By Rachel Agius
The sound of breaking porcelain and splintering wood followed the Admiral as he hastily made his way from the Captain’s quarters. He adjusted his hat after what appeared to be a peg leg sailed overhead and dislodged it. His men, two lanky youths who had taken to playing a card game with the crew, hopped to attention, picked up their rifles and helped the Admiral onto the rope ladder that would lower him to the row boat where he could make good his escape.
The Captain sauntered out of the lavishly furnished and now spectacularly destroyed cabin. With a nod to the first mate, she took her seat behind the bow of her vessel. Like a well-calibrated machine which knew to anticipate much painful punishment if it did not perform up to snuff, the crew left their card game to prepare for departure. They were floating a few miles off the coast of Britain, the French shores just within view on the horizon on the calm, still day. The Admiral, who had so quickly left their company, had returned to his ship, The Speckled Eagle, where the crew was hastily but uselessly raising the sails in hopes of a quick return to port. Not a breath of wind ruffled the slick surface of the sea and the Captain could see the Eagle’s canvas droop despondently. She chuckled to herself and clicked her tongue. Nothing happened. The last of the crew were finding their places, holding on to the long, thick steel cables that they had connected from the sides of the vessel to large metal rings in their belts. They seemed to brace themselves. The Captain cleared her throat delicately and then barked, “Ramsey!” The vessel shuddered with great squelching noises.
“Wake up you useless cephalopod. You’ve been asleep for days!” she shouted, stamping her feet loudly. With a gurgling groan, the vessel began to move. It lurched forward with an undulating motion, rather slowly at first. Faint splashing could be heard from the sides. The Captain seemed satisfied and returned to the worn, water damaged throne-like piece of furniture at the front of the vessel. She sat back and in each hand, took a broad strap of leather, the other ends of which disappeared below the wooden deck. She clicked her tongue again and shook the leather reins. The vessel seemed to shudder again and picked up speed, heading straight towards The Speckled Eagle.
Admiral General had returned to his frigate, crestfallen. He would have to tell Her Majesty that his negotiations did not go exactly to plan. While he had determined that the crew and captain of The Kalamari did not constitute a threat to the Crown or her navy, his poor choice of words had prevented him from recruiting said captain which was, ultimately, what he had sought to do. He took to finding fault with the ship he had just visited, mostly because the blind generosity of the Empire had furnished him with lush sleeping quarters, a fine cook and a vessel unparalleled in her utterly superfluous opulence. It didn’t go very fast but it certainly made you feel like a king. And Admiral General did. He called to one of the young lads who were pretending to look busy on deck and had him fetch some parchment from the store. The crew were slightly at a loss; there was no wind to fellate the sails and the ship was not equipped with oars. Even if it were, the more seasoned seamen knew that its width and weight alone would make manual power sorely insufficient. So the men bustled around the deck, looking purposeful, tying and untying knots, polishing the coat hooks and generally making themselves conspicuously busy, despite the very obvious lack of things to do. This description of The Speckled Eagle would have gone on for several more lines if it hadn’t been for the timely occurrence of an occurrence. As the Admiral was busy thinking about what the Queen wore under Her confectionery-like dresses, a shout came from the crow’s nest. Luckily it wasn’t one of the frequent interjections offered by the boatswain, who was very fond of his drink and very prone to leaving his post with the aid of rum and gravity. This time, in the place of an unintelligible yell followed by a muffled thud, came coherent words.
“Admiral! Come quick! You have got to see this!” he called, evidently in shock. Admiral General heaved himself slowly out of his chair, wondering what on earth could have caused this commotion that so inconveniently interrupted his day dream. When he reached the bow, he nearly swallowed his false moustache, which had come loose by means of a small mischievous gust of wind. A great squid was swimming towards The Eagle, like an enormously misplaced dish from Giovanni’s, a tavern the Admiral frequented in London. He reached behind him and cracked him knuckles against several of the looking glasses wielded by members of the crew. With a scowl, the Admiral convinced one of them to give it up and he pressed his eye to the brass. He would have blamed his penchant for fine wine if he had had any that crisp morning. Growing steadily larger, he watched the odd construction of The Kalamari. He recognized the ragged flags and pennants that, with the force of forward motion, fluttered half-heartedly from the single mast; there was no denying that this was the ship he had so hastily departed from not a half hour ago. Deck, cannons, Captain’s quarters, ropes and crew were all there. But in place of a wooden hull, hurtling forward as fast as its rippling fin could take it, was a gargantuan squid. Occasionally a massive eye could be seen, bobbing above the waves it was creating. It looked as though someone had sawn off the top half of a galleon and fitted it to creature like a saddle. At the bow, Admiral General could make out the mauve and maroon figure he took to be the Captain. With her red hair trailing out from underneath her tricorn and the rather imposing figure she cut, sitting in a throne with reins in her hands, Admiral General would have almost found himself aroused had he not realized that the beast/vessel was almost upon them. He handed the looking glass back haphazardly, accidentally poking an elderly sailor in the eye, arranged his large hat and shuffled quickly to the side of the ship.
