Better than Scones: Return of the Black Pawkeet - Part Seven
Krrran had attacked Rose. That was all I had seen. As that Xweetok, Sleekwalk, had explained, the necklaces that everyone was wearing were a device Scarblade used to control them. By the sound of it, he had already become acquainted with it. Rose fell off the cliff. I tried to stop Alexa from going after her, but that Kyrii's a stubborn one. At any rate, I can't see either of them in the water, so I'm praying to whoever's listening, let them be safe. We've destroyed every last sword charm necklace on Krawk Island. The fighting has stopped--for now. Those longboats overfilled with Pirates are getting closer. The worst is yet to come. Frankly, I'm scared.
-Scribe the Gelert
The last thing Rose remembered was a grey shape blocking the sunlight from her blurred vision. Soon afterwards the water overtook her and she lost consciousness.
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Alexa glared up at Benny the Blade. If life on the streets of Krawk Island had taught her anything, it was to be vigilant and to take any opportunity that came her way, no matter how small.
Her opportunity came when the Purple Bruce held Garin's Maractite dagger up to the morning sunlight to watch the blue metal glint.
Alexa screamed, throwing herself at him. She caught him off balance, the dagger slipping out of his hands and into the sea. Without a moment's delay she plunged in after it.
"Stop her!" Benny screamed. His comrades, Sylvia and Big Dan, went to the side of the longboat looking for Alexa, but she was long gone.
Under the water Alexa kept swimming down, trying to catch up with the dagger. It was a difficult journey with her paws tied behind her back but she quickly caught up with it, twisting so the blade cut away the ropes. She grabbed the hilt and took off, heading as far away from the Pirates' longboat as she could before coming up for air.
She could see the longboat rocking as Big Dan and the others argued. The argument ended when Dan leaned too far out over the water and the entire boat capsized. The three heads quickly bobbed to the surface like apples, still shouting curses at each other.
Alexa smiled to herself and swam further away. It felt good to know that she could get out of any situation. First she had escaped the Black Pawkeet, infested with pirates, and now she had escaped Scarblade's First Mate. She had fallen overboard the Little Nipper when they first set out on their journey... wait--but Sleekwalk had helped her out of that one.
She was still thinking about this when something poking out of the water caught her attention. As she got closer, she saw what it was. It was a round log of wood, about the size of the bottom of a Grog mug, and it stuck about two inches above the water. Below the water, it kept going down until it met another log going horizontal about one foot below Alexa's feet. Beyond that, she couldn't see anything.
Except a grey shape. It swam by so fast she could barely track it, but it passed only inches from her paws.
Alexa yelped, drawing closer to the wood beam. That was much too big to be a Scrawnyfish.
Another one darted by, diving down into the dark depths.
Alexa stared after it dumbfounded. She could have sworn there was something... human about it.
That's when the rumble started. It was a small, little vibration in the water at first then a few bubbles rose from below the logs. Soon that little rumble turned into a huge whirlwind of bubbles and the groaning of boards. The beams started rising up. One moment her feet could touch the crossbeam then those beams burst out of the water, followed by sails and a deck and--
Alexa screamed. She had lost her grip on the beam and fell down, hitting the deck which was covered by a good inch of briny water.
A ship had just burst out of the sea. From out of the blue, this little skiff had appeared. It wasn't much bigger than Salty's ship, the Little Nipper. It had one dark blue mast with a Nova hand-painted on it. It was a cute boat. The railing had been painted a cherry red and the deck was a sea blue that matched the sail. The Captain's Cabin was pale green with a red roof and the stairs that went down into the shallow cargo hold were yellow. On the hull in bright purple was "The Seanova", while the rest of it was a green similar to the cabin. The base that the helm was on had four paw prints on it: an Eyrie's in blue, a Bruce's in red, a Kyrii's in green, and a Xweetok's in yellow. She had been someone's personal property, and Alexa highly doubted that these Neopets lived under water.
There was no one else on the ship--well, besides a Florta that had gotten caught on deck when she burst out of the water.
