On dry land, another youngster had left his parents and
home for new adventures across the sea. It had finally been agreed that Seth
was old enough to go out into the world to seek his fortune. The boy had of
course privately decided that he would get a job on a ship so that he might
get a chance to travel far into the wide blue wilderness of the open oceans
and find the Peophin he had wished to possess for so long, and Jake of course
had guessed that this was his plan.
As the two set off down the road to the shipyards
Jake looked up at his owner.
“Do you think you’ll find her?” he asked as an
attempt to start some sort of conversation.
“I hope so,” Seth replied absently as he gazed
up at the clear afternoon sky, dotted with balls of cottony clouds. “Maybe.”
Jake sighed, feeling that same painful frustration
he always did when Seth was like this. It was like some sort of incurable disease.
Would this obsession ever wane?
They arrived at the shipyard and wandered around
for a bit. Jake, being by nature a sea pet, gazed in eager wonder at the ships
and boats moored at the docks ranging in size from majestic galleons and sleek
schooners to tiny fishing skiffs, and at the pets and people leaping on and
off them, loading cargo and crates tied up with briny, tar-streaked ropes from
all parts of Neopia. It all looked so fascinating. To think this was to be their
world now! He could hardly wait till they found a good ship to be part of.
Seth was preoccupied with what he thought were
more important concerns. Which ship looked like it could possibly take them
to the deepest of the oceans, where Harquin had been foaled, and where he might
see her again, and tame her? She might be out there now, streaking through the
gleaming water by great fluid strokes of her strong tail; she was swimming upwards
now in his mind, to the surface… her head broke through…she leapt…
Just at that moment he fell back in shock. Above
his head there floated a beautiful Peophin, her front legs curled slightly in
a rear, her mane streaming out behind her. There was a long horn sprouting from
A hearty laugh sounded from above. “Like our
Startled, Seth turned in the direction of the
voice and saw a stocky, bearded man grinning at him. A round four-eared Aisha
face grinned beside him. “I’m Don,” the man grinned, “this is my Aisha Chip,
and this is my ship, the ‘Arquin.” Sure enough, the name Harquin was painted
on the white sides of the craft, and the Peophin nothing more than a carved
“I’m mate o’ this vessel,” Don continued, slapping
the wooden railing companionably. “You look like you could use a job, and someone
to look after you, ‘stead o’ wanderin’ around on the jetty.”
“Yes… I came here looking for one,” Seth blurted
out. “But why did you name your ship the Harquin?”
“Because…” Don lowered his voice so it was just
loud enough for Seth to hear. “Because our Cap’n…he’s got this crazy notion
that he’s goin’ a catch the Lady o’ Solitude. He wants to catch ‘er to add to
‘is collection o’ rare and legendary pets.”
“How many does he have in that collection?”
“None yet. ‘E’s startin’ with ‘Arquin.”
Seth couldn’t believe his luck. Here was a ship
that was not only going to find Harquin; they were going to capture her as well!
Even if the Captain was planning on taking the Peophin to add to his collection,
who was to say that while the Peophin was on board he might not make friends
with her, and persuade her somehow to leave with him?
“Personally,” Don was saying, “I don’t think
‘e’s goin’ ‘a succeed.”
“How d’you figure that?”
“Well, she’s ‘ardly ever seen as it is. All ‘Phins
are loners by nature, shy n’ secretive, at the most they group in families of
about three or four for safety but mostly keep to ‘emselves. And that ‘Arquin…she’s
a smart ‘un. She knew that humans ‘ud never stop botherin’ ‘er for ‘er ‘orn,
so she ‘ides herself away where no one can find ‘er. Every ship that she sees
followin’ ‘er, she’ll lose by divin’ to the bottom. Some say there’s a mysterious
island out there in the ocean where she 'ides.”
