Traveler: Storyteller Tales: The Serpent’s Tale.

            “Will you gentlemen please step into the cage.”  Madam Goldman was polite about it.  Mister  Madison went right in, but Captain Hawk stalled.  He looked around the hold, a room below the water line that came up against the hull.  It was large enough to hold a number of cars, a couple of trucks and an enormous water tank that held an enormous sleeping worm.

            “I don’t think so.”  Captain Hawk said at last, and as he spoke his cutlass vacated the Traveler’s Avalon home and appeared in his hand.  “I think instead it is time for some answers.”

            “Oh, very good, Captain.”  Madam Goldman was not dismayed to see that Captain Hawk had broken her spell.  She was smug.  “But you have no idea what you are dealing with.”

            “But that is what I am asking.”  Captain Hawk nodded his head toward the tank as he stepped closer to the woman.  “How did you come by your pet?  I happen to know they are extinct on this Earth and only to be found in the eternal sea of the Second Heavens.  They frolic among the innumerable isles, you see, and since there is no way on this blessed earth you could have found your way there, I have to assume you had help to bring the worm here.”

            “Oh, you are so very clever.”  The Madam genuinely smiled for him even as he threatened her.  Some of that purple light escaped her hands and cane and seeped into the water tank.  The worm came awake and immediately pushed up a cut-away section of the tank top.  Captain Hawk took a step back and could hardly be blamed, but the woman had a cloth in her hand and as the worm came to her, she put the cloth on the floor.  The worm curled several times around the cloth like a constrictor might curl around its prey before it opened its maw and licked it up.  Once the cloth was ingested, the worm straightened and took off for a dark corner of the hold at remarkable speed.

            “Professor Romer,” the woman said.  “A pity.  Now I will need to find another.”

            “Another fool to display your beast?”

            Madam Goldman smiled again.  “I shall be the richest woman in history.  Captain Hawk shook his head and lowered his cutlass.  “What?” she asked.

            “This one is what, eight, maybe ten feet?”  He had revised his estimate on closer examination.  “It should still be in its mother’s gullet and only venturing out briefly to test the waters.  They don’t go out on their own until they are eighteen feet or more.  It is too young to be separated.”

            “But you must get them young.”  Madam Goldman countered.  “Think of all the tricks I can teach it, tricks it will perform when it reaches full size.”  Captain Hawk shook his head again so the woman stopped to listen.

            “They don’t have a full size.  They never stop growing.  They do seem clever when they are young and small, but it is a survival mechanism, like the ability to spend time out of the water and escape across dry ground.  But their brains don’t grow, you see.  The bigger they get, the more and more brain space is needed just to maintain movement and to feed.  The bigger they get the stupider they get until at last they get so big their little brains can’t handle it and they quit.  They die of stupidity, you might say.”

            “Mister Simpson.”  Madam Goldman interrupted by looking over Captain Hawk’s shoulder.  The Captain knew there was a man behind him from the footsteps.  He did not know it was one of the ship’s officers.  He felt he should have guessed, though, and he certainly was not surprised to turn and see a gun in the man’s hand.  He turned again toward Madam Goldman in time to see her purple light; only this time it was not just light.  It was purple lightening and it stuck him like 220 volts.  All he could do was shake until his eyes rolled up in his head and he collapsed to the floor.  Even so, he was not quite unconscious.  He heard the madam and the officer step up to meet over his limp body. 

            “Let me come through!”  Althea screamed at the Captain in his head.  He had to quiet her to listen.

            “This one sounds dangerous,” the officer said.

            “He knows things,” the Madam responded.  “Put him in the cage with the other.  I will have to question him again to find out how he knows things.”

            “But that may be dangerous.”

            “Mister Simpson, I think I can handle one skinny man who thinks he is a pirate.”

            Captain Hawk took a deep breath as he was dragged and locked into the cage with Madison.  So he would be questioned.  He would not be immediate worm snack.  That was good because at the moment he thought it best to go unconscious.

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