Dorak’s thin, scaly arms were screaming with pain as he paddled hard towards the shore. He didn’t care what was greeting him, didn’t care if he would spend the rest of his days in Krawk Island’s infamous prison. All he cared about was that he was still alive. Somehow he had escaped the hundreds of large floating homing mines, and was heading back to a safe shore.
The blue Krawk clenched his sharp white teeth as he paddled. Was it really only a few hours ago that he had been comfortably counting dubloons in his quarters, dreaming of the luxuries he could afford once he got back to port? Now, thanks to Garin, the infamous captain of the Black Pawkeet, he was paddling back to shore, his small pirate ship in ruins, and most of his fortune at the bottom of the sea.
Truth be told, all was not lost. He had managed to fill his lifeboat with many dubloons. He wasn’t sure quite how much he had, but it would be enough to get a new ship or maybe even start up a small business. But of course, he would have to lay low for a while. Even though he wasn’t a particularly high-profile pirate, his recent successful raid of Krawk Harbour would land him a while in prison.
The edge of his small, wooden rowboat tapped on the edge of the shore, and for a while Dorak just lay there, letting his poor tired arms rest. Looking around, he could tell that he was not on the main island, which was quite a relief. The two smaller islands that were just off the east coast of Krawk Island were far more lax when it came to law enforcement. For now, the young Krawk could relax and find something good to eat. If one thing could be said about paddling for your life, it certainly stirred up a healthy appetite.
Hiding his rowboat in a small patch of shrubbery that extended into the water, Dorak summed up all of the remaining strength that he had in his arms to lift up the sack of dubloons and fling it over his shoulder. He knew exactly where he wanted to eat. Trudging slowly, he made his way over what looked like a wrecked ship on the far side of the island. Technically it was a wrecked ship, but it had been changed into the much-trafficked tavern, the Golden Dubloon.
Dorak could hear the concertina before he opened the door. It sounded like there was a party of sorts going on inside the tavern. Excellent, he thought. The more commotion there was in the Golden Dubloon, the less attention he would attract. Flicking his dripping ponytail over his shoulder, he pushed open the swinging door and sat himself down at a table in the dark corner.
The Golden Dubloon certainly was alive with music. A Peophin sat at the center, playing the concertina, accompanied by a fife-playing Meerca. The songs they were playing were well known and very lively, and most of the tavern was joining in in song and dance. A few waitresses ran back and forth between the tables, struggling to fill all the orders in the crowded tavern. Dorak picked up his menu and looked it over. Finally he could eat and relax.
Back in the kitchen, a yellow Usul was resting on a thin wooden bench. It was not terribly comfortable, at least it was a break from being on her feet all the time. At her side sat a slightly older skunk Kyrii, fanning himself with a folded up piece of paper.
“I hate it when musical guests perform,” the Usul moaned, flipping her thick brown hair over her shoulder. “I don’t want to know how long I’ve been waiting tables for.” She reached down and massaged her aching feet.
The Kyrii looked over at her sympathetically. “Have they at least been tipping well?” he asked.
The Usul shrugged and reached into her pocket. Her paw came out with a single two dubloon coin. “It’s better than some nights,” she said bitterly. “The pay here is ridiculous to start with. I can barely afford to make the payments on my grandfather’s house. The tips are all I have to buy food with.”
“Hannah,” the Kyrii said. “Would it be possible to maybe sell...”
“No!” Hannah snapped, not even letting him finish his sentence. “Sam, there is no way that I will ever sell my Grandpa’s house. They would have to pick me up and throw me out on the street before I did that!”
“Okay, I’m sorry,” Sam said. “Oh, Hannah, I got you something.” The Kyrii took some a bottle of soda out of the pocket of his apron. “I know you love Lemon Pop. This should keep your strength up; you have a very long night ahead of you.”
“Wow, thanks, Sam,” Hannah said, taking the bottle and prying the cap off with her teeth. Tilting her head back, she quickly swallowed all of the bubbly yellow liquid. “I was really thirsty. Do you by any chance know what time it...”
“Hannah!” A angry voice came from the archway. Hannah’s head snapped to the direction where it was coming from, only to see Captain Hackett, the grumpy Lupe who owned the Golden Dubloon, looming over her. “What are you doing? Did I say you could take a break? Well, did I?”
Hannah shook her head, knowing that it was better not to speak.
“Correct. So why don’t you get back to work. There’s a blue Krawk at table nine who has not given his order yet. So why don’t you go see what he wants?”
Hannah nodded, and stood up. Quickly she headed over to the corner of the restaurant to service the table. She clenched her small furry paws. It wasn’t fair. Captain Hackett, who turned on the charm whenever someone with a fistful of dubloons walked through the door, was actively rude to her and all of the other staff members of the Golden Dubloon. In her mind she knew that someday she would show him, that one day he would be grovelling at her feet. She just didn’t know how she would achieve this dream.
“Could I take your order, sir?”
Dorak looked up from his menu to see an attractive albeit extremely tired-looking Usul standing in front of the table.
