Patter…. Patter… patter…
Raindrops beat heavily against the windows, sounding like falling stones about the ship. The boats body creaked and groaned as it rocked from side to side in constant motion. It never rested, never gave in to stillness or afforded a moment of peace.
Tolten cringed and pulled his knees tighter towards his chest, ducking down to rest his head against them. If anyone could see him now, curled up on the floor in a pile of blankets and nets, they would all surely laugh at him. He didn't much care about that though, the nausea had all but consumed him.
Taking a deep breath he sought out the salty aroma of the netting, gulping it in and refusing to let go. Something about it soothed him, staved away the dizziness and the retching that racked his stomach. It was a foreign aroma to him… fresh and free somehow.
He had longed so badly to be free in the past, thrown into the shoes of a King and forced before all of Uhra to lead a frightened people when he could not even conduct himself with much success. Gongora had been there, of course, to pick up all the pieces. Or so he thought… now he knew better that he had merely been arranging the pieces in his own way.
How could he? That traitor….
All his childhood spent an only child with nobody to play with, to talk to, nobody who understood him. He was weak, always being mocked by somebody. Threats that they would have to deal with the wrath of King Zypha did little or nothing to stop them.
Rightly so, although Tolten knew his father loved him it was a cold love and a distant one, he never knew much of his mother or father, only that the latter was a brave, heroic man and far, far better than he could ever hope to be. He was always off somewhere fighting for the safety of his country and his people whilst Tolten sat in the palace and played with his toys.
He had never been trained in the art of kingship, not really. Upon his father's untimely death he was thrust into the position, a weak candidate but the only choice. Gongora had been his trusted advisor, his closest friend… he had felt protected by that strong and confident man and loved too in some strange way. He could safely say that Gongora had been the only one ever to look out for him, to care for him as a friend and to want only to help him.
But those days were gone now, swallowed up in the sea of more important things. Grand staff… power, world domination. How could such a timid creature as he compete with those things? He tried to come to terms with the idea that Gongora had in fact never cared for him at all, had been out for his power from day one, but it just hurt too much to think like that.
He sighed and bought a shaky hand up to his face to wipe away the tears that were forming.
After everything that had happened… aiding Gongora with his plans only to be very nearly killed by him, frozen to death no less. Being transported back to Uhra with Seth, a pirate! He was a wanted man then, roaming the back streets of his own city like a criminal, climbing hidden staircases and ladders and finding one or two who would keep him safe amongst all those who thought him dead.
Perhaps strangest of all finding Sed waiting to be burnt alive, sacrificed, saving him just in the knick of time to find out that he was none other than Seth's mortal son. He was wrinkled and old, at least sixty and yet he referred to Seth as 'Momma'. This was something Tolten still had a little trouble adjusting to.
And now they were all back together again, they had rescued the others from a lake that ran deep beneath the snow. It was a sorry state of affairs, everybody huddled together and nobody knowing or liking each other very much.
Jansen in particular was very hostile, never missing an opportunity to fight with him about something or other, even ridiculous things such as hair.
Tolten wasn't a particularly nasty person but even he had to wonder what turn of irony gave Jansen the idea that he had any right to ridicule somebody about the fanciness of their hair or clothing.
And when a fight erupted Sed would get involved and they would all be embroiled in some sort of strange macho display in which Sed was the only one who ever came out victorious unless Seth had something to do with it. He had never been very good in fights, much better to just stay out of the way.
Just then he heard a shuffling homing in on him and had only a few seconds to worry that it might be a rat when the pirate himself shuffled into view. Sed Balmore, captain of The Nautilus.
"Is that you your Graceness?"
Tolten stiffened and was overcome with an unbearable hotness. He was sure that at least half of the blood in his entire body had rushed to his face all at once. Huddling closer into the blankets he prayed that Sed would soon leave. No such luck…
Stepping towards him with heavy, thumping steps Sed bent down and pulled aside a blanket that had been concealing Tolten's back. Tolten let out a shiver, it was cold without his armour on.
"What are you doing in there? Muckin' up all my blankets?"
Tolten turned his head to the side a fraction and tried to look at him. The grey eyes boring into him were too much and he looked away again instantly.
"I… I'm ever so sorry Sed! Please, forgive me!"
Sed took a step back and crossed his arms, looking down at him with a puzzled expression.
"The sea too much for you your Worshipness?"
Tolten nodded feebly and reached out for his armour.
"And you took your clothes off because…"
Another wave of blood raced through his veins and he could hear Sed chortling to himself at the sight.
"I was t-too hot, I felt terribly sick… I… thought it might help, to take my armour off."
"Well as long as you're clean I s'pose."
Tolten turned to him with a baffled expression, overcoming his fierce embarrassment for a moment.
