"Storm, whaddyer think ye’re doin’?" Raitha roars angrily.
"The bally featherbag’s gone cuckoo!" Hunt exclaims.
Uriel fights to maintain his aristocratic composure. "What is this?" he cries, his voice halfway between astonishment and indignation.
"This stone cannot be allowed to fall into the paws of an evilbeast!" Stormfyre yells defiantly. "It cannot be allowed to leave this island!"
"This ain’t gonna do any good, Storm!" Raitha shouts.
"Any good for what?" Ember snaps. "Do you know anything about this, Raitha?"
The sea otter glares at the rat. "’E just said summat ‘bout thinkin’ th’ stone could be used fer evil! I didn’t know ‘e’d snatch it like that!"
"Embershard, who is this bird?" Uriel demands.
"He’s a friend of Raitha’s, Majesty," Ember replies, glowering at the otter.
"I ain’t losin’ my pay ‘cause of a feather-bottomed traitor!" Angus snarls, fingering his mace.
"This is a matter of honor!" the sparrow hawk retorts. "The jewel would be the cause of great evil!"
Mari spreads her paws incredulously. "How could the jewel be evil, Stormfyre? You yourself were saved by it!"
"The stone itself is neither evil nor good," Stormfyre shakes his head, "but if it were to escape the island, it would become the greatest evil the world has known!" He gazes pleadingly into her eyes. "Don’t you see? The jewel can bring friends from the brink of death; it can rejuvenate and regenerate; it is a fountain of youth, but there can only ever be one! If it was brought into the world, it would be coveted by everybeast! It would become the idol of every living creature! Creatures would slaughter to obtain it! Wars would devastate the land! Lust for immortality would kill more than the jewel could ever save!"
"Thanks fer the lesson in morality, yer stupid bird," growls Greeneye. "But in case yer was wonderin', I'd already figgered that out. An' I be sure everybeast else 'as, too. I wasna goin' ter give it ter that weasel, anyway."
Raitha agrees with Greeneye, saying, "Stormfyre, we're not all stupid. So jus' 'and o'er the jewel, back ter us. Yer can't play hero ferever, matey."
Uriel is enraged, and he shouts, "Kill the bird and his friends! Kill them!" At his shouts the cavedwellers and the corsairs move as one, sweeping toward the little bunch.
"Give 'em billyoh, chaps!" shouts Hunt. "Let them know Hunter P. Oaktree died fightin', wot?"
As the friends make a circle, Greeneye whips out his sling. Nobody notices what he's doing until the former Captain lets the stone fly and it hits Stormfyre's wing. Tsar moves quickly and pins Greeneye, her eyes flashing at the traitor.
Stormfyre drops the jewel, but his wing brushes it and the slingstone wound is instantly cured. The great hawk dives after the jewel. Angus leaps out and catches the jewel neatly in his paw. The friends start passing the jewel back and forth as the enemy scores hits on them, and it is soon apparent that they could fight forever. Uriel shouts out, "Stop! You'll never win!" and the cavedwellers and Corsairs pull back.
"Now, it appears we are at an empass. You have the jewel, I have the ship. Now unless you want to stay here forever, hand over the jewel. I promise no harm will befall you."
"Sure," growls Ember. "Like we'd ever trust a weasel's word."
"Would yer trust a rat's?" asks Greeneye, glaring at Ember. "It's obvious we ain't gettin' nowheres."
Raitha grins. "Yer right. We do be at an empass. But we got the jewel an' eternal youth, an yer 'as only as long as yer dares stay."
Uriel scowls at the band. "None of you would dare challenge me without that jewel. None!"
All of the friends are outraged, for they are all courageous beasts. But they know that they cannot accept the challenge, for it would mean death. All, that is, but Angus.
The brave fox steps forward, grinning easily at the weasel. "I've got the guts to take on a million Uriels. So come on, stupid weasel."
Uriel draws a long rapier. "I accept your challenge, fox. And maybe I'll carve those words on your gravestone!"
The weasel climbs down from the ship. Angus steps forward, sword and mace in paw. The tense situation is suddenly broken as one of the cavedwellers cries out, "Get 'em!"
Nobody knows who shouted, and all is instant chaos. Uriel, not wishing to be robbed of his kill, drives toward Angus. Stormfyre takes to the sky and attacks, driving the cavedwellers and Corsairs from Angus. Greeneye bulls his way through the crowd, and is soon at Angus's side.
