We did as we said and gave Grim Grimson the burial he deserved. Grim was placed in a jolly boat, given his weapons and surrounded with bits of dry wood, then set adrift. Bia had a bow amongst her remaining weapons, and fired a flaming arrow into Grim's pyre. Several leagues from the Antarctic coast, we all gathered on the deck and watched Grim's body float out on a burning ship, the dancing flames reflected against the pale water and floes of ice.
Then, when it was finished, we returned to Panchaea to celebrate our victory. The voyage was quiet and without incident. I must admit that I slept through most of it, slumbering for days on end as my wounds healed. My dreams were like the deepest depths of the ocean, undisturbed and peaceful. We took our watches and our turns at the helm, and steered the Flounder home as fast as we could.
When we arrived, I almost believed what Ormsby had said about us – that we were heroes. Abbot Hobart met us at the peer, along with Brother Fin, Brother Noster and the rest of the monastics. They watched as Ormsby and I walked across the gangplank, followed by the rest of my crew.
Hobart knelt down and looked at Ormsby. He saw the bruises on the boy's face, and the bandage resting on his forehead. "Are you..." he started.
"I am well, Abbot," Ormsby explained. "Thanks to Captain Morrow and the crew of the Flounder."
The abbot looked up at me and smiled. "You brought him back safe," he said. "Thank St. Lawrence. And the Sleeping God?"
"He dreams on," I replied.
"Wonderful. Wonderful." Hobart took Ormsby's hand. "Come with us, young Ormsby. You must be tired after your voyage and you can rest." He looked up at me. "And Captain? I have received several hogsheads of the finest ales and rums and placed them in the great hall. A pair of suckling pigs and a quartet of chickens is there as well. You may celebrate in your own manner."
I smiled at the thought of it and looked to my crew. "Well, my boys, what say you to that?"
Prince bowed before the monks. "I never thought I would consider a monastic lifestyle, but you fellows have endeared it to me. Ormsby, will you join us?"
"I'll rest a little bit, sir," Ormsby agreed. "And then join you." He looked back at the monastery, the home that he had known for his whole life, now made smaller by his voyages to the far corners of the Oddest Sea. "I just want a little time. To think, by myself."
"It's no trouble, my boy." I licked my lips. "More rum for me."
We feasted and drank for a solid day. By the end of it, I was drunker than a fish in a sea of wine. The great hall was a wreck, with tables and chair overturned by our swaggering and dancing. Talabash insisted on taking notes on everything - "to study the human form while inebriated," as he said, and his notes lay scattered across the flagstones, getting gradually and gradually messier as the night wore on.
Proteus Prince played the fiddle and danced with Bia, after she had drained the better part of a whole barrel of rum by herself. They fell into each other's arms, embracing and kissing as they hurried to the next room. I downed more rum and forgot about them.
The next morning – or the next afternoon, to be precise – Hatch woke me up. He fluttered on my belly and lay there, staring at me with my beady eyes. I creaked my own deadlights open. My head hurt like a broadside was still blasting inside my skull. But I rolled off the table and fell onto one of the chair. I looked over and saw Talabash lying on the floor, a jug of rum near his scaly lips.
"Blasted parrot," I muttered. "What is it now?"
"I don't believe I shall ever grow less fond of waking you up from your drunken excesses," Hatch replied. "If I hadn't seen you save all of existence, I might doubt you a little, Captain Morrow."
"Then I'm glad you saw me save all of existence. What's occurring?"
"Ormsby Seaborne, captain. The boy is outside. I think you should speak with him." Hatch fluttered away from the table and landed on the rim of Talabash's rum jug. His head dipped down, his little tongue lapping up some of the rum. "Hmmm," he said. "Wonderful stuff."
"Right about that…" Talabash groaned.
I came to my feet, adjusting my tangled shirt and running a hand through my beard. I walked to the double doors at the end of the hall and pushed my way through. The sun battered at my eyes and my head pounded. I walked onwards, past the monks going about their business, and to the edge of the monastery, where the cliff curved down and led to my grotto.
Ormsby stood there, looking out at the Oddest Sea. I walked over and stood next to him. He seemed to be watching the waves, and then turned around and looked at me. "Oh, Captain Morrow. I didn't see you there. Good afternoon."
"Hello, Ormsby," I said. "Sleep well?"
"Quite well, sir. To be back in my own cot after such a journey…it is a great thing." Ormsby looked back out at the sea. "But I did a little thinking while I rested. I thought about what I've learned, about my origins, and the good we've done during our voyage. It was sad, of course, too. With Grim, I mean. But you are no stranger to that."
I thought of the Red Cutlass. "Aye. No pirate is. But you are right. We did some good. It was something I have done far too little, in my life. And to sail on such a ship as the Flounder, with such a good crew at my side, well, young man, it makes my heart sing with pride. I want more of it, my boy. I want to sail again."
"I t-think I do, as well, sir," Ormsby said softly. "That's what I really came to think, as I lay there awake on my bed last night. I'd like to join your company, with Hatch, and Mr. Prince, and Bia and Talabash. And you, sir. If you'll have me, of course."
"My boy," I replied. "I could never ask for a better mate."
We stood there in silence a while, watching the waves come and go over the wide expanse of the Oddest Sea.