Writing Prompt: Pirates!
Sailing the seas for plunder and fame was often a glorious adventure, but it did not come without perils. Having a loaded flintlock shoved in one’s face was one peril among many others, and it was one with which Captain Amaro de la Plaza was well familiar. That didn’t mean it annoyed him any less.
“Captain.” Amaro greeted Peter “Dogface” Davis with a tip of his own feathered cap. “Is the pistol necessary?”
“Don’t ‘good evenin’ me, you wily Spaniard.” Davis looked like a dog had chewed up his face and spit it out. “What are you doing in this cave? Answer me, or you’ll answer to God Almighty!”
“This cave” was a tunnel that flooded at high tide. Smoldering torches in wall brackets offered illumination, just enough to make Davis look crazy.
“Accepting Horatio’s invitation,” Amaro said in an airy tone. “You?” He hoped Davis’ finger didn’t slip.
“Why’d Horatio invite a pretty little sot like you out here?”
“A promise of treasure and glory?”
“My treasure,” Davis said, “and my glory. I should shoot you right now.”
“True. Yet wouldn’t your chances improve with a man watching your back?”
Davis scowled just a bit less. “You want to partner?”
“Seventy-thirty, or I shoot you right now.”
“Forty-sixty, and we work together to please Horatio.”
“One day,” Davis said, “I’ll smash that clever mouth of yours.” He uncocked his flintlock and holstered it with the others hanging on his chest. “Deal.”
Having now successfully not been shot in the face, Amaro cheerily followed Davis into a low sea cave. Captain Jean du Grammont waited inside, magnificent in a king’s silks. Horatio de Algier waited as well, dark-skinned and beautiful, and torchlight glistened on the gold in his nose, ears, and eyebrows.
“My captains, my captains!” Horatio called. “Today we shall crown one master among you!”
Captain Grammont offered a jaunty bow before rising. His perfect face would make an angel weep. “de la Plaza. Dogface. Did you have difficulty following the map?”
“Shut it, you briny peacock.” Davis spit again—the man did keep a remarkable reservoir of spit—and stomped into the cave. “What’s this ‘grand adventure’?”
“The treasure of Saint Curio.” Horatio beamed. “I’ve come into possession of his map.”
“You sun-dried monkey cock!” Davis worked his stubbled jaw. “You dragged me here for a sea shanty?”
“Is it no shanty,” Horatio said, in a melodic voice that had charmed many a man and woman into his bed, “and tonight, you shall compete for its location.”
Horatio had invited pirate captains from France, England, and Spain, but of course he had. That was, Amaro knew, classic Horatio. The best fence in the Indian Ocean lived for his games.
“As much as it pains me,” Grammont said, “I concur with Dogface. Saint Curio’s treasure is a legend.”
“You better have more,” Davis said, “or you’ll leave this cave with some new holes.”
“That would be … unwise,” Horatio said.
Amaro spun as a slab blocked the cave opening. Davis had flintlocks out faster than Amaro could blink, pointed at Horatio. “You mean to bury us, you coal-faced weasel?”
“Only if I die,” Horatio said, eyes not so merry now. “If I die, none of you shall ever leave.”
“A reasonable precaution,” Amaro added, “when tempers and pistols are involved. Let’s listen, shall we? Let’s hear what Horatio has to say.”
“I concur,” Grammont said. “Where’s your proof, dear man?”
“I hate the way you wankers talk.” Davis lowered his flintlocks and shot Amaro a not-so-subtle look.
Amaro shot a far more subtle nod back. Their partnership remained intact.
With the speed of a veteran cutpurse, three coins appeared between Horatio’s clenched fingers. He tossed one to Grammont, one to Amaro, and one to Davis, who dropped a flintlock to catch it.
Davis bit down and stared. “Real gold.”
“One of thousands,” Horatio promised, “that prove my map accurate.”
“This is the Vatican’s seal.” Grammont turned his coin in torchlight. “Could it be true?”
The gleam in Davis’ eyes revealed his belief. “So what’s tonight’s game?”
“Riddles.” Horatio beamed again. “Only the most clever captain shall claim Saint Curio’s treasure, and thus, only the most clever man shall leave with his map.”
“I do enjoy riddles,” Grammont said, as a gleam entered his own eyes.
“Bugger riddles,” Davis growled. “Let’s wrestle for it.”
“My cave,” Horatio said. “My rules. The first to answer three riddles shall claim the map, the treasure, and, of course, my contract. A ten percent commission.”
“Fair,” Grammont said. “l agree.”
“As do I,” Amaro added.
Davis just grunted. About as much as one could expect.
“First riddle.” Horatio preened. “What has one head, one tail, and no legs?”
“A coin,” Grammont said, before Davis or Amaro could so much as breathe.
“You snot-nosed pantywaist!” Davis glared. “You’re colluding!”
