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The Thirteenth Key: Part One

by writer190


"I'm going to be the best pirate you scallywags have ever seen! Argh!" I cried, taping up one of my best pictures yet of Dorak the blue Krawk on my wall. This scene was of Dorak in his boat, pulling hard on the oars, his muscles bulging. Ahead of his boat was a silver dubloon coin, glittering from the sunlight that hit it after bouncing off the water. Dorak's eyes were focused on the coin, and, if you looked hard enough, you could see a faint reflection of the coin in them. I gazed at my idol for a minute, then I dashed down the stairs, my long ears flapping around behind me. I slowed down when I heard my owner, Lexi, talking to the Neopia Inn manager.

      "Yes, I'd like to book a reservation in the Ye Olde Ship Inn for three days, please. His name is Zach, and he's a Zafara. Yes, that's right. Thank you. I'll pay you when we get there..." Lexi finished up and turned to me. "Are you sure you want to stay in the Ye Olde Ship Inn? I could put you in the Astrovilla hotel or something!"

      "Does the Astrovilla have pirates?" I asked her, answering her question.

      "Well, they might have space pirates. Wouldn't that be fun?" Lexi asked me, even though her expression told me she knew it was a battle lost. I guessed she just didn't like my ambition to be a pirate. She called it a 'dirty job.' She kept going. "I'm just worried about you! You've been raised quite properly, and I don't want you hanging around with any..." she looked for the right word. "I don't want you with any, um, scum, okay? I'm worried the Ye Olde Ship Inn just won't satisfy you, because we're so rich here."

      "Worry not, me lady!" I slipped up my eye patch to wink at her. "I'll be just fine, matey! Avast!"

      Lexi sighed and looked me straight in both eyes. "Just be careful, okay? Don't mess with any danger."

      "Danger?" I laughed, heading back up to my room. "I laugh in the face of danger. Mu-ha-ha-ha! No one messes with the Rough Pirate Zach!"

      In my room, I started to pack my things for my stay at the Ye Olde Ship Inn. I was very excited. Imagine, staying in a pirate ship! What an adventure. I looked up, catching a glimpse of myself in my mirror. I loved how I looked, because I was painted with a Pirate paintbrush. I put a dirty scowl on my face and growled, trying to imitate a pirate.

      Once I was packed, I lugged my bag downstairs to Lexi, who was working at the kitchen table. We headed out to Neopia Central, which was not far from our house. I started an age-old argument with Lexi, about our living location.

      "Why do we live in Neopia Central?" I asked her for maybe the thousandth time. "I mean, all the real pirates live on Krawk Island! I want to live there!"

      Lexi took a deep breath, closing her eyes. She was tired of this conversation. I didn't see why she didn't just give in to me if she disliked the debate so much. It'd be easier for her just to agree with me and move our house.

      "You know why," she answered, keeping her eyes ahead. Yes, I knew why. She wanted to be close to her shop and be close to business and such. But I wanted to keep pestering her about it. I firmly believed that if we lived in Krawk Island, I would finally be able to meet a real live pirate, maybe even Dorak himself! What a life it must be, I often thought. A life full of hunting for treasure and a life on the sea!

      "Are you afraid of pirates?" I shot at her.

      "Oh, Zach!" Lexi stopped walking and put my bags down, turning to look at me. "Zach, I am not afraid of pirates! But we need to stay here!" She sounded extremely exasperated, so I stopped bugging her. I decided I should be happy about staying in Ye Olde Ship Inn, at least for three days. I thanked her for booking me a room in the inn. She looked relieved and kept walking.

      When we reached the inn, I was amazed. The huge ship-shaped building was incredible. Its enormous size towered over Lexi and me. I had never seen a real ship before, only in pictures, and I was impressed at its magnificence. The sails were unfurled, white sails with large black letters reading, 'Ye Olde Ship Inn.' The main mast was so tall, its top was in the low clouds. A plank stretched from the ground into the ship, which was firmly docked by many thick ropes. In fact, half of the ship was on the ground to ensure that it didn't float away. I smiled to myself and started up the plank.

      "Have a nice trip!" Lexi called after me. I smiled, turned, and saluted her.

