Greed's Captive: Part Three
Whimpering, Dorak entered his shack and dropped himself to the floor. He could almost feel the dubloons slipping like water through his claws. Turning on his side, he curled into a ball, wishing he could curl up and disappear altogether. He held his sides, forcing the urge to sob back down his throat.
All around him, his prized dubloons glittered, whispering promises in the gloominess of his shack. Each was hard, smooth, cool to the touch, and real. And he could already picture having to trade them for the means to survive, just as Fasai had promised he would have to.
He imagined himself taking them from their cases and stands, from their pedestals and frames, and he could feel the harsh weight they would become in his pockets and the resounding, deadly clank they would make as they transferred from his claws and fell into those of another.
Dorak made a gurgling noise as those horrible images mutated into Fasai. Fasai standing on top of a mountain of dubloons, his paws on his hips and his chest jutting out proudly, and his dashing grin in place. It would be raining dubloons around his head, adding to his monstrous mountain of wealth. Behind him, the biggest neohome would expand in either direction, wide and dominating and rich. His lawn sprang up around it, sprouting gorgeous and rare flowers. He’d have a swing set made of gold, and a fountain that spouted liquid gold. He’d bathe in dubloons and sleep in a bed covered with golden thread.
And somewhere, horribly dwarfed by the neohome, off to the side would be a tiny shack, crumbling to pieces with Dorak inside, broke and weeping.
The real Dorak shook his head hard, begging the images to disappear, but in his empty shack, all alone, they kept coming back, relentlessly demanding to be his only company. Dorak forced himself to his feet and hurried to the door to escape his imagination and his shack.
He stumbled outside, gasping air, and blindly headed in the direction of the tavern, craving noise and other Neopians to block out his horrible visions.
Coincidentally, Dorak ended up in the tavern the same time Scarblade and Fasai decided to grace it with their presence. Dorak glared at Fasai as he passed by his table, and then he tucked himself in his usual corner, in a fully blackened mood. He snapped off his orders to the tavern maid and stared sulkily at the words carved into his table by some previous, bored occupant of his seat.
Scarblade and Fasai studied him openly, though he never looked up again to notice, except once when an Ixi stumbled in singing loudly and off-pitch. Dorak watched him drop himself into an empty seat at a full table. The pirates already seated there stared at him, a bit surprised at first, and then openly appearing annoyed by the intrusion. Dorak snorted as the Ixi clapped the back of the Krawk sitting next to him and slung his arm companionably around his shoulders. Dorak wished he could be as light hearted. Gloomily, he resumed his study of the carved words, trying to block out thoughts of mountains of dubloons and ruined shacks.
“He refuses to oblige.”
Scarblade rolled his shoulders. “He’s a little bit stronger than I’d imagined.”
“I know,” Fasai agreed. “I thought for sure when he saw me stealing his dubloons he’d break.”
“We’ll get it out of him sooner or later,” Scarblade assured both himself and the other Lupe.
Scarblade’s eyes shifted in another direction as the Ixi that had wandered in earlier began making another display of himself.
“Well, I say, old chap, you certainly are a pretty little thing!” The Ixi sitting, unwelcome, at the occupied table hiccupped loudly, sloshing some of the contents of the mug, from which he’d whisked out of the paws of one of his fellow table-mates, onto his brown fur. “Where’d you get such a darling ring?”
Scarblade looked peeved as he watched the Ixi pat the Krawk’s hand. The Krawk, who boasted a rather large ruby on one claw, quickly withdrew his hand and tucked it away from several greedy glances.
“Outsiders,” Scarblade scoffed. “Why do they persist in ruining our tavern?”
Fasai shrugged, not concerned with the obnoxious Ixi. “Who knows. So, do we keep to the plan?”
Scarblade blinked and looked back at Fasai. “We do. Keep stealing the dubloons from under his nose. He’ll crack eventually, and we’ll have his toys. Then we’ll be able to loot whenever and wherever we want, and those blasted mines won’t be able to stop us any longer.”
