Bone Dust, part 2 (Pirates of Hell)

I look at the group around me that I’ve called sitting on the floor and one more slides from a hole in the concrete ceiling to land on her feet gracefully then to crouch at the edge of the group.

They look at each other, all a little different than the norm. I know what they think and I voice it. You see no horns, no feathers. Are you ready to see me? They are teenagers, and they are ready for anything so I let out my wings just a little, my armor just so. They are alarmed but not enough so I sigh and put down my notebook, get up and step through the arch into the open air. They are too startled to even rise but they can all see me so I pull off my shirt so as not to ruin it and the boys blush and the girls whisper all except one, who looks grim. Then I open my wings and I expose my armor and I smile.

They do not notice that I have my shirt back on. They do not notice that I am sitting on the floor with my notebook. They all have a look a dazed incomprehension, all except my grim one, who is looking at me with calculation. I must talk to her later. I talk loudly to gain their attention because they must listen.

As Shavii, you have all learned the same chameleon qualities since you were born and you will learn to expand them as I have. Today you will find out who you are. I know more about you that anyone else. I hope you all have pens and notebooks because you must take notes and you must memorize everything I tell you. The information means life or death for you and those around you. Your strengths and weaknesses will be known only to this group, which is now your working unit. You must remember these details or someone will die. This is the only truth. Find your paper and pens.

They scramble for notebooks all except the few whose qualities include instant recall. I scan my list to make sure. Let’s begin. Attasha. Stand. Attasha was born 040328. I see no one writing. Write! Her parents gave her up as a ward of the state at age 2. Attasha has the ability to breathe under water and has skin impervious to most chemicals. Her one weakness is heat. She has approximately 24 hours of life at temperatures of 80F and above without immersion in water.

I hear a sigh of contentment. They are at home here.

Omie is my offspring from the ill-advised coupling with another such as myself. You would think a Shavi such as I, another Shavi as I, would produce a child of amazing powers, but no, in our lore we are taught this is not to be.

There was a very beautiful Shavi Raguel who spent time with me during my training when I was young and stupid and who I thought loved me. We drank rum, which is frowned upon, and spent an afternoon lying in a field outside the city wondering what it would be like not to be us.

Much much later I awoke my head pounding, to darkness, my clothes scattered, Raguel gone, stickiness between my legs. I didn’t speak to anyone. How could I? And in six months, having gained no weight, with no discernible changes to my body, a small legless armless being appeared in my bed demanding food. I named her Omega but everyone calls her Omie.

She has several sets of teeth and from the beginning a perfectly formed mind of her own with one single purpose: to drink rum. She goes as she wishes with the Shavii because she can chew through any substance and will, for rum only, as much as she can drink, but she is very capricious and has been known to take instant dislikes to a Shavi and refuse all contact. She is like a seal, her skin exudes a sticky substance at will that becomes slick when she slides, and she has never grown from her original size so she is very useful. I call her profane and she laughs and looks at me with more know-ing than any child should have.

Raguel vanished after that day and has never reappeared. We do not know if his purpose was to produce Omega or if there was something more sinister at work that has yet to make itself known.

I know where they are in my mind’s eye and can see them as in a cutout. The training unit follows Omie through the underbelly of the city, through water and lakes unmapped, battling animals that are categorized in no book. This is only a trial but I sense their concentration and determination. This is good, good. Perhaps it will save their lives.

I, on the other hand, am on the trail of a spy. To be a spy in our city is difficult, because we are different than most, but we do trade with some city-states, with whom we have a tentative relationship. So there are humans in our city, come to trade, to see our lives, which we tolerate, barely. We do not allow any human access to our real selves; in fact, humans that see our real selves do so in battle on the seas and do not escape with their lives, except under rare circumstances.

This spy, for whom my Mi-Shavi has sent my unit on a hunting expedition, is here for the usual—to search for a weak spot, a way into the city to free the slaves, to free the kid-napped children. What the spies never know is that the children are not in one place—small groups, 3 to 4, are scattered amongst Shavii couples who train them—so to free them all is impossible. And the slaves are also immediately scattered after arriving, thus rendering them impossible to free and rendering it impossible for them to engender revolt, because they never see each other long enough to plan.
Yes, we are a ruthless people, but we have had to be to survive. This spy does not know: we have no weak spot.

The Shavi in the new unit whom I had noticed is Marani Sa. She and I have established a bond, which is unusual, for our ages, but it is acceptable amongst the Shavii.

Marani Sa is quite intelligent, which is to be expected, but also quite cynical, which is not. Most Shavii, as least the younger ones, are so happy to be among those as them-selves that they remain dedicated to their work and fervent idealists into middle years, if not till death. Marani Sa came to us cynical and remains perhaps overly cynical. I find this attractive and believe that the trait may also protect her in the years to come.

We are allowed, even expected to develop attachments with each other, but only of the same sex, given the unfortunate developments of the Shavii couplings. For our repro-ductions, we are forced to go outside our own, and so have, time out of mind, at least in our writings and drawings, which show slaving/kidnappings expeditions centuries old.

The unit that I train now will be a kidnapping unit, one that we value highly, because without them, we would not survive. They also are the units that humans fight against most viciously, because all city-states will give up food, animals, anything, before they give up their children. And we take children, not adults, because we wish to train them in our ways prior breeding.

