‘LOOK OUT, CAP’N!’
Smee manages to duck in time. Pan’s sword slices at the air where his head used to be, the blade singing a sickeningly cheery tune. The nimble emerald hooligan laughs, tumbling forwards in mid-air, then snatching my hat clean off my head.
A gasp. Some stifled coughing. My men are staring at me, eyes as wide as the Great White Whale’s blowhole. Not only did twinkletoes here grab my tricorn, but he yanked my whole wig clean off my head with it. Beneath, I’m bald as a blasted barnacle. I grasp up at my fast-ascending locks but too late – Pan twirls them round in the air like a freshly-shorn black fleece, sniggering and calling out to the crew of the Kingdom ship below.
It was my little secret. My flowing black locks were the envy of the pirate domain, looked on with awe by less follically-blessed scurvy dogs across the length, breadth and depth of the whole seven seas.
‘There goes Captain Hook,’ they would say, whispering to each other in shady Tobago taverns. ‘Does he or doesn’t he?’ From promising privateers in Portsmouth to bumbling buccaneers in Barbados: pirates across the globe would pop to their local barber’s and ask hopefully for a ‘Hook’, wishing to emulate my lustrous malevolent tresses. Now, standing here with a head like a painted pink coconut, I feel rather less inspiring.
‘Shoot ‘im out the bleedin’ sky!’ Jukes is swinging a grappling hook on a rusty iron chain with one hand and pointing at the cursed emerald menace with the other. Cookson and Starkey stuff their muskets full of powder and take aim. Starkey is first to fire. His shot goes wide, going clean through the silhouette of SB fluttering on the flag flying from the topmast of the Kingdom galleon. Gasps from the various Jacks and other minor anthropomorphic leads on the deck below. A minor victory, but a short-lived one.
Cookson fumbles, dropping his musket on the deck of our very own The Fickle Muse. The weapon discharges, spraying shot straight into Smee’s ample backside. He yelps, leaping a full six feet in the air – an impressive feat for one so portly. Pan seizes the opportunity, swooping down and grabbing the hapless buffoon in mid-air, carrying him off squealing like a tickled piglet towards the Kingdom vessel.
‘Surrender!’ Pan’s voice surfs back to us over the waves. ‘Surrender or face the consequences!’
Shouts and jeers from my men. Noodler shakes his fist at the lad, though his backward-facing hands make it appear as if he’s berating himself instead. Jukes lets out a mighty roar and lets loose the grappling hook. Pan darts out of range, but my tattooed compatriot wasn’t aiming for him. Instead, the hook tangles itself in the galleon’s rigging, catching fast amongst the ropes. With a bellow of rage, Jukes pulls the chain taut and fastens it to one of our cannons, then leaps up on top of the line and races towards the startled Kingdom sailors.
‘Avast ye lily-livered lapdogs!’ He whips out his curved blade and bites down on it, clenching it between his teeth and rushing forward with hate in his eyes and devilry on his mind.
The rest of the men cheer, willing him on. Having seen him in action many a time, the Kingdom forces don’t stand a chance. They’ll be fish food before they can blink.
Everyone freezes, even Pan. Jukes stops mid-stride, balancing menacingly close to the Kingdom ship. But even he’s impressed by what’s just appeared on the galleon’s poop deck.
A billowing pink tent, surrounded by garlands of red flowers. Shimmering out of nothing, fairies giggling and flitting their wings as they cascade their magic dust down on the canopy. And inside, resplendent on a gilded throne atop four subservient prone dwarfs, SB herself.
‘Desist!’ She waves a pink lace fan in everyone’s general direction. It’s as if time slows down and goes to sleep. ‘Everyone just relax.’
She gets up, trailing the hem of a gossamer pink gown behind her. The fairies sigh in unison. A couple of the older ones swoon, dropping from the sky like little winged walnuts.
‘Captain James Hook!’ She calls across the thin gap of ocean separating our two vessels. ‘A word, if you please?’
All eyes swivel towards me. I feel the skin of my scalp redden. ‘Aye?’ I manage, scratching my chin with the business end of my steely appendage. ‘What would that be?’
‘If you would be so kind as to join me aboard,’ she says, extending a bejewelled hand towards me. ‘Though it pains me to admit it, I am sorely in need of your assistance…’