“What?” The Ixi’s loud, insulted shout cut into their conversation again. “Did you tell me to mind my own business? Humph! How rude. To think I was going to tell you where you could find a whole bushel of those rings and hundreds of more valuable things at!”
The Ixi crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, pouting.
But now he had the attention of everyone in the tavern. Dorak had looked up as well. It was looking for trouble to mention a large treasure in a room full of pirates, but the Ixi seemed not to care. He was much to be busy being sore about being told off.
“What are you talking about, mate?” the Krawk, previously antagonistic to the Ixi, asked in a friendly tone.
“Oh, I’m your mate now, am I?” The Ixi snorted.
“Now, come on, don’t take it that way. I’m just little moody today, haven’t laid my claws on treasure worth speakin’ about in quite some time. Maybe you could fix that?” the Krawk prodded.
The Ixi lifted his chin. “No, the treasure that they just brought in yesterday to the Smugglers Cove is never going to find its way into your claws! Brilliant place to hide a Queen’s treasure, I’d say. The last place the pirates would ever look. Never knew they had a back room to that place. Ha! And all those explosives they’ve rigged up. Why, you’d lose your bloomin’ boat just trying to get in there!”
A large gasp went around the room, and a Krawk, who had been leaning on the edge of his seat, straining to hear every word the Ixi uttered, nearly toppled out of it.
“Whoops!” the Ixi exclaimed, clapping a hoof to his mouth. “Blast! I’ve got the biggest mouth in all of Neopia. My boss is going to be furious!”
As if his boss was going to materialize out of thin air, raging that his secret had been told, the Ixi shoved back his chair and scurried out.
Fasai met Dorak’s eyes across the room, and his lips bloomed into a grin.
“Well, captain, looks like there’s no time to carry out that plan. It seems we’ve got a treasure to be finding first.”
The Ixi’s goofy grin and stumbling walk disappeared altogether as he rounded the tavern. On the other side of the building another Neopian waited for him. The shadowy figure leaned against the wall, tapping a tune on his leg. He straightened as the Ixi approached.
“It went off quite nicely. I believe they’ll play right into our hands.”
Dorak entered his shack again in a frenzy. The images of despair did not return, however. He was far too busy throwing things about the room.
He had to get there before them!
Dorak tripped over a discarded boot, yelped, hopped a little, but was otherwise unimpaired as he scoured the tiny shack. He found an empty brown potato sack he’d fashioned into a backpack, and he hurried into his tiny bedroom with it. He dropped to the floor, jammed his claws in-between his floorboard and wrenched up a loose board.
Beneath it lay his decoys. He scrambled to jam them into his bag before roughly returning the false board back to its original position.
As a precaution, he went to his window, threw open the shutters, and climbed out. He wouldn’t chance the front door and being spotted. He had a hunch that Fasai would give one last attempt to find out about the decoys after the Ixi had mentioned explosives guarding Smugglers Cove.
Using palm trees as a cover, Dorak scurried down to the beach to his row boat.
And not a moment too soon. Dorak had just reached his boat when Fasai forcefully entered his home. Fasai regarded the contents of the tiny shack with a snobbish sneer. The Krawk lived like a peasant despite his admirable collection of dubloons.
It was foolish to value an object so much that you forgot that it was worth enough to buy you several more objects much better to look at, or, at least, that was what Fasai believed.
Unlike Dorak, Fasai stepped over the abandoned boot and avoided a stubbed toe and much hopping around. He passed by the dubloons glistening all around him without a look back. It was not those that he was after.
He entered the bedroom that Dorak had evacuated only moments before and began his search. It would have been another blow to his ego if Dorak had found out how easily Fasai found the false board and the hiding place.
But it hardly mattered, because what the Lupe was searching for was no longer located underneath it. Ripped in half with a rage so harsh only his worst enemies had seen it, Fasai howled angrily and threw the board back to the floor.
