To Watch The Altador Cup
"You know how much it'd cost to go there?!" she wailed, slamming her paw on the wooden table. "I wouldn't even dream of going there myself, let alone you!"
Gavellus was always like that. Thrift, meticulous and money-minded, she was truly the main financer in the family. The Red Kyrii would always go for weeks on end braving Neopian waters to fish for income, and certainly she was one who would persevere in jobs to make the most neopoints. She certainly does not appeal in giving out too much, though.
"Come on!" I retorted. "It's been running for six years already! I really don't want to wait for newspaper reports again. It gets really boring! Plus, it gets all stinky by the time it gets here."
"Well, I guess you're going to have to get used to it," she bellowed. "You can go and swab decks to see how much hard work it takes to even survive here! Let alone go to Altador!"
She then left for her room and slammed the door shut. Left alone in the living area of my Krawk Island home, I was left with nothing to say. There had to be a way where I could reach Altador in less than a week, but I had no idea how to earn my own money.
The Altador Cup was really one yearly event that had interested me. I was engrossed with it that whenever news reports arrived at the Krawk Island harbour, I would be one of the first to open the newspapers and analyze the matches. I spent most of my weekly allowance buying and trading merchandise from shopkeepers in Warf Wharf, though I still tried to save a few neopoints to be able to finally attend an Altador Cup. The money had always not been enough, though.
After a few minutes of contemplating, I stood up and slowly knocked on Yarron's door. She was a Kiko who migrated from Maraqua in search of a better future, but ultimately found none. She works at the island's Warf Wharf, being in charge of advertisements for Little Nippers. I figured that someone with a commendable experience in odd jobs would give some advice on how to earn money – fast.
The wooden door slowly creaked open, but a metal chain prevented the door from opening fully.
"What now, Stalaxi?" she grumbled.
"Yarron," I asked. "Is it easy to get jobs in Krawk Island?"
"Can't you just ask Gavellus for more money?" she suggested.
"You're not answering my question. Besides, she's in a bad mood right now because I asked her for more money."
"Why do you need more money anyway?"
"I've always wanted to go to the Altador Cup, remember?"
She heaved a long sigh. The metal chain was unbolted and the wooden door swung open. I followed her inside the light-deprived room and sat down on a stool. She took pieces of paper from a nearby shelf, arranged them neatly, and passed them over to me.
"What is this?" I queried. "It's just a bunch of random drawings of ships."
"Not this one, though." She took an old drawing that was sticking out from the stack and placed it on top. "Now that's the ship that I want you to look for. It's the SS Saley, and they offer great-paying jobs. I've worked here once as a petpetsitter, and I'd say it was one of the better jobs I had!"
"Wait, this ship looks familiar," I said while analyzing the drawing. "I could have sworn that I'd seen this ship before, though I'm not exactly sure where..."
"If you're lucky you'd see it docked at the Wharf. If not, there are also other ships docked there offering jobs," she proposed. "Take the drawing with you, I know it's kind of hard to see in my dark room, maybe the memory will hit you when you see it clearly."
"Thanks, Yarron!" I replied.
I set off and strolled towards Warf Wharf, bringing the old drawing with me. The paper used was turning yellow with age and the graphite marks from the pencil were slowly fading off. The ship's outline was still largely visible, though; it provided enough reference to identify it. It had two large sails, and its bow seemed to have "SS Saley" carved on it. It was still a mystery to me on how it would offer great jobs, as it looked like any other ship to my eyes.
In a few minutes, I found myself stepping on the creaky sandy wooden floorboards of Warf Wharf. The bustling harbor was abound with neopets wandering around the narrow alleys, merchants sitting on verandahs negotiating wares, and foreign traders docking on the Wharf's harbor itself. I squeezed my way through oncoming crowds to reach the docks, and caught a whiff of the fresh salty air endlessly blowing from the ocean.
"That's a nice drawing of our ship you have there," a voice behind me boomed.
