The Treasure of Smuggler's Cove
Clyf, a pirate Krawk, laughed heartily, taking another swig of grog. His face was flushed with happiness. Him and his crew were sitting at The Golden Dubloon, basking in the glory of another day of piracy. Their pockets were fat with dubloons, and their bellies filled with good food. Around them, the small tavern along the coast of Krawk Island bustled with activity. Waitresses tended to the needs of the patrons, the chef cooked openly in front of the customers, and some more outgoing Neopets were dancing with each other giddily while others cheered them on.
Around Clyf sat his companions, a motley crew unlike any Krawk Island had ever seen. Each member of the group had a real name, but that name had been lost to history. Once they became pirates, they were given new names that reflected their personalities and talents.
There was Skippy O’Scar, a Skeith with a jagged scar covering his left cheek. Nobody knows how he got it, because he changes the story every time you ask him. One time, he said he cut himself shaving. Nobody believed that one. One time he even claimed he got it fighting Captain Scarblade, even though Scarblade hadn’t been seen in decades. Skippy was a rough and gruff, stereotypical pirate as one would imagine a pirate to be. But those who knew him knew he had more going on underneath the surface. Underneath that tough exterior, he was kind, loyal, and fiercely protective of his friends.
There was Kenny Knifeblade, an expert Grundo marksman who never missed a target. You didn’t want to be anywhere near him if he had a knife in his hand. After escaping Virtupets Space Station and getting to Neopia, he had been determined to make something of himself.
There was Sammy Sails, a tall, shrimpy-looking Lenny, who was more than meets the eye. Sammy was an expert navigator, and could find his way out of the darkest storms. Although he was a little puny-looking, he was not to be trifled with. He was just as tough as anybody else on the crew.
There was Grubba Bub, the crew’s chef, a Grarrl who looked a little grumpy right now because they chose to eat at The Golden Dubloon instead of eating his food. But in all fairness, his food looked pretty questionable most of the time. But that didn’t stop the crew from eating it. As far as Grubba knew, he was the best chef around, and nobody was going to make him think otherwise.
There was Blitz the Buzz, an expert swordfighter who was so nicknamed because he was constantly buzzing around, looking for a fight. At the moment, he was impatiently tapping his feet on the floor, hands shaking with nervous energy at sitting still. Blitz was younger and smaller than the rest of the crew, and some felt he was constantly buzzing around as a way of compensating for his age.
And finally, there was Lilla Lips, a Usul who was named for her big mouth – and big attitude. The only female of the group, she compensated with a rough, no-nonsense attitude and understated femininity – her only feminine quality was her long, curly hair and bright red lipstick. Many pirates tried to speak to her, intrigued by her, but were quickly discouraged by her tough-as-nails attitude. Lilla made it clear that she didn’t need anybody but herself.
Clyf’s nickname was Clyf the Clever. Clyf could charm his way out of any situation, and always seemed to find an answer for things that seemed impossible. For example, every time they had a close scrape with the law, Clyf found a way to bail them out. Every time they encountered a monster they thought could not be defeated, Clyf found a way.
Lilla was the next to speak. She lowered her voice and leaned in towards Clyf conspiratorially, her dark curly hair rustling softly as she did so. “So, Clyf, I know where we can go next,” she said.
“Oh yeah? Where’s that?” Clyf asked, taking another bite of his pizza. He had ordered Loretta Fontaine’s Perfect Pizza. Loretta Fontaine, who had delivered his pizza for him specially, was in the corner. He made eye contact with her, and she smiled. Blushing, Clyf looked away.
“Smuggler’s Cove. Ever heard of it?” Lilla asked.
Kenny, who had been tapping a knife in between his outstretched fingers, uninterested, looked up with a snort. “Have we heard of it,” he said, scoffing. “It’s only the most famous legend in the history of piracy. But it isn’t a real place.”
Smuggler’s Cove was rumored to be filled with the most rare treasures known to Neopiankind. Legends said that the smugglers were a group of pirates predating Captain Scarblade who traveled the globe, collecting everything they could find. Because they were such advanced pirates, they were able to smuggle things that other pirates couldn’t. It was said they had a cove filled with treasures. They were long gone, and never revealed the location of that cove to anybody. Many had tried to find it, and many had failed.
Proof of Smuggler’s Cove’s existence had never been confirmed, however, and it was accepted by most as a tall tale. Except there were a rare few that believed it was a real place. Skippy, whose face lit up the second it was mentioned, was one of those few.
“Go on, Lilla,” he said eagerly, his scarred eye twinkling. “What about it?”
“Well,” Lilla said matter-of-factly, “I have a way we can get there.”
She looked around at the group, who stared at her, their jaws dropped. Clyf was the first to find his voice. “No you don’t,” he said dismissively.
“Oh, I don’t?” Lilla asked, eyes sparkling impishly. Without a word, she pulled out a small, rolled piece of paper from her pocket. She dropped it in front of Clyf. Despite his skepticism, Clyf dove for the paper, unwrapping it.
It was a map to the Smuggler’s Cove. It started at The Golden Dubloon and seemed to go all the way across the Neopian globe, ending in a place Clyf didn’t recognize and had never been to before. The others stood behind him, jostling each other to try and get a good view.
“Where did you find this?” Clyf asked, astonished.
“It washed up ashore the other evening,” Lilla said carelessly, taking another sip of her drink. It was fruity and colorful. “It was inside a glass bottle. And it was addressed to you, Clyf.”
From her pocket she produced the glass bottle. Indeed, the name “CLYF” was written on it in dark, messy ink. Clyf grabbed it eagerly, staring at it. It seemed so surreal. Where could this have come from?
“So, we are going, right?” Blitz asked, his wings twitching eagerly. He had a skull and crossbones tattooed on his wings.
“Uh, yeah we are!” Clyf said. He held up his drink to the crew. They followed suit, raising their drinks. “To treasure!” He yelled.
“TO TREASURE!” the rest of the crew yelled back.
The next morning felt different than other mornings. This was Clyf’s thought as he stood on the deck of his ship, the Krawken, overlooking the ocean. The sun rose over the horizon, creating a rainbow of oranges, blues, and pinks across the water. A gentle breeze caressed his face, rustling his silver hair. It felt like the winds of change.
Clyf had been so excited last night he could barely sleep. When he did, he dreamed of treasure, piles of sparkling gold and silver and gems stacked as high as mountains. He kept the map in his hands all night, worried somehow that he would lose it. He fell asleep holding it to his chest. And even now, he had it by his side.
Lilla walked up beside him. “You ready, Clyf?” she asked. She leaned onto the deck’s railing, looking out at the ocean with him. Behind them, they heard the crew readying the ship to set sail. Sammy was charting the course, and Kenny was adjusting the sails.
“I am,” he said. He paused, then added “A little nervous. This is a big deal.”
“Yeah, it is,” said Lilla, shifting her weight slightly. “But so are you. I found this bottle for a reason, and your name is written on it for a reason. The universe must have a pretty big plan for you.” She gently touched his shoulder supportively, and then walked off to help the crew.
Yeah, but what? he thought. All his life, Clyf knew he was destined for more than what he was currently getting out of life. It was why one day, years ago, he left home with nothing but a small suitcase and a dream, and never came back. It’s why he had spent his life living in leisure, a Krawk and the sea, belonging to nothing and nobody. There was, of course, a part of Clyf that longed for one place to call his own. He wanted to have a purpose in his life.
Unbeknownst to him, Clyf’s understanding of who he was and what he needed was right around the corner. And it started – and ended – with Smuggler’s Cove.
To be continued…