I sat on the couch, munching a carrot, while my baby sister followed my mum around, tugging on her skirt.
“Mama, tell me about the pirate caves!” Katy said. She’s a little Usul, just like Mum, and yellow in colour.
And me? Well, my name’s Russell. I’m yellow, too, but a Gelert.
“Where did you hear about pirate caves?” Mum asked.
Oops. I’d forgotten I wasn’t supposed to mention anything to Katy.
“Russell told me you went hunting for treasure!” Katy said excitedly.
Mum sighed. “Yes, I did. I suppose I’ll tell you about it if you clean up your room.”
Katy scampered upstairs to clean her room, and I attempted to slink away into my own room.
“Stop right there,” Mum said in a stern tone as I reached the landing of the stairs.
I stopped and shoved my paws into my pockets, trying not to look guilty.
“Do me a favour and don’t tell her about the ice caves?” Mum said, grinning.
I sighed with relief, glad I wasn’t in trouble. “Yes, Mum.”
“C’mon. Let’s go into the kitchen and get supper ready.”
We had turkey that night, and Mum was setting the table as Katy ran down the stairs and into the dining room.
“My room’s clean!” she announced.
Mum smiled. “Then I owe you a story. Have a seat.”
And so we sat at the table, food on our plates, ready to hear Mum’s fantastic tale.
“Well, as you know, I worked at the Golden Dubloon once, as a waitress. It was deadly dull, however, and one day I decided to poke around. As luck would have it, I found a very old book which described caves filled with treasure,” Mum said.
Katy’s eyes were shining bright and fixated on Mum, her food untouched. Having heard this story before, I was slightly less hooked; I cut myself a piece of turkey and speared it with my fork.
“I wasn’t happy with the excitement my everyday life had, so I followed the book’s instructions to the location of the caves. I imagined some sort of adventure once I’d gotten there, but I had no idea just how thrilling and hazardous it would be. But I went into the first cave, my disappointment growing as I found nothing but dark tunnels and rocky ground – and then I came across a bright green gem. I grew excited then, and made my way through the tunnels a little more quickly. I didn’t find any more gems at first, but I did find myself in a wider, more open space – stalactites on the floor and the top, platforms, dynamite sticks... honey, eat something,” Mum suddenly said, looking at Katy’s plate.
Katy blinked and looked down. She picked up her fork and stuffed a piece of broccoli into her mouth, and then looked up expectantly.
“A little more,” Mum encouraged.
A piece of turkey found its way into Katy’s stomach.
“Good girl. Anyway, lots of dangerous traps waited, but I wasn’t afraid. Instead I grew more eager, and made that first leap over a group of stalactites. I knew then there was no going back and thus began my adventures in the pirate caves.
“It was mostly leaping and collecting small treasures at first, but soon I encountered fiends and found large gems. I’d race against water, find secret areas and tunnels, set off dynamite, and even loose arrows. It was all great fun at the time, and I’m not sure I noticed how dangerous it was.
“I don’t know how long I spent in those caves, collecting treasures and avoiding traps. It was probably a few days, though at times it would feel like mere hours or several years,” Mum said.
“Didn’t you get hungry?” Katy asked.
“Of course I did. You don’t think I went there without food or a first aid kit, do you?” Mum asked teasingly. “Yes, I took some provisions with me – they were partly the reason I came back when I did. I’m sure if I had taken more with me, I would have stayed longer.”
I knew Mum wasn’t done, but I made a request anyway:
“Tell her about the skull creatures,” I said, grinning.
“Okay,” Mum agreed. “I encountered these creatures about halfway through my adventure – disembodied skull-like things; they were mostly where water was. Well, I found two of them one day, when I was in a part of the cave where water was building up rather rapidly. Treasure was all around them, and one nearly bit my arm off when I scrambled up to the surface for some air. I never did manage to destroy them, but they seemed confined to small spaces, so it was relatively easy to get past them.”
“Skulls?” Katy asked unbelievingly, a look of mild disgust on her face.
“There were a lot of ugly things in the caves,” Mum said. “I still remember them clear as day.
“Anyhow, when I noticed I was running low on provisions, I decided to turn back. Going back was both easier and more challenging than getting there; I didn’t have treasure to distract me and most of the monsters were gone, but some remained, and that much water doesn’t go anywhere fast. I never minded swimming, but after that ordeal I didn’t set foot in a pool for a while.
