Just a Phase
"I'm sure you're all wondering what you're doing here," Legend said.
Legend was in the front room of his Neohome in Neopia Central, his seven nieces and nephews (and their Petpets) sitting in front of him. He saw Marc and Ana exchange glances.
"Not really, Uncle Legend," Amalia, Marc and Ana's older sister said.
Legend smiled. "Fine, what are we all doing here, then?"
"Since we're here, this probably has to something to do with a play, a new story or a party."
"That's correct, Amalia-."
"What about a garden? I love the labyrinth that Uncle Legend put in our backyard," Brandi, one of Legend's youngest nieces interrupted him.
"The labyrinth? Brandi, you're not supposed to go in there," Zachary, the orange Aisha's older brother exclaimed.
"Oops! I mean... Well, Zach, it isn't fair! I never get lost!"
The six year old pouted and Legend had to laugh; Brandi was always doing something to earn her full name, which was Firebrand. He shook his head, still smiling.
"You get that from your Uncle Lofty. If he's been to a place once, he won't get lost on a return trip," Legend explained.
"Uncle Legend, why did you ask us to come over?" Ana asked in her sweet, low voice, so much like her mother's.
"Well, Amalia was quite right. I would like you all to participate in a play I've written."
The two six year olds: Brandi and her cousin, Angela, had spoken in the same instant. Filled with energy, they loved anything that included the word play. However, this was their first time being included in a production. Once they were focused, they would settle into the work involved alright. Legend went on to explain about his play, what it was about and what he wanted each of them to do.
"Pirates," Marc commented doubtfully.
The rainbow Ogrin had read stories about pirates, none of them good. Thankfully, his uncle hadn't asked him to be an actor. The Uni was going to use his nephew's artistic abilities on the set.
"Yes, Marc, pirates," Legend said.
The Uni had known that the play would be a little difficult to sell, at least for his older nieces and nephews.
"This can't be true! Its far too fantastical for that," Amalia exclaimed.
"Is this a true story, Uncle Legend?" Yekaterina, Zach's twin sister, asked, voice as gentle as Ana's.
"Yes, it's true. Its based on an old pirate captain that I know," Legend explained.
"This is true," Amalia exclaimed, eyes wide with disbelief.
"Is there anyone you and Uncle Lofty don't know?" Zach wondered out loud.
"Dr. Sloth and Scarblade," the Uni replied, a bemused expression on his face.
"Uncle Legend, are we going to start today?" Brandi asked, tugging on the Uni's pant leg.
"If you'd all like, yes."
They worked out all of the details that day. Brandi was the main character, a disgruntled cabin girl who tried (and failed) to start a rebellion on the ship. Angel had almost had a meltdown at her cousin being the star but her uncle wisely made her ship's captain, which appeased her. The woodland Uni made sure his young nieces and nephews got home safely, pleased at that day's work. He had no idea at what he had set into motion; he only looked forward to opening night and success.
At home, at supper that evening, Yekaterina, Zach and Brandi all chattered on to their parents about what they had done that day.
"I wondered why my youngest child was dressed like a pirate. I almost didn't recognize you, Brandi," X said.
"Father, I have to be in character. Uncle Legend said," Brandi exclaimed with her mouth full.
"Brandi, don't talk with your mouth full."
A pirate's red with white polka dots bandana was placed on the young orange Aisha's head, was covering her short blue bob almost completely. She had a pirate Aisha collar on, along with the red and white striped shirt and black eye patch. The loss of one of her eyes didn't seem to bother her in the least. X and Nisha, her parents, exchanged a glance. They supposed they could get used to having a pirate instead of a little girl in their home, at least until the play was over and done with.
That wasn't far in the future, now was it?
Five Weeks Later
"Arg! Ye scurvy dog!"
Brandi's voice could be heard from the playroom across the hall from the living room. It had been a week since the play had ended. It had been successful, like everyone knew it would be (it was a Legend production, after all). Now, there was just one catch. Brandi was still in character.
The orange Aisha not only dressed like a pirate but she talked like one, too! She read books about pirates and seemed to take the lifestyle to heart (she drew the line at the food). She was trying to talk her parents into redoing her bedroom like a pirate ship. Her parents were at a loss but they hoped that Brandi would tire of being a pirate soon enough.
One Month Later
"OK, Brandi, your Aunt Sweet and I would like to talk to you," Lofty said.
"It's Captain Brandi, actually, Uncle Lofty. For you and Aunt Sweet, it can be shortened to Cap'n," Brandi said.
"Yes, ma'am, Cap'n," Aunt Sweet said with a smile and a salute.
The baby Yurble and jelly Shoyru siblings had taken their young niece on a private tour of the Chocolate Factory (they and the yellow Kiko who owned the Factory went way back). They had planned this tour for a month at least and had really looked forward to it. Now they were back at their Neohome, enjoying s'mores, courtesy of the Chocolate Factory, in front of a roaring fire. Brandi's parents had talked to Lofty and Sweet, hoping they could get Brandi to stop being a pirate (for their many talks hadn't worked). So far, Lofty and Sweet had yet to convince Brandi of anything but they weren't the type to give up easily.
