Reunions and Petpets: Another Pirate Adventure:Part Three
Lady Oakridge and Meadowbuck made a mad dash across the deck to the longboat on the starboard side of the pirate ship. They could hear yelling and shouting somewhere behind them as the pirates scrambled to put out a crackling fire. Meadowbuck couldn't believe that mild-mannered Sproingal and his Spotted Feepit had actually set a ship on fire for the purposes of a diversion. A gutsy move. But an effective move, too. The Bori and Gelert reached the longboat with their Petpets without anyone stopping them.
Meadowbuck turned to look for Sproingal. Where was that Spotted Blumaroo?
"Let's go, guys!" hissed a whisper beside them. They both jumped and rounded on--Sproingal, grinning at their sides. "It worked!" he said. He yanked the canvas cover off the longboat and hopped in. "We better hurry." Delia scrambled in beside her owner and beckoned with one tiny paw.
Lady Oakridge and Meadowbuck grinned and climbed into the longboat with their old friend. Lady Oakridge reached over the side to help Nuka the Nuk aboard, and Christopher fluttered anxiously around Meadowbuck's ears. The Yellow Gelert reached up and took his Faerie Ombat in his paws.
"We're okay now, buddy," he said reassuringly. "We're about to escape."
Sproingal and Lady Oakridge lowered the longboat into the water, and Meadowbuck took up an oar. Sproingal grabbed the other one, and Lady Oakridge took the tiller to steer them away from the distressed ship.
"You don't think it will sink?" Meadowbuck asked as he hauled on the oar.
Sproingal shrugged, pulling in sync with Meadowbuck's oar. "I dumped some lamp oil on a big coil of rope and lit it up. It's not a huge fire--they'll probably put it out in time."
Lady Oakridge shivered. "I hope so. We just stole one of their longboats. I don't think the whole crew will fit in the other one." A squeak from Lady Oakridge's robe caused her to smile. "Peanut!" she said. She opened her robe, and the Mutant Miamouse hopped out. "Nuka, Delia, Christopher--meet Peanut. Peanut helped us escape from the brig."
Nuka bleated and gently headbutted the Miamouse in greeting. Christopher licked its cheek, and Delia waved. Peanut clasped its paws and fluttered its three sets of eyelashes at everyone, bashful under all the attention.
"See, Peanut?" Lady Oakridge said, nodding to the pirate ship falling behind them. "We escaped! You're coming to live on the Oakridge Estate!"
A dripping-wet claw shot out of the ocean and clamped onto the side of the longboat. Sproingal shrieked and dropped his oar. Out of the water rose two bandana-clad heads, followed by sneering faces. Meadowbuck gasped. Rasival and Sacrige.
The Pirate Lutari sneered. "Thought youse could get away that easily, eh?"
"You forget," Rasival said. "Lutaris and Quiggles can swim."
"Not so smart after all, eh Bucky?" Sacrige said.
Meadowbuck's heart sank, and he looked at the aghast faces of his friends. They had been so close.
Meadowbuck rattled the chains between his paws and sat back, ears drooping. The manacles rubbed his fur uncomfortably, and he could tell they were doing the same for Sproingal and Lady Oakridge.
They'd been hauled back to the ship and tossed in the brig again--but this time, they'd been searched and manacled. Rasival found the keys on Lady Oakridge and confiscated them, and every scrap of paper and pencil stub from Meadowbuck's pockets had been emptied out and taken. Peanut had been discovered, too, and the Mutant Miamouse had been taken and locked up with the rest of the petpets in the hold.
"We're never getting out of here," Sproingal moaned.
"We were so close…" Lady Oakridge said.
Meadowbuck closed his eyes tightly, trying to block out the sight of the dirty brig. "What do they even want with us? I understand they want petty revenge on me for getting them expelled from school all those years ago, and then for turning them in to the Defenders of Neopia when I was in college….but really, what are they going to do with us?"
"Hold us in the brig for fun?" Sproingal said.
"They could still get a ransom on us," Lady Oakridge said. "The Oakridge Estate has quite a bit of Neopoints at its disposal."
Meadowbuck laid his head back against the brig wall and closed his eyes. "I hope it's just a ransom. That seems easiest and most profitable, and pirates are all about easy profit."
