A True Plunderdog Story: Captain Bollytadger and The Foreign Badger
Captain Bollytadger looked around, he was in the middle of the forest. It must have been Europe, there were no woods this dark and dangerous in the Caribbean, and no distant steel drum music. It was so dark, in fact, that Bollytadger could hardly see where he was walking, it was only the steady sapphire glow of the trees lighting his way. But the first thing you learn as a pirate is to trust your instincts, and his instincts said that this unnatural illumination lighting the treacherous path was all hunky-dory.
It appeared his instincts were correct as he shortly happened upon a small cottage in the woods obstructing his path. It too, was covered in these anonymous blue circles, and the captain was drawn in like a moth to a flame; The intoxicating atmosphere of the cottage filling up his senses. But as he approached the door, a woman stepped out! The scariest-looking woman that Bollytadger had ever seen, and he had been around the block a few times. She had ugly green skin, a wart on her nose, and a black pointy hat. There was something off about her, that Bollytadger couldn’t put his finger on. However, to her, Bollytadger must have looked like the biggest mark in the world, because she had a huge grin plastered on her face that had nothing to do with the fact that she absolutely reeked of gin. Putting her Bombay Sapphire down, she spoke.
“Heeheehee! Hello Captain Bollytadger, dearie! You’re late!”
“Arrrr, I never be late, madam! Matter of fact, I had no appointment to be here, so if anything, that makes me early!” Bollytadger replied.
“Of course, you’re late!” The witch snapped back, clearly in no mood for dissenters. “Look at the time.” She said as she gestured to the sky around her, sunken in the black of night. Bollytadger pulled out his precious watch from his inside pocket to confirm the time, but as it slinked out, the golden glimmer transformed into another blue ball of light. Bollytadger yelped. It wasn’t his golden watch at all, it was a luminescent Casio wristwatch. He threw it down on the ground, this was not the time nor the place to be tinkering with timepieces. But when he looked back up, he looked closer at the blue circles that had been lighting his way: Casios, all of them! How had he not seen it already? They covered the witch’s house from top to bottom!
“What, in Davy Jones’s Locker, is all this?” Bollytadger pleaded. He looked back to the witch.
“What’s the time, Mr Wolf?” She cackled, transforming mid-sentence, into a large spectral wolf. Bollytadger went as white as a sheet, he tried to run away, terrified. But each way he looked there were more and more blue lights. He stumbled over a fallen branch as he fretted, and the wolf floated towards him, growing larger and larger with each inch.
“¡Time you got a watch, hombre!” The wolf had transformed again to the foreign badger that Bollytadger knew so well. Its Latino accent had never sounded less cartoonish.
“No! Please, badger! I don’t want yer watch, just let me go!” The captain was blubbing now, failing to hold back the tears. A big wolf was one thing, but this badger was at least twenty times bigger than the real thing, and it was all out of proportion. “Leave me alone!” The badger was towering over him now, claws out, ready to rip him apart. The badger reeled back, charging up his boss move and BANG!
The captain was face down in a pillow, drooling and covered in sweat. He heard the chatter of the pirates returning from the ship, and the hushed giggles of barmaids and farmers’ daughters. He looked to his side, his heart skipped a beat at the sight of the badger’s watch, lit up in the same brilliant blue. The time was 3:13am. Captain Bollytadger sat up and swung his legs around to the side of the bed. He remained still for some time, head swimming, holding on to the side of the bed to keep himself steady. The Casio lighting up his gaunt face, swallowing the bed, the room, and the ocean outside with its sickly glow, it haunted him. But it was just a bad dream, he took deep breaths, he sat, and sat, and sat, until his heart rate returned to normal, and he could lie down in bed again.
“Breakfast time, buccaneers!” Came the shout from Larry, as Bollytadger and the badger groaned into consciousness. “Don’t you worry, we’ve got toast today, chaps. I suspect you’ll need it, badger.” Larry added, noting the rather pale face, unbecoming of a maritime badger.
