The pirate Flynn Freeborn appeared on the scene during the time of Queen Leonara, the Lioness of Camembert, and many are the disparate and conflicting tales of his origin. All that can be stated for certain is that he began his piratical career under the tutelage of Cornelius Cid of the Wild Goose, but soon graduated to his own equally ornithological Peregrine, where, in company with the infamous Lucenza di Ladro, he harried merchants and disrupted trade all up and down the coast of the Casean continent.
His consort was defeated in a set-to with a squadron of the Royal Navy, commanded by Commodore Sir Dextrus Lightwave, but the Peregrine sailed on … and promptly vanished out of history. Or rather, the Peregrine sailed on, but without its captain. Though pirates are of course a naturally superstitious lot, prone to exaggeration and outright lies, every man aboard swore that Captain Flynn vanished from out of his own sleeping cabin, and that it was the vengeful spirit of Lucenza di Ladro herself that dragged him down to hell.
Captain Flynn Freeborn sat with his feet on his sea chest and his boots on the deck, trimming his toenails with a boarding axe. He hummed in a cheerful baritone as he worked, and the occasional lyrical phrase slipping free revealed that he sang one of those sea shanties of which sailors are so fond—yet not just one sea shanty, but a thematic fusion of all the sea shanties in Captain Flynn’s considerable repertoire, the very apotheosis of all sea shanties:
“Hmm-hmmm drunken sailor … rant and roar hmm-hmmm … drink up, me hearties, yo ho!”
He reflected as the nail parings fell down to the deck on the keen, almost unparalleled pleasure, so often unappreciated, of neat, trim toenails—a pleasure, alas, that many of his men did not share with their captain. Why, there was many a salt on the Peregrine (an otherwise taut ship—or as taut as one of its kind, with such a captain, could be) with horny old growths covering his toes, yellowing carapaces as tough as rhinoceros hide and as long as the tusks of an oliphant. Yet they skittered up and down the masts never batting an eye—or breaking a toe—and padded about the deck barefoot, unabashed by their lack of pedicurial hygiene. It was not a thing he could easily understand.
The boarding axe, honed to a razor’s sharpness, shaved off the last crescent of nail. Captain Flynn, well satisfied, leaped to his feet, thrust the weapon through his belt, and bellowed out in a voice that would have put the mightiest lungs on the stages of Parmigiana to shame, “O where are me boots, me noggin, noggin boots?” The answer, of course, was “on the deck, right where you left them,” but Flynn preferred the less accurate but lyrically more appropriate, “All gone for beer and tobacco!”
He continued to sing in a roar that could have been heard at the foretop in a howling hurricane as he pulled on the aforementioned footgear, and would have gone on to wonder about not only his boots but his shirt and his bed had not an even louder shout, hoarse and irritable, overridden him. Extracted from the sailors’ cant and obscenity, the gist of the message was this:
“The First Mate’s compliments, sir, and would you kindly belay that atonal howling and come up on deck?”
The Voyage to Ruin, volume one of The Sky Sailors, is available in a variety of formats in a variety of places: in Kindle format at Amazon, in other electronic formats at Smashwords, and, for the traditionalist, in dead-tree format at Lulu.com.