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||You are on Week 255
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Two Hundred Fifty-Five Ends December 19
Kyra took a deep breath as she stared at the wooden doors of the Golden Dubloon. It really had seemed like a good idea... until now.
It was too late to turn back, though. The Xweetok took another breath and straightened out her coat. It was a little too large for her, but she didn't have time to be picky. Besides, it wasn't like these pirates were all that familiar with the height of fashion. Biting her lip with determination, Kyra began striding toward the doors...
...only to jump aside to avoid being barreled over by a giant pirate Skeith.
"Sorry," Kyra mumbled, before remembering that pirates rarely apologised. "Avast!" she added as an afterthought.
She watched wide-eyed as he stormed off, then closed her eyes to calm herself. Her boss would never forgive her if she didn't successfully complete this task. He had already been reluctant enough to give the go-ahead...
* * * * *
"Dress up as a pirate and infiltrate them?" the old Yurble had roared. "That's not a good idea; it's a completely FOOLISH one!"
"Please," she had begged in response. "You've been trying to nab these pirates for years, but they've always gotten away due to lack of evidence! If someone could just get close enough, maybe they could find what you need!"
A lot of head-shaking and muttering about the uselessness of "ridiculous schemes" had followed, but eventually he'd let her go...
* * * * *
Kyra paced around for a few more moments, then stopped. It was now or never. Clearing her throat nervously, she burst through the door in a nearly panicked fashion...
Author: Ahoy, matey!|
Date: 9th December
...and was immediately seized with the urge to rush right out again, as she was greeted with the foul smell of smoke. At first, she thought that the building was on fire, but she realized after she had spent a few moments coughing that the smoke was issuing from a set of grimy swinging doors leading to the kitchen; every time a waiter or waitress pushed past them, a fresh cloud billowed forth into the main body of the Golden Dubloon.
Kyra squinted into the dimly-lit restaurant with trepidation, her eyes watering as she bit back a second series of coughs. Was this kind of thing considered typical around here? It certainly seemed so, as none of the other patrons were paying any attention to their smoky surroundings. They were carrying on with their loud conversations or, as she suspected in some cases, shouting matches; all seemed to have eye-patches or peg-legs or ominous scars or scruffy Pawkeets about their persons, or any combination of the four. Feeling as though she would be spotted as a fraud at any moment, Kyra took a deep breath of the comparatively clean outside air before ducking into the restaurant, her grimy old wide-brimmed hat serving to partially hide her terrified face as she shouldered her way to the bar.
She was almost surprised to reach her destination alive, in fact, and immediately scrambled up onto a creaky barstool before casting a furtive glance around at her surroundings. So far, so good; now she could begin the search for her targets. The Nine-Whisker Brigands, as they called themselves, were reputed to be loyal patrons of the Golden Dubloon; their leader was a cunning Wocky named Piplune. Not much else was known about them; they kept their operations rather hushed, which was why it was so hard to--
“What’ll it be?”
Jerked from her thoughts by a hoarse, demanding voice, Kyra spun around and nearly yelped out loud as she came face to face with an extremely filthy Krawk leering at her over the bar. It took her frazzled mind a moment to process his query, but once it had, she did her best to make up an order on the spot. “I’ll... er... I’ll take a... erm... tankard of... of grog, please,” she stammered, adding a pathetic “Arr” as an afterthought. The Krawk raised one scaly brow before turning away and filling a smudged flagon full of a sinister-looking liquid from a nearby tap, then plunked it heavily down on the bar; digging embarrassedly in her coat pocket, the Xweetok drew out a fistful of Neopoints and offered them meekly. “Er... will this be enough?”
The Krawk blinked in surprise, then narrowed his eyes and sneered. “Oi, what’re you tryin’ ter pull?! We don’ take none o’ that here!”
But before she could say any more, a deep red-furred paw reached out to drop a few Dubloons on the chipped wooden bar in front of her. “Just take that and go make yourself useful somewhere else, eh, Gerfie?” Scrunching his nose up a bit, the Krawk snatched up the currency without another word and stalked off to leer at someone further down the bar. Baffled, Kyra looked to her right; all she could see of her mysterious saviour was a pair of pointed Wocky ears poking out from two slits in a massive hat, and a lopsided grin a bit further down. “Now, what’re you doing trying to pay in Neopoints at the Golden Dubloon, young lady? Most people know better’n that.”
The Xweetok frowned. “Who... who’re you? ...Arr?”
The Wocky tipped his hat up, amused green eyes catching the light that filtered through the dusty windows. “Name’s Piplune, but most everybody just calls me Pip. Seems like you don’t quite know your way around this place yet, hmm?...”
