These are the Adventures of Don Santiago Rodriguez de Cadiz, a marine pre-salvage expert whose ship sunk many, many, many, many times. As told by Her Excellency, Baroness Maria Castelana.
Episode 1: La Pelusa Abroja
As the thistledown floats gracefully upon the breeze, so does La Pelusa Abroja, on the sea. The graceful and steadfast caravela is that of Don Santiago Rodriguez de Cadiz, marine pre-salvage expert, swashbuckler, debonair gentleman and, let us be honest, filthy pirate. Don Santiago didn’t much care for the term “pirate” so, early in his career of vile lawlessness, he sought out sponsorship from his generous and magnanimous monarchs, King Irel Krist of Starre Inn and Queen Rosalind of Wellmark. In exchange for freedom of the seas in their Letters of Marque, he pledged his loyalty along with one-fifth of his spoils to the Crown (If you ask Don Santiago, he would tell you that only fifteen percent was agreed upon, but who are we to question our great rulers?).
Within these pages, I will tell you the story of Don Santiago’s first ship, La Pelusa Abroja which sailed for fifteen years on the Aten Sea but did, eventually, sink. Don Santiago didn’t know it at the time, but the gruesome fate of this caravela would be one repeated many times throughout his years on the sea. However, never one to be deterred by a small problem such as this, he would continue to purchase, build, and commandeer other forms of sea-faring transportation in his constant quest to appease his rulers and fill his pockets.
However, I am getting ahead of myself. To understand Don Santiago, we will first have to understand how he came into his many titles. A young musketeer, Santiago was a rash and boisterous lad, too quick to challenge and even quicker to be bested by those more skilled than he. Determined to make a name for himself, as soon as he reached adulthood, he left home to set sail on the Frozen Seas of the North. Living as part of a crew made up primarily of young men like himself, he learned to be strong, hard-working, and sly. Most of all, he learned the ways of the water – how to sail, fish, and survive for long periods of time with no land in sight.
If I told you that during his first several years as a sailor, he experienced the sinking of a ship more times than a young man should, you likely wouldn’t believe me. But nevertheless, it is all true, a harbinger of things to come. It also happened that during this time, Santiago acquired his characteristic resilience as well as his addiction to cheating death. The pump of his heart in his ears, the rush of water flooding in, the screams of crew members as they drowned, all became music to Santiago as he swept in to be the hero. Well, more or less.
This fate had befallen several ships that Santiago crewed on, so after the third (or fourth, he could never remember) incident, he found himself in control of his first ship, La Pelusa Abroja. The captain mysteriously disappeared one night, the first mate, too. Some speculated that they had fallen overboard during a bad storm, while others wondered if they’d been murdered most foully. Santiago, however, asserted that they had simply left—enticed by a bigger ship and a promise of greater treasure in the south. Either way, they were gone, leaving this unruly crew to their own devices.
This was a perfect opportunity for young Santiago to justify his power grab because someone had to maintain order. With his winning smile, dashing good looks, and silver tongue, no one argued with him. Captain Santiago was born! His first order: Get the hell out of the cold northern wasteland and venture into the warm Aten Sea. It was here that he sought out royal sponsorship, knowing well that King Irel and Queen Rosalind held him in high regard. Santiago, as he always proclaimed, was a right and loyal subject of the kingdom first and foremost. In this agreement with The Crown, he promised to only harass those freighters and warships that traversed the Aten Sea on their way to the far-off Land of the Sun.
As the Aten Sea is very large, it took Santiago some time to collect enough spoils to justify returning to his homeland and paying his tithe to The Crown. It was on this homeward journey, this last, fateful journey, that terrible misfortune befell him and the entire crew of La Pelusa Abroja.
The night was a dark one, but clear and cool. Stars and constellations winked through the blackness, and the breeze blew steady and fast. The coast of his homeland came into in sight, a solid darkness against the star-speckled sky and white tipped sea. The lighthouse on the spur flashed its warm, familiar glow back and forth across the channel. Santiago could almost taste the familiar aromas of bakeries and distilleries, leather-workers and blacksmiths. By morning, they would be pulling up to the docks and unloading the booty. For an official first foray into the great seas, this adventure had proved fruitful and just as he had imagined.
This pirating, no privateering, thing was easy. They would be home in no time!
Santiago took a deep breath of the salty air, red hair cast from his face in defiance, and gave thanks. His hold overflowed with spoils from the seas: gold and silver, spices, whisky, exotic treats, toys, and swords. His belly was full of the last catch of this journey. His spirits, raised by the spirits he’d consumed, soared with the albatross overhead.
Suddenly, the sea beside them began to roil and froth, whitecaps rising higher and higher until they licked the deck’s rails. Within the tumultuous waters, Santiago noticed a creature of magnificent proportions, with great shining eyes and massive tentacles. He could not believe his eyes! Creatures of the deep do not appear this close to land! The heavy food and whisky must be playing tricks on him.
However when when one of these tentacles flopped onto the deck, writhing and slimy with algae, Santiago realized this was no trick of drink. The creature must have followed them all the way from the great Maelstrom of Sun Dragon. Santiago cursed. This was the last thing they needed during the final hours of their journey. Dodging out of the way, he pulled his trusty rapier, el espalon del gallo, as the tentacle smashed through the cabin wall.
“Monster afoot!” The first mate cried, “All hands on deck!”
Sailors swarmed up from the hold, some carrying crude weapons, others scurrying up the rigging to prepare the ship for evasive maneuvers. Santiago stared momentarily into the terrible eye of the beast which he now knew as a Kraken, a huge squid-like monster with the intelligence of a man.
The Kraken made short work of his ship. The aft mast had already been cracked in twain and they listed to one side. Sailors ineffectively fired pistols into the creature, but the bullets bounced off like pebbles. The first mate leaned on the helm, but the ship began sailing in dizzying spirals. Waterflooded in from a hundred different holes. Crew members fell, grabbed by the beast’s tentacles and pulled toward the monster’s toothy maw.
It was hopeless, Santiago thought, hacking at one purplish appendage. Every time they severed one, it seemed two more took its place. Try as they might, he feared they were doomed.
“Abandon ship!” Santiago called, mentally sobbing at the loss of such great treasures.
Lifeboats launched, sailors cast themselves off the ship with terror. The creature snagged at those as well, as their occupants tried to desperately row away from the grasping tentacles. Santiago, hanging on to the main mast, watched as one-by-one, his crew was taken from him, stolen by the brutality of the sea and the appetite of the Kraken.
When the chaos began to calm, the monster slipped silently back down into the inky depths, sated by the lives of his many men. Santiago floated alone. La Pelusa Abroja, fatally crippled, remained silent, save for the creak of mangled rigging, the crack of fallen timber, and the snap of ruined sails.
– Fin –
Please Stay Tuned For Santiago’s Next Adventure:
Episode 2: The Knarrarbringa
*Disclaimer: Any resemblance to people or places, real or fictional, is completely a coincidence. All events are for entertainment purposes only and never actually happened.