The Crusaders: Wavebreaker
Part 6: Smooth Sailing
The Crystal Sea…
Lizzy had spent the last couple of hours exhausting ways to lie on her mattress, having been left with nothing else to do as Wavebreaker made its way back to the Mortal Kingdom. Due to the moonlight shining through the window, she expected her teammates were all resting in their equally-cramped quarters. She knew Gunk would be up, but she wasn't sure she had anything worth disturbing him over, and so the result was the same. She sprang to life when she heard the knock at the door, going from chest-down with an arm and leg hanging off the side of the cot to spryly stepping across the room to answer it in a second. The inordinate amount of relief she felt at learning there was someone else too bored to sleep was quickly quelled when she slid open the door to see who that someone was.
"Uh…hey." Suzy was clearly surprised by the speed with which Lizzy responded to her knocking.
"Oh." Lizzy immediately realised how awful 'oh' sounded given the status of their relationship. "Sorry, hey, yeah."
"Can I come in?" Lizzy stepped back from the door with an arm extended behind her. Awkward as it was, company was company. Suzy glanced around the room that was identical to hers as she entered and tried to find a place to stand. "These rooms really aren't meant for more than one, are they?" Lizzy closed the door behind her.
"Probably built with utility in mind more than comfort."
"At least the Dreaded feel the same way."
"You can say that again. I saw the crew escorting them into the brig. The whole 'shark-man pirate crew' thing really loses something when you've seen them packed into a dozen little rooms together like sardines." Suzy couldn't help snickering. Lizzy smiled too. The pause that came after their affable exchange lasted just long enough for both of them to remember how uncomfortable the situation was. Lizzy thought she'd do her part to remedy that.
"You can sit." She motioned to the cot, where Suzy quickly found a seat. She quickly looked at Lizzy again and patted the space beside her.
"I kind of have a lot to say." Suzy flickered in and out of eye contact as Lizzy sat down. "I, um, I don't want to sound like I'm making one big excuse. So, upfront…I'm sorry. What I said was…it was mean-spirited and uncalled for and completely wrong in every way and I hate that I said it." Lizzy could tell by the little cracks of regret in her voice that Suzy meant it.
"I think it hit extra hard because it felt like it came out of nowhere."
"It didn't. Well, it did for you, but it was a while coming for me. I was riding high when we got this mission, probably because beforehand I was at a very frustrated low thanks to my sister's birthday." Lizzy recalled their previous conversation about the depressing annual event. "Being called upon to help the place I hit the high point of my career in for a second time and learning about the impact I'd made on an entire world…it was validating, I guess. Gave me the praise I was missing from my family and reminded me that even though I can't show them off, I have plenty of my own achievements behind me. But then...I don't know. I guess I got the idea in my head that I need to keep up expectations. Whether it was because I wanted to top myself for more of that recognition or if it's just my tendency to bite off more than I can chew sometimes..." Suzy put her face in her hands. "...I don't know. I just feel so stupid and I'm sorry you had to suffer for my screw-up." Lizzy placed her palm on Suzy's back as she spoke gently.
"Stupid doesn't figure out they've screwed up or say sorry. Besides...you weren't the only one who made mistakes." Suzy lifted her head to look at Lizzy as she sighed. "Even though what you said hurt...my response was not okay. To turn around and use one of the greatest moments of your life to put you down was just as bad, if not worse. If I hadn't said it, it probably would have been me knocking your door to clear all this up instead, but I just felt so shitty, and I'm just as sorry as you are." Suzy shook her head at Lizzy's admission.
"But...you were completely right. I was being reckless and prideful at every turn. Ignoring my limitations and trying to maintain this impossible visage of myself nearly got me killed, and then I lashed out because I felt powerless. Truly powerless for the first time since I fought Necros. The moment we got this quest, I made it all about me being the hero again and ignored the fact that I wouldn't have stopped Necros without the help of my friends. I'm just lucky I still managed to have a couple of those show me where I went wrong. But Lizzy...anything you have to be sorry about is my fault." Lizzy moved her hand to Suzy's shoulder and looked into her eyes.
"No. I won't have that. These shoulders already have way too much on them and I won't have you carrying this when you're trying to unburden yourself."
"No buts. You have nothing to prove to me or anyone else."
"I know that now, I just...I don't like the idea of you still feeling bad after I've said sorry." Lizzy gave her a smile that was halfway between endeared and pained. She finally pulled Suzy to her side and wrapped her other arm around her. Suzy tentatively fastened her own arms around Lizzy's waist.
"I'm sure I'll get over it if you just accept my apology."
"I...okay. Apology accepted. And mine?"
"Do you think I'd be hugging you if the answer was no?" Suzy finally sighed with relief.
