Only a slight breeze ruffled the warm waters of the lagoon as the galleon swung free, seaweed and barnacles crusting her anchor chain, broken mizzen still waiting to be repaired. She had been too long in port.
Alone in his cabin, her Master whispered harshly, “Damn that brat and his crew!” His first mate had just left after giving the summary of damages from their latest battle and it would be a long while before she was totally seaworthy again.
He was a tall, ruggedly handsome gentleman of breeding, or so he saw himself. The fact that his taste for the wilder side of life had cost his family so dearly in his teen years that his father had insisted on getting him apprenticed as a seaman and finally a ship of his own, meant little to him.
His exploits from St. Augustine to Barbados, had gained him a loyal, if disreputable crew and when they pillaged that jungle village with its ancient temples on the coast of Mexico, they thought the ton of gold would have made them happy. They hadn’t counted on the cursed golden dust being more than just a rich metal. And the wild man they had shot as he tried to get away, was their last mistake.
“If only I had a bit of the dust, we’d be free of this cursed island once and for all.”
He picked up his brass telescope and rested it on the frame of the open window. Carefully scanning the upper jungle, behind the village, he could barely make out the tree-nest outlines that were home to the children of the forest. The sun slowly drifted down as the moon rose and he watched and waited.
Tinkerbelle was bored.
Peter was off doing what most satyrs did so well, chasing a nubile female. The fact the English Wendy-wench was a human and probably wouldn’t stay more than a couple nights made her all the more exotic and desirable. That meant Tinker had to find something else to amuse herself. A bored pixie is no fun at all.
The rest of the crew were either playing stupid games or bedding down with their own pixies for the night, so she decided to see what sort of mischief she might witness in the village.
Peeling the thin pelt from her shoulders, she hung it on a branch and, walking softly as a dancer, moved out into the moonlight. The radiant energy from Mistress Moon made the pixie dust covering her petite frame glisten and sparkle. She glanced around for a totem creature for the evening and immediately saw a huge and lovely moth fluttering between the shadows.
“That’s it. Mister Moth is a form I’ve not used in a while.” She smiled, focused her thoughts on the form of the moth and the pixie dust sparkled to a brilliant, although cool, flash of light. In the time it took the flare to die down, she was wearing the moth’s beautiful wings and was only five inches tall. She sailed high above the trees, riding moonbeams. A quickly fading contrail of dust reflected the pale light as she passed.
A long, slow glide let her slip unnoticed, into the one of the three side streets leading to the waterfront quays. Each public house had a sign in front with a fish oil torch on either side that gave off greasy smoke and barely enough light to see just what den of iniquity you were about to stumble into. She hung back, in the shadows above the door, hidden by the glare from a torch. As most moths, she felt the draw of the flickering flame, but her faery personality could easily control it.
An old fisherman, tired and ready for some food and drink, walked up to the door, paused and spoke softly. “I know yer up there, missy. If’n ya want an invite and wish to share a cup with ol’ Pharte’ this evenin’, then ya better light behind me ‘at until we’re safe in th’ back.”
She smiled. The old man had shared drinks with her before and had even been a bit of fun to tumble. He was wise in the ways of the fae and didn’t try to trick or capture her. Saying nothing, she flittered quickly down to his shoulder, kissed him on the cheek and hid behind a fold of his floppy hat.
Once inside, he paused to scan the room for strangers. There were none. Good.
He picked his way between the bar and some tables and found a snug booth in the back.
“There ya go, lass. Nobody’s watchin’ and we’re in th’ shadows.”
With this assurance, Tink flittered down to the seat in the space between him and the wall and shook herself to rearrange her dust. With just the slightest glow this time, so as not to attract attention, she was wearing her normal body… that of a beautiful faery.
Smiling, he slipped off his woolen sweater and handed it to her. She slipped it over her head and this helped her to appear human enough for first glance in the dimness of the booth.
“My thanks as usual, master Swan… and it would please me greatly to buy our refreshments this evening.” She waved her hand and the air over the table sparkled with pixie dust for a few seconds, then the dust coalesced and there was a clink as a single. Golden coin rattled to a stop on the hardwood.
He grinned widely, snatched the coin and dropped it into his purse. “Thanks, lass. That will buy more than our meal this night. It will give us a hot bath and a private room above to rest our weary bones. I’ll not have to go back to the ship and swing in the hammock an’ that’s a fine gift, indeed.”
