Personal note: My apologies to anyone who was expecting an update for Q Me?. My brother forced me to watch POTC for the first time while I was working on Q Me and the Mallory gent showed up and will NOT leave me alone. I have NOT forgotten Q Me and will try to keep both stories rolling. Both stories are completely unbeta read – any errors are completely my own. All reviews are greatly appreciated.
Historical note: The real Capt. Morgan died in Port Royal in 1689 not Tortuga in 1683 as in this chapter. I will try to note when I play fast and loose with history. But given that the movie itself reverses Port Royal and Tortuga (Port Royal was actually established because the pirates had been thrown out of Tortuga. Port Royal for over a decade was widely known as the 'wickedest city on earth'.) I'm not sure that there's much of a point to strict historical accuracy. Also while Cortes retreat from Mexico is accurate I never managed to find out what happened to the real treasure. So without further ado, allow me to present…Blood of Avalon
Chapter 1: Sparrow's Folly
"Damn it, Will. I told you not to do anything stupid!" Jack's voice sounded impossibly far away even though I could feel his hand on my shoulder.
"Oh, God please no" a voice I didn't recognize whispered "not now."
I tried to open my eyes but the lids felt like they'd been weighted. I drew a breath to speak but it bubbled into a cough. It was then that the pain hit. The whole world was on fire.
"Shallow breaths, whelp. It'll hurt less." Jack offered. "You'll be fine."
I wanted to call him a liar. I'm not a fool Jack – I can see the truth in your eyes. I'm dying. Another face appeared beside Jack's. It's almost like looking into a mirror. Lighter hair touched with grey and more lines but it's my face. I open my mouth to speak but all I get is the coppery taste of blood and more pain. It isn't fair. This is wrong. I'm supposed to meet my father for the first time today not bleed to death on a Jamaican beach. I can't be dying. I can't leave Elizabeth. I gasp with the pain caught between the fire in my belly and the ice everywhere else. Gut shot, I'm gut shot. My father smoothes the hair back off of my face. He has rough hands.
"Don't try to talk, son. Call Mallory" he ordered Jack.
"I haven't seen Mallory in over ten years, Bill" Jack shot back.
My father wrapped his hands around Jack's lapels and drug him up so that they were standing over me.
"Don't tell me you can't find him. I was there when he promised to return any time you called him."
Jack opened his mouth to speak but my father shook him like a rag doll "Don't you let your damn stubborn pride kill my son, Sparrow."
Jack shook his head "I don't keep him in me back pocket Bill." He glanced down at me and quickly away before looking at my father. "Bill.."
This time my father ripped Jack's jacket and shirt open. Elizabeth once mentioned Jack's scars – I don't think she saw them all – no man could survive those injuries.
"I saw him save you Sparrow – three bullets to the chest, two in the belly, and a half dozen sword thrusts. You were a dead man Jack and you wouldn't even have scars if you hadn't lambasted him with a book while he was trying to save your life."
I had to smile at that even through the pain. I could see Jack doing it.
"He left me" Jack protested.
"Because you put that bloody pistol of Barbossa's to your temple and threatened to blow your brains all over him if he didn't. At least give the boy a chance Jack."
Captain Jack Sparrow flushed all the way to his bandana and dropped down beside me. He pulled a whistle from somewhere and blew. I didn't hear a thing. Great a whistle that doesn't blow to match a compass that doesn't point north. Speaking of which Jack pulled it out of his pocket and was taking a quick heading.
He grabbed my face "Stay here and don't do anything else stupid - like dying. I don't know if even old Mallory can raise the dead." He smiled at me "Or maybe he can I never thought to ask."
He held the compass out to my father "Get Gibbs and get him on the Pearl. I'll head overland, get the whelp's bonnie lass, and meet you in the cove."
My father pushed the compass back "You take the boy. They know you in Port Royal."
"You don't know the town or the lass" Jack shot back. "No time to argue, mate."
"Damn you Jack. Mallory will kill us all if you aren't safe and sound when he arrives. I'm sorry son."
The darkness claimed me when he and Gibbs tried to roll me onto an improvised stretcher.
"Shush, Will I'm watching over you."
"Here whelp, this'll take the edge off it." I turned my head away. Jack looked crestfallen "I think I'm insulted, mate. I don't share me rum with just anyone." He continued with more seriousness then I ever would have thought him capable of "I've been where ye are whelp. Drink the rum."
"Please, Will." Elizabeth had taken the cup from Jack. I tried to lean forward to take a sip. I managed not to scream in front of Elizabeth. I panted weakly staring at the Pearl's signature black sails above me. This time it was my father's worried eyes I met.
"Just hold on Will" he commanded as Elizabeth gave me small sips of rum.
"Why do keep consulting that thing?" she snapped "We don't want to go to the Isla de Muerta."
Jack smiled "But the compass doesn't point to Isla de Muerta, luv. It points to where I want to go." He flipped it shut "and today I want to find Mallory quick as quick can be."
"Sounds like witchcraft" Governor Swann offered from somewhere to my left "The law is quite strict regarding…"
Jack looked as annoyed as I've ever seen him when he cut in "Don't much care, mate."
I finally spotted the Governor out of the corner of my eye as he blanched under Jack's none too jovial gaze.
I started to speak but Jack shushed me.
He forced a smile, sprawled across from me, and flung his hands wide "Ah, a captive audience, me favorite kind. Now, I'm sure you're all waiting with baited breath for old Jack to tell you a bit about this Mallory gent. Well, except for Bill who already knows him from when he was captain of the Pearl. Of course even Bill doesn't know how I met Mallory and I suppose I might as well begin at the beginning." I couldn't help smiling a little through the pain. Jack can be so entertaining which was undoubtedly the point. I was grateful for the thought but this wasn't something a story and a little rum was going to put a dent in. Maybe he could at least distract Elizabeth.
"I was just a wee slip of a lad picking pockets in Tortuga. Not having a mum I'm not sure how old I was – I'll hazard seven but mind you it's an educated guess…
He ducked and dodged, twisting through spaces too small for his pursuers as he reveled in the triumph of having stolen Captain Morgan himself's purse. Of course doing it under the eyes of a half-dozen of his men hadn't been the wisest course but it was the thrill of the danger as much as the coins in the heavy purse that drove him. He whipped around a corner – right into a dead end. He whirled but four of his pursuers were already between him and the only way out. Just then Morgan himself appeared.
"There are moments, boy, when I admire pluck and daring but your timing's off lad. Teach him a lesson men."
"What kind of lesson?" one of the pirates leered "he's a right comely little mite."
He swallowed suddenly realizing that he'd earned himself something far worse than just a beating.
"Let him be." Another voice commanded from beyond the pirates. He craned his neck in hopes both of spotting his benefactor and finding a way to slip past the seven men now clustered at the end of the alley. The pirates had turned and fanned out. He cursed quietly, even though the other man now had their attention there was still no way out of the alley past them.
"Do you have any idea who I am, scalawag?" Morgan bellowed.
"Don't know, don't care" the lean man replied unruffled.
"I am Sir Henry Morgan and unless the boy is yours I suggest you attend to your own affairs."
The man was clearly unimpressed either with Morgan's name or the collection of cutlasses and pistols pointed in his direction.
"I seem to be without any affairs of my own at the moment, so I've decided to mind the boy's."
"You're mad" Morgan barked.
"Perhaps, but you still will do the boy no harm while I breath, Sir Henry Morgan."
The boy shifted waiting eagerly for the right moment to slither past.
"Who are ye? Ye dress like a scalawag but ye speak like a lord."
The man bared his teeth, hands still empty at his sides "I'm not as free with my name as you are Henry but if you don't stand aside ye'll call me Death."
"No man speaks to me that way and lives, no matter how blue his blood."
