Of Pirates, Magical Trinkets and a World's Beginning: Part Two
When the small gang emerged on the outer deck, the battle was already in full swing, the attacking pirate ship with its ominously billowing black sails nuzzled tightly up to the hull of the cargo ship, rigging tangled together in parts, and there were shouts, fists, swords and claws everywhere. Crewmates and pirates fought on the deck of both ships and in the case of those who could fly, in the air around the ships. Occasionally there was a crack of cannonfire, sending smoke into the air, which together with the rain reduced visibility to almost zero.
The Meepits huddled together the assess the situation, briefly stepping aside as a loose sword flew past them and landed in the wall with a boioioioing.
“Really, they don’t do battles like they used to,” Bob Squeaky noted. “Time was, you’d first get a lot of threatening posturing, the ship equivalent of muscle-flexing and a few diplomatically worded notes sent back and forth.”
“Did they sing at each other?” Santa inquired. That, as usual, made for a confused pause.
“Yeah, how does sending notes usually work?” Bloody Mary asked curiously, catching on. “You can probably get good hearing range up here.”
Bob Squeaky had to admit that he didn’t know. But the gang concluded that a nice mutual singing battle would be a much tidier sight than whatever was going on here. They started off along the wall, keeping a careful eye on the course of the battle. Most of it seemed to be the usual skirmish to the effect of “find someone who wears the clothes of the opposite side and wave pointy things at them”. With varied enthusiasm, because at the end of the day the crew of any ship consists mostly of young kids with big dreams and a healthy sense of self-preservation.
“Aw, nuts,” Justice said suddenly, freezing on the spot. “Look over there.”
The Meepits stopped and turned to look at the thick of the skirmish on the deck of the pirate ship. They squinted to see what Justice had meant, then groaned in unison.
“Is that a young star-crossed couple locked in battle with a dozen crewmembers while aiding each other in impeccable choreography?” Bloody Mary asked, blinking in disbelief. “They actually have a young star-crossed couple locked in battle with a dozen crewmembers. I don’t believe it. Those things should be outlawed with some convention or other.”
“Yeeeah, there’s basically no way to win against the side that brings the star-crossed couple,” Bob Squeaky conceded glumly. “There’s been research and everything. I’d give this ship five, ten minutes tops, before it goes down. They won’t even need to bring reinforcements.”
The Meepits shuffled over to the ship’s railing, weighing their options. The two ships were locked together by rigging, but the problem with rigging is, it tends to be very high up with a lot of precarious ropes lashing about. The idea to climb up and cross over at the point of tangle was quickly nixed. At deck level, the two ships were a good dozen yards apart, which for small petpets may as well be half a mile.
“Well, I’m open to suggestions,” Bloody Mary said, while another stray sword flew past them.
There was a brief moment of silence, not counting the raging battle and pelting rain around them, then Boom cleared his throat.
“Other’n stuffing ourselves in a cannon and flying over to the other ship that way,” Bloody Mary said sternly.
Boom’s face fell a bit, but he pressed on. “There’s an option sort of like that, that I believe would work.”
“’Work’ here is defined by ‘us staying alive and unharmed’,” Justice pointed out.
Boom explained. It caused some amount of quick arguing, but they had to admit that as options went, this was reasonably workable and also reasonably within Boom’s expertise to get right.
As the battle wore on and the situation seemed more and more precarious for the pirates, who were certainly doomed to lose to the superior ship with its superior firepower, nobody paid any attention to a small gang of Meepits who looted a small cannonball, a stretch of rope, and a small round wicker ball stuffed with rags that were normally set on fire and hurled at the enemy. Setting things on fire wasn’t in the cards for them, especially in this rain, but the wicker ball was quite big enough for the gang to climb into it, pad themselves with rags as much as possible, and then wait in a slightly antsy manner while Boom tied the ball to a cannonball, expertly loaded the cannon and calculated the amount of gunpowder necessary to get them to the other ship, not across it.
The star-crossed couple faltered for a moment when a double-shot of cannonball and wicker basket zoomed past them with an eerie 'aaaaughaaauhghaagh'.
For a while, there wasn’t a sound, other than the pelting rain that was now starting to let up. The slightly dizzy Meepits assumed that with the sounds of battle suddenly dying down, something particularly important was happening.
