Charlotte found herself panicking the next morning. She managed to keep her hands steady by brushing her hair and studying herself critically in the mirror but she found she couldn't look away without imagining a skull in place of her tired face. She'd dumped out a bowl of wash water and kept the curtain hung to block out any light from the outside world.
If what she'd seen was real, there was nothing she could do about it.
If what she'd seen was a hallucination, there was nothing she could do about it.
There was nothing anyone could do about it.
Charlotte's eyes grew vacant and she placed down the brush beside Will's useless sword. Less than a day ago everything had started going so wrong. Her hands moved to a few ribbons she'd borrowed from her sister along with a teasing argument about who's coloring pink would match better.
She didn't really mind the skeletons or the vision now that she thought about it.
So what problems did she mind?
What was likely to be a very angry scar on her right hand.
Charlotte had dismissed her maid an hour ago, claiming she needed more sleep. She'd then spent an hour swinging her sword with her off-hand, building up another layer of sweat while she mulled over exactly what her father and the militia were going to do about those three problems. As she now sat, still filled with restlessness, she found that the answer started with not much and went down from there.
Charlotte studied herself for a long moment.
What exactly was she going to do about it all?
She only seemed to find more problems:
How much she wanted Elizabeth at her side for the next stupid thing she did.
How much she was going to hurt their father.
How disgusting she still felt and how much she wished for a bath.
With movements far more careful and precise then they needed to be, Charlotte bound her hair into a braid at the nape of her neck. She gave the door a sheepish glance as she fetched her cloak and slipped it on, tucking the braid into the collar and studying her face again now that it lacked the frame of a frilly dress and delicate curls.
She would never in a million years pass a careful inspection but with the right clothes and help it would do.
First, though, she needed to know more.
An hour later, Charlotte marched through town with her chin high, the clothes one of the servant boys with her own dress looking lumpy over it, hair slightly disheveled. Both a pistol and a purse filled with coin from her father's safe lay tucked beneath her dress-the purse lighter from what she'd left the servant boy. She held her cloak to her chest to disguise some of the oddness of her appearance as she walked down the cobblestone streets and tried to stay unnoticed by those cleaning up.
She found herself clenching and unclenching her injured hand just to do something with the pain as she tried to think.
She'd been through her father's library the day before and hadn't seen anything about pirates. She had a feeling that if she knew the right people in town, they might be able to help her but she didn't know those people. She didn't know anyone but Will and he hadn't been anywhere to be seen in the five minutes she'd spent looking. She'd tried asking her father a few questions as she caught sight of him on the way to the fort, hiding the borrowed clothes beneath her cloak. Charlotte got the name of the attacking ship-the Black Pearl- and had tried to get more, but he'd simply blustered and told her to go get some rest.
She needed a captive audience.
So she was headed for her one other option.
She neared the fort wall and found it less guarded than usual, every spare man down with the Commodore or rebuilding the city. As she stepped into the door, she was hit by both the smell and the silence: it occurred to her that there was no one to hear her and for a moment she was back in the rafters and choking on smoke and heat.
She placed a hand on the pistol on her hip and considered how much effort it would take to wrestle it out. Instead, she pulled out her cloak again and threw it over her. She pulled the skirt up behind her and slipped off her shoes so no hint of who she was showed under the cloak.
It was easy to find the pirate again.
He was the only prisoner left.
Charlotte lowered herself to sit cross-legged outside the cell, not enjoying the new feeling of dirty stone floor prickling the bare skin of her legs. She studied the man inside as she shook off the discomfort. He rested with a hat over his closed eyes and didn't react to the sound of her approach. The smell was much worse now.
"Jack Sparrow." Charlotte whispered.
Charlotte narrowed her eyes and studied him. "Where's your ship?" She kept her voice rough.
The man just sighed. "Do you need something?"
Charlotte chewed on her lip. This was stupid. This was unladylike and idiotic. This was pointless.
"Do you know anything about magic?"
"Magic?" the pirate sat up and studied her, unable to see much under the hood of her cloak. He let a slow grin craw onto his face. "Or curses?"
