Back in the early 1800s, when things on the seas had calmed down for a while, I decided to take my sloop, Agápi tou Polémou (translation: Love of War), on an excursion. I had no particular destination in mind. Aphrodite was busy with pressing family issues (okay, we might have had a disagreement), so I felt this was a good chance for me to get away (out of the line of fire).
I set sail from Thessaloniki, going south and stopping along the east coast ports at night for dinner and wine. The food was excellent, the wine divine, and the company…well, a gentleman doesn’t talk about such things. I cruised the Aegean Sea, eventually turning west toward the Ionian Sea and Italy.
One day, I decided to drop anchor. I had plenty of food and wine on board, but I was in the mood to cast a fishing line into the water, sit back and relax. After I set up my pole, I stretched out on the deck, put my hands behind my head, and closed my eyes. It was nice to be away from people. No one asking me for anything, no battles to fight, no family to nag me.
“It must be so nice to be able to lie around and do nothing,” I heard someone say. “Some of us actually have to work.”
I groaned and shook my head before opening my eyes. Nope, I wasn’t imagining things. “Hermes, what the hell are you doing here? How did you even find me?”
“Are you seriously asking me that question after all these millennia?” he retorted. “More proof that you’re all brawn and no brains.”
Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath. I wasn’t going to take the bait he was throwing on the water, waiting for me to bite. “What can I do for you, Hermes?”
“Your father sent me to look for you. He wants to talk to you about the war that just ended between England and that young upstart on the other side of the world.”
“You mean the United States?”
“Yes, that one. You failed to turn in your final report, as well as how much drachma you added to the coffers.”
“I hardly call this a pressing matter.”
“Drachma is always an important matter, especially to Zeus. You should know that better than anyone.”
“Well, he’s just going to have to wait until I get back from my holiday,” I retorted.
“Do you really think he’s going to like that answer?”
“Do you really think I give a damn? I’ve earned a nice, long rest.”
Hermes looked at me for a moment. “Having issues with the little goddess?”
“Things are just fine between Aphrodite and I.”
“That’s why you’re here, and she’s back on Mount Olympus with Hephaestus,” he smirked.
“She is his wife.”
“Nice of you to remember that.”
“Go home, Hermes. Tell Pops I’ll see him in a few months.”
Before he could reply, something bumped into the back of the sloop, knocking Hermes on his butt. I jumped up, turned, and was shocked to see two men who could have been twins climbing over the railing. The first guy had muscular arms and struck a fighter’s pose. The second guy had a similar build, but he just stood there looking at me.
I rushed toward them with the intention of taking out the first guy. I pulled my arm back to hit him. He bent over, threw his arms over his head, and yelled, “Don’t hit me!”
The other guy was staring at me intently. He just stood there, didn’t move. Just stared at me. “What the hell?”
“I’m tryin’ to get ya to surrender by thinkin’ it,” the second guy said.
“A couple of idiots,” Hermes muttered behind me.
I punched the second guy, knocking him on his butt, then bent over and yanked the first guy to his feet. “What are you doing on my ship?”
“The capt’n sent us ahead to board and subdue you before he came over.”
Hermes snorted. “Obviously he sent the two smartest and strongest ones over to accomplish this feat.”
“Oh, we ain’t the smartest,” the second guy said.
“Or the strongest,” the first guy added. “That would be Smee and Rummy.”
“No, it’s Slim,” the second guy replied. “He’s the one with the swords.”
“Smee, Rummy, and Slim,” Hermes said. “I do believe you’re about to be captured, brother.”
I looked over my shoulder and glared at him. “Who is your captain?” I asked the first man.
“Capt’n Tooth, the fiercest capt’n in these seas.”
The second man nodded. “He’s not someone you want to mess with,” he agreed.
“And who are you two knuckleheads?”
“Barry,” they said together.
“Your name is Maxwell,” the first guy retorted.
“But I go by Barry,” the second man insisted.
“Yeah, but it ain’t your name!”
I could tell this was an old argument. “KNOCK IT OFF!” I yelled at them. “Why are you on my ship?”
