SUMMARY: In which one of Jack Sparrow's most egregious crimes is recounted, and we learn the origin of his hair beads.
ARCHIVE: Ask and ye shall receive.
DISCLAIMER: The Mouse owns all, goddammit.
Jack Sparrow sprinted through the marketplace, tangled black hair whipping behind him, one hand clapped to his tricorner hat to keep it on his head. He leapt over a fat sow that had wandered into his path and darted between two converging carts, swearing loudly as he nearly caught his arm between them, then dodged around a small knot of people gathered at an apple stall. A quick stumble as his foot caught on a protruding stone, an equally quick recapturing of his balance, a quick check to make sure that the item that was causing all this blasted trouble was still on his person....
Honestly. It was as if he'd stolen the Crown Jewels themselves, the way they insisted on carrying on. (Though that was a thought: perhaps he would steal the Crown Jewels someday. It'd make for a bit of entertainment.) He'd given the purse a quick, experimental jangle as he was making off with it, and it sounded as if it held no more than a handful of shillings. Hardly profitable; hardly worth all this fuss.
"HE ROBBED US! HE BURNED OUR CARRIAGE! HE DRANK FROM OUR PRIVATE WINE STORES!"
Oh, right. That. Well, it hadn't been particularly good wine, anyway.
He chanced a quick glance behind him. His pursuers - three angry officers and a shrieking harpy who, supposedly, was the daughter of a particularly wealthy merchant - were making much better progress through the thick crowds. Screwing his hat onto his head as tightly as possible, he tried to speed up, shoving a path through the throng, eyes wide and searching for any possible escape route.
Then, his hand collided with something too hard to be a person and too soft to be a cart. Jack paused, frowned, gave it another experimental poke out of curiosity, and was rewarded with a large hand clamping down onto his wrist.
Huh. So it was a person, then. That was...interesting. He slowly pivoted to face the man, a hulking muscle-bound creature who was glowering down at him from an impossible height, and gave him his most winning smile.
"Sorry there, mate," he said. "Thought you were a horse. Been looking for a nice, fast steed lately, thought I'd finally found - "
Before he could finish, he found himself hovering a few feet off the ground, two fistfuls of his shirt in the man's hands. Caught by surprise, he scrabbled for a handhold and eventually seized the only thing available: the man's wrists. He could see the officers approaching out of the corner of his eye and tilted his head in their direction, knowing his hat would hide enough of his face to let him go unnoticed.
"Now, look," he said in a reasonable tone to his captor, "I really don't think this is necessary." When this only succeeded in deepening the man's scowl, Jack sighed and rolled his eyes slightly. "It was a compliment, mate. Horses, they're fast, handsome...strong creatures," he added, glancing at his dangling feet for an instant. "Very strong. And you, obviously, have quite a bit of strength in you." Raising his index fingers (the only gesture he could make under the circumstances), "So...now that we've cleared up this little misunderstanding, what's say we let me down now, eh? You're starting to rip my shirt."
Which was true: the fabric of his shirt was creaking ominously, and he did not fancy having to try and repair it. He turned his head just enough to catch a glimpse of the officers - ten yards away now and still gaining - and was promptly jostled hard enough to snap his attention back to the man.
"Why're they chasin' yew?" the man snarled in a thick, drawling voice.
"Chasing me?" He raised his eyebrows, affecting an air of innocence. "I'm being chased? By who?"
Jack was fully expecting another forceful shake and something along the lines of "don't play dumb with me" growled in his ear. Instead, he got a confused frown. "Yew mean yer not the one them officers're chasin'?"
"Well, seeing as I've done nothing wrong, I'd doubt it, wouldn't you?" So the horse comparison had turned out be even more apt...creatures of great strength and little brain, the both of them. He was far too good at this. "Now, if you're done, I'd really appreciate it if you'd let go of me."
