Chapter 23: All Fall Down
"Solve th' mystery?" Jack asked quietly as she came nearer to him, both chart and compass in hand.
Her reply was simple and low. "Nearly."
"T' the book then, ay?"
"Yes. I'll need it to translate these." Leaning down slightly, she handed him a small piece of parchment with two dozen or more sketches. He examined them in silence as the others wandered off more closely to the swamp, their attention caught by something in the marsh. Elizabeth sat down in the soil beside Jack, her eyes fixed on the weaving of his haggard hands over the paper. "Some of them are easier than others."
"Is that so?"
"Yes, this one…" her hand moved from the ground to his, pointing to the left and overtop of a faint drawing of what appeared to be water, with a flame just above it. "…obviously some body of water, the ocean perhaps. But the fire confuses me."
"Hell's ocean…what do you mean?"
Jack's solemn tone turned from the paper to Elizabeth's curious eyes as he relaxed against a nearby rock. "Teague told me bout' it as a boy. Tis' the ocean neath' the earth, Lizzie. Impossible thing to get at."
"Surely there's a way."
"Surely." He answered quietly with a tight gaze. "At wot' risk though?"
"I've never known you to fear risk."
"And you ne'er will. Simply thinking of yer own interests, Bess."
Her grin wrinkled at the corner of her lips but she said nothing, only stared back at him peaceably. Somehow Jack cared enough to mention risk, as if he thought she might be the one to fall into the ever present trap of misfortune. Somehow the risk of her being harmed mattered to him, and it made her all the more inquisitive about his silent look.
"I'll be perfectly fine, Captain Sparrow. You should know me better than that by now."
Before he was granted the opportunity to confuse himself or embarrass his mind any further, there was a shout of energy from a distance in the brush, loud chuckling, and eventually a call.
"E's stuck! Look at im' stuck!"
"Elp' me out ye blitherin' fool!"
Jack and Elizabeth separated their gaze only long enough to stand and inch their way around the bend of the swamp towards the call. He kept close by her side as he noticed her boots slipping over certain rocks and footing, and unconsciously left his hand near enough to catch her potential fall. Elizabeth noticed, but never mentioned it.
By the time they made it around to where the howling laughter and commotion were, they stumbled upon a rather interesting scene. Pintel, being hoisted out by Ragetti's thin arms, was trapped only halfway through what appeared to be a rounded opening between the stones of the marsh. He had slipped in no doubt, being caught by his size from one side of the rock bed to the other, with a mossy water mark on his upper chest proving how deep he had fallen as well.
As Jack stood gaping at the strange opening, almost cavern like in the waters bank, Elizabeth moved across the wet stones to assist the smaller pirate and also Gibbs in bringing Pintel back out and to dry land. A single moment passed in the accomplishment of such, and Jack remained motionless, with the parchment of sketches in one hand and his eyes darting back and forth between possibilities. He said nothing to no one.
Eventually, after minutes of catching their breath, the three arguing and sodden crewman took off into the brush, assuming the end to the day's trip to shore. Elizabeth watched as they disappeared back toward the beach through the darkening trees, and only turned her attention back to Jack when she heard a haphazard mumble.
"Did you say something?" She asked quietly in approach.
"The fools managed t' pull their weight fer once."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking bout' that hole in the ground. How deep do ye think it runs?"
"Deep enough t' swim, would ye say?" He asked starkly as he brushed past her delicate form to get to the levied edge of the dropping, circular stone. Jack placed his hand down within the cool water entrapped between the rocks, splashing it about as he looked back to her. "Deep enough t' go somewhere, eh?"
"Without a corset…how long do ye think you can hold yer breath, Lizzie?" He was humorous in his questioning, of course.
She stumbled for an answer as she came close to kneel beside him and the edge of the rocks.
"Long enough t' trust a downward route?"
Her eyes widened at his mention of the map's conspicuous meaning, and all of sudden, all at once, she understood. Jack was onto something, same as she had been with the cave.
"Sure." She finally responded with a smile.
Jack immediately moved away to tear off his boots and effects, tossing them onto the branch of a low tree, and prompting her to do just the same. They were each left in cloth and nothing more as they stepped in towards the drowning opening again.
"I'll go down first…t' test the depth o' it."
