"I have you now, boy. Prepare to meet your maker!" James Hook cried out in triumph. There's no escape for him now. I have him, his friends, and his fairy! He raised his hook to complete his revenge and kill his nemesis.
The boy tied to the mast glared defiantly at him. "Go ahead, Captain Codfish! I'm not afraid of you! I'm not afraid to die!" Actually, Peter thought, I am. But I won't let HIM know that! He kept his face composed, fighting down the panic that had his stomach in knots.
"Really? And why not, boy?" Hook sneered as he stared into the boy's confident face. He didn't really care why, but he did want to strike fear into the boy's heart before he died, to wipe away the brat's cockiness once and for all. It won't be as satisfying if he doesn't suffer first. It would be even better if he begged for his life.
"Because, Codfish, I am a child. All innocent children go to Heaven. Everyone knows that. Why should I fear Heaven? I imagine it's probably a lot like Neverland." Peter smiled sweetly.
Suddenly, Hook had doubts about his course. Send my enemy to Heaven? What sort of revenge is that? He recalled a scene from Hamlet:
"And now I'll do't; - and so he goest to heaven;
And so am I reveng'd: - that would be scann'd:
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
He felt unsure, but he kept himself composed. Aloud, he laughed, "Innocent? I think not, Master Pan. You're not a normal child, and hardly innocent. I don't think you qualify for that kind of amnesty."
"Who cares?" Peter shrugged. "Either way, I'd rather die in an adventure in Neverland than to grow old like you. I feel sorry for you. You're so old and tired. Soon your hair and teeth are going to fall out, you'll go deaf and blind, and you'll only be able to eat never-berry sauce and forget where you are. What's the use of living then?"
"You … feel sorry … for ME?" Hook sputtered. He was dumbfounded. Come to think of it, it really wasn't fair. This annoying little brat had lived God knows how long, enjoying eternal youth, health, and happiness, while he, the great Captain Hook, had had to endure growing up, with all of its hardships. And unless he died of an "accident", he had the feebleness of old age to look forward to. And to send his greatest enemy to eternal bliss while he himself was fated to eternal damnation… that was too much to bear.
Hook growled, and his sword flashed in a powerful cut. The other captured boys screamed and turned pale, and poor Tootles closed his eyes. Peter Pan however stood perfectly still, eyes still locked with Hook's. When he realized he could still draw breath and felt no pain, he looked down. He was uninjured, and the strong rope that had bound him and the Lost Boys to the mast were lying in pieces on the deck. They were free!
"Fly!" he shouted and the children launched into the air. He grabbed the bird-cage that held Tink on his way up and released her. "Thank you kindly, Codfish!" he shouted and crowed at the top of his lungs. He acted like it was his own cleverness that had saved them, but he knew better. Inside, he was shaking with relief, knowing that he and the others had nearly died. "C'mon boys, I don't think Captain Hook wants to play with us anymore!" With that, the children flew away, shouting insults at the pirates.
"What gives, Cap'n?" asked Mullens. "We could'a killed the brats and finally left this accursed place."
"You heard Pan: I don't want to play anymore," Hook snapped. He sheathed his sword and stared at the small figures receding into the distance. "I'm tired of his childish game, and I suddenly realized that to avenge myself with the boy's death would not be as satisfactory as I once believed. I have a much better idea, but it will require some thought and effort." Hook turned and strode into his quarters, slamming the door behind him.
True revenge is best served cold… I don't have to kill him… I can do MUCH worse than that. I will make him everything he hates. And what does he hate? He hates me. I'll make him grow up, if I can. He'll go to school and learn. He'll become a pirate. I'll take him, and twist him, and make him the most evil pirate to sail the seas… well, the most evil after myself. My nemesis will become my prodigy! An evil smile twisted his face and he began to laugh. Anyone who had ever known him would remark that he had never looked crueler. Hook sat at his desk and began plotting in his journal.
He did not sleep that night. He planned, and thought of ways the boy could escape (it was easy to catch the brats, it was nearly impossible to hold onto them), scratched those plans and started again. In the wee hours of morning he dozed and dreamed. He dreamed he captured Pan, and hid him away. The fairies and Lost Boys couldn't find him and he was able to slip away with his prisoner. A voice whispered to him: "You want the boy? I will give him to you. Come and find me. If you pass the test, I'll fulfill your wish." He heard a woman laugh, an evil sound that brought with it images of every nightmare Hook had ever had. He was flying over Neverland, and he saw the Were-forest below him. In the heart of that wood, there was an impenetrable darkness. The laughter came from there. He awoke with a start, and knew there was a way to accomplish his plan. But…
"I can't do it alone. It will require magic," he muttered, "but I think I know now where to get it." Still chuckling, Hook threw himself onto his bed and slept as only the truly innocent or the truly without conscience could.
