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Chapter 12: Ocean Heart

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A Swordsman walks up to Exitilus and whispers something to him. Exitilus lets out a sigh.

"These kids are proving to be a bigger problem than I thought," he said. "Heh, it's just like a millennia ago. This kid thinks he can live up to Kyle's power? He may have his friends with him, but I can wipe them all out with just one of these Gems. But I would like to see just how powerful they are. Let's just hope they don't die too quickly." He let out a heartily evil laugh.

"Sir, you're talking to yourself again..."

"...Ahem, yes, well. Go and get the rest of the Gems. Trick people, be conniving. Do anything to make sure Stephan does not get the rest of the Gems, but keep him alive. The rest, I don't care what you do with them."

"And what of Hunter, sir? Last I heard, he had escaped from Eora Dungeon and headed to Kora."

"Kora? Why did he have to go there? Before I killed him, Kora put a spell on the town so no other guardian, good or bad, could enter the town. Of course, I was still in the town when he cast it, so it pushed me out... painfully. Though I may have defected, I still hold my Guardian title because no one else will take over Cora. Hunter, it seems, does not hold the same title."

"We heard he left immediately afterward with the Mysterious Man,"

"Then that means he could be anywhere... or any when. When it comes to the Mysterious Man, I severally lack in power. He has some sort of power I cannot beat. Aside from Kyle he's the only one who..." Exitilus shot up out of his chair. "New plan! I want you to gather troops and search for the Mysterious Man."

"What about your other plan?"

"If I can get a hold of the Man's power, I won't need the Gems to execute my other plan. I can just do it and any other plan I think of later! Find him and find out what the source of his power is, but keep troops on Stephan!"

"Sire!" The swordsman leaves and Exitilus sits back down.

"Kyle and the Mysterious Man... After Kyle's disappearance... Is it possible they're the same...?"

The next morning, we started preparing to leave. Everyone was still suffering from the burn and/or poisonous wounds, but they all looked ready to continue. Andrew seems to have an endless supply of Sers as he always stocks up on supplies before we leave. Since our remaining Gems didn't get us any closer to our destination, we had to go on foot. We had to go past the mountains surrounding Cora. Bugs have no problem scaling those mountains, but it was impossible for us. Though we knew of the way under through Yora, Blide said the well there connected to Cora's. It took us a few hours to reach Oora and what we saw was a shock. The whole town had flooded! Oora was built next to the ocean and has a lower elevation than the rest of the towns. We saw all the families living here standing on the top of their roofs. When Oora saw us, he yelled out. We walked as close as we could and asked him what happened.

"These brutes came to me and stole my Gem!" he yelled. "They used it to flood the ocean and the water is still rising!"

"Do you know where they are?" Andrew yelled.

"They left on a ship!" Oora responded. "One of our villagers set out to find them, but he hasn't returned yet!"

"How long ago did this happen?" I asked.

"A little more than two days ago," Oora answered. "The families took what they could, rations and other valuable belongings, but we won't be able to last long. If this keeps up, we're gonna have to leave town."

"How did your villager set out?"

"He had a raft of his own. He left those two days ago and hasn't returned!"

"So how are we supposed to get on the ocean?" Andrew asked.

"Ooh, I can turn into a something to help!" Lacey said as she jumped over the water and morphed into a ship long enough to carry all of us. She landed with a large splash. "Everyone hop on!"

"We have some strange people on this team," Chris said. "Fun, but strange." Everyone climbed into Lacey's boat form and we sailed off.

The ocean seems endless. It separates the lands of Walore and Moneo and it holds a large island in its center that looks like it used to hold something. It took us several hours to get to the island at the speed Lacey can go, but we saw that the thug's ship was docked there. We all got out of Lacey at the island and she reformed back to her normal, green, humanoid self. The thug's ship looked like a large pirate ship. Whoever was on this ship would not be an easy group to take the Gem back. When we approached the ship, we were greeted by a kid who looked younger than I was.

"Oh, hello!" he yelled down. "Would you like to come aboard?"

"Um, yes?" Andrew answered uncertainly.

"Okay, then!" the kid threw down a rope ladder. "Climb on up!" Deciding the best thing to do would be to play along, we all climbed up the ladder. When we sat foot on the deck, we saw three others with the kid, all much older than he was. "Welcome to Skipper's Ship!" the kid greeted. "I'm the Skipper! This is my family: my older brother, Casey, my dad, Thomas, and my mom, Clarissa. Are you here to play with us?"

"Uh, play?" Andrew asked.

"Yeah, play!" Skipper answered. "This is our ship and we use it to play a game of pirates! Do you want to be pirates with us?"

"Um, hold on," Andrew answered and he turned to us. "One of them has the Gem and possibly the villager who set out earlier. Maybe we should play along until we find out more."

