The Tyranny of Captain Cronus

Prologue

The cabin was dark and musky. The rear window was so caked in dirt that light struggled to seep through. Captain Cronus sat at his fine, mahogany desk and stared at the blank page before him. A deformed candle illuminated the paper with a yellow hue. An ink-soaked quill stood over the surface like an executioner's axe, poised in the captain's burly grasp. On a good day, he would guide the quill over the paper with the grace of an artist with a paintbrush or a duellist with a rapier, but on that day his mind was as empty and blank as the page that lay before him.

A cabinet to his right held a vast collection of leather bound books. Thrilling Fantasies and budding romances crafted by the sharp minded men and women who carved on the pages. There were only two books left that he had yet to touch upon, and they were the tales that didn't interest him much. He had both read life and witnessed it first-hand, he could take any nook or cranny from his prison of a home and write an essay about it, but still, nothing.

A drop of ink swelled on the feather's tip before dripping off and landing on the paper, punctuating a full stop to a non-existent sentence. At least now the page and his imagination had a different: one of them wasn't blank anymore.

Cronus grumbled. It was pointless. He dipped the quill back into the inkwell and slammed the book closed. If his talent were to come out, it had to be on its own terms. He reached over to the cup standing on the edge of his desk and poured the contents into his parched mouth. The foamy beer was warm and flat, but still capable of quenching thirst. The bitter taste mingled with the meaty and fishy aroma that still lingered on his tongue.

He descended from his chair, his head coming close to a hanging lantern. If there was one thing that he disliked about his cabin, apart from the lack of light and abysmal interior, was that it didn't accommodate for his six-foot-seven stature. He glanced over at the coffer he proudly displayed in his cabin, with the emphasis on the word 'proudly'. He opened it up and looked down at the hill of gold, diamonds, and rubies that filled half of the inside. As a wise pirate once said: "The chest that is half empty is also half full."

The captain disregarded that notion as he shut the lid. It wasn't enough, not by a longshot. Ever since he set sailed on his first voyage years ago as a young and naïve buccaneer, he had dreamed of glorious raids, treasure hunting, and streaming his fingers through waves of riches beyond his wildest imaginations. Now, as a captain, he found himself no better off than since he started.

Complete desolation threatened to take over Cronus' mind. The beer tasted worse every day. The food was developing a blood-like tang to it. He felt like he had been locked away in his room for generations. He imagined the four walls of his cabin as the tomb of his final resting place, a tomb to a man nobody either recognised or favoured.

He had a sudden urge to get some fresh air. He grabbed the dark blue overcoat that lay sprawled over his chair and put it on, securing the thick buckle and strap around his waist. Captain Cronus felt thankful that he was able to procure a coat that provided for his height and physique. Next, he retrieved his scabbard belt, complete with two sheathed cutlasses, and strapped it over his belt. His hat lay opposite the empty cup on his desk. It was all black with the front and sides folded up, and had a pristine, white feather decorating the top. He had to put on his hat outside the cabin, otherwise it would just get caught in the lanterns.

Before he stepped outside, Cronus stopped for a moment to examine himself him the full-length mirror that ornamented his cabin. His body was a thing of perfection, probably not on the inside but most definitely on the outside, with arms and legs as thick and strong as tree trunks. He wore a button-down, black shirt and vest beneath his coat, along with a pair of grey trousers and brown boots. He didn't bother with ruffles or wig or laces, they were too flamboyant for his style.

Cronus leaned in close to the reflective surface and glared at the face that glared back. His icy blue eyes stood behind a pair of dropped eyelids, half-open as if he were always half-asleep. His Greek nose and high cheekbones complimented his kempt, brown beard and medium length hair. He couldn't help but notice the many lines growing below his eyes and on his forehead, which made him look older than his current age of thirty three. He may have looked a little rough, but he bet he could sway a girl or two.

