A/N: As I think for far in the distance future chapters, I believe that I may have to boost the rating. Hmm… Thanks to those who reviewed and to those who didn't… I suppose I deserve that as punishment for rare updates, (which I am obviously working on! Go me! ) though your feedback is always appreciated. So… review?
For those curious, all the Spaniard names here came from one of those baby-naming books. And if you want, I could always translate the Spanish phrases at the bottom of the chapter, but that ruins the 'last sentence' effect I like my stories to have.
The cannons on the Cesarina bucked backwards violently with each cannonball that shot from them to the startled city of Plymouth, sinking the few small ships in its docks within minutes and then viciously launching into the city itself. The mist seemed to depart with the arrival the grand warship and its captain, revealing the large expanse of wooden and stone buildings that looked far less intimidating now that the captain could see them.
This would be easier than he planned.
"Marcus," the captain growled to his first mate, his r's rolling off his tongue smoothly.
"Si, capitán Faust?" The young man showed only a little of the trepidation he felt around his captain when he appeared by his side, leaving his position in supervising the guns.
Faust's eyes, the deathly color of black narrowed, his nose twitching from the gun smoke that filled the air.
"Have the crew ready the longboats for the shore party," he commanded, his eyes never turning towards Marcus, staying obstinately on the land that hopefully held what he desire most. His voice was low and velvety, almost a caress. "I want you to retrieve my dear Merisel and Flavian with what we came for, or things shall result very badly for you and the rest of you ratas de sentina."
Marcus bowed his head to hide his grimace. "Como usted desee, capitán."
"Pirates?" Sylvia repeated, her once flushed face draining its color instantly. The fear in her tone was perceivable though she tried with difficulty to conceal it. Her hands instinctively grabbed Will's shoulders, pulling him to her side protectively, but the child wretched himself from her grip, flying out of the steaming kitchen despite the woman's protests and dashed to the parlor.
Will plastered his face to the window that overlooked the docks, his eyes widening in a mixture of terror and awe at the grand warship that floated just a couple hundred yards away from the docks, bright bursts from the cannons quickly being covered by the smoke that accompanied it. He could faintly make out through the fog some people fleeing the docks and nearby markets, others readying their own guns and running towards the fort to help defend the city.
Out of all the tales of pirates he'd been told, he never knew a real pirate attack would be this horrifying, especially when longboats began to disperse into the water and towards the shore, no doubt hoarding more corsairs. He tried to appear strong and unfazed by the entire ordeal, but his hands began to tremble when realized that his mother was out there.
Two hands clamped firmly onto his shoulders, pulling him away from the window and spinning him around. He looked up and met Sylvia's hazel eyes with Jane right beside her, her face mirroring the anxiety in her friend's features.
"William, you mustn' act so rashly," Sylvia whispered. "Now I know you must be frightened-."
"I'm not afraid," Will protested, but was contradicted by the quaking in his words. He swallowed, trying to get a firm hold on his emotions. "My mother is out there, we must go get her! We can't just leave her there, she could… she might get…"
This time Jane spoke, kneeling down to his level. "Will, we haven't the time to discuss this, nor act upon it-."
Will exclaimed heatedly, "But she is my mum!"
The women exchanged a glance, noticing the glassy appearance of his eyes, sympathizing for him greatly; both felt that Elizabeth would not make it. And he was just so young, only having just turned eight - he was too young to loose his remaining parent.
"I know love, I know, but we really do not have the time to be discussin' this right now."
The grip on his shoulders tightened and he began to feel himself be tugged from the room.
"Please," he begged, struggling against their hold, "please, we must to something, I-I cannot just stay here and-."
They pulled him to the kitchen and he was once again forced into a seat. A younger maid with olive skin and black hair rushed towards him, a mug in her hand.
She handed it to him. "Drink this, it'll relax you."
Her eyes were sharp and commanding. Will shriveled back from her, feeling uncomfortable under her penetrating gaze and closed his eyes and downed the liquid. It was sweet, almost syrupy, sliding down his throat in the most exotic way.
When he gave the mug back to her she assessed him.
"Well?" she prompted. "How do you feel?"
Will immediately felt the effects of the mystery liquid working its toll on him. "I feel… tired…" His previous worries melted, his eyelids growing heavier with each second that passed by.
The woman slowly grinned at him, however it gave him the chills more then a feeling of comfort. Albeit, he had no time to ask her why he had never met her for a black haze took over his vision and he passed out.
Merisel leaned back away from the drugged boy.
"Too easy," she murmured, standing.
She turned to discover an angry face inches from hers. Who was this woman now? She believed her name was something foolish… Silver? Sable? Something with an 's', she was sure…
"What the bloody hell did you do the poor boy?" the red faced maid demanded.
"Me?" Merisel's eyebrows rose innocently, her hand moving the empty mug in back of her. "I did nothing, I assure you. The poor little…" She searched her mind frantically. "The poor little bugger passed out, that's all."
