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Home < High Seas: Part Two


by destervetha

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Chapter 2

As dusk neared and one by one the family trickled in, wet and dripping, from their work among the groves, that was the scene with which they were confronted. By this time, of course, the pirates had commandeered all the couches, beds, and rugs, leaving the bewildered Abrams to pick their way carefully among the snoozing, squabbling, odious masses and attempt to find Pa Abram. Pa Abram, of course, was hiding, not wanting to meet Aunt Sophia, who was on the warpath. Even most of the pirates would shuffle slightly out of her way and attempt to look as if they hadn't even noticed the withered little Eyrie stalking along the corridors with murder in her eyes.

      Desterenel had woven her way through the pirates, picking her way carefully so as not to step on one accidentally as it was hard to tell the crew from the old rugs in some places, and had managed to insinuate herself right at the side of the more handsome of the Sublieutenants. He was clutching a mug of berry wine in his paws, sipping from it and complaining in a deep, long-suffering voice about how weak it was. Desterenel sat right next to his armchair, unnoticed for the most part by the group lazing about their commander. Thus she was in the perfect spot to listen when he began expounding tales of his bravery and past conquests. He rattled on and on, his subordinates doing their best not to look bored. But Desterenel…

      Desterenel drank in his heavily accented words like they were life-giving water. Her eyes shining, she crouched worshipfully in the shade of the battered armchair, and was highly disappointed when her terrified mother spotted her and dragged her out by the scruff of her neck, much to the amusement of the pirates, who rumbled with deep laughter that seemed to frighten Ma further.

      Clutching her daughter by the scruff of the neck, Ma crouched on all fours, mane puffed, ears back, eyes wide and pupils shrunk to mere pinpoints. A hiss worked its way through her beak, and past Desterenel, as she backed slowly away from the group. Suddenly, she spun, mindless with fear for herself and her daughter, and leapt like an animal through the assembled crowd. Like a flash she was up the stairs, apron flapping loose behind her and causing her to trip. The whole room exploded into a roar of laughter at her undignified exodus.

      Desterenel was raced through the hallway, nearly getting smashed into several pirates in the shower line, as her mother careened through the halls, ricocheting madly off pirates, pirates, and more pirates. She reached the end of the hall, threw open a door, leapt inside, and flung Desterenel onto the floor. Ma grasped her daughter close with both hands, crushing her silently to her chest. She gasped, winded, and nuzzled her offspring, simply hugging her for several long moments. Then, suddenly, her mood mercurially flipping from relief to anger, Ma jerked her daughter back to arm's length. Desterenel, confused, hung there, foot-paws dangling off the floor as her mother stood. Ma's furious visage filled the little Eyrie's sight.

     "If you ever…If you even ever…Never…Never ever do that again! You are staying here, in this room, until we manage to get those beasts out of here! You shan't get any food, any dinner, not until they get out of this house! How dare you! How dare you risk yourself like that! When your family loves you! When I could bear anything but to lose you!"

     But little Desterenel didn't hear anything past the second sentence. Stay here? In this room? The only room in the house without any pirates in it? Bad enough that she had been grabbed right in the middle of the story about the Black Pawkeet, but she wouldn't even get to go back to hear any others! Ever! How would she find out what happened next? She'd never ever even get another chance to see real live pirates in her whole life!

      It was then, in that fateful moment, that a seedling notion crystallized in the little Eyrie's unrepentant mind. It was fed, growing quickly, by her sense of injustice, (How dare I? How dare she!) and her youthful exuberance. Then, the idea took full flower…spreading its exciting roots throughout her brain…

      She would be a pirate! She would go off with these fine fighting sailors, and she would become one! Why, if her mother wouldn't let her listen to stories, then she'd go off and live her own and better ones! Yes…yes, yes, she'd be the one telling stories!

      And as these truculent thoughts chased themselves around her head, her eyes looked at but did not see her Ma's worried face and pleading eyes, and her ears heard but did not listen to Ma's love. Her youthful gaze saw only the tyrant who had seen fit to steal away her liberty.

