Sky Pirates!: Part Five
After a hard night’s celebrating on the deck of the Flying Cutlass, Freddy retired to his cabin. The place was still decked out with the fine trappings of the Shenkuu Captain who had once commanded the vessel. Freddy hadn’t had enough time to pillage some treasures to inhabit the room. Behind the finely carved wooden desk, a visitor was waiting. Captain Dread attempted to look as if he was smiling more than usual, looking at the Chomby over his fingertips.
“You’re one of the ones who were attacking the port,” Freddy said guardedly.
Dread clicked his jaw experimentally.
“Yes, yes I am,” the Kiko admitted. “But that’s all in the past now.”
Freddy looked sceptically at Dread. The battle had been only hours ago; the fire in the town was still smouldering.
“I’ll cut straight to the point,” Dread continued. “I want your ship.”
“The Cutlass?” Freddy asked, instinctively reaching for his blade.
“Yes, but I’m not here for a forceful takeover,” Dread told the Chomby, waving his hand meaningfully towards Freddy’s waiting sword. “I want to buy it off you fairly. I’m a very rich dead man Captain, I can assure you.”
“Why do you want the ship?” Freddy asked.
“I saw the way you dealt with Scarblade. The snivelling coward ran away with his tail between his legs!” Dread answered, his jaw clicking with glee.
“I seem to remember that you ran away just as quickly, if not quicker,” Freddy pointed out.
“A tactical retreat,” Dread sneered.
“Well, the Flying Cutlass isn’t fer sale,” Freddy said, straightening himself out. “Not to anyone. Not now, not ever. It’s my ship now, no one else’s.”
Dread stared at the Chomby.
“Not even for this?” the Kiko asked innocently.
In one skeletal hand he held up a thimble, gleaming silver in the dim light. There was a blue seal painted atop it. It was the royal seal of Meridell, unmistakable, even in the gloom.
“A Meridell Blue!” Freddy gasped.
“One of the rarest thimbles in the world, so I’m told...” Dread confirmed, lazily rolling the thimble between his fingers. “I understand you were once a collector? Someone told me you were once offered a fake, and that was the cause of your... unfortunate accident with the Irritating Pawkeet. This one’s the real deal. I’d be more than happy to give you this in exchange for the ship.”
Freddy felt his hand twitch, wanting to take the thimble right there and then. The misty haze he used to get whenever he thought about thimbles began to descend over his vision.
A Meridell Blue... an actual Meridell Blue!
It would be so easy, just to take it, and begin his collection all over again. The Meridell Blue was the stuff of dreams for thimble enthusiasts everywhere. He might even make the cover of Thimble Enthusiast Weekly!
But Freddy had new dreams. He forced his hand into a fist to stop the twitching.
“This ship is not for sale,” Freddy hissed.
Dread tried his best to make his grinning mouth look disappointed.
“Very well,” the Kiko spat. “I’ll get a flying ship one way or another, Captain! Rest assured, when I do, I’ll hunt down your pathetic excuse of a crew and blow you out of the sky!”
Dread produced his engraved Dubloon, and the symbols glowed once more. A moment later, the Kiko was gone.
Freddy let himself deflate. The twitching in his hand gradually slowed. He had to do something... he couldn’t let Dread take the Flying Cutlass!
Benny ran through the corridors of the Revenge. Sounds of repair echoed from the bowels, but Benny was not heading towards them; he was going to see the Captain. He knocked once on the door and waited politely.
“Mr. Jennings bid me to give you this,” an unfamiliar voice said inside.
“This will deal with him?” the voice of Scarblade asked.
“Permanently. Mr. Jennings was once in control of Kauvara’s Magic Shop; he knows how these things work,” the unfamiliar voice answered. “He can count on your service?”
Benny heard Scarblade grunt in approval.
A moment later the door was thrust open and a black clad Techo walked briskly out. Benny entered and closed the door behind him, leaning on the frame. He waited until he couldn’t hear footsteps anymore... though he knew that was never a sign there wasn’t a ninja nearby.
“Ninjas, sir? What did they want?” the Bruce asked.
Scarblade looked up from his thoughts.
“To give me an interesting proposal,” the Lupe replied guardedly, while pocketing a gold object he had been playing with. “And apparently you are here to deliver a second.”
“You already know?” Benny asked.
“A Weewoo has arrived from Dread, correct? He wishes for a truce, and to meet at the old Pirate Caves, yes?” Scarblade said casually.
Benny nodded, amazed at Scarblade’s foresight. The Captain smiled to himself.
“How did you know that, sir?” Benny asked.
“It seems the ninjas of Shenkuu have been following Dread’s progress closely. We will agree to meet him; set course for the Pirate Caves immediately,” Scarblade ordered.
