Petpet Adventures: Windrider - Part Three
"What on Neopia happened to you?"
Arkol opened one eye a tiny slit, the light from the single lantern on deck effectively blinding him. He could just make out the silhouette of Braedon in front of him.
"What?" he asked.
"You've gone all dark," the Krawk explained. "Whoa," he continued, as Arkol opened his eye the whole way. "And your eyes have gone completely red. That is so weird."
Arkol didn't really feel like talking to him. The magic powder was making him irritable, especially since there was a Krawk yabbering in his now-sensitive ear. In fact, the Krawk had been a general nuisance on the trip to Meridell. The crew all seemed to love his crazy antics, scurrying up and down the rigging with them, and watching their games of Bilge Dice with interest. Arkol could hear him and Martin the Swabby chatting down in the galley from on the deck late into the night. And for some reason, the Krawk seemed to like following around the Pawkeet especially, and making unasked for comments on simply everything.
"Although I have to say you look quite fearsome," Braedon chattered. "I guess that's the general point. You are, after all, horrible scary pirates with bad teeth and a bad reputation."
Arkol opened his beak. "Do you see any teeth?" he asked, eyes closed once again. He waited for a suitable amount of seconds; hopefully the Krawk was shaking his scaly head. "I didn't think so," he concluded, smoothly turning away.
He opened his eyes to gaze out at the landscape in front of him. The ship was currently anchored over the forest that lay to one edge of Meridell, almost below the trees in a small clearing. Plumbeard had finally figured out how to properly fly the ship, and now it hovered barely a metre above the ground. But when Arkol flew to the top of the mainmast, he could see their target.
Atop a hill he could see a stone castle, lights twinkling in the windows. No wall ran around it; far enough inland to have no fear of pirates, the defences were weak. He could not see a single guard outside, but even with his keen eyesight he knew there must be some. They were still quite far away.
It was no Meridell Castle, but Plumbeard had guessed that in its untroubled position, also quite far from Darigan Citadel, there would be plenty of treasures within. Only a raid of several ships could hope to take the knights at Meridell Castle, and the arguments between captains over how to split the treasure was always nasty. Arkol shuddered.
There was a scratching sound below, and then Braedon swung up beside him, panting slightly. Arkol was impressed; for his size, that had been a fast ascension. Then he scowled.
"Why do you keep following me around?" he asked.
The Krawk again put that hurt look on his face. "You look lonely," he replied.
Arkol's beak snapped open, then after a few seconds, it snapped shut again. He hunched into his wings, trying to think of some smart reply he could use, but just then there was a sharp whistle, and he quickly straightened up.
"That's my cue," he said, taking off, and beginning the lazy spiral back to the deck.
He just caught a glimpse of Braedon waving goodbye, and had to suppress an unexpected smile. Plumbeard was waiting, arm held out, and as Arkol landed, he began to relay orders to his crew. They only had a few hours to complete the raid; they had had to float to the forest in darkness, and waiting a day for a full night raid might be a foolish move if anyone happened to catch a glimpse of the masts over the trees.
By the time he was done, Braedon had joined them, scurrying up to the captain's leg and tugging on his trousers. The Kyrii bent down and patted him on the head.
"You. Stay," he said in Pet, and Arkol repeated the words to Braedon, who took it with surprising grace.
Then the pirates were pouring over the edge of the ship, climbing down the rope ladders and jumping the last metre to the ground. They stole through the trees, Plumbeard in the lead, while Arkol flew up ahead, scanning the trees for watchers, and periodically whistling back that the coast was clear.
They reached the edge of the forest without mishap, and Arkol perched on a low-hanging branch, waiting for further instructions. The Kyrii captain was gazing at the castle thoughtfully, and Arkol quickly scanned for any movement; surely there would be pets around. He expected the Kyrii's next move to be asking Arkol for a distraction, but Plumbeard had clearly come to the decision that these noble pets were quite dumb, and had left no guards. He chuckled to himself, then motioned his men forward.
