Chapter Thirteen of The Gateway (and a popular joke or two)

A husband and wife are trying to set up a new password for their computer. The husband puts, “Mypenis,” and the wife falls on the ground laughing because on the screen it says, “Error. Not long enough.”


Could this be Lord Tragen choosing a Christmas present?
Could this be Lord Tragen choosing a Christmas present? c/o




On the quarterdeck, Locklear paced slowly. It was a beautiful evening, the skies clear, an abundance of stars beginning to show, the moon waxing. A gentle breeze was blowing just enough for the Grim to make headway. Cruising weather Locklear thought as he looked over his ship, a ship silent except for the occasional creak of a board or a wave lapping the hull. The storm was now far behind them and he mused on its aftermath, studying the splintered ends of the broken masts reflecting the moonlight he hoped for luck in finding replacements. But Locklear took heart from what Hopper had said earlier, there were plenty of trees on Sanctity, he prayed there’d be no trouble acquiring them. With the weather now settled, on the morrow after Tragen had filled the water barrels, he would have Trumper rig a jury mast to increase speed.

Below, in Cornelia’s cabin, Tragen was again keeping the lady company, drinking tea that he had conjured from empty air. It still tasted fresher than tea from the galley, he thought, and Cornelia seemed to be enjoying it. The porthole was open and the light evening breeze stirred the air.

‘You truly believe that Augusta has been given the gifts of wizardry?’ Cornelia asked, worriedly.

‘I do.’

‘Well, I honestly don’t know what her mother and father will think of that. How could it possibly have happened?’

Tragen shrugged and settled himself more comfortably in a chair that he had also conjured from thin air as there had only been one in the cabin.

‘It is a complete mystery to me. It has never been known before for a wizard’s abilities to suddenly appear like this—I’m completely baffled. I just hope that Aidan doesn’t go overboard in his teaching of the art. They both appear to have the same sense of, how shall I put it…delicacy in handling sensitive matters?’

‘I agree, Tragen, they are both rapscallions,’ she chuckled. ‘So we make for the Griffin Islands,’ said Cornelia, holding a flower-patterned mug of tea in her hands.

‘We have no choice I’m afraid. You know of the Onyx Isles, we could never come near there with you and Augusta aboard. The ship would founder if we attempted to return to Mantovar through the storm. I have already made it clear to Hugo that I will foil any attempt to head straight north to reach the frozen wastes and follow the coast around to Mantovar. Without masts we would find it increasingly difficult to make the voyage to Drakka and it would be pointless, anyway, as we would in all probability encounter the storm again on leaving.’ He shrugged his shoulders and sighed. ‘I only hope we recognize the enemy when we meet him in Griffin.’

‘You believe Beatrix to be correct in her assumption then?’

‘Yes, unfortunately,’ he paused and sipped his tea. ‘I am very glad that young lady accompanies us for, I admit, I knew that the storm had been created to stop us entering Mantovar but it had not occurred to me that the storm’s purpose was also to entice us to his lair.’

‘She is a very able young woman, that one. Mind you, the princess speaks very highly of her mother. In fact Dotrice is suspected of being the princess’s chief advisor…in an unofficial capacity of course.’

‘Along with you!’

Cornelia blushed and changed the subject. ‘Have you estimated how long it will be before we reach home?’

‘No, at this time I have absolutely no idea, and that worries me. I have to find some way of informing the prince of what has transpired and that for now his daughter is safe and well.’ Tragen stretched his back, taking care that he did not spill his tea. ‘I could attempt to use a gull, of course, when one appears. However, they are not very dependable as they do not like flying more than ten or fifteen leagues from their nests, and we are hundreds of leagues from home. I think I will have to seek my young apprentice’s advice.’

‘You heed a lot of his advice?’ Cornelia enquired smiling fondly; the more she knew of the boy the more she was falling under his spell.

