Captain Karen: Part Four
It was almost midnight when Karen sneaked back to her room. She changed into her pajamas and sat in bed with a book in her lap. She fiddled with her locket, lost in thought. There had to be something missing. There was surely something connecting her to this mystery. Karen couldn’t quite figure out just how she belonged in this or how she had even gotten mixed up in it to begin with. Her original goal was to just learn how to be a pirate, not a detective. She put the book back on the nightstand and decided to sleep. Perhaps the mystery would make sense after a few hours of sleep. She was also curious about the random scratching noise she had started hearing. She figured it might be just a random noise you hear on old ships. It was an odd scratching noise, almost like a miamouse. She quietly got up out of bed and slowly paced around her room.
She had determined the sound was coming from Seamus’s room next door. If it wasn’t a normal noise on an old ship like she thought, then it may be Seamus whittling. Seamus had a passion for wood carving. He’d even shown Karen a collection of wooden petpets he had carved and painted. He brought them along as his good luck charms. Her interest having been slaked about the noise, she went back to her bed and curled up with the Speckled Grundo plushie she had brought. Tomorrow would be a new day, and she couldn’t wait to start it.
* * *
“What were you carving last night?” Karen asked Seamus as he sat down to pancakes with the crew. Minus Thadius, who didn’t like pancakes.
“I wasn’t carvin’ anything.” Seamus replied reaching for the syrup.
“I thought I heard a scratching noise from your side of the wall.” Karen said. “It was pretty loud; I assumed you were finishing that Cyodrake you started at departure.”
Seamus shook his head. He had heard the mysterious scratching noise, but assured Karen that it had not been him making it. Seamus had spent his entire life around ships, and it even struck him as odd to hear the scratching. It was too big to be a miamouse. Miamice were quiet in their nightly adventures. Whatever this was seemed to make a point in being loud.
“You heard the noise, too?” Trillian asked. She had only been on board for a day and already she knew something was going on.
Thinking quickly and not wanting to discuss the mysterious noise in the presence of Percy and Pippet, whom Karen believed may have a hand in the mysterious noise, turned to Seamus and asked if it was his turn to clear the dishes. It was not, thankfully. Trillian was on dish duty and she would have it done quickly. Karen finished her breakfast and asked Seamus to hurry with his. She had decided they should study his letters first thing in the morning, so he wouldn’t have to stay up late and do it alone. All the while she tapped her pinky finger on the table in a bored, beat-less pattern.
Seamus had somehow deduced that he was in for more company than just Karen and he was fine by that. Kiana was excellent at quizzes. He wanted to put what he had learned so far in the last two days to the test. Karen had said he was doing very well, so he wanted to prove it to himself. He followed Karen back to his room and picked up his notebook from his bedside table. There was some sort of slime on the corner and a chew mark. Something had been nibbling on his lessons. He chuckled; he was a bit too old to be claiming his petpet ate his homework.
He studied with Karen for a good fifteen minutes before the others came in. Everyone except for Percy and Pippet and the captain were in attendance. The captain and the brothers were organizing the storage room. Levi noticed the chew marks on the notebook and produced a cookbook with similar nibbles taken from the top right corner. Not far from the dresser where Seamus kept his carved petpet menagerie, Kiana found a large chunk of chewed wood. It looked like it had been a faerie Baabaa. That one had been Karen’s favourite.
“So, we’ve all heard the noise at some point during last night,” Levi stated, his deep voice rumbling like distant thunder. Everyone nodded and shared what time they had heard the sound in their rooms. So far only Levi and Seamus had suffered from this mysterious creature chewing on their belongings. They compared the bite marks on their books, and then closely examined the remains of the carved statuette that had been chewed to near unrecognizable lumpiness.
They all agreed it was definitely not a Miamouse. Levi had owned a miamouse as a kid. Chucky had never gotten bigger than a tennis ball. He certainly didn’t chew on things and leave this much drool behind. Whatever this was, it was bigger. They were about to list of suggestions as to what this mysterious creature could be when suddenly the horn sounded. Captain Thadius wanted them all on deck for morning chores. They all got up and quietly left for the deck.
* * *
“Miss Pratchet and Miss Maylong,” Captain Thadius said, turning to them. “You two will be swabbing the halls below deck. I don’t want to see one spec of dirt down there.”
