Scarblade's Pearl: Memories in Maraqua - Part Five
“What happened to you?” Rai exclaimed.
He, Garin, Jacques, and Nira were now seated in Garin's personal cabin. After realizing the situation went much deeper than two old acquaintances meeting again, he had offered his cabin for private discussion. Of course, he and Jacques were far too curious to leave the matter alone, and so they came on the pretext of it being their ship and their rules. So here they were, waiting for Nira to explain.
In response to Rai's question, Nira made a helpless gesture with her hands.
“I... I don't know....” she said unhelpfully.
“You don't know?” Rai asked in disbelief.
Nira put a hand to the back of her neck, as if she could still feel the awful bruised, she'd had when Lightning found her.
“No, I don't,” she said quietly.
“How can you not know?” Garin asked.
Nira sighed and shook her head.
“I don't. Somehow I lost all my memories from before I met Lightning. I was washed up on a Mystery Island beach when she found me.”
“Lightning?” Rai interrupted, making a face at the unfamiliar name. Nira nodded to him.
“Yes. She is a very kind Eyrie. I was living with her before this 'vacation'.”
The stress on the word “vacation” was obvious.
“And you can't remember anything?” Jacques asked. Nira half smiled.
“Before today, no, I couldn't,” she said, glancing at Rai. The Kougra smiled warmly back at her.
“I'm just glad you're alive! All these years I thought...” Rai trailed away, not wanting to continue. But Nira didn't understand.
“You thought...?” she pressed, mimicking Rai's last words. Rai scowled and shrugged.
“Well... you know. That you kicked the bucket, so to speak,” he answered. Nira was taken aback.
“Why?” she asked.
Rai's expression became pained.
“You really don't remember, do you?” he asked, mostly to himself. He sighed and Nira waited patiently for him to go on.
“It was back when we were ten. It was just like any other night at the Golden Dubloon.”
Nira closed her eyes, images forming slowly in her mind. She saw everything: slinking into the Golden Dubloon via their secret passage, plucking a twenty dubloon coin from the Skeith's pocket; it all came back in a matter of seconds.
“I remember!” she exclaimed quietly.
“You had just earned yourself a Twenty Dubloon Coin when-”
Nira finished for him.
“When in burst Scarblade,” she whispered. Suddenly she was shaking, eyes wide in fear. Her eyes met Rai's.
“You tried to stop me... but... I wouldn't listen....”
Rai frowned and nodded grimly. Nira turned away again, staring at the ground.
“I crept over so quietly... so carefully... I was sure he hadn't noticed me. I was reaching for his pocket and then... nothing.”
The images that had pour into Nira's mind so readily stopped there.
“You don't remember?” Garin asked.
Nira shook her head. She glanced at her companions, checking their reactions. Garin and Jacques were nodding thoughtfully to each other. Rai was frowning, his eyes sad.
“Unfortunately, that's where the trail comes to an end. I left shortly before you reached Scarblade,” he muttered guiltily.
Nira half smiled and laid a hand on Rai's shoulder. She could tell he was regretting the decision to flee all those years ago.
“Forget it,” she said. Rai smiled, realizing he'd been forgiven.
A sudden knock on the door startled them all. Garin looked at the door, then shared a look of confusion with Jacques. The crew knew to never interrupt Garin when he held a discussion in his cabin. I must have been important.
“Come in,” Garin called.
Instantly the door swung open, revealing an orange Wocky.
“Captain, we've spotted a ship!” the Wocky cried.
Garin and Jacques exchanged a look.
“Whose ship?” Garin asked.
“It's the Cutlass, sir. One of Scarblade's fleet,” said the Wocky quickly.
Garin and Jacques grinned.
“Old Bonesy hasn't learned his lesson?” Jacques asked.
“Apparently not. Shall we go and teach him?” he asked in return.
“W-wait!” Nira cried, distressed. “Scarblade's fleet? Wouldn't that make the Cutlass a pirate ship!?”
Garin and Jacques gave her a look.
“Yes...” they said together, not understanding Nira's distress.
“You're not going to let them board, are you?” she asked in disbelief. Garin grinned.
“Well, it's hard to fight the crew blade-for-blade if we don't,” he replied with amusement. Jacques, however, seeming to realize Nira's thoughts, laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“No need to worry, miss. You can lock yourself in here while we fight,” he said with a half smile. Nira flinched, feeling somewhat insulted.
“Lock myself... Never!” Nira's hand went to the hilt of her sword as she spoke, making Garin grin even wider.
“Alright, you can fight. But I'll be watching your back,” he said.
Nira glared at him.
“There will be no need,” she stated firmly.
Out on deck, Nira watched (with most of the crew) as the Cutlass and 'Pawkeet exchanged fire. Neither of their shots made contact with the other ship. Nira figured they were more like warning signals than attack shots. “Run while you still can!” kind of warnings. Of course, neither ship slowed in their course. Before long, they were side-by-side. Gangplanks were deployed and pirates swarmed across to the Black Pawkeet. The raging battle had begun. Nira held her own well in single combat. Her sword arched and swirled with such expertise, Garin kept watching her from the corner of his eye, transfixed as he was. Some might say he looked ready to drool.