Date: 12th December
..."Yarrr, I, ummm," Kyra started, feeling the pressure of having to make a good impression bearing down upon her. This was the pirate she'd studied for months. The commissioner had allowed her to undertake this assignment on the merits of her previous performances, but hated the actual idea. She resented him greatly for this and was more than determined to prove him wrong and wipe that ugly, sneering grin from his haggard face. She became aware that her pause was becoming unconversational, but her concentration kept going back to steeling her eyes against tears induced by the smoke. She knew that tears could be the signature on a death warrant in a place like this.
"I ain't seen these parts before. I been workin' the seas beyond Tyrannia since I was knee-high to a Selket." Kyra, feeling pleased so far with her tall tale, grabbed her flagon of grog and took a mighty gulp. She intended to use this pause in conversation to spin the next part of her tale, but the foul stuff she was drinking quickly overpowered her. Her affronted stomach heaved in a large, dramatic convulsion, and her cheeks puffed as they filled with the liquid. The stuff was so strong that it burned like acid, and before she could stop herself, Kyra spat the stuff all over the floor at Pip's feet. Sensing his incredulous gaze drilling into the back of her head as she in turn stared aghast at his toes, she looked up until her wide, glazed eyes met his squinty, amused expression.
Once again she was on the spot, and had to really make it good this time. "Gah," she cried in a display of mock insult, "I've tasted better grog from my shipman's swabbin' bucket!" She slammed the glass down hard on the bar -- hard enough to make the other glasses that sat there jump and land again with a dry clink.
A shallow smile spread across Pip's face. "The Tyrannian seas eh? Them's real hard seas. I hear there's Dartail out there big enough to swallow a rowin' ship whole."
"That there are," she responded enthusiastically, "and worse still. I once lost three good crewmen to an Eelika that measured a thousands cubits from nose to tail." Kyra was beginning to shock herself at how she was falling into character. She hoped that Piplune believed her. Pip was very difficult to read. Behind the scars was a very kind looking face that surprised her. She expected a horrible Neopet who would run her through with her cutlass as soon as look at her. Instead she noticed a polite, confident charm about him. She began to wonder if this was in fact the reputed murderous plunderer of the high seas.
"And where would your men be now?" Pip asked, raising his eyebrows in a manner that suggested he believed there were no seamen, and never had been. Pip peered through the suspense of smoke hanging in the air, first to her left, then her right. Kyra suddenly felt three inches tall, and was seriously tempted by the thought of either coming out of character or just fleeing and putting the whole idea behind her. Then that stinging desire to prove the commissioner wrong gave her a sharp mental nudge.
"Yarrr, my ship was accosted from the port side by a rival crew," Kyra growled angrily. "I don't know what became of my crew, but I went down with me ship and washed up on these very shores."
"Interesting," Pip said, stroking his chin and nodding politely. "Do you have a name, young captain? Or do I just call you Captain Boatless?" Pip tipped a wink at Kyra and straightened his hat.
"Cap'n Kyra is what me men called me," she replied, "but I guess the captain part is a little... redundant now, savvy?"
"That's a sad tale y'have there Kyra," Pip said with ingenuous sympathy. "Say, how'd you like to meet m'crew and partake of a game of Bilge Dice?"
Date: 13th December
..It was all Kyra could do to keep herself from screaming. Oh, how pleased she'd been with herself and her tall tales! How proud she'd been. Well, she supposed she was asking for it, but still...
Not that she was frightened, or anything (at least not that she would admit to herself) -- it was just that the idea of keeping up this act while playing a game she had only vaguely heard of during her short life did not appeal to her.
On the other hand, she realized, a daredevil impulse gripping her, this could well be the perfect opportunity to snare the Nine-Whisker Brigands.
"Aye," Kyra stated finally. "Nothin' would please me better. It'll be savvy to meet a real rough-'n'-ready crew o' the high seas again."
Pip shot her a sympathetic glance. "I'd imagine nothin' less," he agreed.
It seemed that pirates did not depend overmuch on ceremony and the like. The Wocky heaved himself to his feet without another word and turned to saunter straight to the doors. Kyra hastily scrambled after him, knocking her glass over. She ignored the greyish liquid spreading over the table; it might do that Krawk some good to clean it up.
Kyra burst out the doors of the Golden Dubloon after Pip, wildly looking around before she caught sight of his confident figure walking down the dingy street. The Xweetok was after him in a flash. She barely had time to wonder how in Neopia he could walk so slowly and move so fast.
Pip turned to look at her, and she blushed under her fur as she saw that he was barely concealing an amused grin. "You must not've been sailin' for a time, Cap'n Kyra."
"Oh -- arr," she corrected herself, "I guess you're right. See, after me ship was sunk, I swam hard as a Maraquan for four days an' five nights, till finally I could swim no more. Then I was washed up on Krawk Island beaches, an' here I am, y'see." Kyra hoped that she had not blown her story completely out of proportion. She could no more swim for half an hour than she could jump to Faerieland. But she was supposed to be a pirate... and pirates liked to exaggerate, didn't they?
