Friday 27 March 2020

Captain Odious

by Nick Gisburne

He’s a killer, Captain Odious, the deadliest of men
From a kingdom lost in legend to the sea
Long defeated, long forgotten, he returns to fight again
With an appetite for treachery, and tea

Meet his putrid pack of pillagers, the Nauseating Nine
Each as ancient as the cornerstones of Hell
In their antiquated chariots they form a ragged line
They are wanton, they are wicked, and they smell

See the Dark Destroyer, Dennis, bringing misery and pain
From the osteoarthritis in his knees
He commands the Sword of Sorrows, though it’s proving quite a strain
So he gives his faithful butter knife a squeeze

Watch the wizened warlock, Walter, wave the wondrous Wand of Woe
Weaving wobbly wicker baskets with a spell
It’s a hobby, just a sideline when the wizard work is slow
But he makes a tidy profit when they sell

From the Mountain Halls of Majesty (just past the sewage tanks)
Rides the Master of all Dragons, Fred the Flap
He has journeyed many miles to join their creaking, crusty ranks
And he really needs some cocoa and a nap

The Invisible Assassin is a secret stealth machine
Hiding deep inside a fat man’s flabby skin
Though his body has expanded, still his mind is sharp and lean
Like a wine-soaked vagrant drinking bathtub gin

Ted the Torturer, the ugliest Inquisitor in town
Knows the battle will be difficult and long
For his belt is bent and broken, so his pants keep falling down
And he’s having quite a struggle with his thong

There is only one true Norman: he is filthy, he is foul
More than all the other misfits in their band
Fear the bloated Brown Avenger, leering closer with a scowl
For there’s always something sticky in his hand

And with Bob the Bloody Bowman comes the legend you’d expect
He was deadest of the dead-eyes in his youth
Sadly, Abe the Angry Archer holds the title now – I checked
Bob can’t pee into a pot, to tell the truth

Spiteful Stan, the Spirit Silencer, the cruelest by far
Wears a gleaming helmet, made from something cheap
But he died without a warning in the Buccaneers Bazaar
So the others think he’s riding in his sleep

And their leader, Captain Odious, most noxious of the nine
Reached his ninety-seventh birthday, more or less
On this fateful day of destiny his plans will intertwine
Although most of them are tangled in a mess

“Swab the decks, me salty seadogs! Splice the mainbrace! Brew the tea!”
“Haul the Jolly Roger, lads, and pass the grog!”
He has never been a pirate, doesn’t even like the sea
And he doesn’t own a parrot, just a dog

“Blood the kipper tails, ye blaggards! Pinch the rum and chip the tooth!”
“Poop the sails and dip me tackle in the tar!”
These are phrases half-remembered from a far-off wasted youth
But his all-time winning favourite is “Arrrrr!”

All the chariots are parked behind a secret Sunday lair
In the middle of the Dark Destroyer’s camp
Sticky Norman rolls the map out with a flea-infested flair
And they all avoid the yellow patch of damp

With his wizardry, old Walter brings to life the stinky scroll
Using animated beans and talking flies
It’s a clear, straightforward timeline of their tactics as a whole
But the room of vacant stares is no surprise

“Fog and fishes!” Captain Odious alone has understood
Or perhaps can fake it better than the rest
I would separate the meaning of its methods if I could
But it’s bollocks, so in short: it’s just a quest

“We should drown them, using mermaid oil to cook them in their beds!”
Says the Fat Assassin, drooling on his food
“And I’ll bring my special spider sauce in case the chaos spreads”
“In a pillage, troll tastes better barbecued”

“Let us burn their souls to ashes, dancing naked in the dust!”
Ted is keen to add some drama to the doom
“But I need to polish Percy so he doesn’t start to rust”
And he waves his special tool around the room

Bob the Bowman adds the poison to his trusty arrow tips
“I could kill a gorgon twice with one of these”
But his venom’s out of date, so you could eat it with your chips
It’s supposed to freeze the blood, but tastes of cheese

“When my dragons hear the call, we bathe the city streets in flame!”
Fred is serious, but none of it is true
Most are dying, dead or knackered, blind, incontinent or lame
And the youngest one they boiled up in a stew

Prone to fluctuating innards, Dennis modifies the plan
With the ounce of wisdom lurking in his mind
“If I’m sitting on a bucket, start without me if you can”
“I will launch my special weapon from behind”

All now sit around the table thinking harder than they should
Which for some of them means thinking thoughts at all
“Let us vote,” says Walter, “nine of us, a bond of brotherhood”
“We must all agree. No split, however small”

This is wisdom worthy warlocks wield, in weird and whispered ways
And for this approach he finds no clear dissent
So in turn they state their preference: a hoary hand they raise
As their rancid armpits ooze a fearsome scent

There are seven hands, then Dennis, from the bucket, makes it eight
Only Sleeping Stan remains to cast a vote
But deciding who should wake him spurs a furious debate
None will risk his dagger meeting with their throat

Captain Odious, impatient, raps the sleeper on the head
But the action tips him over, cold and stiff
“Bite me biscuits! Wet me powder! He be scuttled! He be dead!”
His demise is swiftly proven with a sniff

There are words of loss and mourning, there are words of grief and woe
But the eight remaining rogues unite with, “Good!”
“What a mean, sadistic scumbag. I do torture, I should know”
Teddy kicks him so his scorn is understood

“Can I put this thing away now?” Norman pokes the mouldy map
And his finger leaves a fungus-tainted print
He has eaten all the magic beans; the flies adorn his cap
And he eyes the rigid body with a squint

“What about the great adventure? What about the splendid quest?”
“What about you shut it?” Bob growls back at Fred
“We need nine to do this caper, and in case you haven’t guessed”
“We are short by one, cos one of us is dead”

“Where’s the kettle?” sighs the Captain, out of character, and glad
“Tea and toast and, oh, a lovely fairy cake!”
“Thanks for all you’ve done here, Dennis. You can drop the anchor, lad
“I just need my comfy slippers. My feet ache”

To the sound of old men grunting, Stan is strapped onto a horse
Seven chariots, one empty, wobble west
Will he get a hero’s casket? Not from criminals of course
But they’ll polish up his helmet to its best

Captain Odious is dozing in the Dark Destroyer’s chair
That’s the rum, a sneaky measure in his tea
In the frying pan, for dinner, two big T-bones, bloody, rare
Both still chew with their own teeth – they each have three

There are ballads, there are legends, of the Nauseating Nine
Of the ruthless Captain Odious they sing
But for him the greatest prize is something simple, something fine:
Boiling water and a teabag on a string

Secret Ending

As the night falls on our fable, let us wobble to the west
To the camp of seven chariots and men
With a miracle, a monumental marvel, we are blessed
For the corpse of Spiteful Stan now lives again!

“You’re a nightmare, you’re a madman, you’re an idiotic toad!”
“What the devil’s arse was that stuff in my drink?”
“You were only meant to knock me out for ten miles on the road”
“Now I feel like I’ve been buried, and I stink”

“That would never hoodwink Odious.” The warlock gives a shrug
“He’d be after us to join him in a week”
“So I had to make it terminal.” His wrinkled face is smug
“And you’re right, you know – you positively reek”

When you’re too old for adventure and you really need a rest
Read a story, take your teeth out, go to bed
And if someone tries to take you on another stupid quest
Drink a potion from a warlock and play dead

Secreted Ending

Norman? Oy! The story’s over. Yes, we’re finished. Bugger off!
Please go home and write some poetry, as planned
No, no, don’t take down your trousers! I don’t want to hear you cough!
That is sticky! Norman! What’s that in your hand?