Messenger: Just Another Pirate Tale - Part Seven
Thankfully we were pretty good swimmers, and were able to follow Dole incognito for about half a mile. After a while, though, he turned his head around and noticed us, which greatly increased his swimming speed.
“I never knew that cheese-heating evil geniuses who are trying to take over the world were such good swimmers,” panted Bluecloud after we had kept at this pace for a good ten minutes. I nodded wearily and plowed on, the cool sea water brushing against my fur and wings, kelp swirling in the waves. A Petpet darted past me, then another, and another, slipping in and out of the kelp forests and ocean currents, shifting from current to current as easily as a Weewoo rides the wind. I tried to imitate them, spreading my arms out and trying to feel the currents. But it remained the same, a thick, unintelligible blob of swirling water, not exactly pushing me away, but not carrying me forward either. No. I had to work for every inch.
“Wow,” Bluecloud breathed, her head tilted upward, looking up ahead. I followed her gaze and immediately felt my jaw drop.
For those of you who have never seen Maraqua, I pity you greatly. It is a city of beauty, grace, majesty, and splendor, with a culture and design all its own. I would have found the architect who designed this beautiful city and given him a good handshake if it had not been for the fact that we were still on Dole’s trail, barely.
Huge buildings lined the streets. Some were beautiful structures of splashy red coral or pale blue sea glass, and others were simply carved out of the cliff walls to the east. Long, colorful seaweed strands of rich green and wavy kelp strands of pumpkin orange dipped and swayed in the water. Striped aquatic petpets skimmed through the water on wings of red, yellow, orange, and blue. Various Maractites lined the streets of the immense city, and I’m sorry to say that they did not look friendly. Daggers, spears, throwing nets and hammers filled the fins of their users, and bulky-looking coral breastplates, helmets, shields and greaves were fitted on the bodies of these angry citizens. Shouting voices rang through the water, furious and cunning. A tall Flotsam wearing an enormous helmet of blue coral waved his hoof for attention and immediately the seething warriors fell into line. Bluecloud and I watched helplessly as thousands upon thousands of warriors swam grimly toward the surface, weapons sharpened and ready at their sides.
Dole began to swim deeper into the city, his arms and legs paddling furiously as he sought to out-swim us. We weren’t ready to let him go yet, however, and we kept up with him, although we were a good ten meters behind. Maraqua had suddenly become a ghost town. The streets were empty save for a few stragglers who were having trouble fastening their armor. Even the children were gone, probably fighting or maybe cheering their parents on. Dole was right. With the war going on, there was no one to stop him take the throne. Except for us. Two young pets and a Gallion, both of whom were weaponless and very slow swimmers. Dole had obviously had some experience in the water and was a very accomplished swordsman, judging by his casual manner of tossing his cutlass around and catching it with his toes. And plus, he seemed to actually know where he was going. How he happened to know the capital city of his bitterest enemies by heart I had no idea, but I did know that Dole looked like he knew exactly what he wanted and where it was. All I knew was that we had to stop him somehow, but how, I had no idea.
Gradually the houses and streets began to fall away as we turned onto an enormous path paved in a pretty barnacle-crusted white stone. Trim hedges of spongy green kelp lined the pathway, and a huge bronze gate stood ajar about ten feet in front of us. If I had not seen it I never would have believed that one could actually have trim, neat-looking kelp “hedges”, but here it was. This place was obviously well-kept. Not a stone was out of place, even the barnacles on the path gave off an aura of strict order. The path went forward for about sixty meters before abruptly stopping at the feet of an enormous staircase. The stairs were of the same white stone as the pathway leading to them, but a thin sheet of gold had been hammered around the edges. Two gargantuan stone columns stood at the top of the staircase, both of them guarding a huge bronze double door. As much as the rest of Maraqua was majestic, beautiful, and breathtaking, this elaborate building and the surrounding grounds truly took my breath away. I knew immediately that this was the palace.
“This is exciting,” I murmured to Bluecloud as we paddled furiously after Dole, who was heading toward the giant double doors. An excited thrill surged through me. The palace! Imagine me, a common Wocky, the daughter of a doctor from the simplistic, suburban Neopia Central, actually entering a palace! And the majestic, underwater palace of King Kelpbeard as well. But as much as I was thrilled to actually step inside the royal palace of King Kelpbeard, I also felt sick. There was no more putting off this moment. It would be time for Bluecloud and me to face Dole and somehow stop him from taking over Maraqua and ultimately the world.
With a sudden burst of speed, Pecan whizzed past us, flailing his wings and limbs wildly. He zoomed across the room and run smack into Dole, knocking him to the ground. Bluecloud and I took this moment to catch up to Dole, who had been hurriedly swimming toward the throne.
I must take a moment to describe the throne. I know I must be boring you with my endless descriptions, but how else will you be able to picture the action? ....And I know I’m technically breaking the fourth wall by talking to you, but I can’t help it. I promise I won’t do it again-hopefully.
