Author's note: there you go, something completely unrelated to The Mummy, written after I'd watched again the 3 Pirates of the Caribbean. Other than engraving in my brain exactly how to write 'Caribbean' (one 'r', two 'b') for good, it did spawn a plot bunny that resulted in this short story. I have every intention of continuing into two other vignettes set some time after, but I just need to sort out my priorities – and the voices inside my head. it's getting quite crowded in there.
For those who follow Fairy Tales and Hokum, I'm perhaps 5 or 6 (maximum) pages short of the end of Chapter 16. And yes, I know it's been two years. Writer's block can be such a beeeeeeep …
Disclaimer: who owns PotC? Seriously? My take is on Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, but it's such a big machine that I don't know. I'll go with Disney and bow to the mouse. Right. I'll do that.
First Time For Everything
O, Tortuga! Jewel of the Spanish Main! O crawling, swarming crown of all islands in the Caribbean, every mother's son who calls himself a pirate, be he a fancy gentleman of fortune with a big hat on his head and heaps of gold about him or the most humble of barefooted men with wild dreams of looted treasure and a cutlass in his hands, they all come to you in the end as though to the embrace of a dark, warm, huge mother, her arms open wide and grinning her welcome with rotten teeth.
And even when they leave, there is always a special fond spot in the blackest depths of their blackguards' hearts for her ever-flowing wine – and rum, her never-ending songs that jump at you from every twisted street corner …
And her fairly reasonably-priced love. You know, most of the time.
"C'mon, yeh big twit – can't believe you can't keep up what with that long legs o' yers."
"Yeh know, Pint, 'm not sure it's such a good idea after all …"
"Ah, lad, don' chicken on me just now! Yeh agreed to it, an' that's somethin' you don't go back on."
"But tha' was what you said afore we jumped ship on them Navy blokes –"
"I know I did, but this – now this is somethin' you don't go back on. Not when I'm payin' good money, too. And don't lag," Pintel warned, turning suddenly and pointing a plump finger at the awkward, gangly youth trailing behind him.
Ragetti's one blue eye glared at the finger, as if he didn't quite dare glare at his uncle.
"You already said that," he pointed out mulishly. Pintel rolled his eyes and strode on, muttering, "Yeah, well, I'm sayin' it again. Now come on."
Nightfall in Tortuga was a spectacle in and of itself, and the older pirate found it hard enough to keep track of the lad without him falling behind and getting lost – after all, he'd never been to this side of the island before. But Pintel had, quite often, and he mostly knew how to to half-jostle, half-dodge his way through the drunks, the girls, the pigs, the goats, the – "Get down!" – occasional duelling pair who, if they weren't crack shots at blowing each other's head off, still had remarkable skill for sending a stray bullet into the heart of the odd unsuspecting pirate.
It's dead easy to be unsuspecting if you're three sheets to the wind. Emphasis on 'dead'. So accidents happened a lot in Tortuga, especially around taverns and pubs.
The fine establishment of the Gunner's Daughter – their destination – was a dark, two-storeys high wood building, and yellow lantern light spilled about on the street from the entrance. The door stood always open, but not everyone could come in, as suggested by the six-foot-tall, very calm-looking man standing near the door. There was something funny about such an impassive calm – it looked like a swamp infested with alligators. It made anyone with a smidgen of good sense about him not want to try it.
A window opened on the ground floor, and light came out, felling on Pintel at pretty much the same moment as a mocking laugh did.
"My, my, my," said a low, gleeful voice that made the pirate's skin tingle in an entirely good way, "ain't it been a while."
The woman was backlit, but even without the voice it was impossible not to recognise the high cheekbones and full lips. She was grinning widely, and if the teeth were not all white (or even all in place, in some cases) the first impression was just as striking as Pintel remembered. He took in everything, from her naked shoulders to her ample chest comfortably resting on her arms as she leaned on the windowsill, and gulped.
Oh yes. Just as striking.
Maia was not as young as she used to be, but she hadn't lost her charms. Far from it.
"Been busy," he muttered. She smirked and tilted her head, her eyes leaving his face to pin the awkward lad shuffling silently behind him.
"I can see that."
