The Queen of Kryos (tenacitydrader) wrote,
The Queen of Kryos
tenacitydrader

Challenge 12



One

“Hello, beastie.”

Taking a deep breath (through his mouth; Gibbs had not been exaggerating about the rotting-corpse smell) Jack dived into the mucus-filled orifice of the beast, which was darker than a bat’s arse. He was not sliced, but rather crushed between the kraken’s teeth. The kraken shattered his arms first, which sent sharp and blinding pain shooting up them, then it crushed Jack’s skull, sending him into blessed unconsciousness.

When Jack came to, he was back on the deck of thePearl, which sported missing and cracked planks and snapped rigging from the kraken’s devastating embrace, but was otherwise seaworthy. Jack felt much as he had before being swallowed, but when he tried to touch his own hands or face, he found that he was intangible and could feel nothing. He rushed to the rail and looked at his surroundings as he wondered where he was.

The ocean was black as ink, and did not ripple under the hull of the ship, nor did it provide any reflection of Jack, although it did reflect the ship itself, and the sun, red like the eye of a white rabbit in the pale metallic sky. There was no ambient noise whatsoever. Jack even shouted at the top of his voice, but either he had gone stone deaf or else sound didn’t exist. Jack wondered what would happen if he had company; would he be able to hear them or would the silence render them mute as well?

It was warm, almost stuffy, in this non-place and although there was nary a ruffle of breeze, the Pearl continued to drift steadily through the dark water, but to what destination, Jack didn’t know. Where am I? he thought.

You where da worl’ end, Jack Sparra came a voice in his head.

He turned around wildly and saw a vague and patchy figure shimmering across the deck from him. The figure approached him, becoming clearer every second.

Tia Dalma, Jack thought, grinning. I’m not dead, am I?

Now she stood in front of him, same as the day he had left her house in the bayou, except for her eyes, which were completely black, matching the strange ocean. Despite her uncanny appearance, she still smiled her dark smile and gestured coquettishly. An’ wha’ t’if you ah dead, Jack?

If I were dead, I wouldn’t be lookin’ at you, now would I? he answered her back.

You don’ know dat. Her smile faded. You always t’ought you could have everyt’ing. D’at was your problem.

Jack looked worried. Am I in Hell then?

Tia Dalma laughed soundlessly. Do you wan’ to be?

No, he thought, shuddering, There’s a way out of here, right? Some sort of an exit or egress or outlet, love? He smiled at her hopefully.

Maybe dere is an’ maybe dere isn’ Tia Dalma folded her arms in apparent indifference.

You know the way out, don’t you, love?

Ah, but it cohme at a price, an’ a steep wahn at dat. She glared at him.

Anything, dearie, Jack thought with relief.

You are t’inkin’ you not pay me, dat you cheat me, aren’t you? Tia Dalma thought.

Me? No, I wouldn’t do that, love. We go back too far, you n’ me. Jack’s glance shifted quickly from left to right, before settling on Tia Dalma again.

Tia Dalma smiled once more. D’en I help you, but you have no more dan syix days.

Then what happens?

You see how you ah drifting? She fanned her fingers gracefully in the direction of the sea. You are not in Hell, nah t’yet, but you ah drifting towars de gyate. You will be dere in no more dan syix days. Den de guardians of Hell, dey come up out of de watah and claim you. She snapped her hand closed with finality.

Then hurry, would you? Jack thought, glancing over the rail at the black water.

Don’ you worry, Jack. De time, it move slow here. All you have to do is stay out of de watah an’ wait for a rescue.

Very well, I’ll try and remember not to take a swim in the inky water o’ death, savvy? When Jack looked back at Tia Dalma, she was already fading and shimmering. Wait, what’ll I owe you, then?

Somet’ing big, was the only answer her retreating form provided.

Soon, Jack was alone once more. He peered over the rail at the black water once again with consternation. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a pale figure move under the surface, but it disappeared when he looked directly at it. Although Jack had no body, he shivered. Then he realized that his luck had never failed him, and it wouldn’t this time either. He shrugged and sauntered to the helm nonchalantly and convinced himself he actually could steer the Pearl. That was better.

Two

In a strange sort of intimacy, the heart of Davy Jones beat against Norrington’s own where he had stashed it in his jacket, its pulse slow where his own was rapid. Norrington ran as fast as he could up the hill and away from the monsters. All the while, he prayed they would not look in the chest, but would carry it straight to their master, allowing him a relatively easy escape.

At the top of the hill, he stopped and risked a glance behind him. He saw nothing but the tangle of vines, leaves, and underbrush. He quieted his breathing and listened for a second. Now he heard as well as felt the steady beat of Davy Jones’ heart, one beat for every four of his. He heard the shrill cry of birds in the forest, the quieter chorus of insects, the sigh of the wind in the leaves, and farther away the lap of the waves.

His heart slowed so it became closer to the rhythm of the other heart, now three beats of his to every one of Jones’. When his heart slowed to two for every one of Davy Jones’, Norrington finally stirred and continued down the other side of the hill. He climbed into the valley, where he found a clear stream, dappled with the green light that filtered down through the canopy. He knelt beside it and, cupping his hands under its cool flow, drank deep.

He splashed water over his face, tasting the salt of his own sweat as it ran into his mouth. When he rubbed his hands together to clean them, he noticed a fine tremor that worsened the more he tried to keep still. He thought back to the last time he had had a drink. When they had landed on the beach it had been midday. Now it was late afternoon, which would put his last drink on the previous night. That worried him a little, but now was not the time to fret about it, besides the tremor could have more to do with escaping Davy Jones’ monsters than from withdrawal. Norrington stood up slowly.