      "Aye, aye, matey!" With that, I turned and ran up the plank, my boots clanking along the wood as I made my way up.

      "Welcome aboard, matey!" said a large Bruce with a clipboard. My smile must have been from ear to ear, because he grinned down at me. "An eager beaver, eh? What might yer name be, lad?"

      "Uh..." I couldn't speak. I just looked at the Bruce, dazzled by the fact that I was speaking to a sailor. Maybe not a pirate, but still, a sailor nonetheless!

      "You, eh, do have a name?"

      "What?" I snapped out of my stunned daze. "Oh! Oh, yeah. I'm uh, Zach."

      The Bruce scanned his list, nodding his head as he found my name on his list. "Are ye signed up for a Captain's Matey room?"

      That sounded right, so I nodded vigorously. The Bruce turned and started walking away. For a moment, I wasn't sure what to do. I fingered one of my gold ring earrings, then decided he probably wanted me to follow him. I hurried to catch up to him. He was climbing up a ladder to the next floor.

      "There are four floors on this ship," he explained, grunting as he started up a second ladder. "One is the deck, two is the Captain's Matey rooms - that's you - and three is the Deckswabber's rooms. Four is for storage. You are strictly forbidden from goin' down to level four. Got that?"

      I nodded, then I realized he couldn't see me nodding, so I cleared my throat. "Yeah," I said. I was going to add more when I cleared the second ladder (I must have boarded on the Deckswabber's floor). I had come to the deck.

      "This here is the deck," said the Bruce unnecessarily. I stared dumbfounded at the deck, in shock. This was a real deck on a real ship! I was so happy, I felt like flying. The deck awed me; I was stunned.

      On the deck, a huge crowd of people were milling around, here and there. I was no stranger to crowds, seeing as Neopia Central was a bustling place to live. This bunch of pets was different to me. Perhaps it was because I had always wanted to see the deck of a real ship, I had always longed to be a real sailor. It was like the work of Fyora's magic for me.

      Some of the pets on the deck were workers, scrubbing the deck and climbing the ratlines to make the ship seem more lifelike. Others were the pets staying at the hotel, watching the workers or chatting with friends. I was going to climb up the rest of the ladder, but the Bruce grunted again and headed back down the ladder to the Captain's Matey rooms, signaling for me to follow him. I reluctantly went along, down a long wooden hallway with gold doors every few paces. Each door had a number on it. I followed the Bruce all the way down the hall, which ending abruptly, one door at the end. The door's number was 13 in gold plated fancy figures.

      "This'll be yer room. Here's yer key," the Bruce said, tossing me a key on a string. I caught it and looked at the silver key. It had the number 13 on it. The Bruce kept going. "Righty then, no questions? Okay, have a nice stay!"

      After that, I was alone in the long hallway. I fit the key into the lock and turned it. The doorknob jiggled, and the door swung open at my turn of the key. I tied the key around my neck and hid it under my black bandana, for safe keeping.

      Closing the door behind me, I walked into the room, my boots thumping soundly on the hard wooden floor. I still was dazed by the fact that I was on a real ship. I took a look around the room.

      It was a nice cabin, with a desk, table, bed, and a door leading to a bathroom on one side. The bed was pushed up against the side that must have been the end of the ship, because a large, circular window above the bed displayed a beautiful view of the beach we were on. My hand suddenly itched to draw everything. I wanted to draw everything I could see. I loved to draw, and now I could draw the best beach, ship, and cabin I had ever drawn. I had the picture right in front of me, and I just had to put it down on paper.

      For the rest of the afternoon, I quietly sketched and filled my pictures. One was of my cabin, drawn in perfect detail. Another was of the beach, calm and serene, with palm trees lining the edge and waves crashing on tan sand. The third picture was the ship, still crystal clear in my mind from when I had seen it from the outside. I could still see its gigantic bulk looming impressively before me.

      I remembered Lexi once telling me I had an artist's eye. I could recall anything I had seen nearly just as it had been. Everything I took a good look at would be etched into my brain in case I wanted to draw it later.

