You alone were my irreplaceable companion.
Would it anger you to hear me call us two of a kind? Were we not, in fact, a perfect combination, you and I? Bound together by a single thread--that gossamer thread we know as loneliness...
I owe my life to you!
Not, of course, that you "saved" my life in the ordinary sense of the word. Mine is not a life that can be lost under any circumstances. It is an irrevocable burden. I will not die--I cannot die--and therefore my life was not for you to save.
What you saved, I now see, was not my life but my heart.
Back then--long, long centuries ago, I was a pirate--the only woman pirate on the open seas.
Seth Balmore: that name was known to all who plied the sea. Some spoke my name in fear and trembling, while others voiced it with deepest admiration.
Some even called me the "Righteous Buccaneer," nor were they far wrong, I'd say.
The pirate ships I commanded had rules--rules that were clear and strict.
We targeted only one kind of vessel, those opulent passenger ships the wealthy boarded for pleasure cruises. We would put a bit of a scare into the passengers, of corse, maybe rough them up a little, but killing was strictly forbidden. All we did was squeeze a few drops of treasure out of the purses of those who had more money than they knew what to do with. We traded our booty for cash with shadowy dealers, and the money we shared in the world's dens of poverty.
I would cringe at being called a "champion of justice," but we prided ourselves on being far more than "villains."
I became a pirate for one simple reason:
I hated the law, and I hated even more those who flaunted the law for their own self-aggrandizement. In a word, I wanted a life of freedom.
Whenever I stood at the prow of a pirate ship sliding its way through the waves, and I viewed the vast ocean stretched out beneath the clear blue sky. I felt enveloped in the joy of having taken limitless freedom in my own two hands.
True, I need not traffic in the fear of death and aging known to all who count as human.
And because I will neither age nor die, infinite time means for me infinite freedom.
Not bad, wouldn't you say?
I would spy the ship that would be our day's quarry.
I was always the first to board it, springing lightly onto their deck with a shout.
"I am Seth Balmore! Now be good and hand over your money and valuables!"
Then, taking the booty we had snatched, my men and I would raise a cry of victory and leap back into our ship.
I was absolutely free.
Nothing stood in my way.
Eternal life overflowing with freedom--
Not bad, wouldn't you say?
"'Righteous Buccaneer'?!' What kind of fancy-pants nonsense is that? How about 'Pirate Bitch'?"
Of course one always hears such jealous ravings in all walks of life, but especially so in the thuggish world of pirates.
Needles to say, I knew I had many enemies.
Even a child would realize that being called a "Righteous Buccaneer" could only increase the number who hated me among such raping and pillaging brigands as pirates of the sea.
But I didn't care about that.
I could be stabbed with a knife or blasted with a cannon and still I would not die.
"Immortal Seth," they called me, and it was literally true, not just a figure of speech.
"I won't get in your way," I told the other pirates, "but I won't let you get in mine, either!"
I was afraid of nothing and no one.
I lived the way I wanted live, and wouldn't-- or shouldn't have--let anyone interfere with me.
I went wrong only once, but that was all it took.
In a moment of carelessness, I let them capture me.
Of course, that alone was nothing for me to be afraid of. As I keep mentioning, I can never age or die. It would have done them no good to try killing me--and they knew it. The most they could do would be to rough me up a little and threaten to make it worse for me next time. They had to do something to show their men how tough they were: they couldn't just let me horn in on the pirate game and pretend it never happened.
So I said,
"Hurry up with the torture, will you? I haven't got all day."
We were in a cave on a desert island.
I was in handcuffs and leg irons surrounded by half a dozen huge men, all well-known pirate captains. One of them was holding a long, thick chain.
"I get sick to my stomach just looking at your sweat faces. Come on, hurry up and beat me with the chain. Or would you rather strangle me? Whichever you choose, hurry and get it over with."
The men laughed out loud.
"'Hurry and get it over with'?" said the leader. "Too bad for you Seth, but this punishment is not the kind that can be hurried. I'm just sorry we can't stay with you to the end."
"Yeah," chimed in another man, "unlike a monster like you, we humans don't have all the time in the world."
"Okay, men. let's make it fast, the way the lady wants it."
Licking his lips, the man with the chain approached me and two others grabbed my arms from the sides.
They were not going to use the chain as an instrument or torture but to rob me of my liberty.
They chained me to a gigantic boulder in the cave.
They were laughing so hard they could hardly contain themselves.
"Just what you need, eh, Seth?"
"It's the end of the road for you."
"We can't shoot you, we can't stab you to death, so we'll just lock you up."
"We'll never come back to this island again."
"And even a half-baked pirate like you know this place is not on any sea lanes."
"No fishing boats even."
"And right about now, your men have off looking for the wrong island."
"We're the only ones who know we brought you here. Not even our crews know where we are."
"Nobody's coming to save you, that's for sure."
"You'll be in here forever."
"Can't move a muscle, and you can't even die."
"All by yourself."
"For the rest of eternity."
With that, the men walked out of the cave, leaving me there with a single lantern.
"Cowards!" I screamed. "Don't run off like that! Don't do this to me!"
But the only response was the hollow echo of my own voice in the cave.
The lantern the men left behind was not meant as kindness, but rather the opposite. It was a prop in their little drama: when it finally ran out of oil and went dark, it would impress on me the weight of eternal solitude.
As long as the lamp kept glowing, I was filled with rage for the men.
