I wrote this as part of my costume for Con this year.
I frowned impatiently at the spinning compass. Sailing the trade routes of the South Pacific was boring work, rarely providing anything like the adventures I had always secretly craved, and I didn’t like the possibilities a broken compass was likely to offer.
Striding along the quarterdeck of my father’s ship, the Dreams of Avarice, I looked through the rigging for a clear sight of the stars. The courses were set and holding the breeze, a few points off the port quarter, and somewhere ahead of the thrusting bowsprit was Indonesia – if we are on course, I thought.
The stars were no help. Scudding clouds and growing mist hid most of them, and those I could see were not visible in sufficient numbers to accurately place.
The ship’s sailing master appeared at my side, also gazing uneasily up at the sky. “Captain,” he muttered, “this is an evil night. I’ve sailed these seas near forty years, and this weather… I’ve never seen this. Seas disturbed, broken cloud, growing mist, but winds light and steady.”
I nodded. “I don’t like it either, Smith. Take in the forecourse, if you please, and double the lookouts.”
Dawn approached at the end of the next watch, but the ship barely moved, easing through what seemed a heavy fog. Standing on the quarterdeck, you couldn’t make out the foredeck. The lookouts around the deck were doing their best, but if they spotted something we’d never respond in time. With barely enough sail to maintain steerage, I found myself increasingly irritated with the broken compass. I gave commands to the men at the wheel, but even I couldn’t have said why – I thought perhaps I was merely attempting to maintain the appearance of control, though a disquieting feeling in my belly suggested parts of me knew that for a lie.
“Ahoy! The fog’s liftin’ ahead!”
The hail from the lookout up on the foremast was galvanizing, men leaping from their places to peer impatiently ahead. Dread spread to fill my entire being, and I had to wet my lips twice before I could give the orders for a glass to be sent up to the lookout the first moment they could see. Shouts of amazement as the ship sailed out of the fog like a man enters a room, instant perfect conditions after hours of blindness. Those few sails set flapped and tightened as a breeze filled in, heeling the ship and speeding her on into clear air.
Impossible, flashed through my mind, as the officer of the watch and sailing master shouted to the lookout for detail. An island, it appeared, only a few miles ahead – an impossible island that could never exist. Mountains and forest in impossible isolation. Sheltered coves, here on the windward side where they could not be. A giant waterfall, the largest the lookout had ever seen, apparently springing from the largest mountain without a river to give it form.
Walking to the quarterdeck rail, I stared ahead at the island. The dawn was erasing the stars, all but one, big, bright, impossibly beautiful, shining out in the sky directly over the central peak.
I didn’t recognize it.
Not the island, not the star. This could not be real. A glance at the compass showed it to be rock steady, with the island dead ahead – due North. Another impossibility, that we could be so far off our bearing, that this wind could be from the South.
Without warning, a piercing headache drove me to the one knee, barely biting back a cry of pain and fear. Dimly I could see my men in similar state, some falling entirely prone, two barely maintaining their hold in the rigging.
Prepare, Captain Hook, boomed an impossible voice in my mind. Neverland calls you to battle, for it is Saturday.
As quickly as that, the voice and the pain vanished. Captain Hook, I thought. “Smee, I -“ I broke off. Why had I called the sailing master that?
“Deck there!” came the hail. “Sail ho, three points on the port bow, coming from around the island!”
A ship, much the same as our own, flying a proud black pirate flag – and a blue one at the mizzen, emblazoned with a giant spoon.
“Starla Blue,” I snarled, unthinking. “Ready the men, Smee. She’ll not escape this time, not her or that rascal Pan…”