In The Clutches of Long Shanks The Magnificent

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Sid Meier's Pirates!

Arr, t'were best that ye be careful plundering this blog or I'll keelhaul yer carcas and leave ye to feed the barnacles on my Sloop's belly! If you haven't been following, Sid Meier's Pirates! has been responsible for increasing amounts of debauchery. I'm hoping that's at an end now, as I've recently completed the game with a perfect score. My pirate's name was Long Shanks, so named for his long dancer's legs and other appendages of note. He lived a good life, and rather then tell you of my own life, which has revolved largely around nothing blog worthy, I think I'll tell you his story instead:

When Long Shanks was young and still went by the name of just "Shanks", he lived with his family in Europe. They weren't poor nor exactly well off, but they were about to be. A shipment was to come in with an old friend, Marquis Montalban, that would put our financial woes to rest forever. Instead, Montalban hijacked the shipment, killed his parents, and kidnapped his sister, aunt, uncle, and grandfather, all of whom were at a party celebrating their recent good fortune. Shanks managed to get away with his life and swore to find his family and get revenge on Montalban. Soon, he was old enough to join the navy and took sail to the Caribbean to find that most evil of pirates on a French sloop. The voyage was long and not so fun, to put it mildly, and one day, Long Shanks (for they had grown) was pushed to the edge by their pudgy captain and led a successful mutiny, despite the implications this would have for his resume.

Welcome to Beautiful Tortuga
They arrived in Tortuga on New Year's Day, 1660. Don't feel bad for the helmsman, he drank just as much rum as the rest since drinking and driving apparently wasn't a big problem with wind-powered vehicles. Anyway, Tortuga, a beautiful French city in what would become Haiti, with a rather unscrupulous governor and his mule-bred daughter. On meeting the governor, however, he was granted a Letter of Marque, and was instructed not-so-subtly that if a few Spanish ships were to get plundered, what would be the harm? So, it was off to fortune, glory, and ... oh, yeah... rescuing family members. After, of course, recruiting a new and well-rested crew.

Map to The Roc's Treasure
Leaving port, Long Shanks was almost immediately accosted, not once by twice. Word had spread of the new kid on the sea and people wanted a piece. The first attack was from a pirate who jumped overboard rather than be caught, his name was never discovered. Though gold and spoils were taken, by far the most valuable prize was a Royal Sloop that would serve as Long Shanks flagship for the rest of his years. Having just transferred some crew and supplies to the new ship, the second attack caught them by surprise, but never off guard. It was the raucous Roc "Roche" Brasiliano, sailing from Havana to Port Royale. The attack went long into the night but was eventually won. Documents are sketchy, but it appears that Roc may have gone down with his ship after this battle, which was struck by lightning from a clear blue sky. The sailor's aboard Long Shanks' Royal Sloop Thetis took this as an omen and swore never to speak of the battle of Roc's demise to anyone. The only proof of this encounter aside from rumours scrawled in faded notes are the treasure map which was presumably won in the conquest.

These early events brought Long Shanks almost instant fame. Soon, sons across the Caribbean were being called "Long Shanks" as a term of affection or at least as an indicator of their height. However, the governor was not supportive of Long Shanks (and his daughter was in no need of support - if you catch me meaning) despite the good he'd done. He attacked Spanish treasure ships hauling silver from the mainland to Spain, he attacked ships carrying military payrolls and troops, and in a daring move, even captured a Spanish governor en route to Cartagena. If Tortuga was to be his home, a new governor with a better attitude and a beautiful daughter must be installed. This was accomplished by a visit to a small settlement with a progressive mayor who was liked by Long Shanks and had amassed enough popularity to be granted governorship of Tortuga by France. Long Shanks personally escorted the new governor and successfully ran off three pirates who descended on their convoy.

Do not mess with Long Shanks
So it was that Long Shanks was well-favoured by the governor of Tortuga and his not-coincidentally beautiful daughter. In fact, for his various actions on behalf of France, he was promoted to Captain and then Major within his first year of service. Further, because of his actions against the Spanish, the Dutch had also promoted him to Captain without even needing to issue a Letter of Marque. The English might have done likewise, but he had twice thwarted their attacks on French towns and had earned their ire. The Spanish, of course, were not so polite. Aside from stealing their treasure and payrolls, he was aiding their enemies (which is to say, everyone/anyone). Once, as Long Shanks sailed peacefully past Cumana en route (so he says) to a Jesuit Mission, the governor of Cumana sent out a pirate hunter to destroy Long Shanks. Of course, no pirate hunter was any match for Long Shanks and he was promptly sunk. So enraged was Long Shanks that he turned his ship into port and attacked Cumana. After overrunning the guards, he installed a new governor, a French governor, and gave the city to France. Spain responded by putting a 10,000 gold piece bounty on his head, and also resorted to escorting wealthy ships (which only served to identify them as wealthy in Long Shanks' eyes) but few were the governor that dared to send pirate hunters after Long Shanks again.

The Baron's Defeat
It was around this time, when Long Shanks was sailing on the Spanish main, that he heard rumour of Baron Raymondo, henchman of the evil Montalban, sailing north to San Juan, presumably to sell babies or something equally evil. Long Shanks immediately set off under full sail and very rare easterly wind and managed to intercept the Baron as he was leaving port. Cannons rang out to the next day, as the ships circled each other like wolves, each waiting for the other to make a mistake. The Baron made the first one. A devastating barage from Thetis' 20 cannons rendered the Baron's ship immobile and killed many of the crew. Long Shanks sailed his ship in, rammed the Baron, and brought his men swarming onto Raymondo's boat. The swordfight was intense, with many crew members on either side dying, but Long Shanks put an end to it by backing Baron Raymondo to the edge of the ship and forcing a surrender. The Baron divulged the locations where various family members were being kept in exchange for being dropped off on a small, remote island.

