The crew of the illustrious Broken Compass welcomes ye to Begun by Blood, a collaboration that re-tells the tales of how some of the Aztec coins were recovered during the cursed years of the Black Pearl's crew. Herein ye'll find stories of horror, angst, desperation, and humor, and we hope ye enjoy the tales that are spun and the characters ye meet!
The Tale of Coin # 13
Written by: Intrepid Bandicoot
A tankard whizzed through the air, smashing spectacularly against the wall. The dregs of rum, abiding by the laws of gravity, streamed downwards, raining on the face of a pirate who lay sprawled on the floor underneath. The man swore gruffly and spat without waking. Two other pirates, engaged in exchanging swings, tripped over the drunk and crashed to the floor as well, spewing curses of such magnitude, it would make the dead come alive and die all over again…
Not two feet away, the crew of ten jolly gentlemen of fortune toasted raucously to the generosity of the Spanish king. A pile of gold doubloons, which undoubtedly came from a freshly-sunken Spanish galleon, gleamed on the table. Like moths to the flame, the women flocked to the table to share in the glory.
In the rear corner of the tavern, underneath a huge wizened beam, sat another company of pirates. Their behavior differed surprisingly from the rest of the clientele. While the rest of the pub roared, jumped, cursed and fought, this lot sat quietly, sipping rum from huge mugs and eyeing the roaring rabble around them. These seven pirates gave off a strong impression of people with a purpose in mind. This, however, had passed quite unnoticed, for not a soul in the whole huge room could give two hoots about anyone's business but their own.
"It's here, Cap'n," one of the pirates spoke in a hushed voice, leaning towards the auburn-haired pirate in a magnificent wide-brimmed hat. "I can feel it in my gut."
"Aye, Master Twigg," the captain replied slowly, "that be true."
"What're we waiting for, then?" exploded the dreadlocked pirate next to Twigg. "Let's grab the damn thing and be off. Three bloody months and all we've seen is a piddling handful of coins!"
"Last time I checked, Master Kohler," the captain replied smoothly, his eyes flaring, "I was the one givin' orders."
"An' just you look where your orders got us," Kohler replied poisonously, spitting on the floor, "an exemplary captain you be, Captain Barbossa."
"Have ye somethin' else to say?" Barbossa inquired with icy sweetness, the smile making his face even more intimidating. "If perchance ye do, by all means, do not hesitate."
Fortunately for him, Kohler realized that he was but a half a word away from being pinned to the wall by Barbossa's dagger. Scowling, he took a huge swig of his drink. Grimacing, he spat. The best rum, in his mouth it tasted like nothing at all.
Barbossa awarded his mutinous crewman a menacing smile, accompanied by a superior scoff, and looked about the rest of the group. The pirate captain had no doubt that even though what Kohler alone had the courage, or better to say the impertinence, to speak out loud, was their opinion as well. His glance traveling around the table, he stared them down, one by one. His steely-blue glare spoke plainly that it would be advisable for the rest to hold their tongues, if they knew what was good for them. The looks of defiance disappeared promptly, as pirates dropped their eyes and became preoccupied with their drinks. With a self-satisfied sneer, accompanied by another snort, Barbossa returned his attention to the room at large.
The doors of the pub flew open, admitting two more pirates. Literally racing each other through the parlor, dodging tables, chairs and disgruntled ill-assorted clientele, they hurried towards Barbossa's table.
"We've seen it, Cap'n!" the shorter one exclaimed once he was within earshot.
"Mayhap ye wish to repeat yerself in a slightly louder fashion, Master Pintel?" Barbossa snarled, glaring at the pirate. "Methinks there are people outside this rum-soaked moldy biscuit box who have not heard ye."
Under the captain's stern gaze, Pintel smiled weakly, wishing above all else to evaporate on the spot. The taller one, a plank-thin young man, guffawed quietly at the reprimand his cohort had gotten. As Barbossa's irate gaze traveled to him, the young pirate cleared his throat, at once adapting a sheepish manner.
"Now, if ye be so inclined to oblige us, Master Pintel," Barbossa asked once order was restored, "would ye kindly tell us whatever be it you've come to tell us?"
"It's 'ere, Cap'n," Pintel said at once in an exited whisper. "The coin," he whispered hotly.
"Right 'ere outside," Ragetti chimed in, grinning once more, pointing to the door.
Barbossa lifted his eyebrows at the news.
"Then outside we must go, gents," he declared, rising from his seat and throwing a few coins on the rough table. The crew got up at once and followed Barbossa out of the tavern.