So he had a head start now, so what? Fasai thought angrily. He’d catch up to him easily enough!
Dorak could see Smugglers Cove now. It was in plain view. But so were the numerous mines floating like black dots on the water. They had already begun to sense him and were ever so slowly migrating in his direction.
Dorak took a decoy from his pack and began to paddle forward. His heart was pounding, but, despite the nerves, he was ridiculously excited. He had a head start. If he got to the treasures first, it would be far better than any of the dubloons Fasai might steal from him in the future.
Gritting, Dorak put all his strength into a fast-paced row. He calculated his time and the distance between himself and the first set of mines, and he set his decoy out. It worked perfectly, and Dorak already felt millions of miles closer to the treasure.
Three more decoys and three more sets of explosives met an ending together before something unexpected happened.
“Thanks for clearing the way for me, mate! Now you can get out of my way!”
Fear coursing down his spine, Dorak cast a glance over his shoulder and saw Fasai paddling madly behind him, closing in.
Desperate to know how he’d been bested, Dorak looked around.
And he spotted the Black Pawkeet.
His spirits, so high a moment before, dropped dangerously. The Black Pawkeet had brought Fasai out this far, easily catching up to Dorak with wind in its sails, and now Fasai was nearly caught up with him.
“No!” Dorak howled, and he put all he had into rowing.
Fasai was laughing madly and following behind as Dorak skirted mines, haphazardly threw out a few decoys, and lost all element of technique he’d started with.
It was only a matter of time before Fasai skirted around him towards the end of the race, when their boats were nearly close enough to dock at Smugglers Cove.
Dorak released a strangled cry as the last mine exploded and sea water rained down on their heads. Fasai’s triumphant laugh echoed in his ears, and he felt as if his very heart had died.
“You lose again, my friend!” Fasai shouted.
Dorak watched, stupefied, as the Lupe sprang from his boat onto land. He didn’t bother to pull it all the way up on land with him. Instead, laughing gleefully, he disappeared into the mouth of the cove.
Dorak covered his eyes as sobs wrenched up his throat. He’d lost. He’d lost it all! Now the biggest treasure was gone, and all the dubloons would belong in the same hands as the ones that had stolen this treasure out of his claws. He didn’t even get to see what he was missing!
Desperate, Dorak was about to paddle the rest of the way to the cove and go into it himself, to at least see what exactly he had lost. Voices stopped him.
“Hey! What’s this?” Fasai cried.
“Fasai Donnelley?” a voice asked.
“Who are you?” Fasai demanded, his voice sounding panicked.
“The Defenders of Neopia, sir,” the voice replied steadily, “and you are under arrest for stealing, looting, plotting, association with the wanted pirate captain, Scarblade, and for just generally being a no good, greedy little Neopian.”
Dorak nearly dropped his oars.
“What? No! No, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Fasai cried.
The voice laughed. “We caught you red-handed, my friend. We figured you’d be too greedy to resist that Ixi’s tale in the tavern. We’ve been on to you for quite some time. Too bad you didn’t bring your friends though.”
Dorak’s eyes widened. Thinking quickly, he shoved his oars back into the water and paddled away as quickly as he possibly could. Fasai’s cries of denial and desperate pleas followed him all the way back to shore.
Days later, Dorak sat in his boat as it was gently rocked with waves. He kept an eye on the explosives treading his way, but a decoy was already snug in his paws for when the time was right.
With a little time on his hands, he reflected on all that had happened. Captain Scarblade had gotten away of course at the first sign of trouble, but Fasai was paying for his dirty deeds. He’d been arrested, thrown in jail, and was now going to be working off his debt for the next several years of his life. Dorak found that he was glad this time that someone else had beaten him to the treasure.
Counting the moment as perfect, Dorak slipped the decoy into the water and watched it chug away, leading the real explosive with it. With a smile on his face, he looked out across the water at the dubloons that waited for him, and he knew there would be many more.
He was, after all, master of the sea and all of its dubloons.