Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 125,893,067 Issue: 254 | 25th day of Hiding, Y8
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The Search for the Golden Dice: Part Two


by corr2000

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The door flew open at once. Standing on the threshold was an old pirate Lupe, holding a rapier, which he was pointing at Dublin. Dublin stepped back.

      "Aiibis?" he said cautiously

      The Lupe lowered his blade.

      "Dublin! What'rr yar doing here m'boy?" Aiibis gruffly patted Dublin's shoulder and stepped aside so he could enter the house.

      "Well," said Dublin when he and Aiibis were seated at the kitchen table, each with a mug of some nasty-smelling liquid that Dublin wouldn't touch, "This afternoon, I set out for my writing class-"

      Aiibis snorted.

      "-and when I got there..."

      Dublin told the entire story. Aiibis's expression got stonier and stonier and when Dublin had finished, he set down his mug. With obvious effort, he smiled.

      "Well, boy! You've 'ad quite a day to be sure! But why did yar come here?"

      "You're the only pirate I know, and if I am going to fulfill my mission, I need to find this Captain Darkblood. I figured that you might know something of him."

      Aiibis sat in silence for a while, brooding over his drink. Dublin could tell that some part of his story had disturbed the Lupe, but since Aiibis's face was half in shadow, Dublin could not see his expression.

      "That be one difficult mission, m'boy." Aiibis looked keenly at Dublin as though evaluating him. "To find a pirate is tricky enough, but to find and kill one..." He sighed. "That be nearly impossible!"

      He leaned back with a satisfied look on his face, as if he had just proved a point beyond argument.

      Dublin was starting to feel afraid. To vow to avenge his teacher had seemed a simple thing to do at the time, but now it was revealed to be fraught with difficulty. He did not want to become a killer! Again, Dublin lapsed into silence. Drifting through the open window were the sounds of young pets playing. They sounded so carefree. He had to remind himself that he was only 10 months old.

      Several times, the thought crossed his mind to just abandon the venture. It was not as if it was his fault that his teacher was dead... but still, a vow was a vow. And besides, he had to stop these murderers; what if it was his mother or little sister that they killed next? But it seemed like they had killed Gourd (or now Deadscale) for a reason. This thought got the whole letter business buzzing in his throbbing head again. He was almost glad when Aiibis brought him out of his revere by remarking:

      "But if you're determined, I can help you find the scoundrel."

      Dublin looked up. He was not sure that he was determined, but he decided it was too late to turn back.

      "You can?"

      Aiibis looked a bit exasperated. "Aye, boy. Didn't think that pirates would know their own kind, eh?"

      "No, I knew you'd know." Dublin was embarrassed. "So where is he?"

      Aiibis regarded Dublin with a stern eye. "If I told yar now, m'boy, you'd go galavantin' off this hour. Can't let yar do that until you've had a decent sleep. Been up all night, yar 'av. If yar mother finds out-"

      He stopped and appraised Dublin suspiciously. "Er, yar mother knows where ya are a'course?"

      "Of course!" Dublin even managed a nervous laugh.

      "Well good. Yar go sleep now and I'll wake yar at midnight so we can start."

      "'We'?" Dublin asked blankly.

      "Now yar didn't in all truths think I was a'goin' a let yar off by yerself now! Nonsense! You'd never find the way. I'm a'comin' sure as there's water in the ocean! And you can sleep on this here couch." He gestured to a faded blue couch in one corner with a blanket draped over the back. Dublin gave him a grateful look and collapsed onto it. Flying was hard work.

      He awoke to someone shaking him roughly. Dublin nearly yelled in pain. His whole body was aching as though he was a dishrag someone had wrung out. He moaned weakly and tried to pull the covers over his head but a rough paw pulled them down.

      "Now, now," said a gruff voice. "We don' have no time fer that."

      Very slowly and carefully, Dublin sat up. His headache was worse and his limbs were heavy with pain and fatigue. Even his beak hurt.

      "I can't travel like this!" he exclaimed to Aiibis in a slightly panicked voice. "I'll barely last an hour!"

      "Don' worry yerself m'boy. Wer'e not flyin'."

      It took a few minutes for Dublin to register this.

      "Then how are we going? No other way will be fast enough."

      "Speed isn't the key to this, m'boy."

      Dublin was confused.

      "But I thought-"

      "The key," interrupted Aiibis, "is understanding your enemy. The best way to do that is to act like your enemy. How would Darkblood travel?"

      "Sea." Dublin's reply was automatic. He was surprised at his own words.