The man grunted and let him fall. Years of leaping from mast to deck gave Jack a firm landing, though the impact jarred him hard enough to make his teeth rattle. He straightened up, put his hands together, and nodded his thanks, then looked over at the approaching officers and ran like hell.
Thirty seconds later, the man's scream of rage echoed through the streets. By then, Jack could still hear the shouts of the officers, but they were fainter, more distant. They weren't gone, not by any means, but if he could stave them off for just a bit longer, he could work his way back to the docks with no trouble. They were like hounds: throw them off the scent, and they'd inevitably lose interest.
But how to do it...ah, that was the trick.
He checked again to make sure the purse was still tucked into his sash, and as he looked up, he spotted an open door leading into an impressive stone edifice off to his right. He switched direction and barreled inside without hesitation, slamming the wooden door behind him before sinking to his knees and gulping in lungfuls of air. He could still outrun most anybody, even at his age, but keeping that level of speed up for so long had, admittedly, left him dizzy and breathless. Not to mention the stitch in his side; it felt as if he'd been on the wrong end of an extremely sharp sword.
Massaging the sharp ache beneath his ribs, he raised his head and tried to force his eyes to adjust to the darkness. From what little he could see, it looked like he'd stumbled into an administrative room. A broad desk rested next to the wall, its surface littered with parchments and ink-spattered quills, an extinguished oil lamp set on one corner. Hanging from the wall opposite were a set of immaculate white robes, a purple sash, and -
So that explained why the building looked so impressive.
Jack eyed the crucifix warily, as if it would leap off the wall and beat him about the head at any moment, as he maneuvered back onto his feet. He hadn't stepped inside a place such as this in years. They didn't agree with him; he'd get terrible headaches that could only be cured by copious amounts of rum and a long night or two with a tavern wench or three. Now that he thought about it, he was mildly surprised he hadn't burst into flames yet.
With a shrug, he turned his attention to more important matters: namely, the desk. Wandering over to it, fingers plucking at invisible strings in the air, he cocked his head and studied the items strewn across its surface. A gold inkwell - he delicately lifted it to examine, and yes, it was solid gold now, wasn't it? - an exquisite silver chain strung with wooden beads and a crucifix pendant, and was that the collection plate half-hidden under all those parchments? How foolish to leave such things out where anyone could find them. He'd have to let the reverend know.
He snapped the inkwell shut with a grin and went to pocket it when he paused, ears pricked. He thought he could hear the all-too-familiar shrieking of that bloody harpy. Sighing in annoyance, he quickly swept the chain into his sash and helped himself to the collection plate before squinting through the dark for an exit. As far as he could tell, there were two ways out: the way he came, or through the church itself. Neither of them looked like viable options at the moment.
His eyes fell on the robes again. A slow smile spread across his face.
Well, now, if Lady Luck didn't always seemed to smile on him when he needed her most. Of course, when she didn't, he'd simply learned to hold a cutlass to her throat until she did - but never mind that.
With one final glance toward the door, Jack hung his hat on an available hook and began to change into the cleric's robes.
When he entered the cathedral a few minutes later, he found, to his delight, that it was empty. Smirking, he swayed toward the doors, ready to make yet another brilliant escape directly under the noses of his pursuers - and froze when they began to creak open.
His eyes widened. Then, when it became evident that yes, someone really was going to ruin his cunning plans, he dove behind the pulpit.
"Bloody hell," he muttered as he sagged against it, the shelves digging into his back. "Why, why must everyone make this so difficult?"
As soon as the words left his lips, he realized that the cathedral was dead silent. No heavy boots, no muttering voices, none of that telltale shrieking....He frowned, listening intently, as one hand wandered down to tap an idle rhythm against the stone floor.
A minute later, he heard soft footsteps and an equally soft squeak as someone lowered themselves onto a pew. He straightened up and held his breath, waiting.
"Father in Heaven," a voice said, "God of unending power and glory, hear my prayer. I prostrate myself before You, the holiest of holies, as one of Your humble creations. I seek Your advice, and Your advice alone, in a matter at hand."
