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||You are on Week 451
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 Four Hundred Fifty One Ends Friday, March 12th
Chunks of broken crystal showered down like hail from the ceiling, slamming into the table above Saskya's head with loud plunks and shattering on the marble floor. The Scorchio curled into a tighter ball under the table, wrapping her wings around herself to ward off the tiny splinters of crystal. The ballroom was filled with the terrified screams of Neopets and the thunder of their footsteps as they tried to flee.
Saskya didn't want to open her eyes, as if keeping them closed tightly would let her deny what was happening, but when she heard slow, uneven footsteps pass by her hiding place, she couldn't help but crack one eye open and peek. All she could see was one booted foot, followed by a gnarled wooden peg. The Scorchio pressed a hand to her mouth to suppress a horrified gasp. Pirates!
Just a moment earlier, Saskya had been sitting at an elegantly appointed banquet table in Lord Splunch's ballroom, ready to partake of course upon course of expertly prepared gourmet food. The rotund Elephante had risen from his seat to give a toast, which the Scorchio hoped wouldn't go on too long, since her mouth was already watering at the thought of a gourmet dinner. She'd never been to such a sophisticated party before and had found herself both awed and somewhat humbled by Lord Splunch's vast manor, the gleaming hand-cut crystal goblet, the delicate plates, the highly polished utensils.
"Let us toast to fine company, a finer setting, and the finest food!" Lord Splunch bellowed, raising his glass of Sparkling Space Cocktail.
"Hear, hear!" cried the assembled Neopets, clinking their glasses together. As the toast wound to its close, a small army of Neopets, dressed in the finest livery, filed out of the kitchens, carrying domed silver platters.
Saskya watched avidly as the waiters and waitresses, seemingly choreographed to move as one, set the platters on the table at precisely the same moment.
"My friends, enjoy!" cried Lord Splunch, gesturing with his glass and cuing the waitstaff to remove the domed covers from the platters of food.
As one, the waiters and waitresses whipped the covers off with grand flourishes. And that's when the screams began...
Editor's note: This Storytelling beginning was inspired by ideas from theater_princess1 and _razcalz_. If you have an idea for a Storytelling beginning, tell us!
Author: Couldn't they have waited until *after* the starter?|
Date: Mar 8th
The platters had not been large enough to hide even a baby Neopet... but they were entirely sufficient for Petpets.
One cover revealed a snarling pirate Faellie, another a hissing pirate Kadoatie, still another a yipping pirate Warf.
As one, the Petpets leapt off the plates and at the banquet guests, plunging the party into chaos.
In the flurry of activity, few noticed the ropes descending from the high ceiling.
Soon, however, all noticed the pirates who came climbing down said ropes, and the guests turned from batting at the pesky Petpets to trying to shove their way to the wide double doors.
Of course the doors were blocked. The pirates had been planning for this.
From her hiding place, Saskya could see nothing but the legs (peg or otherwise) of the frenzied guests and pirates, and this provided no clue as to the pirates' motives.
Certainly, pirates were known and feared foes for whoever sailed Neopia's seas.
But why, by Fyora's Castle, would they go to all the effort of trying to raid Lord Splunch's manor in Faerieland, a good ten thousand feet above the sea?
She closed her eyes and listened to the frightened outbursts of the guests and the harsh orders of the pirates:
"Not my pearls! Those belonged to my great-grandmother!"
"Yer valuables or yer life!"
"You can't do this -- do you know who I am?"
"Let's see yer purse there -- I'll bet it's full to the brim with Neopoints..."
"No! I didn't--!"
This last voice Saskya recognised as Lord Splunch. Didn't what? she wondered.
"You know very well that you did, traitor!" a pirate spat back.
"You've got it all wrong," the Elephante protested.
Just then, a scraggly furred paw grabbed the edge of the tablecloth near Saskya, lifting it. A hard-eyed pirate Cybunny peered under the table.
The Scorchio and the pirate locked gazes. For a few seconds, it seemed as though neither could look away.
Saskya expected the Cybunny to grab her, demand that she hand over her jewellery, and possibly even take her captive.
She did not expect the pirate to shake his head, give her a sad half-smile, and say...
Date: Mar 8th
"I be sorry, lassie, but yer gonna hafta come with me."
