Pirates, the Sight, and the Sea: Part Six
Captain Faer cupped the gold rings in his giant hands, the jewels glinting in the flickering lantern light in his cabin and his eyes feasting on the sight of the semi-precious metal studded with sparkling rare stones. The cache of jewelry was stunning, a wonderful find he admired and prized. It wasn’t hard to imagine the potential profits to be made once they hit Shenkuu later in the year; the nobles there had a soft spot for trinkets like these, and their pockets were bottomless.
The Gnorbu smirked, reclining in his leather arm chair and letting the rings fall from hand to hand like a sparkling waterfall of precious gold. It was good being the captain, high enough on the pirate food chain to enjoy the luxuries of plunder without having to step out of the comfort of his own cabin. Faer had worked hard to make it to the top, using every resource on hand, every trick of the trade, every illegal maneuver, and every blind sight, cheat, and ruse. And it had paid off in the long run. Sure, compared to most other, his crew wasn’t the brightest bunch in Neopia, but they made it up in savagery. And with Faer acting as the mastermind, the puppeteer with the uncanny ability to pull the strings, he knew he had found a way to live the carefree life he had always wanted with as minimal effort as possible.
Rap, rap, rap!
Faer raised an eyebrow at the disruption. Suspicious, he put the rings away in one of his desk drawers, making sure they were safely hidden before calling out, “What do you want?”
The door to the cabin opened and sunlight from the above world streamed in as if a faerie were making her grand entrance onto the lowly Thunder Savage. But Roselia was far from a light faerie as she stomped her way down the small flight of stairs into the cabin. Her hair was tied back messily, and the Usul looked as grubby as ever, her ragged dress stained with grease and her fur set in awkward tufts.
“What is it, girl? Shouldn’t you be up to something?” Faer still hadn’t forgiven her for destroying his Gallion statue.
She crossed her arms over her chest in her cynical mien. “Well, if that’s how you greet me, then maybe I shouldn’t tell you that there’s a ship coming in from the northern horizon. Looks like a merchant vessel to me. It’d be a shame to miss out on such a nice haul...”
But Faer had stopped listening to her once the word “ship” had escaped her lips. Grabbing his retractable telescope from atop one of the bureaus littered with compasses and astrolabes, he shoved his way past her to the deck. Roselia, after inconspicuously taking an item and slipping it into one of her dress pockets, followed a few seconds later.
It took a moment for Faer’s eyes to adjust to the bright afternoon sunlight, but once they did he saw his crew already preparing for the siege, their eyes wide and excited as they glimpsed the ship in the distance. It was definitely a merchant vessel, easily distinguished by the sea blue flag flown from atop the mast, and it had caused quite a bit of commotion; the Thunder Savages hadn’t seen a ship like that, loaded with goods and items to trade, in ages. Faer felt the flush of greed run through his veins as he imagined the haul.
“Gather ‘round,” he called in a booming voice and the filthy group surrounded him, Tresor included. This would be his first raid, and although the Lupe was uneasy, he tried to keep his nerves in tact and his face emotionless, especially when he thought of the poor sailors he was about to attack. It’s all part of the plan, he reminded himself, withdrawing his new cutlass from its scabbard and giving a sideways glance towards Roselia. As usual, the Usul stayed as far away as possible from the pirate gathering, finding a brown Weewoo perched on top of the crow’s nest more interesting than the speech Faer was making.
“We’re pirates,” Faer said, inspired, deciding on the speech he reserved for special occasions; most of his crew knew this one by heart, but it still was one of his favorites. “We don’t ask, we don’t plead. We take. We plunder. We go on that ship, ransack it, take whatever we can find, and then scare the living daylights out of anyone who hasn’t already jumped overboard. And then, if things go well...”
“Grog Night!” the Savages chorused, leers on their faces.
“What’s that?” Tresor asked, seemingly ignorant, and a filthy red Kyrii gripped his shoulders, squeezing him close and answered, “Only the bes’ thing about bein’ a Savage, pup!”
The rest of the crew snickered and Roselia cruelly mimicked their laughter from her spot estranged from the group. Faer held up his large hand and silence fell once again.
