“Gold. Silver. Treasure. Men have often dreamed of these things. Desired them. Lusted after them. But only a group of them sought after their fortunes. They took to the seas. Traveled the world. Fought to find their glory. Nothing would stop them from fulfilling their endless greed. They lived under one title: Pirates.
“Legends speak of a pirate unlike any other. A pirate that not only sailed the seas but tamed them. Controlled them. Used them to bring fear into the hearts of sailors. A pirate who ruled the seas: Captain Richard Rodgers. Legends say Rogers led a crew of the most ruthless pirates to plunder the seven seas in search for jewels and treasure. But Rodgers had one fatal flaw: he was consumed with greed. With every piece of gold the pirate took his greed grew.
“It was this weakness that led to the pirate’s demise. Legends state a local priest confronted him as he was plundering a small village. The priest tried to warn Rodgers of his upcoming demise; prophesying that his lust for gold would soon consume him. But Rodgers paid no heed to the man’s words. The pirate lord continued his never-ending quest for gold. It wasn’t much later that Rogers came across a riddle. A piece of a map leading to a treasure so great no mortal man could comprehend. The treasure of the gods.
“As with many men before him, this treasure bewildered Rodgers. Nothing would stop the pirate from finding the treasure. So he compiled a crew of 200 men and traveled the seas in search for the remaining pieces of the map.
They sailed the seas to the ends of the Earth in search for their glory. They endured many hardships along their journey but Rodgers wouldn’t stop. By the time the pirate had pieced the map together, only four men remained. Consumed by his lust for the treasure, Rodgers pushed forward.
“Rodgers had tracked the treasure to a hidden cove not marked by any other map. Like many lost treasures, it was cursed. No mere man was allowed to lay their eyes upon it. But greed had consumed the captain: He would not let go of the treasure. So his crew abandoned him. Left him to perish along with the greed that had consumed him. It is said, that the remaining four men, swore an oath to never let another living soul find the treasure again. They split the map into four pieces and left, never to be heard from again…”
“But what about Captain Rodgers? Did he ever escape?”
Diane closed the book, kissing the young boy upon the forehead as she lifted herself from the bed. “It’s just a bedtime story, Charlie. Get some sleep.”
“But Captain Rodgers was the greatest pirate to live! He can’t just be stranded on some island!”
“Shh,” Diane Hushed. “It’s time for bed. Get some sleep.” Diane tucked the child in one last time before heading for the door. “We can learn more of the great Captain Rodgers tomorrow.”
“Ok. Good night Diane.”
Diane gently closed the door behind her before heading into the lounge.
“That boy sure has an imagination. He really looks up to you Diane. It will be a shame not having you around the house.”
“I know papa. But Edward is coming home. It’s his last trip as a courier. We’ll finally be able to get a farm in the countryside. And he’ll be home: For good.”
A puff of smoke flowed from the man’s pipe, hovering in the stale, salty air. “It’s about time he came home. Can’t have my girl waiting on him forever.”
Two short raps on wood broke through the night. Diane looked to her father in confusion. “Were we expecting company,” she asked.
“I don’t believe so,” the old man replied as he hoisted himself from his chair” It’s an odd time to have company.”
The man hobbled over to the door. His cane clipping on the hard floor as he stumbled along. The cold salty air filled the room as the man pulled the door open. Two men in uniform stood outside.
“Can I help you gentleman?”
“Is this the home of miss Diane Eavry?
“Aye. I’m her father. What business do you have with my girl?”
The tall scrawny man on the left reached into his coat and pulled a waxed sealed envelope from within. “We’re sorry to report, sir. But the Ivory Lilly is no more.”
“What is this you speak of? No more?”
The man on the right took the parchment and handed it to the father. “You see sir, there was an attack.”
“Pirates attacked the ship,” the scrawny man replied. “Took the cargo they were carrying from the East. The Ivory Lilly was not much of a vessel. So they sunk it as they left.”
The air grew still as the soldier looked up at the man. His lips pierced the air as they formed the next sentence: “There were no survivors.”
“I see.” Diane’s father clutched the parchment as he backed back into the house. “Thank you,” he replied as he closed the door.
“What was that about,” Diane asked as she entered the room. “What did they want?”
A tear formed as the man looked his daughter in the eyes. “I’m so sorry, darling.” The man’s cane quivered as he hobbled closer to her. “I’m so sorry.”
