Part 1: A Strange Change
My eyes slowly opened, the feeling of exhaustion still weighing them down. When they finally opened, the place I saw was not C.H.'s house. It looked, smelled, and felt a lot different. It looked like I was in an office or study of some form. There was a large wooden work desk in the center of the room, surrounded on three sides by large bookcases that lined the walls. There were two windows on each wall with a bookcase, but they were so fogged up that it was impossible to see through them. Still trying to get my body to wake up, and rubbed my eyes and yawned. I pulled my hand away from my eyes and my yawn became a gasp of shock. My hand wasn't a hand; it was a white paw. The gasp I let out allowed the foul air in this place to enter my body, and I almost vomited because of it. It was a vile mixture of rotten fish, alcohol, sweat, and mildew. I had to lie down on the floor for a minute or two to let my body adjust to this rancid environment. Once it had adjusted enough to where I could stand without feeling nauseated, I took a look around the place. C.H. was nowhere to be seen. Noticing a rotary mirror on the desk, I took a look at my reflection and almost gasped again at how my appearance had changed. I was no longer a young man of almost twenty years, but a cat with black and white fur. My eyes had changed to an aqua blue color and, while I didn't notice it at first, my glasses had mysteriously vanished.
"This is very strange..." I said to myself. Upon hearing that my voice remained unchanged, I smiled contently. That was when the door shook violently as some brute pounded on it.
"Oi! Who's in there?" A masculine voice called out. "Ya'd best get outta there before the cap'n comes back! He don't like swabbies in 'is study!" I walked towards the door and tried to open it. It was locked tight and didn't budge.
"I'd like to get out of here, but the door's locked." I called through the door.
"Don't ya have a key or a lockpick or somethin'?" the voice asked.
"I wish." I replied.
"How'd ya get in there without a key or a lockpick, then?" The voice inquired.
"I don't know." I answered. "The last thing I remember, my friend and I were caught in a swirling mass of flying paper and I blacked out. The next thing I know, I wake up in this place." I could hear chuckling coming from the other side of the door.
"Really now?" The voice said mockingly, "What'd ya do? Piss off a witch or a voodoo priestess?"
"I seriously doubt magic did this." I retorted. "There has to be some logical explanation for why I'm here."
"Sounds like ya've been cursed to me, lad." The voice stated.
"I'm sure I can figure out what happened once I get out of here." I said impatiently. "That being said, would you be so kind as to help me get out of this place?"
"Yeah, sure." The voice replied. "Lemme get the cap'n for ya. He'll get ya out." The man walked off and left me waiting inside the study for a good ten minutes or so. When he came back, I heard the tell-tale sound of a key conquering a lock and the door swung open. Outside the door were two men: they were both average height and weight, but one had brown hair, blue eyes, and wore simple clothes with a large red overcoat while the other had dirty blonde hair, green eyes, and stylish clothes that were often associated with nobility. I could guess just by their appearances that the fancy-looking one was the "cap'n".
"So what you told me was true, Threebeard." The fancy man said.
"Aye, cap'n!" The one called Threebeard, who more than likely got that name from the way he shaved, exclaimed. "I told ya it wasn't the rum talkin'!" Looking at Threebeard, I saw how he had managed to separate his beard into three sections on his face. An even line of clean-shaven skin separated each one.
"And what about you, boy?" The man asked me. "Who are you, how did you get here, and why in God's name are you dressed like a cat?"
I took a deep breath to prepare my lungs for the explanation. "First off, sir, this isn't a costume. You can search my body for laces or strings, but you will find none. I looked like this when I woke up. Second, the last thing I remember before waking up here was my friend and I getting caught in a vortex of flying paper. As for my name, hmm..." I thought back to my deviantART page and decided that since I looked like my fursona, I might as well use his name. "My name is Ladston Vincent Felis, sir. You can call me Laddy for short."
"I see..." The man mused. "We don't want to be confusing the crew, so we'll just call you by your last name."
"That'll work." I stated.
The man extended his hand out towards me. "My name is Emanuel Kinn. I am the captain of Threebeard and his peers." I extended one of my paws out and we shook hands.
"So your shortened name and title would be Captain Manny Kinn?" I ask while trying to stifle laughter.