As she talked, Pip stopped before the dingy doors of an unnamed shack. Kyra gulped once and waited while he pulled a key from somewhere around his person and stuck it into the lock with satisfaction. After wrestling with it for a moment or two, the large, ornate key turned and the doors swung open.
Experimentally, Kyra attempted to turn the key as she followed Pip into the place. It would not budge. Ouch, she thought. I need more pirate muscle.
Inside it was dark -- very dark. Around a central table were assembled twelve pirates of various species, watching six dice on the table. Kyra stared as hard as she could. This served two functions: for one thing, she looked interested, and for another, there was always a slim chance that she could learn to play the game in approximately five seconds.
"Avast," cried Pip. "This be my crew, Cap'n Kyra! Have y'ever seen twelve finer lads for deckhands than these?"
"Not in a longer time than I care to remem'er," Kyra said quickly.
This inspired laughs from several of the crew members, and one, a large Eyrie with an eye patch, beckoned to her. "Well, are you joinin' us or no? We're just startin' a new game."
"Well..." muttered Kyra.
"Oh, now, don't be shy," laughed Pip. "We won't be mindin' if you win all the games, now will we boys? Just so long as you don't bet too much."
It confused Kyra how nice Pip seemed. She managed to push it to the back of her mind, as she had been doing, but...
This was no time for speculation. "Arr, then, I'll join you." She tentatively pulled out a chair and sat in it.
As it turned out, she contrived to figure out the rules of the game before her turn came around. It was really quite simple, even fun, and Kyra was astonished to find that she even excelled at it.
The hours passed, and finally it seemed understood between all the pirates that the game was over. The dice were cleared off the table, and expressions changed from lightly amused to deadly serious. With a sinking feeling in her stomach, Kyra wondered what might come next.
But no amount of thought could have prepared her for what did.
"Well, Cap'n," Pip said. "Strikes me that you fit in mighty well with us pirates, eh, boys?" There were nods and murmurs of agreement. "How'd you like to join us, and see what happens when the night falls?"
Kyra stared at him openmouthed...
Date: 13th December
...and kept staring for some time before Pip let out a laughing cough at her gaped-mouth. "S--arr," said Kyra, barely catching herself before she aoplogized. She doubted an apology would go over well after she had just spent ten seconds staring at them in shock.
What do pirates do when night falls? Kyra didn't really know, but she was sure it wasn't pleasant. And whether or not she knew didn't really matter, though. Because Captain Kyra should know. "Arr," she continued, "let's see if ye can show me some mischief I don't know."
Pip smiled that amused, knowing grin again, and turned to the seated pirates. "Well then, mateys..." said Pip, "let's go."
The motley-looking posse walked into the street with the same slow-walking, speedy gait of Pip... a characteristic seawalk the likes of which Kyra had never seen before tonight. Pirates, she thought, are better sailors than a decent Neopet could ever hope to be.
The group lurched expertly through the netting of silver light and shadow with Kyra rushing and stumbling to keep up. She knew she was pulling off being a pirate very poorly, no matter what Pip had said about her "fitting in." So why were they showing her their nighttime operations?
Her thoughts and stumbling walk kept her preoccupied so that when the pirates stopped in front of her she almost plowed over the Krawk pirate. "Arg! Watch where ye be walkin'!"
Kyra didn't respond. She couldn't. Eyes wide open, reflecting a sparkle of moonlight and wonder, the Xweetok stared up at the great hull of the most magnificent ship she had ever seen.
The paint was splendidly rich and brilliant, even in the pale nightlight, and projecting from the prow was the most exquisite carving of Nereid she had ever seen. The elusive water faerie looked so real, so beautiful... Kyra could almost hear her song.
The Xweetok felt a hand grip tightly on her shoulder with an explosive clapping sound in her ear. "That, Cap'n," hissed the dark, growling voice of Piplune, "is my ship."
Kyra's heart throbbed hard in her throat as she flicked her ear against the tickle of the voice and continued to stare in awe. "She's... beautiful..." she said, at last, in disbelief.
Pip laughed, but the laugh was not the charmingly condescending laugh she had been hearing all night... it was a laugh of affection. She turned and saw him staring at the ship with palpable fondness. "Aye."
The group boarded the ship, Pip leading the way. The silence was astounding, and along with the ship's beauty and the spotted silver, shining light made the whole experience seem otherworldly.
Then, Pip threw open a hatch on the deck of the ship and jumped down with unexpected grace, barely making a sound as he landed. The other pirates followed, some opting for the ladder instead. Kyra chose the ladder and followed last.
A loud chatter had started among the pirates as they entered the subdeck room and ended as she stopped down and faced them. Kyra cautiously joined them as they grouped around table, where Piplune seemed to have laid out some maps and plans.
