The Power of a Ladle
Petpets sang in twittering high notes in the trees on the island outside the cabin's tiny porthole. Water sloshed against the hull in rhythmic intervals. Aeros tightened his eyes to hold the sunlight at bay. The light shone through his closed eyelids. He groaned. His limbs wanted to get up and moving.
The Vandagyre took a deep breath and rubbed his clawed hand across his face. His beak clacked and the sound startled him. He looked around wildly then laughed.
"Just myself," he said, "Goodness, how have I become such a paranoid Vandagyre?"
Aeros sighed and sat up. He looked at the other bed and did not see Sir Cain, the one who he shared the small cabin with. Must already be up on deck, thought Aeros. The Vandagyre looked at the small table and saw a bowl of gruel with a ladle. He sat down and ate his gruel with the ladle.
The Vandagyre was skinny and tall. His bright yellow eyes were reminiscent of an owl and set into a mask of blue feathers. The rest of his face was white feathers with proud tufts of broad blue feathers to mark his ears on top of his head. His wings, like an archaeopteryx, were also his hands. The feathers that cascaded down from his arms were royal blue and shined with health. Because of his wings being his arms, Aeros needed to wear short sleeved tunics. His night gown was no exception.
Once Aeros was awake and ready for the day, he walked out of his cabin in a proud tunic of Archanean blue and silver. His black leather boots stepped up the wooden steps at the end of the hall to the deck of the ship. The ship he was on, along with his fellow Archaneans, was a Brightvale vessel loaned out to Prince Phillip by King Hagen.
Prince Phillip was Aeros's childhood friend and King-of-Archanea-to-be. Aeros felt his chest swell with pride as he walked into sunlight. He tilted his head back and absorbed the warm rays. Despite all that happened because of the pirate's take-over of Archanea, Aeros felt lighter than any of his feathers. He knew that together with the other knights that were able to escort Phillip out of Archanea, they would take back their home and save their families. Even now as he contemplated, Phillip was busy on the island garnering support.
Aeros did not know the name of this little island. It was a trading post for all sorts of vessels from Altadorian triremes to pirate frigates. The Brightvalean ship that they were sailing on was moored at the docks of the small trading post. The small settlement was comprised of tiny buildings crafted from local timber and roofed with native grasses. There weren't very many Neopets living at the trading post, just because of the tribe inside the forest.
Aeros walked across the wood deck and laid his clawed hands on the railing. He looked toward the forest.
The forest was a leviathan crouched behind the trading post. It's emerald canopy was a shroud for the Neopet shape-shifters within. Aeros felt the feathers around his neck stand up as he looked. There was no way to know just where Phillip, his friend, was inside that land of mystery. Aeros swallowed. He did not want to continue down that line of thinking. His claws dug into the wood of the railing.
"Steady on, Aeros," said Sir Cain. "No one wants you to ruin our only ship. You did remember to have breakfast right?"
Aeros turned his head to look at Cain. His beak pulled into a smile. "The gruel was delicious and I wouldn't worry about the wood. I'm not strong."
"Strength has nothing to do with it," said Cain. He joined Aeros and laid his arms onto the railing to Aeros' right.
Aeros looked out at the forest again. He knew Cain was watching him with those reptilian Draik eyes. Aeros swallowed and rubbed his claws together. I am not strong, thought Aeros, I am not like you, Sir Cain.
Aeros looked at Sir Cain out of the corner of his eye when the Draik sighed.
"I can't even see a foot into that forest," said Sir Cain.
Translation, thought Aeros, I hope Prince Phillip is still alive.
Aeros took a deep breath and leaned back. He looked up at the blue sky and wallowed in the salty sea air. His claws tapped the railing. "There hasn't been a breeze in a while."
Sir Cain hummed. The Draik turned around and leaned his back against the rail. His chainmail clinked before he settled. He looked at Aeros without blinking, as if he were trying to see into Aeros's mind. "Likely not to be a breeze in a while."
"That bodes ill for sailing away from this island."
"That island doesn't want us to leave," growled Cain.
Aeros shivered. He didn't like the way Cain's words made his body turn cold. His eyes focused on the forest but he couldn't see anything. In there, all alone, was Prince Phillip braving everything that island could throw at him. Aeros closed his eyes and scratched at his beak with a claw. He wished he possessed an ounce of Phillip's bravery. The type of bravery that would save an island from malevolent forces and inspire any Neopet.
