A Pirate's Tale: Dark Lullaby - Part One
Leglus felt like he'd been swimming for days. Xweetoks, he decided, pirate or not, were just not made to swim. He kicked his feet furiously, trying to get up to the surface, though each time he did he was pushed back down again by another thrust of the tide. Of all the times he could have upset Dezeronto, the first mate of the ship he "worked" on, it had to be during high-tide. The furious pirate Uni had kicked him off the side of the ship with a wicked sneer.
Just a little more, he kept telling himself as his lungs growled for air. Just a little more! But just as he reached the surface and breathed in a gut full of salty sea air, the current snatched him again. He kept his eyes wide open, though the salt burned. As the current dragged him deeper still, he saw a glint of gold at the bottom of the sea.
He knew very well it could cost him his life, but it was gold! He kept struggling against the current until he could wrap his hands around the gold-lined... oyster? Really? He immediately thought of pearls and pried it open.
There were no pearls inside, however. A strange noise softly spilled into the water, almost like a child's lullaby, then a rush of black bubbles and what looked like purple glitter burst out from the open oyster, fortunately missing him due to the current. Leglus quickly shut the weird thing quicker than he had opened it, and watched as the purply-black substance floated menacingly along the current. He put the oyster in his pocket and then swam as hard as he could for the surface. The tide ought to have been weakening.
His head broke the surface for at least the tenth time, but this time no fierce tide came to swallow him back to the depths. Oh, air. He had never fully appreciated it before.
By some miracle, he'd managed to stay just about fifty feet from his ship, and he swam toward it eagerly. As he got closer, he caught sight of a frightful pirate Uni with his patch up, exposing his glass eye. His other eye, his real one, was a deep grey-green, the color of the sky over the sea in a storm, and contrasted startlingly with the icy blue glass. Leglus always had to suppress a shudder when he looked at the Uni, always wishing he'd wear his eye patch all the time. Trying not to think too much about the creepy eye, he reached the side of the ship and looked up desperately at the terrifying Uni; he hoped that the sight of his frantic swimming had amused Dezeronto enough to let him back on board.
"Hahahaha," Dezeronto laughed. "That was some fine swimming, Swabby."
Leglus knew he shouldn't have, but he glared. Dezeronto was always pointing out that, as a new recruit, all Leglus really did was swab the decks. It was beyond embarrassing. The pirate Xweetok barely managed to choke back his anger, and replied as politely as he could manage, "Permission to come aboard?"
Dezeronto let out a derisive chuckle, made a motion with his head, and walked out of sight. Much to Leglus' relief, a rope came flying down toward him from the ship. He grabbed onto it and climbed, trying to ignore his already tired limbs, and finally collapsed on the deck. The rest of the crew disappeared, likely not wanting to associate with a troublemaker like Leglus, but he didn't mind. He tapped his pocket gently to make sure the oyster was still there. When he felt the hard bump in his pocket, he smiled. Sure, the oyster was obviously dangerous, but he couldn't help but think how many dubloons he could get out of it.
Though she'd lived in the water all her life, Adimaris knew she'd never get tired of how beautiful the sea was. Today was an especially good day. It was the peak of summertime, and the water was cool and refreshing. The sun shone through from the surface, making every fish and Maraquan Neopet and piece of coral glitter. The water itself was a perfect, clear blue. Adimaris smiled as she swam, doing some skillful loops in the water with the help of her thick, strong Maraquan Gelert tail.
A flash of blue light suddenly cut right in front of her, which only widened her smile. She stopped her playing and swam toward the source of the light beam, finding a dark blue Maraquan Aisha behind a rock formation. "Caylis!" she whispered happily. "Fancy seeing you here."
Caylis shrugged. "I do come out into the open every now and then, you know, Adimaris."
The Maraquan Gelert laughed. "Caylis, you're hiding behind a rock... that's not exactly what you'd call 'out in the open.'"
Caylis shook her head. "So very disrespectful, and to your former master," the Aisha scolded, but finished with a wink. Adimaris had figured out over the years as Caylis' student in magic that though the Aisha rarely smiled, her winks usually meant the same thing.
Adimaris wiggled her fingers and magically formed some bubbles in the water, just for fun, and caused them to spin around Caylis' fins. That got a rare chuckle out of her. "So I see you still insist on using your abilities for the most mundane purposes," Caylis said, blasting the bubbles away with her blue beams. "Dear Adimaris, you have such skill, and you're using it to what, shelter petpets?"
Adimaris smiled fondly at the thought of her little petpet farm. She would rescue poor lost or abandoned petpets, fix them up, and then let them stay at the "farm" until some Neopet wished to adopt them. Caylis, of course, found this quite silly, but it was work that brought Adimaris great joy.
"Oh, but they're doing so well!" Adimaris insisted, and with a swat of her hand, the bubbles that Caylis had not yet managed to incinerate floated away. "You should really see the Pfish I found yesterday near the old ruins! She's the sweetest thing!"
