Better than Scones: Return of the Black Pawkeet - Part Six
I decided to help out Garin and Jacques in their fight against Scarblade. I had to. It didn't matter what Scribe said, Scarblade had my best friend and I was going to fight until the end to get her back. I don't care what people say about my age. I can be a help. It's like Captain Garin said, the only way we find out who we are is through the hard times. Well, here are my hard times, and I am BRAVE. Alexa helped me start this adventure, and I'm gonna end it by helping her.
-Rose the Usul
"Whatcha doing, Rose?" Scribe asked. She joined her at the cliff, staring out over the sea.
"Scribe," Rose said. "It's starting."
Rose pointed at the black sails, perfectly clear now.
"By Fyora..." Scribe gasped. "By Fyora, he's here."
The yellow Gelert got up and left, heading in the direction of town. She was going to go get Captain Garin and Jacques.
Something was not right. As Rose watched, more sails appeared on the horizon. They kept coming; white flags against the darkening sky, until the horizon was filled with them--not just the horizon to the east, but the west, north and south as well. They were surrounded. And just like that, they all stopped.
The ships were waiting.
Rose felt like everything they had just gone through was in vain. They were goners. She burrowed her head in her paws. Krawk Island was done for.
Jacques, Garin, and Scribe joined her. She hadn't realized they were there until they started talking.
"Where did they all come from?" Jacques wondered. "Scarblade couldn't have found that many ships in such a short amount of time, could he?"
"I don't know," Garin said, "But it makes our job harder."
"Have you gathered your help?" Scribe asked, "Do you think we have enough?"
Garin shook his head. "Who can say? We'll fight either way."
"Every able-bodied pet on Krawk Island," Jacques mumbled, "And still we're no match for that monster."
Scribe turned Mallow white from her wiry ears to her thin tail tip. She looked like she was going to faint.
"Jacques," Garin said, looking at his first mate, "We better go round up the men."
Jacques nodded and the two slunk off as quietly as they could.
Scribe stood there for a long time, looking at that line of white sails, her paws shaking uncontrollably and her eyes watering.
"Now, Rose," she said shakily, "We can't be scared, okay? Everything's going to be perfectly f-f-... oh, Rose!" The Gelert crumpled to her knees and hugged Rose as tight as possible. "Rose--I can't hide it anymore! I've been afraid before, but... but now! Now makes all those other times look so much better--well, I mean, I'm more afraid now that I've been before! EVER before! Rose, I can't promise that everything's going to be fine... I-I can't promise that we'll make it out of this one okay... I don't even know if we'll make it out of this one."
Rose could feel the pet's tears soaking through the back of her shirt. "Scribe, we'll be fine... all of us. Scarblade won't win. I... I promise you that. We've got Garin and Jacques on our side. Plus, Alexa and Sleekwalk are still out there... everything will be fine." She had never lied better in her entire life, which made her feel even worse. It had surprised her--and scared her--to find out that even the adults were afraid. Usually the older pets would tell the younger ones like herself what she had just explained to Scribe. It felt a little awkward to be trying to convince a grown-up that things would eventually turn out right.
Scribe sat back on her feet, wiping her tears off with her sleeve. She looked like a little kid the way she did it. "By Fyora, I hope you're right."
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Alexa was still at the porthole. It was well into night and the moon had already set. She judged that they only had a few hours left before morning.
Another loud snore came from the other side of the cell. Sleekwalk had sat down against the wall near the bars so he could keep an eye on the guard. He had intended it to be a waiting game, to see if the guard would fall asleep. It hadn't taken long for Sleekwalk to doze off. The yellow Xweetok's head had lolled back and a little bit of drool trickled down his cheek.
Alexa hopped off the bench and walked over to Sleekwalk, straining to see the guard through the bars. In the dim light she could see that the pirate Scorchio had passed out on the table, a mug of Fruitmallow Grog in his hand.
The blue Kyrii shook Sleekwalk. "Sleekwalk! Sleekwalk, wake up!"
The Xweetok woke up with a start. "Uh--hm... hm?"
"It's now or never," Alexa said. "He's asleep."
