Captain Conch and Tuttle

written by Kasss

1- At Bridget's House

My name is Bridget Rose. I live in a small village on the outskirts of Kantana Point and commute daily to work. I've an artistic, romantic mind and soul and am very happy restoring old paintings and furniture in Kantana's Antiques where I have been employed for the past 11 years. Part of my work is visiting homes and haunting auction houses to find pieces to bring back to the shop. One of the perks of working in an antique store is finding bargains to help furnish my small 2-bedroom house and have I ever been enjoying that! During these search and rescue trips I often come back with several good items ready to be resold and some poor broken and battered desk, chair or sideboard nobody wants. Madame Zephyr sighs and rolls her eyes at me each time and lets me take those home where I spend hours restoring them.

My latest venture netted me a horsehair-backed chair and a silly little table, both of which would look lovely in my bedroom. The table, more of a chest than a table almost, was grimy with years of filth, badly scarred and additionally damaged by what seemed to be salt water. It even smelled of brine! I set out to restore it as soon as I had free time available.

After a lot of hard work the tiny thing started looking fairly decent. It had a lifting top and 2 small drawers on the front. For some reason I'd not been able to open one of those drawers and concentrated an entire Sunday in doing so. When it finally gave in to my efforts I found an old piece of paper stuck on the side of it.

I almost threw that piece of paper out then noticing it was folded over and had a wax stain I became curious. One of my better decisions, this was the start of an incredible journey as paper became map, or at least part of one.

Squinting at this obvious nonsense, one bunch of squiggles seemed to remind me of something. Now where had I seen those…
Try as I would the memory kept evading me and I stretched my hand out to pick up the paper and trash it. As I did so my eyes wandered to the table and with the evening sun creating shadows on its top saw what I remembered sensing before. Those same exact squiggles! Initials? CC to be exact with some text after each C. I set out to restore that writing and with some effort finally could read "Captain Conch, 1666".

An unusual name, who could it be, I wondered. I traded sanding paper and cleaning rags for my computer and soon came upon Conch history.

This year of our lord 1669, I, Crandall Avery Conch, born 1623, set out to write my life's story….and we buried the treasure, tore up the map and walked over to the shoreline. Although we had agreed to set out these pieces of paper in bottles and let them float off to an unknown land, I could not bring myself to do so and switched it for a blank page. This truce make me uneasy, why should I start trusting those who have been competing with me in the plunder over all these past years? No, the real map piece will go to rest into this chest and the chest passed down to my descendants. Perhaps one day some lass or lad will find it, recover the treasure and live a happier life for it. My sister Noreen can have the chest. Her brats can fight over it on her own deathbed.

Oh my! Treasure! I knew no rest until Madame Zephyr allowed me to take vacation time. I left the next week. I felt I needed to do some actual book digging, so that was my first stop.

I arrived at Island Tour South the next day and immediately started searching archives and public registries at the Font since this was a well-known place for historical archive storage.

2- at the Font

After several hours I found Paul the Carpenter and started tracing his family to more current days. More research gave me Noreen Conch, married to Paul the Carpenter, 013 Paradise, Ootay, 1642. How strange, my great grandfather on my mother's side was a Carpenter.
Following my research it became imperative that I embark on a ship. A free ship to be precise. We must get to Ootay Island according to the information I had gathered from documents and family history and time was short and running out rapidly. I needed to get to Ootay and search on site.

Captain Conch was placing the table on the side of the door just as it opened and smacked him sharply on the shins. "Blast you!" He swore at his first mate, "you'll be fish food soon if you're not more careful!"

"Land" announced John the Heartless, "time to put ashore what you need and us to be off as soon as we can. The crew is uneasy being so close to his Lowness's ships and soldiers with no water to manoeuvre in".

"We will leave when I say so", growled Conch and was pleased to see John blanch perceptibly.
"The place we are looking for is here"… as he pulled over a map and marked a spot close to Crab Rock. "Fetch the boy to carry Tuttle". Within minutes, Conch, John and the boy left the ship and walked off to the east. Tuttle, the captain's turtle, was a heavy beast and the boy struggled to keep up so the going was slow and several hours passed before they reached their destination.

I sailed off with a light heart; this whole treasure hunt had a firm grip on my imaginative mind!

Soon, the endless seas and angry waves had me retreat to my little space on the ship with prayers coming to lips. It gave me an entire new perspective about life on the wild waters of Tiki and the courage of those long gone sea travellers.