"This is my fight," says Angus, who runs toward Uriel. And just before the two can come together, Raitha bursts from in between two cavedwellers, whom she kills with two swipes of her scimitar. She then steps up to Angus, but Greeneye stops her with a paw.
"It's 'is fight," says Greeneye, angrily eyeing Angus. But he doesn't have much time to stand around, for another bunch of cavedwellers comes at him, and Raitha and he were hard pressed to fight them off.
As a bunch of Corsairs also come at the two, Tsar, Mari, and Ember run toward them.
"We're all together now, I see," said Mari. "All but the bird and the fox, that is."
"Angus is over there gettin' isself killed, an' Stormfyre's...," starts Raitha, but suddenly notices that Stormfyre is nowhere to be seen.
"Where's the bonny bird got itself to now, eh?" says Tsar, who both looks for the hawk and runs a stoat through.
"Beats me," says Mari, felling a shrew with a slingstone.
The cave echoes with the sounds of fighting, and the only thing missing is the great bird Stormfyre.
by Raitha Galestarr
High in the dark recesses of the vast cavern's arched roof, the kestrel
hovers, on the verge of stooping, his dark eyes fixed on the turned back of
Uriel below him, as the weasel looks right and left for the bird whilst
screaming orders to his horde. Judging his moment right, Stormfyre dips up
his wings, and drops with breathtaking speed towards his enemy, a
bloodchilling screech issuing from his wide beak.
"Fire on the wiiiiiiiiiiiind! Kieeeeeeeeeeerrr!"
Uriel whirls about
at the sound, and freezes at the terrifying sight of the raptor speeding
towards him, talons spread. A thin moan escapes the weasel's throat as he
stands helpless, frozen with horror. But just as Stormfyre's talons reach
to close about Uriel's neck, a scream breaks from the weasel's lips.
Brought by it, a burly stoat throws himself suddenly at Stormfyre, slashing
his wing and chest deeply with a knife as he tackles him.
tumbles hard to the deck of Uriel's galley, bilked of his prey and wounded.
The burly stoat pins the bird's wings cruelly, and Uriel leans over him,
"Thank you very much, bird. Methinks you have just won me my
Jewel." Standing up, the weasel grabs Stormfyre's wing and heaves him up
into view of the battle and its participants.
"Your friend the bird is
here, my friends! Give me my Jewel, or you will all see him writhe in his
death throes! He has no Jewel to heal him now!"
Creatures grind to a
halt, staring in despair. Angus curls his lip at the weasel.
kill the bird, he's a traitor anyway." But the fox is knocked abruptly
aside by Raitha, who snarls menacingly at Uriel.
"Keep yer filthy paws off 'im, vermin, or I'll kill yer meself!"
"I think not, my fine warrioress. If you ventured near me, my beasts
would cut you apart...." Uriel smiles thinly. "Give me my Jewel."
"KIIIIIIIEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR!!" Dangling in the weasel's
grip, Stormfyre rallies all his strength and swings upwards, ripping with
his beak viciously into Uriel's arm. The
weasel Lord shrieks in pain. Enraged, he flings the kestrel furiously from
him and turns away, cursing as he nurses his arm. Stormfyre hits the side
of the rail in a shower of feathers and bloodspray, and hurriedly drags
himself over it, landing in the water with a dull splosh. Feathers
completely sodden and weighted, he flounders frantically for several
moments, then starts to sink.
"Raitha, go get him!" Greeneye shouts, shoving the sea otter towards the
water. Briefly she turns to argue, but Tsar reaches out as well and gives
her an extra push.
"Goo, seadog! We kin hauld off yon vermin laddie's buckoes wi'out ye fer
the moment, ye ken! Go get yon 'awk!"
Raitha nods smartly. Dashing
around a pair of shrews, knocking one over, she drops her sword and flings
herself smoothly into the water.
Water slowly fills Stormfyre's eyes and
beak as his struggles to remain afloat become weaker and weaker. He has
almost given up hope of returning to land, when Raitha's sleek head breaks
the water. She hooks a paw about the hawk, holding his head up, and paddles
high in the water for a moment, collecting her bearings. She finds herself
facing the bright opening of the cave, some ways away. Something about it
catches her eye, and she turns back again to study it. It takes no more
than a moment for her to realize what caught her sight: Just visible
outside the bright portal is a very familiar sleeklined stern, a barque's,
obviously run aground.
