Voyage of the Golden Pearl
“Cap’n, there’s a storm brewin’ t’the north!”
The starry Gelert at the wheel pushed his captain’s hat up on his forehead and hollered back to his lookout, “Be it another trick o’ th’enemy?”
“Wouldn’t put it past ‘em,” the sentry, a ghost Gelert, yelled back from the Crokabek’s nest. “They have a powerful necromancer aboard.”
“Well, so do we,” the captain replied grimly, turning to the blind white Gelert at his side. “Lord Nale, what sense ye from the storm ahead?”
The sorcerer closed his eyes and threw back the hood of his cloak so he could hear better.
“I summon the powers granted me by Queen Fyora herself,” Nale intoned. “I call on the wind to carry sounds to my humble ears.” The sorcerer’s ears swiveled back and forth, channeling sound into his finely-honed eardrums. He nodded sagely and sighed a low, deep rumble.
“Yes, yes, I hear them. It is indeed the black ship of our enemy. I hear their voices. They plan to send the storm at us and catch us unprepared in the rain and fog. They plan to sink the Golden Pearl, take us all prisoner, and kidnap the princess in our care.” He turned his sightless eyes to the starry Gelert. “That is all. The faerie wind dies. Do you wish me to break up their storm, Captain Eon?”
The captain shook his head. “Thank you, Lord, but no. If it’s a hunt the Black Cloud wants, it’s a hunt she shall get. But the prey will not fall like unsuspecting Delfin, as they expect.” Captain Eon smiled grimly as he stroked the ragged scar on his cheek. “We’ll be waiting.” He nodded to the lookout above his head. “Lieutenant Flame?”
“All right!” Lieutenant Flame bellowed. “Arm yourselves, all paws on deck! Batten down the hatches! We have a storm a’brewin’!”
Eon checked the barrel of his cork gun to make sure it was loaded. He twirled it experimentally and nodded his satisfaction. Next to him, Lord Nale exhaled deeply and sank into meditation. Eon knew he would explode with lightning bolts and magical darts the moment the battle started. Flame came down from the Crokabek’s nest and readied his equipment. He was a deadly shot with fire arrows, and could even keep them lit in a storm like the one approaching them now. He wasn’t called Flame for nothing. Eon frowned. Where was the rest of his crew?
“Hoi! You two!” Eon shouted. “Get to your stations! Cabin boy, put that book away! There’s no need to study at sea.” The baby Gelert glared at the captain, but did nothing with the large tome lying open on the deck in front of him. “And you, your Royal Sulkiness,” Eon said, rounding on a striped Xweetok sitting sullenly in the corner. “Move your pretty little tail, miss!”
“Oh, shut up,” the Xweetok said. “You’ll get along just fine without me.”
Eon grabbed the collar of the Xweetok’s jacket and hauled her up until they were nose to nose.
“Now you listen here, missy,” he growled. “Around here, everyone pulls their weight. I don’t care what cushy little royal family you come from, you’ll do your fair share while you’re on my ship!”
In answer, the princess poked out her tongue and licked the captain’s nose. He stumbled back, sneezing. “Maybe I’ll just leave,” she said sullenly. She sauntered off towards the rope ladder that led off the side of the ship.
“You can’t do that!” Eon called “A storm’s brewin’, Princess! You’ll drown for sure!”
“I can swim,” the Xweetok retorted, grabbing a floatation jacket as she passed. Eon watched as she pushed the rolled-up ladder over the edge and climbed down into the sea. A moment later she appeared off the stern, floating in the water and still looking sullen.
“Uh...” said the cabin boy, looking up from his book. “Isn’t she kind of the whole reason for this voyage?”
Lord Nale came out of his reveries and stepped forward. “It might be better this way. The pirates will not find her if they attack. And after the battle I can easily locate her, and we can continue on our quest to take her to the kingdom across the sea.”
Eon considered this. “Very well, Nale.” He raised his voice. “All right, boys, we have some pirates to whup!” He put his paw on the cabin boy’s book and pulled it away from him. “That means you too, kid.”
The baby Gelert sighed and was about to say something when a cry from Lt. Flame interrupted him. “Wave hoooooo!”
They all turned and saw a massive wave approaching. The storm had struck. Eon leapt to the wheel and turned the ship head-on toward the wave. “We’ll ride it, boys! Tie yourselves down!”
Nale looped a rope around his waist. The other end was tied securely to the mast. He helped the cabin boy with his and turned to see Flame tying another around the captain. Flame had secured his own the moment he spotted the wave.
“Hang tight, boys!” Eon yelled above the wind. The Golden Pearl rode partway up the swell before the crest of the wave crashed down on them. The tiny cabin boy was swept over the side.
“Pup overboard!” Nale shouted, groping for the lad’s lifeline. Flame leapt to the rescue and hauled the cabin boy back on deck. He was wet and shaken, but uninjured.