‘Yes,’ and he laughed, ‘at least some of his advice. In many respects, he is a normal, mischievous, lovable rascal with a heart greater than any I have ever known! However, he has an odd knowledge of the spirit world far more than I will ever know. Perhaps that is why he is of the opinion that it is his bounden duty to heal anyone suffering and I do mean anyone. I believe he would heal the hurts of his enemies without them asking.’

He rose from his chair. ‘Well we have plenty to think on tonight, Cornelia, and I shall leave you now. Sleep well, Milady,’ he said as he left.

‘Goodnight to you, my friend,’ Cornelia uttered quietly as Tragen closed the door behind him.

In Anders’ cabin, the two boys lay sleeping, silent except for the slight nasal noises Anders was making as he slept on his back. It was another night without a vision.


The next morning was glorious. A scorcher of a day in the offing as the sun crept up the sky. There was very little cloud cover, just feathers of high cirrus floating in the azure sky, the smell of ozone permeating the light breeze invigorating the senses. The Grim was carrying all possible sail on its three remaining masts and the ship glided slowly but purposefully south-westwards on the long swell of the Great Deep.

Collecting breakfast from the galley, Dolly informed Aidan and Anders in no uncertain terms that he was depending on them to ensure the galley barrels were full of ‘proper’ drinking water. What the cook meant by “proper” was anyone’s guess, but it would make a change to cook with water devoid of stench. He also gave Anders a long throwing knife called an anelace, and told him to practise with it. In answer to Beattie’s quizzical look, Anders told her he had a natural talent for the weapon, so Dolly said.

There was an air of suppressed excitement on board. Magic was well known throughout the empire but no one ever saw it often. This morning the Grim was preparing to witness another conjuration, the third in less than a week. This spell was not to be as spectacular as the shield enchantment, and not many people had seen the repairing of the stormsail but judging by the number of people already on deck, a lot more would watch this demonstration.

Leash again took his post at the helm, relieving Talbot at the end of his morning watch. The second helmsman still scheming, his eyes red-rimmed with lack of sleep, was determined that before the week was out the boy would be dead one way or another. He was holding together with great difficulty, wilder and riskier scenarios running through his head he could not take his eyes from Aidan. Caution was needed now, if he lost control of himself then his secret would be divulged and he would be a dead man in Purgatory, the wizard would see to that. But there was something about the boy, something was niggling in the back of his mind. The more he stared at the apprentice the more Aidan reminded him of someone, but of whom he couldn’t recall.

‘Nellie’ and Beatrix had carried out their duties for ‘Princess Augusta’ and left her consuming her inevitable pot of tea, musing at the way Augusta was settling in to her role as a companion and maid. Augusta was enjoying every minute of her new distractions despite the fact that she was worrying about the chore promised for later that day. Beatrix had earmarked it as their laundry day. She wanted to wash their clothes – their very dirty clothes – in suds, in a tub on deck. Aidan had promised to supervise her endeavours and only laugh occasionally. Augusta cursed. Meanwhile Anders was attempting to cajole Beatrix into doing his mountain of washing and was not succeeding at all well, but he was full of hope.

The girls, impatient for Tragen to arrive, were rebuffed by Aidan refusing to wake the wizard.

‘No way, Tragen is evil in the mornings. We’ll let him come around all by himself, thank you,’ he said, ‘and stop throwing that knife around, you’re making me nervous, Anders.’

‘Don’t be daft, little wizard. Dolly told me to practise the techniques he showed me…that man is really something with a knife,’ said Anders admiringly. Squinting through his blue eyes, he took another aim at the barrel at the foot of the mainmast, and carried on throwing the narrow bladed anelace.

‘Take care, Anders, you said last night that you won’t allow Aidan to heal you so please do not take out your eye, or mine,’ said Augusta, flinching.

‘Well, I think he’s pretty good with it,’ said Beatrix, though she did tend to lean away from him.

Just then, Trumper arrived. ‘Mind it you lot, you’re standing right in the place we’re stacking the casks.’ With that, half a dozen men trundled up rolling the water barrels, wooden, metal-hooped vessels of various sizes, colours and odours. One of the middling sized ones Beatrix recognized as always standing in the passageway outside her cabin door. She used it often and had noticed earlier that day that the residue in the bottom was beginning to pong.

