THE FALCON'S TREASURE, Pt. IV (A Relic Hunters Short Story)
"Pirate Skull and Booty" photo courtesy of FreeImages, user Dani Simmonds.
The Falcon's Treasure, Pt. IV (A Relic Hunters Short Story)
Bane thought over everything he remembered about Sahmi’s journal. He’d read it so many times, he could recite most of it by heart.
From where he sat, he knew that there would be a cave somewhere to his right, on the west side of the lagoon. At the back of the cave would be two tunnels, both carved by dwarfs Sahmi had paid well to dig. One of these — the right one — would take him directly to the treasure. Though Sahmi hadn’t said what the treasure was, he’d described it as ‘priceless.’
Bane wasn’t sure how Brett would have found out about this treasure. Sahmi had never talked about it. As far as he knew, the only place he’d ever mentioned it, besides to the dwarfs who’d dug the tunnels, had been in his journal. Maybe they had talked about it, and that was how Brett had made the discovery.
He shrugged. It didn’t really matter. What mattered was that Brett knew about it, and he was on the island. Bane had to keep him from getting his greedy hands on Sahmi’s treasure, no matter the cost.
Bane didn’t come to get rich like Brett clearly had. He came for something much more important — connection. He wouldn’t see his friend again until he went to the Agaean someday. Until then, there were very few ways in which he could gain any sort of connection to his old friend. One way was to get hold of the treasure. His heart quickened at the knowledge that he was so close to something Sahmi had hidden away. He couldn’t wait to touch it, knowing that so long ago, Sahmi’s hands had also touched it.
He scanned the western wall with his eyes. He thought he saw the outer edge of the cave’s entrance. It was mostly hidden by palm trees and tangled vines and brush.
He pushed himself to his feet, hefted his bag onto his shoulder, and moved toward it. As he went, he pulled out his night vision goggles and slipped them around his neck.
When he reached the spot, he pushed the vines aside and, sure enough, there was the cave. His heart pounded with anticipation as he stepped into the darkness and slid the NV goggles over his eyes.
Thanks to his eidetic memory, Brett knew he was at the right place. Still, he left nothing to chance, and he compared his surroundings to the map and the descriptions in the journal. He was right on target.
He glanced up just in time to see Bane disappear into the side of the cliff.
He tethered Myrtle to the palm trees, then he retrieved his firearms from his saddle bags and strapped them on. Next, he grabbed his pack and slipped his arms into it.
He moved toward the cave, careful not to make any loud sounds that Bane might hear. He waited just outside the entrance long enough to give Bane a chance to move into the tunnels, then he entered the cave.
He pulled out his own pair of NV goggles and slipped them around his neck. He waited a minute or two, long enough for the arael to get far enough ahead that he wouldn’t hear his footsteps.
Then he slipped the goggles over his eyes, switched them on, and stepped into the tunnel.
As Bane made his way through the tunnel, he thought back to references Sahmi had made in other entries in his journal. Entries Brett may not have had time to read yet.
Near the beginning of the journal, Sahmi had mentioned dummy tunnels, short forays off the main tunnel designed to throw treasure hunters off the true course. Bane moved past these, knowing he was on the right track.
Finally, he reached the cavern he knew to be at the end of the tunnel. He spotted something he recognized, and he inhaled sharply at the sight. A small trunk made of iron and wood sat upon a narrow stone pedestal. He’d seen that trunk before, and he longed to stride right up to it and take it.
Caution won out over haste, however, as he expected there to be booby traps of various kinds along the way to it. As he carefully approached it, he looked for signs of various obstacles. He found none, and soon, he stood before the trunk and pedestal.
He studied the trunk for some time. He could find no triggers that might set off any dangerous traps or mines or anything of the kind, so he reached for it.
Having read and memorized the entire journal, Brett knew which tunnel to take. He also knew about the other dummy tunnels — something Raffi hadn’t told him about.
From the tunnel, Brett watched as Bane entered the cavern. He waited for the arael to move further into the cavern before approaching the entrance to it, then he watched as he approached the box on the pedestal.
He held his breath as Bane reached for it. He fully expected some kind of trap, but nothing of the kind happened. A light flashed, then went out. That was all. He scratched his head, wondering what the purpose of the light had been. But it seemed to have no ill effects, so he shrugged and forgot it.
Slowly, he drew the gun on his right and moved into the cavern.
As Bane turned away from the pedestal, the wooden box under his arm, Brett stepped closer. “Stop where you are.”
