Better than Scones: Return of the Black Pawkeet - Part Four
This little Kyrii, Alexa, has a lot of guts for a kid. I’ve only known her for one night, but I can already see that she is probably braver than all of us. I convinced Krrran to help her find the Black Pawkeet and save Krawk Island, and Bowtie had no objection to it. I hope her friends are doing okay without her. As she said, it would be better for them to continue looking for the Black Pawkeet than to drop what they were doing and turn back to look for Alexa. Fyora have mercy on us, what we’re doing is really dangerous. The Black Pawkeet destroyed our ship and stranded us in our longboat and now we’re going to go look for it? This is insanity.
-Sleekwalk the Xweetok
“No--STOP!” Alexa woke up with a start.
Bowtie the red Bruce was standing over her.
“Are you okay?” she asked. Bowtie had a quiet, soft voice.
“Y-yeah,” Alexa said, sitting up. “It was just... just a bad dream.”
Bowtie nodded and sat down next to her.
“What about you?”
The Bruce looked up, startled. “Me?”
“Yeah. You don’t talk much and you seem kinda sad. Is something wrong?”
She shook her head. “I’m always like this.”
She shrugged. “The same reason Krrran is so intelligent and Sleekwalk is so kind. It’s who we are.”
“Oh.” Alexa looked down at her paws. “And... who am I?”
Bowtie looked at her good and long. “Loyal.”
“Loyal? What do you mean?”
“I heard you and Sleekwalk talking last night about your father. Not many Neopets are willing to go to the ends of Neopia to find someone everyone else believes is dead.”
Alexa blushed and put her head in her arms. “No one’s supposed to know about that.”
“Because...” she said, “I’m supposed to be tough and hard to the core. I’ve practically lived on the streets my entire life. I’m supposed to be foolhardy and rough. I’m not supposed to love anyone. Even Pa.”
“Sounds a little harsh to me.”
Alexa looked up at her.
“I think you’re sweet.” Bowtie smiled at her. Alexa didn’t know yet, but Bowtie rarely smiled.
“I think you’re sweet too, Bowtie, not dark.”
Bowtie blushed and put her hands over the skull bow on her head.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.”
“It’s okay,” Bowtie mumbled. “I know you didn’t.”
“Krrran,” Sleekwalk said, “what’s that?”
Sleekwalk was sitting at the prow, dabbling his feet in the water. His khaki pants were rolled up to his knees.
Krrran joined him, squinting at the horizon.
“It’s a ship,” she said. The Eyrie lifted the lantern higher. “Yeah... yeah, it’s a ship and it’s coming up fast.”
It was still very dark outside. The moon was high and the stars gleamed in the reflective waters. Alexa had tried to get some sleep again, but she was woke up by Krrran not long after she dozed off.
“Alexa,” Krrran hissed. “Alexa, you have to see this.”
Alexa got up and rubbed her eyes. The ship was closer now. It was larger than Captain Salty’s sloop, the Little Nipper, and its three sails were black; the largest of them had a picture of a Pawkeet skull sewn to it.
“That’s the Black Pawkeet!” Alexa cried, “We found it!”
Sleekwalk pulled the oars from the bottom of the boat and put them to good use. As they got closer, they could see it better. A small sloop had been tied to the aft. The sloop had The Little Nipper painted on it in red. Cap’n Salty, Scribe and Rose had found them, too. Krrran put out the lantern.
When Alexa asked her why, she replied, “Safety precaution. Remember, the last time we saw the Black Pawkeet, it was blasting the ba-jeebers out of our ship.”
“Head for the Little Nipper,” Alexa told Sleekwalk.
In no time they were climbing on board the Little Nipper.
“Cap’n Salty,” Alexa called. “Scribe! Rose, I’m back.”
No one answered.
Alexa opened the Captain’s Cabin and poked her head in. “Rose--?”
No one was on board.
“They’re probably all on the Black Pawkeet,” Krrran said.
“Yeah.” Alexa nodded. “Probably.”
“Krrran, Bowtie,” Sleekwalk said, “stay on the ship. We’ll be back soon.” He walked over to the prow where the thick rope was tied off. “Try to stay out of trouble. Alexa and I am going on board.”
“You stay out of trouble,” Krrran grumbled.
Sleekwalk grabbed the rope in both paws and dropped down so his feet dangled out into the air. Then he made his way, paw over paw, up the rope, shimmying along until he could swing himself up and over the railing. He waved at Alexa to come over.
