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PearlyHawkinsHooke

Never Say Neverland

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Never Say Neverland

Wherein Captain James Hook finds himself harassed relentlessly by both the memory and the reality of Neverland.

This is a story in sixteen chapters of Captain Hook's return to Neverland and what transpires when he gets there. It is the first in the series: Chronicles Of A Neverland Pirate.

I write this story for no profit whatsoever and realize that Captain Hook, Peter Pan and Neverland itself belong to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, the rights to Peter Pan having been left to that children's hospital by J.M. Barrie. I intend on posting each chapter in a different message window under this topic, this being the introduction.

This story is merely for my own amusement, and perhaps the amusement of a few other people who appreciate the irascible Captain Hook.

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Chapter One

It's not that I dislike parrots at all, in fact Cookie makes a wonderful parrot stew, but it annoyed me to see that Mung Melvin was wearing an entire coat made of blue parrot tail feathers trimmed with yellow pinfeathers. I have no idea why it annoyed me, but as I sat at my reserved table at The Gall and Musket Inn and watched him capering about like a shaved baboon I felt anger building up behind my pale blue eyes. I sighed softly and drank down the whisky which Toothless Belle had just poured for me then I summoned my second mate to my side.

"Barnaby," I said. "Bring me my pistols."

"Aye Captain!," he replied smartly, snapping to attention and giving me a salute which nearly put his only good eye out as he had forgotten he was still holding his mug.

"Belle," I then added in an offhand manner. "Attend to my glass."

The toothless harridan nodded and limped away to refill my glass with whiskey and as they both abandoned me I watched the further antics of Mung Melvin the parrot feather coat baboon give a hearty laugh and a handshake to the first mate of The Crimson Skull. His fate was even more assured now, I thought. Anyone who could be friendly with any of the crew of that disgusting scull must not only die, but suffer as they do it.

"Your pistols, Captain!," barked Barnaby presenting the unopened box to me which held my brace of pistols which I had taken off of a protesting British Navy lieutenant just last week.

"Much obliged Barnaby. Are they loaded?"

"Aye Captain! I cleaned and loaded them myself."

"Excellent," I stated and lovingly removed one of the two beautiful pistols from their case. Their handles were ivory and their barrels finely etched with mermaids, dolphins and the name of the lieutenant who had once owned them. Lt. John Wentworth. I smiled. Truly, if one cannot appreciate the beautiful things in life then why live life at all?

I rose from my chair, giving Toothless Belle a smile of appreciation for she had brought me an entire bottle of the finest whisky available on the island. I casually brought my hook down to chuck her on her chin and then turned to Mung Melvin.

Melvin was sitting in a chair sprawled so that his legs were out stiff before him and he was guzzling a pint of the cheap beer they sell here which is hardly anything more than barley water which has been set out to ferment in the hot sun.

"Good evening Melvin," I said and shot him in the knee.

He screamed and clutched his knee then fell over and over on the floor as a gushing spurt of blood stained his trousers. As he rolled I was curious to see that his knee had been completely shattered. There seemed to be bones or bits of shattered kneecap dripping along with the blood onto the floor.

"AAAAHHHHHHHH! Whatcha do that fer?," he screamed. Really, he was overplaying it a bit, I thought.

"You annoyed me," I replied handing my pistol to Barnaby to have it cleaned. "Capering about in that ridiculous coat."

He screamed some more, but had managed to stop most of the bleeding by applying a great amount of pressure on his shattered knee.

"I'll... I'll kill ya!," he shrieked.

"How amusing," I replied placing the sharp point of my hook on Melvin's windpipe. "You make me wish I had decided to shoot you in your heart instead of your knee".

"Yeah! Yeah...Melvin," cried his friends. "You don't wanna annoy Captain Hook. It's barmy it is. Now stop yer whinin and shut yer trap."

I straightened my shoulders and looked around the room. Although I certainly agreed with what those men had to say, I most certainly did not believe they meant it. I am a powerful man it is true, but I did not expect everyone, even Melvin's shipmates to agree with my decision to kneecap him. Suspicious, I looked at each and every jack tar in the room. I had fully expected to be involved in a full blown bar room brawl right now and had expected that I would have gutted at least three of the slower denizens of the Inn within a few seconds after destroying Melvin's kneecap.

They all seemed oddly wary and the looks which were returned to me were looks of fear. Fear me they should, but this was far beyond my expectations.

"Gentlemen," I said with a smile. "How right you all are, of course. What's a kneecap between friends?"

There was a low mumbling at that statement. Now it takes quite a bit to frighten me, but a chill of fear went down my spine to see them all nodding and agreeing with me, but averting their eyes from mine. What was going on here I wondered. Were they going to ambush me as I left for the Jolly Roger? Have they already boarded her? A cold pain stabbed inside of my stomach. No, they could not have boarded her, she was well protected and there were not enough of these wretches to take my ship. Mutiny? Perhaps, but unlikely. My crew were faithful for the most part. They knew that I was the best Captain on the High Seas, that I could find the richest ships and could avoid the heaviest guarded.

There was an odd silence as I stood there looking down on Mung Melvin, but it was broken by the sound of Toothless Belle suddenly cackling a high pitched laugh and then the appearance through the narrow doorway of the Captain of the Crimson Skull, Steely John Gull.

Steely John was a big man with a big red beard. He had a reputation for a certain quiet danger and was said to never speak a word as he skewered his enemies with his long curved saber which he always carried at his side in a red leather scabbard. For such a large man he was very fast. I had seen him dispatch three attackers in less than a minute with his saber, leaving them trying in vain to keep their guts from falling in the mud. He kept a sparse ship with just as many men it took to run her with none to spare. He was reputed to be such a mean and surly bastard, he could not keep a first mate for long and the ones he did have usually ended up trying to murder him in his sleep. None had been successful it is true, but Captain John Gull had many a time awoken with a painful wrench in his gut from swallowing poison and had more than once been forced to execute his first mate and half his crew.

He said nothing and I returned the favor although our eyes met and spoke their own language between us. My hand went to the pommel of my rapier, gently resting there, fingers tapping a gentle rhythm and his hand went to the breast pocket of his tattered red velvet coat. So it was hidden pistol against a sure hand upon a rapier I thought. Ah well, if luck is with me, then so be it. I grinned.

"Good evening Captain Gull," I said politely bowing my head slightly, but never taking my eyes off of his.

He grunted and I knew this was the moment, the second when he goes for his weapon and I go for mine and the fastest, sharpest man wins and so my hand reached to fling my rapier from it..s scabbard, but in a millisecond, the blink of a faerie's eye, I saw that what he was reaching for was not a weapon and so in the miniscule time it took to realize that fact, my hand relaxed and it appeared to all that I had merely been resting it there upon the shiny pommel of my sword without evil intent at all. He narrowed his red rimmed eyes and nodded then held his hand out to me. In it was a bit of parchment torn and stained with many colors. He thrusted it at me and I finally lowered my eyes from his and took what he had given me.

It was a scrap of parchment torn from a much larger piece and at first I thought it was a ridiculous cliché.. from a children's story, a piece of a treasure map, but I was mistaken. All that was on that stained scrap of parchment were some words written with an indigo ink in a beautiful hand.

The words were:

remember.gif

At first I was puzzled, but then it dawned on me like the purple dawn on the white sandy beaches of Barbados. My God in heaven no, I thought. I knew my face had drained of blood and that everyone, even Mung Melvin was staring at me. I looked up back into Captain Gull's eyes and there I saw something that made me want to gut him and leave him for the seagulls. I saw pity.

"No," I said calmly. "No, you are mistaken. This message is not meant for me."

He nodded sagely and then shook his head sadly.

"Aye, is meant fer you, Hook. You and yer crew."

I shook my head.

"Surely, no. Not...I mean, we just came back from Tortuga...we were on our way to...er..salvage a ship in distress. We were leaving in the morning..."

Captain Gull merely shook his head once more and turned to leave.

"Wait!," I cried knowing my voice sounded much more panic stricken than I had ever allowed it to. "Wait! Where did you get this? It's not even addressed to me.."

Gull sighed, turned back to me, took the piece of parchment, turned it over, pointed out the large words written in the exact script as the words on the other side of the parchment, then returned the scrap of parchment to me.

The words said:

remember2.gif

Captain Gull smiled a crooked smile, tugged at his beard and said the words which I had been fearing for the last three years.

"It's Neverland, mate. I'm sorry."

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Chapter Two

Neverland.

The word strikes fear into the hearts of the strongest men.

I have more reason to fear the word than any man alive having been trapped there for many years. I had sailed too close to the island because I had been escaping from an eighteen gunner bent on capturing me and bringing me to justice, which I had trouble understanding since I was an extremely law abiding and careful Captain of a freelance vessel, but had decided to avoid any conflict since trials and prison incarcerations cost the British taxpayer quite a lot of money and as a concerned citizen of that glorious nation, I thought it best to skip the cost of my capture and thus save the expenses. The Jolly Roger sailed within an inch of the roiling Neverland Sea and had been sucked into the sphere which surrounded the Neverland Islands, it's hull creaking in protest and it's crew wailing loud enough to wake the dead.

And thus we had been forced to sail the Neverland Seas, trapped by it's evil influence for many years. I had spent many prime years of my life there fighting against the injustices of mythological and legendary creatures and it was there that I had lost my right hand to that juvenile delinquent Peter Pan. It was also there that I gained my biggest follower ever, the horrible giant crocodile that had swallowed the hand Pan had cut off. The crocodile liked me. He wanted to consume me since he had enjoyed the taste of my hand as if it were so much gourmet crocodile fare.

My time in Neverland was like a horrible prison sentence full of strife and dismay, forced to live as the caricature of a pirate captain and deal with those despicable lost boys. I knew why Mung Melvin's mates would not attack me. If I die, Neverland would need a new captain crew and ship and chances are The Crimson Skull would be chosen because of it's proximity to my self.

Neverland always had to have a pirate ship, crew and captain to sail it's seas for if it did not it was unfulfilled and it would reach out and summon what it needed, it's boundaries widening and widening until some hapless ship and it's crew fell into the influence of it and was sucked into it's world and forced to become the characters in it's never ending tale of pirates, fairies, mermaids, Indians and lost boys, to say nothing of the other startling beasts which roamed it's jungles, shores and waters.

I had escaped by diving into the mouth of the crocodile who so lusted after my flesh and so with my apparent death I had awakened on board my ship alone and shaking with the trauma of having been swallowed whole by a rapacious beast. When I regained my senses I had laughed until the tears fell from my eyes. I had tried to escape that horrible place for years and years and it seemed that the way to escape it had been to meet my own legendary death. When I had disappeared down the gullet of that crocodile I had been expelled from Neverland along with my ship, but strangely enough, not my crew.

Now it wanted me back. It demanded me, my ship and my new crew. I knew I was doomed, but ordered the men to prepare to sail in the morning, in the meanwhile making sure I had taken as much supplies aboard as I could get my hook on, mostly whisky, ale, cigars and rum since those commodities were quite rare indeed in Neverland.

The morning dawned black as sin, rain pelting down from the churning grey skies to make the deck of The Jolly Roger as wet and slick as the back of a sea otter. The men had to be bribed with an extra ration of rum to even stir from their bunks since the sense of doom surrounding my poor ship was more depressing than the weather.

"We'll sail away from Neverland," I had announced to the men during the breakfast rum ration. "We'll sail her fast and sure away from this threat!"

Some of the men were heartened enough to lend an enthusiastic hand to prepare for sail, but most were so slow they had to be whipped into action. None had jumped ship for they knew that each and every one of them were under the curse of Neverland and no matter where they went, they would be found. There was nowhere to go either, since The Crimson Skull had sailed during the night, it's crew working extra feverishly to get her as far away from The Jolly Roger as possible and the island whose bay in which we had set anchor was a very small island indeed.

Bravely we set forth, unfurling our sails into the gusty winds of the storm, each man praying fervently to whatever God they worship that we would not see the shimmering pearly wall which defined the edges of Neverland and reached as far into the skies as a man could see and as deep into the ocean as a whale could swim.

We had managed to sail quite a goodly distance from the island we had set port, but just as the tiniest inkling of hope crept into my numbed mind, the lookout, Itchy Perkins screamed the words I had been dreading.

"Bright skies ahead! We're going to hit the wall!"

"Hard to port!," I screamed, grabbing the wheel and turning it with all of my strength. She responded like the Queen of the Ocean she was, but the momentum of our hasty retreat from the island had proven to be our downfall. Just the tip, the merest millimeter of bowsprit touched the pearly wall and the ship was taken.

hooksshipflying.gif

We all screamed as the Jolly Roger lifted from the ocean, spun around three times, shook itself off and then landed with a deafening splash onto the clearest, bluest most perfect water anyone outside of a fictional character could ever imagine.

I needn't tell you how we felt as we looked around at the magnificent scene we had landed into; the perfectly clear blue lagoon where multicolored fish swam happily through sunken islands of coral underneath my ship; the warm sandy beach with magnificent palm trees edging it, each one overburdened with gigantic coconuts; the jungle which lay beyond the beach full of luscious green life, the most beautiful flowers and foliage anyone could ever imagine; magnificent birds flittering from tree to tree, their plumage shining in the sun as if they were touched with gems; the rocky mountain in the center of the island standing tall and gleaming with quartz crystals and obsidian, smoking slightly from it's volcanic fissure; clear blue skies dotted with pink and white fluffy clouds like spun sugar. I needn't tell you that we wept piteously at the unfairness of it all.

"Drop sail," I muttered, having lost the volume of my voice temporarily. "Drop sail."

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Chapter Three

The night was warm and a gentle breeze rippled the flags which flew from the masts of The Jolly Roger causing the skull depicted on them to seem to shimmer in the starlight.

After ordering the lookouts to watch the skies for any sign of the flying nuisance named Pan and to keep another wary eye on the waters for the cresting wave that usually foretold the appearance of the giant crocodile who had eaten my right hand, I retired to my cabin to contemplate my dilemma.

Neverland. I buried my hook into the beam over my desk in frustration again and again, letting out a such a cry of anger I became instantly parched and had to drink the crew's next three rum rations all in one sitting which set me in such a surly mood that I nearly gutted Barnaby when he appeared with my coffee.

"Captain," inquired Barnaby giving my hook a wary eye. "The crew wants to know when we'll set anchor at port. They're..well, Sir..they're getting a little frisky."

I felt the snarl start inside of me before it manifested itself upon my visage. In a world of snarls I admit humbly that mine are the best and most dangerous upon the seven seas. This one peeled the paint completely off of my portrait of Edward Teach.

"PORT?," I bellowed. "PORT? There is no port in NEVERLAND! NO PORT! Nothing! Nothing but damned boys and damned mermaids, damned Indians and damned crocodiles. There are no comely and willing wenches, no rum, no tobacco, no tankards of frothy grog, no...no....", but I had gone nearly apoplectic and had to still myself before I burst a vein.

Barnaby had gone as white as our mainsail. Apparently he and the rest of the crew had no idea what a horrible place Neverland is, in spite of having heard all the stories and legends. No pirate in their right mind could even conceive of a place that had no rum, whisky, beer, wenches or tobacco and so I forgave them, but the naiveté of it all curdled the bile in my liver and so I had three of them lashed to the mast and racked with the cat o' nine tails which my dear mother had left me in her will.

It was as the third crew member was being disciplined that we caught first sight of that airborne juvenescence, that flying juvenile, that flighty adolescent, my nemesis, Peter Pan.

"Hoi Hook!," the miniscule monster shouted as he landed atop the foremast and then blew a raspberry at Cookie who had been calmly shucking some oysters for a casserole he had planned for that evening. Youth is so annoyingly rude. I narrowed my eyes and took aim with my pistol which I had determined to keep handy, loaded and ready to use, but I missed the miscreant by an inch because he had leaned aside to scratch a flea from his ear.

"Pan!," I bellowed. I was quite happy to see that the crew had all perked up and were paying attention. They had heard of this wretch and now they knew what he looked like. Recognize your enemy my mother always told me. "Why have you brought me back here?," I wondered loudly so that Pan could hear me above the shouts of my crew, each of whom were brandishing a weapon or two.

Pan laughed and flew down to alight upon the railing of the poop deck. He showed off by doing a few cartwheels in the air and a tiny pirouette before he landed.

"I didn't bring you back Hook!," he declared. "I don't like you. You're a miserable old man!" He scratched at his ear again and I saw that it wasn't a flea he was trying to flick away, but the fairy known as Tinkerbell who had declared herself to be Pan's fairy exclusively and was always giving him advice and telling him secrets. I'm not sure how much Pan knew, but Tinkerbell had been working for me when that lovely little girl Wendy had appeared in those last days of my dwelling in Neverland. Tinkerbell was as ruthless as I.

"Really, Pan, you're becoming quite boring," I told him as I pulled my rapier from it's sheath. "Perhaps you're finally growing up. Telling lies. It's almost as if you were going to run for political office." I brandished my sword in his direction just to bring my point home.

"I'll never grow up!," Pan screamed down at me. Really, the boy was like a mynah bird repeating the same things over and over and in a squeaky underdeveloped voice to boot.

