Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 127,792,023 Issue: 260 | 6th day of Collecting, Y8
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Xaraak: Part One

by oznozboopenheimer


"You know I'm not a little kid anymore," the blue Kyrii grumbled. "Do I have to still do baby chores?"

      "Yes, you do!" his mother snapped back. And that was that. Or, at least, it should have been.

      Orlando knew better than to argue with his mother. She worked as the Soup Faerie's assistant, and lugged heavy pots around all throughout the day, which gave her a temper hotter than her special Cornupepper Soup.

      "But I can't help you tomorrow."

      "Well," Orlando's mother said brusquely as she gave him a quick peck on the cheek and tucked the covers up under his chin. He hated it when she did that. "I need to you to wash pans tomorrow."

      Orlando sighed and rolled his eyes. "Alright," came his reluctant response.

      "Good." The room went dark as she blew out the lantern.

      The young Kyrii waited for around half an hour before he reached beneath his bed and pulled out a dented box, which rattled when he shook it. Reaching quietly in and rummaging about inside it, he withdrew a miniature lantern and a match. Quickly he lit the lantern and set it on his bedside table while he fished about for his short, chipped knife and matching scabbard; a handful of Neopoints and a dubloon that he had found between the floorboards of the inn they lived in; a set of Dice-A-Roo dice missing the green; and the old map of Krawk Island his friend Kenji had given him for his birthday.

      Gathering the dice and money into his beltpouch and belting his knife around his waist, Orlando quietly made for the window; stopped. It was a good fifteen foot drop to the ground.

      Orlando sank back against the wall and thought for a moment. Working swiftly, he knotted together his sheets, and looking about one final time at his room lowered himself out the window.

      Finally out and alone in the small city streets, he realized that he was without food. Not wishing to spend the little money that he had, he trotted through the mostly-deserted streets of Meridell towards where his one adult friend lived. The aging yellow Gelert who watched over the berry farms was a kind old fellow, and would let Orlando in occasionally to pick berries for free, provided that he didn't take too many good ones.

      When he reached the edge of the city and entered the country, he climbed up on a stone wall and cast about for where the little farmhouse marked the Meri Acres Berry Farm. Seeing it, he leaped down from the wall.

      Orlando carefully edged around the sleeping Scorchio that was doing guard duty outside and slipped into the house.

      The Gelert was asleep in his rocking chair, so Orlando simply wrote out a note for him and tacked it to the arm of the chair. Dropping to all fours, he took up a basket in his teeth and pushed his way out the back door.

      His quest for berries produced a short length of barbed wire and a pair of half-eaten fruits.

      Slicing away the chewed part, Orlando munched on a fruit while he trotted towards his best friend's house. He moved a decrepit ladder into position and clambered up into Kenji's room. The green Wocky sat up abruptly and hissed, "Orlando! What are you doing?"

      "I'm running away," Orlando replied haughtily.

      "From what," Kenji laughed silently, "Cornupepper Soup?"

      Orlando shrugged. "Maybe. You know, Kenji, that you and I have always wanted to be pirates. Well, now's our big chance. Kenji," he said stalwartly. "I'm going to sea!"

      "Shh, pipe down! You're gonna wake up my parents and earn us both a whipping. Let's go see if Aelix wants to come."

      Orlando's eyes lit up. "Yeah, great idea! Get your stuff together and let's go!"

      Kenji stared at him. "Uh, Orlando? You're still wearing your pajamas."

      The Kyrii stared down at himself. Sure enough, he was still in his white nightgown. "Oops," he said, and reddened.

      "Don't worry, my brother has some stuff you can borrow. Here!"

      He tossed Orlando a dark red tunic and a pair of light tan pants, with a leather belt to go around. It wasn't exactly a belt, but was what pirates called a 'sidehopper', for it had a large leather pouch on the side of it that bounced against one's leg while running. The sidehopper looped neatly around Orlando's waist and hung down at a jaunty angle when he put his things into it.

      Kenji was already dressed into a ragged pair of jeans and a striped shirt. "Come on! We have to go get Aelix!"

     The two were soon running swiftly towards an alley where Aelix lived. The shadow Draik glided down from her perch and landed before them. "Aelix at yer service," she grated in her rough voice. She was many, many years older than either of them, and had been a pirate long ago. "Wot can ye be needin'?"

      "We're going to sea, and we need a ship!" Orlando replied.

      "Hmmm..." Aelix growled. "I knew an old Kyrii back in the day who ran a good ship, called the Wavejumper or something like that. If I was ye, I'd look for 'im in a jiffy."

      Kenji shuffled his feet. "Um, Aelix? Can you take us there"

      "Does I want to come! A'course I do! In fact, I'll even take ye to where the ole Wavehopper is." Leaping up into the air, she beckoned them to follow.

