Before the Thunder: Part Two
After telling Navric that pirates had taken Nira, their conversation had proceeded like this.
"How do you know?" he had asked.
"They had muskets, Nav! One of them snuck into my room and pointed it to my head! They smelled of sea salt,their clothes were ragged; what more proof do you want?" Lightning had looked frantic, her worry making her panic on Nira's behalf. Navric looked unconvinced, but didn't have a good reply. They had argued frequently over the last few days as Lightning's body recovered.
Finally, today, there was hardly any evidence of the burns she'd suffered, and her throat no longer pained her. The fur on her legs and tail-tip was gone, but she didn't care. They were hidden beneath the long floral skirt she wore.
Putting the last of her things into the pack, she shouldered it and turned to Navric with a smile.
"Don't worry, Navric. I'll be fine," she said comfortingly. He didn't look as if he agreed, but he held his tongue on the matter. Instead, he said,
Lightning grinned and hugged him.
"When have I ever not been careful?" she asked. When she released him, Navric looked even more nervous than before, which made her laugh.
"You worry too much, Nav," she giggled. He shrugged.
"Rightly so, when it comes to you," he replied. Lightning grinned and walked out the door, casting one last glance back as she closed it behind her. Navric was smiling, but she could see the worry that haunted his eyes. And then she shut the door, cutting herself off from him. She sighed heavily, heart racing. She hoped his worries would be for nothing.
At the docks, the roads were busy. A few merchant ships were unloading their cargo, and many stalls littered the streets. Neopets were everywhere, looking over the wares of the stall-keepers and watching as the merchants unloaded. Lightning found it hard to make her way through. Finally, she made it to the somewhat-more-open path just before the wood-made docks. Glancing around, she wondered where she should start. Her idea was that she would take a ship to Krawk Island and try to find help there. After all, Nira had found Garin there. Perhaps she could find him herself, and beg him to help her find Nira?
As she looked, she started walking forward, not really paying attention to where she was going. Suddenly, she collided with another pet. The force of their collision caused both of them to fall back on their bottoms.
"I'm so sorry!" exclaimed the desert Shoyru she'd bumped into.
"No, no, it's my fault!" Lightning protested, beginning to get back to her feet. The Shoyru hurried to gather his own feet, then helped Lightning up.
"I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to walk into you," the Shoyru said as he helped her. Lightning sighed and shook her head.
"I wasn't looking where I was going. My mistake," she replied, looking embarrassed. Now that they were standing, Lightning realized the Shoyru was not dressed like the average desert pet. He wore a slightly-worn tan, long-sleeved shirt with a red vest, a pair of dark-brown pants, and a black bandana. Around his waist was a black belt with scabbard attached to it on his left hip. The scabbard looked to hold a blade of some sort, possibly a cutlass. A gold ring went through his head crest near the tip, shining in a color very like that of his skin.
"I wasn't looking where I was going, either," said the Shoyru, snapping her attention back to his face. He looked embarrassed, rubbing the back of his neck as he smiled apologetically.
"Name's YinnaRain, by the way. Most people call me Yinn," he added. Lightning grinned.
"I'm Lightning. Nice to meet you," she replied. Looking at his clothes again, a question came to mind.
"Are you a sailor?" she asked. Yinn half shrugged, looking a little uncertain.
"Yeah, I guess. Why?" he asked. Lightning's face lit with relief.
"Can you help me find a ship sailing for Krawk Island?" she asked, putting all her desperate wishes to find Nira into her voice. Yinn's face became trouble at the mention of the island.
"Krawk Island?" he echoed. Lightning nodded. Yinn frowned.
"Aren't you a little... You're not the type of neopet I usually see heading for Krawk Island," he said. Lightning knew what he meant. Most Island pets wouldn't be caught dead on Krawk Island, most of all ones like her. But she was determined, and she let that determination shine through in her facial expression as she stared at Yinn.
"I need to get to Krawk Island. A friend of mind is in danger, and Krawk Island might be the only place I can find the help she needs," she said flatly. Yinn looked like he wanted to ask more questions, but he held his tongue. After a few moments, he sighed quietly.
"I can get you to Krawk Island," he said.
"You can?!" Lightning exclaimed in disbelief. Yinn nodded.
