Battle Quills... ready! Circulation: 177,074,095 Issue: 326 | 18th day of Sleeping, Y10
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The Bilge


by samurai_lincoln

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Generally, the vast Neopian ocean is a calm place. Aside from isolated storms, few things threaten the travelers of the sea. I, however, have had the unfortunate experience of encountering one of the only real dangers of the ocean. Pirates. Vile things, those pirates. Marauders in all shapes and sizes, stealing things only to bury them on a desert island... Though, I suppose finding a long lost map to one of those islands would make an exciting story for some lucky pet. But the story I'm about to tell isn't about some glorious treasure.

     A few months ago, I was in bad shape. I was completely broke, working as a laborer on Krawk Island. My life consisted of doing jobs for someone until the work dried up, spending all my earned Neopoints on worthless trinkets that I'd inevitably lose, and then looking for a new chore. One of those jobs was working of a fishing trawler as a deckhand, along with a rugged Lenny who called himself Tarfeather. He had clearly seen his share of battles, with abrasive features and a personality to match.

     He wasn't too fond of me, and would often address me as "Yellow Belly," which was especially embarrassing in front of our captain. I'd say to Tarfeather, "My name's Scratch, and my belly is clearly grey, thank you very much." I called myself Scratch to sound tough, and even used a Pirate Paint Brush on myself to look the part.

     "All you Shoyru are yellow. Look at yer arms; you got no muscle there!" Tarfeather would say. "And I see you always playing with yer diary. Typical of a Shoyru to mess around with nonsense like that."

     It's true, I kept a journal. It helped to ease the loneliness of my work, having someplace to vent. And it's because of my journal that I'm able to remember the details of my story so well, for I wrote everything down. Rather than read aloud, I'll let you go over these pages yourself.

     Scratch's Journal

     The Month of Eating, Day 12

     Finally, a moment alone. Now I can write down everything that's happened. Oh, it was just awful! A bunch of Pirates, all the Krawk species, boarded the ship I've been working on! Everyone else jumped overboard and swam away, and I was going to escape with them. But I saw Tarfeather was fighting back, and I just couldn't leave him... So we both got captured. Those Krawks searched us and took our valuables, of which we had few. They decided to leave me my journal though... Tarfeather says it's because they probably can't even read.

     They brought us to their vessel and put the two of us in the bilge, the lowest area of the ship. It's also the dustiest, mustiest, and generally depressing part of the ship. And here we are now, sitting amongst a stash of barrels and boxes. Tarfeather is checking them for anything useful, but I'm pretty sure the Pirates moved all their treasure before bringing us down here.

     "Tarfeather?" I said nervously. "You've been around, you've seen some things... do you know what these pirates are going to do to us?"

     "Don't worry, Yellow Belly, they'll take us on deck sooner or later and we'll just fly-" He must have seen the fear in my eyes, as he cut himself off to rethink his answer. "Oh... These guys? They seem like a tough lot. Professional Pirates if I ever seen some! Probably gonna tie yer wings behind yer back and send ya off the plank! Hehehehe..."

     "Stop trying to scare me. They seem to be pretty mean, I don't think they'll let us go. You said we can get away if they let us on deck?" I asked.

     "Don't get yer hopes up, Yellow. They ain't never lettin' us go."

     "But you were about to say we could fly away. I've got wings, and you've got wings. The Pirates don't! They can't chase us!"

     "Enough, enough squabbling from ya! Go write in yer book, I don't wanna hear it..."

     Scratch's Journal

     The Month of Eating, Day 13

     We didn't speak after that for the rest of the night. I was so distressed and afraid that I couldn't even write. I'm feeling a little better this morning though. Tarfeather's still asleep... If only he weren't such a jerk to me, maybe we could think of an escape plan. Oh? I hear footsteps above me... they're heading towards the trapdoor...

     Oh well. I thought for a minute the Pirates were bringing us on deck, but they were just tossing down our food. Three pieces of Stale Bread... not very appetizing.

     "Wake up, Tarfeather, they've given us food. Would you like a slice of bread?"

     "Erm? Grr... yarr..." Tarfeather groaned as he awoke. Stumbling over, he scooped up two slices of bread, leaving me one.

     "Hey, can we split the second slice, so it's fair?" I asked politely, trying not to set him off.

     "I'm bigger and stronger, I need more food than you, Yellow."

     "Now come on, I'm sick of this. I had a chance to get away, but I stayed to help you! Did you know that? And all you ever do is treat me like dirt!"

     "I never asked for yer help," replied Tarfeather, gobbling up his bread.

