Scarblade's Pearl: Forgive and Regret - Part Five
Before she had left the Black Pawkeet, Garin and Jacques had insisted on waiting for Isca and Caylis to come back and help think of new ideas for a plan. At first they had been as cold and untrusting as Garin and Jacques, but after explaining their plan, the two Aishas agreed they had no choice. So for protection and for this very situation, Caylis had taught Alia a thing or two about magic.
"You have a natural talent for it. I can sense it in you," she had said.
Then she taught her a couple of spells and sent her on her way. Isca had kindly taken Alia's ocarina for safekeeping, upon the Kyrii's request, and was watching over Ecco. And so now here she was, muttering the sleeping spell Caylis had taught her. When she finished, she glanced around the corner again, holding her breath. The guard was leaning on one propped up fist, snoring. It had worked! It really, really worked!
Glancing back at the entrance again to make sure the other guard hadn't decided to peak in, she swam swiftly over to the Skeith and began looking him over. A collection of keys hung from a silver ring on his belt. Praying the monstrous Maraquan wouldn't wake, she slipped them off. He didn't stir. Sighing in relief, Alia turned around to search for Nira's cell. She started and gasped when she saw Nira in the cell right across from the guard, sprawled across the floor as if the world no longer meant a thing to her.
"Nira!" she gasped, then put a hand over her mouth. Quickly she checked the Skeith. Still asleep. She looked back toward the entrance. No one. And no sound of anyone coming. With a sigh, she let her hand drop, then rushed to the bars of Nira's cell, gripping them and looking at Nira with despair.
"Nira!" she whispered. The Shoyru didn't stir. Alia gripped the bars harder.
"Nira, get up! Please, Nira!" she cried, only slightly louder (though she wanted to shout). In reply, the Shoyru turned her head slowly, her hair getting in her eyes. She seemed to be trying to focus on Alia.
"Who... who are you? You sound... like...." Nira cut herself off, eyes becoming clouded with pain.
"It's me, Nira! Alia!" she answered.
Nira shook her head sadly.
"You're not Alia. Alia... hates me...." she murmured.
"But I don't hate you, Nira!" Alia cried, voice rising in volume. The Kyrii didn't know it, but the guard at the entrance had fallen asleep as well when she'd uttered the spell. That was the only reason her cries did not rouse alarm.
"You don't hate me... because you don't know... what I did...."
Alia felt her heart throb with pain.
"I know what you did, Nira..." she said quietly. Taking a deep breath, she went on.
"I know what you did, and I FORGIVE YOU!" she nearly shouted, gripping the bars hard as she could as her desperation grew.
Nira blinked, a spark lighting her eyes.
"Forgive... me...? No one can-"
"Yes, I can!! And I do!! Nira, please listen to me!!" Alia sank to the floor, curling her tail under her and leaning her head on the bars.
"Please, Nira... listen to me...." she whimpered.
Finally Nira's mind began to absorb what Alia was saying. The part of her that had been shut off in her despair clicked into life, and her eyes grew wide and surprised. She sat up quickly, hair swishing out of her face, and gaped at Alia.
"Alia?!" she exclaimed. The Kyrii jerked her head up in surprise.
"Nira! Oh, Nira, I hope you're alright!" she exclaimed, face softening in relief.
Nira blinked in confusion.
"I'm fine but... why are you here?" she asked, glancing around at her cell before turning back to Alia. The Kyrii sighed in annoyance.
"I'm here to get you out, of course!" she replied. Suddenly remembering the keys in her hands, she fumbled with them and tried to fit the right one into the lock on Nira's cell.
Nira was now on her feet, adjusting the cloak she wore to fit comfortably, before she approached Alia.
"Why are you helping me? You're the whole reason I'm here!"
"Because I forgave you," Alia replied calmly, finally pushing the right key into the lock. With a relieved sigh, she turned it and opened the cell door. She had expected Nira to exit immediately, but the Shoyru simply stood there.
"What's wrong?" Alia asked, looking concerned.
"I can't leave with you," she said, after a long moment of silence. Alia was astonished.
"Why not?!" she exclaimed, remembering this time to keep her voice down.
"You don't know what you're doing, Alia. What you're getting into."
