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The smells of the market wafted through the air and right into Sam's nose as she strolled along the edge of the harbor at the very edge of the Haunted Woods. It was the first Wednesday of the month, and everyone in Neovia knew that it would be the day that the merchant ships would be in port to trade and sell their exotic goods from all over Neopia. Her parents always sent her out to find new ingredients for the food at the family tavern, but Sam didn't mind. She loved this place; with all of its smells, and sights, and...
Some Queela fruit tea my dear? Its lovely, just in from Qasala, I-
Sam shook her head and backed away from the salesman. They were always like this, intruding and rude.
Are you sure, pretty lass? I'll give you a special price, just because you're so pretty. Only 5000 NP a pound, its a steal!
The chia grinned, showing his rotting teeth and giving Sam a whiff of his nasty breath. She put her hand over her mouth and nose and backed away, shaking her head.
No, no thank you. I... I'm allergic to queelas.
She walked away from the vendor as fast as she could without attracting attention. Its not like she wasn't used to it or she was afraid of the vendor, its just that some of the vendors were thieves in disguise. Besides, that was expensive for Queela tea and if Sam really wanted it she would just go to Qasala herself. It wasn't that far from the Haunted Woods. Sam patted her pocket to make sure her money was still there and resumed walking along the dock. So many sights to see... maracite weapons from Maraqua, dice from Roo Island, jewelry from Sakhmet, and...
Sam gasped as she approached one stall filled with dozens of small cages with the most beautiful little creatures in them. She turned to the one that had made the noise, a delightful little cat-like creature with white fur, black stripes, and pointed ears.
Sam smiled and looked at the cage more closely.
Oh aren't you just the cutest thing? I wonder what you are...
Just as Sam reached for the tag attached to the cage, and soft voice spoke behind her.
He's a Biyako, straight from Shenkuu.
Startled, Sam spun around to face the speaker, accidentally hitting her head on some cages dangling overhead and falling to the ground. The stall rang with the upset voices of the petpets, and several patrons turned to see what was going on.
A kougra paw was extended toward her, and Sam gratefully took it, feeling to blood rushing to her cheeks.
I'm sorry... you startled me and-
Its okay. Really.
Sam was back on her feet now, and looked into face of the owner of the paw. He was kougra, like her, and behind a pair of glasses his gray eyes were surrounded with two perfect circles of silver fur that stood out like stars against the rest of his fur, which was dark blue. He was tall, muscular, and handsome, and Sam couldn't help blushing even more as he smiled at her and tipped his hat.
Captain Scratch of the Phoenix, and you are?
Samaryii. Is this the Phoenix?
The ship tied to the dock behind Scratch was a marvelous one, gleaming with polished dark wood and red painted trim. It was taller than any other ship in the harbor. Scratch beamed and turned around to face his vessel.
Gorgeous, isn't she?
Yes she is. She's the prettiest thing in port today.
Scratch chuckled and turned back to Sam, his eyes twinkling,
No, the second prettiest thing here.
Sam couldn't help blushing again as he flashed that smile.
The first Wednesday of the month. Sam looked forward to it not just because of the market, but now because of the charming Captain Scratch with his exotic goods from Shenkuu. One month it would be gorgeous garments, another breath-taking jewelery. She was enchanted, not just with the wondrous goods, but the captain himself. His tales of the far-away land enchanted Sam, and after a few months she came up with and idea.
Scratch, do you think I could come with you to Shenkuu on your next voyage.
Scratch had been adjusting the bolts of silk fabric sitting in tall piles on the dock. He looked up, surprised.
You would want to travel on a merchant ship across an entire ocean with people you don't know?
I know you.
He chuckled at that.
You can't just ride on a merchant ship, you have to actually do something. Besides the guys are-
I can cook!
Sam jumped up excitedly, accidentally knocking over a few bolts of fabric. She helped Scratch fix them, and went on.
I'll work in the galley, I can cook and clean the-
ship and I can help do whatever you need to get done and-
I'll learn how to sail if I-
She stopped and looked up at him.
He sighed and looked at her with sad eyes.
