Laurence stood at the railing of The Potentate, watching Rio disappear in the horizon. It felt good to be out at sea again, on a ship manned by an able crew and the troubles of war for a while left behind them. The only thing left to trouble him was Granby. He had been acting strange ever since his arm had healed enough for him to wear the new steel hook Iskierka had got him after he refused her first offer. It was only to be expected, of course, as it must be a difficult thing to get used to, and Laurence would not have thought it so strange if Granby had merely seem sad or angry, but this was something quite different. On the morning before their departure, for instance, he had turned up for breakfast with an eyepatch over his left eye. At the worried enquiries of the rest of the captains Granby had just shook his head and said "Don't ask about it" in tones so final that none of them had dared to push the matter further. Even if Granby did seem to have a certain knack for acquiring injuries Laurence failed to see how he could have sustained an eye injury serious enough to merit an eyepatch within the bounds of their protected camp.
Furthermore, this morning as they had all been busy getting dragons and gear onto the transport, Granby had suddenly appeared wearing a big, somewhat flamboyant, feathered hat of an old-fashioned style. Had it not been for his decided refusal of the golden hook only a few days earlier, Laurence would simply have put this down to a quirk of Iskeirka's, but as matters stood that seemed unlikely.
Laurence was brought out of his brooding by the sound of a steady thumping coming closer behind him, as if someone was approaching on a wooden leg. A moment later, Granby joined him at the railing. A strange suspicion made Laurence glance discreetly at Granby's legs, one of which did indeed end in a wooden peg. Laurence could not even bring himself to ask, as the whole thing was so absurd. There was simply no way that even Granby could have lost his leg and had it replaced by a wooden one since Laurence had last seen him not half an hour ago. Struggling to figure out a plausible explanation, Laurence heard himself saying
"It is a fine day, should we take the dragons up for a flight after their feeding?"
"Arrr!" Granby responded, nodding in agreement.
Granby turned a deep shade of crimson as he realised what he'd said and quickly amended it with a hearty
"Are you quite well?" Laurence asked, unable to restrain himself any more.
Granby nodded, then shook his head, looking thoroughly confused.
"I... I'm not sure."
"Perhaps you should have some rest," Laurence suggested, not sure himself of how rest would make his leg grow back, but unable to think of any other solution.
"Aye, bucko, some grog and rest will put me back on me feet in no time," Granby said and turned to go back to the dragons, his wooden leg thumping against the deck.
As Laurence watched him settle down next to Iskierka he suddenly noticed that Granby was no longer wearing his bottle green Corps' uniform, as Laurence could have sworn he had only moments ago, but instead a long, rather shabby coat of a faded black.
Turning back to look at the ocean again, Laurence tried in vain to clear his thoughts. It seemed highly unlikely that the loss of a hand would cause this sort of behaviour, however traumatic the experience might be. Maybe it was the heat, it could play cruel tricks on people who were not used to it-
Once again, Laurence's thoughts were interrupted by a sound, from the dragon deck this time and clearly the screech of a bird. Steeling himself, he turned around to look. There was something strange about the dragon deck, though he could not immediately see what it was. Temeraire was there, as were most of the captains and the dragons... not all of the dragons, Laurence realised. Iskierka was gone. If she had taken to the air, Laurence was sure he would have felt the ship move, but a heavy-weight dragon did not just disappear without a trace. Moving cautiously closer, he noticed that there was something sitting on Granby's shoulder. A red and green parrot, screeching
"Pieces of eights! Pieces of eights!" and looking absolutely furious.
It made a move as if to exhale forcefully and for a moment Laurence was sure it would breathe fire, but the effort caused it to dissolve into a fit of coughing and more angry screeches instead.
"Tharr, me beauty, don't be hangin' the jib now," Granby said, stroking the parrot's feathers with his hook, which now seemed to be giving off a strange golden glow.
Then, abruptly, a change came over his face and he seemed to be back to his old self, staring with a puzzled expression, first at the parrot and then at the aviators around him, who were staring back, looking equally confused. Eventually Little took a step forwards and ventured
"John, whatever is the matter with you?"
Granby's puzzled expression lingered for a moment, then he grinned widely, revealing several golden teeth, and said
"'Tis Long-John Granby now!"
Then, to the surprise and dismay of his fellow aviators, he swiftly made his way across the deck, drawing his sword as he went (his sabre now exchanged for a cutlass with a jagged edge and lavishly decorated hilt), and unceremoniously grabbed the wheel, pushing the shocked helmsman aside and brandished his sword in the air, shouting
"Avast, ye scurvy dogs! This be my ship now!"
Horrified, Laurence ran after him, followed by the other captains and Granby's lieutenants. As he grabbed Granby's shoulder in an attempt to force him away from the wheel, Granby's expression changed again and he looked pleadingly at Laurence.
"You have to help me, I have no idea what's happening!"
Laurence nodded, although he had no idea just how he could possibly help as he didn't know what was wrong in the first place. As they lead Granby away from the helm, however, he noticed that the golden glow coming from the hook seemed to be growing stronger and a strange thought hit him. The idea was absurd, to be sure, but so was the entire situation, so why not give it a try?
"I think it's the hook," Laurence said. "You need to get it off."
Granby nodded, apparently afraid to open his mouth again in case more oddities would escape him and with Laurence's help he wrenched off his coat, so as better to get at the straps fastening the hook. He had barely discarded the coat, however, when the madness gripped him again and he set off across the deck, surprisingly agile on his wooden leg, swinging the cutlass wildly and yelling nonsense.
"Arrgh! Ye'll ne'er get me alive, ye filthy landlubbers!"
Laurence and Little rushed after him, while the parrot flew in circles above them screeching
"Wind in the sail! Wind in the sail!"
With a great leap Little lunged himself at Granby, grabbing him around the waist and causing them both to fall to the deck. As Little kept the struggling Granby pinned to the ground ("Belay that, ye scurvy bilge rat!") Laurence brought out a knife and hurriedly cut of the leather straps rather than wasting time with the buckles and as soon as it came loose he threw the hook over board. There was a splash as the hook hit the water and at that moment Granby stopped struggling and as if by magic the eyepatch dissolved into thin air, his clothing turned back to normal and the wooden peg was replaced with a real leg. The parrot, who had been circling low above them turned into Iskierka, nearly crushing them in the process.
When they were sure Granby was back to normal, Laurence and Little released their grip on him and sat back on the deck, all three of them breathing heavily from the struggle. Eventually Granby turned to Iskierka.
"Where the devil did you get that hook?"
The dragon shrank back, looking exceedingly guilty and answered vaguely
"There was a man in a cave by the beach..."
"A man in a cave by the beach?" Granby repeated incredulously. "Why would you buy something from a man in a cave?"
"He said it would make you appreciate fine things more," Iskierka answered miserably. "He had some very fine gold pieces which he said came from someone named Cortez, who had piles of them and he said if you wore one you'd have as much gold as this Cortez, so I made him work one into the hook. He did not say that it would turn me into a parrot," she added indignantly.
Granby stared at her, clearly torn between tears and laughter. At last he just sighed and said
"I need a drink."
This is inspired by the beginning of the Monty Python skecth "Expedition to Lake Pahoe" (available on YouTube for anyone interested) and the fact that I can not imagine Granby with a hook without adding full pirate gear.