There are, in fact, no oak trees on Oake Island.
It gained its name in honour of the man who instituted and funded an annual swimming contest from the harbour of Porthaven to the island and back: the vastly wealthy and even more vastly eccentric Archimedes Oake.
The Oake Derby, as the race has come to be known, is now something of an honoured tradition in Porthaven.
Gunnar Swiftswimmersson is the reigning three-year champion.
Unknown to the members of the Family Darkstone, they are not the only non-swimmers with an interest in Oake Island, and not the only ones with knowledge of William Newgate’s treasure.
Drawn by the allure of William Newgate’s treasure, Captain Myra Morningstar has already brought her Red Wolf Pirates to Oake Island.
She stands on the beach of Oake Island, the first one off the boat and onto the sand. She begins to bark instructions to her crew as they unload the boat and haul crates of equipment onto the beach.
Even if she knew that she was about to have competition in the hunt for the treasure, she would still have every confidence in the capabilities of her Red Wolves. Nothing is going to stop them from claiming the treasure of Oake Island.
“Hurry up!” Myra calls to her crew. “I’m not paying you to lollygag!”
“Actually, Captain, you’re, uh, you’re not paying us at all,” one of the Red Wolves answers as he passes by, carrying a crate. “You just told us to get on the boat and then you started kicking us.”
“Shut up and haul,” Myra answers brusquely. “You’ll get paid when the job is done. Same as always.” She doesn’t wait for a response before she turns away and stalks up the beach.
The pirate turns to one of his companions. “The Captain’s kind of grumpy today, isn’t she?” he asks quietly. “We didn’t forget her birthday, did we?”
“No. Her birthday’s in the winter,” the other pirate answers. “She’s probably just grumpy because we all got up so early this morning.”
“Yeah. That must be it,” the pirate agrees. “She’s kind of cute when she’s angry, though.”
“Yeah,” his companion says absently, having stopped listening to his companion. “Wait. What?”
“Nothing,” the pirate mumbles. “Help me set up this flagpole.”
As Myra stops midway up the beach and gazes back at the rest of the Red Wolves, she cannot help but feel that her previous confidence in them is perhaps slightly misplaced.
They were the best — or maybe just the least bad — recruits she could hire with the budget she had, but that doesn’t mean they’re really anywhere near competent. Or even adequate.
Of course, they aren’t quite completely hopeless. They’d passed the most important test.
When Myra had asked “Want to join my crew?”, most people had looked at her, wrinkled their noses, said “But you’re a girl.” and walked away.
Since all of the Wolves are willing to follow a female captain, Myra can’t quite bring herself to write them off completely.
“Careful with those!” she calls back to her crew as they continue to fumble with the supplies. “If you break them, you’re paying for them.”
Myra had thought agonisingly long and hard over the name of her crew, deciding on Red Wolves in a sudden flash of inspiration while idly leafing through the Big Book of Taxonomy.
The previous longstanding forerunner was “Myra’s Crew.”
Names are hard.
Still, most of her crew probably don’t deserve to be called Wolves. As she watches them on the beach, she decides they look more like a flock of frightened chickens.
Despite all this, she feels herself swelling with pride at the sight of the flag, her flag on the beach. It’s a great flag, one of the best pirate flags she’s ever seen. Looking at it, people might even assume that the Wolves actually know what they’re doing.
The embroidered letters on the flag are particularly fetching. She notes confidently that the red flag is now flying as a clear warning to the whole world that the treasure of Oake Island rightfully belongs to her.
And that she and the Wolves aren’t going to take kindly to anyone suggesting otherwise. The Red Wolves may leave a lot to be desired, but they’re still her very own crew, and she has no doubt that she is going to lead them to victory.
Even if she has to drag them there herself.
Myra is sure her grandfather would be proud to see all of this, Myra leading her own crew under her very own flag to be the one to reclaim William Newgate’s treasure.
Of course he’d be proud; after all, she’s doing all this for him.
Myra tightens her belt and brings herself back to reality.
“You,” she declares, pointing to a group of the least incapable Wolves. “Come with me.” She points to the two pirates standing by the flagpole. “And you two, guard the boat.”
“Yes, Captain!” one of the pirates standing by the flag says with an eager salute.
He turns towards the water and resolutely straightens his posture.