Late the next morning, Hook and Mr. Jukes went to small Monday Island Fair. Billy ran alongside his captain, keeping pace with the huge man's long strides. Many of the fey creatures became alarmed as they made their way among the stalls. However, when neither pirate began pillaging or causing trouble everyone eventually settled down.
After a half an hour of wandering among the vendors, Billy's curiosity overcame him. "Cap'n? If you don't mind me askin' sir, but what are we looking for?" He looked nervous. Captain Hook was in a good mood today, which had the young pirate on alert.
"I'm seeking information. Now be quiet and stay out of the way," Hook replied mildly.
He stopped by the stall of an elderly old gnome. "Excuse me, ummm, sir, " Hook began.
"Yes, young man? What can I do for you?" the old-timer replied.
"Could you help me. I'm looking for someone who knows much about the history of Neverland. I plan to write my memoirs and would like some background for this island to include in it. I need someone who could answer my questions."
"Hmmm. You want someone that knows a lot about Neverland and likes to talk about it. Well, no-one that still lives on the island knows more about Neverland than Tinker Bell," he cackled, "but I don't think she'll tell YOU what you want to know."
Hook smiled mildly, a sign that he was getting annoyed. "Yes, I'm sure she hates me well enough. No, I need someone a bit more sympathetic to me."
The gnome frowned and thought a while. "Someone sympathetic to a pirate. You want one of those fey. They won't tell you for cheap for sure. It could be quite dear."
Hook waved his hand in dismissal. "Actually, I have learned there is someone in the Were-forest who might be able to help me. But before I go blundering around in that perilous place, I want to know who they are, and what I should beware of."
The gnome looked at Hook suspiciously. "You speak of the Hag. She lives in the Were-forest, and is the only creature that can pass among those trees in safety. No-one's seen her in centuries. She'll get a kick outta seeing you get through. If you do it without harming too many of her trees, she might let you leave again. 'Course, that might be a neat trick, too." The gnome burst into hysterical laughter.
"The Hag? Can you tell me more of her?"
"Not much. She's been here since the beginning. She betrayed King Oberon and the Lady by trying to kill Peter Pan, so they banished her to that wood. Pretty bitter bitch, fairly bloodthirsty. LOVES children though, which is why it was so unexpected she'd attack the boy. Never explained herself. She's twisted now, and no-one can stand being near her. She's shunned, and doesn't seem to want company anyway. You'll only make it to her if she wants to see you. And she likes to play games. My advice is to forget about her and go see someone else. Now, there's an elf, lives nearby. He …" the gnome stopped as the pirate cut him off.
"Thank you, sir, you've been helpful. I think you told me what I'd like to know. For your time," and Hook tossed a silver coin on the gnome's table.
"Hey! Thanks!" the old gnome beamed. "You need anything else, come see old Tavis again!" To the elf next to him, he said, "See? He ain't so bad. If that boy didn't drive him nuts, he'd probably be a right decent gentleman."
Hook smiled as he walked away. No, I'd still be a bastard. I would just be somewhere else being a bastard.
"Why'd you pay him, Cap'n? You already knew where to go, so he didn't tell you nothing!" Billy asked, astounded.
"He told me plenty: the Hag once tried to kill Peter Pan, and she's bitter. She's the perfect accomplice, once I find out what the boy did to her to make her that way."
"Now what, Cap'n?" Billy ventured. He had a suspicion about what was next, but he hoped for a trip for the ship first, to get the other men to come along.
"We go to see the Hag."
Billy paled, but followed his captain. Now he just hoped Hook wasn't going to use him as bait to occupy the trees while he got through.
About an hour later, Captain Hook and young Billy Jukes stood on the outskirts of the Were-forest. The woods were dark, even though it was noon, and they saw shadows moving within the depths.
"We break for lunch first, Jukes. Then it's into the woods," Hook ordered and sat on a log. He waited as Billy unpacked their food and served him. He noticed the boy kept glancing towards the trees. "Do you have a problem, Mr. Jukes? Do you see something of interest?"
"N-No, Cap'n, sir. I just don't trust trees to begin with, and to have a whole forest of them that actually want us dead is bad enough. Now we're gonna be goin' in there, and darin' them to kill us! I don't wanna die, is all, Cap'n."
"I've little use for a coward in my crew, Mr. Jukes. Besides, I believe I have been invited to see the Lady of the Woods, so have no fear that I will not make it."
