Chapter 1: Deal with the Devil
"I made a deal with the Devil and when I die, I'm going straight to Hell."
The girl glared at Jim. Jim glared right back.
He didn't care if she was mad. He didn't care if she was upset. If she cried (thank God she hadn't) Jim wouldn't care about that either. It was policy to explain to his victims why he was kidnapping them. It also helped to convince Jim that he wasn't completely evil - he just had a lot of bad baggage.
A LOT of bad baggage. Jim made a deal with the Devil. And when he died, Jim was going straight to Hell. It was a long story. And it all started the day he was born.
Jim Hawkins lived in Illtyde. Illtyde , as legend has it, dropped from Heaven then bounced off Hell. It rolled around the sun, moon, and stars before crashing somewhere in between. The impact split the country into two parts: East Illtyde and West Illtyde.
Saints lived in the East. Sinners lived in the West.
Per legend, children are separated into saints and sinners before birth. For every saint made by an angel, a demon makes a sinner. Each child is a cocktail of genetic material extracted from the parents combined with the strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits that their creator decides to throw in.
One could think of angels and demons as chefs. Reason being, each child must be cooked with 14 ingredients. These 14 ingredients were affectionately known as the Seven Deadly Vices and the Seven Heavenly Virtues. All 14 ingredients must be added for a baby to be born, but the quantities varied from child to child.
The vices - pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth - were the favorite ingredients of demons. Therefore, a 'demon child' would be created with more vice than virtue, and the recipe would be reflected through his personality.
The virtues - chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility - were the favorite ingredients of angels. An 'angelic child' might grow up to be a saint, a philanthropist, a recycler, a heroine, a hero, or just a simple, loveable fool.
Regardless, sinner or saint, each child was endowed with a predominant virtue or vice. That is, when each child was blended with the 14 virtues and vices, one overpowered the mix. It might be pride. It might be diligence. It might be kindness. It might be lust. But whichever, the overpowering ingredient drives the actions and morality of each sinner and saint.
Jim Hawkins was a sinner. And his ingredient was Greed.
Greed was a family trait. At least, Jim suspected it was. His mother was dead and he never knew his father, but Jim's siblings were just as greedy (possibly greedier) than him. He had four siblings: three brothers, one sister.
Like all children blessed (or cursed) with Greed, Jim and his siblings were raised by the Cult of Greed. The Cult of Greed was a band of thieves - men and women devoted to material wealth. Occupations ranged from piracy, to thievery, to monopolists, to kidnapping. It was very lucrative - providing you didn't get caught.
Not getting caught was the trick to a successful career in Greed. More often than not, members of the Cult of Greed found their greedy ambitions pestered by their more virtuous personality traits. After all, everybody had all 14 virtues and vices. Sometimes those pesky virtues just had to shine through.
Which was why most of the Cult of Greed members made a deal with the Devil. The deal was simple: you sold your soul.
Well reconsider. Think again.
When one sells his soul to the Devil, he is destined to an afterlife in Hell. Suddenly, life on Earth has no reservations. No doubts. No worries. No restrictions. All boundaries are lost. When you know you are going to Hell, you do anything to make your life Heaven on Earth. You are free to lie for love, cheat for cheer, and muck for money.
So, Jim (and his brothers) became what the sinners and saints called 'Devil Incarnates.' They sold their souls to the Devil. And when they died, they were going straight to Hell.
All for a life of Greed.
"Avarice." Jim muttered, taking the girl by the arm. "For some reason, sounds more badass. Hey!"
The girl twisted, simultaneously twisting his wrist. She tried to run, but stopped short by the ropes around her waist.
"You're tied up, Stupid." Jim advanced, rubbing the painful spot under his thumb. "You think after all this crap I'd let you escape?"
The girl paused for a murderous look. Then, skirting around Jim, she attacked the ropes.
