Tangled Up in Blu: Part Five
Liberation was a great feeling. It filled your mind with all the bright possibilities of tomorrow but with no obligation to do anything at all. Blu’s feeling, however, left her mind to be pervaded with snippets of plans to clear her name. She was only free of her iron prison; not at all free to do whatever she pleased. She had to go to Maraqua and warn them of the war as well as try to clear her name. And so she swam, as quickly and quietly as possible, through the ruins of Dehytrezn. She could easily be captured by the mutant inhabitants of the kingdom; she had seen the strength they possessed. Her only advantages were the darkness, which kept her hidden from view, and the fact that no one besides Mephtik and Treyirle knew she had escaped.
After a few minutes of nonstop swimming, Blu reached the outskirts of the kingdom. Deciding that she had put enough distance between her and the prison, she opted to rest. Curling up in the grey sand, she fell asleep.
Blu stood watching. Watching, and doing nothing, as a cloaked figure held the Trident above their head. It was blood red in color, and drooping green strands of seaweed hung limply from it. The figure grasped the Trident in their hands and held it skyward. It began to glow an unearthly red-black, and yellow sparks of power flew out in all directions. Cackling wildly, the figure turned the Trident to Blu.
“Ignorant fool! The power is mine to command, and there is nothing you can do to stop me!”
Blu, squinting against the intensity of the light, could not identify the figure holding the Trident. Whoever they were, they were summoning more power to the Trident, and its glow intensified. With a wave of the Trident, they unleashed a black beam of power at Blu. Blu’s hands instinctively flew in front of her face. Through her squinted eyes she could barely see the light as it rushed toward her, engulfing her entire form in its inky blackness and the pain-
Blu sat bolt upright. Another dream, and another perturbing one at that. That figure, it must be the person who stole the Trident, she thought, but who is it?
Shaking her head furiously, Blu banished the thoughts from her realms of thought. She couldn’t spend all of her time and stamina worrying about invisible demons; she had enough trouble with the ones right in front of her. She had to focus on the task at hand; she had to get to Maraqua. Blu was their only hope, the only way they could be prepared for the invasion of the Dehytreznians. And so, with the outline of Dehytrezn at her back, she took off.
Swimming wasn’t hard; it came naturally to Blu. Her legs were toned and subtly muscular, so she moved quickly and through the water. She had a certain grace about the way her body slid through the water, an effortless grace that could not be attained through practice. It was just there. Not that Blu minded. She adored swimming, the way the cool blue water dampened her fur and sent her silky mane rippling behind her. The bite of the water’s temperature kept her senses acute, so she was always on her toes. Which was a good thing because danger would be popping up when she least expected it. Blu wondered how long she would be safe. It was impossible to know how long it would be before the Dehytreznian guards caught wind of her escape. Perhaps they already knew. Whatever the case, she had to get to Maraqua before she was recaptured. If she didn’t warn them, who knew what could happen?
Blu was vaulted back into reality by a faint rustling sound. A large grey sea fern was shifting, but it wasn’t from the tides. Something was out there, and Blu was not too eager to find out what. Quickening her pace, she moved her limbs with muted swipes at the water. If she could just get by unnoticed, she could-
“Gyaaah!” A baby Flotsam leaped from its hiding place, back flipping three times in the water before landing in front of a bewildered Blu with a thud. She swung her pale yellow flippers around in karate-like motions as she shouted out various grunts and cries. A shadow Gelert emerged from the grey sea fern with an expression of extreme annoyance mixed with embarrassment.
“Chrysanthe, I thought I told you not to jump out until I gave the signal!” The shadow Gelert hid his face in his jet black paws. The baby Flotsam put her flippers on her hips.
“She woulda gotten away by then! Look at how fast she was swimmin’. She could be a threat!” The baby Flotsam’s voice was squeaky and high-pitched, the voice of a young, perky little girl. She flailed her arms around as she talked in attempt to emphasize her speech. The shadow Gelert tugged at the ring of seaweed hanging from his neck, then turned to face Blu.
“Uh, sorry about Chrysanthe over here. We’re on the lookout for any threats. Not that you look like one or anything.” The shadow Gelert couldn’t look Blu in the eye. She giggled involuntarily as he fumbled with his words. “Anyway, I’m Zwane.” He smiled. They locked eyes, his gaze intense.
