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Home < High Seas: Part Five

by destervetha


Chapter 5

Desterenel spent three years aboard the pirate ship. During that time, they intercepted and looted twelve ships, a nigh unheard-of number.

     The vessels were invariably merchants of course, of middling prosperity. The pirates accomplished their captures with shouting, excitement, and much scrambling up and down the rigging. After an exhilarating chase that lasted several heart-pounding days from the time the other ship was sighted on the horizon to when it was boarded, it was taken over. With more shouting, their ship would draw alongside the merchant and the grey tide of pirates would begin to roll inexorably over their hapless prey.

     Howling, the pirates would swing from lines attached to their masts and sails expressly for that purpose, flying through the air into the rigging of the enemy's ship. Others would topple long boards with hooks on the end so that they would land like bridges between the 'Feather and her unfortunate victim. Still others would swing grapples, trying to catch the railing along the other deck. All the pirates would be screeching the most bloodcurdling war cries while Desterenel flitted excitedly above them, darting under and through the intertwined rigging of both ships.

     However, the little Eyrie cub was fortunate. Not once was there any real bloodshed on the part of the merchants or her pirates. Faced with the barbaric splendor and smell of the army swarming over them, the traders invariably surrendered quickly. Aside from minor knife-cuts, sword-slashes, and some splinters, no one was ever seriously hurt. So Desterenel enjoyed the thrill of the chase and the battle, the fresh innocence that still sparkled in her eyes safely intact.

     But life wasn't all fun and games for her. She had duties, too, despite her size. Though she was exempt from working the ship like the other crew, every morning she launched herself from the bowsprit and flew across the sea. Scouting far ahead of the ship until her mobile home was merely a speck on the horizon, she gazed about for possible targets, then returned, rested, and flew in another direction. Indeed, every ship they captured was sighted by Desterenel's piercing amber eyes. She became an invaluable resource to the Grey Feather, as without her they could miss their prey like other pirates did within the vastness of the heaving grey ocean.

     True to the Wocky Dockmaster's prediction, their name became well-known across the sea. More than thirty piratings were attributed to them, the number growing each time they docked for provisions. They had several near misses with the Defenders of Neopia and their battle-ships; only averted by Desterenel's lucky sighting of their hopeful pursuers. Her efforts enabled Yoharran to correct their course and avoid the pursuing law, keeping the cannons of the Grey Feather silent.

     But apart from her work, she didn't get special treatment. She was fed the same slop the others ate, and kept their same hours, which meant she had to catch two four-hour naps per day. As she was smaller than the other pirates she frequently got last pick of everything, including food and a place to sleep, no matter their proprietary fondness of her. If she got in the way of someone she got booted out of it just like the next pirate. If she annoyed someone she got a cuff 'round the ears, perhaps a little gentler than if she was another crewmember, but she was still struck. However, even the hard living couldn't bring her down.

     She adapted. If someone sidled her out of line she hissed and spat like any wiry crewmember. If someone bumped into her, or stepped on her, she'd curse and flail with the best of them. If someone gave her food she bolted it quickly and neatly, and if someone gave her an order, she jumped.

     Even her appearance began to alter. Over the course of the first year, her feathers grew scruffy and unkempt, and even though she preened regularly, the salty air made her plumage ragged. Her shoulders grew muscled and burly, the mane cloaking them long and coarse. Her wings grew in breadth, seeming over-large for her small frame. The second year her brilliant emerald gradually bleached to a grayish-green by the sun and the wind and the waves. Her new feathers began to grow in dull and sullied, too. Her face changed, also, her beak becoming heavy and thick from crunching up the iron-hard daily rations. Her lower mandible acquired sharp, fang-like protrusions, and her beak turned steel-grey. The third year aboard the 'Feather she managed to scrounge up an earring from a robbed merchant and got Rebarr to pierce her left ear-tuft for her. She even begged an old shirt off a Lupe and wore it constantly. Soon the only thing setting her apart from the rest of the crew was her age. Not even Ma could recognize her daughter now.

     She earned herself friends, not just alliances. The Chomby that ferried heavy loads around the ship became her constant companion, along with the handsomer of the Sublieutenants, Rebarr. They guided her and protected her with gruff kindness. They were a refuge when her world became a little too coarse, a little too real. For they were the honorable pirates of her old tales, at least the side she saw of them…the side that happily told tall tales to an eager youngling and viewed each of her new accomplishments with pride.

