Blood of Avalon: Chapter 20: Sails without Wind

I hovered above the Pearl, breathless and light-headed from the long flight but unable to land. Sparrow had found my insistence on protocol since I'd turned command over to him endlessly amusing without ever realizing the truth. I COULDN'T get aboard the Pearl without his permission. I settled for landing beside her, standing on the waves. I reached a hand out just shy of the wards that would likely kill me in my current state if I was foolish enough to touch her. She wept at me babbling nearly incoherently begging me to come aboard. Draigs but I wanted to. Sparrow was gone the least I could do was care for his lady. I could already see signs of Barbossa's neglect. I should be furious about that. That he should… do what he did to gain the ship only to abuse her. Part of me was but it was a distant clamor. Everything was distant as if someone had dropped a veil between the rest of the world and I. I tried to explain to her that I couldn't come aboard & take her away from 'them' no matter how much I wanted to. She KNEW that but was far too upset to remember it.

It took me hours to get her calmed down enough to give me anything resembling a coherent tale. Even then I knew it had gaps. Pearl was a dear lass but my own scrambled state when I built her didn't always render her completely intelligible or lucid. Sparrow did… had, had done, far better with her than I. Betrayed, bludgeoned, beaten, and marooned. That's all she could tell me. Sparrow had left with the strength to stand, hell the strength to swim from the ship to the island against the tide. Bloody but NOT dead, if Barbossa thought that would save him from my wrath he was sorely mistaken. The flicker of hope died before it could catch. I was a healer I knew how much Blood you could lose and live. There was FAR more Blood on the currents than Sparrow could spare and survive. If he lost it all at once, that piece of me that REFUSED to accept the truth protested. If that were the case then there should be a bright point. Draigs but I'd searched for the flare that would herald Sparrow's survival. It just bloody wasn't there. Aberath? Leaving aside Sparrow had no clue how to do it that would mean he was so close to death that… I'd almost prefer knowing that Sparrow had died quick and clean than imagining him going through the Hell an aberath would require.

What she couldn't seem to tell me was WHERE Sparrow'd been marooned at least not in enough detail for me to puzzle out which of the specks of land it might be. How had all that Blood gotten into the water? Had he tried to swim from the island & been torn apart by sharks?

NO! Sea snapped I know that that one was more important than any other to you. No harm came to him in my care which can not be said for that ship!

That's my fault, that's ALL. MY. FAULT. After what the Revenge had done I'd made damn sure the Pearl would never play such tricks. Sparrow hadn't called her so all she'd been able to do was watch. Draigs! My poor girl. I knew, I knew just how much it hurt to watch someone you love in pain and be powerless to help. If Sparrow had just given the order. Except Sparrow didn't believe – and whose fault was that? Mine. All bloody mine. The winds brought me Barbossa's voice. Apparently he thought he could handle three women. As if. I drew a deep breath. I needed to get up there and avenge Sparrow. I sighed, my fingers brushed against Risanca. No, no, I wouldn't share this with them. Plain steel. I swallowed, fingers trembling. I needed to find out where, where they'd left him. Needed to find what was left of him. I owed my brother a decent burial. I listened to the gulls overhead. Anything but Barbossa and his band of miscreants celebrating with that benighted gold. Damn it! I snarled myself get up there and tear them apart! I wanted to. But sooner or later they'll have told me everything, sooner or later even necromancy wouldn't be able to keep what was left of them on this side of the veil. And then, and then I would have to…. as long as there wasn't a body in front of me I could pretend. I could imagine a hundred improbable ways he might have survived despite all reasonable evidence to the contrary. Once I had a body….

When did I become a wilting violet? It wasn't as if people I loved hadn't died horribly before. My dead, so many dead, draigs, but I was so tired of people dying on me. I'm old, I'm so horribly old even if I'm not even grown yet. The walk over the surf and up the beach to the tavern Barbossa was carousing in was the hardest thing I'd ever done.

As I slipped silently onto the bench across from Barbossa I decided that whatever he was paying for his 'pleasurable company' it was too much. If the three of them had a tooth between them I wasn't able to spot it. I wanted a drink. I wanted a drink BADLY. I could smell absinth in the back room but I wasn't sure if I started that I'd be able to stop. Did I actually care if I ended up like Bledri? On further reflection skip the absinth I wanted chocolate, one of the whores tittered at one of the braying ass's meager jests. On second thought I'd pass on the chocolate right now. Peregrine would have caught up with me though by the time I was done giving Barbossa and his crew a tour of the lowest circle of Hell. I'd leave the sailing to Peregrine and get well and truly sleeping with the pigs and not noticing drunk on the way to the speck of land Pearl couldn't give me the bearings to.

Barbossa was so engrossed with his two bit whores it took him a full quarter of an hour to notice me. He froze his bladder emptying down his leg to puddle on the floor. I hadn't bothered with a Shadow. Three months of battle without a bite to eat had left me looking rather ghastly, like a skeleton wrapped in leather with tendons and ligaments like rigging beneath the wasted flesh.

"Apple?" he offered me the half eaten, slightly browned green apple he'd been chewing in between lip locks. I wasn't completely certain he wasn't feeding it to her given all the tongue action that had been going on.

"Ladies" there was a breathless, desperate note in Barbossa's voice but the initial shock was wearing off to be replaced by cunning. Even if he was as wiley as his great-great-great grandfather Thomas Cromwell (unlikely) he wasn't going to get out of this. I'd done for the old bulldog when every advantage was on his side. Barbossa might have the Cromwell Blood but he had a faint ghost of his magic. If he could see through a peasant's Shadow I would be impressed and while he was Bristol born I had yet to see any sign of a bent toward Wind or Wave. If Barbossa had enough of a Gift to hang a name on I'd seen no hint of it "the Prince and I hae matters te discuss."

I considered killing them as an aperitif but let them run. No sense in distracting myself from the main course. Besides if there was an afterlife and Sparrow could see what I was about to do he would be appalled enough without me adding a few hapless whores to the bloodshed. Sparrow was, had been found of whores.

"So" he began with a nervous tic, his eyes taking in the plain dark garments and correctly divining the implications "Ye fought yer way through all o'them, I would have thought that nigh te impossible. Undoubtedly yer a bit…put out about the changes aboard the Pearl. I assure ye we put it te a proper vote. It was square with the Code."

I didn't trust myself to answer that much more coherently than Pearl was right now so I cast a Shadow of Pearl's Articles complete with Barbossa and his band's marks. I might not have been able to get aboard Pearl but they'd mockingly posted it on the captain's cabin's door in clear view when I'd been above her. One by one I ticked off the broken clauses in flames until nearly the entire document resembled Moses' burning bush.

Barbossa glanced pointedly around the room, "I never laid a hand on the lad, as I'm sure ye can tell."

