Fools and Children: Part Four
It was dusk, and the Neopian Sea was passing that serene time of day before the Kreludon Moon began its insistent pull on the yielding waters, violently tugging the tide from its shore. This mounting tumult cared not for the vessels great or small attempting to ply its surface. Nor did it care for the well being of the passengers on such vessels, willing or otherwise. And yet, it was at this time of greatest peril that the pirates preferred to launch their ship, relying on the Sea’s ferocity to mask their departure.
In the hold sat the family: GitchiManitou the ghost Krawk; Cavillace the mutant Draik; YourFlyness the darigan Buzz; and Briccriu the pea Chia. Together they huddled, shackled, and relating to one another the stories of their journeys thus far.
“I believe it is time,” said GitchiManitou to his sisters, “that I share with you my full history.” With a reluctant sigh, he began, “Like all Krawks, I was brought to the Fungus Caves on Krawk Island in order to reveal my adult form. And, like all Krawks, I was immediately pledged into apprenticeship to the bloodthirsty pirates who inhabit that land. My master was the notorious Cap’n Bloodhook, Commander of the Black Pawkeet. Under him, I learned the arts of sailing and piracy. Eventually, there was a mutiny by the crew that led to the Captain being thrown overboard, but I, and a few others, including Grimtooth, remained loyal to our master. In the ensuing months, the mutineers buried the treasure from the Black Pawkeet’s hold all over Krawk Island. One day, Bloodhook returned from his presumed watery demise, and with those of us who had remained loyal, waged a bloody battle that led to the end of the mutineers. Bloodhook’s return remained a secret, and he sent those of us who survived to covertly recover the lost treasure buried on Krawk Island. I was a particular favourite of the Captain’s and often stayed aboard the ship, aiding in raids on smaller vessels in Krawk Harbour, and earning the jealous resentment of the rest of the crew.”
Briccriu stopped her brother’s tale here. “That must have been horrible for you, Gitch. Being forced to work against your nature by such a wicked master.”
“Then you don’t understand what I am telling you,” replied the ghost Krawk. As he spoke, his eyes became flat and lifeless, like two smooth black beach stones drying in the sun as the tide recedes. “I liked it.”
Before the others could react, Cavillace held up her hand in a silencing gesture. “Go on, GM.”
“Well,” GM continued, “the pirates went on like this for many years until one day Cap’n Bloodhook approached the crew with an evil scheme. He had been in contact with Captain Scarblade, of the pirate ship The Revenge, and together they planned to raid the underwater kingdom of Maraqua. Upon learning of their plan, I had a disturbing dream.
“King Kelpbeard, ruler of Maraqua, appeared to me and warned that an attack on his Kingdom would lead to the demise of the entire raiding party. While Neopia would only benefit from the loss of the pirate scourge, Kelpbeard assured me that the world could not afford to lose me.
“Like any sailor, I was superstitious and approached the Captain with this strange vision. I wondered if I should follow the advice of the nocturnal figment and remain behind. The Captain scoffed and told me, ‘Only fools and children follow dreams. Ye are the equal of one of the barnacles that clings t’ the Black Pawkeet; along for the ride but without a will or destiny of yer own. Did ye think that ye were really special? That ye were sent t’ save the world?’ Then, with a mocking laugh, Bloodhook motioned to Grimtooth who was swabbing the deck nearby, pretending not to eavesdrop.
“His words still haunt my dreams, ‘Grimtooth, take this fool and keelhaul him. Let him join his barnacle brothers in the briny deep.’ With that, Grimtooth struck hard and fast, knocking me off of my feet with the mop. Grabbing a coil of seafarer’s rope, he tied my hands together and secured one end of the rope to the main mast.
“I implored him to reconsider, reminding him that we had been reared as brothers, family. I begged him not to do this to me, but to no avail. With a sour smile, Grimtooth shoved me overboard.
“Hitting the water, I lost consciousness and King Kelpbeard appeared to me once again, this time his voice booming, ‘You must resist the temptation to just give up on your existence. You must survive. All of Neopia depends upon it.’ Opening my eyes, I saw that I was in danger.
“I kicked my feet to keep my head above the water that was coursing past me and gulped at whatever misty air I could reach. Deep within me, anger at the injustice of my situation began to grow. The anger was like a living thing, a beast. It was like a virus that blackened and killed each cell within my body through which it passed. This blackness spread to every part of me, and when it reached the surface of my skin, there was an explosion that ripped an enormous hole in the side of the Black Pawkeet, severed the ropes which had bound me, and caused a literal rift in my own physical structure; while my interior was consumed with darkness, my exterior now had a spectral glow. I had turned ghost – neither truly alive nor truly dead.
