217 The Watery Depths*
Sharli looked up at the cliffs in the distance. They'd come into view an hour before when the cry 'land ho!' had rung from above. Sharli had gotten excited. Three weeks on this ship and she was itching to get off.
Only the cliffs, as she could see them clearer now, were quite clearly too high to climb. Still, that didn't stop her from admiring their magnificence, or the edge of the forest that she could just make out high above.
"What Forest is that?" asked Sharli.
The Helmsman gave her a side glance, as if making sure she was being serious before he spoke, "You never been this far south?"
Sharli shook her head.
The Helmsman sighed, "It's the Fairy Forest, Miss".
Sharli's eyes widened. The Fairy Forest? That place where all manner of magical creatures lived and no human dared venture for fear of getting lost...or worse? She'd heard many stories of such a place.
She glanced down at the tracking charm in her hand, then at the line that clearly told her go past the cliffs to find who she was looking for. She paled. If Rassa was in the Fairy Forest then...
"So he is in there?" asked Ishta as he looked at Sharli.
Sharli turned to look at Ishta, then nodded reluctantly.
Ishta gritted his teeth, "Tell the Captain to head for the nearest Port".
"But I thought the Forest was-"
"With you, we shouldn't get too turned around, should we?" asked Ishta with a threatening raise of his eyebrow, as if he was daring her to defy him just so that he could do something unspeakable to her. Probably hand her off to Illai.
Sharli felt sick.
Speaking of the Inktress, she arrived back on the ship just as it was turning to the East.
"No sign of him," Illai reported.
"Our Charm compass says he's in the Fairy Forest," Ishta stated. The Inktress didn't look all that happy about the news either, "Perhaps the Merfolk did get to him".
Sharli lay in the hammock that had been assigned to her below deck, the tracking charm warm in her hands. She'd used it a lot for the past hour. Clutching it in her hand as she stared down the line that led North-West of her. Towards her sister. She kept picturing her sister's betrayed and pained expression as Sharli had pushed her away then walked off with Illai. If she saw her again, she'd have a lot of explaining to do.
Sharli sighed, ready to roll over and go to sleep when the flickering of Rassa's line suddenly got so rapid that it scared her. Sharli sat up, somewhat panicked as she watched it. Then, before she could even breath a word, it was extinguished.
Sharli stared at the spot where it had been, shocked. No. He couldn't die. He hadn't died. Sharli rubbed at the Charm with her sleeve, convinced there was something wrong with it. But when she clutched it again, there was no line to Rassa. It was just gone, as if he'd never been there in the first place.
"No," Sharli whispered.
She felt a cold presence at her back, and she turned to find Illai looking at her, a cold smirk on her lips, "What's wrong, Sharli?"
Illai grabbed Sharli dragging her from the hammock. Sharli hit the deck hard, letting out a short squeal in pain, but Illai proceeded to drag her across the deck and towards the stairs. The crew stepped out of the way, not in the least bit concerned about Sharli's well-being as she was dragged up into the night air then over to Ishta's quarters.
Ishta emerged thanks to the commotion, glaring between Illai and Sharli. Illai kneeled, "Something is wrong, Master. With the Tracking Charm".
Ishta's eyes cut to Sharli.
Sharli sat up as best she could, tears in her eyes from the pain in her limbs that would no doubt mean bad bruises, "It's fine, I-"
"You didn't look fine as you panicked over it," Illai stated.
Sharli gritted her teeth, then took a deep breath, knowing that there was no escaping her fate now.
Speaking it aloud made it real. Sharli felt the tears in her eyes before she could stop them. Her last hope. Her family's last hope. Gone just like that. She'd waited too long. She should have gone to Ishta straight away.
"What did you say?" asked Ishta.
"Rassa, he's dead".
Ishta gritted his teeth, "How?"
"The Charms are connected to our blood. If we die, or the essence of a blood changes, we are no longer considered a part of the sequence," Sharli stated.
"And he couldn't have changed?" asked Ishta.
Sharli shook her head. This felt different. He was certain that he'd died, as hard as it was for her to accept.
Ishta growled angrily, backhanding Sharli hard enough to send her sprawling onto the deck.
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"Useless," he growled, "Useless wench, take care of her".
Illai's cold hands were all Sharli felt as she was dragged to the side of the ship.
"N-No!" Sharli cried as she realised what was happening. He hadn't even hesitated to get rid of her. There was no second thoughts or reasons to keep her around. Her usefulness as a tool had been used up. Sharli only saw his back as he disappeared back into his quarters. She felt weightless as she fell into the water below, but that quickly gave way to the feeling of being dragged down to the depths, the ship disappearing from her blurry sight as the salt water stung her eyes.
Her lungs burned shortly after, begging for air she knew she'd never get. She sought a light, anything to show her the way even if she couldn't get there. Then in her panic, she released the last of the air in her lungs, the last words she heard distorted and mocking.
"Though you won't be able to tell me, perhaps you'll find out if your currents really can lead you to him".