“All aboard!” shouted Terry the Tongue-taker before a shrill whistle. “Last call before we set sail,” warned the youngest-ever pirate captain of The Deadender, from the dock.
Terry the Tongue-taker’s whistle was his signature summons, and the commotion around the boat temporarily halted out of respect to the young captain, then doubled in its frenzy out of fear. If you didn’t take Terry seriously, the last thing you were likely to see was a quick slice of his dagger and then feel blood coming from your mouth.
They lived, but telling the tale was impossible without their tongue.
Terry the Tongue-taker rose quickly through mercenary school, thanks to his sponge-like absorption of the lessons. Though he was enrolled as Terry the Kid, at age 7 he was killing at a middle school bleeding level, and by 10, his teachers were begging him to let them go home at the end of the day. He’d earned the new name thanks to a full-blown mutiny he led weeks before graduation. He was a natural.
Last-second preparations were finished, and Terry the Tongue-taker had his men line up on the starboard side of the ship to count off. When he was satisfied, Terry turned to board the ship, pulled up the gangplank, and set sail on an unsuspecting enemy fleet.
“Terry! Terry, baby! Wait!” he heard and whipped around, epee first, exhibiting his lightning quick best friend, whom had snatched many a tongue. The tip of the blade met the airspace in front of Terry the Tongue-taker’s out-of-breath mom, Cynthia. A warning shot over the bow. A warning shot over her brow.
“Hun,” continued Terry’s mom, stepping back from the cutlass, “what did I tell you about swinging that thing around all willy-nilly? You could hurt someone!” Terry the Tongue-taker, being lectured by his mommy in front of his entire crew, turned a shade of red that matched his ascot.
“What do you want, wench?” demanded Terry the Tongue-taker, who never EVER called his mother a wench, but needed to publicly take back the power.
“You forgot to pack your jacket for your big special voyage,” Cynthia exclaimed, and held out Terry the Tongue-taker’s coat for him to take. The jacket was an entanglement of bright pinks and greens, clearly something handed down from his big sister years ago. “I know how cold you get.”
“MOM!” Terry interrupted exasperatedly. “I am the captain of the Deadender, leading my men to plunder the spoils of our enemies! I have vanquished all foes who have ever been in my path! I have taken the tongues of hundreds of those who crossed me! I do not need a jacket.”
“But you know it’s always colder on the seas, especially if you’re headed so far north.”
From above Terry the Tongue-taker and his mother, an audible murmur began and quickly grew into an agitation, and before it reached a full pandemonium, Terry’s whistle cut it down to size.
He’d told no one about the plans to go north, instead assuring them they were sailing for tropical southern seas. He’d heard tale of a payload on an armada to the north but couldn’t risk telling anyone and jeopardizing his secret itinerary. One of the first lessons in MicroPiracy101 concerned secretly embedded spies. “Loose lips sink ships,” the class was made to repeat over and over, and he couldn’t risk his crew knowing the full plan until they were asea. Come to think of it…
“How did you know I was traveling north?” Terry ordered of his mother.
“It was right there in your diary,” Cynthia replied nonchalantly, while 80 of the meanest, most brutal marauders hung on every word of the increasingly embarrassing conversation.
“It is a journal!” Terry roared, hand twitching instinctively to his re-sheathed dagger. “Plus, that is under lock and key, and I have the only copy on me at all times.”
“Oh sweetie,” Cynthia laughed, “You don’t need a key for that little thing. Anything at all will open it up in a jiff.” Cynthia’s laughs grew infectious amongst the men lined up above him.
Terry the Tongue-taker, in a cruel bit of irony, was now the one who couldn’t speak.
Anger, betrayal, and mutiny pulsed through his veins.
Terry the Tongue-taker snatched the outrageous jacket from his mom and turned away. It was all he could do to keep from forcing her aboard and sending her directly to walk the plank, but he knew that she’d swim ashore and then he’d be grounded for months when he returned from the seas.
“To your places,” Terry the Tongue-taker called, as he emerged on deck with his men, punctuating his order with another whistle. “Northward ho! All hands on deck! We’ll sleep in shifts once we’ve made it clear of land.” And as the ship pushed off the dock and turned north, a gentle wind gusted through, shivering his timbers. Terry the Tongue-taker clutched his jacket tightly and tied it around his waist, to free up his hands, hoping none of his men noticed.