      When I finished my third drawing, I took a step back to admire it. It was surely one of my best pieces yet! Lexi would definitely be impressed. The shadowing was done well, and I had captured the way the ship seemed to tower overhead, like a giant looking down on an ant. The picture held the way I had felt when I had first seen it, so measly and small compared to it.

      As I was looking at my drawing, I heard a loud bell ring. I opened my door and looked out. I saw everyone else in my hallway heading out of the hallway, so I followed them. The crowd turned into an adjacent passage, this one opening up into an enormous cafeteria. Hundreds of pets sat at many long wooden tables. The food had been set out for the pets before they came, soup in crudely carved wooden bowls with rough wooden spoons. Come to think of it, I thought, almost everything in the ship was wooden. How long had it taken to make all of it?

      I sat down next to a blue Blumaroo and dug hungrily into the stew. It was quite good. I was full after one serving. From the books I had read about pirates, I knew their food was very filling so that they didn't have to eat a lot. This way the food could last longer.

      I hurried up to the deck after dinner. It was getting dark outside; I had been drawing longer than I had realized. I strode to the front of the ship, which bobbed slightly in the water. I looked out over the ocean. It was bigger than I had ever imagined. The dark, rolling swells stretched on as far as the eye could see. It was overwhelmingly gorgeous, making me fall even more in love with the sea. The sun was just setting, bouncing beautifully off the water. My breath caught in my chest as I took it all in. It was truly the most exquisite sight I had ever seen.

      I turned my head to the sky, twisting my pointed tail around my arm. The sun made the clouded sky turn all sorts of radiant colours, orange, purple, and mostly red. An old sailors' saying jumped into my head.

      "Red in the morning, sailors take warning. Red at night, sailors delight."

      A voice from behind me made me jump. "Aye, matey. If we was to be sailin' right now, t'would be good seas! Aye, if we was to be sailin'..."

      I turned around to see a big Grarrl standing behind me. He had a peg leg, giving him a somewhat lopsided stance. He wore a fancy red and gold jacket with a white ruffle below the neckline.

      "I be your captain, Cap'n Larry, they call me. Pleased to meet yer acquaintance." The Grarrl stuck out a thick paw. Hesitantly, I pulled my arm out of the wraps of my tail and shook his paw. He smiled at me, showing rows of razor-sharp teeth as white as pearls from the depths of the ocean.

      "Well, I noticed you admirin' the view. Sorry to interrupt you, but it's 'bout time you be headin' in. Here on the ships, we like early to bed an' early to rise."

      I nodded quickly, a little frightened of him, and hurriedly made my way back to my room. The door opened easily, and I closed it behind me, locked it, and lay down in bed.

      Despite my active and exciting day, I could not go to sleep. I reached to my desk and turned on a lamp I had found there. I pulled out my book, The Grundo Pirate, and opened to my page I had marked with my bookmark. I loved this book; it was about a farm boy who dreamed of being a pirate. In a way, he wasn't too different from me. Mostly, anyway, except that I was rich, I wasn't a Grundo, and I didn't work on a farm. I guess our only similarity was our love for pirates.

      I was at the part in the book where the Grundo heard about Captain Scarblade. Captain Scarblade called himself the 'ruler of the five seas.' Everyone who sails is scared of him. Even I, who had never sailed in my life, shivered every time I heard his name!

      After a while, I started to feel sleepy. I let the book fall onto my chest, and my eyes closed peacefully. I started to drift off, into that lovely sensation between sleep and being awake. I was almost asleep, when I heard a thump. Was I dreaming? Then I heard a very strange series of sounds.

      Clip, clip, clip, thunk. Clip, clip, clip, thonk. What makes that sound? I wondered to myself. Curious, I let one of my eyes open halfway. Blurry from drowsiness, I saw a pirate Moehog, frozen in mid-step, looking straight at me. That answered my question. What goes 'clip, clip, clip, thonk?' A Moehog with a peg leg. I quickly closed my eye and deepened my breathing, my thoughts racing.

      What was the Moehog doing in my cabin? I thought I had locked the door. My second question was answered when I heard a voice whisper in a harsh tone.

      "Andy! Quiet!" the voice whispered. "Close the window behind you!"

