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The Ruby Chest


by fluorescency

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“Hey, Kolliis! Who do you think I’m trying to be?” The Pirate Shoyru cleared his throat to prepare his impersonation. “’Arr, I be warning ye against venturing near the Mystery Isles, nearly lost me leg there. Speaking of which, have I ever told ye how I came to lose me leg...?”

     Allarin had been practicing this imitation of Cap’n Threelegs for weeks now. His effort was rewarded by his young sister’s screams of mirth. Encouraged by the Spotted Shoyru’s amusement, he even began to hobble along the pier in the same fashion as the old sea captain.

     He was soon stopped in his tracks as his mother laid a firm paw on his shoulder, almost feeling the disapproval radiating from her red paw. Her normally gentle face was creased with unhappiness.

     “Really, Allarin,” she murmured sadly. “Captain Threelegs has trained you for free of charge since you were knee high to a Moach, and this is how you repay his charity? With senseless jokes? I’m sure he too would be disappointed to hear it.” On this melancholy note she departed, dabbing at her eyes.

     “Sheesh,” mumbled Allarin, his face red from his mother’s admonishing. “I mean, she’s totally overreacting – and my boat leaves today! She doesn’t have to be so uncool on my last day in Krawk Island.”

     With that he kicked a loose piece of gravel into the sea, watching it plummet to the ocean floor, never to be found again –“No,” he told himself, “I’m not to think of the sea as my enemy. It’s a friend, an ally, an asset.”

     Allarin returned to the noise and warmth of The Golden Dubloon, his shoulders sagging. There he seated himself at the same table as his best friend Tunqar, a Pirate Kyrii. Tunqar greeted him by practically shoving a cup of grog to his friend’s lips.

     “What’s up, buddy?” he asked, concerned as Allarin failed to gulp down a free beverage.

     “I’m leaving today, Tunqar, with the crew. We’re gonna explore Neopia. I’ve been looking forward to it for months, but now... oh, I don’t know. I guess I’ll miss everyone too much to enjoy myself.”

     Tunqar frowned to himself, unhelpfully adding, “That would be terrible.”

     Then he brightened, his ruby eyes gleaming. “Come on, you’ve got, what, two hours before you go? Why not show me around the ship? I can’t wait to see it!”

     Allarin tugged on the sleeve of his coat anxiously.

     “I’m not really sure that you... oh, alright then! I guess you can take a look.”

     The Kyrii grinned in thanks and the two pets bounded off to examine the boat. As they reached the harbour Tunqar emitted a low whistle. A magnificent, sturdy ship rose from the waters, its white body gleaming in the bright morning sun.

     “That’s not my boat,” snapped Allarin angrily. “Just how much do you think The Academy is paying us?!”

     With this he waved an impatient paw towards a considerably smaller timber boat, to the immediate left of the white. It rocked unsteadily in the water, bobbing against the gentle waves. Atop it sat an obvious red flag, with the words “The Mirgle” emblazoned on it and a poor portrait of the petpet below.

     “The – Mirgle?” Tunqar said skeptically, with laughter in his voice.

     “Be quiet, Tunqar – all of the good, intimidating ship names were taken – the Black Pawkeet, for example,” grumbled Allarin, who was beginning to feel that showing Tunqar the boat was a bad decision. “Anyway, I have to go finish packing – see you later.”

      * * *

     “That’s the last of it,” sighed Allarin, adding the final pair of socks to his trunk. He climbed onto the wooden box, staring sadly at his familiar bedroom walls. He was so deep in thought that he was almost oblivious to his mother’s calls from downstairs. Almost.

     With that he departed from the room, slapping the wall in farewell and trying not to feel homesick already. He took the stairs two steps at a time, the last ending with loud finality.

     Standing at the docks, Allarin’s cheeks were soon a rosy red, as though being pinched by the strong gales. He drew his shabby waistcoat tighter around himself, relieved to see a crewmate, Burt McNasson, fast approaching.