“So now, Savages,” he whispered, his voice dangerous as his crew leaned in towards him, soaking up his every word, “are you ready to be true pirates?”
His words were like a trigger and suddenly there was an outcry of “Aye!” and pirates cheering and yelling like a bunch of lunatics. Tresor felt strangely out of place, but attempted to keep up the ruse by joining in the strange battle dance, shouting and jumping among the Savages until the crowd branched off into smaller groups for some last minute cutlass shining and practice sword fighting.
Freed from the mob, Tresor slowly slinked off to where Roselia was lingering and half-whispered, “How did I do?”
Roselia pretended not to notice him and bent over as if she was attempting to tie her bootlaces. “You were doing fine until you came over here!” she hissed irritably, keeping her face downward. “Don’t talk to me; it’ll look suspicious. Just go away and act like a pirate!”
“All right, all right!” Tresor reluctantly turned away from her and casually strolled towards the ship railing, pulling out an old rag from his pocket as he went along. He began to shine his cutlass, a dull, mindless task that allowed his mind to wander in a million directions, flickering back and forth between the raid quickly approaching and their plan set for later that night. Would it work? What would happen if they got caught? And as for the upcoming incursion, Tresor had never been involved in anything like it. True, Faer had called him a natural on more than one occasion, but even though his sword fighting skills had been refined in the past few weeks, he still couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if something went wrong. Tresor shivered at the thought.
But suddenly there was no more time to fret about the future. In the time it had taken him to think things over, the Thunder Savage had already caught up to the merchant vessel, a beautiful ship with creamy sails and handsome wooden sides, and roughly crashed against it, allowing the gangplank to clatter down and form a makeshift bridge. Savages were already storming over it in a callous mob.
“Oh Fyora help me,” Tresor prayed, and tucking the rag away so that the only thing he held in his paw was his cutlass, now shaking slightly from nerves, he put on a brave face and followed the charging pirates to the other ship in what he hoped was a semi-decent imitation of savagery.
“Who woul’ care for life on land when piracy is yer true call?
You may swab the deck and worry that o’erboard you may fall
The dark waters may be choppy, and the air hidd’n with fog
But a pirate’s life’s worth livin’ with a tankard full o’ grog!
Oh the bunks migh’ be un-comfy and the sea migh’ make ya ill
But a pirate’s life is nothing if not full of wondrous thrills
There is treasure and there’s plund’r, both the calls of a seadog
But the greatest thin’ is singin’ with me tankard full o’ grog!”
“Ugh,” Roselia complained, wishing for the millionth time that she was far, far away as the Savages continued their shanty, every single one of them completely tone-deaf and lacking a sense of rhythm; the ending lines were all sung at different tempos, creating an effect that was eerily similar to rain on a tin roof. However, none of the pirates seemed to care. It was Grog Night, and on Grog Night nothing could spoil a Savage’s mood.
The upper deck had been completely transformed after the morning’s successful raid. Tables and crates had been dragged up from below and stationed sporadically on the deck, turning the Thunder Savage into a floating tavern. Old-fashioned lanterns hung from the rigging and along the railings, glowing subtly and flickering as if they contained trapped Lightmites, and the latest booty was displayed where all could see: Exotic rugs woven from brilliantly dyed thread draped the crisscross of overhead ropes, fantastically carved pieces of ornate furniture framed the space as if it was a fine parlor, crates upon crates of ancient and rare tomes were stacked up like ancient Altadorian columns, and sparkling jewelry spilling out of giant treasure chests glinted menacingly in the starlight.
But most of the pirates weren’t even paying attention to the riches surrounding them. The only things on their minds were the sour notes they belted out at the top of their lungs, the company of their mates, and grog.
“’Ey, Sea Witchie!” game a raspy call, cutting through the din. It was Hajj, a grubby orange Kougra situated at a table not too far away. He lifted up his empty tankard. “Fill ‘er up!”
Roselia rolled her eyes and approached the table, roughly yanking the tankard out of his paws so she could refill it. She hated Grog Nights. While Captain Faer and his crew were allowed to live it up and relax, she was forced to act as a serving wench, catering to their every need. But today she gritted her teeth and went along with it, doing everything in her power to keep the Savages content and unaware. She and Tresor had been waiting for a night like this for a while, and with it their plan had finally been set into place.
