Child of the Drenched: Return to the Depths - Part Eight
With Amalithia free and the Maraquans arrived, the battle turned against the crew of the Revenge. Scarblade knew he didn't have the strength to fight this newest wave, his undersea and above water forces has suffered too much to repel the Maraquans or fight Amalithia back into submission.
The Drenched had done a number on his undersea forces, and the battle with The Black Pawkeet had done significant damage to his ship. He ordered an immediate retreat. The undersea division of the crew of the Revenge retreated to their ship, and they sailed away. The Black Pawkeet did not give chase, as the battle had done a number on their ship as well.
She had suffered heavily in the battle and was hardly seaworthy. The crew set sail for the nearest island to make repairs. That took them right back to where they started, Zephyr Island. The shipbuilders there assured them that with the crew's help they could have The Black Pawkeet seaworthy again within the next fortnight.
Now free, Amalithia was rushed to Maraqua. There she undid the spell that the sea witch had cast on Kelpbeard. His recovery was instant. The King and Isca talked her into staying in the city where she would be safe from future attacks by Scarblade. She agreed that it was wisest, as her self-imposed isolation had never prevented her from making any of the mistakes of the past.
As soon as he was able, King Kelpbeard and Mizumi traveled to Zephyr Island to personally offer their thanks to the crew of The Black Pawkeet for rising to the aid of Maraqua once again. Isca accompanied them, which resulted yet another conversation in which Garin had to convince Isca that he had no plans of turning over a new leaf and becoming a respectable citizen in Maraqua.
Each sunset on Zephyr brought them a day closer to returning to the open sea.
Jacques walked along the beach on Zephyr Island, his gaze turning out over the ocean. The sun had just descended below the sea and left the sky a rich medley of pinks and purples. Soft clouds drifted lazily along the sky, and the ocean was dark. The air was cool and the breeze was gentle, bringing the scent of a Pineapple Plant growing some ways off. The little stretch of shore was truly a calm and soothing place, revealing no hint of the sad story that had unfolded there.
Jacques wondered if it had been pure chance, or if it was meant to be. Here, so long ago, a child had played happily for three short years, before she vanished without a trace. It had been witness to the sorrows of a father and mother, desperate to find that child. From here the father set out, never to return. From here, the mother had set out and then returned after years of sorrow. She returned only to be buried here, her quest unfulfilled. Here had the sad tale been forgotten, seemingly never to have a resolution.
Jacques had grown up on an island not too far away, completely unaware of this story. If he had heard it, it would have meant nothing to him. And yet, it had come to mean everything now.
The scenes of the time he spent as a captive of the Drenched passed before his eyes. Somehow, as traumatic as it had been, it had become worth it. It had allowed him to meet that child, to be the first person to see her since she had vanished so completely. It had been only a moment, drowned out by the chaos that had immediately followed, but it had happened.
He hadn't thought much about the girl after he was free. There were moments during the eight years that passed after that day when he remembered her innocent blue eyes. Moments when he wondered what had become of her.
Then, without warning, she suddenly appeared in his life again. He took it to be a sign; he thought he had to save her. He and Amalithia had made the same mistake, thinking she needed help to escape the Drenched. But, unlike Amalithia, he had managed to do it the right way. He brought the lost child home to the parents who were still waiting for her on that beach, and he had done it without destroying who she was. The shores of Zephyr had been witness to a happy ending at last.
Yet, sometimes he wondered if it had been a mistake to take her away from the safety of the ocean, and the loving, over-protective parents who had raised her. He glanced up the beach towards the gravestones, and then averted his eyes hurriedly. The images of the moment he lost her flashed before his eyes. Jacques put his hand up over his eyes and tried to block the memories and the pain.
A hand was laid on his shoulder. "Hey, are you okay?"
He didn't answer; he just stared out over the vast expanse of the sea. Mara laid her head against his shoulder, feeling a little weak from the walk from the ship down to the beach after the long day of work. She was mostly recovered, Amalithia's healing ability was superior, but she was still somewhat weakened and felt it after too much exertion.
"Come on, stop looking so morose. You're upsetting people, particularly me. It's all over, Jacques. A week or two and The Black Pawkeet will be shipshape again, and everything will be just as it was again. Stop letting it weigh on you. Just think of it as a bad dream that's over now. After all, the one redeeming thing about nightmares is that nightmares end."
He didn't respond, but instead just kept staring out at the sea.
Mara took her hand from his shoulder and walked into the surf. She scooped up a handful and tossed it into the air, where it hung, suspended there by her magic. With deft fingers she manipulated the droplets to make a little ship. She carried it back to Jacques and made him take it.