The night was in its prime, although nights in Tortuga differed very little from the days. In the light of multiple torches and bonfires, pirates from all the Seven Seas quarreled, cursed, laughed and fought in dozens of different languages and due to dozens of different reasons, provided that reason had anything to do with it at all. Drunken songs, solos as well as choruses, wove in and out of the overall din. Right next to the inn, two groups on either side of the street were exchanging shots, barricaded behind some empty barrels. Women giggled flirtatiously as they supplied the fighters with huge pints of rum they brought from the tavern.
Pintel and Ragetti led the group out of the door and immediately to the left. A drunk, cross-eyed and wobbly-legged, had unwisely staggered into Barbossa's shoulder. A punch, thrown flawlessly by the Pirate Lord of the Caspian Sea, caught the trespasser squarely in the jaw and threw him backwards, where he landed neatly facedown into a pile of still steaming horse manure. A few crewmen from the Black Pearl laughed approvingly, seeing the fellow sputter and curse to himself in Spanish.
Having traveled for mere minutes, the pirates came to a halt in front of one of the many brothels that graced the blessed land of Tortuga. The street was just as crowded here, if not more so. Many women, decked out in their very best garments, dallied on the front steps of the building with scarlet curtains in the windows. Quite a few draped themselves restfully over the rail of the balcony, casually displaying their best assets. Each and every woman here suffered from an overuse of makeup, as well as from the burden of a heavy, elaborate wig, which looked outstandingly like a beehive, densely populated by fake jewels and bows.
These drawbacks, however, were not at all harming the business. Very similarly to loons, the women dove into the crowd of men, and then promptly dragged their bounty up the stairs and into the house. Some, however, did not even concern themselves with seeking privacy. Moaning, issuing from the dark alleys on both sides of the brothel, was an ample testimony to that.
Just as the cursed crew looked about this frenzy, perhaps entertaining quite a variety of fond recollections as well as sensing the presence of the coin, Pintel nudged Barbossa.
"Lookey here, Cap'n," he pointed obligingly across the street. "This be the sea cow. In the flesh."
"Hydrodamalis gigas," Ragetti supplied, appearing at Barbossa's other side, snorting. "Thought they were s'pposed to 'ave snuffed it?"
Barbossa looked first to his left and than to his right, awarding both pirates with the look of purest annoyance.
"Al' but one," Pintel replied, choking into his sleeve. The two burst out laughing. Barbossa rolled his eyes with a sigh and rewarded Pintel with a slap upside the head. Pintel hiccupped, ceasing to laugh at once, and hurriedly slapped Ragetti to somehow remedy his authority.
The whole group was now looking in the direction Pintel pointed. Twenty yards away stood a wench, leaning lazily against the shabby wall. While other women preferred to travel in packs, she was alone. Even in Tortuga, which offered a limitless abundance of characters, she seemed to stand out like a sore thumb of a two-headed giant who stumbled into an ordinary town.
A creature of extreme height, she was nearly as wide as she was tall. Piggy black eyes observed the street, peering from behind her nearly bursting cheeks. Brightly colored lips could not disguise the heavy-set jaw. A rat nest of a brown wig, covered with multitudes of bows and strings of pearls, was perched spectacularly atop her head. One might have easily mistaken her for a man who fancied dressing in female clothing, were it not for the two enormous mounds of flesh atop her scarlet bodice.
The attention of the whole group was attracted immediately to the wench's breasts. It was certainly not because they found them eye-catching. As unlikely as it was for a gentlemen of fortune to not be attracted to a woman, all the pirates privately agreed that this wench was about as attractive as a whale that really let itself go. Yet, they gazed at her hungrily, for an Aztec coin, that piece of gold they valued above all else, was dangling conspicuously between the wench's enormous bosoms.
For a moment or two the whole group did nothing but stare at this wonder of the nautical world. The wench, on the other hand, had spared them no more than a single look. Taking out a shabby flowery fan, she opened it with a snap and began to fan herself, batting her heavily-painted eyelids as she looked about all the commotion.
"Orders, Cap'n?" Twigg asked somewhat hesitantly.
"Think I'll go have a word with the lovely lady," Barbossa said after a minute or two.
"What is there to talk about?" Kohler hissed, licking his lips. "I say we take her into the alley, get the coin and get rid of the bitch. It would be doing a grand favor to the establishment."
"I am sorely tempted to do meself a favor and take ye into the aforesaid alley, Master Kohler," Barbossa replied. "Grievous as our cursed state is, I doubt that being hung by yer guts from the mainmast will be any manner of improvement for yer condition."
Leaving a disgruntled Kohler and his crew behind, Barbossa made his way towards the enormous wench. Once he approached her, the pirates saw Barbossa give her a low, quasi-respectful bow. Whatever the two spoke about was impossible to catch, since every word of their conversation was immediately lost in the all surpassing clamor of the busy street, It was noticeable, however, that Barbossa kept at his best, flashing smiles and throwing about elegant gestures.
