Pirates, the Sight, and the Sea: Part Ten
Emerging into the sunlight of the upper deck, Roselia had prepared herself to see chaos and unrestrained bedlam. But instead, the sight before her was eerily wrong, a surreal picture that she never would have imagined in her wildest dreams.
None of the pirates were fighting.
All of them, Thunder Savages and Crimson Storms alike, were completely still, their bodies motionless as if stunned. Roselia scanned the dense crowd: Seamus, Par, Hajj, Kes, Xave... All of them, new faces and old, seemed to be frozen in time. The pirates still grasped their swords in their hands, but no one was moving. Instead, they were all facing the same direction, and their eyes were trained upward.
Roselia frowned. Had the faerie done this? Somehow, she doubted that. Cautiously scooting past her brother, she stepped forward, turned around, and saw what everyone was staring at.
Captain Faer and a blue Zafara were sword fighting on the upper deck.
“Whoa,” Tresor murmured.
Roselia watched, wide-eyed, as the Pirate Gnorbu and blue Zafara exchanged blows, their cutlasses flashing in the sunlight and clanking against one another with metallic rings. Roselia had to admit that Alieria was somewhat pretty, but there was a certain rugged look to her, a look that warned that she wasn’t one to be trifled with. As with the clothes of every Crimson Storm, there was a certain regal air to her attire: She wore a ratty vest and a pair of striped trousers along with mismatched bits of armor on her shoulders, a worn belt, and dark buckled shoes. Her long royal blue hair reached her shoulders, a ragged cut that allowed her the freedom to move without having it get in the way, and her dark blue eyes were narrow, dangerous slits.
“So Faer,” she announced, her voice spiteful, “it seems we finally meet again after all these years. What a pleasant surprise.”
“What have you done, Alieria?” Faer hissed, moving forward as he slashed at her with his sword. “You’ve made a crew out of force and terror. You’ve brainwashed them. Somehow I didn’t think that was part of your grand scheme.”
She glared at him. “As if you’re any better. If I recall correctly, all you care about is treasure. You’re just a greedy old Gnorbu, hoarding your stuff away while everyone else does all the work.”
“That was true, but not anymore, Alieria. I’ve learned my lesson, and it’s time you learned yours.”
“Learn my lesson?” she scoffed, her gaze vicious. “For some reason I highly doubt that you have learned yours. And now you’re going to pay for that.” She charged at him.
Bad move. With the skill of a practiced fighter, Faer easily batted her attack away. His grey eyes sharp, he twisted his blade around her wrist, and two seconds later, Alieria found herself weaponless. Faer held his cutlass up at her throat, prodding her backwards until she was pressed against the low ship railing.
Roselia gasped, clenching onto Tresor’s arm as she watched the scene above take place. Everyone around her was transfixed, wondering what fate would befall the Zafara, but all Roselia could remember was five years earlier and the fear she had felt as she had almost been thrown to the jaws of the pitiless ocean.
Alieria swallowed, her eyes flickering with a mixture of surprise and fear. “Fine, Faer,” she hissed, her voice sounding strangely strangled. “So you want me to say it? Fine, I will: You win. You’re the better captain. Happy? Now do it already. Shove me overboard. Go on; let’s get this over with.”
Faer glared at her. An insurmountable anger had swelled up inside his chest and he was shaking, ready to do the inevitable. But out of the corner of his eye he saw a young Usul clinging to a brown Lupe, and then...
Confusion flashed in Alieria’s eyes, disbelief clear on her face. Everyone below was shocked as well. “What?”
Faer withdrew his cutlass and balled his hand into a fist. “I said ‘no.’ Someone once told me that I follow the way of madness, that I’m just a mockery of what a pirate should be, and I refuse to be that way anymore.” He turned away from her.
Alieria was completely baffled. She straightened herself up, her hands gripping the railing behind her for support. “I-I don’t get it, Faer.”