     “Howdy, Burt,” he called out to the familiar face, but received no response. As the Bruce came closer, Allarin noted that he was struggling under some hefty trunks. The Shoyru offered a paw of assistance, and the pair was soon sat together by the docks. The fruity grog Burt had offered slid down his throat easily, making him feel both queasy and excited. He shivered happily in the frosty air as he saw the rest of the crew on the horizon.

     Allarin watched the captain raise the bold flag and how it quivered with pride in the morning sun. Hauling his small suitcase onto the ship, he practically bounced aboard the deck.

     “Gee, Burt, isn’t this the life?” he cried, filling his lungs with the tangy air.

     “Yeah,” grunted Burt absently. “Can you take this to Cabin 5?” He handed over a chest larger than the Shoyru himself. Off ran Allarin, gleeful at having a part to play on board.

     The rest of the day seemed to pass in much the same fashion, with Allarin being called upon frequently to carry out odd jobs around the ship. In fact, it wasn’t until 6pm NST that he found any free time on his hands, away from the hustle and bustle of seafaring life.

     He decided to spend this time on a trip to the ship’s galley below deck. Here a steaming hot meal was placed before Allarin’s nose by the cooper, much to his appreciation. Wolfing down the food without acknowledging his burnt tongue, he barely heard the voice addressing him.

     “Allarin, isn’t it? Can you shovel that food down somewhere where it doesn’t distract me from work? Thanks,” retorted a grumpy Lutari who was polishing some glasses. Flushing, the little Shoyru held out the remains on his plate in offering, which she accepted with a rueful smile.

     “Name’s Salli, pleased to meet you,” she said between forkfuls of mashed potato. “Although I’ll probably get told off for slacking off work.”

     “A girl working on board a ship?!” Allarin asked scornfully, though he was soon quietened by Salli’s menacing glare. Hastily changing the subject, Allarin asked if the Lutari knew when the ship was due to land at its destination.

     “Why, I believe we’re due to land sometime tomorrow night or later,” she replied. “I know,” she added at Allarin’s surprised look, “the distance between Krawk Island and Mystery Island is shorter than you’d think.”

     “We’re going to Mystery Island?!” cried the Shoyru, almost falling from his stool in excitement.

     “Oh, you didn’t know? I guess that’s ruined the entire MYSTERY for you, then,” said Salli, chuckling at her own pun. She looked around the galley, but her cheerful companion had disappeared as suddenly as he had arrived.

      * * *

     For Allarin was now once more in his cabin, tearing open his suitcase and examining its sparse contents dispassionately.

     “Why, oh why didn’t I think to pack sandals?” he murmured in anguish, regarding the sensible hiking boots in his paws. “And suntan lotion, I’ll burn up for sure before we’ve reached Techo Mountain.”

     A noise at the cabin door jolted him out of these worries. Burt McNasson, Allarin’s cabin-mate, was standing at the door with an amused expression.

     “Ye know ye can buy all of these things on the island now, buddy. Those islanders have really learned to cash in on the tourist aspect of the place, aye. Besides,” he muttered, casting a furtive eye up and down the empty corridor. “ye’ve more to be worryin’ about than not gettin’ a suntan, if ye be catching me drift.”

     Clearly Allarin did not catch the drift in question. He stood gaping at his cabin-mate, wondering what on earth the Bruce was talking about.

     Then, finding something to say, in a weak voice, Allarin asked, “What’s that supposed to mean? Is there to be danger on – on the v- voyage?”

     But Burt, infuriatingly, would say no more, instead choosing to hush the Shoyru in what was intended to be a soothing manner. He then strolled off, mumbling to himself about “top secret voyage” and “confidentiality, gotta remember that, Burt.”

     The next day seemed to last forever to the anxious Allarin. Though he was eager to have an important role on the ship, he found himself being given menial, unimportant tasks to spend the day completing. He had just finished delivering yet another crate of grog to the galley.

     “When is anything going to happen on this ship?” he groaned to himself.

     But, as the well-known saying goes, one must always be careful of what one wishes for.

     * * *

     When the sun had finally set on the longest day of Allarin’s life, the little Shoyru decided to turn in for the night, as he had finished his jobs and there was no sign of Salli. Burt, too, was noticeably absent from the cabin.

