Hannah, Garin, and the Terribly-Named Treasure: Part Five
“Oh, no,” Hannah groaned, deep dread filling her every molecule as she stared into the pool of water and saw Garin’s horrified face looking back at her. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no. This CANNOT be happening.”
“What are YOU whining about?” Garin wailed in Hannah’s much-higher-pitched voice. “I’m wearing a SKIRT, Hannah! A SKIRT!”
“Forget the skirt, how can we switch back? I want to be in MY body, not yours!”
“Well, that makes two of us,” snapped Garin. “For now, let’s just get the treasure. Maybe there’ll be a—a gem, or something, that’ll put us right.”
And he strode off with great dignity, marred only by the faceplant he suffered two steps later, to pick up a jeweled cup.
After about ten minutes of salvaging the treasure—luckily, only one item, which seemed to be a vase, had been demolished by the explosion—Hannah’s pack was bursting with treasure, and both Garin and Hannah were sporting new weapons. Hannah called dibs on a leaf-shaped and extremely light silver shield she thought might have been made by Illusen, a pair of porcelain hair sticks that would be even more useful once she got her own body back, and a Maractite dagger she’d found in a pond. Garin appropriated a perfectly-balanced Pirate Captain’s Cutlass and a Sponge Shield, and they’d both compiled an assortment of explosive produce, Clockwork Grundos, and a Toxic Sock of Doom which smelled so vile that it had to be wrapped in a torn-off section of one of the pirate’s shirts and stuffed into the deepest pocket of Hannah’s backpack for the time being.
They decided not to waste time dealing with the two comatose pirates, and just left them in the cave so they could get a head start to the ship. The pack was far too heavy for either of them to hoist; they ended up carrying it between them like a large and extremely deformed baby, and set off wearily back down the moonlit path.
“So do we save your ship first, or go to a faerie and get back into our own bodies?” asked Hannah, rubbing her foot, which was much larger than she was used to and therefore much easier to stub on jungle debris.
Garin opened his mouth to reply, but instead tripped over his skirt for the fifth time in as many minutes and growled, “How and why do you wear this thing every day?”
Hannah rolled her eyes. “Quit complaining. It could have been worse, you know.”
“Oh, really? Enlighten me.”
“We’re both fairly fit Usuls who’re close in age. I could have been an obese Grarrl or a geriatric Buzz.”
Garin shuddered. “Okay, point taken. Still, how did you manage all those things you’ve done in—” here he tripped again—“a skirt?”
“It’s really not as hard as you’re making it out to be,” said Hannah with another eye-roll. “But if it really bothers you that much, we can switch clothes. I don’t care.”
“No,” said Garin firmly, shuddering again. “Frankly, the only thing that could possibly make me more upset at this point would be to see my body wearing girls’ clothes.”
Hannah shrugged. “Then deal with it, I guess, until we can get to a town and find you some pants.”
That brought him up short. “No, we don’t have time. I can’t abandon my crew.” He swallowed bravely. “Wearing this skirt is just a sacrifice I’ll have to make.”
“Wow,” Hannah deadpanned with a third magnificent eye-roll. “Incredible. I can’t think of a single other Neopet who could possibly have ever suffered as much as you’re suffering right now.”
Garin scowled, but let the comment pass. They wove through the dark jungle, both stumbling and letting out the occasional curse, and were just at the edge of the beach when Hannah suddenly stopped. “Wait a minute. How are we going to swim all the way back to the Black Pawkeet with these weapons? The clockworks are definitely not going to work if they get wet, and the Grapes of Wrath and the other fruits and veggies probably won’t hold up either.”
Garin halted as well. “I didn’t think of that.”
“Neither did I. What should we do?”
“We’re both good enough swimmers to hold the pack up and swim with our other limbs, I guess,” Garin said dubiously, imagining trying to fight Earbeard after swimming one-handed and being weighted down by a skirt for a half hour. “We’ll have to rest and tread water a couple times, but we really don’t have a choice.”
“Well then, let’s get this over with,” Hannah said, and they pushed through the foliage and walked onto the beach to see the Black Pawkeet moored right next to the cliff.
Garin stopped again and blinked. “Huh. I definitely wasn’t expecting that.”
“I bet you didn’t,” said another voice, and Earbeard strode dramatically out from behind a clump of palm trees. He narrowed his eyes at Hannah, fingering his stolen Maractite dagger. “Found yourself a new toy, have you? It’s not going to stop me from beating you again.”
