Sky Pirates!: Part Six
Mr Halflook emerged from the deep valley with a scowl on his scarred face. The blue Bori was not in a good mood.
Jimmy ‘Halflook’ Jenkins was a massive Bori, easily dwarfing most Neopets. A scar from a fight that ended badly ran down on side of his face, obscuring one of his eyes.
He’d been waylaid by countless landslides on his trek north from Altador, then the mists had rolled in thick and he’d gotten lost in the valley. But now, the land of Shenkuu waited before him. The sooner he was out of the wretched place and back in Neopia Central, the better. Jennings had to be there somewhere, and he’d be sorry once Halflook found him.
General Qin drained the tea in his cup and stood up, straightening out his clothes. It was time to hang up the name Qin once and for all. He would become Mr. Jennings, crime lord of Neopia Central, once more.
Through the barred window of his cell he could see Shenkuu, it would be beginning soon. He could stay there and watch the drama unfold, but he had more important things to do. Qin’s cronies and the pirates would clear him a path, all the Krawk had to do was walk out of the door.
So he did.
The corridor beyond was lined with similar cells, occupied by countless criminals that had earned the Emperor’s wrath. Their cells were all locked, and as far as General Qin was concerned they could rot there for an eternity. The Krawk made his way along the corridor, pinned against the wall. Not all of the guards were in his pocket; he couldn’t take any chances.
Sure enough, the clinking of a guard could be heard from around the corner. Qin readied himself, and then pounced. The guard was no match for the General, even if he had no weapons. Taking the fallen guard’s sword, Qin stalked carefully out of the dungeons.
There was a brief wind, and then a bright flash. Suddenly, there was a group of thirty pirates stood in the middle of Shenkuu, at the hub of the rope bridges. As is traditional for pirates, they were armed to the teeth.
Partly due to the suddenness of the arrival, and partly due to the natural oddity of a group of pirates being in Shenkuu, it took a little while for the locals to react. They stared in curiosity at the group, as if they might turn out to be street entertainers.
Then the pirates began to yell and snarl, and rush towards across the rope bridges. The citizens of Shenkuu replied by screaming and running away. The horns of the royal guard soon rose in the distance, and it didn’t take long for the armour clad warriors to find the centre of the disturbance.
Captain Dread summoned up a host of new skeleton pirates to bolster Scarblade’s ranks, and the two forces clashed with cutlass against katana.
The battle spanned out across the mountain city, and slowly, a few Shenkuu guards began to break away from the pack.
“We need reinforcements at the sky docks!” a Nimmo shouted as he ran past a large Grarrl.
“I’ll round up some more troops from the palace!” the Grarrl shouted.
The Nimmo ran off across the rope bridge as the Grarrl smiled faintly and produced a sword. He slammed it down on the rope tethering the bridge and cut it. The bridge and Nimmo plummeted into the misty depths.
Chuckling to himself, the Grarrl turned to leave, but found a small dagger brought to his neck from behind.
“That’s a nasty trick for a soldier to pull,” a voice sneered.
The Grarrl remained silent.
“I know you must work for the man I’m here to see,” the voice continued. “Where is he? Tell me, and I might reconsider killing you.”
“The palace,” the Grarrl grunted.
The Grarrl felt the pressure of the blade relent, and he slowly turned around. In the distance, he could see a Bori running towards the palace.
The Grarrl wasn’t stupid; he knew following the Bori would be a mistake. Besides, the Grarrl had orders from Mr. Jennings. He turned his attention back to the battle raging between the pirates and the ninjas. Slowly, the pirates were edging towards the sky docks. He had to make sure things went exactly according to plan. He picked out the route that would lead him to the docks as quickly as possible.
General Qin emerged into the main hall of the palace. The Emperor would be locked in his personal chambers, surrounded by the elite guard. The Krawk would be allowed to walk straight out.
As he made his way to the large oak doors, there was a low cough from behind him. Coming down one of the lavishly decorated staircases was a brown Mynci, dressed in full armour. Qin recognised him.
“Shan,” he sighed at the sight of his former pupil. “I was led to believe you were out of the city putting down a rebellion in Bundak?”
The Mynci smiled faintly.
“A rebellion you orchestrated, no doubt?” he laughed. “The people of Bundak soon saw the light of the Emperor’s judgement when faced with my steel.”
“Me? Plan a rebellion?” Qin asked lightly.
“I see now that all of this is part of your scheme,” Shan continued as he reached the bottom of the stairs. “The rebellion to get me out of the city, the theft of one of our best ships to keep us from pursuing you, and now these pirates, to distract us while you escape your captivity.”
“Captivity?” Qin sneered. “I have never been your captive!”
He swung the sword he had stolen.
“Let me tell you a story,” the Krawk continued. “When I first arrived in Neopia Central and became Mr. Jennings, I was nothing. To carve my criminal empire I needed money... so I borrowed some from a local thug named Mr. Halflook. Sufficed to say, certain incidents with Witches forced me to miss a few repayments. Mr. Halflook is not a forgiving man. I planned to take the throne of Shenkuu and change history, erasing my debts. That plan failed. But, tell me Shan, what was the first lesson I ever taught you?”
“Always have an escape route,” Shan answered, unsheathing his sword.
“Exactly.” Qin smiled. “Here in the Emperor’s cells, I have been safe from Mr. Halflook. He’s had to track me halfway across the planet, and now he’s in Shenkuu, unfamiliar territory for the city-boy. I’ve been waiting to turn things to my advantage. Now, it no longer serves my best interests to be here, so I am leaving. I thank you for your hospitality.”
Qin performed a mocking bow.
“I will stop you,” the Mynci growled.
