Pirate Curse: Part Three
With that, they started walking again, but the silence was now more mutinous than fearful, and Tamzin was glad, nearly ten minutes later, when they finally reached the small, ramshackle hut in the very deepest part of the woods.
“That’s it, that is,” Bart said, coming to a halt. Tamzin stared at it and licked her lips. The shack didn’t seem lived in: in fact, it looked like it had been abandoned for a hundred years.
“Aye,” Captain Cahler said. He strode up to the door, and knocked hard. Tamzin jumped when the irritable, hoarse voice yelled:
“Who dares knock?!”
“I, Captain Havibrin Cahler, of the Pirates’ Curse.”
The door slowly creaked open, and Sophie the Swamp Witch stuck her head out, glaring suspiciously around.
“Oh, it’s you, is it?” she asked, although her voice had softened somewhat. She pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ears. “Well, come in, then, I suppose, but mind you don’t touch anything.”
She stepped back inside, leaving the door open. Captain Cahler entered at once, and Bart pulled Tamzin along with him, although she dug her heels in and did her best to resist.
The interior of the house was crowded and dim, the ceiling hung with odd herbs and plants, and the shelves lined with bottles and boxes. A Meowclops gazed at them with a huge yellow eye from a shadowed corner, but what drew Tamzin’s attention was the large black cauldron in the very center of the room.
“It won’t hurt you, girl,” Sophie said, when she saw Tamzin’s terrified gaze. Tamzin hastily looked away. “I suppose you’ll have to sit down,” she added to Captain Cahler, although she didn’t look happy about it. “And by the way, how did you manage to break my spell? Just out of curiosity.”
Captain Cahler took a seat on a barrel and raised one boot for her inspection, a smug smile all over his face.
“I’m on the ship,” he crowed. Tamzin seated herself carefully on the floor, looking away from the captain in disgust. Sophie seemed much of the same mind.
“Whatever,” she said. “But did you finally bring me the right thing?”
“Ah, yes indeed.” Captain Cahler waved one arm at Tamzin. “There she is, the child of land and sea, just as requested.”
“So, you’re Tamzin, are you?” Sophie addressed Tamzin, frowning. Tamzin swallowed, feeling skewered by Sophie’s brilliant emerald eyes. How did she know her name?
“I am,” she answered, her voice coming out high and squeaky. Sophie nodded. She turned swiftly to the shelves behind her, and began to scoop ingredients out of the boxes and bottles. The green Ixi threw things wildly into the cauldron, sometimes making Tamzin squeak in fear when they splashed on the floor.
“Messy sort of witch, isn’t she?” Captain Cahler commented to no one in particular as a large gob of something slimy flew his way. He was watching the proceedings with much interest, his dark eyes fixed on the cauldron. After a moment, he took a bottle out of his britches and took a drink. Tamzin caught a whiff of something sweet, and realized he was drinking tea. She frowned. Did pirates normally drink tea? She really didn’t know.
Tamzin jumped, realizing that Sophie was speaking to her. Slowly, her legs shaking, she got up. Sophie grabbed her arm suddenly, making her cry out.
“Be quiet,” the Ixi hissed. She pulled a small silver dagger from her cloak, and in one quick slash, nicked Tamzin’s palm. Tamzin didn’t even have a chance to yell before Sophie had shaken the bloody knife over the cauldron, and was wrapping Tamzin’s paw in a rag.
“Hush, it’ll heal in a day or two; it’s only a cut,” Sophie said, but her voice was gentler than Tamzin had ever heard it as she turned back to the potion. Tamzin stood still, watching as the green Ixi muttered under her breath, throwing still more ingredients in. The cauldron began to bubble and froth. Foam leaked out all over the floor. Tamzin was half intrigued, half frightened, as Sophie’s voice rose.
“Let the Curse be lifted!”
The cauldron seemed to burst apart, spewing its bubbling mixture everywhere. Purple fog filled the air, making Tamzin cough as she inhaled it. She heard Captain Cahler swear, and Bart give an odd exclamation. Then the air cleared, and Sophie was saying sourly:
“You’re making a racket, Havibrin.”
Captain Cahler looked outraged. He opened his mouth to say something, caught Sophie’s murderous look, and closed it again. Tamzin couldn’t suppress a grin.
“Now, it’s done, so get out, all of you.”
“We’ve got to stay a while,” Captain Cahler protested angrily. “The Pirates’ Curse was ruined on yer rocks, an the whole belly’s flooded!”
