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Mightier than the Sword


by hmlanden

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Moonlight bathed Krawk Island. Waves lapped rhythmically across the dingy yellow sand, lashing the grey green cliffs. Weathered pirate ships, scattered about in the surf for miles about, sped through the waves agilely. The sea breeze was icy cold, weaving through dried grass and blackened boulders at the edge of the sand. Worn shells were spread randomly across the sand, adding a gloomy final touch to the dismal scene using shades of dull orange, brown, and pale green. Mist swamped the loneliness of the place.

      A single Krawk stumbled along the beach. He was clearly a pirate, like most of the residents of Krawk Island. Keen eyes searched the unwieldy beach for a hiding place, finding none. He couldn't run any more.... a shout echoed in his ears, coming from a pirate ship skirting the shoreline. The anchor was dropped, and several skiffs set off. At the head of one of these was Captain Hateblade, the younger and magical-free brother of Captain Scarblade, but no less fierce and destructive. His fiery green eyes pierced the fog and the Krawk's very soul, it seemed. There would be no escape.

      Trinse staggered toward the rocks and tumbled into a small crevice. His aching body refused to move any farther. For weeks he'd been running from Hateblade, ever since the Lupe had chased him around the ship in a rage. The young Krawk was a skilled pirate, but as a deserter, he no longer was remembered for all his great feats. His former crewmates were now his hunters, and he was the condemned hunted.

      Moments passed. Trinse's heart thudded loudly, and his white scales shone faintly in the light from the star called Hope of Lost. His stone gray eyes reflected his fear. The star gave him some small comfort, but facing Hateblade would certainly overwhelm him just as it had six weeks ago. No one could escape from the Lupe; no one ever had. And he had just proven it once more.

      Suddenly, two strong paws hauled him from his hiding place and flung him onto the sand. In a moment, half of the crew had surrounded their former mate. Rough and sea-worn they all were, hardened against war and theft, fire and death, but more than one eye was misted over as Hateblade stalked toward Trinse.

      The Krawk had staggered to his feet to make his final stand. His beautiful white scales were battered and bruised, and his face had several cuts. Every inch of him was coated in sand and mud. He no longer held his cutlass; in its place was a filthy notebook with a seaweed cover. Hateblade's eyes were dripping scorn and disgust.

      "What's this? Didn't even keep yer silver cutlass, that one I gave ye at last plunder? You ain't a pirate; ye be a cold-blooded traitor."

      "I…I'm sorry, Hateblade," Trinse whispered. "You wouldn't let me leave. I had no choice…"

      "Yeh, whatever ye say, Krawk," Hateblade hissed. "You were too good-a pirate ta lose, but I guess we'll be losin' ye anyway."

      "Please, I…" Trinse stammered. He had to get back to his family and share what he'd discovered with the world. He had to! "I haven't taken anything from your ship. I won't tell anyone your secrets. I have great riches I need to share with the world, Hateblade, please let me go."

      The icy green eyes glinted greedily in the moonlight. "Great riches, eh? You said you didn't take anything from my ship. Show me these…riches."

      Trinse held up his notebook unsteadily and felt a pang of fear as Hateblade snatched it from his hands. "What's this rubbish?" the Lupe snarled. "Acara scratches?"

      "It's writing, Hateblade. Do you want me to read it to you?"

      "Sure, Krawk. It won't change anything though."

      Trinse took the notebook back from Hateblade and began to read in a warm voice. He spoke of whispering breezes dancing through trees in springtime, of the budding of a flower, of the lapping ocean waves against ragged cliffs, of coral cities beneath the seas, of twisting flames reflecting the starry night, of the winds sweeping across the hot desert. The Krawk held the crew captive with his voice, and Hateblade knew it. The Lupe was captivated himself and could do naught to fight it.

      When Trinse finally stopped speaking, Hateblade gestured for the crew to leave. Within seconds, the white Krawk stood alone, facing the Lupe's brilliant green eyes bravely. After a moment of silence, Hateblade growled. "That was…amazin', matey. Where'd ye learn to speak like that?"

      "From a girl beneath the ocean waves. Liza was her name."

      Hateblade paused before he looked Trinse in the eye. "Why?" The word meant the whole world.

      "Because I wanted to share this with Neopia. The same sense of wonder and beauty: what Liza taught me. I'm sorry, Hateblade."

      The words had cleared from his mind now. He could think clearly. "And you're a bloody rotten traitor, Trinse. And you know what we do with traitors, eh?"

      Trinse swallowed hard. He clutched the notebook and closed his eyes. The end had come. Bracing himself for the blow, the young Krawk held back a sob.

      Nothing happened.

      "How am I s'posed ta talk to ye with yer eyes all shut like that?" Hateblade grumbled. "I ain't gonna hurt ye, yet."

      Trinse cautiously opened his dark grey eyes and peered at his former captain. The Lupe was sitting on a rock, glaring at him. "Well, hurry up. Don't got all night, ye know."

      "What do you want from me?"

      "I want me first mate back."

      "I'm not coming back. I told you that."

      "I don't mean forever, stupid. I know ye don't want to, so I'll make a deal." Hateblade smiled nastily, his white teeth glimmering in a pale beam of moonlight. "I suggest you accept it, if ye ever wanna see that Liza of yers again."

      Trinse slowly sat down on the sand, thankful for the mist obscuring his flushed face. "What's the terms?"

      "Two more years on my ship, matey. If ye ken read like that more often, I'll let ye go to taverns and such in town. Earn us a bit of extra money. Boost crew morale and hold 'em in a power they canna fight. Make this awful place seem a bit more bearable, matey. Krawk Island is as ugly as a rotten shrimp's behind, but me thinks yer writin' and readin' will change me crew's attitude. It'll make me a more controllin' captain, it will."

      "And after two years?"

      "I'll let ye go. As long as you teach me how to do this readin' and writin' thing." Hateblade's eyes became wistful. "Even my brother canna do it, and I'd like to be different from 'im. After all, he got 'imself defeated by a fish." The Lupe laughed hoarsely, Trinse echoing.

      "Alright, I accept." Trinse shook paws with the captain and scurried to his feet. Together, the Krawk and Lupe started to head for the ship, but halfway there Trinse stopped. "But what will the crew say?"

      Hateblade whipped out his cutlass and had it at Trinse's throat within seconds. "Do ye think I care? None of them was gonna replace ye anyways. There ain't a man in me crew that can do what ye can, landlubber. Now hurry up 'fore I turn into a cutthroat."

      Trinse said nothing, clutching his notebook to his chest as Hateblade yelled for the crew to return the ship. As they rowed back toward the Deathstorm, the white Krawk was lost in thought. He had escaped and come back again, trapped by the words he thought he could control, and though his heart was bitter, his mind found peace in the thought of showing a beautiful Maraquan Krawk with sea-blue eyes his riches…

The End

 
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