As he sailed the Caribbean following obscure maps to his relatives (as well as vanquishing various pirates and digging up their treasures), Long Shanks made frequent stops in Tortuga to visit his governor friend and more importantly, the governor's daughter. He made a point of dancing with her any time he was in the area and slowly they fell in love. It turned out that she was a woman of the people and had many inside sources that aided Long Shanks' career. In fact, she often provided him with clues and map pieces to lost cities through her contacts. While Long Shanks had relations with many other girls in many other ports, it was mostly a matter of being polite and discovering what they knew. He'd throw them the occasional ruby ring and everyone was happy. It wasn't like that in Tortuga. For her he reserved all the finest treasures, some stolen, some paid for at exorbinant rates. A jealous ex, who was a master swordman of the highest regard, challenged Long Shanks to a duel and learned exactly why the governor's daughter had fallen for him - and I don't mean diamond necklaces, long dancer's legs, and slapdash good looks!

Looking for family
The romance continued as Long Shanks recovered his remaining family members, one by one. How they survived in small, remote cabins locked inside with no apparent access to food or water for so long is a mystery, but nevertheless they were more than thrilled to have Long Shanks kick their door down. His family rescued, he returned to Tortuga, thinking of settling down and perhaps marrying the governor's daughter there. However, in a really unfair plot twist, the love of his life had herself been kidnapped by the evil pirate Mendoza. He banked his accumulated wealth in Tortuga, after dividing the proceeds with his loyal crew, of course, and after acquiring some new hands, set out to find Mendoza, knowing only that he'd last been seen in Marcaibo on the Spanish mains. Unfortunately, the Spanish had not forgotten his past transgressions and refused to let him into port to question the tavern owners or even get supplies. Long Shanks sacked city after city with his large crew of nearly 300 pirates, not to mention various Spanish ships (having need of more ships to house his crew) and the price on his head rose to 24,000 gold.At this point, no governor could resist sending a pirate hunter out to capture Long Shanks and claim part of the reward for himself. Although his actions on the Spanish main put him in high favour with France, Holland, and England, It was too much. Whille they would give him sanctuary, bestow frequent promotions (he was already a French and Dutch Duke as well an an English Admiral), there were few cities on the Spanish main that weren't, well, Spanish.

Lost City No More
Long Shanks had to disappear for a while and went seeking the lost cities he'd been told about. He discovered the Mayans, the Incas, the Olmecs, and the Aztecs. He accrued approximately 50,000 gold from each city, though being the kind soul that he was, gave some to his Jesuit friends in exchange for the shelter they'd provided him in those early years. Recognizing a good man when they see one, the Jesuits offered to send a highly-ranked priest to the Spanish and plead the case for Long Shanks' amnesty. Now he was free to sail (and trade!) in Spanish ports and through some anti-pirate action on his part, even earned their favour and a rank of Colonel. More importantly, he was able to follow Mendoza and tracked him to Nombre de Dios, where he had left only recently for the city of St. Augustine. It was a long voyage, and on the way, Long Shanks aagin divided the plunder in Tortuga and told the governor of his daughter's presence in St. Augustine, and then went off. As fortune would have it, Mendoza had left St. Augustine at around the same time that Long Shanks had left Tortuga, and the two crossed paths near Havana, where he rescued the governor's daughter. While she was hostage, she'd overheard enough discussion to piece together the location of Montalban's secret hideout, north of Vera Cruz, knowing that Long Shanks would soon come for her. They were married and quite wealthy through Long Shanks' exploits. Though he was the most famous pirate on the Caribbean, married happily, wealthy, and reunited with his family, one thing remained. He needed to confront Montalban.

He took one last voyage to Montalban's hideout with a minimal crew. Arriving, he discovered that Montalban had recruited many locals to defend his lair, and was forced to flee to gather an invasion army. With his fame having spread across the Atlantic, and the promise of Montalban's large treasure (reputed to be almost 100,000 gold) as a carrot, Long Shanks easily recruited the 300 men he'd need to overrun Montalban's security. They attacked in June of 1686. Montalban was a fierce foe, but Long Shanks found that by timing his defence just right and only counter-attacking when the advantage was strongly in his favour, he could beat Montalban. The prize claimed, money earned, and Montalban serving as a cabin boy for Long Shanks, they sailed back to Tortuga, running the occasional errand or good deed to keep the men entertained, and elevating Long Shanks to a Duke in every country.

Long Shanks' New Family
Finally, at a ripe old age of 47, Long Shanks retired completely and remained for the rest of his days in Tortuga, where he was granted governorship with the blessing of the present governor and father-in-law. Long Shanks was never again seen on a boat, except when he and his wife vacationed on one of the many land endowments he'd been granted throughout the Caribbean (some 20,000 acres). The pirates eventually followed Long Shanks' lead and retired or turned to more legal and less dangerous avenues like shipping and trading. And although his time would come to pass, the legacy of Long Shanks would live on forever... in blog form.

See the legendary Long Shanks' Standings here.

The End.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nice story, it catches the spirit of the Original Pirates! I loved as a boy. I can not wait to purchase the new edition!