“I swear upon my dear mother’s soul,” Horatio said, “that I have discussed these riddles with no one. One point, so far, to Grammont.”
“Quite.” Grammont grinned wide.
“Second riddle. The more you take, the more you leave behind. What am I?”
“Booty!” Davis shouted.
Horatio merely smiled.
“The answer,” Grammont said, “is footsteps.”
“Two for Grammont,” Horatio said, cocking an eyebrow at Amaro. “Captain de la Plaza, has weather softened your tongue?”
Amaro shrugged. “You’re too clever for me, I’m afraid.”
“Next riddle,” Davis growled. “Now.” He shot Amaro another dirty look, one that said, You aren’t helping.
“What has six faces, but wears no makeup?” Horatio asked.
For once, Grammont only frowned.
“A dock whore!” Davis shouted. “A two-faced mutineer!” He grimaced. “A hydra!”
Amaro resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Where had Davis even heard of a hydra? The man obviously couldn’t read.
“No answer?” Horatio said. “A pity. What belongs to you, yet is more often used by others?”
“Ah,” Grammont said.
“Shut it,” Davis warned.
“My own name,” Grammont said, with hands on hips and a smile on his face.
Davis shot Grammont in the head faster than anyone could blink. He dropped the spent flintlock and pulled two more, one pointed at each of them.
“Treachery!” Horatio shrieked. “I will have your head for this!”
“Worry about your own head, you gold-encrusted leech.” Davis motioned with a flintlock. “Map, now.”
“No harbor will take your cursed ship. No pirate shall ever again parley with you!”
“I won’t need any of you,” Davis said, “once I claim Saint Curio’s treasure.”
Horatio glowered. “You violated my rules.”
“Technically,” Amaro added quietly, “he didn’t.”
“What?” Davis and Horatio glared at him.
“You said none would leave if you died,” Amaro pointed out. “As of now, you’re alive. Grammont isn’t,” and with that, he gestured to the warm corpse, “but you never said we couldn’t shoot each other.”
The evil grin that crossed Davis’ face was the best sign yet that Davis wasn’t going to shoot Amaro, too. He turned both flintlocks on Horatio.
“That’s right. You never said we couldn’t shoot each other. Give me that map, and you’ll get your ten percent. I swear.”
“Do as he says,” Amaro suggested. “Really, what choice do we have now?”
Horatio glared, but faced with the Davis’ ferocity (and, no doubt, reckless stupidity) he grudgingly handed over the map.
“The door,” Davis said.
“Open!” Horatio shouted, eyes narrow. “I expect my commission, Davis.”
“Oh, you’ll get that.” Davis backed from the cave, flintlocks raised. “Oh, and de la Plaza?”
“Yes?” Amaro smiled.
“You’re an idiot.” Davis cackled as he vanished.
Horatio sighed. “You’re quite useless in a fight, aren’t you?”
“I prefer not to fight,” Amaro said, “when I can avoid it.”
“Well, now you shall never fight for Saint Curio’s treasure.”
“True,” Amaro said, as he pulled another coin from his pocket. He flipped that coin, a different coin, to Horatio, who caught it instinctively.
Horatio’s eyes widened. “This is the Vatican’s seal.”
“Aye,” Amaro said. “It’s on all the coins Saint Curio stole.”
Horatio gasped. “You found the treasure?”
“How do you think you acquired that map?”
“But … I acquired this map from my best fence! She swore to its authenticity!”
“As I’m sure the thief who sold it to her did,” Amaro said. “The thief who stole it from me, after loose talk in a tavern inspired the biggest score of his meager life.”
Horatio stroked his chin, not smiling. “You deceived me.”
“I deceived Davis,” Amaro said, “and perhaps Grammont. Yesterday, three captains competed on the high seas. Now the pirates of England and France shall kill each other while Spain, ever blameless, shall benefit.”
Horatio ruefully shook his head. “You are a most interesting man.”
“And for your silence,” Amaro added, “you shall have your ten percent.”
Slowly, Horatio beamed again. “I have been considering retirement.”
“Oh, and those six faces?”
Horatio cocked his head.
“A die,” Amaro said. “One with twenty-one eyes.”
“You clever rat,” Horatio said. “You knew them all, didn’t you?”
“Aye,” Amaro said. “But I don’t care to be shot in the face.”
About the Story:
There’s not much to tell with this one, other than I’d never actually written a “pirate” story, so this was a fun exercise for me. The entire idea for the story (Amaro’s gambit to screw over the other pirates) came to me as I was trying to go to sleep one night, so I rolled out of bed, wrote down the outline, and wrote it the next day. By far, the most fun I had was coming up with the various ways for Davis to insult people.
As far as the riddles, I can’t take credit for those … they’re the result of a quick Google search.
photo credit: Dave Dugdale <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/37387065@N05/5065481797″>Skull And Cross Bones Flag</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>