It was dark outside even though it was the middle of the afternoon, the little house that sat on the cliff overlooking the ocean was taking a beating by the weather. The wind howled and the rain was coming down in buckets, definitely not a day to be on a ship in the open seas.
Yet that is where Jim’s father wanted to be. He was a sailor by trade, Captain John Murray. He would have been at sea if he wasn’t badly wounded several months ago during a storm at sea. By rights he should have lost his leg, he was lucky that the surgeon on board was able to save his leg and his wounds didn’t become infected.
Several buckets and pots were placed under the leaks in the roof. The main room was illuminated by an oil lamp that sat on the table, a fire crackled in the hearth.
Captain Murray sat in his chair with his injured leg on the footstool in front of the fire. “I should real get the roof fixed,” he mumbled.
“I’ll see to it after the storm,” Jim promised.
“You’re a good boy.”
Jim and his father live alone in the house, my mother died several years ago during childbirth to Jim’s baby sister. Until father returned, Jim lived in town at the orphanage with seventy other parentless boys. Those were several of the hardest years of his life, he was lucky, his father returned but there were many that didn’t.
It was during this storm on the darkest of afternoons that it all started. There was a knock at the door. At first they both thought that it was the rain and the wind from outside. Then they heard the knock again.
“There’s someone at the door,” Jim informed his father.
“Don’t be ridiculous, nobody in their right minds would be out there.”
The knock sounded again and they both stared at the door.
“What are you waiting for?” enquired Jim’s father, “let him in.”
I unbolted the door and on the front step was a person dressed is a robe, lightning flashed behind him and then the thunder roared back. The man held his robe closed as the rain pelted him.
“Is this Captain Jack Murray’s house?” enquired the man.
“Come in,” Jim gestured.
“Is Captain Murray here?”
“I’m Captain Murray,” replied Jim’s father, he stood up from his chair. Grabbing his crutches that leaned against the wall, he moved to the middle of the room.
The man wearing a brownish red robe from the cowl that covered his head to his toes, you could just make out the sandals in the lantern light. A puddle of water started to form where the man stood, he lowered the cowl. The man had white hair on the side of his head, he was bald on the top, a white beard covered his face.
The old man looked the Jim’s father up and down.
“What can I do for you?” asked Captain Murray.
“I have a job for you, I need a captain to sail my ship.”
“I’m sorry, I’m retired.”
“Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Master Charles Spinwell,” he reached out a hand to shake.
Captain Murray adjusted the crutches and shook the man’s hand. When he let go he wiped his now wet hand on his pants. “Would you like to take off your wet robe?”
The old man looked at his robe, “I wasn’t aware that it was wet.”
“How could you not be aware? The devil is blowing outside.”
“Oh, the wind and rain,” replied Master Spinwell. He mumbled a few words under his breath and his clothes glowed red and a few seconds later steam was rising from his robes and then they were bone dry.
“You’re one of the crazies from the monastery,” Jim shouted.
“Jim!” warned his father.
“He’s a witch,” Jim declared.
“A magician is what I like being called. May we sit?” Master Spinwell indicated a seat at the table.
“Jim, get us a couple of mugs and a bottle of wine,” ordered his father.
Jim went to get the bottle and mugs as his father requested.
Captain Murray sat and the old man sat in the seat next to him. “I need a captain and I heard that you are the best.”
“I’m sorry. I’m retired. I can’t manage a ship with my leg the way it is.”
“That’s easily fixed,” the old man placed his hand in his robe and pulled out a white object and placed it on the table. “This is a horn from a unicorn, it has very powerful healing properties if you place it against your leg it will repair any injury.”
“I’ve heard of a unicorn horn. I never thought that I would ever see one. You’re giving this to me.”
“Just while we talk business,” offered Master Spinwell and he slid the horn closer to father.
“Father, don’t,” Jim called.
“It’s alright,” Captain Murray placed a hand on the horn and picked it up. He examined it for a moment and holding it in one hand carefully raised the leg of his pants and placed the unicorn horn against the skin at the bottom of his leg.