Alexa took one last look at the girls. Krrran was standing next to the helm and winked at her. Bowtie was standing in the doorway to the Captain’s Cabin, leaning against the doorjamb. It was hard to tell what was going on behind that mask of indifference.
Alexa climbed onto the rope, lying down on it and clasping her hands and feet around it. She inched her way up the rope, pausing to take a breath every once in a while. It wasn’t long before Sleekwalk helped her on deck.
“Now what?” he whispered.
Alexa shrugged. “We look around until we find someone.”
Sleekwalk chuckled to himself. “Good idea.”
They peeked down at the helm. There was no one steering the ship. The masts were empty. The only living thing on board was Swabby, slumping along in pitiful misery.
“Swabby!” Alexa hissed.
The little guy looked around wildly.
Alexa slunk down to the bottom of the stairs, keeping in the cover provided by the railing.
“Swabby,” she called, “over here!”
The mop-like petpet quickly swish-swished over to her.
“Where’s Salty?” Alexa asked. “Where’s Scribe and Rose?”
“Well--where’s Cap’n Garin and Jacques?”
“Wait--if Cap’n Garin and Jacques aren’t controlling the ship, who is?”
Swabby spelt out Scar in sudsy bubbles on the deck.
Oh no. Alexa’s nightmare had come true.
“Okay,” she said, “do you know where the rest of the petpets are?”
Swabby nodded, his shaft wobbling up and down whimsically.
“Swabby, get the other petpets ready. Sleekwalk and I are gonna find Salty and the others. When we get on the Little Nipper, you all have to be there. Got it?”
Swabby gave her the best salute a mop could handle.
“Okay, now act natural. We’ll be back soon.”
Swabby hurriedly returned to his work, scrubbing vigorously at the planks. Evidently he wasn’t going to leave a messy deck.
Alexa went back to Sleekwalk and explained what she had gotten out of Swabby.
“Scarblade?” Sleekwalk mused, “That explains why they razed our ship... but what’s the use of a destroyed ship?”
“I don’t know,” Alexa said, “but fer right now, we need to find my friends.”
They snuck down to the deck and got ready to climb down into the decks below.
“You should let me go first,” Sleekwalk said, drawing a small dagger out of his belt. He shrugged. “Just in case we run into anyone.”
Alexa nodded and watched him silently slip down the ladder. A soft whistle told her it was safe to come down.
“This is the crew’s quarters,” Sleekwalk whispered. “We should head down to the brig. That’s probably where they’re holding them.”
Alexa glanced around in the darkness. She couldn’t see anyone, but she could hear their snoring. It sounded like a herd of sleeping Barlows, it was so bad. She watched Sleekwalk fumble around until he found another ladder down. He beckoned Alexa over and went on ahead.
It was brighter here. It was a small room with a table and a chair in the middle of it. Cards and Dubloons were scattered across the floor. A ring of keys was mounted to the wall, but the thing that made Alexa’s heart sink was a pirate Scorchio sound asleep in the chair.
Sleekwalk slunk over to him, raised his paw and smacked the pirate in the back of the head with the hilt of his dagger. The Scorchio slumped over and fell onto the ground.
Alexa stared at him in shock.
“What?” Sleekwalk whispered. “I had to make sure he wouldn’t wake up.”
“Land ho!” a little voice heralded.
“Shush, First Mate! That’s not land, that’s--”
Down the hallway, a paw shot out, waving ecstatically, “Alexa! Alexa, over here!”
“Rose?” Alexa ran down the hallway. It was lined with cells. In one of them was Salty, Scribe and Rose. Rose stood up against the bars, smiling brightly. Salty was sitting on a wooden bench in the back and Scribe was just leaving her spot at the port hole.
“Thank Fyora you’re safe!” Scribe cried. She was up against the bars in a flash, trying to hug and kiss Alexa.
Sleekwalk walked in with the keys.
“Scribe,” Alexa said, “this is Sleekwalk. He and his sisters helped me out after I fell overboard. They are willing to help us find Garin and Jacques.”
Salty hefted himself up and tipped his hat to Sleekwalk. “Thank ye fer takin’ care o’ the lass, lad.”
Sleekwalk gave him a half smile and fitted a key into the lock.
“So this is Cap’n Salty?” he asked, giving the key a turn. The lock let out a rusty click and opened hesitantly.