      And thus it was that when her mother left her alone in the furthest, darkest storage room, that Desterenel, instead of sitting in a corner and crying, or curling up to sleep a miserable sleep on the softest bit of floor she could find, hatched her daring escape plan. She gathered up some odds and ends she found shoved in boxes and dusty corners, and had herself a meager supper on a withered carrot and a grimy glass bottle of musty water. After this repast where the fire of adventure filled the spaces that the food couldn't, she bounded over to the lone window.

      It was an old, time-clouded affair, with thick bubbly glass and an ancient, splintering wooden frame. It was divided into eight sections, like the spokes of a wheel, with a circular space in the center. The ancient thing was coated with greenish grime, and didn't let any light through. It did, however, have hinges, and that was all she needed. Digging her claws into the pliable damp- and termite-ravaged frame, she heaved upward with all her might, but the circular little window refused to budge. The weak frame, however, splintered under her assault, shedding an outer layer of decay into her paws.

      Emboldened by her success, she changed tactics, now digging and scraping at the frame until she had pulled most of it away. She gradually worked loose the panes of glass, one by one, and set them aside. She discovered, however, that they had originally been beautiful colors, until their faces had been destroyed by time, leaving only brilliant edges to hint at their former glory…cobalt blue, ruby red, emerald green, the pure, clean orange of a sunset… and she kept the center piece. It was the color of a summer wheat field, as golden as any 24-karat bar.

      Finally the whole window lay in pieces beside her. Clutching the golden-edged token precariously in one paw, she scrambled through the window-hole, barely making it through the gap that was nearly too small for even an adventuresome cub. On the roof in the lee of two corners and a chimney, hidden from view, she sat, tail curled 'round her paws, and plotted.

     ~

      Meanwhile, Pa Abram sat in the corner of his living room, a prisoner in his own home. The Krawk Captain was of sufficient importance to commandeer his own table, and had several of his crew standing by with plates of what can only be called "food" by the fact that eating it wouldn't poison you.

     …Probably.

      The Captain had before him a tray of unidentifiable purplish lumps. They were about gumdrop size, slimy-looking, and, Pa imagined with a shudder, about the consistency he privately speculated eyes to be. He had no idea how anything he had in his house could possibly have spawned this culinary disaster. It took effort to get food this disgusting.

      The Captain, however, was spearing them on his claws one by one, and popping them into his foul maw with apparent relish, as purple juices dripped down his chin and coated his fingers. He was also liberally spattering his tunic with dribbles. Pa tried valiantly to keep his eyes firmly on the table. He didn't think he'd ever noticed before that there was a burn mark as if from a candle spill marring the deep brown wood that Aunt Sophia usually kept so perfectly cleaned…

     Aunt Sophia…He didn't even want to think about Aunt Sophia right now. At this moment, the only thing separating her from his throat was a roomful of pirates. Nevertheless, she stood on her hind feet, bedecked in a flowery and floury apron, holding a thick wooden spoon in her withered paw and tapping it slowly and menacingly into her creased old palm.

      He quickly turned his eyes away from this yet another disturbing sight. He scanned the room, hoping to find something to stare at that wasn't either Aunt Sophia or a pirate.

     Pirates.

     Pirates.

     Pirates.

     Pirates, pirates, pirates!

     Frustrated, he turned his attention back to his business at the table, only belatedly realizing his mistake. The Krawk had chosen that moment to yawn contentedly, displaying yellowed, (sometimes blackened!), fangs and stumps of fangs, a spotty, unhealthy-looking tongue, and thick ropes of purpled saliva that draped from jaw to jaw. You could get lost in a mouth like that. Pa felt his stomach turning.

      Settling back contentedly, and lacing his fingers over his taut stomach, the Captain looked startled that Pa hadn't eaten anything, but there jest ain't any accountin' fer other beasts' tastes, he supposed with an internal shrug.

     "So, me good gennleman…abou' me an me mates's…predicament. We'll not be botherin' ye fer much long'er, don' worry 'bout tha'. Nah, we'll be leavin'…provided ye forget all abou' us. Don' go tellin' no other folk about this…let thar be nothin' pointin' to this here crew's stay in this 'ouse. Or t'will go ill for ye."