In all truth, perhaps he alone realized the vastness of the job still needed to be done. Understanding perfectly that not all the coins could be retrieved by cunning alone, Barbossa nonetheless wished not to perpetuate ill fame for the Black Pearl and its crew. Not yet. Further along the way perhaps, when most of the coins had been collected, he could finally afford to throw caution to the winds and employ the very brute force and cannon power his crew was so eager to use. For now, they still had to be careful so not to alarm all those possessing the Aztec coins. As long as the truth about the coins was to remain hidden, getting them back was a much easier task.
"What d'you s'pose he's saying to 'er?" Ragetti asked Pintel, just as the wench gave a chortle so loud it made the passing horse rear and throw off its passenger.
"How am I s'possed to know?" Pintel snapped back. "I ain't the Cap'n, am I? 'Cuz if I were, I'd taken 'er out back an' made more 'oles in 'er than Irish cheese."
"D'you mean Swiss?" Ragetti inquired, grinning.
"I know what I mean!" Pintel exploded, punching the young pirate in the shoulder. "'f I say Irish, I mean Irish!"
Ragetti shrugged in a somewhat disagreeing manner, rubbing his shoulder. Gradually the grimace of pain on his face rearranged itself into one of thought. He began muttering to himself, while counting on his fingers.
"Thirteen," he interjected.
"What're you babblin' about?" Pintel grumbled, his attention still on the captain and the wench.
"Thirteen coins," Ragetti said. "Once we 'ave this one, we'll 'ave thirteen coins."
"So?" Pintel demanded gruffly.
"Thirteen's s'pposed t'be an unlucky number," Ragetti explained.
Pintel's face twisted in disbelief.
"We're already cursed," he said incredulously. "I don't think it matters if you're cursed. How much more bad luck can one have?!"
Ragetti scratched his head thoughtfully. After a minute, he shrugged, evidently having found not a counterargument. Pintel nodded superiorly, crossing his arms.
"Still think 'tis bad luck," Ragetti muttered defiantly, earning yet another punch. Just as Ragetti was rubbing his shoulder again, Barbossa rejoined the group. The expression on the captain's face was a peculiar one. It looked suspiciously like he was trying his best not to laugh.
"Gents," Barbossa said, "the coin is as good as ours –"
The group roared in approval.
" – on one condition," Barbossa continued.
The roar ceased at once as the pirates looked questioningly at their captain.
"As ye all know, ladies here have grown quite accustomed to tradin' favors for gold," Barbossa explained. A few pirates laughed and whistled. "This one is no exception. Lovely Madam Rosa finds the medallion an engagin' trinket, yet she'll be willing to hand it over in exchange for a favor."
As Barbossa spoke, his smile widened with wicked amusement at the look of horror that united all his party. They seemed to be as willing to entertain the lovely Madam Rosa as they would to shake hands with the captain of the Flying Dutchman.
"That's sendin' us to our death, that is!" Pintel found his voice first.
"Seein' that ye're immortal, Mater Pintel," Barbossa cut off, "I be quite unconcerned for yer safety."
Looking over the silent crew, Barbossa's grin widened even further.
"Havin' been blessed with the finest crew in the Caribbean," he spoke finally, "I had hoped dearly for a volunteer to relieve me of the sad duty of havin' to do this."
Having said that, Barbossa turned and beckoned the wench towards him. As she approached, drifting through the crowd like an iceberg through the waters of the Atlantic, Barbossa ordered his apprehensive crew to line up. The pirates had not even the right to grumble, knowing perfectly well that the next one complaining would suffer Barbossa's full wrath. They, who never knew sea sickness, rapidly turned various shades of clammy green as Madam Rosa drew nearer. The lot of them looked remarkably like they were on their way to the gallows.
"The finest of me crew are at yer service, M'Lady," Barbossa bowed. "What be yer pleasure?" The corners of his mouth trembled as he spoke as he strove to keep his mirth concealed.
The men recoiled involuntarily as the wench floated along the line, inspecting them like a general before the parade. Some pirates got no more than a single glance and seemed immensely relieved at the fact. Her hands on her hips, Madam Rosa walked along the line of pirates, sometimes trying one or the other for sturdiness by laying her bear-sized hand on their shoulders or even going as far as to check their teeth. She lingered by Twigg, whose face drained rapidly of all color. He almost collapsed in relief as Madam Rosa finally wrinkled her nose and left him be.
As she drew closer, Ragetti, who had been already deeply engaged in chewing on his fingernails, started taking shallow, rapid breaths. With only him and Pintel remaining, his chances of getting out of this scrape in once piece had plummeted. As Madam Rosa came closer still, the young pirate looked back and forth, right and left, comparing a violent death underneath the wench's bulk with the anger of his captain, trying his best to determine whichever of those two was the lesser of two evils. Having decided on the latter, he prepared himself for bolting at the moment's notice.