“The crew of the pirate ship watched the transformation in horror as they readied the life boats to take themselves to safety. I was still stunned, bobbing in the water and watching as the Black Pawkeet listed, took on water and eventually sank with Cap’n Bloodhook riding her down to the bottom of the Sea. As I watched, I accepted the curses and banishment flung at me from the departing crew, all the while contemplating the duality of my nature and the inevitability of my ostracism.
“I wandered for some years,” concluded GitchiManitou, “and was spurned everywhere. Eventually, I settled in a solitary existence in the Ice Caves.” Quietly he added, “And you know the rest.”
The Krawk turned his head so as not to meet his sisters’ gazes, for he was certain that he would see only fear and loathing. Instead, he felt each of them in turn lay their hands on his arms and back, as far as they could reach with their manacled hands.
Suddenly, the trap door above them opened with a shriek and down came the pirate Meerca into the hold. He teetered in sync with the motion of the ship, approached the Krawk, and released his chains from the rusty iron ring behind his back.
“Cap’n has sent fer ye,” said the pirate Meerca.
GitchiManitou stood and gave his sisters a reassuring nod.
“I’ll be back,” he said and led the pirate up the ladder and through the trapdoor, which whined on its hinges and closed with a thud.
The ghost Krawk allowed the pirate Meerca to direct him to the Captain’s quarters and push him into a chair at the table there. Grimtooth and the pirate Eyrie, Deadeye, were already seated and setting up a game of Bilge Dice, and the Meerca soon sat as well.
“Well, brother,” said Grimtooth, “can you take time out from saving the world for a game of dice?”
The three pirates laughed at him mockingly.
“I have the time, but I learned a long time ago not to play against the likes of you and your loaded dice,” replied GM.
The Meerca and Eyrie exchanged quizzical looks. Noticing this, GM added with a laugh, “Don’t tell me you still let your friends win a couple of games before convincing them to try for the ‘Ultimate Prize of a Ten Game Lucky Streak’?”
Casually, GitchiManitou massaged the pressure point on his wrist, trying to maintain his composure; his lifelong seasickness had a habit of gripping him at the most inopportune times.
Deadeye rose and started to speak, but Grimtooth cut him off with a glare and a wave of his hand.
“Let’s get down to business then. When you sank the Black Pawkeet, by what manner of trickery I care not, you sent its treasure to the bottom of Krawk Harbour. I’ve had our pirate Krawk brother, Dorak, searching for the wreck for several years, but its resting place eludes him.”
Pointing the golden hook at GM, he said, “You will find it.”
Grimtooth stared at the ghost Krawk, challenging him to protest, but GM nodded gravely and simply said, “Alright.” He then added, “But, every Captain needs his crew, and you’ve got mine locked up in the hold.”
Grimtooth began to cackle and the others joined in, laughing until they were holding their sides and wiping tears from their faces.
“So, it’s a mutant, a darigan and a pea you’ll be needing as your crew, is it? ‘Captain’?” asked the pirate Krawk. “Ha ha ha. Yer welcome to them,” he finished with a sneer.
GitchiManitou was adroit with the use of the oars on the longboat carrying his family across the choppy waters of Krawk Harbour. They crossed the waters repeatedly; scooping up floating dubloons and avoiding the mines which GM himself had set when he was a deckhand on the Black Pawkeet.
“What are we looking for in particular, GM?” asked Cavillace.
“Well, I don’t think we would have any more luck than Dorak did if we were simply looking for the sunken ship. I’m hoping that a little help will find us,” replied the ghost Krawk.
No sooner were the words spoken than YourFlyness spotted a slow circular pattern starting off to their starboard side. She flitted about the boat with excitement and showed the others.
“Yes,” said GM, “this is it. Remember what to do now, everyone.”
Briccriu removed the enchanted Air Faerie Bubble from her haversack and filled the bubbles that YourFlyness produced with her Faerie Cannon. The pea Chia handed a bubble to each of her siblings, who placed them over their heads. GitchiManitou steered the boat toward the mounting whirl, and Cavillace readied the Sphere of Neopium. When the small boat was inevitably caught in the foaming whirlpool, GM let go of the oars and the mutant Draik threw the Sphere overboard. They all breathed deeply to test their breathing bubbles and watched while the Sphere sank to the length of its chain, and then continued to pull the small vessel to the bottom of the sea.