And I hadn't thought my opinion of Barbossa could actually drop any lower. On the faint chance that I survived the Wild Hunts Barbossa had (with the notable exception of Bill) surrounded himself with the members of his crew who had actually drawn my little brother's Blood.

"Where" my voice cracked like a broken thing "where is he?"

Barbossa's brow furrowed in confusion before his enaid lit up in a firestorm of relief and gratification. The fool thought he could BARGIN with me after what he'd done? I'd thought he'd just coveted command of the Pearl (and he certainly had) but looking at his enaid I could tell there was something else going on as well.

"Why?"

He snarled as an old, cold, rage worthy of a Draig exploded through his enaid. I knew a personal vendetta when I saw it – how could I have missed it? Impressive. This was a man who could lie all the way to his soul. I'd never met anyone else dynol or Ellyllon who'd mastered the trick of it. His hatred of me ran deep but why? I'd gone out of my way this time to make as few enemies as possible, I could think of nothing I had done to earn such enmity nor had my Sire been wont to send dynol in the Wild Hunts. I was shamed to realize what a FOOL I had been. This snake had played me well in Torgua. All those Hunts, someone had been sending them tidings and keeping Sparrow there. Fool, FOOL, FOOL! ALL. MY. FAULT. Thomas Cromwell was well and truly avenged though I doubted Barbossa even knew his name.

"Why? Why?! Do ye know how many dynol generations there are in a thousand years? Do ye know how long we waited for a Prince of the Blood to come and rescue us? And what did we finally get? We got you" his face twisted in disgust "and what did you do?" he hissed "Did you save us from our oppressors? Did you restore the glory of the Old Ways? Hell did you even stop them from burning us alive? No. No you sided with them, you spent all your time and all your power helping them. When you did acknowledged your own at all it was only te use us. And even then you favored the annefnyddiol over the bonhedigg." He was right. I could say that after what Skeffington & Cromwell did to me I never trusted a Bonhedigg again. But I should never have judged the thousands of the Bonhedigg by two men who had been driven half mad by their lust for power. The Bonhedigg by Blood and loyalty had deserved every bit of the effort I'd devoted to Bess, Henri, & Guile if not more and I had given all of that effort to Goresgynnwyr. Was it any wonder a Bonhedigg would hate me? Favoring the Annefnyddiol had simply added insult to injury. All. My. Fault. All of this fore to aft, stem to stern. I stared at the battered wood of the table. My mistakes had gotten Sparrow killed. What the hell had I been thinking then and now? I was supposed to be the Prince of Avalon. I knew, draigs, I knew what choices I should make, what the obligations of my position were, and had chosen to abandon them at every turn. I deserved the same fate as Charles the 1st. I had failed my people both over and under the Hill. Failed them utterly. I had no excuses to give.

"He should have been your King" I whispered.

"Aye, he should have" Barbossa growled "and ye certainly had the knowledge ta mold him inte one good and proper. Except ye didn't. Ye had a second chance te make up fer last time and ye squandered it. Ye want te know why yer brother is dead" he leaned in close to whisper "look in a bloody mirror" and then spat in my face. Oh Sparrow, you never should have had to pay my bill. This wasn't your fault. I barely paid attention as Barbossa towered over me. "I came to the Caribbean looking fer Kings te lead us and what did I find instead? Ye I didn't hae much hope for but I thought at least ye might have done right by the boy." Forgive me Sparrow but I never had the heart to do to you what they did to me and you died for my cowardice. Damn me to the lowest circle of Hell. Hadn't I been fretting about precisely this? That Sparrow's trusting ways and kind heart would be his undoing in his chosen profession. And what had I done to fix it? Nothing.

"Instead I find a daft fool who wants to play little games where no one gets hurt and everything has a happy ending. He was better off dead than being what you let him become. Poor little bleating lamb followed me right to the sla"

Suddenly I was no longer numb, all of the rage I should have been feeling rushed in as my teeth sank into Barbossa's hairy neck.

Elizabeth frowned down the journal "Someone's ripped several pages out."

"Why would Prince Mallory rip pages from his own journal?" Commodore Norrington voiced my own question.

"Mayhap there was something in the pages he hoped te forget" Jack offered softly.

"There's a corner of this one left."

Allmyfault... T'isallmy fall faulll... fault... all myyyy fault... allllmy... fault. . Fault. All m fault... t'is allmyfault...alll... ev'ythin' MY fault. Shldhaedonbttrrr. Allmmyfff. Imsssosorrrrry. I'm so sorry. Allmyfault. Allmyfault... T'isallmy fall faulll... fault... all myyyy fault... allllmy... fault. . Fault. All m fault... t'is allmyfault Imsosorry. 'M's'ry.

"Rhys?"

Imsssssosssorrrry. Allmyfault... T'isallmy fall faulll... fault... all myyyy fault... allllmy... fault. . Fault.

"Rhys!"

Sh'ldhaedonbttr. I'm so sorry. Allmyfault. Allmyfault... T'isallmy fall faulll... fault... all myyyy fault... allllmy... fault. . Fault. All m fault...

"RHYS!"

?

"Rhys… we're here."

? Ohhh. Trrrr'd te ssssstandd. Whyarrreblk brds 'gnst my face? Oh, 'n thefllloorr.

As Mallory tried to figure out how to get his hands under himself to get off his cabin floor we all got a view of the wreckage his cabin had become. Mallory had to be lying in the only spot not covered in empty absinth bottles. Jack winced at the sight of several books lying like flotsam in the mess. Mallory seemed to have come to the eventual conclusion that he was far too drunk to stand and tried his trick of clearing it from his blood. It took him a full six tries to finally be anything approaching sober.

Draigs it looked like Sparrow… Jane's God I couldn't think of a thing I wouldn't give up to and including my life for Sparrow to be the one that had made this mess. For my little brother to still be alive. I shivered I could still feel Skeffington's hands on me, his voice in my ear, 'Sloppy gets you killed, maggot'. It took serious effort to not immediately start setting things back in order. Sparrow first. Following Sparrow's 'footsteps' I swam ashore only to find no Sparrow. I checked the island a dozen times but there was no body. I leaned against a palm, hope trying to flare. I searched again for a bright point that still wasn't there. I stepped away from the palm onto… boards under the sand? I heaved it up nose wrinkling – rum. I set it back in place disgusted at the amount of sand sticking to me. So the island was a cache for rum runners. Sparrow must have bartered passage off. I winced, all he had to barter was himself. Not a pleasant thought but I'd know the bastards when I found them. How was I going to find them? There were over three score different 'captains' who specialized in smuggling not to mention that I didn't know a single 'honest' merchant captain that wasn't willing to do a little business on the side if the price offset the risk. This place could be anyone's cache. With all the Blood in the water I couldn't trace Sparrow's trade either. All I could do was confirm it when I found them. So where to start? The Winds obviously but I didn't trust them exclusively for this work. Eventually all news made its way to Lorencillo, undoubtedly he already knew the fate of the Pearl maybe he knew what had happened to her captain.

