Pirates, the Sight, and the Sea: Part Four
The bowl Roselia carefully carried was simple and plain, crudely carved from wood by a peddler on Mystery Island that “mysteriously” found its way onto the Thunder Savage. It even came with a matching spoon complete with an inlaid flower on the smooth handle. In all senses, there was nothing wrong with it despite the few rough patches that could give you splinters if you weren’t careful, but as the saying goes, it’s the inside that counts, and the Usul couldn’t help but wrinkle her nose at the strange concoction that filled the bowl. The ship’s cook, an old Techo missing half of his teeth, had claimed it was vegetable soup, but Roselia doubted that as the gruel was slimy, pale, and had chunks of purple who-knows-what floating lazily in it. Not to mention it smelled like rotten neggs.
How in the world is that poor Lupe going to be able to stomach this? she thought to herself disgustedly. She shifted the bowl to her left paw so she could open the door leading to the lower deck with her right, carefully maneuvering down the creaky steps. It’s not as if he’s a Skeith...
The lower deck was much darker than the upper, devoid of all light except for the cracks in the ceiling where sunlight from the outside world slipped through. And indeed, whenever she was forced to go below deck, Roselia felt as if she had entered an entirely different world. The salty scents of life at sea were veiled by the musty air, and the brilliant landscape of bright blue sky, white clouds, and cerulean sea were abruptly replaced with monotonous hallways paneled with dark wood and carpeted in gloomy greens that bred mold and other types of fungus.
Roselia breathed through her mouth as she walked, trying not to inhale the putrid odors while at the same time suppressing memories of her own stay down in the brig when she had first arrived on the Thunder Savage. The first day she had cried the entire time, her tears only interrupted by her sporadic hacking as she choked on the filthy air. That wonderful day was then followed by a drawn out tantrum that lasted for most of the week, and finally, after sinking into a slight depression on her eighth day locked down there, the pirates had finally deemed her worthy to come out and see the sun.
As she turned a corner, Roselia caught her first glimpse of her previous prison for the first time in roughly five years. The brig of the Thunder Savage was in actuality nothing more than a semi-prison built from a few linen closets framed by some rusty iron bars that Captain Faer had salvaged. The only furnishing was an old crate that smelled faintly of fish, and there was a tiny porthole window that was covered in grime so thick that it was impossible to see through.
Sitting atop the crate, looking forlorn and miserable, was the brown Lupe, his blue cap limply settled on top of his head. He glanced up at the sound of her muffled footsteps, but once he realized who she was, he made a face and turned his head away, sinking back into a melancholy state.
Roselia paused in front of him, feeling slight sympathy as she looked at the ragged fur and dim eyes. “Here,” she gestured, holding the bowl out to him and slipping it between the bars of the brig as an attempted peace offering. “I’m not sure if it’s entirely edible, but it’s food.”
The Lupe ignored her and the proffered bowl of gruel.
The Usul scowled. Great. For once I actually try to be nice, and this is the thanks I get? Irritated, she placed the bowl on the floor and then crossed her arms over her chest. “You know,” she snapped, “I should at least be getting a thank you for saving your life.”
The boy looked over his shoulder at her, utterly bewildered, and then gave her a big fake smile, clasping his paws together. “Oh yes, dear Usul! Thank you oh so very much for allowing a crew of filthy pirates to ransack my ship, take all my money, and then trap me in a moldy dungeon! How shall I ever repay you?”
Roselia put her hands on her hips, losing her temper. The nerve of him! “Well,” she snapped, “then at least be grateful I didn’t tell Faer about that thing you’re hiding in your hat!”
The Lupe’s russet eyes widened and his paws went up to his cap defensively. “How did you—?”
“I’m a sea witch, remember?”
The boy looked up at her, but Roselia was surprised to see confusion, not fear, clouding his features. Finally he asked in a low voice, “If you knew, then why didn’t you tell him?”
Roselia felt her face flush, and then shrugged, feeling a bit embarrassed. “I don’t know. I guess I just knew that the object, whatever it is, means something to you. It’s more than just a stupid trinket.” She hesitated, wondering if she was going too far, but then continued, “You’re looking for someone, aren’t you?”
A flicker of surprise crossed the Lupe’s face, but then he nodded slowly. “Yeah. My dad.”
He paused and Roselia thought that was all she was going to get from him, but he surprised her and continued.
“He was the greatest Neopet in the world. Always there for me and stuff. The best father a Lupe could have. But one day he was offered a job as a sailor and... and I never saw him again.” He shifted uncomfortably. “No one knows what happened to him. It’s been a few years now, and my mom... she’s a complete wreck. Back home, whenever I’d mentioned him, she’d start sobbing and sobbing and sobbing. It was insane and I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I decided to take things into my own hands and go look for him myself. I emptied out all my savings and took my mom’s rings, thinking I’d be able to sell them if things were to go wrong. And then I went to the docks and sort of... borrowed a boat.” He grimaced. “It didn’t take me long to realize I’m a horrible sailor, and the first day, the sea was terrible. Choppy and dangerous. I probably should’ve just turned around then, but then I--” He stopped abruptly, almost as if he had said too much, and then hastily added, “--I eventually ended up here.”
