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The second blow hit me on the back of the head, slamming my face back down into the blood and beer-soaked wooden trestle and loosening three of my teeth.

I had not been expecting this.

Now I found myself at a considerable disadvantage, my unknown assailant twisting my arm painfully behind my back, forcing my head to remain on the table. My tankard had retched up the last of its contents onto the trestle at the first blow and it spattered sadly onto the floor of the now silent inn.

I struggled, but whoever he was was stronger than me. The more I fought the tighter he held. I soon gave up and went limp in his arms.

The stranger wrenched me back up to standing, kept my arm behind me and shoved me hard towards the door. I still couldn’t see his face. Once we were outside he dragged me down a dark, urine stinking alley, kicked a beggar from his lair then spun me round to face him at last.

I staggered, hardly believing my own eyes. There was the long black hair, the ugly, jagged scar down the left cheek and, of course, the three trademark gold teeth winking at me as he threw me a sadistic grin, daring me to run.

“But you’re…”

“That’s right lad. That father of yours has landed you in a whole heap of trouble.”

“They say you’re not real - a story to frighten children and upset the peace.”

“A fine peace it is, where the nobility trample over the backs of the poor to line their own pockets and stuff their fat faces. But that’s a matter for another day. Your father owes me a debt that he’ll not pay. So I’ve come to take it from you.”

I literally quaked. I had never been in so much as a dockyard scrap before today. Without meaning to, I took a step back. It was a mistake. A flash of silver a blinding pain and then darkness.

When I opened my eyes again it took me a moment to work out where I was. There was the salty tang of seawater all around and the floor beneath me swayed alarmingly. There was a flash of agony in my head and I found I was dressed in the cheap, rough garb of a seaman.

A shot of fear coursed through me. I leaped to my feet, realising too late that I was surrounded by dark turbulent water as far as the eye could see.

Behind me I heard a group of men guffawing as I realised my predicament. What had my father dragged me into?

I explored my pockets. All the coin I had had on my person had of course been taken, but in one pocket I found a scrap of folded paper with my name scrawled across it in spidery black ink. I ducked behind the mainmast and out of sight before I unfolded it and, with trembling hands, began to read.

Alright lad. You’re here to repay that debt I spoke of. Now here’s what I want you to do...

The Next Big Adventure

[story removed due to contest entry]


Meanwhile, aboard the Seahorse, Bradleigh Salterton had acquired a new parrot. Like many of his previous psittacines, the creature was an expert in their field. So much so that she liked to be known as " TV anthropologist/ archaeologist Dr Alice Roberts". Her field was often a very muddy one somewhere in Scotland full of bearded monosyllabic men who drink too much grog.

Which meant she fitted right in with the crew.

The dandyish Salterton however was less enamoured, whenever he came to her field in a new pair of silken britches he was accidentally covered by a shovel full of mud containing tiny fragments of skeleton and bits of an old plate. Dr Alice Roberts had no sympathy.

" A little mud won't hurt you" she sneered dismissively, whilst being very careful to have her own perch set up well clear of any active digs.

Bradleigh endured it because of "the scrap of paper. "

The scrap was part of a treasure map of an island in secret location only Salterton knew.

On the map you could see a large letter X and the some other words which were cut off by the paper rip so that all that remained were the letters "oons" , and "ure" which obviously were the ends of the words doubloons and treasure.

His problem had been that this scrap of paper was well known in the pirate community.

Eggbeatd, Blackbeard and Fakebeatd the female pirate, had spies following his every move.

He knew that they would follow him to the island and steal the treasure. So he had developed a plan.

It is a little known fact but pirates are rubbish at digging. As soon as they get started they are tempted away to sit on dead men's chests drinking rum and they have no care for the objects they dig up.

Bradleigh' s plan was to get his most loyal incompetents to dig on leeward of the island where the rival pirates would see them whilst on the windward side, the one on the broken piece of treasure map, Dr Roberts would lead her expert team , using geophys and other cunning archaeology devices on an all night dig to get the get the doubloons.

The watching crews of the pirate rivals, too lazy to dig themselves would let his crew dig a big hole and remove a cheap treasure chest with nothing in it before attacking at which point saltertons crew would flee to a nearby boat. But by this time Salterton, Roberts, the gang of archaeologists, the doubloons and treasure would be long gone.

The plan worked like a dream, The Seahorse had hardly left Okracoke Inlet before three not so mysterious sails appeared on the horizon in pursuit, hanging back long enough to see the crew disembark on the beach on the leeward side.

On the windward side saltertons glee increased as geophys located remains of a settlement!

"We believe there maybe both bronze age and Roman artefacts here" squawked an excited Dr Roberts.

Salterton wondered how many cummerbunds a piece of bronze age treasure could buy him.

At three am Dr Roberts flew over to him in triumph with what appeared to be a tiny decaying piece of wood.

"Look" she cried , you were right! There is an amazing trove here!"

Salterton peered at the object confusedly.

"Umm what is it ? " He enquired.

"Why it is the remains of a wooden amulet in very good condition, considering" cried professorial parrot.

"And has it any monetary value?"

"Well it's only worth a few pounds but it's priceless to the archaeological community"

Salterton looked at the archaeological community. They were dancing drunkenly in triumph in excitement at their physically unimpressive haul and singing obscure archaeology songs such as "yo-ho-ho and a bottle of mead".

"And what of the rest?" He enquired "the treasure and doubloons?".

"Oh" said Dr Roberts "most other signs of settlement decomposed in a large pile of manure that was buried with it. As was the custom for these pre Beltane people's."

Bradleigh had thought he could smell something! But decided it was just the normal smell of archaeologists.

"The only thing we did find were these quite delicious macaroons preserved perfectly for 2000 years!" Shouted Dr Roberts offering with her beak a rancid looking biscuit.

Bradleigh sunk to his knees. How could he have been so stupid. Not TreasURE and DoublOONS. But manURE and MacarOONS!!

He sailed back home with his subdued crew and the still drunk archaeologists who were still cheering about their amulet.

It was some weeks before he advertised for a new parrot.

Back on the island the rival pirates confusion increased when they found not only an empty chest but, on the windward side, a parrot buried up to it neck in manure with a macaroon that was way past it's sell by date, lodged in its beak.