Seashells: Part Four
Calixta and Ulalume waited outside of the fortress-like prison that was situated just outside of Maraqua city limits. After hearing the blast from Samara’s shell, they knew the Ixi would be coming here, and they knew it would be soon. They had carefully circled the building twice, looking for a way in. The only option they saw were the large, seaweed covered iron doors that led to the center of the building. That, they figured, was where Samara would be entering the prison.
“So, do you know the plan?” Calixta asked, grilling her sister about the details for the eighth time.
“Yes, sis,” Ulalume said with annoyance. “We wait until we see them coming. Then we wait. As the cart travels by, we swim underneath it, and enter the building with it. However, what we have yet to determine is what we plan to do once we are inside; watching the events from under the cart won’t help anything.”
“Well, that is where we have to improvise,” Calixta said, looking worried. Ulalume smiled to herself; she was looking forward to the improvising part, but it was still amusing to see her big sister get so worked up over it. She thought about asking more pressing questions about the uncertainty of their plan, but before she could, they saw a glimpse of something headed towards the fortress, and they hid among the sea plants and coral that made a small garden around the building. They watched through waving underwater flowers as a cart appeared in the distance, and before long they could see a young Maraquan Ixi in the back of the cart, looking miserable.
“That must be her,” Ulalume whispered to her sister, who nodded. They stayed as still as possible as the cart made its way to the large doors of the prison, and once one of the four Unis carrying the cart unlocked and opened one of the doors, Calixta and Ulalume quickly swam under the cart; luckily, with the small garden waving so much in with the water, their movements went unnoticed, or else were passed off as fish swimming among the coral.
They floated under the cart for a few seconds before the Unis started moving again, and they did their best to stay hidden as they quietly swam into the prison. It was a short trip until the cart stopped, and two of the Unis unlocked the hatch in the rear and took Samara out, leading her to a separate door. A scruff looking Jetsam was there with a set of keys, and he nodded to the Unis as he set about opening the door. The two faeries waited until the three of them were through the door, and the other two Unis that were carrying the cart went back outside. Then, Ulalume looked at her sister and smiled.
Samara did her best to look miserable as Hareth and Darren led her down a hall and into the prison cells. She didn’t really know how she was going to save her mother and then escape the fortress, but both of the guards carrying her into the cells promised to do their best to help, and she was optimistic about what would happen; sort of.
“You can put her in here,” the Jetsam said in a monotone voice as he opened one of the cells. Samara looked inside the dark cell and sighed. It was completely enclosed, with nothing but a small slot for food in the door. She had thought that all of the prisoners would be together, or at least be able to see each other, but it was clear that this Rantu guy wanted no communication between prisoners at all. It was horrible, and the thought that her mother had been living like this made her shudder. “What were you expecting, a palace?” the Jetsam said with a sneer as he chewed on a piece of seaweed. “This is what you get when you disobey orders, missy. Welcome to Coral Cove Confinement Center.” And with that, he nodded for Hareth and Darren to put her in the cell, which they did, pushing her a bit to give added effect. Samara had just enough time to turn around before the cell was slammed shut, and she was surrounded by utter darkness.
“Great,” she said in a sigh, wondering how she was going to get herself out of this one.
Ulalume and Calixta waited under the cart until the three guards came back out into the main lobby.
“We have to get those keys,” Calixta whispered quietly, and Ulalume nodded. They watched the Jetsam intensely, and failed to notice one of the Unis coming over towards the cart and pulling it. A wheel ran over Ulalume’s tail, and she let out a little shriek before her sister covered her mouth. The Uni stopped what he was doing and looked around, before coming to the side of the cart and bending his front two hooves down to peer underneath. The two water faeries looked back at him with pleading eyes, hoping that they wouldn’t be joining Samara in her cell as other prisoners.
“What are you looking at, Hareth?” the other Uni called from across the room, and the Uni stared at them for a moment longer before looking back up at the other two in the room.
“Nothing, thought the wheel was caught on something, but it’s not,” he said calmly, and Ulalume let out a breath she hadn’t been aware of holding. “But before I take the cart to the stables, I actually wanted to talk to you about something, Jonas.” The Jetsam nodded, and Hareth smiled. “In your office, perhaps? I just have to give Darren something, and I can meet you there.” Jonas looked at him a little wearily, and then swam around and down another dark hall. Hareth waited until he was a few strides away, and then whispered something into Darren’s ear before heading off in the same direction. Once he was gone, Darren came over the cart and, like Hareth had done only moments before, peered underneath.
“Care to explain yourselves?” he asked, and Calixta sighed, swimming gracefully out from under the cramped space.
“The Ixi you just brought in her is innocent, and we’ve come to free her,” she said sternly, much to Ulalume’s surprised. She joined her sister and watched Darren curiously, wondering how he would react. So much for improvising.
“I know,” he said after a moment, causing both faeries to look at each other. “We tried to free her on the way over her, but she is determined not to leave until she finds her mother. Since her mother is here, we had no choice but to bring her in, too.”
“How are you going to help her escape?” Ulalume asked, and Darren shrugged.
“No idea... we were kind of hoping it would just come to us.”
“Same here,” Calixta said, looking over her shoulder to where Jonas and Hareth had gone. “If we could get his keys, then we could get her out.”
“I think that is easier said than done,” Darren said, and Ulalume smiled.
“Not if you distract him first,” she said sweetly, and Darren gave her a very questioning look.
“What do you have planned?”
“Nothing,” Ulalume admitted. “I just plan to improvise.”
Being a water faerie had its advantages. Despite being in a sea full of water-born creatures, water faeries were by far the most graceful and sneakiest of them all. Once Hareth came back with Jonas, who was complaining about his office door and how it needed to be fixed, the two sisters hid once more under the cart. Darren was quick to engage Jonas in conversation, using the current topic as a way to keep the Jetsam preoccupied. Once Jonas was at the point of nearing yelling about the lack of janitorial staff the prison had, Ulalume carefully swam out from under the cart, so low to the ground that her tail grazed the sand. She moved softly yet quickly, darting around the three until she was behind Jonas. Being that he was so worked up about his door, he hadn’t appeared to notice any disruption caused by the faerie, though Darren and a quick to catch on Hareth helped her there by moving their hooves and tails while talking, pretending to get almost as worked up over the situation as Jonas himself was.
Once in place behind the guard, Ulalume took a deep but silent breath, and reached for the keys. The Jetsam was moving so much that it was hard for her to get a grip on them without him noticing, but, at seeing this, Hareth, in a particularly intense moment, grabbed Jonas, held him still, and told him that both he and Darren were outraged by the situation, and that they would be sure to fight for his right for a new door. As soon as he was still, Ulalume grabbed the keys and swam back around the three, darting quickly under the cart and holding the keys close to her so that they wouldn’t make any noise.
“Well, thanks for helping us take that prisoner in,” Darren said then, and Jonas nodded.
“Just doin’ my job. And if you don’t mind me, I think I’d better get back to doin’ it now.” Both of the Unis nodded and said their goodbyes, and Jonas headed back towards his office. As soon as he was out of sight, Calixta swam out from under the cart, Ulalume right behind her, and they started trying to find the correct key for the door while Hareth and Darren stood watch. It took them five tries, but they finally found the key, and as quietly as they could, the two faeries slipped into the prison to find Samara.
To be continued...