Petpet Adventures: Windrider - Part Four
There was a sudden hiss of pain. Arkol opened his eyes, and then stared in astonishment as the Scorchio did what seemed to be a dance on the spot. Then he saw a familiar green head pop up over the Scorchio's shoulder, and bite deeply into the back of his neck.
The Scorchio cried out as the Krawk dropped off his back and scurried away into a flowerbed. There was a moment of peace, and then a pirate charged out of the garden, his cutlass flashing out. The Scorchio blocked him just in time, and the two disappeared as their fierce duel took them away from the trapped Pawkeet.
As they disappeared, Braedon appeared and swiftly scaled the tree. He reached Arkol, forehead creased with concern.
"I'm not going to ask if you're okay, because you're clearly not," he said. "But I'm going to have to snap the arrow if you want any hope of getting free." He reached forward with one paw. "Ready?"
Arkol nodded and gritted his beak. There was a loud snapping noise, and he felt a vibration go down the shaft. He couldn't help a little whimper as pain washed over him, but nothing prepared him for the intense pain as Braedon gripped his wing firmly and pushed it off the splintered end of the shaft.
The pain made his legs go weak, and his claws involuntarily let go of the tree. He tumbled to the ground, his injured wing splayed. By pure luck he managed not to land on it, and he lay there, breathing deeply, trying to ignore the dizzy feeling of pain that threatened to engulf him.
He opened his eyes to Braedon leaning over him, his face uncomfortably close.
"We need to move," the Krawk said. "Before any pets come."
His head snapped around, staring into the garden, then the castle. Then he reached down a paw and helped prop Arkol up. "I think your pirates have won into the castle. But we need to get back to the ship. You need to get that wing looked at."
Arkol shook his head. "We can wait. Plumbeard or one of the others will take me back to the Windrider."
"If they see you," Braedon said dryly. "And besides, once they've secured the treasure, they're more likely to leave you behind without a second glance. Besides, there's still the other pets to reckon with." His head snapped around again; Arkol could just see the head of an unfamiliar pet above a piece of hedge.
The two petpets stayed frozen until it disappeared. Then Braedon sighed and hauled Arkol to his claws, despite his objections. The Pawkeet tried to hold his wing away from his body, but the pain was too intense, and he let it flop down, feathers trailing in the grass. He couldn't fly, but with his wing hanging like a dead thing, even walking was going to be awkward, not to mention running.
He felt Braedon come up beside him, and the Krawk carefully draped the injured wing over his scaly shoulder.
"Is that okay?" he asked.
Arkol nodded. "I can probably run now, just not too quickly."
Braedon grinned. "So I can walk, and you can run?" Arkol narrowed his eyes, then found himself smiling. The Krawk's longer legs would carry him much further in one step, so it was true.
"You could always carry me," he suggested.
Braedon cast a critical eye over the Pawkeet's rotund body, snorted, then nodded in the direction of the ship.
It was awkward progress. They had to dodge around garden beds and low walls, as well as any of the combatants left outside of the castle. Arkol found himself glancing back more than once. Shapes flitted past the windows, momentarily blocking the light, and he could faintly hear the sounds of fighting and pirate curses. He even thought he could hear Plumbeard's mad laugh. Then he stumbled over a rock, jarring his wing. After that he focused on what was ahead of him.
He began calculating in his head; it might take another half hour, maybe an hour, before the pirates finished their plundering. They would need to leave a few hours of darkness to make good their escape. Maybe twenty minutes for them to reach the ship, loaded with their booty. But for a petpet his size, the trip would take at least an hour. He had to hope they made the ship in time, or else were found by a pirate on the way back.
They finally reached the shelter of the forest, and Arkol realised that his hearing was getting duller, his eyesight less sharp, so that he could only see a hundred metres ahead. At the same time, he began to feel extremely weary, and realised that the magic powder must be wearing off already. He spared a glance behind him, and saw a thin trail of black powder leading back the way they had come.
He let out a curse in Pet that he often heard the sailors use when they did something stupid, like dropping a knife into their foot. The sounded startled Braedon, who jumped a bit, and jolted his wing. Arkol took a hissing breath, then slowly let it out again.
"Sorry," he apologised. The Krawk raised an eyebrow. "The magic that Plumbeard uses to make be stronger in battle is starting to wear off." He forced his tired legs to move. "Thank you for saving me, by the way," he said after a short pause.
The Krawk's sharp white teeth glinted, even in the darkness.
"No worries," he said. "If I hadn't, I wouldn't get to enjoy your company on the ship anymore." He paused for a moment. "You know, I've tried to get aboard as many ships as I could in the Tyrannian Harbour, just out of curiosity. And I would have probably have just climbed back down off yours after a little exploring, but then you caught me. No one's ever done that before. So I thought I'd stick around a bit and see what you were like. I must admit you're a little.... prickly."