I reached for one of the few remaining bottles of absinthe before slinging it out the stern window. No, no way in Hell I was becoming Bledri. The rest of what was left followed suit. Regardless of how worthless a prince I was I was still the Prince of Avalon and I would not drown my troubles. I picked up one of the empties, using fire to melt the glass, ignoring how much it hurt my hands I twisted the softened glass into a sparrow. I'm sorry, I'm so damn sorry. I set it on a shelf and studied my ghastly, hadn't eaten in far too long reflection, only the eyes looked alive sunk far back into the hollows of my skull. I should have done better, little brother. Even thinking of doing what they'd done to me to Sparrow made my empty gut clench threatening to wretch up itself since there was nothing else in it. Henri had been a good man and a good king and no one had ever put Henri through the things they'd done to me. Aside from a reasonable education (which I'd given Sparrow despite all his protests) Henri had been allowed to run half wild the first fifteen years of his life and had come through none the worse. Only because you were there to keep his foolish ass safe my reflection seemed to say mockingly. How many times did you have to save his life? Part of me had always expected to be there for Sparrow even though I knew I couldn't. I should have focused on making him hard, not good. I failed you Sparrow, I'm so sorry you're gone. But no matter how much it hurts I can't be sorry I didn't make you a monster. Please forgive me for that.

Elizabeth turned what was left of the page.

I slid down the wall outside Marie's parlor listening to her weep and Lorencillo comfort her. I was still surprised word hadn't made it here yet. True Lorecillo was essentially retired from his pirating days but people still came to trade and talk. Except given Marie's reputation no one would have wanted to be the one to give her this news. I curled up in the empty hall, head on my knees wishing it was me in there instead of Lorencillo, wishing that there was no need to comfort her, wishing I wasn't the one who had had to tell her that a boy she'd loved nearly as much as I did was dead; but I wasn't Sparrow and I'd burned out the ability for my wishes to make any difference in the world long ago. She was refusing to believe it without a body and had all but thrown me off the plantation with orders not to return without him. A pair of dark knees blocked what view I had of the opposite wall. Sloppy but I didn't care, wasn't sure I'd care if Adola did gut me with one of her kitchen knives.

She reached down a hand. Don't ever let them touch you! And I didn't bother avoiding her. It completely disappeared under the Shadow. She grunted (manners were different in her father's long overthrown kingdom) and without so much as a by your leave tossed me over her shoulder. I shouldn't stand for it, I really shouldn't but in all fairness I'd done the same to her once upon a time, of course she had been a much heavier burden. I did make certain no one else saw. She plopped me down on one of the kitchen chairs and started cooking chatting all the while. Turn about is fair play. I'd kept Adola alive when she would have far preferred being dead. I'd given her back some measure of her self-respect, dignity, and sanity. I'd talked Marie into taking her on as a paid chef to run the kitchens (Adola sailed about as well as Mannwan) when she didn't look capable of chopping cassava. Reciprocity. Adola didn't wish any troubles on me but knowing I was faced with them refusing to let her fuss over me would only hurt her. I sighed and tried to eat the simple meal of plain eggs, toast, and juice but all it did was remind me of that first morning with Sparrow. I couldn't, I just couldn't. My hand started to shake. Adola ignored my sound of protest and to my shame I shook in her arms for hours.

"There are at least 7 more pages missing" Elizabeth said before continuing.

I leaned against the door glad to have the temptation of ripping Bootstrap to bloody quivering shreds gone for a little while. Yes I could lie all the way to my soul but that didn't mean I was enjoying being pleasant to him. Sparrow would want me to. I laid a hand on Sparrow's chest feeding him more power for all the good it did. The body was hail and whole but he was still dying. Damn good thing I could lie all the way to my soul otherwise Sea and Peregrine would be having fits if they knew what I was planning. His enaid frayed apart as quickly as I could knit it back. There was nothing actually wrong with it either. Spirit, soul, and body. The mind was more than just the brain. Sparrow's mind had broken & it was taking his enaid with it, it was only a matter of time until the body followed them. I wasn't Argellion. I was no mind healer. But I was all Sparrow had. I closed my eyes reaching deep in my memory. Argellion and I had discussed this once. Mannwan and I were supposed to be doing mounted maneuvers that afternoon and I had only been giving Argellion a tithe of my attention. Oh I remembered the lecture but hadn't bothered to ask any questions. I had a boat load of them now particularly since Argellion had been teaching me how to avoid this myself not to fix someone else. I hadn't realized it at the time but I knew damn well Argellion had done something to my mind. I reached in looking for signs of what he'd done so as to have some notion of what I was about to do and hit something else entirely.

Will's Dark Lady looked as sad as a crucifixion angel – when the hell had she been playing games in my head?

'After Rathlin' was the unspoken reply 'Iechydwriaeth medru dim trigo a cleddyf'

Healing hands must not wield the sword.

'You were rapidly sliding into Gorffwyll. Another few weeks and you would have been madder and far more dangerous than your father and aunt combined.'

'You told Bess, that's why she sent me to Sea.'

A nod.

'Are you really here or is this something you left behind?'

'I'm not even in this galaxy.'

I'd discovered in the library that the stars were suns just at very great distances and many had worlds like this one around them. Some of whom not just could but had invaded in the past. The Dark Lady was our sole defender – and half alien herself. I knew if she was far afield it was with good cause but I would give joyfully give both arms to have her in this room.

'You might have warned me' she was also the greatest seer to ever live.

'I have warned you, several times, only once have you ever listened. You will not now either but I had hoped for your sake you would not come down this road. Tonight all choices are bitter. '

'What are they?'

'Why should I bother – we both know the road you will take.'

'At least you won't be able to say you didn't warn me.'

'The choice of a King would be to take his enaid. You would sit on your father's throne within a week.'

If she had been here I would have been tempted to try to kill her just for suggesting it.

'What Nimrais has failed to mention is it would slowly destroy you. If you did not chose to take your own life you would be worse than your Sire by the turn of the next century. Sire a child, leave Argellion as regent, Avalon would be in good hands and with Argellion's tutelage your child would be a fine ruler.'

'Your second choice would be to let Sparrow fall, stay here, your Sire will not survive to the turn of the next century. You will spend the rest of your life trying to set right what he will have destroyed. You will fail, you will remain as you are, crippled and in pain for all of your days but one of your grandchildren would be the finest ruler Avalon will ever have.'

'And if I try to save Sparrow?'

