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Alexander White and the Pirates (and Goblins)

Chapter 6

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Goblin stories by Zsolt Kerekes

Meanwhile back in the sitting room - at Jibb Cottage in Privett - Alexander's father, Andrew, was rocking gently to and fro in the rocker by the fireplace... This was a getting to be a long story and he was musing about the experimental drinks machine and what might go in it.

He had a bottle of sickly strong liqueur called Hubertusz, which Alexander's godfather had brought back as a souvenir from Hungary about twenty years ago. It tasted like a cross between Benedictine and cough medecine, and was the sort of drink which you thought was good when you were a teenager, but tasted horribly sweet when you got to be an adult. The bottle was still nearly full although he offered it around to guests every Christmas. Unfortunately they had all tasted it before or maybe the smell put them off. He wondered if the drinks machine would have a code for rare drinks like that, or only just popular drinks.

Maybe if the navy commercialized the design he could buy one for the office to use at partners' meetings. But they would need to have a code for the local beer. He was just imagining where all the pipes would go, and if they could pump liquids up from the cellar when he heard a noise which sounded like the snuffling of a dangerously large animal sneaking up behind him. He had to get away from the vending machine and warn Joanna!

He woke with a start and the noise stopped. He realised he'd been snoring. But he cleverly tried to cover it up, by not wiping his chin, even though he had a suspicion that he might have been dribbling.

"What happened next?" he asked loudly, eyes wide open.

"I don't think you've heard a single word I've said in the last ten minutes" replied Joanna. "You were far gone."

"Nonsense! I heard every word. ...Something about Alexander leaving a note to the navy captain, with another note from you to watch out for fleas. I was just trying to puzzle that bit out when I shut my eyes to concentrate."

He started scratching himself nervously.

"You don't need to worry about fleas" said Joanna. "In fact I realise now why we haven't found any on the dog ever since the goblin minions arrived. Goblins taste disgusting! So fleas avoid them, and anyone who is close to the goblins also gets the benefit of that protection. The pirate ship was riddled with fleas and hundreds of them jumped onto Spellabyte and me when we got aboard the pirate ship. He didn't have a spell for that and we just had to catch them or get eaten alive. When Alex and his merry men came back to the ship in their jolly boat I was surprised to see that he was bug free. But as soon as the pirates climbed back onboard most of the fleas hopped off us and made a beeline for them."

"Can you have a beeline of fleas?" asked Andrew, trying to imagine hundreds of big fat fleas hopping in a straight line. He wasn't sure if "beeline" was the right collective noun. But "flealine" didn't sound right either. "Sorry. Do continue."

"I presume the fleas got a whiff of pirate. They are a bit stinky, you know, worse than an old dog that's come in from the rain. After all that time breeding on the pirate ship, the fleas must have got addicted to the taste of blood mixed with a splash of rum. Which is why they were so keen to leave us. Anyway the fleas a made a flealine straight to the pirates, who didn't seem to mind at all. Although I was pleased to get rid of them, it was very unpleasant to watch. Like one of those horror films with killer ants. It makes me feel itchy all over just talking about it...

...Anyway, Alexander suggested how to get rid of the fleas once and for all... "

First we turned the ship about so that the breeze ran sideways across the deck towards the end of the gang plank. Then we asked the pirates to walk out to the end of the plank. They weren't at all happy about that, I can assure you. (The boot usually being on the other foot.) We had to swear on an old bible first that we wouldn't push them off. Then the three goblins walked out slowly towards them. The breeze carried some of the goblin scent towards the pirates, but the fleas still clung on for dear life. So then we proceeded to stage two of the plan."

"And what was that?" asked Andrew brightening up at the image of three pirates perched on the edge of the plank above the jaws of their giant shark. He wondered what the collective noun was for a trio of pirates? Was it a crew? Or a medley? Or a big stink of pirates?

"Then came the tricky part. Each goblin had to hug a pirate until his fleas started hopping off. That way if the pirates accidentally fell off, they wouldn't be eaten by the shark. With the wind in the right direction , and having nowhere else to go at the end of the plank, the fleas all sprayed off in a black cloud, and were drowned."

"A fitting end for all pirate vermin" said Andrew, making a joke.

"Well that got rid of most of them. But the ship will have to be fumigated when they get back in to port. Otherwise more fleas will hatch out."

"Port? Yes, that reminds me about the note Alex left for the navy captain" said Andrew. "How did that come about?"

"Well, after we got the flea situation under control and Alex told me what had happened on the destroyer, I suggested that he should go back and leave a note. So Alex and I went back on our own to the destroyer on Spellabyte's magic carpet. The goblins assured me it would be safe, because their sleep spells usually last for several hours."

"I'm surprised they didn't go with you. It's unusual for the minions to leave Alex. What did they get up to while you and he were gone?"

"They seemed very interested in watching one of the pirates. Shivermitimbers - I think he's called. He and Spellabyte were carrying out an important operation. Something to do with plumbing in a vending machine they'd taken from the destroyer."

"You flew the magic carpet all by yourself?" asked Andrew incredulous. "Was it difficult?"

