The Quest of the Ages
A dusky haze fell over the Midnight Ocean. Sensing the time approaching, the cloaked shadow sprinted across the courtyard of the Palace and scaled the walls. Once inside the figure crept silently down the hallways, until entering the large throne room. A brief flash of white teeth could be seen in the dim lighting of the Palace. He crossed the room and pushed away the pillow on the throne, expertly grasping the small box. With a flair of his cape, the shadow vanished as quickly as he appeared, leaving none the wiser.
A quick whisk and a short trip later, the door of the Twelve Steppes Inn burst open. Now dressed in red and white, the colors of his beloved crew, the thief rushed to a back table. “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed triumphantly.
Blimb, the beloved Captain of White Rose, looked up. “Not now Moby.. we’re in the middle of a game,” she said, downing her shot of rum and slamming the cup onto the board. An evil grin spread across her face as she looked to her opponent.
“Arrrr, ye always were a better drinker Cap’n,” the jolly old first mate replied, a twinkle in his eyes. He was an elderly gentleman possessing great wisdom, known affectionately by the crew as Bigcheese.
“This is more important than rum!” Mobynick said emphatically.
“More important than rum?! Bite your tongue lad! Nothing’s more important than rum,” Betialai, one of the senior officers, responded with a deep belly laugh.
“I’m serious Bet!” Lowering his voice, his eyes surveyed the room to ensure only his crewmates would hear. “I got the compass,” backing his statement up by producing the small wooden box.
“Is that what I think it is?” a young voice asked, pushing herself out of the drunken stupor the Captain’s game had enveloped her in. Her dark eyes brightened at the sight of the box. “It is…”
“Aye Gillz,” Mobynick nodded, using her nickname.
“The Atlantian compass,” they said in unison.
“The Atlantian compass?” Salus said skeptically, shaking her head. “It’s a myth.. there is no island floating around the ocean with wonders beyond our imaginations.”
“El Pollo Diabalo was once considered a myth.. but we proved it to be a fact in our last voyage did we not?” Gillz grinned, the twinkle in her eye betraying her kinship to Bigcheese.
Salus laughed. “Aye we did indeed lass.”
“Wait a minute.. isn’t that compass supposed to be locked away from all mere mortals by Cleaver, Poseidon and the rest of the Ocean Masters?” Angara, the legendary officer who had memmed the entire ocean, inquired leaning forward.
“Aye,” Mobynick nodded. “But Cleaver had it moved to his Palace, and some of us are plundering experts.”
“You stole it?” Lj, the crew’s newest senior officer, asked surprised.
“Borrowed it… pillaged it,” he grinned.
“Well what are we waiting for?! Let’s get a move on,” Gillz said standing up from the table.
“Wait a moment,” Blimb said motioning for them to sit back down. “We need more man power and the proper ship for such a journey. If we truly find the Vanishing Isle, we need enough room for the booty. Big, prepare a ship. Bet, pass the word. We go island hunting in two days!”
* * * * *
“That short skirt looks amazing on you,” Gillz smiled at her close friend Rav. The two ladies were anxiously passing the time before setting sail.
“I just don’t know what color to get.. red or white? To bad I don’t have the poe to afford one in every color,” Rav laughed.
“You will,” Gillz smiled, looking out the shoppe window towards the dock. Her heart raced at the thought of the upcoming adventure, she knew the island existed and was determined to help find it. While her skills on and off the ship paled in comparison with the rest of her crew, her enthusiasm was great.
“Aye, avast, there’s the colors,” she pointed out the window. The glorious White Rose flag fluttered in the wind, calling all available hands for the trip of a lifetime. The pair quickly rushed towards the docks.
“We have enough rum on board?” Betialai grinned playfully. “That be me favorite part of the journey.”
“Aye ye old salt,” Lj smiled.
Blimb stepped up onto the deck. “Alright ye scallywags listen up. Ye all know why we’re embarking today. The most important thing is to listen to the officers and keep this ship running. Stations everyone!”
The Captain’s booming command sent the crew scurrying across the deck of the War Brig to their duties. “Angara ye be navigating, Moby up the crowsnest with ye and the compass.”
The Lucky Cod slipped from her berth and drifted towards the open ocean. Once the dark waters of Midnight Ocean surrounded them, the sailors went to work. With excellent and incredible skills, the White Rose crew soared to top speed, on their way.
* * * * *
“Are we there yet?” Rav asked several weeks later, prompting giggles from those around her.
“I’m not even sure where we are,” Gillz admitted looking out across the horizon from her sails duty station.
“About to fall off the edge of the world,” Lj muttered. “We are approaching Angelfish Island and yet still sail east…”
“Arrrgg!!” Mobynick moaned from the crows nest. “The island is aptly named… Angara turn about head due north!”
The girls let out a collective sigh from their stations. “We’re never going to catch it,” Gillz whispered. How do you catch an island that is never in the same place twice?
Another week passed and with it went the enthusiasm and excitement they had begun their trip with. Land had not been seen since Angelfish as the ship sailed due north through waters even Angara had never visited. During Gillz’s crowsnest shift, her long brown tresses blew in the wind. When sailing this wind was a blessing, up here it was annoying. Tying her hair back with a red bandana, her eyes caught something off the horizon. Great bubbles seemed to be welling up off the starboard bow. Peering through the telescope, her jaw dropped as the tops of trees appeared ahead of them. The boat danced in the incoming wake of the rising island.
