"I see you."
It didn't occur to me that someone was speaking to me at first. We were all out wandering through a market place. It was resupply day and we all had a list of items to get.
"I see you, little mageling."
The word "mageling" caught my attention, though. I turned around to see who was speaking to me and why.
There was a tall, narrow man in a dark traveling cloak a short distance away. He had its hood pulled up over his head, but his face was visible enough. It wasn't nasty, or suspicious, or scowling, or anything. It was just a normal face.
"Um... I see you, too?" I squinted, unsure.
The hint of a smile played at the edge of his mouth. "Walk with me a short way." He turned and walked away.
I frowned, finished paying for the bag of things I'd just gotten and went to catch up. "Who are you?"
"My name is Justin, but that's not important. You
He still kept his hood up, but like I said, he wasn't making any sort of attempt to hide his face from me or anything. While he walked, he looked straight ahead, only acknowledging me in talk.
"Did you need something?" I asked. We were only heading through the main market street. No place shady. Safety alarms could remain off, I told myself.
"I see you."
"Yeah, you said that," I frowned. "Most people can see people. Most people have eyes."
"I see more than what normal eyes see, little mageling," Justin said, lowering his voice. "I can see that being a pirate still troubles you."
I stopped walking a moment. Justin paused after another few steps and turned around, finally looking at me.
"Keep walking, please."
"How do you know about that?" I asked. Those previously mentioned safety alarms were starting to go off in my head.
"Because I am a seer. I see things. I see you."
"Yeah, well..." I started walking again, anyway, but it was in defiant protest now. "It's my problem, not yours."
"It bothers you and yet you do nothing about it." Justin started walking again. Now that I thought about it, he had to be almost as tall as Jace. "That's going to do a job on you, the longer you let it go. It will weaken your resolve in the future."
"It's my future, so don't you worry about it," I said quietly.
"You're still walking," Justin pointed out.
"You're still talking," I returned.
"You have the option to walk away," he shrugged. "Why do you have a problem with piracy?" he asked.
"Well," I squirmed. "It's not all
piracy, it's just... Well... I know what it's like to not have anything, and I hate to put someone else in that situation. Sometimes the places we're pirating from have very... clouded origins. It's not clear if the funding we're taking was originally someone else's bread for the day, or if it was excess."
"You're alright with taking from those who have excess?" Justin asked.
"Well, it's different..."
"Isn't it still stealing?"
"Yes, but that's where I draw the line. I grew up having to steal to be able to survive. Hand-outs alone weren't enough to keep all of my friends and me fed and warm and clothed."
"So you have a sort of thief's honor, then."
"Yes," I said.
"And yet you don't mention this, ever."
"I thought about it," I said, glancing away.
"Then why haven't you said or done anything about it. Why haven't you made your feelings on the matter known?"
"What good would it do?" I muttered. "I'm indebted to these people for saving me. If I don't like what they're doing, I don't think there's really much I can do about it."
"You will know that you tried," Justin said. "That way, one day, you can look back on this time and say, 'I did what I could.'"
My shoulders sank. "What if they don't care?"
"What if they don't?" Justin asked. "Do you really think they'll so easily abandon the mageling that they claim to need?"
"Because I have a strong opinion? I dunno, maybe... I don't really wanna think about it."
Justin stopped. I paused and glanced back toward him. His passive face had become a frowning one of disapproval.
"Well, what if they don't
want me anymore if I'm not willing to go along with things?"
"Would you rather stay and live in a way that you don't agree with?" he asked.
I looked at the ground again. "They keep me. And they're my friends."
"Friends care what their friends think. They don't shun you because you disagree. Are these people truly your friends?"
Slowly I looked back up at that Justin guy. The frown was gone, but something stern was still in his expression.
so, but... What if?"
"You need to be able to live with yourself if you're going to be your own person." He stepped forward again and set a hand on top of my head. "There's good material here, but you have to choose to use it. If you let it stagnate, it will waste away and become nothing but fodder for someone else."
I frowned and pulled a step back. "I'm not fodder!"
The hint of a smile returned to his face. "Then you know what you should do."
"Oh, hey, Car!"
I turned around. Crim, Twest, and Tiara were heading down the hill at the edge of the market place, waving.
"Did you get everything, okay?"
I flustered for a moment, realizing I hadn't. I'd been busy talking with Justin and not paying attention to what I should have been buying. So I turned around to excuse myself from my chat with the tall man.
But he wasn't there. Where he had been, though, was a bag. I looked around for Justin, but couldn't spot his dark cloak anywhere.
Crim and the others caught up with me as I was leaning down to check the contents of the bag.
"You okay?" he asked.
Inside the bag were all of the items I hadn't yet gotten, and a small note card. It said You're welcome. Do well.
I stuffed it in a pocket and said "Yeah; fine."
We headed back through the market toward the docks where the Scarlet Skye was. Crim, Twest, and Tiara chatted amiably about various things while we went, but I wasn't paying sharp attention. If Justin was still wandering around, I was going to spot him. I never did, though. We made it back to the ship last of everyone and completed the cast off without ever seeing hide or hair of the guy.
After some time, Crim was alone at the helm, so I approached him and shyly voiced my thoughts. He listened. I couldn't tell if he was amused, or disbelieving of how outlandish I was being, because he didn't say a thing until I'd struggled to some sort of conclusion.
"So... I was hoping we could choose targets with a bit of, um... discretion... in the future..." I finished.
Crim didn't respond at first, but he still had that look I couldn't quite identify.
"Out of curiosity, mageling, what would you do if I said no?" he smirked.
I heaved a great sigh. "I would hurt, because I want to think so much of you guys, and I don't think I could if you said 'no'."
Crim patted my head and ruffled my hair. "I always choose targets with discretion, mageling. I was brought up better than that. If what we did hurt real people with real problems, it would make us as horrible as the people we left behind in our old homes." He made a nodding sort of gesture to the rest of the ship. "None of us were quite happy with the ways things were in our old lives. The Scarlet Skye was our chance to do things better, by our own choices." He looked at me again. "Your views count, too, now, y'know. You don't have to be afraid to voice them."
I hugged him around the middle, a deferring sort of thank-you gesture, and received a chuckle and another head tousle.