Disclaimer:  I do not own 'Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl", Disney, or any of its affiliates.  But, by Jove, I wish I did...

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Ambrosia of the Sea

Part One: 1718—

11 Years Before the Death of Barbossa,

1.5 Weeks After the Mutiny Aboard the Black Pearl

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Chapter 1

            "Gone!  Oh, saints preserve us!  Everything—gone!"

Deep in the heart of the Caribbean, in the rancid town of Tortuga, in a tavern with a reputation worse than that of the devil himself, a defeated soul lamented over all that was lost to her—with the help of the strongest whiskey the barkeeper had on-hand.

            "All that I've worked for!  Everything I've LIVED for—GONE!"

The din cloaking the vociferous horde in the building could not drown out the cries of the woman.  She ignored their annoyed looks—or perhaps failed to notice them.  She continued ranting in a most pathetic state—arms flailing, tears falling, great gasps of air as she attempted to calm herself, and the great clash of glass against wood as she slammed her bottle down upon the table and dropped her head in one final, dramatic moment.

            "Not even sea-fairing men," she whispered to a mouse scampering under the table.  Re-emerging with a crumb of bread, the creature took a long look at her miserable condition, whiskers twitching and tiny head tilted as he nibbled on his newfound feast.  At the first note of her second wave of wailing, however, the mouse was smart to run off.  "DamnthemALL!" the visitor cried, one word running into the next as she threw her head back and shook her fist at the ceiling. 

            The man behind the bar watched her spectacle closely; he took heed of the crowd's disapproval of her behavior, of her dirty face, torn clothes, and disheveled hair.

            "Damnthem allto HELL!" she screamed, pulling back her left hand to hurl the whiskey bottle at the nearest target.

            "Believe that's enough fer tonight, Missy," the barkeeper said as he tore the flask from her hands.  She lunged at him, crying out for the alcohol, her "only salvation!"

            Across the table an older woman sat; the woman who had been kind enough—or bored enough—to listen to the young woman's story.

            "Give tha' back, ye villainous pig!" the visitor screamed, climbing over the large man in an effort to reach the container.  With one swift move, however, she was thrown back into her seat, nearly toppling over onto the floor.  "If I paid fer a drin'," she started quietly, "I deserve to bloody DRINK IT!"  The empty glasses on the table rattled as she thrust her fist upon it.  The barkeeper looked to Maria—the prostitute that had been listening to the raving woman.  Maria smiled and shrugged her shoulders, ignoring the fact that her blouse slipped further down her slender arms.  Rolling his eyes, the large man slammed the bottle back onto the table, jolting the young woman.

            "Fine," he hissed at her, bent so low he could easily smell her alcohol-laden breath, "but if I hear one more outburst from you, I'll be throwin' you and yer damned whiskey out that yonder door!"  He pointed toward the entrance, but the woman didn't follow his lead.  Instead, she stared him straight in the eye as she raised the bottle to her lips, letting the burning liquid coat her throat and drag her into a numb ecstasy.  The barkeeper sighed, turned around and went about his work.

The woman took a long swig, never taking her eyes off of the large man until he went into the back to fetch extra supplies.  Still drinking steadily, she turned to Maria, who raised an eyebrow and shook her fiery red head.  The young woman pulled the bottle from her mouth and gasped for air.  Crossing her arms, Maria glared at her. 

Then she jumped as the woman pounded her pretty brunette head against the table and howled.

Xanke—the barkeeper—back from his task, made a move to silence the querulous young woman, but stopped when Maria raised her hand to him.  The woman sobbed into her folded arms, the whiskey bottle nearly empty beside her.  Maria stood up and took the flask to Xanke.

            "That woman is a menace," he said through gritted teeth.  Maria laughed, putting one leg up on the nearest stool and exposing her pale skin to three hungry pirates down the bar.  She winked at them before asking for a bottle of rum.       

