Pirates, the Sight, and the Sea: Part Two
The Silver Torrent was in complete chaos: barrels were falling over, a mass of sailors were attempting to open the sails wider, urging the wind to pick up, and others were darting this way and that, scrounging for anything that they could possibly use if a battle ensued.
Roselia, on the other hand, was in a complete daze, her pale eyes wide, but unable to truly take in the mayhem occurring all around her. Instead, she listlessly let her brother drag her along the deck, barely resisting as he led her towards a door, down a small flight of stairs, and into one of the dim cabins below.
Her eyes adjusted to the darkness slowly. There were two white linen hammocks tied with rope to hooks on the walls, swaying slightly as the ship rocked, a small wooden desk littered with knickknacks, paper, a quill, and ink, and a built-in storage unit that Roselia guessed was used to house the sailor’s clothes.
“In here, Rosy,” Mithy said, opening one of the smallest compartments in the cabinet that was parallel to the floor. “You should be safe for now in there.”
It was at that moment that the situation truly sank in, and Roselia, who up to that moment had been in utter disbelief, felt fear send tremors throughout her little body. It didn’t take long for her to start crying.
“Rosy!” Mithy comforted, kneeling down and holding his sister tightly. “Please don’t cry, Rosy! I know it’s scary, but this is the only way you’ll be safe. Just please, be a good girl and climb in—”
“B-But what about you, M-Mithy?” she gasped. “I s-saw the pirate ship up there. They’re c-coming, aren’t they? B-But what do they want?”
“I... I don’t know,” the Ogrin said honestly, avoiding Roselia’s eyes. “But what I do know is that I made a promise to Mom. Your safety is a priority, more of a priority than mine, and it would kill me if something happened to you....”
“Then make me a promise too!” Roselia said desperately, clinging onto his green-striped fur and sobbing into his shoulder. “Please, Mithy! Promise me that you won’t get hurt, that... that no matter what you’ll come back for me!”
Mithy looked pained, his eyes filled with agony. “Roselia, as much as I want to, I can’t promise anything. But...” He looked at her. “If you promise to keep quiet and stay here in the cabin, then I will try with all my might to come back. Okay? Do we have a deal?”
The young Usul sniffled and wiped her eyes with a paw. “I... I guess.”
“Good,” Mithy said, relieved. “Now come on. In we go.” He helped his little sister crawl inside, snuggling her between folded sailor uniforms and a mop head. Once she safely within, he gave her a hug, a peck on the cheek, and simply said, “I love you, Rosy.”
More tears streamed down Roselia’s face, blurring her vision as Mithy slowly shut the cabinet door. “I love you too, Mithy,” she finally whispered as darkness closed down around her.
She wrapped her arms around her knees, trying to keep the sobs to a minimum as she strained to hear what was happening above her on the deck. But the cabin was silent, too far away from the action for her to hear nothing more than the slight scuffles of feet and a few muffled shouts. However, it seemed as if the sea was casting some sort of spell on her, soothing her with its rhythmic motions and calming hushes that reminded her of times back home when her mother would rock her before she went to bed. With the feeling of motherly warmth and the vision of Mithy in her head, it didn’t take long for Roselia to gently drift off to sleep.
“Well, what do we ‘ave here?”
Roselia opened her eyes at the rough voice... and recoiled from the face leering at her, backing up in the cupboard until her back was pressed flat against the wood paneling.
She recognized it as a Kyrii examining her, but it was the strangest looking Neopet she had ever seen. His scarlet hair was matted with dirt and knotted in a single braid, his teeth were rotting and she caught a glimpse of a single gold tooth in his smile. His breath was rancid, his eyes watery, and his clothes were tattered and old, consisting of a torn white shirt, baggy pants, and a leather scabbard on which rested a gleaming silver cutlass.
“Ooh!” the pirate leered. “A stowaway? An’ a little beaut’ at that! Ooh... the captain’ll want to see you.”
He reached out a paw to grab onto Roselia’s forearm, but it was then that she snapped to life, kicking and biting and screaming. “Get your filthy hands off me!” she cried.
It took no more than a second for the pirate to unsheathe his sword and hold it to her neck, tickling her throat. Roselia immediately stopped squirming. “There we are, a nice little lass now,” the pirate praised, drawing her out of the cabinet but never loosening his grip on her arm or the cutlass. “Come now, little wench...”
Roselia bit her tongue as the pirate led her up and out of the cabin, her heart racing frantically and her pupils shrinking as she emerged into the sunlight.
She gulped, looking around. The deck was a mess. Splintered pieces of wood littered the deck planking as unfamiliar faces, pirates, pried apart the crates that were supposed to be traded at Mystery Island. The Cheat table that had been set up earlier was knocked over, the weathered cards dancing in the wind as they blew around. But the worst thing was that Roselia didn’t see a single person she knew. Par, Kes, Mesh, Mithy... none of them were anywhere to be seen.