We arrived at Ootay before I lost faith. We disembarked and I set off to find the house I wanted, leaving the crew behind to gather crabs for our evening meal.

3 - MAB house

Finally! Here it was but wait, now I knew why that address had sounded so familiar - it was where the MAB held their meetings. The MAB was Tiki Islands's council, made up of several of our Elders, and our representatives at His Lordship's monthly audiences. Perhaps one of these had information to share with me. I went up to the door and pushed it open… and tumbled back down the stairs head over heels as a bench flew over me and landed intact on the ground!

A head appeared at the doorway, long snouted and scaly looking. I knew the MAB was elderly but never thought they would be quite this old!
"Nyte! You cannot bring your dragon into the house, how many times must you be told?" I heard some mumbling and as I was picking myself off the ground a human face peeked out and someone rushed over to help me.
"Are you alright young lady? Did the bench hit you? I've told her not to bring that darn beast in here, every time she does things go flying all over the place, and now look, we have nearly killed someone and…"
I interrupted and assured the old fellow that I was fine, no harm done. He gave me a radiant smile as he kept patting my arm.
I explained who I was and what I was searching for here, holding little hope for any useful information but was pleasantly surprised. The MAB had archives and in those was information on all the prior residents of the little house they now occupied. As I listened to him gratefully, a young woman came running out followed by the dragon I'd first seen at the door.
"I found this in the storage room, it belonged to one of the owners and is dated 1671, would it be of any help to you?" she asked.

Yes it certainly would!

The document NyteLyte gave me was what seemed to be the original journal of Captain Conch. What a find! It was in poor shape, torn, stained and partially illegible but with patience I knew my restoration talents would bring most of what was written to light. I thanked both of them and headed back down to the beach and my ship.

As soon as I reached them, the crew sat me down and fed me a wonderful stew of crabmeat, seaweed and wild onions. They were curious about my expedition but too respectful to question me. They soon moved off to let me relax and I opened the old journal and studied it. There seemed to be 2 different handwritings, how strange. A close look showed where a page near the end had been torn out. I started reading what I could of the old journal off a page titled Ootay. One section seemed important.

John the Heartless stopped moving and signalled all should do the same. The boy gratefully put Tuttle to the ground and dropped next to it to catch his breath.
"This is nearly the spot" growled Conch, " stay here until I call you."
The Captain walked away and was soon lost from sight in the palm trees. John took out his cutlass and proceeded to stand guard as he watched his master walk off into the night. All he could see in the distance through the mist was a tall structure on a rocky hill, and a beacon of light aimed at the sea.

4- Lighthouse

The crew grumbled some when I asked them about lighthouses in the area, they knew of one but told me it was a haunted and dangerous place. They had to be convinced, bribed even, that I really wanted to go there and we finally set off. A few hours later I started searching the small island we had found. There was an old lighthouse here, obviously the site of a battle of sorts if I understood the burn marks I saw all around. I could hear the sound of the wind from the sea as it made the building creak and groan like an old burnt-out ship would. The inside was strewn with rotting chests, rum caskets and odds and ends. There were also skeletons! This was truly a desolate place and it made my skin crawl.

I found something! A business card with the name Gaskill's Tavern and words on the back:
John, please help Brianna Treville, Tom Gaskill. Also scribbled were the letters "the Red". I tucked the card into my pocket and kept searching.

As I dug around the hard ground inside the tower my mind was trying to connect a modern-day business card with a treasure hunt and I wondered who were Brianna, Tom and John.

Suddenly the sky was bright as morning and heavy black smoke began to appear in the direction of the lighthouse. I told the boy to pick up Tuttle and be ready to flee on my command. Splashing sounds, then crunching steps on rocks and sand were heard and out of the mist through the trees came the captain.
"We must leave", said Conch, "this place was infested with varmint and will no longer do for my plans". The captain turned to watch as the fire took over most of the lighthouse, swearing under his breath "bad for the sailors to lose such an important light but nothing could be done about it…"
Conch bent overTuttle and seemed to pet the beast for a few seconds, then glared at us and growled that we must now go to the dark shadows where the Bloody Queen lived.

The Bloody Queen. I dug out the card and wondered if the Red and the Bloody were the same. There was only one way to find out.

