plogg

You wouldn't know it to look at him, but Billy Galleon was a man of great learnin': archaeologist, anthropologist, historian, cartographer, linguist. An insatiable explorer, there wasn't a sea he hadn't sailed, a desert he hadn't crossed, a mountain he hadn't climbed, or a jungle he hadn't cut through. He chronicled his exploits in numerous science and nature journals in a style appropriate for such reputable publications, but sitting on a stool at a roadside bar he would tell the same stories in the purplest of prose.

He was a huge man, six-foot-seven, and bold. His wild pursuits had put him in compromising situations, battling lions, tigers, grizzlies and gorillas with nothing more than a bowie knife; and then he would drink great jugs of liquor while others of his party shook their heads and tended to his gruesome lacerations. He bore his scars proudly, and each told a tale.

He could often be found in his study poring over a rare and valuable map, of which he held a magnificent collection, always with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a bottle in the other. Sometimes he could be found pouring over such a map, much to the consternation of his colleague and mentor, Professor Howard.

One evening the Professor found Billy passed out in his chair, a centuries-old map spread out on the desk, secured by an empty glass and an empty bottle. He removed the offending pieces and noticed a spot on the map where some drops had spilled. The alcohol had evaporated some of the ink and revealed a quite different map beneath. Immediately, Professor Howard seized the nearest bottle of spirits and splashed some on the map just as Billy was coming to. The alcohol sacrificed was little, but to Billy it was a prodigious amount.

“You senile old fool!” he burst out. “I dove into shark-infested waters to secure that bottle from the wreck of a 17th century schooner. Have you completely lost your wits?” Billy threw himself on the map and started lapping up the rum.

“Wait, you drunken idiot!” The Professor pulled Billy away from the map. “Look! This map is a ruse. The real map is hidden beneath, coordinates and all. Whoever drew this wanted it kept secret until he was ready to put it to use. See here, some sort of cave marked 'treasure' and a word I can't quite make out, 'something-bullion.' Gold bullion! No wonder he kept it a secret. The treasure must still be there. Where did you get this?”

Billy shrugged. “Beats me. All I know is it's supposed to have belonged to that notorious drunken pirate, Spillbeard.”

“That's good enough for me,” said the professor, and to celebrate their discovery the two set about polishing off the precious bottle of rum.

Within a week they were sailing the high seas en route to the South Pacific, with a skeleton crew and adequate provisions. Billy Galleon himself assumed the role of skipper, staggering from stern to bow in a wide-legged gait with a cup of grog sloshing all over the deck, bellowing orders as he saw fit and having them belayed by the boatswain, the only sober man aboard. But they were seasoned – if soused – sailors all, and they managed to find their uncharted island one morning without a holler from the barrelman, who was passed out in the crow's nest.

Billy, the Professor, Two-gun Crockett, and Belayin'-pin Kirby rowed ashore with two others. Billy was ready for action. Machete in a scabbard slung over his back, Colt .45 in its holster, 9-inch bowie in its sheath, whiskey in his canteen, he stepped onto the beach and drew a breath of fresh air. “Well, boys,” said he, “there's a cave full of gold here and we're gonna find it. I'm going home either rich or drunk.”

Billy ordered the two sailors to watch the boat, the island being an unknown element, and they happily obliged. One of them took a swig from a bottle of brandy he'd brought along and said, “Suits me. All I need is a fire and some drink. And if the treasure's too bountiful, come fetch us, William.”

Billy tore the bottle from the sailor's hand. “Actually, I'm gonna need that.”

Off they went, the Professor acting as guide while Billy, Two-gun and Kirby cut a swath through the leaves and tangled vines. It was thirsty work and Billy saw to it that he kept hydrated, swilling brandy with reckless abandon.

While downing the last of the bottle's contents with his head thrown back, Billy noticed something up in the trees. It was a single-engine plane, almost completely covered in vines, but the familiar shape was unmistakable. Billy rolled up his khaki sleeves, revealing powerful arms, and with astonishing swiftness he hauled himself up a thick vine, hand over hand. He inspected the plane, some fifty feet above, while the others pestered him for details. He returned empty-handed.

“Nothing up there but three skeletons. Two men and a woman, if their rags are any indication. There was also a child's colouring book.”

The team continued their quest, and at midday set up camp. They sat around a fire, Billy drinking from his canteen now, while the Professor and Kirby studied the map. Two-gun, spooked by the mystery plane, kept a silent vigil, both hands on his six-shooters. Despite Two-gun's keen senses, they were taken unawares by superior woodsmen, savages in loincloths, who overpowered them by sheer numbers, but not before Billy's skull-crushing fists had knocked a few of them into oblivion.