“LAND HO!! Bow to starboard!” Gillz shouted with all her might, looking down at the valiant crew below. Everyone’s head snapped to the location.
“I don’t believe it,” Blimb whispered quietly.
“There it is!” Mobynick jumped for joy.
“Angara, back off we don’t know how large it is!” Blimb shouted, rushing up to the helm. “We’ll go ashore by longboats,” she said. Anticipating his Captain, Bigcheese immediately started ordering longboats be prepared. The island continued to rise off the starboard side as Angara steered clear. Dense flora packed the island, palm trees lining the crystal white beaches leading back to rainforest.
“Angara, you stay here and keep the ship out of trouble. Big, Bet, Lj, Moby, Jendra with me,” Blimb said heading for a longboat.
“Captain!” Gillz said pressing forward through the crowd. “I’d like to come..” she requested, despite the fact that only senior officers had been invited.
“Very well Gillz,” Blimb nodded, the young lass had shown great enthusiasm for this quest. Gillz beamed and joined the rest of the group getting on board; it helped having the first mate as a father sometimes.
The half dozen plus one sailed towards the glistening beaches that not 10 minutes ago had been submerged in Davy Jones Locker. “How does such life exist on an island that spends most of its time underwater?” Jendra wondered out loud as they dragged the longboat ashore.
“Captain over here!” Lj shouted. Rushing over they beheld the large stone monument. “There is writing here,” she brushed away the overgrowth.
“Looks like Greek to me..” Betialai observed, stepping closer.
With a flash of lightening the ground began to quake, their chattering ended by a blinding flash of light. Seated upon a large wave, was a mermaid with long purple hair. Arms crossed she peered down at the intruders. “Who dares to intrude upon Aphantos Nesos?” she demanded, her low rumbling voice causing the trees to tremble.
“A mermaid,” Gillz whispered in awe. She, like everyone else, had heard stories of these creatures but never thought they truly existed.
“Captain Blimb of the White Rose, we come for the treasure. Who are you?”
“Who am I?! Who am I?!” the mermaid shouted, lightening flashing at her words. “I am Omoroca, Queen of the Sirens and ruler of Aphantos Nesos!”
“Omoroca.. Babylonian goddess of life.. ruler of the oceans,” Gillz whispered.
“How do you know that?” Lj asked quietly.
“A great scholar told me.. Daniel Jackson.”
“You seek the hidden treasure?” Omoroca boomed. “To attain the goal you seek, one of your number must defeat me in short sword combat.. in my realm,” she said, her hands indicating the lagoon they had crossed to reach the beach. A red handled short sword landed in the sand between the White Rose crew. “Have your representative meet me within five minutes,” she instructed as the wave receded returning her to the water.
“Gillz front and center,” Blimb barked out.
“Ma’am?” Gillz asked confused coming forward.
“Grab the sword and get in there.”
“Captain I’m hardly the best swordfighter among us.. in fact I might be the worst one here,” Gillz said.
“That may be Gillz, but you are the best underwater creature we have, hence your nickname,” Blimb smiled. “Don’t doubt your abilities lass, now get in there and win us that treasure!”
Gillz bent down and picked up the short sword, the sun’s rays glistened off the smooth blade. With a determined look, she kicked off her boots and slipped off her jacket. This fight would be easier with the less she wore. “For the Rose!” she yelled as she ran towards the waves and dove into the abyss.
A bright flash blinded her momentarily as Omoroca appeared, a blue handled short sword glistening dangerously in her hand. A powerful flick of her tail sent her rocketing towards the young pirate. With reflexes Gillz did not even know she possessed, she deflected the first blow and sent Omoroca flying past.
Flipping in the water, Gillz located a rock on the bottom. Pushing off it with all her might she barreled towards the mermaid queen. Another clash of swords locked the two in combat. Flashes of steel filled Gillz’s vision as she fought for her crew. Her lungs began to ache surrounded in un-breathable liquid.
On the shore the crew exchanged concerned glances. “Shouldn’t she have come up for air by now?” Lj asked, as flashes from below indicated sword strikes.
“She can do it,” Bigcheese said confidently.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity, Gillz twisted to avoid a strike, flipping around she knocked the sword from Omoroca’s hand. Diving down she grabbed the second sword and turned to face the mermaid. A deep scream came from the depths as the waves swirled around them and pushed Gillz back onto shore. She gasped for breath as she stood up and threw both short swords into the sand.
Appearing on a wave, Omoroca looked down at the cheering crew. “Stronger than I thought little pirate; the laws dictate that you be allowed access to the treasure.” With a wave of her hand, the waters lifted dozens of treasure chests full of glittering pieces of eight and rare minerals like lorandite and masuyite and barrels of Kraken’s blood. As quickly as she appeared, Omoroca vanished into the waves.
“We’re going to need some more longboats,” Blimb grinned as they gaped at the immense booty in front of them.
“Knew you could do it,” Bigcheese winked at Gillz with the pride only a father could feel. Gillz grinned up at him, knowing deep down she actually did have what it took to be an officer in the finest pirate crew around.
* Footnote: Aphantos Nesos translates to Vanishing Island in ancient Greek.