We probably won't finish this before the movie. But hey, here's another chapter!
Dead Man's Vest
"A meeting of minds, you say." The grizzled privateer stared at Will over the top of his mug. "They said you talked fancy, but I never quite believed it."
Will shrugged. "I've discovered it's useless trying to talk down to people. They only resent it in the end." Captain Voronski was his last attempt at recruiting from within the ranks of Tortuga; most pirates just laughed him off before he could even get to Gerrarrd's terms. Out of the fiftyodd men he'd interviewed, only two had so much as expressed interest in relocating to Noble Bay, and they might have just been humoring him for amusement.
Gerrarrd was going to stick his head on a pike when Will got back, but at least then he'd be out of Tortuga.
Voronski, though, leaned forward. "What's in it for me?"
"If you join forces with Gerrarrd, you'll no longer be a lone wolf on the seas," he said, mentally running though the checklist of convincing arguments that Gerrarrd had sent off with him. "You'll be a captain in a navy, with a land behind you. A land, and brothers. Beyond what you may have...here." He couldn't quite keep the distaste out of his voice. At this point in the game, he really no longer cared.
"Why do I want a land?" Voronski asked. Will glanced down at the table, and then beyond it. It shouldn't be that damned difficult to recruit a pirate, he thought, and nodded slightly to the tarnished hook that rested where Voronski's left hand should have been.
"How'd you lose that?"
Voronski glanced at the hook and drew it back toward him ever so slightly. Will recognized the motion: his own father made it when he wanted to be ignored. Whatever the story behind the apparatus was, Voronski preferred not to discuss it. All he said was, "Norrington."
Norrington. "Gerrarrd's not too fond of him," Will said casually. "He means to target Port Royal once he's gathered a large enough fleet."
Voronski scoffed. "If you think I' liable to switch sides just for revenge--"
"Not at all," Will said, signaling to a particularly buxom bar wench for more ale. "It's not about switching sides. You have no side. You want to sail the seas and do as you wish. But--I'll take that," he said, relieving the wench of her jug. He poured the ale into the mugs. "--but what happens when Gerrarrd's fleet does grow large, and simply expands? The Felicia is a fine ship...but there are many other fine ships in the Caribbean."
Voronski held onto his mug, but did not say anything.
Will reached into his pocket and tugged a bar of gold out, dropping it onto the table with a muted clank. Voronski immediately reached for it, only to find his hook stayed by Will's hand. "There's something for everyone with Gerrarrd," he said. Whether or not he sounded convincing remained up in the air. "Gold, jewels, security, protection if you want it...revenge..." He shrugged and left the gold bar on the table as he rose. He tossed a few coins onto the table -- one would pay off the ale and the meal handsomely, but the rest were just for show. "It was a pleasure doing business with you, Captain."
He turned to go. Gerrarrd had made sure he was well-equipped, but he was personally quite amazed he'd gotten this far at all.
A thick hand clamped down on his wrist. Will turned around slowly to look at Voronski, who had curved his hook over the bar of gold. "Tell me, Captain Turner," he said, "just where is this Noble Bay?"
In the end, they borrowed wine and cheese from Constance and took their meal in the darkness of the boarding room, curtains drawn, a single candle lighting the place. If she hadn't known better, she'd have thought they were preparing for a séance.
"I wish we could offer you a more fitting meal," Elizabeth said, slicing up the cheese and arranging it on a platter around their lone loaf of bread. "We were going out to fetch something before we found you."
"Oh, trust me, Miss Elizabeth, this is better than shipboard fare. Th' best food I've had in weeks, I daresay." And he did attack the food. Elizabeth shifted in her chair, eager to ask questions, but Jack shook his head slightly at her.
"'Tis cruel to make a man talk on an empty stomach," he said. "Gibbs, have some wine. Good vintage." He poured the wine into their lone chipped flute, and Gibbs eagerly downed it. "Though I imagine nothing good could have driven him back across the Atlantic..."
He looked up, his wide eyes sunken into his head. Hard voyage, Elizabeth thought. "Bad news, Captain. Even -- dreadful news."
Jack shoved the platter down the table. "Eat up, Gibbs," he said. "Dreadful news is best delivered on a full stomach."
Gibbs took a deep breath and pushed the platter away. "Gerrarrd's making his move," he said. "Ships are falling all over th' Caribbean...most of them faster than th' Commodore can track."
Jack appeared to consider his words. Elizabeth leaned forward. "Norrington sent you?"
"Aye." Gibbs snatched a hunk of cheese and nibbled on it. "Said if I didn't find ye, it'd be my head. I'm to bring you back while he and Captain Soledad--"
"Captain Soledad?" Jack sounded downright offended.
