Shad and Saura: The Secret Belowdecks - Part Ten
Art by ssjelitegirl
They didn't stop running until they were seven blocks away, at which point their lungs felt like they were breathing lava.
"Okay, so," Saura wheezed. "Get boat, get out now. How... long d'you think we... got?"
"Our clock's already ticking, I think." Shad leaned against a wall, then his legs gave way and he slithered slowly onto the ground.
They stalked off carefully, circling back to the coast. Gnarfas had been on their tentative side, or at least the very edge of it, but they knew that he'd show no mercy if he came across them again.
"The thing is," said Shad, once they set off again, legs still shaking from the collective shock of getting very nearly made to disappear by Scarblade, escaping narrowly thanks to Gnarfas, and escaping Gnarfas at the same time. "We'll need to steal a boat. We don't have the money to buy one and I doubt anyone will hitch us a ride."
"Now if we had a Gnarfas to point at someone to commandeer a boat," Saura mused.
"That was horrible."
They looked at each other and laughed with nervous relief. The entire island was now a trap but at least they got the head start on everyone else. Gnarfas wasn't the type to battle openly. He'd deal with his revenge first and then go into hiding, much like Scarblade initially expected.
It'd been easy, and yet so much had depended on luck. Gnarfas had a driving point of revenge for imprisonment that Scarblade had well accounted for, and he took precautions to make sure Gnarfas couldn't ever get near him – all precautions but two nosy brothers getting on the ship on Roo Island.
The Werelupe had agreed to go hungry just a little longer, just long enough to break out, long enough to let the brothers escape, in exchange for a favor. This favor consisted of giving him a piece of wire to pick the lock with, taking most of the sleeping drug meat away to a different hold, and escaping as soon as possible. Had things gone according to plan, he would've slept through the inevitable checks of actually being asleep, but woken up before being released on Mystery Island, so that he could release his revenge on the pirates who'd held him captive. He'd figured that Scarblade would arrange his release on a boat somehow, so that he'd be away from the captain when the cage opens, therefore he'd convinced the brothers that he'd stay confined to the pirates' man-o-war if he woke up early enough and cause enough trouble onboard to give them time to take the boat.
It was a stroke of luck that Scarblade had decided to moor his very recognizable ship on Scurvy Island's safe base instead and send the cage off with an unrecognizable boat, but it also meant that Shad and Saura now needed to find their way home again.
"There's gotta be a ship going to Krawk Island from here," mumbled Saura, keeping his eyes peeled for all moored vessels for any signs of leaving soon. "This island here has never been big enough to support everyone with food."
"There," Shad panted helpfully and bounded towards a small schooner with a newfound burst of energy. It had seen better days, but it had a banner next to the gangplank had Krawk Island on it, and for the time being this was all that mattered.
"Hey, hold on now, boys!" yelled the skipper, a lanky Quiggle who was busy with the mooring ropes as the brothers rushed aboard and collapsed in a heap. Shad and Saura forgot everything for a moment, marveling at the fact that a lanky Quiggle was, in fact, possible.
"We need to get out," Shad said defiantly, sinking his claws into the deckboards.
"Yes, of course you do," the skipper said wearily. "I'm currently saving up to get a fence built around my pier so that any random joe-shmoe who suddenly finds himself in hot water because of forged coins or seeing wrong people at the wrong time wouldn't pile onboard the minute I want to set off. You're the third guys this month. Now, I see you're new at this so I'll prompt you a bit. What you do is, you rush onboard all outta breath like this, you got the start down nicely, and you pant, 'Good day, sir, please take me out of this place right now, I'm rich and I can pay you handsomely for your trouble'."
"What if we, purely hypothetically of course, didn't say that?" Saura asked, getting to his feet. Two deckhands, who were both the size and shape of the wardrobe of a shopping addict, shuffled closer, looming menacingly. It was a very professional menacing looming, the sort that you practice.
"Ah, that's also common," said the Quiggle skipper. "Hypothetically, that's when I'd delegate your issue to my associates here, who are better adjusted to a moderate budget and will give you a very cheap swimming lesson on spot."