'I give you a 3 in 5 chance of saving Sparrow but you are no mind healer. What you are going to attempt is far more dangerous to the healer and child, oh child Argellion and I did what we could for you but no one survives what you have uninjured. You are in nearly as much need of a mind healer as Sparrow. I give you a 2 in 5 chance of physically surviving but unless Sparrow's wishes make the nearly impossible possible you will be…"

'Like Meleri?'

'Drooling, at best.'

Oh. I swallowed.

'You will have to risk everything and it is a bitter cup you are choosing to drink. You will have to make Sparrow's wounds your own.'

I shrugged 'They did nothing I haven't already endured.'

'Yes, some of them the very techniques your father used to break you.'

I hated her in that moment. No one else knew, not even the ones that had been torturing me. I'd slipped a Gorchmyn of my own in among His. I'd been as broken when I went into the carchar as I was when I came out – perhaps more.

'I dealt with it.'

'You can't lie to me' she said softly eyes I KNEW were metal filled with compassion but no pity. 'Shoving it away from your waking mind until it drives your subconscious half mad isn't dealt with. You are powerful but even Ellyllon need more than an hour or two of rest a night. If you somehow manage not to shatter your own fragile psyche tonight trying to save your brother it is eventually going to be more than you can.' She held up a hand 'I am both the greatest seer and the greatest mind healer to ever walk this world. I would never presume to gainsay you about Sea. It will become more than you can bear. While you are correct in your supposition that healing and mind healing derive from the same root gift they are as different in application as painting and dancing. And you are no painter. Even the attempt to mind heal is going to rip things apart in your own psyche regardless of whether you succeed or not. You have a will of adamant and substantial resilience if you were hale yourself I would give you even odds but you aren't.'

'I still have to try' I snapped.

'I know' the Shadows that made her metal eyes and hands appear to be flesh vanished. I shivered at the quicksilver eyes but these held more kindness than I had ever seen 'I could have taken Argellion's lecture from you but I understand what it is to love a brother beyond all reason – and to drink the bitter cup because of it. Instead I've left you all the knowledge you need even if you don't have all of the skills to use it properly. Though it is a wild gamble you take tonight I also know what it is to face eternity as a cripple. Your only chance to be hale and whole again is in an alliance with Sparrow against your sire.'

'I won't trade his life for my health.'

The Dark Lady started to say something but the alien side of her soul stopped her. She was silent for several breaths as human and alien clashed. The alien prevailed. I wondered what the human half of her wanted to tell me. This wasn't the first time what was left of the Star Kindler had held back what I suspected was vital information. I liked the Dark Lady but I damn well knew the Star Kindler had its own agenda for me.

'I have a protégé named Sean Burns who is currently at the Kontumazhof in Vienna. He is Argellion's equal. Rhys, Rhys I am begging you, write to him in my name and he will come. Rhys there is no shame in seeking assistance for those few skills to which you are not suited. Much of what troubles you is your shredded enaid but not all. You are doing an admirable job of clinging to your sanity but you are sorely wounded. Do you think your patients should feel ashamed when you bind their bleeding gashes?'

I glared at her Draig up and snarling. I had seen what I needed to and listened to more than I cared to. I drew a deep breath & severed my link to the journal.

I looked up the hair on the back of my neck prickling to find the same being Mallory had been talking to sitting on Sparrow's desk.

Jack drew a breath, started to speak, and stopped. Mark the calendar Captain Sparrow was speechless. I wasn't certain what to say either what Mallory knew of her, him, it? was tumbling through my own brain. Half human, half something else, something that fell from the Heavens. I'd sat through enough sermons to be wary if not terrified by that thought. It felt blasphemous to even consider the possibility that this was what remained of the entity that had crafted the original stars. God made the stars, right? It was ordered executed by the Elders at the request of the Eternal (apparently no Ellyllon actually knew what that meant), except that according to the library of Avalon energy could be neither created nor destroyed so they and ripped it into shreds too small to be aware. They'd missed one. Did that make it Satan? Was I in the actual presence of Satan? Who was a mind reader I reminded myself.

"There is neither need nor time for ceremony – call me Ari-El. I left this message ere I left Earth in your brother's mind and thence to the page. My apologies if my replies are inappropriate. You, Captain Sparrow are a quite powerful gwelt, you brother was born one though not nearly as potent, while he has burned out the ability space & time treat him as one. When you come together you are painful to even look upon. I have had to make several guesses as to when you will look upon this page and under what circumstances. Your brother thinks he destroyed this page but he isn't the only one who is clever with Shadows. Regardless of the timing I implore you to contact Sean Burns. If you can convey the importance to Sea she will find him no matter where he is right now. Once I touch I mind directly I have a connection to it – your brother is bleeding, he needs a mind healer as much has he needs back the pieces of his enaid."

"And why should I be trusting you, mate?"

"I am not in the habit of wishing others ill. And I have selfish reasons to help. I've a bitter cup of my own coming – I, and Earth, have a far better chance of surviving if your brother and a quiver full of his children are on my flank than anyone else. I want him hale and whole. If he tries to face your Sire with his mind as it is now he will be his own enemy. He can't afford that. Regardless of the conflict the damage adds to the suffering he is already in which is impressive. Please, I swear by all I have ever held dear Sean will do him no harm."

"How do we find him? It's been more than a decade since you told him where te find this Sean Burns."

The Shadow shimmered and cursed.

"Have Peregrine speak to Sea, put the message in a bottle. With your wishes to assist she will find him. He will come if you ask in my name. It is, immeasurably, more important now. Believe me when I say that it is the Sight of the Draig your brother carries that drove me to ensure their destruction. If that Draig had come into the world without someone to leash it" It shivered. "Having read this far you may think you know something of the Draigs allow me to assure you, you have seen nothing. While his control over his Draig has weakened from time to time it has never been free. If your brother truly and irrevocably gives up the leash will slip, his Draig's first act, Captain Sparrow, will be to take your enaid and that will be its gentlest act. Your brother is a far, far better man than he has ever given himself credit for to have held the beast within in check so long and so well."

"What happened te me brother?"

"She loved her father dearly, her Draig is weak, she became fond of your brother despite her best intentions and against its instincts. She has returned from the dead with one goal - to save her father's kingdom. She NEEDS your brother and loves him, you are just a pawn on the board and your brother knows it. I advise you to be wary of her but she IS a talented seer and far closer to events than I am. She knows from her days as Maid Marion on her taithe that she can lie to you even if she can't to your brother. She doesn't speak current English but her Latin is excellent."

"Good te know, now about me brother?"

"I know that there is a way. I tried, diligently, and at risk of my own sanity to find it. Fate has a sense of irony and Luck loves a good paradox it would not surprise me if they put you in the same desperate position your brother was in when he healed your mind – a desperate gamble and a willingness to lay down your own life in his stead. Or I could be completely wrong."

"Why is me brother in such dire straights?

"Don't waste my time you have the journal for that."