"Pity, " I said in my own mature and velvety voice. "There are so many pleasures you'll never know. But if you didn't send for me, who did? Was it Neverland itself? Couldn't it find another pirate captain to kidnap?"

Pan laughed once more, the golden innocent laugh of the immature. I don't believe I have ever laughed like it, or perhaps once, but my mother quickly slapped the laugh off of me, the blessed woman. I have so much to thank her for.

"I had nothing to do with it!," Pan declared. He was eyeing my crew trying to determine whether they were fast enough to scramble up the rigging to grab him and drag him down to me so that I could disembowel him with my hook. "I much prefer the bumbling pirates they've been sending me lately, although there's no challenge. There's somebody else, Hook. Somebody I don't know about, somebody the fairies don't know or the mermaids or the Indians. Somebody new. I thought maybe you knew who it was."

Barnaby was scrambling to reload my pistol and I was gesturing to the men to scramble up the rigging after Pan.

"I have no idea, you idiot boy. I just got here," I replied taking the now loaded pistol from Barnaby and pointing it at Pan. Just as I fired, Pan lifted into the air and without another word, flew at great speed back into the jungle from where he came.

Someday that boy will learn some manners. I ran to the side of the ship and searched the edges of the jungle, my eyes scanning the beach to try and triangulate where he was flying to, to get some sort of clue as to where his lair lay, but my eyes were drawn instantly to a very large and long nearly amorphous shape lying on the beach. And then I heard it.....the tick -tock , tick- tock of a clock.

Fear took me like a sudden illness, turning my face pale and bringing beads of sweat to my brow. It was the giant crocodile who had eaten my hand and who had swallowed me the last time I was here; the giant crocodile who had also swallowed a clock which meant I could always hear it coming; the giant crocodile who wanted to eat me.

It was asleep it seemed since there was no movement at all from it, not even the opening of it's scaly eyelids to show it's cruel yellow crocodile eyes.

My heart in my mouth, I beckoned the gunners to attend their guns, to point them in the direction of that horrible beast. Barnaby pressed a spyglass into my hands and I lifted it with trembling fingers to my eye so that I could judge the distance of the beast from the guns. Something was moving there, something above the crocodile's head was fluttering. I thought perhaps it was a cleaning snipe, one of those birds who hop around on the crocodile's armored skin to pick off bits of what the crocodile had just eaten, but as the wind picked up slightly, the fluttering became quicker. I furrowed my brow in puzzlement. Then suddenly I recognized what was fluttering above the crocodile's head. It was a pirate flag, the whiteness of the skull and crossbones painted upon it now gleaming in the sun. The flag was attached to a long pike and the pike had been plunged into the sand, going first through the crocodile's skull, into it's brain, through it's jaws and at least two feet into the sand underneath.

deadcroc.gif

The giant crocodile was dead.

At first this brought a smile to face and joy to my heart, but then I came to a realization. If the crocodile was dead then he could not swallow me and free me from this horrible prison they call Neverland.

I was marooned.

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Chapter 4

After digging my hook into a few crew members to quell my rage in blood, I ordered a boat so that I could go and investigate the death of my nemesis the giant crocodile. Who could have killed the giant beast I wondered as Itchy Perkins rowed myself and an armed contingent of confused crewmen to shore. Who would have killed it and skewered it with a giant pike upon which flew the pirate flag of skull and crossbones? Pirates it must be, but what pirates?

I jumped upon the shore, my boots digging deep into the golden fine sand and proceeded to investigate the scene of the crime.

The giant croc lay before me upon the beach, it's gargantuan reptile body beginning to soften from the heat of the sun and the active bacteria inside it's huge body eating it away to return it to the earth. Flies buzzed around the beast's body and there was a red stain underneath it's head where it's chin had been skewered and pinned to the beach. I could hear the constant tick-tock, tick-tock of the clock inside of it's gigantic belly and once again wondered why it kept running. Did someone wind it or was it a magical clock which didn't need to be wound? "Slice it open!," I demanded. I wanted that clock.

As the men busily sliced into the giant crocodile, I searched the area around it and was rewarded with the trace of several sets of footprints embedded in the wet sand. One set was hard to miss for they spanned two of a normal man's footprint. Indeed, I placed my booted foot inside of one and it only filled half of it. The huge feet which made those prints were shod with what looked to me like good solid everyday hobnail boots.

I sighed as I leaned upon my ivory headed cane and gazed into the jungle. Must we now contend with giants? Fairies were enough to irk a man to drink, but giants? How annoying. I wiped my brow with a lace handkerchief and gave my attention to the sand once more. There were other sets of prints, some barefoot, some shod similarly to the giant prints, but all were normal sized give or take an inch or two. It was a chaotic mish mash of prints around the crocodile, but there seemed to be a steady trail of them to the jungle. Apparently, the pirates (if that they were) ran out of the jungle to attack the beast as it sunned itself upon the beach.

How rude, I thought, and yet how brave...or stupid. I had no doubt that it was the giant whose footprints I saw on the beach who was the one who wielded that huge pike and was the one who skewered that croc to the beach.

"Hoi, capt'n! We got it!," shouted Itchy as the others let out a yell of jubilation.

Itchy was holding a mantle clock in his hands which were covered in dripping ichor from the deceased reptile. He had a huge grin on his face and the others were singing a salty dirge as they chopped further into the beast's belly, happily extracting bones (both animal and human), spyglasses, short cannon, cutlasses, a chest of gold doubloons, half of a dinghy and a white marble statue of Hippolyta, all worthy of recovery and just needing to be rinsed off a bit.

"Clean it up and bring the clock to me!," I declared. "Bring the rest to the ship and if I find any of it missing, I'll rip the thieving bounder's liver out through his nostrils and serve it with tonight's cracker mash."

They all nodded solemnly knowing I was a man who always kept his word and was inscrutably accurate when figuring out each gob's take on the booty.

When Itchy Perkins placed the cleaned clock in my hand I felt such a weight lift from my soul I involuntarily grinned a huge grin and was lifted six inches into the air from the sheer joy I felt. Ah, I thought, there must be fairies close and sure enough there was a group of them perched upon the shrubbery, their wings fluttering in excitement. The wind must have lifted some fairy dust and wafted it to light upon myself.

"Ah!, " I declared. "Look Itchy, there are fairies."

Itchy scratched himself and peered into the shrubs. "Aye! Yer that right capt'n. There be fairies here!," he said.

I laughed and slapped him in the back of the head with the mantle clock I held in my hand.

"Idiot! There are no such things as fairies!," I chuckled.

I watched in joy as one tiny fairy coughed, turned blue and fell to the ground dead.

"But capt'n," insisted Itchy rubbing the back of his head and coming up with fingers covered in blood. "I see 'em. There be fairies."

I did not gut him for disagreeing with me, but only because I wanted this dialog to continue.

"Itchy, my man, there are no such things as fairies," I repeated, gleefully watching as yet again another of the wee folk coughed, turned blue and fell quite dead.

"There are no such things as fairies?," asked Itchy, causing yet another of the miniscule pests to stop breathing, freeze and plunge to the earth.

"That's right, Itchy. There are no such things as fairies," I answered him in a stern voice.

You would think that the pestilent fairies would have the sense to flee, but again another fell dead to the earth with a gasp.

"Then what are those?," asked Itchy pointing to the rest of the fairies who were coming to their senses and beginning to flee.

"I have no idea Itchy. They can't be fairies because....."

"There are no such things as fairies," Itchy finished.

Hookfairies.gif

We both nodded and laughed as another tiny pest fell plummeting to the ground.

Some days it's good to have a sense of humor. I know Itchy agreed with me for it amused him that I did not gut him after all.

That night the stars twinkled overhead and the moon shone bright upon the Jolly Roger. It was another perfect night, of course. I sat in my cabin fondly gazing at the mantle clock which proved to be made of brass and was fashioned into the shape of a half clad woman with her arms around the neck of a rather fierce looking lion. The lion held the clock face between his paws and was gazing out with a rather smug, if brassy expression. The clock was still ticking and it kept perfect time. I had not instantly smashed it to bits with my hook because my aversion to time pieces of all kinds had ended when this particular clock was placed in my hand.

I had a full ration of rum before me, a golden plate bearing delicacies from the jungle, and was enjoying one of the hand rolled cigars I was perspicacious enough to bring aboard before we were hauled here against our will. I was feeling quite content, but there seemed to be something missing. Of the five things which made a pirate happy, I was enjoying...let's see....four. Rum, tobacco, food and the recent memory of blood spilled by my own hand, or in this case, hook. What was missing? I glanced at the mantle clock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Ah yes. Freedom.

I sighed and gave the mantle clock a loving rub. I had forgotten. There were six things that made a pirate happy. Rum, tobacco, food, blood, freedom and wenches.

"Dismal, " I told the mantle clock. "Dismal. I may be able to live quite a while without my freedom, but I surely cannot live without wenches for long."

There are no wenches in Neverland, not a one. There are fairies, which are both too small and too mischievous. There are mermaids, but I shiver to even think of getting close to one of those cold wet fish. Besides they are woefully inadequate physically. There are Indians, but they are both fierce and suicidal when captured. What a pirate captain needs is a good willing wench to make him feel like a man. What a pirate captain needs is a Captain's wench.

I raked my hook across my desk leaving yet another deep gouge in the solid oak. How could I have been so woefully negligent? How could I not have found myself a wench to bring with me to Neverland? I was trapped here without any means of complete and satisfying relaxation.

It was too cruel. The last time I was trapped here wenchless, I had killed most of my crew in frustration. Woe is me, I thought. Woe is me.

"BARNABY!," I bellowed. "Barnaby! Prepare a raiding party for the morn. I feel the need to pillage!"

"Aye Captain!," Barnaby screamed. He had been sneaking past my door holding a bottle of rum to his chest which he had just stolen from Turgid Pete who had slipped on a flounder and been rendered unconscious when his head had hit a particularly low hanging beam. How did I know that? Experience.

Perhaps this time when we pillage one of the Indian villages I may find me a willing squaw to persuade into being my wench. Perhaps I could persuade her with my hook.

Just the thought of pillaging, burning tepees, decapitating braves with my hook and skewering screaming brats with my rapier calmed me and I slept better than I had slept in many a night. Indeed, I believe that I slept three inches over my bed hovering there in a state of happiness and held aloft by the residue of fairy dust which had drifted through the open porthole over my bed and onto my sleeping body.

In the morning I would fulfill my role here in Neverland. It's good to be a villain.

Edited by PearlyHawkinsHooke

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Chapter Five:

It took me several minutes even aided by Itchy Perkins to remove my hook from the palm tree into which I had embedded it. The problem was not that I could not extract it from the soft wood of the tree, but Jimmy Tinker's ribcage kept getting twisted as I turned my arm. It was just like him to be an annoyance even freshly killed.

We had awoken to a perfect morning with the sun shining ruthlessly upon the ship's deck giving the Jolly Roger a warm golden glow. It was a wonderful morning to set out for plunder and all of our spirits were raised as we rowed to shore, guns loaded, swords sharpened and two rations of rum consumed. Flying fish jumped from the clear blue lagoon as we rowed and they sailed through the air over us making rainbow arcs of light as the sun shone off of their iridescent fins.

Our minds were merrily on plunder, murder and kidnap and so thusly the men burst into glorious song as we made our way to shore.

Here's to the grog, boys, the jolly, jolly grog

Here's to the rum and tobaccy

I've a-spent all me tin with the lassies drinkin' gin

And to cross the briny ocean I must wander!

We landed and made our way through the jungle to where I knew there was an Indian village of a size and population that would not lead to too much consternation on our parts. It was a short trip through the jungle, but we all had our eyes open for the miscreant Pan. It would be just like him to spoil our fun.

The path was nearly overrun with the fast growing foliage that inhabits the jungle and it took us longer than I had reckoned to reach our destination. Each step we took the men had to swing their cutlasses to chop the vegetation sending chopped greenery and luscious colorful flowers into the air around us.

"Avast!," I cried as we neared the village. "Silence now. Weapons ready."

Itchy giggled with excitement and stroked his saber, but other than that the men complied and became quite silent. It heartened me to see the evil glints in their eyes as they anticipated the pillaging of the tepees; the slashing of the painted deerskin walls, the smashing of terra cotta pottery, the wonderful sounds of whimpering and begging, and the satisfying sound of freshly freed blood spattering against the tepee walls.

We could see the tops of the tepees standing tall over the luscious foliage and our hearts were lifted.

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"All right men, " I whispered. "On the count of three..attack!"

They all looked at me quite blankly. I had forgotten that they could not count past the number two. I sighed a deep and heartfelt sigh.

"Nevermind, " I amended. "ATTACK!"

We burst out of the dense vegetation surrounding the village with a battle cry, guns at the ready, swords waving and our eyes keen with the thought of violence.

There was complete silence. No women screaming nor babies crying nor braves cursing. No dogs barking nor chickens clucking nor drums beating.

The village was empty.

It was then that I had screamed a cry of outrage and plunged my hook through Jimmy Tinker and into the palm tree behind him.

"CURSES!," I screamed, thinking that Jimmy Tinker's blood might stain my lace cuffs, a thought that put me in an even worse mood.

"Capt'n," said Itchy after he had finally helped me extract my hook from the tree and Jimmy Tinker. "Where have the Indians gone?"

I saw red. It was as if the insides of my eyes had suddenly been frosted over with a film of enraged hot blood.

"You cretin!. Search the village!," I demanded as calmly as I could. My cuff had indeed been drenched in blood and was both red and dripping. I wiped it off on Jimmy Tinker's shirt sleeve and turned to Itchy. "Find those INDIANS!"

The men scrambled about the village slashing the tepees and smashing the pottery, but there was no sign of the Indians at all. I was holding my rage back, but I knew that my eyes were blazing a hot red colour as I stood in the centre of the village and stared down at the cold circle of ashes which had once been the communal fire, a fire which was kept blazing day and night. I kicked the ashes with the toe of my boot. Those ashes were cold and had been cold for quite some time.

"Capt'n!," shouted Itchy. He had been tearing apart a tepee behind me with a sense of disappointment and ambition.

"Yes, Itchy?," I responded, determined to tear his heart out if he said anything the least bit unintelligent.

"I think it's a message," he said.

I turned on my heel and scowled. A message? Another message? My heart was bursting with anger. It was lucky that my crew were learning how to live with me and had distanced themselves from my person for I would have gutted anyone who was in reach at that moment.

Stretched on a frame made of deer antlers was a tanned hide upon which were drawn symbols and figures. It was indeed a message written in the primitive language of the Indians. I rolled my eyes. How absolutely annoying, I thought. I would have to translate. Why couldn't those savages have learned the King's language? Troglodytes!

"Be quiet Itchy!," I shouted. Itchy was babbling on about something insignificant and I was trying to concentrate on deciphering the message. Perhaps it would tell us where the Indians had gone so we could go and plunder, pillage and destroy.

I tapped my chin with my hook as I peered at the drawn figures and symbols. There were figures that were obviously Indians, attired as they were in deerskins and sporting feathers in their black shiny hair. They were all carrying rectangular pouches and gazing up at a tall structure which to me looked like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for there were fountains, trees and lush flowers growing on a tiered building. There were other figures, drawn in a smaller scale than the figures of the Indians and those figures were attired as civilized ladies and gentlemen. Those figures were streaming into the foliated structure. There was a scene drawn that must have been the inside of the structure and even though it was drawn with no sense of perspective at all, I could get the gist of the idea. It was a huge structure with many large rooms. One room was filled with the chicken scratched hatchmarks which represented a numbering system to the primitives. One room was filled with squares, each square with a series of dots drawn upon them from one to six. There was a room with a large wheel upon which were the hatched numerals of the Indians. There was another room with large colorful rectangles, also with hatched numerals upon them, each rectangle had a lever drawn on it's left side.

I was puzzled. What was this message trying to tell me? The men had become silent, watching me think. Huge structure.....numerals, many numerals....squares with dots....rectangles with levers.....hmm.

Then it came to me like a bolt of lightning from a dark storm.

"Those savages!," I spit. "Those primitive deerskin wearing blighters!"

"What is it capt'n?," asked Itchy. "What is it?"

I felt such despair at that moment that I was not even up to skewering Itchy with my sword. I sighed deeply and rubbed my temples with my hand.

"Bad news, Itchy. The savages have left Neverland and have opened a casino. Clever bastards."

We stood there in a moment of silence mourning for the loss of the Indians from Neverland. I believe I was the only one who knew how clever they had been to turn our vices upon us and to pillage and plunder the white man's ill-gotten gains from him and back to the people he had very nearly utterly destroyed. Damn them! The cleverness of them! It left us with no villages to plunder, no people to murder with wanton abandon, no Indian princesses to kidnap. I had so looked forward to capturing that disgusting Princess Tiger Lily and torturing her until she fainted. There was now no chance to find a willing Indian squaw to teach how to become my wench. Life in Neverland was looking bleak.

Then a thought occurred to me. How did the Indians leave Neverland? It was impossible for anyone to leave except for that absolutely annoyingly cheerful imp, Peter Pan. Did he escort them back to the real world? The very thought enraged me to such an extent, the foliage around me turned black and fell in decayed and slimy clumps to the earth.

