Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 99,729,623 Issue: 198 | 8th day of Swimming, Y7
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Home < High Seas: Part Three

by destervetha


Chapter 3

Desterenel awoke curled in a pine tree, freezing cold and covered in dew. The birds were twittering gaily, and the air was fresh from the rainfall the day before. The sun was just rising, painting the fleeting clouds a rosy yellow-pink. The ground released the beautiful scents of earth and renewal, the heady aroma percolating up through the stalks of fresh-grown grass.

     Desterenel winced at a particularly raucous birdcall.

     She was stiff with chill, and curled closer to Ma's warm downy ruff. Her mother, and all the family, were covered in sticky sap and bits of bark, as they weren't Wild Eyries and had no idea about how to roost in trees. The night had been punctuated with irritated shifting about and the periodic sounds of one family member or another falling out of their arboreal perches.

     Ma had, of course, come searching through the night for Desterenel, after being told by Aunt Sophia that they would be forced to spend the night in the forest. Too timid to come into the house by the front door, and be confronted by the pirates she knew were lurking inside, she had circled the house miserably. Finally alighting on the roof, landing neatly in Desterenel's little corner outside the window, she nearly had a heart attack when, after looking through the hole where the glass had been, she couldn't see her daughter.

      But she eventually found Desterenel, curled up right behind her on the roof, fast asleep and missed in her mother's hurried landing. So she had flown her back to the rest of the family, transgressions forgiven, just glad to have her child back.

     Desterenel, however, wasn't all that thrilled. She had been perfectly happy, falling asleep to the sounds of pirates grumbling, muttering, fighting, and singing. The warm air wafting through the empty window-hole had warmed her corner, and she had been contentedly slumbering on a soft pile of windblown trash…until she had been dragged by the scruff of her neck to this windy, uncomfortable, sticky, needly tree.

     The injustices never ceased! She took that thought and held to it grimly, using it to fire up her flagging determination. She would leave with the pirates! She would become one of them! She would be so much happier then!

     She yawned, giving up some precious body-heat to a cloud of warm moisture that blew away in the cold. She shivered, limbs involuntarily stiffening in a stretch. Ma snuffled in her sleep, and tilted precariously on the branch.

     Desterenel tried to curl herself up tighter, but gave it up as a lost cause. She popped her head up, surveying her family with a jaded eye. They were all filthy, dirt caked into feathers, sap sticking plumage together, hides bruised and cut from falling repeatedly from the pines. Everyone's feathers carried a burden of pine needles and bark, weaving their feathery coats into woeful tapestries of mingled earth and tree. Some looked more plant than Eyrie. It would take hours of preening to get even half the miserable stuff out.

      Making up her mind, Desterenel stood precariously on the branch, and launched herself into the air. She snapped open her wings, and flapped herself back to the house laboriously against the rising wind.

     She'd show them all yet!


      It was near noon. The sun was almost perfectly overhead, and the morning chill had been swept away by the rising heat of the day. Clouds flew high above, partially obscuring the sun, and a brisk breeze was blowing.

      The pirates' tattered rags fluttered gaily. Their earrings, nose-rings, paw-rings, and tail-rings gleamed a burnished gold. The rain-washed sun brought out subtle hues in their mangy coats, hints of blue, red, yellow, remnants of what, and who, they had been before their change of lifestyle. They were a dashing sight, bedecked in bold stripes and spots, bright reds and strong blues.

      Pa was very, very happy to see them leave, and was glad he was upwind. The whole rest of the family was inside, and if Pa had gotten his way, he would have been right beside them, peeking out from between the curtains. But Aunt Sophia was also lying in wait within, and had conveyed in no uncertain terms that he would see them off personally.

      His ears were still smarting from both the volume of her verbal attack and the violence of her furious blows around the head. If he concentrated, he could still hear the ringing in his ears.

      The pirates were carting the Abram family's hard-earned goods out, and assigning who would carry them. This was accomplished with much shouting, scuffling, and pirates surreptitiously slipping odds and bits into their assorted pockets. As they all were engaged in a constant pick-pocketing of one another, it eventually worked out with every pirate carrying an absolutely equal share of the looted items. These were constantly being redistributed as the band began to move out.

      Until the whole group was halted by a shrill shout. Desterenel, clinging to a window-peak of the roof on the front of the house, was yelling at the top of her lungs, and waggling her wings.

     "Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey, pirates! Pirates! Pirates!"

      Flapping vigorously, she sprang from the roof, and fluttered to the ground in a splash of mud and water. Grinning brightly, she strutted out, tail proudly held high. Puffing out her chest-feathers as far as they could go, head drawn far back between her shoulder-blades and wings mantled, she couldn't see which way she was going and walked through several puddles.

      Pa was astonished. It took him a second to comprehend what was going on. He stood there for a moment on all fours, beak agape. But a furious yell from Aunt Sophia startled him into action. She had flung the window open, curtains flapping in the breeze, and was screaming at him, nearly foaming at the mouth in rage.

      "Darn you, Daniel Abram, get out there and save my great-granddaughter or your head will be on a spike in the garden until it rots off!"

     Aunt Sophia's rabid call galvanizing him, Pa leapt forward, sprinting as fast as an Eyrie could move across the ground.

     Thundering across the slurry, miraculously avoiding a fall, he sprang wildly across at least five pirates, wings clapped tight to his heaving sides for speed. Arriving where Desterenel was proudly tottering through the puddles, he braced his hind feet to stop, nearly sitting down with the force of his deceleration. Mud flying, clumps and clods splattering the watching, indignant pirates, he finally came to a halt and then stretched out his mud-blackened arms and reached---

      And, for the second time in as many days, met a knife to his throat.

