The Skull Bearer

After breakin’ heads, liftin’ iron, and rollin’ the bones so many times yer gettin’ rheumatism, Hammerhead delares a winner! He shouts, “The skull o’ the gamblin’ prince ‘imself is awarded to none other than The Pope! Yes, he may have a disturbing fascination with goats; and let’s not get into his religious fetishes an’ such; but he knows how to get the job done. There are few buccaneers out there worth as much salt as he is!”

He invites The Pope into a back room, and the rest o’ the contestants, as well. The walls are lined with mercs to keep order, and on a pedestal on the far end lies Black Jack’s skull! Or is it? Surely he weren’t no pygmy! This has to be a joke! Then Hammerhead reminds everyone that the Shuar shaman shrunk the skull. The Pope walks forward to collect the skull. Is he humming Always Look on the Bright Side of Life? The Pope picks it up, grinning enigmatically. Then he peers more closely at his prize, and his smile fades. He looks dubiously at it, and then nearly drops it. He swears there was an evil gleam in those bare-boned eye sockets! He shivers and quickly tucks it away in a knapsack, then tries to pretend everything’s okay.

Beneath the skull lies a map of the Isle of Chiloe, off the coast of Chile. Hammerhead says, “Now that the matter of the first skull bearer is decided, ye can all mount an expedition to take back Old Ironbeard’s stolen treasure! When I pilf…I mean, purchased this here skull from a notable antiquary, he told me about the legend he heard from the natives down there, the Mapuche, they call’em. He said that after the fall of Old Ironbeard’s empire, his treasure was all gathered up by the beings who sail the Caleuche. Some kinda water spirits er somethin’. Anyhow, the thing I recall best is that he said the only way to find the Caleuche now was by bringin’ the ‘skulls of the traitors’ to the Chilote coast.”

Hammerhead waits for all that to sink in. “Now, as fer myself, I’m a bit too seasoned fer a romp like this’n. But all you youngins can have at it. I’ve had my use outta this stuff, so good luck an’ all that! The skull o’ the Spanish lass, Laurelia Cariño, is supposed to be in Haiti, held by a family of Vodou priests. Some o’ them are said to be bokors, or Haitian sorcerers. An’ if yer runnin’ light on Mysterious Coins, I may have a service ye can do fer me, ‘cause ye’ll need ‘em. Those coins were fashioned by the Mapuche people to protect them from the warlock, so they oughta shelter ye from the dark magic of the bokors. But I ain’t takin’ no chances! Take Deens Brand and find the skulls yerself!”

He walks toward the door.

“Oh yeah. And we’re closed! My mercs’ll show ye out. So skedaddle ‘fore I take some skulls ‘o my own!”

And with that he stomps off. Looks like all that loot may be a bit harder to come by than ye thought, but ye already hold a small piece o’ the pie. Why not go for the rest?

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