Jim placed the mugs and bottle of wine on the table, and then stood near his father.
“I would like you to sail my ship,” offered Master Spinwell.
“Where’s the ship and where do you want to take her?”
“My ship,” debated Master Spinwell, “I recently purchased it, it’s called ‘The Desert Lady’.”
“The Desert Lady,” repeated Captain Murray in astonishment. “The one that is anchored in the harbour.”
Master Spinwell nodded.
“I sorry to tell you, but you have just wasted a lot of money on a piece of junk. The Desert Lady should have been dragged a mile off shore and skulked a year ago. It not sea worthy, it barely floats. I bet that it will not survive this storm.”
“If it survives the storm, will you be her new captain?”
“Survives the storm, I’m not sailing any ship unless I’ve checked it over and it’s sea worthy.”
“Agreed,” smiled Master Spinwell. “Our destination,” from a pocket inside his robes he produced a rectangular package wrapped in oiled cloth. He placed the package on the table and untied the cord and removed a black leather bound book. He opened the book at a page that had been marked. Turning the book around so Captain Murray could read it, he pushed it forward.
“Jim, my spectacles.”
“Yes, father,” Jim retrieved his glasses from the stand next to his chair by the fire.
Captain Murray seemed to stare at the book for minutes before he even started to read.
Jim looked at the book over his father’s shoulder, it was a journal, hand written with a running cursive script.
Captain Murray read aloud from the journal. “We found paradise, in the shelter of a large harbour, where a river flowed to the sea and on either side a beautiful green meadow. So we named the land Avonlea for the beautiful land it was named after. For the twenty odd weeks that we stayed here repairing the ship and exploring, we could not have found a nicer place. Our main camp was in a little cove, fresh water flowed from a little stream nearby. Good trees for timber, we build a shelter amongst the trees. Funny birds keep laughing at us and snatching the food from our hands. Very good eating they were. The only down sight to the place was we did not discover any large game while we were there.”
“You want to go to paradise?”
“I do,” agreed Master Spinwell.
“But that is just a description of a place, it doesn’t tell you where it is.”
The old magician turned the page. “Longitude and latitude coordinates.”
“They aren’t possible,” insisted Captain Murray.
“They are possible and I’m willing to fund a voyage to Avonlea,” Master Spinwell placed a bag of coins on the table.
“This entry is dated almost ten years ago, someone might have already been to your paradise.”
“None, that I’ve heard of, the captain didn’t tell anyone about this land.”
“Why don’t you get the captain who journal this is to take you?” Captain Murray turned to the front of the journal “Captain John Banks of the Enterprise.”
“He’s dead, Lord Keaston decided to hang the captain about three weeks ago.”
“That area is uncharted even if I did except the role, I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“Retracing his journey,” suggested Master Spinwell and he turned the journal back to the marked page.
“Jim, get me my charts.”
There was a box full of charts and Jim carried them all over to the table where his father was. Captain Murray started to unroll them out onto the table. Selecting a couple and then rolling up the one he did not need.
Jim hadn’t seen his father this excited since before the war, he seemed to have a new lease on life.
“Jim is it?” asked Master Spinwell.
“I have a small gift for you,” from a pocket in his robe he produced a thin leather cord with a small metal triangle attached to it.
Father looked at the gift and nodded.
“Father has got a similar necklace,” I replied and took the necklace.
“I’ve noticed,” agreed the old magician.
I looked at the funny symbols on the metal. “What does it do?”
“It protects the wear from magical influence.”
“You think that he will need it?” asked Captain Murray.
“One never knows, better safe than sorry.”
Jim fastened the leather cord around his neck and proceeded to do the things his father asked. He had fallen asleep in his father’s chair about six hours later and woke as the light from the morning’s sun shone through the window. The old magician was gone, and his father was still sitting at the table.
“Up you get,” ordered Captain Murray, “We have to see if there is still a ship anchored in the bay.”
To Jim’s surprise, his father was not using his crutches, they lied on the ground where he left them yesterday afternoon.