the pearl

Twelve Pieces Of Aztec Gold

Part of the 882 Pieces Of Aztec Gold Challenge

It's a ghastly little place in the middle of a swamp, but the rum is cheap and the food is cheaper and the barmaids squeal prettily when you pull them down. The wall behind the bar is studded with silver, bronze, and gold from around the world, always just out of reach of the drunkards with barely enough pieces to rub together.

The owner will break any man's nose, smiling all the time. But when that one man returns, he finds himself slumped on the floor with a belly slit open, watching him take a single coin from the wall.


Mamselle Marie Etienne La Sangre was the most powerful mambo in the port of Tortuga, with the largest house and finest rum known throughout the area. Her bags of gris-gris was known throughout the Caribbean as the strongest mojo you could have around your neck as you sailed, protecting you from the gods themselves.

The captain in front of her was desperate, and she smiled as she thought of the money he would give her.

He handed her a small bag. At the first sight of the coins within, she threw them down and closed the door in his face.


It fell from a tear in his pocket.

It rolled on the smooth stone road.

It slipped through the rusty grate.

It splashed into the river.

It was swallowed by the fish.

The fish was caught by the boy.

The boy gave his mother the fish.

The mother put it in the tin.

The tin sat on the table.

The table sat in the shack.

The shack was burnt by the pirates.

The pirate kicked over the burnt tin.

It gleamed in the firelight.

"I di'nt know y'lost this 'un."

It was picked up and put back in the pocket.


He learned the abacus at his father's knee, carefully clicking the small beads as he counted. His father was one of the many royal taxmen, counting the emperor's riches with the same precise movements he taught his son.

He, however, has been reduced to counting the latest takings from gwai lo, stacking silver and bronze coins just for a brief moment with the opium dragons of smoke and dreams. Each clink of a coin hitting another coin, each click on a bead against a bead brings him closer to the pipe and oblivion.

He looks at the elaborate gold coin on the top of the pile, and, with barely a moment's notice, adds it to the count, not noticing the voices outside.


Some would say that the fine art of counterfeiting was dead.

Ol' Jess Godwin was not one of those people. He was precise in his movements, in his speaking, and especially in his craftsmanship.

When there were tales of pirates rampaging throughout the seas, searching for coins of pure gold, he went back to his workshop and carefully opened up the chest he had been hiding all these years. The gold coin gleamed in the candlelight, and he spent the rest of the night working on a duplicate, the tin version buffed to perfection and carefully painted and polished golden.

When the fog crept into the harbour, and the pirates stormed the town, he wrapped the copy tightly in cloth, and waited.

When they took the coin, he smiled as they left.

When they returned, swords gleaming in the moonlight, Godwin realized that the art truly was dead.


Bill decided to become a curse-breaker when he was researching family history. (Well, to be honest, he was clearing out the attic in an attempt to make some space for Baby Ginny's room, but moving portraits counts for research, right?)

And at the bottom of a large pile of cousins and second cousins and twice removed, he found a finely painted portrait of a gentleman, with the name "Lancelot Ezekiel Weasley" carefully painted in gold upon the frame. He assumed it was finely painted, because the painting had been slashed repeatedly, and the only visible part of it was a small stack of strangely decorated gold coins in the corner.

The other portraits all gasped when they saw it, and told little Bill of Lancelot Weasley, the last heir of the fabled Weasley riches, who foolishly received a payment in cursed gold, and then, more foolishly, placed it with the other riches.


'Twas bitter cold 'round the Horn, and even colder where we followed. The ice grew thicker and thicker, 'til we could finally sail no more, and was forced to take the longboats to our treasure.

We felt no cold nor pain as we rowed, then felt less as we walked across the ice, further and further into the frozen pits o' hell, until we came across our bounty.

It had been lost for years, and icicles hung from its tattered sails.

The long-dead captain clutched our prize 'tween his fingers, thick ice built up around him.

We had t'break off his entire hand to get it back.


"Yarr, I always be ready to help a lass with her schoolwork."

"Okay, heh heh. Um...How far can you trace your family to?"

"We was sailors from centuries ago, back to a lad who sought revenge after pirates killed his mother for accursed gold."

"But it says here that you've been the first sailor in Springfield since the founding of the town. And that your family was part of the original settlement."

"Yarrr. Ye must be mistaken."

"No, it says right here. See?"

"Yarr. 'Tis true. My family be not supportive of my sailor ways. 'Don't be like your great-great-great-great-grandfather,' they says."


"Yarr, I hates me life."


No one knows how the coin got up there, in a dusty little valley populated by heathen tribes and the occasional padre.

Thankfully, there's something resembling a bay, and there's something resembling a map, and the padres are more than willing to give up their burros, especially when you take them by moonlight, and it takes only a few hours to find the place.

They find out there's more than Indians and priests in the valley.

But, thankfully, the creatures that live there are more than willing to bargain. One of the cabin boys gets left behind, but that's no small loss. And they leave the accursed place the Spaniards have named Boca del Inferno with their accursed prize.


'Tis a damned ship that sails these waters, and 'tis another damned ship that follows them. Through storm and calm, they chase each other, ghost ships on a ghost sea.

'Tis said that the captain of the first ship was a fool, sailin' around the Cape of Good Hope with his spices and silks, carryin' a single gold coin he said was for luck.

'Tis also said that the second ship was cursed, searchin' for the gold as if driven by the devil himself.

When the captain knew they were huntin' him, he shouted "I will round this Cape even if I have to keep sailing until Doomsday!"

And so he does. If'n ye see the Flyin' Dutchman, don't look too closely. The black ship that follows will be yer death.


He's t'best goldsmith this side of t'Atlantic, and if'n yer wantin' somethin' done right, y'can't get better than he.

He got a man who wanted a single gold coin copied — exact match, like. T'coin was unnatural and cursed, but t'goldsmith never minded such things, not when there was twice t'gold to be had just for makin' this one coin.

'Twas his best work, a perfect match that none could tell apart. T'exact amount of gold, t'right shape, everythin' about it was as true as could be.

T'man was most generous wit' the goldsmith, and even let 'im keep t'first coin.

When t'goldsmith heard he was robbed dead in t'alley, he paid it no mind. But when all his food tasted of ashes and all his gold seemed t'fade, he knew that there be somethin' more than gold in t'world.


She's seen a great many wonderful things in her life, and many of them she was a part of. A beautiful boy with wings like an angel. Another boy looking at her through red crystal. Demons and saints and herself — disguised as a lad those many years in Javier's home, lifting things with the power of her spirit and not of her limbs.

She is aged now, a crone woman with still-sparkling green eyes, and her children and children's children live their days in the warm sun of the Caribbean, growing strong and beautiful and as strangely talented as their ancestors.

She's seen a great many wonderful things in her life, and, as the shadows ripple across the moon and flesh becomes bone becomes flesh becomes bone, she effortlessly floats the coin towards the pirate, and turns away.

This 1602/Angel/Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Harry Potter/Pirates Of The Caribbean/The Simpsons story was written by Kate Bolin. If you liked it, there's plenty more at And you can feedback her at