Better than Scones: Return of the Black Pawkeet - Part Three
She was gone. Ah turned me back on the liddle lass fer three moments an’ she fell overboard. Ah have no idea how Ah’m gonna break et ta Miss Scribe or Alexa’s friend, Missy Rose. The two may very well jump after ‘er. They come ta me ta ‘elp them find the Black Pawkeet, an’ Ah loose one of ‘em. What kinda cap’n am Ah?
-Salty, Captain of the Little Nipper and petpet Salesman
Alexa clung to the driftwood, coughing and spluttering foul saltwater everywhere. She was soaked to the skin and miserable. Even worse, she could see the Little Nipper’s light fading away in the darkness.
“Cap’n Salty!” she called. The Kyrii tried to push herself out of the water. “Salty--!” She fell back in with a splash, scrambling to keep hold of the wood.
It was too late. She had called several times, but either Salty hadn’t notice her fall or she was too far away.
And she was all alone. She didn’t even have her Jacques plushie to keep her company.
Someone had to notice. Surely Salty would see, if he didn’t Rose definitely would. But it would be too late to do anything about it.
She sighed hopelessly and slumped onto the board, exhausted. It wasn’t long before she dozed off, but her sleep was restless. She dreamt that she was in a small inn room, falling asleep in a hammock to the sound of someone singing.
“Goodnight, Alexa,” they said.
“Goodnight, Pa.” She yawned.
The scene changed. She was standing on the docks of Krawk Island, watching a ship disappear over the horizon.
“Maybe a ship will pass by,” a Neopet next to her said. “We’ll flag them down and hitch a ride to Krawk Island.”
Alexa turned to them. “What?!” They were on Krawk Island--what were they talking about?
“Sleekwalk,” another said, “these waters aren’t travelled much. Besides, if you really wanted someone to help us out, why didn’t you try to get the attention of that little sloop that passed by a few hours ago?”
“It’s not my fault, Krrran, they were out of yelling range. It was too dark anyways. They wouldn’t have seen us. What to do you think, Bowtie?”
Another Neopet nearby shrugged and mumbled something under her breath.
“Wait--wait!” Alexa snapped. “Stop! Stop messing with my memories!”
She woke up with a start, losing her grip on the board and going under. She came back up spluttering and coughing.
“Who’s out there!” the first voice from her dream called out.
“By Fyora! Sleekwalk, that’s a pet! Hurry up, get them on board--the poor thing’s probably half drowned!”
Two strong paws lifted her out of the water and dropped her onboard.
Alexa blinked the briny water out of her eyes. She was in a longboat, the kind they kept on the larger ships to row to shore in when the water was too shallow. Two Neopets were huddling around her, their faces illuminated by a lantern on the prow. One was a yellow Xweetok and the other was a green Eyrie.
“She’s just a kid!” the Eyrie cried. She smacked the Xweetok’s shoulder, “Give the poor thing some room, Sleekwalk! For goodness sakes! Back up!”
“Take it easy, Krran,” he mumbled, scooting back until he bumped into one of the seats. “You’re probably scaring her.”
Krrran glared at Sleekwalk before turning back to Alexa. She held out her paw and helped Alexa up.
“The name’s Krrran,” she said. “And the Xweetok is my older brother, Sleekwalk. The Bruce sitting in the back is my sister, Bowtie.”
The red Bruce turned redder and seemed to shrink in her seat.
“Who are you?” Krrran asked.
“Uh--” Alexa blinked a couple times, trying to come up with an answer to her question. “My...my name’s Alexa.”
Krrran smiled. “That’s a beautiful name, Alexa.”
Sleekwalk rolled his eyes.
“That’s a beautiful name,” he snorted. “We’re stranded out in the middle of--Fyora-knows-where and all you have to say is ‘that’s a beautiful name’?”
Krrran shot daggers at him from her eyes.
“Listen,” he said, “not that I don’t like formalities and all, but I don’t think our situation at the moment requires it. Here’s the deal: we were on our way to Krawk Island to visit our owner’s sister when our ship was attacked and destroyed. We’re doing the...” he glared at Krrran, “logical thing and trying to come up with some way to make it to Krawk Island as fast as possible; that way our owner won’t be worried and her sister won’t be worried. I know I’m rushing things a little, but, because it seems we’re all in the same boat here, we might as well get to know each other. That is the logical thing to do.” He turned to Alexa. “What’s your story.”
