Chapter Forty-One: A Clodagh Welcome
She woke without a sound. Her eyes opened to the girl's room bathed in silver moon light. She could hear the quiet snores of Nami while Robin barely made any noise at all. The room rocked softly back and forth to the gentle waves outside that whispered a gentle lullaby.
Rowan didn't understand why she had woken at first. It was as she laid back down on the bed that she realized it had been another nightmare. The horrible scenes playing behind closed eyelids and terror flooding her veins had forced her mind to wake from its unrestful sleep.
With a soft groan Rowan rubbed at her eyes and sat up. She could feel her heart pounding lightly and a sheen of sweat covered her form but…she didn't feel the need to run. She was too worked up to sleep now but she didn't feel like she could run a marathon. The terror was but a shadow of its usual self. And, for once, she felt semi-good from sleeping.
Rowan let out a softer sigh and got up from her hammock. She tossed on a pair of cargo shorts and a purple hoodie before going barefoot out the door. She scaled the stairs quickly before heading out of the storage room and onto the deck. A brisk breeze embraced her the second she stepped out.
"Hello Sanji." Rowan looked up and gave a light smile to the chef. He was nestled in the crow's nest with a lantern above his head and a book in his lap. Rowan climbed up and plopped down next to him. With both of their legs being on the longer side, Rowan was forced to toss them over the chef's and rest them on the edge. "You're in my spot," she told him with her small smile still in place. Sanji chuckled lightly before handing the book over.
"I thought you might come out tonight. Here." Rowan made a noise of acknowledgment while she took the book. Sanji was already half way through it. "Amazing isn't it?" Rowan looked to the chef. He was staring up at the sky. Rowan followed his gaze to the orb of silver hung preciously in the sky and flattered by the shimmer of stars. "We were so high in the sky and yet…no one will probably believe us." Rowan let out a light snort.
"Who needs to know besides us?" It was Sanji's turn to make the noise of acknowledgment.
"True." Rowan shifted into a more comfortable position. "Start at the first paragraph?" Rowan looked down at the book. She opened her mouth, prepared to start reading, only to find that she couldn't sit still long enough to focus. Letting out a powerful huff she tossed the book into her lap and stared up at the sky. "Are you okay Rowan-sweet?" Rowan made a noise but gave no sign of an answer. Sanji fell silent at her side.
"Why do you call me that?"
"Rowan-sweet. Why do you call me that?" Rowan continue to look up at the stars as Sanji looked at her. She could feel his eyes boring into the side of her face. After a moment of contemplation the chef turned his eyes to the stars above also.
"Because you are sweet," he answered as if it where the most obvious thing in the world. Rowan let out an undignified snort. When Sanji faced her he was greeted with a raised eyebrow. Sanji laughed at given expression. "It's true." Rowan rolled her eyes. Sanji let out a small huff before motioning for Rowan to return her attention to her. "You don't give yourself enough credit Rowan-sweet. I think you are very sweet." Rowan opened her mouth, prepared to comment on that funny fact when the first beat hit her ears. Rowan's ears perked up as did her head. She stood up from the crow's nest, her face scrunched. It sounded as if someone had dropped something down below but a voice of warning spoke to the back of her head. The second beat hit her. It echoed deep in her chest, beating with her heart and sent both exhilaration and fear up her spine.
"Go wake the others," Rowan ordered, dropping the book and blowing out the lantern.
"Go!" she hissed. Sanji scurried down the mast. Rowan's eyes burned into the horizon, searching. She found what she was looking for bathed in the silver moonlight and orange with glowing lanterns. "Damn."
By the time Rowan had gotten to the deck and raised the anchor, the others were joining around her.
"Why am I awake?" Nami demanded, stretching with a yawn. She hadn't even finished her stretch when she too heard the drums. "What is that?" she demanded now wide awake. Rowan pointed to the horizon.
"War drums." Rowan felt the eyes of her crew fall on her but hers remained on the oncoming ship. "We can't outrun them."
"So we defeat them," Zolo snorted, rubbing at the sleep dust in his eyes. The look Rowan shot the man silenced him.
"It's a Clodagh ship." Rowan ignored the shouts of surprise. She paid them little attention when she heard the horns. "Prepare yourselves. I don't know what is happening but this will not be a simple scrimmage between pirates." Rowan turned to the wide eyed crew. She pierced Zolo, Sanji and Luffy with a sharp gaze. "Defend yourselves but do not kill them." Luffy let out a strange noise but wiggled himself awake. "Just give me two minutes with their captain and I should be able to stop them."