"PAN!," I bellowed into the clear blue sky, raising my hook to brandish at the pink fluffy clouds that wafted on the gentle breeze. "PAN!"

But Pan did not respond. Instead I heard a high pitched tittering from a nearby tree and turned to see Tinkerbell perched upon a branch and grinning down at me.

She shook her wings and lifted into the air then chittered away in the disgusting twinkling language of the fairies. I narrowed my eyes, pointed to Itchy who grinned and then opened his mouth to speak.

"There are no such....." he began, but I was forced to quickly clamp my hand over his mouth to prevent him from uttering the fairy killing words. Tinkerbell's communication had suddenly become clear to me. Her twittering, fluttering and gyrations had told me that she knew where the pirates who had killed the giant crocodile were and that she hated them even more than she hated us and would like us to go find them and kill them for her. She would be glad to help in anyway she could and would we please kill their captain slowly and with a great amount of torture and pain inflicted. She suggested the pulling of fingernails one by one, the extraction of teeth, one by one and the peeling of skin, slowly. I grinned. I hadn't done a nice slow flaying in quite a while and was quite excited about the possibility of it.

"I agree," I told Tinkerbell. "Show us where those dastardly curs are anchored. Tonight the sea will run red with blood!"

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Chapter Six

As I sat back in my red velvet chair and lifted my cool and frosty tankard of grog I contemplated my circumstances.

I was trapped here, most probably indefinitely because the only method of which I knew to escape this hideous place had been foully murdered by violent savages and giants. The giant crocodile was dead, never to swim the rivers and the oceans again. I sighed and popped another shrimp canapé' into my mouth, chewing satisfactorily. Cookie had outdone himself on tonight's feast because it was ridiculously simple to lure any kind of seafood at all into his nets. Lobsters practically jumped aboard, fish begged to be hooked and shellfish tapped on the sides of his steam pot, their tongues hanging out in pleas to be boiled alive. One thing I could say about Neverland is that it is certainly abundant with food. The very air seems fecund and full of life and it's life forms are so cheerful they politely give up their lives simply for the sake of a pleasant snack.

I was trapped and trapped in a Neverland that had no Indians, no giant crocodile, no lost boys and no wenches. There it was again, that wench issue. I sighed. Neverland was proving to be even more of an annoyance than it had been when I was forced to sail it's seas and walk it's islands years ago.

Well, I sighed to myself, when given weevil infested bread one makes cracker hash. I would make the best of my situation. After all there were plenty of crew members to command. Even if I murdered one each week, I'd still have plenty enough to sail The Jolly Roger in a few month's time.

And there was the possibility of new enemies to hunt and slaughter. Pirates like me and my crew would be a welcoming challenge indeed.

I lit up two cigars and took a large drag, inhaling the wonderfully tasty smoke of the finest tobacco one could find in this world. Tomorrow I would find the captain of the enemy pirate ship, tie him to a mast and peel the skin from him slowly with my hook, feeding it piece by piece to the nipping sharks that swim eternally in the Neverland waters. The very thought made me sigh with contentment.

However, my satisfied warm glow of tranquility was rudely interrupted by a rap at my door.

"Capt'n," shouted the voice of Barnaby. "You're needed on the main deck! Please, Sir! You should see this, Sir!"

Growling, I stood, jammed my double cigar holder into my mouth and straightened my shirt cuffs then strode with due haste out onto the main deck.

It was a clear sky and the stars twinkled like lighthearted fairies. The ship was gently swaying in the lagoon, rocked by the warm breezes which circled Neverland, her flags waving calmly. Most of the men had taken the air on deck to enjoy the beautiful night, to lay back and gaze at the stars patting their full bellies and to finally drink themselves into a stupor, but now they were all standing and pointing up to the top of the main mast, each and every one of them with idiotic looks of confusion upon their faces.

I looked up. At first I saw nothing untoward and made a motion to decapitate crewman Johnny Buncy who was standing much too near me, but then I saw it. What I had mistaken for a yard was a harpoon and that harpoon was stuck in the main mast of the Jolly Roger still quivering from the force which had embedded it. Not only was that annoying foreign object attached to my ship, but tied to it was a long green silk banner which lifted itself on the gentle breeze so that I could read the message that was painted upon it in golden letters.

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"Get that thing off of my ship!," I screamed. The men scrambled up the ropes at the sound of my voice, as well they should scramble for I'd have them all whipped if they did not jump at my command. Barnaby passed my spyglass to me and I scanned the direction from which the spear had come, but I saw nothing. The sea beyond the lagoon was free of any ship whatsoever as far as I could tell, however the uplifted jagged rocks which dotted that area offshore were so numerous they could well hide a ship quite easily or a ship might be mistaken as the silhouette of a jagged rock. I had used that tactic more than once in Neverland when planning a sneak attack on the Indians.

"First blood, indeed, " I mused handing the spyglass back to Barnaby. "It looks as if we've been challenged, Barnaby. I want you to clean all of my pistols and sharpen all of my swords. Have the men clean the cannons and make their weapons ready. First blood is for cowards, we'll go to the death I think."

"Aye Captain!," Barnaby responded with a great deal of exuberance.

"Where is that fairy?," I asked, scanning the ropes. "Tinkerbell! Come here!"

A light appeared in the crow's nest, illuminating a small spherical area of rope and wood and soon the fairy known as Tinkerbell was flying before my face, waving cheerfully at me. How I loathe cheerfulness, but I had to make an exception here for this fairy knew where my enemy was anchored and even though I could find them with ease, it would save time if we were informed of their whereabouts.

"Tinkerbell, you dear little fairy," I said in a sickeningly sweet intonation. "Can you tell me anything about that harpoon?"

I pointed to the harpoon which was falling to hit the water as my crew had wrested it from the main mast and had tossed it to the depths.

Tinkerbell shrugged and squeaked and fluttered her delicate wings. Either she knew nothing of the harpoon and banner or she was lying. It didn't matter for as soon as I was done with her I'd say the magic words and she'd freeze to death. It was those moments in life that I found life worth living for.

"No matter, you beautiful little imp," I added, just to give her a false sense of security. "In the morning we'll sail and find the blighters. Get some rest now."

I hoped that I hadn't overdone it, but I saw no sign of mistrust in Tinkerbell's expression.

I retired to bed with the happy vision of blood on my hook and heads on harpoons.

"Follow the fairy!, I commanded the next morning after we had risen and prepared ourselves for battle. I had dressed in my finest clothes and had spent quite some time polishing my hook and so I knew that I was a magnificent sight as I stood next to the wheel. The men were so bloodthirsty they ate their bacon raw for breakfast and cooked their eggs on their heated brows.

We were in full sail and the canvas was snapping in the wind and just at that moment I felt such a sense of happiness overwhelm me that I grabbed the wheel with my hand and caused us to go off course for a minute. This is a wonderful life, even if trapped in Neverland. I was born for this life, the life of a pirate. It felt good.

Back on course, we followed the fairy who flitted before the ship whistling and pointing the way. She led us past the jagged rocks and pointed us out to sea, but then turned abruptly and flew in an easterly course around the sharp rocky peninsula that had more than once threatened to sink my ship on it's barely covered rocks. We turned our sails into the wind and The Jolly Roger responded with the grace of a contessa. I needn't tell you what a fine ship is The Jolly Roger, she is a lady indeed.

Our cannons were ready, each one manned by a bloodthirsty crew member. I was pleased to see that the men had polished their boarding poles and grappling hooks. I hated an unclean show.

We rounded the peninsula our hearts full of the joy of mayhem and there she was, our rival pirate ship. There was silence as we all took in the sight of her. I could tell the crew were waiting for my response to the sight and they were all gazing up at me as I stood there, my red velvet coat blazing like fire in the sun.

I laughed. It was a heartfelt laugh that came straight from the core of my being. I laughed with great joy and great fervor.

The ship before us was grounded on a sharp rock which had cleaved it nearly in two, the rock's grey granite swordlike extrusion standing at an acute angle, the tip pointing straight up to the sky. The ship itself was a small one, merely a caravel which looked to me as if it had seen much better days even before it had come to it's broken demise upon the rocky eastern shore of Neverland. A white flag with a very crude skull and crossbone design flew from it's broken main mast.

I laughed again and the crew erupted in joyous guffaws and happy applause, but I could not help feeling a sense of disappointment. I had been ready for a real fight and what I got was merely a cleanup.

"Hoi men!," I declared, "Man the longboat and ready your weapons. We'll plunder the carcass!"

"Captain, shall we pound her with cannon fire just to be sure?," asked Barnaby who was quickly becoming my favorite crew member because of his enthusiasm.

"Aye, Barnaby! Good idea. A well aimed round shot in her hull would do my heart good, but we'll board her and strip her first. She might have something worthwhile on board. Barnaby, lead the men in the longboat and bring me back something valuable!"

"Yes, Sir!," shouted Barnaby in glee brandishing his cutlass.

I watched through my spyglass as Barnaby led the men to the broken caravel, each man on board the boat grinning from ear to ear. They rowed alongside the cracked hull of the caravel, grappled it and heaved themselves aboard, Barnaby in the lead. There seemed to be no resistance, indeed there was obviously nobody on board. Tinkerbell was expressing her disappointment by sitting on the brim of my hat and swearing like a sailor. I let her be for every time a fairy curses, a child stubs it's toe.

I let out a shout of encouragement when I saw three of my men holding a large wooden chest aloft and place it lovingly into the longboat. Treasure. I could smell it from where I stood.

They rowed quickly back to the Jolly Roger and heaved the chest onboard.

"Not a man aboard, she's abandoned," reported Barnaby with a great deal of disappointment in his voice. "But we brought you the booty, Captain!"

"Good job men!," I answered heartily. "Open her up!"

When the chest was opened there were gasps of astonishment all around. It was filled with the most wondrous treasure imaginable, a veritable pirate's dream. There were golden chalices and plates, strings of pearls, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds all cozily enveloped in thousands of gold doubloons and a beautiful dagger with a ruby encrusted golden hilt and a shining blade of the finest damascus steel.

"Men, " I whispered in a voice hoarse with emotion. "Take off your hats and bow your heads in a moment of silent respect for the poor sods who will be missing this glorious treasure. To those that have been pillaged. Hoorah!"

"Hoorah!," the men yelled, their own voices choked with emotion. That emotion was greed, of course. I would never trust a man who wasn't greedy. Hooking the gorgeous damascus blade for my own, I ordered the chest to be taken to my quarters to be divvied according to the stringent pirate rules we all lived, suffered and died by, but as the lid was being closed, I spied something underneath all of that gold, something white and lacy. Could it be a fine French silk shirt dripping with Venetian lace? I could use one of those, or two if handy.

"Avast!," I cried and dug my hand into the pile of gold, my fingers closing on a bit of the lace I had spotted. With one yank I pulled the object free and held it before me for closer inspection.

My eyes narrowed as I examined the white lacy object and just as I realized what it was I held in my hand, Emerson Tuttle snickered. For a split second I regretted that my rule of only murdering one crew member a week was about to be broken, but regrets aside I slashed my hook up and Emerson Tuttle fell to the deck in a pool of his own blood and guts.

What I held in my hand was a pair of frilly women's knickers. As the crew members gazed awestruck at me and the blood oozing from the stilled body of their deceased shipmate, I felt a sly grin cross my face.

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"You know what this means don't you?," I asked them politely.

They all looked horrorstruck, I assume because they had never seen a pair of women's knickers of such quality before. I had seen many such knickers in my life, but that was before I was shanghaied to Neverland.

"W....w....w......w...wh...what does it m..m...mean, Captain?," asked Barnaby. The man had picked up an annoying stutter from somewhere. How bothersome.

"It means that there was a wench aboard that vessel, lads. There is a wench in Neverland!"

I ordered them to clean up the mess Emerson Tuttle had made, sink the caravel with a volley of cannon shot, then drop sail and anchor in preparation to form a hunting party. Satisfied, I strode to my cabin, lit some cigars and began to divvy the booty, thinking all the while of the great pleasure I will have when we find the wench who is missing her expensive, frilly knickers.

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Chapter Seven:

Mermaids. During the entire picture perfect night the mermaids harassed my crew and I until when the sun rose over the perfect lush and purple toned mountain which marks the center of Neverland's main island we were all, each and every man jack among us, clutching the sides of our beds (or in Itchy's case, his crate) and ruing the day that we sprouted hairs on our faces and became baritones instead of tenors.

Mermaids are not only frustrating anatomically, but quite dangerous. They count as the second most cause of the deaths of my crewmen, the first being their own carelessness as to the proximity they put between them and myself.

Last night as I lay in my bed listening to their keening eerie song, I tried to keep my thoughts away from their sleek blue bodies which undulate annoyingly as they swim around my ship. They have a mesmerizing way about them. Many a time I've caught a midshipman staring down over the railing into the clear blue water of the lagoon entranced to such an extent any further forward momentum would have caused him to plummet to the water and there be taken down to the mermaid's lair where they would watch him as he drowns, smiling with their sharp pointed teeth. They would then tear him to pieces and feast upon him leaving nothing but his bones for the scavenging fishes to pick upon. Usually for the first few days of this, I would casually smile and pat the fellow on his back just to reassure him that his Captain understood, thus, of course, giving him that extra momentum which would lead him to plummet to his horrible death amongst the mermaids, but this gets tiring after awhile and eventually after a few nights when I see such an entranced seaman, instead I bark sharply to him to get his attention. This has a fifty-fifty chance of waking him from his entrancement and returning to his duty or to give him that extra impetus to take the plunge, depending on how the winds are blowing.

I thought upon my life when I'm not held captive in Neverland and tears came to my eyes. I had a good life, a wonderful life, a satisfying life. The world outside of Neverland is full of temptations, adventures, opportunities and delights balanced with danger, fate, idiocy and the law. It was a good combination for where is the joy in plundering a merchant vessel if it isn't both illegal and immoral? Where is the happiness in boarding a civilian vessel and murdering all onboard if it wasn't both reprehensible and morally offensive? Why have bar fights with other pirate crews whilst wenching until your legs are sore if it wasn't both against the religion of our forefathers and physically precarious? Here in Neverland all we could do is chase that despicable Pan around until he sets our teeth on edge and churns the acid in our bellies.

However, as I rolled over to cover my head with my satin sheets to try and deaden the song of the mermaids, I realized that I had seen very little of Pan since I had returned to Neverland. He had only harassed me once since I got here and that was hardly a harassment at all. This, of everything I regretted about Neverland was what sent chills down my spine and caused me nearly to become afraid for a fraction of a second. Where was Pan? What was he planning? I curled the fingers of my hand into a claw at the thought of that pre-pubic menace.

There was nothing for it, I would have to lead an expedition into the jungles of Neverland to search for Pan's hideout, the giant who murdered my nemesis the giant crocodile, and the owner of those frilly lace knickers which now graced my bedpost.

"Ah, I see we'll have to cut our way through, " I announced as we began our trek into the jungle. All of the pathways I had ordered cleared last time I was here had become once more choked with jungle plants. It was frustrating for the men who had to wield their machetes as they carried my sedan chair which was heavily laden with myself, a large picnic lunch packed by Cookie for me, a keg of rum for the men, a change of clothes for me in case I perspired in the heat and some hardtack in case the men became peckish.

It was slow going and I was forced to drink a half bottle of chilled champagne before we reached a clearing large enough to allow us to stop and get our bearings.

There had been hardly any sign of life in the jungle as we made our way through the heavy foliage except for monkeys chattering in the trees and birds flittering and chirping here and there, but I knew that here in Neverland there was not a patch of ground that did not contain at least one mythological or legendary beast and so I kept my eyes open.

"We'll lay anchor here," I declared waving my hand to the center of the clearing where there was a nice grassy hillock upon which I could rest. "Make base."

And so we settled for a time. The men drank their rum happily in spite of being covered in sweat from their excursions and I snacked on the fruit and cheese platter Cookie was kind enough to prepare for me. Cutting one's way through a dense and stubborn jungle was quite tiring and gave one quite an appetite. As I poured another crystal glass full of champagne my eyes happened to flit to a rather large flower bearing plant to the north of the clearing in which we were taking our respite and I caught a flash of something white behind one of the plant's gigantic pink blossoms.

"Hold!." I commanded, even though the men were quietly drinking their rum. My pistol was in my hand before I knew I had gone for it and I stood. The men all gaped up at me, but I ignored them. There was a chilling feeling creeping up my spine. Had I really seen what I thought I did? I blinked, trying to keep my eyes on the place I had seen that white flash. As silently as I could I walked over to the edge of the clearing and carefully lifted my hook to part the petals of the flower behind which I had seen that flash of white.

There before me, staring into my eyes with it's own golden orbs was a very white, indeed supernaturally white, spiral horned unicorn.

"Arrrrrrrr!," I cried in surprise.

"Nnnnnneeeeeeee," answered the unicorn.

"Blimey!," I exclaimed, raised my pistol and aimed for it's left eye.

"Whomph," said the unicorn, then turned and galloped away into the jungle just as my pistol went off. I could see the ball in it's trajectory miss the unicorn by a mere inch, then glance off a small branch, hit a pebble balanced precariously on a mushroom, then plunge itself into the trunk of a banyon tree.

