She can hear the tinkle of coin against coin. She can smell the watery stench of seawater filled with wet sand and salt. She can hear the dusky creak of boats craning their masts in the air and she can see the stars winking in the darkness at her. It brings an altogether mysterious flavour to her bedtime because it is a story laced and mired in history, yet none of it is true. Her dad kneels by her bed and with his far away voice he tells her.
"One day, there was a great treasure claimed by a man. He was a good man and a noble man but he stole all this gold from many, many ships. He killed hundreds of people, innocent and not so innocent. He torched cities and ports and he lived with the idea of invincibility," here Valeria's eyes seem to swim in her head as she imagines this brutal man who was almost encrusted in wealth. The room is dark and only a few candles burn lightly in the breeze. She is just eight years old with pudgy cheeks and gleaming black hair.
Her dad is old, not yet elderly but old because of his hard work fishing all day, every day. His chin is smeared with stubble. He continues. "There were cups, coins, chains, swords all made from gold. But then there was of course, one chest which was big. It had coins--no medallions, as big as my hand...and he took it away and hid it on an island. It's small and full of trees and blue water and white sand. The animals are monsters and the people are worse. Natives that walk around with poison darts and knives made from bone. The pirate, Captain Ramon, he used to be a gunner on the Spanish Armada, but he survived. So, he hid his money and gold and he stays guarding it all night. In the daytime, if you look into the distance, you might see the blood red sails of his galleon and if you have good eyesight, you might even see the gold and black that he wears for battle..." Valeria's father pauses for effect and then smiles and rubs his chin.
She looks at him, expecting more, but he just shrugs. "At least that's what my mother used to tell me...oh and the island is called Snake Island...I don't know why." He rises and bones click in his leg and back. He blows out the candles and watches as Valeria's heavy eyes shut like two doors.
He chuckles at the sudden remembrance of the story. His mother always told it the same each time, word for word and he had memorised it word for word too. It was a child's tale though to bide away the time. He knew it was pure fiction probably with some mythical legends thrown in for good measure.
The golden age of pirates had passed, so he thought. He rubbed his hair down and went to bed. He did not see the flare of flame down in the centre of the bay. Nor did he hear the musket shot.
The Royal Navy had come.