Scarblade's Pearl: Off To Altador - Part Three
After a few twists and turns in the wrong direction, Nira managed to make her way back to the pastry shop. It was indeed open, but just as she was about to go inside, a small faerie Shoyru (probably only six or seven) burst through the door.
“Ready or not, here I come!!” she shouted, before dashing off and out of sight.
Nira blinked in surprise, wondering at the little Shoyru's energy. She was probably a big handful, too. After getting over her surprise, Nira went to open the door, only to have it open again. A green Zafara came out, almost running into Nira because she was facing someone back inside. She turned forward just in time, barely managing not to step on Nira's toes. Her eyes widened in surprise and she gasped.
“I'm so sorry! I almost ran into you!” she exclaimed guiltily.
Nira shrugged and stepped aside. It didn't really matter. The Zafara grinned in relief before hurrying past her, glancing around as she did.
“Fira! Nijl!” she called.
No response. The Zafara sighed.
“Oh where did those two get off to now?” she muttered to herself.
Nira ignored her and went inside. After all, it wasn't HER business what the Zafara was looking for.
A pair of Kougras and a Kacheek looked up when Nira walked in. One of the Kougras was chocolate, and by the way he was dressed, Nira guessed he was either the chef or a waiter. The other two, which he had been speaking to, were the royals from the library. The other patrons didn't seem to pay her much attention, if any.
“Why, hello there!” called the she-Kougra, smiling.
“You're that Shoyru from the library aren't you?” asked the Kacheek.
Nira managed a somewhat shy smile.
“Yes,” she said quietly.
The chocolate Kougra grinned.
“A bit on the quite side, isn't she?” he asked the royals, going to Nira's side and leading her to a table.
“It would seem so,” said the Kacheek with a grin.
Nira ended up seated at the table beside the royals' table.
“Anything I can get you?” asked the chocolate Kougra, dragging Nira's attention away from the royals.
She grinned, wondering how the Kougra would react to her next words.
“Some friends of mine claim this pastry shop has the best sweets in all Neopia. If you have it, I'd like to see if your strawberry shortcake can stand up to that description.” An odd note of confidence entered Nira's voice, one that she had no idea where it had come from. Either way, the Kougra chuckled.
“I'll get right on it,” he said cheerily, before heading into a room behind the front counter.
“You aren't from around here, are you?” asked the royal Kougra, her eyes wide with curiosity.
“No, I'm not. I came to visit from Mystery Island,” she replied.
“Mystery Island?” said the Kacheek in disbelief.
“A pirate from Mystery Island?” the Kougra asked uncertainly.
“Yes. Is something wrong with that?” Nira asked, suddenly confused.
The royals quickly shook their heads.
“No, no!” said the Kougra.
“We just... don't get many pirates around here. Especially not from Mystery Island,” said the Kacheek quietly.
“Although, we did see one other pirate come through here earlier...” said the Kougra thoughtfully.
“Oh, right! Kept going on and on about a terrible captain he used to work for. Guess the coldhearted fiend decided to throw a girl overboard a few months back,” the Kacheek added, equally thoughtful.
“Yes... Captain Scarblade, wasn't it?”
Scarblade. The name could send shivers down any pet's spine. The moment she heard the name, Nira got a very different reaction. A sharp pain seemed to pierce her forehead. Nira stopped herself from reacting just in time. Nira viewed pain as a sign of weakness. And she never showed weakness.
“Yes, that was it! And no wonder. It would take a truly terrible person to simply chuck a girl overboard,” replied the Kacheek. The way the royals spoke back and forth, it would seem they'd completely forgotten about Nira. She didn't mind, though. She was still trying to piece information together.
A few months ago? That's when I-
“What about the Ixi who told the tale, though? What was his name?”
Nira's thoughts snapped back to reality and she refocused on the conversation.
The two pets seemed suddenly at a loss. The chocolate Kougra happened to renter the room at that moment.
“His name was Kaezer, I believe,” said he, confirming that he had overheard at least part of the conversation. The moment he uttered the name, Nira got another sharp pain, just as she had when Scarblade was mentioned. This time, she couldn't help inhaling sharply and pressing a hand to her forehead.
What could this mean?
“Yes, that was it!” she heard one of the royals exclaim.
Then suddenly they were quiet.
“Are you alright, Miss?” asked the chocolate Kougra, setting a plate down in front of her. He looked genuinely concerned.
Nira gritted her teeth and forced herself to smile.
“I'm alright. Just got a sudden headache, that's all,” she replied, trying to sound cheerful.
“Hmm...” went the Kougra, looking thoughtful.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked.
“A glass of water will do,” she answered.
The Kougra nodded before disappearing again. There were a few moments of silence.
“Do you think you might know him?” the Kacheek asked suddenly.
“What?” Nira responded, somewhat startled after the silence.
“The Ixi. Do you think you may have seen him somewhere?”
Nira scowled and shook her head.
“No offense, but I tend to avoid other pirates,” she muttered.
The Kougra smiled reassuringly.
“Oh no, we understand. Pirates aren't usually the friendly type,” she said softly.
“But this one wasn't so bad.” added the Kacheek. “In fact, he was only a deckhand. Said he hated his job and would leave if he could. I'll bet he's never stolen a thing in his life!”
Nira highly doubted that, but decided to let the Kacheek believe what she wanted to.
“I see. I still think I'll be avoiding his company.”
The chocolate Kougra came back then, putting a glass of ice water on the table beside Nira's plate.
