Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 197,022,178 Issue: 957 | 1st day of Eating, Y24
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Another Hero's Krawk Island

by precious_katuch14


Chapter 5: Ione and Muirgen

     ”So, let me get this straight,” Muirgen began as a lanky skunk Flotsam started heating something up in a pot on the furnace, “you were walking home after your shift at the Lighthouse Tavern and you saw Wilhelm chase a Blumaroo, and you followed him.” The pirate Eyrie shook her head. “You really should have left him alone.”

     “Yeah, I think I had it all under control,” said Reuben, waving a hand dismissively as he sipped water from a cup.

     Ione snorted derisively. “You’re welcome.”

     “More importantly…” Muirgen glanced at Reuben. “Wilhelm kidnapped you from Meridell and brought you here so you could make weapons for him?”

     “So that was what he was planning! His ticket to ultimate riches and all that!” the purple Xweetok exclaimed. “When I met him at my shift, he sounded so sure about his new get-rich-quick scheme! Not gonna lie, that would be so good if it weren’t so bad. Then I found him stalking this Blumaroo. I had to do something!”

     “Of course you did,” said Muirgen, shaking her head before looking up at a yellow Korbat hanging upside down from the ship rafters. “Allie, did you take out the trash today?”

     “I sure did!” the Korbat piped up. Then she pointed at Reuben and asked, “Is he really the Reuben of Trestin, the weapon maker and Sir Rohane’s brother, Mama?”

     “Older brother,” the white Blumaroo said.

     “Well, it wouldn’t be a get-rich-quick scheme if he kidnapped just any weapon maker,” Ione answered before Muirgen could.

     Allie dropped down to sit next to Reuben and was immediately chastised by a small blue Hissi. “Hey! You should be setting the table!”

     “Mama only told me to take out the trash, Cole!”

     “I never said that,” said Muirgen wearily. “Allie, help your brother.”

     “He’s not really my brother…”

     The pirate Eyrie gave her a withering glare, and immediately the Korbat shot out of the chair and began taking out plates from the cupboard.

     “Anyway, I got kidnapped, wound up here, Wilhelm chased me, Ione found me and brought me here. That’s the story.” Reuben spread his arms and sighed. “Sometimes I imagine going to Krawk Island one day, but not like this.”

     “That’s why I brought him here,” said Ione as she chopped vegetables and tossed them into the simmering pot. “I can’t just stand there and let Wilhelm get his filthy paws on a top-tier swordsmith!”

     “You didn’t know I was a top-tier swordsmith then, though,” Reuben reminded her with a wink.

     “You could’ve just found him a ship back to Meridell.”

     “I panicked, Muirgen! Besides, what if Wilhelm caught us wandering Warf Wharf and all?”

     “Does this mean Mister Reuben is gonna stay with us?” the Hissi asked.

     Muirgen massaged her temples while Allie started setting out plain plates with the faintest traces of stains gone by. “Well, not for long. Just long enough for Ione and me to get him on the next ship to Meridell. Like tomorrow.”

     “Tomorrow sounds good,” Reuben remarked, examining the table knife Cole left in front of him.

     “You mean you’re in on this too?” Ione pumped a fist into the air and threw her arms around the Eyrie. “I knew I could count on you!”

     “Wilhelm is going to be tracking Reuben down, and you’re not exactly a master of subtlety,” said Muirgen steadily.

     “How hard can it be? We’ll just have to teach Reuben how to be a pirate overnight!”

     The white Blumaroo cleared his throat. “What, you mean like, ‘Arrrr, it be I, Reuben o’ the five seas!’” He curled his hand to resemble a hook and closed one eye, only to be met with silence.

     “What’s he doing?” Allie asked the skunk Flotsam, who merely shrugged while Ione tipped the vegetables into the pot.

     “Yeah, we’ve got a lot of work to do before you can pass for a Krawk Islander,” said Ione, chuckling.

     * * *

     Lunch was a simple chowder with vegetables and fish served with crusty bread, and water. To Reuben, who barely had enough to eat while imprisoned on the Cofferling and who never got the chance to try Seaside’s famous chowder, it was the best chowder he tasted.

     “Pass the salt, Frank,” said Cole.

     “It’s nearer to Allie, ask her to pass it,” the skunk Flotsam grumbled as he slurped his chowder.

     “But you’re nearer to me!”

     “Ugh, you’re such a pain, Cole.” Frank rolled his eyes but reached out across the table to take the saltshaker, which was in the shape of a gingerbread cookie.

     Ione noticed Reuben staring at it and explained, “That was a Day of Giving gift. We use it all year round.”

     “It had a matching pepper shaker, but Ione knocked it into the sea once,” said Muirgen, chewing on a piece of potato.