"So have ye been answering incorrectly on purpose or not?"

It merely looked amused before sobering "You mustn't let your Sire take you alive. Either of you." With that it was gone.

Elizabeth flipped the page there was none of the feel of the journal it was as if she was simply reading a regular letter.

"It is a far better thing that I do than I have ever done a far better rest I go to than I have ever known." Bullshit Neidr.

Sparrow if you're reading this then I am either dead or drooling. I'm not certain which is the worse possibility. You undoubtedly have many questions and are grumbling about me using 20 words where one would do. It runs in the family little brother. Yes, you read that right. Take a good look because when you read those words my Shadow will drop.

"Lizzy, pass over the journal if ye please."

Jack made a point of reading aloud before bolting for the deck.

Anna-Maria's eyes were wide when we arrived as she leaned against the door.

"I take it his Shadow is down?"

She nodded with a grim expression.

"Step aside Luv" she brushed a hand across his cheek before moving out of the way. The niche Mallory was in (it didn't deserve the name cabin) was too tiny to allow anyone but Jack in. Commodore Norrington and I ended up flanking the door. Sweet Jesus he looked dead. It was one thing to know he was thin, I'd CARRIED him but as Mallory'd commented several times dynol belied their eyes not their hands and I was no different. That his skin was wrapped so tightly 'round his bones that you could count his teeth through his cheeks wasn't a surprise as such but it hurt to see it. What was a surprise was how… weathered and ragged he was. The silver outfit was tarnished nearly black, portions were unravelling apparently having been worked loose by windblown sand. His hair was a solid mass of flotsam & jetsam. At first I thought his eyes were open before I realized that while his eyelids had shriveled his eyes hadn't leaving nearly half of his cat slitted irises exposed even with them closed. He wasn't breathing right either. Even asleep he looked pained. Jack laid as much of a hand as the snarled hair and the crown allowed on Mallory's forehead and murmured something. Some of the tension bled out of him as he went truly limp.

"Captain Sparrow" Commodore Norrinton began.

"Fetch a blanket" Jack growled to the crowd at large. Mr. Not Cot…Henri leapt to obey.

"Pearl, luv, could ye have Sea fill the tub."

"What did"

Jack threw one of Mallory's boots at the Commodore where it spilled a fair bit of sand across the black boards.

"I sent him te sleep, dreamless sleep. He wasn't resting, not properly, not really. And yes I took advantage I doubt I'd ever manage it with him on his guard. He needs rest Commodore. Then while Lizzy finishes reading the bloody journal I'm going to get him cleaned up. He's been here for bloody days and he didn't even bother to dump the benighted sand out of his boots. And in case yer nose isn't as sensitive as mine he actually has a bit of a pong. None o' which is in keeping with me fastidious brother's nature. I'm thinking there's no sense in pretending we didn't read the journal, not after this, and I can't imagine he wouldn't feel better waking up clean."

Jack wrapped him up so thoroughly in the blanket you could barely tell there was an Ellyllon swaddled in there before taking him below. Elizabeth rolled her eyes but dutifully turned her back while I went to war trying to get him out of his outfit. Sand had worked its way in everywhere. Silver wasn't iron it shouldn't have done this. I glanced at Jack.

"He'll stay asleep."

Elizabeth went back to reading.

I am (was?) an Ellyllon. We share a father but your mother was human. I don't know who she was because I our Sire had me locked in a two by two by two foot cell for the better part of eight decades when you were conceived. Beware of Him Sparrow. Our Sire is a monster. Your mother gave her life to get you away from Him. I don't know what he wants you for Sparrow but it can't be anything good. If I'm dead then be doubly wary for my presence will no longer hide you from Him. Bleed my body dry, have Wind and Sea scatter it for you. It will buy you a little time. Pearl was built to keep you safe from Him.

I finally got the doublet loose. I winced to see it like this, it had been magnificent in Mallory's memories and Shadows.

If you command her she will have no trouble clearing her decks of the vermin currently aboard. I'm not 'daft' because I do magic Sparrow, I'm daft because of what our Sire did to me. Besides you're already daft anyway so what exactly are you worried about?

If I'm drooling things are far more dangerous. Once you've regained the Pearl leave me on Peregrine and have him stay close. I doubt your wishes can save me, but I'd appreciate the effort.

You'll be wondering exactly what happened since the last thing in your memory will be embarking with the rum runners. You'll also undoubtedly be a bit put out when you note that I've removed the pages that detail what happened to you. Some acts leave wounds that go deeper than to mere flesh. The damage they wrought was killing you despite my best efforts at more mundane healing. Magical talents vary, you're at your best with Wind & Wishes, I with Sea & Fire, what you needed wasn't something that is, that was, in my usual repertoire. This ISN'T your fault, Sparrow. Whatever has happened to me I made my own choice with my eyes open. You're probably furious with me – I know when I was in a similar position once upon a time I certainly was. Forgive me Sparrow for all of this. I thought about just leaving a letter and keeping the journal sealed (heretofore if you actually had managed to lay hands on it you'd have seen nothing but blank pages) but you deserve more answers than I have time to give you.

I'm not who you think I am Sparrow. You're going to learn things I've done, that never mind not proud of, that I'm horrified by. The worst I never even let darken these pages. Children know hypocrisy when they hear it, in trying to set an example for you I became a better man than I had ever been. At least for a little while, you would be appalled at what I did to Barbossa and the men who laid hands on you. Bill can fill you in on the curse (I leave him to you mostly unharmed as a parting gift). Barbossa has chosen to interpret my curse as requiring him to repay the gold and the blood to the Aztec gods instead of to you as intended (terribly sloppy of me not to define a curse properly I'm usually more careful than that) and it will work.

There are is so much more I should say but there is no more time if I'm to save you. Don't blame yourself for any of this Sparrow, it's my bloody fault fore and aft, and just that I'm the one that bore the cost.

Wind in the Sails, Safe Ports, Precise Courses, & Brilliant Dawns to you little brother.

I was certain he couldn't possibly sleep through the wrestling match with his tunic but he did. The harder we pulled the more the cloth seemed to cling to him, slithering like a serpent, as tight as a boa around its prey. "Please" I finally pled in frustration and was abruptly holding the tunic.

"Guess it just wanted te be asked nicely" Jack observed before moving on to the belt "So if I asked nicely" Jack yanked his fingers back as both of the draigs on Risanca's hilt went after him "Any suggestions?"

"I'll handle it" Jack nodded and went looking for something on the other side of the cabin leaving me with both of them glaring at me with their jewel eyes.

Come on, Sparrow, don't you dare make all of this for nothing – I will follow you into death. I might not be a mind healer, I might not be trained, but I AM a necromancer and I WILL find a way to DRAG you back. Do you hear me?

