Title: What Tangled Webs
Main Characters: Elizabeth Swann, Will Turner, James Norrington, Jack Sparrow, Horatio Hornblower, Archie Kennedy, Wellard, Theo Groves, Barbossa, etc
Pairing: James/Elizabeth, Will/Elizabeth
Genre: Drama, Adventure
Summary: Elizabeth sails to rescue James from the Locker while Will searches for a way to make his wife immortal. Crossover with Horatio Hornblower & Greek mythology.
DISCLAIMER: The characters are not mine. They belong to whoever owns the rights to POTC and Horatio Hornblower. This is just for fun.
Author's note: I recently watched AWE again and can't help pondering on the fate of some of the characters. This story will mainly pick up where AWE ended and James is in the Locker. It will probably be Norribeth but there's some Will/Elizabeth as well. Since there is already one Goddess in AWE, I have decided to include Greek mythology in the plot as well (should come into the story in Chapter 2).
It's also a crossover with Horatio Hornblower, mainly the movie "Mutiny". Elizabeth needed a dependable crew so I decided to borrow a few. It's also unfair that Horatio looses his friends due to an insane captain. I suppose it's not exactly the same year, but I think certain heathen Goddesses can take care of that. And poor Horatio must live a dull life with no supernatural beasties plaguing him – welcome to the Caribbean.
Elizabeth Turner stood on the craggy cliff staring out to sea, the brisk ocean breeze tugging on her hair. A week had passed since Will had left her on the beach after their brisk honeymoon, a honeymoon that had not even lasted a full twenty-four hours. It had been exciting at the moment, but that exhilaration had long faded. The years stretched out before her just as endless as the sea appeared to her now. The sky above was just as gray as her mood, the water choppy and dark.
Ten years was an eternity. How could she possibly wait all those years before seeing Will again? Although she loved Will dearly, that hadn't been the agreement she had made when they had married. She had presumed they would be together, not separated for a full decade and then only allowed to be together for a few brief hours. They would kiss passionately and then he'd be off again out to sea for another decade. That arrangement reminded her of those women she had seen in Tortuga, the kind Jack Sparrow visited when he had coin. The men had no worries and responsibility; they just had their fling and left on their ships, the female already forgotten but for a bit of lace tied around a wrist for a souvenir of their conquest.
Her vision blurred as hot tears leaked from under her lashes. Is that what she had amounted to, one of those women? What would Will expect on his next visit, a few brief hours of passion on another beach? She deserved better than that! She was used to a nice life with servants and while she didn't mind being on ships, she wasn't really a pirate. She couldn't go out and rob people, but Will had left her without even a proper roof over her head or coins for food.
And what if she were pregnant? Elizabeth bit her lip, her body trembling as sobs shook her thin frame. What kind of proper husband left a wife without the bare necessities? It wasn't like she could go back to Port Royal and claim her father's fortune; that money was lost to her. She was just as penniless as a pauper with naught but a chest containing a still beating heart. How would she live? Society frowned severely on single woman with child. And if she were with child, it would be noticeable in a few months. Such women were shunned and treated terribly for their loose morals. She would be an outcast. Yes, she could say her husband is a sailor but even sailors came home eventually. As the years passed and he never showed up, they would think she had lied to them. That is presuming she would settle down in a town somewhere nearby…
Worst, Will wasn't even paid for being Captain of the Dutchman. So when he did come home in ten years, it would be with empty pockets.
Will had been distant the last few months, but she had thought that had been her fault for keeping secrets, mainly that she had killed Jack by chaining him to the Pearl. But after her confession, things hadn't improved very much. He had been obsessed with rescuing his father from Jones and now that's exactly where he was: with his father. Had he really wanted to marry her? It had been odd how he had suddenly shouted out his idea in the midst of a battle…
Elizabeth wiped at her tears with a wet palm, her eyes stinging and puffy. She was beginning to see why her father hadn't really wanted her to marry Will. Perhaps if they had stayed in Port Royal things would have gone better, but Lord Beckett had forced them out. And now she was stuck in an empty, lonely farce of a marriage. Pirates really did make the worst husbands and hadn't she loved Will because he had been a pirate at heart?
"I don't want to live alone for ten years…" She whispered to the wind, regret eating at her. She had had a good man but had turned him down. She had always thought James a bit boring and socially remote. He always seemed to be on duty, even when he had been proposing. But she knew in her heart that James would never have left her in such a situation. He had been gracious enough to step aside for Will, on the understanding that the blacksmith would be devoted to her. But instead Will had run off to live with his father and left her all alone.
Being alone for ten years was not a marriage no matter how you looked at it. More hot tears sprang from her eyes as a new thought occurred to her. Was her marriage to Will even legal? True, Captains could perform marriages but Barbossa was a pirate. It had seemed a brilliant idea at the time, but now the glitter had tarnished and she had always expected a proper wedding ceremony.
And James had even died saving her.
His ruined career and death rested squarely on her shoulders. If she and Will had not saved Jack from the noose, then his name wouldn't have been on the warrant. Nor had he been in his right mind when he had recklessly sailed through a hurricane, his heart broken by her turning him down in favor of a mere blacksmith. She had wrongly used his love for her to get Jack free and the three of them had paid a high price. His death at the hands of Will's father weighed heavily on her. If she hadn't roiled Bootstrap up by talking to him earlier, James might never have been killed.
And why o why did all the men she had kissed die? The thought had nagged her mind in the wee hours of morning while she lay awake waiting for the dawn to slowly creep up into the sky. It just didn't seem normal. First Jack, then Sao Feng, James and finally Will. Four men were far too many to be a coincidence, even if they did live dangerous lives. Had keeping that cursed Aztec coin all those years rub off some bad magic onto her? Or was it just fate playing tricks?
Elizabeth wiped her eyes again, her heart hardening a little. Crying wasn't getting her anywhere. She would have to do something about this mess she was in. Elizabeth turned her back on the sea and stared at Shipwreck City and Shipwreck Cove below her. From this distance, the City resembled a pile of upright thrusting toothpicks – the masts of countless ships. She had climbed up the volcanic wall to see the sea properly without sailing out the Devil's Throat, the treacherous passage that had sunk countless ships. It was time to make some demands as their King. With that thought firmly in mind, she started back down the narrow path towards the water-filled caldera, for Shipwreck Cove was located inside an extinct volcano.
Captain Will Turner stared out at the endless supply of dead souls he had to ferry to the Other Side where they could be judged and sent on their way. Dead souls were everywhere, with some in rowboats and others floating directly in the water itself. His crew of dead men was even now helping the drowned souls on board so they could make another trip. The floaters had been in the water so long they weren't even aware of their surroundings and his crew had to physically drag each one up using nets and the winch. It took a long time and much effort. The deck grew slippery with water and the floaters had to be hauled below deck like cargo, their legs useless as blobs of jelly. In time they would wake up and become aware of their surroundings. Still, the work was satisfying, as Will knew he was helping the helpless. The backlog of work caused by Davy Jones was mind-boggling and Will was doubtful if he'd ever catch up. The ship's rail was warm beneath his rough hands as his thoughts turned to Elizabeth.
He missed her dearly and he longed to see her again. Their single day together had been far too short and now he had ten long years to get through before he could see her again. He wanted to know how she was and where she was, what she was doing. Did she feel as lonely and heartbroken as he did?
Heartbroken – how could he be heartbroken when he didn't have a heart any longer? Will's hand rose to his chest where he once again touched the long red scars. He was now immortal and nothing could kill him: not battle, heat, fire, the sea or even time. It was an odd feeling, to be immortal.
A sigh escaped Will's lips as he wished he could go see Elizabeth briefly. Perhaps if she were to be out at sea he could visit her, say maybe once or twice a month. Surely that wouldn't be forsaking his duties to the Goddess Calypso. Elizabeth was his wife and ten long years seemed an awfully long time to wait to see one's wife. A million things could happen in ten years. She would have a life and friends he knew nothing of. He wouldn't know of her triumphs or failures. Nor could he properly share in them, as he ought to. He wanted to rescue his father, yes, but not at this price.
Then a new dark thought wiggled into his mind. His payment from Calypso was one day on land for every ten years at sea. But one day in the future Elizabeth wouldn't be there as she wasn't immortal. She would wither from age and then die, leaving him totally alone. His hands clutched at the hard railing until his knuckles turned white, his muscles stiff with fear as his breath seemed to catch in his throat.
What would he do then?
Time had no meaning for the immortal. Millennia were nothing but little trickles of sand in the hourglass. Sure, the deal had worked fine for Jones as his love had been a Goddess, but Elizabeth was just a plain ordinary mortal. In a few decades there would already be big differences between them. She would be middle-aged and he'd still be the same dashing young man he had been in Port Royal. Would she resent him his eternal youth? And what would he think of her old and wrinkled, her skin hanging in loose flabs and covered in liver spots? Her hair would thin and start falling out, her energy vanishing as her bones ached.
He never ached, not physically. He could pass a dagger through his hand without feeling the slightest hint of pain. Both his eyesight and hearing had improved. And he was just beginning to discover he had powers, powers that even Jones had maybe never used. It was all still new to him though and there was really no one to guide him. He was running on instinct the way it was. Somehow the Dutchman had known where to take the souls once they had collected the first boatload and Will had been thankful for that, for Calypso had never informed him. In fact, since she had turned into the million crabs upon the Pearl he hadn't seen her ever again. For all he knew, she may be a bit of seaweed in the water or a clam on the seafloor, watching him silently. Shape meant nothing to the Goddess and she could be anything she chose. The idea of shape changing was still foreign to him as this new job. At least he knew how to run a ship and command a crew.
The crew, including Bootstrap, was only helpful in a limited way. They knew the shipboard duties: scrubbing the deck, hoisting sails and so forth but really knew nothing of the real duty the ship was charged with as Jones hadn't done it in such a long time. He could practically hear the clock ticking as time started to stretch between him and he wife. He needed to find a way to make Elizabeth immortal, but how? He was really a blacksmith and knew nothing of these things. He hadn't really even known who Jones was when Jack had mentioned the man. Will was far from an expert on sea legends or any other type of legend as well. He had spent most of his youth toiling as an apprentice blacksmith and what little free time had had was spent spying on the officers practicing their fencing within Fort Charles. By copying their movements later on his own, Will had learned how to swordfight.
Despair and anger settled within Will's empty chest cavity where his heart belonged. Calypso had cheated him! What good was the single day on land if one day Elizabeth wouldn't be there? It would be worthless! But what could he do? He couldn't take her onto the Dutchman and he didn't want her to become part of his crew. But perhaps there was another way to become immortal?
Deciding the answer lay with Calypso, Will headed towards the ship's helm where his father was manning the wheel. "Mr. Turner, what do you know of Calypso?"
"She's the Goddess we work for." Bootstrap simply replied as he turned to look at his son.
"Yes, but where does she come from?" Will asked, hunger for knowledge in his voice. "Where does she go? And are there others like her or is she the only one?"
"I'm just a simple pirate, son." Bootstrap explained as he shrugged. The older man's face took on a sad expression, his long stringy hair blowing in the breeze of the Locker. "I knew you'd loose her if you stabbed the heart. There's nothing you can do, Son. She's lost to you now. The heathen Gods are experts at cursing mortal men as they've been doing it for centuries. Perhaps it be best if ye forget her."
"I won't forget her!" Will cried angrily, his voice raising so the deck crew paused in their labors and then looked away again. The Captain's anguish and problems were none of their concern. "I love her! I loved her since the day I was pulled out of the sea by the crew of the Dauntless."
"Ten years is a long time, Son. By then ye won't even remember her properly." Bootstrap replied gently, his firm hand on the wheel. Even though the anchor was down and the ship stationary while they gathered the dead souls, the wheel needed to be manned.
"I don't want to loose her…" Will sighed; sure he had lost her already. It was just a freak accident he had become immortal. Expecting it to happen a second time and to the one person he loved out of all the millions in the world, surely that would be impossible.
James Norrington stood on the deck of the Dauntless, the ship he had lost while foolishly trying to sail through a hurricane. Even though the ship had been wrecked and sunk by the storm, it oddly enough was in one piece once again. His back was pressed firmly against the solid main mast as it momentarily hid him from the only other two people on the deck. Still, he could hear their happy, lovesick voices floating on a breeze that carried the sound perfectly to his ears. A thick tome was clutched in one hand, the book's weight pulling heavily on his soul. Normally captains enjoyed the privilege of performing wedding ceremonies, but how could he marry the woman he loved to another man? The sun rode high in the brilliant blue sky, proclaiming it was almost noon and time for him to do his duty.