Just like the most cordial of gentlemen, the Cybunny held out his paw for her. Though Saskya had never met a pirate before, she was certain that this tender gesture made him one of the politest of his kind. His compassionate, coral eyes sparkled with a secret forlornness, as if he had been told the world's saddest story as a child, but was forced to keep it to himself for all these years.
Despite the howling outside of her hiding spot, Saskya felt as though she could trust this gentle pirate, and she took his paw without even a thought. Once she came out from under the tablecloth, however, the Scorchio was jolted back into the reality of the situation. All around her, well-dressed Neopets cowered in fear as ragged pirates stole, smashed and shredded everything that they could find, laughing all the while. The grand manor that Saskya had just been in such awe of was being torn to bits, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
As the Cybunny smoothly led her through the chaos, Saskya spotted Lord Splunch. His trunk was in the tight grasp of a massive pirate Nimmo, who towered over the trembling, plump Elephante and stared menacingly into his eyes.
The pirate was unlike any other Neopet Saskya had ever seen. The very sight of him made the Scorchio's skin crawl, and her stomach do somersaults. He was extraordinarily tall, even for a Nimmo, and his sharp, narrow eyes were a blood-red. He was covered in scars, the most prominent of which was a large, diagonal splice that ran across his entire face, from above his left eye, all the way down to his right jaw. Saskya shuddered; if this was not the captain of the ship, she didn't want to know who was. To her utter fear, the Cybunny was leading her right in the Nimmo's direction.
Regretting having trusted the Cybunny pirate, Saskya tried to plant her feet in the ground and jerk her hand away from his. The slight Cybunny was much stronger than she would have thought, and he was able to force her alone quite easily. He looked back at her quickly, not saying a word, though the apology was clear in those heart-wrenching eyes of his.
"I know what you did, you double-crossing, miserly old fool!" the Nimmo was hissing at Lord Splunch. Unlike his fellow pirates, the Nimmo actually spoke quite eloquently, without the arrs and yarrs typical of pirate speech. "Now we can do this the easy way or the hard way!"
"No! I really--"
"Cap'n Dakkar?" the Cybunny interrupted quietly.
"What do you want, Hubert?" the Captain spat, all the while not taking his eyes off of the terrified Elephante.
Hubert hesitated a moment, his grasp on Saskya's paw lightening a bit. Seeing her opportunity, she tried to jerk away again, only to have the pirate tighten his paw around hers once more, pulling her forward so that she stood next to him. Seeing the ghastly captain up close was almost more than the Scorchio could bear. Even if she had been able to run, at this point she was too frozen by fear to even close her gaping mouth.
The Cybunny sighed.
"I found her, sir."
Saskya snapped out of her trance to stare at Hubert. What was that supposed to mean? She couldn't possibly be the reason behind all of this, could she? What would a bunch of horrible pirates want with her?
Her thoughts were interrupted by the smug laugh of the Nimmo Captain. She turned to see his crimson eyes staring down at her, and her knees began to wobble uncontrollably. The poor Scorchio's head swam with terror and confusion, and when Captain Dakkar's fiendish grin spread across his mangled face, Saskya's legs gave out from underneath her. Before she could hit the ground, the quick captain swooped her up, and with surprising grace, swung her over his shoulder.
"We're done here, boys. I have what I came for!" the captain called out to his crew.
As he turned to leave, Saskya was faced with Lord Splunch. His wide eyes filled with tears as he wordlessly stared at her. She thought she saw the Elephante let out a soft sob as he got smaller and smaller, and she was swept into the unknown...
Date: Mar 9th
The outside wasn't much better than the inside. Unfortunately for Lord Splunch, his prized Rose Trees had been knocked down by a humongous airship. Though that was probably the least of his worries.
Saskya had heard of airships, like the ones in Shenkuu or more recently the one used by Clara Chatham and her team to discover Moltara. They were supposed to be massive, highly decorated devices with large adjustable sails. At least, the ones in pictures were. She'd never been there herself.
Even without having seen one before, she could tell that this one was oddly configured. It resembled something of a Krawk Island pirate ship with massive blue sails and a sleek golden body. From what her eyes showed her, the boat wasn't powered by a steering wheel. Instead, complex levers of all shapes and sizes layered the top deck. Also unusual was the lack of skulls, or any sign really, that would indicate it was a pirate ship. Had they stolen it on the way?
