What Lies Beyond: Epilogue

Is it much farther, Cap’n?”, the stranger asked as he leaned out over the railing.
Not much longer now”. Corsair examined the worn map in front of him. Much of it was faded or tattered, but the large red X was unmistakable.
Then we'll have the greatest treasure in all the seven seas!” the stranger beamed, practically salivating at the thought of it.
Aye, if it is to be so easy. Ready the cannons, I want us to be prepared for anything!”
Aye Captain!”, replied his gunner, and Sabre eagerly set about to loading their cannons, no doubt hoping they'd run into trouble sooner or later.
Land ahoy!” came a call from the crow's nest. Corsair pulled out his telescope, and sure enough, an island with a large mountain on it appeared in the distance.
Mr Navigator”, he called, “take us in to the shore, but watch out for all those rocks.”
Aye Captain!”, replied Cross, taking the helm. Corsair examined the map once more, but apart from the X he could make out very little. They would just have to be ready for whatever might come.

As they pulled up on the beach and climbed down the rope ladder, Corsair surveyed the mountain before them. It was steep and perilous, with few solid footholds. “It will be a difficult climb to reach the top”, he mused. As if to echo his thoughts, a rock tumbled down the face of the cliff and thudded into the sand below.
I suppose we have no choice”, said the stranger, walking towards the near face of the cliff and looking for a handhold.
On the contrary, a rather superior option presents itself”, said a well-dressed sailor. “I've already scouted out this area and there's a cave running right through the mountain over on this side. There's a path inside leading up, I have little doubt it will take us to the top.”
Well, that sounds much better”, Corsair said, heading towards the man, but the stranger tugged upon his coat.
Cap'n”, he whispered, “Can we really trust this man? Where did he come from? And if we take him with us, he'll be wanting a share of the treasure!”
If that treasure is half what it's supposed to be”, he whispered back, “there'll be more than enough for us all to be rich men. And it's not as though we really have another choice”. Another rock fell down from above, a larger one this time, landing nearby and showering them all in sand.
Perhaps not”, the stranger conceded, following along.

Sure enough, they found a small cave entrance where the man had said, hidden behind some trees where one might easily miss it. The man's companion, a female sailor, was waiting for them to make sure they didn't walk past it. She waved to them energetically, as if they might somehow have trouble spotting her.
Another one?” The stranger asked, incredulously.
Corsair shrugged. “We're making progress, aren't we?”
It's so pretty!” Lapse exclaimed as they entered the cave. Brightly colored rocks hung from the ceiling and jutted out from the floor, bathing the cavern in a faint white glow. The light shimmered off a silent underground lake whose stillness was only briefly interrupted by a single droplet of water falling from above.
Watch your step, everyone”, Pack cautioned them, but Lapse paid no attention to him, whirling about and taking in all the sights while still managing not to trip or fall. She picked up a small glowing rock where it had broken off one of the outcroppings. As she raised it to her face, it cast its light upon her and her mismatched eyes twinkled with excitement.
Is this the treasure?” she asked, admiring it.
I don't think so”, said Corsair, “the real treasure is supposed to be beyond anything you could imagine.”
You should have told her that it was”, the stranger tugged at his coat again. “More for us.”
She slipped the glowing rock into the pocket of her jacket anyway, causing a little light to radiate out until she closed it.

Just as Pack had said, towards the back of the cave the path did lead upwards, through a sequence of flat rock surfaces that might almost have been crude stairs. The steps were uneven and some of them rose quite high, but the group pressed onward, gradually leaving the light of the cavern behind them. Corsair lit a torch to light their way. Soon they came upon a small clearing.
We've come up quite a long way”, Pack said, gasping for breath. “We must be nearly there.”
I can't see which way we're supposed to go from here”, the stranger said.
He was right, there didn't seem to be any way to go but back the way they came. Corsair walked around the edge of the room with the torch, but sure enough, the walls of the cavern went all the way around.
A dead end?” he wondered aloud.
“Sure seems that way”, said a sultry female voice.
“Who- who's there?” demanded the stranger.
Corsair cast the torch upon the new arrival, who was dressed in a vest, shorts, and short boots, and had long hair barely restrained by a bandana. “I came ahead of you”, she said, flicking her hair out of her face, “but my torch burnt out. “There doesn't seem to be a way to continue on.”
“Hey!”, Lapse called, “there's something over here!”
They all gathered around. There were 4 metal bars sticking out of the ground, of different lengths. Upon further inspection, each bar was actually split into two partway towards the top.
“Someone must have put these here”, she noted.

