Captain Karen: Part Five
T he scratching noise had gotten louder. Over the last four days the crew had been trying to catch the mysterious creature. Even Percy had made an attempt at catching it. Levi had noticed the Wocky’s attempt had been nothing more than a show of bravado, almost like he was trying to blend in. Karen was awake trying hard to hold as still as possible. The scratching noise was coming from in her room. It was five in the morning and no one else was awake yet. Carefully, Karen trained her ears on the sound. The quick tshk-tshk sound grew louder.
It then stopped. The noise was gone. Karen slowly sat up and saw what had been making the noise. It was perched on the end of her bed, staring at her with blank, angry eyes. It was a Zombie Meepit. Karen was terrified of Meepits. Everyone has that one special thing they’re afraid of and for Karen it had always been Meepits. She screamed so loud, Seamus would later comment that the folks on Kreludor could hear her. She jumped out of bed and ran for the closest room possible. Seamus just barely had time to open his door before Karen ran in and slammed the door closed with a frightened ferocity.
“Kap,” Seamus yawned, “What’s the matter?”
“M-mm” Karen stuttered, “Meepit! There’s a meepit in my room, make it go away!”
The door flew open as Karen was stuttering out her sentence and Captain Thadius, followed by every crew member on the Mourning Star came into Seamus’s cabin. Thadius, irritated at being woken so early, looked at Karen and Seamus.
“What’s with all the screamin’?” Thadius thundered.
“Ew,” Kiana called from the hall, “There’s a zombie Meepit on the ship!”
“Well then,” Thadius said, “We’ll just have to catch it. Miss Maylong, go to the store room and find something for bait.”
Trillian hurried out of the room and left everyone to hear Thadius’s plan on how to catch the scary little creature. Admittedly, he had no love for Meepits either. When he was a boy still living in the Haunted woods with his family, their neighbour had a Meepit who kept stealing socks. The neighbour kid had even given her a whimsical name to befit her obsession.
“Her name was Sock-O,” Thadius said, “When we went to get the socks back from her, we got a right nip on the hand.”
Trillian had come back from the store room quickly, carrying two brain muffins and a petpet carrying cage. The starry Zafara tossed them to the Wocky brothers and instructed them to try and lure the undead petpet into the hall. Unfortunately, the zombie Meepit was smarter than it looked. Instead of stumbling into the hall for the brain muffins, it shuffled around Karen’s room aimlessly, refusing to acknowledge anyone. Ashild and Trillian crept into Karen’s room, hoping not to startle the creature and tried to herd it towards the door, where Levi had the carrying cage set up. It was for a Kadoatie, but it would fit and hopefully hold a Meepit. They rushed at the undead petpet and chased it into the hall way. It skittered between Levi’s legs and he missed it entirely as it continued to run.
It had now found its way into Seamus’s room where Karen was hiding. She ran out the door after it ran in and it followed her out immediately. On her rampant run down the hall she crashed hard into Ashild. The startled Meepit couldn’t move fast enough to avoid having the cloud Xweetok fall on it. Karen had accidentally captured her worst fear. Levi scooped up the stunned creature and placed it securely in the carrier. Ashild and Karen apologized to each other quickly, before Karen dove behind the giant Mutant Grundo. She peeked out from behind her friend, eyeing the cage.
“C-can,” Karen stuttered, “Can it escape?”
“Unlikely. You can come out now.” Levi smiled.
Karen thanked Levi and quickly closed her bedroom door, just in case the meepit escaped and decided it liked her room the best. Everyone was awake now, so she decided to hang out with the girls until breakfast was ready. Once they were all seated in Trillian’s cabin, they began discussing the Meepit. It was strange the creature appeared just after they left Mystery Island. Kiana had mentioned she had seen the brothers buying something from a vendor in the trading post. She just couldn’t get close enough to them to see what because she had been with Thadius on an errand. She had her suspicions that the brothers might be trying to spy on the crew using the petpet. What they were not expecting was a Haunted woods resident with a morbid fear of Meepits. Irony had foiled the brother’s plans this time. Karen reached a hand to her neck to toy with her locket as she normally did when she was thinking, only to discover it wasn’t there.
“My locket, it’s gone!” Karen cried.
“It must have fallen somewhere when you bumped into Ashild.” Trillian said.
“We have to find it!” Karen stammered, “My best friend gave it to me.”
“Why didn’t she come with you?” Jasmine asked.