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"BLAST!," I cried in frustration as I turned to the men. "BLAST IT ALL! Which one a ye is a virgin?"

Everyone looked at Geordie Jenkins, but I knew Geordie had been Salty Jim's cabin boy for two years and therefore didn't count. The rest of the men had been at sea most of their lives and had forgotten even the meaning of the word.

"Capt'n," asked Itchy, "What was that beastie?"

"That, my dear Itchy," I replied, giving the idea some thought, "Was a unicorn. Unicorns seek virgins, me hearties. And, if I remember correctly, they only seek maidens."

"Maidens!," cried the men rising to their feet. That word they knew.

"Aye, maidens, " I replied as I handed my smoking pistol to Itchy.

It took a few moments for the men to recover, and when they did the expressions on their faces filled my heart with joy. I so enjoy the company of cutthroats.

Now, here my tale becomes disconcerting and brings my heart such rage I can barely express myself properly. We had given each other satisfied expressions of acknowledgment of the pleasures of the future when suddenly the clearing erupted in shrill cries and movement. Pirates had sprung from the trees around us and set upon my men, their cutlasses flashing in the sun. Pirates! Finally, worthy opponents. My men were not slackers for any man given to laziness or slow reaction aboard my ship had been previously summarily executed by means of my hook. We pulled out our swords and gave back what we got. The sound of blade striking blade brought a grin to my face and I pulled my sword to join the fray, thanking the powers that be for this wonderful distraction from the beauty and fantasy of Neverland.

There were seven attackers, each one a whirl of blade and sash. As I set upon the nearest assailant I thought what a wonderful addition these scallywags would make to my crew, but alas I knew that their future was clear, that they would all end up skewered and gutted by me and my crew. To that end, I put some determination in my swordplay, successfully backing my opponent up to the solid trunk of some purple tinted thick trunked tree with a flourish of my sword and a swipe with my hook. The point of my sword was pinching the blighter's throat, just short of drawing blood. My eyes were on that spot of metal against flesh, ready to grin when the blade plunged forward to pierce the larynx and draw blood , but a very high pitched squeal took my attention away and I looked up at my opponent's face.

"Shiver me timbers," I managed to whisper before my sword was batted away and my opponent leaped away, not before flailing out and leaving me with a shallow cut on my left cheek.

"First blood!," the pirate who had been my opponent declared in glee and then with a sharp whistle of command the other pirates we had been fighting backed away, leapt gracefully into the jungle and disappeared.

I say gracefully, for that is what they were, graceful and deadly. Each and every one of them, every single pirate who had taken first blood from us, was a woman.

"Odds bodkins," I managed to croak as my men all sobbed piteously. "Odds bodkins."

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Chapter Eight:

“PAN!,” I screamed as I held aloft a gutted plush bear. “PAN!”

There was no answer from the vexatious youth, of course.

In frustration after having been assaulted by a gang of women, I had ordered the men to carry me to Pan’s old hide-out, the entrance to which is cleverly hidden by the Hangman’s Tree. It had been long abandoned, but the remnants of the belongings of the Lost Boys were scattered about the place in childish disarray; sickeningly cute toy animals, pathetic wooden swords and ridiculous attempts at armor made with the hollowed out husks of coconuts. I am so happy my childhood, as it was, is so very far behind me. I have only one fond memory of that time in my life and it involves a severe beating, a very sharp knife and blood which wasn’t my own.

“Captain,” asked Itchy, giving an abandoned toy soldier a stomp with his boots, “Where’s those maidens you was talkin’ about?”

God save me from my followers, I thought as I sighed deeply and swiped at Itchy with my hook barely missing him by a millimeter or less.

Ignoring him, I motioned to my men to gather around me.

“Men. I realize this is your first time here in Neverland, but you really must concentrate. My old enemies, excepting Pan ...that...that...scurrilous knave of a boy, are gone. I face new enemies and I believe you can count the maidens among them.” There was a stirring amongst the men at that statement, growls of discontent and some sighs of anticipation. “Maidens, giants and Pan. These are our three priorities and added to the other neutrally dangerous beasties and beings here in Neverland, we must keep attentive. I will tolerate no more sleeping on the watch, no more daydreaming in the crow’s nest and certainly no more games of canasta on the poop deck!”

“But Captain, Surly Jones owes me five quid!,” complained Inky Thomas, earning himself a punch in the head from Surly and a hook to the groin from me. From that point on, that is after he recovered for five days, Inky was known as Squeaky.

“Now, pay heed. We will scour Neverland for our enemies. We will systematically go over every single square inch of this godforsaken paradise. We will find and destroy our enemies!”

The men cheered and I was heartened to see that they knew that my enemies were their enemies and that whatever makes me happy will make them happy, or at least keep them alive and intact.

“Right then, “ I continued, “Itchy, you take five men and search the Indian village and it’s surroundings. Surly, you take another five and search Mermaid’s Cove. Hakim, take five men and search Cannibal Lagoon. I will take five men and search the Black Castle. We will meet back at The Jolly Roger in twenty four hours to report. You may take prisoners, especially if they are..er...female.”

“YAY!!!!!,” screamed all of the men, giving such a deadening roar that soil fell from the earthen roof and covered them all with a thick layer of dirt. I was standing underneath a thick wooden beam and so was spared the indignity of having to order Itchy to brush dust from my hat.

It was on calm silvery water that we rowed across on our way to The Black Castle. The castle stood on a rocky outcrop on Skull Island and was carved from the volcanic rock which made up this area of Neverland, the rock having been spewed from the hole of the main island’s volcano centuries ago. I had often considered making the Black Castle an outpost, but I could never get comfortable upon land and always pined for a rolling deck underneath me. Instead I had established the Black Castle as a prison and had shackled many a disobedient crewman upon the shiny black rocks of it’s foundation and inside the small dark cells which honeycombed the castle’s dungeons.

“Steady as she goes, men,” I ordered from my comfortable upholstered seat on the longboat. “Watch for sharks.”

Sharks had always loved swimming in the waters around Skull Island. These were not ordinary sharks, of course. In Neverland everything is quite exaggerated in some sort of ludicrous and fantastical childish vision. Sharks in Neverland are very large, fast and quite intelligent. They are also all a lovely shade of blue so that they are almost impossible to see on a nice clear sunny day, even when they are swimming very close to the surface. I adore the sharks, they make executions by walking the plank so much more amusing than they are normally.

We reached the entrance to the castle without incident, although I believe I saw three sharks swimming quite close to our boat as we approached. I sighed as I stood, making sure my sword was ready at hand and my pistol was near. It is times like these when I earn my pay. I am the Captain of The Jolly Roger and I have earned the title through blood, sweat and my superior cunning and ruthlessness.

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“Weapons ready, men. We will search the ground level first.”

And search we did, but we found nothing but the bones of previously incarcerated crewmen, picked clean by crabs.

It was when we climbed the stairs to the next floor that I quickly quieted the men with a shushing noise. I could hear the distinct sound of torches smoldering and could smell the pine tar burning. I gazed at the men I had chosen to accompany me and realized that as far as the talent of stealth goes, they were severely lacking. These men were all bluster and boldness. It was up to me to infiltrate this level, although I did have a second’s hesitation when I remembered that I wore my red velvet coat with polished gold trim and large brimmed hat decorated with ostrich feathers, attire which is not exactly conducive to a stealthy manner, but certainly lends me quite a regal air as I plunder and pillage.

“Stay here men and listen for my call,” I ordered and then advanced further up the stairs. Carefully, I looked around the stone lintel of the room at the top of the stairs and was astonished at the sight that met my eyes.

It was a round room, obviously carved from the inside of one of the gigantic stone columns which make up the turreted sections of the castle. There were several doors which led to darkened passages and several windows peppered the wall on one side to reveal the bright blue sky outside and the silvery ocean below.

But this room, from which I remembered from my former occupation of the castle as a prison, had changed quite drastically and for the better. It was filled with comfortable furniture, carpets, velvet curtains, brocade and silk pillows, and chests filled with gold, jewels and golden cutlery.

Sitting at a beautifully carved walnut desk with gold ormolu grotesques carved upon it’s legs was a small figure with soft brown hair. The figure seemed ignorant of my presence and so I took a step forward, sword in hand, and as I had made up my mind to rush into the room and skewer the person there, the figure looked up.

It was a young woman and a lovely woman at that. She had soft brown hair which fell in waves around her heart shaped face and her eyes were large and green. She startled to see me, as if she hadn’t expected me, but then she smiled softly and laughed.

“Captain James Hook,” she said. “Welcome to the Black Castle. I’m afraid you and your men are surrounded.”

If I had not been so astounded at the sight before me, I would have had the presence of mind to rush forward and put my blade to her throat, but as it was, I was completely surprised and suddenly felt the point of a blade against my own throat. I scowled miserably, which was very uncomfortable for my Adam’s apple scraped on the blade at my throat.

My men, the useless rogues that they are, were brought into the room, each one held captive by a woman wielding a very sharp knife to their throats. Incompetent cowards!

I knew I could escape at any moment, for the blade held to my throat was held there tentatively, not with the force I would have given it, indeed the blade had not even broken skin, however I was interested in finding out who these women were and why they felt compelled to vex me so and so I went along with them.

Standing on a very gorgeous Turkish carpet before the desk, I looked defiantly at the leader of the despicable Amazons. She rose from her seat behind the desk and walked over to lean back on the desk, cross her arms over her chest and look up at me.

I will confess to you, my loyal readers, and only to you that at that second a tingle of fear trickled down my spine, or was it excitement? At that point I thought it was fear, but on retrospection I wonder. You see, I recognized her at the moment she looked into my eyes.

In spite of having a knife at my throat and the chance that any movement from my Adam’s apple would be detrimental to the wholeness of the skin on my throat I had to speak.

“I see you have returned,” I croaked, feeling the blade cold against my throat. “It’s always a pleasure, Wendy Darling.”

She laughed.

“Call me Red Handed Jill,” she said. “I’ve been dying to see you.”

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Chapter Nine

"Has it really been that long?," I asked as I held my crystal champagne glass up to the light. "It's extraordinary how time flies."

I was lying back on a settee in Red Handed Jill's headquarters, sipping champagne and reminiscing about the bad old days in Neverland. Red Handed Jill, otherwise known as Wendy Darling, was lying on her own settee similarly equipped with crystal glass filled, as was mine, with the finest champagne pillaging could provide.

She had ordered my men and I released and had provided us with food, drink and the pleasant company of the Amazons she had in her control.

"It's been six years, give or take a month," she responded. "I'm twenty one now."

I lifted a dark brow. "Twenty one? How amusing. All grown up."

"Yes, all grown up," she repeated. "I've been to university, been engaged and left home to live on my own."

"Isn't maturity wonderful?," I mused. "Something Pan will never appreciate. Cretinous stripling that he is."

She sighed. "Yes. I had hoped once...had hoped that he'd grow up for me. I saw how useless that was, didn't I?"

"Indeed you did, clever girl. I suppose you now regret you wasted your 'secret kiss' on him."

"No. The time was right for it. Sometimes secret kisses lead to nowhere," she sighed.

"Yes. I believe I lost my secret kiss to a toothless hag in a small village along the Barbary Coast. Of course she wasn't toothless at the time, although it would have made things much more pleasant if she had been. What a waste of innocence that was, but then that is the story of my life."

"My poor, poor Captain Hook," she laughed.

Yes, I know what you are thinking. Nobody laughs at Captain Hook and lives. My hook almost lashed out on it's own, but I held myself back, kept myself calm. I was enjoying my visit and did not want to interrupt it with bloody murder. That could wait for later. Instead I lifted my left eyebrow and gave her an extremely exasperated look.

"Your poor Captain Hook?," I asked, genuinely amused at her choice of words. She surprised me with her answer, but it was a pleasant enough surprise.

"Yes, mine. I claimed you for my own the first time I saw you in this very castle, upon the ramparts where you were looking for Peter Pan, your sword out and such a happily gleeful smile on your lips, it gave me quite a thrill. You triggered something inside of me, something I realized now was the woman inside the little girl. You were the most masculine man I had ever seen, in spite of the lace and beautifully meticulous embroidery. I was fascinated."

I must say, her words gave me quite a boost of ego. It is always good to hear your own thoughts echoed in an entirely non-sycophantic manner, however I could not let her think she owned me. Nobody owned me and even the suggestion of such put me into such an uproar I could feel my eyes begin to turn red. Murder would follow unless I was appeased.

I gazed down at the floor where my men were cavorting with the women, drinking rum and filling their gobs with delicacies. A thought occurred to me. I was trained in the classics, having had quite an extensive education at Oxford and I knew the story of the Odyssey where Ulysses finds himself on the island where the witch Circe dwells and there his men are turned into pigs. My men were certainly making pigs of themselves. Was this history repeating itself? I cleared my throat and took a sip of champagne before I replied.

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"I do not belong to anyone but myself, pretty Wendy and you would be well advised to remember that," I replied in a terse and tense voice. I lifted my hook where it caught a glint of light streaming through the open window which fell upon the gleaming metal surface and created a tiny shining sun at it's point. "A masculine man does not suffer any claims upon himself or his own and a pirate certainly will take no quarter on the subject."

She let out a soft gasp, but her green eyes shined.

"I only meant." she attempted to amend, "That at that point in my life I became quite fascinated in mature men, most particularly...you. I did not mean to lay claim to you, physically or mentally. Such a thing is quite ludicrous and I would not give it a second thought. I would, of course, have no respect for a man who would allow such a thing."

I nodded, considering forgiving her.

"A man like, perhaps, your own father," I returned.

"Yes! A man who is a perfectly masculine man, but has been cowed by marriage and parenthood. A man who retains the beast within, but pretends that the beast has been tamed. A man who is caged and only sometimes shows his inner beast when the cage is accidentally opened even if for a brief time."

Appeasement is a beautiful thing and at that moment I felt like a lion whose tummy was being rubbed, whose mane was being combed, whose claws were being manicured, whose ears were being scratched. It was a marvelous feeling and I hated it.

"Men!," I shouted as I sat up abruptly throwing my glass of champagne at the window. "Snap to it me hearties! Back to the ship!"

Once along the coast of St. Christopher Island, when we had boarded a merchant vessel and stripped it of it's cargo, then put each person aboard to death in as slow a manner as I could manage, the moans of complete desperation assaulted my ears and gave me a momentary twinge of conscience. It was so then as my men rose from the arms of their captors and stood to attention. God bless them though, each and every one of them obeyed me even though the last thing they wanted was to obey that unwelcome command.

"I see," said Wendy. I refuse to call her Red Handed Jill in the circumstances described. "Then we'll give you safe passage until you reach your ship, but after that you can consider us at war!"

"War!," I laughed. "There are seven of you and over thirty of us. It's not war, my pretty, it's a tea party!"

"We'll see," she said smugly. I wondered at that. Had I miscounted? No, there were only seven of them, unless there were some hidden, but I doubted that for if it was their ship which came to such a disastrous end on the reefs, then there was not room for more than fifteen and the weight of the chest which we removed would take up the weight of three of them.

Since she had offered safe passage we were bound by oath not to attack as we exited and so we sheathed our weapons.

I turned to Wendy, took off my hat and bowed with a flourish.

"Until we meet again, Miss Darling," I said just to enrage her by using her non-pirate name.

I believe there is hope for that girl, her eyes had turned a fiery shade of red as I turned to leave, almost matching mine when I am in a killing rage. Good girl, Red Handed Jill. Good girl.

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Chapter Ten

“You say the monster lives in a cave, Hakim?”, I inquired.

“Aye, Capitaine! Ze cave near where ze cannibals live, high on a cliff over ze cannibal lagoon. We could not reach ze cave, Capitaine, it was too high, but we saw ze monster, he go inside. Mon Dieu! He was as large as four of us put together, Capitaine, It right gave me a fright, it did.”

I had long since forgiven Hakim for being French and so my hook was quite still as I listened to his report, even though my nostrils were flaring with annoyance at his accent.

I had dismissed any thoughts of instigating action against Miss Darling and her followers, simply because, after all, they are only girls. Instead, I concentrated on finding the gargantuan who had murdered my nemesis, the giant crocodile.

“Well, we’ll just have to bombard it with cannon fire,” I stated, coming to the obvious conclusion. “Men, ready the sails, we’re bound for Cannibal Lagoon!”

Surprisingly, the cannibals had never peaked my interest at all and lived quite a peaceful life on the southwest part of the main island, their small village nested in a hollow near the gorgeous blue lagoon where they send out their hollowed out canoes to fish. I never could see the joy in eating one’s fellow human beings. I had always found the meat much too stringy, but these people enjoyed a good long pig roast at least once a year. Indeed, they had an annual long pig roast where they killed and ate a member of their tribe who they had selected during the last roast and fattened during the year so that the feast might be much more pleasant and plentiful. This person was treated like a god throughout the year and always given the best of the food, the finest hut and their choice of either female or male companionship depending on their wishes.

Luckily, the savages were quite frightened of me, my ship and my men and so when we sailed into the lagoon, the fishing boats made a mad dash for shore and cannibals ran screaming from them, abandoning their canoes and their catch so that the canoes drifted away and dotted the lagoon like so much driftwood.