"Thanks! It was my sist-"
Describing him as humongous would truly be a great understatement.
I turned around and saw a towering Pirate Gnorbu with a semi-ruffled mane, torn striped clothing and an eye patch. His huge size alone was enough to make me jump out of my four paws. He looked like one ship captain that I would not like to be working with.
"So what's wit' a little Aisha like you strollin' near my property?" he queried in a raspy voice, which made me afraid of him even further.
"I-I w-was t-trying to look f-for the ship in this d-drawing," I regurgitated.
Without warning, the Gnorbu snatched the yellowing paper, tearing off the small corner I held in the process. He looked at it for a short while, and then glanced behind to look at his ship. After a few moments of silence, he finally voiced out.
"You ain't related to a Kiko named Yarron, are ya?" he asked.
I slowly nodded my head in agreement.
"Ahh, I remember the lady. Was a fair maiden to have onboard, one dedicated soul too. Carved out magnificently – the 'Saley' yonder," he explained as he directed me to the ship's bow. "One of t'best crew mate I ever came across, t'was glad to have picked err up off Maraquan waters.."
I caught sight of the ship as he was still explaining. It looked magnificent, even more so than the drawing that Yarron did. One can see that with its shiny wooden exterior and well-tended sails, it was truly a ship fit for royalty. Maybe she wasn't really making up stories after all.
"Sorry mister," I tried to interrupt.
"May the words 'mister' never leave yer lips when ya address me. Name's Cap'n Nimara," he directed. "Call me 'Cap'n', or 'Nim', never mister. Understand?" I nodded my head again.
"So Nim, do you still have any places on the ship for jobs? I'll do anything! Bilging, deck swabbing, cargo..." I listed a few before he told me to stop. Clearly he was not one to handle small talk.
"I'd make ye scrub the floorboards upside down if I wanted," he threatened, glaring menacingly at me. "We be setting off to Eastern seas in two hours, but it'd be better seeing ya in this same spot by six. Else I'd have to abandon ye. Clear?"
"Alright, thanks so much Nim! I'll see you in an hour!" I shouted while running on the way back home.
It was an ecstatic feeling to be able to find a job onboard the SS Saley. While rushing through the dirt tracks with the sunset in view, the only thought on my mind was on how I may be able to go to the Altador Cup for the very first time! I couldn't contain my excitement any longer that when I finally reached home, I burst open the door and screamed.
"I'm going to the Altador Cup this year!" I yelled with utmost pride. I heard my own voice echo for a few seconds, before slowly dying out.
The first reaction came from Gavellus, who came out of her room and sauntered slowly towards me. She had a look of discontent, and concentrated more on brushing her red Kyrii mane.
"Guess you'd try and fix that first before anything else," she replied, pointing out a broken hinge that left the front door tilted in an awkward position, unable to close.
"Heh," I blushed, observing the accidental mistake. "Anyway, I got a job at one of the ships docked at Warf Wharf!"
Yarron was the next one to walk out of her room.
"Can't help but overhearing. Anyway, what ship did you get accepted in?" she asked.
"SS Saley!" I replied with overbearing joy.
"I hope they pay well enough to even fix that door hinge. I'm not going to pay for that out of my own pocket," Gavellus declared.
"Oh, come on, Gavellus," Yarron argued. "They were the ship that actually took me in from Maraqua. Nice little fellows, too." She then turned to me. "Is Nim the captain?"
"Yeah," I stated. "Seemed like a creepy one, not just because of his size. He did praise you an awful lot, though. He almost sounded like he wanted you back as part of his crew."
"Believe me, I'd love to be back," she expressed. "Its just that he always goes for really long voyages, like from Krawk Island to Shenkuu. It does get a little... stale for me, I don't really like being kept at sea for that long."
"Oh, since when has staying Krawk Island been more exciting than sea voyages?" Gavellus smirked. "Anyway Stalaxi, if you're okay with long trips by sea, I'm not stopping you. Just make sure to get that hinge fixed when you get back."
