“Tell us about the island, Cap’n!”
Redbeard rolled his eyes.
“Avast, me hearties! No time for that. There be battles to fight!”
Timmy the cabin boy pulled at Redbeard’s coat.
“Go on, Cap’n. Please!”
The captain sighed and lowered his cutlass.
“So be it. Gather ye round, men.”
The crew closed in, observing their leader expectantly.
“Our next port of call, if we can fight our way through the King’s ships, be the Island of Ossos. Now, from a distance, this island looks like a paradise, but … BEWARE!”
Startled, the crew took a step back.
“It be a paradise that will draw ye in …”
He made a pulling gesture with his fingers and the crew leant back towards him.
“… chew ye up … and SPIT ye out!”
“And how’s it do that?”
Seaman Simpson was new to the crew and hadn’t heard about the island before. Nor was he familiar yet with the respect the captain of the ship was due. Redbeard and the others glared at him, waiting. Simpson realised his faux pas.
“Er … Cap’n?”
“That be better,” growled Redbeard and continued.
“It draws ye in with its lush vegetation, speaking of all kinds of delicious fruit — just what ye need after months at sea …”
Timmy curled his lip.
“… and it has loads of exotic birds, all the colours of the rainbow, singing their siren song all day and night. Ye can hear ‘em as ye approach the shore in the long-boat.”
Bosun Beasley put his hand up.
“Can I steer the long-boat this time?”
“We’ll see,” said Redbeard.
“And how does it chew you up, Cap’n?” Seaman Simpson remembered the correct form of address, receiving a smile of approval before the captain resumed.
“Lurking in the lush vegetation be creatures. Fearsome creatures. Creatures so ferocious that … well, let’s just say they’ve got three rows of razor-sharp teeth in their bottom jaw …”
The crew exchanged worried glances.
“And how many rows in their top jaw, Cap’n?”
Redbeard bared his own teeth at Timmy.
The crew’s shoulders drooped in disappointment. Redbeard noticed and flashed his cutlass.
Startled again, the crew grabbed on to each other.
“They’ve got two giant fangs hanging down, the size of” — he searched for a fitting likeness and smiled demoniacally — “this cutlass!”
“Ooh!” The crew were impressed.
“And it be these creatures that will chew ye up, suck all the flesh off ye and spit out the bones.”
Midshipman Mitchell leaned into Seaman Simpson and whispered: “Ossos is foreign for bones.”
“Tell us about the stone, Cap’n.” Timmy’s eyes were sparkling with expectation.
“The stone,” began Redbeard, gazing into the middle distance, “be a wondrous thing.”
He turned his gaze to the crew.
“If you can get past the monsters.”
The crew nodded as one, remembering the fangs.
“It be in the dead centre of the island, on a small hill, surrounded by thick undergrowth.”
“What about the natives, Cap’n?” Bosun Beasley piped up.
“Ah, well. After the monsters, ye think ye be home free, but ye still have to deal with … the Hootenannies!”
“The Hootenannies?!” spluttered Seaman Simpson.
“That be their name,” the captain assured him confidently, “and they be vicious. If they catch ye, ye’d better hope they kill ye quick because the things they’ll do to ye if it ain’t quick …”
He left the form of torture hanging in the air, letting the crew fill in the details for themselves. They gulped, almost audibly.
“But the stone, Cap’n?” Timmy was like a terrier.
“So,” the captain went on. “If ye’ve got past the monsters and ye ain’t a pile of bones, and if ye’ve got past the Hootenannies and ye ain’t … ye know … finally, ye reach the stone.”
He stopped there and gave a couple of swings of his cutlass … just because. The crew ducked to avoid being hit.
Midshipman Mitchell leaned into Seaman Simpson again. “The stone’s got magi—“
“MAGICAL POWERS!” Redbeard glowered at Midshipman Mitchell for hijacking the story.
“And what might them powers be, Cap’n?” Seaman Simpson sounded sceptical.
“Oh, they be right wondrous powers. When the moon be half-full—”
“Or half-empty!” Midshipman Mitchell chuckled.
Redbeard looked daggers at him and the smile froze on Midshipman Mitchell’s face.
“When the moon be half-FULL, and if you stand around the stone, hand-in-hand, and chant the magic words AKKI-BAKKI-BOKKI-BOO, and if you think about the thing you most want in the world — something that actually exists, mind — then that thing will appear!”
The crew, except for Seaman Simpson, had heard this before, but still they were in awe of the idea.
“What would you have, Cap’n?”
Redbeard paused to think about Timmy’s question.
“I’d have a cutlass made by the finest cutlass-maker in all the world, with a jewelled handle, and so sharp it could cut through a mast in one.”
“And you, Bosun?” Timmy again.
“I’d have a chest of gold doubloons, so I could buy whatever I wanted, wherever I went.”
Timmy was too excited to ask anyone else.
“Me, I’d have an enormous box of chocolates, with all my favourite centres, just for me — not like last Christmas when you pinched all the best ones,” he said, pointing at Redbeard.
The woman’s call drifted through the woods from the row of houses that backed on to them.
“ROBIN! TIMMY! TEA-TIME!”
Redbeard shrugged his shoulders.
“Gotta go. Same time tomorrow?”
The crew looked at each other and nodded.
“Can I be captain tomorrow … er … Cap’n?” asked Bosun Beasley.
“Maybe,” said Redbeard. “C’mon Timmy.”
He put his arm around the cabin-boy and the two made for the houses.
As they walked, Redbeard winced and put his finger in his mouth, sucking on it.
“What’s up?” asked Timmy.
“A splinter, I reckon,” said Redbeard. “Must be from my cutlass.”