A/N: After many delays and real life intervening, here, at last, is the end of this story. Please keep your seats in the upright and locked position until the story comes to a full stop. And do drop me a line to let me know what you thought!
Mark The Earth with Ruin
A great stillness descended on the cavern in the wake of Jack's exclamation, as though each player in the tragedy was frozen in place.
Maman shuffled toward the bridge, her footsteps echoing in the quiet.
Jack whirled on her, his borrowed sword outstretched. "Fix this."
Emmy stared, startled, as Maman tilted her head toward him in the way sightless persons sometimes do. "What you think I be, Jack Sparrow?"
His voice was insistent. "I know what you are. We all saw. You can change this."
That got Rose's attention. She turned from Bill, who seemed made of marble. "Maman… Brigitte?" Rose's blue eyes were wide but steady. Ned looked up from where he sat huddled over Will's body.
"Aye, child." The crone's mask slipped, just for a split second, but suddenly Emmy knew what they meant, and was frightened. This was no old woman, no ancient obeah, no mere Vodoun priestess in their midst. This was power, pure and terrifying.
Jack held firm, though Emmy could see his hands were shaking. "You owe him this."
That made Maman frown. Emmy trembled. "Bold words, boy."
Ned spoke up then. "If you had done twenty years ago what you did tonight –"
Maman swiveled to 'look' at him. "I did what I could then." She touched her eyes briefly. "I was hindered then. Not now."
"Why were you hindered then?" As soon as the words were out Emmy wished she could snatch them back, for Maman's terrible regard swung toward her.
The crone smiled. "Why, because then, child, this body lived."
Emmy's tongue became thick, cleaving to the roof of her mouth, and she wrapped her arms around herself.
Maman made her way to Will's side, Jack right behind her.
"Please," he said quietly. "Not for me. For Bill. For the child Lizbet. You're Maman Brigitte – you keep the souls of the dead. You can bring him back."
She knelt by Will's body, Ned pulling back to make room. "That one mighty wound, Jack. What I do with that?"
Ned glanced up at her, his gray eyes steely. "Give it to me."
White, everything was white, like the thickest fog. Will looked around, a little nonplussed. This was decidedly odd.
He'd been in the cavern with the others, desperately afraid, trying even at the last to stop Annie Palmer from bringing the end of days… Will shivered, more from remembered fear than present discomfort. He remembered wresting the Hand from Annie's grasp, and then… Cold, piercing cold, stabbing through him…
He turned at the familiar sound. Elizabeth stood, lit like a nimbus by the brilliant light behind her. "Elizabeth…" She was beside him, in his arms. "I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I never meant…" He kissed her face, her hair, her lips. "I've missed you so."
She smiled. "I know." She framed his face in her hands, studying him, her doe eyes sober. "'Tisn't your time, my love. Our daughter still needs you." She chuckled. "And poor Norrington is hardly ready to be a father."
Will blinked. "'Twas a mortal wound, Elizabeth. How can I –?"
She laid a finger across his lips. "Just… trust."
And then everything was dark again.
"Give it to me."
Galvanized, Emmy ran forward. "No, Ned. I didn't come all this way to watch you die."
Jack turned to Maman. "Let me share the wound with him. The burden halved may not be fatal."
Maman pursed her lips.
"Make it thirds," shouted Bill.
"Quarters," called Rose. Without hesitation Emmy made it unanimous.
Maman grinned. "Aye then, five to share the burden of one."
The old woman picked up the sword that was sticky with Will Turner's lifeblood. She took Ned's hand and cut it quickly, staining the blade further. Emmy held out her hand.
Maman took blood from each of them, chanting all the while. For a moment nothing happened, and then –
Emmy felt her chest begin to crack, and spill. She gasped, pressing her hands to her breastbone, drawing them away crimson. Emmy gritted her teeth against the pain, determined not to cry out. Bright scarlet bloomed on Jack's shirtfront, slithered down Bill's chest, stained Rose's borrowed blouse, soaked the back of Ned's shirt as he bent over his friend.
Will arched suddenly, noisily gulping in air, coughing, groaning. And when Emmy saw the expression on her brother's face, the pain in her chest didn't matter anymore.
Jack held out a hand to help Ned up. Bill, for his part, knelt and lifted his son, heedless of the injury that now decorated his broad chest. Will wearily tucked his head into the hollow of his father's shoulder, Emmy slipped an arm around Rose's waist, as much to steady herself as to help the other girl, and they made their way out of the cave.
And it didn't seem strange at all that Maman had disappeared.
Dawn was breaking, streaking the sky a gaudy pink as they staggered from the tunnel. A rolling boom caught their attention.
"Is that thunder?" asked Rose.
Jack shook his head, his expression alert. "No, lass. That's cannon fire." He grinned as they broke from the underbrush to the wide expanse of rocky beach. "That's me Pearl!"
Listing a bit to one side, she was, but the black hull and sails were unmistakable in the bright light of dawn. The Seraph bobbed nearby, smoking, a gaping wound in her belly, her chin to the heavens and her arse under the waves. Jack hooted, waving both arms, as the slave ship went down.
They watched as a tiny skiff made its way to the shore. A tall and diffident pirate waded to the beach and doffed his hat to Jack, who grinned.