The pirates laughed when their opponent pulled nothing more deadly than a long, slender knife. The pirate that had called him comely made the first move and the fight was on. He watched avidly not caring one whit about who lived or died – just waiting for the opening he needed. There! He bolted sliding past the fighting men and kept running for all he was worth. It wasn't until he reached the relative safety at the edge of the market that he turned back in time to see the lean man let the last pirate slip to the ground. The man turned and his eyes met the stranger's brilliant green ones before ducking into the crowd…
"You expect me to believe" Elizabeth began in the same tone I'd used with Gibbs when he'd spouted that hogwash story about sea turtles "that the mysterious death of Sir Henry Morgan was precipitated by you stealing his purse and that a lone assailant armed only with a knife was his killer and not the twenty men in the pay of the Spanish crown that was reported?"
Jack smiled "Can't help what you've read, luv. Would I lie to you?"
"You lie, Jack, even when you tell the truth" she turned to my father who spread his hands.
"I was still in London when Morgan died but I'll say this I've seen what Mallory can do with that long white knife of his. If you asked me to put me money down on a fight between Mallory and six men with cutlasses I'd bet on Mallory."
Elizabeth studied my father "You're afraid of him."
"He's not one to cross, Ma'am."
Jack rolled his eyes "You're interrupting me story. It was with Morgan that I first laid eyes on Mallory but do to the circumstances we didn't have time for proper introductions…
He paused, winded, and glanced back. There was no sign of his green-eyed shadow. The man had proved doggedly hard to shake. He'd tried every trick he knew and yet he was always there. Closer to catching up every time. In desperation he ducked into one of the town's many bawdy houses and quickly scurried up onto a balcony trying to spot the man hunting him without being spotted himself.
"Well, well, well if it isn't little Jackie boy"
He swallowed and turned to face this new threat.
"Heard tell ye picked Morgan himself's purse. Ye always did have more balls than brains, Jack-o. Hand it over."
"Hand what over?" he asked innocently.
The young man pulled a knife.
"I have a friend coming to meet me. Wouldn't want him to get the wrong idea, mate."
His assailant chuckled "You don't have any friends, Jack-o. Never have. You're all by your onesies. Ain't nobody gonna come looking for Harry over the like's o' yea. Ain't no one to going ta even miss ye."
He wished suddenly that he hadn't managed to shake the stranger. The man had proven providential earlier. He was cornered on the balcony with no where to go when Harry lunged forward. The knife left a path of pain and blood as he unthinkingly threw himself backwards away from the blade in his ribs. The rickety railing creaked once in protest before giving way and dumping him backwards into the street three stories below. He pinwheeled his arms in a frantic attempt to keep his already lost balance. As his vision grayed his realized he hadn't hit the ground but was cradled in a pair of arms. He blinked up into emerald green eyes as a voice promised "I won't let you fall, Sparrow."
It was the smell of food that woke him, that and the realization that he was ravenously hungry but he couldn't remember how he'd gotten here. For that matter he didn't know where here was and if there was one thing he'd learned it was caution. So he left his eyes closed and his breathing even while stretching out his other senses. He was lying on something soft and warm. A bed. He realized. An honest to God bed. He'd never been in a bed before. Sat on one once in one of the cheap bawdy houses but it had been hard and lumpy and reeked of something. This bed was every bit as wonderful as he dreamed a bed could be and all he could smell was the food so it must be a clean bed. It occurred to him that his side didn't hurt and it should. He wanted to reach down and touch the wound but that would give away the fact that he was awake. Maybe this was heaven? He'd listened to the old priest talk about heaven, just before the pirates killed him. The old man had been brought to Tortuga to be ransomed but no money had been forthcoming. Daft old fool had forgiven them when they'd gut shot him. Had claimed he pitied them had said he was bound for heaven now that death had come for him. The stranger had called himself Death and the priest had never said what death looked like. Did Death have green eyes? If heaven was a place with soft beds and food that tasted as good as it smelled then he wished he'd died sooner. He wondered if he might see the priest again. That would be nice – he missed the priest. The priest smiled at him. And not the smile that some of the pirates gave him. The ones that called him 'comely', he didn't like those smiles and he liked what came after even less. But the priest hadn't been like that he'd treated him like he mattered. Had even asked his name. He hadn't had one to give though – so the priest had called him Jack.
There was a strange scratching sound. He was abruptly aware even without opening his eyes that the green eyed stranger was at the foot of the bed. He peeked quickly. He was sitting across the doorway with a book across his lap. The scratching had been the sound of his quill on the parchment. He laid the quill in the book and tucked the book into his shirt. He opened his eyes a bit further. There was no sign of the book – it should be clearly visible. There was no way you could hide a book that big in a shirt. Not from a good slip – and he was a good slip.
"Good morning, Sparrow."
He glanced around – no windows and only one door – trapped.
"My name's Jack."
The stranger shrugged "Jack Sparrow then."
"Am I dead?"
"Why are you following me?" he asked as he sat up in the bed.
"I have a proposition to offer you Jack Sparrow but you keep running away."
"I ain't got no coin" he protested.
The stranger arched a brow "You have Captain Morgan's purse."
"Harry took it."
"Harry didn't get far."
He gulped and was suddenly very glad he wasn't Harry.
"You'll find it on the night stand with not a coin missing."
"What do ye want?"
"Now, Jack Sparrow that's exactly what I've been waiting to ask ye. What do you want?"
"What you mean?"
"In fourteen years Jack Sparrow when you're a man grown where do you wish to be?"
He just blinked back at the man.
"No dreams, Jack Sparrow?"
"I want ta be captain of the fastest ship in the Caribbean."
"In the end, Jack Sparrow, all that really matters is what a man can do and what he can't do" the stranger reflected "Can you build a ship? Buy one? Commandeer one? Sail one? Navigate? Read the weather? Find a port in a storm? Provision a ship far from any 'civilized' town? Command men in battle? Fight with a blade? Staunch a friend's wounds? Load and fire a gun? It's not an easy thing Sparrow being Captain."
He sank back down on the bed deflated.
The stranger smiled at him like the priest had. "But I have done all those things Sparrow, and many more. I will teach you Sparrow, if you let me."
"What's in it for you? If I picked every pocket in Tortuga I could not pay the coin that's worth."
The stranger sighed
"No all treasure is silver and gold, mate.
And there are some things all the treasure in the world can not purchase
Sparrow. If in fourteen years when ye
stand as Captain Jack Sparrow on your own quarter deck we'll both know whether
I've earned that which I seek. And if not Sparrow I'll never trouble ye
again. Do we have an accord?"
He though furiously but all the advantage and profit seemed to be on his side. He put small hand out and they shook on it.
"Your breakfast, Captain Sparrow" the stranger presented the tray with a grandiose flourish.
"Undeniably, an unfortunate failing of my entire House. The blood is simply far too blue."
He took a bite of the eggs. Heavenly, so warm and fluffy. He glanced up. What was it the priest had said when he had shared his meager meals with him? 'I don't like to eat alone, Jack'. Harry had said nobody would miss him, that he was all by his onesies. Harry was wrong – he wasn't anymore. He was in an accord with, with. Well, that wouldn't do.
"Have you already ate?"
The stranger thought a moment "Not recently."
"I don't like to eat by me onesies" he muttered quickly "Won't ye have some with me?"
The stranger settled himself cross-legged on the bed across from him "I would be most honored Captain Sparrow to join you for breakfast."
He wondered briefly what sort of mad man he'd taken up with as they ate. But he'd liked the daft priest better than anyone he'd ever know. Maybe it was better to be daft like…
"What's your name?"
The stranger swallowed before answering "You may call me Mallory."
"That's not your real name."
"No, it isn't."
He just stared at the man across from him. Who smiled again – a different smile from either the pirates' or the priest's – he wasn't sure if he liked it or not.
"I could say, Sparrow that it isn't always wise to use your real name and that would be true but the truth is that I hate my real name and I never want to hear it again. Now, finish your breakfast Captain, we have a ship to build."
"You requested the fastest ship on the Caribean – well, there are things Mallory knows about ships and the sea that no shipyard in the world does and no ship they build will ever match the Black Pearl." Mallory slipped off the bed in one fluid motion.