"Well," Lady Oakridge said, her voice rising to a pleasant pitch. "There's nothing we can do about it right now, so why don't we get some sleep? We haven't rested since we were conked on the head last night."
Sproingal flopped down in the dirty straw pile and wiggled around until he was comfortable--or as comfortable as a chained-up Blumaroo could be. "I second the motion! Good night." And within moments, he was snoring.
Meadowbuck stayed where he was, sitting against the back wall of the cell. Lady Oakridge settled in and was soon asleep, but Meadowbuck stayed awake worrying. What did Rasival and Sacrige plan for them? What were they planning to do with Christopher and the rest of the petpets? Questions swirled through the Yellow Gelert's mind until he finally drifted off to sleep, exhausted.
Rough hands and gruff voices woke Meadowbuck up some hours later. It was dark--nighttime? No, something covered his eyes, something prickly and smelly. A scrap of burlap, maybe. The manacles around his wrists felt different. Cold, colder than metal, and wet. Had they swapped his regular manacles out for Ice Manacles?
"Lady Oakridge? Sproingal?" he said.
"We're here, Meadowbuck," Lady Oakridge said.
"Hey! Let me go!" Sproingal said. "Did you seriously put us in ice chains? These are just gonna melt, geniuses, and we'll be free again!"
"That's the idea," said a deep voice. Rasival, Meadowbuck was sure.
Rough claws seized Meadowbuck's arm--no doubt belonging to Sacrige--and dragged him up some stairs, where a cool breeze greeted him. Okay, so it was also night, which was why no light filtered through the loose weave of the burlap covering his eyes. He tried to listen to where they were, but nothing stuck out. It just sounded like a spring night, hardly different from the other night when he'd arrived at the inn in Brightvale to reunite with Sproingal and Lady Oakridge.
"It's not very cold," Lady Oakridge said. "Nor very dry. So we're not near Terror Mountain or Tyrannia."
Of course, Meadowbuck should have known. "We only traveled for one day," he said. "We can't be all that far from Brightvale."
"What's close to Brightvale?" Sproingal said. "I know we're not on Roo Island--I don't smell Buttered Popcorn or hear any carnival noises."
"That leaves Neopia Central, Faerieland, or Krawk Island," Lady Oakridge said.
Meadowbuck chuckled. "I don't hear any pirates carousing to all hours in the taverns. We're not on Krawk Island."
"Faerieland or Neopia Central," Sproingal concluded.
"Ain't yew just the smart one?" Sacrige said. The Pirate Lutari yanked on Meadowbuck's arm, and he growled. "Now shut it, or I'll give your precious Faerie Ombat a nice liddle surprise when I get back to the ship."
Meadowbuck cringed and closed his muzzle. He wouldn't risk getting Christopher hurt.
The pirates led the three friends down paved pathways. There was no way to tell if it was the pink-and-purple paving stones of Faerie City, or cobblestones of Neopia Central. But when the pirates stopped them, and Meadowbuck heard a door being pried off its hinges, he knew nothing good was happening.
As soon as a pirate shoved the broken door open, the little crew was greeted by enthusiastic mews and squeals. As Meadowbuck was dragged inside the building, the noise grew only louder and more eager.
"The Kadoatery," Lady Oakridge said. "What are we doing in the Kadoatery?"
"Shut yer lid, royalty!" Rasival said. "Move it!"
Meadowbuck heard another door being opened, and he was shoved inside. He could hear Sproingal and Lady Oakridge panting by his side. A hulking presence graced a large space in front of Meadowbuck, so he knew a big pirate was still standing guard over them.
Cages creaked and snapped as the doors were pried open. Kadoaties mewled and cried as they were grabbed, but their voices were quickly muffled inside sacks and bags.
Water dripped down Meadowbuck's paws. His manacles were definitely melting. What was the point of switching out impassible metal manacles for Ice Manacles that would simply melt away?
The last Kadoatie voice faded inside a sack.
"We got 'em all," said a voice to the big pirate guarding Meadowbuck, Lady Oakridge, and Sproingal. "Take the blindfolds off."