Come on, Tresor, she thought desperately, handing Hajj back his drink and looking around at all the pirates surrounding her, every single one of them hassling her for refills. Captain Faer was included among them, set at his own special table so he could tally up all of the trinkets they had amassed. I’m doing what I can to keep them occupied, but the rest is up to you...
Tresor shivered as he walked along the edge of the ship deck, far away from the grog party. Even on relatively warm days, nights aboard a ship at sea were cold and windy, and even his thick fur couldn’t entirely buffer out the sting of cold air. He reached up for his hat, making sure it was still in place atop his head; it wouldn’t help to lose his favorite cap and the amulet along with it tonight of all nights.
He continued his way around the weathered deck, the stars glinting like pieces of silver in the black sky. He couldn’t help but enjoy the brief moment of peace, even if it meant pretending that he couldn’t hear the far-off tune the Savages were singing. Still, he knew he had a job to do, and as he drew nearer to the ship’s stern, he slowed his steps.
Just as Roselia had promised, stationed at the ship’s wheel, looking miserable and dour, was Seamus. The yellow Blumaroo’s grimy paws were on the wheel, guiding it according to the specifications given to him earlier by the captain, but he hardly seemed to be paying attention to the sea ahead. Instead, he looked as if he was in a fairly bad mood, muttering a string of curses under his breath while straining his ears to catch snippets of the raucous singing coming from his crewmates enjoying the party in the distance.
For the first time, Tresor felt a twinge of sympathy for the pirate. Faer was the one who was supposed to be at the wheel, not Seamus, but the captain’s greed for riches and a life of luxury had led him to station a random crewmember at the ship’s helm while he enjoyed Grog Night. It was completely unfair, but Tresor couldn’t exactly complain; it made the plan a whole lot easier.
Carefully withdrawing himself from the safety of the shadows, Tresor took a deep breath and stepped forward. Seamus heard his muffled footfalls on the deck boards and turned around, a sour expression on his face once he caught sight of the brown Lupe approaching him.
“Well, look who’s ‘ere,” he scowled, his eyes glaring black slits. “The lil’ pup tha’ just went on his firs’ raid today and got to reap all o’ the benefits while I’m stuck steerin’ all nigh’!”
“Actually,” Tresor interrupted, making his voice sound gruff and hoping that his lie seemed sincere, “the captain sent me out here to take your place. Apparently he thinks that you deserve Grog Night more than I do.”
“He said tha’?” Seamus asked, his eyes wide, and then, regaining his composure answered himself, “Well, o’ course he would! The cap’in sees how hard I work! And yer just a lil pup. A good for nothin’ lil pup!” He smiled at himself as if he was clever and, taking his hand off the steering wheel, he made a beeline for the opposite end of the ship.
Tresor shook his head, taking his place at the wheel. “Idiot.”
Using the commotion from after the raid to slip away into the bowels of the ship, and with the help of the water faerie amulet and a compass swiped from Faer’s cabin, he and Roselia had determined that Mithy, his father, and the Crimson Storms were traveling eastward towards the southern banks of Mystery Island, as if preparing to continue on to the small islands dotting the water near Lutari Island and beyond. Pulling the compass out and checking the ship’s position, Tresor gripped the steering wheel firmly and gave it a turn.
The ship compliantly obeyed his will, banking towards the left in a wide arc until the compass needle lined up with the ornate letter “E.” Tresor grinned triumphantly and returned the wheel to its original position, positive that they were now heading in the right direction. True, it wasn’t in the direction Faer wanted them to go, but Tresor had a feeling that by morning it would be too late to change their course.
Tresor smiled, staring out into the darkened horizon as if he could see into the future. Being reunited with his father was something he had only dreamed about, something that he had thought about often, but had never truly believed it would actually be achievable. But now, Tresor couldn’t help but believe that maybe his dream would come true.
Don’t worry, Dad, he thought, his paw wrapped around his cutlass hilt for comfort. We’re coming for you.
And at that moment, Tresor knew that he would do just about anything to keep that promise, even if it meant fighting a thousand pirates to bring his dad back to him.
To be continued...