Desperate Times: part 3

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* I’m not a fanfic author usually, so if this sucks, be kind. :o)

Author’s Notes: Same as always. Comment, PLEASE! ;o)
Also, the mild romantic reference at the end is…hypothetical. I don’t know which way I’m going to go with it–however I do it, it ought to be interesting. *grin*

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

* * * * *

Slowly, Ren came to. The pain nearly sent him screaming into darkness, though, but he found a reserve of calm and composure within him and held onto it with all his might, biting his lip so hard he drew blood, and managed to not let out a sound.

The Dark Water had let go of him, and he was lying on cold, hard rock; the cold seemed to creep through his skin and chill him inside as well as out, accentuating his pain dreadfully instead of numbing him. At least he wasn’t in total darkness anymore, though he might’ve been hallucinating the dreary dark blue and violet highlights off sheer rock walls jutting up in the distance, and he thought he heard the bubbling, churning, oozing sounds of the Dark Water flowing somewhere in the distance past his very limited line of vision.

Slowly, his brain began to function, albeit sluggishly, and he remembered what had happened to him, cringing just at the memory.

Should I try to look?

The almost morbid fascination with how badly the Dark Water had mangled his body overwhelmed him, and he tried to lift his head to peek. Pain went shooting through his neck and down his back, and he let his head fall back, nauseated by the little he did see.

How can I get out of here if my body’s so mangled?

He couldn’t answer that.

The Dark Dweller has the Compass now, he realized suddenly, sucking in a harsh breath at that. That means–unless it does something itself to stop him, the Dark Water’s unstoppable now. And all that work–has been for nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Dejection filled him, and he felt his body grow heavy as a powerful sense of failure descended on him. He let his eyes fall closed, and exhaled slowly.

And I’m going to die. Down here, alone…and for what? What was I able to accomplish? In the end, I failed. I’m the reason Mer’s going to be destroyed–this is all my fault.

I deserve to die like this.

* * * * *

The night slowly started to fade into grey, then brilliant shades of violet and orange as the sun peeked over the horizon, sending waves of sparking light cascading over the waters.

Tula was still awake to greet the morning sun. Her tears had stopped, but she looked old, and universally tired. Knowing they needed to get under way soon, she pulled her blanket a little closer around her, pulled up the anchor, and went to unfurl the sails. It looked to be a beautiful day, with no traces of the previous day’s freak storms to be seen anywhere.

I almost wish the weather would be lousy–it’s the least Mer can do to honor the loss of one of its greatest heroes.

She sighed. Though I guess creating a sky as beautiful as this–Ren would want Mer to go on. But the Dark Dweller’s got him, and probably has his Compass…it’s only a matter of time now.

A shiver went through her at that.

She climbed up into the crow’s nest, just letting the Wraith drift on the wind for the moment, and surveyed the calm seas. Everything was placid, beautiful; there was a slight bite to the air that standing in the rising sun’s rays would alleviate easily.

Her senses started nagging at her, though, and she turned to face the sun, squinting. There was something silhouetted in the brilliant morning light…

Noy Jitat. The Maelstrom!

She scrambled down to the deck, and then below, quickly waking Ioz and Niddler. They woke quickly, leading her to believe that they didn’t get much sleep either, and followed her up to the deck, immediately manning different areas of the ship to get them on their way.

The wind picked that moment to die down immediately.

“Scupango,” Ioz cursed bitterly. “Tula–can you use your powers to give us some wind?”

Tula frowned, considering the request, then climbed back down from the nets so she could exercise her powers standing. “I’ll give it a try,” she replied.

On the Maelstrom, the girl, wrapped in murky-colored robes that emanated a pale green light from the powers she was exercising, smirked, her thin but full lips curving in a sinister smile. “Perfect,” she whispered, and closed her eyes to concentrate.

Tula let her eyes flutter closed and spread her arms out to her sides. May the wind blow away from the rising sun, she sent out into that ambiguous region only she could sense. May it blow hard enough and fast enough that it can get us away from our enemies…ocean, sunlight, lend your strength…

And the wind started to blow.

 

The girl lifted a hand almost limply, as if the wind pushing the Maelstrom along propelled it up to a horizontal position, but her hand suddenly reached out, fingers going stiff as they pointed towards the growing speck on the horizon that was the Wraith.

 

“Good going, woman!” Ioz called, letting a faint smile cross his face as he piloted the Wraith on her wind.

 

The girl’s extended hand clenched into a fist.

 

Tula gasped, her eyes flying open as the wind stopped suddenly, and as tendrils of force started to slide around her, pushing her arms and legs next to each other roughly. The same force came to her neck and stopped rising, wrapping around it, almost like a caress at first, and then squeezing, hard, choking her brutally.