Jack arched an eyebrow, not even bothering to hide his disgust. What could possibly be so important that this person would only take advice from Him? There were plenty of other people to talk to - people that'd give a clear answer, no less. Those pious types, always carrying on and being so bloody...pious.
He had to admit it was quite an alluring voice, though, soft and feminine and silky as the best temptresses of Tortuga. He cautiously peered around the edge of the pulpit to get a look at her. Blonde hair piled high in a bonnet, a perfectly sculpted face, bosom high and full and straining against her corset with each breath...oh, yes. For all the church's talk of the evils of lust, its followers certainly had interesting ways of clothing themselves during worship.
As he ducked back out of sight, his gaze lit on something nearly as beautiful as the creature in the front pew. Tucked in the back of one of the pulpit's shelves was what looked like a communion chalice, the silver polished to a bright gleam, the surface inlaid with gold and jewels. He bit his lip and inched his hand inside, cautiously groping for the object, while he craned his neck for another glimpse of the woman.
"You surely know the circumstances of my predicament," she continued, keeping her gaze rooted to the floor. "To repeat them would be superfluous. And I know - "
Just then, Jack's hand knocked against the chalice with more force than he intended. He scrambled to stop it from tipping over, but that only worsened the matter: his arm knocked a sheaf of papers to the floor, followed by two heavy books, while the goblet itself wobbled violently before tumbling with a loud clatter that reverbrated through the cathedral. He closed his eyes with a sigh, dropping his head against the shelf in defeat.
"Hello?" the woman called, voice quavering in fear. "Who's there?"
Jack shook his head, scrubbed a hand over his face, then poked his head around the edge of the pulpit and forced a smile. "Just me. Don't pay me mind - just looking for a book here. Carry on."
She frowned, puzzled, as she took in his scraggly appearence. "I...don't believe I've seen you before. Where's Reverend Mathis?"
"Ah, he's not in. Took ill. Ate a bad mollusk, I'd heard." He let his eyes wander over her, surreptitiously slipping the chalice into his robes as he did. It really was too bad that the church had such an obsession with chastity. "I'm just stepping in for him for a bit. Go on, love."
"Um...all right." She took a deep breath, bowing her head once more, and Jack swallowed hard as he watched her chest rise and fall. "I know I have not been pure of thought and action and do not deserve to partake of Your wisdom, but I wish to repent my sins to You. I am truly sorry for what I have done, and should You offer Your guidance - "
"Well, there's no need for that now."
She stopped. "I beg your pardon?"
"Look, love," Jack sighed, climbing to his feet, "a girl like you - how old are you, anyway? Eighteen? Nineteen?"
"Twenty-one," she mumbled, eyes wide.
"Right. Twenty-one." He leaned against the pulpit, arms folded, and flashed a grin. "Prime of your pretty young life, and you mean to tell me you're spending it in this dusty place, coming in to get advice and say you're sorry for what's no harm in doing?" He twirled a hand. "Here's my thoughts: you need to get out, love. See the world. Do all the things mommy and daddy told you not to do, and be glad you're doing 'em. Savvy?"
She blinked. "But I - " she started to protest.
"Ah ah ah." Jack waggled a finger at her. "I pride meself on giving good advice, and this may be the best advice I've ever given, so you'd best listen to me." He paused and tapped a finger against his chin. "You know," he continued, making it sound as if it were more of an afterthought, "I've heard tell of a ship leaving port in a few hours' time, captained by quite the charming rogue. He doesn't believe in a woman on board being bad luck. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to take you with him, let you stay for a voyage or two."
His thoughts swerved to a new track as he noted the guarded look in her eyes. "That is...." He stepped down from the pulpit and sauntered toward her, lowering his voice. "That is, unless the reason you visit this house of God is not to confess your sins, but maybe...commit a few more? Hm? You looked a bit disappointed when you saw me face. Maybe you were expecting this Mathis fellow, eh?"
