Seeking Treasure Beyond The Cup: Part One
“Dasher” Soley was snoring loudly in his rickety old bed, in his soggy, creaking wooden house on Krawk Island.
He snored through his pillow, drool cascading over his teeth into the dirty fabric of his Mallard feather pillow. His leg and his arm flopped loosely over the side of his excuse-of-a-bed, exposing him to a bitter draught blowing through his floorboards, courtesy of the Krawk Island sea.
The ol’ Krawk lived in a messy Neohome. He was extremely untidy but was never at home that often and he didn’t see the point of putting things away or using a mop for once in his life. What was the point of that?!
Someone rapped thunderously on his decrepit front door. Dust and bits of wood clouded the air from this simple act. A voice boomed through the material, startling a Miamouse that had just woken up by Dasher’s foot and sent it scurrying to safety under an ancient map on the floor.
“Oi! Soley!” It was Captain Garven Hale, the burly pirate Bori from the Altador Cup’s Team Krawk Island. “SOLEY! Gerrup, yer lazy idiot.”
Dasher stirred in his sleep, twitching irritably, but relaxed once more to start snoring again.
“DASHER!” Garven bellowed outside, pounding on the door once more, almost splintering the wood.
The pirate Krawk sat bolt upright in his bed and drew the cutlass he had stashed under his pillow in case of emergency. “Huh, whut?!” he cried sleepily on his mattress, pointing his blade around wildly.
“Dash, I know yeh were sleepin’. Are yeh comin’ to Yooyuball practice or not?”
It was at this moment that he realised that his teammate was hollering from outside of his humble abode.
Reluctantly Dasher trudged over to the door and peered out. “How’d yer know I was sleepin’?” he enquired suspiciously.
“Yer snores travel all the way down the dock, numbskull. Anyone’d know you were sleepin’! Someone mistook you fer a foghorn!”
Dasher paused for a moment before snickering. He patted Garven on the arms and threw his cutlass carelessly back into the house – it skidded across the floor and almost chopped off the poor Miamouse’s tail! The petpet squeaked in terror and scurried out of the front door as fast as its paws could carry it.
“So are ya comin’ or not, Dasher?” Nitri Cassale, the only female on the team, asked curiously. She was a pirate Moehog and loved to literally poke fun at Yooyus.
“Yeah, yeah... But I wants me breakfast first. Can’t play on an empty stomach, y’know!” he said brightly as he shut the door behind him. “Let’s get some grub at the Golden Dubloon!”
* * *
The Golden Dubloon tavern was quiet at this time of the morning. There were still some pirates snoozing on the tables from the night before. The owner of the Golden Dubloon was polishing the bar with a damp (and not very clean) rag as Team Krawk Island entered.
The Fontaine Sisters, a pair of pouty Aishas (one pink and one green), were collecting mugs off the surfaces and cooed as the Yooyuballers strode in.
“Oh hello, you dashing gents and lady! I’m Loretta Fontaine and this is my sister Rosetta. Let me show you to your table...”
Loretta’s sister scowled and shoved her aside. “I’LL show them to their table!”
“AUGH! Rosetta! I’LL show them,” she scoffed, placing her hands huffily on her hips.
“I’LL show them to their table, you ditzy no-lives!” another voice grumbled irritably, belonging to a Brown Usul who pushed past them unceremoniously.
“Hannah, how rude!” Loretta complained, watching the Usul storm past them in the general direction of an empty table.
“Table for five. Take a seat and place your orders. I don’t have all day and please tip generously because us waitresses need to eat too,” Hannah droned, obviously not enjoying her job.
Nitri looked at the Usul in amusement as she sat down with her team. They all ordered some light food for breakfast with some grog to wash it down. Hannah jotted it all down on a small notepad and wandered away with a “Thank you”.
Garven sniggered. “I guess the lass had a dry run with her treasure hunt again,” he said speculatively, recognising her immediately as Hannah the Brave – treasure hunter extraordinaire.
Eayln Hawkshanks, the pirate Quiggle, interjected. “Can’t blame ‘er for sulkin’. Who’d want to work in THIS dump?”
