The Curious Incident of the Statue in the Night-time: Part Three
“Have you seen this ship?” Shan asked.
The red Nimmo scratched his head under his straw hat and took the small paper drawing of the Happy Pandaphant.
“What’s it to you?” the Nimmo asked.
“We are tracking its occupant on Imperial orders,” Shan replied.
“What makes you think I saw her?” the Nimmo asked.
“This is the port, is it not?” Shan asked as he looked around Mystery Island’s wooden pier. “You are the dock master, are you not?”
The Nimmo nodded.
“So you will have seen this ship, correct?” Shan deduced.
“Nope,” the Nimmo told him. “No Shenkuu ships have come into my port for some time. I’d remember; they always have missing crew members they complain about.”
“You are quite sure?” Shan asked.
“Positive, I know my own dock,” the dock master said proudly.
“Thank you for your help,” Shan said dejectedly.
He spun around and returned to his men at the end of the gangplank leading to their own ship, the Swift Quintilc, one of the fastest of the Shenkuu ships.
“The dock master says the Happy Pandaphant did not weigh anchor here. We must find her,” he told them.
“Excuse me, I might be able to help you,” a voice said from behind Shan.
The Mynci turned to see a green Techo in adventurer’s garb standing on the pier, attempting to look dashing.
“Yes?” Shan asked.
“I saw your ship off the coast of Mystery Island yesterday. Whoever was at the helm wasn’t very skilled; they veered off course in the currents,” the Techo informed him.
“Which direction did she go?” Shan asked.
“Normally, I wouldn’t say and all... but if you are on Imperial business, I suppose I can make an exception,” the Techo said. “From the course, I’d say the ship ended up on Krawk Island.”
“Krawk Island, thank you, good citizen,” Shan said.
“Just out of interest,” the Techo asked as Shan turned away, “why are you tracking the ship.”
“An Aisha thief stole something valuable from the Emperor; we intend to recover it,” Shan answered.
“An Aisha thief.... Not Sarah?” the Techo asked.
“You know her?” Shan asked, suddenly turning back.
“You could say that... Quick Fingered Sarah... you’ll find her in the Rusty Dubloon. When you find her, tell her Harry sent you,” the Techo told him.
He broke into a wide grin, and walked off down the pier. Shan shook his head.
“Locals...” he muttered.
Sarah slept in late. She gave herself the luxury as a reward for a job relatively well done. Once the sun was high in the sky, she climbed out of bed and straightened out her clothes. Carefully, she took the Jade Dandan out from under the bed and wrapped it in a spare blanket. Then, she tucked the blanket under her arm and opened the door. The noise of the Rusty Dubloon hit her instantly. Pirating was, after all, a 24/7 occupation.
She descended the stairs to the bar, where several dozen pirates were sat on the benches singing sea shanties and generally being loud.
“Whatever you’ve got,” Sarah told Toothless Bob.
He handed her a tankard filled with a brown substance that could only loosely be called liquid. Sarah sighed and handed over a Dubloon before sitting at a table by herself in the corner. She could afford a quick drink before setting out.
On the other side of the island, the Swift Quintilc weighed anchor. It did not take long for Shan and his crew to locate the Happy Pandaphant. It was beached on the shore, water filling half of it.
“The Techo told us to look for the Rusty Dubloon. Find it,” Shan ordered his men.
This also didn’t take long. The Rusty Dubloon was the hub of undesirable characters on Krawk Island. The Shenkuu guards entered the tavern with the characteristic swagger of guards who own the place. For a brief moment, the entire place was silent, aside from the ramblings of Samuel No Eyes, who was completely blind and hadn’t a clue what was going on. The rabble resumed the racket after only a second, but by then Sarah had noticed who had walked in.
She couldn’t run; that would be too obvious. Instead, she carefully raised her hood to hide her face and ears, and shrank back into the corner clutching the Jade Dandan close to her chest. The Shenkuu guards fanned out across the bar, searching for her. They were no longer dressed in the ceremonial armour; now they had donned flowing black clothes, the calling card of ninjas. This put the pirates on edge. There was nothing a pirate hated more than a ninja, aside from a grog shortage.
