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The Krawk Island Adventure


by therainbowsheep

--------

Food Club was interesting, to say the least.

Litana and Tristan wisely stepped to the side as dozens of Krawk Islanders scurried past them towards the betting window, wearing matching expressions of sheer panic. “The window will close any minute!” a pirate Draik shouted, stretching his wings out and zipping past the two curious friends. “I don’t want to miss the deadline two days in a row. I always forget to bet on time!” He scolded himself under his breath as he pushed forward, trying to make it to the front of the miserable excuse for a line.

The two friends could hear the sounds of jingling and clattering as several Krawk Islanders clamored at the betting window, dropping coins as they shouted bets over one another. A frazzled looking Kacheek hastily adjusted his glasses as he scrambled to jot down everyone’s bets and simultaneously collect all neopoints without error. He looked extremely harrowed.

A few minutes later, the Kacheek stood up to the bustling crowds and bellowed that the gate was officially closed. “The matches will be over in a half hour and results and winnings will be available then. Come here to collect. You are still welcome to watch even if you did not bet.”

The Kacheek shooed the remaining disappointed Neopets lingering at the gate and then crossed his arms and sternly glared at anyone still inching towards him, guiltily hoping to cram in last minute bets.

“Gamblers,” he grumbled. “This island is full of them, don’t you think? As a Food Club gatekeeper, the five minutes before the betting window closes is by far the worst and most stressful part of my day.” He looked directly at Litana and Tristan then and chuckled at their surprised, sheepish faces.

“We’re not actually here to bet,” Tristan assured him. “My friend Ana would honestly never let me even if I wanted to...which I um, definitely don’t.” He ignored Litana’s elbow to the side at his obvious lie and continued. “We’re not from here so we’re kind of unfamiliar with Food Club to be honest. You don’t have to worry about us bothering you!”

“I could tell,” the gatekeeper informed them with a small smile. “I haven’t seen either of you around here before and most of the people that pass through Food Club are regulars or become regulars at least. So you’re tourists, huh?”

Litana and Tristan were relieved to find no traces of judgement in the gatekeeper’s tone. Krawk Island was known for its rich history and exceptional pride. And accordingly, when planning their vacation, Litana and Tristan had stumbled across a decent amount of literature that suggested many natives may not have the time or patience for tourists such as themselves.

Confirming their visitor status, the two friends requested admission to the Food Club. “Just to watch, we promise,” Litana vowed with a grin.

The gatekeeper nodded encouragingly towards the entrance, pointing out that since he had not collected neopoints from them, there probably wasn’t much for them to be invested in. He also expressed concern that they’d be bored, but the two friends assured him that this would not be the case.

“Well great, then. There is a meet and greet afterwards that may be of interest to you. Most of the participants stick around after the competition. It’s a great opportunity to meet a few legitimate pirates if you’re interested. They’re a cocky bunch, actually. They love to sign autographs and chat with the audience members - particularly ones they haven’t met before.”

The gatekeeper rolled his eyes but smiled fondly. Despite all his previous tension, he still clearly enjoyed working at the well-known betting establishment.

Litana and Tristan thanked him and continued onwards but got no further than a few hundred feet before walking directly into one of the pirates, Captain Crossblades.

“Watch it!” he complained. “You could have injured my stomach.” He protectively covered his middle with one arm and brandished a wooden sword at them with the other. “The competition starts any minute so go take a seat. And watch me win. Hope you bet on me!”

Without waiting for a response, Crossblades ambled onwards and took his place at the competition table.

“Who was that?” Litana asked between bouts of laughter. “He’s so little, does he really win often? And he didn’t even give us a chance to apologize.”

“No! His win rate is only 11%, actually.” Tristan shook his head incredulously and stuck the pamphlet of Food Club statistics he had snagged at the gate into his back pocket. “What a character. Come on, let’s find our seats.”

They watched the competition in fascinated silence, witnessing spectators cheer and scream around them, urging their preferred pirate to eat faster.