Hannah opened her mouth to inform him that she was a far superior fighter and, unlike Garin, would have no problem trouncing him, but Garin, eyeing the Tonu with great malevolence, grabbed her arm and whispered, “He doesn’t know we’ve switched bodies. Can you just pretend to be me and fight him? I’ll take the bag and break my crew out, I know the ship better than you do.”
“Works for me,” muttered Hannah. She pulled out her own Maractite dagger, as well as the leaf-shaped shield from where it was strapped on her back, and walked purposefully toward Earbeard. The moonlight was at his back, which put her at a disadvantage—all she could see of him was his large outline, some vaguely discernable features, and Garin’s softly-glowing dagger.
Earbeard laughed a deep, almost stereotypically-menacing laugh. “Some fools never learn,” he said, and, drawing his dagger, he lunged with agility that belied his bulk.
Hannah deflected his strike with the shield as Garin, holding up his skirt as best he could, shouldered the pack and sprinted for the Black Pawkeet. She then easily dodged his second swipe, rolling under his outstretched arm and kicking him hard in the side. Earbeard staggered a few steps, gasping for breath, then whipped around to meet Hannah’s dagger with his own in an arm-wrestling position.
Hannah gritted her teeth, weighing her options. She knew she could never compete with his strength, so she’d have to resort to trickery, and maybe a little bit of cheating. The Usul raised her right foot and kicked Earbeard in the shins as hard as she possibly could. Though her toes immediately regretted this, Earbeard gave a bellow of pain and jumped back, hopping on one foot. Hannah immediately darted at him and locked their daggers again—this time, though, the Tonu was so off-balance that Hannah, with one skilful twist of her wrist, sent his weapon flying into the sand.
Earbeard gaped at her, empty handed. “You—you just—”
Hannah scooped up Garin’s dagger and brushed it off nonchalantly. “Yes, I just beat you. And I’ll have you know that Hannah, who is an excellent climber and very brave, is springing your prisoners as we speak. So if you know what’s good for you, you’ll call off your crew this instant and get off Garin’s—I mean, my ship.”
Earbeard, however, did not seem to know what was good for him, as he chose instead to bellow, “ATTACK!”
And countless pirates melted out of the shrubs, surrounding Hannah and grinning evilly as they advanced.
Garin, meanwhile, had raced up the ship’s ladder and down the stairs, knocking away a familiar-looking Gelert when he tried to stop him. He reached the bilge, panting, to find half of his crew pounding at the bars and the other half frantically and, it seemed, fruitlessly scraping at the mortar. All activity stopped when the Usul entered, and all of the pirates fell silent, staring perplexedly at him.
“What’s with you guys? I’m here to rescue you,” he said, a bit offended—he had expected a warmer welcome—and then winced at his high-pitched voice. Oh. That was why.
Jacques pushed his way to the front. “Hannah, you made it! Where’s Garin? Is he fighting Earbeard?”
Garin opened his mouth to tell his friend the truth, but thought the better of it; explaining would take time they didn’t have. “Um, yes, and I’m sure he’s winning—he’s an awesome knife fighter, you know. Where’s the weakest section of the bars?”
Several pirates pointed to the far-right corner, and Garin hurried over, pulling out a Rainbow Clockwork Grundo. “Stand back, because this is going to be messy.” After allowing himself a brief moment of mental anguish over the number of dubloons it would take to repair the damage he was about to cause, he turned the windup key and pointed the clockwork at the corner.
The clockwork, true to its description, went tick tock tick tock tick tock BOOOOOOOOM!, and bits of mortar and metal flew everywhere. When the dust settled, the pirates streamed through the gaping hole and stampeded up the stairs, making a ridiculous amount of noise. Garin and Jacques brought up the rear.
“It’s a bit strange that we’ve only seen the one unconscious sentry, isn’t it?” Jacques commented. “You’d think Earbeard would try to stop us.”
“Unless his pirates are otherwise occupied,” Garin panted, hiking up his skirt and running even more quickly. “I bet he’s using them to ambush Han—Garin, or something.”
“Then we’d better get down there fast,” Jacques said grimly, and they dashed up the stairs without another word.
Wielding her Maractite dagger in one hand, her shield in the other, and having knocked out several pirates with the hair sticks (though they had since landed somewhere in the sand), Hannah was now fighting off assailants with her back to the cliff. As she tried to fend off a club-bearing Hissi, she was rapidly tiring, and was seriously considering trying to run when Garin’s crew, roaring in fury, swarmed down the ladder and dove into the fray. The Hissi turned to see what was going on, and Hannah walloped him on the head with her shield, giving her a brief moment of respite. She spotted Garin and Jacques climbing down the ladder, but as she surveyed the scene, she suspected that they might not be needed. What the original pirates of the Black Pawkeet lacked in weapons they made up for with righteous anger and, in some cases, rotten vegetables, and they were beginning to overpower Earbeard’s crew. The stench of the vegetables reminded her of a certain weapon Garin had found, and she raced through the melee, tripping, shoving, and kicking enemies as she went.