I frowned at the journal and tried to restore its protections. It SHOULD have worked. It didn't. I could practically taste Sparrow's wishes swirling through the room. I was just thankful that the ones that wanted me well had apparently stolen a march on the ones that wanted the journal. Draigs, could all of this have been a convoluted attempt by his wishes to get the journal? Hey guys if he dies he won't be able read it, it'd be a little pointless don't you think? A flutter but if they did anything I could not discern it. Damn it, Sparrow! I might not be able to easily use the knowledge the Dark Lady had left me but I could tell Sparrow's mind was…significantly better. From what the Dark Lady had shown me my work was neither perfect nor elegant but it ought to be sufficient. Key word being ought. I was in largely uncharted territory, navigating a course based on second hand insights left behind in my own mind more than a century ago by a being that for all her human mien was in many ways far beyond my ken. It wasn't that I thought she meant either of us ill it was just, damn, I just, didn't like relying on anyone else. Especially ton new war rapping saw den riccolo.

Agnar nearly got me as we all looked up at Elizabeth, that wasn't his enaid, and whatever it was it wasn't good. Something was seriously wrong with Mallory. It wasn't until several seconds later that he seemed to sluggishly pick up on it. Time seemed to flow, stretch, and warp as Mallory reacted at a snail's pace to whatever was wrong. I went back to trying to get Mallory's sword belt off while Elizabeth clearly went looking for Mallory's recovery. It wasn't just the two on Risanca that were giving me trouble, the buckle itself while beautifully worked was downright nasty and viciously fast. And that sword, just being near that sword raised every hair on my body. The thing was evil. Pulsating, roiling, purified, distilled evil. I backed off for a moment. I had read the treatises Mallory had written for me until the pages were worn. Whenever I'd been truly baffled by something in them the answer would come to me in the night accompanied by half remembered dreams of a blond haired man and a young Noman. Knowing what I did now I was certain that those treatises held memories the same way the journal did only somehow hidden from my waking mind. Could I tease out what I needed to know while awake? The buckle seeming to sense I was about to try something narrowed its eyes, growled, and sent out a plume of smoke and fire that had us all scrambling back.

Commodore Norrington sputtered glaring at Jack who shrugged "Yer cravat was ablaze, mate." The Commodore just heaved a long suffering sigh.

"Any thoughts, whelp?"

"Give me minute."

"Yer thinking a nap might help?" Jack asked no more than three breaths after I closed my eyes.

"Maybe, Mallory left me copies of Mannwan's lessons. When I was really stumped I'd dream of a man with blond hair and a young Mallory. I was hoping, with a few moments of quiet, I might be able to get to the memories without being asleep."

"Or I could give ye a hand as it were."

Apparently now that he was convinced that magic itself wasn't going to land him in Mallory's condition Jack was eager to test the abilities he'd been denying. Having no desire to be the victim of a magical mishap, particularly with Mallory already so deeply insensate at Jack's hands, I begged off. Jack's face fell a little. I closed my eyes determined not to be taken in, I didn't want to wake just in time to meet my grandchildren.

My God, what the forge looked like through Mallory's eyes. I was suddenly intensely jealous. All the things I had to feel out Mallory could just see. Then I remembered the hell he'd ended up entangled in and I wasn't jealous at all.

Mannwan frowned and snapped the blade Mallory presented him.

Now I was the one that frowned that had been a nearly flawless piece of work, perfectly balanced, the purity exquisite, the folding precise, the hilt & pommel a work of absolute art.

"Flawed rubbish"

While Mallory retained his aplomb outwardly he was cringing and mortified. He couldn't see what was wrong with the blade, and frankly neither could I.

"You are the PRINCE of AVALON, not some Outlander trash. Do NOT present me work any marginally competent blacksmith with no gifts could forge."

I knew what barely capable blacksmiths produced and Mallory's short sword had been worthy of a master sword smith.

Mannwan turned back to the forge gesturing to two gleaming piles, one of small, flat strips of silver the other of something I'd never seen before.

"Hair from unicorn's tails, they are sent as tribute. Ceremonial attire for the Royal House is always woven from unicorn hair." He heated the silver briefly before using a spindle to smoothly ensheathe the unicorn hair in a seamless coating of silver but it went beyond that, I could feel the magic swirling through the strand both from Mannwan and from what I assumed was the unicorn.

"Do you think you can handle the rest of them?" the words were a challenge that Mallory's Draig came roaring up to meet. Mallory watched as Mannwan made an alloy of silver I'd never seen before. Instinct told me that it would be stronger, far stronger, than pure silver, perhaps even stronger than steel. Mannwan didn't even bother with the hammer or forge he molded the metal with will alone.

Mannwan offered the buckle still unfinished to Mallory who slashed his palm letting the blood pool before pouring it over the metal. Eyes closed, brow furrowed in concentration Mallory finished what Mannwan had begun ending with awakening the buckle

So it was a full lledrith, not a surprise given the whole fire breathing episode. While this was fascinating & I could honestly watch the forge through Mallory's eyes for a month it wasn't getting me any closer to figuring out how to get past the thing. I didn't want to cut the belt (I honestly wasn't certain we could & we'd never be able to fix it).

Before giving Mannwan a hopeful look. The buckle snapped and smoked at Mannwan just as it had at us, except he mastered it with little more than a flick of the wrist and an arched brow at Mallory, "That's little more than child's trick."

I blinked my eyes. Mannwan may have counted it as little more than a child's trick but I was less than assured of my ability to repeat the move even if I suspected it was within the scope of my gift. I also wondered if Mallory had actually been half as bad with Earth as he thought – or if Mannwan's impossible standards had under cut his confidence to the point it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. There were no words for just how glad I was to have had Mallory with his patience and subtle teasing instead of Mannwan with his implacable demands as my mentor.

"Mr. Turner?" I ignored the Commodor and caught Jack's eyes instead "wish me luck?"

"Always, Whelp". If there was power behind it I didn't feel it. I drew a deep breath. Before this I'd always imagined magic involving rituals, incantations, and sacrifices, and for the juju it did but for Mallory it usually seemed to be little more than an act of focused will after pulling power from his enaid. I wasn't going to get past the buckle without magic and even after all of the journal reading we'd done I didn't know how to use my magic. Or did I?

I presented the blade with a flourish. We'd been working on this sword alone for over a week, and I was sure we'd finally gotten it right. Mallory tested the balance, the temper, the polish, the tang, the pommel, the grip, the guard before laughing with delight "Now it needs to be finished."

I looked at him in confusion.

"All Great Swords have hearts, you haven't given this one its yet."

I gave him a dubious look.

"Didn't you ever learn any fairy tales?" he sighed, "William Turner, you have skill to make excellent swords, but you also have the gift to make them swords worthy of legend." He held out his hand for mine. I didn't even feel the prick but a drop of blood glided down the keen edge before he wrapped my fingers around the grip. "A blade, tang, hilt, guard, grip are just what a sword needs they aren't what a real sword IS. So, William Turner, what is this sword?"