"I'm sorry," Sleekwalk yawned, stumbling to his feet, "what?"
"I'm not going to sit around here while Scarblade tries to conquer Krawk Island!" she snapped. "Move yourself, boy!"
Sleekwalk blinked at her in surprise. "You sounded like a pirate for a couple seconds there, Alexa."
The Kyrii rolled her eyes and walked over the gate, estimating the distance between the bars. After a couple failed attempts she turned sideways and managed to slip through.
"The brig isn't made for kids," she mumbled.
Sleekwalk watched in silence as she quietly slunk to the guardroom. The keys were still on the peg on the wall. She stood tiptoe and stretched as far as she could go. Her paw brushed against one of the metal keys. She tried again, this time getting a hold on the key. She pulled out as hard as she could. The keys jangled loudly as the ring came off the hook. She froze, still on her tiptoes, and stared at the guard.
He shuddered and turned over, mumbling in his sleep, and dropped his mug on the floor.
Alexa stayed like that for a few more minutes, just to be sure that he was still asleep. They couldn't afford a goof up. Not now--especially not now.
She carefully lowered her arms, both paws stifling the keys so they wouldn't make any more noise. Then she quickly ran back to the brig cell and unlocked the door for Sleekwalk. She dropped the keys and the two took off. Heedless of the guard, Sleekwalk pulled Alexa passed him and helped her up the ladder to the crew deck. Without delay they started up the next ladder and came up on deck.
"C'mon," Sleekwalk whispered. He went to side of the Black Pawkeet and stood on the railing.
"No! No!" Alexa cried. "Wait! Wait right there!"
"Alexa--" Before Sleekwalk could say anything, Alexa took off.
She got to the Captain's Cabin and opened up the door slightly, slipping in and gently shutting the door behind her, but not all the way.
We were here for a reason, she thought bitterly.
The cabin was lit with the warm glow of candles. There was a large compass table in the middle of the room with several chairs seated around it. It had probably had maps and charts laid out on it at one point, but now it was covered with grog mugs and empty bottles. Broken glass littered the floor, and certain spots looked slippery with slipped grog. There were two hammocks, one on either side of the room, which Alexa could imagine Captain Garin and Jacques retiring to after a hard day's work. The form of the green Lupe, Captain Scarblade, was slumped in one of them. One of his legs was resting on a shelf on the wall, gently rocking himself. His left arm dangled off the netting.
It didn't take her long to find Jacques' swords. They were tucked in a double-scabbard belt on the ground. She picked it up and buckled it on. She had to wrap it around her waist almost three times but they dragged the ground, so she wound the belt over one shoulder diagonal so her body still supported it. This arrangement seemed to work better.
It took a little longer to spot Garin's Maractite dagger. Scarblade's free paw held the sheath and belt.
Alexa almost melted. Her mind listed off a hundred things Scarblade would do to her if he caught her trying to steal the blade from him.
No! she screamed in her head, No! Don't think about it! It's no use to anyone if Scarblade still has Garin's sword!
She thought of Jacques the Swift. He wouldn't back down.
She took a deep breath and stepped forward. That's how she went, one paw in front of the other, fighting against the urge to run away. She thought brave thoughts. Jacques saving Garin's life when they were kids... Garin facing the Revenge... Garin fighting off the Drenched...
Before she realized it, she was directly in front of Scarblade's paw.
Here goes nothing.
She took hold of the hilt and quickly drew it out of the sheath.
She froze, staring at Scarblade's scarred face, expecting those eyes to open up any moment and catch her. Nothing.
She backed up to the door and left, shutting the door as quietly as possible.
"Alexa!" Sleekwalk called.
The Kyrii ran to join him. Together, the two jumped off the railing and into the cold sea.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The sun crept up over the horizon, illuminating the black sails of the Black Pawkeet and the hundreds of ships around her. Down in the water were longboats, at least two from every ship.
Garin, Scribe, Bowtie, Krrran, and Rose were on the cliff watching them.
"This is it," Garin said, more to the handful of Neopets behind them than to Scribe and Rose. "Get ready."