But pirates fight dirty, and although she held them off for a while (fighting three at a time, to Garin's amazement), the Cutlass crew soon became aware of her ability. They came at her in greater and greater numbers until she was completely surrounded. It wouldn't be long before the mass brought her down.
Nira herself was becoming desperate in her attacks. She would dodge two strokes from her front, only to have another come at her from behind. She flicked the attacker's blade aside, but couldn't spin fast enough to dodge the next. A cutlass bit deep into the skin just below her right shoulder. Nira cried out in pain and sank to her knees, dropping her sword.
Garin heard the cry, absorbed the situation, and came up with a plan.
Meanwhile, the pirates surrounding Nira began to laugh at her, crouched and vulnerable, clutching the spot where the cutlass had hit. She wasn't as helpless as they thought, though. Slowly, so that it would not attract their attention, Nira reached for her discarded weapon. She was just getting hold of her sword again when one of the pirates raised his cutlass. Nira's eyes widened in horror as she realized he was going for the killing blow. There was no way she could flick his attack aside or block, especially with her injured arm. She watched it rise higher and higher, her attacker clearly relishing the fear in her eyes.
Suddenly, just before the cutlass swung down, Garin swung in on a line of rigging and grabbed Nira around the waist. Together they swung up on of the reach of the pirate mob and onto the forecastle, where Garin released the line and landed lightly on his feet. The battle was much quieter up here, and Garin figured it'd be easier to defend the injured Shoyru from here.
“So, I don't need to watch you back, huh?” he asked in a light, sarcastic tone.
Nira flushed with embarrassment. Instead of thanking Garin for rescuing her, she glared.
“Oh, shut up!” she said angrily, wincing as she tried to push Garin with her injured arm. Garin's face changed from joking to serious. His arm left her waist and he helped her to sit on the deck.
“You've been badly injured, Nira,” he said, gesturing at her arm. Nira glared and reluctantly sat, but she knew where the conversation was going.
“I can still fight!” she cried, removing her hand from her arm. She had intended to switch her sword to her left hand, but stopped when she saw the blood. She looked back to Garin, who was staring at her seriously.
“I won't let you go on like this, Nira. How do you think Lightning would feel if I brought back to Mystery Island in pieces?”
Nira pursed her lips and reluctantly relented. Garin nodded and, noticing how much her arm was bleeding, ripped a portion of his shirt and moved toward Nira. She flinched back at first, then reluctantly let Garin gently tie the cloth around her arm. He grinned at her when he finished.
“Never thought a pirate could have such a gentle touch, huh?” he asked. Before Nira could answer, he went back to fighting, keeping close to Nira so that he could defend her if the need should arise. The Shoyru flushed at his words and glared at his back.
Arrogant Usul... she thought angrily.
Neither Nira nor Garin noticed the blue Gelert whose ears pricked at the sound of Nira's name. Now he glanced toward the Shoyru and realized he was not mistaken. With a snicker, he withdrew from his opponent and scrambled back to the Cutlass. There, he found his captain and reported what he'd overheard.
A few more minutes and the fight was over. The crew of the Cutlass had suddenly decided to retreat and the Black Pawkeet didn't stop them. Cheers rose as the Cutlass pulled away and began to disappear into the distance.
Garin, instead of joining in the cheers, returned to Nira's side. The Shoyru's skin was beginning to pale from loss of blood. The cloth Garin had tied to her arm was soaked and wouldn't be much use anymore. Carefully, Garin put an arm around her and helped her to her feet. Together the made their way down to the main deck. Rai, noticing the coming, ceased his cries of victory and hurried over to Nira's side.
“You're hurt?!” he exclaimed in distress. Nira grunted in pain as Garin helped her sit on a crate, but managed to give Rai a smile.
“Just a scratch...” she whispered hoarsely, although it was clear that injury was much more than that. Garin said nothing. Better to let Rai think it wasn't so bad.
“Fetch Jacques, Rai,” Garin commanded. Rai nodded and hurried away. Of all the men on the 'Pawkeet, Jacques was the best at tending wounds.
He approached them a few moments later, a box under one arm.
“What's up?” he asked. Garin could tell the Kyrii had been treating minor injuries, since the box he carried was his first-aid kit.
Rai hovered at the Kyrii's shoulder, looking worried. Garin dismissed the Kougra with an irritated wave of his hand. Reluctantly, the Kougra left. Jacques watched the Rai go, then gave Garin a questioning look.
“She's hurt.” He said it as a statement, not a question.
“It's bad,” he said quietly. Jacques nodded.
“Let's have a look then.”
Jacques knelt in front of Nira and put his first-aid kit on the ground beside him. She flinched a bit as he gently removed the cloth and tossed it aside. A bit of blood began trickling down her arm as soon as the cloth was gone. Jacques breathed in sharply.
“Yeah, that's pretty bad. It should heal fine if it's bandaged right, though,” he muttered to himself.
