The pirate ship rolled and dipped through the golden, emerald waters into a melting sunset. It, perhaps, wasn't a pirate ship, but Ava and Lula decided it was after exploring the abandoned cabins and finding a tri-cornered hat with a dirty old feather. For a moment Lula had managed to turn the feather red, but it quickly faded back to pink. It was now floating away at a sickening speed as they raced onward.
“You didn’t have to throw my feather into the ocean,” said Ava, scowling at her friend, and watching the pink abomination disappear.
Lula put a hand on her hip while clinging to a rope with the other. “It was for your own good.”
Her reply was met with an exaggerated pouty face under a featherless pirate hat.
“Fine,” said Lula, rolling her eyes, “I’ll find you another one.”
“I want a pink one.”
Lula smacked her hand to her face, trying to hide a snort of laughter.
The ship gave a wild lurch, throwing Ava head over heels onto the slick wooden floors.
“How many times have I told you to hold onto things,” said Lula.
Crawling on hands on knees, Ava made her way back to the side of the ship, crammed her hat back on, and stood up. “What’s it doing?” she asked, ignoring Lula’s scolding, and craning her head over the rail.
Lula flew up higher to get a glimpse of their steed, a five hundred foot long, glowing serpent. The ship was tethered to two huge ropes that were wound around the monster’s neck near its gills. Why it didn’t dive into the fathomless depths to free itself, Ava and Lula had no idea.
“It looks like it was trying to catch a whale, or something,” she said, buzzing her wings frantically to keep up with the racing ship. She finally got tired and let herself catch a passing sail rope. Shielding her eyes, she nodded her head. “Yep. It was a whale.”
Ava blinked in astonishment, and looked around the empty deck. An old barrel rolled back and forth between a pile of ropes and other barrels that were still lashed to the deck.
“Do you think the serpent ate everyone?” she asked as Lula came half climbing, half flying back down to her.
Lula shrugged. “Maybe. But the merpeople were pretty secretive about it, weren’t they.” It was a statement more than a question, and Ava just nodded, remembering their encounter with the merfolk.
With a sigh she asked, “What if we never find Orin and Antares?”
Lula scoffed, and wagged her finger. “Don’t you say that! Of course we’ll find them.” She blinked and looked away. “We’ll find them.”
Ava smiled, and blinked back the tears that threatened to leak out every time she thought of her friends’ absence. Lula had been devastated when Antares never returned after a hunting trip with Orin.
“He’s so powerful.” Lula sniffed. “How could someone so powerful, with such big teeth and a bad temper, not come back?” She looked at Ava, her lips trembling.
Ava put out her hand, and Lula landed on her palm. “Because Orin’s in trouble, and if anyone can find him, it’ll be Antares because he has big teeth.”
Lula smiled and nodded her head, wiping her nose with the back of her tiny hand.
With a shiver, Ava said, “Let’s go eat something.”
“Yeah,” agreed Lula, flying up and wrapping her arms around a rope.
She watched Ava slowly making her way along the railing to the main cabin, but remained behind. The serpent’s large head weaved back and forth. It had a horse-like nose, but with billowing umbrella tentacles where the ears would have been, and flowing fins instead of a mane. As the orange sun dissolved into dark waves, blue, purple, and red flashes snaked down the serpent’s body like a deep-sea creature. The most beautiful part of the monster, however, was its eyes. Usually covered by a filmy lens during the day, they opened at night and glowed bright aqua marine. Lula’s fingers loosened on the rope, before quickly tightening again.
“Are you crazy?” she mumbled to herself.
Since their first night on the ship-chariot, she had an overwhelming desire to fly up to the serpent’s eye.
“Yeah, and get inhaled through its gills,” Ava kept reminding her.
Startled, she looked across the deck to see Ava trying to keep the backlit cabin door open, but every time the ship pitched, she was thrown off balance and the door slammed shut.
Laughing, Lula flew through the buffeting wind and salty spray only to get the door slammed in her face.
“Hey!” she shouted, before it opened again and Ava made a hilariously awkward bow.
“Took you long enough,” she said, grinning while Lula zipped inside right before Ava lost her balance and the door slammed again.
Lula looked around the demolished room with chairs and tables upended, and food scattered all over the floor. “So, what’s for dinner?”
“Oh no!” yelled Ava, turning around and slapping her forehead. “I forgot to do the fastening spell!”
A pearl-fruit rolled by followed by a plate of cured fish with surprised, ogling eyes.
Lula watched the googily eyed fish slide by, heaved a sigh, and said, “I’m not doing the dishes this time.”