     Even Yoharran became an almost-friend to her. When not absorbed in the difficult duty of keeping a pirate ship running, he often spared a moment or two to ask how she was faring, whether she was getting enough to eat, how she was handling the flying and whether she had any pulled muscles. He watched her grow and change, with an unaccustomed feeling in his heart. He even caught himself, once or twice, wishing he could see her more often, comfort her when she was struck for dawdling, or play with her like Rebarr sometimes did.

     Those three years passed like a fleeting zephyr for Desterenel. Before she knew it, she was a full-fledged young Pirate Eyrie, as integral to the working of the 'Feather as Yoharran himself. Until one fateful week, with the sight of golden sails on the horizon, that all changed.


     One fine, misty morning, Desterenel paced towards the bow of the ship. They were far north, and every dawn got a little chillier. Breath wreathing her in a cloud of white, she stepped carefully to avoid coils of frost-coated lines gracing the deck. Flicking an ear in greeting to the bristly Yurble on watch, she stepped up onto the foredeck and climbs out onto the ornately carved bowsprit. Perching on the end she crouched and dug her claws into the sea-bedewed wood. Tensing her hindquarters to launch, she cast her gaze out across the sea, and…


     A ship lay dead ahead of them. Desterenel could see it clearly, although to the other crewmembers it was but a tiny speck on the horizon. Bedecked in finery even gaudier than the Grey Feather, the gold-sailed ship was tacking to port. She couldn't quite make out the name, but she knew that ship. All pirates knew what golden sails meant.

     It was the Tonne of Bullion, a member of the Bullion Fleet! The richest merchant ships to ever grace the waves! No other merchant would have the audacity to run gleaming golden sails; in fact legally they couldn't, as Bullion, inc. had copyrighted it.

     Elation written in every line of her wiry frame, her tail stiff behind her, she spun about and leapt off of the bowsprit. Clearing the foredeck with room to spare, she blithely avoided the Yurble, her paws thundering across the thick wooden deck. Swelling her lungs with the freezing morning air, she roared as loudly as she could.

     "Cap'n! Cap'n Yoharran sir!" Howling, she charged straight to Yoharran where he stood at the stern rail. Across the deck, past the masts, over the cumbersome masses of lines and cleats and rails, and up the stairs she ran, touching but one step as she used her wings to aid her progress. Then she came to an undignified halt, tatters, rags, earrings and chains flapping and jingling about her. Panting, she attempted to get her breath back, wicked beak gaping wide, exhaling plumes of steam. Shifting from foot to foot, digging thick claws into the planks she gasped out her message, eyes as wide as they could go.

     "Sir, Sir! I've sighted a ship onna horizon Sir! Sir, she's a'flyin' gold sails! She's the Tonne of Bullion! An' she's dead ahead o' us!"

     Yoharran, turning with surprise at her shout, now reached out his claws and took her firmly by the mane growing from the sides of her face. He had to reach a ways up to do so, as she was finally growing into her wings, and had at least a foot on him now. Shoving his snout close to her beak he snarled excitedly, every yellowed, rotten fang bared.

     "Ye see it fer truely? Are ye sure o' it, lass? Certain sure?"

     "Cert'in sure! Cert'in sure! I read th' name on 'er, Cap'n, Sir, she's the Tonne of Bullion fer cert'in surely!" Desterenel affirmed, lying through her beak. She had not read the name, but there was only one gold-sailed ship on the Terror Mountain-Faerieland Port run. She opened her beak to speak again, but realized that there was no one to speak to anymore. Yoharran had sprinted away, wicked back claws tack-tack-tacking across the deck as he scrabbled for the All-Hands bell. Desterenel, abandoned to her own devices, launched herself happily to the air in one powerful excitement-charged leap.

     Flapping vigorously she rose swiftly, and as she did so the rising sun caught something hanging from her neck. It was a medallion, glinting in the new day, dislodged from the protection of her shirt by her wild rush to Yoharran. Feeling it flapping on its hemp cord, she caught it in her paw and tucked it safely away once more. Her flight faltering from moving her arms about, she dropped several yards through the air. Quickly regaining her former altitude, she began a circle about the ship, watching the 'Feather begin her port tack to follow the prey.

