Unwanted: Part Three
I didn’t regain consciousness all at once. Awakening was a slow process – I finally realized why it had taken Isca so long to come back to reality. Reality equaled pain in my small sphere of thought, and I fought tooth and claw to keep inside the blanket of blessed darkness.
But waking up was inevitable. Indistinct shapes and figures moved across the black of my closed eyelids. Fragments of unintelligible conversation drifted in and out of my unreceptive ears. I wondered vaguely what exactly my injuries were – but then I remembered that they hurt, so I didn’t want to wake up and find out.
Slowly, the figures grew more defined. I could almost tell what species of Maraquan was looking down at me, checking my pulse or writing things down on a clipboard. Almost. But I didn’t try to discern the figures; I was trying to block them out, make them fade away. Sometimes it worked, for a while, but I fought a losing battle.
Eventually I started to think about what I would be waking up to. Nothing would change, really. Isca would still be revered, and really only Isca would revere me. In fact, she would probably be sitting at my bedside, waiting for me to wake up, as I had done for her. I felt a stab of guilt then, more painful than when I was vaguely aware of my physical injuries. I couldn’t be mad at her, even when I so resolutely thought the Maraquans’ dislike of me started with their love of her. She didn’t choose to be gifted; she didn’t choose to be the hero.
I had. And where had it gotten me? I still felt as non-magical as before. I probably still didn’t have a gift, only the pain. It had been a pointless, stupid venture. I had gone temporarily insane.
I was wrong on one front, however.
I saw the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I was finally going to reenter the world. I saw awareness just ahead, and sleep was slowly disappearing behind me. That’s when it happened – the vision.
I was suddenly transported to a different time, a different place. I had never before seen this section of New Maraqua, yet I was intimately a part of it. The rock beneath me, the newly opened housing complex, with its coral walls bright hues of blue and pink. The crystalline clear water all around me, reverberating with a sense of foreboding that had its roots deep within me, despite the apparent cheeriness of the scene. Then I saw it – the cliff in the distance. There was a sudden rumbling, and a single rock fell loose. Then another, then another. Pretty soon, an avalanche roared its way down the cliff, obliterating the new housing complex. There was barely enough time for a cry to ring out, but somehow I knew there were Maraquans inside, unknowing of the danger until it was too late.
I thought it was horrible, of course – I was terrified for all those poor people. Yet I couldn’t help the sense of euphoria that bubbled up inside me. I had it! I had that amazing gift that made Isca the savior of Maraqua, the miracle child! Now I would be loved just as much, revered, even.
The vision suddenly disappeared and, with a jolt, I was awake. I sat up, panting, trying to suppress the smile that wanted to spread across my face. It took a fraction of a second for me to take stock of my surroundings; it was if I had been alert and aware for quite some time, not soundly asleep. I was in the new palace infirmary, and Isca was, indeed, at my side, along with several medics. A wave of guilt washed over me again, coming and going incredibly quickly, as I saw how happy she was that I was awake. I clutched at her, the same sense of urgency I had seen in her eyes overwhelming me.
“Isca,” I started, “I saw – I’ve seen – a rockslide, it’s going to destroy the new housing complex – we have to –”
I was cut off by a tremor, and my mixed emotions of happiness and a slight urgency turned into an indescribable horror.
“No,” I choked.
“Caylee, what –” But I tore the sheets away one-handed (my other arm was in a sling) and brushed past my sister, pushing the medics roughly aside as I swam for the door. I knew the palace well, so I navigated its winding passageways with ease. I ignored the small stabs of pain from my almost-healed arm and other various cuts and bruises, as well as a pounding headache, and pressed my good shoulder against the ornately decorated palace door. It took a moment of strain on my part to open it against the water wide enough for me to slip through to the outside. The guards on either side didn’t recover from their initial shock fast enough to help me, but I didn’t care. Only one thought filled my head – it couldn’t, it couldn’t, be true.
But it was. I sank slowly to the stone beneath me as I registered with absolute horror the cloud of dust in the distance. The Palace was on higher ground than the rest of the city, so I had no trouble making out the commotion around what had been the new housing complex. I saw with terrible clarity what remained of the building as the dust dispersed through the water – the bright bits of coral poking up amongst the pile of stone. I saw the track the boulders had scored through the side of the cliff on their way down.
I was too late.
How – why – was I too late? Why was it that Isca had her visions just in time to prevent them? Why did mine have to come just as the disaster occurred? I barely noticed when people started crowding around me, urging me to go back to the infirmary and rest, or crying out upon catching site of the far off disaster. I can’t remember going back to the infirmary, only that that’s where I ended up. I was cut off from the world, stuck with only my thoughts as miserable company.
Why? Why? Why...?
It happened several times after that. I now had the gift I had hoped for – only it was more like a curse. Each time, I saw the disaster just before it occurred. Not soon enough for it to be prevented, but soon enough for people to see that I realized what was going to happen before it did. Isca tried to comfort me, but I shut her out, as I did everyone else. I hid behind a mask of resentment and hate, keeping from the outside world the real me. The sad, lonely, self-hating little girl. It was worse than it had been before: I had been the least loved, but now I was truly unwanted.
