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||You are on Week 310
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Three Hundred Ten Ends February 23
"Reef those sails! We could be ripped to shreds in that incoming storm!"
"Aye aye, sir!"
"Set a course north by northwest! We'll try to sail around it!"
"Belay those fastenings! Heave the cargo overboard!"
"Got it, captain!"
The sound of running feet pounded over the wood deck over Chun's head. The Lutari curled himself tightly in his hidden barrel. He had been sure that they would never be able to find him, disguised as the barrel was among all the other crates and boxes in the storage room, but he wasn't so positive now as the ship shook violently, threatening to spill him out onto the floor. It had been three days since he had snuck on board a merchant sailing vessel in the Shenkuu port. He just didn't have enough Neopoints to pay for passage, and time was of the essence. He'd survived by eating small portions of their rations so that they wouldn't notice, but he was seasick with what little he had anyway.
And now, there was a storm. Chun rubbed a tired paw over his face. This stowing away business was proving to be a lot more trouble than he had anticipated.
That's when the first big wind hit...
Date: Feb 12th
...If the crew had not been successful in reefing the sails, Chun had no doubt that the force of the wind would have been enough to capsize the boat. Clenching his teeth, he reached up and dug his claws into the lid of the barrel, mainly to keep it from coming off, but also in a vain attempt to steady himself as the ship creaked alarmingly from the force of the storm outside. He could feel the world around him tilting steadily to the left, at nearly a forty-five degree angle, and it was all he could do not to be sick right then and there.
Considering the fact that he had grown up in a thriving port city, surrounded by water and ocean-going vessels, Chun was remarkably unfond of traveling by boat. He tended to get seasick rather easily, so when given the choice, he would much rather curl up by a warm, dry fireplace than stumble around on a constantly heaving deck.
But in this case, the choice had not been so easy: it was either this, or losing his closest friend since childhood.
This thought was enough to steel the Lutari’s nerves, even as the ship listed heavily to one side and his stomach rocked into his throat once more. No matter what happened, he would do what he had to-
“Captain, the ship’s still too heavy! She’ll broach if we don’t do something!”
“Well, what are you standing around for, then? Didn’t I give the order to dump the cargo?! If we can’t get around this storm, we’ll have to stick it out as we are, and a load of vegetable dumplings aren’t worth the lives of my crew!”
“All of it, Captain?”
“Yes, all of it!”
A hatch slammed open somewhere above Chun’s head, and his heart froze. Before he could cry out or even think, the Lutari felt himself being hoisted bodily upward and out into the howling wind above deck.
They were going to pitch him overboard...
Date: Feb 12th
"Ready?" Chun heard a crewmember shout through the raging storm, "On three! One--"
--Chun scrabbled frantically at the sides of the barrel. He could hear the angry roar of cresting waves--
--He had no other choice, best to try his luck with the Captain than with the unforgiving sea. Chun butted his head against the lid, but it was wedged in tightly and refused to budge. Panic rising in his chest, Chun gritted his teeth and shoved with all his might--
--Chun burst out of the barrel and leaped off it, claws outstretched. The empty barrel fell, lost in the sea below him, and Chun landed right on top of something soft and malleable that was most definitely not the splintered wooden planks of the deck.
His first thought was that he was thankful for whatever it was that had broken his fall.
His second thought was of complete and utter shock when the thing below him suddenly moved.
Chun yelped and quickly scrambled to his feet. Dread settled in the bottom of his stomach as he realized that he had fallen right on top of one of the crew members. Uh-oh...
"Arrrgh!" the Aisha groaned in fury as he staggered to his feet. He turned his gaze to Chun and narrowed his eyes. "What's this? A stowaway?"
Chun backed away from the Aisha slowly. The deck beneath his feet rocked violently, and he stumbled. Gathering up what little strength he had left, Chun shouted, "I demand to speak with your captain!"
The Aisha laughed, his long ears waggling back and forth. He took a step towards Chun and leaned down, "I am the captain here! Explain yourself!"
Chun shivered, partly from the ice-cold rain and partly from nervousness. Of course it had been the captain whom he'd landed on. And now he had to give an explanation to the captain who would decide his fate...
Date: Feb 13th
...As the Aisha captain stared down at him, Chun was faced with what seemed like the hundredth difficult choice in only a few short days. He had to decide between telling what would satisfy the captain and save his life, or the truth.
Ever since Chun's best friend Lynn had disappeared, he'd been forced to choose between the right thing to do and the thing that would help him most. In the past few days, the Lutari had stolen food, eavesdropped on important conversations, tricked a policeman, and stowed away aboard a merchant vessel, and he was growing tired of lying. But as the rain continued to pour down, Chun realized that in this situation, the truth might save him.
"I need to get to Lutari Island," he said, watching the captain's eyebrows rise. "I need to get home."
"So you stowed away on our ship?" asked the Aisha, who remained surprisingly poised aboard the rocking ship. A salty spray churned up from the sea below as the storm roared on.
"I found out that you were heading to Mystery Island," said Chun. "Your route takes you just past Lutari Island. I had hoped that you would stop there to rest for a while."
"How did you know our plotted path?" asked the captain with a hint of suspicion. Chun knew he needed to be on his toes.
"Oh, um, I heard. From a sailor. Back in Shenkuu." He bit his lip and grasped the rail as the ship lurched to the side. "But now that I'm here, I just ask you to stop at Lutari Island. And if you can't do that, please give me a life boat to set out in once we near the island." The captain's brow furrowed, and Chun added, "Please."
"I'm not sure what to make of this," said the Aisha, and Chun's stomach turned, from a mixture of nervousness and seasickness. As the water from above continued to pour down and the water below continued to swell, the captain said...
Date: Feb 13th
..."We don't take kindly to stowaways. This is a reputable vessel after all."
