The Legend of the Sea Spirit: Part Two
Chapter VI - Terror Mountain
I recall I heard mention of the Sea Spirit for the first time when I was but a chick on Mystery Island. I had been sparring with my brothers when I overheard a discussion between my tutor, The Techo Master, and a gentleman Wocky from Krawk Island. The latter was describing a magical creature which had turned the fortunes of Krawk Island around and the former was dismissing this as naught but coincidence and hyperbole. The exchange was brief but it weighed on my mind from then on.
As I grew up I became more and more intrigued by the Myth of Marrea, but it was not until I actually saw her with my own eyes that I made it my life's ambition to gain her rumoured powers for myself. I was around nineteen years of age and was training alone on the shore. I saw out of the corner of my eye a brilliant light emitting from just under the calm surface of the sea, like azure firelight dancing above the gently lapping waves. I knew immediately it was her but all I could do was watch and wait; as you might know, my wings were at that time useless, and an Eyrie does not lower himself to swimming to get around. So, I stood on the shore and fixed my gaze upon the source of the light. At first nothing, then a shadow beneath the water, rising painfully slowly toward the surface. Finally, she quit the ocean entirely, an exquisite creature no bigger than my arm from wrist to shoulder. Her shape was almost that of an Usul, but she consisted in a matter the likes of which I've never seen elsewhere and which I could not describe to you in words. And the light, that dazzling, ethereal light, it came from within her and was shed through meticulous patterns which covered her from nose to tail. She was truly a thing to behold, but I'd barely a moment to take the vision in before she was gone, blinked out of existence in a minute.
But I am not an Eyrie who believes all he's told and though I'd seen her, I was not to acknowledge her reported charm until shortly afterward, when good fortune befell me in such a way that it could not have been coincidence. That is a story for another time friends, but suffice to say my wings were not ineffective for long thereafter.
From that time forth, finding Marrea became central to my ambitions. And for many, many years my plans were fruitless; I tracked her across Neopia for nigh on 40 years, but was unable to find her again. However, I did learn much about the creature, all of which fuelled my curiosity about her further; I learned that she could only move across long distances via water, so would never visit those inland. I learned that, either she does not recognise her prowess as a good luck charm or else she has no qualms with bestowing good fortune on those of questionable moral integrity... I learned that she is only tangible by materials composed of the same basic matter that she is, that this is only mined deep beneath the ancient city of Maraqua and, to the detriment of my coffers, that this Maractite has a greater worth than diamonds. And I learned finally that Marrea's greatest weakness is opulence. She is drawn to jewels and finery, the greater the clarity and brilliance the better. Hence my recent effort involving a chest of trinkets, jailor; bait, you see.
In any case, back to the matter in hand. I was approaching my sixtieth year and was conducting some business in Krawk Island when I witnessed the event described so eloquently by Grimtooth moments ago. Balthazar, it seemed, had researched Marrea with the same fervour as I had, and he had succeeded in capturing her through sheer force of numbers. Unfortunately I had been on the other side of the island when I'd heard the ruckus, and though I swept aside Balthazar's lackeys with ease I could not reach the port quickly enough to prevent the scoundrel taking the Sea Spirit away. Though I was enraged to have been so close to Marrea and to have missed my opportunity I did not pursue the ship that night; I am no fool, and know that Balthazar is not a foe to be trifled with. I left Krawk Island the very next morning to plot my raid on Balthazar's Lair. As well I did too, for it was not long after that, as Grimtooth said, the Giant Squid destroyed the Island in its entirety.
I returned to my castle home, Tor Keep, the location of which I will of course not be eliciting to either of you. Fortunately this is irrelevant in this case, as what matters is only the location of my target, Balthazar's Lair in the Ice Caves of Terror Mountain. Do not get too excited about that information Sinbone, that particular lair was abandoned many months ago. However, at the time it was vast and well-guarded, and I was just one Eyrie. I needed a plan, and fast... One thing I did not know about Marrea was whether she could live outside of water for a long period of time, and I did not want to run the risk.
After but a week of planning I set off to the Ice Caves at dawn. I had enlisted the aid of the Snow Beast, whom I had contracted with many years previously. Other than he, the only comrade I had with me was my Garfir, Obey. Balthazar was strong in numbers, but not in wits... To beat him would require considerable cunning rather than numbers.
