Becoming a Pirate...
Captain Jhayman stared at the bars in agony. Their rusted indifference offended him on a deep personal level, almost as much as being stuck in this tiny cage. The waves taunted him; he could hear them crashing against the walls of his prison, occasionally spraying mist through the small solitary window too high up for him to see out of. He would die here, he thought. They all would.
His crew had been a faithful bunch, and some of the best friends he ever had. The land he had grown up on had withered slowly from famine and over taxation by King Skarl's minor nobilities. Once upon a time, it had been a thriving tourist metropolis, beautiful and green. Now all that was to be found was poverty and illness. The decision had been a simple one. Go and see the world, or grow old and die on this island. Take to the seas or give up.
The ocean had offered him freedom, and smuggling had offered him a livelihood.
Jhayman had made the decision to go to sea quite suddenly. He made quite a sight running down the dirt path that led to the docks, barely more than a pup, stumbling over his slightly-too-big paws and his slightly-too-long legs. The old captain, a somewhat questionable-looking Lupe by the name of Shandaran, laughed aloud at the sight of the gangly, thin and ragged looking young cream colored Gelert running madly towards the docks. Entertained by the youngster’s enthusiasm, he accepted young Jhayman's plea to come aboard.
Jhayman didn't stay cream-colored for long. The grime and dirt of daily life slowly dyed his fur darker and darker, until he resembled a splotched old rug. Shandaran was the father he never had, teaching Jhayman about sea trade, how to read the winds, and most importantly the morality of smuggling. Neopets needed goods, he insisted, and taxes were the cause of many Neopets having to live without.
He viewed himself as a bit of a robin hood character, providing a necessary service to the poor while taking from the royal thieves themselves.
Why did he have to give in to the temptation, he wondered. He remembered the events that led up to his capture quite clearly.
"We should dock in Altador. Last time we stopped here, we made our weight in profit, and the men could use some real food." Captain Jhayman's first mate turned to him, gesturing at the shoreline. Jhayman hesitated. Part of flying a ship under the Meridell flag was the unavoidable need to maintain regular business for the crown, and as far as Jhayman was concerned, personal financial gain was not quite worth the risk of losing time on their normal commissioned trade route for the royal navy. Still, the crew was ragged and stank, and it would not do to return to Meridell in such poor condition. He was a Captain commissioned by the King, after all. Having the true nature of his business investigated due to poor crew and ship condition would be devastating to his reputation and therefore his ability to move freely. Although he was held in high regard, his credibility was not beyond tarnish.
When Shandaran had appointed him captain to retire a wealthy old Lupe, most of the crew had been surprised. Jhayman had been the youngest member of the crew, but had shown dedication and leadership abilities far beyond his years. Some rebellion had been expected, but the crew had been surprisingly loyal.
Jhayman decided not to press his luck. He did not want to give the crew any reason to resent his position. And so it was that they docked.
Altador's giant walls greeted them as a foreboding omen, but his crew was so eager for a good meal and a soft bed that no one took much notice. Stopped by a guard, Jhayman presented his official papers from Skarl. Being commissioned by a king had its benefits: Jhayman and his crew were free to travel almost anywhere without much trouble. The gold was another benefit, although the wages paid to hired ships were minuscule compared to the money made through Jhayman's "free commerce". First stop: a shower, thought Jhayman. Then to get his coat washed and his belly full. Upon entering, his crew quickly dispersed to their various destinations. Jhayman found a friendly-looking inn and ordered himself the most expensive plate of food he could find. It was delicious, but after weeks of salt pork and stale bread anything would have seemed exquisite. He paid with a bank note and went up to the room he had reserved, falling asleep before the sun even begun to set.
The next day, Jhayman returned to the docks, expecting to find his crew. What he found instead was an ambush. As the guards apprehended him and dragged him, humiliated, down the street, he spotted the innkeeper smiling at the captain of the guard. The captain was holding Jhayman's bank notes, and handed a hefty sack filled with what must have been neopoints to the innkeeper. Seeing his first mate approaching the ship, he tried to yell a warning. A hand covered his mouth, and a swift impact to the back of his head sent him spiraling into darkness.
'It's been six weeks, and it feels like six years,' thought Jhayman, examining the markings he had made by listening to high tide and low tide in the sound of the waves crashing against the hard stone walls. Waiting for the magistrate to review his case and give him a fair trial was beginning to seem hopeless. He had seen one of the guards who arrested him just that morning, snickering at him through the bars between making his rounds. His thoughts were on his loyal companions. His bad decision had lead them here; it was his responsibility to resolve it. The only possible reason they could still be in prison was because their smuggling had been discovered. Jhayman supposed his ship, the Iris, had been seized by port authorities and probably auctioned off in the market weeks ago. His livelihood: gone. His friends: imprisoned, possibly already hanged.