Lofty exchanged a glance with Sweet. He decided not to get into it with Brandi about how a captain earned the title. It just wasn't worth it.
"Cap'n Brandi, why are you a pirate? Why not just a sailor?" Lofty asked.
Brandi opened her mouth but no words came out. She blinked her blue eyes, closing her mouth slowly. Her face crinkled in thought. Her aunt and uncle were quite amused by this. They waited patiently for their niece to answer.
"I like being a pirate 'cause it's different," Brandi said at last.
"Different," Lofty and Sweet said together.
Brandi didn't respond right away, her mouth filled with chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker. They waited for her to finish, hoping that their niece would elaborate on her answer. However, she seemed to think her answer had been enough, for-once she had swallowed her large sticky bite-she took another.
"Cap'n, what-exactly-do you mean by different?" Sweet asked.
Brandi swallowed her mouthful with difficulty. Another moment passed before she was able to answer.
"You know, Aunt Sweet. Pirates have cool accents and everyone respects them. They don't have to follow any rules and they do all sorts of neat stuff. They're always off on an adventure," Brandi said.
Lofty and Sweet had to agree with Brandi, it was all true. However, she seemed to not know or understand the other half of what a pirate was. The cursing, the curmudgeonly personality, the smuggling and other illicit activities that they had no qualms about being involved in. Well, at least they had found out the why of it. The grandfather clock chimed the hour.
"Its getting late. We should get you home, Cap'n Brandi," Lofty said.
"Aw, wait! I wanted more s'mores!... Can I spend the night? Please," Brandi exclaimed.
Sweet shook her head, "No,-"
"Wait, let her stay, Sweet. It'll be fun to have a sleepover and it will take some time to clean up here," Lofty interjected.
"Yes! Thank you, Uncle Lofty! Thank you," Brandi cried, clinging to her uncle's thick, fluffy body.
"Alright, a sleepover it is then. I'll send G.G. Bear to let your parents know, Cap'n about our change of plans," Sweet said, failing at hiding a broad smile.
The jelly Shoyru wrote a note, her brother adding his own to hers before sending G.G. Bear, Sweet's jelly Ona, off. The Ona reached the Neopian Central Neohome late that night. He opened the front door, immediately setting off a flurry of high pitched barking. Yekaterina and Zach were up and waiting for G.G. as he entered and their parents soon enough came down the stairs, Nisha holding a struggling Fluffy (her eventide Walking Carpet), who still barked madly. The Ona ignored the frenzied Walking Carpet, heading straight for X.
The spotted Gelert quickly scanned the proffered Neomail. He glanced at his gathered family before taking in the drooping G.G. Bear.
"You must have had a long hard flight, G.G. Take a rest here before returning to Terror Mountain," X offered.
The jelly Ona gratefully curled up on the stairs, where Fluffy sniffed at his sleeping form eagerly. This lasted for only a moment before a squeaky growl made the curious Petpet leap backwards, landing with a thump. Those watching could only shake their heads hopelessly, used to the anxious Petpet by now.
"So, Father, what does the note say?" Zach asked.
"We were right. They did keep her for the night. They also found out why Brandi has stayed a pirate. Its because its different,' X explained.
Nisha smiled and slowly shook her head, "She likes the novelty of it, of course."
"I hope it wears off soon. I'm not sure how much longer I can take this," Zach said.
Yekaterina nodded her head in silent agreement. They all hoped this would be the case.
Three Months Later
It was one month before Brandi's seventh birthday and she was still a pirate, much to everyone's exasperation. Everyone had tried to talk the young Aisha out of her it. When her parents tried to get advice from others about their situation they were told it was just a phase. Every child went through them. It would pass eventually. Brandi's family did their best to accept Cap'n Brandi but they all longed for the old Brandi that they knew and loved.
It was Lofty who had the idea. He ran it across his brother and his wife.
"Brandi still doesn't know what pirates are actually like. She has to learn, now before this sticks. I would suggest meeting a pirate if it weren't so dangerous. She has to be taken to Maraqua. Legend can get an audience with King Kelpbeard. Brandi can learn first hand what pirates are really like," Lofty said.
X and Nisha agreed to the plan. A date was set. Legend would ride with her to Maraqua and hand her off to her Uncle Noedin. The yellow Tuskaninny would care for the orange Aisha for the rest of her stay in Maraqua. Legend and Brandi boarded the ferry.
The trip would last for a few hours. It would be just enough time to prepare Brandi for everything she would need to know while she was in Maraqua. The woodland Uni sat his niece down on a bench on deck.