Mallory laughed – not the menacing chuckle of the pirates or the over bright laugh of the bawds but a sound like the wind playing on waves. He tossed a pile of clothes on the bed. New clothes, without no tears or nothin.
"Get changed, Sparrow and I'll meet you below. Come on boy, Pearl want's to feel Sea under her keel and she can't until we build her."
He threw on the new clothes suddenly infected with his mad companion's enthusiasm…
Jack ran a proprietary hand over the Pearl's rail and gave her a look that was as loving as any I've given Elizabeth.
"It took us a year. Mallory laid every plank, stitched every sail with me at his side. The only thing he did alone was the guns – he sent me out on me first solo voyage on his pinnace The Peregrine for two weeks while he worked them."
I realized suddenly that the fire in my gut was fading but I was so cold. I tried to hang on to Jack's words. It certainly gave a new slant to Jack's obsession with regaining the Pearl. I'd thought it had just been revenge on Barbossa. I'd personally thought ten years was a long time to chase a ship, a long time to put your life on hold, except clearly Pearl had been Jack's life. I remembered too how terrified and desperate I'd been when my mother died. I'd been eleven and suddenly completely alone in the world how much worse to be so young and abandoned?
"Then we sailed her for ten years with Mallory as Captain and me working my way up through every roll in the crew. Mallory was the closest thing to a Da ol' Jack Sparrow ever had." Jack was twirling his rings and studying the deck. "Looking back Mallory was a better da than any man I've ever known had. No matter what kind of scrape I got into Mallory never once let me fall. Never lost his temper. Never raised hand or voice ta me. Taught me everything I know worth knowing. Made me head swim, he did with all the learning he tried to stuff into it. Near worked me arms off at sword-play. Showed Jack Sparrow the whole world. Circumnavigated the globe, we did. Seemed there wasn't a coastline in the world Mallory didn't know. And when I proved to be a mutton-head at navigation he made me a compass that always pointed me to where I wanted to go. I served as first mate for two years and then we switched with him as mate and me as Captain. I was Captain, lass when I sacked Naussa port without firing a shot but it was Mallory that carried it off. So we put into Tortuga with the hold bursting with swag. Got it into me head that I needed some space if I was ever going ta make a proper reputation for meself. Or I should say Barbossa put it in me head the month I spent more than three sheets ta the wind in the Rusty Rudder. Now Mallory never touched rum, nor any other drink. He'd fetch himself up in a corner with a mug of naught but water and just watch. Never went up to a room with a doxy" Jack smiled "God but I plagued him with eunuch jibes. Whelp ye've no idea how merciful I've been ta you. Before it'd always felt good knowing that someone had me back but this time it felt like I was being mother henned. Like I wasn't man enough to look after meself. And the I noticed that Barbossa only came around when Mallory wasn't which it eventually sank into me pickled brain meant that Mallory was coming and going too. I got rather indignant that he hadn't told me though Lord knows none of the rest of me crew was checking in either. I took me bottle of rum and I went in search of Mallory…
He'd been staggering down toward the docks when someone swung him into a niche.
"M'llry" he started to slur in protest before he found his mouth covered.
"Quiet" Mallory hissed before pushing him further back into the alcove and whirling back out to face the street. Something dark and shadowy slipped past. Something that's very presence turned his blood to ice water and he was suddenly more sober than he'd been in weeks. A pack of white hounds with red ears and eyes followed close behind. Mallory canted his head listening and then slipped back out into the alley.
"Sparrow, what are you doing here?" Mallory sounded desperate.
"Looking for you. Bloody hell!" He suddenly realized that Mallory was coated in gore from head to toe.
"Don't fret. So far none of it's mine. Jack, please go to the Pearl, now."
"Not until you tell me what the blazes is going on."
"My father has issued a rather forceful invitation for me to return home. I am in the process of sending a resounding no in response. There is no need for you to be either concerned or involved. Come, I'll go to the boats with you."
He shoved clear of Mallory suddenly angry "I'm not a child that needs to be coddled and guarded."
Mallory's gaze flickered to the left and he tilted his head as if listening to something behind him.
"I swear Sparrow you have the most abominable timing. The Cwn Annun are loose in Tortuga tonight led by the Helwyr, supported by the Gwyllgi, a score of cythraul, and a difaenaid."
"I'm a little old for fairy tales, Mallory" he snapped.
"We truly, truly need to talk, boy." Mallory caught his arm and started dragging him toward the beach "Please go to the Pearl. I'll join you aboard tomorrow and explain."
"If you're in trouble let me help."
"Sparrow, you're drunk and I'd go willingly to Him before I let you in a fight with a difaenaid."
He finally managed to wrest his hand free of Mallory's vice-like grip. He turned to face Mallory but suddenly the whole world spun.
"Sorry Sparrow" Mallory whispered and then called "William!"
"It's Bill, Mr. Mallory, just Bill."
"The Captain's a bit in his cups – would you see him back to the Pearl for me?"
He felt Bill slip a steadying arm around him. He wanted to protest that he wasn't that drunk, except he couldn't seem to speak and just staying upright was more work than he could ever remember it being. What the blazes had Mallory done to him?
"Is there something amiss, Mr. Mallory?" Bill's breath tickled his ear.
"We're being followed. I'll see you to the boat and then finish dealing with the issue."
"Do ye need a hand, sir?"
"Just see the Captain to the Pearl, Mr. Turner" Mallory's tone had gone absolutely icy.
Bill yelped, nearly loosing his balance as Mallory shoved the little boat violently off the beach and far into the bay before he was fully settled.
"Odd chap, Mr. Mallory" Bill commented as he took up the oars and started rowing out to the Pearl. He just blinked at Bill – couldn't he hear the baying of the hounds? Couldn't he see that Mallory had been smothered in gore? He wanted order Bill to row them back to shore, barring that he wanted to leap out of the bloody boat and swim back to the beach but he was suddenly a prisoner trapped in his own unresponsive body. He stared in horror as the Cwn Annun swept down out of the town but were stopped short of the beach by a great raging inferno. He could feel the heat from here and it lit both the town and bay as bright as noon yet Bill never even blinked.
The outline of a horseman appeared at the edge of the dancing flames. The rider called out a challenge in a language that was vaguely familiar but it wasn't until Mallory bellowed a reply that he placed it – El'lan – the fairy tongue that he had refused to learn. He'd learned the dozen odd languages that Mallory had inflicted on him, even Latin which he had thought a terrible waste of time. But he'd drawn the line at learning the language of imaginary beings. Mallory had treated 'fairy tales' with the seriousness that he'd treated 'outland history' but Mallory was daft and he'd just accepted Mallory's belief in fairies as one of his many oddities. The flames parted and the Helwyr – the Huntsman trotted through the gap. Sparks flew from the great black stallion's hooves as he pawed impatiently. The Helwyr lowered his antlered head in what for all the world appeared to be a bow. If he was any judge of tone at all the Helwyr was pleading. Mallory's reply was clearly a steely no. The Helwyr whirled his mount while Mallory stood his ground. When the Helwyr whirled again in preparation to charge Mallory drew his sword. In the thirteen years he'd known Mallory he'd never actually seen the blade out of its scabbard. Like its matching dagger the blade was a glittering white but while the both edges of the dagger were straight and keen the back edge of the sword was rippled, nearly serrated, clearly designed not to slash but to rend and tear. The blade seemed to exude a menace all its own and he was suddenly glad he'd never seen the thing before, wished in truth that he wasn't seeing it now. The Helwyr spoke again still pleading – Mallory saluted and said "Rhyddid ynteu addoed" with a quiet determination. The Helwyr returned the salute and charged. He'd outright laughed at Mallory when he'd in all seriousness suggested he learn to joust. Jousting – he was going to be a pirate captain on the high bloody seas not a damn knight of the bloody round table! They'd compromised – he'd learned to ride and the basic principals of unseating a rider. Mostly he'd ended up being the one getting unseated because Mallory was a bloody centaur. Even when Mallory had stripped every bit of tack off the horse he'd never managed to throw him. Yet another thing bloody Mallory excelled at. But he had learned very well just how bad a position the guy on the ground was in. He released the breath he hadn't realized he was holding when Mallory survived the first pass apparently unharmed. He eluded his attacker just as nimbly on the second pass. His luck ran out on the third. You could actually hear something snap as the Helwyr's mace thudded home but he stayed on his feet. The stallion pawed as the Helwyr made another plea. The only word he knew was boddhain – please. Mallory's voice was weaker but still determined as he repeated "Rhyddid ynteu addoed". Mallory's left arm hung completely limp at his side and he could see the white dagger lying in the sand. The Helwyr charged again but this time as Mallory vanished behind the stallion's bulk it screamed, throwing its head back in agony. The Helwyr threw himself clear as the animal crumpled into a heap on the beach.
