A Faerie Tale: Part One
If you're reading this story, I assume you're familiar with Faerie tales. Childhood stories of enchantment and beauty, they tell the tale of woeful princesses rescued by their brave princes. They tell the tale of good triumphing over evil.
This is no Faerie tale. This is a tale of pirates and bandits and evil deeds, a tale of dark secrets, a tale of lies and betrayal. Does good triumph? Perhaps. I suppose that would depend upon your view of what is good.
So why, might you ask, do I entitle it as such? Well, I suppose you will just have to read on to see.
My name is Viggo, and this is my story.
The sound of my name was caught and drowned by the roar and crash of the waves. Perched high in the brown cliffs of Smuggler's Cove, I chose to mistake the call for a trick played by the wind.
Now, I suppose your first question would be, what would I be doing at Smuggler's Cove? That's a silly question: Smuggling, of course.
You wouldn't be the first to ask the question. It turns out, there's only so much a loose-fitting, off-white shirt, patched pants, and unpolished boots can do to make one look like a Pirate. I suppose it's the flaming wings that give me away. No, I'm not a Pirate. I'm a Fire Eyrie.
So what does bring me to Smuggler's Cove, other than the obvious? The answer is simple: I love the ocean and the wind. The adventuresome excitement of being an unlawful criminal is just a bonus.
Gazing out over the turquoise waters of the sea, I enjoyed the feel of the ever-present ocean breezes billowing through my mane and hair. It was the perfect place to think, the cliffs. The view of the ocean was wonderful. The sea, glorious in all its power, yet so peaceful...
The anger in the call shattered that peacefulness into a million pieces. Finding it now impossible to ignore, I straightened, looking down the side of the cliff at the Pirate Kyrii standing on the shore below. Even from that distance, I could see the irate slant of her eyebrows.
All Pirates have a knack for scowling. Belinda is easily the best. And it is often not the greatest idea to be at the receiving end of her scowl.
Knowing this, I heaved a heavy sigh, spread my wings, and swooped down to join her.
Belinda resisted the urge to tap her foot impatiently in the sand as she watched Viggo descend upon the shore. The Eyrie seemed to be the bane of her existence. She was never entirely sure why she put up with him. Perhaps there was something alluring in how different he was, in the mystery behind his unusual gray eyes, in the hidden story of his shady past. Or perhaps her tolerance lay in the fact that when she needed help with a job, he was the most reliable partner she could find in completing it – when she could find him.
Now that she had found him, she made her irritation with him clear, crossing her arms and fixing upon him her darkest scowl.
"You called?" Viggo asked lightly.
"Yes," Belinda agreed scornfully. "A dozen times. I've been looking all over for you."
In truth, she had only called twice, and briefly scanned the sandy northern shore of Krawk Island for the missing Eyrie, but she saw no harm in exaggerating her situation.
"Sting has a new client," she informed him. "Are you interested in a job?"
Sting was a Pirate Xweetok who made a living finding smuggling jobs for other Pirates – in exchange for a cut of the profit, of course. He'd stopped running smuggled goods himself after a run-in with a swamp witch in the Haunted Woods. Belinda didn't know the whole story, and she knew better than to ask.
"Hm, depends on the job," Viggo replied distractedly. He was looking out over the ocean again.
Belinda took this as a yes. It would be easy enough to convince him once they'd received information on the job.
"Come on," she ordered. Taking his arm, she all but dragged him into the shelter of the cave resting in the base of the cliff. Viggo came with little protest, staring over his shoulder as she led him through the Pirates gathered there, talking in low voices over their ill-gotten goods. Belinda cast them hardly a glance; her focus was on her own task.
Sting sat near the back of the cave, at a table encircled by a couple of chairs fashioned out of a crate and a couple of empty barrels. His fingers drummed on the crate as they approached, his gaze remaining lowered until Belinda sat, Viggo hovering at her shoulder.
"He in?" Sting asked briefly.
Belinda nodded shortly, and Sting got right down to business.
"This job is a little... different," Sting said as soon as Belinda was seated. "If you don't want to take it, I understand, but I'm certain no one else will..."
"What makes it different?" Belinda interrupted.
"Well, you see..." Sting cleared his throat somewhat uneasily. "The goods needing to be smuggled... they aren't here. They need to be... picked up."
"Picked up where?" Belinda pressed carefully. She made a living shadowing goods away from Smuggler's Cove to other destinations and picking up goods from elsewhere and transporting them to Smuggler's Cove. From the sound of things, this job was to differ from even the latter.
Reaching into his jacket, Sting produced a sheet of paper that he handed over the crate to Belinda. She took one look at the destinations scribbled across the sheet then looked back up at Sting, eyebrows rising. "Is this some sort of scavenger hunt?" she asked, somewhat bitterly.
