The holes were still moist. indicating they were recent. Captain Riggs paced the yellow sand beach. He navigated the holes, five feet deep and five feet wide, pockmarking the beachscape and made his way to a particularly deep and wide crater. There was nothing to see now, but judging by the bloody body parts scattered between the holes, the infamous, vile, and villainous pirate, Captain Tobbias Shank had been through here. There was no mistaking his work. Lieutenant Ligots strode up and saluted.
“Sir, we’ve just received a message via carrier pigeon from Admiral Addison.”
“Well don’t play coy, what does it say?”
“You’d better read it yourself,” said Lieutenant Ligots as he handed over the scroll.
The message read:
Captain Rigs and crew,
When we first assigned you the task of apprehension and retrieval of Captain Shank, we had either over estimated your prowess or underestimated his cunning. While you faff about on the high seas, our enemies humiliate us on our own shores. We lose battle after battle. This endeavor has turned into a wild goose chase. You are to return at once. We look forward to your return. Please send a reply via this courier pidgeon.
Captain Riggs crumpled the letter in his hands.
“What should I reply, Captain?”
“Nothing. Kill the bird.”
“Captain? What are you saying? Going against the commands of the Admiral is treasonous.”
“They’re hedging their bets. But we’ve come too far. We can’t give up now. Besides, we’re hot on his trail.”
Lieutenant Ligots raised his eyebrows at that. “We are sir? Where has he gone now?”
“We’ve been following him for weeks now. He’s been sailing due East, only making stops at nearby islands to plunder treasure from the locals. You know as well as I do what’s East of here.”
“The Shark Teeth? Sir you can’t be serious!”
“It’s the only explanation for how he manages to disappear. Get the men ready, we set sail in an hour.”
Captain Riggs watched the men ready the ship. They ran frantically to and fro, strapping down every loose barrel, prepping the spare rope, giving the decks one last swabbing. He pulled out his NetherCompas from his inner breast pocket in his jacket. He idly flipped the cover open and closed, open and closed. He pulled the tether gently. The compass inside revved up and spun. Captain Riggs began to feel woozy. The world around him spun. His knees grew weak. His hand fell open and the NetherCompass fell to the sand. He picked it up, brushed off the sand, and snapped it shut.
They were following close in their smaller ship. They were faster, better armed, and had more seasoned sailors. The Shark Teeth Islands was the most dangerous place in the whole sea to dock. It was the last place anyone would look. Captain Riggs felt confident this must be Captain Shank’s hideout. Captain Riggs stood behind the man manning the wheel. He could see the whites of his men’s eyes. They wore their fear like a beggar wears his only cloak. Seasoned sailors they may be, but no one was foolish enough to dock in the Shark Teeth Islands. Yet here they were heading straight for them. Overhead, Magpie shouted, “I see ’em! I see ’em! Up ahead just on the horizon. We’re gaining on him!”
There it was, a black speck dwarfed by mammoth mountains rising out of the sea, jutting in every direction into the sea. Marble white cliffs, sheer and steep, threatened to gobble up anyone daring to get close. They formed a series of peninsulas like a hundred fingered hand holding a watery earth in its palm. It wasn’t long before the black speck on the horizon grew to the size of a woodmite. It’s black flag whipping the air as surely as the captain was whipping his crew to spur them on. The woodmite evolved into a black dire wolf, sauntering into a cave. The cliffs loomed large ahead. Bigger and bigger the ship grew. The men stole glances whenever they could between their duties to watch the fate of Captain Shank’s ship. Captain Rigg’s ship came within firing distance. The men held their breath in anticipation, not sure if they would need to run to the cannons, or the sails to turn tail. Then… Captain Shank’s ship capsized… Just like that. A hush fell across the ship, sure that Captain Riggs would give the order turn around the ship to safety. The order never came. Instead Captain Riggs announced, “Make all sail!” The men, unaccustomed to folly, but accustomed to following orders burst into action. Everyone ran to their position and pulled the appropriate rigging to get the ship to sail even faster to the treacherous cliffs.
They too, pulled up to the cliffs. The water sloshed and churned as they got closer. It bubbled so much that it appeared to be boiling. Captain Riggs pulled out the NetherCompass again, and opened the cover. He held it firmly in his left hand, and the tether in the right hand. This time he yanked the cord. The compass whirled wildly. His vision blurred. He dropped to his knees, but gripped the compass with white knuckles. The men wailed. They gripped onto the ship for dear life. The ship, as if abandoning all semblance of being controlled by man and relinquishing all mastery to a wild and unknown nature, tipped left, farther and farther. Then tipped so far that the ship capsized.
Miraculously, the ship kept tipping, even after being completely submerged, and reemerged right side up, dry as a feather. The water drained from each of the decks, returning to the sea like ducklings to their mother. The men checked themselves for damage, and no worse for wear, began to hoot and holler. They hugged each other and cried tears that would never be spoken of ever again. Behind them, the Shark Teeth reached out for them, empty and hungry. Ahead, Captain Shank and his band of scallywags had made a smidgen of progress away from them.
“Alright, boys. This is it. This is what we came here to do. Man the hoist! Pull up quick! Cut the sails! We want their rears to face our cannons. Make all sail!” yelled Captain Riggs.
The men ran frantically, scurrying about to and fro like an anthill set on fire. Their ship crept closer to Captain Shank’s ship like a lion stalking its prey. Just as it was approaching firing range, it stopped and made a hard right turn. The cannons let off a volley of missiles. A hail of iron rained down on Captain Shank’s ship. Wood splinters exploded along the deck and in the aft of the ship. A cheer rang out. Captain Shank and his men made a hard right right turn to get away.
“Wait for it… Hold steady, boys…” told Captain Riggs to his men. Captain Shank couldn’t turn his ship as nimbly as he would like, and Captain Riggs knew it.
“Now!” The sails unfurled again and launched the ship forward. It rocketed on a trajectory right into the side of Captain Shank’s ship. Captain Shank unleashed his own round of fire, but it was weak and early and fell well short of the oncoming ship.
One ship collided into the other. A crack split the ship in two with the sound of thunder. It rocked back and forth. Captain Shank’s men froze. They look at each other and acknowledged the feeling in each of their guts. It was something they had never felt before. It was the feeling of sinking, despair, and fear. There was nowhere left to run, to hide, and no hope of fighting. They collectively looked to their captain. The captain bowed his head and retreated to the Captain’s Cabin. He returned holding a white flag.
Captain Riggs had his prisoners lined up. He walked along the line and stopped when he got to Captain Shank, who wore a particular smirk.
“What’s so funny?” asked Captain Riggs.
“You think this the first time I be caught? You think you’re the first to sink my ship, eh? Just wait until Admiral Addison hears of this,” said Captain Shank.
“Admiral Addison? Admiral Addison has personally put out a warrant for your arrest. I am sure he cannot wait to hear of your capture and return to Britain.”
“Oh Aye. I’m sure he wants me back for Christmas.”
“Christmas? You sound like you know the man. Are you mad?”
“He’s my brother,” said Captain Shank with a cheeky grin. “He looks after me as blood should. He wants to make sure I’m doing well and taken care of. Speaking ‘a which, this is a mighty fine ship you’ve got here. I’d be a shame if someone… were to steal it.”