"Yeah..." Darkly amused he leaned against the tree, watching her little white hands prod and pull. "An old peg legged pirate taught me how to tie those. They're called sailor's knots. Evil cousins of shoe laces..." Jim pointed to the blue ribbon in the girl's hair. "...and bows."
Other than deepening her scowl, the girl made no indication she'd heard. Throwing away his hand, she continued to wrench the ropes, trying to set herself free.
Jim shook his head. Night was filling the forest with indigos and violets that would turn pitch black. West Illtyde didn't believe in stars, so there wouldn't be any light to illuminate their path.
Or their footprints.
Jim shivered. He felt sick, like someone had ripped out his spine. Suspiciously he searched the shadows. There was nothing there. Nothing, at least, that he could see.
Something cracked. Wind hissed through the boughs. Darkness crept in.
Jim turned to the girl. They had to keep moving. They had to get out.
"Come on." Grasping the girl's shoulder, Jim yanked. She landed with a whump against his knees.
Jim unraveled the rope. "Captain Hook's probably sent every creep in West Illtyde after us by now. He wants you back. Bad. Although - "
Deftly, Jim zipped the rope tightly around her wrists " - can't see why. You're nothing but a pain in the - ow!"
Sharp pain shot up his legs as the girl kicked his shins. Jim jerked backwards but maintained hold of the rope.
"That hurt." he told her.
The girl glared. Angrily, she tugged the rope.
Jim shook his head. The girl had refused to speak since he'd kidnapped her. She translated her fury with similar outbursts such as these, and by being really uncoorporative.
But Jim was on a schedule. And he was sick of playing games.
Jim lifted the rope. He held it taut.
"We going to do this the hard way? Or are you going to stand up?"
She answered by planting her feet.
Jim shrugged. "Lady's choice."
Shouldering the rope, he turned and pulled.
The girl resisted. But after an almighty lurch, she flopped onto her stomach and dragged through the dirt.
Jim continued three more paces before rolling his eyes and stopping all together.
"This is ridiculous."
Winding the rope, Jim strode to the girl. And in his usual business-like manner, he stooped, seized, and slung the girl over his shoulder.
That got her mad. The girl squirmed, kicked, jabbed, punched, and wriggled like a fish. She was an indignant little thing and made very clear of her loathing, despite her persistent silence.
It was all Jim could do not to retaliate. That was unusual. Unlike Captain Hook - a man notoriously driven by Wrath - Jim rarely lost his temper. He was quickly losing it to this girl, but fear of being followed by Captain Hook kept him calm. At least, calmer.
"Again." Jim grit his teeth. "That. Hurts."
The girl gave a hmph and dug her elbow into his spine. Jim winced, wobbled, but kept trudging through the night.
The moon had shrunk into a pin-prick before the girl finally gave up. Exhausted, she sagged against Jim's neck. Unconvinced that she had completely surrendered, Jim waited until she fell asleep.
"Thank the freaking lord."
Carefully, Jim eased the girl from his shoulder and into his arms. Distributing her weight more evenly across his chest, he continued through the forest at a faster pace.
"This is so dumb." Jim mused. Ducking under nettles, he hefted the girl up a rocky slope. "At this rate, we'll both get caught - "
"THIS WAY! AVAST SCROGS! THEY WENT THIS WAY!"
Screaming broke the silence. The girl jumped awake as Jim's heart jumped into his throat.
"Damn it!" Jim slammed against a rock. He squeezed a hand over the girl's mouth.
"Shut up!" he hissed as torchlight launched through the trees. Twisting, he held the girl as she struggled for the approaching men. "Shut up! They're not coming to rescue you! These are the bad guys! These are - "
The wailing men burst through the darkness.
Jim swallowed. " - pirates. Captain Hook's pirates."
The girl stopped. Eyes wide, she sunk into Jim.
Jim held her close. Turning, he pressed the girl into the rock, trying to melt into their surroundings.
"Don't move." Jim whispered. He breathed slowly against the girl. Her caramel curls tickled his nose. "They're looking for you. Just don't move."