They rode the boat to the very bottom and, since they felt the presence of predestination, were unsurprised to come to rest beside the sunken hulk. GitchiManitou removed the Golden Compass from his pocket and was startled by its heat; it glowed white-hot and shook with an insistent hum. Satisfied, the Krawk swam to the enormous hole that had been blown in the side of the Black Pawkeet, and with a shudder of memory, entered its belly. He found the treasure chest that he had been sent for and, taking a cue from his sisters’ experiences with their own tasks, scanned the area until he also found a stoppered flask. The Krawk exited the ship and returned to where his family was waiting. He handed the flask to Cavillace to stow and nodded that he was prepared to return. YourFlyness and Briccriu readied a score of bubbles filled with enchanted air, Cavillace hauled in the Sphere, and the quartet buoyed the boat back to the top.
When they broke the surface of the water, they were met by the pirate ship, lying in wait for them. Monty had the cannon trained on their small boat and Deadeye and Grimtooth had their cutlasses drawn. GitchiManitou led the others in popping his breathing bubble and raising his hands in surrender.
“I see you have the treasure chest, brother,” Grimtooth called out. “We’ll be taking that off yer hands.”
GitchiManitou answered, “That was the deal. I’ll get it for you.”
He took a step and bent toward the chest when another voice carried across the distance between. A visibly shaken GM turned his head slightly and watched as Cap’n Bloodhook appeared behind the pirates and said, “We’ll be wantin’ that flask ye took, too, ye lily-livered son of a thievin’ sea gelert.”
GitchiManitou straightened up with the cackling of the mad pirate captain still ringing in his ears. He took a step toward the side of the boat facing the pirates’ ship in order to stand between them and his sisters. The mutant Draik, darigan Buzz and pea Chia stood in a semi-circle behind the ghost Krawk, each placing a hand on his shoulder and levelling a dark scowl at the buccaneers. Suddenly, Briccriu wished that she had the Super Attack Pea she'd left behind in the Armoury.
“You have a nasty habit of coming back from the dead, Bloodhook. You tried to take my life, and I’ll have no dealings with you,” GM called threateningly across the water.
“Aye, I did no’ think that ye would find me treasure if ye knew I be pullin’ the strings,” replied the pirate Lupe Captain. “T’ be fair, I may have tried t’ feed ye t’ the fishes, but ye succeeded in sinkin’ me ship. ‘Tis for the Black Pawkeet I’ll have yer lights ‘n liver, me Bucko, but we be startin’ with that swag.”
Monty lit a match and held it menacingly near the fuse of the cannon while Deadeye and Grimtooth threw the Jacob’s Ladder out to the smaller boat.
“Ye’ll be passin’ that thar treasure chest t’ Deadeye,” sneered Bloodhook, “and then ye’ll be handin’ yer faerie flask t’ me First Mate Grimtooth. Oh ho! Did ye not think I heard the legends of the captured faeries, barnacle? Of the rewards they offer? Let me warn ye, though, try t’ hornswaggle me, and I’ll be blastin’ ye straight t’ Kelpbeard’s garden!”
The pirate Krawk and pirate Eyrie climbed down the rope ladder and boarded the small boat. Deadeye hoisted the wooden treasure chest, and Grimtooth steadied the bottom of the ladder while the Eyrie climbed aboard the larger ship, using his wings to propel the added weight of the treasure.
Grimtooth then turned to GitchiManitou, and standing nose to nose said, “I’ll be needing that flask then, brother.”
GM turned to Cavillace and said, “I guess we have no choice. Give him the flask.”
A flash of panic crossed the mutant Draik’s face but she recomposed herself as Grimtooth turned toward her and stretched out his one good hand. Cavillace reached into her rucksack, took out the stoppered bottle, and handed it to Grimtooth. The pirate Krawk sneered mockingly at the group before turning around and climbing the ladder back to his own ship.
“Ye can fire at will, Mr. Monty,” called out Cap’n Bloodhook as Grimtooth tossed him the bottle. “I’ll be getting’ me reward from the faerie now.”
Before Monty could light the fuse, or the frightened family on the boat could duck for cover, the Captain uncorked the flask and all waited for an explosion of light or sound.
But nothing happened.
Monty lowered the flame and joined Grimtooth and Deadeye at their Captain’s side.
