A Mighty Hunter Before the Dawn
Disclaimer: I am a cursed writer. Compelled by PotC, I was, but now I am consumed by it.
Summery: For the "I told you so" Challenge at Black Pearl Sails. As usual, this is not a drabble. On the other hand it has Jack and Anamaria and Parrot and Cat O'Nine Tails and Marty and the Black Pearl. So maybe I'll be forgiven. Also it is purely a bit of self-indulgence. No nutritional value. Plenty of calories. Fluff fluff fluff. Should be just what the doctor ordered before I start posting mayhem again.
Thank you geek mama for the beta read.
A Mighty Hunter Before the Dawn
The scene on the decks of the Black Pearl was vintage Jack Sparrow—equal parts of the sublime and the ridiculous.
The dawn was just beginning to pour its molten gold from the pinnacles of topgallant masts down over perfectly belled black sails, turning the Pearl from a ship of shadow and mystery into a creature of glowing magic.
With a strong breeze on her starboard quarter, the Black Pearl scarcely seemed to touch the water, brushing lightly through the gentle swells, humming contentedly to herself. Her full towers of sails were drinking in the wind even though they had no particular destination. Both the Captain and his ship loved to fly.
The sheer beauty and freedom of her could take one's breath away, Anamaria thought.
However, just now she had other things to absorb her attention. She and Marty were observing Captain Jack Sparrow, currently raising his own personal storm, rampaging about the main deck in a frothing fury.
"Where is that scabrous dog?" he demanded at the top of his not inconsiderable lungs.
"Cat," Anamaria corrected calmly.
"What!" Jack rounded on her menacingly.
"She's a cat, not a dog," Marty clarified, taking Anamaria's back, since Jack looked liable to transfer his wrath to the first mate. He folded his arms and returned the Captain's glare with interest.
Faced with a united front, Jack tacked back onto his previous course—cat hunting.
In his quest for his prey, the Captain had not bothered to get dressed. Clad only in the faded breeches Anamaria insisted he wear to spare her sensibilities on just such occasions, he'd come bolting onto the deck, bent on retribution. The morning sun outlined his bronzed muscles in gold leaf, and he fairly glittered with life—admittedly also a sight that could take one's breath away. But if Anamaria was having trouble breathing, it was because she was laughing so hard she thought she might have sprained something.
That cat was a plague and the bane of the crew's lives, but she forgave the little nuisance each and every misdemeanor for the sake of moments like these.
In the absence of excessive quantities of nocturnal rum, Jack tended to be an annoyingly chipper riser. Apparently he'd come leaping out of bed without due caution. The anguished howl and subsequent bellowing had a number of the off-watch crew straggling sleepily out the hatches, unsure whether this was some new summons to drastic action or a warning of some impending doom. They were now staring in bleary-eyed confusion at the sight of their captain capering madly about the deck swinging a much-the-worse-for-wear, dead rat by the tail.
A gift from Cat O'Nine Tails.
No one appeared to be able to reveal the whereabouts of the Captain's quarry. Jack stalked about the deck, dangling the rat from one hand and poking about in any likely or unlikely cranny with the other.
"Anchors aweigh!" tattled Cotton's parrot, suddenly.
"Ah ha!" Jack bounded forward to where he had now spotted an anomalous black lump curled up in the coil of anchor cable near the Pearl's bow. "There you are, you thrice-blasted varmint!" He reached out to nab the culprit.
Cat O' Nine had a pirate's sense of self-preservation. She went from boneless feline contentment to streak of black lightning in a split second. Whizzing straight past Jack, she made a flying leap and landed well up on the foremast where her speed was not in the least inhibited by becoming vertical. Up the spar she swarmed, until she reached the fore topsail yard. Perching on the horizontal yard arm, she stared down at her enraged pursuer and washed her shoulder with a contemptuous pink tongue. Clearly she had no opinion of pirates who disturbed a hardworking lady's catnap.
Neither was the Captain's determined chase slowed down by becoming vertical. Since he refused to relinquish the rat, Jack was forced to make his ascent one-handed. This did not appear to impair his agility in the least.
Anamaria privately congratulated Cat. It was always a treat to watch Jack Sparrow walk the wind. Most sailors took the ratlines completely for granted, but for Jack, they seemed superfluous, as though he simply brushed them as he flew by. On deck Cat could outrun him, but in the rigging, Jack kept right on her tail.
The rising sun backlit him in glorious gold. Only Jack could manage to look that good doing something that stupid, Anamaria sighed.
Sensing imminent capture, Cat O'Nine fluffed up in indignation and scampered out to the end of the yard. Without pause, Jack followed her on all fours.
No wonder Barbossa had named his monkey Jack, Anamaria thought.
The Pearl appeared to be in a playful mood this morning and performed a swooping roll and dip totally uncalled for in the mild seas. Jack was forced to throw himself on the yard and wrap his arms around it as far as they'd go. With one hand he gripped the jackstay, but the other maintained its death grip on that rat.
In spite of his ship's lack of cooperation, Jack eventually made it to the end of the yard. There he finally cornered Cat, who had no further retreat but the briny deep. With a crow of triumph, Jack seized his prey. Immediately Cat turned into a hurricane of black fur and claws and teeth on the end of his arm.
A fizzing, fighting cat in one hand and a dead rat in the other left Jack with no hands for his descent. His appreciative audience, by now almost the entire crew, watched as their captain clung to his ship using his elbows, his chin, his teeth, even the curve of his stomach muscles. The Black Pearl curveted and bucked, tipping her yards towards the sea, waving her masts back and forth, and in general doing her best to toss him off into the drink in the spirit of the morning.
