Pirates, the Sight, and the Sea: Part Seven
Roselia leaned against the railing, staring out at the horizon as the sun slowly crept its way into the sky.
Every day for the past five years she had been forced to get up way before daylight hours to start her daily chores, so she found it ironic that on the one day she’d be able to sleep in, she had gotten up anyway. It was strange how peaceful the deck was before the Savages invaded it later in the morning, and Roselia was enjoying herself, finally taking time to watch the sunrise and reveling in the wonder of the sky turning peach, pink, and then a blue as light as her eyes.
A slight breeze ruffled her long hair as she grasped the railing, a warm feeling of nostalgia humming through her veins.
“Come on, Rosy. Let’s go to the railing as we cast off.”
For once Roselia smiled at the memory instead of suppressing it.
Don’t worry, Mithy. I’ll be seeing you soon.
“You’re up early.”
Roselia twirled around. Tresor was wandering across the deck, the brown Lupe rubbing his face with a weary paw as he approached.
“I could say the same to you,” Roselia said, turning back towards the horizon.
“So, do you see it?” He didn’t have to clarify what “it” was.
“Not yet.” She glanced towards him. “Are you sure we’re going the right way?”
“You tell me.” He reached up into his hat and pulled out the amulet, handing it over.
Roselia took it carefully, cupping the finely-crafted pendant gently in her paw, and held it towards the sea with thoughts of her brother. A flare of light erupted from the amulet, so bright that she almost dropped it and had to close her paw around it for fear of relinquishing it to the churning sea.
“Careful,” Tresor warned.
Roselia smiled. “Don’t worry. But we’re definitely going the right way. You should see the light coming out of this thing; it’s amazing.”
“I think just seeing my dad again will be amazing enough,” he said wistfully, taking the amulet back and tucking it back inside his hat. “I’ve been thinking about him all night; I could barely sleep.”
“Same here,” Roselia agreed. “It just seems so... unreal. I can’t believe that it’s actually happening--”
“That what’s actually happening?” a voice from behind asked, the throaty growl cutting through the air as swiftly and as deadly as an arrow.
“Captain!” Roselia exclaimed quickly, jerking around to face him, her eyes wide. She hadn’t expected him to be up so early, especially after a Grog Night, and she was startled by his sudden arrival.
Tresor’s heart hammered as he glanced over to the Usul at his side; he had never seen Roselia frightened before, and the look on her face worried him.
Captain Faer walked towards them slowly, his Gnorbu features twisted in a look of suspicion, his eyes dark, and his figure large and imposing. “So, little sea witch, what is this big event you’re talking about? A little excursion perhaps? Maybe a way to get off my ship?”
Roselia shook her head, trying to think of an excuse. “No, sir. Nothing like that at all.”
Faer turned to Tresor, his eyes cold. Tresor gripped the railing behind him nervously, trying to steady himself as the ship swayed beneath him. “Maybe you’ll tell me then, boy. We all know that the little sea witch is up to no good, so why don’t you tell good ol’ Faer what she’s scheming.” It wasn’t a request; it was a command.
Tresor was about to lie, about to come up with some random explanation, when suddenly Faer’s eyes flickered to the sunrise in the distance and froze.
“What’s that?” Faer asked quickly, his voice sharp and almost unbelieving.
Roselia felt a bit of her old attitude return. “It’s a sun, sir,” she jibed. “You know, a big ball of gas in the sky that’s millions of degre—”
“That’s not what I meant!” Faer shouted, his eyes livid. “What I meant is, why is the ship going towards the sun? Why are we traveling east?!” He reached out and grabbed Roselia by the scruff of her shirt, lifting her off the deck so that he could look her in the eyes. “What have you done, girl?” he hissed.
Roselia trembled and gasped for the air; the collar of her shirt was digging into her neck and choking her. As much as she tried to suppress the feeling of fear, she couldn’t help but think back to the first day she met Faer and how the captain had been prepared to throw her overboard. For the first time since then, she actually thought he would finally do it, just toss her over the railing into the churning sea. And she was terrified. But before Faer could do anything, Tresor interrupted them with a mumble, his paw tentatively pointed out to sea.
“R-Roselia. It’s there.”
Faer whirled around to face the horizon, and Roselia watched as his grey fur paled to a sickly off-white. Suddenly, as if he had lost all strength, Faer dropped Roselia onto the deck, where she landed hard on the wooden planking.
“Ow...” she moaned, rubbing her sore side and massaging her throat, but it was when she glanced up that she saw it, a distant speck on the horizon steadily growing larger.
The Crimson Storm.
Despite having not seen the vessel in over five years, the image still struck a chord of terror in her heart. The black wooden planking, the blood red sails, the deadly black skull-and-crossbones flag hanging high on the crows nest: all of it was familiar, but at the same time truly terrifying.
