PROLOGUE

Things were looking grim Captain Topcat was dead Shel was badly hurt. There was nothing more the ship's doctor, doctor Katz could do for him now. Panther did the only thing she could think to save him; she sailed west...

Once upon a time on the west coast of that blessed emerald island called Ireland a baby girl named Teba was born to a beautiful dark haired lass and a mysterious stranger. This man was French-Canadian and had come to Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone, not that he needed more than his natural share of blarney.

The child grew up hard and she grew up fast, restless, when she was very young. She stole a fishing boat intending to sail to see her grandfather who lived on an isle off the coast of Ireland. She set out across the waters. The sky turned angry and black; the wind howled and roared and then torrents of rain poured down upon the tiny craft. Lightning snapped and the waves pitched, soon the small boat containing one small girl flipped over and broke apart, in desperation Teba grabbed a plank and held. Hours later after the storm had passed and all was still in the dark hours before dawn, Teba still grimly gripped the plank. Then overcome come by exhaustion, the young girl passed out. Her head dipped dangerously low into the the water and she stopped breathing. Then something tickled the nose of the young girl she roused up to see a wee tiny fish, a herring or pilchard, perhaps brushing her with his fins. Then with a giggle it swam off. Gasping and coughing shivering in the cold she saw a ship, ghostly pale, a few hundred yards away. It appeared to be a brigantine but it was rigged with an extra sail. Although very young, Teba's family farm was near a port and she had seen ships of every type there; this ship was like none she had seen. Teba's only hope lay in paddling to the silvery ghost ship. The young girl shivering in the pre-dawn light climbed aboard the ship. Spotting no one on deck she quickly opened a hatch and went below out of the cold morning mist. She climbed down the ladder. It was dark inside she could not see and stumbled into a small table. Teba reached out and felt a small box she opened it and found a candle, flint and stone. She struck a spark and lit the candle. Strange isn't it that all the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of a single candle ?

The heat from the candle felt good as she stood there shivering in a wet frock. Hoping to find something warm to wear Teba opened a chest but all it held was silver and gold coins. The girl gasped she could buy all the clothes in Dublin with that but here it was useless. She needed something warm and dry to wear, even an old piece of sail cloth would do. She opened another larger trunk and had better luck in it she found some old but perfectly preserved clothing. She was able to dry off and get warm and dressed. Teba went up on deck just in time to see a beautiful sunrise. In the morning light the ship did not look scary at all but magnificent if still mysterious; she explored it stem from stern. She found no one on board, no ship's log and no sign of a name for the brigantine with the extra sail. On the ship's wheel she found a plaque:

- I belong to who ever finds me and dares to sail me - sail me wisely and sail me well - or beware of the fate that shall befall you!

Thats all well and good, thought Teba but I am hungry and there is no food aboard ship. Providence was with her however and she saw some boxes and barrels bobbing in the briney sea. She found a boat hook and was able to pull some from the water. They must have come from a ship wreck caused by the same storm that had foundered Teba's boat, at any rate they contained food and she was able to eat. Later Teba stowed them in the galley and hid the small cask of treasure, why she did not know she just had a feeling she should. After getting things ship shape Teba felt satisfied with her days work and watched the sun set.The mystery ship continued to sail along smoothly with no one at the helm and no one to work the sails. "It has sailed this way so long I suppose it can sail this way a while longer while I sleep," so unworried Teba bunked down in the captain's cabin a gold doubloon clutched in her hand.

Early in the morning the pitching of the brigantine awoke Teba. She quickly threw on some clothes she found hanging on a stand and buckled on a belt she found there. Teba went up deck to find the wheel spinning and sails flapping, oh dear she thought even a magic ship must need a crew. Something caught her eye and she saw a small boat in the distance. The brigantine was running with the wind toward it. The brigantine reached the overloaded boat just as it was sinking. The men on it scrambled aboard the brigantine and stood before Teba wet and miserable. Teba had found a crew. "Welcome aboard my vessel if you will be my crew I will pay you in good gold and silver."