5- Grove of the Red Queen

I did not like this place. It reminded me of Tabu, down to the flickering torches and dark mist. This time, one of the crew insisted on coming along and, hide it as he tried, I noticed he was carrying a very long knife.
There was a strange garden here, full of flowers and plants, all growing strongly in the absence of sunlight. Large trees hid the sky with their leaves and their roots grew wild and made for treacherous walking. I could almost see my companion sweat.
In a small clearing there were several square stones set in a pattern and as we walked upon one it shifted under our weight. Setting ourselves to the task of lifting the heavy stone it took us several minutes of hard work but it finally lifted and toppled over as we pushed it aside. I turned my light onto the ground and found a coin. It looked and felt different from our present currency but it was too dark to see much of it. It joined the business card in my pocket.
There was nothing here and I sat down unsteadily. As I did my hand found support on the stone we had removed and my eyes opened wide. I recalled another passage I had read in the journal.

The lighthouse was not a wasted trip. When I came up to the building I could hear it was already occupied and not by anyone I wished to meet. The sounds of a fight, clashing of steel and loud curses filled the small space inside. I could smell rum and spilled blood, a body was lying on the ground, arm outstretched to sea. As I stood there in the shadows of the boulders I saw the shape of two men staggering in a last effort to slay the other. It was bad luck that the lantern on the shelf fell and set the rum afire but there was nothing I could do.. nor did I want to try. As the fire started feeding on the old timbers the last man fell and a scrap of paper came fluttering out carried by the updraft. I caught it hoping against hope then left the place in a hurry.
The page was indeed what I had come for and I was glad to have retrieved it from the thief who stole it but now must find a better hiding spot for it.
We go to the Queen's, one of those heavy stones will be perfect for my plans.

A Queen again. So this was the right place, it could not be a coincidence to see the word repeated so often. Shifting my weight to get off the ground my fingers felt indentations in the underside of the stone that felt too regular to be anything else than…. Yes! It was writing!

I of D N33dl3

I wasn't sure what to make of that but since we seemed to have found all we were going to, we left the place and made our way down the steep hill to the water to join the ship once again. On the way the answer came to me as the crewmate offhandedly mentioned he had lost one of his shirt buttons in the climb. We set sail as soon as we boarded and headed through the channel to the northern side of the island.

6- Stonehendge - Eye of the Needle

The wind was blowing hard as we reached the top of the rocky mountain. It was a desolate place yet it enchanted me. Far down below I could see a few small villages and just beyond those the sea and our ship anchored off the shore. Looking south-west a larger mountain stood in our view. The crewmate had come along once again and noticing where I was looking, mentioned that at the top of this tall peak was Sutter's Camp. Apparently I would find the Gaskill in that area.

Why would captain Conch wish to come all the way up here I wondered so I started searching for the answer. After a while I found some carving on a wall of the Eye.

I recalled the page I had been reading just before we arrived.

The captain left the ship alone this time saying he would be gone only a few hours. He took a hammer and chisel from the tool chest but I've no idea why. As I kept watch in the dark, I thought I saw a lantern on the side of the mountain, slowly working it's way up. If that were himself he was on a dangerous mission, those slopes are steep at day, worse at night. I could only watch and hope he did not break his fool's neck. I was fond of the old man, he had after all raised me from a brat and taught me to read and write. He also gave me my name saying that John Rose was not fit for a pirate, so John the Heartless I became.
It is nearly morning and yet no sign of Conch. I will go wake the crew and get breakfast going while we wait.

A hammer and a chisel were what told me to look for markings on the stone. As I peered at what I had found I could make out x -186950 and right below that the words Nada Tikis.
I knew where Tikis could be found on Nada, 4 places to be exact. I just did not know which one the old captain meant.
One set was at Castaway's Refuge on the western tip of the island, one was on Nada Beach in the south, another could be found on Sentinel Ridge in the north and a last place was somewhere to the SE of the island. I opened the journal to read more of the captain's story.

I walked down the sandy pathway following the sound of the waterfall and stumbled on a large stone. There seemed to be more of these around and the breath caught in my throat as I lifted my lantern to get a better look. Stone sailors! Begad! What sort of place this be? I approached one of the statues and recognition hit me like a cannon blast, this was one of old Chumbucket's crew. I backed away quick-like and reconsidered my options.
I had started at the Ridge and made my way down to this lost place. Obviously neither was going to work for me. I did not much trust the refuge as it was often used by sailors who stopped over for the night. That left one place, a fair walk from here. I set out in that direction.

