A Second Chance: Part Six
A head violently broke the surface of the ocean as she gasped aloud for air, spluttering on the salt water that had become trapped in her lungs. Jane's cough was aggressive as she spat out the water like a gushing fountain through her mouth. The waves were remarkably rough as she struggled against, and the ocean occasionally swallowed her underwater for a few brief seconds, making it more difficult to inhale the fresh air she had longed for. Trying to remain calm as she had remembered long ago when she'd first learned how to swim, Jane's head poked back up as her waterlogged eyes stung from the salt and attempted to scan the wide horizon. In spite of her profound gratitude to Yara, she was alone and bobbling in the horrifying trap of being stuck in the middle of the wild sea with nowhere to go.
Jane still fought hard against the tide, somehow managing to keep her head above water for long intervals of time. A ship on the horizon was her only sanctuary and salvation from drowning. In desperation the newly transformed blue Aisha searched the seas for the uplifting sight of sails, but all she could see was ocean.
After what seemed an eternity of combating with the sea's harsh waves, Jane's heart stopped to spot a vessel sailing swiftly her way. Frantically, too weary and depleted to yell for help, Jane had no choice but to swim her way to the ship and someway climb aboard. As she paddled her way as best she could, Jane could not feel any pain in her legs. In fact, she felt as if she still had fins! But, that was impossible... wasn't it?
As Jane drawn nearer to the ship with black sails, which she deliberately ignored out of desperation, the roar of the water crashing the hull thundered in her ears louder and louder. A forgotten, solitary rope hung at her reach as she grabbed strong hold of it and climbed up. Jane's hopeful eyes remained glued to the view of the deck rail above her head as a faint smile of relief became visible on her face. She ascended higher up, speeding her pace as she went, when suddenly a surprisingly open porthole caught her attention. Arching an eyebrow in curiosity and equal suspicion, she peered inside. Unable to see in the darkness, Jane decided to climb through the porthole and gain entrance without a soul's knowledge. Stepping down on the floor as sea water dripped continuously from her, she observed the dim room with stacks of crates and barrels, knowing it to be the ship's cargo hold. Jane's eyes adjusted to the darkness with little sunlight streaming through the open porthole, then instantly noticed change in her appearance. From being a Maraquan Aisha for a year, Jane had grown much taller and older. She smiled at the long, slender legs she now possessed and then dared to walk on them when she felt the pain of sharp swords shooting up to every inch of her body. She cried aloud in anguish. Staggering, due to the swaying of the ship, she grabbed hold of a mass of crates to balance herself.
The aching was unbelievable and the only thoughts that ran through her mind to describe it were sharp knives stabbing her mercilessly. Despite the ceaseless agony, Jane fared well to crawl atop the pile of crates as tears welled in her eyes. Her legs throbbed as if she had walked a thousand miles without rest; she began to feel faint and wondered if she was to lose consciousness at any given moment. Her suffering had only begun, for Yara told her the pain would last for three days, and for three days Jane remained in the lonely, dark hold of the ship.
On the third morning the dawn light seeped through Jane's shut eyelids, stirring her from her deep slumber. As her weak eyes fluttered open, the weary Aisha automatically became mindful of her situation. She had yet again lost track of time, but the rocking of the ship reminded her of the recent events in her journey. She once more felt the pain of stabbing swords and sighed as the ship's timbers creaked, drowning her groans so it was soundless. Gritting her teeth, Jane rose slowly and easily on her paws and gazed out through the drafty porthole, shivering as she watched the sunrise on the sea, having not the faintest hint where in Neopia she was.
Unexpectedly, Jane heard the moan of a trap door opening and the shuffling of feet trudging down the stairs of the hold. She gasped in alarm and frantically hunted for a place to hide. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the unrecognizable silhouette of a sailor walking about the hold when she suddenly fell clear off of her crate, crashing loudly into a mess of supplies. Fully aware that she had blown the lid off of her cover, Jane heard the sailor shout and ushered more men into the dim compartment. Jane heard more deep voices and more footsteps exploring the hold, escalating her panic as she noisily stumbled over barrels and boxes to conceal herself. Breathing heavily, Jane dodged behind a large crate and pressed her back against it, wishing she could disappear completely.
"Hey! Over here! Over here!" cried a shrill, young voice.
Jane twisted her head around to find a little blue Kacheek had discovered her and was squealing loudly and jumping up and down on his long tail. She clenched her teeth in despair and attempted to crawl further into the darkness when a hand grasped her shoulder and dragged her back into the light.
Jane cried and struggled against the multiplying sailors who surrounded her tightly and attempted to control her. Despite her intense leg pain, she fought them fiercely, twisting and kicking violently, knocking a few crewmen to the deck floor.
"No! No! Lemme go! Lemme go!" Jane shrieked, but the angered and provoked sailors soon gained control of the mad situation and tied her hands roughly with rope.
At the helm of the ship stood a tall yellow Usul who gazed at the sea with sharp eyes when he alertly heard the commotion mounting below deck. His ears twitched as he turned his head over his shoulders, listening and wincing at every horrible crash that he heard. Curious but mildly irritated, the Usul made his way down the stairs just as a handful of his crew appeared through the trap door, struggling as they went.
"What's going on here?" he demanded as he approached them.
"Sorry fer all the ruckus, cap'n," responded a red Kyrii as he dodged a punch from Jane. "But little Tean here found a stowaway in the hold!"
Jane's eyes looked up into the blinding sunlight to see a blonde-haired Usul with piercing blue eyes looming over her. A little wave of intimidation struck her at once as her feverish battle against the crewmen stopped. As she gazed at him, he was rather handsome, but he wore the clothes of a pirate, and the red bandana swathed around his brow was a clear sign. Looking around, she realized that they were all pirates!