"Why not I come along with you when you set off later, Stalaxi?" Yarron suggested. "I've always longed to see them after so long."
"Sure thing!" I replied and went to get my luggage. Excitement filled my heart as Yarron and I made our way to the docks.
"It's going to be a long trip, I presume. There's even a chance that you'd miss the whole cup itself. Are you ready to take the risk?" she asked.
"Maybe," I replied uneasily. "There may be a chance that we're going to Altador. I didn't take the time to ask where we're going back then, he only said something about 'Eastern seas', and Altador is around that area."
We spent the rest of the journey walking towards the docks, catching the beautiful Neopian sunset on the way there. Most people in the Wharf are now closing down their shops, with some making their way home to their families.
"Yarron? Is that you? Yarron! Over here!" I heard a raspy voice yell.
Yarron then started to run towards the giant waving Gnorbu at the end of the path, and tackled him over the edge of the dock's platform, causing both of them to fall into the sea below. Frightened, I rushed over to the edge where they fell, only to find them climbing up from a nearby ladder, laughing to each other.
"Hehe, I really missed fallin' over with ya!" Nim laughed, shaking himself dry. "Reminds me of good ol' times, innit?"
"Yeah! I missed the whole crew and everything! Oh, and I assume you've met my brother Stalaxi, right?" asked Yarron as she signaled to me.
"The lad's name be Stalaxi, eh? Good impression of 'im so far!" he commended. "Willin' to do lotsa jobs for a livin', I say. Not ev'ryday you'd see one volunteerin' t'bilge, ay?"
"Heh, yeah!" I forced an awkward chuckle. "Anyway Nim, where'll this voyage be taking us?"
"We'd be stoppin' over at Moltara 'fore we sail off t'Shenkuu and back," Nim explained. "Around a week of voyage. Too bad for most crew here, they'd miss the Cup. Y'okay with that, right?"
I stood still, speechless. His words kept echoing in my mind as I tried to make sense of them. (What? Miss the cup? That's not the! Might as well... might as...) A sudden raging pain blasted in my head and not long after, the silhouettes of the Kiko and Gnorbu were a speck while everything faded into black.
"Stalaxi? Are you awake?" I heard Yarron's familiar voice calling out. "Gosh, if you had a name with lesser syllables I wouldn't be tired right now!"
"W-what?" I uttered, still trying to regain composure. "T-this doesn't look like the docks, as far as I know."
I woke up in a small room made up of wooden planks. Light seemed to emit from a nearby porthole opposite a door, with the light filling only a portion of the otherwise dark room. Rising from a lightly stuffed bed, I noticed Yarron sitting on a stool beside me.
"Of course not, silly!" she joked. "If you were left on the docks you wouldn't have lasted an hour. That's why we took you on a little cruise!"
"Cruise?" I asked.
I got up on my paws and scrambled my way to the porthole and looked outside. Blue seas were all the sights I could take in.
"We're on 'Soley', aren't we?"
"It's 'Saley'! Brought along Gavellus too so that she wouldn't be so bored at home!"
I really hoped she was kidding. "But why did you come here anyway? And how did I end up here?"
"I missed the crew! Plus you fainted just before the voyage, so I just came along with you so that someone can take care of you. Have I said that you need not work anymore here? The trip is on the house."
A sudden knocking interrupted our talk, and out from a door emerged Captain Nim, bringing with him a tray full of food. He set a nearby table in front of me, while he engaged in a new conversation. Plates of elegantly displayed food were laid beneath me.
"Yarron, everythin' alright down 'ere?" he inquired. "We're nearin' Moltaran waters as we speak! Could get the lil' guy some Moltaran medicine while in there."
I shuddered at the thought of having to swallow obsidian and metal cogs.
"Oh no no! I'm alright, really!" I tried hard to reassure.
"Heh, I be kiddin, lad! Only there t'drop off some goods, and we're off to Shenkuu," he explained.