"Did you not just say that that was a Clodagh ship heading towards us? As in the war mongrels that people used to hire in order to beat their enemies that outnumbered them ten-to-one? As in one of the only super powers to with stand the World Government? As in those Clodagh?" Nami demanded, her pitch getting higher and higher as she went. Rowan only stared at the woman, unable to really say anything to that. Nami let out a powerful huff that reminded Rowan of an agitated horse. "If I die I'm going to be very, very unhappy."
"Are they really that scary?" Chopper asked in a small voice. Rowan pulled her hood up and cast her facein shadows. She patted the little reindeer's head.
"Don't worry Chopper. They'll at least leave you alone." Rowan ignored Zola as the man stood next to her.
"Why don't we just try and reason with them, Rowan-sweet?" Rowan peered at the chef from beneath the shadow of her hood. It was with her lips tight and her teeth clenched that she rumbled,
"I do not know why they are here. For now, keep yourselves safe. I'll take care of the Captain." A thought entered Rowan's mind then, causing her to look to a still sleepy Luffy. "If you are okay with that." Luffy let out a large yawn and stretched his arms way above his head.
"Yep," he yawned a second time. Rowan smiled softly before nodding to Luffy in thanks.
"Simply survive the first few minutes and then I believe I can get them away without…"
'Without them realizing who I am.'
The ship was quickly upon them, cutting through the still water like a knife. The drums and horns were a heart pounding symphony. Its sail rose high above the large deck, black as night. Its deck and hull were deep red from the trees it was made of. Etched into the hull of the ship were ancient knots that formed snarling dragons. Splattered across the sails was a smiling Jolly Roger. A Jolly Roger that Rowan had never thought she'd see again.
And lining the side of the ship were thirty men and women standing with weapons at the ready.
"Remember," Rowan hissed softly to the boys "Defend, not offend."
"Apparently," a voice of steel echoed down from the front lines, "None had warned you of your foolishness and for that I pity you." The man speaking stepped forward and placed a foot on the low railing. His body was massive, built like an ox; his neck was twice the size of Rowan's and his feet were easily larger than her head. His chest was bare showing thick sinew that stretched and bulged on bones. His long legs that made up over half his height were covered by thick pants stuffed into leather boots. His bold features were pulled into dark lines as his green eyes blazed furiously. "But you dared mock a Clodagh…and for that you die."
The group charged onto the small ship with a reverberating roar. Merry buckled under their combined weight as they hit the deck.
"Remember!" Rowan hissed before charging the group. Rowan supposed that she should be happy that she had already figured out what was wrong. And deep in her gut she knew what she had to do no matter how reluctant she was. Rowan hit the wave of Clodaghs completely on the defense but with a destination in mind. The first she met was easy enough to jump; she shoved his head down towards the deck before rolling across his back. The next she was forced to kick in the side. A broad sword was swung at her head but Rowan slapped the back of his hand and punched his nose. She made it to the railing of Merry Go but was forced to jump another sword. She jumped again and slammed into the side of the enemy's ship. Her fingers grasped the edge of their ship and she hauled herself up.
"Oi!" she called out, causing the one who had spoken to whip his attention to her. Rowan sunk into a battle stance. "I'm the one you want. Not them." The man's eyes blazed into Rowan, raking into her form like daggers. The smoldering fire behind his green eyes turned into an inferno.
"You are the imposter."
"…yes." The man charged her with a roar. He pulled a broad sword from his back just as Rowan pulled out her brass knuckles. Rowan bashed his blade to the side much like she had earlier. It wasn't that hard considering one could only do so many motions with a large blade. He released his blade to one hand and came at her with a punch. Rowan twisted and watched his fist fly past her stomach. She felt the stretch in her hip as she brought her leg up high. She got in two kicks to his head before he hurried to back up and fixed his grip upon the blade. Snarling through clenched teeth the man sunk back into a fighting style.
"You are a good fighter," he snapped while wiping blood from his now busted lip. His lips pulled into a terrible snarl. "But you are not worthy of being called a Clodagh! Let alone Rowan!" Rowan did not say anything and just sunk back into her own stance. The man charged her a second time. Rowan was quickly put on the defense for the man's anger had been rekindled. His attacks consisted of a whirlwind of slashes that forced Rowan back many steps and had her bashing his blade left and right.