He returned to the edge of the apparent tide pool, easing one leg down into it at a time and sliding off of the wet rocks surrounding it. Elizabeth watched, her brow fixed strangely as she stood over him a ways, noting what he did. Jack was in the water to his neck by the time she realized the daze she had been in, and as he looked up at her from the small circle of black water, his dreadlocks floating in and around his back and shoulders, he smiled.
"Don't leave this spot."
"As if I would risk what else could be out in these woods?" She replied sarcastically, kneeling at the sloped edge of the pool as he slid beneath the water with a wave of his hand. He disappeared into blackness, consumed by the depth of it enough to topple his head, and Elizabeth eased down onto the flatter, smoother rocks to relax and wait for him to reemerge.
She found herself playing with a few nearby strands of grass, watching the ripple settle out across the surface he had fallen below, hearing no noise around her but the stiff breeze of a Florida afternoon in the high palms and oaks. The forest, the swamp around her was in an odd way, magical. It maintained a silence even in movement, a peace about it, and the colors were so green, so blue, so black in places that they appeared purple. Leaves glistened with a yellow glow like stars, and she noticed how they were the tiniest of bugs, how the leaves would dance as they flew about in them above her head.
A few more long seconds passed just the same, with Elizabeth mesmerized by the world Jack had taken her to, yet again, another wonderfully delicious adventure for her to dream on forever. And in the thought, of Jack, she caught herself and darted her gaze back to the blackened pool of water, still unmoving, still uncompromised by his return.
She jumped to her bare feet immediately, leaning out of its edge, trying to see anything below, the white cotton of his tunic, the sparkle of gems in his hair, but there was nothing in sight. It had been far longer than she had expected Jack to have breath enough for, whether he was a pirate or not, a man of the sea or not.
"Damn him." She sighed nervously as she moved down to the ledge of the rocks, easing both of her feet into the water and sliding down just the same as he had done before. Her legs were in, her waist next, and eventually she fell in up to her neck as well, counting thrice with a deep inhale, and pushing her weight down against the waters until she sank below and beneath.
Elizabeth had always been an excellent swimmer, with a fairly decent span of breath, and impeccable eyesight through even the thickest, darkest of water. These had been lessons she had learned for a safe living in Port Royal, ones she had studied well beside a young William Turner for years.
She looked around her, seeing the actual depth and seemingly endless width of the space she had fallen into, the one she knew Jack was still within. Her arms spun through the water easily, her legs following as her fragile form sifted about in the green-black waves and bubbles she created in movement downward. There was no sign of him for what seemed eternity, as she swam harder and faster down to a leveled off bow of rocks, where a rush of foaming water spewed from between them; a natural spring of some kind. Using the power of the moving water and spring, she thrust her body more quickly to where she could make out a tumbling sort of figure against the hazy light of open air. Part of her imagined she was seeing things, but it was with another hefty leg of her propelling, that she realized it was a figure, a body, a man.
It was Jack.
With very little breath left, very little energy, she used all she could muster to paddle and force her weight toward him. His legs hung down as his upper torso drifted in the black water, pale, frigid looking, and lifeless. Elizabeth reached out as she kicked her legs harder, and took a firm grasp of his arm, locking her own around the feathery material of his tunic. She swam toward the light, the one just above, the one telling her there was an opening, that there was salvation from drowning, air. It appeared closer than it was, and she felt her body falling limp even as they neared it finally, but she never let up and never let him go as she maneuvered past the spring from an opposing angle.
A last paddle and pull and she broke a separate surface.
There was the sweetest of all tastes when she came through the water's rush to inhale fresh air, to fill her lungs again, greedily so. Her eyes fell slowly open with the oxygen renewed within her, and as she floated with her arm still attached to an unconscious Jack, she looked up and around to see a flat and low shelf of stone, which seemed to extend a mile further below the surface of the earth above it. They were still underground, in a strange sort of air bubble, a pocketed surface between heaven and hell, the same as they had read in the map.
She ignored this though and paddled off to the stony bed, pearling in the small spotlights of sun that filtered in through the cracking walls and dusty, high rock ceiling. Swallowing a last bit of the fresh water, she managed to tug Jack's body from the cooler rush until he was sprawled flat on his back, unmoving, with his head propped upright in her hands. Elizabeth forced herself to remain calm, as she brushed his pale, cold cheeks and leaned down to press her ear to his heart.
