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The Return of Scarblade: Part One

by funkiechunkymunkie


Author's note: This story takes place after the final chapter of the Curse of Maraqua plot.

It was a day most like any other for Garin and the crew of the Black Pawkeet. The sun was setting beautifully in the cloudless sky, and the wind ruffled the Usul's hair, as well as providing for the sails. Yet, somehow, Garin felt as though something was missing. Weeks ago, he and his crew, accompanied by Isca, Caylis, and Goregas, had defended the kingdom of Maraqua from the notorious Captain Scarblade. He had regrettably refused Isca's offer to remain in New Maraqua, and instead returned to his familiar pirating ways.

     "Captain, it's perfect weather for sailing," said Jacques, snapping Garin out of his thoughts. "There are rumors that Smuggler's Cove has recently acquired a few new treasures. Perhaps we should drop by?"

     The Usul shifted his gaze on his best friend. Jacques had the same glint in his eyes that meant he, too, felt incomplete.

     "I just don't know what to do," sighed Garin.

     He returned to staring at the ocean. The fact that he loved pirating but also had his feelings for the Aisha had torn him.

     "You should try not to think about her. I know how you feel, my friend." Jacques patted him on the shoulder.

     Occasionally Garin's mind would play tricks on him, and he thought he saw a Maraquan Aisha. Then, he noticed the sky had turned a dull grey and the sun blocked by thick black clouds.

     Talak, who was in the crow's nest, yelled, "Captain Garin! It's...it's...him!" In the distance, the only ship more powerful than the Black Pawkeet was making its way effortlessly towards them.

     It was the Revenge.

     "No!" Isca gasped and bolted upright. It had only been a dream...then again, her nighttime visions always came true. This one had involved a land dweller - Garin, of course. He was going to be attacked by Scarblade and the crew of the Revenge by the looks of it, not to mention seriously injured. Isca had no idea what would happen next. She could only hope that the king would understand her plight. No, I must find him, she thought desperately. The Aisha hurried out of bed, and swam off into the distance to find the Black Pawkeet.

     Garin immediately leapt into action. "All right, men! Load the cannons and arm yourselves double! They may be older and more experienced, but they no longer have the element of surprise!"

     He tossed each of his men an extra sword, and pulled out his own Maractite blade King Kelpbeard had allowed him to keep. Maractite could not be broken or chipped like an ordinary steel sword, and it was actually swifter above the water as well. The Revenge approached while the crew of the Black Pawkeet prepared to fight for their ship. After what seemed like ages, they were finally within sight. First Swabby and Fred were visible, lined up, then Nathan, Benny, and all the rest. The most feared of all appeared amid them all: Captain Scarblade himself. He seemed slightly changed. Perhaps it was the few dark circles underneath his shadowy eyes, or the fact that his scar stood out more.

     "Well, well, well. If it isn't the little Usul and his crew. I do wonder why I even bother to fight eighteen-year-olds..."

     "Get to the point, Scarblade. What do you want?" spat Garin.

     The Lupe turned lazily to face him. "I have a bargain to make with you. If you join my crew-and myself-to destroy Maraqua once and for all, I will never harm you on the seas again."

     The members of the Black Pawkeet shot a glance at each other. They knew well enough what the answer would be. As one, they cried out, "NEVER!" Garin shouted, "Let's do it, men! Attack!" while Scarblade ordered, "Give them a taste of our steel!"

     The clash of swords rang throughout the decks of both ships. Garin had leapt aboard the Revenge, and he and Scarblade circled each other menacingly. Jacques was locked in a deadly battle with a Mynci and Swabby, eventually driving the two over the railing and into the ocean below. It seemed as if the members of the smaller ship were winning...until things took a turn for the worse. Garin was being surrounded by enemies. His attempts to drive them back were futile. Just as they were closing in, he leapt up and flipped in midair over their heads, something only Usuls can do.

     "AHH!" he cried out in anguish.

     Scarblade had slashed a nasty cut on his arm. This time, both Garin and Jacques were being surrounded, but with the Usul wounded, there was no chance of escape.

     "Are you thinking what I am?" Jacques asked.

     Garin nodded. Together, they leapt off the boat and landed in the ocean. The two flung a seaweed necklace around each of their necks. Isca had used Garin's necklace to save his life, and King Kelpbeard had given one to Jacques as a token of gratitude. Without warning, the companions found themselves spinning uncontrollably in a whirlpool, faster, until the darkness overtook them.

     "Jacques! Jacques, wake up!"

     He opened his eyes with somewhat difficulty. A very concerned but tired-looking Isca was hovering above him. The Kyrii groaned and massaged the place his head had made impact.

     "Where's Garin?" she asked quietly, carefully lifting him off the sea floor.

