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The Thirteenth Key: Part Two

by writer190


When I awoke, it took me a minute to remember where I was. After a few moments, everything came rushing back to me, like a blast of cold water straight into my chest.

      I was now in yet another cabin. I was actually thinking to myself, Imagine that, I go most of my life without ever setting paw on a ship, and now I've been on two in two days!

      The cabin I had slept in was dirty and ragged. There was one tough bed, which I was lying in. A three legged chair stood tipped over in front of a short desk. The wood was peeling off the walls in some places. The floor was swollen and uneven. The whole room bobbed up and down gently from the waves.

      "I see you're up," commented a voice from a corner of my room. I quickly turned my head to find who had spoken. It was a blue Uni. She looked like she had once been richly dressed, because she wore a black jeweled collar. The rest of her clothes, though, were rags in tatters. The Uni noticed my gaze on her collar, so she explained. "Some other pirates took my clothes. They wanted to sell the nice clothes on the market at ridiculous prices. I insisted they let me keep my collar. Then these pirates saved me; they're going to take me home. I guess the bad pirates got what they wanted!" She spat the last words in disgust. I noticed she was nervously eying my pirate clothes, so I started to talk.

      "I've always wanted to be a pirate. But now that I've been kidnapped by pirates, I'm not so sure. If I ever become a pirate, I'd only plunder other pirate ships, or shipwrecks, or look for treasure. I wouldn't be a bad pirate. I wouldn't kidnap or anything..." I caught myself blabbering on and on, so I stopped talking. When I had thought about being a pirate, I had always thought of myself doing what Dorak did, not like Captain Scarblade, who actually hurt other pets!

      "Wait a minute," I said, thinking. "If these pirates saved you, why did they kidnap me?"

      The Uni frowned, wrinkling her nose. "I don't know," she said, and we both fell quiet again.

      After I while, I spoke again. "Hey, um..."

      "My name's Casey."

      "Casey, could you tell me, what time is it?" I didn't know if she could answer that, but I was very curious.

      "Late morning, noon, maybe." She stretched her wings and shuffled her hooves, resettling herself.

      "Thanks." I had slept far into the morning.

      Suddenly, the door swung open. A Pirate Shoyru came in and motioned for Casey to follow him. "We're at your stop." Then he turned to me. "Cap'n Yuri says yer wanted."

      I followed the Shoyru out of the dirty cabin, unsteady on my land legs, and up two ladders, to the deck. The captain's cabin was on the deck. I looked off the edge of the ship and saw nothing but ice and snow. The captain stood next to me, gazing into the blizzard.

      "Um, sir, this isn't where I live..." I was a little nervous. I had assumed the pirates would drop me off at home in Neopia Central, but we were nearing Terror Mountain.

      "No, no," laughed Yuri. "Of course not! This is Casey's stop!"

      I was silent, waiting for him to say more. After a while, he did.

      "You showed remarkable capability last night, Zach." I jumped when I heard him say my name. How did he know my name? Seeing the confusion and fear plain on my face, Yuri pulled out a folded piece of paper and unfolded it. It was my picture of the Ye Olde Ship Inn. He pointed to a corner of the illustration, where my name was clearly penned in black ink. "How did you draw this?" he asked me.

      "I remembered it."

      "You have an incredible talent, Zach, as well as some very good senses and reactions. You can remember things in fine detail, you awoke at the slightest sound, your quick thinking kept you hidden until I noticed your eye movement, and you were very strong when you struggled with me. In short, Zach, we need you."

      "Need me?" I looked around the ship at everyone else working the sails. Yuri had a lot of sailors working for him. Why did he need me? At the same time that I was confused, I felt a bit of flattery. All my life, I had wanted to be a pirate. Now a pirate who I might idolize was praising my skills!

      "Yes, we need you. All the pirates around here that you see," he gestured around the ship, "I have at my service for their brute strength; their knowledge of ships and sea. But you, Zach, you have more! I need you for my latest pursuit - finding Morgan's treasures!"

      Despite all the books I had read about pirates, despite everything I had learned about the ocean, my knowledge of the sea and all that dwelled on it was still quite limited. I did not know who Morgan was.

      "Let me tell you who Morgan is," the captain told me. Apparently, he was very good at reading expressions. "She's a bit hard to put into words; let me get someone to tell you about her."

      "Winslow!" Yuri cupped a paw to his mouth and whistled, a sharp, earsplitting whistle that the whole ship could hear. No one paid heed to the whistle, except a plump, old Pirate Draik. He came from one level below the deck. His fur was mostly gray and his belly hung out from his shirt. He obviously hadn't worked in a long while, probably because of his age. He swaggered up the deck unsteadily. When he smiled, I noticed the few teeth he had were gold and uneven.

      Yuri spoke quietly in my ear. "Winslow is the oldest pirate I know. He knows more than all of us put together. Be careful, though, he's a little crazy and he's easily offended!"

      "What's that yer wantin', Cap'n?" Winslow asked, his tail swaying back and forth as he kept his balance expertly on the rocking ship.

      "Tell this young fellow about Morgan," Yuri told him, speaking loudly to be sure to be heard.

