Four hands, two warrant officers, and three passengers stepped forward. Neptune called each by name and heaped praise and good wishes on them. Still, he was offended that they were aboard a vessel infested with so many detestable, slimy polliwogs. He was particularly insulted that they had dared sail with a captain never before found worthy. Neptune offered that they could redeem themselves by assisting in the Royal Court’s inspection and examination.
Those individuals took up their stations, and Neptune ordered everyone else to kneel and crawl about on all fours. Pierce refused, but when a Royal Princess and a Loyal Shellback approached menacingly, he humbled himself and dropped to the deck.
“Captain Pierce, ye shall be the first examined. A true and loyal crusty Shellback must know the art of kissing. He must know how to joyfully terrorize the young with his stubbly chin to their bellies. Kiss the Royal Baby’s Royal Belly!” Neptune roared.
Pierce sought to protest, but with the approach of the enforcing Princess and Shellback, he acquiesced and crawled to the foot of the Baby’s chair. “Oh good!” squealed the giant toddler in a deep and booming voice. He suddenly clasped his hands behind Pierce’s head and pulled the captain’s face into his greased and tarred midsection. He rolled Pierce’s face about in the grease and fat for a moment and let go.
Pierce straightened, spat out a chunk of pork grizzle, and waited.
Neptune spoke again. “Members of the Ancient Order of the Deep are well-groomed and clean-shaven. Proceed!”
The two enforcers escorted him to a stool aft of the foremast. When he sat, the first of two stationed there quickly lathered his face and head with the ill-smelling concoction. The second Shellback honed his mock wooden razor and with a few quick and deft movements scraped away most of the vile mess.
“My loyal subjects are clean! You, captain, need a bath!” With that, the two escorts, the Royal Barber, and the assistant bodily lifted Pierce from the deck and deposited him in the port side vat.
He climbed out the forward end, covered from head to toe in the most awful and obnoxious substances. Was he permitted to remain standing?
Soon he heard the pumps being put in operation. A trickle of water, and then a steady stream blasted against him. The coolness of the seawater refreshed him and removed most of the odious materials. He rotated under the jet of water and delighted in the cleansing spray.
“Captain, ye may join the Royal Party. Ye have passed thy examination. Now bear witness to the testing of these scurvy, slimy polliwogs. Come and sit!”
“I am most grateful, Your Majesty!” said Pierce.
He took the chair vacated by the Royal Princess. He watched as the crew and passengers were inspected and found worthy to venture into King Neptune’s realm.
Rather than escorting each individual through to the bath before starting with another, the Crusty Shellbacks and Royal Party members drove one after another forward and through the examination. As soon as one had kissed the Royal Baby’s belly, another was having his face and head rolled about in the grease and fat covering the infant’s ample gut. The Royal Barbers worked unceasingly and without pause, lathering and quickly shaving each individual that passed into their hands.
As fast as one individual stepped out of one of the large vats, another was placed in it. The pumps worked unceasingly now, and two constant streams of water played over the ever- changing party of new Shellbacks on the foredeck.
It should not be said that Neptunus Rex did not respect the delicacy and dignity of the fairer sex. For those who objected to being so rudely treated, he allowed they need only kiss his hand as a sign of fealty, and plunge one arm up to the elbow in the bath’s dubious mixture.
He extended the same leniency to smaller children, and those that were particularly frightened, he passed on the word of parents or other adults.
When everyone on board had been examined, found worthy, and stood soggy and unkempt about the deck, Neptune stood. He rapped his trident against the deck and said, “Captain Pierce! In Our Royal pleasure we have examined this vessel and company. All are deigned worthy, and ye have our leave to continue thy voyage. In honor of all now being Loyal Shellbacks, we insist ye splice the main brace!”