Obey and I took to the skies and waited upon the side of the mountain, where I'd previously scoped out a weakness in the outer structure of the cave used by Balthazar. The Snow Beast meanwhile stormed the front of the cave, first with a flurry of vast snowballs with which he took down many of Balthazar's guards before charging further in, bellowing persistently to draw the Lupe himself out of the labyrinthine cavern. We had no way of knowing of course whether Balthazar would have moved away from Marrea or not; what with the howling winds upon the mountain we could not even hear the Snow Beast's cataclysmic roars inside the cave. I simply had to trust my instinct and believe that the Sea Spirit would tell me when was the right time to enter the Lair.
And indeed she did. Presently I heard the very faint echo of Marrea's song and I knew the time was upon us to act. The Garfir gripped onto my ruff and I flew upwards ten feet, before hurling myself into the side of the mountain. My plan worked perfectly and together we crashed through the ice into the hollow innards of the mountain. All at once the full furore within the Lair became apparent. The Snow Beast had been joined by a few opportunists with qualms against Balthazar and everywhere snowballs flew and swords clashed amidst an unimaginable din, which drowned out even Obey's and my raucous entrance. I spied Balthazar striding purposefully towards the Snow Beast and knew that we'd have to act quickly. The Garfir and I stole into the back of the caverns, away from the fight and Marrea's soft call guided us to the room in which she was imprisoned.
She looked smaller than ever in that cell, and I recall her light had faded so that she was but a shade of her former self. The wiley Lupe had her locked in a cage made entirely of glimmering Maractite, and I knew that no amount of force on my part would break those bars. We would have to find the key. I advised the Spirit that we would return shortly, but I do not know whether she understood me; she simply stared past me, to the shaft of light just visible through the mouth of the smaller cove, permeating through my makeshift entrance in the side of the mountain. I sent Obey one way whilst I moved to the other side of the cave to seek the key. I was conscious of Balthazar's roars and knew that he and the Snow Beast must have been locked in battle; Balthazar is strong and such a brawl would not last long. The Snow Beast is courageous but he is not proud, and would no doubt flee once his slow mind had determined that this was a fight which he could not win.
I was in what would appear to be Balthazar's central office, rifling through drawers and cupboards at great speed when I heard Obey's short, sharp call from another alcove in the cave. I ran back toward Marrea and met the Garfir there, the Maractite key clamped between his teeth. I took this from him and scrambled to unlock the cage, preparing as I did so to snare the Spirit myself in the Maractite Throwing Net I'd swiped from Balthazar's cabinet.
The lock had just clicked open when I heard a stifled cry from Obey and I knew even before I heard his rumbling growl who was behind me; Balthazar. I turned to face the Lupe, whose fangs were bared and eyes narrowed with malice.
"Commandant," he growled, "What have you done?"
"I am simply relieving you of a Spirit which clearly you know nothing about, Balthazar. She cannot live here, like this. As we have proven today, her charm is drained and she has not bestowed you with luck enough to stop me taking her from you," I sneered at him. This was, it turned out, unwise, because to my surprise the Lupe began to laugh, maniacally and at great length.
"You speak of my luck, you fool, but what of yours? She is gone!" He continued to guffaw mercilessly and Obey and I turned to the cage which, indeed, was now vacant. The door was ajar by nothing more than a crack but the Sea Spirit had nevertheless been able to escape and avoid my clutches. Bewildered and livid I silently assessed the situation we'd found ourselves in. There was nothing to be done about Marrea and the more immediate situation was far more dire; there was no way I could take on Balthazar and his remaining men with the Garfir alone.
The Lupe's mirth slowly faded and he snarled, "You have caused me a great deal of trouble this day, Commandant. I cannot now simply let you walk out of here..." Still facing the cell I heard his claws click on the ground as he slowly prowled towards me.
I glanced down to Obey and nodded almost imperceptibly, but the clever little petpet understood and poised to flee. In one swift movement I turned, flung the heavy net at the confounded Lupe and scrambled towards the break in the mountain side. Balthazar roared and struggled against the unbreakable net before charging after myself and Obey regardless, his arms bound by the material. Some of his men had made their way to the corridor outside Marrea's jail but they had not expected us and I floored them with ease. We made it to the break in the cave and I took flight with Obey upon my back, fleeing into the sunrise to a chorus of howls from Balthazar and his chagrined men.
Chapter VII - Brightvale
"And that," concludes the Eyrie, "is the last time I ever saw her or, I believe, the last time any mortal at all has seen her to this day."
