Pirates, the Sight, and the Sea: Part Three
Five years later...
“’ey wench, the capt’n needs to speak with ya.”
Roselia paused from her daily chore of mopping and looked up at the pirate who had dared to call her that: a grubby Aisha with a smirk on his face and a scar running down the side of his cheek. She glared at him fiercely, her eyes icy and cold.
The Aisha paled and stepped back, realizing that he’d stepped out of line. “S’ry, miss,” he started mumbling, lowering his gaze so that he didn’t have to look into her eyes, “but the capta—”
“I heard you the first time,” the Usul snapped, shoving him the mop she’d been using to wash the filthy deck boards. When he started to protest, she glared at him once more, her eyes stern and foreboding, and the Aisha immediately started swabbing the deck with such vigor it was almost laughable.
Filthy pirate... Roselia thought as she walked away.
The sea air was tainted with salt and she breathed it in deeply, looking around the deck. Most of the pirates were performing small chores in the morning sunlight, tending to the ship and making sure to keep well out of the way of their little “sea witch.” Five years had taught the Thunder Savages not to mess with the Usul: She may have been just a young lass, but her tongue was as sharp as a cutlass and her eyes were scarier than the thought of a taking a stroll off the plank. There was just something unnatural about her that scared most of them, and although they knew they’d be happier with her gone, the captain was insistent that she stayed aboard. And no one questioned Captain Faer.
Roselia made her way to the wooden door that led to the captain’s cabin, the usual meeting place whenever he called on her. It was almost double the size of the cabins the rest of the pirates were forced to stay in, triple the size of her own little piece of ship, and was decorated with smuggled goods and stolen treasure: Intricate rugs taken from a ship on its way to Shenkuu, jewels stolen from a galleon leaving Krawk Island, and an assortment of other useless knickknacks like statues and paintings of Neopets long dead were all jammed into the space. Whenever she was forced inside, Roselia found herself quite claustrophobic, but after her first day aboard five years ago, she had been determined to always keep a brave face. Never again would she let the captain see her be afraid.
Captain Faer was seated at his desk, a fine piece crafted from dark wood bought at an antique store in Neovia. His cool eyes were scanning a collection of old maps as he made some calculations with a compass and pencil, tracking the ship’s progress through the disorientating waters. He didn’t even look up when Roselia entered.
“Well,” he said, his Gnorbu eyes still fixed on the map showing the ocean currents near Mystery Island, “it seems that were are entering a new sea lane today.”
Roselia frowned, caught between his desk and an oversized statue of a Gallion that was digging uncomfortably into her back. “Let me guess,” the Usul said, trying to ignore the claustrophobia. “There’s a huge chance we’re going to encounter a ship today and once we ransack everything on the vessel, you want me to scare whatever poor sailors are onboard and find out what they’re hiding.”
The Gnorbu looked up at her through his spectacles and smirked. “My, my. What a smart little girl we have here.”
Roselia glared at him. She hated how used he made her feel, as if she was merely a tool to help him and his good-for-nothing crew gain riches and scare poor sailors in the process. “And what if I refuse?”
“If you refuse, then, as I’ve said before, we have no use for you. But I’m sure the Maraquans will accept you with open arms underwater--Oh wait, I forgot.” He smiled at her pleasantly. “You can’t breathe under there, can you?”
The golden aura that she was so used to seeing flared up around his grey fur in such a brilliant display that she almost needed to squint. “You’re such a liar. You need me.”
The Gnorbu’s gaze suddenly hardened. “Well, then how about this: If you refuse, then you can starve. How does that sound?” And this time he was dead serious.
Roselia balled her paw into a fist, knowing that he had gotten her. “Fine,” she spat. She then swirled around angrily and stormed out of the cabin, making sure to knock into the giant petpet statue as she stomped out. As she slammed the door, she couldn’t help but smile as she heard the thud of a large heavy stone object falling and smashing into hundreds of worthless little pieces.
“”Ey, Captain! I see a boat! O’er the port side!”
Roselia stopped scrubbing the mast littered with Piraket droppings, her latest punishment for defying the captain, and blew a stray piece of light hair out of her face as she looked out over the side of the Thunder Savage. In the distance, nestled between sea and sky blues, she could just spot a small boat getting tossed about mercilessly by the choppy waves. It was obvious that whoever was steering had no clue how to man a boat, but she still felt a twinge of sympathy for the sailors on board. As if attempting to navigate through the rough seas wasn’t enough to ruin your day, running into the Thunder Savages would definitely put the morning somewhere on your Top Ten Worst Days list.
