Desperate Times: part 1

Author: Andorus
Rating: PG


Disclaimer: Ren, Ioz, Tula, Niddler, the Maelstrom, Dark Water, Mer, all the interesting curse words, and everything else are © Hanna-Barbera, though they’ve since been bought out by Warner Bros. I’d love to say I owned this show, but alas, I don’t… *sniffle* This is my first semi-decent piece of fanfic set in the Dark Water universe–I don’t do much fan fiction, so if this sucks, be kind. :o)

Author’s Notes: Please comment! I thrive off feedback. Also, this is kind of a darker, more serious fic, kind of following the theme of the later episodes…I’m going to attempt more lighthearted stuff in the spirit of the middle episodes.

Thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you. *bows* :o)


“Dark Water off the port bow!”

Ren cursed to himself and swung the wheel starboard. I knew coming this way was a bad idea, he scolded himself furiously. Why did I do it?

“Ren!” Tula shouted from the crow’s nest. “Maelstrom on the starboard stern!”

“Dark Water starboard, too!” Ioz called, hanging onto the net as high waves battered the Wraith from both sides. “Noy Jitat, whose idea was it to come this way again, anyway?”

Mine, kept swimming through his mind. “Never mind that now,” he shouted. “We’ve just got to try and keep this course–maybe we can outsail the Dark Water and the Maelstrom!”

A hard wave tipped the Wraith mildly and Niddler slid across the deck, bumping into the side of the ship with a squawk. “We’ve only been able to outrun the Maelstrom a couple of times!” he protested.

Then let’s hope luck and Kunda are both on our side today. He swung the wheel again, but kept it more controlled, straightening the ship out. “Niddler! Man the helm while I manage the sails!” he ordered, sprinting down the steps and across the deck to scramble up the utility nets, snagging one of the lines for the sail on his way up. Niddler replaced his place at the helm a second later, and their mildly wobbly course straightened somewhat.

The murky sky picked that moment to explode. Thunder and lightning battled overhead while rain pounded the crew and gusts of wind nearly blew them off their feet.

“We can’t sail in weather like this!” Tula called, fighting the deafening roar of the thunder to be heard. “We have to find a port-”

“Where, woman?” Ioz demanded. “We’re in the middle of the ocean, surrounded on 3 sides by enemies–the only thing we can do is keep going forward!”

“No, you don’t understand!” Tula persisted. “I can sense that we’re going deeper into the storm–and it’s following the course we’re taking–and if you look up at the clouds, you’ll see it, too!”

Ren did look up, and his eyes narrowed. Noy Jitat, that is one mother of a storm. Dark clouds were swirling, churning–and heading in the same direction they were, as if they were following the wind. It’s almost like somebody sent this wind, and that storm, and maybe even the Maelstrom and the Dark Water, to follow us. We’re all heading the same way.

As if to punctuate his words, lightning struck incredibly close to the Wraith, blinding them, with thunder booming and making their ears ring in the same instant. Ren had loosened one hand from the net to rub at his eyes, and when he looked up, he gasped. “The sail’s caught fire!” he shouted. And somehow, the rain wasn’t putting it out. “Tula–help me trim the sails! If it stays up, the wind will just make it bigger, and it could spread to the rest of the ship!” In response, she swung herself up and over the edge of the crow’s nest and started down the net towards him carefully, hanging on until the wind let up for a few seconds before she’d scurry down a few more feet.

She finally was level with Ren. “Just say when,” she greeted him tersely, tangling her feet in the net and grabbing the rope with both hands.

Ren leaned into the net until the current gust of wind and rain let up. “Okay–now,” he ordered, and as one, they pulled.

The wind smacked them in the face halfway through, but Tula was able to grab the net with one hand and haul herself forward. Panic flooded Ren as he felt himself being pushed farther backward as he tried leaning forward, and as he tried tangling his feet in the net the same way Tula had, he felt them slip from the rungs and fall clear completely.

Tula lifted her head as the wind died down, and her eyes widened. “Hang on!” she gasped, securing her feet again and reaching out with one hand for the rope, which dangled just out of her reach because the wind had pushed Ren and the rope outwards, as if they were a pendulum. Just as they would’ve begun the backwards swing, an even stronger gust caught Ren so much by surprise that he let go a hand to shield his face–and the rain-slicked rope made his other hand slip.

“Ren!”

But there wasn’t anything they could do. He was falling, and praying that he’d survive the fall–when he realized he had his eyes squeezed shut. He forced them open, and everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, and sheer terror flooded every fiber of his being as he saw not water below, but Dark Water.

Reaching tendrils up for him.

“Oh, no,” he whispered, but the thunder tore the words from his mouth and cast them off through the wind as he plummeted headfirst into the Dark Water, submerging instantly.

“Ren!” Tula screamed, freeing her feet and leaping down to the deck. “No!”