"Brandi, there are things I have to tell you. No one likes pirates in Maraqua. Its not my place to tell you why. Second, captains earn their titles, they aren't self-appointed," Legend said.
Brandi listened in silence. Her blue eyes widened in alarm when her uncle said that she was going to a place that didn't welcome pirates. It made sense now that her parents had her wear her normal clothes instead of her pirate ones. She didn't worry, for she trusted her family to take care of her. They wouldn't purposely put her into danger.
So the six year old still looked forward to the visit. She had never been to Maraqua before. She wondered what living underwater was like. Her Uncle Lure had made her drink a potion and put on a cream. They allowed her to breathe underwater and not to get wet.
Brandi was kept occupied on the ship, exploring, pestering the crew and (only for a moment) she paused to look out to sea. The time passed and they soon enough stopped above the great city of Maraqua.
"Brandi, it's time for you to go," Legend called.
"Yes! Uncle Legend, can I jump right over?" Brandi exclaimed after she saw some teenage boys do that exact thing.
"No, Brandi. You'll have to wait until you're older to do that. You have to take the ladder."
Brandi sighed, used to being told that by now. She climbed down the ladder obediently. She stopped a few rungs up and leapt into the water with a splash. She was met in the water by her Uncle Noedin. He was one of the few family members that Brandi didn't know well (though she did recall seeing him at get-togethers).
Nathan, Noedin's yellow Nuranna swam around Brandi and Abacuc, her Nedler (who had also taken the potion and applied the cream) saying hello.
"Let's go. I don't want to keep King Kelpbeard waiting. I've never met him before and I'd like to make a good impression," Noedin said, picking up the pace but only enough that his niece and her Petpet could keep up with him.
"You've never met King Kelpbeard before," Brandi exclaimed, surprised.
"No. I'm not exactly on the king's must meet list."
They were silent for the remainder of their swim. Brandi hoped that Uncle Noedin would give her a tour of Maraqua. However, at the moment, she was focused on meeting the king. She had never met a ruling monarch before. This was so exciting!
There were two guards standing in front of the palace gate.
"State your name and your business," the female Maraquan Scorchio said.
"I am Noedin. This is my niece, Brandi. We were recommended by Legend to meet King Kelpbeard. We have an appointment," Noedin said.
The gates were opened and Noedin and Brandi (along with their Petpets) were allowed into the Maraquan palace. A Maraquan Grarrl guard escorted them to the throne room. King Kelpbeard sat on his throne as Noedin and Brandi were announced. They swam forward and halted before him. Noedin bowed deeply to the king, Brandi following her uncle's lead.
"It is an honor, your majesty, to meet you," Noedin said.
"If you are friends of Legend, you are friends of mine. Now, we aren't going to stay here. Instead, we are going to the Maraquan Hall of History. Follow me," King Kelpbeard said, his voice deep, rumbling, commanding, as a king's should but low.
Noedin and Brandi followed after the large blue Koi, a Maraquan Hall of History. A red Nimmo met them as they arrived.
"Welcome to the Maraquan Hall of History. I am the historian of this fine establishment. If you need any assistance, I shall be in my office," the red Nimmo said, bowing before heading for a door marked OFFICE.
King Kelpbeard led Noedin and Brandi around the Hall, the monarch explaining about how pirates had destroyed Maraqua. He explained how Maraqua had been rebuilt and how the same pirates had tried to destroy Maraqua a second time.
"Thankfully, they failed. I couldn't let my people down. Scarblade was stopped but that doesn't mean that pirates are safe-," King Kelpbeard was cut off.
"But, Garin is a pirate," Brandi interrupted.
"Garin and his crew are the exception to the rule," Noedin explained gently, glancing at the king, hoping that he hadn't been offended.
"I still don't trust pirates I don't want any in Maraqua. Noedin is right. Garin and his crew are the exception," King Kelpbeard said.
The tour was finished. Noedin excused himself and his niece from the king's presence. He took his niece to Kelp so that they could talk over what Brandi had learned. Brandi uncharacteristically didn't say anything for a long time. She looked thoughtful over her meal.
"Uncle Noedin,... I had no idea that pirates were bad. Why did no one tell me?" Brandi exclaimed suddenly, slamming her fist on the table and receiving glares from the nearest patrons.
"Brandi, calm down. Would you have believed anyone? Thus far, you hadn't done any harm. We had to think of a way to tell you that would convince you wholeheartedly without any doubts. By your reaction, it worked," Noedin said calmly.
Brandi growled, frustrated, not looking at her uncle again as she finished eating. This self-imposed silence didn't last long. By the time they had exited the restaurant, Brandi was her usual sunny self once more.
"Uncle Noedin, will you take me on a tour of Maraqua?" Brandi asked.
"Certainly," Noedin said, choosing not to address the past six months.
The tour went fine and Brandi went home that evening. Everyone took Noedin's cue, glad that the last six months were finally over! However, knowing Brandi, they knew things wouldn't stay normal for long.