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A Smuggler's Business


by dragonstorm_75

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Jagged stood beside his crates, examining the seasoned wood with eagerness. The boxes were worn by the salty waters of the wide ocean, but they still concealed the special wares with ease. That was the purpose, of course.

     Behind the old but cunning pirate Krawk was his ship, the Stormwringer, a beautiful vessel whose timbers were entwined with the smell of the waters upon which she now bobbed. The ship went far and wide: she saw the Lost Desert and Terror Mountain, Altador and even the reclusive lands of Shenkuu. Likewise, Jagged saw the world and was quick to bring back souvenirs from his adventures.

     Souvenirs, of course, being smuggled treasures.

     The Deckmaster now made his way down the port, scanning all the goods that each ship brought in that day. The Stormwringer was the last ship to berth that day, and would be the last ship checked. Even though Krawk Island was a pirate’s haven, all goods had to be fairly attained and not so powerful as to cause suspicion. But Jagged wasn’t worried at all, even though his cargo was the most powerful weapon in history.

     The burly Elephante marched towards the Krawk, glaring with suspicion. Jagged couldn’t help it if he was famous for his smuggling skills.

     “Aye, Jag, you’d best be not ‘iding anything,” the Deckmaster rumbled ominously.

     “I’d be havin’ nothing!” Jagged raised his hands in innocence.

     Using a huge metal crowbar, the Elephante proceeded to tear the tops off the crates. Splintered wood and seaweed were flung everywhere, yet Jagged did nothing to stop the Deckmaster from his job. Scanning the crates, the fellow growled in obvious disappointment, scribbled something on a worn paper, and stomped back to his superiors.

     The crates were not empty; they were quite full.

     The relatively worthless bronze dubloons and minor treasures were all that it took to conceal a hidden compartment in the crates. Grinning broadly at his success, Jagged quickly paid to have his ship keep berth for three days and enlisted the help of his crewmates to drag the boxes down the cobbled streets of the island towards the northern beach.

     The morose quiet of the place was quickly apparent. Unlike the constant excitement of roaming the oceans and seas, Krawk Island was more of a dark, brooding land that made the pirate Krawk disappointed. But he would get his excitement soon enough, if his wares made it to the Cove in time.

     Ah, the infamous Smuggler’s Cove. A haven for rare things and odd characters. Located in a cave hidden upon the beach, the place was a bustle of subdued activity. The authorities made daily rounds here to make sure that nothing suspicious was going on, but the Smugglers were efficient and had spies everywhere.

     If you weren’t a buyer, the Smugglers could hide all of their ill-gotten gains in a matter of minutes.

     As Jagged made his way to the Cove, he spotted shadowy forms lurking beyond the crest of beach that blocked his view. Obviously, they suspected him of being one of the higher police.

     “It just be me, fellas! Stop yer squealin’,” Jagged roared.

     “Well, if it ain’t one of our best Smugglers.” A Kougra with a missing tooth and drab clothing cleared the crest and shook hands with the Krawk.

     “First Mate Silverhook.” Jagged acknowledged.

     “What have you got fer us this time? It better be good.”

     “Aye, ‘tis good, alright. C’mon, boys!” He waved to his crew, who diligently followed their captain into the cave with their loads.

     It was dark and quiet, with only a few torches lit to allow the Smugglers sight. Low whispers seemed to come from everywhere, punctuated by deep giggles. To a visitor, this place would have been unnerving, but to a seasoned seller, it was home sweet home.

     “O’er here,” Jagged barked, and watched with pleasure as a Tonu, a Scorchio, and a Shoyru settled his goods in a niche especially marked out for himself.

     As the crew settled down and spread out the crates, Jagged leaned into one in particular and began to push the trash coins aside. At the bottom was a block of wood so expertly placed that it seemed to be the base of the crate. Using his claw, the pirate Krawk fished a small string from the side and pushed the false base aside, revealing the real bottom – and the real goods.

     A 9-pound coconut was nestled securely in a cloth, along with three pirate jellies that were placed in special compartments of their own. Hidden on the far side was a sponge shield, and nearby was a pirate peophin plushie. All were safe from the rough ride back to Krawk Island, and they all seemed as good as new.

     Placing them upon a wooden plank that served as a counter, Jagged turned and barked orders for his crew to set the prices. He would confirm them later - one of his most prized possessions, a weapon beyond compare, was hidden in a smaller, pitiful looking crate and it needed to be revealed.

     Gingerly he uncovered the secret compartment, and gingerly he did expose his prize to the musty smell of the cavernous Smuggler’s Den.

