Now with 50% more useless text Circulation: 191,805,153 Issue: 621 | 15th day of Storing, Y15
Home | Archives Articles | Editorial | Short Stories | Comics | New Series | Continued Series
 

The Island of Mist: Part Five


by lizzy_beth_750551

--------

Two days passed rather uneventfully. They lived mostly off what they'd gathered inside Mount Ru'un, supplementing now and then with recognizable fruits. They'd made extra water pouches out of giant leaves stitched together with thread made of root fibers while they had been inside, so they even had adequate water supplies. This time was, by far, the most uneventful and relaxing of any of it. They all breathed collective sighs of relief, though they knew the worst was yet to come.

      And come it did. On the third day, early in the morning, they took a bridge that led across a chasm. It was skinny and had no rails or ropes to hold on to. It swayed dreadfully in the soft breeze that was blowing, so they were forced to go across one at a time, being careful to place one foot in front of the other, lest they tumble down into the roaring river below. At last, though, reached the cave system. From the outside, the cave appeared to be made of some sort of blue stone that glowed faintly as if it had veins through which its own power source flowed.

      "This is it," Logan said to Sareece once the cave came into view. "Are you ready?"

      "I'd follow you anywhere," Sareece said, smiling at him. "You know that." Logan smiled back at her and cleared his throat, having the strange feeling all of a sudden that if he tried speaking, his voice might come out cracking.

      "Del! Our Navigator Extraordinaire!" Logan called ahead. "You got that map?"

      "Sure do, Captain!" he yelled back, waving it above his head.

      "Tarin..." Logan began after a moment of silence.

      "I know," Tarin said. "It's been fun for me, too." He cleared his throat, removing a lump that had formed there. They all knew that whatever waited within the blue, pulsing walls could change everything.

      Logan nodded. He wore a strange look on his face: a mix of gratitude and love for his crew, along with the hard lines of determination.

      "This is it, guys." He caught up quickly to Del, who, though he couldn't make use of his wings in the cave, had insisted on navigating anyway. "Lead the way."

      Once inside, the cave looked even stranger than it had before. The pulsing blue lights flowed all around and above them, taking on shapes every now and again. It was hard to tell which ways were passageways, and which were merely darkened blue streaks made to look like them. The effect made it appear almost as if the passageways were moving. Tsizhao hadn't been exaggerating when he'd said the caves were disorienting.

      "Okay," Logan breathed, after a moment of silence during which they'd all had their mouths hanging halfway open. "Del, what's the map say about this?"

      "Third passageway from the left," Del announced. He squinted up from the map at the shifting doorways, feeling a bit dizzy.

      "All right. Everyone, link together, he called. If one of us gets separated, we're not going to know how to get back to you."

      Logan led the way. He linked arms with Del, who linked with Sareece, who linked her arm with Tarin's. Together, they formed a line and walked single-file through the passageway.

      Before them was... the same exact room.

      "Are you sure it said the third passageway?" Logan asked Del.

      Del nodded. "Absolutely. This is probably just one of the cave's tricks." Somehow, in his mind, the cave seemed almost sentient.

      "In that case, where to next?" Logan asked.

      "Second from the right," Del announced.

      Once the room stopped shifting enough that they could make out which passageways were real and which were not, they walked through the specified entrance. In this new room, the blue lights were darker and more rapidly-changing than ever before. Some of the fake passageways even appeared on the ceiling above them.

      Del stared, mouth agape. Tarin shook his head and blinked rapidly. Sareece let out a groan of dismay. Logan heaved a sigh, feeling dizzier than ever. He sensed the lights in his subconscious darkening just the faintest bit, and he knew that his crew was losing morale.

      "Nowhere to go but forward from here!" he announced, doing his best to infuse cheer into his voice. "Del, let's get that next passageway!"

      They continued on like this for a time. No one knew if it was a short time or a long time. It could have been days. It could have been hours. They stopped twice to eat, and then carried on. The silence and disorientation was slowly doing its toll on their sanity, and they needed something to anchor them. After a time, Sareece began a song. Before long, they were all singing old seafarer songs and even local ditties from their various hometowns. They marched with as much enthusiasm as they could muster, and put their faith in each other to see them through to wherever each new passageway would lead them.

      The crew traveled for an endless measure of time. Any one of them would have used the word 'wandered,' as that's what it felt like they were doing half the time, but the map was their guide, and Tsizhao's instructions did not steer them wrong.

