Home < High Seas: Part Four
The next few weeks were the happiest of Desterenel's
life. It turned out that the pirate crew did indeed have a ship, none other
than the Grey Feather herself. She had been docked for servicing in one of the
shadier shipyards dotting the coast of Meridell, leaving the pirates homeless
while she underwent a total rehaul. Desterenel, tagging along in the midst of
the rowdy crew, eventually pieced together the story through a tangled web of
complaints, oaths, and tales…
The crew, fresh unto shore leave and with pay
burning holes in their pockets, had been all set for a good, long excursion
into the countryside…and Captain Yoharran had seen a foreboding glint in many
an eye. The last voyage had been rich, very rich, and there is nothing so flighty
as a pirate with plenty of gold in his hands. He had known, canny Yoharran,
that if he let them loose individually he'd be getting back less than half of
his crew in three week's time. That and an enormous bill for damages.
So, instead of letting them disperse, he had
given orders that they would all travel during leave as a group. Despite opposition,
he had managed to hold the crew together, relying heavily on finding out what
they wanted to do and then doing that.
Thus it was that they had moved systematically
through the countryside, cutting a swathe through small towns. Descending on
one, they would permeate their surroundings, until the townspeople were surrounded
before they'd had a chance to fight back. Then, the pirates, through bluff and
numbers, would steal everything that wasn't nailed down and/or on fire. It had
worked grandly so far, and they had managed to stay ahead of whatever feeble
retribution the now-destitute townsfolk had been able to muster.
But now, the four-week service period almost
up, and far, far away from where they had moored their ship, they were marching
hard. Yoharran's admittedly formidable reputation would not keep the ship whole
and unstolen for much more than a day past the release from the repair bay,
and it was only his reputation that was getting it fixed at all with him out
here, two weeks' hard march out of Deckle Cove.
Desterenel spent the days in dreamy contentment;
alternately feeling that a big balloon of joy was inflating beneath her heart,
being so excited that she couldn't keep still, and marveling at her fortune.
During the day's hard, fast trot north up the coast she floated high above the
ground-bound crew, soaring in the air and riding the winds. She flew more than
she ever had before and became even stronger and more competent in flight. She
gloried in the winds, because every day she could smell sea salt stronger and
stronger upon the air.
Every morning, she bolted down her share of hardtack,
and took to the skies, flying until noon, when she would alight to jog along
beside Cooky as he handed out the lunch. The crew kept at their quick, grueling
dogtrot until well after dark, and when it became too dim to fly safely Desterenel
would land and gallop amid the dusty, tired sailors. When the moon was well
up and it came time to set up camp for the night, she would perch in a tree
and gaze raptly at the rest of the crew hurrying and scurrying to carry out
their orders. She was too small and valuable to help, of course, and so stayed
well out of the way.
But once Yoharran's tent was up, and the crew
had assembled what motley tatters they had into bedrolls, why then, when the
fire was high and they stretched their weary paws, then the tales began. Desterenel
would insinuate herself into the middle of the dangerous, dirty, unpredictable
horde, often without them even noticing. She would cuddle up to some tale-teller's
smelly side, and nestle amid his grimy, ratty clothes and greasy fur, (or scales,
or whatever) completely unbeknownst to him, until he would chance to glance
down. There his eyes would be met by the peaceful and angelic sight of the tired
little Eyrie cub, innocently snoozing, all trust, by his side, often in a tangle
amid his cutlass or revolver. It became a point of honor, in the long, hard
march, to be graced with her presence, as it marked true tale-telling skill,
and eventually all those with stories to tell would vie for her presence.
But the hard pace, for hard it was, would have
taken a severe toll on the Eyrie cub had her daily meal not begun to be stealthily
augmented by the crew. She won them over with her youth and her trust and it
showed at the end of the march in the taut sleekness of her emerald hide and
the gloss of her feathers. Where she would else have been beaten down she grew
and flourished under the growing care of the pirates.
She was beautiful. That is the only word Desterenel
could think of to describe her. Painted in strong, muted sea-green-greys, blue-greys,
and true greys, the vessel was a full 125' from stem to stern, with two masts,
the fore one shorter than the rear one. There was not a scrap of sail to be
seen on the ship yet, but beneath the decks were bolts and bolts of prime, new
sailcloth, bright white and edged with sea-green and gold, waiting and ready
to be fitted.
The fretwork and bright-work was shining, the
brass polished well past its previous green tarnish. This included all the line-fastenings,
nails, and fittings. The paint was fresh, the colors crisp and clear, the tar
still sticky. The deck was covered with loops and loops of new line, and the
planks themselves were freshly-scrubbed. The name-plate on the stern had been
fresh-painted, displaying nothing but a ridiculously extravagant grey feather
carved in relief.
The Grey Feather gleamed like a Neopoint in the
rough amid the dingy, disreputable docks, surrounded by ships she far outclassed,
seeming a sleek heron amid a flock of diseased mud-ducks.
Captain Yoharran was understandably furious.