There wasn't much time to ponder the mechanics of the ship, or where it had come from, however. Saskya's pure terror and Dakkar's rough movements ruled any thoughts out of her priority list. Escape didn't seem possible. She was surrounded, as well as in direct possession of the enemy. And if this all really was her fault, she shouldn't escape. If she left now, it would only cause more drama.
"Don' worry yerself, lassie. We be meanin' ye no harm," Hubert assured as she was carried onto the massive death trap. His words calmed her slightly, but fear still loomed.
"What... what do you want with me?" Saskya asked, her small voice trembling like a rough ocean current.
As the Cybunny started to answer, Dakkar shot him a glare of silence and he lost his words.
"In due time," the Nimmo grumbled, his face lit by the spoils of victory. Petpets and Neopians alike boarded, pleased with their new trinkets. In a sense, Saskya admired this. Petpets were typically thrust aside as less than Neopians, but here they were a key part in a well-planned invasion. But again, no time to think.
A scar-clad Buzz manned the deck, working his magic on the switches and causing them to zoom forward. Oh Fyora, please! Get me out of here! she begged, her eyes closed in fear.
"Aye, din' I say ye be fine? Loosen up a tad," Hubert instructed, noticing Saskya's terrified expression. Loosen up? Yeah, right. But the manners that had been drilled into her prevailed, and she opened her eyes, and while still trembling in fear, nodded politely.
"Atta girl!" he praised, his eyes gleaming with more energy than before.
Down below Saskya heard screams and shouts. To this the captain laughed triumphantly.
"You had your chance, fools! I warned you, but you spit in my face! Serves you right!" The Nimmo beamed as Splunch slowly edged out of the ruins.
"You... you'll never get away with this!" the Elephante threatened, through his shaking and fear, his voice remained strong and powerful, like the Lord Splunch the Scorchio remembered.
"That's what I told you sixteen years ago! I worked day and night, sometimes as many as twenty-three hours at a time! I have to hand it to you, you hid her well. But I'm smarter than you give me credit for, you old fool. And now I run off with my prize... adieu!" The scars curved as he widened his smirk, and they sailed out of sight.
"What's going on here?!" Saskya demanded, her fear ruling out rationality.
She had been carried to a bare wooden dining room with a table that must have been at least fifty feet long. Pirates of all shapes, sizes, and ranks gathered around as a straw-coloured Zafara dished out a sluggish green liquid. No one seemed to notice her outburst, thankfully.
"Aye, Navi! Set me up with a good ol' jug of grog! Tonight's gonna be a celebration!" Hubert exclaimed, directing his gaze to Saskya, who seemed to be the cause of the feast.
"Hol' yer Unis, pirate!" the kitchen hand replied, easing her way around the room. She filled his glass and turned to the Scorchio. "Can Navi set ye up with anythin', poppet?"
"Um... no, thanks," Saskya mumbled, still afraid but less so than before.
"Well, if ye do, tell the kitchen lassie. We got plenty for the life of the party!" Navi laughed, going back to filling glasses.
"Death to Splunch!" They toasted as each pirate clunked grog with another and took the first sip. After they were finished, she spoke up again.
"If you wouldn't mind telling me..." she managed to murmur weakly, her small voice largely drowned out. "Why did you kidnap me of all Neopians? I won't fetch much of a ransom..."
To this the crew laughed while Dakkar and Hubert's faces grew solemn.
"We didn't kidnap you..." Dakkar started. "We took you back..."
Date: Mar 9th
"Took me back…?" asked Saskya. "From where? You have the wrong Scorchio..."
Dakkar shot Saskya a piercing glance, and then seemed to decide to humour her. "From where, aye, that's the question. Tell us a bit about yourself, lass. Maybe we can unravel this here mystery together, real reasoned-like."
Always eager for a good yarn, the feasting pirates around Saskya settled back into their chairs, feet up on scattered footrests and partially stuffed poufs, frothy mugs of grog in hand, and looked expectantly at her.
