Sky Pirates!: Part Three
The two Neopets rolled the barrels slowly and carefully in the gloom. Loretta held the burning torch with equal if not greater care, keen not to let the embers touch the explosive barrels.
“Why are we helping you do this again?” Rosetta gasped as she rolled the heavy barrel.
“Because you are loyal employees what value your jobs,” Hackett replied wisely from the other barrel.
“Why does she get to hold the torch, though?” Rosetta complained.
“You were standing closer to me,” Hackett told her.
The three of them were creeping rather noisily through the cellars beneath Krawk Island.
The buildings of the port had been rather clumsily built, and burnt down regularly. The cellars therefore stood at different locations to many of the buildings that currently rested atop them. To counteract this problem, the pirates of the island had bricked up new walls and demolished old ones as tenancy passed above. Such was the quality of the masonry on modern-day Krawk Island that the walls were mostly paper-thin.
It wasn’t much effort for Hackett to cut his way through, heading towards the Rusty Dubloon. After all, he couldn’t just walk in with a barrel of dynamite. Things had to be done secretly.
That and an explosion from below would really finish things.
Early morning greeted the Swift Quintilc, high in the clouds above Neopia.
On the deck, Freddy inspected his crew.
They all stood mostly to attention, aside from Jones who slouched, staring bleary eyed into the distance.
Freddy paced up and down the ranks.
“That was a job well done if ever I saw one, lads!” he boomed enthusiastically. “Those ninjas up in Shenkuu never even saw us coming!”
The crew beamed widely.
“Now, we’ll be needing a new name for this fearsome ship,” Freddy continued. “Any suggestions?”
The pirate crew expended the full force of their brain cells.
“Flaming Bilguss!” Buy Eye shouted enthusiastically.
“Amputated Quadrapus!” Samuel yelled.
“Dawn’s Night!” Fairfax suggested poetically.
“What about the Flying Cutlass?” Jones asked, remarkably coherently.
The rest of the crew stared at the Kyrii, slightly amazed that he’d managed a complete sentence without slurring.
“Aye lad! That’s a fine name!” Freddy bellowed, slapping Jones heartily on the back.
“Now!” he continued, turning back to the rest of the crew. “It’s time the crew of the fearsome Flying Cutlass did some plundering! What do ye say, lads?”
There was a chorus of ‘Arr’s.
“Right then, let’s get to it! Bug Eye, up the main sail, you’re lookout! Mr. Jones, below deck, you’re on cannon duty! Fairfax an’ Morrie, get those sails open! The rest of ye... look lively!”
The crew scurried off to their various tasks as Freddy made his way to the wheel. Slowly, the Flying Cutlass descended through the clouds, looking for a victim.
The cell door unlocked quietly, and the guard sneaked in. General Qin looked up from the book he had been reading, and saw the bandage around the Grarrl’s head.
“I take it everything went according to plan?” the Krawk asked.
The Grarrl nodded.
“I told the other guards at the docks to take the night off, and they turned up just after sir,” the guard explained. “I immobilised all the ships aside from the Swift Quintilc, just like you said, and waited for them.”
“Are they responsible for the bandage?” Qin asked.
“Yes sir, it was quite a forceful blow that knocked me out, sir,” the guard admitted.
“Your pay will of course be doubled to account for your injuries,” Qin said graciously. “Has there been any word of Mr. Halflook’s progress through the mountains?”
“None, sir,” the guard replied.
“Excellent, that means he’s stuck,” the Krawk told the guard. “Continue as planned. Make sure to keep an eye on Dread. He must act as we want him to for this to work. The... gifts we’ve given him should be enough, but we must still be careful.”
“Sir... about Mr. Halflook... is all this needed?” the guard asked. “You could have hired someone to kill him in Neopia Central; this all seems a bit elaborate.”
“Trust me, this is far bigger than Mr. Halflook,” the Krawk replied.
The guard nodded, and silently left the room. The click of the lock followed.
Soon, no more hiding... no more cells and no more idiot pirates... Qin thought to himself.
Benny the Blade stared at the sword, imbedded in the chair.
“Are you sure it was him, Captain?” he asked.
“As sure as I’m standing before you now!” Scarblade shouted. “Don’t try to tell me I might have been seeing things either! I know what I saw! Dread is back!”
Benny shifted his attention to the piece of paper with the black spot. Even if the Captain had hallucinated the skeleton Kiko, it wouldn’t explain the spot. Death sentences don’t just appear on tables.
“Why now? Why didn’t he appear years ago?” Benny asked.
“I don’t know!” Scarblade snapped, clearly on edge. “At this stage it doesn’t matter. Dread is back and he wants my head. That’s the important thing.”
“Your orders, Captain?” the Bruce asked.
“He’ll need a ship and a crew; I stole his,” Scarblade told Benny. “He’ll probably be looking for one on Krawk Island.”
“Shall we set course, Captain?” Benny asked.
“Yes, at once,” Scarblade agreed.
Dread smiled toothily. Well, his skeletal expression didn’t change, but inside he was smiling.