She obeyed. For once, she remained perfectly still.
And Jim knew why.
Jim had kidnapped the girl from Captain Hook. But for some reason, Captain Hook had kidnapped the girl first. When Jim found her aboard the Jolly Roger she had been crying. Sobbing. The pirates were torturing her. Not enough to kill - only enough to make her cry.
Jim curled. The girl was so slight she curled easily inside his body. As the pirates swarmed the forest like insets over a hive, Jim laid his cheek against her head.
He had no idea who the girl was. He didn't know her name.
He had no idea why she had been kidnapped by Captain Hook.
Jim only knew two things.
First: In the world of West Illtyde, the world of sinners, the girl looked like a saint.
Second: Captain Hook would pay to get her back.
And as a sinner of Greed, that was exactly Jim's intent.
Chapter 2: Wendy is Dead
"And he thinks that I - Captain James Hook - will pay to get her back?"
Mr. Smee nodded. The red pom-pom bounced on the end of his knit cap.
"That's what it says, Capn!" Mr. Smee said, hiding behind the ransom note. Apprehensively, he watched the captain's silhouette behind the paper. "Itsa ransom note alright, it is! Clear as glass. Regular as anything."
Captain Hook swiped the air. An iron hook glinted from his left arm. "Read it!"
Mr. Smee adjusted his half-moon spectacles. "Dear um...well...I think we can skip that part..."
"By the devil Smee!" Captain Hook roared. "Read the bloody note!"
Mr. Smee sighed. As Captain Hook's boatswain and personal assistant, Mr. Smee was a nervous wreck. Well-meaning and willing, but a nervous wreck!
Never a sinner - he was born a saint - Mr. Smee's virtue was Diligence. The Circle of Diligence was a unique breed. Those with the virtue were driven by a zealous nature and careful attention to work. They were list-maker-note-taker -high energy- obsessive compulsive folks relentlessly checking the boxes and racing the cock.
Those of Diligence were devoted to their work. But they were devoted to a fault. It was well known among the sinners that hard work could blind a Diligent saint. All one needed was occasional praise and consistent results, and the hard work of a Diligent saint could be used to the sinner's advantage.
Sinners called the scheme "persuasion." But basically it was slavery.
Such was the relationship between Mr. Smee and Captain Hook. Mr. Smee's one goal was to bring order and calm to Captain Hook and his crew. And since Captain Hook and his pirates were born of the Cult of Wrath, it was hard (not to mention unattainable).
Daily and nightly, sunrise to sunset, tide in and tide out, Mr. Smee bumbled over the Jolly Roger, Captain Hook's ship. He pecked and prodded like a mother hen squabbling over her bickering chicks.
It was a challenge. And a full day's work. But if the pirates could go one day without killing each other, then Mr. Smee was happy with a job well done.
Especially if he could appease the rage of Captain James Hook.
"Capn..." Sweetly, Mr. Smee wagged a finger. "...you're having one of those nasty headache spells again! How about a nice - "
"Smee." The captain's voice was dangerous. "Read the bloody letter before I slice your throat with it."
"Assuredly. Now..." Captain Hook demanded. "Read."
Mr. Smee obeyed.
"If it will unruffle you Capn! If it will blow some wind from your sails! Ehh- hemm!" Mr. Smee flapped the letter and cleared his throat. "It begins: Dear Scumbag - "
"Bad form!" snarled Captain Hook. "Disruptable thief!"
Mr. Smee tried to butter his voice. The message worsened with the next lines, and Captain Hook was already hot as a flame.
"The note continues..." Mr. Smee read, "I know you want her. You know I have her. Meet my 'wildest dreams of avarice' and we'll talk about a trade. This is a ransom note. Pay to get The Girl back. Meet me at The Crossroads on Friday the 13th at 6:66 nightfall. And it ends . Well." Mr. Smee folded the note. "That is unflattering!"
"Read it." growled Captain Hook.