An encouraging nod from Hubert gave Saskya heart, and she attempted to give a condensed summary of herself, as briefly as possible. She told the pirates of how she had been raised by a kind old Techo on the outskirts of Faerieland, and how growing up she had always yearned to leave those idyllic cloudscapes to find a more rough-and-ready reality. How she had taken up work as an assistant in the Faerieland Bookshop to earn enough to travel. How she had gotten in trouble with the Library Faerie so many times because instead of selling books, she got caught up in reading them -- tales of adventure, of water faeries' forays in the deep sea, of distant beaches and unknown shores, of weather, of storms, of lost treasure.
Here the pirates around Saskya nodded appreciatively in piratey pleasure at the mention of treasure. Had Saskya been paying attention, she might have been leery of continuing at the sight of Dakkar's eyes narrowing suddenly.
She went on to tell of how she had almost saved enough to leave Faerieland and satisfy the wanderlust that had been her companion since childhood. How she had met Splunch when he had come to purchase some of the rarer books, and how he had seemed very friendly, despite his reputation, and interested in the knowledge she had gathered. How he had invited her to one of his famed dinners. How he had wanted to speak to her afterward, of the sea --
"Of the sea, ye say?" asked Dakkar.
"Not of, say, a very particular place in the sea?"
"A place where something might have sunk and still be, that you might know about, in some way or another?"
Saskya, flustered, had difficulty answering. "I don't know anything about sunken anythings -- only what I know from my books, and those are all legends..."
Saskya was treated to a veritable barrage of sceptical looks from the pirates around her. Whispers coursed around like little currents of sound -- "All legends, lass, have a kernel o' truth." -- "Legends make reality, me gal." -- "Legends are tales, and what are tales but exaggerated statements of quite real events?"
This last sentiment was spoken by the cultured voice of Hubert, discordant among the earthy tones of the pirate crew, and again Saskya was taken aback by the sense that he was really some kind of sophisticate under the dirty pirate clothes.
"And ye say ye met Splunch for the first time at your little bookshop?"
"And you'd never seen him before?"
"Not even sixteen years ago, on a dark night, when you were but a young scrap..."
"Not that I remember."
"There lies the deckswabbin' rub," said Dakkar with an intense stare. "Now, are ye being truthful, or have ye just conveniently forgotten? That's what I want to know. Maybe a little stay in the hold will refresh your memory, me girl, until tomorrow morning."
With that, Dakkar gestured to Hubert, who, with that same surprising courtesy, took custody of the bewildered Saskya and led her off as the pirates behind them alternately cheered or snored.
"Not the best accommodations, I'm afraid, but I daresay you'll not say no to a room with a view," said Hubert as he and Saskya clambered into the depths of the flying ship and into a tiny containment room with a circular porthole as its only source of light.
He added a half-hearted pirate curse at the end of this remark when Saskya turned to him with raised eyebrows.
She felt as though she had just been addressed by a royal courtier, not a scruffy Cybunny pirate whose ear was falling off.
...whose ear was falling off?!
Saskya gasped an entreaty to Fyora and blanched as Hubert's left ear detached itself and slid, sickeningly slowly, down to the floor.
"Well, this is slightly awkward, I must say..." said Hubert as he watched it fall. "Er. I might have some explaining to do, myself -- please refrain from being sick on my boots, madam, I have just had them polished."
Saskya closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and opened them to find herself looking, not at an earless Cybunny, but at a Wocky.
"They call me the Velvet Pimpernel. Quite at your service," he said with a sweeping bow and a touch at his bandana. "Kindly do not ruin my cover, my dear lady -- I will only be of use to you."
Saskya felt quite prepared to faint again for the second time in so many hours.
"Am I dreaming?" she asked woozily.
"No, though I must say I am quite flattered," said "Hubert" as he reattached his false ear. "You are just tied up in what is quite an intricate sort of mess."
"Can you explain...?" asked Saskya, plopping herself on the ground and staring vaguely into space.
The Velvet Pimpernel consulted an extravagant pocket-watch, which he had tucked in the grimy folds of his pirate costume. "Explain? I can do my best, though I haven't much time to be dawdling down here with a prisoner of the dread Dakkar.
"Listen closely; I won't be repeating myself. And I hope you're good at riddles," he said, touching his nose coyly, before speaking...
Date: Mar 10th
"I'm not the docile underling Dakkar came to know me as for the short time I was aboard this ship," the Velvet Pimpernel began. "In the Golden Dubloon, heated rumours travel swifter than typhoon winds. When I overheard that Nimmo instructing his crew last week, I knew I had to interfere."
