A Pirate is always in need of a warrior...Simpian kept still and quiet after this. He plucked a stem of wood sorrel and thought and thought. Was a Pirate always in need of a warrior? All through history he thought he’d remembered that Pirates and Warriors kept well apart from each other. Black Beard didn’t have a Warrior, and you didn’t hear stories of Davy Jones carting about boatfuls of Crusaders, did you? Simpian twirled the wood sorrel between his thumb and first finger and looked sideways at the mole. Bertram, in his turn, looked back at Simpian.
Simpian stomped eight paces to the soft patch. A pace, at least at Cottleston Pie, was a little more than a walk and a little less than a jog: sort of lippity-lip, like the kind of thing Sylvi the Rabbit had done.
“You might be a Warrior and have a sword that sings,” the King answered, “but you are new here and should not poke fun at our very good ways.”
(Simpian) nodded, paired with a nervous glance at the borrowed pen-knife which was rusty and dull and not very steady on its hinge.
Simpian took a step forward and thought how awkward it was, this dueling thing. He could understand how two people in the heat of a moment might come to blows, but it was strange to pick a fight when perfectly calm. How did you do it? “I say, can I stick you now?” sounded too impolite. “Let’s charge at the count of three!” was better, but a little unsure of itself yet.
“We’ll be overcrowded!” the King protested. “We already sent an invitation to a Friendly One to visit. What if the Friendly One comes after all and sees us clogged up with moles and rabbits and all sorts of creatures and decides to go on the side of the Skellingtons? What then? Holy Moly, what will happen to us then? Perhaps the Friendly Ones are unaccustomed to being jealous, and perhaps they will turn green and sneak into our bedrooms at night."
She smiled as only a bird can smile. Which is to say, she spread the flexible corners of her beak in a goodwill-toward-men gape that would have looked frightening on anything that was not a sparrow.
But because trees wondered what they’d look like in gold and the Pirates wondered where they’d hidden their jewels, and the boy wondered if the rabbit had a name, there were Autumns and High Seas and Kings at Cottleston Pie.
It was okay to wonder.
Wondering is a small kind of adventure.
“I SAID,” the King boomed, “That brains are for using, didn’t I?”
Simpian felt himself go pink. “Yes.”
“So Vesper should put a clothespin on her beak, shouldn’t she?”
“But I wonder!” the sparrow wailed.
“STOP WONDERING,” the King shouted.
And Sylvi, for no reason at all, bounced about chanting: “Pink sticks! Cotton fluff! Chalk-dust and ink!”