Peter the King
dreams are the kingdoms of the night
Peter rested his chin upon his hand and sat upon his throne. Well, it wasn’t really a throne being a log and all, but he called it his throne and that was the important thing. He also wasn’t a king, but today he decided he would call himself king, and no one was likely to argue with him except Wendy. He was philosophically holding a compass in his hand, which he thought rather made him more noble and it was a kinglike thing to do, and he was determined on being regal.
He looked at the compass, like most things he only vaguely understood how it worked, after all he was a hero not a scientist. An idea passed through his mind like a rumour and he dismissed it, then it returned like a shout.
“I’m late for Tiffin.”
He shot up and ran across the sward like an antelope, leaves swirled in footsteps. He still wore the mushroom hat he used on the great expedition to the Source of all Nightmares. His torn britches flashed like a signal that the captain of the Lost Boys was late for Tiffin – most odd. He thundered into the camp kitchen and leaped onto his chair.
There was a strange quiet at the table.
“No Tiffin?” he quizzed as he looked under the table in puzzlement.
“Shush,” came a voice from the great oak tree that spread above the camp table.
“Don’t shush me, I’m the captain,” Peter looked annoyed, “I say, why are you all up that tree?”
A hand reached out from the branches and pointed at something behind him, Peter looked around - and a very short time later he was up the tree as well.
“Lions eh?” He grinned as he clambered onto a branch.
A pride of lions lay on the grass; several lionesses with a dignified one-eyed old patriarch sat apart, his red mane burning in the sun. Over him clambered half a dozen cubs, who bit his ears and sat on him, all of which he endured without comment. They seemed content, and also gave no appearance of intending to move on, much to annoyance of all the people stuck up a tree.
“Been there long?” Peter asked.
“They ate Tiffin,” came the distant voice of Tootles, who had trouble with cats in general and had climbed to the very top of the tree just in case they ate him.
“The rotters not the Tiffin,” grinned Peter, “no, wait that’s serious. Have we a plan? Have we dessert?”
“We were waiting for you,” said Wendy.
“Good plan, I’m glad to hear that,” grinned Peter, “- now what do we do?”
“We could call for Tiger Lily,” suggested John.
“Don’t Lions and Tigers fight each other?” asked Michael.
“Hmm, can’t have pretty Tiger Lily getting scratched,” said Peter as he carved the only letter from the alphabet he knew into the branch.
“Anyone seen the pixies?” he muttered, with his tongue poking out having difficulty with the scrollwork on his letter. “We could fly out.”
Now as you know, and know quite well by now, faerie dust can do many things, most importantly it makes things fly, things like Lost Boys, the Moon and sometimes even ridiculous metaphors.
“They said something about doing a very important task,” said John, none too sure, “and won’t be back for days.”
“They do like making hats, don’t they,” said Peter as he gave up on his letter and lay down on his back.
“Aren’t we going to do something?” asked Tootles, his voice wavering even at the top of the tree.
“Nah, no point getting eated over Tiffin,” grinned Peter.
“Eaten,” corrected Wendy, as she uncomfortably watched the lions.
“That too,” said Peter as he took off his shirt, which was made of leaves and cobwebs, lay down on the branch to sunbake for half an hour. His carrot red hair glowing like a beacon in the light, and his bright green eyes stared off through the foliage to infinity. As the forest about hummed with the noise of insects and birds, the leaves of the tree fell like pages of a book writing each moment of their world. The giant wheel of the Sun rolled across the sky, like a clock spooling out the thread of Time, for Time was the real enemy of all the Lost Boys - only Time could destroy them.
Peter looked at his compass, oddly he always thought it was a watch and nobody had the courage to tell him otherwise, which is why he had no sense of direction, was always late and oddly it also explained why he never grew up.
“Hmm, can’t go on forever without Tiffin,” he muttered.
The hypnotic sounds of drums, cymbals and flutes swam towards them through the autumn leaves like a mythical bird retelling stories of Aladdin. The Lost Boys sat up on their branches and listened intently at this sound as it rolled and boomed about the trees, seeming to rise from nowhere and leave by the same door.
“Band’s here,” Peter grinned, “hope they brought Tiffin.”
“Peter stop obsessing about Tiffin,” Wendy got annoyed, “we could get eaten.”
“As was the Tiffin,” said John sourly.
A procession came through an opening the woods, with the beautiful princess Tiger Lily in the front, followed in single file by all her braves. They played musical instruments, danced and leapt about their promenade. She wore necklaces of cowry shells and precious garnets, her hair crowned with a diadem of glittering white quartz that sparkled in the light. Her tribe stayed on the far side of the clearing at the edge of the forest primeval, and pretended to ignore the lions by brandishing their instruments and singing loudly. Tiger Lily, however, who feared no thing, no beast and no man, or even late Tiffin, walked across the sward and stood underneath the great oak, though she did stand a respectable distance from the pride of lions. In her hand she held back her tiger cub India, which strained at its leash to go and play with the lion cubs as they clambered about over their patriarch.
Her tribe sang,
“We are the Piccaninnies
We fear no one,
Tiger Lily is our princess,
She is our Sun.”
From the tree the Lost Boys gave a refrain.
“We are the Lost Boys,
We’re stuck in a tree,
We’re still hoping,
Peter will set us free.”
To this the Indians sang back,
“Peter can’t help you,
He’s up there too,
You’ll have to think
Of something new!”
But the Lost Boys stood, or in this case, sat by their captain.
“We won’t give up
here’s why we sing!”
He is our leader
He is our King!”