All the excitement she had felt before immediately drained from her, as if someone had simply pulled a plug and let all of her optimism die away. Now the only thing that made Roselia’s heart beat was fear. She could see now that this wasn’t going to be a simple matter of going onboard the ship and saving her brother. This was dangerous. These were real pirates, brutal pirates, and suddenly she felt like a young Usul again, timid, helpless, and afraid.
“What have you two done?” Faer asked tonelessly, his eyes on the ship. “You have no idea what you just did.”
“I-I’m going to save my dad,” Tresor attempted to say as firmly as possible, gripping the railing tightly and trying to stifle the feeling of terror that had suddenly started spreading throughout his system.
Faer turned to him. His eyes, which were once as sharp as granite, were limpid pools of storm clouds, lost and distant. “You don’t understand, boy,” he murmured. “The Crimson Storms aren’t normal pirates. They’re different. They don’t care for treasure or riches; all they want are new recruits to join them in their quest to rule the seas. And if anyone stands in their way, they’ll see to it that that person never sees the sun again. You thought I was bad, boy, but whatever nightmares you had with me in them are nothing compared to the horrors they’ve done. Believe me, I should know; the captain of the Crimson Storm used to be my best friend.”
Tresor’s eyes widened. “You were friends with him?”
“Him?” Faer chuckled softly, his voice almost edging into insanity. “Oh no, lad. The captain isn’t a he.” He gave a Roselia, who was struggling to her feet now, a condemnatory look. “The captain’s a she.”
Roselia’s features furrowed. “She’s a girl?”
“Captain Alieria,” Faer announced, bitterness in his voice. “An intelligent Zafara, but a bit too power-hungry for my liking.”
By now the sun had risen higher into the sky, bleaching the Thunder Savage with an eerie light, and with it a few Thunder Savages had emerged from their quarters onto the deck. But not a single one of them talked or jibed or fought. Instead, more and more of them were slowly gathering around the captain, eager to hear his tale.
“We knew each other when we were younger,” Faer started, his eyes never leaving the blood red ship drawer nearer and nearer, “and we quickly bonded. Unlike all the other Neopets we knew who just dreamed of becoming pirates, we actually had the skills and the drive to make it a reality. We started as a few simple deckhands on the same ship, the Rampant Tempest, but we both dreamed of the day we would own our own vessel and be Captain.
“While we worked away as deckhands, we grew closer. We would talk for hours, discussing what type of ship we’d have when we were true pirates, where we’d travel, etcetera, but in the midst of our discussions, I discovered that although we were both alike in some aspects, we also were very different. I wanted to be a pirate for the sake of treasure, to travel and reap the profits of a life at sea, but Alieria had another reason in mind. She wanted to be a ruler of the oceans, a tyrant of terror, and she wanted a crew that would strike fear into the hearts of everyone who saw her ship.
“A few years passed and we went our separate ways, until one day I awoke to a knock and saw her standing at my doorstep. Apparently she had procured a ship, and she asked me if I would join her on her old quest, be co-captains with her. But I refused. I wanted nothing to do with her crazy scheme and to work alongside someone seemed degrading. After that, well,” he looked pained, “she was absolutely furious. She screamed, taunted me, even pleaded, but when I refused to go along with her plans, she turned around and stormed away. I never saw her again, and for a while I thought that maybe her dream didn’t come together, but when I heard rumors of a ship that did nothing except take victims and turn them into pirates, I knew she had finally achieved her goal.”
The pirates surrounding Faer were silent as he finished his story, Roselia and Tresor included. Meanwhile, the Crimson Storm was drawing scarily closer. They were no longer chasing it; it was coming after them. There was no time to turn the ship around and attempt an escape. They were cornered.
“F-Faer...” Roselia started off hesitantly, but he cut her off.
“I hope you’re happy, Roselia,” he muttered, shocking the Usul by using her real name. “I hope you’re happy what you’ve done. You’ve condemned every single one of us on this ship to destructi--”
“Me?” Roselia repeated, disbelieving. How dare he pin this on me! Suddenly, an anger she had never known existed bubbled forth from inside of her, and words spewed out of her mouth as sharp and as deadly as knives. “What about you? If anyone’s to blame, it’s you, Faer, and you know it!” Her accusation caused a few Thunder Savages to exchange worried glances, but she continued on uninhibited. “You’re the one so obsessed with greed that you kidnapped not only me, but Tresor as well. You’re the reason we’re on this ship in the first place, and it’s because of your horrid treatment of us that we’ve finally had the courage to stand up for ourselves and fight for something we believe in!” Her blue eyes glistened with tears, and her teeth were clenched. “So what?” she hissed. “So what if I’ve just led this entire crew into the jaws of the enemy? So what? You’ve never given a darn about your crew, have you, Faer? Take last night for example. You were the one who was supposed to be steering the ship; you’re the captain for Fyora’s sake! But no. You were too obsessed with the haul to even pay attention to the fact that we turned this ship around 180 degrees. You’re just a greedy old Neopet, hardly better than Alieria.”
