The Greatest Treasure of All

Submitted into Contest #67 in response to: Write about a pirate captain obsessed with finding a mythical treasure.... view prompt

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There were people who thought that Captain Nathaniel Falcon was out of his mind when he bequeathed his chip, the Dragon of the Seas, to his daughter Betsy. You just couldn't have a woman in charge of a ship. Oh, women could be in charge all right, and often the most fearsome pirate captain would admit that when his wife wielded the rolling pin he cowered in the corner like a jellyfish. But Captain Falcon had always been strange. To start with, he knew how to swim, and preferred the men on the Dragon of the Seas to be able to swim as well, and that was just as much bad luck as having a woman even on a ship, let alone captaining it!

But long before he even lay on his deathbed he told Betsy, a raven-haired girl who was not beautiful but had something more profound than mere beauty, that she was to take it over when he went, as he said, to the galleon beyond the sunset. "And some will leave, to be sure, my lass," he said, "And don't try to tempt them to stay. But others will stay, and I warrant they will be glad they did." As his death came nearer, and that great body weakened and that great heart beat more shakily, he told Betsy, "You must try to find the greatest treasure of all. The one I lost in a moment of stupidity and arrogance. And you will know, my darling. Promise me!"

"I promise you, Papa," she said, and knew better than to tell him that he was not on his way to the galleon beyond the sunset, because they both knew that he was.

After he had been consigned to the heaving ocean as the sun cast its own dying rays over the waves in the West, Betsy confronted the crew of the Dragon of the Seas and told them that any who wished to jump ship and sail for another captain were entirely at liberty to do so, and she wished them well. A couple did. But more stayed. And none of them regretted that decision, even those who had made it begrudgingly and reluctantly.

And so the Dragon of the Seas sailed on and Betsy carried on looking for the greatest treasure of all. She captained the ship to the southern oceans and to the strange lands at the bottom of the earth. She found hoards of gleaming gold that shone more brightly than the sun, and joined with her crew in exclaiming in delight at their beauty and worth. But she knew it was not the greatest treasure of all.

She sailed to the North, to the Crown of the world where the sun never rose in winter and never set in summer, and she and her crew found massive pieces of the most perfect amber, some with creatures that had been trapped within it for millions of years. She had a jeweller make her a special bracelet from it, and many of her men commissioned little trinkets for their wives and sweethearts. But in her heart she knew that it was not the greatest treasure of all.

She sailed to the East, to the realms of fable and legend, where the great teachers and prophets had walked, and there she found mines rich with glittering diamonds, as far as the eye could see, like iridescent ice flashing and flickering in the clear and limpid light. "Oh, Madam Betsy, surely this is the greatest treasure, what you father spoke of," said Charlie, the first mate, who had stood by he from the start. "You could make yourself a crown from them and look like a veritable queen." But she shook her head slowly and sadly and said, "Charlie, they are beautiful beyond all descriptions, and enough of them to make crowns for every queen who has reigned on this earth, but they are not the greatest treasure of all!"

She sailed to the West, to a place of ancient and wise cultures, and a place of brash and new ones, and she embraced them both, and discovered that in mighty vaults there was enough money, stack on stack, to buy anything you wished for in the world and then some more. Enough to make a whole fleet of ships and to pay their crew a hundredfold. Nobody had ever seen so many shining coins and so much tight-packed bullion, and so many crisp edged notes before. But Betsy shook her head, sadly. "No, this is not the greatest treasure of all. This isn't what my father meant."

The crew of the Dragon of the Seas were worried for their captain. She was still firm but fair, still concerned for their welfare but not prepared to hear lame excuses, still an expert navigator and an excellent negotiator. But there seemed to be no light in her eyes, in those dove grey eyes that were not like her father's flashing blue ones, although in most ways, she resembled him.

On a calm, almost too calm day, in that season when winter is over and yet spring has not really begun, they put into port in a little town by a fjord; a little town where the houses had red roofs and plump ponies grazed in green pastures. A group of people had gathered on the quayside, and Betsy said, in her clear, carrying voice, "You have nothing to fear. We wish you no ill, if you wish us none, but please, show us your treasures. Show us all your treasures."

"Madam Betsy, I doubt there is much in the way of treasure here," Charlie said. His age, and his loyalty, and the massive affection and gratitude she bore him meant he could say what others may not dare, but even as he spoke, she said, in a soft voice that carried more than the most raucous roaring wave, "Hush, Charlie!" A woman, elderly and wrinkled, but still erect and dignified in her bearing, came forward to greet them.

It was as if time stood still, and then stampeded like the wildest of horses. Betsy looked into a pair of dove-grey eyes, the mirrors of her own, and was gathered into a warm embrace as their tears mingled.

And she knew she had found the greatest treasure of all.

Her mother.

November 13, 2020 09:03

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1 comment

B. W.
05:06 Nov 15, 2020

i'll give this a 10/10 :)


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