Chapter Nine: One Up
It took a few days to get back to Pirate Isle, during which there was an attitude of good humor among the entire crew of the Little Jack, which, thanks to Drachma's policy of "I need my load as light as possible," was every person on it. When the green ship pulled into Pirate Isle's port, it didn't take long for a large party to start.
Before Vyse could join in, to his surprise, Fina intercepted him. "Excuse me, Vyse, could I talk to you for a moment?"
"Uh, sure. No problem."
"Thank you very much," Fina replied with a bow. Vyse thought this was a bit excessive, but decided not to comment.
A few minutes later, Vyse and Fina, along with Aika and Drachma, whom Fina had also asked to come with, were climbing up to Lookout Island. Once everyone had gathered on the island proper, Fina began to speak. "I wanted to tell you all…how much I…um..."
She trailed off, but Vyse felt he knew what she wanted to say, and responded accordingly. "Don't worry about it. The Valuans went to a lot of trouble to capture you; we just like making them mad!"
Evidently Vyse's sense of humor wasn't quite shared by Fina, as she seemed to have taken his comment seriously. Thankfully, Aika came to the rescue, as usual. "Don't mind him, Fina; he just tends to forget when to stop trying to be funny. You're our friend; of course we're going to help you as much as we can. Though…" Aika grinned evilly, and continued, "I wouldn't have minded staying there a bit longer. We didn't pick up nearly enough treasure while we were there!"
Vyse gasped in mock horror. "You wanted to stay in Valua? We only just got out of there with our lives!"
"Hey, it's an Air Pirate's duty to liberate any treasure that can help the needy!" Aika crossed her arms, pouting.
Fina giggled audibly. "A-anyway, I thought…" She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them again, a serious expression on her face. "I want you to know about my mission, and why the Valuans captured me. The El…the people who sent me said that I shouldn't trust anyone out here, but…you went to so much trouble to help me, when we just met, and…I…"
Vyse blinked a few times, then smiled. "Fina, whatever it is, I think we can help. If nothing else, I can at least promise you I'm not going to tell anyone else without your permission."
"Same here," said Aika. "We're Blue Rogues, helping people out is what we do best."
"Hrumph", growled Drachma, reminding Vyse and Aika of his presence. "I don't see why you're includin' me in this group of yours. In case you've forgotten, I'm plannin' on leavin' as soon as possible, and I don't think you can persuade me to go with you.
"I understand, Captain. However, from what Vyse and Aika have told me, your ship is designed to fight a rather unusual arcwhale." Vyse noticed that Fina's speech was now much more fluid…and formal. Perhaps the stuttering was a sign of friendship, in whatever weird culture she was from. "My quest will take me all over this world. It is quite possible that I and whoever I am traveling with will be forced to fight it."
'Hrumph…fine. I'm in for now, and I won't share your secrets, but I'm not makin' any promises about how long I'll ferry you kids around."
"Thank you, Captain." Fina bowed, then turned to Vyse and Aika. "Shall I begin?"
Vyse sat down, and as he did so, said, "Whenever you're ready, Fina."
"All right. To begin with…"
To begin with, I am a Silvite, a descendant of the Silver Civilization.
(Silver Civilization? Wait, are you talking about the Ancient World?)
Yes, Vyse. Hundreds of generations ago, the world was divided into six civilizations. One existed under each of the moons. Their true names have been forgotten, and are remembered only as the Green, Red, Blue, Yellow, and Purple Civilizations. The Silver Civilization is the only exception; however, it has always been called the Silver Civilization, so the distinction is immaterial.
(You actually named yourselves the Silver Civilization? What kind of people would—Ow, don't hit me!)
(Please continue, Fina.)
Each civilization learned how to harness the power of its moon by harnessing the Moon Stones as a source of energy. Over time, the process became an art form, and there was a period of great artistry across the world. There was a technological revolution as well, as the Moon Stones' powers revealed more of their secrets…but technology progressed faster than those wielding it.
The leaders of the civilizations became corrupt…and their ambition led to war. They used their technology to create weapons. These weapons are called "Gigas." They are gigantic living weapons that are capable of destroying islands.
(I remember hearing something like this before…Didn't your mom tell stories like this, Vyse?)
(Now that you mention it, I think she did. There was a giant, and a dragon…but I always figured they were just fairy tales.)
Some tales are legends in disguise. The Gigas are indeed real. When the Ancient Civilizations went to war, they unleashed the destructive power of the Gigas, and millions died.