Jhayman had always adhered to the rule Shandaran had taught him: it's only illegal if you get caught. Well, he had gotten caught. He was a marked criminal. How much worse could it get?
He had to help his friends. They were all he had left, and they had relied on his guidance to keep them safe. And so, Jhayman devised a plan.
Dawn came particularly early, and Jhayman heard the steps of the guard that typically gave the prisoners their daily meal of semolina and water. It was time. Jhayman scooted himself over into the corner and slumped next to his cot, attempting to look as limp and lifeless as possible. The past night had forced him to break free from his normal habit of early to bed, early to rise; this act required him to look as ill and exhausted as possible. Jhayman heard the key turn in the door, and saw the lanterns glow entering the room. "Meal time," boomed a voice Jhayman recognized. It was the same guard that had apprehended him at the docks and mocked him over the past several months. 'I will enjoy this entirely too much,' thought Jhayman, remembering how ill the semolina had made him before his body had adjusted to it.
Not hearing any movement or sound, the guard peered into the room to see an apparently very ill dying Gelert slumped against the wall. 'What a pitiful sight I must be,' thought Jhayman. 'My royal Navy coat is in tatters. I am nothing but fur a size too big hanging off a skeleton. If I were in his shoes, I would probably fall for this.'
The guard looked slightly distressed as he approached Jhayman, apparently planning to check his pulse. As the guards paw pressed up against his flesh, seeking signs of life, Jhayman sprang into action. He stuffed the semolina stashed from the day before out of his coat sleeve and into the guard's mouth.
And then, he waited. He waited and held the guard silenced and subdued, until the guard began to sweat. And vomit. Profusely. Finally the guard passed out. Jhayman knew from experience this semi-comatose state could last for hours, perhaps even days. He worked quickly and exchanged their clothes.
Nonchalantly, he walked out in the guise of a prison guard, stopping only to tidy himself up slightly. His coat was left behind, along with his old life of a Commissioned Captain, or so he thought.
All he had to do now was make it out of the building and find a bunch of sailors who he might not recognize in their current condition and manage to escape undetected.
He found his first mate and several sailors without problem, then heard the bells of the city ringing. This was the time the guards usually switched shifts, he knew. He had a window of opportunity in which escape was possible. He could save the seven pets he had found, or wait and be captured on behalf of the other missing five who might not still be alive.
Once again, the choice seemed like a clear one. Leading his men, they managed to slip past the sleeping guard into the rooftop courtyard. Their only option was to jump. Jhayman fearlessly leapt off the three story building, falling past the cliffs into the blue waters below. The water was ecstasy as it surrounded him. The sea was his mother, his family, his home. He embraced it like a long lost love one is forced to see but not touch for weeks.
All too briefly the reunion was ended, as his head erupted from the water and he signaled his crew. One by one they followed, and he watched his friends experience a similar emotional response as his own. Without the sea they were nothing, he knew then. Giving up sailing was not an option.
The last part of the plan was the most difficult, but if they could pull it off they would taste once again the freedom of the open seas. Slowly, the captain and his skeleton crew began to swim towards the docks of Altador, or die trying. Life without the ocean was death anyway. Until they could once again be sailors, they were not alive.
Jhayman signaled his first mate who was stationed next to a nearby fish cart. Dusk had fallen. The docks were oddly quiet, only the occasional guard or beggar passing by. It was time. He saw his crew emerge from the shadows. Six weeks of waiting in silence is enough to teach even the loudest Neopet how to walk quietly. They watched Jhayman approach the guard posted next to the ship, still wearing the stolen uniform from the prison.
"King Altador has sent me to search for a prisoner. He escaped yesterday from the quarry. I have a warrant to search this vessel."
With a tired look, the guard led Jhayman into the ships bowels. His crew followed him like shadows, assuming their normal posts. It wasn't long until Jhayman lead the guard back out. The guard resumed post on the dock, forcing Jhayman onto the dock with him. "Just a moment, I believe I left my hat inside," said Jhayman. The guard just grunted. Jhayman walked past him onto the ship, and signaled his crew.
The ship cast off the dock into a strong south wind.
It took a moment for the guard's shock to wear off enough for him to sound the alarm. The docks exploded into a fury of activity, guards emerged from every building. Jhayman had chosen well, however. While the ship he commandeered was not the nicest, the newest or the largest, it certainly was the lightest and therefore the fastest. With a five minute head start, he was almost on the horizon by the time any serious chase could take place.
That was it. He was a fugitive. A pirate.
Captain Jhayman of the Royal Navy was left behind, in the cell with his coat and the sick guard. Jhayman the fugitive was ready for a new life, a new purpose.