The hardened men were astonished, to see a small girl wearing men's clothing too large for her, cutlass buckled at her side. What their eyes mostly went to however was the large coin she held aloft.

"It's bad luck to have woman aboard ship. I will never crew for one wee girl." Said Dirty Bobby MacBeans.

"You are free to swim home or I will lock you in hold so you can't make trouble, until I find land to set you on." Teba said.

"Her gold is as good any man's." Said Stan the Swede backhanding MacBeans. "I was second mate on the sloop Ranger. It crashed into some rocks the night before last. Whether other crew escaped in boats I know not, but I did not not leave until the captain gave orders to abandon ship. I will crew for you and so will these others like it or not. What is the name of your ship that looks like a brigantine with an extra sail?" "

"Very well, " said Teba. "I will have you as crew. The name of the ship is a mystery to me." She threw second mate Stan the gold coin. She showed them around and got them dry clothes. They searched and found a few more men clinging to planks but no sign of the captain of the Ranger. After a search of the waters, the brigantine, which Captain Teba's scratch crew was now calling the 'Mystery' sailed away.

Captain Teba doled out the coins and the Mystery sailed and traded for months. She let the second mate Stan run the brigantine. Captain Teba was smart enough to know that she was only a little girl so gave few orders, one of them being that the name "Mystery" not be painted on the brigantine for as far a she was concerned the name of the ship was a mystery not the mystery. This state of affairs may have continued for years but one day Stan the Swede became ill and could not move from his bunk. Dirty Bobby MacBeans stirred up trouble amongst a group of malcontents, soon the discord spread until there was a full blown mutiny. The mutiny was easy enough, for the Mystery was off the coast of a far eastern land; Captain Teba had gone ashore to pick herbs to help Stan. When she started back towards the ship she was met with a hail of bullets followed by shouts of laughter and insults. "Go away little girl you are not fit to be captain! Go away!" Then a cannon ball sailed over her head and she was forced to retreat. Cannon balls continued to chase her until she was out of sight of the ship. Crying Teba, no longer the captain, headed for the hills of this strange forbidding land.

Teba was taken in by by some type of sisterhood whether convent or coven she never told. After living there for several years and learning great things she thought it was time she should leave. So with only the clothes on her back she set out at first light. She had not gone far before she met a cat black as night with a tail quite long bedecked with ribbons a dozen and one. "Follow me if you have faith" said the cat and set off. Now Teba had seen many things in her still quite short life, but a talking cat was not one, so with nothing to lose and perhaps something to gain she followed the feline as it went down the track of the hillside. They came down towards the sea and walked a few miles down the shore. There they found a small stream of cool water running down to the sea, and both stopped to drink. The cat then primped and preened. He adjusted the colorful ribbons tied to his double long tail in fanciful bows. Then he winked at Teba and leaped up and onto a log just as it appeared, "hurry follow Teba!" Quickly Teba jumped up onto the log. Things had happened so fast she had no time to think how the cat knew her name. The current carried them on the log far out to sea to some rocks. There stuck on the rocks was the mysterious brigantine, (with an extra sail) looking just the same as it had when she had left it years before. They clambered aboard as the log pulled up to the mystery ship. The cat and the girl found no sign of life on board ship, but far from being weathered and ruined it was in ship shape with proud snow white sails flapping in the gentle breeze. If she had not known it before this would have told Teba that this truly was an enchanted sailing vessel. They searched until they found the ships log; by this time Teba was not surprised when the cat began reading:

"I Stan the one called the 'Swede' Firstmate am writing this, thank the Lord and what ever the potions the girl has given me; my arms are working now. That fool MacBeans calls himself captain now and knows not how to read nor write. The cooks mate Smokey Morgan smuggled this log to me. After the mutiny, (which Morgan swears by the saints he had no part of,) the fool MacBeans ran us in to the rocks and abandoned ship taking the best boat and all of the gold he could carry. Morgan says he will help me, all others have now jumped ship, at least the coast is near. If anyone finds this say a prayer for us and a curse upon those who cast out Captain Teba."

Teba looked thoughtfully at the cat, "thank you my friend she said for leading me back to the ship by rights the brigantine is now yours...?"