“I want to be able to eat like that,” Tristan later declared with wonder. “Scurvy Dan the Blade is my hero!”

“Of course you do and of course he is,” Litana said dryly. “Honestly, you’re halfway there already. You eat plenty!”

“Ana, you ate my breakfast this morning, not the other way around. Also, I can’t believe this is just one of the five arenas. Lagoon. No wonder people are so frantic to place bets and then come back and check results. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once!”

Litana hummed in agreement. “I do wonder how the other pirates in the other arenas are doing. Think Crossblades will win?”

Tristan snorted. “He almost definitely will not.”

Laughing, the two friends discreetly exited the arena a few minutes before the end. In an effort to avoid the crowd that would undoubtedly rush back to the poor gatekeeper to collect their winnings, they headed for the cross roads between the Lagoon and Shipwreck arena instead. This gave them an increased likelihood of meeting more pirates with good information as the governor had suggested.

The first pirate they caught sight of was Gooblah the Grarrl. He sauntered towards them, wide smirk present on his face. “I won! I have a 65% win rate, ye know. Pulled through today as usual. Care for an autograph?”

Litana cleared her throat. “No, actually -”

“NO?!” Gooblah thundered. Positively affronted, he crossed his arms and glowered. “Did ye even bet on me?”

Litana sighed and tried again. “No, we actually didn’t bet at all, we -”

“Ye didn’t bet on me?!” Gooblah interrupted and stepped forward menacingly. “I’ve got a big appetite, ye know. I should eat yenext for yer lack of support. As a post winning snack. I’ve got plenty of room.”

Tristan glared and stepped forward to defend his friend, but Litana grabbed his arm and pulled him back. “We’re getting nowhere with him,” she lamented in exasperation. “Forget about it, there’s no point. Also he’s harmless.”

Tristan dipped his head unhappily and reluctantly let Gooblah flounce past them to greet a group of adoring fans further up the road.

“He was so rude. The fame’s gone to his head,” Tristan complained.

A few minutes later, Tristan spotted Squire Venable and Bonnie Pip Culliford chatting amiably, walking up the road towards them. He began walking in their direction and Litana fell in step alongside him.

“What are we going to do?” she hissed. “Just ask them if they know anything about stolen government funds and a treasure chest? What if they’re involved? We need to think this through!”

“The governor wouldn’t have sent us in this direction if he didn’t think it would be worthwhile,” Tristan reasoned. “Let’s just hope this encounter is better than the one we had with Gooblah. We have to try something, right? I don’t think we can afford to play games, let’s just try our luck and be direct.”

Mildly appeased, Litana continued to follow her friend. Once they reached, they politely asked for a few moments of the two pirates time.

“Sure, what can we do fer ye both?” Squire Venable beamed. He had won his match this afternoon and the good mood clearly showed.

Litana and Tristan blinked. They had not been expecting such politeness and general cooperation, but they were grateful for Squire’s unanticipated generosity.

“We’re doing some, uh…research for the governor...” Tristan trailed off and shot his friend a desperate look, silently willing her to pitch in and help him.

“And we had a couple of questions,” Litana finished, hoping she sounded as casual and smooth as possible. Their approach though forthright, wasn’t particularly clever, and both of them were nervous.

Culliford winked slyly at them. “Ye seem a wee flustered. Almost like ye don’t trust us. I like that. Ye two seem smart.”

“Ye shouldn’t trust us,” Squire added. “We be some of Krawk Island’s finest pirates though admittedly we prefer eating over pilfering.”

“We’d like to trust you though,” Tristan admitted. “Hear us out.”

After the pirates confirmed that they were indeed willing to hear what Tristan and Litana had to say, the two took a chance and truthfully explained everything. They were as broad as possible, but they left out no important information in the hopes that something said would resonate with either or both pirates so that they could gain at least one new ally.

They spoke of finding the small treasure chest, of meeting the governor who gave them the key to unlock it, and of the search for a treasure so precious that it’s absence was felt each and every day by the Krawk Island government.