Alexa looked at them. Sleekwalk was looking at her with genuine interest. Krrran didn’t see her; she was busy staring down her brother, and Bowtie had stopped shrinking and was fumbling with her skull bow and ghostkerchief scarf. Maybe they would believe her.
She took a deep breath...and told them her story. All of it. From losing her Replica of the Black Pawkeet to falling into the sea. The only part she neglected was her dream.
“So, you see,” she said. They were all focused on her now. “We need to find the Black Pawkeet. I’m sure that Rose, Scribe and Salty will continue looking for it but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t as well. Finding the Black Pawkeet is my chance at rejoining them and getting back to Krawk Island before HE attacks.”
Sleekwalk looked over to Krrran and mouthed, We should help.
Krrran shook her head. No!
Sleekwalk furrowed his brow. Why not?
Krrran leaned close to him and gave him ten reasons why not to.
The Eyrie turned to her.
“Listen, Alexa,” she started, “it’s not that we don’t believe you... it’s just that we feel that--“
“We’re in,” Sleekwalk interrupted.
“What?! No--no, we’re not!”
“Krrran,” he said, “would Liz be proud if we turned down helping out a little kid? Are you suggesting that we leave a tiny, helpless girl with something as dangerous as this?” He turned to his other sister. “Do you have any objections to it, Bowtie?”
She shook her head.
“Looks like you’ve been out-voted, Krrran. Besides, doesn’t it make sense that we help her look for the Black Pawkeet and get a ride to Krawk Island?”
“Okay, okay,” she grumbled, “but once we get to Krawk Island, I want nothing to do with this pirate raid.”
“Do you know where to start looking?” Alexa asked.
“You’ve come to the right lifeboat!” Sleekwalk said grimly. “We were attacked by the Black Pawkeet early yesterday morning. She headed off towards the northeast afterwards.”
“Didja see Cap’n Garin and Jacques?!”
Sleekwalk shook his head. “They never came onboard. They just blasted her to bits.”
Alexa’s heart sank. “That’s not like them.”
“My thoughts exactly, kid.”
Alexa sat down on the bench. Sleekwalk joined her. He was dressed smartly, with a clean white shirt and khaki pants. Krrran wore similar clothes, but she wore a khaki skirt instead of pants. Bowtie was the only one without a shirt or pants, but she seemed perfectly fine with her skull bow and ghostkerchief scarf.
“Who’s Liz?” Alexa asked Sleekwalk.
“Liz is our owner. Man, she’s the best. She always makes sure that we are taken care of, even though she isn’t exactly the richest pet owner in Neopia. She loves us very much and gives us everything we need, and more, when she has the NP.”
Alexa smiled, watching the driftwood float by.
“I’ve never had an owner before,” she said, “well, until now. I’ve been taken in by Scribe’s owner, Rachel. She seems kinda nice.”
“Well... who did you live with before Rachel adopted you?”
Alexa shrugged. “Nowhere. For a long time I lived nowhere. Yeah, Rose was living with me on the streets, but even before Rose was disowned by her owner, Ben, I was a street pet.”
Sleekwalk stared at her empathetically. “Did you ever live with someone?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah. I lived with Pa. He--he was my father. I never knew my mom, but that didn’t matter. Pa loved me enough for both parents. We lived together in the Salty Stahkee. I... I remember him singing me to sleep at night. I remember sitting on his shoulders while he walked through the market... I also remember the day he left. You see, Pa was always leavin’ because he was a deckhand. He would leave on any ship that would hire him... he’d be gone fer a week or two and when he came back he would have enough neopoints to last us a month. Well, this time he was leaving on the S.S. Jerminiah. A week later, a little lifeboat rowed into the harbor. They said that the S.S. Jerminiah hit some rocks on a small island off of Moltara and sank. The only two survivors were the ones who had come back in the lifeboat: the cap’n and the first mate. Pa wasn’t one of them.”
Sleekwalk looked like he was going to cry. “Wow... Alexa, I can’t imagine how devastating that is... I mean, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if... if Liz was taken from us like that.”