They leant against the rail staring out to sea comfortable with their friendship. They were able now to remain silent in each other’s company without feeling anxiety, having no need to make small talk. The morning drifted by as they do at sea in the tropics, quietly and slowly, tension seeping away as they watched the gently swelling ocean. The day gradually getting warmer, the breeze soothing their nerves and lulling their senses, the storm already receding into their subconscious.

‘We’re having a party tonight, Dolly’s providing his special pies and Jason and some others are going to sing,’ Anders said, interrupting their thoughts, but not the sound of the occasional thud of the dagger as it sank into the timber of the broken mainmast.

‘Oh, I’ve never attended an entertainment on board a ship before,’ said Augusta.

‘Neither have I,’ added Beatrix. ‘What are Dolly’s “special” pies?’

‘Ah well, no-one seems to know and no-one has the courage to ask him, but he’s been seen messing about with rotten apples and old pork,’ answered Anders.

‘Ugh!’ both girls said in unison.

‘Jason…isn’t he that tall, blond, good-looking fellow?’ asked Augusta.

‘Oh, I don’t know about good-looking,’ replied Aidan feeling slightly peeved. ‘He’s a fair singer though and Anders and me, we’re going to dance.’

Augusta laughed. ‘Dance! I can’t imagine you two dancing a minuet around the deck.’

Anders nearly choked. ‘A minuet! We don’t dance all stiff with our noses in the air like you do, we do proper dancing…like the hornpipe.’

Augusta, slightly abashed at her gaffe, recovered quickly and glancing mischievously at Beatrix said. ‘I’ve heard of that…isn’t that the one where you do a lot of jumping on the spot waving your arms in the air?’

Anders was speechless, he was proud of his dancing. ‘Jumping…jumping…I’ll have you know…’ Just then, there was a flurry of activity from the quarterdeck and the captain came into the waist accompanied at last by Tragen.

‘Well, ladies and gentlemen,’ Tragen said, as if announcing an entertainment in front of gentry. ‘Welcome to one and all.’ He bowed with an elaborate flourish, the voluminous sleeves of his green robe flapping like a chicken held up by its legs, he grinned at all who caught his eye. Tragen may be an old aristocrat but he loved acting the troubadour, thought Aidan, joining his teacher at the stump of the mainmast.

‘Ah, Aidan, you are ready?’ Tragen asked, waving his arms and continuing to play to his audience.

‘Oh, yes, Master. I await your bidding,’ and Aidan, aping his mentor and bowing with an equally graceful flourish, beamed at all those around and about.

The crew were in high good humour, happily talking loudly, clapping hands, whistling and cheering in appreciation. For a long time the crew had been battling the fiercest tempest they were ever likely to meet and they were worn out, recovering from a nightmare. Despair had been commonplace amongst them for the long days and nights of the storm and now they had to look forward to even longer days and nights of hard, gruelling work sailing a five-masted ship with only three poles.

They needed light entertainment now to raise their morale. Tragen knew this, as did Locklear, and the wizard was fully prepared to perform outlandishly in order to fulfil their needs.

Aidan, of course, knew his master was in one of his playful moods and he was prepared to follow Tragen’s lead—up to a point! He recalled the last occasion his master had been this jolly—he had ended up the butt of Tragen’s jokes. This time he was going to get his own back, in front of everyone, and he grinned.

‘Form a circle my friends,’ Tragen commanded. And after much shuffling and juggling for position a circle he got, though a somewhat erratic one. Tragen, his dark green robe signifying he was a master wizard, stood in the centre his hand on Aidan’s shoulder. Silently he looked around at his audience and awaited their full attention.

‘Look at Aidan, Augusta! Look at him, that boy is shaming us; look at the state of his clothes! We must wash them later, we just have to,’ Beatrix whispered as Augusta paled, Anders smiled he’d got out of doing his laundry.

