While Norris and Radius waited back in the boat, Serge and Harle walked through the village of Marbule. The people had been extremely friendly in accommodating the two. They had booked two rooms at the cave-like inn, despite Harle's annoying insistence that sharing the same room would be more convenient.
Yeah, I'll bet…
No sooner had they left the inn, did the duo run into a group of strange, ghost-like beings.
"Eh, they're harmless," one man had explained to them, "They've been around for ages, in their own little world. Neither our side nor theirs have ever made contact with each other,"
The two had shopped around silently for a while after booking their rooms. Harle tried her best to initiate conversation with Serge, but as usual, he refused to reply to anything she or anyone else said.
"You know," she said finally, "I had always gotten the impression zat you were more of a take-charge leader type, no? Yet, I see you simply allow yourself to be led by everyone around you. Zat is not what I remember seeing when I first saw you in Viper Manor. What has happened? You will not find what you are after if you continue to act so weak,"
Serge glared icily at Harle.
"Have I struck a nerve?" Harle asked innocently.
"You…really have no idea," Serge growled at her.
"You are stuck in zat body for ze time being," Harle said flatly, "Instead of putting on ze angst, you should be focused on doing what is necessary. I have been ze one asking questions since we arrived on this backwater island! You are ze one who has more at stake here!"
"What do you care?" Serge responded, "You were working for Lynx the whole time! I don't even know why you're helping me!"
"I did work for Lynx," Harle replied, "I don't anymore. Ze old Monsieur Lynx had nothing more to offer me, nor could I offer him anything. I have my own agenda now, and you and I could be of immense help toward one another,"
"Is that also what you told him?" Serge asked.
Harle shrugged, "Does it matter? Ze point is…you're becoming more of a burden than a help. And zat little vow of silence you've apparently taken is pathetic,"
Serge was about to open his mouth to tell her off once and for all, when he heard a bunch of angry shouts coming from nearby.
"What the hell are you doing on our island! Get out!"
"Filthy humans always trying to ruin everything!"
"Do not tell me ze soldier and ze old man were stupid enough to come here…" Harle muttered as she and Serge followed the sounds to the gate of the town.
"I'm not doing anything wrong!" protested a disheveled man wearing a ratty turban. The younger man with him stood behind him warily.
"The hell you're not!" a female demi-human shouted at him, "After all your kind have done to us!"
"Don't lump me in with some other random people!" the man shouted angrily, "Why shouldn't I get to see a lovely place like this because of something my ancestors might have done?"
"He's right," Serge said.
Everyone turned to look at him.
"Have these men ever wronged you in any way?" Serge asked the crowd, "They're just a couple of guys. Leave them be,"
The small mob didn't look happy, but nobody was in any mood to mess with the large feline demi-human standing before them. Grudgingly, the crowd dispersed.
"Hey, thanks, man," the man with the turban sighed in relief, "I thought we were gonna be lynched for a sec,"
"Yeah, what he said," his friend said.
"My name is Toma," the turbaned man straightened up, "Like my ancestors before me, I'm a great explorer! This is Ash, my loyal sidekick,"
"Pleased to meet ya," Ash nodded at them.
Serge tried not to grin at the middle-aged man's childlike fervor.
"Are you done playing ze do-gooder for ze day?" Harle rolled her eyes, "We've found nothing here so far! Only ghosts and a bunch of uncivilized people,"
"What are you looking for?" Toma asked.
"A way into the Dead Sea," Harle replied.
"And so you came here…" Toma nodded, "Honestly, to ask the demi-humans is a step in the right direction, but you've got the wrong crowd, I think. This group of folks aren't very worldly…their narrow-mindedness proves it,"
"Where should we go then?" Harle asked.
"Try the S.S. Zelbess," Ash suggested, "That's where most people from this island work to support their families,"
"The cruise ship?" Serge scowled.
"The same," Toma nodded.
"Let us go first thing tomorrow morning, then," said Harle, "We have no time to waste!"
