Sully woke through clouded eyes. He blinked slowly blinking until he realized where he was. Rotting wood and mold invaded his nostrils and he immediately felt nauseous. He blinked a final time and stared down at the rotting deck of the ship. He forced a hand under his chest and pushed himself onto his back. The bright white clouds filled his eyes and he temporarily went blind before his hands could help shield the sun. He let out a loud groan and sat up, his arms straight and set behind, supporting him like stilts.
“Top’f the mornin to ya, Mr. First Mate Sully”, Robin greeted with jest.
Sully mumbled and tried to string the previous nights events together. The crew had been at sea for months now with no new ships, women, or treasure. They were restless, but mostly they were tired. Shortages of food and drink had made them weary. One began drinking sea water, their minds washed out to sea with each handful of water they drank. Three days rice and an old rotting cow that was well beyond bad was all the rations they had left. The men were pushed to their wits end before a miracle occurred. A cask of grog was discovered in the former captains quarters under a hideaway door. The crew had finished the entire cask yesterday, coming back together as one, knowing this would be their final hurrah if unsuccessful.
“Sully, Rack wants to see ya, when your decent.”
Sully looked down to see his pants were down around his ankles and he’d wet himself.
“Quite the mashup last night there, eh Robin?” Sully said with a toothless grin.
Sully collected himself and walked around the deck to check on his men before heading to Rack. Everyone was in similar shape, but most were rousing and wanting to know what the plan was. Sully knew the plan. At least, he knew Rack’s plan. Rack was simple, and Sully knew what he was after. They were heading for Rock Hand, or Rock’nd, to collect the Goliaths treasure.
Rock’nd was a set of five tall columns of lava that jut up from the sea, dwarfing even the King’s Royal ships themselves . The fingers reach upwards towards the heavens before curling inward into a claw, with the fingertips straightened outward as though holding a ball. The thumb of the rock, known as Devil’s Thumb, was the widest and sturdiest. Once Devil’s Thumb met the sea, it shot straight down to the bottom. A large cave formed where the column met the ground from the constant ebb and flow of the current. Inside the cave was Goliath Grouper, protector of the Isabella Treasure.
The tale went that decades ago a ship belonging to the King, the Isabella, smashed into Devil’s Thumb, sinking it and its contents into Goliath’s den. Goliath soon recognized that the shiny objects were attracting other fish to feed on, not to mention men, and he soon becaMany men had made attempts to get to the treasure with very little luck, most ending up in the belly of the beast or ripped apart by a thrash of its tail. Goliath had been shot at, speared, bombed, and poisoned, all to no avail. One ship was brave enough to try and catch it, but the force of the fish monster shot the ship down under immediately, as if a black hole had opened under the ship.
Sully also knew that Rack was not after the treasure. Rack was not always a pirate. He was brought up on the sea, and worked the family fishing business. One day while out bringing in fish nets, a pirate ship confronted them and killed both his father and his brother. Rack was taken a prisoner and, eventually, became one of their own. But to this day, Sully knew that there was one thing Rack held higher than treasure, and that was treasure fish.
Sully picked up a half empty cup of grog and entered Racks captain's cabin. It smelled as though Rack had not left the room in days, yet he knew this wasn’t the case. The onset of sweat that had taken over Rack and made his room a sour pungent smell was not due to the waves or the starving crew or the treasure. Rack wanted the fish, and now Sully knew it.
Rack was standing with his hands behind his back with a drawing in front. He gave a toothy, charred grin to Sully. Rack was a funny shaped man, like an upside-down triangle. Broad shoulders narrowed down to skinny sea legs that somehow supported the broad man.
Sully raised his eyebrows and let out a sigh.
“So, what’s the plan Captain?” he said with a hint of hope.
“You know what the plan is. We’re heading out to Rock’nd and we’re going to find that treasure.”
“How are we going to get around Goliath?’
“We’re going to catch him,” Rack said as his face filled with a smile, hugging Sully.
Rack and Sully sat down to discuss the plan. He already had men working to weave five anchor rope lines together into one, thus forming a stronger connection with the fish. They would use their backup anchor as a hook, filing down the grappling hooks into fine points. A rotting cow that was no good to eat anymore would be used as bait. Sully had wondered why that had not been tossed overboard yet.