“I s-saw it!” he stuttered. “The Black Cloud! She’s just off the port bow!” Everyone looked to the left. “Uh... wait, starboard! She’s just off the starboard bow!”
And so she was. The great black ship was barreling down on them. It was like she appeared from thin air.
“How the Halloween Nimmo did she get so close?” Flame shouted.
“A cloaking spell!” Nale cried. “I should have foreseen this!”
“Never mind, Nale, it’s the here and now we’ve got to deal with,” Eon replied. “It’s time for a steel clash, boys!” Flame and the cabin boy roared their agreement. Flame took out his bow and arrows, and the cabin boy drew his double cutlasses. Eon began barking out orders.
“Flame, I want you in the rigging. Torch their sails and start sniping the officers.”
“With pleasure,” the ghost Gelert replied with a wicked grin. He disappeared up the rigging.
“Cabin boy,” Eon said, turning to the baby Gelert. “Man the—”
“Don’t I have a name?” the cabin boy interrupted.
“Uh.” Eon hesitated. “You never told it to me.”
“Okay, well, it’s... um...” the cabin boy thought about it. “Ummm.”
“Loo, I’ll call you Loo,” Eon said quickly. “Now get to those cannons! Open a breach in their hull right at the waterline. Give ‘em a few more problems to worry about than just capturing a saucy princess.” Loo saluted and ran to the cannon at the starboard rail. “Lord Nale.” Eon turned to the blind necromancer. “Undoubtedly they’ll try something similar on us. I want you to deflect any missiles headed our way. Armor the hull against cannonballs, and put out fire arrows before they hit. It doesn’t need to be much; just a burst of energy to keep the damage to a minimum. Oh,” he added. “And can you put up a dissipation spell around their sorcerer to keep him from using his magic?”
Nale smiled mischievously. “Already done, captain.”
Eon laughed and clapped him on the back. “Good man. Now let’s sink a pirate ship!”
A few breathless moments ticked by, punctuated by cracks of thunder and lightning, as the ships came within range of each other. Closer... closer... KRABOOM! A cannon on the Black Cloud exploded, hurling its huge projectile straight at the mast of the Golden Pearl. Nale leapt into action, his paws glowing blue. He held one paw out towards the ocean and thrust the other out at the speeding cannonball. A narrow wave of seawater rose up and touched Nale’s seaward paw, and a powerful jet of water shot out of his other paw and hit the cannonball. Knocked off course, it whistled harmlessly past the mast, smashed a section of railing, and splashed into the sea.
Loo returned fire with his own cannon. The planks at the bow of the Black Cloud splintered, and a gaping hole opened in the hull. Meanwhile, Flame was raining fire arrows on the sail of the other ship. The canvas burst into flame. Eon smiled his approval at his crewmen. The Black Cloud had messed with the wrong pearl. The king had been right to trust his daughter’s safe passage to the crew of the Golden Pearl. Speaking of that darn princess... maybe they should go find her. But he dismissed the thought. If she wasn’t gonna cooperate, then fine. She could suffer.
Eon looked up. The Black Cloud was retreating, sails burning and hull crippled. The crew cheered; they had won. Nale couldn’t resists thrusting a glowing paw forward. A wave built up behind the fleeing ship, pushing her father away. Eon could only imagine the look on the face of the necromancer from the Cloud as he sat, powerless, inside Nale’s dissipation spell. Loo was hopping around excitedly, blowing raspberries at the enemy. Flame was shouting insults from the rigging.
Suddenly the princess’s head popped over the side of the ship. She glared at them.
“I’m not coming back,” she informed them. “I’m done with this whole princess thing.”
Loo shrugged. “That’s okay. We won, anyway.”
“No thanks to you,” Flame muttered.
The ex-princess shot a look at the ghost Gelert. “Shut up, Xilau. Anyway, Qwerty sent me up to tell you it’s dinner time.”
“Oh, good,” Eon said. “I’m starving. Come on, guys.”
The four Gelerts deposited their gear on the floor and followed the Xweetok down the rope ladder. At the bottom was a large grassy yard with a little blue house on the other side. Xilau and Luke, known as Flame and Loo aboard the Golden Pearl, raced each other to the house. Tep, or Captain Eon, and Naleapy, the ship’s sorcerer, followed at a more sedate pace.
“So, Tep,” Naleapy said to the starry Gelert. “Is it back to the Golden Pearl in the morning?”
“Nah,” Tep replied. “We’re pretty much finished with that one. I was thinking more like... space exploration.”
“Cool,” Naleapy said. “Let’s have a planning meeting before bed.”
Tep agreed, and the boys trotted to the house where their mom and sister had dinner waiting. Behind them, in the orange light of the sunset, the treehouse stoically waited for another day, and another adventure.