"Will you be okay here?" asked Serge.
"Ah, sure," Toma shrugged, "We've been in worse pickles than a crowd like that. Go find what it is you're looking for, and we'll continue our search. Good luck!"
Serge had heard many things about the S.S. Zelbess since the ship had begun its business seven years ago. The man who ran it was supposedly the greatest gambler in El Nido. The staff was almost entirely made up of demi-humans, who all received poor pay. However, the ship was best known for its entertainment, which ranged from magic shows, to rock concerts, to late-night exotic dancers.
However, Serge was too busy noting the similarities between this ship and the S.S. Invincible to marvel at the wonders of the ship. Though the people aboard were completely different, the entire structure of the ship was the same.
Most of the demi-humans working onboard were too afraid of being caught slacking on the job to talk to Serge, but a few had been helpful. Apparently, the Sage of Marbule was one of the workers on this ship. So now, they were trying desperately to find him.
"This is the only room we haven't checked out," Norris gestured toward the captain's quarters at the top of a staircase.
"Then what are we just standing here for?" Harle strode past the others and walked right up to the door.
"Wait!" Serge held up a hand, "I hear voices in there…maybe we should wait?"
"Fine," Harle sighed.
"It's been quite some time, Irenes," said the captain, "You've grown up,"
"Fargo…" the young mermaid shook her head sadly, "You have not changed at all. You are still here drowning in your memories,"
"What do you know?" Fargo snapped, "I lost everything when I lost Zelbess!"
"That is untrue," Irenes crossed her arms, "My sister left hope…a treasure that may one day, bring humans and demi-humans together…like you and my sister wanted! Where is the man who had the passion and desire to build a new world with her?"
"That man died with Zelbess," Fargo said coldly, "And as for the 'treasure', my son is better off here where he is safe. Now what do you want? I don't need to be lectured by you!"
"Understood," Irenes nodded, "Let me get to the point. You have taken away the 'song' of the demi-humans. You must free the sage!"
Serge's ears perked up at the word "sage". His enhanced hearing abilities had allowed him to listen in on the entire conversation. Perhaps this was the lead he'd been looking for.
"You know the song as well," Fargo told her.
"Do not feign ignorance, Fargo," Irenes scolded, "You should know better…only when the song is sung by one with special power can the effects be brought into full play. My sister is dead, and you have taken away the sage. Marbule no longer has its true power without the song,"
"I have no desire to release the sage," Fargo said stubbornly.
"Open your eyes to reality!" Irenes exploded, "You've closed everything out, and you continue to pay the price! What about your other child!"
"Don't speak about Marcy!" Fargo growled.
"You refused to acknowledge the truth after Zelbess died!" Irenes glared at Fargo, "And you abandoned both of your children! You left Marcy for dead when Luccia had managed to save her and support her as she grew up in Viper Manor, when she should have been with you! And now, Marcy really is dead! She would be nine years old now if she had been with you instead of at Viper Manor! So once again, you've paid the price, only you refuse to acknowledge it!"
"Leave now, Irenes," the captain whispered.
"Fine," Irenes sighed, "I will not beseech you. But I will not give up on Marbule. I will continue to strive to make my sister's dream come true,"
She turned around and jumped off of the balcony and into the water.
"Let's go," Serge walked downstairs.
"But what about the captain?" Harle protested.
"I could hear everything that was said in there," Serge explained, "And that's all I needed. This sage has to be around somewhere, and-!"
"Excuse me," said an old voice.
Serge and the others turned to see an old demi-human with a mop standing before them.
"I need to get to work," the old man told them, "Please let me through,"
Serge obliged the man by stepping to the side.
"Excuse me, sir," Norris spoke.
The old man turned around. "Yes? What is it?"
"Where is the entrance to the Dead Sea?" Norris asked.
"Why do you wish to enter the Dead Sea?" the old man scowled, "Something else for you humans to conquer?"
He's almost as bad as the dwarves…Serge thought.
