I'm sorry for my lack of updating, guys. I just hope you're not all standing there with pitchforks and torches as you're reading this...
But look! A super-long update! Now you can't kill me! Right? RIGHT?
Cold... so cold... so very... very cold...
The water was so cold that Lina thought her skin was being sliced off as she plunged into the turbulent waters of the sea. She dove straight towards the bottom, screaming soundlessly in her mind as she forced her arms and gets to move through the water. She could barely see the pale form of Captain Zelgadis as he sank further and further into the darkness of the deep. She pulled hard for him, her way being lighted by the constant lightning flashes above the water.
He floated back-first, his arms drifting up towards the surface in a seemingly hopeless reach for the life above. A thin stream of bubbles slipped from his mouth in a continuous line, growing ever smaller as the heartbeats ticked by. Lina kept her eyes on that line, pushing her small body through the swirling waters towards him, reaching for his hand. She brushed his fingertips, almost losing him completely, but with one wild burst of energy she seized his wrist, pulling him up against her body.
The girl kicked hard for the surface, the salty water stinging her eyes, making her vision blurry. The Captain, being made partly of stone golem, was much heavier than a regular human would have been, and sank instead of floated in the icy water. Still, Lina ignored the extra weight and with surge of adrenaline she gained the surface, erupting out of the water like a small shark bent on catching a floating bird.
Lina coughed as she looked around for any sign of the ship, but there was none. The ship, crew and all, was gone among the waves, gone to who knew where. Lina almost sobbed with the fear of the unknown, but felt assured again as the lightning revealed the very dim view of a huge mountain rising from the sea. Lina turned her body towards it, knowing that her strength would give out before they had gained what she hoped was an island, but the very thought of perhaps succeeding in her rescue spurred her body on to the very limit of her abilities. Gripping Zelgadis tightly around the shoulders, Lina pulled hard for the shadowy mass, her strong arms slicing through the water.
Her body had begun to fail from exhaustion just as she spied the beach of a small island, well-laden with trees and a huge mountain in the center. Clutching her precious burden tightly in her thin, numb arms, Lina crawled towards the soft sand of the beach, grateful for the feel of good, unmoving earth beneath her body. She dropped Zelgadis's limp form on the sand and tumbled in for a landing herself. She lay there, panting in the storm, staring at his hand, which she had never let go of. Sometime during the flight he must have awoken for a moment, for his hand was tightly clutching hers. She smiled slightly, and then let unconsciousness claim her.
Cold... wet... pain in voice...warmer...arms again...warmer...
Zelgadis awoke with a start, his deep blue eyes snapping open instantly. He gasped for air in the damp darkness, trying to get his eyes adjusted to the flickering light beside the right side of his bed. He turned his head towards it, and yelped with pain as fire exploded through his brain. Returning his head to its original position, he stared up at the rough stone ceiling. He blinked a few times, trying to get his eyes to refocus correctly.
"My cabin isn't made of stone," he muttered to himself. "Jillas must be playing tricks on me... Jillas!"
His call echoed in the stone chamber, reverberating back and forth throughout the small cave. Zelgadis, his mind clearing a little, sat up slowly, trying his best not to move his head too fast. He wasn't lying in his bed at all, nor was he in his cabin on the ship! He was lying on a pile of warm, dry sand and leaves which were covered with his heavy black rain cloak. A blanket made of what appeared to be cloth ripped from a sail covered his body and kept the cool air of the cave away from his shivering body. The cave was not overly large, roughly the same size as his cabin, except the ceiling seemed to go on forever, and the walls were worn almost perfectly smooth by wind, water, and time. A fire crackled cheerfully next to him, blazing merrily along the pile of dried twigs and branches.
Zelgadis smiled approvingly at his current surroundings. At the very least, he was dry, warm, and comfortable. Whoever was taking care of him was at least knowledgeable about survival skills. He winced again as smiling moved the aching muscles of his jaw, making his head explode again. Tenderly, with only the tips of his fingers, he touched his temple, discovering to his astonishment that a bandage was wrapped around the top of his head.
"You're awake! Good to see you alive again, Captain!" a cheerful voice rang from the western end of the cave.
Slowly, Zelgadis turned his throbbing head towards the voice. A figure was standing in the opening of the cave, carrying an armload of branches and a fistful of rabbits, which she deposited in a heap beside the fire. It took his fuzzy mind a moment or two to recognize Lina, but the instant his mind registered her pretty face, his entire body seemed at ease. He lay back down against his sandy bed and smiled at her a little.
"I see you're looking well, Lina," he said softly. "Where are we?"
"On an island is the best I can tell," she replied, ripping leaves from the pile of branches in preparation for adding them to the fire.
She looked as if she had weathered the storm well, in Zelgadis's opinion. Her hair was tangled and matted, her arms and legs were covered with small scratches, and the hemline of her lovely white dress had been torn off just above her knees. All in all, she looked all right.
"Would you get Dilgear for me, Lina?" he asked, staring at the ceiling.