"It's a magic carpet Andrew. Spellabyte just told it to do what I said. It's much easier than driving a car. Anyway the goblins said that Gunnar (the goblin king) would be very interested in knowing how the vending machine operation was done, and Spellabyte got sucked into it as well, because the pirate ship didn't have any electricity. And he was going to fix that. I got the impression he thought that a vending machine, with pirate enhancements, would be useful thing for a software wizard to have in his cave. And he wanted to work on the prototype. I could see that they would all be playing with the machine for hours, and I didn't want to waste any more time. Alex and I also took along some barrels of rum and vodka as a "thank you" present for captain Smith on the destroyer. While we were there we also found Alexander's bed and slung it under the magic carpet with some ropes."

"I'd forgotten about the bed" said Andrew, who had been at work when Alex and Joanna came back home."Should we put in an insurance claim?... How would we account for the bed being soaked in seawater? I assume he's sleeping upstairs in Charlies' room. I didn't want to go crashing up the stairs on these crutches. I thought it might wake him."

"He's sleeping on his own bed. The goblins carried it upstairs for me when we got home. And you don't have to worry about the insurance claim. Spellerbyte arranged things on the flight home. The bed was dangled under the magic carpet. First it got thoroughly washed in some rain clouds and then air dried in the sun. The mattress and bedding smell better than new. It made me think it's about time we got ourselves a new mattress. The sales will be starting next week."

So this was going to cost a new bed after all, thought Andrew, but he didn't say anything.

Joanna continued "The only lasting damage is the shark toothprints on the bed posts, but it's not worth sanding them out. Alex will want to keep them as a souvenir."

"All's well that ends well then" said Andrew. "When I tell Zsolt (Alexander's godfather) about this little maritime adventure, he'll probably want to write it up as 'Alexander Whyte and the Pirates'. That will be more interesting than most of the other stories he's written. By the way, did you get any pictures of the pirates? No one seems to believe the goblins are real from the cartoon pictures on goblinsearch.com. But the goblins don't like being photographed."

"I'm sorry Andew, but I didn't think of taking my camera with me when I found Alexander's bed missing. Anyway, this story is not quite over yet. So there might be another chance for a photo shoot. You see, Alexander was worried about what would happen to the pirates when they turn up in Portsmouth. As wanted pirates they're bound to get arrested sooner or later. So I promised that you'd give them a bit of free legal advice. I lent Captain Feary my mobile phone and he's going to ring your office as soon as they get in. Normally it would take two to three days' sailing to get here, but under shark power it will be quicker. You can probably expect a call sometime tomorrow morning."

"I'd better refresh myself on the legal aspects of buccanneering then" said Andrew, hopping along to the bookcase which was built into the wall on both sides of the fireplace. He leaned against one of the solid heavy shelves and rested his crutches. Then he reached for the book he was looking for and held it firmly squeezed under one arm. He hopped back to his armchair and started rifling through the pages.

"It looks too thin to be a law book" commented Joanna from the other side of the room. "What is it?"

"Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson" said Andrew. "I'll look up some proper references in the office, but this will give me the right sort of historic background."

Nothing unusual happened that night, which, as readers know, is a rare event in itself in Privett.

Joanna had decided that Alex needed to recuperate after his adventure and wasn't going to send him to school. So the next morning Alex was still in his bunk bed asleep, surrounded by goblin minions, when the car from Andrew's office arrived. It had been two weeks since the operation on his knee, but although he was able to hop around on crutches, he wasn't fit to drive on his own yet. He had been getting bored at home and had started going into work on a light schedule just to keep his mind alert.

Andrew was the senior partner in the Southsea law firm of B & C (which had been established in the town for so long that many of its clients, and some of its employees, thought that "something" B.C. was its most likely founding date.) The stairs in the old firm's 17th century built headquarters were narrow, steep and twisty but "rank hath its privileges" and he had commandeered a ground floor office to use during his recovery, because he still found it difficult climbing stairs.

On his arrival, an attentive secretary brought freshly made tea. This was not one of those high tech offices where styrofoam cups spilled out of all the waste bins in disordered heaps at the end of the day. Tea was served in a real china cup and saucer.

Map of Privett etc

"Ah! Lovely. Thanks Marion," said Andrew, as she placed the saucer carefully on the middle of his desk blotter and then fluffed up his cushion, before he sat down. "I'm expecting a call today from a very important new client. His name is Captain F. If Captain F should ring, please put him through directly, no matter what I'm doing. Oh, and Marion, when our new client arrives, he doesn't drink tea, lovely as it is" and he slurped some of it to amplify his point. "Can you please get some money out of petty cash and send someone round to the pub to buy about ten large bottles of rum."

Marion was making notes in short hand.

"Any particular sort?" She asked.

"Better make it the strongest they've got. And I'll need a big glass to go with it."

His eyes wandered round his borrowed office, which was full of flowers and "get well" cards.

"Chuck the flowers out of that vase over there" he said, pointing at the biggest "and give it a good rinse out."

"Will that be all?" she asked, without showing the least hint of surprise, as if this was the most dull and ordinary every day occurrence. Legal secretaries, like nurses, have seen (or typed about) the raw side of life which is seldom revealed to the public at learge. They do not easily lose their composure.

"Better get over to Boots the chemist, and see if they've got any flea spray. We might need to give this place a few squirts after my visitor has gone."

Had there been just the slightest hint of a twitching eye brow? Andrew wondered. Or was it just the light through the window changing because of a passing cloud?

"I'll be sending a car for him, to pick him up, after he's rung in. And just in case I forget, can you tell the driver to bring Captain F in through the tradesmens' entrance. He's a bit shy and we don't want him to bump into any other visitors."

Marion's face was like a stone, but inside, she was wondering just who this Captain F might be.

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