March of the Fire: Part Three
Art by blizard131
For the next three days, it poured. Hard.
“Ugh,” groaned Clara, “I’m so bored.”
“Yup,” I muttered, the boat shifting me side to side, Lillian snoring on her bunk, “I don’t think I can take much more of this. I have just been sitting here for way too long.”
“The rain will stop soon,” said Gaviella. She said this every five minutes or so.
“Gaviella, the rain still hasn’t stopped whenever you say that,” I said, now getting very exasperated with her.
“The rain has stopped,” she proclaimed, and I listened to the weather. Thump thump thump thump.
I sighed. “No, it hasn’t. Nature’s still blasting the elements at us, and it’s not gonna stop soon.”
“It is not nature,” she breathed, “this is not rain.”
“What do you mean it’s not rain? I can hear it!”
“No,” she said, “this is magic.”
“Okay...” I trailed off, a bit skeptical. “Why would faeries want to try and kill us with a giant storm?”
“They do not want us here,” she said. “This is the meeting place of the Fyr.”
“And what is the ‘Fyr’?”
“I do not know,” she said, “but we shall find out.”
“Sorry to interrupt your kind of creepy and slightly delusional sounding discussion,” Clara said, “but I think that we should all try and get some sleep like Lillian over here.” She gestured towards Ms. Fairweather, who we were pretty sure could sleep through just about anything now.
I nodded. “Yeah, I don’t really have that much better to do.”
I lay there for what felt like forever, thoughts of crashing into rocks, thoughts of the chasm beast, thoughts of the boat turning over. My eyes never even began to droop, not once.
Eventually, from both motion sickness and the desperation for something to do, I came above deck. I was hit full blast with the storm, and I nearly fell back down the hatch. There was only the captain above; everyone else was down below. He was hanging onto the wheel for dear life, trying to keep it as straight as possible.
“Is there anything I can do to help, Cap?” I asked, trying to be as helpful as I could.
“Don’t call me Cap!” he shouted, as if he didn’t think he could be heard over the storm, or maybe just to get his point across.
“Anything else?” I shouted over the pulsing sea.
“If you could help me grab this wheel, that would help!” he screamed back at me. The guy had to have some serious hearing problems. Then again, the winds were probably going at a bazillion miles an hour, as far as I was concerned.
I slid over to him, the briny water licking the deck as I slid. My jacket was now soaked, and I was glad that my boots were waterproof. “Oof,” I said, running into him as the boat careened to the left, “We can each grab one side, and pull in opposite directions!” he boomed at me.
“How would that work?” I wondered in reply.
“Just trust me!”
“That’s not a particularly encouraging response!” I shouted back.
“I can tell that it will work!”
We yanked on each side of the wheel, just trying not to fall in the marine abyss. The brackish liquid pooled around my ankles, and I worried that we might sink. But we stayed afloat, as it rained down upon us, as if the clouds were angry at our journey.
We moved a little too fast for my taste with the high winds. We were going directly downwind, which is basically the fastest you can go on a boat, and we tried to keep the sails as far in as possible. I was quite glad we didn’t have to go upwind, since that would mean that either the boat would stop (though with a lot of effort), or we would start going backwards. And backwards just as fast.
“How do you even know we’re still going the right way!” I shouted, as the thought came into my mind.
“If we had a navigator, I could tell better! After someone else comes up, I’ll check our heading!” he shouted over the wind as we held onto the wheel.
It was then I heard the scream. “It’s breaking! I can see!” I heard Gaviella shout from below, and in only a few seconds, the sky cleared and showed us a beautiful clementine coloured sunset. And some kind of tropical island. It was picture perfect.
“I am free!” she shouted over and over again, running up to the deck. “Free, I tell you, free!” She laughed, and skipped around, rejoicing for some unseen reason. Or maybe like the rest of us, she was just happy to be out of the storm.
“Gavi-” shouted Clara, but she trailed off a bit as she sprinted after her, and saw the dramatic change in weather, “ella. Well, this is new.”
“By Fyora,” I heard Roxton mutter as he came up the stairs. “That cleared up fast.”
Moht whistled under his breath, and hurried back downstairs to go get his camera equipment. “Uh, whoa,” I heard Kerlie say, “I don’t think that this has happened to anyone before... but I bet there is some kind of record in my files,” and he also went back below deck.
