Better than Scones: Return of the Black Pawkeet - Part Five
I had a nightmare last night. Sleekwalk and I were on the Black Pawkeet, looking for Garin's magnificent Maractite blade in vain. Suddenly, the entire ship was alive and writhing with pirates. Dear Fyora, they were everywhere. We tried to get back to the Little Nipper, Salty's craft, but it wasn't there--it was nowhere in sight! Everyone was gone--Rose, Scribe, Salty, Krrran, Bowtie, Captain Garin and Jacques. All of them. I panicked, it was so frightening! It didn't take long for the pirates to overwhelm us... and then I woke up this morning and realized that it wasn't a dream. By Fyora, it was real. It was so real...
-Alexa the Kyrii
Rose woke up just as the sun's first rays peeked through the porthole of the cabin on the Little Nipper. She had fallen asleep on top of Scribe in the hammock. She got up kind of stiffly; she was sore. The Usul kept remembering the horrible dream she had had that night. She shook the thoughts out of her head and checked around the room. Krrran and Bowtie, the Eyrie and Bruce sisters, were sleeping soundly together in the armchair. They looked so peaceful... but Krrran had tear streaks down her cheeks. Rose remembered what she had said the night before.
Sleekwalk's with her. The pirates won't be able to get within arms reach of her. Sleekwalk will do everything in his power to keep her safe. I guarantee it.
She shuddered. By Fyora, the green Eyrie had been just as worried about her brother as Rose was about her best friend.
The subtle noises of sleeping petpets meant that Salty's crew hadn't woken yet. Several of the Octornas were attached to the ceiling, looking like strange star-shaped decorations. The Barlows were raising a ruckus with their unusual snoring patterns, but other than that the place was pretty quiet.
Trying not to wake anyone--or anything--up, she slipped outside.
Salty, the old, blue, peg legged Kyrii was still at the helm, keeping the Little Nipper on a straight and true course to Krawk Island. Jacques the Swift seemed to be catching some rest. He was sitting on an upside-down bucket and leaning against the Captain's Cabin wall. From the little, bushy tail sticking out of a knot in the wood the Palmplat was still there from last night. Captain Garin was sitting on the mast, watching the strip of gray on the horizon get bigger. The bird petpets had moved to the other side of the crossbeam to make room for him.
Rose joined the Usul pirate. She perched to his left, holding securely to the beam.
"I have to admit," he said, not looking at her, "she don't look like much, but this ship is fast."
Rose half smiled. She was still a little shy around him. "Yeah."
"See that?" Garin asked, pointing to the strip.
"Uh-huh." Rose nodded.
"That's Krawk Island." He looked down at her. "We made it."
"Yeah," she said, looking down at her skirt. Rose wished Alexa was here right now. Alexa was always good with talking. She was the brave one. Rose was shyer of the two even though she had just as ambitious dreams.
Garin turned back to the sea.
"This was Alexa's idea," Rose finally said. "I didn't even want to go along with this in the first place."
Captain Garin looked back down at her, taken aback.
"I was scared--scared silly. Alexa said she was just as frightened as I was, but... but she somehow had the courage to come up with the plan in the first place. I just kinda... went along with it. Imagine, for years I've been wanting change but, the moment it comes my way, I try to chicken out. I'd be a mess without Alexa--I am a mess without Alexa." She looked up at Garin, into those blue, understanding eyes. "I just want her back now. I could care less about doing something different--I want to know that my friend is safe."
Garin smiled at her. "You know, we don't always ask for an adventure, but when one comes, we've got to take it, no matter the cost. If it means doing the best--or finding the best in ourselves. When times are tough is the only time that we can see who we are." He looked up at the now-distinguishable form of Krawk Island. "So... who are you?"
"Well," he said, "we're about to find out."
"Land ho!" First Mate, Salty's Piraket crowed. "All hands on deck! Land hoooooooooo!"
Scribe, the yellow Gelert , opened the door to the Captain's Cabin, stepping out into the light squinting.
"What's he cawing about now?" she yawned.
"See fer yerself, Miss Scribe," Salty turned to her, giving her a toothy grin. "Krawk Island dead ahead!"
Three Skreals bounded out on her heels, wailing loudly. The noise startled Jacques into waking, causing him to fall off the bucket which overturned, exposing the Palmplat to the morning. The Palmplat squealed and rushed into the Captain's Cabin just as a plethora of petpets ran, hopped, toddled, and flopped out. Swabby swish-swished out last, scrubbing away at the tracks the Octornas left behind. He was determined not to leave the Little Nipper messy. At least some things were the same.
