Dunstan gazed out at the small boat spinning lazily in the center of the lagoon. The lagoon was one of his favorite spots on the island. A half days walk up the beach from the harbor of Freeport, Edie’s Eye was where he came to think about things. Home, such as it was, had a tendency to be chaotic and besides the roof of the brothel, the lagoon was one of few places he could go when he wanted silence. Getting out of the Ninth Nymph had other benefits as well. At the lagoon there was nobody to tell him to haul the laundry, mop the tap room or empty the chamber pots. The chamber pots were the worst.
But today, the Edie’s Eye was not the peaceful sanctuary he remembered. Floating in the center of the lagoon was a boat circling in the edie that gave this sheltered inlet its name. The lagoon was small. With the wind at his back Dunstan was able to throw a stone nearly all the way across the small body of water. There was a small inlet, perhaps fifteen feet wide, facing the sea that constantly infused the lagoon with fresh sea water and at the center of Eye was the mysterious circular current that gave the lagoon not only its name but many other unusual characteristics.
Due to the strong and constantly spinning current the lagoon’s shape was that of a nearly perfect circle and it’s bottom was nothing but the purest white sand. Rocks, detritus and even small fish where eventually washed from the lagoon leaving only the finest sand and crystal clear water. The story was that local fisherman used to use the lagoon as a trap driving schools of fish into the lagoon to easily scoop them out with nets. At some point the tradesmen stopped using the lagoon. Dunstan was not sure why but no matter, now Edie’s Eye was his. His own private paradise.
In the center of the normally placid lagoon a drama was unfolding. The little craft was listing slightly and there was a spreading swirl of blood in the water that appeared to be leaking from between the strakes of the boat. Dunstan stood on the shore straining to see what was inside the boat but the gunwales were too high to make anything out. However, despite the mystery of the boat the most alarming element of the scene was the massive shark circling below the vessel.
Dunstan had certainly seen his fair share of sharks in his fifteen years but this was by far the largest fish he had ever seen, alive anyway. By his estimation the creature was at least twelve feet long and judging by its sandy brown color, a fully grown Bull Shark. Obviously the monster had entered the lagoon at high tide drawn by the smell of blood and now found itself trapped in Edie’s Eye. The shark had been driven to frenzy and was periodically ramming the small boat in frustration only to circle for a few moments and return for another attack. Clearly is was working as the boat had begun to succumb to the repeated punishment.
Dunstan scanned his surroundings, he just had to see what was inside the boat. The inlet was bordered on all sides by palm trees and thick under growth. One of the old palms bent low over the water, prostrating itself like one of those old priests in the temple district, the tips of its fronds tracing fine lines in the spinning, swirling waters. That was it! He would climb out on the bent tree and get a look inside as the boat passed beneath. Dunstan dashed around the bank leaping rocks and fallen trees until he found himself standing at the base of the trunk.
The old tree arched over the water like a strung bow. Dunstan placed his bare foot on the trunk and pushed several times testing the three’s stability. Despite the extreme angle of the palm it seemed to be well rooted to the bank. It wouldn’t do to take an unexpected swim with an enraged shark. The boy leapt up onto the trunk in a smooth bound and stood for a moment, balanced in place. With a deep breath he began to walk steadily out over the water.
Having traveled half the distance to the end of the tree Dunstan paused to take stock of his position. He watched as the boat slid by below him. Now he could clearly see inside the gunwales of the grim craft. There, sprawled out near the transom was a goblin. As the boat passed below a gust of the most foul stench assaulted his senses. Obviously the goblin had been dead for a day or two. How long had this curious drama been unfolding? The goblin was dressed as a sailor and despite his advanced state of “deadness” it was impossible to tell what had killed the unfortunate bastard.
The boat slithered by, its monstrous companion giving chase. It was clear that if he was going to see what happened he was going to have to climb further out to get a better view. As the boat made its way around the lagoon trailing streamers of blood, Dunstan crouched on all fours and scampered out to the end of the old palm. The trunk bounced with his weight and he gripped the rough bark with his fingers and toes. Climbing was second nature to him but it was not often that Dunstan considered climbing over anything more dangerous than a drop to the ground. This was altogether different.
