Absence Makes the Heart Go Plunder

Tale Spin Fan Fic

by Katie Sullivan

Chapter 7

By the time the barge reached the end of its journey, the two vixens had each done quite a bit of explaining; Scarlet, regarding her recent involvement with Don Karnage and his Air Pirates, and her reasons for quitting. Carlotta, regarding what she knew of her parents' history together, from Isabella's attack on his ear, to his discovery of her own existance just two years ago.

Their confessions and explanations were halted when the barge docked at a pier in Pisa that reeked of fish. Scarlet and Carlotta lost no time leaving the area. Using Carlotta's natural fluency in Italian to ask directions, they found a store, where Scarlet parted with more gold in exchange for sleeping bags, shovels, a gas lantern, and a small supply of food.

Thus burdened, they stood on a streetcorner on the outskirts of Pisa. "Where do we go now, guide?" Scarlet asked her younger companion.

"Let me think..." Carlotta said, studying the sun angle and the sound of the ocean. "We need go north."

"How far?"

"I do not know. A few kilometers."

"Those supplies aren't too heavy, are they?" Her new friend looked frightfully small beneath that backpack and sleeping bag.

"I am fine. I got strong carrying food for Baltsaros, no? Come on!" She energetically set off down the unpaved road, and Scarlet gladly followed.

It was more than a few kilometers, and by the time the forested peninsula known as Terror Point came into view, both vixens were exhausted. It was rapidly approaching dusk, and the thought of doing any digging that night was too tiring a prospect to be discussed. Once they had located the large rock (not mule) near the tip of the peninsula, Scarlet let the supplies fall carelessly from her shoulders to the dirt ground, and Carlotta was all too happy to do the same.

"I have never been so very tired," the girl moaned.

"Me neither."

"It did not look to be so far from my uncle's boat."

"But this is the place. Just like on the map. You're not afraid of heights, are you?"

"No, no, of course no. I fly, remember?"

"Good. Because if you were, I'd recommend staying away from the edge of this cliff. If I'm reading this map correctly, it's a couple hundred feet straight down to the ocean."

Carlotta whistled. "I am glad I do not go walking in my sleep!"

"You said it! And sleep is exactly what I intend to do, and as soon as possible," Scarlet said, rubbing at her strained muscles.

Carlotta perked up her ears and looked around quickly. "Did you hear? A sound in the trees, there!" She pointed back into the brush from whence they had come.

"No." They remained stock-still, listening. The air was quiet, save a slight breeze through the trees, and the constant throbbing of the waves on the rocky shore far below. "I don't hear anything. Must have been the wind. Or a bird or something. I'm too tired to worry about it." Scarlet untied her new sleeping bag and spread it out on the ground on the leeward side of the boulder. "We'll both get a good night's rest, and in the morning we can start digging."

Carlotta sighed and similarly prepared her sleeping bag. Soon they were both prone on the ground, aching with exhaustion. After a few moments' silence, the girl said quietly, "I am sorry for it if I made you mad at my father." Scarlet had indeed done a fair share of ranting earlier on the subject of Don Karnage and his obsessively-guarded secrets. "I can not change who I am, or how I was born. Believe this. If I could, I would do it."

Scarlet opened her eyes and turned to her companion. "Don't say things like that, Carlotta. There's nothing wrong with who you are. You're a fine, pretty, intelligent young woman, and the fact that you're a hybrid doesn't change any of that. And as for making me mad... I'm certainly not mad at you, and I was mad at Don Karnage long before I met you. This was just icing on the cake."

"What cake?"

"It's just an expression. Like 'the straw that broke the camel's back'."

"What camel?"

"Never mind."

"Tell me, please, what is my father like? I only meeted him the one time, and I would like to know more."

"Well..." Scarlet considered. "He's flamboyant, and suave, but totally self-centered. He's greedy, and--"

"Are not all pirates greedy? You are here for buried treasure, yes?" Carlotta interjected.

"Er, well, yes, but... He's worse than most."

"Is he very smart?"

