Teamwork Makes the Treasure Work
"Ouch!" Marty stopped swimming as he scraped his fin on yet another loose nail. "Trying to get this done fast is only slowing me down AND is going to give me Fuzzy Fungus."
Absently, the Maraquan Yurble rubbed his sore fin, looking around the attic. When his grandfather suddenly moved to Mystery Island and left Marty with the job of cleaning out and selling his house, it seemed like a great deal. He was getting paid a little, and he got to keep the money from whatever he could sell. Working a regular job while he was in school had proved pretty impossible, so this kind of self-paced odd job was just perfect.
Or so he thought. While the first floor was straightened up in no time (it helped that Gramps had taken a lot of that stuff with him), since starting on the attic two weeks ago, it felt like all his progress had ground to a halt.
He flopped down with a sigh. Listlessly he reached for a nearby box. Looking inside, he let out a slightly hysterical bubble of laughter. “This is exactly why I'm not getting anywhere! I look in one box and there's ANOTHER box!”
Marty rolled his eyes. He slowly pulled the box out of the other box, realizing as he did that it was more of a chest than a box. The metal bindings looked almost like Maractite, shimmering slightly in the diffused glow of the attic lamp.
"Where did this come from? I can't imagine Gramps knew about this and didn't tell me." Marty fiddled with the clasp, trying to open the chest, but it wouldn't budge. Digging back into the original box, he unearthed a key which he almost expected not to fit. He envisioned having to go back through the whole attic to find it, but luckily in this case the obvious key fit the obvious lock.
The lid creaked open, releasing a stream of bubbles. Marty let the breath he didn't know he was holding go in one big woosh when he saw what was under the bubbles. One piece of vellum. Sigh.
Still curious, but much less excited, Marty picked up the scrap and squinted at the old-looking writing.
"'Seek ye the Treasure of Bayner on the floor of the undersea graveyard'," Marty read aloud. "The Treasure of who? What?" He reread the line again and again, stretching his brain to come up with some idea of what it could mean. As the words became dimmer and dimmer, he realized that evening had arrived and not only had he made no progress in the attic, but he needed to go home and eat.
Tucking the vellum in his pocket, Marty set out for home. He barely watched where he was swimming, his eyes seeing only his thoughts. His own residence was on the other side of the Maraquan Neohomes development. Drifting along he heard sounds of distress followed by squeals of delight.
"The Jubjubs are at it again," he muttered, pausing to watch them fall and float in an endless cycle. He had often wondered why they hung out in such a dangerous area, but didn't want to interrupt the Shoyru bubbling them to safety to ask - Marty could not assist the effort and would have felt terrible if a Jubjub had fallen due to his inquiry. "Still, it's strange that they keep coming back to this graveyard of sh-"
Marty fin-smacked himself. He pulled the vellum from his pocket and reread it. "'Undersea graveyard' - of course!" Carefully skirting the bubbling group, he jetted toward the murkier waters of the sunken ships.
He managed to search around the outside of one before he realized the oncoming evening was still an issue. Sighing, more from his absent-mindedness than the lack of light, he turned toward home, resolved to return the next day.
And so he did. And the next day. And another. And so on and on until it was feeling as interminable as Gramps's attic (a now sorely neglected place).
Drifting home one night, Marty looked up and saw his neighbour Oswald hailing him from across the street. He crossed over.
"Where have you been, Marty? I feel like you're never home anymore."
Marty sighed. "I feel that way, too," he told the Maraquan Acara. "Between school, Gramps's place, and...and this other project, I pretty much only get home to sleep."
Oswald tilted his head a little. "Other project?" His eyes gleamed. "Sounds intriguing."
Marty hesitated. "Yeah, well, not really. I mean, not yet."
Sensing his reticence, Oswald said, "Hey, well no need to keep talking out here, you're obviously dead on your fins. Let's go inside - I have some leftovers from work..."
Marty paused and then shrugged. It was no use pretending he could resist some free Kelp. "Sure, why not?"
Settling down after dinner with some Coral Cake, Oswald brought up the adventure again. "So? What's the story?"
Pulling the vellum that he always kept with him from his pocket, Marty told Oswald the story from the beginning.
Oswald agreed that the sunken ships were about the only thing that clue could mean. "But I can't believe you're trying to do all this by yourself!" He paused. "Well, yes I can actually. But still! You don't have to and you're swimming yourself down."