Chun's heart sank faster than the tossed cargo, bits of which were beginning to settle to the dank depths of the murky ocean, while the winds continued to rage and churn the restless waves, which seemed intent on claiming this ship as its latest victim. He forced himself to dismiss all nausea as he looked straight into the captain's eyes.
"I'll do anything, cook, clean, mop, whatever. It's a matter of life or death." Mainly death, he added to himself.
The captain twitched his ears thoughtfully, wondering how he was to make the best of this. Before he became a sailor and subsequently captain, he prided himself on being an expert decision maker. This one was a tough choice.
The ship listed as another monstrous wave struck home. Chun's fortitude finally gave and he stumbled to the side and offered his last meal to the unforgiving ocean. The captain looked at his crew and a smirk came to his face.
"Tell you what," he grinned, "you share shifts in the crow's nest with Griff here," at this a young looking Eyrie inclined his head, "and I'll let you stay. You can even take the next shift."
Chun gulped and looked up at his new post. "How do I get up there? I can't climb."
Griff spread his wings and said, "I'll giv' ya a lift," and with that he grabbed Chun and headed skyward.
Chun tried to keep his eyes shut for the trip but couldn't help opening them when he heard a loud crack to see the mast falling right towards them...
Date: Feb 14th
...A bolt of lightning had burst forth from the stormy clouds and hit the ship's tall mast. The charred piece of wood had cracked and was now whooshing toward Griff and Chun, who were high in the air above the deck. With an awful ripping sound, the broad sail was torn in two as the mast hurtled downward.
Griff dove out of the way, pumping his wings against the gusting winds, and Chun closed his eyes tightly once more. The howl of the storm was interrupted by another crash as the mast hit the deck, splintering the wooden boards beneath it. Sailors shouted below, and the Aisha captain was trying to call out orders over the roaring typhoon. As Griff continued to struggle against the billowing gusts, Chun could hear a violent splash as the mast reached the heaving waves of the ocean. The wind screeched around him as the dark clouds continued to pour down rain, chilling the Lutari to the bone. He shivered violently, and did not open his eyes even as Griff touched down on the slippery deck. All Chun could hear were the panicked shouts of the sailors and the roaring of the angry storm.
* * * * *
Lynn opened her eyes. She was lying on an empty beach, at the edge of a dense tropical jungle. Light rain sprinkled down, but the Lutari could see black clouds in the distance over the sea. She pulled herself upright and glanced around.
She couldn't remember what had happened to her. Lynn racked her brain. She had been in Shenkuu with Chun, and they had been looking at some Petpets... then what? Her head hurt terribly, and the Lutari couldn't make sense of anything at the moment. She stumbled toward the jungle, deciding that it would be best to find shelter lest the storm should move in her direction. Lynn pressed hurriedly through the thick bushes and into the dark forest...
Date: Feb 14th
... on and on she moved, and with each frantic step, her head pounded. While she stumbled wildly through the undergrowth, she moved a tentative hand to her forehead. What she felt made her stop.
The skin there had been raised into a bruise, but right next to it was a long scar...
Lynn closed her eyes, and a single tear leaked out from underneath her eyelid. Taking a ragged breath, she began to run again.
"It's hopeless," said a weary voice right near Chun's ear. The Lutari opened an eye and blinked. He was lying on a soft white bed in a room that was slightly rocking back and forth. It took him a while to remember the events of the storm and that he was, in fact, on a now-mastless sailboat.
Craning his neck, Chun saw Griff sitting on a wooden chair beside him, rubbing his forehead in a defeated manner. For some reason, the Eyrie seemed to have dropped his rather sailor-y accent.
"Where are we? What happened? Is everyone okay?" Chun asked in a half-whisper.
Griff let out a short laugh. "We're fine, yes. A little bit confused and worried, but alive all the same. Here, eat. I'll explain."
He handed Chun a bowl of watery soup and a spoon. The Lutari grimaced but complied, filling up his empty stomach.
"Lucky (and unlucky) for us, we hit a chain of small islands just north of Lutari Island. They're too rocky and tiny for anyone to live on them, but we docked here all the same. Because of the cliffs, we're protected from the storm. But we have no mast and no sails. Without them, we'll be a useless mass of floating wood that will get crushed by the storm. We can't stay here forever. We need food, passage, and shelter. At least, shelter better than our current one."
Chun couldn't grasp what Griff was hinting at. "So what can we do?" he asked, taking another swallow of the soup.
Griff eyed Chun and sighed. "Well, the captain thinks that because you were not able to repay us by helping me on my shift, you can do us another favour."
"What's that?" Chun asked hesitantly.
"Well... we think it would be a good idea if... if you swam out to Lutari Island to ask your own kind if they could send out boats so we could reach them. There, we'd pay or work for some food and passage to Mystery Island."
Chun dropped his spoon; it fell with a small clank into the soup bowl.
"M-me? Swim out to Lutari Island?"
Chun hated swimming. Lutaris were known for their swimming skills, their ability to hold their breath underwater for hours, but Chun nevertheless disliked the water. He despised the way it was always so cold and seemed to have a mind of its own, how he had to struggle to cut through it.
But then, he remembered Lynn. He needed to find and rescue her. Lynn's time, Chun knew, was running out...
Date: Feb 15th
..."I'll do it."
He made the announcement quickly, with as much confidence as he could muster, and wondered even as he spoke if it was Griff or himself that he was trying hardest to convince.
The Eyrie, though, nodded easily. "Good. I guess you'd better be on your way -- the Captain is not an altogether patient fellow."
Chun rose obediently, wincing at the way his legs cramped. He must have taken quite a beating from the wind of the storm. He just hoped he'd be strong enough to make the swim.
The crew was waiting abovedeck. They stood in scattered groups, looking awkward and unsure of what to do, unoccupied for the first time in their careers. Without access to the nearby island or materials on hand with which to repair their ship, standing about was all they were good for. Chun could see why the captain would be impatient.
"Ready then, lad?" asked the Aisha gruffly, fixing the Lutari with a beady-eyed gaze.
