The Island of Mist: Part Seven
In his cave home, Tsizhao was picking root vegetables when he felt something like lightning run through him. He jumped to his feet with a start and bolted for the entrance to his cave. Looking up, he saw wisps of purple clouds fading to nothing. The most beautiful blue stretched across the sky and the sun shone down in its full glory. A smile stretched across his face as he jumped and let out a loud whoop, fist pumping the air. Victory.
At the coast, the Elder was speaking with his wife about their future. Whether or not they would ever leave the island. It had been months. Perhaps it was time to start carving out an actual life for themselves here. Brows were furrowed as they whispered to one another, hoping the children didn't hear the strain in their voices. Suddenly, the sky grew brighter above the water. It filtered down to where they were, making them squint their eyes. They looked at each other quickly, eyes wide. Did they dare hope? The Elder told his wife to wait a moment as he swam up to check. As he broke the surface and looked up at the sky, he answered its light with a grin nearly as bright as the sun beaming down on him. He rushed back down to get his family, talking excitedly the entire time. All four of them broke the surface together. The boys stared in wide-eyed wonder and argued over who told who it wasn't a fairy tale, that they'd known the whole thing was true all along.
Within the cave, multitudes of Neopets shook their heads, disoriented. They blinked and looked around them as their brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, doing the same. Joy replaced the disorientation. Families and friends hugged each other. Some of the women embraced and sobbed. Tears glistened in the eyes of the men as they clapped the backs of their brothers.
In the heart of the cave, Tarin, Logan, and Sareece were in the pool. Suddenly, Sareece's eyes shot open and she leaned forward, splashing.
"Hey, hey!" Logan and Tarin said, catching at her arms.
"It's all right," Logan said softly. Sareece looked around, dazed. She blinked several times, disoriented, and turned to him. "Before we defeated Jezebel..." she began. "Did I...?" She put her head in her hands. The very thought made her head hurt. "Was there anything strange about me? I felt like I was practically glowing. The cave. It..." she shook her head. "I don't know, it's like it came to me. Like it knew. Before, I could barely even grasp it. All I remember is Jezebel's attack, and then I heard the strangest voices, all mingled together. It's like it wanted to help me - help us - defeat Jezebel."
Tarin's eyes narrowed in thoughtful concentration, considering her words. Finally, he simply shook his head. "I don't know. I wish I did, but I don't. But we did it. We defeated Jezebel. Because of you."
Sareece shook her head. "Because of the cave. Because of all of us." She looked around then. "Where's Del?" Her eyes widened in momentary alarm.
"He's guarding Jezebel," Logan said. "Do you feel all right? Could you walk? I could carry you if you need me to."
Sareece shook her head with a smile. "I feel better than ever."
"It's the waters of the pool," Logan said. "I think you were right. I think it did have a side, in the end. Its own. I think it resented the control Jezebel was trying to gain over it."
Tarin nodded. That would make sense. "I can't imagine being forced into a mind like Jezebel's." He grimaced at the thought.
"What are we going to do with her?" Sareece asked.
"Carry her with us," Logan said. "We can't leave her here. We'll bring her to the Elder and let him do what he judges to be the best thing."
"Hey, guys," Del called from the other side of the cave. "We have visitors."
All three of them looked at each other, shrugging. Sareece stood up and stepped out of the pool, Tarin and Logan following behind.
"Sareece!" Del exclaimed when he saw her. A relieved grin overtook his entire face. "Come meet the islanders."
Before them stood a wide variety of Neopets, some small and thin, some tall and bulky. Nearly all were muscular and tanned. Several wore headdresses made of various flowers and grasses woven together. Feathers protruded from a few. These islanders seemed to stand taller than the others, regardless of actual height. Logan guessed they were the elders of the island, some sort of council members, maybe.
A Lutari with the most feathers - ranging in colors from blue and red to a green and black patterned one - stepped forward. He had his arms folded, but he was grinning. "I am Nakeen. I have been telling your friend how thankful we are to you," he said. Those who followed him nodded. A little boy clung to his mother's grass skirt and stared in awe at the crew. "We have been wandering, mindless, for many years. We feared the worst, but we were barely conscious enough to feel anything but fear, much less conscious enough to devise a plan to thwart this wicked mistress of sorcery." He cast a glare at Jezebel, still lying on the cave floor. "We would be glad to be of service to you in any way we can be." At this, he stretched out both hands, palms out, and bowed his head. Each of the other islanders - down to the youngest ones - did the same. It was their sign of respect. The sign of saying what they had was the crew's, and that they would do whatever the crew needed them to.