But then…something awesome happened. No one is certain what caused the Rains of Destruction, but it was as if the moons themselves were watching our world, and cried out in sorrow at what their foolish children were doing. It was almost as if they wished to ensure that their gifts would never be misused again…The deaths that the Gigas caused were as nothing compared to how many perished in the Rains, and in the chaos that followed. The civilizations were reduced to rubble, and mere handfuls of survivors fought over what was left of their world…but even if the Rains had never happened, the Gigas would have ended the world anyway.
(Hrumph. Your story doesn't add up. If the civilizations were all destroyed, how can you call yourself a member of one of 'em?)
An excellent question. Through sheer luck, a few hundred Silvites managed to escape the destruction with their technology intact, but they had no way to rebuild the world, and so they decided to watch over the world, in secret, to ensure that the Gigas would never be used again; to ensure that there would never again be a reason for Rain to fall on the world. I am one of the descendants of those last hundred Silvites. But now…there are those who wish to reawaken the Gigas.
(Don't tell me…the Valuan Empire, right?)
Yes. In order to command the Gigas, it is necessary to use the Moon Crystals. These are highly concentrated forms of Moon Stone, thousands, perhaps millions of times more powerful than the raw ore from which they were made. The method of producing a Crystal has long since been lost, and only the original Crystals remain. The Silver Civilization never produced a Crystal, nor a Gigas, but there are still five crystals out there, each with the power to awaken a Gigas. They are hidden and protected well, but it is only a matter of time before one or more of the Crystals are discovered and misused.
(So the Valuans kidnapped you to force you to help find them!)
Indeed. I was sent here to gather the Crystals before the Valuans could find them and put them somewhere they could never be used again. Vyse…Aika…I have a favor to ask of you.
"I have a favor to ask of you. Will you travel with me in search of the Crystals? Even if I still had my ship, I don't think I could do it alone…and I don't want to think about what could happen if Valua managed to get even one of the Crystals…"
"Heh…Leave everything to us! We're with you, Fina!" Vyse replied cheerily.
Aika smirked slightly. "Yeah, I thought we'd already decided that! Guess this is your chance to see what's beyond that sunset, Vyse!" Before anyone could say any more, a sudden loud squeaking noise made Vyse and Aika jump. Even Drachma seemed to start a bit. "Er…Vyse? That wasn't your stomach, was it?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. You can come out now." Fina directed this comment at her arm, and, sure enough, something came out of her sleeve. It was some sort of large, silver blob creature, with a large mouth, two beady black eyes, a pair of stubby limbs, and a coiled tail. Fina watched Vyse and Aika stare at it (and Drachma, though he'd never admit to this) and blushed a bit. "This is Cupil. He's been with me as long as I can remember. He's a creature from my homeland called an Ommet, and can change his shape. Usually, he's shaped like a bracelet around my arm." Cupil watched everyone staring at him and squeaked cheerily.
Aika was the first to digest this information. "Hmm…you know, actually, he's kind of cute. It's nice to meet you, Cupil." Cupil squeaked in reply.
"All right, Captain, you said you were leaving tomorrow?" Vyse inquired. When Drachma nodded, he continued, "Then I guess we should start preparing, and I'll have to tell Mom and Dad that I'm leaving…but first things first: We're on the only shore leave we're likely to come by for a while, there's a party going on down there, and I haven't eaten anything yet! Let's go have some fun."
The next morning, Vyse packed up his things, then went downstairs to have breakfast. As he started eating, his father said, "What's wrong, Vyse? You're looking unusually grim today."
Vyse winced. "Ergh…there's something I have to tell you, Dad."
Dyne showed his son which side of the family he got his smirk from. "Don't worry…I have a feeling I already know what you're going to say. I remember when I was your age…when you're a sailor, the desire to leave your island to sail the skies is a part of you. But when a man decides to step out onto his own path, he doesn't need his parents' permission. From now on, you are my equal, son. A man who lives by the skies…there's nothing more honorable than that." He chuckled, then continued, "You're late on almost every other occasion, but you sure aren't wasting time to try and get out on your own."
"Vyse, we know you well enough to figure it wouldn't be too long before you'd yearn to travel the skies by yourself." Vyse's mother smiled. "Everyone flies away from their parents' nest. It's only a matter of when."
