Scarblade's Pearl: Part One
It was a cold night on Krawk Island. The wind whispered through the streets, making eerie sounds. Most pets would be safe at home, tucked under the soft covers of their nice, warm beds. But on the darker side of Krawk Island, where most locals tended not to tread, one little Shoyru and her Kougra companion sneaked through the Golden Dubloon. No one paid any attention to them. After all, the pirate Shoyru was only about nine or ten years old. The same went for her spotted friend. What possible threat could they impose? Little did they know that the two were master pick-pockets. As they went about and spoke to one another, the two little pets were slipping dubloons from their pockets.
The Shoyru snickered as she slipped a Twenty Dubloon Coin from the pocket of a pudgy, lazy looking purple Skeith. He was too engrossed in the conversation he was having with a blue Lenny to notice. Likewise, the Lenny neither saw nor heard the little Shoyru as she slunk away, the coin gripped in her hand. Slipping into a shadowy corner, she tucked the coin into a pocket on her shorts. Twenty dubloons! That was enough for a week's worth of food, and then some! Maybe she could even get some new clothes. The ones she wore now were little more than rags.
The Shoyru spun around when something tapped her shoulder. Noticing the culprit was her spotted friend, she sighed.
“Raiqil, don't scare me like that!” she exclaimed quietly.
The Kougra winced slightly and shrugged.
“Sorry, Nira,” he whispered. “Didn't mean to startle you.”
Nira sighed and waved the comment away.
“Collect anything yet?” she asked.
Raiqil frowned, shaking his head.
“Nah, not yet. You?”
Nira grinned, patting her pocket.
“Twenty dubloons,” she whispered.
“Twenty?!” Raiqil exclaimed. “How'd you manage that?”
Nira pointed behind her with her thumb, indicating the purple Skeith.
“Had a twenty dubloon coin in his pocket. Didn't even notice me take it.”
Raiqil grinned, bowing low to Nira.
“Once again, you have proven to be the master among us!” he said dramatically.
Nira shoved his shoulder.
“Oh, stop it, Rai,” she muttered, using the nickname she had given her friend. But she couldn't help grinning.
Rai grinned in return, knowing he'd struck the right note.
“Hey, since you've already got twenty dubloons, why don't we call it a night?” he asked.
Nira looked at the Kougra in disbelief.
“Are you nuts? There are plenty more patrons for us to-”
Nira's words were cut off when the door to the Golden Dubloon swung open with a bang. The whole tavern was silent as a dark figure strode forward, a few others following closely behind. Nira felt herself gasp as the figure took a seat at the bar. It was none other than the notorious Captain Scarblade, captain of the most feared ship in all the seas, the Revenge. Another pet sat beside him, a purple bruce. Nira remembered his name to be Benny the Blade. He was supposed to be one of Scarblade's most trusted crewmen.
“Get me a jug of grog, on the double!” the captain shouted to one of the Aishas behind the counter. The yellow Aisha flinched and quickly moved to get the captain his order. Scarblade nodded to her, then glanced around the room.
“What are all you starin' at?!” he demanded. Everyone quickly went back to their previous conversations, casting nervous glances at the captain every once in a while. Nira watched him closely with a mixture of fear and awe.
“He's so... commanding, you know? No one would dare disobey him!” she whispered to Rai. Rai frowned and shook his head.
“Yeah, 'cause they're all afraid he'll remove their heads from their bodies.” Rai ran a paw along his neck as if cutting through it, the pretended to fall back, catching himself just before he hit the floor.
“Stop messing around!” Nira's tone became frustrated.
Rai met his friend's eyes, seeming concerned.
“Nira, I think we should get out of here. With Scarblade around, everyone'll be on their guard,” he said softly.
Nira didn't look at him, her eyes still fixed on Scarblade.
“I can do it,” she whispered, so quietly Rai almost didn't hear her.
“What?” he whispered back.
“I can do it. I know I can.”
Now Nira was rubbing her hands together, the way she always did when she thought of a plan. Suddenly Rai knew what she was going to do.
“No! Nira, you can't! You'll get caught!” said Rai, grabbing Nira's arm, trying desperately to keep his voice low. Nira shook him off.
“Come on, Rai! Just a few minutes ago you called me a master!” she countered.