The Kyrii shoved her towards the starboard side of the ship where a mass of pirates were cluttered. They were a motley crew, all looking as if they hadn’t bathed in years and sporting ratty clothing with an assortment of earrings and bandanas. A few were lounging against the railing while others were just laughing with one another, their raspy voices giving Roselia the creeps. But they all surrounded a man whom she could only assume was the captain. He was a tall pirate Gnorbu, his blue-grey fur cut short and sporting a long wild black beard. His eyes were sharp and grey like the sea, a jagged scar ran down the right side of his face, and to top it all off, he wore a long navy jacket that appeared to have suffered some use and sported large pockets.
“Look what I found in one o’ the cabins, Captain,” the Kyrii said, roughly pushing Roselia through the putrid throng of pirates. “A stowaway, and a lass at that.”
The pirates started sniggering as they caught a sight of the disheveled Roselia, still clad in her frilly blue dress but looking much worse for the wear. They smirked as she was pushed in front of the Gnorbu.
“Really?” the captain inquired, his voice deep and intimidating. He leaned down to size up the small Usul who tried to meet his gaze unfazed but found herself failing miserably. Tears stained her cheeks as she bit her lip to stop her whimpers from escaping her mouth.
The captain raised an eyebrow and stood back up, his voice cold. “She looks pitiful and useless. We’d have no use for her.”
“Maybe she could be our servant, Captain?” the Kyrii piped up, excited. “The lass is young. It won’t take ‘er long to learn ‘ow to swab decks an’ cook an...”
The captain glared at him, giving the subordinate pirate a look that made the fur on Roselia’s back stand on end. The Kyrii hushed up immediately.
The captain turned around, gazing out at the horizon as a hush fell over the crew. “We’ve wasted enough time as it is. We should be scouring the ship for items, not children. Throw her overboard.”
“What?” Roselia gasped, disbelieving his words. But the captain was dead serious, and she began to panic as a few pairs of strong hands grasped her and started to drag her towards the edge of the ship. “Stop it! Get off me! Put me down!” she screamed, kicking and clawing anyone nearby. The pirates holding onto her flinched at the blows and cursed at her angrily, but continued dragging her over to the railing as if she was nothing more than a sack of potatoes.
Meanwhile the captain seemed to have turned a blind eye on her and was addressing the rest of his crew. “Make sure the entire ship is checked for anything of value. This is a merchant vessel; there should be a good haul.” His eyes narrowed. “And I better not catch any of you smuggling off items for yourselves.”
It was as he said this that Roselia, despite flailing desperately to free herself, saw the golden light again out of the corner of her eye. Not again... she thought desperately, but she paused for a second in her attempt at breaking free and turned her head, seeing the golden tell-tale aura shimmering around one of her captors. It was a large Elephante with gold-tipped tusks and baggy pants with deep pockets, leering at her as they neared the handrail. He was the only guard between her and the churning ocean.
She gazed at him in horror, but then a thought clicked into place. Of course! Immediately, before they could drag her another inch, she planted her heels firmly and shouted desperately, “Captain! Wait a minute! He has something! The Elephante! He’s hiding something in his pocket!”
The captain immediately wheeled around at the shout. “What was that?” he hissed, stalking his way over to them. The Elephante paled and faltered.
The Gnorbu stood tall and intimidating. “Release the wench,” he spat and the Elephante and his buddies immediately let go of Roselia, leaving her to rub her sore arms. She wanted to run, but there was nowhere to escape; the entire crew was surrounding her once more, but this time everyone’s attention was split between an irate captain and a frozen Elephante.
“Well?” the captain spat as the silence thickened. “Is what she says true? What are you hiding from us, Graj?”
Graj shook his head rapidly. “N-Nothing, Capt—”
Quick as a whip, the captain reached out to one of the Elephante’s pockets and withdrew a small round object on a long golden chain. Roselia only recognized it as a timepiece because of the slight ticking sounds coming from it. There was a collective gasp among the crew.
Graj paled. “I-I was meanin’ to put it on the loot pile, but I.... It’s pro’ly not worth much... pro’ly isn’t even real gold...”
“Really?” the captain asked coldly, suddenly slamming the pocket watch against the railing with a loud thud. Graj winced at the sound while the captain re-examined the piece carefully. “Hmm... looks like solid gold to me.”
The captain cut him off and barked at a few members of the crew, “Take him to the hold of the ship. I’ll deal with him later. But for now...” He turned his cold eyes to Roselia, who began shaking with fright. “How did you know he took it, girl?”
Roselia quivered, startled by the intensity of his stare. “I... I saw it in his pocke—”
“Liar,” the captain hissed. “The watch was far too deep in his pocket for you to possibly see it. So I’m going to ask you again girl, and only once more: How did you know?”