"It's not your skin I'm fearin' for," Billy muttered lowly.
"What was that, Mr. Jukes?" Hook asked sharply.
"Nothin', sir! Just tryin' to get the flask open, is all!" Billy replied, and said nothing else. They ate in silence. When they were finished, Hook stood and walked into the woods. Billy followed close on the heels of his captain. If I have to go in here, I'm not going to get far from him. It's safer, I think.
Almost as soon as the shadows of the trees closed around them, the ordeal began. At first, it was easy to shrug off. Occasionally a vine would somehow get entangled around their feet, tripping them. Or a clear path would suddenly be gone, and they would have to backtrack to find another way around the wall of trees. Billy was having the worst time of it. He could swear that he felt the trees caressing him with their branches and vines…trying to get a feel (or taste) for him. He also thought he heard laughter on the wind whenever he tripped.
Hook himself didn't escape molestation, but he was strong and quick, and easily cut through any obstacles that interfered with him. He was only tripped twice, and it was probably because when it happened, he stopped long enough to hack out a large chuck of the nearest tree.
Things turned nasty after awhile. They had come to another dead end, and while Hook was looking for a way around, Billy was attacked. A vine dropped down on him suddenly, wrapped around his throat, and hauled him into the air. He gagged, strangling and kicking. He tried to cut at the vine, but couldn't get at it well enough. Everything began to go dark around him and he dropped his sword. Hook heard the commotion and turned as soon as Billy was lifted off. He snarled, and ran to the tree that had the boy.
"That's MY crewman! Let him go!" He yelled, and began hacking at the tree's limbs. He cut through one, and the tree made an inhuman roar. Suddenly, Jukes' body fell from above and hit the ground hard. Hook ran to him and scooped the boy up. A cackling laughter echoed through the trees, seemingly delighted with the show. He ignored it and carried Billy to a relatively clear area to inspect the damage.
He felt Billy's neck and sighed in relief when he found a pulse. Still alive! Next he quickly probed the child, searching for further injuries. There's nothing broken. He lightly slapped the boy's face, and Billy came to with a gasp.
"Cap'n!" he coughed. "Are you dead, too?
"No, and neither are you, you dolt. Do be more careful." He pointed to Jukes' arm which was bleeding. "Wrap that in something, we'll get it stitched up when we get back to the ship."
"IF we get back to the ship. It's getting worse in here, Cap'n," Billy whispered. He reached into their rucksack and pulled out a napkin. When Billy had wrapped the wound as well as he could, Hook hauled him to his feet and they continued on.
Hours later, the giant man and the small pirate broke through the trees into a clearing. Both had rips in their clothing, scratches, and leaves and twigs sticking out all over. Billy also sported a few more cuts on his arms and legs. When he had gashed his arm, the blood from it had driven the trees into a frenzy. They completely ignored the captain and redoubled their efforts to snag the boy. This had slowed Hook's progress greatly, since he had had to spend far more time fending the vines off of Billy than actually walking. At times he had even had to carry the boy through the thickest parts. Throughout their ordeal, they had heard a woman's laughter. Hook had decided to follow a hunch and steered them towards that laugh. It had apparently paid off.
"Thanks for not leaving me, Cap'n," Billy whispered. He had honestly thought Hook would, but the Captain rarely did what anyone thought he would do.
"Don't be daft! You're too valuable to me to toss away, unless it is absolutely necessary. If I had wanted carrion to toss to these monsters, I'd have brought a Lost Boy. Besides, I still have to get OUT of the forest, Mr. Jukes." Hook looked across the clearing and saw a small cottage. "This looks cheerful enough," he said and walked up to the door.
You've got to be kidding! thought Billy. There was such a feeling of malevolence and darkness here that he almost preferred the forest. He followed Hook to the door of the dilapidated cottage. There was smoke coming out of the chimney, but the windows were pitch-black.
Hook knocked on the door. He didn't knock hard, but the whole house seemed to shake.
"No-one's home! Too bad, let's just get back to the ship!" Jukes blurted out. He felt a rising panic begin to engulf him, and he fought for control.
The door opened a bit, and a woman's voice came from within. "What have we here? Ahh, a big, strong man, and –oooh - a sweet little boy!" The door opened wide, but there was only blackness beyond. "Come in, come in! Welcome to my home! I get so few visitors these days," the voice laughed. It was the same mocking laughter that had guided them to the clearing.
Hook walked through the doorway and disappeared instantly. Billy gasped and turned to run. Suddenly, the Captain's claw arm shot out of the darkness, hooked the boy by the vest and dragged him through.