“Ready the portside cannons!,” I commanded. Hakim had pointed the cave out to me and I had calculated the trajectory. It was a simple shot and so I was quite confident when I shouted out the coordinates.

I had always been quite good at figures at Oxford and so I felt no surprise whatsoever when the round shot hit the cave entrance squarely and accurately, blasting the entrance to smithereens and sending rocks, trees and other various debris raining down upon the cannibal village below. We laughed to see the savages running to and fro, their arms waving over their heads, and entreating their gods not to destroy them, but some of the men’s laughter froze in their throats when through the shattered remains of the cave entrance emerged the giant figure of a man.

He stood, from what I could calculate from where I watched, at least forty feet high. He was, surprisingly, dressed in normal attire and wore an enormous pair of hobnail boots.

“Ready the cannon again, men!,” I shouted, grabbing hold of the poop deck railing with my hand. However, the giant moved much faster than I had thought he could and was already scrambling down the cliffside, rappelling quickly, using the strongest of trees to grab as he descended. The disturbance was deafening for a short time; animals roared, birds screeched, cannibals screamed and trees flew through the air like so much fairy dust.

I laughed a delighted laugh. This was wonderfully amusing.

“Leave hold the cannons, men! Sail her to the middle of the lagoon. Quickly, or I’ll gut each and every one of you!”, I commanded.

The men snapped to and soon The Jolly Roger was in the center of the lagoon where the water was quite a good deal deeper than it was closer to the shore.

“Prepare to sail ho to sea!,” I added, watching as the giant jumped down and landed, his gigantic boots plowing into the sand, quaking the ground and leaving craters behind. He was amazingly quick and lithe. I pondered it for a moment. I had always imagined that a giant would move more slowly than your average man, but then I thought upon how quickly the giant crocodile had always moved and nodded to myself. Apparently size had no relation to quickness, at least not here in Neverland. How fascinating.

“Captain!,” screamed Barnaby. “Here’s yer pistol!”

Barnaby, good man that he is, had handed me my pistol, loaded and cleaned.

“Thank you, Barnaby,” I said. I had one eye on the channel to the open sea and one eye on the giant who was now screaming wordlessly at the top of his lungs, making the very air shake with sonic annoyance. The cannibals had disappeared as had the wildlife both on land and in the lagoon. I could feel the fish swimming frantically in giant schools out to sea to take their chances with the sharks. The giant now stood at the edge of the water, a small grass hut attached to the bottom of his left sole, and shook his fists and bellowed with anger.

“Hail there, giant one!,” I shouted over the water to him.

He bellowed once again, and the sails of the Jolly Roger were filled with wind and that helped us sail with even more surety to the channel and thence to the open sea.

There was one intense moment when the giant screamed once more in rage and entered the lagoon to try and pummel The Jolly Roger with his fists, but it was all in vain, as I knew it would be, for the lagoon was deeper than he was tall and giants can’t swim. Thus, he stood up to his black whiskers in blue water raging and splashing, furthering our impetus toward the open sea by creating lovely waves.

I was so amused, I ordered an extra ration of rum for the men and a half a day’s rest. We anchored at a safe distance from Cannibal Lagoon close to the red coral reef where colorful fish swam happily in the beautiful blue water.

It was no wonder I felt so at home upon the sea, for the smell of the salt air and the sight of an empty horizon were two of the most pleasant sensations one could experience.

I lay back on the ornate chair the men had placed on the poop deck for me and lifted my spyglass to my eye. The chaos we had caused in Cannibal Lagoon was still a vast source of amusement to me and my men. The giant had taken to tossing large boulders toward us from the most prominent outcropping in the lagoon. He railed and screamed and threw boulders, but we were beyond his reach and the boulders splashed ineffectively into the sea between us and him causing some consternation amongst the mermaids, but that only increased my pleasure.

As the giant raged and the cannibals scurried I ordered the men to bring the treasure on deck so that I could distribute it. There was such a cry of joy aboard ship at that command that I almost gutted Barnaby in annoyance.

And so as I watched the giant tire and return to dig out his cave, I distributed the wealth.

Once a rumor came drifting over the open sea to me about myself, something about how cruel and mean tempered I was and how I lashed out in anger for the slightest of infractions. I even heard once that I was a cold blooded murderer. These rumors are unfounded, of course, for everyone I had ever slain had deserved it. I’m sure you would agree. However, along with those rumors there was the rumor that I was the most generous captain on the high seas and that any crew member who lived through his association with me would emerge richer beyond his wildest dreams. This rumor is true. I take care of my men and do not stint on their rewards and so soon the men were all cavorting on deck covered in jewels and pearls, their pockets stuffed with doubloons and their bellies filled with a very good grade of rum from Haiti. They were all rich men and as soon as we returned to the real world they could spend their riches on gambling, drinking and women, or retire to the countryside and become gentlemen, which really amounts to the same thing in the end.

However, our happiness came to an abrupt end when suddenly the ship began to rock quite severely, as if we were in the middle of a violent storm.

“Begads! All hands make secure!,” I shouted, hanging onto my chair which had been firmly bolted to the deck. The first thing the crew secured was their treasure and then they set their minds on the problem before them. I could see nothing to cause our rocking. The skies were as blue as periwinkles and the sea was as calm as a public park pond and yet the ship continued to roll back and forth like a mad rocking horse ridden by a child who had consumed too much sugar. What was causing this? My mind raced. Then, as I dug my hook into the mast before me to anchor myself securely, my eyes happened upon the anchor chain. It was so taught that I could see the links bending as they strained. A chill went down my spine in spite of the warm temperature. Something had hold of our anchor, something large. What were my choices? Whatever had hold of the anchor was very deep underwater and inaccessible by harpoons or any of the weapons we had aboard ship. If it kept hold of the anchor and continued to shake the ship, we’d be shaken to pieces or pulled down into the depths below. If I left hold of the anchor, we’d go adrift.

“Man the oars!,” I commanded. Going adrift seemed my best option. The men would have to row. “Cut loose the anchor!”

The men scrambled to obey, but it was hard going. The ship was shaking and rocking and rolling. Men were shouting and trying to catch hold of anything they could. Some got twisted in the ropes and some plummeted overboard all checking their jewels as they went. I had to take matters into my own hand and so I made my way to the anchor wheel and with a strong heave, I released the anchor. At last, when the anchor was loosed, the ship rocked once again in protest, then swayed dangerously and sped backward until it stopped near the rocky shore to the north of the lagoon, where it gave one final shake and then became quite still.

“Row you swabs! Row!,” I screamed seeing that we were beginning to drift toward the rocks.

They rowed furiously and frantically, their muscles straining to pull the ship away from the rocks. God bless them, they are good men for the ship pulled away from the rocks, not even touching her hull once and we found ourselves drifting almost calmly, but surely out further to sea.

“Barnaby! Take a fathom reading!,” I demanded. “Itchy, prepare the spare anchor!”

Well, of course we had a spare anchor. I wasn’t the most successful pirate captain on the seven seas without reason. I only hoped the spare anchor, which was smaller than the one we had just lost had a long enough chain.

Blessed relief, the fathom reading was satisfactory and the spare anchor was lowered and I was in control of The Jolly Roger once again. It took the rest of the afternoon to tidy the ship and to retrieve those men who had been shaken overboard, but by the time the sun was setting, we were secure once more and had not lost a single man.

It only remained to find out what sort of creature had taken our anchor like bait on a hook. I assembled the men and we conferred under the beautiful clear starry night. Generous to a fault, I allowed the men another ration of rum as we assembled and had Barnaby open another bottle of champagne for myself.

“Did any one of you see what took our anchor?,” I asked. I was feeling generous for some odd reason, although normally I would have been in a killing rage because of the loss of my anchor, for it had been with me and my ship since I first stole her.

They all shook their heads and frowned.

“I will, of course, deduct the cost of the anchor from your next pay,” I added casually. Anchors were quite costly and so the crew moaned piteously at that statement, but none dared protest for my hook was newly sharpened.

“Capt’n!,” shouted boatswain Heddings. “I fink I saw sumefink when I was overboard, but I doesn’t knows what it were.”

“Do illuminate me, Heddings,” I answered. I was tempted to force the men to take elocution and grammar lessons, but decided it would be much too cruel.

“What’s that, Capt’n?,” he returned cretinously.

I leaned forward and sighed.

“Tell me about it,” I amended.

“Wull, when I wuz flailin around inna water, tryin ta save me loife, I saw sumefink down where the anchor went, sumefink sortay knobbly.”

“Sortay knobbly?,” I inquired, dipping my head to Barnaby for a translation.

“Captain, Sir. He says that when he was swimming deep in the water, trying to save his life, he saw something down below, something that had a knobbly texture.”

“Ah, I see,” I said. “Heddings, what else can you tell me about this..er...knobbly creature?”

“Wull, Capt’n. It wuz big, loike BIG! Loike HUGE! Looked ter me loike ....wull, loike you know when yer crackin that crab leg anticpatin’ a noice juicy piece a crab meat, or when yer crackin’ a lobster in two and ya run yer fingers over the shell...loike that, Capt’n.”

Heddings nodded enthusiastically and licked his fingers in remembrance of melted butter.

“Hmmm, “ I mused. “Then we are dealing with a crab or lobster of unusually large proportion.” Perhaps it was Hedding’s description, but I was beginning to feel a bit peckish. “Well, I think that in our future, gentlemen, is a feast beyond all proportion. Imagine what meat there is inside of that thing? I wonder if we could find a pot big enough to boil it in? Cookie! You are now officially on alert. I want some seafood!”

The men cheered as Cookie stood and brandished his favorite saucepan and we satisfied ourselves with normally proportioned lobster for dinner that evening, but kept close watch on our spare anchor.

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Chapter Eleven:

As I lay in my comfortable bed, musing on what a wonderful meal Cookie had prepared for me the night before, I heard the sound of rain pelting the stained glass windows of my cabin. Rain. It never rains in Neverland, not unless Pan has decided to make it rain and he is always so dreadfully cheerful, all we get is sunny skies and the clearest of starry nights. My, my, I wondered, what could have put Pan in such a state to make it rain? Whatever it was, just the thought of that miscreant feeling poorly cheered me.

“Barnaby!,” I shouted as I rose, pushing my red silk sheets away and putting my bare feet to the floor. “Report!”

Barnaby entered my cabin holding my shaving kit and my ivory double cigar holder which he had cleaned and armed with two very fine hand rolled cigars from the Dominicans. Good man, Barnaby, he always knew what I needed.

“Captain! It’s raining, Sir. The rain is heavy, but it’s not gale force and it remains warm. It seems like a good steady rain Captain, nothing to worry about.”

“Ah, that is good, but have the men keep their eyes open and their noses to the wind,” I answered. I hated rain for it always presaged nasty weather and nasty weather is something a pirate cannot abide for it leads to high winds, hard work and possible fatality.

“Yes, Captain! Time for your shave,” answered Barnaby smartly.

I reached for the coffee which Cookie had sent and took a sip before I sat down so that Barnaby could give me my shave. Always very aware of my appearance, I did not like to look in the least bit unkempt in front of my men and especially in front of my enemies and so I made sure I had a thorough shave every other morning at least.

“Barnaby, do trim my mustache well this time, the last time there were a few hairs out of place,” I remarked.

“Yes, Captain! Trim and fit, trim and fit,” he replied, but the last word he said came out rather clipped as if something had cut him off in mid-pronunciation. I had raised my hook to give him an encouraging gesture and that is what had stopped him from finishing his last word. I had not put my harness on yet and so my amputation was apparent. The sight of my handless arm had made the man hesitate. I lifted my arm and turned it so that he could see the full effect of it. The wound had healed well, for I was and am a very healthy man, but it had been a horrendous trial. The blood did not want to stop and it had spurted everywhere as I screamed at Pan. Pan only laughed like the villain he really is and I had been forced to withdraw from the fight and seek medical attention. The grievous wound had healed, but not before putting me in such a state of fever for several weeks that everyone despaired of my life. The amputation left a pinkish stump where the tips of the bones of my arm could clearly be seen through the skin which had grown to cover the wound. It was not a pretty sight.

“Yes, “ I said, looking at Barnaby’s now pale face. “This is what Pan did to me. A childish prank he called it...and people think he is such a hero.”

Barnaby shuddered.

“It’s a terrible sin, Captain. That boy needs to take responsibility for his actions,” responded Barnaby with a tear in his eye.

“Indeed, Barnaby. Indeed. What are laws for?”

“I don’t know Capt’n, I never took much interest in them.”

“Good man, Barnaby, good man.”

Barnaby took great care in my shave and when he was done I was as trim and perfect as if I had visited the finest barber in Fleet street. After Barnaby left, I relaxed, lighting the two cigars in my holder and leaned back to enjoy the breakfast Cookie had sent along with my coffee. I sighed in contentment, for relaxing in one’s own cabin inside of one’s own ship is one of the most perfect pleasures a pirate can experience. Truly, it’s right up there with executions, accidental kills and corporal punishments. I considered the last few days and wondered what the connection was between the giant man, Mr. Hobnails, and the giant lobster or crab that had tried to scupper my ship. Were they connected to the giant crocodile at all and if so, why did Mr. Hobnails kill the nasty beast? Both were unnaturally large specimens of normal things. The rain pelting against the windows reminded me, however, that I should set to and go harass the men so that they wouldn’t think I had deserted them. Therefore, in that light, I rose to dress. However, confoundedly, as I had finished strapping on my hook, Barnaby knocked and then entered my cabin once more.

“Capt’n, there’s a contingent of...er...ladies...asking permission to come aboard,” he said with a mad glint in his eye.

“Ladies? Well, well,” I responded, thinking of all the wonderful possibilities that word conjured in my mind. “Ladies? Oh, but you can’t mean Red Handed Jill and her Amazons, can you?”

“Aye, Captain, that’s who I mean,” said Barnaby.

“Ladies, indeed,” I scoffed. “Permission denied.”

“Denied, Captain?,” asked Barnaby, a stricken look on his face.

“Denied. Snap to it, man!,” I added and turned to put my shirt on.

“Oh, but Captain, can you really deny me?,” Barnaby asked in an oddly feminine voice. I turned, prepared to gut him for his insolence but there stood Red Handed Jill with Barnaby behind her looking quite astonished.

I was shocked, appalled and astounded. She stood there as bold as brass as if she wasn’t in dire danger of losing everything she held dear. Her left hand was placed saucily upon her left hip, the effect producing the image of a rather dainty pirate indeed, but a pirate in a skirt.

“Red Handed Jill. I am not dressed,” I remarked giving her a sneery smile.

“I can see that,” she answered with a sense of glee.

I had not managed to put my shirt on yet and I wore only my harness and hook and my breeches. Such uncivilized behavior from her could only mean that she was indeed training to be a pirate.

“Barnaby, you can go,” I ordered and watched as Barnaby grinned and left my cabin, closing the door tightly behind him.

Red Handed Jill looked around my cabin with an interested eye, then took a step toward me.

“Nice place you’ve got here, “ she said. “I love what you’ve done with it.”

“Ah..well. It’s all plunder, of course,” I replied, waving my hand toward the harpsichord, the statues, the fine furniture and the beautiful four poster bed from which I had salvaged from a sinking merchant vessel just last month.

“Of course,” she agreed, taking another step toward me.

I lifted my hook slightly in defense, just in case, and contemplated what punishments I would dole out to my men for having allowed her aboard without my permission.

“I only keep the best,” I said cautiously.

“Yes, I can see. You are a discerning man,” she acknowledged, taking yet another step closer.

“I am, “ I said, because I am. “Do you wish to parley?”

“Yes, if you’d like,” she responded.

I was puzzled. If I like? What has it got to do with me? I had no wish to parley, it was not my idea at all. Then a sudden thought came to me and I felt myself stand up taller, my shoulders became much straighter and my chin rose.

“It’s raining,” I stated.

“Yes, it is. I love the rain.”

“Spoken like the land lubber you are, Miss Darling,” I snapped. No pirate likes the rain.

She looked momentarily hurt and the color rose to her cheeks making them a very lovely shade of rose.

“I..I like walking in the rain,” she continued much to my dismay.

“Why is it raining, Miss Darling?,” I asked pointedly.

“I don’t know. Maybe we need the rain..maybe the plants are parched.”

I laughed, thought of reaching for my shirt and then decided against it.

“Bah! Neverland does not need rain. It only rains when Pan is feeling depressed. Why is he depressed Miss Darling? Have you paid him a visit perhaps?”

“Well, yes. I went to see him for old time’s sake,” she responded. She wiped a tear away from her eye. “He...he had a tantrum and so I left.”

“A tantrum? Perfect. You know what that means, don’t you? Pan is a child Miss Darling, still a child, and so he will seek me out to abuse so that he can feel better about himself. Scapegoat Hook, that’s what I am!”

“Oh no! He wouldn’t,” she cried.

“Oh, yes, he would,” I amended.

“But he can’t,” she said slyly. “I locked him inside of a tree trunk.”

“Did you?,” I asked, incredulous.

“I did,” she admitted.

“Clever girl.”

