Into the Depths: Part Four
“Dear Caylis, wake up!”
The cruel voice making an attempt at sweetness was still jarring to her senses, but Caylis was starting to get used to it; along with Thalassa’s threats of eating her for dinner if she failed to catch enough fish, or Delphyne’s silent, death-like stare. Beyond this, the three Drenched sisters had treated her well enough, surprisingly better than the people of Maraqua ever did. They had even made attempts at making additions to her small cave within the tunnels, such as giving her a chair made out of a large pink oyster shell, a full length mirror, and a new bed made out of coral. It was much softer than the boulder at least.
Narcissa, her clawed hands curled around the entrance of the Aisha’s grotto, stuck her head through the curtain of seaweed.
“There is something special we’d like to show you today; get ready and we’ll be off. But first, there’s something else for you.”
Swimming through the seaweed up to Caylis, she opened her clawed hands to reveal a golden armlet. The gold band was thin, and its two ends curled into an ornamental design. Caylis stared at the gift in surprise; no one had ever given her a gift before, much less such a beautiful one. She delicately lifted it from Narcissa’s open hand and slid the armlet on. It stopped at the top of her arm with a perfect fit.
The Aisha turned towards the new full length mirror and looked at herself with her new trinket. “Thank you, Lady Narcissa,” was all that she could say, so moved was she by the gesture.
Narcissa smiled, and resting her head on the child’s shoulder, they both stared into the mirror together. The Drenched sister spoke to Caylis, her eyes still not leaving the mirror, “It suits you well, Caylis. Consider this a gift for all of your hard work these past few weeks, and for exceeding my expectations of you.”
Narcissa then embraced the Aisha and left, saying, “I will go on ahead; I trust you can find your way out by now?”
“Yes, Lady Narcissa.”
“Good, then we’ll meet you there when you’re ready.” With a swish of her tail, the Water Faerie swam out of the small cave to join her sisters.
Caylis quickly combed her hair with her Water Faerie hair brush and stared into her mirror. The Aisha staring back at her gave a sincere smile right back; how happy she looked! Her grey blue skin shone like polished stones beneath the waters, as if she had her own inner glow. Her heavy lidded eyes had not needed to glare in anger, or cower in fear, for quite some time; they now had little creases near the edge of her eyes from when she had been smiling and laughing.
She turned to the little Filamen in its coral cage. With her newfound magical abilities, the Aisha child had managed to open the cage, allowing them to play together whenever the Drenched sisters were not nearby. She pointed a finger at the cage of coral, and releasing a small bolt of power, forced the lock to open. The cage door swung out, and the small petpet floated out towards Caylis.
She hugged it tightly and whispered, “I’m going out for a surprise, but I’ll be right back.” The Filamen chirruped happily and allowed her to place it back in the cage. Placing the lock over the door, she snapped it shut. She hated having to lock it back up, but it couldn’t be helped. Maybe one day when she had learned enough from the Drenched, she would free the Filamen and together they would leave this lair of dark twisting tunnels. But for now, she patted the petpet gently on its head and swam out to meet with the Drenched towards the entrance of the lair.
They left the lair of the Drenched as they normally did on their excursions, Narcissa and Thalassa in the lead, and Delphyne with Caylis in the back. Narcissa used her maractite sharp claws to plow their way through the tall kelp forests of the ocean floor, so dense that Caylis could not tell where in fact they were headed. Narcissa had a strong look of determination on her face throughout the trek; what vile acts she was imagining as she struck down each strand of kelp with glee, Caylis could not even guess. Thalassa merely swam by her older sister, her arms crossed in contemplation. She only moved from this position when a passing Giant Slugawoo needed reminding that they were not creatures to be crossed. And Delphyne remained silent, her death-like stare aimed at Caylis ever so often.
During the journey, the young Aisha’s outlook on the journey had changed from excitement to apprehension, although she could not explain why. A sickening feeling began to well up within her stomach. Her hands began to shake ever so slightly, creating a small vibration in the waters. A sense of foreboding began to weigh down upon her shoulders, and when they had reached their destination she understood why: they had arrived at the Ruins of Old Maraqua.
Old Maraqua, the place that Caylis and her sister Isca had called their home until that terrible tragedy; memories of that horrid day were clawing their way out of the shadows of Caylis’ mind. With tremendous strength, the grey Aisha pushed those thoughts back into the darkness; her body began to slightly shake under the strain. Though Caylis tried to keep a calm exterior, the Drenched could sense the tumultuous emotions that she was feeling. They flocked to her like a horde of Eyries onto a single Lesser Spotted Fish, each striving to catch the morsel in their empty maw.
Wrapping around the traumatized Aisha like a massive Eelika, she twisted her arms around the child and cooed, “Dear Caylis, whatever is the matter? Are you not well?” At this Caylis dropped to the sea floor and wept, her hands digging into the damp sand. Visions of the past began to flood into her mind, memories that she had never wanted to see again.
“Mama, Mama! We have to warn everyone! Something bad is going to happen to the city!” A small grey colored Maraquan Aisha is tugging at the hem of her mother’s robe, trying so desperately to be heard. “Not again, Caylis,” the mother sighed in frustration. “I don’t want to hear any more of your fibs; our neighbors have begun to complain about your tall tales, and you should know better by now.” Caylis could not even remember what her mother’s face looked like anymore, but she could always sense the fear in her voice when she spoke to her daughter. Her small face burned with resentment at her mother’s disbelief, and left her as tempestuously as their oncoming doom.
As the small Aisha, teary eyed and with mouth quivering, swam out of her family’s grotto home, a small voice cried out, “Sister! Where are you going?” Isca, seeing her sister leave, was swimming as fast as she could to catch up. Caylis clung to her sister for comfort; she was the only one who truly cared for her, and the only one who took heed of her warnings. Hurriedly the grey Aisha cried out, “We have to escape, Isca; something bad is coming...”
But it was too late: a dark shadow had fallen over the city, and the waters grew deathly cold. Suddenly a current began to form: slow at first, but steadily picked up to such strength it made the city walls groan in pain. Soon the rushing currents grew to an all encompassing whirlpool, uprooting the forests of coral trees and tearing apart the buildings as if they were nothing. The citizens of Maraqua were oblivious to what was coming; they were swept away by the raging current and swallowed by the ravenous vortex before they even realized what had happened. Their screams echoed in the darkness, and then were no more.
Caylis, clutching her sister Isca tightly, looked on in horror as her home, her family, and all that she knew was taken from her in nearly an instant. The currents began to pull at the Aisha twins as well, until they too were blown into the whirlpool of destruction. They screamed in terror as all the rest had done, and the destructive waters threatened to separate them. Though it felt like her arms were being torn from her body, still she held on to her sister’s hands. She could not bear to have her sister lost from her. Then, a piece of debris had struck soundly at the back of her head, and her world had gone dark.
“Sweet Child,” Narcissa sweetly whispered, her long claws running through the shivering child’s long hair, “We are with you, and no harm shall befall you. Come to me, my dear Caylis.” The pained Aisha felt herself being embraced by the Drenched sister, her cold arms constricting against her body like solid metal. She felt her pain, her sadness, her anger rushing through her like the whirlpool that destroyed her home. The Aisha knew that besides unwary Neopets, the Drenched Sisters fed from the suffering and despair of others as if it was a sumptuous meal. Yet Caylis held on to her still: for it was better to be held by a monster than by no one at all.
To be continued...