Scarblade had been scared, petrified even. He was right to be, but after so many years it felt good to be able to put fear into people’s souls again. That’s what being Captain Dread had all been about. It was what being a pirate was all about. He’d missed it during his years on the seabed. The Kiko watched the horizon, waiting for Krawk Island to come into view. He didn’t need a crew; he didn’t even need a ship, really.
He’d been so lucky, being dragged up onto this fishing trawler. Of course, the crew had been thick as two short planks, but he’d seen to them. He’d used one short plank and a walk into the ocean.
But the crew didn’t seem to know what they were carrying, the amount of cursed magical artefacts that had been hidden in the hold, behind fake walls. With them, he already had a crew, better than any Scarblade could ever come up with. He already had a ship too. It was just so perfect.
Scarblade would head to Krawk Island, just like Dread wanted him to. The Kiko would catch the Lupe in the port, and sink the Revenge there and then.
It would be a pain to lose his old ship to the deep, but Dread considered that it was worth it, provided Scarblade sank with it.
Reginald Worthington-Smyth-Foxley was a wealthy Nimmo, by all accounts. He was heir to the Worthington-Smyth-Foxley estates in Brightvale. He could have quite happily purchased a small planet with the loose change he kept under the mattress in the fourteenth guest bedroom of his least favourite mansion.
More importantly, he’d been born and raised as a rich person. As such, he had inherited much more than a hundred acres of land; he had inherited the very specific kind of stupidity that comes with being filthy rich.
It is the kind of stupidity that allows you to sail about on a pleasure boat you rented from a ‘jolly old chap’ at the Krawk Island docks who ran off as soon as you paid him handsomely for his services. Anyone else of course would identify the jolly old chap as a shifty looking bloke by all accounts, who probably didn’t even own the boat he was renting out. It is the kind of stupidity that means because Krawk Island uses foreign ‘funny money’ such as Dubloons, you buy hundreds of the things, far more than you could ever hope to spend.
It is the kind of stupidity that keeps all of the Dubloons onboard the ship.
It is also the kind of stupidity that gasps in awe at the majestic beauty of a Shenkuu ship as it descends from the clouds. It’s the kind of stupidity that doesn’t realise the ship is heading straight for you until the first cannon is fired.
There had been no easier acts of piracy, ever recorded. A particularly angry looking Mootix could have successfully taken over the ship the Worthington-Smyth-Foxleys had rented.
The holes that Glug Glug Jones shot in the old tub were not strictly necessary. Nor, really, were the amount of cutlasses the pirates stormed on board with. But it was the crew’s first plunder, and they were doing things by the book.
“Where’s the booty?” Bug Eye demanded.
Mrs. Worthington-Smyth-Foxely fainted from the glare of the Techo’s eye.
“Boot-ee?” her husband questioned.
“Please, allow me,” the Pimpernel said as he stepped forward. “Good fellow, where do you keep the riches you surely have? I might remind you we are a bunch of bloodthirsty and vicious pirates who will not hesitate to buckle our swashes in your direction if you are not compliant.”
“Er... down below,” Mr. Worthington-Smyth-Foxley replied.
Fairfax and Bug Eye ran down the step as fast as their legs would carry them. They returned a few minutes later carrying between them a large treasure chest.
“Thank you for your co-operation, my good man,” the Pimpernel said while tipping his hat towards the cowering family.
The pirates left as suddenly as they came.
“I say!” Mr. Worthington-Smyth-Foxley said eventually. “We were just robbed by genuine piratical folk! What a story to tell Father when we get back home!”
The crew of the Flying Cutlass celebrated all night long. While Fairfax crudely painted the new ship name on the bows of the boat, Morrie located the galley. Surprisingly, he cooked up an edible meal for the crew to feast on. Grog appeared, as it has a tendency to do among pirates, and the crew sang the night away on the deck with no one to hear them but the stars and the Weewoos.
The Dubloons were spread out amongst the crew, along with a vast amount of other treasures the chest had contained. Samuel was experimentally trying out a finely polished brass ear trumpet.
“Jones!” Freddy roared eventually. “Fetch some more grog!”
“All -hic- gone, Cap’n,” Jones replied blearily.
Silence enveloped the crew like a blanket. Nothing killed a pirate party like finding out the grog was gone.
“To Krawk Island!” Freddy shouted eventually, followed by thunderous applause from his crew.
Freddy found the wheel and turned the ship, setting it sailing through the endless clouds once more.
“We need to get to Krawk Island quickly,” Samuel said quietly from the deck, his new ear trumpet pointing out into the dark night.
“Yes, yes, we all want more grog,” the Pimpernel told him dismissively.
“No, something’s happening there... something big,” Samuel protested.
“How do you know?” Morrie asked.
“I can hear it!” Samuel shouted.
The crew stared at the Acara.
“You? You can hear something happening miles away?” Bug Eye questioned.
“You can barely hear what’s going on a foot away!” Fairfax laughed.
The Tuskaninny rolled back on the deck, but quickly regretted it and had to reach for his emergency bucket.
“I’m serious!” Samuel repeated. “I’ve got better hearing than any of you!”
The crew stifled their laughs.
“He’s right!” Freddy called from the helm. “Look at the sky!”
The pirates turned to see the sky ahead of them. The clouds were stained black and red. They knew only one thing could do that – fire.
Something bad was happening on the island.
To be continued...