Treasure Hunters: Part One
"Avast, ye scurvy Lupes! No mangy pirates will be taking over my ship!" Saffy roared, as the looming hulk of a ship with dark sails and the commonly known pirate symbol of a skull and crossbones, marked upon it, swiftly gained on them from behind.
They were no match in speed for the black sailed ship due to the full cargo they carried in the hull below, yet Saffy would not give up. Her cargo and crew depended on her!
With the knowledge that the pirates would soon catch up with them, Saffy left her second in command in charge of the helm and rounded up the rest of her crew.
"There's no point trying to outrun them – they're too fast! But I'll be cursed if I let them take this ship without putting up a fight! Man the cannons! We're going to show that filth what we're made of!"
A chorus of "Aye aye, Captain," reached her, as each of her crew member scurried off to their posts.
Minutes later the air was filled with loud echoing booms and the stench of gunpowder, as the pirate ship pulled up alongside them.
Explosions roared from both sides as the pirates fought back, sending their own cannonballs flying through the air at Saffy and her men, taking huge chunks of the ship with them.
"They're trying to climb aboard!" cried Saffy, who drew her sword and immediately ran towards the side of the ship, where ropes and grappling hooks were quickly appearing.
"We can't let them board the ship! Do whatever you have to – just keep them back!" she called to her crew, as she swiped at the ropes furiously with her sword; sending an Usul with an eye patch and an angry sneer, soaring down to the huge swells of the ocean below.
As fast as Saffy and her crew cut through the ropes however, more seemed to appear and before long, to Saffy's despair, the first of the pirates had climbed aboard.
He was soon joined by three more of his friends, which quickly turned into six, and then more, and with the bulk of her men fighting off the invaders, no-one could stop more and more of them appearing to join in the melee.
The last to step aboard was their Captain; the burly figure of the infamous Captain Scarblade himself. Saffy was fighting off three of his underlings when he ascended, but the sheer sight of him caused Saffy to call out to a nearby Jetsam, who had just slain his opponent, to take over.
"With pleasure." He grinned, toothily, swirling his sword confidently at the pirates.
"So... we meet at last, Scarblade!" Saffy shouted, over the roar of battle cries, and the clanging of swords, as she made her way over to him, brandishing her sword menacingly.
"Yes, and I will be the last person you will ever meet!" his voice boomed, as he drew his sword in one swift motion.
"Saffy!" one of her crew member cried in fright, as the white Acara duelled with the Lupe in a flurry of crashing swords.
"Saffy! Saffy! Wake up!"
Upon opening her eyes, the cloudless skies above her disappeared, to be replaced by a dull grey, speckled ceiling, with an aging chandelier hanging lifelessly from it. The roaring of the tide was swapped for the heavy pattering of rain against the window, with the odd boom of thunder in the distance and the vibrancy of the colours she had seen in her mind's eye faded away completely.
Letting out a disappointed sigh, she sat up from her position on the living room floor and looked around.
The colourless room was even more depressing to view now, than it had been the moment she arrived here: drab grey walls; thick, heavy drapes in dull, muted shades; hard, slate grey floor tiles and a thick ebony rug, which the dreaming Acara had been laying on.
The chandelier above her, which Saffy thought must have once been a glistening gold, now looked more like rusted brass and the wooden furnishings were dark and chunky; a pain to move, when she wanted to play around them.
This was no place for a young Neopet.
Sitting up, her gaze was caught once more by the huge portrait that filled the back wall of the room. In the centre of the portrait stood a Grey UC Cybunny – Saffy's nearly ancient, Great Aunt Gretta – surrounded by no less than six Grey Gangee's, (her beloved petpets) each as morose as the other; their ears, eyes and mouths drooping miserably.
Why Saffy's parents had left her in Neovia with her glum, Great Aunt Gretta, whilst they holidayed in the bright sunshine of Mystery Island, she would never understand.
Didn't they realise how depressing it was being around so much Grey?
To the right of the portrait, stood a dopey looking Gelert; spotted in colour, who was staring down at her with a fixed grin of admiration and excitement.
