“Stupid Billy making me do stupid work…” Lefty groaned as he was sweeping the deck, a difficult task for one with only one hand. “Ray at least helped if it was late at night.” The mouse sighed as he looked at Bill standing there proud. Now he did not have to work as hard on the Felicia when he was the first mate. Lefty moved his eyes to the other crew members, they all had the same expression. Things had changed so much the last three years. Oliver Loran was gone, now Ray was too.
“Get back to work!” Bill commanded tired. “I need my beauty sleep!”
Lefty glared and wanted to snap back something, but kept quiet. The mouse’s eyes suddenly widened when a shadow moved behind Bill. “What?” The lizard asked and watched the brown mouse let go of the mop so it fell onto the planks of the deck. “You lazy-” Bill stopped when he felt someone behind him, but when he looked over his shoulder, nothing.
The crew was silent as they looked around and most let out a gasp when the lights one by one died out.
“What is going on?!” One of the pirates asked with fright in his voice.
“It’s probably just the wind.” Bill said sternly and pointed at the sails. “Look at the sails! They are filled with air from the sky!”
“But Billy…” Lefty started and pointed his hook at the sail and the first mate looked up. No wind, the sails weren’t moving. Billy swallowed and looked at the crew standing in front of him. His jaw slowly dropped when smoke rose up from the deck behind their backs.
“What is it, Billy?” Fidget stammered with his gravelly voice. As the first mate’s silent face made the crew slowly look over their shoulder. They all jumped when they saw the smoke flow behind the sails.
“It’s a ghost!” Lefty screamed and started to shake, making the whole crew become nervous too. Billy rolled his eyes and fixed the red feathered hat as he took out his sword.
“Don’t be stupid! It’s just a seagull or something, right?” No answer… The lizard rose an eyebrow and turned around to find that the crew had retreated to under the deck. “Cowards…” Billy groaned and jumped as he heard something land behind him. Feeling uncomfortable he turned back around and trembled when the smoke stood in front of him.
The frightened crew all winced when they heard screams from upstairs. “Should we go check on him?” Lefty asked and while chewing nervously on his hook.
“H-he is the first mate, he can handle it!” Fidget said low.
“A red light?” Captain Ratigan asked as he massaged his temples. “Really?”
“I-I-I am serious, cap’n.” A very pale and wounded Billy said weakly. “In the black smoke.”
“Sure you didn’t smoke anything? Have gotten some reports about you not really working; not something I tolerate with my first mates.” The big mouse glared and stood up. “And you lost something more than just your tail, I see.”
The lizard sighed and wiggled his little stump that was left after the smoke had dealt with him. “It stole my hat…” The captain shook his head impatiently. Right now he missed the red mouse. “It’s true, cap’n!”
“Silence!” Ratigan yelled. No more! He was tired of hearing the lizard’s voice. He needed to think. He didn’t believe Billy, but Basil… He sighed. If what he told was true, Fane cel Rau was on his way to the Black Pit and Loran could be alive. “Out!” He suddenly raged at the first mate. Still alert from the night before, Billy jumped and left the cabin as fast as his legs could carry him. Ratigan sighed and sat down again.
Basil swallowed as he saw the lizard storm out. “The Captain is not happy about this.” He said low with Amber by his side.
“Not at all.” Dawson said as he leaned against the railing. Basil sighed and looked toward the horizon. Dawson noticed. “Don’t worry, I’m sure Ray is fine. He has survived worse.”
“I hope it. I feel so bad for just leaving him.”
Amber gently took his hand. “You didn’t leave him. He wanted you to get help, and you did.”
“Now let’s hope it is enough.”
“We’re there!” One of the pirates called from the crow’s rest.
It didn’t take long before the captain was out of his cabin and took his telescope out to take a look. It was true. They had reached the Black Pit. The cave of gold. And luckily, Fane cel Rau’s ship was nowhere in sight.
The Felicia was steered carefully past the jagged rocks jutting up out of the water until it reached a cave. The cavern was huge, but well hidden by a thick fog and the rocks. Basil stood next to Amber at the railing, looking down into the murky water.
