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The Amber Coral Gem


by jamice_muff_muff

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Ribbon gazed at the strange artifact a few feet away, wondering. It was a funny looking thing, but very pretty and shiny. Ribbon ventured a little closer to the glowing object, and as she drew near, she saw her long, snake-like body reflected in the object's glassy surface, swishing gently in the shallow water.

      The Hissi slithered even closer to the object, knowing that if she swam too close she might get beached. Only a few feet away from the item, Ribbon noticed that it was beautiful, amber coral fragment, only an inch in length. Curiosity flooded Ribbon, as she had never seen such a dazzling colored piece of coral in the whole ocean her whole life. Tentatively, she reached out a stubby fin and pulled the coral toward her. The stone was warm, and Ribbon grew excited with her new treasure.

      Instead of returning to the Mystery Island Beach shallows to bask in the sun, the Maraquan Hissi hurried to her home, a small cave off the coast of Mystery Island. Once home, the Hissi nestled her newest treasure amongst her sapphire sea lilies. It lit the cavern with a brilliant golden light.

      Satisfied with her day's adventure, Ribbon curled up on the sofa and let the gentle waves nudge her to sleep.

      Ribbon didn't know what had wakened her. Maybe it was the muffled pounding coming from outside. Or maybe the smell of gunpowder and disturbed water. But whatever it was, the Hissi had not woken on her own accord. No, something was wrong and she knew it. She could feel it in her heart. And it wasn't until the Hissi surveyed her underwater home, that the answer struck her like a cannon ball; the stone was gone. And that wasn't all. Ribbon heard voices, harsh, loud voices that were slightly muffled.

      Trembling with fear, the Hissi swam through her home, peering under cushions and checking barrels for any sign of disturbance. Apparently, she had made too much noise; all of a sudden, Ribbon was being choked by a pair of hot, meaty hands.

      "I've got someun'!" called a triumphant voice in Ribbon's ear, as the speaker began to drag Ribbon out of the cave.

      Ribbon, who was currently having her windpipes crushed by a force unknown, started to struggle and flail, though her efforts were futile; the thing holding her was obviously bigger and stronger than she was. But Ribbon didn't give up. Not even when a huge net was tossed over her. Not even when she was being hauled on to an enormous pirate ship, or when several pirate Neopets stretched her out and began examining her.

      Still unable to talk due to the beefy Moehog holding her, Ribbon could only watch in horror as the ship started to leave Mystery Island Harbor. Her eyes widened in fear when the Island and all the screaming inhabitants had completely disappeared, and the ship was far out to sea. Ribbon gently turned her head to face the pirates.

      They were reasonably big and strong, especially the ones holding her down, and they talked in a way that terrified Ribbon.

      "Watcha' got there, Dern?" asked a pirate Aisha, grinning and revealing yellow teeth.

      "I think it's one of them scurvy Hissies."

      The Neopet that was choking Ribbon, Dern, had spoken.

      "Why'dja take 'er, Dern?"

      "She was gettin' in me way of the stone, Chakerman! I had to take 'er!"

      "Righ', o'course. If she got ter that stone, she would be able ter stop u-"

      "Shhhhhh!" Dern snarled, throwing a warning glance at Ribbon, "Let's take care o' the 'issi and then we talk."

      The two pets hauled Ribbon off the deck and carried her into a small cabin. The cabin was hot, and smelled of mold and rust. It was dark and had no windows. The only thing in it was a filthy, old machine that had several sharp objects protruding from it.

      Grunting, the Neopets dropped Ribbon on to the hard, wooden floor, net and all, and closed the door. Ribbon heard a lock click and heavy footsteps away from the cabin.

      Now thoroughly miserable, Ribbon tried to untangle herself from the net. But the task was no easy feat. The net was heavy and damp, and cut into Ribbon's skin. Plus, Ribbon had just lost all of her energy when she was trying to escape.

