Greed's Captive: Part One
Dorak the blue Krawk stared idly at the explosive floating in the water. Its red light blinked patiently as it moved effortlessly through the water, barely causing a ripple. Dorak moved, in no hurry, to pick up an object that looked about the same as the explosive moving steadily towards him, except there was no blinking light.
It was simply a fake, a decoy.
Dorak glanced up to check the explosive’s progress. He scratched his chin with a long claw, shrugged, and punched in a button that was on the side of his fake. He set it in the water and reclined back in his small row boat.
If they thought they could scare him off with the explosives, they were wrong. Why, he’d risk life and limb for the dubloons out here in these waters. He’d never yearned for anything more than he yearned for the golden, cool metal of a dubloon in his claws. That was why he stayed in these waters, and that was why he kept coming back. Once one got past the explosives, the dubloons weren’t far behind.
He made a living and had enough to keep for himself in his tiny shack located on the shore of Krawk Island. He put them on display in his rooms, but, of course, he was the only one that would ever see them, because they were his, and he had no intent to share. If he even let someone have but a glimpse they might be overcome with the greed he had found bearing down on him at a young age and try to steal them from him.
Yes, it was better no one knew.
Dorak watched his decoy move away from his boat to the right. The explosive was immediately drawn by the movement, the feel of something else coasting through the waters, and it changed direction as well. Dorak grinned. If he wasn’t the smartest Krawk alive then King Hagan wasn’t king of Brightvale. He had weathered many booby traps, many pirates, and many explosives. It had only been a matter of time before he learned of a way around them. He had made the decoy from salvaged parts of explosives like the one that had, a few minutes before, been heading straight in his direction. Today was the trial run of his first decoy.
He hoped it worked.
Dorak tapped a pirate tune he’d learned on Krawk Island on the side of his boat and waited to see results. He admired the way the explosives worked. He thought it amusing how they moved so slowly. They moved at a serene pace, in no hurry to get where they were going. They knew well enough they would get there, and they knew well enough that whoever they had currently targeted may be making a mad scramble back to land, but, either way, their job would be done. Either way, whoever was out there, wouldn’t get the dubloons.
Except for Dorak. He always got what he came for.
Or, almost always, Dorak amended, wincing as he thought of the row boat he’d lost in a rather close encounter.
Pushing that rather unpleasant incident out of his mind, he gave his full attention back to the devices in the water. They were very close to contact now. His decoy had slowed its pace and was nearly to a stop. It was working nicely, and, so far, flawlessly.
He leaned forward a little to get a better view. The explosive had picked up its pace, as they did when they knew their prey was close, and his decoy had finally found a stopping point.
Dorak leaned forward even farther, his anticipation building. Then, the long black spikes of the explosive touched the decoy. It detonated instantaneously and an explosion of water shot into the air with so much force that, on its way back down, Dorak was pelted with drops that made him feel like a rain cloud had been resting, full to burst, over his own head.
Dorak frowned and shook the water from himself as his boat tipped from one side to the other, rocked gently by the waves. He spotted the debris of the decoy and the real explosive, and his frown brightened to a smile.
Hard work, planning, and studying had paid off. Here was a much better way around the explosives than his previous method. Before, his method had simply been to skirt around them with the excellent rowing skills he’d developed. That had been risky and not completely fool proof.
Smiling foolishly to himself, Dorak lifted the paddles from the bottom of his boat and began to row toward the rewards of his success.
It was sunset when Dorak docked back at Krawk Island. He grunted a little as he managed the weight of the dubloon-laden bag on his back and pulled his boat onto the beach. Once satisfied that the boat would be going nowhere, Dorak turned and began the short venture to his shack. He was already imagining what he would purchase with his new dubloons, and which ones he would keep for himself to covet forever by the time he got to his front door, so it took him a moment to realize there was someone waiting for him there.
The addressed Krawk gave a startled jolt and whirled toward the voice that called his name. A shady-looking Lupe meandered out of the shadows cast by the palm trees that towered over his shack.
Dorak recognized him immediately.
“What do yer want, Fasai?”
Fasai smirked. “Is that any way to greet a friend?”
“I don’t recall addressing any friend of mine,” Dorak replied curtly.
