Scarblade's Pearl: Memories in Maraqua - Part Three
Isca and Nira whirled sharply to face the cave mouth, where a Maraquan Aisha hovered.
“Caylis!” Isca exclaimed quietly, instantly recognizing her sister. Her tone and expression were hesitant. She wasn't sure if she should be fearful or pleased with her sister's sudden appearance. Caylis smiled sadly, seeing the mistrust in Isca's eyes.
“Can you not trust me anymore, Sister?” she asked, gliding to her sister's side.
Isca frowned and looked away.
“Forgive me, but you have not been on my side much as of late,” she replied.
Caylis looked at Isca sadly.
“I apologize. But I am not here to spoil your plans, Isca. I wish to accompany Nira to Krawk Island.”
Isca looked at her sister in surprise. Nira, not entirely sure what was going on, just watched.
“You will? But I thought-”
“Yes, I agree with the king,” Caylis cut her off gently. “But after thinking it over, I realized you were right also.”
“Oh, Caylis!” Overjoyed, Isca threw her arms around Caylis and hugged her. Watching the touching moment made Nira long for Lightning even more. When the sisters had parted, Caylis turned to Nira, eyes serious.
“We need to get you out of here. Word is spreading quickly. Soon we won't able to get you out quietly,” she whispered. Nira nodded understanding and shouldered the pack Isca had prepared for her. Caylis grinned before heading back towards the entrance, gesturing with her hand for Isca and Nira to follow.
Isca covered her odd lantern and swam forward, Nira close behind her. Caylis peered outside the room, checking for danger. Finding no one in the hall, she lead the way forward. Isca glanced around the deserted hall curiously, seeming confused.
“Where is the guard?” she asked her sister.
Caylis gave her a sly grin.
“I told him he'd been dismissed.”
After three long hours (with many moments where they were sure they'd been caught) Nira and Caylis finally left the boundaries of Maraqua. Isca was not with them, having snuck back to her chambers instead. She hoped to convince the king to send soldiers out toward Mystery Island, with the idea that he would be heading them off before they arrived. Meanwhile Caylis would be leading Nira in a different direction, hopefully without incident.
The pair didn't stop until Caylis discovered a ditch beneath an enormous patch of coral. Nira had been surprised the Aisha had found the small opening leading into the ditch, for she hadn't even noticed it until Caylis said something. The coral branched so thickly over the top of the ditch that no one would find the entrance, less they were looking for it. That was likely the reason Caylis had chosen the spot.
When they had settled down in the soft sand beneath the thickest of the coral, Nira finally worked up the courage to ask,
“Why are you doing this?”
Caylis looked at Nira, seeming slightly confused.
“Doing what? Helping you?” she asked in return.
Nira sighed in exasperation.
“Not just that. What did you and the king agree on? Keeping me in Maraqua? And why would you want to keep me there? What have I done to deserve such a thing?” After bottling up her questions for so many long hours, Nira couldn't help releasing them all at once, like a big wave crashing upon the shore. When she had finished, she waited in tense silence for an answer.
Caylis frowned and sighed deeply. The silence that stretched between them was almost unbearable.
“You...” Caylis trailed off with another sigh.
“I what?” Nira demanded, almost desperately.
Caylis sat up and stared hard at Nira. Her expression was pained, angry, despairing, and forgiving, all at once. Nira couldn't even hold her gaze for a moment. She looked away, wondering why Caylis was looking at her with such emotion. Caylis sighed again and looked away, face changing back to its usual neutral expression.
“I'm sorry, Nira. I cannot answer any of your questions,” she whispered.
With that, she lay back down on the sand, back to Nira, and fell asleep. Nira watched her for a while, before lying down facing the opposite direction. She just didn't understand.
Why can't she answer me?
The thought repeated over and over in Nira's mind until she finally drifted off.
The next three days proceeded without incident. Nira would follow Caylis silently all day, Caylis would find shelter, and they would eat and go to bed without a word. Ever since that night, when Caylis had looked at her in that strange way, neither girl had spoken. Finally though, on the third day, Krawk Island appeared on the horizon. Caylis poked her head above the surface, noticing the island immediately. She had only been doing a routine check for danger, but seeing the island in the distance put a new vigor in the tired Aisha's fins.
“Nira!” she called without dipping below the surface. “Nira, get up here!”
Nira, having been waiting below the surface while Caylis checked for danger, cautiously poked her head above the water.
Suddenly her vision blacked out completely. It didn't last long, however, for a moment later Nira saw herself in a pillar of water, shooting high into the air above the sea. The pillar came level with something, but she could make it out. It was blurred, like a someone had smudged it with a damp cloth. Nira tried to focus, tried to identify the strange blob of color. It was becoming a bit clearer. If she just concentrated a little more....
“Nira? Are you okay?”
