The Tales of Maraqua: Part Two
Art by desert_gp_dragon2oo5
Part Two: Rebuilding
Perhaps it was just his native Roo Island charm... Perhaps it was more than that.
Even with all the misfortunes we’ve had lately, Lemmy was in high spirits. We were always tired and hungry, but he would ignore those pains and gather with complete strangers to share jokes and stories. Sometimes I’d find him carving bits of driftwood into figurines or dice. With the little materials we had, he’d be able to make games for young and old alike. He easily connected with anyone.
However, I think it took more than his inborn happiness to be able to stand strong in a time like this. I have always loved him for his complete selflessness and... dedication... to the ones around him.
He was such a caring father. When I couldn’t comfort Ghie on my own, he was always there to step in and bring a smile to our child’s face. He was there to tuck her in bed. He brought Ghie to Neoschool, or fetched her whenever she visited our neighbors. When Ghie became a teenager with more personal problems, she opened up more to Dad then she did to me... Though of course, Lemmy always went to me for answers. Even he wouldn’t know what’s like to be a girl going through adolescence. We often joked about it.
Every summer, we’d swim the long way to Roo Island. Here, we’d meet up with my in-laws in the surrounding sea and generally have a good time on the mainland. It was a hassle to get on dry land, but it was well worth it. Lemmy would play the classic Dice-A-Roo with some old friends, I would have some alone time and enjoy the views of the surface, Ghie would go for at least one Merry-Go-Round ride, and together we’d just enjoy the best times of our lives. Before heading back to Maraqua, we’d pick up souvenirs galore to display around our home.
Lemmy always remembered how these visits went. Even if years have passed, he enjoyed bringing up long forgotten stories about our experiences in Roo Island. Ghie and I always loved hearing those stories.
If only we could relive those days again. Times have changed.
Ghie grew up, and of course she had her job to worry about. Age made it hard for Lemmy and me to travel to Roo Island. The only reminders that we once had of our times in Roo Island were Lemmy’s collection of memories and the souvenirs that we had on our shelves and walls.
Then the whirlpool came.
I could care less for the souvenirs. Forget the souvenirs. Whenever strangers came up to the two of us looking for ‘Mr. Lemmahn,’ I wasn’t able to ever give them a straight answer. I would remember my husband’s colorful dinnertime dictations of our vacations in Roo Island. I would remember how much he has changed my life, how much he changed our daughter’s life... and then I hear the stories of hundreds of different Maraquans, from rich to poor, coming from the capital city or from the remotest village...
I don’t know any of their names. Yet they all talk of Lemmy as a good friend. Anyone... everyone. They all told me the same thing...
He didn’t deserve it.
It was difficult to move on. I didn’t want to believe it myself. The water faeries did all that they could to help him, but even that wasn’t enough. I was so mad... at myself, at the soldiers, the faeries, everyone... But eventually, I had to face it. He wasn’t coming back.
But I had to be strong. I had to be strong for myself. I had to be strong for Ghie. I had to be strong for those around me like Lemmy was. I had to be strong for Maraqua.
I am Nahal Balaroo. I am a Korbat.
We went through the first months of the whirlpool somewhat smoothly... We may have lost everything that we owned, but my husband always kept us in good spirits. We moved from camp to camp, farther from the whirlpool’s core. Though the currents were constantly rushing at us for the first part, we managed to avoid the true storms of the whirlpool. It then seemed that for the remainder of Year Three would go on without incident. We were already far from the eye. Only those who swam too high would have been buffeted by currents.
Nature is unexpected though, as they say. Suddenly, the whirlpool strengthened, and the three of us were caught in flying debris. We were then trapped in the mess for about a week before rescue came. I was fine... Ghie broke her arm and wing. We had to go to camp without Lemmy, but they came back with him at nightfall. He had internal injuries... the faerie said he was going to be okay... however...
...On the Day of Giving, the Great King Kelpbeard told us that we were going to build New Maraqua... and make it even better than Old Maraqua. We had a short ‘vacation’ to give us time to familiarize ourselves with our new home- The Coral Dome.
