Running from Dreams
“Run! Run!” the captain hissed. “Get to the shore! I’ll handle these!” The others dashed away but I insisted on staying to help the captain with the heavy chest. “Dorak!” he whispered, angrily. “Get out of here!”
“And let you get all the booty?” I laughed, my boots slipping in the soft sand. “Never, captain sir!”
“Then if you’re going to stay, pull harder!” We tugged at the chest. It slid across the sand, slowly, inch by inch. In the houses and among the stores, lights were coming on. A rock sailed out of nowhere and hit me in the side of my head. The captain, treacherous man, pushed my body out of the way and kept dragging the chest.
“Every man for himself,” I spat, sand flying from my mouth. My eyes flew up to the buildings, low and gray against the light. I saw torches, their firelight flickering. Ignoring my wound, I ran for the shore, straight past the captain, heading for the ship.
“Dorak! Get back here and help me pull!” he ordered. My toes gripped the ropes, one hand holding me upright. I turned to him.
“You abandon me, I abandon you,” I said, then continued the climb up the ship’s rigging. I heard him huffing and puffing, lifting the chest into a net that was hauled up to the decking.
“Nice booty, captain sir!” said a new hand, a Pirate Shoyru. “What’s in it?”
“How in the name of piracy should I know that?” the captain growled. “I grabbed the biggest chest I could find.”
“Be embarrassing if it was filled with nothing, captain sir.” A red Hissi grinned, the smile splitting his face.
“Aye, that it would,” agreed the captain, then grabbed the Hissi and tossed him overboard. I laughed and leaned over to help him back on board.
“Ship ahoy!” came the call from the top mast. The Neopet working it leapt off the edge, grabbing a rope. He sailed through the air, all eyes on his graceful fall. The rope went taunt and he swung, now in a definite arc. He let go, and with nary a skid, stood before the captain. “Pirate ship sir, on the horizon. It’s...” he hesitated.
“Out with it man, and be done!” growled the captain.
“It’s the Black Pawkeet sir.”
“Are you sure?”
“It ain’t the White Weewoo, sir.”
“All hands, abandon ship!” cried the captain.
“Sir!” I shouted, outraged. “That’s a bit premature, sir! We can still fight her. We’ve got a gun deck. We can win this. Sir, the Black Pawkeet’s as good as ours!”
“No, Dorak,” he growled. “We cannot beat the Black Pawkeet! I say we grab all the treasure and get out of here!” Most of the sailors were with him now. The idea of taking the treasure had its appeals. “I’m the captain, not you, Dorak!” But the decision was solved for us as a cannonball came from the Black Pawkeet, spewing from her gun deck. Barely ten seconds later, it smashed into the side of our ship – the treasure hold. Our ship began taking on water and we listed to that side. I leapt over the edge, turning a full somersault and a half to land hands-first. I was just as good as that smarmy show-off who had leapt off the top mast. I surfaced to find a row-boat hanging from the ship, just above my head. I climb up the side of the ship, jumped into the little boat, and cut the ropes with my knife.
“Aagh!” I cried out in spite of myself as the boat fell, bouncing me around like... like... like something that bounces around. Like a little bouncing ball in a bouncing pod! The boat smacked the water and I only barely managed to hold on. I grabbed at the oars and began pulling myself through the water. Dubloons from our ship surfaced around me. I grabbed at them eagerly. In the shadows, I saw other rowboats doing the same. I seized all I could, but after some hours exhaustion took its hold and I slept.
When I woke the boat was low in the water. The heavy dubloons weighed us down but I couldn’t bear to throw them away. I grabbed at another one, throwing it onto a pile, then froze. Beep-beep.
“Did I hear that?” I asked aloud. Beep-beep. “Guess I did. Did you hear that?” I asked the dubloons. Chink chink. The sound of shifting money. I loved that sound. Beep-beep from somewhere, I didn’t know. Then I saw where it was coming from – a little red dot, flashing on the water. I rowed closer. Then I recognized it. Beep-beep. It was one of the famous Black Pawkeet homing mines – and it was coming towards me! I grabbed at the oars and pulled the ship through the water, heading for the shore. As the boat rocked, the high pile of dubloons shifted, and toppled into the water. About half were left and I did not grab at the others. I rowed harder. More and more mines were rising from the inky black water. Their flashing red lights lit up other dubloons, floating on the surface. I saw one flashing red dot, pretty far away, bump another rowboat. I saw nothing, but I heard the kaboom. The wood splintered and I heard the yell of the pirate in the boat. The tiny fragments caught fire. I heard his splash-splash-splash as he swam away. I rowed harder. It was tricky to dodge the mines but I managed somehow. Twice they came so close to my boat I thought I must be a goner. When I finally managed to get the rowboat up onto the shore, the mines gave up and floated away, in search of another target. I dared not sleep – some thief was bound to come and steal my treasure! You stole it in the first place, whispered my conscience. Thieves find nothing wrong in robbery – except when it happens to them. I combed the beach for some time until I found a few sacks – you can always find useful junk on the beach! More than one outfit of mine came from here. I filled the sacks with dubloons and stuffed a few into my pockets for good measure. Then I headed towards a tavern.
The room I rented was cheap and messy and smelled of smoke, but it would do until I could sign on with a new crew. I hid the dubloon sacks beneath a convenient loose board and headed downstairs to the main room. This was the bar, with rooms for rent above. I sat down and a young Yellow Shoyru walked up and plonked a mug of – something – in front of me. She sat down opposite me.
“What’s your name?” she hissed, before a voice called,
“Cassie! What have I told you about talking to strangers?”