"W-Who are you? Where am I?" Jane questioned in affright.
"I'm Captain Garin, and you are aboard my ship, the Black Pawkeet," the Usul replied. "Who might you be and how did you get here?"
"My name is Jane..." she replied meekly. "I-I don't remember. I have been through a lot..."
"Liar! Yer a stowaway!" accused the crew.
"Let's not be that rash, men. She's just a little girl," said the red Kyrii as Jane glared. He turned to Garin. "What do you think?"
Garin looked at Jane from head to toe and figured to himself that it was safe enough to release her from the crew's ropes they tied to her hands.
"Cut her bonds," he ordered.
Shocked a touch, Garin's crew obeyed as Talak, an orange Wocky, produced a knife and slashed the ropes. As soon as this was done, Jane was left to retain her own balance, but instead she wobbled and fell clumsily to the deck at Garin's feet. The crew, unable to control it, laughed hard and aloud.
Jacques frowned slightly and bent down to an utterly embarrassed Jane and offered a hand to help her up. He noticed she experienced pain as she gritted her teeth and rose to her knees. Garin joined his mate and gazed at Jane in question and interest.
"I-I'm sorry! I know stowing away is a crime, but you must understand! My situation is urgent. I just need to get back home to my owner," Jane cried.
"Lost, eh?" asked Garin.
"Then, how else did you get on my ship? We've been out at sea for three months!" Garin's voice rose angrily.
"Garin," muttered Jacques behind gnashed teeth.
Guilt crossed Jane's face as her head hung low. "I had a passion so strong and dark that it cursed me and spat upon my face. The rest is history..."
The iron prison door's creak echoed down the brig together with the ringing of keys tied to a burly pirate's belt. Roughly the two prisoners were pushed into the cell as the door was practically closed on Malcolm's tail. The turning of the key in the lock was inevitable... they were trapped deep below in the Salty Gale's brig. Abigail pushed herself up from the ground and faced Malcolm who had also just came to his senses.
Malcolm's hood rested on his back, making his horribly scarred visage completely perceptible to Abigail from across the cold cell. For a moment, Abigail's heart throbbed in pity and compassion as she stared at the extreme slashes and shuddered in fright. Malcolm's gloomy eyes were glittering in disgrace as a despairing sigh left his mouth. However, Abigail was severely angered.
"Malcolm, how could you do this? How could you have brought me aboard a ship full of bloodthirsty pirates?! You tricked me! Everything you told me was a lie!"
"I had no other choice in the matter, Abigail," Malcolm replied quickly. "There was no other way around this delicate situation than to do what those fiend pirates told me to do."
"Your job was to help me find Jane," Abigail whispered sharply. "I put my faith and trust in you! I believed in you! If I didn't know any better, you are one of them!"
"Never!" Malcolm yelled.
Abigail stopped and curled up in the corner of the brig cell, afraid of Malcolm's enraged tone of voice. His dark eyes stared intensely at her as he breathed heavily, but soon enough, he calmed just as quickly as his anger entered.
"You heard Gunpowder, Abigail. I was an honest, hardworking sailor, but a little over a year ago all the happiness I had was stripped from me. I was a sea captain, but there were traitors among my crew that made the disaster unfold. A few of my men gambled with our hard-earned money, and lost it all to pirates! Fact is, they didn't hand over the profit right away, and that only made Gunpowder infuriated."
"...What happened?" Abigail inquired quietly.
"One clear night, Gunpowder and his crew brutally attacked us completely unprepared. Battling against them was in vain and quickly they captured us, placed fire to our ship, and sank it to the depths. Gunpowder demanded the money, but I had no clue what he was talking about. Each time I denied him," Malcolm pointed to one of the scars on his cheek. "I received a slash. That night is a blur; none of my crew survived. I was the strongest and most able and now Gunpowder wanted to use me to control. There is a treasure he is determined to go after that requires a female sacrifice... and he ordered me to go after you."
Abigail's mouth dropped in shock at Malcolm's story. "But... why as a detective?"
Malcolm nodded sheepishly. "It was Gunpowder's orders. If I refused, this same fate would have happened much sooner and might have resulted in worse losses than that of your Neopet."
A pause of silence hovered up the two of them as they listened to the gentle creaking of the ship and the waves of the ocean.
"I'm sorry that you lost everything, including your ship and crew," said Abigail.
"There's no need to be sorry, Abigail. You are not to blame. I am... it's my fault," replied Malcolm as his head hung down low.
"No, it's not," Abigail whispered and crawled on her knees to his side. Malcolm tried hiding away in the corner of the cell, but Abigail stopped him and placed her hand on his face. She again stared at his multiple scars, feeling the raised jaggedness of them on her fingertips.
"You were never meant to see me like this, Abigail, the shame is all over my face."
"It's true that you cannot erase what has already been done, but your heart is true, Malcolm. Your intentions to help me in my time of need are genuine! You are nothing like Gunpowder or any of the pirates. It's not your fault that any of this happened. It happened for a reason,"
Abigail told him with a strong but gentle voice. "I don't care about the outside; I care about the inside, Malcolm."
A soft smile appeared on Malcolm's face as Abigail smiled back, bringing a ray of sunshine to his heart and soul.
"I promise you, Abigail, I truly desire to find Jane. And we're going to," Malcolm added.
Abigail chuckled lightly, "And how do you propose to even begin? We're stuck here!"
"Don't worry, I'll get us out of here, but you're going to have to trust me, okay?"
The human girl looked into his eyes for a moment with a contemplative pause, wondering what he meant exactly. After a moment, she nodded slowly. "I trust you, Malcolm."
To be continued...