“Aye, et is.”
“And there’s the author, Scribe, and the little Usul, Rose. We’ve heard all about you.”
Rose turned bright red.
“Rose,” Alexa said, “Do you know where Garin and Jacques are? By Fyora, I hope they’re still here! We need them!”
“Well,” Rose said, “I heard them talking about some precious cargo in the storage. I know it doesn’t mean much but it might be referring to them.”
Scribe and Salty stumbled out of the cell, closely followed by Rose.
Alexa looked up to Sleekwalk. “We should check, just to be sure.”
The group was off down the hallway in moments. Before long the sight of barrels and crates appeared, meaning they were in the cargo hold.
Scribe grabbed a lantern off of the wall and shone it around.
“There!” she said. “In the corner!”
Alexa and Sleekwalk moved quickly, jumping over crates and boxes to get to where Scribe was pointing. Behind a barrel of Jumbleberry Slushie and a bag of wheat flour peeked two pairs of ears.
“Who goes there?” someone gruffly called.
Alexa leapt forward, pushing aside the flour. They were her childhood heroes. They were... smaller than she remembered, but the last time she had seen them, she was much smaller than she was now. Captain Garin and Jacques were tied back to back by their paws.
“Friends,” Sleekwalk said, setting about cutting them free with his dagger. “We’re here to help.”
The yellow Usul, Captain Garin, looked at them skeptically. “Who are you?”
“The name’s Alexa. The Xweetok is Sleekwalk. Farther back there is Scribe the Gelert, Salty the Kyrii, and Rose the Usul. We came to find you--Krawk Island needs you! We believe that Captain Scarblade is trying to set up a raid against Krawk Island.
Jacques the Kyrii wrung his freed wrists. “So that’s what the devil’s up to.”
Sleekwalk sheathed his dagger. “I was hoping you two might know a little bit more about what’s going on.”
Garin shook his head, struggling to his feet. “Sorry. Whatever’s going on, Scarblade made sure we weren’t informed.”
“Captain Garin.” Alexa was looking shyly at her paws. “What happened? How did Scarblade get a hold of the Black Pawkeet?”
“We were docked on a small island just off of Moltara for supplies--“
Alexa looked up at them. “Was anyone living there?”
“Not that we know of,” Jacques said.
“Anyways,” Garin continued, “the crew was on shore and Jacques and I were on board when the scoundrel attacked. He took us completely by surprise--we didn’t have a chance to react, and he took command and left the island. We’ve been here ever since.”
“Do you have any weapons?” Jacques asked, “I know there aren’t very many of you, but we might have a chance at taking the Black Pawkeet back.”
Sleekwalk shook his head sadly. “I’m the only one armed here, and all I’ve got is a dagger.”
“We do have a ship, though,” Alexa piped in. “She’s the Little Nipper--Salty’s vessel. She’s tied to the aft and she’s not much, but she’s sea worthy. We can use it to get away and get back to Krawk Island.”
Garin nodded at her, causing Alexa to blush and turn away.
“Okay,” he said, “let’s go.”
Garin and Jacques bounded over the cargo and joined the others.
Just as Sleekwalk got ready to join them, Alexa pulled him aside.
“Their swords!” she whispered, “I noticed that Jacques didn’t have his swords--Garin doesn’t have his Maractite blade either. We have to find their swords!”
“Okay,” Sleekwalk said, “while the others wait on the Little Nipper we’ll go and find their swords.”
The group backtracked to the passed out pirate and headed up the ladder, one by one.
Rose peered around in the dark as she reached the top. She backed up to let Scribe up and bumped into something stiff. Rose pressed her paws to her mouth to stifle a scream as a Korbat’s claws landed heavily on her shoulder. She stood there, transfixed by fear.
I’ve woken someone up! she thought. Everything’s ruined! It’s all my fault! Ooooh!
Sleekwalk froze when he saw her.
“Rose,” he said under his breath, “don’t panic...”
He gently nudged the claw and it retracted sleepily.
Rose hugged him tightly.
“By Fyora!” she cried into his shirt. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! I thought I was a goner! By Fyora--thank you!”
“Okay, okay,” Sleekwalk said, untangling himself from her arms, “Look, the others are leaving. You’d better catch up.”
Rose blinked gratefully up at him and took off up the next ladder.