Augusta shut her eyes, pain on her face. ‘They’re boys, Beattie, boys…they’re always dirty they’re supposed to be. Sh! Let’s watch.’

Tragen continued. ‘A cask if you please! Thank you my good man,’ and he stepped aside as Jason rolled the first barrel into place and upended it in front of the two performers.

‘Wonderful, wonderful,’ said the wizard, prodding Jason in the nether regions with his staff as the unfortunate sailor turned his back. The crew roared.

Jason rubbed his backside ruefully and jostled his mates as he settled again to watch the goings-on.

Tragen entered into his full patter. ‘Now, here you see an empty cask,’ and he pointed with his staff. ‘But, gentlemen, you know and I know that an empty cask is no good to any man—unless, of course, you’re drowning,’ and he winked. ‘So…we had better fill it. Aidan, kindly give us a tinkle, please,’ he ordered.

‘I beg your pardon,’ Aidan couldn’t help it, he blushed, he was going to have to bear the brunt again he knew it. The crew fell about.

‘I could do with a tinkle myself,’ a voice shouted out from the back.

Tragen looked towards the voice and intoned. ‘Beware all ye who require tinkles, for once this miracle of enchantment begins, a fair torrent may flow…and not just into this barrel.’

‘By the Gods, out of my way I need the heads,’ Nkosi, panicking, shoved through his laughing mates and ran from the circle.

Augusta looking puzzled turned to Anders. ‘What is the matter with that man, and whose head does he need?’

Beatrix leant across, and grinning, whispered into her ear. ‘The heads is a sailor’s term for latrine.’

‘Oh,’ she paused, still looking puzzled. ‘Then why did the men laugh when Tragen asked Aidan for a tinkle?’

Beatrix stared at her, saying nothing. Anders nearly bit his tongue trying to stifle his laughter.

Augusta was nonplussed until comprehension swiftly dawned on her. Shocked, she put her hands to her scarlet face and turned back to watch the two clowns at the stump of the mast.

‘Come on, my lad. Have you forgotten how to tinkle?’ Tragen asked.

Aidan looked at him and if looks could kill Tragen was dead a thousand times. Just wait master, just wait! The apprentice raised his right arm and moved his fingers and wrist in a disjointed pattern. As he did the air in front of him thickened and darkened. Everyone ceased laughing and gazed at the boy, watching his every move. Aidan continued his gyrations and moved his hand over the empty cask. The air grew even thicker and Aidan commenced his singing.

Augusta, watching him, recognized the excitement and the love of magic shining in his eyes and heard it in his voice; he had a lovely voice, she could listen to it for hours. The magic gripped her. Ever since she had held the light she had felt such a yearning, it was agonizing to watch magic and yet not have the knowledge to use it safely. She needed to be part of this and was determined that things would be different at the next show, whether Tragen liked it or not—next time she was going to take part.

Aidan continued to sing and the audience, not quite knowing what to expect, eagerly watched his every move.

Anders, who had seen this spell often, was still intrigued at the interplay between his friend and his friend’s master. Grinning, he saw it was not going to go quite the way Aidan expected and, what’s more, it would not go quite the way Tragen imagined either and he gleefully awaited the outcome.

Augusta sat spellbound; she had never experienced anything like this. The visiting magicians to the Court of Mantovar never performed their arts in a jocular manner, they were far too serious. She gripped Beattie’s hand, not taking her eyes from the spectacle, loving every minute of her friend’s antics—she was so very proud of him.

Tragen, his long white beard trailing below his waist, stood tall alongside his shorter protégé and watched as Aidan’s enchantment released a spot of water no bigger than a raindrop, from the air in front of him. The first drop of water was followed by a second and then a third, the flow akin to rainwater dripping from the eaves of a roof at the end of a short shower.

Tragen looked around at his enthralled audience, spreading his arms wide he turned to his apprentice. ‘Is that the greatest tinkle you can manage, Aidan? Strain boy…strain!’ Laughter erupted again.