Sam, sailing on a voyage like this isn't easy. Its not like going on vacation, you have to work around the clock and... have you ever actually been on a ship? Or a boat for that matter?
You haven't, have you?
Sam cast her eyes down to her feet and shook her head. For a few moments all that could be heard was the chatter of the market and the whistle of the wind over the sea. After awhile Scratch broke the silence.
Look... Sam... we always stop at Krawk Island on the way to Shenkuu, for supplies and things, and it isn't that far away so I can give you a trail run and-
His words were cut short by Sam leaping at him and throwing her arms around his shoulders.
Thank you oh thank you thank you! I won't disappoint you!
She had a grin stretching from ear to ear on her eventide face, and Scratch couldn't help but return the smile.
7 years later...
The surface of the ocean was calm except for the small waves bobbing of and down capped with white crests. The full moon shone in the black waters like a silver island that moved and danced with the tide. The stars twinkled through the velvet curtain of the night like dots from the great beyond. Sam grunted as she heaved the leftovers from tonight's dinner over ship's railings and into the waters below. The scraps of food disturbed the peaceful calm of the ocean, and Sam watched with interest as the surface was disrupted further with the heads of fish popping out of the water to grab the food.
Its so beautiful out here...
She turned around and surveyed the sleeping ship, silent except for the occasional creak of the masts. The deck was empty except for a lone figure at the ship's wheel, standing tall and proud. Sam walked toward the silhouette, smiling as she recognized her captain's striking profile.
Mind if I join you, Captain?
Turning from wheel, Scratch smiled.
Do you even need to ask?
He kept one hand on the wheel and wrapped his other around Sam's shoulders. She lay her head on his shoulder and stared out into the open sea.
Seven years I've been here. Its was only supposed to be a few weeks... but this ship is so wonderful! The smells, the adventures, the places...
She looked up at Scratch,
And him. Scratch. Captain Scratch. The man that I-
The yell jolted her from her thoughts and both Sam and Scratch turned around to face the crow's nest, where the yell had come from. Scratch yelled back up to the lookout,
WHAT IS IT BLINTZ? WHAT DO YOU SEE?
Blintz leaded out far enough from the top of the mast that Sam was afraid the lutari would fall out.
ANOTHER SHIP SIR! AND SHES FLYING HIS COLORS!
Sam's heart instantly dropped to her feet. Not him. Not the King of the sea. She looked back at Scratch, but his face was one of steely determination.
He won't take this ship. Not if I can help it. BLINTZ!
WAKE EVERYONE UP! WE AREN'T GOING DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT!
Blintz scurried down the mast and gave Scratch a salute.
Yes sir, Captain sir!
As Blintz ran off and rang the emergency bell, Scratch turned to Sam with worry etched onto his face.
Sam, I want you to go down below deck and stay there. This isn't your fight.
Scratch put a finger gently over her lips. He sighed and softened his tone.
Sam, this is going to be dangerous. If something happens to you...
He paused and shook his head.
I don't know what I would do.
Sam smiled and hugged him.
I'll be fine. Everything is going to be fine.
Scratch paused as he held Sam's head against his chest, his heart pounding in her ear.
Yeah. I hope so.
2 hours later...
The sounds of battle drifted down from the deck to where Sam was hiding in the galley. He heart pounded against her ribs as she tightened her grip on a knife she had stolen from the kitchen. Scratch had told her to stay in one place and hide, but Scarblade's pirates had come below decks. Sam stalked them along the hallway as they walked, keeping herself carefully hidden in the shadows.
I here this place is full great stuff.
I dunno, stuff from Shenkuu and-
Shekuu!? Who cares-
HEY! I was talking you fool! Anyway, the loot here is supposed to be worth big bucks. The Captain will-
Hey did you hear that?
Sam ducked into a nearby doorway and held her breath.
Please don't see me... please go away...
What is it man? I don't hear nothin.
No seriously Benny, I think I heard some one over there.
The pirate pointed in Sam's direction. At this point she figured they could hear her heart pounding against her ribs. She shut her eyes tight.