Caylis's worried voice sounded, and the image vanished instantly. Nira faltered in treading water and slipped below the surface for a moment, inhaling a bit of water as she did. She came back to the surface, choking. Caylis was at her side in an instant, putting both hands on Nira's shoulders.
“Nira? Nira, are you alright?” she asked, eyes wide with worry.
Nira spat out some of the water she'd swallowed and took a deep breath.
“Yeah,” she croaked, voice a bit scratchy from swallowing water. “I think so...”
Nira shook her head, using one hand to move a bit of stray hair out of her face.
“I don't know... I got this weird picture in my head.... It was all blurry....”
Caylis looked suddenly worried, but she turned away so Nira wouldn't see. Not fast enough, however, for Nira caught a glance of the Aisha's face.
“What's the matter? What do you know that you aren't telling me?!” Nira demanded, her voice suddenly fierce.
Caylis didn't answer, but instead turned toward Krawk Island.
“It's only a bit farther. An hour's swim, I'd say.”
Caylis started to dip below the surface, but Nira grabbed hold of her arm, her grip like a vice.
“What aren't you telling me?!”
“LET ME GO!!” Caylis wrenched her arm away from Nira, giving the stunned Shoyru a fierce glare. “I'M NOT TELLING YOU AND THAT'S FINAL!”
Without another word, Caylis dove below the surface and hurried toward Krawk Island. Nira quickly dipped below and followed, although it was difficult to do so with her lack of fins. Caylis looked back once, realized Nira was struggling to keep up, and set a slightly slower pace. Nira sighed in relief, but couldn't take her mind off their conversation. She shuddered as she pictured the look Caylis had given her. Why had the Aisha reacted so fiercely? She had a right to know, if it was something that concerned her! Nira had a feeling that Caylis knew something. Something about her past. What could it be, to make her react in such a way? She had almost looked frightened! Then again, after the look she had received, Nira wasn't all too sure she wanted to know.
Forty-five minutes later, Caylis and Nira parted company. Caylis looked like she wanted to say something, but then she just looked at Nira sadly and swam off. Nira wanted to say something too, but she just couldn't think of anything. And so with a sigh she swam the rest of the way to the island. Caylis had advised her the day before to not simply emerge onto an open beach. And so Nira carefully swam around beneath the surface until she found a small cove, which seemed to be deserted. It was a strange feeling, pulling herself out of the water. After such a long time underwater, the air felt so much heavier. She sat down for a few minutes, waiting for the feeling to fade a bit before she ventured outside. The cove connected to a narrow beach which seemed to lead right into the city beyond. Nira was not sure what part of Krawk Island she was on, so she proceeded cautiously.
The sun was setting by now, giving the air a soft chill. Nira shuddered in her damp clothing, wishing she had a dry set. It wasn't the most practical thing to walk about in wet clothes on a chilly night. The sight of an inn ahead filled Nira with joy. Finally, a warm place to rest for the night. She went inside, sighing happily at the warm air that rushed out at her. She stepped inside before too much of it escaped and closed it behind her. When she looked up to survey the room, she found it was quite large, with at least five or six tables scattered around the room. Many people sat on stools at said table, chattering and drinking to their heart's content. There was also a moderately sized fireplace in one corner, burning brightly. Nira made her way carefully through the crowd, doing her best to ignore the suspicious glances cast her way. The bartender, a white Zafara, looked up from cleaning a glass when Nira sat down.
“What can I get you, sweet heart?” she asked, looking Nira up and down with a bored expression.
“I was wondering if you happen to have any empty rooms,” Nira said shyly, not liking the way a certain silver Techo in a corner was looking at her.
“I've got a room, yes. It'll cost you five dubloons a night, though,” said the Zafara, finishing with her glass and putting it away. Nira removed her pack and rummaged through until she found a five dubloon coin.
“Here,” she said, sliding it across the counter in the Zafara's direction. The Zafara picked the coin up, looked it over a bit, then tucked it in her pocket.
“Alright, upstairs and on the left.” The Zafara bent over, pulled something out from below the bar, and handed it to Nira. It was a small key, made of some kind of shiny metal.
“Thank you,” said Nira with a nod. The Zafara shrugged, and Nira took that as a signal that the conversation had ended. She grabbed her pack by the straps and went up the flight of stairs on the other side of the bar. She found her room quickly and went inside. She didn't care that her clothes were still a little damp. She fell onto the bed, tucked herself under the covers and went to sleep.
Nira woke late the next morning. Well, late by her standards. The clock on the wall read 10:30.
Nira had never woken after 8:00 before. She must have been more worn out than she'd thought. With a yawn, she got out of bed and shouldered her pack. It was time to go in search of Garin. Quietly as she could, she went down the stairs and out the front door. Thankfully there hadn't been many patrons downstairs, and most hadn't even noticed Nira go by.