The key point to catching the beast was not to fish from their ship, but rather from the Rock’nd itself. It being impossible to pull ashore too, they would run the rope around the thumb and then drop the line straight down to the Goliath. Rack would position himself to the west of the gap between the thumb and the forefinger. The dingy would be rigged with explosives for Robin to take to the east side of the gap. When the fish was hooked, the dingy’s fuse would be lit. He would tie a rope around himself, and, once the fuse was lit, jump in the water and be reeled in similarly to Goliath. The explosion from the dingy would be met with cannons shot downwards towards the fish, sending Goliath into a panic. As the fish tries to escape the explosions and mayhem, the rope would become intertwined in the fingers and subsequent columns, thus defeating the fish.
“That’s quite the plan, cap’n” Sully said with raised eyebrows. “And the treasure?”
“Yes! That’s the whole point of it, of course.”
“So you have a plan of how we will, uh…raise it up and such?”
“Sully, first the fish, then the treasure.”
Robin looked down at the dingy, bobbing in the waves like the empty barrel of grog had. The weather had picked up severely, and big swells pushed the boat to and fro. He let out a little whimper and turned back towards the crew, both arms around the mast rope.
“Jump you red bellied scalawag!” someone yelled.
Just as the crew cheered, Robin turned back towards the surging waves and felt two hands shove him from behind. He plunged down into the warm water, but his breath still escaped him. His senses snapped back into place and he swam for the surface. The dingy was about ten feet away and a few waves helped him get to it. He grabbed the rope that attached the dingy to the nubby rock and began to pull. Slowly, he made his way into position and gave the all-clear sign.
With Robin in place and the hooks and line prepared, Rack called for his bait: the cow. The crew was more than willing to bring up the rotting piece of meat to be placed on the hooks, its flesh seeming to melt off the bones as they dragged it. The acrid smell singed Sully’s eyes and nostrils, causing a small gag. The ship dipped as a wave splashed over the bow of the ship. All three men lugging the cow went down with a thud and were immediately washed overboard with the cow. The rest of the crew came to and stared wide-eyed at the edge of the ship where the bait and cow had just gone over.
“Well, now what cap’n?”
“Fetch me Captain Blacktrail”
Captain Blacktrail had been their most recent conquest: a well-known captain who was now their prisoner. Blacktrail had made pirate destruction one of his side endeavors, and had burned the crew’s birth village the previous year. The crew had struggled with what to do with him. Two crew members ran to the makeshift jail cell and brought the young captain up.
“Captain Blacktail, for your crimes against….this entire ship…..for burning down our village…. with family in it….”
The crew grumbled and threw whatever was close by at Blacktrail.
“….you are charged….and hereby sentenced to be Goliath bait!”
To this the crew let out a loud cheer, and in one swift motion, Rack pulled his sword and held it towards the sky, before swinging it down and threw Blacktrail’s midsection, cleanly slicing through. Blacktrail’s eyes went big as the life left them. The top half of his body now slumping towards the side before falling onto the deck. Another cheer, and Blacktrail was placed on the hooks.
“Arrg can’n, maybe this woulda been better to use live bait!”
The crew laughed again, but it was abruptly interrupted by Racks smacking of the rail with his arm.
“All right then, let’s get this line in the water, now!” Rack yelled.
It took eight men to heave the massive anchor upwards from the deck.
“Heave! Ho! Heave! Ho!”, they yelled with each synchronized half step.
When they reached the edge of the ship, the eight men were helped by an overhead line from the ship. Together, they hoisted the anchor over the railing, and it left their grip with a final thunk. The rope followed the anchor with a hiss. The hook-anchor hit the water with a deep kartoonk, creating a wave of water twice as tall as Rack. The rope snaps across the bow and takes one pirate out, casting him into the waves below. The anchor hook rips downward, streaming line out to the point where the rope starts smoking. Finally, the line stops.
The waves heaved the ship upwards, the men unphased by the rolling water. Their gaze remained unchanged from the tip of the line. Nothing. Another wave moved through the crew like air. The captain wondered if they should’ve used live bait. Another wave shook the ship.
“Oye cap’n, you reckon this Goliath has got a bit of the tummy upsets from these waves, maybe not hungry, huh?”
Rack ignored the comment and kept his eyes on the line. The wind picked up and screamed across the water. The crew was silent, their focus now entirely on the rope as well. A low murmur began from somewhere on the ship, and the the sound turned into a grumble, with more men quietly joining in.