Merisel felt her wrist jerked forward, the mug coming in front of her face. She nervously chuckled. "'Tis nothing but…"
"You poisoned him!"
The exclamation alerted the rest of the residents in the kitchen, all eyes turning to the two women.
So much for Plan A then, Merisel assumed.
Swift as a lemur, she withdrew the pistol that was tucked inside her apron and pressed the mouth of the barrel to the maid's stomach. The maid jumped, having not seen the motion, her wide eyes darting from the gun to Merisel's eyes.
"That's better now, isn't it?" Merisel murmured soothingly, her red lips moving slowly. "No need to get so… flustered… 'Twas just a bit of this and that, just enough to knock the poor, little mocoso out for a bit." She sneered, shoved the maid away from her and rose the gun. The entire room seemed to jump backwards.
When she spoke again, Merisel's voice was smooth, velvety, and rich in Spaniard accent. "To the floor, all of you," she demanded, waving the gun. "Except for you of course, my lovely Flavian."
A man stepped from the crowd that began to sink to the floor, his skin tone and hair color matching Merisel's, clad in the clothes of a servant. "Of course, my princesa," he purred, bowing.
"Go make sure no one unwanted comes poking about," the Spanish woman ordered. "Fiorello and his lot shall be here soon. And hopefully a particular Pirata Rey shall arrive too."
Flavian nodded. "Si, my dear."
"Oh, and do return when you are done Flavian; the element of surprise is most entertaining."
The Spaniard man grinned and left the room and Merisel's attention was once again on the group of servants and maids crowded in the kitchen. She grinned down at them, assuming her position next to the unconscious child.
"Lo que un día interesante…"
Jack and Elizabeth had begun running as fast as they could merit towards the direction of the city the moment the name 'Will' left her mouth.
An unbelievably strong and invisible force gripped Elizabeth's throat until she could barely breath, and it was not due to the extreme physical effort; it was the dread and panic that washed over her, the pain that grew inside her with each step they took. How could she have been so damn thoughtless? So naïve? All the signs had been there that something terrible was going to happen and yet she had chosen to ignore them and push them aside as if they meant nothing. She was a fool, a complete, bloody idiot.
And even worse, she had failed as a mother.
If they did not get there… she could not fathom what might happen.
Will. William. Her son. The only bit of sunshine in her life that drove her forward, the very thing that brought meaning to the word life. Elizabeth had never once resented him, disliked him, or wished him away. Not even through the agonizing experience of giving birth did she loath him the slightest bit - if anything, it made her love him even more.
He was everything she had, everything that mattered to her. The idea of living in a world without him… it was too heart wrenching to even imagine.
They had to get there.
With a newfound energy, she pushed forward, forcing Jack to keep up.
The rocky shore made their journey even more difficult, threatening the two with the chance of sprained or broken ankles, but both were nimble on their feet. Soon both Jack and Elizabeth were sweating beneath their thick layers of clothing. Neither slowed down.
The chaos in Plymouth could be heard more clearly now, drifting down over the sharp drop of the rocky cliffs to their ears; screams of women and children were heard, shattered by the explosions from cannons and gunfire. Frantic voices were shouting for one another – lovers, children, friends, mothers, fathers, and siblings. It was almost too much to bear.
What did the pirates want in Plymouth? It was a large city, with the powerful protection of King George and his army behind it to protect the rich and poor that lived there. Its fort was enough to frighten away even adversary privateers until they were at least halfway back across the Atlantic. The pirates had to be suicidal to attempt to try to pilfer the entire city dry of gold.
Unless they did not come for gold.
Elizabeth's heart sunk even further.
"This way," she gasped to Jack when they made it to the path up the where the cliffs softened to an eminently steep hill.
Jack felt as if his sides might burst from the effort and strain; they had completed a half-hour walk in less then a quarter of an hour. His legs and lungs protested loudly until he truly believed them to be on fire. And the sharp incline of the hill did not help at all, but he just pressed on with even more determination.
He felt alarmed when he caught a glance of Elizabeth; her face was masked, unreadable, but he saw the distress in her eyes, the torture of knowing they could be too late.
"We'll get there in time, Elizabeth," he said, against his need for oxygen. "I swear."
Reaching the top of the hill, they stopped for a beat of a moment, both bent over, their chests heaving desperately. However, their pause lasted less then a minute; both withdrew their swords, and Jack his pistol, and they were once again off, dashing down a snowy-path that led around the city and to Ethel Swann's mansion, residing on the outskirts of town.
Both Elizabeth and Jack felt as if weights had been lifted off their chests when they realized that the edges of the city had still remained unaffected by the pirate attack. They only encountered citizens who were fleeing the attack, both the wealthy and deprived, some nursing wounds and others helping injured persons get away. Elizabeth felt a twinge of guilt in the back of her mind, but she did not stop, having only one thought running through her mind.
Relief hit the two even more when they reached the house that appeared unaffected by the battle. However, there was only one problem as they pushed at the gate.