She grinned back and kissed him quickly on the cheek just as the barmaid bustled up. “And what will ye be havin…” She stopped and peered closely at Tink. “Well, I’ll be… yer back again, eh? I truly don’t un’erstand what ya see in this ol’ coot, but yer welcome to ‘im. Now then, between the two of yas, methinks you’ve got enough for a meal, otherwise, you’d not be sittin’ here so high an’ mighty.”
“We’re in the mood for a meal, a couple of tankards of your best as well as a bed and bath this night. We need to loosen the kinks a bit, if ya knows what I mean, lass.” With that, he hands her the golden coin.
The barmaid’s eyes sparkle to match the coin, so she hurries off to make their stay a most pleasant one.
None of this escaped the sharp eye of the short, balding fellow in rude sailor’s garb. He quickly tossed down the last of his ale and hurried out in the evening shadows, heading towards the docks.
“So! That bloody little pixie is cavorting with the common folk, is she?” The captain’s enthusiasm for his First Mate’s news was evident. “Now’s the chance we’ve been waiting for… Grab that old birdcage and let’s get going.”
Dawn’s first light sparkled on her skin as her nude form cuddled up to the older fisherman’s sea-hardened body. She opened her eyes, smiled and kissed him gently on the cheek. Carefully unwrapping herself from his embrace so as not to waken him, she stood, stretched and listened to the birds…
“Wait a minute!” She thought… “What birds?” Only silence lay outside the window that normally gave view to a lovely courtyard full of parakeets and other tropical songbirds.
She turned toward the door, just as heavy steps sounded in the hallway. Her fisherman was wide awake now, as well.
“Go lass! Change and leave. I’ll delay them here. They’ll not bother an olde pharte like me.”
She kissed him quickly on the cheek, shook some pixie dust loose from her hair and in a flickering instant, was only a five inches tall, with beautiful moth wings. The window was wide open, so she flew quickly up and out… directly into a well-thrown net!
“Got ‘er cap’n!”
She was stunned only for an instant at their audacity. “You can’t hold a pixie with a cloth net.” She thought… Then she realized the horrible truth. They had woven bits of iron wire into each knot. Cold iron was poison to any of the fae races and she was no exception. She screamed at the freezing touch and tried to shrink within, to escape deeper into the cloth depths, below the layers of metal.
In seconds, she was shaken free of the net and into an antique iron birdcage. Each brush of the metal was cold agony and she squealed several times while fluttering about. There was only one safe place to stand… a wooden plate had been attached to the center of the cage and a large, fat candle was in the center of it. There was barely room for her to lean up against the candle and keep both feet on the edge of the wood.
Terrified and gasping, she clung to the candle as the laughing pirates carried her cage back to the ship.
“Well, well… what have we here? It looks to me like a pretty little pixie in a pickle!”
Laughter from several crew members followed this comment.
“Let me out of here!” Her tiny moth wings fluttered helplessly against the sides of the candle behind her. There was no room to fly and only the rough wooden plate at her feet kept her from the chilling poison of the cold iron surrounding her.
“Or what… my dear? Peter? I don’t think so. He’s in the tree house right now, boffing that lovely English lass… what was her name? Oh yes, Wendy. It will be a day or so, methinks, before he comes looking for his pet pixie.”
He waved his mate and the other crew members out, locked the cabin door and sat down. Her cage was sitting on his table and he leaned closer so he could speak softly.
“Listen, little Tinkerbelle. I’ve gone to some trouble to get you here and now it is time for you to help me to escape this cursed island. All you have to do is shake off enough pixie dust to coat my ship’s deck. I know you can do it, because you did it once before… when that damned satyr master of yours had you bring us here.” He shook off his anger for a moment and then continued in a calmer voice. “Look… it’s a very simple proposition. You dust my ship and we will fly back to the real world. Then, I’ll let you go and you can flitter back to Neverland and all will be well.”
“Except that Peter would find out what had happened and come looking for you again. And I would be in a lot of trouble for helping you to escape his justice.”
“He could look all he wanted. All I have to do is make sure my crew keeps our guns loaded with iron shot and shoot at anything that is larger than a sparrow and flying.”
“No! I won’t betray him. And you can’t keep me forever. He’ll come looking soon enough and the fisherman will tell him what you’ve done.”
“That’s ok, m’dear. It will take a couple of days and by then, you’ll be well hidden.” He smiled wickedly and left.
The rest of the day, she balanced on the edge of the plate, getting tired with no room to sit or lay.