"I think so," Chun managed to reply. Even if he did make it to the island, would the Lutaris recieve him kindly? After all, he had left them years ago to live in Shenkuu, and such an abandonment wasn't likely to be forgotten, especially not by his own kind.
The Aisha captain, though, didn't seem to sense his reluctance -- or didn't care much. Giving the Lutari a hearty pat on the back, he growled, "Return to us soon with boats then, lad. We'll be waiting."
No doubt of that, thought Chun grimly and promptly dove into the sea.
The icy water hit him like a blow, pressing against his sides. He sputtered to the surface, tasting salt in his mouth. Delightful. Throwing one last rueful glance at the ship behind him, the Lutari began to stroke toward the nearby island.
* * * * *
She had run long enough. Besides, running wasn't getting her anywhere -- she could not physically outmanoeuvre her troubles, for they followed her with every step. What had happened? How had she gotten here? Such questions would not be answered, no matter how many miles she put behind her.
Slowing to a jog, the Lutari stepped out on a beach. Strange -- there had been a beach behind her as well. Either she'd just run in a huge circle without even realising it, or she was on a narrow peninsula of some sort. That, or an island.
Her breath caught up short in her chest as she saw that a ship was waiting out in the bay. Although she didn't remember its cause, a stab of panic knifed into her very being. Flashes of fear, of cruelty, of tears played in her emotions, and with one paw she reached up to touch the scar.
Ships -- her past had to do with a ship, and it had been an ugly event indeed.
Hide, was Lynn's first thought. I can't let them see me.
She almost turned to run away when, to her horror, she saw a figure in the water, fast approaching. Alarmed, she dashed into the bushes as fast as she could, but something told her that the swimmer had already spotted her...
Date: Feb 15th
* * * * *
Lynn! The single word exploded inside Chun's mind like a firework, and his thrashing limbs redoubled their pace. Lynn! Is that you? Please tell me it isn't just some local, off to spread the story of the approaching moron who's stupid enough to be out swimming in a storm like- A wave, deflected off a rock and thrashed into foam, made an attempt to dive down his throat, interrupting his mind in mid-sentence, and Chun grimly set his focus on the task of making it to shore in one piece. Nevertheless, nothing could take his mind fully off of the flash he had seen of the lustrous azure pelt he knew so well. A pelt that had often brushed and mingled with his as he and Lynn crouched under this or that makeshift shelter, huddling together to ward off the night cold. A pelt that was moving away fast, far too fast!
"Lynn!" The yearning howls of his mind found their way to his throat. Ignoring the waves, disregarding the possibility of that horrible salty coldness filling his throat and lungs and dragging him helplessly to the black depths of the sea, Chun snatched a swift gulp of air and yelled again: "Lynn!"
* * * * *
"Lynn!" The sound of the shouted name reached her only dimly, nearly drowned out by the hissing roar of the running war that was waged between the lashing waves and the rocks that protruded like fangs from the ocean's tormented surface; but it slowed her pace nevertheless, touching some hidden part of her like the finger of a ghost laid softly on her heart.
There it was again. And, to her vast surprise, she recognized it. Lynn. That was her name! The approaching figure was calling her by name.
Was that a good thing or a bad thing? Her paw strayed to the bump on her head, and to the scar. The meaning of one was clear. The meaning of the other... she didn't want to think about it. She had been hit over the head. Knocked unconscious, and then dumped on this Fyora-forsaken island... or had she escaped? Why did her memories have to be so blasted fuzzy? Only one fragment of information was clear: she recognized that voice.
Reassuringly, the familiar tone did not inspire the lightning bolts of panic that had stabbed through her at the sight of the ship. For some reason, she was glad to hear it. It sounded almost like...
"Chun!" Her high, clear voice pierced the intervening distance, and as she broke back onto the shoreline, she saw the approaching splash of colour raise its head. Yes, she knew that face. Knew it, and wanted so badly to see it closer again!
Flinging herself recklessly into the water, she paddled out toward the figure, which seemed at once to be both utterly lost and alone against the vast sprawling canopy of grey sky and raging sea, and to dominate the scene. That beloved green hairball that was Chun.
They met in a small half-shelter formed by a concave upthrust of rock, and as she stared into Chun's wide eyes, and saw the entirety his soul shining there, Lynn felt tears rising in her own eyes. "What are you doing here?" she asked him. "I thought you were in Shenkuu."
"I was." He couldn't stop the grin that found its way to his face. "But you didn't think I was going to leave all the fun of globe-trotting under duress to you, did you?"
Globe-trotting under duress. His nice way of saying 'being kidnapped.' That WAS what had happened to her, wasn't it? A shadow crossed Lynn's face, and her eyes, which a moment ago had seemed to light up the sunless sky, clouded. "How did I get here, Chun? I mean, I know somebody must have dragged me here, but who? Why? And why just leave me sprawled out on an empty beach?"
"I have no idea, Sky," Chun answered gently, trying to reassure her with the use of the nickname that her shining fur had earned her. "But I've found you now. It's going to be OK."
Lynn wasn't sure whether he was trying harder to convince her or himself.
"But I need to get to the island," Chun continued, "and find help for the ship that brought me here."
"The ship?" The stabbing fear was back.
"Yes, the ship. Not the ship that took you," Chun added hastily, guessing, as he often did, precisely what his closest friend was thinking.
"How do you know it isn't the same ship?"
"Because they left several days after you vanished. I went all over the cargo hold, partly to make sure you weren't there, and partly to find a place to hide."
"You stowed away."
"Um... yeah." Pointing, he added, "The ship's right there. As you can see, it's not in the best of shape."
A frown crossed Lynn's care-shadowed face, darkening it even further. "So... if that isn't the ship that took me..."
Where is the one that DID? The question shot into Chun's mind like a black arrow, and sent his eyes darting over the seething water. They found the answer only too soon...
