Everything had gone perfectly. I had managed to sneak into the morning airship departing from Steelhead without being seen, and had found a comfortable hideout in a corner of the food storage. I didn't think the trip would last more than one week, maybe one week and a half at the most, even if the ship seemed to be quite slow. I assumed it was loaded with heavy cargo ; didn't really have the chance to check exactly what.
I was just napping, rocked by the regular buzzing of the machines, when suddenly the ship stopped completely, as if bumping violently into something, sending Flynn, Rupert and I rolling across the storage room to go crashing upside down into a pile of crates.
"What the hell was that..." I muttered while brushing the dust off my clothes, fearing we had met some kind of giant Air Kraken.
Flynn scurried back into my jacket's pocket, his pointy ears and fluffy red tail laying low, showing that he was just as concerned as I was. I carefully collected Rupert, my second carrier pigeon, and installed him into the vast pocket on the other side of my jacket.
I was going to climb up out of my hiding hole, when a growing sound of screams and shootings inspired me to freeze on the spot.
Something was obviously happening on the upper deck. Something I might not actually want to be involved in.
I fought with myself for a few minutes, and finally my dangerous tendency to curiosity took over and led me to climb up the ladder and open slightly the hatch door.
At first, I only saw feet. Big dusty, soothy, bloody boots right before my eyes. I slowly looked up along the blue puffy trousers and the red jacket and noticed with a gasp of horror that a huge sword and two holsters on each side were hanging from the large leather belt wrapped around the pirate's waist. The ambient noise was quite loud, and he seemed to be pretty absorbed into aiming at running people with the pistols he had in both hands, so I decided to take the risk of opening the hatch door a bit more, to have a better appreciation of the situation.
I would not have recognized the ship even if I had seen it by daylight before. The deck was covered in laying bodies with streams of blood dripping from their open wounds and filthy bearded pirates neglectfully stepping right onto them to get a better shot at new victims. The sailors were falling like flies that would have been smashed down by a giant hand and I was starting to get slightly worried about what would become of my two little friends and I if the bloodthirsty sky pirates came to find my hiding place...
Carefully, I climbed back down the ladder and closed quietly the hatch door behind me, then stood in the middle of the stock room and looked around. Apart from crates of food and barrels of alcohol and water, there was not much in there that could help me putting together a brilliant escape plan. At this moment, I wished my friends were with me. It was always easier when several minds were together and we managed to come up with great ideas even in the most desperate of situations.
Suddenly, an image of Triky appeared in front of my eyes. Triky with his pointy nosed mask and sparkly mischievous eyes, a cheeky smile on his lips and a bottle lightened with fire in his hand. And then I knew what I had to do.
I decidedly walked towards a big barrel full of apples and started emptying it, throwing the fruits away until they were rolling all over the place. I then lifted the empty barrel and put it back down at the bottom of the ladder. Flynn had jumped off my pocket and while he was making the most of the laying apples, I turned towards the pile of smaller barrels of alcohol. I took hold of one and worked on the lid with my knife to weaken it. After this patient preparation, I could give a kick with my heel to smash it open and then carefully installed it inside the barrel I had just emptied. I then rummaged into my pockets to bring a small rusted metal box outside.
"Come on, Flynn!" I urged my squirrel while opening the box to pick up one of the matches.
The little rodent left the half-eaten apple behind him and jumped back into my coat's pocket, after climbing his way along my leg.
I rolled my sleeves up my arms and set to lift again the big barrel to bring it to the top of the ladder, rung after rung. That was no easy business I tell you, but somehow I did manage in the end, and found myself right under the hatch door, ready to open it and push the barrel outside.
I gathered the match I had set behind my ear and, after a fond thought for Triky, I struck it against the barrel's side and dropped it inside the alcohol. The sudden flame that rose was big enough, but the fire didn't venture yet outside of the bigger barrel and I hurriedly pushed the whole thing with all my strength against the hatch door to force it open and send the tricked barrel rolling on the main deck.
Luckily, the pirates were too busy to notice anything, and I could see my little firebomb stopping right in front of the pilot's cabin, flames escaping from the opening and starting to lick their surroundings.
When the fire began to embrace the door of the cabin, catching every little piece of wood that happened to be around, someone eventually noticed it and shouted : "FIRE!".
This triggered a big messy blur of pirates running towards the blaze to try and smother it, to no avail. The flames only grew higher and larger, dancing on the cabin's roof and climbing along the ropes, getting dangerously close to the balloon. Triky would have been very pleased indeed.
While I was admiring the inferno, the pirates were gathering everything they could and carrying it onto their own ship, seemingly ready to abandon the one they had attacked to its fate. That was my chance to leave as well. In the panic, nobody would pay attention to me.
After a bit of careful look out, I was sure that they were all too busy, and I quickly lifted the hatch door to dart out and run towards the edge of the burning ship, jumping onto the pirate's one without taking time to think about the fall I would have made if I had missed that jump. Once on the other side, I hurried towards a dark corner behind a pile of crates and kicked the rat that was hiding there to take its place.
Then I allowed myself to catch my breath.
Risking a glance through the wall of crates, I saw the pirates transferring the cargo from the Steelhead ship to their own. Some of them were storing it very close to where I was hiding and a few stones fell out of the crates, rolling behind them and stopping their course against my shoes. I picked one up and examined it with curiosity. This one was oblong, quite transparent with a hint of pinkish yellow. I pocketed it, shushing Flynn's cry of indignation to have to share his living-room with a piece of rock, and took another glance between the crates to see what was happening.
The flames had eventually caught the fabric of the balloon and the pirates had cut off all of the ropes attaching both ships together. Some of the men were pushing against the side of the burning cargo-ship with long sticks to get away quicker. The buzzing sound got progressively louder, and the pirates' ship swiftly moved away from its dying prey. I could almost see nothing of it but flames, engulfing the deck.
Suddenly, a loud bang resonated and the balloon disappeared behind a wall of red flames, the whole ship crumbling to pieces that were regularly falling down, soon followed by the main block, which whirled down into the sea with most of its cargo of sunstones.
So there I was. Hiding on the sky pirates of the North Pass' ship. Heading to some unknown destination.
Well, this did not last very long of course. They soon discovered my hiding place and while I was sure they would kill me at once, it seems that I was lucky enough to escape that fate. Their boss was happy with the cargo of sunstones and did not suspect the role I had played in their hasty retreat. Apparently he thought they were in need of a ship's boy and that I could be that one.
And this lasted until now. Eighteen bloody months rubbing the deck, giving a hand to the cook and occasionally being part of raids. Seems like I'm a good thief and they won't let me go. I guess living on the streets of New Babbage helped me to gain a skill or two.
Anyway, I sent Rupert to warn my friends that I was safe and alive, even if in the hands of sky pirates, but that they should not worry because I would find a way to escape eventually.
I'm sure I will...