Scarblade's Pearl: Memories in Maraqua - Part Four
“Here she is. The Black Pawkeet,” said Garin, gesturing to a large ship moored at the docks near the Golden Dubloon. Nira gazed up at the ship in amazement. She had never seen anything like it before. So beautiful and terrifying, all at once. And yet, she got an odd feeling in the pit of her stomach. As if she'd seen a bigger, even more terrifying ship before. She just couldn't place a finger on it, and so she let the thought slip away.
“It's magnificent!” she exclaimed, giving Jacques and Garin a warm smile.
Her first reaction to having the Kyrii and Usul reveal themselves had been one of shock. Once she'd gotten over that, she quickly went into an explanation of why she'd been looking for Garin. A little too fast, apparently, because Garin and Jacques held up their hands, chuckling, and told her to slow down. They had time. So she started over, giving them every detail she could remember of her trip to and from Maraqua. When she had finished, she watched Jacques and Garin expectantly. She'd been tensed, sure she'd need to defend herself and find some way to prove her story. But Garin and Jacques had looked at each other, grinned, nodded, and smiled at her.
“Alright. We'll leave port as soon as we get back to the Pawkeet,” Garin had said.
Nira had been caught off guard.
“R-really? You believe me?” she had asked shatteringly.
Jacques had shrugged.
“Your eyes hold no lies,” he had said simply.
“And,” Garin had added. “It'd be pretty hard to make up such an elaborate story, just to get me to take you to Mystery Island.”
And so here she was, watching as Garin called up to his crew and had the gangplank lowered. Garin was up first. Nira waited for Jacques to go before her, but he bowed and gestured for her to go first. Blushing a little at his gentlemanly behavior (which was so very unlike what she had imagined in a pirate), she walked uncertainly onto the deck. The small portion of the crew on deck this late stared at her as if she were some odd creature from another world. Garin nodded to Jacques as soon as the Kyrii had boarded and helped pull in the gangplank.
“Mind sharing my quarters tonight? The young lady should have her own room to sleep in.” Garin gestured toward Nira as he spoke. Twice now, she'd been called a lady. The notion embarrassed her.
“That's perfectly alright, Garin,” she managed to say quietly.
Jacques titled his head to one side to study her.
“Really, miss, I wouldn't mind. You're a guest here,” he said.
“And a friend of Isca's!” Garin added.
Nira blushed again when she realized the small crew on deck was watching her closely.
“I can stay with the crew. I really don't mind,” she nearly shouted.
Garin and Jacques glanced at each other, then gently lead Nira to a quieter corner of the main deck. Garin put a gentle paw on Nira's shoulder.
“Nira, this is an all-male crew. I can't allow you to sleep among men you don't know,” he said reasonably. Jacques nodded his agreement. Nira's mouth opened as she looked from one to the other. She couldn't think of a word of protest. Garin grinned.
“Sorry, but no one can win an argument against me. Just as Isca,” he said, and amused glint in his eye.
Nira grinned in reply.
I think I could grow to like this Usul...
The next morning was strange for Nira. Waking up in yet another place that wasn't home startled her momentarily. When she gotten over that, she looked around, considering her situation. She was on the ship of a known pirate, on the run from Maraquan officials, heading back to Mystery Island. Boy, would she have a story to tell when she got back. She got out of bed and immediately picked up her maractite sword. She couldn't have explained why she had slept with the weapon leaning on the bedpost. Nor could she explain why she put the belt around her waist as soon as she was standing. It was almost like a reflex. With a quiet yawn, she went out on deck. Bright and early, as usual. The thing was, here, she wasn't the first to rise. Although the sun had barely left the horizon, men already moved about actively. Some pulled and tied off rigging, others cleaned, and others moved crates and barrels around.
Being among them made Nira feel an odd safety. Although how she could feel safe smack in the middle of pirates was a mystery.
“Morning!” Garin called.
Nira turned to see the Usul swing down from some rigging and land gracefully in front of her.
“Sleep well?” he asked, grinning as usual.
“Y-yeah...” Nira replied in muted awe. She had never seen anyone do anything like that before. Garin gave her a look.
“What?” he asked.
“I've... just never seen that before....” Nira gestured helplessly up at the endless ropes and tethers that made up the rigging. Garin smiled knowingly.
“You learn a lot, living the life of a pirate,” he said with pride. Then his face suddenly changed and he touched the palm of his hand to his forehead.