Bane growled, and Brett smirked.
“I’m not surprised you’d let me do all the work, then claim the treasure for yourself,” Bane said angrily. “You’re a cheat, Holt. You know, I don’t think you could find the bathroom unless someone led you to it.”
“Set the box back on the pedestal, then back off nice and easy.”
“Why should I?”
“Can you not see that I’m armed?”
“So?” Bane asked, defiance flashing in his amber eyes.
“You want me to shoot you, then.”
“What I want is for you to turn around and leave. For once, let go of your greed.”
“Set it down and back off,” Brett repeated, his voice flat.
Bane hesitated, but finally, he set the box back on the pedestal.
Brett tossed a pair of cuffs to him. “Put these on.”
“Do it.” Brett cocked the firearm and aimed it at Bane’s forehead. He stood a few yards away, but he was close enough to hit his mark.
Bane did as ordered. As soon as the cuffs snapped into place, Brett stepped closer. He relieved Bane of Aithne, his sword. He also took his hunting knife. Then he retrieved the trunk. Again the light flashed, nearly blinding him in such close proximity to it.
In the next moment, a low rumbling came from somewhere deep within the earth. The ground began to vibrate, then it shook with increasing force.
Bane and Brett stared at each other for the briefest of moments as stalactites broke and fell to the ground around them. One barely missed Bane as he struggled to keep his footing.
Brett set the box back on the pedestal, but the ground only shook harder. He grabbed the box and made a run for it, leaving Bane to fend for himself.
“Holt!” Bane called out. “Holt! Unshackle me!”
Brett ignored him as he ran through the entrance to the tunnel and disappeared.
Bane ran after Brett, following him out into the tunnel. He tackled him a few dozen yards from the entrance to the cave.
Aithne and his knife slipped from Bretts grasp and clattered across the stone floor. The wooden trunk also fell, breaking open.
The relic hunters stared at each other, then they stared at the box. Brett grabbed for it, but Bane wrapped his arms around his neck, using the chain between the cuffs to cut off his air supply and pull him back away from the box.
Brett tried to reach it with his foot, but Bane’s legs were longer, and he kicked it away from his rival, still holding him down.
Bane adjusted his hold, turning it into a sleeper hold. “Stop fighting,” he ordered through clenched teeth. “It’s over. Stop!”
Brett struggled for a few seconds more, then finally surrendered, patting the floor with his hands.
Without letting go of Brett, Bane stretched his foot out toward the box and dragged it forward. He brought it close enough that he could open the lid with one hand, and he laid it back on its one good hinge, then looked inside. There, he found a small parchment scroll sealed with twine and a bit of red wax bearing Sahmi Zamada’s Red Falcon symbol.
He lifted the scroll, then glanced at Brett. “If I let go of you, are you going to try anything stupid?”
Brett held his hands up. “No way. I’m as curious about the treasure as you are.”
Bane doubted it, but he let go, ready to grab his rival, should he try something. When Brett did nothing, Bane returned his attention to the parchment and broke the seal. He unrolled it and began to read aloud.
Brett leaned in close, reading along with him, but Bane barely noticed as he read aloud:
To whomever is reading this, I know you were expecting to find great treasure, but the contents of this box are only valuable to me. To anyone else, the contents hold no monetary value whatsoever.
In the bottom of this trunk is a false bottom…
Bane and Brett glanced at each other, then Brett lunged for the box again.
Bane tightened his grip around Brett’s throat, stopping him cold.
Brett slumped and stopped fighting.
Bane reached into the box and felt around. He found a notch and pulled on it. The false bottom came up and he lifted it out. Under it, he found several items, many of which he remembered from his days with Sahmi and the crews of the Prospero and Leviathan: a small clay pot with a cork that was still secure; an amulet on a chain that had belonged to Dumar Cooper, then his son, Jayden; a sports medal that had belonged to Luca Rosetti; a while lace handkerchief; a small knife that had belonged to Sahmi’s birth father, Diego Tavares; a rabbit’s foot that the navigator, Gorduin Mourningdoom, had given to Sahmi before going into battle against the crew of the Pathfinder II, led by their former captain, Tobias Hancock; and a journal of Bane’s from his earliest years serving with Sahmi. And there were other things, besides these. Before his death, Sahmi had asked that each of them give him something of theirs, something he could treasure in the afterlife. There wasn’t one among them who wasn’t eager to do this one last favor for their friend and captain, though it broke their hearts to know that he would soon leave them.