“Won't the bottom of the ship scrape the ground?” the lady asked nervous, her voice echoing off the cave walls.
“It seems deep enough,” Basil replied and looked up again. “And I'm sure Ratigan wouldn't send the Felicia into a cave where there was a chance she would be destroyed.
Amber glanced back to the helm where Ratigan stood guiding the ship by the wheel, a look of hardened determination on his weathered face.
Finally the narrow tunnels opened up into a large cavern. Basil and his friends couldn’t help staring at the gold and jewels piled up all around them. Once the shipped stopped, the Captain walked down the gangplank to get to land. The rest of the crew followed him. “Stay here.” Basil said to Amber as he followed them. Amber huffed and crossed her arms. She was about to protest when the Captain spoke.
“Everything seems in order,” Ratigan said as he walked around, checking a few of the chests and sacks. He turned around and smirked at Basil. “You were wrong, cabin boy. The Persephone is the fastest ship in the world, she would have been here befo--”
The crew looked questionably at the Captain when he trailed off, following his gaze up to a golden throne sitting on top of a pile of gold in the middle of the cavern, illuminated by moonlight streaming in from a crack in the rocks high above. Ratigan stared in shock as the seat was occupied by none other than his sworn enemy.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Căpitan,” Fane cel Rau smirked down at him. “Is this seat taken?”
Ratigan growled in frustration as he reached for the gun in his belt. “Damned bloodsucker..!”
The crew jumped when they were surrounded by the rotten crew of the Persephone, who seemed to materialize from the shadows before they could draw their own weapons. Fane’s first mate Sigurd smirked as he aimed his pistol at the captain's head.
“A magnificent hiding place you’ve got here,” Fane remarked, still smirking in amusement. “I must admit, it was quite difficult to locate. Luckily I had some help…”
Basil’s eyes widened when a red mouse walked out from behind the pile of coins Fane cel Rau was sitting on. “Ray,” he breathed in relief.
Bill the lizard trembled, pointing at the familiar red feathered hat on Ray’s head. “H-How did--” he stuttered, but was interrupted at the outburst from the Captain.
“Traitor!” Ratigan roared, pointing an accusing finger at the mouse.
The Dane smirked as he held a coin up between his finger and thumb. “An eye for an eye. Right, Captain?” The rat stared, remembering when he used that exact phrase the day he had taken the boy’s eye.
The mouse looked away from Ratigan to see Amber running down from the ship past the crew and hugged him tightly. The one eyed mouse stared down at her before he slowly hugged her back. “How I've missed you, my little Valkyrie,” he said, softly stroking her hair.
“I thought I’d never see you again.”
Ray’s ears perked as he heard the captain stand up from the throne and jump down from the pile of gold. He cleared his throat and quickly let go of Amber. Fane slowly walked toward them, staring at the girl who still clung to Ray’s arm tightly, who's ears folded as he glanced at Fane.
“You never mentioned your little friend,” Fane remarked as he strode toward the pair.
“I-I--” Ray stammered.
Amber gasped as she felt the pirate gently tilt her head up to get a better view. “Such a pretty face,” Fane smirked, causing Amber to shudder as he caressed her cheek. “Among other assets,” he added slyly, eyeing her up and down.
“Get your filthy hands off me,” Amber hissed, pushing Fane's hand away. However, the pirate captain suddenly grabbed her chin forcefully to hold her still.
“We'll have to do something about that attitude though,won't we, Lehmann?”
Ray looked at Fane confused, feeling more and more uneasy. “Sir?”
“Well, you’re finally reunited! Don’t you want your lover to come aboard with us?”
Fane noticed the way the two younger mice glanced uncomfortably at each other. “She’s not… we’re not… I-I mean, um--”
“Ah, the feeling wasn’t mutual, I suppose,” Fane chuckled. Amber and Ray’s cheeks burned red with embarrassment. Amber looked up again as Fane pointed at her necklace engraved with the letter R. “You’re a prisoner. Aren’t you ready to escape your captor?”
“Of course, but--” Amber trailed off as she glanced around as if looking for someone.