"Of sorts," Sting agreed nonchalantly, shrugging. "Though, the goods are more hard-to-get-to than hidden..."
"And the goods are...?"
Sting gestured at the sheet of paper. "Everything is there."
Belinda glanced again at the sheet, her eyebrows rising further. Leaning across the crate, she lowered her voice to a whisper. "Draik Eggs?"
Every Pirate knew the dangers of jobs involving Draik Eggs. Their value and desirability made any type of dealings with them a hassle. Those who smuggled the Eggs knew they were likely to be tailed by at least one or two other Pirates who would be all too willing to sink another smuggler's ship for want of the profitability of the Egg for themselves.
Sting's reply was just as low. "Yes... Draik Eggs. My client is paying thirty million apiece for them."
"Thirty million," Belinda repeated, awed by that number. Then she hesitated. "Why can't he buy them through the Trading Post on Mystery Island? Or the Auction House?"
Sting shrugged. "I didn't ask. Not my business."
Belinda didn't press the matter further. Of course he hadn't asked; that wasn't the Pirate way.
"That sheet spells out where to find each Egg," String continued. "You've quite a trip ahead of you. You'll need a less conspicuous ship than a pirate ship. Better to hide your movements..."
"Viggo can find one," Belinda assured him. She was certain that he could find a visiting ship to Krawk Island to hire out. There were few of them, but one would be enough.
Both she and Sting looked to the Fire Eyrie. He was staring off toward the mouth of the cave, his eyebrows furrowed. For a moment, they waited, assuming that the silence would alert him to the fact that they were awaiting his attention. When he continued to pay them no notice, Belinda sighed heavily, uttering the name she felt she had need to say all too often.
My attention had strayed almost at the start of Belinda and Sting's conversation. I'd made an effort to pay attention, I really had, but I couldn't help my distraction. My attention had been roused at the mention of Draik Eggs, but what was going on at the entrance of the cave was far more interesting than even that.
What drew my attention to the mouth of the cave was the entrance of a Magma Hissi. Just as my fiery wings drew stares, this Hissi's fiery form gave him away as an outsider to the Pirate world. It wasn't his lack of Pirateyness that drew my attention to him, however; it was his obvious attempts at inconspicuousness.
Naturally, I had to seek out the reason for his jumpiness. My gaze strayed gradually to his companion, and then my curiosity only increased. What his companion was, I couldn't tell, at first, for she wore a heavy, hooded cloak wrapped around herself and kept her head lowered, as if trying to hide. Then, in the briefest of moments, as she and the Hissi hesitated just inside the mouth of the cave, she raised her head, only slightly, but enough for me to catch a glimpse of her pale purple fur and long silvery forelock.
My breath caught. A Peophin, a Faerie Peophin. But what was she, of all Neopets, doing here, on Krawk Island? It should be no secret that Pirates and Faeries don't often get along. There is, after all, hardly anything in common between them. What reason was there for such a graceful Peophin to spend her time amongst so lowly a bunch as these Pirates?
Again, it was Belinda's irritable voice that broke through my thoughts. Distractedly, I turned half my attention back to her, keeping watch on the Hissi and his strange companion out of the corner of my eye.
"Can you find one or not?" Belinda asked impatiently.
I waved a dismissive paw in response. "Of course."
I hadn't the faintest idea what she was talking about. But, having no desire to draw attention to my somewhat... alright, very... lackluster attention span, I thought it best to simply agree.
Belinda wasn't fooled; she knew of my inattentiveness, I could see it in her eyes. It was hard not to notice my distraction, I figured; I was busy watching a Pirate approach the Hissi and Peophin as I spoke.
I knew this Pirate. His name was Carvar, a Pirate Uni with a bad attitude and a worse reputation. He was hardly the type to be friendly with outsiders, yet he seemed to be expecting the Hissi, and the Hissi looked almost relieved to see him.
"Well, the sooner we get this done, the better," Belinda said grimly. She pushed back her barrel and stood.
I followed her and Sting toward the mouth of the cave. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the Hissi and Carvar. They were speaking in low voices, their shoulders turned to the Peophin, though they cast her a brief glance every so often. I thought I heard mention of Meridell, but they guarded the volume of their voices so carefully, it was hard to tell for certain.
I couldn't help but to think that the Peophin appeared anxious. She shifted from hoof to hoof, tentatively surveying her surroundings from the shadow of her hood. And yet, she made no attempt to leave the presence of the Pirates. Again, I couldn't help but to wonder why she was here.
Then we stepped from the shadow of the cave, rounding its edge and making for the beach, and the trio was hidden from my line of sight.
