©2012 A. Jane
Middle of the Far Eastern Seas
Gin stood rooted to the deck as he watched his twin leap across the distance separating Treasure Hunter and the boat known as Graceful. Rum landed in a crouch upon the railing, hazel eyes drilling into him.
“What do ye do here, Rum?” He had never quite seen that look in his brother’s eyes.
Rum continued staring at his brother, knowing it to be him despite the change in hair color from blond to dark brown. He would know his brother anywhere. Temper aroused, his Lyndian brogue was thick, his U’s dipping and his R’s rolling, as he growled, “Hide all you want, brother mine, ‘twill not stop me from finding you and thrashing you well.”
For reasons he knew not, Gin took a step back, his hand going to his hair. Surely he was not hiding. “Excuse me?”
“Think you ‘tis acceptable to cease our connection with nae warning? To leave me dangling in such a fashion?” Rum launched himself at Gin, tackling him.
Gin rolled with Rum trying to gain the top position, but Rum fought back and overpowered him, forcing him onto his back. Gin struggled, refusing to lose, and felt his own anger begin to rise. He hated that Rum, fragile Rum, delicate Rum, scared Rum, could win in this instance. As the older brother, he, Gin Py, should always beat his little brother.
“Ye bastard, married ye were, I needed not knowing what went on ‘twixt ye and him.” Gin continued struggling and managed to roll Rum over. “Why would I wish to know yer lustful activities?”
“Then you need not crawl about my head while I fuck him! Nearly did I die and never would you have known. Wonder I do if you would have cared.” Rum pulled back his fist and struck Gin.
The brothers’ eyes went wide, both too surprised to react for a moment—it had been years since either had struck the other. With the shock wearing off, the pain hit Gin.
“Fuck!” Gin’s hand flew to his jaw. “Ye hit me!”
“Aye! ‘Tis something you deserved from me.” Rum went to hit his brother again, but Gin blocked him and then threw an elbow knocking Rum off of him.
Gin shook his head, trying to dispose of the stars circling his vision. He expected pain from the elbow thrown, but none came. Instead Rum looked to be the one suffering from the elbow, just as he had done from Rum’s fist.
“The High Keeper of all Keepers, removed she did Perta’s curse a fortnight past.” Rum crouched, readying to spring, not done with the fight.
“She said naught to me when last I saw her.” Why that hurt, he knew not, other than the van Wyrn had shown a preference for his brother. But then his brother’s words sunk in. “What mean ye, ye almost died?” He looked for Suede Boots and found that he had boarded Treasure Hunter. Rum’s husband stood at the railing. “Ye were supposed to protect him!”
“Both horribly hungover Rum and I were that morning next with nae memories of the night previous.” Suede crossed his arms over his chest, doing what he could to keep from the fight. He did not want his husband injured, but ‘twas always best not to try to separate brothers fighting. Besides, Gin deserved all Rum could throw at him. “Even had I remembered, doubt I do I would have seen the spell that harmed my husband for ‘twas hidden within the cobbles of the street outside yer townhouse. Not even the van Wyrn saw it.”
“And what were ye doing going about…”
“You think so little of me.” Rum sprung, tackling his brother once more. “I am nae longer that lad, I am not fragile!”
Knowing that he no longer felt the pain upon striking Rum, Gin did not hold back, allowing all of his resentment to flow through him, and started swinging his fists as if this were any other fight and not his brother.
* * *
Torin rushed forward seeing the brothers rolling about on deck fighting for control, wishing not to see the brothers fight, not wanting Gin hurt, but he was held back. He looked to see who grabbed him and found Rune. “Release me!”
“Nae. In need they are working this out ‘twixt themselves. Besides, neither can strike the other, only will they…” Rune blinked, eyes going wide, seeing Rum slam his fist into Gin’s jaw.
“You were saying?”
“Cursed they were to feel the other’s pain did either strike… I…”
Torin once more tried to rush to Gin, but was again held back by Rune. “Why do you stop me?”
“It changes naught. Still they need to work this out. Hard Gin is upon Rum, never allowing him to find his strength, keeping him clinging to him. And yet, he resents his brother for doing just that.”
“I understand not…”
“’Tis a tumultuous thing, their brotherhood. Gin, he thinks so little of Rum, but never would he not protect him, do what he could to keep harm from befalling him. Times there are Gin knows not what he does to Rum.”
“I am aware of their relationship, the difficulties betwixt them, Gin and I have spoken of them, but that means not that I can stand here and let them beat upon each other.”
Rune once more stopped Torin. “’Tis not his first fight with Rum, ‘twill not be his last.”
“Am I supposed to just sit and watch while Gin is pummeled?”
“And while he pummels back, aye. Methinks they are in need of such exercise, to work out their frustrations with each other.”
