The seething mass of water climbed up the ships hull, only to fail and retreat, and try again. It tossed the ship about in waves shaped like hands, constantly throwing the ship back and forth like a ball. The ship scaled mountains of churning water, rocking and rolling precariously.

Captian Dinghy stood as the wheel, which was twice as big as him. He had to stand on a small platform in order to see past it, and even then he could only see what lay ahead if he stood on his tip-toes. Captain Dinghy was a very short man, with a very short temper, and a very short memory. Whenever a crew member stepped out of line the tiniest bit, Captain Dinghy cursed and shouted at the man.

“The next time you step out of line I’ll throw you in the sea!” Captain Dinghy would rage like a wild beast (of miniture proportions) at the man. Although Captain Dinghy had never sentenced a single man to walk the plank, and it was because of his very short memory, that this was so.

Men of Captain Dinghy’s crew, knew that the captain had a very short memory, and made significant use of it. One man in particular used the advantage greatly; Charles Cheek, a man of insolence, often used his time to beguile Captain Dinghy. Whenever Charles was caught, Captain Dinghy always said the same thing.

“The next time you step out of line I’ll throw you in the sea!”

Charles Cheek was never thrown in the sea though, and never would be. For one, Captain Dinghy was extraordinarily stupid, and two; the crew of Captain Dinghy’s ship showed immense admiration for Charles Cheek.

********************

Gathered round an empty barrel, five members of Captain Dinghy’s crew played an intense game of cards. Charles Cheek was one among them, studying the game with his usual smug expression, and a sense of composure. The four others were hunched over, noses barely touching their neighbours, with an atmosphere of determination that radiated off them like perspiration. Each man laid his last hand down, as each did so, gasps of defeat and victory echoed through the cabin. As Charles laid his final hand down the other groaned in failure and shoved their riches morosely at Charles.

“Good game boys!” Charles congratualed, his expression the same smug attitude. Suddenly Captain Dinghy burst into the cabin, his face fiery red with anger like a tomato.

“Who put itching powder in my bed!!!” Captain Dinghy roared, Charles sniggled, trying to maintain a straight face. “Well, who was it?!” The captain bellowed, causing the cards on the barrel-table to shake like leaves.

“Not I Cap’n.” Charles replied, although it had been him. He began loading his new riches into a old seed sack with his strange variety of coins, jewels and notes. The notes in Charles money sack contained secrets Charles had traded with many different folk, for Charles knew that secrets were sometimes worth more than gold. Many men gambled, traded and bought things with gold and silver coins, but not Charles Cheek. He knew what some secrets were worth. Secrets, riddles, curses and myths were Charles main currency, and secrecy was his business.

********************

Wood creaked as the wailing winds whorled outside, throwing themselves at everything like a pack of wolves at their prey. Charles was thankful he wasn’t on the ship out at sea, where the wind would turn the sea into a wrecking ball. Instead he was trapped by the wind in creepy, Madame Mudlum’s house.

Madame Mudlum, although a bit deranged, was Charles’s best customer for getting secrets from. She was sly and scary, and people thought she was a witch, for she certainly acted like one. Madame Mudlum spent her time concocting potions, studying myths and spying on people.

Whenever Captain Dinghy docked in the town of Mawellum, Charles always made sure to visit the market, the pub and Madame Mudlum, because they were the best places to get secrets. This time, Madame Mudlum had a very special secret apparently, one that Charles would find “inwardly irrefutable” as Madame Mudlum had hissed into Charles ear.

Charles waited for Madame Mudlum to return, after telling him that she had a very special secret, she went down to her cellar to get it. Although she was taking an eminently long time, Charles resisted the strange urge to leave. So he stood up, and went in search for her, even though she had specifically told him to stay.

“Madame Mudlum? Are you alright? Madame Mudlum?” Charles called as he opened the cellar door cautiously and tip-toed lightly, down the cold, groaning stair. At the bottom, the strong scent of rum curled up Charles nostrils like tendrils, and he disputed the force to steal some.

The cellar was bitterly frigid, the cold gnawing at him like lice, as Charles crept deeper into the cellar, a ghastly smell of death caused Charles to choke. Soon the smell was overwhelming, just as he was about to retreat upstairs his foot brushed something soft, which felt like hair.

Charles reached into his pocket and retrieved the candle and matches he always kept handy. As the flame flickered into life, the petrified face of Madame Mudlum appeared by his foot. The thing that had felt like hair, was hair, Madame Mudlum’s hair. Charles bent down, fear and remorse forming bile in his mouth, as he discovered that Madame Mudlum was dead. In her deathly stiff hand was a piece of parchment with the secret scribbled on it, Charles read it and gasped in disbelief………..

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