"Well," said Pip, "seems I might know a little piece of mischief you're not quite familiar with..."
Date: 14th December
...As Kyra leaned over the table, Pip pointed to a small red X on the map and asked, "Do you know what this is?"
Kyra wondered which would look worse: a wrong guess or no guess at all. She settled on a neutral answer. "Aye, I've heard a little, but let's hear the yarn in full!"
Pip gave her one of those amused, knowing, tolerant smiles, then explained, "This'ere be the little island of Chaloko. The word around here is Chaloko doesn't exist, but there are those of us who know better." Pip paused a moment and looked around, while his crew nodded and murmured their agreement.
Kyra was nervous but fascinated. "And what be the lure of this little spot of land?" she asked, partly to prevent them from quizzing her and partly to gather information.
Pip laughed, and Kyra wondered why. "Fact is, no one knows, Cap'n," he responded lightheartedly, then nodded to the Eyrie who had invited Kyra to join the Bilge Dice game.
"Many have wondered what secrets be hidden on that island," the Eyrie continued in a playfully cryptic tone, "but legend has it that no ship that's tried to find out has ever survived to set rudder to it. Some say they were shipwrecked to spend the rest of their days sittin' on the coasts of Chaloko, while others say their vessels were drawn down by the guardians of the island to meet their end in the blackness of the ocean floor and be sent off to Davy Jones's Locker."
Kyra surpressed a shudder. She got the sickening feeling she knew where these pirates were going with this, for she felt that if any Neopets were brazen enough to dare such a quest, these would be the ones. "And I suppose you're going to say that we be just the ones to discover the secrets of this island," she said, keeping her tone light.
But Pip and his comrades looked as serious as they had when Pip had invited her to join their crew. "We be settin' sail tonight, Captain Kyra," the Wocky captain said, then turning his back to the table and facing the assembled buccaneers, he cried in a loud voice, "for never have the seas of Neopia seen such a fine crew of seapets, and never has a sail been hoisted by such sturdy paws! And," he added with a grin, a sideways glance at Kyra, and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, "with Cap'n Kyra here to share her wisdom, never has there been a crew more fit to tackle this little spit of land!"
Pip turned back to Kyra with a grin and a wink, and the Xweetok felt her heart slowly settling to her feet. Playing pirate on land was one thing. But although she hadn't the slightest idea how to manage even the minor details of sailing, she had a sinking feeling that she was about to learn...
Date: 14th December
...Within twenty minutes, the boat was out in the open seas, gliding seamlessly through the black water. The bow sliced through the enormous full moon, allowing the majority of the silver light to shine across the deck. Kyra watched the pirates walking to and fro, adjusting various ropes and calling out orders to each other. As the chill wind swirled about her, her mind was just drifting back to her warm bed and normal clothes and dialect back in Neopia Cantral when Pip tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped and was about to let out a shrill cry of terror when her pirate mentality overtook her. It was becoming easier to play her charade as she practiced more. "Yarr, cap'n?" she said, her face beginning to adopt the same knowing, mocking smile of her host.
"I have a brief favor to ask of ye, Cap'n Kyra. Would ye be willing to watch up the crow's nest fer oncoming land? My eyes be shot fer distance, but I be sure with the different sun over by Tyrannia, ye'd be more used to a night watch." He tipped his hat again, almost in acknowledgement of Kyra's supposed skill, but more so out of sheer habit.
It took less than five seconds to make any sort of sense from what Piplune had just said, and Kyra replied quite naturally, "Aye, I'll do it. Not a preferred duty of mine, but iffin ye be needing help..."
"Very fine, Cap'n." He motioned with a jerk of his head to the large pole in the back of the ship with a basket large enough for about twenty apples to fit in and gave a sort of smile that Kyra had not seen in him before. For only half a moment, it seemed the slightest bit distracted, as if he had something more on his mind. She decided to think nothing of it, for it left his face quickly.
She nodded her head before turning to her task. She found it rather easy to scale the lines up the thin pole, having spent a great deal of her youth in trees. The hours passed slowly, and her mind had a chance to wander in earnest. As she imagined what fun it would be to actually live as a pirate, she was abruptly reminded that she was supposed to be out capturing pirates, not joining them. Her mind began to buzz about how she was going to prove that the elements, namely surprise, were on her side throughout this scheme, as she had told her commissioner. Then it came to her. All she needed was that bit of land to pull the trap off on.
She was rather rudely reminded that she was supposed to be keeping watch by the worst jostling the ship had taken since it set to the waves...