“We both were wrong, Alieria,” he spat, “and it took a grubby little Usul and five years to make me realize it. Being a pirate isn’t about a fearsome crew or getting treasure. It’s about the freedom of the seas and a feeling of companionship. And we lost all of that years ago when we went our separate ways.” He looked out over the assortment of Neopets below, everyone stock-still as they looked up at him. He gestured towards them with his large paw. “They are the true pirates, not us.”
“So what are saying?” Alieria demanded, her voice sharp again. “That we just give up?” She looked at him, her eyes locking onto his. “You know that being a pirate means everything to me. To you.”
Faer put his cutlass away. “I’m not saying we give it up. I’m saying that we start being true pirates.” He took a deep breath and held out his hand. “Together.”
Alieria stumbled, eyeing him suspiciously. “I asked you the same question years ago and you refused. What would make you change your mind?”
“We were deluded back then. Do you really think we would have been able to be captains together? I promise you that we’d be dueling one another to the death before we’d even set sail on our first adventure. But we’re older now. Wiser.” Faer shrugged. “We were mates once, so why can’t we be mates again? Co-Captains Alieria and Faer. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”
Alieria looked at his outstretched hand as if it had some sort of strange disease. She glanced up at Faer. “You’re serious about this?”
The whole world seemed frozen at that point. Alieria took a breath and then tentatively took Faer’s hand, giving him a firm handshake. She looked up at him, her mouth twisting into a sincere smile. “I’ve been waiting to hear that for years.”
It took a while to sort through everything. Alieria’s near-defeat snapped the Crimson Storms out of the mesmerized state she had had them in, and once they remembered that they had families out somewhere, many of them were eager to reunite with them. The remaining, along with almost all of the Thunder Savages, decided to stick with being pirates, ready to start a new life under the shared leadership of Captain Alieria and Captain Faer.
Roselia, Tresor, Mithy, and Mesh knew that home was their destination, and after a bit of discussion with the new co-captains, Faer and Alieria decided to bring everyone back home. Faer would take everyone headed towards the Shenkuu and Altador ports on his ship, while Alieria would make the trip to Mystery Island, Krawk Island, and mainland Neopia.
This meant that it was finally time to part ways.
“Thanks for taking caring of my sister,” Mithy told Tresor.
The Lupe shook his head. “I think it was the other way around, but you’re welcome all the same.”
“Nice meeting you, girlie,” Mesh said, shaking Roselia’s paw firmly. “It was a pleasure seeing you again after all these years.”
“And as for you...” The Skeith turned towards Mithy and gave him a friendly punch on the shoulder. “It was nice being sailors and then later brainwashed pirates with you, kid. Take care of your sister. She’s really something.”
Mithy grinned. “Thanks, Mesh, and I will. Tresor’s a great kid, risking life and limb for Roselia. Make sure he stays like that, and out of the way of sharp pointy objects.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Roselia went over to Tresor and gave him a hug, her arms wrapping around his brown fur tightly. “Thank you, Tresor,” she said after a moment. “Thanks for everything. We did it, and it’s all because of you.”
“Please,” Tresor said modestly, his face rouging as he hugged Roselia back. “I’m just the Lupe with the magic amulet. You were the one who could see how it worked. You were the fearless leader.”
“Fearless?” Roselia laughed, withdrawing from him to look into his eyes. Her own pale blue eyes sparkled. “If anyone’s fearless, it’s you. You saved me more times than I can count today.”
Tresor shrugged. “I wasn’t fearless; I was scared, and really scared at that. I mean, come on! Did you see the size of that Cybunny?”
Roselia laughed. “Then I guess no one’s fearless,” she admitted, looking out at the sparkling sea. “Only courageous.” She turned back to him, tears finally spilling over. “A few weeks ago, I never thought I’d say this to anyone, but I’ll miss you, Tresor.”
