Scarblade's Pearl: Forgive and Regret - Part Three
"Swordsmaster Talek?" he gasped.
"Captain Garin. Didn't expect to find you like this. And Nira. You're a wanted woman here, you know," said Talek, eyes narrowing at each of them.
"Talek, you don't understand-" Garin tried, but Talek cut him off abruptly.
"Oh, I understand just fine. You're here with a wanted fugitive causing trouble for a young lady and her music shop. Honestly, Garin, I really thought you were better than this, even for a pirate."
"Talek, that's not-"
Talek raised a hand to Garin's protests.
"Save it for Kelpbeard, Captain. Take them away, men," he said spitefully.
Nira was easily led away, but Garin continued to struggle.
"Alia! You know what happened! Stop them! Stop them!" he cried desperately.
Alia's eyes narrowed into a miserable glare and she didn't even flinch. She just stared at Garin until the door slammed, cutting them off from each other. Garin cursed to himself.
Sorry, Nira... he thought, finally allowing himself to be led away.
Garin and Nira were forced to their knees before the throne. Their hands were now bound behind them to prevent any further resistance. King Kelpbeard III sat upon the throne before them, glaring, the rage and hatred in his eyes clear. Swordsmaster Talek was standing by his side, arms crossed, mirroring his king's glare.
"How dare you?! After I, King Kelpbeard, granted you freedom to roam my city, I discover this?! Smuggling in a known fugitive?! Attacking an innocent young girl?!" he shouted.
Garin lifted his head to glare defiantly at the king.
"I attacked no one!! I was only defending Nira from-"
Kelpbeard cut him off.
"There is where your problems lie!! You defended that water witch instead of turning her in to us!!"
"She's not a witch! She's changed!" Garin shouted.
"Changed, you say? A monster like her has changed?! How am I supposed to believe such a thing?" the king countered.
Nira flinched noticeably at the word "monster". Garin saw this and felt a sharp pain in his heart. He glared at Kelpbeard again.
"She HAS changed! Her memories have all come back to her and she regrets EVERYTHING she did!" He saw that he was fighting a losing battle, but Garin would never give up. Not now, not ever.
"She remembers?" Kelpbeard's eyes widened in surprise.
"That makes her an even greater danger to the city! Now that she remembers her powers, she could destroy us all in moments!" Talek exclaimed.
Nira flinched noticeably again, and now her body trembled. Still she didn't look up, didn't move. She didn't even make a sound in her defense. Garin gazed at her miserably. She'd given up.
"She won't... She's not like that...." Garin tried, much less forcefully than before.
Kelpbeard's eyes narrowed further as he realized Garin was backing down.
"We shall decide what she is and isn't like. Guards! Take her to the dungeons. I'll deal with her later. And expel Mister Garin from the city. He is banished until further notice," he said, his voice much quieter, but carrying the same burden of hatred.
Two guards began to come forward slowly, headed for Garin.
Garin's eyes widened fearfully. They were going to put Nira in the dungeons?! What would they do to her after that?!
"No!! Nira!!" Garin tried to wriggle free, but the guards were too strong. Nira didn't even look his way.
"I would like you to escort her to the dungeons personally, Swordsmaster," said Kelpbeard when the throne room doors had closed behind Garin. Talek bowed to the king.
"Yes, your Majesty."
He then hauled Nira to her feet and pushed her on her way. She let out a tiny cry of surprise, then went along without resistance. Kelpbeard watched her go with a sudden doubt. He hadn't seen Nira resist once since she'd been brought in. Not only that, but she hadn't uttered a word in her defense, or even looked at him during the entire exchange. Now, even as she knew her fate, she allowed herself to be led away.
Could she really have changed?
Garin's bonds were removed and he was thrown with great force out of the city gates.
"And don't come back!" jeered one of the guards. His companion laughed. Garin threw a glare back at them before going on his way. He had to get back to the Black Pawkeet, regardless of whether or not he wanted to. Jacques would be worrying by now. Pretty soon, he might try to come after them.
So with a heavy heart, he swam back the way he'd come, leaving Nira to the Maraquans. Hopefully he could rescue her before they did anything to hurt her.
Nira was pushed forward roughly as soon as her bonds were removed. She fell forward and her hands and knees, sucking in a breath at the pain of the impact. Talek glared at her back.
"You will remain here until His Majesty has decided what to do with you," he said icily. Then he shut the cell door, leaving Nira alone in the dark. She sat up and looked her hands over, rubbing her sore wrists and skinned palms. Her cell was made of stone for the most part. Behind her were iron bars and the sliding door. In front of her, suspended from the wall by chains, was a very hard looking platform which must serve as a bed.
Nira turned her head to look at the bars, feeling more and more like a bird shoved into a cage. Then again, in her mind, this was what she deserved.
If only Alia had forgiven me... she thought miserably, curling up on the floor without even trying to get on the platform.
