"I'm thinking, that this island here.."
"No, no, ye slimy bitch, this is the thir' island ye'v led us to! D'you know w'ere it is or not?"
"Excuse me, you savage moron, but I don't see pointing us anywhere unless the lost gold is at the bottom of a rum bottle!"
"Shaddup, the captain knows I be an 'onest man, unlike you, blasted witch."
Captain Dreyfus rolled his eyes, inhaling the spray of the sea, and running his hands over the rough wood of the Siren. Under him, the ship rocked ever so slightly, buffeted by gentle breezes, its mighty body creaking in slumber.
They had anchored at the third island, Devil Pete's Coffin, and despite days of scouring, none of the treasure was found here either.
The little alchemist had so far led them to fantastical islands, singing with paradise birds of every make and dream, but nothing that even resembled gold.
Dreyfus inhaled again, surprised despite himself. The island imbued the familiar salty winds with some flower-like fragrance. Even after a decade of nothing but the chase, rough seas, and all manner of monstrosity, there was always something new. Always, and he loved that.
"-stick it up your ass, pirate, I know this is the one."
"Yer willin' to bet yer life on tha'? I'll feed ya to the sea serpen's aroun' 'ere, you understand me, wench?"
"We should kill you! You're the least useful pirate on this disgusting-"
Dreyfus growled. "Enough, enough!" He turned around to glare at the two, absolute idiots that were ruining his night. "Be silent! It's a miracle the w'ole ship ain't up with this racket!" He felt exhausted and hoped the dark bags under his eyes scared the imbeciles.
Naturally not. The alchemist smirked triumphantly at John Grey, her fingers splayed over her maps.
"And you!" Dreyfus snapped his fingers, determined to blame someone for this predicament. "Which godforsaken island is next?"
"Uh, this one, it is unnamed, but I believe it is where the ship went down."
Dreyfus narrowed his eyes, one hand on the sheath of his knife. "So, all this time you've been leading us to random islands?" It was John's turn to smirk at her, crossing his arms. It would probably be easier to toss the girl overboard, feed her to the sea snakes. She was lucky this island had food, or that would have happened this afternoon anyways.
The alchemist shook her head, finally looking nervous after months of calmly wasting Dreyfus' time. "No, I had read that the Spaniards took the gold, then they stashed most of the treasure on islands on the way to the king."
"So?" John grunted, looking bored. "We all know the gold never made it."
Dreyfus bristled at the interruption but said nothing as the alchemist went on. "So, fool, it now appears as though it was the ship that didn't make it past the Eldritch winds,-"
Dreyfus irritably waved his hand. "-Giselle's honour, which sunk where?" God, did the alchemist love prattling simple answers.
"Near these islands, the unnamed ones, here. This is an unknown fact to most, hidden by the Navy." The alchemist traced the "unknown" islands excitedly. It was the Lost Archipelago if memory served him. Surrounded by severe storms, all manner of beast. And now, thanks to this idiot girl, his ship would have to face it after months at sea.
Dreyfus saw John open his mouth, possibly to tell the girl, and anybody else listening to the impossibility of this plan. "Leave, both of you," Dreyfus ordered. "Leave the maps, go, now." For once the pair of bickering cows did what they were told and left.
Dreyfus ran his hands through his tangled hair, not that it had ever been unknotted and free of the stiffness the sea left, staring at the maps.
Before he led his ship into the hell hole of the Lost Archipelago, he needed to call on an old friend and ensure that there was something there.
As he climbed down and off the ship, splashing loudly into dark, cold waters, he felt his pulse quickening with the thrill of the hunt. He felt the same tension of the challenge, navigation, and the reckless pirate way.
He carefully brought the shell he wore around his neck to his lips, and called for her, the only one who knew the sea better than him and released the shell.
I'm such a fool, he thought suddenly, swimming faster. Clearly, the sleepless nights had taken their toll, or else he would have at least had the common sense to remove a few knives, his coat.
Furthermore, in the dark, he wouldn't see any of them coming, not the sea snakes, or the finned devils. The ship wasn't that far from the shores, but even then, this had to be one of the-
His heart leapt into this throat as something gleamed under him, and Dreyfus swam faster still. It could be her, or another one of the hidden horrors found in these ancient seas.
His strokes made it harder to see in the dark waters, and he finally gave up, whipping out his knife and suspending himself in the water. He gasped, spitting out the stinging salt.
