And a little post-it from the author…
I'm baaaack! Yes, I'm still alive. Yes, I still care about this fic and want to finish it out. And yes, I'm very grateful that people continue to read (and review) in spite of my dearth of updates! On that note, due to the length of my "special thanks," I decided to actually reply to the reviews via that little "reply" button and not in this chapter. (If you didn't get a reply, my apologies and know that I still love and thank ye…) Oi, and one more thing! I've actually got a character to call me own now. There's one not-so-friendly chap mentioned what's not seen movie, an' he goes by the name o' Ripper. (Don't worry, he has a purpose, but he's just makin' his entrace now.) But everyone else ain't mine, kay? Good. On with the tale!
the little, necessary note before each chapter... also entitled "Special Thanks!"
-L.A. Meyer. you created the true tales of the Jacky Faber, and for that, we humble and dedicated fans of la belle jeune fille sans merci are forever in your debt.
-my wonderful reviewers: shamroxandsweepers, Katyann, KuroxTenshi, Aquila.I am the water bird., elven cats eyes, a.s.a.h.i.k.a.g.e., pookiespear, CJ&SB, Nerd's United, Arait, Slasharific, Larael, JeanieBeanie33, soupkitchen (and extra kudos & love to you for reviewing my "Kraken's Song"!), R1D3R, & pirateobsessed. God bless you all!
Chapter 8: Of Dropping Eaves and Blackened Mail, part 1
November 1, once again on the deck of the Flying Dutchman
I trudge to the starboard rail, intent on getting this job done with as soon as I bloody can. No sailor that I've ever known has been fond of deck-scrubbing, my humble self included, though all of us have done our share of the dirty work at one time or other. I steal a glance back towards the prow, where the most part of the crew is slaving away under the Bos'un's watchful glare.
You can't complain much, girl, I remind myself once gain. After all, your hands are getting out of that work load… for the moment, at least.
I reach the spot of my little mess, the blood from my very hands, now in a gruesome display on the deck. I set down my bucket carefully, so as not to spill one drop of its stagnant contents, and kneel facing the larboard-prow, so I can watch the crew as I work. I pick up the rag and glare at the bucket distastefully. I know the water is going to sting my just-sealed cuts something fierce... but it will also clean them up a bit, I hope.
What the hell. Let's just get this done, shall we? I grit my teeth and shove the rag into the bucket. My palms burn like bloody fire an' brimstone and I wince more than a bit, but I soak the filthy rag as best I can, anyway. Then I slab it on the deck, towards the closest edge of the blood stain, and start scrubbing away.
That's it. Just get your rhythm down and you'll be done in no time. As I fall into a steady pace, I steal a glance across the deck towards Pigger. The sod is swabbing up his mess, all right, but isn't doing much of a fine job at it. He'll be at that job awhile, if he keeps stabbing the deck with the swab. I force down a smirk. Doesn't seem to know much of anything, that one… except how to bully little'uns, maybe.
I turn to watch the rest of the crew. One of the new guns has been hauled on the deck, and several deck hands are heaving it towards the prow, with the other sets of guns up there. Rotating guns, eh? An interesting prospect, I must say. These sea-monsters sure have creativity when it comes to bloody warfare.
Warfare. Just at the thought of that word, images of my own battle begin to fill my head. Sights I thought were put out of memory come back in all of their horrible splendor. The screams, the guns blowing, the decks shattering, and oh the blood, all the blood! I close my eyes and shake my head over and over, trying to rid my ears of the still undying screams, trying to rid my mind of the bodies and wreckage. Damn war! I clench my rag tighter, ignoring my screaming hands.
My eyes fly open. Thunk. Thunk. That blasted sound again! It can only mean one thing – the Captain's coming. I whirl my head around, glancing back toward his cabin. Sure enough, there comes the hideous Davy Jones himself, striding out into the foggy sunlight with his awkward limp.
"Cap'n on deck!" Greenbeard calls out from the quarterdeck.
Jones surveys the deck, glancing over the crew's deck. Just before his gaze lands on me, I duck and cast my eyes down to my scrubbing. Come on, girl, you can't afford to look like you're slacking off! Now, put your back into it and… and my curiosity gets the better of me. I look up, against my better judgment.