A ringing noise filled the cavern for a moment, then fell silent. Lay had borrowed Corsair's sword and was holding it next to one of the bars.
“I knew I'd seen this shape before”, she said, and she hit the next one with the flat part of the blad.
It let off a very similar sound, though it was a little different somehow.
A much deeper, louder noise resonated through the cave.
She hit the last one, and the last two sounds combined to make different, warbling sound, that kind of bothered Corsair's ears. “What are you doing?!” he demanded of her.
“They're not right!” Lapse exclaimed.
“That's right”, Lay said, brushing her hair aside. “The first two are close to each other, but the last two are much farther apart.”
“So what?” asked the stranger.
“So it means there's one missing”, said Pack. “The first two are there to give us the pattern, then we have to find the missing one.”
“I don't see another one.” Lapse offered.
“I think we have to provide the other note ourselves.” Lay said. “Unfortunately, I'm no singer. Do you think you can hit the missing note?”
“I can try.” Lapse said, cautiously. “Can you give me the other two again.”
Lapse attempted to replicate the missing note. “Aauuuuuhhhhhh”
“I don't think that's quite right”, Lay said, shaking her head. “Listen to the notes again”.
But Lapse didn't stop singing the note, and the three tones resonated together, making a horrible racket. Corsair covered his ears with his hands, and the entire cave began to shake.
“Make it stop!!” he shouted, but sound flooded the entire cavern, and the shaking grew more and more violent. He heard an awful cracking from above, and part of the ceiling gave way, collapsing with a mighty crash. They all dove out of the way, but the cave-in blocked the entrance they had came from, trapping them in the round clearing.

“Great”, the stranger snarked. “Now we're stuck.”
“We'd better try to unblock the opening,” Corsair said, digging at the rocks with his hands.
“It's pointless”, Pack told him, “a huge segment of the cave must have collapsed or it'd have slid down those stairs and into the lake. You'll never get through it all.”
“Ugh, look at my pants”, Lay protested, “they're ruined!”
“They seem fine to me” Lapse offered. “Hey, how come we can still see?”
It hadn't occurred to him until now, but sure enough, when Corsair had dived for the ground, the torch fell the the floor and went out. And yet, there was still a little light coming in from somewhere. He looked upwards, and a tiny slit of light was peeking in from beyond a rock.
“Look”, he said, “that must be the top!”
“But how do we get to it?” the stranger asked. “It must be thirty feet up.”
Corsair picked up a pebble and threw it towards the opening. It bounced off, pointlessly.
“Hey!” they suddenly heard a muffled voice from above. “Is someone down there?”
“Yes!” Pack called back. “We're trapped! We can see sunlight but we can't reach it!”
“Just a moment”, called the voice, then it was silent for a while.
“I'm going to try to knock out the ceiling, get out of the way”, the voice finally replied.
They all moved to the far corner, away from the place where the light was coming through. “Okay!” Corsair shouted back.
There was a tapping sound, and then it grew louder, and then it started to rumble, and then finally a big piece of rock fell straight down and shattered on the floor of the clearing, and light flooded the area. A woman's head peered down the hole.
“Are you all okay?” Sister asked. “I'm going to throw you a rope.”
“How did you get up there?” Corsair wanted to know.
“I was climbing up the mountain, but I couldn't go any farther because it was too steep, but then a big piece of the mountain gave way and I was able to pick my way across on top of the fallen rocks”.
One by one they all made their way out of the hole and to the top of the mountain.
“I suppose you know there's treasure here”, the stranger said, glumly.
“Oh yes”, she replied, “I hear it's going to be great!”
“Well, I guess we owe you one for getting us out, so let's all try to find it together.”