Hands tied, they were led through the jungle, prodded by spears, until they came to a village where they were brought before a dais supporting a throne, all of which was elaborately carved from black stone. The women in the village, who wore sarongs and little else, had tiny seashells tied into their long hair, and they gathered round to see the strangers. A call was made with a conch, and everyone waited.

Minutes later, a fleet form moved through the trees high above the forest floor, jumping from branch to branch. It was a young woman, and as she swung down on a vine she lost her grip and fell to the ground. She got up and brushed herself off. Unlike the others, she had blond hair and wore a bikini fashioned from the hide of a panther. All genuflected before her, and they spoke amongst themselves in a strange tongue.

The Professor whispered, “They treat her like a queen. You're an expert in languages, Billy. Can you make out what they're saying?”

“Barely,” said Billy. “They call her Rumma, 'goddess who fell from the sky.' She might be the child that was on the plane.”

“By George, you're right,” the Professor gasped.

Rumma overheard their whispers, and strode towards them. “I remember English,” she said. “I'm Rumma. Who are you?”

The four men looked at each other, but as Rumma seemed to be addressing Billy, he answered: “I'm Billy, and this is the Professor, and Two-gun and Kirby.” And he felt it prudent to add, “We come in peace.”

Rumma made a command, and the men were untied. Libations were poured for her and her guests, and a celebration was held. The entire village drank, and the concoction served was rum, which was poured into cups from clay jugs. Women danced to the beat of drums and rattle of maracas. Anticipating an evening of drunken debauchery, the Professor felt it incumbent upon himself to present the map to Rumma and ask if she knew where the cave was. Her response was to throw the map on the fire, much to the old man's horror.

He returned to the others. “Billy, she burned the map. Good God, man, did you hear me?”

Billy was gazing at the lovely Rumma, but not lustfully. “Yeah, they don't want their cave discovered. That's why Spillbeard had to conceal his map. Have you noticed, they wear baubles and beads, but no gold. Either the gold bullion was plundered by someone a long time ago, or that glittering yellow rock means nothing to them. The better for us.”

“But the map – ”

“Don't worry about it,” Billy said, and he continued pouring rum down his gullet. Two-gun and Kirby followed suit, and even the Professor relaxed after a while, and by midnight the only things dancing were the flames of the torches. Many of the villagers lay in the dirt where they passed out, along with the visitors; others slept in their huts.

The light of the full moon woke Rumma, and, dagger at her side, she disappeared into the forest without a sound. Billy was awake and followed her. She took to the trees to avoid the jungle cats and wild boars, her furtive figure flashing through the columns of light shining through the branches. Billy had a hard time keeping up with her, especially in his condition, and he kept running into the boles of trees and tripping over roots.

He pursued her for over an hour, until she came to the foot of a small hill, where she lit a torch and disappeared behind a wall of dangling vines. The cave! It might have been impossible to locate had Billy not trailed the girl. He ventured inside, and with the aid of a small flashlight followed the tunnel until he came to a large opening, where numerous stalactites hung from the ceiling, dripping into wooden bowls strategically placed beneath. If there was gold in the cave, Billy couldn't see it.

Rumma was lying on a fur-covered ledge, almost languidly, but she didn't seem alarmed by Billy's entrance. She simply said, “You shouldn't have come here. The treasure is ours.”

“Treasure?” uttered Billy.

Sometime around noon voices called out. Rumma, the goddess who fell from the sky, would often wander off by herself, but that she and the giant were both missing was worrisome to the villagers. A search party had been sent out, consisting of a dozen warriors, as well as the Professor, Two-gun and Kirby, and they'd gone straight to the hill.

Billy and Rumma emerged through the vines covering the cave, both drunk, but Billy drunker than usual. “Looking for me?” he slurred loudly. “You shouldn't have bothered. I'll be staying on this island for a long time to come with my lovely little Rumma.”

“My God,” exclaimed the Professor, adjusting his glasses. “You've found the cave!”

“Indeed I have,” said Billy. He then stumbled through the sward and placed his hand on the Professor's shoulder. “But there's no gold, old chap.”

“No...gold...” The professor swooned, and Billy, who could barely stand himself, held him up by the collar.

“Spillbeard's cave has an endless supply of natural rum,” Billy explained. “At the top of this hill is a field of sugar cane, and a lot of it is constantly fermenting and seeping into the ground. It's mixing with pure water and seeping through the ceiling of the cave, dripping from stalactites. These people have been collecting it in bowls for a thousand years.”

Having gathered his senses, the Professor said, “But what about the gold bullion?”

Billy laughed. “That word we could barely decipher on the map wasn't 'gold bullion' – it was 'rumbullion,' the old term for rum. That's the treasure!”


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