Disclaimer I do not own Pirates of the Caribbean or anything you recognise.

This is a sequel to a story called Sparrow's Fall. I would advise you to read that first. If you choose not to, these facts may help – Jack's compass was taken by a man named Stenson, Will and Elizabeth are due to be married, Jack and the crew have permission to attend from Commodore Norrington as long as they behave and Jack calls himself Smith.

Thanks go to Julie for betaing this and making it about fifty times better than it was previously.


Diego Duenez clutched the compass tightly in his hand and gazed nervously around the deck of the 'Sea's Pride.' The crew was silent, staring over the side at the wrecked ships that lined the narrow passage. He didn't trust their silence - he could sense their fear of the island that lay before them.

Quickly his eyes flickered back to the compass and immediately he barked an order to the helmsman. The ship ever so slightly eased to starboard. Duenez relaxed; they were almost there at long last.

With another glance at the compass, he marveled once more at the good fortune that had enabled him to get his hands on this, the key to unlimited wealth and power. And that oaf, Stenson, had sold it to him! He had known since he was a small child, hearing stories at his grandfather's knee, that it would be his eventual fate to find the legendary treasure of Cortez and now, it was as surely in his grasp as this compass. Once he was immortal, his enemies would pay.

A shout from the lookout broke his reverie. At last he had reached his destiny.

"Lower the boats, we're all going ashore." It was safe enough to leave the ship abandoned; there were none now living who knew the location of the island. And he didn't dare tell any of his crew that they would not get to the treasure. That would be a quick way to provoke mutiny.

"Aye sir." The shout resounded from all sides. He felt his lips curl into a smile.

The journey to land was marked only by the whisperings of the crew, nervous and greedy in equal parts. They knew nothing of his fate, his destiny. He had told them only what they wanted to hear; that there was a treasure beyond price concealed on this rock and that all the stories of curses were false. That part was a lie of course, but he had been prepared to use whatever means necessary to get here. Beyond all doubt he knew that whatever magic the gold held was not a curse but rather a blessing. As an immortal he would be as one with the heathen gods. It was as inevitable as the tide itself.

He stepped out of the boat. The rock was slippery under his feet and he struggled to maintain his balance. It was imperative that he did not fall; he needed to keep his dignity in front of this rabble. Silently they marched through the cave. The crew kept glancing nervously from side to side, jumping at every shadow. He kept his gaze fixed rigidly ahead of him. He was no child now, to be scared of the dark. There was absolutely no one here so there was nothing to be frightened of, nothing at all.

They entered the cavern and for a moment it was as though they had been turned to stone. Then all hell broke lose. Duenez watched in sardonic amusement as his crew threw themselves mindlessly at the piles of treasure littering the cavern. The fools had no idea of the true prize. Trusting that they were all far too preoccupied to notice, he made his way towards the large stone chest that stood off to one side. He paused at the sight of a dead body lying beneath it, barely more than a skeleton remained. He frowned to himself; he knew that hat. Barbossa. So Sparrow really had killed him. Funny, he'd never have believed the pathetic buffoon capable of it. He had not, after all, had the wit or courage to take the opportunity the treasure's blessing offered. Still Sparrow himself had met his end now, thanks to the useful Stenson. And so the power of the gold would belong to him, Diego Duenez.

Stooping slightly he noticed a glint of gold in the corpses hand. He hesitated for a moment but chose to leave it there. There was enough wealth to be had without robbing the dead.

He stood in front of the stone chest. It was exactly as his grandfather had described it. Trembling ever so slightly he reached out and touched the stone. It was clammy and slightly warm in contrast to the cool air in the cave. He jerked his hand back and cursed his nerves. With a feeling of resolution he shoved the stone lid off the chest, revealing the gold below. Eyes wide he couldn't suppress a gasp at the sight. This was it. His destiny. The fabled treasure of Cortez.

"What's tha' you've found, Capn'?" He glared round for the source of the interruption and recognised Barres, his quartermaster.

"Nothin' ye need concern yerself o'er," he snapped.

"Nothin'?" The rest of the crew began to take notice and slowly moved towards him and the chest. "We signed on for an equal share of everythin', remember?"

"There's enough swag in 'ere for equal shares without this," Duenez protested but as he studied their faces he knew it would be to no avail.

"Lets see what our Capn's found, shall we boys?" They rushed the chest and Duenez, badly outnumbered, had no way of stopping them. With a feeling of helplessness he watched as each man seized at least one piece for himself. Then, as quickly as it had started it was over. Satisfied with their take they wandered away to continue examining the rest of the hoarde.

Duenez stared after them in disbelief. How had his plans gone so badly wrong? Only he was supposed to receive the power of the Aztec gold. Uncertain of what to do next, his eye fell on Barbossa's cold, dead corpse. It seemed as though the dead man was laughing at him. Shivering slightly he looked back to the chest. There were still a few pieces of gold in it. There were, after all, advantages to be had from controlling an immortal army.

With a barely perceptible hesitation he reached in and took a coin. While the design on it was a little unnerving he continued his study of the gold, turning it over in his hand. To get a better look, he lifted it to the brighter light shining in from the top of the cavern. The markings were like none he'd ever seen and more detailed than what he'd heard. Such a small thing that promised so much power, like the compass.

The compass?

