Chapter 4

"The Moon Girl"

The Gruesome reached its destination. The Hound rose like a behemoth out of the water, menacing black cliffs towering over a ring of jagged rocks that broke the mighty waves, and the flat top was covered in trees. But how to get to it? The galleon circled the legendary isle, but the savage water threatened to smash any daring intruders upon the rocks. To try to access it by longboat was deemed suicidal. Mundy sent for the minstrel.

I hope you have a song to guide us safely ashore,” said Mundy.

My folk songs only hint at the treasure's whereabouts,” answered Ulysses. “Let us find the least worst point and take our chances.”

The 'least worst'?” echoed Mundy. “Will you still have your humour when the gulls are picking our flesh off those rocks?”

Another round of the isle and Mundy found what he reckoned to be a navigable passage. He gave the order to drop anchor, and soon three longboats were rowing through those treacherous waves. Mundy took May and Digger and the minstrel in his boat, with seven others, while twenty stout bucaneers manned the other two.

The boats were barely controllable and May feared it was only a matter of time before they capsized. It happened: one of the boats overturned, and then May's boat smashed into a huge rock. The rest was chaos: she was under the waves, tumbling about, striking rocks, and with no sense of up or down in that tumultuous water she thought she would drown. Finally her foot touched what felt like sand, and she pushed herself upwards to the surface and took a big gulp of air. Battered and bleeding, she crawled ashore and lay there only semi-conscious.

After a few minutes someone roused her. “May! Are you all right?” It was Captain Mundy, and she could hear Digger whimpering in her ear with concern.

May rolled over onto her back. She was covered in sand, and with eyes still closed listened to the swearing and howls of pain from others on the shore.

Is Digger all right?” she mumbled.

Well, it ain't me lickin' your forehead,” said Mundy.

And Ulysses?”

He seems to be in one piece,” said the captain. “But we've lost nine men, it looks like, and two are injured. And we've only one boat left. The others are driftwood.”

A fire was lit. Most everyone licked their own wounds and recuperated for a while, then salvaged what they could from the surf. A search party went out and came back with fresh water and reported spotting a route up the cliffs. When the gun powder was dry they set forth on their journey, ostensibly leaving a man to care for the injured, but Mundy was more concerned with the boat, their only way off the island.

The trek was a laborious process. A slope of grass and boulders swept partway up the cliffs on one side, and from there they found a natural ledge that led the rest of the way up and around the rock. It was a frightfully precarious trail in some parts, and one misstep meant plummeting hundreds of feet straight down into the rocky surf, or into the trees. But May was at home here and would have been just as happy to climb straight up the sheer precipice had there not been a ledge to follow; as for the pirates, they had been in far hairier situations in their adventures, and so pressed on stoically.

Having reached the top, a few hundred feet above the sea, they collapsed in the shaded grass and quenched their thirst. Mundy sat, staring out at the sea where his ship was waiting. May's voice snapped him out of his reverie:

Captain, what if the ship abandons us to go looking for the Librarian?”

They won't, lass,” he answered. “I have the book. I trust those scoundrels no more than you do.”

If we're too late to bring back the book, what'll happen?” May wanted to know.

The late fee will be our lives, I reckon,” answered Mundy. “The skeletons will kill everyone and scuttle the ship, and that'll be the story of us.”

A barbarian dynamo, May wasn't nearly as fatigued as the others, and she and Digger ventured forth into the woods, scouring for clues to the treasure's whereabouts. The deeper into the woods she went, the more lifeless and spooky it became. Gnarled old trees loomed like menacing figures as she stepped through the carpet of dead leaves.

Digger stopped and growled. May couldn't see what was agitating him so; but then, something at a distance stirred. At first she couldn't make out what kind of beast it was, but as it stalked towards her she could see it was a monster, shaped like a man but inhumanly tall, and with skin like midnight blue. Its eyes glowed crimson.

May whipped out her sword and prepared for battle. Digger didn't hesitate, but bolted towards the beast with a vicious growl and went for its throat. With long, sinewy arms it tore Digger from its neck and threw him against the trunk of a tree.


It was a girl's voice, but not May's; it practically came from over her shoulder. It was a young girl, with dark flowing hair, clothed in a vest and skirt embroidered with coloured beads, holding a bow and arrow aimed at the giant's heart. The blue thing sneered at the girls, baring long fangs, and went away without a sound.

He's gone for now,” uttered the girl. “You're lucky I came along; I was just hunting pheasant.” Then, turning her attention to Digger, who seemed a bit dazed, asked, “Your dog – is he all right?”

Digger's been in worse scraps than that,” said May. She noticed the glittering gold chain around the stranger's neck, and the bracelets and anklets, but said nothing about the conspicuous jewelry. “What was that thing?”

A blue giant. There used to be a whole bunch, but I think he's the last. I'm Glora,” said the girl, sliding the arrow into the quiver slung over her back. “Who are you?”

I'm May, from Hyperborea.”

I've heard of Hyperborea. I hear your people are good fighters and wear helmets with horns, and your winters are so cold the elephants have fur, and you have lots of snow. We don't get much snow here.”

Do you live here?” asked May.

I've never lived anywhere else. It gets awful lonely here, now that I'm the last one of my people. And that monster should be the last of the blue giants. We killed them all in a battle a while ago. Come on. I'll show you where I live.”

