A few minutes later, I found myself sitting in my cabin with the black pug. He was on top of my desk, drinking water from a goblet. “I may be a pirate,” he said, “but I’m not a drunk.”
“Good to know, I suppose.”
“I’m sure this is a quite uncomfortable situation for you,” Tooth said, sitting back on his haunches.
“I’ve been in worse situations,” I admitted.
“As the God of War, I would imagine you have.”
I arched an eyebrow at him.
He shook his little head at me. “Don’t try to deny it. I know who you are. Your exploits are legendary. I have used many of your battle tactics in my own fights.”
“I’m honored.” I looked at the little pug for a minute. “If you know who I am, don’t you think it was rather gutsy of you to board my ship?”
“Aye, I suppose it was,” Tooth conceded. “But, I was desperate.”
“Desperation has made many a man…and pug…do very foolish things,” I replied.
The black pug paced back and forth on the desk. “This is a serious situation, and I am hoping that you will understand. ‘Tis a sad tale that I have to tell you.”
“Most pirate stories involve sad tales.”
“Aye, they do,” he agreed.
“Well, let’s hear it,” I said, waving my hand at him.
“Ten years ago, we were part of Captain Hairy Peg Leg Wyndom’s crew. Aye, we were a grand lot. Sailing the Seven Seas, boarding ships, fightin’, plunderin’, enjoyin’ the ladies…”
I swear he winked at me when he said that last one.
“We never lost. Sent many a ship to the bottom of the sea. Anyway, five years ago, Hairy Peg Leg began to act funny. Accused his crew of taking some treasure he claimed was rightfully his. Some of us took offense to that. Hairy Peg Leg had gotten lazy and let his crew do all the fightin’, while he sat in his cabin, counting his riches.”
“You took the money,” I said matter-of-factly.
Tooth took another drink from the goblet. “Aye, we did,” he said. “Twas only fair, though. We were the ones riskin’ our necks, while he sat there and did nothin’. After a night of drinkin’, me and my current crew took a chest full of gold, jewels, and trinkets, rowed over to a nearby island, and buried it. We was quiet as church mice, I tell ya, but someone saw us and ratted us out to Hairy Peg Leg a couple of days later. The capt’n felt it was bad luck to kill his mascot – that would be me – so he put us in a dinghy in the middle of the ocean and left us to die.”
“The ship you have now is hardly a dinghy,” I said.
“Oh, aye, that’s true, that’s true. We managed to make our way to land…took a few weeks, and we lost a man or two. Had to throw them overboard when they decided I’d make a tasty dinner. We earned some gold…”
“Stole it,” I retorted.
“…borrowed it,” Tooth corrected me. “We used what we got, bought a new ship, and took off on the high seas once again. We’ve spent the last few years doing what we do best, until…” he sat down and looked at me with his big brown eyes.
“Until what?” I said impatiently.
“Our most recent battle was a fierce one. Hand-to-hand combat, the kind I’m sure you’d appreciate. We were victorious, but our ship suffered heavy damage.”
“So why didn’t you just take the other one? Isn’t that the right of the victors?”
“Aye, it is,” Tooth nodded. “But our fight was with Hairy Peg Leg, and it didn’t feel right to take his ship.”
“All’s fair in love and war,” I told him. “Besides, the man cast you adrift with no provisions, did he not?”
“Aye, aye, he did, he did,” Tooth said. “But Hairy Peg Leg died during the battle. Someone shaved his peg leg down until there was nothing for him to stand on. When he fell over, they stabbed him in the gullet. We put his crew into dinghies with provisions – we’re not heathens – took all the treasure, then sent a cannonball against her broadside. We stayed in silent salute to the man he used to be until the ship completely sank.”
“Well, that was…very honorable of you.”
Tooth nodded in agreement. “Aye, it was. However, our ship is unable to make it any further. I need yours to take our treasure to land.”
“I suppose I can help you transport your goods,” I replied.
Tooth scratched his neck. “There ‘tis a bit more than that, I’m afraid, lad. We want you to take us to the island where we buried the treasure we took from Hairy Peg Leg a few years ago.”