“I warned ye, no tricks,” Bloodhook fumed at GitchiManitou.
“I’m as confused as you are,” replied the ghost Krawk.
Bloodhook tipped the mouth of the bottle up to his good eye and a strange white powder fell, coating the four pirates standing there. They looked at each other with confusion, and Bloodhook took a step toward the ship’s rail when he suddenly was attacked by a fit of giggles. Grimtooth opened his mouth to speak to his Captain, when he suddenly felt himself gripped by a laughing jag, too. Deadeye and Monty started to brush off the white powder, but they were too late and also succumbed to its effects.
GitchiManitou turned to Cavillace with a slyly quizzical glance, and she said, “Ooops. Now, how do you suppose that Tickle Powder got in my bag?”
Although the magic substance had not touched them, the family began to laugh with relief. Cavillace reached into her bag once again and pulled out another flask.
“I believe,” said the mutant Draik, “this belongs to you, brother.”
She said “brother” with warmth, and then snorted with derision in the direction of the pirate Krawk who had used the word maliciously.
GitchiManitou received the flask, and taking a deep breath, released the stopper. He and his sisters grabbed the sides of their boat to steady themselves as a misty Faerie appeared and splashed into the water between them and the pirate ship, setting off a wake that threatened to swamp the small craft.
Facing GitchiManitou, she began to speak, “I am Nereid, the Water Faerie of Fyora’s Court, and I bless you, Krawk. You have emancipated me from my unjust confinement, and I must reward you. My gift to you is the Enchanted Dubloon, which will provide you with unlimited riches, and the Silver Clock, which marked the hours of my captivity. The Element of Water has finally recouped its rightful balance, and for that, I am eternally grateful. The salvation promised by ancient prophecy is imminent; you must go to Fyora with the required artifacts to fulfill your destiny.”
From the deck of the pirate ship, in between chortles and gasps for air, came the voice of Cap’n Bloodhook, “Fire, Mr. Monty! Yar har har! Fire!”
Nereid spun toward the buccaneers and continued turning circles until a whirlpool formed which held the pirate ship in its nexus. The swirling water rose into a spinning column that climbed into the sky and disappeared over the horizon, taking the pirates with it. GitchiManitou bowed his head, lost in private thought, and Nereid sank beneath the waves. As the Faerie left, GitchiManitou could feel his life-long seasickness subsiding and understood this to be another gift of the Water Faerie’s blessing. “Perhaps,” he thought to himself, “my own salvation is also imminent.”
Cavillace placed her hand on her brother’s arm and asked, “Are you ready, GM?”
GitchiManitou nodded affirmatively, and grabbing the oars, began to row his family safely back to land. YourFlyness had a different idea, though, and began to create more Faerie Bubbles, which Briccriu proceeded to fill. Eventually, they attached enough bubbles to the boat to become airborne and they floated through the sky toward the Faerie Realm.
YourFlyness now knew the secret path to Faerieland and led the airship through the clouds, whereupon they came to a stop outside of Fyora’s Palace. The family disembarked the ship and YF rose up into the air, popping enough of the bubbles to sink it slightly into the clouds. The quartet circled the castle wall, searching for an entrance or a sentry who could announce their presence, but the barrier was smooth and solid. YF concentrated her acute vision and scanned the wall until she spotted a plaque that they had missed the first time around.
“Over here,” YourFlyness buzzed, and the others came running.
Cavillace reached the plaque first and read, “Stormy Leafage Fetters Hive.”
She turned in confusion to GitchiManitou, who had arrived just in time to hear the strange inscription.
“YourFlyness,” said the ghost Krawk, “do you know anything about a Buzz Hive in Faerieland?”
“I don’t think there izzzz one,” replied the darigan Buzz.
“Stormy Leafage Fetters Hive,” repeated the Krawk. “What Leafage? There are no leafy plants in Faerieland that I can see.”
He turned in bewilderment to Briccriu as she finally arrived. The pea Chia read the words and repeated them to herself, running her hand across the raised letters.
“Hold on,” said Briccriu as she rummaged in her bag for a pen and parchment. “This is an anagram.”
The others looked at her with excited anticipation as she started to rearrange the letters on her paper.
“This is just like when I went to the castle of Eliv Thade. I thought I would need my Ramtors Spellbook on that adventure, but all I needed in the end was this pen and paper. An anagram is no problem at all once you realize that’s what you’re dealing with. Every anagram has one word which is the key; solve that one word and the rest will fall into place.”
