Well, I'm back! Did anyone miss me? Thought not!
Right, firstly disclaimers - which are oh so important. I do not own anything that you might recognise in this story, and anything you do belongs to Disney. I make no profit from this (alas).
I try to keep things historically correct in my tales, but I am no expert and the tales I write are meant to be for fun. Please remember that when reviewing! This tale is set roughly after Curse of the Black Pearl. I do not include Dead Man's Chest or At World's End in my tales since I prefer to keep things on a more "human" footing.
This story is a semi-joint-effort between myself and AniSparrow. We bounce situations off each other and then I get to do the work of typing up our conversations and making it into a story. Sometimes we even know what the other will say before they type it... which is scarey! The beta for this story is the infamous Pendragginink... if you have not come across her then go and read some of my previous stories reviews. She is hilarious... and a stickler for proper English!
Throughout this tale, there are various languages. Mab and her family speak Italian between them, there is clearly French, Spanish and English spoken in the Caribbean as well. At first I tried to use the Babelfish translation site, but this was cumbersome and not very accurate. As such I am re-editing these first few chapters and, apart from the odd word, all non-English will be in italics with either It:, Fr: or Sp: before the words. I hope this is more easy to read.
Now, to understand the present, you have to know the past... which in this case happens twenty five years before the start of the actual tale itself... let us begin!
TWO GENTLEMEN OF TORTUGA
(also known as Much Ado About Pasta)
Chapter 1 - Histories
Frank Dermot, quartermaster of the pirate brigantine The Selkie nodded quietly to his colleague and fellow pirate, Alfred Wilson across the smoky expanse of The Lazy Wench Tavern, running a dirty hand through his lank brown hair. It would be tonight, as agreed; no more words were needed between the two of them and there could be no turning back. George Robertson might be captain, but he was nothing more than a drunken fool and Frank knew the end was in sight for the ship and her crew – indeed, he had made appropriate arrangements to ensure it happened, and that it happened in his favour.
The bearded pirate cast a judgemental eye towards those from the ship, snorting derisively at his crewmates as they fondled the whores whilst competing with each other to drink themselves senseless in the shortest amount of time. Frank knew there was nobody else he would bring into his traitorous pact; not one of the men had a scrap of intelligence, too busy wasting their lives away to try to make something of themselves. Alfred was little better, a bull of a man with curly, blonde hair, but his privileged upbringing had made the large man more susceptible to the temptation he had placed before him and it had been a mighty temptation indeed. As agreed, they would wait until those in the tavern were too drunk to notice their absence and then slip quietly to the cove on the other side of the island in order to move as many of the trunks, if not all, that they could on the small boat he had obtained.
Frank dug deeply into the pocket of his breeches, pulling out a stout, dark leather purse and slamming several shiny coins on the bar. The nearest serving wench nodded to him, passing a foaming tankard to another pirate before approaching.
"What are yer havin'?" the blonde, pox-marked woman demanded, wiping her hands in her filthy apron. She had little time or inclination for small talk, but that suited Frank for he cared for neither at the best of times, and especially not tonight.
"A round o' ales fer m' crewmates," he replied, seeing little harm in speeding the process of their slide into drunken unconsciousness. He was in no mood to be patient now that the decision to steal the treasure had been taken. The evening could not pass quickly enough in his mind.
"An' fer you?" she pressed, her dirty hand reaching for his money. The coins disappeared with alarming speed.
"A brandy," he ordered. "A large brandy."
As Frank suspected, it took barely another hour before those still in the tavern were incapable of rising from their seats, let alone noticing anything more than an inch from their unfocused eyes, their earlier drunken carousing thankfully now silent. He glanced towards the still sober Alfred, nodding, before quietly heading towards the door.
"Are we resolved in this?" Alfred asked, his voice barely a whisper in the chill night air as he followed the bearded quartermaster outside. "We'll be breaking th' articles…"
"More than that, we'll be dead, if they catch us," Frank reminded him, wishing he did not need the man's strength in order to carry out his plan. "But those fools couldn't even find a whore in a brothel…"
"But others?" the large man worried, thinking of the numerous crews that were currently in the pirate town. "What if they realise an' mark us for this?" He paused, his steps faltering. "What if…"
"I told you," the dark-haired pirate smiled assuringly. "I have taken care of everything…"
"But…" Alfred continued, still worrying.
"Will yer just shut up an' do what we agreed. In a few days there'll be nothin' ter worry about from that bunch of pissin' fools!" Frank glowered at the other man, wishing he would stop his questions and find some backbone. "I've taken care of all the loose ends, I assure you."
Alfred Wilson looked at him, still uncertain, but held his tongue, reasoning it was too late to have second thoughts – far, far too late.
Captain George Robertson, raising a bleary brown eye, looked round the tavern at his men. He frowned, realising his quartermaster and a number of men were missing. He tried counting heads, but gave up, kicking the nearest slumbering form in frustration, wishing that his head did not hurt so much, the beams of sunlight struggling through the grimy windows only making it worse. "Get up, yer lazy bastard!" he cursed, kicking the man again for good measure. He had planned sailing that morning to a quiet cove on the southern coast of Hispaniola, intent on careening his ship, The Selkie. She was not the fastest ship in the Caribbean, but ensuring her hull was clean enabled him to coax as much speed as possible from the elderly ship and every knot extra meant a better chance of avoiding the King's Navy; their last encounter had been far too close for his liking and they had almost been taken.