     That Lenny is intolerable. Lennies are normally so smart... so smart in fact that they're snooty. This one, though, I tell you, is downright disgraceful!

     "Why don't you want to escape, Tarfeather?"

     "...Where do I have to go in Neopia. I'm just a filthy scallywag. The only way yer escapin' is if ya got a lock pick nestled in yer book. I'm not risking my neck for the likes of you."

     "Stop feeling bad about yourself. I don't think you're as mean as you try to be. C'mon, you and me, together! We'll break out of here!"

     "..." Tarfeather didn't talk after that, I think he didn't know what to say.

     Scratch's Journal

     The Month of Eating, Day 14

     I'm hearing some voices above us... the Pirates, they're talking about us. Let me write this... Oh, too late, they stopped. I swear I heard them mention the plank though. Maybe they'll bring us on deck soon, and we can fly away...

     Scratch's Journal

     The Month of Eating, Day 16

     The Pirates were down in the bilge yesterday. I couldn't write at all; they were watching me the entire time. They took Tarfeather somewhere. I don't know what they did to him, but when they brought him back he looked injured and beaten. He told me tomorrow, which as of writing this is today, they'd come for me.

     Whatever they did must have changed his mind about not escaping. He said while they were up there, he got hold of a cutlass and concealed it in his feathers.

     "When they come down to beat ya up, I'll take 'em out," said Tarfeather.

     Part of me wanted to ask why he decided to help me, but I didn't want to make him change his mind, so I kept my mouth shut... I don't think I'll have time to write during the escape, but I'll recollect what happened as best as I remember once I'm away.

     Scratch's Journal

     The Month of Eating, Day 18

     ...Where to begin. Well, I touched down on the safe shores of Mystery Island today. Filled my empty stomach with some delicious Island food, and had a good nap. I think my heart is still pounding from the escape, though. It was very frightening, as you can imagine.

     A few Pirates dropped down the trapdoor to take me, when Tarfeather ambushed them with his cutlass. They weren't expecting either of us to have a weapon, so they carried none themselves. Tarfeather dropped the three of them, and charged up the trapdoor, while I followed close behind. Some more Pirates were in the cabin area, sleeping. Had I been alone, I'd just sneak past them. But Tarfeather insisted on knocking them out, to extract revenge, I guess.

     All went according to plan until we got on deck, where the Krawks were armed. As soon as they saw us, they reached for their swords, yelling fierce battle cries. I was scared, but some relentless power had come over Tarfeather. He rushed into battle, clashing swords with all of the Pirates at once.

     "Fly away, Yellow Belly, get!" he barked at me.

     "Not without you! Come on! Let's go!"

     "Aaaarrggh! Slimy Pirate cut me! Aahh... Scratch, go!"

     "You're hurt! You can't beat them by yourself, Tarfeather, please take flight! Please!"

     I was fighting back the tears at that point. As big a jerk as the Lenny was, I didn't want to see him fall in battle. I remember the screams he yelled as he took damage.

     "Tarfeather, you fool! Stay here and die if you wish, but know if you pass up this chance to escape, you'll be dying for nothing!" I pleaded one last time before flying away, praying that he'd listen to me.

     What I said must have gotten to him. I looked back and saw him flying away from the Pirate's ship. But his wings had been hit... one of them may have even been sprained. He couldn't keep a level flight, and I could tell he wouldn't last in the air much longer. I saw his beak move as he tried to call out to me, but I was too far ahead of him to hear his words. Just after that... he... went down. I saw him hit the ocean with my own two eyes...

     I would have gone to his aid, but the Pirates were sailing towards him; they'd get to him before me. It was hard, leaving him there. I can only imagine where the Pirates took him... When I think of it, I never even thanked him for helping me get away. I... can't write about this right now...

     * * *

     Time went by since all of that happened. Believe it or not, I returned to Krawk Island, searching all of the seedy back alleys for any sign of Tarfeather. If he was safe, I wanted to find him. After some sleuthing, I found a salty old sailor, who said a Lenny fitting Tarfeather's description was seen working on a ship only a couple weeks before I showed up. He didn't know where the ship was headed, but he could tell by the large amount of supplies on-board that the voyage was long.

     I've been hanging around Krawk Island ever since. I found a place to stay in a decent, safe neighborhood. Every day I stop by the port to see if Tarfeather comes back, but he hasn't yet. Sometimes I wonder if he's sailing around, searching for me... but then I remind myself he's Tarfeather. Still the same Tarfeather... The roughneck, the jerk... the hero.

The End

 
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