The Continuation of the Beginning Part Three
written by Barnacle

"Boy, those Boldiers sure can throw a party," Kracken commented as he stumbled out of the cave and into the sunlight. Shielding his eyes with one hand, he offered the other to Barnacle who was also crawling out of the subterranean passage.

"Aye," Barnacle agreed, "but I be mighty glad we're away from there now. This trip's takin' much longer than it should already."

Behind him came Protius, the three-foot-tall parrot. "Captain Barnacle, half of the journey is in the traveling."

"I thought a journey was nothing but traveling," Kracken replied, helping the seer as well.

"Ah, but that is were you are wrong," Protius said as he dusted himself off.

Rising out of the hole in the side of the cliff face next came Malteeze, a large cat-like creature. "Again your wisdom makes itself known, Master Protius," he said, ignoring Kracken's offered hand.

"Don't even try to tell me you understood what he meant because I know you didn't," Kracken replied in a good-natured sort of way, and stooped to grab hold of the two Bushwoolies, Davey and Jones.

"Thanks, mon," one of them said with his thick Jamaican accent.

"Yeah, yeah, thanks," the other nearly identical Bushwoolie said.

"Mine is not to explain myself to those who can not comprehend," Malteeze replied with his back turned to Kracken.

"Yeah, I didn't get it either," Kracken said.

"It's quite obvious what he meant," Malteeze replied, now turning around.

"Ah, the sun, it's been far too long since I've gazed upon it's beauty... even if it is overcast," Protius said, ignoring them both and turning his gaze skyward.

"ARR, Protius, you and Malteeze be our guides here," Barnacle said, looking around as well. They seemed to be standing at the end of a long path which wound its way gently through rows upon rows of neatly ordered fruit trees. Everywhere one looked, he would see nothing but beautiful greenery and blue sky, save for the near vertical cliff face from which they had emerged. "Where do ye reckon we be?"

"This is without a doubt the kingdom of the Dakytins," Protius explained. "I was visiting here when the Warlords invaded and took me prisoner."

"It doesn't look like any war took place here," Kracken commented.

"The battles were fought in the shadow of the royal palace on the northern rim," Malteeze explained. "And besides, they wished to keep the orchards intact-- some of the choicest fruits in all the world come from these fields."

"Really?" Kracken asked.

"Yeah, yeah!" Davey and Jones both cried as they rushed towards the trees.

"ARR, didn't you sea urchins have enough ta eat at the banquet?" Barnacle cried out.

"Bushwoolies have very high metabolisms," Protius said in their defense.

"Either that or they just like to eat a lot," Kracken added as they watched the two jumping at the lower boughs of one of the trees. Even though they were jumping as high as they could, they were not coming anywhere near the luscious fruit hanging on the branch. It didn't stop them from trying, however.

"I want that one!" Jones cried out reaching as high as he could.

"Maybe you could try getting on my shoulders!" Davey suggested.

"Yeah, yeah!" Jones agreed and leaped at his brother only to crash into him and send them both to the ground.

"ARR," Barnacle said sternly as he rushed over. "You two best be keepin' down. We don't know who or what might be around!"

"Argh... sorry," Jones said as he sat up and rubbed his head.

"Yeah, sorry," Davey agreed as he pushed Jones off his back where he had been sitting.

"No worries, guys," Kracken said and easily picked two of the fruits, which were hanging no higher than his shoulder. "Here you go."

Pointing at the top of the tree Davey said, "I want that one!"

"Yeah, and I want that one!" Jones cried as he jumped to his feet.

"Argh," Kracken groaned and tossed the fruit he was holding to the ungrateful Bushwoolies.

"Get down!" Malteeze suddenly whispered.

"Wha--?" Kracken asked a split second before Malteeze tackled him to the ground. Everyone else quickly followed suit and dropped down even though they did not know from where or what the danger was.

When Barnacle shot a questioning glance at the feline, Malteeze silently pointed at a dike between two rows of trees. Slowly and as quietly as they could manage, everyone pulled themselves along the ground towards the dike to see what all the commotion was about. Peering over the top, they instantly saw what was afoot.

On the other side of the mound of earth and about three rows of trees away was a group of four feline guards watching over several lizard-like creatures. While most of Barnacle's group would have been imperceptible to those on the other side of the dike, Kracken-- who was taller and a good deal closer-- would have stood out like a sore thumb.

"Dakytins," Malteeze whispered and pointed at the lizards. Extremely fluid and graceful in their movements, the Dakytins were obviously being forced to pick the fruit for their feline overlords. Somewhat shorter than the human-sized cats, the lizards stood upright, were covered in fine shimmering greenish scales, and possessed four long thin arms. Across the tops of their heads and down their backs, they sported colorfully-frilled crests. They wore soiled and torn rags for clothes, however, and their demeanor was not at all happy.

"Oh, it pains me to see them like this," Protius said. "They are such a proud people."

"We gotta help them!" Kracken said as he stood and reached for his sword.