Saskya shifted her heavy wings. "Go on."
"It didn't take anyone particularly clever to realise the plan that had been set in motion," said the Wocky-in-disguise. "It's simple -- Dakkar knew that the coordinates of a certain sunken vessel lay somewhere in Faerieland's vast records. The city is far too well guarded to raid like he did the manor last night. So, one night sixteen years ago, he planted a spy in Faerieland itself."
"Whether or not that's you, I know not. Dakkar seems certain of himself. Lord Splunch had been paid to use his status as an aristocrat to persuade the Library Faerie to give this spy a position in the bookstore. When the captain became aware that you planned to depart from Faerieland soon, he knew he had to act immediately."
The Velvet Pimpernel glanced out the porthole at the darkened sky. "Saskya, I don't take sides in pirate disputes; my role is to keep the peace whenever I can. But you clearly did not have ulterior motives as the others did, so I placed myself on this ship under the name of Hubert, knowing you would need an ally when everyone else played you as a chess piece."
"You were the one who found me in the manor," said Saskya slowly as she contemplated this information. "If you had wanted to protect me, you would have just left me there."
"Ah," he said, "but you were not safe in Faerieland either. Dakkar believes Lord Splunch betrayed him -- you mentioned he had wanted to speak with you after the banquet? It is possible that he, too, desired the treasure's location."
"Look, I've already said this," the Scorchio said, with a touch of bemusement. "Those tales were tales, and nothing more. I have nothing to divulge."
His eyes narrowed at that, and a grin crept across his charming features. "Are you certain? Have you not read of a ship called... the Pearl? It is well known by us islanders -- save for where it had last sailed."
Saskya's reaction told the Velvet Pimpernel all he needed to know.
"So you do!" he exclaimed. "Those coordinates could only belong to the extraordinarily well-read, and you know them... now the choice is yours. Will you keep the location to yourself, or will you choose a side and reveal it?
"Or," he added with a wink, "will you buy yourself time to find out more about your past, and who you really belonged with -- the Faerieland nobility or the pirates -- by feeding Dakkar false information?"
With that, a bow, and a "Good night, madam," the Velvet Pimpernel slipped away to return to his duties, leaving her with much to ponder.
And ponder she did...
By dawn, and by the time he returned to fetch her for Captain Dakkar, Saskya's plan was ready.
"Captain," she announced to the Nimmo and his pirates while "Hubert" cautiously looked on, "I will tell you the Pearl's location. And in return..."
Date: Mar 10th
"...you will let me go free as soon as I give you the coordinates."
"I'm afraid I can't do that, little lady," Dakkar said with little remorse. "But perhaps we can compromise; once we find the Pearl and I'm sure that you weren't trying to trick me, then you can go."
The Nimmo had switched back into his elegant accent. Saskya was having trouble deciphering this strange captain. At times he appear to be just a treasure-hungry, ruthless pirate, yet there were others were he seemed refined and formal. She wasn't sure which was more menacing.
"But that won't work for me," Saskya protested. "I know nothing of the situation I'm in, for all I know I could be just trapping myself by going with you. If I get a chance to leave now, then I know that I'll be safer."
Dakkar growled at her; obviously he did not approve of her newfound disobedience. Saskya considered giving in under his powerful stare, but she glanced at "Hubert" who gave her one of his trademark winks, and she felt courageous again.
"Maybe it would interest you if I offered you the chance to learn more about your past," suggested the Nimmo. "You may think that your origins start in Faerieland, but there is much that comes from this very vessel."
Saskya was certainly enticed by this offer; the Velvet Pimpernel's explanation did help, but it still created many questions. The Scorchio once again looked at the disguised Wocky for guidance, but found that he was busying himself with ropes. She would have to make this decision on her own.
"All right, but I want all of my questions answered," Saskya agreed.
"I can guarantee it," promised Dakkar, "but in due time. This be settin' time fer us to head down to the cabins."
Saskya didn't even notice that Dakkar had returned to his pirate sound. She was occupied trying to formulate a new plan...
Date: Mar 11th
By the time Saskya's eyes has adjusted to the gloomy captain's cabin, she was able to make out a large, intricate map unfurling on a table like a slow-curling wave.
