Mother and I had been bobbing in our longboat on the ocean a few leagues away from where Will and Father waited on the capsized Dutchman for quite some time now.
"Strange," I said. "I usually thought there would be more passersby that we could wave down."
Mother shook her head. "It's winter," she said. "Not only would the storm dissuade travel, but it's our slow season anyway."
"Ah," I commented, understanding. We were waiting for someone, anyone to float by who could help us push the ship upright and out of the ocean. Will and Father protested, saying that it wasn't safe for the two of us to hail any variety of knave passing by, but Mother insisted that we go, as for one, Will and Father were still transitioning back into mortality, and secondly, as sad as it was, two women alone and in need of help would draw far more sympathy than two men.
"I used to resent being used as bait," she had said, "But I admit that it does have its uses."
Now here we sat, just…waiting. To my left, Shipwreck. A tiny green speck in the distance with an occasional flicker of light coming from the lighthouse. It almost seemed to mock us—it was so close, yet unattainable as things now stood. Then, I looked to my right and stopped. In the distance was a tiny speck of white.
"There!" I cried, pointing. "That's something!"
Mother grabbed a scope on her belt and looked through it. "Pirate colors," she reported. "Aye, that will do just fine! Well spotted!"
Now all that was left to do was wait…and pray this ship would be merciful.
In the silence, Mother said, "You know, we really haven't had a chance to speak since you left."
I instantly bowed my head, my face turning red. I readied myself for the inevitable lecture that was to follow.
But it never came. "You can rest at ease," she said gently. "Knowing your father I know you've already been through the innermost sanctums of his wrath. No, rather I…I'd like to apologize."
I looked up at her at this, completely taken aback. Mother was blinking back tears as she said, "I let my own uncertainty and fear blind me," she said. "You and Henry were so right to leave. Imagine what we could have accomplished if I had just listened to you."
I took her hand in mine. "No, it had to happen as it did. Henry and I found Carina, whose notebook we've been looking for for years. Henry had to go aboard the Monarch, we had to get separated, I had to find Jack and facilitate a way for him to find Henry." I shook my head. "It couldn't have happened any other way."
She laid a hand alongside my cheek. "Look at you," she cooed. "So fearless. What would have happened if you hadn't gone?" Then, with a sideways smile, she whispered, "Did you at the very least have an adventure?"
"Where Jack Sparrow is involved, 'adventure' is the world's largest understatement," I laughed. I then began to regale her with some anecdotes during the trip until Mother finally cut me off by noting, "Alright, they're coming quite close now. At the ready."
So she and I began to flail our arms wildly about for quite some time until we saw them ultimately change their course to come towards us. It was a sizable frigate—exactly the help we needed. The men who peered down at us were a group of about seventy wild-looking pirates who appeared to have been at sea for while. All that remained was actually securing their aid, and hopefully these knaves would be willing. A line was cast that helped us tether ourselves to the side of the hull and together we climbed up her side and onto the deck, first me, then her.
Once aboard, Mother positioned herself in front of me, which was wise, as the men were hollering and remaining threateningly close to both of us. Will and Father were reluctant to send us out for exactly this reason—to any passing pirate vessels, it would appear that a ship had wrecked, and the sole survivors seeking aid were two seemingly helpless women. Though we were anything but, it was still seventy to two, and if these men chose to be uncivil, we were at risk. I nervously looked up at Mother, my hand positioned directly at the holster of my gun should the need so arise, but she looked completely at ease. She had been around pirates all her life. This was nothing new, and she could work our way out of this.
"Parlay!" she cried out adamantly. But the droning of the men's various catcalls and remarks persisted until a man pushed through to the front of the crowd. "STOW IT! THE LOT OF YE! THAT'S AN ORDER!" he screeched. He was a sea-worn looking fellow with whispy, white hair. Middle-aged with yellow teeth and eyes, he had clearly seen many years at sea. He squinted at his rowdy, unruly crew who were still aflutter, scolding, "When a mate claims 'parlay,' ye let 'em pass, lass or elsewise!" He then spun around and faced us. "Shipwrecked, eh?"
But Mother's eyes were wide, mouth upturned in a smile. "…Pintel?" she said in awe.
"Captain Pintel, whot's it to ya?" he snapped.
But just then, another sailor piped up from directly behind the Captain. This one was tall and scraggly and sported an eyepatch. "By my eye, it's little Rose Hexfury!"
Mother grinned. "Ragetti!"
I was floored. Pintel and Ragetti? Surely not the same inseparable duo who were longtime Pearl crewmen and once-cursed mutineers I had heard about in my mother's stories!