His mother shook her head. "It's okay, dear. I knew this day would be coming sometime. It's just a bit sooner than I'd expected…or hoped. Stand tall, son. Go chase after those dreams you've always been talking about. And make sure you take care of Aika, too, okay?"
Vyse smiled. "Of course, Mom."
He finished eating, and as he left, said over his shoulder, "We're leaving in a half hour, if you want to see us off."
As the door closed, his father shouted back, "Go on, get out of here, Vyse! Make your mark on the world!"
Vyse's parents came to see the Little Jack off anyway, if only to say farewell to Aika and Fina as well. "Thank you so much for rescuing me from the Valuans. I hope I will be able to repay all of you, someday."
"Just worry about finishing that quest of yours. And Vyse, make sure you help her out."
"Come on, Dad, why do you think I'm sailing with her?"
"We'll be back soon!" Aika shouted to the port at large. "Bye Cap'n! Bye everyone!"
As Vyse, Aika, and Fina boarded the ship, Fina asked, "Vyse…Aika…are you sure you want to do this?"
Vyse smirked. "Fina, there's no way we could turn this down. After what you told us about you-know-what, I don't want to think about what the Valuans would do with it. We're the only ones that can stop them. And, to be completely honest…" Vyse turned to face the wall that was the underground port's only entrance and exit. "I've always wanted to sail the world, and this is my chance. Mysterious artifacts, lost cities, strange lands…I want to see them all, with my own eyes! This is my chance to see what's really out there."
"Fina, you couldn't stop us if you tried," said Aika. "This is the kind of adventure Air Pirates dream of. If we passed this up, we'd regret it for the rest of our lives."
"…I understand. Thank you both!"
The Little Jack sailed towards Sailor's Island again, since there wasn't a crystal in the vicinity of Pirate Isle and Sailor's Pass was the safest way out of the region. Once it docked, there was some admiring of the Harpoon Cannon, which fortunately didn't interfere with the group leaving the docks. Drachma left to purchase some parts from the man that had dropped the information about the Harpoon Cannon, on the basis that giving away information for free like that made him more reliable than the other merchants. He told the other three to restock their other supplies and rent a pair of rooms at the inn for a day, which they did.
Inside one of the rooms, the three met up to plan their course. Vyse opened the conversation. "So, Fina, which of the crystals should we go for first?"
"Well, the closest crystals to this region should be…the Yellow and Red crystals of Valua and Nasr."
Aika groaned. "Urgh…Let's not go to Valua right now. We'd just get captured as soon as we got there. So where in Nasr are we headed?"
"The Temple of Pyrynn. It's in the middle of the desert somewhere, but I don't know where precisely."
"An ancient temple?" Vyse could swear Aika's eyes started glowing, and only experience kept him from stepping away from her like Fina. "I'll bet there's all kinds of treasure in there! Maybe some gold and clothes and magic stuff and gems and…and…stuff! If we found a bunch of it, we'd be rich! We could buy whatever we—"
There was a knock on the door, which turned out to be Drachma. "You kids figured out where you're goin' yet?"
"Yes, Cap'n. We're heading for the Temple of Pyrynn, wherever that is."
"Hrumph. I've heard of the place. The Little Jack should be able to get through the Nasrean reef without a problem, but if you're headed to Pyrynn, I'm stoppin' by Maramba first. I've got business there, nothin' urgent, but if you're makin' me go to the desert I may as well deal with it now."
"Understood, Captain. We'll head for Maramba tomorrow."
The next day, as the party was heading to the docks, Aika slapped her forehead. "I can't believe I forgot! Guys, we blew up Baltor the Scary's ship, right? Wasn't there a bounty in the Sailors' Guild?"
The guildmaster recognized them as they came in. "Ah, nice to see you again. I received word from our Nasrad office that not only did your escort mission go well, but your ship managed to do enough damage to Baltor's ship that it was out of commission for at least a week. Well done! I've got the bounty ready to pick up, but I'll need your names and signatures for our records." He saw the look on Drachma's face, and explained, "If someone claims a bounty they didn't actually fulfill, we need the paperwork in case there's a trial."
"Hrumph…fine. The name's Drachma Sparrow." The guildmaster pulled a form out of a drawer and wrote the name on it.
"My condolences," replied the guildmaster absently.
"Aika Tompson. No 'h,'" she added quickly, before the guildmaster could put a typo on his sheet.
"Um…Fina Jones, but I wasn't there at the time." The guildmaster sighed and crossed out the name, then passed the sheet over to get the signatures, which he got quickly.