“She was never into being a Pirate.” Karen admitted. “She liked the idea though. She made me promise to find her missing Uncle. I intend to keep my promise to her and become a pirate queen.”
Karen hadn’t mentioned it, but she had already found her friend’s uncle. Her best friend was Melody McYardsen, the little green Aisha in the portrait hanging in Thadius’s cabin. She didn’t share this information. She didn’t even tell the captain. She wasn’t even sure how she would begin to explain. It was a very bizarre situation. Melody had said he had left and never returned not long after Melody’s fifth birthday. She still didn’t even know how she, herself, fit into this mystery.
They spent the next hour talking and painting their nails. After a crazy start to the morning, it was nice to relax. They still had seven more days before they reached Roo Island. Karen was still upset about her missing locket. Jasmine had hoped to take her mind off it by painting their nails and braiding their hair. Jasmine loved Karen’s sky blue hair and had wound it into a tight bun with thin braids jutting out the middle. In return she had let Karen braid her own hair in a Neovian fashion. Her star dotted midnight hair hung in two thick braids that were tight against her head and reached her shoulders. Trillian and Kiana didn’t have hair long enough to braid. Kiana had short curly red hair reaching just to her neck. She said it was easier to manage when it was short. Trillian had her blonde hair cropped. Her reasoning was braids and long hair were a distraction during her training back on Mystery Island.
She idly reached for the locket that was no longer there. That locket had been her treasure. Melody had given it to her with a picture of them as little kids and a picture of them now. It held lots of fond memories. Suddenly a thought hit Karen.
“That’s it!” She exclaimed, “That’s how he’s held onto it for so long!”
“What do you mean, Kap?” Trillian asked, the confusion in her voice matching the looks on everyone’s faces.
“Thadius’s treasure,” Karen explained, “The reason why no one has stolen it is because they can’t see it! It’s not treasure, like gold and jewels. It’s something personal.”
Suddenly this all made sense. The captain had a record of more than thirty years at sea, and he’d been rumoured to have held on to the legendary treasure that long. No one had stolen it, because no one knew what they were looking for. It was the perfect way to hide something. They discussed this at length. None of them had ever seen the captain handling an item of value. Karen had seen many things in the captain’s cabin a week ago, but nothing outside of the portrait had struck her as being treasure-like. At some point Percy and Pip had realized that no one wanted in on their plan for a mutiny, and had just stopped talking to everyone outside of doing chore work. They now lacked insight on the devious plans the brothers had.
When they heard the bell ring for breakfast they all got up and went to the galley. Levi had made a delicious assortment of turnovers. Karen immediately went for the blueberry turnovers. Anything blueberry related was her favourite breakfast food. The rest included Apple, peach and lemon. Each had their favourite. Even captain Thadius was present at this breakfast. The brothers, however, were not. It was going to be a long week.
* * *
They would reach Roo Island just in time for Karen’s twenty-fifth birthday in seven days. Karen was excited by this. Roo Islanders were famous for their party throwing talents. She might even get to meet King Roo himself, if she was lucky. In the last two days, everyone had searched the ship from top to bottom looking for her locket. Even though no one found it, the idea of a birthday party on Roo Island cheered her up quite a bit. They had also done a lot in keeping Perceval from nosing around the captain’s quarters. Levi had caught him twice trying to pick the lock on the door. He had promised the first time not to tell Thadius about it if Perceval helped him out in the galley.
Levi was in on the plan to prevent Percy and Pip from causing trouble until they could make landfall. True to his word, he didn’t tell Thadius the first time. Instead he told the girls at one of their secret after curfew meetings. The second time he did tell Thadius. He had told Perceval he wouldn’t and asked for help testing new pastry recipes his parents had given him before departure. Thadius calmly dismissed Levi’s concern in the same way he had dismissed Karen’s a week earlier. He wasn’t concerned about what the troublesome pair thought he had. If the two wanted to believe he was dumb enough to keep something worth stealing on his ship, then they would be sorely disappointed.