      "What's that? Smell the young feller with four gins?"

      Yuri sighed and shook his head, repeating what he said, this time louder!

      "Oh! No need to shout, Yuri. I can hear yew perfectly fine! Young'uns now-a-days!" Then he turned to me, his gray eyes blurry and clouded with old age. "Avast, matey! Morgan be maybe the prettiest gal on the seas, with eyes like golden treasures. But she's also the deadliest pirate! They say she takes no prisoners, unless they tells her why they want to live so badly. If she likes their reason, they'll be marooned on an island with nothing to keep them alive except what they have worth livin' for. Well, that's not th' important part. Here we go." The Draik resettled himself, then kept talking. "Well, being one of th' best pirates on the five seas, word on the sea is she's got some mighty fine treasures buried here and there and round abouts. Now young Yuri here's lookin' for the key to her biggest treasure, Key 13."

      "Key 13," I repeated faintly. My thoughts flew to the key safely hidden behind my bandana. That key had the number 13 on it! But surely this wasn't the key they were looking for, was it? I tried to keep my expression neutral, my paws still at my sides. I wound my tail around one of my arms, thinking.

      "So, Yuri had it in his foolish young head th' key'd be somewhere in cabin 13 on the Ye Olde Ship Inn! That's why he was so rudely 'terruptin' yer sleep, to look for the key. You don't happen to know where it might be, do you?"

      "I don't believe I know what key you're speaking of," I practically shouted so I wouldn't have to repeat myself. It was part of the truth anyway! It was quite possible my key was the one Captain Yuri was looking for, but I wasn't sure I believed it. Even if I was, I didn't want to tell him, so I could save a trump card for when I needed it.

      "You young'uns and yer fancy words! Young'uns nowadays!"

      I turned back to Yuri. "Captain, what's my other choice?"

      Yuri looked surprised I would contemplate my other choice, but he smothered his surprised look quickly, and he nodded. "Well, if you don't want to join me, I could return you to the Ye Olde Ship Inn where I could cunningly convince the Bruce we were just a dream. Then you would live a boring life without pirates, and whenever you try to tell someone about your run-in with Pirate Captain Yuri, you'd be scolded for telling such tall tales. Your pick between the two."

      They way he said it, I felt like I didn't have much of a choice. Anyway, this was what I had always wanted, right? But what about Lexi, my owner? Even through our arguments, I still loved her, and I knew she loved me! What would she think of me becoming a pirate?

      I shrugged away these uncertainties and looked at Yuri. "Okay, but maybe only for a little bit, okay? I still don't know how my owner would handle that."

      Yuri raised his eyebrows. "All right, then! Welcome aboard my ship, The Hunter, Pirate Zachary!"

      What a nice ring that name had to it! Imagine adding some sort of last name... say, Pirate Zachary Black! A name to send shivers through everyone who sailed the five seas!

      "Now, I know this is a bit forward, but I need you for a undercover job that has to be done. We need your quick thinking and good skills, Zach, as I mentioned earlier," Yuri said.

      "Undercover, like... spying?" I asked, my heart starting to beat faster. What an adventure! Finally, what I had always wanted! I was going to be a pirate! Yuri grinned at my excited face, showing sharp white teeth behind his thin lips.

      "Yes," he said, slowly. "Yes, I suppose you could call it that. You would be, erm, spying in the Golden Dubloon. We need you to find out more about Morgan; where she is, where she's going, what is the thirteenth key... Speaking of which, you don't happen to know where the thirteenth key is, do you?"

      Knowing at how good the captain was at reading faces, I fought hard to keep my face clean of anything that might give me away. I didn't even know if the key I was wearing under my bandana was the right key, but something told me it probably was.

      "Uh, no, sir. Could you describe this key to me? You know, in case I come across it in the Golden Dubloon?" I decided it would be best if I could find out about the key's appearance, to ensure whether or not it was my room key.

      "Not much to say about it, really," sighed Yuri, scratching behind his neck with one big paw. "It's silver, with the number thirteen on it. At least, that's was all the pirates hear about it. They say almost all sailors dream of finding this key. Ah, well, I'm going to do more than dream. I will find the thirteenth key. I'm so close, I can almost taste it." Yuri ran his tongue hungrily over his lips. "Yes, yes, this treasure will be a mighty fine one!"

      Uh-oh. I had the very key Yuri wanted. Most definitely. Oh, boy! This was going to get tricky. Could I get the treasure for myself? Would that be selfish? Were pirates concerned about being selfish? Would Yuri share the treasure with me? Could I even find it without him? My head swam with questions. I wasn't sure I wanted to tell Yuri about the key I had. There was a little light going off in my head, like a warning sign. It said, 'Stay away from Yuri!' I didn't understand why I felt that way, but I knew I didn't want to give him the key. I still have some instincts from the primitive ages of Neopia, passed down through generations of Zafaras.