So anyways, on to the throne. It really was magnificent, made of the same white stone as the rest of the room and encrusted with green sea glass and white-grey shells. Blue and purple coral lined the bottom of the throne, and a magnificent golden trident lay across the seat. It must have been decorative, for who would take such a magnificent, fabulous thing to war? A swirling pattern of sapphires and emeralds snaked up the points, and little topaz fish swam amidst ruby coral and beryl kelp on the hilt. I automatically stopped what I was doing to stare at it, which was a horrible mistake. Dole followed my gaze and gave a cry of triumph, shaking Pecan away and diving for the throne.
“Stop him!” I yelled, lunging forward and barely missing his tail. Bluecloud catapulted herself forward and grabbed Dole’s arm, pulling him back. He snarled at her and drew his cutlass. In one swift move he wrested his arm away from her grip and kicked her to the ground so that she was pinned between him and the wall, lying on her back. He smiled and brought his cutlass upward.
“No!” I yelled. I had not a moment to lose. Bluecloud was trapped, dazed, and defenseless, and I wouldn’t put it past Dole to hit her. But what could I do? I too was defenseless and too far away to get to them quick enough. But wait... suddenly I had an idea.
I lunged for the throne and grabbed the trident. I braced it with both hands, desperately hoping that this would work. And then I swung. The long trident was about five and a half feet in length, which was just long enough. One of the beautiful sapphire-encrusted points whammed into Dole’s cutlass, knocking it sideways. Bluecloud grabbed it and heaved herself upward, gripping the cutlass and smiling gently at Dole. She swung the sword at him, but Dole did that tail-tripping thing again, swiping his long tail behind her legs and tripping her to the ground. The cutlass flew out of her hand and Dole dove for it. I knew that this time Bluecloud would not stand a chance. And this time, I was too far away to swing the trident. So I grabbed Pecan, hoped for the best, and threw it.
The trident seemed to go in slow motion. Actually, it did go in slow motion, seeing as we were underwater. But, slow or not, the trident hit home. A tremendous sound filled the water as all three of the points crashed into Dole’s breathing orb. Shattered glass and bronze flew everywhere, hitting my breathing orb with a dull thunk. The trident’s top half had shattered, the beautiful gem-encrusted scene a forgotten memory. Ground glass and jewels sparkled on the floor like colorful sand, twinkling and sparkling, catching the light and throwing it out into the waves.
Dole grabbed at his throat. His breathing quickened as he glared at me. Without the orb, his only choice would be to swim up to the surface and lose his chance to take the throne. No doubt he would be caught up in the fighting and never again have a chance to claim the throne. Maraqua was saved.
Or so I thought.
With a wicked grin on his face, Dole grabbed Bluecloud’s orb and began attempting to yank it off. She screamed and batted at him, flailing her arms around wildly. With a growl of frustration, Dole drew his cutlass and swung. Bluecloud gave a cry of pain and defeat as Dole yanked off her orb. She fell to the ground, breathless.
“Get up, Bluecloud,” I whispered, pulling on her arm. To my horror, when I drew my hand away it was covered in blood. He had stabbed Bluecloud!
All of my priorities faded away as I pulled Bluecloud up in my arms and began swimming furiously toward the door of the palace, toward the surface, where Bluecloud could be healed. Hopefully. Pecan hopped onto my shoulder and began swimming as well, using his tiny nose to help push Bluecloud toward the surface. Dole smiled at us, waving his hand smugly, sheathing his cutlass, and plopping himself down on the throne. He lounged there, putting both feet up on a coral footrest in front of the chair. I glared back at him, furiously kicking up toward the surface.
Bluecloud’s eyelids were fluttering and she could barely breathe. No, she couldn’t breathe at all! At that moment I decided to prioritize. Bluecloud was injured and unconscious, and I was awake and well. With a sigh, I pulled off my breathing orb and began moving it toward Bluecloud. But suddenly an aquatic petpet zoomed by, knocking the orb out of my hands. It floated away and landed on a strange mechanic device facing the palace, about ten feet away. Strange. It was shaped rather like a catapult.
As I reached for the orb, I tripped over Pecan, causing me to drop Bluecloud and my arm to hit a taut cord attached to the catapult. The cord snapped, and the orb went flying. Slowly, slowly, it landed right on one of the palace’s beautiful towers, toppling it. The tower fell down onto the main building, pulling down the remaining three towers with it. In just a few seconds I had turned the Maractite palace into a heap of rubble. Suddenly a thought hit me, and I didn’t know quite how to feel about it. Nobody could have survived that, not even Dole. I had saved Maraqua... but what was the price? I didn’t want to be a killer. Even Dole wasn’t bad enough. But there was no time to think about that. I had to get Bluecloud to the surface, fast.
Kicking my legs furiously, Pecan and I began to haul Bluecloud upward. At first it was all very well, but soon I began to get dizzy. My vision was getting black around the edges. And man, did my lungs hurt. I felt as if I were the one who had just gotten slashed with a sword. My lungs were killing me. How easy it would be just to give up... Maraqua was fine, Dole was gone...