The whole crew shouted in surprise as The Eagle gave an almighty jolt, as though it had been lifted from and returned to the water’s surface very quickly. Admiral General held on to the railing to steady himself, hoping he wouldn’t have to swim back to shore and ruin his new shoes. Looking over the side, the Admiral could see enormous tentacles, wrapping his precious Eagle in a sticky embrace. One tentacle, rising up slowly like a thick, suckered cobra, bore the Captain atop its spotted surface. She alighted elegantly, landing on deck with a gentle thud, which was then mimicked by the sound of several jaws hitting the wood and followed by the sound of several men straining to make their muscles bulge and look more imposing. The Captain winked at one brawny lad, which promptly turned his stoic, manly expression to that of an infatuated little girl. She turned to Admiral General, who visibly flinched when she made to remove something from within her coat.
“Take what you will! Take the gunpowder, the money, my socks. Hell, take that man! Just don’t hurt me!” whimpered the Admiral. The Captain raised an amused eyebrow and pulled out a quill from inside her faded purple coat.
“In your hurry to leave, you forgot this, Admiral. Wouldn’t want you to lose this, it looks rather special,” the Captain said. She turned the quill on its side, to read the small inscription. “I’m sure someone will be disappointed if you misplace this, Mummy’s Little Sailor”.
The Admiral took the quill quickly and hurriedly stowed it in one of his vast pockets. He cleared his throat and looked at the Captain, then at his feet when he found himself at a loss as to what to say. He heard a slight chuckle and when he finally raised his eyes from the shiny toes of his shoes, the Captain had turned her back on him and was busy flirting with one of his crew. He exhaled grumpily, making his moustache threaten to fall off again. How dare she, he thought. Coming abroad his ship, with that thing no less. What if it damaged the Eagle? Would Aberswith Insurers cover invertebrate attack if repairs were necessary? And what about her sheer insolence, making his men lose every sense of dignity as some leaned impressively against the mast or tore through rope with their teeth or duelled with the severed heads of swordfish, all to get her attention? The attention that was so cruelly denied to the Admiral, who had been nothing but courteous and polite when he offered her a ruby necklace in exchange for the chance to bed her. She had seemed interested enough, even looking directly at him when she addressed him. And then he used the word. The word which had him departing the Kalamari in fear of his life.
The Admiral had had enough. He raised himself to his full and none too impressive height and puffed out his chest to his full and substantial girth.
‘If that would be all, Captain Montague. I am most busy at the moment and my men…’ he stopped short. The Captain had manoeuvred herself alarmingly close to Sven, a lad with Scandinavian roots who had joined the crew only recently. She had taken a lock of his shiny, long blonde hair and was twirling it between her fingers as she made conversation, which mostly consisted of her vaguely talking about the weather and incoherent grunts of approval from Sven, who looked like he thought he was the luckiest Viking on earth.
‘I’ll be off then,’ she said serenely, making Sven and the rest of the crew give a whine of complaint. ‘Tell your queen that this “pirate” may not be entirely above plundering Her Majesty’s succulent vessels. Also, tell her that it is entirely your fault, Admiral. Your insult has cost you the safety of your precious waters.’ The Captain clicked her tongue loudly and the gigantic squid withdrew one of its tentacles from the hull of the boat with a squelch and lowered it so that she could climb up. Standing on top of the slimy red arm, the Captain took off her hat in a salute to the Admiral, whose day was not going at all as planned. He heard a determined howl and saw a flash of blonde Viking as Sven raced past him and launched himself over the rail of the ship, towards the towering tentacle. The Admiral watched helplessly as Sven tried in vain to extricate himself from the suckers he had thrown himself against.
‘Captain, Captain! Take me with you!’ he called up. The Captain rolled her eyes and sighed.
‘Let him go, Ramsey. You’ve already eaten today. Don’t think I didn’t see you catch that porpoise earlier.’ The creature released the slimy sailor, who fell into the sea with a plop. When he resurfaced, the Captain had already been delivered to the deck of her ship. ‘Sorry Sven. I already have a full crew,’ she called down, as she tugged on the reins and the squid turned around slowly before starting to cruise away. Sven floated in the water, evidently heartbroken as the object of his desire sailed away and the ship he had effectively committed mutiny against sailed closer.