Here's my submission. No title. 2,872 words. Some character names are variations of people I played with and can be changed.
The sea was angry that day my friends. The waves crashed against the side of the boat like a Bilge Rat after too many grogs. You could barely see ahead of the bow and Fluff couldn’t make out the horizon from the crow’s nest had he fallen right on it. A storm brewed to the west, grumbling like your belly after a fortnight at sea. We only had the sounds of the sea to keep us company when ole Bouncer wasn’t striking a tune to raise the crew’s spirits. The Captain made herself scarce most of the way, stepping out from her cabin to bark a few orders and take her charting measurements of the stars.
We had been sailing blind, using the blackness of night to obscure ourselves from spying eyes as we made our way to Shark Fin Camp. Word around the islands was that the legendary treasure locked below the decaying fortress could be taken, but any that dared to venture forth would face the legendary crew Captained by Shady Jones, one of the fiercest to ever sail the eastern shores. He was as feared as any pirate could be, rumoured to be kin to Davey Jones himself. They had amassed one of the largest fortunes on the Sea of Thieves, sailing from Shark Fin Camp to satiate his thirst for wealth.
Like any legend, this Captain and his band of thieves and miscreants disappeared. Not a boat, not a blunderbuss, not even a damn boot remained. The camp was deserted when the first ship dared venture to it. What they found was a husk… the remnants of power and the aura of death. Many could see a treasure through the floor boards of the main fort, but not one pirate, cannon or gun powder keg could damage free the fabled loot from its hole. The only way in was through a locked door, marked by a glowing skull. Eventually, everyone tired of trying. The treasure was considered impossible to procure… at least until one fateful night.
I remember the panicked voices. Many of us do. The yelling, the gun fire, the clash of steel as crew upon crew rushed and fought their way to investigate the glowing skull clouds in the distance. Word was that every man, woman and pirate could see those clouds from any island on the Sea of Thieves, whether they made camp at Shark Bait Cove or were docked at Galleon’s Grave. The Captain was as tough as they came, but she was cut from the cloth of patience, willing to let other crews go first despite Bouncer’s protests and Fluff’s threat of mutiny. I tried talking sense to her to no avail. Not one pirate was pleased with her decision until the first few ships made it back to port.
I’d never seen anything like it friends. Ships battered and splintered. It was a wonder they could stay afloat. Crews dwindled to nothing and even fewer willing to speak of the horrors they saw firsthand. It was hard to tell what was and wasn’t real. Some claimed to be waylaid by a kraken! They swore on their lives the dreaded beast rose from the waters to crush their ships on the way to Shark Fin. Others scoffed at their stories. But all of them agreed on one truth: Shark Fin Camp was brimming with the undead. And the camp has no time or willingness for mercy. Many fine pirates died that day. Some were good friends of mine. And the world saw the loss of ships like the Howling Beast and Siren’s Gale. As quick as that cloud came, it was gone by the second night. The only evidence being the dead pirates, tattered sails and splintered hulls scattered around Shark Fin Camp for miles.
So for a few weeks, the Captain sailed around the islands collecting gun powder kegs. We sailed at night and hid during the day. One man was thrown overboard when the Captain found him smoking his pipe near an uncorked keg. Not a pirate worth their salt questioned the Captain’s actions, until that fateful day she set course toward the glowing cloud and Shark Fin Camp. The Captain was a stout woman at barely two kegs tall and thick, but far fiercer and nimbler than her frame suggested. She had a scarred slit on her lip and wore an eye patch. Only Fluff knew how she earned those scars and neither of them was sharing. She wore a modest coat, home to a few scattered patches showing their age and she favors a black and white striped bandana over a traditional cap. One of the finest I’ve ever sailed with and I doubt there’s anyone better at the helm. She had full support of the crew… always did, but even the most loyal raised an eyebrow at our course, present company included.
Cannonballs rained down on us as we approached the camp and the Captain managed to navigate the volleys without sustaining much damage. The crew channeled cannon fire on one of the two main towers guarding the beach. The Captain ensured the boat was just obscured enough to avoid the lone tower on the opposite side. Fluff leapt over the side as nimble and graceful as his namesake and made his way to the tower under siege. We halted our assault as Fluff turned the tower’s cannons against the others as the Captain anchored the boat near the center of the two. The debris smattered about the shoreline was a fine reminder of those that weren’t so skilled or lucky. The camp seemed to whisper and the water seemed to groan as if the sea itself strained under what would happen next.