The sun was starting to go down a bit in the sky as they searched the plateau.
“Where do you suppose it could be?” Lapse asked.
Corsair pulled out the map again. “It doesn't really say, there's just a big X on top of an island with a mountain on it”.
“Well, it's not in plain sight” Pack noted, “and there's nothing it could be hidden behind, “it must be buried somewhere.”
“There's a bush over here!” Lapse ran towards it. “Bushes need soil, soil for digging!”
Lay scraped the soil gingerly with her hand. “It's hard. If it is buried here, it'd take ages to dig it up.”
Behind her, another rock toppled off the cliff and down to the beach below. Hearing it, she backed away from the edge. “And it's much too unstable”.
Corsair's mouth twisted into a wide smile. “You know, that gives me a great idea. Everyone, get to the other side of the mountain. That treasure will be ours sooner than you think.”

“You can't be serious”, Cross cautioned him after he climbed back down the newly made path to his ship.
“I'm all for it”, Sabre said, readying the cannons. “I've been so bored waiting here.”
“Do you think you can hit it from here?” He asked her.
“Of course I can.” She said, angling the cannon barrel higher. “Just give the signal.”
“Let me get a head start” Corsair told her. “I want to see it from closer up.”

With a mighty explosion, the cannonball tore into the cliff below the plateau and the rock face gave way, causing a massive rock slide to crash down the beach. After it stopped, the others made their way back down to the bottom.
“Well, here's the remains of the bush”, Corsair said, picking through the rubble. If there was something buried under it, it must be here.
“I see something!” the stranger cried, frantically heaving little rocks out of the way. Sure enough, something deep brown was buried under some rocks. Everyone joined in to help dig it out, until finally they were able to pull it out. It was a small iron chest, light enough to be carried by one person, but there was no mistaking that it was the treasure.
“Open it!” the stranger cried eagerly as they all crowded around the box.
“It's locked”, Corsair said as he tried to pry it open. “I can't open this without some tools. We'll have to take it back to the ship and open it there.” They all proceeded back to his ship to find out what was inside the box.

“Is that it?” Sabre asked as Corsair boarded the ship with the box in his arms.
“Yes, but it won't open. We'll need something to get it open.”
She returned with a hammer and a chisel, and Corsair set to breaking the lock as everyone crowded around, except for Cross, who was surveying the rocks to figure out how to get out of there. Suddenly, he spotted a strange ripple in the water.
Corsair struck the lock again, and there was another, larger ripple in the water.
He had almost broken the lock now, and the water was starting to turn dark.
“Stop!” Cross yelled, but it was too late. As Corsair struck the lock one final time, something erupted from the water, sending a massive fountain into the sky. The water plummeted back down like a downpour, drenching them all, and then a horrible, bloodcurdling screech filled the air. Corsair turned his head to find himself staring at an enormous sea serpent, easily three times the size of his ship.

