Chapter 6


It was dawn, by Mundy's estimate, and the portal had no possibility of opening until nightfall; even then it depended on whether or not the sky was clear. As there was nothing to do but wait, he allowed Glora to show the cook, Arp, to the kitchen, along with two assistants. Mundy and the others righted the tables and benches in the hall in preparation for a feast.

Captain, what if the ship has left us to look for the Floating Librarian?” wondered Crane.

Then they'll be the first ones to die,” answered Mundy. He pulled the book from his coat. Until now, May was the only one who knew it was in his possession, and not stashed aboard ship. “They can't return what they don't have.”

Ah, that's my captain!” said Crane. “You kept insurance against treachery. But it does us no good now. Past the due date, the penalty fee is a ship full of sailors at the bottom of the sea.”

Then we go down fighting,” Mundy declared.

A skeleton crew fighting skeletons,” quipped Ulysses.

Come noon May had set the tables with candelabras and flowers, much to the pirates' amusement. The food was transported from the kitchen: roast duck and wild turkey with gravy; hasenpfeffer; potatoes and corn; salad; bowls of olives, grapes and berries; plates of bread, butter and cheese; and plenty of wine and spring water to wash it down.

I take it,” said Mundy to Glora, “that you caught the hare and fowl yourself?”

Yes,” Glora replied. “With my bow.”

I've always admired a good shot,” said Mundy.

May said little at the dinner table, preferring to fill her belly instead. It was rare enough to have so much good food on her plate, and to open one's mouth without stuffing it seemed a terrible waste of providence.

Mundy was gloomier than usual. There were only twelve at the table, including Glora, with three waiting on the shore. The treasure took a heavy toll.

Having eaten, everyone felt sleepy, especially since they hadn't slept in a day and a half. On the captain's order they slept in two shifts of four hours each, with Mundy, Crane, May and three others on first watch. Tapestries were pulled down from the walls to use as blankets.

Sentry duty was tedious, but Mundy refused to let anyone leave the hall to wander about. As it was, of the thirty who rowed for the isle, nine drowned and seven were killed by Garm. He couldn't afford to lose more crew members.

May looked bored, so he gave her the book to read, then wandered down the corridor to explore. When he returned he found Crane, half drunk, reading the book to the little Hyperborean, whose tired head was leaning against his arm as she looked at the pictures. The long, thin moustache curled up as Mundy smiled to himself, and, with hands behind his back he wandered about the vast hall and listened to Crane:

The zipping bow's arrows zoomed through the zoo

Like the jagged thunderbolts of Zeus used to do

And Xena the zebra zig-zagged to escape

The shower of shafts from the shape-shifting ape”

When the time came they changed shifts, and May went to sleep wrapped up in a tapestry, with Digger curled up beside her. Glora, Ulysses, Tupper, and Arp, the cook, took watch, along with two others.

At midnight Mundy and his shift were awoken, as requested. Everyone waited. Finally, there came the heavy sound of stone grating against stone. The portal was opening!

They quickly ran up the steps, each carrying a sack of treasure, except for Ulysses and Tupper, who carried the chest by the handles at either end. They reached the surface and found the night sky lit by a glowing white moon.

They hurried through the eerily-lit forest towards the ledge that brought them up the cliff. Beneath the dark canopy of branches and leaves the moonlight appeared as mottled patches of silver on the ground. All around there was a foreboding of evil, and everyone wanted to get off the island as soon as possible.

They made it to the edge of the cliff, and one by one they started down the natural ledge, which, in the darkness, was even more terrifying to traverse than before. Foam glittered in the rocky black water three hundred feet below. Glora went first, watching her step, then Mundy and the others followed. All except May.

She felt a presence in the shadows, sensed something lurking in the woods. She didn't go down the side of the cliff with the others, but stayed back. Her eyes strained to pierce the gloom, but she saw nothing. Still, May was sure she had heard a distant sound, perhaps the snapping of a twig.

She drew her dagger and crept through the woods, making no more noise than a jungle cat would make, and came to an open area where the grass grew long. There, at the edge of the cliff, etched against the northern stars, was a tall, sinewy shadow holding a boulder above its head. It was the blue giant, as she suspected, and that wicked demon was going to drop the rock on the unsuspecting pirates making their way along the ledge far below.

The young barbarian threw her dagger: a quick flash in the moonlight and it sank hilt-deep in the monster's back. He slowly turned, still holding the boulder aloft, his grinning fangs gleaming. He threw the boulder at May, who jumped out of the way, and the rock crashed through the thicket behind her.

The monster charged at the girl. May whipped out her sword and as she rolled out of the way slashed the giant's leg. Despite his ghastly wound he uttered no cry, but caught May's ankle with frightening speed for one so tall, and was picking her up to throw her from the cliff when she drove her sword deep into his ribs. He threw her to the ground so hard she rebounded. May shook the stars from her eyes and sprang to her feet, expecting this to be her last stand, since she had no weapon. The final attack didn't come.

Her opponent was lying in the sward, dead, the red fire in his eyes extinguished forever. Apparently she had driven the sword through his heart, a lucky strike. Still dazed, May retrieved her sword as well as her dagger, and sheathed them. Then she picked up her sack of coins and hurried down the side of the cliff.

She caught up to the pirates, who, in concentrating on making their way safely along the nerve-wracking ledge, hadn't even noticed she was missing. It took a long while, but everyone made it to the ground safe and sound. They rendezvoused with the two injured and the one they left to guard the boat, who was keeping a campfire on the beach.

But there was an immediate concern. While all were glad to see the Gruesome still moored where they left her, there was another ship drawn up beside it.