Briccriu furrowed her brow and twisted her tongue out of the corner of her mouth as she worked the puzzle. Finally, her face broke out into a wide grin.
“Aha! ‘Family’ is the key. Once you have that, you can work out the rest.”
Turning to the others she read aloud, “Together family serves fate.”
The other three returned her beaming countenance, and they all intoned the words at once, “Together family serves fate.”
As they did so, a secret doorway in the wall began to fold in upon itself and the astonished quartet entered the castle.
As soon as they crossed the threshold, Fyora appeared in a cloud of violet mist and the four fell to their knees in reverence. GitchiManitou reached into his pack, removed the three objects that the Faerie Queen had requested, and placed them on the carpet in front of him. He shielded his eyes as they disappeared in a flash of light.
“Arise, GitchiManitou. Arise, Cavillace, YourFlyness and Briccriu. I bow my head to you who have restored Harmony to all of Neopia. The Elements are now once again in Balance after a period of great unrest. You have the gratitude of all of Faerieland.”
The four rose to their feet and were humbled to see Fyora’s Court assembled in the Great Hall behind the Queen; among them they recognized Psellia, Fuhnah and Nereid.
“As promised, GitchiManitou, I bestow upon you the greatest of my gifts, the Shield of the Ancients. It is a powerful object which will defend you from all harm and its display will bring honour to your home and family.”
As she spoke, a Faerie Page presented the ghost Krawk with the coveted artifact. It was a round blue shield whose centre was covered with the image of a glowing gold star and whose background was filled with a pulsating constellation. GitchiManitou accepted the object with grateful humility.
“GitchiManitou, I must ask, do you have any other requests of me?” queried Fyora.
The Krawk stepped forward and did not hesitate to petition.
“I would appreciate a blessing from a Light Faerie, Your Highness. As you must know, I have a darkness at my centre that has separated me from all around me. If a blessing could illuminate that black void, I might no longer be shunned.”
Fyora’s voice was gentle as she replied, “Do you not see your role here, even yet, GitchiManitou? You are the Dark that brings balance to the Light. Without you the Element of Light would be meaningless. You are an Elemental Immortal and may take your place among my Court. As the prophecy states, you will cease to be spurned when Balance has been returned to the Flock, and from this day forward, you will be hailed as a hero, as the One of Destiny.”
GitchiManitou began to shake his head in protest, but Fyora continued, “I suspect that you would prefer to remain with your family for now, and that is permissible. I see that the Dark has not separated you from all around you, and the perfect synergy of your group forces me to concede that you have much more work to do among the mortals. Return with your family, knowing that a place has been reserved for you here, as well.”
With that, first Fyora, and then the members of her Court, disappeared in another swirl of violet mist, leaving the family alone and silent.
Cavillace was the first to speak. “I had long suspected that you were the Spectral Krawk of destiny, GitchiManitou, but even if it had turned out that you weren’t, I have loved you as a brother for even longer.”
The ghost Krawk turned toward his family and his face was streaming with silvery tears. The four fell into a group hug and remained like that for several minutes.
Cavillace began to laugh through her own tears as she remembered the words spoken in what felt like a former life. “I thought that only fools and children followed dreams, eh?”
To which the Krawk replied with a smile, “I am what I am.”
In the sky above Meridell, YourFlyness floated through the air like a dandelion seed. She wafted on the warm breezes, heady with the scents of the ripening harvest in the fields below. She spied the Darigan Citadel in the distance and discovered its pull was not nearly as insistent as it used to be. Although the Quiggle Scout had betrayed her, she had an imperative to Justice that could not be denied, and she returned to the land of her former ignominious existence reluctantly, but dutifully. The darigan Buzz flew up and over the Ixi who ran the Shapeshifter game, the Mortog who waited to be kissed, and high to the top of Cheeseroller Hill. There, behind the Techo’s Cheeseshop was a hut, and behind the hut was the Quiggle Scout.
Still encased in a film of enchanted Faerie Bubble, he was muttering to himself, “Never trust a darigan. I’ve always said it. Well, burst my bubbles, har har har, but I guess you can’t trust a mutant or... or... a ghost. Pirates! Well, everyone knows you can’t trust pirates. But, peas? Oh, I can’t stay mad at my little pea pal. Har har har. No, I won’t stay mad at her.”
YourFlyness buzzed a sigh and prepared to alight and discharge her final duty.