"Tristwch" Mallory said sounding truly apologetic. Why in blazes would Mallory be apologizing to a monster that was trying to kill him?
The fight should have been more even now that the Helwyr had lost his mount and he started to relax utterly confident in Mallory's unmatched skills. Except Mallory wasn't winning, in fact he was barely holding his own. The Helwyr was methodically forcing him backwards up the beach away from the sea and perilously close to the inferno. If he'd had control of his mouth he'd have gaped in shock as Mallory pulled one of the most foolishly desperate moves he'd ever seen. It shouldn't have worked. It really shouldn't except the Helwyr was clearly as stunned by the stupidity as he was and the white sword sank into his chest up to the hilt.
"Maddewch I mi" Mallory entreated as he wrenched the blade free, twisting it to maximize damage and then catching the Helwyr before he could fall. They swayed awkwardly as Mallory tried to compensate for his injured left side before he laid the Helwyr tenderly on the sand.
"Maddewch I mi" he begged again. Mallory hadn't given in gracefully to his refusal to learn El'lan and had taken to peppering his everyday conversations with it until he'd learned a bit perforce. Maddewch I mi – forgive me. Suddenly Mallory's earlier comment about his father clicked home. Mallory knew the Helwyr. Mallory slipped the Helwyr's great antlered helm free letting it roll away unheeded as he pillowed his adversary's head in his lap. Without the helm suddenly the Helwyr no longer seemed a monster - just a man with long, golden hair – and pointed ears. He reached up weakly and brushed Mallory's injured arm and side gently.
"'s dim ots" Mallory replied. Now there was one he knew instantly – it's nothing.
"Celwyddwr" the Helwyr rebutted – another word he recognized easily since Mallory had called him it so often it almost constituted a nick name – liar.
"Maddewch I mi" again from Mallory.
"Beth cayns" – for what?
Mallory's reply was a long almost frantic flutter of words the only one of which he could pick out was lladdedig – slain.
"Hedd bach eneiniog" the Helwyr's voice was weak but there was command in his tone. He searched his meager knowledge of El'lan hedd was peace, bach was little or young, eneiniog was a complete mystery.
Mallory's reply was too soft to carry and the Helwyr's response was lost in the splash of one of Bill's oars hitting the water a little off. He wanted to snap at Bill in annoyance. They were far enough away that he was already straining to hear anything which meant they should be coming alongside the Pearl soon. It was a strange sight to watch a dying being trying to comfort his killer. Odd as well that the Helwyr's voice was actually clearer than Mallory's.
"Ymwroli, tywysogion am ein gobaith." He couldn't make heads or tails of that.
Mallory shook his head "Neb."
"Dis. Chwithau tywysogion a cyfaill. Rhyddid yn addoed. Blachder a gwini." They clasped hands.
"Hwyl, Mannwan." Mallory closed the staring eyes just as they bumped against the Pearl. Bill picked
that particular moment to obstruct his view and he unthinkingly threw himself to the right and nearly swamped them.
"Easy, Capt'n" Bill sounded amused as he sat up in the boat abruptly free of what ever spell had held him. Mallory had risen and crossed the beach to half-kneel before his dagger. Bill frowned and glanced back at the beach "No need to worry about Mr. Mallory, Capt'n. That's one man who can handle himself."
He couldn't help glancing at Bill and wondering about his own sanity "What do see on the beach?"
"It's too dark to see that far" Bill gabbed his arm, concerned "Let's just get you to your cabin, Sir."
He stared at Bill realizing that he couldn't see the fire-light reflected in his eyes. He turned back, the inferno, the dead stallion, the Helwyr, and Mallory were all still on the beach, plain as plain. And then the flames flickered, nearly dying. He blinked, unable to see in the sudden dark but then the fire flared back to life revealing Mallory surrounded by more than a half-dozen Cwn Annun. The wind was rank with the scent of charred dog and the baying of the remainder of the pack was reaching a frenzied pitch. Mallory had recovered his fallen dagger and he was surprised to see him using his left arm. He'd heard it snap but there was no denying that Mallory'd made a miraculous recovery as he dispatched one of the hell hounds with the dagger in his left hand. He made short work of the dogs and then spun starring out over the harbor.
Bill shivered next to him. "Odd cloud. Puts a chill in your bones."
He swallowed as the horror above them cocked its head. He could feel the intensity of its gaze as it stared at him. He froze like a rabbit trapped in a wolf's glare. Just as it opened it maw it was broadsided by a fireball.
"Was that a shooting star or Saint Elmo's Fire?" Bill shook his head "Either way an ill omen."
But both he and the monster had turned to the beach where Mallory was holding a second fireball. He'd always known that Mallory did magic. The compass alone was proof but there'd been other signs through the years. The Pearl herself was proof, though he hadn't realized it as a child. No single man and boy could build a ship of this size, and then there were her timbers. Pearl was built of a strange black wood that he'd never seen anywhere else in the world, timbers that had simply appeared when they were needed. Mallory had even tried to teach him some things but he'd never able to grasp any of it. Still the fireball was rather a surprise really. Very interesting.
"Damn it, Sparrow get aboard the bloody Pearl!" Mallory roared as he flung the second fireball. The creature hissed at Mallory, followed by a growling rumble of El'lan that he didn't follow.
There was a note in Mallory's reply he'd never heard before – fear. The creature made a rasping sound. Good God, it was laughing. It glanced down at him and then back at Mallory and spoke again. Mallory sheathed both his blades and dropped down on one knee in the sand with his arms outstretched. The beast looked outright stunned.
"Please, Jack" the wind whispered in Mallory's voice. The Jack threw him. Mallory never called him Jack at least not without Captain and Sparrow to bookend it as it were. He scuttled up the ladder backwards much to Bill's amusement. The beast's attention snapped back to him just as he swung over the rail. He stumbled backwards as it extended its long neck toward him with its great jaws agape. He drew his sword determined to at least be a spiny mouthful when a great lash of lightening came from the Pearl herself and the beast screamed in agony. Mallory taunted from the beach in a na-na, na-na tone.
"You can sheath your cutlass, sir" Bill soothed "it's just a bit more Saint Elmo's Fire" but Bill was looking at the sky a bit nervously himself. He pushed past Bill as the beast shrieked in rage and turned on Mallory. His jaw dropped. He didn't believe it. He just blinked in the sudden inky darkness. Mallory had turned tail and fled. Unflappable, ice water under fire Mallory had broken and bolted.
"A-hoy" Barbossa's voice drifted up from the other side of the Pearl.
He slid his cutlass back into its sheath and ambled to the port rail.
"Ah, Captain Sparrow. I noticed ye'd quit the Rudder and thought I might have a quiet word with ye. Permission to come aboard, Captain?"
He stepped back giving Barbossa ample room.
"Ah, Jack, she's a beauty, she is. You're a lucky man, Jack. To have something so fine so young. A course ye've got Mallory ta thank for it. Got ye tucked up under his wing – wonder if he'll ever let ye fly?"
He fixed his attention on Jack "Have ye thought on me proposition? That is of course if ye really know the way to Isla de Muerta at all."
"Of course I know the way to Isla de Muerta. I'm Captain Jack Sparrow. The only question is if you and your lads will dare the wrath of the Aztec Gods."