Logan nodded his head respectfully. "We need nothing more than to see that you are well. If that is the case, then we will feel we have been given reward enough."
Nakeen lowered his arms and raised his head. "We shall be well. But it would be our honor to aid you. In any way, large or small."
Del eyed Logan and jerked his head towards Jezebel.
"Would you like to aid us in our travels?" Logan asked. "We have quite a way to go, and limited knowledge of the edible plants on your island and of where the streams are located. We also could use the help in transporting Jezebel to the coast."
"The coast, yes, of course. Sea farers. And your ship, it is well-stocked?"
"No," Logan said with regret. "Our ship went down in the storm that brought us here."
Nakeen nodded gravely. "Then we will build for you a new ship, stronger even than the last."
Logan blinked, surprised. "Thank you."
"As I said, it is our pleasure," Nakeen assured him.
"Then we will begin straight away," Logan said.
Nakeen picked up Jezebel himself. He spoke to his tribe in a strange clicking language, and they fell into formation behind him. And then they were off, back to where they began.
The journey seemed to fly by with all the company around them. Not to mention the variety in food, the assurance of water, and the directions of people who knew the land. There was talk of staying on the island, not going back at all. Logan, especially, felt the pull. He hadn't known anything about magic before. Now that he did, he found the thought of returning almost impossible. He felt the need to be near people who understood it. Del looked forward to the idea of new discoveries. He wanted to go back eventually, but not before exploring every aspect of the island. Sareece was fascinated at the crafts of the people and wanted to learn many of their trades. She made friends easily on their journey, and wanted to continue to get to know them better. Tarin alone felt the call of the seas to be strong, but he, too, wanted to see what the island had to offer. He and Del spoke of timelines for their departure, agreeing in the end that they would stay for at least a year. When they told Nakeen of their plans, he appeared pleased, but told them that their offer of a new ship was open indefinitely.
Once they reached the coast, the islanders bid their farewells for the time being. They had homes to get back to. Many hugs and promises of visits were spoken as they took their leave. They left Jezebel with the crew. Along the way, they had used their own abilities to put her in a sort of trance. She appeared to be healthy in every way. Only, she couldn't open her eyes, move, or speak. After some discussion, the crew and the Elder had decided that he would take Jezebel with him, back to Maraqua.
"What are you going to do with her?" Del asked. "We're going to take her to trial," the Elder said. "She may be wicked, but the mark of a good being is that they show fairness at all times." His eyes lingered on Jezebel with dislike and pity. "Even if their actions do not deserve such a kindness."
"When are you heading off?" Tarin asked.
"Tomorrow morning at first light," the Elder said. The corners of his eyes crinkled with long-unused crows feet, and small smile wrinkles appeared around his mouth. Logan could tell from the easy way they fell into place that the Elder had smiled often and broadly at one point. He was glad to see him getting a head start on putting those wrinkles back to work.
"I hope you have a good journey," Logan said.
"And what of you?" the Elder asked.
"We're going to visit a wizard that we met along the way. We wouldn't have been able to make it without his training."
The Elder nodded. "And after that? Are you going back to your own homes?"
"We're going to be staying on the island for a while," Tarin said. "Del and I are estimating about a year, maybe more. Sareece and Logan are thinking about staying here permanently. He looked at them and thought about how he'd miss them. "But we're not sure yet." He shrugged. "Time will tell."
"Yes. Time has a way of knowing what we do not, doesn't it? In any event, I wish you well in your every endeavor."
Tarin laughed. "We plan to stay low and rest for a while before trying any new endeavors of any sort."
The Elder's eyes gleamed.
"Well, whatever time brings, know this: You will forever have my gratitude." And with that, he gave a grin and a nod goodbye.
The last they saw of him was a tail right before it slipped into the ocean.
The crew stood for a few moments, gazing out to the sea. What if they hadn't picked up the pottery? What if they had delayed their route? It was strange, the way things clicked together in just the right ways.
Finally, Del broke the silence. "Come on, guys, let's go. We've got a whole new adventure ahead of us." Together, they made for the village. None of them knew what this new life would be like, but they were all excited to find out.