He decided to wait in the valley for a while. He dared not wait too long, as he had few means for survival. He would still need to find a way off the island, as his rash action had left himself no escape. Still, he had survived the hurricane and its aftermath, and God had blessed him with wits and determination. And now he had another asset: hope. He sat beneath a tree and leaned against the trunk, while he allowed himself a small smile of triumph. He closed his eyes and let the sound of the heart lull him into sleep.

When he awoke, the sky was dark. Luckily, the moon was full and splashed down through the trees, where it shone in bright silver patches on the forest floor. He rubbed his eyes and stood up. After another drink from the stream, he walked back over the hill toward the old mill. Surely there would be something there that would serve him as a vessel, or at least provide him with the building materials to construct one.

Soon, he came out into the clearing where he had last seen the monsters. The chest was gone, a favorable sign. He headed into the woods and walked farther down the hill toward the mill. He decided to try the millpond first, such as it was. Fortune favored him once more with an old fishing skiff stuck fast in the murky puddle. After several minutes of sweaty pushing and pulling, Norrington hauled it onto the grassy bank.

A few of the boards were soft with rot. Norrington hoped that he would not have to rely on its seaworthiness for too long and so he went into the mill to seek out potential caulking materials. The house had long since been abandoned, and as Norrington crossed the threshold, he discovered that it had also been looted for valuables. All that was left were some empty clay pots, a chair, and a pile of tarry rope, all strewn about in general disarray. “Valuable” is a relative termNorrington thought, as he picked up the rope, righted the chair and sat.

Slowly, methodically, and by the light of the moon, he picked at the strands out of the rope, separating them and breaking them apart, then dropping them into the empty clay pot. As he created his own homemade oakum, he reflected on his circumstances.

It had always baffled him that Jack had allowed him on the Black Pearl in the first place. Perhaps the reverse was true as well, that Jack was just as baffled at Norrington’s decision to join his crew. As Norrington separated more of the fibers, his hands working almost independently of his mind, which now wandered, trance-like, back to Tortuga.

I lie in the gutter again, waiting for unconsciousness, waiting for death, perhaps. Or maybe, I wait for an opportunity, some change in fortune brought about by God or perhaps His nemesis. God has pushed me off a cliff to see if I can fly, but I fall instead, down and down, further into the utter blackness that is the wreck of my once-noteworthy life.

Then, a hand comes across my field of view. It is gnarled with calluses, but clean. It reaches toward me and I find I can do nothing but blink at it, uncertain what to make of it. Hands lately have pushed me, struck me, picked my pockets whilst I lie in the dirt, but have never, ever, reached down in friendship or benevolence. I almost don’t take the hand. I almost don’t believe it even exists. I close my eyes and open them again. The hand is still there, unwavering. Who could possibly want to help me and why?

After another moment, I realize that the hand wishes to pull me up and out of the pit into which I’ve fallen or perhaps just off of this muddy ground upon which I lie. In another second, I know it will be gone, along with my chance at salvation. I take the hand and am jerked upright. I sway for a moment, the rum still besetting my head, making the world spin in a dizzying blur of light, darkness, color, sound and smell. I lean over and vomit into the gutter. I fervently hope I don’t sick on my new ally.

“Mister Norrington,” says a Northern-accented, gravelly voice, presumably the voice that goes with the hand.

I look up and his scarred and dark-eyed face comes into focus slowly. I vaguely recall this face, as if the memory is a cobweb-covered book in a dusty corner my inebriated mind.

“I answer to that name,” I mutter, “if I know who asks it.”

“Name’s Mercer.” The voice is clipped short, as if he has a tight budget on words to which he must strictly adhere.
Mercer…Mercer. The name pulls the memory out of the corner, perhaps, but does little to banish the cobwebs. At once, I realize that I must remember my manners. After all, I’m destitute and manners cost nothing, James comes my mother’s voice in my muddled head. I bow to him, and fall over once more, back into the gutter. This time I stand of my own volition, through sheer force of will. I am suddenly weary of being drunk and wish there was some sort of a rum antidote.

The man speaks again. “We can’t speak here. Or now.” He walks away and I stumble after him. He leads me to a rickety set of stairs, which luckily has a railing. I grip the railing tight and my mind chases itself like a kitten with its own tail, only not so winsome. If I let go, I’ll tumble down the stairs. If I tumble down the stairs, I’ll split my skull open. If I split my skull open, I’ll never know what Mercer wants of me. So I had better cling to the rail, lest I tumble down the stairs…

Eventually, we enter the rickety building. He leads me to a door and opens it for me, indicating with a jerk of his head that I should enter. The room is tiny, with only a bed and a wooden chair.

“Sleep it off.” Those are his only words. He shoves me in and then closes the door. I fall upon the bed and do as I am bid. I can follow orders exceptionally well; it’s one of my talents. I wake hours later, craving a drink even more than air itself. Mercer is waiting for me, cleaning his fingernails with a long dagger. My throat is parched and only rum will do. But when I ask—

“No rum. Need you sober.”

I lie in the bed and pretend that I don’t feel the hermit crabs crawling on my skin, that I don’t hear them scrabbling for purchase on my filthy flesh. I shut my eyes tight, because when they’re open, I see them. I see the creatures in the shadows, and I also see the walls and the ceiling bleeding, dripping dark blood on my face and my legs and arms, splashing the crabs crimson. My heart races although I am lying absolutely still. If I lie still, maybe they’ll leave me alone. This idea never works. Throughout the night and into the next day, they crawl up and down my skin.