He dropped on his belly and hugging the trunk tightly, he watched as the boat approached. This time he was in the perfect position. His perch gave him a commanding view of the inside of the boat with its grim cargo. Unfortunately his improved view afforded him very few additional details. Annoyed with the lack of enlightenment his position afforded him, Dunstan huffed. Boat. Yes. Smelly dead Goblin. Yes. It wasn’t until after the boat had passed his nest that he noticed the polished butt of a pistol protruding from beneath the sailors body.
A pistol! Yes, it had to be! Polished wood with gold inlay. Dunstan knew guns, many of the men who frequented the Ninth Nymph carried these guns as a matter of course and often he had fantasized about firing one. No, not just firing one, Dunstan envisioned himself on the high seas, a noble captain of a mighty vessel. Across his chest rested a bandolier adorned with a set of the finest Privateer pistols that money could buy and in his hand a length of the brightest most majestic polished steel, his hair like a golden banner waving in the wind.
Lost in his reverie, Dunstand almost missed the boat passing his perch once again. As he snapped out of his day dream he stole another look into the boat, this time leaning down to get a closer look. He lit up with excitement has the craft passed so close he could almost touch it. Not just any pistol, it was a Privateer! This was not some cheap knock off, this was a real Kolter Privateer! What was a common sailor doing with a gun of this value? Perhaps that is what got him killed. But if that were the case why hadn’t anyone returned to claim the weapon? Perhaps twelve feet of man-eating fish had something to do with it.
At that moment Dunstan resolved that he must have the gun, but how would he get it? Watching as the boat made another circuit around the lagoon he determined that his best chance of grabbing the gun would be to hang by his knees and as the boat passed, pluck the gun from the body. Hanging from the trunk by his legs should give him just the reach he would need to snatch the prized weapon and be on his way. Let the shark have its meal, Dunstan would have the pistol!
The boy shifted into a sitting position with his back facing the current and swung backward to hang from his knees. The world turned over in his vision as he opened his eyes to see all before him upside-down. His long hair hung straight down almost brushing the water and an uneaten biscuit tumbled from the pocket of his breaches and broke the surface of the water with a plop.
“Barnacles!” he shouted in disgust.
That biscuit had been his lunch, now he would go hungry. Unlike everyone else in Freeport, he actually liked biscuits. He guessed it didn’t really matter. If he had a Privateer, he could just shoot one of the wild chickens that roamed the city. They were vicious feral little bastards anyway. He would have Sabitha roast it for him, she was the best chicken cooker in the whole brothel after all.
He suddenly snapped to attention as the bow of the small boat appeared in his vision nearly taking his head off! He twisted deftly to one side avoiding the collision and clenched the muscles of his stomach to pull his head and shoulders up over the gunwales of the boat. Now with head and shoulders inside the vessel the benches raced by and he saw the inverted form of the dead goblin rapidly closing with is face. There is was! The hand grip of the pistol protruded from behind the dead goblin within easy reach. As the bloated stinking body closed in he arched his back to avoid a nasty encounter with the creature's dead flesh and grabbed for the gun.
Dunstan’s hand closed around the grip. “Gotcha!”, he exclaimed in triumph as he gave the weapon a sharp tug but instead of coming free the gun stuck fast.
“Eieeeeeeeee!”, he squealed as the careening boat pulled him off balance and he flipped to fall face first on festering body, legs kicking wildly over the stern of the small boat. The inflated body of the goblin broke his fall but with his impact came a sickening pop follow by the foulest gut churning stench he had ever encountered.
“Ahhhhhhh!”, he screamed as he scrambled off the dead Goblin spitting and sputtering.
Feeling the remains of his breakfast in the back of his throat, Dunstan pitched his head over the front of the boat only to dry heave into the lagoon.
“Barnacles!”, he thought, “This used to be such a beautiful place…”
Stomach muscles sore from retching, Dunstan rolled over to take stock of his situation. Below the goblin was a spreading pool of the most vile black substance he had ever seen. It was black like tar and he realized with chagrin that it was leaking out from somewhere below the creatures backside and mixing with the considerable amount of sea water already sloshing in the boat. The dead creature's face was set in a silly rictus smile, something like a look of relief on his face.
“Disgusting! Are are you quite satisfied with yourself?”, Dunstan questioned the sailor in revulsion.
“Holding that in all this time were you?”, Dunstan ask his grotesque comrade. “Now, let’s see about relieving you of your burdens my friend.”
