College Days: A Pirate Adventure - Part Three
Meadowbuck peeked around the corner and saw that the Grarrl was holding a book with the words The Mystery of the Kougra Paw written on the cover. He had apparently pulled it out through a broken window next to him. With a start, the Gelert realized it was the library window, and the sack lying between the Lupe’s paws was full of books. Those two crooks had broken into the library and were going to steal the books and then sell them! But they didn’t seem too impressed with Kougra Paw. In fact, the Grarrl pulled a match out of his pocket and lit it. He held it close to the book. A tongue of fire began to lick over the binding, and his Lupe friend laughed.
A growl erupted from Meadowbuck's throat. He wouldn't stand for the destruction of books of any kind. Mystery of the Kougra Paw was the first book he ever read, and it was special to him, even if it wasn't his favorite.
Meadowbuck sat bolt upright in bed, still growling. Horax had climbed down the ladder to the floor and was shaking him. Meadowbuck’s roommate had gone home for the weekend, and Horax was sleeping over.
“Hey buddy, are you okay?”
Meadowbuck buried his muzzle in his paws. “Yeah. I think so. It was just a dream. But Horax, I just remembered where I’d seen the Grarrl and the Lupe: back at the Brightvale Academy, my first semester. Their names are Rasival and Sacrige. They were a couple of bullies who vandalized school property. I eventually caught them stealing library books, and they beat me up, but the authorities were still able to catch them. They got expelled.”
“And you didn’t recognize them right away?!” Horax exclaimed, incredulous.
“Well, they weren’t painted pirate back then,” Meadowbuck replied. “One thing I do know for sure, though: they’re trouble.” A cold paw of fear clutched Meadowbuck’s chest. “Christopher! Where’s Christopher?”
They searched the room, but no Christopher. “Meadowbuck!” Horax shouted frantically. “Come here!”
Meadowbuck rushed to his friend, who was standing by the window. There, on the windowsill, were muddy Lupe pawprints and Grarrl claw marks.
Meadowbuck slid down to the floor, shivering. “They were here,” he said. “And they’ve got Christopher.”
* * *
“We have to get to their ship,” Meadowbuck said, as he and Horax sped through the hallways. “Rasival and Sacrige won’t stick around long, now that they’ve got Christopher. They’ll guess that I recognized them and cast off with the first tide. Hey!” he exclaimed, as Horax took a sudden corner. “Where are you going?”
“To wake up Syainia,” the red Kougra replied. “She’ll kill us if we go on an adventure without her.”
The Shoyru came to her door when they knocked. She glared at them sleepily. “Guys, it’s two in the morning. What do you want?”
“Christopher’s gone!” Horax panted. “And Meadowbuck thinks it was that Grarrl and the Lupe that he saw at the docks. They’re a couple of bullies from his high school that got expelled because of him. We’ve got to find them before they get away!”
Syainia gasped. “I’m coming!” She turned back into her room and shouted to her roommate. “I’m going to the docks! Don’t worry too much about me unless I’m not back by morning.”
“What?” her roommate yawned. “Um, okay....”
The three raced out of the dormitory and across the lawn. Once they got outside, Syainia took to the air and shouted over her shoulder, “I’ll scope everything out! Meet you there!”
Meadowbuck and Horax slowed down when they reached the harbor. They stayed in the shadows and tip-pawed to the docks. A shadow swooped on them as they came down an alley, and they started.
“Relax, guys, it’s me,” Syainia said. “They’ve got Christopher on that ship over there.”
It was a classic pirate ship; two enormous masts, black and red paint, black sails, and a skull-and-crossbones flag above the crow’s nest. Horax scrunched up his nose.
“These old friends of yours don’t go for subtle.”
“Nope,” Meadowbuck said quietly. His ears tingled. He’d never wanted to meet Rasival and Sacrige again, and now they’d snuck right into his room and stolen his petpet.
“Let’s go, guys,” he growled.
“Ever,” Syainia said, laying a hand on the Gelert’s shoulder. “If you’re the reason these two got kicked out of school, they probably don’t think too kindly of you. This could be a trap!”
Horax snorted. “You’ve been reading too many novels. I think they’re just greedy and wanna make some Neopoints.”
“Even if it is a trap,” Meadowbuck said. “I can’t leave Christopher with them.”