Karen and Trillian nodded and waited for dismissal. Thadius barked more orders loudly. He kept Jasmine on deck with him, as he wanted to teach her how to steer the ship and add to her navigational talents. By teaching her wind directions, which were tricky in the middle of an ocean, he was sure he could make Jasmine into a legend among mariners.
As usual, Levi and the wockies were tasked with cleaning up the galley and taking inventory in the store room with Kiana. Ashild and Seamus were left to swab the deck and be scrutinized by Captian Thadius, who was very adamant about a clean ship. There were no complaints, only a chorus of “Yes, Sir!” from the crew.
* * *
“Trill,” Karen said, “Look there.”
“I see it,” Trillian whispered.
They were speaking in hushed tones as they cleaned the hallways below deck. They were not worried about being overheard by their crew-mates, but by the mysterious creature. Karen had spotted crumbs in a messy line leading to a remote corner of the ship. It was the crews’ quarters that were unoccupied. There were at least four empty rooms still left on the ship and one of them had the mystery creature in it. The crumbs were from a brain muffin. It wasn’t anything Karen thought to be concerned about. Back home in the Haunted woods, brain muffins were popular, especially among the resident Zombie population and Karen’s best friend.
“You take the two on the right,” Trillian said, “I’ll poke around the ones on the left.”
“If you find it, don’t scream.” Karen said, “Stay calm and get out of there quickly. We’ll get the Captain together.”
Karen entered the first room. It was dusty and showed no signs of having any mysterious being in it. She moved quietly towards the bed, and looked under it. She found a large cobweb and a bag of marbles, left over from a long forgotten time. She tied the bag to her belt and continued. The dresser was empty and smelled of old pine. Nothing underneath the dresser either. Karen made her way towards the half opened chest opposite the bed, and looked in it. Success! There was a mess of crumbs from another brain muffin in here. Tip-toing back to the door, she met Trillian in the hall.
“I found more crumbs in a chest.” Karen whispered.
Trillian nodded. She had found little paw prints in the dust on the dresser and more drool. They made their way to the last two rooms. Karen wasn’t scared; she had studied under captain Three-legs every summer from age five to her twentieth birthday. She was confident she could defend herself. Trillian had been studying under the Techo master year round since she was two. She was twenty-eight now and had all the confidence of a super-hero. Whatever this was, they’d be ready.
There was nothing in the room Karen had entered; it was just as empty as the last one. A thud came from the room Trillian was investigating. She heard Trillian running after something and ran for the door. Trillian ran for the door from the room and met Karen in the hall.
“It got away.” Trillian gasped. “I didn’t see what it was. It scooted under the dresser, beside the bed and into a hole in the wall.”
“It may have gone up to the deck.” Karen said, “Maybe one of the guys will see it.”
“I hope so.” Trillian said.
* * *
He could feel the eyes drilling into his back, scrutinizing his every move. Ashild didn’t want to turn around and meet the angry gaze of the captain. He and Seamus had been assigned to swab the deck and so far it had not gone according to plan. Ashild had accidentally tripped over his mop, knocking the bucket of soapy water over and making a giant puddle. After he had righted himself, he then slipped in the water and had gone careening into Seamus. Jasmine from her place at the ships wheelhouse had started giggling. Thadius had even smiled at the clumsy mutant Grundo before scolding him.
They had eventually gotten the giant puddle cleaned up, but not before Ashild had accidentally tripped Seamus with his mop, and then tripped himself. He was aware of how clumsy he was and had gotten a lot of bumps and bruises as a kid. It was the reason he had wanted to study medicine. He liked helping people, and clumsy people were very common. His teachers had praised him for how calm and gentle he was while he worked. He was incredibly patient with everyone. You’d never guess he was clumsy when he was working. However, when he was set about doing chores he always found a way to make the chore last an eternity.
“Mr. Koric, what seems to be the problem?” The captain’s stern voice called from the wheel.
Ashild jumped as he’d only just realized he had been staring into space. Seamus wasn’t far away, mindlessly swabbing his side of the deck. Ashild thought he saw a hint of irritation on the Kacheek’s face. He couldn’t tell though, Seamus’s face was hidden by the shoulder length ginger hair he hadn’t bothered tying back. When the captain was satisfied with how clean the deck was, he dismissed them both to do as they pleased until lunch.
