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The Great Hunt (Part II)


Part II: What Goes Around…

Over the years the general public has gotten this idea that Pirate songs are all, “Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of Rum.” (Personally, I blame those no-talent hacks William Schwenk and Sir Arthur, but that’s another story.) In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Pirate songs carry a rich and varied tradition, as much or more so than any great music form. Yes, some songs are loud and bawdy, but others are sad and soulful. Take for example: “Evening-tide.” Every night toward sun down Hoarse Charley would stop his work and sing a tribute to the lost day. It might seem hokey but it was beautiful. The others—hardened pirates to a man—would all stop what they were doing and listen, doffing caps, some with hands over their hearts and often a tear or two shed.

Hoarse Charley was an albino and his name was not a misnomer. Yet even with that scratchy voice Hoarse Charley’s keening took on an ethereal effect in the gathering dusk. Every night’s song was unique; never the same words twice. I remember one night, it went something like this:

Ocean Mother, swallow the sun
Journey’s end, today’s fight done
Storm: pass over, as on dry land
For we shelter, in God’s hand
Red Sky gently give your light
As Day sighs softly into Night

I tell you the truth: some nights there isn’t a dry eye on deck.  

I made a deal with Deolinda Costa to take her ship out, the Maria Cristina. I was no great captain, but Deolinda had faith in me. (Though I must say, she drove a hard bargain. If I didn’t find some great treasure indeed on this Hunt, I’d lose my shirt.) That’s okay, though: the adventure was the thing. We were out on the open seas, where anything might happen.  

Unfortunately, anything did.

Swax was the first mate, and Kelly was my eyes and ears with the crew, whom I didn’t fully trust. I would introduce you to more of them, but there doesn’t seem to be much point in that. 

You see, less than 17 months out we were attacked by the Sandpiper Express and Captain Mullinatti. They didn’t come at us for a straight-forward fight, though. We saw the Sandpiper Express with its sails dragging and part of one side caved in.

I was still suspicious until a small row boat rowed to the Maria Cristina. It was Mullinatti.

“Captain Kickassius.” He said. “We desperately need your help.”

“What happened?” I asked, my eyes probing Mullinatti for signs of deceit.

“The Deannalin attacked us.” Mullinatti answered, a reply that sent ripples through my crew. The Deannalin was a notorious band of pirates. They were not members of the Liberal Guild, and felt no compunction about destroying everything in their path.

That’s the thing, see. If the Sandpiper Express had been attacked by the Deannalin, the ship should be scuttled, instead of just listing in the water. For once my instincts let me down and I failed to make the connection.

I ordered Swax to take our shop over the injured Sandpiper and help them out. There I found an ambush waiting for us. The Sandpiper wasn’t really damaged, and the crew was waiting for us, muskets and swords at the ready.

In short order my mates and I were tied up while Mullinatti pirates ransacked our hold. There was a lot to take too, as we had so far been pretty successful. I tried not to wince as they transferred a marble statue of Athena off the ship. It was almost painful to see the chest of emeralds go. The Golden Calf didn’t hurt so much, as I’d had a bad feeling about it since we found it on a deserted isle. Seemed too convenient, you know?

Other various items—all part of the Great Hunt—were taken as well, all except a small rectangular piece of metal with holes in it. One of his crew handed it to Mullinatti, who looked and the thing indifferently and then shrugged.

Turning to me he said, “What is this thing, Carnivus?”

“That’s CAPTAIN KICKASSIUS to you!” Kelly practically spit. I tried to shush Kelly with my eyes. If the lad wasn’t careful he’d be thrown overboard or worse: caned.

To forestall such events I answered Mullinatti: “It’s called a mouth organ. You put it to your lips and blow.”
Mullinatti pulled the item up to his mouth and tried it. Mostly noise and air came out. Both crews laughed and Mullinatti glared at me.

“You’re doing it wrong.” I told him. “Put it up to my mouth and I’ll show you.” Suspiciously, he held it where I could reach (my hands were tied up at the time). I tried a few bars of Hoarse Charley’s “Evening-tide;” not half bad under the circumstances.