We’ve seen the finger of mighty hand
Crossed waves to tall to measure
We’ll find the gold of a thousand men
and then it’s fish for dinner!
Before long, the entire crew was boisterously singing this song, battling back the sound of waves and wind with its verse.
“….and then it’s time fo…”
The line jolted and broke a tree-sized column it had wrapped around like a piece of dead coral. Devil's Thumb gave a loud grumble as the the weight of the fish lurched the ship sideways. Pieces from the top of the thumb began raining down on the ship and crew. The men scrambled to take cover. as a giant piece hit a crewman and left him flat on the deck.
“The line! watch the line!” Rack yelled to his men.
The line was now stretched straight out along the top of the water. Goliath had come straight up to the surface.
Rack put his hand over his wrinkled face to shield the rain. He looked out over the horizon for any signs of life. The corner of his eye caught what looked to be water rising from the ocean like a funnel, before Goliath crested out from within it, emerging completely from the water and thrashing about. It must’ve been 5 ship lengths long. It’s white underbelly shimmered in the evening light, and the men were transfixed in this slow motion moment. Finally, the fish hit the water, causing gale-force winds and rain to fall on the men, followed by a swell that took the ship to the top of enormous Devil’s Thumb and back.
The fish immediately plunged back down.
“The cannons! Fire the cannons!”
The crew, as if jolted from a deep hypnosis, scrambled to shake the Goliath sighting from their minds and get to work. Three men at each cannon, they loaded, primed, and fired in the direction of the fish. Ten shots went into the water. Goliath gave a violent head shake, jolting Devil’s Thumb with a loud boom.
The captain then ran to the bow of the ship and signaled to Robin. Robin lit his fuse and leapt into the water. The rest of the crew not on the cannons reeled him in. They pulled Robin over the edge of the ship just as the dingy let out a shrill high pitched whine before exploding into a giant fireball that lit up the crew’s faces. The explosion settled and the crew went back to positions. As they regained control of the deck, they realized that the line had gone slack.
Everyone froze. The captain never shifted his eyes from the rope. The men’s faces streamed with sweat. Rack ran to the bow and looked over, scanning for blood. With the line still slack, the waves around it became still. Their ship stopped rocking and they were in calm water.
“He’s right under us heading straight up!” someone yelled.
Just as the crewman’s words met Racks ears, he saw the dark shadow below began to grow as it approached the ship. Racks jaw dropped and his cigar hit the water below.
“Fire! Fire! Fire!” Rack turned and yelled to his crew.
The men began cranking their cannons at lighting speed downwards, as far as gravity would allow. The plan of scaring the fish towards the other fingers had backfired, sending the fish directly for their ship. Rack shifted his focus back to under the ship, and there he was. Goliath’s top half was now fully visible down to its first fins, its stride effortless for such a massive body through turbulent water. He churned the subsurface with each flick of his tail, creating what looked like underwater whirlpools.
The booms went off synchronously, setting off smoke and waves that encapsulated the ship. Rack leaned out as far as he could go on the plank. Sully could see a few of the cannonballs hit, including two that were sucked up by Goliath himself. The beast held them in his mouth, and then spat them back out like a piece of inedible food. The ball whizzed through the water and blew straight up past Rack on the plank. A worthy adversary, Rack thought. Better than any foe the mortal gods could create.
Looking down into the water, Goliath was gone, but his energy was not. Just as the captain had planned, the fish was now in a state of mania, jolting the line and swimming erratically. The crew fired another round of cannons, straight down again, and the fish went into hysteria. It began trying to flee Devil's Thumb, and the fish began to take the rope around the first few pillars. Rack and the crew cheered as they saw their plan unfold. They fired more cannons behind the fish, propelling him forward and around.
As the end of the line approached, the crew could see the exhausted fish surface. First was his massive back fin, which put their own sail to shame, followed by a body big enough for a small town to live on. The men gawked as the fish thrashed about, fighting to stay alive to guard the treasure. Rack knew this fish created by mother nature could be defeated by no man, but only the man enlisted with the help of the very thing that created the fish.
“Oye captain, we did it! Now, for the treasure!”, cried Sully.
The captain took a deep breath and held it, gazing towards the dead fish. He let out the air through pursed lips and turned to Sully with a satiated grin.
“Yes, yes, the treasure. Of course.”