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Early morning, light was just beginning to creep over the horizon and the crest of the hillsides of Tartaruga. Betsy woke to the first rays of sunshine creeping in through the window above her and her husband’s bed. She lifted her head from Victor’s chest gently, smiling up at her husband’s face before looking across him to the large cradle beside their bed that contained their three little ones.

The triplets enjoyed sleeping together, so three separate cradles was out of the question, but there was also the issue of the girls being Krawks; their teeth grew in quicker than most Neopian species, and as such they had a tendency to chew, especially in their sleep. That posed a slight peril to not only each other but to themselves, so Betsy and Victor settled on a large, specially designed cradle that had small, wooden dividers to set between each babe, but with slots that allowed them to see one another. The dividers could be removed at any time, so the triplets could cuddle with each other when in the cradle together, but could be easily separated at a distance that would prevent bites between them.

As she carefully pulled herself out of bed, careful not to disturb her slumbering husband, she gently rocked the cradle with one hand, and readjusted the blankets over her daughter Victoria to keep the morning chill from getting to her. She smiled as her family continued to sleep soundly and pulled a shawl over her shoulders as she walked to the front room of the house to start preparing breakfast, as her family would most likely not be asleep for much longer. She stepped outside the front door to get a few of the logs Victor had cut the afternoon before to burn in the stove, stooping down to tuck them into her arms, when she saw something.