“You look like a panda, man.” The badger said, looking up at the two black eyes adorning Larry’s face. The first mate was far too chipper for someone that looked so badly damaged from the neck up. Larry ignored the jibe and carried on downstairs to the rest of the crew, who might even be tad more aggressive than the two in the captain’s room.
Bollytadger opened his eyes, relieved to see the warm glow of daylight. He turned over to face the badger, his friend, his colleague.
“Top of the morning, badger lad!” Bollytadger said. “How are ye feeling?”
“¿What does it look like, ese?” The badger replied, Bollytadger could see that he was indeed extremely pale, probably badger metabolics, not able to process booze quite as well as humans or pirates. Bollytadger, on the other hand, had a slight headache but other than that, the over-long sleep had seen off any potential for a lethal hangover.
“Few slices of toast and ye’ll be right as rain!” Bollytadger said, hoisting himself out of bed. “Hop to it, badger! Let’s get a new outfit on me.”
After a large amount of cajoling, the badger identified a casual yet stylish fit for Bollytadger for the day and they embarked to the mess hall. As the earliest to retire last night, they were the first to arrive, and, as Bollytadger tucked into some avocado and scrambled eggs, and the badger made a brave attempt at half a slice of toast, the other pirates began to filter in, all looking a damn sight worse than Captain Bollytadger or the foreign badger. They were filled in on the best stories of the previous night, most notably Dancer having a dance-off with some local hoodlums and earning their begrudging respect. After a brief chat, Bollytadger and the badger pushed their plates away and disembarked for another fun day in Port Oswald. This time, hoping to stay sober for as many of the daylight hours as they could in order to take in the daytime delights of this quaint, little town. They stepped off the ship and Bollytadger was glad to see that there was very little crowd to speak of this time, the novelty of the talking badger seemed to wear off on people surprisingly quickly when you consider just how bizarre a thing it would be to experience, but I suppose these were pirate times and there were all sorts of magical creatures knocking about, mermaids, krakens, omnicrabs etc.
The badger signed a few autographs to please the handful of fans that did show up and, after they dissipated, him and the captain were off on their merry way. They started the day off by having a stroll through the town market, they bought some pastries off the baker, some fish from the monger, which the badger ate while they wandered, as his appetite was starting to return, and Bollytadger rounded off the market with some badger-approved clothes from the tailor. They stopped at a picnic bench, just off the main road for the badger to finish off the more finicky parts of the fish, and were just talking about how they’d love to see inside the castle atop the hill when they were approached by an elderly man in a wheelchair. Who introduced himself as Dandy Duckworth.
“Arrr, we heard about ye from Larry, met him the other night, didn’t ye? Ye’re the one with an appropriate level of disdain for the French?” Bollytadger queried.
“That’s right. Nothing against them, just don’t like ’em. Simple as.” Duckworth replied.
“Well, far be it from us to call you a bigot. We’ve seen enough of the French to hate them as much as anyone. But I hope ye won’t be having a problem with my foreign badger here. He’s not from around here.” Bollytadger warned.
“As long as he doesn’t have any customs distasteful to my Western sensibilities, I’m sure we can get along just fine.” Duckworth said.
“No worries, cabron.” The badger said. “My only customs are drinking rum, sailing the seas, and respecting everyone of all genders and sexualities.”
“Well… I can overlook that.” Duckworth carried on. “For I have a favour to ask of the two of you, if you would be willing to listen. You fine fellows, and stop me if I’m wrong, seem like the perfect double act of a tall, adventurous strongman, and a small, wily rogue agent.” The two nodded along, impressed with his spot-on appraisal of their partnership. “Whereas me, you might have noticed I’m wheelchair-bound…”
“Oh yeah.” Bollytadger said, with faux surprise.
“Now you mention it, you do seem to be rolling very slowly.” The badger added, Duckworth was half a metre down from his original position.