“Avoiding who's company? Kaezer's?” he asked.
As soon as he spoke the name, the pain was back again, a little worse this time. Nira winced, but gritted her teeth against crying out. The chocolate noticed, but didn't let it show.
“I think you should see him. Maybe you two would have something in common?” he said hesitantly.
“I should hope not. I don't think anyone would want to have something in common with a pirate, even a reluctant deckhand,” she said pointedly.
The royals nodded their heads in understanding, but the chocolate looked oddly skeptical. Nira was relieved when he was called away to another table. The conversation seeming to have come to an end, Nira decided she should eat her cake. One bite was all it took, and Nira knew this was the best cake she'd ever tasted. Oh sure, she and Lightning had had a cake once. But it hadn't been anything like this. She had to wonder if she'd eaten cake before.
“That's a nice necklace,” said the Kougra quietly when Nira had half finished her piece of cake. Nira put down her fork to touch the pendant thoughtfully.
“Thank you,” she replied, staring off into space.
“Where'd you get it?” she Kacheek asked.
Nira looked back at the royals, seeming a bit dazed.
“The necklace,” the Kacheek clarified.
Nira's eyes lit with understanding, the looked down at the pendant 'round her neck. She frowned.
“I'm not sure, actually. A kind pet found me on a Mystery Island beach a few months back. I can't remember anything before that day, except my name and birthday.”
Nira stroked the gem in her necklace gently.
“I was wearing this necklace when she found me,” she finished.
The royals' faces changed to looks of pity, the way they always did when any pet heard Nira's story. She'd come to hate those looks.
“That's terrible!” cried the Kacheek. The Kougra only looked slightly thoughtful. The same thoughtful look crossed the face of the chocolate, who happened to overhear. But he continued working as if he'd heard nothing.
“Not like I can do anything about it....” she muttered.
Silently, she finished her cake, drank her water, and left some neopoints on the table. She was getting up to leave when the Kougra spoke again.
“What's your name?” she asked.
“Nira,” Nira replied simply.
The Kougra grinned.
“I'm Flutura, but everyone calls me Chou,” she said cheerily.
“And I'm Ruelet,” said the Kacheek.
Nira couldn't help grinning a bit.
“Nice meeting you,” she said, heading for the door.
“Nice meeting you, too!” called the Kougra from behind.
For the next few days, Nira explored Altador and all of its famous sites: the Hall of Heroes, the Altadorian Archives, the Colosseum (where the annual Altador Cup would soon be held). The only places she refused to explore were the harbor and the beach. Oh how she longed to see the beach! But it wasn't worth the risk of running into a pirate. She also avoided going back to the pastry shop, even though she felt her mouth water at the prospect of more sweets. Better to be safe than sorry.
But as the week came to a close regretting that she hadn't gone back to the pastry shop at least once. The regret lingered in her mind as she boarded the ferry that would take her home. It almost felt strange, after spending so much time in Altador, to be heading back to Mystery Island. Nira no longer felt unease at being parted from Lightning. In fact, she felt ready to explore all of Neopia. Maybe that had been the reason for the sudden trip? Nira grinned, her chest filling with warmth. Lightning had planned the whole thing all along, likely to make Nira less shy. She should have known.
After nearly an hour of smooth sailing, the cry rand out like a clap of thunder. Several passengers jumped, including Nira. As the meaning of the cry sank in, all eyes turned out to sea, searching frantically.
All eyes turned again, first toward the speaker, then in the direction he pointed. Nira's heart nearly stopped. It wasn't just a pirate ship. It was the Revenge, most fear pirate ship in all Neopia. It was approaching fast.
“Hit the de-”
Before the command could be finished, there was a loud explosive sound. A round object suddenly came flying through the air, crashing into the side of the ship. The force of the blow caused the boat to rock violently. Nira toppled and landed on her hands and knees. Another boom followed by a loud splash signaled that another shot had been fired, but thankfully missed.
Nira was stumbling to her feet when another boom filled the air. There was a terrible sound of wood being blown to pieces, and Nira looked up to see the mast had been hit. She dove out of the way just in time as it came crashing down beside her.
The Revenge had caught up now, pulling up along side the terribly crippled ship. Pirates began swinging and jumping over the side, landing on the deck with cutlasses drawn. Terrified, Nira scrambled to her feet, about to dash away and hide, when one of the pirates landed directly in front of her. Nira took a step back in surprise, staring in horror at the cackling figure. Captain Scarblade himself.
The laughter quieted a bit as the captain lifted his cutlass, ready to demand she-
The captain's face suddenly froze, eyes wide, all amusement gone. His grip loosened on the hilt of his cutlass so much that he dropped it. It fell to the deck with a loud clang.
“You!” Scarblade cried in astonishment. A large wave hit the boat, causing Nira to fall on her knees, but she somehow managed to keep her fearful eyes locked on Scarblade's. He didn't even stumble. Just stood there and stared, his body shaking ever so slightly.
“You... you...!” the captain exclaimed quietly.
Nira felt a sharp pain, this time at the back of her head, and her head fell in her hands.
What's going on?! Nira thought furiously.
Another wave, much larger than the last, rammed into the side of the boat. The force was so strong that the boat was nearly thrown on its side. Scarblade fell on his back, but Nira, much lighter than he, was flung off the deck and into the sea below. She hit the water with a loud splash, sinking fast. The pain... it was so great now. Nira's eyes were fluttering; black dotted her vision. Something passed in front of her eyes, but she couldn't make out what it was.
Then, she passed out.
To be continued...