Roselia looked up at Faer and then smiled, her grin so manic that it made Tresor wonder if she had lost her mind. But her next words were soft, serious, and perfectly sane. “And you know what, Faer?” she whispered, her eyes captivating him, keeping his gaze locked to hers. “Even if I’m captured today, at least I’ll be happy in the fact that I actually care for something, that I cared enough for my brother and for Tresor’s father to go against your orders, sneak behind your back, and steer this ship in the direction that I know is right. And there’s nothing you can say that’ll make me think otherwise.”
The two stared at each other, Roselia’s mouth set into a triumphant smirk. But Faer, on the other hand, felt as if he were falling. For the first time ever, he felt as if he were the inferior one in Roselia’s presence, and as her words sank in, he paled.
It took a few minutes, but Faer finally tore his gaze from Roselia and gave the approaching ship a look before facing his crew. The Savages for once seemed anything but savage, and for the first time Faer actually looked at them as something besides a crew. They were Neopians, each and every one of them, with personalities, families, hopes, dreams, and fears. They were more like him than he had known, and it was time that he finally admitted that to himself.
“Well,” Faer started, taking a breath, “if we want to survive, we’ll have to fight. All of us, myself included. Fight like we’ve never fought before. And I know...” He trailed off, almost as if he was fighting internally with himself over the choice of words. He shook his head. “Listen, I know at times I’m not a true captain, but ...” He looked at them, his eyes regaining the familiar spark, “...but I know for a fact that I’m a true Savage. And Savages are savages through and through. And if you all are the Savages that I know you are, then we’ll make it. We’ll destroy the Crimson Storms and we’ll show them who the greatest crew in all of Neopia truly is.”
The Savages looked at him, a bit unnerved by the captain’s unusual speech, but after the initial bit of silence, a hum surfaced over the crowd, eventually growing until it became a roar. Suddenly all the Savages were cheering and clapping and yelling like true savages, caught up in the contagion.
Roselia smiled, sweeping her hair into a ponytail. Nice job, Faer, she thought, giving the captain an approving glance.
“I’ll help fight too,” Tresor suddenly announced, stepping away from the railing and brandishing his new cutlass. However, Faer shook his head.
Tresor looked at him angrily. “You don’t think I could fi—”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” Faer said with a sharp look. “You’re one of the finest fighters I’ve ever met, boy. But trust the Savages this time. In the meantime, it seems as if your father will need you more.” He then turned to Roselia, his face serious. “As will your brother.”
Roselia looked up at the Gnorbu curiously. He had always been someone to hate, a man she had thought she knew to be cruel and heartless. And yet, staring at the pirate Gnorbu, for the first time she saw it. Behind the harsh features, the brutal words, the unkind actions, was someone who actually cared.
The Usul smiled. “Thanks, Faer.”
The captain grunted, barely giving her a glance, and turned back to his crew, leading them to the other side of the deck. “All right, Savages!” he bellowed. “Now let’s get ready for the raid of a lifetime!”
The Savages hollered and followed Faer, whipping out their cutlasses and waving them in the air as a mob.
With the Savages preparing for battle, only Tresor and Roselia remained near the railing. Tresor fiddled absentmindedly with his cap while Roselia’s eyes were glued to the Crimson Storm. The ship where her brother was. The ship that she had spotted from the railing of the Silver Torrent all those years ago. It was a ship of sadness, of anger, of power, of danger, and despite her earlier speech, she couldn’t help but wonder if she really was doing the right thing by leading the entire crew to its possible demise.
“Hey Roselia, here.”
The Usul turned around and saw Tresor facing her, the Lupe’s paw extended as he offered her the water faerie amulet. “Here,” he repeated. “You’re the one who can actually use it. I thought it’d be better if you were the one who had it when we head on over.”
Roselia took the delicate piece of jewelry and carefully slid it over her head so that the chain hung from her neck, the pendant lying on top of her heart. As soon as it touched her fur, it gave off a strong beam of pure white light. She turned back to Tresor to thank him, but then frowned. “Why’d you take off your hat?”
The ratty blue cap that she had been so accustomed to seeing on his head was now in his paw. Tresor shrugged. “It’ll just get in the way. And besides, it’s my favorite hat. I’m not about to lose it to some power-hungry Zafara.” He looked around and then, spotting a hook dangling above them from one of the ropes, he climbed up the cargo net and placed it on it. “There,” he said, coming back down to the deck, the hat dangling like some sort of strange shabby blue mistletoe. “Once I find my father, and once you find your brother, I’ll come back here and get it.” He grinned, his smile white. “And that’s a promise.”
Please, Mithy! Promise me that you won’t get hurt, that... that no matter what, you’ll come back for me...
This time the memory stung, but Roselia bore the pain, looking back out at the ship that was now only a few hundred feet away.
It’s time I made my own promise, she thought, her heart steadfast and her mind set.
“Come on, Tresor. Let’s go save them.”
To be continued...