      Aiibis clapped him painfully on the back.

      "Yar got a lot to learn, but yar on thar right way."

     The old Lupe grabbed up two large packs from the kitchen table and, handing one to Dublin and shouldering the other, he strode out through the door. Dublin followed behind him, putting his paws down gingerly to avoid further discomfort.

      "Aiibis," Dublin asked as they hiked along a dirt path, "why do you always say 'yar'?"

      Aiibis seemed offended and only snapped, "Don' question a pirate's vocabulary, scamp."

      They walked on in silence for a while. Then Aiibis spoke.

      "But I will say that it comes now so naturally, that I don't even notice it. Sorta like them youngins who says 'like.' Ever met one o' them?"

      Dublin grinned.

      "My cousin Frieda. It was horrible at the family reunion."

      Shortly, they came to the harbor. It was the middle of the night, so very few pets were about, but there was still noise: the creaking of ropes, the lapping of the waves upon the piers, the fluttering of sails and flags and an occasional cry from the seagulls. Dublin immediately felt the knot in his stomach disappear, washed away by the waves and wind. The familiar briny smell of the sea filled his nostrils and Dublin let out a long sigh of contentment. He was home.

      Aiibis led him to the very end of the pier where a magnificent ship lay anchored. The Jungle Queen.

      "You own this?" Dublin was in awe.

      "Well, er, sort of."

      "What's that supposed to mean?"

      Before Aiibis could answer, a shout rang out across the water.

      "Hey! What're ya doin'?"

      "Follow me!" Aiibis grabbed a rope hanging down from the deck and swung up. Dublin followed him with ease.

      "No time for questions!" Aiibis hissed when he saw Dublin open his mouth "Yar know how to sail a ship?"

      "Of course! My father's a captain."

      "This big?"

      "Yes!"

      "Then go leddown yar sales. Quick, boy. I'll take the wheel."

      Dublin took off and flew around the rigging, pausing to untie knots.

      "I'd forgotten he could do that," the old Lupe muttered under his breath. Then he ran to cut the ropes connecting The Jungle Queen to the dock. He heard another shout and someone running toward them on the dock. With a laugh, Aiibis pushed his foot against the pier and the newly liberated ship pulled away. The sales swelled with wind and the Queen glided off into the night.

      Dublin landed.

      "Nice work thar, m'boy."

      Dublin glowed. "So, where are we going?" he asked, realizing that he didn't know.

      "Smugglers Cove."

      Excitement exploded in the pit of Dublin's stomach. At last he was going there. At last.

      "Er," said Dublin, trying to sound offhand, "What is the Cove like?"

      Aiibis looked at him and chuckled.

      "Oh, you never seen a thing like it. Piled high with gold an' jewels. Better than that Hidden Tower!"

      Dublin's eves were huge.

      "A' course we'll be darn lucky if we catch 'em; them smugglers don' hang around there much. Prefer the waves if ya' get mine meanin'."

      "Perfectly," breathed Dublin.

      For several more hours they sailed. The sky grew lighter in the east and the morning star fainter. Orange and red streaks crisscrossed the dome of the sky, and fluffy white clouds flanked the bright orb of the sun that was rising steadily higher. This was the second sunrise in a row that Dublin had seen, and this time he could enjoy it. Perched on the top of the mast, he oooed and ahhed along with Aiibis (who was remarking how he hadn't seen "one o' these" for years and now remembered what he was missing) and enjoying being at sea again.

      Thus they sailed for several hours, and the sun was high in the sky when Dublin first noticed that something was wrong. The clouds on the horizon, which at dawn had been so white and fluffy, had turned a dark, threatening grey. This stormhead grew darker and larger and crept up the sky until it was partially obscuring the sun. The waves around them took on a dirty, unhealthy tinge as they were frothed and whipped by the wind. Down below, at the tiller, Aiibis was giving orders.

      "Quick! Tie up yar rigging, pull in the sails, batten down the hatches and then go below; it's gunna be a tough one, m'boy!"

      Dublin sprang into action. The dark clouds were now much closer and emitting ominous booming noises. Suddenly, it was upon them. Rain poured down in torrents and lightning flashed overhead. As he secured the last sail, a huge valley opened in the sea. On the deck below, Aiibis clutched the tiller and yelled something to Dublin, but the wind snatched his voice away. Dublin gritted his teeth as the ship plunged into the deep.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Search for the Golden Dice: Part One
» The Search for the Golden Dice: Part Three



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