7- Beach Tikis

When we reached this place I was exhausted. We had searched an entire Ridge, tramped through the forest to admire a beautiful waterfall, gone to an empty hut that smelled musty and finally worked our way to this little beach. I suppose I should have started here but I don't trust the old dog and did not dare skip any of his possible hiding places.
The carvings were here, y -90616 and the words Poison Food. I took note of the numbers and wondered about poison food. My brain did not deliver any useful answer and with a few cusses I admitted the need to return to Caldera to let Madame Zephyr know I would be gone longer than predicted and then transport over to the University of There for some research on the matter. When I informed the crew, there were many groans as this would be an extremely long detour since the currents from Ootay made Comet closer than it was in nautical miles. One bright young lad suggested I do all this by Internet to which I replied that I had not brought my laptop with me.
"Gaskill has computers you can use for a cost. It is not very far from here." What could I do but hug the little brat.
On arrival at Gaskill's Tavern we were informed by the owner that his connection was poor today but that if we went up to Sutter's the reception would be great. He wrote down some directions on his business card and I suddenly remembered the one in my pocket and pulled it out.
"You are the second young lady to ask me curious questions lately, I gave the first one that card as an introduction to old John Bali. Never saw her again" said Tom Gaskill.
Tom had no further information to give and he sent me on my way with the loan of a laptop. The directions led me to a grassy ledge outside Sutter's walls.

8- outside Sutter's

After talking to Madame Zephyr, who informed me that the store had been broken into and valuable items stolen, and searching the UOT's library for a while, I finally came across a picture that gave me my answer. It was a simple matter of deciding where to go. When we headed back down to the Gaskill Tom told us the connection was back so I was able to print a copy of what I had found. He also introduced me to John Bali, the man this Brianna had gone to see. John explained he had only given her directions to some sacred grounds she was looking for, he was at a loss to explain how the business card ended up at the old lighthouse. As we were talking about her in came Brianna herself! AS it was time for lunch we all sat down and shared stories as we ate a nice spicy meat pie hand-made by mrs Gaskill. Brianna was a pleasant person and had some interesting stories to tell so she and I promised to keep in touch. After the meal this place no longer could help us and we went on our way after taking care of our debts and saying our good-byes to all.

9- Enoki

The next day saw us at our destination. The mushrooms where in a smallish hollow and gigantic. A couple had bite marks on them but since I could see no body or bones in the immediate area it seemed they may not be as poisonous as captain Conch had thought. I did not however test my theory. Some low-lying mist had not been dissipated by the bright sunlight so we searched under the ferns, behind boulders and under rocks as well as we could. We found nothing.

At mid-day we sat down to lunch and while munching on a fish cake I decided to take another look at that picture from the library book. The setting of these stones had a strange pattern to it, what did they remind me of?

The only island I knew that was in a western direction from here was Comet. It seemed an odd place for pirates to hide their treasure. Feeling I had some more work to do I boarded the ship once more and we made off to Crab Rock on Ootay. The ship's crew stayed behind while I climbed to my retreat.
No one ever came here. Above was a secluded spa facility and below was Crab Rock and it's neighbour the more active Hot Dog Emporium.

10- Below The Hot Tub

Since I was close by I took an hour and enjoyed a nice long soak in the hot tub then walked down to my little hideaway and sat on one of the stones to think. I dug out the map, the business card, my notes and the coin I had found and set these out on a nearby rock to study. The coin, now cleaned up a bit, looked like a Doubloon. While researching the UOT on-line library I had read that a Doubloon was worth 16 pieces of eight. A quick calculation told me I was looking at perhaps $1,000 worth of gold!

The map, an old piece of parchment torn along 2 edges and at odd angles, had a dotted line drawn on it that curved around a few objects but did not seem to go anywhere in particular.

The business card seemed to indicate that someone else was on a similar search as mine. I found that very intriguing. I needed to speak to Brianna some more.

The numbers I had written down were clearly co-ordinates. I would not know if they meant anything unless I travelled to far away Comet, West as indicated at Enoki Hollow.

I had to decide.

My story is nearly told. After carving the co-ordinates and directions on those 2 stones and letting Enoki show the final way, I was able to destroy that page once and for all. The only thing left was to hide the map in a safe place and hope all the pieces could be brought together in some distant time.

The captain paused to pet Tuttle thinking how useful a turtle could actually be. The boy would take care of him now, he had grown attached. Conch chuckled in his beard.

John will revert to his true name now as he plans to take wife soon. I wish them both a happy life, helped with a little gift from me. I trust him to set aside a fair share of those 100 Doubloons for a rainy day. Right now he's waiting to take the chest over to Noreen with a letter from me and this journal. Once he has left I will go on with my plan. No one will find me.
Safe life and journey John Rose of Caldera. May you be blessed with many children to keep your family name alive.

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