"All right, thank you very much. If you'll wait here a minute, I'll get your bounty out from storage." And that's exactly what he did.
After making sure that there wasn't anything else that had been nearly forgotten, the Rogues sailed out of the Sailor's Island port, following the Desert Reef once again. Mid-afternoon on the second day of sailing, Drachma spotted a landmark, and turned the Little Jack south. Navigating the Reef was a bit like fighting Baltor, but it took slightly longer. Once on the other side, it didn't take long for the desert to come into view.
"Wow, there's nothing but sand!" Aika said, staring at the dunes that brushed all the way to the edge of the continent.
"So this is a desert…" mused Vyse. "I've heard sailors talking about them before, but it's my first time actually seeing one."
"Now that you mention it…" Aika grinned devilishly. "I've heard that Nasr's deserts are so hot, if you walk around in the sun too long, your hair catches on fire! Everyone has to carry buckets of water around with them, so they can put their friends' hair out. And then…"
Vyse chuckled, watching Aika continue to tell sailor's tales to an intrigued Fina, complete with pantomiming. After a moment, he interrupted. "Come on, Aika, you don't actually believe any of those crazy stories, do you? Sometimes I wonder what goes on in that head of yours."
Aika pouted. "Don't come crying to me when your head bursts into flames. That eyepatch of yours is going to act like a magnifying glass, intensify the sun's rays, and fry your braaaaaaaaaaain!" She wiggled her fingers while saying the last part, which made Vyse and Fina laugh. After a moment, she joined in. "Yeah, I don't really believe any of that. It's just stories that I heard a long time ago. Buuut…you can't be too careful…" Another evil grin accompanied this. "So what do you know about the desert, Fina?"
"Not much…The Moon Stones that fall from the Red Moon give off a good deal of heat. In the concentrations that appear in this region, it's too hot for most plants to survive. Because of this, most of Nasr has been reduced to a barren wasteland."
"Yeah, that's pretty much all I know myself," said Vyse. "Nothing but rocks and sand for leagues, but if you know what you're looking for you can find some real treasures, or so it's said."
Near sunset, Vyse spotted a town in the distance, and alerted the captain. "Aye, that's Maramba. Get ready to dock, boy."
The Little Jack pulled into port, and Vyse, Aika, and Fina stepped off. But instead of having ropes tossed to them, like the normal docking procedure went, they instead got to see the Little Jack abruptly pull up, high enough that they couldn't get back on. It didn't take long for them to figure out what was happening, and Aika shouted, "Hey! At are you doing, Cap'n?"
Drachma opened one of the bridge's windows and shouted back, "This is where we part company. I've got my own quest to worry about. I've got to find Rhaknam."
"We're in the middle of the desert without a ship! How are we supposed to continue our mission?"
"That is not my concern. I have no interest in jewels or temples. I must find Rhaknam, and I can't waste any more time babysittin'." With that, he closed the window, and his ship pulled back, away from the dock.
Aika was not amused in the slightest. "Hey! Come back here, you one-eyed freak! You rusty old man! Are you listening to me?"
Vyse sighed and put a hand on her shoulder. "Let it go, Aika. If he's going to leave despite Fina doing everything short of saying 'Rhaknam ate one of the crystals,' there's nothing we can do to stop him." He paused, then asked, "Did Rhaknam eat one of the crystals?"
Fina pondered this for a moment, then replied, "I don't…think so, but I suppose it's possible…though that would probably make him a Gigas, and as he isn't terrorizing the skies at large…"
Aika sighed. "Well, one way or another, we're stuck here without a ship, and I'd rather not have to walk all the way to the temple."
"Me neither." Vyse shuddered. "I guess we'll just have to ask around and hope someone will take us…"
A/N: Oh, WOW. Just WOW. I never believed it'd take me half a year to update this. Good news is, this has motivated me to attempt to hold to a semi-cohesive schedule! I'll try to update once a week or so, but again, no promises.
I hope you like my leaning on the fourth wall, and bear in mind that very few details that I release will never come up in any way ever again. Conspiracy theorists, start your engines!
A/N: Yelling is a very satisfying form of stress relief, as is humor. Expect more of each later on!
A/N: It can be disheartening when you don't hear from someone you care about for a while, but don't worry! True friends never forget about each other. Next time: Fina gets a cool hat, and promptly loses it.