“Well, it’s not at the top of my list of ways to travel, but it worked,” Bob Squeaky said grudgingly, biting through the wicker basket to let himself out. The ball fell into pieces and the Meepits scattered out, or bounced, or fell, as the case may have been.
“That was fun!” Santa chirped. “Can we do it again?”
“Depends on whether the other side ends up winning after all,” Bloody Mary noted, leaning a paw against the wall to steady himself. “What’s with the rain letting up? Is the battle over?”
“We seem to be getting the magical trinket now,” Justice said, climbing higher on the railing of the pirate ship to take a better look at the deck of the cargo ship that was now mostly above them. “Desperate last ace in the hole and so forth.”
Someone flew past them with an ‘aaaaughaaaughaagh’ and landed in the rigging above the small gang with a quiet thump. The Meepits turned to look at the newcomer with a vague air of disapproval. It was a haggard-looking Kyrii with a slightly torn shirt and a bandana hanging askew over his face. He hung still in the rigging for a moment, then started struggling against the ropes.
“Would that be the lovable hero?” Joe the Chef inquired.
Bloody Mary scrutinized the Kyrii, who seemed to have trouble wresting his arm free. “Dunno, could be? Or he picked this moment to learn how to fly. Probably a great career advancement opportunity on a flying pirate ship, knowing how to fly.”
“Well, that probably puts us ahead of the curve with the cannonball shot right there,” Bob Squeaky said cheerfully. “The battle seems to be more or less over, except they’ll still want to get that tangle untangled up there, or we’ll all go down.”
The machinery that kept the pirate ship afloat seemed to be having the same idea. The mechanical background whirr that always accompanied flying ships was turning into a loud protesting shriek as the ship started to quake. The fighting crewmembers paused and looked around. The rain had let up completely and golden sunlight pierced through the clouds here and there.
Suddenly, a jet of green light shot up from the deck of the cargo ship.
The Kyrii, who’d managed to wrest himself free by then, craned to look around, noticed the jet of green light, which was just as well because the gang of Meepits next to him went completely unnoticed this way, and stared at it in a mixture of awe and horror.
“They didn’t!” he exclaimed. “Those complete and utter… gone for five minutes and they have to go and make a complete Snorkle’s ear of everything.”
The Meepits, sensing a desperate and probably incredibly stupid last stand going down on the deck of the cargo ship, quickly backed to the dubious safety of a nearby stack of crates.
“See, that’s why you shouldn’t muck about with magical trinkets,” Bloody Mary said to the world at large. “You think it’s all fun and games and then it turns out that someone actually wants payment for the power and you’ll end up dropping Faerieland from the sky or something.”
The pirate ship shuddered hard, wresting free from the other ship in one single jolt that sent ropes lashing about and ripped one sail free, and rose a bit higher so that the cargo ship’s deck was now visible. The Meepits and the Kyrii both craned their necks to see a large sphere of bright green light on the other ship’s deck, that seemed to be swallowing several figures as it grew.
The cargo ship’s captain appeared on the deck, staggering slightly.
“What’s going on?!” he exclaimed. “And where is that infernal Kyrii?”
The Meepits glanced up at the Kyrii, who grinned in a slightly apologetic manner and also slunk further into the shadows.
“You promised!” they could hear the captain howl. “We had a deal!”
“Sorry, mate,” the Kyrii muttered and took something out of his pocket, glanced at it adoringly and put it back. “Never trust the word of a pirate.”
The green sphere was proving problematic in the meantime. The Meepits figured that it was the mutineers’ way to gain immeasurable power, take over the ship and defeat the pirates all at the same time. Problem with immeasurable power is, as Bloody Mary already noted, that it needs to be handled properly, and most magical trinkets don’t come with a very specific set of instructions. When they do, they generally get ignored anyway.
“Really, if I manufactured magical trinkets,” said Bob Squeaky, with the air of someone who’s given it due thought but found that he can’t currently be bothered, “I’d probably be fed up all the way up to here with all the hotshots who think that ‘Warning, requires Faerie-levels of experience and willpower to handle’ is to be treated as a challenge. Bets on what it’ll do – suck the ship into another dimension, blow everything up, or transform the users into a bouquet of daisies?”