“Let’s get moving,” Myra says to her escort of Wolves. She turns from the beach and begins leading them towards the centre of Oake Island.
One of the Wolves hazards a question as they continue towards the treeline. “Captain? Do we know where we’re going? I don’t want to get lost in this forest.”
“We’re fine,” Myra assures him. “I wouldn’t be leading you here if I didn’t know exactly where to go.” She smiles confidently over her shoulder. “Trust me.”
Dunstana didn’t get a lot of sleep in anticipation of their adventure. She’s up with the sun, dragging Kat out of bed and out to rendezvous with Jonas and Annie.
Kat doesn’t see what the rush is.
William Newgate’s treasure has been safely buried for a hundred-and-seventy years. It’ll still be there if they sleep in. But Dunstana evidently disagrees, so, despite her best efforts,
Kat finds herself in the back of a rickety old rowboat rented from Crazy Skragsgar’s Discount Marina, heading off to adventure.
Jonas and Annie are wearing near-identical field outfits, though Annie’s is significantly smaller and more pink. Annie wears a backpack stocked with any supplies she thinks might be useful on their expedition, including a meticulously-packed first aid kit.
Flung over his shoulder is what Jonas calls a satchel, though Dunstana is quite insistent that it is, in fact, a purse. His grappling hook gun hangs at the ready from his hip.
Dunstana may not look like an archaeologist or academic, but her pirate outfit makes it clear that she is also ready for adventure. She has a backpack of her own, though one packed much less sensibly than Annie’s.
As ever, she’s got her cork gun and wooden sword and, as ever, she’s itching to use them on something.
Kat is probably the odd one out, looking the least like a proper adventurer even though she’s the only one with a proper Adventuring Licence. Jonas and Annie are sanctioned by the University, rather than the Guild Authority, and Dunstana is too much of a pirate to care about the sanction of the municipal government.
Kat’s adventuring outfit, such as it is, consists of the same tattered black pants, shirt and vest she wears all the time, except for those rare occasions when she actually needs to wear fancy clothes.
But she is prepared, wearing her trusty Adventuring Belt. She put hers bow and quiver on the bench beside her so she can lie down comfortably, planning to pick them back up when they land on Oake Island.
The nauseating rolling of the waves is doing no favours for her mood. She’s lying in the back of their rented boat, covering her face with her hands and hoping that she can keep her stomach from staging a mutiny.
As Kat languishes in the stern, Jonas rows. Dunstana and Annie are up front, eagerly discussing the life and times of William Newgate and how much treasure they hope to find. Dunstana periodically reaches into her backpack, takes out her spyglass and gazes out towards Oake Island.
Kat has almost managed to escape into a mental happy place when the boat suddenly runs aground on the shores of Oake Island.
Startled back to reality with a yelp, she loses her balance and plummets to the bottom of the boat. She is left soaked with an unpleasant mixture of the seawater that has seeped into the boat and the rainwater that collected there the night before.
And she’s pretty sure she just swallowed a bug.
She’s going to get Dunstana for this.
On the plus side, she’s not seasick anymore.
“There’s another boat on the beach!” Dunstana exclaims, pointing in excitement.
Kat, Jonas and Annie follow her finger. Sure enough, a second boat, significantly larger and better-constructed than their own, has been hauled up onto the beach just past the tideline.
Beside it, someone has raised a banner with the image of a large, snarling bright red wolf. The banner helpfully, but ominously indicates in big, red letters:
DANGER: PIRATES AHEAD.
Kat has to squint to read the smaller letters underneath: This warning generously provided by the Red Wolf Pirates.
“Pirates,” Jonas mutters, shaking his head. “I hate pirates.”
“Hey!” Dunstana exclaims indignantly.
“Only the ones that aren’t my favourite niece,” Jonas assures her.
“Hey!” Kat responds from the bottom of the boat.
“Hey!” the pirates standing beneath the banner yell. “We were here first! Back off!”
Kat pushes herself up to her feet, where she promptly comes face-to-face with the barrels of the pirates’ muskets.
“Oh dear,” Kat mutters. She’s not particularly fond of people pointing muskets at her.
Dunstana, evidently, does not share her sister’s concerns. She promptly draws her cork gun and takes aim, sending a cork hurtling into the face of one of the pirates.