"It's locked," Elizabeth cried through her arduous breathing, her hands rattling the metal bars violently.
Thinking quickly, Jack strode over to where the wall became stone and Elizabeth followed him, catching on. He bent down onto one knee and held out his hands that laced together to form a cradle.
Elizabeth put a foot in his hands and groped the stone wall. With a grunt of effort, Jack hoisted her up, muttering, "Up and over." She grabbed the top of the stone and brought herself over it, her golden head vanishing over the other side. He heard a 'thump' and raced over to the gates.
Hurriedly, she lifted the gates latch and the two sprinted up the carriage-flattened path. Jack placed his hand on Elizabeth's upper arm as they reached the white front doors, stopping her.
"M'getting an odd feeling about this," he told her quietly, his eyebrows narrowing.
She gave him a look that said 'me too' and nevertheless pushed on the doors…
Which were surprisingly unlocked.
They exchanged a look and stepped into the warm embrace of the hallway.
Elizabeth's eyes searched the open archways that led to the parlor to her right and living room to her left; they were completely empty. It felt as if silent, ghoulish whispers were caressing her skin, warning her, setting her senses immediately on alert.
From behind her Jack pushed forward. "Let's stick together, shall we?"
Creeping down the hall quietly, Elizabeth felt the anxiety begin to close her throat once more. It was far too silent. Too still. Jack had been correct; something was amiss – she would have been far more comforted if she heard the frightened voices of the servants, as odd as it was.
Despite her sense of trepidation, she moved down whitewashed hallway, her steps echoing quietly on the soft walls. Reaching the swinging door of the kitchen, she felt all the hairs on the back of her neck on edge. Swallowing once, she pushed open the door, with Jack right behind her.
Elizabeth only had a moment to take in her surroundings but it still made her heart drop; at least seven men and woman who worked serving in the manor were kneeling at the ground, their eyes wide and faces pale, though otherwise unharmed. One other person stood away from the frightened faces. She was sitting on a stool with a pistol aimed at the head next to her, the head of familiar curly brown locks, the head of…
A fist collided smartly into her stomach, pulling the air from her lungs, causing her to double over in pain, her eyes shutting as tears sprung to them. She heard a gun click as it was cocked, but an unfamiliar female voice stopped the bang that should have followed.
"Attack my lovely Flavian and the boy shall meet the same fate."
Elizabeth opened her eyes and discovered Jack to be aiming his pistol at the man who punched her, his face unreadable. The woman who sat next to Will pressed the mouth of the barrel to the child's head, a leer curling at the corner of her lips.
"Have your hombre drop his weapon, Rey Elizabeth," the woman purred, her accented voice as sharp as the edge of glass. "You have my word that nothing shall happen unless you wish it."
Jack lowered the pistol reluctantly, letting it fall to the ground. Elizabeth's eyes remained frozen on her son.
"What did you do to him?" Elizabeth's words were full of harsh odium and rage, her look sending daggers at the dark-haired women who sat beside her son.
The woman glanced uncaringly at Will. "Oh, this?" She clicked her tongue. "No worries my cisne, he is only in the deepest of sleeps. He is unharmed." She used the mouth of the gun to brush a lock of the boy's hair from his face. Elizabeth started forward, a hiss leaving her throat, but Jack's warning voice held her back.
"Elizabeth… don't do anything you might regret now, love." He tried his best to put comfort into what he said; their situation was particularly rickety at the moment. The gears in his mind worked quickly, his crystalline orbs darting about the room, assessing his surroundings.
He was Captain Jack Sparrow; he had to find a way out of this.
An eyebrow arched on the woman's face. "Wise words. It'd be in your best interest to listen to them Rey Swann."
Elizabeth's jaw was tense, her teeth grinding together viciously while her hands clenched the air, balling into fists at her sides. Seeing as she was in no condition to speak without saying something risky, Jack spoke to the woman.
"Now look here, Miss…?"
The woman smirked and regarded the captain. "Merisel."
Jack continued on casually. "Good name. Has a rather charming ring to it. Though it is rather thick on the tongue, if you follow… something simple like 'Mary' would have been better suited, I think… perhaps Amy…"
At the incredulous look he received from Elizabeth and the savage look he received from Merisel, he decided to continue on to his point.
"Yes. Well, Miss. Merisel," –he gestured to the woman with a flourish of a hand- "as… honored and fortunate as we are to have merit a visit from one such as yourself, we really just stopped by to pick up the lad and be on our way, savvy? So if you'd so kind as to…" Jack made a few hand waving motions between himself, the woman, and Will. "Give the boy here, we'd quietly leave your… lovely and not at all disconcerting presence."
Elizabeth became rigid beside him; already knowing the answer was not what they wanted to here.
Merisel's lips quirked upwards, a laugh escaping her mouth. "Lo siento, dear captain, but I did not just come by to visit." Her eyes flashed to Elizabeth's.
"You see we need to talk about a particular chest you have in your possession, my Pirata Rey."