Lina's hands stopped moving up and down the branch she was holding. She went perfectly still, staring at the fire. "He's... not here, Captain.
"Not here? What are you talking about, girl, of course he's here!" Zelgadis snapped, glaring at her.
"He's still on the ship," she replied, still not looking at him.
"Well, go get him!"
"Captain... the ship is gone. We're all alone here."
Zelgadis stared at her, thunderstruck. If they were here, and the ship wasn't...
"The storm?" he asked, the possibilities already rumbling through his head.
Lina nodded. "It was terrible. You were knocked overboard when the ship went out of control. A beam hit you in the side of the head... threw you towards the rail. I saw you from the crow's nest... for an instant, I was sure you were going to be all right... but then you went over the edge. Dilgear was screaming for you, and..."
She looked down at her hands, as if they were some strange creatures instead of her own limbs.
"I thought to myself, 'I'll just Raywing him to safety'," she mumbled. "Stupid me... completely forgot about the Bracelet. But I wasn't thinking correctly, I just... reacted."
She grew quiet, kneeling down beside the fire. The light danced over her bare legs and arms, and threw orange highlights into her hair. Zelgadis watched her silently, digesting all this into his water-logged mind. "Then... how did we get here?"
She spoke without turning again, as if turning to look at him would stamp her mistake into her very soul. "I grew up on the ocean, so I'm a good swimmer," she explained. "You were already unconscious, so you weren't that hard to pull along. It was only a few miles to the island, after all. After that, you were unconscious for four days... this is the first time you've been really awake since we got here. The wound on that thick skull of yours was pretty bad."
She trailed off, intent on not looking away from the fire. She wouldn't tell him how bad that swim was, or how hard she had worked to get him cleaned up and healthy.
He watched her a moment more, and then touched his head gently, feeling for lumps. His fingers brushed a length of smooth, soft cloth that wound around his head. There were several patchy, rough spots that Zelgadis guessed were stained with blood. He looked back at the girl sitting across the fire from him, perplexed.
"You could have escaped," he ventured. "But you saved me anyway. Why?"
She didn't answer him for a moment, and then raised her eyes to meet his. "Because I thought you would have done the same for me," she answered. "Besides... I couldn't just let you die. You're a good captain, no matter what the stories say."
He smiled at her unexpectedly, and Lina's heart skipped a small beat. Her entire face went red, and she stood quickly, tossing the leaf-free branches into the fire. Zelgadis sat up, holding out a hand to stop her, but Lina bolted from the cave, her red hair trailing behind her. Zelgadis sighed, then turned over and went back to sleep.
Lina ran along the beach of the small island, running as fast as her small feet could carry her. "Stupid Zelgadis!" she yelled into the wind as she ran. "What a moron! Couldn't he even have said thank you or something? I've been working my butt off out here, taking care of his worthless hide! Shouldn't that count for something?"
She ran along the beach, heedless of the beauty that the small island had to offer. Only about a mile wide, and two miles long, the tiny island was covered by a dense forest, mostly of coconut trees. There were no animals to sustain them out in that forest, but the trees were ripe enough to provide a small selection of fruits, berries, and nuts. There was also a small lagoon near the eastern side of the island that held a variety of different fish. Lina had never seen some of them before, but deduced that since she wasn't dead yet, the fish were harmless to eat.
She wasn't really angry at Zelgadis, of course. Sure, she had saved his life, but he was still her captor, above any real feelings for her. Not that she cared about his feelings of course. She only took care of him so well because she didn't want to be all alone on the island. Yeah, right, her mind taunted her.
She stepped into the forest and picked up a small piece of loose bark. It was curved slightly, as to make a small bowl shape. It was perfect for carrying small nuts and berries in. She carried it into the woods smiling, intent on chasing Zelgadis and his stupid feelings out of her mind with some good, hard work. Above her head, the sky darkened again.
Zelgadis was jerked awake by a crack of thunder that echoed through the small cave. He was still lying on his back on the sand and cloak, and the fire was just beginning to die out. Gingerly, he sat up, and was delighted to find that his head no longer spun when he moved. He reached for a small stick lying next to his "bed" and poked the fire, coaxing it back to a cheerful roar.
"Lina!" he called. "We're going to need more firewood soon!"
He turned when she didn't reply. And turned again.
Lina wasn't even in the cave! He looked out the small opening and gasped as he beheld the torrent of water that was gushing past the entrance. Lightning flashed, illuminating the cave in a pale, eerie light, and Zelgadis felt his heart skip a beat.
"Another hurricane?" he stammered. "But where's Lina? She can't be out in that, she's not that stupid!"
He threw off the cloak and ran to the opening, screaming her name out into the storm. His words were ripped away by the wind, tossed into the storm where they would do no good. Rushing back to his "bed", he grabbed his thick rain cloak and ran out into the storm.
"Lina!" he screamed, cupping his hands around his mouth. "LINA!? WHERE ARE YOU?!"
Only the wind and the storm answered him.
Next time, on "Love on the High Seas": Into the Storm of Love!