He had been a good officer in the British Royal Navy and had risen through the ranks quickly, earning his commission. He had studied hard, learned how to handle the men under his command and how to handle the responsibility that went with it. Command wasn't easy and it often required doing things he didn't like. He had to follow orders and do what was best for the Crown and Empire. And he often had to watch his men die, either from fatal pistol shots or from limbs being blown off due to enemy cannon fire. Falling masts and rigging crushed others during short but bloody battles with pirates. The deck under his feet had been stained red many times, the sea always washing it clean once more. It pained him each time it happened, for the death of those under his command fell on his shoulders. It was a heavy burden to carry.
He had excelled at command, at chasing pirates and hanging them. The Caribbean was rapidly being cleaned up thanks to his skills and he couldn't help being secretly proud of his accomplishments, not that he ever boasted of such things. Boasting would be improper. And when one reached the rank of admiral, one was expected to join proper society; to attend parties and make witty remarks at them. Commodore was in fact a lower ranking admiral and upon reaching that goal, he could marry the woman he loved: Elizabeth Swann. Not only were she beautiful and the daughter of the Governor, but also she possessed a wild spirit much like the sea he loved. She wasn't always entirely proper but that's why he loved her so. She was bold, not one of the delicate maids that fainted at the slightest hint of blood. He had thought the two of them well suited, but he had had no idea she was in love with a blacksmith, an apprentice blacksmith no less.
James peered out from around the mass, his tricorn hat expertly shading his green eyes from the sun's glare. Elizabeth seemed to float along the deck in her long wedding gown, the long veil of delicate lace lifted by the sea breeze to trail in the air. The sight of her made his breath catch in his throat. Her off-white gown sparkled with what surely must be millions of fresh water pearls and her hair was swept upward into a beautiful hairstyle. A delicate bouquet of lilies and baby's breath were in her hands, the flowers bound together by a wide strip of the finest satin ribbon. Even from his hiding place, the emotion was clear in her warm brown eyes. Happiness and joy glowed from within just as they should on any woman's wedding day.
The urge to dash out and wrap his arms about her surged through him, but he fought it down. Such behavior was unfitting in an officer and he reprimanded himself for even thinking it. Still, seeing Elizabeth dressed so was one of his dreams and he admired her beauty for a few moments.
Than Will Turner appeared by her side, splendid in fine clothing and a wide-brimmed hat with a long ostrich plume. The thought that he had seen young Mr. Turner dressed this way once before occurred to him and a sense of déjà vu gripped him. Yes, it had been the day that things had gone wrong and his happy dreams had been dashed on the rocks.
"James," Elizabeth called as she held Will's hand and they moved along the spotless deck. "Where are you? We need you…"
"Yes, we need you to perform the ceremony…" Will called out as he moved closer to the mast that James was hiding behind. "You're not in your cabin and you're not below deck, so you must be here somewhere…"
"This can't be real." James muttered to himself as he pressed himself more firmly against the mast. He had known he needed to suffer for his misdeeds, but this? His empty hand rose towards his chest as if he expected to find something there, a wound. Hadn't he been stabbed by one of those monstrous fish-men? But his uniform was spotless with a trace of neither blood nor a hole. The gold buttons glittered in the sun and he realized he must be in the Locker. Would this go on for eternity? It would be far too much to bear.
Would he have been better to go off with Elizabeth, to forsake his duty? To run off with pirates was against every belief he believed in, yet he loved her dearly. When one joined the Navy, one couldn't just simply leave. To run off was a very serious offense that promised jail time if not outright hanging. He would be decommissioned again and face another ugly court-martial. The first one had been bad enough; he didn't think he could stand another.
Yet he hadn't been happy serving under Lord Beckett, either. When he had stolen the heart and run off with it, he had thought things would be as they had been before. But they had been far different. Beckett had been holding mass hangings and poor Governor Swann had been turned into a mere puppet to sign papers. And his new station, aboard the Flying Dutchman, had been a joke.
He had thought Elizabeth to be dead, but there she was! He had found her on a pirate ship, the Empress, and she had been the ship's captain. He had felt guilty then for being selfish and running off with the heart. He should have stayed to protect her, but seeing her look dreamily at Turner had soured his stomach. The trouble was he was still madly in love with her and it broke his heart to see her love another man. It hadn't bothered him too much when he had thought Turner stuck aboard the Flying Dutchman, but then he had come walking up out of the sea and spouting some dumb line about sea turtles.
And so he had done the thing his heart had demanded: helping her escape. It had been his death sentence, of course. James knew that. Anyone convicted of helping pirates or associating with pirates would be hung from the noose until dead. Still, he had done it anyway. He could not stand by and watch them hang her. He loved her too much. But he had thought it better to be dead than to live without her. His career wasn't what it used to be, that was clear. The Flying Dutchman was a stinking cesspool of torture and corruption. The fish-men had no decency or honor. In fact, they actually enjoyed murdering weaponless sailors and blasting ships out of the water. He had witnessed the brutality too many times to doubt it. The British Empire had always treated prisoners of war with decency; Jones had no such decency. So he had been sure death would be favorable than being forced to watch Elizabeth hang or to be a pirate himself.
"Should I have gone with her?" He asked himself. If he had, perhaps he still would be alive. He had lived as a sort of pirate for a brief time, although he hadn't actually done any real pirating. If he had, perhaps he could have convinced Elizabeth to marry him and not Turner. The blacksmith, he noticed, hadn't been on the Empress.
At least he had been bold enough to steal a kiss before his end had come. He had thought the single kiss enough to keep him warm in his watery grave, but now she was haunting him in the worst way possible.
If only Turner weren't there! Then it would be a lovely way to spend eternity. But the Locker wasn't supposed to be pleasant.
"James…" Elizabeth called once again, her voice closer. "Where are you? Please stop playing games with us…"
She's not real, she's just a hallucination created by this place.
The thoughts sounded reassuring, but she certainly looked solid and real, as real as the ship beneath his boots. But the real Elizabeth was hopefully safe on dry land.
She was, wasn't she?
Being stuck here he'd probably never know.
And he had let her go off with all those brutish pirates, without a proper chaperone. Who knew what they might have done? Would they truly obey a female captain? That was unheard of! Perhaps he should have gone with her after all.
But being with pirates was wrong.
Yet Elizabeth was a pirate.
It was enough to drive him insane!
"Aha! There you are!" Will cried in triumph as he popped up from the other side of the mast, a grin on his face. "Now be a good friend and perform the wedding ceremony. Elizabeth and I have waited so long to be wed."
"I…" James stuttered, unsure what to say as his green eyes flickered about the deck. Unfortunately, there were few places to hide. Perhaps if he could sneak into one of the tarp covered longboats without them seeing…
Elizabeth appeared on his other side, one hand gripping his upper arm. "You want me to be happy, don't you?"
"Of course." James answered without thought. But he wanted to be happy, too. And that did not include marrying her to Turner. Now that they had found him, he'd have to go through with it. His dread returned full force and his sharp mind whirled for a way to stall the too close wedding. Of course, what he really should have done was crawl up into the rigging. Surely neither would follow him way up there, hundreds of feet above the deck. Turner wasn't a sailor and although Elizabeth possibly thought she could pass as one, she truly wasn't.
"Then lets get it under way, shall we?" Turner asked, happily.
"You don't have witnesses." James suddenly blurted as he realized that it was true. The law said they needed at least two witnesses and if anything, he stuck to the law. His unwillingness to break said law by running off with pirates was what got him killed.
"What?" Will gawked at him dumbly, caught by surprise.
"Please, James?" Elizabeth pleaded, her beautiful eyes gazing up at him. "You can be our witness."
"The law is very specific I am afraid." James insisted as he backed away until he felt the ship's rail against his rear. Then gripping the ratlines with one hand, he nimbly swung up onto the net-like ropes and climbed upward like a monkey. Climbing up to the sails and spars was one of the first things a midshipman learns and so James had no qualms about going aloft. He climbed higher and higher until he stood upon the uppermost sail with a single hand on the mast itself. From this height he could see for miles in almost every direction. Even though he was incredibly high, he felt at ease way up here and some of his worries fell away. The piece of wood he stood upon was no thicker than his shoe yet he didn't worry about slipping off and falling to his death. As a lieutenant he had spent countless hours up here and he could do so again easily. And it appeared he might have to do just that.
Elizabeth walked through the doorway of the main ship at Shipwreck City, the one that served as headquarters for the Pirate Lords. Thick beams curved overhead and the air was damp with sea air. Not all that long ago, the room had been crowded with noisy pirates, but now a lone man rested in the dark recess at the back of the room. He sat upon a throne-like chair and a bottle of rum was clutched in one hand. At first glance one may mistake him for Jack Sparrow, but the man was older and was in fact Jack's father.
"Captain Teague," Elizabeth called as she marched up to him, her boots loud on the wooden floor of the cavernous room. "I need a ship and a crew."
"So, you be leaving us already?" Teague said from where he relaxed on the chair. "The Empress has been repaired and is yours, of course. And you're welcome here at any time. You are our King and we will not forget that. You saved us from a terrible fate."
"And a crew?" She prompted. Elizabeth knew that Jack and the Pearl had already left. In fact, they had been gone when she had returned from her short honeymoon and she had been forced to row herself back to Shipwreck Island. Although she could handle a rowboat by herself, she couldn't possibly sail a larger vessel. Truthfully, she didn't know all of the things required to do so. She was great at command and giving orders during a battle, but some things was beyond her knowledge.
Teague took a slow sip of him rum and gazed at her with black, coal-lined eyes. "Exactly where are you heading? You going to take up actual pirating?"
Everyone at Shipwreck Island knew Elizabeth had never done any actual pirating. It was fate that had made her one of the nine Pirate Lords and their King.
"I'm going back to the Locker, to rescue James Norrington. I owe him my life and I will not let him rot down there to go insane."
The pirate captain blinked at her. "Doesn't sound very profitable. Not very many will want to go on such a trip you know. We do like our shiny things I'm afraid. But I do have a few that might serve our illustrious King on her voyage." With that said, Teague climbed to his feet and strolled out of the large meeting room, beckoning for her to follow him. Within moments he led her to another battered hulk that served as the pirate's prison ship. "Might be someone useful in here. We picked them up from the wreck of the Endeavor. Go take a look."
Elizabeth frowned, but stepped into the dark prison ship. She wasn't very crazy about taking men loyal to Lord Beckett as her crew, but what choice did she have? Sailors were sailors. Perhaps most were pressed into the job as Norrington and her father had been. The air smelled rank and she wrinkled her nose, but stepped further into the cage-lined room.
"Miss Swann?" A voice called from within one of the cages.
Elizabeth turned to see a man dressed in a proper Royal Navy uniform with powdered wig, hat and dark blue frock coat with shiny gold buttons. He looked a bit rumpled from being locked up but otherwise appeared OK. "Lieutenant Groves?"
"Yes. But what are you doing here? Have the pirates captured you?" Groves asked as he gripped the iron bars with his hands. A faint smile appeared on his face. It had been no secret in Port Royal that Elizabeth had admired pirates and had even befriended Jack Sparrow. "Or are you a pirate these days?"
"I am looking for crew, Mr. Groves and you seem to be in need of employment. Can you serve under my command?" Elizabeth inquired. She knew that Theo had always been a good friend to James. "And I'm the King of the Pirates. But we're not going pirating. We're going to the Locker to rescue James. He gave his life saving me and I intend to repay it. It'll be dangerous and we might not make it back, but I've been there before."
"The Locker…?" Theo's mouth fell open and his eyes widened. "Is that possible?"
"Of course. I brought Jack back from the dead and I intend to do the same for James, but I can't sail a ship by myself." Elizabeth hoped he would agree, as they were old friends of a sort.