Just behind the edge of their home, Victor had set up a small shed to store gardening tools, as well as act as a place for food storage, since they didn’t have a cellar. If she hadn’t been leaning, bent over to pick up the wood, she may never have noticed a figure ducking out of the shed, shutting the door behind them, and arms stuffed full of potatoes from a sack they had stored there the previous day. The figure froze, knowing they had been spotted, but Betsy didn’t make a move, even as they took off running. She finished picking up the wood, brought it inside, lit the stove, and started to prepare breakfast for her family.
~~~
Tartaruga was small, but had more roads, back alleys and side streets than even a bustling harbor like Krawk Island had. It took Garin and the crew a few days to get used to them, and even after that it still felt like they were making all sorts of new discoveries around every corner. Garin had even become settled on the idea of never getting fully used to the town…

“Oh look,” he said with a wave as he, Jacques and Sam rounded down a small, cobbled side street. “Yet another spot we missed on our rounds yesterday.”

“What’s that make this? Ten? Maybe eleven?” Jacques asked with a shrug.

“Least it smells nicer than most.” Sam said, taking a deep breath before he noted the pots of flowers on display at the front of the shop. “And no wonder, it’s a florist!”

“Aye, it is quite pleasant.” Garin said, stopping as he the door opened and a young, green Kacheek walked out with a watering pail in one hand, her back to them as she faced the flowerpots along the shopfront. A grin spread across Garin’s face and he placed a hand atop Sam’s head to face him the same way before speaking again. “Bonjour, mademoiselle.”

The Kacheek turned, beaming when she saw the three. “Bonjour, mes amies!”

“M-Mint!” Sam stammered, cheeks burning like hot coals as the young girl ran up to them, throwing her arms around his neck. Garin and Jacques chuckled and looked at Mint.

“It’s been quite a while since we saw you last, Minty,” said Jacques, patting her head as she finally released Sam, who was still red as a beet. “What have you been up to?”

“I run the shop here.” Mint said, motioning to the flower shop behind her. “I sell flowers, herbs and seeds.”

“Seems like a business that would suit you, for sure.” Garin said, smiling.

“B-But you’re obviously lovelier than any flower for sale here,” Sam stammered. “And w-worth twice as much!”

This time it was Mint’s turn to blush, tail curling around her ankles shyly. Garin and Jacques both glanced at each other as Sam took Mint by the hand and walked back to the front of the shop with her, and Garin shrugged.

“Don’t look at me, I never taught him that one,” he said.

“I certainly hope not, that was a cheesy enough to roll down a Meridell hill!” Jacques laughed as they walked back towards the main street.

“So where to now?” Garin asked, glancing around as they reached one of the markets. His first mate replied with a shrug.

“Dunno, really,” he said. “Wanna stop in and check on Victor and his family? Make sure they’re settlin’ in alright?”

“Sounds like a good idea to me. Let’s just be sure not to get lost along the way.”

Jacques laughed again as he and Garin continued to walk down the streets and through the bustling markets. The smells of various trades; fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, spices, wood-workings and metal workings, as well as the sounds of the various shoppers filled the air. Garin was used to crowds, and the market was similar to the one back on Krawk Island, however it was the fact that these people had grown, harvested, or made most of what was for sale that made the biggest difference. On Krawk Island, traders would come in and sell their wares on the street and folk would buy what they needed then, but these people worked to provide what they needed for themselves, instead of waiting for a trader to possibly come into their little not well known port.

It reminded him of his hometown in a lot of ways, really.

Passing by a large section consisting mainly of fresh, or cooked fish and fishing supplies, Garin felt the nostalgia of home hit him in a way he almost found uncomfortable, like an itch he couldn’t reach to scratch. He shook his head a bit and looked to Jacques, hoping to find a subject to start a distracting conversation on, when he almost felt like he was staring at a mirror in the distance. Their back was turned to him, but thanks to the resemblance even from that angle, he’d know them anywhere. He nudged Jacques and pointed, making his friend turn to look.

“Hey, Junior!” Garin hollered over the din of the crowds, and the Usul turned.

Junior always had an uncanny—if not nearly identical—appearance to Garin, from the blond hair to the blue eyes. The only real difference was a distinct, braided lock of hair that hung from one side of her brow, decorated with beads. They also dressed differently, of course, but if they had a mind to, Gairn and Junior could confuse anyone by wearing the same set of clothes.

“Hey!” Junior greeted with a laughed, unable to wave due to a large basket of fish in her arms as they walked over. “What are you two doing here?”

“Would you believe we’re privateers now?” Jacques asked. Junior’s mouth fell open and looked at Garin, who waved a hand in dismissal.

“Temporarily, only,” he said. “You know Matilda, right?”

“You mean Sea—wait.” Junior looked at them. “She and the governor are… one in the same?”

“Yup.” Garin replied with a nod. “We’re helping her out for a year until her stations arrive.”

“Oh, I gotcha.” Junior nodded, finally placing down the basket. “Well, we’ll probably be seeing quite a bit of each other for a while then! My boss has set up a new trade branch here on the island and I got stuck managing it until they find someone else… part time, mind you.”

“Part time?” Jacques asked.

“Aye, I’ve been thinking of opening up a potion’s ingredient shop. But for now, it’s just a booth I set up every other day.”

“Still dabbling in magic, eh?” Garin asked with a chuckle, and Junior nodded.

“Yeah, but it might be awhile before I can set up the shop officially, yet. With all the thefts going on it might be a better idea to keep my eyes open.”

Garin tilted his head. “Thefts?”

“Don’t look at us!” Jacques said, half-jokingly.

“Nah, they’ve been going for a while now. Long before you both showed up, I’m sure.” Junior explained. “Word about them should have probably reached the governor by now… but honestly, I doubt it.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, it’s strange… nothing of real value has been taken, from what I’ve been hearing. No jewels, money or personal belongings, just things like food or supplies.” Junior said, shrugging their shoulders. “And no one has even really seen who’s doing it, but some are saying it could be a gang.”

Jacques looked at Garin. “Maybe we should skip visiting Victor and Betsy and tell Governor Matilda about this.”

“Aye, perhaps.” Garin agreed with a nod. “Tell you what, you run back and see if she knows, and I’ll stop by Victor and Betsy’s and just give them a heads up. Savvy?”

“Savvy.” Jacques nodded, then looked at Junior. “It was nice seeing you, Junior!”

“Don’t be strangers, now!” Junior said with a wave as the two walked down towards opposite ends of the street. Garin waved back as he headed away from the midst of town and towards Betsy and Victor’s small house.

The house was just the right size for a growing family. Three small rooms, plus a kitchen, a porch, and of course the garden that Betsy had arranged off to one side. She had done well to make it a home, and Victor had done everything he could to make sure it was safe and had everything they needed, which is why he built the shed that stood out back. They could not only grow their own food, but they could store it, too.

As Garin approached the house, he saw Betsy on the front porch, hanging some clothes to dry, and could hear her humming to herself. He smiled and waved as he called out to her, and she looked up at him, suddenly placing a finger over her mouth. When he got closer, he found out why; the three triplets had curled up and fallen asleep together in a basket of already dried, folded laundry at her feet.

“Good morning, captain.” Betsy said softly, carefully moving around the basket and to the porch steps. “If you’re looking for my husband, he’s gone to get some more firewood.”

“That’s fine. I just heard some news in the town and wanted to share it with you both, is all.” Garin said. “Looks like there’s been a few thefts in the village, and I just wanted to give you both a head’s up.”

“Oh, I already knew about that.”

“You did?” Garin asked, a bit surprised.

“Yes, he was here this morning.”

“…He?” Garin tilted his head as Betsy nodded.

“He took a few potatoes from the shed when I was getting firewood to make breakfast.” Betsy said.

“So… you got a good look at him?”

“Well, I don’t know about a good look…” said Betsy. “But I’m positive he couldn’t be more than ten years old, possibly even younger.”

“…A child?”

Betsy nodded. “And that’s not all,” she said, before reaching into the pocket on her apron. “When I went and looked into the potato sack after breakfast, I found this.”

Garin looked at the object as she placed it into his hand…
~~~
“These are all the places the thefts have been reported.” Matilda said, looked down at the marked map that sat across her deck. “And from what you, Barney, and the gossip I’ve been hearing says, the only things taken have been food supplies.”