* * *
It was a chore keeping up with the energetic Popglid brothers. Over the course of the first week on the ship, and the incident with the Zombie Meepit, the brothers had taken to trying to get out of helping Levi in the galley. They had begun to realize it was to keep them occupied and out of trouble. Levi had gotten to know both brothers pretty well over that first week, and he could say he definitely did not trust either of them. Pippet was more reasonable and talkative than Perceval was. The electric Wocky didn’t mind helping Levi with recipes. Growing up he had loved helping his mother and their elder sister bake pies and cookies, while Percy ran around the docks pestering Seamus and the other kids. Perceval often came home covered in sand and kelp from playing at the beach. Levi had no problem’s getting Pip to open up about their plans and what they thought the captain’s treasure might be. Pip had also been the one to suggest the crew go searching for Karen’s locket. Levi had the suspicious feeling that he just wanted to snoop, but then again, he maybe he was trying to be nice.
Perceval on the other hand hardly said anything at all. The pirate Wocky was quiet and moody. He was always plotting. More than once Levi had caught him standing around staring off into space, instead of washing the dishes like he had been asked to. Ashild had even noticed Percy’s absentminded plotting, too, before Levi had banned him from helping out in the galley. Levi liked Ashild, but he was too clumsy to be around the dishware. Oddly enough, Trillian was the one who kept repeatedly breaking the dishes when it was her turn to put them away. Her problem was she moved too fast and tried to get the chore done quickly. He had promptly forbid her from handling the dishes outside of washing them.
It was at the after curfew meeting the night after they had caught the meepit, (whom Thadius had called Swishy,) that they had discussed the possibility of Thadius’s treasure being personal, instead of profitable. This made sense to Levi, but at the same time that one incident with the Pant Devil had left him with the logic that important things belonged in very safe places. So it was hard for him to imagine what it might be.
He had even let Kiana braid his long white hair, while they were discussing this. He normally just kept his hair tied back in ponytail, and hidden under a chef’s hat. So seeing how long his hair was had been the next topic of discussion at the meeting. Girls Levi had though rolling his eyes and chuckling. He had two younger sisters at home who loved messing with his hair.
With the breakfast dishes from that morning finally washed and stored away, he was about to wander over to Seamus’s room to see if the skinny green Kacheek wanted to play around of Kou-jong with him when he heard the horn blow. Morning chores had already been completed, so he could only guess what the captain wanted with them now.
* * *
“Everyone is here,” captain Thadius smiled. “It’s time for me to be choosin’ my new quartermaster, or first-mate as some of ye call’em.”
A week had seemed long enough to get to know everyone. Truthfully, he had thought about making Trillian his quartermaster and continuing her mother’s legacy. He had also thought about giving the position to Jasmine; who rightly deserved it for her talents as a navigator. If she believed in herself a bit more, she would make a fine captain herself. Instead, though, he decided to give everyone a fair chance. He had decided to do so by asking a question.
“You and your crew have uncovered new land,” Thadius began, “and you find an old stronghold. Who do you send in to investigate?”
The crew all looked at each other. It was a question none of them had really been prepared to answer. Perceval decided to try his luck; he had been bragging that he would be a first-mate on a ship before any of them.
“Ye’ll send whoever you want, you’re the captain.” Perceval said. “It’s logical to keep the Boatswain and the Sailing master out of it though. So if we go anywhere like that, Karen and Jasmine could stay behind.”
The crew silently nodded at Percy’s practical thinking. Even Karen had to admit, she was impressed by his foresight. It didn’t stop her from speaking up, however.
“If I was captain, I’d go.” Karen said. “I could not expect others to follow me, if I could not do the same, as I would expect of my crew. I would be avoiding responsibility.”
That was the answer Thadius had been looking for. One simple answer that showed responsibility and bravery, an answer that marked a leader. The mark of a leader was not in the ability to lead, it was in the way you chose to use that ability to lead. You could not stand behind a crew and expect them to follow orders. No, instead you had to stand beside them and lead them by example. Only tyrants like captain Scarblade ruled their ships like that. Ruling with fear only bred traitors in the crew.
“Very good, Miss Pratchet!” the captain said, “A very respectable answer. You will make a fine second-in-command. Now, choose your replacement, we can’t have the rigging and deck chores going undone.”
Karen looked at the faces of her crew-mates. The captain had made her the boatswain the very first day she had been on the ship, because of her willingness to work and do the harder tasks. She had loved raising the anchor, and keeping the ship maintained. Truthfully, whoever she picked as replacement, she’d help out. She made her choice. To her it seemed like the best one. When she had a ship of her own, this person would be promoted to first-mate under her captaincy.
“Seamus,” Karen said.
The green kacheek stared. He had come aboard thinking he’d be a good deckhand, he never thought he’d get his dream to be something more. He smiled and made his promise.
“I won’t let ye down!”
To be continued…