Alexa shrugged. “Yeah, well, when Ben, Rose’s owner, found out that he wasn’t gonna get paid for the nights I had slept in the Salty Stahkee, he kicked me to the streets and has hated me ever since. I was real young when Pa left. I really don’t remember what he looked like. I... I think he was a pirate Kyrii. Yeah. I’m pretty sure he was.” She looked up at Sleekwalk. “I have to be sure... if I’m ever gonna find him.”
Sleekwalk shook his head. “But everyone said that he was dead. The captain and the first mate were the only survivors... you said it yourself.”
“I never give up on those I love, even if everyone else has.” She turned back to the sea. “I’m going to find him, even if I have to go to the end of Neopia and back to do it.”
Sleekwalk was staring at her in disbelief. For such a tiny Kyrii, she was the bravest and the most dedicated Neopet he had ever met.
Something splashed in the water.
Alexa suddenly stood up. “Did you see that?”
A grey thing surfaced farther away, and disappeared.
A gray head appeared only a little ways away right next to a piece of driftwood then went back under, dragging the wood down with it.
“It’s the Drenched!” Sleekwalk gasped. He jumped up and pulled Alexa away from the edge. “Krrran, Bowtie, keep to the middle of the boat! The Drenched sisters are here!”
Bowtie threw herself onto the floor and slid under a bench. She moved surprisingly fast for a Bruce. Krrran grabbed the lantern from the prow and joined Sleekwalk and Alexa, shining the lantern at everything that moved in the water.
“What are they doing?” Krrran cried.
Alexa watched as, piece by piece, the driftwood disappeared.
“I don’t think they’re here to harm us,” she whispered.
A gray head appeared above the longboat’s ledge. She had gray skin and large purple eyes. Her nails were digging into the wood. She stared at them for several moments... then, answering a call farther away, she hissed and dove into the depths.
The water was empty and calm. The Drenched had left.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN SHE FELL OVERBOARD!?!?!?!?!?!?!?”
Salty forced Scribe to sit back down on the hammock. “Now, now, don’t git yer tail en knots... jest calm down--“
“Calm down?!” she cried, “How CAN I calm down?! Alexa fell overboard and you didn’t save her?! She’s a child! She could have drowned! She could have been eaten by some monster of the sea! Why didn’t you jump in after her?!”
The old blue Kyrii threw his arms up in dismay. “I can’t swim, Miss Scribe.”
“Explain something to me, Mr. Salt--why do you own a ship, yet you don’t know how to swim?!”
“Et’s me leg, Miss Scribe, how can ye swim wid a peg leg?”
“Ooooh!” Scribe moaned. She slumped back in the hammock, covering her eyes with her paws. “The poor thing is probably drowned to death! She is probably kidnapped by pirates--or worse! She’s captured by those wretched Drenched sisters! The poor thing!”
“Now, now, Miss Scribe.” Salty sat down on the hammock.
“Now, now,” First Mate, his Piraket, squawked. “Now, now, miss!”
“Ah’ve known Alexa since she was a young ‘un, and she’s headstrong an’clever. Ah’m sure she’s perfectly fine--“
“Perfectly fine!” the Gelert shouted. “Perfectly fine--Alexa is stranded out in the middle of the ocean, all alone, and you say she’s perfectly fine?! WHY DIDN’T YOU GO IN AFTER HER?! This is all my fault!”
“All yer fault!” First Mate echoed. “All yer fault!”
Scribe glared at him. “Shut up!”
The Piraket humphed and took off from Salty’s shoulder, flying all the way across the Captain’s Cabin and perched himself on Swabby’s shaft. Swabby was busily trying to clean up after the Octornas.
“Scribe,” Rose said. “I know this sounds ridiculous, but I don’t think we should turn back and look for Alexa.”
Scribed sat up. “Excuse me?”
Rose repeated. “I don’t think we should look for Alexa. We need to keep looking for the Black Pawkeet. Turning around and looking for her would waste time. Alexa wouldn’t want us to jeopardize the fate of Krawk Island to find her. If we find the Black Pawkeet, we can look for her on our way back.”
Something scratched on the door.
“Ah’ll git et,” Salty said. He stood up and hobbled over to the door. He barely cracked it open when the Farnswap scurried in, smiling fiercely and jumping up and down.
“What is et?” the old Kyrii asked. The Farnswap scuttled back outside, followed closely by First Mate.
“Ship ahoy!” First Mate cried.
Salty opened up the door completely.
The Black Pawkeet was looming right in front of them, masked by a bank of black fog.
To be continued...