Krrran drew the long Cobrall dagger from its sheath at her waist. "Let's get his over with." She stood next to Rose, closer to the cliff's edge than the rest. The golden sword charm dangled from her neck.
"Yeah..." Rose said absently. She couldn't take her eyes of that necklace. She hated the sight of it, but still...
She looked down to the beaches. Seventy Neopets lined the sand, maybe eighty--still... it wasn't going to be enough. She could see the small figure of the Kyrii, Jacques, pacing up and down the shoreline in front of the defending pets. Everyone was on edge.
"Go," Garin said to the Neopets around him. "Head out to the beaches, fill in any areas that seem thin."
The pets headed off. They were a rag-tag team, some well equipped and others wielding whatever they had their paws on when they grouped. Every one of them was shaking in their boots.
Something bright glinted on the Black Pawkeet, bright enough Rose could see it.
"Boy," she said, "I wish I knew where Alexa was right now."
Krrran slumped down to the ground, one paw holding her head.
"Krrran," the Eyrie's sister, Bowtie, asked, putting a hand on her shoulder, "Krrran, are you okay?"
The beach erupted into commotion.
"Cap'n Garin!" Rose shouted, jumping up, "Look!"
Garin and Scribe rushed to the edge of the cliff. War cries and the sound of clashing steel came from the beach. Most of the Neopets had turned against each other, pushing a small group of fifteen pets back to the shore. Jacques was nowhere in sight.
"What's going on?" Scribe asked.
"Mutiny," Garin said bitterly, his paw resting on the hilt of the saber he had borrowed. "Most of our forces were on Scarblade's side. C'mon, we've got to go help them."
Three Neopets, a Pteri, an Elephante and a Lenny, all of whom had been in the group sent off to the beaches, came running up the turf screaming, the rest of the group hot on their heels shouting warcries and waving their weapons above their heads.
"Don't just stand there!" Garin roared, drawing his sword, "Turn and fight! We'll fight our way to the beaches if we have to!"
The three Neopets turned around, readying their spears and swords. The Lenny was shaking so hard his armor rattled.
Scribe and Bowtie broke off to help them, leaving Rose and Krrran at the cliffs edge. That's when Rose noticed that Krrran was on the ground, cringing.
"Krrran," she said, kneeling by the Eyrie, "are you okay?"
Krrran didn't answer.
She looked like she was in pain. She was slumped on the ground for a long time, her paws clapped to her head as if she had a headache.
Krrran suddenly froze, her heavy breathes slowed to a calm pace. She stood up, gripping her dagger so hard her knuckles were white.
"Krrran, are you okay?"
The Eyrie's eyes were a blood red through and through.
"Peachy," she growled.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
"You be a good gal while Ah'm gone. Ah'll be back b'fore you know it, just keep yer eyes on the stars and count out the days. It'll go by faster that way."
"No, no, no!" Sleekwalk looped his paw under Alexa's arms, pulling her up to the surface of the water as she started to sink. He flicked salt water at her face, trying to get her to wake up. "Don't fall asleep, Alexa, c'mon. Get up, get up! We're almost there!"
Alexa blinked sleepily at him. "Huh? Sleekwalk... I could almost see Pa..."
"C'mon, Alexa," he said, splashing her, "Don't do this to me!"
Alexa spluttered, flailing a bit before gathering her bearings. They were so close to Krawk Island...
The blue Kyrii yelped, splashing closer to Sleekwalk.
"What?!" the Xweetok cried in shock.
"Something touched me!" Alexa yelled, looking around wildly. "There!" She pointed off to the left, "Over there!"
"What?" Sleekwalk said, looking to where she was pointing, "I don't see anything..."
"It's right there!" she said. "That grey thing right under the surface!"
Sleekwalk gave her a worried look. "Are you okay?"
Alexa glared at him. "Something was there, Sleekwalk!"
"It was probably just a Scrawny Fish. Now, c'mon," Sleekwalk said, turning towards Krawk Island and staring to swim in that direction, "We've got to get going. Something's going on on the shore."