      Finally, Ribbon managed to shake the net off and lift her head weakly. Humidity and sweat clung to Ribbon's scaly coat as she dragged herself toward the door. She tried the knob even though she knew it wouldn't open, and as she was about to turn back to sulk some more, something caught her attention. Low, hurried voices were speaking outside the cabin. Slithering back over to the door, Ribbon pressed her head close to the keyhole and listened, careful to avoid the two large marks on her throat from where Dern had tried to strangle her.

      "I know, I KNOW, Callard!"

      "Well, what're we gonna do, mate? She knows 'bout it now!"

      "I dunno, I dunno, I DON'T KNOW! We're gonna have ter do somethin' an' fast!"

      "Tha' gem is too strong! If th' girl finds it, it could be th' end of us!"

      "She can't control it, mate! She's jus' a lil' girl!"

      "Arrr! If the girl foun' it, she can 'trol it, Dern! Ye know the legend! On'y someun' powerful kin find it!"

      "Yer right! Listen, I've got th' gem in th'-"

      But at that very moment, Ribbon tilted her head just a little too much; she scraped her wounded neck against the rough, wooden door. And before she could stop herself, she let out a loud yelp that could be heard miles away.

      Silence swept over the ship like an icy wind, and Ribbon clamped a fin over her mouth, though she knew she was too late. After what felt like hours of waiting with baited breath, Ribbon gasped as the door slammed open. A gust of salty sea air rushed into the room, filling Ribbon's lungs, and she loved the smell, it almost made her feel happy. But the feeling didn't last long, for the next thing she knew, the familiar thick, rubbery, ham-like hands had clamped her throat again.

     *******

     The sweltering heat was almost too much for Ribbon. It had been for three hours. The room was dark, so Ribbon didn't know what time it was, but she had bigger problems to worry about.

      Her tail was throbbing and the blood had long since gone to her head. Struggling was not an option. She had been hanging upside down over the enormous cooking pot for so long she was surprised she was still conscious.

      Suddenly, the door burst open. Wincing, Ribbon peered at the door. A ferocious-looking pirate Kougra entered. The Kougra slowly walked over to Ribbon, a painful look in his eyes.

      "What'd you want?" Ribbon snarled, thrashing around. The Kougra didn't answer. Suddenly, he slashed the rope that was the only thing preventing Ribbon from falling to her doom below. Terrified, Ribbon tried to stop herself from falling, but once you were falling it was quite hard to stop.

     But Ribbon never felt the boiling water against her skin. Instead, she felt a warm, soft surface; the Kougra had held out his paw just in time. Then, he did something amazing; he put Ribbon down.

      "Take the gem! It's in the closet over there. Slither through that pipe and go to the ocean. Never return!" the Kougra's voice was high-pitched.

      "Y-you're a g-girl?!" Ribbon asked in awe.

      "Yes, just do as I said! You still would make a tasty soup!"

      "Th-thank you!" Ribbon stammered.

      The Kougra winked, and exited the room, locking the door behind her.

      Ribbon wasted no time. She rushed over to the closet, pulling open the door and there, on a torn, velvet cushion, sat the amber stone. Ribbon snatched it up in her fin, feeling the cool, smooth texture with relief. Then, she turned and bolted toward the pipe the Kougra had pointed out. Taking a deep breath, the Hissi plunged her head into the grimy pipe and began to slither.

      After several minutes, Ribbon emerged on to the ship's deck. Her feelings of relief were instantly squashed, however, as she heard something that made her chest freeze.

      "Well, well, well, so lil' snakey wakey decides ter slither 'way from us big, bad pirates, eh? Not on my watch, bud!"

      Ribbon whipped her head around, causing it to throb again. There stood Dern, and a crowd of pirate Neopets, all brandishing swords and clubs. Ribbon knew she could never take out a group of pirates, especially in her current condition.

      The mob of pirates closed in around Ribbon, and she backed into a wall, cornered. Dern laughed cruelly, followed by the other pirates.

      "Nowhere to run, little worm!" Dern sneered, sticking his sword closer, "Lunch time, mates!"

      Sweat ran down Ribbon's face and dripped on to the deck. She squeezed her fins together, waiting for the end. But when she squeezed her fins, the Hissi felt something hard and smooth; the amber gem! She held it into the air, light bending off its magnificent surface. The pirates stopped dead, terror reflecting in their ghostly eyes.

