Chapter Thirty-Nine ~*~
Barbossa remembered what Morgan had said about Averill earlier –that if he made any friends among the pirate captains, that Averill should definitely be one of them.
"But we digress," Morgan chided the other pirate as he reached for a bottle of rum on the table and poured four measures, then handing them out and taking one himself. "Let me get right to the point, my friends," he added while Averill began to grin crookedly again and Barbossa and Turk took pulls at their drinks.
Morgan's manner became suddenly serious, and he looked from one to the other intently. "Gentlemen," he said solemnly, "if you would be so kind, I need you to kidnap my wife."
The two younger pirates began choking and sputtering on the rum they'd each tried to drink as the Pirate Lord of the Caribbean Sea made the favor he required of them clear.
Captain Averill and Captain Morgan shared an amused look with each other as they waited a moment for Barbossa and Turk to stop gagging on their rum long enough to form a sentence.
"You what?" Barbossa managed to croak between coughing fits, while Turk sputtered next to him.
"Need you to kidnap my wife," Morgan repeated patiently before taking a sip of his own rum.
"That," Barbossa said hoarsely, "is what I thought ye said."
"Why would yeh do that?" Turk asked incredulously. "And why us?"
Averill piped up across the table. "Because yeh have the stones t' do it," he said genially, causing Turk to grin.
"Yes, well that would be one reason," Morgan continued, somewhat amused, "but I surmise that you'll want something more of an explanation."
"'Ye'd surmise rightly," Barbossa replied, slinging back a goodly measure of rum, knowing he was probably going to need it once Morgan explained what it was he had in mind.
"Well, since the notorious Captain Averill has kidnapped me, thwarting my attempts to negotiate with the pirates on behalf of the town of Port Royal," Morgan began, watching Averill smirk to himself, "that will leave Mary alone at home."
"Aye," Barbossa said in acknowledgement, still waiting for more information.
"I will be stuck here on this ship, waiting to see what my fate will be, as the messenger Captain Averill will send in the morning delivers the news that the Brethren are demanding that the East India Company cease its expansion, and likewise cease hunting down and antagonizing their ships for the next five years. Of course, he'll also deliver the news that should their demands not be met, my head will join that of the unfortunate Mr. Webster upon the yards."
"Nah, I got a special place fer it right up front...danglin' it from t' bowsprit'd be a nice touch," Averill chimed in, smirking as he lifted his rum to his lips again.
Morgan shot him a dark look, causing him to chuckle into his cup, and then continued on with his explanation.
"While none of us even remotely expects that Charles Beckett or the EITC will be inclined in any manner to acquiesce to such a request, I've obviously gambled heavily that my friend the governor will be eager enough to secure my safe return that he'll put a great deal of pressure on Beckett, threatening to revoke their charter in Jamaica temporarily if need be.
"The matter would need to be then sorted out in England, causing months and months of valuable time and money lost for the Company; Beckett will be better off negotiating and agreeing to keeping his operations at status quo for a couple of years and leaving the Brethren alone, rather than risk losing more by having the governor follow through with his sanctions against the Company."
"Yeah, I get all that," Turk replied, "but how is it that yer missus plays into all of this?"
"She's not part of the gamble," Barbossa answered before Morgan could, having pieced more of the puzzle together.
"She can't be," Morgan said simply, and it was obvious from the way he said it that he meant it, sincere concern evident in his manner.
"Being a hostage yerself, ye can't get to her," Barbossa continued, "and although yer nearly certain that ye'll pull this off, ye can't risk Beckett convincin' the governor that the Brethren are bluffin' about cuttin' off yer head. 'Twould incriminate both you and yer missus should the demands not be met, but yer head remains upon yer neck."
"Precisely, so, should things go badly, that would leave us only two choices," Morgan carried on.
"Cut off yer head," Averill offered with a smile, earning himself a look from Morgan that said he was trying to be infinitely patient with his friend's amusement at the thought of his head decorating the Rising Sun.
"Or get Mary out of the picture so that they can't accuse her or do anythin' to her if yer found out," Turk concluded, now understanding Morgan's reasoning.
