Smee had done a fine job of patching his captain up, and now combed muck and twigs from Hook’s long white hair. Normally Smee would rub a black tincture into Captain Hook’s hair before powdering it. “Don’t have any oils here,” he muttered. “I could whip something up with the ashes, captain; quick as Ole Jack.”
“I’ve no time for frail vanity,” Hook replied, setting his teacup aside. “Our work tonight is far too vital for such distractions.”
“Oh pish-posh captain,” Smee said. “There’s always time to look one’s best.” Smee opened a chest near the foot of his bed. “Speaking of which, I saved the best; what on the chance that you’d be coming back to us.”
Smee pulled Hook’s best black velvet long coat and embroidered tricorne hat from the chest. Beneath these were some breeches, a silk white shirt, and Hook’s holiday boots. “Good for wearing, and good for burying; depending on how we found you captain.”
Hook shed his croc chewed clothing, and slid into his finest. He hadn’t always believed that clothing made a man, but Captain Hook certainly felt it helped to make the distance. He gave Smee one appreciative nod before stepping out into the rain.
Outside; Tiger Lily froze in panic as Captain Hook strode past her. Either he hadn’t seen her, or he hadn’t cared. Tiger Lily truly hoped for the prior. She scrambled for the long grass the moment Hook had passed, and pressed low to the ground; careful not to crush Tinker Bell in the doing. From here, Tiger Lily watched Hook and the pirates.
Tinker Bell chimed protest as she pushed up to Tiger Lily’s collar. Her annoyed chirping cut short when she saw Hook as well. Tinker Bell gave only minimal complaint when Tiger Lily pushed her back down.
“I’m sorry,” Tiger Lily whispered to the fairy. “He’s not like the other pirates. Hook might actually notice you.” If Tinker Bell had any objections, she kept them to herself.
Tiger Lily watched as Hook and Smee collected up two of the larger pirates (Mullins and Mason, Tiger Lily was sure), and headed up the path towards the cliffs. Again Hook passed close to Tiger Lily, and again he paid her no attention. Tiger Lily waited for the four pirates to get a good bit beyond before she moved again.
Tinker Bell poked up from Tiger Lily’s shirt as the girl shifted. She chimed concern as she looked about.
“Yes, they’re gone,” Tiger Lily answered. She watched Tinker Bell shoot out and circle overhead; chirping frantically.
“It is Hook,” Tiger Lily agreed. “But we can’t go back to camp right now.”
Tinker Bell hovered in front of Tiger Lily’s face, hands on her hips. She tinkled a quick question.
Tiger Lily sighed. “Hook is up to something. By the time we got back to the other side of Neverland, it’d be too late to stop whatever it is he’s doing.” Tiger Lily didn’t leave an opening for Tinker Bell. She knew what the fairy was thinking anyways. “No, I don’t know what he’s doing. That’s why we’re going to follow him.”
The path zigzagged haphazardly along the Neverland Cliffs. In many areas, the path was only one man thick, and Tiger Lily had to stay far behind the pirates to not be noticed. In other spots it grew wide enough to grow vegetation the girl could use to get closer unseen. It was in an area such as this near the top of the cliffs that Tiger Lily dared to get close enough to hear the pirates.
“There’s a picture of an old woman in my cabin; on the Jolly Roger,” Hook was saying as Tiger Lily snuck up. “She’s a stern, strong woman. I’ve always assumed she was my mother.” Captain Hook’s features soured. “But she may not be. For all I’m truly sure, it could be a portrait of the bloody Queen.”
“Well,” Smee offered. “It’d be a mother at least.” He winced quickly away from Captain Hook’s gaze.
“Beggin’ yer pardon captain,” Mason cut in. He scratched his thick bald head. “We’re pirates. We don’t need mothers.”
“Oh hush,” Smee chastised the larger man. “Everyone needs a mother, even if they can’t remember her.”
“No, Smee.” Hook twirled his moustache thoughtfully. “Mr. Mason is right.”
Mason beamed. It was rare that ‘right’ was used to describe anything he said. It took a moment for his smile to dim. “Uh, how am I right?” he inquired.
“A pirate doesn’t need a mother,” Hook explained simply. “Not if he need only be a pirate. And Neverland has never needed us to be more than pirates.”
Captain Hook shook his head slowly as he stared at his crew. They in turn stared blankly back at him. “Odds bods. It’s a waste of breath to try and explain to such a pack of codfish. Perhaps this would be better understood by someone more native to Neverland.”
Hook stopped suddenly, and took a long stride back down the path. He reached his good hand into the nearby shrubs, and pulled a surprised Tiger Lily out by the front of her shirt. Hook tossed Tiger Lily across the path hard enough to bounce her once.