“Well,” Seth said firmly, “I think that if you
really want something, you’ll go to any lengths at all to get it, even if it
Don looked at the boy. His face might have shown
amusement or friendliness. “Well said, lad. Say, we need some extra hands on
board. Why don’t you come join us on our voyage?”
Too overjoyed for words, Seth nodded eagerly
and trotted up the gangplank without a second thought. Ears pricking at the
sound, Jake turned from where he had been to see his owner boarding the ship
Harquin. Suppressing a sharp pang of disappointment, he hurried after him.
Don glanced admiringly at Jake as Seth stepped
“That’s a mighty fine pet ye got there.”
With a start Seth looked down at his Acara. “You…you
mean Jake, here?” Oh yeah, he’s a great one…”
“Sea-coloured, too,” Don murmured. “Never seen
on o’ those a’ fore, tho’ ye hear plenty…”
“Oh yes!” Chip the Aisha put in, what little
they could see of her eyes gleaming excitedly.
“Sea-coloured Acaras are very rare, only one
born in a matter o’ decades, so they say. They’re s ‘posed to be wily in the
ways of the ocean, that they ‘ave a real good sense o’ direction. Some even
say they c’n breathe under the water.”
Seth felt a small shred of pride rise in him.
He realized he had never felt like that before. Of course he had often imagined
feeling a wonderful pride and fulfillment once he became Harquin’s owner and
her wild beauty and elegance elicited gasps of wonder and admiration from all,
but never anything like that for Jake. Had he ever really noticed his sea-colour?
Don flung an arm about the boy’s shoulders.
“Come now. We’ll get ye to yer cabin.”
The sea was steadily darkening as two lone figures drifted with the tide through
a forest of corals.
Tirra, after Cowrie’s advice, had grown more
heartened as time passed, and was confident that if they kept up their present
course they would soon find the Peophin they sought. The Koi’s faith, on the
other hand (or fin) was starting to wane. Supposing the dream Tirra had had
was indeed just a dream? And was Harquin just another story after all? Were
they just setting themselves up for a disappointment? She didn’t want to let
Tirra know of her fears, but she had a feeling that it might not have made that
big a difference if she had.
“Princess,” she said finally, “where are we going
to spend the night? Or shall we keep following the tide in our sleep? We can.”
“I know, Cowrie. But it’d be more comfortable
if we could find some soft sea grass to lie in, and we’d probably sleep much
better like that anyway. Even sand would be good. Come on. Maybe there’s some
on the bottom along here.”
Tirra flicked her tail and swam down to the now
dark bottom. She nosed around in the sand bed. “Here, Cowrie! There are some
beautiful patches of sea grass here… and sea apples too! We can have a meal
and a bed! Plus the whole thing is right beneath this huge tower of coral so
if there are Jetsam about they won’t find us! It’s perfect!”
Encouraged, the Koi rippled after her mistress.
She settled down underneath the corals. “You’re right, Princess! I doubt anyone
Tirra whirled about at her handmaiden’s scream
of horror. “Cowrie!”
The Koi came shooting out from under the towering
coral formation and hid behind her mistress. “J… J… J… Eyes!”
Sure enough, a pair of red glowing orbs shone
from the darkness beneath. Tirra glared at the eyes. “Who are you? Come out,
The eyes flickered slightly. “I… I don’t mean
any harm…” came a hesitant voice from below.
“Show yourself,” Tirra demanded again.
The eyes flashed once more, and then slowly
and almost apologetically, a long, sleek blue shape swam out of the dark hollow.
Cowrie screamed, and Tirra caught her breath.
The Jetsam threw up his empty fins. “I said I
didn’t mean any harm!”
“Liar!” Tirra shot towards him, her keen horn
lowered and a murderous glint in her eye.
The moment he saw the Flotsam coming at him, Dagger did the only thing he could
do. Drawing his cutlass from its sheath, he met her squarely, head-on, raising
his blade in defence. Perhaps he wasn’t as good a fighter as the other members
of the horde, he thought grimly, perhaps not a good fighter at all, but he had
been instructed, as all the other pups were, in defensive tactics. He prayed
desperately that his lessons had not been too long ago.