"It also won't hurt to have her taken very publicly as a hostage," Morgan replied. "It will appear to strengthen the Brethren's position by having two captives, and Mary's abduction is sure to rile up a good deal of public outcry- perhaps even more than my own," Morgan finished with a small wry smile.
"So, why us, Cap'n?" Barbossa asked.
"Because there are very few people that I trust, Barbossa; in fact, aside from Mary, half of them are in this room," Morgan said. "You know Port Royal and my house like the back of your hand, you're smart enough to pull it off, and Mary also trusts you.
"Your ship is perhaps even faster than the Oxford, I'd wager, and if things should truly fall apart, then there is no place I would rather have my wife than on her way to Wales with a head start over the navy aboard the fastest ship in the Caribbean."
"Phheeeewww." Turk let out a long low whistle as he realized the enormity of what Morgan might be asking of them in the unlikely event that their plan should fail.
"There are not many pirates I would entrust my dear wife to," Morgan said quietly, sharing a meaningful look across the table with Barbossa.
"Besides," he continued on after a minute, in a lighter tone, "kidnapping her would be just the sort of thing that Charles would expect of a vile brigand such as yourself, Barbossa."
"Aye, perhaps I can earn meself another five hundred guineas on the reward Beckett has out for me," Barbossa said smartly.
"How much is it now?" Averill asked out of curiosity.
"After Malagueña? About four thousand guineas," Turk answered cheerfully.
"Four thousand!" Averill exclaimed, laughing out loud. "Yeh've been popular with ol' Charlie Beckett, I see."
"Barbossa's one of his favorites," Turk replied, punching Hector in the arm.
"Yeah, if'n yeh get to five thousand after kidnapping Henry's missus, yeh'd better watch out I don't try to collect that meself," Averill said, grinning.
"Ye'll have to get in line," Barbossa said, raising his mug at Averill and then draining it.
Thomas Harlow was relieved when he saw the boat returning to the Wicked Wench with Barbossa and Turk aboard, but that feeling of relief was short-lived. He could tell by the expressions they wore that something important was about to happen.
"Had a good meeting with the other pirates then, did you?" he asked, falling into step with his two shipmates as they headed for the quarterdeck.
Hector nodded. "Aye, I suppose ye could put it that way."
Harlow frowned heavily. "Oh no."
"What do yeh mean, 'oh no'?" Turk asked him.
"Barbossa's got that look he gets whenever we're about to do something really dangerous," Harlow complained, right on their heels as they climbed the stairs to the helm.
"Harlow, yeh fret about things much too much," Turk chided him playfully. "Yer gonna worry yerself into an early grave."
"I'm a pirate," Harlow replied, non-too-enthusiastically, "it's a given that I'll earn myself an early grave."
"Then stop worryin' about it!" Turk replied cheerfully back over his shoulder.
"Turk's right, Harlow, and ye needn't worry about this bein' dangerous with all the Company vessels out lookin' fer us elsewhere at the moment," Barbossa added, before giving the orders to weigh anchor and make way. "Shape us a course due west; we'll put in at the secluded cove with the two trees on the point of land."
Harlow's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "I don't need to worry about what being dangerous?"
"The kidnappin'," Barbossa replied absently, already calling orders across the ship.
Harlow's expression dropped, even as he saw the grin cross Turk's face, and he sighed in resignation. "I can't believe I'm even going to ask this, but...well...alright, here it goes – exactly who is it that we're going to kidnap?"
"Morgan's wife," Turk announced gleefully, savoring the pained look that crossed Thomas' face and the groan he issued.
"W-what?" Harlow stammered.
"You heard me," Turk replied.
"That's insane! Why would we want to kidnap Morgan's wife?" Harlow asked, looking askance from Turk to Barbossa with an expression that said he truly hoped that Turk was just pulling his leg to get a reaction out of him.
"Because Morgan asked us to," Barbossa replied, before barking more orders across the deck.
"Oh, well, that makes it perfectly reasonable then," Harlow replied facetiously.
"We thought you'd see it our way," Turk said with a laugh.