"I most certainly am clean. What are you suggesting?"
Sed laughed again, reaching out his hand. Tolten stared at it momentarily before taking it gingerly and getting to his feet.
This had to be one of the most humiliating things he had ever experienced in his life, standing in his undergarments, seasick, in front of the ships elderly captain who, as he had been told many a time, happened to be one of the deadliest pirates to roam the sea.
Sed cast his eyes over him for a moment and then grinned, something rather uncharacteristic for him as far as Tolten was aware. He could just see him running up to Seth and bursting out with his news so that everyone could hear.
"You're not bad lookin' your Highness, a little on the scrawny side though."
Tolten took a hold of his armour forcefully and began trying to wrench it on as fast as possible.
"Oh please, please don't tell anybody about this Sed, I'm counting on you!"
Sed raised an eyebrow and took a step back.
"Well, what'm I gonna get if I keep my mouth shut?"
Tolten blurted out forcefully. He would really give him anything to make sure this didn't get out and afterall it was in a pirates description that they should love gold.
"How about some diamonds? I see you're not lackin' in 'em."
Tolten cringed at the thought of his jewel encrusted armour. He had to admit it looked a little ridiculous even at the best of times.
"I'll have you know this is the royal armour of Uhra! Every Uhran King wears this, it is customary!"
Sed mused, cocking his head to the side and resting his chin on his hand in a mock thinking pose.
"I suppose all Uhran Kings also curl up in a pirate ship and take their clothes off too."
Tolten stalled at this, stuck midway through pulling on his trousers. This was surely a sight to behold. He was glad there was no way of recording this image.
"….Fine, fine! I'll give you all the diamonds and gold and anything else you desire just so long as this remains our secret."
Sed grunted in response and then fell into silence. Tolten felt that his heart was pounding so hard it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine it bursting out of his chest altogether. After what seemed like an eternity he let out a frustrated sigh.
"Well? Is it a deal?"
"I must say you're really starting to learn your way around a trade your Graceness, you could really become useful. It's a deal."
And with that he was off, thumping out of the room in the same way that he had entered and leaving Tolten with his last shred of dignity that he hoped was lodged somewhere in his shoe.
It was night now and everybody was asleep. The storm had eased a little and Tolten could barely hear the sound of the rain anymore. What had once seemed like boulders rocking the ship had now subsided to pebbles.
Around him he could hear the soft snuffling of the children breathing and somewhere in the distance the loud drone of a man snoring. Or at least he hoped it was a man.
Carefully he clambered out of his bed and stood up, dusting himself off a little. He had been awake for hours trying without success to lull himself to sleep. The only time he had managed to come close he had heard some suspicious squeaking that set his mind racing about man sized mice hiding somewhere in the shadows and since then all attempts had been futile.
Tiptoeing out of the room he looked down the corridor. Why exactly he was creeping about eluded him, the only reason being that it seemed like the right thing to do.
Much to his disappointment the ship looked nothing like it had been described in all the tales, no dingy pathways covered in soot or cobwebs hanging about the lampshades. No moaning and crying of slaves or crew members. Nothing at all really, it was a little anti climatic.
Continuing down the hallway he could hardly help but look into each room that he passed. Some had barrels inside, some bunks filled with sleeping people, some material for sails although they had no use at all, sails having become obsolete long ago.
Then he came to an open door, the door that would lead him onto the deck.
What on earth is this doing open?
Stepping out of the door he came upon a strange sight. Sitting on the deck with his legs dangling over the edge of the boat was Sed, seemingly deep in thought.
Crossing the deck quickly and quietly Tolten came to stand beside him, looking down at him with wonderment. He was fast asleep and yet sitting up straight, slumped only a little, right on the precipice. Tolten couldn't help but worry that he might fall off right into the sea. His silver hair hung limply in his face, dampened by the now soft drizzle that continued to fall. His skin glimmered and shone under the lamplight.
He seemed oddly peaceful and yet somehow a little sad, his brow lined with all the years of age that had passed him by and were waiting for Tolten somewhere in the future.
"You're so much older than you seem, aren't you?"
He whispered, getting down onto the floor and sitting beside him. The rain soaked deck made his pyjamas wet and his bare feet were beginning to feel very cold yet somehow it didn't bother him much. It was as if nothing could touch them there, as if the raindrops were somehow deflected away from them.
He sat there for some time, looking out to sea. It was much calmer now, less vicious and cruel than he had ever seen it. The waves in his stomach too had settled to leave behind a great peace. Perhaps it was because he was sitting next to the pilot of the ship, he who loved her so much, as though she were another human, and who respected the sea so greatly. Maybe he had a little pirate in his blood, somewhere deep and hidden. Something that made the pirates life so fascinating and filled his head with adventures. He liked to think it might be both.