Dakkar and the Wocky in disguise followed Saskya into the room and joined her where she stood, looking at the magnificent map.
The map's details came alive in a golden glow as, at Dakkar's barked command, Hubert lit half a dozen oil lamps that hung from the rafters.
It was an utterly beautiful piece of craftsmanship; place names were written in a gorgeous, elaborate hand; regions were illustrated with pictures of strange fauna and flora that Saskya had never even heard of before; shorelines were rendered in extravagant detail down to the merest cove and the tiniest crumb of island.
Saskya was breathless despite herself at the sight of the thing. She wondered aloud who could have created a map of this beauty -- you would think that whoever it was had actually been to all of those places, to know them so well and translate them so gorgeously onto parchment.
Hubert looked up quickly when Saskya made this remark and flicked his eyes discreetly in Dakkar's direction.
Behind his scars, Dakkar looked immensely pleased with Saskya's remarks -- an artist's pride in his work, Saskya could see that immediately. And Saskya knew, for certain this time, that there was more to this pirate than met the eye -- just like Hubert, Dakkar's rugged exterior was a mere facade for someone exquisitely cultured and refined, and talented, as this map attested.
"Faerieland's nobility or pirates," the Velvet Pimpernel had asked Saskya earlier. She had assumed that Dakkar was aligned with the pirates. Now, she wasn't so sure if there was not actually a Faerieland noble lurking beneath the disfigured face.
Saskya turned her attention back to the map and saw, now that she was not so dazzled by the artistry of it all, that there were holes. Gaps in Dakkar's knowledge. Vast areas of the map were mere foggy blurs, others had tentative outlines sketched out as though Dakkar had been questing for some long-forgotten shore, and yet other areas...
"As empty as the spaces between stars," supplemented Dakkar, his mouth twisted downward.
"It would take a lifetime to finish this map," he continued, lapsing again out of his pirate tongue. "I cannot afford to waste more time completing it, searching for the Pearl. You see why I need your knowledge, girl."
Saskya was silent.
"I propose we make a little game of this."
"A game?" asked Saskya. "What do you have in mind... ?"
"Oh, it's quite simple, nothing too difficult," said Dakkar, twirling a wickedly sharp quill in his long Nimmo fingers. "You tell me where the Pearl is not. I give you a tidbit of information about your past.
"By simple process of elimination, I will get my answer -- and you will learn who you really are. Are you ready?"
The Velvet Pimpernel barely had time to shoot Saskya a warning glance before Dakkar started. He drifted his quill at random on the map, halting finally at sketchily drawn mountainous coastline off of Altador.
"Let's start here. Should I direct my ship to this little cove, or would that be yet another waste of time?"
"N-no, the Pearl is not there," she said. Dakkar stared at her, trying to detect a lie, but seemed to decide that she was in earnest.
"Very well," he said, and struck the place off of the map with an inky black line.
"And now for my part. Only a tidbit of knowledge, because I have only struck out a tiny part of my map, you see. When you met Splunch in your little bookstore, you may have thought that it was the first time that you met him, but he has known of you -- has known you -- for many, many years."
"What do you mean? How could he know me, I'd never seen him before, I --"
"No, no. That is not how this game works. We climb from answer to answer, and we will see who of us two manages to unravel their respective mysteries first."
Dakkar held his quill over what looked like uncertainly drawn rolling plains with a network of rivers crisscrossing it. "Did the Pearl head upstream, out of the salty sea?"
"No, it did not," answered Saskya, and again Dakkar burned her with his gaze before accepting her answer. Again the quill dipped and slashed its way through.
"So. I owe you another piece of your history..."
Date: Mar 11th
The Nimmo trailed off, letting his quill feather brush against his cheek.
"I was going to tell you more about Splunch, but that is what you're expecting, and I'd rather keep your information fractured, so you always have more questions," Dakkar said with a smirk, a gloating look upon his face. "Now... how about I tell you a bit about your mother? Your mother was a wicked Scorchio, very similar in appearance to yourself. She was a pirate, or at least she tried to be. When you entered her life she had to choose between her pirate life or life with you; she didn't have the option of both."
"But what was so important about being a pirate that was more important than me?" spluttered Saskya.
"Ah, I see you're still not getting this," Dakkar mused as he hovered over the map with his quill. "Another location, another piece of information."