"Yes. I think so."

"I am smart, too." It was almost a question.

"Yes, you are. And he's an excellent swordsman, a talented pilot, a fantastic dancer, and... Oh, I don't know. He's a complex man," she said a bit more wistfully than she had intended to.

Carlotta's dark eyes shone over at her through the fading twilight. "Do you love him?"

Scarlet lay flat on the hard ground, staring up at the stars. She was still angry at him, and frustrated. But only one answer sounded right.


A disorganized chorus of birds woke her sometime just after sunset. Because of the time difference between Italy and her usual environment of Usland, she felt as if she had slept in well into the afternoon. The stress, exertion and what future travelers would call "jet lag" had all combined to send her into a deep sleep. Now, at last, she felt somewhat refreshed. She let her new friend sleep while she prepared them a little cold breakfast from the supplies.

Carlotta looked even more youthful in slumber, with the lines of anxiety smoothed and her face serene. And, Scarlet now realized, she had some very Karnage-like features. Her tail was the most obvious. Now hidden within the sleeping bag, its markings were exactly like his. But it was more than that...her nose and jaw, and her ears... Yes, there were familiar traces.

Scarlet found her thoughts wandering along those traces, back across the ocean to Karnage himself. She recalled what Carlotta had told her yesterday, of the origin of his ruined ear. She had always wondered about it, but when pressed for an answer, he simply said, "in a fight in Italy." He just hadn't specified with whom, over what. So, not exactly a lie, but still...why hadn't he told her? He seemed to trust her. All his other secrets were in her confidence. Why not this one? Did he think she would be angry? Peeved, yes, but she never expected him to have a pristine past. He was a pirate, not a priest, after all!

She frowned and took a bite of apple. Did he think she would be jealous of Isabella? She had, she thought, behaved admirably when faced with Miranda back on Cabo Orgulloso. And this case was even more clear-cut. The relationship with Isabella had obviously been kaput for some time, now.

Or, perhaps, was he simply not thinking? It wouldn't have been the first time.

Scarlet shook her head slowly and swallowed the mouthful of apple. What did it matter any more, really? She had given him an ultimatum, he had called her bluff, and she had resigned from the crew. There was no going back now. Even though as the days slipped past, she found her fury dwindling, to be replaced by lonliness.

Carlotta stirred, and Scarlet opened a small jar of jelly to go with the biscuits.

"Buongiorno, signora," she mumbled, rubbing tiredly at her eyes. "It is morning, is it not? The sun is up."

"Yes, I'm afraid it's morning already, but look on the bright side...that means it's time to start digging up the treasure! Come on, now, wake up. I've got breakfast for you. It's nothing fancy, but it'll have to do."

Carlotta quickly revived, fortified by the fruit and biscuits. "This treasure...where is it, exactly?"

"Right under us!"

She frowned, apparently mistrusting her translation.

"Really! We're sitting on it! About four feet above it, if this map is correct. And assuming erosion hasn't washed the whole thing into the sea."

"Wow," Carlotta said, irrationally looking down as if she could catch a glimpse of riches. "But how far is four feet?"

"Uh..." Scarlet was always horrible at math, and converting to metrics in her head wasn't even worth attempting. "Not quite as tall as you."

"Oh. That is a lot of digging."

"That's why I hired you," Scarlet said with a wink before taking a noisy bite of apple.

"Lucky me." Carlotta's voice lacked enthusiasm, but she smiled a rather Karnage-like smile and began clearing their sleeping bags away from the boulder.

He was not the wind, but he could move just as invisibly. He was not a bird, but his sight was just as keen. Through the trees, he watched them with narrow, flecked eyes that rarely blinked. They put away their foodstuffs, rolled up their sleeping bags, and stood together, studying the map. Both blissfully unaware of his presence. And that was how it would remain...until they dug up the treasure. Yes, let them do the work. Let them toil in the hot sun and exhaust themselves, draining their energy until they were too weak to defend themselves. Then...

