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Dealing with the Devil

Jack Sparrow had always thought of himself as a lucky person. He took the world and what it threw at him in his stride, and up until now it had generally thrown good fortune. There had been the odd glitch - that episode with the East India Company came to mind - but on the whole, life was good.

The storm had rolled in quickly, dark clouds swiftly turning to heavy rain and the wind picking up. The captain had ordered the topgallants to be taken in as soon as the clouds came, but the rain began before the crew had finished the loose sea-stow. Jack, at the helm, felt the familiar tug on the sails as the first squalling gust caught the mainsails, and braced himself against it.

But the wind got stronger, heeling the Black Pearl over and sending water sloshing over the deck. They took in more sail, in an attempt to slow the ship and smooth the ride through the storm. Jack had himself tied to the helm, and by now safety lines were run from stern to bow to aid the crew's passage on deck.

The cabin boy, wet and dripping, struggled up to the helm to tell Jack and the lookouts that the Pearl was taking on water in the cargo hold. The ship was tossing in the waves now, surrounded by high walls of black water. Jack gritted his teeth and hung on, but now the sea was controlling her and there was little he could do.

The foremast was the first to go, cracking and splitting at the fighting top and crashing down on deck. Under his hands the helm lurched. The foc'sle was a mess of black sail and lashing rope and splintered wood.

Jack was still hanging on when the main mast followed, and he would have hung on further had he not been dragged from the helm. He no longer knew if the water streaming down his face was rain, ocean or tears, and it did not seem to matter. He was half-pulled, half-pushed to the longboats, and shortly they were bobbing in the storm and the Black Pearl was disappearing below the waves.

He thought in that dreadful moment that his luck had finally run out. She sank gracefully, peacefully almost, her life gone with her masts, but it still tore his heart out.

The storm seemed to subside quickly after that, and Jack and his fellow crewmembers in their longboat looked around to discover they were alone. The other boats were nowhere to be seen, and they were adrift.

"So the Pearl's with Davy Jones," someone remarked.

"Why should he get her?" Jack said, looking up at the speaker. "What bloody gives him the right?"

"It's just a phrase," another man said. "Ain't like there's really a Davy Jones."

Jack stared at him. "You sure about that?"

"Well … everyone knows the Dutchman's naught but a story," said the pirate, scratching his ear.

"I don't." Jack climbed to his feet, rocking the little boat and provoking a chorus of complaints from his crewmates. "And he ain't getting my Pearl." He turned to the empty sea. "Hear that, Davy Jones? That's my ship you've got, and you'll damned well give her back, savvy? Hear me?"

There was silence, save for the gentle lap of the water against the hull of the longboat. Jack sat down again, and stared at the ocean.

"Told you," the doubting pirate said.

"We ought to try 'n get to land," Bill Turner put in. "Anyone got a …"

His words were interrupted by a rush of water, a roar, and the sight of masts rising up out of the blue. The men in the longboat watched in terrified awe as a ship - Jack thought for a moment that his cry had been answered, and the Black Pearl was rising - came out of the depths. But she was not the Pearl. Her hull was encrusted with barnacles, her sails hung with weed, water streamed from her gunports.

"Neptune save us," muttered a pirate, "it's the Dutchman."

The men crossed themselves fearfully, and eyed Jack sideways. He watched silently as the Flying Dutchman turned and came alongside their longboat. A ladder was thrown down.

On deck Jack discovered the ship's crew; fish with legs, near enough. Fish with legs and swords, he added to himself.

"Which one of you's Davy Jones?" he asked, resting his hand on his own sword.

"I'm Davy Jones." The thing that stepped forward was all tentacles and slime, a thing of the depths. Jack squared his shoulders and stood as tall as he could. "You're Jack Sparrow," said the tentacled thing.

"I want my ship back," Jack returned.

"You should've thought about that afore you drove her into a storm," Jones said. "Pity. Bonny thing she were."

"She was the loveliest afloat," said Jack vehemently.

"And do you want her captain back?" asked Jones, looking at Jack sideways-on. "Aye, he died too."

Jack looked at the slimy deck beneath his feet. "What'll it take?" he asked.

Jones laughed, and his laughter was echoed by his nightmarish crew. "I cannot give you back your captain," he said. "But I can give you back your ship."

Looking up, Jack met his eyes - still oddly human beneath the squid-like face.

"What'll it take?" he repeated.

Jones leaned closer, his voice dropping to a murmur. "Your soul, Jack Sparrow. If I give you back your Pearl, your soul is mine. Thirteen years you'll have her, to sail free and go where the wind takes you. But when that time is up, then you'll be mine."

"What happens to the Pearl then?" Jack asked.

Davy Jones shrugged.

"That's not my problem."