It was all Ioz could do to stop Tula from leaping in after him. “Get a hold of yourself,” he snarled through gritted teeth, holding her back from the side of the ship, his eyes on the spot where Ren had vanished. “We need to think-”

Ay Jitata, Ioz,” Tula shot back, tears glimmering in her fiery eyes, “he doesn’t have the Treasures with him. And he just fell into Dark Water, and who knows what the Dark Dweller will do with him? There has to be some-”

“If we go in, what can we do that he can’t?” Ioz demanded harshly. “Whether you like it or not, Tula, he knows more about the Treasures than we do. He’s got control over them. There isn’t a Jitatin thing we can do with them–you know that as well as I.”

Tears were freely flowing down Tula’s cheeks now. “But-” She bit back a strangled sob, her face slowly crumpling. “But–Ren-”

Ioz’s arms around Tula lightened their iron grip, and awkwardly, he held her. “Right now, we just have to concentrate on getting out of this storm, and getting away from Bloth, and then we’ll figure out what to do. Ren wouldn’t want us going after him–if he’s even still there.”

“Don’t say it,” Tula whispered, slumping forward and crying hard, leaning against him. “He’s got to be alive–he just–he can’t die yet! There’s so much more we–Noy Jitat…”

They stood there in silence for a moment. Finally, Ioz managed to look up at Niddler. “Keeping a steady course, there, monkey-bird?” he asked, to which Niddler nodded silently, not looking at him–he was mourning, too.

The storm seemed to calm for a moment, but then it picked up with a vicious ferocity that literally drove Ioz and Tula apart, forcing them back to fighting to hold the boat together.

* * * * *

Ren felt himself falling, falling–but sluggishly. He couldn’t see anything but churning dark, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move unless the Dark Water surrounding him let him move…

I know I’m going to die. And in vain.

The Dark Water wrenched him around suddenly, and he started seeing dancing spots from the lack of air as he tried to gasp.

Pure stupidity…that’s what it was…

I wish I got to tell them goodbye. I–I wish I got to tell Tula-

And then he was free.

He fell to the ground face-first, completely weakened, just gasping for breath and lying there, shivering for a moment. He was, amazingly enough, alive…

After a moment, he forced his eyes open. The spots were fading–and the ground was black and a bit slimy. He was drenched, and there was a draft, which would explain his shivering, but there wasn’t a droplet of Dark Water sticking to him.

Slowly, he lifted his head, his stomach clenching with worry and a thread of icy fear. He was back in the dreary, reddish-tinged caverns that he’d been in once before, and just a couple of feet away, Dark Water lapped at the shore of a monstrous underground lake.

It took him some time to pull himself up to his feet, as he didn’t want to try leaning against anything for fear that it was malignant. Finally, when he was able to stand without falling over from dizziness, he looked around, slowly, carefully, and started to walk away from the Dark Water’s edge.

No sooner had he gotten five feet from his release point than a tendril snaked out and snagged his ankle. “Where do you think you are going, Son of Primus?” a chillingly familiar voice croaked. “You don’t have your precious Treasures to protect you from me this time, now, do you?”

Noy Jitat, Ren reflected in consternation, he’s right–I don’t. They’re back with the others…maybe I can settle for a cliché to keep him at bay for the time being. He seems to thrive off of those…

Ren cleared his throat minutely. “I’ll get out of here anyway–just wait and see,” he replied coolly. “You won’t get away with this.” He fought not to wince at that.

And sure enough, the Dark Dweller seemed to swell as soon as the words had escaped Ren’s mouth. “Are you so sure of that, Son of Primus?” he cackled gleefully. “We shall see…we shall see!”

He pulled himself even taller, completely engulfing Ren in the pitch-black shadow he cast, and moved to engulf the boy.

But Ren was faster. He broke into a sprint sideways, trying to escape the shadow of the looming Dark Dweller, and lunged, throwing himself out of the way just barely as the form of the being vanished and torrents of Dark Water poured over the stone where Ren had been standing.

He rolled and came to his feet, adrenaline pumping through his veins. The Dark Water moved, hesitated, then sent thick, dark tendrils out after him.

Chongo longo–I’m surrounded.

And surrounded he was. He had Dark Water completely blocking off his front, as it reached towards him and spread out sideways. And the farther back he moved, the closer he came to pinning himself against a sheer rock face and trapping himself completely.

He bumped into the rock all too soon, and cursed, searching desperately for another way out, but there was none. A half-mad thought entered his mind, and he rummaged for the Compass and yanked it out. “Stay back!” he called, waving the blue-gold bauble, but in response, the Dark Water gurgled a little, expressing the amusement of the Dark Water at his foolish attempt, and oozed on.

And then it reared, looming into the air, much as the Dark Dweller had done. And Ren saw a way out.

He threw himself forward, sprinting, and leaped through a hole in the Dark Water, landing on a rock the Dark Water flowed around. From there, he took a flying leap and landed on another boulder–but then, he realized in dismay that he’d trapped himself yet again. Teasingly, Dark Water splashed up against the sides of the boulder, making him dance a little bit to dodge it and not lose his balance.

“What do you want from me?” Ren shouted, his voice echoing into the distance.

Suddenly, everything grew deathly silent, and eternally dark. Slowly, he turned around–and the Dark Dweller was on top of him before he could even gasp.

A moment later, after Ren’s body floated away along the molasses-like currents of Dark Water, the creature gave its answer.

“Your life.”

To be continued…

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