“I didn't mean you could pick the pockets of someone like Scarblade!” Rai protested, his eyes becoming even more worried than before.
“Lay off, Rai!” Nira cried angrily, glaring at him. “I'm doing this and you can't stop me.”
“Nira-” Rai tried to speak but Nira slunk away from him, across the room and toward the unsuspecting Scarblade. Rai, fearful for his friend and for himself, didn't want to watch Nira confront Scarblade. So instead, he slipped out their secret passage and back onto the Krawk Island streets. Nira ignored him, too focused on Scarblade to pay anything else any attention. She managed to sneak right up to the bar without a single pet seeing her. She cast a glance around the tavern to be sure no one was looking. Then she checked that Scarblade was properly engrossed in the conversation he was having with Benny. Thinking the moment was perfect, Nira reached for the captain's coat pocket. She had almost managed to put a hand inside when something latched onto her arm. Before she had time to think, she was hauled to her feet, her arm was laid across the counter, and Scarblade's cutlass hovered over it.
“Lookin' for somethin', lass?” he asked quietly, eyes ablaze.
Nira felt a brief flash of fear as the room felt silent again, before survival instinct kicked in. Without thinking about what she was doing, Nira twisted and squirmed, kicked and punched. The captain held her still effortlessly. After a short while, his grip on Nira's arm tightened enough to make her yelp in pain.
“Quit your squirming!” he snapped.
But Nira, toughened by life on the streets, living off every neopoint, didn't listen. To her surprise, a grin spread across the pirate's face.
“Quite the fighter, aren't ye?” he whispered.
Nira stopped her squirming to meet Scarblade's eyes. Had he just complimented her, or was she imagining things? Scarblade's grin widened as he saw the obvious confusion on her face.
“How did you know?” Nira demanded suddenly, glaring into Scarblade's eyes.
Scarblade chuckled, releasing some of the pressure on her arm.
“How? I saw you and your little friend the moment I walked in.” Scarblade's eyes glinted darkly.
“Nothin' gets by me 'round here,” he added.
Nira wasn't intimidated in the slightest.
“You don't scare me!” she declared.
Scarblade chuckled again.
“I see, not afraid of me are you?” His eyes issued a challenge.
Nira's eyes narrowed.
“Not one bit!”
A wicked smile spread across the captain's face.
“Let's see how brave you are when I cut your little hand off!” he replied.
Nira watched the blade go up, but shut her eyes and turned away when it began its decent. Next would come the-
Thud. The cutlass struck wood. That was strange. Nira didn't feel any pain. She opened one eye a crack to see what had happened. Her eyes flew open in astonishment. The cutlass had missed her hand completely, landing instead on the counter beside it. Her eyes dashed back to Scarblade as he let go a bark of laughter.
“You've got guts, I'll give you that, lass. I like that.”
When his laughter subsided, Scarblade smiled at Nira.
“How 'bout you and I make a deal?” he asked, pulling his cutlass free and slipping it back into it's sheath.
“What kind of deal?” Nira asked suspiciously.
“I'll take you on my ship as one of my crew. Teach you all my tricks.” The pressure on Nira's arm was becoming looser and looser.
“What's in it for me?” Nira muttered accusingly.
“Besides learning all my tricks?” he bellowed. “You'll get fed and clothed.”
The captain leaned forward, his face inches from Nira's.
“No more of this pick-pocket nonsense,” he added quietly.
Nira looked the pirate up and down, still suspicious, but also interested. She didn't trust him (and rightly so) but if he was telling the truth, a whole new world was opening up to her. Nira's eyes darted down to her arm when the pressure there was suddenly released. Scarblade's hand now rested on the counter as he watched her. Nira realized the captain was giving her a choice. She could either accept his offer and go with him, or she could run. Like a coward. Nira surveyed the room. Every pet in the whole tavern would know her face now. She could never come back, even if she ran. She had no choice, only the illusion of one. When she looked back at Scarblade, seeing his sly grin, she realized he'd known this all along.
“I really don't have a choice,” she muttered darkly.
Scarblade's eyes narrowed in amusement.
“Smart girl,” he muttered back.
Nira grinned, not willing to let the Captain think he'd won.
“I would have accepted anyway,” she replied coolly.
Scarblade laughed heartily.
To be continued...