“Think she recognised us as our homeland’s Yooyuball squad for the tourney?” Nitri asked curiously because they were famous after all.
“If she did then she certainly ain’t givin’ us VIP treatment,” Dasher remarked as he watched Hannah sit behind the bar to read a book.
“Yeah but then again, after all her feats she ain’t exactly gettin’ VIP treatment from anyone ‘ere either, so I’d say it’s fair,” Garven reasoned, flicking a crumb off the table.
Dasher started to think of Yooyuball practice this afternoon and then his mind strayed towards Dubloons and the high seas. “We should go on a treasure hunt one day...” he mused as Hannah brought over their grog and plates of food.
The Usul smirked as she distributed the grub. “Why don’t you?”
The ol’ Krawk stared at her for a moment. “Yer hunt fer gold an’ jewels in yer spare time, don’tcha?”
“Beats this dump,” she remarked coldly, making sure that the Fontaine Sisters overheard her. Once she heard them scoff at her comment she continued. “You sling Yooyus for a living, right?”
“Yeah... So what’s it like, stealin’ other pirates’ treasure?”
Hannah squished on the seat next to Zayle Sufhaux, the pirate Grundo, and immediately lit up. “The best caves have really complex booby traps because you know that the loot will be worth the hassle.”
“Daredevil then?” Garven asked in amusement, draining his tankard.
“You could say that... What’s life when you can’t take a few risks?”
“I hear ya on that!” Dasher agreed, raising his tankard. “We ‘ad to take risks with the tournament. That’s what won us the Gold.”
“A trophy is nothing compared to REAL riches,” Hannah commented, stealing a cracker from Zayle much to his annoyance. “It may be intense for you on the pitch but you’re all protected by insurance and stuff... But you haven’t lived until you’ve had a TRUE adrenaline rush.”
“Oh really?” The Bori challenged her playfully.
“Yeah! I bet your manager would flip if any of you got so much as a scratch.”
Hannah knew that she had them caught. Yooyuballers were heavily protected and pampered. A single strain could spell the end of their career. They could never have the freedom to explore caves or navigate through stretches and stretches of traps.
“OI! HANNAH! Customers at Table Seven!” Loretta yelled from the other side of the tavern.
“Serve ‘em yourself!” the Usul retorted irritably, scaring Zayle slightly.
“You’re missing out on a tip,” she teased.
For a moment Hannah was conflicted but decided she needed the Dubloons. “Fine, I’m comin’...” she grumbled, leaving the Yooyuballers to their meal.
The team pondered the prospect of adventure but deviated back to talk about Yooyuball. They had a secure career, which had a nice income. Without Yooyuball, Dasher was just a grouchy old Krawk who slept in late and studied maps for a living... A life as a cartographer? Dasher Soley?!
“We’ve better get back t’Yooyuball practice, mates,” Garven announced, terrified at the idea of any of his teammates making maps for a living. “Try not to pull any muscles – injuries are for the weak.”
As they left the Golden Dubloon (refusing to leave a tip for the waitresses) Hannah grabbed Dasher’s shoulder and whispered so that only he could hear her.
“You want danger – all of you do – I can sense it. If you change your minds, talk to me again.”
Dasher wrenched his shoulder free but nodded discreetly as he turned around to let her know that he would consider the offer.
* * *
It was during Yooyuball practice that afternoon that Garven Hale realised how bubble wrapped his team was against any mishap or scandal. A twisted ankle could put a player out of a few matches. A graze would be treated with so many remedies for a rapid recovery that any ill Neopian would be envious of their royal treatment. A broken limb could spell the end of one year’s participation in the tournament – it could also foretell the end of a career.
Altador Cup athletes were warned to be extremely careful or the consequences could terminate their contracts... It made Garven sick!
“Yeh know what, team,” he began as the squad paused for a slushie break. “I think that Hannah lass was right. We need t’take more risks.”
Dasher mumbled in agreement. “We do, but any injury could put our team outta the tourney if we mess it up.”
Nitri was poking a Snow Yooyu with a stick as she said, “So long as I don’t have t’waitress tables durin’ me lifetime, I don’t care where me income comes from!”