Duckworth halted his gradual descent and added “Well, be that as it may. It’ll come as no surprise to you, that I would have trouble getting up that hill.” He pointed to the hill at the top of the town. “And the castle beyond it, that I overheard you two discussing.”
“Aye, we should have gone last night, when we were up there, but we were in no fit state.” The captain mentioned.
“Well, in that case, I have proposal for you.” Said Duckworth.
“I saw you two climbing up onto the wold the other night, under the influence of what looked like about 10 barrels of rum.”
“It was more like 20, but carry on.” The badger interjected, with a mischievous look at the captain.
“Even more impressive, the quick work you made of it then, perfectly fit, young men. But that’s not why I’m talking to you. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can walk up a hill… Except me.” Duckworth mumbled. “But, watching from my window, I saw the way you looked after each other, despite your severely limited cognitive functioning. And that kind of trust and loyalty is what I need.”
“Need for what?” Bollytadger asked suspiciously.
“Well, you see, boys. I used to work in that castle, many years ago, when I had my whole life ahead of me and both legs on my body.” Duckworth started. “It wasn’t an easy job, the lord of the castle was a demanding man. I was a silversmith’s apprentice at the time, and, because my master was a lazy old-timer, he would send me up with all the fine silver that he had crafted for the lord on my back. He was a lavish person, the lord, and would order about a sackful of silver a week. It was pretty much the only business that my master needed, so every week, he would send me up and over the hill with a bag of goblets, cutlery, chainmail, necklaces, whatever it might have been. But because it was usually on a Friday morning, once I was up there and delivered to the lord his silver, he would task me with things to do in his castle for the rest of the day. He had no right and I complained to my master, but he was all done with smithing for the week and had no other need for me, so he allowed it, to appease the lord. Which meant I spent all my Fridays knee-deep in horse manure, or breaking my back carrying suits of armour from room to room. Occasionally Lord Traverston would hide inside one of them to jump out and surprise me.”
“Nevertheless, he trusted me; I never complained to his face, despite the work being a living hell. And because of my strength, I was the only one who could move some of his heavier items around. Which made me privy to the locations of a lot of valuables. If you know what I mean.” Duckworth winked at Bollytadger and the badger, who were both intrigued, and carried on. “Lord Traverston passed away about five years after I graduated to full silversmith, he had no heirs, the mayor runs things in the town now, and so the castle has been sitting there abandoned… For years I didn’t want to do this, it feels slightly wrong to rob a man, even if he is dead. I’m sure two respectable medical practitioners like yourselves would have serious moral objections to this, but I’m too old to work now, and I need money, my clothes are practically falling off of me, look at my jean shorts!” He gestured. Bollytadger thought that the frayed short-short look worked pretty well on him, but a glance toward the badger told him that he was wrong.
“We’re not as scrupulous as ye might think, old timer, I think we’d be happy to help ye, for a share of the treasure.” Bollytadger proffered.
“Of course, of course!” Duckworth stuttered. “I was going to say; I take half, and you split the other half between you. You deserve just as much as I do, after all, you’ll be the ones actually retrieving it.”
“¿Where’s the treasure? ¿Is it difficult, gringo?” The badger asked.
“I’m sure you’ll manage, but do we have a deal?” Duckworth offered his hand, sweeping aside the badger’s concerns. Bollytadger paused, then took it and shook it with gusto.
“This seems too good to be true, man.” The badger said to Bollytadger on the walk up to the castle, once they were out of earshot of Dandy Duckworth. “¿We just walk up the hill, stroll into the fort and take a sackful of treasure?”
“Aye, badger. But don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. He obviously can’t trust a local to keep it to themselves, and he needs people like us, experienced in operations like this.”
“¡He thinks we’re doctors, ese! ¿What would a pair of doctors know about looting?” The badger responded.