Luckily for him, Ragetti never found out whether one was worse than the other, since Madam Rosa came to a halt in front of Pintel. Giving him an appraising look, the wench smiled suddenly, revealing very few teeth behind her thickly-painted lips. With speed surprising for someone of her composition, she grabbed him one-handedly by the neck of his shirt. The tatty fabric of Pintel's attire groaned in horror as Madam Rosa lifted the pirate clean off his feet and pulled him into a forceful kiss.
Bloodthirsty pirates, all to one worth their salt, recoiled at the sight of Pintel, flailing like a fly in a web and making mousy noises in his throat, and the wench, whose ambition was evidently to suck out his very life with her kiss. Once she had dropped him roughly to the ground, Pintel nearly fell over, gasping for air.
"This 'un," Madam Rosa grunted, leering.
Barbossa bowed obligingly.
"Me payment," Barbossa demanded pleasantly, beckoning with the two fingers of his open gauntleted palm.
Without looking, Madam Rosa tore the medallion from her neck and shoved it into Barbossa's hand. Without further ado, she grabbed Pintel by his shirt again and dragged him across the road and towards the building. The pirate tried to fight at first, yet Madam Rosa dragged him along with the same determination and force an ant drags forth a dead caterpillar. Up the stairs they went, past the giggling women, and were swallowed at once by the brothel. The pirates that remained on the street maintained a shocked silence.
"I believe Master Pintel here is about to settle his blood debt," Barbossa joked, his eyebrows twitching.
He laughed first, his deep, measured laughter infecting the rest. They were beside themselves, having added one more Aztec coin to their trove, not to mention simply ecstatic at having not been chosen.
Carefully, Barbossa looked over the cursed coin upon his palm. A thick circle of rich gold gleamed in his fingers, dread looming in the dark eye-sockets of the Aztec skull. Such a tiny thing, so much desired and sought after, it was yet another step out of 882, a step to freedom that could not come soon enough.
He raised the coin into the air for the rest of the group to see. The seven remaining pirates surrounding him roared with triumph. This was exactly what Barbossa wanted: to keep the crew happy, perhaps even overly so, with the results of their hunt. Elated due to their luck, they would not have the time to brood over their wretched fate and, what was more, blame him for it.
Smiling knowingly, Barbossa tucked the coin carefully into his waistcoat pocket.
"Gents," he called out, "for now, our business here is all but concluded. We sail at dawn!"
Making it plain that the late party would be left behind without being spared a second thought, Barbossa left the crew to their own devices. Cursed or not, the pirates quickly disappeared into the crowd of women. Only Ragetti remained where he was, stealing an occasional glance at the door of the brothel behind which Pintel had disappeared and giggling uncontrollably.
Much more than half an hour had passed before Pintel made his appearance. The cannon that served the same purpose in Tortuga as a bell would serve in a regular town, cannonaded eleven. Ragetti, who waited patiently on the same spot, was thrown into yet another fit of laughter, once he had noticed the state of his long-time companion.
For the man who had not yet left dry land, Pintel looked remarkably like someone who had just been violently shipwrecked. As he hobbled closer, wincing with every step, Ragetti saw a constellation of bruises that blossomed spectacularly all over the older pirate's face. A rapidly swelling lump and brutally kiss-bruised lips added quite nicely to the rearranged decorum of the older pirate's face. Pintel's clothes also looked much worse for wear. A right pocket had been torn clean off of his waistcoat, its right sleeve dangling by a thread. Choking in his sleeve, Ragetti thought that his companion looked as though someone had recently used him for thoroughly mopping the floor.
Moaning quietly and wincing, Pintel limped towards Ragetti and leaned against the same hedge with a groan.
"Never in me life," he gasped, smiling dolefully, "'ave I been so glad I'm cursed… Saved me from dyin', that…"
Upon hearing this, Ragetti began to laugh loudly. Whatever unscathed flesh that was left on Pintel's face, went a brilliant scarlet shade as he began to fume, despite being recently mangled.
"Towd ya number thirteen's s'pposed t'be unlucky," Ragetti snorted, observing Pintel with the same bright amusement a child observes the bearded lady at the circus. Letting out a frustrated growl that sounded quite pitiful at the moment, Pintel parted with the hedge and slapped Ragetti up side the head with all the force he could master, yelping immediately at the pain the movement had caused him.
"Let's haul it," he roared, "I won't be left in port on your account!"
Both pirates, one limping and holding at his ribs painfully, and the other, overcome by a sudden bout of coughing that meant ot serve as a front for his yet another fit of laughter, made their slow way towards the harbor.
Visit Intrepid Bandicoot's profile page to read more of her writing, including her fantastic Elizabeth fiction about Sir Francis Walsingham, called The Heart of the Leviathan.