“What is that thing?!” the stranger screamed.
“The guardian of the treasure!” Sabre cried, grabbing her sword. “Pull us around!” she yelled. “Let's blast it!”
“We're still on the beach!” Cross reminded them, but they weren't there for long. The serpent sunk its enormous teeth jaw into the side of the boat, and pulled them out to sea, dragging the ship right across the rocks. The hull splintered and broke, water rushing inside at a fearsome rate as the ship began to sink. Sabre stabbed the creature above its jaw and it let go of the ship momentarily. She quickly wheeled one of the cannons around and pointed it at the creature, but with a single strike of its enormous tail it took out more than half of the ship, sending the cannon, the chest, and most of the people onboard into the water. The chest quickly sank beneath the waves, never to be seen again.
“Guys!” Corsair cried, looking over the railing at his friends as they frantically tried to swim to the shore and away from the serpent, which screeched at them again.
“We're doomed!” The stranger cried, dropping to his knees and burying his head in his elbows.
But just then there was a massive explosion that shook what remained of the boat and the serpent let out a pained howl. Another ship was firing upon the serpent, its pitch-black sails shrouded in black smoke from its cannons. “The Black Ship!” Corsair exclaimed. It's come to rescue us!”
The Black Ship fired again, and the force of the blast knocked the serpent forward, its massive head slamming into the deck just in front of him. It broke the top layer of the deck, and Corsair fell through to the hallway below, which was rapidly filling with water. Worse yet, the serpent's head was blocking the ladder, preventing him from climbing back up.
“Now's your chance!” he yelled to the stranger. “He's dazed, stab him between the eyes!”
He tossed his sword up through the hole in the deck.
“But... he's huge! I'm scared!” The stranger protested, nervously.
“Only you can do it!” he said, as the water level approached his waist. “There's no time, hurry!”
Corsair reached frantically for a handhold to pull himself up to the deck, but he couldn't get to it, he would have to wait until the water level was higher and he could float up to it.
He couldn't even see what was going on above deck, all he could do was listen.
It was suddenly quiet, the explosions, the thrashing of the serpent, the screams of those thrown overboard, all of them faded away. Then he heard the sound of footsteps on the deck above, the sound of metal scraping against wood, and then finally, the serpent let out of horrible, pained cry, and its head slid off the broken ship in into the water, where it landed with a final mighty splash as the serpent met its watery grave. He breathed a deep sigh of relief and climbed up the ladder just before the rising water reached his coat.

“I can't believe it”, Pegleg remarked incredulously after they were all safely aboard the other ship. “I never thought in a thousand nights that I would be rescued by the Black Ship.”
“Don't get used to it”, said the ship's dark-skinned captain.
Everyone except Karma and the stranger laughed.
“That was some adventure!”, Corsair said, stretching his arms.
The stranger peered over the railing sadly. “But we lost the treasure... All of that was for nothing.”
“Don't be so sure.” Corsair told him. “The real treasure is within all of us. It's the courage to trust others and work together. We solved the mystery of a hidden island and defeated a giant serpent. Together, there's nothing we can't do!”
He didn't seem impressed. Lapse approached him, reached into her pocket, and handed him her glowing rock, which shone brilliantly in the now darkened sky.
“Here”, she said, “you can have this. I think it's a treasure.”
Her gesture must have gotten through to him, because his attitude quickly changed. “You don't have to-” he said, embarrassed.
“It's okay”, she said, happily, “I had fun! I don't need it anymore.”
“Thanks”, he said, gratefully accepting it. “I guess we made a pretty good team after all.”
“Yep!” she smiled.
“Well, captain”, the stranger said, extending his hand, “thank you for a wonderful adventure.”
Corsair put his hands behind his back for a moment, then shook his hand. “Safe travels to you”.
And with that, the ship pulled into port and the stranger disembarked from the ship. Corsair waved to him with his free hand, and he waved back before disappearing into the town.

“I think that went well.” Corsair said, after he had gone.
“You did a great job, Lapse”, Sister praised her, “I think you really got through to him.”
She blushed. “I wasn't sure it would work.”
“It just goes to show that treasure is what you make of it” Pack offered.
“Speaking of which, that wouldn't happen to be the real treasure you have in your hand there?” Lay asked, coyly.
“What, this?” Corsair uncoiled the fist he had been hiding behind his back to reveal a large red stone that glittered magnificently. He shook his head, “Nah, this is nothing”. As if on cue, the red stone crumbled to dust and blew away in the wind. “You can't take something like that with you. Real treasure lies beyond what you see on the surface.”
“Well”, Sister said, “are we going again tomorrow morning?”
“You'll have to go on your own”, Karma said, turning away from them. “I have some other business I need to attend to.”
“Oh come on”, Lay poked at him, “you know you had fun.”
“The night calls”, he said, regaining his feline appearance, “there is still much to be done before the sun can rise again.”

No comments:

Post a Comment