Mr. Smee gulped. "Um. It ends with...Later Scumbag."
Captain Hook sliced his sword through an imaginary foe. "Rapscallion! This thief is worse than that blasted demon, Peter Pan! Mark my words Smee - this fool thief will rue the day he tangles with Captain Hook!"
Mr. Smee lifted timid finger. "Mightn't it be he, Capn?"
Captain Hook spun. "Be who? Mr. Smee?"
"Aye, aye Capn." Eager to help, Mr. Smee indicated to the ransom note. " Peter Pan. Mightn't this thief who kidnapped the little lass from the Jolly Roger, be Peter Pan? After all - twas your pirates that kidnapped her from him. Plus, this message is highly disrespectful! And Peter Pan mocks you well."
Captain Hook considered.
"Pan." He growled, hook twisting over his sword. "Peter Pan. No Smee! No! It cannot be Pan! The girl was lured from his side! How could he possibly notice she was gone!"
Mr. Smee smiled. "Pan took quite a shine to her, Capn. Hid her away. Kept her for himself an' all."
Captain Hook whipped his sword, thinking. "Hardly a reason to suspect him! No! Pan is a sinner of Hubris. A sinner of Pride. In the event of rescue he would have gloated before flying away."
Mr. Smee scratched under his cap. "Well. I suppose you're right Capn. After all - the thief left his signature. And it's not Peter Pan's."
"Signature? The fool thief left his name?"
Shaking his head, Mr. Smee displayed the note. "Not his name. His birthmark."
Captain Hook seized the paper. His eyes flew to a symbol scrolled at the bottom of the page.
The symbol was a vertical infinity knot, modified with a diamond top.
"I should have known." Captain Hook pressed the symbol with his thumb. "Infinity with a diamond. The birthmark of Greed."
Mr. Smee clasped his cheeks. All saints and sinners had a birthmark indicating their predominant virtue or vice. The birthmark was tattooed by an angel or demon into the small of a child's lower back.
Each birthmark contained an infinity knot redesigned for the particular virtue or vice. The infinity knot symbolized unity across the fourteen traits, but the variations identified saints and sinners according to their predominant virtue or vice.
For example, Captain Hook and his crew belonged to the Cult of Wrath and they shared the same birthmark: a vertical infinity knot with two horns on the head. The horns represented extreme anger, combustive and raw as fighting bulls.
Mr. Smee's birthmark was also a vertical infinity knot. But instead of horns, the infinity loops were filled with two spirals, one turning clockwise and the other counterclockwise. The opposite turning spirals represented the unending labor that distinguished the Circle of Diligence.
Mr. Smee pressed his spectacles up his nose. He squinted at the infinity knot on the ransom note. The lower half was typically curved, but the top half was pointed like a diamond.
"Oh dear!" Mr. Smee mumbled. The diamond atop the infinity knot symbolized wealth, money, material, and treasure - all motivations for the Cult of Greed. "Capn! So it isn't Peter Pan!"
"So not, it would seem." said the captain. "Peter Pan is of the Cult of Pride. Their symbol is an upright infinity knot, adorned with a crown! Crown! Ha! What pitiful self glory is that! Crown! Kingmanship! Blast the arrogance of the Cult of Pride!"
Again, Mr. Smee scratched his head. Dandruff covered his ears like snow.
"Oh Capn! It's so confusing! If the thief is a sinner of Greed, then he'll be expecting a weighty sum!"
"Brilliant deduction, Mr. Smee."
"And he wants that we should meet him at the...the..." Mr. Smee gulped. "The Crossroads! The most northern tip of the country? The spot where West and East Illtyde meet? Where...where demons and angels...."
"Where demons and angels throw saints to Heaven and sinners to Hell! Yes, Mr. Smee! Yes!"
Captain Hook crumpled the note. "And on Friday the 13th at 6:66 nightfall. The day where sinners are protected from harm! Damn! No doubt he'll want to meet at that blasted inn. The Inn Between! A place of rest for sinners and saints. Damn!"