Jimmylegs is making his way towards the captain. "Larboard-prow gun is almost done, Sir. Rotations are set up and installation is under way."
Jones throws a glance at the Bos'un. "So I can see." He motions towards his First Mate, who is heaving away alongside my dear friend Crash. "Send Maccus o'er here."
Jimmylegs gives the Captain a questioning look, but nonetheless carries out the order. "Aye, aye, Sir." He strides over to the crew, his face set and grim. "Oi! Ripper, Ol' Haddy, take Maccus's place on the tackle! Step to it, you lazy clods!"
Two crewmen, one short and stocky, the other thin and gangly and almost wraithlike, hurry to join Maccus and Crash on the tackle and line. The pair stops hauling away, but Maccus keeps a firm grip on the line until Haddy and Ripper have their places and are ready to go. The two successfully take over his place, and nary is an inch of line given in the process. I must say it was well done – for sea-monsters, anyway.
Maccus glances to the Captain, who nods in confirmation. The First Mate then hurries to his master's side. "Aye, Cap'n?"
Hmm… this could get interesting. I shuffle around until I can watch the pair of officers out of the corner of my eye, while still keeping my head low and supposedly on my work.
The Captain is silent for a few beats, but then speaks up in a quite derogatory and I'm sure cantankerous tone of voice. "Why do we have two crewmen cleanin' the deck?"
"Both scrubbin' their own messes, Sir," Maccus explains, "Clamface o'er there lost Greenbeard's midday grub, or so the Bos'un tells me, and then Faber got 'er blood all o'er the starboard deck 'n scuppers."
Thanks to Captain Jones, I did! I give a disdainful sniff at ol' Sharkhead's comment.
"Ye're lettin' 'er scrub the deck… o'er blood?" Jones asks incredulously.
Maccus offers a hesitant answer. "Aye, Sir…"
The Captain snarls. "Since when, do we ever, clean the deck o'er blood?" He cocks his head to the side, as if to emphasize his point.
"Ne'er have afore…" Maccus hastily mumbles.
Jones snorts. "Aye, me mate," he sneers, "never."
Never clean up blood, eh? I grimace at the thought of what the ship must be like after a battle. No wonder this place smells like a hellhole.
"I would hate tae have a new recruit miss out on all the fun," the Captain continues, "so what do you imagine should be done then, hmm?" He fixes his First Mate with a piercing stare, the likes of which could shake the nerves of any sailor, sea-monster or not.
Maccus hisses under his breath and glances down. "Well, I would set 'er to work on the guns if I could, but…"
Jones cocks an eyebrow, a half smirk on his face. "But?"
"'Tis not quite my decision, Sir."
What? My head snaps up as I turn to stare at him. Not his decision? Suddenly, I remember how Bootstrap talked to Koleniko… Koleniko was talking to Jimmylegs about me just a little while ago... I put two and two together and realize that Koleniko could very well have told Maccus about me as well. So Bootstrap's the reason I'm scrubbing the deck, eh? I allow myself a visible scowl. I think I might demand a few words of explanation, come dinnertime!
Davy Jones nods mockingly. "I see." Sarcasm and contempt drip off his hardened voice. "Tell me, who is the First Mate on my ship?"
Maccus pulls a wry grimace, as if he knows what's coming next. Heh, he probably does, too, after serving on this bloody ship for God knows how long. Maccus finally gives an uneasy reply. "…I am."
Jones violently whirls around and roars in his face. "Then ye'd best start actin' like one!"
Maccus violently recoils and even backs away a few steps. I can almost hear him cursing under his breath, no doubt cursing his ill fortune that I came aboard this morn and ruined his lovely day. Well, it's not that I can blame him, mind you, with the Captain enraged as he is, but I find myself chuckling a bit at the fear on Sharkhead's face. 'Tis good to see him in a tight spot, after what he put me through earlier!
Davy Jones seethes in his rage and turns away at his First Mate, turning his back from me as well. The Captain stares out over the sea, silent for a few beats, but then speaks up once again. "Who was the bilge-rat what overruled ye, eh?" His curiosity is more than a little apparent.
Maccus nods back towards the quarterdeck. "Koleniko," he hastily explains, "'e informed me that Faber's hands need to seal up, an' strongly… requested that I go easier on 'er. If ye get my meanin', Sir."