He never smiled, but let his dagger-like claws twitch with anticipation.

From high in the rigging of La Paura, a one-eyed ferret shouted, "Pisa, one league dead ahead!"

Don Karnage's ears turned toward the announcement, and he put a hand on his sword hilt. Almost there. If only it wasn't too late. The moment he had Scarlet in his arms again, he would tell her everything...provided Carlotta hadn't already done so. And he would apologize, something he rarely did. And he would tell her that he loved her. And then he would--

Vincenzo's hearty voice interrupted his contemplations. "So, my boy, you and Isabella managed to reach Pisa without killing each other. I must say I'm surprised." His dark eyes twinkled with amusement.

He sighed. "I want nothing to do with her, you know that."

"The feeling is mutual," Isabella said from directly behind him, and he flinched involuntarily. "Uncle, shall we stop gabbing and worry about what we're going to do when we get to Terror Point? If this Baltsaros is as fierce as you say he is--"

"He is," Vincenzo assured her.

"--we're going to need some sort of plan."

Vincenzo nodded authoritatively. "I've already thought about that. We'll drop anchor on the north side of the peninsula, so we'll be out of sight from where the girls will be. Then we'll split up and come at them from all different directions, so Baltsaros will be surrounded."

"Assuming he's there," she said.

"He's there." Karnage's tone was so certain, and so grim, that even Isabella paused.

"Not for long," Vincenzo said. "We'll see to that. No one crosses a Barzini and lives to tell the tale."

His niece cleared her throat pointedly at her former lover.

"Except you, of course, Felipe."

"That is all right. No one crosses a Karnage and lives to tell the tale, either. I have seen to that."

"Well, then," Vincenzo said with false cheerfulness, "I'd say Baltsaros is going to have a very bad day. A very bad day."

"I really hope your stupid old treasure is worth all this work," Carlotta said, drawing an arm across her face to keep the sweat from running in her eyes. "Are you sure it was not four meters?"

Scarlet took a moment to rest, leaning on her shovel. "No, I'm sure. We must be almost there now. We've been at this for hours." She reached out of the hole for her canteen, and gulped down a mouthful of water. She was tempted to simply tip it upside down over her head for the sake of cooling off, but the last thing she wanted to do was walk back to Pisa for a refill.

Carlotta sighed and stepped hard on the shovel, scooping up yet another load of dirt. She was barely able to lift it over her shoulder to fling it a short distance away. After a few more interminable minutes of this, her shovel hit something hard. At first she merely grumbled, thinking it another rock. However, when Scarlet's shovel made a similar thunk just a few seconds and hand-lengths distant, she stopped and began pointing excitedly. "Did you hear that? Something strong, er, solid, you know, like a box!" she stammered.

Scarlet had heard it, too, and, forgetting her aches and pains, redoubled her efforts. In a frenzied flurry of damp soil and startled insects, the two vixens cleared away the last layer of dirt, and were soon standing triumphantly over a partially-rotted wooden chest.

Scarlet hopped about in exhiliration, screaming, "Yes! It is here! At last! My very own pirate treasure! Whoohoo!"

Carlotta chimed in, "But did you not say your sister was taking 60%?"

"Thanks for ruining the moment," she said with a disgruntled sniff. "Oh, but who cares? This is great! Quick, get the crowbar! Let's get this thing open!"

It was time. He could open that box himself easily enough. No reason to let them get their filthy paws all over his treasure.

He tensed his considerable body mass and moved.

"Look, signora!" Carlotta said suddenly, straining her eyes down to the cove. "A ship! A ship is here! I think it is that of my uncle!"

Scarlet looked up from the treasure chest, whose rusted clamps were just beginning to give way. As she did so, however, something hard hit her in the back of the head, and she lurched forward onto the chest, cracking her chin on it. A blizzard of colored lights swam briefly before her eyes, and she heard Carlotta scream in utter terror. "Baltsaros!"

"What the--" She put a hand to the back of her throbbing head, feeling for blood but finding none, and turned.

