
Eoleo heard the door to his room open and the pirate was sitting back up in bed in an instant, startled by the sudden noise as he looked to the culprit.
Standing at the door to his room, clutching the stuffed Mars djinni in one hand, was Himi. The blanket that she seemed to refuse to part with was draped over her shoulders and as she stepped into his room, the Venus Adept looked up at Eoleo, her face immediately morphing into an expression of concern. Eoleo was only able to stare quizzically at Himi, wondering what she was doing here.
As if sensing his question, she answered with a question of her own. "Bad dream?"
Though he wondered how she possibly could've guessed, Eoleo found his lips forming into a grin nonetheless. "Yeah. Just a bad dream."
Worried, the little Adept was at the side of his bed in an instant and she held up her other hand to Eoleo. The pirate blinked in surprise when he saw the bowl that she held out to him and upon squinting at the contents he realized that it was a bowl that was half full of fish stew. The same stew, he guessed, that Himi had left unfinished.
"Want something to eat?" she questioned, her red eyes wide as she searched his face.
Eoleo couldn't help it at this display of role reversal. He laughed. Himi jumped in surprise, nearly dropping the bowl of stew at his reaction, and a frown came over her face. "What's so funny?"
Controlling himself, Eoleo shook his head. "I'm sorry, it's nothing. But no, no thank you; I'm not hungry."
Himi looked unconvinced but when Eoleo gave her a nod to assure her that he was fine, she shrugged her shoulders and placed it on the nearby desk. She didn't make any move to leave the room though and stayed at his bedside. Eoleo only raised a brow and met her gaze evenly.
She was the first to break the silence. "Do you miss your dad?"
He felt a pang at his heart. "Yeah. Yeah I do."
Himi nodded her head sagely, seeming to take on the role of adult Himi once again. "I miss mine too."
"You'll see him again. Why don't you go back to bed?"
Himi made no reply and didn't even seem to register his words. Instead, the girl placed her Mars djinni on the floor next to Eoleo's bed before lying down, her head resting on top of the makeshift pillow as she pulled the blanket around her.
Eoleo looked down at the smaller Adept incredulously. "What are you doing?"
"When I have a bad dream, my parents let me sleep in their room," Himi replied matter-of-factly. "It helps me."
Ah, now he understood. Smiling, Eoleo patted a spot on the mattress. "Eh, come on up; it's not good to sleep on the floor."
She needed no further urging. Scrambling onto the bed, Himi resumed her position, lying down on the bed while she pulled her blanket around her. The Mars djinni was still at her chest as she snuggled within the soft bed. She stared at Eoleo.
He couldn't help it. Reaching out, Eoleo rubbed the top of the girl's head. "Alright. Here's hoping we both get enough sleep."
A smile forming at her lips, Himi closed her eyes as directed. "Goodnight Eoleo."
"Goodnight little Himi."
They were both asleep in minutes. No bad dreams plagued either of them for the rest of the night.
Author's Note: The ending section felt a bit rushed but at that point it was past 10:00pm and I was actually hoping to finish, proofread and get this posted up before midnight so that I could get some extra sleep. Didn't work out too well, lol.
Believe it or not, this fic was actually supposed to feature Himi and Felix instead of Himi and Eoleo. In the original idea I had, Himi did have that "bad dream" but instead of breaking down into tears and confiding in a pirate king, she would've braved through the ordeal and, spurred on by the dream, would be eager to come face-to-face with the Venus Adept that had saved her father and mother from the Serpent and, thus, allowed Himi to even exist. That idea came before I completed Dark Dawn though and upon receiving no information whatsoever about Felix's whereabouts, I decided to chuck the idea when I became enthralled with what occurred in Belinsk and my developing fandom of Matthew/Sveta.
Though I'm mostly a fan of shooters, I do play quite a few RPG games and I notice the big trend of JRPGs that involve teen heroes. I have nothing against such a trend (Golden Sun has been one of my all-time favorite gaming series for Christ's sake) but sometimes the characters can get really young. Himi is one such example and upon receiving very little character development from her whatsoever, I really wanted to try my hand at ideas of what could trouble little Himi. A (to me) thirteen-year-old girl that can see the future and make premonitions? There's gotta be some backlashes somewhere such as the one I decided to use for the fic. As heroic as these warriors are, they're still teenagers and I think jollygreendragon's Drops of Jupiter is perfect to remind you of the fact. Teenagers are not seasoned warriors or that experienced in the harsh realities of the world – especially not Matthew and the others – and are susceptible to some of the problems that usually plague people around their age like girls, love triangles, the immature use of the English language, things like that.
And when you have a child like Himi who has these powers thrown into a mix…there's going to be some kind of problems somewhere. Which is why I kind of decided to go for the cliché setup of the big bad pirate king having a soft spot for her.
Course, it may be cliché but who's the one that just made the first Himi and Eoleo-centric fic? Hahahahaha! Goodnight people! I'm going to bed! If you've actually managed to read this to the very end, type up a quick review to insult/praise me for my awesome/terrible work!