Riches is Riches

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The pirates spread through the lush undergrowth, sweating and swatting at flies, casting suspicious looks at their brothers in brigandry.  The map had led them here.  To this place.  X marks the spot, and no map was so convoluted, nor led through such terrors as they’d faced, without leading to the kind of treasure a man could retire on.

Maybe even the kind of treasure a ship full of men could retire on.  Though just in case, each was determined to get there first, and shove a semi-retired-and-owning-a-pub sized piece down his trousers before the others caught up.

A man could make good money with a pub, as long as only a few strangers a year disappeared in the night, leaving their horse and bags and that fine cloak they were wearing behind (how odd! but fair’s fair and he didn’t pay his fare).

And so they slogged, swatting and sweating and keeping their fellows in sight in case they tried anything funny.

Dim Jimmy found it, blast him.  Too daft to sweep up at the bar, let alone roll a toff out back of one.  Certainly too loud for any one man to silence him before the rest heard.  If anyone else aboard-ship had looked so damned pleased to find a secret cave entrance, it’d be sure and certain rubies’d shake loose when he got shaken down.  Nothing did though, so the pirates dropped him and waited for the Captain.

The whole crew was cutthroat, but the captain was the most cutthroat of them all.  The wicked grin sliced into his neck by a would-be usurper had scared off most other usurpers.  His use of the other man’s skull as a soup-bowl scared off the rest, so far.  The heavy man’s rolls had rolls, but he moved like a cat, appearing in the midst of the anxiously waiting crew members without even a rustling of tropical leaves.

He stepped over a dazed Jimmy and through into the dank corridor leading down into the cave without a word, not slightly worried at having a horde of backstabbing murderers at his back.

Down the dank tunnel, stumbling and sliding on the uneven steps, they lit their torches and added black smoke to the dank smells emanating from the cave below.

The dim and flickering light of their torches gleamed on the kind of treasure a whole crew of men could retire on.  With or without the bar.  Mounds of gems, piles of gold bullion, gem encrusted armor, jewelery, antique vases, priceless statues… the cave was so vast that the far corners couldn’t be seen.  It was as though the entire island had been

The entire crew – cutthroat, vicious murderers all – whooped and ran out into the field of treasure.  When Jimmy caught up – having slipped down the last several steps and hit his head again – he found the Captain staring thoughtfully at a small brass plaque, and his crewmates giggling and frolicking in the treasure like school children.

“Do you read, Jimmy?” the Captain asked.

“No sir.  Can spell m’name, though… fishhook… twig-wi’-floaty… bubbies…bubbies… twig-wi’-two-arms.”

“Hmm.  Well, what this plaque says is this:

The twisted trophy is yours for the taking,

if the jinxed treasure is worth your changing.

Take a man’s share and leave a man’s life behind.”

Jimmy stared at the plaque for a long moment.  “It says to take the treasure,” he offered.

The Captain sighed.  “Jimmy, what would you do with a sackfull of this treasure?”

“I would buy a Captain hat and as much beef stew as I could eat.”

“And if you were a woman?”

Jimmy hesitated.  “I… would… buy a Captain hat and as much beef stew as I could eat… and I would have bubbies.”  His thought process appeared almost painful.  “I like bubbies.”

The Captain nodded pensively.  “I suppose rich is rich, ain’t it?  Off with ye, grab yerself enough swag to buy a lifetime’s worth of beef stew.  I’ve my own to collect.”

***

Several months later…

Two gentlemen recently arrived from England stood at the punch-bowl eyeing the crowd.  A rather boisterous crowd of ladies stood around a small table  A rather rotund woman with a scar across her throat and a rather spectacularly feathered tricorn hat was leading them in a rousting and highly inappropriate song about barmaids.  The combined glitter of jewelery from the ladies was enough to make one squint, and one of them appeared to have a golden, jewel-encrusted hook in place of a hand.  Empty punch cups littered the ground around them, and two were arm-wrestling.

“These wealthy caribbean ladies are… terrifying,” one said, taking a swig of punch and choking.  “And this punch is… well, I think it’s actually just rum with some bits of fruit in it.”

“Extraordinarily rich, though…” the other replied, eyeing the ladies in question with caution and surreptitiously draining his punch into a potted plant.  “The upper-crust here is… well it’s certainly not like in England, is it?”

“Beef stew for everyone!” a rather impressively endowed lass bellowed out in glee.  She, too, wore a tricorn, though this one was covered in fake fruit and birds, as though she’d attempted to turn it into a lady’s hat.  The others raised their glasses and joined in bellowing for beef stew.

“No, it is very different.  They seem rather uninterested in match-making, at least,” the first gentleman replied, sounding relieved.  He then jerked up with a yelp and grasped his bottom in a most un-gentlemanly manner.

“Wouldn’ be too sure of that, luv,” a lady with a gold front tooth grinned up at the surprised gentleman whose bottom she had just pinched.  “At least a few of us are enjoying the full extent of our changed fortunes.”  She waggled her eyebrows.  “Care for a dance?”

***

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