The Greatest Show In Neopia!: Part Four
Krawk Island was finally coming into sight from the deck of the ship on which the four friends had been able to secure passage for the penultimate stretch of their journey. Jarvis, the scholarly Eventide Lenny, was starting to look a little grey around the edges with the harsh sea life, and his friends Kadar and Sherukh had been trying to jolly him along for quite some distance.
It was a huge relief to all of them when Constantina had finally shouted from the other side of the vessel that she could see land ahead, and now all four of them were excitedly crowded together in the prow of the boat pointing at the island that was emerging from the dense sea mists.
There were several other ships and vessels dotted around the ocean in this area, but their sea-faring captain took his time and manoeuvred around them as he pressed on towards the dock area. Typical harbour cries and shouts met their ears while they were still quite a distance away, and pretty green Pawkeets flew through the skies from land to ship with messages from their captains and crew.
There were a few Neopets who looked suspiciously pirate-like here and there, but many more who were obviously simple hard-working sailors - the docks were crowded with them. The general feeling round-about was one of peace and cheerfulness, as everyone worked carefully with what they were doing - sometimes laughing with a companion, or breaking into an old sea shanty with their crewmates. The smell of salt was heavy in the air and the bright sun gave the wet docks a sparkling shine.
Finally, their ship stopped moving and was tethered tightly by the crew. The friends hurried down the gangplank, happily staring at the sights and sounds of this busy, bustling new town.
Connie had her eyes fixed in awe on a giant vessel that was just turning in from the sea, and she accidentally bumped into a large yellow Acara carrying several heavy-looking boxes of fish, “Oy, watch where yer goin’ lass,” he complained gruffly as she helped him steady his load.
“Sorry, I was just looking at that ship. I didn’t mean to bump into you,” she apologised genuinely.
“What yer lookin’ at that ship fer?” he snarled, peering at her closely with sudden unexpected malice in his dark eyes.
She took a step backwards quickly and was relieved to hear Kadar's reply close behind her. “It’s just a big ship is all, isn’t that right, Connie?”
She nodded gratefully in mute agreement, hoping that would be the end of their brief discussion with this unsavoury Acara.
“That there ship belongs to Captain Gavril, he’s guv’nor around these parts and we don’t be likin’ anyone that would be makin’ trouble fer ‘im, you understand?”
“We understand perfectly,” muttered Kadar, steering Constantina away from the Acara and back to the group, “Don’t cause trouble, we’ve got it.”*****
After they had walked off into the hustle and bustle of the town, there was a rather large commotion aboard the ship they had just left behind.
A loud shout had been sounded and a few sailors appeared to be chasing a small stowaway around the slippery deck of the vessel. The tiny rogue skittered around the wooden boarding and beeped furiously at its pursuers. Eventually, it sped towards the exit ramp and rolled away from the ship leaving behind it many confused and frustrated sailors who’d never seen a Neopet quite like it before.
Once it was sure it was no longer being followed, the frantic flashing lights on its head slowed to a steady glow and it slinked quietly into the back streets of Krawk Island, once again following its four targets with a steady determination that only machines seem to be able to possess.
It didn’t notice the steady drip of oil that was leaking slowly from its casings, and it was completely unaware of the dark trail it left behind in black patches as it rolled onwards.*****
Their first day on Krawk Island had been full of exploration and sight-seeing, and the small troop of friends were thoroughly tired-out when they finally arrived at the inn in which they planned to spend the night.
All of them were looking very forward to nice soft beds after sleeping on the rocking ship for so long, and it was barely dark outside when they each started yawning and making their excuses to the others so they could retire early.
Jarvis, Sherukh and Kadar had decided to save neopoints by opting to lodge together in a room with a triple bunkbed. There was a brief argument over who would get to stay on the top bunk - which Kadar won unfairly, by climbing up there and refusing to come back down.
Jarvis settled himself happily on the bottom bed, and Sherukh - after poking the underside of Kadar's mattress a few times - finally settled into the middle bunk, and before too long loud snores could be heard coming from all three of them in the otherwise quiet little inn.
Connie had managed to acquire a room for herself, and she was so pleased to see the soft feather bed that she flopped down immediately, without even bothering to remove her shoes. The poor gold Ruki was so tired that she didn’t notice the unusually large shadow in the corner of the room move slightly. She didn’t notice the soft glow of lights as the shape slowly seemed to come to life. And she certainly didn’t hear the gentle sound of gears whirring as it rolled across the room towards the sleeping Ruki.*****
Kadar was woken by the high-pitched sound of Constantina's scream. He tumbled out of his warm bed, completely forgetting he was on the very top bunk, and fell to the floor, landing in a heap. The tumble stunned him for a second or two, and his companions both tripped over his prone figure in the darkness.