It was a loose board that was Rowan's downfall, literally. The back of her heel clipped the broken piece of wood. Rowan's mind supplied the growl of anger that the ship was damaged to begin with. No one hurt her ship. The man saw his opening and stabbed his broad sword forward in a powerful thrust. It was thrust at her neck aimed to kill. Rowan tossed her head to the side and felt the blade's tip cut into her ear while piercing between her head and the hood. She heard the ripping of fabric as the blade cut through and pulled it from her head.
The man's face was in hers, his furious expression turning into one of complete shock. Rowan found her jaw locked as she stared up at him. The man's sword was dropped, the flat of the blade slapping against her shoulder before clattering to the deck. She felt blood from her ear run down her neck. The roar of battle on Merry Go was nothing compared to the pounding of her own heart. She watched the man's jaw work like a gaping fish; opening and closing as he seemed to try to remember speech. It was only as his hand came up near her face, just centimeters from touching her flesh, that he choked out,
Rowan wasn't so quick to remember and could only node her head in something better described as a twitch.
The man gasped for air. Terror, horror and happiness clouding his eyes, the man sprang back from her.
"Enough!" he screamed, eyes still locked with her own. The fighting continued. "Enough!" Heads of red turned from harassing the Strawhat crew. One got hit in the head by the back of Zolo's katana.
"Collins?" one of them questioned, causing Rowan's heart to clench and shoot up into her throat.
"Collins?" she repeated, standing back up to her feet. "Collins is that really you?" The man, suddenly looking much more like a boy, gave Rowan a weak smile. Tears had filled the man's eyes as he nodded faintly.
"Aye." Rowan watched as Collins proceeded to fall to one knee and bow his head. "My Queen." Rowan flinched like the man had punched her.
"I am no queen, Collins." Rowan turned her eyes to Merry Go and about bit through her bottom lip. The others, no longer paying any attention to the crew, had all taken Collins' position and were in a knee bent bow. "Please stand. Please," Rowan begged them all. They didn't need telling twice. Like a tsunami the Clodagh crew clamored to their feet and quickly boarded their ship. Rowan found herself surrounded by stunned expressions that were either happy, confused or a mixture of the two.
"How is this possible?"
"Where have you been?"
"You have grown so much!"
"Rowan!" Rowan let out a heavy grunt as a woman slammed into her middle. She continued to groan as she was flung around in a wide circle, feet leaving the ground and her stomach being squeezed like a toothpaste tube. Rowan praised the Kings when she was set down. She sucked in as much air as her lungs could hold and stared into a wide smile of the woman.
Taking in the woman, the first thing Rowan notices was her long red hair. Many braids were scattered throughout and small trinkets adored a few. The next thing was the woman's sharp features that reminded Rowan of a fox. Her familiar smile and gentle green eyes only made her that much more beautiful.
"Colleen?" Rowan gasped before letting out a cry of happiness and pulling the woman in a hug of her own. "Colleen!"
And just like that Rowan found herself engulfed. Be it hugs, hard slaps on the back or even the occasional punch to the shoulder Rowan was smothered in all forms of affection. One man, just as burly as Collins forced his way through the crowd and immersed Rowan into his arms. She was picked up and squeezed into a chest that smelled of cigars and oranges. Rowan felt the wave of nostalgia hit her like a galleon upon her head. She felt the tears fill her eyes as she pushed herself back and stared. The broad face that was almost a reflection of Collin's expect for Colleen's smile stared back.
"Murchadh?" she whispered, feeling the overflow of tears pour down her cheeks. The man nodded, causing his own long red locks to clatter as the trinkets bounced. "Murchadh!" Rowan threw herself back into the hug much like she had with the man's daughter. "I thought you had died.
"How did you survive?" Colleen questioned softly even as a Rowan continued to hang in the man's arms, feeling like a child again. Murchadh placed Rowan down on her feet but kept a hand on her. The pirate looked to Colleen before wiping away the stream of tears down her face.
"Mihawk." There was a murmur across the group of men and women as Colleen let out a snort.
"And he did not bring you back?" Rowan simply shook her head and said,
"He tried to hide me. And for good reason. It has only been three months that my bounty has been out and look at what has happened." Rowan made a motion to the redheads around her with a soft smile. "I needed to flee from the World Government, sister." Colleen's eyes took on a softer tone as she brought up a callused hand and ran it through Rowan's short locks of red. Her own mane of hair was majestic compared to Rowan's; in fact, all the others had at least a few braids that made Rowan's entire head of hair pale in comparison. Rowan shifted uncomfortable but did not pull away from the older woman's touch.