Upon recognizing her himself, Pintel broke into a wide grin. "So it is!" he shouted. "Rose Hexfury! Haven't seen ye in a spell, lass! What was it…Singapore? The Brethren Court?"
"Something like that," Mother grinned.
"And what's this?" Ragetti said, peering around at me. "You's got a little one, too?"
I extended a hand. "Anna, sir." Looking between them, I said, "I've heard much of your travels with my mother."
But Pintel was skeptical, still regarding my mother. "And yet you don't look a bit older." He leaned in and whispered, "Cursed, be it? Got some of yerself that good, ol' fashioned immortality? I know it well…"
"A bit," she said simply, unwilling to share more at that time. "And what of you, eh? Captain of a vessel as powerful as this? How did that happen?"
He shrugged. "Hey, command was in question, thought I'd throw me name in for consideration!" then leaning a bit closer, he said through gritted teeth so that only we could hear, "And this lot's about to turn on me, so please be ferryin' some good news."
"It's true. It's very, very true," Ragetti confirmed in a hushed voice.
Catching onto their needs in the light of a new mutiny against them, Mother motioned behind her, saying quietly, "Oh I think you'll find this ship is worth it."
They both peered around her and were agog at the discovery. "The Dutchman?" the whispered together.
"Aye, she's freed and we want her back." She then quickly raised her voice to the rest of the crew and began to play her part. "Please, Captain Pintel, our ship has clearly capsized in the wake of the recent storm. We hail from Shipwreck and merely seek the restoration of our vessel and an escort into the harbor. Two men—" She paused here to whisper straight to the men she both knew, "Whom you both know— are injured and need more manpower."
Pintel nodded in understanding. "And what be in it for us?" he said a bit too performatively. "We be pirates, poppet. 'Free' ain't in our vocabulary."
"We have a store of doubloons in our cargo hold. Though they are a bit waterlogged," which I personally thought was a bit of an understatement, "There's enough for each of your men to take…oh, I'd say…fifty shares?"
There was a murmur of excitement amongst the group. This clearly was appealing. However, Mother realized that perhaps she spoke too soon. "Though perhaps we should hail some secondary help to get the ship upright. I'm not sure we can do this on our own. That would divide the loot further—"
But most of the crew interrupted her with a swift protest of "NO!" Then, a man with bushy black hair and a bandana called out, "That's quite alright, miss. We can get her on our own!" Then, to his men, he called, "Right-o, lads! Landing crew man the boats, make sail to the wreckage. Haul whatever weight they've got along the port side. The rest, fire off grappling hooks and secure to the uppermost ridge. McDaniels, Guthrie, grab a crew and work on rigging the mast. Scurry and step-to!"
Ah, so this was the man most likely of leading off a mutiny. And from the reverence the rest of the men gave him, anyone could see that Pintel and Ragetti didn't stand a chance. We stayed stationary as the chaos erupted around us.
"It's been…harder than I thought," Pintel admitted sheepishly.
"I assumed you both dead!" Mother exclaimed. "The last I heard you had left Jack at Tortuga, then Blackbeard took the Pearl! I thought Barbossa was the only survivor!"
"Is that what happened?" Ragetti said, looking horrified. "We wouldn't know—we left outta guilt shortly thereabouts afterwards."
"She's back now," Mother reported. "Jack freed her. We're to meet them at Shipwreck."
"Really?" Pintel said, exchanging a knowing glance with his comrade.
"What?" I asked with a grin.
"What 'what?'" replied Pintel defensively.
I smirked. "You're pirates, I know that look. What are you scheming?"
"Well," said Pintel with a shrug, "Wouldn't it be a bloomin' shame if we were to take our larger share of the loot, bein' Captain and First Mate n' respectively, then make sail on Shipwreck and simply…disappear?"
Mother narrowed her eyes, trying to read his intentions. "Do you wish to sail with Jack?"
Pintel grinned a catlike grin. "I rather be postulatin' a bigger prize…" We followed his lecherous gaze out to where his men were presently boarding the half-capsized Dutchman, loosening her cannons and hauling them up the deck in order to redistribute the weight.
"Out of the question," Mother replied swiftly. "You can't have the Dutchman. She isn't seaworthy anyways."
"What I think my friend here is tryin' to suggest," Ragetti piped up, "Is that if we salvage a bit more treasure than the rest…perhaps…maybe even a bit more than our fair share, we'd need to lie low for a bit. Let the blokes have this vessel, tarry around Shipwreck for a spell and eh…make our leave when the Dutchman is next ready to depart?"
Mother's eyes gleamed in amusement at their ever treacherous ways. "I could perhaps use my influence to allow your men free reign of Shipwreck's many amenities to stifle any lasting resentments at their recent burglary."