“Rosy!” Tresor groaned, trying to stop himself from tearing up. “We can still neomail each other. And we’ll see each other again. I promise.”
“More promises?” Roselia asked incredulously, but Tresor just laughed.
“Come on, Roselia. You know I keep my promises.”
“That’s very true, and seeing as you’re not lighting up like a Day of Giving tree, I guess I believe you.” She hugged him one more time. “Bye, Tresor. See you soon.”
“See ya, sea wit—I mean, Roselia.” He grinned at her, looking so goofy that Roselia couldn’t help but smile as she turned away from him and carefully made her way over the gangplank to the familiar Thunder Savage.
“All right! All aboard for Shenkuu and Altador!” Faer announced as he made his way across the deck to the ship wheel. His voice was deep and in control as always, but Roselia heard the new note of pride.
“Hey, Rosy. Wanna go to the railing to cast off?” Mithy asked, her brother grabbing onto her shoulder and leading her to the side of the boat.
“Sure,” Roselia answered, walking towards the rail. Seamus and Hajj were laboriously winding the ropes that lifted the heavy gangplank off the adjoining ship, and once the makeshift bridge was gone, the two ships started to float away from one another in the gentle current.
The sea sparkled, dotted with white foam, and wind filled the sails of both ships, the fabric swelling magnificently in size. There was a majestic vibe to it all, a warm yet ceremonial feeling of saying goodbye to new friends in the quest to visit old ones. It left Roselia feeling both strangely full and scarily empty at the same time.
But it was then, as Roselia gazed out at the retreating ship, that something blue caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. Turning around, she spotted it with a start: Tresor’s ratty blue cap was still hanging from the rigging.
She tore away from her brother and easily climbed up a nearby cargo net, grabbing the hat and coming back down in just a matter of seconds.
Mithy looked at her questioningly. “Rosy, what was that for?” he asked, but she ignored him and leaned precariously over the railing.
“Tresor!” she called across to the other ship, waving the hat like a flag in hopes that Tresor would see her.
He did. His chocolate eyes widened at the sight, but then he grinned. “Keep it!” he called back, cupping his paws around his mouth so that his voice carried across the distance. “Something to remember me by! And you can give it back when we see each other next!”
Roselia nodded, clutching the hat to her fur and wishing she had something to give him in return. But she didn’t. All she had was another promise. “You’ve got yourself a deal!” she shouted. “And don’t worry! I’ll take good care of it until then. See ya later, Tresor!”
A few moments later, the ships were so far apart from each other that Roselia could only spot Tresor as a distant splotch of brown fur. But even then she didn’t move away from the railing. She kept her eyes locked on the Crimson Storm until it completely disappeared into the western horizon.
Mithy put a hand on her shoulder, looking down at his sister. “So Rosy, ready to go home?”
Home. The word seemed so foreign, so surreal that it took a few moments before Roselia connected it with her house back in Shenkuu: the calming garden dotted with flowers and a small pond, the translucent paper walls, the crisscrossing network of high cherry beams... and being surrounded by her older brother and loving mother.
“Mom’s going to flip when she sees us,” she thought aloud, deftly trying to avoid his question. “Somehow I don’t think she planned on a five-year vacation from us.”
Timothy laughed. “Same here.”
Roselia nodded and took a breath of the salty air, staring out into the sparkling sea. A new horizon was opening up to her, and a sense of something swelled up inside her chest. It took her a moment to realize what she was feeling: freedom. She was no longer bound to the old wooden deck beneath her feet, to the life of a “sea witch” slash deckhand. She was free, as free as the Kateils and Weewoos that flew overhead, darting back and forth across the sky whenever they pleased. It was an exhilarating feeling, one that she would never forget for the rest of her life.
“Yes, Mithy,” she finally said, leaning against his shoulder as a serene smile slipped onto her face. “I’m ready to go home.”
Many thanks to xsoulweaverx and scarrift, my two amazing editors.