A Pirate's Tale: Dark Lullaby - Part Six
Leglus may not have seen Dezeronto's secret coming, but other members of the crew, it seemed, had. More than a few of the pirate Xweetok's shipmates were grudgingly tossing small sacks of Neopoints under the table at a very self-satisfied looking Sunny, who winked at Leglus. Huh. So he'd made a bet that Dezeronto was truly the captain, and won, it seemed. Wow.
Many of the pirates from the other ships, however, seemed just as startled as Leglus had been initially. Once they'd recovered from the surprise though, the council meeting resumed as usual. Everyone took Dezeronto very seriously, and Leglus couldn't blame them. He'd been having a whispered debate with Adimaris over who was scarier - Dezeronto or Scarblade.
When the conversation at the long table turned to how the oyster had been found, Leglus wished he could simply slink under the table unnoticed. Adimaris gave him a reproachful look, and he gulped before addressing the table for the first time.
"I - I found it. I'd gotten in an argument with Dezeronto and... he kicked me off of the ship," Leglus received several sympathetic glances for that before continuing, "I saw it at the bottom of the ocean, and I didn't know what it was... but it was gold, so I sold it."
Garin and half of the other pirates shook their heads solemnly, while the other half were screaming curses at the cowering Xweetok, a couple even calling for his head.
"Silence!" Dezeronto shouted, his one-eyed gaze demanding order from the group of misfits. "It's no fault of the boy's. Any one of us would have done the same. We're pirates."
"Still, Dezeronto," the old Bruce interjected softly but obviously firmly, "he must be punished for his foolishness." Dezeronto opened his mouth to speak again, but the Bruce continued before he had the chance. "And we all know how... biased you tend to be about your crew. The boy must pay for what he's done."
Leglus was more than a little touched that Dezeronto had tried to stick up for him, and for his sake he replied, "I'll do anything. Anything you need."
The old Bruce stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Well... we will need a tracking party. We have some powerful magic-wielders among us, who can trace the oyster. Once we find her, we'll need some sort of diversion to distract her while the rest of us figure out a way to capture her unnoticed."
Fear was a funny feeling. Somewhere between a tickle and a loss of breath that spread throughout Leglus' whole body, from his head to his bare toes. "So..." he wondered aloud, "You want me to... be the bait?"
Adimaris was the first to loudly object. "No! That's too dangerous. What's he supposed to do, let her chase him around in the water? He's not even a great swimmer. She could kill him!"
The old Bruce rolled his ancient eyes. "Unlikely," he said, his voice apathetic, "She'll probably just put the boy to sleep. Nothing to worry about."
But the faces around the table told another story. Some of them glanced the Xweetok's way in obvious empathy, some in fear, and though she said nothing more, light blue tears were cascading from Adimaris' deep blue eyes. Others were looking at him as though he'd gotten no more than he deserved, and he couldn't help but think that it might have been, after all.
"That's settled, then," Scarblade said, scratching the long scar that ran through his eye and then twisting his finger around his beard. "Now we only have to plan the assault itself."
"And put together the search party," added Caylis, "and we'll have to brew a lot of potion, if all of you are hoping to fight underwater."
Out of the corner of his eye, Leglus watched Adimaris wipe her tears away and nod. Her eyes had a firm resolution in them. She was obviously just as scared as he was, but she knew her duty. "Yes," she agreed with the Maraquan Aisha. "Let's get started."
The potion that would allow the pirates to breathe underwater was a fairly simple one, and for that Adimaris was grateful. She, Caylis, and a rather unpleasant shadow Aisha from one of the many pirate crews, were the only ones who knew how to create it, so the three of them sat around a gigantic cauldron, boiling by magic, on the sand.
Adimaris never liked staying out on the land too long. Though she could breathe just as well on the surface as she could underwater, there was something about the firm land underneath her fins that just felt unnatural, something about the thin taste of the oxygen that left her missing the rich scent of coral reefs, the feel of the sea water running through her. As they waited for the potion too cool enough to bottle, the Maraquan Gelert gazed longingly at her beloved waters.
Night had just begun to fall, and as soon as the potion was ready, she and Caylis would depart back into the sea to find the evil faerie Nerina. The less the potion bubbled, the harder against her chest Adimaris could feel her heart pumping, though she was even more terrified about what Leglus had to do once they found her. Adimaris still wasn't sure how the pirates planned to follow she and Caylis without being noticed - after all, there were loads of them - but they all seemed very confident.
"Adimaris," Caylis' voice came to her, coaxing her away from her worried thoughts. She turned her eyes from the calm sea and to the Maraquan Aisha.
"Yes, Caylis?" she asked, and reluctantly turned completely away from the sea and toward the bubbling cauldron. "Is it ready?"
Caylis gazed into the cauldron thoughtfully before carefully dipping a finger into the liquid. Adimaris winced in response, but Caylis didn't seem to be in any pain.
"It's warm," she said, "but not unbearable. We can start bottling it up now."