In the past, adults were taken and their unhappiness caused countless problems, runaways being the very least. The worst were the pregnant mothers who, upon birth, looked at the beings that they brought into the world and conspired to murder them where they lay, thinking them monsters. Or a man, brought to lie with a female Shavi, and strangled her upon finding her with child.

We have had great scientists in the past who have worked on the problem of our inability to mate with our own, but the problem has seemed insurmountable. We have heard tell of scientists in other countries who work miracles with mating, and we continue to follow the rumours because we would give our best warriors to avoid kidnapping but we have had no luck.

And so, I train the newest unit, and pursue my relationship with Marani Sa.


I have not been on a kidnapping mission in 2 years. We rotate because of the emotional impact and because my best work is with the new units.

However, my last kidnapping run was particularly grueling and I don’t know that my Mi-Shavi would allow me to return to the sea in a regular schedule anytime soon. You will note that the name of our military leader and the name of our people are the same. We find nothing unusual in this occurrence; however, I realize that this is unusual to other city-states. To us, however, the military, the organization is all. There would be no Shavii without it and so the two are one.

You speak of One God and of church, which I find confusing. There is not One God—how could there be? That would be like saying there is one emotion or one day or one mood on the sea. Of course the most important being is the being of the Sea Who Has No Name because to give the that being a name would be careless and would bring you to attention. We have complete respect and focus on the sea because it brings us all: food, wealth, slaves, our breeding stock, our survival.

The humans call us, of all things, Pirates of Hell, which again, I believe is a reference to your One God. We Shavii find the name amusing, when Hell was described to us, be-cause our city-state, our cities, and our lives couldn’t be further from that description. In fact, the slaves and children that we bring into our lives have described previous experi-ences closer to Hell than how they live their lives here. I gather that the name has more to do with our appearance than anything, because when appearing as our true selves, some of us in some way resemble a creature named ‘Daemon’ that is said to dwell in the One God’s Hell.

My own appearance is typical, but in our eyes, beautiful and right. Concealed, I appear a human woman of tall, proud stature, black hair and eyes. As my true self, which must be achieved without clothes, else the clothes be shredded, I am 9 feet tall with wings of purest midnight, not shiny, but of a color that seems to deaden or suck in the light. Their span, unfurled, reaches 15 feet. My skin is covered with scales of dead black ar-mour of the hardest bone that cannot be broken by weapon. My face remains uncov-ered by armour but I have two sets of eyelids, one set that is clear and impermeable to all substances. I can bring my wings in front of my face as protection when needed, but my face is free to see and call out and bite when needed.

I am not without weapons. My hands and feet have talons like knives, my teeth are sharpened points, although I do not bite for the taste of blood (rumours fly that we are also vampyric, which is not true, and that we kidnap our victims for their blood), and my voice can burst a human’s ear drums, eyes and heart, if necessary, although I do not use this power lightly; my voice can also damage young Shavii and any possible slaves and breeding stock. Therefore, it is a last resort only.

We have sailed the seas for time out of mind, and our ships are made of the tailor tree, so named for its leaves, which can be dried, shredded and spun into thread and woven into cloth. The tailor tree also grows to immense height and girth in few years, making it the perfect tree for ship building, as does its high oil content and resistance to rot. Other city-states covet our tailor trees and will trade gladly for them because they grow only in Shavii territory. We do trade with selected city-states, but woe to the city-state whose ship ends up in the hands of another pirate clan. We do not take traitors lightly and any government that cannot hold onto its property is traitor to us.

Other pirate clans are our true enemies because the city-states do not wage war on us, having not the power nor the inclination to do so. The pirate clans, however, have something to gain by challenge on the sea, and there are some, yes some, that can come close to our equal in power and expertise in sea craft and fighting frenzy.

Some we do not take seriously and so avoid when we see their sails and flags. They hoist their flags in readiness, but we sail in the opposite direction for we have no busi-ness with them, having little desire in the slaughter of stupid and reckless humans. But there are others…

I shall list our most prized enemies (for we do prize our enemies, they are our closest most respected dramauters, a word that is hard to translate, but loosely means a person of great battle skill and great integrity who is therefore held in high regard but also watched closely for he/she is also the most dangerous of acquaintances).

• The Bone Dust, or Ghost Clan
• The Bear Clan
• The Galline Clan
• The Amazon Clan, although they prefer the name Artemisia Pirates
• The Viking Clan, or The Red Hairs
• The Celts or The Blue Skins
• The Setsuko Clan and an off-shoot, The Kasumi Clan

The Bone Dust Clan are our closest dramauters for they too capture children. We know not their reasoning because we have yet to penetrate their holdings even after the cen-turies of our sea wanderings. We believe, however, that the children are not held alive and for us, this would be blasphemy.

The Bone Dust Clan strikes the area of Avrila Mo, a prosperous and haughty city-state of the south where we do little trading, although in recent years, they have become suitably compliant in order to gain access to our trees. We believe that there is more to their simple compliancy, perhaps some wish to ask for guardianship against the Bone Dust Pirates, a task that displeases us very much, but unless a request is made, no example shall be made of Avrila Mo.



  1. gailkav said,

    January 23, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Whoa – this AMAZING. I have read much of Le Guin’s work and this gives me the same tingles down the spine.

  2. rosylee said,

    January 23, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    There is SO much going on here, Sen. Beautifully written. Your protagonist is one of those rare creatures which inspires both sympathy and fear in the heart of the reader. You have a wicked imagination and write so well.

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