05 December 2004

Captain Mousebeard of the Silver Shark

In my younger days I travelled the globe - something I'll tell you about in due course, no doubt - but I thought I'd tell you about Captain Mousebeard, who helped me return home. We both survived a harrowing experience, and only for his bravery did I arrive in one piece.

Mousebeard was a stout fellow and the typical seafaring type: swoarthy skin, muscly arms, thick jumpers, and of course, he was the very proud owner of a large bushy beard (in which he kept a family of very well-behaved mice).

Our paths crossed while he was searching for the rare Long-eared Mouse of Shubana Island. I was living on the island, passing my time while waiting for a boat to take me home, and I just so happened to know where he could find one. So we came to an arrangement: in return for the mouse, he would offer me safe passage home.

His ship, the Silver Shark, was a stunning vessel, painted brightly with a sneering fanged shark's mouth at its bow. It was quite a sight to see resting at port, but when you were on it and felt it cutting the waves in two, it was beyond belief.

We'd sailed for two days before things started to go awry. Up to that point I'd been revelling in the salty air and the firm breezes as they directed us home. It was a grand way to travel, but on that third night we hit a storm front scudding across the sea towards us. The waves lifted into the air, the peaks and troughs grew so large that the Silver Shark neared vertical as it rode the seas.

Mousebeard lashed himself to the main mast and called his shipmates to lower the sails. Waves crashed into the boat, water drenched the decks, and many times were we soaked through. And just when we thought things couldn't get worse, Mousebeard felt his beard tugging. He looked down into his bundle of hair, and noticed something writhing and growing. Suddenly, out jumped the Long-eared Mouse. It's body was contorting, twisting and growing on the salty, waterlogged planks.

Mousebeard called out in distress to his sailors, as he picked up the mouse and tossed it into the foaming sea. Everyone surged below decks in fear of their lives, leaving only Mousebeard to man the wheel. All the while, the waves and storm continued to batter the boat. I shut myself inside, and watched through a window as a gigantic spinning hole appeared before the ship. This was no ordinary whirlpool.

With a deafening, piercing scream a serpent rose from the depths and towered into the air. It was the mythical Spearhorned Grak. I could see Mousebeard lurch back at the sight, for it was well known that you never live to tell the tale of the Grak. Instead, whispers of your demise get washed ashore with the wreck of your ship.

But the Captain wasn't one to let a monster get the better of him. He turned the wheel sharply and caught the edge of the whirlpool. The ship sped up and circled round at breakneck speed. And then, before the spear of the beast could impale the Silver Shark, Mousebeard veered out of the swirling maelstrom and rocketed the ship out of the sea as if from a slingshot.

It felt as though the ship was airborne for minutes, as all of the shipmates' lives flashed before their eyes. We landed a fair distance from the Grak, bursting through a wall-like wave and into a patch of calm. The brief glimpse of blue sky gave the sailors hope, and once again they rushed onto deck to sail the craft through the storm.

Thankfully, we made it home safely, and that was all the excitement we had for that voyage. I guess we learned the hard way that Long-eared Mice and salt water don't mix, but it's safe to say that no-one had expected the mythical Spearhorned Grak to be born of such tiny stock.

Captain Mousebeard is now remembered as a true hero for his deeds, and because of his warnings, mousehunters like him are forever wary and careful as they search lands for new breeds.