      The two boys exchanged glances. Sometimes, they were not sure if Aelix was sane or not.

      The trio soon arrived near the docks, and Aelix pointed to where a medium sized sailing ship bobbed at its moorings. "Thar it be. The Waveleaper."

      "Um," Kenji said quietly, "its nameplate says that its name is the Wavehunter."

      "Ahh, wotever. Sounds like Wavebouncer to me. Anyway, get yerself some shuteye while I go talk to the cap'n."

       Kenji and Orlando reluctantly lay down in the midst of some barrels, and, despite the excitement, fell asleep.

      When they awoke, they found a scruffy red Skeith and a purple Grarrl staring at them. "Ahoy," the Skeith rumbled. "Lookit wot the tide washed in! I hear that yer is comin' aboard! Izzat true?"

      Kenji nodded.

      The Skeith brought his ugly face close to Kenji's and hissed, "Well that's good, aye. Just make sure that yer doesn't git in me way! Because the dirt on me toeclaw is worth more'n nine o' yer lives, and I'd be forced to collect... ah, slowly, me little matey. Hehehe!"

      A sharp voice rang out from an open porthole. "Ronako, bring them in! I want to see the little buggers before we ship 'em out."

      Stepping back quickly, the Skeith made way for the scruffy yellow Xweetok named Ronako as he leaped nimbly from the gunwales of the ship. "Hiya, you two. Look lively, and get up on deck. The Cap'n wants to see ya. Come on, get up."

      Pushing Orlando and Kenji ahead of him up the gangplank, he stopped at the door to the below decks. With a mocking bow, he pushed the hatch open and gestured down below. "Take the first portside turn you see and go in the big ole red door. That'll be the Cap'n cabin. See ya!"

      Orlando went first, backwards down the narrow staircase which was awash with scummy water and coated with so much algae that Meuka himself was less slimy.

      When the pair arrived at the red door that Ronako had indicated, Kenji carefully stood on Orlando's shoulder and peered through the peephole, just as the surface they were leaning against opened inwards and the duo, with yells of consternation, collapsed on the velvet carpeted floor of the stuffy cabin.

      A burly blue Kyrii picked up the two youngsters and sat them unceremoniously on their bottoms before him. "Hmm... so you two are our newest crewmates, eh? Pretty scrawny, aren't yew." He poked Kenji in the stomach as he lapsed in the pirate slang. "I 'ope that yew know 'ow to work, or else yore gettin' put off at the nearest port. Yew ready? If so, say 'aye'. If not, 'nay'."

      Orlando and Kenji solemnly chorused, "Aye."

      The captain grinned almost welcomingly and shook their paws. "Welcome aboard the Wavehunter, the finest vessel ever t' plow the raging main. Your names, eh?"

      "I'm Kenji, and he's..."

      Kenji was rudely interrupted as the big Kyrii shoved a mop and a bucket of water and soap at him. "Good. Go swab the deck. You, mister blue guy, you can help him." He tossed Orlando a scratchy sponge. "There y'go. Oh, and m'name is Terek. I woz the best cap'n back in the day, but... why am I telling you this? Git out there and get scrubbing. I've told Pekel and Garthun to shove off."

      As it turned out, Garthun and Pekel were the giant, ill-mannered Skeith and the purple Grarrl from earlier. The two were hauling up the anchor while bellowing out a tuneless sea shanty. Halfway through, Pekel boxed Garthun upside the head, snarling, "That h'ain't the way h'it goes! Yew got ter sing the part h'about the fried Quiggle befores you go singin' out about the drownded Ogrin!"

      Garthun returned the punch, with a roar of rude words and a smattering of ill-pronounced dialogue about how Pekel was only angry because he was purple, and so there.

      With a groan of near-defeat, Kenji and Orlando surveyed the deck. The layers of grime and filth had almost added a half-inch to the thickness of the boards, and Orlando's thirty seconds of vigorous scrubbing only removed a slight amount.

      "It's a fat ole mess, ain't it?" Aelix commented as she perched on the rail behind them. "Terek never was one fer cleanin'. Anyhow, I've got to go help those two landlubbers raise the anchor. They might be strong, but I've seen more seaworthy bread loaves. All brag and no show, that's them."

      Once she had gone, the Kyrii and Wocky resumed their duties, ignoring the curious glances that were tossed their way. Wavehunter slowly moved away from the docks, snail-like; sailed more quickly as wind caught her sails.

      The pair were hard put to conceal their glee when, with faces a ghastly green, Garthun and Pekel made a wobbling beeline for the far rail and left a pound of hardtack and other various edible and no-so-edible objects (in Garthun's case, an old seaboot and a rusty can) to sink into the ocean, leaving little bubbles as the only reminder that anything had scarred the wake that Wavehunter left behind.

To be continued...

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