"Hey Saff!" the Gelert cheerfully greeted her.
"Mum said you'd be here! She just dropped me off. I'm staying for the week too! Isn't that awesome? Doesn't look like there's much to do though... is that why you were sleeping, out of boredom? I mean, it's not like we can go outside and play... have you seen the weather? It's raining JubJubs out there! Would you like to play a game with me?"
Closing her eyes, Saffy inhaled and silently counted to ten.
Archie was Saffy's cousin on her father's side, and he was the most irritating Gelert that she had ever met. He was younger than her and, like Saffy, an only child. But whilst Saffy was self-assured and a risk taker, with lots of little friends to boss about, Archie was a bit of a wimp, who kept to himself mostly... and the few friends he could have had were put off by his incessant chatter.
This meant that whenever he saw Saffy, he acted like they were best pals, probably because he didn't have anyone else. He also looked up to Saffy like she was a type of big sister; she was brave and confident and he wanted to be just like her. So, naturally, he followed her around like a lost Petpet.
"Not really, Archie," Saffy sighed, getting up from her spot on the floor and moving towards the door. She didn't get far however, as Aunt Gretta stalked through the door, with three of her Gangee's trailing glumly behind her.
"Oh, hello, Archibald, dear. I just saw your mother off. Dreadful time of year to be going to the tropics – so much heat and sunshine! What were your parents thinking, Saffron? Mystery Island at this time of year! I ask you!"
Saffy shrugged her shoulders. If you asked her, Mystery Island at this time of year seemed like a wonderful idea. Surely it would be much better being at the beach than being stuck in bleak Neovia? Oh, and how she hated being called Saffron! No-one really called her by her given name anymore, not even her parents, and that was how she liked it.
"You don't mind if I practice my organ, do you?" Aunt Gretta, asked, not waiting for an answer, as she plonked herself down on the bench and lifted the lid on the instrument.
"If you're looking for something to do, you might want to try the attic... there are a lot of old things up there. I'm sure you might find a game or two to play," and with that, the Cybunny pressed her fingers onto the keys of the instrument and began playing the most dismal, depressing tune that Saffy had ever heard. It almost sounded like a funeral march.
"Oh, come on then!" Saffy groaned to her cousin, who had placed his paws discreetly over his ears.
He couldn't hear Saffy, so she gestured him to follow and stalked out of the room.
Once outside the room, the music was still too loud for the cousins to hear much of what the other was saying, so Saffy suggested they get out of earshot. The attic, being the furthest away from the downstairs lounge, seemed like their best bet, so they made their way up the spiral staircase to the second floor and along the passageway that led to the attic staircase.
Saffy was curious to see Auntie Gretta's attic, at any rate. She'd bet that there would be a ton of interesting things stored up there; treasure chests, rare books, retired items – her aunt was ancient after all, so she would surely have kept some treasures from her youth.
They found the door to the attic after much trial and error, as neither Neopet had ever stayed with their Aunt before, and so had to look behind a multitude of doors – including Great Aunt Gretta's grey clad bedroom – before finding the correct one.
The staircase that led to the attic was old and rickety, groaning and creaking under their weight in protest, as the two ascended it – Archie looked most relieved when they made it to the top without incident.
Marching through the door, Saffy was a little disappointed when the attic she had been imagining, turned out to be... well, an ordinary, old attic. It was triangle shaped, with low, slanting ceilings that met in the middle and ran all the way down to the floor, and whilst it was a fraction dusty, the oldest thing about it seemed to be the prehistoric board games stacked high on a shelf in the corner.
Archie made a beeline for these, and started rubbing off the dust with his sleeve to make out their names. Saffy however, stayed at the entrance of the door, looking around in bemusement; there were no treasure chests, no bookshelves, nothing that even suggested the fact that her Aunt and the generations that had lived there before her, had ever had anything of value.
Yet this was a fairly expensive townhouse, in a nice part of town (if you could call Neovia "nice") so where did all of her Aunt's old belongings go?
"Look, Saff," Archie cried, enthusiastically, holding out a slightly dusty box for her to see. She could vaguely make out the words, NeoQuest: The Board Game, written upon it and Saffy lifted her eyebrows in mock interest.