Date: 15th December
..."LAAAAAND AHOY!" Kyra bellowed at a volume she was completely unaware she was capable of achieving. The pirates' faces all upturned towards her, then one of them ran to the head of the ship and peered toward the horizon. Barely visible was a smudge of land in the darkness. When he turned back to the rest of the brigands and nodded, they all burst into action. They scattered like tiny insects abandoning a morsel of food, running here and there, pulling ropes and rolling barrels. Kyra began her descent of the mast, slipping and almost losing purchase twice on the way owing to her own excitement. Excitement? she thought to herself as her feet landed heavily back on the swaying deck of the ship. It seemed odd to her how fear had been replaced by excitement so easily.
Kyra scuttled around in an attempt to appear busy. She had no idea what the men were doing, but it looked frenzied and stenuous. Thankfully they were all too busy on their own tasks to notice Kyra was just jittering around and doing nothing in particular. Pip's voice cut the fervor in a loud, confident burst: "Drop anchor!"
Without a beat being missed one of the crewmen echoed back, "Drop anchor," and tossed it overboard. Moments later the ship settled to a stop near the head of a large cliff face. The gentle swaying of the ship in the water made the high chalk cliff look fierce and looming. Kyra was staring in awe at the sharp wall of land bobbing infront of her when a growl of a voice came from her left. "Ye care to join us, Cap'n Kyra?" someone called. Glancing in the direction of the voice she noticed that all the men had loaded into the rowboat and they were all waiting on her. Under her fur she flushed with embarassment and hurried to join the others.
When she was securely seated four of the brigands unhooked a rope and began running it upwards hand-over-hand. The rowboat started to lower towards the water. Kyra was watching the lapping ocean get closer and closer, and didn't notice the four brigands look at each other with equally mischievous grins. After a silent count of 3 the brigands all let go of the rope at once. Kyra had time to yelp as she felt her stomach roll into her throat. The boat splashed down into the water after a short fall. Kyra was gripping the both her seat and the edge of the boat with vicelike sternness. Her eyes were wide and glazed. The other brigands broke into giggles while Pip stood proudly at the head of the boat smiling smugly.
"Yarrr," Kyra sneered, "ye all be funnier than an outhouse rat." At this the brigands opened into guffaws of laughter, and moments after Kyra joined them.
With smiles still on their faces, they began to row out towards the island...
Date: 15th December
..."Arr... how long exactly would this be takin' Cap'n Piplune?" Kyra asked half an hour later. The cliff had seemed so near, but in the past thirty minutes they seemed to have gotten no closer to it. Peering out over the water, she was certain that they should have been able to cover the distance in a trice, but many trices later the distance had not changed.
"I was wonderin' the same thing meself," Pip murmered, distractedly, then remembering where he was he called out in his commanding way, "A'right lads, put your backs into it!" He returned to his normal voice and answered, "We should've reached land long ago, and if me mate's eyes don't fail him then we've covered more'n five leagues. There's somethin' fishy goin' on here, mark my words."
"Oh..." Kyra looked at the distant cliffs nervously. "Yarr, but what d'ye think it is?"
"I've no idea..." Pip also stared at the cliffs, but his eyes were shining with excitement. "There's no doubt about it, now. This is Chaloko for sure!" He laughed, "There's no telling what awaits us now. Come on lads!" Kyra jumped at the volume of his voice, "You can see for yourselves how close we are! D'you want to let Chaloko pass us by?"
There were shouts from the crew, and Kyra could feel the boat begin to move faster. The determination on board the little rowboat was palpable; every heart was set on those cliffs. Kyra could feel her excitement growing, replacing all fear and doubt. They were getting closer! The island was growing larger! They would reach the shore any minute now!
The first wave hit them just as the crew began to celebrate their success. It hit Kyra full force, almost washing her out of her seat. She grabbed the side just in time, then sputtered and coughed up water for about a minute. By the time she recovered, she found that the sea was growing rough, and the pirates had stopped celebrating. Another wave overtook them, and after that Kyra had no thoughts to spare on anything but holding on to the side of the boat with all her might. She usually remembered to breathe when the water receeded, but it was not a sure thing, and Kyra was sure she was drowning at least once every five minutes. She vaguely registered Pip shouting above the roaring sea, but she could not have listened even if she had felt any interest in what he was saying. The world was reduced to a very small corner of a rowboat and an endless deluge of water. Kyra just hoped Pip and the pirates could get them out of this...
Storytelling Editor note: Arr! Since this here story be gettin' more excitin' than a barrell full of Jetsams, methinks we'll let it run one more day. This 'un will end Monday afternoon, December 19, and t'new one will start up the morn of Tuesday, December 20.
Date: 16th December
…The next few minutes went by in a daze. Kyra could hear Pip bellowing out orders as the pirates around struggled to row for their lives. The boat gave a mighty heave and came crashing down a gigantic wave so violently that it was a wonder they did not capsize. Pip gave another shout of warning as an even larger wave overtook them, heading straight for the captain…
…And then all was silent.
