Captain Foxy allowed his gaze to sweep across the bar. Sitting with his chair tilted back against the wall and his legs casually resting on the table in front of him was a mysterious old Scotty dog, his once vibrant black fur tinging grey at the edges with just his old stories and wanted posters to keep his memories of an exciting lifetime of adventuring alive.
‘Y’argh, be ye Wallace, former Cap’n of th’ Highland Hangman,’ Captain Foxy pulled himself to his full height.
‘Aye, ye hawfin fox, whit’s it tea ye,’ Wallace took a deep swig of his bottle of whisky.
‘There be talk aroun’ these parts that ye’re in possession of a certain map. Th’ map of Swashbuckler Cove.’
‘N’ whit wid a howfin, ower energetic fox lik’ yi’ll waant wi’ a map tae swashbuckler cove?’ Wallace took another swig of his whisky. ‘Th’ journey is tae treacherous fur th’ likes o’ ye ‘n’ that treasure… Ye’r punching ‘boon yer weight if ye think ye’r th’ kind worthy o’ retrieving it. Juist return tae yer safe wee pirate cove, ye grippie fox. That map is fur someone mair worthy.’
‘Do ye even be knowin’ who I be ye drunk barnacle-covered sea dog? I’m Cap’n Foxy th’ Pirate Fox and one way or another I’ll be leavin’ here with that map.’ Foxy slammed his hook down hard against the table; a little too hard given the fact he’d forgotten to turn his hand before doing so, ending up with his hook half stuck in the table.
‘Captain Foxy indeed,’ Wallace shot him a bemused smile. ‘Och, a’ve heard o’ ye a’richt. A’ve heard a lot aboot ye,’ he chuckled. ‘Mibbie yer juist th’ kind o’ body fur this adventure. Bit a’m warning ye noo, this isnae aff tae be a donder in th’ pairk. Urr ye truly prepared fur th’ horrors ye’r aboot tae encounter?’
‘My crew and I can handle anythin’ th’ land and sea can throw at us,’ Foxy managed to pull his hook out of the table without too much effort.
‘Och aye, a’ve na doubt yer. Bit a’m feart ah dinnae hae th’ maps oan me richt noo. Dinnae waant juist a’body getting thair hauns oan thaim,’ his eyes twinkled mischievously as he got to his feet, revealing himself to be a full foot shorter than Captain Foxy. ‘This wey, ye clatty auld fox, follow me.’
They couldn’t have been sailing for more than half a day, when a semi-circle of rocks protruded out of the water ahead of them. On some of the rocks and playing in the waters around them, were beautiful creatures with the heads and upper bodies of afghan hounds and the lower body and tails of colourful fish. It was hard to believe such beautiful creatures were called the tricksters of the seven seas. And yet as the Merdogs spotted his vessel and one by one began swimming towards it, Captain Foxy felt a twinge of fear pull at his stomach. More so when members of his crew began to abandon their posts in order to wave or call down at the lovely creatures. A strong urge to join his crew moved through Captain Foxy’s veins, but doing so would mean abandoning the wheel and the sea was too cruel a mistress for such things. Instead he rooted himself as firmly to the spot as he could and glanced towards First Mate Pidgeon Toes.
‘Y’argh, stop oglin’ those lovely sea-devils and get th’ crew back t’ their posts. Th’ gap we need t’ pass through be too tight fer a distracted crew.’
‘Aye, Cap’n, I’ll get right on it,’ she cooed back, but remained firmly in place.
‘Have ye completely lost yer mind Pigeon Toes? A Cap’n’s order be an order ye mutinous freebooter. Get th’ crew t’ their posts, now!’
Still she did not move and nor did any other member of his crew. Then, almost out of nowhere, the ship’s cabin boy, a plucky long-haired guinea pig, emerged from the lower decks. He glanced about until he finally spotted Captain Foxy and looked almost relieved at the sight of another sane person.
‘Captain, I think the crew are bewitched,’ his squeaky voice was still filled with tones of a posh upbringing Foxy had chosen not to ask about.
