100 Themes 036 - Precious Treasure
I haven't had the time to write recently. I saw something that said that writing should be in your top five things to do if you want to try and be a serious writer. I do want to be a serious writer, but I suddenly realised earlier today that I haven't actually sat behind my netbook all week. Literally, I switched it off last Sunday and didn't switch it on again until today. Crazy thought there.
036 – Precious Treasure
Captain McFadden looked at the shelves. The display cabinet was full of the most ridiculous things, at least to an outsider’s eye, but just looking at them gave him a ripple of delight and nostalgia. Gently, almost lovingly, he lifted each one up and inspected it.
Here was the gemstone of unknown type, formed when a mermaid’s heart was allowed to dry in the sun; there, the skull of a baby kraken, strange fluted spurs of bone arcing away from a vaguely oval sphere of bone. The top shelf was filled entirely by a scale model of the Ishian Sun Temple, the spoils of a bloody battle to reach the central chamber. Candlelight flickered over the golden surface, picking out the diamonds and rubies in flashes of rainbow and blood.
None of these were what had brought him down here, though. The feeling of uneasiness had dragged him from sleep, lured him out of his cabin and into the ship’s museum room. Something in here was calling him.
The Jujuan rain-call totem, the only surviving relic of the Juju tribe ; the brain of Knorn, champion of the Cyclops; left hand of Godd, leader of the self-proclaimed Pantheon of Madrah; picking each up in turn, he discarded them all. They were not what he sought.
By the time he found the tiny brooch, hidden away behind the much larger gladiatorial sword, it was growing dark outside. He had long since found a cup of tea and a chair, the better to sit and ponder where the feeling was coming from, and his eyes had been drawn inexorably to the spot. The gold was warm to the touch, a twist of metal around a small sapphire, shaped somewhat like half an anchor. The gemstone was emitting a strange sort of light, pulsing on and off apparently unendingly.
Clutching the trophy in his gloved hand, McFadden sat back down in the chair, eyes closed. Where had this trinket been acquired?
A storm had raged, driven the ship to shore. The crew, fearing the sinking of their home, had all abandoned ship and made their way into the thick jungle. All but the Captain. He goes down with his collection, isn’t that right? At the thought, a half smile quirked across McFadden’s lips.
The storm had abated and the moon had risen into the suddenly cloudless sky. The stars had been bright, a whirling nexus of pinpoint lights, and then the brightest of those lights had become brighter still, growing larger. McFadden had drawn his sword, shouted a wordless scream into the growing brightness, and then been forced to shield his eyes or go blind.
When he had dared open them again, he had found the lights gone; a small creature, grey and wasted, was lying on the deck, gasping in the sea air, and behind it there stood a metal craft not unlike a diving-bell, safely on the deck.
Kneeling next to the creature, McFadden had been able to hear its final gasps. “ÕèV-./x~"” it had said, then had seemed to dissolve from the feet up, leaving only an oily sheen and the golden treasure on the deck. Without any further sign or instruction, the diving bell had lifted itself into the air, borne on the wind of some god or other, and retreated back into the sky. Needless to say, the crew had seen none of this, the craven buffoons, and the Captain had told them none in case they questioned his sanity.
McFadden opened his eyes and stood. The time had at last come. Where all the stars in the sky really small vessels, each with its treasure enclosed? They would see. He strode to the door and swept through it, allowing it to close behind him.
“Lads,” he said, his voice carrying across the whole deck. “The time has come. We have travelled to many strange places, and fought many strange battles, but this will be our strangest.” He began to stalk the deck, boots thudding down onto seasoned wooden planks. “Tonight, tomorrow night, perhaps even further than that, we will be visited by a force that is unlike any you know. I cannot tell you what they will do. I cannot tell you what weapons they will bear, or what their plan of attack will be, for attack they must!” He clenched his fist and turned around, looking all of his crew in the eye. They had all stopped their assigned jobs, staring at him with worshipful eyes. “There can be no-one on the seas who has not heard of Murderous McFadden and his Cut-throat Crew!” He had them, in the palm of his hand, he could see. Crewman Murdoch was, even now, fingering the hilt of his cutlass.
“Hoist the mainsail! Batten down the hatches! We set sail for Isla-“
“Jeremy? Are you in there?”
Jeremy sighed and put down his toys. “Yeah, Mum, I’m here.”
“Have you seen my earring? The gold one with the sapphire, it’s quite small… only your Dad said you were asking about it.”
Jeremy squeezed his hand tighter around the precious treasure, and picked up Captain McFadden again. “Sorry, Mum, don’t know where it is,” he called.
“Let me know if you find it,” she replied, and then he heard the sound of her high-heeled shoes on the stairs.
“Now, then,” he murmured, “Where were we?”