She watched the deepening red rays of the setting sun in dismay as another wave of weariness washed over her. Every time she started to relax, she would stumble and a foot would drop to the iron floor of the cage. The sudden chill of metal against her foot was painful and she would jump back against the candle and the safe, warm wood.
He came in and once more locked the door behind. “Ah yes, it is a bit dark in here now, isn’t it, lass?”
He struck a quick match and she ducked and winced at the sudden glare.
“Hold still now, wouldn’t want to singe anything now, would we?” She watched in horror as he lit the candle.
“What are you doing? You’re going to burn me to death?”
“Not at all, m’lady. I’m going to extinguish the flame long before your lovely wings are singed. In the meantime, however, I think a nice, warm coating of wax will hold you steady for the night and keep you from falling into the cold embrace of iron.” He laughed and reached into the cage with his left arm… The one with the iron hook replacing the hand he had lost just a few years before. “Back up now, that’s right… up against the fine candle.”
Wincing as she felt the chill of the steel hook brushing her belly, she inched back against the candle, just as the first few rivulets of molten wax flowed down, over her wings and pinned them back as it quickly cooled. She knew then, that her fate that night, was to be part of the candle, held safe from the iron cage and yet helplessly pinned in the hardening wax.
“Ahoy there… Hooke!” Peter’s voice hailed from the crow’s nest.
She wanted to scream her relief, but the wax had totally coated her and only her pixie magic had kept her eyes and nostrils free. Barely able to breath and affixed to the candle with many layers of wax,
Tinker could only wait for Peter to rescue her.
The captain’s bellow answered from the maindeck. “Ahoy yourself you flying fool. What th’ hell do ya want with me, now? Haven’t you done enough damage to my crew and I?”
“Don’t try to lie to me, Hooke. I’ve just left the old fisherman and he told me how you captured Tink. Let her go right now, or the boys and I will scuttle this barge once and for all.”
“We’ve learned our lessons well, lad. All the guns have iron shot now. If you try to land on this deck, I’ll have you all peppered before your feet touch wood. As for the nubile little pixie… Well, my mate has orders to drop her in the stove if you get past me. And if you scuttle my fine ship, she’d drown with the lot of us. Now if you’re interested in dealing, that I’m obliged to consider.”
“Talk to me, Hooke… what kind of dealing?”
“My crew and I are just as sick of seeing you and those damnable boys of yours as you are of us. Let us go home and you can have this place to yourself.”
Peter looked at the captain with pity. “I don’t think you understand. This is Neverland. Things back in your world are much different than when you and your crew hunted and killed my brother. The world is much changed from the times you knew.”
“Don’t patronize me, boy! There will always be someplace for a good ship and a loyal crew. Let us go free or your pixie moth will be slowly cooked and fed to the ship’s cat this very night!”
Peter’s eyes hardened at the terrible threat. He knew the captain had reached the end of his rope and was desperate enough to kill Tink. He had no choice. “Very well, you may return and none of the Lost Boys will stand in your way… but take only what is on your ship now and you will release Tinkerbelle immediately.”
“No deal! The pixie must carry us back while in my loving care so that there are no tricks. Once I see a port other than Neverland, I’ll set her free… you’ve my word on that.”
The answering voice was soft… “Very well, Hooke. But harm an eyelash on Tink and I’ll drag you back here without your ship and let the croc have the rest of you a limb at a time.” He flew off, circled the ship once and while passing over the captain’s head… “Leave now… before I change my mind. And don’t say I didn’t warn you about the world you’re going back to!”
“Bring the pixie to the fo’csle! And rally the crew… we sail as soon all hands are on deck.”
“Aye, cap’n!” His mate and the other seaman ran to wake the rest and get things battened down for the journey.
Still frozen in the wax, Tinkerbelle watched in horror as her cage was carried from the dark cabin to the bow of the ship. She had heard everything and realized Peter was as good as his word when she saw him and the Lost Boys flittering back toward the tree house.
The chilling horror of his iron hook gently peeled the wax from her face and shoulders. She gasped and took deep breaths for the first time in many hours.
“Now then, lass… Are you going to do as I say, or should I kill Peter here and now?”
“What do you mean? He’s going to let you go. You heard him.”
“Yes, but we still need your pixie dust and I know you will try to escape the second I free you from this cage and the wax… so I’ve take out a little insurance policy. You see, I knew he and the boys would be out here as soon as they heard about your situation, so I had a couple of my men hiding in the woods back at the tree house. They have surrounded it with hidden barrels of powder wrapped in iron chain. They are watching through my telescope for a signal. If you fly off, before you can get back to warn them, the powder kegs will go off, flinging cold iron chain links through the jungle and killing the lot of them. Now that you know the situation, I’m going to release you. As soon as you leave the cage, I want you to lose those wings. You know what I mean.”