"Very well. May I be your first lieutenant?" Theo asked politely as he straightened his uniform and waited for Teague to unlock the door to his cell. The key clicked in the lock and the door swung open on squeaking hinges. He gladly stepped out and joined his new captain. Theo had never heard of a female captain but then Elizabeth had never behaved like a proper lady either, being fascinated with ships and pirates since she had been a young girl sailing to Jamaica on the Dauntless. From what James had told him, sewing and embroidery had bored her terribly. "And I would be honored to help you rescue James, even if I find it hard to believe. Still, after seeing those fish-men on the Flying Dutchman I suppose nothing should surprise me…"
"You may." Elizabeth knew she needed a first officer, just as Jack had Mr. Gibbs. Theo had served in the Navy for years and certainly knew his way around a ship.
"How many crew do we have?" Theo asked, wasting no time to get down to doing the job of a first lieutenant.
"So far, just the two of us. I'm afraid none of the pirates are interested in a rescue mission, as it's not profitable to them." She explained as she started peering into other cells. Most, however, were empty and didn't appear to be used in ages. It wasn't often that pirates took captives. "They will give us supplies though, so we need not worry about that."
"You'll find crew down near Tortuga." Captain Teague mysteriously stated from where he stood leaning against the wall, the keys to the cells dangling from his hand. "The Goddess Calypso will provide."
"But not in Tortuga, not pirates?" Elizabeth asked, plainly confused. "And how do you know?"
"I'm Captain Teague. Savvy?" He replied, smiling to reveal a few golden teeth. "And I said near Tortuga. There will be a British ship, a big frigate. It'll give you some crew."
"It will?" Elizabeth asked, quite confused now.
"Yep." Teague took another swallow of rum, his throat moving.
Teague reminded her so much of Jack that she couldn't help smiling a bit. Of course, Jack didn't carry a shrunken head with him, not yet anyway, but their mannerisms were so much alike. For a moment she pondered what fabled treasure Jack had gone chasing after this time. Whatever it was, it had caused both Jack and Barbossa to leave right away. After finding a few more crew members, low rank deck hands that Groves said were trustworthy and who were willing to sail on a ship with a female captain, they left the cell area to head towards the Empress.
"We will need more officers." Lt. Groves informed her as they climbed up onto the deck of the Chinese junk. "I realize pirates operate differently but you still need officers to oversea the common men, to give them orders. Otherwise things get confusing. Nor do we have enough deck crew, even for a small ship like this."
"Captain Teague said there would be crew waiting for us."
"And do you believe him?" Groves asked, curiosity on his face.
"Yes, yes I do." Elizabeth replied as she climbed the stairs to the Captain's cabin. Stepping inside the exotically colored room, she saw that the awful hole the cannon ball had ripped through the wall had been repaired and the ship looked as good as new. Junks were easily repaired and were difficult to sink due to their bulkheads. The room was filled with plush silk pillows, assorted furniture and other exotic items from the far off Orient. She would have to add a proper desk, but that could be easily arranged. The pirates had everything in Shipwreck City. Even things nailed down they would steal if given enough time. "Go make sure we have the proper supplies on board."
"Aye aye, Captain." Groves saluted and went below decks to check the ship out thoroughly. The last thing he wanted was to get out at sea and discover there was a leak the pirates had overlooked. And it would take him some time to figure out how the odd sails worked. Unlike the square sails with rigging on a British ship, the Chinese junk had angular sails stiffened by long bamboo rods called battens. In fact, the ship had no proper rigging at all it seemed, just simple ropes stretching from each batten to the side of the ship. And what were those odd dragon-like wings sticking up from the top of the captain's cabin? Groves shook his head at the unusual design but continued his inspection.
The H.M.S. Renown had entered the Caribbean a few days ago, under the command of the insane Captain Sawyer. They had been sent to the West Indies by the Admiralty to help with some pirate problems in the area. It was a time of war as well, England fighting Spain and France. At one time Sawyer had been a good captain, one of Nelson's own, but age had made him feeble-minded. He often didn't know what was going on and saw conspiracies everywhere, especially among his younger officers. When a sail had got caught in the working parts of the rigging and had torn, he had been convinced that young midshipman Henry Wellard had plotted it as some form of mutiny. He had ordered the young man beaten with a cane on the rear twelve times while stretched over a cannon, a practice known as Kissing the Gunner's Daughter. When the lieutenants had tried to tell Captain Sawyer that Wellard had just been doing his duty in reporting the ripping sail, then they had gotten in trouble as well. Third lieutenant Horatio Hornblower had been set on a thirty-six hour watch. If he were caught sleeping while on watch, he'd hang. Everyone was on edge, except those few like gunner Hobbs who thought Sawyer was a hero.
The Captain slept uneasily in his padded leather chair, his short white hair wispy and in disarray. He muttered, making little sounds as he moved his head this way and that. His skin was wrinkled and dry like a prune and his weak arms held a blanket on his lap. As he slept, a strange mist crept around the ship until the sea itself was not visible from the deck. Silently the mist moved the ship backwards in time until they reached the proper era. Then a female voice whispered in the Captain's mind, easily convincing him in his troubled state the Empress belonged to the same fleet as the Renown. Then the mist slowly evaporated as the bright and powerful sun overhead burned it off.
Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower stood on deck with his hands behind his back, standing watch as he had been ordered. His eyes burned and he felt exhausted, as he had been awake over thirty hours now. The early morning mist had burned off and he once again could see the amazingly bluish-green waters of the Caribbean. He had never seen such beautifully colored seas in his entire life. It was a far cry from the dark choppy English Channel that was his usual area to patrol. His uniform jacket was dark navy blue with white piping along the edges and golden buttons with a high collar. His dark hair was wavy and was tied in a ponytail at the back of his neck with a black ribbon. And he wore a lieutenant's hat, a type of tricorn. White knee pants completed the uniform.
His best friend and fourth lieutenant, Archie Kennedy, joined him on deck a few minutes later. "Just think, the West Indies! Do you think we'll see any action, Horatio? Not that we don't have enough action with…" Archie moved his eyes to indicate the Captain's cabin. They all knew Sawyer had been acting very erratic and they were scared of what he may do in his madness. He had even threatened the other day to hang anyone caught in mutinous behavior. The trouble was that just being seen talking to another crewmember might be mutinous to the Captain's eyes. He had curly reddish-brown hair and had a ribbon tied ponytail as well.
"I'm sure we will, Archie." Horatio stifled a yawn with a hand and then rubbed at his sore eyes. He didn't know how much longer he could stay awake. Through some miracle he had managed to get through the entire night and now he faced another long day. Serving under the famous Captain Sawyer was not the exciting adventure he had been looking forward to at all, in face it was a horrible nightmare and one he couldn't get out of. There was no easy solution to replace an insane captain or to take his command away. Any such talk would be considered mutiny, even if the man were insane. The ship's doctor wasn't much help, having served with Sawyer for fifteen long years. "It's why we were sent here."
Midshipman Wellard appeared on deck, pausing for a moment to swallow the liquid pain medicine the doctor had given him. The beating with the cane had flayed his skin and it was very painful. Worst, he hadn't done anything to actually deserve it. His uniform was similar to the lieutenants except he had a shorter jacket and wore a round brimmed hat with a ribbon trailing down the back. He had dark eyes, straight dark hair that hung on his forehead and a pale face with freckles. Slipping the medicine vial into his pocket, he joined the two lieutenants at the railing overlooking the deck.
A loud commotion came from the Captain's quarters and a moment later Sawyer himself appeared. His wild eyes instantly locked onto the three young officers and he pointed a trembling finger at them. "Caught in the act of planning mutiny! You'll get it for this, all three of you!"
"You are mistaken, Sir!" Horatio Hornblower tried to reason with the insane man as the three turned to face the Captain. "I am standing watch as you ordered, Sir. They just joined me a mere moment before you appeared."
"Lies, all lies! Well, I will be rid of the lot of you soon enough!" Captain Sawyer cried, his disarrayed hair blowing in a stiff breeze to become even scruffier. "I'll have no mutiny on board my ship, no whispering behind my back, no plotting and scheming!"
Wellard's pale face grew paler as his eyes widened in alarm and Kennedy gulped nervously, the image of a noose appearing in their minds.
"Sir, I protest…" Horatio started to say, but the Captain quickly cut him off.
"Pack your things. You're being transferred! And take your troublesome men with you. Make your schemes on the other ship all you like!"
"Transferred?" Horatio asked, totally confused. Everyone knew the captain was not in his right mind and now a new fear gripped the young officer's soul; that the captain may transfer them to an imaginary ship and abandon them out at sea in a longboat. "Transferred to where, Sir? We just arrived in the West Indies, begging the Captain's pardon and there are no other ships of the line in sight."
"There!" Captain Sawyer pointed to the far horizon and like magic sails appeared in the far distance. They seemed to blaze orange like the still rising sun and sent a chill through the crew. It was creepy how a ship had appeared just where the Captain pointed. "The H.M.S. Empress in need of lieutenants. Now carry out your orders or it'll be the noose!"
"Aye, Sir." Horatio let out a sigh, but headed below decks to go pack. There was no reasoning with the man, that much he knew. On his way down towards the wardroom, he ran into Second Lieutenant Bush. Bush saw the look on Horatio's face and the frightened expressions on the other two. Lt. Bush was older than the others so the Captain hadn't blamed him yet.
"What did he do this time?" Lt. Bush asked, his voice sounding tired.
"We're being transferred to the H.M.S. Empress." Horatio explained as he squeezed past Bush to go towards the wardroom. "Effective now and she apparently just appeared on the horizon."
"At the very moment he pointed no less!" Archie added as he ran a nervous hand through his curly hair. "Well, some ship appeared. For all we know it may be pirates or the Spanish. I don't want to end up in prison again, Horatio! I barely survived last time…"
"The H.M.S. Empress? I never heard of such a ship!" Lt. Bush replied, worry both in his voice and on his face. "Where is he getting this stuff from? Who did he say was commanding it?"
"He didn't." Archie said as he started to take down his hammock and packed a few belongings into his sea chest. "But he's dead serious about this transfer. It's either that or the noose. We don't have any choice."
"But…but we can't just transfer you to some unknown ship!" Bush exclaimed, his eyes widening with true worry. "And since when do ships in the British Empire have names like Empress? This is all highly unusual!"
"Do you want to be transferred, too?" Horatio hissed at Bush as he closed the lid on his sea chest, locking it securely. "He may be listening! Or Hobbs may be spying for him. You need to stay here to report this when you get to Kingston. Can we rely on you, Sir?"
"Of course, but he can't just…" Bush started to say.
"But he is and his word is law." Horatio quickly moved out of the wardroom into the main crew quarters until he found Styles, Matthews and Oldroyd. "Pack your things. We're being transferred to another ship, effective immediately. You need to move three sea chests into the longboat: mine, Kennedy's and Wellard's. And please inform their men that they're being transferred, too."
"Aye-aye, Sir." Matthews replied, a surprised look on his weathered sea face. "But transferred to where, Sir, if you don't mind me asking?"
"A new ship, apparently. Surely anyplace must be better than here." Horatio said as he turned on his heel. "And look lively. We want to make a good impression on our new captain, don't we?"
"Aye, Sir!" The men ran off to do as they were ordered and in short order they and their belongings were inside a longboat. The boat bobbed up and down on the waves as they nervously watched the H.M.S. Renown pull away. Their ex-shipmates stared down at them from the rail, many of Captain Sawyer's cronies laughing at their misfortune. Bush gave them an apologetic expression and Horatio hoped he would make it to Kingston to report this injustice. Then the ship started to pull away as the sails caught the wind and the anchor was hauled upward once more.
"We're … we're not going to die out here, are we?" Wellard asked nervously as he stared at the huge expanse of water in every direction.
"Of course not." Horatio automatically replied, placing a reassuring hand on the young man's shoulder. "There's another ship coming, our new assignment."
"Besides, this is the West Indies! There are islands everywhere, food hanging on the trees just waiting to be picked!" Matthews added, knowing his age, as a crusty old ship hand would make the words truer to the boy's ears.
Horatio moved the spyglass to his eye and peered at the new ship, his stomach growing more nervous as the seconds ticked by. The ship approaching didn't look like any ship he had ever seen. It didn't even have normal sails.
"What kind of ship is it, Horatio?" Archie asked anxiously. "Is it one of ours, like Sawyer said?"
"Look for yourself." Horatio handed him the spyglass and he heard his best friend gasp. Soon it was close enough that they all could see it without the glass's help. Its hull was painted bright greenish-blue with bright orange trim. The sails themselves were the same brilliant orange as the tropical citrus fruit. There was a large eye painted near the front of the ship, no doubt so she could see where she was going. It had three masts with a single sail on each one, but the sails were at odd angles and had stiff rods running through them.