Roselia raised an eyebrow at the slight flicker of gold around his coat, knowing he had edited his story a bit, but decided that it was all right for him to have his secrets. After all, she had plenty of her own. But for some reason, despite the fact she knew he was withholding information from her, there was something about the Lupe that made her trust him, a feeling that she hadn’t had in a long time. It was almost as if there was a need to open up to him, to tell him a bit of her own story.
“I guess we’re not that different after all,” she started slowly, sinking down to the floor carefully, curling her legs under her ragged skirt. “My brother... I haven’t seen him in five years. He was a sailor, too, and one day I was on the ship with him when a band of pirates attacked and kidnapped him and a bunch of others on board.” She frowned at the old memories, but she had to admit, it felt good to have someone to talk to, even if it was a painful subject. “They would have gotten to me too, but my brother made me hide in a dresser. I then... I guess I sort of fell asleep. And when I woke up, Captain Faer and the Thunder Savages had found me. They were going to throw me overboard until they found out I was a sea witch...”
“You keep saying ‘sea witch’, but I still don’t believe that,” the Lupe interrupted suddenly. “I mean...” He blushed slightly, as if embarrassed about what he was about to say, and then let out in a single breath. “Didn’t you ever hear those old faerie tales?”
Roselia frowned. Her mother had told her faerie tales back when she was young, usually involving kings with crowns, princesses wearing pretty dresses, and faeries watching over them from afar, but she couldn’t remember a single story about sea witches. “I don’t think so.”
The Lupe shook his head. “There was this one my mom loved about a light faerie who could tell when people were being honest or not. Kinda like you. It was called ‘The Sight.’” He grinned sheepishly. “My mom would always pull that story out whenever she thought I was lying to her.”
“The Sight...” Roselia tested the words on her lips; it certainly sounded much nicer than “sea witch.”
“I don’t mean to pry,” the Lupe suddenly blurted out, “but... but when did you first reali—?”
“Realize I had the Sight?” Roselia frowned, her pale blue eyes glancing down at the floor. “Five years ago. The same day I lost my brother.”
She shook her head and attempted a smile. “That’s all right. Actually, it’s kind of a strange story. I found out in the middle of a Cheat game.”
“Cheat?” the Lupe asked suddenly interested. “You mean the card game?”
“Yeah,” Roselia nodded, surprised by the sudden interest, but the Lupe wasn’t paying attention to her anymore. Instead he was digging into his pants pockets. “What are you...?” Roselia started to ask, but stopped when she saw what was in his paw: a worn deck of cards.
The Lupe grinned and looked at the deck fondly. “My dad loved playing card games. Cheat especially. He was excellent at it, one of the best.”
Roselia shook her head, her eyes wide in disbelief. “What else are you keeping in those pockets?”
“Lint, a piece of wool, and a candy wrapper.”
Roselia almost laughed, but stopped herself as she thought of something. “I haven’t played Cheat in so long,” she finally admitted, her voice quiet. “Once the Thunder Savages realized I could tell whenever they were lying, they refused to play with me.”
The Lupe looked at her, and then held up the deck. “Do you want to play?”
The offer was tempting, but Roselia eventually shook her head. “No thanks. You can’t really play with two people, and besides, I have an unfair advantage.”
“True...” The Lupe seemed thoughtful for a moment, but then a smile slowly crept over his face. “Wow. I just realized something.”
“We’ve been talking for what now? Ten minutes? About pirates, faerie tales, missing family members, and card games... and guess what I haven’t done yet?”
“Eaten the bowl of vegetable soup I kindly provided for you?”
The Lupe’s brows furrowed and he glanced at the bowl that remained untouched on the floor. “That’s what it is? Vegetable soup?” He picked it up and cautiously stirred it with the spoon, his nose wrinkling at the smell until he shook his head. “No. That’s not what I was talking about. What I meant was, I never introduced myself.” He grinned. “The name’s Tresor.”
“Tresor,” she repeated, liking how the name rolled off her tongue. “Well I guess it’s rude if I don’t introduce myself as well. I’m Roselia.”
“Roselia. That’s a pretty name.” Tresor grinned. “Definitely better than ‘sea witch.’”
Roselia laughed. “Anything’s better than that.”
Tresor smiled with bright teeth, and then, with a skeptical look at the bowl in lap, tasted some of the soup. “Hey,” he said startled. “This isn’t half bad.”
“Well, that’s good,” Roselia said, relieved. “Captain Faer said you’re my charge now, so it wouldn’t be good for either of us if you refused to eat.”
“I’m your charge?” Tresor asked interested, spooning more of the broth into his mouth. “Hmmm... Well if I’m your charge, that makes you my guard. And does my guard have time to play a card game?”
Roselia looked at him. “I already pointed out that we can’t play Cheat--”
“Cheat isn’t the only card game in Neopia,” the Lupe grinned, putting down his soup and pulling the deck back out to deal her some cards. “And as I’m guessing that I’m going to be stuck down here for quite some time, it wouldn’t hurt to play a few rounds of something before I go completely insane. Now I say we start with Hi-Lo or maybe Sakhmet Solitaire...”
Roselia rolled her eyes, but accepted the cards he dealt her. What did I get myself into? she thought to herself.
But she also couldn’t help but think about what a wonderful day it was turning out to be.
To be continued...