“They’re not my rocks,” Sophie snapped. “But fine, you can sleep in the other room, provided you don’t get in my way.”
Captain Cahler looked satisfied, and he hastily exited the small cabin, followed by the everyone else. Tamzin was left alone with Sophie.
“Do-do you make a lot of potions?” she asked hesitantly, not sure what sort of mood the Ixi was in.
“Yes,” Sophie answered shortly, starting to clean up the mess on the floor with a large mop.
“I could do that,” Tamzin offered. Sophie looked at her, then, to her great surprise, nodded. Tamzin took the mop, feeling oddly as if she had just made a new friend, and began to sweep. Sophie busied herself tidying up the shelves, and the Meowclops came out from its corner to wail at her and try to lick potion of the floor. Out of the corner of her eye, Tamzin saw Sophie pat the little petpet tenderly and say: “I’ll feed you at dinner time, little one. You know potions make you ill.”
Tamzin mopped the last few streaks of potion off the floor, and then stood, unsure of what to do.
“I’ve got to make a new Bubble Potion,” Sophie said after a minute, addressing the floor. “I could use a bit of help.”
Tamzin spent the next few days helping Sophie with her various potions, while the Pirates’ Curse was being repaired. She found Sophie to be not that terrible of a teacher, albeit rather impatient. Tamzin learned to gather odd sorts of moss and mushrooms, how to properly mix a simple Bubble Potion, and what exactly not to feed a Meowclops. Sophie seemed rather pleased with her efforts, although she moaned repeatedly how she hated trying to teach anyone anything. Altogether, Tamzin was rather disappointed when Captain Cahler appeared one afternoon (Sophie made a point of only letting him in when she absolutely had to) to announce that the Pirates’ Curse was fully repaired, and they would set sail tomorrow.
“So, Miss Tamzin,” he said with a small mock bow. “You can finally go home.”
“Yes,” Tamzin agreed thoughtfully, ignoring his sarcastic movements. “I can.”
“You don’t have to go,” Sophie said suddenly. “You do have an unusual talent for making potions. More than anyone I’ll ever hope to meet, anyway. You could be my apprentice.” She went very quiet after that, as though she had exceeded the amount of words she could use. Tamzin didn’t really know what to say; she looked down at the floor of the small hut.
“I do like making potions,” she said at last. Captain Cahler cocked his head slightly, but said nothing. Sophie shrugged.
“Well, ye’ve got until tomorrow,” Captain Cahler said at last, after they had stood there for several moments. “I’ll be waitin’ at dawn.” He turned and walked quickly off into the woods. Sophie retreated into her house, but Tamzin remained on the doorstep until she could no longer hear the captain’s boots.
By the next morning, Tamzin had made up her mind. Her bag was fully packed by dawn, and she stood once again on the doorstep.
“I’ve got to go,” she told Sophie. The Ixi, who had also risen early, nodded. They could both see Captain Cahler coming down the path, as promised.
“So he does in fact honor some of his promises, even when not forced to,” Sophie observed dispassionately. Tamzin only nodded, her throat too tight too speak.
“He’s dreadfully annoying, though,” she managed at last. A faint smile appeared on Sophie’s face.
“Yes, rude, too.”
“Well, all set?” the aforementioned captain asked impatiently, jogging the last few steps. Tamzin nodded again, turning to go.
“Wait,” Sophie said suddenly. Tamzin turned back to see the her holding out a small paper parcel. Tamzin took it hesitantly.
“Hurry up,” Captain Cahler ordered, turning on his heel. Tamzin gave Sophie a small smile and a wave, which the Ixi returned, and then hurried after him.
Tamzin stood at the side of the Pirates’ Curse, slowly unfolding the little parcel Sophie had given her. The wind ruffled her hair, lifting it gently off of her back. The air smelled of salt and the sea. The Pirates’ Curse had made good time, and the Haunted Woods was already disappearing around the bend. Tamzin felt a small stab of regret, but she pushed it away as she opened Sophie’s gift. Inside was a small heart-shaped gold pendant. Tamzin held it up, letting it catch the sun so that it burst into a million tiny sparkles. She looked back down at the paper, and saw there were words on it.
Be what you are,
“What’ve ye got there?”
Tamzin looked up as Bart joined her at the railing. She held her paw that clasped the paper over the ship’s side, and then opened it. The paper caught in the wind and lifted high for a moment, then the force of the ship overcame it, and it fluttered once and sank beneath the ocean.