Barbossa surveyed the tiny house not far from the fish market and the turtle crawls from the deep shadows of a nearby building. Little more than a glorified hut that stood in a much less affluent area than the one he would ultimate end up that night, it nonetheless emitted a soft light through the small window, and the aroma of something marvelous wafted out into the night air.
Glancing both ways down the cross street and finding no one about, he quickly darted across the narrow road and threw his back up against the wall of the hut, leaning to his left slightly to peer briefly in the window at the back of lone figure seated and working at the small, rough table in the single room. Satisfied that no one else was present, he reached for the latch on the door, very carefully lifting it and easing the door open a few inches. A quick peek through the opening confirmed that the occupant was still facing the other way, and as quietly as he could, Barbossa pulled the door open just enough so that he could slip through and into the room.
After a long moment during which he managed to slowly and silently close the door, Hector leaned his shoulder casually against the wall with his arms folded across his chest, watching the man before him patiently sharpening the blade of a familiar pearl-handled dagger, while the marvelous smell he'd detected outside filled the room. Unable to resist the opportunity to startle the hut's occupant, Barbossa finally spoke.
"That be a nice blade," he said, already laughing as Cezar launched himself out of his chair in alarm and surprise.
"Merda!" Cezar shouted as he jumped to his feet and spun about, brandishing the dagger he'd been diligently sharpening. His eyes went wide when he saw who it was that was laughing at his shock, and he issued a torrent of irate Portuguese punctuated with a generous number of curses.
"'Tis nice to see you as well, Cezar," Barbossa replied, still laughing.
Cezar sank back against the table, finally letting go of his anger. "Ah, Mãe de Deus, but I need three eyes to keep watch out for you, Barbossa. You nearly scared me to death," he admonished his friend softly. "What is it you are doing here?"
Hector sat at the table, in the chair Cezar indicated. "Vistin' you," he replied.
"Yes, and that is a very dangerous thing for you to do, with the size of the reward the Company has on your head, my friend," Cezar said. "Not that it isn't good to see you, Hector, but..."
Cezar broke off and let his gaze travel over Hector, taking in his appearance from head to toe. The young man stood before him dressed in a fine coat and boots, his long auburn hair tied at the nape of his neck; a week's worth of beard grew upon his chin, and he was adorned with his customary medallion and sword, as well as a second one that hung at his back and a fine Spanish pistol was tucked through his belt.
Cezar sighed heavily. "You look every bit a pirate, Patife."
"'Twould be fer good reason," Hector replied with a cocky grin crossing his lips. It faded quickly when he saw the look of disapproval that Cezar couldn't complete hide. "What is that yer makin'?" he asked, quickly changing the subject.
"Chanfana," Cezar replied, already getting to his feet. "Have you eaten?"
"Aye, but I'd not be opposed to samplin' some of yer stew," Hector replied. "The last decent food I've had was probably from Morgan's wife."
Cezar quickly dished out a bowl of the simple stew and set it before Hector with a large chunk of bread and then poured them both some wine. "So, what is it that really brings you to Port Royal this night? You are not here just to visit an old friend."
"Aye, that be true," Hector replied between bites of the stew he was wolfing down, "but I couldn't pass the opportunity. I don't know when I might see yeh again."
Cezar knew Hector well enough to know that what he was really saying was that he didn't know if they would see each other again. "Something has happened then?" he asked, taking the empty bowl away and refilling it before setting it in front of the younger man.
"Aye, it's about to –although 'twill only be an issue if we get caught," Hector replied, focusing more on his food than on Cezar's scrutinizing gaze.
"We?" Cezar asked pointedly.
"Me, Turk and Harlow," Hector replied.
"Ah, triple trouble," Cezar said affectionately, his expression softening for just a moment, but becoming more serious almost instantly. "And just what is it the three of you pirates are doing?"
Hector didn't miss the way Cezar said the word 'pirates' with obvious disapproval, and he became somewhat defensive. "Ye needn't tell me that you disapprove of me, Cezar, ye've always made that plain enough."
Cezar sighed heavily again, reluctant to renew the age-old debate between them. "It is not you I disapprove of Hector. It is some of your choices. I'll leave it at that –it is good to see you, Barbossa."