Bowtie peeked out the doorway. She seemed hesitant at first--then she carefully stepped on deck. She stayed close to the wall, carefully scooting along. Her main goal in life seemed not to be noticed.
Krrran followed after her sister, immediately steering clear of all feathered petpets. She stood at the prow of the Little Nipper, holding a handkerchief to her beak as she tried to stifle sneezes.
"By Fyora," Rose whispered, "It feels like decades since I've seen Krawk Island. It's hard to believe that it's only been a day."
Salty docked at the jetty on which his shop, Little Nippers, was built. With some help, he unloaded his entire crew, who all seemed grateful to be back home. Well, except for Swabby. It had to clean up the mess the others left behind.
Garin and Jacques had to be off. They were going to try to round up all of the able-bodied pets they could to prepare for Scarblade's attack. There was no doubt about it. HE was coming... soon.
"Well," Scribe said, watching the pirate captain and his first mate head off down the cobblestone street, "our part in this is done, Rose."
"Yes," Rose mumbled, "I s'pose it is."
"What'll you two do?" Scribe asked Krrran and Bowtie.
Krrran shrugged. "Wait? Sleekwalk isn't here... well, we've already gotten caught up in it. I guess we'll try to join Garin and Jacques's crew if they'll take us. We'll have to look for something to fight with, I guess, but that shouldn't be too hard. We'll just head over to the marketplace. And you?"
Scribe laughed. "I'll probably go home and work on a novel I've been writing. I can't believe it's only been a day... it feels like weeks since I've held a pen in my paw. I don't know about Rose, though... " She looked down at the small blue Usul. "What do you intend to do?"
Rose sighed. "I'll probably just hang out."
"Would you like to hang out with us?" Krrran asked. "We'll just be around the marketplace and at least it'll give you something to do."
"Okay," Rose said, "I might be able to... let me check with Salty to see if he needs any help."
Rose poked her head in the door of Little Nippers.
"Off wid ye!" Salty was shouting, shooing the Piraket off of his perch on the Palmplat cage, "Off! 'Ow many time do Ah 'ave ta tell ye! Stop botherin' tha poor Palmplat!"
"Mr. Salty," Rose said, "do you need my help?"
The old Kyrii relaxed, leaning up against the front counter. "Nah--ye 'ave done enough. Enjoy yerself, lass. Things're goin' as usual 'ere."
Rose suppressed a giggle and joined Krrran and Bowtie as they headed off for the market.
It was at the market that Rose noticed it. It was here--there, everywhere! Absolutely everyone on Krawk Island was wearing it! This little golden necklace with a sword charm on it. Krrran stopped to ask a shopkeeper what it was all about. The Ogrin promptly informed her that the necklaces were this new fad that had basically appeared overnight. Everyone who had the Neopoints wanted one. They were an affordable 1000 NP. Rose nearly choked on the Mystery Berry slushie Krrran had bought her. She had never seen that much NP in one place, much less owned it!
Krrran thought they were really cute, so she dug out her own personal stash and bought two from the shopkeeper. One for Bowtie and one for herself. Bowtie didn't want it so she gave it to Rose. Well, she thought it was a kind gesture, but she really didn't feel right accepting something that expensive. Still, Krrran insisted that she didn't want it to go to waste so she took it anyways. All was well but... something about that sword charm bugged her... she just couldn't decide what...
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Alexa looked around her. She was in the brig, one of the ones near where they had held Salty, Scribe and Rose. Her paws were tied behind her back and her legs were bound as well. There was a bench underneath one of the portholes and that was it... she thought for a couple seconds that she might fit in between the bars, but she couldn't do anything about that right now.
She tried to sort out her memories of the night before.
The pirates had overwhelmed us... Captain Scarblade showed up and he said something about... something about his--um... BY FYORA! Why can't I remember?! Oh--then after that they attacked Sleekwalk and--and I fell down and hit my head on the deck... and I don't remember anything after that... Dear Fyora, what was HE talking about last night?
Alexa was reminiscing over this when she realized something. The fools! Her paws were so small they just slipped out of the ropes. She set about untying her feet when something else came to mind. Maybe they had no intention of keeping her tied up. Maybe it was just a distraction...
You're getting ahead of yourself, Alexa, she thought, Focus... focus... what was Scarblade talking about?
She stood up and dusted herself off. She seemed fine, no broken bones at least. She peeked out the bars to see a much more alert pirate Scorchio guarding the cells. She was just about to go look out the porthole when two sets of very heavy footsteps approached. Alexa whirled around and sat down on the bench, acting as if she had been there a while thinking.