Captain Hook raised his hook and his fist. "We'll be surrounded by enemies from East Illtyde and West! Our greedy thief is a crafty one, Smee!"
Mr. Smee wiped his brow. "Dear me! Capn! What shall we do?"
A shadow dropped from the rigging. "Pray."
"Capn!" Mr. Smee squealed as Captain Hook's tricorn flew off his head. "Capn! A demon! A angel! A ghost!"
"Worse!" Captain Hook slashed at his floating hat. "Peter Pan!"
Indeed it was. As Mr. Smee dove for cover, Captain Hook felt his blood burning like oil and eyes turning red. Monstrous fury clawed his chest, snarling to be let out.
Captain Hook hated Peter Pan. Hated.
A sinner of Pride, Peter Pan christened himself king of Neverland, the southernmost archipelago of West Illtyde. He tolerated few intrusions, but managed to coexist with local indians (Cult of Pride), pixies (Cult of Envy), and mermaids (Cult of Lust). The boy even lead a rag-tag team of orphans captured from every corner of West Illtyde. All born of different sins, the troupe called themselves The Lost Boys.
So, all in all, Peter Pan considered himself a fair ruler of Neverland. He just didn't fancy pirates. Especially Captain Hook.
Despite his young age, Peter Pan was feared by sinners and saints alike. Little was known of Peter (he was something of a local poltergeist) but it was well verified that the boy had a supernatural ability: he could fly.
Truly, Peter Pan was a favorite character for tall tales and campfire stories. According to legend, Peter stole his smile from a demon and flight from an angel's wings. They said Peter laughed like a crow and flew like a comet. And, it was rumored that Peter threw dice with the Devil on Saturdays, just for fun.
Peter loved the attention. After all, he was marvelous, and everybody knew it.
But it really irritated Captain Hook.
"Peter Pan!" Captain Hook raised his sword to the shrouds. Moonlight cut through the sails as he insulted Peter's pride. "Come out, Boy! Come out or stay hidden like the coward you are!"
"Where is she?"
The voice was behind him. Spinning, Captain Hook found Peter perched on the bulwark.
"Who?" Captain Hook smiled through his rage. Playfully he swished his sword. "Please. Be more specific. Who is this ambiguous she?"
Peter's eyes glittered. They were dark and bottomless as black holes. Vengefully, he shred the feathers from Captain Hook's hat.
"Where..." Peter flicked his knife, "...is Wendy?"
Captain Hook could not stop his smile.
"What the Devil..." he answered, speaking over Mr. Smee's nervous hiccups. "...makes you think that I have your precious, delicate, innocent, vulnerable, helpless, little, - "
"WHERE IS SHE?"
Peter leapt. Captain Hook felt a knife graze his skull as he swerved and ducked behind the mast.
"I know you have her!" Peter attacked, insanely hacking with his knife. "The mermaids heard her crying and the pixies heard the pirates laugh! You kidnapped her, Hook! And I swear that if you've hurt my girl - "
"Your girl?" Captain Hook swung his sword. Sparks split as the pirate grinned between their blades. "I think the Devil would disagree! Don't you? Peter Pan? As I recall, His Hellishness ordered your girl dead with a stake through her lovely little heart - "
"WHERE IS SHE?" Peter propelled every ounce of strength into Captain Hook. Viciously, he charged Hook into the mast, knife against the pirate's throat.
"Where..." Peter hissed, blood slipping over his knife and onto his hands. "...is Wendy?"
Captain Hook dared not move. He tilted back his head, but Peter pushed the blade into Hook's skin.
"Wendy..." Hook whispered, windpipe bulging into Peter's knife. "...is dead."
The knife drew back.
The despair in Peter's voice was Heaven to Captain Hook's ears.
"Eaten by the crocodile." Hook lied, feeding Peter's nightmare. "You know the beast. The very same crocodile you threw my left hand. A beast of Glutton. And a glutton for...human flesh."