“Don’t go thinking you can stop me, foolish child,” Qin laughed.
Shan didn’t wait for more words. He ran at his former master, and the two clashed their swords.
Behind them, the large oak doors were thrust open. Standing in the doorway with a violent look in his one visible eye was a blue Bori. Qin leapt back from Shan.
“I’d like you to meet Mr. Halflook, Shan,” Qin said wryly.
“I’m here for what you owe me, Jennings!” the Bori said menacingly.
Shan stood between the two, unsure of what was going to happen next.
“I’m sure you are, Mr. Halflook, and I fully intend to pay you,” Qin replied. “However, this unscrupulous character has seized the Neopoints I owe you.”
Halflook’s eyes narrowed at Shan.
“Oh, he has, has he?” the Bori growled, advancing on the Mynci.
His knife was drawn, and the tall Bori dwarfed the small Mynci. As Halflook slowly backed Shan into a corner, Qin slipped out of the main door and was off across the rope bridges.
He heard the clash of steel and the scream of pain a moment later. Away from Neopia Central, and facing the General of Shenkuu’s forces, Halflook never stood a chance. Even better, Shan had dealt with the problem for him; the blood was not on Qin’s hands.
The pirates burst into the waiting silence of the sky docks expecting an army to greet them. Instead, just inside the doorway they found a group of guards, unconscious on the floor. Benny the Blade poked one experimentally. They were out cold.
“What’s going on here?” he asked.
Dread wasn’t listening; he’d already bounced himself onto a nearby ship. He was busy at the wheel, trying to get the controls to respond. The ship sat there in silence.
“What’s wrong with it? Why isn’t it working?” the Kiko demanded.
There was a gentle click from the back of the docks, and the roof began to split.
“Who did that? What’s happening?” Dread asked, waving his sword around madly.
A Grarrl in Shenkuu armour emerged below on the gantry. He turned to face Scarblade.
“Mr. Jennings thanks you for your cooperation. You may do as you see fit,” the Grarrl told the Lupe, before casually strolling out of the door into the battle still going on outside.
“What was he talking about?” Dread asked as Scarblade climbed up onto the deck of the ship.
The Lupe pulled out a small golden locket from his pocket, which he dangled in front of him.
“You thought it was by luck that you were returned from the depths?” Scarblade sneered.
“What?” Dread asked, backing away slightly.
“They instructed those fishermen where to find you, they brought you here! Now... they’ve given me the one weapon that can destroy you forever,” Scarblade explained, glancing knowingly at the locket.
“What is that?” Dread asked in fear.
“A powerful magical item... blessed with the ability to banish the undead,” Scarblade told the skeleton.
“I’m above mere gypsy magic!” Dread laughed unconvincingly.
“Really?” Scarblade asked. “Let’s see, shall we?”
He opened the locket, and the docks were filled with brilliant white light. It blinded several of the pirates, before finally receding. In the place where Dread had been, there was a small pile of white dust.
“I release you,” Scarblade muttered, throwing the locket into the dust.
The roof of the docks was fully open, letting the sunlight flood inside.
“What now, Captain?” Benny asked. “Shall we take the ships?”
“No,” Scarblade replied as he left the deck. “The deal was that we left... Jennings has other plans for the docks.”
A shadow fell over Scarblade, high in the sky, a flying ship had arrived.
“Right on cue,” the Lupe muttered. “Everyone get out of the docks!”
High above, Captain Freddy surveyed the scene.
“They’re already in the sky docks!” Bug Eye reported.
“But they haven’t launched yet,” Freddy observed. “Jones! Are you ready?”
A muffled ‘Arr’ came from below deck.
“As soon as you have them in your sights, fire!” Freddy shouted as he span the wheel.
The Flying Cutlass banked, and the cannons were pointed directly at the docks. Jones let rip, and as the pirates retreated, the sky docks exploded with fire.
From a distant mountaintop, a Krawk and a Grarrl watched on.
“Are you sure that was needed, sir?” the Grarrl asked.
“Of course!” the Krawk replied. “That was the whole point of this! I could have employed any number of people to kill Mr. Halflook, but by doing it this way... I’ve killed two birds with one stone.”
“Sir?” the Grarrl asked.
“Lately, Neopia has embraced the flying ships of Shenkuu. They can go places that regular ships cannot, and get there quicker,” he explained. “Regular sea faring ships are falling out of fashion... and as such the balance of power is shifting. People are investing more and more money in Shenkuu... and less in Neopia Central. I can’t let them undermine my empire.”
“And destroying the flying ships helps this?” the Grarrl questioned.
“I don’t pay you to think,” Qin observed. “But yes, it will. Confidence in Shenkuu will be rocked, and investors will return to the good old city... and guess who will turn up to cash in on it all again? Mr. Jennings.”
“What about Freddy’s ship?” the Grarrl asked.
“Regrettable that they will survive, but required nevertheless. With any luck they’ll hold up some of the surviving Shenkuu ships... I doubt the cannons will destroy them all; the Cyodrake’s Gaze is well built, as I seem to remember... Come, it’s time we were no longer here,” Qin said, turning to go.
The Krawk took one last look at the mountain city before leaving. General Qin left the mountains, and Mr. Jennings returned to the valleys.
The Rusty Dubloon had been rebuilt, in a fashion. It was mostly just the propped up remains of what had survived the explosion, but it worked. The pirates were there for happy hour again, and Toothless Bob stood behind the bar once more. The dishcloth was now mouldy and sooty, adding entirely new levels of grime to the tankards it was cleaning.
In a corner, some old faces had gathered. The crew of the Flying Cutlass had returned with pockets full of Dubloons.
Among pirates, it normally does.