      Pa snorted in disbelief, the outlandishness of the Captain's statement jolting him momentarily past fear. Leave no sign of the pirate's stay? He couldn't believe what he was hearing! Casting a skeptical eye over the noisome mass of pirates, he noted the damage already apparent to his dwelling. There were deep scratches on the walls, stains somehow upon the ceiling, the kitchen was scorched black where 'Cooky' had been working, and the whole floor was caked with spilt food. They had already lost most of the doorknobs in the house, which had been caught on the pirates' belts and dangling jewelry. (The oblivious pirates invariably just keep walking, pulling off the knobs.) The bathroom…didn't bear thinking about. It would take them at least a month to get the sand alone out of the drain.

     Noting Pa's turn of gaze, the Krawk harrumphed uneasily.

     "Wehll, mayhap try an' leave as little sign as possible…jes' do yer best, ye unnerstan. Cover this up properlike, and I promise ye'll be receivin'…a little summat, mayhap, in th' mail. But if anyone gets wind o' this…then ye will be sorry."

     Pa flexed his ears nervously and inclined his head, all seriousness now. He didn't doubt the threat one bit, even if he was a little skeptical of the implied reward.

     "As long as you get all of your crew out of here by tomorrow," Pa spoke, choosing each word with care, "Then I shan't let anyone know that you have been. I swear it. Just keep my family safe. But if harm comes to any of them, then we all will fight back, and a house full of slain younglings and females will get the whole district hotter on your tails than any mere rumour could."

     He held his breath, heart skipping a beat. Had he gone too far? But then the Captain smiled…if you could call it that.

     "Arrr…Ye mishear me, matey!" The Captain said, a feral grin twisting his features. "I shan't be killin' ye…o' yer family. Thar's nothin' less safe'n a silence bought by blood…when yer not thar to enforce it. And I shan't be staying here fer long…" His mouth stretched wider, if possible.

     He slid off the chair, and swaggered away to join his now-carousing mates. A series of fights ensued as pirates attempted to scramble out of his way and knocked into others. Taking no notice, he leapt lithely onto a table, and raised his cutlass. The entire crew fell instantly silent, even the fighting ones freezing, disagreements forgotten.

     "Time fer th' Night Watch, mateys! Watch One'll be takin' it ferst. Ye c'n stay in th' 'ouse, outta th' cold, and keep an eye on the stores o' food."

     A deep, bass roar of joy came from the Watch One, while the others grumbled slightly, unused to this change of luck. Usually the hapless Watch picked to stand for the first, longest shift of the night got to be in the teeth of whatever weather was inflicted on the ship.

     "Aaah! I don't want to be hearin' none o' yer jawin!" the Captain said fiercely, smiling and making a chopping motion with his cutlass hand. They fell silent, in spite of their Captain's high good humour… or perhaps because of it. "yer all gonna be berthin' in the top deck. Off wi' ye!"

     They scrambled up the stairs, making more noise than a herd of elephants, a squabbling, tattered grey mass, glinting here and there with bright gold. The Watch One trooped out to the corners of the room, and those comprising it began shouting at another of their number, a diminutive Aisha, calling out unintelligible and contradictory requests for food and drink. The Captain bounded up the stairs, after his crew.

     Pa was left alone and unprotected with the brawny Neopets comprising Watch One. Suddenly uneasy, he carefully got up from his chair. The scrape seemed unusually loud, even with the small noises the pirates were making. Instantly, all eyes were on him. He nervously backed away on all fours, keeping an eye on all of them as best he could. Nervous, he stumbled tail-first out the doors, tripping over the lintel, as the sinister-looking beasts chuckled evilly and the biggest Lupe cleaned his claws exaggeratedly with a huge knife.

     The Lupe made as if to leap up, his knife glinting in the candlelight, and Pa didn't stick around any longer. The night-tripled menace of the action was far too much for Pa and he startled into flight. Exploding into the air, he fled to where the rest of the family was roosting in the trees, chased by the derisive laughter of Watch One.

To be continued...

 
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