I stared at the island. All of my hopes, my dreams, my ideas, came to life in front of me in the form of giant petpetpets. And as I stared, I saw things moving in the bushes, and pictured myself following them. And as I tried to anticipate my future, someone was looking at our bedraggled crew rather skeptically.
“So...” Evre trailed off, “I just gotta stand here?”
Jessalia sighed, “Yes Evre, for the last time, just stand here.”
“And, uh, should I like, look intimidating or something?”
“Evre, you are not here just to ask silly questions about the job that is probably the simplest in the headquarters.”
“Look, Evre,” said Jessalia impatiently, “I have plenty of other work to do, what with the revolution about to begin. You would not know how many of my agents want a raise. Especially that Issal, after her work in Maraqua.” She patted little Evre on the head, “I just don’t want anything to go wrong. And if something does, I don’t want it to be my fault.”
“I have one big burning question, though,” said Evre. “Can I please ask it?”
“Why in Neopia are we disobeying Queen Fyora?” the eager little fire faerie asked, her big brown eyes the size of a Meepit’s.
Jessalia groaned a bit. “It’s the right thing to do,” she said, “and besides, Yyro will take wonderful care of us, and finally provide equality to all of our sisters.”
“Yeah, but how do we know-”
“Look, Evre,” Jessalia said, tipping up her little sister’s chin, “I know this might not seem right, but it’s our only choice. And besides, think about for how many years you never saw the surface world. Think about how, now, with Yyro, we can rule it ourselves. Just think about it.” And so, she left the short and rather confused faerie to her own thoughts, guarding the Fyr’s dungeon.
That night, we anchored off of the island, having decided to explore it the next day. We were all as tired as rocks, but I waited for sleep to wash over me in vain.
I hardly slept that night. Worries and fears filled my mind, running through it like a triathlon. I didn’t roll over in my sleep, throwing about the covers in a fit; I never did that after so many years of sleeping on a metal cot in a room filled with others who would scold me for doing so. No. I lay there, and stared up at the ceiling, which was only two feet away from my face. I reached up and put my hand on it, finding it rather comforting.
I worried so much about the next day. Poison fruit, giant petpetpets, arguing adventurers (ugh), large ravines, exploding volcanoes, all of these things were what I anticipated. But before now, I hadn’t quite anticipated Gaviella.
“Whoa,” she had said during dinner, “I have paws! Oh my golly, I have paws! Look at them, everyone!” and with that, she held up her normal Gelert paws. We all murmured in agreement (some of us rather sarcastically), casting glances around the table.
But it didn’t stop there. The most entertaining was when she saw the sun. “What’s that big ball of light?” she kept asking us over and over, and if we said “the sun” she would say, “whose son?” Most of us just gave up, but Kerlie always told her, “The sun is an inanimate, a-biotic object, so could therefore be no one’s son.”
We all agreed Gaviella seemed a little bit... crazy. She was odd enough before, but now she was even odder.
I had once asked Clara about why she had appeared at the Fairweather’s house when they had been looking for her.
“Gaviella was faerie blessed when she was born,” Clara began, a little pedantically, truth be told, “by a slightly conceited light faerie named Yyro, who had owed a debt to her parents. Unfortunately, she decided to only colour her pink. Her parents were rather annoyed at Yyro, as they had saved her life, and so Yyro blessed her again, but it was a bit of a curse. She gave her the gift of Allsight, meaning that she can only see in other places. This of course means that Gaviella can only see outside of her body, and thus she cannot really think for herself. She can create duplicates of herself, one of which goes to every place someone calls her Gravy. She has amazing powers, and we were near certain we might be able to help her control them.”
“So she can see people eating fried rice in Shenkuu?”
“Yes, if she wanted to.”
“That sounds like a cool power, but not one I would want,” I had said. I listened to her counting her toes on the hammock below me. Not something I would want to do.
I really couldn’t help but wonder what in Neopia had happened to her. She used to function rather robotically, but now she was conscious of every little detail. She ate dinner with her fingers, and when Roxton finally pointed out her fork, she studied it, looked it up and down, and proceeded to stick it in her asparagus with the wrong end and continue using her fingers.
I lay there, sleepless, like the rest of us, as she counted her toes over and over and over and over, until there were too many overs to be counted. “Look,” I said aloud, “can you please not talk?”
And she stopped talking for a second.
“I can talk! I can actually talk!”