Alexa picked the Florta up. It looked up at her with genuine curiosity.
"You're a cutie," she said, setting the little petpet on the railing. "Go on, now, you're free."
It chirruped and flopped purposefully on deck.
"You wanna hang around?" she asked it. "You wanna be a deckhand?"
The little guy squeaked.
"Okay, Deckhand," Alexa said, jumping to the helm, "Trim the sails! Hoist the anchor! Set a course for Krawk Island!"
The Florta stared at her blankly for a little while then flopped over to her, snuggling down at her paws.
Alexa looked down at him. "You really don't understand what a deckhand does, do you?"
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Rose woke up with a start, rolling over onto her stomach and coughing up at least a gallon of sea water. She shuddered and clapped her hands to her mouth, thinking of the million things that swam in that water and what they probably... DID as well. She sat there, trying to remember what she had last eaten when something occurred to her. The last thing she remembered was nearly drowning underwater. Where was she now?
She rubbed the salt out of her eyes and sat up, wringing the water out of her fur. The ground was either a rock or very hard-packed dirt. The ceiling was rather low so she guessed she was in some sort of cave. The sound of water slapping against the wall let her know that it was an underwater cave.
Great, she thought. Water.
It was dark in the cave, and it took a while for her eyes to adjust. When they did she could only see a little ways away. Something white caught her eye. Another Neopet?
"Hello?" Rose called, scooting a little closer.
It looked like the tip of a Kiko's claw.
"Oh, good," Rose sighed, getting up and walking over. "I'm glad someone else is here. Otherwise I'd be so--"
Suddenly she was face to face with a Kiko's skeleton.
Rose screamed, turning around and running as fast as she could away. She ran straight into someone sitting at the place where the rock dropped off to water.
They turned around, shoving Rose roughly away. "Git off me!"
The youngest Drenched glared down at her. "Stupid Neopet! Don't go swimming if you can't swim!" She turned around sourly, glaring down into the dark water.
Rose suddenly didn't mind the dead Kiko so much. She ran over and sat down next to it, curling into a little ball. This was bad--oh boy. She was as good as dead.
Rose kept an eye on the fallen mermaid. Something wasn't right. The Drenched sat there sullenly, thrashing her tail in the water. Wasn't she going to eat her? That's what the Drenched did--they ate Neopets, didn't they?
"Aren't you going to eat me?" Rose squeaked.
The Drenched glared at her with those purple eyes.
"I'm waiting for my sisters." She grunted. "Getting yourself drowned is the last mistake you'll ever make!"
"Where are your sisters?"
She grabbed a bone near her and threw it blindly at Rose. "None of your business, Usul! Why, if it weren't for that cursed Lupe, you would be dead this moment!"
"What are your sister's doing with Scarblade?" Rose asked, ducking as the Drenched threatened to throw another bone. "He wants to destroy Krawk Island!"
The Drenched sighed, letting the bone slide out of her hand and clatter onto the ground. "Wicked Scarblade... he promised us every wayward pet that came our way if we helped him... we've helped him, but do you see anything but bones here?"
Rose shivered, purposefully avoiding eye contact with the Kiko skeleton.
Something clicked in the back of Rose's mind. The Drenched sister scowled and turned back to the water, splashing her tail around some more. By Fyora, she hoped this worked.
"You were tricked," Rose said loudly.
The Drenched's head snapped in her direction, her purple eyes burning furiously.
"Yup," the Usul said, "Scarblade really bamboozled you. I had no idea that the Drenched were so gullible."
"Silence, Neopet!" she shrieked, lurching forward at her. "No pet says such things and lives!"
At least she had her attention.
"W-well," Rose stammered, "I'm not the one giving you a bad reputation--Scarblade's the one who's making a fool out of you..."
The mermaid bared her sharp teeth. "What do you mean?"
"Well, you guys already get wayward Neopets, I mean," she gestured to the Kiko, "how'd he get here? And, think about it, what have you done for him?"
