The Swashbuckler Within: Part One
The scurviest scallywags ever to set foot or peg-leg on
a barnacle-bottomed boat (err, ship) and sail the salty seas of Neopia were at
the hub of piratedom, the Golden Dubloon on Krawk Island. A grand Bilge Dice tournament
(at the least the grandest pirates could conjure, anyway) was being held between
four of the greatest players on the island. Bets were being placed at every table
- two dubloons on the one with the eye patch, a whole five dubloons and a broken,
rusty knife on the one missing the most teeth. There was even a perch high in
the rafters for captains' Pawkeets to roost and comment, "Squawk! The dice are
Dragyte the red Aisha (dressed rather smashingly
as a pirate) glanced around him, undaunted by the mass of scruffy, smelly seadogs
spitting and screaming over his shoulder. In truth, Dragyte wasn't even a pirate,
swashbuckler, or whatever you preferred to call them: he was an ordinary red,
scrawny Aisha. He wanted to be accepted into that exclusive club that was open
only to lowdown, rough and tough scallywags. That's why he played Bilge Dice.
It wasn't for the money or the fame (though they were a nice bonus); he just
longed to be excepted as a swashbuckler. No matter how hard he tried to hide
his landlubber upbringing by dressing, talking, and acting like a pirate, it
still always came out. For instance, he had a dreadful fear of the sea and being
in ships, which created an awkward atmosphere when all his pirate buddies went
sailing on the high seas. Dragyte hoped that by playing Bilge Dice, they would
forget all of his quirks and respect him as a swashbuckler.
Needless to say, playing Bilge Dice and winning
so much had gone to the red Aisha's head, and he grew rather smug about the
upcoming match. To him, it was just another tournament and soon to be just another
victory. How huge was the pot now? Ha! Dragyte didn't even care! With this one
final roll, it would all be his. Not a single shred of doubt was in him; luck
- as it always had been - was certainly on his side.
Suddenly a set of menacing eyes pushed through
the crowd, followed by a face non-too-flattering. It was Luck, a large peg-legged
pirate Bruce and old acquaintance from the golden days of the Black Pawkeet.
"Dragyte," he yawped through his gnarled beak, "ye hairy-livered landlubber!
I be betting against ye this time 'round because ye Tigersquashed me hideout!"
"What?" exclaimed Dragyte in surprise. He raised
an eyebrow and repeated sarcastically, "Tigersquashed yer hideout?"
Luck banged his winged fist on the table and
growled. "Ye threw Tigersquashes at me Neohome, I mean; how could ye forget?
And now, I be betting against ye, pirate pretender… SO THERE!" He turned around
and melted into the crowd. Dragyte, not to be deterred, shrugged carelessly.
Luck may not be on his side, but luck was definitely on his side. (Did that
even make an inkling of sense?!)
It was time. Grimtooth the Krawk, Monty the
Meerca, and Deadeye the Eyrie had already rolled, and all ended up with 21 out
of 24 - or three 5s and a 6. Dragyte had two 5s and a 6. All he needed was a
6, and he'd claim the pot with 22. If the dice gave him a 5, he'd tie with the
others , and they'd split the winnings. But a "tie" wasn't Dragyte's style.
He played to win.
Taking his time, Dragyte gingerly picked up
the dice and juggled them meditatively in his paws. Then, with a flick of his
wrist, he released them like tops onto the table, and they rolled, rolled, rolled…
and stopped. Everyone in the Golden Dubloon fell silent.
Leaning over, Dragyte read the numbers on the
die. "They're all ones?!" he declared in disbelief, and a low hum of whispers
picked up around him.
"Squawk!" called a Pawkeet from the rafters.
"The dice are loaded, squawk!"
"That's right," shrieked the Aisha, his eyes
widening crazily, "all of ye heard what he said? Those dice… they are all loaded!
Cheaters, I tell ye! CHEATERS!" Dragyte glanced about him for supporters, but
all the other pirates simply shook their heads.
"Har, har," Grimtooth laughed, "Face it, Dragyte
- ye lost. Looks like we be getting to split this here million-Neopoint pot
betweens the threes of us, and ye get zilch, nadda, zip… har!" The other two
opponents - now Neomillionaires - joined in the laughter, and before long the
entire Golden Dubloon was in a wild uproar.