     Unfortunately, Dern sensed Ribbon's fear and advanced on her, sword raised. He slashed at Ribbon, but the Hissi dodged him just in time, though at a price; she stumbled forward and dropped the gem. The stone went tumbling across the deck, heading for the ocean. Ribbon dashed after it, but a pirate Blumaroo grabbed her tail and pulled her back, scraping her sensitive, white stomach on the rough, wooden deck. Ribbon watched desperately as the stone teetered on the edge of the deck.

      Suddenly, a paw reached out and grabbed the stone just before it toppled off the ship. It was the Kougra who had helped Ribbon. She grinned at Ribbon and tossed the stone. Ribbon caught it with her fin and admired how the pirates' jaws dropped.

      Unfortunately, they recovered quickly and were trying to slash Ribbon, laughing maniacally while the little Hissi dodged their swords. Holding the stone high in the air, the Hissi desperately tried to make it work.

      "Come on, stone, please, I need you!" Ribbon muttered frantically, bouncing left to right on her tail. She didn't know how much longer she could dodge the pirates. They were getting angrier with every miss. Suddenly, a high voice rang out.

      "Throw it, Ribbon!"

      It was the Kougra. She was warding off pirates who were closing in around her. Ribbon wasted no time in obeying. With a last glance at the coral, she chucked it as hard as she could into the sky, praying that it would work and not fall into the ocean. The stone hovered for a moment, and the pirates stopped fighting. The stone was glowing, lighting the grey, cloudy skies and projecting a honey-colored beam of light into the clouds.

      "Arrr… she's done it…" were the last words Ribbon heard from Dern, for what happened next happened in a blur of wind, color, and heat.

      With an almighty CRACK, a chunky lightning bolt whizzed out of the sky, striking the ship with such a force that it blew a hole in the hull and tipped the boat, salty sea water flooding her fine wooden deck. But that wasn't all. The bolt caused the ship to catch fire. The warm flames licked at the masts, causing them to crash and spread the flames to the cabins, where screaming pirates tried fruitlessly to douse the flames, causing them only to grow stronger.

      Ribbon leaped into the air and caught the gem in her mouth as it fell, but at a great price; the flames surrounded her, glaring malevolently and spitting venomous sparks. Whimpering, Ribbon fell back, as the heat was too much for her. Just then, she felt herself being lifted in the claws of something big and furry; the pirate Kougra.

      The Kougra leaped over the flames, hopping on to the railing. Then, without further ado, she jumped into the raging waves below.

      Ribbon's stinging head broke the surface of the water, and as her whole body splashed in. The cool water soothed her burning scales. Grinning, she did several loop-de-loops and twirls, then, remembering what was going on, surfaced from the water and gazed around. The pirates had all crowded into tiny, inflatable life boats and were drifting away from the sinking, burning ship. Ribbon marveled at the damage she had done.

      "They won't be back for awhile," said a voice behind her.

      Ribbon whipped her head around and smiled. There, fiercely treading water was the Kougra, who was also smiling.

      "My name's Kasha. I realize I never told you," Kasha said, her eyes shining.

      "Thanks for saving me several times, Kasha," Ribbon said gratefully, spitting the coral gem into her fin, "But why did you?"

      The Kougra smiled. "I joined those pirates ages ago; I thought it would be neat. However, I was sadly mistaken. You were just an excuse for me to dump them once and for all."

      Ribbon nodded, happy that she had a new friend. "Well, let's go home. You can stay with me for awhile, and you can live on the beach, right near I live."

      "I'd like that," Kasha said, swimming over to Ribbon and grabbing on to her fin, "Now, lead the way!"

      Ribbon grinned, the light of the fire reflected in her amber eyes. Then, the two pets set off into the glorious sunset, chatting and laughing merrily, the amber coral clamped tightly in Ribbon's delicate fin, glowing in a happy sort of way. After all, it HAD saved the day, and created a friendship between two unlikely Neopets. Wouldn't that make you happy too?

The End

 
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