“Because we need it,” Barry 2 said. I just looked at him, waiting for a further explanation. “Our ship has damage from a fierce battle, and we won’t be able to make it much longer. We spotted yours, and although it’s a bit small, it will do for what we need.”
“Is that so? You think I’m just going to hand it over to you just like that?”
Barry 1 looked at me like I was an idiot. “Well, yeah…I mean, we’re pirates.”
Hermes snorted again. “And he’s…”
I shook my head, cutting him off. “While I am sympathetic to your situation, I’m afraid that I will not allow you to take my ship.”
The two men looked at each other. “He thinks he’s got a choice. He’s a funny one.”
Hermes poked my arm and pointed to his left. “We’ve got more company.”
I looked over and saw a large ship, a frigate, coming right at us. “Turn the wheel, you fool!” I heard someone yell. “You’re gonna ram it, and then we’ll be out two ships!”
There was absolutely no way they were going to get turned in time, yet miraculously, they did. I’m a god, and even I couldn’t explain how they managed it. As I stared at the ship, I noticed it was sitting a little low in the water. But I didn’t see any damage to the ship that would have occurred during a battle.
Hermes stepped closer and whispered in my ear. “Maybe we should take this a little more seriously,” he said quietly. “I mean, we can handle them, but still…”
I resisted the urge to chuckle. I knew Hermes could fight, but he preferred not to if he could help it. “Let’s just see what happens. Do you have something better to do?”
Before he could finish that thought, four people swung over from the frigate and landed on the deck of my ship. One of them looked at me before taking a swig from a rum bottle. The second one wore rose-colored glasses, the third one smiled and waved, and the fourth one…I wasn’t sure what to think of the fourth one. Oh, I should mention that the first three were women.
“Where’s the rest of the crew?” the one with the glasses asked the Barry boys.
“We’ve only seen these two,” Barry 1 said.
“Go search the rest of the ship, you idiot!” she snapped at him.
The Barry boys slipped past me and hurried off. “Let me guess,” I said to her, “you’re Smee.”
“You’ve heard of me?” She smiled, clearly excited about having a reputation.
I shook my head. “No.”
Her face fell, and she looked like she was going to cry. I rolled my eyes. The one with the rum bottle looked at Smee, then got right in my face. “HEY!” she yelled, the odor of rum pouring off her like water, “Don’t make Smee cry, or I will kick your ass!”
“Give it a rest, Rummy,” I said, shoving her away from me. She stumbled and fell.
The third woman looked down at Smee sitting on the deck, then back at me. She threw her arm out, fingers spread wide, and started muttering something. I tilted my head slightly at her, wondering what she was trying to do. “Damn,” she said, “that should have worked.”
“What is it with this crew and magic?” Hermes said. “Amateurs.”
She looked him up and down. Unfortunately, he had decided to wear one of his togas that day. To be fair, it was his preferred outfit when he traveled long distances. “Who are you talking to, slave?”
“Slave?!” Hermes said indignantly. “Why, you little runt.” He was in front of her in a flash, grabbed her, and dragged her to the rail. “Learn some manners, little girl.” He picked her up and threw her overboard. We all heard the loud splash as she hit the water. Rummy scrambled to her feet, handed her bottle to Smee, and jumped after her.
I rushed over to the rail and looked down. Rummy had the girl and was pulling her back toward my ship. I tossed the rope ladder over the side and watched the two of them grab it and climb up. Grabbing the rum bottle, Rummy shoved it at the girl and forced her to take a drink.
The sound of another pair of feet hitting my deck made everyone’s head turn. A man stood there, shirtless, wearing a maroon pair of pants, a leather belt that held two sabers, and leather bands that covered most of his lower arms. But it was what he was holding that caught my attention the most. It was a black pug wearing a small black leather tricorn with a brown feather on one side. “You brought your mascot with you to board my ship?” I said. “What’s it going to do, bite my finger?”
“My name is Capt’n Tooth,” the pug replied, “and this is MY ship now.”
The crew cheered.
I could only stand there and think that this was not going to end well for me.