Zara stood at the prow of her ship, her dark eyes scanning the horizon in front of her. Her boots rested lightly on the bulwark, and she held on to the rigging to keep her steady. The same breeze that fluttered the black flag at the top of the mast tousled her unruly hair. The men working on the deck behind her glanced up occasionally at the slight silhouette of their captain, wishing they knew what thoughts were swirling in her mind as she kept her quiet vigil.
At the sound of a slight scrape behind her, Zara smiled and plucked a peanut from the pouch on her belt. She held it up for Blackbeard, her monkey, to take. Her ear was soon filled with the sounds of happy crunching as he perched on her shoulder and tore into it.
“I hope you’re not here because you’ve been tormenting Scully again,” she commented. She cocked an eyebrow at the brief guilty pause before the crunching resumed. Zara sighed. Her parrot was often the victim of the mischievous monkey’s playful schemes. Still, they usually got along just fine, and they were lovely companions to have on board. As soon as she found another animal who loved the sea as much as she did, she would have that one join them as well. As far as she was concerned, there was no such thing as too many animals.
An unusual movement in front of her pulled her attention away from Blackbeard, and she grinned at the sight that greeted her. Her crew, on the other hand, was less excited, and unease rippled across the deck. Just a short distance in front of the ship, the ocean surface opened into a gaping, swirling hole. It certainly wasn’t the largest or most terrifying whirlpool they had encountered in their many adventures, but the fact that they were headed straight towards it was definitely cause for concern.
Except for Zara. She bounded to the ship’s wheel, taking it from her skeptical first mate. Her confidence never wavered as they continued to sail straight to the whirlpool. Zara relished the feeling of inevitable freefall as they hovered for a heartbeat at the edge. And then they plummeted.
The fall was brief, but powerful. The ship was immediately pulled into the current, twisting and turning them all the way down to the seafloor and dousing everyone on board with thick sheets of saltwater. As soon as the ship’s hull touched the sandy bottom, the surface of the ocean closed above them, leaving them safely in an inexplicable pocket of air at the bottom of the sea.
Zara barely waited for the ship to settle before she flicked her wet curls out of her face and leapt from the side of the ship. Each step shifted and pulled in the wrong direction as she ran across the sand to the ornate chest sitting on a small boulder, her crew following eagerly behind. Without hesitation, she flung open the lid, the rusted hinges creaking in protest. The crew skidded to a halt around her and watched with wide eyes as she lifted the mysterious treasure from the chest…
“A book?” Her cabin boy couldn’t hide the disbelief in his voice as he stared at the large tome in her hands. “We went through all that for a book?” The crew shifted uneasily. Although they would never voice the thought out loud, they agreed with the young boy.
But Zara just smiled and quietly replied, “Don’t you know that books are the greatest treasure of all?” And she was right, of course, in the metaphorical sense (books and stories truly do hold treasures more valuable than gold and jewels). But she was also right in the literal sense, since the particular book she was holding was a record of all the incredible treasures only mentioned in legends. She would explain that to her crew, of course, but as the current shifted to carry them and their ship up from the ocean floor, she decided to keep it to herself for a little while longer. She smiled to herself as they breached the surface, curtains of water pouring off the ship. A short period of uncertainty would soon be forgotten when they were the richest pirates to ever grace the seas.