Agent of the Sway: Restoration - Part Seven
Hopesmeade kept his distance from Isca and Garin as they swam through the forbidden seas. Kelpbeard knew all too well the dangers of the Drenched, so had forbidden his citizens from entering a large area of seabed around their lair.
Isca swiftly ignored the warning signs the Maraquans had erected, guiding Garin further in. The Drenched appeared to make their home in a twisted spire of coral. Hopesmeade set himself up atop a nearby reef, a good vantage point. Kelpbeard had given him a maractite bow, his own long range means of attack being largely useless underwater.
Isca appeared to be waiting for help, but Garin was impatient, swimming straight into the cave. The Drenched came out to meet him, the three Faeries easily surrounding him.
"Look, sister!" one of them laughed. "Another pretty toy for us to play with!"
"Back, you witches!" Garin shouted, slicing at them with his maractite blade. "Keep your claws off me!"
With the Drenched surrounding Garin, Isca was able to slip past them, swimming into the cave to locate Jacques.
Hopesmeade readied his bow, letting off a shot at one of the Drenched. The arrow sailed through the water like a torpedo, hitting one of the Faeries and forcing her back. Garin swung his blade at another, forcing her back. The third Faerie had realised Isca was gone, and had followed her back into the cave.
Hopesmeade continued to pick his shots carefully, helping Garin's fight wherever he could. A few minutes later, Isca returned from the cave with Jacques, the third Drenched sister following in their wake. Hopesmeade noted that Jacques was not wearing a seaweed necklace, but instead held a potion in his hand - magic from the Drenched, no doubt. Hopesmeade made a note to have Clayton obtain a sample, there was no telling how useful it could be.
The three of them attempted to fight off the Drenched, along with Hopesmeade's help - but it didn't look likely that the three of them would leave intact. A gigantic roar rattled the reef that Hopesmeade was sat on - something else had arrived.
A massive beast was drifting closer to the battle, like a Walien, but mutated to have tentacles that thrashed and clawed at the coral as it approached. Hopesmeade had heard of this creature - the Chasm Beast. It had been known to wreck ships and terrorise explorers in the ruins of Old Maraqua.
The Chasm Beast appeared to have taken a liking to the Drenched's home, wrapping its tentacles around the spire. The Faeries broke off their attack on Isca, Garin, and Jacques to protect their home, giving the trio the chance they needed to flee.
Hopesmeade lingered a moment to watch the battle. It appeared that the Drenched would be able to drive the Chasm Beast off, but their home would be damaged severely. It seemed that the Drenched would be out of the picture for the immediate future. The Sway's hand had been freed again.
Clayton kept to the shadows as he watched Jacques and Garin return to Scurvy Island's port. Things had changed since they left to fight the Drenched. Scarblade, no doubt angered by his confrontation with the Duchess, had started a recruitment drive. Most of the able bodied Neopets in the town had been enlisted, voluntarily or otherwise, into the crew of the Revenge. Scarblade was gathering an army to equal that of New Maraqua, and as a result Scurvy Island was mostly deserted. Only the old and infirm remained.
Garin helped Jacques recover his strength, but the pair were still no closer to locating the Black Pawkeet and her crew. Clayton knew he would have to intervene. Scarblade was now taking any and all volunteers, and welcoming those who brought in forced labour. A quick Crokabek gained Clayton a couple of Sway heavies as reinforcement. Using a tip off from a Bori at the Rusty Anchor, the Skeith and the Uni dumped bags over Garin and Jacques as they came outside and bungled them into Clayton's waiting carriage.
They sailed them right into Scarblade's secret port and were welcomed with open arms, the low level cronies knowing nothing of either the Sway or their feud with Scarblade. Clayton hid himself in the islet's jungle, making sure he had a good vantage point, while the enlisted help dumped the captives into a makeshift prison before leaving with their ship.
Garin found that the majority of the inmates in the makeshift cell happened to be his former crew - the few members of the local population who had not sided with Scarblade.
"Have you seen our ship?" Garin asked them.
"It's anchored on the far side of this island," a Wocky answered. "Where Scarblade is using it - as a rubbish scow."
"My beautiful, sleek ship is being used to haul rubbish!?" Garin gasped. "That beast will pay for this insult a thousand times over!"