“Can I go now?” Brett asked, his voice rough from the chain that still pushed against his throat.
“Unlock my shackles,” Bane said.
Brett pulled a chain from inside his shirt. A key dangled from it. He yanked it off and unlocked the cuffs.
Bane released Brett, who pushed himself to his feet. He handed Bane his sword and knife, then staggered away.
“Worthless,” he mumbled under his breath. “How such a sentimental fool got to be a great legend is a mystery to me.”
A small amused smile played at the corner of Bane’s mouth. He knew a lot more about Sahmi than Brett did. He knew exactly why his friend had grown to become such a famous legend, but he’d never tell.
He packed the treasures back into the box, then rose to his feet and carried it back outside. When he reached the exit into the cave, his mind went to Raven, and suddenly, he felt he needed to hurry outside. He wanted to ask Brett where he was having Raven held.
Unfortunately, when he exited the cave, his rival was nowhere to be found.
He pulled out his MCD and checked for a signal. It was strong and clear, and he called Catin.
“Hey, Bane, I just got a call. I’m on my way to pick up Raven. Brett called me and told me where to find him. Can you believe it? What happened, anyway?”
“I found the treasure. It’s — not exactly what I expected. I’ll show it to you when I get into Westerview. I need to return to the ruins, though. There’s something there I need to get.”
“All right. Any idea when you plan to be back?”
“Sometime tonight, maybe tomorrow morning.”
“See you then.”
They hung up, and Bane sat down on the ground. He retrieved some rope from his pack and tied the trunk closed. He’d repair it later, but for now, he just wanted to keep it secure. Once that was done, he headed back up into the hills in order to avoid the gunman he’d encountered earlier. He planned to sneak onto the Zamada property after sundown and find what needed.
Bane entered the Zamada estate by the northwestern wall. The wound in his arm was bothering him, so it was a bit of a chore to climb it, but he did, and his feet hit the ground with a light thud on the other side. He waited for any sign that the dog or the gunman might be near. Nothing happened, so he moved on toward the main house.
It looked like someone had recently bought the place. Several pallets of building supplies lay stacked in neat rows at the back of the house. Bane moved between these and the house, and soon came out on the side where the courtyard stood. He found the spot where Sahmi’s room had been so long ago, and he sat down on a patch of grass that had taken over where stone tiles used to be.
He took out the small trunk, untied the rope, and opened it. He pulled out the parchment and read it again by the light of the moon, then continued on to the part he hadn’t read before.
There’s another treasure located in a vault under the floor of my old room at the estate. There’s a stone table, and it’s buried near it. Feel around, and you will find a metal door with a ring on it. Once you get that open, you will find the rest of my treasure. Some of it, which lies in a locked wooden box, is not of much value to the average man, but to me, it holds great sentimental value. The ring I won from An’n, the wraith assassin, and my lover after the death of my precious Catin. The first fifty gold doubloons I ever made through honest work, which is to say before I took up piracy. A pouch to be opened only by my dear friend, Shinjou Masakatsu. I will not say what it contains.
And, of course, there is a great deal of gold and precious jewels filling up most of the rest of the vault. The vault is bigger than one would think, and only I know of its true location -- and now you do, as well.
And if it is my best friend, Bane Asmodei, who is reading this, I have a secret to tell you. I know that Catin still lives. Or did when I passed on. No one told me. I figured it out. You and the others are very poor liars, and I learned rather quickly what she really was. I won’t get into all the small things you did that gave it away. It’s enough that you know. I can only assume that you kept it from me to spare my feelings and to protect her. If she was a sentinel, as I believe, then she would need to keep that a secret even from me. Once she “died,” she could never return to me. We were happy together for a short while, and I would never trade it for anything.
Bane, you have been the best friend a man could ever hope to have. I pray that you find another man with whom you can develop a close friendship, as you did with me. It is not good for a man to be without close friends. Every one of us should have at least one at all times. I am proud to have called you that friend, the friend who sticks closer than a brother. You have always been most dear to me. I only wish I would have told you how I felt more often.
Enough of this mushy stuff. It is time for you to set me free. I will see you on the other side. I look forward to it!
Always your servant,
Bane re-read the part about where to find the rest of Sahmi’s treasure, then he looked around. He could barely make out a stone table in the darkness, and he approached it.
He felt the ground beneath it, brushing the sand away. His hand hit something hard and unmoving, and he dug further. There, beneath the sand, lay a rusty metal door with a ring on it. He pulled on the ring, but it was corroded, and it crumbled where it was attached to the door, and it broke off.
