Agent of the Sway: Restoration - Part Six
Hopesmeade took delivery of Clayton's note later that night, a dumb-looking Goldy floating up and depositing it in his lap as he looked over troop numbers.
"Faeries..." he considered. "A complication. But if they have gained a new pet in the form of Jacques, they are likely to be out of the picture for now... This Maraquan Aisha though, I wonder..."
He made his way to the throne room. Kelpbeard, too, was reviewing documents - efforts to protect the civilian population during the battle.
"You mentioned a seeress, Isca, wasn't it?" Hopesmeade asked.
"Yes," Kelpbeard said. "Though, she is an advantage, not a key part of the plan."
"I remember what you said," Hopesmeade replied. "Is she an Aisha?"
"I would like to meet her," Hopesmeade said. "To assess her qualities. I will watch from the shadows if you call her to an audience."
"Very well, but it is the middle of the night, she will likely be asleep," Kelpbeard insisted.
"Indulge me," Hopesmeade replied. "I think tonight, she will be awake."
Isca obeyed Kelpbeard's call. She was in his throne room within the hour. Hopesmeade observed that this was quick - she had been awake.
The King quizzed her about any recent dreams, hoping to gain information about the war. Isca remained silent on the matter, claiming she had seen nothing. Hopesmeade did not doubt this was a lie - the dreams she had featured Garin, something she did not want to share with a King who forbade contact with surface dwellers. She deliberately avoided eye contact with the King, and seemed to be wanting to hurry the audience along. Hopesmeade realised that she must have stowed Garin in the city somewhere, and was wanting to return to him.
If Garin lived, he could prove a worthy ally against Scarblade - and more importantly, a vector for informing Scarblade of Maraqua's survival.
When the audience ended, Hopesmeade tailed Isca from a distance, following her back to her home. There, sure enough, was Garin. The pirate now sported a magical seaweed necklace just like Hopesmeade's, allowing him to breathe underwater. Isca appeared to have also given him some sort of healing potion, as he showed no signs of having been in a battle the previous night.
Garin was determined to return to the surface, and though Isca was not a fan of the idea, she agreed to lead him out of the city. Hopesmeade followed again, noticing that Garin had somehow stolen a maractite dagger during his time in the city - he had it carefully stashed inside his vest.
The tunnel Isca was taking was a back way out of the city, a hole in the defences that Hopesmeade made note of. Garin swam back to the surface, leaving Isca alone for a moment before a new voice spoke up.
Isca wheeled around to find another Maraquan Aisha, darker in colour, sitting on a rock outcrop.
"Caylis!" Isca gasped.
Even from a distance, Hopesmeade could sense the Aisha's magical energy. She was a sea-witch. Hopesmeade wondered why Kelpbeard had failed to mention such an asset.
"It's been a long time. Are you no longer Kelpbeard's favourite?" Caylis asked.
"I still have my dreams," Isca answered. "And they still help our people."
"Your people, Isca, not mine," Caylis said, turning away. "I am banished, remember?"
Ah. That was why Kelpbeard hadn't mentioned her. An exile. A pity.
"I did not ask for the dreams to come to me, sister," Isca said. "What would you have me do, keep them to myself?"
"Neither did I ask for my nightmares," Caylis shot back. "They horrify me in my sleep. And my waking hours are filled with loneliness."
She turned, disgusted.
"Go back to your luxury, Isca," she said as she drifted away. "It is better that we never meet again."
Isca crumpled, returning down the hidden tunnel in tears. Hopesmeade waited a few minutes before following, heading back towards the palace. There, Kelpbeard was waiting.
"Did she meet with your approval?" he asked.
"Yes, I can see she may be of use," Hopesmeade considered. "Why didn't you tell me about her sister, Caylis?"
"We don't speak of her any longer," he said. "While Isca was blessed, Caylis was cursed. Her dreams did not bring the good luck of her sister. Instead, they brought only destruction and misery. We had to banish her, to keep the misfortune away from the city."
"She could be useful," Hopesmeade said.
"She is dangerous," Kelpbeard maintained. "I have allowed your organisation to do much, but she will not return to this city. That much is final."
"Very well," Hopesmeade agreed.