"--aye, she's commanded the Pearl during your...vacation."
"And is the Pearl still afloat?"
"Oh, aye, aside from that one spat w'Gerrarrd, a few holes here, a torn sail there..." Jack's expression grew blacker and blacker, and Elizabeth lay a warning hand on his arm.
"How is my father?"
"He seemed to be in decent health, if not spirits."
Gibbs's eyes flickered to her, and then to Jack. "Nothing's been heard of Will Turner since Gerrarrd took the lot of ye," he said.
Elizabeth looked away quickly and blinked back tears. Will -- oh, Will -- the boy she should have loved. The boy she had loved, in her own way -- fallen to Gerrarrd as she escaped with Jack Sparrow. Will... "The Commodore must've gotten my letter," she said.
"Aye. We wrenched somethin' of an answer from Dirce, but ye very well vanished after that." Gibbs shoved a fistful of bread into his mouth and chewed loudly. "It took Anamaria and the Commodore a long time to figure out what was going on...some thought you were dead. Until he got tha' letter from you. Then I realized why ye'd come back here, what ye'd come for..."
"Innocent maidens hear all," Jack said. Gibbs snapped his mouth shut.
"Of course, sir. Sorry, sir. But thing is, sir -- you need to come back."
"So it would seem."
Both of them looked at her. Elizabeth sighed, and then stood up. "I'll leave you two gentlemen to your scheming, then," she said. "I'll just...sleep."
Ah, Noble Bay.
It was hardly as nightmare inducing as he'd feared; actually, it was quite a pleasant cove, with a large beach, expansive docking network, and a steadily growing town right on its shore.
It also boasted a flotilla of vessels – some of which he recognized as ships who had outrun Dauntless time and again – some of which were more myth than reality.
But such was the way of piracy.
The sheer number of vessels was the most troubling aspect of the entire thing; Corwin counted upwards of thirty already at rest in and around the harbor itself, with even more anchored around the island.
He sensed Anamaria Soledad coming up beside him, and a shuffling set of feet paired with heavier stomps indicated the arrival of Pintel and Ragetti.
Anamaria whistled quietly upon seeing the mass of ships. "Now that's a sight," she murmured, shading her eyes for a better look.
"I suppose now we know why there's been so few reports of piracy," he said. "They've all been here."
Anamaria grabbed Ragetti by his collar. "Boyo," she said, "how long they been a-working this?"
"Dunno," Ragetti squeaked. He looked to Corwin for help. "I don't!"
"We don't, sir," Pintel said. "We was cursed…too cursed for Gerrarrd."
"Barbossa must have said something about him."
"Must he?" Pintel scrunched up his nose. "'Twas no concern of ours, Commodore. We went our own way, sure as the wind blows. Gerrarrd mostly steered clear o'us…after…"
"Commodore." Anamaria pointed at the sleek black vessel that approached.
Corwin drew himself up. "She's too big to be a sentry ship."
"'Course she be," Pintel said. "That be Wickedry."
"Are you sure?" Anamaria asked, though she sounded like she already knew the answer and didn't like it.
"I know that topline," Corwin muttered. "Anamaria, bring her in. It's probably best I'm not seen."
She nodded, and he turned to go back to his quarters. He'd never seen Gerrarrd or any of his cronies face-to-face – at least, not to his knowledge – but with a spy in their midst he couldn't be too careful.
He took a seat by the porthole, pistol at the ready, and waited.
The jovial shout from Wickedry earned nothing more than a tight smile from Anamaria as she clamped her hands around her mouth. "Greetings t'ye, Wickedry," she called, taking care to flatten out her accent in case anyone she knew was aboard. "We be coming at the request o'Captain Gerrarrd!"
"So ye say. And who commands the Torrential?"
"I do." She glanced at Pintel and Ragetti, both of whom looked back at her with the slightly concerned expressions they'd worn since getting hauled aboard this tub. If she gave them her name—
"So many names in the deep blue sea," Ragetti said. "So many names for so few, 'tis the truth."
Oddly enough, the scrawny little fool was right. "Soledad," she called across the channel formed by the two ships. "Gerrarrd's made a convincin' enough bargain for me to hear him out."
"Then we bid you welcome!" Wickedry altered course and headed out toward the anchored ships, and Anamaria wondered if the vessel had intended that all along – perhaps Torrential was merely passing by.
She shaded her eyes again. So many ships… "Where d'ya suppose we should settle in?"