She took another step toward me and now she was so close I could see myself reflected in her eyes.

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“It will take him hours to escape,” she said softly. “Perhaps even longer.”

I nodded. Being a man of the world, I knew where this conversation was going and although I was quite thrilled about it, I had to wonder if it was the best move under the circumstances. I had my reputation to consider after all.

So, when she took that final step forward and wrapped her arms around me in preface to kissing me until my toes curled, I stopped her with a finger to her lips.

“You must scream a lot, Wendy darling, or the men will think I haven’t taken you by force.”

She laughed softly and placed a hand on the small of my back.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she said, “I’m quite sure you’ll make me howl.”

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Chapter Twelve

It had been quite pleasant to lie in bed all morning as the rain pelted down from the skies upon my ship and beat upon my windows. Even I, who hated the rain, felt almost comfortable in it’s presence and so I stretched out languidly and yawned, thinking of what Cookie might have in store for lunch as I was feeling quite peckish after this morning’s exertions.

“Ouch!,” came a cry from underneath my red satin sheets.

I had not removed my hook when I retired to my bed that morning for I did not want to scare dear Wendy away and I had apparently inadvertently just prodded her with it.

“Ah, forgive me,” I said. “I forgot you were here.”

“WHAT?,” she cried, sitting up quite abruptly and giving me cause to grin for she looked quite fetching. “Forgot I was here? After what we just...after I...after you.....FORGOT?”

“Hush now, Wendy Darling, you’ll wake the bosun,” I warned her. “You’re not scratched are you? I’d hate to see that lovely ivory skin marred in any way.”

I am quite a good liar, in fact I have lied all of my life and so she had no idea that one of my fondest leisure time activities is to slowly slice ivory skin, or any sort of skin for that matter, and watch it bleed. However, there is something aesthetically pleasing about fresh red blood on ivory skin. One of my favorites, in fact.

“No. No, I’m fine, but you did manage to poke me rather painfully,” she replied rubbing a part of her anatomy, which as a gentleman, I cannot name.

“Good. I so hate things that are marred in any way. One fine day last year along the coast of St. Anthony Island I pillaged a lovely golden statue of Athena holding a wild boar in her arms from a small clipper, but the statue was scratched as I tossed it into my trunk and so I had it melted down and made into spoons.”

She gave me an odd look as if she did not understand my words and then dived back down underneath the sheets. I waited, propped back on my best brocade pillows, but I waited in vain.

“Wendy?,” I inquired.

There was no answer. Had she fallen asleep? For several seconds I contemplated the punishments I could command for her insolence, but soon I noticed that the slim red satin mound that was Wendy was shaking. Ah, she was afraid. Excellent.

“Wendy?, I repeated.

“Would you melt me down into spoons?,” she asked, spouting huge glistening tears from her eyes.

How dreadfully annoying. How ridiculously juvenile. How detestably female! I sighed a deep sigh for her tears were staining my satin sheets, but then I laughed to myself, the sheets had already been shredded by my hook as we enjoyed ourselves that morning and they were only so many rags now.

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“My dear Wendy, you’re not made of gold,” I laughed.

For some odd reason, entirely unknown to me, my logical statement made her cry even louder. Upon reflection, however, I thought that I was beginning to understand the source of her distress. She was nervous about her new duties as Captain’s Wench, it was quite obvious to me.

“Wendy, darling, there is no need to cry. I will gladly explain your new duties. Do not feel badly. All you need is to be trained up a bit, that’s all,” I explained calmly.

“T...t...t...t..t...t...t...t...t...trained?,” she replied in a squeaky voice full of choked back tears.

“Of course!“ I replied jovially. “How can you expect to know the various specific tasks the Captain’s Wench must fulfill. Silly of you to think that just because you’re a female, that you would automatically know exactly what your responsibilities will be. It is true you instinctively will know some of the things you will be required to do, but some things are better learned than left to instinct. All you need is a man’s hand to lead you to the correct path.”

She stopped crying immediately and I knew she was grateful for my explanation of her new role here in Neverland. However, to my surprise, she threw back the shredded sheets and glared angrily at me. Her eyes were quite red, but she did look rather comely even with her fists clenched since she was still quite bereft of any clothing at all.

“I will NOT be your WENCH!,” she shrieked.

Well, how annoying of her not to understand the intricacies of the rules of the great brotherhood of buccaneers, but what can you expect from a wench? I watched with an amused look on my face as she began to run about the room gathering her clothing, some of which she found as shredded as the sheets, and began to dress as she shouted epitaphs which I never thought could possibly be pronounced by a woman.

Calmly, I slid out of bed and put on my breeches. It was nearing time for the midday meal and I was still quite peckish.

“Wendy,” I attempted, “You’ve already passed the audition, no need to fret.”

She let out a very loud and unintelligible shriek. Really, girls are much too emotional. I forgave her however, for she still looked quite lovely even half dressed and clutching her chemise to her chest. I’m quite the sentimental man when it comes to a hysterical half dressed woman shrieking in my cabin and so a tear came to my eye at the sight of her. I make no defense, I did not still her shrieking with my hook which I could quite easily have done and as a bonus, enjoyed both the sight of red blood on ivory skin and red blood on white linen. Instead, kind man that I am, I hooked the pair of French silk knickers which hung from my bedpost and offered them to her.

“I believe you will need these, “ I said, knowing that the pair she had been wearing were shredded into tiny ribbons.

“My knickers!,” she shouted. “How did you get...Where....?”

One of the most annoying things about Miss Darling is that she sometimes does not complete her sentences, even abandoning them to begin yet another sentence. Apparently, she had not attended a well rated university.

“They were kindly cushioning a very large and well stocked chest of valuable goods,” I explained, giving the knickers a bit of a flip.

“MY BOOTY!,” she screamed.

“Ah, not anymore,” I replied with a soft laugh.

“Arrrgggghhhhh!,” she shouted then grabbed the knickers, pulled them on and stomped to the door. “And don’t call me Wendy!”

Women. When will they come to their senses? I watched as she stomped down the stairs and screamed for her followers. Half dressed women emerged from various places on my ship, all scrambling to obey their leader’s orders and following them came my men all looking like cats who have swallowed canaries.

“Men!,” I shouted, “Do be gentlemen and help the ladies to their boat. Barnaby, get your hands off of that wench and drop the boarding ropes! Itchy! Itchy...for god’s sake man, let her have that corset!”

Yes, it’s true that I was feeling very generous that day for as a true pirate I could have forced those women to stay aboard my ship and to serve us as wenches whenever we so should choose and to kill them if they disobeyed, but it amused me to give them their freedom. Was Hook going soft? No, I assure you I wasn’t. I knew that there were more delights than the finite delights of torture, defilement and murder and I was quite looking forward to them when Miss Darling did finally come to her senses and join my crew as Captain’s Wench.

It took the men hours to calm down after the Amazons left my ship so I took the time to enjoy the gorgeous feast Cookie had prepared for my midday repast and to go over the ship’s log whilst enjoying a large mug of barbados rum.

So far we had encountered mermaids, a giant lobster or crab, females pretending to be pirates, a giant man wearing hobnail boots and an amazingly nearly absent Peter Pan.

Peter Pan. He must be still depressed for the rain fell from the leaden sky like the tears fell from Wendy’s eyes this morning. I thought about leading the men on a raid to find the brat while he was feeling so low and to rid Neverland of his presence forever. That happy thought occupied my time for a bit, but then it came to me....what if I did manage to kill Pan? Would Neverland be destroyed? Would everything in Neverland cease to exist, even me? That thought did give me pause. Wisely, I decided to let Pan be for the moment until I had found the answer to my disturbing question.

Next came Mr. Hobnail in my thoughts. Where had that giant come from and why was he dressed in breeches, shirt and boots? Why had he killed the giant crocodile? I knew it had been him from the evidence of the footprints in the sand and the gigantic spear which had pinned the croc to the beach. The gigantic spear. I blinked. Where had I seen another gigantic spear? One had been embedded in my mainmast, that was where, and attached to it was the challenge which I now knew came from Red Handed Jill. First Blood.

So, Mr. Hobnail was in cahoots with Red Handed Jill I surmised. How very interesting and enlightening.

“Men!,” I ordered, standing at the wet slick wheel of my ship. “We sail for Cannibal Cove!”

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Chapter Thirteen

I felt quite refreshed as I stepped out onto the deck and took the wheel. Wendy’s visit had rejuvenated me and given me a sense of optimism which I had felt had slipped from me in the last few days. This afternoon I wore my blue silk coat, hat and breeches which Barnaby told me made my eyes sparkle. I truly believe it had been the sight of Wendy’s lovely ivory skin against my red satin sheets which had put that sparkle in my eye, but I decided not to argue, for Barnaby had a certain dazed look about him after the Amazons had left my ship and which I was loathe to carve off of his face. I suspect he had taken up with one of Red Handed Jill’s female pirate lasses and was feeling nearly as satisfied as I was.

“Half sail!,” I demanded. I did not want to enter Cannibal Cove in a hurry, indeed I was beginning to think that a sense of stealth might be required if we were to have a chance of parleying with Mr. Hobnails.

It was still raining, much to my disgust, and Barnaby was having a difficult time holding the large canvas umbrella over my head steady in the slight wind that had arisen. It was quite marvelous to know that Pan was feeling so badly, but if his misery caused the rain to ruin my blue silk hat, coat and breeches, I’d have his heart for an inkwell. I watched the men as we sailed around the southern peninsula and was quite pleased to see that they were all as eager as Barnaby to do my bidding for they had realized that I was the most generous Captain they had ever seen and will ever see and that I alone had been responsible for the visit we had just had from the female population of Neverland and even though I knew some of the men felt slightly surly because I did not detain the ladies onboard, I also knew they respected my decisions. They had better for my hook is always good and sharp.

It was much to the credit of the Amazons that my men barely acknowledged the songs of the mermaids as we entered the cove, treating those normally enticing, entrancing and mesmerizing keens like just so much fishy chatter.

“Captain, Sir!,” shouted Barnaby with a grunt. “Look at the savages, Sir!”

I took my spyglass and lifted it then pointed it to where Barnaby was indicating by sticking his chin out for both of his hands were quite busy holding my umbrella steady.

What I saw did not surprise me, but it gave me a moment’s hesitation. The cannibals were all standing together in the center of their small village, each one dressed in war paint and holding very long and sharp obsidian tipped spears. They were having a discussion, their chalk painted lips moving excitedly as they scratched their ash caked heads and gnashed their sharpened teeth. I wondered at how marvelously dangerous they looked and that their war paint was not washing off in the rain.

“Load the port side cannons, Barnaby!,” I commanded, determined to be ready for any hostile action the cannibals may take upon my ship. I was struggling with a dilemma. Should I blast them into smithereens just for the joy of it or should I wait and see what they were up to? I had never had any hostilities with the cannibals before and had always thought them rather like-minded folks, but if they were suddenly taking up arms then I had to be ready. I had no intention of becoming a succulent sunday roast.

The men scrambled to obey Barnaby’s direction and just as The Jolly Roger reached the center of the lagoon the port side cannons were loaded and ready to fire. But then, as I watched, the cannibals as one, raised their spears into the air, screamed a loud war cry and ran to the cliff below the entrance to Mr. Hobnail’s cave. They then began rappelling quickly up the small trees which still clung to the cliff after the Giant’s descent of the previous day.

My word, I thought, blinking in astonishment. They are going to eat him. What an irresistible prospect he must represent to them, a gigantic feast of huge proportions Their only dilemma, as mine was when musing on the cooking of the giant lobster or crab, was what to cook such a gigantic thing inside? I am sure their small iron kettle which they had stolen from the Indians and which they traditionally cooked their meals inside would not suffice. Perhaps they were going to suspend him over the crater of the volcano or chop him into manageable bits. One of his fingers alone would feed them all for days. I laughed a gloriously joyful laugh for I had to admire their courage and their appetite.

I so wanted to see the cannibals slice and cook Mr. Hobnails, it would give me no end of amusement and so I ordered Itchy to erect a small pavilion for me on the main deck where I could observe the action, have a nice snack and stay dry in the now down pouring rain. How dismal of Pan not to think of anyone else’s comfort in his misery. As I settled in the upholstered chair Itchy had nailed down for me and reached for a large slice of roast beef, I hoped that Pan would suffer more heartbreak.

Almost perfectly on cue, as I thought of Pan’s heartache, a small vessel sailed into the lagoon and at it’s wheel was none other than Red Handed Jill. Her female pirate crew was on deck, all waving cutlasses and pistols. It seemed they were headed for land and I laughed to see that their vessel was small enough to gain a space quite near the shore, allowing them to jump over the side and wade their way to the sandy beach. We watched, astonished, as the Amazons ran to the cliff and began shooting their pistols and waving their cutlasses at the cannibals causing several of the unfortunate souls to plummet quite quickly to the earth and leave their last impression in the sand below.

I could barely see through the tears of laughter which were filling my eyes, but I managed to triangulate the position of Red Handed Jill’s small ship and was just going to give the order to fire when Mr. Hobnails emerged from the entrance to his newly repaired cave and roared so loudly it sent my ship back several yards and ruined my calculation.

“Blast it!,” I cried in frustration and immediately countered with new coordinates. Unfortunately and to his subsequent near fatality, chief gunner Blake took my words as words of command and ordered the men to fire the cannons without changing my corrected coordinates. The cannons blasted and the round shot fell several feet short of Red Handed Jill’s small vessel, but did cause a slight ruckus in the coral fish population.

Since the sound of the cannons halted everyone’s progress for several seconds, I decided that I needed to take much more immediate action.

“Men! Weapons ready and man the longboats! I want to go ashore.”

“B..b..b...but Capt’n! There’s a Giant and cannibals and wenches with cutlasses!,” declared Itchy. “I sorely do feel a wee mite nervous about all that!”

Unfortunately, Itchy was once more out of my reach and so I could have no satisfaction from gutting him and so I put that happy thought to the bottom of my list and boarded the longboat which Barnaby had rigged with a red canvas canopy so that my blue silk hat would not get stained from the rain. I had my pistol ready and my sword at my side and an entire longboat full of cut throats and so I was feeling very positive about the future as the men rowed us ashore.

Red Handed Jill was not in sight, but many of her female lackeys were attempting to climb the cliff while others stood at the bottom guarding their compatriot’s progress by waving loaded pistols in the air in a most haphazard manner.

How amusing I thought as I leapt from the longboat and onto the white sand, hardly getting my boots wet at all. Barnaby had a rather rougher time of it as he had to jump while holding my umbrella over my head and wield his sword to protect me from any insidious and sneaky enemies.

I strolled over to the cliff where Red Handed Jill’s cohorts were standing, and listened to the beautiful sound of black powder being triggered and iron bullets flying through the air past me. I knew I was not going to be hit, for after all, these were only girls and their sense of aim was not only inferior to the average man’s but also quite inexperienced. Besides, I had experienced a dream the night before which showed me that I would not die in Neverland. Barnaby screamed once when a bullet hit his hat and knocked it off, but he was quite silent after that, perhaps because he was quaking so badly in his boots his vocal chords would not cooperate. I would speak to him later about it.

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“Ladies, “ I said, leaning on my ivory headed cane and giving them a charming, if impatient smile. “You’ve ruined my fun. You’ve chased the cannibals completely away and they looked quite hungry. As I am quite disappointed I do believe that you owe me some sort of recompense for my disgruntlement.”

They looked at me. I looked at them. They looked quite enchanting and apparently so did I for most of them lowered their pistols and smiled.

“What would you like us to do for you, Captain Hook, Sir?,” asked one saucy redhead who was wearing a corset which barely covered her bare essentials. How I do love a saucy lass.

“Ah, well,” I answered ready to tell her exactly what she could do for me, but I was rudely interrupted by yet another bellow from that extremely annoying Mr. Hobnails.

“ARRRRRRRRRRR,” the Giant cried causing Barnaby to whimper for the wind from the Giant’s blast had nearly toppled my umbrella, but Barnaby saved it’s collapse by putting his back to it and straining fit to burst.

“YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” the Giant continued. He was standing on the ledge in front of his cave entrance with arms akimbo. I aimed at his left eye with my pistol whilst giving a charming smile to the wenches.

“HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOK?,” he ended.

It was all I could do to control myself, but I managed to lower my pistol, turn away from the wenches and give Barnaby a good swift kick in the ankle. Luckily for him it had stopped raining for the umbrella finally gave a sharp lurch to the left and ended up end up on the sand.

“Ahoy there Giant!,” I shouted. “I am Captain Hook.”

“ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DAAAAAAAFFT?,” replied the Giant, rather stupidly, I thought. How I would enjoy digging for that Giant’s liver. My hook practically screamed for it.

“No, no. I am not daft, Mr. Giant. I would be grateful though if you would tell me why you would ask such a dunderheaded question, especially when I have vast fire power on my ship at my beck and call, to say nothing of more than thirty blood thirsty cut throats who would do anything for their Captain. Also I am not loathe to parley with the cannibals and make an alliance with the hungry savages.”

I was feeling quite parched by all this banter and so I gestured to Barnaby to open a bottle of wine for me as I continued to exchange pleasantries with Mr. Hobnails.

