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"The Eye's"
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Original "BARNACLE BILL: The Demon Seaman" Development Backstory
14 / 14
YET, even to this day, when the Moon is full and the water is calm, some Dominican Fishermen off old Hispaniola's coast claim to have seen the coral below moving across the sand. Some fishermen have never come home. And it is said from time to time that, if one listens closely, the Higuey River crabs hiss among themselves the age-old ship's gunner's watchwords: "Keep your powder dry, m'lads… Keep your powder dry…"
ONLY stories, to be sure, and mostly forgotten by now. For no one any longer dives into the bay's coral grottos to go looking for Captain Kidd's lost treasure -- most especially them who knows where it lies
13 / 14
BOLTON would vaguely claim that the entire lot of Captain Kidd's famed treasure went down with her, murmuring that "Jumbies" -- demon spirits in Caribbean lore -- were to blame... Despite the grand fortune still aboard the QUEDAH, he refused to rally any salvage attempts, and instead soon departed for Africa, never to be seen near the same waters again. Later searches for Kidd's treasure were abandoned when unaccountable fires, drownings, and other calamitous mishaps plagued boats and divers, and after many years, few indeed could truly say where Kidd's fabled booty lay waiting. Many have come to question whether it ever really existed at all.
BUT if it does, it's not buried on picked-over Gardiner's Island, or on Skeleton Island, far away on the edge of the China Sea, nor where any of a hundred other tales claim it to be. It's still in QUEDAH MERCHANT's rotting hold, swept into a vast coral grotto at the bottom of Yuma Bay, where old "Barnacle Bill" yet waits for Captain Kidd's return, wrapped in shredded silken fineries, with the cursed Dragon's Eye chafing at the centuries of sea growth around his undead neck. The legend has long persisted among a few that he keeps QUEDAH's coral-encrusted cannon always at the ready. Of course, these are only superstitious tales…
12 / 14
BY the time the ragged QUEDAH MERCHANT sailed into the Mona Passage southeast of the island of Hispaniola, Captain Kidd and his half-starved crew seemed all-too-ready to abandon the huge treasure vessel. Running by chance into an unsavory sea-trader named Bolton, Kidd quickly offered to buy his sloop right out from under him, dazzling Bolton with QUEDAH's hold-full of fabulous booty from the Indian Ocean. The shifty trader eagerly agreed to Kidd's odd proposal that he, a stranger met on the high seas, should "look after" the galleon's vast fortune until Kidd returned to claim it.
IT was the last the two would lay eyes upon each other; for Fate would soon see Captain Kidd's corpse hanging off England's Tilbury Point -- bound in an iron gibbet very much like the one he ordered made-up for old "Barnacle Bill"…, and Bolton himself was destined to prematurely abandon the QUEDAH MERCHANT off Hispaniola's southeastern coast in only a few days, after a mysterious fire broke out during a punishing storm, that sent the East Indian merchantman to the bottom of Yuma Bay.
11 / 14
THE NIGHTMARES followed Kidd all the way across the Atlantic to the West Indies... Nothing he would speak of openly, but his meager thirteen-man skeleton crew could hear the screams from the captain's great cabin, night after night.
THE beleaguered Kidd drove the ship relentlessly, until they at last reached the Leeward Islands --
-- ONCE again sighting land on April Fool's Day the following year, April 1st, 1699.
10 / 14
THAT night, while Captain Kidd lay wracked by the first of endless nightmares-yet-to-come, a commotion and fire erupted aboard Kidd's lesser captured ship, the NOVEMBER, and she burned down to her keel. The Prize Watch on duty swore they were chased off the ship "...By the terrible ghost of ol' Barnacle Bill!" Kidd had them lashed nearly-to--death. When it was later reported that some goods were also missing from QUEDAH's hold, including a bale of Chinese silk, Kidd lashed that Watch as well.
WITHIN days most of Kidd's men abandoned him, leaving both the ADVENTURE GALLEY and QUEDAH MERCHANT behind to hastily sail away with Captain Culliford. "Kidd made no good voyage," was the general word, and he was left with only thirteen of his original crew aboard the lumbering, treasure-laden QUEDAH. It was said that Kidd personally set ADVENTURE GALLEY afire before sailing away from the island, raging epithets at the native Malagasy people, infuriated to see them happily tossing their murdered Shaman's silk-wrapped body into the air off Sorcerer's Point. . .