Towering above her, given added height by the fact that she was crouched in the hole, blotting out the sun, and looking like a demon sprung straight from Hades, stood Baltsaros. "Not a bad day's work for a pair of wenches. A bad last day's work!" Even as he lunged at her, Scarlet grabbed her sword from her pack and swung, fending off his attack.

"Carlotta, run!" she yelled.

The girl didn't argue. Baltsaros attempted to grab her, but only got a handful of tail, and she managed to pull free. He began to chase her, but a clod of dirt splattered on his back, causing him to turn with a furious roar.

"Stay here and pick on someone your own size, lizard-breath!" Scarlet taunted. She was, for the most part, successful at hiding her own terror. She, at least, had a sword. She had a fighting chance. Carlotta had neither, and she knew it. As Baltsaros turned back to Scarlet, the younger vixen took off running down the slope toward the cove.


He slashed out at her with razor-sharp claws, catching her in the arm near her left shoulder. Hot lances of pain sliced through her, and there was an immediate wetness in the fabric of her blouse as blood began to course from the wound.

"I'm not stupid," she growled, "but you are if you think you can get the best of me, you foul-breathed, slimy creature!" She struck at him with her sword, but to her horror he grabbed the blade with his bare hand, heedless of any discomfort, and twisted it from her grasp. As Scarlet dashed to recover it, he raked deep into her thigh with his claws, and she crumpled to the ground with a shriek of pain.

Carlotta half-ran, half-fell down the crumbling slope, her breath inhibited by exertion and tears. When her knees hit the sand of the beach, she looked up to see a dinghy just crunching onshore, carrying...she had to be hallucinating...both her parents, and her Uncle Vincenzo! "Up there," she called as loudly as her taxed lungs would allow. "B-B-Baltsaros! S-Scarlet! Aiuto! Per favore, faccia presto! Presto, aiuto!" ["Help! Please, be quick! Quickly, help!"]

Isabella leapt from the boat and dashed across the beach, falling to the ground in front of her child. She threw her arms around the shaking girl and stroked her head. "It's all right, bambina. You're safe now. We're here."

"B-b-but Scarlet..."

By that time, Don Karnage was already half-way up the slope, with Vincenzo in tow. Carlotta watched him, her teary eyes wide with surprise. "Padre!"

Scarlet tried to stand again, but the gash in her leg sent crippling pains shooting through her body, threatening to send her spiraling into unconsciousness. If she fainted, she knew Baltsaros would see to it that she never awoke. And even if she didn't faint... She braced herself in an agonized crouch, her sword in front of her like a lance as the Komodo dragon charged at her. In the split-second window of opportunity, she thrust her blade, slicing deep into her attacker's ribs. It was an odd, sickening sensation; in all her years of fencing, she had never used her skills for real battle.

Baltsaros bellowed in pain and yanked her sword away, again taking the blade with his bare hands. Pouring blood from his side, he snarled down at her with a savage menace in his cold eyes. "NOW YOU DIE, WHORE!" He raised both hands, his three-inch claws gleaming, and prepared to strike. Scarlet instinctively put her hands over her head and shrank back, dizzy with pain and terror, awaiting the final, searing blow.

Instead, there was a sudden, high-pitched swishing noise, and Baltsaros stumbled backward with a grunt. She opened her eyes and saw her enemy bent in pain, pulling a curved dagger from his chest. Two questions immediately sprang to mind: Where had the dagger come from, and why hadn't it killed this monster?

Even as she watched, a second dagger twirled through the air, thunking into his chest mere inches from the previous blade.

"WHO?" the dragon yelled, looking up with a red haze of fury in his eyes. Scarlet followed his line of vision, and gave a strangled gasp at the sight of Don Karnage standing at the top of the slope. She blinked in disbelief. Yes, it was him: blue coat, tattered ear, self-important air and all. There was an older fox with him in a similar red uniform, apparently the source of the flying daggers. He drew a third, identical blade from his leather sash and sent it spinning through the air, catching Baltsaros in the shoulder.