Sometimes Mercer is there, waiting patiently in the chair. Sometimes he is nowhere. Sometimes it’s my mother in the chair, watching me with huge, devastatingly sad eyes. Sometimes it’s my father, gazing upon me with stern disapproval. I speak to them, tell them how sorry I am that I came to this pretty pass. Finally, when Mercer comes back, I beg him to do something about the hallucinations. I am still sane enough to realize that I am slowly going mad from delirium tremens; I’ve seen it in enough other men to recognize it in myself. I always thought it was something a man could overcome through willpower. I have never been so wrong.

Mercer is obliging. He takes out a pistol. I squeeze my burning eyes shut, waiting. Death is an extreme option, but at this point, I do not rule it out as a viable one. He does not shoot me; rather, he reverses his grip and then he pistol-whips me in the side of the head. Hard. Gratefully, I lose consciousness and don’t dream. When I wake, much later, I am parched, and my head feels able to split down the middle. I gingerly touch the place where Mercer hit me. There is a gargantuan mass of raised and tender flesh: Hell’s own goose egg, pushed from the bowels of Satan himself. Despite all this misery, the visions are gone: no more crabs, no more blood, no more estranged family, just this dingy room.

Mercer comes back. I sit on the side of the bed dizzy, until it passes, when I stand. The air in the room is close and reeks of my own sickness and filth. I have to leave and I tell Mercer so. He says nothing, but opens the door, jerks his head, and we exit. We go down a hall I don’t remember seeing when I first came in. We go down an inner set of stairs and into a tavern that is, for the moment, empty of people.

I see the casks and smell the rum within them, and I immediately salivate from the thought of a stiff draught of the stuff. Mercer catches my look of desire and admonishes me with his dark eyes in return. For whatever he has in mind for me, he wants me clear-headed. We sit in a corner table, he with his back to the corner, I with my back to the room and the alcohol. Out of his jacket, Mercer pulls a sealed letter.

“Read.” He pushes it across the stained wood with one scarred hand.

Warily, I take the letter and look at the seal. It is thoroughly unmistakable and my heart leaps with hope. Three crosses, ends meeting together, each cross at 12, 4, and 8 o’clock respectively, along with the letters E, I, and Co. I break the seal and open the parchment, reading the contents therein.

From His Lordship Cutler Beckett, Steward of East India Trading Company Operations in the Spanish Main and Points West. To James Norrington, former Commodore of…etc.

Dear Sir,

I hope this letter finds you well. The East India Trading Company has need of your particular talents. If you are still a loyal subject to His Majesty King George, you will seriously consider accepting this mission, as it shall benefit the realm greatly. Recently, I placed Mister William Turner and Miss Elizabeth Swann under arrest for piracy and conspiracy to aid a known pirate, one (Captain?) Jack Sparrow. These are all names with which I am certain you are quite familiar. Additionally, there is an outstanding warrant for your arrest as well, but you need not fret about it if you comply with my wishes.

In exchange for his release from prison, I charged Mister Turner with locating Jack Sparrow once more and procuring a compass in his possession. Shortly after setting Mister Turner upon this mission, his fiancée proved herself to be treacherous indeed. She broke from prison and presumably followed Mister Turner. Miss Swann is currently at large. Thus, it is my impression that this mission cannot continue as originally intended.

However, Jack Sparrow’s compass is not necessarily the thing after which I desire to send you, although I will accept it gladly. Sooner or later, the Black Pearl shall dock in Tortuga, at which time I wish you to board her as one of the crew. Jack Sparrow’s fondest wish is to use the compass to find a key to a chest, inside of which is an artifact of great value. Your degree of success shall determine your compensation. Should you fetch me the compass, all charges against you shall be dropped. Fetch me the key, and I shall consider you for service in my own fleet, perhaps with a ship of your own, as a privateer for England. Fetch me the artifact that lies within the chest, and you may name your own compensation.

Leave your decision with my servant, Mister Mercer. Even as you read this, a number of ships of the East India Company fleet follow the Black Pearl and shall continue to do so until the mission is complete, one way or another. I wish you Godspeed, Mister Norrington.

Sincerely,
Lord Cutler Beckett

This, then, is to be my salvation, my opportunity for redemption, and as I read it, I realize that it is also a chance at revenge against Sparrow, Turner, and even Elizabeth. I hope I do not look too eager as I fold the letter into quarters and slide it back across the table to Mercer.

“Tell him that I accept his proposal.”

Mercer nods once then unsheathes his dagger. He stabs it into the letter, pinning it to the table. The candlelight shines off the flat of the blade, like sun on the water. He pulls it out the table, stands, and holds the letter over a candle flame. The paper turns brown, and then catches fire. The edges blacken and curl and the red wax melts, boils and turns black itself. Ashes float like grayish-black snow, sprinkling the sand on the floor. Without another word, Mercer walks away.

I don’t have to wait for the
Black Pearl for too long. Black sails are spotted the next day and soon word spreads like a Tortugan whore’s legs: Cap’n Jack Sparrow is back in town, and he’s looking to take on a crew. He’s not particular about its make-up either, it seems. He sets up shop in the main room of the Dizzy Damsel with Mister Gibbs as his personal secretary/recruiter.

