Pirating For Somewhat Less Fun and Profit
It is rather ironic that one needs strength to lug a big bag of codestones to the Training School, where one goes to increase, among other things, one's strength stat.
However, even after all that hard work, it was beginning to appear that dragging the codestones all that way had been for nothing.
"I am afraid," said the Techo Master, "that the Training School does not accept stolen codestones as payment for training."
I stared speechlessly at the Techo Master for a few long moments, my beak dropping slightly open.
"They... aren't stolen. I bought them perfectly legitimately."
The old Techo looked dispassionately at me. "You stole the money, and so by extension you stole the codestones."
"No, I didn't!"
The Techo Master raised an eyebrow. "Then how do you explain this?" He held out a copy of the Neopian Times. "Turn to the Short Stories section, and take a look at 'Trading for Fun and Profit.'"
I took the newspaper and did so. "Oh. Er, that wasn't me. It was some other Darigan Eyrie who just happens to share my name."
"No doubt." The Techo took the paper back.
"Um... I guess I'll just be going then." I reached for my bag, but the Techo Master, in a show of speed that didn't seem possible for a Neopet that old, grabbed it first.
"I'm afraid not, young Aevatrist. The codestones will remain here, but you must go. Perhaps, in earning back the Neopoints you stole, you will gain wisdom, and once you have done so you shall be welcome to train here."
Once again, I was struck speechless. Earn back the Neopoints? Did he have any idea how long that was going to take?
There was no way I was going to try for a job at the Faerieland Employment Agency. Huge crowds of rowdy Neopets gathered there, clamoring for a job... an Eyrie could get trampled there!
Once I'd taken a moment to collect myself, I said, "Wait, that's stolen property, right?"
"So you admit it, then?"
"If you take stolen property, then that makes you a thief yourself! Now, if you'll just let me take those codestones back, I'll re-sell them and return the Neopoints..."
The Techo Master shook his head. "No. This place holds the codestones' rightful place in the universe, and there can be no crime without proper consequence."
No way was I going to let that high-and-mighty Techo take my codestones, mystical mumbo-jumbo or no. I drew myself up as tall as I could and flexed my claws a bit. "I'll leave, all right, but the codestones are coming with me... or else."
Was it just me, or did I see a glimmer of amusement on the Techo Master's face all of a sudden?
He turned his gaze to look at something directly behind me. "Ah, I see the first class of the day has arrived."
Around a dozen warriors-in-training were filing into the room. Given how strong and assured they all appeared, I could guess that this wasn't the beginner's class.
"Now," said the Techo Master, "you all learned yesterday how to disarm and disable a single opponent.
"Today, our guest has generously volunteered to allow you to practice your technique on him..."
I carefully made my way back to the docks, limping slightly. Needless to say, I had been forced to leave the codestones behind.
Also needless to say, I was not happy.
In retrospect, I should probably have spent less time dreaming up scenarios in which the Mystery Island Training School was destroyed in various, increasingly elaborate ways, and more time actually looking at the ship I boarded.
The fact that every single crew member was painted Pirate really should have aroused my suspicions.
I didn't care where I went. I didn't ask where the ship was headed. I just paid for a ticket with some of my remaining Neopoints and got onboard.
Had I been paying attention, I might also have found it suspicious that I was the only passenger.
Still making vengeful, if unlikely to ever be granted, wishes against the Techo Master, his Training School, and every single member of the Morning Intermediate Class, I watched as the docks receded into the distance.
Something poked my shoulder. "Hello there. I'm afraid I'll be asking ye to be handin' over any and all booty ye may be carryin' before walking the plank."
I turned to look at the Pirate Draik, who was still holding the narrow blade she'd poked me with. "I see. I'm not quite sure what you want me to hand over, given that I don't actually have any luggage, visible jewelry, or pockets to hide anything in."
"Hmm." The pirate tilted her head to one side. "I suppose ye could be giving me a few of yer primary feathers. They're rather nice, if I may say so meself. Would make a fine decoration for my captain's hat."
I folded my wings back protectively. "I can't exactly be givin' ye... I mean, be giving you my feathers. I kind of need them to fly, especially if you intend to have me walk the plank. I'm not that strong of a swimmer, you see."
"Ah." The Draik sighed. "I suppose I could just take ye hostage, though traditionally hostages are pretty young ladies from rich families. And while yer quite pretty, yer certainly not a lady, and I'm guessing ye don't have much in the way of money givin' yer lack of anything resembling booty."
Well, not anymore, I didn't... wait a minute!
"Well, yes. Yer such a lovely shade o' purple. Ye sure ye won't hand over some of yer feathers?"