"Yes, I suppose it would be." Captain Kinn replied. "However, as captain I am to be addressed by my full moniker at all times by all crew members."
"My apologies, sir." I said while bowing slightly, "But I am not on your crew."
"You may as well now be, Felis." He said with a chuckle while slapping me playfully on the back. "That spell what got cast on you dropped you right on my ship. Any non-crew members either sit in the brig and act as ballast or get fed to the fish. You look like a capable young man, so I'll let you join. How old are you, sonny?"
"I am nineteen, sir." I stated.
"That's good. Our youngest crew member is fourteen. A small boy, but he's got good spirit." He said before turning to Threebeard. "Threebeard, please show Felis here where he can get some clothes."
"Aye aye, cap'n!" Threebeard exclaimed with a salute. I looked down at my body and noticed that I was completely bare. Thankfully the fur covering me from head to toe protected my modesty.
"Come with me, Felis." Threebeard said right as he grabbed my arm and dragged me along with him.
As Threebeard and I walked through the hold, I noticed that there was nobody else around. Figuring they were all above on the main deck, I thought nothing of it and continued along with Threebeard. We stopped in front of a small door at the far end of the hold, which just so happened to be the darkest part of the ship. Threebeard lit a lantern and opened the door with a small key.
"In ya go, lad. I can't have ya bringing this lamp in with ya, lest ya catch the wardrobe on fire. So I'll be giving ya light whilst ya pick yar outfit out." He explained with a friendly, yet unsettling smile.
"Thanks, Threebeard..." I said nervously as I walked into the small space and picked out some clothes. There was a wide selection, but I chose something simple. I went with a pair of faded blue pants that were asymmetrical in the legs and, conveniently enough, had a hole for my new tail to fit through, a blue vest for my upper body, a sea-green headband, and piece of dark purple cloth that would serve as a makeshift scarf. Once I picked out my clothing, I changed into them and struck up a conversation with Threebeard to divert his attention from the fact that I was changing clothes.
"Hey Threebeard." I said.
"Aye?" He replied.
"Are all these clothes used?" I asked.
"They are, actually." Threebeard answered. "All our clothes are used, and each article has been worn by at least one pirate within the last five years. Those pants ya be puttin' on actually belonged to a friend o' mine called McGutter. Aye... I miss the man..."
"What happened to him?" I inquired.
"Ya see that hole yar tail be goin' through?" He pointed out. "That hole was made during a ship raid gone wrong. Poor ol' McGutter got a rusty cutlass to his back, just above his backside. He couldn't move after the battle, and sickness took him shortly after. Poor man..."
I shuddered at the prospect that I was wearing a dead man's pants, but I didn't say anything to avoid potentially offending Threebeard. "Where is this ship sailing?" I asked.
"Cap'n Kinn has his sights set on a magical spring of water that is said to have mystical powers of longevity and clarity." Threebeard replied, "From what we've heard, the spring's water also tastes amazin'."
"So, the Fountain of Youth, huh?" I said quizzically.
"Not quite." Threebeard asserted, "The Fountain o' Youth is said to restore any who drink its waters to their former glorious selves. This spring is different. It increases the drinker's lifespan and supposedly gives 'em unimaginable wisdom."
"Interesting..." I mused. "Do you know what Captain Kinn's motives are for locating it?"
Threebeard just shrugged, "The Cap'n usually keeps that sort o' stuff to himself. He may keep some sort o' journal in 'is study, but he always keeps it locked up tight. I'd never laid eyes on its interior before ya came along." I had finished getting dressed at this point and stepped out of the small space.
Threebeard complimented me on my new appearance. "Ya look good in those, Felis."
"Thank you, Threebeard." I replied with a smile. "So, what's next?"
"Well... seein' how ya look real winded and it be the dead of night, I suggest ya go to one of the hammocks and get some sleep." He advised. "Just fall into any one ya want. It don't matter."
"Thank you again, Threebeard." I stated as I walked to a hammock and hopped in.
"See ya in the mornin', Felis." Threebeard said as he walked off.
I don't know how long I laid awake for, but during each passing second my mind was burdened by one urgent question: Was C.H. all right? Had he landed somewhere safe? I eventually fell into a restless sleep, still wondering about C.H.