Aidan looked up at him, and grimacing he sang louder relishing his revenge. The flow of water now increased to a steady, if slow, trickle.

‘Well, gentlemen, there you see a boy’s tinkle,’ the wizard smiled. ‘Now I will show you a man’s,’ and lifting his staff he pointed the knuckle at the stream of water gently falling from thin air. Tragen broke into a song that was very similar to Aidan’s, but far stronger and deeper. And it had the desired effect. The gentle stream transformed into a veritable inundation as a ray of light shot from the staff and hit the flow. The waterspout poured into the cask, filling it to overflowing within minutes. The crew watched silently, completely bewitched. All of a sudden laughter erupted at the slight problem unforeseen by both the old wizard and the young.

When the water first cascaded into the barrel, Aidan had been rather slow in moving out of the way. The first outpouring drenched him to the skin.

‘Oh, bloody hell, Master, be careful will you,’ shouted the soaking wet apprentice.

‘Tch, tch, Aidan, you should not swear in front of ladies,’ shouted Augusta before she could stop herself.

Aidan made up his mind it was now or never, his turn for some fun now. ‘Master, we need more casks quickly. Shall I stop the water while we change barrels or shall I divert the flow instead?’

Tragen, loving the situation he had created, shouted over the roar of the spouting water, not thinking for a moment of the consequences. ‘Divert of course, Aidan, divert it, there’s no need to stop it there are plenty of barrels yet.’

Anders watched an evil gleam appear on Aidan’s face, looking at the girls nervously, he warned. ‘Watch out you two, he’s up to something,’

Augusta and Beatrix, surprised, glanced at Anders quickly and then studied Aidan as the apprentice took over the chanting. The tempo of the song changed to a slower, lighter sound.

Tragen walked in a circle around his apprentice, humming to himself and bowing to his audience and every now and then dancing a little jig his back to Aidan, completely oblivious to what was happening behind him.

The stream of water, ceasing to pour into the full cask, curled upwards as Aidan sang. The spout of water formed a u-shape in mid-air. Utterly bemused some noticed a strange, manic gleam on Aidan’s face and they wondered. Fidgeting nervously, the noise diminishing, they glanced at each other, instinctively knowing that something untoward was happening.

Tragen, not detecting any difference in their manner, carried on acknowledging their reducing applause.

The end of the waterspout quickly reached a level with the outpouring from the air and then recommenced following the laws of gravity. The heavy gush of water again fell.

Tragen turned at that moment finally becoming aware of the strange behaviour of his audience, frowning he stared at Aidan,

And the water fell—smack bang on the top of Tragen’s head.

There was appalled silence, men watching astounded as the water, pouring on the wizard like a river, soaked him to the skin.

Beatrix, mortified, grabbed Anders’ hand. Aidan had really done it this time, there was no way he was going to talk himself out of this.

Augusta stared at Aidan controlling the flow of the water. His face was a picture as he stood with his arm outstretched grinning delightedly at the dumbfounded wizard. The young apprentice was wreaking his sweet revenge with crazy delight. For a moment Augusta did nothing as she looked from a soaking wet apprentice to a soaking wet wizard. Then, unable to maintain self-control over the complete absurdity of what she was witnessing, she laughed and it bubbled from her. Standing up, she lost her balance and slipped on the water sweeping across the deck. She fell to the floor and slid along the boards coming up against Tragen’s legs, knocking him to the deck alongside her.

Locklear chuckled loudly and deeply until Aidan, with the devil fully entrenched, pointed his curled fingers at the captain and saturated him next with the deluge. And then there was absolute pandemonium as Aidan, spinning in a circle the spout of water following him, aimed the water into the audience and commenced drowning everyone in sight.

The teacher asked Jimmy, “Why is your cat at school today Jimmy?” Jimmy replied crying, “Because I heard my daddy tell my mommy, ‘I am going to eat that p*ssy once Jimmy leaves for school today!'”


Have a nice day!