Year Four started with me getting a new job. Ghie’s fractures were still healing, so she stayed at the dome while I headed off to work. Some had to fetch food. Others went mining for Maractite. There were those who fetched bits of coral to build with. Some of the men were recruited to be trained in sword fighting. As for me, well... I had to do the building. Each day we- the other workers and I- would carry loads of material up steep slopes and fit them in together. The project managers had no idea what they were doing... They gave us vague instructions and punished us whenever the structures came crashing down.
Then they made us travel miles to underwater volcanoes to heat and soften Maractite. The process was always very time-consuming and furthermore dangerous as the water there sometimes reached the boiling point. We often came there with no protection from the heat. Eventually, after a fellow worker had an accident, we were dismissed from this duty. Again, we returned to construction. The project manager kept changing whenever something big broke down. That in turn happened maybe once a month. Progress was slow... If only we had a decent manager...
When Ghie’s fractures healed, she got assigned to food collection. She always returned to camp right before dinner, carrying some seaweed, fish, and squid, and she always saved one for me. Just like her father she’d have a story to tell... with this, well... I felt that my daughter helped me more than I helped her. She was bringing home food while I just worked all day on something that would eventually come crashing down.
As the Month of Hunting ended, the unlikeliest news reached us: The whirlpool had finally stopped. We had a day off from work, though some scouts were sent to the ruins. We also received an order from Kelpbeard: Never mingle with the surface dwelling folk.
Ghie and I were looking forward to going on a trip to Roo Island... I haven’t been in touch with my in-laws. We begged for permission to go... We didn’t even have to go on land, just to the sea nearby where Lemmy’s parents lived. We weren’t allowed. They were very strict in imposing this rule. Nobody was allowed to go even near the surface- Guards began showing up all of a sudden. Many of the male workers were recruited into the army. To make up for the lack of workers, some had to change jobs, including Ghie.
There was already a shortage of food, and now we had even less gathering the goods we needed. Many of the new construction workers didn’t help much at all. Vandals terrorized us as we worked, and despite the addition of new security guards, the roof and walls of the Coral Dome were being taken apart. This chaos followed the months after the redistribution of jobs. It was terrible.
Year Five came with little improvement. By then the dome was destroyed completely. We had to live in cramped makeshift homes or worse, go back to living in caves. The food crisis wasn’t getting any better. No one was bringing in Maractite or other building material. Many rebelled against the King, and it was not uncommon to wake up to the sound of a riot. With all of these problems, however, it seemed that the king’s top priority was keeping us away from the surface... keeping our existence a secret, even to our loved ones.
One night in the summer, I woke up to the sounds of a struggle outside. I couldn’t see anything, but from what I remember I guess a soldier had caught someone attempting escape. The days after that security became much tighter. Still, the problems still plagued us. Only later in Year Five, two years after the whirlpool first struck, did things start looking better. By then it was all too clear to us that we weren’t allowed to leave. We had to stay here and work. With this, the King finally tackled the other problems. Once again he redistributed the jobs among us, but this time he ensured that there was order in the process. He trimmed down the army so that it included only some of the best warriors, thus balancing the worker population again. Rebel groups disbanded, or were otherwise abolished.
Ghie and I still worked in construction, but we were both transferred to a different construction site. This time around, we finally had a great project manager. At first I thought we were wasting time following the Ruki’s instructions, but then it occurred to me that not once did the buildings collapse. The manager knew what he was doing. Apparently, he was some sort of quality control manager in Utility Fish products. He did not specialize in buildings, but he was still a trained Engineer. We were in good enough hands.
I began to see the foundations of New Maraqua finally turn into fantastic buildings. We now had time to begin building our own homes. The Coral Dome broke down a long time ago, but its marvelous architecture inspired many of the round buildings that I see today.
In half a year, the social problems caused by the disaster healed. Progress was finally gaining momentum. The scars of loss did not bother me as much.
The Day of Giving of Year Five was the first truly joyous Day of Giving we’ve had since the whirlpool. The feast that day was one of the best I’ve ever had. We had a long table of driftwood covered with pieces of kelp. Then everyone laid out food to share- fish and squid and octopi and who-knows-whats galore. It was all free for grabbing.