“Oh, right, sorry,” she said, and surprisingly enough, she actually stopped talking. Well. All you have to do is ask.
But still, I couldn’t fall asleep. I lay there, listening to the waves crashing against the hull, to the three sleepers in the same room. No, I realized, only two of them were asleep. Clara was also awake, as she wasn’t breathing as deeply as the others, and occasionally her rope hammock creaked when she rolled over.
I slept for a bit, lapsing in and out of my rather odd dreams. I didn’t have any particularly clear dreams that night, though I remembered something to do with a darblat umbrella at one point.
The next morning, I woke to the sound of the captain shouting at the top of his lungs. “We will NOT bring the ship ashore! Do you hear me, Ms. Fairweather? We will not bring my ship onto land, not after what happened with the first Primella!” he roared at Lillian.
“But sir,” she responded, “how are we going to get onto the island?”
“I have a rowboat, which can carry six people.”
“But we need to have our entire group on land-”
“You will have to work that out, Ms. Fairweather.”
She sighed. “Well, I guess it is our only option.”
I pushed myself from the hammock, and came up above, my hair still a wild disaster, face raw from sleep. Only the captain, Lillian and Moht were up above deck, but I heard a loud yawn coming from below me which had to be Roxton.
Lillian was inspecting the small rowboat. She sighed and said, “I think we could cram in seven, meaning that one of us will always have to stay on the boat. But there is Moht’s camera equipment to think about, so six if we have Moht, seven if he stays on board.”
I walked over to the boat, and looked it up and down. “There is no chance that if we have to run back to the boat that we’ll make it out of there fast enough, not with that many people. Maybe we should only bring five people at a time, one of which always stays at the boat?”
“Hmm,” muttered Roxton as he came over and yawned. “We could fit all of us in it, but I agree with May on this one. Too many people on the island at once could be a problem. Five sounds like a good number to me.”
We all nodded in agreement. “It’s settled then,” said Lillian. “We can make a schedule of who goes on the island when.”
It was early that morning, perhaps six AM, but Moht was already snapping away as many pictures of the island as he could. Every few pictures, he wrote down some notes in a small blue notepad, scribbling away everything that might go in the newspaper.
After a little while, the most of our crew was out on deck, and we all set down to eat breakfast. Neocrunch cereal. Yum yum.
“So, who wants to go first to the island?” asked Lillian, and my hand zoomed into the air. I looked around the table, and saw that most people didn’t seem to be as excited to go first to the island.
“Clara and I should scout it out,” said Roxton. “We need to make sure that it isn’t too dangerous for everyone else.”
“Well, I kinda wanted to go too,” I said, looking around the table. Lillian shook her head, and I brought my hand down.
“Okay, so Roxton and Clara go to the island,” said Jordie. “If they are not back in two hours, we take them for dead, and perceive that it is too dangerous to continue. So, for our sakes, please don’t die, because I have a feeling this is not an opportunity to miss.”
And so, without further ado, I crammed down the rest of my Neocrunch cereal, and proceeded to hide myself in the rowboat.
The rowboat was tiny, and I didn’t see how Lillian was planning to fit seven people in it. Not at all. But, it didn’t look like I would exactly have forever to inspect it and search for a hiding space, so I jumped in, hiding myself underneath a sleeping bag. Just at the same time, quite a few people, including Clara and Roxton, came out of the galley, and approached my hiding spot.
And then I realized my true point of failure: the little rowboat would have to be dropped two stories into the water with me inside. I would have to figure this out--and I was not getting out of this boat--while Clara and Roxton had yet another pointless argument.
“We should travel light, so that we don’t waste any unnecessary supplies,” said Clara. “After all, it really is only going to be an hour.”
“Not a chance,” responded Roxton. “We bring as much gear as we can. We don’t know if we might get stuck there, so we need to bring some extra food at least, which we can leave in the boat--”
“And the only reason we would get stuck on the island would be that we could not get to the rowboat, or the rowboat would have been destroyed,” stated Clara, rather defiantly, as if certain she had won the argument.
He was silent for a moment. “Light it is. So we don’t need all of this extra gear,” and he yanked up the sleeping bag which I was hiding under.
“Um, hi?” I said, a teensy bit worried. Clara sighed. “Look, May, as much as we want to bring you along, it would be dangerous to all of us. I promise that next time you can come, okay?”
“Fine,” I said, a little put out, but I tried not to show it that much.
