Please allow me the chance to tell you a story, not a heroic story or a romantic story, and not a story of warriors and mages or dungeons and monsters. Just a simple story behind the sinking of a ship. And why it’s the Lady Samantha’s fault (yes, Lady Samantha).
I’ll start near the beginning of the middle.
Gryffon just finished waxing the last bit of the hull when the owl and wolf joined him at the lake’s edge.
“She’s beautiful, Gry”, said the owl, walking along the plank. “A truly magnificent ship. Have you named her yet?”
“No”, said Gryffon, following behind the owl and wiping away her footprints with his sleeve. “I’ve decided to ask Lady Samantha to name her. Hey!” The wolf leapt over the side onto the deck and began sniffing around. “Look, you two”, said Gryffon, “I’ve spent every last coin I have on this boat. Can we keep it clean at least for one day?”
The wolf sat on her haunches and looked at him. “In the years I’ve known you”, she said, “you’ve hardly ever left the forest.”
“Your point being?” asked the ranger.
“When did you learn how to sail?”
“Well…uh…Sargon the Man gave me a few lessons. And I read a book.”
The wolf jumped off the boat. “As I thought”, she said.
“Ignore her”, said the owl. “If she were the least bit civilized, she’d know that any man of your standing would never do his own sailing stuff.” The owl pointed to the back of the boat. A man sat there slumped over the tiller. “See there, the fine seadog at his post.” The owl called to the man, “Ahoy, matey.” No response. “Ahoy, matey!” the owl shouted a little louder. Still nothing. Before Gryffon could stop her, the owl flew back to the tillerman, landing next to him. “Hey there, good man of the sea, how about some tales of your adventures on…Oh yuck! Gry, this man does stink to the hells. By the gods, he’s passed out drunk.”
The wolf started laughing.
“I told you that I used all my gold to purchase the boat”, explained Gryffon. “I had little left over for extras.”
The owl landed beside him. “I’d hardly call someone to actually sail the boat an ‘extra’. Is he even a sailor?”
Gryffon knelt and splashed some water on his face. He was getting a headache. “I found him by the docks. He probably is.”
“You found him by the docks!” squawked the owl. “Gryffon, he could be nothing more than a beggar. Maybe he knows nothing-”
Gryffon jumped to his feet, scaring the owl so that she fell backwards into the boat. “Listen”, said the ranger through clenched lips, “the man knows the meaning of ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘stop’, and ‘forward’. How much more to sailing is there?”
“How much indeed”, said the owl, climbing back onto her perch. Gryffon apologized to the owl and helped straighten out her feathers. “It’s been a long day and I’m tired. Why don’t we just go find some shade and have something cool to drink? We can talk about this tomorrow.” The wolf started laughing again.
“Uh…Gry”, mumbled the owl, “we…um…that is to say, I…er…”
“What, my friend?” said Gryffon. “What troubles you?”
The owl looked away with guilt all over her face. “Oh no, please tell me you didn’t”, begged the ranger. “Gry, they asked and I…It’s your fault anyway. You know how bad a liar I am.” The owl covered her face with one wing. “Why must you tell me secrets?” came the muffled cry from beneath her feathers.
Just then, a rumble came from just beyond the hills ringing the lake. Up over the rise and down into the vale came more of Gryffon’s forest friends, running towards the boat. In minutes, the boat was packed with a cow, several goats, quite a few rabbits, some squirrels and chipmunks, and one llama wearing bright red swimming trunks.
“To the seas”, yelled some of the animals. “Hoist the jib”, cried others. “I’m going to be sick”, groaned the cow. After much beseeching, parlaying and one or two threats, the animals talked Gryffon into taking the boat out for a short sail.
The ranger made his way to the tillerman. He shook the man awake. “Alfrie, are you well enough to steer?” The man squinted up at his employer, his eyes blood shot. He looked around the boat, at the water, at the tiller, then back to Gryffon.
“Who’s Alfrie?” he asked.
