Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 100,597,592 Issue: 199 | 14th day of Swimming, Y7
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Home < High Seas: Part Four

by destervetha


Chapter 4

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, at Yoharran.

     "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...

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» Home < High Seas: Part One
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