Thinking of it he quickly checked his pocket, pulling the instrument out to check that it was still there. It was, thank the gods. Ever since he'd got his hands on it the threat of losing it again had haunted both his restless dreams and waking thoughts. Staring at its face, he was a little surprised to note that the needle pointed dead ahead of him – at the chest. Lost in thought he didn't notice the tattered bundle of fur approach until it launched itself directly at his neck.

Yelping in surprise and disgust he accidentally dropped the compass, which fell straight into the stone chest. Frantically his hands went to his throat and he wrestled desperately with the thing that clung to him. Sharp teeth dug into his throat and he could sense the things putrid breath on his skin. But he couldn't feel it. . Inwardly he almost smiled as realization broke through the fear. The power of the gold had already taken root in the tiny part of his mind and calm replaced his fear. No longer was he concerned with freeing himself. Still several of his crew ran up to help him and together they managed to pull the wretched thing away and send it flying across the cave. It was a monkey he noticed as it scuttled off to some dark corner. His nose wrinkled; he'd always despised monkeys.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw it - the blood red light. The chest was glowing with it. With a growing sense of dread he turned towards it and looked inside. The compass lay on top of the few remaining coins. They all appeared to be coated in blood. The light didn't appear to be coming from anywhere in particular, or perhaps it would be truer to say it was coming from everywhere. Unthinkingly he reached out his hand towards the compass. As soon as he touched it he felt a jolt; not painful exactly, but enough that he cried out and sprang back. The tips of his fingers now glowed red as though covered in unnatural blood. Terrified he watched with unguarded horror as it first covered his entire hand then began slithering up his arm. With a cold feeling deep in the pit of his stomach he realised that wherever it engulfed he couldn't feel as surely as if it no longer was part of him.

Stumbling he backed away from the chest, hoping irrationally that the distance would help. Helplessly, desperately he turned to his crew but they just stood and stared at his struggles, apparently struck dumb. It was at his shoulder now, spreading up his neck and very rapidly down his torso. As he lost contact with the tip of his chin and his thighs at the same time, he couldn't help but scream – a scream that was very quickly cut off as the blood-stuff flowed over his mouth. It continued to reverberate around his head for some time though, as the nightmare slid up his face until it crawled over, and into, his eyes, obscuring his vision with unending redness. Then there was nothing.

The first thing that Barbossa was aware of was the pain, a kind of dull ache present in every bone in his body as though he had been lying in the same position for too long. Then he remembered that he was supposed to be dead. He remembered the unexpected chill, the blood and a pair of expressionless dark eyes watching him. He had died. He became aware of something in his hand. Curiously he looked down – it was a piece of the Aztec gold. That possibly went someway towards explaining it then. Cautiously he stood up. He was in the cave, which was full of people he didn't recognize. They all appeared to be looking over his shoulder. Struggling to get his bearings, he turned around; a man stood there, a man that he vaguely remembered, Duenez or something. He hadn't been glowing red the last time Barbossa had seen him of course.

"Barbossa. You have awakened the wrath of the Aztec gods for a second time." That wasn't Duenez's voice. That was the sort of voice that he had always believed did not really exist outside of childhood nightmares; a voice that seemed to come from the inside of his own skull. He could hear the agitated murmurings of the unknown pirates behind him He ignored them and stared directly at the blood-red figure.

"Oh? And who might ye be?" he sneered.

"We speak for them. We are the curse inflicted on you as punishment for your greed."

The gold in his hand – he realized fully what that meant. "So I'll be breaking it again."

Duenez or whatever he was now, grinned unpleasantly revealing teeth that were tipped with blood. "It is not that simple, pirate. You have died and yet you now live. It is not your blood that is needed to lift your curse."

There was a pause; Barbossa rolled his eyes. "Whose is it then?" he demanded.

The thing laughed. Barbossa pulled out his pistol and aimed it. "Tell me," he growled.

The thing only laughed harder. "Shoot, if you will. I cannot be killed." The mocking words held the ring of truth. "I shall tell you what you wish to know. It remains to be seen whether you are capable of understanding it." It shifted slightly and somehow seemed far taller than it had before. "The life blood of the one who is innocent, returned to the chest, shall set you free."

Barbossa frowned. "That's it?"

It laughed again but ignored him. Its gaze swept over the rest of the quivering pirates. "You are all accursed," it announced. "You cannot die but nor are you alive. Suffer." It's gaze returned to Barbossa. "You have one month. If you fail you shall walk this earth as a living corpse for the rest of time."

Then it grinned widely and thick black smoke began to pour from it. It was still grinning as it burnt away to nothing.

Barbossa shook his head, trying to dismiss the smell of burning flesh and the appalling sizzling noise from his mind. He turned to the waiting pirates. They didn't look up to much; a couple of them were retching in the corner. All the same they were all he had. "Alright, ye dogs. Yer working for me now. Ye help me break m' curse and I'll tell you how to break your'n."

There was an uncertain pause, then a chorus of "Aye Capn'," echoed around the caves.

"Leave the gold and head fer the ship," he ordered. It was best to keep them moving, best not to let them start thinking about ways in which curses might be broken. As for himself, he didn't yet understand the curse's words but he knew one who might - the man who had first told him of the Aztec gold. The man who'd put a lead ball in his chest and left him to rot. His murderer.

Jack Sparrow.


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