“Um yes,” he murmured, scanning the menu again. I would like a Bomberry Grog, and, um... the ‘Famous Krawk Pie...”
“It isn’t actually made with Krawks,” the Usul said quickly. “It’s actually just got vegetables and stuff in it. Don’t worry, none of your relatives went into that pie.”
Dorak forced a smile. “Okay, so the Bomberry Grog and the Krawk Pie. Thank you...”
“Hannah,” the Usul said. “My name is Hannah.”
Dorak watched Hannah as she waltzed awkwardly back to the kitchen to get his food. It was a shame; she seemed like a pleasant young girl, but he could tell that she was being worked to death. Even as she spoke she seemed out of breath, and he could see the beads of sweat dripping down her forehead. He wondered why she was working the late shift in the tavern when she could be snug in bed, getting ready for a big day ahead of her. The thought reminded him of his own situation. Where on earth would he be sleeping tonight? Perhaps he could just put his dubloons down in some little hostel where he would not be recognized. Suddenly he noticed the smell of food directly beneath his nose. He couldn’t have been daydreaming that long.
“Here’s your pie and grog,” Hannah said, plunking the tray down in front of him. “And because it’s a busy night, we would prefer if you pay upfront.”
Dorak nodded and reached into his sack. He pulled out seven dubloons for his Grog and Pie, and then placed into the waitress’ paws a twenty dubloon coin. “Here’s the tip,” he said.
“Sir, this is a twenty dubloon coin,” Hannah protested. “I can’t accept this.”
“Yes, you can,” he said. “Now go get back to work.”
Dorak dug into his pie and took a bite of the roasted vegetables encased in a mysteriously green pastry. ‘Eat it first, ask questions later,’ he thought to himself as the confused yellow Usul walked over to serve another table.
“So he just tipped you twenty dubloons with no explanation or anything?” Sam asked with disbelief later that night as they were closing up the restaurant.
“Yes,” Hannah confirmed. “I don’t know why. I don’t think I did a particularly good job or anything. Maybe he was just feeling rich. Whatever the reason, I am certainly not complaining.”
Sam smiled. “Well, maybe you can buy some good food or something for a change. Or maybe even a new outfit.”
“You have a problem with my clothes,” Hannah asked jokingly, swishing her long green skirt. “I think it suits me. And the vest is classic.”
Sam chuckled. “OK, I guess it’s not that big a priority. Anyway, I need to go home and get to bed, and you should probably do the same thing.”
Hannah smiled at her friend and waved good-bye, and did one last scan of the restaurant. She knew how much Captain Hackett hated it when the restaurant was at all dirty when they opened it up in the morning. The floors looked pretty clean, the tables spotless, but...
She could see what looked like a box on the floor, under table nine. She remembered that was where the Krawk who had tipped her so well had sat, and she remembered the very large sack that he had carried with her. Maybe it had fallen out when he had left.
She wound her way in and out of the tables to get to the mysterious object, and saw that it was not actually a box but a book. A big thick book that was clearly very old and somewhat waterlogged. Though the ink was somewhat dripping in places, she could see that the title was The Pirate Caves of Krawk Island.
Pirate Caves? Hannah had been a long-time resident of the Island, and she could not remember hearing anything about the caves. She remembered her Grandfather telling her stories of various expeditions he had been on, but never had he mentioned a place called the Pirate Caves. Despite her sleepiness, her curiosity forced her to start reading.
“Legend has it that many years ago; a beautiful glowing emerald was found in the depths of Maraqua called the Mermaid’s Tear. While it was being transported back to Krawk Island, an undocumented gang of Pirate’s attacked the ship and hid it in the Pirate Caves, a deadly labyrinth full of twists, turns and threatening beasts. The gang of pirates never went back to claim the emerald, but since some brave spelunkers and pirates alike have attempted to find it. However, none have prevailed. The Mermaid’s Tear is estimated to be worth tens of thousands of dubloons, but its exact value is unknown since the gem has never been officially appraised.”
Hannah continued to read the book, which stated that the Mermaid’s Tear was most likely to be found in a remote area on the far north of Krawk Island, and that the few spelunkers who had actually managed to get out of the caves had sworn off spelunking for the rest of their lives. To go in there would take somebody who was very brave. Very brave, very stupid, or maybe just very, very, very desperate for a change. Someone who wanted to prove to the world that she was better than a Golden Dubloon waitress. Maybe, maybe...
Hannah looked over the book in her hands. Maybe, this was the answer to all her hopes and dreams. Maybe this was where an adventure began.
Dorak trudged away slowly from the Golden Dubloon. It was dark out, and he was not sure where he was going to sleep that night or what tomorrow held for him. What he did know was that he was giving up on piracy. The plundering life had been fun, but in his heart he realized that the people he was stealing from were people like Hannah, the young waitress who was working so hard for almost nothing. No, he was going to stay on the straight and narrow from now on. He was sure that this was where an adventure ended.