As the horn and cutlass blade locked, the Flotsam
and Jetsam were brought face-to-face.
“What are you attacking me for,” he cried at
her. “I told you I meant no harm. No harm!”
“You Jetsam are all the same, lying, evil, bloodthirsty
blackguards,” Tirra snarled, pressing her attack home. “You should just get
lost right now! Or I, Princess Tirra-Li of Kaoren, will vanquish you!” She had
been told to use her full title if she ever came upon a Jetsam, it might think
twice about attacking.
As if shocked, the Jetsam fell back. Dagger’s
mind was racing. The Princess of Kaoren! Daughter of the very Flotsam who had
exiled his horde! He let his blade fall and dodged as the Flotsam made a near
successful attempt at impaling him. She whirled to face him, still furious.
“Hey,” he yelled before she could attack again.
“You’re part of the Flotsam pod who exiled my shoal, aren’t you? I was-”
“Spearblade’s crew!” Tirra bellowed, more incensed
than ever. To think that a Jetsam could be so bold as to come so near a Flotsam
from Takur-Ath’s pod, and one of Spearblade’s no less! She rushed at him again.
Dagger met her rush and parried it, albeit somewhat clumsily.
“Look,” he tried again, “can’t we talk? I mean,
you seem to be looking for something too, or you wouldn’t be so far from the
palace at this hour…”
“That’s none of your business!” Tirra shouted.
“I asked you to leave, and I mean now!”
Dagger was on the verge of obeying her when something
in him made him stop. He had come this far to help his shoal return to Kaoren,
and if some Princess Flotsam was going to stop him, he might as well forget
about doing anything else but raiding ships for the rest of his days. He tried
“Here,” he cried.
“I have an offer for you. I’ll help you find whatever you’re looking for, and
you allow my shoal back into Kaoren.”
Tirra was about to yell back that she didn’t
need his help, that he was a treacherous, lying Jetsam, and that he and his
shoal could go find somewhere else to inhabit, but now she was able to get a
better look at her foe. He wasn’t the huge, evil-looking monster she had crafted
in her mind, all sleek, scaly danger, pointed teeth glittering from the gaping
jaws, red eyes gleaming maliciously. On the contrary, he looked rather timid,
and no older than herself for all that he was wearing a bandanna and a fin-ring,
and sported several tattoos. His eyes showed not the slightest hint of malevolence,
but were wide and showed some touch of desperation. It seemed crazy, but she
felt strangely rather that this Jetsam wasn’t like the bloodthirsty pirates
she had long heard of.
“I’m making no promises,” she called back, lowering
her horn only slightly just in case this was a ploy to make her drop her guard.
“If you want you can follow us. But about letting your shoal back into Kaoren…
you’d have to talk to the King.”
“Could you at least grant me an audience with
“Done,” Tirra responded. Cowrie jerked urgently
at her fin.
“Princess, what are you thinking? He’s a Jetsam,
probably there are some of his horde around here, waiting to ambush us.” She
glanced fearfully around at the dark water, as if expecting to see the sleek,
menacing shapes closing in purposefully around them.
“I know what he is, Cowrie,” Tirra said gently.
“But I’ve just somehow got a feeling… I don’t know. Maybe he can be of help
to us. After all, there’ll be fewer chances of getting ambushed if we have a
Jetsam with us…”
“We’ll just have to take that risk. Don’t worry,
I won’t let anything happen.”
The young blue Jetsam was swimming over to them,
his cutlass back in its sheath. He held out a pointed fin. “Shake on it.”
Tirra hesitated, and then locked her own fin
with his. “It’s a deal.”
The Jetsam smiled slightly, and Tirra felt a
strange sort of camaraderie sweep through her at the sincerity in that smile.
Nonsense, she told herself. He’s still a Jetsam. Better to keep on guard.
To be continued...