Syainia reluctantly nodded her acquiescence. “Okay,” she said. “Then I’m with you all the way.”
The three pets slipped across the wharf, moving between empty stalls, crates, and piles of pungent fish nets. They huddled behind the last stack of cargo. Their next move would be up the gangplank of the ship.
“I don’t see anyone,” Horax said.
“Wait,” Meadowbuck said, holding out his paw. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the vibrations in the air, the sounds. The splash of little waves. Ropes creaking aboard the ship. Footsteps down below the deck of the ship.
“There’s one sentry,” Meadowbuck whispered, without opening his eyes. “A Uni, I think. He’s at the stern.”
Horax squinted. “I don’t see anyone.”
“I can hear him breathing.”
The Kougra raised an eyebrow. “That’s a little weird....”
“Be nice,” Syainia said, punching his shoulder.
Horax rubbed his arm peevishly. “Whatever. What are we supposed to do about the guard, anyway?”
“I have an idea,” Meadowbuck replied. “We’ll go to the bow and climb the mooring lines. I might need a little help, Sy,” he added. “I’m not built for shinnying up ropes.”
“Will do,” the Shoyru agreed.
They crept across the dock to the front of the ship. A thick line was tied to the dock and disappeared into the ship through a porthole. Horax jumped on it and trotted across without hesitation. Meadowbuck swallowed. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. That water below looked dark, deep, and cold.
“Hurry up,” Horax hissed from the other end. He disappeared into the porthole and poked his head back out. “All clear over here. It’s a cargo hold of some kind.”
Meadowbuck wrapped his front legs around the rope and pushed himself out a little ways. The line wobbled. He heard the flap of Syainia’s wings and a breath of air as she hovered above him.
“You’re doing fine,” she said.
Meadowbuck reached out his paws and pulled himself forward. Horax’s impatient features seemed miles away. A wave swelled under the ship and rocked it. With a yip, Meadowbuck slipped. He screwed his eyes shut, but realized he was still holding onto the rope. Only now, he was upside down. Syainia dove under him and held him up, taking some weight off his paws. Meadowbuck’s ears pricked up. Footsteps.
“Sy, get outta here!” he said. “The sentry’s coming!”
“No,” Syainia said stubbornly. “If he finds you, he finds all of us.” She tucked her arms under Meadowbuck’s armpits and began hauling him. “Let your paws slide over the rope!” she said urgently. Meadowbuck loosened his grip, and he began to glide over the rope towards the ship. The footsteps of the sentry were now loud enough for all of them to hear. Horax grabbed Meadowbuck’s ears as soon as he was close enough, and the Gelert stifled another yip. He wriggled his body through the porthole. It was a tight squeeze. As soon as he was inside, Syainia zipped through. Meadowbuck heard a dull thunk, and Syainia gasped.
“Sy, are you oka—” Syainia clapped her hand over the Gelert’s mouth. The guard was on the deck right over their heads. They waited breathlessly. He clopped heavily to the side. They could see his shadow on the moonlit water. He shrugged, and clopped back across the deck.
They exhaled in relief, and Meadowbuck pulled his muzzle away from Syainia. She whimpered.
“Are you okay?” Meadowbuck whispered.
“Yeah,” she gasped. “I’m... I’m fine.”
“No, seriously,” said Horax.
“I think I broke my wing,” she grunted. “I smashed it when I came through the porthole. But I’ll be fine.”
Meadowbuck’s heart sank. He never should have let his friends come with him. It was too dangerous.
“I know... what you’re thinking,” Syainia panted. “That you shouldn’t have let us come. But you didn’t let us. We just came. This is not your fault. We knew the risks.”
Syainia slapped Horax with her tail and cringed as a spasm swept up her wing.
“Oh, yeah,” Horax said suddenly. “Of course we did. I mean, they’re pirates. They’re dangerous.”
Meadowbuck smiled gratefully. He couldn’t have asked for better friends. “Thanks, guys,” he said. “I guess I couldn’t do this alone.”
“Yeah, well, let’s find Christopher and get outta here,” said Horax, never one for touching moments.
Meadowbuck looked around. The mooring line they’d climbed in on was tied to a solid iron post a few paws from the porthole. There were crates and boxes stacked all around. It was definitely a cargo bay. Meadowbuck’s ears pricked, and he held out a paw.
“Wait! There’s someone else in here!” The three friends froze.
To be continued...