"Oh no said the cat I was sent from powers above to lead you a back and guide you on earth. You may call me 'Auto De Fey ' for your act of faith in following me here or just 'Otto' for short.

While they had been talking the wind had been picking up and the waves crashing higher the tide was high and the ship gently drifted off the rocks.

It was not easy for a teenage girl and an enchanted cat to sail a ship - even a magic one - by themselves; they needed a crew. "I know there must be ports down the coast of this strange land we still have some gold and all of the silver we can hire a crew." Teba said.

Mostly letting the vessel sail it self, they drifted down the coast. When it was dark they saw some bonfires on a beach. "Let's see, what's there;" suggested the cat.

Dubious Teba agreed and they anchored offshore as native canoes paddled out. They lowered a rope and little people wearing green climbed into the ship."Leprechauns," Teba said, "although I never knew they were so dark."

Then she heard a familar laugh, "Swede," she yelled. "Can it be ?"

"Yes, I and Smokey Morgan survived to live among these pygmies.
"It is so good to see you again Swede after all these years," said Teba, hugging him. she had always hidden her emotions but Stan had always been something of a father figure to her. "Swede it's so good to see you." Then she was embarassed for she had had always called him by his rank on ship. " I hope you don't mind me calling you Swede?"

He laughed, "call me what you will although actually I was born in Portugal!" Captain Teba and Otto visited with the the friendly little people both on ship and shore for several days. They learned that these pygmies were not native to this part of the world but descendents of survivers of a ship wrecked slave ship. Stan and Morgan had been living with them for the past several years. Stan was now quite cured of his illness and able to walk. They talked for along time, rumor had it that the mutiniers had landed further up the coast in the cannibal lands. Not one word had ever been heard about MacBeans. After days of visits it was decided that Stan and Morgan along with a few of the little people for crew would set off with Teba in the brigantine they called the "Mystery."

They had not sailed far down the coast when something caught their eyes they saw the wreck of a boat in a curious spot. They pulled in closer and Teba and Stan swam then waded through the shalow water to an inlet. There was a waterfall of clear cool water streaming down a shear rock cliff. They found the skeleton of Macbeans. Stuffed in the skeleton's mouth were gold coins. "He had water here; he did not die of thirst. If he had brought a grappling hook and a rope he might have been able to climb this cliff. In his greed all he took was gold: no food, in the end he must have gone crazy and tried to eat it!" Teba shook her head and they returned to the Mystery and sailed away.

Captain Teba and her crew sailed and had many great adventures. They learned that the strange enchanted mysterious vessel could sail the seas of time as well as space, although the brigantine had a will of its own. They fought the Saracens and Teba stole the Papal Throne from Rome and brought it back to Dublin.

One day Stan decided that he was getting old. "You know more about the Mystery than I do, you are the rightful Captain not I." He decided to retire back in the land of the little people along with Morgan the cook and some of the pygmies. Although she surely missed them Captain Teba by now had crew from many places and times, and she still had her wise adviser Otto the cat.

So Captain Teba ship and crew continued to sail and do many great things. She learned how to re-rig the sails from lateen to square and even put up and extra mast. The ship was fast andan execellent smuggler.

Perhaps one of the greatest things was when she sailed and caught a certain mean man named Hitler, when Teba caught Hitler she shaved off his mustache and kicked him down the very steps of Hades itself. While the Devil was busy marveling at this remarkable sight; she snatched up his pitchfork. Teba gave it to her uncle Marcus to muck out the cowbarn.
All was well with Captain Teba and all aboard the brigantine the crew call the Mystery - until one fateful day. The Mystery was in South Polar Waters to get ice for the crew's drinks, Otto the beautiful black cat with the double long tail bedecked with colorful ribbons was primping and preening sitting on the the railing of the ship. Captain Teba was standing beside him when - Crash - they were hit. Poor Otto fell over into the freezing icy sea. Teba made a grab for him as he fell but all she got was the of yellow ribbon that had been wrapped around the tip of his double long tail.

NO!!!!!