Shan stopped in front of Sarah’s table, and peered into the darkness.
“We meet again,” he said slowly.
“How did you find me?” Sarah asked out of the shadows, not moving.
“Thieves always hide in the darkness,” he told her. “That is your way, utterly predictable.”
Sarah looked down at her table; she would have only one chance at an escape, and it would require a good aim. In one fluid movement, she picked up her empty tankard and threw it towards Shan. The Mynci ducked effortlessly, allowing the tankard to sail over his head.
“You missed,” he said happily.
There was a dull metal thump behind him as the tankard made contact with a pirate.
“I wasn’t aiming for you,” Sarah replied.
Shan’s grin faded as he turned. There was a large pirate Cybunny with scars across his face holding Sarah’s tankard staring at him, looking thoroughly displeased. The bar fell silent, all eyes on the two figures. Shan barely had time to open his mouth before the pirate launched himself at him. In response, the bar erupted into similar fights. The Shenkuu guards couldn’t react in time; the pirates surrounded them with ease. In the corner of the bar, Sarah smiled to herself.
“Don’t let her escape!” Shan shouted in a muffled voice from the clutches of his assailant, but his voice was lost in the chaos.
As the Shenkuu guards launched a counter attack, unleashing a barrage of blades and poles on the pirates, Sarah carefully slipped out of her corner, and walked out the door. She didn’t pause; she knew the fight wouldn’t last long. Instead, she ran at full pelt towards the port, she had to locate a ship heading to Kiko Lake.
The Irritating Pawkeet wasn’t the fastest ship out of the Krawk Island port, but it served Sarah’s needs. Her needs of course being any ship heading away from the island. The captain, locally known as Thimbles Freddy, was clearly a few planks short of a deck as far as his mind went, but he seemed to understand how to sail. During the voyage, Sarah was treated to the joys of Freddy’s thimble collection, which he guarded with his life as if it was a national treasure.
“This one,” Freddy droned on, “It were given by the Velvet Pimpernel himself.”
Sarah nodded politely; the last thing she needed was to offend Freddy and get thrown in the ocean.
“This one,” he continued, “I found in the Fungus cave. Can’t think why it was there.”
He held up a very dirty thimble that appeared to by made out of mud.
“Very interesting,” Sarah told him.
Freddy paused, staring at Sarah.
“What ye got in that package then?” he asked.
“My business,” Sarah said, drawing the Jade Dandan closer, “Now, tell me more about thimbles.”
“What now, General?” one of the guards asked Shan.
Shan pulled his broadsword out of a nearby bench where it had been embedded.
“She still had the statue when she was here,” Shan considered, “Which means she wasn’t delivering it to General Qin here. She’ll have moved... I require a map.”
The guard dusted off the debris on a nearby table and unrolled an old map of Neopia.
“Let’s see,” Shan thought aloud as he traced his hand across the parchment, “She’ll have taken a ship, a seafaring ship. That puts Faerieland out of the question, and I doubt she can breathe underwater so that excludes Maraqua as well. She’ll be heading for a port on the mainland I bet, which means either Kiko Lake or the Lost Desert.”
“Your orders, sir?” the guard asked.
Shan considered both options.
“If she was heading for the Desert all along, she’d have gone east at Altador. She must be heading for Kiko Lake. That is where we set sail,” Shan told him.
The guard nodded.
“Make sure we stay in the clouds; we don’t want her to spot us until she’s led us to the General,” Shan continued.
The guard nodded again and ran off to make arrangements, leaving Shan alone. The General looked round at the wreckage of the Rusty Dubloon. After the fight had ended, the Toothless Bob had been very polite about the repairs. Shan had offered to reimburse him, but the pirate had insisted that bar fights happened every day, so there was no point in fixing the place up. Shan turned back to the map.
“Why Kiko Lake?” he said to himself.
Then his eyes darted north, to Neopia Central.
“Of course,” he added, “he always did like the big city.”
To be continued...