Overboard: Part Five
Xepen and Maya travelled for a week in the life boats; many of the crew members had managed to bring some food when they'd evacuated the burning ship; however, it was only enough to last a few days and the crew had to rely on fish to survive. Many of the members had split up during the journey; the ones that could survive underwater left them to travel to Maraqua, and others simply decided to go separate ways in hopes of reaching land faster.
In the end, Maya and Xepen had ended being separated from most of the crew, including the captain, and they'd travelled west with only two other pirates. They spotted land early in the morning one day, and they abandoned the small boats to swim to the land. The other two crew members who'd travelled with Maya and Xepen went their own way, leaving the two young girls to figure out what to do next on their own.
"Where are we?" Xepen asked as they took in their surroundings.
It was extremely hot, and looking around, they could see nothing but flat sand for miles.
"My guess is the Lost Desert," Maya replied.
Xepen closed her eyes and let out a sigh.
"I can't believe this is happening. What are we going to do? How am I ever going to get home?" Xepen cried, sitting down in the hot sand.
"Well for now, you'll have to wait. We have no food, neopoints, or shelter. I suggest we go to Sakhmet or Qasala, whichever is closer, where we can find shelter and food. Perhaps we can find a job and work our way towards buying a ticket to Faerieland." Maya explained.
Xepen let out a groan.
"That will take so long, isn't there a faster way? I just want to rest in my bed again," Xepen complained.
"No, Xepen. We have nothing; the only thing we can do is get to civilization before it gets too hot. Maybe when we get there you can send a neomail to your owner; she might come get you, or send you neopoints, right?" Maya replied.
At this, Xepen stood up.
"You're right," she said. "Let's go, then. Which way is Sakhmet?"
Maya thought for a moment, looking around, as if trying to determine their location.
"Sakhmet is north of the Lost Desert River; which is leading into the ocean down there," Maya explained, pointing with her hoof.
"Judging by the sun's position, east is that way." Maya turned to point in another direction. "If we're east, we have to travel directly west to reach Sakhmet. So it's this way."
Without another word, Maya starting walking in that direction, and Xepen followed. Xepen was highly impressed with Maya's knowledge and calculation skills. She suddenly felt ridiculous for the way she'd reacted moments before. Xepen had immediately whined and complained as she was used to, but Maya, instead, had focused on figuring the best decision to get them out of their situation and to safety, and even thought of an acceptable solution to Xepen's concerns about her owner.
The two were silent as they made their way along the river; Maya constantly on the lookout for other pets or signs of a nearby city, and Xepen was still comparing herself to her Ixi companion in her head. Xepen found herself wishing she were as smart, quick-thinking, and brave as Maya. Although the events in the past month had considerably changed her, Xepen still found herself longing to go back home and be spoiled like she was used to.
It took almost all day, with several stops to rest and drink from the river, but Xepen and Maya finally made to Sakhmet before sundown. Instead of resting like Xepen wanted to, Maya dragged her around the city looking for the first place that would hire them.
"We have nowhere to sleep tonight, Xepen. If we get a job as soon as possible, if we're lucky the owner may give us some neopoints in advance to pay for some food, and maybe find a place to stay for the night," Maya explained as she dragged the reluctant Wocky through the large desert city.
They stopped at every stall and tent they passed, and it wasn't until most of the shops were closing when they came across a small tent on the outskirts of the city that sold hand-made jewelry. There had been a sign hanging outside indicating that the shop was looking for some help, so without second thought the two pets entered the tent and approached the shopkeeper; a short silver Pteri.
"Excuse me, ma'am, but my friend and I desperately need a job, and we saw that you are looking for help?" Maya asked.
The Pteri turned and looked at the two pets, studying them for a moment. Then she grinned.
"Yup, I am. You two look like fine pets; are you good at cleaning and counting?" she asked.
"Sure. We've both worked on a ship cleaning, and my friend here has had much experience around neopoints," Maya replied casually.
The Pteri nodded.
"Very well, you two can start first thing tomorrow morning. Be here at 7 AM and I'll show you what to do," she said, smiling warmly.
Xepen was shocked. That was all the Pteri cared about? Xepen had never been interviewed herself, but when Karina would hire new servants and maids for their mansion it was automatically assumed that the pets she was interviewing knew how to do the job; there was no training. Karina's main concern was that they were trustworthy, had work experience, got along well with others; and she always had them fill out paperwork. She always made sure she knew as much as possible about the pets before giving them the job.
"Thank you so much, ma'am!" Maya said.
