My Entry for Repkosai's El Dorado Challenge.
Hammersmith looked up from the primitive charts he had drawn and gazed out of his cabin's window. The sun had long set, and light was only available in limited amounts from the guttering candles. He could barely see the other two ships in his voyage; the Longshanks dwarfed the Banshee's Cry, the latter practically hiding in the former's shadow. Tagging along at the back of their formation was a small dingy, which was barely keeping up, and was reserved for a special person. The vessel he currently resided on he’d stolen from the Spanish, for he’d heard tales of how her holds were larger on the inside than on the outside, making room for plenty of gold.
Gold is getting harder and harder to come by these days. He thought to himself as his eyes returned to his charts.
He knew he was no Cartographer or map-maker, but he prided himself on his hastily done work. The charts had come from a former member of the Spanish Navy who had been on-board when he’d stolen the ship, and who Hammersmith had ‘persuaded’ to give up his valuable information. The charts showed a rough outline of a river in the Southern Americans, a place the Spaniard had called ‘Orinoco’. According to the Spaniard a Conquistador had been there in the 1500’s and had found traces of a ‘city of gold’. Hammersmith chuckled to himself,
“If such a thing existed, someone would have found it already…..probably.”
The venture this Conquistador had gone on had been over 150 years ago, since then no one had found a lost golden city. Then again, no one had really explored the new world much in the last 150 years anyway. The only reason Hammersmith even considered undertaking this voyage was the immense wealth it promised to bring him, and the freedom that wealth promised. He’d made powerful enemies after attempting to
free the Pirate king, and not just Blackheart. There was a newcomer on the scene that made Blackheart seem kind and generous.
“That one handed devil…” he growled.
At the head of his appropriately named Carnage, John had sailed into Mysion’s Pirate haven, burnt it to the ground, and made off with all of Mysion’s treasure, leaving an empty throne for Blackheart. To make an even bigger statement, John had done the unthinkable and had laid low half of the Pirate lords. Rumor was that John had amassed a fortune to rival that of any imperial power, and he was spending most of it on his own vendetta of blood and violence against what seemed like the entire world. Hammersmith knew like a few englishmen that money and not arcane power was what made the world go around, and he also knew that if he had enough of it he could buy his way to safety.
So he had double crossed Blackheart, leaving him to the English, and made out on his own in search of great wealth to secure his freedom. Doing so however, had enraged Blackheart, who escaped English custody and then ‘convinced’ the surviving Pirate lords to join him in his hunt for vengeance. Even more concerning than Blackheart and One-handed was the rumor floating around that Jones had been overthrown, and that El Fantasma was now the embodiment of the Cursed. Fantasma was sure to be looking for ancient relics to spread his domain, and a City of Gold would surely have caught his attention.
It had been difficult to acquire ships for his venture, and even more difficult to find crew for them. Not only were the forces arrayed against him formidable, but the natural risks he could encounter such as plague or natives or worse yet Cursed natives tended to turn sailors away. However, the potential wealth that could be found got him more than a few hearty (if dimwitted) souls for his Voyage.
A knock on is door snapped Hammersmith from his musings. He covered his charts and strode to the door, opening it slowly. The light from his candles and lamps revealed Le Requin, the french Pirate. Hammersmith allowed himself a rare smile, Requin was one of the few remaining Pirates who was not loyal to Blackheart, or cowed by One-handed.
Hammersmith gestered for him to come in, and closed the door behind him, securing firmly. Returning to his chair, he uncovered his Charts and looked up at Requin.
Requin sat down opposite him, and took several folded pieces of paper out of his worn red coat. He placed them on the table and slid them across to Hammersmith.
“These were not easy to acquire, do you have any idea how hard it was to find him, not get killed, and get him drunk enough to sneak into his rooms?”
“I take it you had some help from the Madame?”
Le Requin smiled and leaned back in his chair, pulling a small bottle from his coat as he did so.
Hammersmith un-folded the papers, revealing several much more accurate charts than his own hand drawn ones. He smiled again, and then quickly frowned as he noticed a series of red lines, leading in the same direction he was heading.
“Is someone else on the chase?”
Requin took a long drought from his bottle, returned it to his coat, and leaned forward again.
“Yes. The King has sent an expedition to try and find this great treasure. He intends to use it to fund a war with the English. What’s more, he'd found out that we weren’t the only ones interested as well, almost everyone is. The Spanish have at least two seperate expeditions, one privately funded, the other sponsored by the King. The English have at least two as well, and the Americans are also rumored to be on the hunt.”
Hammersmith leaned back and looked at the wooden ceiling above him, counting the nails in the wood to calm himself. Requin, seeing this as a sign to continue,
“That’s not all, I’ve heard from our ugly friend that Fantasma has put together a small outing as well, though he had to entrance some countrymen to help him.”
Hammersmith looked back to Requin,
“Have you heard about any other pirates?”
Requin shook his head,
“Only scattered rumors about the Cat helping the English; seems she’s related to that Damned Gunn .”
“That’s good. We can’t afford to have Blackheart and John breathing down our backs as well as half the modern world.”
Requin nodded and reached for his bottle again. Hammersmith returned his attention to the charts and maps before him. He quickly marked their current position, just outside of Charlestown, about a week’s journey to the Southern Americans, less maybe if they went under full sail.
“When did the other expeditions set sail?”
Requin hiccupped and put his now empty bottle back in his coat,
“I’m not sure, even he didn’t know. These are all secret voyages, so as not to garner attention from folk like us, and those damned Cursed men.”
“So we might have an early lead, even over the Americans?”
“Maybe. I heard that they’re looking to hire native guides to help them, but natives from the pacific as I hear.”
Hammersmith nodded, and looked out the window again. He could see storm clouds in the distance, gray against the night sky. He recalled another such storm, when he had made his grand return to piracy.
Once again I have to be the stronger force….
“Rouse the crew, and signal the others, we’re setting sail, NOW.”
Hammersmith rose and strode to the door, shrugging into his coat as he did so, Requin following close behind.
Hammersmith strode quickly from his cabin and out into the main corridor, rapidly ascending the stairs.
“South; for now. South is where the Lost City is, so South is where we go.”
Requin nodded and returned below deck to raise the crew, Hammersmith strode toward the helm. Settling himself behind the wheel, he gently turned it, all the while thinking,
The strong survive…Yes, once again I must be the stronger force.
A grim smile crept across his face……..