This story was originally published in two parts; they both are here.
Looming black clouds blanketed the sky from horizon to horizon, illuminated only by occasional flashes and streaks of lightning. The man lashed to the wheel held on for dear life as the Bloody Shrike rocked and jolted in the winds.
The Cap’n staggered up, steadying himself by digging chunks out of the wooden railing with the sharp hook that took the place of his left hand. He leaned to the helmsman and shouted.
“It looks like we’ll be having a bit o’ rough seas, Mister Gavin! Steady as she goes!”
The wheel spun and flung Gutbuster Gavin to the deck; by the time he’d regained his footing the Cap’n had gone back below.
The men were gathered below decks in the galley, passing around a few bottles of rum and clinging to the tables for dear life. Mad Steven was dancing a jig to Drummerboy Dan’s concertina, pausing occasionally to fall face first to the deck, while Tortuga Zeke watched Busty Bob’s chest heave with the swell and wished for softer days in port.
Cap’n Jack Bastord watched his crew with pride, his hook jammed into the ironworks of a candle sconce. They were good lads, scoundrels and blackguards to a man. But pride would have to wait; he had to know more about the Treasure of Bermuda.
A young man in fancy collar and tights –what sort of man wears tights?– looked up from his book.
“What did ye call this again?”
“It’s the Bermuda…”
“Aye, that be it! One at the top, two at the bottom! These Bermuda Shorts o’ yours have some choppy waters, boy!”
“Uh, Triangle Sir. The seas here are incredibly dangerous; I told you we should sail around.”
“An’ doin’ what I’s told is what kept me from bein’ Cap’n until ol’ Greenbeard fell off the ship them five times! How long does this bit o’ chop last?”
“All the way through I’m afraid, Sir.”
“An’ that’s why you ain’t Cap’n! Yer afraid. Mister Prancer, what do we say about bein’ afraid?”
The reindeer looked up from her bale of rum-soaked hay. “We says a thankee to ol’ Santa and damn the waves to hell, Cap’n!”
“Just so. Now, Knackers, tell me more about this treasure. I can’t wait to feel that gold betwixt me fingers.”
“That’s Anachronism, Cap’n. And the treasure isn’t so much physical as metaphorical. Due to a calendar misprint, we’re now in the year 1491. Since Juan Bermudez hasn’t found it yet, you can set up your own colony and claim all the land in Bermuda for yourself.”
“Mister Knackers, land exists for the sole purpose of buryin’ treasure in! How much treasure are we going to find there?”
“None, Cap’n. We’ll have to earn it and bury it ourselves.”
“Earn it? EARN IT!? That’s not how we do things here! Grab him, boys. This lubber’s goin’ overboard and we’re goin’ ta turn the Shrike around and find some real plunder!”
Jack Bastord grumbled to himself, “There’d bloody well better be. Worthless scupper expecting us to work!”
When he arrived on deck Mister Anachronism was still aboard. The ship heaved to and fro but everyone seemed to be accounted for. Given the Cap'n's foul mood at being challenged, this was a very bad time for Mister Anachronism.
“What in blazes are ye on about, and why is he still on board?”
Tortuga Zeke gave the Cap’n a stricken look, then turned his gaze upward to the crow’s nest.
Realization sunk in. “Smilin’ Pete!”
“I just been up there, Cap’n.” Zeke’s voice was a mere bellow, barely audible above the storm. “He’s gone.”
“NO! Smilin’ Pete’s easily worth any five of you lot! We’ve nothing for it but to heave the ship about an’ look for ‘im.”
“But Cap’n,” shouted Gutbuster Gavin as he picked one of his teeth out of the deck, “I got no idea where we was or which way we was goin’!”
A rogue wave heaved the ship upwards, flinging the crew into the air. Six and a half pairs of boots landed back on the deck with a thump.
Busty Bob’s half-shrieked contralto rose above the storm; “Cap’n! What’s that?”
Jack looked at the tip of the lad’s finger, then realized he was pointing out to sea. On the surface of the water was a bluish-white glow like St. Elmo’s Fire; it approached the ship at a slow measured pace.
“It’s a ghost of the sea!”
Bill Hook grabbed a repelling pole and brandished it as the glow neared, knees knocking as the light climbed up to the gunwales.
It was a woman, glowing blue and clad in a flowing gown that revealed as much as it concealed her figure. In her hand was a gleaming skull.
“Smilin’ Pete!” The Cap’n raised his eyes to the woman’s face, “Thank you Milady, for the return of my First Mate.”
She looked at him sternly, holding out the skull. “Jack Bastord, I would be thankful if you’d not let this one fall overboard again. His cavorting with the mermaids was severely disrupting my kingdom, and several hearts have been broken by his charm. It will take weeks to restore order.”
After placing the polished skull securely in Jack’s hand she turned and walked away, leaving glowing footprints on the waves as she strode into the storm.
Pete just smiled.