IT’S LIKE A tsunami of laughter.
Pan and the fairies I can put up with, but it cuts me to the core to see even Tinkerbell tittering. My sword, once the most feared weapon this side of the Cape, is now little more than a wooden stick with a cork popped on the end of it. More suited to toasting treacherous marshmallows than slicing a swathe through bands of desperate cut-throats. I hold it aloft for one more second, then lower my hand, letting the hopeless weapon droop in a most disconcerting fashion.
‘I’m sorry, captain,’ says Tink, regaining her composure. ‘Please forgive me.’
‘It’s fine.’ I shrug my shamefully sleight shoulders. ‘I suppose I must get used to this.’
‘It is not forever,’ says SB, wiping a tear of merriment from her eye with a silken handkerchief. ‘Once you have infiltrated yourselves into the Lost Boys’ ranks, you will transform back into the man you were.’
‘That at least is some relief,’ I squawk, ignoring the already familiar gales of laughter my every utterance seem to induce. ‘And my weapons?’
‘They too shall be restored. I imagine you shall need them if you are to rescue the Little Mermaid.’
‘Remind me,’ I say. ‘Does she have legs or a tail these days?’
‘A tail. From what our fairyborne intelligence have been able to gather, the Lost Boys have her kept in a high-security fishbowl.’
‘A miserable existence, I would imagine.’
‘Exactly. She is a rather highly-strung individual and will no doubt be in the throes of desperate self-pity. It is vital you rescue her before she decides to take matters into her own hands and fillets herself.’
‘Understood.’ I bow, catching an unpalatable whiff of my hormonally-charged body odour with considerable dismay. ‘We shall act with the utmost alacrity.’
‘Very good.’ SB claps her hands. Her subservient dwarves shuffle off towards the poop deck. ‘Then it is time to embark upon your noble quest.’
Pan, Tink and I follow SB to where the dwarves are huffing and puffing with the ropes, lowering a most flimsy-looking rowing boat into the crystal clear waters lapping at the sides of the galleon. One of them curses and falls backwards, the rope burning through his stubby little fingers. The boat splashes noisly down onto the waves, where it bobs about with all the grace and seaworthiness of a dead elephant.
‘You expect us to travel in this?’ I squeak. ‘It barely looks able to float.’
‘Do not be deceived by its appearance, dearest Captain. Do you not notice it’s beautiful pea-green colour?’
I nod cautiously, despite the fact the boat’s unseemly hue reminds me more of a phlegm-filled sea-slug.
‘This is the self-same vessel used by the Owl and the Pussycat. And if it was capable of taking them to the land where the Bong-Tree grew, it is more than sufficient to carry you and Pan to Pleasure Island. Besides,’ she adds with a sly wink, ‘I’ve had it refitted with a jet turbine engine and state-of-the-art radar systems. You needn’t worry about a thing.’
I glance at Pan, who’s standing with his hands on his hips in a painfully heroic fashion. Whilst I am prepared to place a modicum of trust in SB’s mucus-coloured rowboat, I am less inclined to put my faith in the hands of boy wonder over there. I make mental note to be on my most alert, watchful for any signs of mischief – either from Pan or from his irritatingly perky shadow.
‘I too shall keep my eyes open,’ says Tink, reading my mind. ‘Together, we shall make sure we are not deceived.’
I’ve never asked her about it in detail, being too much of a gentleman to pry. Not even when she first arrived, wings drooping and her delicate face streaked with diamond tears. I prepared a space in my cabin – a gilded cage which I placed upon the windowsill – and left her to her own devices. It was obvious Pan had wronged her in some way, but to this day I still do not know exactly how. Judging from the way she looks at him now, however, she has neither forgotten nor forgiven. I will, perhaps, be able to use this to my advantage.
‘To the seas!’ I mean to shout commandingly, but my voice refuses to obey, sounding instead like a particularly pained porpoise. Nevertheless, we all spring into action: Pan flies down to the rowboat; I descend upon one of the ropes; Tink flutters down to alight upon my shoulder.
SB beams down at us from the galleon’s deck. ‘May the winds blow in your favour!’ she calls. In the distance, on the deck of my own ship, I hear my men making highly amusing flatulence noises in response. She ignores them demurely, then makes a delicate gesture, fairy dust sparkling in the air.
Then I’m thrown onto my back as the rowboat’s turbines blast into action and hurtle us off into uncharted waters.