Go away go away go away go-
Well lookie here Benny! Seems I be right!
A taloned hand suddenly grabbed her arm. Sam would have screamed if the eyrie hadn't clamped his other hand over her mouth.
And shes a pretty one! What should we do with her?
A sly grin crept across his face.
I bet the Captain could make use of her in our crew. Maybe as a- OOF!
Sam shot her free hand out and socked the pirate in the stomach, slipping under his arms in the process and bolting down the hallway.
HEY! GET BACK HERE YOU-
The second pirate's words were cut short by Sam throwing her knife at him, but unfortunately the pirate dodged it and it looked as if he had barely slowed down. Sam continued to run, and before she knew it she had ran onto the deck itself, where the battle was in full swing. Swords clashed and cannons fired, there was too much going on for Sam to see it all, and it was all she could do to avoid getting hit by any of it. Suddenly, someone grabbed her from behind triggering Sam's reflexes to throw a punch at the person, but he dodged it as if she had thrown it in slow motion. It took a few poorly aimed blows before Sam saw who it was.
Sam! Its me! Scratch! What are you doing up here?! I told you to stay down below!
I was chased by pirates up here! They almost killed me and-
Everyone turned to see who screamed. Blintz was running toward them faster then Sam had ever seen the little sailor run.
THE SHIPS ON FIRE!!!!
Time slowed down as Scratch and Sam saw the first of the orange flames climb up the base of the mast. Everyone on deck forgot who or what they were fighting and ran to get away from the flames, screams and orders echoed across the night sky. Blintz reached them panting and out of breath.
Fire.... Captain... fire...
At first is was like Scratch hadn't even heard Blintz, he just stared at the flames, the hope and blood draining from his face.
Scratch snapped out of his trance and whispered a few words to Blintz, who then solemnly nodded and ran off. He turned back to Sam.
She could see the fear etched clearly into his gray eyes. He pulled out a simple silver locket from his pocket placing it around her neck, pausing before cupping her face in his hands.
I was going to give this to you at a better time... but-
He embraced her, holding her in his arms until he could feel the heat of the flames on his back.
Sam... I'm so sorry... I... I wish we had more time to be together.
Before she could react Scratch scooped her up in his arms and threw her off the side of the ship.
Don't ever forget me!
Were the last words she heard before plunging into the icy waters below. All Sam could see was the darkness around her, she couldn't breath... couldn't think... she felt like she was falling, her lungs about to burst...
There you are you pesky kougra!
Hands grabbed her hair as something, no, someone pulled Sam out of the water and into a longboat. In between racking coughs and spitting up water Sam could see a light purple lutari face smiling at her.
Blintz! Are we-
No time to talk Sam!
Blintz grabbed a hold of the oars and started rowing away from the ship. They were the only two in the boat.
Blintz wait! Scratch... the others...
The young sailor shook her head.
Everyone else wanted to stay and fight, and my orders were to get YOU to safety.
She continued rowing, and Sam turned her head to the ship, now engulfed in flames, quickly shrinking against the back drop of the smoke-filled sky.
She turned back to Blintz to find the lutari looking back at her with sorrow-filled eyes.
You know what he always said; a captain should always go down with his ship.
About a month later...
Sam pushed open the door to her family's tavern in Neovia. Business had been slow lately, and her parents had decided to shut the place down until Sam convinced them to let her take over, to let her have something of her own to fill the void. Sighing, she looked around the desolate building.
Empty. Just like my heart.
All of the chairs were stacked on the tables, and every step Sam took left a footprint in the layer of dust coating the floor. Taking one the chairs down and sinking into it, Sam surveyed her surrounds. This was once a happy place, bright and full of energy. Sam smiled sadly, remember all of the good times she had here in the past. Fun with her friends, fun with her family, fun with... she looked down at the silver necklace sadly.
I'll never be happy again. Not without him.
Whenever the Phoenix had come to port in the Haunted Woods, Scratch treated the crew to a night or two at Sam's family's tavern. Those were the nights that Sam remembered best, laughing all night with Scratch and her friends. Maybe, when she opened the place again, she could...
