Overboard: Part Three
Karina's forest green eyes scanned the newspaper article on the front page of the Neopian Times.
Young Royal Wocky reported missing after ship to Mystery Island crashes in storm.
Several days had passed since the storm, and after the ship had gotten together and the excitement died down, the ship's crew had helped Karina search for her neopet; however she had not been located anywhere on the ship, the islet, or in the waters surrounding it. It had been later assumed Xepen had fallen off the ship at some point since Karina had figured her pet would look for her outside, and although the guests had not been allowed to go outside, it was discovered that one of the back doors had in fact not been locked.
Karina had already spent thousands of neopoints to hire the Defenders of Neopia, as well as several other rescue teams to search for Xepen in the ocean and the land surrounding the area the ship had crossed. So far there had been no luck, and Karina was growing increasingly worried with each passing moment for her poor little Wocky.
* * *
The room Xepen was in was dark and cold. Her cell had less than four square feet of space, barely wide enough for her to lie down; the floor was made of rotting wood, and it smelt heavily of sea salt and moss. Xepen had been there for days, and the pirates had not said much to her. The only one of them she ever saw was an Aisha who brought her meals twice a day. Xepen had attempted to ask him several times what the pirates were going to do with her, but she never received an answer.
She was absolutely miserable. Her muscles were cramped, her fur was matted and dirty, and the food she was given to eat was awful. So far all she had been served to eat was gruel, and she hated it, but had no choice other than to shove it down or starve.
A full week passed, and Xepen finally realized that she may never be let free, and clearly nobody was going to rescue her. Karina probably had no idea where she was, and neither did anyone else.
Xepen realized that for the first time in her life, she had to help herself. Her only choice was to escape; the problem was that she had no idea how. She tried to think of a plan, but was unsuccessful. The key to her little prison cell was not kept in this room, as far as she knew. She didn't know how to pick a lock, and even if she did, where could she possibly go after that? She was stuck in the middle of the ocean.
Xepen spent every moment desperately trying to think of a way to escape, and by the end of the day, she decided her only chance was to wait until they reached land. Perhaps the pirates planned to hold her hostage, and Karina would come along and pay them ransom, and Xepen would be set free. Knowing her recent luck, Xepen wasn't counting on it, and she was beginning to grow hopeless.
Early the next morning, though, it seemed that luck was on her side. The sun had barely risen when Xepen heard a commotion coming from above deck. She could hear shouting, and footsteps running back and forth. It sounded like objects were being thrown, and, looking out a small window outside the cell, she could see a large object next to the ship. It looked like another ship, and Xepen's hopes lifted. Perhaps it was the Defenders, and they had decided to search the ship for her!
Xepen waited patiently for a Defender to come to her rescue, but one never did. After almost twenty minutes, Xepen could hear footsteps rushing down the stairs, and her ears perked up. Walking through the door, however, was not Judge Hog, to Xepen's discouragement, but another pirate.
It was an Acara. At first Xepen assumed it was one of the crew members, however he approached her cell and stared down at her curiously.
"Um, what's going on up there?" Xepen asked timidly.
The pirate's eyes hardened. "My crew's raidin' your ship. I'm the captain of The Dark Voyager, don't ya know that? Your ship's our enemy, and we're finally capturin' it." He explained.
Xepen's eyes widened. What was going to happen to her?
"Why did you come down here?" Xepen asked.
"I'll ask the questions. Why are ye here?" he asked, glaring sharply at her.
"I was captured," Xepen admitted.
"I see," the Acara said, raising an eyebrow. "In that case, ye are of no use to me." The Acara turned to leave.
Thinking quickly, Xepen decided to use this encounter to her advantage.
"Wait!" she called after him. "You have to help me get out of here! I- if you do, I have some information about this crew that you might like to know!" Xepen shouted.
This piqued the Acara's curiosity enough to make him stop and turn towards her. His expression, however, was more skeptical than anything else.
"How could ye possibly know anythin' about this crew that I care to know? You're a prisoner," he pointed out, his eyes still emotionless.
Xepen's thoughts swarmed for a convincing explanation.
"I- I know where they keep all their treasure. It's not on this ship. They have a hideout in a cave where they keep important information. That's why they captured me, because they thought I was a spy when they found me inside!" Xepen explained. She didn't necessarily know for sure that the cave she had seen was where their treasure was kept, but she had to think fast. She was smart, despite her lack of experience with independence, and knew that this may be her only chance of escape. Surely there must be something of value to the crew of The Dark Voyager in that cave, and even if not, Xepen decided it was a chance worth taking.
Clearly Xepen had the Acara interested, as he walked closer her cell to speak to her.
"My crew's tried to rob this ship many a time, and we've never made much profit. We'd figured they must 'ave a hidin' place somewhere. Fine, I'll break ya out of here, and ye will bring me to this cave." he spoke monotonously.
Before Xepen could respond, the Acara lifted a maractite sword from his sheath and broke the lock off the cell door with one swing.
"Come with me, now," he said.
Without protest, Xepen followed the Acara through the exit and up some stairs to the deck. It was much louder outside. All around her, pirates were fighting and running back and forth. As the Acara led Xepen towards The Dark Voyager, her eyes stopped on the captain of the ship that had captured her, and she hesitated. The shadow Gelert was only a few short feet away, busy fighting off a group of pirates from the opposing crew.