“In fact, “ I continued as I sipped my wine, “My ship’s cannons are aimed directly at you now and even as large as you are, I am sure that at least one cannon shot would strike you quite sorely.”

“PAAAAAAARLEY,” Mr, Hobnails bellowed. A reasonable Giant. How fascinating.

“Yes, parley. What an insufferable man you are James Hook,” said a voice from behind me. I turned, knowing who it was who spoke to me in such a manner without fear for her life. It was Red Handed Jill, of course. My pistol bullet missed her by an inch as I knew it would and she flinched, but did not scream or cry. I knew then and there that she wanted to be my wench more than anything, for how could a mere girl show such courage in the face of certain death?

“Captain James Hook,” I corrected. “How nice. A civilized talk between friends,“ I continued, handing my now empty pistol to Barnaby who was in quite a good deal of trouble for letting Red Handed Jill come up behind me like that yet again. I did not even care that he was presently rolling on the ground clutching his nether parts and screaming like a twelve year old girl because Red Handed Jill had surprised him and given him the benefit of the tip of her boot in his groin. He would be punished.

“Oh, civilized,” Red Handed Jill sneered as she pulled out her sword. “Is it civilized to take a woman for granted? To steal her booty? To..to....shred her knickers?”

My sword pulled from it’s sheathe as if it were riding on a silver cloud as I replied. ”On account, Red Handed Jill,” I laughed. “On account.”

She lunged and I sallied with a repartee, giving her sword blade an extra push so that it made a loud ringing sound as my blade struck it away. She recovered, even though I had gained the upper hand and had made a small slice in the sleeve of her shirt. Her blade shot with a sense of assurance directly through my defense, but I had more than one weapon in hand and easily blocked the blow with my hook. Another lunge from her convinced me that she was quite fast and so I quickly recalibrated my blows to be much stronger and deadlier. I parried the lunge and swiped with my hook, missing her arm but slicing through her shirt. She recovered almost instantly and laughed a delighted laugh, pushing forward with a twist of her wrist and sending her blade toward my throat. It was easily blocked with my hook and this time I had wrenched my arm as my hook came into contact with her blade and it caught the blade and when I wrenched my hook again, her blade snapped off entirely, soared through the air and embedded itself with a thumping sound into the trunk of a coconut tree.

It was not her fault. She was an untrained lady from a middle class English family who thought she could be a pirate because once in her childhood she had been spirited away here to Neverland by a boy she liked and had met me and my band of scalawags and been smitten, by me. I had fought all of my life, including my childhood and was not only an excellent fencer, but was skilled in all manner of ruthless tricks and fighting moves. Moreover, not many living beings had the dubious benefit of an attached hook where their right hand should be which makes an extraordinarily excellent offensive and defensive weapon. I am an intelligently superior fighter or I would never have been able to steal The Jolly Roger, must less keep her and man her with good dastardly villainous, if slightly frightened, men.

It did not help matters that her female lackeys all burst into applause and made encouraging sounds in my direction, sounds of the sort which I had only heard in the deepest and most foul of brothels of Toledo.

I grinned and placed the point of my blade to her long lovely ivory throat.

“Do you wish for quarter?,” I asked politely, a gentleman until her end, but she had no chance to reply and I had no chance to skewer her for I suddenly found myself lifted into the air and held twenty feet above the ground in the fist of the Giant, Mr. Hobnails.

“JIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLL,” the Giant bellowed. My, but his breath was bad. I believe he had been eating giraffes.

“Unhand me, you villain, “ I said. I had read that sentence in a penny novel once and was always on the lookout for a chance to use it.

Can you imagine my frustration when just as I was about to stick my hook into the fleshy part of the Giant’s palm and slice his pinky off with my rapier, he said one word which will usually make a pirate stand and take note.

“RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM, “ he said, laughed and added. “PAAAARLEY.”

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Chapter Fourteen

My dear readers, I cannot explain nor describe to you how I felt when I entered Mr. Hobnail's cave and was confronted with a barrel the size of Westminster Cathedral...a barrel full of rum. Joy? Bliss? Jealousy? Yes, that and more. There was enough rum inside that barrel to satisfy the entire British Navy for a year. Zounds, but it was an emotional moment for me. I did, however, manage to throw back my shoulders and lift my chin with pride as I strolled by it and took the seat offered to me by my host, Mr. Hobnails.

"I hope you're comfortable," said Mr. Hobnails, pulling out a chair for Red Handed Jill. "I made those chairs from some kindling and had to judge the size by eye."

The chair was adequate, that is, it was hard and unwieldy, but I did not have to strain myself to sit in it. Jill, on the other hand looked terribly uncomfortable in her own chair and kept looking at me as if I was going to give her my own more comfortable seat. Silly woman.

Mr. Hobnails sat in his own chair which was so huge I could barely see the top rail of it in the dimness of the light of the cave. He poured us drinks from a ceramic pitcher which could have held the contents of Loch Ness, but instead held an ocean full of rum.

"I'm adequately comfortable," I stated. The mug which he filled for me had sides as thick as my wrist and weighed as much as a small cannon and so I looked at it quite disdainfully.

"Oh, sorry," he said, then lifted both of our full mugs and placed them on the floor next to us so that we might lean over and sip from their wide brims if we had any impetus to do so.

"I have my own vessel, thank you," I told him for I always carried a spare crystal flute in my left pocket. I extracted it, gave Red Handed Jill a wink and dipped it into the massive mug Mr. Hobnails had set down next to me. Truth be told, the rum of which I had a king's ransom worth before me was the best rum I had ever tasted. I lifted my glass to Mr. Hobnails and smiled. "Cheers," I offered, then took a saluting sip in his honor. Red Handed Jill gave a small snort of derision for, as I knew, it was much better etiquette to offer one's toast to any lady present even before the host. Obviously, I did not consider Red Handed Jill a lady and was surprised to see that she thought I should.

"Good, good," said Mr. Hobnails. His voice had become much more calm as we had entered his cave, as if he were loathe to shout and thus burst our eardrums inside this huge, but enclosed dwelling. "Now, since we're all friends and well.....don't wish the cannibals to feast on any of us...."

I gave Red Handed Jill a wry smile at that statement, but let Mr. Hobnails continue.

"...We should introduce ourselves. I am Lemuel Gulliver."

"Gulliver? Surely not, " I replied. "Lemuel Gulliver is a fictitious character invented by a madman. I've read his absurd scratchings. How ridiculous of you to tell us you are Lemuel Gulliver of Jonathan Swift's diseased imagination."

The Giant lifted his eyebrows at that statement and took a very large gulp of rum. When he placed his mug back down on the gigantic table before us, a drop of it splashed onto the floor and flattened a mouse who had been nibbling on a crumb of bread.

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"Have you ever heard of James Barrie?," he asked leaning toward me.

Suspicious, I stalled for time, pursing my lips and making every gesture which implies great thought. Of course I had never heard of James Barrie.

"Was he that boatswain I decapitated off the coast of Haiti?," I inquired, knowing full well that the name of that particularly slow and thin necked dodo was Charley Ingall.

"No," answered the Giant.

I took another sip of rum.

"Perhaps he was the tailor I keel hauled for making my periwinkle blue satin breeches an inch too short?"

"No, he wasn't," replied Mr. Hobnails.

"Ah, then he was perhaps the butcher I...er...butchered for sending me a grizzled beefsteak?"

"No," replied the Giant. "He's a playwright, an author of fantasy tales."

"Fantasy!," I scoffed. The rum was really quite good and was beginning to go to my head. "I have no time for fantasy!"

The Giant leaned back and tapped his fingers on the table which sounded like the entire drum section of the King's military orchestra. I was pleased to see that Red Handed Jill was as puzzled as I by the words of Mr. Gulliver (for that is what I will call him from now on in a vain attempt to humor him).

"Captain Hook, what do you think of this place...Neverland?", the Giant continued waving his huge hand and creating quite a dust devil in the process which lifted Red Handed Jill's lovely ash brown hair and harassed my own long black locks.

"I despise it, sir, " I replied with a sneer. "It is full of........."

"Fictional characters?," Gulliver finished.

Red Handed Jill gave a small gasp and clapped her hand to her mouth.

"No!," I spat. "Mythological creatures. Monsters. Beasts."

"I put it to you, sir, " replied Gulliver giving me quite a serious stare, "That we are all fictional characters...you, me and Jill. We don't really exist."

The man was blazing mad, a lunatic. He had lost leave of his senses.

"Nonsense!," I laughed having another pull of rum from my flute. "I am quite real, sir. Quite real indeed. Ask Red Handed Jill how real I am, she will tell you."

"Yes, he's quite real, Mr. Gulliver. I can vouch for that," Red Handed Jill replied, much to my satisfaction and hers, of course. She really is quite lovely.

"But you yourself aren't real Miss Red Handed, or should I call you Wendy Moira Angela Darling?"

Red Handed Jill nearly fell out of her chair which would have been rather unfortunate for she would have most probably drowned in the same splash of rum which had smashed the unsuspecting mouse earlier.

"How do you know my full name?," she managed to squeak after she had recovered from her near fall.

"It's all here, written in black and white," Gulliver replied brandishing a leather-bound book the size of Bristol City's opera house. "It's a play entitled "Peter Pan" written by James M. Barrie. It tells of a young lady named Wendy Moira Angela Darling who is visited by a boy named Peter Pan and is taken to a place called Neverland where there are pirates, indians and pixies; fairies and cannibals; mermaids and giant crocodiles. She meets the Lost Boys and becomes their mother. She meets the leader of the pirates, a man named James Hook whose hand had been cut off by Peter Pan and fed to the giant crocodile, a man who loves to dress extremely well and has a rather quick temper. Sound at all familiar?"

Red Handed Jill gave a short piercing bark of a laugh and looked at me. I must admit I was quite confused. How had our adventures been witnessed and written down and made into a play to be shown over and over again to the amusement of the mundane? What else had been written in those gigantic pages? For a moment I mulled over the rather risqué publications I had strewn about my cabin with lurid illustrations of extremely unclothed individuals in almost inhuman positions, the publications which I had extricated from a sinking brigantine belonging to the Bishop of Nottingham. How had our exploits that morning been chronicled?

I waved my hook in a gesture of dismissal. "It is all ridiculously absurd, " I stated with a sense of finality. "I am real. I have substance, my hook is sharp and so is my mind."

"His mind is sharp and so is his hook," Red Handed Jill agreed. "And he's really quite yummy."

She was trying very hard to become my wench. I just might let her.

"Yummy, Miss Darling?" inquired the Giant. "You are not a cannibal are you?"

She blushed a deep red, rather like a boiled lobster and cleared her throat then shook her head after lowering it so that her chin rested on her clavicle.

"Er, no," she whispered.

Liar, I thought, but I certainly could not say anything since I am, after all, a gentleman.

Gulliver placed the book on the table and then turned once more to me.

"I put it to you again, Captain Hook. We are all of us, even Neverland itself, fictional illusions."

I looked up at him. He was really quite large. He wore both a serious expression and a pair of gigantic spectacles, the lenses of which were as immense as the rose window at Notre Dame.

"You, sir, as large as you are, are not a figment of my imagination," I told him. "You are as real as this flute of rum I hold in my hand, as substantial as the hook I wear every day. You are as solid and concrete as the stone walls of this cave surrounding us. It is ludicrous to say you are fictional. Frankly, if you were my size, I'd have already gutted you for your insolent comments of dispute upon my veracity and for asking me quite rudely if I was...what did you say? Daft."

Mr. Gulliver shook his head and laughed a soft laugh which assaulted my ears like a thunderstorm.

"Forgive me for that, but I was quite angry you blasted the entrance to my home into pebbles. I had been rather overcome with anger. No, I do not call you a liar, Captain. I only wish to make you understand perhaps something more about Neverland than you have already quite wisely discerned. It is real, indeed it is very real, however it was created in the mind of one man and that man is J.M. Barrie. However, I am uncertain as to whether any of us have real lives outside of Neverland at all."

"But you weren't created by this J.M. Barrie person!," Red Handed Jill expostulated as she crossed her arms stubbornly over her rather luscious breast. "If what you say is true, you were created by Jonathan Swift. And besides, I have a life outside of Neverland. I went back to London and went to university and got engaged."

"Aye, and I woke up outside of Neverland and have been harassing...*ahem*...salvaging ships for the last eight years," I added. "I've salvaged countless ships, defended myself from countless foes, drank countless mugs of rum, had many tailored suits made and have enjoyed myself with a countless number of wenches, all in the real world and not in Neverland. If that does not prove that I am real then nothing will."

Gulliver nodded.

"You both make valid points," he mused scratching his chin with his enormous fingers. "I too remember a life outside of Neverland. It is an odd conundrum, isn't it?"

Odd conundrum or not I was becoming quite tired of the conversation and was wishing both that I could make off with that enormous barrel of rum and that I could convince Red Handed Jill to accompany me back to The Jolly Roger where I could prove to her once more just how substantial I am. With those thoughts in mind, I stood.

"I will take my leave," I told Gulliver. "I will consider this...conundrum, however it really makes hardly any difference whether J.M. Barrie created me or if the great God above did. I am still Captain James Hook and will never be anyone else, may Barrie or God or both forgive me."

"Well said, Sir!," Mr. Gulliver agreed.

As we rode down the cliff in Mr.Gulliver's hat, Red Handed Jill made it quite plain to me that she was going to accompany me to The Jolly Roger and prove to me once again exactly how substantial she was and I could not help but think about what the giant Gulliver had related to us. Truly, I thought that if what he said was true it would mean that every scurvy knave and bumbling fool I had either gutted, hung, keel hauled, decapitated, poisoned, drowned or skewered were not real. The thought made me want to kill something extremely slowly for the idea that those people were all soulless fictional characters would redeem me in the eyes of the Lord, and what fun is that to a villain like me?

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Chapter Fifteen

I sipped my coffee as I watched Wendy sleep and I thought about what Mr. Gulliver had talked about the evening before. Was it true that we were all merely fictional characters created in some penpusher's mind? Are we merely puppets designed to act out plot points and bring dramatic conclusions to bear? Are we at the mercy of some literary sensationalist bent on publication? I couldn't see how it could be at all true. I knew I was real. I was made of flesh and bone. I lived my life through a series of both physical and mental experiences. I had all six senses. I occasionally became ill. I was as human as the next man, if exponentially more intelligent. I was certainly real enough to make love with a woman as the last few hours had just proved. Would a fictional character have such a sense of the sensual? I doubted it. Every novel I had ever read came woefully short of describing the sensations I had just experienced and I knew that Wendy also felt the same way for she was smiling in her sleep and was clutching my discarded red silk shirt to her breast. That shirt was also evidence of my reality for it smelled of me, my masculine musk and my sweat and smoke from my cigars. The evidence of my reality was quite overwhelming and I was glad to see that Wendy agreed.

"Mmmmmmm," she mumbled and rolled over to lie on her stomach so that her long ash brown hair fanned out over my blue silk bed sheets. This time the sheets had remained intact for I had taken my harness off before we had retired. Wendy had given one small gasp when she saw what Pan had done to me, but she was stronger than I thought she could have been for she did not cringe or make a face of disgust. If I had seen any sign of it I would have chucked her overboard, of course. Instead, she had smiled softly and kissed me gently on the cheek and then we had made love with such passion I worried about the stability of the heavy oak posts on my newly pillaged bed.

I turned my gaze from that lovely raised mound that was the nether side of Wendy and gazed out of the porthole to the beautiful blue skies above. It had stopped raining and that meant that Pan had gotten through his funk. Pity, I had wished that he could have been miserable longer, but Pan is really quite stubbornly optimistic.

"UP!," I shouted, slapping Wendy's posterior with my hand. Enough sleeping, we had work to do.

"Ow!," she cried. I had slapped her rather hard and her ivory skin had begun to blush a rosy red.

"Get up!," I demanded. "UP!"

"Mmmmmm, come back to bed," she mumbled.

It was a credit to my patience that I did not reach for my newly acquired dagger nor strap on my hook. I believe that my recent encounter with Wendy had mellowed my attitude slightly. However, in spite of the physical exertions we had both experienced I was feeling quite refreshed and with that sense of refreshment came a sense of responsibility. I was Captain James Hook and whether I was real or a fictional character I still had a job to do. I was the Captain of The Jolly Roger and my men needed me.

"OUT!," I shouted. "Barnaby!"

Barnaby came rushing in and immediately a giant leering grin crossed his face for Wendy had sat up and was looking astonished and quite naked. She screamed, pulled my red silk shirt over her head and glared at me.

"Barnaby," I said, turning away from Wendy. "I need a shave and bring out my green suit, the one with the golden lily embroidery. Have Itchy and Scutchens escort Miss Darling to her bunk."

"Yes Captain!," Barnaby shouted with much enthusiasm.

"She is not to be touched," I added much to his dismay. "She is the Captain's Wench."

"I am NOT!," Wendy screamed.

Really, how stubborn women are. Of course she was the Captain's Wench, she had proved it twice now, that is two sets of twenty or more. I was astounded that she did not recognize the favor I had bestowed upon her. As Captain's Wench she could not be sullied by any of my crew for I had claimed her as my own and another man's property is sacrosanct aboard a pirate ship, especially the Captain's property.