Thinking it the most likely place, Nira headed for the docks. She started asking anyone who would listen if they'd seen Garin or the Black Pawkeet. Everyone she asked would give her a strange look or tell her not to go looking for pirates. Losing her motivation, she sat down on a crate and sighed.
“Somethin' wrong, Lass?” asked a voice suddenly. Nira looked up to see a pirate Eyrie standing over her. She quickly got to her feet, dusting her skirt off.
“N-no, nothing's wrong...” she said hurriedly, stepping back a bit. She didn't like the fact that the Eyrie was pirate. Yes, maybe he wasn't truly a pirate at heart, but Nira didn't want to stick around and find out.
“Now hold on a second, Missy,” said the Eyrie, motioning for Nira to slow down. “I just wanna help ya find the fellow yer searchin' fer.”
Nira stopped, looking surprised.
“You... you want to help me?” she asked hesitantly.
The Eyrie nodded and placed a gentle paw on her shoulder.
“The Golden Dubloon. If no one be knowin' where he is there, ain't no one gonna know anywhere.”
Nira grinned and shrugged off the Eyrie's paw.
“Thanks,” she said quietly, turning to head down the other end of the docks.
“Yer welcome, Lass!” called the Eyrie.
Nira grinned, wondering if maybe not all pirate were bad news.
It was dark by the time she finally found the place. The moon shone bright, although there were still shadows it could not penetrate. It gave Nira the chills to be on this side of Krawk Island. Something about it, a looming darkness maybe, just didn't feel right. Cautiously, she pushed open the door and entered the Golden Dubloon. Just stepping inside gave Nira the odd feeling she'd been there before. It was strange, but Nira did her best to shrug it off. She didn't have time for odd feelings. She had to find Garin. She went up to the counter, where a yellow Aisha was serving drinks. When she saw Nira, the Aisha seemed to do a double take.
“Wh...” The Aisha blinked and shook her head.
“What can I do for you, Miss?” she began again, smiling.
“I'm looking for an Usul,” said Nira. “He goes by the name of Garin.”
A few heads shot up from their mumbled conversations when Nira spoke the name. The Golden Dubloon quieted significantly. Nira suppressed a shudder.
“Garin, you say? Captain of the Black Pawkeet, perhaps?” asked the Aisha, trying to look calm although she was clearly getting nervous. Nira was nervous also, able to feel the tension in the air.
“Y-yes,” she answered hesitantly.
“Sorry... but I haven't seen him around...” said the Aisha quietly, glancing around the room a little as she did. Nira gulped and nodded in answer.
“Thanks anyway...” she said in return, heading for the door.
Nira, unfortunately, did not notice the silver Techo from the night before, sitting in a corner. Neither did she notice as he got up from his chair and followed her outside, a dark grin spreading over his face.
Nira walked down the long alley that lead to the Golden Dubloon's entrance, her head hung low in despair. She had run out of leads. Either Garin wasn't around, or no one was going to reveal his location. What was she to do now? Wait until someone who'd tell her came along? That didn't seem practical. Maybe if she bribed-
Nira gasped when someone suddenly put an arm around her neck, covered her mouth with one hand, and grabbed hold of both her arms.
“I ain't no Usul, Lass, but I am a pirate. What do you say?” said a voice that sounded very much like a hiss.
Nira wriggled and squirmed, but couldn't break free. What was she going to do?! There was no way she could reach her sword. She tried anyway and was rewarded with a painful twist to her wrist. She let out a sharp cry of pain.
“Now, now, none of that, Lass. 'Less you want me to get rough with you,” said the hiss-like voice.
Nira's heart pounded. There really was nothing she could do.
She jumped when she was suddenly released and her captor fell to the ground with a groan. She looked back to see it was the silver Techo that had been watching her out the night before.
“That's no way to treat a lady,” said a young, strong voice. Nira looked up to see two cloaked figures standing together. Their cloaks had hoods that completely shadowed their faces. One of them, probably the one who'd spoken, was lowering a fist. He must have punched the Techo out!
The Techo, unable to speak, groaned in reply. Nira looked to the Techo, then to the cloaked figures and back.
“You-” Nira began, but one of the figures grabbed her gently by the arm. He put a finger to his lips to cut Nira's words off.
“Time enough for that later, miss. I think we better be getting out of here, before someone else finds us,” he said. Nira, still in shock, just nodded and let him lead her out of the alley. He took her down a few streets and side roads until they were well away from the Golden Dubloon. They stopped in a dead-end alley between two shops, where the full moon's light barley lit the shadows.
Nira stepped back from the cloaked pets, finally able to shake off her shock.
“Who are you?” she asked a bit shakily.
Nira saw a grin flash beneath one of the pets' hoods.
“Name's Garin,” he said, slowly pulling his hood back. “I heard you were looking for me.”
To be continued...