Teba shrieked in heartbreak and looked up just in time to see the Union Jack flying above an ironclad as it steamed off into the fog. For the First time Teba was indecisive. She knew not if she should try to rescue Otto or or go after the British ship. In the end she was able to do neither, so she nursed a bitter hatred to the British and Orangemen in general.

Captain Teba now became mean and sullen. Her once magnificent feats just became mean pranks against the British. Teba put a whoopie cushion on the Queen's throne; she stole all the toliet paper from Buckingham palace. Teba even went went as far it is said as to kiss a certain prince and turn him into a frog, (not that many people noticed.)

As Captain Teba grew mean an sulky so did the ship. Where before it rode as smooth as glass even during rough seas, now it bucked and shook.

Without Morgan for a cook the next cook was fine, but after Teba became mean he jumped ship. The crew became very discontent. They grumbled and rumbled with bellys either empty or full of bad food. Captain Teba tried everything to placate them. She had heard of a wonderful baker in the lands of America. He baked his own bread and delivered it in a cart to the docks in the morning. The sailors all loved the bread and doughnuts. When the baker, named Karl the Bold, winked his bright blue eye at Teba she lost her heart for him. She fought it and denied for months for Karl the baker and cart man was a transplanted Englishman and a Protestant to boot; but Teba loved the merry Karl with the twinkle in his eye. Finally Teba succumbed to his charms for she had been to sea since a child and now was a woman full grown. All things must end. Captain Teba promised to marry Karl and paid off her crew. Captain Teba made one last journey all by herself in that mysterious brigantine to a small islet only she had heard of. Teba, Captain no more, stowed away the mysterious brigantine. Using the arcane arts she had learned in that forgotten land, where she had spent a small part of her childhood; she crafted a red broom from a spare spar from the mystery ship. Then Teba flew back on the red broom all she took with her was the ship's log tied to the broomstick with the yellow ribbon from Otto's tail.

Teba married the merry Karl, hid away the ships log and only used the broom now to sweep.

They lived in the east, in Karls cabin for many years and had many children.
After a number of years the couple decided that they should move to warmer climes so they packed up the children and moved, far, far to the west. In the desert lands with the blazing sun they were quite happy and had one more child, a son. They named the boy Shel and he grew up healthy but odd. Still his parents loved him. It came to pass when all the children were grown Karl died as all mere mortals must. He had lived his three score and ten and then some.

Shel now had a house of his own he had three cats now to look after him. Topcat, Spooky and Panther. Now all cats are curious, Spooky was quite the inquistive one she snooped through some of Shel's mother's books and found a book of "Ancient lore." This was the ship's log wrapped tight in yellow ribbon from Auto De Fey's tail. This of course was the origin of the CatAvenger.

Teba could not remain angry at Spooky who was such a beautiful black cat gleaming. Spooky reminded Teba of Otto Auto De Fey. Teba swore Spooky to secrecy and only the two knew. Spooky took the secret to her grave. Teba once captain became Teba Wild Witch of the West to aid and abet her son and the cats in the ship that had once been hers.

EPILOGUE
How Captain Panther sailed the CatAvenger across dry desert sands after Captain Topcat's death and Shel's injury (see LOVE & RESPECT ) only she and perhaps whatever spirit guides the CatAvenger knows. Teba Wild Witch of the West came out and threw Shel's broken body over her shoulder. She marched in and up the stairs of the seven hundred foot SilverTower of Power. Panther and Doctor Katz looked at each other knowingly for they knew that it was not her magic that would cure him but a greater power still, a love of a mother for her son.

POST SCRIPT

Now you who read this may not believe in magic and think this story blarney. Well I have a taller tale still; Otto Auto De Fey the cat certainly did have a tall tail. It is said that a cat has nine lives and Otto was no ordinary cat. There may or may not be anything much worthwhile about the global warming and cryogenics, but a large ice-cube drifted ashore on Terre Del Fuego. As the sun hit the ice - first a long tail was seen, then the rest of a black, bedragged but quite, well and sound cat. He primped and preened and licked himself clean. Adjusting his his ribbons - Auto Da Fey hitched a ride north...


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