"Ye slow or somethin'?"
"I'm not pretty! I mean, handsome, certainly, but not pretty!"
The Draik rolled her eyes. "So. No riches, no feathers, no ransom... what's a pirate to do with ye?"
"You could let me go."
"Nay, it'd make me a proper laughingstock, lettin' prisoners go."
"All right, so have me walk the plank, then."
"Not now that ye've asked for it! That would just be stupid."
"But... you were already going to do that before..."
"Yes, and then ye'd have been able to fake drownin' before flying away. But now that ye've gone and told me yer going to fly off, I can't properly have you go walkin' the plank now."
"You realize that you're making even less sense than the Techo Master."
"The Piratin' Code doesn't have t'make sense!"
"The Pirating Code?"
"No, no, the Piratin' Code. Ye have to drop the 'g', y'see?"
"All right then, so what's in this Piratin' Code?"
The Draik let out an audible sigh. "I can't exactly go about tellin' ye. Yer not a pirate!" A strange light came into the Draik's eyes. "But it's not that hard for ye to become one! That's just what we'll do!"
"Er. What, exactly, does that entail?"
She didn't seem to hear me. "Ye'd probably make a fairly decent pirate, at that. Ye'd only be an honorary pirate 'til ye found the proper paint brush, but it'd solve the dilemma of what to do with ye."
She grabbed my paw. "Here's how it goes: D'ye... ah, what's yer name?"
"Nice to meet ye. My name's Captain Alcyona. Now, d'ye swear by the seven seas to act endearingly rogueish, always share whatever booty ye obtain with the rest of the crewfolk, abstain from stealing the captain's hat, and uphold the Piratin' Code to the best of yer ability?"
"Um, sure." Though the hat was rather tempting...
"Then by the powers vested in me, I do declare ye, Aevatrist, to be an honorary pirate until such time as yer painted Pirate, in which case ye'll be a proper pirate, or until ye quit, in which case ye'll be a lily-livered landlubber."
She gave my paw a hearty shake, clapped me on the back, and grinned. "So, how d'ye feel?"
"Not all that different, to be honest."
"Well, we'll soon fix that! Now that yer a pirate, I'll be entrustin ye with the ancient and sacred new pirate duty of swabbin' the decks!" Seemingly out of nowhere, she produced a mop and bucket. "Get swabbin, newbie!"
I looked at the bucket, then at her, then back at the bucket, then out over the ocean.
We'd sailed out of sight of any land. Sure, maybe I could fly back to Mystery Island, but I wasn't quite sure which direction it was.
Sighing, I set myself to swabbing... sorry, swabbin' the deck.
"So, she got ye too." The Pirate Lupe was leaning lazily on the Mast, watching as I swabbed.
I looked up from a stubborn brown stain that would... not... scrub... off... "What do you mean, 'too'?"
"Yer not the only one who got picked up by the ship and forced into piracy. M'name's Two-Eyed Jim."
"My name's Aevatrist."
"Won't be for long, mark my words. The Cap'n'll be insistin' that ye get yerself a proper piratin' name soon. She's very strict on the Piratin' Code, she is. Everyone's got to have a name like Pegleg McPoogle or Scarface or the like. I got lucky--I was almost goin' to be One-Eyed Jim, but I convinced her I'd make a better pirate if I kept my depth perception."
"So ye better start thinking of a name before Cap'n thinks of one for ye. Preferably a name that doesn't imply former injury. Hm... lessee. Ye could probably get away with Redeyes or Blackbeak... but ye won't be Darigan anymore if ye stay on this ship for long. Maybe she'd let you keep the name, anyways."
"Yeah... I'm hoping to get off this ship before too long, anyways. Where are we going, anyways?"
"No one knows but the Captain. I'm not sure even she knows. We tend to just sail around randomly, with occasional stops for pillagin' and such. This isn't the best-run piratin' outfit on the ocean, in my own humble opinion." This last part Jim whispered, leaning in close.
"That might complicate matters just a tad."
Two-Eyed Jim shrugged. "It's not a bad life, all told. Not like the Captain works us that hard. Mostly we all sit around, play Bilge Dice, and drink Achyfi."
"I would think grog would be more pirate-y."
"True, but a few months back we raided a cargo ship. It turned out it was shipping cans upon cans of Achyfi to Neopia Central, and we're still not even half through the dreadful stuff. The Cap'n says she'll restock us on proper grog once we drink all of it, though. That in mind... would ye care for a delicious and refreshin' can o' Jhudoras Achyfi to quench ye after all that swabbin?"