"Wow, that looks like so much fun," she stated, before turning away again.
"It is!" came the cheery response from her cousin, who had blatantly missed the sarcasm dripping from her statement.
Saffy hated board games. There was something characteristically monotonous about them; roll the die, move your piece, miss a turn, go back three spaces, ad infinitum or until one of you finally wins and puts an end to the monotony. She would rather spend her time listening to her Aunt's organ-playing, than to play a game invented for little kids, decades ago.
Turning away from Archie, Saffy caught sight of something she had somehow failed to see earlier. It was a cardboard box, stashed away at the very back of the room.
Her interest piqued, she darted across the room to see what was inside. This must be something important, she was sure of it.
"Saffy..." her cousin whined, having already set the board up and was fiddling with the game pieces.
"Come on! I've got it all set up – I'm playing Rohane by the way... who do you want to be?"
Saffy ignored him, as she rifled through the box, spilling its contents out onto the floor.
There wasn't much of interest: an old silver jewellery box with a few silver charms inside, a scrapbook of photos and memories that Saffy barely glanced at, a book of arithmetic that looked like it was falling to pieces and an old journal; or to be more specific, a diary. Just inside the front cover was a name in spiralling letters: Margaretta Maud Middlestow. The name Margaretta was crossed out and a second hand had written above it: Gretta.
It was her great-aunt's diary from when she was around the same age as Saffy from what she could determine. After flicking through a couple of pages, and reading a paragraph here and there (and finding out that Greta hadn't always been so miserable – she had started out Pink; what a revelation!) Archie became impatient and wandered over.
"Saffy, I thought we were going to play a game... what are you reading?" he asked, peering over her shoulder at the aged diary.
"It's Aunt Gretta's diary, from when she was my age! It makes for an interesting read, I can tell you that!" Saffy replied, her eyes still wandering over her Aunt's teenage words.
"You shouldn't be reading that! A diary's supposed to be private, you know!" he chastised, with a frown.
"What's this?" he asked, picking up the scrapbook.
"Oh, just some old photo album or something," the Acara waved him off, nonchalantly.
"Wow!" Archie mumbled, looking at the pictures. "I can't believe Aunt Gretta was ever this young!" he said, awestruck.
As he turned the page something fell out of the book and fluttered to the ground.
"Oops," he said, bending down to pick it up.
It was a piece of parchment, feather light and yellowed with age. It rustled between his fingers as he touched it and as he turned it over to see what it was, his mouth fell open in a silent gasp.
Saffy who was so occupied in reading her Aunt's diary, didn't notice at first. It was only when Archie sat down on the floor beside her and pushed it on her, did she turn to see what her cousin had found.
"What is it, Archie?" she asked, perhaps a little too impatiently.
"See for yourself..."
After staring in puzzlement at the piece of parchment in her hands for a few seconds, she too couldn't help but gasping, though out of delight rather than surprise.
"It's a treasure map!" she cried, her eyes as round as saucers.
"Only half of one, actually," he stated, matter-of-factly.
"There isn't another half in there somewhere?" she asked, almost tearing the scrapbook from his arms in her eagerness to find the second half.
"No, I've looked right through it. There's nothing else there."
"Well we have to find the second half, Archie!" Saffy exclaimed, getting to her feet in excitement.
"Let's go and ask Aunt Gretta about it! Come on!"
Her aunt answered their relentless questions as best she could. She told them that she had found the treasure map, just as they had: stored up in the attic with her grandfather's belongings, which she had long since got rid of.
She had looked for the remaining pieces throughout her teens and early adulthood, but the search had amounted to nothing, and though they too were welcome to try to continue the quest, she was positive that the remaining pieces would never be found.
"We'll find them!" Saffy told Archie, optimistically, later that night. "We'll be treasure hunters and I don't care how long it takes, but we will find that treasure! Are you with me, Archie?"
Archie, who was so pleased to finally be included in something, would have agreed to anything.
"Of course! Treasure hunters to the end!"
To be continued...