Alexa paused, glancing back at that spot. A grey-blonde head surfaced for a split second, then disappeared back into the water. Not wanting to hang around that area, she started after Sleekwalk.
When they had gotten closer, Alexa realized what was going on. A huge group of Neopets were fighting a much smaller band, which was scattered about the shore. The group had the red eyes that Sleekwalk had had when he had tried to attack her.
Something gold on a Neopet flashed in the sunlight.
"Sleekwalk!" Alexa shouted over the noise. "It's those necklaces! They look just like the one Scarblade used to control you! We have to get them off!"
Sleekwalk's feet touched the gritty sand below the water.
"Already on it!" Sleekwalk yelled. He drew his dagger and charged forward, out of the water and into the fray. He caught a Grarrl by surprise and jumped on his back, slicing the thin gold chain off its neck. The Grarrl shuddered, swayed for a moment, then toppled to the ground, launching Sleekwalk into a Faerie Meerca. The few normal pets around him saw him and did the same to their opponents, sending five more Neopets crumpling to the ground.
Alexa stumbled out of the water, pushing back the wet fur dangling in her face with her free paw. She had one thought. She had to find Jacques and Garin and give them back their swords. It wasn't long before she found Jacques. Sleekwalk and Jacques had found each other and were fighting back to back, mostly defending themselves and trying to take off the necklaces of their attackers when they could.
Alexa slipped out of the belt and threw it to them, shouting, "Jacques! Heads up!"
"Great!" Jacques cried, watching the belt land only a few feet in front of him. Without bothering to pick up the belt, he dropped the borrowed blade and unsheathed his two swords, ducking as a Kougra swung at him.
"Alexa," Sleekwalk called, "get to Garin! I saw him up near the cliffs!"
Alexa nodded and jogged down the beach with the Maractite dagger in paw, steering clear of the skirmish on the shore. She kept her eye on the cliffs the entire time.
Something was terribly wrong,. Garin, Scribe and Bowtie had broken off from the cliff, fighting the Neopets further down, leaving Rose alone with one of the evil Neopets at the cliff edge. Rose seemed to be struggling just keeping on her feet.
"I'm coming, Rose!" Alexa screamed. She hadn't heard her. At least, the Blue Usul didn't acknowledge her.
That's when something struck Alexa. That Green Eyrie attacking Rose was Krrran!
She didn't have any time to lose. Instead of heading inland in order to climb the cliff on the turf, she headed straight for the rocky drop off on the beach. At first she tried to use the Maractite blade to help her climb, but it cut through the rock like butter and wouldn't hold her weight. Alexa bit the blade in her teeth and used her paws.
It took her longer than she had hoped to get to the top. What was worse was that she knew every second counted while trying to save her friend.
"Krrran!" Alexa shouted, pulling herself over the ledge.
The Green Eyrie stopped, looking at Alexa with interest as if she had never seen anything as curious as that little Kyrii. She had backed Rose up to the cliff's edge, threatening to push her off.
"Alexa?" Rose gasped, "Alexa! You're okay!"
Alexa got to her feet and rushed Krrran. "Leave her alone, Krrran!"
Before Alexa had even got to her, Krrran pushed Rose, sending her off balance. Alexa leapt up, grabbing at the thin gold chain around the Eyrie's neck and sliding Garin's Maractite blade under it. The Necklace broke without any resistance.
Krrran slumped to the ground with a sudden exhale.
"A-Alexa!" Rose cried.
The Blue Usul was suspended in the air for a moment, her feet having lost the stable rock she had been standing on moments before. Then she disappeared over the edge.
"Rose!" Alexa ran to the ledge. Far below her was a splash, then the water settled as if nothing had happened. "Rose!"
"Break off!" Scribe shouted. She had seen the short skirmish between Alexa and Krrran and was running back as she shouted at the others. "Fall back!"
The Gelert got to Alexa just as she tried to jump off the cliff after her friend. She grabbed the child's shoulders, pulling her back. "Alexa! Stop! What do you think you're doing?!"
"Leggo of me!" Alexa screamed, trying to wrestle out of Scribe's grasp, "Let go! I've gotta help Rose!"