She patted my shoulder and I stood up. They lowered the boat, got in, and began rowing off to an adventure I should have been a part of.
Jessalia stalked down the corridor with purpose, crimson red cape flailing out behind her. The other faeries saluted her as she walked past; they all knew not to get on her bad side.
The looming marble doors, so very out of place in the sodden cavern, stood before the VIF (Very Important Faerie). The two guards, a mutant Draik and an Usuki Usul, stood to attention. “What is your business with the great one?” asked the Draik in a raspy voice.
“I have business regarding confiscated matters,” she said.
“Ooh!” said the Usul. “A spy! That is, like, so cool!” As the guards stepped aside, Jessalia shook her head. No one really chose who was to be in the revolution, so they got all of the misfits one could think of.
The doors swung open before her, and all she could see was darkness. But she knew this was only a trick, to fool the unwise and unwanted. She stepped forward two steps, and chanted, “Semper ubi sububi!” as loud as she could. Suddenly, she could see, and the light behind her faded into darkness instead. And there she stood in a room full of doors.
There were twelve doors in the room, each containing their own punishment to trespassers. And rather curious rebels who had stumbled upon the room by mistake. No one but the great one herself really knew what was behind those doors, as she herself had installed their containments.
The fifth door, painted purple, held the worst punishment possible to prisoners. And yet, Jessalia strode right through it.
The cave was lavishly decorated in deep colours. Lush petpet pelts hung from every available space, giving the room a sense of being alive. At the end of a long mauve carpet, there was a chair, shielded by a darkened veil. One could tell that someone, or something, sat behind it.
“My lady,” said Jessalia, kneeling to the floor, “You have called me.”
“Yes,” rang out a voice. It was an odd voice; you could not distinguish its age, gender or species. “We have trespassers,” it said, “As you know, this is a rare occurrence.”
“Indeed,” responded Jessalia, “Are they the queen’s agents?”
“No,” said the odd voice, and Jessalia almost thought that it sounded exactly like her old math teacher, a disco Kacheek by the way. “They are but a few unwitting adventurers. Most of them. There are two, both with warped destinies, but destined for each other. Luckily, they are harmless adventurers. There is one that we should have been concerned with if we had no magic dampening forcefield, as she is faerie blessed. There is no one else who is exceedingly important, though I could not tell who one of them was,” the voice (which now sounded like an old woman) paused for a second, “but she does not know who she is, and thus I do not know who she is.”
I paced up and down the deck, waiting for a response, a result, so I could get going onto the island. “Jordie, how long have they been gone?”
The blue Kougra sighed. “Three minutes from the last time you asked.” I knew that tone of voice, the annoyed grown-up, the infamous “stop bothering me” tone. I sighed, and leaned over the railing, peering into the depths of the ocean.
The water was pristine and clear, painted with artistically placed daubs of sunlight. The waters near the equator were quite turquoise and transparent, and I could nearly see the bottom. Suddenly, something moved in the water, and my eyes shot over to where it was.
Seeing nothing, I looked around, and saw it glimmer a bit again. I snapped around, looking for it, when I saw the outline of a fish moving through the water. A waterfish. Such strange creatures; how they can hold themselves together is an amazing spectacle.
Then, the water seemed to get a bit darker for a second, as if in the outline of a Jetsam or something else with fins and a tail. I rubbed my eyes, and searched for it again. Nothing seemed to be there, and I shrugged it off.
I looked back towards the island. I had another forty seven minutes to wait until they returned, and I wondered what I would do now. I had already had a geography quiz done by Kerlie, helped Moht by being interviewed (though it wasn’t particularly interesting, since we hadn’t really done anything remarkable yet), and, get this, had taught Gaviella on what a tail was. Apparently, she didn’t know that she had a tail, and had no idea why. Well, actually, I didn’t know why much either, but that was okay. I told her that it was a nice thing to have.
I stared into the island’s forests. I pictured moving figures, perhaps some exotic bird, and looked into the darker space between the trees. And something moved.
I blinked my eyes, and looked again. Yes, there was something moving in the trees, but I guessed it wasn’t surprising.
Two smallish specks ran out of the forest and onto the beach. They might have been two giant mootixes or something. But the giant moach that came up behind them (about five times their sizes) tipped me off on who they were.
“I see Roxton and Clara!” I shouted to no one in particular. I looked over my shoulder to see that I was the only one above deck. Shoot.