The Drenched pulled back, wrinkling her nose in thought. "You're right. He made us promise to give him and his vessels safe passage..."
"Yes!" Rose interrupted, "Think about all of those pirates you're missing out on! Why settle for less?"
She glared back at Rose. "And he made us rebuild ships he'd destroyed underwater with our magic--and we gave him our enchanted necklaces... Scarblade will pay for his treachery!"
The enchanted necklaces--of course! Now Rose understood what had happened on Krawk Island, and how Captain Scarblade had showed up with so many boats...
"What's your name?"
Rose shook herself back to reality, "uh--what?"
"NAME!" the Drenched snapped. "What's your NAME!"
"R-Rosette," she stuttered. This was strange. "And--and you?"
"Esmerelda," the mermaid hissed. "Rosette, you get Scarblade in the water... I'll talk to my sisters about what that cursed Lupe has done. I swear we'll make him pay!"
Was the Drenched actually letting her go?
Esmerelda turned to the water. Before she dove in, she turned to Rose and said, "Don't take this lightly--I never want to see you in here again!" And like that she was gone.
Rose scurried over to the edge. She was already gone.
This is madness, she thought bitterly. Rose took a deep breath and plunged into the icy water.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
"Land hooooooo!" Alexa shouted at the top of her lungs.
The Neopets on shore watched in astonishment as the Seanova ran aground on the sand.
Krrran gasped, pressing her paws to her mouth.
"No way," Sleekwalk wondered, rushing forward to the Kyrii as she hopped off the deck onto the beach. "The Seanova! By Fyora, Alexa, how in Neopia did you find her?!"
Alexa furrowed her brow. "You recognize this ship?"
"Recognize her?!" Sleekwalk gave her a Grarrl hug, "Alexa, this is the boat me 'n my sister built with our own paws! I know her inside and out! The Black Pawkeet blasted her to bits--how did you find her?!"
"I dunno," the Kyrii shrugged, "She just kinda... appeared."
Scribe walked up to the hull, patting the painted surface. "The Seanova, destroyed? Are you sure? There's not a scratch on her."
Krrran joined her, Bowtie shadowing her. The Eyrie smiled shyly at her but didn't say anything. She had gotten strangely quiet since she returned to normal.
"What're we all standing around for?!" Captain Garin joined them, followed by Jacques who was strapping his belt on. "All aboard!"
Sleekwalk gave Alexa a boost on deck, then he jumped up and pulled himself over the railing. Krrran followed him flapping her wings hard; toting Bowtie along with her. Scribe appeared and, with difficulty, hoisted herself over the edge, landing extremely ungracefully on deck. Garin and Jacques came up after her. Besides them they ended up with the Grarrl, a Wocky, a Lenny, and a Krawk who was a little too small for his helmet which kept sliding down over his eyes. Not to mention the Florta was still onboard. She was taking refuge in a bucket that Alexa had filled with water. The bucket slid across the deck as the ship rocked.
"Where to, Cap'n?" Alexa asked Garin. She held out the Maractite dagger.
The Usul pirate smiled at her, fussing her mane and taking his sword.
"Well, mate," he chuckled, "You're heading to the Captain's Cabin."
Deckhand's bucket slid across the deck, just missing Alexa but bowling over the Lenny. The little petpet let out a squeak of surprise as the bucket overturned.
"W-what?" Alexa quickly fixed her mane, trying to look as grown up as possible.
"We're heading straight to the Black Pawkeet." Jacques said, bending down to her level. "It's much too dangerous for a kid like you."
Alexa turned away from him, trying her hardest not to pout.
"Why didn't you leave her on shore?" Scribe asked, helping the Lenny up. The Florta flopped toward her. She leapt back, startled, and tripped over the bucket. She and the Lenny landed on the deck in a tangle of feathers, fur, and water.
Alexa bent down and picked up Deckhand, scooting away from the mess. No doubt Scribe would come out demanding that the little guy be tossed back into the ocean.
"Alexa." Jacques leaned closer and pushed some stray locks out of her face. "Do it for me, okay?"