When Jack finally regained her decks, the crew let out a ragged cheer and a smattering of applause.
Cotton's parrot squawked loudly, "Drink and the devil!"
Jack grinned and bowed with a flourish of cat and rat.
Then he held up Cat O'Nine with a thunderous scowl. "Now for you, you villainous miscreant!"
Cat had assumed her customary death and destruction hold on the Captain's undefended arm. The sight never failed to make Anamaria happy.
"He's not going to throw it overboard?" a new crewman asked nervously.
Anamaria eyed the man. He'd been one of a lot they'd picked up from a merchanter—men eager to leave a hard life on a hard ship to try for pirate treasure. He'd filled out a little since he'd come on board and signed the articles—his teeth weren't falling out from scurvy anymore and the stripes on his back were healing nicely. But he still cringed as though expecting to be flogged at the least excuse. It was a good sign that he'd object to something the Captain might do.
"Course he's not!" Marty was indignant. "Everybody knows it's the worst sort of luck to throw a cat to the sea."
Marty had been spending far too much time at the rum with Gibbs, Anamaria decided.
"Just consider it part of the show," Anamaria advised the new hand more gently than she normally talked to these men. This one could be chased up the ratlines in a storm with a single hard look. "You're on the Black Pearl now, son. Nobody does crazy like we do crazy." She jerked her chin in Jack's direction. "They don't call him Daft Jack just for his looks."
The man tried out a tentative smile. It was about time. No point in being a pirate if you weren't having more fun than an ordinary sailor.
Captain Sparrow was holding up his captive in order to ring a peal over her, although it seemed obvious he was already coming out the worst in this encounter. Cat was gnawing on his thumb in what looked a most painful manner.
"This," Jack shook the rat in Cat's whiskery face, "was not part of our agreement. You were signed on to kill rats."
Cat O'Nine gave a violent twist and sank her teeth further into his thumb. That rat was most definitely killed, she seemed to say.
"Owwwwww! Of course it's dead," Jack groused. "I'm very happy it's dead. I wish they all were dead. You have my permission to break all their little necks. But . . ." he shook Cat loose from his thumb, "I do not want them for carpets! Savvy?"
Cat growled and sank her talons in further.
"Bloody hell!" Jack gritted his teeth. "Now surely we can be civilized about this. No need to shed any more blood. And may I point out that it is all my blood that is being shed?"
With a kick of her strong back legs, Cat informed him that she was well aware that she was shedding his blood and she was glad of it. He'd interrupted her nap.
Anamaria laughed out loud. The rest of the crew were grinning and guffawing. The Captain, always a sucker for an audience, waxed even more absurd.
"Be a reasonable pirate," Jack wheedled, gesturing wildly with the rat. "Let's parley about this."
Cat spat unreasonably. She'd worked all night to catch that rat. Then she'd brought it to the Captain as a sign that he was unusually favoured at the moment. And now he was being an ungrateful wretch.
"C'mon," Jack pleaded. "You can catch rats. Just don't give 'em to me." He glared around at his crew, catching sight of Anamaria in stitches. "You give 'em to her!" He waved Cat in her direction.
"Hey!" Anamaria exclaimed. "Do I hear somebody askin' to get slapped?"
A few men edged farther away from her. No one wanted to be near the first mate when she started swinging.
Cat let Jack know in no uncertain terms that he was in deep disgrace now, and it would be a cold day in hell before she gave him any more gifts. He could just starve.
"So, do we have an accord?" the Captain asked holding up the furry face so he could glare in her slightly crossed yellow eyes. "I don't want to see another rat, dead or alive. I want to be able to arise from my repose without fear of disgusting little corpses on my floor. And in exchange, I won't lock you in the brig on hardtack and water."
Cat pricked up her one and a half ears. Apparently that counted as consent.
"Agreed," Jack enthused. "Now let me show you where rats belong."
The rat sailed out over the turquoise and white sea in a leisurely arc. Then the Captain pulled Cat O'Nine in towards him and patted her back. She promptly set a claw into a bare rib.
"Blast! We're supposed to be having a truce!" Jack hissed, detaching the claw with a wince. He looked up and glared at the men as though noticing for the first time that his crew was shirking.
"All right everybody! Show's over," Captain Sparrow ordered. "Back to work. Jump to it!"
The men scattered in a great flurry.
Appearing to discover that he was underclad for the occasion, Jack raised an eyebrow at Anamaria. "Guess I'd best be donning my usual sartorial splendour," he said. "You've all had enough of a view for the day."
Anamaria snorted. "Yes, you'd best be coverin' up that ugly hide of yours before some of us start desertin'"
Smirking, Jack winked at her. "You don't fool me, love." Then he dodged her slap with the facility of long practice.
With deliberate provocation, Jack sashayed off for his cabin still holding the Cat, who was winding down her effort to shred his arm and had begun to mix a few purrs in with her growls. Absently, he scratched her ears with his free hand.
"Scurvy dog! Feckless ingrate! Bloody idiot! Scabrous varmint!" the parrot called.
"Now is it talking about the Cat or the Captain?" Anamaria snorted to Marty.
"You were right, Anamaria," Marty shook his head wonderingly. "That cat is a match for the bloody bats in his belfry!"
"Told you so," Anamaria shrugged. She wished there were something that was a match for the bloody bats in her own.