“As there were few places to toss the sack my supplies were in, I had to leave them behind and make do with what I had on me. I was quite hungry when I was done – the first thing I did when I got out was go to the Golden Dubloon and order a Krawk Pie!”
“I never liked the Krawk Pie,” I said thoughtfully.
“I like it,” Katy said, proving just how alike she was to Mum.
“I know, dear,” Mum said, smiling. “Continuing on... halfway through my meal, I noticed people were staring at me, no doubt because of the mess I looked like. My clothes were scratched and covered with dirt, my fur was matted – I’m sure I looked a fright. Someone eventually came up to me and asked what happened. I gladly told him my tale.
“He didn’t believe me at first, but when I pulled one of the gems out of my pocket his face lit up and I could tell he was sold. He told everyone else there at the time to gather around, and I repeated my story. I pooled all of the gems and the treasure out of my pockets and even my sleeves, wherever I could stuff it all, and soon I was known as Hannah the Brave. I think a few of them even tried to find the caves themselves, but if they ever did I don’t know.”
“So that’s why everyone knows who you are!” Katy said.
“Yes, dear, it is. And now if you’re both finished eating, I have something you might like to see.”
I looked at my plate, which was clean, and then looked at Katy’s, which was not clean. I wasn’t sure if she’d eaten anything but the broccoli and turkey Mum had told her to. She leaped out of her chair anyway, and I got up to follow her and Mum.
She led us outside, and into the shack Dad used to store his tools. Once we were crammed inside she turned on the light and tapped her foot around on the floor.
Katy and I looked at each other with puzzled expressions. What was Mum doing?
Mum tapped around for a few more seconds and suddenly we heard a more hollow sound. She got on her hands and knees then, and lifted up some planks in the floor, revealing a set of underground stairs.
“Follow me carefully,” Mum said, grabbing a lantern from a shelf to the right. She then disappeared down the stairs.
I let Katy go first, and held her hand as I followed her. The light of Mum’s lantern was bright and I was able to see that we were in a rather small underground room.
Mum set the lantern down on the floor and walked across the room, where a large blanket was covering something.
Mum looked at us and grinned before pulling the blanket away, revealing a display cabinet of gems and small treasures.
Katy gasped dramatically and ran toward the display, taking it all in. I stood rooted to the spot, before feeling compelled to walk to the cabinet, too.
“Is this all of the treasure you collected?” I asked, still staring at everything.
“Most of it,” Mum said. “I sold some of the smaller pieces a while ago.”
“Mama,” Katy said, “What’s in the top row? I can’t see!”
Mum came forward and lifted Katy up so she could see the large, sparkling green stone that occupied the top shelf of the display.
“It’s so pretty,” Katy said breathlessly.
Mum put her down and unlocked the display, and took down the green gem. She handed it to Katy, who was fast approaching hyperventilation.
“Be careful with it,” Mum warned before turning to me. “Anything you particularly like?”
I pointed to a red stone in the middle, the only red gem in the display. Mum took it out for me and I took it gingerly, twirling it around in my hands.
“Why is this the only red one?” I asked. I knew the gems from the ice caves were mostly red, but I didn’t know any of the pirate caves ones were.
“It wasn’t,” Mum said. “It’s just the only one I have left. There weren’t many to begin with, and I sold two of them. The other one broke and that’s the last one.”
“Will you take me to see the caves someday?” Katy asked, looking at Mum with hope in her blue eyes.
“Maybe someday, you and your brother. But not in the immediate future, okay?”
“Okay,” Katy agreed somewhat sadly.
“Let me put those back,” Mum said, putting our gems in their respective places. She then shut the door and led us back upstairs.
Mum treated us to lunch the next day at the Golden Dubloon, where she and my sister had Krawk Pies and I stuck with my horsefish. After lunch she handed us each five dubloons and told us to find something to do. She stayed behind to chat with Captain Hackett.
“I wonder if I’ll have my own adventures someday,” Katy said as we wandered down the wharf. “I think it’d be fun to collect treasure the way Mum did.”
“It would be dangerous, too, though,” I pointed out. “Monsters who can chomp your arms off.”
Katy made a face. “I hope I never come across those.”
“You and me both.”
“But doesn’t the prospect of finding treasure in caves excite you? Think – it’d be legendary!”
“I think Mum’s enough of a legend for the entire family, Katy,” I said, thinking of Mum’s ice caves escapades.
Secretly, though, I think Katy’s too much like Mum to not have any adventures of her own. I just hope they don’t involve disembodied skulls.