“But?” Fane repeated, following her gaze. He then began to chuckle as he realized the truth. “But you won't leave your true love behind. Who is it, then? Who's the lucky man who holds your heart? Judging from your expression, he's not here.”
Amber froze, feeling her heart sink as she realized too late that Basil must have hidden. And she had just given him away.
“But he must have been earlier,” Fane continued, “or else you wouldn't be searching for him among the crew.” The grin spread wider across the Captain's face. “Ah, it's the cabin boy. I knew someone was missing. He and I are well acquainted. Aren't we, Basil?”
From his hiding place, Basil glared at Fane. Gripping a pistol tightly in his hands, he quietly made his way closer toward them. If he could shoot Fane, that would distract the crew of the Persephone just long enough for Ratigan and his own crew to fight back and overthrow them.
“Can't you keep track of your own crew, Căpitan?” Fane remarked.
Ratigan gritted his teeth seething with anger that he hadn't even noticed his own cabin boy had snuck off. “Don't try to be a bloody hero, Basil,” Ratigan growled. “Show yourself!”
Amber’s heart was pounding in fright as she looked all around the cavern, hoping that if the worst should happen then at least he would escape. She didn’t want to even think about what might happen if Fane found him now.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” Fane taunted as he strolled around the cavern. Ray glanced around too, and he froze when a movement caught his eye. He stared for several moments until he saw it again. It was indeed Basil hiding in a rocky outcrop above one of the piles of gold. From that angle where he was standing, Ray could only see the top half of him, and the gleam of a pistol as Basil took aim at Fane. The pirate was looking in the complete opposite direction, so he would never see the bullet coming.
That’s why it shocked Ray when Fane suddenly grinned and said--
“There you are.”
A gunshot rang out, but it did not come from Basil’s pistol. Everyone stared in shock as Basil suddenly toppled over from his hiding place, grunting painfully as he rolled down the pile of gold and crashed into a heap at the bottom. A scream tried to tear out of his throat, but all he could manage was a strangled groan as he clutched at the wound in his chest. Dawson took a step toward Basil but froze as one of Fane’s crew pressed a gun against his head threateningly.
Everyone looked around for the one who made the shot. All eyes eventually landed on Ray, who stood with the still smoking pistol in his hand pointed at Basil. Amber stared at him horrified, taking a step back as tears filled her eyes.
Basil groaned again, and Amber turned back toward him. “No!!!” she shrieked and tried to rush past Ray, but he quickly grabbed her and held her in place. Both the crews of the Persephone and the Felicia grew quiet, the only sound being Basil’s groans of agony before he eventually grew very still while blood quickly poured from the wound, staining his shirt a dark red. Amber could only stare helplessly as no one moved to help the dying mouse, feeling her heart break all over again as this was the second time Basil had been taken from her.
“You killed him.” Ray winced, his ears folding back as Amber hit her fists against his chest in a rage of grief. “You killed him!” she screamed.
Ray frowned and grabbed her wrists to hold her still. “He will be fine, calm down--”
“Fine?! You shot him!” she yelled, still struggling to get out of his tight grip. “Murdered him in cold blood! How could you do this?!”
“Look!” Ray hissed and forcefully turned Amber around, holding her tightly by her arms so she wouldn’t move. Amber stood still with tears still streaming down her face and watched as a small squirrel like animal bounded out of Ray’s pocket and scampered toward Basil. Amber winced as the creature began to lick the wound on Basil’s chest.
“What…what is that thing doing to him!?” she asked confused and horrified.
“Just watch,” Ray whispered. Amber obeyed, and to her shock along with everyone else around them, the wound on Basil’s chest slowly disappeared as Flicka continued to lick it. Basil’s eyes were closed and he barely breathed, but a soft groan escaping his lips proved that he was indeed alive. Amber wanted nothing more than to run to him, but shock along with Ray’s grip still on her arms held her in place.
Ratigan was the first one to speak. “Impossible,” he breathed out.
“Not all treasure is silver and gold, eh, Căpitan?” Fane chuckled, seeing the obvious look of greed in Ratigan’s eyes. “I’ve an immortal crew, you see, so I have no use for such a thing. However, a creature that can heal deadly wounds would be an invaluable asset to have aboard your ship.”