Date: Feb 16th
...Chun felt his jaw drop as his eyes landed on a black sailboat that cut through the pounding waves smoothly, hardly being tossed around. Its sails were the same shade of black. In fact, the only spot of color anywhere was a toxic purple painted on the side of the sailboat. It was a long, coiled up Reptillior, with its mouth wide open and fatally sharp fangs exposed.
And the boat was moving rapidly toward them.
"Oh no..." Lynn murmured. Her eyes were wide, she couldn't seem to tear her gaze from the ship.
"Move!" Chun hissed. He firmly gripped his friend's arm and gave it a quick tug. That seemed to wrench her back to reality.
"Where to go?" Lynn yelled over a sudden, loud clap of thunder.
"Inwards to the island!" Chun replied, already running there. Lynn hastily stumbled after him.
And so they ran, together.
* * * * *
"It's been a while, sir," said an Ogrin, peering through a pair of binoculars. He had them aimed out toward the ocean, through a gap in two small cliffs.
The captain paced restlessly behind the Ogrin. "What do you see, Derian? Any boats? Anything coming toward us?"
"Nothing, sir," the Ogrin named Derian replied without lowering the binoculars. "Well... no ships of the Lutari make, anyhow."
The captain stopped in his tracks. "What? Do you see a ship?"
"Well... yes," Derian replied finally. "But I have overseen the manufacturing of thousands of types of ships. Never have I seen one like this."
Without asking, the Aisha wrenched the binoculars from Derian's hands and raised it to his eyes.
Through the furious waves, the regular bolts of lightning that distorted colors eerily, and the thick, heavy storm clouds, he could make out the silhouette of a very well-built ship.
The captain swiftly adjusted the binoculars to zoom in on the ship. It moved through the water with ease, and its color was a jet black.
Next to him, Derian shifted uncomfortably.
The captain squinted through the glasses. And then he could make out a symbol painted on the side of the ship. A dark purple Reptillior, with mouth wide open and fangs exposed...
And then he knew exactly what he was looking at...
Date: Feb 16th
...At first unable to believe it, he rubbed his eyes. When that failed to make the ship disappear from his vision, he cleaned the lenses of the glasses with the rough edge of his shirt and put them back up to his face. No luck. The ship was still there.
“It’s the ghost ship,” he whispered, his voice cracking. He had never been superstitious, but the sight of the black apparition plowing onward through the storm was quickly changing that.
Derian’s eyes widened, but he quickly said, “How can that be? That was just a legend, nothing more than a scare story. The idea of a ghost captain roaming the seas searching for the man who defeated him in battle is just another vein of the hundreds of campfire tales.”
“Well, if it’s not a campfire tale, perhaps those sailors will be gracious enough to lend us some help over here, since that Lutari hasn’t gotten back. Get something to signal them w--” He stopped abruptly and stood staring out into the ocean.
A large wave had engulfed the shadow ship, swallowing it from view. Lightning flashed behind it, lighting up the uneasy waves as they bucked and scrambled to get away from each other. Derian and his captain both stood staring, frozen in tense wait.
Silently, the phantom ship reappeared, its black sails held high. It rode steadily on through the storm, paying no attention to the waves that tried to overturn it, its course bound straight for the island where that Lutari had disappeared.
* * * * *
Pushing through plants growing through blankets of fog, Chun and Lynn ran, fleeing from shadows and searching for a safe place to hide. Chun clung to his friend. He wouldn’t let them take her again. Not after everything he’d gone through, everything they’d both gone through. From here on, they were together.
Lynn glanced over her shoulder and felt relief at being out of sight of the ship. But a strange foreboding still enveloped her, fears of a thousand unknowns lurking in the shadows of the island. She followed Chun’s lead and kept running, but wondered how long this would last. They had to stop somewhere.
Then a raspy voice came from the shadows. “So this is his granddaughter.”
Lynn froze in fear, bringing Chun to a stop as well. They stared hard at the darkened plants around them. Slowly, a glowing figure materialized from the foliage. A ghostly Tuskaninny dressed in sailor garb stood before them. He smirked at the sight of the two Lutaris.
“Cap’n has settled th’ grudge at last...”
Date: Feb 20th
...Lynn’s mouth gaped open helplessly for several long moments, unable to scream or even draw breath. A cold hand of fear had gripped her heart so unbearably hard that she could barely even think, but some primal corner of her mind was still racing with panic, and it told her all she needed to know.
THIS was what she had been running from.
The Tuskaninny smirked, and a tangible evil seemed to be seeping out of him, past his yellowed teeth, choking the life from even Lutari Island’s hot, humid air. “Now, now, lassie... ye canna’ run forever. Ye’d best be comin’ back to the ship, while yer grandfather’s still in a good humour.”
Chun couldn’t pretend to understand what the ghostly sailor was talking about, but seeing his friend’s terror spurred him to action, albeit somewhat stupid action. “Hey, you leave her alone! She doesn’t have to go anywhere with y-- AUGH!”
Suddenly his feet were no longer touching the ground, and he could feel a pair of teeth gripping the scruff of his neck firmly as the Lutari found himself being hauled off through the jungle at a terrific speed. It took him a moment to process just what exactly was going on, but as soon as he had, the first words to leave his lips were “What are you doing?!”
“I’m savin’ yer life,” came the muffled reply. Something had clicked in Lynn’s mind, and it had become very clear to her that, for the moment, their only hope for survival was to run. Fast. If they could find a spot to hide, they would be able to gather their thoughts; she could explain the situation to Chun, and together they could decide what their best course of action was. No matter what, though, she would never go back to that ship. Not ever.
It was a promise she had made to herself a long time ago.
Once she had deemed the distance between the Tuskaninny and themselves to be great enough, Lynn dropped her friend onto his own feet and offered him one piece of advice: “MOVE.”
Chun obeyed unquestioningly. One thought boggled his mind, however: Who would have guessed that Lynn was so strong?