The small group of friends fighting on the shore
look up at the sound of their comrade's voice shout back at them.
'ere, mates! Swim for it! We can get outta here! Shift it! Move!" Raitha
raises her free paw and waves frantically at them. "Cummon, shipmates!
Swim for it!"
Stranger orders have been called before now, and the questors are almost
used to it. Without much questioning, they fight fiercely down to the
water's edge and splosh in. Swimming as best they can, they paddle out to
Uriel, clutching his arm, leans over the rail, curious as
to this odd move of his resourceful adversaries. Suddenly, the weasel
starts to curse vividly, seeing Greeneye, the best swimming, arrive at
Raitha's side, bearing the Jewel. Not stopping, Stormfyre is slowly revived
as the eight beasts make their getaway, heading for the natural harbour
outside the cave.
Furious, Uriel rushes to the bows and shouts out over
the melee on shore. "You idiots! Can't you see they're not there anymore?
They're in the water, probably heading for Galestarr's ship! Move your
worthless carcasses! Use the tunnels! get around and cut them off! they
can't be allowed to escape!"
by Hunt Oaktree
The eight companions, struggling and gasping for breath, make
their way to the Graynorth. Raitha and Tsar climb the ropes and
lower the gangplank quickly, so that the other beasts can board.
Once everyone is on, Raitha makes a quick check of her ship. She
comes back grinning from ear to ear.
"Aye, she's seaworthy, mateys," she says.
Working fast so that they can sail before Uriel and his crew can
catch up to them, they hoist the mainsails and sail off.
Raitha is at the wheel, and she can not help but keep looking over
her shoulder, worrying about the weasel. Ember is sulking in a
corner, trying to puzzle out why she was running away from her
employer. Angus is leaning against the mast with a sardonic
expression. Tsar is watching Greeneye suspiciously. Greeneye is
admiring the surface of the Jewel, feeling healthier than he has
for quite some time. Stormfyre seems the happiest of all, glad
that the Jewel is away from the gripping claws of the deadly
weasel. Mari is up in the crowsnest, scanning the horizon for
seabeasts. Hunt is eating.
"Mmmrff, scrumptous," he mutters through a mouthful of scone.
Angus looks around at the irrepressible hare.
"Where did you get that scone?" he asks jealously.
"I frmm hmift," Hunt replies.
The hare swallows and clarifies. "I found it," he says.
"Oh," Angus responds, and turns away, disinterested.
Just then, Mari yells from the crowsnest.
"Ships, coming from the island!"
Raitha leaps into action.
"Aargh, must be that weasel Uriel's fleet. Don't worry, though;
my Greynorth can outrun any ship."
Ember snorts with derision.
"What makes you so sure, seadog?"
"She made the Kessel run in under twelve parsecs, rat. She can
outrace anything Uriel throws at 'er."
Pulling a long face, Hunt dances over to the two and grins
"The seven brave travellers
Now are one more,
And we've found the Jewel,
Yoo hoo, yoo hoo,
So let's all have a nice, hot scone!"
While the others are distracted by the hare's song and dance
number, Ember grabs the Jewel from Greeneye's lax grip.
"I don't trust you with that," she snarls, backing away from the
group. "I'll hold on to this for awhile."
Greeneye spits impudently at Ember's feet. "An 'oo do ye think
trusts yew wid it, rat?" He lunges forward, clawing for the stone.
Ember bares her fangs and flashes her dirk. "I wouldn't try it,
"We don' 'ave time for this!" Raitha glances back at the pursuing
ships. One is pulling ahead of the others, giving eager chase. Her
eyes narrow as she recognizes the crimson device on the banner.
The corsair galley pulls gradually closer, and Raitha can hear the
raucous commotion of the crew on the deck as they await their
prize. Suddenly, she feels a rumble through the deck planks. Far
ahead, a maelstrom caused by the capricious currents of Grasch
Nordu whirls dangerously, broken here and there by enormous reefs.
A sure deathtrap for a careless sailor. Not necessarily for a
reckless one, though.
As a hasty plan forms in her mind, Raitha steers Greynorth toward
the vortex. Greeneye's sea-trained eye recognizes their course.
"Ye daft, otter? I thought we was aimin' t' escape wid our lives!"