I will be brave, thought Aeros, someday...
"Hey Aeros," asked Cain.
Aeros turned his head to look at the Draik. "Yeah?"
"Nothing," said Cain.
Aeros tilted his head to the side, the way an owl would. His beak clacked, another habit of his when he was trying to look for answers. It didn't take long for Aeros to speculate what Cain meant. The Draik seemed like a Neopet twice his age, his red scales were crinkled with worry lines. That didn't surprise Aeros. The Vandagyre figured he had his own set of worry lines. There was so much they abandoned on Archanea when the pirates attacked: Sir Cain's family, Aeros's folks, Prince Phillip's mother and sister, the whole island of Archanea.
A smile tugged at Aeros's beak. "We'll see Archanea again, Frederick. We'll return home."
"It's already been thirteen years," said Cain. His eyes were cast down at his feet. He crossed his arms over his chest.
"We'll return home," said Aeros. "We've got plenty of ships now."
The Vandagyre pushed off of the railing and straightened up. He flapped his wings and ruffled his feathers. His gaze went from Sir Cain to the forest when he saw movement. He felt his heart pause when the movement started again. Aeros stared and could make out two figures.
"Sir Cain, it's his Majesty!"
"Really," asked the Draik. Sir Cain swung around and grasped the railing with white knuckle force.
Aeros could see Prince Phillip clearly now. The Gelert was a picture of health: his raven hair shining in the sunlight, his turquoise fur sleek, his proud snout lifted high, and his stride would demand Kings to bow. Aeros was relieved to see Prince Phillip in his regal garb: royal blue and silver tunic, grey pants tucked into knee-high black boots, sword at hip, and silver cape trailing behind.
The Vandagyre couldn't take it anymore. He spread out his wings and flapped. His heart bubbled with relief for his friend. The feelings grew stronger as Aeros flew closer to meet with Phillip and the shape-shifter at his side. Aeros landed on the sandy ground before Prince Phillip. He dropped into a bow, so as to hide his relief. His body jumped when he felt a second body, most likely Sir Cain, joining him.
"Sir Cain," said Prince Phillip, "Lord Aeros. I see we have the makings of our own fleet with Ayizie's people settled. You two have been busy."
"Your Majesty," said Aeros, "all of us have anxiously awaited the news. Are we to set sail for Archanea?"
"We set sail for Archanea with all haste," said Phillip, "To save our homeland."
Aeros gasped as he dived out of the way of a pirate's sword. He rolled across the cobblestone and leapt back up to his feet. His body ached. Aeros leapt backward out of the pirate's reach.
"Oi, c'mon," snarled the pirate. "Let me just put ye out o' yer misery shrimp!"
Aeros reached for the sword at his hip but grabbed at only air. His eyes widened and fear gripped him like a vice. Aeros looked down at his empty sword sheath. He lost his sword in an earlier fight with a pirate Skeith. This pirate he now faced was a grizzled old Kougra and it didn't seem like the thirteen years on Archanea were any good for the pirate.
Aeros turned around and bolted down the cobblestone pathway. He needed a weapon or something! There was no way he could fight a pirate without a weapon. Aeros dived around the corner of a building and rolled. He looked up frantically until he saw a wooden ladle?
Better than nothing, thought Aeros.
Aeros grabbed the ladle and waited. He took deep breaths to steady his nerves. It was difficult because he was hearing all of the sounds of war. Neopets roaring and the clash of steel overpowered by the blasts of cannons. Aeros tensed up and got ready for the pirate.
"C'mer, birdy-birdy," cooed the Pirate Kougra.
Aeros swung the ladle with all his might and hit the Kougra clean on the noggin. The Vandagyre stared with wide eyes when the Kougra hit the cobblestone with a groan. Aeros couldn't believe it. He poked the Kougra with his foot. The Kougra was breathing but he was knocked right out.
"Whoa," said one of the shape-shifters from the trading post island. "Good shot!"
Aeros turned to face the speaker and smiled. He waved the broken ladle in the air. "Never underestimate the power of a good wooden ladle!"