Petpet Adventures: Windrider - Part Five
The morning brought grey clouds and the sight of sails on the horizon. Plumbeard stood on the quarterdeck, staring thoughtfully back as it doggedly followed them, while Arkol dozed contentedly on his shoulder. He was not inclined to move, as his wing was still extremely sore. He wouldn't be flying for quite a while yet.
The skyship was flying the Meridellian colours of blue and red, and it was much larger than Windrider, but Arkol had complete faith in his wily pet. And the ship was probably full of Meridellian Knights. They were tough, cunning fighters on even ground, but place the obstacles of a ship – enclosed space, numerous things to walk into and trip over, ropes hanging everywhere, and most importantly, the constant swaying motion – and the pirates had more experience.
He yawned and waited until Plumbeard conveniently walked by the rail, then quickly hopped off his shoulder and strutted towards a hatchway, where he had last seen Braedon.
"Braedon?" he called down the narrow stairway.
"Helloooo..." The echo came from the galley, and Arkol made his awkward way towards it.
He squeezed through the door to see the Krawk sitting on a nearby table, observing four pets as they played Bilge Dice. Arkol went up to the table, and with a chirp got the attention of one of the pets, who lifted him up to join the Krawk. He noticed the Eyrie that had left him in the woods was one of the players, and let out an indignant squawk as he walked over and covered the pet's dice and dubloons with his wings.
The other pets around the table laughed, and motioned to their companion, who sat back, a peeved expression on his face. But the crew never gave up the chance to play Arkol at Bilge Dice. Arkol picked up a dice in one claw, and rolled it. A one. He chuckled to himself. He most likely would win every round they played; it was quite easy to do with weighted dice.
After his tenth consecutive win, which had earned him the boisterous cheers of the other players, and a substantial amount of dubloons, Braedon reached out a paw.
"Can I play?" he asked. "I think I've figured it out now."
Arkol grinned. "Well, I'm fine with that, but you'll have to ask them."
The Krawk immediately stood up and strode over to one of the other pets, a pirate Lupe, waving his paw imperiously. The Lupe chuckled and pushed his dice forward, as well as the few dubloons he had left.
"It's on," Braedon said, narrowing his eyes dangerously.
Arkol yawned, unconcerned. "If you say so," he replied, picking up his dice again.
Before they could start, however, there was a shout from on deck, and then a horn was blown. Arkol instantly dropped the dice he was holding and raced towards the pirate Lupe as fast as his bandaged wing would let him, hopping onto his shoulder. The other pirates had already rushed out of the galley, and Braedon looked around in confusion, before quickly leaping onto the Lupe's other shoulder as he strode away from the table.
"What is going on?" he asked, twisting around behind the Lupe's head and pushing his face close to Arkol's.
"It's an alarm. The enemy ship is gaining and is close enough that we need to prepare for boarding." Arkol twitched his feathers in anticipation, then continued in a gloomy tone, "But I suppose there's no good treasure on their ship if they're just trying to get their money back. It's so much more fun to board and pillage another ship than have them attack yours.
They came onto the deck, and Arkol noticed that the sky looked much more dreary than it had earlier. He blinked away the light drizzle that had begun to fall and smiled. The pirates would be used to fighting on a wet and slippery deck, having just acquired the skyship, but their opponents – hopefully – would not.
He twisted around to see the larger Meridellian skyship closing in. It was still a few kilometres away, but it would catch up within the next hour. Squinting in the other direction he could not make out their destination yet. They were heading towards Krawk Island to stow their booty, but they were too far away to receive any help. Pirates almost always helped out other pirate ships under attack by authority – if only to steal their treasure afterwards.
He located Plumbeard, which wasn't at all difficult. The Kyrii was standing on the quarterdeck, bellowing orders and pointing frantically, one paw resting comfortably on the hilt of his sabre. Arkol carefully made his way over to him, but perched on the railing, not wanting to risk the erratic movements his pet would make while preparing the ship. Braedon sat companionably beside him, staring up at the sky with his jaw agape.
"Looks like it's going to rain," he said.
Arkol snorted. "It's going to be a storm. And a bad one at that. I can feel it in my feathers."
To his surprise the Krawk grinned, and he frowned. Maybe there was something weird about Braedon, if he thought that was a good thing on a ship.
"Well, I've never seen a proper storm before," the Krawk said. "I've barely even seen rain. Tyrannia is almost as bad for rain as the Lost Desert, so I hear."
Arkol stared at him in astonishment. Then he shrugged. "Well, I can assure you that you probably won't enjoy it."
Braedon grinned. "We'll see."
By now every pirate was on the deck, loaded with as many weapons as they could comfortably hold. Then they began hiding most of them around the deck; under neatly stacked sailcloth, behind barrels, dug into the wood in various nooks and crannies.
"What are they doing?" Braedon asked as he followed Arkol towards the wheel.
"Oh, it's just something we do if our ship is under threat. Every pirate knows where an extra weapon can be found, just in case." Here Arkol paused and looked around with interest as the pirates began bringing up long pieces of ropes with clips on the end. Then he realised that they were actually thin chains, obviously intended to keep the crew on board the ship. They were long enough to allow some movement on board, and would prevent any pirate from falling the great distance into the ocean.
The other ship was closer now, bearing down on them with a stately grace that Arkol had to admire. He could almost make out the figures on board.
A shadow fell over him, and he looked up into Plumbeard's eye. The Kyrii was holding up a vial of powder, and Arkol immediately held out his wings, stretching the injured one as far as it could go. He felt the magic begin to work, and snapped his eyes open, taking in every detail of the enemy's ship. His gaze fell on the pets in the rigging, drawing the strings of their bows.
"Archers!" he screeched, immediately leaping to the deck of the ship, huddling close to the railing.
He knew the rest of the crew should have heard him, and hoped they had found cover, or a shield, as the first telltale thuds began.
Plumbeard had ducked down as soon as the Pawkeet had spoken, and was now cursing very heavily in Pet.
There was an even louder thud as one of the pets that had been busy furling the sails for the storm fell to the deck. Arkol was sad to see that it was the young Blumaroo who was on his first voyage. He lay groaning for a few seconds, then managed to drag himself behind some cover. By that tie the other ship had closed in.
The pirates had responded with a ragged wave of arrows. There weren't many skilled archers on board, but everyone had to be able to use a bow, even just to look threatening and make the enemy pause their shooting for a few seconds. But they all knew how to use cannon.
The previous owner of the ship must have been reasonably well-off or just extremely paranoid, because the ten cannon on board were clean and new, and also much larger than those on Krawken's Fear. Arkol was leaning towards the first option, as the ship had been much too easy to steal for a paranoid pet.
There were five simultaneous bangs, and five cannonballs flew determinedly through the air towards the other ship. Only three managed to hit, as the other ship was trying to prevent them getting in a full broadside. Instead they peppered the pirate ship with arrows. It was a good strategy; hopefully there would be no pets left to man the cannons when the ships came around again.
But the pirates were prepared. Each cannon was manned by four pets. Two were quickly reloading, forelegs and wings black with powder, while the other two held large shields over them. The remaining crew members doggedly answered with arrows of their own.
The two ships came around again, and the sound of cannons cracked out. Again Windrider's crew managed to send out their shots almost together, the result of years together at sea. One cannonball shot cleanly through a piece of sailcloth, while another crunched into one of the enemy's cannon, sending it flying.
Arkol watched as a cannonball sailed directly over the railing above him and smacked into the mainmast, which splintered slightly, but held firm. He breathed a sigh of relief, and took a chance to look over the rail at the other ship.
Then there was a flash of lightning, and the storm began.
To be continued...