     She gazed in awe as she did every time the great sails move. Grey backs swarmed up the lines and rigging, clinging tenaciously in the morning breeze, tattered clothes flying gaily in the stiff wind. Gold gleamed about them, scattered liberally over every pirate. The rich times had been good to them, if ill for others, and they wore their wealth in jewelry. Each one was covered in golden buckles, earrings, paw-rings, and finger-rings for those pets whose hands could carry them. Even the brave veteran ones encumbered beyond the norm with their heavy treasures scampered with alacrity about the heaving forest of rope and sailcloth like Myncis. Well, some of them were Myncis, but they scampered even faster.

     Working together, they unsheathed all sails, hauling on some lines, cleating off others, until the mighty green, blue, and gold sheets swiveled around and caught the wind. The sails snapped taut and the ship bucked and plowed forward, pirates holding on gamely. As their speed picked up, the ship leapt forward, nose-on to the heavy swell. Flying like a slim sea-bird, the 'Feather knifed through the ocean, seeming as light as her namesake as she barreled onward towards her goal.

     Raising her eyes to the horizon, now the ship was finished with the tack, Desterenel gazed eagerly and hungrily at the gilt-driven ship on the sea so far ahead.

     This was an unprecedented opportunity. Throughout the Bullion Corporation's two-hundred-year domination of the jewelry industry, only three of their ships had ever been taken by pirates. Though common Neopian history ended with the Pirate's names, Cap'ns Rawhide, Doug the Horrible, and Blueberry Beard, respectively, pirate history went somewhat further. Each captain came out of their successful encounters with over one million neopoints each…and that was after they'd paid the crew.

     The 'Feather had just made port three weeks ago, and their hold was still empty. There would be plenty of room for all the spoils! Every pirate, e'en me, she added slyly to herself, would be able to take full pick of the personal jewelry. The Tonne' was about three times the size of the 'Feather, a freighter of gargantuan proportions. In order to make maximum profit Yoharran could not afford to take anything but jewelry into the ship, and even with a hold filled to bursting with such treasure there will be quite a bit left over.

     But that was getting ahead of herself, surely. They still had at least three days, far away as they were, between them and their golden prize. Especially once their prey saw the 'Feather, saw for themselves the legend come chasing. There would be many watches, much excitement as they tacked to and fro to corner their fleeing prey, countering every futile move to escape. Luckily, they were out in the very middle of the ocean; no chance of the 'Tonne reaching safe haven before her capture.

      But capture her they would, in time, and then…!

      Mind filled with glorious visions of riches and celebration, Desterenel pinwheeled happily through the air, executing barrel rolls, flips, and loops. Lost in her excitement, she drifted high above the ship, and was finally brought back to the heaving deck by a shouted order. She was to stow herself below until needed. Gazing down at the ship, small below her, she calculated for a moment. Then, sighing through her nares in an irritated huff of air, she dove, snapping her wings open at the last minute and coasting up and onto the deck, toes skimming the waves.

      No one noticed. Flicking her tail free of seafoam, she stepped quickly out of the way of several hurrying deckhands, only to step into the way of two Kacheeks coming the other way carrying long coils of line. Flustered, she leapt smartly, bounding over their heads and gliding to the double-doors that lead to crew quarters under the foredeck.

      She walked inside the triangular-shaped room in the bow, pacing along the rightmost of two pathways around the enormous anchor mechanism. Passing rows and rows of bunks, padded thickly with gaudy, damp-ravaged blankets stolen from other ships, she proceeded to the very front. There lay her bunk, in the least desirable space of all.

     It was built right above a hole in the bow, the outlet from which the mighty anchor chain ran. It was a horrible place to sleep, as freezing winds gusted in periodically with a load of foam, chilling her. If there was ever a very heavy swell, waves splashed in also. It was so undesirable that she didn't even have someone hotbunking there during the times she was working. It was hers and hers alone. A refuge, uncomfortable as it may have been.

      Curling up on her sodden, freezing mattress, she prepared to wait out the long, long chase, comforting her physical discomfort with visions of lustrous gold.

To be continued...

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» Home < High Seas: Part One
» Home < High Seas: Part Two
» Home < High Seas: Part Three
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» Home < High Seas: Part Six
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