      Del was the first to reach the end, being the first in their linked line. The entire time they'd been walking, they had not once stopped linking their arms except for when they sat down to eat. Otherwise, they surely would have gotten separated. Especially in the rooms that the blue lights of energy streamed backwards and forwards, so that before they knew it, they weren't even sure if they were walking forward or not.

      "This is the last bit of instruc-" Del began, but cut short. He had flicked his eyes upwards for a split second, and what they alighted on was an underwater pool, glowing with the same color blue as the caves themselves had. The light radiated from it, seeping into the walls and traveling outwards. "Guys, look at this," he said, turning his head towards them marginally, his eyes never leaving the pool.

      "We're right here," Logan said, stepping up beside him.

      "What is it?" Sareece asked.

      "Magic," Logan said. "I can..." he blinked, shook his head. "I can feel it. It's the strongest I've ever felt. Even more powerful than my Stone."

      "Good or bad, that's what I'm interested in knowing," Tarin said, brows furrowed.

      "It's... neither," Logan said, tilting his head to the side. "It just... is. Like a power source. While our Stones are distinctly bright - I mean, good," he amended, reminding himself that not everyone felt these things, "This power is neutral."

      "Which means it could be used by anyone," Del said.

      "For anything," Sareece put in. "Which is probably why whoever is doing this to the island decided to set up camp here."

      "But if that's true, where is the so-called whoever?" Del wondered aloud.

      Suddenly, a blast of static electricity hit them from behind, sending them all colliding with the cave floor.

      "I believe I'm the one you're searching for," a voice said from behind them.

      Logan grunted and opened his eyes, the blurs of blue light beneath him blurry from being so close. He jumped to his feet and spun around towards the voice. Around him, he could feel his companions doing the same. His eyes were locked onto the newcomer.

      "Hello," she said lazily. She tilted her head to one side and raised her eyebrows. "You've got considerable magic," she observed, her eyes on Logan and a hint of surprise in her voice. She stepped forward, the smooth fabric of her black dress rippling as she did, and flexed her hands at her sides. Blue sparks danced across her fingertips. "As you can see, I do as well."

      Who are you? Logan demanded, his posture in a fighting position. He felt mentally for his Stone in his pocket. He couldn't use it without having it in-hand, but he could feel its presence. It comforted him. He knew that a sword would do little against this woman, but he didn't want to give everything away just yet. He suspected she was doing the same. His hope was that she wouldn't sense the Stones, as they weren't activated, and she hadn't attuned her mind to them as fixedly as they had.

      "You don't recognize me?" she asked, feigning offense. "No, I imagine you wouldn't. Not in this form."

      "What form do you usually take?" Sareece asked, watching the woman closely.

      "Well, for one, usually I don't have these," she laughed without humor and presented her feet one at a time. "Water is my preferred form of transportation, but unfortunately, water could only get me so far. It could get me to the island, but the only way to the pool is through land, so," she waved a hand and sighed, "I did what I had to do. Used my magic to exchange one thing for another. Can you guess now?" she asked, as if it were a game.

      "We care less about your mode of transportation than we do for the islanders," Tarin said, impatient. "What did you do with them?"

      "Oh, them! Is that why you're here? They're such trivial beings. Such tiny little minds. So much magic around them, and barely even using it except for healing purposes." She shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Ridiculous waste."

      "I said," Tarin gritted his teeth, "What did you do with them?"

      "They're fine," she drawled. "Wandering around here in the caves somewhere. Every now and then I see one, just stumbling through, its tiny brain still dazed and confused." She laughed again, this time genuine humor in her voice.

      "Why do you need them? Why are you here?" Sareece asked.

      The woman's laugh cut off abruptly, and her eyes narrowed. A dangerous light gleamed in her eyes. "I needed them, put shortly, to help fuel my powers. I needed a bit of backup, and there were minds aplenty on the island. While I've got hold of their minds, their power is mine. None of them are particularly brilliant, unfortunately, but many held potential for magic, even though those potentials weren't honed. It's not much, but again, I work with what I have."

      "What did this island ever do against you?" Del asked, lines of confusion creasing his forehead.

      The woman shook her head as if they were all simpletons. "Power. I could have attempted the Healing Springs in Faerieland, but that would have been much more trouble for me. There are many more minds there who are magically inclined, and while that would have helped increase my powers, there are also significantly more honed individuals there. I'd have much more trouble overtaking them. The answer, my intellectually challenged rival, is power. From the pool. Surely you've felt it? I can. I'm channeling it at this very moment." Her mouth twisted into a self-satisfied smile.

