Agent of the Sway: Restoration - Part Eight
Clayton had managed to find a cargo hold with a porthole, so he could tell when the Revenge was approaching the location of New Maraqua. He could see the Black Pawkeet not far away. No doubt Jacques was preparing for an attack - but Scarblade had other plans.
The magical storm clouds protecting the Revenge were just one of the many countermeasures and improvements that Scarblade had made. Up on the deck, Scarblade flicked a switch on the wheel, causing it to turn horizontal. The great black sails of the ship began to fold inwards, and fins appeared out of the hull as the lower holds flooded, allowing the ship to sink below the waves.
As the water hit, Clayton felt the wash of magic - another of Scarblade's hidden tricks. A spell embedded in the very timbers of the Revenge allowed all who sailed in her to breathe underwater - at the cost of an eerie red glow in their eyes while the magic was in effect.
The transformation complete, Scarblade turned the wheel again, setting a course for the coral reef in the distance that marked the location of New Maraqua.
Hopesmeade bribed a few of the palace guard transporting the maractite weapons to the front gates of the city. In return, they arranged a roadblock on the way to the prison, forcing Garin and his guards down a different path.
It led them directly past the secret passage that Garin had used to escape the city previously. Garin himself made quick work of his bindings using his maractite dagger, and slipped the guards to escape. Hopesmeade hoped that on the outside he would reunite with Isca and Caylis and they wouldn't be too jaded by Kelpbeard's words to come to Maraqua's aid.
The pirate crew surged forwards, the ranks of Maraquan soldiers at the gates forcing them into a bottleneck that quickly turned into the chaos of war. Clayton stayed in his hiding place aboard the Revenge, picking off what pirates he could from the back ranks, while Hopesmeade did the same from a location on the Maraquan city walls.
Still, Kelpbeard's actions in banishing Garin, Isca, and Caylis appeared to be costing the Maraquans dearly. Even with the Sway's help, Scarblade's thousand strong crew was pushing back the Maraquans. By the time Scarblade emerged to join the battle, the city gates had been breached, and the pirates flooded forwards into the city.
Just in time, reinforcements arrived. The crew of the Black Pawkeet, Isca, and her giant Petpet, Goregas, surged forwards from the rear flank of the pirate's ranks. At the same time, Caylis and Jacques seemed to have infiltrated the city to join up with Swordmaster Talek and the main bulk of the Maraquan army. Armed with Caylis's magic, and Talek's reinforcements, the Maraquan army were able to halt the pirate advance. The tide was turning against Scarblade's forces. They were surrounded, and gradually the Maraquans were picking them off.
Kelpbeard himself now swam out onto the battlefield, having donned his ceremonial maractite battle armour. He cut past the main battle, heading straight for the Revenge and a clash with Scarblade himself.
"What have we here?" Scarblade sneered from the deck. "A fat little King comes to save his people? You don't have a chance!"
The two clashed, steel on maractite.
"I will slice you to smithereens and feed you to my Pirakeet!" Scarblade growled.
"Silence you villainous scum!" Kelpbeard shot back.
Clayton, emerging from his hiding place, fired off a volley that hit Scarblade's foot, throwing him off balance. Kelpbeard took his chance, raising his sword for a final attack.
"I swore to never take another life," Kelpbeard said. "But for you, I will make an exception."
Seeing he was defeated, Scarblade punched upwards, forcing Kelpbeard away and over the side of the ship. Quickly, what few pirates remained gathered Scarblade's hasty bit at retreat. Benny the Blade rushed to the wheel and began to steer them away.
"Foolish King!" Scarblade shouted back at Kelpbeard as he sailed away. "You may have won this time, but nobody will ever defeat me!"
The Revenge sailed on into the darkening oceans. Scarblade was defeated, his crew reduced to a mere shade of the number he previously had. He would threaten the waters of Maraqua, and those around Krawk Island, no longer.
Clayton drifted down towards the city, reuniting with Hopesmeade who hastily supplied him with a seaweed necklace as the magic of Scarblade's spell faded.
The pair disappeared into the crowd as the celebratory Maraquan army welcomed back their victorious King. Those few pirates who had not fled were captured, and imprisoned in the cells once meant for Garin. Kelpbeard called an audience for the saviours of the city. As ever, Hopesmeade and Clayton hid in the shadows to observe.