I get in line behind an old fool with stars in his eyes and dreams of sailing. I keep my head down and smile to myself. I see Sparrow, although he feebly attempts to hide. He plays with the very compass in question and seems to worry, flipping it open and closed. One by one, the men make their mark upon Gibbs’ paper, signing their lives away. The man ahead of me signs the parchment, thanks Gibbs profusely, and moves to the side. Although he looks at me, Gibbs does not see me clearly. I wonder if anyone in my life ever has.

“So, what’s your story?”


Norrington had now made an admirably large pile of oakum, enough to repair the skiff (which he optimistically named the Salvation). The East India Company fleet was nearby; it was just a matter of getting to them before they passed Isla Cruces completely.

Norrington grabbed the clay pot and carried it out of the house and down to his new command. The sky was turning pink in the east. He had not a moment to lose if he were to intercept the fleet successfully. He found oars tucked underneath the house and loaded them into the boat. Then he picked up the rope attached to the bow of the skiff and dragged it the quarter mile or so to the beach.

The sun was just peaking over the horizon as he pushed Salvation into the water. He took off his boots and dumped them into the boat, then waded out thigh deep. Water was indeed seeping through the boards with a squelching noise. Norrington patched the holes with the oakum until he was convinced the Salvation was seaworthy.

Dripping, he climbed on board and started rowing away from the shore. The sea was gentle and he pulled further and further from the isle every minute. As he rowed, he found that each stroke of the oars matched the beating of Davy Jones’ heart, through no voluntary effort of Norrington’s. Where it had once disturbed him, now he found it soothing. It also worked in much the same manner as an oarsmaster’s drum, which kept him in a steady rhythm and made the time pass by more quickly.

Norrington became so preoccupied with rowing, that he was actually surprised to see white sails approaching when he stopped long enough to glance over his shoulder. He did a double take and stopped rowing. That he would be rescued was a certainty now, but Norrington could not be sure whether the ship would perceive him as friend or foe. To all outward appearances, he resembled a deserter, for which the punishment was death.

The heart would of course provoke the greatest amount of speculation. Norrington had to hide it better than in an inner pocket. Quickly, he stripped to the waist. He tore off the already ragged hem of his shirt. Carefully, he removed the heart from his jacket. It was covered in sand, so he reached over the side of the boat and dipped it into the crystalline water. The second he did, the sky darkened and clouds appeared as if from nowhere, rolling in at a speed the likes of which Norrington had never seen.

Fat raindrops pelted onto his bare shoulders and head. Quickly, he removed the heart from the ocean and cursed himself for a fool. He was not a superstitious man, but perhaps placing the heart of the man who ruled the waves into those same waves had not been the most pragmatic of notions. However, there was no help for it now. Norrington placed the heart against his own bare chest and bound it tightly with the scrap of fabric from his shirt.

He shrugged back into his clothing and rowed hard for the ever-approaching white sails. He was relieved to see an East India Company flag. Now it was raining in earnest and swells formed under the boat. Within a few moments, Norrington was drenched, but the ship was now within shouting range. “Ahoy!” he cried, hands cupped in front of his mouth. He was gratified to see sailors run to the rail and point at him, shouting back.

A ladder was dropped from the side, and Norrington climbed up it, abandoning the Salvation. The men pulled him on board and he thanked them, just as the captain came forward and Norrington saluted him out of habit and respect. The captain looked him up and down.

“Who’re you?” he asked, with ill-disguised contempt.

“James Norrington, sir, formerly Commodore Norrington of His Majesty’s Navy.”

“You’re lying. Commodore Norrington died in a storm some months back.”

Norrington frowned. Clearly, the man was unaware of Norrington’s involvement in the mission. Between the captain’s ignorance and the fact that Mercer had immediately burned the letter from Lord Beckett, Norrington surmised that his own role was to be kept a secret.

“Sir, I assure you I am who I say. I did sail into a hurricane and as you can see, sailed out the other side. You can believe me or not as is your will.”

“Fetch the sergeant at arms,” the captain ordered over his shoulder. The call was repeated back through the ranks and within moments, the sergeant at arms appeared. The captain turned to him, and then pointed at Norrington. “This man is an imposter, a liar, and most likely a Navy deserter as well. Take his weapons and secure him in the brig.”

Norrington clenched his jaw. “All I ask, sir, is that you take me to Port Royal. You’re going there anyway, are you not?”

The captain smirked. “Oh, we’re going to Port Royal all right. Although I doubt you’ll be granted liberty after your court martial.” He tried to stare Norrington down, but Norrington just sighed.

The sergeant at arms approached him and Norrington submitted passively when they took his weapons. He let them lead him below decks and lock him in the brig. He paced the five-foot long cage a few times, and then sat on the fetid floor. Norrington could hear the water pass by the hull next to him, the creak of wood and the constant thump of his second heart.

He looked around. The wood of the floor, although damp, looked as if it had at one point caught on fire, blackened and pitted in places. He prodded it with a finger and it gave a little. Then he looked at his finger and saw that it was smeared with charcoal. Immediately, he got an idea. He picked at a sliver of wood with his fingernails until it yielded and he could pry it up. Taking the end of the sliver, he dragged it through the wet, burned wood. Then, as an experiment, dragged it along the inside of his left wrist. It left a long, black line. Norrington smiled.

He paused to listen once more, to ensure that he would not be disturbed. Then he removed the letters of marque from his jacket and opened them. As he had expected, the name of the bearer was empty. He dragged the splinter through the charcoal once more and painstakingly; one letter at a time signed his name. He was so bent on his task, he didn’t hear the approaching footsteps. Just as he finished, a voice startled him.