It remained faint, the way she had known it probably would, and she also knew what the only answer was. With one hand flat on his wet and rippling chest, clinging to his shirt so she wouldn't release the emotion she felt, she moved her head higher up until her lips floated just over his, breathed in deeply, and pressed them down softly, tasting his stone mouth. She parted his lips with her second hand, and slowly, steadily breathed down and through him. She watched from the corner of her eye as his chest rose slightly, and pulled back to fill her lungs for him again, repeating the same process.
She leaned back for a moment, processing the entire world, feeling, sensing the tears forming themselves in the backs of her eyes, and knowing she had no time for it, she had to save him. She owed him a million times over.
Elizabeth took another hard breath, sucking back all of the draining emotion and pain, and fell down to his lips again, deeper, richer, and with a strangulating passion to bring his lungs, his body to her closer, alive. His chest rose and fell once more with her efforts, and before she could take into account the fact that it rose and fell again with her lent oxygen and breathing, Jack's hand slid from the wet rocks at his side to move around and cradle the back of her head, fingers tangling themselves in soaked golden curls.
He held her to him, savoring every bit of her mouth against his, the taste of her shivering lips as they re-colored themselves with flowing blood. Elizabeth's mind jumpstarted from a distant daydream into reality, feeling his hand on her head, tasting the sour, burning desperation on his now moving tongue and slid away from his mouth in haste.
"You…!" She screeched as she looked down at him, lying under her, grinning as wickedly as ever. "You…you're…"
Her yell was louder as she pushed herself up from the ground they were upon and darted away from him towards the darker corner of the caved spring. Jack laughed silently in watching her stomp away, well accustomed to the nature of her hatred for teasing by now, and then sat up slowly, giving her a moment or two to calm and relax her mind before he stood and followed her into the corner. The shadows playing on her tempting silhouette made him grin, his mind a rush of all the possibilities for what he could do to her, in this moment in time, like this, wet and edgy and more than ready to put up a good fight. He liked Elizabeth most when she was in a mood for murder, when her eyes flared green and her voice raised an octave higher than hell.
"Stay away from me, Jack." She caught him off guard with her sense of his close movement, even by the pattering silence of his bare feet. But this didn't stop him from sliding in closer, from at least trying out his luck. "I mean it…you're awful."
"Tell me something m' not already 'ware of, love."
At this, she turned to him in the low, grey light of the cavernous beach and slightly smiled.
"What do you want to hear? That you're the most infuriating man I've ever known?" He smirked and took another step closer as Elizabeth found herself moving back against the rocky wall. "Or that you…have a terrible way of showing that you care for anyone else's feelings?"
"Y-yes." She shivered with her words, trying not to give into him so easily or let herself be bested by his tempting, coming prowl in the dark. His eyes shone like black pebbles on a clearly moonlit shore.
"How will ye e'er allow me t' apologize, Lizzie?"
"Oh no…?" He eased in toward her form, the heat rising off of his still wet clothes, his hands coming up and over her head to rest on the damp, stone wall behind her. She was pinned between him and the rocks, unable to move, unable to breathe as was usually the case under his glare.
"I won't forgive you for this. You scared me."
Jack said nothing, and only kept his eyes upon her, fixed with a sadness he felt only for Elizabeth, one he could only ever show her. His arms were tightened with a faded bend of his tattoos and scars beneath the wet cotton as he leaned his face in closer to hers, feeling the warmth of her breath at his chin, jaw, lips, nose, and clouding his eyesight. She leveled her gaze upward, catching the smirk he held, holding his every emotion from one single, stationary look. The night before was almost washed away in any sense of meaning, to see the way Jack stared at her now, so seriously, so unfaltering.
"I hope you don't expect…that you can just…look at me like that and--"
He stopped her with his lips, the only tool he knew could work fast enough or strong enough. It was the finest of all possible sensations, the taste of her, the aroma and intoxicating fill that her mouth, her tongue, her body pressed deep into his stirred. There was a lighting flame between them in seconds, smoke rising in his mind the harder he pushed her into the wall, the tighter he held her waist to him, the rougher he initiated the moment to be. It had not been the intention, but with Elizabeth Swann, his intentions rarely followed any suit to the way his hidden yearnings did.
