Well, at least the tea is good. For dream tea that is. Wait, is dream tea actually tea? It doesn’t taste any different than regular tea. Have I ever had real tea? I guess anything is better than what’s on the ship. So tea is better? I mean, it’s dried leaves and water, so it’s dead leaf and grass juice? That doesn’t sound very good. But why does it smell so amazing?

Claudia fidgeted in her chair, her mind whirling as the shimmering figure of the old man poured dark liquid from an ornate teapot into two matching teacups. He lifted an eyebrow quizzically at her.

How strange, he was just afraid of being found and now he’s making tea?

The old man cleared his throat. In the way of dreams, the sound carried itself strangely, echoing far into the distance, until it rumbled like thunder. In response, clouds manifested far on the horizon, and lightning began to flash. “Uh, two lumps of sugar,” Claudia stammered. The old man chuckled, causing his eyes to disappear within the folds of his cheeks. With a practiced hand, he selected two lumps of sugar and dropped them into the teacup in front of her. With a great sigh that only comes with age, he sat down in the chair opposite from her.

“You seem troubled, young one.”

Claudia slurped her tea too quickly, and burned her tongue. Wait, how can I burn my tongue if I’m dreaming? Ow… She grabbed a folded cloth napkin from the table and blotted her now throbbing tongue. “Can’t oo justh thell me where oo are? Thith ith thaking forether!”

“Ahh, young one. You must learn patience. As a wise man once said, ‘Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet!’” He gestured towards the teapot. “Much like a good cup of tea! Pour the cup too soon, and the tea is poor because it has not had enough time to steep. Like this tea, you will be poured when you have steeped just long enough!”

Claudia stared stupidly at him, napkin still pressed to her tongue. “I haf no ithea whath oo are thaying.”

The old man sighed, wiping a hand down his face. As he did so, his visage smeared and blurred, as though he were an oil painting. Suddenly distracted by something, he simply said, “Oh! It seems you have a visitor!”. The oil paint of his features shifted and blurred, and his face began to elongate and twist.

And grow…fur?


Claudia awoke in her small bunk, her left cheek lying in a puddle of drool. Directly in front of her, almost a hair’s breadth away from her face, swung a monkey, his tail curled around a small object. It took a moment for the dream to fade completely and for Claudia to notice the glints of gold flashing from between the coils of the creature’s tail. She startled awake and a quick check of her person revealed that her treasured golden skull was now in the clutches of Bewm.

“Wha-no no no! Give that back!” Claudia lurched forward, her hand grasping towards the dangling creature.

The monkey shrieked in terror and dropped from his perch, immediately scampering away towards the ship’s hold.

“Bewm, that’s mine! Give it back now!”

The only answer Claudia received was another loud shriek.


Five minutes and forty-three seconds later, Claudia found herself tangled in the ship’s rigging, upside down and minus a shoe. Somehow that infernal monkey had led her on a merry chase for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES on a tiny ship. Her crewmates stood in a half circle on the deck around her, expressions ranging from barely suppressed laughter to outright annoyance. Bewm, for his part, peered out from behind Davino’s calves, somehow managing to look offended by the whole ordeal.

Claudia really hoped that the barrels in the hold that got upended during the chase could be salvaged.

Sir Randel held the golden skull in his hand, inspecting it from all angles. “Isn’t this the quite interesting piece!”

Claudia tried again, futilely, to get her foot free. “I’ll talk, messiers! Please get me down!”

When no one moved and they all continued staring at her, she gave up.

“Merde,” she muttered, and then began her tale.