The sea rocked the wooden vessel back and forth as it drifted across the water. The moonlight glimmered through the still foggy air. It was a calm night. A night that sailors not only dreamed of but feared. Although it is a night of rest, a quiet sea is never quiet for long. For the quietest of nights bring the loudest storms on the horizon.
Candlelight flickered across the yellow aged parchment. A hardened finger paced across the dotted markers. Slowly tracing their path. Searching for its destination.
“Thirty yachts… No, not thirty. Where are you?” The sullen captain pulled a compass from his pocket and laid it upon the parchment.
“Follow the Star, but Avoid the Rock… Avoid the Rock…” The man studied the rocking needle as he pondered the riddle further.
“Cap’n! You’re gonna wanna see this!”
The man ignored the calls and continued to study the map. “It can’t be far…”
With a grumble, the captain stood from his seat. “What is it this time,” he mumbled as he headed towards the door. The captain stopped as a dark musty smell of burnt wood filled the man’s nose. He turned and peered out to the window behind him. Smoke had filled the air around the ship. How had he not noticed this?
The captain opened the door and entered the chaos that had erupted aboard the ship. The crew rushed to and from the deck. Several of his men were reaching over the hull, pulling soot covered trinkets from the sea.
“Shipwreck cap’n!” A short rounded man exclaimed as he rushed towards the captain. “Mighty big fight too. Looks like they took down a small fleet. There are at least two frigates down there. Looks like a Brigantine too. Blew ’em right ta pieces they did.”
The captain stood in bewilderment, taking in the surrounding wreckage. “Three ships…” he muttered, watching his crew scramble in chaos.
“The crew is getting paranoid, sir. Who’ver blew up these vessels can’t be too far from here. The smoke is still fresh. If they can take down these vessels, what’s stopping them from takin’ down ours?”
The captain stayed silent, staring at the wreckage. He pondered the possibilities of the attack. Who could have caused this wreckage?
“What do we do captain?”
“What we do…” The captain trailed off as a dark figure floating atop the nearby debris caught his gaze.
“Man overboard!” A voice yelled from the crow’s nest. “Cap’n! I think he’s breathing!”
“Sir, do we take him aboard,” the short man asked as he looked to the captain for an answer. “He could know who did this, sir.”
“Ay, Benson,” the captain replied as he turned to return to his quarters. “Bring him aboard. He’ll have our answers…”
Dark shadows of gulls floated above the white fields as they soared through the salty skies. A gust of sharp wind blew through, taking petals of the ivory flowers with it. Diane reached out to the floating petals; lightly plucking one from its airborne voyage.
She clutched the petal in her hand, looking up to the sea beyond. It wasn’t that long ago.
“It’s only three more months, Diane,” Edward replied as he reached towards the ground and plucked a lily from the hill. “Three more months and we can leave. We can go wherever you want.” He grasped Diane’s hand and placed the lily in her palm. “Just three more months.”
“I don’t care where we are Edward. I want to be with you. Why can’t you stay here? You can work for my father. He’ll train you as his apprentice.”
“An apprentice, eh?” Edward chuckled. “A cobbler’s apprentice. Now that’s a life.”
“Hey! A cobbler is a fine profession,” Diane exclaimed, pulling away from Edward.
“That it is hun,” Edward replied. “But I want to give you more than just that. You’ve always said how much you hated the salty air.”
“Just because I hate the sea doesn’t mean you have to leave! I don’t mind staying here if it means you are with me.” Diane turned, lowering her head in disappointment. “I don’t want to lose you.”
“Lose me,” Edward laughed. “To who? The sea?” Edward grasped Diane’s hands in his again. “The sea could never replace my love for you .”
“Even if that was true, how is your love going to keep you safe? How is it going to keep me from losing you to the sea?”
“Because I never made a promise to the sea.”
“You never made a promise to either.”
“Aye. Well maybe it’s time to change that,” Edward replied as he knelt down to one knee. He reached into his coat as he grasped Diane’s hand. “Diane would you marry me?”
A young voice startled Diane from her trance. A young boy carrying a moderately sized stick plopped down beside the grieving woman. “Miss Diane, Granda said it’s getting dark.”
“What are you doing out here, Charlie? You shouldn’t be out this far. It’s not safe.”
“I know Miss Diane. But you were out here alone. You don’t have anyone protecting you!”
“Protecting me?” Diane chuckled. “So are you my savior?”
“” the boy exclaimed. “You won’t have to worry about anything!”