“That’s your name, you…Forget that. Do you remember what I told you? ‘Left’, ‘Right’, ‘Stop’, and ‘Forward’?” The man nodded, the slight movement upsetting the precarious balance he held on his stool and sending him crashing to the deck. As the man struggled to climb back atop the stool, Gryffon walked back to the bow, shaking his head.“If we do this, let’s do it right”, he called out. “Chipmunk, cast out the line. Cow and goat, raise the sail.” No animal moved.
The owl flew to Gryffon. “Remember Gry, you promised you’d use their given names in matters of importance.” Gryffon shot the owl a glare that would have frozen a harpy in its tracks.
“Fine. Stubby, cast that blasted line before I think of a good recipe for chipmunk stew. Barley and Willie, raise the bloody sail or I’ll remind myself how useful a fur-lined leather tunic would be for the winter.”
In minutes, the boat was under way and heading for the open sea. The sails caught a strong wind and the boat raced forward, cutting through the calm blue water like a blade. Gryffon stood at the bow of the ship. He tilted his head up into the wind, letting the salty air blow back his long hair.
Quertzl the llama came up beside him. “I never dreamed it would feel like this”, Gryffon said to the llama. He closed his eyes. “Do you feel it, Quertzl? The power of it, the majesty. It energizes me.”
“Uh, Gry”, whispered the llama.
“My soul leaps with joy”, said Gryffon.
Gryffon thrust his arms out wide, as if to embrace the whole sea. “I’m king of the world”, he shouted into the wind.
“That water elemental might have something to say about that”, said the llama.
“Water elemental?” Gryffon opened one eye a crack. A hundred meters to their fore, the sea was bubbling madly. Raising into the air, the water formed into the shape of a giant man. When the elemental caught sight of the ship, it began speeding towards a head on collision. Gryffon smiled. “Now you will see just what a good ship can do, my friend. We’ll run circles about our blue friend out there.”
He called for Balley the rabbit. Balley came up to the ranger and saluted. “Second mate Balley reporting as ordered.”
“Go back and tell the tillerman to make hard left.” As the rabbit took off, Gryffon struck a captain’s pose, one hand tucked into his jerkin, one foot resting up on the prow. He shouted brave defiance at the elemental. Some time went by and still ship and monster headed straight for each other.
“Is this what you meant by hard left?” asked the llama.
“Patience, my friend. If you had any sailing experience you’d know ships can not turn on a coin.” More time and still the ship raced forward on its course.
“Gry, that elemental looks hungry”, said the llama.
“Would you relax. We’ve plenty of time to turn”, replied the ranger. He wiped sweat from his brow. “Gods, when did it get so hot out here?” Finally, Balley returned.
“Second mate Balley reporting back”, said the rabbit, saluting.
Gryffon looked down at the rabbit. “Balley, we’re not turning. Did you give my message to the tillerman?”
“Aye aye sir”, said the rabbit, obviously proud to have completed his mission.
“And his reply?”
“In his words sir, ‘My left or his?’”
Gryffon gently took hold of the rabbit and turned it towards the oncoming creature. “Do you see that water elemental rushing at us?” Gryffon asked. “A meeting at this time would not be pleasant. So you tell that drunken fool to turn any way it pleases him just so long as he bloody turns. Understand?”
The rabbit saluted and scampered off. “Plenty of time”, Gryffon assured the llama. Still, time passed on and the boat continued straight as an arrow.
“Ohm uga ohm”, chanted the llama.
“No need for that”, said Gryffon. “We’re fine. Really.”
“Ohm uga ohm.”
Balley returned, huffing and puffing but managing a sharp salute nonetheless. Gryffon leaned back against the railing and folded his arms across his chest. “Balley, we’re not going to turn, are we?” he asked.
“Afraid not, captain”, replied the rabbit.
“Ohm uga ohm”, chanted Quertzl.
“Would you just shut up”, Gryffon shouted at the llama. Turning back to the rabbit, he asked, “And why not?”
“Well, captain, I told him as you said. He wondered why you wanted to turn so bad. So I mentioned the elemental.”