Pintel rolled his eyes and made a sharp dismissive gesture. "'E's not mine," he snapped. "Me sister's. The ol' tart's gone and died and dumped him on me couple o' years back. 'M still trying to figure out what to do with him."
She made a sympathetic face. Sort of. "That so hard, then?"
He answered her with a grunt and a non-committal shrug. "Well, 'e's a bit green to be a good pirate yet. Look at 'im."
An even brighter smile lit up her features and showed the space between her upper teeth. She leaned forward, and Pintel's eyes widened as though of their own accord as he appreciated the view and tried very hard not to drool.
"You, lad – what's your name?"
The boy went pink, bordering on red. Even his grimy ears changed colour.
Maia's grin was so wide it made her eyes wrinkle at the corners in spite of her heavy make-up.
"Lemme guess. It's your first business here, right?"
Her dark eyes fell back on Pintel, giving Ragetti – who by now was close to smoking at the ears – time to go back to a more natural shade.
"See wha' I mean?" he muttered pointedly only for her to hear. "Ye can't call yerself a pirate an' go around stutterin' and being all shy and red an' stuff. 'E can hold 'is own in battle, but most of the time he's a bloody nuisance."
"Is he, now?"
The smile remained on her lips, but her eyes turned serious as she peered at him. He peered back for a few seconds, but in the end he blinked and shrugged.
"'S got potential, thass'all I'm sayin'. An' I guess he's not that bad comp'ny."
She studied him for a little while, then held out her hand, all business, "Awright. Pay up and come on in."
Pintel did just that, and the burly man at the door stood aside to let the two inside. The tavern interior was just as he remembered, and as he sat at his favourite table, Maia came sweeping across the room – every single eye belonging to a male was immediately trained on her – stopped in front of Ragetti, gave him the once-over, took him gently by the hand like a schoolboy and closed her door behind the two of them.
Pintel had another few pence to spare, so he settled down with a bottle of rum and waited.
Customers came in and went out, looking for drink or company; some got one, some got both, while some others got neither at all. The Gunner's Daughter was an unusual tavern for Tortuga, one that was more renown for its cosiness and quiet than for its loud bustle. Old pirates sat there to raise a glass to dead mates, to remember or forget them. But for those who sought out fun … oh, there was fun to be had indeed. This particular tavern was famous for its women. And the rum wasn't bad, either.
There was a small hustle when a tall, fat man was vigorously pushed out of one of the prostitutes' room with a great deal of shouting, stark naked except for his hat and obviously completely stunned by so strong a reaction from a woman. What he had probably done must have been really serious, however, as the other occupant of the room strode furiously out, clad only in her vividly red hair and a frilly sort of chemise which didn't leave much to the imagination, and dealt him a ringing slap that made everyone – including Pintel, who made a point of not being sympathetic to strangers – wince.
The enraged redhead then returned to her room and slammed the door, leaving the audience gawping and the door watchman to grab the poor blighter by the scruff of his neck and toss him out, hat and all.
The night wore on, leaving Pintel to stare at the long-gone contents of his empty bottle with his chin on the table. As the Tortuguesque activity in the streets began to dwindle he idly wondered whether his nephew had been thrown out of the window in the same manner as the bloke earlier had been chucked out the door.
He must have fallen asleep at some point, because when he looked out the window again, dawn was breaking. The bustle of the streets was gradually dying down, the loud crowd of Tortuga thinning quickly.
Anger and Worry began arm-wrestling in his head, egged on from the sides by Annoyance and Uneasiness, with Shame lagging not far behind. Bloody hell. Where is that lad?
The question had not even finished taking a precise enough shape in his mind when a familiar laugh reached his ears as Maia's door opened at last.
"You don't say?"
"Oh, it's true enough – the ol' pimp goes by Toothless Charlie now, though he don't know it. All because of Black Kate, and that goat too."
Pintel let out a huge yawn and rubbed his scraggy beard. Annoyance had sent all the other buggers packing and made itself comfortable, and he liked it a lot better that way. Although when his eyes went back to Ragetti, he frowned, a hint of concern sneaking in through the back door.
There was something different about the lad. Sure, he was still half-hunched, standing there like a loose, stretched out letter S, but he seemed more relaxed, less self-conscious somehow. He also looked absolutely dead on his feet. Ready to keel over at any moment.