* * *
Gin struck Rum one last time before rolling away, his body aching. He was certain several of his teeth were loose, if not ready to fall out. He had heard Rum’s fists were strong, much like building stones, but… Well, Rum was his younger brother and surely Rum could not hit as hard as he.
His brother hit harder than he.
“What do ye do here?” He turned his head and glared at Rum…through his one good eye.
“Other than searching you out?” Rum punched Gin’s arm once more, though it lacked the power from before. Fuck, he wanted to keep hitting him, but his strength for the moment was gone. It had not been a well thought out fight, allowing no strategy, just wild fists flying. “I go in search of Doshan and to mayhap meet Old Man tyr Vens.”
“What!?” Gin tried sitting up, but fell back.
“Uncle Relond said the old man wanted us.”
“’Tis a lie!” Gin rolled so he was on his stomach and forced himself to his hands and knees, then twisted and fell onto his ass. He wiped at his mouth, hissing when he came away with blood. “’Tis a fucking lie! That bastard…never did he want us. Never!”
“And why should I believe you?” Rum stayed where he was. If he moved, Suede would come running over and he was not ready for his husband to tend him. Suede would want to take him back to the boat. “Many truths have you kept from me.”
“Because, ye fool, yer brother I am. Fuck! Did ye think I kept ye from them because I wished to keep ye tied to me? I tried to off ye on him when we were twelve, but… Yeryl and Zasara! He wanted naught to do with us. I know not why, but ‘tis the truth.”
“You tried to be rid of me?” Rum thought if he could move, he would continue thrashing his brother, not caring his weakness. He had not expected it to hurt so much hearing what he had only begun to suspect of Gin’s feelings.
“I thought… A tyr Vens ye are, I thought ‘twas where ye should be, with them, not with the awful, bullying ryn Ferths. I wanted ye to have more.”
“Why did you never say?”
“Mamé said I was to protect ye, so ‘tis what I did. Speak with Rune; our uncle he is. Or better still, speak with Jasper. That she was once married to the old man, she would know well the sort of bastard Ethen tyr Vens is.” Gin pointed toward the one in question and felt relief when his brother’s attention shifted from him. Soft hands pressed against his back and his attention turned from his brother. At that point he cared little what his brother did, he just wanted those hands soothing him. Tears pooled in his eyes. “Torin…”
“I am here, pirate.” Torin crouched down and wrapped his arms about Gin, held him gently. “Do you feel better for the exertion?”
“Nae…aye… Fuck, I know not. I minded not hitting him, but I hate that he…that he bested me. Methinks he hits much harder.”
“And that matters?”
“I am older, should I not hit harder?”
“Mayhap because you are older, he learned to hit harder. Besides, methinks he held much more anger than you.”
“I am the one with resentment, always having to care for him, dealing with his issues, why should he hold more anger?”
Torin pressed a kiss to Gin’s temple. “Mayhap as the older brother you have never seen it from his side as always being the younger. Methinks you truly need stop thinking of him as younger. He is your brother, no more or less.”
“Should ye not be offering me sympathy that my brother thrashed me?” Gin turned his head and rested it against Torin’s shoulder, rubbed his cheek against him. He quickly pulled away and searched the material. “I spread blood upon yer coat, love. I apologize.”
“When next we make port, you may buy me a new one. Mayhap one of warm shearling.”
“Fuck, Gin, one would think you had boulders for fists,” Rum complained.
“There now,” Torin smiled down at Gin, “you hit plenty hard.”
* * *
Rum looked in the direction Gin indicated. His brow furrowed as he looked at the older woman, she seemed familiar. “Suede…help me sit up.”
“Aye, love.” Suede rushed to Rum’s side, brushed a thumb over a split in his husband’s cheek before easing him into a sitting position. “Are ye well? Do ye have me return ye to the boat, fix ye a bath? Rub ye with healing oil?”
“Nae, I…” His eyes never left Jasper, childhood memories assailing him. Times upon Graceful with his father, times sitting upon his lap as they picnicked. “I know you.” He wiped hair away from his face; his braid had begun to unravel. “I know you.”
Jasper stood there, lost ever so slightly in the past. “Yeryl and Zasara,” it was the softest whisper. She wiped at a tear. “If I knew not better, I would swear ‘twas Whiskey before me. I knew well ye held his likeness, Rune mentioned frequently within his letters, and ‘twas easy enough to see when ye were a lad, but…”
“Jassy. ‘Tis Jassy.”
“Ye recall me, lad?”
Rum tried to stand, but needed Suede’s help to make it to his feet. “You came to visit. I remember…picnics. You teased Papa and…” He looked about and found Rune. “Uncle…you were there, always were you there.”
“Aye, lad. The old man, never did he send me to find ye. I came upon my own looking for ye and Gin. Ye spoke with Relond then?”