Dragyte scowled. "Ye'll all pay!" he declared,
jumping onto the table. "This was rigged from the start, and I demand a rematch!"
"Ye be flat-broke, ye daft loony!" observed
the Monty with a crooked smile. He glanced over at the two surly Lupes beside
the door and, with a twirl of his ribbon-like tail, indicated a need for their
immediate intervention. With several great bounds, they pushed through the pirate
crowd and seized Dragyte by the arms, lifting him in the air so that he flailed
"Conspiracy!" screamed the Aisha they carted
him roughly out of the Golden Dubloon and kicked him out the front door. Dragyte
flew like a worn plushie into the grimy, muddy gutter beside the filthy street.
The Lupes returned to the saloon and the cheering and general jubilation that
followed showed how little anyone cared about the recently dethroned Bilge Dice
King, the pirate pretender named Dragyte.
For a long time, Dragyte just lay there in a
state of denial soaking up mud. It all had to be some horrible, twisted nightmare.
He couldn't really be in this sorry situation, piled in a heap on the street
like discarded trash. And yet, as the Aisha slowly lifted up his head, his red
fur and pirate clothes all drenched in dirt and grime, the nightmare became
reality. Not only was he now a virtual outcast, but now - to top it all - he
was incurably poor with not a Neopoint to his name.
When the Aisha finally did rise to his feet
(or paws, rather) he made the long, difficult trudge home through the slop and
fog of Krawk Island. No cheers or jubilation for him; the loser was always cast
aside and soon forgotten.
It was getting dark by the time Dragyte reached
his Neohome - a quaint shack in a quiet (yet still slightly dangerous) neighborhood
on the western edge of the island. As he pulled open the door, he could hear
his older brother, Orekoh the Mutant Ixi, humming the theme song to "Hannah
and the Pirate Caves" as he washed dishes in the kitchen. Oh no, Dragyte was
hoping Orekoh wouldn't be home. Surely a scolding was soon to come…
"Is that you, Dragyte?" called Orekoh when he
heard the door shut. "Why are you so late? Come here…" The Aisha came meandering
in with his head down and looking very much ashamed. "What in the name of Sloth
is the matter with you?" questioned Orekoh as he observed his brother's demeanor.
"Nothing…" muttered Dragyte solemnly.
"Nooo…" frowned his brother. "I know exactly
what's wrong - you were playing Bilge Dice again with those ruffians at the
Golden Dubloon, weren't you?" He paused to wipe the soap suds from his hooves
before he yanked off Dragyte's fake eye patch. "Why do you persist in wearing
this ridiculous thing when you know - and everyone else knows - you can see
perfectly well through that eye? Uggh… and how did you get mud all over your
clothes? Honestly, you aren't one of those despicable pirates, so stop acting
like them - they are a bad example!" The Ixi shook his head and sighed before
adding in a nagging tone, "And just exactly how much did you lose at Bilge Dice,
mister? Judging by that melancholy expression, it must have been a lot…"
Dragyte made an almost inaudible grumble. "Everything…"
"I lost all me gold."
Orekoh rubbed his head as if to ease a headache.
"Dragyte…" he said hoarsely, trying to control his anger, "I've had enough of
your wastefulness. It's all that pirate influence! They are such horrid, horrid
Neopets, and they have the foulest smell. Why do you want to be a pirate, anyway?"
"Swashbuckler," corrected the red Aisha, twiddling
his paws nervously.
"Whatever! Look, I've had enough of it! I want
you to do something constructive. I need you to Kougra-sit your younger brother,
Herrami, and his darling friend, Kaelou, tomorrow."
"Kougra sit?" declared Dragyte. "But, I can't
even make me own grub! How de ye expect me to feed two sniveling, snotty-nosed,
"You won't need to feed them," answered Orekoh,
"because I won't be gone too long. The whole Kougra-sitting experience will
give you a much better perspective. I mean, you don't even really know your
own little brother! You've been too busy glaring at Neopets with one eye, swinging
a sword around, and playing Bilge Dice that you haven't had the time to truly
get to know yourself and your family."
Dragyte opened his mouth to protest, but his
brother raised a hoof to stop him.
"I don't want to hear any more protests from
you, understood? Whether you like it or not, you are going to be Kougra-sitting
tomorrow. Consider it the first step to civilize you."
To be continued…
Author's Note: Special thanks to Paperelf for allowing me to use her Neopets