“Ahoy Capitano. Sastimos. Shee oney bonaroo pluk boot.” The approaching figure, paddling at the water’s edge, had his trousers rolled up above the knees and a knotted handkerchief on his head, over a black and white polka dot Lone Ranger mask.
“Rocka Inglés, McGoogs. Flo, here, has no Polari,” bellowed Rotskagg Blenkinsop.
“And she’s no time for your mucking about. Get over here, Slasher.” Dark Flo turned back to Rotskagg. “Our Coldwar Spytrawler Lord Ancaster is working out of Braye Harbour on Alderney, gathering as much info as the crew can glean. We need to scupper this invasion on Jersey before it gets established. The Kronstadt sailors are a formidable fighting force ashore, but only have two lightly armed trawlers. The Polikarpovs will provide air cover and we are getting the Lady Æthelflæda out of mothballs.”
“So, apart from this Caspian Sea Beasty, what can you offer, Captain?” chipped in Slasher.
A barely perceptible scowl flickered across the pirate king’s usually amiable countenance. “IF we come in on your side, Mr Cat o’ Mystery; that has yet to be decided. I have convened a Pirate Court and we shall have to see how many Corsair captains turn up. Their whale chasers also be armed only with a single 40mm Bofors, or pair of 37mm Soviet V-11s at best. My Queen Anne’s Bounty and the Destroyer of Worlds be the only craft as can take on a battleship.” The Queen Anne was Rotskagg’s imposing black flagship dirigible. She bristled with every conceivable calibre of weaponry. “The Gilnockie of Gilnockie has dispatched a contingent of his Reivers and Moss Troopers aboard the somewhat overloaded Clyde puffer Inchcolm Lassie. As we speak they should be passing through the Caledonian Canal en route to Banff where they will swell their ranks from volunteers in the local Insurrectionary Militia. Furthermore a band of continental mercenaries be awaiting our arrival in Craster in order to negotiate their fee. They be irrepressible dandies, but hard fighters.
“So, it be down to you, cat and barmaid, to make a compelling case for your cause.”
“No pressure, as usual,” grumbled Slasher as the trio headed back towards the cramped harbour of Craster. Roistering and squabbling from within the tavern drowned out even the incessant squawking of the gulls. Herring barrels were stacked at the roadside. In the little garden, kept neat by the landlord’s daughter, were piled halberds and pikes, cutlasses, flammenschwerts and beidhänders, many a sawn-off shotgun and every mark of Kalash assault rifle confiscated on entry to the Jolly Fisherman. When Rotskagg held open the door to the bar and stood back to let the others in they were met by a sight and sounds of utter pandemonium. A group of weasels in flamboyant garb, slashed and puffed sleeves, striped hose, massive floppy ostrich feathered hats stood together on a long oak table roaring out demands for ludicrous amounts of what they were calling ‘Gelt’, preferably in Euros; the throng of angry corsairs that surrounded them looking almost sombre by comparison, in their spotted kerchiefs, cropped Levis and hearts and roses tattoos.
Rotskagg turned to Dark Flo, “Would you like to do your thing, dearie?”
“Time gentlemen, Please. Let’s be having you now.” Her gently melodic voice sliced through the furore like a freshly honed stiletto. The company froze. A dread silence descended, punctuated only by the tick-tock of an age-darkened act of parliament clock marking the passage of the moments above the open fireplace.
“Good. Now come to order. Sit,” Rotskagg turned his single, ice-cold eye to the weasels. “…all of you.” Then, “Mine host, lager for the Europeans and strong ale for my hearties here. Smartly does it.”