He walked over to the exit, his thick boots thumped on the wooden floor with every step. Taking a deep breath, he clutched the door by its handle and turned it. A blast of ocean air gusted through the opening, filling his nose with its salty perfume. The air alone made Captain Cronus feel revitalised, almost as if he were a new man. He stepped out onto the deck, and was instantly greeted by the blinding sun. His blue eyes stung as they took their first rays of natural sunlight for the first time in what seemed like days. Not a single cloud specked the sky. A breeze swept past him cool and calm, rustling the tails of his coat and the hair on his chin. He felt like he could just stretch his arms out and fly like the seagulls that hovered overhead.

The ship, The Grey Raven, carved through the waters like a hot knife through butter. The deck that stretched before him was immaculate, if only that amount of cleanliness could go into his own cabin. The grey sails stood open far above his head, bloated outwards in the strong wind. The hull was constructed out of strong wood that had a grey tint. This ship was a mechanical masterpiece. Not only was it one of the most stylish, fastest, and strongest boats anyone could ever lay eyes on, but it only required a crew of five people to control and maintain it. It was most unfortunate that the previous captain did not have enough time to enjoy its splendours before the title fell upon Cronus.

Captain Cronus strolled down the deck, placing his hat on his dirty hair. The scabbards that hung from both sides of his waist clinked against his thighs. To his left, he spotted the first crew member: Flint. With his trimmed goatee and parted hair, Flint's appearance screamed culture and sophistication. He wore an elegant pirate outfit and a gun holster strapped around his chest, fitted with two shiny flintlock pistols.

Flint finished tying a rope in place and waved a lazy salute. "'Afternoon, Captain."

"Good afternoon, Flint." Cronus replied.

Upon reaching the main mast, Cronus traced his eyes upwards. He followed the upmost yard to the end where he unsurprisingly located another crew mate: Animal. The smallest member of Cronus's crew, Animal stood five-foot-five and had the body of a stick insect on a diet. He lay perfectly balanced on top of the sail. His long, wild, black hair drifted in the breeze. Even though he was hundreds of feet above the deck with no means of safety, he lay with his arms behind his head and his bare feet dangling off the sides as if he were snoozing.

As the captain reached the stairs leading up to the forecastle deck, he spotted a dark figure wearing a shredded robe sitting on the lowest step. The man had his bald head buried in a thick tome filled with cryptic words and symbols. Captain Cronus kept his mouth shut as he passed by. The man lifted his head and glanced at his superior, revealing a set of jagged, glowing tattoos across a jagged, wrinkly face. His eyes were grey and dead, devoid of any kind of emotion. He nodded before retreating back to his book. No-one had ever gotten his name, but Gloom was what the crew had come to call him. He was a man who rarely spoke, but when he did, each syllable carried a lot of weight.

Cronus reached the end of the deck where he found his first mate, Trig, staring off into the horizon. At first glance, Trig was about as typical a pirate as anyone could get. Messy, brown beard. Sinewy body. Eye patch. Do-rag. White shirt. Cloth pants. Worn boots. Yellow teeth. Gold tooth. Cronus stepped beside his first mate and joined in on the brisk task.

"Welcome back, Captain." Trig said with a salute. "I was beginning to wonder when you were going to come out of there."

"At ease, Trig." Cronus spoke. "How goes it? I trust everything is running smoothly."

"As smooth as a sharpened blade." Trig answered. "The weather is kind, morale is high, the ship is strong, and everything is in place upon reaching new land."

"How long ago since we departed from that last island?" The captain asked.

"Three weeks, two days, six hours, twenty two minutes, and fifteen seconds." Trig answered without as much as a second to think about it. "And that's taking into account that little incident with the desert island that delayed us by thirty seven minutes."

Trig was first mate for a reason. Underneath his rough exterior and his tattered clothes, lay a brain of pure gold. He was a human mechanical calculator, able to solve even the trickiest of mathematics in sheer seconds. Trig absolutely loved to count, there was not a single thing in the world that he couldn't stick a number onto, which was why he was placed in charge of storage control and meal portions. Cronus wouldn't be surprised if he knew exactly how many wooden planks formed the Grey Raven.