Saskya sighed. She was already sick of Dakkar's game, sick of his information that was full of holes. What good did knowing her mother's profession and knowing that she'd somehow known Lord Splunch before she more recently met him do for her?
"Here," said Dakkar, his quill held poised above a blank space west from the clouded mark that indicated Lutari Island. "Did the Pearl travel by the mysterious island of Lutaris?"
Saskya held a finger to her lips, thinking hard.
"The Pearl did travel by this island, but it did not finish there," she offered tentatively. She knew there was something else she had read regarding Lutari Island, but she couldn't remember exactly what.
"Excellent," smiled Dakkar as he lightly marked the spot with crosshatching. "Now, what information can I offer you next?"
The Velvet Pimpernel still watched from a short distance away, his eyes betraying nothing now. Saskya shot him a worried glance, and in reply he gave the slightest of nods.
"Cap'n, if I may make a suggestion?" he interjected with the pirate voice of 'Hubert.'
Dakkar nodded. "Go on."
"What about you tell the lassie about the... you know... spy..."
"An excellent suggestion, Hubert," murmured Dakkar as he returned his gaze to Saskya.
The Scorchio cringed on the outside, but on the inside her heart thumped. This was a topic she definitely was interested in...
"Twenty years ago the Pearl disappeared, its great secrets along with it. A year after it disappeared a pirate Shoyru known only as 'X' revealed that the vessel had been carrying a great burden, a secret so special that the one who held it held all of Neopia in his paws. So typically every pirate, treasure hunter, and mystery enthusiast developed their own theories as to what the secret was, where the Pearl was, and why it had disappeared. Of course, you already know that tidbit so it is nothing extra for me to say so. Sixteen years ago, 'X' passed away, leaving his knowledge of the Pearl hidden in Faerieland. Responding to this information, I placed a spy there myself..." he trailed off, taking a deep breath before continuing. "The first, and most important, piece of information that my spy ever delivered to me was that 'X' had a child, and that that child was now in his care."
Saskya quickly placed two and two together.
"Your spy was... Archie? My Techo caretaker?"
Despite his earlier rebukes on giving anything extra, Dakkar didn't hesitate to answer this question. "That he was, though I knew him by his code name of Archos and not by his civilian name of Archie."
Dakkar returned to his map, dipping his quill in some fresh ink. He paused, searching for a certain place on the map. Saskya could see from the concentration on his face that he was looking for a precise location.
"Here," Dakkar cried, pointing with the quill at a lightly inked in cave on an island off the coast of Moltara. "Tell me... did the Pearl ever sail by this cave?"
Saskya hesitated. She knew very well that the Pearl had been there, that this was a vital piece of information, but she didn't want this to end yet. She still wanted to know more about her earlier acquaintance with Splunch, of her mysterious parents, of Archie's true life... if she told Dakkar this piece of information now, he would put the pieces together and only have one more question. That would leave her with only two more answers, two more pieces of information about her past, and that wasn't enough for all the knowledge she wanted.
The Scorchio gulped, running a finger across the cave's jagged outline on the map.
"The Pearl..." she began, cutting her sentence with a harsh cough. "It did... didn't... couldn't..."
"Speak up lassie," said Dakkar, grinning evilly.
"Fine," Saskya yelled. "The Pearl..."
Date: Mar 12th
Oh, that put a stop to his smirk, all right.
"You take me to be a fool?" Dakkar declared. "The Pearl sank two decades ago, any pirate can tell you that!"
"But are you a pirate?" the Velvet Pimpernel challenged, letting his disguised voice slip for a moment. He caught himself quickly. "Er, I mean... let the lass explain herself. Yessir."
Dakkar pierced the Scorchio with his steady glare. "You're saying this ship didn't sink. Then did it exist?"
"This ship?" Saskya replied with some confusion, glancing at her surroundings. And then it hit her. She saw the double-rimmed portholes, seashell lanterns, and the ceilings arched just a touch...
The gears were finally beginning to turn. "This... that ship did exist. As did the Pearl. As does the Pearl.
"Enough with the riddles," the Nimmo snapped. (This was very rich coming from someone who had recently given her purposely insufficient information about her past.)
"When I read about the Pearl, I had the story and not the names," said Saskya. "Now you have named me the characters, and most of it starts to finally make sense...
