Home < High Seas: Part Three
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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,
--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
"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,
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
"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...