The men nodded greedily.
"But you don't even know who you'd be sailing under!" I said.
"Doesn't really matter, love," Pintel replied, patting my shoulder. "Desperate times n' all that!"
After about an hour of preparation and another hour of tireless labor, we finally pulled the Dutchman aloft. From the deck of Pintel's ship, myself, Mother, and a large portion of the crew yanked from grappling hooks. The landing party had fastened as much of the ship's interior weight to one side in order to make her begin to raise up, and then the masts were fastened together to give an extra force to bring her upright again. Once we had, the man I had pegged as the ship's next captain made note that the Dutchman's sails were nowhere near in proper sailing condition, so they found extra sails in their storage and made quick work of rigging them up. Meanwhile, Mother, Pintel, Ragetti and I took a gangplank across to the Dutchman to find the two last remaining members of her original crew. Several of the men remained behind, trying to drain the vessel of years of seawater and remarking at her curious condition.
Immediately, we found Father and Will, who was walking must more assuredly now.
"Will Turner!" Ragetti exclaimed, pushing past me to eagerly shake his hand. "Pleasure to be seein' you again, sir!"
"And the Former Commodore!" growled Pintel with a guffaw.
Father looked less than pleased to be reunited with these two, who had somehow outranked him during the expanse of his brief stint aboard the Pearl. "Yes, quite," he said in monotone.
Pintel looked at my mother with an eyebrow raised. "All of you appear frozen in time, to my eye. What's the secret, then?"
"Perhaps we were, but the curse has recently been broken," she finally gave in to his queries. "That's why we're here. Ship and all." She turned to Will and Father, reporting, "They'll help us make port in exchange for the doubloons we have stored. Then their crew will very sadly mutiny, leaving them to join our crew." She added a wink to the end of this statement to denote her true intentions behind her words.
"I'm not sure we have many plans for voyage in the near future," said Will with a slight laugh, looking between us. "We've been at sea for…an eternity, it seems. I think we all want some time on land."
"Oi, feel ya there, mate," Pintel said, giving a gentle punch on his arm. "We've been out to sea for over eighteen months! Not to worry. We'll wait!"
Father and Will exchanged an amused glance, knowing that their eighteen months didn't hold a candle to their 22 years. Nevertheless, as long as no treachery was shown our way, we would allow them to join us.
The six of us then leapt into action, performing whatever deed needed to be done to get the ship back to Shipwreck to meet up with the others. Mother manned the wheel, looking relieved to be at her favorite task once more, while I went to work at further securing the sails with Father and Will.
Soon, we were off, Pintel screaming orders back to his crew aboard his ship that sailed alongside us that we knew were going unheard, most likely intentionally.
I took a moment to rest, looking about the ship. It was in desperate need of careening and creaked precariously with every movement. Most likely every single piece of timber aboard would have to be replaced. But this ship was once my home. I was born here. Everything I was came from this ship, and my captain, my father, and my mother were all safe and alive. Watching the three of them take in the salty air as it whipped by them, truly enjoying their freedom in their own separate ways, it occurred to me that I was finally home.
It didn't take long before Shipwreck was no longer just a speck on the horizon, but a looming, mountainous green range that was coming more and more into focus. A distant cry from one of Pintel's men up in the crow's nest informed us of a vessel approaching us at an alarming rate. To this, Pintel grabbed his spyglass and extended it, grinning widely. "Take a look at that, Ragetti!" he cried. "We know this one all too well!"
Sure enough, when I cast my gaze outwards, I found black sails drawing near. Mother looked elated. "She made it!" she cried. "He must be circling back to guide us in!"
After only a few minutes of us heading in one direction and the Pearl the opposite, we met in the middle, slowing as we passed. Mother passed off the wheel to another man and raced to the port bow. Jack could be spotted along his starboard rail, and Mother called to him as they passed, "Have you already been to Shipwreck?"
"Aye!" he cried back. "Dropped off the lad and his precocious little friend, then circled back to find you lot. See someone's already beaten me to it!"
"Turn around!" she shouted. "Follow us in!"
It took a bit of maneuvering, but soon three vessels were alongside each other, and Jack took a rogue line to leap aboard our ship. Mother and I instantly rushed to his side.
"Where's Will?" he asked at once. "Please don't tell me I missed the tentacles."
"Sorry to disappoint, Jack," Will said from behind him with a grin. "I'm tentacle free."
Jack shrugged. "Probably wouldn't suit you anyways. You don't have the face for it." He took a look around the Dutchman, nodding slightly. "She's a bit moldy, but still grand as ever. Should have taken her when I had the chance," he snarked to Will.