     The legendary Super Attack Pea.

     Well known not only for its avatar, but also its hefty price tag, the pea was eagerly sought after. The instant he took the green, caped orb out of its hidden place, he heard a gasp of awe.

     “Jag... it’s... it’s...”

     “Aye, the finest of them all,” Jagged replied to Silverhook with glee.

     The news of the Super Attack Pea spread like wildfire. The other items were ignored, and rightly so, as they were nothing compared to the mighty pea!

     “Lad, I will give ye 100 dubloons for this piece ‘o work!” whispered a Grarrl nearby.

     “100? Bah, it is worth twice that much you twit. Did’ye hear that, Jag? I’ll get it for 200!”

     The cove erupted into madness as Smugglers sought to catch a good deal for Jagged’s fine pea. The Krawk meanwhile held it close, smiling inwardly at the attention he was receiving. Super Attack Peas were extremely hard to find, nay, impossible, but he did it. Searching around Shenkuu, Jagged managed to find a rich noble who was in quite a scrape.

     A bit too much time at the Pawkeet Slots, and he was in debt. Eager to get his money to return and replenish his empty pockets, the desperate fellow dug into his Safety Deposit Box and was ready to sell out his prized possessions. Although it took a while, Jagged managed to stake a claim and bought his Super Attack Pea for 200 million neopoints, bankrupting himself and his crew. But the rewards were great, and Jagged expected much more than 200 dubloons for his prize! Unlike the noble, he was going to be very patient indeed.

     Maybe after he got his profits, the Krawk could finally retire from the smuggling business? He was getting old, and smuggling was for younger bones.

     “Jag, what’s the price?” demanded an angry looking Wocky.

     The Krawk made a show of being thoughtful for a few moments, and then his maw split into a wide grin. “Best offer wins.”

     The simple phrase brought more insanity into the cove. Voices called out, each one bearing a higher offer than previously asked. Someone offered a Smuggler’s Treasure Chest, and that piqued the Krawk’s interest, but in the end he continued to watch the scene with laughing eyes.

     It was obvious that none of the smugglers, even the seniors who managed to pile up quite a hefty load of dubloons into their pockets, were able to truly satisfy the graying Krawk. Although he was patient, Jagged felt the corners of his mouth twitch ever so slightly in annoyance. Could it be that he would have better luck at the Auction House, or the Trading Post?

     What a shame.

     Tired from the bustle, Jagged was about to pick up his smuggled goods (which weren’t getting much attention, annoyingly enough) when suddenly a huge form blocked his path. The thick white fur belied the musculature of the pirate, and a missing limb replaced with a wooden one. As Jagged looked up, he saw the calculating face and gasped aloud. Everyone did.

     “Ahoy, Capt’n Threelegs,” the Krawk said hoarsely.

     “Aye, enough sweet-talk, you sprog,” the Eyrie hissed, his eyes narrowing. “I’da like to buy yer pea.”

     “What’s yer offer?”

     “600 million,” the teacher and founder of the Academy squawked loudly, a smirk on his hawkish face.

     Jagged stepped back and eyed the Eyrie, ignoring the curious whispers from the smugglers. The Academy was a huge, very profitable school that trained so many pets it probably had enough funds to pay the huge sum that Threelegs now offered. And if the story of how Threelegs discovered a massive treasure hoard was true, then the bulky Eyrie could probably afford to buy THREE Super Attack Peas.

     The thoughts of money floated through Jagged’s capped head. He could already imagine it: a lovely mansion on Mystery Island, rich foods and heady drinks served at whim, and passersby glancing at his wonderful home whispering to each other: ‘truly one of the rich folk makes his home here!’

     He would be set for life!

     Before Jagged could cry out ‘sold,’ another voice boomed, shaking the cave to its foundations of stone. “I can offer 610 million!” A massive Tonu with the garb of a wealthy captain announced.

     Again the den went into an uproar. Jagged knew he was looking upon Captain Goldenhook, one of the richest pirates in Neopia who got his fortunes from successful and calculated plundering. Some said he once held the Emperor of Shenkuu hostage, and that is how he got his treasure. Others say he found a magnificent treasure trove in the Ruins of Old Maraqua. Nonetheless, he was very rich and his many estates were proof of it.

     “620 million and that is final for me,” Threelegs announced, glaring at the Tonu as if forcing him to step down from his offer.

     He was to be disappointed... sort of.

     “Aye, I can only offer 620 million as well,” Goldenhook muttered angrily.