"Not at all," Radius explained, "We want to help our friend, and the Dead Sea is the only place where we can do so. Or at least…it's where we can find some clues,"
"I see…" the old man looked thoughtful, "But you know…opening a new gate also can bring forth new misfortune. Do not forget that…"
"We're well aware of whatever risks might present themselves," Norris assured the man.
"Well…" the man pondered the situation.
"There you are!" a voice exclaimed, "I knew I'd find you here!"
Everyone turned to see a young man standing at the end of the hallway, dressed in the most ostentatious outfit ever. His face was painted black in white, much like that of a human skull, somehow blending in with his reddish-blond hair. In place of a shirt, he wore two metal-studded straps over his shoulders. The look was completed by tight spandex, and a pair of boots.
Serge's jaw dropped. This was Nikki, the lead singer and guitarist of the superstar act known as The Magical Dreamers! He remembered listening to their albums with Leena on numerous occasions. This was the son Fargo had mentioned? Who would have known that he'd met the father of a rock star only last week?
"You know the legendary song of Marbule," Nikki said, "The sage of Marbule, right? I need you to teach me the song…please!"
"Why do humans have to always intrude on things?" the sage grumbled, "That song only has a place in the hearts of demi-humans. Why should I teach you the song?"
"Because Irenes asked me to sing it," Nikki replied.
The old man laughed. "I see that she has not given up…"
"It's not only because she asked me to," Nikki explained, "I personally have a great interest in that song. A beautiful song, originating from a beautiful island…where I spent the first few years of my life. You should know that. I'm not 100 sure I can pull it off...but if it means I can do something for Marbule…"
"There once was a man just like you," the old man chuckled, "Amazing how much Fargo has changed though…"
"You're saying my father was once like this?" Nikki stared at the demi-human.
"Ah, so you're his son?" the sage mused, "Ahh…I remember you now! A little hard to recognize you with all the fancy makeup. Yes…the little red-headed boy…didn't I hear you had a sister as well?"
"She was lost at sea," Nikki looked at the floor sadly, "She was only six,"
The sage nodded sympathetically. "I guess history does repeat itself. I had high hopes for that man…that he might one day tear down the wall between humans and demi-humans. But now…the walls seem even higher,"
"Please…" Nikki went over to the sage, "Don't speak badly of my father. No one understands the pain and suffering he's gone through. Even though he built up this lively place…I can hear him! His screams of despair…which no one else can…or wants to hear. But I'll bet if he hears that song…"
"I'm sorry," the sage shook his head, "But I have other areas of the ship I must mop,"
"But…!" Nikki was crestfallen.
"…While I hum myself a song…" the sage winked.
"Then you'll…!" Nikki's painted face lit up.
"Whenever you're ready," the old man smirked as he left.
"Wow…!" Nikki gasped. He then turned to Serge and the others, "Say, you're all part of this to, right? You were after the sage for your own reasons. How about we help each other out?"
"That sounds reasonable," Norris looked at Serge, who nodded in agreement.
"Great!" Nikki exclaimed, "Come to my room later tonight. We'll talk then, all right? Catch ya later!"
While Harle disappeared for a while, and Radius decided to take a nap, Serge and Norris had decided to walk around the deck for a bit in search of the sage.
"He was going to tell us how to open the gate, and then Nikki interrupted him," Norris lamented.
"We'll see him again," Serge leaned over the rail and tossed some bits of cracker to some passing seagulls.
Norris smiled and shook his head. "You really aren't Sir Lynx, are you?"
"I'd rather you not call me that," Serge answered irritably.