"I think we can handle it. If the gold be there at all."
"Oh, it's there 882 identical pieces in a stone chest. I've seen it mate. The treasure of Cortez on the Island of the Dead just waiting for the pirate bold enough to take it."
"Talk's cheap, Captain Sparrow. Do we have an accord?"
He nodded "We have an accord. Bring your lads aboard."
"Made the biggest mistake of me whole life that night whelp. Left behind a crew that was absolutely loyal ta me. Just sailed away without a word. Good men, like your father. Each and every one hand picked by Mallory and that was the problem at least in me mind. They called me Captain but too many of them remembered me as a boy and they looked to Mallory. And I was too impatient to earn their respect as Captain. So I took Barbossa and his crew of miscreants instead. Three days later I woke up in me own brig."
"Wait a minute" Elizabeth interupted "You'd been to Isla de Muerta before?" I'd wondered about that myself in the moments when my whole concentration wasn't consumed with remembering to breath.
"Of course, Mallory took me. But that's a different story Lizzy. Now, as I was saying."
"But how did you know there were 882 pieces?"
"One story at a time, Mrs. Turner" Jack sighed theatrically "as ye like but I'm warning you, you're disrupting the whole flow of me discourse. It was three years before I lost the Pearl, just before Mallory promoted me to mate. We left Matthews in charge of reprovisioning the Pearl and we set out in the Peregrine, just the two of us. Like the old days…Flashback
"Where are we bound for?"
Mallory's eyes were far away "Isla de Muerta."
"The Island of the Dead? The island that can only be found by those who already know where it is? Ye never said ye knew where it was."
Mallory shrugged "You never asked."
He rolled his eyes "I've never noticed ye being shy about imparting information before. So why are we going to Isla de Muerta?"
Mallory shook his head "Patience is a virtue, Sparrow."
"But vice is so much more agreeable" he rebutted.
"Ah, the passing pleasures of sin." Mallory glanced at him.
"Hebrews 11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasure of sin." He quoted tiredly "Would you like it in the original Latin?"
"Actually given that it was a letter to the Hebrews I doubt that it was originally in Latin."
"I ain't learning bloody Jewish."
"Hebrew, Arabic, or Copetic maybe."
"Not them neither."
Mallory had gone back to staring at the horizon.
"So about Isla de Muerta?"
"Soon enough, Sparrow, there it is" he nodded toward the speck that had just appeared on the horizon.
He turned and shivered "Ugly place."
"Doesn't get any better up close. How many ships?"
"On the bottom, Sparrow. You want to know why it's called Isla de Muerta you tell me how many hulls are lying on the bottom of this passage."
He glanced at Mallory and then scrambled up the rigging so he could get a more panoramic view. He rejoined Mallory on the deck when they dropped anchor.
"I'd like to think I taught you better than that Sparrow. Let's go ashore."
He frowned at Mallory, a little surprised at the rebuff, and then followed him to the boat. He was even more surprised when they went past a cave entrance, grounded the boat on a rock ledge, and started climbing along a narrow trail. When they reached the top of the promontory Mallory passed him the glass.
"Now, Sparrow, how many ships?"
"I can't see the bottom from here" he protested.
"Don't look at the bottom. Look at Sea, learn to read her face and you'll never want for knowing what she's hiding in her depths."
"Nine, not seven, nine ships, three reefs and a shoal."
"Well done, Sparrow. The ships are the Pascoe, the Rosario, the Cacafuego, the Gran Grifon, the Gama Dorado, the La Capitana, the Madre de Dios, the Santa Ana, and the San Luis."
"And you can tell that from here just by looking at the Sea?"
"No" Mallory whispered "I know because I sent them to the bottom." He turned abruptly backtracking a bit and then taking a spur trail to a small plateau.
"In 1520 the Aztec Emperor Montezuma gave a man he thought was the god Queztalcoatl a great treasure in hopes that he would leave Mexico. Unfortunately for Montezuma the gold only whetted Cortez's greed. Not long afterward Montezuma was murdered and in the course of the Spanish retreat the gold was lost. And so it remained for many years but nothing stays lost forever. The gold was found at a highly fortuitous moment for Spain and a disastrous one for England. The two countries were on the brink of war and the English treasury was utterly empty. If the treasure of Cortes reached Spain it would finance an undefeatable fleet on the other hand if it could be discretely stolen then it would give England her one chance to prepare for the war. As ye know Sparrow there's a difference between a pirate and a privateer, but what most don't know is that there's two kinds of privateer. The first and most common are the ones that have a letter of marque to pillage the shipping of a foreign nation but there is a second group. Drawn directly from among the Royal Navy, not pressed men but the best of the best, chosen for their absolute loyalty to the Crown and assigned the tasks that it isn't… diplomatic for the Crown to acknowledge. Men who know that if they're captured they will not be accorded the privileges of a prisoner of war and that they may in truth be disavowed and executed as criminals by the very Crown they serve. I and my men were ordered.."
"You? A Captain in the bloody Royal Navy?" he crowed in disbelief.
"No, Sparrow, not a Captain, an Admiral."
He just shook his head, Mallory might know the sea better than any man alive but he was so damned daft. He sighed resigning himself to listening to God alone knew what bit of madness. Mind you it was generally interesting madness, Mallory was quite a story teller but still. He'd come to the conclusion that Mallory was just too learned. The way he figured it a man's mind could only hold so much before it cracked and Mallory had clearly exceeded the limits. It made him doubly determined, it did, not to learn all the bleeding stuff Mallory tried to fob off on him.
"As I was saying I left the bulk of my fleet with my less than brilliant second and stalked the Cortez Treasure Fleet with just my own vessel. Four ships packed with ordinance and fighting men, five galleons so full that they were near to foundering. I penned them in the narrows and between my guns and the reefs pounded the guard ships to bits. Between that display and my reputation the treasure galleons surrendered without another shot fired."
"Your reputation?" he asked hopefully.
"We both know, Sparrow, that Mallory isn't the only name I've worn."
"Have I heard of ye?"
"You've heard. Not from my lips but you've heard."
"Who are ye?"
"Mallory" was the snapped reply.
He felt his own anger flare in frustration at yet another evasion from 'Mallory'. "Then who were you?"
"Someone I hope never to be again" was Mallory's soft reply. "I had the Spanish sailors stow all the treasure in the cave below us. I had my crew load as much as my own vessel could safely take. Then I had the prisoners brought up here and handed shovels." Mallory swallowed and took a deep breath "I told them that I'd decided that the treasure was too exposed below and wished to bury some up here. What I didn't tell them is that I'd had the galleons scuttled in the midst of the passage to hinder the approach to the island and that I'd stripped them of their guns." Mallory pointed "They're still in place. I had them loaded with nails and crushed glass and when the pit was deep enough I had the guns uncovered, pulled the sentries back and opened fire. No quarter, no mercy, and nowhere to go. Two hundred and thirty-seven men who'd surrendered to me in good faith."
Now he knew it was pure blabberdash "You – no quarter? You – broke your word?"
"I never actually gave them my word – I gave them no terms at all. It was an unconditional surrender" Mallory produced a shovel from somewhere and tossed it to him. "If you don't believe me then dig Sparrow. I misjudged how deep a pit you need for 237 men, there's very little soil over them at all."
He stood there a moment staring at the shovel before tossing back to Mallory. The shovel came flying back at him so fast that he stumbled as he caught it and landed heavily on his arse. He shook his stinging left hand surprised to see a trickled of blood on it. He glanced down and realized that he had landed in a scatter of nails and crushed glass. He scrambled up suddenly wanting off this spooky island.
"Ye nearly sent Bailey through the mast when he wanted to load the forward guns with nails and crushed glass. Ye said only a brute would use such a weapon."
"Yes, I said it because I know from experience." Mallory gave him a not smile "All these years you've wheedled and whined to know my past Sparrow and now you balk. Dig boy."