“What’s that, then?” It was the sergeant at arms.

Norrington cursed, inwardly. There was no way to hide the letters now, and no way to pass them off as his. He said nothing.

“Give it here, you.”

Norrington had no choice but to hand them over and pray that his captor did not smear his recent handiwork. The man looked at the letters, but Norrington concluded that he couldn’t read. The man grunted, folded them up and then disappeared up the stairs. Norrington sighed once more and knocked his head against the bars as gentle admonishment to himself for being so oblivious to his surroundings.

A while later, Norrington heard footsteps and voices once more. The sergeant at arms had returned, along with the captain. Whatever happened, Norrington would keep his mouth shut.

“On your feet,” the captain said. Norrington stood and looked down at the captain. “What’s the meaning of this?” the captain asked.

Norrington said nothing.

“You’re an imposter and a thief it would seem. If these were legitimate, you’d have presented them straight away.”

Norrington shrugged as if to say, “you’re the captain, not I.” If the captain wanted to paint him as the scoundrel, Norrington knew he could do little to dissuade him.

The captain narrowed his eyes at Norrington. “I think you assumed the identity of Commodore Norrington when you discovered he was dead. You stole these letters of marque in order to engage in piracy. That’s what I think.”

Norrington shrugged again.

The captain glared at him. “Be insolent all that you wish, sir, but this here,” he shook the letters in Norrington’s face. “This is a matter for Lord Beckett himself, this is.” With that, he turned angrily and marched back down the corridor and out of sight.

Relief flooded through Norrington. He sat on the floor once more and laughed to himself. Although he was, to all outward appearances, a deserter or a pirate or some other type of ruffian, about to be presented in custody to the most powerful man in the Caribbean for judgment, it was this very thing that would be his deliverance.

Three

Periodically, Tia Dalma would use her powers to try and assess Jack’s progress in the quest for the heart and so she figured out that Norrington had the heart as soon as the sun went down on the same evening of his incarceration. Now she took up the heart-shaped music box, the keepsake from her own history with Davy Jones and sat in her rocking chair out by the bayou. Humming to herself, she wound the music box and then let it go. She tucked one foot under her and began to rock gently to the music.

She rocked back and forth, back and forth, until the rocking resembled a heartbeat. Then she closed her eyes and allowed herself to slip into a state of semi-sleep where her mind could wander. Before Jack’s quest, Tia Dalma hadn’t sensed the heart of Davy Jones since the two of them had been lovers, many years ago. That situation had been completely different, as at that point, his heart had still beat in his chest as it lay atop hers in a warm embrace.

Now she knew the heart was unlocked from its new chest, and in whose hands it lay. At first, it was in Jack Sparrow’s hands, and then it was covered in dirt. After that, someone new took a hold of it, put it away safe. It went back into the ocean briefly (Fool she had thought when she had seen him do it, Now he knows where his heart is), and then even closer to this new person, right on top of his own heart. Tia Dalma could see them pulsing together. With every pulse, she saw confusing flashes of both lives superimposed atop each other, neither one clear enough to assess.

Frustrated, she concentrated on the new person, feeling an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. She continued to rock, but loosened her grip on the locket, in the hopes that it would diminish Davy Jones’ life and bring other one to the foreground. With every beat, she saw brief images the other person, interspersed with blackness between beats. He was sitting in a filthy brig, deep in the bowels of some ship. His surroundings were dark, so she could only make out a silhouette.

In the next flash, a person came down the stairs toward him, with a candle and food. When the person approached the cell, light shown through the bars, where it illuminated the prisoner’s face briefly. When Tia Dalma saw who it was, she gasped and dropped the locket, severing the link. “Jameh Norringtohn,” she said out loud, then stood quickly and went into her house, swinging the music box absently from its chain.

She rummaged through her drawers until she found what she was looking for, a tiny jar that had inside it one long, dark hair that Norrington had been careless enough to leave behind. Tia Dalma turned the jar over and over, watching the hair catch the light. She could not use it to see into Norrington’s future, only his present and past and right then, all she needed to use it for was to watch the fate of Davy Jones’ heart, and she knew where it currently was. She would bide her time.

A few days later, she decided that she had waited long enough. She found her ornate mirror, cleaned it carefully, and set it face-up on a table. She closed her eyes and chanted softly. After a few minutes, she opened her eyes and looked into the mirror. The surface rippled like water and she opened the jar and carefully extracted the hair, then dropped it onto the surface, where it created a new ripple.

The mirror cleared once more and revealed a well-appointed office. Norrington was handing the heart over to another man, a short, well-dressed individual with a smug look about him. “Cutlah Beckaht,” Tia Dalma said aloud, speaking the name like a curse.

“Well, Mister Norrington, I’m very pleased. Very pleased indeed,” said Beckett.

Norrington nodded stiffly. “You said I could name my price,” he said.

Beckett sighed and poured himself Norrington a drink. “That I did,” Beckett said, “You certainly cut straight to the—“ (he smirked at the heart on his desk), “Well, you understand my meaning, do you not?”

“Yes, mi’lord. I’m not interested in mincing words. I’ve withstood too much to—“ He seemed to check himself, as if afraid he would say too much or overstep his bounds in some way.

Beckett smirked. “I daresay you’ve earned it.” He handed Norrington the drink. “To what shall we drink?”

“To redemption,” Norrington answered immediately.