I ran down to the girls’ cabin, and shouted, “We have to help Clara and Roxton!”
Lillian let out a snore in response. “Who are they?” asked Gaviella, cocking her head in a confused way. I decided to go get Jordie, Moht and Kerlie instead.
I pounded my fist on their door. “May, if that’s you, I’m not going to tell you how much longer!” I heard Jordie shout.
“No, I can see Clara and Roxton running from a moach on the beach! We have to help them!”
Jordie stuck his head out the door, and said, “We have one rowboat, they’re on the beach, and I am not going to fall for your trick,” and slammed the door in my face. Well.
Next, I ran up to find the captain. “We have to help Clara and Roxton!” I shouted, barging through the door to his cabin.
“Why should I care? That Colchester has caused me nothing but trouble!” he shouted back, and I closed the door on Mr. Grumpypants, which was my new nickname for him.
And so, as they began approaching the boat, I was the only one above deck to help pull them up out of the waters into which a giant moach was now swimming.
I watched them as they rowed frantically towards us. I looked around, trying to figure what to do. My eyes fell upon a coil of rope. It would have to work.
I grabbed it as they came up along the side.
“Pull us up!” shouted Roxton.
“I don’t know if I can!” I shouted back, glancing at the nearing moach. “I don’t know how any of this works, but I could throw you a rope!”
“A rope works!” he shouted, and I tossed it to them, tying it to the railing. And of course, they began to argue on who would go up first. I couldn’t hear all of it, but I did catch “You!” and “No, you!”
“Hurry!” I shouted back at them. They looked back up at me, looked at the rope, and looked at each other. Clara huffed, and began climbing. As soon as she finished, I helped her aboard, and Roxton tied the end of the rope to the bow of the rowboat. Then, he himself climbed up, and we all went down below deck.
“Wait!” exclaimed Clara. “What about the moach?”
I sprinted back above deck, and witnessed an interesting scene. The giant moach was drowning in about ten feet of water, which was impressive, since it was thirty feet tall. It wasn’t pleasant, shall we say, and I went below deck a few seconds later.
“It’s dead,” I told them. “It drowned in about ten feet of water.”
We all sat around the table as we ate lunch, talking, mouths full, about everything Clara and Roxton had seen.
“There were so many plants that I’ve never seen before,” said Clara. “I mean, all of the plants I’ve ever seen before were there as well. It’s as if it was some kind of acclimatized zoo.”
“No wonder you weren’t as focused as you should have been on running for your life,” Roxton said. “We certainly saw plenty of petpetpets, but the species changed depending on each part of the island. We might want to stay near places where the plant eaters-”
“Whatevers are, so that we don’t find our selves as petpetpet chow. I’m not too keen on getting eaten.”
“What about the temple Madtongue Murphy mentioned in his journal and that we saw the last time we were there,” asked Lillian, rather sceptically. I honestly had no idea what she was talking about.
Roxton shook his head. “We were on the almost exact opposite side that time. Last time we were on the east side, and we are now on the northwest side. We would have to go through the moaches’ territory again, and they aren’t the friendliest of creatures.”
“Can’t we just figure out the correct path to the temple without getting eaten?” asked Lillian.
Clara shook her head a bit. “It could easily take months. I know that you saw a prophecy there last time, but I don’t think that we could get back there.”
“Wait,” I said, “what prophecy?”
Lillian sighed. “The first time that we went to the Lost Isle, we found a temple type structure. It was, of course, abandoned, though filled with petpetpet eggs. But, on one of the walls, there was a rather prophetic piece of writing inscribed, which talked about four children which were supposed to come to the island and save Neopia from certain doom. I don’t remember the exact wording, and it kept misspelling fire, light, and dark by replacing Is with Ys and Ks with Cs. We tried to interpret it, but it hardly made any sense, certainly none grammatical sense at all. But, going on a whim, we tried to get people to come and help us, though hardly anyone believed anything we said. So, after quite some time of searching, we decided that instead of trying to find children, let them find us.”
“And, you didn’t tell us about this before because...?” questioned Moht.
“We thought it was safer that no one knew about any of this, just in case,” said Roxton. “Made sense to me anyways.”
“Yeah, but what are we supposed to do?” I asked, glancing at them sideways.
“We have no idea,” said Clara, “but we intend to find out.”
To be continued...