"Oh, you two can call me Aspen, no need to be formal; and you're very welcome," the Pteri replied.
Xepen turned to leave, but Maya stopped her.
"Also, I hate to impose, but my friend and I just arrived in Sakhmet today, and have no place to sleep, would it be alright for us to stay here tonight?" Maya asked.
Xepen felt like they were being rude, but Aspen didn't seem to mind at all. If anything, she was more than happy to do so.
"Oh, why didn't you just say so? Go right ahead; I'd invite you to come home with me but unfortunately I don't have the space," Aspen replied.
As Aspen spoke, she hung a sign that read 'closed' outside the entrance.
"Make yourselves comfortable, I'm afraid I don't have a decent place for you to sleep, but I have some food in the cabinets in the back, and I can pay you this week in advance to rent a place tomorrow," Aspen added as she prepared to leave for the night.
"That's perfect, thank you so much. Good night," Maya said as the Pteri left.
Once she was gone, Xepen and Maya went into the back and helped themselves to some Pyramibread and sand fruit. Xepen picked at the fruit at first, and when she realized it was actually edible, she nibbled at it a bit. It wasn't very good, but it beat the food she'd been fed on the pirate ships.
"I can't believe that lady trusts us enough already to let us stay in her shop alone overnight; she doesn't even know our names," Xepen commented. "Things are so different here."
"You've never been far from home, have you?" Maya asked as she bit into a sand pear.
"Not without Karina; and we've always stayed in the tourist areas. I've never experienced life outside of first class mansions and hotels," Xepen admitted sheepishly.
Maya sighed, reminiscing. She had not thought about her family in a long time...
"I guess I'll just have to wait awhile to go home. I only hope Karina is doing alright, I feel like it's been an eternity since I last saw her," Xepen said sadly.
Maya was silent for a moment.
"I've always wondered what's happened to my family in the years since I've been gone," Maya said quietly.
Neither of them said anything for a few minutes, until Maya spoke again.
"I ran away when I was twelve. I hated the rich life, strange as it seems. My owner wanted me to go to neoschool and become the owner of his clothing-design business. He designed formal suits, dresses, skirts, and shoes. I was the oldest of four, so that made sense, I guess. I hated all that stuff, though. I wanted an exciting life filled with adventure and risk. I really wanted to be a travelling scientist, journeying to different areas of Neopia discovering new cures for diseases, new species of petpets and plants and fruits. I wanted to see the world, but I was trapped in a twenty-room mansion, expected to fill a position I loathed." Maya stopped to take a breath, and glanced at Xepen, who simply nodded for her to continue.
"I ran away because he didn't support my dreams. I felt like he was holding me back from who I was, and I didn't want him to ruin my life. So I took the most desperate measure. I packed some food and water, bought a basic green paint brush, painted myself, and went to Krawk Island, where Captain Volspir found me desperately looking for a job. I didn't really have any other choice, so I joined The Dark Voyager."
When Maya finished her tale, she closed her eyes with a sigh.
"Wow. I've never felt like that at all. I guess I've had it easy. I've never had to do anything for myself until now; I have a caring owner who loves me and just wants to see me happy. She gives me everything, and asks for nothing in return but a smile," Xepen said.
"You're lucky," Maya commented.
"Yeah..." Xepen trailed off.
She had never really thought about it, but she suddenly realized how lucky she truly was. Xepen had simply grown used to having everything handed to her, and this was the first time in her life she'd ever had to fend for herself. And if it wasn't for Maya... she even couldn't begin to imagine where she would be right now.
"What color were you before?" Xepen asked curiously.
Maya smiled sadly. "Royal," she replied.
"Oh... Just like me." Maya nodded, and they were both silent for a moment.
"Maya, why didn't you ever become the scientist you want to be? Four years passed, and you're still a pirate?" Xepen questioned.
"It was too difficult, really. I wasn't educated enough, and I didn't have the time to go back to school, or the money to support myself without the crew. It just ended up never happening. Besides, I did enjoy being a pirate. It was exciting, and it was better than staying with my old family, at least," she explained.
"The only problem I ever had with it was that it was kind of lonely," she added. "I was actually happy when you came along because I thought I would finally have someone to talk to with another female on the ship." Maya admitted sheepishly.
Xepen smiled. She was surprised that Maya was sharing all her thoughts and history with her. She had taken Maya as a girl who rarely spoke about herself, and would snap at her for too many questions about her past. Instead, Maya seemed almost happy that she could finally let it all out. Perhaps Maya had never been very secretive; maybe Xepen was just the first person who'd ever taken the time to listen.
To be continued...