“Aye, that’s what Junior told us too.” Jacques said.

“I just wish this had been brought to my attention sooner.” Matilda said with a sigh. “One thing I don’t need is a gang of thieves sneaking around in the cover of dark when I’m supposed to be focused on the vault.” She paused and sighs. “By Fyora, what if one of these thieves found a way in…”

“Relax, remember that vault is theft-proof.” Jacques said. “Coming from me and Garin, that’s a lot!”

Matilda nodded. “I suppose you’re right… though speaking of Garin, where is he? He should have been back by now.”

“Aye.” Jacques looked out the nearby window. “He said he was going to warn Victor and his family about the thefts going on in town, but he should have come straight back.”

“Perhaps he ran into another friend?” Matilda asked. “You seem to have run into quite a few since coming here.”

“Even so…” Jacques stopped, ear twitching and turning to the door as Garin finally walked in. “Talk of the devil and here he is! Where’ve you been?”

“Did you see Victor and Betsy?” Matilda asked.

“I did. Turns out our friend visited them in the wee hours of the morning and made off with some potatoes.” Garin said, walking up to the desk. Matilda sighed.

“Oh terrific…”

“Still, that isn’t where I’ve been this whole time.” Garin said. “After talking with Betsy, you see, I went around the village and asked a few questions about folk who had their food stolen.”

“And?”

“Turns out our thief has been leaving trinkets in place of what he steals. One fellow I talked to at the bakery says he found an antique watch in place of a few rolls he’d left sitting out.” Garin said. “Someone else got a gold broach, and another got a pair of pearl earrings!”

“So… there’s only one of them, and they’re… paying for what they take?” Jacques asked.

Garin nodded. “He left Betsy a small Maraquan shell whistle. Not as fancy as some of the other trinkets, but Maraquan goods are still worth quite a bit. I’m not sure if he’s aware of that, though… Betsy says she saw him, and says he… can’t be more than ten years old.”

“It’s a child?” Matilda asked, frowning. Garin nodded again.

“That’s what she said.”