Just as he was turning to leave he let out a small gasp as something caught his leg, gripping it gently.
Sed looking up at him from below and blinked slowly, shaking his hair and then pushing it out of his face.
"What are you doing out here? I thought I was losin' my mind when I heard you mumbling to yourself."
Tolten blushed deeply, something that was becoming all too common. What was he supposed to say to that? Oh I was watching you sleep?
"Erm… I… well I just wanted to look at the sea that's all. It's beautiful isn't it?"
Sed's features softened as he patted the metal next to him and ushered for Tolten to seat himself again.
"It is… been on it all my life, gets me anxious when I'm away too long."
Tolten nodded dumbly. He'd never really felt that way about anything, most things made him feel anxious.
"When I lost Momma I didn't know what to do… I roamed the sea of course, couldn't give that up. Got my own crew eventually too… it wasn't the same though, I just wanted to find her. She's a strange one, always knew she couldn't die, she was special… so how could I lose her?"
Tolten nodded. The relationship between Sed and his mother was an odd one, in honesty he had never really understood in properly. In the beginning he had been half tempted to make jokes about it but soon forgot them when he saw the anger that Sed projected whenever their relationship came up.
"When did you lose her?"
Sed sighed, looking down at his hands and flexing them. Strong hands.
"I was young. That damn Gongora's fault, made her see things that weren't true or real. I don't like magic, much rather use my gun. Magic took her away."
"I much prefer my sword"
Sed cast him a weary glance and then reached out and patted him on the leg. Tolten flinched.
"Did you think I would hurt ya? Never hurt a fly… well…"
He chuckled and shook his head, moving to take his hand away. Without a second of thought Tolten reached out and clutched it, holding onto it tightly.
"I know. It's just a habit I suppose, I wasn't raised to trust pirates."
Sed looked at him incredulously and then dropped his gaze to their hands. They couldn't have been more different really, Sed's hands were large and rough, wrinkled… old. Tolten's looked almost as though they were glowing in comparison, he had long, slender fingers and smooth rounded nails.
"We're like two sides of a coin aren't we your Highness? You're a quiet little thing, young as well and timid as a mouse and me… well I'm a brute if anything… still a Momma's boy though"
"I like to think I'm a little braver now… Now that you and Seth saved me from Gongora. I don't know what I would have done without you."
"You'd probably have died."
Tolten grimaced at the brashness of the statement, he wasn't used to people talking to him in such a way at all. In Uhra everybody had to mind their words around him and always treat him with the best manners.
"Everybody needs savin' from him don't they?" Sed attempted, backtracking on his words "Couldn't exactly leave ya… no matter how much I might have wanted to."
Tolten smiled weakly and loosened his grip on the older mans hand. Strangely he felt like crying again.
"Hey… I'm only messing. Nah… I like you kid, nobody could say you're not tryin' hard."
Raising his other hand up in front of him Tolten watched as faint splatters of rain fell onto it. It looked odd in the darkness, lit up by the lamp and the moon and stars.
"Sed, you know how to rule people. You said yourself you have a crew and you're feared by people all over the world! Do you think you could tell me how to do it? Become like you? I want to be…"
He stopped short and dropped his hand to his lap, careful to avoid touching Sed.
Sed turned to him and shook his head, slowly, wisely.
"You don't need to be like me… believe me, you don't wanna be. I'm an old man, brittle creaking bones, complaining when I get up in the morning. It's strange, being old and seeing your own Momma stuck in time… you're better off wishing you were like that Kaim Argonar."
"You're brave though… I… I wish I could be so brave."
Sed squeezed his hand then, his own palm was hot almost as though fire ran in his veins. Tolten looked at him, a little shocked at his friendliness. He'd really been expecting Sed to push him away as soon as he'd awoken.
"I had to learn to be brave, we're both mortals, we're not strange like all of them… or socially inept like that dolt followin' the Queen about all day and night. Just normal."
Tolten nodded and closed his eyes, breathing in deeply and waiting… for what he wasn't so sure. After a moment Sed loosened his grip on his hand and leaned over, planting a strong kiss on his hair.
Tolten stumbled on his words. This had to be the strangest day he had experienced in a long time. It was very peculiar to be treated this way by a man who always seemed so gruff and mean. It made him feel warmer somehow, as though his own father were there.
Sed shook his head, standing and beginning to walk away.
"You're brave enough your Worshipness, I can see it already… it's only you who can't."
I really loved Tolten in the game, I know some people found his character annoying but I found him to be just so cute and sweet. I really enjoyed the friendship that was built up between him and Sed so this was really fun to write.
I hope you enjoyed it!