"Is that why…"
"Aye sister." Rowan gripped Colleen's wrist and brought it down to her chest. She placed it above her head and turned a somber smile on the redhead. "But do not think that because my head was shaved that I lost my Clodagh heart." Colleen returned Rowan's weak smile with one of her own.
"Oi, Rowan!" All heads turned to Luffy as the boy slingshot himself to the deck. "I thought you said you didn't want them to know you were here?" The others followed after Luffy, looking none the worse for wear. Rowan was relieved to see them such and felt a swell of guilt when she realized she had not gone to check on them.
"I'm afraid that was impossible, Luffy," Rowan answered. She broke away from the rumbling group of pirates and joined her crew. "They saw my bounty and thought I was impersonating myself."
"And you never impersonate a Clodagh," Collins said, coming up from behind Rowan and clasping his hand on her shoulder. Rowan smiled up at the taller man as he smiled back down at her. "For the blood of a Clodagh is worth more than a thousand others' and the right to be called Clodagh-Friend is something earned."
"I think we're missing the big point here!" Usopp suddenly called out, half hidden behind Sanji. "You're a queen?" he demanded, eyes wide and mouth agape. Rowan flinched a second time and shook her head with a hearty shake.
"I am a King's daughter yes, but I am not the Queen."
"And who would be our leader then, Rowan?" Collins snapped, causing memories to flood Rowan's mind. Collins was seven years her senior and she had grown chasing after his heels much like she had her brothers. Rowan turned to Collins to see that anger had been relit in his eyes. He bore down on Rowan with his teeth gritted together. "Would you call that kin-slayer our King?" Rowan looked from Collins to the group of men and women. All had lost their smiles for faces of stone and ice.
"No," Rowan answered honestly. Her eyes meet those she called kin as they studied the group. They all appeared well; heathy and hearty as she remembered them. "I would not dare insult you by doing that." Rowan's shoulders slumped lightly as she closed her eyes and clenched her own teeth. "And I would not dare insult you by claiming the throne for my own. I deserted all of you to save my own skin."
Rowan felt the heavy hand slam into her forehead and all but push her neck into her back.
"Idiot!" Collins snapped. Rowan snarled as he released her and proceeded to slam her own fist into his face. Collins let out a cry as Rowan slammed his back into the deck.
"Bigot!" Rowan grunted as he hooked a leg around her waist and tossed her. Collins jumped onto her. She caught his open hands with her own and the grappling match began. Rowan rolled Collins, unable to stop her giant, manic grin. The two rolled across the deck before two giant hands picked them up by the scruff of their necks. Rowan howled with indignity as Murchadh held her up high. It was easy for the man due to his great height.
"Crew! Our Rowan has come back from the dead!" Rowan couldn't stop a laugh as she was tossed to the awaiting crew. Their arms encased Rowan and began to hoist her across the deck. "Time for a feast! Bring out the booze! Bring out the music! Tonight, we celebrate!"
There was a thunderous roar of approval that all but busted Rowan's eardrums. The smile plastered on Rowan's face began to hurt from the sheer size.
Nami frowned heavily as she drank from her mug. Her narrowed eyes scanned the boisterous crew surrounding her. She was hidden further back in a corner, near one of the smaller fires that the crew had made; said fires were nestled in deep pits and there was someone stationed at them at all times. She still found it a liability.
"You seem deep in thought Miss Navigator." Nami looked to Robin as the woman sat beside her. "Do you not enjoy the festivities?" Nami gave the woman a look. And Robin only smiled. Nami knew, after her being with their crew for the past few voyages, that the woman was sharp. Maybe even sharper than she, but Nami would never admit this out loud.
"They're keeping her from us." Nami and Robin looked to the biggest fire blazing in the middle of the ship. Rowan was surrounded by large, sweat covered bodies that danced, sung and prowled. They had made a physical barricade with their bodies and, like a living wall, they kept the others from their boatswain. Luffy they had easily distracted by shoving food down his face and stationed him off in his own corner where he was getting plump with their hearty foods. Usopp was surrounded by the younger generation, those closer to Rowan's age than the older warriors that hung about the woman. They were swapping stories of grand adventure but Nami would swear on her life that the others were simply humoring him. More than once she had seen them share glances before changing positions.