Jack considered. Thirteen years; a long time. He could be dead well before then. But he knew he might as well as dead now if he could not sail his ship. And surely there would be a way around the deal. In Jack's experience, there was always a way around a deal.

He held out his hand. "Done. Give me my ship, and you'll have my soul, in thirteen years."

"Jack Sparrow, you're as mad as they tell," said Jones. He grasped Jack's hand with a sticky, slimy grip. "Done."

Jones let go, and Jack surreptitiously wiped his hand on his jacket.

"Have your precious Pearl back!" Jones declared.

He did not seem to do anything, nor make any gesture, but there she came. The Black Pearl rose from the depths - battered and bruised, to be sure, but whole and seaworthy. The men in the longboat, bobbing by the side of the Flying Dutchman, crossed themselves fearfully as she appeared.

Jack watched her rise with a lump in his throat.

"Sail her well," said Jones.

As Jack climbed down the ladder into the longboat, the Flying Dutchman dived. In a short space of time she was gone, with nothing more than turbulent waves to betray the fact that she had ever been there.

The pirates in the longboat were watching Jack nervously, fear written all over their faces.

"Well, pull t'wards her!" Jack said. "What are you waitin' for?"

"She can't be real," said one of the men. "We saw her go down."

"She's real," Jack said, sure of it.

"Jack …" said Bill Turner, warning in his voice.

"We'll go to her," Jack replied.

Reluctantly, the men began to row. And although Jack would not have admitted it to any of them, when they came alongside the Black Pearl, and the wood was warm under his hand, he was profoundly grateful.

He was the first aboard; the rest of the men followed shortly afterwards, muttering under their breath as they came on deck. But they obeyed Jack's orders to jury-rig the crippled ship, and shortly, under the main course and the mizzen course and with the hands of her new captain at the helm, the Black Pearl was limping away.

Thirteen years later

There was not enough written about Davy Jones, Jack Sparrow decided, closing the latest book with a thump and reaching for his bottle of rum. How a man was supposed to escape a deal with the devil with a bunch of myths and rumours was beyond him.

He stood up and stretched. The Pearl was beating along at a good pace under a strong south-easterly, every inch of her delighting in the wind and the waves. She was doing well, after her careening and repairs to rid her of Barbossa's ravages. And Jack was uncomfortably aware that his thirteen years, agreed with Davy Jones on the barnacled deck of the Flying Dutchman, were almost over. The more he thought on this fact, the more determined he was to keep hold of his ship.

In a pile on the table was a stack of leatherbound books, purchased honestly with stolen Spanish silver from a bookseller in Nassau. Jack had asked for everything the man had on myths of the sea, and he had come up with a real selection in English, Spanish, French and Dutch. Reluctantly Jack had elected to leave the Dutch behind - his language skills were not up to it - but the other books had come on board the Black Pearl. Now, as they sailed northwards, he was working his way through the books.

They proved fascinating, had he wanted to learn about Neptune or about mermaids, but less helpful when it came to the legend of Davy Jones. Better than most, Jack knew that the legend was all too true, but details were scant to say the most.

He sighed, sat down, and pulled the next book towards him. French, this one, and old by the looks of it. With the rum bottle in one hand he turned pages with the other, listlessly scanning the words and pictures.

Jack paused, and flicked back a page. There had been a picture of some sort of fortress; half man-made, half mountain. And in the dense text opposite, the words "Davy Jones".

He put the bottle down and tried to concentrate on the words.

"In the Château des Dents," he read, "can be found the secret of Davy Jones … the key to the key to the chest …"

The Castle of the Teeth. Jack pushed all the other books aside and rummaged in a drawer for his charts, pulling one out and spreading it on the table. The rum bottle weighed down one side and the book the other. Jack brought a lantern across to better light the chart, and bent over it.

There it was; a sort of fortress, built in the Windward Isles. Jack turned back to the book, which explained in flowery French that within the fortress there was secreted a scrap of parchment, upon which there was a drawing of the key which would unlock the chest of Davy Jones. The text failed to mention what might be in the chest, but as far as Jack was concerned that was an obstacle to overcome at some point in the future. In the meantime, that bit of parchment was his best bet at breaking the deal with Jones.

Jack let the chart roll up, closed the book and put on his hat. Throwing on his coat he left the cabin and headed towards the helm with more spring in his step than there had been for several days.

"Mr Gibbs!" he said. "We're changing course. Let's have those yards braced square and put the wind behind us. Due north-west, if you please."

Gibbs squinted at him. "You're mighty cheerful, cap'n."

"There's treasure to be won," said Jack. "Snap to it!"

Gibbs did so, calling orders that had the men scurrying to their positions. The great sails swung around as the Pearl changed on to her new course. Jack leant on the rail and watched, satisfied. He would cheat Davy Jones out of soul and out of ship, or die trying.