The prone object of his ire opened a bloodshot green eye, blinking. "Eh?" he frowned, tilting his head as he tried to focus on his captain.
"Gather everyone you can find, Chambers," George ordered.
"I'll be on board!" He turned, stomping back to the ship, wincing as the doors to the tavern slammed noisily shut behind him, the sound reminding him of his all too tender head.
In a little under an hour, the crew stood before him, most groaning and still looking at least half-drunk if not worse. The man George had kicked, Francis Chambers, came and stood before him. "Found everyone, Captain," he assured him, having trawled every whorehouse and tavern in the pirate town in search of his crewmates. "Except fer Dermot an' Wilson…"
George looked back towards the shore, his eyes skimming along the wharf and the facades of the dirty, run-down buildings. There was no sign of the two missing men. "Ah, leave 'em," he snorted, not in the mood to wait considering the already delayed departure. "They're probably shacked up with some whores," he reasoned, knowing his quartermaster's eye for a pretty woman – any woman if he was honest, and that Alfred Wilson was little better. "We'll pick 'em up when we return…" he announced to the men, his voice carrying easily across the crowded deck. "An' they can do double-duties fer their tardiness!"
The crew chuckled at his words, enjoying the thought of their quartermaster being made to work harder himself. Although all would judge him a good pirate, Frank Dermot was a hard task master and not a popular man on board, his eye quick to find the slightest fault with any task.
"Weigh anchor!" George ordered, nodding with satisfaction as, despite their hangovers, they hurried to obey. "I want us beached by dawn tomorrow!"
But unknown to the crew of The Selkie, neither Frank nor Alfred were there to see the ship depart without them, having sailed themselves in a stolen fishing smack early in the morning, hours before the dawn. Unerringly the bearded quartermaster guided the small craft along the shoreline eastwards and then north towards the quiet cove where the crew of The Selkie hid their treasure, beaching the boat long before their ex-shipmates had left the harbour of Tortuga. Frank ran a knowing eye along the featureless white sand, noting trees and bushes before passing one of the shovels to Alfred. "Dig," he ordered, picking up the second shovel and striding up the beach himself, setting to work without further comment.
Alfred glowered at the dark-haired man's back, wondering yet again why he had agreed to the plan to steal the treasure, never having liked the quartermaster from the moment that he had first met him. He considered, briefly, if it would be worth double-crossing Frank Dermot, but at that very moment, the quartermaster turned, scowling at him.
"I said dig, yer lazy bastard!" he snarled. "We need to be clear of here as soon as we can!"
The blonde man sighed heavily, starting to dig through the fine white sand. It was no good, he admitted, reasoning that Frank would probably out-smart him again, as he always did. He snorted, confessing to himself that it was only the prospect of regaining his former life that had tempted him, the chance to return to England and clear his gambling debts, to regain the privileged life that he once had.
A thud shook him from his reverie and he stopped, realising that he had found the first of the chests. Grinning greedily, he began to dig with more enthusiasm, the thought of the ever-so prim Emily Carter being unable to refuse his suit once he was a man of fortune again. Yes, he would return to England and rejoin society.
Eventually, seven chests of assorted sizes were concealed under an old, tattered sail in the smack. The small boat was dangerously low in the water, but Frank judged that it did not matter for they were not going far. He glanced towards Alfred, smirking to himself as the larger man laboured at the oars to help move the boat faster through the calm waters. He knew of a series of caves on the neighbouring island of Hispaniola and intended hiding the treasure there… for now.
"Are you sure of the information, Sir?" The dark-haired lieutenant stood anxiously beside his captain, fidgeting with his hat, fearful of a trap. "What if…"
"If it is a trap, we are ready for them," Captain Tobias Eve assured his man. "I have a feeling that this situation is merely a case of pirates settling a grudge," he admitted, "but if it will remove a pirate ship from these waters, I'll play along with their games."
"Aye, Sir," Lieutenant Haws nodded, adjusting his collar in the heat, wondering if he would ever get used to such tropical climes. "Shall I ready the landing party, Sir?"
"Yes, do so," Captain Eve ordered. "Get your men into position and we shall hit them from the sea at the same time. No survivors!"
He chuckled to himself as his lieutenant hurried away to obey his orders, grateful to be free of the man's irritating nervousness. He would not waste time capturing the pirates to hang, not wishing their foul stench aboard his ship. They would be put down like the curs they were, without mercy and without delay.
"Captain!" Marcus Wiseman cried in alarm. "Captain! It's th' Wanderer!" His voice trailed off to a quite unmanly squeak.
George Robertson looked out to sea in fright, having no need of his spy glass to identify the HMS Wanderer as it bore down on their vulnerable position. He groaned, recognising her manoeuvring as she lined up her cannons on his defenceless beached ship, realising that they had been spotted. "Pull th' men back!" he ordered, reasoning to save what he could once the Navy had left. "We'll salvage what we can later."
