As I mentioned last time, a story of mine was recently included in the Word Count Podcast from R B Wood, it was a lot of fun to do and you can listen to the episode here. It includes three other great stories, including one by @MariaHaskins who will also be contributing to the upcoming Tales from Alternate Earths from Inklings Press.
“But,” I hear you cry, “I want to be able to read along to the podcast for full effect!”
“Ah-ha,” says I, “then ye be in the right place. For below ye can find that self-same tale, inspired by the words Pirate, Rat and Island, I present for you:
The Legend of Redhook’s Gold
We all watched as the rat stepped from its cage onto the beach. It twitched its nose at its new surroundings.
“Is that it?” I asked.
“How do you mean, Captain?”
“Well, it doesn’t seem to be ‘arrowing in on old Redhook’s treasure’, does it?”
“I expect he’s by way of gettin’ his bearin’s.”
“And I can’t help but notice, in the warm light of day, that the distinctive red stripe that marked it as an ‘island rat’` is beginning to flake off…”
“Aye well it be moultin’ season.”
“My congratulations, Mr Hobbs, your story was a fine one, and has bought you three more days of life, but I told you what to expect when your ridiculous tale proved false.” I drew my sword. “Truly, it saddens me to deprive the world of such a talented storyteller, but a deal is a deal.”
“Captain! The rat!” the bosun shouted.
I looked. “After it men, don’t let it get away!”
“Ayeaye!” “Yarr!” “Get it!”
We took after the creature as it made for the cover of the jungle at the top of the tide-line.
“I told you, Captain! Like an arrow!”
But the time for conversation was over. The rat was fast, and as it darted into the undergrowth it was all we could do to catch up, galumphing into the jungle like idiots.
Of course, we lost the bloody thing instantly.
“Spread out! Find it!”
“Ayeaye!” “Don’t step on it!” “Yarr!”
“Here! I see it!”
We gave chase again, for though it seemed unlikely, perhaps the rat was leading us to wealth beyond our imaginations, just like Hobb had told us. And we would feel more stupid if we ignored it.
The bosun caught a foot on a tree root, tumbled over and was out of the chase. Hobb blundered left, when the rat cut right, and we lost him too. One of the ratings managed to run off a low cliff, another ran headlong into some thorn bush, snaring and scratching himself badly. I left him behind, gingerly picking himself clear.
By the time I found myself running along a stretch of sand up along a rising cliff-line, I was the only one left in the chase, just me and my rodent guide.
“Stand, you mangy beast!” I roared, but it seemed disinclined to respect the chain of command.
Instead, it disappeared over the crest of the hill; I dug in and ran faster, sand slipping under my boots. I crested the hill, and had to throw myself backwards, as the ground dropped away from me, into a stream far below.
I was going too fast to stop, my feet dug into the soft sand, but my body kept going. I windmilled my arms to try and catch my balance, and my hand chanced upon a tree-limb. I grabbed, and clung on for dear life, as I swung wildly out over the precipice.
The tree branch bent, bowed, and as the ground swung wildly beneath me, I found myself hanging over the far bank. I let go, falling heavily on my shoulder, my face ploughed a furrow in the sand, but when I came to a stop at last, I seemed to be still alive.
I looked up, and there was the rat; it flicked its whiskers at me.
It had stopped its flight in a small sandy hollow, there was nothing remarkable about it, other than a rat and a battered pirate captain. “You never had any intention of leading me to untold treasure, did you?
“You’ve led me on a merry chase, my rodent friend, I respect that,” I scooped up the creature “but if I find Hobb, I will be feeding you to him. Fair enough, mate?”
I stuffed the rat in my coat pocket, buttoning it safely in. I brushed myself off, and looked around, by way of getting my bearings.
The beach, and my ship were to my right, but as I took a step to return, I caught a sound from the other direction, some distance off. Stone, ringing on metal. Curious.
Slowly, carefully, I picked my way through the trees, following the sound.
I arrived in time to watch Hobb smash the lock on a chest open. He didn’t see me, as he opened the lid, but I saw the glint of gold therein.
I stepped forward. “Mr Hobb, what have you there?”
Hobb startled, and the chest slammed shut. “Ah Captain! As promised, the rat led my right to it! Good and proper and true.”
“I see, and where is the much celebrated rodent now?”
“I let him go, the poor mite deserved his freedom after serving us so well, I was thinking.”
Wordlessly, I pulled the rat from my pocket.
“Ah, and I see you found him again, no escaping you Captain, right?”
“Quite right, yes. You played me for a fool, Hobb. I don’t know what you hoped to gain… but whatever it was, you’ve lost.”
“Treasure enough to buy my way off this island captain, even your men would leave you here and take me safely home for a fraction of this, I warrant.” He stood, and as he did, he had a pistol in his hand. “And I see this more by way of an opportunity than a loss. If you’re dead, the crew’s loyalty will cost me less, I’m thinking.”
Fast as I am, I couldn’t draw my cutlass and cover the ground before the cur shot me, but I had … other resources available.
With a flick of my wrist, I tossed the rat at him.
The beast squealed in surprise, and for reasons best known to Hobb, he chose to fire wildly at the rodent in flight. The retort of his pistol echoed across the island, but even as the echo faded, my sword was out and driven into Hobb’s chest.
I sat next to the dead storyteller to catch my breath. The rat considered the view from atop the treasure chest.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Welcome to my crew, my friend!”