I was hoping my crew would recognize the song and rally to me. The recognized it, all right, hooting and hollering in the pirate way. However, if I thought there was some loyalty among them, I was sadly mistaken. Not only did no one try to help me, but they all took up Mullinatti’s offer and joined his crew! Except for Swax and Kelly (and Hoarse Charley, who was moved by the music I played), every last one of them went over. Pirates; you can’t trust a one of them.

I thought Mullinatti would kill me (it’d be the smart thing to do), but he surprised me by keeping us all around. Hoarse Charley for his singing with me there to accompany. Swax would tell a story to raise your hair, and even Kelly made himself useful by turning into the ship Jester. He’s tell these crazy funny stories in his terrible French accent to warm up the group before Swax brought the house down with one of his tales. (One funny one in particular I’ll always remember involved angel pirates who would sing, “Halleluyarrrr…Halleluyarrrr….”)

Sadly, one of us did have to die. Even if my crew were all traitors, it pained me. The reason for this was the Mullinatti ordered the Maria Cristina sunk, and by Pirate Law someone had to go down with the ship.
The rest of my old crew threw dice and it fell to a German named Grosslänga. He stood proudly on the deck as the Sandpiper Express pushed away and he spoke the following words: “Verdammt durch das Fleisch. Garettet durch das Blut.” Swax and I knew German but wisely kept our mouths shut. Hoarse Charley might have had an inkling too, because he spontaneously broke into song as we moved away.

The Die is cast, the Moon turns red
German proudly holds his head
Wind is still, He holds his breath
As dear Maria sinks in death
German utters one last sound:
What goes around will come around.

We were on the Sandpiper for six months. Mullinatti had his faults, but he excelled in pirating. His new bulked-up crew added many precious gems and art. They also found a key made of bone, which nobody knew what to do with, but Mullinatti decided it might be valuable and decided to keep it.

From the moment I saw that key I plotted how to get it. Unfortunately, Mullinatti was taking no chances with me. I was locked up at all times, and only allowed to talk to the crew in the evening for stories and songs, with the understanding that one false move and Kelly and Swax would get the knife.

As luck would have it, what goes around did come around. One day another ship was spotted on the horizon. A black flag flew, and the Crow’s Nest man (way up top) reported the flag was not the ordinary Jolly Roger but instead a long-necked animal.

Mullinatti swore softly. “It’s the Snow Giraffe, a Deannalin ship.” He said. I tried not to laugh.
There was no fighting the Deannalin. The were too well-equipped, to ready to go at it. Knowing it was future Mullinatti made the decision to run, and we gave the Snow Giraffe a merry chase. All too soon it was over.
Mullinatti was stoic in defeat and brought me up on deck. “I will tell the Captain you were prisoners.” He told me. “Probably won’t help, but it might spare your lives.”

“Thanks.” I told him.

As the ship neared Mullinatti looked through his glass and swore again. “Their Captain is a woman.” He spat. “You know what that means!” Those wenches are twice as cruel as any man to show they belong.”
The Snow Giraffe pulled up along side the Sandpiper Express and grappling hooks shot across the interval. Scampering over the ropes like high-wire artists the Deannalin poured over to our ship easy as breathing. Once they had us in hand, their Captain came over. I looked at her curiously and was shocked to see recognition in her eyes.”

“Carnivus?” she said, dumb-founded.

“Gilf?” I answered, voice almost as faint.

“It is you!” Gilf said. She walked over to me—ignoring Mullinatti—and kissed me hard on the lips. Then she pulled out a heavy cudgel from her waistband and clobbered me over the head.

I fell heavily and as consciousness faded I heard Swax groan softly.

“Sacre Bleu!” said Kelly .”What is it?”

“Gilf is Carny’s Ex.” Swax said in a soft voice, unnecessarily adding, “It didn’t end well.”

Madre De Dios!” Kelly breathed fervently.

“Kelly, you idiot.” Swax said disgustedly. “That isn’t even French!”

Carnivus Kickassius
August 19, 2005


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