The Dark Detective:Part Four
"So you see, we really are in the same boat here. Well, not boat. Island. Predicament. You know what I mean.” Dark gave Soren a cheerful grin, and the Kyrii gave him a rueful nod in return.
Soren was the leader of the group Dark had mistaken for natives of the island. They were in fact, marooned much the same as he and Elena had been. They had been ship wreckers, making a living off the coasts of Krawk Island, until their ship had been raided by pirates, and they had escaped to the seas. They had lost their captain in the battle, and had been stuck living on the island ever since.
The mud – apparently – kept their skin from burning under the harsh sun.
They were a pleasant group, Dark soon discovered, but a bit down in the dumps. Which he thought was understandable, given they had been marooned over a year ago, and were thoroughly sick of their island prison.
They had listened to his tale with fascination and sympathy, and were particularly thrilled to hear that his fellow marooned best friend had magic. He tried explaining that she really wasn’t very good and they shouldn’t get their hopes up too high, but it seemed too late for that.
“So what do we do now?” Dark asked Soren, after polishing off a roasted Grackle Bug that one of the crew had given him. “We need to take Sebastian back to Elena, she’s pretty worried. She should still be at the same clearing I left her – unless she’s gone wandering. In which case she could be anywhere.”
The Kyrii gave the Meepit a distrusting glance.
“We have already sent someone to escort them here. You are welcome to live with us in our cave – it’s very cosy.”
“Hang on a minute – live with you?” Dark’s eyebrows shot up. “Soren, we’ve got to get off this island. We live in Shenkuu. And we owe someone a Krawk!”
The Kyrii looked puzzled.
“Dark – we’ve been stuck on this island for over a year. Don’t you think we would have tried to get home by now if we could?”
“But why haven’t you – you do have a boat, don’t you?”
“Of course we do. But we’ve never made it further than the shore. Each voyage attempt has lost members of our party, until all we have left is what you see.” He gestured around at the group. “We don’t have a captain.”
“Surely you don’t need a captain to sail from an island.”
“You do if the island is cursed.” Soren replied, and Dark’s eyebrows went up higher than they ever had before.
“Cursed?” He breathed, his large dark eyes sparkling with interest.
“Cursed,” the group repeated solemnly, and Soren nodded gravely.
“There’s something in those waters. Every time we made it out past a certain point, our boat would be attacked. We never saw what it was. But it was huge – and it was mean.”
“Oh, so like a giant sea squid.”
A mystery! Dark’s skin tingled deliciously.
“So you’ve never made it past this – thing. But how did we get through it to land on the island? How did you, for that matter?”
“We don’t know,” another pirate, a Meerca named Ash, piped up. “We got caught up in the most terrible storm and it’s only by some miracle that we landed at all. We could have ended up halfway to Tyrannia.”
“Ew.” A lightbulb glimmered inside Dark’s mind. “We came here in a storm, too. Not a particularly natural one – but that’s not really the point. Maybe this sea creature only attacks when the water is calm, and stays below when it’s storming. Maybe – maybe all we need is a storm, and we can sail right out.”
“There’s never been a storm of that ferocity since we’ve been marooned here. It’s a pretty peaceful island, if you forget about the sea monster lurking nearby.”
“SEA MONSTER?” Dark whipped his head around at the sound of Elena’s unmistakable shriek. “DARK, WHAT HAVE YOU GOTTEN US INTO NOW?”
After Elena had met all the pirates and had been caught up on their story (and had eaten five slices of fresh pineapples) she was a lot calmer.
She still wasn’t happy with Dark’s idea of escaping the island, though.
“There’s no way we are sailing into the jaws of a hungry giant squid. Even if I could make another storm – which is always a potential disaster – we’d be heading off into the open sea with no way of knowing where we’re going. We really might end up in Tyrannia.” She gave a small shudder at the thought.
“Actually – I could probably get us home.” A small Chomby piped up from behind Ash. The group gave a collective groan, and he frowned at them.
