Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 189,792,224 Issue: 560 | 31st day of Hiding, Y14
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Petpet Adventures: Windrider - Part One

by rachelindea


Things began to get exciting when they anchored off Mystery Island.

     Of course, they didn't sail their ship into the bay and tie off there. They were a few kilometres away from the port, where only the prying eyes of the natives in the jungle could see their ship. And as an extra precaution the flag had been furled by the youngest crew member, a bumbling young pirate Blumaroo who had won his place in the crew in a game of Bilge Dice.

     But the ship was painted black, and the name Krawken's Fear labelled it quite clearly as a Krawk Island ship. With a critical eye, Arkol watched several of the crewmates unfold a giant sheet and throw it over the side. He was not quite sure what it read, but he knew it stopped the ships of places they visited from chasing them out to the open sea.

     A sudden barking voice from right next to his ear forced the Pawkeet to lift one wing and shield it from the noise. His perch began to move, and the feared Plumbeard the pirate walked over to the edge of the ship and began shouting – to the petpet's practised ears it sounded like curses in Pet – to the crew below. The pets quickly adjusted the sheet, then hurried back on board. Arkol added a few choice words of his own.

     He lifted his wings and fluttered away from the angry Kyrii Pirate, landing on a nearby barrel. He knew what would happen now; the crew would change from their baggy shirts and breeches to a guise more acceptable to those on Mystery Island. Then they would row ashore and bring back news of any tasty pickings that Krawken's Fear could follow out of harbour and plunder. It worked out quite well usually. Plumbeard's fierce reputation and ridiculously huge sabre were enough to make any other ship easy pickings.

     "Why is he angry this time?" a voice below him asked.

     Arkol looked down to see the other petpet inhabitant of the ship staring up at him. Martin the Swabby usually spent his time belowdecks in the galley, helping the cook clean up after the extremely messy pirates after they ate. Arkol avoided his company, usually; the Swabby was rather dull, and Arkol preferred to watch the pirates play their games – he knew how to play any dice or card game after years at sea – or pore over the maps in Plumbeard's cabin, or simply sit on his pet's shoulder and feel the wind in his feathers while admiring all the treasure they had won.

     "Just the crew being incompetent, as usual," Arkol replied, sharpening his beak on the wood of the railing beside him. Then he started laughing. "Here they come now!"

     Both petpets looked at the hatch as pets began emerging. The pirates had replaced their clothes with what looked like wreaths of flowers. They looked ridiculous. And none of them looked happy.

     Arkol heard a laugh, and saw Plumbeard leaning against the side. Tears leaked out of the eye that wasn't covered by an eyepatch. He pulled himself together and began giving his crew instructions. Boats were lowered over the sides, and then the pets left, six at a time, heading to the mainland. Half the crew remained behind. They looked both annoyed at missing out on the carousing that would surely be taking place in the port now, and relieved that they had retained their clothes, and their dignity.

     Arkol spent the rest of the day dozing, perched high in the rigging while Plumbeard stumped around below. He could tell Plumbeard was restless, but there was nothing he could do; he would surely be recognised if he set paw on the island. Arkol didn't bother visiting the island itself as the last time he had done so some idiot Myncies had tried to hit him with volleyballs. Mystery Islanders were so strange.

     At nightfall the first boat returned. The young Blumaroo bounded on board and straight up to the captain, yabbering excitedly. Karol guessed that they had found some particularly juicy treasure, so he wasn't surprised when Plumbeard whistled for him.

     The Kyrii unsheathed his massive serrated sabre and inspected the edge, as Arkol alighted on his shoulder. Then he grinned with big yellow teeth at the Pawkeet and reached inside his coat, pulling out a vial of black powder. Arkol closed his eyes and waited expectantly while the dust was sprinkled over him, ruffling his feathers to make sure he was completely covered. He could feel whatever magic that was in the powder begin to work, and suddenly the pets around him seemed to be moving too slowly, and the lights of the torches flickering on the ship were too bright. He closed his eyes again.

     He felt himself swaying on Plumbeard's shoulder as the Kyrii pirate began to organise whatever raid they were going on. He only opened his eyes again when he realised they were moving over water, but not on the ship; instead they were in the row boats.

     The torches had been extinguished and replaced with shuttered lanterns that let out only minimum light. But with his heightened senses he could see books and scrolls and maps poking out of sacks in the floor of the row boat. He was also a bit shocked when he saw the entire crew of the Krawken's Fear waiting on the beach, sabres and cutlasses clutched in paw and hoof, and thankfully in their pirate garb. Glancing back at the ship, he saw the torches still lit. It made no sense; why would Plumbeard abandon the ship with no guards and then light it up like a beacon?

     The group of pirates moved through the jungle efficiently. To Arkol's enchanted ears they were loud and clumsy, but for pets they were actually being rather quiet. He didn't open his eyes again until they had stopped.

     He found himself on the edge of the jungle, and squinted immediately as the lights from the Mystery Island port blinded him. In the bay were a dozen or so ships, sails furled for the night. But his eyes were drawn to the long thick chain that was suspended to a mooring post... that went straight up into the sky.