The big pirate yanked the burlap from Meadowbuck's eyes, and he growled immediately at the Chomby. "You're making a big mistake," the Gelert said, but his scrawny frame did little to back up his claims. The Pirate Chomby snorted and tore the blindfolds from Lady Oakridge and Sproingal's faces.
The three looked around. They were in the front office of the Kadoatery, with a clear vantage point through the viewing window of all the twisted cage doors, empty of occupants. The last sack of squirming petpets was being pulled out through the broken back door. Rasival and Sacrige grinned at the three manacled Neopets.
"Good luck," Sacrige said sarcastically. "Yer gonna need it."
Rasival tipped his bandana mockingly at the three of them. "Pleasure doin' business with ye," he said.
They closed the office door; the locked clicked into place. Meadowbuck jumped forward and fumbled with the door with his slick, wet paws.
"Hey! Get back here!" he said. "Give back Christopher and all those Kadoaties!"
Rasival and Sacrige laughed and left through the back, clapping each others shoulders like this was the best joke ever instead of grand larceny.
The Ice Manacles on Meadowbuck's wrists broke away and shattered into clear, wet pieces on the floor, which quickly melted away. He heard Lady Oakridge and Sproingal break their chains too and come to help him with the door. They yanked it open just in time for sirens and flashing lights to fill their ears and eyes. A hulking shadow filled the broken back doorway of the Kadoatery. Judge Hog, in all his caped glory.
Meadowbuck looked at the empty cages next to him, then at the puddles of innocent water on the floor in the office behind them. Lady Oakridge, Sproingal, and Meadowbuck had just become prime suspects in a Kadoatie theft, and they had no alibi except the pirates who had absconded with the loot.
"Uh oh," Sproingal said.
Judge Hog leaned over the three of them, his eyes narrowed behind his mask. "Uh oh is right," he said. "You're under arrest for the kidnapping of several dozen valuable Kadoatie petpets. You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of Neopian law."
The three old school buddies were clapped in irons for the second time that day.
"You understand that the only evidence that you were victims is puddles of water on the floor that have already melted away," Judge Hog said.
The head Defender of Neopia had sat all three Neopets down in his office for questioning. Meadowbuck was at least grateful he hadn't separated them into interrogation rooms for individual questioning. He didn't want to be separated from his friends.
Meadowbuck nodded to Judge Hog's questions. "We were restrained with Ice Manacles that melted."
"You also understand that the Blumaroo's pawmarks were all over the prybar used to break open both the back door and the cages," the Moehog continued.
"Huh?" Sproingal said. "No way! I never touched the prybar!"
"Yeah...you did," Lady Oakridge said. "Remember when Sacrige came to the brig and threw that prybar to us? And you picked it up?"
Sproingal groaned. "Seriously? My pawmarks were the only ones on there?"
"He was wearing gloves when he took it from you," Meadowbuck said. "And they probably all wore gloves last night."
"As for the two of you," Judge Hog said, speaking now to Meadowbuck and Lady Oakridge. "Fur from both of you was found inside some of the cages. It could have only gotten there if you'd been reaching inside and a Kadoatie tore out some hair with its claws."
"Or," Lady Oakridge said. "It could have been sprinkled there by the pirates. Sacrige also cut off some fur from me and Meadowbuck when he tricked Sproingal into putting pawmarks on the prybar."
"You know," Sproingal said. "The more time you waste on us, the further away the pirates are going to get."
Judge Hog shook his head. "It's all part of the investigation. This is where the evidence is leading us--not to a band of petpet-stealing pirates."
"They're the same pirates I helped you arrest five years ago!" Meadowbuck said. "You remember me, right? I helped break up an entire ring of petpet thieves!"
Judge Hog sighed and steepled his hoofed fingers together in front of him. "I do remember you, Meadowbuck. You helped us out a lot. But now the evidence all points to you, not to the old pirate gang."
Meadowbuck put his face in his paws and groaned. "I know, I know...but...but what about my Ombat?" he said. "Remember, the Ombat I kept from the pirate's stash? He's my best friend, I would never go anywhere without him. So where is he now?"
Judge Hog leaned back in his chair and regarded the Yellow Gelert. "That's true. You were devoted to that Ombat. You claim he's being held captive by the pirates, along with all the kidnapped Kadoaties."