“Ah, where is my brain this morning?” he said to himself.
Nira was wondering if his brain ever worked when he went on to shout,
“Alright, men! Everybody gather 'round!”
Slowly, all the men moving about the deck gravitated to the spot where Nira and Garin stood. A small crowd was formed, and the pets at the back could hardly see their captain and his companion. One of the shorter men, a spotted Kougra, had a particularly hard time. His long-time enemy (a shadow Skeith) was standing in front of him. The Kougra tried to move, but the Skeith moved to block his view again.
Back at the front of the crowd, Garin was looking over her crew.
“Everyone here?” he asked. A chorus of “yes”s filled the morning air. Garin nodded.
“Good. I've gathered you together to let you know we'll be making a detour to Mystery Island. This Shoyru here needs to get there. She is a friend of Isca's, so I don't want any of you griping about the detour. Clear?” Garin paused, listening for an answer.
“Clear!” the crew replied in unison. Garin grinned and nodded.
“Alright. Back to work, everyone!” he called.
The crowd dispersed, each pet going back to his job. The Kougra, however, wanted to find out who this Shoyru was. Why would Garin make a detour for her, even if she was a friend of Isca's? The Skeith blocked his way again.
“Get along, Puny. Back to work,” he said in a rude tone. The Kougra glared at him.
“I'd like to speak with our passenger, if you don't mind,” he replied, trying to go around the bulky pet. But the Skeith stepped in again.
“Garin said back to work. So get to swabbin'!” The Skeith hissed the words, then shoved the Kougra to the ground.
“Hey!” Nira shouted, having noticed the confrontation. Several crewmen turned to look when she shouted, but she ignored them. This fight was hers.
“You have a problem with that Kougra?” she asked icily, glaring at the Skeith. The ship rocked as a sudden swell washed under it. The Skeith glared right back, not intimidated by Nira in the slightest.
“What's it to you, sweetheart? Think you can do something 'bout it?” he asked.
For some reason, Nira felt no fear. Her hand fell easily on the hilt of her sword.
“Yes, I do. Now leave him alone. He's done nothing wrong,” she said authoritatively. The Skeith glanced at the blade, suddenly seeming to lessen in confidence. He took a step away from the Kougra, scowling.
“Now, now. No need fer that. I'll get back to me job,” he muttered. Without another word, he turned and moved off. Nira glared after him, then went to the Kougra's side. She offered him a hand.
“Need some help?” she asked.
The Kougra accepted her offered hand gratefully and she helped him to his feet. An eruption of applause followed. Nira glanced around in confusion, not understanding. Garin approached her, laying a hand on her shoulder.
“That was amazing! No one's stood up to old Ebon before! I've been having trouble keeping him in line,” he said with sincerity.
Nira blushed and shrugged.
“All I did was stand up for someone....” she said quietly. The Kougra smiled at her.
“Which I appreciate, Miss...?” the Kougra trailed off, realizing he didn't know her name.
“Nira. My name is Nira,” she said.
The Kougra's eyes widened and he blinked several times.
“N.... N-Nira? Y-you said Nira?” he stuttered, suddenly seeming to tense. Nira took a step back, suddenly uneasy.
“Yes...” she said hesitantly.
“Rai, what's the matter with you?” Garin asked, looking the Kougra up and down.
Nira got a sharp pang upon hearing Garin say “Rai”. Images flashed in front of her eyes. Nira gripped her hair, groaning and falling to her knees. Voices began echoing through her mind.
Once again, you have proven to be the master among us!
Oh, stop it, Rai.
No! Nira, you can't! You'll get caught!
The images and voices faded, leaving Nira kneeling on the deck of the Black Pawkeet. Garin was kneeling beside her, looking worried. The Kougra was there also, looking equally worried.
“Nira, you alright?” Garin asked.
But Nira didn't hear him. She was looking directly into the Kougra's eyes.
“Rai...” she said quietly. A look of shocked recognition passed over the Kougra's face.
“Nira? Is it... really you?” he asked.
Nira got to her feet, still staring, and the Kougra copied the movement. Garin rose also, watching.
“Rai...” Nira could feel tears misting her eyes. Without really thinking about what she was doing, she threw her arms around the Kougra and let her head fall on his shoulder.
“I remember... I remember!” she sobbed.
To be continued...