“Is that so?”
“Mhm. I’ll save you from the monsters,” Charlie as he jumped to his feet swinging his stick like a sword. “Or them dirty pirates!”
“Them dirty pirates?” Diane laughed. She grabbed the boy’s arm and motioned for him to sit down. “They will quiver in their boots at the sight of you.”
The boy sat down beside Diane setting his stick back on the ground. “I know you miss Mister Edward,” the boy replied looking up at Diane.
Diane looked back at the petal in her hand. “Yes. Yes, I do.”
The boy placed his hand onto Diane’s, covering the petal. “It’s okay to miss him, though.”
“Yeah,” the boy replied looking out into the sea. “I miss my momma.”
“Yeah, I bet you do.” Diane returned her attention to the boy.
“But it’s okay,” Charlie whispered as laid his head on Diane’s shoulder. “They’re still watching over us. We just can’t see them.”
Diane hugged the boy before looking back towards the setting sun. “Yeah, I guess they are. Let’s get you back home Charlie.”
An invisible force crushing Thomas’s lungs squeezed what little air was inside. Water gushed from his lips as he gasped for air. Coughing and sputtering brought the man to consciousness. A rotten, putrid smell filled the dark musky room. Where was he?
A small soft form squeaked as it scurried across his leg. Thomas lifted his arm to shoo the rodent away. A metallic clink halted the man’s arm. Thomas was shackled.
“Don’ worry bout lil Ralphie, mate. He don’ bite.”
“Who’s there,” Thomas exclaimed as he pulled his body from its slump. He searched the room as he tried to locate the face to whom the voice belonged to. “Where are we?”
“Aye, mate,” the voice replied. “Bout time you woke up. You’re in the Trident’s Torch’s galley.”
“The Trident’s Torch,” Thomas asked focusing his attention to the outline of a fat man slumped against a wall to the left of him.
“Aye, the crew brought you down ’ere last night. Somethin’ bout findin’ you out in the water.” The outline of the man’s portly hand reached out towards Thomas. “Name’s Cookie.”
“Thomas,” he said as he shook the man’s portly hand. “Why are we down here?”
“Well, can’t say for you. But me? Well, the crew was a bit tired of me soup. Aye, guess it’s what ya get for cookin’ for pirates.”
“Aye mate,” Cookie exclaimed. This ain’ no merchant’s brigantine. No, Trident’s Torch is host to some of the ruthless pirates outside of Port Regal. Mighty nasty crew the lot of ’em are.”
“Great. More pirates,” Thomas sighed as he recounted the recent events of the night before.
“More pirates,” Cookie questioned as he moved closer to Thomas. “What’s this of more pirates?”
“The last thing I remember, our ship was attacked by pirates. They were searching…”
A loud creak interrupted Thomas. A flickering light in the distance bounced across the walls. “Shh, they’re comin’,” Cookie whispered. “Wonder who they’re bringin’ down.”
Thump. Thump. Thump. The sound echoed slowly through the room. Boots clunked along the steps, bringing with the flickering light. The dark deep shadow floated into the room. Thump. Thump. Thump.
“So he’s awake. Boys…”
The room fell silent as Thomas tried to make out who was speaking. Thomas squinted as he tried to distinguish any features he could of the man who had entered. The light stood in place for a moment before turning away. Leaving the room in the darkness of the man’s silhouette.
Laughter erupted from around the light. Four shadowy hands reached out towards Thomas as the silhouette floated back up the stairs. Thump. Thump. Thump.
Salt sweetened the air as it rushed through the hot morning sky. Sailors sang out in excitement as they unloaded their vessel. It had been a rough voyage out at sea. A portly man in uniform exhaled deeply as he looked out onto the port. It was good to be on land.
“Sir, when will we be returning to Damascus,“ a scrawny older gentleman asked as he rushed to the man’s side.
“Return,” the portly man chuckled as he walked down the plank towards the port. “We just pulled in? Relax, mate! Go get some grub. Find yourself a nice lady. Take a load off.. It’s not often sailors get to lay their feet on soil.”
“But sir, I don’t think you understand the urgency of the situation. I must get to Damascus as soon as possible.”
“Aye, and I told you I would get you there. But first, we unload our cargo and refill our supplies. My men need rest. Then, Damien, we will head to Damascus. But first, we rest.” The captain breathed in deeply as he reached the end of the plank. He exhaled slowly as he observed the bustling town around him. “Now, where was that tavern at?”
