Monday, March 28, 2011

City of Pirate Treasure

I was in my airship, attempting to find a shortcut back to Caledon Downs from Steelhead, when, naturally, I got lost. Some shortcut. To make matters worse, a late-season hailstorm punctured the airship's gas bag in several places, causing me to lose altitude. Repairs would be needed.

Looking down nervously, all I could see was open water, and that water was getting nearer to the airship all the time. Just as I thought all would be lost, I saw a distant speck on the horizon. As it drew nearer, the speck became a tropical island,* and the island contained a man-made port. And buildings. And white wisps of steam. Civilization!

I landed the airship at the port and looked about. Wherever I was, the residents were clearly familiar with the Steamlands - their naval vessels were purchased from New Babbage. How intriguing.

I repaired the gas bag from my kit and prepared to re-inflate the bag when I noticed I was surrounded by several men wearing pirate costumes. Did I miss a holiday? I wondered. Perhaps a costume ball? "Welcome to New Barataria," said their leader, a tall man with a scruffy beard and a patch over his eye, "Steampunk City of Pirate Treasure." A wisp of steam rose from near his waist and I could see that he had an artificial leg as well. A small steam engine provided power to the leg.

"Uh, greetings, gentlemen. My apologies for arriving unannounced but, as you can see, my airship had a bit of difficulty. I'll be on my way once I inflate the gas bag. By the way, would anyone have a chart you could lend me that shows the way back to the Steamlands?"

The one-eyed man guffawed. "Leave? Of course, m'lady. Just walk away - we'll keep your airship nice and safe, as well as any valuables you might have on your -" He leered. "- person."

One of the smaller pirates piped up. "Cap'n, can't we keep her? We could use another serving wench at the tavern."

This conversation was not going as well as I had hoped.

Another pirate made a pointed suggestion about staffing the local brothel. I shuddered.

"May I say a word, Captain?" He nodded, and I stepped toward him, stretched up, and whispered something in his ear.

He blanched. When he recovered his composure, he said, "Why didn't you say that right away? Welcome, honored guest."**

The pirate captain gave me a personal tour of the town, including the aforementioned bordello and saloon.

While we were walking the streets of the town, his minions finished the repairs on my airship and gave it a good cleaning. When we returned to the docks, the captain presented me with a chart showing New Barataria and Caledon. I thanked him and his crew and was off.


If that sounds implausible, a consider the following information pamphlet:

Welcome to New Barataria

First a little real life history, riddled with legend and adventure:

In the early nineteenth century the pirate/privateer Jean Lafitte founded a colony of smugglers and pirates on the island of Barataria, in Barataria Bay, which was located beyond a narrow passage between the barrier islands of Grande Terre Island and Grande Isle near New Orleans. Barataria was far from the U.S. naval base and ships could easily smuggle in goods without being noticed by customs officials. For years Lafitte operated much as a legitimate businessman selling stolen and smuggled goods as well as African slaves to the merchants of New Orleans. The colony was quite successful but eventually even after being pardoned by President Jackson for helping the US army win the War of 1812, Lafitte fell into disfavor and was forced to give up the island, which he did peacefully, sailing to modern day Galveston where his colony settled and prospered once again. Eventually one of his pirate captains attacked an American merchant ship, which brought the US Navy to Lafitte’s door again to remove him and his pirates from the Gulf. He left peacefully on his flagship, the Pride, burning his fortress and settlements and reportedly taking immense amounts of treasure with him. Lafitte sailed off again and no one really knows what happened to him, in spite of many theories and none of the treasure has never been found.

Lafitte left Galveston and doubled back north along the coast of Galveston Bay, where New Barataria was founded on an out of the way, uncharted shore around 1825. Lafitte setup the same government he had before on his earlier colonies, where he was governor/dictator, with his lieutenants assisting and a 13 man jury with himself as the judge. Theft could cost you a hand, taking advantage of women could cost you your life. He retired on his fortunes and lived peacefully, managing to keep his citizenry of pirates and smugglers out of trouble until he died.

Wind the clocks forward to 1880:

Throughout his life he had many children by many women, one of whom bore the child named Jeanie who has inherited the leadership of the colony which has grown to busy seaport. Together with Darkstar she rules the city according to her grandfather's creed. The old pirate's ship has been converted to steam with blimp technology and still hovers at anchor over the northern coast.

This is New Barataria, where you will find old west saloons, horses and wagons contrasted by steam trains and blimps as well as other little known steam powered gadgetry in an 1880’s neo-Victorian age.

All I can say is: some shortcut.

* A hailstorm and then a tropical island? I know, it seemed improbable to me, too. Recall that this was supposed to be a shortcut. A little warping of space never hurt anyone, right?

** Fine, I'll tell you. Just between us, though, okay? "I'm sure you wouldn't mean any harm to a friend of Mr. Vivito Volare, would you?" He may be long retired, but his name was still feared.


Vivito Volare said...

At this point, I am always in wonder at how my reputation has evolved. Now, it seems, I am a fence, an occultist, a gentleman and a megalomaniac hellbent on bringing the whole of the grid under his banner.

I don't know where people get these ideas, but I am happy that it served you well.

Rhianon Jameson said...

To be fair, sir, you have not been shy about your, ah prior business dealings, and I *did* mention the part about your retirement from the buccaneering profession.