Charlotte looked confused. "No, just… just magic." She blinked. "What curses?"
"I didn't say curses."
"You… So you don't know about magic or visions?"
"Depends. What will you give me if I say yes?"
"I don't know." Was this going better or worse than her conversation with Will? "What do you want?"
"My ship." He sat back and the hat went back over his eyes. "The Black Pearl. You wouldn't happen to have it in your pocket, would you?"
Charlotte's brow knotted, searching for any little bit of information she might have that he didn't. If she could make him just as curious as she was… Something jogged, something that had been tucked behind the memory of the horrible face that had mentioned it.
"What if I had a medallion?"
"You don't." He closed his eyes.
"No. Those pirates do… But I have gold. I could bribe the guard. Or trick him… I could…" Charlotte had nothing. "Please tell me what you know."
"Why don't we start with a name?"
Charlotte scowled and pretended to misunderstand. "I already know your name. I'm not going to pay for it." Her breath grew faster and she gathered her cloak tighter as she found that the air was no longer quite warm enough. "And I saw the captain of 'your' ship. So you can stop pretending."
The pirate lifted his hat to study her face. "What did you see?"
Charlotte leaned in, probably too close to the bars, too afraid of her memories and where her sister was to care.
"They were dead." Her voice slipped out in the tone she'd once used to tell Elizabeth her horror stories, once used to repeat Gibb's superstitions. "They were walking and laughing but they were dead."
Jack Sparrow leaned forward. Before he could reply, a door swung open below and the sound of hurried footsteps began to echo closer.
Charlotte's eyes widened and she threw herself into one of the empty cells, tucking herself against the wall and pressing both hands against her mouth. It seemed unlikely that Jack would tell the newcomer about her, not when she was his best chance for freedom.
And then she realized it was Will.
"Are you familiar with that ship? The Black Pearl?"
That sneaky, little...
Charlotte whirled out from her hiding place and gave Will a dry smile. "He says he used to be its captain." She said.
At the same time, Sparrow said, "Somewhat."
She turned to him and they shared a glare.
Will placed a hand on her shoulder, voice urgent as he continued. "Where does it make berth?"
Jack took on the same voice Charlotte had used, whether because he'd like the effect or because he was mocking her she wasn't sure. "Surely you've heard the stories? The Black Pearl sails from the dreaded Isla de Muerta... an island that cannot be found - except by those who already know where it is."
"Is that where the curse is from?" Charlotte said eagerly.
"If I say yes, does that mean you have to get me out of here?" Jack asked. "Or do you want their treasure all for yourself?"
"Their what?" Charlotte flinched.
"Never." Will added. She looked up and saw him study her apparel, the dirt on her face, her bare feet. "We want to find Miss Swann. You must lead us to her."
Jack smirked. "So it is that you found a girl. Well, if you're intending to brave all and hasten to her rescue and so win fair lady's heart, your friend has already agreed on a price."
Charlotte looked pleadingly up at Will. "We'll never find her alone. No one will find her without him." He nodded, barely thinking it over. She turned back to the pirate. "I'm Charlie." Let him think she was hiding her gender; it would keep him away from her true worth.
"Charlie." He smiled. "And how are you acquainted with the Miss Swann and our young man?"
Will swept back, carrying a bench. "He's my brother," Will told him. He set the bench against the door and motioned them both back.
Jack watched with yet another knowing look. As Will did his magic and the door fell open, the pirate stepped forward and grinned at them.
"Your name is Turner." The pirate declared.
Charlotte had already made an introduction; done with the small talk, she moved to the door and began checking the way ahead. The pirate and the blacksmith followed soon after, the pirate's arms now filled with his strange belongings and Will's face annoyed yet again.
"What do we do now?" She asked as they cleared the wall and moved onto one of many paths down the beach.
"What pirates do." Jack waved dramatically toward the bottom of the path.
Charlotte's eyes followed the gesture, found the harbor and the sea.
Will didn't look away. "We steal a ship?" He guessed unhappily.
"We steal two ships."