* * * * *
Turning away from the deck railing to face Derian, the Aisha captain gestured out at the black ship pointedly as it took another massive wave head-on, only to appear unscathed a few seconds later. “You saw that just now, didn’t you? D’you mind telling me what kind of ship can travel with its sails open in a storm like this, and take those kind of waves without even feeling ‘em?”
The Ogrin rolled his eyes in impatience. “Fine, fine, you were right! All legends do have some truth to them, I guess,” he muttered, bringing his reclaimed binoculars back up to his face. “I wonder what it’s doing here, though? Do ghost ships just make it their business to sail around in the worst weather they can possibly find? That’s just showing off, that is...”
“And you got the legend wrong, as well,” the captain continued, completely ignoring the Ogrin’s faint protests. “Most believe the dread pirate Captain Kofhe was done in by a rival, or a mutinous first mate, but I heard that it was his own granddaughter who defeated him...”
Date: Feb 20th
...All eyes turned eagerly to the Captain as he seemed to be settling in to tell the story. The Aisha peered through the lowering light to see the ghost ship still breasting the waves, unscathed by the pounding of the wind and water. Unnatural, that. But he unobtrusively gripped the water faerie talisman in his pocket as he turned back to his waiting crew and took a steadying breath. Sailors were a superstitious lot, and he was no exception. So better outline the bare facts without giving the crew enough details to scare them immobile, and get back to their own situation...
He looked past Derian, whose eyes were the size of saucers in his stunned face as he followed the movements of the phantom ship, and began his tale..
"She was a rebellious one, this girl. No boys in the family, so papa and granddad had raised her in the ways of the sea, knowing full well that there was no one else to take on the family business. She did the things they taught her, and she did them well... they didn't realize HOW well, as you shall see later. But she hated it. She hated the sea, and ships, and being tied down to the family trade... piracy didn't suit her ways. She didn't see why pillage and mayhem were a good way to make a living. She was interested in the stars, of course, because she needed them to sail, but she wanted to study them as an astronomer, go to Altador to the university, study the moon at the lunar temple in
Shenkuu... she had a whole other set of plans for her life, and her father and grandfather were training her to be a pirate, nor were they willing to let her consider any other option. So she learned, and kept her mouth shut, and waited..."
The Aisha captain took a breath and looked over the rail again. The ghost ship was still there... odd, it hadn't seemed to get any further from their own battered vessel even in the roiling waters... He realized he had better cut this short, and hurried on.
"The legend says that her grandfather, the dread pirate Kofhe, had a rival who came up that summer out of the southern sea, and fell upon his ships in the dark of night when they were in port, refurbishing. No one has handed down his name, but seems he was a purple Hissi with a grudge... in the melee, as they fell upon the ships of Kofhe, his son, Brabert, disappeared, and his granddaughter taken captive...
"A year and a day Kofhe searched for the attackers, and there is much detail in the legend which we do not have time for, but the upshot is that Kofhe finally faced his rival off the coast of Altador many many years ago... and he was outmanned, and outgunned... and his ship was lost...
"And as he looked across the deck into the face of the enemry on the other ship, who would strike the blow that would end his career, legend says he saw the blue eyes of his own lost granddaughter looking back at him. She had turned against him and allied with his enemies to defeat him... and his ghostly ship sails ever across all the seas of Neopia, looking to reclaim her and bring her back to answer for her betrayal. So he sails... and there he is... waiting, looking... "
The captain swigged down a swallow of water from his pocket flask and pushed himself impatiently off the railing.
"So what're ye all standing about like lubbers for? We've work to do if we are ever going to get off this faerieforsaken rock and get our voyage back on course... that Lutari will be bringing help back with him, if he even comes back himself. Make things ready to move on! Hop to it!"
The crew yanked themselves back into the moment with an almost audible click, and scurried away to their jobs. The Aisha turned again to gaze across the water to the phantom ship...
* * * * *
Chun and Lynn huddled under the drooping leaves of the monstrous bush and scarcely dared to breathe as they watched the Tuskanninny lumbering through the bushes at the edge of the beach looking for them. Lynn whispered a few words and the two Lutaris used the advantage of their tails to wriggle themselves even further into the brush, and found themselves sliding under the overhang of a hidden cave, buried in the undergrowth. They watched and waited until they saw the ghostly Tuskaninny abandon his search and walk into the ocean, dissolving as they watched like a mist above the water...
"He's on his way back to the ship, then," said Lynn in a voice that was only shaking a tiny bit. "Guess Granddaddy will have to give up for now. And I would rather die than go back there..."
Chun looked wonderingly at his friend. "So, Lynn, you... you KNOW this guy? You know what he was talking about? You must have remembered..." He fell silent as he saw Lynn shake her head vehemently, hushing him with her fingers over his mouth.
"No, Chun, that's just it. I DON'T remember, and I don't want to. It is all a huge fog in my head. I just remember that my grandfather is dead, and better so, and that for some
reason he wants me back on that monster ship, and I am not going there. Not ever. I--"
She broke off practically in mid-word as a pair of eatherbeaten hands reached suddenly out of the darkness behind them in the cave and wrapped themselves around Chun's throat. A
pair of piercingly evil green eyes loomed up behind him as Chun's own eyes bugged out in terror, and she found herself gazing into the haggard face of a weatherbeaten old Krawk
who grinned back at her evilly.
"Now, what have we here?" the Krawk cackled into her terror-stricken face... "Groceries, or trade goods...?"
Date: Feb 21st
...Both Lutaris were petrified. Both of them wanted to scream their lungs out, just to get away and hide, but they didn't have the option.
The Krawk continued, "Because both of you are going into our stew if you don't cooperate this time."
Chun could barely breathe through the extremely tight grip of the elderly Krawk's claws. He flailed around, unable to think clearly. All he knew was that he wanted to get away, and immediately.