“Salty,” Sleekwalk whispered, stopping the old blue Kyrii just before he started up the ladder, “Alexa and I are gonna stay behind a little longer. Alexa noticed that Garin and Jacques don’t have their swords, so we’re going after them. Hold the Little Nipper; it shouldn’t take long.”
“Aye, lad, Ah’ll do that fer ye,” Salty said.
“Oh,” the Xweetok added, “and Salty, my sisters Krrran and Bowtie are on your ship. I thought I might warn you. Try... try not to startle them.”
Salty chuckled to himself. “Ah’ll do that fer ye as well.”
“Do that!” First Mate crowed from his perch. “Do--” His last phrase was stifled by Salty clapping a paw around his beak.
“Wouldja keep it down fer a night?” Salty scolded. “By Fyora, yer gonna be tha end ‘o me!”
It didn’t take the old Neopet long to catch up with the others, but it was quite a problem on how to get the peg legged sailor onto the Little Nipper. It took a couple tries to get over the railing, but after that it was a breeze sliding down to the Little Nipper’s deck. Salty was closely followed by Rose and Scribe, and Captain Garin and Jacques followed up behind them.
It felt good to be on those familiar decks. All of the petpets that Salty had brought along were already on board. Swabby had done his job well. The two Pirakeets, the Stahkees, the Kateils, and the Pawkeets were perched on the mast, huddled together in grave silence. The Palmplat was trying to cower behind a bucket, partially hiding from the Black Pawkeet, partially hiding from its tail. The Blurtles were sitting in the Captain’s Cabin, holding the door open. The rest of the petpets seemed to be hiding inside.
“Well,” Jacques said, “this is a... curious ship.”
Rose half smiled at him, glancing around deck.
“Wait--wait,” she said. “Where’s Alexa and Sleekwalk?”
“They’ll be ‘ere soon,” assured Salty.
A green Eyrie stood in the door entrance, peering warily at the newcomers.
“Yew must be one ‘o Sleekwalk’s lasses,” Salty said, hobbling over to her and bowing unsteadily with a sweep of his hat. “Tha name’s Salty. I be the cap’n ‘o dis fine vessel.”
Krrran nodded. “Yes, I thought so. Could you explain to me what all these petpets are doing here, Mr. Salty?”
“Why,” Salty said, gesturing to the ones outside, “Dis es me stock! Ah run the store, Little Nippers. Ah go nowhere widdout ‘em.”
Krrran nodded. “Alexa didn’t mention the petpets,” she mumbled under her breath. “I sent the birds outside because I’m allergic to feathers. I’m sure you don’t mind.” With that, she disappeared inside.
“Aye,” Salty muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. “O’ course.”
He turned to find First Mate staring at him expectantly.
“Shoo!” Salty pushed him off his shoulder. “Shoo, ye great windbag! Join tha others! Ye ‘eard tha lass!”
First Mate squawked in protest then took off, landing on the mast as far away from the other petpets as possible.
“C’mon in, gents,” Salty said, sidestepping out of the way.
Scribe, Garin and Jacques went into the cabin.
“Y’comin’, lass?” Salty asked Rose.
Rose shook her head, watching the aft looming above them. “I’m gonna stay here and watch for Alexa and Sleekwalk.”
Salty shrugged. “Suit yerself.”
“Salty,” Rose stopped him just as he was about to enter. She dropped her voice to a low whisper. “What’re they doing, anyways?”
Salty bent over and whispered to her, “Alexa and tha lad, Sleekwalk, went ta find Garin ‘n Jacques' swords. Dey’ll be back soon.”
Rose nodded understandingly then watched the old Kyrii hobble inside.
“The girls,” Scribe was saying, “had overheard two pirate ruffians talking about an impending invasion by Scarblade. They said that Scarblade was going to exact his revenge for his ship and no one was going to stop him. That’s all I could get out of them, they were so frantic. What do you make of it, Captain Garin?”
“Sounds like Scarblade, all right. The best we can do fer now is to rally up all the armed pets on the island and try to stop him. It should work, but if I know Scarblade, he’s probably got some secret weapon on his side.”
“Well, my siblings and that Kyrii, Alexa, had noticed some strange going-ons with the Drenched sisters.” This was Krrran’s voice, but it sounded oddly stuffed up, like she had a small cold. “They approached within feet of our longboat but didn’t lay a hand on us. Do you think they have something to do with this?”
Rose walked over to the bucket and turned it upside down to sit on. The Palmplat squealed and dove under it as she set it down. It was still dark out. No one had dared light a lantern so everyone in the Captain’s Cabin was sitting in darkness.