"I haven't got any ports I need to visit anytime soon, so my ship can take you."
"YOUR ship? But you're so..." Lightning hesitated, intending to say "young" but not sure if she should. Yinn grinned, however.
"Young?" he finished. Lightning nodded silently. Yinn chuckled.
"Age is but a number. I've earned the right to be captain of my ship, you can count on that. My crew is loyal and as long as I tell them not to, they won't harm you."
Lightning's mind spun. This young man was offering his ship to help her reach her destination. She couldn't believe it.
Something Yinn had said clicked into place.
"Wait... won't harm me? Why would they harm me?" she asked, looking confused and suspicious.
"They wouldn't! I promise," Yinn assured her.
Lightning still looked suspicious. Yinn half smiled.
"You're just going to have to trust me," he said.
Less than an hour later, Lightning was on the deck of the Golden Blade, watching as the ship left port. She tried to ignore the stares of the crew on her back. She didn't like the way they stared at her. In her mind, it bordered on hostility.
When Yinn had brought her on board and announced they were taking her to Krawk Island, the whole crew had looked shocked. Some of them gave Lightning the evil eye, though she hadn't the faintest idea why. When Yinn had said she was not to be harmed or bothered in any way during the voyage, they had reluctantly gone back to their own business.
Something about them just wasn't right. Lightning couldn't put a finger on it. It frightened her a little that they seemed to resemble the Draik who'd invaded her home that horrible night.
But Yinn wasn't like that. She could tell he wasn't.
And so, like he'd told her on the docks, she was just going to have to trust him.
"...Can't believe... woman on board...."
The faint words carried to Lightning on the wind. She stiffened and turned her head slightly, trying to hear better without letting the speaker know she was listening.
"I know, mate. I ain't happy with it either. But we can't be goin' against the captain's wishes," said a different voice.
"All the same, I won't be comfortable until that female is gone," said the voice from before, straining the word female.
Lightning felt her heartbeat quicken. How dare they treat being a woman as an insult? What was the problem? What harm could she cause them?
"Bad luck, I know, I know," said the second voice.
So that was it! They thought she was bad luck!
Were sailors really that superstitious? Lightning sighed and shook her head. At least they were loyal to their captain.
"Thank you so much, Yinn! You don't know how much this means to me!" Lightning exclaimed, giving the Shoyru a hug. He flushed with embarrassment and chuckled.
"It was no problem, really," he replied. Lightning smiled.
"Still, I can't thank you enough."
She turned and headed for the lowered gangplank, ready to leave the ship and begin her search on Krawk Island.
"Sure you don't want me to stick around and help you look?" Yinn asked just before she took her first step off the ship. Lightning turned to him and shook her head.
"I'll be fine. Don't worry. Plus, I have a feeling you want to get sailing again."
Yinn chuckled, wondering how Lightning always managed to guess everything about him.
"Guess you're right," he said. Lightning turned to go, but he put a hand on her shoulder.
"Just be careful out there, alright? Stay away from the darker side of Krawk Island. Trouble's always lurking there."
Lightning forced a smile. Of course, her destination was the Golden Dubloon, smack in the middle of the darker side of Krawk Island. But she wasn't about to tell Yinn that.
"I'll be fine," she said with a wave, starting down the plank before he could stop her again.
Yinn sighed. Something about the bold Eyrie made him realize she wasn't heeding his warnings. But he knew he couldn't stop her forever, and so he let her go, praying she'd be alright.
Lightning, for her part, made her way quickly across the island. As she went, she asked everyone she could if they'd seen either a pirate Shoyru girl or an Usul by the name of Garin. Nothing turned up, however, and when she was nearly to the Golden Dubloon, she began to feel discouraged.
As she turned onto the street leading to the tavern, someone suddenly came rushing down in the opposite direction. She slammed into Lightning, causing both to topple.
"Thief!! Get back here!!" called an angry voice. The pet who'd slammed into Lightning, a maractite Shoyru, was almost instantly on her feet and running once more. Lightning pushed herself up and looked her body over. No scratches, scrapes, or bruises.
She looked down the street in the direction the Shoyru had gone. She was nowhere in sight. Shaking her head, the Eyrie went into the Golden Dubloon.
To be continued...