‘Aye, lad, I’ve no doubt they be, we should get out of here before I fall under th’ same spell as th’ rest of th’ crew. I dern’t be knowin’ what force be allowin’ me t’ resist fer this long, but I dern’t want t’ risk it breakin’. So lad, th’ lives of our crew be in our hands now, think ye have what it takes?’
‘Aye, Captain,’ he saluted, ‘tell me what to do.’
After barely scraping through and with the crew of the Black Sea Dog back to their senses, they continued onwards. The sun had barely passed high noon, when word came down from the crow’s nest of bubbling in the waters ahead of them. Passing the wheel into the capable hands of First Mate Pidgeon Toes, Captain Foxy made his way towards the forecastle of his ship to observe the waters for himself. Out of the bubbling a single, long tentacle emerged. The tentacle itself was almost florescent pink in colour, with dark green, razor sharp spines with a shark-tooth-like appearance on one side and deep blue suckers on the other. This tentacle was joined by another, then another and so on until ten of the beasts were visible above the water, seemingly pulling it apart in order to create an opening for the head to emerge. The shark-tooth-like spines continued up from three of the tentacles creating a row which ran directly up the back of its head and either side. These all culminated into a giant sword like protrusion on the top. A single, giant eye centralised and filled what would have been a face region and from the stories Captain Foxy had heard about it, he knew its mouth was located underneath.
‘Y’argh, Gus, me lad,’ he placed a hand on the young guinea pig’s shoulder, ‘how be ye with a cutlass?’
‘My father paid for me to learn fencing with a French master,’ an excited glint appeared in his eyes.
‘Good enough, I want ye t’ join me and a few other brave souls in keepin’ Matilda’s arms at bay whilst those mannin’ th’ cannon get their shots in order,’ a devilish grin pulled at Captain Foxy’s lips. ‘Ye fancy it?’
‘Good lad, ye have th’ heart of a fearless pirate in ye. This way.’
Matilda put up a good fight. Its tentacles were heavy, but a good sharp stab into the spot below a sucker seemed to cause a temporary withdraw. So far nine cannon shots had been fired. Four of which missed completely, three barely scrapped the beast and the remaining two had landed straight on. Clearly this was not enough to drive the beast under, so for now the battle between the crew of the Black Sea Dog and Matilda waged on. After several more well-aimed shots landed, Matilda finally driving it back into the depths. Celebratory cheers made their rounds aboard the Black Sea Dog and everything in Captain Foxy wanted to join them, but as their Captain he had to show a little more decorum than that. Demounting the rat lines, he made his way to the centre of the main deck.
‘Y’argh, ye all did a fine job and I’m proud o’ ye, I’ll warrant ye,’ he allowed a proud smile to cross his face. ‘But belay with this ruckus, we’ve a booty t’ go aft and ’tis not goin’ t’ recover itself.’
Just over a day later they arrived at Swashbuckler Cove. Captain Foxy disembarked before his ship mates and surveyed their surroundings. He felt as though they were being watched but did his best to quell his concerns and focus on the task at hand. Unfurling the map, he studied it carefully, resurveying the area around them as he did in order to get his bearings.
‘Y’argh, we’re close. Not as close as I’d like, but close enough. This way me maties.’
With that he began leading them along the shoreline. But with every step he took, the sense of impending danger nearby grew stronger and more certain. They were not alone. This feeling only grew stronger, when the path they had to follow took them off the beach and into the islands thick vegetation. With his sightline dampened by obscuring trees, Captain Foxy did his best to tune all his other senses for danger. He’d sooner be on edge then caught on the narrow side of another’s sword. Suddenly, strange banging noises began sounding all around them. It instantly brought their little band to a halt. Nervously Captain Foxy found himself studying the map, as though it held the answer somehow. It didn’t. After a few moments the banging came to a stop. And Captain Foxy kept his focus on the map just long enough to convince anyone watching him that he hadn’t just started looking at it because he didn’t know what else to do.
‘There appears t’ be a fork in th’ path just ahead, we need t’ be sure we take th’ lower one, by th’ looks of it,’ he put the map away.