The Captain and Bouncer organized the crew in pairs, each would carry a gunpowder keg and two pistols. Their goal was to stay clear of the skeletons and instead fire on the kegs as skeletons approached, obliterating them. If a pirate were to fall, then another was expected to push forward until the main fort was breached. Once the keg was delivered and fired on, the pair was to return to the ship for another. The crew executed the orders despite their doubts and I can tell you my friends, the strategy was effective. Explosion after explosion shook the island like a drunken cook banging on his pots. I saw with my own eyes the undead. There were so many of them. Skeletons. Some were adorned in gold, melted and poured over carelessly years ago. Others had various fauna sprouting from their gutless insides. I’d have laughed at one with a flower for an eye patch if it weren’t trying to kill me. The Captain jumped ashore as we neared the fort. Our snipers kept on guard for any creature stupid enough to make way for the cannons. Instead, they opted to throw the fort gate open and attack as a swarm. The blasts and explosions became more frequent, rocking the boat in place and soon, many had to take up arms in the melee.
But then Captain Shady Jones emerged, his glowing lifeless eyes burning with rage. His tattered captain’s cap clung impossibly to his head. He was fully adorned in clothing with only a faint glow visible where his heart would have been. Even had his hook hand to boot! Had you glimpsed the cursed creature from behind you’d believe him to be alive and well. His gaze landed on our Captain as both crews stopped their assaults. Captain Jones let out a ghastly wail before lunging at the Captain. It was a clumsy dance of steel between the two. No elegance in their strikes or parries. The Captain scored a few hits on Jones to no avail and in return he split her lip, extending it down her chin. She was beginning to tire and Captain Jones never let up until a gunshot rung through the air. Jones stopped cold as his hat sprung from his shattering skull. The Captain reached in to Jones’ chest and pulled a glowing disc out. She turned to one of the cannon towers and nodded as Fluff capped his rifle. Captain Jones let out one meeker wail and the whole lot of the undead fell to the ground and faded into dust. The cloud above the camp dissolved and the world felt just a bit brighter under the full sun.
The entire crew stood behind the Captain as she approached the vault door and placed the glowing disc in the lock. The island rumbled but the doors gave way to a sight of incredible treasure. We were met with gold overflowed from chests, crates of fine sugar and exotic spice strewn about, the most fascinating trinkets I had ever laid eyes on and the cursed skulls of other fallen captains. We created a chain to move the loot back to the boat as quickly as possible. But, mid way through our looting, the panicked clanging of the ship’s bell rung through the air. A galleon approached and the Captain instructed us to leave the rest and prep the ship. The galleon was far enough away coming in from our port quarter and we managed to get underway just before they reached cannon range.
They chased us relentlessly. We were all hands on deck. It wasn’t long before other ships joined them in pursuit. As many as seven ships followed. The Captain had been circling the islands of Black Water Enclave to Blind Man’s Lagoon. Then, we heard the sea groan once more. The Captain had us throw the remaining powder kegs off the stern. When the first ship collided to a welcome explosion of wood and bodies, the crew cheered. We lowered the sails just long enough for the first three ships to get within cannon range when the Captain took the vault key and threw it into the water, barking for us to drop sails and turn east for full wind. We didn’t understand her strategy until we heard the groan once more. The water near the key bubbled and as the first few of our pursuers arrived, massive tentacles emerged from the water.
I tell you this now in earnest truth, for I too laughed at the stories. The kraken is real my friends. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes. The tentacles reached as high as the top of a ship’s mast, the deepest purples like the bruises after a bad brawl. The approaching crews immediately fired on the creature. I saw that kraken crush ship hulls like a crumpled parchment and the crew watched and heard in muted horror the screams as ships fell to the power of the kraken’s blows. Two ships managed to avert annihilation, but were slowed enough for us to escape with our riches. We abandoned our vessel and acquired another and there wasn’t a pirate on that boat who didn’t find their share of the wealth satisfying. We are the first and only crew to loot the riches of Shark Fi…
“Ye don’t expect these people to believe that dreck do ye Salty?” A voice interrupted.
The crowd parted to let a black bearded man with a sword in his hand and a compliment of crew in, each with their hands firmly on their holstered pistols.
“I’ve known ye a long time Salty and I don’t believe fer a minute that ye or any crew that’a take you in would be capable of looting Shark Fin Camp. And do ye really think these people believe that ye survived a fairy tale let alone summoned one? Why not have mermaids rescue overboard ship mates while ye’re at it? Or perhaps tell them how ye served on the Ferry of the Damned too? Ye’re a small man by any standard Salty. Ye have no business with a tale as tall as ye’re telling.” The black bearded man laughed.