He had stalked off along the uneven, rickety pier straight to the dilapidated
shack that had 'Deckle Cove Harbormaster' painted sloppily along a rickety board
balanced out in front. He hadn't come out so far, and the crew was getting restless.
They were milling about next to the new Grey Feather on the old dock, and their
shifting and stomping wasn't aiding the ancient, moss-draped construction any.
It groaned and creaked uneasily beneath their combined weight and motion.
Dawslap, the less-handsome Sublieutenant, was
about to call them off the docks and back onto the safer trash-strewn harbor
proper when Yoharran burst out of the "Harbormaster's" office with a fat Wocky.
The Captain was screaming at the top of his lungs
at the huge furry beast. The Wocky, wearing patched sailcloth pants and a stained
brown tunic probably as ancient as his docks, was jovially roaring back.
"Arrr, Yoharran, all ye evar said tuh me was
repayers! I went an' repayered her, shore 'nuff! Ye cannae fault me fer me work,
'tis a righ' beeyooteefull job we's done fer yuh!"
Yoharran, hopping mad, railed back,
"Ye great lump! Wiv' a paint job like this on
'er, we'll be pinged wi' the rap fer every pirate'in from here to Tyrannia!
Ourr name'll be on every tongue from here to Faerieland! What did ye think ye
were doin', ye fat greasy excuse for a two-tailed lap-pet?"
The Wocky slapped huge paws across his enormous
girth. He bellowed again, and though his voice remained jolly, his posture shifted
along with his expression to one of threat.
"Ye know durn well why, Yoharran! Ye wer' teh
one what pegged thut fire unto us t'ree yers back, Yoharran, un' tha' bit o'
trick'ry lost me muh whole crew ter the jailhouse!" He dropped his thin veneer
of jolliness entirely, leaning forward, impressive mane bristling, his bulk
suddenly seeming threatening instead of amusing. It became suddenly apparent
that his huge beefy arms were not large with the bulk of just fat. Big, blunt,
inch-long claws slid out of tight blue-furred paws. He half-crouched, almost
four-legged despite his large stomach, and tensed as if to spring, small piggy
eyes near red with anger. He opened his mouth wide, and roared, really roared,
"Raauuuuuuurrrrrrgggghh!!!" Spittle flew from
his jaws, "Dam' yeh tur thuh very depths of Hell, Yoharran, fur a black heart'ed
fiend! Yuh pegged tha' on me, yuh slimy lit'le wurm, and ran tur the sea, leavin'
thuh good Black Bearog fur cop-fodder! Yuh derty lit'le traitor, how could yuh?"
Yoharran wiped a claw across his face, seeming
unaffected in his ire by both the noise and the huge angry Neopet confronting
him. Though the Wocky must have massed at least seven of him, the Krawk stood
his ground. Narrowing his eyes and flipping his long tail, he stated, "T'weren't
mah fault tha' ye an' yer crew wasn' goo' enow ter get away from t'ree fisher-boats
manned by towns-people, Geeracht. T'weren't mah fault tha' the wind didna hold
ou' fer more'n the time to get me an' mine outta there."
The Wocky shut his mouth and stood straight once
more, lips pressed into a hard, thin line. He eyed Yoharran coldly and spat
to the side, "Dusn't change thuh fact tha' yuh put twoscore good men in chains.
Th' paint job stays, bucko, an' no re-funds nor re-do's will yuh be seein'.
Gerrof WI yuh, Yoharran! Yuh'll live WI wha' ah've giv'n yuh, as ah know yuh've
no got more funds fur another job. Fer the loss o' th' Bearog, ye'll be th'
talk o' the seas fur years. I dursay tha' yuh won't be 'spectin' much help nor
way uv yer fellow mates o' th' seas no more, Yoharran, not WI a ship like tha'."
With that, he turned and paced away, his half
of a tail held stiff and bushy. The Captain ran a claw distractedly through
his head-spikes. "Dam' it all, Geeracht's right. A ship like tha'll make
me look like sum puffed-up popinjay, an' nary a seadog'll stop ter give us information.
And dam' him fer his words, he's got me back ter th' wall about the treasury
too. Ah've used up all th' gold on these dam' 'repairs' and th' pay fer m' crew."
It was only then that he noticed his crew behind
him. Turning, he ran his yellow eyes over the muttering and uneasy mass, and
then his bright shiny new ship. It did have a certain appeal, he supposed reluctantly.
A far too expensive appeal. Had Geeracht actually plated brass over the rails…?
His roving eyes lighted on Desterenel, who had taken to the air in boredom and
was flitting about through the twin masts and what bits of line were already
rigged. Then, he looked out at the broad sea, the sun shattering on the choppy
surface. There was a fine wind out, ruffling the crew's fur and clothes, and
whistling through various cracks and crannies of the shipyard and ships therein.
His cares visibly fell away as he gazed out at the ocean, and then he turned
once more to his sailors. A feral grin split his features.
"Well? What're we waitin' fer? Get on board,
ye mangy codswallops! We've got a ship ter make seaworthy!"
To be continued...