Anneslace Gets the Royal Treatment
Anneslace Gets the Royal Treatment
"Quartermistress Anneslace! You are relieved of duty.”
The Red Ruki glanced up from behind her large wooden desk. She smiled in acknowledgement at the Island Hissi leaning against her cabin doorway, while continuing to jot down a column of numbers. “Hello, Phidianne. I just have a few things to clean up. I forgot that Chalva served an extra shift on the gunnery post, so he’s due a little extra pay. And I need to order a new shipment of water for next month.”
“Chalva will be pleased, I’m sure,” smiled the Hissi. “I hope he realizes how lucky he is to serve under such an honest and industrious quartermaster. A quartermaster who is about to be forcibly ejected by her captain if she doesn’t get going on her vacation already!”
“Ooh, sounds like a certain captain who doesn’t want to get paid next month!”
They both laughed.
Phidianne looked serious for a moment. “Are you sure I can’t convince you to change your vacation plans? They say Shenkuu is lovely this time of year.”
Anneslace shrugged. “You know me, Phidianne. I’m not happy unless I’m getting something done. I know there are tensions between Krawk Island and Mystery Island right now, and this ship is technically part of the Mystery Island navy, but Krawk Island is so close, and I’m honestly looking forward to spending some quality time at the Training Academy.” The Ruki leaned back in her chair and stretched all six limbs. “The exercise will do me good, and improved dexterity can only make me better at my job.”
Phidianne shook her head, but folded her wingtips in a gesture of acceptance. “Most of my crew don’t insist on turning their free time into professional development, but that’s why we love you, Anneslace.” The captain scooted gracefully across the cabin and pulled the Ruki out of her chair into a hug. “A quartermistress’ work is never done, but yours is for now. Go enjoy yourself.”
High atop the eastern bluffs of Krawk Island, Anneslace breathed in the salt air and savoured the gentle leeward breeze. Opening her eyes, she saw her ship’s colours, a blue five-hundred Dubloon piece on a white flag, receding across the ocean. Even this far up from shore, bits of seashell glinted in the sandy path that wound through a forest of palms and palmettos towards Captain Threelegs’ world-famous Training Academy. Krawk Island seemed so still, the silence punctuated only by the gentle surf, compared with the raucous fauna and clamorous tribes of Mystery Island. For Anneslace, silence was a welcome change. She slipped off her shoes and indulgently wriggled her feet into the sand as she hiked barefoot to the training centre.
Soon the Academy came into view. Captain Threelegs, a grizzled Pirate Eyrie, stood in the doorway, bracing the peg leg that served as his right paw against the doorframe. Anneslace wondered if she had arrived too early, as the good captain’s clenched beak suggested he wasn’t his usual vivacious self.
“Yer wouldn't fetch me a nice cool smoothie now would yer?” he said in a low voice, staring pointedly as the Ruki approached. “And sure as yer be needing Dubloons. "All courses are paid for in Dubloons. I sees the colour of yer money before the training starts.” The Eyrie tensed his left wing along the doorframe. “Mayhap yer be wanting to stop over at the Dubloon-O-Matic first, yonder over on the western coast.” His feathered brow furrowed.
Anneslace’s antennae retracted, and not from the salt air. “Captain, is everything all right?”
Captain Threelegs flinched, as though nipped by a petpet Buzzer. His eyes closed halfway in resignation. “All right. Come on in, lass.” He stepped backwards into the dark entryway.
Anneslace hesitated, then froze, as she saw a cutlass appear from behind the Eyrie and rest menacingly on his throat. A gravelly voice, nearly forgotten and thoroughly unwelcome, commanded Anneslace to enter.
Once inside, Anneslace got her bearings. As her eyes adjusted to the unlit room, she saw a Pirate Quiggle, known to her as Gorkrin, lurking in the corner. She was not surprised to see that the cutlass belonged to another unwelcome acquaintance, a Pirate Korbat named Thorvin. She suspected the Korbat had been hovering inside the door, directly above Threelegs, the whole time.
Anneslace turned back to the corner, her antennae flexing. “Gorkrin.”
“That’s Captain Gorkrin to you, missy,” smirked the Quiggle.
“That’s Quartermistress Anneslace to you, Gorkrin,” Anneslace retorted, drawing herself to her full height. “
“Yer know this bilge rat?” spat Threelegs. The Korbat tightened his grip, silencing him.
Gorkrin smiled coolly. “You should show a little more gratitude, girl. I spared your life once, as I recall. And I come with a proposition… a very profitable proposition.”
“It must be profitable indeed, for you to risk melee with the renowned Captain Threelegs.”
Gorkrin shrugged. “He’s not much of a fighter when he’s asleep. Lucky for me it was him and not the Techo Master. Now there’s a trainer who’d have put up a fight.”
Threelegs’ eyes blazed. “Enough! Just yer wait till the Governor hears about this. He’ll have yer keelhauled for this!”
Thorvin’s laughter echoed around the room as Gorkrin waved dismissively. “Oh, I think you’ll find the good Governor has more pressing issues.”