As Benny left, Scarblade leaned back in his chair. He took out the golden object that he had been playing with. It was a simple gold locket, a gift from the ninjas... from a Mr. Jennings... but it held the key to liberating Scarblade from Dread’s shadow. He just had to play along with the skeleton, for now.
The Pirate Caves were an ancient labyrinth that stretched out for miles below the ground of Neopia. Countless pirates had used them to hide their treasure over the years. The winding tunnels made stealing almost impossible without a map, or so it had been thought. The adventurer Hannah had infiltrated the caves a few years earlier, and buried Captain Bloodhook with dynamite inside. Since then, they had lost their reputation as a pirate stronghold. Hardly anyone used them any more, but Dread was part of the old guard. He’d used the caves many a time before Scarblade had betrayed him.
The two old pirates had found their way to the endless caverns quickly. Scarblade had brought a few bodyguards including Benny, but Dread was alone. His skeleton crew had long since turned to dust and been washed away by the currents.
“I saw what that flying ship did to the Revenge,” Dread said reproachfully. “Times are changing, so it seems. In the few years I was under the ocean, the world has rearranged itself. We’re nothing more than ferrymen and tourist attractions. Pirates seem to have forgotten what being a pirate is all about.”
“Your point?” Scarblade asked flatly.
“With a power like that flying ship... pirates could put themselves back on the map,” Dread explained. “There may be no more ports to sack, but those contraptions could go inland. Nowhere would be safe. Together, we could unite all the pirates of the five seas. Together, we could pillage Neopia itself!”
Scarblade considered this.
“A truce? You wouldn’t try to kill me any more? You’d put these notions of revenge aside?” he asked.
“Consider it water under the bridge,” Dread laughed. “The restoration of pirate kind is far more important.”
Scarblade glanced at Benny, who flashed him a grin.
“It will take many days to get to Shenkuu,” the Lupe observed.
“I have... methods,” Dread laughed. “We can be there sooner than you can imagine.”
The skeleton offered his hand, and Scarblade shook it.
“For pirate kind,” Dread proposed.
“For pirate kind,” Scarblade agreed.
Freddy emerged onto the deck to find his crew already assembled in the last few hours of the night. They stood to varying levels of attention, but most of them seemed preoccupied.
Samuel seemed to be experimentally cleaning out the brass ear trumpet while Fairfax was as ever looking mournfully at his bucket. Bug Eye and Morrie were having difficulty supporting Jones between them. Only the Pimpernel seemed to be paying attention to Freddy’s presence.
Freddy cleared his throat and tried to look gravely serious.
“I have been visited by Captain Dread,” he announced.
The rest of the crew were now giving the Captain their complete attention.
“He’s on the ship!?” Fairfax asked nervously, drawing his bucket closer.
Freddy shook his head.
“He’s gone now, don’t worry...” he reassured the Tuskaninny.
“What did he want?” Bug Eye asked, eying the Captain.
“He offered to buy the ship off me... a very generous offer at that,” Freddy replied, his hand twitching behind his back as he thought of the thimble.
“Did you accept?” Morrie gasped.
“Of course not!” Freddy snapped. “You’re me crew and this is me ship! No amount of... thimbles,” Freddy felt his hand twitch, “are going to change that!”
“He offered you thimbles?” the Pimpernel asked, clearly concerned.
Freddy’s hand twitched again.
“I told him no,” Freddy said calmly.
“What did he say to that?” Samuel asked, listening through the ear trumpet.
“He threatened the ship... I think he’s going to attack Shenkuu to get his own ship, and then come after us,” Freddy explained.
A thoughtful silence filled the deck.
“We could run,” Fairfax said eventually.
The crew glared at him.
“Pirates don’t run, lad,” Samuel told him.
“Prepare for battle then, Captain?” Bug Eye asked, saluting.
“No,” Freddy replied.
“Captain?” Buy Eye questioned. “You’re not going to fight him?”
“Oh, we’re going to fight him, alright,” Freddy said conspiratorially. “Seems to me that we have cornered the market as far as flying pirates is concerned. We can’t have other pirates moving in on our turf. We’re going to stop him before he manages to steal a ship.”
“We’re attacking Shenkuu?” the Pimpernel asked.
“We’re attacking Dread while he’s in Shenkuu,” Freddy corrected the Wocky.
The Pimpernel nodded.
“I ain’t ordering you lads to do this... I’m asking ye,” Freddy told them.
As one, the crew saluted.
“We understand, Captain,” the Pimpernel replied. “But we want to teach Dread a lesson just as much as you.”
“No one blows up a bar and gets away with it!” Jones shouted suddenly.
“Actually, I heard it wasn’t Dread that did...” Samuel tried to explain, but Morrie clamped his hand over the old Acara’s mouth.
It was the most coherent Jones had been all day; they didn’t want to spoil the moment.
Freddy smiled widely, and lifted his cutlass up high. The moonlight glinted off it.
“Set sail for Shenkuu!” he roared.
To be continued...