“THE SOCK!” she shouted, hoping Garin could hear her. “USE THE SOCK!”
Garin stared at her confusedly for a second, then seemed to understand her. He rooted through the pack, lobbing Grapes of Wrath and Artichoke Bombs haphazardly into the teeming crowd, and finally pulled out the Toxic Sock of Doom. Gagging from the smell, he threw it as hard as he could into the center of the battle.
This had a surprisingly satisfactory effect. Garin’s pirates, repulsed by the terrible odor, surged backwards in the direction of the ship; for the rest, the appearance of the sock was the final straw, and they scattered into the jungle with Earbeard at their head.
“We did it!” Jacques yelled, and the rest of the crew cheered in response. Some headed for the ship again, while others remained to scour the area for weapons and straggling mutineers.
Hannah walked up to Garin, pulled his dagger out of her belt, and handed it to him. “Nice job.”
“Thanks,” Garin replied, fondly rubbing the luminous Maractite. “You too.”
“Our next order of business should be to find a faerie and get all this sorted out, don’t you think?”
“I wholeheartedly agree.”
“Okay, would one of you please tell me what is going on?” said Jacques, staring at them suspiciously. “Why are you being so nice to each other? It’s not natural.”
Garin made his usual frantic shut-up motions at Hannah, who ignored him and said, “The Curse of Briny Baldric ended up switching our bodies, which for some reason completely embarrasses Garin.”
“So... you’re actually Garin?” Jacques asked, staring at Hannah’s old body with an evil smile beginning to spread along his face. “You with the skirt?”
“If you EVER tell ANYONE,” Garin growled, “I will—I will—I will put that sock into your room when you least expect it.”
Jacques grimaced. “You had to bring up the sock. Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me. Let’s round everyone up, then. Mystery Island is pretty close.”
“And I have five pieces of treasure to pick out,” said Hannah happily, and she beamed at a scowling Garin before entering the ship.
The journey to Mystery Island was short and uneventful, and once they docked, the pirates dispersed to dine and buy new weapons. Hannah also made a brief, mysterious trip to the trading post, and then she and Garin headed straight for Jhuidah’s cooking pot. After explaining their situation to the faerie, Jhuidah laughed for what seemed like five minutes.
“I’ve heard of that curse, and it’s not meant to do that at all,” she said, grinning. “It was supposed to trap whoever opened the chest inside a pot or a vase that was in it. Briny Baldric must have been an utter incompetent. Well, no matter. I can fix you right now.”
And she mixed up a sparkling blue potion, handed a cup each to both Usuls, and cheerfully said, “Bottoms up!”
Hannah lifted the potion to her mouth and saw Garin doing the same. There was a flash of bright blue light, and Hannah suddenly felt dizzy and small. When her vision cleared, she was looking at Garin, who looked like himself again. Hannah pulled out her old, non-Maractite dagger and examined her reflection, seeing with relief that she was herself again.
“Thank you,” Garin said fervently to Jhuidah in his normal baritone, and Hannah echoed him. They exited the faerie’s pretty grass hut and walked into the bright Mystery Island sun.
“My ferry to Krawk Island leaves in five minutes,” Hannah said, halting at a fork in the path. “So I guess this is goodbye.”
“I guess it is,” said Garin, stopping as well. “The next time you want to go treasure hunting, let me know. I’d be honored to spelunk with you sometime.”
Hannah smiled. “I’d be glad to. And you know, I guess your knife-fighting technique isn’t that bad.”
“Thanks,” Garin replied, grinning. “And if you could just climb a Crokabek’s Nest, you’d actually make a decent pirate.”
Hannah laughed, and with a final look, she began to walk down the path. Then she paused and turned around. “I almost forgot, I bought you a parting gift. Ask Jacques to give it to you.”
“I will,” said Garin, a bit curious, and he waved as she disappeared behind a hill.
That night, when all the crew had returned to the Black Pawkeet and they had set sail, Garin remembered to ask Jacques for his present.
Jacques gave a snort of laughter. “I put it in your cabin. I think you’re going to love it.”
Even more curious, Garin returned to his cabin. He found a small package on his bed, and unwrapped it.
And out fell a frilly pink skirt.