      "I'll try to find it, captain." I saluted him, my heart beating so loudly I was afraid he would hear it. Could I fool him? His eyes were bright with wisdom. Not wisdom like the King of Brightvale might have, but a wisdom that could find a lie or trick like finding a needle in a haystack. He knew every trick in the book, it seemed, and I wasn't so confident I could fool him. But he hadn't caught on yet, had he? Maybe I had overestimated him. Maybe he really wasn't someone with mystically smarts. Perhaps he was just another captain fighting the seas to find buried treasures of the past.

      "When do we get to the Golden Dubloon?" I asked him.

      "By this afternoon, I suspect. In the meantime, get some rest. Andy will show you to your new room."

      Out of nowhere, it seemed, Andy was suddenly standing in front of me. I took a step back at the sudden close-up view of his shiny white tusks.

      Andy turned and started making his way across the deck. Clip, clip, clip, thunk. Clip, clip, clip, thunk. He walked awkwardly on his peg leg, as if he wasn't quite used to it. I frowned, thinking.

      "How did you lose your leg?" I asked him casually as he made his way down a ladder. He stopped and looked up at me, a panicked expression on his face.

      "Uh, I, uh, don't like to talk about it," he said quickly, his eyes shifting from side to side. What was that all about? I wondered. The Moehog was obviously a horrible liar, but what reason would he have to lie about a peg leg?

      Still suspicious, I followed Andy down a short hall into a new cabin. My third cabin in two days. Hmm, I wonder if there's a record for these kinds of things...

      The cabin was by far the fanciest of the three cabins I had seen. Decorations were everywhere. The bed was a hammock covered in fluffy linings. The desk had curving golden legs and a shiny glass coated top. There was an small bowl of ink with a long, smooth feather quill sticking out of it. Stacked on the desk were three books about pirate adventures.

      On one side of the cabin, against a wall, there was a fancy chest designed to look like a treasure chest. It was wooden with a shining gold lock. There were two silver letters on the top in fancy script: MS. I tried the silver lock, but it was closed tight. What did the letters MS stand for, I wondered?

      Hanging on walls were beautiful paintings of ships and the ocean. Next to the hammock bed was a end table with an Ice Dagger and a Fire Dagger sitting in an easily accessible position.

      With all of this, the captain could retire! Why, he could buy anything he wanted with all of this gold and these fancy items. He could have a whole new ship if he desired! But instead, it was sitting, all of it unused, in a cabin. What was the point of that? This had to be the fanciest cabin of a ship in the world! I was struck with awe.

      And then, of course, my fingers began to itch. This was my obsession acting up again. I HAD to draw this! What a perfect picture! This would make a really neat sketch with colors filling in the light lines. Instantly, I fumbled around in the desk for a pencil and paper, using the ink quill to outline some of the parts of the picture. It was beautiful! I was finishing the letters on the chest when a knock came from my door. I turned in the wooden swivel chair to the door, putting my pencil down on the desk.

      "Cap'n says yer wanted. We're in Krawk Island," Andy told me, poking his head around the half-opened door to see me. I stood, hastily folding my paper and storing it with me. Maybe it would fetch a nice price on the market. It looked quite professional, after all. I know I'd want this picture in my bedroom if no one else wanted it.

      I followed Andy to the deck. Yuri was standing at the bow of the boat, looking at the sandy beaches of Krawk Island. We were pulling into the dock. I stood staring at all the amazing ships docked at the harbor. Each one was more incredible than the last. There were towering masts, enormous sails of all sorts of varying colors, long and elegant passenger ships, and short and sturdy cargo ships. Trade was bustling, muscular workers were loading boxes onto boats, families were waving goodbye or hugging a hello. It was Krawk Island, a place I had wanted to visit for as long as I could remember. Now, even though I had already been sailing and met several pirates, it was still an awe-inspiring sight. I felt a pang of homesickness, wishing Lexi could see this. I wanted to draw it all, the strong workers, the happy families, the sturdy ships, and the pirates! Oh, how I could draw it all!

      "Good luck, Zach. I think you'll need it," Yuri said to me, throwing down a rope ladder to the dock.

      "Uh, thanks, Captain," I said slowly, unsure why he said I'd need good luck. As I looked down the rope ladder, my head started to swim dizzily. I was afraid of heights. I bit my lip. Pirates were tough, and I was now an official pirate. If I was going to fool the pirates in the Golden Dubloon, I would need to look as much like a professional pirate as I could. Of course... how professional can pirates get?

      I slowly began to climb down the ladder, feeling the world spin around below me. I gripped the ladder tighter, clenching my eyes closed as firm as I could, seeing circles of color in my closed eyes, burned into my retina.

      "Time is of the essence, you know," Yuri said, looking down at me. I looked up to him, seeing I had only climbed two rungs, and already I wanted to climb right back up to the deck.

      "Yeah, okay," I said, still trying to convince myself that real pirates didn't get scared of heights. And I WAS a real pirate, I told myself.

      Torturous rung by torturous rung, I made my way down the ladder, feeling like I could die. When I finally reached the bottom, what felt like a half-hour later, the world swam before my eyes. I sank to the wood floor of the dock, incredibly relieved to be on firm ground again. I just wanted to lie here forever, on Neopia's surface level, not anymore than a meter above the ground.

To be continued...

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» The Thirteenth Key: Part One
» The Thirteenth Key: Part Three

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