“Tula!” Niddler cried, flying over to help her, but a tendril of the force forced him back and down with almost no effort on its part at all.

“Man the helm, monkey-bird!” Ioz ordered, horrified and thunderstruck by what was happening to her. Even all the way from the helm, he could see the impressions forming in the skin of her neck from the invisible fingers of the wind pressing mercilessly against it.

He was at her side a moment later, trying to reach for the things choking her with her own power–she was glowing an incandescent blue all over, as compared to her usual electric-sparkle energy discharge. He couldn’t get a grip, as it was wind he was trying to grasp, and it batted him away, too, but he came back and tried again.

Somehow, he could tell that she was going blue in the face from the lack of air, and knew he had to hurry–but he was getting desperate.

Tula was struggling, but her attempts were fewer and far between as time went on, and the lines around her eyes from having them squeezed shut in focus were slackening…

 

Bloth approached the girl from a careful distance. “How is she?” he inquired.

She turned her head ever so slightly, her focus not wavering in the slightest. “Blue in the face, with marks on her neck that she’ll have for quite a while,” she replied simply, and turned back to face the Wraith.

 

Ioz knew she was running out of time. “Any ideas?” he called over his shoulder to Niddler, who was watching them much more than he was watching the ocean.

“What happened?” Niddler cried in place of an answer. “Did her powers turn on her?”

“I don’t know, monkey-bird,” Ioz admitted through clenched teeth. “And I don’t know what to do, but we can’t lose her!”

 

“Don’t kill her,” Bloth broke in sharply. “Just scare her.”

The girl shot Bloth a look of utter disgust. “You’re joking, aren’t you?” she retorted sourly. “She’s one of your worst enemies. Why the rafendi would you want me to keep her alive?”

“Her power would be better served if she became a Dark Disciple, not a dead one,” Morpho added, hissing a breath. “Leave her.”

The girl hesitated.

 

Tula’s vision started to go black. She couldn’t breathe–couldn’t fight–

 

“Remember who is paying you to attack her in the first place,” Bloth reminded the girl crossly.

“But remember who’s the more powerful of the two of us,” the girl shot back, her eyes filled with liquid fire.

“Lady Cherni,” Bloth started to growl, but Morpho placed his tentacle-arm on Bloth’s to remind him of his situation. “Fine,” he spat, forcing his demeanor down. “Lady Cherni, I request that you end your attack on the wench. We will need her later on.”

“Fine,” Cherni spat bitterly, snapping her arm back.

 

The wind stopped. Tula let out a hoarse gasp and collapsed into Ioz’s arms.

“Is she-” Niddler whispered.

Ioz didn’t reply. He lay her down on the deck, bending over her to listen for any source of respiration or to feel a pulse.

 

The glow from around Cherni vanished, and she stalked off to her quarters, wrapping her cloak around her again. “I want you to order your crew to leave me be for some time so I can recharge,” Cherni snapped, flouncing into her quarters and slamming the door behind her.

 

The blue glow around Tula slowly faded, and she started coughing, tears of effort sliding down her cheeks. She started to sit up, but Ioz planted his hand against her shoulder and forced her to lie down. “Not yet, woman,” he replied gruffly, his voice soft. “Give yourself some time.”

Niddler abandoned the helm, not caring. “Tula!” he chirped. “Are you all right?”

After a few moments, she managed to stop coughing, and drew a deep breath, wincing as she brushed her fingers against her throat. The purplish bruises from whatever-it-was remained. “It felt like–something made my powers turn against me,” she whispered. “Teron never told me that was a possibility-”

“Do you think Bloth had anything to do with it?” Ioz inquired as she broke into another coughing fit, her eyes falling closed as she wiped away the tears.

Bloth would have to be an ecomancer, or have a very powerful one with him, if it was his fault,” Tula responded. Slowly, Ioz helped her sit up, and she forced her eyes open. “Thank you for trying to help me,” she added earnestly.

He mumbled something noncommittal under his breath in response. “You need to rest now,” he replied instead. “Niddler and I will get us as far as we can–it seems that there’s a pretty good natural wind forming now.” And indeed there was; the sails were filling, and the boat was drifting with them.

Ioz helped Tula to her feet, slinging her arm across his shoulders and looping an arm around her to walk her down to the cots below decks. He emerged a few minutes later and took the helm from Niddler, giving him a couple of gruff but still-quiet commands.

He didn’t yell at me the way he usually would, Niddler couldn’t help but muse to himself. I wonder what’s bringing on this change of behavior? He isn’t blaming himself for what happened, is he?

Another thought made him quickly turn so Ioz couldn’t see his expression and pound him for it later on. Maybe he’s going soft? Maybe he’s actually got a thing for Tula? He chuckled to himself. It’s a definite possibility…

To be continued…

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