Tinker Bell drew her darning needle sword, and flew directly towards Captain Hook. Smee stepped quickly forward, and snatched the fairy from the air. He shook the candle from his lantern, jammed Tinker Bell inside; and latched the lantern door behind her. Mullins quickly tied Tiger Lily’s hands behind her back before the girl could recover.
Hook loomed over the bound Tiger Lily. “So what say you, Ms. Lily? Do you know your mother?”
Tiger Lily didn’t answer. Hook ground his teeth in fury at her ignorance, but quickly locked the anger down. “Very well, don’t speak, just listen,” he commanded. Hook shook his head. “Where was I Smee?”
“You were telling us that Mason was right, captain.”
“Yes. Neverland has never needed us to be more than pirates.” He looked at Tiger Lily, who in turn refused to return his gaze. “Just as Neverland has never needed the natives to be anything more than Indians.”
Hook smiled slightly as Tiger Lily shot a glance at him. It was a mix of anger and indignation. “I have your attention now than, do I?” Tiger Lily looked away again, but it was clear that she was now listening.
“I believe that we are all unwitting prisoners in Neverland,” Hook explained slowly. “All of us have that in common. No matter what we think of ourselves, we are only slaves; here for the amusement of Peter Pan.”
The pirates blinked surprise at their captain. Tinker Bell banged on her prison, Jingling sharp commands for Hook to stop. Even Tiger Lily’s stone expression slipped. Smee just shook his head.
“Captain, no,” Smee insisted cautiously. “Pan was always a bad egg, that’s to be sure. But to imprison all of us? That’s beyond him. He would never…”
“He doesn’t know Smee,” Hook explained. “He never has.” Hook waved to the land around them. “Neverland brought us here, when the natives had begun to grow boring to the boy.”
Despite herself, Tiger Lily huffed at Hook’s suggestion. Hook turned his attention to her at the sound. “You and your people were here before us; fighting with the Lost Boys. Peter and his boys had great tales of their battles with you natives, but it grew tiresome for him, didn’t it?”
Hook looked back at his crew. “And then we showed up. We were a whole new adventure for the boy.” He shook his head. “We sailed here. Why? Why would we set anchor in the bay? Why did we stay?”
“Revenge,” Mullins offered simply. “On Peter Pan for what he did.”
“Yes,” Hook agreed. “Revenge.” He stared at his hook. Revenge seemed almost hollow. Hook couldn’t even remember his hand, and honestly wouldn’t want it back. His hook has served far too well to wish it replaced. Still, it had been bad form of Pan to feed it to the passing crocodile.
“I stayed for revenge. But what of the rest of you?” Captain Hook surveyed his crew. None of them met his gaze. “C’mon lads! Loyalty only carries you so far. Why, after all these years has no one ever suggested we set sail? How could you be dry-docked for years, and not consider mutiny?”
Mason put his hand up slowly. “It never dawned on us?” he offered. He looked around at the other pirates. “Well, it never dawned on me, right?”
“It wouldn’t,” Mullins muttered.
“No, it wouldn’t,” Hook agreed. He however wasn’t talking about Mason’s dimness. “Without memories of family, or dreams of fortune, you had no real reason to leave.” Captain Hook looked about at the forest surrounding them. “That is the trap. Neverland holds us here to amuse Peter Pan. It plays with our minds to make us whatever we need to be for the boy. Peter Pan wanted to fight Indians and there were Indians. When he grew tired of that and wanted pirates, he had pirates.” Hook twirled his moustache thoughtfully. “Mermaids and fairies. Dragons and ogres. I wonder what other passing fancies the boy has left lost on this island?”
Lighting shattered the sky behind Hook. He pointed to the clouds. “And now Neverland is worried that Pan is not coming back. It didn’t find anything new to amuse the spoilt rotten child before he flew off with MY ship.” He thought on it a moment. “Maybe Neverland thought that the Wendy girl would be enough of a new distraction for him. Perhaps not. Either way we are here now; the discarded toys left sinking with his abandoned home.” Hook smiled coldly. “We know now what we are,” he stated as he looked up the path, “but not what we may be.”
Hook’s crew looked at their captain, not sure what to say. Tinker Bell stared from her cage in horror, hands over her mouth. Tiger Lily only laughed.
“You’re wrong,” Tiger Lily stated simply. “You and your men may have been brought here to amuse Pan, but not my tribe.” She held her head up proudly. “We were here long before Peter Pan arrived.”
“Is that so?” Hook turned a cruel smile on Tiger Lily. “Your father is chief now, and has been as long as I’ve been here. Great Big Little Panther.” Hook gave Tiger Lily a gentle shove, returning to their march. “His father would have been chief before him, if I’m not mistaken. Did you know him?”