He started to push open his door, and then thought of how the Lupe would more than likely follow him in. Fasai would then see a treasure worth looting, one any sane Neopian with a pirate heart would never be able to resist. Eyeing Fasai, Dorak cracked the door enough to toss his bag in and then shut it quickly again.
Fasai watched him in amusement. “You certainly live by the pirate motto, don’t you, old friend?”
Dorak frowned. He never understood how an educated fellow like Fasai had disregarded what he was meant for and chose the life of a pirate. Despite his excellent looting skills and his perfect qualifications to be captain and sail the seas in his ship, Fasai could never really pass as a pirate with his finely sharpened mind and educated speech. Dorak had never trusted him. Not only because he was a pirate, but because he was perhaps the smartest creature he had ever known. Those two things combined were a troublesome combination.
“What motto do ye mean?”
Fasai gestured to the scars that marked his gray body.
“Trust no one,” he stated, and pointed to Dorak’s shack, “and keep everything for yourself.”
Dorak peered into Fasai’s ominously dark eyes.
“Why are ye here, Fasai?”
“Aren’t you going to invite me in before we begin this conversation?”
“No,” Dorak stated simply.
Fasai crossed his arms, emphasizing his broad chest. Dorak eyed his scars again, thinking that it appeared he’d accumulated more since the last time they’d met, and he wondered who had put them there.
“Your skills are impressive,” Fasai told him, knowing full well the conversation would have to commence outside. He’d known before he’d come that Dorak would deny him entrance into the shack. He admired the Krawk’s distrusting nature, and deemed it a positive point to his character.
“What skills?” Dorak didn’t like speaking to Fasai, and he didn’t want to say any more than he had to.
Nothing good had ever come to him from speaking to Fasai.
“The skills that won you the treasure you had in your bag.”
Dorak went rigid immediately. “I dunno what you’d be meaning by that.”
“Don’t play dumb, Dorak. It doesn’t become you.”
He was after his dubloons. Dorak had suspected it from the second he’d seen the Lupe on the doorstep. Fasai had always only been interested in riches. He’d always done whatever had to be done to make his pockets heavier. Well, that stopped here.
“You can’t have ‘em!” Dorak snapped.
Fasai looked taken aback for only a moment, and then he clucked his tongue in disappointment.
“I’d thought you’d know better by now.”
Dorak’s eyes narrowed. “Quit talkin’ in yer riddles.”
Fasai sighed. “I’m employed by Captain Scarblade. You’ll see my income far surpasses what you draw in from stealing those dubloons.”
“I earned ‘em,” Dorak shot back indignantly.
Fasai rolled his eyes. “Yes, of course you did.”
Dorak was becoming worse tempered every second that passed. So the fool worked for Scarblade now. That was his own foolish mistake. Dorak didn’t want anything to do with him or the captain, and they weren’t going to touch his dubloons.
“What. do. yer. want?” Dorak pronounced each word harshly.
“Captain Scarblade wants to purchase your services.”
Dorak hadn’t expected that. “What?”
“Captain Scarblade,” Fasai began slowly, “wants to pay you to work for him.”
Fasai sighed. Annoyed, he studied the Krawk’s outline in the disappearing sunlight.
“He admires your skills. He’s been watching you. He’s impressed by your abilities to continuously avoid the explosives. He believes your talents could come in handy.”
Dorak squashed the thrill of pride that tried to surge up. Compliments from Captain Scarblade were never quite compliments. They always came with a hitch.
“I ask you to reconsider,” Fasai said smoothly. “He’ll reward you with dubloons.”
Dorak’s greedy heart gave a treacherous thump. The image of mountains of dubloons piled before him flashed once in his mind. His claws itched to reach out; the answer on his tongue was immediately, “Yes.” Forcefully, Dorak bit his tongue on the word.
“Sounds like paradise to me,” Dorak answered. “But I be not a simple-minded Krawk, Fasai. There’s not a lick of trust in me fer the captain.”
Grudgingly, Fasai admired that. “You could have much more than what you hole up in this shack of yours.”
Dorak straightened. “I’ve plenty enough. What I make is mine and mine alone.”
Tired with this game already, Fasai turned to leave. “You won’t reconsider?”
Dorak crossed his arms. “No.”
“Very well. Maybe with time you’ll see more clearly.”
Dorak snorted but remained silent as he watched the Lupe stride off in the other direction.
