The Tales of Maraqua: Part Three
Art by desert_gp_dragon2oo5
Chapter Three: The War for New Maraqua
“Hey, Alafey, watch this!”
I saw Tippin swing his Maractite-bladed spear cleanly through a coral pole. The upper half of the coral gently fell to the sandy seafloor. Dad saw him from the door and bought his fins together for a small applause. “Great cut, son!”
“That was nothing!” Tippin smiled confidently and picked up the fallen half. He then removed the blade of the spear from its seat. “Careful, Tip,” I told him. Big bro ignored me of course, and crudely carved our surname, Eller, into the coral.
“What’s that?” I pointed to some scratches under ‘Eller.’ “It’s a water faerie!” he declared as he then swam to Dad. “Right, Dad?” Our father just sort of scratched his head and chuckled. “I don’t know, son, looks more like a Slugawoo to me.”
“It’s not!” my brother sheepishly denied. He pointed to what looked more like said Slugawoo’s shell. “This is her long flowing hair! And this is her pretty face, and here’s her...”
My brother, Tippin, was always good for a laugh... and why wouldn’t he be happy? Those were the greatest of days in Maraqua. We have managed to build so much... and not just new our new home... after having to endure years of social insecurity, famine, and poverty... the hardships of disaster. We lost so much, but we regained most of what we lost in an even better form.
The three of us Koi- me, Tippin, Dad- lived in the heart of Maraqua. Tippin was a soldier- always away but never far. Every Saturday night he would come home, show Dad and me whatever tricks he had learned in training, and return to the army base the following Sunday night. Even though he worked in the army, we never really worried too much about Tip. Years of construction work and wrestling for his dinner have made those thin, translucent fins of his much stronger than they looked. He was by no means the strongest in the army, but of course Dad and I thought he was the best. Tippin certainly thought he was, or rather joked that he was.
Times in New Maraqua were peaceful, and we were financially stable. In addition to Tip’s earnings, Dad and I ran a business from our own home. We mostly made furniture, though sometimes we also extend to general crafts. We used driftwood, petrified kelp, transparishield, polished coral... We made stamps, engravings, little figurines, even decorative Yooyuball slings (they weren’t quite sturdy enough for playing, but they made for a very interesting fruit bowl.)
Even if it wasn’t expertly handcrafted, Dad took joy in showing off Tip’s little coral ‘masterpiece’ on his desk. Most customers never particularly noticed it. Whenever someone did, though, usually it resulted in Dad having a long talk about my brother.
“Ah, Mr. Peralta, you here to pick up your chair?” Dad said to a Peophin, Mr. Peralta, a frequent customer. It was Sunday morning, so Tip was home.
The Peophin nodded. “Yes... I’m sorry I wasn’t able to come last Friday. We had a meeting...”
Tippin entered the room. I guess he must have heard them. “Sir Peralta!” he quickly said, and saluted to the Peophin... though he looked silly in his sleeping wear.
Mr. Peralta had a laugh. “I’m just a scout... and I’m off duty for today.”
Whenever Mr. Peralta was off duty, he always insisted that he was just a scout. He had a much higher position, though, but I never really knew exactly what he was... so I usually just called him ‘Mr. Peralta.’
My brother grinned cheekily as he lowered his fin, and received a pat on the back from Dad. Dad then left the room to get Peralta’s new chair. While he waited, Mr. Peralta inquired about the little coral totem. “My brother-”
“I made it!” Tippin immediately butted in, posing triumphantly in his white night clothes. The Peophin just smiled and picked up the piece of coral with his dexterous tail to examine it. Dad returned to the room with a chair of shiny coral with its seat of soft seaweed. “Mr. Peralta?”
Our customer eyed the totem curiously. “Eller... and... err... what’s this?” My brother immediately answered, “A water faerie!” With that reply, Mr. Peralta again gave the scratches a look. He then turned to Dad.
“It’s a Slugawoo-”
“Yeah, it’s a Slugawoo.”