There was a general panic and much confusion, until Sherukh, the mutant Krawk, made it to the lights and bathed their room in a soft glow. Three pairs of worried eyes met each other briefly, as all three Neopets made for the door in a single movement.
Within minutes of the shriek that had awoken all the would-be heroes, the three of them piled into Connie's room, without even pausing to knock. What met their panicked gaze was an open window, a ruffled bed, and no sight whatsoever of their dear Ruki friend.
Jarvis ran to the window and gazed outside, trying to make out some shape in the clouded moonlight that could be Connie. He already knew there’d be no hope of spotting her in the appalling weather, but he had to look.
Kadar was pacing the room angrily as though he could shout and yell at the mystery assailant from right there at the scene of the crime, and Sherukh, who was without a doubt the most sensible of the three in an emergency, went immediately to wake the Innkeeper and report the whole incident.
The Innkeeper, a rather thin looking grey Kyrii, came as quickly as he could, still wearing his pyjamas decorated with little sailing anchors and a light blue nightcap on his sleepy head. He took one look at the state of his room and turned his baleful Kyrii eyes to his guests, “It looks like she’s been spirited away by the pirates. I don‘t think you’ll be seeing that one again, my lads. Did you happen to annoy them cutthroats at all since arriving on the island?”
Jarvis was quick to shake his feathered head, his wing flying to his mouth in horror, but Kadar was suddenly thinking about their encounter with the gruff yellow Acara that very morning.
Could it be possible that showing too much interest in that big ship had been responsible for Connie's disappearance this evening? Could it really be likely that this Captain Gavril, or whatever his name was, was that terrifying that simply pointing out his vessel at the docks had resulted in dire consequences? Kadar didn’t know for sure, but he was certainly going to find out.
Storming from Connie's empty room, he made his way back to their own bunks and quickly grabbed his battered knapsack and meagre possessions. He didn’t want to wait around until the others were ready to accompany him either, in fact he rather hoped that he’d manage to sneak away alone. After all, he had an Acara to pay a visit too, and he’d rather there wasn’t anyone around to talk him out of such a crazy idea.
He muttered a hasty excuse to the Innkeeper, and pressing a few neopoints into the tired Kyrii's hand he left a brief message for Jarvis saying he’d be back soon and to keep looking for Connie in the meantime.
Opening the inn door the Ogrin was dismayed to notice that the bright, sunny afternoon had turned wet and windy as the darkness had crept in. Pulling his jacket tightly around his camouflage shoulders, his anxiety for the gold Ruki spurring him on, he walked out into the night heading in the direction of the docks where he’d last seen his Acara suspect.*****
For such a late hour the town was still actively bustling with life, and there were plenty of people dotted around that still seemed to be hard at work, although at a slightly different range of jobs than their daytime counterparts.
An orange Draik with a scar over his left eye was talking to several Myncies in a suspiciously low tone, while they each brandished a rather large cutlass as he explained something of seemingly great importance; a Nimmo, with the largest shock of purple hair Kadar had ever seen, was trying to sell her mysterious looking medicines and potions to passers by, and a group of boisterous Moehogs were laughing loudly together as they compared each others tattoos under the light of a nearby window.
With the setting of the sun it was as though the entire town had undergone a strange transformation, and the peaceable little place the friends had been exploring that morning, had suddenly been replaced with a malicious duplicate, with shadows in every corner and secretive whispers on every lip.
Kadar nervously made his way back down to the docks, mindful to keep an eye on any of the nightlife close by. He had no idea what he was planning on doing once he got there because he wasn’t quite sure he’d have the courage he needed to start asking these nocturnal Neopets if they knew the Acara he was seeking.
As it happens, Lady Luck was with Kadar that evening, and before he’d made it all the way to the docks he heard a very familiar voice coming from one of the nearby houses.
“Give me some more of that milk, Mavis,” the voice demanded gruffly, “It’s been an ‘ard days work and I’m tired out. Some crazy Ruki bumped into me this mornin’ and I had to rearrange all me fish before I could sell it.”
“Oh, Timothy,” a female voice sang out, “Do ye ever have a day where ye don’t moan?”
“Moan do I? Well I’d like to see you do what I do every day.”
“You know very well I work ‘ard at the shop, without me you wouldn’t have any bread on this table, Timothy.”
Kadar crept closer to the ramshackle little house while its occupants argued and peered through the grimy window into the cosily lit room beyond.
Sure enough, the yellow Acara from that morning - Timothy, Kadar guessed - was sitting at a wooden table polishing the boots he’d been wearing for most of his working day. Kadar sucked in a shaky breath as he made his way around to the front door, and taking a few seconds to regain the composure he’d lost in his night time hunt, he knocked loudly on the wooden frame.
To be continued…