     However, Allarin did not sleep peacefully that night, as the wind howled outside and the sea sloshed restlessly against the timber boat. He tossed and turned beneath his quilt until sleep fell upon him at last.

     The next thing he knew, Allarin was jerked out of his uneasy slumber by a violent shaking. He opened his bleary eyes to see Salli urgently grabbing hold of his shoulders in an effort to wake him.

     “Hurry,” she hissed. “We’re here! You must get off the ship at once; the captain says it’s urgent.”

     Encouraged by this exciting news, Allarin practically tumbled out of his bed to don his shoes and coat. With that the pair crept rapidly out on to the deck and to the muddy shores of –

     “Geraptiku?” breathed Allarin. He recognized the area of Mystery Island immediately from Cap’n Threelegs’ photographs and fond reminiscences. The wild undergrowth seemed to spill over the shores in its untamed rebellion. Bright colours adorned this predominately green jungle, and wild petpets could be heard chirping in the distance.

     “It’s beautiful,” whispered Salli.

     However, the pair had no time to spare, as they were quickly ushered off of the deck. Hurried and frustrated mutterings from crew members enveloped Allarin’s ears as the group marched inland, to the dense jungle.

     “What are we doing here?” whispered Allarin to Burt, who he had fallen behind to speak to.

     Burt seemed conflicted for a moment, and then reluctantly answered.

     “See, it was meant to be secret and all, but I suppose I can tell ye now – we’re hunting for treasure. It’s called the Ruby Chest. Cap’n says it’s urgent we find it before a band of thieves, fronted by the Aisha thieves – the notorious fellers, does.

     “A treasure chest? A band of thieves?” Allarin could scarcely believe he was part of such an exciting occurrence. Then, his little face setting in determination, he marched purposefully with the rest of the crew.

     But after scratching his ankle for what felt like the fiftieth time, and brushing the hundredth fern from his face, the Shoyru grew weary of the hike.

     “Psst,” he said in a hushed voice to Salli, “we’re clearly getting nowhere on this route. Want to make our own investigations?” he queried hopefully, pointing to a fork in the faint path.

     Salli’s face broke into a grin. “I thought you’d never ask.”

     So the daring duo slipped out of sight behind a tree trunk and began to hike in the opposite direction of the crew. And they had not hiked for long until Allarin was sure he saw a gleam of crimson in the soil.

     Eagerly sprinting towards it, and ignoring his companion’s cynical comments, Allarin tore through the dirt, revealing a dull, but genuine ruby, sat atop a timber chest.

     “Salli,” he breathed, unable to find his voice. “this must be it! Don’t you see, years of hunting for the treasure have worn down the earth it was buried in.”

     Salli was about to come closer, and investigate the chest with shaking paws, when a low growl behind her caused her to spin around.

     It was Burt.

     “I thought you’d lead me here,” said Burt with a malevolent chuckle. His normally benevolent features were contorted with anger and greed as he lunged for the treasure.

     “A silly generic story about a band of thieves was enough to give you wild ideas, Allarin, and I knew sooner or later you’d take matters into your own hands – and possibly lead me to riches. So I followed you,” he said proudly.

     However, Allarin showed no willingness to relinquish the Ruby Chest to this villain. Instead he hurled himself past Burt, using a sturdy tree trunk to vault himself over the Bruce’s shoulder. Salli followed suit, gasping nervously.

     “A little trick I learned from the best,” Allarin added in an undertone, silently thanking Cap’n Threelegs with all his heart.

     On this triumphant note the pair sprawled back to rejoin the crew, leaving Burt choking in their dust. The Ruby Chest rested on their proud shoulders, their cheeks red with victory – not to mention exhaustion.

     “How can we ever repay you?” cried the captain, once they were sailing on the Mirgle once more.

     “Oh, I’m content in the knowledge that Burt McNasson won’t be coming anywhere near a sea voyage again,” said Allarin happily. The captain had spread word amongst the inhabitants of Mystery Island about the crook, along with an easily recognizable photograph.

     “Although... you know what, captain? I’m not sure I’d say no to a hefty cup of grog at the Golden Dubloon.”

The End

 
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