They stored the mops and buckets away in the closet just under the stern, beside the store of spare rigging. Seamus was irritated. Ashild saw it through the thick rust coloured bangs that hung sopping wet in the Kacheek’s face. He had apologized to Seamus, a few too many times perhaps, but he had done so. Just as Seamus turned to say something to Ashild, the kacheek stopped and stared at something.
“Look,” He whispered. “The pile of old sails.”
Ashild looked. The pile wiggled and moved, almost like there was something in it. Without saying a word, they both snuck up on the moving pile of sails. This could very well be the creature they had discussed earlier. They surrounded the pile and prepared to jump. Seamus exchanged a look with Ashild, who nodded in return. Seamus counted down silently on his fingers and on three Ashild tackled the moving pile. Seamus jumped at the sail that had dodged the giant Grundo and missed. The sail ran around the deck before colliding with a wall. Seamus had been quicker on his feet than Ashild and had reached the immobilized sail before him.
“Nothin’s here,” Seamus said shaking out the sail. “What on Neopia are we dealin’ with?”
“Not a clue,” Ashild said, “I just hope…”
“Mr. Koric, Mr. McFinnigan!” Captain Thadius bellowed, “What are you lads up to?”
They both looked at each other. It had been pretty hard to miss seeing the sail go running around the deck and being chased by them. How would they explain this to Thadius, though? They noticed Jasmine up at the wheel; she had come to their rescue. They couldn’t quite make out what she was saying, but it seemed she had seen everything and was now telling Thadius. They owed her one.
* * *
It hadn’t been the best of mornings for Jasmine. Almost three days on a ship had her believing she would be able to follow her passion as a navigator and topographer. But somehow, someway, her mother’s personal Weewoo had found her and had delivered a hand written Neomail. It was a rather angry note. Her mother had expressed disappointment at her leaving home without asking first and demanded she return at once. She wasn’t going to return, she didn’t want to. She had decided she was grown up enough to start making her own choices and she wanted to see the world. Her father would understand, but her mother never would.
She was roused from her thoughts when she heard the crash of a heavy bucket being overturned. Ashild had tripped again. She smiled at him. She really liked Ashild; he was like the brother she had always wanted. Jasmine watched as Ashild stood up and slipped in the water. He had slid into the scrawny green Kacheek and landed on him, much to the kacheek’s annoyance. It hadn’t been the first unfortunate encounter either. When they were getting the mops to start the chore, Ashild had accidentally knocked the bucket off the shelf and it had landed squarely on Seamus’s head. She watched them as she steered the ship and kept them on course for Roo Island.
She enjoyed watching them from her little place on the ship. She had also noticed the sails. She wasn’t sure if a stray gust was moving the pile of worn sails Karen had taken down yesterday afternoon, or if there was a stray sea bird nesting in them, but they definitely were moving. The boys were too busy swabbing the deck to notice, and Thadius had wandered over to the rail to watch the waves. She thought about getting his attention, but decided against it when he turned to scold Ashild for daydreaming. Another twenty minutes went by as Jasmine kept a close eye on the discarded sails while doing her own job. Thadius had gone back to staring at the ocean and didn’t notice when the boys had jumped at the pile. He had only heard the audible thud of Ashild landing hard on the deck and turned to see the sail darting around the deck.
He bellowed loudly. Jasmine knew she had to do something or they’d be scolded again. So she decided to tell him the truth.
“Sir,” She said, “We think we may have a stowaway.”
“A stowaway, you say?” the captain said, “Do tell, Miss Sterling.”
“We’ve been hearing odd noises,” Jasmine began. “Seamus and Levi both had items ruined too. We think it may be a petpet of some kind.”
The captain nodded. It was plausible. He had more than once found a stowaway petpet on board. His favourite had been the little angelpus that had snuck on board in a box of fruits. First-mate Nadeen Maylong had offered to adopt it. It was okay with him to have the stowaway onboard.
If they caught it, then they’d figure out what to do with it.
It was probably a Miamouse or something, anyway.
To be continued…