Kat feels slightly vindicated to see, for once, that someone other than her is getting a cork in the face.
“She shot you!” the second pirate exclaims in utter mortification.
“She did!” the first agrees, rubbing his wounded forehead. “I’m gonna get her for this!”
“Oh, no, you’re not!” Kat tells him.
She’s also not particularly fond of people threatening her sister.
Besides, if Dunstana is to be got by anyone, it’s going to be Katherine Hortensia Darkstone. Spurred by her indignation she’s already sprung out of the boat and onto the beach before she remembers that the pirate has a musket.
And a friend. Who also has a musket.
Fortunately, her momentum has already carried her into the pirate, sending them both tumbling to the beach. After a brief scuffle in the sand, Kat manages to gain the advantage thanks to a stiff, unsportsmanlike kick, that leaves him crumpled in a groaning heap on the beach.
Kat feels a shadow fall over her. She suspects there is currently a second pirate looming over her with his musket levelled at her.
“So,” he says, with a grand smugness that makes Kat clench her teeth. “We can do this the easy way, or the — What are you doing?”
Luckily, Dunstana has sprung to her sister’s rescue, charging the pirate while brandishing her wooden sword. His shins are soon bearing the full brunt of the little pirate’s assault.
“What are you doing?” he asks again, sounding more indignant than seriously threatened by Dunstana’s onslaught.
Dunstana’s only response is to hit him again. Striking his shins, her wooden sword makes a loud thwack on impact.
“– stop –”
Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!
He leaps backwards, out of the range of Dunstana’s sword. In the process of doing so, he almost trips over Annie, who has been desperately trying to get his attention in hopes of peacefully ending the conflict.
“Hi,” she says, tugging on the hem of his shirt to get his attention. “I don’t want to be a bother, but, um, you’re currently violating the Statutes of Wintermorn.”
“What?” the pirate asks, staring blankly down at Annie. He’s not nearly as surprised to have articles of law being flung at him as by the fact that the one flinging them is approximately half his height, a third of his age, and apparently entranced by his boot buckles.
He lowers his musket and turns to fully face Annie, going out of his way to look down his nose at her.
He clears his throat and sets aside his bemusement. “Look, you seem like a nice kid, but I don’t really care about any of that,” the pirate says apologetically. “I’m a pirate. And there’s treasure here, so I will kick you if you don’t go away.”
“Oh,” Annie says, frowning. “That’s too bad. Because that means you’re endangering the efforts to preserve a potential historical site and the proper cataloguing of all related artifacts, as stipulated by articles eight through seventeen. My dad’s not going to be happy to hear that.”
“Kid,” the exasperated pirate says. “I don’t care about your articles, or your winter statues, or your arty facts or whatever it is you’re talking about. And like I said, I will kick you. And, honestly, why would I care what your dad thinks?”
“Because he’s standing right behind you,” Jonas tells the pirate, grabbing him by the shoulder and stopping him mid-kick. “And he doesn’t like it when punks like you threaten to kick his only child.”
“What? You?” the pirate sneers, turning towards Jonas. “You don’t look so — ack!”
What the unfortunate pirate doesn’t know is that, before his time at the University of Porthaven, a younger Jonas Darkstone was a champion wrestler.
It takes him less than a heartbeat to floor the pirate and plant his boot on the pirate’s chest.
As the pirate is left groaning from his painful introduction to the ground, Jonas looks to his daughter. “We packed some rope in there, right?” he asks.
Annie rummages through her backpack, eventually producing a length of rope. “Right here, Dad,” she says, tossing him the rope.
Jonas and Kat drag the two dazed pirates to their flagpole and tie them to the pole. As they regain their wits, Jonas kneels down to look them in the eye. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
“We’re with the Red Wolves,” the first pirate says.
“I got that from the banner, yeah,” Jonas answers.
“Did you like it?” the second pirate asks eagerly. “I embroidered the letters.”
“Mine’s better,” Dunstana mutters.
Unfortunately, in her excitement for the adventure, she forgot to pack her own banner, boldly emblazoned with a sparkly kitty-cat. That means she won’t be able to plant her flag to claim any treasure they find.
Dunstana supposes she’ll just have to write her name on it.
“We’re here on the Red Wolves’ business,” the first pirate continues. “And that’s no business of yours.” A haughty look crosses his face, despite his situation not being one allowing for haughtiness. “So there.”
