The crack of thunder woke Clara up. A storm never brought good things, she knew that much, especially in the sea. She got off the cot, shakily making her way to the deck.
She wobbled as the wind screamed, rain hitting her like bullets. The sail flapped uselessly as a few men tried to tie it back.
“Head for the eye,” Nazo shouted, leaning against the rail.
Clara walked towards him, watching the sea churn, white sea foam lapping against the ship’s side. The ship turned, heading directly towards the eye of the storm as thunder rumbled again. She hoped the storm would pass quickly.
“Do you know this place?” Nazo asked, looking at Clara before marking something on the map.
“No,” she answered. The storm had ended long ago. “It was always too far away from home.”
He nodded, standing up from his desk. He headed out onto the deck, looking at the calm, deep blue sea and the upcoming shore. He would find his father, no, he’d find the treasure his father left behind.
He glanced over as Sandy stood by him, arms folded as she took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“You’re nervous too?” he asked, receiving a nod in response. “I, uh, I’m sure we’ll be fine. There’s no way we can encounter the same,” he stopped, glancing at the scar on her throat. “We’ll be fine.” He repeated.
No one would suffer because of his choices ever again.
The ship kissed the shore hours later, the crew milling about as the sun beat down. Clara smiled, mopping up excess water from the deck. It wasn’t much, but she could get used to tasks like this.
“Clara,” Nazo called, jogging towards her. “I want you to come with me. To the island.” He said, taking her hand in his and tugging her towards the rowboat.
She settled in beside another crew member. The island was quiet, the white rocks gleaming as they made their way to the shore.
Something felt off no matter how much Clara followed them until they reached a small alcove where a brown chest rested, algae growing on its edges.
“It’s. . .that has to be it.” Sonic mumbled, almost dropping the shovel he brought.
Nazo swallowed, carefully wading towards it. The water was unusually deep, but he was so close. Just a few more steps.
He glanced back as a splash sounded behind him, he opened his mouth as Sandy and Clara swam towards him. He choked, salt filling his lungs as something grabbed his leg and dragged him down.
“No one touches my treasure,” a deep voice hissed, tentacles lashing out as the witch brought Nazo into his field of vision. “Especially you, son of Crono.” He growled, translucent skin shifting from cream to white. A large scar running from his cheek to his neck stretched as he smiled.
Nazo frowned, grunting as he struggled against the witch’s hold. He groaned, feeling the tentacle tighten around his body as he was held upright.
“Nazo!” Clara screamed, catching the witch’s attention. She swallowed as his light blue gaze settled on her and Sandy.
“You’ll die like your father,” Chalakon rumbled, flashing rows and rows of teeth. “At least you’ll have an audience this time.” He continued, lifting Nazo high in the air. He roared, looking down as Sandy stabbed at one of his tentacles.
Blood ran free, staining the water red as Chalakon growled, lifting her as well. “Oh, it’s you.” He said, grinning and knocking Sonic back. “What shall I take next? Your leg? An arm? Or,” he paused, bringing the woman close and removing the silver wedding band she wore. “Shall I make you my bride?”
Clara breathed, swimming to the other side, and climbing high enough to get into the witch’s line of vision. “Don’t, don’t hurt them!” she cried. “Take my human form instead.”
Chalakon stopped, finally looking at her. He smiled, letting both people drop unceremoniously to the hard ground. “A human form,” he said, opening his hand and lifting her once she stepped in the palm. “I’ve never had one.”
“Well, you can have it if you leave them alone.” Clara said, swallowing nervously. “And let them take the treasure.”
“A human form is worth so much more than useless gold,”
Clara nodded. She would give this up, only if it meant that Nazo and the rest of her crew was safe. She groaned, watching white crawl up her legs. She wobbled, watching as the orb floated towards Chalakon.
The world spun as she fell, the sea waiting to welcome her back. She grunted, feeling a pair of arms around her. Wrapping her arms around Nazo, she mumbled, “I’m sorry. I just wanted you guys to be—”
“It’s alright,” Nazo interrupted, holding onto her as her tail moved in the water.
“Little one,” Chalakon rumbled, looking down at them. “I’ll allow them to take the treasure, but you must stay here with me and no harm will come to them.”
Clara nodded, watching Sandy stand. She held the sword tight in her hand as she started towards Chalakon.
“And you,” the witch continued. “must return home. Never to set foot on a boat as long as you live. Only then will you earn your voice back. The sea is no place for a woman of your caliber.”
Sandy looked at him for a moment before nodding. Clara could see the obvious conflict on her face, one she wished she had the strength to fight for.
“Now, go. Before I change my mind.” He said, tossing the chest towards them.
Nazo stood, cautiously helping Sonic drag it to the rowboat. He bit his lip, heading back to where Clara floated, long blue hair flowing around her.
“Clara,” he started. “I’m sorry it ended up this way.”
The mermaid nodded, digging her fingers into the sand. “You will at least visit, right? All of you.” She said.
He nodded, bringing her hand up and kissing her knuckles before kissing her. The taste of saltwater wasn’t lost on him. The ocean breeze a constant reminder of things that would never change.
Clara watched them go. She turned towards Chalakon, sniffling as he opened his arms. She sobbed into him, wailing as the rowboat grew smaller and smaller.
“Little one,” Chalakon said, wiping her face. “Welcome home.”
He was right. This was her home now. A price to pay for her crew’s protection. For their child.
“Are ya gonna go visit?” Sandy asked, her voice rough from disuse. It was still nice to hear that drawl after all these years.
Nazo cleared his throat, looking at the map laid out before him. “I want to,” he replied. “I miss her.”
A year had passed since that day, since Clara gave up her human form for them. Nazo sighed, walking out of his study and heading towards the docks. He needed to prepare anyway.
The alcove hadn’t changed since the last time he was there. Or at least it’s appearance hadn’t as Clara sat on the rocks, her fin languidly swishing in the water. He paused, seeing something move towards her.
“Clara,” he called, running to her only to stop as she moved her tail away and slid into the water where a small boy popped his head up.
She smiled, moving towards him, holding the boy. “Do you want to say hi?” she asked.
The boy looked at Nazo with familiar green eyes. He waved shyly, hiding in his mother’s hair when Nazo reached towards him.
Nazo swallowed, pulling his hand back and taking his boots off to join the two. “I’m your,” he stopped, hugging the boy as he swam towards him.
Chalakon looked on for a moment before moving deeper into the alcove. He didn’t want to ruin such a precious moment.