"Why, would you look at that!" Exclaimed Matthews. "It's a Chinese junk! I never thought I'd see one of them in person! Only seen drawings of them in the paper…"
"Is that what it is?" Wellard asked wide-eyed as he stared up at the ship that was now pulling alongside them. Even more shocking was the British Navy officer that was staring down at them, the uniform looking different than theirs; an older design but still clearly British.
"I presume you're reporting to duty?" the man on the ship called down to them.
Archie exchanged a shocked look with Horatio. "Don't tell me that Captain Sawyer was correct…!"
"Apparently so. This ship must have been taken as a Prize of War and she was put into service." Horatio himself was quite shocked. What he didn't understand was how Sawyer knew that this ship was coming or that it would need officers. Had it been in Sawyer's orders when they had left Britain? If so, they had never been mentioned and no communiqués had arrived by other ships. Looking up towards the man on the deck, he called up in a clear voice. "Yes, Sir, we are!"
"Then please come aboard and get your things stowed away." The man called. They quickly climbed up to the deck and had their men carry their chests into the crew's quarters, which to their surprise was on the first deck instead of being down below. Only the captain's quarters were up above them. Once things were stowed away, they all lined up in a row on the deck.
"I'm First Lieutenant Theo Groves and this is the Empress, commanded by Captain Swann." Lt. Groves strolled past the line of officers and men, inspecting them as he had done in the past, a critical eye scanning each one. He held his head erect and his powdered wig was very noticeable to the newcomers, the long white ponytail shocking against the dark blue of his Navy frock coat. His officer's sword gleamed at his side and a pistol was stuck in his belt.
Styles, Matthews and Oldroyd did their best to stand at attention and not fidget, but it wasn't easy. The other men that were part of the regular deck crew or cannon crew were having problems with this, too. They were also all wondering why he was wearing the powdered wig as only the very old men wore them anymore and he wasn't that old at all.
Then the door to the Captain's quarter's opened and Elizabeth strolled out. She wore a white pirate shirt, a dark leather vest and men's dark pants. Her hair was loose and free about her shoulders, the long light brown tresses blowing in the sea breeze. A sword hung at her side as well as a pistol. She strolled up and down in front of them, then stopping. "I'm Captain Elizabeth Swann and this is my ship."
A commotion broke out, most likely from Styles, but one glare from Horatio quickly shut it up. Styles had always been known as a somewhat troublemaker and no doubt seeing a female captain had shocked him into blurting out nonsense.
"Does anyone have a problem with that?" She asked, looking at each one in turn.
"No, Sir!" Horatio had never heard of a female captain in the British Royal Navy and was pondering if this ship was in fact in the Navy. She wasn't wearing the traditional Captain's outfit, but her first officer clearly was. Captains were given some leeway and maybe she didn't care for the formal look while just with her crew. That seemed plausible. It certainly couldn't be worst than Sawyer. Could it? "Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower. It is a pleasure to meet you, Captain Swann. May I enquire as to what our mission is, Sir?"
"We are on a rescue mission, gentlemen!" Elizabeth cried with enthusiasm. "We sail to World's End to rescue Admiral Norrington!"
It was decided that Horatio would be the Second Lieutenant and Archie the Third Lieutenant. They quickly started learning how the sails on the Chinese junk operated; found that the adjustable rudder was located in the rear atop the Captain's cabin and where the supplies such as gunpowder and cannonballs were kept. The ship had a large cargo hold below as well as cages up front in the ship's belly to hold prisoners.
"This ship only has fifteen cannons, Horatio. We won't fair very well if we are to face the Spanish, French or pirates." Archie informed his friend as they later stood on the deck. They were sailing south and he feared they would run into the Spanish that controlled most if not all of Mexico. Some of them had huge ships with near one hundred cannons. They had seen them before.
"Well, perhaps we won't meet them on this trip." Horatio smiled weakly as he found himself standing watch once more. "Or we will have to use our wits to outsmart them since we are outgunned. We've done it before."
Wellard joined them at the rail. "Sir, is this really a British Royal Navy ship? And where's World's End? I never heard of it before, Sir."
"Well, she's flying the British flag." Horatio's dark eyes went to the top of the middle mast where the familiar British flag was flapping in the stiff breeze among many red pennants. All the masts seem to sport several triangular red flags up at the top, a Chinese tradition meant to bring the ship good luck from friendly dragons that flew in the clouds overhead. "And I'm uncertain where World's End is. We will know more when the Captain tells us."
"Horatio, look! A ship!" Archie exclaimed loudly as he pointed with a finger in front of them and to the right. "A pirate ship!"
Lt. Hornblower immediately pulled out his spyglass and looked through it. It was a very small ship, little more than a rowboat really, that had one sail. And flapping from the top of the single thin mast was a tiny pirate flag. A single man, presumably a pirate, was inside the boat. "Wellard, go and inform the Captain."
"Aye, Sir!" Wellard saluted Horatio with two fingers to his hat and ran off towards the Captain's quarters. The wood framing the doorway to the Captain's cabin had a circular design and was painted many bright colors. Nervously he knocked on the door and then opened it slightly, peering in. He had never heard of a woman captain before, but knew it was rude to barge in on a lady. Opening the door wider, he saw Elizabeth sitting behind a desk in the large room staring at a small metal chest. Many silk pillows were piled in a corner as well as containing other exotic trinkets. "Mr. Hornblower sends his compliments and politely requests you join him on deck, Sir. A pirate ship has been spotted."
Elizabeth quickly followed him out onto the deck where she went straight to the railing, bending halfway over the rail to see the water better, her long tresses blowing in the wind. By this time the tiny pirate ship was very close to them and Elizabeth could easily see who it was. "Jack, Jack Sparrow!"
Jack quickly climbed on board and smiled broadly at her. "Elizabeth, darling, how nice of you to pick me up in your fine ship! And I see you discovered some new crewmembers, too, upstanding looking fellows."
Horatio, Archie and Wellard were gawking at the oddly dressed pirate that was apparently on familiar terms with their new captain. He wore a red cloth tied about his head, had various beads clanking in his hair, wore a somewhat ripped shirt of questionable cleanliness, a multicolor cloth sash, pants of uncertain origin and a strong odor wafted off him that made them grimace in disgust. A sword hung from his belt and a pistol was in a holster. Jack peered at them again, and then waved a dirt-smeared hand at Horatio, rings flashing in the bright Caribbean sunlight. "Be a good fellow and go turn the ship around, will you? Going the wrong direction, need to get to Florida. Pressing business there you know…"
"I'm sorry, Sir, but you are not my Captain."
"And Izzy here is?" Jack frowned. "Bet there's no rum…. how terrible. Burns it she does. Thinks it's gunpowder."
"Jack, stop talking to yourself!" Elizabeth cried. "Where's the Pearl?"
"Last I seen she was going over the horizon without me. That's the …" Jack counted on his fingers. "Third time I saw that man sail away with my ship! I should have killed him again when I had the chance. Trouble is, people around these parts don't say dead. You kill them and they come right back!"
Jack ran around Elizabeth to her other side and pressed his hands together hopefully, an uncertain grin on his face. "But be a dear and take me to Florida?"
"No." Elizabeth stuck her nose up in the air and turned her back on Jack. "We're sailing to World's End."
"Nononononono….!" Jack exclaimed, dark kohl-lined eyes going wide. "We were just there! We don't have to go back there! It'll take forever to just get there and there's no guarantee we'll ever come back! Let's go to Florida! Just think Izzy dear, the Fountain of Youth! We could sail the seas forever and never grow old! You can be with Will!"
"For a few hours out of every ten years!"
Jack was clearly panicking, his dark eyes going even wider. "But if we don't hurry to Florida, Barbossa will get to the Fountain first and use it all up and then we'll be stuck as mortals again and I do so want to sail the seas forever! Look!" Jack reached into his puffy pirate sleeve and pulled out the rolled map. He unrolled it and held it up before Elizabeth's eyes. "The map to the Fountain of Youth! Beat that, err?"
Elizabeth's eyes widened and she tried to snatch the map away. "Give me that map, Jack! I need it to reach World's End!"
"But there's no guarantee of coming back from there. You need a ship there waiting on the Other Side to bring you home. There's no guarantee that there's one there…"
"You're my guarantee, Jack. You survive everything and always come back." Elizabeth stood with hands on hips, glaring at him. "We're rescuing James and that's finale! I'm your King, Jack. According to the Code you have to obey me!"
Jack muttered, pulled out his pistol, pointed it at Elizabeth, muttered some more, stuck it into his belt again and then bowed to her, his hands clasped together as if in prayer. "My King. Rum. Tortuga."
"Fine! We'll pull in at Tortuga and get rum! Heaven knows you can't think if you're not drunk!" Elizabeth tapped her boot for a moment, thinking. "You know, I bet the cargo hold is already filled with rum as we just left Shipwreck Island, so therefore we don't need to stop at Tortuga."
"Really?" Jack thought about this for a moment and then ran below decks; his hands oddly up in the air, clearly in search of rum.
"Mr. Sparrow will be staying as our guest. Make sure he doesn't leave." With that, Elizabeth went back into her cabin.
"Is Mr. Sparrow a real pirate, Sir?" Wellard asked Horatio, still wide-eyed from listening to the odd conversation.
"Mr. Sparrow is the best pirate in the world." Lt. Theo Groves answered as he joined the other three at the railing. "I've studied him on numerous occasions but never actually sailed with him. He comes up with the most ingenious things. He escapes from prison cells as if he were a ghost. There's also rumors that he's been dead before, swallowed by the kraken no less, and that he returned to this world somehow."
"'s true, mate." Jack suddenly appeared before them leaning casually against the rail, a full bottle of rum in his hand. "I was dead, stuck down in the Locker. Awful place it is. Don't know why you're sailing there. Oh! The good Commodore turned pirate turned Admiral. Dear Jamie. Perhaps we'll be better friends in our second lives. What do you think?"
Shocked expressions were his answer. Horatio was the first one to recover his wits. "Are you saying the Admiral we're trying to rescue is dead?"
"'Course he's dead, mate."
"Oh, but we're not sailing to the Locker, Sir." Wellard bravely spoke up. "We're sailing to World's End…."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Mate, listen closely. At World's End there is a great cliff and all the water from the sea rushes over its edge, forming a humongous waterfall. This ship will go right over the edge and most likely get smashed into toothpicks at the bottom, but if you're lucky like ol' Jack, you'll survive and then you'll be in the Locker."
"Do you expect us to believe that?" Archie asked, apparently not believing it at all. "That's just an old story. If a place like that really existed, the oceans would be empty."
"Recycling, mate. The water recycles somehow…" Jack looked them up and down. "Guess I better start educating you gents or else you'll never survive with all them rules and regulations filling up valuable brain space."
"Sir! I protest your words!" Horatio hotly said, affronted that Jack had slyly said they were stupid. "We are officers in the British Royal Navy! And do not fill my midshipman's head with wild tales that are clearly lies."
"I believe him." Lt. Groves stated calmly. "I saw the Flying Dutchman and her fish-men. In fact, she sunk the last ship I was assigned to, the Endeavor. She just rises up out of the sea like a great flying fish except it's a ship; a monstrous horrible ship crewed by undead fish-men. The Caribbean is not like sailing the English Channel. There really are monsters here. I've also seen undead pirates that turn into skeletons in the moonlight."
"Do you actually think you're still in the Navy?" Jack asked Horatio as he waved a hand to indicate the ship around them. "This be a pirate yacht, formerly owned by Sao Feng – the most feared Pirate Lord of the South China Sea. Your darling Captain Swann inherited the title through circumstance along with this pretty little boat."
"We are not pirates, Sir!" Horatio replied stiffly.
"Of course not. You'll rescue dear Jamie and then you can go back to Fort Charles in Port Royal. Been a guest there, lovely cells. Don't recommend them. Boring as watching grass grow…" Jack drunk more rum and settled himself on the stairs, his legs stretched out before him. "But think for a minute why you went to sea. You went to sea for adventure and ol' Jack has plenty of those. So does Izzy. Why, she's better at it then me. Just don't let her kiss you, mate, instant death sentence it is."