My eyes narrow. Koleniko! So my guess was right, after all.
A wicked smile lights up the Captain's face, instantly squelching any slight joy I might have still had. "I get yer meanin', all right," Jones chuckles, though his voice is still laced with icy contempt. "Send Koleniko to my quarters… I believe there's something he an' I need tae speak about."
Maccus sighs in relief. "Aye, aye, Cap'n."
Davy Jones nods in satisfaction, then turns and limps back to his cabin. Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk… I wince a bit at that cursed noise, but not too much. Instead, I watch as Maccus climbs up to the quarterdeck and approaches the Koleniko. I can't make out what they're saying from this far away, but I know the general message that will be delivered.
My eyes narrow. It looks like Bootstrap's "strings" just got discovered, and by the Captain himself, no less. This can't be good. Not for Koleniko, nor for me. I set to my scrubbing with increased vigor. I've got to get this done, and I've got to warn Bootstrap! Come on, girl, get this part here. Now one more rinse… and this little bit here… For the love of God, you filthy stain, can't you wash out any faster?
Koleniko stiffly walks down to the deck, Maccus trailing at his heels and grinning like a spoiled puppy. Then, the First Mate returns back to his work at the prow, and the Coxs'n solemnly enters the Captain's cabin. As he disappears from sight, I silently bid him good luck – and I know he'll need it, too.
I chuckle a bit as I watch ol' Sharkhead kick Pigger on his way by. Pigger goes tumbling down to the deck, headfirst. I hear several of degrading curses stream forth, none of which are worth repeating due to their foul and horribly uncreative manner. Fortunately for him, none of said obscenities were directed at any senior officers, or methinks my old friend would be feeling the Cat about now. Pigger pushes himself up from the deck, and as he lifts his head, his eye catches mine. I send the git a cheerful wink before setting back to work. Perhaps there's a bit of justice in the world, after all.
All right, that's enough. Back to work, you.
A short while later, I kneel back on my haunches and flex my weary back. Done scrubbing, at last! The deck is not exactly spotless, considering its much abused and dirtied nature, but there's not a trace of my own blood anywhere. Well, I take that back. The spare water in my bucket has a certain reddish tint to it, as does the washing rag, but Maccus did not order me to clean water or laundry. My work, for the moment, is complete. I steal a glance at Pigger. Still stabbing the deck with his swab, eh? Ah well, some folks never do learn.
I send my gaze forwards, towards the main body of the crew. The larboard-prow gun is finished, and they've started installing the starboard one. I must say that the crew of the Dutchman is quite efficient in their work – probably have a certain Captain to thank for that. I watch them for a moment, straining and heaving under the frequent lash and blow of the Bo'sun, one of the weaker crewmen crying out in pain every now and then. I can't help but be grateful that I don't have to partake of that job – though I'm not sure how long this status quo will last, with Koleniko currently being interrogated by Davy Jones and Maccus all too eager to set me to work.
One step at a time, girl. For now, I've got to report to Sir Sharkhead and pick up my next assignment.
I stand up and dump the filthy water into the sea, then replace the bucket and rag where I had found them. Filthy job number one, finished. I smile faintly at the thought. If my first day here set me to scrubbing blood, who knows what these sea monsters might have me do before this is all finished?
Ah, but beggars can't be choosers, Jacky, I remind myself. You wanted a ship and you bloody well got one – at least be glad you're not wandering in a lifeboat anymore.
I pause for a moment, thinking that over. Then again, I may not be wandering for a very long time, if Davy Jones doesn't hold to his word.
I hear footsteps coming up behind me and whirl around sharply, only to find myself staring face-to-face with the First Mate himself. Maccus. I find myself automatically standing at attention, though I'd rather be spitting in the monster's face, and clenching my teeth tightly together. The shark snarls at me, flaunting his disgust in my face.
"You done yet, wench?" he hisses.
I let out a sharp breath, stopping myself from making an unpleasant retort, and give him instead the proper military answer. "Aye, Sir!" I keep a steady gaze. "Was just about to report back, as it were."
Maccus gives me an odd stare, as if he's trying to decipher something in his head. He runs a slimy tongue over his sharpened teeth, scowling at one thought, then smirking at another. I hold myself at attention through this revolting display, though my patience with this creature is all but worn thin. Finally, he glares me down, hisses under his breath, and makes some kind of intelligent command.