“Dad! Alafey! It’s a- ow!” I gave big bro a good punch on the fin to shut him up. “What do you think, Mr. Peralta?” I then asked.
“Hmm. I say it’s a Kougra.” He placed it back on the desk and received his chair. “Thank you, Ellers.” He smiled.
Eventually, one Saturday night came when Tippin didn’t come home for dinner. A plate of lightly boiled Cubefish stuffed with seasoned seaweed- Tippin’s favorite- lay undisturbed on the dinner table. The thick squid juice that was glazed on the Cubefish was starting to dissolve into the saltwater.
“Alafey, let’s eat already.” Dad and I usually didn’t eat until Tip came home. Usually these nights were the noisiest in the week, with the three of us talking about what happened the previous week. But that night, after dinner, Dad just slumped into his favorite seat of kelp, bringing with him his favorite photograph.
Photos were rare here in Maraqua... since, well, especially because they’re all from before the disaster. You have to go to the surface to take one, and furthermore you have to find someone willing to take your picture and send it all the way to Maraqua. They were often printed on the best of paper and placed in heavy frames that sealed every opening.
The photo had quite a story of its own. We were in Mystery Island for a vacation, and we asked a kind old tourist to take a picture of us and to send us the photo- we gave him money for a frame and for mailing all the way to Maraqua. We didn’t receive it until a year later, but the tourist bought us a very expensive and sturdy frame.
So sturdy, in fact, that it survived the whirlpool. When the three of us returned to the site of our old home the picture was the only identifiable thing that we found left. The thick glass was scratched and most of the seashells on the frame cracked and broke. That was all the damage it had sustained.
Four Koi were in that picture: A white one- little me, two purple ones- Tippin and Dad, and a lightly tan-colored Koi. Mom.
Dad set aside the Cubefish. It was very late already, and the dining room reeked of squid. “Time to sleep, dear...” Dad sighed. I saw him go to Tip’s room for a while before really heading to bed. I looked into the room too and there on the bed Dad carefully laid out Tippin’s night clothes.
Tippin will come home... Tippin will come home.
I got up early on Sunday, not only to buy ingredients for breakfast but also to check if Tippin was back. I felt tense as I passed by the hall near his room...
“Tippin?” I opened the door. He was there, sleeping... he was safe.
I immediately rushed to Dad’s room. “Dad... Dad!”
“Alafey? What is it...”
“Tip is back!”
Dad sprang out of bed. “Really?”
“Yes, he’s in his room!” We quickly swam to the door of Tip’s room and then quietly went in. “Tippin!” Dad gently tapped at his side.
Big bro slowly awakened with some stretching of his fins, a scratch of the eye, and finally with a grin. “Hey.”
“Tippin!” We threw our fins all over him. “You’re back!”
Big bro had a lot to talk about during breakfast. “We spent the night chasing after some thieves... There have been many cases of stolen Maractite already...” Tip devoured the Cubefish from last night.
“Was it dangerous?” I asked.
“Umph-” Tippin talked as he chewed, “-Alafey, no worries... we managed to catch ‘em. Don’t worry.”
Tippin came late more often. The Maractite crisis was really getting worse. There were many abandoned construction sites in the city, and they posed a danger to the public. Prices for the mineral had skyrocketed, and many construction workers lost their job. The mining industry was very competitive. As Year Seven progressed, chaos seeped back into Maraqua. Riots like the ones from years back returned to the scene... Tippin always talked about having to fix messes like this, and we were proud of him. It’s just that... He seemed to grow increasingly distant from us. In fact, sometimes he didn’t come home at all.
When Tip’s 19th birthday came, Dad sent me to the army base to give Tippin our presents. I brought him his favorite meal and Dad made an ornate handle for his blade.
“Sir, may I see Tippin Eller?”
“Alafey Eller, his younger sister... Sir.”
“Eller is in a meeting right now-”
“May I see him afterwards? It’s his birthday...”
The guard pondered for a moment. “Very well then, but you must leave afterwards. Civilians are not permitted to linger here for too long.”