9 / 14
-- THAT is, until he moment when the Malagasy Witchdoctor, incensed by Kidd's affront to his tribe's honored dead, tore the medallion free, intoning a terrible curse, and flung it into the water, where it sank below ADVENTURE GALLEY's hull. Captain Kidd drew sword and pistol and cut down the old native shaman on the spot -- and thereafter St. Marie's "pirates' paradise" became a hostile tropical hell, with the pirates now forced to fend off native attacks for hours, while Kidd sent down divers to search for The Eye...; in vain, for they could find no trace of it. What the shocked divers did find, however, was that old "Barnacle Bill's" weirdly-encrusted corpse had somehow vanished from its watery cage -- the gibbet's metal hoops bent into rusty tatters.
KIDD nervously scoffed that sharks had done it, but more than a few of the men, their blood chilled even in those warm tropical waters, grumbled that they'd "yet to see a shark what 'could bite through iron"… From then on the divers had to be forced back down at gunpoint, and still they found nothing...
8 / 14
TROUBLE with the Malagasy locals and the pirates began soon after ADVENTURE GALLEY dropped anchor, when some of the QUEDAH's rich cargo of silk was given out without Kidd's permission to the Malagasy for their traditional "famadihana", a ritual turning of the dead. Kidd was outraged at the sight of the natives cavorting about with their dead ancestors, singing and dancing as they tossed the freshly re-wrapped remains up in the air -- where they gleamed in Kidd's stolen silk. He ordered all of the silks recovered at once, even stripped off the bodies, and returned to QUEDAH's hold.
THE angry Malagasy soon made sure the little island's meager pleasures were especially hard to come by for Kidd's crew, who by now deeply despised their captain's eccentric tyranny. Yet Kidd seemed somehow invincible. Dividing QUEDAH's booty with his cutthroat gang at 40-to-3 "privateer shares", he single-handedly survived the siege his entire irate crew laid against him, alone in his cabin, impossibly keeping the whole princely cut -- as legendary a treasure as ever was -- when it was over. And the Dragon's Eye, Kidd's vain passion among all his spoils, was now never seen off his neck --
7 / 14
THE small flotilla arrived at "Pirate Harbor" literally on April Fool's Day, April 1st of 1698, and Captain Kidd made a macabre display of the murdered Moore's barnacle-encrusted, gibbeted bones to gruesomely prove to the buccaneers ashore who were wary of commissioned "pirate hunters" that Kidd himself was "as bad as they…" The renowned pirate Captain Robert Culliford, who was holding the harbor at the time, took Kidd's word without challenge when a native Malagasy Witchdoctor in his presence went wild with awe and excitement the moment he saw the Dragon's Eye slung around Kidd's haughty neck. A number of local Malagasy tribespeople also suddenly began bowing and chanting in fearful respect. Culliford was further astonished when a normally 'tight-fisted' island trader named Welsh passionately offered the whole of his goods in trade for the fabulous medallion.
BUT Kidd refused, for by now the strange stone and its imposing setting had become something of a fetish with the captain, as well as a tangible symbol of his recent 'triumph' at sea.
6 / 14
AND so, in the autumn of 1697, this arcane treasure was put aboard the sumptuous QUEDAH MERCHANT, to be sent 'round the Indian peninsula and taken to the Peacock Throne, there to be presented to the Sixth Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb, to whom it was intended to bring success and long life. It never got there. For now, along with the rest of the QUEDAH's flamboyant spoils, "The Dragon's Eye" was part of Captain Kidd's pirate loot.
KIDD transferred The Eye and much of the rest of the best of QUEDAH's gold and jewels to his captain's greatcabin aboard the ADVENTURE GALLEY, and, putting a prize crew aboard the captured merchantman, set course along with another prize ship, the NOVEMBER, for the pirate haven of St. Marie's Island, off the eastern coast of Madagascar…
5 / 14
AND here the tale takes another turn, for among the many treasures found aboard the QUEDAH, there was one most secret and special: a finely-wrought gold medallion, styled in the profile of a Dragon's Head, with an extraordinary Gemstone inset as the creature's "eye". It was whispered among the merchant ship's captured crew that this great crystal came from a vanished island in the Philippine Sea, part of a star that fell to Earth. "Older than the very waves", the gem was said to possess great mystic powers. It was confiscated from Malaysian Pirates in the late 14th Century, and presented to the Chinese Emperor Ming -- and soon thereafter followed the greatest dynasty in China's epic history... Stolen from the Forbidden City in 1644, the gem's loss precipitated the decline and withdrawal that would characterize China's next several centuries.
FIFTY years later, in 1694, an Armenian merchant by the name of Coji Babba learned of the mythic jewel's existence from a Bengali Trader in Calcutta, who acted as an intermediary between the merchant and the Bhutanese Warlord who often bragged about slaying a monastery of Tibetan monks to obtain it. After many difficult years of negotiations, the purchase was finally secured for Coji Babba by the Bengali Trader, who they say, asked only to briefly retain the mysterious gemstone as his 'fee'. Curiously, the Bhutanese Warlord was said to have been deposed not long after...