This, combined with the big stupid grin on his face, and the fact that those two had obviously kept themselves occupied for the whole night – a night that he himself had spent on a wooden chair – quickly evaporated the rest of Pintel's concern.
Trying to remember the last time he had felt that good and looked that bad, he got up from his chair, rubbing the back of his neck.
To his surprise, up close Maia seemed genuinely pleased. And tired, too. She stretched like a cat and threw a lazy smile in the lad's direction. "You – you can come back whenever you like," she almost purred, her fingers playing with his loose shirt collar. "That was … nice. Very nice."
Pintel raised an eyebrow. 'Nice' was one of the last words he expected from her. He certainly had never heard that about himself.
Ragetti's grin widened as he leaned on the door frame for support.
"Oh, aye," he managed to say. Only two words, but it was already much more than what Pintel wished to hear. He grabbed his swaying nephew by the lapels of his jacket and half-dragged him, half-carried him to the door.
"Come on, you," he growled, "an' don't get cocky."
"Stop playing silly buggers with me, lad!"
Before they reached the door, however, Maia had hurtled across the room (in spite of the bulk of her brightly-coloured skirts) and nabbed Ragetti's jacket, bringing Pintel to a sudden halt as well.
"When you're in Tortuga next time," she said in a low, husky voice right against his ear – she had to stand on tiptoes for that – and Pintel drew some satisfaction from seeing Ragetti turn beet-red, "make sure to stop by. Me door's always open for the likes o' you."
Her grin unveiled the space between her teeth again.
"An' bring back that wooden eyeball of yours. That one was fun."
Ragetti gave a funny sort of giggle. Pintel stared.
"Right, that's it," he snapped, repressing a shudder and opening the door. "Thanks, Maia, an' take care o' yerself."
"I always do," she replied with a smile – in his direction, this time – while tightening a thin scarf around her shoulders. "And so do you, I surmise."
"Right," mumbled Pintel, uncertain what 'surmise' meant. "Yeah."
"See ya, Maia," Ragetti piped in as brightly as he could with drooping eyelids. "I'll send ye letters."
Pintel rolled his eyes with what, for him, came closest to a chuckle. That lad was hopeless.
"Yeh can't even read yer own name, let alone write it, ya daft bugger."
"That don't mean I can't send 'er letters."
"Course it – never mind. C'mon."
Maia's wide grin followed the two of them to the entrance of the pub some time later, as though hanging in the air. When the Faithful Bride came into view, Pintel quickened his pace. He needed a hair of the dog, and Ragetti needed something equally strong in him. He looked alternately as if his feet hardly touched the ground and as though he would collapse any time.
Not that it worried him, judging by the ever-present grin on his face.
He seemed to make up his mind at last when they reached the door of the pub, and dropped on the ground like a sack of potatoes. Fast asleep, by the look of it. But still smiling.
"Yeh're pulling me leg." Pintel shook his head incredulously. "One night with a bird and yeh're in tha' state? Bloody hell, lad, call yerself a pirate?"
Ragetti opened one eye. Unfortunately, it was the wrong one.
"She's not jus' any girl."
Pintel looked away and into his own fond memories. "Aye, Rags, that she's not." Then he shook himself out of it, grabbed Ragetti's arm and heaved. "C'mon. Rum's on me."
This time one blue eye looked up hopefully. "Really?"
"Second round, too?"
"Don' push it."
As they entered the Faithful Bride and sat in front of a bottle of rum, they quickly found it hard to ignore the bizarre-looking man standing on a table in the centre of the room and haranguing a small crowd of customers in a voice that slurred every two words and with a great deal of hand gestures. However Pintel's ears perked up when the man went suddenly very still, low-voiced and as dangerously calm as the Doldrums right before a storm.
"This Aztec gold is actually real, gentlemen. And it so happens … I know where to find it."
What's that about treasure?
I wonder how many people recognised Captain Jack from this last paragraph? And how many have figured out that the eyeball bit is actually the naughtiest part? (my policy on kinky is the same as with violence or any other thing, really – show, don't tell, describe the reactions rather than the source. Wonder if it still works.)
So… how'd you find it?