"Need a ride, Cap'n?"
Jack laughed aloud. "Swale, by all that's – damme, lad, next ship I take is yours. How did you get here so timely?"
Swale, a not unhandsome fellow with sandy hair and freckles, grinned. "Been following that there Nicodemus fer days, Cap'n. Damage t' the Pearl looked worse than 'twas, above the water line 'n' all. We made repairs on th' fly. Didn't like to attack while ye were on board, though." He bowed and swept his hat toward the skiff. "If ye'd like to come aboard, Cookee's got a hot meal waitin'."
Hours later, clean, bandaged, rested and fed, the six adventurers faced one another in Jack's cabin. "… 'n' then Ned here offered t' take yer wound fer ye, son," Bill was saying. "He was willin' t' die fer ye."
Emmy leaned forward. "And if you ever scare me like that again, James Edmund Norrington…"
"Emmeline!" Norrington hissed.
Will and Jack exchanged surprised glances. "James?" they chorused.
Ned blushed. "Don't like the name James," he muttered. "People kept calling me – "
"'Tis a perfectly good name, Jamie-lad," chortled Jack.
" – things like Jamie-lad," said Ned irritably.
Will chuckled. "You're in for it now, Ned."
"I could call you Teddy," Jack pointed out, his tone reasonable. "Or Long Jim."
"Not if you plan to make it back to Port Royal in one piece," growled Ned.
Jack drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair, still smiling. "Well, I been thinking on that."
Will looked at him. "The return of Captain Jack Sparrow?" Jack merely grinned. Will nodded. "About time."
Ned looked aghast. "But – Jack, I'd have to – I don't want to have to – I'm the Governor, man!"
Jack looked steadily at him. "You don't have to be."
Jack steepled his fingers. "Day-to-day government, backbiting politics – that's not what you want out of life, Ned, and well you know it. Hell's bells, you've been turning more of that over to Weston every day."
Ned bridled. "Are you saying I shirk my duties?"
"Heaven forbid, no," Jack shook his head, braids flying. "What I am saying is – you're looking for more from your life, are you not?"
"What do you suggest?" Ned leaned back in his seat. "Piracy?"
Gold teeth glinted. "You'd make a ripping pirate, Jamie-lad, if you weren't such a stick." He chuckled. "No. I think perhaps your heart lies elsewhere, that's all. Somewhere where you can make a difference to people, people for whom differences are rarely made. People who have no one else to speak for them."
Will folded his arms. "He's right, you can make a difference, Ned. In England, in Parliament. Where they need to hear about the realities of the slave trade. And about people like Nicodemus, who traffic in human lives."
Ned stroked his chin. "You think I could do that?"
Emmy patted her brother's arm. "Of course you could."
Jack grinned. "And what about you, Bill?"
Bill tucked Rose's hand into the crook of his arm. "I been thinkin' on that, too, Jack. I have a question fer ye."
"Do ye know the captain of a ship who might be willin' t' perform a marriage?"
Jamaica, present day
"But what about Anamaria and Zaid? What happened to them?"
The tour guide smiled. "Oh, they found Annie's stash of bottles, in this hidden room right here." She pressed a knothole in the wood and part of the paneling sprang open. "See this scar here?" The guide's fingers gently touched a gouge in the jamb. "This is where Joshamee Gibbs tried to kill Ana with a table leg, before Zaid broke the bottles."
"Oohhhh," breathed her listeners.
"So Gibbs was made a zombie too?" one preteen girl wanted to know.
"Oh, yes," replied the tour guide. "But Zaid began smashing the bottles just in time."
"What did Ana do?"
The guide grinned. "She kicked Gibbs where it counts, and then he was released from the spell." That got a couple of sympathetic groans from the male members of the tour group; it always did.
A little girl in the front of the group piped up. "What about Lizbet?"
The tour guide squatted, bringing her to eye level with the girl. She tugged on one of the child's curls. "Lizbet grew up, like all little girls do. She and Will and Bill and Rose were very happy." The tour guide got to her feet with a smile. "There are still Turner descendants living on Jamaica today, they say."
An older woman raised her palm. "And Emmy and Ned?"
"Emmy Norrington kept house for her brother until she married a respectable merchant seaman named Richard Swale. And Lord James Edmund Norrington worked tirelessly for the abolition of slavery from the Caribbean until his death, though it didn't happen until nearly fifty years after that."
"And Captain Jack?" This was a teenaged boy.
The tour guide smiled. "Well, now, that's another story." The group had reached the entrance again. "Thank you all for your interest in Rose Hall plantation. I hope you enjoyed your time here today. Please remember to visit the gift shop on your way out!" The tour guide chuckled to herself as the last of the group filed out.
The sun was lowering on the horizon, setting the sea aflame. The guide carefully picked her way across the field behind Rose Hall, heading towards the woods where a granite block lay nearly concealed by vines.
She smoothed her hands across the stone. It was hot to the touch, but 'twas not the sun which warmed it. She could feel the fury simmering from the ground under the stone, where a small bottle lay buried.
"That's right. I'm still here. Still on guard." The guide chuckled, pulling the scarf from her head. Her long white hair spilled over her shoulders, lifted in the breeze. "You got a long wait, Annie Palmer."