“Sorry,” she whispered, and slid off the stool. She walked over to the bar where she took a tray of mugs and began serving others. I nursed my drink, my hands around the cool, comforting mug. As the evening wore on, I became light-headed and dizzy, and when I finally walked up the stairs to my room I was staggering and falling all over the place. I collapsed into the rough, unkempt sheets and slept, but all the time I was dreaming of the red, flashing lights of homing mines. Beep-beep.
I awoke again wondering where I was. The tavern on Krawk Island, ah, of course. The dubloon sacks hidden under the floor. My ship blown up by the Black Pawkeet. The mines (beep-beep) from that thrice-cursed ship floating towards me, even in my dreams. I shuddered and headed downstairs.
“I say, innkeeper,” I called to the Red Wocky behind the bar, “I’m looking for a new ship. Any chance you could help me out?” I – accidentally – let a One Dubloon Coin slip from my fingers as I leaned on the wooden counter.
“You’d best go to the Smuggler’s Cave,” he mumbled, not looking up. “They’re always looking for new crew.”
“Thank you, sir,” I said, and walked out into the bristling cold. I huddled deeper into my threadbare jacket and walked along the shore, seeking this cave. There – a deep, black hole in the rock. My feet slipping in the dry sand, I headed upwards.
“Whaddya want?” grumbled a pirate, leaning against a large, brown cask.
“Do you know any ships I could sign on with?” I asked. I may be a pirate, but I was a polite pirate.
“No. Now if you’re not gonna buy something, get out!” I got out and headed back to the tavern. Strike one.
Only the little yellow Shoyru, Cassie, was there.
“No luck, Mr. Dorak?” she asked, her sweet voice clear as a bell.
“None-” I began, then stopped.
“What is it?” She looked around fearfully. But I could see them – through the window, floating in the salty water. Mines. Hundreds, thousands, of mines. I ran outside and looked closer. Yes, they were still there, the water rippling around their black, spiky frames. I ran back inside.
“Mines!” I gasped. “Mines from the Black Pawkeet!” The young Shoyru poked her head out of the door.
“No,” she said. “There’s nothing there.”
“Cassie, I’m telling you, they are floating in the water, all along the shore!” I raced outside for another look, but, to my astonishment, they were gone. “They’re gone now – what happened to them?” I sat down, my head spinning with the implications. The mines must be a search-and-return – maybe scanning or photographing the shore. Who were they looking for? But I knew it, deep down inside me – I was the one they were after.
“Mr. Dorak, are you all right?” That was Cassie again, the sweet girl.
“I saw them! Mines, hundreds of mines, all through the water! I’m... I’m leaving tomorrow. In fact, I’m leaving now.” I raced upstairs and grabbed my sacks of dubloons, went back downstairs and paid the bill. Then I headed for the dock as fast as I could, but still the mines floated in the water, just inside my peripheral vision.
Mystery Island was warm – very warm. I stuck out a fair bit, but the dubloons were safely hidden and I was rather enjoying myself. I’d had to trade a few dubloons for weird red coins called Neopoints, but I was pretty happy. At least, until I saw the mines brushing the sand. They didn’t move, just sat there and blinked their red blinky lights at me. I panicked again, then calmed down. This place was close to Krawk Island; the mines must just go outward in a circle. But that wasn’t enough. I grabbed my dubloons and the strange Neopoints, and caught the next boat out of there.
Altador was nice if a bit dull. There were many texts of ancient wisdom that I am embarrassed to say, were interesting. I always thought Brightvale and Altador were practically the same, so when the mines showed up again, I went to Brightvale.
Brightvale had more colour and spunk, but it was very similar to Altador. And not just in values, tones, people, but in another respect – the mines found me there as well.
I fled back to my old haunt, Krawk Island. Even as the boat nestled up against the dock I could see the mines floating, beeping, in the water. But I had been so stupid – they couldn’t get to me on land! Ha-ha! Dorak wins again! I headed to the tavern that I’d stayed in the last time. Cassie was still there, and she smiled at me as I came in. I hired the same room and hid the remaining dubloons I had.
“One... whatever’s going,” I said as I sat down at an empty table in the barroom. Cassie came up and put a mug of something in front of me.
“Well? Did you find what you were looking for?” she said, quietly.
“Not as much as they found me,” I glugged, pointing outside. “Those stupid mines are still here.”
“What mines?” asked Cassie all innocently.
“The mines that are spiky black with red lights and floating around the water. What other mines?” I took another huge swallow of the drink – whatever it was, it was good.
“Mr. Dorak... I don’t see any mines. There are no mines.” I couldn’t believe it, but Cassie sounded so convinced, I knew she believed what she was saying.
“But I can see them!” I sprang up and pointed out the window. Other customers were staring at me. Cassie followed my finger, but still.
“Mr. Dorak, there is nothing out there. No mines, no nothing. You’re just dreaming things.” She smiled and walked away.
Later that night, as I lay on my bed, I thought about what Cassie had said. Just dreaming things... a strange way of putting it. I looked out of the window. I could see the little red lights – they followed me everywhere and they were driving me crazy! I grabbed my jacket and walked outside. The inn was silent – no sound, no movement, nothing. I slipped out the door and walked down to the beach. The mines gathered in front of me in the water. I could see the moonlight reflected in the ripples. I held my hand above the mines, then plunged it down into the water. Cold. Icy cold. Like nothing I’d ever felt. But no explosion. No big bang. Not even spiky blades. The mines weren’t really there – maybe Cassie was right. Maybe I had been dreaming things. In that case, I’d been running away from my dreams! I’d left Krawk Island, Mystery Island, Altador, and Brightvale, all because of the mines! Me, who had stood calm against many a superior pirate fleet. Me, who had wanted to take on the Black Pawkeet herself, running away from dreams! And so, laughing at my foolishness, I walked back to the inn.
Thanks for reading! As always, Neomails appreciated.