A woman's head broke the water as Sirena surfaced, smiling at him. "My, my Captain." She drawled in her accent-less voice. "Did you mistake me for a sea monster? A seductive mermaid perhaps, here to steal your heart?"
"One has to have one to have it stolen," Dreyfus commented, not letting her see his relief.
Sirena cocked her head at him curiously, and he noticed a new scar along her neck. "Since only one of us can breathe underwater, may I suggest heading for shore?"
Dreyfus accepted her arm and let her tug him to the shallow waters, her tail smoothly moving up and down, propelling them easily.
She stopped a few metres from the shore, letting him splash on ahead. The water around her glowed blue suddenly, and she raised an eyebrow at him, holding out a tan arm.
Dreyfus smirked, throwing her his waterlogged coat. This was a definite change from their first encounter. "You came unusually fast, did you miss me?"
She rose out of the water, gathering the coat around her, water streaming down her muscular legs in rivulets. "Something told me you were swimming in a sea serpent nursery in the middle of the night." She smiled then, shakily walking onto the beach. "Disgusting you humans are, I must say."
For a moment, they stared at each other, and Dreyfus burned to thank her for the seaweed cure that warded off serpents from his ship, the sun worm powder that cured the plague and to ask her, something, something ridiculous.
"I was in the region," She admitted without looking at him, glancing at the waned moon.
"I know, we 'eard your sisters sing on the full moon," Dreyfus said, remembering that wild night, where John almost threw himself overboard into the waiting jaws of a siren. Even the alchemist fell prey to the song, and Dreyfus sorely regretted not letting them have her. "John's 'eart broke, I tell you."
Sirena laughed at that, finally having learned how to do it without sounding like a demon. Her sharp teeth gave away the act, however, and Dreyfus fought a grin of his own. She was one of the treasures of the sea for certain, someone who knew every nook and cranny of the corals and the words of the fish, and the moods of the ocean better than him.
He wished he could be like her, with her, an explorer. Lately, he had been a murderer and a thief more than anything else.
"Why did you call me?" Sirena asked then, making her own strange facial expressions.
Dreyfus smiled, so blunt was this creature of the deep. "I need you to find something."
"What?" Sirena asked, digging in the sand. "Oh, don't tell me, more trinkets."
Dreyfus knew the meaning behind that tone. "Yes. It's not far from here, near your mermaid nurseries-"
She narrowed her eyes at him suddenly, and Dreyfus stopped, curious. "What?"
She contemplated him for a moment, curling her hand into a fist. "Nothing, go on."
Dreyfus debated between pressing and continuing. "Fine. It is close to the mermaid nurseries, but more to the South, a small archipelago. There should be a ship, in pieces, bigger than mine."
"Last time we met, you said you wanted to be part of the sea. That's how much you loved its mysteries." Sirena said, turning her dark eyes on him, moulding the sand in her fingers. "Now you send me to a cursed place, to find things of humans."
"Sirena, if I could have what you have, I would leave my ship, my crew, all of it. But I can't, I have to settle for sandy islands and the ship's deck, instead of the deeps."
"So, if I found this ship for you, you would join me?" She asked, stepping closer, her smile a challenge. "Abandon your life on land and-"
There wasn't even a choice here. "Yes. I would send money to my family, and that's it. I'm done."
Sirena smiled. "Fine. I will come to your ship, and I will tell you what I saw. In exchange, you let me show you the real treasures of the sea, things no human has ever known."
Dreyfus merely smiled. Closing his eyes, he imagined it, as much as he could from his perspective as an outsider. He imagined not being trapped by air, hearing the corals chatter, the gurbles of the fish. "What do you get out of this?"
Sirena smirked, wild as ever. She placed a shell in his hand. "Stay on the beach tonight, and turn around."
Dreyfus gave the dark waters one glance before agreeing with her. "Why?" He asked, turning around to face the ominous-looking palms.
A slightly wet coat was placed on his shoulders. "You might get cold." A slightly murderous siren told him before he heard a splash and she was gone.
Dreyfus inhaled the air, flowery scent and all. He was so close to the treasure now. The remaining quest simply involved retrieving some lost gold from a cursed island, tolerating John and the alchemist long enough to sell the gold and get everyone on land. Then, he could get the real treasure, one no human had ever laid their eyes on, unimaginably potent and utterly priceless.
He curled his fingers around the cool shell in his hand, and raised it to his ear, listening to the soul-rending song of a mermaid with dark eyes.