"Er, sure. Why not." I took a swig of it. "Not bad."
"Glad ye think so. There's plenty more where that came from, believe you me."
"While that's all well and good... I think I have a plan that might just get me out of here, and solve my little debt issue to boot..."
"A brilliant, fail-proof money-makin' scheme, ye say?" asked the Captain.
"Certainly. I'll give you the details as soon as you swear on your honor as a pirate to give me a fifty percent share of the profits."
"How about ten percent?"
"...hm, twenty-five, then."
"Aw, come on, at least forty!"
"Twenty-five, and that's final, unless ye want to need an eyepatch or better yet, two. Though ye'd look quite dashing, I'm sure."
"Twenty-five it is then."
"All right then, I, Captain Alcyona, swear by my honor as a pirate to hear this scheme and, if it doesn't sound too ridiculous, to enact it and give twenty-five percent to this here Eyrie. And if I should break my solemn vow, may my ship's timbers rot, may my hook-hand rust, and may all the other pirates laugh at me. Now, what's yer plan?"
"It's simple. All ye... all you need to do is lay an egg."
Captain Alcyona gave me the Did-Someone-Drop-You-On-Your-Head-As-A-Hatchling-Look. "Beg yer pardon?"
"Draik Eggs go for millions of Neopoints. Just lay an egg or two, and you should be able to buy your own fleet... after you've given me my proper share."
"Yer askin' me... to lay an egg."
"Well, maybe several. How many do you think you can handle? Not having any experience in the egg-laying department myself..."
The Captain sighed. "Ye really have no idea how this egg thing works, do ye?"
"I had thought I had some general idea."
"Well, here's the thing. It's a bit different for us Draiks. Getting Draik Eggs is a long and difficult process."
"How long and difficult, precisely?"
"Well... when two Draiks decide to start a family, first they hold hands, like this." She grabbed my paws. "Next, they do the ancient and sacred Draik Egg Dance, which goes something like this."
Letting go, she took a few steps back and started to do a sort of hop-skip thing in circles on the deck. None of the crew on the deck at the moment so much as blinked. They were apparently used to such antics.
Finally, the dance ended with a flourish and a series of backflips. Scattered claps came from the crewfolk as they went about their duties.
"It looks even better with a partner, I've heard, but I don't exactly have anyone else around who knows the right steps," she said, not appearing tired in the least.
"So, what comes after the Draik Egg Dance?" I asked.
"Well, then ye travel to Meridell, where ye make the sacred journey to the Draik's Nest, where all Draiks hatch, 'less they were turned into Draiks by a potion. But ye go there either way, though ye don't exactly do much there, not having an egg yet. Supposed to foster contemplation, I suppose.
"Well, after ye've done that, ye travel back to Meridell proper. And then..."
"Yes, and then?"
"And then ye go to the Merifoods Shoppe and try to restock a Draik Egg."
"...wait a minute. Where, exactly, do Draik Eggs come from, then?"
"Nobody knows," said Alcyona, wiggling her fingers in what was obviously supposed to be a spooky manner.
"So I guess that won't work, then."
"It was a nice try, though."
I sighed and looked away, out over the sea.
Was it just me, or could I see a sliver of land up ahead?
"Well, that's really too bad..."
I suddenly snatched the pirate captain's hat right off her head, flung myself over the side of the ship, and took to the sky.
I risked a quick look back, to see if I was pursued. It appeared not--the captain was staring after me, mouth agape, apparently shocked at my daring.
Then she started shaking her fist at me. I didn't especially care. She could shake her fist at me all she wanted to. I still had her hat.
I wasn't sure why she didn't just follow me into the air, given that she did have a pair of fully-functioning wings and all. Maybe it was part of the Piratin' Code for a captain never to leave her ship... I never did find out much about the Code, come to think of it.
The ship turned to follow me, but I could easily outfly them. I'd be the first to reach land, and hopefully I could find another, less pirate-y ship to board.
It was with some relief that I planted my paws back on solid ground. Quite frankly, I'd had enough of pirates for the time being.
Just then I spotted a sign:
Welcome to Krawk Island!
The piratey-est place in Neopia!
Of course. Just my luck.
Still... if I remembered correctly, there was a training school here, as well. Perhaps the teacher there wouldn't be quite so stringent when it came to stolen goods.
Not that I had anything to pay with, either way. And I should probably work on getting some more distance between myself and a certain Draik. But it might be something to keep in mind for later.
I put the captain's hat on my head and strolled into town.
Because, no matter your situation, things just seem just a bit better when one is wearing an awesome hat.