Jonas heaves a heavy sigh of frustration. “You’re not going to talk to us, then?”
“Nope,” the first pirate answers.
“Not even a little,” the second adds. An uncertain look crosses his face. “Except to tell you that we’re not going to talk to you. But after that, not one word more. So there.”
“Right,” Jonas mutters. He looks over his shoulder. “Kat, find me a bucket.”
The second pirate leans over to his companion. “What’s he going to do with a bucket?”
“He’s probably going to fill it with crabs or something, and then dump them on us,” the first answers.
“But then the crabs will pinch us!” the second gasps in horror. “Do you think we should tell him why we’re here?”
“No, we shouldn’t tell him why we’re here!” the first hisses back. “Because if we do, how do you think the Captain is going to react?”
“She’ll be pretty mad at us,” the second pirate muses.
“Of course she’ll be mad at us!” the first replies. “She’s going to have us keelhauled. Twice, probably.”
“Oh. That’s bad,” the second decides. “Especially if it’s twice.”
“Good news,” Jonas says, bringing the pirates back to their current predicament. “I found a bucket.” He holds up the bucket to prove his point.
“Is it filled with crabs?” the first pirate asks cautiously.
“Crabs?” Jonas repeats incredulously. “Why would I do that? I just wanted a place to sit down.” He flips the bucket upside down, sets it down on the beach, then sets himself down on the bucket. “See?”
The second pirate turns back to his companion. “You said he was going to fill it with crabs!”
“Shut up,” the first answers crossly.
Jonas clears his throat to regain the pirates’ attention. “I’m a patient man, and I can wait all day until you’re ready to talk. In the meantime, I’m just going to sit here and eat this candy.” He indicates the bag of candies Dunstana produces from her own backpack.
The pirates exchange a glance, then look back towards Jonas. “What kind of candy?” the first asks cautiously.
“Lemon,” Dunstana answers.
“Can we have some?” the first pirate asks. “We’ll tell you why we’re here,” he continues. It feels like a bad idea, and he’ll probably never be able to face the Captain ever again. But he really likes lemon.
“We will,” the second agrees. “How much do we get?”
“Two pieces each,” Dunstana declares.
“Five,” the first pirate counters. “And not one less.” The haughty look crosses his face again. “So there.”
“You can have three,” Dunstana counter-counters.
“Four?” the pirates say hopefully.
“Three,” Dunstana repeats.
“Four,” the pirates insist.
“Three?” the pirates ask, not realising they’ve been duped.
“Deal,” Dunstana says, feeling quite proud of herself for proving to be the smartest pirate on the beach.
“Wait. What?” The pirates exchange a confused look, which promptly turns into a look of disappointed realisation. “Fine,” they say sullenly.
Once the two pirates receive the promised candy – no small feat considering their hands are tied to their sides – they become significantly more cooperative.
Savouring the lemon candy he has received from Dunstana, the first pirate begins to explain the situation, “The Captain found a map, but she never let anyone else see it. We followed the map here, because it said there was treasure here on Oake Island.”
“Makes sense,” Jonas muses. “William Newgate probably wouldn’t have drawn his only map on the back of a napkin. Figures there’d be a proper map somewhere.”
“It was in that book of hers,” the first pirate continues.
“What book?” Jonas asks.
The pirate shrugs. “Don’t know. She never lets anyone touch it, or even look at it. I think it’s a journal, or something.”
Jonas stares down at the pirate. “Your Captain has William Newgate’s journal?”
“Seems like it,” the pirate continues. “It’s old enough to be his.”
“It smells like a library,” the second pirate adds.
“We have to find her,” Jonas declares. “We might be able to convince her to work with us.”
“Uncle Jonas! Uncle Jonas!” Dunstana exclaims as she comes running to his side. “Kat found footprints! They went that way!” She points into the trees above the beach at the centre of the island.
“Right, let’s go!” he says, adjusting his hat and rising from his bucket. Jonas follows Kat and Dunstana, while Annie follows Jonas off the beach, into the trees and hopefully one step closer to finding William Newgate’s treasure.
“Wait! Before you go, could you possibly untie us? We’ll be good! We can help you find the Captain!” the first pirate calls after them.
“Please?” the second adds futilely as they disappear into the trees.