“Perhaps.” It was Jacques. “But those witches can’t be reasoned with. I don’t know why they would want anything to do with Scarblade. Speaking of which--wasn’t Scarblade captured by them last we saw?”
“Ye know,” Salty said, “It just occurred to me, Miss Krrran. Why are ye allergic ta feathers, yet yew bein’ an Eyrie, should be allergic ta yerself?”
“Captain Salty,” Krrran replied, “even some of life’s most complicated questions cannot be answered.”
“So it’s settled,” Captain Garin said, ignoring Salty and Krrran’s argument. “The moment we get the chance we break away from the Black Pawkeet and head southwest, to Krawk Island, where Jacques and I will gather up all the Neopets we can rally to fight off Scarblade and whoever else he’s got with him.”
“Sounds sensible to me,” Scribe said.
“Aye, lad, ‘tis somethin’ worth tryin’.”
“Mr. Salty,” Scribe said, “how long did you say Sleekwalk and Alexa would be? I hope not too long; someone’s bound to miss us.”
Just as the words left Scribe’s lips, Rose watched a dark shape appear at the railing of the Black Pawkeet. It stood for a while, rubbing the back of its head and grumbling to itself.
“This is all yer fault, Hader,” the voice growled menacingly, “if’n yew ‘ad’t shut yer eyes da prisoners wouldn’t ‘a gotten away.”
“Oh no,” Alexa breathed. The guard from the brig.
First Mate had spotted him too.
“Land ho!” the Piraket shouted at the top of his little lungs. “Laaaaaand ho!”
The Scorchio’s focus snapped down to the deck of the Little Nipper. “What the--”
“Salty!” Rose shouted, running to the door. “We’ve been spotted!”
“Intruders!” The voice was faraway. The air echoed with the sound of the alarm bell on the Black Pawkeet. “All hands on deck! They be gettin’ away!!!!!”
Garin and Jacques were on deck in an instant. They stood for a moment, shocked by the sights and sounds. The decks of the Black Pawkeet were swarming with pirate Neopets. Cannons were being pushed up to the portholes, and lanterns everywhere were being lit. The vermin on their ship was innumerable.
“Don’t jes stan’ there, yew scallywags!” Salty roared, bounding on deck, “Turn ‘er loose! Furl tha sail! Git ready ta move--fast!”
Captain Garin froze, not used to being given orders, but Jacques was on it. In a split second he had untied the rope at the prow and set the Little Nipper free, taking a moment to watch the Black Pawkeet drift away fast.
Salty had a hold of the helm and was turning it mercilessly, causing the ship to make a quick about face.
“First Mate!” he called to his Piraket, who was still and outcast on the mast, “take yer post!”
The petpet perked up and flew in a whirlwind of feathers to Salty’s shoulders.
“All hands on deck!” he crowed, “Getting’ away!”
“Wait!” Rose screamed, running to the railing, “Wait! Alexa is still on the Black Pawkeet! We have to wait for her!”
Scribe pulled her away from the side of the ship, struggling to get her into the cabin. “Rose, there’s nothing we can do about it!”
“No! NO--we have to wait for them! They’re still on the Black Pawkeet!”
The yellow Gelert slammed the door behind them. Silence. Rose was still fighting to break away from her.
“Rose, sweetie, listen to me!” She crouched down and held the blue Usul by her shoulders. “Rose! We can’t help them right now, okay?”
Rose slumped onto Scribe. “We have to go back. We--we have to. If that was me on the Black Pawkeet, Alexa would have already gotten me off. We have to save her!”
“We’ll go back,” Scribe said, hugging Alexa close. “We’ll go back, I promise. But not right now. We... we can’t right now. If we did... well, we’d all be Snowager fodder. I’m sorry, Rose... Alexa will be fine. She--she’s a strong girl. She’s smart too. I’m sure she’s fine.
“Besides,” Krrran said, “Sleekwalk’s with her. The pirates won’t be able to get within arm's reach of her. Sleekwalk will do everything in his power to keep her safe. I guarantee it.”
Scribe smiled up at her gratefully, but the smile vanished when she saw a tear glistening in the Eyrie’s eye. She was just as afraid as Scribe and Rose were.
Rose watched out the porthole as the lights of the Black Pawkeet got further and further away... then disappeared.
To be continued...