The shadow Aisha, who'd barely spoken at all during their potion-making, inserted a skeptical paw into the potion before nodding. "I'll get the bottles," he offered, and then ran off.
"He'll be fine, Adimaris," Caylis whispered once the Aisha was gone. "There's something about him - he's strong."
"Stubborn is more like it," Adimaris muttered. She'd spent the majority of her life worrying over the foolish Xweetok, but it never got any better, especially since his decision to become a pirate. That was an encounter she'd never forget.
"Piracy? Really, Leglus? What are you thinking?" she'd yelled at him while they sat on their old beach under the stars. She'd found him that day as she always seemed to find him - building sandcastles. She never understood why he did it, why he never outgrew it, but he never did. When she'd come to the surface, he was always sitting there on the beach, building sandcastles. It was so childishly innocent, she'd never asked.
"Yeah," Leglus had told her. "Calm down, Adi. I'm not going to be killing anyone or anything."
"No," she'd said, thoroughly unconvinced, "you'll just rob them."
Leglus had rolled his eyes at her, used to her attitude by then. "Oh, please," he'd said. "What's the big deal? Besides, I'm doing it more for the sailing and adventure than anything else."
"And you can't have adventures here on land?"
He'd looked at her meaningfully then, and that was when it had struck her that Leglus had spent his whole life on that beach, building sandcastles and waiting for her to come. Every day. For more than ten years. And that there had been days when she had not come, she'd been too busy with her magic and her petpets and her swimming, and as she got older, she visited that beach less and less, content to stay in the sea. But Leglus had sat on that beach, waiting, every day. She didn't know how she'd known that, but she knew.
"I suppose I could," he had said a moment later, gazing up into the stars, "But there's something about the sea, isn't there?"
"I know I think so," she'd said.
With a grin, he'd replied, "Then that's all that matters."
"What do you mean?" she'd asked. He never answered, and she'd never known.
"The way you described him," Caylis said, breaking her out of her memory, "I never would have suspected him to become a pirate. But it suits him well, don't you think?"
It was difficult to admit it, but she nodded. "It does... and he clearly loves it. I just never understood why he did it in the first place."
Caylis looked at her disbelievingly, and let a rare chuckle escape. "My dear Adimaris, isn't it obvious?"
Adimaris raised an eyebrow in response. "Obvious?" she asked, "What do you mean."
Caylis sighed and patted Adimaris on the head, almost patronizingly. "Oh, Adimaris," she said, "he got on that pirate ship so he could be on the sea all the time."
Was that all? "Well... of course..." Adimaris agreed, "That is obvious..."
Caylis shook her head. "You're not getting it, Adimaris. Why would he want to be on the sea all the time?"
She felt her eyes widen and felt immediately stupid for not getting it earlier. Perhaps she didn't want to seem prideful and assume such a thing, but as she said it, she could feel the truth in it. It made everything make sense. "Because..." she stuttered, "because that's where I was."
Caylis grinned as the shadow Aisha returned with a crate of empty grog bottles they'd be using to store the potion in, then she winked. "Now you get it, darling."
It was difficult ton concentrate on bottling the potion after that, with all the jumbled thoughts swirling through her head, old memories that suddenly carried new weight. And so she'd only filled two bottles when a hand on her shoulder caused her to jump and nearly spill it.
"Adi," Leglus' voice said. "May I talk to you for a moment?"
Caylis glanced at her meaningfully before looking up at the pirate Xweetok and saying, "Well, of course you may, Leglus. We really don't need her for the bottling."
Barely noticing what she was doing, she handed the grog bottle full of potion to Caylis and followed Leglus down the beach until they reached the shore. With a small smile, Adimaris sat near the water, where the waves would come in occasionally and tickle her tail. Leglus sat down beside her.
"Adi," he said. "You know this plan isn't exactly flawless."
She let out a derisive snort. "You can say that again."
He tilted his head in obvious agreement, then tousled his black hair a bit with his paw. She'd noticed he did that when he was troubled.
"What is it?" she asked. "What do you want to say?"
He looked at her for a moment, then up toward the sky, and she thought again of the night he'd told her he was going to be a pirate. It seemed like so long ago.
"Adi," he said, tearing his gaze from the stars and back to her. "That paint brush I bought ten years ago... I still have it."
She shivered a little as a wave came in and covered her tail. "And?"
She could see the visible lump in his throat as he swallowed before answering. "And if we fail... if we can't capture her... I want you to use it. It's hidden under a hammock on the Intrepid. This is the key."
He pulled the golden key out of his pocket, and it glistened beautifully in the moonlight as it rested in the palm of his hand. "Please, Adi," he begged, his dark eyes reflecting the ocean's waves. "Please promise me you'll use it. To stay safe."
As another wave jutted forward and covered her tail, her heart broke a little. To never live in the sea again, to replace her fins with legs... she wasn't sure she could bear it. But it was the least she could do for him. All he wanted was for her to be safe.
She reached a shaky hand toward his and gripped the cold golden key. "I will," she said. "I promise."
To be continued...