Prominent within the Mead Hall, even from the imposing doorway, despite the jostling crowd, was a massive bulk of bulging muscle beneath a covering of sun blackened hide, criss-crossed with livid scars and almost entirely covered in tattoos, a red beard, plaited and bowed, a stub of clay pipe, a third hand black leather Saint Laurent biker jacket, scuffed and stained with sump oil, over a pink, Eric Bloodaxe t-shirt, striped Bermuda shorts, Doc Martens 14 eyelet Black 1914s, a red headscarf and black felt hat with blacker ostrich feathers and an extra wide brim turned up and pinned at the front. It was seated on a straining Windsor oak chair with a Ranter lass on each knee and a quart pewter tankard in its gnarled fist. This was unmistakably Rotskagg Blenkinsopp the pirate king. He stood up with a roar, letting the two girls fall, giggling, to the ground.
“Anna, miri feely yog chavi, sastimos. Y kon shee deze bold ryes?” (“Anna, my young fire child, greetings. And who are these daring gentlemen?”)
“Tooti vada kushti, skipper. Mira compañeros, o famosos Boz, Ferdinand o vlieger y Phoebles kon shee nossa martini constante,” (“You look well, captain. My companions, the famous Boz, Ferdinand the aviator and Phoebles who is our steadying hand,”) replied Anna.
“You polari’s improving,” boomed Rotskagg, now in thickly accented English. He lurched forward, lifted Boz by the shoulders and shook him in a companionable way. Dropping the Boz, he grabbed Ferdy’s wing stub and shook it so vigorously that several feathers had to be straightened, once the bird had freed himself from the crushing grip. Advancing jovially towards a horrified Phoebles the corsair swept his hat from his own head and dropped it over the rotund ginger tom. It buried him. As Phoebles battled to escape, the hat twitched and it’s black plume quivered, and Rotskagg clung to the furniture, overcome with mirth. Deeming introductions to be at an end the captain turned his attention to the ragged band of wild cats, wilder Scots and scurvy sea dogs that were shambling into the hall.
“Mira wortacha, pralas, avela y schlumph, y xa. Mandi wil parlé. Eğlence daha yeni başlıyor.” (“My confederates, brothers, come and drink, and eat. We must talk. The fun is only just beginning.) Rotskagg retrieved his hat and Phoebles rejoined his companions, blinking.
“What’s all that jabber?”
“The Pirate King prefers to communicate in a bastard form of Lingua Franca. It is the common language of the corsairs,” explained Anna before she turned her attention to the ruffian band. Rotskagg had scooped up Bui and was tickling her behind one ear. Ale was ordered.
“Have we been dismissed?” asked Ferdy.
“They do seem to have forgotten us,” replied Boz.
Phoebles was edging towards the food. A long table was piled high with ornately displayed snacks. Multi-coloured catnip muffins vied with mooncakes and neat little triangular fish-paste sandwiches for the attention of prospective diners. There were exotic flans and trifle and, at the centre a life-size ice sculpture of Lady Æthelflæda in full armour and winged helmet, already melting into the brocade tablecloth. Almost before he could grab any of the refreshments there was a commotion and Snowdrop wobbled her way through the crowd on her unicycle, juggling three white mice who were squeaking Rule Britannia, not very well as they were a little nauseous.
“Come on,” she shouted, spinning round and heading for the door, “The brass band competition is about to start.”
Ferdy pulled Phoebles away from the food table, just as he was starting on his third mooncake.
“But I’m in the middle of… Do those pink things look like prawn cocktails to you? I’m very fond of prawns.”