Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 186,904,169 Issue: 196 | 24th day of Relaxing, Y7
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Home < High Seas: Part One

by destervetha


Chapter 1

Desterenel was a farmer's daughter, one of six. She was an Eyrie, green of course. Green was the standard color for Eyries here on the coast farms, the brighter, more visible colors having long since been bred out of the line…so much easier for bandits to spot. There were still a few yellows, blues, sometimes even reds…but they didn't last long in the dangerous wilds along Meridell's coast.

     Desterenel's family lived inland about three miles from the sea. They grew an eclectic mix of rare Meridell berries, and though the profession paid well, it wasn't interesting enough to hold little Desterenel's attention. It was far too mucky, boring, and altogether ordinary. Not something an energetic little Eyriess could have patience with for long.

     Thus it was that she read. She couldn't get away in any other fashion, as she loved her family dearly, all 18 of them. She read, and read, and read, reading and rereading books that her family had cherished for generations. (She never read the last line, of course, to keep the book from disappearing.) But the tall tales, instead of steadying her, simply fed her wild lust for adventure. She wanted out of the prison she was in, with the hard work all day long, the constant threat of predators and bandits in the woods, and the vicious winters…She wanted to be a pirate.

     What other dream was there, for the little Eyrie cub? She couldn't be a superhero, she couldn't be rich, and she had no dreams but those she had found in her books. But the young must have their dreams, and often choose the unattainable.

     Indeed, if events had not turned out as they had, she would likely have gone in for schooling. She might have moved inland when she was older, traveling perhaps to Neopia Central for a shop-keeping job, or work as a teacher. Even a professional battling career, maybe finding an human to live with. But none of this was to be. Because on one misty, drizzly day, there came a knock at the door. Pa hurried down the stairs to see who could possibly be standing out there in this weather. He flung wide the great double doors…and a very, very unwelcome sight was crowded beneath his rain-dripping eaves on the doorstep in a futile attempt to get out of the weather.

     Pirates. That's what Desterenel thought the moment she set eyes on them. They were a scruffy, disreputable, wretched looking lot, bedecked with golden earrings and bandanas, eye-patches and mouldy grey fur, feathers or scales. They all carried weapons of some sort, be they hooks, swords, or pistols, worn rakishly slung about their persons on black belts. They stank of salt and rotting fish, and their clothes were filthy with old stains…and some of those indelible marks looked quite ominous. They had untreated sores on their paws, and old cuts that had healed badly into ridged white scars. Most of them looked ill-fed.

     In short, they were beautiful. Desterenel couldn't keep her eyes off of them as her father, shocked, warily backed several paces away from the group.

     "Why are you here, sirs?" he regained his composure and asked them coldly to cover his startlement, standing formally on his hind legs, feathers puffed with nervousness and claws out.

     A small, vicious-looking Krawk at the head of the group stepped forward slightly. "Why, me an' me mates were jest lookin' for a berth ter spend the night in…is terrible cold oot and awl…" he paused and looked Pa up and down with a sardonic glint in one cool, pebble-like eye, "…me good gennelman. P'raps a kind sirrr like yersel' could offar us a place ter' stay? Out of the cold wind and cruel sleet that be beatin' us down 'round these parts…?" The Krawk that had spoken grinned unconvincingly at Pa Abram, showing several gold fangs. The last word, "parts," he breathed offensively at Pa, making him wrinkle his nares slightly in distaste.

     Desterenel was enamored.

     Pa Abram was anything but. "No. I am sorry, sir, but we have no extra rooms, being as there are eighteen of us," he stated firmly, eyeing them with equal parts irritation and fear.

     "Eighteen? Surely that means ye can spare but one pretty lass to share her bunk wi' th' Captain o' th' Gr…Er, the Brown Doglefox, a simple merchant vessel?" He leered unpleasantly at Pa, throwing a side glance at Desterenel's…buxom sister Berry. Pa's stance became one of overt threat. He dropped to all fours, extending his claws further, mantling his wings and lashing his tail.

     "No, I say, and if you speak that way of any of my family again I shall…" He stopped, flustered, unwilling to commit himself to something he couldn't finish, as many of the scruffy crew were now fondling their weapons with a rather unpleasant gleam in their eyes. His eyes widened as he counted the numbers and came up with significantly more than he could handle in a fair fight. And it was guaranteed that none of the pirates would fight fair.

     "…Call the town watch!" he finished lamely.

     "Oh!" The Krawk jerked back in exaggerated concern, raising his dirty claws, filthy palms outward, to Pa Abram. "Oh, now we canna' be havin' tha', now can we, shipmates? We wouldn' want such a'…ind'screshun…to be pu' on ourr…perrm'nent record…A black marrk, it would be! We can' be havin' that! Me an' me crew, lawbreakers, dragged up 'afore the Town Council! I daresay we'd nevar be able to show our faces in this herre town fer tea again!"

     His crew muttered an ugly laugh, and Pa Abram looked worried. "I'm sorry, but there simply isn't any room! We sleep three to a bed as it is! Really, you should move on, try another house."

     But the Krawk and his crew knew as well as Pa did that the Abram household was the only one isolated from the town. Theirs, the only house that wasn't within screaming distance. The Krawk would not be moving on. There weren't any other options for him.