“Well, well, well,” Captain Faer muttered, pulling out a spyglass from one of his oversized pockets to gaze at the horizon. “It’s small, but I suppose there could be some valuables on board.” He retracted his telescope and looked around at the pirates that had swarmed around him. “All right, Savages. You know what to do. Cause as much damage as possible, any valuables are to be brought onboard, and you’re to leave any sailors to me and our little witchy here.”
There were a few snickers from the bunch, but Roselia just stood defiantly, her arms crossed over her chest. “I have a name, you know.”
But no one paid her any heed. Instead, the pirates had already begun pulling out their swords and giving them test swishes, laughing with one another as they discussed what they thought was onboard the dinghy. Roselia just leaned against the mast, disgusted with the pirates surrounding her, and tried to harden her heart a bit as thoughts of her brother started filtering into her head.
Stop it! she scolded herself. He’s long gone by now. Five years has put plenty of distance between us and there’s no chance that he’s aboard that cruddy little dinghy in the distance. So just stop thinking about him and pull yourself together! You have a job to do and thinking about Mithy isn’t going to make things any easier.
But as usual, she couldn’t get her brother out of her mind. It was if the memory of him was forever weaving in and out of her head, trapped like some stray breeze that refused to move on. Truth be told, she could barely remember what he looked like anymore, but his voice and last words replayed in her head over and over again: I will try with all my might to come back... I love you, Rosy...
Her eyes started tearing, but she wiped them hastily with the back of her paw and turned her gaze towards the boat. It was much closer than it had been mere moments ago and with her sharp eyesight, she saw the name Miniature Guard printed in blue on its side.
“What a stupid name for a boat,” she murmured to herself, checking to make sure her cutlass was still in place on her hip. It leaned heavily against her thigh, cushioned by the ragged green skirt she wore, and glinted mischievously in the sunshine. She had won it soon after she had first boarded the ship in a game of Cheat against a foolish Tonu and kept it on her person ever since. As the rest of the pirates had their own swords, it wasn’t much of a weapon against them, but it gave her a sense of security all the same.
Roselia flinched at the familiar battle cry. As usual, they can’t just storm the boat like civilized Neopians. No. They just have to act like a herd of wild Blurgahs, shrieking like they’ve just caught on fire while scaring every poor soul that happens to be nearby...
While she had been reminiscing, the Thunder Savage had sailed up against the puny craft and the gangplank was brutally lowered, hitting the dinghy with a loud smack. Now was when the chaos ensued as Thunder Savages battled against one another to get onboard and start the routine plundering, shoving and nudging and spitting on each other until the Miniature Guard was coated in filthy pirate scum like a poor Kadoatie infested with fleapits.
Roselia rolled her eyes and waited for it all to be over, ignoring the animalistic shouts and battle cries as she fiddled with her cutlass and hummed a sea shanty under her breath.
“There once was a sailor, a Krawk from the west
With an eye patch, tattoos, and a ship named Conquest.
He had treasure and gold and a Snarhook named Skees,
Who helped him escape as he sailed all the seas
He was admired by some and dreaded by most
As his plundering ways threatened ocean and coast,
But on one fateful day as he made all his rounds
A young lass he spotted and--”
“We got ‘im! The snotty nose brat sailing the dump!” interrupted a Camouflaged Wocky as he leapt back aboard the Thunder Savage to tell the captain.
Roselia scowled; he had interrupted her at the best part.
Behind the leering Wocky was a mass of pirates dragging a struggling Neopet across the gangplank from the dinghy. Roselia could only catch a glimpse of the captive between the horde of pirates as he thrashed and yelled obscenities, but she eventually spotted ruffled brown fur and made out that he was a Lupe.
“Let go of me, you filthy--!” he shouted, his guttural voice low and angry, but he was quieted when a pirate punched him in the gut, knocking the wind out of him.
Roselia shook her head, feeling slight sympathy, but also a bit of annoyance. That one better learn to keep his mouth shut or he’s going to be squid food in no time.
“Nice work, Savages. Was there anything of use found?” Captain Faer asked efficiently as he crossed the deck to his crew, completely ignoring the struggling Lupe.
“Nothin’, Captain,” the Wocky said with an attempt at a salute. “The ship was empty. Nothin’ but a few bites to eat and this ratty brat.”
“Who are you calling a ratty brat?” the Lupe snarled, but he shut up once the captain glanced at him, and Roselia saw his brown eyes widen in fright.