“I’m Blu.” Blu smiled back. He seemed trustworthy enough, which meant a lot considering the circumstances. “What would a shadow Gelert and a baby Flotsam be doing out here?” she asked.
Zwane tugged at his seaweed lei. “I’m training Chrysanthe. I’m a trained spy and warrior for the Maraquan army, and I volunteered to mentor Chrysanthe. Which I now regret.” He grumbled under his breath. Blu giggled. Zwane’s face lit up with a grin. “So now it’s my turn. What’s a Gelert like you doing here?”
“Ah well, that’s a good question. I’m actually looking for my lost petpet, Liletia. She’s an island alkenore, and she was dragged down here by a Maraquan mazzew.”
“I know someone who has a mazzew! I can see if it’s the one you’re talking about if you want.”
“That’d be great!” Blu was ecstatic. The whole point of her undersea trek was to find Liletia. Maybe she could finally get that done, so she could try to handle the other problems unearthed so many leagues from the surface. “Let’s go.”
The threesome arrived in Maraqua in about thirty minutes’ time; the time was elongated by Chrysanthe’s tendency to wander off. The Flotsam’s curiosity continually got the best of her, so Zwane was constantly keeping the baby from letting frivolous pleasures get the best of her. She would see a petpetpet and swim after it, straying from the path. At least she kept you on your toes. Blu was thoroughly entertained the whole way to Maraqua.
She had visited Maraqua before, but never the ruins. They loomed in front of the group like the gargantuan shards of a civilization that they were. The rocky sand that lay under them was littered with shards of glass and chunks of metal. Zwane motioned for Blu and Chrysanthe to stay where they were.
“I’ll go ahead just to make sure it’s safe.” He smiled reassuringly, but Blu was skeptical. Sensing her trepidation, he placed his paw on her shoulder. “Trust me. It’s safe. I just have to make sure. Standard operating procedures,” he added with a grin. He took off at a steady pace, his inky black paws propelling him forward. As he swam, Blu gave him a once-over. He was a bit larger than average Gelerts with long, lanky limbs. His fur color ranged from inky black to light grey, as was expected from a shadow pet. The tuft of hair that was perched on his head looked deliberately messy, and occasionally fell in his eyes. His eyes, which Blu had stolen a glance at earlier, were grey flecked with gold. She decided she liked him.
“All clear!” Zwane reported after sniffing the water with his chocolate brown nose. With a jubilant cry, Chrysanthe rushed out to join Zwane. Letting a small smile grace her features, Blu swam after them. With Zwane leading the way, the trio navigated the labyrinth of ruins in no time flat. After they were clear of the treacherous remainders of the first Maraqua, Blu took one last look over her shoulder. Her blue eyes scanned the expanse of ruins, taking in the wrecked sight. Just as she was about to turn her head, she saw a blur of color move between two hunks of demolished buildings. Eyes wide, she paused.
“Blu, you coming?” Zwane’s cry broke her trance. Shaking her head, she turned her back to the ruins.
“Yeah, be right there.”
It was a short distance between the ruins and New Maraqua, so the threesome arrived in less than ten minutes. The city was abuzz with colorful Maraquan and underwater pets swimming in every direction through the city streets. Seashell spires rose up in every direction, and coral buildings dotted the seascape. Green, red, grey, brown, and even prismatic sea ferns were sprinkled across the pale yellow sand. Zwane and Chrysanthe swam into the crowd of pets, and Blu followed suit. Maneuvering skillfully through the throng of neopets, the trio emerged into a clearing in front of Maraqua’s palace.
Constructed of multicolored corals, it stood tall in its glory. The castle was guarded on all sides by Maraquan warriors adorned in Maractite armor wielding cutlasses, bows, and other various types of relentless weapons. It had dozens of circular glass windows lined with other colors of coral. Gargantuan seashells were also used for spires, and seaweed hung limply in assorted areas. The giant doors to the entrance were made of light, waterlogged driftwood with irregularly shaped coral for doorknobs. At the top of the castle, coral flagpoles proudly flew the flag of Maraqua. Without hesitation, Zwane walked right up to the massive front doors. The stoic Kougras who stood guarding the front door said nothing at first, but simply crossed their spears in front of the door. Only when Zwane refused to leave did one speak.