He took out his anger on the shovel, shoving it violently into the earth. Mallory had said they weren't buried deep but he hadn't expected to bring up a skull in his first shovel full. He jerked back in surprise and the skull rolled away, coming to rest at Mallory's feet. Mallory cocked his head as if listening.
"Diego de Esposia."
Mallory had dropped on one knee and picked up the skull.
"His name was Diego de Esposia from the Gama Dorada. He's one of the ones I slit the throats of."
He decided he really didn't need to know anything else. He preferred the Mallory he knew that was a stickler for parley, granting quarter, and general all around fairness. The thought that the past held a different Mallory was disconcerting at best.
Mallory was staring deeply into the empty eye sockets "Even at my worst I didn't bury men alive." Mallory shuddered "and I took the responsibility for killing anyone that survived the guns personally. Diego was near the end of the day. I was in a hurry and cut too deeply. Nearly decapitated him. Got my dagger stuck here" he touched the back of his own neck "Lodged it in the fourth vertebra. Terribly sloppy, messy too. If you dig a little deeper you can confirm the notch in the bone." Mallory's green eyes held his over the crown of the skull "I'm not lying Sparrow."
"Why did I kill them? Because dead men tell no tales, at least not to human ears, and because if the King of Spain had known about this he would have launched his attack long before we were ready. The question isn't why did I kill them, Sparrow, but why was I fighting for the English?"
"You're not English?" That was almost as much a surprise as the nails and crushed glass.
"Not English, not Spanish. It wasn't for patriotism – all a flag is is a rag on a stick. And it wasn't for greed – the English crown may have been bankrupt but I certainly was not and not a coin did I keep. And it wasn't for fame – I've never had your craving for a reputation though I certainly earned one."
That intent stare Mallory was giving the skull was beginning to truly, truly disturb him, this was not the turn Mallory's madness generally took.
"The truth? A personal vendetta against the King of Spain but instead of just walking up and killing the silly git I smiled at him across the council table and made war on his whole bloody empire." Mallory hadn't taken his eyes off the skull "I know it doesn't mean much but I am sorry that you never went home, that your daughters grew up without their father, that your wife was left a widow, and that they never knew what became of you. I'd like to be able to say that if I had it to do over I'd do it differently but I'm not sure I can. All I can say is that I truly regret that you and the others got caught in the middle."
Good God, but Mallory'd completely lost it – he was talking tothe damn thing. This is what came of too much bloody Shakespeare if he started wringing his hands and 'crying out damn spot' he was going to sail away on the Peregrine and leave Mallory to his raving.
"So ye are a lord's son" he said in hopes of distracting Mallory. He'd never been so relieved in his life as when Mallory rose and gently replaced the skull. Mallory took the shovel from his unresisting fingers and smoothed the soil back over the mass grave.
"You undershoot the mark, Sparrow, I actually stand above mere peerage." Mallory gave him another not smile "When was the last time you met a sea captain that was better educated than a college emeritus?"
For the first time he hesitated to jump on a hint of Mallory's past.
"What a naïve young fool" Mallory whispered.
Mallory shook his head "Me. I honestly thought I could do this and walk away unscathed. I walked away and never looked back. But there's always a price for spilled blood."
He took a cautious step back – it looked like Mallory was going to have a Lady MacBeth moment along with the Hamlet interlude.
"You either stop feeling anything and become a killing machine or you end up drowning under all the regrets."
"And which are ye?" he asked when Mallory's silence stretched too long.
"I've been both and neither is pleasant." He found himself caught in Mallory's haunted green eyes "In less than four years Sparrow you'll be sailing the Pearl under your own colors. Ye seem to have your heart set on piracy" Mallory sighed "and it's your life and your choice and I'll not gainsay you. But remember this Sparrow, blood never comes clean and I hope that when you look back on your life you've something more than regrets." Mallory glanced out over the killing field "When ye dig up the past all ye get is dirty."
"I don't know that one."
"You wouldn't – it's something Cromwell said to me once in the Tower when I was younger than you. Silly fool that I was I believed that the past could be buried. Should have known better than to take advice from a man on his way to the block."
This was so not good, Mallory was further around the bend than he'd ever guessed "Oliver Cromwell didn't die on the block."
"Not Oliver – Thomas Cromwell. He plotted the deaths of more men then I ever did but never had the intestinal fortitude to do his own killing. Was always proud of that back when I was a courtier – that I never hired out my dirty work. Always thought that if I was going to kill a man I should at least give him a chance to hit me back. That's why I never used poison either even though I was well trained. Not that HE ever believed that."
"Father" Mallory sounded like he was choking on the word.
"Your father's still alive?" he asked, curious in spite of wanting very badly off this island.
"Regrettably. There isn't much love lost, Sparrow between HE and I which is why I was fostered into the English court before the third anniversary of my birth. But I'm digressing Sparrow – my point is the past never stays buried and it has a nasty habit of sinking its teeth into you when you least expect it. And events have an even nastier habit of getting ahead of where you ever meant for them to go. Just, please Sparrow, don't let the need to make a reputation get ahead of your good sense. Ask not for whom the bell tolls.."
"It tollth for thee – John Donne. Now can we bloody leave?"
"I wonder what happened to them?" was Mallory's distracted reply.
"His daughters, they were his last thought. He wasn't afraid of death only of failing them."
"He probably just told ye that to keep ye from killing him."
"He said nothing to me at all. I was not in the habit of having long discourses with common sailors."
"I imagine it is harder te kill a man ye know."
"In all honesty, Sparrow I never found it so. I was simply too much of a snob to demean myself by mingling with the lesser orders without significant profit to be found in it." Mallory pinched the bridge of his nose "And you are absolutely correct, we have lingered here overlong." And with that Mallory set a pace that had him scrambling to keep up. It wasn't until they were back in the boat that he had an opportunity to ask the question that had been bothering him. One that he wasn't certain he wanted to ask or that he truly wanted an answer to.
"Ye never spoke ta Diego?"
"Not as a living man."
"Then how did ye know his name?"
"Because he told me, today."
He swallowed "Dead men tell no tales."
"Not to you, Sparrow and I envy you that."
"That you can't hear the dead."
"You're daft" he whispered but for the first time he was frightened instead of amused at Mallory's oddities.
"So you tell me" Mallory replied as he rowed them into the cave instead of back to the Peregrine.
"Of course it wasn't just the slaughter that earned this forsaken piece of rock its reputation. It was the fact that the men were sworn to secrecy. Those that wanted to brag couldn't and those that wanted to weep did so alone in the late watches. My first lieutenant committed suicide. What a fool. I never, never should have let him aboard. But he was so damnably good and he wanted to sail with me so badly. Nothing else would do for him. He followed me like a bloody puppy. One look at him and I knew he wasn't cut out for my kind of work. He was one of those fresh-faced innocent youngsters that could talk about honor and integrity with a straight face. Hero worship can be so damn ego gratifying and the truth is I needed a good lieutenant. I told myself the boy needed a good dose of reality, that he knew his duty and would do it. Best second I ever had, utterly dependable, steady as a rock right up until he scattered his brains all over his cabin on our third trip back. Replaced every damn thing in that room and I could still hear him." Mallory slapped the water with his oars "At any rate men deep in their cups whispered bits of tales until this place became a legend. The cursed island of the dead that can only be found by those who already know where it is and that houses a treasure guarded by the heathen gods of Mexico." Mallory barred his teeth "And in some ways I suppose it's true." Mallory grounded the boat again, grabbed a pair of empty sacks, and led the way deeper into the cave.
As a young aspiring pirate the chest resting in a shaft of sunlight should have stirred delighted avarice, instead he only felt a cold dread.
"This is what remains of the Treasure of Cortez" Mallory gestured to the stone chest "And the real reason we're here." Mallory drew a deep breath before setting his hands reluctantly on the lid. "I made the excuse that the ship was already overloaded but the truth is I didn't want this, this horror on board." He visibly braced himself before sliding the lid back and then trembled slightly. The interior was completely covered in a red-brown film. Mallory picked up something and blew gently. Brown flakes fluttered down into the chest revealing a golden coin with a skull in the center.