      I opened my eye just the tiniest bit and looked for the source of the voice. It was a pirate Kougra, his tail straight up in an alerted position. A pink scar ran down across his eye, and he wore a red bandana over his head.

      "Yes, Cap'n Yuri," the Moehog - Andy - said, loud enough to wake the dead. Then, remembering he was supposed to be quiet, he whispered, "I mean, yes, Cap'n Yuri!"

      At the sudden noise, my attention was drawn back to Andy, making my eye flutter as it moved from one pirate to the other. Unfortunately, Yuri noticed the movement. In a flash, the Kougra was next to my bed, holding a small dagger to my side. I gave out a small yelp of surprise, and instantly, a paw was pressed firmly over my mouth. I gulped.

      "Uh, Cap'n, what are we gonna do?" That was Andy, who apparently not quite the brightest in Neopia. Actually, from what I could hear, he was a very dull light bulb.

      "Hush!" Yuri hissed at Andy. "We'll take him with us. We can't have him telling anyone about us!"

      "Will we still look for the--" Andy began, but he was silenced by a quick flip of Yuri's tail, so it was pointed straight at the Moehog.

      "What did I tell you, Andy?" Yuri whispered in a clearly aggravated tone. "I want silence! We can't let the Zafara hear anything!"

      Well then, I wanted to say, why are you talking so much?

      With a rough paw, Yuri pulled me unceremoniously out of the bed and into a standing position. With my paw, the one that Yuri didn't have clamped tight in his paw, I tried to wrestle free of the Kougra's grip.

      I've always prided myself in the area of my strength. It seemed, however, that I was absolutely no match for the pirate captain Yuri. His hold on me was like iron as he grabbed my other arm and pushed me over to the window of the ship.

      "If you don't try anything not smart, we won't have to hurt you." Yuri's voice was like sandpaper as he breathed his words into my ear. I quickly went limp, being in no rush to be hurt by him after his short demonstration of his strength.

      "What's that commotion?" This voice was new, deep and strong.

      "Just great!" Yuri sighed. "Now we have to leave!"

      His muscles standing out under his fur, Yuri effortlessly lifted me up as he clamored out the window. My eyes widened in shock when I was crudely pushed out the window. A ship bobbed before me, connected to the Ye Olde Ship Inn by a long rope. The ship was just as massive as the inn, maybe even bigger. The sails were a pure black color. The sails' edges were slightly ragged, but that only built to the overwhelming sensation the ship gave me. A carefully carved Shadow Peophin was attached to the front of the ship, its black hooves caught pawing the air. It looked as if the Peophin was rising from the ocean, like a dark mystery, water dripping from it as it dipped and soared, dipped and soared. I half expected it to break free of the ship and finish a perfectly arched jump, splashing back into the ocean. It looked so powerful, so supreme.

      My short look at the figurehead ended as Yuri finished climbing through the window. What ensured was one of the scariest moments of my life. Yuri was able to shimmy across the rope with three paws with a lot of growling and grunting. This meant his leftover arm, holding me, was left to dangle threatening over the water. At such a height from the water as we were, any drop might have been fatal. So there I was, dangling from the scruff of my neck, many, many meters from the ground, as my capture worked his way slowly across a rope that could easily have broken under both our weights. Have I mentioned my fear of heights? Let me tell you, this was not a pleasant experience.

      After what seemed like an eternity, Yuri pulled himself onto the deck of the other ship, Andy not too far behind him. Once they were both on the ship, they turned around to look at the Ye Olde Ship Inn. The Bruce who had earlier shown Zach around was halfway out the window in an attempt to follow them. His face showed anger and contempt, but his cries couldn't be heard over the pounding of the sea.

      Yuri drew out his dagger and, in one swift motion, cut the sharp blade through the rope cleanly, sending it down, down, down into the dark sea, hitting the waves with a barely audible splash. The Bruce was safe on the Ye Olde Ship Inn, shaking a closed paw at the pirates.

      Yuri snorted and spat into the water. I realized now there was no hope for me. Exhausted from my interrupted sleep and my dead burst of adrenaline, I sagged to the deck of the ship, letting the world around me fade into blackness.

To be continued...

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