"Ah, but you are Wendy Darling, you are. Scutchens will explain your duties. Barnaby....?"

Barnaby growled slightly, but called for Itchy and Scutchens who appeared so quickly I suspected they had been listening outside of my door.

Wendy, instead of complying with my orders as a good Captain's Wench should, stood and grabbed my dagger then brandished it at my poor innocent men.

"I'm not a wench!," she cried, sticking Itchy on his upper arm rather nastily with the point of my dagger. "I'm the Captain of my own ship. I'm Captain Red Handed Jill!"

I sighed, reaching for my plum colored quilted robe just to cover my own lack of clothing and so as not to embarrass my men by proving to them exactly how superior I am physically to any one of them. How exasperating.

"You wish to claim title?," I asked wondering if Itchy would become infected for I had most recently used that knife to stab a particularly gelatinous sucker fish which had attached itself to the side of my boot.

"James Hook!," she expostulated letting Itchy's blood drip onto my carpet. "You are the most exasperating man I have ever met! Of course I wish to claim title, isn't it obvious?"

"Well, no," I returned reasonably. "You are a woman and women don't usually wish to claim title. It is most unbecoming for a woman to do so. Don't you agree men?"

They all nodded enthusiastically, Itchy perhaps less so for he was clutching his arm and moaning a deep moan. Barnaby was still grinning for the light streaming through the portholes behind Wendy was outlining her curvaceous shape underneath my red silk shirt which came to mid thigh on her. She had very lovely long legs.

"Well, unbecoming or not, I wish to claim title," she said stubbornly.

"Hmm, let's see. Do you have a ship to command?," I asked.

"Yes, of course I do. I have the Avenger. She's a small ship, but she is mine," Wendy answered wiping the bloody blade on Itchy's shirt sleeve.

"Do you mean that miserably tiny boat you sailed into Cannibal Cove to try and rescue Mr. Gulliver?," I inquired, incredulous.

"Well, yes," she pouted. She looked quite sexy while pouting. "My other ship was...er...accidentally wrecked on some rocks."

"Due to lack of sailing skills, I'm sure," I added.

"No!," she said. "There was a storm..and..we...well...we hit the rocks."

"There are no storms in Neverland," I corrected her, "Unless Pan is in a terrible mood."

"Then he was in a terrible mood!," she spat.

I forgave her for she did look rather lovely in my shirt.

"Nevertheless, she was scuppered," I said. "So you have a ship, of sorts. Do you have a crew at your command?"

"You've seen them, yes. I have a crew."

"Your little friends, yes. I have seen them. More of a tea club, but you have a crew then. Well, that's that. You claim title and I accept your claim. You are Red Handed Jill, Captain of the Avenger and leader of a small band of female...er...pirates. You officially refuse to be Captain's Wench and instead lay claim to this title?"

"I do!," Wendy said.

"Then I say good day to you Captain Red Handed Jill. You will be given safe passage off of my ship. It is a pity for I believe you would have made an excellent Captain's Wench."

"Well, it doesn't mean that we can't...I mean...you know," she said shyly.

"Form an alliance?," I finished.

"Well, yes. An alliance. I could come and visit you. You could come and visit me. I have my headquarters in the Black Castle. It's comfortable. I have wine."

I nodded. It sounded good to me.

"An alliance then," I said giving her my hand to shake. "I declare the first act of our alliance will be to find Peter Pan and to hang him from the yardarm after I've gutted the eternally pubescent pillock with my hook!"

"Oh!," she cried putting her hand to her mouth. "Oh!"

This is where I had her and I knew it. She did not have the stomach to be a pirate Captain and would soon fail miserably to such an extent that she would beg to be my wench. She was still living in the world of fantasy where pirates are romantic beings who sail the seas living an adventurous life wielding sword & cutlass, rescuing fair damsels and fighting righteous battles against evil empires. She is quite wrong, of course. A pirate is a criminal of the most horrendous kind, selfish and brutal, and I am the most ruthless pirate who has ever sailed the seven seas.

"If you haven't the heart for it..." I began.

"No. No. I..I just wonder if killing Peter Pan might be the end of us all, according to what Mr. Gulliver was talking about yesterday," she said. "If he dies then perhaps Neverland will die."

I shrugged. I was willing to take that chance, but I knew that she still held some affection for the bounder.

"I will make a deal with you then as an ally. I will not seek out Pan unless he begins to annoy me. If he attacks me, then I have no choice but to retaliate and I will retaliate with every means at my disposal, including our alliance," I told her.

"Acceptable!," she declared.

"Excellent. Shall we seal our bargain?"

"Yes...er with blood?," she asked looking suddenly squeamish.

I smiled as I waved my men out of the cabin.

"No, I was thinking of something a great deal more pleasant," I answered, letting my robe fall open.

Oh!," she declared. "Oh my goodness, yes!"

Smug, smug, smug. I was feeling quite smug. I stood at the wheel of my ship dressed in my emerald green velvet coat, with matching hat, shirt and breeches and steered her toward Mermaid Lagoon. My men were busy all around me, happy in their richness and singing a sea shanty to make their work easier while the giant sleek blue sharks swam around and under the hull of The Jolly Roger waiting for one of my men to suffer a mishap and stumble overboard. The mermaids were sunning themselves on the smooth rocks at the entrance to the lagoon and were so sleepy from their relaxation that they ignored us entirely. I felt at peace with Neverland in general, although I knew the feeling would not last the entire day for how could one live in Neverland without something occurring to make one feel rather put upon?

I had discovered who it was who killed the giant crocodile, for Gulliver had confessed that it was he who skewered the gigantic beast to the beach and it was he who had embedded the giant harpoon into the mast of my ship in order to deliver Red Handed Jill's message to me. The gigantic man had proved to be quite civilized in person and was certainly no threat to me, indeed he was quite a pleasant conversationalist and played a very good game of chess. True, he had killed the giant crocodile and thus ended perhaps the only method I had of leaving this accursed land, short of having Pan guide me back to the real world beyond the sphere of Neverland's influence. How it irked me to think that Pan had such influence here. Damn that fellow. Still, now I had a wench to satisfy my need for relaxation and that wench was not only very becoming and willing, but had been one of Pan's innocent dallyings. She had not been the only one, for Pan was immortal here in Neverland and routinely had abducted innocent young girls to come and play father and mother with him. Such cheek! If I had done that I would be painted in the most villainous of colors.

My gaze fell upon the anchor chain which reminded me of the gigantic lobster or crab who had taken my original anchor and had almost scuppered The Jolly Roger. I was bent on revenge, of course, and to that end I was sailing to Mermaid Lagoon to send my men on a mission to clear a path to the top of the volcanic mountain so that we might have a place to cook such a gigantic crustacean. My mind was on the dinner party I was planning, with Red Handed Jill and her pirate lasses as my guests, with a case of chilled champagne to accompany the huge mounds of lobster (or crab) meat swimming in butter, piled upon golden dishes, surrounded by the fruits of the jungle, with perhaps a lovely roast pig on the side and Cookie's famous angel cake for afters and so I did not notice the tiny glittering light which was strobing on the tip of one of the handles of my wheel until it let out a small shriek.

"Ah, Tinkerbell," I said, finally recognizing the annoying pixie. "What is it?"

She shrieked once more, flew into the air in front of my face and proceeded to make the most obscene gestures I have ever seen anyone, even Hollow Pete the Ferryman, make. Amusing, but not very productive I thought.

"Do not be upset with me, you little pest," I told her as she pointed her middle finger at my left eye. "It amuses me to be allied with Red Handed Jill. I know how much you hate her, but really Tinkerbell, my dear fairy, Pan isn't in love with her anymore. She's my wench now."

Tinkerbell screamed a loud shrieking shout into my ear and stamped her tiny little feet in the air.

"Yes, it would amuse me to flay her slowly, but right now she has her uses. No, I will not peel her face off with my hook. Tinkerbell, really, don't make me say the words."

As amusing as this conversation was, I was becoming quite tired of it, but I did not want to kill Tinkerbell yet. She was a very good spy for she was emotional enough to hate and stupid enough to love.

"Why don't you go pester Pan?," I inquired batting her away from my face and becoming resigned to the fact that she really must die and quite soon.

She righted herself, crossed her tiny arms over her tiny chest, hovered over the railing lantern and pouted.

"I see. He's tired of you also. Not surprising," I answered. "Well, we really shouldn't be having this conversation because there are no such things as...." but my words were cut short when The Jolly Roger gave a resounding creak and stopped dead in the water.

"BLAST!," I screamed and a white puff of frosty breath streamed from my mouth for it had suddenly gotten very very cold, so suddenly cold that the ocean had frozen around my ship and had caught us in it's icy grip as fast as if we were embedded in stone. "BLAST!," I screamed once more and Tinkerbell burst into tears.

frozen.jpg

I felt such anger the ice under my feet melted into a hot steaming puddle for I knew what had caused this sudden Ice Age. Then the frozen grip of fear took me and I shivered.

Peter Pan had left Neverland.

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Chapter Sixteen

The frozen water surrounding my ship was red, as red as blood as I clenched the railing and dug my hook into the mainmast then screamed in righteous outrage over the circumstances I had found myself. It was not just the frozen water that was red, but everything was red for my eyes had filmed over yet again with the scarlet ire which is one of my most endearing trademarks.

I could see little specks of red running and screaming away from The Jolly Roger and knew it was my men distancing themselves from me in fear of the sharpness and quickness of both my hook and my anger.

"BARNABY!!!!," I screamed. "Barnaby! Bring me my fur coat!"

Barnaby had not abandoned me and for that I merely sliced a small cut in his cheek instead of slicing through his entire skull.

"Captain! We're not equipped for winter weather SIR! We have no warm clothing on board. Your silver fox coat is still in storage in the Falklands from the last time we rounded Cape Horn and you swore you would never sail icy seas any more, Captain, SIR!"

I smiled a wry smile. What irony, what a sense of the absurd Barnaby had.

"Barnaby, " I mentioned in a very, very soft voice. "Did I know that Pan would leave Neverland? Did I know that we would find ourselves frozen solid just outside of Mermaid Lagoon? Did I know that that miserable, pathetic, scandalous excuse for a boy would abandon us all and leave us freezing here in Neverland without so much as a clubbed baby harp seal's skin to warm our toes?"

"Er, no Captain, I expect you didn't know that," responded Barnaby edgily from behind Big Bellied Martha, our largest cannon.

"Then...GET ME A FUR COAT!!!!," I screamed.

"Yes SIR!," squeaked Barnaby.

I sniffed. How idiotic the average crewman was, I thought. Well, while Barnaby is getting me a fur coat, my black velvet coat would have to do. I shrugged it on and was happy to see that my vision had begun to clear and that there were colors creeping into it instead of merely red. I hated the cold more than I hated the rain, however I had a very lovely iron stove in my cabin and a goodly supply of coal and wood so I would not freeze. Still, it was most exasperating to see my breath in the air before me and to feel the tip of my nose turn cold and the curled ends of my mustache frost up and lend itself to the formation of tiny icicles.

Blast that Pan, I thought miserably. Blast him to the fires of Hell itself. Fires, yes. I would require one immediately.

"Scutchens!," I bellowed over the side of the ship at the retreating figures on the ice many many feet below. "I'll gut you for a fatted calf if you don't get your scurvy buttocks back on ship and fix me a cheerful FIRE!"

The retreating figures halted, almost as one, and as I watched, they began to run back to the ship as fast as their freezing legs could carry them. I grinned. What good men to follow their Captain's orders so quickly, but then I noticed that packs of white furred winter wolves had appeared from Heaven knows where and were chasing my men, teeth bared and claws digging into the ice for marvelous traction. One, then two of my men went down, their throats torn open by the huge fangs of the ravening beasts.

"Run for your lives men!," I shouted, leaning as far over the railing as I could and aiming at one of the winter wolves with my pistol.

The beast went down with a horrible sickening cry, his body rolling and rolling over the ice until it lay still and a beautiful red puddle of blood blossomed underneath him, freezing as it touched the hoary frozen waters.

That put pay to the wolves, for they all stopped running, yelped and began to run as fast as their four legged selves could run toward the frozen beach, their tongues streaming behind them. I aimed, shot and another one fell, this time going head over heels and sliding twenty feet until it's momentum was broken by a jagged rock.

My two pistols were now empty or else more of the beasts would have fallen. However, I reasoned that two were enough for a decent fur coat as long as the fur wasn't too disgustingly livid with vermin.

I received an ovation as the men dragged the corpses of the wolves and the poor torn bodies of the men who had been slain aboard ship. If it had not been for me each and every one of them would have been torn apart by those vicious feral beasts.

It was one of those moments that a responsible Captain of a ship lives for and thanks whatever powers are responsible for the life they have chosen. We sat around the iron barrel which was acting as a contained bonfire for the men so they would not freeze while they filled their duties on deck and watched the sails flicker with an orangey glow, surrounded by Neverland which at this time of night sported varied hues of blue ranging from cobalt to midnight. My men swore their loyalty to me as we drank a tankard of mulled rum in honor of the men who had been slain and I promised not to needlessly murder them unless they deserved it. My men were so inspired that they took those wolf corpses, skinned them, tanned them and presented me with a truly gorgeous silver white fur coat of most recent fashion with buttons carved into fleur-de-lis from the knuckle bones of the slain wolves. Thank whoever is responsible for Neverland that her predatory beasts are usually untouched by parasites for those pelts were the cleanest and softest wolf pelts I have ever seen in my life.

Neverland does provide, eventually, and I benefitted by looking quite dashing in my new silver white wolf pelt coat. If I had to suffer in this insidious chilling ice laden environment, then at least I would look good.

hookfurcoatcold.jpg

With thoughts of rending Peter Pan from head to toe as soon as the poltroon had returned to Neverland, I decided to retire to my cabin and soothe myself with a tune upon my harpsichord. Scutchens had stoked the fire in my cabin and so it was quite warm and toasty, so toasty I soon found myself divested of my fur coat and quite comfortable in shirt and breeches.

They say music soothes the savage beast. I have no idea why they say that, but music always cleared my mind. The repetition of chords and melodic phrases were like a mantra to me taking my uppermost thoughts and calming them so that my deeper thoughts might surface and I might see them clearly. This simple method of meditation has always stood me in good stead and so when I sat at my harpsichord and began to play I could feel my mind shifting, turning and clarifying.

I found that recent events had jumbled my thoughts to such an extent that things had become clouded. Questions I had felt the need to answer from the first moments I had been abducted here to Neverland had become obscured and pushed behind. The foremost question was, of course, who brought me here? It wasn't Pan, at least I didn't think so, for if it were he then he would have harassed me like he used to do and he was strangely absent from my presence this time.

I had always thought that Neverland itself was an entity which demanded the presence of certain legendary and mythological creatures, but was that so? It seemed to me that there was a mind behind it all. Was it that J.M. Barrie person Mr. Gulliver had mentioned? If so, then I would love to meet the fellow so that I could show him how effective he made my hook. Even so, if this playwright had invented Neverland, he had given Peter Pan power over it for Pan's moods were always reflected in the weather and he alone had free access to both Neverland and the outside world. It was as if Peter Pan was Neverland.

I played a rising refrain as that thought took hold of my mind. Pan was Neverland. That made sense in a despicably fantastic manner. Still, logically, it made no sense that Pan would bring me back here and then leave me alone.

I struck a melodic chord and then down scaled to a lower octave. What was the clue that had tipped me off that I was about to be abducted? The note given to me by Captain Gull. "Remember the storyteller."

My hook fell heavily upon the ivories, cracking one and sending another spinning off into the air to land with a soft clink on my personal chest of booty.

The storyteller. How blind I had been.

"WENDY!," I screamed, my hook coming down upon the ivories once more. It suddenly all made sense. It was Wendy who had commanded my abduction. It was Wendy who wanted me here where she could have me at hand. It was Wendy who told me that she had become interested in me the last time we had seen each other. It was Wendy who appeared here suddenly with her little friends and a small caravel which she used as a pirate ship. It was Wendy who sent me the first blood challenge. This was Wendy Moira Angela Darling's fantasy. Wendy is and had always been, the storyteller.

"Sink me for a land lubbing fool, " I whispered to the shattered keys of my harpsichord. "Sink me for a gormless swab."

"Sink me for a scheming wench," said Wendy. She had opened the door to my cabin and had entered as I banged my hook down on the keyboard so that I did not hear her come in. I turned, lifting my hook ready to bring it down upon her grinning face, but I stopped in mid-cleave. I could not murder her. No. Hook was not going soft. I would have loved to have cloven her skull in half and danced upon her brains, but if she had brought me here, she was most probably the only one who could bring me back, besides Pan. I was at her tender mercy.

"You..you...," I sputtered, words leaving me entirely and an extremely thick red glaze filming over my eyes.

"Hush now, James," she said placing a finger on my lips. "While I explain your duties."

The end of Never Say Neverland, but how can one repress such an excitable character as Captain James Hook or such a devious one as Captain Red Handed Jill? The Chronicles of a Neverland Pirate shall continue.

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Talk about a major plot twist, and very well written too. Nice job mate.

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