Back at the Sleeping Dog the pirates were in an uproar. The Black Dagger was missing! Others in the tavern were accosted for information, but nobody could tell the band of pirates a thing. The ship had been in the harbour, yes indeed it had, aye, many of the men in the tavern had seen it, well, some days ago now. Was it days? Maybe a week, or weeks, they supposed, and then one day it wasn’t there. They had assumed it had simply gone on its way to other waters and other harbours to do its business, it hadn’t occurred to anyone there was anything amiss. The pirates sat despondently around a table. Gago ordered a round of drinks.
Harrison Gus sat amongst them with Sancus, his parrot, on his shoulder. Not only had they lost their passage home, Harrison Gus thought, Alan had been on the ship, his great friend Alan, who’d been so ill that he couldn’t come along with them to find a parrot for Harrison Gus. Harrison Gus had been so looking forward to introducing his new parrot to Alan, and now Alan was missing, with the ship. And all the others too, Harrison Gus supposed. Except perhaps Ol’ No Legs, who’d gone to shore to gather supplies, or more likely sample supplies at various taverns.
Even if they found him No Legs would be no help, what would he know about what had happened to the ship, he’d only be able to tell them which tavern sold the least revolting alcoholic bilge water. Oh, what to do. None of the others were coming up with any good ideas either.
“Let’s go for a walk” Sancus whispered in his ear. Harrison Gus shrugged. He didn’t really feel like taking a stroll; what if the pirates discovered something or decided to do something and he wasn’t there?
“Now. Let’s go.” Sancus said. It didn’t seem like a suggestion, in fact, it sounded so distinctly like an order that before he realised it, Harrison Gus had stood up and was walking out the door.
“Don’t go too far!” called the Captain, before turning back to the deliberations around the table.
“Ok, so, where do you want to go?” said Harrison Gus when they got outside.
“Let’s go to the beach. Let’s go find your friends, Morska and Sereni.”
Harrison Gus looked at Sancus. Not so dumb this bird. If anyone was going to know what had happened to the ship and its unfortunate passengers, Morska and Sereni just might. He set off for the peninsula, where they’d met the mermaids before. It was rocky and wet and slippery. Awkwardly Harrison Gus made his way across the black rocks. Sancus leapt off into the air, finding it more dignified to fly than be bounced around on Harrison Gus’ shoulder, but he circled slowly around keeping Harrison Gus company as they made their way along.
The mermaids were not there, no Morska, no Sereni, just the unbroken surface of the sea, rippling and dimpling in the breeze. Harrison Gus could not see the Black Dagger from here either. Sancus flew up in the air and squawked a few times, but when he came back down he told Harrison Gus there was nothing but endless sea as far as he could see, no Black Dagger, no mermaids.
Harrison Gus sat down and pulled off his boots. He stuck his toes in the water and sat thinking about the ship, and Alan and his chicken, Pig. He wondered how they were and if they were safe. He could not imagine Alan voluntarily letting the ship leave without the Captain or little Harrison Gus or the rest of the crew, but perhaps he had been unable to stop it. Perhaps he had been overpowered, perhaps he was still too sick to do much at all. He certainly hadn’t been well the last time Harrison Gus had seen him, being rowed back to the boat by Deadfish to convalesce. Deadfish… Maybe he had something to do with it. Harrison Gus could well imagine that Deadfish would sail away without them.
Sancus settled on a rock beside him and began preening and cleaning his feathers. Harrison Gus watched him for some time. It was strangely soothing to watch Sancus peck and polish his feathers and it distracted him from thinking of all the horrible things that might have befallen his good friend Alan. Sancus seemed finally satisfied with the job, flapped his wings a bit and settled on the wet rock for a sleep. Harrison Gus shook his head. Sancus’ grey plumage must surely be cleaner after all that activity, but it was in no way even a tiny bit tidier than before. Fluffy grey feathers still stuck out every which way. It was kind of endearing.
Harrison Gus lay his arms over his knees and took a nap.
It felt like only moments later that he heard Sancus squawk and squawk again. Harrison Gus jumped up, slipped on the rocks and fell into the sea. It was not warm. He scrambled back out and looked around. There in the water before them was a mermaid. It wasn’t Morska or Sereni, but some other mermaid. Or… wait… could it be? It was Sereni after all, but a bigger version of her, a grown up version. Harrison Gus had not seen her for several weeks while he’d trekked across the island to find his parrot and in that time Sereni seemed to have grown inexplicably quickly, from the little toddler he remembered, to a rather sultry young teen. But then, that was mermaids for you, they grew quickly from birth to adult size to reduce the chances of getting eaten by sharks and other hungry creatures of the sea.
“Sereni!” Harrison Gus called out.
Sereni smiled at him coyly and then jumped up out of the water and dove back under with a little wiggle of her fishy hips. She didn’t come back up. Harrison Gus peered into the water and clucked his tongue impatiently. Sancus flew over the surface of the sea in low circles to try to find her. Then there she was, popping up out of the water on their left, laughing a hard little laugh.
“Sereni, wait!” Harrison Gus called to her as she prepared to dive under again. She sighed. She turned slowly onto her back and swam languidly towards them. She looked at Harrison Gus impatiently.
“Well?” she demanded.
“I… where’s Morska? Shouldn’t she be with you? And do you know where the ship is, the big ship that I came to the island on, the Black Dagger?”
“Ha! I can do whatever I like, Morska can’t tell me what to do, I’m not a child!” Sereni splashed her tail in the water. “Do this, do that, don’t do that, on and on she goes. Honestly, she’s no fun!” She stopped her blustering and tipped her head to one side. “I don’t know why you bother with those funny little legs” she said to Harrison Gus, “and what a horrible little bird, ugly little thing. Give it here and I’ll eat it up!” At this she smiled, her teeth sharp and shining.
Sancus flapped his wings once or twice and flew up high and away. Harrison Gus stared at the mermaid.
“Do you know what happened to the ship?” he said.
“Hmpf. You are dull. Nothing happened to it. It was there, and then it was gone. Gone, gone, gone. Poof!” She said and clapped her hands. “Can you swim?”
“Not really, not very well. What do you mean, then it was gone?”
“Well I’m not surprised. I bet those legs don’t help. You wouldn’t generate any kind of power with those. They must just get all tangled up, all the time, how very awkward”, she laughed.
“Useless for swimming, legs. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t swim, it’s so, oh so wonderful.” She twirled her body in the water and disappeared under the water. Gone.