"The Skipper kid acts like he's in charge," Stan said. "His family isn't saying anything."

"If we play along," Jennifer said. "We should be careful."

"Yeah," Andrew turned back to Skipper. "Alright, Skipper, we'll play your game." The kid cheered. "What do we do first?"

"Well, there's a lot of you, isn't there?" Skipper walked up to us. "You two big buff guys," Stan and Matt looked at him. "I need more people to hold the sails together. You two will be on that with my dad." They looked at Andrew who urged them to play along. Stan and Matt reluctantly walked to their positions. Skipper walked up to Helen and Kyra. "You two are about the same age as my brother, aren't you?" They looked at Casey and shrugged. "You girls will protect the prisoner with my brother." Slowly nodding, they headed down to the brig with Casey. Skipper looked at Chris and Sobie. "You two will keep this ship clean at all times." He points to the cleaning supplies. "Get to it!" Sobie looked like she was about to hit the kid, but Andrew told her to go along. With a sigh, Chris and Sobie left. "You look like you're in charge of this team," Skipper said to Andrew. "You will man the controls."

"Very well," Andrew left to the ship's wheel. Skipper turned to Lacey.

"I saw what you did to get here," Skipper said. "You will provide the entertainment on this ship."

"I'm not a being of amusement," Lacey said. I told her to follow his orders and she, reluctantly, left for the captain's quarters, which is where he told her to go. Skipper walked up to Jennifer and me.

"You two will be on lookout with my mom," he said, pointing to the crow's nest. Jennifer and I climbed up with Clarissa as Skipper left to his quarters. "All right, everyone! Let's shove off!" Stan, Matt, and Thomas hoisted the sails and the ship took off.

"So, do you like following your younger brother's orders, Casey?" Kyra asked him as they were heading down. Casey just continued walking. "Geez, you know it's impolite to ignore a girl." Casey led them to the brig and told Kyra to stand at the cell door. Helen left with Casey to look after a different room.

"Hey," a voice came from behind Kyra. Kyra jumped as she turned and a male figure stepped out of the dark cell. "Who are you?"

"I'm... Kyra," she answered.

"I'm Octavis," he said. "You should get out of here."

"Why? What's going on?"

"The kid, Skipper, is controlling everyone with the Oora Gem," Octavis answered. "If you don't leave now, you'll be nothing more than a new kid's toy like his family."

"Skipper's controlling his family?" Kyra asked. "How did they get their hands on the Gem in the first place?"

"Beats me. All I know is it happened. Listen, you and your friends are in danger here. You need to go."

"The only reason why we're here is because we're looking for the Gem. We can't leave without it."

"...Casey led your friend to the back room which has the Gem," Octavis said. "He uses the Gem to control the girls this group takes. You need to hurry if you want to save your friend." Kyra looked over to the other room then back at Octavis.

"How do I get you out?"

"The key's in the other room," he answered. "Save her and you can save everyone else." Kyra nodded and headed to the back room, reading her sword. She tried to open it, but it was locked. She slashed at the door and kicked it down. She saw Helen on a stool wearing a ragged dress and Casey circling her. They both jumped when Kyra entered.

"Hey, Kyra," Helen said. "A little help here..." Casey brought out a large axe and rushed Kyra. She spun around him and swung at him, pushing him into the wall. Casey fell and didn't move. Kyra helped Helen down. "Thanks, Kyra."

"We need to get out of here," Kyra said. "Find the jail key." Helen walked around as Kyra walked up to Casey. She found the Gem in his pocket. She stood up and turned to see Helen holding the key and a pair of Pinwheel Boomerangs.

"I thought these could help," Helen said. They ran to the brig and opened it. Octavis stepped out and asked for the boomerangs.

"Skipper took these from me when I didn't agree to his game," he said. "Come on, let's go save the rest of your friends." The girls nodded and headed upstairs. They ran into Sobie, who was cleaning next to the stairs.

"Are we done playing?" she asked. Kyra nodded but told her to stay quiet and for Octavis and Helen to stay here as she headed up to Andrew. When she got to him, she whispered what happened.

"Time to abandon ship, then," he said. He gave the wheel a hard spin and the ship turned violently. Thomas and Clarissa looked at Andrew and saw something was wrong. Stan and Matt quickly took care of Thomas and tied him to the mast. Clarissa was about to climb down, but Jennifer pulled out her bow and aimed it at her. We brought her down and tied her to the mast as well. Then we gathered together and Octavis broke down Skipper's door. We saw Skipper holding a green sword that we knew was Lacey. Lacey had turned back to normal as we walked closer to Skipper.

"This...this is mutiny!" he yelled.