Sanji was deep within the ship, helping with the cooking. Nami had no doubt that he was trying to learn Clodagh recipes so he could surprise Rowan later. Chopper had been given the most attention out of all of them; it had taken her a short while to figure out why that was. Apparently one of the main sources of Clodagh's assets was caribou. With their cold island and mountain ranges the Clodagh had originally used them as their only source of living; but time and trade had allowed them to lay down their nomadic way of life and build. The caribou were stilled used as a main source of trade, especially between the villages but instead of the entire clan hunting them, they had been domesticated and were now taken care of by a single sub-clan.
"He's tried to get close to them twice now," Nami commented drily before taking another sip of her drink. Her eyes laid on Zolo who was stewing in his own corner. His knuckles were white as he gripped his mug and his eyes were dark as they stayed on Rowan. Nami wasn't lying either. She had watched Zolo try and get close to Rowan; both times now he had been met with a wave of Clodagh bodies that had shifted in such a way the man had found himself back in his corner without even realizing it. And yet the man hadn't yet gone postal like Nami was waiting for. And she knew why.
They had yet to actually do anything to them after the original scrummage. No weapons had been drawn, no harsh words exchanged and no violence had been threatened what so ever. And because Rowan was happy. She hadn't stopped smiling since she and the one called Collins had scuffed on the floor. Nami had watched the woman dance, sing (badly) and drink more than Nami had ever seen her put back.
"He's starting to lose his patience…and quickly," Nami grumbled before chugging a gulp of the strong booze. She could tell by the way his grip kept shifting on his cup and the way his eyes had been stuck on Rowan for the past ten minutes. Even she could tell the difference between his relaxed shoulders and the stiff anger that was settled in them now.
Robin said nothing to Nami and only took a small sip of her drink. The two females sat in silence as they watched Zolo try and go for another attempt at getting to Rowan. And for the third time he was put back in his corner. This time with two babysitters that were disguised as drinking buddies.
"He does look rather disgruntled doesn't he?" Nami let out a loud snort.
"That's an understatement. He's all but frothing at the mouth." His brow was pulled into a tight line and his lips were all but invisible as his teeth grinded them. Nami groaned as she watched Zolo slam his mug into one of his babysitter's face. It and the man's nose were crushed under the force. "And here we go." The other man tried to retaliate and Nami watched as Zolo picked up another by his throat and sent him sailing. "…idiot."
Nami was on her feet and her hand hovered over her staff. Zolo was surrounded by furious men and women but he ignored them all in favor of glaring at the one who hadn't left Rowan's side since she had set foot on their ship.
"What are you doing Zolo?" Rowan snapped as she stood to her feet. Her face was pulled into a scowl, the smile long gone. Zolo didn't say anything. He simply kept staring hotly at the man beside Rowan. Said man, Collins, was giving Zolo his own scathing glare. Zolo took another step forward but the Clodagh pulled Rowan closer to his side. Nami was sure she and Robin were the only one to see the disgruntled look she gave to Collins before turning her attention to Zolo. closer to Rowan.
Rowan shoved herself forward, causing the redheads around her to scatter. When she was finally in front of Zolo the woman stood before him like a puffed up tomcat. But Zolo wasn't looking at her Nami realized. He was too busy having a battle of wills with the man standing behind her. Collins was all but hovering behind the tall girl and dwarfed her in comparison. Even Zolo had to look up to glare.
"Oi," Rowan snarled, noticing the two men weren't paying her any attention. "Zolo, what is wrong with you?"
"Something you want to say Pirate Hunter?" Collins rumbled lowly. Zolo growled lowly, unaware of the growing anger in front of him. Nami could feel the tension on board the ship grow to terrifying levels. And Nami felt her own anger rise when she saw that Luffy was still eating.
Collins laid a hand on Rowan's shoulder and Nami almost hit the ground from the sudden ferocity that thundered from Zolo. Luffy finally stopped eating and stared over at the group, looking as serious as he could with food stuffed in his cheeks.
"Enough!" Rowan snapped. She ripped herself from Collins' hand and grabbed Zolo's arm. "The party is over." Rowan all but drug a still glaring Zolo across the deck she called over her shoulder, "Anchor here tonight Collins. I will see you in the morning."