The Krawk lugged both Chun and Lynn out of the enormous bushes, and onto the open beach. He's strong for being so old, Chun thought nervously, as the Krawk gave the Lutaris a terrifying glare, and motioned for them to stay put. Then, he left them alone to inform the captain of their capture. They knew there was no escape, even if they ran again. It was too easy to catch them. The only way to evade the clutches of Captain Kofhe was to defeat him once and for all.
"I have a plan," Lynn whispered to Chun, determined though clearly scared, "All you have to do is follow my lead. I'm pretty sure we can pull this one off."
Although Chun's legs were about as useless as a pile of dung, he felt he could run a mile to save himself and Lynn. "All right," he replied, more courageously than he had ever felt before.
Lynn gasped as the realization set in. She was going back to that awful ship, and she was going to have to answer to her grandfather's wrath for her plan to work. She winced with slowly returning memories of pain and terror as the massive ghost ship powered forward through the perilous seas, enduring monstrous waves and treacherous winds. This was it. It was her final chance to defeat her grandfather...
* * * * *
The captain was ready to set sail, crew and all, in two minutes. He had been waiting on the "faerieforsaken rock" for fifteen though, as he waited for the help he needed. "Goodness, what is taking that Lutari so long?" he more-or-less shouted impatiently.
No one answered him directly, although his question brought up more questions between the sailors. Soon a raucous hubbub had broken out on the island on what had happened to the Lutari. No one really knew. All they remembered were the final words of the Neopet as he set off to find help. "Ready lad?" the captain had asked the Lutari anxiously. "I think so," was the Lutari's nervous reply. Maybe he had known about the ghost ship. Maybe he had known of the dangers ahead. Maybe that was why he was in such a hurry.
"Cap'n, look!" Derian shouted, removing the captain from the trance he was in as he looked over his confused crew.
"What is it, Derian? A ship, is it?" the captain asked excitedly in reply.
"Well... yes," Derian replied with a bittersweet tone.
The captain snatched the binoculars yet again from the Ogrin, who had been watching the seas for a while. He gazed upon the ocean where his first mate had been looking just a moment before. There he saw it - the evil phantom ship, and it was headed straight for the island. "Derian, we've got a problem..."
Date: Feb 21st
...Derian swallowed nervously and brushed a stray lock of fur out of his eyes. "Yessir, cap'n, we sure do."
With a sudden burst of frustration, the captain slammed the binoculars on the rail. Several tense moments passed, lightning crackling overhead with all of its fury now, before he was able to speak. Softly, through clenched teeth, he said to Derian, "Tell the crew... Tell them the waves are pulling us in to shore. Tell them to prepare... to abandon ship. And tell them to get out their weapons, because once we get ashore we might have to battle a ghost and his crew."
Derian felt the color drain from his fur. "Abandon ship, cap'n?"
The Aisha turned to him and with a sad smile said, "You know, I helped build these decks. My father, my brothers, and I carved her out and pieced her together. She's carried us across many seas. But... even so, she's just a ship."
He looked back out over the stormy sea. "See that beach there? There ain't no rocks, nor shoals, so we'll run right up on her. We'll be stranded. And there are two young Lutaris on that beach there. You saw them, didn't you? That Chun is one o' them and I'm guessin' the granddaughter is the other. Well, I'd stake my life on that at least Chun isn't evil, and we all know that the other ship is, so it's our duty to help them if we can."
Derian nodded. Never before had his captain, always bravest and best, had a prouder moment. "I'll get everyone ready, cap'n." This would be a day to be remembered... if they survived it.
* * * * *
Trembling with fear but firm as he'd ever seen her, Lynn gripped Chun's paw and prepared to meet her ghostly grandfather. Chun had no idea what his friend was planning. She was usually spontaneous enough, but with these strange memories of hers he had no idea at all what to expect. Still, he trusted her with his life... which was ironic, because his life was now in her paws.
Chun squeezed Lynn's paw and gave her a reassuring smile. "You can do it, Sky, I know it. No ghost is any match for you."
She squeezed and smiled back. "Well, one way or the other, we're about to find out, because here he comes..."
Date: Feb 22nd
...Against the darkening skies, the tenebrous sails billowed as the wind began to pick up, tearing at the seafoam atop the waves and rocketing along the barren shoreline, bringing the ship closer and closer to the island. The blackening waters lapped up on the Reptillior's fangs, his burning garnet eyes glaring at all who dared to enter his gaze. The timeworn boards creaked eerily in the pending night, and the tall masts, like reeds against the clouded sky, swayed slightly as the gales grew stronger. The briny breezes ripped mercilessly at the ghostly sails, the long bedraggled trails of ancient fabric twisting about in the sea spray. As the ship sailed nearer, it brought with it silken expanses of cold mists, sweeping against the waves, almost completely obscuring them from sight.
Lynn gave a slight gasp as a silvery figure on the ship stepped nearer to the bow, staring down at the two Lutaris with a completely unrelenting gaze. It was another Lutari, old but very tall and broad, his fur a deep maroon. He leaned on the railing of the phantom ship, the feather in his triangular-shaped hat fluttering in the cold windy mists. Glowing red eyes, the epitome of relentlessness, gleamed out from under the brim of his hat, the only illumination in the coming nightfall. He wore a frayed gray dress coat that whispered of past deeds of pillage and plunder, ripped and faded black breeches, and large black boots that spoke so plainly of piracy, one could have looked at only them and known what kind of pet this Lutari surely was.
However a formidable figure the Lutari had been in life, he was infinitely more frightening in death. Moaning, silvery mists encircled him, giving off an ethereal light brighter and paler than the moon's. Winds that told of something less earthly than mere air began to swirl about as he drew near. The shifting sands and white-capped waves seemed to grow silent in his presence, as if they, too, were afraid of him.
Fear flooded into Chun's heart as he stared into those horrible, flaming eyes, and he felt himself growing weak with terror, the sands beneath his feet beginning to feel too cold and unstable for him to stand upright upon them.