“Jinny, right?” Dark inelegantly pushed Elena aside so he could reach the Chomby. “You can navigate the seas?”
“Hardly,” one of the Grarrl pirates scoffed. “She’s an astronomer!”
The significance (or lack thereof) was lost on Dark.
“So? You can navigate, or not?”
“Using the stars, I can map out a route. It’s not as accurate as a compass –” Jinny gave the large Grarrl a swift kick in the ankle as he opened his mouth. “But it’s a whole lot better than nothing. Which is what we have.”
“Astronomy – sure, why not!” Dark was starting to get excited for his plush feather bed back home in Shenkuu. Not long now, my sweet, he thought. Not long now.
“So we use your boat to sail out, Elena makes a storm and Jinny navigates us home. What could possibly go wrong?” Dark grinned his brightest grin at the group.
Two Grarrls, a Chomby, a Meerca, a Kyrii, a Cybunny, a small Krawk and an orange Meepit all stared back at him with identical expressions.
“Got any more Grackle Bugs?”
The first hiccup in Dark’s plan was a relatively minor one, in his opinion. It was a cloudy night, and Jinny was unable to see anything in the stars.
So they spend the night in the cave, playing charades with the pirates and singing round their campfire. It was the most cheerful the pirates had been since they met them, and Dark fancied himself as a bit of a saviour. He put extra effort into his mimes, and was only slightly offended when no one guessed his silent depiction of Jelly Blobs of Doom.
It wasn’t until later, when Soren pulled him aside, that he started to feel a little nervous.
“Dark, we only have one shot at this. I haven’t told the others – but we’re almost out of supplies.”
“What do you mean? There’s plenty of berries and stuff here.”
“All that’s really left is the purple ones, and they – you didn’t eat the purple ones, did you?”
“Noo…” Dark wiped his mouth furtively.
“Anyway, we’ve been here for a long time. We’ve almost stripped the island clean of food, and the stream is running low. It’s already getting colder – it’ll be winter soon, and there’s no way we’ll survive another one. This is our last chance to get home. Even if we have to take on this sea monster – we have to get off this island.”
“You said this place was cursed – you weren’t just talking about the sea creature, were you?” Dark felt slightly disconcerted by the look in the Kyrii’s eyes.
“No. It’s not just the creature.” Soren gave a heavy sigh and lowered his voice even further. “I’ve done my best to protect my crew, but we haven’t only lost people at sea. We’ve also lost one on the island.”
“How big is the island? Surely you can’t have looked everywhere.”
“It’s not very big. You can do a full circuit in just under two days. And we looked for weeks. She just … vanished.”
“What makes you think the island is cursed, though? She might have just... fallen down a hole or something.”
“At night, sometimes I hear these… voices. I know she’s still here, I just don’t think she’s… herself.”
“You’ve lost me.”
Soren shuffled from one foot to the other, looking uncomfortable.
“I think she might be a Ghost. There are strange caves around Krawk Island, everyone knows that. Strange fungus and weird creatures. What if this island turns us into Ghosts?”
“Ghost is a pretty cool colour, I mean – I don’t think it’d be so bad. I do prefer being Darigan, though. I get discounts at the Citadel.”
“I want Belle to come back with us. Even if she’s a Ghost. But the others might not be so willing. They think we’ve had enough bad luck.”
“And how do you plan on sneaking a Ghost on board without anyone noticing?”
“You mentioned a sheet that Elena made invisible – the one that hid you all from the pirates. Does she still have it?”
“Sure. We use it as a knapsack, but Sebastian sometimes hides under it and bites our ankles.” As if reliving the memory, Dark’s foot kicked out in a spasm.
“We’ll hide her under the sheet and sneak her onto the boat. Nobody else has to know.”
“You’re going to hide a Ghost under a sheet?” Dark could barely resist the urge to double over with laughter. “And how exactly are we going to find this – uh, Belle? You said you looked for weeks.”
“Well. That, my friend, is where you come in.”
To be continued…