Marty gave his neighbour a half-smile. "I guess you're right. I've always been like this though. It's not that I don't want help, it's that it doesn't even occur to me to ask for it."
"Well, no need to ask, I'm offering. I can't help every day, but when I'm off I can join you."
Immediately warmth washed through Marty's exhausted body. The relief of sharing this weight with someone else was intense. "It's not even like I have to search for this other thing. Really I need to finish up at the house. But I just can't let this search go until I find something."
"Which may be never," Oswald reminded him gently. "I agree you should finish that attic. That at least has an ending - even if it doesn't feel like it. If no one else has found this treasure yet, they're not likely to find it now."
"That's true," Marty said slowly.
"And," Oswald jumped in, "you might just find another clue in the attic. Something to tell you where the box came from or if someone in your family already found the treasure." He stopped suddenly. "Did you even ask your Gramps about it?"
Marty chuckled. "Not until the third day, and only because he happened to call me. He had no idea what I was talking about. Said he never even went up there."
Oswald's brows lifted even higher. "Okay, I am so in now. Would you mind if I start looking around while you're still working in the house? Or would you rather I wait?"
"Yeah, go ahead," Marty replied. "I wouldn't be surprised if you found something first thing."
After going to sleep in their respective beds that night, Marty reflected just how likely it was that Oswald would find something right away. That seemed to be how things worked. But after days of working in the attic, sorting boxes of boxes of items into different boxes of items, he had started to lose hope that there was anything still to be found.
Finally, after a few weeks and only a few more questionable nail scratches, the attic was cleaned out, and Marty and Oswald joined each other for their first joint search.
"Blargh," Oswald said, flinging tentacles at the gauzy remains of a curtain, "this ship is by far the most annoying one I've been through."
"See, to me this is nothing compared with the barnacle-blistered nightmare."
"Probably because you have fewer appendages to get caught in this nonsense!" Oswald spluttered.
They had passed through several curtained doorways, concluding that this one must have been some kind of recreational cruise ship. Looking around the room at the full suite of elaborately carved bedroom furniture, they gave each other significant looks.
"Definitely some kind of luxury cruise liner," Oswald said.
Marty nodded. "Let's check some of the drawers - if they'll open."
Yanking and grunting, they methodically checked every piece of furniture. Nothing. Sighing, they returned through the curtained passage - well, Marty sighed, Oswald flapped.
There were several more bedrooms - staterooms, Oswald said they were called - and each was much the same.
On maybe the ninth or tenth room, Marty said, "At first I was thinking this boat would have nothing. Then I started thinking it was promising. Now I'm back to thinking it's got nothing."
"Right?" Oswald agreed. "I mean, look at this, I open this box and there's just another box inside."
Marty's head shot up so fast he bumped it on one of the drawers he had forgotten to close. "Wait, what?" Rubbing his head, he swam over. "Is there anything in the box?"
Oswald was tempted to reply "Yeah, a box, like I said", but then he noticed how sharp Marty's attention was. He lifted the smaller box out and tried to open it. After a few seconds of teamwork, they both managed to wrench it open.
"Wait, what is that?" Oswald said, staring at the face of a Krawk who seemed to be staring right back.
"I think it's a dubloon," Marty said, turning his head, trying to catch more of the light on the shiny surface.
"But dubloons all have bones on them."
"Well, I don't know what else it could be," Marty challenged.
Frowning, Oswald replied, "Fair enough. Where do we go to find out?" He paused. "And is this even the treasure your paper told you about?"
"It might not be THE treasure, but it's certainly A treasure, and it was in a very similar box," Marty said, closing the lid. “I think it's valuable.”
"Fair enough," Oswald shrugged, following Marty out of the ship with minimal curtain complaints. "I'm sure it's worth something to someone, it's a pretty good find for you."
Marty stopped suddenly on the deck of the ship. "What do you mean for me? This is our find."
Oswald's brows scrunched. "Your clue in your attic that you figured out. I was just along for the adventure and the mystery! It's totally yours, Marty."
Without hesitation, Marty replied, "Well then I totally choose to split it with you. I don't know that I could have made it this far without your help. Even just knowing you were with me did more than I can say." He paused, awkwardly. "It was nice being part of a team."
Oswald looked away. "Yeah, I guess that makes sense. And thanks," he said, glancing back at his neighbor-turned-friend, "I like being on a team with you, too."