"Well, granddaughter, we finally meet again," he said softly, his voice like a quietly coiled spring - a spring that could unleash into a roar at any moment. As unpredictable as the sea.
The ship came to a halt, and the ghost-pirate leaned down, taking hold of anchor as it began to descend into the caliginous waves. But he didn't decline down into the sea with the anchor; instead, with a whispered word and a flick of his paw, a misty, silvery gale tore itself from one of the clouds above, swooping down under the Lutari's feet and picking him up away from the anchor. He rode, standing upright and rigid, on the silvery wind over the spectral sea, until he reached the shoreline. The argent breeze then stopped, settling the Captain down on the sands, then faded away at his feet as if it had never been.
"Grandfather," Lynn whispered, looking as if any courage she had managed to summon up within her had dwindled and died in the moment the captain locked his gaze with hers.
"Granddaughter Lynn," he whispered. "My only grandchild. My son's little girl. The little Lutari raised on the seas, hardly ever without sea spray in her fur, and as comfortable swinging fifty feet up on rigging as she was curled up in her cabin."
"I was comfortable, but I wasn't happy," she whispered back, courage mounting again in her chest, for her words far more cutting than the elderly, spectral Lutari's. "You should have known I wouldn't have lived a life of pillager forever, Grandfather."
"Yes, I suppose I should have," he said back, his voice no longer a whisper, but louder, like the slapping of strong waves against the side of a ship. "I should have realized that any granddaughter of mine wouldn't conform to what I believed if she herself did not agree. Even your father didn't agree, in his own way, but those days are gone, and we both know he disappeared like budseeds in the wind. But you... you Lynn, didn't just disappear. You betrayed me. I am not ignorant, Lynn; I can read the story that was spun in the past.
"You were never contented with the life of a pirate. You just didn't have the strength to take what was rightly yours, things that belonged to whoever was able to use their strength and cunning to force and fool others out of them. You never had the nerve to do what it took to make it to the top. You believed in 'chivalry' and 'morality,' didn't you? But you never could find the voice to say it."
Lynn stood before him, shaking slightly as she stared up at her Grandfather, all of the memories of the days at sea that had made up her childhood flooding back to her as the ghost Lutari spoke. It was like a puzzle, a horrible, deadly puzzle, being fitted together, unbidden, within her mind.
Tearing his gaze away from Captain Kofhe's fiery eyes, Chun stared at Lynn, mind reeling. All this had taken place in Lynn's past? Chun could scarcely believe it. When he had met Lynn outside the Lunar Temple in Shenkuu, they had become best friends almost immediately, and he had never thought that there might be anything more to her cheerful, adventurous character. She had always been extremely intelligent and resourceful, and more than anything, never gave up, but he had never wondered how she had become that way. And yet, there had always been something nagging at him in the back of his mind... something that nagged just barely whenever he looked into her blue eyes, and saw things he couldn't understand.
"But what you did was worse than merely voicing your opinions about life and fairness and whatnot," Captain Kofhe continued, his voice growing louder, like the rumbling of a colossal wave. "You betrayed me. You sided with Maldrak, a pet no better than myself in your terms of 'chivalry' and 'morality.' But you sided with him all the same, because he offered you a way out."
"Maldrak may have been as cruel a pirate as you at one time," Lynn said coldly, "but at least he reformed! I never would have gone with him if he hadn't!"
"The fact that Maldrak has no respect for his past glory has nothing to do with this," the captain growled. "All that matters is, you took the chance and went with him - to this day, I have no idea what happened to my son - and do you know what I did then?" The captain's ghostly voice rose to a shout like a clap of thunder reverberating against the sea. "I repaired the damage that Hissi scoundrel did to my ship, and I came LOOKING for you! I tried to find you! And then you aided him in the final attack! The final attack that sent The Fang to the bottom of the sea, along with me and every member of my crew... and for that, Lynn, you will be punished. I have spent many years looking for you, and we will finish this once and for all."
Captain Kofhe raised his paw, spectral mists swirling sinisterly about his gnarled claws. Lynn planted her feet in the sand, her years of training to be a pirate coming back to her as she readied herself to retreat or defend. Chun, whose mind was still reeling over all that had been revealed in such a short amount of time, vowed within his heart, without a conscious thought, that he would save his friend, no matter what it took. But before any of the Lutaris could make another move, the underbrush in the forest shouldering the rocky shoreline began to rustle...
Date: Feb 22nd
...and then erupted into a cascade of shouted battle cries as the crew of the ship on which Chun had stowed away exploded into view, weapons brandished and eyes ablaze. The pale light of Kofhe's mists ignited their weapons with an ethereal light, and their eyes and fur shone silver.
Kofhe's head snapped around to face them, but he didn't seem surprised. It was almost as if... as if the deadly mist that coiled around his claws had been summoned in readiness for them. The realization hit, but it was already too late. It had always been too late. Even had the knowledge come in time, there was nothing that either Chun or Lynn could have done about the silent explosion of power that erupted from the dead pirate's paws. It tore the night asunder, sending fragments of shattered darkness fleeing to the shadows of the trees and bushes and the deep places of the earth in frantic haste to escape the deadly, unwavering, disembodied stare of the mist that rampaged among the trees, hunting down the seapets even as they charged.
For the briefest of moments, the attack held together. Even as Chun's wide, horrified eyes took in the sight of Griff freezing in place as he was overtaken by the mist, beak open, wings flared, eyes ignited, and paw raised in midstep, the rest of the crew continued to rush the pirates.
They were swift and hardy, but the mist was swifter, and silently invincible. A young Acara, a Nimmo whose name Chun did not know, and then the Ogrin, Derian, fell, one by one; then the soft onslaught, like a soundless predator whose appetite is whetted by the hunt, began to take them more swiftly. In twos and threes they were captured, frozen in place as if they'd been turned to stone, then fours and onward; and then finally the captain, aware of his crewpets' fate but driven by desperation and unwavering resolve, swinging his sword with a final cry of defiance toward Kofhe's undefended throat, was taken at the last, the cry halting in his mouth and the blade rendered suddenly motionless only inches from the pirate's neck.