Damien stayed at the edge of the plank as he searched the town nervously. “We can’t be long.”
The large wooden door slammed shut behind as Thomas was thrown to his knees. They brought him from the gallows into a dimly light cabin. Moonlight filled the room as a candle flickered across the table. Books and rolled up parchments littered about the place. A large map was pinned to the table in front of him, held in place by three fairly large daggers. This looked to be the navigation room.
“Leave,” a dark figured bellowed. His back facing Thomas. The two large men dropped the prisoner and left, slamming the door behind them.
“Now then,” the figure replied turning towards Thomas. “Who are you?”
“Who am I,” Damien spat. “Wouldn’t you know? You’re the bloody pirates who attacked us. Though, why you took me I don’t understand.”
“Aye, pirates,” Damien’s captor replied as he stepped into the light.” That we are. But attack you? Nay.”
Thomas stared hard as he studied the face of the pirate captain. He was a tall young gentleman with deep green eyes and pitch black hair. A short black beard covered the man’s face. He was younger than expected as he looked to be in his late 20s.
“Now, back to my question,” the captain commanded as he took a seat at the table. “Who are you?”
“The name’s Thomas. What do you want from me?”
“Well, Thomas, what I want is information,” the pirate replied as he stroked his beard. “As you said, pirates attacked you. What I want to know is who, and why. These pirates of yours weren’t after loot or supplies. They left those trinkets in the sea with the wreckage. What were they after? And who has enough firepower to take on three ships, two of which I might add were fairly armed themselves.”
“I don’t… I don’t know who,” Thomas stuttered. “And if I did, why would I tell you? The lot of you are pirates. Once you’re done with me I’m dead.”
“Well, Thomas. Judging by your tattoo there, I’d say you were more than just a sailor. Am I wrong? Military man, I presume?”
“Navy,” the sailor responded. “Once again, what does it matter to you?”
“Now what’s a navy soldier like you doing on some merchant’s vessel?”
“They ordered us to escort the merchant’s ship.”
“And a fine job you did at that,” the captain laughed. “Steep price for one measly vessel. What was in the cargo?”
“Once again, why would I tell you? I’m as good as dead.”
“Well Mr. Thomas, it just so happens I could use another man on deck.”
“Piracy is treason,” Damien scoffed.
“Oh, it most certainly is,” the pirate chuckled and leaned back in his chair. “But it’s better than death? Wouldn’t you say? Now, once again. What was on that ship?”
Thomas stayed silent for a few minutes as he contemplated the pirate’s offer. The pirate lord plucked a pipe from the table. “Time is running out Mr. Thomas,” the pirate replied as he brought the pipe to his lips.
“I-I don’t know,” Thomas stammered. They told us it was cargo from the East. Nothing special.”
“Nothing special doesn’t deserve a military escort,” the pirate chuckled as he struck a match. “What was in the cargo?”
“I don’t know,” Thomas stuttered. “It was just cargo.”
The captain took one long puff on his pipe before sitting up. “Well then Mr. Thomas, I believe we are out of time.”
“Wait,” Thomas pleaded as he pulled himself to his feet. “There was this man!”
“This man,” the captain asked as he took another puff as he stared at Thomas with interest. “Go on.”
“There was this man. Orders were to protect him at all cost. Some Garland fellow. John, I think. I believe his name was John.”
“You’ll have to give me more than that Mr. Thomas.”
“He was an older fellow. Had a glass eye and a nasty scar. Walked with a limp.”
“That still doesn’t explain why a few pirates were after him. What is so important about this Garland fellow?”
“Orders didn’t say. We don’t know. There were some rumors though. Some of the crew believed he was a treasure hunter. Said they saw him carrying around some map.”
“A map,” the pirate replied as he twirled his pipe as he listened to the sailor’s story.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t a full map. It didn’t have a destination.”
The pirate stared at the sailor in thought. He took one more puff from his pipe before placing it back on the table. The captain stood and turned to look to the sea from the window behind him. The water rippled along as it pushed the ship towards its destination.
“Well Mr. Thomas,” the pirate replied. “Welcome aboard.”
Thomas stood silent as he watched the smoke linger in the air. He looked down at his shackles as he contemplated his decision. After a few moments he turned his attention back to the captain.”.
“Sir,” he questioned. “Who are you?”
A thin grin spread across the captain’s face as he stared out at sea. “Cutler. Captain Cutler.”