     “It was an accident! And Frank got it back!”

     “And now I’m keeping it on the top of the cupboard where it can’t fall into the sea again.”

     “But Frank can get it back again, easy,” said Allie, waving her fork. Then she tilted her head toward Reuben. “So, is Sir Rohane really ten feet tall and can destroy fifty monsters with one sword swing?”

     The white Blumaroo burst out laughing. “I’m taller than he is, and I don’t know about fifty monsters with one sword swing, but he’s definitely not afraid of any monster.”

     “Wow,” the Korbat breathed reverently. “Before you go, can I meet him?”

     “I’m…uh, not with him.”

     “He was kidnapped from Meridell and brought here,” Ione explained. “Still, knowing Sir Rohane, I’m sure he’d be the type to commandeer a ship and sail Neopia’s five seas just to get his brother back.”

     Reuben chuckled. “That’s what I was hoping for, but I don’t think I can afford to sit around waiting for him. Especially not with Wilhelm wanting to turn me into a cash Kau. Besides Rohane, I also have my mother waiting at home, and Andrea – “

     “Your mother?” Muirgen asked, looking up from her cup. “What’s she like?”

     He sighed longingly. “Mother…she can’t drop a crate on her enemies or run around with a cutlass, but she’s one of the strongest folks I know. Our father died when we were young, and she managed to raise both of us ever since. She made money delivering hot meals to the neighbours and helping the village healers – she’s the best cook I know.”

     “Better than Muirgen?” said Ione.

     “I’m sure she’s better than Ione.” The pirate Eyrie sipped her water primly, ignoring Ione’s affronted look. When she put down her cup, she added, “She sounds like a better mom than I am.”

     “No one’s a better mom than you or Mom!” Allie cried as she pretended to walk the gingerbread saltshaker across the table.

     “Thank you, but stop playing with the saltshaker.”

     “Mama!” Frank complained. “Cole is hogging the potatoes!”

     Ione clapped a hand to her forehead. “Don’t be picky with your vegetables, Cole!” She stood up and took the tureen back from the Hissi. “Share the potatoes with everyone else.”

     Cole stuck his tongue out at Frank, who simply sat back in his chair looking smug.

     As chaos reigned over the lunch table and Muirgen groaned as she stood up to find some fruit for dessert while Ione begged the Eyrie to remain seated while she did it for her, Reuben watched them as he ate the last of his chowder, a wistful glint in his eyes.

     * * *

     “This is your fault, Derrick.”

     “Hey, don’t go pinning this on me! It was your fault the swordsmith escaped!”

     “Oh, shut up, what does it matter now?” The brown Grundo threw up his hands as he straightened up from where he was scrubbing the deck of the Cofferling. He plunged his sponge into his bucket and carried on scrubbing with a sour expression on his face, his only good eye narrowed.

     “Yes, it doesn’t matter now since it was both your fault,” Wilhelm said, sitting on a barrel with his feet perched on a cannon. He frowned – a little frown, not outright angry, but certainly disappointed enough that neither Derrick nor Eif would meet his gaze. “I gave you two one job. Keep our ticket to ultimate riches safe and sound, yet somehow he escapes both of you and is now somewhere in Krawk Island with that wench Ione!”

     The shadow Kiko focused on mopping the floor and whispered, “He escaped you too, Captain.”

     “What’s that?”

     “I said, I’m almost done, Captain,” said Derrick innocently.

     Wilhelm sprang from the barrel and started pacing the floor without a care for the grime he was tracking after Eif had just cleaned up that part of the deck; the Grundo chose to hold his tongue and focus on wiping the cabin windows.

     “Ione…if we find her and Muirgen, we can find Reuben again,” the pirate Kougra mused before pointing at his crewmates. “When you two are done polishing up the ship, we’re making land, and we won’t stop till we’ve checked every corner of Krawk Island for our swordsmith for hire!” He struck the side of the Cofferling. “And if you fail me again, you’ll be doing more than scrubbing the entire ship!”

     “What else could he possibly make us do?” Eif asked as he wrung out the rag he was using and Derrick passed him by with the mop.

     “Scrape the barnacles off the bottom of the Cofferling, I guess.”

     “At least we wouldn’t have to hear or see him.”

     “Less talking, more swabbing!”

     * * *

     Reuben and Ione watched Muirgen take flight from the houseboat, leaving them with Allie, Cole, and Frank. Allie and Cole chased each other in the air while Frank dived into the sea, hoping to find some treasure even though Ione was sure he wouldn’t be able to find any.