"Who would have thought this little Gulper would become so brave?" Kelpbeard chuckled, patting Isca's pet, Goregas. "I thank you Isca, and apologise for misjudging you earlier. Your quarters are yours to keep for as long as you wish."
"I thank you, sire," Isca replied. "But I will only return if Caylis is given a full pardon as well."
Kelpbeard's eyes softened.
"But of course," he agreed. "We all saw how bravely Caylis fought today. She used her powers to help Maraqua and is welcome here anytime."
"I know what life is like in the city and it is not for me," Caylis answered him. "You simply don't understand. I couldn't belong here."
"Brave Garin," Kelpbeard said. "For your service to New Maraqua and its King, you are absolved of all crimes. The gates of the city are open to you any time you wish to enter. You may also keep the maractite dagger you stole from us. May it serve you well."
"As for you pirates," he added, turning to Garin's crew. "You have taught me not to judge at first sight. You are welcome to return here any time you wish, just leaving your pirating ways at the gates."
With that, the various guests all left the throne room, allowing Hopesmeade and Clayton out of the shadows.
"So, a change of heart, then?" Hopesmeade asked.
"They came to the aid of Maraqua even after I banished them," Kelpbeard admitted. "That is true loyalty, and it should be rewarded. I admit, I was wrong, without their help, the battle for Maraqua would have been lost. Scarblade escaped, however."
"He has been crippled," Hopesmeade said. "He will never again be able to muster a crew powerful enough to challenge Maraqua. He will remain a pirate on the seas, but below them, you will be safe."
"What if he rebuilds?"
"To a crew of a thousand?" Hopesmeade chuckled. "That would take years. We have plans in motion topside to prevent that happening. Scarblade will be replaced in time, and Maraqua will be safe. You have the Duchess's personal word on this, King Kelpbeard."
"Very well, I will open the gates of the city to all visitors. You may broadcast our location - I'm sure the Seekers will be raring to visit."
Hopesmeade supplied another curt nod, and the two of them left, swimming upwards towards the surface. There, a ship was waiting, not flying any colours. It was crewed by Sway agents, and the pair of them were led down into the Captain's Cabin. The Duchess was there, with the Krawk she had identified as Gavril McGill a few days earlier.
"Congratulations," the Lenny greeted them. "We have tracked Scarblade back to his islets near Scurvy Island. He will not be a problem for the greater part of a decade, and by then, I suspect, Mr. McGill will be in power and position to keep Scarblade's activities to a minimum."
Gavril supplied a broad smile.
The Duchess had been examining documents before their arrival and gestured to them now.
"While you have been busy, I have had agents liberate documents from the Seekers Headquarters in Brightvale," she said. "Did you know that Krawk Island is not a singular land mass, but a collection of small floating islets anchored together on the seabed? Mr. McGill has had the revolutionary idea of breaking the chains, and reforming the island in a new image - anyone taking charge of this process is bound to be well suited for the position of Governor when everything is said and done."
"You said you needed some method of controlling the oceans though," Clayton said. "Chiazilla is out of action, and we don't have the means to control the oceans like we did when we destroyed Old Maraqua. Have you found other means?"
"Not exactly," the Duchess admitted. "I have located a magical device capable of summoning a creature known as a Krawken. However, the Seekers believe the device is currently held in the Hidden Tower in Faerieland. Obviously, this places it out of our reach for the time being. We only have a few agents in Faerieland and they have to move very carefully."
"What about Emperor Razul's cache in the Lost Desert?" Hopesmeade suggested. "There must have been many other magical treasures inside that we didn't take."
The Duchess gave a knowing smile. "I had considered that. Follow me."
She led them up to the deck, away from McGill.
"Mr. McGill has already heard a lot, I would prefer him to know no more," she explained. "Razul is your next mission. The original cache was examined by the Seekers soon after Dr. Sloth's invasion. They found little of worth, beyond the gold obviously, and the Order of the Red Erisim concurred about the lack of any other significant magical objects. However, all is not lost."
"How so?" Hopesmeade asked.
"Emperor Razul must have held more riches in Qasala, his seat of power," the Duchess said. "He cursed the city as his final act of madness - sapping it of life to ensure his own immortality. Legend says that an ancient magical pact between Qasala and Sakhmet will free him from his eternal sleep, and Qasala from the curse. This is your next task. You are to travel to the Lost Desert and secure the return of Qasala."
With that, she returned below deck. Hopesmeade let out a little sigh.
"No rest for the wicked."