"It's not mutiny if we were never on your side," Octavis said. "Now come with us." He grabbed Skipper who tried to struggle his way out, but he was too weak. Kyra went down and dragged Casey up to the deck next to his parents. She used the Gem she took and used it on the family. They all acted like they had just woken up.

"Wha-What happened?" Clarissa said.

"Jake, why are we tied up and who are these people?" Thomas asked Skipper.

"What did you do to us, you little runt?" Casey yelled at Jake, getting closer. Jake just started crying.

"Everyone calm down," Andrew said as he told Stan to release the parents. "None of this is Jake's fault. I'm certain someone came to him and told him he could use this Gem that Kyra's holding to control you. They must've told him that, with the power, he can do anything he wants. Is this your guy's ship?"

"Yeah," Thomas said as he got off the post. "We had it in our family for generations and we take it out every once in a while."

"I just wanted to stay on the boat forever," Jake cried. "I wished the Gem would make the ocean endless."

"Which made it flood into town," Octavis said.

"Don't blame the kid," Jennifer said. "Exitilus has been making it hard for everyone to resist their wishes."

"Go back to your home," I said. "We'll tell everyone what happened."

"If what you say is true," Clarissa said. "Then we will be rooting for you to take down this Exitilus guy."

"I'm sorry," Jake said. "Take away the Gem and fix everything."

"If you guys ever need a ship, you know who to go to," Thomas said.

"Quick question, though," Casey said pointing to Helen. "Why you wearing a torn dress?"

"Oh, um..." Helen paused for a second. "Don't worry about it. I'll change once we get back on shore." Casey just looked a bit confused. "Can we get back to shore?"

"Jake?" Thomas said smiling. Jake got a large smile on his face which turned to a stern one.

"Alright, let down the sails! Hoist the anchor! We leave for Oora immediately!" Everyone laughed and nodded as they went to their positions. Stan, Matt, and Thomas let the sails down. Clarissa, Jennifer, and I went to the crow's nest. Chris was about to pick up the broom again, but Sobie told him he didn't need to. As Andrew as going up to the wheel, Jake stopped him. "Thanks," he said. Andrew nodded and started directing the ship.

We got back to Oora in half the time it took Lacey to get to the island. When the town was in view, we saw the water had already receded. We all got off the ship when we docked and we waved good-bye to Jake and his family. Octavis, however, was headed back to his house and we followed him. When he opened the door, he was greeted by his daughter jumping onto him yelling happily.

"Everyone, this is my family," Octavis said. "This is my five-year-old daughter, Marciella, and my wife, Holly. These are the ones who rescued me and returned the town to normal."

"Thank you, everyone, for helping us," Holly said.

"Thanks for bringing my daddy home!" Marciella cheered.

"You're welcome everyone," Andrew said. "Well, we should go get a room at the Inn. It's getting dark."

"You can all stay here if you want," Holly offered.

"Thank you, but I doubt you have room in this house for all of us. We'll see you tomorrow before we leave, though." We said good night to everyone and headed for the inn.

The next morning, we went back to Octavis's house were Holly offered to serve us all breakfast. We hadn't had a breakfast like this in a while, so everyone grabbed what they could. Stan tried to shovel as much as he could into his mouth, but Holly smacked him telling him to behave. We all laughed as we told our story to Octavis and his family.

"Sounds like this Exitilus is powerful," Octavis said.

"I wonder how he doesn't feel anything harming families like yours," Helen said.

"I've seen some Guardians who don't live up to their name too well," Stan said with his mouth full. "But this guy, he's the opposite of a Guardian."

"Do you mind if I come with you?" Octavis asked.

"What? Why?" Lacey responded. "You are needed here with your family!"

"I'll be helping more than just my family if I help take down Exitilus," Octavis said. "Holly and I talked about it last night and we agreed that I should help. This world is no longer safe and if these Gems get into the wrong hands, who knows what'll happen."

"We already lost some of the Gems to Exitilus," I said.

"Then you need all the help you can get. I want to make this place safe for my family, especially Marciella." He looked over to her. "I don't want to lose anyone again." I was gonna ask him what he meant by again, but figured it'd be best to stay quiet.

"If you want to join, we'll gladly take you," Andrew said. "But just so you know, there's no guarantee of survival."

"I can handle myself in a fight," Octavis said. "My skills with fists and boomerangs have earned plenty of praise."

"That's one of the reasons why I married him," Holly laughed.

"Well, welcome aboard, Octavis!" Helen cheered. We finished eating as Octavis told us about his family and life. We learned he had a sister named Ocean who was taken by a disease when she was young. We learned Marciella likes to draw a lot and Holly has always wanted to open a fighting dojo, which Octavis supports. When we finished the meal, we said our farewells to Holly and Marciella as Octavis assured them that he would return. Our next destination was Pora, which is just south of Fora.

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