Jack frowned and a shiver passed through his body as he suddenly remembered the stink and roar of the kraken. There had been that awful slime and then it had swallowed him alive with that monstrous maw it called a mouth. But it was dead. Yes, the kraken was dead and he was safe.
"Why is it a death sentence if you kiss her?" Archie asked, curious.
"Archie! That's not polite. She's our Captain and you'll not engage in idle gossip with pirates!" Horatio reprimanded his best friend.
"But I'm curious." Archie admitted. "This talk about monsters and sea legends is far more interesting than being threatened by Sawyer."
"Well, Izzy is cursed somehow. I haven't figured out the details yet but it's killed four men. I kissed her and soon after the kraken swallowed me. Sao Feng kissed her and a cannonball tore him apart. James kissed her and he was stabbed through with a sword – same thing with Will."
"But people die at sea, in the service to the British Empire. Surely you realize this. There's nothing superstitious about it whatsoever." Horatio explained the oddness away with ease.
"Then go kiss her!" Jack exclaimed as he waved his fingers at Horatio. "You'll see. You'll kiss her and then a big rock will fall from the sky and hit you. Or a shark will jump up out of the water and bite you in half. Or a gun will misfire without cause. Something will happen though, mate."
"That is against regulations. She's our commanding officer and we must respect her."
It was night on the Empress and Horatio finally was allowed to get some sleep after being awake for over thirty-six hours. The new ship and the strange conversations had helped kept him going, he admitted that. But exhaustion was rapidly catching up to him now and he just wanted to lie down and get some decent sleep. It was a miracle his new Captain and Lt. Groves didn't remark on his appearance, for surely he had dark circles under both eyes! With relief he crawled into his hammock in the wardroom at the back of the crew quarters. As this ship was much smaller that the Renown, Wellard would be bunking with them instead of in an area for midshipman or with the regular crew. Horatio approved of that, as he wanted to keep the innocent young man away from the lying pirate and his fanciful stories.
"Sir?" Came Wellard's hesitant voice in the darkness of the lieutenant's cabin. "Are you awake, Sir?"
"What is it?" Horatio murmured, sleepy.
"There really isn't a waterfall at the end of the world, is there?"
"No, of course not." Horatio replied matter-of-factly as he shifted in his hammock to a more comfortable position. "Pirates lie. He was just trying to scare you. You heard what he said – he said a kraken had eaten him. And if he had gotten ate by a kraken how could he be talking to us?"
"So we caught him lying then?"
"Exactly." Horatio yawned. "Now go to sleep."
Soon Horatio's snores filled the small area and Wellard lay awake in his hammock, thinking. If Jack was lying, then why did Lt. Groves support his stories? The first lieutenant certainly didn't look like a pirate. He acted every bit a proper gentleman and officer. But surely a giant waterfall couldn't really exist somewhere without people knowing about it and certainly not one that led to the Locker. It was hard to believe; yet the idea was frightening. If it truly were big enough to smash the ship as the pirate claimed, he would be a fool not to fear it. He was no coward, yet he hadn't been given an opportunity to test himself yet, either, unless one counted climbing the rigging aboard the Renown. The new ship didn't even have any rigging.
The next day dawned and after eating a rare breakfast of fresh food, Horatio found himself standing watch atop the Captain's cabin where the rudder was located. It was the tallest part of the ship so it allowed him to see the farthest. The last thing he wanted was to sail such a poorly gunned ship into the enemy, yet he feared taller ships could see much farther than he could due to their climbable rigging and crow's nest. What he really needed to do was the have the crew run some drills, practice moving the odd sails and learn the new guns.
"Wellard, come up here and stand watch." Horatio called as he saw the young man come out onto the deck. Normally the midshipmen were in charge of the sails and climbing the rigging, but that didn't apply on this ship. "Let me know if you spot any sails. With only fifteen cannons and the crew untested on them, we dare not get caught unawares by anyone."
"Aye, Sir!" Wellard hurried up the stairs to the highest deck and took over the watch while Horatio went down to check on the deck crew and what they were up to. The ship was sailing due south so far and there wasn't anything to avoid yet. The water was the most amazing bluish-green he had ever seen and it hurt his eyes just looking at it. Dolphins and porpoises leaped through the water joyfully; a truly incredible sight. The Caribbean was beautiful and it was hard to believe in krakens, shipworms and giant ship-smashing waterfalls during the light of day. A distant speck of land appeared up ahead and he called it out. "Land ahead!"
Before Horatio or any of the other lieutenants could reply, Jack Sparrow appeared. "And don't forget the shoals, mate. They're all over the Caribbean and love to sink ships." Jack gave the rudder a twist and the Chinese junk responded instantly, veering off to the left to avoid the island. "Izzie dear wants to go far south."
"How far south, Sir?" Wellard asked, curiosity getting the better of him. Most of the world was already explored and mapped so he just didn't see how such a waterfall could exist without anyone knowing about it.
"The Drake Passage, between the tip of South America and Antarctica." Jack sighed, hating the idea of leaving his beloved Caribbean but as least he was on a moving ship. "Ships generally hurry through the Passage so they don't look in the right place and so they don't find the doorway to the Locker. Besides, you need to be good and lost to find it. That's the trick. The other trick is you need someone along who already knows the way and trust me, mate, I know the way to those haunted shores."
Jack sauntered away and went down the stairs muttering something about rum.
Another hour passed without incident, Wellard keeping an eye out for sails or more bits of land. Then he saw a distant sail far off to the southwest, as they were slowly moving that way to avoid a nearby island. "Sail!"
Just after he cried it out, he spotted a second and then a third sail. Then a fourth appeared. "Four ships!"
Horatio, Archie and Theo came running up to the deck above the Captain's cabin. The sails were much closer now and it was becoming evident it wasn't just four ships. No, it was an entire fleet of ships. The sea was filled with them everywhere you looked, all of them flying pirate flags. They were all Chinese junks like the one they were on and all the ships were heading in the same direction they were.
"My God! It's part of the pirate fleet that sunk the Endeavor!" Lt. Groves gasped as he saw it spread out before them. "There must be at least one hundred of them!"
Horatio and Archie stared open mouthed at the fleet arrayed before them, their minds going blank. How could they possibly fight something like that? They'd be sunk for sure! Their only advantage was their ships were the same?
"Perhaps they won't notice us…" Horatio hoped. But that seemed slim. They were pirates and he doubted if pirates were that stupid. As he was thinking it, he noticed one of the larger junks already veering in their direction. He didn't realize pirates were such a huge problem in the West Indies that they amassed in such large fleets. "Wellard, go run to get the Captain."
"Yes, Sir!" Wellard hurried down the stairs and knocked on the Captain's door, then let himself in. He rushed up to her desk a bit breathless, more from seeing the huge pirate fleet than from the short trip and skidded to a halt before her desk. The small but fancy chest was still sitting on the desk but this time the lid was open and inside….
Was that a …?
Captain Swann slammed the lid closed and twisted the lock with a key, putting the key around her neck on a long chain. "Yes, what is it, Mr. Wellard?"
"A pirate fleet…" He managed to blurt out, his mind still reeling from what he had thought he had seen. He looked a bit paler than normal and Elizabeth had to steer him out the door.
"Do you know how to hoist the colors?" She asked him, as she pulled something black and folded from a pocket.
"Of course, Captain." He replied and accepted the mostly black bundle she thrust into his hands. It was fabric of course, a flag of some sort. "Shall I replace the British one with this one?"
"Please." Elizabeth watched him run off and a few moments later watched the new flag catch the wind as it started to unfurl. It was a laughing skull with a pair of crossed cutlasses: Jack's flag.
Archie gasped open-mouthed as he saw Mr. Wellard hoisting the jolly roger up the main mast. Reaching blindly for his best friend's arm, he finally found it and tugged. "Horatio, I think we really are on a pirate ship…"
Horatio tore his eyes off the approaching pirate ship for a moment to see what Archie was fussing about. And where was the Captain? He had sent Wellard to get her what seemed like ages ago. If they were going to clear for action, they needed to do so now. "What Archie?"
"Look!" Archie pointed at the flag going up the main mast.
Looking where his friend pointed, Horatio gasped. Shifting his eyes around the deck, he quickly spotted Captain Swann down on the main deck near the railing looking towards the approaching junk. The other ship was close enough now that he could see the people aboard it clearly; see details in their clothing. Thankfully, it seemed the other ship was not prepared for combat and he allowed a slight sigh of relief to escape his lips. Glancing down at himself, he noted that the jackets they wore loudly proclaimed them officers in the British Navy. "Quick, take off your jackets. With just our white shirts, we should be able to pass for pirates."
"So we're flying false colors?" Archie asked as he removed his coat and followed Horatio down off the top deck, tossing his jacket onto the floor on top of Horatio's. "I thought for a scary moment this really was a pirate ship…"
"If they were real pirates, we would have been locked up." Horatio replied as he ordered Wellard to remove his jacket as well and then to carry all their jackets, including Groves', into their wardroom. Wasting no time, he moved to his Captain's side to see what was going on.
"Hello Mistress Ching!" Elizabeth called to the older Asian woman on the nearby junk. "Are you returning to the Pacific Ocean?"
"Yes. Good luck to you, King. You good King, give us victory over enemies!" Mistress Ching cried loud enough for them to hear her. "Here be wedding gift for King!"
Mistress Ching threw something and it flew between Elizabeth and Horatio, the item striking the floor and bouncing with several loud metallic clangs. It stopped as it reached Archie's and Wellard's feet, the worn sack breaking open to reveal shining pieces of eight and golden doubloons. The golden coins spilled across the deck, the metal glistening in the tropical sun. The young men gasped at such wealth, as they had never seen real doubloons before. Archie was lucky for a silver coin and midshipman didn't get a salary at all; not until they earned their commission and became a real lieutenant.
"Thank you, Mistress Ching!" Elizabeth called to the older woman. "You are very generous."
"I warn you now." Ching said. "Barbossa come!"
It was no secret that Mistress Ching disliked Barbossa. The tough, bearded pirate loved to give long, fancy speeches that made him the center of attention and this is what Mistress Ching hated about him. She always spoke in clipped sentences and said what she meant. Her junk moved away as she had nothing further to say.
Archie back away from the tempting spread of coins at his feet and quickly moved to Horatio's side, standing close enough to speak in his friend's ear. "Do you still think we're just flying false colors? That pirate just gave our captain money!"
"I've noticed." Horatio replied, feeling troubled. He had always done his utmost best to serve his crown and country, risking his life countless times since he had stepped onto his first ship as a seasick midshipman. The whole series of events was odd and peculiar, so odd that he was unsure what one was supposed to do. Mutiny was a hanging offense, but what if his new captain was actually a pirate? And now a pirate fleet surrounded them; it would be foolhardy to try to take control of the ship now. "She said it was a wedding gift…"
Jack came strolling out onto the deck and looked upward, bending backward at an angle. "Oh! My flag. It's beginning to look a bit more normal around here…"
"The flag is yours, Sir?" Horatio asked, a bit relieved it hadn't belonged to his new Captain. Why hadn't that occurred to him earlier, that the flag had belonged to the pirate? Still, it was clear his Captain was friendly with pirates and that didn't bode well. He watched as the pirate hurried across the deck to the main mast and happily stared up at his flag flowing in the wind. Then he grinned broadly and slapped Wellard on the shoulder in a friendly manner, shoving a bottle of rum into the midshipman's hands.
"We'll make a proper pirate of you yet!" Jack cried happily. "Raising the colors is a good start. How are ye with a pistol?"
"A pirate? Well, I…" Wellard stuttered, so shocked by the pirate's unexpected words that his mind had gone somewhat blank. Truthfully, he had never fired a pistol or any type of gun for that matter, all of his time taken up by studying the things he needed to be a midshipman. "Never, Sir."
"Never?" Jack cried, shocked. "Well, ye best start learning, mate. This is the Caribbean and ol' Jack won't be around to protect ye forever."
Horatio and Archie practically flew to Wellard's side, Hornblower glaring angrily at Jack. "We're in the Navy. We're not pirates and we're not studying to be pirates."
"So, you never flew false colors, mate?" Jack asked innocently.
"Well, I…" Horatio paused, thinking of the French ships he had blasted that way to save the Indy from enemy fire.
"You've done that, Horatio…." Archie reminded him.