Hector's defensive demeanor relaxed a little, and he returned to telling Cezar what had been asked of him. Cezar listened very carefully to all that Hector had to say, doing his best to keep his expression neutral, but it was difficult not to look concerned for the young rogue who sat across from him.
"So, once again Morgan places you in a dangerous position," Cezar replied, clearly unhappy with the situation.
Hector's gaze went stony, and Cezar threw up his hands in a gesture of surrender, indicating that he wouldn't attack Morgan's motives further.
"The thing is," Hector continued, letting his expression soften again, "that Morgan would prefer that the abduction be made public, but we can't risk settin' off the alarm too early. 'Twould put us all in danger, includin' Mary, if we were to be found out too soon."
Cezar seemed to be thinking things over for several very long minutes, and then he heaved the largest sigh of the evening. "I cannot believe I am even going to say this, Barbossa, but if it means less risk for you..."
Hector quirked an eyebrow up, curious about what Cezar was going to propose, and he watched as the older man seemed to resolve himself to some course of action.
"You get her out safely, and I will see to it that the alarm is raised at the last minute, giving you time to get away, but making sure the right people know what you've done," Cezar explained.
"I'd not ask ye to do such a thing," Hector replied in earnest.
"Sim, I know," Cezar responded with a wry smile, "but you knew I would offer."
Hector merely shrugged in response.
"Just as you knew that me being the one to rat on you would keep me out of suspicion of aiding you here in Port Royal in any way."
"Aye, ye'd already be on Beckett's blacklist, consortin' with known pirates the way ye have in the past," Hector replied in all seriousness. "This'll clean yer slate and make life easier fer you here in Port Royal."
"What would make my life easier, Hector, would be you giving up the life you have chosen, but," he said, holding up a hand to once again forestall any defensive comment from the younger man across the table, "I will at least sleep better if I have been able to ensure that you accomplish what you've set out to do safely."
"Thankee, Cezar," Barbossa replied after a long moment, meeting the older man's gaze steadily.
"Well," Cezar said, pouring them both some more wine, "we shall need to plan this abduction of yours, yes?"
Hector grinned. "Aye, that we do."
A crescent moon shone down on the dark waters of Port Royal harbor, illuminating the rigging of the six pirate ships that lay becalmed at various intervals, quietly menacing the town. Likewise the moonlight fell across the decks of the defending Goshawk and the Oxford, both abuzz with activity despite the late hour.
In contrast, the decks of the pirate vessels were all quiet; a handful of lookouts monitored the situation in the harbor while the rest of the crew slept or drank below decks. On board the Centaur, the two lookouts were joined by the grim figure of Hawkeye Hartwell, who leaned on the rail and surveyed the scene in the harbor.
So far, everything was going as Morgan had planned: the ships of the Brethren, including his own, were in place; the Oxford was in position to supposedly defend the town with the Goshawk against the threatening pirates, but was prepared at a moment's notice upon a signal from Morgan, should things go badly, to turn the tables and blast the bloody hell out of the unsuspecting Navy vessel; and Mary Morgan was about to be abducted by pirates as a way to further influence the governor and the East India Trading Company in addition to her famous husband being held hostage.
Everything had fallen into place, except one thing, and that one thing irritated him to no end: Morgan had entrusted Barbossa with Mary's safety instead of him, demonstrating that he favored Barbossa over himself, or that he likely trusted the younger pirate more despite the years Hartwell had sailed with Morgan. Either way it gnawed at him, fanning the flames of hatred he already had for Hector Barbossa.
Hartwell watched as the Wicked Wench weighed anchor, obviously setting things for the kidnapping in motion. So be it. Barbossa would escort Morgan's wife to safety under the guise of an abduction, and the governor and Charles Beckett would find no alternative to negotiating with Averill and the Brethren, lest they risk the deaths of both popular and beloved Morgans. Hartwell would play his part and go along with things as they stood, but that didn't mean he had to like it.
Hartwell leaned off the rail once the Wicked Wench had disappeared around the western point of the cove, and headed for his cabin, content to bide his time and play his part as a pirate.