The tall, imposing figure of Captain Scarblade took up her view. He wore his red coat and matching hat and such, exactly what he had been wearing the night before. It appalled her to think that he never took time to wash or change his clothes. Sure, she grew up on the streets, but at least she had standards.
"I see you've found your way out of yer bonds." He grimaced. Scarblade pronounced "I" like "Aye" and he always grimaced when he talked, as if the scar cutting across his left eye still hurt. Alexa knew better. It was from working with unsanitary pirates his entire career. At least, that was her opinion.
Alexa didn't say anything.
"Aye have an old friend for yew." He leaned in closed to the bars, grinning menacingly.
Alexa could see why everyone feared him. His breath was atrocious. Well, making fun of him in her mind was the only way to keep herself from melting. She would be scared stiff if it weren't for her humor.
He opened the cell door and threw Sleekwalk in, who he had been holding behind him the entire time.
Wonderful... the thing had been open. Too late to come up with anything; Scarblade was clicking the lock on. He was still smiling.
"Yew'll find him... a changed Neopet." He chuckled to himself and strutted off.
Alexa didn't get his sense of humor.
Once she knew for sure that he was gone, she got down from the bench and went to Sleekwalk's side. The poor Xweetok was still on the ground, struggling to get up.
"Sleekwalk," she said, wrapping her arms around his chest and trying with all her might to pull him up. He was heavy. "Sleekwalk, are you okay?"
The yellow Xweetok was still staring blankly at the ground. Something wasn't right.
"Sleek... ?" she looked him over. Something was amiss. That's when she noticed it... a thin gold chain around his neck... sort of a necklace. She snuck her paw underneath it and tugged at it. The rest of it pulled out of his shirt. On the end was a little golden sword charm...
Sleekwalk suddenly grabbed her paw and wrenched her off of him. Alexa hit the ground--hard. A sharp pain slammed into her shoulder and tears sprung to her eyes, but she fought them back. Someone once told her not to let others see you cry.
"Sleekwalk," she gasped, "What're you doing?"
She rolled over and stared him straight in the eye. BY FYORA!
They were red all the way through.
He reached for his dagger--
Alexa scrambled to her feet.
"Sleekwalk!" she cried hoarsely, "Snap out of it!"
He kept coming towards her, the dagger in paw.
"Sleekwalk!" she screamed. It didn't faze him.
Alexa did something desperate--and stupid. She lunged forward, narrowly missing Sleekwalk's dagger as it sliced through the air, and took a hold of that necklace with both paws. She bit down on it as hard as she could and it broke.
Something clicked in Sleekwalk's mind, like a spell had been lifted, and the two tumbled to the ground. Sleekwalk hit the wall, stopping their descent. The dagger slipped out of his paw.
"Dear Fyora," he breathed, "I'm back." He looked down at Alexa in shock. Shock turned to horror as he realized what almost happened. "Dear Fyora," he whispered, hugging Alexa tight, "Dear Fyora, I'm so sorry--I... "
"Sleekwalk," Alexa said.
"I don't like Scarblade's sense of humor."
Sleekwalk stared at her for a while, confused. "Uh... neither do I."
Alexa got up and helped him up as well.
"I never want to see another one of those for as long as I live," Alexa grimly stated, glaring down at the shattered charm necklace.
"The Black Pawkeet will be at Krawk Island by tomorrow morning," Sleekwalk said, "That's... uh... the last thing I remember a crew member saying before I went out."
"SHIPS!" Alexa screamed, "That's it! I remember Scarblade talking about something before I became unconscious! HE SAID THAT THEY'D MEET UP WITH THE FLEET TODAY!"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Sleekwalk said, trying to calm her down, "What ships?"
Alexa jumped up on top of the bench and looked out the porthole.
"Th-those... ships... " she said numbly.
Sleekwalk joined her at the window and gasped at the sight of vessels, all overflowing with pirates, as far as the eye can see.
"You know, Alexa?" Sleekwalk said, "I'm starting to dislike Scarblade's sense of humor as well."
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The day had gone by faster than Rose had expected. She sat out on a high cliff overlooking the sea, fiddling with her necklace. She hadn't put it on. Something about it still bugged her. She didn't want to be rude to Krrran, but she just wasn't sure about it. She sat there for a long time, as she had for the past hour, and stared at that mesmerizing gold charm. Suddenly she cast it into the sea. She wanted nothing to do with the thing!
The charm was an identical miniature of Captain Scarblade's sword.
Then something on the horizon caught her eye. A black sail in the midst of a pin sunset and an orange sea.
The Black Pawkeet had returned.
To be continued...