            "That's for me, idiot," she answered when Xanke gave her a threatening look.  He reluctantly handed over the bottle, reminding her she still needed to fill her quota for the night.  "I'm workin' on it," she said sternly, taking a swig and winking again at the three prospects seated not too far from her.  They licked their lips and shifted in their seats, as if waiting for the starting pistol to signal the beginning of the race for Maria.  The provocatively dressed woman lowered her leg and turned her back to the three starving men.  Leaning down to the newcomer—still sobbing melodramatically into her shirt—she said quietly,

            "If yeh need anything, honey, yeh just let me know."  She squeezed the young woman's shoulder and whispered, "Ol' Maria'll take care of yeh."

Just then the door of the tavern banged open, causing a rambunctious crowd to grow eerily silent.  Maria quickly threw herself down into the chair next to the woman as a group of men entered the bar.  Their leader came through the door first—his commanding presence caused shivers to run up and down Maria's spine.  His silhouette contrasted heavily with the luminous blue moonlight streaming in from outside.  Pausing in the doorframe, he acted as a magnet—all eyes turned to him.  Even the young woman quieted her sobs long enough to turn her head to look at the new arrivals.

The shadow man took one step forward and out of the shadow of the moon.  He was tall with misty blue eyes, an unusually large nose, and a slight limp.  His enormous, rather ugly hat indicated that he was obviously their captain.  Behind him followed a wide range of the foulest scum of the earth the visitor had ever seen.  The captain took a few more steps forward, observing the place; his eyes ran quickly over the woman—barely noticing her—and stopped at the sight of Maria.  His upper lip twitched as he turned to his men.

            "Enjoy yer night off, gents," he said with a smile.  His crew shouted their approval as they rushed passed him—some to the bar, others straight to the awaiting women sprawled across the space.  The captain straightened his dark blue coat and large hat before turning around.  The woman guessed him to be around thirty years of age.  She observed him quietly through watery eyes—strong, intimidating...everything a pirate captain should be.  Tears welled up in her eyes as she noticed his pistol and cutlass.

            "Maria," she said suddenly, startling the woman next to her.  "Who—?"

            "Captain Barbossa," she said with a salacious look upon her face, "of The Black Pearl."

            "The Black Pearl?" the woman repeated, turning around and back again to look at the man walking toward them.  "But I thought—"

            "Maria," came a low growl from behind her.  The woman in questioned looked three feet above the visitor's head and into the tanned face of Barbossa.  Her seductive smirk was followed by a slow removal from her seat.  She left her blouse as it was—halfway off of her.

            "Captain," she teased as she stood up and fell immediately into his arms.  "Back again so soon?" she asked as he kissed her neck.

            "Soon?  It's been three months," he said into her hair.

            "It's seemed three years."  She moaned as he captured her mouth with his own.

The poor woman below them was trapped between two eager bodies and one very solid table.  She attempted to close her ears off as she tapped her fingers against the wood, hoping they'd retire to a more vertical position elsewhere.  All around her there was joy—a pirate crew very thankful for and obviously enjoying their night off.  Her depression grew deeper as she waited, her gaze falling upon Maria's rum.  Her eyes glazed over, her fingers reached out...

And then she watched the flask fall over as Maria was pushed against the table.  She closed her eyes, not wanting to bare witness to the unfortunate demise of a perfectly decent bottle of rum. 

Instead of crashing to the floor, however, Captain Barbossa took hold of it with one hand, holding fast to Maria with the other.  He pulled the cork out with his teeth and took a long, slow swig.  Maria kissed his face and neck while the woman next to her watched in horror as the precious alcohol disappeared.

            "Come now, Cap'n," Maria demanded, tearing the bottle away from her companion.  "I can think of many a better place te put those lips of yourns."  The captain growled and kissed her again.

            "Pearl's anchored fer the night," he said, already attempting to undress the prostitute.  The younger woman failed to notice their savage-like behavior, instead concentrating on the half-empty bottle of rum calling to her.

            "Then let's enjoy this night in a more comfortable, an' less public, settin', shall we?" said Maria as she pulled away from the man.  Taking his hand, she led him to the stairs.  As they ascended, cheers rained down upon them from the captain's crew.  He nodded in acknowledgement, trying hard to conceal his smirk.

That night, as Xanke took stock, he counted missing four shot glasses, two chairs, a bottle of rum, and one very determined, very drunk, young woman.

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