“We want to help,” Litana explained. “And the governor told us to chat with the pirates at Food Club. We’re aware we might not even be on the same side as you, but we want you to understand we had to take that risk. We have loved our Krawk Island experience thus far and we just want to give back in any way possible. So many improvements and even advancements could be made if that money was found. Please, is there any chance you could help us?”

Squire exhaled quietly and excused himself, stating that Culliford would need a moment alone with Tristan and Litana and that he would return shortly. The perplexed vacationers peered after the pirate curiously and anxiously waited for Culliford's response.

Though after meeting the governor, Tristan and Litana had been fairly certain the chest they had discovered was formerly possessed by Evil Beard, Culliford confirmed it:

“I’m the one who betrayed the governor,” he confessed regretfully. “I don’t hang out wit’ Evil Beard’s crew anymore, but at the time, I advised the governor while truly secretly spyin’ on ‘im for Evil Beard.”

He continued to explain that he helped Evil Beard’s crew steal both treasure chests, the smaller one with the key as well as the larger one with the government funds. He also stole a key from the governor’s desk which he thought would unlock the first chest so that Evil Beard could subsequently unlock the chest with the fortune, but he made a mistake and ultimately could not go back and steal the right key after being suspected.

While the governor never officially accused Culliford, he never followed up to express concern over Culliford’s whereabouts and stopped attending Food Club competitions around the time Culliford became a member, presumably pinpointing the source of betrayal.

“Evil Beard sails away from the island quite a bit so me guess be he must ‘ave been on his way back to search fer the real key when he was shipwrecked a couple nights ago,” Culliford mused. “But someone else on his crew must ‘ave betrayed ‘im as well and hidden the loot and lied about it or somethin’. And prolly a long time ago, too, ‘cause last I heard, Evil Beard not only does not have the key to unlock the treasure chest, he also does not know where the treasure is and hasn’t fer a while.”

Culliford paused before resuming his explanation: “I heard findin’ and reclaimin’ it has been his mission for ages. Shortly after I helped his crew pilfer both chests, rumour be the government funds one went missin’. Evil Beard didn’t find evidence of sabotage o’ crew betrayal so he believes it was ‘twas perhaps some sort of an unfortunate loadin’ hiccup or that ‘twas knocked overboard durin’ rough waters. No one quite knows, but personally, I’m convinced ‘twas stolen again by one of his own.”

Litana protectively stroked the keys hanging around her neck, hidden out of view and quietly gasped at the influx of new information.

“I wonder how Scowlin’ Bradford is holdin’ up, now that I think about it,” Culliford continued.

Tristan held up a paw in confusion. “Hang on. What does Scowlin’ Bradford have to do with this?”

Culliford tilted his head and looked at them strangely. “Ye didn’t know? He’s Evil Beard’s right hand man. Always has been.”

The pair burst into surprised laughter at that. It was tough to picture the Little Nippers shopkeeper as second in command to one of the most infamous pirates to ever exist.

“It’s true,” Culliford insisted, though he too was trying (and failing) to hide a smile. “Yer next step should be to figure out who stole the treasure from Evil Beard and where it be hidden. And your best shot at that is attending the pirate weekly meeting. Squire can help sneak ye into that.” He gestured towards Squire who joined them once more now that Culliford had briefed the two friends.

“Ye blend in,” Squire approvingly looked Tristan up and down. “Ye, on the other hand,” nodding to Litana, “we’ll have to fix up a little.” Litana looked doubtful but did not protest, fully aware that a pirate ensemble would be more subtle than an island one.

Squire informed Culliford that he would take it from here and prepare the two friends for the pirate meeting and even escort them inside. Instructing Tristan and Litana to follow him, he marched ahead, presumably to find pirate attire for Litana.

“Hang on!” Tristan called after Culliford who had already begun walking in the other direction after bidding them goodbye. “Why did you help us? You didn’t have to...but we appreciate it. You gave us so much precious information.”