      Freezing in place, trembling with exertion and sodden with sticky mud, sides heaving, beak open and gasping for breath, he rolled one large golden eye down,

     --and down

     --and down

     --to the Krawk Captain, one claw holding the knife to Pa's throat, and the other reaching gently out to tickle Desterenel beneath the chin. The Krawk gaped his fang-studded jaws in an almost-gentle grin. Lazily, the Captain licked his long purple tongue around his teeth.

      "Aaa, lass, so ye want to come wi' us…opportunists…eh? And d'ye mean what ye say?" He said slowly, breathing every word, a sly expression spreading across his face. He greedily ran his eyes over the little Eyrie, noting the deep chest and wide back, the lanky legs and overly-large paws. She had some growth in her yet, he noted happily, and soft, well-bred muscles rippled under her shining coat. She was gazing worshipfully up at even one as short as him from her four-legged stance. She leaned into the caress of his claw with bated breath.

      "Yes! Yes, I would do anything! Anything at all! Wash stuff, even! I'm good at cleaning!"

      "Ohh, I think we's c'n put ye ter a better yoose than tha'…" He rumbles gleefully, trying not to stare at her twitching wings.

      Pa couldn't believe what he was hearing. He gave out a squeal, unable to make any other vocalization with the knife against his throat. He fell silent as the knife pressed tighter.

      Desterenel didn't see. Beyond one irritated glance at Pa's outburst, (Really! Parents!) she spared no time looking at anything but the Krawk. She couldn't tear her eyes off of him.

      "C'n ye fly, girl? C'n ye fly far, and fast, and high in all weather?" This was the greatest question. She looked sound, but…

     Desterenel nodded raptly. She was faster than all her sisters and indeed everyone but Aunt Sophia despite her young age.

      A joyous grin suffused his features.

     Wings! Wings a' last!

     Carelessly he removed the knife from Pa's throat, but before Pa could react, the Krawk waved it languidly and executed a complex gesture in the air. Instantly all the surrounding pirates leapt on Pa, bundling him efficiently to the ground and grinding him into the mud. Pa struggled and gasped, writhing in the sticky sludge, but to no avail. Even his stocky frame, strong with the strength of the well-fed, couldn't possibly dislodge upwards of three wiry pirates clinging tenaciously to his every limb. He watched helplessly from the mud as his daughter pledged herself to those he had been so anxious to protect her from.

      "I can fly in any weather! I flew a message all the way to the Capital once, during a storm!"

      "Will ye take an oath o' service, bindin' ye to us'n ourr ship? To serve us to hellgates an' back?"

     Desterenel gasped happily at the colorful oath. Truly, this was an oath any pirate should be glad to swear by! She could hardly believe it. She was going to be a member of a real pirate crew!

     "I swear! I swear to serve all the way to," she shuddered delightfully at how naughty she was being, "hellgates and back!"

      The real pirate crew muttered, astonished. What was their Captain doing? They needed to leave! What did they need a silly, muddy bumpkin farmer's little Eyrie cub for?

      The handsomer Sublieutenant paced forward, harness jingling, a concerned expression on his wicked beak.

      "Captain…Ye cannot be serious…"

      Turning on his Sublieutenant with a fierce snarl, the little Krawk bared his fangs.

      "Unless ye've forgotten, Rebarrr, ah'm Cap'n o' this crew! Not ye! Not anybeast but m'self! If I say we're to bring her along WI us, then we bring 'er along WI us!"

      Reaching out a scaly arm, he clapped the little cub to his side, claw thrown about her shoulders. Sheathing his knife, he reached his free hand down and grabbed one of her wings by the leading edge. Spreading it, he roared to his Sublieutenant, "See here, Rebarrr, ye great lump! See these wings! Ye cain't fly no more since the Red Coast battle, nor c'n yer brother Dawslap since that Coney Ridge debacle! She'll bring wings back to the Grey Feather! Wings, man, wings! A willin' hand's better nor ten 'n chains! She'll not run off'n us like that saucy lass Helen did! Ye heard 'er! She took the oath a'willin! Our fortunes be turnin' up, mates, turning up a'last!"

      This last he addressed to his crew, and they gave a roar of approval, slightly muffled and distracted as they were still busily engaged in relieving each other of the items they had taken. A broad smile of comprehension spread across the Sublieutenant's big face. He smiled happily at the Captain, and reached forward an enormous claw. The Krawk Captain released Desterenel's wing, and she flipped it back into place, glad to be free of the rude manhandling. The Captain met his Sublieutenant's claw with his own and gives an answering predatory grin.

      "An' tha's why ah'm Cap'n an' yer mah good right claw, Rebarrr."

      "Truly, Cap'n Yoharran, and 'tis an arrangement suited best to all," the big Eyrie replied.

      The family watched in stunned silence as the pirates mobilized, gathering up their things and fleeing the now-dilapidated residence. They were left standing, beaks agape, amid the ruin of their home, gazing at the herd of retreating grey backs, and one brilliant green one, as the crew left with Desterenel tagging happily along behind.

      No one moved for a long time, until the sound of a broken shutter releasing its tenuous hold on a window-frame and clattering down to the ground broke the stillness. Pa raised himself shakily on his elbows, from where he lay full-length in the mud, and stared uncomprehendingly at the now-deserted front yard, deep boot-prints scoring their driveway and still filling slowly with water.

     Three more shutters bounced their way down the sloping roof of the house, dislodging a small avalanche of ceiling tiles.

     Then they all began talking at once.

To be continued...

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