She knew he would do it, so she nodded and bowed her head in defeat.
A few moments later, she was free of the wax and standing naked, on the deck. A crew man grabbed each arm and held her still while the captain wrapped a leather-lined steel cuff on each wrist and each ankle. Slender chains led from each. The leather kept her skin from touching the poisonous metal, but she would never be able to free her self.
He grabbed her long hair and pulled cruelly back to whisper roughly in her face… “Shake your lovely body now, wench… dust my ship so that we may be on our way!”
Four sailors stepped back, each holding one of her chains. With only a little bit of movement allowed, she realized what he was asking. Embarrassed and ashamed of her lewd display, she shook herself and willed a cloud of the magic dust. Sparkling, it floated off her, as her breasts and hips undulated in the bright morning’s light. She glanced around and saw each of the sailors as well as the captain were grinning. Evidence of their lust was easily visible in their stretched pants.
“You’ll pay for this.” She promised in a fierce whisper… tears stinging her eyes. “Just wait…”
“Mount our new figurehead, lads! Her form in front will carry more of the beautiful dust down the keel and ease our way home!”
A cheer went up from the crew as the four sailors handed the chains under the bowsprit and pulled her over the side. She screamed once as they stretched her cruelly under the sprit, bowing her back against the keel and her arms and legs spread wide along the bow.
“Enjoy the view, lass. When we are safe once more in a Caribbean harbor, I’ll let my men enjoy themselves with you as a lesson in threatening me. In the meantime, it’s time for our flight. Set the sails, m’lads! We’ve a following sea and a fair wind t’be homeward bound.”
A spontaneous cheer arouse as they recognized the outline of the mountain behind their old homeport. It was almost dawn and the hundreds of new lights on the hillside, above the harbor let them know that many years had passed and much had changed.
“Ship ahoy, starboard beam!” The lookout cried.
Hooke lifted his spyglass. “What the hell! What manner of craft has no sails and has smoke billowing from four furnaces?”
“It’s a craft of the devil for sure, Sir!” His mate was, at times, a devout man… between drafts of rum, that is.
“I think not, but it does appear to be flying a royal ensign and we’ve still a jolly roger on the halyard.”
“Shall I strike the colors, Sir?”
“No! These are pirate waters, not the King’s. If they follow us to port, they’ll have to…”
A puff of smoke from the bow of the fast approaching craft interrupted him. It was followed by a tall spray of water from just in front of their bow.
“My God, Cap’n! That’s more than three hundred yards! He has the range on us and we’ve not a gun to bear that can cross him.”
“I know that! Set all sails… we’ve needs outrun him.”
“But Cap’n, he has no sails and still is gaining on us.”
Another shot over their bow, this one splashing Tinkerbelle as she screamed and struggled in her chains.
The lookout called again. “Cap’n! Look at the fort. The royal ensign and they’ve new guns as well. And there are more of the devil ships on the way!”
“Please, Sir! If they capture us, we’ll all hang for sure. We need to escape now… please, Sir!”
“Escape to where, you fool? We’re surrounded and we can neither outgun nor outrun the bastards.”
The mate paused, bit his lip and pulled Hooke’s arm so that he faced him. “It’s no use, Sir. There’s no sense in us all dying. We don’t belong here anymore. The pixie can take us back if we hurry.”
The captain started to snarl his refusal, then paused and realized his old friend was only speaking the truth. They were no longer part of this world and had only one chance to live.
He rushed forward, leaned over the bowsprit and grabbed her hair. “Take us back! Take us back NOW! Before they catch us and kill us all!”
She spit back at him. “Free me now! Free me, or we’ll all rot and die in iron cages by the docks. I’ll not be your toy anymore! FREE ME NOW!”
He looked over his shoulder and saw the other ship was less than a hundred yards away. Another shell splashed warm seawater on them both. Cursing under his breath, he pulled the pins from her shackles and swung her by her hair and an arm, up, over the rail.
She shook herself like a wet terrier and golden dust, mixed with water flew over the deck. At once, the ship was engulfed in a thick fog, obscuring the sun and hiding it from the other craft.
The ancient vessel shuddered and, trailing streams of water, left the swells behind. She climbed fast and high as she raced away from the rising sun, chasing the western stars back to Neverland.
Copyright Anthony Stevens, 2008-2015