"Aww, the party's over?" Luffy whined but Usopp pulled him back to Merry Go. Nami hurried after the others. She was surprised to see that Rowan didn't instantly release the swordsman and head back down to the girl's bedroom; instead, the woman dragged a now complaining Zolo to the lounge. The others tried to follow and got a slammed door for their troubles. Nami huffed and entered anyway. The others followed her lead. "Why'd we leave so soon?" Luffy complained. Rowan's hot glare shut the boy up. Luffy didn't have to bare it long however for Rowan turned her eyes on to her main adversary.
"What were you doing, swordsman?"
"What were you doing, prin—" Zolo made a face before he letting out a scoff and looking away from Rowan. Nami watched Rowan's eyes scan the man's face before she pulled back and glowered. With her own hearty scoff, Rowan spun on her heel.
Nami watched Rowan leave the lounge with the ferocity of an impending storm. She slammed the door hard enough to break one of the hinges. Cocking a hip, Nami turned to the still steaming Zolo while raising an eyebrow.
"You're an idiot." Zolo's head snapped to Nami but she didn't falter under the man's glare. Nami crossed her arms over her chest just as the noise of celebration retook to the air. "No subtlety at all."
"No really, that was splendid. The first time she's seen her friends in lord knows how long and you make it all about yourself."
"Very selfish mosshead." Zolo spun on Sanji with a fierce snarl.
"What did you say curly brow?" Sanji below smoke in Zolo's direction with a mighty scowl of his own.
"Enough both of you!" Nami snapped. Zolo snarled at Nami before throwing a fist in the direction of the other ship.
"You saw them! They were—"
"Keeping us away. Yeah I saw. And with good reason. Rowan's their queen Zolo! They haven't seen her in years, they thought she was dead! They found us because they wanted to kill us for using her name. If Rowan hadn't been who she said she was we would be in a horrible state right now! I don't even know if we'd be alive." Zolo let out a huge snort before throwing his head back.
"Are Clodagh." Nami let out a huff of frustrations as she saw that had little effect on the bone headed swordsman. "As I said, you're an idiot."
"What are you guys even talking about?" Usopp demanded from his spot at the table.
"The Clodagh do not appreciate our current existence," Robin chuckled, giving Usopp a small smile.
"Why?" Chopper chimed. Robin turned her smile on to the little reindeer and explained,
"It's actually quite rare to see a Clodagh alone. Normally you find them in essentially packs." Robin tilted her head towards other ship. "This is a rather large group of them but it's not uncommon to find them in at least groups of ten. Rowan is quite the rarity," Robin giggled. "And now, after finding she's alive, the others have become quite protective it would appear. And I believe the aggression of not having been there for her is being expressed at us. After all, they are a territorial lot."
Nami started to continue her reaming of the swordsman when a steady beat from a large drum began to pound. It echoed like a heart against the decks. The drum was alone but it was soon joined not by other instruments but by voices. The voices ranged from high to low but all were deep and proud.
"We are born from Fire
And forged by Steel
Strengthen by the sea we sail
We sailed the seas
We roamed the world
We found our home made of mother's earth
Sweet Dublin Isle, ho!"
The voices rose and peaked before going to the depths of the sea itself as they sung. Nami stared at the wall as the drum kept the company in harmony.
"Beware our sword
Beware our mace
Born from blood that we embrace
When they hear our cry
The war has ceased
For a Clodagh can change thy destiny"
"Through the sea, and through the storms
Our sails are tight and prepared for flight
Now hear my mighty battle roar
Born from Murchu
We carved our blade
We brought the mountains down with haste
For none can stand before our siege
When we set forth to victory
When you hear our cry
And see our sign
You had better run, you had better hide
For we of Clodagh have no mercy
For those we consider thy enemies
Our home is on the mighty seas
Sweet Dublin Isle, we are family
We thrive in the mountains
We ride on the tide
Beware the Clodagh
Beware the breed
For we are coming
And we conquer all we see"
Nami jumped as the music was interrupted by Zolo slamming his fist onto the table. She took a step back as the table shattered under his fist. Eyes wide, Nami watched the man leave and succeed in completely breaking the door.
Rowan woke with a mighty groan, her head lulling and eyes rolling. She blinked the sleep from her eyes and peered around while trying to fix her dry mouth. She smiled lightly when she found herself in a giant mob of bodies, all of them asleep and some snoring. They were out in the middle of the deck where they had passed out after one to many mugs of grog.
"Rowan," Colleen whispered from the edge of bodies. The woman motioned to large towels she had in hand. Rowan smiled sleepily at her before dragging herself from the many snuggled bodies. Yawning, Rowan picked her way to the redhead and together they went to the depths of the ship.