"Pretended to be something you weren't?" Jack asked innocently.
"You had us dress like Frenchmen that one time…" Archie reminded his friend.
"Arson? Blow things up?" Jack asked, grinning now.
"That's your favorite activity, Horatio…." Archie sighed, having lost count of the number of gunpowder kegs they had blown up and Admiral Pellew's shocked expression at the huge clouds of flame shooting skyward followed by dark rolling clouds of smoke.
Jack's smile grew even broader. "Why, you already are a pirate! Never would have expected it from them clothes you wear. Are you any good with that sword or is that for show?"
Horatio frowned, not exactly caring for the similarities between his activities and the pirate's. Of course, he had known that flying false colors was against the rules of war, but he had done it anyway. But he had done it for a noble reason, to save his shipmates and his beloved Indy. Pirates did it for profit at someone else's expense. "I did it to save lives, Sir, not take them or make profit."
"Jack is a good man." Captain Swann informed them as she placed a hand on the pirate's upper arm. "He may not look it and I know he has problems with personal hygiene, but he really is a good person. He often does the right thing even if he doesn't have to. When I fell of the top of Fort Charles due to the constricting corset I had been wearing, Jack dived into the ocean to save me. Later when pirates had kidnapped me, he helped Will rescue me. Without Jack's help, Will wouldn't have found me. And finally, when the kraken was attacking the ship we were on, he volunteered to stay behind so we would have the time to get away in a rowboat. So Jack is really a hero."
Horatio was shocked to hear that the pirate had done all those things, for they sounded like the things he himself would do. Could she be correct, could a pirate be a good man? It seemed to be contradictory to everything he had been taught. Finally his dark eyes went to the huge fleet of pirate ships. "And what of those pirates? Surely you cannot believe all pirates are good people."
"Those pirates are leaving my territory." Jack replied as he bent down and picked up one of the gold doubloons that rested at their feet, making the coin magically dance between his fingers and then vanish into think air. It was slight of hand, not true magic, but it held their rapt attention. "The Caribbean is mine and I suggest ye let them go. Our pirate meeting is over so they're all going home now, to their own turf. And as to their being good: forget it, mate. They'd double-cross you in a minute if they could. But like me, they have to listen to our King here…"
"Mr. Sparrow," Theo Groves said as he approached the pirate later that day. "How do you do it?"
"Do what, mate?" Jack asked as he stared out at the endless waves behind them, hoping to see a bit of black sail on the horizon. Mistress Ching had said Barbossa was coming but so far he didn't see any sign of the Pearl at all.
"The things you do." Groves clarified. "Your magical escapes, how you fly through the air on ropes, all of that."
Jack grinned broadly, gold teeth flashing in the bright sunlight and spread his arms wide. "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow, savvy?"
"I mean, do you plan it ahead of time or do you make it up as you go?" Groves asked, wanting a clearer answer. He had been watching Jack since he had stole the Interceptor from Port Royal and now was his chance to finally talk to the man without feeling guilty or being seen by his superior officers. Elizabeth and Jack were friends so she didn't care if he talked to the pirate, unlike the Navy who would care greatly. Associating with pirates wasn't allowed.
"I think on my feet, mate." Jack eyed the first lieutenant of the Empress with interest. "You thinking of turning pirate? Is that why you're here, sailing to World's End? Because generally you Navy type don't do this sort of thing you know."
"James was my friend as well as my commanding officer. We served as midshipmen together long ago." Theo explained. Truthfully, it was odd to be on the same ship as the same pirate he had tried to hang several times. Nor did he know exactly what he was anymore. Was he still a Navy officer? He dressed like one and acted like one, but it certainly wasn't a Navy ship or a Navy mission. Theo suspected the other lieutenants were dealing with the same confusing issue and not really getting anywhere. They had told him how Captain Sawyer had known their ship was coming and how he had left them in the longboat, about the man's insane behavior. It didn't make any sense to Theo, but he was thankful for their presence as they kept order on the small ship. "And I know Captain Swann from Port Royal, of course."
"Your dear Commodore turned pirate once…" Jack remarked, curious to see how the stiff lieutenant would respond.
"Did he?" Theo raised a brow with interest. He had heard how James had come back from somewhere out at sea, filthy with sweat, grime and a ruined uniform. Soon after that he had been promoted to Admiral. They not had much opportunity to talk though as they had been assigned to different ships. He often wished that Lord Beckett had given command of the Endeavor to James instead of sticking him onto the Flying Dutchman. The wealthy man may have been a Lord but he had no right commanding a ship, as he knew nothing of military tactics. He had stupidly sailed the huge ship between the Dutchman and the Pearl. Once it had been done, there was nothing he could do to save the ship, so he had given the order to abandon ship. It had just been luck that one of the pirate ships had picked him up as a prisoner. Most of the crew had drowned or had been lost when the ship had exploded. The deaths weighed heavily on him, but Lord Beckett had officially been commanding.
"Yep. He signed on as me crew." Jack admitted, frowning. "In fact, I taught him too well. He stole the heart and ran off with it. I didn't even know it was gone until it was too late…"
James a pirate, that was interesting. If James could turn pirate after making a career out of hanging them, then he could, too. The thought was alarming to say the least, especially with this uncertain state he was in.
"Ye best be careful, Lieutenant. Elizabeth used to admire me, too, and look at her now: King of the Pirates."
Elizabeth had declared that everyone on board needed to know how to defend him or herself, so she had set up a shooting range for midshipman Wellard to practice firing a pistol. She taught him how to hold the pistol safely, how to turn the safety lock on and off, how to put shot into it correctly and how to keep the weapon clean. One of the silk pillows from her cabin made a good target once it was set by the railing. It was large enough that he should be able to hit it with a bit of practice shots, but not so small that it would be too hard for a learner. Holding the pistol with both hands kept his arms from shaking too much and he was able to hit the pillow rather easily.
He thought it was a bit unusual for the Captain to be teaching him directly instead of assigning one of the lieutenants to do it, as on the Renown Sawyer had never really bothered with any of the lowly midshipmen except to yell at them. But Captain Swann was unlike any captain he had ever read about. She associated with both the crew and with pirates. And she had given each one of them one of the golden coins, even the deck crew and cannon crew. The doubloon rested safely in his pocket now and he had never been so rich in his life. When she had first given him the coin, he had dutifully reminded her that the Navy did not pay midshipmen until they earned their commission. But instead of taking the coin back, she had declared that unjust as they risked their life just as well as anyone else on the ship and they deserved a salary the same as the other crewmembers. And she had added that on the Empress they followed the Code. He held his breath, gently squeezed the trigger and the pistol made a loud cracking as the shot hit the pillow a second later.
"Very good!" Elizabeth praised him for hitting the target, a smile on her face. "You just have to remember that the pistol is not very accurate over long distances. It's not like a cannon."
"Sir, were you really kidnapped by pirates?" He asked, his voice uncertain. He would never have dared ask Sawyer a similar question.
"Yes, two of them snatched me right out of my father's house." Elizabeth replied quickly. "My father was the Governor of Port Royal. They had the nerve to rap at the door and then shot my butler dead when he answered! Soon after that they dragged me off to their pirate ship: a huge ship painted entirely black with black sails. It was rumored that the Captain of that ship was so evil that even the Devil had spit him back out…"
Elizabeth noticed that Wellard wasn't the only one listening to her story. Her two new lieutenants, Horatio and Archie, were clearly listening while pretending to watch the crew swab the deck. And even the ones mopping, Styles, Matthews and the others, were listening.
"The ship sailed from the dreaded Isla de Muerta, the Island of the Dead. It's an island that can't be found unless you already know where it is and the waters around it are filled with the rotting hulks of sunken ships along with hungry sharks. There's a pirate cave there filled with more treasure than you can imagine. The cave's floor is covered in a sparkling carpet of golden coins, precious jewels and countless other items…"
"Why are we swabbing decks when we could have all that?" Styles asked the thinner man next to him.
"It's not ours." Matthews replied honestly.
"That's right! It's mine." Jack replied as he sauntered past, tapping both men on their heads as if they were dogs. "And it's only for pirates who know how to follow the Code."
"I could follow the Code, whatever it is." Styles volunteered, always the one to get into trouble.
"If he's so rich and has all that treasure, then why don't he have a ship?" Matthews commented.
"I do have a ship! I big, glorious wonderful ship, the fastest ship in the Caribbean in fact. But my mutinous first mate stole it on me!" Jack cried as he pulled his pistol from his belt. "But I have this one shot and I'm saving it just for him. Again."
"I bet he don't have nothing!" Styles laughed, his fat face shaking.
Jack wiggled the precious rings on his fingers in front of the man's face. "Do too! And it's more than you'll ever have working for His Majesty."
Styles grumbled under his breath but continued cleaning the floor, Matthews ordering him to hush up with a reminder that the man was a pirate.
"The ship had black sails?" Wellard asked nervously, as he had spied a ship that matched the description rapidly gaining on them from behind. Like the Captain said, it was painted entirely black and it moved with incredible speed, the sails filled with wind. It rapidly grew closer until it was clear that their tiny junk was dwarfed by it. It had at least two rows of cannons that he could see, but it was difficult spotting the gun ports, as everything was black. Within a few heartbeats it had grown from a tiny black speck to being almost directly alongside. "Like that one?"
"My ship!" Jack shouted as he started wildly running around the deck trying to figure out how to get aboard the Pearl. But that was unnecessary as the next very second a large man with a broad-rimmed hat adorned with blue ostrich feathers swung aboard, a thick rope in his hand. The man's boots thumped loudly onto the deck. His face sported a brown beard and mustache and his piercing blue eyes stared at everyone in turn, daring them to do anything. Styles, Matthews, Oldroyd and the others climbed to their feet, uncertain what would happen next. A nervous energy filled the deck as everyone waited to see how things would go with this new pirate.
"Give me the map, Jack." Barbossa stated calmly as he held out his hand. "I know you have it."
"No!" Jack countered. "This is what we will do, Barbossa. You go on that spit of land over yonder, give me my ship back and then I'll shout the location back to you."
Barbossa rolled his eyes and sighed loudly. "Are we back to that nonsense again, Jack? And the Pearl is mine. Go find your own ship."
"I do have a ship and she's right there!" Jack pointed at the Pearl. "You had best stop stealing her or I'll kill you again!"
"Captain Barbossa!" Elizabeth called to him, arms crossed over her chest and one boot tapping the floor.
Hearing her voice, Barbossa turned and noticed her for the first time. A broad smile grew on his face and he bowed politely, tipping his hat in her direction. "Mrs. Turner, how very pleasant to see you once again. Are you sailing with this sorry excuse for a pirate? I suppose he's hitching a ride on your fine ship seeing he doesn't have one of his own. Where be ye heading and perhaps I'll accompany ye partway."
"She's going to World's End. Again." Jack added as he inched closer to the rope Barbossa held in his hand. "Feels guilty over more men dying and all. Wants to save the dear ol' Commodore, err, Admiral. Man has way too many different ranks. Well, one of her sweethearts anyway."
"Oh, and you volunteered to accompany her there, Jack?" Barbossa grinned and held out his hand again towards Jack. "In that case, you won't be needing that map, so hand it over."
"You both can accompany us." Elizabeth stated, her voice firm.
Barbossa narrowed his eyes and scowled at her. "Missy, I be a pirate and henceforth I like to do some good honest pirating. And since I've meet you I haven't been able to do any honest pirating because something always pops up, whether it be giant krakens sinking my ship down into the Locker or some power-hungry Lord who wants to rule the oceans. I find me a rare treasure map and that scoundrel over there has the nerve to cut the entire middle out, leaving me naught but a frame! I find him and here ye be wanting to take another trip down to the Locker for some stuffy navel fellow who wears powdered wigs. And now ye want me to accompany you when my ship be right there! And what happened to that first fellow I just married ye to?"
"James gave his life saving me and I owe it to him."
Jack leaned close to Barbossa. "I predict this is a continuing trend with her. Each time some fellow she knows keels over it'll be another trip to the Locker and we'll be dragged along as insurance."
"Yer got a point there, Jack." Barbossa agreed as he nodded his head, the blue ostrich feather bobbing about. "May I point out the economy of waiting 'til a few more die and then do a mass rescue? Could save yerself a lot of bother, not to mention ships that way."