      "I don't believe you," Logan objected. No one could channel energy like this. He cast his mind towards the pool and felt it just barely touch his consciousness before retracting, like a wave on the shore. Almost attainable, but never for long. Ever-changing, ever-moving, unable to be captured. It resists too much.

      All remaining amusement left the woman's face. Her head swiveled towards Logan so fast, he barely saw the motion take place. "So you've noticed, have you?" she asked, her voice nearly a growl. "Why don't you try it? See what it does to you." She chuckled darkly. "See if you can overpower it."

      "Why do you even need it?" Logan asked. "Any power you gain, you'll have lost just as much strength and sanity in the battle." And it would be a battle. The pool was like a living thing. Del recalled how he'd felt as if it were almost sentient when they were making their way through it, and now that they were here at the source of the cave's power, the feeling had turned into more of a certainty.

      She tilted her head to the side and put a slender, pale finger to her chin, appraising them. "You're old enough to remember," she said. "You've heard of the Drenched, haven't you?"

      "We're seafarers," Tarin said. "Of course we've heard of the Drenched. They're monsters," he spat. "My uncle was taken by the Drenched."

      Sareece straightened abruptly. She hadn't heard this before. Tarin cast a glance at her apologetically. He didn't tell anyone about his uncle. He came up with some other lore, some other frightening fairy tale. The truth was too painful to admit.

      "Then you, especially, should be interested in knowing that you are standing in the presence of one of the infamous three. I am Jezebel, youngest of my sisters," she said, and stretched her arms out to present herself.

      Tarin lunged out towards her, something between an angry growl and a sob coming from his throat. Before he could take more than a step, Sareece and Del caught his shirt and held him back. "Not yet," Sareece whispered. "Not yet." Sympathy made its way into her voice, and sorrow. She knew that his uncle had been like a second father to him. Her eyes shone with unshed tears. Tarin gave her a hard look, his face stony and his eyes shining with his own bitter tears. Del was silent, indignation and hurt for his friend swelling in his chest.

      "You told me he decided to leave the island," Sareece whispered.

      "I'm sorry," Tarin said. "I'm sorry I never told you."

      Sareece shook her head. No apologies were needed. She had the urge to hug him, to give some sort of comfort, but she knew the truest way of comfort would be to end this. And for that, they had to be prepared. Not one person lashing out, but all of them joined, together.

      The Drenched Sister spread her palms out in a sort of half-shrug, as if the whole thing didn't matter at all.

      Logan cast a worried glance at Tarin standing behind him. He wanted to talk to him about this revelation, but didn't want to take his eyes off of the Drenched Sister for too long. He swung his eyes back towards the Sister's. "Where are the rest of them?"

      "My sisters, I suppose you mean. Don't you receive news? Or are you out there on the seas for so long that common knowledge doesn't reach your ears?" she asked.

      "There's been no news of the Drenched," Del said, shaking his head. "Not since the battle in Maraqua."

      Shock registered on the Drenched Sister's face. "I suppose not. Not a big enough threat to make the news. Not a small enough threat to leave be. It's as if we never existed at all." She shook her head, anger flashing in her eyes. "But we did exist. we were linked - we ARE linked! I could feel the pull in my chest when they were taken from me." Her fist pounded once against her chest.

      "What do you mean, taken?" Sareece asked. If someone had managed to restrain them, that was good news indeed.

      "They were taken from me." Her voice hitched, the first sign of weakness she had shown. "We were placed in cells, told that we would stay there forever. They took them from me!" This last she said almost as if to herself, rage and sadness making her voice rough. "After Maraqua won its battles, they had high morale. They wanted to protect itself from all possible threats. My sisters and I were considered one of those threats. In the middle of the night, they came and took us away from each other." Jezebel closed her eyes for a moment, remembering the chaos. Her oldest sister, Jane, telling her to take care of herself, that she'd get back to her as soon as she could. Her older sister, Poena, reaching her hand out towards her, their fingertips barely brushing before she was yanked backwards in the restraining hold of a soldier. Opening her eyes, she continued. "I didn't see them again for some time. But I knew I had to find them. Every day, we were all growing weaker. I didn't know what might have been happening to them. I only knew that I was in a cell, and I couldn't get out. I knew that I had to repay them for what they'd done, tearing our family apart." Sorrow turned itself into vengeful anger flashing like a fire in her eyes, and each word came out louder than the one before.