A soft sigh drifted up from Kofhe, the sound of one weary of the foolishness of the world but resigned to his position above such mortal bumblings. Turning to Lynn, his eyes placid, implacable, but underscored sharply by a dark, burning hunger for revenge, he said softly, in a voice like the sighing of the sea once the storm that devoured its prey has expired, "You expected me, perhaps, to kill you. I won't. That would be too easy, too swift." His eyes kindled. "Indeed, I will do no harm to your body. But this..." a soft sound escaped him, like the moaning of wind between fangs of rock... "this will haunt you to the end of your days, and in the end, it will destroy you."
Chun had no idea what he was talking about, but Lynn understood instantly. Understood, and rejected it utterly. "No," she said firmly, her voice shaking slightly, but cold with resolve. "No, I'm not going to kill them. You will never force me to become like you."
A smile, twisted by death and laden bitterly by years of unrest, shone wanly on Kofhe's sharp features. "I thought not. You could never live with such guilt. No more than you could live with the death of your playmate," he added, his whispering voice dropping an octave and taking on a quality like vast stones grinding in the distance. "Especially if it was your fault."
Lynn caught her breath, understanding coming like a blow. Either she killed the crew that had come to rescue her, or Chun was going to die.
I have a plan, she had whispered to Chun, hoping the vague outline in her mind could carry her through. All you have to do is follow my lead. I'm pretty sure we can pull this one off...
But now, Chun couldn't follow her lead. He, too, had frozen, sitting stiffly beside her with his wide-eyed gaze fixed on nothing. It was up to Lynn, now. The burden was solely hers...
Date: Feb 23rd
...but that did not change the fact that this was a decision she could never make.
"You still don't understand," she told her grandfather's ghost. "You never have, and now I wonder if you ever will."
Annoyed that his choice in absolutes was not yet tormenting her with grief, Kofhe demanded, "What do you mean? If you are stalling me, girl, it will not work."
"Stalling you? That is your problem, grandfather. You, so embedded in your suspicions and your thievery, could never trust that anyone might not be like you. You always attributed to me characteristics that I do not have -- you have them, grandfather. Do you honestly think that I will take blame upon myself if you kill Chun? It will only turn me against you more for killing my friend. And do you think that I will sacrifice all of these innocent creatures to save him? If you answer yes to either question, you do not know me."
Kafhe's anger slitted his eyes, which glinted redder even than the glowering Hissi of his ship. She was supposed to be in tears, crying for mercy -- he might have taken her back, then, if she would have admitted her mistake. She was his own blood, after all, and he was not beyond reason. But this? How could she be so defiant, so self-righteous?
"It was not even I alone who betrayed you, grandfather," she told him, boldly as a Jetsam, holding his gaze unflinchingly. "You say I was kidnapped. You say my father disappeared. Did you ever think, grandfather, that perhaps Brabert and Maldrak might be the same person? That's right," she continued quickly, seeing the look of astonishment wash over his features. "I was no prisoner. My father escaped with me -- the battle was a set-up. He changed his name to free himself of his former identity. As you refused to let us go, and kept hunting us down relentlessly, we had no other choice but to defeat you."
Kofhe stared at his granddaughter, amazed. Both of his relatives had betrayed him? Had he really misunderstood them that dramatically -- had his trust in them really been so misplaced?
"Very well, Lynn," he said softly, against the pain rising in the shadow of his soul, "then you leave me no choice. If you will not choose, then I will make the choice for you -- all of them will die."
"No!" cried the little Lutari, whose eyes were like brilliant sapphires in her face. "If you will kill, then it will be me. It was I who wronged you, and I thought that the debt you had to settle was with me. They have nothing to do with it."
As he stared into her determined features, Kofhe hesitated. She was right, he knew -- it was she who followed the pirate's code this night. It should be she who should die for her own sins.
He raised his hand, looking into her face as she stared right back, unafraid. Such boldness, such courage, such strength of will was something he knew very well indeed.
It was, in those traits, himself he stared at. She might be fighting for a different cause, but it was with his traits -- a pirate's traits -- that she battled.
She had betrayed him, and so had her father... but if it were he, he would have done the same. He could not kill her for being like him.
The air escaped from his nonliving lips in a sigh, and his form wavered, becoming like a shadow in the night. The ship behind him faded in and out of sight, eventually vanishing to leave a gently lapping stretch of ocean on a quiet beach.
Lynn blinked, hardly willing to believe her eyes. Could it be possible? Had her grandfather and his ship of hate and vengeance simply vanished into the darkness?
Around her, the previously frozen forms began to rustle back into life. The sailors of the crew stood knee-deep in water, looking mystified, and the captain Aisha held his sword before him, confused.
Chun frowned at her, rubbing his eyes. "What happened?" he asked. "It's all a little fuzzy to me." He looked around himself in bewilderment. "We're not in Shenkuu! How'd we get here?"
"It was a long trip, and you got seasick," said Lynn reassuredly, remembering her own dazed feeling when her grandfather had unfrozen her. When and if her friend's memory returned, she would make sure to be nearby to explain. The pirates, though? They'd just tell the tale like a grand old story as sailors were apt to do if fragments of their adventure returned to them.
"Chun, we need to work together to help the crew repair their ship as soon as the sun comes up." Glancing out across the black water, she saw that the ship was running fairly close to the ground, but the tide was on its way out, and would take the ship out a way with it. They would have time to make repairs, even if just barely.
Her friend, glad to have a notion of what was going on, jogged over to relay the message to the Aisha captain.
Lynn, meanwhile, smiled up at the sky before finding a comfortable place to spend the night. It might have been her imagination, but one star seemed brighter than the rest, flickering with a garnet haze.
Date: Feb 23rd
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