4 / 14
FOR many a day William Moore's body swayed above the maindeck in its unholy truss, eventually slung over the side beneath the waves when the stench became troublesome to old Kidd; but every soul aboard who daily passed the gibbet's chain, hanging taut over ADVENTURE GALLEY's gunwale, knew what horror dangled at the end of it…, their minds colored by grisly speculation of what the sea was surely making of poor old "Barnacle Bill" Moore, as the men took to calling the late ship's gunner -- the only man among them who dared to cross Captain Kidd.
NOT long after Moore's death, ADVENTURE GALLEY finally caught a prize ship worth the wait. A 500-ton East Indian merchantman, homeward bound for Surat out of Bengal, the QUEDAH MERCHANT was no ordinary ship; she was a floating treasure-trove of gold and opium, guns and silk…, and many other goods of immense value from exotic Oriental ports. Some said old "Barnacle Bill" scented that prize in the water like a shark smells blood, and pulled his shipmates straight to her… The QUEDAH's splendid cargo was en route to the palace of the great Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb, when Captain Kidd and his anxious crew seized ship and spoils off the southern coast of India.
3 / 14
IT was rumored at one time that Captain Kidd's mother was a New England witch, and some say he once buried his own family bible. Certainly evil dogged him during his luckless life, for evil men sent him forth to plunder the seas for England, and evil men surrounded him on his ship, alone in that strange, far-away ocean, and evil took root inside him as he strove to maintain his captaincy on what now had become an evil voyage…
BUT along with the evil that entwined Kidd's life, there was also a pernicious irony. For as Kidd himself was later destined to hang in chains, his corpse to become a legendarily gruesome example of the English Admiralty's grim authority, so now the enraged captain ordered his ship's blacksmith to fashion an iron gibbet for the murdered gunner. The close-fitting cage was meant to hold Moore's skull and bones together for an unnatural duration, so that the dead man's cadaver might strike lasting fear into his living shipmates' hearts, and Kidd could rule his mutinous crew with terror where discipline failed.
2 / 14
MOORE was as rough and hard as any at sea in those bold days, and famed even among Kidd's ill-humored crew for his hot temper; a man of violence, skilled in the thunderous art of ship's gunnery, itching to ply his trade for better than a year now without the sight of worthy high-seas prey. He became feverish with rage when Kidd refused to let ADVENTURE GALLEY open fire upon a tempting English merchantman. Yet, pirate though Kidd surely was by then, in his tortured mind he remained a privateer, commissioned by the Crown, and he would seize no ship flying English flags.
NO one can say why Bill Moore was busy sharpening a chisel on deck just then. Perhaps it was mere happenstance; perhaps he meant to put the tool to another use where Captain Kidd was concerned… Kidd beheld the whetted chisel in Moore's hand and saw the menace in his eye; he heard the vicious hysteria in his gunner's voice as Moore hotly accused him of bringing ruin upon him and the rest of his shipmates on their fruitless voyage. In an answering fit of wrath, the desperate captain took hold of a heavy ironbound wooden bucket and smashed it against Moore's head, fracturing his skull. History records that the assault took place on October 30th. Moore was carried below deck, where he lay swearing delirious curses at Kidd until he died the following day -- on Hallow's Eve
1 / 14
"'TWAS late in the year of our Lord 1697, and half a world away, 'round the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean to the edge of the Arabian Sea, when the angry crew of the 34-gun privateer ADVENTURE GALLEY - none other than Captain Kidd's own ship - seethed on the brink of open mutiny for want of action and spoils…
THE troubles began at the outset of Kidd's hellish voyage when, during a chance encounter with the Royal Navy, the captain saw his best hand-picked men "exchanged" by a press gang for a rum lot not at all to his liking. In a few months' time this ugly crew grew even more foul-tempered, insubordinate, and openly hostile... Captain Kidd, a swaggering, self-important rogue of no deeply-fixed morals (privateer by commission and pirate by convenience), found himself in the direst of circumstances, his authority and indeed his very life on the brink of eclipse at the hands of those under his harsh, strident command.
AND first among them was ADVENTURE GALLEY's gunner, WILLIAM HENRY MOORE...
Written by Johnny Curtis
"Believe me, believe me not!
If you believe me, it will be fine;
If you do not believe me. it will rain.
It is not I who tells lies!,
It is The Old Ones who have told me
This Story…"
- traditional Malagasy Tale Teller's introduction
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Original "BARNACLE BILL: The Demon Seaman" development backstory
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