Peter grinned, but once more the Indians sang back,
“Tiger Lily is better,
as you should know
Poor Little Peter,
He will never grow!”
And the tribe did cartwheels and poked their noses at the marooned army. This brought a shout of defiance from the Lost Boys, but they all looked to Peter who sat unmoved, although he did glower.
In the midst of all this, the lions lay about nonplussed, not sure if they should canter after the new group of Indians or just lay in the long grass and digest the Lost Boy’s lunch. The old one-eyed male moved his head back and forth as if listening to the choruses of the two tribes, it was almost as if he was amused by the noise, or was pondering which one to eat.
From beneath the great oak, Tiger Lily watched Peter’s bright green eyes piercing the canopy and smiled, she knew he was too proud to ask for help and she was too regal to offer. She turned and dragged her India back to her tribe and the procession flowed once more into the trees and gradually the sound of the musicians faded to grey silence.
“I say,” muttered Peter almost in annoyance, “they could have left us some biscuits.”
“Peter,” Wendy finally realized, “why don’t you fly off, find the pixies then they can sprinkle faerie dust over us and we all can fly off?”
“And leave my Lost Boys all high hoisted in the tree? I say not!” he did not dare tell his tribe he could not fly, as that and his uncanny ability to kill pirates were the main reasons he was their captain.
“I would have thought it was more of a rescue than a marooning,” John bite down on his lip as he said this, as he was the only one who knew about Peter’s secret.
“No, really Peter, if you…” began Wendy.
“A king does not leave his people in their time of need!” Peter almost snarled.
The Lost Boys, who never thought things through, banged their knives on their branches to show admiration of their captain’s sacrifice and gave a whoop.
“Oh bosh,” said Wendy, “I would have thought…,”
“Silence in the Army,” barked Peter, “or you will have to walk the plank.”
Wendy looked down at the lions, and very quickly gave up.
Meanwhile Tootles found he had an unwanted companion in the roof of the tree. Captain Hook had a New Zealand parrot called Nestor, which had just that moment landed next to Tootles and was looking him in the eye with a maniacal stare. Pieces-of-Eight was the first word the parrot had learned and used it over and over again much to the irritation of everyone. It was a large bird with a wickedly sharp beak, which it sharpened incessantly on anything that was close to hand; in this case it was the branch that Tootles was sitting on.
“Ooh,” said Tootles worriedly as he worried about his branch being whittled away.
“Ooh,” squawked Nestor, mimicking Tootles perfectly.
“Whose Oohoohing, up there?” laughed Peter, as he could not see that the bird was in the tree.
“Um,” said Tootles as the bird hoped closer to him.
“Um,” copied the bird as it rasped its beak nearer and nearer.
“Whose Umuming?” cried Peter.
“Wah!” Tootles gave out a shriek as the bird jumped up and bit Tootles on the nose, before flying off to tell Hook of its discovery. Tootles would have fallen out of the tree if his quiver had not snagged upon a broken branch, this left poor Tootles dangling in midair with a nibbled nose. Several of his arrows tumbled down the tree narrowly missing the other Lost Boys who all yelped in fear.
“Silence in the ranks!” hollered Peter before Tootles could tell him of the danger, and danger there soon was, as within the half-hour the Captain having been informed by Nestor arrived at the clearing with his pirates in tow.
The pirates remained on the far side of the clearing just like the Indians before, for they had no wish to be eaten by the lions and they knew the lions had no love of them. Even Captain Hook refused to step out onto the sward; a pride of lions was almost as bad as crocodiles when it came to snapping off bits of your body. Yet, grin and laugh he did when he saw all the Lost Boys stuck up a tree surrounded by the big cats.
The great lion himself watched the new comers with obvious disgust.
“Up the yard-arm are yee?” Hook yelled across the green, coarse fellow that he could be, “lets see you dance your way out of this one!”
The pirates laughed and hit each other on the shoulders, as they danced pirate jigs. Peter remained silent and stared through the leaves at Hook with a strange fierceness. Then slowly and deliberately climbed down the tree till he was standing on the ground.
“Careful they don’t bite something off!” yelled Hook, as lifted up his metal hand, “you may end up with one of these!”
Again the pirates fell about themselves with laughter.
Peter picked up one of Tootles fallen arrows and began walking slowly across to where the lions were lying in the sun - everyone went silent. Even Hook was quiet. Wendy held her breath and looked away, then looked back and then looked away once more in fear, as Peter walked right up to the pride and stood before them as still as a mountain, a strange shinning light in his eyes, and then slowly and very surely drew a circle about himself, as if daring the lions to cross that circle.
The lions all stood up, and the great lord of the desert, his heavy mane burning in the sun, stared straight into Peter’s eyes. The silence was overwhelming; Wendy had to hold her hand over her mouth lest she scream, even Hook watched in amazement.
The two kings remained staring at each other, each measuring the courage of the other, each holding their ground, if this moment had gone on any longer their world would have broken with the tension, but then with a cough the great patriarch turned away, and slowly began walking from Peter and his circle, followed by the royal family.
“Zounds!” said Hook, “what good form!”
Then he realized all of the lions were headed for him.
“Tactical retreat!” he yelled and his tiny navy of pirates crashed back into the forest and disappeared, closely followed by the lions that had slept off lunch and were happy to give chase.
A great hurray when up from the tree of Lost Boys as they tumbled down and ran up to Peter, they all tried to hug him and whooped and did cartwheels. Wendy, Michael and John stood in wonder and felt the need to clap.
Peter stood there, happily knowing he was the centre of their world, and then he looked at his compass and yelled:
Copyright reserved by Jim O’Brien ©