Pleasure rolled down Rowan's spine as she walked into the baths. Due to the ship's size there was plenty of room to host a large bath. Said bath was full of steaming water and some women. Rowan dropped her clothes with Colleen and joined them. She groaned as she felt the tension in her muscles soak out.
"Good right?" Colleen laughed as she too sank into the water. The older woman moaned lightly as she sunk all the way to her nose.
"We have a nice bath on the Merry Go but it's too small to soak in," Rowan answered truthfully. Stretching out to her full height, Rowan tossed her arms around the lip of the bath and relaxed her neck.
"It is a rather small ship, my lady," one of the other women commented. Rowan let out a noise of acknowledgment.
"She's small but she's a good ship. Merry has brought us all the way from the East Blue and has taken us as far as Skypiea."
And so Rowan began to tell the women her tale starting at joining Alvida. She told them of their journey through the East Blue and how Luffy had stopped Arlong and his crew of fishmen, and how she had meet Red Zeff. Rowan told them of how they had entered the Grand Line with Marines hot on their heels. She spoke of how she had found Vivi, now a full grown woman and how they had had to help her defeat Crocodile and how Luffy had been the one to beat him in the end. She told them in great detail their trip to Skypiea, leaving out Eneru's vile plans with her, and how Luffy had been the false god's natural enemy.
"You speak highly of this boy," one of the older women said lightly. Rowan missed the look the elder gave to Colleen who had yet to say anything since Rowan had started talking. "This Luffy." Rowan cracked an eye open and gave the woman a sheepish glance.
"Well…I wouldn't follow a weakling. And he is the Captain after all." Rowan wasn't startled by the sudden explosion of activity the women burst into.
"He's the captain?"
"You're following another?" They continued to yell, all of them wide eyed and completely confused. Rowan could only shrug a shoulder and settle further into the warm water.
"I have been trying to keep a low profile. As you saw, by gaining any attention at all I've placed myself in some difficult situations." Rowan ran a hair through her short locks without looking at any of the others. "After all, a Clodagh alone isn't exactly terrifying. And a young one at that." Rowan opened her eyes and stared at the many scars upon her stomach. "I wasn't exactly in any position to place myself on top." There was a long moment of silence.
"Why didn't you come back?" Colleen whispered into the silence. Rowan did not look to the other woman. She simply looked at the water surrounding her.
"I tried," she answered into the silence next. "At first I wasn't able to. Mihawk kept me within his sights for so long I wasn't able to do anything. He would train me so hard that I wasn't able to do anything but finish my chores and then go to bed." Rowan sunk to her chin and closed her eyes a second time. "Then I got old enough to come back…and I couldn't find my way." Rowan shut her mind against memories of Seb. "I found a home for a short while but then I was forced to leave again. And I escaped to the East Blue. I had hoped it would be enough; that I could bury myself deep into the country side. But, as you can see, it didn't work out that way."
Silence rang like a war drum.
"You're home now."
Rowan looked to the other women to find them all looking at her with different stages of smiles, some sad, some happy and some only full of comfort. Rowan found herself smiling in return.
"Aye. That I am."
Rowan stared into the mirror with her back facing the reflection. A mixture of relief and sickness was boiling in her stomach. Her breasts were bound by white cloth that allowed her to breathe but kept everything where it should be. But, bare for the world to see, was her mark of leadership. Nestle on her back a black tattoo of twisted knots and sharp lines created the bold head of a dragon. Sitting right below her shoulder blades, the tattoo was cut in half by the white scar that ran from her shoulder to her hip.
"You already look more like a Clodagh," Colleen chuckled while finishing tying up her own pants. Rowan looked to the woman with a small smile before fidgeting with a red sash she had tied around her waist. It was what kept her baggy shorts up. Rowan ran her fingers through her hair, pushing the wet locks back. It was with a heavy sigh through her nose that Rowan turned back to her friend.
"I should go check on the crew." Colleen let out a noise of disproval that had Rowan laughing. "They're not bad people, Colleen."
"They kept you from us," the woman snipped.
"They brought me to you." Colleen turned her nose up and went back to running her fingers through her hair. It was impossible for anyone on their ship to actually brush their hair with the many braids that adorned most of their heads. This had resulted in most of the Clodagh having a great knack at drying out their hair with just their fingers. "Come on Colleen. Let me introduce you properly. I think you and Nami will get along just fine." Colleen let out a light giggle.
