Home < High Seas: Part Two
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
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
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.
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!
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
"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
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'
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...