Taking out his maractite dagger, Garin made short work of the bars to the cell, letting them escape out into the jungle. Clayton followed them, making sure Scarblade's guards didn't pick up their trail.
The Black Pawkeet was moored on the opposite side of the islet, and Garin's men wasted no time in launching an assault. While Jacques and a few of the crew organised a distraction by attacking a couple of sentries on the beach, Garin and the rest swam out to the ship and snuck aboard, taking care of the remaining guards.
With the ship secured, Garin went to below deck to discover what Clayton already knew - the rubbish on deck was a cover. In fact, the Black Pawkeet was being used to store arms for Scarblade's coming war. It would be filled to the brim with all the swords the crew could possibly use, and stealing it would put Scarblade's force at a disadvantage. Clayton snuck close to the beach to locate the waiting Goldy while Garin's crew readied the Black Pawkeet.
Clayton sent off a quick note to inform Hopesmeade of the developments before returning to the jungle. The Black Pawkeet set sail quickly - dark clouds were gathering on the horizon, heralding the arrival of the Revenge. Once it was in the bay, and Scarblade discovered the theft, Clayton swam out to stow away again.
Hopesmeade took delivery of Clayton's note a few hours later. He informed the King immediately that war would be upon them before the day was up. He had to retreat to the shadows of the throne room, however, when a couple of guards presented a couple of prisoners to the King - Garin and Caylis, Hopesmeade realised. They had come to save Isca.
"What are you doing in New Maraqua, surface dweller?" Kelpbeard demanded.
"I have come to warn you of danger, great King," Garin replied. "A mighty sailing force is heading your way."
Kelpbeard glanced towards Hopesmeade for a moment, but decided that he would hold his cards close to his chest.
"A likely story," Kelpbeard said. "You are here to steal our secrets! How did you find your way here?"
"Is... a.... friend saved my life and brought me here in secret some time ago," Garin said, hastily removing Isca's name. "I remembered the way, mostly..."
"Only Isca would be reckless enough to do that," Kelpbeard said. "Guards, find her and bring her to me."
"And what is your part in this, Caylis?" Kelpbeard added, rounding on the Aisha. "You know that you have been forbidden to return to Maraqua."
"I don't even know why I bothered to try and help you!" Caylis shouted. "I have only ever been treated unfairly! Maybe there is a scrap of truth in Garin's claim, but you would never listen to an outsider."
"How dare you!" Kelpbeard flustered. "Guards, take this witch out of my sight!"
The guards returned with Isca as Caylis was led out.
"Garin!" she gasped. "What are you doing here?"
"So he tells the truth!" Kelpbeard fumed. "You brought this land-dweller into the city, against my strict command."
"None of that matters now," Garin cut in. "Isca, Scarblade is planning to invade Maraqua. His ship with a thousand men aboard is already heading this way."
"Enough!" Kelpbeard shouted. "Once again an outsider has brought great danger to the people of Maraqua! I'm sure you sold your story to that pirate fiend! Due to your meddling, land-dweller, we must prepare for war! Isca, for your betrayal, you are banished from Maraqua along with your sister. Guards, escort her to the city gates. And as for you, land-dweller, I will throw you into the deepest dungeon, never to come out. Guards, take him away!"
Once they were gone, Hopesmeade emerged from the shadows.
"That was quite convincing acting," he remarked.
"Acting!?" Kelpbeard shouting, his anger not abated. "You and your kind must have known that this Garin was visiting my city, and corrupting Isca, yet you said nothing! She has never shown a desire to leave the city before, and now she disobeys my direct commands! I have given a lot to your organisation, Duke, but I am still the sovereign King of this land - I will not be disobeyed!"
"What's done is done," Hopesmeade replied bluntly. "We did not tell you of Garin's involvement because we anticipated exactly this response. For what it is worth, he and his crew would have proved major assets in your fight against Scarblade. But instead, you have imprisoned him, and banished by Caylis and now Isca. Your forces have been diminished - you are making this task more difficult for me, King Kelpbeard."
The Koi King couldn't help but feel he had just received a dressing down.
"I need time to think," he shot back acidly. "Kindly leave me."
Hopesmeade supplied a curt nod, leaving the throne room. King Kelpbeard's wishes would have to be ignored. Garin had to be freed if Maraqua was to be saved, and Hopesmeade was the one to do it.
To be continued...