Arkol blinked in surprise as he saw Braedon's head poke out of a sack that a pirate Eyrie was carrying, ready and waiting for riches. The Krawk winked at him, and despite his urge to hiss something rude at the other petpet, Arkol refrained. They were too close to the manor house for him to risk any untoward noise. He settled with a very dirty look. Pirates were awfully good at that sort of thing, but Braedon just bared his little teeth in a grin and dived back into the sack.
At the same moment, the pirates began moving. Arkol cursed himself for missing the signal, and sped ahead of the group, flitting towards the castle. He reached one of the windows and peered inside. A royal Kougra and Kougress sat laughing at a table, talking in Pet, yet Arkol could hear the snobby undertone. He snorted quietly to himself, then turned back towards the neatly manicured gardens.
A stocky Usul stood, bow drawn, eyes squinting into the darkness. His camouflage fur blended nicely with the leaves of the bushes he was hidden behind. Further on a camouflage Techo stood ready, dagger in hand, and one of those queer straight swords thrust through his belt.
Arkol readied himself to attack. There might still be a hope of surprising them from this direction, because he could see one of the crew, a pirate Lupe, casually sauntering towards the castle. And if he had seen them, surely the sentries had too.
There was a loud twang, and suddenly the Lupe fell, and arrow through his leg. He managed not to shout, as such a thing would have caused the pirates to ridicule him later, but Arkol knew their cover was blown. The only thing to do was warn his pirates that they had been detected.
With a loud screech he launched himself at the archer. The screech was a mix between the intruder alert and enemy spotted, and he hoped the pirates got the general idea, if they hadn't already noticed their fallen comrade.
The archer jumped in surprise, quickly spinning around, so that the blow aimed for his temple instead hit him on the forehead.
Arkol flapped weakly away from the impact as the Usual rubbed his head, looking surprised. The archer peered into the darkness, clearly trying to discern his attacker, but Arkol had landed heavily in a bush, winded. His breath came in strangled gasps, which were drowned out by a sudden roar. The pirates had gotten his message, and were now charging into the fray, sabres drawn, knowing that they had to be fast and fierce.
The royal Kougra had appeared at the window, and then quickly disappeared inside shouting something.
There was the sound of metal on metal, as the pirates met whatever guards there were on the estate. Arkol lay panting, then after a few minutes felt his breathing steady, and flapped into the sky, staring down at the battle.
The pirates and guards were evenly matched, it appeared. The estate did not have that many guards, but a few pirates had been caught by surprise. Now they fought, mostly one on one, while every now and then one of two archers fired shots. The archers looked annoyed; they could not fire while their friends were in the fray, so they had to be careful when to release an arrow.
Plumbeard was steadily cutting his way through any pets who faced him, his famous sabre a blur despite its size. As his third opponent fell, the Kyrii began to laugh, an eerie booming sound that momentarily distracted the guards, giving a small advantage to the pirates for a few seconds, and they advanced.
Arkol eyed the Usul archer, who was carefully lining up his next shot, every once in a while touching his head, where a bump was beginning to form. The Pawkeet shot towards him, and this time he managed to knock the Usul out cold. The camouflage pet let out a cry before he fell, however, and Arkol quickly ducked low, hoping no one had noticed.
After a moment he quickly flitted out of the bushes, trying to locate the second archer. He finally saw the camouflage Meerca, perched in a tree, where he almost perfectly blended into branches. With a screech Arkol launched himself forward.
Which was probably a stupid idea.
The Meerca had obviously noticed the Pawkeet's attack on his fellow archer, and the moment he spotted the petpet winging towards him, he turned with his bow raised, arrow already set to the string. Arkol tried to dodge to the left, but the arrow was already flying through the air, cutting cleanly through his wing. The impact sent him flying backwards, where the arrow embedded itself into the trunk of a tree.
Screeching with pain, Arkol tried to pull free, but the arrow was too deep, and the pain was too much for him to bear. He scrabbled at the bark with his claws, and managed to get a grip firm enough to release most of the pressure on his wing. Then he heard pawfalls and saw a Scorchio coming out of the darkness. It was not one of the pirates. The pet was holding a dagger, and it looked unforgiving as it came closer, raising the weapon.
Arkol closed his eyes and waited for the blow to fall.
To be continued...