      Suddenly, he leaned forward, a small eating knife appearing as if by magic in his stained claws. Like a flash, he darted in close to Pa, leaning up against him, the tip of the knife tickling below Pa's chin...the one place on an Eyrie's neck where the jugular vein runs close to the surface, unprotected by a thick layer of fur-like feathers.

      Pa froze in startlement at suddenly being closer to the lithe little Neopet than he ever would have wanted. The stench that clung to the Krawk invaded his nares, and the cold point that was the knife pricked him uncomfortably. He couldn't see the little beast, what was more, as Pa was a full two heads taller even on all fours, and that made his position even worse. He closed his eyes, trying to repress the urge to gulp lest the most likely disease-infected blade split the tender skin of his throat.

      "Naow…" The Krawk breathed, "deadly" oozing out of his every word, "If ye was to say, give us some beds, nay, a kind rich sir as yersel', the house then…If ye were t' gi' us ye house fer th' night…Be a good host, and feed us, mayhap, then sleep ou' unner th' starrs yersel'…Then mayhap, jes' mayhap…I c'n keep my crew from sackin' this hut by force, and keep me two sublieutenants,"

     A pair of ragged grey Eyries, bedecked with more than the usual pirate finery, broad in the shoulders and bearing many scars, leered at Berry, who was now huddled in the corner, the dishrag she had been drying the plates with held to her beak, watching the pirates with wide, frightened blue eyes. Poor, unfortunate Berry, with her fine brilliant emerald plumage, and her shapely form!

     "An' keep me two sublieutenants away fr'm yer daughters…yer fine daughters, if'n she be's not the on'y one…"(Desterenel mantled, in her corner by the fireplace, And what am I, a shed feather? She fumed silently to herself, book all of forgotten at her feet) "and th' rest o' me crew from, say, torchin' yer fields ou' thar fer fire wood, as it is awful cold oot and we likes it warrm, don't we mates?" He leered again at Pa from his vantage point, nearly hidden beneath the great Eyrie's feathers.

     It is, Desterenel thought, an expression that suits him. He has had practice at it, I suppose. In her own life, there was little opportunity to display her leer. Her sisters laughed at her whenever they caught her practicing in front of the bathroom mirror. She consoled herself by thinking that if she had as much practice as a real pirate, she would be quite as good as him by now.

      The Krawk waited. Pa stood silent, rock-steadily holding his head still above the knife, though his knees had begun to tremble and his tail was just shy of being between his legs. His brow was beaded with sweat and his jaw was clenched. They stand there, maintaining the silent tableau, until Pa realized that he was expected to answer.

     "Y-yes," He choked out, "Y-yes, that sounds jest, er, just, fi-"

      But the Krawk Captain cut him off with a mighty roar that seemed incongruous considering his diminutive size, small for even one of his race.

     "Arrrr! Ye hear that, mateys? We've got a berth!" The crew immediately let loose a basso roar, and a flood of mangy grey came bursting through the oaken double doors. Where only the Krawk, his two Sublieutenants, and one or two others visible through the doors had been, there were now at least threescore attempting to cram into their house. Though Pa had been lying, and their admittedly large residence, (purchased generations ago from a wealthy family's son) could hold at least twenty comfortably…threescore in the entranceway/kitchen area was pushing it. Desterenel found herself nearly being trod upon by booted feet, splintered claws, huge hoary paws, and almost got bonked on the head by the stiff waving tail of a sole Chomby.

      Amid the chaos, she could hear the little Captain shouting orders. What they were, she couldn't say, although she caught the words "food", "beds" and "stay away". This was repeated several times.

      Desterenel was thankful that only she, Berry, and Pa were in the house today. The rest of the family was out working in the fields, even on such a grey and miserable day. If Ma had been set upon by a horde of roaring pirates in the halls, Desterenel would have had worries for her heart. Mother had always been the flighty sort. And Desterenel was triply thankful that her other sisters Destervetha, Mukiryoko, Heart, Fish, and Apple were out in the fields as they all surpassed Berry in looks and each was more attractive than the last. She was also very glad that all her uncles, grandparents, and especially old Aunt Sophia weren't there to try to defend the sisters.

      With them in the house, Pa would probably have stood up to the Pirate King, as Desterenel had already lovingly termed him in her head, and then she wouldn't get to stay in the house with real live pirates!

     The pirates flooded through the old house, tromping up the stairs with muddy booted feet, clattering around the halls, getting their cutlasses and other assorted paraphernalia caught on the doorknobs and banisters, thumping across the second-story floors, and using words that Desterenel had only read about. She quickly tried to memorize their proper pronunciations, though that was difficult as it seemed to vary from pirate to pirate. They settled themselves on the family's beds, dug out all the food from the cupboards, gave it to an unwashed and unqualified looking Kacheek they called by the affectionate name of "Cooky", and soon had a shower line stretching the entire hall.

     The place seemed filled to bursting with the smelly, loud, evil-looking creatures, though they were no more in numbers than the house had seen before, at Christmas and the like. It just seemed that each pirate took up as much space as one and a half normal Neopets.

To be continued...

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