“Well, well, well,” Captain Faer said slowly, examining the Lupe with cold eyes. “A little Lupe, not much older than a pup. What’s a lad like you doing all alone on a ship in the middle of the sea?”
“That’s none of your business,” the Lupe spat. He had stopped fighting now, his dark eyes blazing with hatred and anger. A blue cap was lazily perched atop his head.
“Well, I think it is my business as you’re crossing into my sea lane.” Roselia didn’t even need to look at the captain to know he was lying. “Not to mention that there’s only one of you and many more of us. So I’d suggest you tell us where you’re hiding all the valuables, before I see to it that you’re tossed over the deck for a date with the fishies.”
The Lupe glared at him defiantly as if the threat meant nothing to him, but Roselia caught a glint of fear in his eyes. “Your cronies already checked my ship. They saw there was nothing there.”
The captain appraised him coldly. “Do you really expect me to believe that you went sailing all by yourself without a single item of value, not even a brass telescope or a compass? You’re just a boy with, from what I’ve seen, no aptitude for sailing whatsoever and a quick temper. Unless you happen to be part Maraquan, which I highly doubt, I’d bet neopoints you couldn’t navigate the seas without some sort of help. An item of some sort. Something that you thought would save your sorry hide from the remorseless seas... and now from a group of highly impatient pirates.”
The crew snickered, guffawing with one another as the poor Lupe paled to a creamy white complexion. “I... I already said I have nothing.”
“We’ll see about that,” the Captain said with a smile. He turned to Roselia and smirked. “Now, Rosy, tell us all about this little brat’s lies.”
“Don’t call me Rosy,” Roselia snapped, feeling a twinge of grief at the old nickname from her brother, and turned to face the boy. He was gazing at her confused, his eyes furrowed, but the flashes of gold sparkling off his fur were easy to read. I’m sorry, she thought, hoping that the apology could somehow telepathically reach him, and said to the captain. “He’s lying.”
The Lupe seemed startled. “W-What’s going on here? You’re going to believe h—?”
“She’s a sea witch,” one of his captors, a yellow Blumaroo with rotting teeth, hissed to him with a smile.
“Seamus is right,” Captain Faer said with a grin. “Roselia here can see any lies you throw our way, so I’d suggest you don’t try anymore funny tricks.”
“I-I think you’re all crazy, believing in ‘sea witches!’” the Lupe stuttered, but Roselia could tell he was lying again: He realized the power she had over him and was scared half to death. Still, it didn’t stop him from lying again. “She’s lying herself! I swear I have nothing!”
“Boy,” the Gnorbu captain growled, “whether you like it or not, whatever you’re hiding will be found.” He whipped back around to Roselia and looked at her with startling intensity. “Tell me, girl. Where is it? Where’s he hiding it?”
Roselia glared at Faer, hatred burning inside of her for the captain and for everything he stood for, but she turned around all the same to look at the Lupe a final time. The golden specks were still flickering sporadically around him, but as she took a deep breath and focused, she noticed that there happened to be just a few more rays around his head... or around his hat to be more exact.
The Usul frowned. He’s not very original, she thought. “He’s hiding it in his...”
But that’s when she caught the look on his face, a pleading look that cut right through her, melting her hardened heart and twisting it in a way that no one she had ever interrogated before had. As the years had passed, she had learned to ignore the looks and the pleadings, the begging and tears in the attempt to save her own skin, but now, she found she couldn’t give him away. Because whatever he was hiding in his hat, she could suddenly tell that it was more to him than just an object. It was a way. Somehow, and she didn’t know how she knew it, she realized that his goal was similar to her own deepest desire to find her brother and bring him back to her safely.
He was looking for someone too.
“Well, where is it?” Captain Faer snapped, bringing her back to reality with his unpleasant growl. “Where’s he hiding it?”
Dung! Roselia cursed silently. Why do I never stop to think before I start jabbering away? She immediately started examining the Lupe, her pale eyes scouring his being, trying to find some way to save him and whatever he was hiding. Besides the hat, he was also wearing loose-fitting trousers with pockets, and, praying that he had something, anything in them, she shouted, “His pockets! There’s something in his pockets!”
The Lupe’s eyes widened in shock, but luckily no one noticed that. Instead, Faer had already crossed over to him, reached inside his pocket, and pulled a small burlap pouch tied with a piece of twine. Pulling it open, it revealed several thousand neopoints and a few pieces of jewelry embedded with rare stones.
“Oooh!” a few pirates murmured, their eyes widening at the small cache of riches before them, and Roselia couldn’t help but let out a relieved sigh that the boy had been carrying some money with him.