For a second, Cronus considered asking how long he had stayed cooped up in his cabin, but decided against it. He didn't even want to think about how much time he wasted staring at a blank page. "Are we close to reaching dry land yet? I grow tired of waiting."

"If my calculations are correct, and they are, we should be reaching land very soon."

"I've heard this before, Trig." Cronus stated.

"Captain, I informed you well in advance that a delay of a week was about as fine-lined as I could get, regardless of weather conditions, and we've been pretty lucky with that so far."

"Of course, Trig." He paused. "I'm just hopeful that our next destination will be much more fruitful than our last one."

Trig sighed. "Me too, Captain. Me too."

The slow patter of footsteps converged behind them, but neither of them paid attention. Flint walked by and casually sat at the foot of the bowsprit. "It's another beautiful day, Captain."

"Thank you for stating the obvious, Flint." Captain Cronus said sarcastically.

"May I take a gander on what's for lunch later?" Flint said and he leaned back. "Or is that a stupid question?"

Trig answered. "One portion of fish, two pieces of bread, and one pint of grog. It's as simple as that."

Cronus resisted the urge to grumble. It was always fish and meat and bread and beer. Every day. Fish, bread, meat, beer, meat, fish, meat, bread, beer, beer, fish, beer, bread; it was driving him crazy. What he wouldn't give for some fresh fruit, or a crunchy vegetable, or heck, a cup of clean water, at least.

Flint unbuckled a flintlock from the holster, pulled back the hammer, and aimed it towards the sky. "How 'bout dessert?" Suddenly, he pulled the trigger. The flintlock erupted with smoke as the gunpowder ignited, discharging a round bullet into the air. Neither Cronus nor Trig were startled by the sudden bang. Flint slowly eased the gun back into the holster as the gunshot echoed across the ocean. After a few seconds, a white blur landed between them. The three men glanced down at the seagull slumped before them. "Anyone for fresh seagull?" Flint said with a smile.

Slowly, a smirk appeared on the captain's stone face, followed by a much needed snigger. Trig smiled, barely able to contain his laughter.

Captain Cronus' laughter rapidly subsided and he pointed a stern finger towards his crew member. "You're going to have to clean that up, bear in mind."

Flint jumped off the bowsprit. "What's there to clean up?" He brought his foot up and drove it down inches away from the bird. His shoe struck the ground with a hollow thud. Miraculously, as if his foot had some kind of resurrection spell, the bird sprang to life. It clambered onto its feet and spread out its wings, revealing a single, charred feather tip where the bullet had grazed. The bird ran down the deck before it took off in flight, banking slightly to the side while it adjusted for its chinked wing.

All three men began to crackle with amusement. Trig clapped a slow round of applause. Flint tipped his head forward, taking a bow.

"You know, Captain, you were locked away in that cabin of yours for a very long time." Flint began. "Did you get any writing done? Something with beautiful, exotic women, I hope."

Cronus sighed. "Not a single word… and none of my books are helping."

"Not even your favourite one?" Trig asked.

"Not even that." Cronus rubbed his eyes and saw the pages of text engrained into his retina. Not even sleep granted him escape. "I guess all my inspiration has dried up."

"Well, don't worry. I'm sure we'll break that writer's block on the next island we find." Trig comforted. "And hopefully break open a few treasure chests while we're at it."

"I sure hope so, Trig." Cronus said. "And it better be soon. I can't stand the thought of spending another week cooped up in that cabin, staring at a blank page and having nothing but a half-filled chest of wealth to comfort me."

"A wise pirate once said: 'The chest that is half empty-,'"

"'Is also half full.' I know."

Just then, Cronus turns back to the deck and peered over its length from where he stood. A massive revelation struck him - there were five men aboard the ship: Trig, Flint, Animal, Gloom, and himself. He was standing with Trig and Flint while Gloom sat at the bottom of the stairs and Animal lay on top of the main mast.

Wait, who's steering the ship? Captain Cronus felt his heart sink. Don't tell me! He narrowed his eyes over to the ship's wheel at the opposite end, and spotted a crude assortment of ropes tied around it.

He faced Flint with angry eyes. "You idiot! I told you not to do that again!"