The pirates stared wide-eyed at one another in the eerie tranquility, gasping from their efforts. The island seemed even farther away than before now, but they were content to just rest for the moment.
But only a few seconds had passed before they realized that the ocean was dragging them sideways with a current.
Even in the darkness Kyra could clearly see the frown on Pip's face. "Garlo, light the lantern," he ordered, and a Lenny scowled in uncertainty.
"I thought ye said we were going to hold on the light 'till we were sure that we ain't going to come under fire if we were to be spotted."
The tugging at the rowboat grew more insistent, and Pip's frown deepened. "Better to take a hail of arrows than to be sucked down to the depths," he countered, and Garlo nodded grudgingly, pulled a match from his pocket and lit the tiny lantern he carried. The night was clear and fine, and the flickering yellow light played on the cliff face and performed an eerie dance on the water's inky surface. And in its glow, Kyra could faintly see, a fair distance away but not nearly far enough...
"It's a whirlpool!"
The Xweetok's frightened gasp cut through the silence which had enveloped the landing party, and as if on cue a faint liquid rushing whispered in their ears.
"Back to the ship!" Pip cried, and several pairs of strong pirate paws gripped the oars and began rowing furiously. Kyra caught her breath as the little rowboat seemed to gather itself to do battle with the current, and hope rose in her heart when she turned around and saw the great bulk of Pip's sturdy ship towering above her. Breathing a sigh of relief, Kyra turned back to watch the whirlpool slipping slowly away.
Then her eyes widened, and dropping like a rock out of her pirate facade she let out a shrill cry of horror. Out of the blackness surrounding the sinister smudge of the whirlpool a darker form reared into view: the unmistakable shape of a ship.
Pip saw it too, and his voice rang out across the water as he shouted, "Avast! It seems we're not alone in daring this here island!"
But it was clear that in a few minutes they would be. The mysterious ship was obviously foundering fast, ensnared beyond any hope of escape in the greedy swirling jaws of the spinning, lashing water.
Kyra cried out again and even Pip jumped as a sudden flash lit the night, followed by a rolling BOOM! The first explosive cannon shot was followed in a syncopated rhythm by a second, then a third, and then by stunned silence.
Kyra's mind was spinning. It was impossible, but unmistakable -- the signal of an Enforcer ship in distress!
"That be the signal of an Enforcer ship in distress!" Pip confirmed, his voice rising in disbelief.
"Arr, good riddance," Garlo growled. "Such as them would open fire on the likes of us faster than a seaman can down a tankard of grog."
Kyra's heart froze in mid-beat, and glancing up at Pip she saw that he was staring at the struggling ship, his expression unreadable, obviously lost in thought.
Suddenly, and beyond any doubt, Kyra knew what she had to do. "Captain Piplune," she said, and the Wocky glanced at her with a look of surprise on his face. Keeping her tone formal, Kyra continued in the voice in which she had spoken for almost all of her adult life: the voice of a junior Enforcer. "Are you going to let that ship sink?"
Gone was Pip's cavalier manner; his lightheartedly dashing demeanour seemed to have melted into the night. "I knew there was something different about you, Captain Kyra," he said, then raised his eyebrows and added, "or should I be saying ENFORCER Kyra?"
From every pirate in the boat there rose an audible gasp, but Kyra was committed, and she forced herself to stand her ground. "Yes, I AM an Enforcer. There were rumours floating around about the exploits of this crew, but they could never be confirmed so we- so I- I wanted to verify... I wanted to learn the truth..." Kyra's voice broke under the weight of Pip's stern, searching stare, and she hoped desperately that she wasn't going to cry. "Please," she finally managed, "the crew of that ship needs our help. They aren't monsters -- they just want to protect innocent civilians."
"By spreading the word that we ARE monsters?" Garlo grated, and Kyra jumped slightly, glanced at the Lenny, then turned to face Pip.
Resolve had hardened in her heart. Gone was her fleeting nearness to tears, stripped away like a leaf by the wind of urgency, and underneath it was a strength like an autumn oak, stripped of its defenses but stern and determined to the end. "Well, ARE you?" she challenged. "Are you the kind of pirates I've heard about, who would plunder an innocent pet faster than... than a seaman can down a tankard of grog? You could kill me now -- you could throw me overboard to drown with the crew of that ship, and nobody would ever know it was you. Or you could prove them all wrong. But whatever you do, do it quickly -- time is running out."
This said, Kyra bravely braced herself, holding her breath as she waited for Piplune's response...
Date: 16th December
..."Get up on the ship, men," Piplune growled, "and keep safe at anchor! Ne'er mind the Enforcer's words. She be playing tricks with them. It doesn't make a monster to let the sea take someone who'd kill you else."
"Capture," Kyra said breathlessly. "Capture only, not kill."