"That's crazy, Alexa!"
"You mean you want me to let her die?!" Alexa tore away from Scribe, glaring angrily at her. "Rose can't swim! You may be ready to give up on her, but I'm not!"
Before Scribe could do anything else, the little Kyrii had dove off the edge and into the sea far below.
Sleekwalk had made his way to the cliff by then. He had just cut the necklace off of the last attacking pet in the area when he saw Scribe staring down at the water. He joined her, watching her gaze until he found the little spot of blue submerge into the water.
"I've gotta say," he said, "That girl does some of the stupidest things... but she has to be the bravest pet I've ever met."
"That's why I love her," Scribe said, walking away. "I just don't want to see her get hurt."
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Alexa glared down into the murky depths. Her head pounded and her lungs ached, but she dared not go up for a breath of air. When she could stand it no longer, she quickly swam to the top, releasing a stream of bubbles. She broke the surface, gulping down fresh air then diving back under.
She swam fast and furiously, inspecting every trail of bubbles she saw. She could go under for at least a few minutes, but it never seemed to be enough. Every trip quickly took her farther and farther away from Krawk Island, but she didn't mind. She had to find Rose. She just had to. She couldn't stand to lose someone else she loved.
On her last trip, she saw the wooden hull of a longboat. It was only then that she remembered she still held Garin's blade.
These pirates are coming to attack Krawk Island and destroy everything on it, she thought. Let's see what I can do about that...
It was that first hull that she tested the dagger on. It sliced through clean, the longboat lurched and started to sink ever so slowly. The blade worked just as well on the next one. By now, some pirates were getting wet.
She was getting ready to slash the hull of her third longboat when a huge green hand dipped in and grabbed her by the mane, thrusting her out of the water.
"Well, well, well," a deep, bass voice cawed, "Lookit what Ah caught."
She was staring in the face of a fearsome looking, and quite large, Green Elephante. The pirate dropped her onto the floor of the boat, the force knocking the wind out of her. The Maractite Blade skittered out of reach onto a bench. Alexa started to reach for it when she came face to face with two large hooves.
"Hel-lo!" a peppy voice cried. It belonged to a Yellow Kau, the owner of the hooves. She reached down under the bench and pulled out Garin's dagger. "Benny, lookit this."
The Kau turned to the Purple Bruce at the prow.
Benny glared down at it and scowled. "Where did you get that, Sylvia?"
"The Kyrii dragged it in." Sylvia sneered. She pulled it in closer. "Ah found it. Ah'll give it to Scarblade."
"Oh no, ye don't!" the Elephante roared, the motion rocking the longboat. "Ah pulled tha tyke outta tha water, Ah git ta give et to tha Cap'n!"
"You're both wrong!" Benny snapped, snatching the dagger out of Sylvia's hands. "I'm the First Mate so I'll give Scarblade the sword and the girl."
The two gave him a confused look.
"I'm not as dimwitted as you," Benny growled. "That girl was one of the runaways last night."
The Pirates' confusion turned to bitter envy.
"Don't just stand there, you dense heaps of kelp!" The Bruce tossed a length of rope at the two. "Tie her up before she gets away again!"
With a scowl, Sylvia snatched the rope away from the Elephante.
"Better let me do it, Big Dan," she grumbled. "The way ye tie knots, we'll be lucky if'n she c'n breathe."
Alexa struggled to her feet, still gasping for breath. She was soaked to the bone and shivering.
"Hold her still!" Sylvia ordered Dan.
Alexa yelped as the rough hands slammed down on her shoulders, forcing her to her knees. Her right shoulder ached furiously.
The Yellow Kau quickly tied her paws behind her back, plucking her off the floor and setting her next to Benny the Blade.
"If you get any ideas," Benny threatened her, "I can't guarantee that you'll make it to Scarblade in one piece."
Don't give them the satisfaction, someone in the back of her mind said. If anything happens, don't let them see you cry. You're my brave girl, Lex.
Alexa's glare up at Benny hardened. And you were braver, Pa.
To be continued...