“Who do you think sent us – ” squealed the Korbat. Gorkrin snapped his wrist, cutting Thorvin off.
“Getting back to business,” continued Gorkrin, “my assistant and I represent, let’s just say, certain interests who know of your Captain Phidianne’s recent diplomatic visits to Maraqua. As her quartermaster, Anneslace, you are well-positioned to keep tabs on her progress and her movements. My benefactors are prepared to pay handsomely for this information.”
“I think we both know that’s not going to happen, Gorkrin,” Anneslace replied evenly.
“Well, now, I thought you might say that. But what about your ship – the Five Hundredth Dubloon? It’s a Mystery Island vessel, but Krawk Island has a monopoly on Dubloons, including a trademark on their name and image. It would be… unfortunate… for your beloved ship to be becalmed by protracted legal proceedings.”
Anneslace raised an eyebrow sceptically. “You must be kidding if you think that a quartermaster, responsible for her ship’s international registry, would fall for that.”
The Quiggle’s face darkened, losing all pretence of cordiality. “Very well. I didn’t think a straight-laced milquetoast such as yourself would respond to bribes or threats, but the powers-that-be insisted I try. Now we do things my way.” Gorkrin unholstered a curiously-shaped, purple and green ray gun, and took direct aim at the Ruki.
Threelegs looked quizzically at the ray gun. “I recognize that… that’s Boochi’s Ray Gun. How’d yer get hold of it?”
Anneslace met his gaze with confusion in her eyes as well. “If I don’t cooperate, your master plan is to zap me into a Baby Ruki?”
Gorkrin’s sharp teeth glinted in a wide grin. “The Smugglers Cove has extensive resources. And no, I’m not painting you Baby. This gun has been expertly modified, courtesy of a friend on the Virtupets Station, to paint you Royal.” The Quiggle paused, enjoying the Ruki’s puzzlement. “This is not mere cosmetics. You’ll be transformed, body and mind, into a Krawk Island aristocrat, bound magically by fealty to me… and you’ll faithfully serve Krawk Island’s interests, whether you like it or not.”
Anneslace collapsed to the floor; her antennae and carapace darkened from red to indigo, and her carapace blurred into a Persian pink. In that instant, Threelegs moved. With lightning agility, he reached overhead, grabbed his captor with his powerful left paw, and hurled the unprepared Korbat at the Quiggle. Before the Korbat could squeak in protest, he had already bowled his cruel captain over. In a trice, both villains found themselves on the receiving end of Threelegs’ strong fist and doughty peg, and were quickly subdued.
The Eyrie lifted Anneslace from the floor, brushing the dust from her magically conjured royal finery. With surprising speed, he dragged her to a locked cabinet on a high shelf, removed a key carved in his likeness, and unlocked a cache of hi-tech weaponry.
“Gadgets and gizmos aren’t my style,” he muttered. “Let yer sword do yer talking, that’s what I say. But every good trainer needs to know their weapons.” He clumsily shoved a garishly coloured helm onto his head, and blinked as the Mind Control Helmet’s controls flashed on. The lights danced in the Ruki’s eyes briefly, then extinguished. Anneslace shook her head.
“Yer be all right soon enough,” said Threelegs with some relief. “Yer’ll be nursing a headache for a bit, but that should undo whatever mojo that blasted ray gun might have done.” The Eyrie shook his head, ruffling his feathers. “Honest truth, I can’t hardly believe you even changed colour. Boochi’s weaponry hasn’t been working right for a while now.”
Anneslace began to breathe easier. She examined the deep blue covering her hands, and looked into the Eyrie’s worried eyes. “Thank you, Captain. I believe I owe you my freedom.”
Threelegs grinned heartily. “Nonsense. I believe I owe you a week’s worth of training. Just… please don’t tell anyone I let those two scallywags get the best of me.”
Anneslace smiled demurely.
Under the Eyrie’s watchful protection, Anneslace returned to her ship, with several levels of Agility and Endurance under her Arid Ruki Belt. She would be glad to be rid of the Royal Girl Ruki Shoes, though, which were better suited to a dance floor than a poop deck.
As she boarded, her captain and crew were waiting eagerly to welcome her back, only to look suddenly crestfallen.
“What’s the matter?” Anneslace joked gently. “Haven’t you ever seen royalty before?”
Captain Phidianne scooted along the deck and alighted beside the Ruki. “Oh, Anneslace, it’s just… well, the crew all chipped in to get you a present. A token of gratitude and esteem for everything you do for us.” Phidianne withdrew a plush pillow with a gilded purple paintbrush nestled atop. “I don’t suppose you’ll be needing a Royal Paint Brush now.”
Anneslace smiled, then kicked off her fancy shoes. “Actually, this is the best gift I could have asked for. These clothes are lovely, but not the most practical. Chalva, could you do me a big favour?””
A strapping Green Ruki stepped forward. “Yes, Quartermistress?”
“How would you feel about helping me get some new clothes? A nice Royal Boy Jacket would make much better work clothes for me. Of course, you will have to explain to your family how you’re Royal now…”