YEE-HAW! Howdy, partners! It's time to saddle up, grab your ten-gallon hats and ride into the sunset, because we're off on another rip-roarin' Pirates adventure, the likes of which you ain't never seen before!

And now that I've gotten that out of my system, hello again. Out of all the ideas for Pirates fics I've had, this was the one I was most excited about. I even did a whole bunch of planning for it, and I pretty much never plan these things out ahead of time. But you didn't come here to read my rambling, so let's dive right in!

DISCLAIMER: If it rings a bell, it's probably not mine.

Most people can look at a cloud and make some shape out of it. The Albino Pirate, when sufficiently bored, could weave veritable epics from them.

He was stretched out on the deck, one hand on the sleeping dodo at his side. Polly snored as he gently stroked her feathers, but he took no notice. His eyes were focused on the sky, and his mind was far away. The big cloud on the left was a flying boat, he had decided, and the little wisp sticking out was the most magnificent pirate in all the land. That pudgy gray one next to it was a dragon, and he was trying to run away with the pirate's friends in his razor-sharp claws. Don't worry! said the pirate, and his ship went flying after the mean old beast. Did they have dragons here in America? Wouldn't that be exciting!

The flying boat was just about to catch up to the animal when a breeze swept across the image, scattering it. "Don't go!" Albino Pirate said, sitting up. "I haven't gotten to the end yet!" But the clouds had already dissipated into particles. More gray masses were lurching on the heels of the wind, darkening as they approached. From the distance came the barely audible rumble of thunder.

A simian hand waved in front of the lad's face, followed by two notecards. MEETING. NOW.

"I'm coming, Mr. Bobo," Albino Pirate sighed. Picking himself up, he took one last glance at the remains of his imaginary adventure before hurrying to the captain's cabin.

The Pirate Captain had been greatly pleased to discover that the ruthenium-to-doubloon exchange rate was indeed quite high. High enough, in fact, to fulfill a certain dream of his and outfit the boat with a set of wheels just like the Pirate King's. With those in place, he was free to pursue his other dream. That was what had led them west, to this forest of trees with thick trunks and little leaves gold wasn't just buried here, it grew here. Enough to start a Pirate of the Year winning streak that would last for the rest of one's life.

On that morning, the crew gathered around their captain's desk and watched him spread out a map covered with notes and scribbles. "It's all a very tricky business, you see," he began, "because sometimes you dig up gold and sometimes you dig up something that just fancies it's gold and wants to mingle with the real stuff..."

Not even half a year had passed since the last contest. We're getting a head start, the captain declared. Just a few weeks of work, and we'll have a hundred times what Bellamy can carry in that whale of his!

Albino Pirate studied the map with wide, eager eyes, the captain's words going into one of his ears and sailing out the other. One could find plenty of gold on the ships and islands they constantly passed, but this this was someplace no pirate had ever been before. How could there not be a grand adventure of some sort here, just waiting to be happened upon?

"I've got it narrowed down to these spots," the captain continued, pointing at two hills which he had marked with Xs. Drawing a line in the air, he sliced the desk in two. "Half of us take the one to the north, half of us take the one to the east."

This left Albino Pirate, who stood across from him, in the middle. "What can I do, Captain?"

For a moment, the Pirate Captain did not answer. Instead he began to fidget and clear his throat many times. "There's this...this very important job I want you to do."

The Pirate With A Scarf sighed. "Here it comes..."

Albino Pirate took note of this. "What's wrong? Is it something dangerous?"

"Oh, no, not in the least," said the captain. "I want you to stay here and guard the boat."

The boy's face briefly remained frozen in its cheerful smile, as though waiting for the real assignment. As he realized that he was not mistaken, the smile drooped.

"Someone has to, you know," the captain added. "We can't just leave her unattended for a whole day. There's Americans around, who knows what might happen?"

"But I want to "

"That's an order, lad!"

Albino Pirate looked to his friends for assistance, but they only averted their eyes. "...Yes, Captain."

The captain appeared equally uncomfortable. "Er...good. We'll see you this evening, then. The rest of you come along."

"Ye'll be fine," Pirate With Gout said, patting the boy's shoulder as the others filed past. "Perhaps Polly can keep ya company."

Albino Pirate nodded, but otherwise did nothing.

The Pirate With A Scarf waited until they were off the ship to speak. "Sir, there aren't any towns around for miles."

"I know," the captain finished. "What I didn't know is how to go about telling him the news. You can't make him the slightest bit unhappy without feeling perfectly horrid."

"We can still bring him along. It isn't that hard to stop him from wandering off."

"I don't want what happened to him in London to happen again, Number Two!"

"Why don't you tell him so?"

"It wouldn't be enough of a reason for him. You know that."

For once, Pirate With A Scarf did not have a thing to say in response. He could still remember that week with an unnerving amount of clarity.

"...Do you think I'm doing the right thing, Number Two?"

"I can't say I don't."

Sticking his head out from a gun port, Albino Pirate watched as the crew split in half and went its separate ways, soon disappearing into the trees. Polly brushed against his legs, cooing. The boy sat down and began to pet her. "I wish we could have an adventure, Polly."

As time passed, it brought the now-black storm clouds. Night came early as they covered the sun. The rain they emitted came gradually at first, but it wasn't long before gallons were tumbling down and thunder was crashing all around.

Albino Pirate awoke with a jolt. The floor was wet, and Polly was no longer under his arm. Water poured through the open hatch into the hold, and several blue feathers floated in a puddle just beneath it.

"Polly!" he cried, struggling up the ladder and onto the deck. A burst of icy wind nearly knocked him over, and he flinched at a flash of lightning. "Polly, where are you?" he said as he strained to see through the downpour.

Another lightning flash illuminated the lifeboat which hung precariously from the port side, above a swift, foaming river. There stood Polly, pushing up the tarp and wiggling her way under it.

"Come out of there, Polly!" Approaching the side of the ship, Albino Pirate carefully jumped down from the deck to the tarp. The rotting wood and rusted metal of the pulley squeaked, barely able to contain this sudden weight. One corner of the tarp was loose, and he crawled under this into the cool darkness of the lifeboat. Polly was curled under a bench, wide-eyed and shivering. "It's only a little rain, Polly," he told her. "Nothing bad's going to happen."

Another gust of wind came roaring in, and the old pulley finally snapped.

Albino Pirate screamed as the lifeboat fell downwards and hit the river. It picked up speed, lurching up and down in a quick, sickening rhythm. Water sprayed in from the loose tarp, and the timbers rattled with each motion of the rapids. The boy and the dodo could only cover their heads and shut their eyes as their craft slammed into rocks, spun around and was swept away.