"Show me yer hands, Faber," he snarls.
Now that catches me off guard. Since when did he start caring about them? I force myself to keep a stone face and not show any emotion, but my hands do shake the slightest bit as I hold them out for him to see.
The First Mate glances down, and winces.
My eyebrows raise just the slightest bit. Sharkhead doesn't like my scabs, eh? He must've caught my look though, because the grimace was gone in half a moment, replaced by a hardened scowl.
"Can ye use 'em?" he asks icily.
"Well, I can apparently scrub the deck," I answer sharply, indicating where I had been working. Maccus glances that way for just a moment, registering the cleaned spot, before turning my way again. I pause a beat, then motion my head upwards. "And I can climb the rigging as well as any-"
A sharp hiss cuts me short. "I'll be the judge o' that. Now what about hauling?"
Damn. I was hoping he wouldn't ask that. Freeloader I most certainly am not, but that doesn't mean I want to run around getting my hands cut open over and over and over again…
"I'll do my best, Sir." Best answer I think I can give, all things considered.
Maccus lowers his voice threateningly. "You'd better give yer best an' more, Faber," he growls, "or by the devil I will make ye sorely regret steppin' aboard this ship!"
Oh, I bet he will, the filthy blackguard! All right, calm down now, calm down… God knows I'm struggling so very hard not to punch him in the face – or at least spit in his eye, as my dear friend Clarissa would've done – but once again I know this will get me nowhere, except perhaps deeper into hell. Get control of yourself! I don't care if he's a monster, he's a bloody Officer and you shall treat him as such!
Screaming at oneself every now and then can most certainly help, as I quickly gained control of my temper, and even managed to grind out an answer.
"You needn't worry, Sir."
He eyes me warily for a moment. There's a strange expression on his face, as if he's trying to figure something out. He suddenly nods, speaking just a little too loudly to be believable. "Tell me, Faber," he practically announces, "can ye cook?"
Can I cook? Does he intend to make me the Galley Assistant now? Whatever he has planned, I'm sure it can't be good, considering which sea-monster we're talking about here. But I also know that I don't have much choice… so I nod and offer a brisk answer. "Aye!"
Maccus hisses under his breath, but keeps up the loud, announcer-like voice. "Good. You have galley duty today. Report below and pick up assignments from Barbecue."
I knew it! Sharkhead's just trying to pass me off to someone else, for them to deal with, the cheap sod. Well, I suppose anyone's authority has to be better than his, at the moment, so I'm all too willing to go along with this course of action. I pull a sharp salute.
"Aye, aye, Sir!"
I turn to go belowdecks, but before I've gone very far, I hear his voice calling out from behind me. "An' take care o' yer hands, Faber!"
I whirl around, an unchecked look of confusion smitten across my face. What? "…Sir?" Surely ol' Sharkhead can't actually care about…
"We'd hate for you to miss out on tomorrow's work because of a little infection," he growls. A gurgling laugh escapes from him, and I realize with a sinking heart that no, he doesn't care one lick about my hands. He's just taunting me, once again.
Filthy blighter! On the inside, I'm scowling my face off and, quite honestly, imagining myself doing dastardly things to him. But I don't show any of it on the outside. I can't afford to. I hold my face calm and my voice steady, just as Mistress Pimm would've wanted me to - just as I would've wanted myself to do.
"Thank you, Sir." I answer. I turn back to go belowdecks. Even more laughter rings out behind me, but I don't respond to it. I will not let this sea-monster win again.
…but I have said that before.
a/n: I actually intended this chapter to go further, hence the "part 1" at the start of the chapter. but, seeing at this is already over the length of my normal chapters, and that seemed a convenient stopping point, I decided to give ya'll a reprieve from my looooooong hiatus. so, you can forgive me if this chapter seemed to lack plot. first, keep in mind the story is still technically being set up, and the main plot is yet to begin. secondly, remember that Chapter 8, part 2, will be coming as soon as I can get myself to bang it out. which, I promise you on pain of an eternal trip to the Locker, will come sooner than this one did!
and remember... any period songs that you'd like to have an appearance in this fic, I'd love to know about them! Jacky still has that pennywhistle, and if I know her, she's bound to use it sometime... ;)