The cold water stung the cuts inflicted on her by the bastard pirate’s blade. She would heal. Avery, she had heard his ally call his name. He would pay. He would suffer. He would die. Her ears still hurt from the bitch’s scream spell. Isabella would heal. The girl would……..
Isabella’s mind went back to a place it hadn’t been for a long time. She’d been 12 when the raiders came. She could have run, could have escaped, but she’d gone back for her little sister. 8 year old Alicia had frozen in fear. Isabella had pushed her to run, to hide, but in doing so she had been caught. They had done things to her. Scarred her. Humiliated her. Hurt her. Changed her.
Now she did the things. She did the cutting. She did the humiliating. She did the hurting. And the killing. And the killing. And the killing. It was Alicia’s fault that Isabella had been taken. She had done something good when she was 12, saving the little sister she had loved. And paid in pain and torture. Never again had Isabella done something good. And now her ship was sunk. Her crew dead. And it was Alicia’s fault again. Alicia would pay. By Dagon, her sister would pay.
Into the depths
Standing at the top of the sinkhole, my mind was a whirl of emotions. I knew there was something I should remember. A sister? Somewhere in me, hidden memories threatened to stir. Shut away by a mind trying to protect a young girl from terror. Wagons. A campfire. Raiders. Fear. Too scared to run. An older girl with her arms around me. Trusting her. Hide here. Don’t come out. Don’t come out. Her screams as they caught her. Her screams as they…… Isabella!!!!!!
Oh, Desna, help me. She’s my sister. Where is Amaterasu? Help me. I think I must have fainted. The others woke me and I was shaking, but I remembered what had happened. Poor Isabella; what terrible things had happened to her, just for saving me. How had she been driven to what she was now? I needed to save her like she had once saved me, but I knew that Avery and the others would want her dead after she had killed Rosie. Something was happening; the three of them were drawn to the life of piracy and damn the consequences. I, Alicia, who had been the selfish one, the witch, Besmara’s whore, was thinking about the butterfly wings of Desna. About saving teenage prostitutes. About understanding how evil sorceresses had been driven to that extreme.
I did recover and we went down to the water level. The boys shared a potion of water breathing and I used the mermaid tattoo. I did get a brief thrill when Avery’s eyes were drawn to my breasts, outlined as my chemise saturated in the water. Concentrate! I guess I wasn’t quite as innocent as I made out. We entered a beautiful grotto, fronds of seaweed and bizarre rocks. Sadly, also sahuagin and an assault from above by a spell caster above the waterline in this cave. I was blinded by a spell, but Hajiko passed me his mask. Scent replaced vision in a bizarre and eldritch fashion. Of course, the caster was Isabella and I was traumatised to the point of madness when Avery cut her down.
I held her lifeless body in my arms, kissing her cold lips. Avery cast dispel magic which restored my vision and again I kissed her cold lips. Too cold. This was not a person. Not Isabella. A creation of magic. A simulacrum. Strange magic was afoot. She looked just like me, albeit wilder and with different tattoos. Not older as the real Isabella would look if she lived.
From this, we swam on, slaying several sahuagin and releasing a poor, maimed locathah female before entering a dark and terrible temple to Dagon. We faced a sahuagin priestess in brutal combat. Hajiko, badly injured, closed in to battle her. I dazed her by a scream and Tuatara closed into bite her. The battle was savage as Dagon protected her and empowered her. My amulet, gained from the rogue sahuagin grew warm in the temple, but her evil magic hurt my soul; more than the others. Is my soul warmer due to my love of
Swimming on, we opened a secret door to find the murdered corpse of Useme’s father, claiming back his sword from Avery. I was terrified again; I hate undead!! Even Amaterasu’s great grandfather. We did slay the revenant shogun and moved on after a brief rest. Tuatura ate another shark. I also made a decision to cast away the amulet of Dagon: it brought me powerful magic, but it was clearly evil. The old Alicia had no qualms about this, but I was changing by the day, growing softer, kinder, sweeter. I wanted always now to do the right thing, not to be selfish and manipulative. I wanted to deserve Amaterasu.
Eventually we found the throne room of the four armed sahuagin King and in a brief but bloody battle slew him and his warriors. To be honest, it was made easy by his tactical stupidity. We finally gained the treasure of Cyrus Wolfe, in its magical chest, freed the locathah and her eggs, and returned triumphant to the ship, in good time to leave before Amaterasu’s father and his fleet. She flew into my arms as I gained the deck, and it was clear that she had been crying. As the incredible treasures were counted by the jubilant crew, she whispered to me, “they are wonderful, but the only treasure that really matters to me is you, safely back to me”. I kissed her. She looked down, then giggled slightly and whispered, “that said, I quite liked the two little gems that your wet shirt revealed when you climbed back on deck!” I think the crew were too busy running gold through their fingers to notice my blush!
A few hours later, sailing away as the afternoon shadows lengthened, we sat together in our favourite place near the back of the ship. I had told Amaterasu everything; about the caverns, about my confusion to do with whatever Isabella was, whether it was the same Isabella as had attacked us earlier, even if my memories were false, even who I really was. My princess had stroked my hair when I got upset, gently kissed me when I grew confused. She had told me of her fears that her father would catch her, of her fears that I wouldn’t come back from the tunnels. She told me how much she loved me.
Interlude: whispers in the deep
As the two young women cuddled on the deck, their lives as intertwined as their fingers as they clasped hands; as Hajiko Ronin sharpened his blade and practiced his sword style; as Tuatara ate some raw shark, the deep green amulet that had so recently hung between Alicia’s small breasts laying flat on his muscular reptilian chest; as Avery gave orders to the crew that now would follow him to the very hells, such was their belief in him now. As all this happened, below the deck, the Crown of Dagon whispered its message into the deeps, its power awoken by proximity to the two amulets. A whisper resonated in waters so dark that no light could ever brighten them. In waters where the broken ships of the ages lay in ruins. A whisper resonated. And something heard………