Arkol didn't have the energy to fluff out his feathers. Instead he kept up the steady jogging pace, trying but failing to forget about the pain in his wing.
"I thought you were annoying," he admitted after a while.
The Krawk laughed. "And I'm okay with that. You'd be surprised at how many petpets have observed that – or maybe you wouldn't." He grinned again. "But I hope from now on you won't keep asking me to jump off the edge of the ship."
Arkol felt slightly embarrassed, but didn't show it as he replied serenely. "I think I can manage that – but it will be difficult."
Braedon chuckled, darting a glance back over his shoulder. So far they hadn't been overtaken by any pets, and they were about a third of the way back to the ship.
After a while of silence they heard the sound of paws, and Arkol raised his head excitedly. He let out a screech, and out of the trees came two pirate pets, an Eyrie and a Gelert. Their arms were loaded down with sacks, and one of them had a jewelled dagger in his belt, his sabre missing. They looked around a bit, before noticing the two petpets.
The Eyrie turned to the Gelert and said something. The Gelert shrugged, lifting up the load in his arms, then replied. Both pets gazed at the petpets again for a few seconds, then turned and jogged away.
Arkol sent another screech to their retreating backs, then slumped down. Even his crew were willing to abandon him for treasure. And he was the reason so many of their raids were successful. He let out a snarl and gritted his beak, ignoring Braedon's look of concern. Then he quickened the pace, despite the cramps in his legs, and the fact that his body was not designed for any long-distance ground travel.
Soon other pets could be heard in the darkness, but Arkol ignored them, focusing only on running. After what seemed like ages he could make out the shape of the ship through the trees. That was when his legs collapsed.
His wing slipped from Braedon's shoulder, and the Krawk bounded forward a few paces, before skidding to a stop and spinning around. Arkol lay in the undergrowth, trying to get back up, but his legs had had enough.
"Are you okay?" Braedon asked, jogging back. "What's wrong?"
"I can't walk," Arkol gasped.
He heard a loud creak, and immediately recognised the sound of the ship being turned around. Then he heard the sound of unrolling canvas, and knew that the pirates were preparing to leave.
"Quickly!" he said. "We have to get back to the ship!"
He struggled vainly to get up once more, and then suddenly Braedon's arms were around him. The Krawk let out a little groan as he heaved the Pawkeet up, then proceeded to stumble a few paces, Arkol's legs dangling in the air. Arkol couldn't move at first, as he was too astonished, then he shook his head.
"What are you doing?" he demanded.
"Carrying..." the Krawk managed to say. "Shhh!"
He walked a few more metres, and Arkol hung limp, surprised at how strong the Krawk was. Soon the ship was in view, and Braedon dropped Arkol heavily on the ground.
"Sorry," he panted. "Can you climb up yourself?"
Arkol eyed one of the ladders that led up to the ship. He didn't think he could, but just as he opened his beak he heard Plumbeard's voice from the deck above. The Kyrii sounded extremely angry, and Arkol didn't think to wonder why as he let out an excited screech.
The voice cut off abruptly, then the captain of the ship was peering over the side. He caught sight of the Pawkeet and immediately climbed over the edge, scaling the ladder with the speed of thirty years of experience. He reached the ground and carefully picked up his petpet, inspecting the wing gently. He spotted Braedon by his feet and picked him up as well, then, with a petpet on either shoulder, he clambered back up onto the deck of the ship.
Arkol closed his eyes in relief as he felt the comfortable gentle swaying motion of the ship beneath them. He was quickly passed over to the ship's healer as Plumbeard began a massive tirade, targeting the Eyrie and Gelert who had abandoned the petpets.
Then Plumbeard peered over the side of the ship. Light could be seen in the distance where part of the castle was burning merrily, but there were also pinpricks of light through the trees. Quickly the crew went into motion; sails were tied, treasure was stowed, and then Plumbeard did a quick count. It looked like most of the pirates had made it back intact, but as the lights came closer, they knew they could no longer wait for any stragglers.
At least the anchor was pulled up, and ship began to ascend gracefully, using the cool night breeze to float serenely away from the castle and their pursuers, toward the open ocean. Plumbeard shouted to his crew, and Arkol, back in pride of place on his shoulder, imitated the last word in his Pawkeet's screech.
"VICTORY!" he cried, the Pet word unfamiliar.
Braedon, lazing against a gold goblet that had spilled out of one of the sacks, looked up at him.
"Do you have any idea what you just said?" he asked curiously.
Arkol snorted. "Not the foggiest," he replied.
Then he closed his eyes and fell asleep.
To be continued...