Jacques opened the first-aid kit and removed a medium-sized bottle filled with clear liquid. Next he got a clean cloth out and carefully poured some of the liquid onto it.
“This is going to sting,” he told Nira, meeting her eyes. Nira grimaced and nodded. Gently as he could, Jacques touched the cloth to Nira's wound. Nira grunted and breathed in sharply, but didn't pull away. Jacques cleaned out the wound and took another cloth from the box, also wetting it with the clear liquid. Only this time he tied the cloth around the wound, making sure it was tight, but not so much that her circulation would be cut off.
“The bleeding's pretty much stopped. Just take it easy for the next week or so. Otherwise it might open up again,” Jacques concluded as he repacked his kit. Nira nodded acknowledgment.
“Aww,” went Garin suddenly, making them both look at him. He was grinning mischievously.
“I wanted to challenge Nira to a duel,” he said in mock-sorrow. Nira and Jacques smiled.
“Maybe another time?” Nira replied.
Jacques got up, holding the kit under his arm again.
“If you two will excuse me, I'll go and assure our spotted friend that Nira isn't going to die,” he said. Nira and Garin looked behind Jacques and sure enough, there Rai was, trying to watch them as he swabbed the deck. The three pets laughed.
On the morning of the next day they arrived at Mystery Island's coast. Nira had directed Garin on which side of the island Lightning's house was located. A row boat was lowered when they were about thirty meters offshore and Nira, Garin, and Jacques scrambled aboard. Garin rowed the boat expertly to shore, while Jacques and Nira talked.
“So, where are you guys headed next?” Nira asked.
“Ask him,” he said, pointing a thumb at Garin. Garin smiled.
“Wherever the wind takes us!” he said with spirit.
Jacques grinned and rolled his eyes.
“Well, there's your answer,” he said.
Nira giggled, which made Garin's smile even brighter.
Nira started when the boat hit the sand. Jumping over the side, Garin and Jacques quickly pulled it in to set it securely on the bank. Then Jacques helped her out of the boat. She stepped out of the boat and into the warm water, feeling its warmth spreading through her rapidly.
“Home,” she said quietly.
“Want us to stick around?” Jacques asked, but Nira shook her head.
“Nah, I'll be fine from here,” she replied. Jacques grinned and nodded. Unable to resist the urge, Nira embraced the Kyrii, ignoring the pain in her arm.
“Thanks,” she said quietly.
“Hey, don't go opening that wound again!” Jacques replied jokingly. Nira smiled and released him. Then she turned to Garin. A long silence passed between them as they stared each other down. Then Nira smiled and gave the Usul a thumbs-up.
“Thanks for saving my life back there,” she said happily. Garin smiled, returning the thumbs-up.
“Any time,” he replied.
Their equivalent of “goodbye” finished, Nira turned to go. A thought struck her as she walked, though, and she paused halfway to Lightning's house.
“Garin?” she called. The Usul and his companion looked up from moving the boat back into the water.
“Yeah?” Garin called back. Nira smiled.
“Try to not make Isca worry so much.”
Garin and Jacques looked at each other, then burst out laughing. Nira continued to smile as she turned and walked the rest of the way to Lightning's house. At the door, she paused, taking a moment to really look at herself. Not only did she look different (her clothes had become a bit ragged), she felt different. Gone was the quiet, uncertain Shoyru who had left for Altador. On her trip, Nira had become more confident and sure of herself. She didn't quite know how Lightning would react.
Hesitantly, she lifted her hand to knock, when the door suddenly swung open. And there she was, standing there, surfboard under on arm, looking shocked by the figure before her. And then the surfboard clattered to the ground and Nira found herself in the Eyrie's arms, crushed into a hug.
“Nira!” she exclaimed.
Nira yelped as pain leapt up her arm. Lightning quickly released her, looking concerned.
“What happened? Are you hurt? Oh, Nira, I've been so worried!”
“It's a long story.”
What's this?!” Scarblade exclaimed, quickly rising to his feet.
The brown Eyrie nodded slowly.
“He's one hundred percent sure. He saw her,” the Eyrie responded.
“Then what are ya waiting for!? Send him in, on the double!” shouted the captain. The Eyrie nodded again and hurried away. A few minutes later, a blue Gelert came in, smirking.
“You saw her?!” Scarblade demanded. The Gelert nodded.
“I didn't just SEE her, sir. I know where she's headed,” he answered.
Scarblade slammed a fist into the desk in front of him.
“Out with it, then!” he shouted. The Gelert smiled.
“Mystery Island. Apparently she's staying with someone called “Lightning,” he said.
An evil grin slowly spread across Scarblade's face.
“Mystery Island.... We're but three days sailing from it....” he muttered to himself.
The Gelert waited patiently to be dismissed. Scarblade gave him a warm smile.
“Well done, Kavi. I will make sure you are handsomely rewarded,” said the captain.
Kavi grinned and bowed.
“Thank you, Captain,” he said.
“Nay, Kavi,” said Scarblade. “Thank you.”