"I don't understand."

His hand joined mine over the hilt as he stepped behind me, odd I could swear I felt rings but he clearly wasn't wearing any. He was a strong, solid warmth at my back, actually too warm – was he feverish? as he whispered "close your eyes and hear me."

An odd request but I trusted Noman. A firm hand on the center of my back, "This is your center" suddenly it was as if I could feel my heart. Not the one that beat in my chest though, more like the one they talked about in church. I'd never really understood that until now. "That's just the core, like your physical heart it touches every part of you" I drew a breath, uncomfortable was this witchcraft? and fascinated "but it doesn't have to end there. The sword is an extension of your hand, it's part of you. Find it. Good. Now what is this sword for?"

"To kill pirates" I growled.

He sighed, even with him behind me and my eyes closed I could feel his disappointment and his sorrow.

"They're evil" I nearly wailed in protest.

"Some of them" he allowed "but when you set your hand to the hilt is all you want to hear bloodlust?"

"No?" I didn't actually see what was wrong with that, it was a SWORD.

"If you were facing your first pitched battle what would you want as reassurance?" he asked.

I adjusted my fingers and tried to push that from my heart to my fingertips. "Better" he whispered in my ear before backing away. "May I?"

I opened my eyes and it back to him "Indefatigable."

Indefatawhat?

"It means tireless and unyielding, that which perseveres despite insurmountable odds. Now it's perfect. It suits you, or it will when you've grown a bit more. Don't sell this one. It's yours."

I'd always felt a bit embarrassed about it but every so often a blade would seem to NEED me to repeat Noman's, Mallory's instructions. I gathered myself, like a child who puts his head under the covers what the buckle couldn't see it wouldn't acknowledge but its eyes could only be closed with magic. I hoped I still had fingers after this as I struck as quickly as I could and wasted no time pulling the sword belt free of his wasp-like waist.

Jack flashed me a cocky, knew you could do it grin as I reached for his remaining boot which I instantly dropped in surprise.

"Is something amiss Mr. Turner?

"It's crying."

"Boots do not…nevermind. Mrs. Turner if you would kindly continue."

Icky. Dirty. The floor is dirty. I'm lying on the floor. The dirty floor. Why am I lying on the dirty floor? Oh, my third aneurism of the hour. If it wasn't for Sparrow's 'don't die' wish the first two would have killed me. People don't survive simultaneous catastrophic ruptures of both the anterior and posterior cerebral arteries. Not even healers of my caliber, especially when all of that skill was directed away from themselves. Thank you for my life little brother.

I tried getting off the floor, still too dizzy. I closed my eyes against the blindingly bright lamp light. I didn't want to put it out in case Sparrow woke up. I didn't want him waking up in the dark. Draigs my head still hurt. I needed to go back over every artery in my brain. I must have been sloppy the first time after I finished with Sparrow and missed a bleeder. That one had been slow, it might not have killed me but it had come far too close to leaving me drooling. I tried to brace myself for it but the pain was, was, was, oh Jane's God, God. It's just a body, just body, nevermind it's yours just do what needs to be done. One bleeder repaired only for another to rupture, and another, and another, and another, and another….

I lay panting and trembling but finally certain my brain was no longer a sieve. Next time the Dark Lady gave me advice I would be taking it. I honestly wasn't certain if I'd known, really known, what I was getting myself into that I'd have done it, even for Sparrow. Surviving was only the first hurtle. My brain was restored but that didn't necessarily mean that there weren't going to be equally severe consequences to my mind. I swallowed hard thinking of Her, of Him, of Meleri. Draigs, I didn't want to lose my mind. Better dead than mad. I would be far too dangerous to leave alive if I truly went over the edge. I started to get up but decided the floor really wasn't all that dirty… actually it was but it still wasn't worth moving my head. I had Wind flip the spare blanket within reach and moving as little as possible shoved it under my caught between a hammer and anvil head and slipped my arm gingerly over it since the lamp light hurt even with my eyes closed.

DRAIGS! Wind was louder than the day I'd escaped the carchar. It was like lances and shattered glass through my raw brain to the point I couldn't even register what it was trying to tell me. And then it sank in. Oh hell's bells. I might have been ready to cheerfully tear Bill himself apart but I didn't want to be the one to tell him this. I could see in his enaid just how much he loved his wife. This would do more than gut him. With a fast ship and a direct passage he might get there in time to hold her one last time and to grieve with his son. But he needed to leave NOW. I pulled myself to my feet before I could lose my nerve. It's just a body & despite the dancy lights and bizarre echoes everything works. You are the Prince of Avalon get the hell up and do what needs to be done. I sent Winds questing for updates on which ships would be in either New York or Lisbon next week. I could take him that far on the Peregrine, buy them just a little more time. I'd been stunned when I'd sent Puck Robin to save him to discover his bride was a bud of the White Rose. Not THE current White Rose of course, that was the 7th Rhys Norrington, but still a descendent of Henry. She'd married scandalously down as far as the dynol were concerned. I hadn't been able to do much for them, hadn't even dared to watch over them lest I draw unfriendly attention to them. Damn but I wanted to just sail up the bloody Thames and, actually I just wanted to sail up the bloody Thames period. I wanted to go HOME. I loved traveling & being at Sea but I hadn't been back home in ever so long. It would be a bittersweet homecoming at best but still…

I shook my head and immediately, truly, profoundly, and whole-heartedly regretted it. So…umm… collect Bill, get Sparrow back to the Peregrine, and get underway. Keep it simple. My brain wasn't up to complicated. I pulled open the door & had Wind carry my whisper down to the Inn's errand boy. It was a struggle not to kill the boisterous little brat. To be fair he'd been neither particularly boisterous nor bratty. I curled up to wait for Bill's return. A quick glance at Sparrow revealed no change. He ought to be awake, but he wasn't. I pulled the journal out. Will had always been a good listener but no sooner had I set nib to page than Sparrow finally stirred. I couldn't even breathe as I watched, waited, and desperately hoped I hadn't done something worse than kill him.

"Sparrow?" Please, please, be alright. He ignored me completely except for a snarl as he rose from the bed. I was fairly certain he had no idea where he intended to go other than out. I drew a breath so Sparrow did have a draig. Most adhil didn't, hell more than half of the nobility didn't, heretofore I'd seen no sign of one in Sparrow. I'd envied him that. So I'd gotten back a draig – but had I gotten back Sparrow with it? If I hadn't I was going to have to kill, to kill, to kill….it.

"Please talk to me Jack" I didn't call him Jack, at least not often, I saved it for when I REALLY needed his attention.