“Why’d ye do that?” Bart asked, puzzled. “What if ye don’ know what it says?”
“I know what it says,” Tamzin answered calmly. She felt more peaceful than she had in years.
“But what if ye don’t know what it means?” Bart insisted, frowning.
“Oh, I know what it means,” Tamzin assured him, smiling at him. “I always knew what it meant.”
The interior of the Golden Dubloon was rather dingy and small, but the young blue Lupess at the table in the corner didn’t seem to mind. She was dressed simply, and wore no jewelry save for a tiny pearl and an equally-sized heart-shaped pendant, both hanging from a simple string about her neck. She sipped her borovan, her sea green eyes darting around the inn.
“...They say there’s a mysterious pirate, you know. They say she goes around finding them pirates that are most greedy,” the gold Krawk bartender said loudly to the small crowd that had gathered around him. “An’ they say she teaches ‘em a lesson, so t’ speak, ‘an takes back their booty, redistributing it t’ the folks as who lost it.”
The young Lupess watched them, her eyes sparkling with amusement.
“How do she know who lost it?” one burly blue Acara complained loudly.
“Do it matter?” the bartender asked emphatically, swinging his washing-rag wildly.
“Speaking of mysterious pirates,” a dryly amused voice put in. “Have any of you heard of the Phantom Pirate?”
The Lupess’ ears pricked up and she set down her drink slowly, her gaze fixed on the newcomer, a battered-looking pirate Kougra with a gold hoop through one ear. He sat alone at a small table near the front, his drink and plate of food untouched.
“No?” the Kougra continued, looking around at his captivated audience. He rubbed the hoop thoughtfully. “Well, let me tell you then. This ship goes quietly, silently, at night. No one ever sees her, but she takes everything. Not a single thing left. No ship can catch her unless she wills it, and if she does, you’ll shortly find yourself in a rowboat, on open water.”
The crowd ahhed appreciatively, and the Lupess listened attentively.
“How do you know?” the burly Acara asked, seeming determined to make trouble.
“Because,” the Kougra said, with the dry exasperation of one talking to a very simple minded person, “my ship was attacked by her.”
“So what’s the captain like, then?” the bartender asked. “Who captains such a ship?”
“No one’s ever seen him,” the Kougra answered, cocking his steely grey head. “He dresses all in black, and hides his face. And he only attacks at night.”
“Where was he last seen?” the blue Lupess asked suddenly. All eyes swiveled to fix on her.
“Near Sakhmet,” the Kougra answered, looking at her curiously. “But what’s it to you? And who are you?”
“Sakhmet!” someone exclaimed, and the Kougra turned to look at him. Then he hastily turned back to the Lupess to ask again.
“Who are you?”
But the Lupess was nowhere to be seen. The bartender frowned.
“Gone quick, eh?”
Outside, the young blue Lupess hurried along the docks purposefully. Pets paused to stare at her, then went back to their work. She reached a small, slender ship that looked badly beaten up. It swayed in its port, its plain white sails fluttering mournfully in the breeze, seeming at odds with the name painted along its side: Destiny.
The Lupess grabbed the rope ladder that hung over the side, and began to climb.
“Mr. Brown!” she called, swinging deftly over the top.
“Aye?” a shabby-looking brown Ogrin stumbled onto the deck, rubbing his eyes.
“Prepare to sail, we’ve got a new lead,” the Lupess told him, landing with a thump on all fours on the deck. She picked herself up with dignity, muttering: “I never have managed that one.”
“I thought we was takin’ a break,” Mr. Brown complained. “I’ll not be goin’ after anythin’ so easy as last time,” he added warningly. “I made a contract, ye know.”
“My hat?” The Lupess brushed her clothes off and addressed Mr. Brown regally as the Ogrin produced said hat and handed it over. It was a very nice one, with a place where a large plumed feather might once have been but was now removed. “A phantom ship. No one’s ever caught her if she doesn’t want to be caught; she’s as fast as the wind, they say. She attacks only at night, leaves no trace, steals everything. And...” The small Lupess paused, shaking her long brown curls back and tying a neat ponytail with a scrap of velvet. “Her captain dresses all in black with a covered face, so no one’s ever seen him. That good enough for you?” She placed the hat carefully on her head.
“Aye, Cap’n,” Mr. Brown said, a slow smile spreading across his face. “Aye, that be good enough for me.”
Author's Note: well, there you have it: my first series. I hope you all liked it because there's more of Tamzin to come.