iggs, take Arfinch back to the ship an’ lock ‘er up in thee brig.
Yer can meet us back at the Benbow.”
At the Admiral Benbow tavern word had already reached the regular clientele about the flight of Black Bert, and numerous mugs of Captain’s Delight were eagerly pressed into the crews hands as they were each asked, again and again, to relate the recent events. The story became more and more exaggerated as more of the grog was consumed.
Betty Burke, the Irish songstress, was staring fixedly at a blank wall, deep in thought. She was trying to write the words of a new ballad but had got stuck with a rhyme for ‘Lorst’.
Throgmorton, who had not changed out of his evening gown, found himself at the centre of attention. A tipsy Cap’n DavidH approached and squeezed the Quartermaster’s ample buttock.
“Ello darlin’, ye be a priddy yung thing.”
Throgmorton giggled shyly, but spotting DaveL he fought his admirers off and minced over to give him some of the purloined stockings.
“Seems my wurds were rite, Mitebe,” said Gert Pettigrew, sidling up to the Captain and thrusting her hand into his trousers.
“Aye, ye wur a gude help to us, Gert. Ye have me thanks – an’ me purse it seems – so yer can give that back. There wuz no sine of Peeces tho.”
“Naay,” said Gert, “Oi ear a rumour that she’s duin a runner fer a cupple o’ weeks. Hits fort ‘at shes hidin’ in a neerbuy monastery.”
Gert slipped off Lorst’s knee and went to serve another patron.
As Lorst sank his fourteenth (or was it fifteenth?) mug of grog he distantly remembered something that Pieces had told him. About the Domus Monasteriense
. He tapped one of his crew on the shoulder. “Johnson, cum wiv me.”
The pair staggered off down Penny Street towards the hospice. “Dey may be innerested in the Holey Towel. We mite get sum cash fer it, yer think?”
Rather than finding a poor place for pasta pilgrims the building was, in fact, a well kept three-storey structure from which flew many orange coloured flags, flapping like pigeon wings in the stiff wind.
The sun glinted off a golden roof held up by red painted columns, and prayer wheels lined the facade. Lorst could hear the tolling of a large bell from within.
Above the massive oak door was a roughly-painted slogan, ‘Kansi Haidao’. The pirates looked at each other and shrugged. “Oi dunna fink dis place is wot Peeces sed it be,” suggested the Captain, “but oi spose dats not surprisin’ frum her.”
He raised a great iron ring on the door and let it fall. The sound reverberated through the building.
The red doors burst open to reveal two black clad figures, monks perhaps. Only their eyes were uncovered. Those eyes showed intense shock as they spied the pirates on their doorstep, but quickly changed to anger. With a loud high-pitched cry, the figures drew long swords and crouched down into a defensive posture.
“Hello,” said Lorst, leaning against the doorpost for support. “Can oi show yer me lunchbox?” He stumbled and slid to the floor but somehow managed to open his ‘Little Princess’™ lunch box and lay out the Bath-towel of Mosey for the monks to see.
The monks’ swords were slowly lowered as they gazed in wonderment at the sight before them. “It is the Prophecy,” whispered one.
Lorst hiccupped. “Well, it’s a towel akcherly. Oi ken sell it two yer fer … errr…” He turned to Johnson. “’Ow much is a crate o’ grog, Johnsy?” He held out the towel.
“No, sir. No, sir,” spluttered the monk, “I am ninsō
Ichigen, this is ninsō
Chiriku. You must come and speak to our elder Rosoryo
Sentoki. It is very important.”
“Orl ritey,” said Lorst, “’elp me up then.”
Lorst tightly clutched the lunch box in one hand and his pistol in the other. P’raps their elder had all the munny?
The monks led the buccaneers down a long, cool, marbled corridor lined with statues. In a candle-lit room sat a wizened old man with a long white beard. It was Sentoki.
“Welcome to the Kaolin Temple,” he said. “It is extremely unusual to have pirates in our midst. Your particular occupation is not generally… well received.
But let me tell you that your arrival was foretold many centuries ago in the sacred Go Rin No Sho
, the Book of Five Rings.”
The old man reached over to a huge leather ring-binder, opened it and began to read,
“Chapter 3 verses 18-21Lo, in the time of greatest despair there shall come a sailor
When ye see him, recognise him, for he shall be completely bladdered.
And he shall bring the cloth before ye,
And lay it at thy feet.
Ye shall see the Marks, therefore
Thou shalt protect him as he protects the sacred swabbie.
Sentoki flipped through the yellowing pages.
“And in chapter 5 ‘The Night Visons of Sagō’ verses 7-10 we find,And behold, I turned to see a man
Clothed in a raiment of burgundy (or a similar shade of purplish red)
His eyes were like rissoles in the snow
And his feet were clad in Spanish leather.
And he had in his right hand a fiery staff
And in his left hand a chest of pinkness…”
Lorst glanced down at his pistol and his lunch box.”And he had a name written
Where no-one could see,”
Lorst dropped both items in surprise and clutched at his groin.”And the name was….”
Lorst shook his head. This couldn’t be happening!“…Gladys”
Lorst sat down with a bump. “Ah… oi… ‘ow did yer know?”
Sentoki closed the book. “I can see that it is true. Therefore I must follow the instructions in our sacred texts, as much as it pains me to deal with buccaneers. I shall order Ichigen and Chiriku to act as your bodyguards while I contact head office for further instruction.”
“Yer not goin’ ter buy me towel then?” asked Lorst.
Sentoki shook his head and smiled sadly.
“Werl. Fanks verry much,” belched Lorst, “but oi dunna need onny bodygerds eever.”
“Farewell, Captain Lorst,” said Sentoki with a deep bow. “I am sure we will meet again.” He nodded briefly to his two ninsō
who disappeared silently into the shadows.
Lorst and Johnson left the building and set off back to the Benbow. Lorst was a bit unsettled by what had just occurred and as the fuzzy glow of Captain’s Delight was beginning to wear off it he decided needed to be replenished.
They did not notice two stealthy, black-clad figures creeping swiftly across the rooftops above them.