“Very well. To redemption.” They toasted and both took a sip. “Well, then, Mister Norrington. Have a seat and name your price, if you please.”

Norrington sat across from Beckett, who leaned on his desk. Norrington looked up at him and made his request. “There is a ship of your fleet named the
Huntress, captained by one Mister Fisher. I was imprisoned upon that ship and established rapport with many of her crew during that time. I developed the impression that Fisher is as incompetent as he is dim-witted, both through my own impressions and the attitude of the crew. Name me captain of the vessel Huntress, let me keep the letters of marque, and I’ll finish the job I started in the Navy of hunting pirates.”

Beckett pursed his lips. “You really hate pirates as much as all that?” he asked.

“Yes, milord. That doesn’t present a problem, does it?”

“Not necessarily, although I feel compelled to tell you that in the service of the East India Company, you are only to hunt the pirates that are inconvenient to our operations. Your rabid hatred of all things piratical precedes you, along with your effective eradication of most of the pirates in the Spanish Main. I know you won’t want to hear this, but some pirates are actually vital to our operation.” Norrington frowned, but Beckett continued: “Moreover, you claim to want to become a privateer, and there are many who consider the work of a privateer to be akin to piracy in and of itself. What would you say to that interpretation?”

Norrington shrugged. “I would say nothing, milord. The East India Trading Company and the Royal Navy generally work in tandem, and the East India Company is in service to the crown, therefore I see a world of difference between privateering and piracy.”

“I couldn’t agree more. I simply wanted to ensure that your conscience would allow you to succeed in this career. From what I understand, you were always an upstanding naval officer, and there are certainly plenty of upstanding naval officers who do not always see the…legitimacy in what we do.” He took a sip of his drink. “I suppose I want to be sure of your loyalty.”

“I serve at the pleasure of those above me, as always, milord.”

Beckett smiled slightly. “I was disappointed to hear that you resigned your commission. There was provocation for that, I trust?”

Norrington smiled sadly. “With all due respect milord, I was more disappointed than you were. The Navy left me little option besides resignation, but at least they allowed me to leave with a small measure of dignity and honor.”

Beckett raised an eyebrow. “Indeed,” he said. There was a pause as the two men studied each other. “Very well, Mister, or should I say, Captain Norrington, I shall give you command of the
Huntress. And this Captain Fisher shall be redistributed. If you prove yourself the commander that you’re reputed to be, we shall see where things progress from that point.” He looked Norrington up and down with apprehension. “And if you require funds to…keep up appearances, shall we say, please don’t hesitate to—“ He trailed off.

“No, that won’t be necessary,” Norrington said coolly, “My intention was to visit a reputable tailor and barber before calling on you, but lately destiny has forced me to deviate from my expected path.”

“Ah yes, destiny does do that from time to time. She’s a cruel mistress, not unlike duty, wouldn’t you say?”

“Indeed milord.” There was a pause. Something seemed to catch Norrington’s eye. He stood and set his drink down on the desk, staring past Beckett at an object lying on the next table. “That sword, may I inquire how you came by it?”

“Ah, you recognize it,” Beckett said casually, “I was simply safeguarding it for you. You may take it if you wish.”

Norrington’s jaw clenched as if he restrained himself from saying that Beckett had no right to withhold his sword in the first place. Norrington strode over to it, seemed to consider putting it on, but then changed his mind, closed the box in which it lay, and tucked it under his arm instead.

“May I take my leave of you then, milord?”

“Indeed you may, Captain.”

Norrington stood and bowed slightly, then turned and walked to the door.


The mirror rippled once again and Tia Dalma stood straight after bending over it for so long, several of her vertebrae snapping. “Cutlah Beckaht,” she said again. She frowned. She had known that Norrington would engage in a business partnership of some kind, but she never imagined it would involve the heart of Davy Jones, nor that it would involve the likes of Beckett. Tia Dalma sighed as a feeling of foreboding descended on her and for the first time, she questioned whether saving Norrington had been wise.

Four

Ragetti stood knee deep in the mud of the bayou as he tried to catch the little crawfish that skittered away from his clumsy groping hands. Pintel sat on the bank nearby and watched him. “Wot are you goin’ to catch in the dark, you silly blighter?”

“It’s all the candles. They brings the crawfish out, don’t they.”

Pintel shook his head in exasperation. “There’s more’n crawfish in them waters,” he said cryptically.

Ragetti looked up, his remaining eye wide. “What d’you mean?”

Pintel stood and peered into the water. “Well, there’s leeches, for one.”

“No there ain’t.” Ragetti didn’t sound convinced.

“Well, step out o’the water an’ see then. I’ll wager you’ll be covered in ‘em. That’s why I ain’t in there wiv you, much as I like crawfishes.”

“I don’t like leeches.” Ragetti sloshed out of the muddy water and Pintel helped him back up onto the bank. Sure enough, his legs were dotted with dark, slimy blobs. Ragetti screamed like a girl. “Get ‘em off, get ‘em off!”

“A’right, a’right! Hold still!” Pintel scolded. Ragetti danced around the bank and started to pull at them with his fingers. “Don’t do that! They’ll leave their teeth in ya, they will.” Pintel ran up to the closest veranda and grabbed one of the lit candles. “Now you hold still. Sit on the ground like.”

Ragetti sank down on the ground and shook his hands in distress. With his tongue between his brown teeth, Pintel kneeled beside him and narrowed his eyes at the leeches. He slowly brought the candle down to one of the blobs. It was slick and black like polished obsidian. Pintel held the flame against the leech. There was a brief hiss and then the leech writhed and fell off onto the ground. A bead of blood trickled down Ragetti’s leg where the leech had been. One by one, Pintel burned off all the leeches as Ragetti watched him, stiff and wide-eyed.