“Captain Williamson,” Salty smiled. “The Captain hoped you would come and find me.”
“Did she now?” Williamson chuckled. “Yet here I am and she’s nowhere to be found. Fer all of ye’re talk about her, there’s one thing I know fer certain, she’s no better than those sorry excuses fer chickens being peddled at the market.”
“And why am I graced with your presence?” Salty spat.
“As unbelievable as ye’re story is, I needed to know fer meself. Ye’re a rat Salty, and a vain one at that. Ye’re story might smell worse than Tess’ outhouse, but ye wouldn’t be boasting from outpost to outpost if ye didn’t score some kind of treasure.”
“And you’re here to free me of my gold laden burden are you?” Salty surmised.
“Aye. Me coffers could use some new coin and who better fer Salty’s riches to go to than the Captain and crew of the Shining Glory? The fastest ship on the Sea of Thieves!” Williamson boasted, arms extended, speaking more to the crowd than to Salty.
“You can have my riches,” Salty replied as he slowly reached into his vest. Williamson’s crew tightened their grips on the pistols and even Williamson himself raised an eyebrow. Salty pulled out a folded parchment and reached out as an offering. “This map will mark where I’ve hidden my share of the riches. I’m too old to spend it anyway.”
Williamson snatched the parchment out of Salty’s hand. His brow wrinkled as his face scrunched up in confusion. He paused to consider things and raised two fingers. His crew pulled out their pistols as the rest of the crow scattered.
“Ye’ve been a sly rat Salty, but ye’r tricks won’t work on me this day. Why are ye on this island alone? Where’s the rest of ye’re crew?”
“I’m too old to continue on the seas. The Captain and I agreed I’d serve her better telling my stories than I would directly on the Dragon’s Breath,” Salty replied.
“Dragon’s Breath?” Williamson repeated. “Captain Backson would never part with his ship.”
“Unless he had no choice.” Salty smiled. “Maybe the Captain made him a good offer for the ship. Maybe the Captain knows about the Forsaken Shores.”
Williamson lurched back, visibly surprised. “It doesn’t matter. The Forsaken Shores are a myth.”
“The Captain disagrees.” Salty replied.
“Well ye’re ‘captain’ will never find ‘em.” Williamson shot back.
“Unless she has your map, the one in your pillowcase”.
Williamson’s eyes widened and he spun around to face his ship docked at the pier. As he did, two explosions sounded across the island. He watched his boat lurch side to side as fresh holes dotted the starboard side of his vessel. The Dragon’s Breath came into view from behind the rock croppings on the outskirts of the outpost as he watched cannon ball after cannon ball rain down on his pride. The masts splintered and it was clear this ship would be lost. He turned to cut Salty down but the sly pirate had already fled, his hood crumpled where he had once stood. Williamson screamed as he and the rest of his crew rushed to the pier hoping the impossible, that their vessel could be salvaged.
Salty quickly made his way to the east shore in the ensuing chaos where Bouncer and a row boat awaited. The two rowed directly away from the shore with haste, stopping when they were clear anything that could ground the Dragon’s Breath. Sure enough, the ship rounded the island sailing alongside slow enough for Bouncer and Salty to climb aboard and hit the open seas as the Shining Glory sunk in a blaze of glory.
“He won’t soon forget that nor will he ever forgive,” Salty remarked as the Captain approached him.
“What can he do? Now we have the fastest ship on the Sea of Thieves and a map to the Forsaken Shores”, the Captain shrugged, her grin impossibly wide.
“How did you know he would come?” Salty inquired.
“Captain Williamson is shrewd, but his greed is boundless. He can’t resist an easy spoil. I’ll explain tonight when we feast.” She turned to the rest of the crew. “We hold course east, but tap the kegs because we drink tonight!”
The crew hooted and hollered in agreement. Some broke into song, others in dance. Regardless of pirate, the mood was bright.
Captain Williamson slumped on a rock as he stared at the black waters of the pier his prized ship once graced. He gritted his teeth and shook his head. He had underestimated this captain of Salty’s. It was a mistake he would never repeat. He knew where the Dragon’s Breath was heading. The Forsaken Shores. He stood up and turned to his crew who had been standing diligently behind him. They stood ready, and his chest swelled with pride at their discipline and patience. He pulled a cloth from a hidden coat pocket, carefully unfolding it to reveal a ragged and faded map.
“Let’s find us a ship,” he bellowed, his confidence returning. “We will have vengeance on the crew and captain that would dare challenge us. Be ready to leave in the morning for we set sail… to the Forsaken Shores!”