"It's no big deal, Captain." Flint defended himself. "It's a straight piece of open sea, and we've got great visibility… and I'll admit I was getting pretty tired, so..."

"That little stunt was what nearly crashed us into that desert island, and cost us thirty eight-,"

"Thirty seven." Trig corrected.

"Thirty seven…!" Cronus said before pausing. "Minutes of our precious time. You were lucky Animal just happened to be nearby. Perhaps maybe it was a mistake to not abandon you there, since you were so eager to crash into it."

Flint shook his head, all the while retaining his cocky smile. "Captain, we both know I'm too useful to let you do something like that."

Captain Cronus opened his mouth as if to say a stiff retort, but quickly acted against it. As much as he hated to admit it, he couldn't deny that Flint's marksmanship was far too valuable to let wither and die on some desolate pile of sand. That and the fact that both he and Flint were the only people aboard who knew how to sail the Grey Raven, and spending hours at the wheel by himself didn't tickle the Captain fancy. "You are exceptionally talented, I'll give you that. Just be thankful I was in a good mood that day."

Flint shook his head once again and giggled. "Sure, whatever you say, Captain."

"But, I must warn you, even my patience has its limits. If you keep this up, you'll find yourself taking a long walk off a short plank."

"Captain…!" A voice called out that Cronus' ears barely picked up. He followed the voice upwards and found Animal waving his arms. "Captain!" Animal repeated.

Cronus took a few steps closer. He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted. "What is it, Animal?"

"Land ho!" Animal yelled while pointing a skinny arm towards the west. He held a spyglass before his eye.

Cronus followed the direction of his hand and stared out into the distance. After a few seconds of searching, he managed to spot of slither of green on the horizon. Green was a rare colour in the captain's mind, the only times he ever saw it aboard the Grey Raven was when a food provision went bad. Green meant grass, and grass meant land. Although, until he was sure that the bump was not a figment of his imagination, he needed proof.

He shot his gaze back up at the skinny crew member and called out at the top of his lungs. "Let me take a look through that spyglass!"

Animal must have caught that, because as soon as Cronus shouted those words, he rolled back off the yard and fell. Animal fell for a second before he grabbed a rope and swung onto the foremast. He descended from mast to yard to rope with an elegance that put monkeys to shame. The skin on his hands and feet, as hard as leather, grabbed the rough rope and wood with potent grip. In only a few seconds, he had managed to travel from the top of the main mast straight down to before his captain's feet. Upon landing, he held out the spyglass as if he was giving someone a present.

Cronus regularly found himself wondering whether Animal was truly human. The sails of the Grey Raven were Animal's own personal playpen, and everyone could watch him bound between masts and ropes with flawless precision. He could swing between them for hours and never break a sweat.

Captain Cronus took the spyglass and brought the lens to his eye. "Thank you." He peered across the water, over to where the green hill was located. A smile crept onto his face and he realised that it was, in fact, a mountain, and that it was connected to others mountains and a volcano. He looked lower and spotted a flat land full of trees and vegetation.

"Land ho, indeed." Cronus said gleefully. "Nice work, Animal."

Animal saluted. "Always ready and willing, Captain."

Trig stepped from the forecastle dock, almost tripping over Gloom who remained glued to the lowest step. "I'll go get a map."

While he waited, he ordered Flint to get off his backside, unravel that blasted contraption tying the wheel in place, and set a course for the unknown island. Eventually, Trig returned, holding in his possession a collection of maps that detailed most of the barren seas and the islands that divided them.

Trig took one of the maps and examined it. "Let's see… we left this island here…" He pointed on the map. "And we've been travelling in this direction for a period of over three weeks…" He traced his finger upwards. "With excellent weather… and a delay of thirty seven minutes… which would suggest that…" Trig suddenly went silent. His jaw hung open. His eyes went wide. His face contorted into an expression like he had just discovered the meaning of life.

"What is it, Trig?" Cronus queried.

Trig gazed upon his captain his bewildered eyes. "Captain…" He murmured. "We've found Never Land."