Matilda’s frown grew as her brow furrowed and she looked down at the map on her desk, bringing a hand up to rest on her chin. When she took the position of Acting Governor, she hadn’t been told about any very poor families living on Tartaruga. In fact, from what she’d seen, most of the residents in the village and on the plantations, could provide for themselves quite well, and never went hungry. As she looked over the map, she found herself tracing over each location that had been stolen from with her eyes, then looked at and picked up a quill pen from the ink well next to her.

“These thefts are all taking place in a certain area,” she said, making a circle with the quill.

“You noticed that too, eh?” Garin asked, leaning over the map. “Most of the thefts took place in the early morning or during the late afternoon. Never in the dead of night or the middle of the day.”

“And in this area.” Matilda said. “Near the markets, where all the food is. He’s hungry.”

“Aye.” Garin said, drawing his dagger and tapping the circle on the map. “And if I’m right, he’s probably sleeping or hiding in this area, somewhere.”

Jacques looked at Matilda as she glanced over the map. “What do you want us to do?”

“If most of the thefts are occurring in the late afternoon, when the shops and markets are starting to close,” she said. “Then he’ll be looking to take food that’s either left behind or just not put away quickly enough. That will be the best time to try and find him.”

“So that’s where we come in, aye?” Garin asked.

“Yes,” said Matilda, who then looked up at Garin and Jacques, a bit sternly. “But don’t frighten or hurt him. If he’s just stealing to keep from starving to death, then what he needs is help. If you find him, bring him back here.”

“Don’t have to tell me that.” Garin said with a shrug, then looked at Jacques. “Let’s get some of the boys to help. With the town as much of a maze as it is, we’ll need all the help we can get.”

“Right.”

“On your way out, send Barney to me.” Matilda said, putting the quill back into the ink well. “I have something I need him to do for me.”
Had to break this one up into two parts, since it was getting kinda long. I might end up doing this with a lot of episodes, actually...

Anyway, enjoy!

Mint © :iconwingsofasong:
Junior © :iconunlimited-tea:
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:iconunlimited-tea:
Unlimited-Tea Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Ahhhhhhhhh my baby Junior is there~!! And its super fitting about xem with a potions shop and the fishing work too hehe-

OH! And sweetie Mint!! Ahhhhh she got her own little shop too- Awwwww~ Im so proud of her!!
:love: 

Ah man, Im curious about this poor kiddo. I wanna see what's up, he's such a sweetie leaving trinkets behind, but still-
I cant wait to see more about him, and about this story too!! This is super awesome friend~!! :squee: 
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:icon6seacat9:
6SeaCat9 Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Oh good. :phew: I wasn't sure about it.

And yeah, Mint loves flowers. ^^

Just wait and see~
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:iconunlimited-tea:
Unlimited-Tea Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
You did amazing oh my gosh- :squee: 

AH- Alrighty!  I can't wait! 
(I mean, I'll wait as long as you want me to- but I'll be jumping in my seat in
the meanwhile)
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:icon6seacat9:
6SeaCat9 Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
XD I gotcha.
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:iconphantasmaree:
phantasmaree Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
omg mint and junior! :'D
awwww thats so cute how viktor and betsy have that triple cradle x3
ooooohhhhh im curious where lil marty's getting these trinkets (a golden broach and pearl earrings wow!)
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:icon6seacat9:
6SeaCat9 Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
^^ I'll be using Nat in a future episode, I promise.
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:iconphantasmaree:
phantasmaree Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
if you need any help with characterization or a ref or anything, just hit me up lol x3
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:icon6seacat9:
6SeaCat9 Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
I've seen a picture of her that Tea has drawn... but maybe send me a note telling a little bit about her personality and mannerism.
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:iconrl-182:
RL-182 Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2017
Kinda nice to see Betsy literally watch someone steal food and be so chill about it she just goes back to gathering firewood for the morning. Granted, the thief was a child, so she may not have had any real reason to be angry, and it was just a few potatoes. :D
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:icon6seacat9:
6SeaCat9 Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Right? She knows when to panic.
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:iconrl-182:
RL-182 Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2017
And she got a Maraquan Shell Whistle out of it to boot!
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:icon6seacat9:
6SeaCat9 Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
:D
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