No sooner than he had, the noise started up around them again. This time, determined to show more bravery, he kept moving, forcing his ship mates to do the same. It didn’t take them long to reach the fork in the path, by which time the noise around them was almost deafening. They were close to the treasure now. Really close. If the vegetation hadn’t been so thick they might have been able to see the cave it was located within. In fact, no sooner than Foxy was thinking about it, it came into sight. But as it did the noise around them came to a jolting halt. The silence which followed was so sudden and so unexpected, it was almost more intimidating than the noise had been.
The damp air of the cave reached out towards them as they continued their approach. It was enough to put goosebumps on Captain Foxy’s hook, but he wouldn’t let on. A strange noise echoed out of the darkness. It was quickly followed by another, then several more. Like loud footsteps of something big and heavy rushing towards them. It was then a sinking feeling moved through Foxy like a heavy stone through water. Whoever or whatever was making the noise was trying to summon whatever it was about to emerge from the cave. Captain Foxy came to an abrupt halt, drew his sword and forced his ship mates to do the same. The emerging shadow was as stacked as a bull rhino with a long, alligator like tail, which it held high like a scorpion preparing to sting. The front half of its body appeared lion-like whilst the back looked more like a goat. On each side it stretched out its eagle-like wings as if to make itself appear even bigger. Now in the light, finally, Captain Foxy forced himself to look at the creature’s face. But what he saw below its stag-like antlers almost caused his eye patch to pop up of its own accord.
‘It… has the head… of a rabbit,’ Gus’s voice was somewhere between uncertain amusement and caution.
Captain Foxy responded by shoulders pointing his sword at the monster and moving slowly towards it. With every step he took forward, the creature’s eyes focused more and more in on him. Those eyes, so big and soft and brown. Then he was hit by its smell. An unnerving scent, like putrid rotting flesh. But whether it was its own or that of its past victims was anyone’s guess. Suddenly the creature erupted with a noise so loud and so sudden Captain Foxy half jumped out of his skin. He didn’t get so much of a chance to even blink in recovery, before the creature launched itself at him with deadly intent. His own counterattack was fast and sloppy, missing the mark completely. The creature circled around him, lunching again. Another near miss. Another failed counter. When a third and then a fourth attempt also ended this way, Foxy began to feel like this was a battle between two drunken pirates too inebriated to see straight. It was at this point Pidgeon Toes and Gus entered the fray, but they too continuously failed to hit the creature.
For a moment Captain Foxy forced himself to a stop and rooted his feet in the ground as much as possible. He then prepared himself to meet an attack head on, holding his sword out in front of him like it was a shield. The creature made another of its god awful screeches as it lashed its tail at him. The tail moved cleanly through the sword and vanished along with the creature. Or at least at first it looked as though it had disappeared, but a nipping at his ankles caused Captain Foxy to look down and discover a pint sized version of the monster they’d just been fighting.
‘Y’argh,’ he gave an uncertain cough, before focusing his eyes focused on the cave as though this were all perfectly normal, ‘I believe we have a booty t’ collect.’
The walk through the cave was somehow longer than Captain Foxy had expected. When they finally reached what felt like the end, Foxy had Gus use the torch he was holding to light all the ones hanging in wall brackets, just visible in the dim light.
‘Y’argh, lets light this cave up and see th’ booty in all its glory.’
But as more and more light flooded into the cavernous room, Foxy felt his heart start to sink. Instead of glorious treasure there were damp rocks, an underground lagoon and scuttling critters fleeing from the unexpected light. Cautiously he and Pidgeon Toes moved further into the room and after a worrying eternity, something glinting caught his eye. It was the edge of a large treasure chest. His confidence back in full, Captain Foxy strode over to it and opened it to find… A wooden statue. In disbelief Foxy picked it up out of the chest to examine it more closely. The face of the statue was blank and the whole thing had an unfinished feel to it and carved into a plague at the bottom was YCH.
‘Tis a YCH statue,’ Wallace’s voice sounded from behind them. ‘’N’ if yi’ll waant tae ken tis real value, yi”ll need tae tak’ it tae an artist tae git yer YCH Slot.’
Turning to face the old sea-dog, Captain Foxy felt his jaw drop so far open it might as well have been broken off of its hinges.
‘Noo,’ Wallace’s face was filled with an amused smile, ‘wasn’t that a treasure worth adventuring fur?’