He chose to keep new of Garin out of the conversation. It was only Clayton that needed to know that.
The Revenge docked at a small islet off Scurvy Island the next day. Scurvy itself was a small island near Krawk Island, home to the more shady pirates. The crew appeared to be given shoreleave, and Clayton went in to town soon after. He didn't want to linger in close proximity to Scarblade in case he was seen - Scarblade knew Clayton's involvement with the Sway. Discovery would unravel all their plans.
Clayton found a Goldy waiting for him at the Scurvy Island docks - a message from Hopesmeade detailing Garin's visit to Maraqua and warning of his impending arrival on Scurvy.
Clayton was waiting when the Usul arrived, following him to an inn and hiding in a secluded corner. Garin soon located a Wocky who was cleaning up - a former member of his crew. He related the tale of walking the plank to avoid capture by Scarblade, who had taken possession of the Black Pawkeet. In exchange, Garin told his story, of New Maraqua and the riches it held.
Clayton smiled. Garin was doing the Sway's job for them. In another corner, a Bruce from Scarblade's crew by the name of Benny was listening. He would return the news of Maraqua's survival to Scarblade. It was only a matter of time until an invasion of New Maraqua was launched.
The Duchess was waiting on pier, gazing out to the horizon with a distant look on her face. Scarblade's fury was plain to see as he marched up to meet her.
"Betrayal!" he shouted. "This is a violation of our agreement!"
"What is, Captain?" she asked.
"You know full well!" Scarblade replied. "Maraqua has been rebuilt! Kelpbeard lives!"
"And this violates our agreement how, exactly?"
"Don't try and tell me you didn't have a hand in it!" Scarblade growled.
"Regardless, our deal had nothing to do with King Kelpbeard," the Duchess said.
"You promised me I'd rule the five seas!" Scarblade said. "Yet there's a kingdom under the waves you were deliberately keeping from me! Kelpbeard paid protection money to Captain Dread, you think they are above that with me!?"
"As I recall, our deal also included you fulfilling your side," the Lenny replied cooly. "Things like not attacking our protected convoys and ports. It seems to me that our deal has been voided by you, not me, Captain."
"So it is open war then, is it?" Scarblade demanded.
"This should hardly come as a surprise to you," the Duchess remarked. "You saw what we did to Captain Dread when he turned against us. You thought you were immune? Oh, please, don't tell me you actually thought you were smarter than us?"
Scarblade's hand moved towards his cutlass.
"I could stop you right now," he threatened. "That'd be pretty smart."
"Would it?" the Duchess chuckled. "Of course, you may succeed in killing me, but my bodyguards would be on you soon afterwards to return the favour. Your little pirate empire would crumble in an instant. The Sway, however, has a clear line of succession. I would be replaced by the end of the day - the organisation itself would be largely unaffected. You would achieve nothing and lose everything. No, Captain, it would not be smart."
Scarblade let out an exasperated snarl.
"Maraqua will fall, mark my words!"
With that, he stormed off, back to his ship.
Clayton followed Garin across Scurvy Island. The Usul appeared to be attempting to track down the Black Pawkeet, or at least some of the crew besides the one he'd met at the inn.
He travelled from old sea dog to old sea dog, paying in gold for their tales. Quite a few had heard rumours of a new ship on Scarblade's armada, whilst a couple had seen wreckage wash up from some of the Black Pawkeet's rowboats. There was nothing of the ship itself or the crew, though. Scarblade was keeping the location of his port secret from everyone.
Garin took a walk along the beach, only to find Isca in the water calling to him.
"Garin!" she called. "Something terrible is going to happen to Maraqua. I've dreamed it."
"What can I do?" Garin said. "I've lost my ship, and my best friend has vanished..."
Isca's face lit up.
"I know where he is!" she told him. "The Drenched are holding him prisoner. I have seen it in my dreams. You can rescue him, if I help you."
Putting on his magical necklace again, Isca led Garin down into the depths. Clayton was powerless to follow, but he caught sight of movement on a nearby rock. It was Hopesmeade, waving at him. He must have followed Isca out of Maraqua.
"Be careful!" Clayton called to him. "They are going after the Drenched!"
Hopesmeade nodded, before diving back into the water to follow Isca and Garin.
To be continued...