The jailor ponders on all that he's heard for a few moments before sniffing noncommittally and replying, "Well, regardless whether Marrea exists or not, the fact is you failed to catch her Commandant and Grimtooth, you've heard hide nor hair of her since before the Squid got Krawk Island. So whether or not she was here before, she is gone now, isn't she? That's all there is to be said on the matter." He turns to the Eyrie and says, "as for you old boy I think it's time to give up on your mad plan to catch the thing. You're getting old, let's be honest. Maybe you should think about retirement?"
The Eyrie narrows his eyes sternly and behind them, Grimtooth opens his mouth to retort but all are silenced by a sudden commotion upstairs in the holding area of the jail. A flustered Lenny skitters down the steps, panting and flapping her wings and stutters to the jailor, "You've got to come and help, Sinbone! The guards just brought in a thief from the castle but he's got out of his cuffs. He's going to get away, Sinbone, you must come quickly!" With that, she flaps back up the stairs and the Blumaroo grabs his sword from his desk before running after her.
Grimtooth, captivated by this new development has his nose between the bars and is listening intently as the action unfolds upstairs. The Commandant, however, has noticed a glinting on the floor of the jail, just outside his cell; the Blumaroo's keys. He chuckles, hardly believing his luck. The Eyrie barely has to reach beyond the bars of the cell to grasp the ring of keys and the first that he tries in the lock successfully opens the door.
Eventually the Krawk notices The Commandant's escape and trills, "Yer out, Sir! Oh, this is most good luck! Here, lemme out, will yer, Sir?" He smiles toothily and gestures towards the lock on his own cell.
The Commandant glances briefly at the Krawk as he twirls the keys carelessly around his claw. He tosses the keyring onto the jailor's desk and saunters towards the stairs, raising a paw in dismissal at the Krawk. Grimtooth realises he is being abandoned and bellows insult after insult at the Eyrie's back, to no avail.
The Commandant emerges into the chaotic holding room and strolls casually out the door, the jailor oblivious as he attempts to subdue the struggling thief. The Eyrie inhales deeply in the fresh air, then a dim cobalt glow on the horizon catches his eye.
He smirks and murmurs to himself, "Returning the favour, Marrea? Thank you old friend. I'm sure we will meet again someday." With that he takes to the air and returns to Tor Keep, blessed once again by the Luck of Marrea.
Chapter VIII - Brightvale
"And that," concludes the Eyrie, "is the last time I ever saw her or, I believe, the last time any mortal at all has seen her to this day."
I'm in the right place. I would recognise that voice anywhere. He is the one who freed me from the prison in the Ice Caves. I think he was trying to catch me before, when he'd put that chest of stones out in the glade. He was watching from the undergrowth with the same net as that Lupe had used to catch me before. I feel like I shouldn't be helping him for that reason but really, he would never have caught me and he did help me. What is it these Neopets say? One good turn deserves another.
I watch from the rooftop as a pair of Skeiths drag a spindly Kougra into the prison, listen to the muffled exchange between them and the prison warden and see them depart again shortly thereafter. I will the Eyrie's freedom and when I hear the uproar inside the jail I know that he will be free so I leave, before anyone sees me.
These days I try not to spend too much time on the surface world. I nearly faded away when the Lupe kept me in that cell and I am scared that if anyone else captures me I will never make it back to the water. Still I cannot help but visit the islands sometimes; it gets so very lonely in the Underocean and I like to watch the Neopets from afar, even if I do not trust them enough to be near them anymore.
It is night now, and I think I will be safe for a bit longer. I return to the place they call Illusen's Glade, to look again at the coffer of jewels which the guards have still not taken away. I like it here; there is magic in the air that reminds me of where I was born. I drift to the chest and gaze at the sparkling stones within. I hear them talk about this habit of mine sometimes, the Neopets. They think I am greedy, that I like expensive things, but I have no use for such worldly goods. I like jewels because it is only within stones of great clarity that I see myself reflected. My reflection does not appear in water, or glass, or metals, only precious stones like these. It is not vanity, no. It is simply that when I see more of myself, I feel less alone.
You see, I am the only one of me I have ever met and believe me when I say I have traveled far and wide around Neopia searching for other Spirits. Sometimes I grow weary of my fruitless endeavours but I will continue my search for as long as I remain on this world. As each day passes my strength and endurance outside of the ocean grows so that I can venture further and further all the time.
For now, though, enough. I feel my energy wavering and I am frightened when I see the Eyrie flying far overhead. He does not see me but I know that it is time now to depart. I summon the remainder of my reserves of energy and soar back to the sea, back to the darkness of the deep, to my lonely, safe haven far from the prying eyes and greedy hands of Neopia.