But when the oil was running low and the flame began to flicker, a deep anxiety assulted me.
Unable to move, I stared blankly at the flame.
This world has no such thing Or perhaps it should not have.
I was always alone. Or, more precisely, I always ended up alone. It was my destiny. I could be surrounded by companions whose feelings matched my own perfectly; I could share the deepest love with another, but in the end I would always have to lose them. Do you know what it feels like to see countless others succumb to death while you yourself are on the road of endless life?
Ah, but in your case, Aneira, you do have some idea.
As I watched, the lamp in the cave went out.
A world of darkness spread out before me.
And there I was: alone.
No more would I taste the sorrow of parting.
But neither would I be able to taste the joy of meeting. Eternally. Without end. Alone.
I did not try shouting.
People shout and scream for one one reason only: because they want someone to hear them. Because they believe there is someone somewhere who will their cries.
I did, however, shed tears.
Which is not to say I wept. There is no way that the immortal woman pirate Seth Balmore would ever break down and cry.
A tiny tremor went through the darkness: that is all it was.
And then I noticed. Oh! Tears are coming out of me.
Really, that is all it was.
The hours passed.
Or perhaps it was days.
In the darkness I lost track of the flow of time.
There was something else I lost track of.
If all there was left for me to do was to stay by myself, struggling against eternal solitude, incapable even of rotting away, then what was the purpose of my living in the world?
Perhaps the men who trapped me here had been right: unable either to age or die, perhaps I was some kind of monster.
Then why was such a monster living in this world?
What was I supposed to do here?
I did not know the answer to that.
I would never know the answer, to the end of my never ending life.
I felt frustration.
But above all, fear.
Eternity was frightening to me.
Solitude was frightening to me.
I might have been trembling.
Or without even the energy for that, I might have been utterly drained.
Whatever it was I was feeling, that is when it happened.
Aneira: that is when you first appeared before me.
A tiny burst of light softened the darkness.
And from the light, almost before I could wonder what it was, there came a voice:
"Are you, too, trapped in the prison of solitude?"
"Who--who is that?"
In the light, a flash of white wings.
Then with a sudden increase in size and brightness, the light seared my eyes. Accustomed to total darkness, my eyes could not stand the glare, and for an instant they could not see anything at all.
Grimacing, I clamped my eyes shut before daring to open them little by little.
There before me hovered a pure white, glowing beast.
Its white wings were breathtakingly beautiful.
How beautiful you were, Aneira!
But yours was not a florid beauty. No, it was subtly different.
Your beauty wore a cloak of loneliness.
"I am like you" you said.
And when I cocked my head to look at you in puzzlement, you continued.
"I have been looking for someone like you for a very long time."
You spoke slowly, majestically:
"O, immortal woman pirate! You and I share a single destiny."
You knew who I was.
"Together let us escape from this solitude and make our way together," you said, your eyes locked on mine.
Escape from this solitude--the words continued ringing in my ears. But I did not know who you were. I could not even be sure what you were. Nor could I leap joyfully at the invitation at one I could not tell as friend or foe.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"I am Aneira of the white-winged clan."
I had heard the name before. The white-winged clan were said to be wondrous beasts that had become extinct in the distant past.
"I have heard that the white-winged clan died out long ago."
"I am the last of the blood line."
"The only survivor?"
"Indeed. As I said, the last."
"Which is why you spoke of solitude?"
At that point, almost before I knew it, a weak, almost self-mocking smile crept over my face: I felt myself lowering my guard as I spoke to you. My chains, however, were digging even deeper into my flesh and shackling my heart as well.
"You used the phrase 'prison of solitude' before. It's true. This is a prison, feeling along for eternity is a prison without bars"
You nodded at these words of mine, Aneira, in silence.
But then you said, "I was in a prison, too, until just now."
"I'm sure it's true. To be the only living survivor..."
"I have spent far too long a time alone."
"I know what you mean."
In the legend, members of the white-winged clan are thought to live a thousand years. But even if you were to live on for several centuries, a sole survivor, you could never meet a female member of the clan of the white wing and hope to make children with her. The clan will never rise again.
The sole survivor must live out the remainder of his days alone.
"In order to conquer the unbearable loneliness," you said,
"I would need someone to make her way with me"
Then you looked hard at me and said,
"O, pirate woman, are you not of the same mind?"
I nodded in agreement.
But then I made a point of smiling and said as casually as I could, "In other words, you're lonely!"
Your beautiful face softened and you said with some embarrassment, "I wonder..."
"According to the legend as I have heard it, the clan of the white wing are proud and love their solitude."
This only increased your embarrassment and you said, "Solitude has its limits."
That did it.
I decided to trust you then and there.
"Well, if that's how you feel, you should come right out and say it: "I want company!"
"All right: a companion."
"Exactly. So it's decided: I'll team up with you."
That ended all hesitation. Just as you saw in me one to make your way together with, I put my full trust in you.
"Let's go on the high seas!" I cried.
"Isn't that what 'make our way together' meant?"
"You mean that I should become a pirate?"
"You don't like that idea?
You paused for the space of one breath and chuckled softly.
"I've always wanted to give it a try."
No sooner were the words out of your mouth then you leaped at me.
With one bite you cut through the thick chain that held me down.
This was how you and I first met.
In the nine hundred years since then, we raged over the open sea more wildly than I ever had before.
When I stood at the prow of our pirate ship in search of prey, you were always there beside me.
We became irreplaceable partners, friends, companions...family!