“You mean you never went back for it?”
“Well, we aren’t sure where the island is exactly,” he admitted.
“I certainly don’t know where it is!”
“I was hopin’ that you’d talk to your uncle of the sea, see if he might be able to point us in the right direction.”
“I’m not about to waste his time with something like this. When you made your way to land after Hairy Peg Leg set you adrift, where were you? Do you know the name of the country or territory?”
He scratched his neck again. “I’m not rightly sure, but Smee might.”
He barked several times, and a minute later, there was a knock on the door before she came in. “Did you need something, Captain?” she said as she walked in. “Is this one giving you trouble?”
Tooth shook his head. “Nah, I made it clear to him who was the boss right away. I wanted to ask you a question.”
“All right,” Smee said, pushing her rose-colored glasses up the bridge of her nose.
“Do you remember the name of the place we landed on after Hairy Peg Leg set us loose?”
“Isle of Man, Captain Tooth, near Britain. A good two or three weeks’ journey, maybe more, from here.”
“Should be a fairly easy journey with a ship like this,” Tooth said, looking at me.
I frowned. The pug was putting me in a rather tenuous position. I didn’t want to make him look bad in front of his crew; on the other hand, I had no desire to get involved in their predicament, either.
But then the damn pug did something dirty and underhanded. Something that, to this day, has never been done to me during any battle or fight.
He gave me the big, brown-eyed, sad puppy dog look.
That was really, really wrong.
Before I could say anything, yelling from topside had all three of us rushing to see what was going on. I could see the seven other crew members standing around one of the masts. One of them – tall, muscular, medium length blonde hair and beard – was holding on tightly to a rope. The others were cheering and laughing. I looked around the deck for Hermes, but didn’t see him.
“ARES, GET ME DOWN!”
Glancing up the mast, I spotted Hermes. The crew had tied him up and hauled him to the top, where he swung back and forth. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. “How’s the view up there?” I called out to him.
“You’re not funny, Ares! Kill all of them and get me down immediately!”
Ten pairs of eyes turned to look at me, and several hands put their hands on the hilts of their swords. I raised mine to show them they were empty. “I have no intention of doing what he’s asked of me,” I assured them.
They removed their hands from their weapons, but they continued to look at me suspiciously. “Why have you hauled Toga Boy up the pole, men?” Tooth said.
“He called us all sorts of names, and demanded that we get off his boat,” Rummy growled.
“His boat?” I retorted.
“Yeah, he said you were the hired help,” Barry #2 said.
“Did he now?” I said. “You should have thrown him overboard.”
“You’re not funny, Ares,” Hermes yelled at me.
“Oh, I think I am,” I replied. He just glared at me and struggled, which just made him swing more. I glanced down at Tooth. “As much as I dislike him, we should let him down.”
“Are you sure, lad?” Tooth said. “It won’t hurt him none to hang around up there for a while.”
“I’m sure. But would you allow me to do it?”
“Oh aye, that would be fine, wouldn’t it, Pete?”
The man holding the rope looked up at Hermes, then down at the pug. “If that’s what ya want, Capt’n.” He handed me the rope and took a step back.
“Stop moving around,” I said to Hermes. “I’m going to let you down nice and easy.”
“It’s about time,” Hermes said indignantly.
I slowly started to lower him down, then suddenly released the rope. Hermes hit the deck with a thud. The crew laughed as he cursed at me. “You son of a…”
“Now, now, watch your language,” I admonished him. “There are ladies present.”
He glared at me. “Just cut me loose, you fool.”
Before I could ask Tooth to do that, a loud whooshing sound, followed by the deck being swamped with water, interrupted us. “My ship!” Tooth cried, rushing to the rail and jumping on the edge. “Did you lot remember to take the treasure off the ship before she went down?”
They looked at each other guiltily. “No, sir, Capt’n Tooth,” Barry #1 replied. “We didn’t.”
Tooth let loose a string of words that I had said many times myself, and a few new ones I had never heard before. When he was done, he started barking orders. It didn’t take long for them to weigh anchor and get my ship moving.
It looked like I was going on a treasure hunt.