The little Kyrii met his eyes for a split second then quickly left. In the cabin she shut the door and slumped to the floor. Did they think she was a baby--she couldn't take care of herself? She'd been through a lot more in the last two days than most of those Neopets on the beach had been through in a lifetime, and they were older than her. Every part of her wanted to fight with the rest. Krawk Island wasn't just their home, it was her's too. Besides, she had stood up to Scarblade before... well, she had stood up to his First Mate at least. She wasn't afraid of the pirates.
Deckhand squealed and wriggled out of her grasp. She flopped unsteadily across the floor and hid under a bed.
"Deckhand!" Alexa laughed, "Come back here!" She stood up to go after her when the doorknob started to turn. She froze and watched it. Faintly, she could hear two Neopets talking.
"I trust her," the first was saying, "She's braver than every one of those militiamen you've dug up, anyways--"
"Listen, mate," the other interrupted. It sounded an awful lot like Jacques. "It's not that she's not brave--Ah can vouch for her on that. Garin's just concerned that she's gonna get hurt."
"What are you saying, Jacques?" The first bristled.
"Sleekwalk, don't get angry, it's just that she seems to have a habit to make... rash decisions. We've seen it a lot."
"What, when she ran off to go find your swords? That wasn't rash that was brilliant!"
"She could have gotten killed--"
"You got them back, didn't you?" The doorknob clicked shut again. "Besides, I've seen her in action. She's got a passion, I tell you. She'll do anything to keep the pets she cares about safe. That's something I've seen in you as well..."
"That's not the point, Sleekwalk. It's for her own good, aye?"
There was a long pause. Alexa could imagine the Yellow Xweetok running his paws through his fur. "All right--but I hate locking her up like an animal. I've been there before."
Something nudged her foot. She had been so absorbed in Sleekwalk and Jacques' conversation that it nearly scared her out of her fur. She looked down to see Deckhand at her feet, nestling her nose in the scruffy fur.
Alexa picked the Florta up and cradled her, sliding slowly to the floor.
The way Sleekwalk talked about her--it was almost as if she was family.
Twin explosions thrummed in the air, announcing the Black Pawkeet's arrival. The Seanova rocked violently. Alexa could faintly hear Garin shouting for everyone to get ready.
The Blue Kyrii dropped an indignant Deckhand on the ground and ran to the porthole.
The Black Pawkeet was overflowing with pirates. The ten Neopets on the Seanova would be no match for that many brigands.
Alexa went to the porthole facing away from the Black Pawkeet. It was a little stiff, but it finally gave way when she threw her shoulder into it. She yelped and jumped back, holding her arm. She had forgotten that she had hurt her shoulder.
She looked back at Deckhand.
The Florta looked up at her expectantly, blinking her large eyes and rubbing her belly.
Alexa held a paw to her lips. "Sh. Stay here, Deckhand."
With that, Alexa squeezed out of the porthole and climbed on top of the roof.
Alexa was staring at a pair of very familiar hooves. She looked up to find the Yellow Kau, Sylvia, attached to them. The pirate brandished a pair of rolling pins. Wait--rolling pins? Really?
"It's just you and me, girly," she sneered.
I can take her, Alexa thought.
She jumped to her feet and slammed into her, knocking the Kau off-balance. Sylvia--caught completely off guard--toppled off the roof and into the dark waters below.
Alexa crumpled to the ground, clutching her shoulder. Tears sprang to her eyes. It hurt so bad.
"H-help!" someone spluttered below. "Someone--HELP!"
Alexa rushed to the edge. That didn't sound like Sylvia...
"Rose!" she screamed.
Without a moment's delay Alexa scrambled off the roof. She leaned as far off the ship, her paw outstretched to the little wet Usul in the water.
Rose grabbed her paw and was quickly hoisted onto the Seanova.
"Alexa!" Rose gasped, hugging Alexa and shivering at the same time. "You're alive!"
"Rose! How did you get here?"