Shenkuu. Shenkuu... I guess I can travel from there to Altador, right? There was no end to this contemplation. The sheer fact that I was going to miss the Altador Cup again was beyond me. (To think that I had not gotten used to staying in Krawk Island for the past six years...)
I scooted away from the table of food and ran out the door. A maze of hallways and staircases greeted me as tears formed in my eyes. Startled passengers could only stare in mild shock. Eventually, I reached the staircase that led to the main deck and dashed up its creaky floorboards. I then rushed to an empty railing overlooking the ocean and let the tears flow down my cheeks. It was all that I could do in this situation, I did not know what else. Some emotions could not remain bottled up forever.
A blue paw tapped my left shoulder, and I glanced behind to find Yarron, with Captain Nam following close behind. However, I still refused to leave my stance at the railing.
"Look, the trip's only going to take two whole days," she pointed out. "We still have a little more than four days to make it to the opening ceremony from Shen-"
"Don't you DARE say that word ever again while I'm around," I warned her.
"Calm down, Stalaxi! I'm just saying there are possibilities to this situation; we aren't necessarily going to miss the Cup itself!" she argued.
"She be right, lad," Nam added. "There be always chances... I could drop ye off 't Moltara and let ya catch 'nother ship t'Altador if that's what ye desire."
With that, I finally turned around and faced them, heaving a sigh in the process.
"It's no use," I concluded. "Why not just go along with the voyage, Nim? I'll be in my quarters if any of you need me. Excuse me..."
Disappointment filled my heart as I made my way down the creaky stairs. The only thing I can do now was to look down, and avoid any gaze from other passengers and crew walking along the hallway. My vision was blurred from the constant tears that kept forming like there is no tomorrow. Eventually, after trudging through what seemed a long journey, I reached my quarters. I slammed the door closed, and crashed onto my bed, with the pillow soaking up all my tears. It was an inevitable future. Maybe I just wasn't meant to watch the Altador Cup after all...
I slowly opened my eyes to find that the room was mostly dark. A faint light emitted from the porthole, but nothing more created an eerie spectacle. I shifted my body slightly and hastily got up, incurring a minute headache. Suddenly, someone knocked on the door and Gavellus' head emerged.
"You okay down there? You missed dinner, by the way," the Kyrii told me.
"Did I? How long have I been down here?" I asked while rubbing my eyes.
"A few hours now, we just set off from the Moltaran coast. Got you some Roast Root Platter from Molten Morsels while we docked," she replied as she handed me the gear-shaped plate of food.
"Thanks Gavellus," I uttered.
"Might wanna eat that on the main deck though, we don't want any stray Moaches gobbling up anything here," she suggested.
I took a seat next to the deck's railings that allowed me to gander at the sights of the Neopian Sea. Gavellus took the seat in front of mine, busily combing her mane which was untidily messed up by the constant sea wind.
"I swear, this wind does not do wonders for a fashion-conscientious female," she complained as I dug into the platter. "Maraquan waters had less breeze when I was fishing!"
"No wonder I never saw you on deck," I pointed out, half-chewing on a root. "Is Captain Nim still awake? I want to apologize to him for my sudden outburst."
"He should be awake, he's manning the ship in the other half of our journey," she commented. "Try and find him at the Captain's Deck."
"Sure, be right back. Thanks for the food!" I said while taking the last root from the plate.
Ever since I came aboard, I really did not take much notice of the SS Saley and its entirety. Even at night, passengers were still on deck enjoying the fresh ocean breeze, with some dining under the light of the stars. The towering feature of the sails gave the ship a unique appearance. Elsewhere, dark silhouettes of mountains can be seen drawing closer to the ship. (Must be nearing Shenkuu, I guess.)
"Nim?" I called out, knocking on the door of the Captain's Deck.
"That be ye, Stalaxi?" he questioned.
"Yes sir," I replied.
"Come on in then," he directed.
I opened the door to find Captain Nim busy handling a large wooden wheel, looking at an old torn map by his side to guide him. The deck was slightly larger than my quarters, but it was still considered small. Torches hung from walls provided lighting and two portholes beside the door allowed the sea breeze to ventilate the room.