People began to say that my dreams were the cause of these tragedies. The idea spread among the masses until the Maraquans were nearly foaming at the mouth in anger that I was still a guest in the King’s own household. The day when he finally gave in and banished me from New Maraqua was the second worst day I have ever lived through.
He and Isca argued from midday to well into to the night. I had stonewalled Isca’s attempts to remain close to me, and I was curt, at best, towards her attempts to be friendly, yet she tearfully tried in vain to convince King Kelpbeard of my goodness. In the end, it was mostly my fault I was sent away in shame. If only I had opened up, showed the world that these visions were a curse. They assumed I had dabbled in dark sorcery, that I was swiftly becoming an antagonist in the perfect New Maraqua.
I had started to dabble in sorcery in my free time, but nothing of the dark variety. Simple spells, for simple things. I seemed to have a gift for it, after my intentional accident opened up the magic within me. Perhaps saying my ability was a gift is too laden with irony.
I’d like to say I left New Maraqua gracefully. I didn’t part with a, “You’ll come to regret this day, you’ll see!” For even though I had no love for the people (at least most of them) that I would be leaving behind, I knew my bitterness would never be a strong enough motivation for me to take revenge. No, New Maraqua would live out its days in peace and happiness, without me. They would think their prosperity came from my banishment.
Many things haunt me now, but one of them, in particular, I think will stay with me for the rest of my life. Isca’s face, as I ghosted silently past her on my way out of the palace. The sadness there, for I believe she was truly sorry to see me go.
I wasn’t able to look her in the eye.
I exited the city through a passageway Isca and I had discovered in our early days in New Maraqua. It was a small cavern at the edge of the palace, in the face of the cliff that the palace rested against. I swam my swim of shame down the main street so all the Maraquans could see my leaving, then I doubled back and squeezed through the small opening when the spectators had dissipated. I didn’t want to swim endlessly through the open water – without the complex instruments available to the palace navigators when they went around surveying land for possible Maractite veins, I would find it very difficult to get my bearings. Aside from Maraqua, there were very few distinct features at the bottom of the sea.
The passageway eventually widened, and I swam through with ease. By the time I came out at the other end, several hours later, the hole which brought me out to the open water was wide enough to admit a small ship (although it was not nearly big enough to admit the only ship I had actually seen, I noted with a shudder).
I swam out a few yards and looked back. The heavily pockmarked surface that stared back at me was a complex structure made up of a rock base and a large coral reef. Similar holes could be found everywhere; it would be nearly impossible to find the right one to get to Maraqua if you were an outsider.
I made my home in a small cavity just to the left of the tunnel. I unpacked the few things that I had carried in a bag slung over my shoulder: an orb that would provide heat and light at night, a sleeping bag, and a spell book that I had managed to spirit away from the library. Nobody would notice – magic was one of the things most Maraquan citizens tried to stay far away from.
This would be my life. I’d stay in my little shelter most of the time, only leaving long enough to find some edible seaweed. I knew it would be far from perfect, but I accepted it resignedly.
I curled up in my sleeping bag and went to sleep.
Here I am today.
I still call that cavity my home, although my possessions have grown. In my free time, I’ve built a nice little shelf from coral where I store my homemade potions. My magical abilities have grown exponentially – and so have my disastrous visions. I try to make them go away, but almost every night I see disaster. The ones in New Maraqua I am more attuned to, but sometimes I see visions of darkness from the surface. Those are less distinct, more vague impressions, but they are just as nightmarish.
Sometimes I will carry a sense of foreboding for weeks, always growing, until the vision comes to me that reveals what will go wrong. On days such as those, it's all I can do to crawl out of bed and find something to eat.
Yes, I am haunted, out here on my own.
I know you have all heard of my part in the saving of New Maraqua. How could you not, with Isca compiling everybody’s version of the story and turning it into a book? I know you must think me a fool for deciding against the luxury that King Kelpbeard offered me.
But do you truly think I could have managed? I’ve been pardoned, but many still resent me and my curse. No matter what King Kelpbeard says, the citizens of New Maraqua would not have welcomed me with open arms. I am still unwanted.
Isca visits me occasionally. I believe we’re slowly rebuilding our relationship, but I know we will never be as close as we were as children. I see some of Garin and Jacques, as well – but mostly Jacques, for Garin is content to spend all his time with Isca. Sometimes I’ll share my thoughts with them, but the response is always the same.
Lately, the foreboding is starting up again, but it builds gradually. Every day, I feel like the world is moving towards some distant, horrible future. I’m told that disasters happen everywhere, every day, and, being as attuned to them as I am, it’s not unusual for me to feel one coming.
This calamity – whatever it is – will be big, there is no doubt about it in my mind – and I’m sure it has something to do with New Maraqua. Every time I say so, I get the same response, that it’s probably nothing. Yet the thought is still at the back of everybody’s mind, at the tips of their tongues. The only thing that would really make sense.
The fearsome Scarblade and his crew haven’t been seen since their defeat at New Maraqua.
King Kelpbeard has assured us that they’re cowardly, hiding in shame.
I’m not so sure.