Pintel pointed at a blank patch of ocean. "There. No rocks, good tailwind. Iffin' we need it," he added.
"Nothing wrong with a daring escape." She turned back to her vessel and felt the knot in her stomach ease slightly. The first step was the hardest; now all they had to do was blend in with hundreds of other pirates once they reached the shore. "Tell the C'dore to put on his disguise," she said. "We're nearly ready."
After several minutes of pressing her ear against the door only to hear the muted voices of total secrecy, Elizabeth gave up on eavesdropping and crept into bed.
She was still lying there when the door opened hours later, and the soft scrape of Jack's boots alerted her to his presence. She sat up in bed and he sat beside her, barely a silhouette in the darkness. "What have you decided?"
"There's a ship leaving for the Caribbean the day after tomorrow," he said, his voice soft. He did not sound entirely happy about the prospect. "Considering what we ran into tonight, I think it best if we are aboard."
"Of course," she said. Then, "I'd like to say goodbye to Hermione and Constance."
She thought perhaps he smiled. "I suppose that can be arranged."
"Not arranged, Jack, assured." She pulled the thin cover around her shoulders. "They're my – my friends." Weak friends, perhaps – vague friends – but when had she ever had true fremale friends? "All my life I've only had Will to talk to. Hermione, at least – and where is Gibbs going to sleep?"
"The Cades have an empty room," he said, ignoring the change in subject. Then, after a pause, "Are you all right?"
Am I? It's difficult to say. For months, her entire existence had based around when she would go home to father. To Will. To the Caribbean.
Now, faced with the reality…
"I knew I would go home one day," she said. "Just..."
"Not this soon?"
"You know me well."
"Well, I've lived with you long enough...Mrs. Kendrick."
She laughed, and rested a head against his shoulder. "I don't even like England all that much, Mr. Kendrick," she said. "Although your presence has made it infinitely more tolerable…from time to time."
His arm came around her then, and his chin rested atop her head. For a brief instant she wondered if he might tilt her chin up to kiss her – just once, just once more, after all this time – and his fingers did brush across her face.
But there was no kiss, just as this was not her reality. This was a surreal and ongoing dream – a dream she'd been fortunate enough to experience – but not to keep…he was not hers, and she was not his.
Perhaps in a different place, in a different life…
But not here.
"Just think," Jack whispered, "now the world will never know of Captain Dory…"
"Thank God," she said, and hugged him.
He was still Jack.
For now, that was enough.
He left Elizabeth sleeping on the bed she'd once declined to share with him, and left the Cade house with Joshamee Gibbs.
"In there for a long time, you were," Gibbs said as they shut the door. "Grown fond o'er?"
"She's a good woman," Jack said.
"Aye, that she is, and you've lived with 'er now – how long? Since last we met?" Gibbs took a deep breath of the chill night air. "Plenty o'time to—"
"We've come to discuss the disquieting information you provided to me earlier," he said sharply, "not speculate on my relationship with Mrs. Ken—Miss Swann. Now talk."
Gibbs chuckled thinly. Dennot was deserted by now, and Jack stood with his second mate beneath the relative shelter of the armory next door. "You mean the Turner situation. Hearsay, most of it."
"What have you heard of him?"
"There's some talk of Gerrarrd taken on a young acolyte o'sorts," Gibbs remarked. "A man of dark hair and dark eyes, fair complec'tioned and handsome. Timing's about right."
"Turner as an acolyte?" Jack frowned. "That doesn't make sense. He despises pirates. Except me."
"I only say what I've heard, Captain--Mr. Kendrick." Gibbs still did not appear comfortable with the new title. "Maybe it's not Will of Port Royal. Though I always thought the lad ha' a bit of a streak in him."
"There is that." What could possibly drive Will to join forces with Gerrarrd? "He must have told him something – that he's holding Lady Liz for ransom, or knows where she is, or…"
"Aye, it must be that," Gibbs agreed. "Didn't think he had a piratin' bone in his body."
The very idea of Will Turner as a pirate was amusing – but then again, the idea of Commodore Norrington working with Anamaria Soledad had once been amusing too – and according to Gibbs, that little chuckle had come true. Dead men walked among the living, Norrington and Soledad made a fine team, and Will Turner might have crossed the line into piracy.
What a strange place the world had become.
He reached up to touch the top of the awning. "If Turner has turned pirate...he's going to make life a bit more difficult for all of us."
"Aye," Gibbs said. "If we're not too late already."
"Too late? We're never 'too late,' Gibbs, and do you know why?"
"I couldn't imagine."
He leaned forward and flashed his old smile. "Because I'm Mr. Jack Kendrick!"