"What's this?" he asked, speaking at last.
"Uncle Howl told me that there is a tradition on this island to make a wish boat and set it adrift in the twilight. It is said that if a Water Faerie happens upon it she can feel your wish, and will make it come true. Amalithia told me she came across Howl's boat. He came every year on the anniversary of my disappearance to send out a wish boat. He continued to send out my mother's final wish. That's why Amalithia tried to bring me back here years ago. However, she realized it wasn't time for me to learn the truth, and returned me home. Those were the memories that she sealed away." Mara looked up the hill to the little village where she had been born, in a time she could no longer remember. "That's how I knew I had been here once, when you brought me back. Those where the memories she hid from me."
Jacques said nothing, but examined the perfect little boat, made completely of water, marveling at Mara's skill.
"Anyway, it's not quite a wish, but I thought you could put whatever is still bothering you in it and send it away," Mara finished. "Since apparently you can't get rid of it by talking about it."
"You died, Mara. If you hadn't freed Amalithia before that, you wouldn't be here right now."
"Yeah, I figured that was what was bothering you," Mara replied.
"You're rather nonchalant about it," he commented.
"That's because everything worked out okay."
"That doesn't make things all right. What Amalithia did was wrong. Her mistakes almost cost you your life. All anyone has ever done is interfered in your life, The Drenched, Amalithia, even Garin and I. In hindsight, even our meddling doesn't seem right," he protested.
She smiled encouragingly at him. "No, you're right, as always. There has been a lot of meddling, but the past is what it is. Send it away and be glad for what we have now. I'm still here. King Kelpbeard is healed. The Black Pawkeet and her crew will be fine soon. Scarblade got a taste of his own medicine once again. Just another day at the office for the crew of The Black Pawkeet, the fiercest ship on the five seas. Hurry up already, the gloaming doesn't last forever."
"I shouldn't have let you stay. I knew it was too dangerous for you to become a pirate. You shouldn't have been in that position. This was all my fault. I brought you out here and when it came down to it, I failed to protect you," Jacques said.
"Jacques, really, how can you blame yourself for this? I was needed because Amalithia's ring was used, and Amalithia's spell was still on me. If it hadn't been so, no matter where I was, I wouldn't have been a part of this. If I had still been with the Drenched, they would have turned Isca away and Scarblade might have won. If that had happened, the crew of The Black Pawkeet would be no more. Who knows, I might have decided to help Isca and Maraquans, even against my mothers' objections, and I would never have gotten past Scarblade without you. If it hadn't been for you, and the decisions we made three years ago, neither of us would be here today. Remember what we were saying back in my mothers' home about the strange way things work out? There are just are just some things that have to happen. Yes, maybe it's this way because too many people thought they knew what was best for me, but maybe some of them did. I'm not sorry for one thing that has happened to me."
"You know, I always wondered what the chances were that you found your way to The Black Pawkeet eight years after our brief meeting. I thought it was just dumb luck, but..." Jacques smiled as he trailed off.
"But, maybe there are some things that are just meant to be," Mara finished. "Like you and me. Like all of us. How could everything that's happened since we met have been dumb luck? Now, make a wish or whatever and send that boat out. You're losing the light."
Jacques looked into her smiling blue eyes, and realized she was right. Sometimes, things were worth forgetting. He stepped into the surf and finally set the boat on the waves. Once he did, Mara called up a wave to push it out into the ocean. They watched it drift away in silence.
"I made a wish," Jacques said. "But I can't tell you what it is."
"If it is the same wish I made the first time we were here, I'm pretty sure you won't need a Water Faerie to make that one come true. You made me come here, and it was you who convinced me I should stay above the waves. It is completely your fault I'm a pirate today. I'm your problem, now and forever. There is no getting rid of me," Mara laughed lightheartedly.
"I suppose there are worse problems to be saddled with," Jacques conceded.
"Come on, Garin is going to be mad at us for shirking our work. Being landlocked makes him antsy. That ship isn't getting fixed by itself." Mara held out her hand.
Jacques took her hand, and pulled her into a tight embrace. She smiled as she returned it. They stayed like that for a moment, and then Jacques held her at arm's length.
"Come on, before Garin sees us. Last thing I need to see is that face he makes when he feels clever," Jacques said, and Mara laughed in agreement.
"Just one moment." She went up on the beach and knelt them in front of her parents' tombstones.
"You don't have to worry about me anymore. I'm home," Mara said quietly.
Jacques held out his hand, and she took it. Together they left the beach.