Xepen's gaze landed on the Gelert's pocket, where she could clearly see a silver chain dangling out.
Her heart leaped- it was her necklace, they hadn't sold it yet! Clearly the captain had believed Xepen when she'd told them it had incredible value, and was keeping it with him at all times. Before she knew what she was doing, she felt a rush of adrenaline coarse through her, and she slipped over to the Gelert. It was only five large steps for her, and without thinking, Xepen crouched low, and without drawing attention from the pirates, she snatched the chain from the pocket of the Gelert.
None of them noticed the Wocky until she had the necklace clenched in her own fist and was sprinting back towards the Acara.
The Gelert captain froze, and yelled out at her, but couldn't chase her due to the three pirates before him, who had taken no interest in the little Wocky's pilfer. The Acara glanced back at her as Xepen caught up with him.
"Sorry," Xepen panted. "That Gelert took something of mine, and I just wanted it back," she explained quickly, afraid the Acara would be angry with her.
To her surprise, the Acara grinned. It was somewhat twisted, but he looked amused and impressed.
"I never took ye for a thief," he stated.
"What? Oh, no, I'm not, I just needed to get my necklace back..." Xepen replied.
The Acara raised an eyebrow, but said nothing more.
As they boarded The Dark Voyager, the captain told Xepen to wait while the rest of his crew finished raiding their enemy pirate crew. As they returned, some with prisoners and treasure, others with only weapons, they all spared Xepen a glance. Some looked confused, and others glared. Xepen began to feel uncomfortable, but she knew that this was her only way to survive, so she waited until the invasion was over, and the captain called the entire crew to meet Xepen.
Xepen shrank back as over two dozen pirates circled around her and the captain.
"This here is Xepen. She's a captive from The Plathydon. She's a part of our crew from now on, and will be leadin' us to their hideout," the captain announced.
Several murmurs of disapproval arose from the group, and Xepen glanced up in shock and concern at the Acara behind her. The captain said nothing else to his crew. Instead, he turned and motioned for Xepen to follow him.
The pirate captain didn't say anything else to Xepen as she followed him, and she was forced to be the first to speak.
"Sir, um, why did you tell them I was joining your crew? I did not plan-" Xepen was cut off by the captain's sharp reply.
"It's easiest for now for them to think that you're a part o' the crew. I can't have them talkin' about me doing a favor for a prisoner of The Plathydon crew. You can return home once we've found their cave, but they'll treat ya better this way if they think you're one of us." he explained.
"But I'm not a pirate! They'll find out, and-"
"No, they won't. For a young little Wocky, ya have a lot of potential. That little thievery ya made was quite impressive for a small girl like you. You'll pass off just fine as a beginner, despite your paint job, and obvious upper-class background." he explained, eyeing her knowingly.
Xepen followed the captain to his quarters, where he asked her to describe the location of the cave. She explained all she knew about it- that it was on an area of Krawk Island, away from any visible civilization, and that it was beneath a high cliff with vegetation and trees above it. The captain was hardly satisfied with Xepen's vague description, but he accepted it and had the ship set off for Krawk Island.
Afterwards, Xepen was led to a small bunkroom, which she would be sharing with the only other female on the ship. She was a scrawny green Ixi, with sharp, narrowed eyes and windswept fur.
Xepen was introduced to her when the captain showed her to the room, and she immediately became suspicious of Xepen.
"So you're the newest crew member, huh?" she asked once the Acara had left; her voice was filled with scorn.
"Um, yes, I am. My name is Xepen," Xepen replied, sounding more confident than she felt.
The Ixi looked her over skeptically, and then scoffed.
"You expect me to believe you're a pirate?" she asked, almost laughing.
Xepen felt dejected by her comment, but also, for some reason, irritated.
"Well, why wouldn't you?" Xepen demanded, no longer feeling timid.
The Ixi just snorted.
"Just look at yourself. You're small, young, and by the looks of your attire, from a wealthy family."
Xepen raised an eyebrow. Her clothes were dirty, torn, and wrinkled. Not to mention they were considered casual by first class Neopians. Although, she reflected, these are not first class Neopians. To the Ixi, and all the other pirates, Xepen's dirty clothes were still considered to be in better condition than the clothes these pirates were accustomed to. Before Xepen could think of a response, the Ixi spoke again.
"Oh, and you're painted expensively, of course," she added.
"Um... I'm not painted; I'm blue, a basic color. I've just... been at sea for a long time, and the salt fades the color," Xepen lied, vainly.
Xepen doubted the Ixi would buy it- especially since she knew she had not sounded the least bit convincing- but she decided that if she was going to pretend to be a pirate, it would be best for the crew not to know where she was from.
"What do you think I'm stupid or something? You are not blue, you're Royal. You can't fool me, and the crew's not going to buy it, either. We're not that obtuse," she finished.
The Ixi went to exit the room, and paused before opening the door.
"Dinner is upstairs at 5:00. Go up and take what you want, and eat where you want. We hardly ever eat all together unless it's a special occasion. And also, my name's Maya."
With that, Maya exited the room, leaving Xepen alone.
To be continued...