"Ironic, huh? Being overshadowed by my biological big sister led to me nearly losing my much better big sister figure."
"I'm not particularly experienced in the field, but I'm pretty sure sisters fighting is a given. You're not about to lose me anytime soon. You're too much of a treasure for me to let go of." At that, Suzy tightened her embrace of her friend.
"You always say such lovely things."
"And I need someone to talk at until one of us falls asleep."
"Forget what I just said." Lizzy laughed at Suzy's sudden flatness as she squeezed tighter.
"Come on, it's not my fault this boat is so boring! Plus, you've replenished my peppiness. You dug this hole for yourself." Suzy looked up at Lizzy with a smile.
"I suppose it would be irresponsible of me to abandon you at the end of all this." Lizzy pulled back a hand to tap Suzy on the nose.
"Knew I could count on you, Suzy-babe."
The next day…
The metal box containing Vern's remains appeared out of place in the wooden storage chamber it was being kept in. King Imperia and Sa'garg stood at its head, while Nevir and Gistreth stood opposite on its long sides and Suzy was at its end. The door opened and Princess Sapphira entered, followed by a moderately bewildered Kon.
"Well, this is nice and clandestine." He commented. "First, I'm asked to come below deck by the Princess for reasons unclear, and then I find you all posed around a coffin in a dark room."
"I apologise for the cryptic nature of the invitation." King Imperia said as he looked up at him. "We wanted to ensure you would bear witness."
"Yeah, that doesn't really help." Suzy turned around with a small smile, looking as refreshed as she felt after her night with Lizzy.
"Don't worry. I think you'll be happy with how this turns out." Kon approached her side curiously as Sapphira joined her father. Imperia put on his speech-making voice.
"Crusaders, your actions have brought us all to this momentous gathering. Were it not for my daughter seeking your aid, Suzy, and if she weren't convinced to contact Sa'garg by you, Kon, then we not have assembled for a common goal once more. Over the course of my part in this quest, I have come to realise it is that unity, born of honour and devotion in the face of world-spanning catastrophe, that must breed harmony in Teranaux."
"The King is proposing the Heralds of Peace became an official unit, following the example of your team," Sa'garg explained happily. Kon raised his brows.
"For real?" He went, to Sa'garg's nod.
"The hope is that, by following your example, we can encourage the warring Kingdoms of Elves and Dwarves to look past their differences and join forces as they have before. Additionally, future dangers such as Necros and the Dreaded will be met with a designated line of resistance this way." Kon looked from Gistreth to Nevir in disbelief while Suzy's smile widened with contentment.
"And you two are cool with this?"
"To continue quarrelling would be folly," Nevir replied with hitherto unseen humility. "It is clear we both have the best interests of our realm and our allies at heart."
"Indeed." This was the first time anyone heard Gistreth addressed Nevir with any degree of respect. "It shouldn't take the Dawn Stone or our mutual friend's near-death to motivate our cooperation. While the road shall certainly be treacherous, it will be worth walking if peace is the destination." Kon's grin came to match Suzy's as he heard their justifications.
"Speaking of the Dawn Stone…" King Imperia interrupted. "…I'd like to once again apologise for forgetting to retrieve it when Lizzy and Suzy last used it on Earth. It was a dreadful gaff on my part, especially since I only remembered after we'd already returned here." Sa'garg leant into Imperia's ear.
"I insist you not be so ashamed." He whispered. "There were many worse potential outcomes that you averted, no matter how delayed your memory was."
"That's not the point, Sa'garg." Imperia returned at the same lowered volume. "I shouldn't have been so desperate to get away from the bickering of my allies."
"Father?" Sapphira nudged his arm with her elbow before gesturing to the rest of the room. Imperia cleared his throat and straightened his back before continuing.
"It is with you as witnesses, Kon and Suzy, gathered around our fallen friend, that I wish to officially induct the following as the founding members of Teranaux's Heralds of Peace. Nevir Ganthanari of the Elf Kingdom. Gistreth Torgunn of the Dwarf Kingdom. Sa'garg Tough-tusk of the Orcs. And…" He paused and let pride curve his lips upward for a second. "…Princess Sapphira Lorcana of the Mortal Kingdom." Sapphira's jaw dropped in sync with Kon and Suzy's eyes widening. She turned to the King in shock.
"T-truly, father?" Imperia didn't hesitate to nod.
"You showed implacable spirit and remarkable prowess in the conflict with the Dreaded. Personally seeing your dedication and skill in the heat of battle makes me as certain of your place as a champion of Teranaux as it does make me a proud father. I may fear for your life, but I have no doubt you will inspire many warriors just as great as yourself and lead them to victory over all who would threaten our realm." Sapphira's broad smile squeezed the tears over her eyelids. She looked from her father to Kon, who simply nodded back with the certainty that the King spoke with. Sapphira looked back at Imperia and abandoned the pretence of royalty to simply hug him with all her grateful heart.