“Everything comes with a price,” Ratigan scoffed. “So name yours.”
“I was thinking something more along the lines of a trade,” Fane said, and Amber felt chills run down her spine as he directed his smirk toward her.
Ratigan glared suspiciously. “The girl? That’s all?”
“That’s all I want,” Fane chuckled. “Of course, I could take her anyway. I’m sure you’re painfully aware that you are surrounded and clearly outnumbered.”
Ratigan gritted his teeth as he knew that Fane was right. But as he glanced back at the little animal licking Basil's cheek his feelings of greed only grew. After thinking the matter over for a moment longer Ratigan finally nodded. “Done.”
Flicka chattered softly as she nuzzled Basil’s cheek trying to wake him up. She didn’t see two pirates of the Persephone creep up to them until it was too late. She yelped when one of them grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and shoved her into a small chest the other pirate was holding. Ray’s ears folded guiltily as he could hear her squeaking and scratching inside.
“Now that that’s settled,” Fane smiled as the two pirates tossed the chest at Ratigan’s feet, “there’s also the little matter of The Black Pit.”
“What of it?” Ratigan scowled.
“Well, it’s mine now. Therefore, you are trespassing.”
The crew of the Felicia grew nervous as weapons were aimed at them again. “The Pit wasn’t part of our bargain!” Ratigan growled.
“Oh, I’m not bargaining for it. I’m simply taking it.”
“Why you slimy, mangy--”
Ratigan was cut off when Fane suddenly pressed his sword against his neck. “Watch how you speak to your Captain.”
“You are not my captain,” Ratigan spat. “Not anymore.”
“You should reconsider. Your fame has spread across the Caribbean in these few years. And this cavern is just further proof of your accomplishments.”
“What are you saying, cel Rau?”
Chills ran down Ratigan’s spine as Fane leaned closer. “Image what we could accomplish together, the both of us. The Persephone and Felicia, the beginnings of our own armada. The two most feared pirates in all the world. Together we would be unstoppable. Sail under my command, and you could have power and riches beyond your wildest dreams.”
Ratigan stared hard at Fane. The offer was tempting, he had to admit.
“So,” Fane continued. “What say you?”
A long moment of silence passed before Ratigan finally answered. “It’s like you said: not all treasure is silver and gold.” Ratigan squared his shoulders, standing up to his full height to tower over the mouse. “My freedom is worth more than any treasure you could ever offer,” he spat.
Fane stared at Ratigan for a few moments. He chuckled darkly before replying. “I should gut you and your entire crew right now for refusing me. But you’re in luck. I’m feeling generous. So in exchange for your freedom…” Fane's blood tinted eyes flashed as his voice became cold and hard. “Get off my island and never return. And don’t even think about attempting to take any of this with you,” he added, pointing at the Felicia’s cew. “If I find so much as a speck of gold missing, I will cut you into pieces and feed you to the sharks.”
The pirate suddenly drew his sword so quickly that Ratigan had barely blinked before he felt the edge of it at his throat. “And the next time you cross my path--” Fane pressed the edge of his sword against Ratigan’s neck just hard enough that it drew a thin trickle of blood. “I’ll be sure to make your death an agonizingly slow and painful one.”
With his heart racing, Ratigan grunted painfully as Fane finally removed his sword and walked away.
“A pleasure doing business with you, Căpitan. You have ten minutes to get off my island before I blow your ship to smithereens. Time to go, gents,” Fane ordered, and his crew hastened to obey. “Bring the girl,” he instructed Ray, who obediently followed with Amber struggling in his grip.
“No, stop! Let go!”
“Lehmann,” Fane growled warningly. Ray folded his ears as he tried to drag her along. When he made no progress after a few moments, Fane rolled his eyes and motioned for his first mate. Ray grunted when Sigurd pushed him aside.
“Come along, lass!” Sigurd said grinning as he picked Amber up and hauled her over his shoulder. Amber yelped and pounded her fists on Sigurd’s back, but to no avail. She watched helplessly, reaching a hand out toward where Basil lay still unconscious.“Stop! Let me go, please! Please, don't do this! Basil!!!”