I slowly closed the door and stood still on the spot.
"Yes lad? What be yer desirin'?" he asked, still focused on reading the map.
"Just want to say I'm sorry for my outburst a few hours back," I admitted, not daring to look him in the eye.
"Forgiven ye are, lil' Aisha. Why not ye come to 'ere and join me fer a bit of a chat?" he suggested.
I slowly walked towards the map table, hearing the subtle echo of my own steps as I went. Upon reaching, I analyzed the cartographic piece. There was a straight line marked in blue stretching to the northeast over the torn-edged paper, encompassing many different lines faintly marked in graphite. However, there was a red line stretching from the middle of the blue one, pointing to the southeastern direction.
"Lookin' at me map, I see," he commented. "It be useless fer now. Destination's right in front with not a single isle on the way!"
"Oh..." I managed to utter. A small tear rolled down my cheek.
"Lad, I understand how much of a Cup fan ye are. T'be honest, never actually seen a real live game of theirs. Ye don't know how much I'd love t'see them," he acknowledged.
"Tis ironic, really. Ev'ry year, I keep sailin' 'em to Altador. Just finished a voyage 'few days ago, ay."
"You took them to Altador? It must've been a great honor, then."
"Ay, lucky ain't describin' me though. Never have I seen t'actual cup, yet I always meet t'players. Sad life, really."
"I wish I even got a chance to meet the players..."
"Ye'll get yer time soon, I can promise that."
The conversation went on for a long while, until Nim saw the docks only a few metres away.
"Believe what ye want to, Stalaxi. Fer now I'd best be seein' ya elsewhere, Saley be dockin' at t'harbour in front. Don't want ya shakin'."
With that, I exited the deck and made my way back to the table. Gavellus was still there, reading a book. Yarron was now sitting where I once sat, eating a loaf of bread. The once-dark sky had now evolved into a marvelous shade of blue, with all stars almost fading away. A dock with marble architecture can be seen in the distance.
"Well, it seems possible that we could be able to make it to Altador from an hour's cycle from Shenkuu, isn't it?" I blurted out.
"Stalaxi, there's no need for that!" Yarron chuckled.
"What do you mean by that?" I inquired, confused.
"The Captain hasn't told you anything?" Gavellus asked.
"Maybe, we did talk about a shift in course during the journey, I'm not exactly sure where," I recalled.
"Well, I guess ol' Nim still insists on surprise, yeah?" Yarron smirked.
"What does that r-"
The ship came to a halt, accompanied by a loud blast of a horn. Anchors from the ship's sides were dropped, and a long makeshift wooden stairs extended from the main deck to the marble dock of our destination.
"We've arrived at Altador, ladies and gentlemen!" Nim announced through a megaphone from his deck.
Altador? Altador? This really cannot be true.
"Told ya he'd make it a surprise! Welcome to the land of the Altador Cup, bro!" Yarron exclaimed.
As some of the ship's passengers slowly made it down the stairs, I turned around and rushed towards the Captain's Deck. Upon seeing the huge Pirate Gnorbu, I had nothing else to do but to hug him will all of my might.
"Thanks so much Nim!" I exclaimed, ecstatic about the whole situation.
"Aye, least I could do, lad!" he conveyed.
"But why wouldn't you want the voyage to continue to Shenkuu?"
"Goodness! Shenkuu be in t'same coast that Altador is, a small stopover like this 'ere wouldn't hurt much! Besides, I'd get me first mate to handle t'ship, I'm watchin' the Cup this here year!"
"I couldn't really thank you enough for this opportunity..."
"No need to! C'mon, take yer luggage and go, we've got an Opening Ceremony t'watch!"
With that, we sauntered off the ship along with Gavellus and Yarron. It was going to be a euphoric experience watching the Cup for the first time in my entire life.
Maybe dreaming isn't so bad after all.