Barnacle's hoof on his shoulder held him back, however. "Easy there, lad. This ain't our fight. We don't need to be getting' involved. ARR."

"But it doesn't matter," Kracken replied. "They need our help!"

"Since I am merely traveling along with you fine people, I am loath to say anything," Protius spoke-up. "But, I would have to agree with your first mate, Captain."

"But, master," Malteeze replied. "Why would we purposely throw ourselves into a course of action which would surely bring about violence?"

"ARR, I'm not looking for any fights," Barnacle snapped. "We'll just go around them and no one will ever know we were here."

But before any one could say another word, a great commotion arose from the group in front of them. It seemed as though another one of the lizard-men had dropped down from the branches of one of the fruit trees in such a manner that his feet crashed into the backs of two of the guards. They fell to the ground completely unconscious as the assailant performed a mid-air summersault, which brought him face to face with the other two guards. "AH-HA!" he yelled with a smile on his lips and drew a matched set of rapiers to parry one of the soldier's own attacks. As the swords clashed, he cried out to the other Dakytins, "Run, my brethren! You are free! Run!"

As the enslaved people fled off into the orchard, the pirates got a good look at this strange newcomer. By way of clothing, he wore only a pair of light leather boots and pants with a bright red sash tied about his narrow waist that was nearly the same shade as the frill running down his back. One thing that immediately set him apart from the other lizards was the fact he had only two arms instead of their four.

"Who is this guy?" Kracken asked aloud, but no one seemed to have an answer. "Whoever he is, he really needs help." With that, Kracken leapt to his feet and charged forward.

"ARR-- BLAST!" Barnacle said. "Good help be so hard to find."

"Malteeze," Protius said to his pupil, "I think it might be wise to assist him."

Malteeze looked at the bird and said, "Master, are you sure that is wise?"

"Look," Protius replied, "if we don't do something, this could end very badly!"

Grudgingly, Malteeze got to his feet. "Yes, Master."

As Kracken closed in on the fight, it quickly became apparent that the swashbuckling lizard wasn't in need of any help. Within the short span of time it took the pirate to clear the distance between them, both guards lay senseless on the ground. As he stopped just short of the battlefield, Kracken now found the lizard's swords pointed at him!

"On guard!" the Dakytin cried.

"Wow, hold up," Kracken replied. "I'm a friend-- I think."

"A friend, you zay?" he asked with a strange French accent while still holding his weapons at the ready. "Zen why do you travel with one of them?" One of his thin blades pointed at Malteeze who had just arrived at Kracken's side.

"He's a friend, too," Kracken said. "He deserted the warlord's army because he couldn't stand the destruction."

"Is zis true?"

With a solemn nod, Malteeze said, "Yes."

"Ah-ha!" the lizard laughed and sheathed his swords. "My name is Pierre and I belong to the Dakytin Resistance! We battle zese tyrants so zat my people can once again be free!"

As the others watched from the ridge, Barnacle said, "ARR, he be a trustin' sort, don't he?"

"Perhaps we should introduce ourselves," Protius suggested.

Meanwhile, Kracken was doing just that. "Um... I'm Kracken," he said as he shook the offered hand. "And this here is Malteeze."

"A pleasure to make your acquaintances," Pierre said. "Are you freedom fighters as well?"

"Well, ah, no," Kracken replied. "I'm a pirate and we were just sort of passing through when we saw this confrontation. It looked like you could use some help."

"Ah, I appreciate ze thought, but as you can see, I needed no help," Pierre said. "Zese soldiers are easy prey." However, looking at Malteeze he quickly added, "No offence, of course."

"Of course," Malteeze replied civilly, if not somewhat bluntly.

"So you belong to a resistance, you said?" Kracken asked.

"Yes!" the lizard exclaimed. "For the time being we are small in number so we must content ourselves with the freeing of these orchard workers. But soon... we will storm ze fortress walls and depose zese dictators who think to rule over us!"

"Sounds like quite a job," Kracken replied.

"ARR, that it does," Barnacle added as he stepped forward. Protius and the Bushwoolies were right behind.

"Pierre," Kracken said, "this is Barnacle; he's our captain, and that's Protius, Davey and Jones. Everyone, this is... Pierre."

"A pleasure," Pierre said with a sweeping bow. "But I must ask. How is it zat a band of pirates such as yourselves have come to be here, in the kingdom of the Dakytins?"

"Um, purely for the record," Protius spoke up, "Malteeze and I are NOT pirates; we are simply traveling with them."

"ARR, that be a long story," Barnacle said and left it at that. "What we be tryin' ta do now is find a way out o' here and back home."

"Ah," Pierre said, "you may find zat rather difficult. Ze sky bridge is the only way down from our mountain top kingdom and ze warlords control zat as well."

"Sky bridge?" Kracken asked. "Why can't we just climb down the side if we're on top of a mountain?"