"As I recall, you did have the chance," he replied good-naturedly. "You let someone else take it."
"Well you had to go and die, looking all pitiful," Jack ribbed. "But if it happens again, I'm not falling for it. Saw your missus, by the way. Lovely reunion we had, after she was done berating your pesky offspring for leaving, that is. Shame you had to miss it."
Will looked unamused, but Mother swiftly intercepted his verbal rapport by asking, "You went ashore? Did you…?" Her voice trailed off into a question none of us needed her to finish. Did you see our father's grave?
He answered solemnly. "I couldn't stay," was all he could say.
"Come back with us," she insisted. "There's much we—"
But just then, she was interrupted by a bombarding Pintel and Ragetti, eager to see their former captain once more. Jack only dismissed them with a wave of his hand. "Oh no," he exclaimed. "You two are staying far from me and my ship. Glad to see you lot alive, but begone with you! Shoo!"
We were getting quite close now, and Will had broken away from all of us to stand at the starboard bow and look at the faint glimmer of the lighthouse visible in the light of the setting sun. "So that's what that light was. All this time…" he had muttered upon seeing it above the watery depths.
Jack, seeing how close we were, moved to make his departure back to his ship.
"You're not coming ashore again, are you?" Mother said. Disappointment laced her voice, but it was clear that she had anticipated this outcome.
"No!" I protested. "Please, come ashore! There's so much more I have to ask you!"
He regarded me with a smirk. "Tempting, it really is, to be peppered with your questions love, but perhaps another time." He then looked at my mother and said, "I really do like this one. Good job with her."
"Can I assume an open invitation to join your crew?" I asked him.
"Oh aye," he replied. "Of course! Open to the lot of you." He then looked to Father, saying, "You? Meh. But you two, certainly!"
"We're going to stay beached for awhile," Mother said softly. "Can I expect a visit from you here at Shipwreck?"
"Absolutely," he said. Then, he furrowed his brow. "Probably. Maybe. Occasionally. If it suits me."
That meant no, and we all knew it. But that was just Jack's way. We knew if we needed him, he could be found in the oddest assortment of places and in the most unbelievable of circumstances. With one last embrace from me and my mother and one last glare to my father, he was off, nearly missing his ship entirely as he flailed with legs churning the air as he swung back onto his vessel. The Pearl then broke off Westward, towards the setting sun.
Now all that was left was Shipwreck. Father put his hands on my mother's shoulders to break her gaze off of the drifting Pearl and back towards the island. "Are you ready?" he asked.
She sighed deeply, shaking herself from that moment and into the next. With a smile, she said, "The question is are you?"
"More than you know," he murmured.
The three of us then set about preparing the ship for anchorage in the harbor. Pintel, Ragetti and their remaining crew helped us bring her in, then we began the process of disembarking. We sent Will ahead, as we could already sea two eagerly waiting individuals we later identified as Henry and Carina waiting on the cliffside by the lighthouse.
Will didn't need to be told twice, and went in the first boat to hit shore, stepping on land for the first time in twelve years. He then made quick work of climbing the hill that would lead up to where his son waited for him.
After we had fully raised the sails, I grabbed my books and my pistol, the only three belongings I had left to my name from this voyage, and then descended next to my parents. When we hit the shore, I felt my Father breathe an immense sigh of relief. Mother grabbed his hand, and with a smile of contentment shared between us, we silently climbed the hill after Will as the rest of the pirates made their way into town.
Minutes later of wading through the tall grass, we crested the hillside. My breath was taken away at the sight of Will and Elizabeth, happily in each others' arms, as they and Henry and Carina began to walk towards the lighthouse.
"Wait!" Mother cried. "We're here!"
The four of them turned, and Elizabeth's face contorted into an expression of relief and awe as she ran towards us at top speed. She barreled into us, scooping Mother and me into her wide embrace. "You're safe! Thank god, you're safe!" she repeated. Then, she turned her attention to the man she had known the longest, the one last remaining element of her long-forgotten past. "James!" she cried, embracing him tightly.
"We're alright," he said. "We've returned." But still I wonder if perhaps this wasn't said to Elizabeth so much as it was to himself.
We were finally alright. We returned.
And through tears and laughter and pure elation, seven once-lost souls stood together on that cliffside. The same cliffside that had been the source of so much promise and then later, uncertainty. Now no more would the question ever need asking, "When will they come home?" We were home. We were together. Those who has been cast into the abyss now were united and restored. Together, we climbed the hill into the lighthouse to try and bring our lives into a state of normalcy once more, turning our back to the sunset that dipped below the waves, never again to reflect the green flash.