Captain Hook spit the three words in Peter Pan's face. "Wendy. Is. Dead."
Peter Pan believed the lie. Crumbling from the ship, he screamed into the stars before falling from the sky.
"Capn Hook!" Mr. Smee gazed reverently. "The lass t'aint dead. She's only kidnapped. Capn! You've out-clevered Peter Pan!"
"Yes."Captain Hook retrieved his tricorn from the deck. Haughtily he held it out. "You may dust my hat, Mr. Smee."
"Aye, aye!" Zealously, Mr. Smee brushed the brim. "Anything for the eloquent Capn Hook! Bravo! Capn, bravo! That lie might kill Peter Pan! Heavens to Betsy, it might just kill him at that!"
"Hardly." Bowing, Captain Hook allowed Mr. Smee to replace his magnificent hat. Carefully, he cocked it just so. "But, it will certainly belay Pan as we hunt for Miss Wendy...and her kidnapping thief."
Mr. Smee rubbed his nose. "Do you think we'll sniff him out, Capn? Before having to pay the lass's ransom?"
Captain Hook was silent. Gazing into the mainland, he contemplated the mysterious thief.
"We've made a deal with the Devil." Captain Hook finally replied. Reflectively, he rubbed his hook. "We have no choice."
"That..." breathed a bone-dry voice. "...is the gospel truth."
Both pirates turned to ice.
For standing at the bowsprit, the moon a silver halo against his crown, was the Horned King.
Or, as most called him, The Devil.
Chapter 3: The Horned King
Luckless few have seen the Horned King. But all have felt him, because all have felt pain. The Horned King's one virtue was his generosity of anguish, heartache, and despair. But to behold him, to actually be in the presence of the Devil....well, there was only one way to describe it.
It sucked. It rotted. It hurt. It sucked.
The sky shred where the Horned King walked, and acid burned the air. There were no more stars left in West Illtyde and the Devil would have crucified a constellation if it came back to life. His presence was psychotically still but somehow Captain Hook could hear children screaming as the Horned King spoke.
"Where..." The Horned King whispered, "....is the girl?"
Mr. Smee collapsed. He pulled his cap to cover his ears. The Horned King's voice was harsh and dissonant, like a buzzsaw through the brain.
"Where..." the Horned King repeated, stepping through the sails. "...is the girl?"
Captain Hook's spine knotted. The Horned King's movements were slow and dangerously deliberate, like a snake. Moonlight struck his horned crown then vanished into his eyes, which were nothing but empty sockets in a skull face. Crimson red robes dripped off him like blood, and with every other blink Captain Hook imagined that a Black Cauldron sat at the Devil's feet.
The Black Cauldron.
Captain Hook crouched, grabbing Mr. Smee for support. His chest pinched, as if a string attached to his sternum was pulling him into the Black Cauldron. His soul was in that cauldron. Captain Hook was a devil incarnate. He had sold his soul to the Devil and when he died, he was going straight to Hell.
The Black Cauldron was where sold souls were kept. The fat metal belly was gorged with sinners, and the cauldron never left the Horned King's side. Only when the devil incarnate died, his soul would exhume from the cauldron and descend into Hell.
Captain Hook sold his soul when Peter cut off his hand. Wretched and squirming, he begged the Horned King for a replacement strong as iron so he could rip out Peter Pan's heart. The Devil acquiesced but in the cruelest, literal sense: instead of a hand, he bestowed the captain an iron hook.
It was a wicked bargain. But, as they say, the devil is in the details. Even for the eloquent Captain Hook.
"Sire...sire..." Captain Hook began. "Sire...I had her. I -- "
The Horned King breathed. Bones rubbed in his throat.
"She is gone."
"...y-y-y..." Captain Hook knelt. His hook touched the deck. "Sire. I apologi...have mercy Sire...have--"
"Peter Pan recaptured the girl?"