Another lasting suckle and bite at her bottom lip and he pulled back. Elizabeth hardly moved, her eyes were locked shut, her body stiffened by teasing pleasure.
"Sorry enough for ye…?"
He laughed watching her try to collect her thoughts, her point, and eyes still closed, hips and back still glued to the wall.
"I suppose it was."
"Good, now…" He brushed his thumb over her bottom, plumped lip and stepped away pleasantly into the middle of the rock platform again. "Rather than get ourselves distracted Miss Swann…shall we get back t' what's important ere'?"
Suddenly annoyed by his shoveling aside of the passing moment and gesture, she eyed him greedily, almost in anger as he spun about to smile at her jokingly.
"We've a fountain t' find. Do we not?"
She refused to respond and only stood in place, allowing him to justify the route to what he wanted. The map and their effects were still lingering high above on ground level.
"There must be somethin' to this…hole. Eh?"
No answer from Elizabeth. She only walked along a pathway, higher into the cavern, near the edge of the pooling black water, with her hand dancing carefully along the rocky edge of the wall. She had no idea what she was looking for, or searching out, how or what the underground spring could truly have anything to do with the fountain's location, but she indulged him anyway.
Jack on the other hand, remained lower, pacing in circles about the shored rocks, looking up and down, left, right, everywhere he could manage for any sort of sign. Of which there were none. The only view he seemed to take any interest in at all was Elizabeth as she wandered off in silence, her hand brushing along the rocks, her legs and body again, silhouetting them for him in the glow emitting through the cracks in the enclosure.
The seconds grew long, as if his head were slowing to a dead pace in her presence, and just as he made a single effort to turn away and begin his own investigating, there was a sudden shift in the weight distribution of his eye's corner view. And then, there was a screech he knew all too well.
Jack glanced back up to the higher banks of the underground beach to see a cloud of dust covering the place where Elizabeth had been. He leapt into action, running to the scene to find a gaping hole in the rocky wall amid the dust and rubble. He coughed and shouted loudly, "Lizzie?!" But there was no immediate answer.
"Liz'beth!? What in bloody--" At this remark his words were interrupted by a clearing in the dust and rock to see through the visible hole and onto the other side of the cavern. He heard a soft laughter at a lower distance, and peered down over the rock ledge to see Elizabeth's tiny form, crumbled and sprawled across a mountainous pile of glistening sand. It lent her hair to camouflage the way it glittered like the sun, same as she did, and he caught the wide open smile spread across her face as she called up to him.
"Beat you to the next clue, Captain Sparrow."
He chuckled lowly and shook his head from where he sat perched and then shouted back at her.
"Break any bones down there?"
Elizabeth patted her arms, stomach and legs mockingly, the way she had seen him do on sarcastic occasions of his own and then smiled back up. "Unfortunately there is no excuse for you to tend to my wounds."
Jack grinned and quickly jumped down the twenty or so feet to where she had landed in the sandy hill, which overlooked an entire cavern of the same sparkling dust. He sat up a few feet away from her and Elizabeth herself eased back onto her bare feet, strolling across the high dunes. He watched her frolic aimlessly, all the while discerning the particles in the palm of his hand, like diamonds.
"There's nothing in here, Jack." She shouted from a good 100 feet away, her voice echoing like a choir of angels to him as he stood up to follow.
"Does it not match one o' those sketches of yers?"
"Not in the least."
He landed beside her, a bit higher up on the bank of golden dust as they scanned the entirety of the open space around them, measuring simultaneously the outer rim, the ground level's size and even the distance to the stoned ceiling, same as the opposing side of the wall only higher up. Elizabeth turned in her place where Jack stood still, and with a slow swivel of her body, nearly fell down in shock at the faces of a dozen silent men staring back at her. She held back on the screech this time, and only took immediate hold of Jack's sleeve from behind, pulling hard.
"Liz…wot' in the hell…" she tugged on his shirt until he moved to the scene of foreign, angered glares. She knew what they were, who they probably were, but was too scared and too shocked to speak. Jack, once he had turned about, was the one who took the task into his own hands, as nervously as she had ever known him.
"Oh." He stated flatly, eyes fixed on the darkened ones of now fifty or more men. "Bugger."