“This will be a nice addition to my bank account,” Captain Faer commented with a smirk, pocketing the neopoints. “And the rings... I’m sure they’ll fetch us a nice sum when we circle by Shenkuu later in the spring. Don’t you think, boy?”
The Lupe glared at him, hatred radiating off his body. “You have my money now, so aren’t you going to let me go?”
Captain Faer seemed to ponder this for a moment, but then casually turned towards the Lupe, a horrific grin on his face. “Let you go? Why, of course we’ll let you go... straight to the bottom of the sea!” The captain snapped at the boy’s captors. “Seamus, Finn, Hajj... throw him overboard.”
“Yessir!” they chorused, leering at the Lupe who had suddenly snapped back to life, struggling and twisting and shouting.
Roselia’s jaw dropped and turned toward the captain. “Faer! What are you doing? He... He already gave you his money! Why are we throwing him overboard? Can’t we just send him back on his ship and let him go on his merry way like all the others?”
“He’s a useless little squirt that we have no need of, and neither does anyone else. You obviously don’t understand the way of the pirate,” the captain said, turning his back on her.
Roselia fumed. “This isn’t the ‘way of the pirate.’ This is the way of madness!” But the captain wasn’t listening to her anymore. Instead, he had turned his back on her altogether and was walking away from what he would call “incessant and insignificant babble.”
The Usul looked across the deck, her heart speeding up. The Lupe was getting closer and closer to the edge of the ship, but he wasn’t about to go down easily. He nailed Seamus in the face with a nasty kick, and was thrashing and struggling with every ounce of his being, significantly slowing his captors down and giving him time.
Wow, Roselia thought, somewhat impressed, he’s strong...
And then it hit her.
Fyora, why didn’t I think of this sooner? “Captain,” she jabbered quickly, running after the retreating figure making his way for his cabin. “Captain Faer! Wait a minute! We could use him!”
The Gnorbu turned around slowly and raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Look at him!” She gestured. “Have you ever seen someone hold off three Neopets like that all on his own? He’d make a great addition to the crew!”
“That squirt?” But Roselia could see in the captain’s eyes that he too was impressed by the Lupe’s pure persistence and strength. However, the captain turned on Roselia, his face both curious and suspicious. “What’s so important about this Lupe? What does this boy mean to you?”
Roselia paled at the question. There as no way to admit that she felt as if they shared a common goal without exposing the object hidden inside his hat... so she did something she was increasingly becoming more adept at.
“I... I think he’s cute.”
Captain’s Faer’s eyes widened, and without warning a mighty laugh erupted from his chest. Roselia blushed, but gave a hasty glance over at the mob slowly advancing towards the railing and prayed that Faer would hurry up enjoying himself. Finally, the captain quieted down, and with a superior smirk aimed at Roselia, shouted, “Savages, stop where you’re at!”
“W-What did you say, Captain?” Seamus asked, confused. The Blumaroo was still clenching the Lupe’s arm, but was sporting a bloody nose and one of his eyes was darkening with a bruise.
“You heard me. That boy’s a natural fighter. Give him a week or two to cool his temper and he’ll be a Savage in no time.”
“What?” the Lupe gasped, his jaw dropping. Roselia couldn’t tell if he sounded more shocked or outraged. “Join a band of pirates that were about to feed me to the Titanic Giant Squid?! You’re even more insane than I thought!”
But the captain ignored him. “Take him to the brig for now. His tongue’s a bit too sharp for my liking, but that should be fixed in no time. Oh, and one more thing.” He turned to Roselia, his eyes sharp, and lowered his voice so that only she could hear it. “If our little protégé should somehow go missing, I won’t hesitate to have you thrown overboard. You cause enough trouble as it is, girl, and if you value your life, I suggest you keep a close eye on your new charge. Got it?”
“Yes sir,” Roselia said submissively, lowering her gaze and nodding her head. She didn’t mind acting obedient for a few moments: It was worth it to save the Lupe’s life.
“Good.” The captain turned tail and started off to his cabin, leaving Roselia to herself.
Who knows, she thought as she glanced over at the struggling Neopet now being dragged towards one of the cabin doors. Maybe things will work themselves out...
But the thought was wiped from her mind when she saw that the Lupe was staring right at her, his eyes locking fearlessly onto her own and wearing an expression that made it clear to Roselia that despite her noble intentions, the only thing the Lupe could see was a girl trapping him aboard a ship filled with filthy pirate scum.
To be continued...