When Tippin came out of the meeting room, he was busy conversing with another soldier. He didn’t notice me immediately. When he did, he greeted me with unusual seriousness. I saw none of his awkward poses or triumphant smiles. “Good afternoon, Alafey.” I guess he was much more serious in the army base.
Either that or he was just much less serious at our house. He stayed there six days a week, after all. Dad and I only knew that small part of Tippin which was silly and cheerful. In reality, he was a well-respected Koi of the Maraquan Army.
“Happy Birthday, Tippin.” I gave him our gifts. He graciously thanked me, and after accepting his presents he escorted me out. It felt awkward seeing him act the way he was. To me, he was still my childish big bro...
I think he grew up too fast.
Eventually, my own birthday came. Tippin promised he’d be home. Dad and I were just waiting for him when suddenly some loud banging at the door came. We were greeted by Tippin carrying his blade, and beside him was Mr- Sir Peralta- both clad in full Maractite armor.
“Happy Birthday, Alafey.” Tip smiled faintly. “Come, Mr. Eller-” Sir Peralta hurriedly ushered the two to another room. I was left behind, but they left the door slightly open. I spied on them.
“Young Eller, if you do not wish to fight, you are free to stay home.”
“Sir Peralta-“ Tippin began, “I wish to serve Maraqua.”
“Very well then. Mr. Eller, do you wish that your son join this war?”
“The pirates ruined our lives. I have no objections.”
The pirates... were they back? On my birthday? Of all days? I couldn’t believe it... but that was exactly what happened. The pirates were headed for New Maraqua.
“Eller, you have a choice. Only those twenty and above are absolutely required to fight.”
“I have made my decision. I will give them what they deserve,” Tippin calmly replied.
Dad nodded at Sir Peralta. “I am too old to fight. All I can offer is my son. The pirates destroyed our home. They took away my wife, and I almost lost my daughter!”
The discussion brought back painful memories... I was eleven when the whirlpool destroyed Old Maraqua, and I travelled alone for many months. Only later in Year Three was I reunited with them, only to hear the painful news...
“I will give them what they deserve. We’ll finally get back at them. We’ll have our revenge.”
That was probably the coldest statement I ever heard from Tippin. I... I don’t know... It felt so uncomfortable hearing that. Sir Peralta looked back at Tip warily... But Dad... He was proud. He gave Tippin a good pat on the back.
“I can handle this,” Tippin declared. “Don’t worry, Sir Peralta.”
The Peophin sighed. “Very well then.”
“Thank you, Sir Peralta.” Tippin bowed. The three of them started heading back for the door, so I dashed back to the other room and tried to pretend I never heard the conversation. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Eller. We must be at the gates now... They will arrive soon.”
I shuddered and watched quietly as they left. Sir Peralta looked at Dad and me sternly. “Do not leave your homes. I’m afraid there is no time to evacuate. We will do everything we can to fend them off from the gates. Bury your valuables. Lock your doors and do not let anyone in unless a soldier comes.”
“Yes, sir,” Dad replied. Sir Peralta shifted his gaze to me. I managed a slow nod. “...Good luck to you two...”
We made rushed goodbyes at each other, and then the two headed out the door and into war. As they made it onto the street, I suddenly found myself calling out, “Tippin!”
“...Yes, Alafey?” he said, still moving away from us.
“...Be careful...” Tippin stopped and turned his head to me. Dad joined me at the door. Tip then brought out his dagger and raised his head. “Don’t worry.”
“I will return a hero. I promise.”
We sealed all our windows and shut the door. Dad carefully hid our treasures- Some jewelries, plates, the sling-fruit bowl, and of course his favorite photo. He placed them in a sack and began digging a hole into the sandy floor.
“Dad- you forgot this...” I handed him Tippin’s little coral masterpiece. He stared at it for a moment. “Thank you, dear...” He gently took it and placed it into the sack. He firmly tied the sack close, buried it, and then sighed.
“Aren’t you worried?” Dad looked down. “Tippin will return. He will come back... And he will be a hero to Maraqua. He promised us that, didn’t he?”
