Chapter 46: Pirates, parrots everywhere, but not a ship to sail

Two days later Harrison Gus and the band of pirates arrived back at Dodo Rock.  Many of the pirates took the opportunity to have another swim in the lake, including Sir Jones with his strange old lady breaststroke.

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Sancus, the scruffy grey parrot Harrison Gus had chosen to be his, took Harrison Gus back to the secret clearing behind the lake where they’d first met, for old times sake and because Harrison Gus was keen to see the dodos one last time.  Harrison Gus tried hard to feel awed by the creatures, after all they were supposedly extinct, but they were just so clumsy and chunky and generally silly-looking, and they kept running into things: him, each other, trees.  Sancus shrugged.  “They extinct for a reason”, he said.

They returned to the lake and after a lovely, idle time, during which Harrison Gus had a swim and a long rest in the sun, the pirates left for home.  Their way took them steeply uphill, then back across the plateau, before beginning their long descent back down into the woods on the other side.  For two days they scrambled downwards over scree and hard earth until finally they reached the cool protection of the trees below.

After they had recovered from the descent they carried on walking.  They walked and walked.  The days merged into one another.  Step after step they trudged across the leaf-littered forest floor, weaving around the endless supply of trees,  the foliage up above preventing much more than momentary glimpses of sky or sunlight, the bush down below so thick it was increasingly hard to kick your way through.  When Harrison Gus began to feel hungry or weak, Sancus would jump from his shoulder and fly off, returning with some nuts or fruit for Harrison Gus to eat.  It kept him going.  At night they sat around a fire and told stories, of the sea, of strange lands, of mountains of gleaming treasure.  They ate meat and fruit and slept like logs.

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“We will need to do something about those witches”, Sancus said one day sitting on Harrison Gus’ shoulder as he walked along.

“Like what?”

“We must think.  I think your friend Deadfish might be of some help.”

“He’s not my friend!  He’s just as creepy as the witches!  Creepier…”

“Perhaps”, said Sancus, scratching his chin with one claw.  They walked on in silence.  The way back to the town and the port and the ship seemed so much longer than the way to the Parrot Forests had been.  But at least they were able to retrace their steps through the path that TT and Starfish had cut through the dense undergrowth previously.  And yet the journey back seemed endless.  The days were long and the nights cold and uncomfortable.  And it seemed to Harrison Gus that they would never return.  By some magic, he wondered, had the witches made the forest endless, curve in on itself so that they were walking in circles?  Endless circles.  The thought sat in his belly and gnawed at him when he woke in the night.  Were they doomed to walk through the forest forever?

But one day he thought the forest seemed somehow familiar.  And as they walked, it seemed others recognised an outcrop and a strangely shaped tree and a sharp turn in the path.  And then, just like that, they walked out of the forest and there lay the township, just as they had left it.  It was like a dream, and Harrison Gus half suspected it was some trick.  But the pirates yelled happily, and “arrrr’d” and spat and clapped each other on the back.  They were all most relieved to be back in civilisation and for many, the sight of the sea before of them was like a beautiful fresh drink of cool water after a very long drought.

The gang returned to the old familiar Sleeping Dog and sat themselves down for pints of ale and cheese and bread.  Now that Harrison Gus was a true pirate, with his very own, albeit somewhat manky, parrot on his shoulder, he was given a full strength glass of the yellow, frothy drink as well.  Harrison Gus cut himself a hunk of cheese and nibbled happily.  He broke off some pieces and fed them to Sancus, who sat on his shoulder virtually purring at the taste of this new food he’d never tried before.  There they all sat, safely returned,  Harrison Gus himself, TT, Starfish, the Captain, Sir Jones, Cook and Gago.  Harrison Gus looked around the table once more.  Where was Gago?

Harrison Gus took a quick sip of ale and tried very hard not to make a face at the bitter taste.  He forced himself to swallow it down, receiving a raucous round of laughter from the gang, and a hearty pat on the back from the Captain, before excusing himself from the table.  He stepped outside into the fresh sea breeze.  There, along the horizon, she lay, the long body of the sea, breathing slowly back and forth across the beach.  It was so tranquil and peaceful, the sounds of the waves so soothing, and it was so good to be back in town, with good food and drink, warmth and a soft bed to sleep in, it almost made him forget the evil witches were here in town, somewhere near, making their evil plans.

Seagulls flew overhead, screeching at each other and calling each other names.  Down on the wet sand stood Gago, staring out to sea.  Harrison Gus walked over to him.

“Beautiful isn’t it” he said to Gago after a while, to break the silence.  “The sea.  So quiet.”

Gago looked down at the little pirate with a scowl and raised eyebrows and then looked back at the sea, scanning the horizon.  “Aye, she’s quiet alright.  I think she’s eaten while we’ve been gone.”

“Eaten?” Harrison Gus said, swallowing.

“Aye.  D’ye see the Black Dagger anywhere?”  Gago said and turned and walked back to the tavern.

Harrison Gus squinted and stared and looked every which way along the horizon.  Gago was right.  The Black Dagger, their way off the island, away from the witches, the way back home to his own dear mother and father, was nowhere to be seen.

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