"I know exactly what I'm doing, and that's getting you out of here!"
Alia turned to swim away, intending to force Nira to follow her, but the Shoyru grabbed her by the arm. Alia turned, willing Nira with her eyes to just follow her. Nira's face, in return, was hard and unrelenting.
"Alia, if you get me out of here, they'll KNOW it was you. They might not figure it out immediately, but eventually they'll know. They'll come after you, Alia. You'll be a fugitive, just like me. Do you really want that?" Nira's face slowly softened to an expression of deep sadness. In that moment, Alia could see every pain and hardship Nira had endured, and was still enduring. She could see how torn apart Nira was inside and how desperately she wanted to put the pieces back together. It was frightening to see so much pain and sadness all at once.
Even so, she could not turn back. She had made a promise to Garin and Jacques, Isca and Caylis, and even herself. She gave Nira the most determined look she could muster.
"I'd rather see you free than live the rest of my life knowing it was my fault you were imprisoned," she replied. Nira smiled and Alia smiled back. Feeling Nira would finally come with her, Alia turned to go, but felt Nira still gripping her arm. She looked back in confusion.
"Do you really forgive me?" Nira asked. Alia felt her smile brighten, and she threw her arms around Nira.
"Of course I do! How many times do I have to say it for you to believe me?" she giggled.
Nira felt her heart warmed by Alia's kindness. When Alia released her, she stopped to look thoughtful.
"Seven times seventy should do it," she replied, smiling. Alia giggled some more and shook her head.
"I'll be forgiving you for the rest of my life!" she protested. Nira shrugged and giggled as well.
A movement in the hall made both girls freeze. The Skeith had stirred in his sleep, but now seemed to be slumbering peacefully again. Alia and Nira met each others eyes, both realizing it was time to leave. And so Alia laid the keys on the bench beside him, then led the way down the hall.
The Skeith shifted into a better position, feeling that his tail was going numb. Sleepily, he scratched at his arm, only to suddenly realize he'd dozed off! His eyes opened wide and he beheld two girls. One was Alia, the widely-known victim of Nira's destruction. This surprised him, but what startled him even more was that the other girl was Nira herself, free of her cell and speaking happily with Alia.
Quickly, he snapped his eyes shut, doing his best to look as if he were still asleep. He even shifted a little more, this time making sure he made noise. The happy conversation stopped, and he was sure they must be watching him. He made himself breathe deeply, praying they'd get the message. When he heard the faint swish of water, he knew they'd understood.
When all was silent again, he opened his eyes and sighed in relief. Noticing the keys on the bench beside him, he quickly reattached them to his belt. Sitting up a little straighter, he looked over the cell where Nira had been. He smiled broadly. He'd be in a heap of trouble for falling asleep on his watch. But he was glad that a particular cell had been vacated.
When they returned, Nira and Alia received a hero's welcome. Everyone, the whole crew of the Black Pawkeet included, rejoiced in Nira's freedom. After their first bursts of excitement faded, the 'Pawkeet sailed for the secret location where Isca and Caylis were living. Now that they were both wanted, Nira and Alia would be much safer living with the two Aishas. Garin, of course, would miss Nira on his ship, but agreed that there was too much risk of Scarblade finding her if she were to remain in the surface world.
At their house, Caylis and Isca threw a huge celebration. Caylis even brought out a potion that would allow the 'Pawkeet's crew to come and join in. Alia offered the ocarina to Nira, but when the Shoyru heard her play it, she insisted Alia keep it for herself. A small argument began, but in the end they agreed on joint custody. The celebration lasted long into the night, until Caylis' potion began to wear off. The crew returned to the ship, saying their goodbyes as they left. Garin was the only one to linger, because he wore his seaweed necklace. He said a personal goodbye to each girl in turn, pausing when he came to Nira.
"So, decided what you'll do next?" he asked, grinning as the memory of the last time he'd asked came to mind. Nira smiled back, also remembering.
"Don't know. I probably should lie low for a little while before I try anything," she replied.
"Yeah... But what will you do after that?" he asked.
"I think I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."
Yes, this really is the end of Scarblade's Pearl. But don't worry! Nira has plenty of adventures yet to come! ;)