Hawkshanks shrugged and adjusted the Yooyuball sling on his arm for comfort. “We have fame an’ glory worldwide, guys. We don’t need all of that adventure normal pirates do. The Altador Cup has given us a free ride to the next-best equivalent.”
“I have t’admit, I love me fans,” Dasher mused happily, remembering the fear and adoration from the public when his team placed First in ACIV. “They’d riot if we left them. Recall what happened LAST time I tried t’retire?”
“Let’s not go there,” Zayle input hastily. He remembered the outrage and despair of the fans when information about Dasher’s replacement player had leaked to the press. It wasn’t pretty.
Garven considered all that was said and decided that their place was within tournament boundaries. “Yooyuball fer life, mateys. No sense in givin’ up a good thing. We have yet to win the Gold again!”
“Aye!” Dasher cried enthusiastically, standing up off the bench he was sat on. “We ain’t havin’ those Lost Desert big-shots stealin’ our spotlight again!”
“C’mon! Last one t’the field buys the next round of grogs!” Zayle exclaimed as he sped ahead of the others onto their makeshift Yooyuball stadium (an alleyway with trashcans as goalposts).
* * *
Meanwhile Hannah was wiping down tables at the Golden Dubloon when someone slipped a small paper note into her pocket. She did not see who had done it but when she read the note her heart leapt in joy!
It was a message from Kanrik, current leader of the Thieves Guild, who said that an informant would meet her at the docks by nightfall to give her a map to another hidden stash of treasure. Those Yooyuballers didn’t know what they were missing!
She knew Kanrik, a tall Blue Gelert, from her adventure on Terror Mountain years ago. Kanrik first met her at the Golden Dubloon one evening to request help under the false story that he was seeking for the cure to his deathly-ill sister. Hannah had accepted his bribe to assist him and this led to a journey to the Lost Desert to open an ancient tomb for this supposed cure for Kanrik’s sister. It was in that tomb where Hannah received the Mark of Ta-Kutep, a powerful curse that sapped her life energy, and this is where Kanrik betrayed her and left her for dead.
Hannah was an expert at escaping from caves so a tomb was not that hard to get out of, and on her way out she discovered a beautiful amulet of red stone that she kept as her own compensation for what he had done. She went to seek medical attention for the strange marking on her arm in Sakhmet but was unable to obtain the cure. Regardless of this Hannah went to track down the Thieves Guild who had been rumoured to be camping out on Terror Mountain.
On her way up the mountain, she was too weak to continue and passed out in the snow. A young Bori called Armin (the Bori were a completely unseen species in Neopia for centuries at the time) rescued her and told her of the plight of the Bori tribe that were frozen deep within the mountain to protect them from a demon Moehog called The Bringer of Night... which was incidentally the beast that Kanrik had let loose from his trip to the tomb in the Lost Desert.
Kanrik was only a member of the Thieves Guild at the time and was banished from the guild, poisoned. He coincidentally found Hannah and Armin in the caves and after a brief fight (what? Hannah was almost killed because of the Gelert!) Kanrik told them about The Bringer. They moved into the cave to warn the Bori tribe of the danger that awaited them, when the Thieves Guild broke through into the same cavern they were in.
After another much larger battle, Hannah was informed by an ancient Bori to unite her red stone amulet (the keystone) with the Heart of the Mountain (an even bigger gem of a similar composition) to free the tribe from the ice. One huge battle later and she had won the battle, with the Bori victorious against The Bringer and the Thieves Guild, but she had hardly any strength left as the curse wore on.
Kanrik saved her life by taking her to the Snow Faerie to life the curse, and after that day Hannah still bore the scar of Ta-Kutep and it was a reminder of the risks she had to face on her adventures. Kanrik became the leader of the Thieves Guild after inhuming Galem Darkhand, the previous leader of the guild, during the battle in the Ice Caves. It was all documented in a comic; you should read it sometime!
Hannah could now trust Kanrik completely. He was a valuable ally but an even better friend and now he was making sure that nothing would stand in her way for her next escapade.
“Thanks, Kanrik, I owe you one,” she whispered gratefully to the letter as she pocketed it once again and continued to clean the tables in the tavern.
To think, by nightfall, she would be starting a new adventure...
To be continued...