“Aye. Found him we did flirting with Mistress Horn.” A soft laugh. “He stayed behind to continue his efforts in wooing her.”
“Our Mistress Horn, ‘tis she he courts?” Rune smiled wide, pleased to hear such news. He needed write to his brother and offer encouragement.
“Aye, determined he is to have her. Nae surprise would I feel were they married when next we see him. ‘Twas a fine thing to see, his chase of her, for never had I seen Mistress Horn more alive. Of course, Trant and Hadden were most upset… Actually, Hadden was most upset over the delay, wishing not to stay—there was something said about a vote. But Trant decided he liked Ganos and wanted to stay, wishing to flirt with Miss Honey.”
“Forget not ‘twixt meeting Relond and gaining Graceful, Steel married Elen,” Suede reminded his husband.
“Aye, aye. Steel made off with Elen in the midst of everything, caused a bit of an uproar with his actions.” Rum held his hand to his jaw, winced. “Fuck, Gin, one would think you had boulders for fists.”
“I would say the same of ye,” Gin grumbled. “Come upon my boat and wish for violence.”
“Deserved it you did.” Rum, leaning heavily on Suede, looked back at his brother. “Know you the panic I felt waking as I did with nae memories of the night before? I sought you out, hoping to be filled in, and found naught but blank space. I feared…” That he had lost him. “You could have waited to…cut me off. Offered a farewell. What did you hope to accomplish?”
Gin clenched his jaw for a moment, uncertain what to tell his brother.
“How about the truth, pirate?” Torin murmured, having Read the situation. “Methinks ‘twould ease that knot within your chest.”
“I wished… ‘Twas my responsibility to deal with the ryn Ferths. ‘Tis still my responsibility, so ‘tis best did ye return home. Now that I know Doshan…”
“He killed our parents!” Rum roared as he took a step towards his brother wanting to wring his neck, emotion giving his legs strength. “Vengeance is not just yours!”
“Mamé and Papa were killed by the ryn Ferths. I am the ryn Ferth and so my responsibility.”
“And Papa was a tyr Vens and I am the tyr Vens.” He thrust his hand at Graceful. “’Tis Papa’s boat I sail. Papa’s boat that Doshan stole. Papa’s boat that Doshan sent Heston, Semban and Corden upon to kill me! A right I have to be involved, to end his life!” His eyes narrowed seeing the portly blond man next to Gin. “Torin?”
“Why do you sail with my brother and not with Capt’n Boots?”
Gin growled and pushed to his feet. “Ye keep from my treasure.”
“My treasure he is! Take him ye may not.”
“Always did you want what I had. My friend he was and now you claim him as treasure?”
“Always was he treasure, I just knew not how to say so then.”
“And what of the barkeeper’s lad.”
“What of him?”
“Nae, too skinny he is, and ye are more to his liking.” He snorted when Rum blinked. Typical. “Never did ye see it, the way he stared at ye, the way so many stared at ye for always were ye staring at Suede.”
“Did I not say so, love, that the other men stared?” Suede whispered by Rum’s ear. “Mayhap next time allow me ye will to thrash them for their lustful thoughts.”
“All is well, my friend.” Torin slipped his arm about Gin, holding him steady on his feet. “Did I not wish to be with Gin, I would not be. As ‘tis, he and I are promised to marry the moment we arrive on Ganos.”
“This is what you wish for, to marry my brother?” Rum motioned towards Gin. His brother was glaring at him and yet still Gin kept his mind closed. He had half expected his twin to be swearing at him within his mind, would have welcomed such a thing; he missed their connection despite his annoyance.
Torin placed his hand over Gin’s mouth, laughing when his lover emitted a low growl. “Very much so. Complicated your brother is, but I love him nonetheless, and was the one who placed the promise band upon his wrist.”
Rum crossed his arms over his chest. “This cannot stand.”
“If you love him and he you… He does love you, aye?”
“Yes, he loves me. But we need not be married just because we love each other.”
“But he claimed you treasure.”
“He did, and I claimed him treasure in return.”
“Then already should Gin have handled the matter.”
Gin pulled Torin’s hand from his mouth, still glaring at Rum. “I had nae cuffs.”
“And now you do.” Rum summoned a pair of golden cuffs the High Keeper placed within his hands the day he set sail and held them up. They were of the same design as their parents’ cuffs; Rum was certain his brother would recognize it.
“We…we were going to have Red marry us.”
“Red would be most appalled did you present treasure without your cuff adorning his wrist. ‘Tis the pirate way to claim treasure, not wait.” Rum looked at Jasper. “A capt’n you are, why did you do naught?”
Jasper laughed. “Tell Gin what he should do? Mayhap we know not the same man, hardly does he listen to well-given advice.”
“That sounds much like my twin, but that means not one cannot hit him over the head with it.”
“Rum, all is well.” Torin held Gin back from his brother, knowing he wished to continue the fight.
