CHAPTER NINE – The Skeleton Keys

Somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean Sea was an island. It was a place of unimaginable natural beauty. White sandy beaches. Crystal clear waters. Jungles and coves and waterfalls and even a dormant volcano.

Except you won’t find it on any map. The waters surrounding it are tremendously rough. They sink more vessels than the Spanish Fleet and the English Navy combine. This is why Pirate Captain Henry Morgan chose it to hide his famous Porto booty. Rubies, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, and more medallions you could spend in a lifetime, all hidden somewhere on this very island.

Legend also says that the Skeleton Keys were in Porto at the time of the infamous robbery. A long-lost holy relic which holds the power to control the monsters of the sea. But as I said, that was just a legend.

“Hurry up, men. We must find the treasure. Keep searching.” Captain Bloodhound had already plundered the high seas all his life and accumulated vast wealth and power. He had little interest in the booty, but he was fascinated by legend.

His crew was making there way across the island and ripping it to shreds as they went. As they had no map they had no idea where they should be looking. Gruel had told them they should start at the mouth of the river (something he made up on the spot to avoid torture). He was dreading the moment when they worked out he knew nothing about the location of the treasure and was therefore useless and somewhat expendable.

Gruel was busy trying to loosen his restraints when he heard a rustling behind him. Then someone whispered in his ear, “psst. Listen up, kid. We won’t have much time before they notice you’re gone so we need to start running and fast.”

He recognised the voice immediately. It was the pirate he thought was called PegLeg Pete. Gruel felt the rope loosen around his hand and drop to the floor. He turned around and saw a bruised and battered man.

“Let’s make a like ship and set sail!”

“No”, whispered Gruel, angrily. “Not until you tell me your real name.”

“What? But you already know it.”

“No, I don’t know it. Captain Bloodhound told me I can’t trust you and I need to know I can before I move from this spot.”

“But this spot is very dangerous. Pirates are ruthless. I know what they do to deserters, Gruel, and it ain’t pretty.”

Gruel stared at him, and firmly said, “then tell me the truth.”

“Look, I haven’t but been honest with ya. And I’m gonna tell ya the whole story, nothing but the truth. But now’s not the time.” He reached out his hand. “Now is the time to scarper, kid.”

Gruel paused in thought. He didn’t know what to do.

“Come on. We need to go, now.”

He took Pete’s hand and they began to run. They only managed to take a couple of steps before they heard shouts from the pirate camp and heavy footsteps of men with swords in pursuit.

“Don’t you worry, kid, we’ve got the upper hand.”

“Oh yeah, and what makes you think that when we’re outnumbered ten to one by bloodthirsty criminals.”

Pete turned his head towards Gruel while running and said, “cause unlike them mutinous mongrels, I know this place like the back of my hand.”

Immediately after those words came out of his mouth, Pete collided with a tree. Gruel picked him up and dragged him to his feet just in time for a swing of a pirate sword to miss them and plunge into the tree.

“That tree must be a new one”, said Pegleg Pete as he rubbed his head.

“I’ll believe you when you guide us to safety.”

“This way”, said Pete as he pulled Gruel’s arm in a different direction. Gruel could hear fast flowing water in the distance. Then he saw it, in fact, they were heading straight for it. Before he could question his judgment, Pete grabbed his arm and leap into the river.

They were swept away at a pace faster than any man could run. Gruel looked back and saw the pirates stop at the edge and shout profanities, which made him smile.

“We did it, we lost them.” Gruel then looked forward and saw the sudden end of the river as it plunged downwards. They quickly reached the edge and began to fall.

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