Meadowbuck, Sproingal, and Lady Oakridge all nodded eagerly.
The Moehog sighed and stood up. He went to his office door and opened it up. "Aisheena," he said to the lithe White Aisha standing outside. "We need to find those Kadoaties before this causes a Neopia-wide panic."
Aisheena nodded and tossed her blonde hair behind her shoulder. "I agree," she said. "Owners are already panicking. Neopia Central is going to lose a major source of income if Neopets no longer trust the Kadoatery to keep their Kadoaties safe." She gave a casual salute to the Moehog. "I'm on it, Judge. I'll organize the investigation."
"We can help!" Sproingal blurted out.
The Moehog and Aisha both turned to look at the Spotted Blumaroo with raised eyebrows.
"He's right," Meadowbuck said. "We've been on the ship--actually, I've been on it numerous times."
"And besides," Lady Oakridge said. "They have our petpets held captive, too. We want to help."
Judge Hog glanced at Aisheena. "What did their records turn up?" he asked.
The masked Aisha shrugged. "Perfect records, though Sproingal here was caught once defacing public property."
The Blumaroo huffed and crossed his paws over his chest. "I was painting a mural."
"It was terrible," Aisheen said bluntly. "We had to hire a real artist to paint over it."
Sproingal's mouth dropped open at the slight. "It was? You--? It was--?"
Lady Oakridge put her paw on Sproingal's shoulder. "Breathe, Sproings, breathe. Let it go."
Judge Hog didn't seem to notice Sproingal's distress. "Hm. Well, they hardly sound like criminals, and Meadowbuck here has helped us before."
Aisheena shrugged. "It's a big ocean. We'll need all the help we can get."
The Moehog nodded and beckoned to the three friends. "All right, let's go, you're on the case. Aisheena, get them suited up and give them each a Levitation Potion. The search is on."
Twenty minutes later, Sproingal and Meadowbuck emerged from the locker rooms to find Lady Oakridge already in the foyer. She turned to them with a bright smile on her face and swished her pastel-blue cape, eyes shining behind her matching mask. Her white suit had a stylized O emblazoned on it.
"I can't believe they made this just for me!" she said. "I feel like a real superhero!"
Meadowbuck twirled to show off his purple cape that went perfectly with his Yellow fur. His own outfit was also yellow, with purple boots and a purple M on his chest. "I know! It's amazing!"
Sproingal's polka-dotted outfit really played well with the colorful S on his suit. "Delia won't even recognize me!"
Aisheena emerged from another door holding three vials of some strange, airy liquid. "Got your Levitation Potions," she said. "Drink up!"
"Levitation Potion?" Sproingal said, taking one and eyeing it. "We'll really be able to fly?"
Aisheena grinned. "They have a full night's head start on us," she said. "We'd never catch them following in a slow ship."
Sproingal grinned, popped the cork on his potion, and downed it in one gulp. The Spotted Blumaroo immediately rose from the ground and began to somersault through the air. Meadowbuck and Lady Oakridge gaped at him.
"Why doesn't everyone use Levitation Potions?!" Lady Oakridge asked. "This is amazing!"
Aisheena winked. "They're a Defender exclusive. We don't give them to just anybody."
Meadowbuck pulled open the cork on his vial and stared at the swirling potion inside. "Christopher," he said. "I'm coming to find you."
Lady Oakridge heard his murmur and laid her heavy claws on Meadowbuck's shoulder. "We'll find him," she said. "We're in this together."
Meadowbuck managed a smile. "I know," he said. "This whole thing is wild, and part of me almost wishes I had just stayed in my quiet dig in Geraptiku." He reached up and squeezed Lady Oakridge's paw. "But I'm really glad to see you and Sproingal again."
Lady Oakridge smiled back. Above them, Sproingal whooped and did a loop-de-loop. With a roll of her eyes, the Royal Bori clinked her vial to Meadowbuck's and gulped it down.
"Let's catch some pirates," she said, grinning.
Meadowbuck returned her grin and swallowed his potion. Rasival and Sacrige were going to regret, for the third time in their lives, that they had messed with a certain Yellow Gelert.
To be continued…