"This is blood money, not just money blood has been spilled for but forged in it. Cortez and his men were housed in the Axayacatzin on an island in the midst of the city. In order to escape the island they had to cross one of the seven bridges. The Aztecs managed to destroy sections of the bridge trapping 2/3's of Cortez's forces. 312 Spaniards and 404 of their Tlaxcalan allies were captured alive. The fate of an Aztec captive was not pleasant. They were sacrificed to Smoking Mirror and the Humming Bird on the Left." Mallory's eyes had taken on a strange, frightening gleam.
"Who?" he asked more as a distraction than in a real desire for clarification.
"Smoking Mirror was the chief Aztec god. The Humming Bird on the Left was the war god."
He snickered – he just couldn't help it.
Mallory's slightly crazed eyes fixed on him "If I was going to make something up it wouldn't be Smoking Mirror and Humming Bird on the Left."
"So what was the Humming Bird on the Right?"
"I haven't a bloody clue" Mallory snapped testily as he began filling one of the sacks..
"So there is something ye don't know?" He flashed Mallory a smile and continued theatrically "me bubble is burst – and here I…"
"Not now, Sparrow."
He'd heard that tone used on rare occasion on the deck but it had never been directed at him.
"Please" Mallory said in a softer tone "The Aztecs believed that if the gods were not fed a constant diet of beating human hearts the universe would come to an end. They also believed that Cortez was the god Quetzalcoatl and that to defy him was to risk annihilation. In order to escape this fate it was imperative that Smoking Mirror and Humming Bird be as powerful and well fed as possible. Instead of pursuing Cortez and crushing the remnants of his little army they spent three days creating this." Mallory paused and switched to the second sack "There was a prophecy that Quetzalcoatl would return in 1519 and attempt to overthrow the other gods and end human sacrifice but the Aztecs couldn't conceive of a god that didn't need to feed. They concluded that given Cortez's love of gold that gold must be his sustenance. By mingling the molten gold with the blood of the sacrifices they believed they were magically subjugating Cortez to Smoking Mirror and Humming Bird. Afterward they sacrificed one of their own for each enemy captured to the other gods of the large Aztec pantheon. With the creation of each coin they ritually called on their gods to curse whoever took possession of the treasure."
As he started to reach in and pull out a coin Mallory slid the lid shut so hastily that he only just managed to snatch his hand back in time.
"So the treasure is cursed?"
"For there to be a curse the Aztec gods would have to exist as somewhat more than the hallucinations of an inebriated power hungry priesthood." Mallory picked up the sacks and turned to leave.
"I take it ye don't believe in the Aztec gods then?" he asked Mallory's back.
Mallory paused and turned back "I don't believe in any god, Sparrow. Not the one the Spaniards expected to receive them into paradise and not the ones the Aztecs thought they had to feed."
He just blinked in surprise as he began to wonder if he really knew the man facing him at all.
"Then why have ye practically made me memorize the bloody Bible? Why do we attend church every Sunday we're ashore? Why did ye take clergymen as passengers and insist that they teach me?"
"Who conquered Mexico?" Mallory asked.
"Cortez" he replied in annoyance.
"No, the Aztecs where not defeated by Cortez but by themselves. They could have crushed Cortez like a bug but they didn't because the believed he was something he wasn't. Knowledge is power, Sparrow. You can't be a good Captain without knowing something of the faith of those you fight and those who serve with you." Mallory began to turn again but he sighed with slight roll of his eyes said "Ask."
"But I don't see why I need to know more than a cleric."
Mallory set the sacks down "You're inclined to supplement the proceeds of honest trading with a bit of high seas highwaymanship, no?"
He smiled rakishly "More than a bit."
"In case you hadn't noticed Royal Navies don't generally approve of that behavior."
"Counting on it" he could hardly wait to truly test Pearl in a way that Mallory would rarely allow.
"And what are you going to do when they come for ye?"
"Out run'em. You promised me the fastest ship on the sea" he reminded Mallory.
"And she is, but what happens if you're ashore when they come for you? You'll not spend every moment for the rest of your life on the Pearl."
That stopped him cold – he'd never considered it.
Mallory just quirked a dark brow at him "Where is a Royal Navy least likely to seek a pirate?"
"Three places, in clerical robes, in the ranks of its own officers, or with the gentry which is why Sparrow I've seen to it that ye can out argue a theologian, among other things." Mallory lifted the sacks and swiftly led them back…
"Wait" Elizabeth ordered stopping Jack abruptly in mid-sentence. Until her command I'd been adrift, letting Jack words drone on around me while the world slipped slowly further and further away.
Jack sighed "Now Lizzy if ye keep interrupting me I'm never going ta finish."
"My name is Elizabeth. Mallory removed two sacks of coins from the chest?"
"I do seem to recall mentioning that."
"Then he should have been under the curse" Elizabeth insisted.
"I sailed with him for three more years, Lizzy. I think I would have noticed if he turned into a skeleton in the moon light." Jack took a long pull of rum. "Heard stories about the curse for years and never believed any of'em on account o'that. Don't know how he managed it but he wasn't cursed."
My father started to speak but Gibbs spoke first "What became o'the coins, Jack?"
Jack looked at Elizabeth "If milady will be so gracious as to allow me to continue?"
"By all means, Captain Sparrow."
He gave the apparatus Mallory was fussing with a dubious glance "What is this for?"
"Ye'll see anon" was Mallory's clipped reply as he up ended one of the sacks of coins into it.
"I wonder how many are still there?"
"882" was Mallory's instant response.
"How do you know?"
"Trust me Sparrow, I know"
"But how do you know?"
Mallory pinched the bridge of his nose "Because I can hear them Sparrow. They may look identical to you but I assure you they are not. Don't touch that."
"Because you'll leave most of your hide behind." The water Mallory flicked onto the far end of the machine promptly sizzled away. "Would you kindly fetch me another bucket of water?"
When he returned Mallory was carefully examining something. As he was setting down the bucket Mallory tossed it to him. He nearly dropped both the bucket and the coin.
Mallory frowned "I see your reaction time needs more work."
He nearly groaned in dread – Mallory could be a merciless taskmaster.
"What do you think?"
He glanced down at the coin in his hand and then at Mallory's machine.
"Ye can counterfeit English guineas?"
Mallory shrugged "Can you tell the difference?" he asked as he tossed him a second coin.
After a close study of the two he grinned at Mallory "Ye know Royal Treasuries don't take kindly to this sort of activity."
"I wasn't planning to inform them" Mallory had gone back to fussing with something else.
"If we were te just give'em a gold wash we could make a bleeding fortune."
"I arranged for a Lord Admiral to become a head shorter once for that."
"Debasing the King's coinage and keeping the profits" Mallory circled to the other side of the device. "Well not just that mind you, he was also consorting with pirates for a portion of the proceeds and planning a coup."
"Quite" Mallory replied distractedly "but I really didn't care about any of that. Actually he was the one who gave me my first introduction to both piracy and this little beauty." He dumped a handful of coins into a chest.
"Because I was rather fond of his Lordship's wife" Mallory began.
"Ye betrayed a man ta steal his wife?" he crowed "By Jove, there's hope for ye yet."
The glare he got from Mallory could have stripped the barnacles off of a hulk "I was fifteen and she was old enough to be me mother." Mallory just starred at the machine and then said quietly "Because he poisoned her and because I couldn't prove it I arranged for his other dealings to come to light."
"That's what comes of arranged marriages" he observed.
"But it wasn't. They loved each other." Mallory had wandered over to stare out the stern windows. "But he loved power more. He removed her because he thought he could make a more advantageous marriage." Mallory whirled away from the windows and poured two glasses "Enough of the past. To my new first mate."
He just blinked at Mallory "But Matthews?"
"Will become the captain of the Mariposa. Instead of selling her as a prize and distributing the proceeds I plan on buying the crews shares outright and then giving her to Matthews as a gift. We'll let him have his pick of the Pearl's crew and we'll take on some new men. That way at least a third of the men will not have known you as anything but mate. Twill make it easier when it's time for you to become captain yourself. Now, will you join me in a drink to my new first mate."