"So are y'guys hypoteeticul or not?" rumbled one of the wardrobes on deck.
"Nah, we're really quite practical," said Shad, also getting up. "Here's what we're saying: take us out of here as a token of thanks for saving your life, because anyone who doesn't get out soon will shortly be doing this."
Screams had started up farther away in the city. They sounded like the were spreading in several directions all at once. As the little boat fell quiet in confusion, they could hear that it wasn't just screaming, but a word getting repeated over and over.
The Quiggle knotted his brow in an effort to hear. "What's that now?"
"Well, some of them are just yelling 'help, aaargh, mommy'," Saura admitted, perking his sensitive ears, "but a whole lot of them are yelling 'Gnarfas'."
"Is this a joke?" the skipper asked suspiciously.
"We like jokes," one of the wardrobe-deckhands rumbled affectionately. "Dey's funny when dey try to float."
The brothers exchanged glances. They hadn't had much time to think, or they might have tried to question the concept of convincing a random skipper that a near-mythical beast who's known to be chained up in the Haunted Woods has suddenly showed up on the other side of the world. That was exactly the sort of question Scarblade had banked on nobody asking.
"Sean!" someone shouted from the pier in a squeaky, breathless voice. "Sean, oh thank heavens you haven't left yet!"
"What- you, pumpkin?" the skipper asked, craning his neck around the edge of the cabin in disbelief. The newcomer was a chubby orange Hissi – Shad and Saura had to marvel again at the concept of a chubby Hissi being possible – with a lot of necklaces, or possibly bodylaces, since it's a bit hard to tell with a Hissi. She was panting heavily, dragging a sizable suitcase along and frankly did look a bit like a pumpkin.
"Fiona called right now!" wheezed the Hissi, heaving the suitcase on board. "She was at the McWheeneys' place, went to get that recipe, right, and you know that house has this nice view on the main street, and would you believe that they saw Gnarfas, like, just tearing down the street through all the people. It was horrible," she added with the kind of terrified glee ladies living in seclusion reserve for tragedies. "She let me know right away and told me to get out, they have this private flight-coach with an Eyrie coachman but it's too small and oh heavens, my heart is about to burst. Who're these two?"
"We came here to warn Sean about Gnarfas, ma'am," Shad said, helpfully waving wind into her face with his tail. He still stank of the bowels of the Revenge but the lady didn't seem to mind.
"Oh, you're so sweet," she said. "I'm Melly. Sean, will you get going already?"
"Sure thing," Sean muttered in confusion and ambled off to the engine room. Melly leaned on the railing to ogle the city and hopefully catch a glimpse of the horror it was hiding.
"It's so dreadful, isn't it?" she said cheerfully. "We may never be able to come back. Oh dear, I didn't bring my green dress, did I? My favorite. Imagine, maybe in twenty years they'll be able to come back and find my green dress on the floor of my bedroom and then they'll wonder what its owner might've been like- oh my, is that really him?"
The boat had begun to rumble and puff smoke and was tilting gently sideways as its paddles churned the water slowly. The city was mostly obscured by the cabin now, but shuffling around the corner, they could see a tiny furry speck bounce onto a gable of a nearby mansion. Eyrie coachmen were flying out in all directions now, and the speck bounced up, lunging at the wheel of one nearby coach. Four arms flailed in the air, one of them hit the wheel, the coach jerked sideways and terrified screeches could be faintly heard through the air. The fuzzy figure fell back empty-handed and disappeared.
"So terrifying," Melly breathed excitedly, leaning so heavily on the railing that the boat careened. "It's just like the time we first left Brightvale in the middle of the night with nothing but a small suitcase. I feel young again."
"I'm happy for you," Saura said cautiously, edging towards the prow where the city was entirely blocked by the cabin. "Do you think Sean can drop us off at Mystery Island or thereabouts?"
"Oh, I'm sure it won't be a problem, dear."
The small boat puffed out into the open sea, the first of many that followed shortly, and the numerous grim secrets Scurvy Island had always harbored gained another one that day.