      "They deserved to be punished for the awful things they did," Tarin yelled. "No one took your sisters from you. You took yourselves away from each other. You did this to yourselves."

      "You don't know what you're talking about!" she screeched shrilly. "None of you do! You didn't know them!" She was silent for half a moment, breathing hard. "They were my SISTERS!" Her voice cracked from the strain.

      "I know enough to know that you all did horrible things," Tarin growled. "I know enough to know that you've torn families apart. Families like mine."

      "Tore your families apart?" She laughed mirthlessly. Her eyes were dark and crazed. "They didn't care about any of us, what breaking the bonds that tied us would do. Do you see this?" She pulled her sleeve up. Her skin was mottled and thin as if she had a disease. Sareece and Del cringed. Logan's blood felt like ice in his veins. So this is what it looked like when magic truly did take over. "This is what is happening to me. This is what has been happening ever since I broke free, since I've been trying to harness my powers to the Springs. Do you know how much power it takes to keep an entire island shrouded, keeps a worthless population delirious, and harness the springs, all at once?" Her laugh rang out once more, abrupt and hard. "More than you will ever know."

      "How did you get out?" Sareece asked, attempting to bring her mind off her sisters and back on herself, hoping that would diffuse her just enough so that blue sparks stopped randomly misfiring at her fingertips. An attack they could strategically fight against. An uncontrolled force, she wasn't so sure how to fight.

      Jezebel's breathing became the slightest bit more stable. "It took me years to escape the cell, she said, feeling tired just thinking about that time. Years to conserve energy, to build up enough magic to perform a simple spell! It was the protective field that disabled me from utilizing my magic. But they underestimated my powers." A short-lived smile flickered on her face, looking almost like a grimace. "But when I did..." The smile extinguished itself and left no traces. "When I finally loosed the last chain, recited the last incantation..." Her face hardened. "They weren't there. I'd expected adjoining cells, but they weren't there. I searched for days. They they couldn't be too far off. Maraqua is only so large."

      "Did you --" Sareece was cut short by Jezebel's impatience.

      "Yes!" she snapped. "I did. I found them. Frozen." She let the word hang in the air for a moment. "Frozen to stone, next to the Darkest Faerie in her own stone cage."

      "If you were put into a cell, why weren't they?" Logan asked.

      "They were," Jezebel said. "We were all kept in separate cells, as far away from each other as Maraqua's limited territory would allow. But they tried to escape. Unlike me, they didn't make it. They broke free of the cells, but before they could get to mine on the other side of the prison, they were caught. Put on trial. Frozen." Her eyes dimmed. "I learned this by hiding around the area, listening to the tourists who came to visit from other underwater towns. They spoke about it if it were... if it were a tourist attraction." Jezebel's shoulders slumped with the weight of the memory of finding her sisters. The shock. The confusion. The overwhelming sadness. The disrespect with which they were treated, like common tourist traps. They were her sisters! Had that counted for nothing? But she would bring them back. She had to. She would harness the power of the Springs, somehow, to reverse the spell and bring them back, no matter how long it took. No matter how draining it was.

      "Why don't you just give yourself up?" Logan asked. "Save yourself the fight. Don't weaken yourself any more than you already have." His mind could not shake the image of Jezebel's arm. He felt something like compassion for the Drenched Sister, driven mad with sadness and anger.

      She seemed to shake herself out of her memories. Slowly, a sickening smile curled her lips. It didn't touch her eyes by a mile. "Because," she began. Her breath was suddenly much calmer, her posture more collected. "I may be stretching my powers further than I've ever had to stretch them before. But..." She stepped forward. Her gait was deliberate. "I've still got more power than you four. You miserable, fragile, pathetic creatures!" She brought her palms together, and when she broke them apart, a crackling blue light stretched between them. Before their eyes, the currents running back and forth seemed to gather more in the middle, little by little, illuminating her face in odd, dancing shadows. "I can still defeat you with my bare hands!" The last words came out in a growl as she clenched her teeth and flung the orb. It flew straight and true, hurtling directly towards them.

To be continued...

 
Search the Neopian Times




Other Episodes


» The Island of Mist: Part One
» The Island of Mist: Part Two
» The Island of Mist: Part Three
» The Island of Mist: Part Four



Week 621 Related Links


Other Stories




Submit your stories, articles, and comics using the new submission form.