It's been there all night, captain,” said one of the injured. “There was gunfire from both sides when the other ship arrived, but only briefly. We've seen or heard nothing since.”

Who is it, captain?” asked Crane.

The two vessels were lit by the moon, but it was still hard to make out details at such a distance. At last Mundy said, “It's that rogue, Little Edward. That ship is the Grieving Widow. They must have followed us here from Megan.”

This was bad news, and all fell silent. Mundy had left only a small crew aboard the Gruesome, who would have been vulnerable to attack.

What do we do, captain?” asked one of the men. “Our crew might be all kil't.”

Well, I'm not going to stay here and wonder,” said Mundy. “Ready your pistols, men.”

Glora took May aside and whispered something to her. Then May announced: “Captain, Glora has decided to stay here.”

Are you sure?” Mundy asked her. Glora shook her head. Mundy told her to keep the sack of treasure she was holding. “You've earned it, lass,” he said.

Glora gave directions on the safe route off the island. The treasure chest and sacks were loaded into the boat, and the crew climbed in and pushed off. May looked back at her friend, who waved to her and ran away down the shore.

They made it through the deadly rocks with few problems, and paddled out towards the ship, hoping for the best. May had the chest open, and was absent-mindedly digging through the pile of treasure, thinking that it might be taken away from them before long.

When they arrived at the ship, her fears were confirmed. Little Edward and a large number of unfamiliar faces peered over the prow of the Gruesome.

Welcome back, Mr. Mundy!” grinned Edward. “I see you found Captain Crush's fabled treasure.”

You dog!” roared Mundy. “What have you done with my crew?”

Some are injured, but they're all breathing,” replied Edward. Then he continued: “I'm a fair, man, captain. Hand over the treasure and your pistols, and we depart.”

Come down,” sneered Mundy, sardonically. “I'll hand it to you personally.”

Edward ignored the taunt. A net was lowered from the Gruesome, and with muskets and pistols aimed at them, Mundy and the others had no choice but to surrender the treasure and their weapons. They loaded the net with the sacks and the chest and their pistols, and it was hoisted up.

Edward kept his word. “I bid you farewell,” said he, and that vile band of thieves went back aboard their own ship, released the grappling pikes, and steered away.

Captain Mundy, why didn't he kill us?” asked May.

A pirate's word is his only currency out here,” he answered. “His life could depend on whether or not he can be trusted.”

They climbed aboard ship and found the crew lashed to the masts, and they set about freeing them immediately. It was discovered that the cannons had been disabled, so there was little use in chasing after Little Edward.

The Grieving Widow was only a short distance away when someone spotted another vessel, this one a demolished derelict, slowly floating towards the Gruesome.

The Flyin' Librarian!” cried Mr. Crane. “Those skeletons will kill us all and make us part of their crew!”

Mundy said nothing, only drew his sword and waited. Suddenly, inexplicably, the haunted ship veered away and went towards the Grieving Widow.

What? What's happening?” uttered Ulysses.

The Grieving Widow fired at the Flying Librarian, which fired back. Then a horde of skeletons poured onto Edward's ship, and the clash of sword upon sword and the yells of the terrified sea-wolves was all that could be heard. Then Edward's ship slowly began to sink.

There goes the treasure,” muttered Mundy.

I don't understand,” said Crane. “May has the book. They should have come for it and killed us.”

I don't have the book,” said May. “I knew that dummy was gonna steal the treasure, so I buried it under the coins in the chest.”

Captain Mundy began to laugh. “Clever girl!” he roared, slapping her on the shoulder.

They were weighing anchor and about to set sail when a man noticed someone rowing towards them from the east, where light was dawning.

It's Glora,” said May. “She wasn't really staying on the island. We thought it would be best to hold back both our sacks of treasure so we'd still have something. That's one of the boats the blue giants came in.”

Permission to come aboard, sir,” called Glora, holding up two sacks.

Granted!” said Mundy.

All hands on deck, the treasure, mostly gold and silver coins, was divvied equally among the crew, with some exceptions: Mundy, being captain, took two shares; May, Glora and Ulysses, also two shares; the quartermaster, one and a half; the boatswain, gunner, mate and doctor, one and a quarter. The injured also received extra pieces.

A cask of rum was tapped, and Mundy gave a brief speech: “This isn't enough to make us kings, nor to compel me to retire, but it's more than enough to celebrate, lads. A toast, then, to May and Glora, the young ladies that made this possible. You'll always have a home aboard the Gruesome!”

And to that sentiment all the buccaneers raised sword and sloshing goblet and roared their approval.

* * *

The Gruesome arrived at Megan ten days later and docked there in the Bay of Wolves. The crew disembarked with the intention of spending money frivolously in that port city. Farewells were made, for May, a rover if ever there were one, wanted to carve her own destiny elsewhere.

That I can understand,” said Mundy. “But don't be a stranger, May. And that's an order from your captain!”

She gave him a hug, and Mundy gave her a quick pat on the back, the old pirate not being one for displays of affection.

Ulysses wanted to buy a cottage and settle down, though it was in his blood to wander from place to place collecting local lore. He decided that he would do both, and offered to take Glora sightseeing.

Glora accepted the invitation, for there was so much she wanted to see. The island was all she'd ever known, and it was exciting to be in a land where the forests went on forever, and to be in Megan, which seemed almost magical to her.

Oh, do stay with me for a while, May,” pleaded Glora. “We can still have one more adventure together.”

We'll have plenty of adventures together,” promised May. “I'll meet you here at the next full moon of Loki. But I guess I could stay with you for a couple more days.”

That was all Glora needed to hear, and the two girls, along with Digger, went strolling along the beach, excited by the thought of the dangerous adventures to come.



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