He couldn't help the silly grin he knew was spreading across his face as he raised the snifter. He played with the glass for a moment trying to work up the nerve to ask the questions he'd always wanted answers to. Finally when the silence stretched too long he asked an insignificant question.
"Why recast the coins? The Aztec gold will spend as well."
"Let's just say that I'd rather not explain why I know where a stash of the Cortez treasure is and leave it at that."
As Mallory turned to go up on deck he blurted out the lesser of his two questions "What will you do, when I become captain?"
Mallory replied without turning "That is up to you Captain Jack Sparrow."
Jack took a long drink. "I don't suppose that tangent disrupted things as much as I feared. Might even have served a purpose. See, when Barbossa started nattering on about respect and authority it got me thinking it did about that trip to Isla de Muerta."
Jack didn't finish the thought but then he didn't need to. The island had frightened him and Mallory clearly didn't like it. Every young boy has boasted about the 'haunted' place – what better way to prove himself to both Mallory and Barbossa than by facing down the 'island of the dead' with his own crew. It was something only a young man would do.
"Barbossa didn't maroon me right off. He let the crew have a few days of 'fun' and then he branded me."
"I though that was an East India Company brand" the Governor protested.
Jack just shook his head "If you and your bloody friend Norrington knew half as much about pirates as Lizzy here you'd know it wasn't."
The Governor looked to Elizabeth questioningly.
"The East India Company brands on the middle of the forehead not the forearm."
"Wasn't even a pirate then, at least not technically. Which was another issue I had with Mallory – that bloody lawyer kept keeping us just on the fringe of legality when I was as wild to be a pirate as Lizzy was to meet one."
"It's Elizabeth, Mr. Sparrow."
Jack just flashed his golden smile at her and glanced down her bodice. I'd have like to challenge him but since that was out of the question I was hoping she'd notice and slap him.
"At first I wasn't too worried. I kept expecting Mallory to show up on the Peregrine with the crew. Except he didn't come. And I'm ashamed to say that it never even occurred to me that I'd left him high and dry just when he might have needed the Pearl and I. Then I had to watch Barbossa sail away with my ship and I wasn't angry at Barbossa or myself I was furious with Mallory but I still wasn't worried. Found meself some rum to sooth me troubles and waited for the shame of being rescued by Mallory. Except he still didn't come and the rum runners were less than best pleased to discover the depletion of their stores. Barbossa'd taken all me worldly goods so I had naught ta barter with but meself and they were a hard lot. About three weeks into the voyage things get a bit muzzy. I don't recall much after that until…
He stirred, burrowing his head into the pillow. Pillow? Bed? He wasn't quite sure why but the bed was a surprise. Very interesting – he hadn't expected to wake up in a bed. Why was that?
"Sparrow?" Mallory voice infused his name with a mix of hope and apprehension. When he opened his eyes he was staring into Mallory's bright green ones. Suddenly it all rushed back, the beach, Barbossa, the Pearl, the rumrunners. He kicked his way out of the entangling blankets completely ignoring Mallory's entreaties. He snarled as Mallory's journal disappeared into his jerkin abruptly even more irrationally angry that over a decade later he was no closer to knowing how he managed that than the day they met. He whirled and stormed out the door but Mallory blocked him at the top of the stairs.
"Please talk to me Jack."
"Get out of me bleeding way."
Now why did Mallory look like someone had handed him the bloody moon?
"Why don't we go back to your room for a bit, Sparrow?" Mallory replied in the same soothing tone he used on skittish horses. But he wasn't a bloody horse and he wasn't a bloody child and it was time to teach Mallory a little lesson. He swiftly slammed his closed fist against Mallory's chest and then splayed his fingers accompanying the gestures with the 'magic' Mallory'd tried to teach him so many times. But this time it worked. Mallory's eyes widened in shock before he tumbled backwards down the steep stairs to lie in a sprawled heap face down at the bottom. He swaggered down the stairs and prodded Mallory's still form with one of his bare toes. No response – not even a groan. He hooked his foot under an arm a rolled him none to gently over. The green eyes blinked slowly. He knelt and grabbed Mallory jaw forcing him to look at him. Mallory was clearly dazed.
"I'm going out. Don't follow me" he ordered and was gratified to see both pain and a flicker of fear flash through the glazed green eyes. Mallory just slumped back as he spun on his heel and left...
Jack set his bottle of rum down on the deck. "Still can't believe I did that. I was so bloody please with meself that I'd finally scored a hit on Mallory. Just left him there in a heap at the base of the stairs and never even thought" he stopped and rubbed the bullet scars on his chest. "Anyone else would have left ol'Jack te die after that but not Mallory. I went out and picked a fight in the first bawdy house I came across. Not a bright idea on the best of days but even stupider unarmed and friendless. I'm not even sure what happened next but I woke up on the Peregrine with Mallory leaning over me."
"Just lie still, Sparrow" Mallory soothed as he prodded at his belly "I've got to find the last ball in your belly before" he paused and blocked the heavy book with his forearm. "Not now Sparrow, please. Do whatever ye like once ye're well." He glanced over and spotted the pistol Barbossa'd left him. One of the matched pair Mallory'd given him a few years earlier. He wrapped a hand around the butt and aimed it right between Mallory's eyes. Mallory didn't even look up from his blood soaked torso.
"Stop" he growled.
Mallory looked straight into his own eyes down the barrel.
"Which is a very good trick" Jack said waving one hand wildly as he demonstrated on Elizabeth. "As ye can see the natural inclination is ta go cross-eyed."
"Captain Sparrow will you kindly stop pointing that pistol at my daughter." I was chagrined – defending Elizabeth is my duty.
"No harm in it Guv but if ye insist" he turned the pistol on Governor Swann and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Jack grinned widely while the Governor started in terror and then fumed.
"I discharged it during the scrap in which young Mr. Turner so foolishly got himself shot and haven't reloaded yet. Ye didn't think I'd aim a loaded pistol at Lizzy without good cause now did ye?"
I wanted to protest. It hadn't been foolish or stupid. Or at least it hadn't seemed so at the time.
"Now where was I – oh, yes…
"No" Mallory replied calmly "Not yet."
He was so weak he couldn't hold the gun steady as he tried to thumb back the trigger "Git y'r bloody hands off me and leave me alone."
"Your not thinking clearly, Jack" was Mallory's gentle reply "Ah – got it" he muttered as he dropped a chunk of metal on the tray by the bed.
"I will shoot you."
"That shot's not meant for me" Mallory asserted.
He put the pistol to his own head.
This time Mallory did pause "That shot's not meant for you either."
"Then who is it meant for?"
Mallory rolled his
eyes and snapped "Who do you think?"
"And in a few days when you're up to it we'll set about…"
"Sparrow" Mallory began and stopped when he put just the faintest hint of pressure on the trigger.
"Now that I have yer attention we're going ta have a new accord. First no more bloody healing aboard this ship today. Second, I will get the Pearl back all by me onesies without yer bloody help. Third get out of me bloody life."
"As ye like, Jack Sparrow" Mallory pulled a whistle from somewhere "But if ye ever change yer mind just blow. Any where, any when and I'll come." He tucked the whistle into the pocket of Jack's jacket and rose. As Mallory's hand withdrew the pain of his many wounds suddenly flared and darkness claimed him.
Jack played with the whistle without raising his eyes from the deck. "Ye have no idea how often I've pulled this thing out and thought about blowing it if for no better reason than te apologize. Never had the nerve te do it though. Me fool stubborn pride always got in the way." He flashed me a golden grin "Suppose I should thank ye whelp for getting shot. Don't know if I'd have ever done it otherwise."
Gibbs shifted uncomfortably and emptied his flask before speaking. "I, he's gone Jack."
"Joshamee Gibbs what are ye blathering on about?"
Gibbs just muttered "I'm sorry."