"No!" Captain Hook cried, groveling at the opportunity for redemption. "No, Sire! But when he came for her, I told him the girl was dead! Fed to the crocodile! Pan believed the lie! He shall never suspect -- "
"Then where is the girl?" the Horned King said. "If not with Peter Pan?"
Captain Hook grappled for the crumpled ransom note.
"Here! A thief, Sire! A thief stole the girl!"
"It's true." Mr. Smee mumbled into the deck.
Captain Hook raised the ransom note, but it smoked from his hands. Instantly, golden words scrolled through the air, rewriting the thief's message as the Horned King silently read.
"Ahhhh." The Horned King hissed as the thief's signature appeared. He strangled the golden birthmark until it vanished midair. "Greed. A thief of Greed has the girl!"
"My pirates made chase!" Captain Hook insisted, gesturing to the shore. "They are searching for the thief and the girl now!"
"Your pirates have failed once." The Horned King said. "They will fail again. You will fail me again. Wrath is a flame in the dark -- combustive, but blinding. I cannot engage Sinners of Wrath to find her alone. Reinforcements, sinners of all breeds, will hunt for the girl. And her thief."
"Sire!" Captain Hook begged. "Sire! I assure you, my crew will catch the sniveling stoleaways! I will find the girl! And when I do --"
"You will deliver her to The Crossroads. You will deliver her to me. Should you find her. Dispatch your pirates. Continue your hunt. But first..."
The Horned King lifted a finger. "First, Captain Hook, you will rally the Neverland sinners. The Mermaids of Lust. The Pixies of Envy. The Seawitch of Wrath. The Hyenas of Gluttony, and the Beast of Wrath to prevent the hyenas from devouring the girl."
"Do not beseech the Crocodile of Gluttony." continued the Horned King. "Or the Indians of Pride. Their allegiance runs thickly for their own kin, but thinly for me. Much like Peter Pan..."
The Horned King clenched his skeletal hands. "Peter Pan. Sinner of Pride. Pride higher than the sun. Fool boy. His pride was the magic trick used to distract me. Well. It seems Peter Pan's trick has backfired. The girl will be mine. She must be caught..."
The Horned King caressed The Black Cauldron. "The girl...is too dangerous."
Captain Hook was incredulous, enough to question the Horned King.
"Dangerous?" Captain Hook imagined the little girl, a blue bow like butterfly in her hair. "Dangerous? Peter Pan's little wretch? Sire? How the...devil..."
Captain Hook gulped. He'd spoken the Devil's name in vain. Cursing his negligence, Captain Hook pushed through his blunder. "...how can it be so?"
The Horned King stared. Then he latched an icy finger beneath the pirate's throat.
"She may be the one."
"Sire! The clamshell?" Captain Hook gasped. "Of the apocalypse? Prophesized by the Blue Fairy? Doom's Day? Do you believe that the clamshell is...the girl?"
"Yes. And if she is the clamshell..." The Horned King said. "....described by the oracular Blue Fairy, then she must be found. And delivered...to me."
The Horned King squeezed his fingers. He felt the pirates' fear, and was envigorated.
Satiated, the Horned King faded to ash. "Serve me well Hook. And the girl's flesh, could serve as your new hand."
Captain Hook and Mr. Smee cowered far into the night. It was only until Mr. Smee -- bless his heart -- mustered the courage to ask:
"Capn. Clamshell? Prophesized? Blue Fairy? Doom? Oh Capn. What does it all mean?"
Captain Hook did not reply. It was unnecessary. Because a dark wind was running through Illtyde, the Blue Fairy's prophecy whispering on it's tail.
Ring a ring o' clam shells
Listen well as I tell
We all fall down
Ring a ring o' clam shells
Damn the soul that you sell
We all fall down
Ring a ring o' clam shells
In His Hell you will dwell
We all fall down
Ring a ring o' clam shells
Save your soul from His Hell
We all fall dead