“What did he say to that?”
“He jumped overboard.”
“Ohm uga ohm, uga ohm uga”, chanted the llama.
Gryffon began to chuckle. He drew his sword and pointed it at the elemental. “You think you have us, do you?” he shouted. “Well, think again.” Gryffon leapt onto the boom. With one swipe of his blade, he cut the sail’s main gourd line and the boom swung out away from the ship with Gryffon still hanging on. The boat followed its sail’s new course and hung on its side as it turned to the port, away from the elemental.
With sails still three quarters full, the ship righted itself and easily pulled away from its pursuer. Dangling over the water by one arm, Gryffon threw back his head and shouted joyfully into the wind, “Ha ha. Take that, you watery bastard.”
“Gry?” called the owl over the rush of the sea.
Gryffon waved his sword and bellowed curses at the quickly disappearing elemental.
“Gry?!?” cried the owl.
Gryffon looked at the owl sitting on the boom above him. “What?”
“How do we stop?”
“Stop?” asked the ranger. “Why?” Gryffon followed the owl’s wing and looked behind him. The ship was rushing headlong for the rocky shore.
The owl hopped up and down. “What do we do?” she cried.
Gryffon looked at the boat and then back at the rocks. “My best guess?” He let go of the boom. “Abandon ship!” he screamed as he plunged into the sea.
The wolf sauntered up to where Gryffon and the owl sat on the beach. A pool of water formed around the ranger’s sopping wet clothes.
“Did you lose any?” asked the wolf.
The owl shook her head. “Those that couldn’t swim at least managed to keep afloat until Gry could get to them. It took an hour for him to pull the cow ashore.”
The ranger just stared out wide-eyed over the sea as if entranced by the breaking waves.
“What’s the matter with him?” asked the wolf.
“I think losing the boat really upset him”, answered the owl. “Don’t worry, Gry”, she said, patting him on the forearm, “we’ll get another boat. A bigger one. One no rocks can sink. You’ll see.”
The ranger did not even blink. Just then a rabbit ran up to the three friends carrying a scroll. The rabbit stopped in front of Gryffon and bowed low.
“Hail Lord Gryffon”, said the rabbit, “I, Toby, First Messenger of the Yew Forest, Favored Scroll Carrier of the Glorious Lady Samantha and Vaunted Defender of All Things Green and Nibbly, bring word from the Lady herself.”
Were it not for the slight spasm of a muscle in his left cheek, Gryffon would have been a statue.
“What’s the matter with him?” asked the rabbit.
“Just read the scroll”, said the wolf.
The rabbit shrugged and unrolled the parchment. “Dear Gryffon”, the rabbit read, “I hope this finds you well.” The rabbit looked up at Gryffon who was still staring out to sea. The rabbit sighed loudly and continued, “Octal and I have but a few more days of work at the castle and then we’re off to see you again. We’ll be there soon. Love Samantha. P.S. We…”
The rabbit stopped reading. “Maybe we could save the rest for another time.”
“Would you just finish so we can get back to the forest”, ordered the wolf.
“You’re the boss”, replied the rabbit, opening the scroll again. “P.S. We cant’ wait to go sailing on that wonderful new ship of yours.”
Finally, Gryffon showed signs of life. He blinked twice and moved his lips but no sound came out. The owl leaned in close, her ear almost touching the ranger’s chin.
“What is he saying?” asked the wolf.
“Ohm uga ohm”, answered the owl. “Uga ohm uga.”
You may all be wondering just how all of that can be blamed on the Lady Samantha. Please let me elaborate.
The only reason the ship sunk was because it was on the water. The only reason it was on the water was because the animals demanded to go sailing. The only reason the animals demanded to go sailing was because they think they are human. The only reason they think they are human is because they have names. And who gave them names, you might ask. One guess.
Now, if you think it’s quite a stretch to blame the Lady, you’re right. But it certainly served as a good hook to get you reading the story. Hope you enjoyed it.
P.S. Any similarities with an over sappy, much too long, recent American movie was purely intentional.