Nearly blind with rage, the Komodo dragon ran full-tilt at the new arrivals with a primal roar, seemingly unaffected by his injuries. Scarlet took the opportunity to crawl toward where her sword had been discarded on the ground, but with each movement she nearly passed out from the pain in her thigh, shoulder and arm.

Vincenzo dropped to one knee and threw his final dagger with an expert twist of his wrist. The short blade buried itself in Baltsaros' leg just below the knee, yet still the behemoth stayed on his feet.

Karnage attacked him with his sword, inflicting a deep would in his side, unknowingly in symmetry to Scarlet's earlier blow. In getting close enough to strike, however, he was within the dragon's reach, and sharp claws raked across his chest, easily shredding his coat and drawing blood beneath. The exchange repeated itself, and soon the ground was speckled with crimson drops. Vincenzo managed to get a blow in at the lizard's back with his own sword, but his whiplike tail knocked the veteran pirate's legs out from under him, and he crouched, winded, for a moment before recovering.

Scarlet finally reached her sword, but her right arm was injured, and wielding it proved awkward if not impossible. Still, she saw more and more red splotches appearing on Karnage's clothes, and she had to help!

Vincenzo attempted to grab Baltsaro's giant tail, but was shaken off again, landing hard on the ground some distance away. Scarlet heard him curse in Italian. From Carlotta's description, she deduced him to be her uncle.

Karnage hacked relentlessly at the Komodo dragon, who was finding it more and more difficult to stand. His solid, scaled body was bleeding from a dozen places, but still he slashed at the pirate with his considerable claws. A shoulder wound was hindering Karnage's swordsmanship, and in one brief moment of lost concentration, Baltsaros knocked the sword from his grasp.

As the huge lizard closed in on the now-defenseless Air Pirate, Scarlet forced herself into a partially-standing position, ignoring her own injuries, and flung her sword at the combatants. "Querido!" she screamed. "Catch!"

Karnage heard her desperate cry and turned just in time to grab the sword. Using what was apparently the last ounce of strength in his battered body, he thrust the blade straight into the oncoming dragon's belly, then collapsed backward onto the ground.

Scarlet put a hand to her mouth and gasped, catching a salty hint of her own blood. Baltsaros staggered backward, obviously mortally wounded. The tip of the sword protruded from the small of his back, and his life's blood flowed freely. Indeed, he was dead before he hit the ground, toppling backward with a startlingly loud thump.

Bruised, bleeding from a cut on his head, and winded but otherwise unharmed, Vincenzo limped over to Karnage's unconscious form. In a burst of adrenaline, Scarlet crawled the agonizing few feet and beat the older pirate there.

"My stars, Felipe," she whispered, laying a filthy hand on his blood-smeared cheek. Still warm. Still breathing. Still alive. "Oh, querido," she said with a gasping sob. His body was covered in long, red slashes, all the product of the dragon's claws, and his clothes were in tatters. For her.

Vincenzo knelt and felt the pulse in Karnage's neck. "Alive," he said in Italian, then looked at her. "Scarlet Hindenfur?" She nodded dumbly. He nodded, too, swept some blood off his forehead, and yelled down to those on the beach. "Baltsaros is dead! But we need a doctor up here!"

She happened to glance down at her own injuries, and saw that her entire blouse was soaked red, and the depth of the narrow, parallel gashes in her leg nearly made her lose her breakfast. She slumped forward over Karnage's oblivious form. Vincenzo's voice seemed to grow distant, suddenly, and blackness swept in around her. It was the last thing she remembered that day.

On to Chapter 8
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This story and the characters Scarlet, Vincenzo, Isabella, Carlotta, and Baltsaros are (c) Katie Sullivan and may not be used without permission. Katarina is (c) Kayleen Connell and may not be used without permission, either. Don Karnage, the Iron Vulture, the Air Pirates, Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Cape Suzette, Tale Spin and all related indica, etc, are (c) The Walt Disney Company and are used without permission for non-profit entertainment purposes only.