"See for yourself," Pierre said and then led the group to a rock wall at the very end of the row of trees. When they finally arrived at the low wall that stretched out in either direction as far as the eye could see, Pierre stood back and simply said, "Take a look."

Everyone did, and cautiously leaned over the edge. On the other side there was nothing but empty air and a sheer rock face that plummeted down farther than anyone present could see. "Wow!" Kracken said and stumbled back, feeling a sense of vertigo.

"ARR, why didn't either of you mention this?" Barnacle demanded of Protius and Malteeze.

"Well," Protius explained, "when I arrived here, it was via world-rift which is completely unlike any earthly conveyance. I knew that the mountain sides were quite steep, but I never imagined this."

"ARR, and what about you?" Barnacle demanded of Malteeze.

"You never asked," Malteeze explained calmly. "If you had, I would have told you that the only way down from here is through the sky bridge, and the only way into the sky bridge is through the Dakytin Fortress."

Dumbfounded, Barnacle turned to Pierre who said with a shrug, "He is correct, monsieur."

"ARR, why do we always have ta do things the hard way?" Barnacle said.

"Do not look so downhearted, my friend," Pierre said, patting the pirate captain on the back. "If you are willing to help ze resistance, perhaps we can help you in return."

"Help with what?" Kracken asked.

"Raid ze fortress, of course!" Pierre exclaimed. "Zere are plans as to how to go about it, but zey are not yet ready to be put into effect. But with ze addition of your manpower, we might be able to succeed!"

"Might?" Kracken asked.

"ARR, wait one minute," Barnacle said. "Just how big is this resistance o' ours if the six of us make a difference in your battle plan?"

"Ah-- let me think," Pierre said as he tapped his chin and stared at the sky. "Including myself... one."

"You're it?" Kracken said.

"ARR, he's insane," Barnacle said bluntly.

"Yes, my captain, I am insane! Insane with ze hope zat one day my people will be free!" Pierre exclaimed. "Zat leaves only one question: Are you insane as well to follow me and win your own freedoms!?"

Barnacle stood silent for a moment thinking this over. Finally, he asked one simple question. "ARR, if we come along, is there any chance we'll win?"

"I will not lie to you, captain; zere is a very good chance zat we will succeed-- IF we follow my plan to ze letter."

"Barnacle, I think--" Kracken started but the pirate captain cut him off.

"ARR, Kracken, I know what you be thinkin' because you're half as nuts as he is."

Kracken just smiled.

"ARR," Barnacle said. "Let's do it."

"Excellent, my friends!" Pierre cried jumping into the air. "Follow me!" With that he turned and ran off into the dense orchard.

"ARR, wait! What's the plan!?" But the lizard was already too far away to hear his cries. Everyone looked to Barnacle for what to do next. Shrugging, he said, "Follow him."

With that, the motley group took off into the trees after this strange Dakytin.

After running for what seemed like forever, they finally came to a point where the trees abruptly ceased and a nicely trimmed lawn took over. The grass continued for several hundred feet before it too came to an end and thick rock walls rose up several stories high. Everyone came to a complete stop at the edge of the trees, however.

"Wha--!" Kracken exclaimed.

"It's the fortress!" Malteeze said. "We can't just rush it like this; the archers on the wall will cut us to ribbons!"

In the confusion, everyone had lost sight of Pierre; but suddenly all eyes turned to the right as they heard him call out. "Ze element of surprise is essential to my plan!" he yelled.

"ARR, but what be the plan!?" Barnacle replied.

Pierre, however, did not reply. He only made his way towards a massive timber frame far to everyone's right. As they all looked on, they could see that between the two roughly A-framed structures was suspended a long arm. From the end pointing into the air hung a gigantic wooden box filled with rocks. The other end of the arm was tied down to the base of the strange contraption.

"The trebuchetÓ," Malteeze muttered.

"ARR, what's that? Speak up!" Barnacle said.

"It's a siege weapon like a catapult, only much more powerful," Malteeze quickly explained. "We built this one when we were taking the fortress, but only fired it once. It was reset and loaded a second time, but the Dakytins surrendered. We just left it there when we moved on to conquer the Bouldiers. I thought they would have taken it down by now... or at least uncocked it."

As Malteeze talked, Pierre had drawn one of his swords and held it aloft in one hand. In the other, he grabbed hold of the sling fastened beneath the throwing arm.

"He's not really going to--" Malteeze started.

With a cry of, "FREEDOM!" Pierre let his sword fall, slicing through the rope that held the trebuchetÓ's arm down. Instantly, the weighted end dropped which sent the other end-- and Pierre-- rocketing upwards at tremendous speed. At the top of the swing, Pierre let go of the sling and kept going through the air, sailing silently in a great arc clear over the fortress wall.

"He IS insane," Kracken said in amazement.

"I hope he didn't overshoot the fortress entirely," Protius said. "It's built right on the edge of the mountain."

"Whee!" Davey yelled. "Me next! Me next!"

"Yeah, yeah!" Jones said. "Big fun!"

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