Chapter 1

Authors Note: I hope all of you have stuck around for all of these POTC stories! Thanks so much to the reviewers for my other stories! It means so much that you've actually left your comments and everything! To those of you I haven't gotten to yet… I promise that I'll get to your sites and review the stories. I've been doing that methodically as well as trying to write. Lol. Talk to you all soon…

       There was a knock on the door, she sighed. Couldn't they leave her be for once? The one time she had no on to interrupt her much needed rest. It wasn't healthy this unflagging exhaustion that crept in right before mid-day and didn't vanish until dawn. There was always someone new to service, she forgot who they all were by the time she pulled the covers up to sleep.

       "Yes, alright, I'm coming." She snapped irritably. Once she had the door open she forgot all her anger as well as the bridle in her hands. A horse nickered lightly at the cold air coming through the open door.

       "'ello." He said wearily leaning against the doorframe heavily, "If there be a place…"

       "Hush…" she cautioned hearing the hoof beats in the distance, "Come in, try not to disturb the horses."

       He half walked half stumbled into the clean, sweet-smelling confines of the stable. Ana was appalled at the wounds and bruises that covered his body. His soft white shirt was torn in several places and black pants hung loosely about him. They no doubt had fit him well in the past, but starvation had long since taken its toll.

       There were streaks of black around his eyes, from far away she had taken them as bruises. It was only traces of kohl, once it must have went around his entire eyes making them even more pronounced, now they only proved how tired he must be.

       His long black hair was tangled with beads, shells, coins, and various other trinkets. Her gaze was again drawn to his eyes, they were overbright with fever or fear she didn't know.

       Congealed blood was gathered on his shoulders and arms, it was making the horses nervous as they could smell it in the air.

       The hoofbeats weren't far away anymore, give them another half-mile and they'd be there. She bolted the door behind her and laid the bridle down. There was no place for him to hide, the horses wouldn't stand him in their stalls and no back door had been made.

       There was no hope for it, he would have to stay in her room. No one ever went there but her, of that she made sure. That was her space where the anger of serving gentleman and ladies was allowed to show. The women in their fine clothes, the men with gold brocade on their jackets that could feed a child for a week, the whole idea was absurd. She helped him walk down the middle walkway not needing to say a word.

       Her mother had often helped poor, starving, poverty-stricken souls find a warm place to sleep for the night. When they had enough food she would often feed the children that were always hungry.

She looked him over and judged him to be about three and forty. He must have heard of her mother and come to flee from the authorities. His skin was bronzed from working in the sun, the gashes that criss-crossed shallowly along his shoulders could have been from a riding crop or cane. Was he a runaway slave? A servant managed to escape from white-slavery wasn't a rare occurrence.

       "Stay quiet, you'll be safe here." She pulled a blanket around him to ease his shivering. Out of all the people she'd helped the lost and dazed look in his eyes could make him one of the worst off. There were those that knew their predicament and the danger they were in, he seemed not to care.

       She shut the door firmly behind him and patted Black on the nose as she went past. She had never minded working in a stable. She loved the scent of fresh hay and the horses, her mother taught her to mix lime water with a combination of things to keep the place decent smelling.

       The horses were well looked after, she pulled up their bedding and put down more every other day. She cleaned up after them twice a day and mixed their food without complaint. The only time she was upset was when men came with their riding crops dripping and treated the horses as if they had no minds.

       They didn't have to pull at the reins or clip them in the side with whips, the horses were smart and could respond to any command. The condition they sometimes returned in made her bite her lip to keep from screaming. She wanted to take the crop to some of them for their carelessness! She waited for the third impatient knock upon the door to sound before answering it. Her thoughts still on the treatment of her horses, she hadn't wiped her expression clear.

       "Er, I'm sorry, miss." The magistrate found himself apologizing awkwardly. The sight of her anger had him clearing his throat before trying to speak again.

       "What's all this about?" she raised an eyebrow at his snow-white horse and the man on a dapple-gray beside him. She couldn't se the third mans face nor did she recognize his horse from around town.

       "Have you seen any suspicious looking men about?" he asked regaining his composure, "Opened the door to anyone lately?"

       "It's the middle of the night." She faked a yawn. "You woke me up for that? To ask me if I saw anyone 'suspicious' around?"

       "She don't look ready for sleepin'." The one on the gray objected.

       "Trinley!" the magistrate barked, what women wore to sleep in were no concern of theirs.

       "Well she don't." he sulked.

       "My apologies, miss." He continued ignoring Trinley's behavior, "I'm to conduct a search for the cur."

       "Surely you don't mean to search here now!' she had seen so many women act in front of their husbands to get something they wanted, or more likely to get out of doing something they didn't want to do. She could imitate them perfectly now down to there injured attitude and pricked sensibility. "Why I'm not even dressed decently!"

       Just as she expected, tree pairs of eyes locked on her chest where her dress dipped. Typical of them, she had seen similar reactions when men had helped ladies down off their horses or when the women faked injuries to get their attention.

       "We'll not be a minute." The magistrate swung down from his horse. Standing a good inch higher than her, his polished black boots clicked on the wooden planks as he walked down the aisle. He was followed closely by the other two, one of which she still hadn't caught a glimpse of his face. It irked her that they hadn't tried to muffle their steps, even more so when Trinley rapped unthinkingly on a stall door as he passed it.

       Irritation melted to fear when the third stopped outside her door, surely they wouldn't go inside! She darted past them just as he turned the knob and opened the door.