Again, Kelpbeard made a speech to motivate us for Year Six and to congratulate us for our efforts so far.
Lemmy would have been proud.
Year Six came and it felt like our biggest problems were behind us. Our building manager continued to excel at his job. I saw the continuing rise of great buildings from the foundations I myself help lay. We built our own homes, and helped others in building.
Kelpbeard promised us that Maraqua would become better than before. In fact, not only was our city born anew, we Maraquans had a revival of spirit. I used to use Utility Fish all the time before New Maraqua. Now I’ve had a taste of hard work again. It was all good exercise... Ah, it feels like part of me actually grew younger after the whirlpool. Ghie was home with me again; I was out more often and chatting with my friends at the construction sites... Ah, I barely felt like I was fifty years old!
That year came by without any major incidents. At the end of the year Kelpbeard hosted a grand awarding ceremony to honor the various names who aided the rebuilding of our home, those who helped keep the peace, and those who helped ensure a great future. From big names like Swordmaster Talek and governors and powerful water faeries to modest heroes like the many scouts, soldiers, doctors, and of course construction managers. Every single one of them was given the opportunity to have a short speech as they came on stage. I wasn’t surprised to hear the name of our project manager being called.
“Vanbar Letteo!” The main source applause obviously came from me and my friends. The Ruki slowly swam to the soldiers to receive the award. He was looking a bit glum, but honored nonetheless. Then he made his speech. It started out as normal...
“...All this... but nobody knows that it exists.” As soon as he got to that line, he then began shouting many protests against the rules. That shattered my image of him as a highly responsible man. As soon as he started his frenzied screams, the soldiers and scouts immediately came to usher him off the stage; however, he fought against them. “You wouldn’t understand!” As far as I know, Maraquan Rukis are very strong. He held them off very well, pushing and bumping as he screamed.
“Sure, I have a great pay! They let me have all these privileges and yet they won’t let me go where I want!” More soldiers came on the scene, and he was restrained and taken out of sight.
Ghie heard some rumors that Mr. Letteo was reprimanded, had a major pay cut, and then kept under strict monitoring for almost a month. During the beginning of Year Seven, we had a temporary project manager. Mr. Letteo returned in the Month of Awakening, much less interested in his job.
One day, as Ghie and I were ready to head home after a long day’s work, I managed to talk to him about the incident. He never gave exact details on what happened to him after being escorted off the scene. But he opened up to me about his problems.
“...I miss Mom and Dad,” he told me. “My parents went to Roo Island for business matters due to the bad economy back in Old Maraqua... I was alone there for the time being. Then the whirlpool came...”
“...I haven’t talked to them since they left. They probably think I’m... you know...”
Roo Island. Of course, I remembered Lemmy. “My husband’s from Roo Island,” I told him.
He looked up to me with his suddenly familiar eyes. “...Mrs. Balaroo... I’m so sorry... I- I wasn’t able to find him soon enough...” He bowed his head.
Ghie was beside us all this time. “I miss Dad.”
My daughter buried her face into her arms. Mr. Letteo turned to her and gave her a short embrace. I heard her mumble a “thank you” before the Ruki let go. “T-the best gift that I received after the whirlpool was a hug from my good ol’ friend,” Vanbar told us, “so I decided to take his advice.” Ghie nodded at this, and then suddenly she rushed toward me and fell in my arms. “...Mommy...”
“... I miss him too, dear. I miss him too.” She then lifted her head off my shoulder, smiling in spite of all of this.
“I’m proud of you, Ghie. So, so proud...” We kept still for a moment, and then the embrace broke off. “T-thanks... Mom...”
Mr. Letteo was just hovering a few feet from us the whole time. He approached me afterwards. “Thank you for your time, Mrs. Balaroo. Thank you so much.” We shook hands before it was time to head home. “You may have the day off tomorrow... Oh, and please do join me at Kelp this weekend... my treat.” He smiled.
He easily connected with anyone. He extended his happiness to everyone around him... and that happiness stayed. It endured. It helped me go on. It helped our daughter. It helped even those he never talked to.
Thank you so much... Lemmy.
Thank you so much.
To be continued...