They came to a large dome covered in creepers. There were four small archways, north, south, east and west, and once inside May could see that there were a number of circular ports in the ceiling of the dome, each of a different size.

That's for the moonlight to get in,” Glora explained. “When a beam of light from any of the full moons touches that spot on the floor it opens up;” – she was indicating a circle in the marble floor – “and when it goes away, the doorway closes again until the light reaches the next hole. I know all the dates and times and moons by heart, but it suddenly got cloudy last night, so I missed my curfew and got locked out. My guardians always warned me about that. But it'll open up again tonight, and I can go home.”

You live inside there?” May marvelled.

Oh, yes,” Glora replied.

Is it dark?”

No. We have the most beautiful lights. Wait till you see it!”

Can I bring my friends?” asked May. “I came on a ship with Captain Mundy and a bunch of pirates. We're looking for Captain Crush's treasure.”

I've heard of Captain Crush. He came here a long time ago and made friends with my people. He brought cloth and barrels of wine and sacks of grain, and in exchange they let him keep his treasure here. I've never seen it because no one I knew remembered where it was hidden. And now everyone's gone. Do you think Captain Crush is still alive somewhere? He must be over a century old!”

No,” May informed her. “He was hanged a hundred years ago.”

Well, he gave the people a little bit of his treasure. See? I'm wearing some of it now. It's been in my family for generations.”

It sure looks pretty.”

Here,” said Glora, handing May a golden bracelet studded with gems. “You can have this one.”

Gee!” May exclaimed. “Thanks.”

Folks almost never come to this island because of the danger, and now I have a friend. Do you think your Captain Mundy will take me with you when you leave? I'd sure like to see Hyperborea and other places.”

I'll ask him,” said May.

I can show him how to get to and from this island without getting killed.”

I'll let him know.”

Good. I'll meet you back here at midnight.” And so saying, Glora disappeared into the woods to continue hunting pheasant.

What a tale May had to tell. It was so far fetched that Mundy and the others would have doubted every word were it not for May's new bracelet, which left them wondering. But they readily believed the part about the nine-foot-tall blue man with the evil countenance, which made some of them nervous. Still, the dome May described was the only lead they had, and the minstrel's lack of information was beginning to vex the captain. Indeed, nine of the crew were killed, so Ulysses knew he was not in a good place.

May brought them to the dome and Mundy thought it would be best to set up camp inside. Two small fires were lit, one on either side of the circle, and the men ate fruit and roasted whatever provisions they had left, mostly pork and fowl, and washed it down with wine. And Ulysses played a tune on his lute at Mundy's behest.

Come midnight some of the men were asleep, while others stared into the flames of the crackling fire and listened to the minstrel's doleful songs or laughed at each other's bawdy tales. May was asleep, sword in hand and Digger by her side keeping vigil. Her name was whispered. May awoke, well rested and alert, and saw Glora peering at her through the nearest aperture in the roof.

May!” she whispered. “Come up! I have something to show you.”

May stepped outside and climbed to the top of the dome, which was easy because of all the vines. Glora was at the very top facing south, basking in the glow of a large moon known as Loki. There was a telescope on a tripod at her side.

Have you ever seen a telescope?” asked Glora.

Yes, but not this big, and I've never looked through one,” said May. “Can you see really far?”

See for yourself,” said Glora, inviting her to sit, and May took a look at the moon. She could see shadows cast from spiky mountains and lots of little details, but she was most impressed with the craters large and small, and the craters within craters.

Wow! I never did see Loki like this before,” May exclaimed. “I'll bet people live inside those holes just like you do, Glora.”

Maybe. Anyway, it won't be long now until the door opens.”

I have something for you,” said May, retrieving it from a little pocket in her skirt. She handed Glora something wrapped in shiny paper.

What is it?” her friend wondered.

It's a chocolate bar,” said May. “You eat it. I got it from a traveller when I was in Carnage. He had a whole box of them that he got in another land.”

I've never seen metal paper before,” Glora remarked, unravelling the chocolate.

Me neither,” said May. “Isn't it delicious?”

Yes, very sweet.” Glora shared some of it with May, and as she nibbled asked, “How old are you, May?”

I've seen eleven winters,” she answered.

I've seen twelve,” said Glora.

There was a slight rustle of leaves behind them, and May turned, hand on her sword hilt, while Glora pulled a dagger from her belt with blinding speed. It was Captain Mundy, and in the eerie light of the moon his face looked more sinister than usual.

You must be Glora,” he said. “I was beginning to think you were only a part of May's imagination. What have we here?”

It's a telescope, sir,” answered Glora. “Would you like to look?”

Indeed I would.” Mundy was astonished at how superior this instrument was to his own. And even as he sat gazing at the moon, he carried on a conversation with the girl: “May tells me you live inside this rock and can get us off this island safely.”

Yes, sir.”

And you can guide us to Captain Crush's treasure?”

I don't know where it is,” admitted Glora, “but I can keep you from getting lost.”

Just then there was a rumbling, and one of the men called out, “Captain Mundy! The floor – it's opening!”

Mundy scrambled down the dome in a hurry, followed by May and Glora. Inside the dome the men, swords drawn, surrounded the circle in the floor, which lifted open on a hinge, revealing a set of stairs leading down into the dark.

We'd best hurry before it closes again,” said Glora, and she lead the way. May and Digger descended the steps next, with Mundy and the men following, not knowing where they were going, or if they would ever again emerge from that mysterious pit.


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