He felt around the edges of the door. He couldn’t grab it with his fingertips, so he pulled out his knife and wedged the tip of the blade under it, using it to jimmy it open. It opened with a creak, and Bane grimaced, listening for the bark of the big black dog. Nothing happened, and he returned his attention to the lock box in the ground.
Inside, he found Sahmi’s Ring of Chaos and fifty very old doubloons. By modern standards, the coins were practically worthless, except in a museum, but to Bane, they were a fortune. Sahmi had once touched them. Holding them now made Bane feel close to the friend who had died almost 1200 years ago. It brought tears to his eyes — and a smile to his lips.
He reached into the box again and found a small pouch. He could barely make out Raven’s name, Shinjou Masakatsu. He knew that Sahmi and Raven had grown close, but he didn’t know how close. He just knew that the contents of the pouch were for Raven’s eyes only. He would respect that. It was one of Sahmi’s last wishes.
His MCD rang, and he answered it without checking to see who it was. Relief flooded him when he heard Raven’s voice. “You’re okay!” he exclaimed, his voice a bit strangled with emotion.
“I’m okay. How are things in Al Shasra? You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good. What happened to you?”
“They locked me in a windowless room is all. I was more worried about Saiki,” Raven said, referring to his pet white raven. “And you. They told me they had you, too.”
“I’m just glad you’re okay, man. Really. I’ll be home soon, and I’ve got something for you,” Bane said, glancing down at the pouch in his hand.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know, but it’s got your name on it. You can check it out when I get back.”
Back in Westerview, later that same night, Bane met up with Raven at his apartment. He showed Raven the contents of Sahmi’s locked wooden boxes, which Raven thought would definitely have a lot of value to the right people.
“I guess so, but I’m not selling it. I don’t care how much it’s worth, monetarily. To me, it’s priceless.”
“I get that, man. I do.”
Bane pulled out the pouch with Raven’s name on it. He handed it to his friend, who stared at it for the longest time.
“Do you remember the first time I met Sahmi?” Raven asked quietly.
“Like it was yesterday,” Bane said with a nod. “It was like he found his kindred spirit. You guys were so much alike, and in all the ways that mattered.”
“I know what’s inside, but I don’t want to look at it.”
“I understand. I can lock it away for you, if you want.”
Raven shook his head. “I don’t want to look at it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.”
Slowly, Raven opened the pouch, then he turned it upside down over the open palm of his hand. There lay two Rings of Communication.
“RoC’s?” Bane exclaimed in surprise. “I don’t remember Sahmi ever giving you anything like that.”
“He did, and we talked often.”
“What did you talk about?”
“Most of our conversations were held in the strictest confidence. Even after all these years, I wouldn’t tell you. But I can tell you this much: Sahmi was proud of you. I mean, it’s true that he was proud of all his crew members, especially the ones that went on to greatness. But no one held his esteem as much as you did. Dumar and Luca came close, but the only one Sahmi ever considered to be close as a brother was you.”
“He told me as much the last time we talked, but it’s good to know he told you, too,” Bane said quietly. “So how’d the ring get back to Sahmi?”
“My ring was my parting gift to him before he died, just like Luca’s medal, Dumar’s pendant, and your journal.” Raven slipped the rings back into the pouch and handed it to Bane. “Go ahead and put it back in the box. It was enough to hold them again one last time. Now, I — I’d just like to be alone.”
Bane took the pouch and set it in the box. The friends didn’t speak as he walked Raven to the door and let him out. He had a good idea how Raven felt. Reliving so many memories was hard. They both missed Sahmi a great deal.
Later, Bane met Catin at Saffron’s for a very late dinner. When they finished their dessert, he pulled out the white handkerchief from Sahmi’s treasure.
“This was in his things,” he said, handing it to her. “Want it back?”
Her eyes glistened as she took it and studied it, running her fingers over the lacy edge. He waited for her to speak, and when she finally did, she gave him a sad smile as she handed it back. “Keep it with his things. It’s a part of his treasure, and it should stay there.
She reached up across the table and lightly touched Bane’s face. “A part of me will always love Sahmi, but he’s gone. I love another now. I just wish he would reciprocate.”
She rose to her feet, turned, and walked away, leaving Bane to think over her last words and the reasons he couldn’t do as she asked.
Without coming any closer to a real solution to that particular problem, he headed home.