"She's in the dungeon?!" Isca exclaimed, hands going to her face. Garin and Jacques nodded gravely. It had taken them two days to find their way to Caylis's home, where she and Isca were hiding from Maraquan authorities. As soon as they'd found it, Garin dove down wearing his seaweed necklace and told them that Nira had been taken. Now Garin and Jacques sat in a row boat and Isca and Caylis floated in front of them.
"How in the world did she end up there?!" Isca cried distressingly. Garin rubbed the side of his face.
"That was partially my fault..." he admitted reluctantly, not looking anyone in the eye.
"Garin, what did you-" Isca cut herself off when she saw the look in Jacques's eyes. Garin had blamed himself every moment since getting back to the Black Pawkeet. He didn't need a scolding from Isca on top of that.
More softly, she asked, "What happened?"
"She wanted to apologize to Alia. Garin managed to smuggle her in without problems, but then, when she knew who Nira was, Alia called the guards," he answered.
Isca gazed at Jacques disbelievingly.
"She... she called the guards? But I thought..." Isca looked down at the water, eyes clouding with uncertainty.
"What is our plan, then?" Caylis asked, looking to Garin. The Usul had his head in his hands and his mouth set in a frown.
"I don't know..." he muttered.
Isca's eyes widened and she stared at Garin.
"You don't know? But you always have a plan, Garin!"
Garin sighed and shook his head without lifting it.
"Well, this time I don't! I got Nira captured and put in jail and I can't come up with a single stupid thing!" he snapped.
The others looked at each other in wonder. Not only did Garin always have a plan, he almost never snapped at anyone. Especially Isca. He'd never looked so defeated, so... hopeless....
Isca turned to Jacques, her eyes sad.
"What will we do? I've never seen him like this before!" she whispered.
Jacques sighed and shrugged.
"For now, we have no choice but to wait. Without a plan, we're doomed to fail," he replied.
Isca looked at Garin again, the worry in her eyes clear.
"For Garin's sake, I hope we come up with something. Soon."
Alia had gone straight to bed after Nira and Garin had been taken away. She had been so tired, she had expected a night of deep, peaceful slumber. Boy, had she been wrong. All night long, she tossed and turned. When she managed to drift into sleep, she was plagued by dreams of Nira on her knees, begging for mercy, and herself slapping and yelling at her instead.
The memories stung more and more with each dream. Finally, when dawn was starting to reach beneath the waves, she decided sleep was no longer necessary. Ecco followed her down into the shop (for Alia lived in a small apartment above it), looking worried. The delfin had never seen Alia so distraught before.
With great effort, she began unloading the box she'd had Garin place behind the counter the night before. The memory of him, so kind and eager to help, slashed deeper than a knife. She forced it out of her mind. But as she unloaded the box (full of materials she needed for her instrument making) her heart began feeling heavier and heavier.
When I saw you... thought of what I'd done to you.... I finally realized what a terrible thing I'd done.
Please, Alia... forgive me....
Alia heard the words over and over in her mind, though she willed them to silence. She hated Nira! Hated her! How could she even think otherwise?!
And yet, she still heard them, those desperate pleas. They pierced her heart, sticking like sharp pieces of coral. No matter what she did, she couldn't wrench them free. Deeper and deeper they went, until Alia felt her body shaking violently. She hugged her middle, doubling over with misery. Ecco swam to her owners side, making uneasy clicks.
"I can't take it... I can't handle this... guilt...." she sobbed. No tears fell, of course, since she was underwater, but the sobs still rocked her body.
"I'm sorry, Nira.... I'm so sorry...."
Ecco clicked and squealed some more, darting around anxiously. Alia glanced up at her with a forced smile.
"I'm okay, Ecco... I'm fine..." she murmured reassuringly. The delfin still looked upset, but she settled down a little.
Alia, however, was not as she said. Her insides twisted and turned and did back-flips. If only she could go back in time, stop herself from calling the the guards. If only she could have found forgiveness before, then Nira wouldn't be in this mess. Where could she be? And what might they have done with Garin?
An idea suddenly struck her. Even if Garin was with Nira still, his ship, the Black Pawkeet, would be nearby! Maybe she could convince them that she wanted to help!
Her mind was set. She was going to do whatever she could to assist Nira from here on out. She only hoped the Shoyru could accept her apology. She almost laughed at the irony of it all.
Just before she left, Alia paused, eyes locking on one of her favorite instruments on a pedestal. It was a medium sized conch shell that had holes delicately carved into it and the end carefully hollowed. The instrument was called an ocarina. Alia swam over to it and caressed its side. She had worked long and hard to tune it. It was one of her most prized master pieces.
Maybe... Nira would like it? Alia grinned. Yes, this would be the perfect peace offering. Carefully, Alia slipped the neck strap over her head. The shell rested comfortably on her breast.
"Come along, Ecco," she called, heading for the door.
"We've got a friend to rescue."
To be continued...