His men nodded and the pirates started melting back into the tree-line, some picking up various items that they had unloaded to lighten the ship, only to find the leafy cover already occupied. A flash of red cloth amidst the greenery was the first indication that something was not right.
"'Ware!" one man cried in alarm, his cry cut short by a gurgling death rattle.
"Navy!" another voice shouted, although which of his men had given the call George Robertson could not tell, for he was forced to draw his own sword to defend himself as a marine suddenly appeared before him. He killed the man, gutting him efficiently with his trusted notched sword, but another marine took his fallen comrade's place – and then another.
It was hopeless. The pirate captain dropped his sword, surrendering, hoping that at least some of his men would be able to plead for mercy and beg for a King's pardon. "Drop yer…" he began to call, his order curtailed by the sudden realisation that the marine before him had not lowered his own weapon. Too late, and too slow, he was unable to react other than by throwing his arms before him, trying to fend off the blow he knew was coming. The fatal blow.
Alfred Wilson downed his fifth ale. The Lazy Wench Tavern had been buzzing with news of the destruction of The Selkie and several other pirates had bought him drinks to commiserate him on the loss of his ship. Nobody thought it strange that the two of them had not sailed, his explanation of being passed out in a back alley easily believable with the amount of alcohol he was currently drinking.
He had returned to the caves, where the chests were hidden, yesterday, finally gaining the courage to double-cross Frank, only to find the majority of the treasure already gone. He saw too late how the quartermaster had played him for a fool and had, in turn, double-crossed him.
Muscle, that was all he had been to the smaller man, muscle to help him carry the heavy chests to another location. He knew he was not the fastest thinker in the world, but he had achieved some measure of revenge. Frank had clearly not been strong enough to move the two heavier chests on his own so the blonde man had taken what had remained and hidden them elsewhere, reasoning that if his erstwhile colleague returned he would find nothing.
Alfred knew he could never reveal what they had done to the other pirates, understanding now that by saying he had taken care of all the loose ends, Frank had clearly contacted the Navy. If that were known to the other pirates, neither of their lives would be worth a penny. He rose, weaving towards the door, intent on finding the dark-haired man and demanding his fair share of the treasure, determined to beat it out of the traitorous bastard if needed.
Frank Dermot leaned quietly in the shadows outside the tavern for most of the evening, waiting patiently for Alfred to emerge. He too had heard of the destruction of The Selkie but, as Alfred had suspected, it had not been news to him. He had known the Navy would be unable to resist the information he had sent them, conveniently removing the majority of those that stood between him and the treasure. Now there was just one more bit to tidy up – permanently.
He watched the bulky blonde man stumble out through the tavern doors and wobble along the dark back alleys. Frank followed cautiously, knowing that even drunk as he seemed, Alfred was not a pirate to confront lightly. He trailed him through the black maze, momentarily losing him and hurried his step to catch up.
"Wha…" He stopped dead, his arms windmilling as he tried to stop himself barrelling into the stout chest of the other pirate.
"Thought yer'd double-cross me, yer weasel?" Alfred sneered, aiming a wild, drunken fist at Frank, missing as the smaller man easily ducked. "Where did yer put it?"
"Put what?" Frank protested, realising that his deceit had been discovered before he had been able to return to the caves with some smaller, more manageable chests – and that the blonde pirate had clearly intended doing the same to him.
"Th' other five chests!" Alfred demanded, reaching for his dagger; the narrow, rubbish-strewn alleyway was far too tight for fighting with swords. "What did yer do with them?"
"Nothing!" Frank lied, reaching for his own dagger, trusting to Alfred's drunkenness and his own experience to best the younger man.
"I've been there!" the blonde man snapped, understanding that he had just admitted his own double-cross.
"Don't bloody lie!" He waved his dagger wildly, causing Frank to dodge back in order to avoid the glinting blade.
"Don't be stupid!" the bearded quartermaster hissed, aware that the argument was likely to be noticed; little ever went unnoticed in the pirate town.
"Stupid?" Alfred countered, his voice rising. "I was only stupid t' ever listen to you in the first place!"
"Keep it down out there!" a woman's irate voice shouted from one of the homes nearby, a window flying open.
Alfred turned and looked up, fearful of what could be thrown from above, thinking they would be lucky if it was just water. Frank quickly took the opportunity of the distraction, but his foot caught in some rubbish: his aim spoiled, the strike slashed the blonde pirate across the groin. He recovered quickly, before Alfred did, stabbing once again, this time to the chest. Bones crunched with the force of his blow and blood spurted from the wound, dark red, sticky on his hand.
Looking at his attacker in disbelief, the large pirate slid slowly down the wall, his breath rasping as he dropped his weapon, clutching his hands to his chest in an effort to stem the flow of blood.
"Like I said before," Frank whispered, leaning close. "All loose ends are taken care of…" He turned, silently disappearing into the darkness of the alley towards the hidden smack – and the Americas.