"Soon they'll be such a pile of busted ships there one could crawl down the pile…" Jack commented, his tone very serious.
Barbossa laughed heartily at this. "But really, what about Turner? I thought ye loved him and all that."
"I do love Will!" Elizabeth declared. "But I can only see him for a few hours once every ten years because he's the Captain of the Flying Dutchman now. You know that."
"Hmmm…." Barbossa rubbed his bottom lip as he thought about the problem. "Well, have him rescue the good admiral then. Or are yer afraid your two beaus will fight?"
Jack pouted. "The Locker doesn't work that way and you know it, Barbossa."
Barbossa smiled and wrapped an arm around Jack's shoulders. "Well, I'm not scared of a little waterfall. Are you, Jack? I went over it before and here I am just fine."
"I don't want to get bloody killed again!" Jack wiggled out from under Barbossa's heavy arm and stomped off down the deck. Then he suddenly ran at the rail, leaped to the top and sprang through the air to neatly land on the side of the Pearl. Jack clung there with one hand leaning outward. "This is the day that you will always remember as the day that you almost caught…" A big wave suddenly appeared and drenched him from head to foot. "Captain Jack Sparrow."
Pintel and Ragetti peered down at the figure clinging to the side. "It's Captain Jack Sparrow!"
The two immediately saluted him and threw him a rope. Pintel smiled broadly, revealing bad teeth. "We knew you'd be coming back, Sir! We've been waiting fer yer orders!"
"Did ye happen to find me a new eye?" Ragetti asked hopefully.
Jack climbed up the rope with ease and landed on the deck. "Afraid not. But we're apparently going to the Locker again…"
"I hope me toes don't freeze off like happened to that one guy…" Ragetti worried out loud as he exchanged a look with Pintel. Then a grin appeared on his bony face. "Let's run down to the hold and secure all the warm blankets before someone else gets 'em!"
Laughing evilly, Pintel ran off with Ragetti.
"Did those pirates just salute?" Archie asked, shocked. After seeing a few more pirates, he was beginning to realize that even without their Navy coats they wouldn't pass for pirates. They were simply too clean.
"They did." Horatio confirmed, equally amazed. These pirates were the sorriest state he had ever seen and even the conversations they had were outrageous. Such foolishness would never be allowed in the Navy. To think that one claimed he couldn't do any pirating because their Captain wanted to go rescue dead men from the Locker… were they serious? If the Navy thought that way they'd never get anything done! Had Captain Swann thought this all up as a scheme to stop them from pirating? Horatio realized what he just thought and moaned. Now he was beginning to have crazy thoughts!
Barbossa eyed the two of them. "And who might ye be? I don't believe we had the pleasure of crossing swords yet…"
"Lieutenants Horatio Hornblower and Archie Kennedy, Sir." Horatio replied politely even though the man clearly was a pirate.
"What's wrong with these gents? They look clean enough to me…" Barbossa commented as he peered closer at them. Reaching out, he gripped Horatio by the chin and by his hair, pulling his mouth open to look within. "Gots all his teeth, too. And they look oddly clean. Unnaturally white with naught a black pit or yellowing film."
Horatio shoved Barbossa off himself, disgusted that the dirty pirate had been examining him like one would a horse. His skin crawled and he wiped at his chin, expecting to find all dirty bits.
Barbossa spun around then, his long coat flying outward as he reached for the young midshipman who had been standing partly behind him and next to Elizabeth. The pirate opened his eyes wider and said "Aaarrrrrrrrr!" in his best scary pirate voice. His was rewarded with a frightened expression and the pirate grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him in front of him so he faced Elizabeth, laughing. "And we have this one, too. When those two keel over from accidents, ye can have this one."
Elizabeth frowned her displeasure.
Everyone jumped including Barbossa when a thick roll of black canvas plopped to the deck with a loud thump. A moment later Jack landed neatly on his feet next to the material, shaking his head sadly. "Barbossa, you don't have any brains at all. She doesn't want them. They have no rank. She wouldn't look at dear Norrie until he became an Admiral."
"So we could go kidnap her another admiral…" Barbossa suggested. "Or we could make one of these gents an admiral. Takes nothing but a bit of braided brocade and such fancy fluff. Should be easy enough to steal. In fact, I'm sure we already have some of that stuff on board."
"Has to have that attitude, too." Jack reminded Barbossa.
The two pirates looked at each other and sighed. They knew Elizabeth wouldn't be satisfied with any other admiral, real or fake, because she felt guilty for James' death. Guilt was a hard thing to live with and luckily pirates didn't possess any of it at all. Captain Swann, however, did and it gripped her frequently it seemed. Worst, her guys died all too often.
Bending to pick up the heavy roll of black sail canvas, Jack ran off with it to a clear bit of deck and started spreading it out.
Horatio walked up to where the first pirate, Sparrow, was busy with the large roll of black canvas and taking up valuable deck space. He seemed to be cutting it into huge sections and tying it up with long length of rope. It made no sense at all to Horatio. "What are you doing?"
"Making flying things…." Jack replied without looking up from his work.
"Flying things…" Horatio repeated, convinced now that the pirate was indeed crazy. It seemed people in the Caribbean simply were not normal. They spoke as if wild legends were true and like the dead came back to life on a regular basis. He himself had lost many friends over the years and not one of them had ever returned. "What flying things?"
"Well, mate, when we go over the falls you hang onto one of these and the sail part here will fill with air and you float down to the bottom. That way ye won't get smashed like a bug when the ship goes over the falls." Jack said as he raised his head to look up at the young lieutenant. "I invented one of these things not too long ago when Elizabeth and I had to leave the sinking Dutchman in a hurry. Worked wonderful I might add."
Horatio truthfully didn't see how it would work. If he tied a small rock to his hankie with some string and tossed it up into the air, it would still come down like a rock. The rock would be too heavy even if the hankie managed to fill with air, which he doubted if it would.
Jack must have seen the doubt in his eyes because the pirate reassured him. "They do work, mate. You need a little faith."
"I do have faith." Horatio told him. "But I'll believe in your waterfall when I see it."
"That's fair enough." Jack answered.
That night in the wardroom Wellard could hardly wait to tell Lt. Kennedy what he had seen. "Sir! Do you know what I saw in the Captain's cabin earlier?"
"What?" Archie replied as he happily tore into his supper of fresh fruit, bread and some sort of cooked fish. "What did you see?"
"The Captain has this small metal chest on her desk and this afternoon the lid was open. Inside there was a … beating heart!" Wellard exclaimed, partly excited and partly frightened. Then he blushed, his face turning reddish. "Anyway, I think it was a heart. I never actually seen a real one so…"
"I'm sure it was something else." Horatio blurted out as he tore his bread so he may butter it. "Think what you're saying, Wellard. If a heart is removed from the body it certainly won't keep beating. And it would rot quickly in this tropical heat, just like this butter is going bad already. I think you're paying too much attention to these pirates and their fanciful stories."
"The Heart of Davy Jones…" Lt. Groves said after Horatio had finished. "So it still exists. My last employer, Lord Beckett, went through great expense and trouble to get it. Whoever has the Heart can control the Captain of the Flying Dutchman. And if you stab it, then you become it's Captain but only if you have the skill and knowledge required. Or so I heard. I suppose now the heart must be Mr. Turner's as he supposedly captains the Dutchman now."
Archie exchanged glances with Horatio, and then looked at Theo. "Do you really believe that?"
"Yes, I do." Theo replied calmly. "If I were you, I'd stay away from the Heart unless you want yours cut from your chest while you're still alive."
Wellard shivered, a chill traveling down his spine. Archie and Horatio exchanged glances. As they hadn't seen it, they found it hard to believe.
"Why don't we go sneak a peek at it?" Archie asked Horatio later that evening as they went out on deck to stand watch again. "We can wait until the Captain is not in her cabin and then quickly sneak within. It should settle all these unanswered questions, these fantastic stories, shouldn't it? If the Heart is real, then the waterfall must be, too."
Horatio sighed as he stared out at the darkening sea. He wanted to go peek as his friend suggested, but it wouldn't be proper. "We're lieutenants, Archie. We can't sneak around like little children. The Captain depends on us to do our duty and if she catches us in her cabin, well, we'd get in trouble. She'd punish us somehow and with her hanging around with pirates, well, I'm uncertain exactly what sort of punishment she'd use. It may be worst than continuous watch or a caning. It may also leave her severely understaffed officer wise. She may think we were trying to rob her and I wouldn't blame her."
Archie nibbled his lip slightly, thinking. "So, how do we find out then? Can we ask her?"
"I'll talk to her tomorrow." Horatio finally said as he came to an agreement. It would be good to finally put the matter to rest one way or another. He had always been practical and he found it incredibly hard to believe the things he had been hearing on this ship.
The next morning after breakfast, Horatio knocked on the Captain's door and waited until he was invited to enter. "Captain, may I have a word with you, Sir?"
"Yes, what is it, Lieutenant?" Elizabeth replied from where she sat behind her desk. She was slowly getting used to commanding her own ship in the day-to-day operations. Perhaps once they had rescued James, she would have something for them to talk about. That had always been one of their problems, not enough to talk about really. James had been trapped in the proper behavior of an officer and she didn't care for how distant he had been. Nor did she want to fall into the same trap and grow so emotionally detached. Would being in the Locker change him? At least he had been bold enough to kiss her on the Dutchman.
Horatio closed the door and then stood in front of her desk, hands behind his back. "I have some concerns, Sir, about the pirates on board. I realize they appear to be your friends or associates, but their wild stories seem to be, well, affecting some of the crew. That is, certain crewmembers are wondering if the tall tales are true. That is, Sir, I was wondering if you possess any evidence to prove or disprove the stories."
Nervousness bubbled in his stomach after the words were out and he wasn't too sure how she'd react. Would she think him a fool for believing the pirates' wild tales or would she reassure him it was true? He was also concerned he may have offended her or possibly insulted her in some way.
"Do you believe the stories you've heard?" Elizabeth asked him, convinced that he wouldn't.
"No, Sir, I do not." Horatio replied honestly. "But sailors are often a superstitious lot and believing such stories may create problems on the ship."
Elizabeth thought of Mr. Gibbs and smiled faintly. "Like spinning around and spitting on the floor. Yes, I've seen that. Well, Mr. Hornblower, I'm afraid the stories are true." Elizabeth was silent for a moment as she studied him. She hadn't known the young man for very long but he seemed trustworthy enough. He was the perfect British Navy officer, always polite and respectful. He did his duty of handling the men and ship well and she had never seen him idly loafing or skipping out of work. He had even accepted the pirates on board without questioning her judgment, although he did keep a close eye on them. Not that she blamed him for that – they were pirates after all and the Navy generally tended to hang pirates. It was an unusual situation to say the least. "Do I have your trust and loyalty, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Of course, Captain." He replied as he bowed his head slightly.
"Then go and fetch Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Wellard. I will show you the proof upon your return." Elizabeth ordered him as she came to a decision. She knew all too well that it was hard to believe in ghost stories or supernatural things without actually seeing them. Theo already knew of the Heart, as did the pirates. The ship would function better if her officers were informed.
"Aye aye, Captain." Horatio saluted her and promptly left the cabin, going straight to where Archie and Wellard were. "The Captain wishes to speak with us."
"Did you ask her?" Archie asked as he followed Horatio up the stairs towards the Captain's cabin.
"Yes, and she said she was going to show us proof." Horatio replied as he opened the door to the Captain's quarters once more and allowed the other two to enter before him. Entering last, he closed the door securely behind himself to prevent eavesdropping by the common crew. Every officer worth his commission knew that the crew loved scuttlebutt and rumor. It was often said that the Navy operated on scuttlebutt and that news spread like wildfire through the fleet. The more sensational something was, the faster and wider it spread and this most likely would be the sort of thing men would love to overhear.
Once they were all properly standing before her desk at attention, hands behind their backs, Horatio had to admit he was nervous. He could feel his stomach fizzing slightly with butterflies, for what if the Heart were real? If it were, then his view of the world would be forever changed. Legends would no longer be just stories to entertain the crew and while away the long, dull hours at sea. The war with France and Spain he could handle. He excelled at in fact. But how would one fight a kraken and live to tell the tale? The mere possibility of all those old sea myths being true, that was truly worrisome.