Roselia looked up at all the pirates glaring at her and finally, lowering her gaze, mumbled, “I... I can just tell...”
“She’s lying, Cap—” someone started, but was silenced when the captain barked, “Quiet!” He had turned away his back to her and was thinking, his eyes furrowed in concentration. Roselia held her breath. Finally...
“Red,” the captain said.
Roselia looked at him blankly. “What?”
“Red,” he repeated coldly. “It’s my favorite color. Am I lying or not?”
Roselia blinked at looked up at his face, the Gnorbu’s emotions perfectly controlled and his eyes steely. But even the stone-faced captain couldn’t hide the golden sparks glinting off his fur.
“You’re lying,” the Usul whispered, embarrassed.
The captain’s eyes widened and he turned away from her once more, thinking. “Well, well,” he murmured. “A little sea witch. What a valuable find...” He wheeled around suddenly and grabbed her arm. “You’re coming with us.”
“What?” she yelped as he started dragging her towards the other side of the ship, but she didn’t even resist when she caught sight of a gangplank connected to an adjacent galleon glaring evilly down at her. The vessel was made of a darker paneled wood than the Silver Torrent, on top of the crow’s nest a skull and crossbones flag was waving, and in sloppy peeling letters the name Thunder Savage was painted.
Shocked back to life, Roselia immediately tried to dig her heels into the gangplank to stop from crossing onto the foreign ship, but the captain was too strong. “Listen,” he hissed as she continued struggling, “either you come with us or you go overboard. The choice is yours.” After that, Roselia complied, reluctantly walking, but refusing to be silent.
“Where’s my brother and the rest of the crew?”
The Gnorbu didn’t look at her. “You were the only one on the ship.”
“Do you dare question me?” he hissed, his eyes filled with cold fury.
Roselia faced him straight-on, refusing to back down; she’d already faced death once and was starting to feel a bit braver. “Then what happened to them?”
The captain continued walking with her in tow. “I assume another band of pirates kidnapped them all before we got here. Seeing as they didn’t take any of the valuables, I’d wager it were the Crimson Storms.”
Roselia felt a shiver run through her body; the name alone seemed to be foreboding. “B-But what do they want with my brother?”
“How should I know?” the captain snapped as they finally made their way to the creaky deck. “The Crimson Storms don’t care for the riches or jewels... They’re a different sort of pirate, after recruitments rather than items. And maybe your brother just happened to be the perfect Neopet for the job...”
“But my brother would never deal with pirates!”
The captain paused with his eyebrow raised and gave the young Usul an amused smirk. “What do you think you’re doing right now?”
Roselia had no answer.
The next hour passed by as if it was merely a dream, or rather a nightmare. Roselia was passed off to a pirate Lupe to guard her as the captain and other crew members took crates and valuables off the Silver Torrent and placed them back on their home turf, leering at the “sea witch” as they went along. Roselia could only watch in disbelief as all the goods were carted off and finally, once everything of value had been taken, the captain ordered everyone back on the Thunder Savage.
“Where are we going?” Roselia asked her warder timidly.
“Wherever the wind takes us,” the Lupe answered gruffly. “To the nearest por’ to sell the loot.” He caught the hopeful look on Roselia’s face and laughed. “Don’t get any funny ideas, girl. Yer not going anywhere. Yer staying with us; the captain said sea witches can be quite handy.”
Roselia’s heart sank in her chest. “But...” she started protesting, but the Lupe had already turned away from her. Meanwhile, the captain was barking orders to a Bruce with a skull tattoo on his forearm and ratty blue bandana clinging to his bald scalp.
It took a few moments for the words actually mean something to her, but by time they clicked into place, it was too late. A flaming torch had already been thrown over to the Silver Torrent and in seconds the ship was engulfed in columns of flame.
“NO!” Roselia screamed, reaching out over the railing as if touching the ship would put an end to the horror. But it was useless. Tongues of fire licked up the wooden mast, devouring the frantically-waving blue flag and sails in brief moments. Roselia could even see the worn Cheat cards from earlier flying in the wind, performing illuminated cartwheels on the deck before disintegrating to ash.
Tears streamed down her face and a sob racked her throat. Her last link to her brother and her old life had been burned, and suddenly, despite being surrounded by a horde of Neopets, she felt more alone than she ever had in her entire life.
The captain gazed at the fire as if the burning ship was some sort of show, his eyes sparkling as the flames were reflected in his stare. Finally, when the fire had done its work and the Silver Torrent was nothing more than a skeleton of a ship sinking into the depths of the sea, he turned his back and started walking. However, he paused at the sobbing Usul and put a hand on her shoulder.
Roselia looked up, confused at the display of sympathy, but was sickened to see the captain sporting a smile that lacked all compassion.
To be continued...