Flying low over the coastline of an as yet unknown continent, Serlilya gazed around her with interest. The waves crashed loudly against the beach, throwing up spray, as the Darigan Eyrie watched the water with hungry eyes. Was that a fish, down next to the large mussel-encrusted boulder? No, just a piece of trash. If the humans didn't clean up their planet soon...
Seri shook her head, forcing that thought out of her mind and concentrating of the wide stretch of ocean and beach beneath her powerfully beating wings. Being so useless against Neopia’s endless deterioration infuriated her; and when she was infuriated, things generally broke in very violent ways. It was best to not really think at all; to concentrate on the play of sun on water and the sound and feel of wind beneath her. There! A mercurial glint in the water that was not a trick of the light. Seri plummeted, overlarge talons on muscular legs stretching down toward the water and huge, dark wings opening just in time to save her from a full-body dive. Up again she soared, the salmon clenched tightly in the viselike cage of her talons.
Now, where to rest and feast? The tide was coming in fast; she daren’t land on the beach. Perhaps on a large boulder? No, there were none in sight that would hold her. Wait... what was that? A small boat had just rounded the sandspit at the north end of the beach. Seri flew closer, cautiously. It appeared to be deserted, oddly; it was a quite well-made little craft, with no signs of a hostile confrontation of any kind that Seri could see. Spiraling down, she alighted on the foredeck, talons raking huge gouges out of its wooden planking. She swallowed her fish absently, hunger forgotten, and started to explore.
She had barely taken two steps when a harsh voice spoke behind her. “Stop right where you are, and turn around, or I’ll cut your wings off. There’s no fur, skin nor feathers that my cutlass can’t shred.”
Seri turned, slowly. Standing behind her with a long, battered, and very sharp sword pointing directly between her eyes was an island Zafara. A faint tracery of scars mingled with the white markings on the Zafara’s pale fur; perched absurdly on its head was a three cornered hat. The Zafara’s ears were tied back and together with a tattered red bandana, around which a Wadjet was also curled. “Wh-who are you?” Seri asked, uncertainty, but not fear, making her stutter.
“I go by many names; Drak will serve. What be your name, and why have you trespassed on my ship? I could gut you for that.” The Zafara’s sword did not waver an iota.
Seri, not wanting to be killed in the least, spilled out the story of that morning, ending rather lamely with the capture and consumption of her fish. “So that’s how I came to be here. I don’t want to steal your ship, or anything like that.”
The Zafara, who had been listening very skeptically to her story, suddenly smiled, and Seri realized that it was an it no longer, but a she. “Well, now. I think I believe you. What say you to sailin’ with me for a spell? I won’t bind you as my prisoner, if you don’t leave. An’ don’t try flyin’ neither,” she said, eying Seri’s wings. “Would you like to test my arm? There’s someone who I want you to meet.”
Seri suddenly realized what Drak was. “You... you’re a pirate, aren’t you?”
Drak smiled again, and lowered her sword to heart-height. “And if I am? I don’t want to kill you, or I’d have done so already, and been done with it.” With a movement so quick that Seri almost doubted that she’d seen it, Drak produced a second sword from a back sheath and hurled it a hair’s breadth past Seri and into the ship’s mast. She grinned at the astonished look on Seri’s face. “So, now you know. Can you trust me? A pirate’s word is not given lightly; we are the most superstitious folk on sea and land. I swear to you, on my honor, that I will not hurt you. I merely want you to come on a little trip with me, savvy?” She held out her left paw, its four digits as flexible as any human’s.
Seri gazed at that paw for a long moment, thinking. Then, decisively, she grasped the paw in her own. The Zafara’s grip was firm, and Seri could feel rock hard calluses marking the skin. “I trust you.”
In the weeks that followed, Seri learned more than she had ever thought to know about the running of a ship. The Sunset Charger, as Drak had named her, was built for speed, not combat; and as such, Seri spent most of her time flying around and loosening and tightening various ropes attached to the sails. Drak would not let her steer; she loved her ship, and was too concerned for the Charger’s welfare to let an inexperienced shipmate anywhere near the rudder. After a fortnight, the two of them suddenly saw lights gleaming on the horizon. Drak, who was resting on the bow, sighed when she saw them.
“Home,” she said, pointing. Her Wadjet slithered up her arm to gaze in the light’s direction also. “Or at least as much of a home as I’m ever likely to have.”
Seri was silent for a minute. It had never occurred to her that Drak might be lonely, having to dodge here and there to avoid the hangman’s noose. The way she talked, the sea was her friend, and the wind, salt spray, and the Charger were her family. Seri had never guessed that she might have a real Neopian family.
Drak half-smiled, perhaps at some funny memory. “My family’s a pretty motley crew, mate; just want t’ warn you.”
The next dawn brought them to a small house on the coast of an island, next to which stood a small pier. Drak expertly leapt out and tied the Charger up, calling, “Mom! Aik! Kie! I’m back, an’ I’ve brought someone for you to meet!”
A small blue Zafara, a red Aisha, and a nondescript girl with long blonde hair and glasses rushed out of the house, surrounding Drak in a laughing mob. The blue Zafara grabbed Drak’s hat and danced away with it, giggling; the red Aisha padded slowly up, face full of poker-stiff disapproval, which disappeared as she nuzzled Drak’s cheek; and the girl knelt in front of Drak, holding both the pirate’s front paws in her hands.
“So, you’ve slipped the hangman’s noose to come see us again, huh?” the girl said, grinning. “I’m glad.” She pulled Drak into a brief but strong hug, then stood. “Who’s this?” She had just noticed Seri, who was still standing on the deck of the Sunset Charger.
Seri jumped down off the boat, clumsily because of nerves, and stood before the girl, rustling her wings uncertainly. “My name is Serlilya. Drak caught me supposedly stealing her ship.” With that as an introduction, she launched into her tale, starting with that not so long-ago day when she was fishing on the unknown beach...
The girl, whose name was Rachel, listened attentively, and when Seri sat back, spent, said, “Serlilya... Seri, it appears you are now very good friends with Drak. Do you have a home?”
Seri shook her head. “Not really. My owner said something... ah, I don’t know.”
“Would you like to live with us, then, then? It doesn’t seem right to take away Drak’s first real friend, and I’m sure the Sunset Charger is sailing more smoothly now that she has two sailors to man her.”
The blue Zafara looked up at Seri from her position on the ground atop Drak’s hat. “Staystaystay! I want to fly...”
Seri looked over at Drak, and was startled to see the naked longing on the island Zafara’s face. Taking a deep breath, Seri turned back to Rachel. “Yes. That would be wonderful.”
At that moment, not all the treasure in the world could match Seri, Rachel thought, as she saw tears of joy coursing their way down Drak’s cheeks. Better to leave, now. Wordlessly she, the blue Zafara, and the red Aisha turned and went back into the house, leaving Drak and Seri alone together.
“Noddling is an action.”^_~ Thanks for reading this.