“Nae, ‘tis not. He claims you as treasure but does naught about it? A good man you are and deserve better. Since none have done as they should, it falls to me. Before I depart this boat, you and my brother will be married.”
“I will marry Torin when we reach Ganos,” Gin snarled. He strained again Torin’s hold, hands fisted. “Ye do not tell me…”
“Pirate, enough!” Torin captured Gin’s gaze, held it, waiting until Gin ceased his struggles. “In this I agree with Rum. I would have us married.”
Gin touched Torin’s face. “But what of Red marrying us?”
“We have the opportunity to marry now. Would it not be a fine thing to end this day as husbands?” He took Gin’s hand, squeezed it. “Object not to our marrying because he is your brother.”
“Stupid Ellis,” Gin mumbled.
Rum removed himself from Suede’s hold, shoving the marriage cuffs into his husband’s hands as he did so. He walked up to his brother, having heard what Gin said, drew back his fist and punched him hard in the shoulder since hitting him in the face would have harmed Torin. How many times had he heard Gin say such when they were children? How many times had he found a corner and cried from the hurt those words caused.
“Stupid Kynon. Stupid, stupid Kynon. ‘Twould be within my rights to throw the cuffs into the sea. The High Keeper had them made for you, had them made like Mamé’s and Papa’s, but methinks you deserve them not. You deserve not a man as fine as Torin for husband. Selfish, whiney bastard that you are, only ever thinking of how it affects you. Ellis was scared and bullied; Ellis must be fragile and damaged. Fuck you!”
Gin moved away from Torin, placing his lover behind him. “Ye were damaged, never leaving my side, clinging.”
“Never were you there when the cousins piled upon me, striking me, kicking me. Never did you do aught when I cried for help.”
“I aided, ‘twas how we were cursed.”
“Because she believed the cousins that I caused your injuries and you said naught, allowing me to take the blame. Always did you leave me to fend for myself, not until the day you hurt Perta did you stay with me.”
Gin stepped back, his face pale. “What know ye of that?”
“Hardly did you leave her side, only coming to me to steal my knowledge of chocolate, that is until the day she was found, hip broken—‘twas an easy conclusion to come to, that ‘twas you who caused the accident. I cared little, happy that she was bedridden, happy that you kept me company. Only have I ever wanted my brother, but to you, ever was I a burden. I used to think myself pathetic that I needed you, but ‘tis you, you are pathetic. Enjoy the loneliness in your mind.” Rum turned and walked back to Suede, motioning that he wished to leave.
“Where do ye go?” Gin started after Rum, not through, not about to let him toss the cuffs. If he had the cuffs, he could place one upon Torin’s wrist without anyone else’s aid.
“As originally planned: to kill Doshan and confront the old man.”
“Nae!” He grabbed Rum’s shoulder, spinning his brother around, but his head snapped back when Rum struck him, sending him to the deck. Gathering himself, adrenaline pumping, he climbed to his feet and started to throw himself at Rum, unwilling to let that be the end.
Except Jasper stepped betwixt the brothers, arms extended, magik snapping. “That is enough! Nae more of this will I permit or into the sea I will toss ye both.”
Rum’s ire turned on her. “You wish to interfere?”
“Already have ye thrashed each other; barely are yer legs ‘neath ye. ‘Twould be best did ye continue this upon another occasion.”
“Where the fuck were you seventeen years past? Where the fuck were you twenty-five years past? Think not to say a word Rune, for you are just as guilty. Never did either of you come for us. Aye, Rune, you found us, but ‘twould have been a fine thing knowing who you were. You could have come, Jassy. You should have come. You promised Papa, you promised that always would you watch us, and you broke it.”
“Aye, I broke it, and I have lived with that regret…but I am here now. ‘Tis why I am here now. When Rune said he found ye, that ye were with those who cared for ye, loved ye as family, I stayed my sails knowing ‘twould be best were ye far from Lynda’s shores.” She deconstructed the spell on her hands, but kept her hands where they were, keeping the brothers apart. “Gin is correct with his assessment of Ethen, a bastard he is. The rest of us would have loved ye, but he would have tried to rule yer lives, treating ye badly regardless did ye follow his dictates. I understand well yer feelings, lads—the hurt, the resentment, the anger—but had ye not been through yer trials, never would ye be where ye are now, to have yer treasures. And I tell ye that as Keeper.
“Now, enough. Neither ye nor Gin are up for another round, and if plans ye have to kill Doshan, then ‘tis best if ye heal proper. He is not one to go against while bruised and battered.”
Vengeance would be theirs. With their treasures by their sides, nothing could stop the brothers from their Blood Right.
Rum and Gin must get past their differences if they are to gain their rightful vengeance and destroy those responsible for the murder of their parents.
© 2007-2021 by A. Jane. All Rights Reserved