     He followed the chain and saw, at the top, a floating ship. It was too dark to see the details, or the colour, but it was simply the most beautiful ship he had ever seen.

     Plumbeard was talking to his crew, and then he stopped and held out his arm. Arkol inched along it until he sat on the pirate's wrist and looked up at his pet.

     The grizzled Kyrii pointed up at the flying ship, and uttered one of the few words in Pet that Arkol understood.

     "Distraction," he growled.

     Immediately Arkol took off, winging gracefully towards the ship. The magic in the powder gave him enhanced strength and senses, and also turned his feathers black, to better blend in the dark on pirate raids. He knew what he had to do; find any of the crew that were on watch and quickly dispatch them. It was a tactic the Kyrii had taught him since they had begun their partnership.

     The flight was quick, and Arkol found himself enjoying the cool night air. It was perfect weather for Mystery Island, where storms were not uncommon. He reached the railing of the ship, and admired the smooth wood, before alighting and peering around him.

     He found four pets on watch that night, and once he had knocked the last one out with a surprise blow to the head (it was amazing how strong the potion made him) he flew back toward the pirates. As he neared the trees he let out a three-toned melody that his pet had taught him, then when he saw the crew begin to move, he flew back to the ship, waiting for the action to begin.

     The crew darted out towards the ships, keeping to the shelter of crates and shadows. They had used the time he had been on the ship to extinguish as many lamps as they could around the edges of the jungle. They reached the thick chain, and to Arkol's surprise, they began climbing with the practised ease that comes from the sailor's life, their captain in the lead. The last four pets except one carried the sacks containing Plumbeard's precious books, and finally came the youngest crewmember, who waited down below. He immediately began picking the lock that held the chain to the dock.

     Surveying the distance from the ship to the ocean below, Arkol decided that it would be safe for any pirate to fall, just as long as they hit the water. But it was still nerve-wracking watching them climb.

     There was the sound of pawfalls on the deck behind him, and Arkol tensed, ready to attack, but then saw it was just the members of his crew that had wings. They had circled from the other side in the darkness.

     One of them, a pirate Lenny, placed Martin on the deck, and the Swabby quickly skirted behind a crate. The pets quickly found the unconscious sentries and with practised ease, they tossed them overboard. Arkol heard four faint splashes, just as Plumbeard pulled himself over the railing.

     "Good job," he growled to Arkol, one of those phrases in Pet the Pawkeet knew, then he looked overboard at the pets in the water. He said something to his companions, and quickly disappeared down a hatchway.

     More of the pirates clambered aboard, and Arkol saw that the pets that been thrown overboard below were struggling towards the shore. The fall had obviously woken them up. One reached the shore, just as someone in the port began to ring the alarm.

     There were still five more pirates left to climb aboard, as well as the Blumaroo. As soon as he heard the bells, he deftly unlocked the chain and tossed the end of the chain into the ocean, clinging for dear life to the bit left above the water.

     Meanwhile the pirates aboard had been busy. Several that had disappeared belowdeck were now emerging, carrying pets to toss overboard to the Arkmites below. The rest had swarmed up the rigging and unfurled the sails, and now untethered, the ship began to float away. It was pure luck that it floated away from the island, and not towards it.

     There were startled shouts from below, and Arkol guessed the alarms had woken up the inhabitants still left on the ship. His guess was confirmed as he heard the clashes of metal on metal. The door to a hatchway flew open, and Plumbeard backed out of it, swinging his sabre with ease, and laughing maniacally, as he usually did when he fought. His opponents were two rather stocky Cybunnies, fighting fiercely against him.

     With an angry screech Arkol took off, shooting towards them at his unnatural speed. They didn't even see him coming, and he knocked one out cold as he ricocheted off their head. Plumbeard dealt with the other with one swift blow, then shouted something. Immediately two pirates came to throw them over the ship's railing.

     The rest of the ship's crew quickly realised they were outnumbered, especially when the remaining pirates finished climbing onto the deck – a feat which quite impressed Arkol as the chain was now swinging loose – and joined the fight. When it was just the pirates left aboard, Plumbeard climbed up the steps to the wheel, Arkol once again swaying on his shoulder. He let out a roaring laugh and shouted something down to the crew. Obviously they liked what they heard, because they began to cheer. Arkol readjusted his feathers and closed one eye; the potion was beginning to wear off.

     Unfortunately, it seemed that the famous Plumbeard was having a bit of difficulty controlling the skyship, as he had never flown one before, and the pirate quickly grew frustrated, disappearing into his cabin. Arkol took one last glance at the sky, wondering where on Neopia they could be heading.

     Inside the cabin, the pirate Kyrii was rifling through the desk of the previous captain. Arkol hopped off his shoulder and onto the map laid carefully on the desk in the centre of the room. He studied the dark line of red that was obviously the ship's trade route, and found the next stop. It was a place he had only visited once before, not usually having enough treasure to satisfy the average plundering pirate. Plumbeard came over to the desk, saw what his petpet was looking at, and nodded, piercing the land with a dagger from his boot. It was Tyrannia.

     And that was where he met Braedon.

To be continued...

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