"Did ye never see a real sea battle, Enforcer Kyra?" Pip asked her scornfully as his crew began the climb back up to the ship, taking the ropes they'd left within reach and pulling the rowboat upward.
"I know people get hurt and killed in fight," she retorted. "I also know the Enforcers' goals are capture, and you're trying to make it sound otherwise."
Piplune threw his paws in the air and half turned away from her.
"If you won't raise a paw to help them," Kyra said in a low voice, gripping the side of the rowboat, "I wonder what you have in store for someone who tricked you?" She stood up, shaking more with rage than fear. But she doubted she could take him in a fight under these circumstances, and what good would it do her? "Maybe I should take my chances with the whirlpool."
Kyra was angry. She was unreasonably stunned by Piplune's refusal to help, after his friendliness -- but perhaps she shouldn't have been. And she was terrified; though much of it was for her colleagues on the ship, she was beginning to take seriously -- as an immediate possibility -- the revenge the pirates might visit on her for her deception.
She had not, however, been seriously planning to jump overboard and join the Enforcer ship in the whirlpool. She was thus taken completely off guard when Pip whirled around and seized her, pulling her into the center of the rocking boat and tackling her to the floor.
"Oof. What in--"
"Are ye a complete fool?" Piplune snarled in her ear. "What is it you're still thinking we'll do to you worse than the maelstrom?" They could climb onto the ship from here; he hauled her up and dragged her aboard. "Tricks!" he ranted. "I knew you were no pirate cap'n from th'first moment y'tried giving me stories... though it did take me time to find out what y'were instead."
Kyra struggled to her feet when he let her go. "Fine," she said breathlessly. "So why did you just grab me, if you don't want to torture me and don't want to rescue Enforcers?"
"You haven't kept me from the sea," Pip muttered, turning to stare at the dark ship, still fighting against the whirlpool in a battle the ship was sure to lose.
"You know, there are sailing careers that don't involve robbery," Kyra said. She was watching the Enforcer ship too, despair gripping her, and not listening to herself.
"There's no way we could save them without losing our own ship," Piplune snapped suddenly.
Kyra looked over at the red Wocky. Did he actually sound defensive? Was his face red under the fur, too? "Ah," she said. "I suppose you'll be telling me that all the tales I've heard are wrong. The ones where you're a monster, and the ones where you're the canniest captain on the seas who can make a ship do more than anyone else...."
Pip glared at her, then swore. "There's one way. And you'd have me risk my men's lives if we fail and our freedom if we succeed."
The young Xweetok folded her hands on the rail and didn't look at him, hope jumping in her heart. "Oh, I think saving an Enforcer ship might be worth a pardon...."
She could feel his glower on her for another several fast heartbeats. And then he was turning away from her and roaring, "Up anchor and...."
Date: 19th December
..."Bring 'round the sails! We're heading into the storm!" He sighed, "There ain't no guarantee this is goin' t'work, Kyra."
"There doesn't need to be," Kyra said breathlessly. She was so relieved that they were going to help that she didn't care if they got pulled into the whirlpool themselves.
Pip shrugged and went to the rudder. He began shouting what seemed to Kyra to be random nautical sayings, but which were obviously directed to the pirate crew. Realizing that she was not going to be any help, Kyra found a small corner where she could sit and watch the Enforcer ship.
It was not an uplifting sight. The ship was caught firmly in the whirlpool, despite what Kyra assumed were the best efforts of its busy crew. She could see sailors running about on the deck, frantically calling back and forth to one another. Her stomach began to feel queasy. Pip had to be able to save these pets; he just had to. If he couldn't... she didn't want to think about that. She pulled her eyes off the doomed ship and tried to ignore the fear that was slowly creeping into her heart.
All too soon, the pirate ship drew close to the whirlpool. Kyra could barely hear a thing over the roaring waters, but she got up from her corner anyway. Carefully making her way to the rudder, she found Pip and tried to shout above the waves.
"What's the plan?"
"SPEAK UP, KYRA!" She jumped but was happy to find that she could hear him.
"I SAID WHAT'S THE PLAN?" She didn't quite match Pip in volume, but she was fairly sure he had heard her.
"NO TIME, TELL YE AFTER!"
Kyra wanted to point out that there might not be an after, but instead she simply peered nervously into the waters ahead. The Enforcer ship was almost holding its own against the whirlpool, but with every revolution it got a little closer to the roaring center. Kyra hoped the Enforcers would be alright; she didn't know what she would do if the pirates couldn't--
Quite suddenly, the ship began to move in the opposite direction.
"Here it goes..." Kyra heard Pip say relatively quietly. Looking nervously around to see what he was talking about, Kyra's heart nearly stopped. They were caught in the whirlpool.