“What business do you have here?” His voice was deep and booming. Blu was a little intimidated by his tone, expression, and strength, but Zwane seemed unfazed.
“I’m here to see Vzelle,” he answered simply. The guard narrowed his eyes.
“State your name,” he ordered gruffly. Zwane did, and the guards flipped through a small handbook that was earlier concealed in his armor. Letting out a small grunt, he lifted his spear. The other guard followed suit, and Zwane smirked triumphantly. The wide driftwood doors swung open with a long creak, allowing the three to enter. As Blu walked in, the guard’s expression held one of annoyance mixed with curiosity.
“Who’s the girl?” he asked in his gruff monotone. Zwane swiveled around to face the guard. Unsure of what to say, he mumbled a response.
“Uh, this is Blu. She’s from Mystery Island,” he replied uncertainly. The tone of the guard remained stoic, but Blu thought she could pick up a hint of pleasure in his next sentence.
“Trying to smuggle an outsider into the castle, eh? I believe you must report to the King, so that he may see this girl,” the guard answered smugly. He obviously had something against Zwane. Sighing, Zwane nodded.
“Yeah, yeah, you win. I’ll go.” And Zwane, Chrysanthe, and Blu treaded on the smooth tile floors of the palace, making their way to the king’s throne room.
The bottom of the king’s throne room was a huge clamshell. Lavender in hue, it was where the king’s throne sat. The upper half of the room was light blue coral, with circular windows around its diameter. The floor was the smooth surface of the clamshell, but a long carpet of seaweed led from the door to the throne like a red carpet. Beside the throne were two lines of neopets, three in each line. One lone neopet sat next to the king’s throne that Blu recognized as Isca. Her tattered skirt hung loosely over her lower half while her torn white shirt clung to her chest. Her eyes were the color of the ocean on a sunny day, and her white hair swayed lightly in the current. Blu was a bit shell-shocked by seeing such a famous figure in the flesh, but Zwane remained unfazed. Instead of staring stupidly around like Blu, he grasped Chrysanthe’s fin and walked her to the side of the room. Motioning discreetly to Blu, he told her to follow. As soon as she had taken her place beside Zwane, a trumpet called out.
With the note of the trumpet lingering over the crowd, an official looking Maraquan Scorchio walked into the room.
“All hail the great King Kelpbeard!” His thundering cry overshadowed the trumpet. The rows of neopets fell to their knees in a bow, and Blu mimicked their ritual. Out of the corner of her eye, Blu watched with intent fascination as a line of Maraquan pets filed into the room, each bearing a flag or arms of some sort. Following the dignified parade was none other than the renowned King Kelpbeard. He was a sizeable blue Koi with a dignified, stoic expression ever present on his wrinkle-creased face. A crown of gnarled, light brown coral sat atop his cranium. A light blue tuft of hair protruded from his chin, hence the ‘beard’ in his name. A tight seaweed tunic covered his girth, which was covered by a rich green robe lined with cream colored fur. His chest was adorned with a cobalt blue gem that mirrored the room with a slightly skewed perspective. Following the trend of Maraqua, King Kelpbeard also had strands of seaweed hanging from his features. He swished his cornflower blue tail as he floated up the seaweed carpet. His tired blue eyes stared ahead, focused only on his throne and the stretch of carpet before it. After he reached his throne and was seated, the Maraquan Scorchio spoke again.
“All may rise!” It was more of an order than a suggestion. The rows of neopets rose to their feet, Chrysanthe stumbling clumsily over her tail. Zwane shot her a look; that behavior was not making a good impression in front of the royal court. No one paid her any notice though. The king whispered to the Scorchio, who nodded.
“We are here today on behalf of the warrior Zwane, who apparently has a visitor with him. Zwane, could you please have your visitor approach the throne?” Zwane nudged Blu, who swam slowly up to the king’s throne. His stony blue eyes surveyed Blu, her strange scars piquing his interest. His expression quickly changed from calm to shock. He managed to open his mouth to utter a single word that filled the silence of the room.
To be continued...