“Not everyone is as honourable as they appear on the outside, badger, this is a fact you’ve got to learn about the big, wide world. If ye’re going to the hospital and ye don’t remove all yer jewellery first, the second the doctor knocks ye out, he’s going straight for the valuables, like any one of us would. They’re thieves at heart, I know it, Duckworth knows it.” Bollytadger said. “I know it’s hard to believe that this opportunity has come along for no reason, but it’s not for no reason. If ye gear yerself towards piracy for long enough, make it yer whole life to seek it out, eventually the piracy will come to ye.” Bollytadger smiled down at the badger as they continued their walk. The gradient was deepening and they were getting to the edge of town, it was remarkable how different it looked when they were sober, like someone had taken the varnish off. It was more beautiful in a way, they could appreciate the palm leaves blowing in the wind, and the birds whistling overhead. But at the same time, they didn’t realise how much of a trek it was getting onto the wold when you’re not interrupting it with taverns, dancing, and regular falling over.
Eventually the hill plateaued and they could see the castle on the horizon. It seemed an imperious structure, built exactly to keep their type of individual from getting access. But Duckworth assured them that it had been empty for almost 50 years. No one had been in or out other than similar looters and teenagers looking for a place to smoke. But none of these amateurs would know where the real treasure was: in their heart, and also behind the fireplace. They crossed the moat and indeed found that the portcullis was up and the giant wooden doors open, just like Duckworth had promised. This was going to be like taking candy from a baby.
“¿Which way to the master bedroom?” The badger asked.
“Are ye propositioning me, badger?” Bollytadger replied, with a raised eyebrow, eliciting a sigh from the badger. “Just a joke, lad. Trying to put a smile on that face. I think it’s this way, they’re usually on the top floor.” They carried on up a spiral stone staircase, thinking how hard it must have been for Duckworth to haul suits of armour up here, as well as thinking how funny it would be to hide in a suit of armour and jump out at the badger, the captain led the way, up the flagstones. “Imagine living in a place like this. Don’t ye love hearing nothing but the sound of yer shoes on stone?”
“I don’t wear shoes, hombre. So, no, not really. I see what you mean though, it is peaceful, nice and traditional.” The badger mused.
They reached the top of the stairs and split up, looking for the master bedroom, and the iconic fireplace therein.
“¡Here it is, hombre!” the badger called to his captain. Bollytadger hustled over to him and found the badger already with his head in the hearth. “¡The old man was right, it moves!” The badger cried out, his finger was placed deftly on the base stone of the fireplace and it didn’t take much to shift it back. Bollytadger stood back while his comrade used his tiny badger paws to push the stone all the way back into the secret room.
“Well done, badger! Piece of cake! Do any of these other stones move?” The one stone removed created enough of a space for the badger to get through, but there was no chance of big Bollytadger getting in.
“It doesn’t look like it, ese. I guess this is what he needed me for then.” The badger commented, “I can push the treasure out to you and you can start bagging it up out the-“ the badger stopped in his tracks, he had just turned around to face the treasure. It was like nothing he had seen before in his badger life.
“What is it, lad?” Bollytadger asked nervously.
“¡Oh jeez, Bollytadger! ¡That white boy wasn’t lying, I knew lords were rich but dios mio!” The badger shook his head, composing himself. “I’ll pass it out to you. We should be able to get it all out in one sack, but you might have to wear some of it.”
And so began the process of extracting each silver treasure, it was slow going, but the badger managed to summon all of his badger strength to lift every individual piece off the shelves and gently pass it through the gap. Each object that came out astounded Bollytadger more than the last, the badger must have passing it in ascending order of grandiose. There were swords, goblets, chainmail, royal doorknobs. Each one encrusted with the most fantastic jewels Bollytadger had ever seen. The chainmail was like a rainbow that danced only for him, the goblet, like it had been made to the exact specifications of God in Heaven, if God was a pimp that is, this thing had gemstones like you wouldn’t believe. The lord (the non-deitic one, Traverston) was an absolute addict for status symbols it seemed. All form, no function, but it was brilliant, and overwhelming. Bollytadger’s sack was getting near full, and a diamond crown sat atop his captain’s hat, when he heard the badger’s voice call through the hole.