"Gentlemen," Captain Swann began as she pulled a large key on a chain from around her neck. "You're my officers and I need you to run the ship. You can perform your duties better if you knew the truth. Therefore I'm going to show you something; my most prized possession."
Elizabeth stuck the key into the lock of the small metal chest that sat upon her desk. The lock clicked, unlocking. The three men exchanged nervous glances as she lifted the lid and they couldn't help leaning forward slightly. But instead of allowing them to peer within, she stuck her hand inside and pulled the object out. She allowed the heart to rest upon her palm, holding it out for them to see. It sat there, beating. The loud thump, thump, thump clearly filled the cabin just as the various chambers moved. Although it was reddish in color, it didn't appear bloody; a fact they were thankful for. Not that they hadn't seen blood or battle before. Horatio and Archie were veterans in that department. The Navy wasn't the place for men with weak stomachs.
Horatio stared at the beating heart, quite literally shocked. He heard Wellard gasp as the younger man swayed on his feet slightly and Horatio put out an arm to steady him. Archie's mouth had dropped open and he was staring unblinking at the odd sight.
"I need your bravery, gentlemen." Elizabeth cried, her voice full of emotion and her eyes fiery with passion. "Davy Jones used to command the Flying Dutchman but now my husband does. This is his heart. He collects the souls of all those who die at sea and carries them to the Other Side, a duty the Goddess Calypso charged him with. But there is another way into the Locker and that's where we're going. I've been there before and I have returned safely. We'll do the same. But you need to be brave."
For once in his life, Horatio truly didn't know what to say as he stared at the beating heart that rested upon his Captain's hand.
"It's … it's real…" Archie finally said as he finally found his voice.
"Yes, it's real." Elizabeth confirmed.
Once the officers had left, Elizabeth sat alone in her cabin and stared at the magically beating heart in her hand. Many a nights she had lain awake on the pile of silk pillows thinking about what she was doing. She was married to one man and risking her neck to save another. How would she explain that to James? He hadn't listened to her aboard the Flying Dutchman. Would he listen to her now and come back with her to the land of the living? Did he even know he was dead? Jack hadn't known at first…
When she had first set off on the voyage she had had a vague idea of her and James living together, somewhere. But how was she to explain Will's heart? Should she mention that Barbossa had married them? She knew it was better to be truthful, but if she told him that he might choose to remain in the Locker. Biting her lip, Elizabeth frowned. Why did things have to be so complicated? Why couldn't they be simple?
Sighing, she placed the heart back within the chest and rubbed at her temples.
"No one would ever believe us." Archie said to Horatio later that evening as the officers sat eating their supper. "Providing we ever see Admiral Pellew or any of the others we know…"
Horatio had been thinking the same exact thing. If he ever did reach the Admiralty in either Kingston or London, he'd be expected to give some sort of report of his activities since he left the Renown. But what could he possibly say? That his new Captain was sailing to World's End, possessed a still-beating heart of her husband and was friendly with pirates, pirates who were chasing after the Fountain of Youth? He would be declared insane! The pirate thing alone could get him in serious trouble. "No, we'd be declared mad at the very least…"
"But it's true, Sir. We've seen it." Wellard reminded them as he peeled a banana, thankful for the fresh fruit on board. While crossing the Atlantic they had to rely on ship's biscuits and salted meat; food the crew grew tired of quickly. But as they were following the coast south it was a simple matter to go ashore to gather fresh water and provisions. Jack seemed to know all the best places and where not to go ashore as well, telling tales of cannibals and dangerous jungle tribes.
"The Admiralty won't believe it, as they didn't see it." Horatio explained to the midshipman. "And Captain Sawyer's talk of mutiny won't help us any, providing he made it to Kingston. For all we know, that huge pirate fleet might have sunk him."
"Is it …reasonable…doing what the Captain is doing?" Archie nervously asked, the situation on board becoming to resemble Sawyer's madness somewhat. True, she wasn't abusing the crew. "She intends to sail us off a huge waterfall apparently, on purpose. Is rescuing one person worth all of our lives?"
Horatio had been asking himself the same question since he had seen the heart. Captains had sailed through hurricanes and terrible weather before. Some were lucky and rode out the storm safely. Others fared badly and lost their ships. But he had never heard of anyone sailing a ship over a waterfall, until he had been assigned to this ship. Truthfully, he didn't like heights at all. They terrified him. And the idea of the entire ship tumbling off some edge with tons of roaring whitewater and possible rocks at the bottom… He could see the many dangers in that situation all too easily. People getting speared with sharp edges of broken wood, crushed by cannons that had come free, drowning or getting smashed on the rocks below. It wasn't a pretty picture. If it weren't for the Heart, he would doubt her sanity.
"But the Captain said she was there before, that she survived just fine…" Wellard commented, as he looked up from his supper. "And serving in the Navy is dangerous, Sir. Even I know that. There are countless ways to get killed or badly injured aboard a ship."
"That certainly is true." Horatio agreed as he nodded. If midshipmen weren't careful when they were first assigned into the Navy, they didn't live long. One could fall from the top of the sails, have the rigging snap underneath your foot so you fell to your death on the deck, fall overboard during a storm, fall into an open hold, falling objects could hit you…the list was endless. When you added sea battles then there were more horrible ways to die. "I suppose we must have faith that all will be well. That and the contraptions Mr. Sparrow is making. He intends we float down the falls to land safely at the bottom."
"That's a relief!" Archie exclaimed, slightly relieved. "Wait, do these things work?"
"He claims they do." Horatio replied.
"Mr. Sparrow is well-known for pulling off the impossible on a regular basis." Theo added as lifted his cup for a drink. "And I think you need not worry about the Admiralty. Either James will reclaim control of Port Royal upon his return to this life or we can all go live on Shipwreck Island."
"Shipwreck Island?" Wellard asked.
"The impregnable pirate fortress in the Sargasso Sea." Theo explained as he thought of the cell he had recently been in and how he came to his new position of first lieutenant aboard the Empress. "Our Captain is the King of the Pirates."
Horatio sighed. Perhaps they'd all end up pirates after all…
The days passed by as they headed further south and Elizabeth had them practice their sword fighting on deck every day. It came as a surprise to the men that their Captain knew not only how to use a sword but that she was quite good at it as well. The blades flashed in the sunlight as they parry and sliced, their feet moving quickly over the deck. The lieutenants from the Renown slowly improved their ability with the sword and Wellard was taught the basic techniques to fencing.
Slowly the air started to chill, as they grew closer to their destination, the Drake Passage. Snow drifted downward to cover both crew and the deck. Staying warm was a constant battle but thanks to the how a junk was designed, they needed to spend little time on deck during the worst of it. Still, the watch needed to be manned at all times and so it was reduced to two hours. This allowed one to warm up slightly below decks between duty shifts as the crew huddled near the warmth of the ship's cooking stove.
Then they entered the passage, craggy snow-covered cliffs rising up on either side of them. The water was black and choppy, the sky overhead filled with millions of incredibly bright stars. They seemed to sail on and on without getting anywhere, the cliffs just continuing.
"We're good and lost now." Barbossa laughed heartily. The crafty pirate Captain had hidden the Pearl at the Isla de Muerta knowing that it was safe there. Pintel, Ragetti, Murtogg, Mullroy and Cotton all had transferred over to the Chinese junk when they had hidden the Pearl and each one huddled within a ragged blanket, their teeth chattering. Barbossa's voice called out again. "Soon we be at our destination! Ye all best get up on deck if ye want to survive and continue on in this life. If not, say goodbye to yer friends…"
Horatio and Archie ordered everyone up onto the deck and made sure the lower areas were clear. The rope and black canvas contraptions were handed out, but they were untested. Fear gripped the crew as the water started racing faster and faster, the passage opening wider. The air whipped past Horatio so fast it was difficult to breath and then he caught his first glimpse of the cliff up ahead. The water was roaring over an edge into nothingness, only a black sky with countless stars ahead. There was no sign of the world continuing on further, just an empty void. Fear gripped him and he realized how incredibly stupid he was to go along with this insane plan, but it was far too late to back out now. Heart thudding wildly in his chest, he gripped the rough rope in his hand. Doubt flickered through his mind; doubt that the black canvas would allow him to float to safety.
Most of the crew was on the rear part of the Empress, as it would be far safer to leap upward from there at the proper moment. Then the canvas bits were supposed to catch the air. The edge came closer and closer all too quickly.
"Not again!" Pintel cried loudly as his face filled with fear, his dirt stained hands gripping the ship's ropes tightly. His tar-stained clothing flapped in the rushing air and his ice-crusted blanket was torn off his shoulders. It was whipped upward and soon vanished from sight.
"We be all right as long as we have Captain Jack!" Ragetti shouted back at Pintel, but doubt filled his one slightly yellowish eye. "Anyways, I hope so…"
Murtogg and Mullroy exchanged fearful looks, confusion clear on their faces as no one had really told them about the waterfall until now. The two marines were still wearing their pirate clothing, as they didn't want their new pirate associates to discover who they really were. When they had boarded the Empress, they had been tempted to change back into their somewhat clean red and white marine outfits due to the presence of the other Navy officers, but doubt filled their minds. They had never seen pirates and Navy working side by side on the same ship before, but then, Miss Swann was an odd one. They shook each other's hands and then boldly stared forward, awaiting their deaths.
Lt. Groves' eyes grew wide as the end of the world rapidly approached, the white water roaring in his ears like the roar of the leviathan and icy spray soaking him to the skin. Holding his tricorn and powdered wig on with one hand, his mouth dropped open at the sight before him. He had known about the waterfall, but to actually see it…
"We're doomed…" Archie cried as he huddled near Horatio and Wellard.
Seeing the fearful expressions the Navy men wore, Pintel and Ragetti laughed gleefully, exposing rotten teeth. Pintel shouted at them through the howl of the racing wind. "It be worst the first time…"
Captain Jack Sparrow stood calmly at the rudder, his long dreadlocks and clothing whipping about in the wind. Now that the moment had come he wasn't worried at all, his mind set to the task. His tattooed hand gripped the steering mechanism and he instinctively lined the ship up to the correct path, one that hopefully would avoid the rocks below. Captain Barbossa stood next to him, determined to keep an eye on Jack at all times less he vanish with the valuable map.
Elizabeth looked determined, although inside she was quaking. She knew she was risking everyone's life but she was firm in her rescue plan. She owed James for all that they had done to his life, ruining it for their own stupid reasons. No, saving Jack from the noose hadn't been stupid, but they had never meant to ruin James' career. From that moment everything had spiraled out of control and had gone terribly wrong. Countless lives had been lost on both sides. She didn't know what she would say to James when she saw him again, providing they could find him in the Locker. They had found Jack easily, but then they had had Calypso with them on the first voyage. Would it be just as easy to find James or would they have to search for days?
Elizabeth had her valuable metal chest with her in a strong sack tied about her body, her arms wrapped about Jack's neck. She remembered the last time she had gone flying with Jack through the air above the Maelstrom and the sinking Dutchman. She had been out of her mind then with grief over Will's death, so she didn't remember it all that clearly – just the empty air beneath her boots and the ship shrinking in size as they flew up into the sky like birds. But she trusted Jack and knew his plan would work. And once again Jack was being the hero, his free arm around young Wellard. The pirate would carry both of them down to safety; the others old and experienced enough to fend for themselves. Jack's other hand hung onto the rope.
And then the ship rushed right off the edge and fell off beneath them. Jack had leaped upward at just the proper moment and his sack of black canvas filled with air magically. There was nothing below her feet but the empty blackness and the roar of the nearby falls. Within seconds she was soaked through with the icy water but she clung tightly to Jack's not-so-clean body, the sour smell of sweat and rum filling her nose. Terrified shrieks filled her ears from the others and after what seemed forever her boots splashed down in deep water. Bits of flotsam from the ship were everywhere and she released her grip on Jack, gripping a floating board that was within reach.
She had reached the Locker safely.
To be continued…
Author's note: Since this is getting very long I thought I should post this as chapter 1 and then continue in another chapter. I'll try to get the next part up soon.
Oh, if any of you like Norrington, the British Royal Navy and those pretty ships, try watching the wonderful Horatio Hornblower movies by A&E. They give you a better idea of how the Navy operates those big sailing ships and what the different types of officers duties are. It makes writing POTC stories involving Navy characters a bit easier.
And there should be more Norribeth in the next chapter!