Raitha glares at the rat. "Jus' follow my orders an' ye'll live t'
curse the world another day! Now... Mari! Climb the riggin's and
pull in the mains'l about 'arfway! Stay up there, an’ when I says
'now,' unfurl th’ sail! Angus, git up 'ere! I'll need yore 'elp
wid th' tiller afore too long. Tsar, Greeneye, Ember, an' Hunt,
watch for boardin’ grapplers! When I gives th’ signal, hack the
lines through! Storm, get in th’ air an’ tell me the lie o’
Mari is up in the ratlines and reefs in the sails. Greynorth
begins to slow like a runner with her shoelaces tied.
Stormfyre is soon perched on the rail next to the tiller. He
shouts to be heard over the thunderous roar. "Bloodbane is ten
shiplengths back, about thirty degrees starboard, and closing
Raitha nods, peering through salt-rimed eyes at the maelstrom
ahead. Timing is crucial.
"This is insane!" Ember shouts over the crashing water.
"If she wanted dead, all she needed ter do is ask," Greeneye
The sea otter stares at the vortex, mentally charting its
boundaries and currents. "’ow far’s Bloodbane now?"
Stormfyre peers back at the corsair galley. "Five shiplengths!"
Raitha turns momentarily to glance at her adversary. The corsairs
are gathered on the forward deck, pointing and shouting excitedly.
Cap’n Bloodbane stands on the prow, yelling something to his crew.
Snapping her head back towards the maesltrom, the sea otter turns
the Greynorth, lining her bowsprit with the starboard edge of the
maelstrom. "Storm, is ‘e turnin wid’ us?"
"Yes! They’re turning! They’re—They’re nearly abeam of us now!"
In her peripheral vision, Raitha sees the huge corsair galley
gradually drawing closer to the Greynorth. The whirlpool is only
about three shiplengths ahead. Almost time for…
As if on cue, a boarding grapple is hurled from the galley’s spar
deck. It catches on Greynorth’s rail amidships. Two more grapples
hook onto the rail.
Judging her timing carefully, Raitha shouts, "Mari, now!"
Mari unfurls the mains’l in a blink of an eye. Instantly, it
swells against its fastenings on the mast, filled by an updraft
from the gyrating water. Raitha nudges the helm to port towards
the maelstrom, drawing the hawsers taut. Pulled by her own
grapples as if they were stretched rubber bands, the corsair
galley begins drifting toward the monstrous eddy.
"Angus, ‘elp push us t’ starboard now! Push f’ yer life, bucko!"
Raitha throws her brawny frame against the tiller, joined by
Angus’s efforts. The Greynorth jerks suddenly to starboard. The
sea otter maneuvers her ship around her adversary, all the while
keeping the grapple lines taut. The corsair galley’s monstrous
bulk acts as an anchor, protecting the Greynorth from cross
currents as the updraft fills her mains’l and fuels her momentum.
The noble barque is thrust into the clear.
"Now, cut th’ grappler lines! ‘urry!" The lines fall easy prey to
the flashing blades mid-deck.
The ponderous corsair galley wallows like a struggling animal in
quicksand. The conflicting wind currents around her dark sails
cause them to luff clumsily. The maelstrom current tugs
mercilessly at the huge ship, pulling her into its deadly maw. The
proud bow crumples against a protruding rock. The stout timbers
are shredded like so much matchwood. The corsair galley rends
itself apart on the unforgiving shoals.
Mari bounds down from the riggings, holding a paw to her open
mouth as the horror of what just happened hits her. "That crew…"
Raitha shakes her head. "That crew woulda killed every one of us
widdout a second thought, no mistakin’ that."
Angus picks at a splinter that had imbedded itself in the pad of
his paw during his joint wrestle with the tiller. "So… where’s the
Ember rolls her eyes with a huff, reaching into her tunic. "I have
it right… here…" A look of rage washes over her face. "I tucked it
in my tunic, and it’s not there! Somebeast took it!"
by Mari Rainblossom
*A gasp goes through the crew as they realize what's happened. The Jewel-- gone!! Mari's lip starts to quiver as she sees what this means.
Suddenly, a thump is heard from the cabin, near the center of the ship. Every head whips around to catch the source of the noise. A dark shadowy figure, clad in a hooded cloak and huddled over under the shower of the seaspray, is scurrying across the deck. In his sleeve there is a light blue glitter that looks very suspicious...*
Mari: *gasp* It's...