“Okay, ese, that’s nearly it. ¡One last thing!”
“It had better be small, badger. I don’t be having much room left for the big stuff!” Bollytadger couldn’t hide the glee in his voice.
“It’s a suit of armour. ¿But you can wear it on the way back, right?” The badger called. Bollytadger paused, the bag was already far too heavy and it would take long enough as it was. If they got stopped by bandits on the way back, unlikely as it was, the suit of armour, while protective, would be quite the hindrance for chasing after assailants .
“¿What do you think, hombre? You can do it.” The badger’s voice echoed around the room.
“Arrrr, alright then, badger! Get it down here!” Captain Bollytadger replied, with renewed spirit.
No sooner had he finished the sentence than he heard a crash of an expensive helmet crashing to the flagstone tiles. Bollytadger chuckled, clumsy badger. Suddenly, the crash was followed by a much louder noise, an unholy destruction coming from the secret room that sounded like it could bring the whole castle down. Stones were falling on stones and a spew of debris exploded out of the hole! Bollytadger panicked.
“Badger! BADGER! Are you okay?” Bollytadger said, coughing through the dust, covering his face with his hand.
“¡CAPTAIN! ¡CAPTAIN! ¡HELP, MAN!” He was alive! Bollytadger’s eyes were burning from the dust and his ears ringing from the noise, but the adrenaline kicked in. He saw a small badger hand reaching out from the fireplace and dove down for it. He could see the badger through the clouds and rubble, eyes bloodshot, trapped under a mass of stones. Bollytadger grabbed his wrist to pull him out. The Casio watch on the badger’s wrist lit up from the impact. Even through the dust, its trademark blue hue shot through to Bollytadger’s eyes. He looked at the watch, rapt by its magic glow. Then back to the badger, his expression pleading to his best friend to pull him out. Bollytadger started to pull, his hands taking over control from his mind. The watch started to slip towards the end of the badger’s hand, the captain’s clammy hands were pulling harder than he ever thought he could, but the badger was stuck, budging ever so slightly, and it would need a enormous heave to free him. The stones at the top of the pile were continuing to fall down, burying the ones below. Bollytadger summoned all his strength and yanked.
The watch came loose from the badger’s hand and Bollytadger with it, he fell down back into the four-poster bed. Ashen-faced, eyes wide, he scrambled back to the hole but as he did, the stones fell, covering his view of the badger. He tried to move them, but all the while, more and more stones were falling on top of them, it was no use. He heard the badger from the other side of the wall.
“¡Captain! ¡Don’t do it, man! ¡I can still get out!” The badger’s suffocated voice, barely came through. Bollytadger was staring at the watch in his hand, as the last of the rubble came down on the other side of the wall.
“Sorry, badger! I tried, lad.” Captain Bollytadger said quietly.
“¡Cabron! ¡I’m warning you! ¡You don’t want to do thi-!” A loud thud ended his sentence, a thud that sounded a lot like a badger being hit on the head by a boulder.
Captain Bollytadger turned away from the foreign badger, his mind still racing. Pressing the button on the badger’s trademark Casio wristwatch which commanded the appearance of the glorious blue light on its face. No watch he’d ever seen could do the things that this watch could do. And the badger, friend though he may be, had never given him any good reason not to. Captain Bollytadger placed the watch on his left wrist, and passed the prong of its buckle, over one, two, three holes in the strap, before poking it deftly into the fourth. He slipped the rubber rectangle snug around the loose strap and took his hand off it. Slowly, he walked across the room, to the cracked mirror, which hung ornately by the old lord’s bed and took in every detail of the dusty outfit of his glass counterpart. His eyes moved down to his wrist, finally with the garment that belonged there. He felt complete.
Chapter 6 of Captain Bollytadger and The Foreign Badger, Heavy Is The Wrist That Wears The Watch, is out next Friday 28th October.
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