Keeping his center of gravity low, Dunstan slowly made his way to the stern which was now riding precariously low in the water due to the additional weight. He realized with alarm that the impact of his fall must have made the already fragile craft even more unstable. The water was rising quickly.
“This is not a problem!”, he exclaimed.
“Just grab the gun and on the next pass jump for the tree trunk…no problem, I’m great at this sort of thing.”, he muttered to himself as he leaned carefully over the departed Goblin.
Nose wrinkled from the overpowering stink of rotting sailor he delicately tugged on the pistol. Still it was stuck fast! Upon closer inspection Dunstan realized the hammer of the weapon was caught in the creature’s belt. Just then there was a resounding crack and the small boat shuddered as the great Bull shark slammed into the feeble craft. Holding on with all of this strength, Dunstan shifted his weight to keep the craft of capsizing. There came a loud splash and spray of sparkling water as the shark thrashed on the surface of the lagoon and disappeared from view.
“Hells bells!", he exclaimed in desperation as the fish circled for what he knew was the final victory course. One more hit like that and he knew the failing craft would be finished.
Thinking quickly, the now panicked boy pulled the sailor’s knife from its sheath and began to saw at the Goblin’s belt. Dunstan felt the craft rock as the shark passed below.
“Dear Calistria, if you get me out of this I will go to temple every week!”, he promised in his most earnest voice, made comical by the cracking and broken pitch of puberty.
With a final thrust of the blade he cut deeply into the Golbin’s flesh releasing a new fountain of putrid black fluid but the pistol came free! He stood stock still, balancing in the small rowboat, up to his knees in the grimy salt water and held the weapon aloft. It was beautiful and in perfect condition.
“Look at you!”, he breathed in reverence as he took in every detail.
The barrel was of black steel and the stock highly polished hardwood and there, along the barrel was the golden stamped emblem he had been looking for.
“Kolter.”, he said in wonder.
Dunstan quickly tucked the pistol in his belt and took in his situation. He was slowly making another round of the lagoon. Nearly sunk, the boat was moving much more slowly now but he was approaching the salvation of the overhanging palm tree. As the tree approached he coiled his legs and sprung upward with all of his strength. His fingertips touched the trunk but the boat was too low in the water and with his wet clothes he could not get the height he needed. His fingers slipped from the smooth bark of the palm tree and he landed on his ass right in the lap of his grinning traveling companion. An armada of fetid bubbles rose from between the goblins legs popping to assault his nostrils once again.
“By the Gods! What do sailors eat that your bowels could be so completely compromised?”, he asked as he scrambled, once again, away from the foul sailor.
At that moment he looked ahead to see the great shark had reversed direction and was swimming against the spinning current of the lagoon coming straight at the limping craft. Dunstan turned and threw the small knife back to the smiling goblin.
“Every man for himself.”, he said in resignation and turned to face the on-coming fish.
Dunstan stepped up onto the bow of the little boat with his chin raised and his golden hair blowing in the afternoon breeze. He held the pistol barrel up and with eyes of steel tracked the on-coming fin as it sliced the smooth surface of the water before him.
“A great man must learn not to be frightened by the heights at which destiny has placed him!” he shouted with the determination and bearing reserved for only the most seasoned sea captains.
As the great shark plunged forward, cutting the water with incredible speed, the boy of fifteen leveled the huge pistol, his eyes bright and his arm steady. With an explosion of spray and salty mist the massive Bull shark broke the surface of the lagoon, jaws wide…
The fisherman yanked at his nets in frustration. Wasn’t it always the way? Another haul lost because of shoddy net mending! One of these days he was going to throttle those good for nothing, scow sucking hired hands! He had to do everything himself!
Just then, he thought he heard a voice. He stood up looking up and down the beach but saw no one. Had it come from the direction of the lagoon? He started slowing walking up the beach when he heard a clear resounding voice echo from the Edie’s Eye.
The battle cry was followed by a thunderous report, the likes of which he had never heard before and a great plume of gray smoke mingled with sea spray rose over the lagoon like a storm cloud…then all was silent.
“What in the seven hells…”, the fisherman asked in wonder as he slowly plodded up the beach.
Then without warning the silence was broken by peels of maniacal laughter floating over the dunes and he stopped in his tracks.