Tsar: ...The Jewel!
*Everyone freezes for a moment, including the robed figure, as they are all caught in shock. Finally, the figure makes a move toward the rail of the ship, and makes as though he's going to go overboard!*
Ember: He's getting away!
Raitha: *pointing her scimitar at the figure* Stop him!
by Embershard Trillwind
Hunt hurls himself at the figure's legs and grabs the ankles
heartily. The hooded creature collapses, efficiently tackled, and
the Jewel scuttles out of his grasp. Greeneye grabs the gem.
Stormfyre keeps the beast at talonpoint while Raitha gingerly
peels back the cloak's hood, demanding, "Who are ye,
Ember shoves her way to the creature and stares down at the
exposed face. "Duskhound!" she gasps angrily. "I should have
"What .. what should we do with him?" Mari asks timidly.
Tsar scowls. "He wanted tae go o'erboard, Ah suggist we oblige!"
There is no argument, but no hearty agreement either. Angus and
Raitha grapple with the fighting Duskhound and struggle to the
side. Greeneye crowds in to get a better view.
"One!" Raitha cries, Duskhound swinging back and forth between
her and the fox.
"You'll be sorry!!" howls the weasel angrily.
"Three!" On the final count, Angus and Raitha heave Duskhound
back. Just as he begins his arc over the side of the ship, one
arm breaks loose. With a wild shout of victory, Duskhound's
claws snatch the Jewel from Greeneye's paws -- and he and the
gem plunge overboard into the chilly green water.
Ember darts to the side and stares down in vacant disbelief.
"No!" she almost shrieks. "Raitha, can you -- Hunt -- anyone?!?
What am I going to tell Uriel?!?"
But the Greynorth has moved far beyond Duskhound's grave. Only a
ripple shows where the bounty hunter and the Jewel fell.
The eight stand in sheepish silence for a moment before Hunt pipes
up. "A giant pink sea serpent!"
"What?" Ember glares at the hare.
"That's our cover story! The bally rock was taken by a jolly ol'
giant pink sea serpent!" Hunt grins elatively.
"You know, hare," Angus growls, "I am gettin' sick an' tired o'
you flappin' your fat gob."
"If you hadn't been so careless, greasyclaws," Ember snarls at
Greeneye, "we'd still have the jewel!"
"Greaseyclaws, is it?" the searat repeats, hefting his axe.
"This's nae goona 'elp," Tsar intervenes. "For better or worse,
it's lahng goone, an' it ain't coomin' bahck."
Ember scowls darkly. "It's a very easy thing for you to say, cat,
but it leaves me in a nice fix."
"An' what about our pay?" Angus grumbles.
"I suppose ye're 'appy, bird," Greeneye growls at Stormfyre.
The sparrow hawk turns slowly. "Happy that a means to save
countless lives has just been lost at sea? Hardly. But my honor is
"Well, whoopdy-doo for you," Angus mumbles caustically.
Mari walks slowly to the rail of the ship. "Do you think this is
the end of the quest?"
Greeneye scowls. "A good a endin' as any, mate."
Tsar mutters, "I was a hoopin tha' it would end a bit more heroic like, ya ken."
"We can't all 'ave 'eroes," says Raitha, climbing back up to the tiller.
"I guess it's all for the best, though I sure could have used that reward," Ember says.
"YER coulda used it? At least all o' yer 'as each other. Jus' look at me! I got nuthin' since me ship sank," growls Greeneye.
"I guess you can stay with us, then," says Mari, looking at Greeneye as he stares moodily out over the sea.
"Says who?" growls Angus. "He's vermin."
"An' yer not?" laughs Greeneye sarcastically.
"I guess a helping set of paws never hurt anybody," says Ember.
"Yer gonna have to pull yer weight," warns Tsar.
"I c'n do that, messmate," says Greeneye, grinning at Tsar.
"What next?" asks Stormfyre.
"We can always hire ourselves out to somebody else, though that wouldn't do for long," says Ember.
"Not very honorable, this mercenaryship," says Stormfyre.
"It pays," says Raitha.
"Then I guess we go wherever the current takes us," says Ember.
They all turn and look into the sunset, thinking of the future. Only Raitha, standing closest to him, heres Greeneye mutter, "An' who elected yer Cap'n?" She pays him little heed at the moment, but remembers the scene later.