For the next several days, Dorak found himself peering around over his shoulders and out into the horizon, along the endless stretch of water that went on and on all around his row boat. It annoyed him that he couldn’t relax and enjoy his favorite part of the day. He continued to use his decoys, continued to hunt his dubloons, but now he had become paranoid, remembering how Fasai had told him Captain Scarblade watched him.
It took all the fun out of what he had made into his own private game.
Dorak called the day to a close early on one venture, and was almost relieved when he dragged his boat to shore. He stopped by his shack to pocket a couple of dubloons, and then headed to the mainland with an intention to browse and maybe buy. He hoped a few careless purchases might lighten his mood.
It didn’t help as much as he’d wished. A little lighter in the pocket, and his mood still dragging, Dorak entered the local tavern and headed to the back corner for his usual spot. He plopped down, snapped his orders out to the first Neopian who came up to him, and settled in, trying to block the surrounding noise out. He needed to unwind.
From a distance, Fasai studied him over the rim of his mug. The brew inside had not quite reached his lips when Dorak had slumped in, and Fasai had paused to watch the creature’s habitual journey to the back of the tavern.
With the liquid remaining not yet tasted, Fasai set the mug down very carefully and spoke without looking at the pirate seated next to him.
“Fancies himself sneaky, I understand,” Fasai muttered. “Fool. Now we will still get what we want, and the only one hurting from it will be him.”
Captain Scarblade stared ponderously down at the amber liquid in his own mug and smiled. “Fasai, you let things crawl under your skin too easily. There are ways to win him to our side.”
Fasai snorted. “Why bother? I can do whatever he can.”
“Oh really?” Scarblade lifted his gaze to follow a Krawk passing by. “Then make me one of those fancy little decoys of his and we’ll forget he even exists.”
The Krawk realized he was being watched, and whom was doing the watching, and, looking a little frightened, he tipped his head, and hurried away. Fasai watched him go, wondering what exactly it was about Scarblade that struck fear into Neopian’s hearts, wishing he himself contained whatever it was.
“I’ll figure it out,” Fasai muttered, as much as in reply to what Scarblade had said as to what he had been thinking.
Scarblade lifted his mug and drained the liquid from it in one large gulp. He let it thump back onto the table with some emphasis and a couple of Neopians surrounding them jolted a bit, especially after they saw who had made the noise. Scarblade smiled wickedly back at them, and Fasai saw and knew, as he often did, that Scarblade enjoyed the fear that went along with his face and name. The captain turned back to him and thumped him on the back.
“I’m sure you will, lad,” he agreed, “but, until then, we need Dorak.”
Annoyed that he was being bested by a lowly, dim Krawk, Fasai focused his eyes on a spot on the far wall.
Tight-lipped, he asked, “How do we get him then?”
Scarblade didn’t give him an answer immediately. An Eyrie tavern maid wandered over to their table timidly and cast nervous glances from Fasai to Scarblade and down at Scarblade’s empty mug.
“Can I get you s-something else to drink, sir?” she stuttered.
Scarblade shook his head and waved her away dismissively. “No, I just want some privacy.”
The green Eyrie didn’t seem to be at all offended by his abrupt dismissal. She walked away from their table looking a little relieved.
“Now,” Scarblade began, casting a quick glance around to make sure they weren’t being overheard. It wasn’t something he should have feared, because everyone in the room seemed to be leaning away from them. “We simply steal his dubloons.”
Fasai raised a brow. “You want me to break into his shack? He’ll just get more.”
Scarblade gave Fasai a belittling look. “No, I want you to steal the dubloons he goes after. You follow him out to sea and get the dubloons first.”
“The lack of dubloons will drive him mad,” Fasai supplied, catching on instantly. “He’ll have to work for you to quench his undying thirst for dubloons if he ever wants to wrap his dirty little claws around them again.”
“Exactly!” Scarblade shouted.
“Perfect,” Fasai agreed, smugly imagining torturing the blue Krawk so.
Fasai reached for his mug and, drawing it up to his lips, he looked up just in time to see Dorak heading for the door. The Krawk spotted him in the same precise moment and paused long enough to send him a glowering look.
Grinning roguishly, Fasai lifted his mug in a mock-toast.
Dorak snorted and shuffled out.
To be continued...