"Sorry," Norris apologized, "It's just that Lynx would have probably stayed in his cabin the entire time,"
"Believe me, it's tempting," Serge sighed, "But I have to have faith that this body is only temporary. The question is, if the real Lynx is so bent on getting what he wants, why did he give me this hint about the Sea of Eden? Should we even be pursuing this? It could be a trap,"
"But the Dead Sea is the place where the laws of reality begin to fade," Norris pointed out, "It's against all reason for your bodies to switch completely. I'm sure that it's all connected. The Dragon Tear, the Frozen Flame…they all fit into the big picture. And I'm here to pursue the real truth,"
"How can it be the 'truth' if there's no rhyme or reason to it?" Serge asked, "Nothing's making any sense,"
"Everything has some kind of rhythm to it," Norris looked at Serge, "It's only when one loses sight of that, that one will actually believe that nothing is certain. And then that person's life will spiral completely out of their control,"
"That sounds like something the old woman in the other dimension would say," Serge said quietly. I wonder how she's enjoying reality?
"You can't lose your head when things begin to spin out of control," Norris told Serge, "You have to remain practical. Though to have that childlike idealism that says you will triumph, is also important,"
"But the two contradict each other," Serge argued.
"They don't," Norris smiled, "That's the secret I've tried to share with people. But no one wants to hear it. It's their loss, though,"
"You're a lot more brave than I am then," Serge looked to the sea, "So what do you think the great Nikki is up to?"
"I suppose we'll find out when we meet up with him later," Norris shrugged, "What do you think?" Serge smirked. "Last year, I secretly dreamed of being the drummer for The Magical Dreamers. I wonder if that dream is coming true?" Norris laughed.
"Rockin'!" Nikki exclaimed as Serge, Harle, Norris, and Radius came into the band's dressing room, "I knew you'd come!"
Serge looked around. The entire band was there, along with Irenes and the sage.
"Well now that everyone's here," Nikki looked at everyone, "here's my idea. How would you all like to save an island with a song?"
Miki, the lead dancer and female vocalist, laughed. "I've never heard you say something that corny!"
"No, I'm serious!" Nikki insisted, "According to Irenes, the island of Marbule is infected with monsters!"
He must be talking about the ghosts, thought Serge.
"Their only weakness is a demi-human song that the sage knows. While we perform our gig next to the island, these people will exterminate the monsters,"
"Ah, so that's how it is," said Harle.
"You'll help us, right?" Nikki looked at Serge.
"Of course," Serge nodded.
"All right!" Nikki cheered.
"I shall gather all the demi-humans on the boat to help with singing and backup instruments," the sage volunteered, "It will be difficult for only a few humans to play the proper notes of the song. In order to cleanse the entire island, we need an entire orchestra,"
"Every last person on the ship plays an instrument?" the bass player raised an eyebrow.
"Music is ingrained in the souls of all demi-humans," Irenes responded, "And there are enough people here to create the massive sound we need,"
"But don't we have to bring this ship over to Marbule?" Miki asked, "Our ship's chained to the Zelbess, you know?"
"Plus, we have a contract with your old man," the bass player remarked as he tuned his instrument, "We can't just leave,"
"We don't have to," Nikki grinned, "We can let the fans aboard the ship in on this as well. They get to watch a rock concert and an exorcism all at once! But as for my father, I'll continue to leave this up to Irenes. And it may take several days to pull this off, but for now, we'll concentrate on learning the song as best as we all can,"
"You know," Miki's eyes lit up, "This is starting to sound interesting. It's almost like we're trying to see how far we can take our show,"
"Right on!" Nikki exclaimed, "Let's get ready for rehearsal, everyone!"
The sage chuckled. "I trust you will put on a good 'gig'!"
Everyone but Irenes and the sage left.
"You know," Radius stroked his beard, "We can't afford to sit and wait for days. We can definitely keep our end of the bargain, but it looks like it will be a while before we're needed,"
"I haven't forgotten about you," the sage dug into his pocket, "This item should open the gates to the Dead Sea,"
He handed Serge a small sculpture of a crab.
"A fiddler crab?" Serge scowled.
"That will lead you to the entrance," the sage nodded, "You should have enough time to do whatever it is that you need to do,"
"Thank you, sage," Serge bowed his head, "I promise we'll be there to help you when the time comes,"