Samson had drawn the short straw and was now fidgeting in front of the solid oak door to the captain’s quarters. He raised his fist to knock and it hung in the dead air for a moment before courage took him over and he knocked hard.
“Aye!” the captain’s grizzled voice bellowed.
“It’s Samson sir!”
“AND! What have you man?”
“I’d like a word sir.” Samson did her best to hide the quaver in his voice.
There was silence and then the Captain spoke.
“Very well then. Come in.”
He turned the heavy iron latch and made his way in. The captain’s quarters were dark. Darker than he’d ever seen them. Not a single lantern or candle was lit. The only light in the room coming from the window but it was grimed up the whole room seemed hazy. The captain sat behind his table, a gaunt shadowy figure sunk into his chair.
“How are feeling captain?”
“I’m well. Why do ye ask?”
As the Captain spoke Samson could see his eyes in the dim light. They shone with an eerie glare.
“It’s just that Morris…”
“Morris?” the Captain interrupted him. His head twisting slightly in prying.
“The cook sir. He said that you haven’t been taking your daily rations.”
“Is that the reason for ye visit Mr. Samson? My diminished appetite?”
“No sir,” he swallowed hard and hoped the Captain couldn’t see him shake “it’s just that there’s been talk amongst the men since our last at port.”
“Hmm…” he said inviting Samson to continue as he stood.
“Some of the men saw a small black box brought onto the ship and taken to your quarters.”
Samson looked around the room. His eyes had adjusted to the dim light and he could now tell that the quarters were much cluttered state. Empty rum bottles rocked back and forth on the floor with the movements of the sea. Maps and various instruments were strewn out across the shelves. On the captain’s table were different scraps of parchment scribbled with messy black ink.
“So the men wish to be privy to my personal business, is that so Mr. Samson?”
The question snapped him back to the Captain.
“No sir, it’s just that…well pirates are a superstitious lot and with the squalls…”
“So now I’m responsible for the weather?”
“No sir. The men have just made connections that’s all and…well I think it would ease their minds if they either knew what was in the box or where we’re going.”
The Captain’s face twisted into a chilling grin.
“Would ye like to know Mr. Samson?”
The tone of his voice was anything but inviting but Samson didn’t know what to do, so he stood in silence.
The Captain took the lack of response as an answer and stood up.
Samson noticed that he wasn’t wearing his clothes as much as they were draped over him. His pantaloons were doubled over at the waist and being held up by a piece of rope. He walked over to a small set of drawers built into the wall and opened one. He pulled out a small black box and returned to his table while he beckoned Samson with a bony finger.
Samson approached as the captain sat back down. The box looked old and the way the captain handled it he wagered that it was heavy possibly made of stone. The Captain lifted the lid to reveal a much small compartment that held something dirty and brown. The Captain pulled out the contents of the box and held it delicately in his hand. He brought it to the tables’ surface and spread it out.
It was a map, circular and written on what appeared to be leather. Samson had seen enough maps to recognize a coast line and along the coast line was an X.
“It’s a map.” Samson said.
“Sharp eye, Mr. Samson.” The Captain said with a wide grin, not taking his eyes off the map.
“To what? Coffers? Wrecked trade ships?”
“Are ye familiar with the City of Carcosa?”
Samson face went blank.
Every sailor worth his salt knew of Carcosa. It was blight. A curse upon the seas to any seaman that spoke its name. It was more legend than location. A lost city of mystery and madness said to hold the gold of nine kings. It was a well-known fool’s errand. And the Captain was now chasing it.
“I suppose that’s an aye from Mr. Samson.”
“It’s just a legend. A myth. A story told to entertain the men or frighten them.”
“It’s real.” The Captain’s eyes flashed the honesty to his words, “I saw it once. I was not more than a cabin boy at the time. A mighty squall blew us off course. Captain brought the ship about and it was there on the shoreline. A thousands coasts I seen, but none like that and every man on board knew. Ship came close but never weighed anchor. Some of the men had a possession and jumped overboard. Captain knew then. The winds were dead so he yelled for every able bodied soul on board to grab the rows and we pulled off as fast as we could. The captain was in a fury after that, took the lookout and made him dance the hempen jig off the mizzen mast for not spottin ‘er soon enough. Soon as we got a hint of wind we lifted three sheets and never returned.”
The air was colder. Samson knew nothing had changed outside but the air was colder. He could feel it. It ran down his spine and into his legs. The Captain saw it.
“Losin yer sea legs Mr. Samson.”
“No Captain. It’s just…I truly believed it was just a myth.”
“In every myth is a seed of truth.”
“Captain…do you think it wise to seek it out?”
“Mr. Samson every night since that night so long ago my dreams have been haunted by the unknown of that city. If it takes me sailing right up to it and stepping foot onto its solid shore then so be it. But the shapeless horrors of my mind will be made real and I will know them.”
Samson hadn’t realized it but he had been backing up as the Captain spoke and his back was now against the door.
“Mr. Samson, I trust you don’t have a problem with the ships new course.”
Samson’s eyes, wide with terror, gave the answer he could not.
“As I figured.” The Captain said dolefully.
He raised his single shot pistol and fired into Samson. The shot had left a sizable hole that was now rushing out with warm wet blood. Samson face went from terror to shock as he reached down and felt his life leave him.
The Captain walked over and pushed him to the side to open the door. The shot had gathered the men and they were all looking in as the Captain looked out.
“Seems Mr. Samson had his mind set on mutiny. I will not abide by traitorous men and their will be a final meal of powder and ball for any man who lets the word mutiny touch his lips, is that understood!”
“Aye Aye Captain.” And with that they scurried back to their duties.
They were afraid. He could see it. He could feel it. But more importantly, he could use it.