"I can believe that." Rowan raised a brow at the woman but she said nothing more on the matter and stood up. "Let us get breakfast first at least." Rowan smiled and said,
"But you'll love Sanji's cooking so much more."
"I'll eat what I'm used to thank you very much." Rowan laughed aloud and followed Colleen to the breakfast hall. The hall was full of bodies that greeted Rowan and slapped her on the back. Rowan was all but ushered to the head table where Collins sat. Colleen sat next to her brother and forced Rowan on to his other side. Plates piled high with meats, breads and cheese were placed in front of her and a cup of grog was forced into her right hand. A hearty growl from her stomach had Rowan diving on the plate of food.
Collin's laughter next to her had Rowan look up from her plate. The man wore a bright smile that stretched from ear to ear.
"I'm happy to see you still have your appetite." Rowan gave the man a glare with no heat and went back to stuffing her face.
"If I remember correctly," Rowan snipped after a large swallow, "It was this appetite of mine that made you regret stealing food from me." Rowan slammed her fork in between Collin's fingers, stopping his hand from trying to sneak towards her last strip of meat. Rowan stretched a smile from ear to ear at the sweating Collins. "But it would appear you forgot that." She pulled her fork from the table and brandished it menacingly with her smile turning into a snarl. "You're going to have to get better than Luffy if you want to steal my food, heathen."
Rowan's eyes narrowed lightly as she saw the grimace cross Collins' face at the mention of her Captain. Tonguing her fork, Rowan tilted her head to the side and looked around the cafeteria. There was no sign of her crew though that in itself wasn't something to worry about. No doubt Sanji had taken care of them that morning. Finishing her meal with haste Rowan stepped up from the bench.
"Where are you going?"
"To check on Merry Go," Rowan answered while walking towards the exit. She frowned when she heard the bench of Collins and Colleen screech across the floor in their haste to stand. Rowan turned around to the two, seeing Collins about to jump the table in his hurry to get to her and Colleen already over it. Rowan's brows buried themselves between her eyes and she started to bare her teeth in aggravation. "I don't know if either of you were dropped on your heads while I was away, but let me remind you both that I was not born or raised to be stupid."
"You weren't just away," Collins snapped but an elbow from his sister had him falling silent with a scowl. Rowan's eyes snapped between the two siblings. Collins glared sat his sister and she returned the favor with a snarl of her own. Even after ten years of being away Rowan recognized the silent argument going on between the two. She had seen it many times as a child.
"What have you two done?" she demanded hotly upon seeing the look shared between them.
"Nothing," Collins snapped.
"It's really nothing you need to bother yourself with," Colleen explained while snarling at her brother a second time. Rowan continued to watch them with eyes that took in every twitch and clench that they did. "Come on sister. We can go back to my room and—"
"Why don't you want me to go on deck?" She saw the glance between them. The nervous flex of his jaw muscle had Rowan zeroing in on Collins. "What have you two done?"
The cafeteria had gone quiet. There were only eyes for Rowan and the siblings. None dared bring attention to themselves as they all sensed the oncoming storm that was a Clodagh's anger. There really wasn't anything else like watching to Clodaghs go at it. Even Murchadt remained silent. The fight either lasted for days or a mere matter of seconds; it all depended on the level of the two competitors. And, staring between the three, there were few who could give a definite answer on who would win. Their current Captain…or Queen.
"I won't ask again."
"We freed you," Colleens whispered, ducking her head under Rowan's stare. Rowan spared her a glance before Collins brought her full attention back to him.
"They kept you away from us. You were sworn to another when you should have been here with us. So we got rid of them. Now you can return with us to Dublin Isle, Rowan." Rowan's stomach twisted as her eyes scanned the room before they found Collins defiant gaze. "You've been away for long enough." Rowan strode forward and invaded the man's space. Collins straightened up to his full height and jetted his chin out defiantly.
"You would dare tell the one you call Queen how to live her life?" The man was quelled accordingly, bowing his head and hunkering down. Eyes narrowed Rowan advanced on the man one more step, invading his space completely and forcing him to submit. She then proceeded to stress each word while demanding, "Now answer my question; what have you done?"
Collins said nothing but started off. Rowan followed after him knowing that while he said nothing, she would be answered.
Rowan felt her stomach twist uncomfortably as she strode out onto the deck. Collins said nothing and instead clamped down on his bottom lip with a fierce scowl. Rowan walked past the giant of a man and stared out at the sea; an empty sea.