Culliford shrugged. “Let’s just say I liked what ye two said about creating a better Krawk Island. I may be a pirate, but I still love this place. And I do regret betraying the governor. He’s a good Krawk, maybe the best I’ve ever worked fer. He loves this land a lot ‘n has worked hard to preserve it to the best o’ his abilities given the circumstances. If ye can help restore the island to it’s former glory...then I’m glad.”

The two friends thanked Culliford profusely and then watched him walk away before scurrying after Squire who was absentmindedly mumbling about outfit options under his breath as he marched forward.

~

Litana dubiously snapped her eyepatch into place. “How do pirates manage? I can’t see properly!”

She tugged at her sole golden hooped earring and grumbled. The earring was something she was also displeased about. One, pirate jewelry was heavy. And two, she was used to wearing two earrings at a time. Though the single dangling earring was Krawk Island fashion, she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was another one missing. The new outfit would likely prove to be distracting given that currently she couldn’t stop messing with the eyepatch and pulling at her earring.

“You look fine,” Tristan dismissed, waving a careless paw in her direction. “We have to get into this meeting undetected and your orange fins weren’t helping the cause. Come on, Ana. We’re finally making progress. Don’t give up now!”

Squire assessed their clothing with pride. “Perfectly inconspicuous,” he proclaimed. “To the meeting!”

The trio walked until they had approached a dilapidated, dusty looking shack tucked between a few old and abandoned apartment buildings on the grimmer side of town. Squire firmly knocked on the door three times until a small wooden panel slid to the left and a bright green eye squinted at them. “Password?”

“Snarhook,” Squire said gruffly. He turned towards Tristan and Litana and and whispered his complaint: “The password system is a little ridiculous. I’ve personally advocated fer keys fer as long as I can remember. Based on the nonsensical strictness around here, one would think the Krawken was roamin’ around land two seconds away from busting the door down, honestly. And the password is also always some silly petpet. Bradford is predictable like that.”

The door swung open after that and a pirate chomby hobbled ahead of the trio, motioning for them to follow him. “In here,” he explained, pushing open a second door for them and then disappearing back to his guard post.

The meeting was in full swing with Scowlin’ Bradford at the front of the room, pacing on a shabby wooden stage in front of them. The room was filled with about a dozen of pirates, all raptly listening to Bradford speak.

“And our next agenda item is the Keep Out section,” Bradford announced, hands straying from the paper in front of him to to pet the Pirakeet flying around his head. Both Tristan and Litana exchanged a knowing smile at that. Squire was right; Bradford was definitely predictable, especially when it came to his unwavering love for petpets.

“Just a reminder that the sign applies to us Evil Beard crew members as well,” Bradford stated sternly. He sniffled a little at the mention of their fallen leader before hastily wiping at his eyes with his sleeve. “The search for our captain is still on…” He nodded towards the two solemn looking grarrls Tristan and Litana had spotted on their first walk of the island.

“...But at this point it is not looking promising and we must prepare ourselves for the worst. I will call off the search soon since too many of our resources are being allocated to this seemingly hopeless rescue mission and it’s been days. Still...one of his last instructions to me was to manage the Keep Out section and I am handling it accordingly. Therefore under no circumstances should anyone venture to that area of the Island. Is that understood?”

The pirates chorused their agreement. For a moment, it seemed like Bradford would continue following his agenda, but suddenly he caught sight of Tristan and Litana huddled in the back of the room and hanging onto his every word. A hint of wary recognition sparked in his eyes which quickly morphed into pure anger.

“INTRUDERS!” He bellowed, wielding his sword and hopping off the stage.

The two friends startled and jumped to their feet but it was too late.

The Evil Beard crew was unfailingly loyal and everyone had reacted immediately, not sparing a second to question Bradford’s judgement. All of the crew’s swords were now drawn and glinting in the dimmed light of the meeting room as they glared threateningly at Tristan and Litana, waiting for further instructions from Bradford.

There was no way to escape, even assuming they had Squire’s support. The two friends gulped in fear.

The jig was up.

Would this terrifying moment truly be the end of their undercover work and their Krawk Island treasure hunting adventure?

To be continued…

 
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