No... it wouldn't be the same...
Tears escaped her eyes, she had been careful to hide them from Blintz, from the fisherman who had found the two stranded at sea, and from her own parents when she had showed up at their door without warning; but here, in this still tomb of a place forgotten, she could let the tears flow. Sobbing into her hands, she cursed the pirates, the sea, and herself. She should have never gone on that ship, never fell in love with him, she should have just stayed here, then the pain would have never penetrated her heart, and lodged there like an arrow in her chest.
Why Scratch? Why couldn't you have let me die with you!?
She screamed into the silent air. She resumed sobbing into her hands, but then a voice spoke quietly.
Because then I would have failed you.
Sam spun around, she knew that voice. She knew it better then any other voice in the world.
But there was no one there. Slowly turning in circles, Sam's eyes desperately darted around the room looking for him, but there was no kougra to be found. Heartbroken, she sank back into the chair.
Open the locket.
Sam shook her head and wiped away a few tears.
You're hearing voices Sam, hes gone. Forever.
She buried her face in her hands, but his voice spoke again.
Just do it my love. Please.
Sam sighed and took the locket in her hands.
I'm crazy for listening to the voice of a dead man, but... what do I have to loose?
She unhooked the clasp holding the locket shut and opened it. Inside was a small picture of Sam and Scratch, from her first voyage. Him dressed up in his best uniform, and her in her first. She smiled, it was one of her favorite memories.
Its my favorite too.
The voice came from behind her this time, and, upon spinning around, there he was. Captain Scratch, standing there, his clothes and fur perfect like nothing had ever happened to him. He smiled at her, and those eyes twinkled the way that she thought she would never see again.
Her heart overflowed with emotions as she leaped at him, but as he opened his arms to receive her, she fell right through him and onto the floor, as if he wasn't there. Tears at the edge of her eyes, she turned back to face him.
I knew it... I knew it was too good to be true. You aren't here, my mind is just making it up. Making you up.
No Sam, I'm really here, its just...
He attempted to pick up a chair, but his hands passed right through it.
I haven't quite perfected being a ghost yet. Its my first time out since my spirit was trapped in the locket.
Sam clasped a hand around the locket. Scratch smiled.
I'm really here Sam. You know I would never leave you.
Sam felt the tears again.
Well isn't this adorable!
From the shadows out stepped a pompous white draik, swinging his elaborate cane back and forth. He grinned his toothy smile, flashing his vampire fangs.
That's LORD Hayden to you, Samaryii.
He leaned against a table, looking at Sam with condescending eyes.
You know, we thought you would never get back, its been quite a long wait. Oh, and before you ask, I came as soon as I heard you were back in town, but I figured you should...
He gestured toward Scratch.
Reunite first. You know, Scratch, its a shame. I could have used someone like you.
Scratch narrowed his eyes, but Hayden ignored him and turned back to Sam.
Do you know why I'm here, darling?
Sam looked around nervously and slowly shook her head. Hayden chuckled and stepped closer to her.
Quaone sent me. He is quite fond of you and this tavern, and when your parents closed this place down he was afraid that you were going to take off on that ship for good. So, when he heard that you were back in town, he gave me...
Hayden waved his hand carelessly in the air and smiled at Sam again.
Sam could feel her heart pounding in her chest. She tried to speak, but it was like her throat was caught in a vice, nothing came out. Scratch remained silent as well. Hayden stepped closer and rested his hand on the side of Sam's face.
You know, its a shame your Scratch is already dead. Quaone only told me to turn you, but he would have made a fine member of my clan.
Scratch launched himself at Hayden, but he passed right through the draik and tumbled to the floor.
I didn't save her just to have you turn her into one of you!
You'll get a hang of that eventually Scratch, but for now,
He turned back to Sam, ignoring Scratch's screams and futile attempts to attack him.
Don't move. It will only hurt more.
Paralyzed by fear, Sam squeezed her eyes shut as Hayden leaned forward, chuckling as he brushed Sam's hair away from her neck.
It won't be so bad. You and Scratch will truly be together for ever.
Syiko and Syiku
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