The leech removal took a while, and when Pintel was done, Ragetti let out a long, shaky sigh. He blinked and rubbed his wooden eye. “You’re a good friend, you know,” he muttered.

Pintel grunted. “Tweren’t nothin’ but leeches, you twit. An’ you’d do the same for me.” He stood and held out a hand to Ragetti, pulling him up. They were quiet for a moment.

Ragetti looked at Tia Dalma’s house anxiously. “What d’you think about Cap’n Barbossa comin’ back?” he asked Pintel.

“Can’t say as I likes it much,” Pintel said.

“I don’t like it neither. I don’t want to get Cap’n Jack back as bad as all that. I mean, to set sail unner Cap’n Barbossa again.” Ragetti shivered.

Pintel looked at him incredulously. “You don’t want to sail unner him? He shot me, you know. It’s just a matter of time afore he does it again. An’ he did it wivout…wivout…wot’s the word?”

“Provocation?” Ragetti supplied.

“Right, that’s the one. An’ now I can die an’ all. As you said, we ain’t immor’als no more.”

Ragetti nodded sagely and then looked up at Pintel. “But what ‘bout what you said ‘bout Jack bein’ worth sailin’ to the ends of the earf for?”

Pintel rolled his eyes. “I were in me cups, then. Besides, he were a gennulman of fortune, I still say that. Don’t mean I want to risk me neck for ‘im, though, do it? ‘Sides, it were what everyone else in the room were sayin’, weren’t it?”

Ragetti pointed at his nose in understanding. “Right. Don’t want to stand out, do we?”

Pintel looked at him craftily. “We’ve got to blend in, we do.”

Ragetti looked confused. “So what do we do now?”

“We don’t stay here, that’s the truth.”

“So, where do we go, then?”

Pintel’s face lit up. “We go to Mister Norrington.”

Ragetti took a step back. “That’s…that’s foolish is wot.”

“No, no it ain’t. He stepped off the boat wiv’ the ‘eart o’ Davy Jones, din’t he?”

“So? So what?”

“A man like that…he ain’t so easy to kill, is he? An’ he won’t shoot me for no reason a-tall neither.”

“Aye, but ‘e may hang you.”

“No. No, I don’t fink so, not now ‘e won’t.”

“Well…Well, say ‘e is alive. Wot then?”

Pintel screwed up his face. “I don’t know; but ‘e’s got to be a better lot to cast ours wiv’ then Barbossa and the voodoo queen, ain’t he?”

Ragetti looked dubious still. “So we go to ‘im.”

“Well, not straight away. We got to find out more ‘bout what these fools plan in regards as Jack.” He put a finger to his lips and sneaked back over the spongy moss and mud to Tia Dalma’s house with Ragetti following. They climbed up to the veranda and listened to the conversation inside.

“Norringtohn, he had de ‘eart,” Tia Dalma said.

“And now?” Will’s voice.

“Cutlah Beckaht, he have it.”

General cursing followed. Pintel peeked into the window. The faces therein were a tableau of utter dismay.

“Curse Norrington’s black soul to Hades,” said Gibbs.

“Oh please, James did exactly what anyone would do in his situation,” Elizabeth said.

“Are you taking up for him now, too, Elizabeth?” Will snapped at her. Everyone looked at him. No one had ever heard him raise his voice to her, except during shipboard combat.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “I don’t like what you’re implying, Will, but the answer is no, I’m not. I’m as upset as anyone that Beckett has the heart now. But none of us should be surprised. We all underestimated James. That’s all.”

“Don’t worry abou’ Beckaht,” Tia Dalma interjected as she sidled up to Will, who looked back down at the battered table and stabbed his father’s knife into it over and over, splintering its surface.

Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at Tia Dalma. “What do you mean?”

“He not lahng for dis worl’.” She smiled her black-tinged smile.

“You have some voodoo up your sleeve for him too, then?” Elizabeth’s voice was filled with contempt.

“Maybe I do. I migh’ have a brocae’ poppet jus’ full of pyins. Woul’ dat make you trus’ me?”

The silence of the room was palpable. Gibbs crossed himself.

Tia Dalma now came up to Elizabeth and looked in her eyes. “You don’ trus’ me, dat is cleah. You de only wahn who din’ drink tonigh’. Now, I din’ go to a finisheen school, but I know you were raise’ bettah dan refusin’ a drink.” Elizabeth looked at the ground. “You t’ink you can have anywahn, d’at you deserve everyt’ing your way, an’ dat you’re bettah dan everywahn. But I can lay you barer dan you know.”

Elizabeth looked at her once more. “What are you talking about?”

Tia Dalma grinned broadly. “Jameh Norringtohn, he cohme to me aftah de hurricane. He was sick an’ brokahn.” She put her face two inches from Elizabeth. “He was abou’ to die. An’ you were de one, he say, dat kill him when you betray him for Will Turnah.”

Gibbs stood suddenly and came over and stood between them, smiling cheerfully. “Well, let’s let bygones be bygones, eh, ladies? We all have to band together to get Jack back, don’t we?” He laughed nervously and glanced from one to the other.

Tia pulled away but kept her knowing eyes on Elizabeth’s face. “Yes… Jack Sparra. I t’ink you miss him more d’an anywahn.”