"Thank you, father." He put his arm around her and no more words were needed.
"Yes, yes, familial love and all that," Nevir remarked, clearly masking his feelings.
"Oh, hush up," Gistreth commented, sounding noticeably more choked up. Sa'garg took the initiative in seeing the Crusaders out.
"You may leave. It appears the official aspect of this gathering has concluded."
"No problem," Kon said. "We're honoured to have been involved."
"If you ever need an extra hand in the future…." Suzy said, prompting Sa'garg to nod knowing how the sentence ended. Kon and Suzy turned and exited the storage space.
"Lizzy said you two talked last night," Kon stated halfway up the hall. Suzy nodded.
"Yeah, for, like, ages."
"Good to see you two were able to smooth things over."
"Hey, um, about that." Suzy had a twinge of severity in her face as she stopped at the door, Kon stopping with her. "I just want to thank you again for helping with all that. I fully intend to repay you for it." Kon simply smiled.
"You're my teammate and a friend. Knowing you won't question your place among us again is compensation enough." Suzy lowered her head as she smiled.
"Okay." Kon tousled her hair affectionately before sliding open the door and walking up the stairs with her nary far behind.
The Mortal Kingdom, three days later…
The prisoner sat on his mattress, staring at the floor. With its metal bars and aged stone walls, the small cell made a fitting tomb for the villain. Thin as a rail, his obsidian skin reminded him every day of his failure to destroy Teranaux with the Dusk Stone. It was that very crystal that had changed his pigment when he fashioned it to let him resurrect the dead. His zombie army, headed by the dragon he modelled his destructive conquest after, would have won him his vengeance if Red Cross and the Crusaders hadn't shown up. The heroes were on his mind now that word had broken out concerning the nature of the Dreaded's incarceration at the prison. All he could do was think. Imagine his retribution. Fantasise about victory. Until he heard the sounds of a fleeting struggle down the corridor, recognised fellow prisoners cheering, and saw a pair of guards land on the ground in front of him with holes burnt into their chests. The one responsible for the commotion suddenly appeared in front of the fallen sorcerer's cell in a blur. He waved his hand and the door turned to vapour. Necros recoiled slightly as the caped figure turned his head to lock glowing, purple, triangular eyes with his own sunken-in white ones.
"Two weeks waiting for that portal to Teranaux to open so I could copy the energy signature and get here…couldn't come quick enough." The figure's voice sounded alien to Necros. Unnaturally garbled. Mechanical, like the humming noise he seemed to emit with his very presence. As quickly as he appeared, the figure dashed across the room and grabbed Necros by the scruff of his prisoner uniform, slamming his back against the wall. Necros heard a click break the perpetual humming sound, then felt a needle pierce his neck. After a few seconds, the needle retracted and the hand around him loosened its grip. "I've just healed the damage to your vocal chords with a regeneration serum from my world. That was my last dose. I did not consider using it on you lightly, which is why the injection contained subcutaneous nanomachines which I can detonate if you disobey me." Necros frowned. "Don't believe me? Go on. Speak."
Necros' mouth opened. "I…" He was shocked at the sound of his own raspy, faint voice that he'd nearly forgotten. He was just as quickly disturbed because hearing it meant there was indeed a bomb in his neck. Nevertheless, he tried to stay calm. "…I answer only to Ven'gar."
"Ven'gar is dead. Twice over, now. I'm giving you the chance to make the people responsible for that pay." Necros tilted his head quizzically. "I don't care if you respect me. All I care for is that you follow my orders without question or complaint." Necros took a more genial tone.
"As long as I'm being ordered to slay Red Cross, you'll encounter no resistance from me." The figure paused.
"May I know the name of my commander, then?" The figure placed his other hand over the insignia on his chest before flinging it back up and releasing another burst of purple light from his palm. The two villains were engulfed in the sphere of energy that revealed the metallic figure to Necros at last.
"I am Darkstar. And before we get to executing any Crusaders, we must gather the others back on Earth." Just as he finished speaking, Darkstar closed his hand in a fist and the two disappeared in a flash of light, leaving the dead guards and perplexed inmates dimensions behind.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed. If you're really liking this story so far, give it a favourite, and tell your fellow authors to check it out. Next chapter, tempestuous concerns plague a pair of Crusaders in a mid-arc interlude. If you have anything to say or suggest, any plot holes to point out, details needing clarification, or general questions to ask, feel free to PM me or leave a review. Finally, be sure to check out my community, The All-Star Multiverse, and my Facebook page, PancakeOverdose! Take care.