"Reverend, with all due respect, exactly what are you implying?" she snapped.
Ah, now there was a tone he was all too familiar with. Though if that little note of hysteria was any indication....He held up his hands in protest. "Not a thing, love. Just trying to help you out a bit, like any good man of the cloth would do."
Jack jumped as a door several rooms over burst open - the door that led from the cleric's room to the outside street, from the sound of it. An instant later, a voice roared:
"SPARROW! WE KNOW YOU'RE IN HERE!"
He pursed his lips. "What's say we continue this later," he told the woman. "Bless you in the name of the Father, Son, and - ah, you know. And please, if you value your life, don't do anything - "
"Yes, like that, thank you," he muttered, and bolted for the front doors. No more than three paces later, he heard the unmistakable click of a rifle being cocked and halted mid-stride, swinging his leg around to face the three angry officers. To his immeasurable relief, the harpy wasn't with them. Unfortunately, that deficiency was soon corrected as the other woman jumped to her feet, red-faced, to point a shaking finger at him.
"He - he - " she sputtered. "That interminable scoundrel questioned my chastity!"
Jack gave a noncommittal shrug. "Aye, well...." He stopped as the officers leveled their weapons at him. His lips quirked into a faint smile as he eyed the bayonets. "Ah, come now," he said. "You wouldn't kill a man right here before Our Lord and Savior, would you?" He gestured to the crucifix that loomed above them, fingers fluttering.
"A man, no," one of the officers said; they all looked dreadfully alike to him. "A pirate...yes."
He slapped a hand to his chest. Out of the corner of one eye, he was pleased to note how the woman had blanched on the word 'pirate.' "Oh, you wound me so," he moaned, staggering theatrically. "To say I'm not worthy of the same grace offered to other men. And, really," he added as he straightened up, "what a terribly clichéd way to say it. Bit like me going around saying 'arrrr!' and 'avast!' all the bleeding time." He tsked in displeasure.
"You...you mean you don't?" another officer said, looking as crestfallen as if he'd been told Father Christmas didn't exist.
Jack just glared. "No self-respecting pirate does that. Now, gentlemen, if you'll excuse me, I'll be changing out of these robes and going on me merry little way." He turned and strolled toward the door that led to the cleric's room, only to be brought up short as the third officer charged over and blocked his path. He crossed his arms and gave Jack a scowl that he surely thought was fearsome, but in reality looked rather foolish.
Shoulders sagging, Jack let his head fall back and stared up at the vaulted ceiling, heaving an enormous sigh. "Look," he said, fishing around inside the robes and producing his pistol, which he leveled at the trembling man, "I do not want to waste this shot on you. There are more important people I need to kill. However, if you don't move, and if you don't tell the other two to let me be," here he cocked the weapon for extra emphasis, "you don't give me much choice. Savvy?"
He raised his eyebrows, inviting an answer. All he received were incoherent burblings. Looking over his shoulder at the other two, he asked, with honest bewilderment, "Do you have any idea what he's saying?"
"I - I - um, I think he's saying...thatyoushouldgorightahead."
"S'what I thought." He tucked the pistol back into his robes and patted the officer's cheek. "You do the King proud, mate. Move?"
The officer took a few stumbling steps sideways, leaving the path clear. Jack started to walk toward the door, then hesitated, looking back at the crucifix. He made to sweep his hat off his head - but when he found, to his momentary panic, that it wasn't on his head, he settled for a quick salute before striding through the doorway.
The robes went back to their original spot. The inkwell and chalice remained tucked in his sash, next to the purse and the money from the collection plate, awaiting a time and place where he could melt them down. The silver chain and its crucifix pendant went to a trader, where he received quite a sum for them.
Aboard a leaky boat hijacked from a pretty Caribe woman, Jack Sparrow fingered the chain's remaining beads thoughtfully. Then, amidst the ankle-deep water, he set to work weaving them into his hair.
It wasn't like he was going to get any other use out of them.