"Get out of me bleeding way" Sparrow was in there, it wasn't just the draig. The draig was up and Sparrow was more furious than I'd ever seen him but he was still Sparrow. Suddenly my pounding head and near death mattered not at all. I'd do it all again in an instant. I'd delivered a fair few infants in my time until now I'd never really understood how in the moment you put their child in their arms seconds after they'd been screaming in agony it was all suddenly irrelevant. I did now. I wanted to turn bloody handsprings, dance with the stupid aura lights, and sing with the echoes. I just needed to calm Sparrow down, we'd get Bill on his way, then sort out Barbossa & the Pearl. Everything was going to be fine.

"Why don't we go back to your room for a bit, Sparrow?" I said soothingly trying to back the draig down a little when the world went white with agony before going black.

Sparrow's draig glared down at me. When had Sparrow gotten so tall?

"I'm going out. Don't follow me." Gorchymyn, it bit deep, cast with full intent to hurt. It didn't have to. Though apparently Sparrow like his father neglected that fine point. Argellion had taught me how to do it so lightly that they would never even know what they were doing wasn't their own idea. Insidious. What the blazes was THAT behind Sparrow? He let go of my jaw and as my head hit the floor, draigs, draigs, I realized I was lying in a spreading pool of my own blood at the bottom of the stairs. I tried to rise & follow but the gorychymyn tightened its grip, white agony & darkness.

Gagging, choking, I tried to run but I didn't even twitch. Whatever that thing had been behind Sparrow it filled the stairwell with its presence. None of the dark and twisted things I had faced in my life had even come close to this. And it had just saved my life. I'd have drowned in my own blood if it hadn't roused me. A malevolence. Jane's God, it was a malevolence. Whatever it was Sparrow had wished when he hit me, he'd brought forth a malevolence. Damn, Sparrow – what did you wish? A simple ill-wish wouldn't have brought forth – that. When Christians talked about witches calling up demons THIS was what they were talking about. Even the most twisted of the cyfae feared them. They were not of this world. Legend held their summoner could banish them, perhaps even control them but if there was a way to fight one I'd never heard of it. Aside from maybe Holy Water and a banishing. I tried to scoff and ended up choking on blood again. Clever and twisted from what I read what they did to their summoners didn't bear thinking about either. Draigs, Sparrow, what have you done? I tried to rise, to follow Sparrow, to get him to call this thing to heel but the Gorchymyn nearly pulled me back down into unconsciousness again. Clearly mind healing was not my forte. I was bleeding to death and the collapsed lung wasn't doing me and favors either. The thing just watched me, waiting patiently but for what I did not know. So heal myself, find Bill, and get him to talk to Sparrow. Except it blocked me. Not entirely, instead of dying in the next few minutes I had an hour, maybe two at best before I bled out. Had Sparrow really wanted me to die slowly and alone?

I closed my eyes but the damn lights keep dancing on the inside of the lids. And the echoes just would not stop. Bloody annoying that. I'd drug myself as far from the corner the malevolence was crouched in as I could before trying and failing to get to my feet. There was no such thing as an unwinnable fight. It had made the mistake of not striking when it could. To hell with sending it back – I was going to destroy it. I wrapped my fingers around Risanca but lacked the strength to draw it. So we watched each other as I knit my chest together at a snail's pace.

The whole stairwell suddenly brightened and not just because of the lamplight. The Lighthouse Spell I'd set so long ago on several of Bill's ancestors to echo in their descendants seemed to bother it. Didn't seem to actively hurt it but it wasn't happy about Bill's arrival that was damn sure. It gathered itself, glaring at him. I had NO clue what would happen if necromantic curse, familial blessings, and enaid anchor point plowed into lurking spawn of the nether world and wasn't particularly eager to find out while lying wounded on the floor below.

"Stay back" draigs but that sounded pathetic. Of course NOW would be the moment that Bill decided to ignore a direct order. Except with the scariest grin it had ever been my misfortune to witness it departed. It hadn't gone far, I could still taste the WRONGESS of it at the back of my throat overlaying the intense copper of my own blood. It was close. A little strength returned and I yanked Risanca free.

"What are ye going te do with that?" having Risanca unsheathed was utterly pointless but I felt better with a weapon in my hand.

Bill's worried face hove into view as he reached down. *Don't ever let them touch you, never let them see you bleed* I grabbed his arm & with the extra leverage managed to regain my feet.

"Follow Jack" I whispered trying not to cough. Damn him, Bill just stood there staring at the blood. We needed to get Sparrow back here before things got worse.

"Where are you injured?" Bill breathed back looking stricken. Was he that concerned for me? Of course the fact I was still using him to stay upright wasn't likely to reassure him that I was fine so I took a step back.

"Where are you injured?" he snapped, frustrated, frightened, and worried. Damn it I wasn't getting through to him.

"It's nothing – go find Jack" Bill didn't move "Please" I didn't beg often "and be careful he's not himself."

Now Bill's anger flared but not against me "Jack did this te ye didn't he" it wasn't a question. Not Sparrow, his draig, the draig he had no idea how to control because I'd had no idea he had one, had NEVER taught him how to deal with it. Of course I'd never mentioned the Gorchymyn either and that certainly hadn't stopped him from inflicting one on me.

"You need to find him before…." Unconsciousness beckoned and I nearly crumpled. I'd much rather face the malevolence on 'ground' of my choosing "I'll meet you aboard the Grine."

"Bullocks – I'll bring Jack here" no, no, to the Sea.

"Not safe" the world was spinning and darkening around the edges, please, please stop worrying about me and just DO AS I ASK.

"Then I'll see you to the Peregrine first."

My own Draig flared at that "I'm fine. And will meet you at the dock."

The Winds swirled in bearing the scent of Sparrow's Blood and voices raised in anger. I tried to go, except the Gorchymyn tightened its grip. I'd never make it. I'd sworn to never, ever do this but Bill wasn't listening to me and despite everything Sparrow was going to die. I slipped in trying to be gentle but I'd never actually done this before. Bill went at a flat out run. Good, good, now I just had to make it down to the docks.

Elizabeth paused as Mallory moaned in tub twisting away from Jack.

"I thought you said he would remain asleep" the Commodore snapped as cat slitted eyes slid open for a moment before Jack laid a hand on Mallory's forehead again. You could tell Mallory, only half aware, tried to fight him but Jack won. Elizabeth skipped ahead.

"No we" Sparrow's draig hissed. Even though I was ready for it this time Sparrow still got his claws into me "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."

Oh hell, bloody hell, Sparrow wasn't going to listen if I told him about the malevolence, not until he was ready. The second Gorchymyn ordering me out of his life BURNED as I fought it to bespell the whistle and slide it into his pocket, creating a loop hole in the command, a way back. Please, Sparrow, please call soon I've no idea what that thing is going to do but it can't possibly be anything good.

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