     "I'm not sure. Scarblade sent a small whirlpool and we lost track of each other."

     Isca draped Jacques's arm over her shoulder. "Come," she said. "I have been swimming all night, but I still have enough energy. We must return to New Maraqua to try to find Garin."

     Hours later, Garin staggered near the city gates. He was exhausted and his arm injury had grown worse. The guards recognized him immediately, placed him gently over their shoulders, and proceeded to King Kelpbeard.

     "Sir, Garin has returned," said the Flotsam guard.

     "Indeed," replied the king. "What's this? He is injured! And where is Isca?"

     "She left last night to search for him."

     Kelpbeard's facial expression softened. He knew about the bond Isca and Garin had shared since childhood, even though their worlds were completely separate. From the gates to the palace, he heard someone calling to him.

     "King Kelpbeard! Is Garin alright?" It was, of course, Isca. She had brought a weak Jacques with her. It must have taken great will to press on for hours like that, the Koi thought to himself. The guards allowed the two inside the throne room.

     "Oh, Garin! You're hurt!" The Usul sank wearily into a chair. Isca helped Jacques into one as well, then turned on her friend. "Here. This will work."

     She pressed her hand to the wound briefly. Garin winced slightly when she removed it. The cut began to fade away, and with it, the pain. He looked up in awe at the Aisha. "Isca, you're amazing...Listen, Scarblade has captured my crew again...and..."

     "For now, you three need rest," cut in Kelpbeard. "I will escort you to three different rooms in my castle. There you can sleep until we find the location of your crew." Seeing the quizzical look on Jacques's face, he added, "You saved our kingdom, and we believe the time is right to repay our debt."

     Scarblade paced back and forth in the dungeon of the Revenge. The members of the Black Pawkeet were chained to the wall facing him. "That fat old king will have protective enchantments around the city to ensure my whirlpools and curses cannot harm them. Their forces are much stronger and have probably been trained more, so I cannot proceed with that approach..."

     "You'll never get away with this, you filthy plunderer," spat Talak, eyeing the captain.

     "Oh, really?" Scarblade raised a bushy eyebrow. "You can't truly expect that. I'll be taking you to my private headquarters somewhere near Krawk Island. Then again, it's far out to sea, so no one will ever expect to find you there." He suddenly sparked an idea. He turned to face the crew, and began laughing a cold, mirthless laugh. This time the Maraquans would pay. He was sure of it.

     The King handed Isca, Caylis, Garin, and Jacques a knapsack full of any useful items they would need. Food, water, rope, the list kept going.

     "Your crew is located on a small island far from Krawk Island. It should be marked on your maps."

     Caylis tilted her head slightly to one side. "How do you know for sure?" she asked.

     "I have my reliable sources," replied Kelpbeard, pointing at a Pirakeet that resembled Scarblade's own pet. "Isca and Caylis, the enchantment should last as long as you have touched this orb. You won't have to worry. Good luck to you all. We will be awaiting your return."

     "We'll make sure to come back," called Isca into the distance. Finally, the city was nothing more than a few specks of color far away.

     "All right," said Jacques finally. "The king said there would be magical enchantments on the land so only Scarblade's crew can reach it. This is the closest we can get without fatally injuring ourselves. It's time to start on land from here."

     The two friends glanced at each other, then at the Aishas.

     "What about you two?" demanded Garin.

     "You'll see," Caylis said slyly.

     She pulled out the orb. The sisters pressed their hands on it as they rose to the surface. As soon as they were completely out of the water, they began to change. Their tails split neatly and thinned into legs while they dried off. Scales formed into fur, yet they were still their same original color.

     "Whoa," Isca commented and wobbled unsteadily. The Usul helped her adjust to the new circumstances. The two friends pocketed their seaweed necklaces for next time.

     "I think we'd better start climbing," said the Kyrii.

     They had emerged onto a small strip of land at the base of a rock face. He swung a rope with a maractite grappling hook in the air, and then tossed it. It landed easily atop the cliff. Being a Kyrii, he was able to scale the rope quite swiftly, and Caylis followed. Garin and Isca began after she had clambered onto the landing.

     They were about halfway when Isca screamed, "Garin, the rope is splitting!"

     "We'll haul you up!" shouted Jacques.

     The Aisha was in a much more dangerous position, for the rope was thinning right above her. Suddenly it snapped!

     "AHH!" she screamed.

     The Usul grabbed her hand just in time. "Hold on, Isca!" he yelled.

     "I can't, I'm slipping!"

     Garin knew it was too late. Isca looked up at him, and he was startled to see her blue-green eyes sparkling with tears.

     "It is time for me to go," she whispered. "Goodbye."

     Their hands slipped, and Isca plummeted for what seemed like an eternity. "NO!" Garin yelled, as the sea swallowed her forever.

To be continued...

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