My grandad always loved telling me pirate stories when I was a boy, not one's like you may have already heard though. Those old stories were all the same; they glamourise piracy, that’s just not how it was. Those are not the kind of stories my grandad told at all. I dare say you won’t envy the pirates in this story, it’s a tale about a man who was not only obsessed with power, but with riches. His obsession lead him down a path that you may not believe, I’m not even sure I ever believed it myself at first, but as the story goes he became immortal.
He was known as Nefarious Mick, and for over thirty years he was pirate captain to the vessel “The King’s Whisper.” He and his thirty-five crew plundered not just on sea, but on land too. Between them they amassed a fortune in gold and silver. Mick always got the lion share, of course. Supposedly though, they spent most of it. The assumption is that they spent it on women and booze. Pirates weren’t hoarders you see, despite what the books and movies would have you believe. They were of a dangerous profession and were well aware that their days could well be numbered. Spend what you can while you can. That was Mick’s motto, and the crew were in agreement. There was no power in hoarding, the power was in plundering; in spending unearned treasures. There was nothing more valuable in the world than gold, or so Mick had thought.
It all started when the crew made port at Barataria Bay. A rumour had been heard amongst the crew. There had been a woman, a female pirate, named Eve Masterson. She claimed to have heard of a pirate who had discovered a treasure far more valuable than gold and silver combined. Nefarious Mick wasn’t usually one to take stock in rumours, but Eve’s story tempted him. If there was such a treasure, he wanted to find it. He could only imagine the power that would give him when rumours circulated of his success at finding this treasure.
“What be the name of this treasure?” He had asked her.
“Need not its name do you, need its splendour, perhaps.”
Her inability to answer his question directly should have angered him or made him doubt her claims. It did not. He was already hooked.
So Nefarious Mick, one of the most successful pirates of all time, took his crew on a mission that may or may not bear fruit. This was something he felt that most of his crew would not understand. They would feel as though they were on a fool's errand. If the mission didn’t go to plan, he would lose the crew’s respect.
There were, however, two men aboard his crew that Mick knew he could count on completely. They were of a higher intellect, and he knew they would understand his way of thinking. They shared his determination and hunger for riches.
Hagan was the man that Mick trusted most of all. His real name was Cole Winterburn, but nobody still lived that knew that. His mother had been the last to call him by that name, and he had killed her long ago. Mick may have been the captain, and as respected as he was amongst the crew, it was Hagan that they really feared. That man had the devil in his eyes. Nobody dared speak up against him. If you were to look at Hagan the wrong way, you could wake up with a knife in your back, or not wake up at all for that matter. The other man that Mick trusted was Augustus Irrifaldo. He had been a sailor when Mick had found him floating on a piece of debris in the Indian ocean. Mick had taken him on board, and although Augustus was reluctant to the ways of the pirate at first, he was easily swayed. Five years had now passed since that day, and Augustus was as much of a pirate now than Mick was.
Hagan was reluctant to believe that such a treasure existed. He had heard the rumours in Barataria bay, but why had they never heard these rumours anywhere else? There had never been any rumours of that nature circulating in Tortuga or Port Royal. As reluctant as Hagan was though, he loved the thought of being in on something which the crew were being kept in the dark about. Augustus was much more excitable about the prospect of such a valuable treasure potentially existing. Like Nefarious Mick, he was a greedy man. It was one of the traits which had made him convert to piracy so effortlessly.
The weeks became months, and the crew still knew nothing. Mick had found no trace of this elusive treasure, but the crew had been asking questions. They wanted to know why they were constantly going from port to port with no explanation, no instruction, nothing. Mick told them to trust in his leadership and they would be well rewarded, but that wasn’t enough for them. Hagan stepped in and lied to them. He told them that they were searching for a colossal hoard of gold that had once belonged to the feared pirate Hamish Warner. The crew told him they hadn’t heard of him. (They wouldn’t have done though, he didn’t exist). Hagan reminded the crew that they should have faith in their captain, and if they had doubts, they could jump off deck at any time. The crew didn’t argue again.
Another month passed. The crew were in bad shape. Many of them had been suffering from a bad case of bleeding gums. Several of which had been losing teeth too. That was just the start. Next came the itchy skin, which lead to excessive scratching, which lead to broken skin and scabbing. That was when their arms and legs started to come up in dark blotches, as black as the night sky. Then they started dying. One by one this was happening until fifteen men had all died. Not long after that they were forced to dock at Tortuga to recruit more men, Mick ordered the men to stay on board the ship. He did not want to scare off potential applicants with visual representation of diseases that pirates succumb to. He took Hagan and Augustus with him and left them in charge of recruiting men. He had other business in mind.
Abina Owusu was well known in Tortuga for being a woman who you did not interact with unless you had a death wish or unless you had something to offer her. The offering must be substantial, your life depended on it, or so they would say. Nefarious Mick knew all about her. She was a powerful woman. Some said she came from one of those African voodoo tribes, some said she was a powerful witch. He didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t, all he knew was she may be his last hope.
Mick told Abina about his issues with the crew, about the disease which plagued them. He also told her of his interest in finding the treasure, which he was still yet to find. He worried his mortality would get in the way before he had a chance to find it. Abina did not react to Mick’s mention of treasure, but she told him she could help him with his lifespan. She could give him immortality, but in return she would claim his soul. He agreed without a second thought, not considering what that would actually mean for him. She began a ritual in which she crushed bones into a small dish until they were ground into a fine powder. She then brought a knife to Mick’s thumb and had him bleed four drops of blood into the powder. She then added a liquid of unknown origin (To Mick at least) and mixed it all together into a paste. She instructed Nefarious Mick that he was to eat the paste and then presented him with some rum to wash it down. He did as he was told. He felt a sharp pain in his chest, which was not comparable to any pain he had felt before, then he passed out.
Abina was gone when he awoke, but he knew she had kept to her accord. He felt different, stronger and more alive than ever. Was he immortal, though? He couldn’t be sure. Only time could tell, and tell it did. The crew continued to suffer and die, Hagan and Augustus were not immune and soon succumbed too. Hagan was as aggressive at the end as he had always been and put up one hell of a fight, but it was all in vain. Mick hired more crew three more times but it soon become apparent that he was playing a losing hand. Not long after that, Nefarious Jack became a legend. His crew were known to be dead, his ship docked and abandoned at Clew Bay. He was assumed dead too, but nobody was certain of that.
Every pirate that ever knew the name Nefarious Mick eventually died. The sixteenth century became the seventeenth century. Nefarious Mick was a name that popped up every once in a while, but he was assumed long dead. A legendary pirate in his day though, apparently. Mick Hagan was glad that his story had stood the test of time. He was keeping a low profile, so had borrowed his old accomplice’s name to keep himself hidden. The name served him well, and he kept it for quite some time. He went by many names throughout that century and the next as he joined pirate crews and travelled the world’s oceans, but he never again heard whispers of the most precious ever treasure, nor did he find it. Eventually piracy died out, and some believe that is where his story ended, but I don’t think so. I don’t think he will ever die, not until he finds that treasure he sought after. That treasure which was more valuable than gold and silver combined. I’ll let you into a secret, though I think he had that treasure the whole time, and I think he always will have it. I think that because the one thing in the entire world which is worth more than gold, more than silver, is life, and Nefarious Mick, wherever you are, you’ve got that in spades.