     “It’s her turn to work,” Ione explained. “She’s apprenticing for a swordsmith in the north. There’s this grizzled old master who won’t take just anyone, but Muirgen can be really persuasive.” The Xweetok beamed with pride. “Muirgen’s really cool like that, on top of being the best cook. All I’m good for is chopping up vegetables and stuff.”

     “Hey, chopping is a good life skill to have.”

     “Sounds like all of you in your family have it.”

     Reuben grinned. “Yeah, you’ve got me, you’ve got Rohane, and our father, who was one of Meridell’s greatest knights. Of course, Mother…” He let out a breath, leaning against the side of the boat and seeing his reflection against the ripples in the water. “Oh, she’d be so worried if she found out I got kidnapped off Seaside. I’m hoping Andrea and Rohane find me real soon…and maybe we won’t tell her.” He chuckled.

     Ione punched him lightly against his arm. “Hey, if I were your mom, oh, I’d be pretty furious. Worried too, but also furious.”

     “So…you used to be with Wilhelm? Which means you also know that Grundo and Kiko with him?”

     “Derrick and Eif?” Ione snorted. “Yeah, we had some good times at the Smugglers’ Cove. But when times got harder, we started doing a lot of pillaging. We stole from ships around Krawk Island and Mystery Island…but Muirgen and I, we couldn’t do it forever. When we first took Frank in, this poor raggedy kid trying to fish for his food on the beach, we realized we had to set a good example for him, and for Allie and Cole too. No use in teaching them to be good when their moms are some of the worst scrapings around Krawk Island.”

     The white Blumaroo nodded slowly, watching as Allie did a somersault in the air and nearly lost her balance, only for Cole to catch her with a loud laugh. “That’s…well, I have to admire you, leaving piracy for your kids.”

     “That’s why I took a job at the tavern, and Muirgen got a job at the smithy. Actually, Muirgen and I kinda do some fishing for the folks around here. Some of them are old, and easy pickings for pirates who’d sink that low.” The purple Xweetok ran a hand through her mane. “So your family’s you, and Sir Rohane, and your mom, but who’s Andrea?”

     He looked at her, a hand over the pocket where he kept the ring. When he tried to imagine her intense blue eyes, the way she’d get excited when she had a new idea for a story, the way the breeze would play with her mane, and the sincere smile she always had when she was with him, he saw her clearly in his mind’s eye as though she were with him right now, on a boat moored close to one of Krawk Island’s beaches.

     Despite the fact that he was lost and still needed to return to Meridell and see his family again, Reuben smiled.

     “A dear friend, who means all of Neopia to me.”

     He could have stopped there, but he didn’t. He talked about how Andrea was a huge help in his business, how she had accompanied him to the Lost Desert when they wanted to find Rohane, how she had given him a turquoise drop necklace that matched her single turquoise earring…and how he missed her.

     * * *

     That night, Ione stood at the bow of the houseboat, watching the stars twinkle and shine in the sky. She turned around when she heard the creak of the cabin door open, and saw Muirgen step out, a jacket thrown casually over her nightshirt and with mugs of tea in her hands. The pirate Eyrie handed one to her and started sipping from the other.

     “You should sleep, Ione.”

     “I know, but…” The purple Xweetok leaned against her. “I can’t stop thinking about Reuben. He’s got a family to return to, and Andrea, his…”

     “And you dragged him here to spend the night without even asking me.”

     “I’m sorry!”

     Muirgen’s expression softened, and she chuckled quietly. “Well, you wouldn’t be Ione if you didn’t do that. It’s just like you to drop everything and help Wilhelm’s next target.”

     “I had hoped his plans would crumble without us, but I guess he knows how to bounce back. Unfortunately.”

     “I just wanted a quiet life.” After setting her mug down on the rail, Muirgen massaged her temples. “I thought we’d be safe here, away from Wilhelm and everything about our old lives…but you just had to make things more interesting, didn’t you?”

     Ione made a small, annoyed noise that was also contrite. “I said I was sorry!”

     “I never said we wouldn’t help Reuben. I could’ve shooed him off our boat by now, but now he’s sleeping below deck.” The pirate Eyrie shrugged. “Besides, it must be hard, being away from his family in an unfamiliar place. But he has to leave tomorrow, before Wilhelm or his friends manage to find us. We can get him to the dock under Wilhelm’s nose, but he’ll be on his own there, if there’s even a ship bound for Meridell tomorrow.”

     The Xweetok set her jaw resolutely. “There has to be. Or any ship that’ll sail away from Krawk Island. Any ship that’ll sink that smug look on Wilhelm’s face.”

     Muirgen’s beak twitched as though she were holding back a laugh, and she picked up her mug of tea. “Go to bed, Ione. We can figure out a plan tomorrow.”

     To be continued…

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