I HAVE RETURNED! NaNoWriMo was fun (I won, BTW. Yay.), but it's time to get back into the normal routine. I may be a little bit rusty, and I'll be working on two/three other stories besides this, but don't fret! I have an actual writing schedule now, and the Piratesverse has two whole days to itself!

In case you're wondering, this particular idea has been rattling around in my head from pretty much the beginning. It's inspired by a commercial made for Pirates that spoofed The Hunger Games, which came out at approximately the same time. I decided to take this idea and run with it. Enjoy.

DISCLAIMER: If you recognize it, I don't own it.

Ah, spring. A time for joy. A time for rebirth. A time for cutthroat depravity of all levels and forms. The pirates of Blood Island happily practiced such acts on a year-round basis, of course, but spring was the time for it to get especially nasty. You see, this was when the Pirate of the Year was decided.

On this particular spring, the line outside the Barnacle's Face stretched all the way to the other end of the wharf and back again. The little tavern threatened to burst apart at the seams from the number of people inside it. Some were talking and laughing, while others looked for gaps in the line and violently jumped at the chance to slot themselves in a little closer to the sign-up stand. One could almost feel the air hum with the excitement of them all; those who had not come to fill out their last-minute applications had come to hear the Pirate King's announcement.

"It's hardly moving!" Charles exclaimed as he scanned the wharf in a futile attempt to find out where the end of the line was. "Is he even going to get to the front in time?"

Scarf smiled as he watched the Pirate Captain, who was already skipping his way past the row of dark looks into the tavern. "I don't think he'll have a problem with that…"

"Pardon me! Coming through! Out of the way!" the captain said, pushing aside the masses of bodies and snatching a slip of paper from the desk of the stand. "Right, this is all. Carry on." Ignoring the volley of insults hurled at him, he made a beeline for the only empty table with his crew right behind him. "I put the last bit of ink in my beard, didn't I?"

"Right compartment, sir," Scarf answered.

Charles looked miffed. "I've been trying to find that all day…"

"Good man!" the captain exclaimed as he pulled out a quill and inkwell and set the latter down next to the paper. "Now let's see. Blah blah blah, boring stuff, here we go! Booty...roaring...shanties, rousing. Beard, luxuriant, as if they needed to ask." Reaching back into his beard, he pulled out another tiny inkwell full of red dye. He dunked the tip of the quill into it and signed his name at the bottom of the form with a flourish. "Do you think they'll take it for blood?"

"I do!" Albino Pirate chirped.

Scarf cleared his throat quietly. "Sir? Remember what we talked about."

"I wrote it down!" The captain showed them the palm of his right hand. On it, he had drawn a picture of the trophy and of their Jolly Roger, with a 'less than' sign separating them. "Don't get carried away no matter how many times Bellamy calls Polly a fat parrot."

Scarf let out the breath he had been holding in. "Right."

"I won't need to, anyway," the captain continued. "We've got these, don't we?" He pulled a lump of silver from behind his ear. "The others can clean out all the ships in the Spanish Main, and they still wouldn't have enough treasure to beat us."

They all flinched at the sound of shattering glass from the window behind them. "Did someone talk of plunderin' the Spanish Main?" Pegleg Hastings cackled as he poured a pile of gold coins and gems onto the floor. "Too late!"

Their eyes bugged out at the scene. "How did you even…? Oh, never mind."

"That's not much," the captain remarked. "Besides, you could pick it off the street if you wanted to oh, dear Neptune's hangnail!"

The other patrons gasped along with him as a bright, clear crystalline blade shot up from beneath the floor inches from Pegleg's foot. It proceeded to cut a circle around him which then crashed into the basement, carrying him with it. Glass broke, the unfortunate pirate shrieked, and then both rooms fell silent. A few awkward seconds later, Cutlass Liz clambered up through the floor. In her hand was a sword nearly as long as she was. The handle was iron and encrusted with colorful gems, and the blade was a many-sided, meticulously cut diamond.

Liz smirked. "Do you like it?" she said as she swung it around with ease before resting it on her shoulder. "It's three hundred years old and cuts through anything! Only one was ever made, and here it is!"

The Pirate Captain raised his eyebrows, but immediately pushed them down again. "You could probably smash that thing with a hammer. Couldn't you, Charles? We still haven't seen Bellamy yet."

No sooner had the words left his mouth than something landed on the roof with a thud. The ceiling rattled once, twice, then collapsed as a shower of gold coins came pouring into the tavern. It completely covered the floor, spilled out onto the street and forced the patrons to jump on the chairs and tables to escape it. Just as the deluge reached their ankles, it sputtered and thinned out until it was no more.

Someone ventured out into the center of the mess, right beneath the hole. "Is it over…?"

A black-clad figure jumped down through the hole and landed on top of the unfortunate pirate. "I know what you're all thinking," Black Bellamy said as he adjusted his tricorn with a smirk. "You can thank me later."

"What, are you trying to smother the competition?" Scarf said.

"Just giving them a little show, that's all. You can have all you want!" he shouted to the patrons, who were quickly getting over their fear. "There's plenty more where this came from. I'll even throw in some grog! How's that sound?"

They cheered, all except for the captain and his crew. "I suppose you might as well," the captain remarked. "You wouldn't win even if you kept it all to yourself."

"Captain, look at your hand…"

Bellamy raised an eyebrow. "You planning to have another go at it, Cap?"

"I'm planning to win. Why, our boat's probably come near to sinking a dozen times, it's so weighed down!" That had sounded better in his head.


"What? Confrontation is traditional."

Bellamy calmly approached him. "That's all silver, right? You got it from a mine somewhere."

"Yes, what of it?"

"You know that doesn't really count."

The captain froze. "...What do you mean?"

His crew members slowly closed their eyes. Oh no…

"You've got to steal your treasure, you know. It can't just be handed to you."

"I never said it was…!"

"Hey, I'm just telling you the rules. You don't want to get in trouble with the king again, now do you?" Smiling in his 'all of you are less than I' way, he turned on his heel and walked back towards his adoring crowd.

"I'll ask the king what the rules are, then!" the captain shouted after him. "He'll be here soon enough - "

"Look out!" someone yelled, looking up through the hole. Everyone scattered as a giant pink shell further demolished the ceiling. It hovered a bit before landing gently and opening. Out stepped the Pirate King, in his white, rhinestone-studded regalia. "HELLO, PIRATES!"

"Hello, Pirate King," they mumbled, once again shaken.

He frowned. "Where is your enthusiasm? Are you not glad to...GOOD NEPTUNE, WHAT IS ALL THIS? BELLAMY!"

"Yes, Your Majesty?"

"Is this your doing?" the king snapped.

"It's my entry for Pirate of the Year, Your Majesty."

The king stared at him blankly. A deep rumbling began to emanate from his stomach which worked its way up his throat and burst forth as a hearty laugh.

"What's so funny…?"

"A fat lot of help this treasure will do you, then!"