       "I beg your pardon!" she cried wedging herself between the door and it's opening, "This is my room!"

       "What are you trying to hide?" Trinley sneered looking down at his very long nose.

       "My privacy." She snapped, the boorish ingrate.

       "We're not going to go in." the magistrate hastened to reassure her, "Just a peek to make sure no scalawag has broken in."

       "To my ROOM?!"

       "If you'd kindly step aside…" he stepped forward and pushed her not so subtly into the room. She spread her skirts as much as she could to try and cover where the man would have been. As she turned around, confusion waged war with reality in her mind. He had been right there! There was no way he could have disappeared from the last time she'd been there, and there wasn't any back way out.

       "… for intruding." They were saying. She nodded, and walked with them back to the entry. They mounted their horses and vanished into the darkness.

       Where the blazes had he gone? There was no other way out of her room but the door, just the stable- her breath hitched. He wouldn't have been foolish enough to enter Black's stall, no one intheir right mind would.

       She started when someone grabbed her shoulder, but expecting it to be him she turned with all barriers down. Instead of it being the piratical captain, the third man whose face she could see now dug his fingers into her arm cruelly.

       "Filthy harlot." He spat, his vise gripping her arm even tighter making bruises form underneath the skin, "Selling yourself to that buccaneer." This was Losthun, not exactly the best respected man in town, but one above her rank all the same. It had started with him spending too much time at the stable, when she rejected his offer for her to work at his house exclusively he would follow her wherever she went and call her names. She had finally gotten him to stop by threatening to go to the authorities, but now that he was on close terms with the magistrate there was no one she could turn too.

       "Get off!" she pushed him away and resisted the urge to rub her aching arm. "What business is it of yours what I do?"

       "You laid with him, didn't you." He backed her slowly up the aisle, his dark eyes gleamed eerily in the dim light, "Whoring to him."

       "Get out." She wasn't going to cower in fear, no in her own home and definitely not because of him.

       "I will." He backed her against one of the stall doors. "As soon's I get what you gave him."

       "Never." She snarled, "He hasn't gotten anything either, so I suppose that's what you want."

       He made a move as if to backhand her, but it was then she realized which horse she was standing in front of. Before he could blink, she had the mechanism unlatched and safely had a wall separating them. If he chose to look through the top metal grate he would be able to see her and come in, but this was Black.

       "I could hang you for that, sweet." He said cheerfully, "You'll beg for your life soon enough."

       "When hell freezes over." She retorted.

       He left and the stable was quiet again, she sank down along the inside of the door and hugged her knees to her chest. It was cold, she could feel the ice in the pit of her stomach settle as clamminess settled over her skin. This wasn't the first time he had accused her of being a harlot, nor had he ever kept his intentions quiet. That's why she hadn't accepted his offer, because if she was ever alone with him on his property there was little chance of her ever regaining her freedom again.

       "Here." Something black and warm fell across her shoulders. "Has that happened before?" She looked up, it wasn't that she had forgotten about him, more that she couldn't face him right now. That he was in the stall with her and the horse alarmed her, but for some reason the animal didn't seem at all wary or on edge.

       "Yes, but he went away, didn't he?"

       Jack looked into her eyes and was wise enough to change the subject, "What's his name?"

       "Black." She replied, what else was she supposed to do? Any sudden movements would startle them both and the situation could fast become dangerous.

       "The real name?" he raised an eyebrow from where he stood in the corner. It was a nice enough name, but for the rest who had names like Spade, Jackal, Poseidon… Black just didn't fit.

       "Thanatos." She said quietly, after the Greek god of death.

       "No wonder you call'im Black." He half-grinned, "People'ere wouldn't take to kindly to that I'd imagine."

       "They'd get rid of him if they could." She admitted realizing that he wasn't feverish, it was just the unusual color of his eyes that made him looks so. He had been shivering because it was cold out, not because he had been ill. The only thing truly wrong with him was his wounds, she could dress them and help reduce the pain.

       "I didn't know he was hurting you." He said after a moment, "I heard them come in and-"

       "Don't apologize." She shook her head, "If you had they would have caught you, then I'd be in even worse danger for helping you."

       "A man who hits a woman for-" he sighed, "Funny ol' world, innit?"

       "The day a pirate speaks on issues of morality, yeah I'd agree on that." She brushed off the straw from her skirts and folded the blanket. There was salve in the tack room, he would most likely want to be getting on his way.

       "I'm not just any pirate." He patted the horses ebony nose. "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow, savvy?"

       He was Jack Sparrow! She'd heard of him before, the pirate who had more treasure than the world had seen, but had gotten it without any unnecessary killing. There were penny books all over the place with word of his exploits, the newspapers never lacked in interesting stories on his latest adventures. For awhile now she hadn't heard word of him, but she knew that he couldn't have died. Legends like those that circulated around him and his crew didn't just die.

       "And I'm Anamaria McRyn." She smiled, "Pleasure to meet you."

       "Same here." He met her handshake squarely. She was unlike anyone he had ever met before, all the women he knew had they faced what she had would be aquiver on the floor sobbing their eyes out. She had faced it and won the skirmish, whether or not she'd be up to winning the war was questionable, especially considering the enemies she would make along with him. She wasn't alone anymore, this went far beyond him simply owing her for keeping him safe.

       Should he step foot into her stable again, he'd answer to Jack Sparrow and there was no doubting the outcome of that battle.