Chapter 9

Cap’n Lesko was an extremely small fox, half the size of a mole with a peg leg. He wielded an oak stave with a rusted stone tied to the end.

Lesko inspected Whiptail, poking and prodding him with the end of his weapon. When he spoke, he had a distinct northern accent.

Och, yer a fine ol’ beastie alright, but wot makes yae think yer braw ‘nough t’be on mae croo?”

Whiptail answered matter-of factedly, “I will destroy all who challenge this vessel and those aboard it.”

Lesko guffawed so enthusiastically that he nearly fell overboard, but was saved by two weasels. “Reely? Weel then, laddie, let’s poot that statement to th’ test. We spotted a wee ship one day ‘head. Hi’ll hexpect yoo tae give em’ blood n’ vinegar, ‘kay?”

Simu stepped forward. “ Ah don’t ye worry, Cap’n, Whiptail’ll do jus’ fine. After all, he took care o’ that pike, didn’t ‘e?”

Lesko paced back and forth, scratching his chin in indecision. Finally, he turned to Simu. “A’right Cooper, he c’n stay. Hi’ll hexpect yoo tae give ‘im the gran’ toor.”

After the ‘grand tour’, Simu showed Whiptail his favorite spot-the crows’ nest. They sat on the edge listening to the ocean and watching the stars. Simu hailed a rat below.

“Hey Polj, bring us some of that stuff we got from Sampetra, would ya?”

Polj went into the galleys for a bit, then returned and threw up a bucket with a damp cloth over it. He then tossed two spoons.

“What is that?” Whiptail asked. “Cap’n Lesko got this from an island called Sampetra a few seasons back. It’s coconut mixed with smashed fruit and vegetables, frozen to a sickle. Locals call it ice cream.”

Whiptail took his spoon and tasted the concoction. It was sweet, with a watery taste to it. It gave him a great feeling of peace and contempt. Then he voiced the question that had been on his mind all day.

“Simu, why does my eye hurt?”

Simu stopped eating in mid-lick and awkwardly scratched behind his ears. “ err… ‘bout that, uh… Wellllll… Ye don’t got no eye, Whiptail. Pike tore it out.”

To the stoat’s surprise, Whiptail merely shrugged and continued eating. “Ah well, as long as I’ve got the other, eh? By the way, why do you serve that weakling Lesko? He certainly doesn’t deserve it.”

“Well, ‘ere’s the thing. Only Lesko knows the way to Sampetra, and we always git ice cream after we raid a ship or coast. He’s prob’ly got a map in ‘is quarters, but he clubs anybeast that goes in there.”

“So he stays in power because you like ice cream?” This statement caused Whiptail to do something he pondered for a good while.

He laughed.

Never before had he laughed in his life. He had witnessed Tekker doing such a thing when he flailed babes. But this was different, he knew. This was something else. He cast the thought aside and continued eating.

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