Tiger Lily did not, but she wasn’t going to admit that to Hook. “My grandfather was also Great Big Little Panther.”
“And his father,” Hook asked. “He was Great Big Little Panther as well?”
Tiger Lily could feel a prickle in her scalp. Something was wrong with this line of questioning. Tinker Bell banged on the glass door of her lantern prison, and chimed a warning to Tiger Lily. A trap, the fairy insisted. She tried to tell Tiger Lily not to listen.
But Tiger Lily couldn’t stop. Hook was wrong. “Yes,” she admitted. “The Piccaninny tribe has always been watched over by Great Big Little Panther.” She stared defiance at Hook. “Always,” she stated again.
“Always,” Hook agreed. “That is perhaps more true than you understand, girl.” Hook walked close behind Tiger Lily. He dropped his voice to a harsh whisper for her alone. “You don’t remember any chief other than your father, and neither does anyone in your little tribe.”
“I told you,” Tiger Lily replied irritably.
“Yes, your father, your grandfather, your great grandfather. All of them Great Big Little Panther.”
“Yes.” Something nagged at the back of Tiger Lily’s mind; as though she was missing something obvious. “It has been that way forever. Further back then even my great, great grandfather.” Tiger Lily sniffed, and stuck her chin out at Hook. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand such a tradition.”
“I understand,” Hook stated. “Your family has always been chief. They have always named their boys Great Big Little Panther.”
There it was again. A buzzing in the back of Tiger Lily’s mind. “Yes,” she answered with faltering certainty.
“Yes.” Hook grinned. “And yet, your brother. Your only brother.” Hook stroked his chin. “I’ve forgotten, what was his name again?”
Tiger Lily turned to answer, but instead gasped involuntarily as the weight of what Hook was saying hit her. Her brother’s name was Hard To Hit, and Hook knew that. She felt like she was struggling to swim upstream. She couldn’t force the words to her mouth, nor did she have to. Hook knew.
Hook leant over her shoulder, and whispered in Tiger Lily’s ear. “Everything you know is a lie. We are all captives here,” Hook stated. “We are slaves to Neverland; adventures waiting to be had by Peter Pan.”
“I am no boy’s adventure,” Tiger Lily declared.
“Nor am I,” Hook agreed. “At least, not any longer.”
Hook pushed past Tiger Lily, moving quickly up the path. Mullins stood closely behind the bound girl to make sure she didn’t try and bolt. Thunder shook the ground.
“Soon,” Hook called over his shoulder. “Soon I will have freed us all. I will save us, and in doing so I will save Neverland.”
Tiger Lily called after the captain, yelling over the storm. “How?” she demanded to know. “What are you planning?”
Hook turned, and laughed maniacally. Lighting framed him at the top of the cliffs. “Haven’t you figured it out yet?” he called back. “You’re supposed to be one with the land. Don’t you understand where we are?”
Mullins pushed Tiger Lily hard into the clearing at the end of the path, but it was unnecessary. Tiger Lily knew as well as anyone else where they were. They were at the base of the Season Tree.
The Season Tree was as old as Neverland. A tree so large that it’s diameter touched all four seasons at all times. While snow fell on one side, summer sun touched the other. Spring rain and fall winds finished the circle. This was of course when the entire island wasn’t being assaulted by one huge storm.
Tiger Lily knew where they were; she simply didn’t understand why. At least, she didn’t until Hook drew his sword, and turned towards the colossal tree. Tiger Lily dashed at Hook, only to feel Mullins’ thick fingers close on the back of her shirt.
“You can’t!” Tiger Lily screamed at Hook as he advanced on the tree. “You mustn’t!”
“This is the life vein of Neverland,” Hook replied, never looking back at Tiger Lily. “This is how a pirate shows who is in command.” He drew back his sword, and cackled triumphantly. “From now on, Hook is Neverland!” And with this, he drove his sword hilt deep into the base of the Season Tree.
There was a sound like the rumble of a dying mountain as the tree cracked and groaned. Lightning struck the tree in one powerful bolt even as the clouds split above. The thunder bellowed its protest before silencing entirely. The storm abated, leaving behind the starless night sky. The Season Tree bent over like an old man, it’s branches reaching crooked shadows over all of Neverland.
Change came over Hook as well. Night black color bled into his stark white hair, just as the haggard lines receded from his face. His skin, thick and tanned from decades of sun and salt, took on a healthy shade of youth. When he laughed, it was with the voice of a young man.
“Now,” he commanded to the land around him. “We’ve had quite enough children foolish enough to fall out of their prams.” Hook waved towards the lagoon far below. “Now is the time for men foolish enough to fall in with bad company.” He smiled a harsh smile as he stared at the sea. “Bring me pirates,” he demanded.