     It seemed as if no one else wanted to beat these offers, and all eyes fell on Jagged. The poor Krawk felt torn – who should he give the pea to? For a moment, the dilemma threatened to tear him apart, but then an inkling of an idea came to him, and Jagged smiled.

     “You two, bring me yer payments. I want to make sure that ye aren’t tryin’ to trick me.”

     The plan was satisfactory, and in a span of thirty minutes, both Threelegs and Goldenhook returned with exactly 620 million, and Jagged recounted it a couple of times before shaking his head in disbelief. They both had pure neopoints too, insane!

     “Capt’n, might I offer a suggestion?” murmured the Shoyru that was part of Jagged’s crew.

     “Go ahead, Deckhand,” Jagged growled, fatigue lacing his voice.

     “Maybe ye should ask ‘em why they need it? The better reason wins?” the Deckhand queried.

     Jagged glanced back at the two pirate captains, who were glaring at each other. The entire cove was eerily silent, obviously interested in how this scenario was going to end.

     “Why’d you need this here pea?” the Krawk smuggler asked.

     Threelegs blinked and shifted his formidable weight to turn around and look at the Krawk. “Me school needs a powerful weapon. The most powerful of all. I need to train them higher sprogs on how to protect themselves from a big attack. Also, mine will be the only school with a Super Attack Pea!” the Eyrie announced, grinning fiendishly.

     Everyone knew of the rivalry between the Training School on Mystery Island, and the Academy here on Krawk Island. They always tried to out-do each other, and Jagged had to admit that if the Academy had a Super Attack Pea, Threeleg’s school would become even more famous.

     “I need that pea to finish me gallery,” huffed Goldenhook. “I got every single smuggler’s weapon, save for a Super Attack Pea. Sell it to me, Jag, and I’ll make ye famous as well as rich!”

     Suddenly, Jagged felt himself do a double take. “You got a gallery?” he demanded, surprised.

     One time, not that long ago, Jagged was selling some smuggled goods in the cove when he saw Goldenhook buying a grey faerie doll, stating that he intended it for his gallery on Faeries. Feeling it to be the ticket, the Krawk raised himself from his seating position and glared at the Tonu accusingly.

     “Ye got a faerie gallery, not a weapons gallery! Avast, I don’t have that bad a memory!”

     Goldenhook shifted awkwardly. “It changed,” was the blunt response.

     “Deckhand! Check Goldenhook’s gallery. See if he’s telling the truth, aye?”

     The Shoyru acknowledged the command and took out a roll of paper that looked like a treasure map. However, as he wrote something in a box that said ‘search’ beside it, the map changed entirely and showed Goldenhook’s gallery. After a quick analysis, the Shoyru Deckhand lifted his head and smiled.

     “The Capt’n is right; you got a Faerie gallery, Goldenhook.”

     With an outraged roar, the Tonu pirate tore the paper out of the Deckhand’s grip and ran through it like wildfire. There was his gallery in plain view, with all the Faerie dolls in Neopia. Even Faerie usuki dolls, and they were pretty hard to come by. His anger replaced with a sheepish expression, Goldenhook returned the parchment and stepped back, beads of sweat popping up upon his heavy brow.

     “Get outta my sight. I don’t like liars,” Jagged sneered.

     Goldenhook fled without a word, the laughter of the smugglers following his retreating form.

     As soon as he was gone, Jagged felt relief. At least he didn’t have to choose between two respectable (though one was now not so respectable) pirates, and perhaps earn the ire of one at his decision.

     Looking at Threelegs, who was grinning broadly, he reciprocated the smile and showed him the round green globe with a little red cape attached. “Here’s the pea, Threelegs, now give me my money!”

     ---

     An elderly pirate Krawk sat upon the porch of a mansion, drinking lemwart grog and smiling blissfully at the serenity of his surroundings. Other than the occasional twitter of a petpet in the trees, it was pleasantly quiet.

     Beside him sat a huge bag of neopoints, just a fraction of the amount he now had in his possession. Even after building a huge home on Mystery Island property, restoring the Stormwringer so that it shone in the sun and buying a summer villa in Altador, he still had enough to keep him going for life.

     He still wondered what in the world his crew was doing with their share. Probably spending it on hogsheads at the Golden Dubloon. The thought made the old pirate Krawk laugh. Why spend it when you could make your own brewery right here? He was already thinking of selling his grog to the public, further adding to his overflowing coffers.

     “I can imagine it now – Jag’s Grog. It will sell for millions.”

     Taking another swing of his drink, Jagged reclined in his chair and grinned a toothy grin.

     Life was good.

The End

 
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