"The Pirate Draik Egg should be here, in the Fungus Cave," Sting said, gesturing to the sheet of paper Belinda held. "It will probably be the easiest to retrieve."
"We'll save it for last then, once we've returned with the other Eggs." Belinda scrutinized the list with her narrowed gaze. "We'll find a ship first then head for..."
"Meridell," I interjected.
Both Belinda and Sting's gazes turned to me. I tried to appear as though the suggestion had been a casual one. It was hard to do so when the reason for my suggestion pressed at the back of my mind. I hadn't the faintest idea whether or not Meridell was even on the list Belinda held. I couldn't help my curiosity though, towards the unusual exchange I'd witnessed inside the cave. If I'd heard right, they were headed for Meridell. Following them seemed the only way I was going to be able to satisfy my curiosity.
"Mystery Island," Belinda said slowly. "The Island Draik Egg should be in the Lost City of Geraptiku, inside the Deserted Tomb."
"Right," I agreed briefly. It was hard to bite back my frustration and disappointment. With Belinda's suspicious gaze on me, though, I held my tongue.
"Well then, what are you waiting for?" Belinda urged. "Find us a ship."
In spite of my discontent, I did as she asked.
I returned to Smuggler's Cove within the hour.
Yes, visiting ships to Krawk Island are hard to find. The risk of being sunk by Pirates doesn't exactly attract many visitors. There exists the stray voyager though, daring Neopets such as myself, that venture occasionally into our waters. I happen to be quite able when it comes to seeking these Neopets out. My lack of Piratyness, in this regard, most certainly helps in gaining said Neopets' trust.
Belinda straightened from where she leaned against the cliff as I approached. Sting was no longer present; I figured he'd gone off to give out more smuggling jobs.
"There's a young Gelert docked in Warf Wharf," I reported, wasting no time. "He's seeking employment in order to finance an expedition of his own and agreed to take us wherever we need to go provided we pay him a decent fee."
"Lead the way then."
Taking up one of the packs lying against the cliff beside her – I figured she'd readied them during my absence – she tossed the other to me. I'd done some readying for the journey of my own, though the only sign of this was the brown jacket I now wore. Slinging the pack over my shoulder, I headed for the Wharf.
I picked out our vessel almost immediately. It wasn't the largest or grandest of ships, but it was well cared for and functional and it would get us to where we needed to go. Belinda would see this also as she had the same eye for ships that I had; it was hard not to when our business so involved such vessels. It wasn't the sight of the ship, then, that caused her to scowl. Before I could search out the reason for her scowl, a voice sounded from the deck of the ship.
"Ahoy! Captain Avresi welcomes you aboard the Sand Dollar. Come on, don't be shy now!"
"You aren't serious."
Following Belinda's gaze, I found what I'd already guessed to be both the source of the voice and of her annoyance. Standing upon the deck of the ship, smiling vivaciously down at us, decked out in a sleeveless shirt, surf shorts, and sandals, his hair combed to one side so that it covered one of his eyes, was the captain of the ship: A Baby Gelert.
Immediately, Belinda dragged me away and began what was, no doubt, a rant regarding my choice of captain. I could only suppose that this was the subject of her rant, though, as my attention was, at that moment, elsewhere. It was elsewhere because I'd just then spotted Carvar and the Magma Hissi, along with their hooded companion, making their ways toward a neighboring ship.
Once again, my fascinated gaze would not stray from them. This time, I was rewarded for my fascination, for as I watched, the trio boarded the ship, joining a crew that I knew to be Carvar's. The ship was his too, there was no doubt; no Pirate owned a finer vessel than he. After a brief exchange between captain and crew and a multitude of wary glances cast between the crew and Carvar's unusual companions, the anchor was pulled up, the lofty sails were unfurled, and the ship set off to sea.
My heart leapt when I saw in what direction the ship set off in. It didn't appear to be headed north for Meridell. Rather, its crew seemed to be sailing eastward in the direction of Mystery Island.
Belinda had grabbed my shoulders and was shaking me, one of her frustrated exclamations of "Viggo!" setting my ears ringing. I almost didn't notice. Brushing her hands away, I headed for the plank leading onto the deck of the Sand Dollar.
"Are we going or not?"
Belinda seemed to have no better reaction other than to stare. So I stared back, meeting her exasperated gaze with my impatient one. Finally, she let out a loud, "Hurmph!" and brushed past me so quickly, she nearly sent me tumbling off of the plank and into the water.
Unable to keep a wide grin from my beak, I hurried onto the ship after her. Our journey was beginning at last.
To be continued...
Thank you, Jay, for allowing me to borrow Sunrise, Dardyn, and Carvar! ^_^