"Prior to this rendezvous, I already knew that the fabled treasure of the Pearl was all a lie. A certain crafty pirate had spread stories about it over the seas and skies -- especially the skies -- in the hopes that a certain captain would take the bait.
"I know this because his journal was in the bookstore," she continued. "The Pearl was what scholars knew as not only a ship but a very elaborate scheme. His writings could have been interpreted many ways -- this was my take on it. He had a child, you see, whom he could not take care of while aboard his ship... the Pearl. So the rumours of the treasure -- and Faerieland information regarding it -- were his doing, because he knew a good acquaintance of his would subsequently be dispatched to Faerieland to find this information."
Saskya stared at the curled edges of the map while Dakkar listened intently, scouring her face for signs of dishonesty. Even Hubert looked surprised at this unexpected turn.
"The mother had left the child in the fringes of Faerieland, and if all went according to plan, the pirate's acquaintance would arrive there to take care of the child on his behalf. The book never stated if his ambitious scheme worked or not, nor if the Pearl was an actual ship -- like I said, I dismissed these as fictional tales.
"But now," she said slowly. "I think that child..."
"...was yourself," Hubert finished.
"Captain Dakkar," said Saskya, "you never told me the name of this ship, nor did the Vel-- nor did Hubert. Why is that? When the pirate grew old and passed on his ship, he scratched off its name, to add to the authenticity of the rumour. The Pearl was a beautiful airship controlled by levers, and its interior as he described it very much resembled that of this ship, as soon as I thought to look."
The Nimmo's eyes narrowed before admitting, "This ship has no name. It was scratched off, as you say... and it is not my ship. I found it off of a cove, moored to Mystery Island."
"You took the Pearl," said Hubert, "without knowing what it was. You're also not a pirate. I know it. I was not the only one aboard this ship with a false accent."
At that, he peeled off his Cybunny ears, revealing his Wocky self once more. "I am the Velvet Pimpernel, and I came here to aid Saskya. What about you? Who are you, Dakkar?"
Dakkar gazed almost uncertainly at the bookshelves surrounding his cabin, and when he finally spoke...
"When Splunch met you for the first time," he said, avoiding the question, "he saw not a pirate child but a lass full of potential and intelligence. He had been in on my plan, remember, and he knew who you were. From what Archos told me, he didn't want you to waste this potential on a life at sea, so he did his best to keep you in Faerieland. I suspect he planned to tell you everything that night after the banquet. He would have told you of your father's ship, his good friend the Techo, and a certain rival bookseller..."
"Bookseller?" Saskya echoed.
"Me," said the captain, a resigned smile stretching across his scarred features. "The rest of Neopia knows me as the blue Nimmo who sells books at Neopia Central. I was second to none in my trade. Why, then, did the pirate 'X' choose to hide the information in the smaller Faerieland branch and not mine? I had to find out why. I, too, am a quester for knowledge... so using the unfinished map as my excuse to travel, I took up the mystery of the Pearl as a parallel project, using the name and appearance of a pirate to gain as much information as I could from the islanders.
"Your father had quite an intricate plan -- I suppose all this was for nothing now. There were no hidden coordinates in Faerieland in the first place."
Saskya touched the carefully painted seas on the map, her fingers cresting the waves. "Then you will be finishing this map?"
"Perhaps." The bookstore owner removed his pirate's hat. "But not on this ship. As Hu-- as the Pimpernel said, I had... temporarily borrowed it."
"This ship, the Pearl, was your father's, Saskya," the Wocky said. "It is yours now. Didn't you say you always wanted to travel? You had a pirate's heart for adventure all this time."
"I did," Saskya pondered. "Pimpernel... don't you think that it's strange that all along, I'd known my own story, without knowing it was mine?"
He only smiled at that and asked, "Where will you go?"
"To Faerieland, so I can explain everything to Lord Splunch," she answered after a moment's pause. "Then Neopia Central, so Mister... er?"
"Robert," the Nimmo offered.
"...so Mister Robert can tend to his shop again," she finished.
"It's a fine goal, to be sure," the Velvet Pimpernel acknowledged. "And what next?"
Saskya gazed out the double-rimmed porthole at the lulling, coaxing waves. Calling for her after sixteen long years...
Her eyes twinkled.
"Anywhere I want."
Date: Mar 12th
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