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Copyright ©2018 Echo Ishii
“Light?” I asked as I jumped down the last stone step into the darkness, my boots hitting hard on the broken bits of rock and dirt. A lantern was handed down and I grabbed at it.Light, finally.
“Captain Aristad?” A voice boomed from above.
“Nothing yet, Delacroix,” I whispered back up to my first mate. It wasn’t much of a whisper since everything I said echoed down the cavernous halls. Oh well. I doubted there was anyone down here — alive, at any rate.
I heard shuffling footsteps above.
“Need Hans Hammer?” Delacroix yelled down. He never tried to be subtle.
“Not yet,” I answered. Hans Hammer was a thug for fighting. There was nothing here at the moment but dust.
Hans Hammer and Delacroix had crewed with me on the Night Witch for over three years now. I still didn’t entirely trust them.
I breathed in old, stale air. This cellar had been a hiding place for a gunrunner called Black Death Joe. Joe had met an untimely end at the hands of the Court and Crown a little over a year ago — drawn and quartered, according to rumor. The mansion he’d built for himself above ground had been burned and ransacked. Even the stone base had been torn down to rubble. When the Court and Crown went after you they meant business.
I walked slowly along using the light of the lantern. The flames threw shadows against walls that curved into more walls hiding what was beyond. I had three knives and a pistol. Not much use against ghosts or other hellish creatures that might be lurking in this cursed place. And trust me, there are many things lurking within and without the Seven Seas.
I heard several more sets of thudding footsteps behind me. The crew had come down. I cursed under my breath. Delacroix never listened.
“I told you not yet,” I said into the darkness.
“There might be treasure you miss,” Delacroix’s sharp answer cut through the darkness.
I heard a hoarse, deep laugh. Hans Hammer. He and Delacroix had become quite the team of late. I also smelled the whiff of filthy clothes. Gutter Dave.
That unpleasant assault on my nostrils was followed by a thud, a yelp, and rapid coughing. One-Eyed Willy had joined. Willy was a coward and the only reason he’d come down to the cellars was because he was too afraid to say up top alone.
“I’ll go first,” I said making my way quickly, still holding the lantern out. The shadows of the other men flickered in and out against the walls.
There were snorts and grunts accompanied by the sounds of shuffling feet. No one spoke a word.
I’d sailed with Black Death Joe when I first started out. It hadn’t been willingly. My homeland of Atlantis was destroyed and I was enslaved. I washed clothes and fetched food for Black Death Joe for seven years until I managed to escape.
Now I had my own crew and my own ship. We were pirates, true, but no one was on my crew who hadn’t come voluntarily. And I had the advantage of knowing where Black Death Joe had hidden many of his treasures. Digging them up and sharing the wealth kept my crew in line.
There was a faint noise; like a scratching. I lifted my hand, ordering the men to stop. Everyone stilled. We all listened.
There was the brutal crashing of waves against the rocky shore. The howl of cold night wind blowing through decrepit hallways. The eerie screech of dilapidated window frames and broken glass.
There was no sound of footfalls or breathing, though something deep inside me told me that we were not alone down in that cellar. Even with Atlantis gone, the old gifts of my homeland told me: there was another mind out there.
“Stay here,” I commanded.
I rounded the next corner. No one followed this time. In the dim light, I stared directly at a rotted wooden door. I hesitated. It may have been a prison but whomever or whatever had been there escaped long ago.
I took several cautious steps toward the door and pushed it open.
I held my breath.
There wasn’t much to see at first, just a stone floor was covered in straw. No grisly remains. No stench of death. No splattered blood.
I let out a breath.
This room was no prison but something dwelled here. I felt the tingling in my bones.
I swung the lamp around to glance at all corners.
There they were… two large trunks pushed against the wall.
Delacroix shoved past me and stood in the middle of the room. He took one look at the treasure chests and his eyes went wide.
“Damn! It’s all ours,” he said with glee.
“Wait,” I told him.
Delacroix turned to me.
“There’s a fortune in front of us,” he hissed at me.
“Exactly. Two trunks filled with treasure just sitting there,” I said.
I turned to the others who’d joined us in the room. They all stared wide-eyed, greed written across their faces.
“Before you touch it, ask yourselves why unguarded treasure has stayed here all this time?”
That made them stop. Pirates are a suspicious lot. We all knew that gold didn’t sit there for the taking unless there was a price to be paid.
“I’d listen to your captain if I were you,” came a deep, dark voice out of the shadows.