"IS THIS PART OF THE PLAN?" she screamed hysterically, "I WASN'T EXPECTING SUICIDE!"
Pip ignored her. "ALRIGHT YE SCURVY DOGS, IF'N YE WANT TO GET OUT OF THIS ALIVE YE'LL LISTEN UP! WHEN I SAY 'GO' I WANT YE TO THROW OUT THE ANCHOR AND TAKE DOWN ALL SAILS! GOT THAT? READY... GO!"
Kyra clutched the side of the ship as it suddenly lurched under her. She saw the sails billow, but they were soon cut down and within seconds, the ship had come to a stop in the midst of the whirlpool.
"We're very lucky, Kyra!" Pip spoke just loud enough for Kyra to make out the words, "If the anchor hadn't caught we'd be in quite a fix!" He began shouting more orders. Kyra watched breathlessly as the Enforcer ship slowly spun towards the pirate ship. What was Pip thinking? That ship looked as though it would smash right through the pirates. She watched the ship come closer... and closer... and closer... it was going to hit. It was going to crash into the pirates. There was no doubt about it, it was heading straight towards them. It was...
"HOIST ANCHOR!" Pip bellowed at the top of his lungs. Kyra had only a moment to wonder what he might be doing when the Enforcer ship hit the pirate ship with a fearsome crack and a loud splintering sound.
* * * * *
Piplune watched the Enforcer ship come closer. He instructed his men to prepare grappling hooks and get ready to hoist anchor. If any of them wondered at his plan, they at least had the sense to follow it without hesitation. He could see Kyra looking very frightened beside him, but he had no concentration to spare for her. The timing had to be exact..."HOIST ANCHOR!" he screamed with all his might. Then he braced himself for the impact. He hoped the Enforcer ship was big enough to do the job...
The ship hit, and Pip held in a groan when he heard the splintering that marked the end of his beautiful ship. "DROP ANCHOR!" he shouted, hoping that they had been pushed far enough. "AWAY THE HOOKS! CATCH THAT SHIP!" There were a few tense moments... then the ship lurched and after a few seconds lurched again. Hardly daring to believe his luck, Pip looked to see if it had truly worked.
It had. The blow from the Enforcer's ship had been enough to knock the pirates' ship out of the whirlpool, and the anchor had caught well away from the dangerous current. Ropes spanned the space between the two ships, and sailors on both sides were making them secure. Pip took a few relieved breaths. "AHOY THERE, ENFORCERS! PERMISSION TO BOARD YOUR SHIP? OURS SEEMS TO BE HAVIN' A WEE BIT OF TROUBLE!" He managed to laugh despite the loss of his ship, and prepared to enter the Enforcer's ship.
* * * * *
Kyra had never been so happy to see Neopian Central in her life. In the weeks following the whirlpool adventure, she'd had more than her share of jerky and biscuits. She wouldn't have minded a hot bath, either. She was surprised to find that her legs felt a bit unsure on the solid ground, but she soon found her legs, and it was with a light heart that she followed the Captain Lenir, the captain of the Enforcer's ship, to the Enforcer Headquarters.
Her boss was not particularly happy with her, since she was supposed to have reported back a long time ago, but he was impressed by her tale. After much grumbling and fretting, interviewing and more grumbling, he finally agreed to grant Pip and his crew the pardon they had earned.
"Isn't this wonderful?" Kyra asked Pip happily as she offered him the official papers. "Now you can find some honest work, and you won't have to worry about the Enforcers!"
"Yeah... wonderful," Pip said unenthusiatically, "Just what I always wanted,"
"What's wrong?" Kyra asked. "Aren't you happy?"
Pip shrugged. "I guess so, I just..." Then his face lit up. "Wait a sec, you said this here paper'll keep the Enforcers away from me'n my crew?"
"Well, yes," Kyra said slowly
"And it's good for's long as they say it is?"
"Yes, until they find evidence that you've done something illegal."
"Then please excuse me, Kyra," Pip said with a bow. "This is a lovely event. Why, I think I'll go tell my crew and we can all celebrate by doin' something nice and legal. I mean to buy me another ship, and then we'll see what happens from there." He laughed, and soon disappeared in the crowded streets of the Marketplace. Kyra laughed too, and shook her head. Some things couldn't be changed.
* * * * *
The day Kyra quit the Enforcers was the happiest day of her life. She went out that same day and signed on to learn sailing on a merchant ship, and soon she was as good a sailor as any. Her captain often remarked that he had never had so many pirate-free voyages before he signed Kyra on. Kyra never talked to Pip again, but every so often she'd hear a group of Enforcers complaining about a band of merchants that they were sure had turned pirates. The Enforcers were frustrated because they couldn't catch the band; they had somehow gotten papers that protected them from any searches and investigations.
Whenever Kyra heard this story, she couldn't help but laugh.
Date: 19th December
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