Caylis shook her head, but responded with, "It's certainly kind what you're doing. I can't fault you for that."
Well, from Caylis, that was about as good of a compliment as she was going to get, and she accepted it gladly. Caylis had been a hard teacher, but Adimaris had long since realized that it was simply the way she was.
"Speaking of my petpets," Adimaris said, flipping her purple and green fins to turn slightly, "I ought to be getting back to them. I've been gone most of the day."
Caylis, too, began to shift away from the rock. "And I'm due in Maraqua by now," the Aisha said with a roll of her eyes. "Isca simply insists that I join her for dinner."
Adimaris couldn't help but to knowingly grin. "Is Jacques going to be there?"
At that question, Adimaris was delighted to see Caylis turn a vibrant shade of red. "How should I know!" she said. "At any rate, I'll be going now." And with a turn of her blue tail she disappeared.
Adimaris giggled as she watched her former master swim away. Caylis had soft spot for very few Neopets, Adimaris knew, but Jacques was certainly one of them. Still smiling to herself, Adimaris swam toward her beloved petpet farm.
It was definitely a sight to behold. Thick, shiny bubbles almost looked like they were growing out of the ocean's bottom, with three or four petpets housed in each one. One of the bubble pens had only Pfishes in it, and they were chasing each other merrily in circles. The other bubbles, however, were oddly still.
Adimaris froze as she got closer to her home. Something wasn't right. The water felt... odd. It was buzzing, almost electrically, and it was much too cold. She recognized what it meant right away. Dark magic had passed through her home.
Caylis had taught her many years before what the remains of dark magic felt like. The ruins of old Maraqua, which had been destroyed due to a pirate's curse, absolutely reeked with the stench of wickedness. The Maraquan Gelert shuddered. What if whatever passed through was still there?
She gulped once, and then steadied herself. She was a powerful sorceress, and the lives of her petpets could have been in danger. She had to check on them. Trembling slightly, she slowly swam toward the still bubbles.
Tears immediately spilled from her eyes and floated away from her face to join the surrounding water. In one still bubble, there was a group of Ghotis lying on the ocean floor with their eyes shut. She looked around in horror, realizing that all of the still bubbles were the same. She reached in quickly and grabbed one of the Ghotis. To her great relief, his eyes immediately opened, and he looked up at his keeper curiously, almost groggily.
"You were... sleeping?" Adimaris asked the little Ghoti, who didn't answer, only cuddled deep into her arm and closed his eyes again. With a closer look into the bubble, she realized that all of the petpets were also sleeping, their little chests moving up and down and barely noticeable bubbles escaping from their mouths every so often.
What happened? she thought to herself. Just sleeping... but the dark magic?
She remembered something then, that Caylis had told her long ago.
"Pwweeeaase, Caywis, just tell me one story," a tiny Maraquan Gelert begged.
Caylis rolled her eyes at her little student. "Adimaris," she admonished. "You know very well that I don't know any faerie tales."
"It don't have to be a faerie tale," Adimaris insisted. "Pwwweeaaassee."
A mischievous glint came to her master's eyes, and she let out one of her few smiles. "Ok," Caylis agreed, sitting on a rock and motioning for Adimaris to do the same. "Once upon a time, Long before Old Maraqua, there lived a very evil water faerie."
Adimaris rolled her eyes. "I want a new story. You already told me about the Drenched, Caywis."
But Caylis chuckled and shook her head. "Oh, don't worry, this isn't a story about the Drenched at all. This faerie was even more evil than the three of them combined, and she controlled the entire sea."
Adimaris' small green eyes grew wide. "Wow. Then, what happened to her?"
"Well, you see," Caylis continued, "she had something very special. An item made especially for her by the Darkest Faerie herself."
"Oooo, what was it? What was it?"
Caylis grinned before answering, "A golden oyster. And when she opened it, a lullaby would start to play, and dark powder would fly wherever she wanted it to, putting all of her victims to sleep."
Thoroughly disappointed, Adimaris snorted and crossed her scaly arms. "Pfft. Big deal."
Caylis leaned forward, staring into her student's eyes. "Oh, but it is a big deal, little Adimaris. Think about it. If all of her enemies are asleep, what would be stopping her from doing whatever she wanted? Keep in mind, she ruled the whole sea... until she lost her oyster."
Adimaris gaped. "She... lost it?"
Caylis nodded. "No one knows what happened to it. Some think it was stolen. Others believe it was destroyed."
"But what do you think?"
"Me?" Caylis asked, "Well, I believe she just dropped it. It's probably still in Neopia, buried somewhere at the bottom of the sea..."
Adimaris nearly dropped the precious Ghoti that slumbered in her arms at the memory. What if Caylis had been right? What if the oyster had been resting at the bottom of the sea all those years, and someone had finally found it?
To be continued...