"Swam..." she huffed, pulling away. "Why, can you tell?"
Alexa laughed, hugging her friend again.
"Where're the others?" Rose asked.
Alexa pointed up at the Black Pawkeet. "They went to confront Scarblade."
The Usul looked up at the deck with wide eyes. "On there? That's crazy!"
"What's worse is that there's only ten of them."
"WHAT?!" Rose regained her thoughts. "Wait--wait... never mind. Listen, I know how Scarblade showed up suddenly with this huge navy--the Drenched have been helping him!"
"The Drenched? Of course! I should have guessed after what happened the night I fell overboard..."
"Yeah, yeah," Rose continued, "I know how he's been controlling people, too!"
"I do, too."
Rose froze. "You do?"
"Yeah. Long story, I'll have to tell you later. We have to help the others out--now!" The Kyrii turned to find a way onto the Black Pawkeet.
Alexa paused. "Yeah?"
"Get Scarblade into the water."
"Trust me, Alexa." Rose looked her friend seriously in the eyes. "Whatever happens, make sure Scarblade ends up in the water."
Alexa nodded and took off.
It took her longer than she had hoped to find a way onto the Black Pawkeet. There were no ropes or gangplanks--the Seanova had been abandoned. Everyone was aboard the Black Pawkeet. Finally the two resorted to climbing up by using the portholes the canons were sticking out of.
The deck of the Black Pawkeet turned out to be a worse situation than Alexa had imagined.
The girls, Krrran, Bowtie, and Scribe, were backed into a corner and were fighting desperately to keep the pirates off. Krrran and Bowtie had only a few scrapes, but it looked like Scribe had gotten nicked in the cheek. The Grarrl was clearing a path steadily towards them, while the Lenny and the Wocky fell in behind him. The Krawk had taken refuge with Sleekwalk, who seemed to be holding his own fairly well. For only having a dagger, he was doing quite well. Personally, Alexa wasn't surprised. Jacques and Garin were facing Captain Scarblade together.
Jacques leapt out of blade's reach as Scarblade slashed at him. He went in with both his swords to hit the Lupe's exposed chest, but the pirate captain delivered a rough kick to the ribs. Jacques fell back, losing one of his swords. As he reached up to grab it, the Bruce, Benny, kicked it away. The sword skittered off towards the railing and disappeared over the edge.
Jacques shrugged and got to his feet, facing Benny. "Ah didn't need that one anyways."
At that moment, Garin backed away from Scarblade, trying to avoid his slashing blade. In the process he ran straight into Big Dan. The enormous Elephante grinned down at him. The Usul nimbly dodged him as he slammed his fists down at Garin.
Now free, Scarblade was making his way towards the aft.
It was then that Alexa realized that Rose wasn't sitting next to her on the rail anymore.
She looked wildly about, trying to spot her in the melee.
"Rose!" she shouted, cupping her paws to her mouth, "ROOOOSE! Where'd you go?!"
"Ah'll gut ye, yew sniveling Farnswap!" A club smashed down on the railing very close to Alexa's head.
The Kyrii smartly leapt away.
Sylvia, an extremely furious and wet Kau, climbed over the railing, wielding a heavy club.
Alexa was wishing she had Garin's sword right about now.
"No one makes a fool of Sylvia an' lives, ya little whelp!" she roared, charging forward, "'specially not a liddle rat like yew!"
Alexa dove down under Sylvia's skirts, sending her flying forward. The Kau teetered on the edge for a moment, her hooves scrabbling on the wood, and she disappeared over the edge.
Alexa decided it was best not to stick around. The next time Sylvia resurfaced she wouldn't miss with that club of hers.
She headed off to the aft, keeping an eye out for her Usul friend. "ROOOOOSE!"
The Usul jumped up on the railing, hopping back as Scarblade demolished the wood in front of her.
"When I get me paws on you!" he roared.
Scarblade rushed forward, knocking three of his own pirates off the platform.
"Alexa?" Sleekwalk spotted her. He grabbed Alexa's arm before she could get away. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm helping my friend," she snapped.