Barbossa rolled his eyes. He stood from the steps upon which he had been sitting. “Aye, Jack’s a catch, loved by all ladies, I suppose.”

Elizabeth turned and faced him. “What I don’t understand, Captain Barbossa, is why you would want to help him. After all, he was the one who shot you.”

“Ah, don’t think I don’t know it, Miss Turner. Between Jack, young Master Turner over there and yerself, I shouldn’t want to help any of ye, yet here I am.” He spread his hands apart. “So what indeed should send me on such an errand?”

Will looked up from the table. “The Black Pearl. You don’t want Jack back, you want the ship.”

Barbossa smiled at him. “Just so. I can direct ye to the very gates of the abyss, but t’is at a steep price.”

“Mayhap,” interjected Gibbs, “But the Pearl is not ours to negotiate nor strike a bargain with.”

Barbossa looked at him with genuine surprise. “You be her crew.”

“Yes, but t’was Jack as struck the bargain with Davy Jones himself to raise her from the black depth of the ocean in the first place,” Gibbs said.

Barbossa snorted. “Yes, so says the gospel according to Saint Jack. But what of the deal betwixt them? The way I heard it told, Jack cheated poor Davy Jones out of his due.”

“But you’re the one who stole the Pearl from both of them,” Elizabeth protested.

“What of it, missy? Am I not a pirate as well? T’is not a fault of mine that Jack did not see fit to hold on to his ship for long, nor t’is my fault he struck a bargain with Davy Jones he hadn’t the notion to keep.” He swept the group with a steely-eyed glare. “And t’is my intention to take the ship once more.” He smirked. “Which of the lot of you is in a position to argue with me? You all claim to want Jack back. Have ye any idea how to sail to Hell? Have ye a heading?” The room was silent. Barbossa nodded at them. “That’s as I thought.”

Gibbs was the first to break the silence. “Well, we’re still lackin’ a ship. Even with a headin’, how in the name of all things holy would we get there?”

Barbossa and Tia Dalma exchanged a smile. “Pintel an’ Rahgetti already figure’ it out,” she said. She turned and looked right where they skulked. “Come bahck in.”

Guiltily, the two of them shuffled back into the house under the suspicious stares of the others. Gibbs looked at them reproachfully. “Considerin’ mutiny again, gentlemen?” he asked.

Tia Dalma answered for them. “Dey wan’ to go. Dat is fine. We need dem to.” She stepped across the room to them and took them both by the hand, leading them to the middle of the ensemble. “You wan’ to leave, to go to Norringtohn. Go d’en and wid my blessing. We don’ wan’ you if you wan’ to leave.”

“Yer just goin’ to let these two rascals leave, just like that?” Gibbs asked.

Tia Dalma looked at Gibbs. “They will take a messahge to Norringtohn an’ to Beckaht.”

“We will?” asked Ragetti.

“Yes. Very soon, Beckaht will fall syick. If he don’ give up de ‘eart, he will die.”

“You’d kill him with your dark magics?” said Gibbs nervously.

“He deserve to die,” Tia Dalma said coldly. “An’ anywahn of you would kill him.” She looked at each of them in turn, but her gaze lingered longest on Elizabeth.

“But it’s different to look a man, even a villain, in the face to kill him rather than invoking the Devil himself to—“

“Oh come off it,” Barbossa interrupted. “I thought ye were ruthless, black-hearted pirates. You’ve already sold yer soul to the Devil. If not, yer welcome to go with Pintel and Ragetti into the loving arms of Norrington and his honorable brethren who’ll hang you as soon as look at you.”

Pintel spoke up. “So we tell him Lord Beckett’s going to die if he don’t hand over the heart o’ Davy Jones. Wot makes you think ‘e’ll believe the likes of us?”

Tia Dalma’s red eyes took on a knowing look. “He’ll believe you when you say my name. D’en he mus’ syail wid de heart, here to dis islan’. D’en we take him ship, de Hahntress an’ syail her to Jack.”

“And you think James will just do this?” Elizabeth asked.

“D’er is no doubt in my mine,’” Tia Dalma answered. Then she turned to Pintel and Ragetti. “It going to take you maybe a week at de mos’ to get to Por’ Royahl, where Norringtohn is. In dat week, Beckaht feel worse an’ worse.” She pulled them in close to her and whispered to them for a moment, before she let them both go. She turned from them and rummaged in a drawer. “Here is some money. Leave now an’ get to Port Royahl as fas’ as you cahn. Don’ forget what I told you.” Pintel took the bag she offered and tucked it into his pocket.

Ragetti glanced around the room sadly. “See you all again real soon,” he said.

“Oh, come on already,” Pintel said impatiently, pulling Ragetti out of the room.

They climbed down the ladder and into the boat. “You row and I’ll steer,” said Ragetti.

“No, no, no, no, no. You row. Last time you was at the rudder, we ran aground.”

“We din’t run aground. It were a sandbar.”

“In the ocean, that’s ground. An’ we ran into it, din’t we?” Pintel got into the boat first and sat at the stern, looking at Ragetti expectantly.

“Alright, alright,” Ragetti finally said. He took up the lines and pushed the boat off from the dock, then climbed in. He sat in front of Pintel. “But we’s switchin’ sometime.”

“Fine,” Pintel said. “The current’s wiv you anyway, so quit yer whinin’.”

Ragetti smiled. “I guess it is, then.” He cheerfully put the oars in the water and pulled them leisurely with his skinny arms as he rowed them out of the bayou and onto their mission.

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