“Then I’m not worried.” He smiled.
“You must be so... p-proud of him...”
“I am... He will be all right, Alafey. We’ll finally defeat the pirates.”
A deadly silence engulfed all of New Maraqua. It was absolutely terrifying... Dad and I huddled close. Eventually, we heard the faint sounds of battle erupting from outside. The battle stretched throughout the day...
Tippin will come home. Tippin will come home....
The clashing of shields and swords became clearer and louder. Booming sounds echoed through town.
Tippin will come home... Tippin will come home...
Suddenly, around dusk, there was another bang at the door. “Alafey! Dad!”
“Tippin!” We rushed to the door and hurriedly removed all the locks. We were met with the sight of my brother covered in bruises and other wounds. He was exhausted.
“Quick... the pirates... head to the storeroom... hide behind the coral... Don’t... move...”
“Tippin! What about you?” Dad shouted frantically.
“I... need... to fight... Just go... Quick... Hide!” I couldn’t move. Dad just trembled beside me.
“I’ll get back... as soon as I can...” he panted.
“You have to stay!”
“I’ll keep fighting... as long as I could... Go! It’s not safe!” Tippin growled at us.
His fin which held the dagger shook. Tippin was terrified... I could tell he was. Suddenly, Dad rushed forward to hug Tippin tightly. I joined in. “Tippin... please don’t...”
He broke away and rushed back to the streets and into battle. “Goodbye... sis... Goodbye, Dad...”
“Tippin... son... I love you...” Dad held out his fin. “Tippin!”
“I love... you... too Dad... Little sis...” He made one last, long stare at us. His sad eyes were framed with scratches. One... last... long stare...
He then disappeared into the crowd.
We rushed into the furniture storeroom and hid behind the stashes of raw coral. Within minutes, we could hear crashing noises from throughout the house. There were pirates raiding our home. When they got into the storeroom, they made away with a couple of bowls and some Maractite... that was it... Then they left our house, probably to loot someone else’s. Dad and I stayed in that dark corner for a long time after the pirates left.
It was night already when we left the storeroom. The shelves were mostly empty and many of the tables have been upturned.
The sound of celebration filtered into our house from outside. We won. As we approached the living room, though, we heard someone breathing heavily. “...Tippin?”
Sir Peralta was in the room, resting on our chair. “...Eller... I hope you don’t mind...” he groaned in pain. Dad and I tried to treat his wounds, and the Peophin uttered a thanks. After that he got up and started heading out the door. “Sir Peralta... You need to rest more...” my dad told him.
“Not until I find your son, Mr. Eller... it is my honor.” The soldier smiled weakly. I saw Dad nod at him. He then turned to me, “Alright... Alafey... go get some Cubefish for your brother’s return...”
“...Okay, Dad...” Reluctantly, I went out for the market.
“Ms. Eller!” Mr. Peralta called as I left. He then handed me a necklace... a beautiful Maractite pendant with some beads of transparishield. “...Your brother made it for you.”
“Really?” I slowly put it on. I thought Tippin had no time... to do things like this.
“Happy Birthday, Ms. Eller.” The Peophin then rushed off to find Tippin.
In the streets, although I saw much celebration, hidden amongst it was mourning... But he made a promise...
Tippin will come home. Tippin will come home...
I bought the Cubefish, along with some seaweed and squid, but the lines were long. It was getting late, so I rushed back home as soon as I could. Sir Peralta would have found him by then.
Tippin will be home. Tippin will be home...
There was no one in the living room when I arrived. I set aside the Cubefish first. “Dad? Sir Peralta?”
“...Tippin?” I heard some sounds coming from Tip’s bedroom. Slowly, I opened the door.
Tippin was on the bed.
He was covered with a heavy blanket. Over the blanket, a blade with an ornate handle rested. Sir Peralta and Dad were by the bed, their heads bowed.
Dad was clutching Tippin's coral masterpiece.
When Dad noticed me, he quickly swam to me and wrapped me tightly in his fins.
“I’m so sorry... Alafey.”
To be continued...