Sleekwalk bent down, trying to look her in the face. Alexa turned stubbornly away.
The Xweetok nodded, releasing her arm and backing off. "Good luck, Lex."
Good luck, Lex. Alexa turned away, trying hard not to cry. He sounded just like Pa.
Rose was backed up against the railing, the tip of Scarblade's sword hovering inches from her face.
Alexa quickly leapt up the stairs.
"Yew'll learn the hard way," Scarblade growled, "not to cross my path."
Alexa froze, not knowing what to do. Afraid of what had to be done. What would Jacques do?
What would Pa do.
"Scarblade!" Alexa's shrill voice cracked with strain.
The huge Green Lupe glared down at her. He immediately recognized her.
Alexa didn't even wait for him to turn to her. She charged forward, slamming into him with all of the force she could muster from her small body.
Her blow hadn't pushed him very far, but he landed on a weakened piece of railing. It gave way underneath him and the proud Captain Scarblade lost hope of righting himself as his feet left the ground, and he disappeared over the edge, roaring angrily.
Rose pulled Alexa back from the edge, narrowly saving her friend from falling over with him.
It was silent for a long time. All of the pirates had stopped at the sight of their leader falling overboard.
Alexa sank to the ground, tears streaming from her eyes. Her shoulder hurt so bad that it blurred her vision through the tears.
The Blue Usul leaned over the sea, looking down at the soggy pirate. He flailed in the water as if it boiled from his temper.
"Yer dead, girl! When Ah get up there..." He paused, looking into the water. "When Ah..."
Some of the Neopets were starting to make their way to the aft. Sleekwalk joined them at the railing along with Garin and Jacques.
A grey head appeared next to Scarblade.
"You've made a grave mistake, Scarblade!" it hissed.
Another one appeared on the other side, cutting off his escape. "You tried to trick us, Lupe, but YOU are the fool!"
Jacques pulled back, a look of disgust on his face.
"The Drenched." He spat. "Evil through and through, those witches!"
Esmerelda's dripping head appeared at the railing, causing Jacques to wrench back. She glared at him for a second, then pulled something out from behind her and dropped it on deck.
Jacques' other blade clattered on the planks.
The pirate Kyrii stared at it then up at her, but he didn't move.
When she saw that they were getting nowhere, Esmerelda disappeared, slipping easily back into the depths and disappearing.
Scarblade was gone.
"What was that?" Jacques grumbled picking up his sword disdainfully and returning it to its sheath.
"Esmerelda," Rose mumbled.
Sleekwalk looked down at her. "Who?"
A sword clattered to the floor. Then another. And another. The pirates on board literally dropped their weapons and dove overboard, disheartened by the defeat of Scarblade.
"Look!" Scribe cried from the prow, "The boats are turning away!"
"So they are..." wondered Garin.
"You did it!" Sleekwalk picked the two girls up and dropped them unceremoniously on his shoulders. "My girls--ah, um... I mean: Alexa and Rose did it!" He looked over triumphantly at Jacques. "I told you Alexa wouldn't stay locked up for long. Good thing she didn't, eh?"
Jacques mumbled something under his breath, quickly making his way to the main part of the deck.
"You did it, girls!" Sleekwalk cried, "You two single pawed-ly saved Krawk Island!"
Rose blushed, reaching over to grab Alexa's paw for stability as Sleekwalk jogged wobbly down the stairs.
"Well... I wouldn't say single pawed-ly."
Alexa smiled at her. Her shoulder was feeling better. Now it was just a dull ache that she kneaded with her free paw. "What do you want to do, Rosette?"
"Go home, get in my hammock and fall asleep with my Garin plushie."
"Aargh!" Alexa slapped her paw to her forehead.
"What is it?"
She turned to her friend with a slight smile. "We left our plushies on the Little Nipper, which is now back at Salty's shop!"
Rose shrugged. "Oh well, we can pick up some Sugar and Cinnamon Scones on our way over if the stall is open."