“I like daisies,” Santa supplied. The Kyrii turned on his heel and fled to the depths of the ship, which was a slight comfort – the Meepits knew a fellow saver-of-his-own-skin when they saw one, meaning the pirate considered the ship they were on a reasonably safe place to be for the time being. They followed him into the hallway.
“We can only hope that it won’t explode, or it’ll take us with it,” Bloody Mary noted. “Did anyone see where the couple ended up?”
“One was standing on the railing of this ship, gearing up for a speech,” Justice reported.
“Goodie, that’ll give this ship some time.”
“…doomed for sure!” a voice echoed somewhere ahead of them. “And what business did ye have on that ship anyway?”
The Meepits slunk closer and found themselves in the captain’s cabin of the pirate ship. Compared to the other ship’s captain’s cabin, it was smaller, more cramped and a bit grubbier. The gang found it quite cozy. The captain, an equally grubby and currently slightly battle-weary Eyrie, was leaning hard against a chair, glaring at the Kyrii who was now looking quite smug.
“Oh, dontcha worry about that, mate,” he said. “I just took the liberty of shuffling the pieces on their map a little. Gave some promises I may not have entirely kept.”
The Eyrie sighed heavily. “It’s not looking good. If they manage to control the amulet-“
The ship shook all of a sudden, accompanied with another bright green flash that was powerful enough to shine in through the windows of the cabin, which were facing away from the thick of the battle itself. There was a distant thrumming sound that quickly grew so loud to be nearly unbearable, at least to sharp Meepit ears, then it cut off without warning.
All was still, save for the mechanical hum of the ship’s systems far below. Then a cautious cheer started up outside.
“Ooh, did we win?” Bloody Mary asked.
“That, or they also like daisies,” Justice said, flattening herself against the wall as the Eyrie thumped past them, followed by the Kyrii.
The gang crept carefully back to the deck and squinted into the sunlight. The other ship, the one they’d been on no more than ten minutes ago, was completely gone without a trace. It hadn’t fallen and it hadn’t broken, it’d just up and disappeared. Some of its crewmembers who’d been flying around at the time were still there, being rounded up by pirates as prisoners. The sun was shining on the scene again, the clouds now fully gone, and someone was giving a heartfelt speech on the pirate ship’s railing, going on and on about a powerful stand that ushered in a new age and a fight for a better tomorrow.
“Yeah, I don’t know,” said Bob Squeaky, a born cynic. “It’s all excitement and euphoria now, but give it a few weeks of meandering about the skies with nothing to do and they’ll all lose interest and go back to farming or whatever cool new game crops up next.”
“Well, that’s not a bad thing,” Justice remarked. “Trying out lots of new stuff is what life is all about. For instance, now that we’re on a pirate ship, I’ve heard they’re really good at seafood.”
The Meepits perked up at this, although Bloody Mary asked, “Wouldn’t it be skyfood in this case?”
Justice had to concede a point. “Depends on what they can get, I guess. But I’d expect them to get Faerie apples up here.”
This was met with universal approval. Faerie apple pie is one of those things Meepits can’t resist, and the food on the cargo ship had, if anything, proved a bit too fancy for something as mundane as an apple pie.
“They’ll want a good meal after all this fighting, I reckon,” Bloody Mary said. “Let’s go find the galley before it gets too crowded in there.”
The pirate ship partied until late in the evening that day, happy and confident in the bright and exciting tomorrow they were surely going to face, and nobody paid any attention to the amount of food that maybe disappeared mysteriously here and there. This was, after all, a new age for sky pirates, a victorious battle that marked a whole new turn in the political tides of Neopia. In the coming weeks, when the lull set in and the grey skies didn’t seem quite so exciting to traverse any more, constantly avoiding all the other sky fleets that sought revenge and especially when it was raining not only down, but also up and sideways, the occasional missing meal started to make things a bit tense. Eventually, that stopped abruptly one afternoon when they stopped for stocking at a skyport in a shadier region of Terror Mountain and unbeknownst to the crew, shed a small group of stowaways who decided that it was now only a matter of time until someone did something reckless in search of a new adventure, and Terror Mountain’s famous ice cream was a much better prospect to chase.
To be continued…