“Emma!” A pair of arms reached into the water and heaved me out, laying me gently on the ground next to Bluecloud and Pecan. Immediately two white-clad Krawks ran over to us and hauled us up onto stretchers.
“Wait...” I whispered, putting up a hand to stop them, but a moment later, I gave in. And for the second time that day, I blacked out.
“Emma,” someone murmured. I looked up, my eyes wide open. I was wide awake. “Where’s Pecan? Bluecloud?” I demanded.
“Shhh,” the voice soothed. Midnight. The shadow Acara bent over me concernedly. “It’s all right. They’re safe.”
“And the war?”
“It’s over. It took quite a lot of talking, but when the Maractites realized that it was all a plan to capture their throne, and that their palace was completely destroyed, they sent a diplomat over to talk with the pirates. It wasn’t easy, but having Dole gone helped a lot.”
“That was me,” I croaked. “Please tell them I’m sorry for destroying their palace.”
“I don’t need to tell them.” Midnight smiled. “They’re right here.” She stepped back to reveal Hadone and Kanina, Ana’s father and sister. They both smiled at me gently, but their smiles were sad.
“We are sorry for what my sister has done,” Kanina apologized. “The lure of wealth and power seduced her. But to think that she would plan the destruct of our beautiful empire with a pirate! I cannot believe that my dear sister would do such a thing.”
“Ana has been arrested and is currently awaiting trial in the Royal Maractite Dungeon,” Hadone explained. “The rubble of the Maractite Palace has been searched for any survivors. There are none.”
“No bodies?” I asked. Hadone shook his head.
“Part of the roof fell in and completely smashed the royal throne,” he explained. “It is too heavy to lift at the moment. And besides, the Maractites are busy. It takes much to clean up after a war, even a small one, physically and mentally. You and your friends saved us from a horrible disaster. And for that we thank you.” Hadone nodded to me.
“The king is currently injured from the battle with the pirates,” said Kanina. “He will recover, but he is too hurt to speak at the moment. He has asked us, his Royal Ambassadors, to personally thank you for him, for all of Maraqua. You have saved the city and perhaps the world. For that, we would like to present you with the Trident of Peace.”
“The real Trident of Peace was destroyed in your battle with Dole,” said Hadone. “We have but a small copy.” Kanina handed him a wrapped square of red velvet, which he unwrapped and handed to me. I gasped. Inside of the square was a necklace, an exact replica of the Trident of Peace. A tiny pendant half the size of my pinky shimmered and gleamed at me, the tiny jewels and underwater scenes sparkling in the light. I slipped it over my head and profusely thanked Hadone. He had just opened his mouth to reply when the door of the hospital room burst open and Bluecloud flew in, followed by Clark, who was lugging Pecan and Star in his enormous arms and looking very exasperated.
“You got one too!” Bluecloud squealed, running over to me and fingering an identical necklace on her own neck. “I told them to get Pecan one too, but they wouldn’t.” She frowned and looked plaintively at Kanina, who stifled a giggle behind her hand.
“He’s a petpet,” I explained, smiling at Clark and taking Pecan from him. He purred happily, draping himself across my shoulders like he always did. His injured wing was perfectly bandaged and stitched. Mom would have been proud.
“Are you okay, honey?” Midnight asked concernedly, holding Bluecloud at arm’s length and eyeing her left arm. It was in a cast from just below her elbow to her wrist, and her hand was swabbed in bandages. Midnight touched the bandages sadly.
“It’s okay, Mom,” said Bluecloud cheerfully. “What do I need a couple of fingers for anyway. And I’m right-handed!”
“What?” I gasped, turning to Bluecloud. I gave myself a mental slap. What was it with all the fainting and the gasping? Was I turning into a girly-girl? I sure hope not. I really detest girly-girls. But still, a couple of fingers? I had had no idea that Bluecloud had been hurt that badly.
“We can arrange for a Eyrie cab to take you back to Neopia Central-“ started Kanina, turning to us.
“NO!” we all yelled at once. Kanina seemed quite taken aback. “Well, I guess I can arrange for a ship...” Flustered, she hurried out of the room.
“For the love of white Weewoos, an Eyrie cab... by Fyora, never again in my life while I ride one of those cursed things again!” Clark yelled.
“Weewoos!” I yelped. “Feathers!”
“It’s okay, Emma,” soothed Midnight, patting my shoulder. “We found Feathers and returned him to his owner while you were gone.”
“Really? Who’s his owner, anyway?”
“What? Oh, I believe it’s a Shoyru. Joe, I think. Yes, that’s it. Joe the pirate. Strange, though. He seemed to put up quite a fuss, saying something about how we were 'dirty Maractite fish stealers'.”
I groaned inwardly and leaned back on the hospital bed. “*Headdesk*,” I muttered to myself. Or would that be *headdeck*?